Confessed serial killer Reinaldo Rivera has another chance to continue his appeal of habeas corpus as lawyers on both sides of the death penalty case continue to battle over a court-ordered mental evaluation.
Rivera’s lawyers, Robyn Painter and Brian Kammer, objected to an order by Superior Court Judge William Fears ruling that Rivera was competent. The judge granted Rivera’s request to continue with his appeal Aug. 3.
On Sept. 18, the lawyers asked the Georgia Supreme Court to expand the scope of the case and entered new evidence, including an evaluation that found Rivera experienced cognitive deterioration while on death row.
According to Painter and Kammer, Fears erred by communicating about the final order only with Assistant Attorney General Theresa Schiefer and not with Rivera or his counsel.
The judge based his ruling on no data from mental health professionals, they said.
A Richmond County Superior Court jury sentenced Rivera to death in January 2004 for the murder of Army Sgt. Marni Glista.
Glista was found unconscious inside her home Sept. 5, 2000, after being attacked the day before. She died four days later at Doctors Hospital. Glista was strangled, according to the indictment.
Rivera confessed to raping and killing three other women. A fourth, Chrisilee Barton, survived a brutal stabbing and gave investigators clues that led to his capture.
In February, the Georgia Supreme Court ordered a mental evaluation after Rivera asked the court to drop his appeal. Rivera, who sits on death row in Jackson, Ga., wanted to dismiss his lawyer and waive rights to future appeals.
Lawyers for both sides presented arguments on whether the court should complete the evaluation after Rivera signed a handwritten affidavit May 22 saying he did not want to proceed with his motion to drop the appeal.
In his final order, Fears said evaluations throughout the trial never cast doubt on Rivera’s ability to make decisions regarding his case.
Schiefer filed a motion with the state Supreme Court Sept. 20 arguing that the court should not consider the evaluation Rivera’s lawyers are trying to enter. She said the defense did not enter the evidence during a June hearing.
The high court hasn’t ruled on whether it will hear the case based on new evidence.