Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Lori Hacking

Legal Proceedings

It was initially believed that the prosecution team, led by Salt Lake County D.A. David E. Yocom, Deputy D.A. Angela F. Micklos and attorney Robert L. Stott, would seek the death penalty in their case against Mark. However, the prosecution decided instead to file a first degree murder charge against the defendant, which carries a possible penalty of five years to life in prison, Reed reported in an August 9, AP article. Reed claimed that the absence of Lori's body prompted the decision. Moreover, he suggested that the prosecution team would not file a homicide charge to account for Lori's unborn baby because police were unable to confirm she was pregnant.

Gil Athay,defense attorney
Gil Athay,defense attorney

On August 16, Mark, accompanied by his lawyer, D. Gilbert Athay, appeared before 3rd District Court Judge William Barrett to schedule a date for his preliminary hearing. Stephen Hunt wrote on August 18 that when he appeared in court he was "wearing a bullet-proof vest and flanked by seven bailiffs." Hunt suggested that it was unclear whether there were death threats made against Mark but the "unusual security measure" was often used for high profile cases. The preliminary hearing was scheduled for September 23, 2004.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Athay may ask the court to "inquire into Hacking's mental competency." It is believed that Mark's alleged mental illness may be a significant factor in the defense's case. Hunt reported that Mark fell from a roof in his early 20s, which resulted in a head injury and "because evidence of brain damage could support an argument for reduced charges," it will likely be used at the preliminary hearing and trial.

On August 27 "a series of investigative subpoenas was unsealed" dating from July 21 to August 30th, which showed how "detectives cast a broad net early in their investigation of Lori's disappearance," Canham stated in the Salt Lake Tribune. The subpoenas included surveillance videos of a Morman church located near the park and from the University Neuropsychiatric Institute, cell phone and financial records, television footage of Mark on July 19 and 20th taken by local TV stations, and credit reports.

Before the preliminary hearing, the defense and prosecution teams will have to scour through all the evidence and find material that will help support their cases. If the defense team is unable to produce a strong enough case there is a chance that they might settle for a plea agreement. Hunt and LaPlante quoted Salt Lake City defense attorney Mark Moffat who said, "You want to assess the strength of the prosecution's case and strength of any defenses to know if an offer is appropriate." It is unknown whether a plea agreement is in the works or if the case will indeed go to trial.

 

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