Convicted killer Mitchell Rupe is gravely ill with liver disease and is not expected to live another 18 months, his lawyer told the Thurston County Commission in a bid to block a third attempt to execute him.
“It is probable that Mr. Rupe will not live long enough to be tried,” Todd Maybrown told the commission in a letter dated March 29 and made public Monday. Maybrown said Rupe has terminal liver disease, advanced cirrhosis and hepatitis C.
County officials said Maybrown was trying to dissuade them from appropriating the money needed to conduct another sentencing trial for Rupe. The U.S. Supreme Court last month upheld the reversal of a previously imposed death sentence.
“I’m not sure what we are supposed to do with this information,” said James Powers, chief deputy county prosecutor. “We are required by law to go through with our request” for another sentencing trial.
The commission has begun discussions on a request by prosecutors and the public defender’s office for money to finance a third sentencing trial.
A third trial could cost taxpayers at least $250,000, said Sally Harrison, the managing attorney in the Office of Assigned Counsel.
Maybrown said in his letter that defense costs alone could run $300,000 to $400,000.
Rupe, 42, was twice sentenced to die for the Sept. 17, 1981, slayings of bank tellers Twila Capron and Candace Hemmig during a robbery of the Tumwater State Bank. After the first death sentence was overturned in federal court, prosecutors won a second death sentence. But that sentence, too, was overturned.
Prosecutors were skeptical about Maybrown’s assertions that Rupe was in grave health. “We have no access to Rupe’s medical records, so we cannot verify his condition,” Powers said.
Reports last year that Rupe was seeking a liver transplant were met with hot denials by state prison officials, and by media requests for his records to settle the question. A judge ruled third parties have no legal access to the records.
The Legislature this year is considering a measure to require disclosure of medical records of death row inmates and another to ban publicly financed organ transplants for condemned inmates.
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