Provo • For a second time, Conrad Mark Truman was seated at the defense table in Judge Samuel McVey’s courtroom on the first day of trial on allegations that he killed his wife in 2012.
And though the scene is familiar to Truman and others involved in the case, a new panel of jurors was assembled Thursday to hear evidence about the fatal gunshot wound that 25-year-old Heidy Truman suffered inside the couple’s Orem home.
But the question for this jury is the same as during Truman’s first trial: Was Heidy Truman murdered at the hands of her husband? Or did she die of a self-inflicted gunshot wound?
In 2014, a 4th District Court jury convicted now-35-year-old Conrad Truman of first-degree felony murder and second-degree felony obstructing of justice, finding that he held a gun to his wife’s head and pulled the trigger on Sept. 30, 2012.
But months after sending Truman to prison, McVey overturned the conviction last summer and ordered a new trial, finding that the first jury was given incorrect measurements of the Truman’s home to consider.
The jury in Conrad Truman’s second trial, will hear much of the same evidence that the first jury did: That the Trumans were at their home on the night of the shooting, and had been drinking shots of Maker’s Mark whiskey and watching television. The wife drew herself a bath, attorneys told the jury, and while standing naked in the hallway, a single shot was fired. The bullet went through the right side of her head.
Conrad Truman called 911. When police arrived, they found blood everywhere — in the kitchen where Heidy Truman’s naked body lay, in the front entry, the living room, a bedroom, a bathroom and on Conrad Truman himself.
Deputy Utah County Attorney Samuel Pead said in his opening statement Thursday that the husband was hysterical, and threatened the lives of responding officers. He was “aggressive” and “full of rage,” the prosecutor said, and gave conflicting information about what had happened to his wife.
“His statements were to obstruct justice by verbally manipulating a crime scene,” Pead told jurors. “The reason why he would do that is because he killed Heidy.”
But defense attorney Ann Marie Taliaferro told jurors that her client was in shock and had “completely lost it” once he went to his wife and saw blood coming from her head.
“They want you to find that his words and demeanor somehow means that he killed his wife and purposefully lied to them and obstructed justice,” she told jurors.
There will be some differences in Conrad Truman’s latest trial, however. Besides being presented the corrected measurements of the home, the state medical examiner’s opinion on manner of death has changed. Pead told the jury Thursday that medical examiner Edward Leis initially ruled the manner of death as “undetermined,” but after meeting with police and prosecutors, he changed his ruling to “homicide.” This “homicide” finding was what was presented to the first jury.
But after reviewing the evidence with Conrad Truman’s defense team post-conviction, Leis again changed the manner of death to “undetermined.”
“Forensic evidence cannot create a distinction between suicide and homicide,” Pead said Thursday during his opening statement.
No mention of Truman’s overturned conviction — or the 2014 trial — was made to jurors during the first day of trial.
Where Heidy Truman was inside their home when she was shot, and how far she could have traveled after she was wounded before collapsing near a stairwell, were contentious points during the first trial.
The incorrect measurements, defense attorneys Mark Moffat and Taliaferro have argued, could have led jurors to discredit Truman’s testimony that his wife was shot in the hallway, because they would have shown that his wife had to travel down a hallway that was 2 feet longer than it actually was before falling. During the first 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 in the head.
Truman’s trial is expected to continue through this month.
By By JESSICA MILLER