Chamblee54

Methods Of Capital Punishment

Posted in Library of Congress, The Death Penalty, Undogegorized by chamblee54 on May 23, 2020


This chamblee54 feature discusses various methods used to put condemned criminals to death. This report gets a bit gross at times. If you want to skip over the text, you will be excused. Chamblee54 has written about lethal injection problems one, two, three, four, five, six, seven times. In 2007, the New York Times published The Needle and the Damage Done, which discusses these issues in detail. Pictures today are from The Library of Congress. This is a repost.

One of the odder parts of tonight’s scheduled execution is the request of J.W. Ledford to be shot, instead of poisoned. Al Jazeera is one of many to report the story. JW Ledford Jr lawyers want firing squad, not injection “J.W. Ledford, 45, suffers from chronic nerve pain that has been treated with increasing doses of the prescription drug gabapentin for more than a decade, his lawyers said in a federal case filed on Thursday. They cited experts who said long-term exposure to gabapentin alters brain chemistry, making pentobarbital unreliable to render him unconscious and devoid of sensation or feeling. “Accordingly, there is a substantial risk that Mr Ledford will be aware and in agony as the pentobarbital attacks his respiratory system, depriving his brain, heart, and lungs of oxygen as he drowns in his own saliva,” the legal case said. That would violate the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment in the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution, Ledford’s lawyers argued.”

Is the firing squad more humane than lethal injection? One is certainly messier than the other. The appearance to the observer is important. People want executions to be neat and tidy, with the executee in minimal pain. This is one reason for chemical agent number two in the three drug lethal cocktail. A paralytic is used, so that people won’t see the soon-to-be-deceased thrashing about as the heart is chemically shut down.

The firing squad is fast. Ammunition does not need to be purchased from a compounding pharmacy. Any pain will be over very quickly. In his book “In his book ‘Elephants on Acid: And Other Bizarre Experiments’, Alex Boese states that in the 1938 execution of John Deering, the prison physician monitoring the inmate’s heartbeat reported that the time between the shots and complete cessation of rhythm was a mere 15 seconds.” The idea is for the marksmen to shoot the prisoner in the heart.

Hanging is another time honored method of execution. If done properly, it is very efficient. Of course this is the government at work, so things do not always go smoothly. Hanging has unfortunate visuals, and is associated with lynching. It is not well thought of today.

“The modern method of judicial hanging is called the long drop. … In the long drop, those planning the execution calculate the drop distance required to break the subject’s neck based on his or her weight, height and build. They typically aim to get the body moving quickly enough after the trap door opens to produce between 1,000 and 1,250 foot-pounds of torque on the neck when the noose jerks tight. This distance can be anywhere from 5 to 9 feet. With the knot of the noose placed at the left side of the subject’s neck, under the jaw, the jolt to the neck at the end of the drop is enough to break or dislocate a neck bone called the axis, which in turn should sever the spinal cord.”

“Unfortunately, history shows that hanging is relatively easy to botch, particularly if the executioners make a mistake in their calculations. A rope that is too long can result in decapitation, whilst one that is too short can cut off breathing and blood flow through the carotid arteries in the neck. In these circumstances loss of consciousness is not always as quick, and the condemned can end up struggling for nearly 30 minutes.”

Hanging is still used in Iran. In Iran, prisoners are usually pulled up by their necks with the use of cranes. “It takes them many minutes to die, it’s a way of torturing them along with the execution,” Amiry-Moghaddam said. “Two years ago, a man had survived 14 minutes of hanging before dying. So hanging is not intended as the standard way of momentary pain. It’s not that they just die, it is a slow strangulation.” Many death penalty advocates approve of the added suffering.

The twentieth century gave us two modern methods of offing the condemned, the gas chamber, and the electric chair. “Lethal gas takes too long; the 1992 lethal-gas execution of Donald Harding in Arizona was so long — 11 minutes — and so grotesque that the attorney general threw up and the warden threatened to quit if he were required to execute someone by gas again. The electric chair often results in horrible odors and burns; in Florida, in the 1990s, at least two inmates heads’ caught fire, and the chair routinely left the body so thoroughly cooked that officials had to let the corpse cool before it could be removed.”

“First used to execute axe-murderer William Kemmler in 1890, a high voltage alternating current is applied to the body of the criminal, typically starting at 2,000 volts and 5 amps with the voltage varying periodically. This causes instant contraction and rigidity of the muscles, leading to a cessation of heart and lung activity.

The practice figured prominently in a dispute between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse regarding the relative merits of direct vs. alternating current. Edison sought to prove that the latter was too dangerous and so decided to equip the new Electric Chair at America’s ‘Sing Sing’ prison with one of the his competitor’s AC generators. Unfortunately the inexperienced executioners drastically underestimated the amount of electricity required to effectively kill Kemmler. At first they only succeeded in burning him for 17 seconds, at the end of which he was still twitching. It took a second jolt for a further 70 seconds before he was finally pronounced dead. Westinghouse was later heard to comment, “they could have done better with an axe”.”

The Guillotine was popular in France for many years. At first glance, it would seem to be efficient, though messy. Closer examination reveals some problems. “Often the blade didn’t do its job and the victim was only injured. He would then either bleed to death or the blade would have to be cranked up and dropped again. … But even when the blade was quick and efficient, many witnesses said the victim’s head didn’t die instantly. Reports of grimacing, facial twitches, blinking eyes, mouth movements, and even speech from the severed head are numerous.” (A commenter to the linked post disputes this. Rumors that Robespierre was executed face up are probably false.)

“In 1905, Dr. Beaurieux reported on his close examination of Henri Languille’s guillotine execution. While he watched, the blade did its thing and Languille’s head dropped into the basket. Beaurieux had luck on his side when the head landed on its severed neck in an upright position. This allowed him to observe Languille’s face without having to touch the head or set it up right.

“The eyelids and lips of the guillotined man worked in irregularly rhythmic contractions for about five or six seconds” “I called in a strong, sharp voice: “Languille!” I saw the eyelids slowly lift up, without any spasmodic contractions……but with an even movement, quite distinct and normal, such as happens in everyday life, with people awakened or torn from their thoughts.” “Next Languille’s eyes very definitely fixed themselves on mine and the pupils focused themselves.”

Keith Tharpe Dies

Posted in Georgia History, Library of Congress, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on January 27, 2020


Inmate who appealed death sentence over juror’s racist views dies “Keith “Bo” Tharpe … died late Friday at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Butts County. His death likely was due to complications from cancer, according to a news release from the Georgia Resource Center, which represented him in recent years as he attempted to appeal his death sentence. He was 61.”

Keith Tharpe was convicted of killing Jaquelin Freeman. There was little doubt of his guilt. A death sentence was handed down, and came close to being carried out. There were complications, and the sentence was postponed.

A few years after the trial, an attorney interviewed one of the jurors, Barnie Gattie. Unfortunate things were allegedly said, including the magic word. A transcript can be found here.

A media outcry ensued. Typical was this headline: The Stench of Prejudice in Keith Tharpe’s Death Sentence. Corporate media does not miss opportunities to say Georgia is racist.

A few things were not mentioned. “Gattie testified … that he had been drinking alcohol on the Saturday he first spoke with representatives from the Georgia Resource Center. When they returned on Memorial Day with the affidavit for him to sign, he had again been drinking. He testified that he had consumed a twelve pack of beer and a few drinks of whiskey before signing the affidavit. Gattie stated he was not told what the affidavit was going to be used for, he did not read the affidavit, and when the affidavit was read to him, he did not pay attention. … In addition to Gattie, the other ten jurors” (“two of whom were black”) “who were deposed testified that Tharpe’s race was not discussed during deliberations, race played no part in their deliberations, no one used racial slurs during deliberations, and racial animus or bias was not a part of the deliberations.”

During the appeals after a death sentence, attorneys try to find any reason they can to stop the execution. This is what happened when that attorney interviewed Bernie Gattie. “Why would the attorney’s continue with the interview if they knew Mr. Gattie was intoxicated? Did the attorneys lead on Mr. Gattie, and put words in his mouth? How was the affadavit presented to Mr. Gattie for his approval? Mr. Gattie later claimed he “… didn’t pay much attention when the affidavit was read to him. … He signed the defense affidavit because he “just wanted to get rid of them.” Were these attorneys looking for the truth, or trying to get a drunken old man to say something inappropriate, so they could get Mr. Tharpe’s sentence commuted?”

The Tharpe/Gattie appeals led chamblee54 to the uncomfortable experience of agreeing with Justice Clarence Thomas. “SCOTUS sent the death penalty case of Keith Tharpe back to the lower courts today. This is the Pontius Pilate approach, which might not save Mr. Tharpe from eventual execution. Here is the opinion, and the dissent by Justice Clarence Thomas.” … “Justice Thomas goes full Scalia in this closing paragraph. “Today’s decision can be explained only by the “unusual fact” of Gattie’s first affidavit. The Court must be disturbed by the racist rhetoric in that affidavit, and must want to do something about it. But the Court’s decision is no profile in moral courage. By remanding this case to the Court of Appeals for a useless do-over, the Court is not doing Tharpe any favors. And its unusual disposition of his case callously delays justice for Jaquelin Freeman, the black woman who was brutally murdered by Tharpe 27 years ago. Because this Court should not be in the busi­ness of ceremonial handwringing, I respectfully dissent.”

