Utah Attorney General Paul Van Dam is confident Hi Fi Shop killer William Andrews will soon be executed, despite turning the case over to an outside attorney after 15 years of work by nearly a dozen state attorneys.
As the appeals by Andrews move into their final phase, Salt Lake attorney Robert R. Wallace will take over the case - one of the most prolonged and complicated criminal matters in the state's history.But Van Dam insists hiring Wallace will not delay Andrews' eventual execution.
It likely will cost the state additional money, although just how much remains a secret between Van Dam and Wallace. They declined to make their contract public, even though officials at state Archives Division say the information should be available under state administrative rules.
Van Dam had to hire an outside attorney to prosecute the case because the man he recently hired as his chief deputy, Joe Tesch, was one of the attorneys trying to save Andrews' life.
Andrews' Seattle-based attorney Tim Ford objected to the hiring of Tesch and said he would file a motion to have the state disqualified from prosecution because of Tesch.
Van Dam said that Tesch, a longtime prosecutor, was representing Andrews because the court appointed him. He noted that all attorneys are assigned from time to time to defend people who have no money.
"He (Tesch) took the case out of moral obligation," Van Dam said.
Andrews was convicted in the grisly killings along with accomplice Pierre Dale Selby, who was executed in 1987. Andrews and Selby tortured five people in the Ogden shop on the evening of April 22, 1974, forcing them to drink a liquid drain cleaner, kicking a pen into one man's ear and shooting all five. Three died.
The case also has come to symbolize the sometimes lethargic pace of the criminal justice system. Andrews is believed to have been on death row longer than any other convicted killer in the nation.
Van Dam admits he's been taking the heat from critics who say the case is in jeopardy from a lack of continuity and the sheer volume of legal work Wallace or any newcomer will have to review to be brought up to speed.
"I know this is a ticklish subject and I'm being criticized over it. But I strongly believe we don't give up a thing by turning the case over to Robert," Van Dam said in an interview Wednesday.
"In fact, we gain something. Bob Wallace is as qualified as anyone in the state of Utah to take on this case. That's why I was so interested in hiring him."
However, Wallace was not Van Dam's first choice. He first asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Dave Schwen-diman to prosecute the case. When Schwendiman was unable to accept the offer because of a burgeoning case load, Van Dam offered the case to Wallace.
Wallace, who works for a civil tort defense firm, said he also has the expertise to handle a capital criminal matter.
"I was the head of the criminal justice division at the attorney general's office during much of the appeal period on the Hi Fi Shop murders and other capital cases," he said.