State prosecutors are waiting anxiously for a decision on the latest appeal by convicted killer William Andrews, hoping they can obtain a new execution date to replace the one that would have ended his life this week.
Andrews, convicted for his part in the murders of three people in the Ogden Hi Fi Shop in 1974, was portrayed by his attorneys Monday as a frightened 19-year-old whose case became a "blur in a flame of emotion" and who should not be on death row.Arguing before the Utah Supreme Court, the attorneys said jurors at Andrews' 1974 trial were not told they could return a second-degree murder verdict for his role as an accomplice in the killings and in the torturing of two people who survived. A second-degree murder conviction would have prohibited the state from executing Andrews.
Andrews' partner in the crime, Pierre Dale Selby, was executed last year.
Andrews original attorney, who was fresh out of law school, was incompetent, said the three attorneys who represented him Monday.
"Mr. Andrews killed no one," said Gordon G. Greiner, one of the attorneys. "There is nobody else on Utah's death row today who is not actually a killer."
Supreme Court justices, who listened to more than an hour of arguments from attorneys for Andrews and the state, are expected to rule on the appeal in the near future. They have rejected previous appeals by Andrews, as has the U.S. Supreme Court.
The latest appeal already is credited for saving Andrews' life at least temporarily. A second district court judge had ordered the state to execute Andrews Sept. 14. However, the state Supreme Court granted a stay of execution last month.
If they had not granted a stay, justices would have had to rush a decision on the appeal before Andrews was executed.
State prosecutors, meanwhile, are preparing to ask for another execution date if the court rejects the appeal and lifts the stay of execution. State Attorney General David Wilkinson claims Andrews, if executed, will have been on death row longer than any other executed criminal in recent U.S. history.
Greiner said the jury in 1974 believed it had to either convict Andrews of first-degree murder or declare him innocent of the crime.
But Assistant Attorney General Dave Thompson said the jury had the option of convicting Andrews only of aggravated robbery. Jurors obviously felt Andrews was guilty of first-degree murder, he said.
Thompson said Andrews' original attorney was guilty of an oversight, nothing more.
Another attorney representing Andrews, Joe Tesch, said Andrews left the stereo shop before anyone was raped or killed.
"We represent a 19-year-old who got caught up in a robbery that went too far," he said.
Andrews, originally from Jonesboro, La., and Selby, a native of Trinidad, West Indies, were convicted of committing the murders in the Ogden Hi Fi Shop on April 22, 1974.
Five people were herded into the shop's basement, bound and forced to drink liquid Drano, a commercial drain cleaner. Each then was shot in the head. An 18-year-old girl also was raped and a ballpoint pen was kicked into the ear of another victim.