Motions Filed to Stop Serial Killer's Execution

Motions Filed to Stop Serial Killer's Execution

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- An attorney has filed motions asking to stop serial killer Roberto Arguelles' June 27 execution by firing squad next month, have him undergo another competency evaluation and have a new attorney appointed for him.

The documents filed late Wednesday also seek to extend his time to file appeals in state court.

Arguelles, 41, is on Utah's death row for kidnapping, sexually abusing and murdering Margo Bond, 42, Stephanie Blundell, 13, Lisa Martinez, 16, and Tuesday Roberts, 14. Arguelles confessed to the crime, which were committed in 1992, when he was on parole.

Prosecutors planned to meet to decide how they will respond to the requests, said Thomas Brunker, assistant Utah attorney general. A review hearing is set Wednesday before 3rd District Judge Michael Burton.

Attorney Ed Brass, who is temporarily acting on Arguelles' behalf, cites Arguelles' behavior at a May 1 death warrant hearing before Burton, during which the defendant yelled, cursed and at times appeared to be choking and gasping for air.

He also cited reports from inmates and prison staff that Arguelles constantly yells and screams irrationally and the fact that he regularly collects and eats his own feces.

In an affidavit, attorney Karen Stam said she has talked with several psychologists about Arguelles' behavior, and none of them believe his eating of feces could be a symptom of faking a mental illness.

Corrections officials contend Arguelles is capable of behaving rationally but acts out when someone is watching him.

Arguelles was evaluated after he attempted to hang himself with a laundry bag in his prison cell in 1998. He was briefly in a coma from lack of oxygen. Two psychiatrists and a neuropsychologist found him competent.

Brass also has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider a review of the Utah Supreme Court's decisions in the case. He has until June 15 to file arguments.

Technically, Arguelles has no attorney, as he has fired Brass and other court-appointed public defenders. At the May 1 hearing, Arguelles repeatedly requested that Stam be called.

She initially was appointed to represent him, but in 1996, she and other members of the Salt Lake Legal Defenders Association were disqualified because an employee had a potential conflict of interest.

"He wants lawyers, and he wants to pursue some remedy," Brass said Thursday.

Prosecutors said after the May 1 hearing that courts have ruled defendants who are indigent do not have the right to pick their attorneys. They said his demands for Stam were an attempt to "derail the system."

Brass said he expects prosecutors to question whether he can file legal requests on Arguelles' behalf. After Stam's removal, Brass was appointed to defend Arguelles. When Arguelles opted to represent himself, Brass was appointed as standby counsel to advise him during his trial and to help the Utah Supreme Court evaluate his mandatory appeal.

"I'm not real sure where that (role) begins and ends," Brass said.

Documents filed Wednesday said Stam and Elizabeth Hunt, an attorney acting as a law clerk for Brass, visited Arguelles on May 15 and he told them that the prison staff used mind-reading equipment and was creating fictitious court documents to trick him.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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