Death row prisoner’s confession holds up despite ‘damning revelations’, state says

Prosecutors say Utah death row inmate Douglas Carter’s confession, seen in this 2022 photo, is enough to convict him, despite ‘damning revelations’ about police payments to two key witnesses who now say they lied in their testimony. (Utah State Prison)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Death row inmate Douglas Stewart Carter’s conviction and sentence should be upheld based on the strength of his own confession, which has been upheld in previous challenges, state prosecutors say.

Even if the jury had known that the Provo Police Department was paying rent for the two key state witnesses during Carter’s original trial, that would not discredit the strength of their testimonies, according to a new court filing from prosecutors. ‘State. In fact, the witnesses received police assistance through the department’s witness protection program because they feared reprisals from Carter.

Carter, 66, was convicted of aggravated murder, a capital offense, in 1985 for the murder of Eva Olesen, 57, who was repeatedly stabbed and shot during a home invasion robbery on the 27th February 1985, at his home in Provo.

Much of Carter’s conviction was based on the testimony of his friends, Epifanio and Lucia Tovar, who testified that Carter bragged to them about the murder just after it happened, as well as a Carter’s written confession which he later claimed was coerced.

He appealed his conviction in 1992, but another jury upheld the death sentence. By then, however, the Tovars had disappeared and had not testified to Carter’s conviction.

Then in 2011, Carter’s defense attorneys managed to track down the Tovars in Mexico. At that time, they claimed to have lied on the witness stand during the original trial and to have been coerced by the police to testify against Carter. They claimed the police had paid their rent and threatened to evict their son if they did not testify against him.

The Utah Supreme Court called such claims by the state’s star witnesses “damning revelations” in 2019 and ordered Carter to receive a new evidentiary hearing in the 4th District Court.

This hearing took place in November. In January, Carter’s defense team submitted a brief after the court hearing requesting either a new trial or a new sentencing hearing. On Thursday, the Utah attorney general’s office submitted a lengthy 212-page response to Carter’s motion for a new trial.

Carter’s defense team says the Tovars were paid thousands of dollars by Provo police for their testimony, including payment of their rent and other living expenses. But the state argued that the payments were for witness protection and that the Tovars honestly informed police of the crime before receiving any compensation.

“While the core of Carter’s current claims focus on the alleged payments the police made to the Tovars, the Tovars gave these statements and details of the murder before receiving alleged assistance or witness protection,” according to the response filed by the Attorney General’s office.

Prosecutors noted that during the hearing, a retired Provo police captain testified that in 1985 “it was common for the Provo Police Department to provide protection to witnesses or ‘anyone who felt in danger “”. They said the Tovars were afraid of Carter, and even if the payments provided by the police had been increased at trial, it would not have changed the outcome.

“If all the facts had been presented to the jury, the jury would have had no reason to doubt Carter’s guilt and death sentence given the totality of the evidence. Carter’s incontrovertible confession and consistent corroboration and truthfulness of the Tovars of this confession — and their admission that their testimony about Carter’s confession and demonstration was true — entirely alleviates any unease a jury might have about the Tovars’ testimony,” the court filing reads. State.

The state contends that the Tovars were afraid of Carter, “so much so that the police protected them from him.”

“Indeed, evidence of financial assistance, if disclosed, would have backfired by illustrating that the Tovars needed Carter’s police protection. And any damage to Epifanio’s credibility, if the prosecutor had corrected his alleged perjury, would have been more than offset by the fact that Epifanio, Lucia, Perla (LaCayo, Carter’s friend) and Carter himself all agreed on the same basic fact: that Carter had murdered Eva. A reasonable juror, even doubting the credibility of the Tovars, would have ignored Carter’s confession and acquitted him.

“It is simply indisputable now that Epifanio and Lucia persistently and repeatedly expressed their fear of Carter to anyone who would listen. … And many of these expressions of fear predate any payment,” prosecutors say. the state.

Prosecutors also deny that the police ever threatened the Tavors to force them to testify.

“What Epifanio and Lucia describe as direct threats from the police were likely their own natural fears – as they recall more than 30 years later,” the state replied.

The state also noted that during the evidence hearing, Wayne Watson, the prosecutor for Carter’s original trial, said Carter’s defense team was aware of the payments.

Carter’s defense team also alleges Epifanio Tovar lied when he testified in the witness box at the original trial that Carter told him his intention on the night of the murder was to “rape, break and drive.” .

But even if that phrase wasn’t actually used and prosecutors corrected it on the stand, the state says it still wouldn’t have been enough to alter the jury’s verdict.

“He never recanted his testimony at trial about Carter’s confession, even decades after all state-sponsored incitement to lie had evaporated. This testimony traces the prepayment statements of Epifanio and Lucia, the Carter’s confession and crime scene,” according to Response. “Given Carter’s confession and the many aggravating factors other than the Tovars’ testimony, there is no reasonable likelihood that false testimony by Epifanio could have affected the judgment of the jury at sentencing or had allegedly suppressed and favorable evidence been leaked, Carter would not have been sentenced to death.

“Carter’s confessions, which have been unsuccessfully challenged on several occasions over the decades, are unverifiable and insurmountable. They corroborated the details that Epifanio and Lucia gave to the police before claiming to have received any assistance, that ‘They never recanted,’ according to the brief state.

Given the length of the state’s response, Carter’s attorneys requested that the court give him until April 19 to file his response.

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