Wilcher not alone with death row appeal likely headed to U.S. Supreme Court

Published 4:03 pm Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Bobby Glen Wilcher’s fate will again rest with the U.S. Supreme Court. His is not the only one.

Cliff Johnson, Wilcher’s attorney, said the nation’s high court has been alerted to expect an appeal should the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refuse to delay Wednesday’s execution.

Johnson said Wilcher’s appeal was filed late Monday at the 5th Circuit. He said he would expect the attorney general’s office to file its response on Tuesday.

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“We have been in contact with the U.S. Supreme Court … that there will be an appeal coming their way as soon as we can get it there. The timing of everything, of course, with the Supreme Court will depend on what the Court of Appeals rules,” Johnson said.

Wilcher’s is not the only scheduled execution in the Southeast in the next two weeks.

In Florida, Arthur Rutherford, 57, a Milton handyman and Vietnam veteran, is scheduled to executed on Oct. 18 for the 1985 murder of a woman in Santa Rosa County. Prosecutors said 63-year-old Stella Salamon, who had hired Rutherford to do some home repairs, was choked and drowned in a bathtub at her home.

Also in Florida, serial killer Danny Rolling, 52, of Shreveport, La., is scheduled for execution Oct. 25 for murdering five Gainesville, Fla., college students in 1990.

In Alabama, Larry Hutcherson is scheduled for execution on Oct. 26 for killing an elderly woman in 1992. Hutcherson, 37, was convicted in the slaying of 89-year-old Irma Thelma Gray of Mobile.

In Tennessee, Donnie E. Johnson is scheduled to die Oct. 25. Johnson, 55, was convicted in Shelby County of killing his wife in December of 1984 at the camping equipment center where he worked. Authorities say he suffocated her.

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.

On Saturday, U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate declined to stop Wilcher’s execution, now set for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the state prison at Parchman. Johnson said an appeal will be filed Monday with the 5th Circuit.

In a repeat of what occurred on July 11 when Wilcher’s execution was blocked, both Johnson and Attorney General Jim Hood expect appeals to make their way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wilcher, now 43, was sentenced to death for killing Katie Belle Moore and Velma Odell Noblin in 1982.

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 told the 5th Circuit that he had changed his mind and wanted to reopen his appeal. The 5th Circuit declined to stop the execution.

The 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.

In a bench ruling Saturday, Wingate said Wilcher offered no explanation to the court for his change of mind other than he acted 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.

Johnson said the courts haven’t ruled when a death row inmate can change his mind and reinstate his appeals.