Chamblee54

John Wayne Conner And James T. White

Posted in Georgia History, GSU photo archive, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on July 3, 2016

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Georgia is fixin’ to poison 0000384035. Here is the what the Attorney General of Georgia has to say: “An execution date for John Wayne Conner has been set for July 14, 2016. Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens offers the following information in the case against John Wayne Conner for the 1982 murder of James T. White.
At the time of the murder, Conner lived with his girlfriend, Beverly Bates, in Milan. On the evening of January 9, 1982, they rode with friends, including the victim, J. T. White, to a party in Eastman. After spending the evening drinking and smoking marijuana, the group returned to Milan around midnight. J. T., described by one witness as “humble and satisfied” and by another as “mellow,” exited the vehicle with Conner and Ms. Bates at their house. Soon afterwards, Conner and J. T. left the house on foot, taking with them a nearly empty bottle of bourbon that Conner had purchased the night before. They walked to the home of Pete Dupree, woke him up, and asked him to take them to get more whiskey. He refused.
Then, according to Conner: “[M]e and J. T. left and went down the road. J. T. made the statement about he would like to go to bed with my girlfriend and so I got mad and we got into a fight and fought all the way over to the oak tree and I hit him with a quart bottle. He run over there to the fence trying to get through or across, I reckon, so I run over there and grabbed him and pulled him back and hit him again and he fell in the water and he grabbed my leg. I was down there at him right there in the ditch where he was at and he was swinging trying to get up or swinging at me to try to hit me one, and there was a stick right there at me, and I grabbed it and went to beating him with it.”
The next day, J. T.’s body was found in a drainage ditch near the Milan Elementary School. Injuries on his forehead bore the pattern of the sole of a tennis shoe. His nose was broken, both his cheekbones were fractured, his eyes were swollen, and his left ear was severely damaged. He had been hit so hard in the face with a blunt object that teeth, as well as portions of the bone to which they were attached, were broken away from his upper and lower jaws. Dr. Larry Howard, who conducted the autopsy, testified that the trauma to J. T.’s head and face caused brain damage and bleeding in and around the brain which extended into his lungs, causing him to drown in his own blood.
Beverly Bates had gone to bed when Conner and J. T. left. When Conner returned, he woke her up and told her that they had to leave; he had had a fight with J. T. and thought he was dead. Conner ripped off his shirt and threw it into the fire. He told Ms. Bates that he knew where a car was with its keys in it. The car was parked in front of the school. Before they left town, Conner told Ms. Bates that “he had to be sure,” and walked toward the ditch. She heard a thud. Conner returned, and said now he was sure, let’s go. They stopped to get gas in Eastman. Ms. Bates gave Conner $ 20 to buy gas with; in return, he gave her a bloody $ 5 bill. They were caught in Butts County.
The $ 5 bill, as well as a whiskey bottle and a tree limb found near the body, were subsequently analyzed and found to have blood on them that was consistent with that of the victim and inconsistent with that of Conner (understandable, since Conner suffered no injuries during the “fight”).”
The next part of this story is from Findlaw.
On January 26, 1982, while in the Telfair County Jail, Conner pounded a bullet into his chest until it exploded. As a result, he was admitted to Central State Hospital (“CSH”) in Milledgeville, Georgia. According to the records from that visit, Conner was “mute, uncooperative and appeared to be semicatatonic” upon admission. He showed “complete psychomotor retardation and [was] unable to answer any questions.” Conner was medicated and placed on “suicide precautions.” He later became cooperative and responsive.
By court order, Conner remained hospitalized at CSH until February 19, 1982, while the staff evaluated him for competency and insanity. ….. An IQ test administered while Conner was at CSH revealed a full-scale Weschler Adult Intelligence Score IQ score of 87, which placed Conner within the normal or average range of intelligence. On February 19, 1982, CSH issued a letter to the trial judge stating that Conner was competent to stand trial and could be held criminally responsible.
