The Utah Supreme Court has given a judge more time to decide whether convicted killer Ralph LeRoy Menzies deserves a new trial.
Third District Judge Raymond Uno said he now has until Dec. 3 to decide whether Menzies' 1986 trial transcript was so full of mistakes that it makes his appeal impossible.Defense attorneys say the 4,300-page trial transcript is so riddled with errors that the high court would be unable to make sense of it in the pending appeal.
Prosecutors acknowledge that court reporter Tauni Lee made numerous mistakes but maintain the document is usable.
Representatives from the Salt Lake Public Defenders Association and the Salt Lake County attorney's office are in California meeting with Lee in hopes of reconciling the errors. Deputy County Attorney Rick MacDougall said that process should be completed this week.
Defense attorney Joan Watt said she does not believe the transcript will be usable even after it's corrected.
"We believe this procedure is futile," Watt said.
"We are not concerned about commas and apostrophes," she said. "We are concerned about entire paragraphs that are unintelligible."
Watt also said transcripts from two pretrial hearings are missing.
MacDougall said the majority of mistakes are typographical errors and the transcript is understandable. After reading the transcript himself, Uno said he was ready to certify it and send it to the Supreme Court.
Menzies was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death for the kidnap and murder of Maurine Hunsaker in 1986.
After defense attorneys complained about the transcript, citing at least 338 errors in one 57-page portion, Lee was brought to Utah to correct the trial record.
She completed about one-third of the transcript before returning to California in August. Prosecutors said Lee refused to finish the job unless she was paid a salary and given air fare, housing and use of a car while she completes the job. Uno has asked the county to make the concessions so the transcript can be repaired.
The county attorney's office initially balked at the request, saying Lee was paid to do the job right the first time.
In October, however, Bud Ellett, chief of the office's Justice Division, agreed to send an attorney from each side to California to consult with Lee and attempt to reconcile the transcript.
Defense attorneys had taken the case to the Utah Supreme Court, which refused to intervene but ordered Uno to decide whether Menzies should get a new trial.