Hearing Set for Death Row Inmate

Hearing Set for Death Row Inmate

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- An evidentiary hearing has been set for Dec. 15 for death-row inmate Ralph LeRoy Menzies, whose attorneys are seeking to reopen his state appeals.

Third District Judge Pat Brian met in chambers with attorneys Thursday and scheduled hearing.

Menzies, 45, was convicted of the 1986 kidnapping and murder of Maurine Hunsaker, 26, who was abducted from the Kearns gas station where she worked. She was strangled and her throat was slashed. Her body was found near the Storm Mountain picnic area of Big Cottonwood Canyon.

A federal judge last month issued a stay of execution pending the filing of a federal petition challenging his conviction, and appointed Salt Lake City attorney Elizabeth Hunt as Menzies' attorney. Hunt had not filed the federal petition as of Thursday.

Hunt was appointed Menzies' attorney in state court Thursday.

Brian is considering her motion asking him to set aside a 3rd District Court ruling last year that rejected Menzies' challenge to his conviction. The ruling, which prosecutors claim ended Menzies' appeals process in state court, came after Menzies' former attorney, Ed Brass, failed to respond to a motion seeking such a ruling.

Brass filed a notice of appeal after the ruling, but never filed the appeal itself, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Brunker has said.

Brass has since withdrawn from the case, but filed a motion supporting Menzies' position. In the motion, Brass said, "I now realize that I do not understand the complex procedural rules governing capital cases in state and federal post-conviction (appeals)."

Hunt said Menzies should not be held responsible for Brass' mistakes.

Brian said Thursday that he wants to hold an evidentiary hearing on communication between Brass and Menzies.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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