Convicted child killer Arthur Gary Bishop will likely be executed in June. Monday the Utah Supreme Court lifted the stay of execution and appointed a new attorney who will help the murderer pay his debt to society.
"Bishop believes the imposition of the death penalty was an appropriate sentence, and he hopes and prays it will have a cathartic effect on the families and that it will help them to get on with their lives," said attorney Walter Bugden, who was appointed to represent Bishop.Bugden said he will request a hearing this week in 3rd District Court to set a new execution date. Execution dates are set between 30 and 60 days after the hearing, but Bugden said Bishop wants it as early as possible, so it could be the first week in June.
Last February, Bishop, 38, filed a handwritten motion with the Utah Supreme Court asking that he be allowed to fire his attorneys and cease further appeals of his death sentence. His court-appointed attorneys from the Salt Lake Legal Defenders said they were philosophically opposed to the death penalty and so could not follow his wishes.
The Supreme Court decided a competency hearing was needed to determine if Bishop understood what he was doing. Third District Judge James Sawaya heard testimony from psychiatrists, then ruled April 21 that Bishop was competent.
The Supreme Court adopted those findings, then on Monday granted Bishop's motion to discharge his attorneys, Joan Watt and Betsy Bowman, and appoint defense attorney Bugden instead.
Then, in a rare ruling from the bench, the justices granted Assistant Utah Attorney General Sandra Sjogren's motion to vacate the stay of execution after Bugden said he would join in the motion. Had Bugden opposed the motion, the justices may have heard arguments and taken the motion under advisement.
The justices seemed somewhat stunned by the rapid pace, and Justice Christine Durham asked Bugden if he thought there was any chance Bishop would change his mind.
"He doesn't want to die," Bugden responded. "But it's his decision that it's the right thing to do under the circumstances."
Sjogren, too, said she was somewhat startled at the pace, but she said the state is prepared to execute Bishop as soon as possible, assuming the prison can make the necessary preparations in time.
"As long as the prison is able to accommodate the date requested, it probably will be closer to 30 days than 60," she said.
Bugden said outside the courtroom that Bishop is resolved to be executed, although he is very frightened. "The spirit is strong, but the flesh is weak," Bugden said of Bishop.
Bugden said he was contacted by Bishop's original trial attorney, Jo-Carol Nesset-Sale, after Watt and Bowman said they wanted out. Bugden said he decided to accept the case free of charge because he believes Bishop has the right to be represented by an attorney who will pursue his interests.