Monday, June 25, 2007

Hearing moves convicted quadruple-murderer closer to execution

Monday June 25th, 2007

Convicted quadruple-murderer Jeffrey Hutchinson might have moved one baby step closer Monday to his date with the executioner.

But his prosecutor said Hutchinson could remain on death row for years before that happens.

Hutchinson, who was sentenced to death Feb. 6, 2001 for the murders of the three children of his girlfriend, wasn’t present for the routine status conference.

But a date certain was set for Okaloosa County Judge G. Robert Barron to hear motions he noted had been “pending for quite some time.”

Hutchinson’s latest court appointed attorney, Tallahassee-based Clyde Taylor, said he would have an amended version of the Hutchinson motions in the court’s hands by Aug. 1.

All present for the status conference agreed an Oct. 22 hearing date would allow prosecutors and defense attorneys ample time to prepare.

Assistant State Attorney Bobby Elmore, who prosecuted Hutchinson for the killings of Renee Flaherty and her children, Geoffrey Flaherty, 9, Amanda Flaherty, 7, and Logan Flaherty, 4, said Hutchinson remains a long way from an execution date.

His case, Elmore said, was in no way impacted by a decision made last December to stop imposing the death penalty until improvements could be made to the process through which lethal injections are administered.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush halted executions statewide after it took Angel Diaz 34 minutes to die Dec. 13 following the injection meant to kill him.

Charlie Crist, who followed Bush into office, said last month he intends to begin signing death warrants again.

The announcement came after the state adopted 37 recommendations made by a committee that studied the way Florida’s death penalty is administered.

Hutchinson’s case is still moving through the “state post-conviction challenges,” Elmore said. Should prosecutors ultimately prevail, Hutchinson’s attorney, in all likelihood, will file a federal habeas corpus challenge, Elmore said.

“If that is denied, then the time will be ripe for the governor to sign a death warrant,” Elmore said.

Hutchinson has been on death row for more than six years, but it takes 12.86 years on average for a death row inmate to move from conviction to execution, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.

Hutchinson is also serving a life-without-parole sentence for the killing of Renee Flaherty.

Daily News Staff Writer Tom McLaughlin can be reached at 863-1111, Ext. 435.

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