Federal judge refuses to stop execution of Bobby Glen Wilcher

Published 10:43 pm Saturday, October 14, 2006

Bobby Glen Wilcher’s efforts to avoid execution now go to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate ruled Saturday that he was not persuaded by defense arguments that Wilcher had the right to change his mind and seek to reopen appeals the convicted murderer had waived in June.

Wilcher’s attorney, Cliff Johnson of Jackson, said an appeal will be filed Monday in the 5th Circuit and, if necessary, to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Wilcher was sentenced to death for killing Katie Belle Moore and Velma Odell Noblin in 1982.

His execution is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the state penitentiary at Parchman.

Johnson had argued at a hearing Friday in Jackson that Wilcher made a rash decision by telling Wingate this past June that he wanted to end appeals after more than two decades on death row.

Assistant Attorney General Marvin “Sonny” White said Friday that Wilcher was found mentally competent in June when the judge granted the request to end appeals. White had no comment after Wingate’s ruling Saturday.

Wilcher, wearing a red prison jumpsuit and shackled at the wrists and ankles, showed no emotion when Wingate issued his bench ruling. Earlier, he had talked and joked with his attorney and U.S. marshals. Wilcher was returned to the Parchman prison Saturday.

Wilcher’s case has gone through two trials, two re-sentencing hearings and countless appeals.

This past July 7, nearly a month after Wingate allowed Wilcher to waive appeals, Wilcher himself filed an appeal with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, saying he had changed his mind and wanted to reopen his appeal. The 5th Circuit declined to stop the execution.

Wilcher went through preparations to be put to death July 11, including having what was supposed to be a last meal. The U.S. Supreme Court halted the execution at the last minute, saying it wanted to review the case. On Oct. 2, the court without comment declined to hear an appeal.

On Oct. 5, Wilcher asked Wingate to allow him to revive his appeals.

On Saturday, Wingate said Wilcher offered no explanation to the court for his change of mind other than he acted June from a condition of “hopelessness, frustration … being a low point in life.”

“He offers nothing else. When he had this change of mind is unclear.

“This court will not be held hostage by the vacillations and whims of a death row inmate,” Wingate said.

Wingate said he had found no valid argument in other courts cases where a death row inmate could withdraw and refile appeals every time they changed their mind.

He said to allow that to happen would created a “special category for inmates.”

Johnson said the issue to be addressed in the appeal to the 5th Circuit is when a death row inmate can change his mind and reinstate his appeals.

“We are in uncharted water here,” Johnson said. “This is an important question that has far reaching implications.”

Wingate denied a motion by Johnson to issue a stay of execution while Wilcher pursues more appeals.