PHOENIX - A federal appeals court on Wednesday declined to have a larger panel of judges consider an Arizona death-row inmate's appeal that had already been turned down by a three-judge panel.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said its judges voted against the rehearing request submitted on behalf of Richard Dale Stokley. The appeals court on Nov. 15 denied Stokley's request for a hearing with a 2-1 ruling.
Stokley, 60, is scheduled to be executed Dec. 5 at the state prison in Florence for the murders of two teenage girls in rural Cochise County two decades ago.
At issue is whether the court system has adequately considered possible evidence for leniency in sentencing of Stokley.
Stokley's current lawyers argued that he's entitled to new proceedings on his claim that a previous attorney effectively abandoned him by not representing his interests early in the appeals process.
Lawyers for the state told the appeals court that Stokley and the attorney disagreed on strategy but that she did not abandon him.
Stokley was sentenced to death for the 1991 killings of Mandy Meyers and Mary Snyder, two 13-year-old girls who were raped and strangled. Randy Brazeal, another man convicted in the killings, was released in July 2011 after serving a 20-year sentence.
A judge on the three-person panel said Stokley was entitled to a hearing because he showed there was an indication that his former lawyer had abandoned Stokley's interests. However, the panel's other two judges said the Arizona Supreme Court apparently did consider the possible evidence of his good behavior in jail and his difficult childhood, and that Stokley hadn't proved he was actually harmed.
Stokley has said he won't ask a state board for clemency because such a request would be futile.
Dale Baich, a federal public defender now helping to represent Stokley, said an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is possible.