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Home / Articles / News / News Articles /  Donald Eugene Younge: Prosecutorial Misconduct?
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Donald Eugene Younge: Prosecutorial Misconduct?

Prosecutorial misconduct alleged in trial of U student's violent death.

By Jesse Fruhwirth
Posted // March 3,2010 -
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Actress and University of Utah student Amy Quinton, 22, was preparing to graduate in 1999. She did—posthumously.

On August 3, as the summer semester waned and Quinton was only two German finals from graduating, a man slid through her sliding-glass door at 127 S. 800 East, held a knife to her roommate’s throat and demanded cash.

Quinton called 911, but the intruder caught her and hung up the phone. The operator called back, but the intruder politely told the operator the call had been a mistake. Quinton and her two roommates were tied up with duct tape. Before leaving, the intruder struck one of the roommates in the head, non-fatally stabbed the other roommate, then stabbed Quinton, piercing her heart and killing her.

Donald Eugene Younge, 43, an inmate at the Utah State Prison, originally from East St. Louis, Mo., was charged almost a decade later with the murder of Quinton. He is on trial in 3rd District Court and facing the death penalty, if convicted. His attorney, Michael Misner, proved last year that Salt Lake City Police once violated Younge’s constitutional rights and now argues prosecutors are bending the rules. The violations, if proven, could result in the case being dismissed.

Younge faces nine first-degree felony charges and one capital aggravated murder charge for Quinton’s death, but he’s already serving two life terms in prison.

Nearly three years before Quinton’s murder, in November 1996, a 23-year-old U student told police she was walking home after a night class near her home at 465 S. 1200 East when a man mugged and raped her in a nearby alley. Still without any suspects in March 2000, prosecutors filed Utah’s first warrant that contained only a suspect’s DNA profile—taken from semen on the victim’s body—but not his name. That prevented the statute of limitations—then just four years for rape cases in Utah—from expiring (in 2008, the Utah Legislature eliminated the statute of limitations for first-degree felony sex crimes, including rape). In December 2009, with evidence that the DNA was Younge’s, he was convicted and sentenced to 31-years-to-life in prison.

It was years earlier, in March 2002, that the DNA profile from the rape case was tied to Younge. At that time, he was in an Illinois jail awaiting trial for rape and unlawful detention of a prostitute named Antonina Brummond, in December 1999. In April 2002, Salt Lake City Police Detective Mark Scharman visited Younge in Illinois, and, according to a ruling from Utah 3rd District Judge Deno Himonas, violated Younge’s right to have an attorney present during the interview. Police said at the time that Scharman would be interviewing Younge about the Quinton murder.

While still awaiting trial in the Illinois rape case, in June 2002, Younge was charged with the “garbage bag” murders, as the St. Louis Post Dispatch called them, of three prostitutes ages 31 to 38, whose bodies were found in similar garbage bags within a six-block radius in East St. Louis. Brummond, the victim in the rape case, was the key witness for the prosecution in the triple-murder case. Garbage bags similar to the ones containing the bodies were allegedly seized from Younge’s home. Illinois prosecutors sought the death penalty.

In March 2004, Brummond was stabbed to death in an incident unrelated to Younge. Illinois prosecutors immediately dropped the rape charge against him and announced they would no longer seek the death penalty in the triple-murder case.

The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office has never explained why Younge was a suspect in Quinton’s murder for seven years before they actually filed charges against him, but in May 2008, he was charged. In February 2009, after Younge had spent nearly seven years in an Illinois jail without a trial, prosecutors there dropped the murder charges against him, citing questions about the honesty of a lab technician and the loss of Brummond. Younge was extradited to Utah in March 2009 for a second round of rape and murder charges.

Misner’s allegations of prosecutorial misconduct precede Younge’s extradition to Utah. Misner says a report from Salt Lake City-based Sorenson Forensics, prepared for the district attorney’s office, found male DNA on Quinton’s phone, on duct tape used to tie her up and under Quinton’s fingernails—none of which matched Younge.

