The Weber County attorney's office is examining a recent murder case to determine if the defendant should stand trial a second time.
The defendant, William L. Florez, 33, was convicted of capital murder in 1986 for the stabbing death of Stephen Myers. He received a life sentence.But the conviction was reversed by the Utah Supreme Court last week on the grounds that the trial judge erred by allowing Florez's past criminal record to be heard during the trial.
In a unanimous 5-0 decision, the justices ordered that Florez must receive a new trial. Assistant Weber County Attorney Gary Heward said Wednesday that he will have to review the case before deciding if Florez should stand trial again. "A decision has to be made fairly soon," Heward said.
Florez, of Sunset, was convicted of first degree murder for the July 28, 1986, stabbing death of Myers. Florez admitted that he went into the house of his former girlfriend and stabbed Myers after he found them both in bed. The defense argued that Myers was killed in a fit of passion and that Florez should have been convicted of manslaughter.
In his successful appeal, Florez argued that he was denied the right to a fair trial because prosecutors were allowed to introduce information on his three prior convictions for aggravated assault.
In its decision for reversal, the high court ruled that there was a reasonable likelihood that the outcome would have favored Florez if the jury had no knowledge of his past criminal record.
Defense attorney John Caine had asked trial Judge John Wahlquist to withhold that information from the jury, but Wahlquist ruled that the prior record could be used as evidence in the trial and sentencing phase.
Now the county attorney's office has to decide if it wants to bring Florez back for a second trial, work out a plea agreement, or allow the defendant to go free.
Heward said he will have to track down and talk to witnesses and look over the evidence before a determination is made. He said if key witnesses cannot be found, there is slim chance Florez could go free.