CHICAGO -- Only a final spate of legal maneuvers remain before John Wayne Gacy is slated to disappear into the annals of American crime as a killer without a conscience.
Found guilty in the murders of 33 teen-age boys and young men, more than any other serial killer this century, Gacy, 52, was expected to spend his final hours today at Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet, Ill., where he is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection one minute after midnight tonight.
An attorney for Gacy said yesterday that defense lawyers were requesting an emergency stay of execution from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The call for a delay, lawyer Gregory Adamski said, is based on a request for a hearing to determine whether prosecutors had failed to turn over business records that Gacy claims prove his innocence in at least three of the slayings.
After Gacy finishes his chosen last meal of fried chicken and strawberries, he is scheduled to be strapped to a gurney and hooked up to a device that will drip a lethal solution into his veins. The chemical mixture will sedate him, paralyze his muscles, arrest his breathing and stop his heart.
"I want to be there to watch him die," said William J. Kunkle Jr., one of Gacy's prosecutors and among 18 witnesses who will watch the execution from behind a glass partition. "For all his victims, for all the law enforcement people who had to deal with him, it will be a privilege to see him draw his last breath."
A flurry of appeals filed by Gacy's lawyers so far has done nothing to alter the timing of his execution. The Illinois Supreme Court, several county courts and a federal district court judge all turned down legal challenges last week.
Gacy's best chance, defense attorney David Keefe said, lay in a five-pronged legal challenge made last week in federal court here. But U.S. District Judge John F. Grady's summary rejection of that effort on Friday appeared to leave the convicted killer little ground for appeal.
The final option, Mr. Keefe said, would be an appeal to U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and, ultimately, the entire high court. But that avenue has proved to be of little use in death penalty challenges in recent years.
Gacy was scheduled to be transferred under armed guard to the Stateville prison by this evening.
In telephone calls made over the weekend to TV reporters and his lawyers, Gacy expressed impatience with the court decisions on his appeals, but he insisted his execution will be delayed.
Gacy's "gross denial" of his impending death and his tendency to mindlessly repeat his claims of innocence like a "human tape-recorder" is stark evidence that he is not mentally competent to be executed, Mr. Adamski said.
But to Mr. Kunkle and other state officials, Gacy is simply a "sociopath, a person with no remorse, no regards for the feelings of other people. He's an evil killer."