OGDEN -- A judge has ordered a new trial for Brad Ricks, convicted of murder in the admitted shooting of his friend during a daylong drinking binge together.
Ricks, 54, was found guilty 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.
Judge Michael Lyon granted a defense motion for a new trial for Ricks based on several mistakes made in jury instructions relating to the definition of "depraved indifference to human life."
It was Lyon, who presided over Ricks' three-day trial, who called in the attorneys on both sides to inform them of the clerical errors in the jury instructions.
A tearful law clerk informed the judge of her mistake two days after the trial ended.
"We don't track them statistically, but a new trial is pretty rare, even among the high-profile cases," said Nancy Volmer, state courts spokeswoman in the Administrative Office of the Courts.
"So, considering all the cases, it may only happen a couple of times a year statewide."
Defense attorney Roy Cole filed both a motion to arrest judgment, which would have dismissed the case against Ricks, and a motion for a new trial.
Lyon, in his ruling issued late Friday afternoon, found the snafus in the jury instructions were not serious enough to throw out the case, but confusing enough for a jury to justify a new trial.
On Monday, Lyon set a scheduling conference for Dec. 9.
Ricks had been free on $100,000 bail before his Sept. 15 conviction, at which time he was taken into custody and jailed, his bail canceled.
Lyon on Monday said Ricks could be released on his original $100,000 bail if his bail bondsman were still inclined to underwrite the bond.
The 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 conviction on the murder charge is 15 years to life.
The jury deliberated roughly six hours following two days of testimony.
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.
Also, it was inserted in incorrect areas of the jury instructions, further misleading the jury, Lyon wrote in his 14-page ruling.
"The court concludes that the deficiencies in the jury instructions had a substantial adverse effect upon the rights of the defendant," Lyon said.
"... This is a close case factually to both murder and manslaughter, leaving little margin for error."
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.
A given in the case is that Ricks put the muzzle of his .45-caliber Glock handgun to Lee's forehead and pulled the trigger in response to Lee's urging.
Ricks then called 911. Before the shooting, Ricks had no felony criminal record.