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U.S. Court Refuses to Block Execution Set for Friday

May 02, 1996|From Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court refused Wednesday to block the execution of Keith Daniel Williams, who is scheduled to die at 12:01 a.m. Friday for murdering three people during a 1978 robbery in Merced County.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Williams' lawyers had not justified their failure to obtain records of his mental illness earlier and had not shown that the evidence could have changed the jury's verdict.

The ruling was issued by a three-judge panel. An 11-judge panel could rehear the case if ordered by a majority vote of the entire court. Williams' only further appeal would be to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"I think it's regrettable but not surprising that this particular panel has ruled as it has," said Michael Kroll, a spokesman for Williams' defense team. "I expect that [an 11-judge] panel of the full court will revisit these issues."

Williams, 48, of Lodi, was convicted of murdering dairy workers Miguel Vargas, 29, and his cousin, Salvador Vargas, 40, at a Merced farmhouse in October 1978. Prosecutors said he killed them while stealing a bad $1,500 check he had given Miguel Vargas for a car. He also was convicted of murdering Miguel Vargas' pregnant girlfriend, Lourdes Meza, 24, whose body was found near Sonora about 50 miles away.

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