Chamblee54

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.”

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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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Carlton Gary

Posted in Georgia History, Library of Congress, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on March 13, 2018

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Carlton Gary, GDC ID: 0000418413, is scheduled to be executed Thursday, March 15. He was convicted of the rape, and murder, of Florence Scheible, Martha Thurmond and Kathleen Woodruff. They were killed, along with four other elderly women, in Columbus, GA, in 1977 and 1978. The serial killer became known as the Silk Stocking Strangler. “Gary’s execution was originally set for December 16, 2009. … The Georgia Supreme Court entered an order on December 16, 2009, remanding the case to the trial court to determine whether Gary was entitled to DNA testing.”

Chamblee54 published a report on the case in 2009. This post will be copied below. Before getting to that, we should consider whether there is any new evidence, that indicates that Mr. Gary should be executed. In 2009, the opinion of many was that the evidence against Mr. Gary was far from conclusive. This is not to say that Mr. Gary is innocent of all charges. In fact, DNA evidence links Mr. Gary to a 1975 murder in New York state.

However, it is far from clear that Carlton Gary is the Silk Stocking Strangler. This chart summarizes the problems with evidence against Mr. Gary. In addition, an article in Vanity Fair goes into great detail about the case, as does this story.

The story of the alleged confession is bizarre. “Albany, GA, police arrested Gary on May 3, 1984. Columbus police drove over that day to bring him back. Boren (Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren, who was a detective … in 1984.) testified that Gary that night offered to take police on a tour of homes he’d burglarized, so Boren and other investigators started driving him around midtown… Gary would talk about other victims’ homes he had been in, Boren said, but he always blamed an accomplice for the homicides. … Boren said police were so fatigued they ended the interview about 3:30 a.m. May 4, 1984, forgetting to drive by the 3783 Steam Mill Road where Janet Cofer, 61, was found dead April 20, 1978. Defense attorney Jack Martin challenged Boren’s account, noting detectives had neither recorded the interview nor taken notes.Boren said investigators feared Gary would stop talking if they used a tape recorder or took notes.”

DNA testing was done for some cases after the 2009 ruling. “Extensive testing was performed during the extraordinary motion for new trial proceedings, which revealed a positive DNA match between Gary and … Jean Dimenstein.” (Mr. Gary was not convicted of Jean Dimenstein’s death.)

“Prosecutors have operated on the theory that one person committed all seven murders, so any evidence that might clear Gary in one case could undermine the claim that he is the “Stocking Strangler” … Gary was convicted of killing Thurmond, Scheible and Woodruff. Authorities say his DNA matched semen evidence from Dimenstein’s rape but not from Thurmond’s.”

Gertrude Miller survived an early assault, and indentified Mr. Gary as her attacker. “a later DNA test on her clothing yielded a profile that did not match him.” Gertrude Miller’s testimony is questioned by others. In the Matha Thurmond case, “police collected semen samples later thought suitable for DNA testing. The G.B.I. crime lab accidentally tainted and destroyed that evidence.”

When Georgia decides to execute someone, they don’t like to give up. Troy Davis, Kelly Gissendaner, and Warren Hill are recent examples. No matter how inconclusive the evidence, no matter how bad it makes the state look, when Georgia wants to execute someone, they usually do it.

Since this is Georgia, race must be considered. Carlton Gary is black. The ladies who died were white. This was a high profile, racially charged case. The authorities were under enormous pressure to solve the case. While not necessarily racist, the authorities did not look good in their handling of the case.

“In February 1978 Columbus Police Chief received a bizarre, frightening letter supposedly from a white racist group of vigilantes called the “Forces of Evil.” The Forces of Evil wrote that if police did not apprehend the Stocking Strangler by “1 June,” they would murder a black woman in retaliation for what were believed to be murders of white women by a black man. That black woman, the letter went on to assert, would be Gail Jackson. She had already been kidnapped and was being held by the group. She would die unless the police caught, in the letter’s terms, the “S-Strangler.”Investigators learned that Gail Jackson was a black woman from nearby Fort Benning. And, chillingly, she was missing. While they were still puzzling over the disappearance of Gail Jackson, the police received a second letter from the supposed Forces of Evil. They demanded a $10,000 ransom for the kidnapped woman’s freedom.

Columbus police took this baffling, frightening letters to the Behavioral Science Unit of the F.B.I. As Jordan wrote in Murder in the Peach States, that unit “came to some startling conclusions. They felt the author, or authors, of the ‘Forces of Evil’ letter was not seven white men, but more likely one black man. The profilers believed he probably already killed Gail Jackson and that the letters were intended to divert attention away from the real killer. The profile predicted him to be an artilleryman or military policeman. An excerpt in the letter which stated, ‘the victims will double’ led profilers to believe that he may already have also killed two other women. … They also believed that he might be the stocking strangler.”Investigators eventually arrested William Hance for the murder of Gail Jackson. He was a black artilleryman at Fort Benning. He confessed to having authored the “Forces of Evil” letter and to have killed two other women in addition to Gail Jackson. However, there were no links between Hance and the Stocking Stranglings.”

UPDATE: Carlton Gary died at 10:33 pm, March 15, 2018. “… he did not accept a final prayer or make a final statement.” Mr. Gary declined a special last meal. He ate the standard prison dinner of a grilled hamburger, a hot dog, white beans, coleslaw and grape beverage.




The State of Georgia has set an execution date for Carlton Gary. December 16 is scheduled to be his date with the gurneygoinggone, in Jackson, GA. Mr. Gary is said to be the “Stocking Strangler”, who terrorized Columbus GA in 1977 and 1978. Not everyone agrees with the verdict.

Carlton Gary was born December 15, 1952. (His birthday is the day before the scheduled execution). He met his father once, when he was 12. His mother was poor, and often got relatives to care for her son. As Carlton Gary got older, he became familiar with law enforcement.

In 1970, there was an elderly lady strangled and murdered in upstate New York. Mr. Gary was involved. Later DNA tests indicate that Mr. Gary was the 1975 killer of Marion Fisher in Syracuse NY.

On August 22, 1977, Carlton Gary escaped from Onondaga prison. On September 15, 1977, Mary Willis “Ferne” Jackson was strangled to death with a nylon stocking. Between this date and April 20, 1978, six more women were raped and strangled with stockings. All were elderly white ladies, most of whom lived in the affluent Wyntown neighborhood.

— Ferne Jackson, 60, of 2505 17th St., killed Sept. 15, 1977.
— Jean Dimenstein, 71, of 3927 21st St., killed Sept. 25, 1977.
— Florence Scheible, 89, of 1941 Dimon St., killed Oct. 21, 1977.
— Martha Thurmond, 69, of 2614 Marion St., killed Oct. 25, 1977.
— Kathleen Woodruff, 74, of 1811 Buena Vista Road, killed Dec. 28, 1977.
— Mildred Borom, 78, of 1612 Forest Ave., killed Feb. 12, 1978.
— Janet Cofer, 61, of 3783 Steam Mill Road, killed April 20, 1978.

During this time, Carlton Gary was busy robbing restaurants. He was caught, and sent to prison in South Carolina. He escaped in 1984. At this time, the police in Columbus were working on a lead in the Stocking Strangler case.

