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A prison inmate who in 1994 was the first Utahn to be charged with murdering a fetus, is asking a state judge to give him a second chance to appeal his 18-year-old conviction.
Calvin Shane Myers who in July filed a hand-written petition in 3rd District Court seeking reinstatement of his right to appeal did not appear in court Dec.8 for a status conference.
Judge Todd Shaughnessy reset the hearing for Feb. 2 to give Myers' court-appointed attorney, John Johnson, a chance to meet with him.
Johnson said he is "putting a team together" to evaluate the case and plans to visit Myers at the prison in Gunnison.
Myers, 41, contends in his petition that he was denied his right to a direct appeal of his murder conviction which was obtained through a 1996 plea agreement because neither his attorney nor the courts informed him of that right.
Summit County prosecutors say Myers was never denied his rights, but gave them up voluntarily as part of the plea agreement, which reduced the number of charges Myers faced and guaranteed he would avoid the death penalty.
"The statement the defendant signed in support of his guilty plea clearly explained that he had a right to appeal his conviction but that he was waiving that right by pleading guilty," Summit County's Chief Prosecutor Matthew Bates wrote in court papers. "This court should therefore deny his motion."
Snowmobilers found Irene Frances Christensen's snow-covered body about a week before Christmas 1994 near the shores of Rockport State Park reservoir. An autopsy found the 20-year-old woman had been stabbed or sliced open at least a dozen times, her head nearly severed from her body, court papers and news accounts from 1994 and 1995 say.
A wallet left at the scene by a friend of Myers who had gone to the lake with the couple linked the then-21-year-old construction worker to the killing. At a preliminary hearing, Steve Paul Howard testified that he had watched his friend make stabbing motions at Christensen, but didn't stop him because he feared being killed himself.
Because Christensen was 16 to 18 weeks pregnant, Summit County prosecutors charged Myers with two counts of aggravated murder.
In 1996, Myers pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of one count of aggravated murder in exchange for a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole.
The case was the first to challenge an 1991 amendment to Utah's criminal homicide law which extended legal protection to the unborn.
Following a February 1995 preliminary hearing, Myers' defense attorneys filed a motion seeking a reduction of charges or a dismissal, arguing that an unborn fetus was not a "person" under the law and therefore could not serve as either an aggravated factor in the case, nor as grounds for an independent criminal count. The motion was denied.
Myers then opted to enter into the plea agreement.
Myers was sentenced to a prison term of life with the possibility of parole. The state's Board of Pardons and Parole converted the sentence to "natural life" after Myers' original parole hearing in April 1996. That term was not altered following a review hearing in 2006, board records show.
Myers raised some of the same issues he is now raising before the Utah Supreme Court, which in 2004 let stand Myers' conviction.