PROVO — An Orem man once convicted of murdering his wife in 2012 was exonerated Friday by a new jury after the case went to trial for a second time.
Conrad Truman, 35, was found not guilty Friday of murder in the shooting death of his wife, Heidy Truman, 25, after a jury deliberated the case for 8½ hours. He was also cleared of obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony.
Truman grinned widely as he walked out of the Utah County Jail and into the arms of his cheering family after the verdict was handed down Friday. He said the moment marked the end of a nightmare, comparing it to the end of the movie "Groundhog Day."
"(The character) said 'today is tomorrow,' and that's what this is. Today is my tomorrow," Truman explained, a slight crack in his voice.
He then praised his family before leaving, his arm wrapped around his father.
"I love my family so much," Truman said. "Thank you."
Truman has been behind bars since his arrest in July 2013. The experience, he said, cannot be explained.
"I've been locked up for something I didn't do, I don't know what else to say to that," Truman said.
Truman's attorneys argued during the three-week trial that the Orem man had been caught up in a single-minded investigation by police who pegged him as responsible for his wife's death the moment they came in the door. According to Truman, his wife shot herself in front of him.
Prosecutors have maintained that Heidy Truman, who they described in court as "sassy" and determined, had no reason to take her own life, but died at the hands of her husband after a night drinking and arguing. Conrad Truman's erratic and violent behavior toward police and first responders arriving at the scene was evidence of his guilt, prosecutors said, as were his varying accounts of what happened that night.
A jury convicted Truman in 2014 of killing his wife in their Orem home. He maintained throughout the first trial and at his sentencing that he was innocent. The conviction was overturned in August after Truman claimed inaccurate crime scene evidence taken by police influenced the verdict.
The couple had been home watching television and drinking whiskey on Sept. 30, 2012. At one point the couple bickered, according to Truman, though not about anything consequential. Police responded to a frantic 911 call from Truman just before 11 p.m.
Heidy Truman died from a single gunshot wound to the head. While Truman insists he heard a popping noise that night before rushing down the hallway to see his wife collapse from a self-inflicted gunshot, her family claims she was a tragic victim of domestic violence.
The tense courtroom was mostly quiet as the jury's verdict was read Friday, but once the judge exited, two waves of emotion broke as Conrad Truman's family celebrated and Heidy Truman's family sobbed.
Utah County deputy attorney Tim Taylor expressed prosecutors' remorse for Heidy Truman's family. Going into the re-trial, Taylor said prosecutors knew it would be difficult to present the case.
"We really believed in this case," Taylor said, praising his office as well as police involved in the case.
"We wanted a certain outcome, because we still feel that what we were trying to prove was the correct thing, but you know what, we absolutely trust the system," Taylor said.
After speaking with jurors, Taylor said the group "struggled" to come to their decision.
Taylor said he thinks several factors may have pushed the jury to a different verdict than the one rendered in the first trial, including the corrected measurements of the Truman home and the medical examiner's decision to change Heidy Truman's manner of death from "unknown" to "homicide," then back to "unknown" once new information was presented to him during Truman's appeal.
"We acknowledge there was a mistake in the measurements, and if there was a mistake in the measurements and the way that things were done, then you know what, we need to do things the right way. I don't have a problem with that at all," Taylor said. "We support that the right information came in this time."
Defense attorney Mark Moffat called the verdict "a huge victory" for Truman and his family, commenting on the years his client has spent behind bars and the transition he now faces.
"This day has been long in coming, he has endured incredible hardship over that period of time," Moffat said.
Moffat believes the trial had a different outcome because of the evidentiary problems uncovered in the police investigation, specifically incorrect measurements of the home that had made Truman's explanation of the shooting seem implausible.
"It's hard to say what the jury focused on specifically, but those measurements in that house had a big deal to do with it, those diagrams had a big impact on that first trial," Moffat said. "The jury (in the second trial) went to that house, they saw the size of that space, and I think they knew that investigation was heavily flawed."
Truman had been sentenced to serve 15 years to life in prison in February 2015. When his conviction was overturned, 4th District Judge Samuel McVey declined to reduce Truman's $1 million bail and he remained in custody.
As the defense focused on the trial, Moffat said the possibility of a civil lawsuit has not been discussed.