Menzies v. State

Decision Date23 September 2014
Docket NumberNo. 20120290.,20120290.
Citation2014 UT 40,344 P.3d 581
PartiesRalph Leroy MENZIES, Petitioner and Appellant, v. STATE of Utah, Respondent and Appellee.
CourtUtah Supreme Court

Theodore R. Weckel, Jr., Salt Lake City, Craig T. Peterson, Bountiful, for appellant.

Sean D. Reyes, Att'y Gen., Thomas B. Brunker, Asst. Att'y Gen., Erin Riley, Asst. Att'y Gen., Salt Lake City, for appellee.

Chief Justice DURRANT authored the opinion of the Court, in which Associate Chief Justice NEHRING, Justice DURHAM, Justice PARRISH, and Justice LEE joined.

Chief Justice DURRANT, opinion of the Court:

Introduction

¶ 1 Nearly twenty-six years ago, a jury convicted Ralph Leroy Menzies of the first degree murder of Maurine Hunsaker. At sentencing, Judge Raymond Uno imposed the death penalty. Since then, we have issued three opinions in Mr. Menzies's case: two from direct appeals1 and one from a post-conviction appeal.2 In Mr. Menzies's first post-conviction appeal, Menzies III, we reversed the dismissal of his post-conviction petition and allowed him to amend his petition.3 He availed himself of this opportunity multiple times, culminating in the filing of a Fifth Amended Petition for Relief Under the Utah Post–Conviction Remedies Act (Fifth Amended Petition). On March 23, 2012, the post-conviction court (PCC)4 issued an order granting the State summary judgment, denying Mr. Menzies's cross-motion for summary judgment, and dismissing the Fifth Amended Petition.

¶ 2 Mr. Menzies's current post-conviction appeal to this court (his second) raises numerous claims, which can be separated into three general categories. First, he challenges the constitutionality of the Utah Post–Conviction Remedies Act (PCRA), as well as the PCC's application of the PCRA's funding provisions. Second, he claims that the PCC erred in rejecting several of his post-conviction motions, including motions for an answer from the State, a continuance, and an evidentiary hearing. Finally, he claims that his former counsel provided ineffective assistance, including at trial, sentencing, and on appeal. We reject each of Mr. Menzies's claims and affirm the PCC's order dismissing his Fifth Amended Petition.5

Background

¶ 3 We have recounted the basic facts of this case in our three previous decisions.6

We recite some of those facts here, along with certain other facts, to help give context to the specific issues raised in this appeal. First, we consider the facts relating to the crime and investigation. Next, we outline the procedural history of this case: (1) the guilt phase of the trial, (2) the penalty phase of the trial, (3) the appellate proceedings, and (4) the post-conviction proceedings.

I. The Crime and Investigation

¶ 4 During the evening of Sunday, February 23, 1986, Maurine Hunsaker's husband called the Gas–A–Mat gas station where she worked. Mrs. Hunsaker did not pick up. Concerned, Mr. Hunsaker then went to Gas–A–Mat around 10:10 p.m. that same night. When he arrived he found that Mrs. Hunsaker and her purse were gone. The police arrived at the gas station and accompanied Mr. Hunsaker home. At about 11:05 p.m., Mrs. Hunsaker called the Hunsakers' home phone. She stated that [t]hey told me to tell you they robbed me and got me and that I am fine and they are going to let me go sometime tonight.” Mr. Hunsaker noted that Mrs. Hunsaker sounded upset and scared. An officer also spoke to Mrs. Hunsaker on the phone and asked whether the perpetrators robbed her. Mrs. Hunsaker said yes. She also indicated that the perpetrators planned to release her that night or the following morning. The officer then returned the phone to Mr. Hunsaker. Mrs. Hunsaker asked Mr. Hunsaker what she should do. The telephone line disconnected before he could respond.

¶ 5 Two days later, on Tuesday, February 25, a hiker found Mrs. Hunsaker's body near the Storm Mountain picnic area in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Her throat was cut, her wrists had marks on them, and the bark of a nearby tree was scuffed, suggesting that she was tethered to the tree. A medical examiner determined that ligature strangulation caused Mrs. Hunsaker's death. The examiner also noted that the cut in her throat contributed to her death and that a variety of different knives could have been used to inflict the wound. The examiner's report indicated that the marks on her wrists could have been caused by wire or cord, but it made no mention of handcuffs.

¶ 6 Meanwhile on February 24, as the police were investigating the events surrounding Mrs. Hunsaker's disappearance, they arrested and booked Mr. Menzies for an unrelated burglary. Mr. Menzies's exact booking time is uncertain. He suggests that the police completed the booking process at 7:59 p.m. He also points out that trial counsel stipulated that he turned over cash to the police around 7:20 p.m. Other evidence in the record suggests that the police began the booking process around 6:40 p.m. During booking, the booking officer asked Mr. Menzies for his possessions. He responded by spinning around, running down a hallway, and ducking into a changing room. He was out of sight for about five to eight seconds. A pursuing officer found Mr. Menzies and saw him “reaching around” to “pull on” his pants. The officer testified that although Mr. Menzies was handcuffed at the time, he could still move his arms. Mr. Menzies explained that he had run and ducked into the changing room because he was looking for a restroom. He did not ask for a restroom again, however, during the hour-and-a-half booking process.