“The ethics of interviewing an intoxicated man, to try to save your client from execution, are questionable. One might also ask what this says about the death penalty process. The state bends over backwards to give the illusion of fairness, and due process. An attorney goes out, interviewing jurors seven years after the trial, trying to find dirt. Getting a criminal off on a technicality is a regrettable consequence of our judicial system. Maybe in this case justice would have been served with a life sentence, without fishing trip juror interviews.”

The efforts of the defense attorneys paid off. Keith Tharpe died in prison, of natural causes. There had been speculation in death penalty forums that the execution of Mr. Tharpe was going to happen soon. Does this mean that Jaquelin Freeman did not receive justice? Does death from cancer … which probably was more painful than an overdose of pentobarbital … not serve justice? These are issues for people who like to argue about the law. Pictures today are from The Library of Congress.

Donnie Lance, Joy Lance, and Butch Wood

Posted in Library of Congress, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on January 24, 2020


The state of Georgia plans to execute Donnie Cleveland Lance. He was convicted of killing his ex-wife Sabrina “Joy” Lance, and her boyfriend Dwight “Butch” G. Wood, Jr. Mr. Wood was shot with a shotgun, and Mrs. Lance was beaten to death with the handle of that weapon. This is the short version of the story. If you want to know more, read more.

“Shortly before midnight on November 8, 1997, Lance called Joy Lance’s father, asked to speak to her, and learned that she was not at home. Shortly afterward, a passing police officer noticed Lance’s automobile leaving his driveway. Lance arrived at Butch Wood’s home, kicked in the front door, shot Butch Wood on the front and the back of his body with a shotgun, and then beat Joy Lance to death by repeatedly striking her in the face with the butt of the shotgun, which broke into pieces during the attack. Joy Lance’s face was rendered utterly unrecognizable. … The door to Wood’s home had imprints consistent with size 7 1/2 EE Sears “Diehard” work shoes. When questioned by an investigating officer, Lance denied owning Diehard work shoes; however, a search of Lance’s shop revealed an empty shoe box that had markings showing it formerly contained shoes of the same type and size as those that made the imprints on Wood’s door … Officers also retrieved from a grease pit in Lance’s shop an unspent shotgun shell that matched the ammunition used in Wood’s murder.”

“Joe Moore testified he visited Lance at his shop during the morning of November 9, 1997, before the victims’ bodies were discovered. Referring to Joy, Lance told Moore that “the bitch” would not be coming to clean his house that day. Lance stated regarding Butch Wood that “his daddy could buy him out of a bunch of places, but he can’t buy him out of Hell.” Lance also informed Moore that Joy and Butch were dead. Moore disposed of several shotgun shells for Lance, but he later assisted law enforcement officers in retrieving them. The State also presented the testimony of two of appellant’s jail mates who stated appellant had discussed his commission of the murders. … . Lance later told a fellow inmate that he “felt stupid” that he had called Joy Lance’s father before the murders, and Lance bragged to the inmate that “he hit Joy so hard that one of her eyeballs stuck to the wall.”” (“… Lance’s new lawyers say one of those informants later recanted his testimony in a subsequent hearing.”)

“The State also presented evidence that Lance had a long history of abuse against Joy, including kidnapping, beatings with his fist, a belt, and a handgun, strangulation, electrocution or the threat of electrocution, the threat of burning with a flammable liquid and of death by a handgun and with a chainsaw, the firing of a handgun at or near her, and other forms of physical abuse. Several witnesses testified that appellant had repeatedly threatened to kill Joy if she divorced him or was romantically involved with Butch, and that Lance had also beaten and threatened to kill Butch’s wife and several other persons related to Joy. A relative of Joy testified that Lance once inquired how much it would cost to “do away with” Joy and Butch.”

“Lance was indicted in the Superior Court of Jackson County, Georgia for two counts of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, one count of burglary, one count of possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, and two counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Lance was convicted as charged in the indictment and sentenced to death on June 23, 1999.”

During the appeals, Lance claimed ineffective counsel during his trial. “Lance hired J. Richardson Brannon to represent him at trial. … Lance and his family initially paid Brannon $50,000 to represent him, but after the exhaustion of that initial sum, the court declared Lance indigent and retained Brannon as court-appointed counsel.”

“The defense theory of the case was innocence. Brannon attempted to establish an alibi defense based on the time of death and Lance’s whereabouts on November 8–9. Lance’s uncle testified that he was with Lance into the late evening of November 8 and then after midnight on November 9 until 5:00 a.m. Other witnesses corroborated this timeline and testified that Lance behaved normally immediately before and after the time when the murder occurred. Two children who were neighbors of Butch Wood also testified that they heard gunshots and a scream sometime after lunch on November 9, more than twelve hours later than when the crime allegedly occurred.”

“The state presented the testimony of Dr. Daniel A. Martell, a neuropsychologist, who testified that Lance had an IQ of 79 and suffered from dementia. … Dr. Martell summarized his opinion by stating, “In my opinion, [Lance’s diagnosis is] not significant to the crime.” … “The court explained that the evidence established only mild mental impairments, and “against this somewhat mitigating evidence, the jury would have weighed Lance’s long history of horrific abuse against Joy Lance,” the horrific nature of the crime, and evidence about Lance’s statements and demeanor after the crime, such as his declaration that Butch Wood was in “Hell” and “his boast to an inmate that ‘he hit Joy so hard that one of her eyeballs stuck to the wall.””

Twenty plus years after the crime, an appeal reached SCOTUS. “Today, in the case of Donnie Cleveland Lance v. Eric Sellers, Warden, … Justice Sotomayor expressed dismay over the Court’s denial of a writ of certiorari to Mr. Lance who was given the death penalty without his lawyer having put up any evidence of mitigation on his behalf.” The Sotomayor dissent makes two key points regarding this issue.

“Lance was represented during both the guilt and penalty phases of his trial by a solo practitioner who became convinced of Lance’s innocence—and his own ability to prove it—early in the representation. He thus prepared exclusively for the guilt-or-innocence phase of the trial. Counsel did not even broach the subject of possible penalty-phase evidence with Lance or his family, because he did not want them “thinking that [he] might be thinking in terms of losing the case.” … So when the jury found Lance guilty and the question became whether Lance should be put to death, Lance’s counsel had no evidence whatsoever to present.”

“The evidence showed that counsel could have found possible cognitive problems had he looked into Lance’s personal history. That history included repeated serious head traumas caused by multiple car crashes, alcoholism, and—most seriously—Lance’s once being shot in the head by unknown assailants while lying on his couch. … In addition to the history discussed by the court, Lance also ingested gasoline as a small child, was trampled by a horse as a teenager, and once was overcome by fumes while working to clean the interior of an oil tanker truck.””

“The Georgia Department of Corrections announced Lance’s final meal on Thursday – he’ll be having two chili steak burgers, french fries, onion rings, mustard, ketchup and a soda.” Pictures today are from The Library of Congress. Donnie Lance died at 9:05 pm, January 29, 2020.

Jimmy Meders And Don Anderson

Posted in Library of Congress, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on January 10, 2020


The state of Georgia is planning to execute Jimmy Fletcher Meders, GDC ID: 0000516816, for the murder of Don Anderson. The crime took place in a Jiffy Mart, in Brunswick GA, on October 14, 1987. Mr. Meders was convicted, based largely on the testimony of Bill Arnold, and Greg Creel. They were present at the crime scene. This paragraph is the short version of the story. If you want to know more, you can read the rest of this post. Pictures today are from The Library of Congress.

The forgiveness foundation has this overview of the crime. Additional information will be posted below, with a link to the source. “On October 13, 1987, Jimmy Meders spent the afternoon drinking with three other men, before they headed to a motel later that evening. One of the men rented a room because he was having an extramarital affair. The other two men and Meders left the motel.”

“During the early morning hours of October 14, 1987, Meders and the other two men stopped by a Jiffy Store, where Don Anderson was the clerk. Meders went into the store with one of the men, who bought some food and went to warm it up in the microwave. The other man remained in the vehicle. Another small purchase was made before Don was shot once in the head and once in the chest, killing him. The money from the register was taken. … The other two men testified that they were not with Meders during the shooting, and that they did not have any knowledge of him having a weapon or planning to use it in a robbery.”

“Meders then returned to the motel and told the man there what he had done before leaving. The man at the hotel met up with the other two men and encouraged them to go to the police, which one did the following day. All three men gave similar statements and testified against Meders. When Meders was arrested, he had the bait money and food stamps in his possession. The murder weapon was later found under his bed.”

“During his trial, Meders alleged that he did not shoot the victim and was being framed because the man that stayed at the hotel thought Meders was having an affair with his wife. Meders was convicted by a jury and sentenced to death.”

Appeal from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of GA (August 22, 2018) has a thorough, and lengthy, description of the crime. Below are a few selections from this opinion.

“On October 13, 1987, Meders went to help his boss, Randy Harris, fix a car at Harris’ house. Bill Arnold and Greg Creel later arrived at the house. Arnold is Harris’ cousin, and Creel is Arnold’s friend. Meders, Harris, Arnold, and Creel spent the afternoon drinking beer and liquor. The four of them went to a Best Western motel later that evening, where Harris had rented a room for a young woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair. Meders, Arnold, and Creel left the motel later that night.” (Another account notes that “Harris eventually parted company with the other three to entertain a teenage girl in a motel room.”)

