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Death warrant stands in Leavitt case

May 30, 2012

Seventh District Judge Jon J. Shindurling heard arguments for quashing the death warrant issued against former Blackfoot resident Richard A. Leavitt Wednesday.
Leavitt was convicted of first-degree murder in 1985 for the mutilation and stabbing of Danette Elg. He is set to be executed on June 12.
After hearing all the arguments, Shindurling left the death warrant in place.
The arguments were heard via conference call between Shindurling, defense attorneys David Nevin and Andrew Parnes, Bingham County Prosecuting Attorney J. Scott Andrew, LaMont Anderson from the State Attorney General's office. Stephen Kenyon, clerk of the Idaho Supreme Court, was in the courtroom, recording the hearing.
Defense Attorney David Nevin argued three points why the death warrant should be withdrawn.
According to Idaho Supreme Court Criminal Rule 38(a), a stay is automatic for any appeal or review, Nevin argued.
Andrew argued the statute cannot be read in isolation. The procedures in a death sentence case include an appeal process and an automatic review of the sentence.
The death sentence is reviewed to make sure the sentence is consistent and comparative with all other death sentence cases of which the Idaho Supreme Court has a record.
Point two, Nevin argued only the county's prosecuting attorney—Scott Andrew—as the legal representative of the State of Idaho in the county has the authority to represent the state in a death sentence case and must deliver the motion to the judge.
In this case, Deputy Attorney General LaMont Anderson delivered the motion to issue a death warrant on May 17 to Shindurling.
Andrew argued the 2012 Legislature changed the statute. It now reads, in part, "any representative of the State of Idaho."
"Any representative could include me, a staff member of the Department of Correction, a representative from the Attorney General's office and/or representative of the Governor's office," Andrew said.
Nevin asked Shindurling "to inquire into the facts." This would require a hearing.
Andrew argued that amended State Statute 19-2715, subsection 5, states no hearing is required.
"The tasks performed were ministerial, not discretionary," Andrew said. "No stay of execution had been issued."
Shindurling stated a verbal agreement with Andrew's arguments at the end of the hearing.
The recourse left to Leavitt is appealing to the Idaho Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court.
Leavitt is scheduled to be executed in two weeks—nearly 27 years after a jury convicted him or murdering Elg. Her body was found at her home in Blackfoot in July 1984.
She was murdered shortly after she told police she saw a prowler, whom she believed to be Leavitt, outside of her home.
She had 15 stab and slash wounds on her body when she was found and had also been sexually mutilated.

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