A federal appeals court judge Tuesday granted a stay of execution for an Indiana man convicted of the torturous rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl.
Roy Lee Ward, 40, was convicted in 2001 of the mutilation killing of Stacy Payne in Spencer County, and the Indiana Supreme Court in June affirmed his sentence. Ward had been scheduled to be executed on Dec. 11 barring a stay from a federal court.
Chief Judge Richard Young of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana stayed Ward’s execution for 90 days and appointed attorneys Marie F. Donnelly and Laurence E. Komp to file a writ of habeas corpus no later than March 4.
In June, the Indiana Supreme Court denied Ward’s bid for post-conviction relief from his death sentence after it previously had reversed his first conviction due to prejudicial publicity. Ward again was sentenced to death in 2007 after he pleaded guilty to the charges before a special judge from Clay County in a proceeding in Vanderburgh County.
The Indiana Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Roy Lee Ward v. State of Indiana, 74S00-0907-PD-320, held that mitigating factors such as Ward’s mental health and upbringing were properly heard in post-conviction relief, and in some cases Ward raised claims in PCR that were unknown at the time of his trial.
The opinion written by Justice Frank Sullivan detailed the grisly nature of Ward’s crime and found that any mitigating factors that had not been presented at sentencing would have been unlikely to persuade jurors to impose a sentence of life without parole.
“The dominant features of Ward’s makeup as it relates to this case are his antisocial personality and his total lack of remorse,” Sullivan wrote. “ … We found the evidence of torture and mutilation to be overwhelming.”
Ward is one of 12 people on Indiana’s death row at Michigan City, all of whose appeals are now in the federal court system, according the Indiana Public Defender Council.