“Around 2:35 the next morning (October 14), the three men stopped by a Jiffy Store. Don Anderson, the store clerk, was shot twice—once in the chest, once in the head —and he died. The weapon used in the shooting was a Dan Wesson .357 Magnum revolver. Meders took between $31 and $38 from the cash register. Included in the cash taken were two $1 bills and a $5 bill that the store manager had planted as bait money—she had written down the three bills’ serial numbers and kept them in the store’s records so that the money could be identified if the store was robbed and the money was recovered. That bait money and some food stamps were found in Meders’ wallet and in his house after he was arrested later that same day. The murder weapon was found under his bed two days later.”

“Harris testified that later that evening all four men went to a Best Western motel. They continued to drink, “smoked a joint or two,” and sat around talking in the motel room. Meders, Arnold, and Creel left the motel around 8:30 p.m. but Meders returned to it around 3:15 a.m. After he did so, according to Harris, Meders pulled out a revolver and told him: “I just blowed a man’s head off over $38.00.” Harris thought he was joking, so Meders threw some cash and some “little white pieces of paper” about “the same size [as] a dollar bill” on the bed. Meders also opened the revolver’s chambers and dumped the bullets on the bed. Harris said that two of the bullets had been “freshly fired.” … Meders picked up the cash and the pieces of paper, put them back in his pocket, and left the motel.”

“Creel testified … stopped at a Jiffy Store because Creel was hungry. He testified that both he and Meders got out of the car and went into the store. Once inside, Creel grabbed a Yoo-hoo and a package of sausage and biscuits. While he was heating up his sausage and biscuits in a microwave in the back of the store, he heard a gunshot. He turned around and saw the store clerk falling against the wall and Meders facing the wounded clerk. Creel testified that he “tore out” of the store, and as he was running out, he heard a second gunshot. He exited the store, jumped in the back seat of the car, and told Arnold to “go” because Meders had “just shot a man.” He recounted how Meders had run out of the store, jumped in the front passenger seat of the car, and pointed his gun at Arnold and Creel. Arnold drove to Shady Acres, a trailer park, where he and Creel got out. Meders got in the driver’s seat, and Arnold told Meders “to never come around him again.” Meders asked Arnold and Creel if they wanted any of the money or food stamps he had taken from the store. They both said no, that they didn’t want any part of it.” The testimony of Arnold was similar.

“Margaret Clements, … the manager of the Jiffy Store … testified that … between $31.00 and $38.00 —which included the $7.00 in bait money —had been taken from the register, but she couldn’t determine how many food stamps were taken. She also testified that a receipt was left sticking out of the register, which showed a transaction for 51 cents at 2:35 a.m. on October 14, 1987.”

“Greg McMichael, a Glynn County police officer at the time of the shooting, testified that when he responded to the call at the Jiffy Store, he passed a car with several occupants driving away from the location of the Jiffy Store. And Matthew Doering, a detective from the Glynn County Police Department, testified that on October 14 he found that same car at Meders’ house. After impounding it, he searched the car and found a “Dandy Sausage Biscuits” wrapper.”

“Boyet (Jack Boyet, Glynn County Police Department detective) testified that on October 16, Harris came to the police station and said that he “had received information” that the gun used in the shooting was under Meders’ waterbed. Boyet executed a search warrant at Meders’ house that day and found a Dan Wesson .357 Magnum revolver “under the center of the [waterbed’s] mattress.” The firearms examiner later concluded that the revolver had fired the two bullets that killed the Jiffy Store clerk.” (A waterbed mattress is heavy. How did the weapon wind up there?)

Jimmy Meders had a different version of events when he testified. “Meders … said that during the afternoon of October 13, 1987, he and Harris took two 10 milligram Valiums each and drank some beer at the auto shop before Arnold and Creel met them at Harris’ house, where they all drank some more. He stated that Harris gave him $250 for some work he had done on a car, and Harris also bought a bulldog from Creel for $50. Meders testified that he, Arnold, and Creel “felt like getting drunk” so they went to the liquor store and bought some alcohol. Around 5:30 p.m., Meders felt like he had “had enough to drink,” so he stopped drinking —at least for a little while. He said that Harris then told him, Arnold, and Creel that he had to go pick his wife up from work, so Arnold and Creel drove Meders home. Meders testified that later that night, his friend Wayne Martin took him to the motel room that Harris had rented. Meders and Harris talked for a little while, then Martin took Meders back home, where Meders drank some beer and passed out on the couch. The next thing Meders recalled was Arnold waking him up around 11:00 or 11:30 p.m. insisting that he “go with him.” Arnold picked him up under the arms, and then as they were leaving Meders’ house Arnold grabbed the Dan Wesson .357 Magnum, which was the murder weapon. … “

“According to Meders, Arnold did not take him home but instead drove to a convenience store. After that Meders started driving the car, and as he was heading back to his house, he saw his brother and his brother’s wife making a deposit at a bank “right around the corner from [his] house.” When they stopped at the bank to talk to Meders’ brother and sister-in-law, Arnold got back in the driver’s seat. They then drove to another convenience store, and Arnold went in with Meders’ gun in his pocket while Creel and Meders sat in the car. Meders testified that they thought Arnold was just “kidding” around by taking the gun inside.”

“Meders testified that after Arnold returned to the car, he drove to the Jiffy Store, and all three men went inside. Meders testified that he and Arnold were standing near the counter while Creel went to the microwave. He stated that out of nowhere, Arnold “pulled the gun and shot” the clerk twice, then told Meders: “No witnesses. Get the money.” Meders grabbed the money out of the cash register, and the three men exited the store “pretty quickly,” got in the car, and Arnold drove to Shady Acres Trailer Park, where he and Creel got out. Meders told Arnold to keep the gun, that he didn’t want it back, and then he drove back to his house. He testified that after getting to his house, an officer pulled up and told him that he had a brake light out. Meders went inside and went to sleep on the couch. … ”

“Meders went back to his house, and several officers showed up. He told the officers multiple times that he did not know anything about the shooting, which he admitted at trial was not true. … Meders acknowledged at trial that he did not tell Detective Boyet that he witnessed the shooting until more than a year after the murder. He also conceded that although he did not know how the torn $1 bill from the bait money ended up on his television, the officers did find the other two bills of the bait money (the $5 bill and the other $1 bill) in his wallet. And he acknowledged that the officers found the murder weapon under his bed after Harris told them on October 16, 1987, exactly where to find it. He claimed that he had no idea how the firearm got there.”

The jury believed Arnold, Creel, and Harris, convicted Meders, and sentenced him to death. During appeals, Meders made the traditional claim of ineffective counsel. “Although his trial counsel initially represented him in the appeal, other counsel appeared for him and filed a new brief on his behalf that “raised questions about the effectiveness of trial counsel.” … “Because Meders’ trial counsel was hospitalized shortly before the remand hearing, he could not be called as a witness. Nor could he be called as a witness in the later state habeas proceedings because he died before they began.” The courts have consistently ruled against Meders in these appeals. The state plans to kill Mr. Meders with an intentional overdose of pentobarbital. UPDATE: Georgia parole board spares life of condemned prisoner The state has decided not to waste Jimmy Meders. He had already requested a last meal: ten chicken strips, two bacon cheeseburgers, french fries, soda, and a pint of vanilla ice cream.

Ray Jefferson Cromartie And Richard Slysz

Posted in Library of Congress, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on October 29, 2019


The state of Georgia plans to execute Ray Jefferson Cromartie, GDC ID: 0000944264. Mr. Cromartie was convicted of killing Richard Slysz, during a convenience store robbery on April 10, 1994. If you want more details, continue to read. Pictures are from The Library of Congress.

Here is the story: “The evidence adduced at trial shows that Cromartie borrowed a .25 caliber pistol from his cousin Gary Young on April 7, 1994. At about 10:15 p.m. on April 7, Cromartie entered the Madison Street Deli in Thomasville and shot the clerk, Dan Wilson, in the face. Cromartie left after unsuccessfully trying to open the cash register. The tape from the store video camera, while too indistinct to conclusively identify Cromartie, captured a man fitting Cromartie’s general description enter the store and walk behind the counter toward the area where the clerk was washing pans. There is the sound of a shot and the man leaves after trying to open the cash register. Wilson survived despite a severed carotid artery. The following day, Cromartie asked Gary Young and Carnell Cooksey if they saw the news. He told Young that he shot the clerk at the Madison Street Deli while he was in the back washing dishes. Cromartie also asked Cooksey if he was “down with the 187,” which Cooksey testified meant robbery. Cromartie stated that there was a Junior Food Store with “one clerk in the store and they didn’t have no camera.”

