Arthur Gary Bishop will face his executioner on June 10.
The child killer told a 3rd District judge Friday that he is "ready and anxious to die" in the hope that his death will bring at least some relief and comfort to the victims' families.Third District Judge Frank Noel set the new execution date Friday morning after ruling there was no legal reason that Bishop's death penalties should not be carried out, and he scheduled the June 10 execution date, only five weeks away.
Gary DeLand, Utah Department of Corrections executive director, said the Utah State Prison will be ready on that date, and that he anticipates the execution will occur shortly after midnight.
A 3rd District judge in 1984 sentenced Bishop, 38, to die by lethal injection after Bishop was convicted of sexually abusing and murdering five young boys. That execution was stayed pending appeals to the Utah Supreme Court, which in January upheld the convictions and death sentences.
Following the Supreme Court ruling, Bishop asked that the high court allow him to fire his attorneys, who were seeking to prevent Bishop's death. After a district judge determined Bishop to be mentally competent, the Supreme Court granted Bishop's request and appointed counsel who would represent his wish to die.
Noel asked Bishop if it was still his desire to die by lethal injection.
"Yes, your honor, it is," Bishop replied.
Wearing his bright orange prison jumpsuit, Bishop then stood and read a prepared statement to the court, explaining his reasons for choosing death and noting that only recently has he begun to understand the seriousness of his actions.
"I am very ashamed that I allowed myself to become so completely enslaved by such disgusting, deviant desires and self-centered behavior," Bishop told the court. "I feel a need to offer some acceptable excuse for my crimes, but there are none.
"I wish I could make restitution somehow, but there is no way for me to do so. I feel an obligation to apologize and ask forgiveness, yet in my heart I don't know if I really deserve it."
Notably absent from the courtroom were any relatives of the victims.
Bishop reminded the court that he offered an apology in 1984 but that it then lacked the empathy that he feels now. "Only now am I beginning to realize the enormity of my crimes, and my soul grieves," Bishop said.
A jury convicted Bishop of kidnapping, sexually assaulting, torturing and murdering Alonzo Daniels, 4, in 1979; Kim Petersen, 11, in 1980; Danny Davis, 4, in 1981; Troy Ward, 6, in 1983; and Graeme Cunningham, 13, in 1983.
"I wish I could go back and change what happened or that in giving my life these five innocent lives could be restored. I can only pray that someday these families may be able to put aside their justifiable bitterness toward me, exercise compassion and find some degree of relief and comfort in their lives."
Bishop also pointed out that he does not want to die because he still believes life is precious. "But there is a far greater obligation calling after me, and I dare not deny its call. If there is any redemptive value at all yet to be gained through my execution, then I am ready and anxious to die."
Attorney Walter F. Bugden, appointed by the Utah Supreme Court to represent Bishop, told reporters after the hearing that Bishop is sincere in his wish to die. The attorney also said he doesn't believe civil rights groups or other defense attorneys would be able to stop the execution from taking place.
"It is highly unlikely anyone would succeed in intervening because Art Bishop has been found competent by three court-appointed psychiatrists. It's his decision, and he knows what he's doing."
Bugden has been criticized quietly by other defense attorneys, who believe the death penalty should be opposed. But Bugden said he believes a client's right to choose supersedes an attorney's philosophical view toward capital punishment.