For Immediate Release
DEATH ROW INMATE LOSES LENGTHY BATTLE OVER HIS CONVICTION AND SENTENCE
A convicted killer has lost a 17 year legal battle over his conviction and death sentence but Ralph Menzies still has more options to try and postpone his execution date. Third District Judge Bruce Lubeck signed the order denying post-conviction relief on March 23, more than 26 years after Menzies robbed, kidnapped, and murdered Maurine Hunsaker.
Menzies was convicted by a jury and the judge sentenced him to death in 1988. The Utah Supreme Court affirmed his conviction and sentence in 1994 and denied review of the case in 1995. The Utah Attorney General’s Office has spent the last 17 years fighting against Menzies’ claim he had ineffective legal representation.
“We are pleased with the outcome and optimistic this case will now move forward with greater speed,” says Assistant Attorney General Thomas Brunker. “We have argued and maintain that Menzies had excellent representation by highly skilled attorneys both at trial and on direct appeal. Even though the most skilled attorneys sometimes make mistakes, that did not happen here.”
On February 23,1986, Menzies abducted Hunsaker from her job at a gas station. After holding her for about twelve hours, Menzies drove her to the Storm Mountain picnic area in Big Cottonwood Canyon, tied her to a tree, strangled her and slit her throat.
Menzies claimed his attorneys were inadequate during the trial and said the defense guilt phase theory was “stupid,” idiotic,” and “wholly speculative.” But Judge Lubeck ruled that Menzies’ trial attorneys “vigorously sought a sentence other than death” and that their theory was “far, far superior and extremely reasonable” compared to the one now being offered. “Trial counsel did not render ineffective assistance,” concluded Judge Lubeck.
The case now moves to the Utah Supreme Court for the fourth review of Menzies’ conviction and sentence. He can also pursue relief in federal court. A copy of the judge’s ruling is available upon request.