COURTS & LEGAL

Trial for man charged with killing Provo officer set to resume after failed motion to dismiss

Mar 1, 2024, 8:49 AM | Updated: 3:01 pm

The defense and procuration meeting in Provo’s Fourth Judicial District Court with Judge Kraig Po...

The defense and procuration meeting in Provo’s Fourth Judicial District Court with Judge Kraig Powell presiding. (KSL TV)

(KSL TV)

PROVO — A judge denied a last-minute motion to dismiss the case against the man accused of killing Provo police officer Joseph Shinners.

The trial’s opening statements were scheduled to start early Thursday in Provo’s 4th Judicial District Court. However, attorneys representing the defendant, 45-year-old Matthew Frank Hoover, filed a motion to dismiss as Judge Kraig Powell considered the motion.

Missing information

The motion to dismiss was over the prosecution not disclosing details about a confidential informant. Hoover’s defense attorneys said the informant has been a key part of the state’s theory that Hoover was planning a “suicide by cop” because he did not want to return to prison.

“On or about Oct. 2, 2023, counsel for Mr. Hoover dispatched a letter to the State in response to trial disclosures that Plaintiff, the State of Utah, had previously made. In that letter, the defense specifically requested discovery and information which led to the creation of a key piece of prosecution evidence; the ‘pass-on’ of information relating to a notice that Mr. Hoover threatened ‘suicide by Cop,'” defense attorneys Mary C. Corporon and Jonathan T. Nish stated in the motion to dismiss.

Hoover standing in court.

Hoover standing in court. (KSL TV)

“Information was not forthcoming for whatever reason. Evidence never made it to where it needed to go. That puts us in a really difficult dilemma,” Nish told Powell in court.

During the hearing, prosecutors accepted their failure to comply with the defense’s request.

“We didn’t respond like we should have, we’re going to own that,” said Utah County Deputy Attorney Timothy L. Taylor.

The judge ordered that prosecutors present the defense with information on the confidential informant during the hearing.

Who is ‘CI-1?’

Prosecutors called on Lt. Jeff Bailey, director of the Utah County Major Crimes Task Force. The task force comprises multiple law enforcement agencies in Utah County assigned to address community problems of drug distribution, gang enforcement and any major crime.

Bailey said a former police officer and member of the force, Ariel Chavez, prepared the report in which the “criminal informant” known as “CI-1” was mentioned. He testified Chavez told him “CI-1” was a woman named Dusty Gibson, but he also named another woman, Tracy Allen Madsen, as a possible alternative.

Chavez, who left law enforcement in 2020, testified by phone that he couldn’t remember who the confidential informant was. However, after looking through an old Facebook account used during his time on the task force, he believed it to be either Gibson or Madsen.

Inconsistent police testimony

Defense attorney Nish raised multiple concerns over Chavez’s testimony and inconsistencies with his original report. Nish pointed out that the original affidavit included pronouns referring to the confidential informant as a “he,” while his testimony in court named two women.

Nish also raised concerns over the timeline of events in Chavez’s testimony. The confidential informant, believed to be Gibson, was mentioned in an affidavit dated March 2019, after Shinners’ murder; and Chavez could not recall if he had another encounter with Gibson before January 2019.

He further argued that the prosecution’s error also violated “Rule 505 Utah Rules of Evidence,” which gives prosecutors the privilege to withhold an informant’s name in certain cases.

Nish said that by not being able to not accurately name the “confidential informant,” prosecutors activated its clause that if “the government elects not to disclose the informer’s identity, the judge, on motion of the defendant in a criminal case, shall dismiss the charges to which the testimony would relate.”

Brady/Giglio violation rejected

Before Powell made his ruling, he met with attorneys in closed chambers.

He ruled that the defense’s motion to dismiss on the grounds of a Brady/Giglio violation was not merited because the prosecution disclosed the confidential informant’s name before the trial’s end and that Rule 505 did not apply as prosecutors did not invoke it.

“The prosecution conceded today that they did not reveal the identity of ‘CI-1,'” Powell said. “I am making a decision that the defendant’s rights to investigate this information under due process do not outweigh the public’s right to proceed with the trial that has been pending for five years … In other words, the defendant has had the ability to approach the court or investigate the information on his own because he has known this fact since 2019.”

Powell making his ruling over the motion to dismiss.

Powell making his ruling over the motion to dismiss. (KSL TV)

In making his ruling, Powell said that prosecutors’ admitted failure to provide important information to the defense doesn’t constitute a Brady/Giglio violation because they disclosed the information before the trial’s end.

However, the judge did not decide on whether the jury could hear testimony about “CI-1” or whether the state would be allowed to push a “suicide by cop” theory. The judge said he would meet with attorneys before the trial’s 9 a.m. start on Friday.

On Monday, the jury selection of the trial began, with an eight-person jury selected for the trial. They were scheduled to report to the court Friday morning.

On Jan. 5, 2019, Shinners attempted to arrest Hoover for probation violations in the parking lot of an Orem Bed Bath and Beyond. During the confrontation, Hoover allegedly shot Shinners in the chest. Shinners was rushed to a hospital, where he later died from his injury.

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Trial for man charged with killing Provo officer set to resume after failed motion to dismiss