Joshua Bishop And Leverett Morrison

Posted in Georgia History, Library of Congress, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on March 31, 2016












The State of Georgia is planning to execute Joshua Bishop tonight. Mr. Bishop was convicted of beating Leverett Morrison to death June 25, 1994. A co-defendant, Mark Braxley, is currently serving a life sentence in Reidsville. There is a possibility that Mr. Morrison was the father of Mr. Bishop

A press advisory from the State Attorney General tells the story as well as anyone. Further details will be supplied in parentheses, with a link to the source.

“[Leverett] Morrison drove Bishop and Bishop’s co-indictee, Mark Braxley, to a bar. Bishop and Braxley decided to steal Morrison’s car. The three left the bar around 11:00 p.m., June 24, 1994, and drove to Braxley’s trailer. (192 Linton Road) Bishop reached into the sleeping Morrison’s pocket for the car keys, but Morrison awoke and sat up. Bishop began to beat Morrison about the head and face with a blunt object. When Morrison was unconscious, Bishop took the car keys. Eventually realizing that Morrison was dead, Bishop and Braxley wrapped and then loaded the body into the back seat of Morrison’s car. They drove to a dumpster which was located a short distance from Braxley’s trailer. After unsuccessfully attempting to toss Morrison’s body into the dumpster, Bishop and Braxley left the body on the ground where it was discovered several hours later. They drove Morrison’s car into the nearby woods, set it on fire, and then walked back to Braxley’s trailer to dispose of evidence of their crimes. (No murder weapon was ever recovered.) After his arrest, Bishop made a statement in which he admitted delivering the blows with a wooden rod until Morrison stopped breathing, and described how he and Braxley disposed of the body and burned the car. Bishop subsequently confessed that, some two weeks prior to the murder of Morrison, he participated in the murder of Ricky Lee Wills and that he buried Wills’ body in the woods near Braxley’s trailer. (…then-district attorney Fred Bright said Willis died June 9, 1994. He was beaten with a blunt object, had eight deep lacerations on his head and face, had four broken ribs and his throat was cut with a knife. Bright told jurors Bishop and Braxley buried Willis in the woods behind Braxley’s father’s trailer and had to break the man’s legs to get him into the shallow grave.) After investigators recovered Wills’ body, a grand jury indicted Bishop and Braxley for that murder as well. The trial court admitted evidence regarding Bishop’s participation in Wills’ murder in aggravation of punishment during the penalty phase of this trial for Morrison’s murder. (Bishop said he killed Wills because Wills boasted about sexually assaulting Bishop’s mother.)

Although both Bishop and Braxley initially denied any involvement in the murder of Morrison, Bishop later confessed in a statement given to Detective Ricky Horn. In his statement, which was audiotaped and played by the State for the jury, Bishop explained at considerable length the events culminating in the beating and murder of Morrison.(Bishop urges that his inculpatory in-custody statement should not have been admitted because, as the result of antecedent drinking and smoking crack cocaine, he was unable to make a knowing waiver of his rights.)

Bishop, Braxley, and Morrison had been drinking through the afternoon and had smoked crack later that evening. That night, Braxley suggested that Bishop take the keys to Morrison’s Jeep; Morrison was lying in bed at the time. According to Bishop, when he reached into Morrison’s pocket, Morrison “popped [him] and asked [him] what [he] was doing.” Bishop then hit Morrison with a wooden stick that “was like a closet rod.” In Bishop’s words, he used “[o]ne of them big heavy closet rods.” Bishop explained, “I hit him too hard, I reckon, and he didn’t say anything. He just wouldn’t breathe.” At one point in his statement Bishop said that he hit Morrison on the backside of his head “about twice” and Braxley hit him “about three times.” “I hit [Morrison] like three times in the head with that stick, just to see the first time if I could knock him out where I could get his keys. But he wouldn’t knock out. I hit him one more time and finally, he looked like he was knocked out.”