“Police in Columbus hoped against hope that a lead they were developing in the long, dragged-out case of the Stocking Strangler would pan out. A .22 Luger handgun had been stolen from a Wynnton house at the time of the murders. An anonymous caller called the owner of the gun and said, “The police have the gun you had stolen from you.”

That gun owner reported the call to the Columbus police. At first they were baffled. They did not have that gun but could police in another area have it? Detectives put out a nationwide teletype asking if anyone had it. No other police department did. Two Kalamazoo, Michigan clerks went painstakingly through their records and found that the weapon had been registered at their shop in 1981. Detectives tracked the gun down to its current owner who said he had purchased it in Phenix City, Alabama from Jim Gary. The police interviewed Jim Gary who said he had gotten it from his nephew, Carlton Gary.

Detectives then discovered that Gary had recently escaped from the South Carolina prison where he was serving time as “Michael David.” That made their job especially urgent. If Gary was the Stocking Strangler, elderly women were in terrible danger.

Fingerprints of Carlton Gary were matched to prints found in the home of victim Kathleen Gary. Then Columbus police were contacted by investigators from Phenix City who were looking for suspected robbers and cocaine runners, one of whom was known as Michael David…

On the early morning of May 3, 1984, acting on a tip, a S.W.A.T. team went to a Holiday Inn in Albany, Georgia. Carlton Gary was in a room with a woman. When that woman came out of that room to go to an ice machine, S.W.A.T. members asked her to come to a room for questioning. She agreed to cooperate with authorities and told them that Gary had a gun on the nightstand.

Trying to decoy him into opening the door, she went back to it and knocked but ran away before he answered it. Gary opened the door, saw the police, and tried to shut it but officers kept it open with their shoulders. Then the team swarmed into the room and captured him…

True to his pattern, Gary confessed to having been at the homes of the Wynnton area victims but denied raping or murdering them. His accomplice, Malvin Alamichael Crittendon had done that. “I did the burglaries,” Gary explained, “and Michael killed the old ladies.”Crittendon existed and was located by the police. He denied taking part in the Stocking Stranglings and police could find no evidence to connect him to them.”

In August 1986, Carlton Gary went to trial. The state would not give the defense any money to hire investigators or expert witnesses. The star witness for the state was Gertrude Miller, who had been attacked, in similar fashion to the other victims, but survived. Mrs. Miller identified Carlton Gary as the attacker. On August 26, 1986, Carlton Gary was convicted of the murder of Florence Scheible, Martha Thurmond, and Kathleen Woodruff. He was sentenced to death the next day.

In a death penalty case, there are a lot of reviews. This is especially true for a high profile case like this. Evidence has come up which indicates Carlton Gary is not the stocking strangler.

DNA testing was not used during the trial. After the trial, the body fluids from the crime scenes were destroyed as a bio hazard. (This evidently was not done in Syracuse). It is not possible to compare DNA from Mr. Gary to what was found at the crime scene.

The following quote is from a Vanity Fair article about the case:
“Even though DNA-testing techniques had not been invented at the time of the stranglings, investigators did possess an older method for testing semen that could be very effective: secretor typing. Most people, about four-fifths of the population, are “secretors,” meaning that in their saliva, semen, and other fluids they secrete chemical markers that give away their blood group. A “group-O secretor” would be someone from the common O blood group whose semen contained a relatively large amount of the relevant marker.
The tests carried out on semen collected from the murder scenes of Ferne Jackson, Florence Scheible, and Martha Thurmond indicated that the stocking strangler was a “non-secretor,” whose body fluids contained only tiny traces of the group-O marker. As for Carlton Gary, the police took a saliva sample from him after his arrest. It revealed that, together with some 40 percent of the population, he was an O secretor.”

The star witness, Gertrude Miller, seems to have a few flaws as well. She had identified several other men as being her attacker, some of whom looked nothing like Mr. Gary. The trial was in 1986, when the murders had been committed in 1977-78. A commenter in a Columbus internet forum named “former Wyntown resident” says:
” I personally knew one of the “witnesses” well and she is a Hystrionic Personality Disorder who interjected herself in this appalling travesty of justice solely for the attention. She obviously presented well enough in court but I knew beyond a doubt she lied- she concocted the story of an encounter years after it allegedly took place.”
The last victim, Janet Cofer, had a bite mark on her breast. A impression was taken of this mark, and a model of the teeth marks produced. The teeth in that model do not match Carlton Gary. (“Gary was not convicted of the April 20, 1978, strangling of 61-year-old Columbus school teacher Janet Cofer, from whose left breast the impression of an apparent bite mark was made. Prosecutors used evidence from that case during Gary’s 1986 trial “solely to show similar mode, method and motivation,” U.S. District Court Judge Clay Land writes in his order Thursday granting funds for further examination of the bite cast. Prosecutors have operated on the theory that one person committed all seven murders, so any evidence that might clear Gary in one case could undermine the claim that he is the “Stocking Strangler” … Gary’s attorneys first sought the bite-mark mold in 2003, but no one knew where it was. It was not used as evidence in the 1986 trial, and Gary’s defense attorneys weren’t told about it then. Prosecutors later claimed it was irrelevant because Gary had dental work after the murders. Last month, Muscogee County Coroner James Dunnavant discovered the mold stashed back in an old file cabinet in an office storage room. For years Dunnavant’s predecessor, Coroner Don Kilgore, had kept the mold in his desk drawer, occasionally showing it off. But no one knew what happened to it after Kilgore died in 2000.”)

The fingerprints were not photographed “in situ”, or in the original location. They had been lifted and transferred to file cards. There is no tape of the interrogation. The detective, Mike Sellers, wrote the only record of the interrogation at his kitchen table at 4:30 am, after interviewing Mr. Gary. The tape of the discussion was destroyed.

A British journalist named David Rose came to Georgia to write about the death penalty, and got caught up in the case. He wrote a book, The Big Eddy Club, about the case.

Unless something happens to stop the process, Carlton Gary will die on Wednesday. While he is no choir boy, there is doubt that he is the stocking strangler.

Update The Georgia Supreme Court issued a stay of execution on Wednesday, helpfully before the 7pm deadline. The Supremes voted 5-2 to order Muscogee County Judge to hold a hearing to consider DNA tests.

PG was under the impression that the fluid samples from the crime scene had been destroyed. Other evidence in this case has been said to be destroyed or lost, only to turn up later. (i.e., the mold made from the teeth marks).

PG has too much free time these days, and was going to go to Jackson to witness the scene outside the prison. He went to the 11 alive weather radar to check the weather, and saw a headline announcing the stay of execution. Pictures today are from The Library of Congress.

