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When 2nd District Judge David Roth was in his chambers deciding the fate of convicted murderer John Albert Taylor last December, several local police officers were inside the press room at the Municipal Building asking reporters what they thought the judge would do.

The consensus of the media representatives was that Roth would send the child killer to death row. A few police officers responded that no way would Taylor be sentenced to die because they said Roth was too liberal.When the death sentence was rendered, the police officers were both surprised and pleased because no person had been sent to death row by a Weber County judge or jury in 40 years.

Nearly seven months later, Roth was named District Judge of the Year by the Utah State Bar.

"I don't know why I was selected," said Roth Monday.

Roth has been a 2nd District Court judge since 1984, when he was appointed to the position by former Gov. Scott M. Matheson. The 47-year-old had been a judge for both Ogden City and the circuit courts before he was promoted to the district level.

Before Roth went for his interview with Matheson on the judgeship, the governor had suffered a heart attack and while recuperating in the hospital he had grown a beard. The governor was also bald.

So Roth said he walked into the interview before a clean-shaven governor and the questioning began.

"I really enjoyed the interview," Roth said, even though Matheson had told him he had never heard of him. "He (Matheson) was really prepared.

"He (Matheson) said there were two things he really liked about me, that I was bald, and that I had a beard," Roth recalled. Roth was then appointed to the district bench.

And what were some of the reactions of local attorneys when they learned that Roth was named District Judge of the Year? "I think it's well deserved," said Deputy Weber County Attorney Les Daroczi.

Mark DeCaria, another deputy Weber County attorney, thought that it was appropriate that the bar selected Roth.

When asked about Roth's judicial temperament on the bench, DeCaria at first declined to comment but then described it as "even and low-key."

Roth has a reputation with attorneys as being evenly heavy-handed and in complete control of his courtroom.

"He has a real good ability to see the important issues of a case and so he has the ability to move the lawyers right along," Ogden attorney Jane Marquardt said of Roth's temperament.

Randy Richards, another local attorney, said he felt Roth is an excellent judge who always does his homework.

He laughed when asked to describe Roth's judicial temperament and noted that the judge at times can get a "little curt" with attorneys.

"But that's OK," Richards said. "I can give it right back to him."

When not on the bench, Roth likes to canoe, ride his motorcycle, pedal his bicycle and go hiking and rafting. He is married and has two children and a dog. He owns a canoe, an old truck and five motorcycles.

Roth said he prefers presiding over criminal cases rather than civil matters because criminal trials move faster and are more interesting.

He said he sometimes feels uncomfortable about sending people to the Utah State Prison, but that other times he has no problems because some people really deserve to be kept off the street.

Roth also admitted that he had a problem sending John Albert Taylor to death row because his sentence "meant death."

But legally, Roth said, he had no choice, so he sentenced the Ogden man to die by lethal injection for the June 1989, killing of a 12-year-old Washington Terrace girl.

The judge said he thought the award given to him by the Utah State Bar was an honor.

"I think it's (being a judge) a tough business and this kind of recognition smooths over some of the rough stuff," he said.