The Florida Supreme Court received the last-ditch appeal of convicted killer Oba Chandler on Tuesday, 21 days before his execution date.
Chandler, 65, is scheduled to die by lethal injection Nov. 15 for the 1989 murders of Ohio mother Joan "Jo" Rogers, 36, and her daughters, Michelle, 17, and Christe, 14.
Last week defense attorney Baya Harrison III appealed Chandler's death sentence in a Pinellas courtroom on the grounds that his client's constitutional rights were violated because some of the findings made by a judge in sentencing him to death should have been made by a jury.
Chandler should get a new penalty phase, Harrison argued, so that a new jury can weigh whether he should be put to death or receive a life sentence.
But Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Phillip Federico denied the defense's motion Monday. Chandler's lawyers quickly appealed to the Florida Supreme Court. The state's highest court already has upheld his death sentence twice, in 1997 and 2003.
Chandler, who was convicted in 1994, has lost every other state and federal appeal over the past two decades. This latest legal argument is his last chance to avoid execution.
If the justices decide to hear arguments in this case, they will do so on Nov. 9 in Tallahassee. If they reject Chandler's appeal, the defense has to ask the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta for permission to appeal to a federal court. If they're granted permission, arguments will be heard in the Middle District of Florida in Tampa.
The Rogers family was visiting Florida when they met Chandler while asking for directions in 1989. He took them out into Tampa Bay on his boat, then restrained them, likely sexually assaulted them, then threw them into the water with masonry blocks tied to their necks.
Gov. Rick Scott signed Chandler's death warrant Oct. 10. Chandler is scheduled to die at 4 p.m. Nov. 15 at Florida State Prison in Starke.