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Attorney asks halt to execution

The lawyer for a convicted murderer files claims Monday alleging that racial profiling was a factor in his arrest.


© St. Petersburg Times, published December 5, 2000

DADE CITY -- The evidence that could save convicted murderer Robert Dewey Glock's life took 17 years to uncover, leaving his legal team only days to use it before his scheduled execution this Friday, his attorney argued in an emergency motion filed Monday.

Appointed attorney Terri Backhus delivered a stack of documents and legal arguments five inches thick to Circuit Judge Wayne Cobb's office Monday afternoon.

In them, Backhus argues that Glock, 39, is entitled to a stay of Friday's scheduled execution while she reviews 91,000 pages of New Jersey documents that could show that Glock was detained illegally back in 1983 because he looks Italian.

Armed with the new information, Backhus is seeking to delay the execution so she can fight to overturn his death sentence.

It was the original traffic stop -- for an illegible license plate -- that led directly to the confession that put him behind bars, Backhus claims. And that stop, Backhus argues, was based on illegal racial profiling techniques that were disclosed a week ago.

"If the stop is found to be illegal, none of the confessions are admissible," Backhus wrote in her motion. "Without the confessions, the state's case collapses."

Glock and cohort Carl Puiatti, 38, both of Lee County, were arrested Aug. 29, 1983, as they drove on the turnpike. They both confessed to abducting Sharilyn Ritchie -- a 34-year-old school teacher -- from a Bradenton mall. The two said they took her to an orange grove outside Dade City, stole her jewelry and car, and shot her to death.

There has already been a hearing on claims that New Jersey State Trooper William Moore stopped the pair illegally, and the claims were rejected. But Backhus argues that the hearing was before New Jersey officials admitted they had ordered illegal stops as a matter of routine.

"For 17 years, the state of New Jersey knew the truth," Backhus wrote in her introduction. "For 17 years, this information that showed the stop was illegal was hidden from Mr. Glock and his lawyers. Now, within days of his execution, the truth is finally being released."

The New Jersey documents were made public Nov. 28.

Backhus argues that Glock and Puiatti were victims of New Jersey's official policy of racial profiling, a practice that directed troopers to stop vehicles driven by minorities under the assumption that minorities were more likely to be involved in crime.

Under the state-sanctioned policy, troopers were taught that drivers of Italian descent were more likely to be involved in organized crime, Backhus wrote in her motion.

"Cleary, Mr. Glock and Mr. Puiatti fit the profile," she argued. "Mr. Puiatti was Italian American with dark skin and black hair. Mr. Glock had a deep tan with dark skin and black, wavy hair. . . . Mr. Glock and Mr. Puiatti fit practically every criteria for the typical profile stop as described by the New Jersey State Police's own documents."

Cobb has agreed to hear arguments at 5 p.m. Thursday. Glock is scheduled to die at 6 p.m. Friday.

Backhus is asking the judge to stay the execution to give her time to assemble witnesses for a full hearing.

"A stay of execution is necessary to ensure that Mr. Glock is not executed before this court has had the time to consider these issues," Backhus wrote. "Mr. Glock's life hangs in the balance."

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