In the early morning hours of April 10, 1994, Cromartie and Corey Clark asked Thaddeus Lucas if he would drive them to the store so they could steal beer. As they were driving, Cromartie directed Lucas to bypass the closest open store and drive to the Junior Food Store. He told Lucas to park on a nearby street and wait. When Cromartie and Clark entered the store, Cromartie shot clerk Richard Slysz twice in the head. The first shot which entered below Slysz’s right eye would not have caused Slysz to immediately lose consciousness before he was hit by Cromartie’s second shot directed at Slysz’s left temple. Although Slysz died shortly thereafter, neither wound caused an immediate death. Cromartie and Clark then tried to open the cash register but were unsuccessful. Cromartie instead grabbed two 12-packs of Budweiser beer and the men fled. A convenience store clerk across the street heard the shots and observed two men fitting the general description of Cromartie and Clark run from the store; Cromartie was carrying the beer. While the men were fleeing one of the 12-packs broke open and spilled beer cans onto the ground. A passing motorist saw the two men run from the store and appear to drop something.

Cooksey testified that when Cromartie and his accomplices returned to the Cherokee Apartments they had a muddy case of Budweiser beer and Cromartie boasted about shooting the clerk twice. Plaster casts of shoe prints in the muddy field next to the spilled cans of beer were similar to the shoes Cromartie was wearing when he was arrested three days later. Cromartie’s left thumb print was found on a torn piece of Budweiser 12-pack carton near the shoe prints. The police recovered the .25 caliber pistol that Cromartie had borrowed from Gary Young, and a firearms expert determined that this gun fired the bullets that wounded Wilson and killed Slysz. Cromartie’s accomplices, Lucas and Clark, testified for the State at Cromartie’s trial.”

“The same gun was used in shootings at both businesses in April 1994, according to the document. The firearm was found on April 12, 1994, near railroad tracks between Cherokee Homes, a housing project, and the Jail-Justice Center. As Cromartie and co-conspirators ran from the West Jackson store after the clerk was fatally wounded, one of two packages of stolen beer ripped open, and several beers fell on the ground. The state presented evidence that a fingerprint found on a piece of the package was Cromartie’s, and a footprint in mud near the store was from Cromartie’s Adidas shoe, the motion states. Co-conspirators each received 25-year prison sentences for robbery. Before the 1997 trial, the then-district attorney offered Cromartie a plea deal to life in prison with the possibility of parole, which, at that time, would have resulted in parole eligibility after seven years.”

Attorneys raised several issues during the customary twenty years of appeals. Some of these objections include: “Cromartie complains that the trial court should have granted his motion for a change of venue. … Cromartie’s motion to sever the offenses at the Madison Street Deli from the offenses at the Junior Food Store. … There is no evidence that any cognizable group was under represented in the Thomas County grand jury pool.” None of these issues was able to get the court to change its death sentence.

“On July 23, Attorneys Aren Adjoian and Loren Stewart filed a motion on behalf of Cromartie to order post-conviction DNA testing, but that and a 2018 request for similar testing did not impact the outcome of Cromartie’s sentence. He would still be eligible for the death penalty even if he didn’t shoot Slysz under a state statute that allows a party to a crime be convicted of that crime and subject to the same penalties.” Change.org has a petition to halt the execution, based on the DNA request.

The legal drama may be for naught. “Lawyers for a Georgia man scheduled to be executed next week say he has decided not to file for clemency. Ray Jefferson Cromartie is to be put to death Oct. 30. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to die for the April 1994 slaying of Thomasville convenience store clerk Richard Slysz. Shawn Nolan, an attorney for Cromartie, said in an emailed statement Wednesday that filing a clemency petition would require Cromartie to ask for a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. And since Cromartie maintains he’s innocent, he can’t do that in good faith.” The Georgia Supreme Court will not halt the execution.

Ray Cromartie is a black man. There are no readily available pictures of Richard Slysz. A google search for RICHARD A SLYSZ July 1, 1942 – April 10, 1994 turned up this: Richard Slysz is my deceased Grandfather. – submitted by Shianne E. Slysz McGilvray on 02/07/2012. Shianne McGilvray is on facebook, and appears to be white.

“In the days leading up to the execution, Cromartie’s final meal details have been released. They include steak, lobster, macaroni and cheese, cube steak, rice and gravy, a steak and cheese sandwich, a double cheeseburger, fries, a side of ranch dressing, a strawberry milkshake and a layered cake with white icing.” Pictures today are from The Library of Congress. UPDATE: Ray Cromartie died at 10:59 pm, November 13, 2019. “Cromartie accepted a final prayer but declined making a final statement.”

Governors Of Death

Posted in GSU photo archive, History, Politics, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on August 30, 2019


This is a repost from 2011. Some of the links no longer work. In the last eight years, Governor Big Hair has tried to run for President, and failed with distinction. He is currently the Secretary of Energy.
Rick Perry, known by The Field Negro as Governor Big Hair, wants to be the next POTUS. Some people say he enjoys executions. As one popular story shows, this might be an asset.
“Veterans of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s unsuccessful 2010 primary challenge to Perry recalled being stunned at the way attacks bounced off the governor in a strongly conservative state gripped by tea party fever. Multiple former Hutchison advisers recalled asking a focus group about the charge that Perry may have presided over the execution of an innocent man — Cameron Todd Willingham — and got this response from a primary voter: “It takes balls to execute an innocent man.” (One person thinks people are making too big a deal out of this quote. “Besides, it’s not like Texas is lacking for other perfectly good things to mock!”)
The case of Mr.Willingham is mighty controversial. Some say the Governor of Texas has little to do with who does or does not get executed, (There is a school of thought that the Governor of Texas is weak, with little ability to do much. If this is the case, the much touted economic miracle in Texas has little to do with the Governor.) Governor Big Hair did replace the chair of the Forensic Science Commission two days before a hearing about the Willingham execution.

Playing politics with executions seems to be a recent tradition for state Governors who want to be POTUS. In 1992, Bill Clinton went home to Arkansas to make sure that Ricky Ray Rector was executed. Mr. Rector had severe brain damage, and did not know what was going on. During his last meal, he put a slice of pecan pie to the side, and said he wanted to save it for later.

In 1999, George W. Bush was the Governor of lethal injection happy Texas. A lady named Karla Faye Tucker was scheduled to be poisoned. The Governor gave an interview.
In the week before [Karla Faye Tucker’s] execution, Bush says, Bianca Jagger and a number of other protesters came to Austin to demand clemency for Tucker. “Did you meet with any of them?” I ask. Bush whips around and stares at me. “No, I didn’t meet with any of them,” he snaps, as though I’ve just asked the dumbest, most offensive question ever posed. “I didn’t meet with Larry King either when he came down for it. I watched his interview with [Tucker], though. He asked her real difficult questions, like ‘What would you say to Governor Bush?’ ” “What was her answer?” I wonder.“Please,” Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, “don’t kill me.”
Mr. Bush got lots of blood on his compassionate conservative hands during eight years as POTUS. BHO (who never ordered an execution) wasted Osama Bin Ladin, and a few women and children in Stanland. Governor Big Hair will probably get a few more Texecutions before next years election.

Pictures today are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”. Here is one more quote: “Here in Texas we believe that juries are wise as Solomon when it comes to deciding who needs to die but dumb as posts when it comes to figuring out damage awards.”

Marion Wilson And Donovan Corey Parks

Posted in Library of Congress, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on June 14, 2019


The state of Georgia is planning to execute Marion Wilson Jr. He was convicted of the murder of Donovan Corey Parks on March 28, 1996. Mr. Wilson’s co-defendant, Robert Earl Butts was executed May 4, 2018. If you want more details, read the information below. The first account of the murder is a Press Release from the GA Attorney General.

“The evidence at trial showed that on the night of March 28, 1996, the victim, Donovan Corey Parks, entered a local Wal-Mart to purchase cat food, leaving his 1992 Acura Vigor parked in the fire lane directly in front of the store. Witnesses observed Wilson and Robert Earl Butts standing behind Parks in one of the store’s checkout lines and, shortly thereafter, speaking with Parks beside his automobile. A witness overheard Butts ask Parks for a ride, and several witnesses observed Wilson and Butts entering Parks’s automobile, Butts in the front passenger seat and Wilson in the back seat. Minutes later, Parks’s body was discovered lying face down on a residential street. Nearby residents testified to hearing a loud noise they had assumed to be a backfiring engine and to seeing the headlights of a vehicle driving from the scene.”

“On the night of the murder, law enforcement officers took inventory of the vehicles in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Butts’s automobile was among the vehicles remaining in the lot overnight. Based upon the statements of witnesses at the Wal-Mart, Wilson was arrested. A search of Wilson’s residence yielded a sawed-off shotgun loaded with the type of ammunition used to kill Parks, three notebooks of handwritten gang “creeds,” secret alphabets, symbols, and lexicons, and a photo of a young man displaying a gang hand sign.”

“Wilson gave several statements to law enforcement officers and rode in an automobile with officers indicating stops he and Butts had made in the victim’s automobile after the murder. According to Wilson’s statements, Butts had pulled out a sawed-off shotgun, had ordered Parks to drive to and then stop on Felton Drive, had ordered Parks to exit the automobile and lie on the ground, and had shot Parks once in the back of the head. Wilson and Butts then drove the victim’s automobile to Gray where they stopped to purchase gasoline. Wilson, who was wearing gloves, was observed by witnesses and videotaped by a security camera inside the service station.”

“Wilson and Butts then drove to Atlanta where they contacted Wilson’s cousin in an unsuccessful effort to locate a “chop shop” for disposal of the victim’s automobile. Wilson and Butts purchased two gasoline cans at a convenience store in Atlanta and drove to Macon where the victim’s automobile was set on fire. Butts then called his uncle and arranged a ride back to the Milledgeville Wal-Mart where Butts and Wilson retrieved Butts’s automobile.”

