Getting A New Trial Based on New Evidence Can Be Difficult
Danny Logue was convicted of aggravated murder, possession of a dangerous weapon by restricted person, and obstruction of justice. Brandon Wright, a witness for the State at trial, testified that Logue admitted to the aggravated murder in 2014 when they were both serving prison time. Logue was sentenced in May 2015, and he filed a motion for a new trial, which was denied in December 2015. He then filed his notice of appeal. While his appeal was pending, Wright walked into a police station and confessed to an unrelated murder. Logue petitioned the court for extraordinary relief based on Wright’s confession. He argued that unless the court exercises its authority to issue an extraordinary writ, he won’t be able to seek a new trial based on this newly discovered evidence until after he has exhausted his direct appeal. Logue asked the Utah Supreme Court to direct the district court to entertain a motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence even though the time for filing such motion had already expired.
Rule 24(c) of the Utah Rules of Criminal Procedure generally requires that a motion for new trial be made not later than fourteen days after entry of the sentence. Rule 60(b)(2)(c) from the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure requires litigants to seek relief from judgment based on new evidence no later than ninety days from the entry of judgment against them. The court explained that it appeared that Logue may not petition for postconviction relief until he exhausted his direct appeal. It appears that criminal defendants who discover new evidence more than ninety days after sentencing must await the conclusion of their appeal before attempting to seek relief based on this evidence.
The court denied Logue’s petition for two reasons: (1) it failed to comply with the pleading requirements prescribed in rule 19(b) of the Utah Rules of Appellate Procedure, and (2) Logue failed to carry his burden of showing that the newly discovered impeachment evidence in this case justified granting extraordinary relief. Logue failed to carry his burden of showing that the newly discovered impeachment evidence justified its issuing an extraordinary writ. Logue never explained how Wright’s omission amounted to perjury. Typically, newly discovered evidence does not warrant a new trial where its only use is impeachment. The jury was aware of Wright’s lengthy criminal record, and Logue did not convince the court that the jury’s assessment of Wright’s credibility would have been significantly affected by the additional information that he had committed an unsolved serious crime.