Conner’s father initially retained David Morgan to represent Conner in the underlying criminal case. About the same time, Dennis Mullis, a public defender, was appointed to represent Conner in an unrelated case. When it became clear that Conner’s father would not be able to pay Morgan’s fees through the pendency of the criminal case, Mullis was appointed to assist Morgan.
On April 30, 1982, Morgan filed a motion for funds to hire a defense expert to perform a mental examination because he was considering raising an insanity defense. This motion was heard on May 11, 1982. At that time, the court had the benefit of the February 19, 1982 CSH letter stating that Conner was competent to stand trial. Mullis stated that he could not determine if CSH had done anything wrong in its examination without an independent expert to assist him.
Nevertheless, the state trial court deferred ruling on the motion because the defense had not yet filed a motion to raise the insanity defense. At a later pre-trial hearing on June 21, 1982, Morgan withdrew from the case and Mullis became Conner’s sole counsel. At a hearing on June 30, 1982, Mullis announced that he would not be seeking to assert the insanity defense based upon his review of additional information private counsel had obtained from CSH. After that, Mullis did not file any other motion pertaining to Conner’s mental health nor did he request the appointment of an independent mental health examiner.
At his jury trial on July 12–14, 1982, Conner neither testified nor presented any evidence on his own behalf. During his guilt phase closing argument, the prosecutor said the following:
Ladies and gentleman, as prosecutor, as defense attorney, I have been involved in criminal law for seven years. As District Attorney of this circuit, I have prosecuted nine murder cases. I have never before sought the death penalty. I have seen several killings. I have been responsible for prosecuting several terrible killings. I have never before sought the death penalty. (This statement would later be considered improper conduct.)
Conner’s counsel objected. The trial court sustained the objection and gave the jury a curative instruction not to consider the penalty before deciding guilt or innocence.
After deliberating for fifty minutes, the jury found Conner guilty on all counts. Before the sentencing phase, the trial court granted defense counsel a brief recess for Mullis to confer with Conner. When the proceedings reconvened, the court asked Mullis if he planned to present any evidence in mitigation. Mullis responded:
Your Honor, I had planned on calling four witnesses—of course, the defendant, and his brother, and father, and his mother. After the verdict came in I talked to Mr. Conner in a room adjacent to the courtroom and he has informed me that he does not desire me to enter any evidence in mitigation. He does not desire to do that himself, he has told me. I have counsel[ed] him that my advice would be to do otherwise. My advice would be to put in some evidence to mitigate this. He has told me he does not desire to do that.
The following colloquy then took place between the court and Conner: THE COURT: Mr. Conner, do you understand your rights to present evidence? MR. CONNER: Yeah. THE COURT: And you have instructed your counsel and you are telling the Court now that you do not want to put anything in in evidence of mitigation? MR. CONNER: That’s right. THE COURT: All right, sir. That’s your privilege.
The prosecution and the defense then made their closing arguments without presenting any additional evidence. During his sentencing phase closing, the prosecutor once again expressed his personal belief, based upon his experience, that the death penalty was appropriate in Conner’s case… The jury returned a death sentence …
Conner filed his first writ of habeas corpus in state trial court on March 23, 1984. Evidentiary hearings were held on September 24, 1984, and February 11, 1985.
In the first evidentiary hearing, Mullis testified about his representation of Conner at trial. He explained that although raising an insanity defense crossed his mind, he found nothing to substantiate such a claim. When asked about the CSH records, Mullis admitted that he knew that Conner had some psychiatric problems and suffered from drug and alcohol abuse. He further admitted that in seeking the appointment of an independent mental health examiner, he did not reveal to the trial judge any of the information contained in the CSH records.