Misner says that report is dated Feb. 21, 2008, two months before prosecutors charged Younge with the murder, and 18 months before they offered Younge a “global” plea deal for charges in both cases. The deal was for him to plead guilty to one count of aggravated sexual assault and one count of capital murder. Prosecutors, rather than seek the death penalty, also offered to recommend to the judge that Younge be eligible for parole.

Misner says he urged Younge to take the deal, but Younge refused. A week or two later, Misner says, he received the evidence from prosecutors that male DNA in Quinton’s apartment was not Younge’s. He alleges prosecutors withheld that evidence from the defense for 18 months and through five rounds of discovery (in which prosecutors are obligated to provide their evidence to the defense). “The DNA says it’s somebody else,” Misner said at a Feb. 26 motion hearing. “The fair remedy … is to dismiss this case. This is clearly misconduct [and] bad faith. … Something fishy is going on. I don’t trust [the prosecutors].”

Lead prosecutor Vincent Meister, however, says they received the Sorenson report only shortly before they provided it to the defense, not 18 months. Besides saying that one of Quinton’s roommates identified Younge as the murderer years ago, Meister would not discuss the DNA nor any other evidence that may tie Younge to the Quinton murder. “We [have] handled this case professionally,” he said after the Feb. 26 hearing.

“If necessary, we’ll have an evidentiary hearing to deal with [Misner’s misconduct allegations].”

Misner also claims prosecutors are changing facts from case to case. In the rape case, Younge’s attorneys forced prosecutors to prove that the charges were filed within the statute of limitations. A detective testified that Younge had left Utah in March 1999. That suited prosecutors then, Misner says, because the statute of limitations “tolls,” or stops accumulating, while the defendant is out of state.

After an evidentiary hearing, Himonas ruled Dec. 8, 2009, that a “preponderance of the evidence” shows the statute of limitations tolled beginning March 1999, which implies that Younge had left Utah several months before Quinton was murdered. Misner wants the case dismissed on those grounds, but prosecutors say it’s for a jury to decide whether Younge was in the state to kill Quinton, regardless of the judge’s ruling.

Attorneys on the case are expected to file more written argument before Himonas rules on the motions. Younge will next be in court on March 26 for a status conference.

Timeline:?