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Sin

Posted in GSU photo archive, Politics, Religion, The Death Penalty, Undogegorized by chamblee54 on March 10, 2018





The post below went up seven years ago. It deals with a publicity stunt from the Catholic church, an updated seven deadly sins. The statute of limitations may have run out on this message. The traditional “seven deadly sins” were anger, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.
The site linked above has a page, the seven deadly sins of Mohandas Karamachand Gandhi. The subcontinental fashion icon lists Wealth without Work, Pleasure without Conscience, Science without Humanity, Knowledge without Character, Politics without Principle, Commerce without Morality, and Worship without Sacrifice.
After 1,500 years the Vatican has brought the seven deadly sins up to date by adding seven new ones for the age of globalization. The list, published yesterday in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, came as the Pope deplored the “decreasing sense of sin” in today’s “secularized world” and the falling numbers of Roman Catholics going to confession. The new deadly sins include polluting, genetic engineering, being obscenely rich, drug dealing, abortion, pedophilia and causing social injustice. HT to Fox News .( aka the eighth deadly sin.)
One reaction is to wonder, what language was used for the list? Phrases like “obscenely rich” and “causing social injustice” can mean different things, and one wonders about the nuance behind the original expression. Now, Just about all of these “sins” can merit comments. Maybe the Catholic church is thinking of moving its headquarters to hell.
polluting We can talk about something where all have sinned, or who should throw the first stone. If you ride in a car, wear synthetic fibers, through away anything, use a less than perfect sewer system (or a functioning one on a rainy day with overflows), then you have polluted.
genetic engineering Here again, there are semantics galore. Much of the food we eat is tweaked by genetic breeding. This is something Euros get twitchy about, that doesn’t concern most Americans.
being obscenely rich This is one to wonder what the original Italian said. Compared to much of the world, a 900sf house is a palace. However, compared to many of the neighbors, it is lower middle class. Perhaps the emphasis should be on greed, selfishness, and how you gain this wealth. The tenth commandment says something about coveting. It is the forgotten commandment.
drug dealing Is there a distinction between legal and illegal drugs here? If you go by the damage that substances cause, then this rule will speak to bartenders and the clerk who sells cigarettes. Not to mention the media outlets who advertise cigarettes and beer, the legislators who condone these substances while prosecuting potheads, and a whole host of others. The legally based war on drugs is a disaster in this country. Do we really need to drag the Catholic church into it?
abortion. If Mary had gotten an abortion, would Christians worship a vacuum cleaner? Seriously, the Catholic Corporation has flogged this donkey, to great profit, for years. If you don’t want abortions, promote contraception and adoption. Catholics should find another gimmick.
pedophilia When you up pedophile in the dictionary, you see a picture of a Catholic priest.
causing social injustice Can we have a better translation of this?





This bonus repost is also from early march 2008. BHO was winning the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination, and the skeletons were coming out of the closet. As the struggle went on, BHO threw Jeremiah Wright under the bus, and got elected.

YouTube is an impediment to work. I was going to write some clever words to go with these pictures, but I looked at some videos first. All I wanted was the embed gibberish so I could show them to you, but YouTube has more videos. The only way to get rid of temptation is to give into it.

I am glad I got to see the videos of Jeremiah Wright. Friday I was hearing the tapes of him on the radio, and it was most discouraging. When I saw the video, I realized that he was just a loudmouth.

I worked for 6 years with a professional Jesus Worshiper. He was selfish, hateful, vulgar and loud. He frequently directed this anger at me. He used Jesus to hurt me, often over trivial matters. His voice sounded a lot like Mr. Wright’s.

Once, this Professional Jesus Worshiper shouted me down, and humiliated me, in the name of Jesus. When he was through, he picked up the telephone and told his friend ” I never felt better in my life”. People like that, and Jeremiah Wright, bring shame to Jesus.

One thing I learned while working with the Professional Jesus Worshiper was the importance of the audience. These hatemongers do not just talk to themselves. They need an audience. These audiences enable these poison spewers. To pray with a loudmouth who shames Jesus is morally equivalent to buying whiskey for an alcoholic. Barack Obama is that audience. Pictures today are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”.




When You Agree With Justice Thomas

Posted in Georgia History, Library of Congress, Race, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on January 9, 2018

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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.

Chamblee 54 has written about this case twice before. Keith Tharpe And Jaquelin Freeman is about the case itself. The short version is that Mr. Tharpe allegedly murdered his sister in law, and raped his estranged wife, after kidnapping both. There is little doubt that Mr. Tharpe is guilty. A jury sentenced him to death, after deliberating for two hours.

The Juror Who Said The N-Word is about the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ of this case. Seven years after the crime, a lawyer interviewed a juror, Barney Gattie. The gentleman said some rude things about black people. This post has a verbatim rendering, and some more information that is salient to the case. “Gat­tie’s remarkable affidavit—which he never retracted— presents a strong factual basis for the argument that Tharpe’s race affected Gattie’s vote for a death verdict.”

The dissent tells a different story. “More than seven years after his trial, Tharpe’s lawyers interviewed one of his jurors, Barney Gattie. The result­ing affidavit stated that Gattie knew Freeman, and that her family was “what [he] would call a nice black family.” The affidavit continued that, in Gattie’s view, “there are two types of black people: 1. Black folks and 2. Niggers.” Tharpe “wasn’t in the ‘good’ black folks category,” according to the affidavit, and if Freeman had been “the type Tharpe is, then picking between life and death for Tharpe wouldn’t have mattered so much.” But because Freeman and her family were “good black folks,” the affidavit continued, Gattie thought Tharpe “should get the electric chair for what he did.” Gattie’s affidavit went on to explain that “after studying the Bible,” he had “wondered if black people even have souls.” The affidavit also noted that some of the other jurors “wanted blacks to know they weren’t going to get away with killing each other.”

A couple of days later, the State obtained another affi­davit from Gattie. In that second affidavit, Gattie stated that he “did not vote to impose the death penalty because [Tharpe] was a black man,” but instead because the evi­dence presented at trial justified it and because Tharpe showed no remorse. The affidavit explained that Gattie had consumed “seven or more beers” on the afternoon he signed the first affidavit. Although he had signed it, he “never swore to [it] nor was [he] ever asked if [the] statement was true and accurate.” He also attested that many of the statements in the first affidavit “were taken out of context and simply not accurate.” And he felt that the lawyers who took it “were deceiving and misrepresented what they stood for.” “which he never retracted.”

“A state postconviction court presided over Gattie’s depo­sition. Gattie again testified that, although he signed the affidavit, he did not swear to its contents. Gattie also testified that when he signed the affidavit he had con­sumed “maybe a 12 pack, [and] a few drinks of whiskey, over the period of the day.” Tharpe’s lawyers did not question Gattie about the contents of his first affidavit at the deposition. They instead spent much of the deposition asking Gattie unrelated questions about race, which the state court ruled irrelevant—like whether he was familiar with Uncle Tom’s Cabin or whether his granddaughter would play with a black doll. The lawyers’ failure to address the contents of Gattie’s first affidavit troubled the state court. Just before it permitted Gattie to leave, the court advised Tharpe’s lawyers that it might “totally discount” Gattie’s first affidavit, and it again invited them to ask Gattie questions about its contents. Tharpe’s lawyers declined the opportunity.

The state court also heard deposition testimony from ten of Tharpe’s other jurors and received an affidavit from the eleventh. None of the jurors, two of whom were black, corroborated the statements in Gattie’s first affidavit about how some of the jurors had considered race. The ten jurors who testified all said that race played no role in the jury’s deliberations. The eleventh juror did not mention any consideration of race either.”

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.”

There is a lot of legalese in this document, which makes IANAL heads hurt. One wonders if the second affidavit qualifies as a retraction. Maybe SCOTUS felt the need to virtue signal on racism. There is also a lot of talk about whether the statements by Mr. Gattie should be allowed to influence the appeals process. Pena-Rodriguez is cited, along with many other cases. This is what lawyers do.

