Monday, October 16, 2006

Condemned killer cancels interviews, lawyers file petition

Condemned killer cancels interviews, lawyers file petition

By Paul Flemming capital bureau

Originally posted on October 17, 2006

TALLAHASSEE — Condemned murderer Arthur Rutherford has canceled an interview he'd initially scheduled for today before his Wednesday execution.

Also on Monday, his lawyers filed a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to consider arguments rejected by the Florida Supreme Court last week.

Rutherford has another appeal pending before the highest court, asking it to send an earlier appeal — the one that got him a stay of execution back in January — back down to federal district court to be heard.Linda McDermott, one of Rutherford's attorneys, sent a letter to Florida Department of Corrections officials saying that, after consulting with her client, he wanted to cancel the interview with reporters scheduled for today.

"It sounds to me like there was some misunderstanding," McDermott said. Rutherford "indicated that he did not want to meet with the press (today). I know he's got family visits all day (today). He kind of wants to focus on that."Rutherford is set to be executed for the 1985 murder of Stella Salamon in her Milton home.

The 63-year-old woman was beaten, strangled and drowned. Rutherford was found guilty in two jury trials. He has maintained his innocence.

Carolyn Snurkowski, assistant deputy attorney general for the state, said the state's response to Rutherford's appeal likely would be filed Monday evening.With Rutherford's latest appeal, Snurkowski said the state's arguments would be bolstered by the opinion of the Florida Supreme Court that rejected Rutherford's petition.

Rutherford argued that the state's system of applying the death sentence is arbitrary, and thus unconstitutional. He also offers affidavits from second-hand sources that a woman who testified in Rutherford's trials has admitted to committing the crime.

Snurkowski said the state would argue that the petitions contain no new information that wasn't available to the defense earlier, and thus are barred as a basis for appeal. She said she does not expect a response from the U.S. Supreme Court on either still-pending appeal until Wednesday.

In January, Rutherford was strapped onto a gurney with intravenous tubes inserted and ready to deliver the drugs that would have killed him. Then, the U.S. Supreme Court granted him a stay of execution that spared his life. That appeal was denied earlier this month by the federal 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

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