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Judge Stays Triple-Murderer’s Execution

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Los Angeles federal judge on Wednesday stayed the execution of convicted triple-murderer Horace Kelly, a day after he was denied a hearing by the California Supreme Court.

The order by Chief U.S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr. opens the door for Kelly’s defense lawyers to challenge the fairness of his state court trials and renew their claims that he should not be put to death because he is insane.

State prosecutors immediately appealed Hatter’s order to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Kelly, 38, had been scheduled to die by lethal injection next Tuesday for murdering two women and an 11-year-old boy in San Bernardino and Riverside counties during a six-day period in November 1984.

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He was found competent for execution in an unusual jury trial in Marin County last month. A 1950 California law requires a special trial if a death row inmate’s sanity is in doubt before execution. The warden at San Quentin triggered the competency trial when he questioned Kelly’s sanity during a pre-execution review.

In a 9-3 vote last month, however, the Marin County jury concluded that Kelly was sane enough to be executed.

On Tuesday, the state Supreme Court voted 5-2 without comment not to review the competency trial. Kelly’s lawyers claimed there were reversible legal errors in the proceedings.

In 1996, Congress enacted a one-year deadline for filing criminal case appeals in federal courts. Kelly’s lawyers missed the deadline. But in his order Wednesday, Judge Hatter ruled that the one-year deadline had not been reached because he had previously directed the defense lawyers to hold off while the state appeals were underway.

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