The majority opinion, as well as most press reports on today’s ruling, does not mention Mr. Gattie’s intoxication during the first affidavit. Indeed, since Mr. Gattie never read this affidavit, nor swore to it, there is no telling how accurate it is. We don’t know what questions attorneys were asking the elderly drunk. Did the lawyers lead him on, and put words in his mouth? 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.

Pictures are from The Library of Congress. These details are from picture #06666, documenting “First Internation[al] Pageant of Pulchritude & Seventh Annual Bathing Girl Review at Galveston, Texas.” It was taken in 1926.

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The Juror Who Said The N-Word

Posted in Library of Congress, Race, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on September 24, 2017


Keith Tharpe is scheduled to die Tuesday night. There is little doubt that he is guilty. The only thing to worry about are some *intemperate* comments by a juror, Barnie Gattie.

“The crime occurred on September 25, 1990. Tharpe was arrested the same day. He was tried on January 2 through January 10, 1991.” Mr. Gattie was interviewed by attorneys in 1998.

Mr. Gattie was interviewed by attorneys during the appeals process. He made some comments that featured the *n word*. (This word will be spelled out when quoting court documents. If you don’t like this, you are encouraged to skip over the text, and look at the pictures.) The corporate media has responded with sensational headlines, like A Black Man Convicted By a Racist Juror Is About to Be Executed. You should never neglect an opportunity to call Georgia racist.

When looking at these articles, PG noted different versions of what Mr. Gattie said. He tried to find a copy of the original statement. It was on page fifteen of this court document.

“At the May 28, 1998 state habeas evidentiary hearing, Tharpe tendered affidavits from several jurors, including Barney Gattie. In his affidavit, Gattie stated: “I . . . knew the girl who was killed, Mrs. Freeman. Her husband and his family have lived in Jones [C]ounty a long time. The Freemans are what I would call a nice Black family. In my experience I have observed that there are two types of black people. 1. Black folks and 2. Niggers. For example, some of them who hang around our little store act up and carry on. I tell them, “nigger, you better straighten up or get out of here fast.” My wife tells me I am going to be shot by one of them one day if I don’t quit saying that. I am an upfront, plainspoken man, though. Like I said, the Freemans were nice black folks. If they had been the type Tharpe is, then picking between life or death for Tharpe wouldn’t have mattered so much. My feeling is, what would be the difference. As it was, because I knew the victim and her husband’s family and knew them all to be good black folks, I felt Tharpe, who wasn’t in the “good” black folks category in my book, should get the electric chair for what he did. Some of the jurors voted for death because they felt that Tharpe should be an example to other blacks who kill blacks, but that wasn’t my reason. The others wanted blacks to know they weren’t going to get away with killing each other. After studying the Bible, I have wondered if black people even have souls. Integration started in Genesis. I think they were wrong. For example, look at O.J. Simpson. That white woman wouldn’t have been killed if she hadn’t have married that black man.”

Subsequently, the state habeas court allowed the parties to depose eleven of the juror who stilled lived in Georgia. The depositions were taken over a two day period (October 1 and 2, 1998) in the presence of the court. At his deposition, Gattie testified that he consumed alcohol every weekend. He stated 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. He complained that the affidavit was “taken all out of proportion,” or taken “[o]ut of context” and “was misconstrued.” (According to the Georgia Resource Center representatives who interviewed him, they informed Gattie who they were and the reason for their visit, and Gattie did not appear alcohol impaired.)

Gattie testified that he is not “against integration” or “against blacks.” He claimed to think African Americans “are hardworking people” and no more violent than other groups of individuals. Gattie stated that he used the term “nigger,” but not as a racial slur. Instead, he used it describe both white and black people who are “no good,” who do not work, or who commit crimes. Gattie also testified that race was not an issue at deliberations and he never used the term “nigger” during deliberations. In addition to Gattie, the other ten jurors 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. Tharpe tendered an affidavit from Tracy Simmons, the only juror who was not deposed, and he did not allege that race played any part in their deliberations or that anyone expressed racial animus or bias during deliberations. Respondent also submitted an affidavit from Gattie in which he stated he did not vote to impose the death penalty because of Tharpe’s race. Instead, he stated he voted for a death sentence because of “the evidence presented” and Tharpe’s lack of “remorse.” In this affidavit, Gattie again distanced himself from the statements shown in the affidavit he signed for Tharpe’s state habeas counsel. He claimed “parts of what he said [were] left out of the statement and other parts were written out of context.”

One thing not mentioned by the corporate media was the fact that Mr. Gattie was drunk when he made the statement. 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 said many of his statements “were taken out of context and simply not accurate.” 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?

There is no way to know what went on in the jury room twenty six years ago. The guilt of Mr. Tharpe was evident. Some would say the murder was not heinous enough to justify the death penalty. The jury was ten white people, and two black people. Murderpedia has details on the selection of the jury. As in most death penalty cases, there is talk about jury selection during the appeals. There was no way to know, when selecting Barney Gattie, that he would drunkenly use the n-word while talking to an attorney, seven years after the trial.

Pictures today are from The Library of Congress. Many of the photographs were taken in North Platte, Nebraska. John Vachon took the pictures in October, 1938. UPDATE SCOTUS issued a ruling on the case January 8, 2018, with a dissent from Justice Clarence Thomas.

Keith Tharpe And Jaquelin Freeman

Posted in Library of Congress, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on September 19, 2017

