SALT LAKE CITY — A death-row inmate’s lawyers argued in Utah court Wednesday that their client legally can’t be executed because he is intellectually disabled.

Michael Anthony Archuleta was convicted in 1989 in the brutal torture and killing of 28-year-old Southern Utah State College student Gordon Ray Church.

Archuleta, 55, is one of nine men on Utah’s death row.

Archuleta’s attorney, Charlotte Merril, said her client’s previous counsel was “conflicted, underqualified and underfunded” and failed to see the “red flags” of Archuleta’s disability, the Salt Lake Tribune reported .

Lawyers with the state countered by arguing that Archuleta’s attorneys waited until the last moment to raise the concern in an effort to delay appeals that have stretched for decades.

Aaron Murphy, assistant solicitor general, said it’s a victory for a defense team to delay an execution.

“A guilty person on death row has every incentive to wait until the last possible minute to gum up claims,” Murphy said.

In November 1988, then-parolees Archuleta and Lance Conway Wood drove Church to a remote location in Millard County. There, they attached jumper cables to Church’s testicles, raped him with a tire iron and beat him with a car jack.

Archuleta and Wood each were convicted of capital murder. Wood was sentenced to life in prison, while Archuleta was sentenced to death.

The state Supreme Court is mulling its decision on the appeal and will issue a written ruling. If the high court rejects the arguments, it would be the sixth time state courts have rejected Archuleta’s appeals.


Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com