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Execution Nears For Killer Of Panhandle Woman

Rutherford Timeline:
  • Aug. 22, 1985: Body of 63-year-old Stella Salamon found submerged in bathtub in Milton home. She had a broken arm, bruises on her face and arms and severe head wounds. Medical examiner said she died from drowning or asphyxiation.
  • Aug. 23, 1985: Arthur Rutherford arrested after getting assistance from friend to cash as $2,000 check on Salamon's account. Rutherford had done some carpentry work for Salamon. His finger and palm prints were found in bathroom where Salamon was killed.
  • Sept. 11, 1985: Rutherford indicted on charges of first-degree murder and robbery with a firearm.
  • Jan. 31, 1986: Rutherford found guilty of all charges.
  • Feb. 1, 1986: Jury recommends death sentence by an 8 to 4 majority.
  • April 2, 1986: Judge grants mistrial due to discovery violations by the state.
  • Oct. 2, 1986: On retrial, Rutherford was found guilty on all charges. The jury, on a 7 to 5 vote, recommends death penalty.
  • Dec. 9, 1986: Rutherford sentenced to death for murder count and 30 years on armed robbery.
  • June 16, 1989: Florida Supreme Court affirms conviction and sentence.
  • Oct. 30, 1989: U.S. Supreme Court denies appeal.
  • Dec. 17, 1998: Florida Supreme Court denies appeal.
  • Sept. 1, 2000: U.S. District Court dismissed petition for writ of habeas corpus.
  • Oct. 12, 2000: Florida Supreme Court denied petition for writ of habeas corpus.
  • Aug. 29, 2002: U.S. District Court again denies appeal.
  • Nov. 29, 2005: Governor Jeb Bush signs death warrant.
  • Dec. 20, 2002: Motion for rehearing denied for Santa Rosa Circuit Court.
  • May 25, 2004: Florida Supreme Court turns down appeal.
  • Sept. 27, 2004: U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals affirms denial of Rutherford's petition for habeas corpus.
  • Feb. 22, 2005: U.S. Supreme Court denies appeal.
  • April 18, 2005: U.S. Supreme Court denies another appeal.
  • July 18, 2005: Florida Supreme Court denies appeal.
  • Jan. 5, 2006: Florida Supreme Court denies petition for writ of habeas corpus.
  • Jan. 5, 2006: State Supreme Court denies appeal.
  • Jan. 27, 2006: Florida Supreme Court denies appeal.
  • Jan. 30, 2006: U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals turns down Rutherford's appeal in 2-1 vote.

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    JACKSONVILLE, FL (AP) -- A Vietnam veteran who drowned and strangled a Florida Panhandle woman was set to be executed Tuesday unless the U.S. Supreme Court intercedes like it did last week when it blocked the lethal injection of another Florida inmate.

    Arthur Rutherford, who was set to be executed at 6 p.m. EDT, pressed his appeals to the Supreme Court after a federal appeals court has turned him down late Monday.

    Last week, the high court stayed the execution of Clarence Hill on an issue Rutherford also has raised, that the state's lethal injection procedure is cruel and unusual punishment.

    "He is real anxious about the appeal," said Linda McDermott, one of Rutherford's lawyers.

    She said four separate petitions were filed with the Supreme Court on Rutherford's behalf early Tuesday.

    Appeals court judges rejected that argument for Rutherford on Monday, saying the inmates' cases differ because Rutherford waited until the Supreme Court had agreed to hear Hill's lethal injection appeal before he raised his claim.

    Rutherford, 56, was condemned for the Aug. 22, 1985, attack on Stella Salamon, whose head was found submerged in the bathtub of her Milton home. Salamon had a broken arm, bruises on her face and arms, and three severe head wounds. The medical examiner said Salamon died from drowning or asphyxiation.

    Salamon, a widow from Australia, has hired Rutherford to do a series of odd jobs, including replacing her sliding glass patio doors. She expressed concern about him to her friends.

    Police found Rutherford's fingerprints and palm prints in the bathroom where Salamon was killed.

    At his trial, two witnesses, Elizabeth Ward and her mother, Mary Heaton, testified that Rutherford asked for their help in cashing a
    $2,000 check from Salamon's bank account. Rutherford forged Salamon's name on the check and took Heaton to a bank, where she cashed the check.

    The Supreme Court granted Hill a last-minute stay of execution so the justices can determine whether the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta erred by denying him a chance to appeal the lethal injection claim.

    Hill, 48, of Mobile, Ala., had fatally shot a Pensacola police officer during a 1982 bank robbery. He was strapped to a gurney with intravenous lines attached to his arm Tuesday when Justice Anthony M. Kennedy granted a temporary stay. The full court the next day extended the stay to give lawyers time to present their arguments.

    However, an Indiana inmate failed in his attempts to press a similar issue early Friday and was executed.

    Attorneys for Hill and Rutherford contend that a cocktail of three chemicals used by Florida and several other states can cause excruciating pain. A study published in The Lancet medical journal
    last year by a University of Miami researcher found that a painkiller is likely to wear off before a second chemical causes the inmate to suffer a heart attack. The third chemical paralyzes the inmate so he cannot react to or express the pain, according to the study.

    The Florida Supreme Court refused to grant Hill or Rutherford a trial court hearing to present evidence on the issue, concluding that the study was inconclusive.

    The state justices Friday also rejected Rutherford's claim that new evidence might exonerate him.

    Rutherford would be the 61st inmate executed in Florida since 1976, when executions resumed after a 12-year moratorium, and the 257th since 1924, when the state took that duty from individual

    Created: 1/31/2006 2:52:28 PM
    Updated: 1/31/2006 3:32:20 PM
    Edited by  Jason Raphael, Producer
    © 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed.

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