OGDEN -- The defense is filing motions for a new trial or to set aside a jury's guilty verdict on a murder charge against a man who admitted shooting his friend during a drinking binge.
Brad Ricks, 54, was convicted Sept. 15 by a 2nd District Court jury in the April 21, 2009, death of his friend, Maurice Lee, 56. The two were toying with guns after drinking heavily in Ricks' Ogden home.
A given in the case was that Ricks put the muzzle of his .45-caliber Glock handgun to Lee's forehead and fired in response to Lee's urging.
A jury opted against manslaughter and, apparently, Ricks' claim he thought the gun was empty. Manslaughter carries a prison term of one to 15 years, while the murder charge is 15 years to life.
On Sept. 20, Judge Michael Lyon, who presided over the three-day trial, called the attorneys on both sides to inform them of a clerical error in jury instructions, according to the case docket.
Crucial phrasing in the definition of "depraved indifference to human life" as applied to the murder charge had been accidentally left out of the packet of instructions, typically 20 to 30 pages, each juror takes into the jury room when considering a verdict.
A tearful law clerk informed the judge of her mistake two days after the trial ended. Lyon gave both sides a week to determine whether they found the error harmful enough to impact the verdict.
On Monday, Ricks' lawyer, Roy Cole, told the judge in a follow-up conference that he believes the mix-up did taint the verdict. He advised the judge he would file motions for a new trial and to set aside the jury's verdict.
Lyons set oral arguments on the motions for Nov. 8 and bumped Ricks' Oct. 21 sentencing to Nov. 22.
Ricks has been held in Weber County Jail without bail. He was taken into custody immediately after the verdict was announced the evening of Sept. 15.
Cole, who had asked the jury for a manslaughter verdict, said he believes jurors struggled with the question of depraved indifference. Calls to prosecutors for comment on the pending motions were not immediately returned Wednesday.
Depraved indifference is an element of murder, not manslaughter, Cole said, but the jury passed a hand- written question about it to the judge during deliberations.
The eight-member jury asked for an explanation of depraved indifference homicide, as opposed to intentional homicide, and how it differs from manslaughter, Cole said.
"They didn't have enough information, obviously, about the depraved indifference standard," he said. "To me, that makes it harmful error."
The jury deliberated roughly six hours following two days of testimony.
Ricks and Lee, his neighbor, had been drinking together all day, with Lee boasting he was fearless and daring Ricks to put a gun to his head.
Before the shooting, Ricks had no felony criminal record. The jury heard the tape of Ricks' 911 call reporting the single-shot slaying in his home.
Ricks is initially deadpan, which defense attorney Cole attributed to Ricks' intoxication. His blood-alcohol content eventually tested by police that night at 0.16 percent, twice the legal limit.
But more than halfway through the tape of several minutes, he unravels, suddenly crying and screaming, over and over, "Holy (expletive), what have I done?"