A 3rd District judge who dismissed capital murder charges against a man two weeks ago said Monday that prosecutors may now proceed with the case if they want to.
Judge Scott Daniels said he would allow the Salt Lake County attorney's office to proceed with the case against Daniel Troyer, even though the judge previously dismissed charges.The decision surprised the defense attorneys as well as the prosecutors, who feel the judge was simply transferring pressure off him and onto them.
"I am totally confused," said deputy attorney Greg Skordas. "He's given us part of our case back and said let's try it in two weeks. I don't know if we can even do that."
Last month, Skordas said he could not proceed with the case because the judge had suppressed the major part of the state's evidence against Troyer, who is accused of strangling an 88-year-old woman in 1988. Troyer was charged with the murder more than two years ago, and Skordas said some evidence is now unavailable because of the time lapse.
Daniels granted a defense motion to dismiss the case last month but said he felt he was being made a scapegoat. Monday, however, he said the case is not dismissed until he signs the order and issues the court's formal findings. He offered to set a date to hold the trial within a few weeks.
But prosecutors say there will not likely be a trial.
Skordas said he doubts a jury would convict Troyer based on the remaining evidence that has not been suppressed. "The risk you run is if you try the case and lose, you have double jeopardy and can never try it again," Skordas said.
The Utah attorney general's office is currently looking at the case and may prepare an appeal to the Supreme Court. If the higher court overturns any of Daniels' suppression rulings, prosecutors feel they would have a better chance of receiving a conviction.
Troyer served time in prison in the early 1980s for the attempted rape of an elderly woman. He has been named as a suspect in the 1985 death of a 69-year-old South Salt Lake woman and has been questioned about the strangulation deaths of other elderly women.
He is currently serving a sentence at the prison for attempting to burglarize an elderly woman's home. But Skordas said concerned Board of Pardons personnel have recently contacted him to see if he has any other cases against Troyer.
The man who two weeks ago was facing a possible death penalty could be eligible for parole any day. He has already served the recommended guidelines for his one-to-15-year sentence and may soon appear before the Board of Pardons.
In a proposed finding, Daniels wrote that he had no choice but to dismiss the case because of the prosecution's representations. The judge indicated that "only a very small part" of the original evidence was suppressed.
But Skordas said the suppressions were vital to the case and said much of the remaining evidence is meaningless unless it is coupled with the suppressed testimony. Motions have been filed to suppress much of the remaining evidence, too, and Skordas said he is fearful that the judge would suppress some of those as well.
Troyer was released from a halfway house for six hours on the day of the murder. He told detectives different stories about his whereabouts on that day. One of the stories put him within a block of the homicide. His sister testified that Troyer called her and said he needed an alibi for that day. She said, however, that they were never together.
Daniels suppressed Troyer's statement about his whereabouts because Troyer was not given a Miranda warning. He also suppressed the sister's statements, indicating that investigators wouldn't have known about the confession if not for her statement.
In October 1988, Troyer escaped from a halfway house but was arrested by Seattle police officers. Officers read him his Miranda rights and asked him if he knew why he was being arrested. Troyer said it was because he had tried to rape a 60-year-old woman and police wanted to ask him questions about it.
Daniels said he would suppress those statements because Troyer didn't verbally waive his Miranda rights. The judge also said the statement could not be presented because it made reference to a previous crime and would prejudice the jury.
He also suppressed DNA testing of hair and tissue samples found at the scene because Skordas had previously announced he would not use it and the defense proceeded with its case without considering the DNA evidence.
The judge also prohibited prosecutors from allowing a former cellmate to testify that Troyer confessed to him that he killed Ethel Luckau. He said he suppressed the evidence because Skordas had earlier testified he did not intend to use testimony from prison inmates. Skordas argued, however, that the cellmate came to prosecutors after they agreed not to use inmates' testimony.