Defense Attorney and Judge Opt Out of Lafferty Case

Defense Attorney and Judge Opt Out of Lafferty Case

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PROVO, Utah (AP) -- The attorney for death-row inmate Ron Lafferty has withdrawn from the case, as has the judge.

Lafferty appeared in court Tuesday where a judge approved the motion by attorney Ron Yengich to withdraw on the ground of a conflict of interest.

Lafferty also learned that Judge Steven Hansen, whom he referred to as "stupid Stevie" in previous hearings, has recused himself.

Lafferty was cordial to Judge Anthony Schofield, who will now oversee Lafferty's case.

Yengich, who did not appear at Tuesday's hearing, said in court documents that a member of Lafferty's original defense team, who has since died, had worked for his law firm.

Yengich saw that as a conflict of interest because Lafferty had claimed that his original legal team provided him ineffective counsel.

Yengich had been appointed by the court to handle Lafferty's death penalty appeal to the Utah Supreme Court and the federal courts.

Schofield offered to appoint a defense attorney during Tuesday's hearing, but Lafferty declined. The judge gave Lafferty at least one week to visit with two attorneys before deciding on representation.

Hansen, who presided over one of Lafferty's murder trials, said a family member works for a drug company that recently hired psychologist Noel Gardner as a consultant. Gardner has been a witness in the case, testifying that Lafferty was not mentally ill.

Ron Lafferty and his brother Dan were found guilty in the July 24, 1984, murders of Brenda Lafferty -- the wife of another of their brothers -- and her 18-month-old daughter, Erica.

Dan Lafferty claims the two were told in a revelation from God to kill the mother and child.

Dan Lafferty was convicted and sentenced to serve life in prison without parole. In a separate trial, Ron Lafferty was convicted and sentenced to die.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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