[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----ARK., KAN., IND., ILL.. OKLA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Dec 9 10:31:07 CST 2004
Possible Death Sentence Avoided by Guilty Plea to First-degree Murder
A man accused in a murder-for-hire scheme has avoided a possible death
penalty by pleading guilty to a reduced charge of 1st-degree murder.
36-year-old James Chadwick Renfro of Jacksonville was initially charged in
Independence County with capital murder. But his plea to the lesser charge
Tuesday drew a sentence of life in prison, with a possibility of parole.
Police say Renfro was hired by 58-year-old Katy Wood to kill her husband,
52-year-old Thomas Wood, who was fatally shot at his home in the Cord
community on July 13th, 2000.
Katy Wood is charged with capital murder, and police say Renfro is
cooperating with prosecutors.
(source: Associated Press)
Stallings avoids death sentence
A Wyandotte County jury spared Darrell Lamont Stallings' life on Tuesday.
Stallings was convicted on 5 counts of capital murder, attempted
1st-degree murder, criminal discharge of a firearm and criminal possession
of a firearm. District Court Judge Thomas Boeding allowed Stallings to
address the jury before they decided his sentence for the capital murder
"I am terribly sorrowful for every single precious life that I am
responsible for who is no longer with their loved ones," he told the jury
in his statement.
(source: The (Kansas City) Kansan)
Execution date for Wallace sought
In what may be one of the final steps in a 23-year process of appeals, the
Indiana attorney general has petitioned the Indiana Supreme Court to set
an execution date for death row inmate Donald Ray Wallace Jr.
The petition was filed earlier this week in response to the Nov. 29
decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to deny Wallace's final federal appeal
of his murder convictions for the 1980 slaying of an Evansville family.
But before the Indiana Supreme Court can set the execution date, it must
first decide whether to give Wallace one more chance to argue why he
shouldn't have been sentenced to death after he was convicted in 1982 of
killing Theresa and Patrick Gilligan, and their 2 children, Lisa, 5, and
Greg, 4. Wallace has appealed his death-row sentence 6 times over the
years, and has lost every appeal at the state and federal level. But that
record hasn't stopped Wallace's attorneys from trying again, even though
they have no new legal arguments to present in the case.
This week, Wallace's attorneys asked the Indiana Supreme Court to postpone
setting an execution date for Wallace, and has asked the court to grant
Wallace "post-conviction relief" instead. Their request is based on what
one of Wallace's attorneys calls a "hyper-technical" legal argument over
how the original sentencing judge in the Wallace case issued his death-row
ruling. The appeal does not involve issues of guilt, according to
Wallace's public defender, Alan Friedman.
Friedman said he thinks the state Supreme Court may reverse its earlier
decision to uphold Wallace's conviction, in part because two of the
Supreme Court judges dissented from that earlier ruling. But Wallace
himself believes this latest appeal has little chance of succeeding, and
he has been told by his attorneys that they expect the court to set an
execution date for early 2005. Wallace, 47, also has instructed his
attorneys not to seek clemency from the Indiana governor if the Indiana
Supreme Court rules against him again. The Indiana Supreme Court ruled
against Wallace in 1985, when his attorneys sought to overturn his
death-row sentence the first time. This latest appeal is based on similar
arguments presented to every court that has ruled against Wallace. The
appeal involves issues about how the original trial judge in the Wallace
case reached his decision to impose the death penalty.
The judge found there were 3 "aggravating" factors that made Wallace
eligible for the death penalty. One was that Wallace committed the murders
while he was burglarizing the Gilligan home. A 2nd was that Wallace
committed multiple murders. A 3rd aggravating factor was that Wallace,
then 22, had committed the murders while on parole from a prior felony,
unrelated to the Gilligan case. But in the years since Wallace was
convicted in the Gilligan murders, that felony conviction was overturned,
along with a second felony conviction on Wallace's record. So now
Wallace's attorneys are arguing that the sentencing judge was wrong when
he used Wallace's prior criminal record as an "aggravating" factor. On
that basis, they are requesting the Indiana Supreme Court overturn
Wallace's death-row sentence and send his case back to the district court
level for resentencing.
State Supreme Court officials said the justices are expected to rule soon
on the appeal.
(source: Courier Press)
Cleared cop tells of prison abuse----Civil suit plaintiff says FBI agents
When Steven Manning walked out of a Platte County, Mo., jail in February,
he was disoriented after having spent 14 years in prison on murder and
Manning walked across the street, met up with his lawyers and began the
long process of piecing together a life, Manning and his former attorney
testified Wednesday. "I was in heaven," he testified.
On the second day of Manning's federal civil suit against 2 FBI agents who
he said fabricated evidence against him, the Chicago police officer
testified about his life in prison and the last 10 months he has spent on
Manning was convicted for the 1984 kidnappings of 2 drug dealers in
Missouri and the 1990 murder of trucking firm owner James Pellegrino in
After he was sentenced to death row in 1993, Manning, 54, spent the 1st
few months locked in a cell 23 hours a day at Illinois' Menard
Correctional Center, he testified.
He was later transferred to Missouri, where jogging, basketball and chess
were his only distractions.
