When You Agree With Justice Thomas

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







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.








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

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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
“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.””
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







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.






Steven Frederick Spears And Sherri Holland

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









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.










Gregory Lawler, Rick Sowa, Pat Cocciolone

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









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.









Rumors Of War

Posted in History, Library of Congress, Politics, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on July 19, 2016

Matt Taibbi (pronounced like Tybee Island) spent some quality time with his computer the other day. The post was about the Tea Party, but took a couple of detours en route.

The preamble was about the execution of John Wayne Gacy . For those with short memories, Mr. Gacy was not a nice man. He entertained children wearing a clown costume, before he molested and murdered children. The crawl space to his Illinois home was used for storage. After a while, Mr. Gacy was caught, and sentenced to die.

This is where the story kicks in. A friend of Mr. Taibbi covered the scene outside the prison, on the night that Mr. Gacy was poisoned by the state. A festive crowd had gathered to celebrate. As the party was breaking up, the reporter started to interview a young man. The chat went like this:
“You’re not against capital punishment, are you?” “I’m not against capital punishment,I’m against enjoying capital punishment.”
A few years ago, PG was working with someone who told stories. A celebrity murderer was going to be executed, this time using the electric chair. An Atlanta radio station had a parking lot party to celebrate the frying. (PG cannot remember the name of the murderer, nor the state of the execution). The wife of the co worker baked a cake to celebrate the occasion. It was decorated with a bright yellow icing, to resemble a fried egg.

The arguments for and against capital punishment are many. For the foreseeable future, it is a fact of life in Georgia. PG (who has written several posts on the subject ) feels that, while there are some despicable people, the justice system is too flawed to administer capital punishment properly. At the very least, the execution of a criminal is not a time for celebration.

Capital punishment is compared to war, abortion, and euthanasia. All are times where a conscious decision is made to end a human life. Is it proper to enjoy any of these activities?

The easy one is euthanasia. Does anyone enjoy euthanasia, or spend much time campaigning against it? The case of Terri Schiavo is the most prominent, and some did try to make political hay out of it. That really didn’t catch on, as many people saw the shades of gray involved, and were mostly glad they were not the one to make the decision.

Do people enjoy abortion? The procedure itself is not celebrated, and is cloaked in quiet shame. On the other hand, PG suspects that the opponents of abortion are having a bit too much fun with their activities. The morality of using abortion as a vehicle for power is another subject for debate.

Do people enjoy war? HELL YEA. Firing up people on the home front is an essential part of a successful war. When the conflict drags on, and victory or truce begins to seem impossible, the war may lose some of it’s luster. The glamorization of war makes the conflict much more likely. Maybe if the attitude about war was similar to the attitude about euthanasia, we would have less of them.

Tom Dispatch has an audio feature about Afghanistan, and the many unanswered questions about our war there. It is apparent to PG that we invaded Afghanistan to get revenge for 911, and looked for a reason later.

Tom begins the monologue by discussing the prospects for Gen. Petraeus (spell check suggestions:Petroleum, Perpetrates,) and how a success there may actually be worse than failure. If we “conquer” Afghanistan, we will hold “the fifth poorest country on earth, the second most corrupt country, the world’s premier narco state.”

At the 3:06 mark on the tape, when Tom makes the comment about narco (spell check suggestions: Narcissus) state, PG had a flash of understanding, and a possibility for the reason behind this war. This may even have been powerful enough for the powers that be to ignore the reports about a terror strike in September 2001, and passively let 911 happen.

The rumors of CIA involvement in drug trafficking are wide spread and long term. When planes went to Central America in the eighties to bring arms to the contras, they came back to the United States loaded with cocaine. There are stories of collusion with the government in Cuba. There are many, many more stories about connections between the US government and the drug trade.

When the Taliban took over Afghanistan, they cracked down on the poppy farmers. Much of the raw opium for heroin/morphine/opium is grown in Afghanistan. This was not a pleasing for the CIA.

Could it be that the real reason for our involvement in Afghanistan is to ensure the flow of narcotics into the hungry world? This would be a big cash cow for the CIA, although not enough to justify the amounts of money being spent on the conflict.

This is a double repost. Pictures are from The Library of Congress.

John Wayne Conner And James T. White

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









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









All White Jury

Posted in Library of Congress, Race, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on May 23, 2016







The British story had an inflammatory headline: US supreme court voids Georgia man’s death sentence over racial bias on jury “The US supreme court on Monday delivered a stinging rebuke to the southern state of Georgia for having concocted an all-white jury to send a black man to death row, ruling that prosecutors intentionally skewed the process by striking out all prospective black jurors in an act of blatant racial discrimination.” Here is the SCOTUS ruling.

