Convicted Hi Fi Shop killer William Andrews believes his execution will be postponed next month while the courts and the state unravel a legal tangle of appeals and procedures.
But state officials on Friday said Andrews may be taking a gamble that, if unsuccessful, would leave little time for a new strategy before his Sept. 14 execution date.Andrews filed a petition Friday asking for a commutation hearing with the state Board of Pardons. The filing came one day before the deadline.
In the petition Andrews, through his attorneys, said he expects his execution to be postponed until the Utah Supreme Court decides a separate appeal he has pending.
The court is scheduled to hear that appeal Sept. 12. In it, Andrews contends his previous attorney was incompetent because he did not properly inform jurors they could return a verdict of second-degree murder, for which Andrews could not have received the death sentence.
But state officials say Andrews may run out of time. The state can execute Andrews while the appeal is pending. On the other hand, the Board of Pardons may not grant a commutation hearing until all legal appeals are decided.
Andrews apparently is gambling on either the court or the board granting a stay allowing him time to plead for his life at a commutation hearing. If he loses, he may die without one.
"That's quite a gamble," said Paul Warner, deputy attorney general. "If he doesn't get a stay, the time he has to try something else is extremely limited."
Andrews has until one minute after midnight on the morning of Sept. 14 to get a stay. Otherwise, the state will execute him by a lethal injection as it did his accomplice, Pierre Dale Selby, last August.
State prosecutors, however, are still unsure what Andrews' strategy will be.
One of Andrews' attorneys, Timothy Ford, told the Deseret News earlier this week there would be no comment on the case until it is completed.
In the petition filed Friday, attorneys argue Andrews is the only person on Utah's death row who did not kill anybody. Selby testified before his execution that Andrews did not fire any of the shots that killed three people at Ogden's Hi Fi Shop in 1974.
Andrews also was the victim of racial
prejudice because, among other things, the jury that convicted him included no blacks, they argue.
The attorneys also claim the board should hear Andrews because he was only 19 when convicted, had a low IQ and was coerced by Selby into committing the crime.
Although they offer no specifics, the attorneys also claim Andrews has taken steps to atone for the crime and to improve himself during his 14 years at the Utah State Prison.
The attorneys apparently believe their strongest argument is that Andrews did not fire the fatal shots. That argument was rejected by 2nd District Judge Ronald O. Hyde who signed the latest death warrant July 27.
State prosecutors note Andrews forced the victims to drink Drano, a commercial liquid cleaner. The Drano alone would eventually have killed the victims.
Andrews waited until almost the last day to file the petition with the Board of Pardons, which allows only 10 days for the filing after a death warrant is issued.