A 3rd District judge has denied a motion to grant a new trial for condemned killer Ralph LeRoy Menzies.
Defense attorneys said a new trial is necessary since the transcript from his 1988 trial contains so many errors that it would be impossible for an appellate court to review his death-penalty case properly.But Judge Raymond Uno decided to certify the original transcript of Menzies' trial Wednesday, saying he believes it is an accurate record of the proceedings, despite its numerous mistakes.
The judge also agreed to send a partially revised transcript to the Utah Supreme Court. That transcript contains changes that were made when attorneys went to California to meet with Tauni Lee, the court reporter during the trial. Attorneys from both sides tried to clean up the transcript through reviewing her original shorthand notes.
The defense contended that the original transcript contains hundreds of inaccuracies, omissions and embellishments. Some statements were attributed to the wrong person. Numerous dates and numbers were incorrect, portions of the proceedings were left out and some statements were taken from police reports, and not from testimony in the court itself, testified attorney Brooke Wells.
Lee lost her job shortly after the trial and there was some questions as to whether she was ever licensed to practice in Utah.
Prosecutors admitted that the transcript contains mistakes, but said the errors are correctable and not significant to the case.
In the latest of several hearings Wednesday, defense attorneys and prosecutors met again to try and resolve the major disputes with the transcript.
"We went through it line by line, but that quickly became counterproductive," said Rick MacDougall. "Both sides felt it had gone on as far as it can logically go."
Uno apparently agreed and will ask that an appellate court make any further findings about the transcript as part of its mandatory review of Menzies' death penalty.
As part of the appeal process, defense attorneys will undoubtedly argue the question about the transcript again, MacDougall said. The high court will now have to decide if that is reason enough to overturn the death penalty.
Menzies was 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.