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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A federal judge has stayed the Nov. 10 execution by firing squad of Ralph Menzies, who was convicted in the 1986 kidnapping-slaying of a gas-station attendant.
The stay signed Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart had been expected, but the victim's oldest son urged the court to make the case a top priority.
"It's taken us 18 years, plus, to get this far. ... I ask that we not drag our feet in this," Matt Hunsaker, 28, told Stewart.
Maurine Hunsaker, 26, was abducted from the Kearns gas station where she worked. She called her husband, Michael Hunsaker, that night and told him she had been abducted and robbed but was expecting to be released. Two days later, her body was found tied to a tree in the Storm Mountain picnic area of Big Cottonwood Canyon. She had been strangled and her throat was slit.
Menzies was linked to the slaying when police found the woman's identification cards in a room at the Salt Lake County Jail where Menzies had been held after being arrested for an alleged theft.
Menzies was convicted in 1988 of the kidnapping and murder. He has maintained his innocence.
He requested a new trial after it was learned that court transcripts were riddled with errors but was denied by the state court and the Utah Supreme Court.
In addition to the federal court appeal, he also is pursuing another appeal in state court.
Third District Judge Pat Brian is to rule Nov. 6 on whether Menzies still has an avenue for appeal in state court. A court ruled in 2000 that he did not, but Menzies' attorney at the time, Ed Brass, said he intended to challenge that decision.
Brass never filed the appeal but Menzies should still have the right to pursue it, his current attorney, Elizabeth Hunt, argued last month.
Assistant Attorney General Thomas Brunker contended that the window for such an appeal has closed.
Hunt said no defendant should be denied justice for mistakes made by counsel.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)