Two Condemned Men may be Executed in June

Two Condemned Men may be Executed in June

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The state may execute two men by firing squad at the end of June if death warrants are signed by district judges this week.

If white separatist Troy Kell and serial killer Roberto Arguelles are executed, it would be the first time Utah has carried out the death penalty twice in the same year.

Kell and Arguelles are set for hearings Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.

Under Utah law, if neither man files an appeal, each would have to be executed within 60 days of a judge's order, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Brunker said.

He expects both warrants will be signed.

Both Kell and Arguelles have elected to die by firing squad.

"We do think one or the other of them will file an appeal," Utah Department of Corrections spokesman Jack Ford said. "If they don't, it will be really unusual. We've never done two firing squads."

Utah has executed six men during the past 26 years, since garnering international attention for ending a nationwide moratorium on the death penalty with the firing-squad execution in January 1977 of double-murderer Gary Gilmore.

The last time the state carried out a death warrant was April 1999, when Joseph Mitchell Parsons died by lethal injection, having been convicted of murdering a California motorist who gave him a ride.

Kell and Arguelles will have 30 days to file an appeal after their death warrants are signed. In capital cases, a conviction is automatically appealed to the Utah Supreme Court after a conviction.

Kell, 34, was convicted in 1996 of stabbing and killing Lonnie Blackmon while both were incarcerated at the Gunnison unit of the Utah State Prison. Investigators said Kell stabbed Blackmon 67 times with a homemade knife in a racially motivated attack.

Kell was serving two life sentences for a prior homicide in Nevada.

The state does not know if he will pursue further appeals, Brunker said. Kell's attorney, Mike Esplin, could not be reached for comment.

However, Arguelles has for five years been asking the state to allow him to die.

He pleaded guilty to the 1992 kidnappings and murders of four females whom he killed while on parole from the prison for another offense.

Arguelles, 41, objected to his legally mandated appeal and refused an attorney, despite the court's appointment of defense attorney Ed Brass.

Brass filed motions on Arguelles' behalf, but the Utah Supreme Court upheld the Arguelles convictions in 1997.

In 1998, Arguelles attempted suicide, which prompted further court actions, along with a mental health evaluation.

Arguelles has spent more than 21 years behind bars, mostly for violent sex crimes beginning in the late 1970s.

He received the death sentence for murdering 13-year-old Stephanie Blundell; Tuesday Malisa Roberts, 14; Lisa Vickey Martinez, 16; and 42-year-old Margo Bond. Roberts and Martinez were found buried at a Salt Lake Valley pig farm.

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

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