Plea Bargain Possible in Motel 6 Slaying

Plea Bargain Possible in Motel 6 Slaying

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FARMINGTON, Utah (AP) -- Defense and prosecuting attorneys pronounced themselves ready to go to a second trial for Elliott Rashad Harper, whose first trial in the Motel 6 slaying case ended in a hung jury.

However, the defense raised the possibility of a plea bargain for the first time.

The attorneys appeared Tuesday before Judge Thomas L. Kay, who set another hearing for Aug. 26.

Defense attorney Rich Gallegos said he is ready to defend Harper again but is not ruling out any options.

"I haven't approached the state (about a plea), but clearly the case could go either way," he said.

Gallegos said if his client does accept a plea, it would be an Alford plea where he would not take responsibility for what happened but agree the state has enough evidence to convict him.

Harper "has maintained his innocence from the beginning, but sometimes innocent guys take a plea," Gallegos said.

Deputy Davis County Attorney Mike DiReda said after the hearing that the state is ready to go forward with the case. Dismissing the charge is not an option.

"I couldn't tell you how likely it will resolve with a plea," DiReda said.

Harper, 25, is charged with murder in the 1996 shooting death of Matthew John Whicker, 30, the night clerk at the Woods Cross motel.

His first trial ended Friday with a hung jury. "It sickens me we couldn't get a verdict," Wilson said.

Prosecutors contend Whicker was killed in a robbery planned by Harper, David Jonathan Valken-Leduc and Todd Rettenberger. Rettenberger pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2002 and said he was the lookout driver. Valken-Leduc, the purported trigger man, was convicted of first-degree felony murder and sentenced to six years to life in prison. Like Harper, he has maintained that he is innocent.

Gallegos has contended that Rettenberger killed Whicker.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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