Setting the stage for a possible stay of execution for condemned prison guard killer William Van Poyck, all three attorneys appointed to represent the 58-year told the Florida Supreme Court this afternoon that they want off the case.
In separate motions, the attorneys, who were appointed Monday by Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Charles Burton, said there is no way they can provide the vigorous defense Van Poyck deserves before June 12. That is the day he is to die for the 1987 murder of Glades Correctional Institution guard Fred Griffis outside a West Palm Beach doctor’s office during a botched attempt to free a convicted murderer. Burton gave them until 3 p.m. Friday to file Van Poyck’s appeal.
“With a mere four days to prepare Van Poyck’s final pleading, any attempt to mount a viable challenge on behalf of Van Poyck would be a farce,” attorney Jeffrey Davis, a civil litigator from Milwaukee, Wisc., wrote in his motion.
He suggested that the high court delay Van Poyck’s execution for 60 days to give him and other attorneys time to prepare. He asked the court to appoint an attorney who is skilled in death warrant appeals to assist him.
Mark Olive, a Tallahassee attorney who was also appointed Monday, has such expertise. But, in his motion, he said it would be a violation of professional standards to take on Van Poyck’s case on such short notice. Not only would he be unable to mount a thorough investigation of possible appeals but he would have to do so at the expense of other clients. Olive said he would be willing to help Davis represent Van Poyck if he was given more time to prepare.
Jacksonville attorney Gerald Bettman, who was also appointed Monday, made no such offers. With no experience handling high-pressure, high-stakes appeals after a death warrant is signed, he said he should be taken off the case, Van Poyck’s execution should be delayed and competent attorneys appointed, he wrote.
The problem is that no attorney was ever appointed to represent Van Poyck after his first appellate attorney was arrested for possession of cocaine and gave up his right to practice law. The three represented Van Poyck for free on specific matters but don’t know the full scope of the case, they said.
The high court is expected to rule soon, possibly as early as Thursday.