Mullis testified that while he was considering potential mitigation, he spoke with Conner’s parents and brother. They discussed Conner’s “upbringing” and “socioeconomic information.” Mullis stated that he learned that Conner had a deprived economic background and had not been raised “in the best of circumstances.” After Conner was convicted, Mullis spoke with Conner’s brother about testifying in mitigation. Also during this time, Mullis approached Conner’s girlfriend, Beverly Bates, who had testified against him at trial, about testifying in mitigation, but she refused.
Mullis stated that his plan to present the testimony of Conner’s family members changed when Conner informed him after the entry of the guilty verdict that he did not want to present any mitigation evidence. Mullis explained that Conner said “something to the effect of letting [the jurors] do what they will.” Mullis testified that he explained the purpose of the evidence to Conner but that Conner did not seem to care about himself….
As for Conner’s relationship with his father, she explained that they were close but that Conner’s father beat him as a child and into his teens. Conner’s mother admitted that he had problems, describing him as a “very troubled young man” who drank alcohol and used drugs. She explained that Conner was always depressed and that he felt unloved. She also stated that Conner tried to commit suicide in 1981. … Conner’s father also described a second suicide attempt, in which Conner tried to kill himself by cutting ropes holding him in a tree while he was working with his father in a tree surgery business. Conner told his father that he was trying to have an accident so that he would fall and kill himself. …
Having determined that we must vacate the District Court’s judgment denying Conner’s petition and remand for further proceedings on the mental retardation claim, it is unnecessary for us to decide anything regarding the other two claims—the ineffective assistance of counsel at sentencing claim and the prosecutorial misconduct claim.
Murderpedia notes “The jury found the following statutory aggravating circumstance: “The offense of murder was outrageously and wantonly vile, horrible and inhuman in that it did involve depravity of mind and aggravated battery to the victim.” The evidence supports this finding. Appellant chased an unarmed, intoxicated victim (who failed to leave a mark on his assailant) from the road, across a drainage ditch and into a barbed wire fence; dragged him back to the drainage ditch; used a whiskey bottle, a heavy stick and his feet to beat and stomp the victim to death; and left him to die, lying in the water. The evidence shows that the defendant unnecessarily and wantonly inflicted serious physical abuse upon the victim prior to his death. The facts of this case distinguish it from those cases in which a finding of would not be appropriate.”
The fiswrapper sees the imposition of the death penalty differently. “Conner’s killing of White during the drunken brawl, while heinous, raises questions about whether the murder was proportionate when compared to others that landed men on death row. Some killed multiple victims. Some killed children. Some committed murder during an armed robbery or a sexual assault. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, during a two-year-long investigation of Georgia’s death penalty, found that prosecutors rarely sought the ultimate punishment for murders similar to White’s.”
This quote is from a news report. “The tour was for Federal Communications Commission member Ajit Pai, who had come to the prison to meet Corrections Commissioner Homer Bryson and talk about what the federal government could do to help combat the scourge of contraband cellphones. After their meeting, warden Bruce Chatman led a small group on a tour of the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson. … Upon entering the row, Chatman acknowledged some cellphones have been found on death-row inmates. “But it’s been a while,” he said proudly.”
While on the tour, the group met John Wayne Conner. “With a broad grin that displayed several missing teeth, John Wayne Conner introduced himself by saying his name was the same as the “little Terminator.” That would be John Connor, the character in the “Terminator” movies who will lead a human revolt against the machines that have taken over the world.
Conner, 59, announced he has been on death row for 33 years. As for his appeals, they’ve almost run out, he said. “I’m hanging in there. I’m still kicking. In here, that’s a good thing.”
When asked how he bides his time, Conner, with a child-like enthusiasm, reached down, lifted the corner of his mattress and pulled out about a half-dozen watercolor paintings. He proudly laid them across his bed for all to see. Most were vibrant landscapes, including one with a majestic waterfall. Conner said it takes about an hour to finish a painting.”
Pictures are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”. UPDATE: John Wayne Conner died at 12:30 am, July 15, 2016.

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