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Keith Leroy Tharpe, GDC ID: 0000173325, is currently scheduled to be executed on September 26, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. for the 1990 murder of his sister-in-law Jaquelin Freeman. There is little doubt regarding his guilt. The only controversy involves some statements by a juror. This is the short version of the story. If you want more details, see below.
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Murderpedia has the story of the slaying.”Tharpe’s wife, Migrisus Tharpe, left him on August 28, 1990 and moved in with her mother. Following various threats of violence made by the defendant to and about his wife and her family, a peace warrant was taken out against him, and the defendant was ordered not to have any contact with his wife or her family. Notwithstanding this order, Tharpe called his wife on September 24, 1990 and argued with her, saying if she wanted to “play dirty,” he would show her “what dirty was.”
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On the morning of the 25th, his wife and her sister-in-law met Tharpe as they drove to work. He used his vehicle to block theirs and force them to stop. He got out of his vehicle, armed with a shotgun and apparently under the influence of drugs, and ordered them out of their vehicle. After telling the sister-in-law he was going to “f— you up,” he took her to the rear of his vehicle, where he shot her. He rolled her into a ditch, reloaded, and shot her again, killing her. Tharpe then drove away with his wife. After unsuccessfully trying to rent a motel room, Tharpe parked by the side of the road and raped his wife. Afterward, he drove to Macon, where his wife was to obtain money from her credit union. Instead she called the police.”
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At the trial, Mr. Tharpe was found guilty, and sentenced to death. “The jury found the following statutory aggravating circumstances: 1. The offense of murder was committed while the offender was engaged in the commission of another capital felony, to wit: kidnapping with bodily injury of Jaquelin Freeman. 2. The offense of murder was committed while the offender was engaged in the commission of another capital felony, to wit: kidnapping with bodily injury of Migrisus Tharpe. 3. The offense of murder was outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible, or inhuman in that it involved an aggravated battery to the victim.”
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Eight years after the trial, one of the jurors was interviewed. He later claimed he was intoxicated during this interview. The juror, Barney Gattie, is now deceased. Here is the story.
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“Mr. Gattie expressed his feelings about the case in general. He stated that there are two kinds of black people in the world — “regular black folks” and “niggers.” Mr. Gattie noted that he understood that some people do not like the word “nigger” but that is just what they are, and he “tells it like he sees it.” According to Mr. Gattie, if the victim in Mr. Tharpe’s case had just been one of the niggers, he would not have cared about her death. But as it was, the victim was a woman from what Mr. Gattie considered to be one of the “good black families” in Gray [a city in Jones County]. He explained that her husband was an EMT. Mr. Gattie stated that that sort of thing really made a difference to him when he was deciding whether to vote for a death sentence. … But as soon as prosecutors saw Gattie’s sworn statement, they rushed to his home and got him to sign a counter-affidavit two days after he signed the first one. The new affidavit sought to nullify what he told Tharpe’s investigators. Gattie, who now swore he wasn’t a bigot, claimed he had been drinking beer and whiskey when he spoke to the defense, and didn’t pay much attention when the affidavit was read to him. He said many of his statements “were taken out of context and simply not accurate.” He signed the defense affidavit because he “just wanted to get rid of them.””
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Pictures today are from The Library of Congress. Russell Lee took the pictures in September 1937. Many were located in Williams County, North Dakota. UPDATE Mr. Tharpe has requested his Last Meal. “Tharpe requested a last meal of three spicy chicken breasts, roast beef sandwich with sauce, fish sandwich, tater logs, onion rings, apple pie, and a vanilla milkshake.” UPDATE SCOTUS stays execution of Georgia death row inmate amid claims of racial bias. UPDATE SCOTUS issued a ruling on the case January 8, 2018, with a dissent from Justice Clarence Thomas.

Methods Of Capital Punishment

Posted in Library of Congress, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on May 16, 2017


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 many of these issues in great detail. Pictures today are from The Library of Congress.

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.”

J.W. Ledford Jr. And Dr. Harry Johnston

Posted in Library of Congress, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on May 15, 2017