“Wilson’s wholehearted commitment to antisocial and violent conduct from the age of 12 on not only serves as a heavy weight on the aggravating side of the scale, it also renders essentially worthless some of the newly proffered mitigating circumstance evidence. …For example, a number of Wilson’s teachers signed affidavits, carefully crafted by his present counsel, claiming that Wilson was “a sweet, sweet boy with so much potential,” a “very likeable child,” who was “creative and intelligent,” and had a “tender and good side.” One even said that Wilson “loved being hugged.” A sweet, sensitive, tender, and hug-seeking youth does not commit arson, kill a helpless dog, respond to a son’s plea to quit harassing his elderly mother with a threat “to blow . . . that old bitch’s head off,” shoot a migrant worker just because he “wanted to see what it felt like to shoot someone,” assault a youth detention official, shoot another man in the head and just casually walk off—all before he was old enough to vote. Without provocation Wilson shot a human being when he was fifteen, shot a second one when he was sixteen, and robbed and shot to death a third one when he was nineteen. …”

Same violent crime — one set to die while the other waits presents another view of the murder. It was published April 27, 2018, in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, by Rhonda Cook.

“Gang members Robert Earl Butts and Marion “Murdock” Wilson were together when they asked an off-duty correctional officer for a ride outside a Milledgeville Walmart the evening of March 28, 1996. They were together when, 16 minutes later, Butts shot Donovan Corey Parks with a sawed-off shotgun then left the 25-year-old lying face-down on a Milledgeville road. Together they doused Parks’ 1992 Acura Vigor with gasoline and set it on fire behind a Macon Huddle House. Just hours later, the pair applied for landscaping jobs. …”

“Donovan Parks, like his father, became a prison guard after graduating high school. But the younger Parks had plans, his father said. Instead of making corrections his career, he wanted to attend college. The night that he was killed, Parks, a Jehovah’s Witness, had just come home from Bible study at the Milledgeville Kingdom Hall, across the street from the house he shared with his recently-widowed father. Parks was still wearing his tie and checkered grey suit when he left for a quick trip to Walmart for cat food. According to then-District Attorney Fred Bright, Butts and Wilson also had gone to the Walmart, “shopping for somebody to kill.” Prosecutors said the two 18-year-olds were looking to make an impression on other members of their gang, FOLK Nation.”

“At 9:50 p.m., Parks handed a Walmart cashier $7.93 for four cans of cat food, tropical fish food, soap and cocoa butter. Behind him, Butts waited to pay for a 20-cent pack of Wrigley’s chewing gum. Butts worked with Parks at a local Burger King and he asked for a ride for him and Wilson. A single-barrel sawed-off shotgun hidden in the sleeve of his Colorado Rockies jacket, Butts got in the front passenger seat. Wilson climbed in the back after Parks cleared out a spot for him to sit. Minutes later, on street dotted with pre-fabricated houses, Wilson grabbed Parks’ necktie, cinching it so tightly it later had to be cut off. Butts ordered Parks out of the car and shot him in the back of the head, leaving the officer face-down in his own blood and brain matter. …”

“Moments after Parks was shot, his father, came up on a body in the road but didn’t recognize his son because of the damage done by the large buckshot. The father called the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office to report that someone had been hit by a car. Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills, who was the chief deputy in Baldwin County at the time, was able to identify the dead man only by matching the initials in the dead man’s class ring to the roster of seniors at Baldwin High School in 1990; there was only one person with the initials DCP.”

“Wilson was arrested four days later at the courthouse when he came to an appointment related to a DUI conviction. Butts was hiding in his grandmother’s bedroom closet when authorities came for him. Detectives found the shotgun under Wilson’s mattress. Wilson’s girlfriend said she saw Butts hand him the weapon.”

“Talking to investigators Wilson blamed Butts for everything. He said he had nothing to prove because he was “chief enforcer” with the local FOLK Nation gang. “I’m as high (in the gang) as I can be. I ain’t got to go no higher. I ain’t got to do nothing to go no higher.” …”

“Butts, meanwhile, denied everything at first but then decided to testify at his trial and to lay it all on Wilson. Butts testified that it was Wilson’s idea to steal a car and it was Wilson who “snatched him out” of the car and took him to the back and shot him. “I was scared…” Butts testified. “I was really upset. And I was feeling, you know, kind of sick at the stomach.”

Mr. Wilson was convicted of the crime, and sentenced to death. There appears to be little doubt that he is guilty. In the appeals, attorneys made the traditional claim of ineffective counsel. “A federal judge granted Marion Wilson Jr. the right to appeal part of his case, in which Wilson will be able to argue that his trial attorneys didn’t properly investigate whether they could build a defense around evidence that Wilson’s early life influenced how he acted. … In Wilson’s federal case, Wilson claimed prosecutors switched their stories to claim that both Wilson and Butts had pulled the trigger. (U.S. District Judge Marc ) Treadwell rejected those and most other arguments. … The court ruling suggests that Wilson was born to a drug-using mother who neglected him, was abandoned by his father, and was physically abused. The family moved frequently, and Wilson saw one of his mother’s boyfriend hold a gun to her head. … Wilson committed his first serious felony at age 12 when he set a duplex apartment on fire in Glynn County while the neighbors were home. At 15, he saw a passing Mexican migrant and told friends he was going to rob the man and “wanted to see what it felt like to shoot somebody,” witnesses said. After the shooting, he attacked a worker at a regional youth development center. A day after he shot a dog for no reason, he was charged with possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute. A month after that, he shot a man three times. … In a recording played during sentencing, Wilson admitted he was the “chief enforcer” of the Milledgeville FOLKS gang. … In January 1996, Wilson wrote from prison to another gang member: “You know it’s all about that Money, Mackin, Murder, and that should be our main priority; We should be making more money … and murdering all that oppose our nation, but only when necessary.”

During appeals, attorney’s sought “DNA testing on a necktie that was introduced as evidence during their client’s trial in the murder case of Parks … The court also pointed out that there was evidence and eyewitness testimony that Wilson had on gloves on the night of the murder. A videotape showed he was wearing gloves on the night of the crimes. “Accordingly, the lack of his DNA or the presence of Butts’s DNA on the tie would not acquit defendant (Wilson),” the court ruled.”

One appeal led to a bit of esoteric legal geekery. “Should the court look to the state Superior Court judge’s lengthy order, which gives detailed reasons as to how certain findings and decisions were reached? Or should the court look only at the state Supreme Court’s one-word decision — “Denied” — when it declined to hear an appeal of the Superior Court judge’s ruling. … This is an important distinction because federal courts can step in to correct a state court conviction when there is a finding the state court decision upholding that conviction misapplied clearly established U.S. Supreme court law or was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts. In death cases, if the 11th Circuit only has to rely on the state Supreme Court’s one-word decision declining to hear an appeal of the lower-court judge’s opinion, then the federal appeals court can come up with its own reasons as to why the death sentence should continue to be upheld. The court could not offer such speculation, however, if it must look at the detailed ruling by the lower-court judge. Instead, the appeals court would only review the reasonableness and adequacy of the state court judge’s ruling.” … The 11th Circuit, in a decision written by Judge Bill Pryor, ruled that his court only had to look at a terse, summary opinion by the Georgia Supreme Court when it declines to hear an appeal of a lengthy and detailed ruling by a state Superior Court judge.”

The execution is scheduled for June 20, 2019, for a crime committed March 28, 1996. Historic photographs are from The Library of Congress. UPDATE Marion Wilson has ordered his final meal one medium thin-crust pizza with everything, 20 buffalo wings, one pint of butter pecan ice cream, some apple pie and grape juice. UPDATE Marion Wilson Jr. died at 9:52 pm, June 20, 2019.

Scotty Morrow, Barbara Ann Young, And Tonya Woods

Posted in Library of Congress, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on April 26, 2019


The state of Georgia is planning to execute Scotty Garnell Morrow on May 2. He was convicted of the murder of Barbara Ann Young And Tonya Woods. If you want more details, continue to read. Pictures today are from The Library of Congress.

“Barbara Ann Young began dating Scotty Morrow in June 1994 and she broke up with him in December 1994 because of his abusive behavior. At 9:52 a.m. on December 29, 1994, Morrow telephoned Ms. Young at her home, but she told him that she wanted him to leave her alone. After hanging up, Morrow drove to Ms. Young’s home and entered without permission. Ms. Young was in the kitchen with two of her friends, Tonya Woods and LaToya Horne. Two of Ms. Young’s children, five-year-old Christopher and eight-month-old Devonte, were also present. There was an argument in the kitchen and Ms. Woods told Morrow to leave because Ms. Young did not want to have anything to do with him anymore. Morrow yelled, “Shut your mouth, bitch!” and pulled a nine-millimeter pistol from his waistband. He shot Ms. Woods in the abdomen and Ms. Horne in the arm. The bullet that struck Ms. Woods severed her spinal cord, paralyzing her from the waist down.”