  • April 16, 1977 - Amy Quinton is born in Seattle, Wash
  • Nov. 7 1996, a 23-year-old University of Utah student is mugged of $16 and raped in an alley near her home 465 S. 1200 East, Salt Lake City, while walking home from a night class
  • March 1999 - The alleged month that Younge left Utah (see item Dec. 9, 2009)
  • April 1999 - Amy Quinton plays "Jane Webster," a best friend to the lead character, in Afternoon of the Elves, performed at the Babcock Theatre.
  • August 3, 1999 - University of Utah theater student Amy Quinton, 22, stabbed to death in her condo, 127 S. 800 East. Roommate Erin Warn, 19, was stabbed, but survived. Third roommate Lynn Drebes, 37, was hit in the head. Forty minutes after the murder, one of the victim's debit cards was used outside Park City, and elevan hours later in Steamboat Spring, Colo., but never again.?
  • Summer 1999 - Amy Quinton is posthumously granted a degree in theater from University of Utah. She was only two final exams away from graduating at the time of her death.?
  • March 2000 - "John Doe"/DNA warrant filed as statute of limitations was running low. Two counts of aggravated sexual assault and one count of robbery are filed against John Doe, later identified as Younge.
  • March 25, 2000 - FOX's America's Most Wanted features the Amy Quinton murder
  • February to May 2000 - The bodies of five dead women are found in a six-block area of East St. Louis, Missourri. At least three were found in similar-type garbage bags.?
  • Sometime in 2000 - Younge was convicted in an auto theft and sent to prison.?
  • Dec. 28, 2001 - Younge is paroled on the auto theft charge.
  • March 2002 - It's announced that the DNA profile from the Nov. 1996 rape matches Younge, who's on trial in Illinois for a December 1999 sexual assault/rape and unlawful detention of a prostitute, Antonina Brummond.
  • June 2002 - Younge, in Belville, Ill., jail awaiting trail for the rape of Brummond, is charged in the "garbage bag" killings of prostitutes in East St. Louis. Younge is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and is a suspect in a fourth. Victims: Seriece Johnson, cause of death unknown, 33; Ramona Sidney, 31, six children, cause of death unknown; and Tracy Williams, 38, three children, strangled. Each were from East St. Louis, all reportedly were prostitutes known to police. "They were found in separate plastic garbage bags discarded in weeded lots in the southern part of East St. Louis," according ot the St. Louis Post Dispatch. "The bodies of Sidney and Williams were found May 18, 2000, after someone reported seeing a dog gnawing on a human thigh bone." A roll of garbage bags was reportedly seized from Younge's house in East St. Louis. Younge was not charged but news reports listed him as a suspect in the death of Yvette House, 33, who was not found in a garbage bag but was found near the other bodies; she was pregnant with her 12th child.?
  • August 2002 - Salt Lake investigators visit Younge in the Illinois jail to ask him about the Quinton murder.?
  • Sept. 17, 2002 - SLDA amends the "John Doe"/DNA warrant in the rape case to include Younge's name.?
  • November 2002 - Illi. prosecutors say they'll seek the death penalty against Younge in the triple-murder case
  • January 2003 - Illinois Governor George Ryan commutes the death sentences of all Illinois inmates, but prosecutors pledge to seek the death penalty against Younge, and others, anyway. Ryan had previously halted all executions in 2000. Seven East St. Louis death-row inmates were commuted, but four defendants, including Younge, still faced capital punishment in their pending cases.?
  • March 18, 2004 - Illi. prosecutors say their key witness in that case, Antonina Brummond, was herself murdered, unrelated to Younge's case. Prosecutors dropped the rape case and backed off the death penatly in the triple-murder case.?
  • Feb. 21, 2008 - Salt Lake City-based Sorenson Forensics tests samples from the phone and duct tape used in the home-invasion/murder of Quinton. According to defense attorney Michael Miser in 2010, male DNA was found that did not belong to Younge.?
  • May 22, 2008 - Younge is charged with the Quinton murder.?
  • March 2, 2009 - Younge is extradicted to Utah. The Illinois murder charges were dropped. Salt Lake Coutny District Attorney's Office would later say the loss of key-witness Drummond and a potentially dishonest state's witness provoked the dismissal.
  • October 23-27 2009 - Motion and evidentiary hearing is held in Younge's rape case. Younge argues his Miranda rights were violated by a Salt Lake City Police Detective Mark Scharman who came to Illinois to interview him. Third District Judge Deno Himonas ruled Younge's rights were violated and the contents of the interview would not be admitted as evidence at trial. Younge also argues that the "John Doe"/DNA warrant is illegal because it did not give him proper notice that he was charged with a crime.?
  • Nov. 2009 - Quinton's roommates, Warn and Drebes, testify against Younge in the preliminary hearing in the Quinton murder case
  • Nov. 2009 - Prosecutors make a "global" offer to Younge: plead guilty to one count of aggravated sexual abuse and one count of capital homicide, we'll recommend life with parole, all other charges will be dropped. Younge's attorney encouraged him to take the offer, but Younge declined.?
  • Later in November 2009 - Misner says he was told only after the plea deal was made and rejected that DNA tests had discovered male DNA on Quinton's telephone and the duct tape used to tie up the women, but it does not belong to Younge. Misner alleges this is a discovery violation and prosecutorial misconduct.
  • Dec. 9, 2009 - Himonas rules in the rape case regarding statute of limitations, "Detective Wasmuth's testimony and documents admitted into evidence demonstrate that Defendant was outside the jurisdiction of Utah from March 1999 until he was extradited to Utah on February 28, 2009. There is no evidence to the contrary."
  • Dec. 13, 2009 - The 1996 rape victim testifies at trial.
  • Dec. 14, 2009 - Mid-trial in the rape case, Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office announces they'll seek the death penalty against Younge for the Quinton murder
  • Dec. 16, 2009 - Younge is convicted in the rape case, jury deliberates 1 hour
  • Jan. 15, 2010 - Younge is sentenced to 31 years to life in prison in the rape case
  • Feb. 26, 2010 - Younge's attorneys accuse prosecutors of misconduct in the Quinton murder trial

source: news reports

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