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Clock ticking on Lafferty

State soon to seek execution date in procedural step

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PROVO — Utah attorneys intend to ask a 4th District judge to set an execution date for Ron Lafferty, who was convicted and sentenced to die for slashing the throats of his sister-in-law and baby niece 18 years ago.

Deputy Utah Attorney General Tom Brunker told the Deseret News state officials are preparing an execution-date request.

It is expected to be filed the first week in August.

Brunker said the proposed filing is procedural and will keep the case moving.

Lafferty's case has remained stagnant since last November when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the Utah Supreme Court's decision to uphold his conviction.

Brunker said there is a remote chance Lafferty will not contest the state's request for an execution date.

If he doesn't contest the request, the execution clock will be set at 60 days. Lafferty is allowed the first 30 days of the 60-day period to file an appeal.

It is unlikely he won't contest the state's request, considering Lafferty has spent 14 years challenging his conviction on two counts of murder, aggravated burglary and conspiracy to commit murder.

Lafferty was convicted for a second time by a jury in 1996.

He was retried for the slayings of Brenda Lafferty and her 15-month-old daughter, Erica, after a federal appeals court ruled that a judge failed to adequately address Lafferty's competency to stand trial.

Lafferty and his brother, Dan Lafferty, who is serving a life sentence in the Utah State Prison for his role in the killings, freely admit they killed the wife and toddler daughter of their brother Allen as part of a revelation they say came from God.

The murders were two of the most brutal — and bizarre — in Utah's history.

Lafferty's court appearances have been notorious for emotional outbursts. Lafferty, a self-proclaimed prophet, says he sees evil spirits.

Mental health professionals have disagreed whether Lafferty was indeed fit to stand trial. But Utah's Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that Lafferty was acting crazy to thwart prosecution.

Brunker said a judge will have to appoint a defense attorney for Lafferty, after his former attorney, Mike Esplin, filed a motion to withdraw from the case.

Esplin said he withdrew from the case because his public defender's contract with Utah County had expired while the last appeal was pending before the Utah Supreme Court.

Attorneys say it could be years before an execution date is set — but Lafferty's appeal options are starting to dry up.

E-mail: gfattah@desnews.com