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A 3rd District Judge has ruled that a jury can consider a prior felony conviction in deciding whether convicted killer David Franklin Young should be sentenced to death.

Judge Timothy Hanson said following a hearing Friday that he is satisfied that Young's prior voluntary manslaughter conviction provides sufficient aggravating circumstances to enhance the first-degree murder conviction passed down Thursday by the jury.Following Hanson's decision, he granted Young's request to make a statement to the court. Young said the 12-member jury, which included nine women, ruled unfairly on the murder charge, consisting of a special aggravating circumstance of rape.

"They were strongly biased in giving me my fate," he said.

The jury found Young guilty of first-degree murder, concluding there were aggravating circumstances within the crime, including rape and pecuniary gain.

The jury will decide whether Young, 28, of the rural southern Illinois community of Bridgeport, receives a punishment of death or life in prison. The sentencing phase of the trial begins Tuesday morning.

"At the time the defendant caused the death of Ember K. Mars on Aug. 19, 1987, he had previously been convicted of voluntary manslaughter, a class 2 felony," Hanson said.

"Based upon those findings, the court is satisfied that the defendant, David Franklin Young, is guilty of criminal homicide in the first degree," Hanson said.

Mars' nude body was found in the bedroom of her home. Police said she had been raped, stabbed repeatedly, beaten with a clothes iron and smothered.

Young was arrested in Illinois eight days later after a high-speed chase in Mars' stolen pickup truck. Prosecutors have said that Young had Mars' credit cards with him when he was arrested.

At the penalty phase of the trial Hanson will tell the jury about Young's prior conviction but will not give details of that crime.

Kenneth Clore of the Illinois State Police testified Friday that voluntary manslaughter was a felony at the time of Young's conviction.

Clore also submitted a document verifying that Young was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in August 1983 for the death of his girlfriend, Theresa Schmittler of Grayville, Ill., six months earlier. Young was accused of beating Schmittler numerous times with a tire iron and suffocating her.

Young served 37 months in jail for that crime and was on parole when arrested by Illinois State Police in August 1987.

Just before the Salt Lake trial, Young was convicted in Indiana of second-degree murder in the death of his wife, Theresa Young. That murder occurred two weeks before Young killed Mars.