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As time for execution nears, killer's lawyer waits for a call

By CHASE SQUIRES

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 11, 2001


DADE CITY -- With the clock counting down her client's last hours before his scheduled execution tonight, attorney Terri Backhus said she could only sit by the phone Wednesday and wait for the call that could save him.

Backhus represents convicted killer Robert Dewey Glock II on what could be his final round of appeals before the state executes him for the 1983 murder of Sharilyn Ritchie, a 34-year-old schoolteacher.

Glock and cohort Carl Puiatti, 38, both of Lee County, were nabbed during a traffic stop in New Jersey and confessed to abducting Ritchie from a Bradenton mall in August 1983. The two said they took her to an orange grove outside Dade City, stole her jewelry and car, and shot her to death.

Backhus made an unusual appeal in November, hoping to save Glock's life by presenting newly released documents that showed New Jersey state police used illegal racial profiling techniques during traffic stops.

Both Glock and Puiatti are white, but Backhus argued there was evidence police were targeting not just Hispanic or black drivers, but also people of Italian descent. Glock also had dark skin at the time from working outdoors, she argued.

But the argument was rejected locally by Circuit Judge Wayne Cobb, and last week by the Florida Supreme Court.

Backhus this week filed appeals with a federal appeals court in Atlanta and directly with the U.S. Supreme Court.

In part, she said, she argued that because the state's rules are unclear over which convicted killers get the death penalty and which get life sentences, her client's right to equal protection under the law is being violated.

She said she referred to the recent presidential election ballot-counting suits in her appeal. The Supreme Court in that case ruled that standards should be consistent from county to county when checking questionable ballots.

So, too, should execution standards, Backhus said.

"Now, I'm waiting," she said Wednesday afternoon. "It's very nerve-racking. Every time I hear the phone or a fax, I jump."

By 6 p.m., there was still no call.

Backhus was scheduled for her final attorney-client meeting with Glock from 9-11 p.m. Wednesday, but said she would have to stay by the phone and wait for the Supreme Court instead if a call didn't come Wednesday afternoon. She said she would send her law partner to visit Glock if she could not go.

Glock is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m.

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