Chamblee54

Steven Frederick Spears And Sherri Holland

Posted in GSU photo archive, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on November 12, 2016

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Short Version: “54-year-old Steven Frederick Spears is scheduled to die on Nov. 16 at the state prison in Jackson. Spears, GDC ID: 0001242392, was convicted of murder. Sherri Holland died,at her home in Dahlonega, August 25, 2001.”
Mr. Spears wants to die. “Spears’ trial attorney Allyn Stockton … learned earlier this year that an execution date was likely to be set and began writing to Spears. Those letters have gone unanswered. Spears has also refused to see him, most recently on Monday, when he’s visited the central Georgia prison that houses death row. … When asked if his client wants to die, Stockton said, “It appears he’s got in his mind that he’s willing to be executed.”
If you want details, continue to read. If you want to skip the details, don’t read any more. Pictures are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”.
The Georgia Supreme Court summarized the facts of the crime as follows: The evidence presented at trial, including Spears’s audio-recorded confession at the sheriff’s department, showed that Spears and Sherri Holland had previously dated each other but that their romantic relationship had ended. (Spears was 39 at the time of the murder, and Holland was 34.) Spears admitted the following about the relationship: “I told her when we started dating a long time ago, if I caught her or found out she was screwin’ somebody else, I’d choke her ass to death.” He also admitted that he had told several other people the same thing about Ms. Holland. (Spears … once worked with Holland at ConAgra’s Gainesville plant.)
Suspecting that Ms. Holland had been in a romantic relationship with someone else, Spears made preparations based on four separate plans for her murder. Regarding the first plan, Spears stated: “I was gonna shock her ass to death.” He entered the crawlspace under her house and used screws to attach wires to the drain pipe and the cold water pipe of her shower, which he planned to attach to the home’s circuit board while Ms. Holland showered during a lightning storm when no one’s suspicions would be raised by her electrocution. He bragged about this plan as follows: “I came up with that on my own. Pretty creative, ain’t it.” His second plan for the murder involved his carving a baseball bat from a tree branch, leaving it under a canoe at Ms. Holland’s house, and beating her to death with it. His third plan involved his crawling into her house through an air conditioner vent from the crawlspace and loading her shotgun for future use during the murder. Regarding this plan, he stated: “Because if she brought somebody else in there I was just gonna shoot him.” His fourth plan was to choke her, bind her with duct tape that he had hidden inside her house, and suffocate her with a plastic bag. For this plan, he hid duct tape under her canoe.
After making the arrangements described above during previous illegal entries, Spears entered Ms. Holland’s house again on August 25, 2001, for the purpose of actually committing the murder. Ms. Holland’s son was staying with her ex-husband that night, and Spears hid in the son’s closet from 10:00 p.m. on August 24 until 2:30 or 3:00 a.m. on August 25, when he was certain that she had fallen asleep. He entered her bedroom and told her to roll over so that he could bind her hands and feet with duct tape. She struggled with him, and he struck her in the head with his fist as she was attempting to flee the bedroom. The struggle moved into the hallway just outside her bedroom, and it continued for five to ten minutes, according to Spears’s estimate. Spears recounted her last words as follows: “Last thing she said was she loved me. Swear to God, that’s the last thing she said. Last words came out of her mouth.” When asked what his reply had been, he stated: “I love you, too. Then I choked her ass right out.” Once he choked her to unconsciousness in the hallway by wrapping his arm around her neck, he dragged her the short distance back into the bedroom. He bound her hands and feet with duct tape, wrapped her face and mouth with duct tape, placed a plastic bag over her head, and secured the bag with duct tape. He then placed her head on a pillow “so her face wouldn’t be smashed on the floor.” He locked the padlock on the outside of her bedroom door that she used to keep her son from entering her room, took her purse, and left through her back door. He drove in her automobile back to where he had left his own automobile, but he then realized that he had failed to take her cigarette case, in which she typically kept her money. He returned to her house, reentered her house, took her cigarette case money, and drove to his own house. (“…he stole her car, purse and money, then drove to Cornelia where he bought supplies, including red spray paint to cover the distinctive black stripes of her Camaro,” … The car was found at Belton Bridge Park near Lula two days after Holland was discovered.)
