Wilcher Hearing Friday

Published 4:47 pm Thursday, October 12, 2006

Mississippi death row inmate Bobby Glen Wilcher, who wants to stop his scheduled execution and reopen his appeals, will appear in court Friday before U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate.

Wingate on Wednesday set the hearing five days before Wilcher is scheduled to be put to death at the state penitentiary at Parchman on Oct. 18. The hearing is at 11 a.m. Friday in Jackson.

Wilcher’s attorney, Cliff Johnson of Jackson, asked Wingate to revive Wilcher’s appeals after the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 2 declined without comment to hear an appeal.

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Any decision Wingate makes on Wilcher’s motion will be taken to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans and then to the U.S. Supreme Court, said state Attorney General Jim Hood.

Wilcher, now 43, was sentenced to death for killing Katie Belle Moore and Velma Odell Noblin in 1982. After meeting them at a Forest bar, Wilcher persuaded the women to drive him home and diverted them down a deserted road.

Their blood-soaked bodies were found sprawled along the muddy banks of the dirt road. Each woman had been stabbed and slashed more than 20 times, according to authorities.

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

Johnson said Wednesday that Wilcher made clear in an earlier affidavit, just before the July 11 scheduled execution that was stopped by the Supreme Court, that he wanted to continue his appeals.

“We’re pleased Judge Wingate wants to hear directly from Bobby and it is clear that he is taking this issue very seriously,” Johnson said. “Bobby understood from the time he signed his affidavit that he may be asked to come to Jackson and speak directly to Judge Wingate about his desire to reinstate his appeals. He is eager to do that and I have no doubt that Bobby will make it clear that he wants to continue to fight.”

Hood said the issue was reopening appeals that previously were withdrawn voluntarily has never been tested in death penalty cases. He said courts have allowed appeals to be reopened in other criminal cases.

“There’s a lot of procedure and a lot of rules to follow … but that’s not happened in a death penalty case before,” Hood said. “Judge Wingate is renowned as an extremely thorough judge. I would expect him to make a thorough record of the hearing because this will go through another round of appeals, I am sure.”

Department of Corrections officials said Wednesday they would continue with plans for the Oct. 18 execution until they were told to stop.

Mississippi’s last execution was this past December, when John B. Nixon Sr. died by lethal injection for the 1985 contract killing of Virginia Tucker of Brandon.