Utah is known for having some of America’s most relaxed gun laws, consistently filling top slots on lists of best states for gun owners. But while the laws may be lenient, even Utah draws a firm line when it comes to mixing firearms and criminal activity — and so does the federal government. Can you lose your firearm privileges if you’re convicted of committing a crime, such as domestic violence or a weapons crime?
On April 21, 2014, 25-year-old defendant Siale Angilau was fatally shot by a U.S. Marshal after lunging at a witness during his trial at U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City. Months later, on September 8, court clerk D. Mark Jones confirmed the existence of video footage of the incident. Relatives and defense attorney Robert Sykes want to review that footage, fearing Angilau may have been the victim of excessive force — but Chief Judge Ted Stewart won’t permit the tapes to be released.
Resentment and distrust toward American law enforcement has reached an all-time high in recent months. In June, hundreds of demonstrators rallied together to protest the killing of Geist the dog, who was shot by SLCPD Officer Brett Olsen. In July, Eric Garner’s chokehold death at the hands of NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo was ruled a homicide, sparking mass protests in the streets of New York City. Through August, ongoing protests against police brutality in Ferguson captured national headlines, while at the same time, Salt Lake City experienced its own brutality scandal: the August 11 death of 20-year-old Dillon Taylor, who was shot by the SLCPD despite numerous claims he was unarmed. As the South Salt Lake PD continues to investigate the shooting of Dillon Taylor, more and more Utahans are calling for local police departments to start wearing body cameras.
In 1991, 78-year-old Lucille Johnson was found murdered in her Holladay home, the victim of strangulation and physical assault. The unsolved mystery of her death baffled investigators for decades, but now, more than 20 years later, the formerly cold case has finally been cracked. The catalyst? Lego toys.
You have probably heard terms like “emotional distress” or “extreme emotional duress” being used to describe certain murder cases. Human emotions are abstract, powerful, and often defy logic; yet in order to be considered as evidence for or against a defendant, they must somehow be evaluated by the courts. This is one of the most decisive factors in the case of Tracy A. Scott, who confessed to shooting his wife last spring. Scott’s trial is currently underway, though the key focus isn’t whether or not he committed the murder — it’s what state of mind he was in at the time. Depending on the answer to that question, Scott’s first degree felony murder charges could potentially be dropped to second degree felony manslaughter.
Back in June, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups dismissed $48 million in assorted white collar charges filed against real estate entrepreneur and alleged Ponzi scheme architect Rick Koerber of Utah County. Earlier this month, he expanded on the ruling by dismissing the case with prejudice, meaning the case cannot be refiled. Judge Waddoups pointed to the prosecution’s handling of the case as key factors in his decision, citing “neglect” and “questionable ethical conduct.”
Earlier this week, we wrote about the death of an unidentified man who was fatally shot by Salt Lake City police outside of a South Salt Lake 7-Eleven. Officers say they responded to a 911 call about a man waving a handgun, and fired on the suspect after they saw him reaching into his jacket. Family members and eye-witnesses say the man was apparently unarmed, and that officers fired on him while his back was turned. As the South Salt Lake PD continues to investigate, new comments and allegations are beginning to emerge.
Every day, police officers willingly brave dangerous situations that have the potential to end in injury and even death. In cases where suspects are threatening physical violence, officers must defend innocent bystanders and protect their own lives, sometimes with lethal force. But what if a suspect isn’t armed? Three officers with the Salt Lake City Police Department have been placed on administrative leave while investigators probe the death of a man who was fatally shot outside of a 7-Eleven in South Salt Lake earlier this week. Some reports say the man was brandishing a handgun, but other accounts say the man was unarmed.
In November of 2009, police officers made a grisly discovery: the bodies of 30-year-old Matthew Roddy and his mother, 53-year-old Pamela Knight Jeffries, wrapped in garbage bags and stuffed into a closet in their Weber County mobile home. Then-33-year-old Jeremy Valdes was named as a murder suspect, with law enforcement suspecting additional aid from his girlfriend, 26-year-old Miranda Statler. Statler later pleaded guilty, received and served a sentence, and has since been released from Utah State Prison on parole. But while Statler’s story is more or less finished, for Valdes, the years-long legal battle is still in progress today. Recently, a new development in the case has created an obstacle for the defense: in late July, 2nd District Judge Mark DeCaria granted the prosecution’s request to block two medical experts from testifying about an fMRI brain scan.
The Salt Lake City Police Department has been selected as one of four in the country to be the focus of a new federal study aiming to determine best practices for handling sexual assault and rape cases. The selection isn’t entirely random, as the department’s procedures came under fire in April after a City Council meeting demanded answers for hundreds of unprocessed rape kits shelved from 2003 to 2011. Police Chief Chris Burbank says he welcomes the opportunity to be involved in the study, which is scheduled to begin in several months.