A Rome GA newspaper had a story on the case, Race is key to Timothy Tyrone Foster appeal before U.S. Supreme Court. “Queen White lived by herself in Rome. She’d retired after teaching over 30 years and had been a fourth-grade teacher at Johnson Elementary School. By all accounts she was loved by her friends, former co-workers and students. (SCOTUS notes “Timothy Tyrone Foster, an eighteen-year-old African-American, was charged in 1986 with killing Queen Madge White, an elderly white woman, in Rome, Georgia.”)
On Aug. 27, 1986, at approximately 8:30 p.m. a friend took White to choir practice and brought her back to her Highland Circle home near the Coosa Valley Fairgrounds.White talked to her sister on the telephone around 9 p.m. Her sister stopped by early the next morning, discovered White’s house had been ransacked and found her body lying on the floor of her bedroom.According to court records, she was covered up to her chin by a blanket, and her face was covered in talcum powder. Her jaw was broken, and she had a severe gash on the top of her head. Before she had been strangled to death, White had been molested with a salad-dressing bottle.
Police had suspects, and Foster — who lived nearby — was one of them. But they had no evidence linking him to the crime. Nearly a month later Foster was arrested after threatening his live-in companion on Green & Gold Boulevard. She responded to his threats by turning him in. White’s possessions were recovered from their home and from Foster’s two sisters. Foster confessed to the killing shortly after his arrest.
The community was outraged over the brutal circumstances of the murder, and several lawyers refused to represent Foster. “Obviously (Foster) was an African-American and (White) was a beloved member of our community,” (Mr. Foster’s lawyer Bob) Finnell said. “She was a lovely person.”

Apparently, Mr. Foster had a tough life. There was some dispute about whether he was mentally ill, or “retarded.” “A defense psychiatrist testified that Foster was so intoxicated from the ingestion of alcohol, marijuana and cocaine that he did not know the difference between right and wrong at the time of the crime.”

“Part of the Foster’s defense against the death penalty was to show the dire circumstances of his life — an environmental defense — essentially “look at where this kid came from,” Finnell said. His lawyers spoke with Foster’s father and asked him to take the stand to talk about Foster’s life. He said he wouldn’t do it. “He told me ‘We smoke our dope, we laugh and I can always make another kid,’” Finnell said. “You wonder how could somebody say that about his child. It was chilling.”

In death penalty cases, jury selection issues frequently come up in appeals. These have a way of being “inside baseball,” and can cause brain damage to casual observers. In Mr. Foster’s case, apparently four Black people were struck from the jury. The Georgia courts ruled that the reasons given for striking the black jurors were valid. SCOTUS disagrees.

In today’s ruling, much is made of a note the prosecutors used. In this note, the race of prospective jurors was noted. The Georgia court ruled: “4. The trial court did not err by denying Foster’s post-trial motion to review in camera the state’s jury-selection notes. An attorney’s work product is generally non-discoverable. A defendant’s right to exculpatory evidence under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U. S. 83 (83 SC 1194, 10 LE2d 215) (1963), is not involved here, and non-exculpatory information in an attorney’s work product does not become discoverable simply because the opposing attorneys might find it strategically useful.” Pictures today are from The Library of Congress.







Kenneth Fults And Cathy Bounds

Posted in Library of Congress, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on April 8, 2016










Kenneth Earl Fults is scheduled to be executed on April 12. Mr. Fults (GDC ID: 0000927117) was convicted of killing Cathy Bounds on January 30, 1996. Here is exerpts from the Press Advisory, issued by Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens.

The evidence adduced at Fults’ sentencing trial showed that he carried out a week-long crime spree which was centered, at least in part, upon his desire to murder a man who was engaged in a relationship with his former girlfriend. Fults first committed two burglaries, obtaining several handguns. After a failed attempt at murdering his former girlfriend’s new boyfriend with one of the stolen handguns, Fults then burglarized the home of his next-door neighbors. After the male neighbor left for work, Fults forced his way through the front door wearing gloves and a hat pulled down over his face. Fults confronted the female occupant of the home, Cathy Bounds, brandishing a .22 caliber handgun he had stolen during one of the burglaries. Ms. Bounds begged for her life and offered Fults the rings on her fingers. Fults turned Ms. Bounds around toward the bedroom, either taped or forced her to tape her eyes closed by wrapping over six feet of electrical tape around her head, forced her into the bedroom, placed her face-down on her bed, placed a pillow over her head, and shot her five times in the back of the head.

A search of Fults’ trailer home revealed a boastful letter he had written in gang code in which he described the murder with some alterations of detail. Upon being confronted with this letter by a law enforcement officer, Fults confessed to killing Ms. Bounds but maintained that he had shot her by accident while in a dream-like state. The murder weapon was recovered from under Fults’ trailer home, and .22 caliber shell casings shown to have been fired by the murder weapon as well as items from the earlier burglaries were found behind Fults’ trailer home.”

