Utah lawyer suspended, but overturning cases may be unlikely

Utah attorney Sean Young has been suspended from practicing law for three years after complaints surfaced about his legal work. (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) — Utah attorney Sean Young has been suspended from practicing law for three years after complaints surfaced about his legal work. But what happens to the cases he’s handled?

Young was on the defense team for Douglas Lovell, an admitted killer, who was twice sentenced to die for his crime.

According to co-counsel Michael Bouwhuis, Young was to contact 15 to 18 potential witnesses for the case, but spoke to “maybe two or three.”

Those witnesses may have mattered, Bouwhuis said, because death penalty phase jury decisions must be unanimous, and a single juror could mean the difference between life and death for a defendant.

“You want to put everything out there that you can, because you never know how it would impact one particular juror,” said Bouwhuis. “When you have that many witnesses who were not contacted, I don’t know how you can argue he received a fair shot.“

Steve Burton, immediate past president of the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said it’s his understanding Lovell’s death sentence is under appeal again — and he said people who have not testified could be heard now.

2News asked if other cases “touched” by Sean Young could be overturned.

“So the practical answer is no,“ Burton replied. “And the reason is because there are some specific limitations on the kinds of cases that can be revisited.“

For one thing, he said notices of appeal must be filed within 30 days after a sentence. There are exceptions, but he termed those “rare.”

2News reached out to Sean Young on Thursday.

He said he did not admit fault in the Douglas Lovell case, and noted that a judge complimented him on being "the most competent lawyer on the case."

The suspension order was in reference to Young’s handling of a single case — not Lovell’s sentencing — and all other complaints against him were dismissed.

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