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Utah requests Ralph Menzies come before the court to issue an execution warrant

Menzies was convicted of first-degree murder in 1988

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Death row inmate Ralph Menzies attends 3rd District Court in West Jordan on Oct. 3, 2007.

Death row inmate Ralph Menzies attends 3rd District Court in West Jordan on Oct. 3, 2007. Utah officials on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024, began the court process to carry out Menzies’ execution.

Francisco Kjolseth

The state of Utah filed a court request Wednesday asking the court to direct that Ralph Menzies be brought into the court so the state can issue an execution warrant.

The request was filed in the 3rd Judicial District Court in Salt Lake County.

This moves Utah a step closer to performing the execution of Menzies by firing squad. A judge has not yet signed the warrant. It’s expected that District Judge Matthew Bates will hold a hearing. If the court does not find a reason to delay signing the death warrant, the judge will then sign the warrant. If the warrant is signed, an execution date will be set.

“The warrant shall state the conviction, the judgment, the method of execution, and the appointed day the judgment is to be executed, which may not be fewer than 30 days nor more than 60 days from the date of issuance of the warrant, and may not be a Sunday, Monday, or a legal holiday,” Utah code states.

It’s been more than a decade since Utah has performed an execution. The last one occurred on June 18, 2010, when Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by firing squad for the slaying of attorney Michael Burdell. Gardner killed Burdell during an attempted escape from a courtroom in 1985.

Menzies was sentenced to death for the slaying of Maurine Hunsaker. The murder occurred in 1986 and he was convicted in 1988. Hunsaker was working at a gas station in Kearns when she called her husband and told him she was abducted, but that she believed she would be let go. Two days later, she was found dead in Big Cottonwood Canyon. She was a mother of three.

After Menzies was sentenced, he appealed and it was upheld. He has sought postconviction relief and after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit affirmed his conviction, he requested that the U.S. Supreme Court take up the case. The Supreme Court denied the request.

In October 2023, the Utah Attorney General’s Office indicated that it would seek a warrant for Menzies’ death. “This week, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes announced that Ralph Leroy Menzies had exhausted all appeals in his 1988 capital punishment case. He will face a hearing within the next few weeks, where a judge is expected to sign a death warrant as the process progresses,” the office said in a release on its website.

A judge dismissed a suit filed by Menzies and other death row inmates in December 2023. The suit challenged the state’s procedures for carrying out capital punishment. Judge Coral Sanchez of Utah’s 3rd Circuit Court wrote in the decision to dismiss the suit that the “plaintiffs have offered no legal precedent or historical facts to support facts to support their interpretation of the cruel and unusual punishments clause: that a method of execution must result in instantaneous death.”

“There are no actions pending that seek relief from Menzies’s first-degree murder conviction or death sentence,” the state’s filing said.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Ronnie Lee Gardner killed Michael Burdell when attempting to escape from a prison. Gardner killed Burdell during at attempted escape from a courthouse.