Educator says an appeal could be tough for R.E. Phelon plant killer, who did not mount a defense in trialAssociated PressAIKEN - Any appeal by convicted killer Arthur Hastings Wise that questions his decision not to mount a defense is unlikely to find a sympathetic ear on the state Supreme Court, says a professor who specializes in criminal law.
Mr. Wise was convicted of murder Jan. 29. Three days later, jurors ruled he should be executed.
Now that Mr. Wise, 46, is headed to death row, an appeal is mandatory, and his lawyers have said the fact he handcuffed his defense is a likely point to be raised.
"We were left to make chicken salad out of chicken feathers," said Carl B. Grant, one of Mr. Wise's trial lawyers.
But that could be a tough tactic to press, said University of South Carolina law professor Bill McAninch. As long as a defendant is competent, he can overrule his lawyers and run his case however he likes, the professor said.
If Mr. Wise's lawyers are ruled to have done a good job and Mr. Wise is ruled competent to have led his own defense, "there's not a lot for an appellate court to go on," Mr. McAninch said.
But David Bruck, a death penalty lawyer who got a life sentence instead of execution for convicted child killer Susan Smith, said conflicting court decisions from other jurisdictions have left the issue muddled.
Mr. Wise told his lawyers not to call any defense witnesses during the trial and subsequent penalty phase. They had planned to call 13 relatives, friends or church members to plead for Mr. Wise's life.
Mr. Bruck said Mr. Wise's desire not to mount a defense could be seen as akin to being suicidal. A psychiatrist at Mr. Wise's trial, for instance, said the gunman drank insecticide after the rampage at the plant.
But, Mr. Bruck said, "People who are depressed and suicidal at trial can become better after they get to death row."
A court also must decide if the depression at trial was enough to make a suspect temporarily incompetent, Mr. Bruck said.