CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Utah asks for independent report on Menzies’ mental state, temporarily halting further execution proceedings

Feb 13, 2024, 3:00 PM | Updated: 4:26 pm

Ralph Menzies...

FILE: Death row inmate Ralph Menzies attends 3rd District Court in West Jordan on Wednesday, Oct. 3. 2007. The state of Utah has canceled a hearing on the application for an execution warrant scheduled for Feb. 23, 2024, so that independent psychological testing can be conducted on Menzies. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune)

(Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune)

SALT LAKE CITY —  A court has canceled a hearing to obtain an execution warrant for Utah death row inmate Ralph Menzies, whose attorneys claim has dementia. The court scheduled the hearing for Feb. 23, 2024.

Now, the court wants to make sure Menzies is mentally competent.

“Although the State does not agree that Menzies is incompetent to be executed,” read the order staying the proceedings, “the State does not object to further inquiry into Menzies’s mental health so that a complete and accurate record, analysis, and determination can be made of Menzies’s competency to be executed.”

Ralph Menzies has dementia, his lawyers say.  He is not competent to be executed, they said. 

Menzies is 65 years old and has been on death row since 1988. He was found guilty of murdering Maurine Hunsaker in 1986, after kidnapping her from a Kearns convenience store. 

Officials later found her body tied to a tree in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Order and Cert 031102598 Menzies by Simone Seikaly on Scribd

 

Menzies attorneys say their client is incompetent

If the state executed someone incompetent to be executed, it would violate the U.S. Constitution, Menzies’s lawyers said.

The court will further investigate the most recent claims by Menzies’s defense attorneys.  Specifically, the state wants the examiners to address: 

  • Menzies’ awareness of the fact of the inmate’s impending execution,
  • Menzies’ understanding that he is to be executed for the crime of murder,
  • the nature of Menzies’ mental disorder, if any, and its relationship to the factors relevant to his competency,
  • whether psychoactive medication is necessary to maintain or restore Menzies’ competency, and
  • whether Menzies has a rational understanding of why the State seeks to execute him.

The Department of Health and Human Services will appoint two medical examiners who will have 60 days to provide an initial report on Menzies’ mental state.

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Utah asks for independent report on Menzies’ mental state, temporarily halting further execution proceedings