Attorneys for convicted and condemned killer Ronald W. Lafferty say their client's actions during his recent trial clearly show he's incompetent and deserving of a new trial.
Defense attorneys Linda Anderson and Mike Esplin filed a motion last week with 4th District Judge Steven L. Hansen arguing that their client was of no assistance during his second trial. In lengthy affidavits filed with the motion, Anderson and Esplin say Lafferty was more concerned about his jail mattress and other mundane issues than he was with facing the death penalty."What defense counsel experienced was a defendant who was physically present in the courtroom but was not part of the proceedings in any rational and meaningful manner and who did not assist his counsel," the motion claims.
Lafferty was convicted in April of the killings of his sister-in-law and infant niece more than a decade ago. Brenda Wright Lafferty, 24, and Erica Lafferty, 15 months, were found July 24, 1984, in their American Fork apartment with their throats slashed. Brenda Lafferty had also been strangled with an appliance cord and badly beaten.
Last month, Hansen sentenced Lafferty to die by firing squad. The sentence and conviction will be automatically appealed.
Lafferty and his brother Dan were convicted of the killings in 1985. Dan Lafferty was sentenced to life in prison, while Ron Lafferty was sentenced to die. Ron Lafferty was granted a new trial, however, by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
It was during that recent second trial that Lafferty's attorneys say their client was of no help and incompetent. They claim he forgot legal discussions they had with him and the only facts he discussed were those he gathered from news articles.
The defense attorneys say they didn't put Lafferty on the witness stand because he couldn't answer questions in a rational manner. They couldn't even risk having him read a prepared statement to the jury, they claim. They also say Lafferty had hallucinations during the trial and complained of a constant buzzing.
The attorneys have since hired a forensic psychiatrist to review Lafferty's trial behavior and notes he wrote during the trial. The psychiatrists says Lafferty was clearly incompetent to assist his counsel.
Defense attorneys also argue that Hansen didn't follow Utah law when he allowed doctors hired by the prosecution and defense to conduct the last mental evaluations of Lafferty. They claim Hansen should have appointed in-de-pen-dent examiners. They say Han-sen basically accepted wholesale the opinions of the state's doctors and ignored the opinions of the defense's doctors.
The motion also argues that the jury should not have been shown a video of the slain infant in her crib. Also, prosecutors should not have argued during closing arguments that Lafferty was more deserving of the death penalty because one of the victims was an infant.
Lafferty's attorneys have made similar motions since their client's conviction, and Hansen has denied them all. Hansen has yet to rule on the latest motion for a new trial.