J.W. Ledford Jr. GDC 0000727017, is scheduled to be executed May 16, 2017. Mr. Ledford was convicted of the murder of Dr. Harry Johnston on January 31, 1992, in Murray County, Georgia. Dr. Johston was a long time neighbor of Mr. Ledford. According to Mattie Ledford, the mother of Mr. Ledford, “…Dr. Johnston was a nice man who would often provide her with free medical services. Dr. Johnston performed the Caesarean section that delivered Ledford when he was an infant. ”
There is little doubt that Mr. Ledford is guilty. Mr. Ledford has requested a firing squad for his execution, instead of lethal injection. This is the short version of the story. If you want more details, continue to read.
THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT issued opinion No. 14-15650 on March 21, 2016. This opinion will be the primary source of information for this case. If another source is used, a link will be provided. Here is the story of the murder:
“On January 31, 1992, at some time during mid-afternoon, Antoinette Johnston saw her husband, Dr. Harry Johnston, Jr., a “feeble” 73-year-old physician, drive away in his truck with an unidentified person in the passenger seat. About 15 or 20 minutes after the truck left, Ledford appeared at Mrs. Johnston’s front door, introduced himself, and asked if Dr. Johnston was home. Mrs. Johnston replied that Dr. Johnston was not home, and Ledford left. About ten minutes later, Ledford returned to the Johnston residence and asked Mrs. Johnston to tell Dr. Johnston to come to his house later that night. Mrs. Johnston said she would relay the message, and Ledford left.
Approximately ten minutes later, Ledford appeared at Mrs. Johnston’s front door again, but this time he brandished a knife belonging to Dr. Johnston and forced his way into the residence. Ledford put the knife to Mrs. Johnston’s throat, told her that he would kill her, and demanded that she give him all of her money and guns. Mrs. Johnston retreated to the bedroom, got her wallet, and gave Ledford what money she had. Ledford then saw a pistol on the bedside table, which belonged to Mrs. Johnston, and took it.
Next, Ledford grabbed Mrs. Johnston’s arm and forced her to walk to the kitchen and through the hallway, where Ledford spotted a rifle, a shotgun, and a second pistol, all belonging to the Johnstons, which he also took. Ledford forced Mrs. Johnston into the bedroom, told her to lie on the bed, threatened to kill her, and tied her hands together with rope. Ledford told Mrs. Johnston that he was doing this “for drugs.” Finally, Ledford cut the telephone cord in the bedroom, told Mrs. Johnston not to move for ten minutes, gathered the money and guns, and left out the front door.
After Ledford left, Mrs. Johnston ran to the front door, locked it, and went to the kitchen where she got a knife and attempted to cut her bindings loose. She then went back to the front living room, looked outside, and saw Ledford backing out of the driveway in Dr. Johnston’s truck. Dr. Johnston was not in the truck with Ledford, and Mrs. Johnston was worried about his safety. At approximately 3:45 PM, Mrs. Johnston called the police to report the robbery, and to express worry that Ledford had harmed her husband.
After the robbery, Ledford went to a pawn shop and pawned the rifle that he stole from the Johnston residence. He then went to a different pawn shop and pawned the shotgun that he stole from the Johnston residence. Ledford then drove Dr. Johnston’s truck to a convenience store, bought a pack of cigarettes, and left, heading southbound on the 411 highway. At approximately 4:15 PM, law enforcement officers pulled Ledford over on the side of the 411 highway and arrested him. They seized two handguns from the front seat of the truck, a buck knife and another small knife from the passenger’s side floorboard, and $245 from Ledford’s pants pocket.
At approximately 6:00 PM, detectives arrived at the Johnston residence. Dr. Johnston’s body was discovered near the garage of the residence, partially hidden under some tree limbs. A pool of blood was found in the garage, with a trail of blood leading to Dr. Johnston’s body. Buckled to Dr. Johnston’s belt was a sheath that would have held the buck knife recovered from the truck during Ledford’s arrest.
While in custody, law enforcement officers advised Ledford of his Miranda rights in writing. Ledford then voluntarily provided a legible and coherent hand-written statement where he confessed to stabbing Dr. Johnston. In his written confession, Ledford stated that he went to Dr. Johnston’s house at 2:00 PM to ask for a ride to the grocery store, which Dr. Johnston agreed to provide. On their way, Dr. Johnston accused Ledford of stealing and then drove the truck back to his house. According to Ledford, Dr. Johnston got out of the truck, brought Ledford to the side of his garage, and started to “smack” Ledford with his hand, causing Ledford to fall to the ground.
Ledford stated that Dr. Johnston then pulled a knife from the sheath in his belt and cut Ledford’s hand. In response, Ledford pulled out his own knife and “stuck” Dr. Johnston in the neck. Ledford got back on his feet and pulled the knife from Dr. Johnston’s neck, which “went over and cut the shit out of him.” Ledford dragged the body away and covered it up.
Next, Ledford stated that he entered the Johnston residence with a knife, tied up Mrs. Johnston, and stole a shotgun, a rifle, two pistols, and some money. He left the Johnston residence in Dr. Johnston’s truck and, at some point, threw his pocket knife out of the window onto the side of the road. Ledford subsequently took law enforcement officers to the site where he disposed of the knife, which the officers recovered.”
“… On June 10, 1992, Dr. Samuel Perri, a licensed psychologist, performed an initial psychological evaluation of Ledford at the county jail, … On the Weschsler Adult Intelligence Scale–Revised (“WAIS-R”), Ledford scored a 77, which placed him in the “upper part of the borderline range” for mental retardation. Dr. Perri opined that Ledford’s psychological profile suggested that “substance abuse [was] likely” for Ledford. … Ledford informed Dr. Perri that on the day of Dr. Johnston’s murder, he drank a six-pack of 16-ounce beers, smoked ten joints, and maybe took some pills, though he was not sure, and was generally “messed up.” … Dr. Perri noted that Ledford had a long history of substance abuse problems, including regular consumption of marijuana, whisky, and beer, and experimental consumption of acid, cocaine, and Quaaludes. Dr. Perri characterized Ledford’s substance abuse as his “most significant finding,” which could be considered mitigating evidence at the penalty phase, if Ledford were found guilty. ”
“…After determining that self-defense was not a viable option, (Attorney Sam) Little decided that Ledford’s primary defense would be that he involuntarily developed alcoholism when he was eight years old and, therefore, was involuntarily intoxicated on the day he killed Dr. Johnston. Little knew that voluntary intoxication was not a defense to murder. Thus, it was critical to demonstrate that, because of his childhood, Ledford was involuntarily intoxicated on the day of Dr. Johnston’s murder”
“…On this prejudice prong, we also consider that the state presented overwhelming evidence of Ledford’s factual guilt at trial, including his written confession, his assistance in recovering the murder weapon, Mrs. Johnston’s account of seeing him in her husband’s truck, her account of the robbery and being tied up by him, the pawn shop employees’ testimony as to the guns, and the forensic serologist’s testimony. Despite consuming a large amount of drugs and alcohol, Ledford was able to inflict wounds that required a significant amount of force, hide Dr. Johnston’s body (albeit crudely), force his way into the Johnston residence, cut the phone line, tie up Mrs. Johnston, drive away, and discard the murder weapon. All of this is ample evidence demonstrating that, despite his consumption of drugs and alcohol, Ledford maintained some cognitive faculties during and after Dr. Johnston’s murder.”
According to the affidavits, Ledford had a rough childhood. He grew up in a poor, rural, mountain community in Georgia with six sisters and little supervision. Ledford’s father abused drugs and alcohol, was frequently absent, and when present, sold drugs out of the family home. Ledford’s mother was typically away at work, leaving Ledford either unsupervised or with his father. Ledford’s home was very unstable, and he would frequently stay with neighbors or other family members.
Ledford’s father would occasionally enter into a drunken rage, chase the children around with a gun, and threaten to kill them. On one occasion, Ledford’s father held a gun to his head and threatened to kill himself in front of Ledford. On another occasion, he chased Ledford’s mother down the street and shot at her. He frequently beat the children, leaving bruises and welts.
While Ledford was a sweet, loving, and well-behaved child, he had no supervision. As a result, he began abusing drugs and alcohol at a very young age. Ledford’s sister recalled that he vomited from drinking when he was eight years old. Ledford’s father gave him drugs during his childhood. Eventually, Ledford would use any drug made available to him, including acid, crack, and cocaine, and was heavily into drugs as a teenager. On one occasion, Ledford accidentally shot off his finger while high. Despite his addictions, Ledford desperately wanted to get sober. At one point, Ledford told his mother that he would kill himself if he did not get help.
Ledford had several positive relationships with his neighbors and family members. He would frequently help neighbors with their chores, babysit for neighbors, commit acts of chivalry for his sisters, and was generally happiest when helping others. He expressed an interest in joining the Peace Corps. In 1989,Ledford’s close friend was murdered, which he took “very hard.”
Ledford was not very smart and had trouble with school. He had trouble reading, failed the first grade, and was twice held back a grade. During middle school, an older woman frequently signed him out of class so that they could drink together. Ledford dropped out when he was 16, during his freshman year of high school. … In the months leading up to Dr. Johnston’s death, Ledford began acting very strangely. He was heavily abusing drugs and became increasingly irrational and paranoid. Family members were shocked that Ledford killed Dr. Johnston. …”
“… On July 31, 1997, Dr. Susan Fiester, a psychiatrist, examined Ledford for six hours. At the outset of her affidavit, Dr. Fiester noted the following with respect to Ledford’s background:(1) Ledford suffered “significant birth trauma,” having been delivered by Caesarean section and having almost died at birth; (2) Ledford suffered more than 15 episodes of head trauma throughout his life, many of which involved significant trauma and loss of consciousness; (3) many of Ledford’s family members suffered from substance abuse problems and psychiatric illness; (4) Ledford himself had substance abuse problems and suffered “severe consequences” from his drug use, including job loss; and (5) in 1992, Ledford typically ingested eight to ten milligrams of Xanax per day, but had only taken two milligrams on the day of the murder. Dr. Fiester concluded that, due to Ledford’s acute intoxication and Xanax withdrawal, it was “highly unlikely, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that [he] formed an intent to kill his victim.”
” … Dr. Zimmerman identified several potential causes of Ledford’s intellectual disability. He opined that (1) Ledford’s abuse of drugs and alcohol significantly retarded his developmental functions; (2) organic brain damage caused by two head injuries resulting in unconsciousness may have contributed to the development of Ledford’s intellectual disability; (3) Ledford’s intellectual disability may be congenital, as records indicated that Ledford’s mother had tested at the borderline or mild range of intellectual disability; and (4) Ledford’s unsupervised upbringing in a low socio-economic class may have contributed to his deficient intellectual development.”
” … At the penalty phase, Ledford’s counsel resubmitted the evidence presented at the guilt phase and called Mattie Ledford, his mother, to testify…. At the penalty phase, trial counsel Little had several other witnesses lined up to testify on Ledford’s behalf. But Ledford’s mother testified first and her testimony made nine to eleven jurors cry, along with the rest of the courtroom. Little found Mrs. Ledford’s testimony so emotionally compelling that no other witnesses were needed to present mitigating evidence.” A footnote on page 17: “On cross-examination, Mrs. Ledford testified that Dr. Johnston was a nice man who would often provide her with free medical services. Dr. Johnston performed the Caesarean section that delivered Ledford when he was an infant.”
Despite Mrs. Ledford’s testimony, and the claim on involuntary intoxication, Mr. Ledford was sentenced to death. The traditional claims of ineffective counsel were made. During the twenty five years between the death of Dr. Johnston, and the planned execution of Mr. Ledford, the death sentence was sustained by the courts.
A unique wrinkle in this case is a request for a firing squad. JW Ledford Jr lawyers want firing squad, not injection “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.”
Condemned inmate wants steak, chicken, pork chop for last meal “The Department of Corrections on Thursday released Ledford’s requested menu: filet mignon wrapped in bacon with pepper Jack cheese, large French fries, 10 chicken tenders with sauce, fried pork chop, bloomin’ onion, pecan pie with vanilla ice cream, sherbert and Sprite.”
Pictures today are from The Library of Congress. Esther Bubley took the pictures in January, 1943. “Washington, D.C. A boardinghouse rule forbids men guest to come into girls’ rooms and vice versa” Pictures are from the Office of War Information.
UPDATE JW Ledford died at 1:17am, May 17, 2017. Lethal Injection was used.

