State agrees to mental competency exam for death row inmate Ralph Menzies

Feb 6, 2024, 2:33 PM

Death row inmate Ralph Menzies attends 3rd District Court in West Jordan, Oct. 3, 2007. Attorneys f...

Death row inmate Ralph Menzies attends 3rd District Court in West Jordan, Oct. 3, 2007. Menzies' attorneys say he has dementia and executing him would violate state law. Prosecutors have now agreed to allow him to be evaluated again. (Francisco Kjolseth)

(Francisco Kjolseth)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Attorney General’s Office says it is open to having death row inmate Ralph Leroy Menzies’ mental competency evaluated.

On Jan. 23, attorneys for Menzies, 65, filed a petition in 3rd District Court, calling for a mental competency examination of their client, arguing that he has dementia and executing him would violate state law, as a mentally incompetent person cannot receive the death penalty.

“The state does not agree or concede that Menzies has met or can meet the requirements to establish that he is incompetent to be executed. However, the state does not object to further inquiry so that a complete and accurate record, analysis and determination can be made of Menzies’s competency to be executed,” the state wrote Monday in its response to Menzies’ petition.

The state is requesting that at least two mental health experts who are not currently involved in Menzies’ treatment be assigned to evaluate him.

“The state asks that Menzies be ordered to make himself available and fully cooperate in the examination by … independent examiners for the defense or the state,” the state responded in court documents. “The state also asks that the court order that all interviews with the inmate conducted by the examiners shall be videotaped and that immediately following the videotaping, the videotape shall be provided to the attorney for the state, who shall deliver it as soon as practical to the judge.”

In their petition, Menzies’ attorneys say that “a recent MRI scan shows significant brain atrophy, chronic micro-hemorrhages and damaged brain tissue, which have resulted in substantial deficits in Mr. Menzies’s learning, memory, information processing, abstract reasoning and problem solving.”

The state, however, noted in its response on Monday that those records were not included with the petition.

“When counsel for the state asked Menzies’ counsel to provide those documents, they declined but stated that they would comply with a discovery order from the court,” according to the state’s response. Attorneys for the state say they will file a separate motion seeking those records.

Menzies was convicted of aggravated murder, a capital offense, on March 9, 1988, and sentenced to death. He was found guilty of killing Maurine Hunsaker, a mother of three, after kidnapping her from a Kearns convenience store on Feb. 23, 1986, and taking her to Storm Mountain, in Big Cottonwood Canyon, where he tied her to a tree, strangled her and slit her throat.

An execution warrant was originally signed in 1988. The death sentence went through multiple appeals and was affirmed multiple times. In October, after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his case, Menzies had exhausted all appeal options.

The state filed a motion for the issuance of another execution warrant on Jan. 17. Menzies’ defense attorneys then filed their petition less than a week later saying their client has dementia.

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State agrees to mental competency exam for death row inmate Ralph Menzies