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A former Utah pediatrician convicted of killing his ex-wife lost his bid for a new trial on Monday, new court papers show.
Third District Judge James Blanch has denied two motions from attorneys for Johnny Brickman Wall. The motions sought to overturn his March conviction on the grounds that portions of testimonies from two witnesses were admitted improperly during the trial.
At a hearing in October, defense attorney G. Fred Metos argued the error prejudiced the jury against Wall.
Blanch disagreed in an 18-page ruling concluding that Metos failed to preserve Wall's right to raise the issue after the fact because he did not object to the testimony or ask the judge to strike it from the record during the trial.
Additionally, Blanch said, the testimony was not sufficient to prejudice a jury substantially.
The ruling came hours after the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole said Wall must wait 28 years until April 2043 before getting his first change to ask for parole.
Also Monday, Metos filed notice that he will appeal the case to the Utah Supreme Court.
Wall, 52, was convicted by a jury of first-degree felony murder in the September 2011 death of 49-year-old cancer researcher Uta von Schwedler.
He was sentenced to prison for a term of 15 years to life in July.
Von Schwedler was found dead in a bathtub at her Sugar House home.
Prosecutors contend that Wall attacked her with a knife, dosed her with an anti-anxiety drug and drowned her. Defense attorneys say the evidence shows she killed herself.
Trial testimony about how von Schwedler may have ingested the drug formed the basis for one of Metos' multiple motions for a new trial.
Prosecution witness Dr. Marcela Fierro testified that the drug might have been injected in slurry form into von Schwedler's mouth a theory Metos told the judge did not appear in Fierro's report.
Metos also objected to Fierro's testimony about the so-called "washer woman" condition of the skin on von Schwedler's feet after being in water, saying the forensic pathologist provided no basis for her opinions.
Metos further said Fierro provided testimony "outside the scope of her report" and "outside her expertise" when she spoke about the state of von Schwedler's mental health and any acts of behaviors that indicated whether the researcher might have intended to harm herself.
In a separate filing, Metos had also argued for a new trial based on the testimony of Dr. Joshua Schiffman, von Schwedler's colleague in a University of Utah translational genomics lab.
Schiffman testified that von Schewdler had made a significant scientific breakthrough on the day before she was found dead in her home. The testimony was relevant, prosecutors said, because it showed von Schwedler's state of mind was positive in the hours before she was killed.
Metos argued the testimony was misleading, because of the complexity of scientific advances and said the state used the characterization of von Schwedler's success to convince jurors she did not commit suicide.
Again, Blanch disagreed, saying the evidence was "mostly irrelevant to the jury's determination that [Wall] caused the victim's death."
Blanch had previously denied motions for a new trial on the grounds that prosecutors had wrongly inflated weak, circumstantial evidence and because of DNA tests results admitted as evidence should have been excluded because the findings were misleading.