Court rejects Gacy death sentence appeal



SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP)—The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to overturn a death sentence for convicted murderer John Wayne Gacy Jr., who killed 33 young men and boys in Illinois.

The court, without comment, rejected Gacy’s argument that his sentencing jury was given unconstitutional instructions.

‘‘This is the last of regular lines of appeals, but all death row inmates try extraordinary last-minute steps,’‘ said Asst. Attorney General Terry Madsen. ‘‘What he’ll attempt to do now is repeat things.’‘

Several families of the victims said they think it is time for Gacy to die, and Attorney General Roland Burris asked the state Supreme Court to set an execution date.

Rosemarie Szyc, whose 19-year-old John was one of Gacy’s victims, complained that the case has dragged on more than decade.

‘‘I don’t think there is anything to be gained by thinking an eye-for-an-eye and a tooth-for-a-tooth, but I do believe the sentence should be done,’‘ said Szyc, of Des Plaines.

‘‘This is a very very painful thing, and there won’t be closure until it’s done,’‘ said the step-mother of another victim who didn’t want to be identified.

Burris agreed.

‘‘It is time for the people of this state to impose the ultimate penalty on this gentleman who committed these heinous crimes of murder,’‘ Burris said. This case has been going on since 1979. This gentleman has exhausted all legal remedies.’‘

William Nissen, Gacy’s court-appointed lawyer, declined comment on the case. At Gacy’s request several years ago, the Department of Corrections no longer passes along requests for interviews.

A former building contractor, Gacy was convicted in 1980 of killing 33 young males between 1972 and 1978. Twenty-seven bodies were found buried in a crawl space under his home in suburban Chicago.

A jury sentenced him to death for 12 killings that occurred after Illinois enacted its death penalty law.

If executed, Gacy would be the second man this decade to die by lethal injection in Illinois. Convicted murderer Charles Walker was executed in 1990.

The Supreme Court refused to hear two previous appeals by Gacy, in 1985 and 1989.

In the appeal acted on Monday, Gacy’s lawyers said the jury instructions were unlawful because they created a reasonable chance jurors might not realize that a single juror could block imposition of the death penalty.

The appeal cited a study by a University of Chicago professor, published in 1992, that analyzed potential jurors’ understanding of the Illinois jury instructions. The study said up to 46 percent of those in Cook County, where Gacy was convicted, thought a jury had to unanimously agree on a factor mitigating against the death penalty before it could be given legal weight.

Gacy’s appeal also noted that the trial judge erroneously told Gacy’s sentencing jury that he could be given a life sentence instead of the death penalty only if jurors unanimously agreed on mitigating factors.

A federal judge ruled that the judge’s error was cured when the jury was given the correct instruction in writing.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Gacy’s sentences, saying that the statistics were irrelevant and that such information could not be applied retroactively to Gacy’s case.

The jurors returned all 12 death sentences within two hours, the appeals court noted, adding, ‘‘They must have been in agreement from the outset.’‘

The case is Gacy vs. Welborn, 93-5558.