Prosecutors will soon request a new execution date for convicted killer Ronald W. Lafferty, the religious zealot who said God told him to slit the throats of his brother's wife and baby girl.
Assistant Utah Attorney General Sandra Sjogren said she has asked the Utah County attorney's office to return to 4th District Court and request a new death warrant in the event Lafferty fails to file further appeals by the May 18 deadline.Has Lafferty joined the ranks of two other Utah killers Arthur Gary Bishop and James Louis Holland who want to cease appeals and pay for their crimes?
Sjogren said she doesn't know, but the fact that an appeal has not been filed is unusual, and she is proceeding as if Lafferty is not going to protest his death sentence further.
"We are already in the process of filing the documents to get the new death warrant," she said. "Once we have an execution date set, we will be moving toward that unless a stay is issued."
Lafferty's attorneys, Michael Esplin and Richard B. Johnson, did not return phone calls to the Deseret News Wednesday or Thursday.
Lafferty was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder in the slayings of Brenda Lafferty, his sister-in-law, and her 15-month-old daughter, Erica, whose throat was slit by Lafferty's brother, Dan. Dan was also convicted of murder and received two life sentences.
A unanimous Utah Supreme Court affirmed Lafferty's conviction and death sentence in January. On Feb.18, the court refused Lafferty's request for a rehearing and dissolved the stay of execution.
Lafferty then had 90 days to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, which is the traditional next step in the lengthy appeals process.Lafferty's attorneys still have three weeks to file, but Sjogren said it's unusual that she hasn't heard something from the defense attorneys by now.
"I haven't heard any indication from them" that they are going to appeal, Sjogren said. "Generally speaking, I would think we would have had some contact if they were concerned. The stay has been lifted, and you'd think they would have done something by now."
To get a new execution date, Utah County prosecutors must return to the district court. Ordinarily, the original trial judge would sign the new death warrant, but Judge Robert Bullock has since retired, so a new judge will be assigned. Once the judge receives that request, and assuming there is no stay in place, he sets an execution date sometime within 30 to 60 days.
If Lafferty does not pursue additional appeals, he would join the growing list of Utah convicts who likely will be executed this year. Bishop, 38, sentenced to die four years ago in the sex-related slayings of five boys, and James Louis Holland, 47, who pleaded guilty to the July 1986 murder of a Florida man, have both said they aren't interested in pursuing further appeals.
Bishop was recently certified competent to make that decision and awaits further action from the Utah Supreme Court on his request to fire his attorneys and prepare for death.
Holland is in the midst of his mandatory appeal to the Utah Supreme Court but has said he is not interested in going further. That review could also be completed before the year's end.