CRIME

Why court proceedings in Aaron Lowe murder case were postponed nine times

Sep 26, 2022, 7:25 PM | Updated: 8:01 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — One year after the death of University of Utah football player Aaron Lowe on September 26, 2021, prosecutors continue to pour over digital evidence and the case against his accused killer continues to get pushed back in court.

The criminal prosecution of Buk Mawut Buk for the alleged aggravated murder of Aaron Lowe has been postponed nine times, according to Utah State Courts. That includes multiple requests from defense attorneys and at least one request from prosecutors.

Buk’s preliminary hearing was supposed to happen this month, but in a scheduling hearing earlier in September, the prosecutor asked the judge to postpone the preliminary hearing “at least a couple of months.”

Utah Football’s Aaron Lowe killed, another injured in SLC shooting

According to an audio recording of that hearing obtained by KSL, when the judge asked why, the prosecutor responded, “We just have a lot more stuff to dig through.”

“This is something we’re going to have to work out on all of these [aggravated] murders is the amount of time it used to take to get prepared has been tripled because, you know, everything’s like piles and piles of cell phone data and videos.” 

“So, for us as prosecutors, it’s about recovering that evidence. It’s about going through the plethora of evidence that’s there,” said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill. 

Gill said data and videos from cell phones, body cameras, ring cameras, and social media have added to the workload of his team as they work to prosecute cases in court like the shooting that killed Aaron Lowe. 

Even with misdemeanor cases, Gill acknowledged combing through digital evidence has added to the workload.

“That has meant hundreds of hours that they have to now review that they historically didn’t have to do.”

At the same time, Gill said the price they pay for more evidence “can mean the difference of a successful prosecution or solving of the case or not.”

“But it’s also given us accuracy. But it’s also given us thoroughness. It’s also given us sometimes an eye witness account which might have been missing.”

Gill also noted more than 80% of defendants in the Salt Lake County jail waiting for their time in court are being held on violent offenses. And he said there is a 12 to 18-month backlog in the courts post-COVID. In his regular call with prosecutors’ offices across the country, he said nearly all of them are reporting a 12 to 36-month backlog.

Tania Mashburn,  communications director at Utah State Courts said, “the courts have continued to make progress reducing the number of pending cases across the state while simultaneously conducting 20% more jury trials than the historical average.”

Mashburn noted that prior to the pandemic, the courts resolved 95% of district court criminal cases within 12 months. In the most recent fiscal year, she said, that number has dropped to 84%.

“Our work to address these pending criminal cases will continue in earnest through 2023,” she said.

On the anniversary of Aaron Lowe’s death, the University of Utah Football team honored him in a tweet that said, “One year without you. We play for you. We love harder, we smile bigger and we work fiercely with the intention of getting 22% better each day. Your life and legacy have made a lasting impact so big that it cannot be measured. We love you, A Lowe, and we miss you.”

Defense attorneys requested the judge push back Buk’s preliminary hearing even more on Monday. It is currently scheduled for February 3, 2023.

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Why court proceedings in Aaron Lowe murder case were postponed nine times