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Ogden • Matthew David Stewart, the man accused of killing one police officer and wounding five others during a shootout at his Ogden home, will not go to trial until at least April 2014.
The scheduling decision was made Wednesday in 2nd District Court. Stewart, 38, is charged with aggravated murder for the death of Weber Morgan Narcotics Strike Force Agent Jared Francom. He also is charged with seven first-degree felony counts of attempted aggravated murder for allegedly trying to kill other officers, and one second-degree felony count related to alleged marijuana cultivation.
Wednesday's hearing is the first time Stewart has been in court since he entered not guilty pleas to the charges in November.
After discussing dates with both prosecutors and Stewart's team of defense attorneys, 2nd District Judge Noel Hyde set aside April 23 to May 23, 2014 ,on his calendar in anticipation for the trial, though he said firmer dates within that window can be scheduled as the trial gets closer.
Hyde also heard arguments Wednesday about a motion defense attorney Randy Richards filed concerning the legality of the death penalty.
In the motion, Richards argues the death penalty violates Stewart's due process rights under the U.S. and Utah constitutions. He notes the death penalty may be imposed only if the jury finds that the aggravating factors of the crime outweigh mitigating factors such as youth, no criminal history, or that the person was under emotional distress.
Richards argued in court Wednesday that no mitigating factors could ever overcome the aggravating factor of murder, making the law impossible.
"I don't care what we put on," he said. "That he was a Boy Scout. That he loved his mother and his mother loved him. That he has no criminal history … Those things pale in comparison to the enormity of murder."
Deputy Weber County Attorney Sandra Corp argued that on several occasions, and even within the 2nd District Court, a jury has ruled against imposing the death penalty on a defendant.
"To say that it's impossible is simply incorrect," she argued Wednesday.
Hyde took the matter under advisement, and is expected to issue a written ruling. Richards said this motion will be the first of several motions challenging constitutional issues with the case.
Prosecutors filed a motion on Jan. 30 asking for DNA samples from Stewart. Defense attorneys did not dispute the request during Wednesday's hearing.
About 8 p.m. on Jan. 4, 2012, several strike force agents were attempting to serve a search warrant on Stewart's Jackson Avenue home. A shootout erupted between Stewart and the officers.
Francom was killed in the shootout, and five other officers were injured. Stewart was also injured during the incident.
Agent Shawn Grogan testified during Stewart's preliminary hearing that when he stood in the hallway of Stewart's home, he saw an arm and a gun coming around the bedroom door. He said the shooter said nothing but fired first, one of the first shots striking Grogan in the left cheek.
But Stewart allegedly told an investigator with the Weber County Attorney's Office that he had armed himself when he heard someone enter his home. He allegedly said he pointed his gun around the corner of his bedroom hallway, and was met with gunfire. Stewart told the investigator he didn't pull his trigger until he was shot at.
Stewart has maintained that he thought he was being robbed and did not know the men in his home were law enforcement officers.
Stewart is scheduled to be in court again on May 22 for a status conference.