SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah man whose murder conviction in his wife’s death was overturned wants the judge on his case removed, arguing his comments about alcohol show he’s biased against drinkers.
Judge Samuel McVey pointed to Conrad Truman’s drinking as the most significant danger of potential release when he refused to lower the defendant’s $1 million bail, defense attorneys argue in court documents.
Prosecutors disagreed, saying Monday that McVey’s comments were observations about the facts of the case.
McVey cited the combination of alcohol and guns in 2015, saying Truman likely probably would not be in court if he had not been drinking the night his wife died.
After his conviction was overturned, Truman, 34, of Orem, asked for his bail to be lowered but the judge decided in August that the only way to protect society from the deadly combination of guns and liquor was a high bond.
His lawyers contend McVey has given prosecutors the benefit of the doubt, downplayed defense arguments and raised his own theories about what happened.
Prosecutor Tim Taylor said McVey should stay on the case because he knows it well. While the judge has made decisions that went against Truman, he has also ruled in his favor, including the decision that overturned the conviction, Taylor said.
Truman and his wife were drinking the night of her 2012 shooting death. Prosecutors say he killed Heidy Truman after an argument, possibly to collect an insurance payout.
Truman said he found his wife dead after she left to take a shower. His lawyers have said she probably shot herself.
Truman was found guilty of murder as prosecutors cited his threats to emergency responders and changing stories about what happened that night.
The judge granted a new trial, though, after his defense lawyers discovered that prosecutors had presented the jury with incorrect measurements of the hallway in the couple’s house near where she was found dead.
Based on evidence presented during Truman’s trial, jurors thought the hallway was longer than it actually is, which weakened his defense because his wife would have been unable to stagger being shot to the spot where her body was found, McVey ruled.
When the measurement was corrected from 13.9 feet (4.2 meters) to 139 inches (3.5 meters), that explanation appeared more plausible.
Prosecutors said the mistake was a harmless error, but McVey decided the correct length could have raised reasonable doubt for jurors about Truman’s guilt.
He will be tried again in November, and the judge decided there is enough evidence Truman represents a potential threat to society to maintain bail at $1 million cash instead of the $250,000 amount asked for by his lawyers.
Truman is also appealing the refusal to lower his bail.