William Sallie And John Moore

Posted in Library of Congress, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on December 1, 2016

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Short Version: The state of Georgia is planning to execute William Sallie on December 6, 2016. Mr. Sallie was convicted of killing John Moore on March 29, 1990. Mr. Moore was the father of Mr. Sallie’s estranged wife Robin. Mr. Sallie has not been served well by his attorneys. “William Cary Sallie left his home near Peoria, Illinois, in 1985 to join the U.S. Army. Stationed at Fort Stewart in south Georgia, he dated an Alma woman and the two were married”
“The Georgia Supreme Court summarized the facts of the case as follows: The evidence presented at trial showed the following: William Sallie and his wife, Robin, separated in December 1989 and Robin sought a divorce. Sallie had been physically abusive to Robin during their marriage and his striking her with a belt had precipitated the separation. They had a two-year-old baby named Ryan. Robin and Ryan went to live with her parents, John and Linda Moore, in their rural house in Bacon County. Robin’s seventeen-year-old sister, April, and her nine-year-old brother, Justin, also lived there. Shortly thereafter, under the pretense of seeing Ryan at the Moores’ house, Sallie abducted Ryan and went to Illinois, where he lived. However, an Illinois court awarded temporary custody of Ryan to Robin, and she returned with him to the Moores’ house in February 1990.
In March 1990, Sallie returned to Georgia and rented a mobile home in Liberty County using the name Bill Simons. Also in March, he had a friend purchase a nine millimeter pistol for him in Illinois. On March 28, 1990, Sallie dressed in green camouflage and went to the Moores’ house at night; he carried the pistol, a roll of duct tape, and four sets of handcuffs. At approximately 10:00 p.m., April was talking to her boyfriend when the phone line went dead. She did not think this was unusual and went to bed. It was later discovered that Sallie had ripped the wires from the phone box on the outside wall. At 12:45 a.m., after everyone inside was asleep, Sallie pried open the back door and entered the house. He went immediately to the master bedroom, flicked on the lights, and shot John and Linda Moore as they lay in bed. John was struck by six bullets, including two that damaged his heart. He tried to get out of bed, but he collapsed, fell on the floor, and died. Linda was shot in the thumb, the shoulder, and both thighs. Sallie then fled outside and reloaded. When Robin and April were in the master bedroom trying to help their parents, Sallie fired two more shots through the bedroom window, hitting no one. They doused the light and pleaded with Sallie to let them get help for their parents. April tried to leave the house to get help (the nearest neighbor was 1/4 of a mile away), but Sallie confronted her on the porch and told her to stay in the house or he would blow her head off. Sallie eventually re-entered the house and handcuffed Justin and Linda, who was still bleeding from her wounds, to each other and to a bed rail. He bound Robin and April to each other with handcuffs and duct tape, and he abducted them to his Liberty County mobile home where he raped them both. He left his two-year-old son in the master bedroom. After a few hours, Linda and Justin managed to extricate themselves from the bed rail and reach a neighbor, who summoned the police. Sallie released Robin and April in Bacon County the night of March 29 after asking them not to press charges. He was arrested shortly thereafter. The police found the murder weapon in his mobile home.
In death penalty appeals, a frequent charge is inadequate representation by the attorney. In other words, the lawyer did not do their job. In Mr. Sallies case, this seems to be especially true. The man just can’t seem to get a good lawyer. In his first trial, his attorney was also working as a law clerk for the judge. Here is what SALLIE v. THE STATE had to say about this.
“Sallie contends that one of his appointed trial lawyers, Wendell Boyd English, was operating under a conflict of interest that effectively denied Sallie his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. We agree. Shortly after his arrest, the trial court appointed Earl McRae to defend Sallie. McRae asked for assistance and the trial court appointed Boyd English as McRae’s co-counsel in May 1990. English represented Sallie until the conclusion of his trial in March 1991.
The conflict arises from English’s concurrent employment as the sole judicial law clerk for the Waycross Judicial Circuit. Employment records show that English was employed as the circuit’s law clerk from April 1987 to May 1989, and from August to October 1990. He was rehired in December 1990, four months before Sallie’s trial, and continued as the circuit’s law clerk until 1996.
The state claims that English was a part-time law clerk who only worked for the chief judge of the circuit. English states in his affidavit that he was hired by the chief judge as his personal law clerk and that he had no contact in his capacity as a law clerk with the other two superior court judges in the Waycross Circuit, including the trial judge. Payroll records, however, show that English was expected to work at least 40 hours per week and that his monthly pay ranged from about $1,800 in 1987 to $2,350 in 1996. In addition, English’s personnel forms list his position as “Law Clerk — Waycross Judicial Circuit,” and state that he serves the circuit….Although English served at the pleasure of the chief judge of the Waycross Circuit, it is clear that his position served the entire circuit and all three superior court judges in the circuit…. We have never before addressed a conflict of interest that arises from a lawyer’s simultaneous role as criminal defense attorney and law clerk in the same court where he is trying the case. We have also not uncovered any cases in other jurisdictions that present the same issue. Most criminal conflict-of-interest cases involve one attorney representing multiple defendants…. The situation in this case is unique because English occupied the job of criminal defense attorney and law clerk in the same court at the same time.
We conclude that an actual conflict of interest existed in this case and reverse the convictions…the conflict here is obvious and, given the enormity of the penalty in this case, completely impermissible. Sallie did not waive his right to conflict-free representation. The evidence is uncontroverted that he was never informed of English’s role as the law clerk for the Waycross Judicial Circuit. Sallie’s lawyer represented a capital defendant in the same court in which he was a full-time law clerk. We cannot allow such a conflict of interest to exist in a death penalty case. … We therefore reverse and remand for a new trial.”
There were some lawyer problems at the second trial. “On direct appeal, Sallie was represented by Palmer Singleton and Christopher Johnson, both with the Southern Center for Human Rights (“Southern Center”).” The legal opinion linked to goes into great detail. The issues are convoluted and legalistic, and will cause brain damage to observers not used to legal opinions.
Then there is the juror at the second trial. “During jury selection in February 2001, jurors were asked a series of questions, including whether they’d been victims of a crime or known a crime victim, if they’d been victims of domestic violence, if a family member had a criminal history and if they’d been in a child custody fight.
Sallie’s lawyers contend a 28-year-old Houston County woman ultimately chosen to be on the jury withheld information about her “messy divorces,” domestic abuse, participation in an “ugly” child custody fight and other details that they say would have disqualified her from jury service on a case “so bizarrely similar” to her life experiences, according to the lawyers’ news release.
She “maintained positions regarding her personal experiences that are starkly at odds with the extensive court records and other public documents and information manifesting her background,” Sallie’s lawyers have written in court filings. Court records have shown the woman had been divorced four times, with the most recent divorce being finalized in Houston County during the same month as Sallie’s trial….Later asked about her answers to questions asked during jury selection, the woman submitted an affidavit affirming her answers, according to court filings in the case. … She later bragged to an investigator that she convinced an evenly divided jury to vote unanimously for a death sentence, according to the release.
Although Sallie’s trial lawyer did seek a new trial, he didn’t conduct research on the juror, even after he learned of her “adulterous liaison” with a fellow juror. The jury had been sequestered in a hotel during the trial, but was released after the sentencing. Sallie’s lawyers allege the woman enticed a married man on the jury to stay with her after the trial.
Days after Sallie’s sentencing, a juror’s wife called the judge to ask when the trial would be over. Bailiffs were sent to the 28-year-old woman’s home to inform the male juror that his wife was asking about his whereabouts, according to the release.The judge informed lawyers for both the prosecution and defense about the situation about a week after the sentencing.
As the execution date nears, more information is coming out about the wayward juror. The woman said “she would follow Biblical law over Georgia law.” This same woman had been divorced four times. The judge at the trial presided over three of the woman’s divorces. “One of those divorces … was particularly acrimonious and contained dramatic courtroom scenes.” The judge allowed the woman to serve on the jury. Mr. Sallies lawyers could not stop it, which led to these lawyers resigning from the case… they knew they would have to file a claim of inadequate representation against themselves. As a result, Mr. Sallie was without a lawyer at a critical time in the appeal process, and missed an important filing deadline by eight days.
UPDATE William Sallie died at 10:05 pm, December 6, 2016. His request for the last meal was ” a medium pizza with sausage and pepperoni, chicken wings with buffalo sauce and a large soda.”
Pictures are from The Library of Congress. These men fought in the War Between the States.

