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The Utah Supreme Court on Friday ruled against a death row inmate who claimed his defense attorneys should have presented evidence of his low IQ and troubled childhood at trial in spite of his own objections.
Floyd Eugene Maestas, 56, was convicted of stomping an elderly woman to death during a home robbery in 2004. At his 2008 sentencing, he asked a judge to block his attorneys from presenting evidence about his below-average IQ and incest within his family. The judge ordered the attorneys to comply.
His defense team argued before the Utah Supreme Court that order violated Maestas' right to an attorney. In an opinion released Friday, the justices disagreed, saying Maestas knew what he was doing and had a right to keep the information out.
"The defendant is the master of his case, he gets to make the final decision, especially where it involves extremely personal information," said Assistant Utah Attorney General Karen Klucznik.
The high court also sided with the state on some 40 points, including a ruling that the defense hadn't shown Maestas had a significant mental handicap that would exempt him from the death penalty or keep him from understanding the proceedings.
Maestas was sentenced to die for killing 72-year-old Donna Lou Bott. He and two other men broke into Bott's home, intent on robbing her. The other two testified that Maestas ran directly to the sleeping woman's bedroom, where he beat, strangled, stabbed and stomped her to death. The trio left with only a handful of change.
Maestas was also convicted of breaking into the home of another 87-year-old woman later that night, pulling her T-shirt up over her head and stealing her purse.
Klucznik said state attorneys are "satisfied" with the ruling. Defense attorneys did not return a call for comment.
Maestas' attorneys unsuccessfully filed a motion for a new trial in 2008, where they argued their client received an unfair trial because of juror misconduct. The case then proceeded to the Utah Supreme Court.
Maestas still has several appeal options open. No execution date has been set.