Judge Rejects Death Row Inmate's Appeal

Judge Rejects Death Row Inmate's Appeal

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A state judge has rejected an appeal by death-row inmate Von Lester Taylor, who broke into a Summit County cabin and killed two women in 1990.

Third District Judge Frank Noel this week rejected 25 claims Taylor raised. They included alleged ineffectiveness of his attorneys at trial and appeal court levels, and the contention that the death penalty violates his constitutional rights because it is inconsistent with international law.

"Mr. Taylor pleaded guilty, the evidence against him was quite conclusive, it went to a penalty hearing and a jury sentenced him to death. There's no issue of that actual guilt," Assistant Attorney General Thomas Brunker said.

Taylor and Edward Steven Deli had escaped from a prison halfway house.

They broke into the cabin and when the owners arrived, Taylor fatally shot Beth Potts, 72, of Murray, Utah, and her daughter, Kaye Tiede, 49, of Humble, Texas. Taylor then shot the younger woman's husband, Rolf Tiede, 51, who was injured but survived.

The escapees kidnapped the Tiedes' two daughters and fled after setting the cabin on fire.

Rolf Tiede managed to get down the mountain on a snowmobile and notified police. Taylor and Deli were captured shortly afterwards.

Taylor pleaded guilty to two counts of capital homicide, and a jury recommended the death penalty.

As required in death penalty cases in Utah, it was automatically appealed to the Utah Supreme Court, which upheld the penalty. Taylor also appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.

In his most recent claims, Taylor criticized the decision of Elliot Levine, his trial court lawyer, not to introduce mental health information that might have provided mitigating evidence.

The psychological evaluations of Taylor cited his drug use and his involvement with witchcraft and Satan worship, including drinking animal blood.

Christine Durham, a Supreme Court justice in 1997 and now the court's chief justice, wrote in a Supreme Court ruling that year that "Levine quite plausibly decided that Satanic worship and blood drinking did not comport to the 'boy next door' image he hoped to portray."

Richard Mauro, Taylor's current attorney, said he will appeal Noel's ruling to the Utah Supreme Court, and other avenues of appeal remain.

"The court (in this ruling) fails to address some very significant and important cases from the U.S. Supreme Court that, if applied to this case, would help my client and give him, at the very least, a new penalty phase and perhaps a new trial," Mauro said.

Deli was tried and convicted on a lesser charge. He was sentenced to up to live in prison, and the parole board later said that he should never be freed.

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

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