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.
source: news reports