Courts - Kentucky Pair of inmates seeking to hasten own executions Men dismiss defense lawyers, intent on waiving their appeals

By Brett Barrouquere

Associated Press Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- A pair of Kentucky death row inmates are seeking to end their appeals and potentially hasten their own executions, possibly under a new set of rules for lethal injection that the state is pushing for.

The inmates, Shawn William Windsor and James Hunt, are both pursuing lawsuits against their public defenders in Franklin Circuit Court in an effort to fire the attorneys and waive their remaining appeals. The Kentucky Supreme Court is reviewing the criminal cases of both men, with rulings in their cases possible later this month.

Should both men be successful and be executed, they would become the third and fourth Kentucky inmates to die at their own request.

The suits come as Kentucky is pursuing readoption of it's lethal injection protocol. A legislative subcommittee is scheduled to consider the method on Monday as it makes it's way to Gov. Steve Beshear for eventual rejection or approval. There's no sign in the men's appeals, though, that their effort is linked to the new protocals.

Kentucky is attempting to re-enact the protocol used for the three-drug cocktail used to execute inmates after the Kentucky Supreme Court halted executions last year. The high court said the state improperly adopted it's protocol.

The proposed protocol includes several provisions dealing with what to do if a volunteer changes his mind once the execution starts. The proposed protocol allows an inmate to contact his attorney and the warden to notify the Department of Corrections commissioner about the change, with the commissioner telling the governor and courts.

About 12 percent of the roughly 1,600 inmates executed in the United States since 1976 abandoned their appeals and asked for their sentences to be carried out, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center and an adjunct law professor at Catholic University in Washington. Each time, the inmate either fired the defense lawyer or told them to stop filing appeals.

"It amounts to the same thing," Dieter said.

Because several inmates are at the end of their appeals, Windsor, 46, and Hunt, 62, may not be the first executed if the protocol is readopted and approved and they are successful in their lawsuits. But, both inmates said they are intent on waiving their appeals, which would open the door to an execution.

Windsor, who pleaded guilty and asked for a death sentence in the killings of his wife and son in Louisville, confirmed to The Associated Press that he wants to be executed, despite efforts by his attorney to continue pursuing appeals.

"I'm trying to do the right thing," Windsor said in a phone interview.

Hunt of Prestonburg, convicted of killing his wife in eastern Kentucky, sent his public defenders a letter firing them.

"Thank you for your assistance to date, but your services are no longer needed or wanted," Hunt wrote, explaining that he wanted no more appeals on his behalf.

Attorneys in both cases have raised the issue of whether the men are competent to waive appeals, but have also focused on the unique aspects in each case.

Hunt's attorney, Shelly R. Fears, said Hunt's case is different from the others on death row because he was condemned for killing his wife after months of marital turmoil, making him the only person currently sentenced to death in Kentucky for a single-death domestic homicide.

Fears said the Kentucky Supreme Court failed to consider those circumstances in initially upholding the conviction. The high court has been asked to reconsider the ruling and weigh those circumstances.

"No one else has been sent to death row for a comparable situation," Fears said.

One of Windsor's attorneys, Louisville public defender Dan Goyette, said Windsor has changed his mind multiple times about wanting to be executed.

"We've been down this street several times with him," Goyette said.

Shelley Catharine Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Attorney General's office, declined comment on Hunt's and Windsor's lawsuits, saying the office is not a party to the litigation.

Kentucky has executed three people since 1976, two of whom waived all or part of their appeals to speed up their executions.

Published: Mon, Mar 8, 2010

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