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Clinton Hart will stand trial on first-degree felony murder for the death of his 4-year-old daughter, even though it was Hart's live-in girlfriend who allegedly beat the girl.
Prosecutors argued Monday that Hart knew the girl was being beaten and did nothing to stop it.
Like a getaway driver in a robbery where an innocent victim dies, Hart shares an almost equal responsibility for the girl's June 13 death, according to the prosecution's theory of the case.
The legal arguments came six weeks after 3rd District Judge Ann Boyden heard preliminary hearing testimony.
Prosecutors had originally charged Hart with a section of the Utah's homicide statute that implies he had a direct hand in the slaying of his daughter. But following the preliminary hearing, prosecutors filed an amended charging document alleging he had an indirect involvement in the homicide, with child abuse being the underlying crime.
In addition to the murder charge, Boyden ordered Hart to stand trial on two counts of second-degree felony child abuse.
Hart, 21, of Kearns, is to be arraigned Oct. 18 before Judge Robert Faust.
Boyden dismissed one count of obstructing justice, saying there was insufficient evidence to show Hart deliberately deleted cell phone text messages between himself and his girlfriend, Marina Navarro, to disrupt the police investigation.
Navarro, 21, is charged with aggravated murder, which carries the possibility of the death penalty. Navarro, who is expected to give birth to Hart's child next month, has a scheduling hearing Nov. 9 before Boyden.
Defense attorney Steven Shapiro argued Monday there was no evidence Hart knew Navarro was physically abusing his daughter. He noted that Hart's idea of punishment was to make the girl stand in the corner.
And even though Hart gave a pediatrician explanations for the girl's many bruises and scrapes by describing a number of accidents that did not match the nature of the injuries, Shapiro claimed that was not evidence of Hart's complicity. Shapiro claimed Hart was simply distraught and "racking his brains" for some explanation of what had happened to his daughter.
Boyden said she was persuaded that Hart was "very involved" in Navarro's attempts to discipline the girl. The judge noted that Navarro frequently called or texted Hart for advice on what to do when the girl misbehaved.
Boyden also noted that, according to testimony, when Hart was called home June 13 by Navarro who claimed the girl had fallen down the stairs Hart tried to revive her by running cold water across her forehead.
Hart later told police he had used cold water before to bring the girl back to consciousness, suggesting he had knowledge of other serious injuries.