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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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Gregory Lawler, Rick Sowa, Pat Cocciolone

Posted in GSU photo archive, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on October 17, 2016

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Gregory Paul Lawler, GDC ID:0000694017, is scheduled to be executed Wednesday, October 19. Mr. Lawler was convicted for the killing of Atlanta Police Officer John Richard “Rick” Sowa. Officer Patricia Cocciolone was severely wounded, but lived. Here is the official story, from the Georgia Attorney General. Links will be provided to additional information.

The evidence adduced at trial showed the following: Lawler and his girlfriend, Donna Rodgers, were drinking at a bar near their Atlanta apartment at approximately 9:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 12, 1997. Ms. Rodgers was very intoxicated. They left the bar and began walking home when they had some type of altercation in the parking lot of a pawn shop. A person at a nearby gas station believed that Lawler was striking an intoxicated Ms. Rodgers with a bag. He drove to a police station and reported what he had seen. Officer Cocciolone and Officer Sowa went to the parking lot and observed Ms. Rodgers sitting on a curb with Lawler trying to pull her to her feet. Lawler left the scene and walked to the apartment when the police arrived. The officers did not pursue Lawler; since Ms. Rodgers was intoxicated and lived only a short distance away, they decided to help her get home. They placed her in a patrol car and drove to her and Lawler’s apartment, which was a two-story townhouse-style apartment with a ground floor door. (The apartment was on Morosgo Way, near the Lindbergh MARTA station. The apartment has been torn down.)

They parked on the street, escorted her up the walk (witnesses testified that she had difficulty standing), and knocked on the door. Lawler opened the door and began yelling “get the f— away from my door” at the officers. After Ms. Rodgers was inside, he tried to shut the door on them. Officer Sowa put a hand up to prevent the door from shutting and said they were just trying to confirm that Ms. Rodgers lived there and that she would be okay. Lawler grabbed an AR-15 rifle he had placed next to the door when he saw the officers arrive and opened fire on the officers as they fled for cover. A neighbor testified that she heard a young man’s voice shout, “Please don’t shoot me”; another neighbor testified that she saw Lawler emerge from the apartment firing a gun; and a third neighbor testified that she saw the officers running with their backs to the apartment during the shooting. Lawler fired fifteen times; the police found three shell casings inside the apartment and the remainder outside the apartment. A fourth neighbor … saw Lawler standing over the crumpled form of Officer Cocciolone holding what appeared to be a rifle; Lawler then ran back into the apartment. Lawler had fired penetrator bullets, which can pierce police body armor.

Officer Cocciolone managed to send a radio distress call and other police officers arrived at the scene. They found the victims in front of Lawler’s apartment, with Officer Sowa lying next to a parked car near the sidewalk and Officer Cocciolone collapsed on the front yard. Both officers still had their pistols snapped into their holsters. Officer Sowa was shot five times in the back, buttocks, and chest, and, according to the medical examiner, died almost immediately. Officer Cocciolone was hit three times in the head, arm, and buttocks. Despite a shattered pelvis, damaged intestines, and permanent brain injury, she survived and testified at Lawler’s trial.

One of the responding officers, Sergeant Adams, peered through Lawler’s front window and saw Ms. Rodgers sitting on the floor. He opened the front door and entered the apartment. While inside, he heard footfalls upstairs and the sound of a rifle action being worked so he retreated from the apartment and took Ms. Rodgers with him. After a six-hour stand-off, a hostage negotiator convinced Lawler to surrender. The murder weapon, the AR-15 rifle, was found in the apartment along with numerous other firearms and several different types of ammunition. Lawler’s co-worker testified that Lawler had expressed his “extreme dislike” of the police and stated that if any tried to enter his home he would be ready for them.

On March 1, 2000, following a jury trial, Lawler was convicted of malice murder, felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault on a peace officer, aggravated battery on a peace officer, and two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. The jury’s recommendation of a death sentence for malice murder was returned on March 3, 2000.

During the trial: “… Gregory Lawler was on trial in Fulton Superior Court, he took the stand and testified that he didn’t trust police. He brought up the Rodney King police beating, from 1991. “It’s just another example, it confirmed what I personally experienced, You know, I’ve seen them do that.” Lawler claimed then that he was the victim, and shot the officers in self-defense — despite the state’s evidence to the contrary.”

During the 2003 appeal, ” Mr. Lawyer made claims: …a constitutional or statutory fair-cross-section violation with regard to the Fulton County grand and traverse jury lists… the State’s use of victim-impact evidence … the trial court’s denials of Lawler’s motions to suppress evidence… motions to excuse for cause 13 prospective jurors…” The verdict of the court: “Judgment affirmed.”

During a later appeal before The United States District Court: “Lawler argues his trial counsel were ineffective because they failed to (1) adequately investigate his mental health, (2) retain a forensic pathologist, and (3) adequately interview and cross-examine Jabus Steed, a witness for the prosecution. Lawler also asserts the prosecution knowingly offered false testimony. ” The verdict of the lower court was affirmed.

Pat Cocciolone has had to struggle to recover. The city of Atlanta has not been helpful, as seen in this story: Former APD officer says city won’t pay for surgery related to on-duty shooting. Officer Cocciolone has not commented on the impending execution.

Pictures are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”. UPDATE The state Board of Pardon and Parole considered a plea for clemency Tuesday morning. “The board heard from Lawler’s attorneys, his brother and a neuropsychologist who specializes in autism spectrum disorder. His application for clemency says Lawler has Asperger’s syndrome that went undiagnosed until just 3 weeks ago…. Lawler requested a last meal consisting of ribeye steak, a baked potato with sour cream, asparagus, dinner rolls with butter, French onion soup, strawberries, pistachio ice cream, milk and apple juice.” UPDATE Gregory Lawler died at 11:49 pm October 19, 2016. He is the 44th Georgia death row inmate executed by lethal injection.

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