Oba Chandler, the man convicted of killing a Willshire woman and her two daughters in 1989, is still scheduled to die by lethal injection in Florida on November 15.
In an 11-page ruling on Monday, Pinellas-Pasco Judge Phillip J. Federico denied Chandler's request for a new trial, after hearing the case just last Friday.â€¨â€¨ The 65-year-old Chandler listened by phone from his cell on death row as his attorney, Baya Harrison III, presented his case in the Clearwater court.
Harrison told the St. Petersburg Times that he will now take the case to the Florida Supreme Court, which has already upheld his death sentence in 1997 and 2003. "We know it's a bleak situation," he told the Times. "But we can't give up. We just have to press on."
The times reported that Harrison had anticipated being denied on Friday so on Saturday he mailed all the necessary documents for an appeal.
The newspaper said the state's highest court has set a tight schedule for the final appeal. The defense must file its arguments with the Florida Supreme Court by Nov. 1. Then the Florida Attorney General's Office has a few days to respond. Oral arguments are set to take place in Tallahassee at 9 a.m. on Nov. 9.
If Chandler's appeal is rejected, he then has to ask the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta for permission to file a federal appeal. If it's granted, arguments will be heard in the Middle District of Florida in Tampa.
Harrison appealed the death sentence on the grounds that Chandler's constitutional rights were violated because some of the findings made by a judge in sentencing him to death should have been made by a jury instead. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in the past that juries, not judges, should have the power to sentence defendants to death.
Chandler was convicted in 1994 of killing Joan Rogers, 36, and her daughters, Christe, 14, and Michelle, 17. After visiting Disney World, the three had stopped and asked Chandler for directions to their Tampa motel on June 1, 1989. Mrs. Rogers and her daughters disappeared that night.