Utah man convicted of killing wife granted new trial over faulty crime scene measurements

Posted at 1:03 PM, Aug 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-04 11:24:18-04

PROVO, Utah — A man who was found guilty in the 2012 murder of his wife is getting a new trial.

In February 2015, Conrad Truman was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison after he was found guilty of shooting and killing Heidy Truman in their Orem home.

In August of that year, Truman's attorneys requested he receive a new trial and be released from prison, based partially on an analysis from a deputy state medical examiner.

“I can no longer state with medical or scientific certainty which individual fired the fatal shot,” stated Dr. Edward Leis in a signed affidavit. “I can no longer rule out the possibility that Heidy Truman died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound of the head.”

In a court document dated August 3, 2016, Judge Samuel McVey ordered a new trial based on findings that measurements taken at the crime scene were not correctly reported to the jury, thus removing the possibility that Heidy's death was a suicide from the jury's consideration.

During the trial, a medical examiner testified that Heidy Truman could have walked one to one and a half steps after being shot in the head. A diagram shown to the jury displayed a distance of 13.9 feet between the position where Heidy's head came to rest and the position where Conrad claimed to have heard the gunshot occur.

According to the court document filed Wednesday, Conrad Truman's defense investigated the crime scene and discovered the actual distance was 139 inches (about 11.6 feet), not 13.9 feet - a difference of about 2 feet 4 inches.

"The significance of these errors is that under the correct dimensions the victim could have indeed shot herself, taken a step and a half and then reached the point where she was found. Thus, instead of the suicide scenario being virtually impossible, it became possible. As the prosecution argued using the incorrect, 'How could she have gotten from the hallway to the pool of blood?' In fact, unknown to the prosecution because it had been provided wrong measurements, had the victim shot herself at one location in the hall, her head would have been almost exactly at the point where she was found from which the blood splatters originated," the court document said.

An attorney for Truman, Ann Taliaferro, spoke about the discovery.

"We immediately had what we call an 'Ah ha' moment where we understand what happened here," Taliaferro said. "We grabbed a tape measure and measured, and we knew immediately that the measurements were off."

Judge McVey noted that "there was ample evidence on which to base a finding of guilty in this matter" in the filing.

"However, the incorrect dimensions presented to the jury in essence removed from its members the issue of reasonable doubt based on a defense theory of suicide."

Taliaferro also noted the importance of precise measurements.

"It’s not just a measurement, it's the whole theory that she could not have shot herself because she would have had to travel so far," Taliaferro said.

For the time being, Conrad Truman's verdict of guilt has been set aside and a new trial will be ordered, which will allow a jury to weigh the correct dimensions and circumstances of Heidy Truman's death.

Colette Dahl, Conrad Truman's sister, spoke to FOX 13 after a new trial was ordered.

"It’s very frustrating that we’ve been through all of this when it was not necessary," she said. "...We’ve had to fight everything we can to fight what we’ve considered to be a huge injustice."

Dahl said she believes the new trial will result in her brother's release.

"I cannot wait to have him out," she said "It will make a difference in all of our families' life to have him back where he belongs."