“Ms. Young fled down the hallway and into her bedroom. Morrow caught her in the bedroom and beat her on the head and face. She managed to flee back to the hallway where Morrow grabbed her by the hair and shot her point-blank in the head, killing her. From his hiding place in a nearby bedroom, Christopher saw Morrow kill his mother. Morrow returned to the kitchen. Testimony as to clicking noises and the fact that a live cartridge was found on the kitchen floor indicate that he either reloaded his pistol or cleared a jam. He then placed the muzzle of the pistol an inch from Ms. Woods’ chin and killed her with a shot to the head. The medical examiner opined that, although she was paralyzed, Ms. Woods had not lost much blood at that time and was probably still conscious when the fatal shot was fired. Morrow also shot Ms. Horne two more times, in the face and the arm, and fled after cutting the telephone line.”

“Despite her injuries, which included a shattered palate, permanent deafness in one ear, and nerve damage in an arm, Ms. Horne managed to get to her feet and run to a neighbor’s house. She and Christopher told the responding police officers that Morrow was the shooter. Morrow confessed after his arrest and the murder weapon was found hidden in his backyard. At trial, Morrow admitted that he shot the victims because he “wanted [Ms. Woods] to shut up.””

“The crimes occurred on December 29, 1994. The grand jury indicted Morrow on March 6, 1995, for malice murder (two counts), felony murder (two counts), aggravated assault (six counts), aggravated battery, cruelty to a child, burglary, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. The State filed its notice of intent to seek the death penalty on May 1, 1995. The trial was held June 7-29, 1999. The jury convicted Morrow on all counts on June 26, 1999, and recommended a death sentence on June 29, 1999.”

During appeals, the court appointed defense attorneys, Harold Walker Jr. and William Brownell Jr., were said to be incompetent. The specific charge was that they did not uncover evidence that Mr. Morrow was sexually abused as a child. “Morrow contends that we should vacate his sentence on the grounds that his trial attorneys provided ineffective assistance when they failed to uncover and introduce mitigating evidence from Morrow’s childhood and when they failed to hire an independent crime-scene expert to corroborate Morrow’s account of the murders.”

“… it is now unquestionable that Petitioner Scotty Morrow was sexually abused as a child. Childhood sexual abuse has a profound and debilitating impact on childhood development. … Morrow’s Trial Counsel failed to present evidence of his childhood abuse/trauma, making Morrow a poor witness in his own defense. Moreover, it “is clear that Trial Counsel’s investigation did not include meaningful inquiry into any portion of Petitioner’s formative years.” Based on its conclusive review of this important life experience that was never presented at trial, the Superior Court of Butts County granted the petition for a writ of habeas corpus and vacated Morrow’s death sentence, ruling Morrow was denied effective assistance of counsel at his sentencing hearing. His Trial Counsel did not provide enough mitigating evidence, especially the evidence of the abuse. The habeas court understood that Morrow was a poor witness in his own self-defense; by blunting his emotions, Morrow looked “flat, callous, and stoic,” and thus unsympathetic to the jury. Dr. Buchanan, a psychologist who testified at the trial without knowing anything about Morrow’s abuse history, admitted that knowledge about Morrow’s abuse would have made a difference in the trial. … Petitioner was also the victim of a series of rapes during this time period. Credible evidence exists that Earl Green, . . . sexually assaulted Petitioner in the basement on multiple occasions. During the time frame of these assaults, Petitioner began to wet the bed and display behavioral and adjustment problems. Additional evidence corroborates the assault evidence against Earl Green. We now know that Morrow had problems at school and was chased home by bullies when he was a student. George May, Morrow’s mother’s new partner, also beat him while he was naked.”

Others see things differently. “The Georgia Supreme Court reasonably concluded that trial counsel conducted an adequate investigation. Counsel made inquiries that would have uncovered the new mitigating evidence were it not for the silence of Morrow and his family. On the issue of rape, the Georgia Supreme Court found “that Morrow never reported any such rapes pre-trial to his counsel or to the mental health experts who questioned him about his background, including his sexual history.” … And counsel subjected Morrow to several psychological interviews that extensively probed Morrow’s family and sexual history but turned up no evidence of abuse. … We fail to understand what else counsel could have done to uncover the rape. Morrow and the alleged rapist are the only witnesses to the rape, and Morrow does not contend that he reported the assault, so any further inquiry would have been fruitless without Morrow’s cooperation. And counsel had no reason to doubt Morrow’s honesty.” The appeal did not work.

UPDATE: Scotty Morrow was pronounced dead at 9:38 pm, May 2, 2019. “Scotty Morrow requested a last meal of a hamburger with mayonnaise, two chicken and waffle meals, a pint of butter pecan ice cream, a bag of buttered popcorn, two all-beef franks, and a large lemonade.” Scotty Morrow’s final words: “I love you all. God bless.”

The Butcher

Posted in Library of Congress, The Death Penalty, Undogegorized by chamblee54 on April 24, 2019


TRIGGER WARNING: This post is a bit gross. Proceed with caution. If you like, you can skip over the text, and enjoy the pictures. These images are from The Library of Congress.

The post before this borrowed text from Gartalker, known to the government as Gary Simmons. PG chatted with him a few times, and we moved on. The last time PG checked in, Gartalker was fighting cancer. That was in 2017. PG decided to take another look. He googled “Gary Simmons Mississippi.”

Gruesome murder, rape case recalled: Gary ‘The Butcher’ Simmons scheduled to be executed June 20 Before we go any further, note that GTBS was executed in 2012. GTBS is a different Gary Simmons.

“Simmons, at the time 33, and his former brother-in-law Timothy Milano, 21, were convicted of the murder of Texas man Jeffrey Wolfe, to whom they owed money for marijuana, and the rape of his girlfriend, Charlene Leaser. After Wolfe was shot dead by Milano, Simmons carved the body into pieces with knives that he had possibly sharpened earlier that day at work, testimony showed. He then dumped the pieces in the bayou near his Moss Point house.”

“The one picture I remember in particular is of the head that was recovered intact, chopped off from about here,” (District Attorney Tony) Lawrence said, gesturing across the middle of his neck. Instead, about 80 percent of Wolfe’s body was recovered, Lawrence estimated. It was the testimony of Charlene Leaser that solved the case, Lawrence said. Simmons had locked her in a large steel box and raped her. The 18-year-old Leaser was wearing only a sock when she was thrown into the box.”

Gary Carl Simmons Jr. Executed June 20, 2012 “Wolfe’s father Paskiel Wolfe reacted emotionally to the execution. “Do you think God is going to forgive you for doing such a good deed? No. You are going to go to Hell. And that is where you are gonna be. And I hope you burn in Hell. When you take your last breath I will be leaving to go and have a cold beer.”

Before Mr. Wolfe had his cold beer, Mr. Simmons had his final meal. “One Pizza Hut medium Super Supreme Deep Dish pizza, double portion, with mushrooms, onions, jalapeno peppers, and pepperoni; pizza, regular portion, with three cheeses, olives, bell pepper, tomato, garlic and Italian sausage; 10 8-oz. packs of Parmesan cheese; 10 8-oz. packs of ranch dressing; one family size bag of Doritos nacho cheese flavor; 8 oz. jalapeno nacho cheese; 4 oz. sliced jalapenos; 2 large strawberry shakes; two 20-oz. cherry Cokes; one super-size order of McDonald’s fries with extra ketchup and mayonnaise; and two pints of strawberry ice cream.”

The Simmons case was similar to a case in Georgia. “On March 28, 1984 a maintenance man employed at (Robert Dale) Conklin’s apartment complex was collecting aluminum cans from the trash dumpster when he discovered dissected human body parts, knives, bloody bed clothes, screwdriver, rope, credit cards, a wallet and miscellaneous papers belonging to George Crooks, all encased in black plastic garbage bags. The body parts were identified as those of attorney George Crooks, who was acquainted with Conklin and had begun a physical relationship with him. When Conklin’s apartment was searched, police found the bed clothing was missing and the mattress appeared to be blood-soaked. The jammed kitchen garbage disposal contained what appeared to be internal organs. When questioned, Conklin stated that he and Crooks were wrestling on the bed when he grabbed a screwdriver and stuck him, then pushed the screwdriver into his ear and wriggled the weapon around. Conklin admitted to dissecting the body and disposing of incriminating evidence in the dumpster. A book describing the dissection of a body was found on the bedroom floor. At the time of the murder, Conklin was on parole for Armed Robbery and Burglary.”

Mr. Conklin had a gourmet last meal. “Filet mignon wrapped with bacon; de-veined shrimp sautéed in garlic butter with lemon; baked potato with butter, sour cream, chives and real bacon bits; corn on the cob; asparagus with hollandaise sauce; French bread with butter; goat cheese; cantaloupe; apple pie; vanilla bean ice cream and iced tea.”

Nevada Death Drugs

Posted in Library of Congress, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on July 12, 2018


Scott Raymond Dozier was convicted of two nasty murders. “In 2005, Dozier was sentenced to 22 years in prison for shooting 26-year-old Jasen Greene, whose body was found in 2002 in a shallow grave outside Phoenix. A witness testified that Dozier used a sledgehammer to break Greene’s limbs so the corpse would fit in a plastic tote that Dozier used to transport meth, equipment and chemicals. Dozier was sentenced to die for robbing, killing and dismembering 22-year-old Jeremiah Miller at a Las Vegas motel in 2002. Miller had come to Nevada to buy ingredients to make meth. His decapitated torso was found in a suitcase in an apartment building trash bin, also missing lower legs and hands. He was identified by tattoos on the shoulders. His head was never found.”

