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Utah death row inmate will get new hearing

PROVO — A death row inmate will get a new hearing after the Utah Supreme Court says witnesses may have been intimidated by police.

Chicago native, Douglas Stewart Carter, was convicted in 1985 of killing 57-year old Eva Oleson, who was the aunt of a Provo City Police Chief.

death row inmate Douglas Carter

Douglas Stewart Carter, now 63, in an undated photo provided by the Utah State Prison

In the original trial, two friends of Carter, Epifanio and Lucia Tovar, testified he visited them in their home after the murder and “laughed and giggled” as he demonstrated how he killed Oleson.  Shortly after testifying, the couple disappeared and prosecutors claimed they fled the country.

After several failed appeals, the Tovars were located by Carter’s attorneys in 2011.  It was then the couple stated Provo police officers threatened them with deportation, prison and the removal of their son if they didn’t testify against Carter.

Mr. Tovar declared he was pressured before, during and after his interrogation and told things ‘would go badly’ for him if he didn’t cooperate.  After agreeing to testify, the couple says they were then bribed with a new apartment, food and gifts.

A former officer appears to corroborate the Tovar’s statement saying he was required to “keep the Tovars happy” by bringing them Christmas gifts and groceries.

Even with the new information, the district court dismissed the appeal for the third time.  But the Utah Supreme Court reversed the decision last week on March 21.

The justices wrote, “It is clear then that the Tovars’ testimony was crucial at both the guilt and sentencing phases of Carter’s trial.”  They went on to write “the financial benefits provided to the Tovars demonstrate that the Tovars’ testimony was ‘bought and paid for by police.”‘

The case now returns to the district court for an evidentiary hearing, but no date has been set, yet.