A defense attorney said Monday she discovered additional - and abundant - errors in the official 1988 trial transcript for condemned killer Ralph LeRoy Menzies.
Brooke Wells, who represented Menzies during the 1988 trial, took the witness stand and said the transcript is worse than she originally thought. The defense, again, asked 3rd District Judge Raymond Uno to grant Menzies a new trial. He was to make a decision by late Monday afternoon.For a year now, attorneys for Menzies have claimed the transcript contains so many errors that it will be impossible for an appellate court to review his death penalty case.
In October, Wells and prosecutor Brenda Stubbs, went to California to meet with Tauni Lee, the court reporter during the original 1988 trial, to try to clean up the transcript. Wells said she found more omissions, inaccuracies and embellishments than they had previously known about.
Lee read from her original shorthand notes from the trial while Wells and Stubbs compared her interpretation with the official transcript, which had been transcribed by a note reader.
One part of the transcript contains a description of Menzies by a witness who saw Menzies with the victim in Big Cottonwood Canyon after she was kidnapped. The transcript contains a description that is six lines long. Lee had only taken two lines of notes from the witness' description.
Under questioning from co-counsel Joan Watt, Wells said she believes the description from the transcript was taken from a police report and not from anything said during the trial.
"She (Lee) had supplied the note reader with copies of the autopsy, jury list and police reports," Wells told the judge. "Identification is a crucial issue, and the fact the transcript was supplemented to include more detailed description, I find to be significant."
Wells explained dozens of other discrepancies.
"Things I would say would be attributed to Mr. (Rick) McDougal," the prosecutor, Wells told the judge. She added that statements from the prosecution were sometimes attributed to the judge and vice versa.
"There were quotation marks attributed to certain portions of testimony, yet in Ms. Lee's notes, there was no indication these were quotes."
Wells said she also discovered that Lee had stopped taking down notes during certain portions of the jury selection process. She said the official transcript included statements that didn't exist in Lee's notes.
"Are you saying the note reader created statements for the court?" asked Watt. Wells said she believes so.
"Instead of the question, (Lee) had written the phrase `blurb' and apparently did not take down questions included in that juror exchange," explained Wells. For purposes of an appeal, she said, it is vital that a review court understand what questions prospective jurors were asked in a death penalty case.
Menzies has been sentenced to die for the kidnapping and killing of Maurine Hunsaker. The mother of four was kidnapped from her gas-attendant job on Feb. 23, 1986. Her body was discovered two days later in Big Cottonwood Canyon. She had been strangled and her throat had been slit.
Wells said that significant numbers and dates used throughout the transcript were inconsistent with what Lee had written in her notes. The transcript quotes the medical examiner as testifying about a 30-centimeter wound, yet Lee's notes indicate the wound was 3 centimeters.
The transcript indicates a detective took the first statement from Menzies on Feb. 26, but Lee's notes indicate Feb. 20. "That has to be wrong," Wells said, because Menzies' victim was not reported missing until Feb. 23.