Kenneth Fults is black. His victim, Cathy Bounds, apparently is white. Chamblee54 has been unable to find a picture of Ms. Bounds. One indication that she is white is a comment made by juror Thomas Buffington. “In a footnote to the 22-page decision, the three-judge appellate panel noted that “Buffington denied having any racial prejudices” during voir dire questioning before the trial. … Buffington had told the court back in 1997 “that it did not matter that Mr. Fults was black and that Ms. Bounds was white,” the footnote states.” We will hear about Thomas Buffington again.

There are indications that his attorney, Johnny Mostiler, was incompetent. “Former jurors on the case have since signed affidavits saying that Kenneth’s trial lawyer made little effort to save his client from, and was seen to be asleep during the proceedings. ‘Mr Fults’s lawyer… was uninterested in what was happening, and it seemed like something was wrong with him. I saw him fall asleep repeatedly during the trial, and he would wake up, startled, when it was his turn to examine witnesses. I saw him sleeping off and on throughout the whole trial.’

Kenneth Fults had a tough life. There are indications that he is “intellectually disabled.” Mother Jones discusses these issues in detail. “I just lost sight of raising my kids,” his mother, Juanita Wyatt, told a state court judge, explaining the result of her crack and alcohol addictions. She was court-martialed from the military for writing bad checks to buy drugs, moved her children from house to house and state to state, abused them with switches and belts and electrical cords—using the plug end when the cord itself ceased to have the necessary impact. Whatever boyfriend happened to be with her at the time often joined in. As for Kenneth’s father, the man was no more than a name to him.

Kenneth’s mother didn’t just lose sight of raising her children—she lost sight of them entirely. His younger sister remembered how their mom had abandoned the kids after moving the family to Houston: “We stayed there alone without any adults watching over us so long that the power company had turned off all the utilities. We didn’t have heat or lights; I don’t remember if we had water. I don’t remember how long we were alone…I know it was at least a couple of months. I was really scared. Kenny and Michael tried to make it like it was fun and we were just camping out or something. I know they started stealing for us to have something to eat, because we did not have any money. I also remember that Michael had them dig a hole in the ground in the backyard to bury some of our food to try and keep it cold when our electricity was turned off.”

Legally speaking, the most compelling reason not to sentence Fults to death is that he may be intellectually disabled. Three separate IQ tests over a 16-year period, one of them seven years prior to the murder, all fall within the range for mental retardation. By seventh grade, Fults was testing near the bottom in basic skills. In eighth, he was placed in a “special class…for slow learners.” In that class, a former teacher recalled, Kenny was the “poorest performing student.” There also was abundant testimony that he was incapable of keeping his money straight or filling out job applications. And as a child, he related to far younger children.”

There is the possibility that others were involved in the killing. “Fults contends that his trial counsel, who is now deceased, rendered ineffective assistance by failing to investigate more fully Fults’ claim that other persons were involved and were more culpable in the murder than he was. … Fults testified in the evidentiary hearing held on remand that he informed his trial counsel approximately two weeks before jury selection began that several other persons were involved in the burglary of the victim’s trailer home and that another person, identified by Fults in the evidentiary hearing as “D.” and as “Derrick Smith,” did the actual shooting at the behest of someone identified as “K. G.” Fults further testified, however, that he would not have allowed trial counsel to present this theory about the crime at trial and that he had informed his trial counsel that he would not testify about the alleged co-perpetrators because he feared for the safety of his daughter.”

Perhaps the strangest thing about this case is juror Thomas Buffington. “It was not until April 2005, eight years after sentencing, that Fults claimed in an amended state habeas corpus petition that the “improper biases of jurors … infected their deliberations,” causing them to “improperly prejudg[e]” his case. In support of that claim, Fults provided a handwritten, signed and notarized affidavit from one of the sentencing jurors, Thomas Buffington, dated two days before the petition was filed. “I don’t know if he ever killed anybody, but that nigger got just what should have happened,” Buffington wrote. “Once he pled guilty, I knew I would vote for the death penalty because that’s what that nigger deserved.”

“Court papers offer no explanation for why eight years elapsed between the trial and Buffington’s comments to the investigator. Lindsay N. Bennett, an assistant federal public defender in Sacramento, California, who is representing Fults, said it is common in Georgia for a defendant’s legal team to reach out to jurors at that stage of an appeal, but not earlier. “During the course of the interview about his jury service, he made the statements reflected in the affidavit,” Bennett said. “They caught the investigator completely off guard because she had no reason to believe prior to that time that this was the case.” Buffington further surprised the investigator by agreeing to sign the statement.”

Mr. Fults requested “a t-bone steak, baked potato with butter, brown rice and apple juice ” for his last meal. Pictures today are from The Library of Congress. UPDATE: Kenneth Fults died at 7:37 pm, April 12, 2016.”…he ended the prayer offered by the chaplain with, “Amen.””