Gordon v State

Gordon appealed the denial of his petition for DNA testing under Utah code 78B-300 to 304. The Court reversed. It held that the district court erred in denying Gordon the opportunity under Rule of Civil Procedure 65B to file a response opposing the state’s motion for summary judgment as petitions under eh NA statute are subject to the rules of civil procedure. Offering guidance on remand, the court held that the provision requiring no testing if the original decision to ask for testing by a defendant was for tactical reasons creates an affirmative defense as it a means of avoiding relief without defeating and element and thus must be raised bit eh state. However, as knowledge of the tactical decision is within the control of the defense, the burden of proof will lie with Gordon to prove the decision to not ask for testing was not tactical. The Court adopted a rule of purposeful decisions not to seek testing as defining a tactical reason for statutory purposes. It opined that ignorance based decisions would not be tactical, but, the attorney’s ignorance is what needs to be assessed and cost based decisions may be tactical or not depending on the circumstances but noted cost benefit analyzed decisions would be fall into the tactical category.

Mienhart v State

Mienhart appealed the denial of his motion for DNA testing. The Court reversed and remanded. It held that the district our adopted the correct view that the “new, noncumulative evidence” mentioned in the DNA testing statute refers to the DNA test results and not to a speculative confession or witness or other possible evidence and that this construction of the term was consistent with the statutory text and context and the policy of limiting post-conviction relief to rare cases where it is needed not every case with a creative lawyer. The Court noted that the mere display of DNA evidence is not the sole evidence allowed here as expert testimony to explain the meaning and significance of the results will also be necessary. The Court held that the district court implicitly applied an incorrect rule in determining if the DNA evidence sought “has the potential” to produce new evidence as it spoke in terms of certainty or more likely than not while the statutory term used is “potential” which is a meaningful possibility but not a likelihood or a certainty The Court could not tell if the district court would have found no meaningful possibility of the killer’s DNA being where Mienhart wanted to test and remained for new analysis under the correct standard.

M.J. v Wisan

Wisan appealed the denial of his motion for summary judgment on M.J.’s claims against certain trust assets arising from alleged sexual abuse during her underage plural marriage. The Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. It held that a prior case involving the trust would not be extended beyond its facts as doing so would upset the settled expectations of claimants like M.J. to having their claims settled form trust assets. It held the release between M.J. and her husband did not necessarily release the trust as at least some of her theories of liability are premised on independent wrongdoing by Fundamentalist LDS leaders and not merely vicarious liability for acts of the husband. The Court held that respondent superior was appropriate here even if more modern views as to sex based torts are not applicable as church leaders appear to have been serving at least some interest in running the test according to church doctrine which included underage plural marriages and thus it is appropriate for the trust to cover damages caused by the acts of church leaders as trustee which would be the scope of his duties. The court held that reverse veil piercing is a viable theory of liability in Utah but, was unavailable here as M.J. can pursue her claims under respondeat superior and thus revered on this narrow ground.