According to Bishop, he then exited the room, but left the key to Morrison’s Jeep on a coffee table. Bishop added that, while he was outside the room, he “heard something loud.” He elaborated: “When I went back in there after I left the key on the coffee table, I walked back there and saw that [Morrison] was dead. I saw we were messing up pretty bad. He wasn’t breathing. I checked him out and he wasn’t breathing. He was dead.” Bishop explained that he and Braxley then wrapped Morrison in a comforter and placed his body in the back seat of the Jeep, and that they tried unsuccessfully to put Morrison’s body in a dumpster but ended up leaving the body between two dumpsters. At Braxley’s suggestion, Bishop took the Jeep to a nearby pond, poured gasoline all over it, and lit it on fire, destroying all but the frame of the vehicle. ( Prior to Bishop’s arrest, the officers had the following reasonably trustworthy information: Morrison was last seen alive leaving the bar with Bishop and Braxley around 11:00 p.m. Although Bishop and Braxley claimed Morrison left the trailer in his car about 2:00 or 2:30 a.m., they were seen driving Morrison’s car after 3:00 a.m. Morrison’s body was found several hours later, less than a mile away from Braxley’s trailer. These facts were sufficient to give the officers a particularized and objective basis for believing that Bishop murdered Morrison. … The singed hair on his hands indicated that Bishop set fire to Morrison’s car.)

Dr. James Dawson testified regarding Morrison’s injuries and cause of death. He determined that Morrison died in the early morning hours of June 25, 1994, as a result of inner cranial bleeding, with contributing factors of a cerebral contusion and aspiration of blood, all caused by blunt force trauma to the head. Dr. Dawson confirmed that Morrison was beaten to death. Several of Morrison’s seven significant head wounds appeared to have been caused by a cylindrical, circular, or tubular object, while other wounds appeared to have been caused by a flat object. Dr. Dawson could not state the order in which the seven injuries took place, nor could he state whether the first blow, the seventh blow, any of the blows in between, or any combination of the blows caused the cerebral contusion (bruising of the brain) or the hemorrhage resulting in inner cranial bleeding and ultimately death; finally, the medical examiner confirmed that all seven injuries occurred while Morrison was alive.” (Leverett Morrison is buried at Baldwin Memorial Gardens, Milledgeville GA)

The fishwrapper published a story the other day, Violent childhood put Georgia killer on sure path to Death Row. It is a doozie. Here are excerpts.

“When Morrison and Wills were murdered, Bishop had been living under a bridge with his mother, an alcoholic and drug addict who sometimes prostituted herself. She was heard telling her son that men show their love with punches, slaps and verbal assaults. She knew a man loved her, she told her son, if he beat her. … Bishop’s mother treated her two sons like “drinking buddies,” wrote Barbara Cheeley, the boys’ aunt. “This seemed to be the way she dealt with them best.” …

Carolyn Bishop was 17 when she gave birth to Joshua Bishop’s older brother, Michael. Michael Bishop’s father, Mike, was 14 years old when he married Carolyn. Joshua Bishop, however, never knew for certain who his father was. “Josh was almost obsessed with finding out who his daddy was,” the brother wrote in an affidavit. “It was sad for me to hear Josh ask so many people while he was growing up who his daddy was. The answer was usually ‘I don’t know.’”

Carolyn Bishop told her younger son that one of three men could be his father, most likely Albert Ray Morrison, who was Leverette Morrison’s brother. “Many people say Josh is my son but I don’t really know for sure,” Albert Morrison wrote. “His mama, Carolyn, went with a lot of men, including me and Leverette.” … his dead brother had “problems with drugs as far back as I can remember…. I know Josh was charged with killing Leverette and received a death sentence for it. But Josh is the same people as me and Leverette. With all the drinking and crack going on, it could just as easily have been Josh who was killed as my brother.” …

Joshua Bishop first tasted alcohol at 4 and in just a few years was “huffing” chemicals like gasoline. Eventually, he was using cocaine and drinking with his mother. ” His last meal request is a barbecue sandwich, Brunswick stew, potato chips, coleslaw, lemonade and purple candy. Pictures today are from The Library of Congress. UPDATE: Joshua Bishop died at 9:27 pm, March 31, 2016.


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