He could never relax, Manning told jurors, because of the constant threat
of violence. Manning testified that another inmate beat him with a
broomstick while in Cook County Jail, and that he was attacked twice by
other inmates while imprisoned in Missouri.
Cynthia Short, Manning's Kansas City attorney, said the injuries he
received while in prison have caused arthritis in his knees, back and
Manning's Illinois conviction was overturned in 2000. Short took his
appeal on the kidnapping conviction in Missouri in October 2003, she said.
Though authorities were offering a plea bargain on his 1984 kidnapping
conviction, reducing his 200-year sentence to time served, Short said
Manning "wanted to clear his name. He would take that risk."
The Missouri convictions were overturned in a surprisingly short time this
past February, Short said. Three weeks after Manning testified at a bond
hearing, prosecutors in Missouri dropped all charges against him, she
"This is the 1st time I had ever seen where the FBI directed an
investigation and plopped it on the door of Kansas City [authorities],"
After he was released, Manning moved in with a family he befriended while
in prison, had knee surgery and got a driver's license.
Short's husband gave Manning some of his old clothes, and Manning worked
odd jobs at the Public Interest Litigation clinic, a non-profit
organization in Kansas City.
But Manning said he was still leery about coming back to Illinois. Finally
he relocated to Chicago in September.
"I was in fear of retribution by these FBI agents," he testified.
Since returning, Manning testified he has started working again, mostly in
carpentry and home remodeling.
(source: Chicago Tribune)
Ronald Williamson, Freed From Death Row, Dies at 51
Ronald Keith Williamson, who left his small town in Oklahoma as a high
school baseball star with hopes of a major league career but was later
sent to death row and came within 5 days of execution for a murder he did
not commit, died on Saturday at a nursing home near Tulsa. He was 51.
The cause was cirrhosis of the liver, which he learned he had 6 weeks ago,
his sister Annette Hudson said.
Mr. Williamson's early life appeared charmed. As a pitcher and catcher in
Ada, he twice led his high school teams to the championship of a state
where another native son, Mickey Mantle, enjoyed the status of near deity.
The Oakland Athletics picked Mr. Williamson in the 2nd round of the 1971
After 6 years in the minor leagues, Mr. Williamson saw his career end
because of arm injuries. He returned to Oklahoma and worked at a sales
job, but began to show signs of a mental illness that was eventually
diagnosed as bipolar disorder. His marriage, to a former Miss Ada, broke
up. He returned to his mother's home and slept 20 hours a day on the
couch, Ms. Hudson said, afraid of his old bedroom.
In late 1982, a waitress, Debbie Sue Carter, 21, was found raped and
killed in her apartment in Ada. The case remained open until 1987, when a
woman who had been arrested for passing bad checks told the police that
she had heard another prisoner discussing the killing. The man, she said,
was Mr. Williamson, who had been in the jail for kiting checks.
Mr. Williamson was charged with the killing. So was a 2nd man, Dennis
Fritz, a high school science teacher who had been one of Mr. Williamson's
few friends when he returned to town after his baseball career. The
evidence, the authorities said, consisted of 17 hairs that matched those
of Mr. Williamson and Mr. Fritz, and the account provided by the woman who
said she had heard Mr. Williamson confess. A 2nd jailhouse informer later
stepped forward to buttress the case against Mr. Fritz.
Mr. Williamson and Mr. Fritz were tried separately and found guilty. Mr.
Fritz was sentenced to life in prison, and Mr. Williamson - who had not
received his psychiatric medicines for months before the trial and shouted
angrily at the prosecution witnesses - was sentenced to die.
Mr. Williamson later said the prison guards taunted him over an intercom
about Ms. Carter's murder. In September 1994, when all of his state
appeals had been exhausted, he was taken to the warden's office and told
that he would be executed on Sept. 24. He recalled filling out a form that
directed his body to be returned to his sister for burial.
A team of appellate lawyers, however, sought a writ of habeas corpus from
Judge Frank H. Seay of Federal District Court, arguing that Mr. Williamson
had not been competent to stand trial and that his lawyer had not
effectively challenged the hair evidence or sought other suspects. Judge
Seay granted a stay 5 days before Mr. Williamson was scheduled to die.
In 1998, lawyers from the Innocence Project at the Benjamin C. Cardozo
School of Law in New York arranged DNA tests for Mr. Williamson and Mr.
Fritz. They showed that neither man had been the source of the semen or
hair collected from the victim's body. Another man, Glen D. Gore, has
since been convicted of the killing and sentenced to die for it.
Mr. Williamson and Mr. Fritz were freed in April 1999. On a visit that
spring to New York, they took a tour of Yankee Stadium, and Mr. Williamson
wandered along the sparkling outfield grass.
"I just got a taste of how much fun they were having up here," he said.
Besides Ms. Hudson, another sister, Renee Simmons of Allen, Tex.,
The 2 men later won settlements for their convictions. But Mr. Williamson
continued to be troubled by his psychiatric problems, Ms. Hudson said.
Last year, however, he participated in a 1-mile march, making an appeal to
the governor of Illinois to commute the sentences of death row prisoners
in that state.
(source: The New York Times)
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