At his house, he changed out of his pants that Ms. Holland had urinated on while he choked her, and he got his shotgun and ammunition. As he drove away at approximately 5:00 a.m., a man in a red pickup truck began following him. In turn, he began following the truck. He planned to shoot the driver of the truck if the driver turned into a church parking lot, but the truck stopped next to another vehicle coming out of the church parking lot, blocking his way. Regarding this planned additional murder, he stated as follows: “Look, one, two, three; what difference does it matter. You know what I’m saying. I’ve done went as far as I can go. What difference does it matter what I do now.” He added: “If you’re gonna go to Hell, one sin or ten sins, what difference does it make.” This additional murder never occurred, however, because the person in the truck pulled up next to another vehicle and Spears did not want to kill “an innocent bystander.” As shown by a receipt discovered by investigators in Ms. Holland’s automobile, Spears drove to a store, where he bought fishing supplies, a fishing license, a hat, and paint that he planned to use to conceal the black stripes on Ms. Holland’s red automobile. He abandoned her automobile when he began to fear that it had an anti-theft tracking device. He lived in the woods for ten days, sleeping in a deer stand. At one point, he was followed by men in camouflaged suits, and he said about them in his confession: “You know, if I’d had knew that they were just old bullshit people, I’d [have] shot ’em. I thought they were cops or something.”
163254-63183 The investigation into Ms. Holland’s murder began on the afternoon following the murder, after her ex-husband and son searched for her when she failed to pick up her son, could not locate her, and called the police. Officers detected a foul odor coming from the victim’s bedroom, removed the hinges from her padlocked bedroom door with the assistance of her son, and discovered her lifeless, decomposing body lying face down on a pillow with her hands and feet bound behind her with duct tape and a plastic bag over her head secured with duct tape. The thermostat in the home had been turned all the way up, and the home was very hot inside. A flashlight not belonging to Ms. Holland or her son was discovered in the foyer. A search of the crawlspace revealed a colored light bulb that Spears had used to provide inconspicuous lighting as he prepared for the murder, and the light bulb was connected to Spears through a receipt discovered in his automobile. A search of Spears’s house revealed Ms. Holland’s purse and a wrapper from a roll of duct tape. A search of his automobile revealed a roll of duct tape with cut marks and other characteristics matching those on the end of the piece of tape used to bind Ms. Holland’s hands, along with a receipt for a colored light bulb and a flashlight. An autopsy showed that Ms. Holland was injured from a blunt force trauma to her head, suffered abrasions to her knee consistent with having fallen onto a ventilation grate, and died from asphyxia as a result of being choked, having tape wrapped around her mouth and face, and having a plastic bag placed over her head. A warrant was obtained for Spears’s arrest. Ten days after the murder, an officer spotted Spears walking along a highway, asked him for his name, and arrested him. He claimed that he was walking back to Lumpkin County to call the police and turn himself in. He was taken to the sheriff’s department, where he gave a detailed confession, which has been referenced at several points above. Near the end of his confession, Spears said: “I loved her that much. I told her I wasn’t letting her go, and I didn’t.” He added, “[I]f I had to do it again, I’d do it.” ( Alice Loggins, Holland’s older sister, said “I can see Sherri forgiving Steven for this.”)
On March 21, 2007, following a jury trial, Spears was convicted of one count of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated assault, one count of kidnapping with bodily injury and two counts of burglary. The jury’s recommendation of a death sentence for malice murder was returned on March 22, 2007. The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously affirmed Spears’s convictions and death sentence on February 16, 2015. Spears v. State, 296 Ga. 598 (2015). Spears did not appeal to the United States Supreme Court.
Why was the trial delayed for 6 years? Spears committed the crimes on August 24-25, 2001. He was indicted by a Lumpkin County grand jury on November 19, 2001 and again on December 19, 2001, but both of these indictments were later withdrawn by nolle prosequi. His final indictment was returned on January 6, 2003. The State filed written notice on January 30, 2003 of its intent to seek the death penalty under this final indictment. Jury selection was conducted from September 12-16, 2005; however, the trial court granted a continuance and dismissed the prospective jurors based on an e-mail that defense counsel received from a psychologist. Jury selection began anew on March 5, 2007. On March 21, 2007, the jury found Spears guilty on all of the remaining counts charged in the indictment. On March 22, 2007, the jury recommended a death sentence for the murder. Later on March 22, 2007, the trial court imposed a death sentence.
Of all the details from the 2007 prosecution of Steven Frederick Spears, Enotah Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Stan Gunter said the defendant’s attitude stands out the most. Gunter … was the lead prosecutor in the case in 2007. “Spears … sounded “almost gleeful about what he had done, almost bragging about it … As the trial went on, I think he had some time to reflect and mellowed back a bit on that attitude … He was very defiant going through the trial process with the court and with his attorneys.”
The Supreme Court of Georgia issued a ruling in S14P1344. SPEARS v. THE STATE on February 16, 2015. One objection was using a conversation with the officer who arrested him. Mr. Spears said, among other things, that he was “upset when the newspaper failed to report on the case because it left him uncertain of whether the victim had survived.” The tape of the conversation was mostly unintelligible. The court dismissed the effort to delete the evidence.
