Instead of issuing an opinion on whether convicted murderer Ralph LeRoy Menzies should get a new trial, a 3rd District judge ordered attorneys Monday to review a 3,500-page trial transcript that defense attorneys say is full of errors.
Defense attorneys say the transcript of the trial by court reporter Tauni Lee was filled with so many errors it would be impossible for an appellate court to review the death penalty case. They said they discovered more than 350 discrepancies in a 53-page portion of the transcript, in addition to several omissions.Some of the discrepancies include the word "purge" in one transcript and "perjure" in the other, and "assuming" in one and "as soon as" in the other.
Even though Judge Raymond Uno had listened to three days of testimony on the matter and had deliberated for a month, he surprised attorneys when he did not rule on the matter Monday, and instead instructed them to review the transcript themselves.
"It's not necessary that the transcript be perfect, only that the appellate court can have an accurate record," he said, explaining the errors must be "consequential" in order to grant Menzies a new trial.
Uno ordered the attorneys to review all of the transcript and then report back to him, even though it may be September until the attorneys could even begin to look at the transcripts together.
In arguing for a new trial, attorney Richard Uday said the error-filled transcript was similar to a valuable vase being dropped and broken. "You can pick up those pieces and put it back together. It may look the same, but the value is not there," he said.
The 1988 trial lasted for four weeks. A jury found Menzies, 31, guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Maurine Hunsaker, a mother of four who 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.