The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals made its decision in the case of Von Lester Taylor, who was one of two defendants convicted in the Christmastime 1990 killings of a woman and her mother at a cabin in Summit County, Utah, FOX 13 of Salt Lake City reported.
The mother was blind and partially handicapped, the Deseret News of Salt Lake City reported.
Taylor pleaded guilty in 1991 to the murders, which happened Dec. 22, 1990, the station reported.
"Mr. Taylor does not deny he actively participated in the murders," Judge Timothy Tymkovitch wrote, according to the station. "To answer the question of whether he can be actually innocent of the crime: He cannot. Mr. Taylor is not innocent, in any sense of the word."
Utah state attorneys praised the appeals court’s decision.
"Today’s ruling puts Taylor back on the road to justice. Sadly, it does not end the case and permit Taylor’s immediate execution," Assistant Solicitor General Andrew Peterson said in a statement, according to The Associated Press.
"Today’s ruling puts Taylor back on the road to justice. Sadly, it does not end the case and permit Taylor’s immediate execution."
Peterson added that the victims’ family "have waited more than thirty years for justice. They should not have to wait any longer."
Taylor’s attorney, Brian Pomerantz, countered that the appeals court’s decision means only that the case will continue being litigated for some time to come, "in hopes of executing a man who did not kill anyone," he told the AP.
In his appeal, Taylor argued he should be spared from execution because he didn’t fire the shots that killed the victims. But Judge Mary Beck Briscoe said his argument was moot because Utah law does not distinguish between criminals and their accomplices.
A co-defendant, Edward Deli, was also convicted in connection with the killings. He received a sentence of life in prison, FOX 13 reported.
The two defendants were also charged with kidnapping two other people and shooting a man, FOX 13 reported. Taylor and Deli were ultimately arrested after a high-speed police chase, the report said.
In March, U.S. District Court Judge Tena Campbell had overturned Taylor’s death sentence, ruling that Taylor did not have effective legal counsel when he was initially charged, FOX 13 reported. Campbell claimed that Taylor’s guilty plea to two capital crimes was invalid and thus should be vacated, the report said.
Judge Campbell wrote that Taylor's initial defense lawyer, Elliott Levine, did not visit the crime scene, did not hire an investigator and did not consult experts in preparing Taylor's defense, the Deseret News reported.
Authorities claimed Deli fatally shot Kaye Tiede and her mother, Beth Potts; kidnapped Tiede’s daughters, ages 20 and 17; and wounded Tiede’s husband, Rolfe Tiede, with a gunshot to his head after dousing him with gasoline.
Deli went to trial, denied shooting anyone, and received a life sentence, while Taylor pleaded guilty, with a jury later sentencing him to death, the AP reported.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.