Life in prison did not agree with Mr. Dozier, and he grew weary of the appeals process. “… on October 31 (2016) he sent a handwritten letter to Clark County District Judge Jennifer Togliatti: “I, Scott Raymond Dozier…of sound mind, do hereby request that my death sentence be enacted and I be put to death.” … Last July, Togliatti summoned him to court. By then, it was clear that the state would struggle to find execution drugs and that such problems had been tied to painful, botched executions in other states. “That has not dissuaded you from asking me to sign this warrant?” she asked. “Quite frankly, your honor, all those people ended up dead,” Dozier said, “and that’s my goal here.”

“Just Bang Me Up, Man” was how Mr. Dozier put it in a later interview. A handsome, articulate man, Mr. Dozier is a movie waiting to be made. That interview, and another one here, are full of zesty quotes. “The public is ambivalent and apathetic, and maybe there will be 10 minutes of entertainment on the news. Maybe a few sick people will spend too much time with it on social media.”

There was only one problem. Nevada, like many other states, likes giving death sentences more than carrying them out. “It also creates a dilemma for states that want the harshness of death sentences without the messiness of carrying them out. The legal scholars (and siblings) Jordan Steiker and Carol Steiker have written that states like Nevada are “symbolic,” sentencing many people to death — in 2017, Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, obtained the second-most death sentences of any county in the country — but rarely executing anyone. California, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania together house nearly 1,000 death row prisoners; all told, they have executed just 22 people in the last four decades. … “We don’t kill them in Nevada unless they agree to it,” said Clark County public defender Scott Coffee. “What you’ve got with Dozier is state-assisted suicide.”

“The last execution (in Nevada) had taken place in 2006, years before pharmaceutical companies had tried to stop states from using their drugs to kill prisoners. In September 2016, Nevada corrections department director James Dzurenda sought drugs from 247 different suppliers; none were interested. Dozier’s decision added pressure to the search, and in August of last year, Dzurenda sent a letter to the Association of State Correctional Administrators, asking if other states had extra drugs they might send to Nevada. Dzurenda’s search was evidently unfruitful. Later that month, prison officials announced a solution: They would settle for drugs they could get. That included fentanyl (the opioid known for causing thousands of overdose deaths around the country), diazepam (the anti-anxiety drug better known as Valium), and cisatracurium (a paralytic first discovered on the tips of poisoned arrows in South America).”

“Much is still unknown. Brooke Keast, a department spokeswoman, said in an email the full protocol — which may include the order of the drugs, who will administer them, and who will witness the execution — will be released in the coming weeks, and that the drugs were “suggested” by the state’s Chief Medical Officer John DiMuro.” “Dr. DiMuro said he created the untried execution protocol “based it on procedures common in open-heart surgery.””

“Several medical professionals say there is no obvious explanation for why these drugs were selected. “It doesn’t make much sense; you don’t need Valium if you have fentanyl,” said Susi Vassallo, a NYU professor … Valium “makes you sleepy,” and can kill in large doses, but fentanyl also brings about unconsciousness without pain, and the drug’s deadliness is well-known, having caused thousands of overdose deaths around the country in recent years.”

“The potential problems will come with cisatracurium, which is related to curare, a paralyzing agent first discovered in South America, where indigenous people used it to poison the tips of their hunting arrows. Fentanyl can stop the heart, but it is short acting and will need to be given in a massive ongoing dose, because otherwise the prisoner may wake up. If he does, the cisatracurium will mask his consciousness while also potentially giving him the sensation — unobservable by witnesses — of being unable to breathe. “People who have recovered from it have said that they couldn’t breathe, and they knew they were suffocating,” Vassallo said. “The paralytic is only going to disguise whether the fentanyl is being administered properly.” It is for this reason, she said, that the American College of Veterinarians forbids the use of paralytics when animals are euthanized.”

“The fentanyl and diazepam “may be trying to block the experience of suffocation,” said Joel B. Zivot, an Emory University anesthesiologist … “The fentanyl takes away pain, and the Valium takes away anxiety. Both drugs are limited in their ability to do that, and of course neither is designed to block the pain or anxiety of death. So that’s just a show. This is not actually science, It’s not actually medicine. It is a grotesque impersonation of those things.”

“Mark Heath, a professor of anesthesiology at Columbia University” said “if the fentanyl or the sedative Valium … —“don’t work as planned, or if they are administered incorrectly,” then the prisoner would be awake and conscious during the execution. “It would be an agonizing way to die, but the people witnessing wouldn’t know anything had gone wrong because you wouldn’t be able to move” because of the paralytic drug, he said. …. Joel Zivot said the protocol is the latest in a series of attempts by states to “obtain certain drugs, try them out on prisoners, and see if and how they die.” The states, he said, have “no medical or scientific basis” for selecting the execution drugs. Fordham University law professor Deborah Denno … criticized the states for continuing to adopt experimental drug protocols. The reason for the change in protocols, she said, is “not really for the prisoner. It’s for the people who have to watch it happen. We don’t want to feel squeamish or uncomfortable. We don’t want executions to look like what they really are: killing someone.”

“The Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that some pain does not make an execution cruel and unusual punishment. “While most humans wish to die a painless death, many do not have that good fortune,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in Glossip v. Gross. “Holding that the Eighth Amendment demands the elimination of essentially all risk of pain would effectively outlaw the death penalty altogether.”

The pending execution became news when “Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez ruled in favor of the company that makes midazolam, which sued the state, saying Nevada had illegitimately acquired the product for the execution. It wants the state to return its stock of the drug to the company. Gonzalez granted a temporary restraining order….The drug maker, Alvogen, and the state are scheduled to return to court September 10 for another hearing in the case.”

Chamblee54 has written about the death penalty drug problem several times. (one two three four) Pictures today are from The Library of Congress. The photographer was Jack Delano, working in Greene County, Georgia, in May, 1941. The Marshall Project was a valuable source for this report.

Methods Of Capital Punishment

Posted in Library of Congress, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on May 16, 2018


This chamblee54 feature discusses various methods used to put condemned criminals to death. This report gets a bit gross at times. If you want to skip over the text, you will be excused. Chamblee54 has written about lethal injection problems one, two, three, four, five, six, seven times. In 2007, the New York Times published The Needle and the Damage Done, which discusses these issues in detail. Pictures today are from The Library of Congress. This is a repost.

One of the odder parts of tonight’s scheduled execution is the request of J.W. Ledford to be shot, instead of poisoned. Al Jazeera is one of many to report the story. JW Ledford Jr lawyers want firing squad, not injection “J.W. Ledford, 45, suffers from chronic nerve pain that has been treated with increasing doses of the prescription drug gabapentin for more than a decade, his lawyers said in a federal case filed on Thursday. They cited experts who said long-term exposure to gabapentin alters brain chemistry, making pentobarbital unreliable to render him unconscious and devoid of sensation or feeling. “Accordingly, there is a substantial risk that Mr Ledford will be aware and in agony as the pentobarbital attacks his respiratory system, depriving his brain, heart, and lungs of oxygen as he drowns in his own saliva,” the legal case said. That would violate the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment in the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution, Ledford’s lawyers argued.”

Is the firing squad more humane than lethal injection? One is certainly messier than the other. The appearance to the observer is important. People want executions to be neat and tidy, with the executee in minimal pain. This is one reason for chemical agent number two in the three drug lethal cocktail. A paralytic is used, so that people won’t see the soon-to-be-deceased thrashing about as the heart is chemically shut down.

The firing squad is fast. Ammunition does not need to be purchased from a compounding pharmacy. Any pain will be over very quickly. In his book “In his book ‘Elephants on Acid: And Other Bizarre Experiments’, Alex Boese states that in the 1938 execution of John Deering, the prison physician monitoring the inmate’s heartbeat reported that the time between the shots and complete cessation of rhythm was a mere 15 seconds.” The idea is for the marksmen to shoot the prisoner in the heart.

Hanging is another time honored method of execution. If done properly, it is very efficient. Of course this is the government at work, so things do not always go smoothly. Hanging has unfortunate visuals, and is associated with lynching. It is not well thought of today.

“The modern method of judicial hanging is called the long drop. … In the long drop, those planning the execution calculate the drop distance required to break the subject’s neck based on his or her weight, height and build. They typically aim to get the body moving quickly enough after the trap door opens to produce between 1,000 and 1,250 foot-pounds of torque on the neck when the noose jerks tight. This distance can be anywhere from 5 to 9 feet. With the knot of the noose placed at the left side of the subject’s neck, under the jaw, the jolt to the neck at the end of the drop is enough to break or dislocate a neck bone called the axis, which in turn should sever the spinal cord.”

“Unfortunately, history shows that hanging is relatively easy to botch, particularly if the executioners make a mistake in their calculations. A rope that is too long can result in decapitation, whilst one that is too short can cut off breathing and blood flow through the carotid arteries in the neck. In these circumstances loss of consciousness is not always as quick, and the condemned can end up struggling for nearly 30 minutes.”

