A Utah federal judge heard testimony Monday regarding the mental state of condemned murderer Ronald Lafferty, who is seeking a stay of his Friday execution date.
Lafferty is scheduled to die Friday morning before a firing squad for the July 24, 1984, murders of Brenda Wright Lafferty, 24, and her 15-month-old daughter, Erica, in their American Fork home.In arguments before U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Greene Monday, Lafferty's attorney, Michael Esplin, contended that his client was denied a fair trial because he suffered from a mental illness or defect which prevented him from consulting with his then-trial attorney, Richard Johnson, "with a reasonable degree of rational understanding."
The two constitutional issues Esplin is using to challenge Utah's capital punishment laws are presently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court in Oklahoma cases.
One of Esplin's contentions is that the jury responsible for convicting Lafferty had preconceived opinions about the death penalty because of widespread publicity.
The second contends that graphic photographs of the crime scene and the victims were shown during the sentencing phase of the trial to "inflame and impassion the jury."