Attorneys for convicted killer Ronald Lafferty urged the Utah Supreme Court on Monday to review 550 pages of previously unavailable transcripts they say show their client was incompetent to stand trial.
Lafferty's attorneys want the court to reopen portions of Lafferty's initial appeal. The justices listened to arguments without making an immediate decision.The transcripts contain records of hearings held to determine whether Lafferty was sane enough to be tried for the throat-slashing deaths of his sister-in-law, Brenda Wright Lafferty, and her 15-month-old daughter, Erica, at their American Fork home.
They also contain information Lafferty's attorneys say shows their client did not fully understand what he was doing when he agreed to waive his right to use an insanity defense.
"We feel that the testimony doesn't show he was competent," said Mike Esplin, one of Lafferty's attorneys.
Esplin said records of testimony by Lafferty and a court-appointed psychiatrist who found him competent to stand trial had been omitted from the transcripts justices considered in denying Lafferty's appeal.
In June, U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Greene stayed Lafferty's June 24 execution date after ruling the state court did not have access to a complete transcript of the case when it denied Lafferty's appeal in January. He also said he could not rule on the case without the full transcript.
That is why Lafferty's attorney asked the state court to consider the new transcripts. Greene put Lafferty's federal appeal on hold pending the state court's action on the petition.
Some of the proceedings had not previously been transcribed by a court reporter and had not been considered as part of the record.
Lafferty, 46, a self-proclaimed prophet and polygamy advocate, was sentenced to death for the July 24, 1984, murders. Lafferty claimed to have been ordered by God in a revelation to kill the woman and infant. His brother, Dan Lafferty, also was convicted in the slayings but was sentenced to two life prison terms.
Assistant Utah attorney general Sandra Sjogren argued the transcripts contain nothing that would change the court's original judgment. She said Lafferty's attorneys should provide specific information about what new information the transcripts contain.
Lafferty's attorneys also are concerned about the difficulties defense attorney Richard Johnson had because of Lafferty's desire to represent himself.
Esplin said the transcripts record instances in which Lafferty tried to rescind his waiver of a sanity defense and times when he disagreed with his attorney on how to proceed.
"He (Lafferty) was going hot and cold on this," Esplin said.
The appeal contends Lafferty was incompetent to assist his attorney at trial and incompetent to stand trial; that he was wrongly denied a change of venue; that he was not allowed to present a defense of insanity; and that jurors were shown inflammatory photographs of the victims.