Subscribe for 17¢ / day
Dale Wayne Eaton
Dale Wayne Eaton appears in Natrona County Circuit Court, Monday, April 21, 2003.

CHEYENNE — Death row inmate Dale Eaton doesn't deserve lengthy federal appeals hearings before the state executes him, lawyers for the state of Wyoming told a federal judge.

Eaton, the only person on Wyoming's death row, is challenging the constitutionality of the state death sentence he received in the 1988 rape and murder of 18-year-old Lisa Marie Kimmell, of Billings, Mont.

Eaton's lawyers this summer filed a 300-page petition in federal court claiming he didn't get a fair trial.

Lawyers Terry Harris of Cheyenne and Sean O'Brien of Missouri represent Eaton. They have asked U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson to grant them hearings to develop evidence in Eaton's case.

Johnson has stated it could take years to resolve if it's necessary to hold hearings on the evidence.

The Wyoming Attorney General's Office filed its response Monday to Eaton's petition. The state discounts Eaton's claims that his state court trial was flawed. The state says Eaton doesn't deserve evidentiary hearings in federal court.

The AG's Office said the Wyoming Supreme Court already considered and shot down many of Eaton's claims and said his other claims have other flaws.

Wyoming Attorney General Bruce Salzburg declined comment Tuesday. An attempt to reach Harris for comment was unsuccessful.

Kimmell disappeared while driving from Colorado to Cody and her body was later found in the North Platte River. The case languished until 2002, when DNA evidence linked Eaton to the case while he was in prison on unrelated charges.

Investigators later unearthed Kimmell's car on Eaton's property near Moneta.

The federal petition Harris and O'Brien filed this summer criticized the performance of Eaton's trial lawyer, Wyatt Skaggs of Laramie. Skaggs this summer declined comment.

Harris and O'Brien charged that Skaggs failed to develop a good relationship with Eaton, which they said violated Eaton's right to effective legal assistance.

Harris and O'Brien also criticized Skaggs for not allocating more resources to the defense investigation for financial reasons. They claimed Skaggs should have pushed to move the trial out of Casper due to heavy pretrial publicity.

Harris and O'Brien also claimed Skaggs failed to investigate Eaton's background, preventing him from presenting effective witnesses in the trial's death penalty phase. The lawyers say some witnesses could have testified that Eaton had a bad childhood and probably was mentally ill when Kimmell was killed.

Harris and O'Brien also leveled criticism against Casper District Attorney Michael Blonigen, who prosecuted Eaton.

Eaton's lawyers essentially charged that Blonigen misled the trial court about whether an inmate who testified against Eaton got a break in another criminal case. The inmate had claimed Eaton discussed Kimmell's slaying with him.

Blonigen has said there's no truth to the claim from Harris and O'Brien that the other inmate received a break in exchange for testimony.

Blonigen said the case against Eaton was one of the strongest criminal cases he's ever seen at any level.