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County OKs legal funding for murder suspect trial

By Rick Sherman
Sun Advocate Reporter

Under Utah Code, anyone who is facing a charge that could carry the death penalty is entitled to two death penalty-qualified attorneys to represent them.
Carbon County Commissioners have approved a contract for Indigent Capital Defense Counsel Service in the Seth Peterson double murder case. The action came during the regular Commission Meeting of May 1. The contract sets forth the limits the Defense Fund will pay for Peterson’s defense counsel Rudy Bautista and assistant counsel Stephen Howard.
The charges against Peterson stem from an incident at a farm near the Hiawatha Road on November 2, 2016 that left his mother and brother dead from gunshot wounds.
Deputy County Attorney Jeremy Humes said the agreement is actually between the defense and the Capital Defense Counsel Service, and it was more of a formality that the County approve it.
Humes had noted earlier that this type of case can be extremely complicated- and expensive. The Indigent Capital Defense Fund is similar to an insurance policy. The county pays into the fund and in the event a case arises like the Peterson case, the defense costs do not have to be paid out of the county budget.
Humes updated the Board of Commissioners on the Capital Defense Fund contract during the May 1 meeting. He explained it will cover up to $60,000 for the defense, with $20,000 increments at three bench marks: costs leading up to the preliminary hearing, costs incurred before trial, and costs associated with the trial.
The preliminary hearing was held April 26 in Seventh District Court. Peterson pleaded not guilty to each of five felony charges, including two counts of Aggravated Murder, one count of Attempted Aggravated Murder, one count of Aggravated Robbery, and Failure to Stop or Respond at the Command of a Police Officer. The next court date is scheduled for June 19.

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