The deadline passed Wednesday for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court by convicted killers Arthur Gary Bishop and Ronald Watson Lafferty, both of whom are scheduled to die next month.
However, both murderers still have plenty of legal options if they decide to pursue them. Although they missed the U.S. Supreme Court opportunity, they can still begin working through the lower federal court system, which typically takes several years.The Utah Supreme Court recently rejected the initial mandatory appeals by both men, leaving them with the option of filing further appeals with the U.S. Supreme Court, which is generally the next step in the extended appellate process.
But Bishop, who is scheduled to die by lethal injection June 10, has said he wants to die for his crimes, while Lafferty, sentenced to be shot on June 24, can't make up his mind.
Orem defense attorney Gary Weight acknowledged no appeal was mailed to the U.S. Supreme Court by the Wednesday deadline. Walter Bugden, attorney for Bishop, could not be reached for comment, but it is unlikely he would have filed an appeal because he has said he would honor Bishop's desire to be executed.
Earlier this week, both men missed a deadline to seek commutation hearings before the Board of Pardons.
While Bishop seems resigned to allowing the execution to take place, Lafferty has refused to express himself - except in a series of expletives directed at a judge and court personnel when his death warrant was renewed recently.
Lafferty "is trying to decide what he's going to do," said Weight. "Ron still has ability to collaterally attack the conviction in federal court."
Weight and co-counsel Michael Esplin were technically fired by Lafferty during the last hearing, but they continue to assist him to the extent Lafferty's volatile temperament will allow. Weight said he was going to visit Lafferty in prison Thursday in hopes of getting some answers.
In any case, Weight said, Lafferty's competency is still at issue, and he said the Utah County attorney's office may request a competency hearing, which would almost certainly delay the execution.
"I think it (a competency hearing) would be a good idea," Weight said.
Lafferty, a self-proclaimed prophet, said God told him to murder his sister-in-law, Brenda Lafferty, and her 15-month-old daughter, Erica, on July 24, 1984. Lafferty's brother, Dan, was also convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Bishop was convicted in 1984 in the sex-related killings of five young boys.