By LINDSAY WHITEHURST Associated Press
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A federal appeals court has dealt a setback to a Utah death row inmate who saw his conviction overturned in connection with a string of violence at a remote cabin.
Even if Von Lester Taylor did not fire the fatal shots in a 1990 triple shooting and kidnapping case, he cannot be considered innocent because Utah law makes accomplices as guilty as perpetrators, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday.
The finding overturns a previous ruling by a federal judge in Salt Lake City who found reason to believe Taylor’s partner committed the murders. U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell ruled Taylor’s trial lawyer failed him and ordered his conviction overturned.
Taylor’s attorney, Brian Pomerantz, said the ruling means more hearings in federal court.
“What happened today was a loss for Mr. Taylor, the families of the victims, and the State of Utah, because it means that the state will continue to litigate this case for years to come in hopes of executing a man who did not kill anyone,” he said in a statement.
Utah state attorneys, though, applauded the decision, saying Taylor “participated up to his neck” in the slayings.
“Today’s ruling puts Taylor back on the road to justice. Sadly, it does not end the case and permit Taylor’s immediate execution,” Assistant Solicitor General Andrew Peterson said in a statement. “Beth’s and Kaye’s family have waited more than thirty years for justice. They should not have to wait any longer.”
Taylor doesn’t deny that he and Edward Deli and broke into a cabin in Oakley around Christmastime three decades ago. But his lawyers presented new ballistics evidence they say shows that Deli fired the gun that killed Kaye Tiede and her mother, Beth Potts.
The pair also shot husband Rolf Tiede, but he survived being shot in the head and doused with gasoline. The men then kidnapped the Tiedes’ two daughters, ages 20 and 17, but were captured by police soon after.
Taylor pleaded guilty to capital charges, and a jury sentenced him to death. Deli went to trial, where he denied shooting anyone and got life in prison.