Serial killer Reinaldo Rivera’s change of heart about his readiness to be executed has caused a long deliberation over the necessity of a court-ordered mental evaluation.
The Georgia Supreme Court ordered a mental evaluation after Rivera asked the court to drop his appeal of habeas corpus. Rivera, who sits on death row in Jackson, Ga., wanted to dismiss his lawyer and waive rights to future appeals.
On May 22, the day before refusing an evaluation by a state expert, Rivera signed a handwritten affidavit in which he said he could not “in good conscience proceed with my motion.” Since then, lawyers for both sides of the case have presented arguments on whether the court should complete the evaluation. A final ruling has not been made.
Rivera’s lawyer, Robyn Painter of the Georgia Resource Center, said the evaluation is not needed because Rivera acted to withdraw his motion to dismiss counsel and appeal, the grounds under which the court ordered the evaluation.
Assistant Attorney General Theresa Schiefer said it is necessary for the court to make a finding but that it can do so without expert evaluation. Previous proceedings leave no room to doubt Rivera’s competency.
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 and barely breathing inside her home Sept. 5, 2000, after being attacked the day before. She died Sept. 9 at Doctors Hospital. Glista was strangled, according to the indictment.
Rivera confessed that he raped and killed three other women. A fourth, Chrisilee Barton, survived a brutal stabbing and gave investigators clues that led to his capture.
Superior Court Judge William Fears ordered a final ruling March 31, 2011, denying Rivera’s petition for habeas.
From his first confessions, Rivera insisted he wanted a death sentence. According to the judge’s final order, Rivera “consistently, both at trial and during these habeas proceedings, indicated that he has no desire to appeal his convictions and sentences.”
The case moved to Supreme Court but on Feb. 27, the habeas court that heard the original petition was asked to conduct a hearing on Rivera’s request for dismissal and a mental evaluation, if needed.
In an April 18 hearing with Fears, Rivera testified that he wanted to “set (the) execution date as soon as possible.”
Rivera also told the judge that he takes two prescribed medications on a regular basis for bipolar disorder and manic depression. The judge ordered 60 days to complete Rivera’s mental evaluation.
When Rivera said he wanted to continue the appeal, a second hearing was held June 13, where the judge allowed the lawyers to make a case for how the court should proceed.