Competency hearing urged for Utah death row inmate

Competency hearing urged for Utah death row inmate

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Defense lawyers are seeking another competency evaluation for Utah death row inmate Ron Lafferty.

They said the 68-year-old is paranoid schizophrenic, a condition that makes him unable to communicate with them about his federal appeal of his conviction.

In November, the attorneys asked U.S. District Judge Dee Benson to halt court proceedings pending an evaluation.

The Utah Attorney General's Office has argued the defense is limited to rebutting arguments already raised in the appeal and has no need for new information from Lafferty.

Lafferty was condemned to death for the grisly July 1984 slayings of his sister-in-law, Brenda Lafferty, and her 15-month-old daughter, Erica, at their American Fork home.

Ron Lafferty claimed to have a religious revelation sanctioning the slayings because of Brenda Lafferty's resistance to his beliefs in polygamy. The slayings were the subject of the best-selling 2003 book, "Under the Banner of Heaven," by Jon Krakauer that chronicles the religious extremism that motivated Lafferty.

His brother, Dan Lafferty, was convicted in a separate trial for his role in the case and sentenced to two consecutive life terms.

A federal appeals court overturned Ron Lafferty's conviction in 1991, ruling a state judge used an incorrect legal standard in finding him competent.

He was found incompetent to stand trial in 1992, but was found competent in 1994. He was retried in 1996 and again found guilty and sentenced to death.

Brenda Lafferty was beaten and strangled with a vacuum cleaner cord before the throats of her and her daughter were slashed.

Xavier Amador, a New York-based clinical psychologist, wrote in a Nov. 4 report that he thinks Ron Lafferty is paranoid schizophrenic and shows signs of frontal lobe syndrome and memory impairments.

Amador, who reviewed previous evaluations and interviewed Lafferty in prison, said further testing is needed.


Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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