Hanging is still used in Iran. In Iran, prisoners are usually pulled up by their necks with the use of cranes. “It takes them many minutes to die, it’s a way of torturing them along with the execution,” Amiry-Moghaddam said. “Two years ago, a man had survived 14 minutes of hanging before dying. So hanging is not intended as the standard way of momentary pain. It’s not that they just die, it is a slow strangulation.” Many death penalty advocates approve of the added suffering.

The twentieth century gave us two modern methods of offing the condemned, the gas chamber, and the electric chair. “Lethal gas takes too long; the 1992 lethal-gas execution of Donald Harding in Arizona was so long — 11 minutes — and so grotesque that the attorney general threw up and the warden threatened to quit if he were required to execute someone by gas again. The electric chair often results in horrible odors and burns; in Florida, in the 1990s, at least two inmates heads’ caught fire, and the chair routinely left the body so thoroughly cooked that officials had to let the corpse cool before it could be removed.”

“First used to execute axe-murderer William Kemmler in 1890, a high voltage alternating current is applied to the body of the criminal, typically starting at 2,000 volts and 5 amps with the voltage varying periodically. This causes instant contraction and rigidity of the muscles, leading to a cessation of heart and lung activity.

The practice figured prominently in a dispute between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse regarding the relative merits of direct vs. alternating current. Edison sought to prove that the latter was too dangerous and so decided to equip the new Electric Chair at America’s ‘Sing Sing’ prison with one of the his competitor’s AC generators. Unfortunately the inexperienced executioners drastically underestimated the amount of electricity required to effectively kill Kemmler. At first they only succeeded in burning him for 17 seconds, at the end of which he was still twitching. It took a second jolt for a further 70 seconds before he was finally pronounced dead. Westinghouse was later heard to comment, “they could have done better with an axe”.”

The Guillotine was popular in France for many years. At first glance, it would seem to be efficient, though messy. Closer examination reveals some problems. “Often the blade didn’t do its job and the victim was only injured. He would then either bleed to death or the blade would have to be cranked up and dropped again. … But even when the blade was quick and efficient, many witnesses said the victim’s head didn’t die instantly. Reports of grimacing, facial twitches, blinking eyes, mouth movements, and even speech from the severed head are numerous.” (A commenter to the linked post disputes this. Rumors that Robespierre was executed face up are probably false.)

“In 1905, Dr. Beaurieux reported on his close examination of Henri Languille’s guillotine execution. While he watched, the blade did its thing and Languille’s head dropped into the basket. Beaurieux had luck on his side when the head landed on its severed neck in an upright position. This allowed him to observe Languille’s face without having to touch the head or set it up right.

“The eyelids and lips of the guillotined man worked in irregularly rhythmic contractions for about five or six seconds” “I called in a strong, sharp voice: “Languille!” I saw the eyelids slowly lift up, without any spasmodic contractions……but with an even movement, quite distinct and normal, such as happens in everyday life, with people awakened or torn from their thoughts.” “Next Languille’s eyes very definitely fixed themselves on mine and the pupils focused themselves.”

Robert Earl Butts And Donovan Corey Parks

Posted in Library of Congress, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on April 27, 2018

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The State of Georgia is planning to execute Robert Earl Butts for the 1996 murder of Donovan Corey Parks. The short version is that Mr. Butts, and accomplice Marion “Mookie” Wilson, asked Mr. Parks for a ride. They shot him, and stole his car. They were convicted, and both Mr. Butts and Mr. Wilson were sentenced to death. The long version of the story is below. The majority of this story is from the Attorney General of Georgia. Material from other sources will be used.

“The evidence adduced at trial showed that on the night of Thursday, March 28, 1996, Butts and Marion Wilson, Jr., drove in Butts’s automobile to a local Wal-Mart store and began searching for a victim. Butts entered the store wearing a coat, under which he likely concealed the murder weapon. A witness observed Butts and Wilson standing behind Donovan Corey Parks in a checkout line. The cashier for that checkout line also remembered Butts being in her line. The store’s receipts showed that Butts purchased a pack of chewing gum immediately after Parks made his purchase of pet supplies. A witness overheard Butts asking Parks for a ride. After Parks moved items in his automobile to make room for Butts and Wilson, Butts sat in the front passenger seat and Wilson sat in the back seat behind Parks. According to a witness to whom Butts confessed, Butts revealed the shotgun a short distance away, and Parks was ordered to stop the automobile. Wilson dragged Parks out of the automobile by his tie and ordered him to lie face down on the pavement. Butts then fired one fatal shot to the back of Parks’s head with the shotgun. Witnesses nearby heard the shot, believing it to be a backfiring vehicle.”

“Outside the store, they asked for a ride and then forced Parks to drive to the side street off Ga. 49. Parks’ father, Freddie Parks, had attended church with his son that day and later found his body in a puddle of blood. “I had no idea it was my own son,” he testified at trial.”

“After murdering Parks, Butts and Wilson drove to a service station in Gray, Georgia, where they refueled Parks’s automobile and where Wilson was filmed by the service station’s security camera. Butts and Wilson then drove to Atlanta in an unsuccessful attempt to exchange Parks’s automobile for money at a “chop shop.” The pair purchased two cans of gasoline, drove to a remote location in Macon, Georgia, and set fire to Parks’s automobile.” (“Parks’ burning 1992 Acura Vigor was later discovered behind a Huddle House in east Macon.”) “They then walked to a nearby public phone, where Butts called his uncle and arranged a ride for himself and Wilson back to the Wal-Mart to retrieve Butts’s automobile.

Investigators had recorded the license plate numbers of the vehicles parked in the Wal-Mart parking lot on the night of the murder, and Butts’s automobile was among them. A shotgun loaded with an uncommon type of ammunition was found under Wilson’s bed during a search, and a witness testified that Butts had given the weapon to Wilson to hold temporarily. Two of Butts’s former jail mates testified that he had admitted to being the triggerman in the murder.

Butts was indicted in the Superior Court of Baldwin County, Georgia for malice murder, felony murder, armed robbery, hijacking a motor vehicle, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, and possession of a sawed-off shotgun. Butts was convicted as charged in the indictment and sentenced to death on November 21, 1998.”

During appeals, the traditional claim of ineffective counsel was made. “Butts argues that the trial judge should have recused herself simply because she had previously presided over juvenile proceedings against Butts.” “Trial counsel … made a strategic decision not to question potential jurors about their views on gangs because he intended to focus attention on Butts’s co-perpetrator as a gang member and because he thought drawing premature attention to the issue of gangs would have been counterproductive.”

There seems to be little doubt regarding the guilt of Mr. Butts and Mr. Wilson. “Although the trial judge’s report indicates that the evidence did not “foreclose all doubt” in this case, we note that the evidence supporting the jury’s finding of guilt was very strong. The fact that Butts asked the victim for a ride, even though he had driven his own automobile to the store, shows that he was involved in the motor vehicle hijacking from the beginning. The evidence also suggested that Butts carried the shotgun with him into the store as he sought out a victim. Testimony at trial showed that Butts had worked with the victim previously, suggesting that Butts intended from the beginning to murder the victim in order to ensure the victim’s silence. Several of Butts’s former jail mates testified that he had admitted being the triggerman. Evidence presented during the sentencing phase showed that Butts had a history of criminal conduct. These circumstances all might reasonably have urged the jury to impose a death sentence.”

Lawyers complained about a positive description of the victim. “Here, the incidental characterizations of the victim as a nice and charitable person and as being a person who attended services at a religious establishment were relevant to the facts of the crime. The victim offered a ride to persons pretending to be in need, and the victim was identified, in part, by the semi-formal clothing he was wearing after a religious service. Likewise, the victim’s father’s statement in response to a question by the State about how the victim’s remains were identified was an incidental outgrowth of the relevant fact that the father had, in an extraordinary and tragic turn of events, discovered his own son’s body moments after the murder.”

One novel argument against the execution is based on “evolving standards of decency of the people of Georgia.” A man set for execution next month should be resentenced because he wouldn’t get the death penalty if he were sentenced today, his lawyers argued in a court filing Wednesday. … The murder for which Butts and Wilson were sentenced had a single victim and one aggravating factor, a circumstance that increases the severity of a crime and increases the possible sentence. According to sentencing data obtained and analyzed by Butts’ lawyers, no one has been sentenced to death for a murder with one victim and one aggravating factor in over a decade.”

“According to his case, Butts and the other man were members of the Folks Nation street gang and were being required to commit a violent crime. He got in line behind Parks at a Walmart in Milledgeville, where Parks was buying cat food, and followed him to the parking lot.” “Butts contends that evidence about the Folks gang and gangs in general was irrelevant to the issues in the sentencing phase of his trial and that presentation of the evidence violated his freedom of speech and his freedom of association under the Constitution of the United States. The evidence in question suggested that Butts was involved with the Folks gang and that the gang required acts of violence for promotion within its ranks. We conclude that, because the “violent nature of that gang was relevant to the issues to be decided by the jury during the sentencing phase of [Butts’s] trial,” the contested evidence was not an invitation for the jury to punish Butts based upon his exercise of constitutional rights and, accordingly, that the evidence was admissible.”

Pictures today are from The Library of Congress. UPDATE Robert Earl Butts died at 9:58 pm, May 4, 2018. His last words: “Yeah, I’ve been drinking caffeine all day.”

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