The Florida Supreme Court denied the appeal of death row inmate Oba Chandler on Monday, leaving the 65-year-old triple murderer with few options left to avoid his Nov. 15 execution date.
Chandler is set to be put to death for the 1989 murders of Joan "Jo" Rogers, 36, and daughters Michelle, 17, and Christe, 14. Chandler lured the vacationing Ohio family onto his boat, likely sexually assaulted them, then drowned them in the waters of Tampa Bay.
It took investigators three years to track down Chandler. It took 22 years for Chandler to exhaust his state and federal appeals and reach the top of the execution list. Gov. Rick Scott signed Chandler's death warrant on Oct. 10.
A Pinellas-Pasco circuit judge rejected Chandler's final appeal on Oct. 24. His attorneys appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, but the result was the same.
"I'm not completely surprised and certainly somewhat disappointed," said defense attorney Baya Harrison III. "However, we just have to keep trying. As we speak I am preparing two pleadings."
The first is seeking permission from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta to file an appeal on Chandler's behalf. Since Chandler has already had one federal appeal denied in 2007, he must ask for permission to file another one.
That appeal should be filed by Tuesday, Harrison said. But the attorney conceded it is unlikely that Chandler will be granted another federal appeal.
Harrison hopes the second option has more success: He plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday to overturn Monday's decision by the Florida Supreme Court.
But that's also a long shot, Harrison said. The U.S. Supreme Court denied Chandler's appeals in 1998 and 2007. "When you're down to that," Harrison said. "You're really down to the end."
Jamal Thalji can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8472.