Experts say there are good odds the U.S. Supreme Court will reject Theodore Bundy's petition for a new trial and the serial killer will be executed early next year.

Bundy, a former Utah law student, was sentenced to die for the murder 11 years ago of Lake City, Fla., schoolgirl Kimberly Diane Leach.A 62-page appeal petition was filed with the court clerk's office in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 15 - 10 years and 280 days after Kimberly disappeared from her school and just 12 minutes before the deadline.

But in its last term, the high court rejected all but 167 of the 5,268 appeals that were filed.

According to death-penalty experts interviewed by The Miami Herald for an in-depth article in Sunday's editions, the common wisdom is that the Supreme Court will deny Bundy's petition, and Gov. Bob Martinez, who has signed 61 death warrants in 24 months in office, will promptly sign one naming Bundy.

And that will mean the end of Ted Bundy, the experts said.

"The word is that Ted will go early next year, late winter or spring," says Michael Radelet, a University of Florida sociologist who is an authority on capital punishment.

The appeal cites three issues as reasons for granting a new trial: Bundy's competency, the hypnosis of some trial witnesses and the adequacy of Bundy's defense lawyers during the 1980 Orlando trial in Leach's slaying.

The legal test of competency is whether the defendant fully comprehends the case against him and is able to help his lawyers.

U.S. District Judge G. Kendall Sharp, ordered by the U.S. appeals court in Atlanta to hold a hearing, denied Bundy's claim of incompetency, concluding in country . . . a diabolical genius."

The appeals court in Atlanta upheld Sharp's decision.

The second issue involves the use of hypnosis to refresh the memories of witnesses, a practice to which more and more courts are objecting. Even the Florida Supreme Court has ruled that hypnotism has no place in a criminal court, but it made an exception in Bundy's case, saying no harm had been done.

The last issue revives an old claim that never gained much headway in previous appeals, that Bundy's lawyers didn't do their jobs in a trial in which Bundy himself presented much of the defense.

Bundy gained national attention in the 1970s after a series of killings in women in Washington, Utah and Colorado, was at one time on the FBI's most-wanted list for questioning in 36 killings.

He is from Tacoma, Wash., did undergraduate studies at the University of Washington and was a law student at the University of Utah.

Despite the amount of time that has passed since Ted Bundy was arrested on charges in the Chi Omega sorority killings in Tallahassee - the deaths of two coeds at Florida State University preceeded 12-year-old Kimberly Leach's by several weeks - state prosecutors say the death case has gone smoothly.

"So far, we have not had a problem with delaying tactics," said Assistant Attorney General Carolyn Snurkowski.

Nearly half of the 19 inmates executed in Florida since 1979 waited nine years or more. On Dec. 4, a Bundy neighbor, Howard Douglas, became the first inmate in America to mark 15 years on death row.