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Justices uphold conviction in ’96 murder-for-hire case

SHARE Justices uphold conviction in ’96 murder-for-hire case
Motions by Paul Allen, shown with future wife Jill in their engagement photo, have been rejected.

Motions by Paul Allen, shown with future wife Jill in their engagement photo, have been rejected.

Paul And Jill Allen

The Utah Supreme Court upheld the capital murder conviction of Paul Allen, who was found guilty by a Davis County jury in 2000 in the murder-for-hire beating and strangling death of his wife, Jill.

The top court, in a 14-page unanimous ruling issued Tuesday, also upheld a district court's decision to dismiss claims presented by Allen.

The Supreme Court said Allen did not correctly challenge the district court's ruling, he did not provide proper legal briefs to support his contentions and did not offer the court the necessary record.

Allen, now 39, was convicted of aggravated murder for hiring a hitman through a middleman to kill his wife. Prosecutors maintain Allen wanted to set up the murder through other people to provide himself with an alibi, avoid an expensive divorce and collect a $250,000 life insurance policy on his 24-year-old wife.

Allen was sentenced to life in prison, but received the possibility of parole from a jury.

He has mounted various appeals and other legal actions since then, including challenging his capital murder conviction to the Utah Supreme Court, which previously denied that claim in 2005.

In district court, Allen challenged his conviction on 11 points, including allegations that there was bias on the part of the judge and jurors; prosecutors used false testimony at his trial; the court issued erroneous jury instructions; he got ineffective assistance from his lawyers at both the trial court and appellate level; and several other issues.

The court dismissed Allen's claims, some on their merits and others on procedural grounds.

The Supreme Court upheld the district court's ruling and based its decision primarily on the fact that Allen failed to follow appellate rules. It acknowledged that Allen is now representing himself and should be granted a reasonable amount of leeway since he does not have formal legal training, but the Supreme Court also noted that Allen is not unfamiliar with the court system and how the appeals process works.

"Mr. Allen's filings with this court suggest that he would have us take on the responsibility of applying an independent, critical eye to all of the activities that comprised the proceedings that led to his conviction and imprisonment as though we had not already reviewed his conviction on appeal," the document said.

"Additionally, Mr. Allen chose not to cogently or coherently present arguments in support of his claims, nor did he provide the portions of the record that were central to his appeal," the ruling said.

Prosecutors said that Allen offered Joseph Wright, $30,000 to kill Jill Allen. Wright, in turn, offered another man, George Anthony Taylor, $10,000 to commit the murder.

Taylor said he waited in the couple's North Salt Lake apartment in 1996 and when Jill Allen came home, Taylor beat her with a handgun and baseball bat, and strangled her with a belt.

Taylor and Wright received prison terms for their roles in the murder. They testified against Allen at an emotional 13-day trial.

E-mail: lindat@desnews.com