Another objection was the search warrant for Mr. Spears vehicle. “In Spears’s case, the affidavit presented to the magistrate who signed the search warrant, although not ideally drafted in every regard, provided a great deal of information connecting Spears and his Ford Taurus to the murder of Ms.Holland. The affidavit described the state of Ms. Holland’s body when it was discovered, including the fact that she had been bound with duct tape and had a plastic bag placed over her head. The affidavit did not specifically state that the officer who sought the warrant actually observed the body, but the context strongly implied that the body was discovered, or at least observed, by law enforcement officers. The affidavit clearly stated that law enforcement officers interviewed Derrick Holland, Ms. Holland’s son, and learned that a romantic relationship between Spears and Ms. Holland had ended two months earlier, that Ms. Holland was afraid of Spears, and that Ms. Holland believed that Spears, although at an unspecified time, had been underneath her home. The affidavit stated that law enforcement officers learned from a friend of Ms. Holland that Spears, although at an unspecified time, had shoved Ms. Holland and had threatened to strangle her. The affidavit stated that Ms. Holland visited her former sister-in-law in person on the night before the murder, showed the sister in-law a green light bulb that she had found under her house, and told the sister in-law that she was afraid of Spears, that Spears had said that he would see her dead before he would see her dating someone else, and that, although at unspecified times, Spears had been under her house tapping her telephone. The affidavit stated that a search of Ms. Holland’s house by the affidavit had revealed an insurance policy belonging to Spears that named his vehicle as being a 1993 Ford Taurus. Finally, the affidavit stated that law enforcement officers had discovered a 1993 Ford Taurus parked about a half of a mile from Ms. Holland’s house, with a tag number found to be registered to Spears and Ms. Holland and with a partially used roll of duct tape and a receipt for a party light bulb visible in plain view. Applying the standards described above, we conclude that the affidavit provided a sufficient basis for the issuance of the warrant for a search of Spears’s Ford Taurus.”
Mr. Spears does not seem too concerned about his upcoming ride on the gurney. “Even though Georgia has scheduled Steven Spears’ execution for the 2001 murder of his ex-girlfriend, he still refuses to meet with his lawyer to appeal his death sentence. Spears has rebuffed his lawyer’s attempts to talk, or even meet, for more than a year. If this continues, Spears will go to his death by lethal injection on Nov. 16 without bringing an appeal other than the automatic one that was filed after he was condemned for killing Sherri Holland. And it would be the first time Georgia has executed a murderer who never voluntarily challenged his trial, conviction, or sentence.”
“I sent a letter (saying), ‘Please let us fight for you. There is something worth fighting for,’” said Clayton attorney Allyn Stockton, the attorney for Mr.Spears. “No answer. And when Stockton has gone to the prison near Jackson, Spears has refused to come out….”
“Allyn Stockton described his client as a complex and intelligent man with a dark sense of humor who is wary of trusting people. Stockton told The Associated Press in a phone interview that they’ve had a decent relationship over the years, but that Spears has rejected his efforts to communicate in the last year… Stockton learned earlier this year that an execution date was likely to be set and began writing to Spears. Those letters have gone unanswered. Spears has also refused to see him, most recently on Monday, when he’s visited the central Georgia prison that houses death row.
“It appears he’s got in his mind that he’s willing to be executed.”… Over the years, though, Spears has exhibited a pattern of hopelessness alternating with a desire to live and make the best of his situation, …. The defense team was limited at trial because Spears refused to let them delve into his troubled family history or to suggest he wasn’t of sound mind … Spears also turned down a plea deal that would have sent him to prison for life without the possibility of parole. “His position was, ‘People in my family either die of old age or cancer, and neither one of those in prison sounds like a good alternative to me,'” … “I wish I could spend a little time with him, just to tell him goodbye.”
“Since the death penalty was reinstated nationwide in 1976, 144 people have voluntarily gone to their deaths, the most recent in Texas last year, according to Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. … John Blume, a Cornell Law School professor who has researched inmates who “volunteer” to be executed, said the percentage of death row prisoners who give up their appeals mirrors free-world suicides.
“Every death-row volunteer inevitably presents us with the following question: Should a death-row inmate who wishes to waive his appeals be viewed as a client making a legal decision to accept the justness of his punishment, or as a person seeking the aid of the state in committing suicide?” Blume wrote in a paper published by Cornell Law School, “Killing the Willing.” “It’s not that everybody shouldn’t be able to do it, The court should at least inquire as to what the motivation is. It might be there is a person who has no mental illness and doesn’t appear to be suicidal. It may be (a case of) ‘I can’t live with what I did. I deserve to die for what I did.’” UPDATE Steven Spears died at 7:30 pm, November 16, 2016.

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