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A two-foot error made by investigators at the scene of a fatal 2012 shooting is enough to warrant a new trial for an Orem man convicted in his wife's death, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Conrad Mark Truman may in fact be guilty of Heidy Truman's murder, 4th District Judge Samuel McVey wrote in the ruling, but jurors relied on incorrect measurements in the couple's home when, in 2014, they found him guilty of holding a gun to his wife's head and pulling the trigger.
"Defendant's behavior after his wife died provided strong evidence of a guilty mind ... 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," the judge concluded.
The 34-year-old Conrad Truman was convicted of first-degree felony murder and second-degree felony obstruction of justice in 25-year-old Heidy Truman's death. He maintains his innocence and has said he believes his wife's death may have been a suicide.
McVey sentenced Conrad Truman to consecutive terms of 15 years to life and one to 15 years at the Utah State Prison, where he remained on Wednesday.
Now, Utah County prosecutors are considering where to take the case including discussions about whether to try Conrad Truman again for the crimes.
"We're keeping all our options open," Deputy Utah County Attorney Ryan Peters said. "We haven't made any decision up until this point."
Where Heidy Truman was shot, and how far she could have traveled after she was injured before collapsing near a stairwell, were contentious points at trial. The incorrect measurements, defense attorney Mark Moffat said last month, gave the impression that the home was much larger than it was. This could have led jurors to discredit Conrad Truman's testimony that his wife was shot in the hallway, because the measurements would have shown that Heidy Truman had to travel down a hallway that was two feet longer than it actually is before falling.
During the trial, a medical examiner testified that the woman could have traveled only about a foot or a foot-and-a-half after suffering a gunshot wound to the head.
In his Wednesday ruling, McVey said it is possible that with the correct dimensions, the jurors could have believed the defense's suicide theory.
"Instead of the suicide scenario being virtually impossible, it became possible," the judge wrote.
McVey wrote in his ruling that the police officer who measured the home wrote the inches as feet, so a measurement of 139 inches became 13.9 feet instead of just over 11.5 feet.
No new court dates had been set Wednesday.
On a Facebook page, Conrad Truman's family reacted to the ruling with joy.
"Given the huge amount of evidence supporting Conrad's innocence, we are hopeful that the Utah County Attorney's Office will begin to right their mistakes by declining to re-prosecute given the facts of which they are now fully aware," the family's post said.
Heidy Truman's mother, Janet Wagner, said last month that she was disappointed after a court hearing where the judge said he was "98 percent sure" he would grant a new trial.
"We believe in the end the truth will still prevail," Wagner said. "We'll get justice for Heidy in the end."
Prosecutors initially argued in court papers that the measurements were simply misunderstood by the defense team, because the police used a conversion system where 10 inches equals a foot, instead of the standard system where 12 inches equals a foot.
Conrad Truman's attorneys said the argument was "nothing short of absurd" and in court papers accused prosecutors of concocting this measurement system in their arguments to cover for law enforcement's errors.
"The fact that the state now insists that the measurement system outline in its opposition was used by law enforcement all along, as opposed to simply admitting obvious mistakes in measurement, raises even more serious concerns as to the length this prosecution team will go," Truman's attorneys wrote.
Prosecutors didn't know that the measurements at trial were incorrect, Peters said Wednesday. He said the numbers were a "misunderstanding" and were misread by attorneys on both sides during the trial.
When Truman's defense team later questioned the measurements, prosecutors initially defended the investigator's calculations, but at hearing last month conceded that the numbers were wrong. Peters, however, also told the court that jurors had heaps of other evidence and photos that led them to convict.
In the wake of the judge's ruling, Conrad Truman will be moved from the prison back to the Utah County jail. In court papers, his attorneys said they will seek to have him released pending a new trial.
Heidy Truman died on Sept. 20, 2012, at the couple's Orem home. Her husband was also there that night, but has said he was in the kitchen when he heard a noise and then turned to see his wife collapse.
Police began to suspect Conrad Truman of murder when he told conflicting stories about her death and threatened the life of a responding police officer.
While prosecutors argued that Conrad Truman's erratic behavior pointed to murder, defense attorneys told jurors the husband was in shock and under the influence of alcohol.