¶ 7 A jailer found four of Mrs. Hunsaker's identification cards in a laundry hamper located in the changing room into which Mr. Menzies ran.7 The jailer put the cards in a nearby desk drawer. Another officer later discovered the identification cards in the drawer. The officer who found the cards recognized Mrs. Hunsaker's picture from an earlier news report regarding her disappearance.

¶ 8 Multiple witnesses alleged they saw Mrs. Hunsaker during the time between her disappearance from the gas station and the finding of her body. First, a witness reportedly saw her at a Denny's restaurant on the night of her disappearance with a man who fit the description of Mr. Menzies's friend, Troy Denter. Second, on February 24, the morning after Mrs. Hunsaker went missing, two high-school students, Tim Larrabee and Beth Brown, saw two people at Storm Mountain who they later said fit the description of Mr. Menzies and Mrs. Hunsaker.

¶ 9 On Tuesday, February 25, the day after Mr. Larrabee and Ms. Brown visited Storm Mountain, Mr. Larrabee watched television and saw a report that a hiker found Mrs. Hunsaker's body near the Storm Mountain picnic area. The next day, Wednesday, February 26, Mr. Larrabee contacted the police and reported that he and Ms. Brown were at Storm Mountain the morning of Monday, February 24. Mr. Larrabee reported twice seeing a man and a woman walking together away from where he and Ms. Brown were located. He noted that the man had a coat slung over his right shoulder and that he could not tell whether the two were holding hands. He stated that nothing unusual appeared to be going on between the two. He further reported that about ten minutes after he saw the two people, he heard a scream and assumed that the woman either slipped or was frightened by an animal. Approximately fifteen to twenty minutes later, Mr. Larrabee saw a man walking alone towards the nearby parking lot. Mr. Larrabee also said he noticed a 1960s cream-colored vehicle in the parking lot similar to a 1968 Buick Riviera.

¶ 10 Mr. Larrabee described the man he saw as a white male, twenty-five to thirty years old, 6'1 tall, and approximately 170 pounds. He noted that the man wore a coat that was either blue-grey or blue-white. He also said the man had black curly hair and either a scraggly beard or sideburns. Mr. Larrabee's description of the man ended up being within one inch in height and ten pounds in weight of Mr. Menzies. Mr. Larrabee said he could probably identify the man if he saw a picture, but that he could not identify the woman. Police detective Richard Judd created a composite drawing using Mr. Larrabee's description.

¶ 11 Two days later on Friday, February 28, after comparing the composite drawing with photographs from over two hundred inmates booked between February 23 and February 25, the police selected six photos from that group for Mr. Larrabee to view. Mr. Menzies's picture was one of the photos the police picked from the pool. The police considered Mr. Menzies a suspect by the time they showed the photos to Mr. Larrabee.8 Detective Judd testified that they tried to make it as hard as possible for Mr. Larrabee to identify Mr. Menzies. The police then showed Mr. Larrabee the array of photos. Mr. Larrabee initially made no positive identification. He asked to see the array again. After further review, he selected Mr. Menzies's photo as looking the most like the man he saw at Storm Mountain.

¶ 12 About three months after Mr. Larrabee viewed the photo array, the police conducted a lineup that included Mr. Menzies. At the lineup, Mr. Larrabee identified someone other than Mr. Menzies as the man he saw at Storm Mountain. Apparently, Mr. Larrabee later felt he made a mistake and asked the prosecutor whether number six in the lineup was the suspect. Mr. Menzies was suspect number six. Later at trial, the court instructed the jury not to consider Mr. Larrabee's testimony regarding his confirmatory request to the prosecutor.

¶ 13 The same day the police showed Mr. Larrabee the photo array, they also interviewed Mr. Menzies's friend Troy Denter. Mr. Denter told them that he loaned his cream-colored 1974 Chevrolet to Mr. Menzies some time during the afternoon of Sunday, February 23. Mr. Menzies apparently told Mr. Denter he planned to return the car around 10:00 p.m. Sunday night. Mr. Menzies did not return the car on time. Mr. Denter called Mr. Menzies's apartment phone number around 10:00 p.m....

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2 books & journal articles
  • Shifting the Burden: Presuming Prejudice for Failing to Contact an Alibi Witness.
    • United States
    • Suffolk University Law Review Vol. 54 No. 3, June 2021
    • June 22, 2021
    ...Strickland, 17 GEO. J. legal ethics 755, 764 (2004) (arguing difficulty of proving Strickland claim). (62.) See, e.g., Menzies v. State, 344 P.3d 581, 625 (Utah 2014) (holding even if trial counsel's performance deficient, it did not prejudice Menzies); State v. Syed, 204 A.3d 139, 165 (Md.......
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    • Suffolk University Law Review Vol. 54 No. 4, September 2021
    • September 22, 2021
    ...Strickland, 17 GEO. J. Legal ETHICS 755, 764 (2004) (arguing difficulty of proving Strickland claim). (62.) See, e.g., Menzies v. State, 344 P.3d 581, 625 (Utah 2014) (holding even if trial counsel's performance deficient, it did not prejudice Menzies); State v. Syed, 204 A.3d 139, 165 (Md.......

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