Thompson Lawyers Ready Final Appeal, to U.S. High Court
Attorneys for death row inmate Thomas M. Thompson on Sunday prepared a last-chance appeal to the U. S. Supreme Court, in hopes of blocking the scheduled execution of the convicted murderer and rapist.
Meanwhile, preparations continued at San Quentin prison for the execution by lethal injection of Thompson, 43, at one minute after midnight tonight. He would be the fifth man executed in California since capital punishment was reinstated two decades ago.
For the record:
12:00 AM, Jul. 15, 1998
Thompson, convicted of the 1981 rape and murder of 20-year-old Ginger Fleischli in Laguna Beach, was being visited by family and friends Sunday in an isolation cell not far from the death chamber.
His attorneys said Thompson, who has maintained his innocence for the past 17 years, was holding up well, even though the U. S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused late Saturday to block the execution.
“I think he’s still clinging to some hope” that the Supreme Court might block the execution, said Greg Long, one of Thompson’s attorneys. “He’s also being pretty realistic. He understands it’s a longshot.”
The decision by the 9th Circuit, which last year halted Thompson’s execution just 32 hours before it was scheduled to occur, dashed what was probably his best chance of avoiding death. The U. S. Supreme Court has already ruled against Thompson twice and is not expected to look favorably on another appeal.
Thompson’s attorneys asked the appellate panel to consider new evidence, which they claim had been suppressed by prosecutors, suggesting that Thompson did not commit rape, a special circumstance that made him eligible for the death penalty.
The evidence consists of a statement by Thompson’s former roommate, David Leitch, that he saw Thompson and Fleischli having consensual sex on the night of the murder.
But the court majority said that the evidence of rape was overwhelming and noted that Leitch, convicted of second-degree murder in the case, has made contradictory statements and several times said he believed Thompson raped Fleischli.
Long said the appellate court is using procedural technicalities to block any chance of a new hearing to determine just what Leitch saw the night of the murder.
“It is wrong,” Long said. “It’s a terrible, terrible miscarriage of justice.”
Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren, however, applauded the appellate court’s decision.
“Hopefully,” he said, “this decision will end the games that Thompson’s attorneys have been playing and let the family of Ginger Fleischli finally receive the closure to this tragedy that they have been denied for too long.”