ILNews

Court denies rehearing, orders execution

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Supreme Court has refused to hear a condemned man's appeal and ordered his execution for May.

Justices unanimously agreed this week to not rehear the case of Michael Dean Overstreet, who was convicted of the 1997 disappearance, rape, and strangulation of Franklin College freshman Kelly Eckart. He has been on death row since 2000, and the Supreme Court upheld the sentence in late November. His attorneys asked for a rehearing in January.

Now, a docket entry sets the execution date for May 30. This appellate denial ends Overstreet's state-court options, but he can now appeal to federal courts and could also ask the governor for clemency.

If taken to federal court, the case could bring up a topic of disagreement on Indiana's Supreme Court. Justices agreed to uphold the death sentence last year, but Justice Robert D. Rucker expressed dissatisfaction in the death penalty on grounds relating to Overstreet's mental-illness claims.

In that opinion, Justice Rucker wrote that he sees no principled distinction between Overstreet's claims and those of the mentally retarded, who by state law cannot be executed.

"I would declare that executing Overstreet constitutes purposeless and needless imposition of pain and suffering thereby violating the Cruel and Unusual Punishment provision of the Indiana Constitution," he wrote.

If executed this spring, Overstreet would be the first person executed by lethal injection this year. Two men, David Leon Woods and Michael Allen Lambert, were put to death by lethal injection last year, and a third man, Norman Timberlake, was set for execution but died of natural causes in prison.
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