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Attorneys for Ralph Menzies argue he is incompetent for execution based on dementia diagnosis

Attorneys filed the petition after Utah filed a motion requesting a death warrant be issued

SHARE Attorneys for Ralph Menzies argue he is incompetent for execution based on dementia diagnosis
Death row inmate Ralph Menzies attends 3rd District Court in West Jordan in 2007.

Utah death row inmate Ralph Menzies attends 3rd District Court in West Jordan in 2007. Attorneys have filed a competency hearing for Menzies after the state filed a motion requesting a death warrant.

Francisco Kjolseth

An attorney on behalf of Ralph Menzies filed a petition requesting a competency hearing, arguing there’s “good reason for the Court to believe that he is incompetent to be executed.” The filing stated that a neurologist confirmed that Menzies was diagnosed with vascular dementia.

The news comes after the state of Utah filed a motion on Jan. 17 requesting a death warrant for Menzies. The petition was filed in the 3rd Judicial District Court in Salt Lake County.

Menzies was sentenced to death for the 1986 killing of Maurine Hunsaker. Hunsaker, a mother of three, was working a night shift at a Kearns gas station when she was abducted. She was found dead two days later in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

3rd District Court Judge Matthew Bates responded to the state’s initial motion by ordering all parties to appear in court on Feb. 23. “The Clerk of Court shall prepare and issue an order to the Utah Department of Corrections to transport Mr. Menzies to Court for the hearing on February 23rd,” Bates wrote. “The order shall authorize the Department to use any means of force reasonably necessary to compel Mr. Menzies to attend the hearing.”

In Bates’ ruling, he said that Menzies had until Feb. 7 to respond the ruling and Utah will have until Feb. 16 to reply.

The petition filed by Menzies’ attorneys, Jon M. Sands and Eric Zuckerman, states, “Mr. Menzies was recently evaluated by a neurologist who confirmed a diagnosis of vascular dementia and a neuropsychologist who has determined that, as a result of Mr. Menzies’ dementia, his cognitive state is so impaired that he is unable to rationally understand the State’s rationale for his execution.”

The petition also claims that Menzies’ memory has deteriorated and in coming weeks “he is likely to have no recollection of why his clemency application was denied, or even that he applied for clemency at all. In the absence of the memory of the justification for the denial of his clemency petition, Mr. Menzies would be rendered incapable of understanding why society is unwilling to show him mercy, and therefore would not be able to understand why society is punishing him.”

The petition argues that it would be unconstitutional to consider Menzies competent and move forward with the execution because he lacks “rational understanding.” The conclusion of the petition says, “The Court should order the Department of Health and Human Services to examine Mr. Menzies and order a competency hearing.”