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Judge won’t block execution of inmate killer

ROANOKE (AP) — A federal judge refused Thursday to block next week’s execution of a Virginia man who strangled two inmates and vowed to keep killing unless he was put to death.

U.S. District Judge Glen Conrad ruled against former attorneys for Robert Gleason Jr., 42, who claimed he was no longer competent to waive his appeals. They had asked to be re-appointed to Gleason’s case so they could seek a new mental health evaluation. In two other evaluations, Gleason was deemed competent to make decisions in his case.

Conrad ruled the attorneys had no authority to make the request and that they failed to show Gleason’s competency had deteriorated.

Attorney Jon Sheldon claimed in court documents and in a hearing last week that Gleason had become depressed and delusional, paranoid and severely anxious, among other afflictions. He claimed that months in solitary confinement had worsened Gleason’s mental state, and that competency evaluations done more than a year before were either incomplete or incorrect.

“While the movants have ample experience defending capital cases, they are not mental health experts, and the court is convinced that neither their declarations, nor the prison records, provide credible evidence that Gleason’s mental capacity has ‘deteriorated to the point that he is no longer mentally competent,’” Conrad wrote.

Sheldon and other attorneys seeking to represent Gleason did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Gleason is scheduled to be executed Wednesday.

Gleason was serving life in prison for killing a man when he strangled his cellmate in 2009 and kept his body hidden from corrections officers for 15 hours. In an interview with The Associated Press after the slaying and again in court, Gleason vowed to keep killing unless given the death penalty. He strangled another inmate through a separate chain-link recreation cage in 2010 while awaiting sentencing at the state’s highest security prison.

Since the first prison slaying in 2009, Gleason has said he would not appeal his sentence. Sheldon said in court documents that Gleason had told him he did not want to die, but Conrad said that’s not the same as wanting to appeal his sentence.

“Succinctly stated, the fact that the death row inmate does not ‘want to die’ does not mean that he wishes to pursue a legal challenge to his sentence of death or seek to stay his execution,” the judge wrote, adding that Gleason stated “plainly and clearly” in court last week that he wished to keep the execution date.

“I deserve this,” Gleason said. “I’ve hurt people.”

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