[Deathpenalty] death penalty news---TEXAS, PENN., OHIO, GA., MO., TENN., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Apr 3 21:09:36 UTC 2007
Tabler sentenced to death
Richard Lee Tabler, whom his victims' families labeled a monster and an
animal without feelings, became the 386th person on Texas death row on
Tabler, 28, showed no emotion as 264th District Judge Martha Trudo read
the jury's verdict sentencing him to death. Seated 3 rows behind him,
Tabler's sister and mother cried at the verdict handed down by the jury of
5 women and seven men, who deliberated a little less than 3 hours.
Across the courtroom, Tabler's victims' family members silently grasped
hands and smiled.
Later, Tabler shook hands with his 3 attorneys and then looked over at his
mother and sister as deputies escorted him to a holding cell.
A Bell County jury found Tabler guilty of capital murder on March 21 for
killing Haitham Frank Zayed and Mohammed Amine Rahmouni on Nov. 28, 2004.
During the punishment phase, the same jurors listened to evidence,
including Tabler's confession, in the deaths of Tiffany Dotson and Amanda
Benefield on Nov. 28, 2006.
Monday afternoon, jurors found Tabler posed a continuing threat to society
and there were no mitigating circumstances for his crime, which then
sentenced him to death.
Some of those jurors grabbed tissues and wiped away tears, as his victims'
family members turned and thanked them and then addressed Tabler during a
victims' impact statement. Tabler stared straight ahead with occasional
looks at family members.
"To Mr. Tabler - we consider you a monster," Mary Dotson said as her
husband Andy Dotson stood next to her. "You ended not only our daughter's
life without a thought, but other families' children, too. You took what
was not yours to take."
Mrs. Dotson said her step-daughter would continue to live in their hearts
"We hope you are haunted by her beautiful smile and her infectious laugh,"
she said. "We send the suffering you caused us back to you. We hope you
suffer every single day for the rest of your life."
Another Bell County man on death row
Richard Tabler joins 385 men and women on death row in Huntsville,
including another man sentenced from Bell County who had his sentence
Derrick Jermaine Guillen was found guilty in 1999 for raping, robbing and
murdering Margaret Shores in Temple on March 26, 1998, and sentenced to
death. However, because he was 17 at the time of the crime, his sentence
was commuted to life in prison on June 24, 2005, after the Supreme Court
ruled those 17 and younger could not be sentenced to death for their
Denard Manns, 32, was sentenced to death on March 4, 2002, for killing
25-year-old Army medic Michele Christine Robson after he sexually
assaulted her in her apartment on Nov. 18, 1998. After shooting her 4
times in the head, he took her credit cards, cash and car.
2 death row inmates from Bell County have been executed.
Christopher Black Sr. was 43 when he was executed on July 9, 2003, for
killing his 17-month-old granddaughter Katrese Houston on Feb. 7, 1998.
Black also had been charged with killing his wife Gwendolyn Black, and
5-month-old-daughter Christina Black. After shooting them, he called 911.
When officers arrived, he was holding his dead daughter in his arms.
(source for both: Temple Daily Telegram)
Jury selection begins in capital murder case
Jury selection began Monday in a potential death penalty capital murder
case, although the start of trial is still several weeks away.
More than 140 people filled the 354th District Court for the voir dire
process in the case of Adam Kelley Ward, 24, of Commerce, who is facing
one count of capital murder involving the death of Commerce Code
Enforcement Officer Michael "Pee Wee" Walker.
Ward remains in custody at the Hunt County Jail in lieu of $2 million
bond. He has pleaded not guilty.
The Hunt County District Attorneys Office has announced it is seeking
death by lethal injection as a punishment for Ward, should he be convicted
of capital murder.
The jury selection process begins with interviews of the jury pool to
determine their backgrounds and any potential biases. Once the prosecution
and defense attorneys have made their preliminary eliminations, the
remaining members of the jury pool will receive questionnaires which they
will be asked to complete and return before they will be individually
interviewed by prosecution and defense attorneys.
Opening arguments and the start of testimony in the trial are not
currently expected to begin until the 1st week of June.
Walker, 44, was working as a code enforcement officer on the morning of
June 13, 2005 and was taking photos of alleged violations at the home
where Ward lived on Caddo Street in Commerce.
An investigator with the Texas Rangers claimed that after Walker and Ward
had "a brief verbal altercation," Ward went back inside the residence and
retrieved a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol, then returned and shot
Walker several times. Ward was arrested a short time later.
Capital murder in Texas is usually filed when the murder alleged is
committed in conjunction with the commission of a second major felony,
such as robbery, kidnapping, rape or another murder and can carry a
maximum sentence upon conviction of either life in prison or death by
District Attorney F. Duncan Thomas has said he was seeking a capital
murder charge against Ward, as Walker was acting as a public servant at
the time he was killed.
The indictment claims Ward killed Walker "while in the course of
committing or attempting to commit obstruction or retaliation."
Thomas has said after speaking with Commerce Police Department detectives
and researching the states death penalty statute, he learned there is a
provision under the law where capital murder could apply, if the defendant
commits murder while in the course of also committing obstruction or
retaliation on a public servant. While Walker was not a commissioned law
enforcement officer, he was considered as a public servant, as he was
performing his duties for the City of Commerce at the time of the
The most recent filings by the prosecution or defense are unknown, as most
records in the case have been ordered sealed.
Ward has had felony charges filed against him before, although he has
avoided any prison time.
Ward was indicted in 1999 on one count of aggravated assault with a deadly
weapon, in connection with the stabbing of a Commerce High School student.
The indictment was dismissed in September of 2000, after the Hunt County
District Attorneys office indicated it could not prove the case beyond a
Just 2 months later, in November of 2000, Ward was indicted on 2 counts of
assault on a public servant, for allegedly attacking 2 Commerce Police
Department officers and attempting to take 1 of the officers' firearm.
1 of the counts was dismissed after Ward pleaded guilty in July of 2001 to
the remaining charge. Ward was placed on 5 years of deferred adjudication
probation, which carries no finding of guilt. The probation was terminated
in 2003, after Ward had successfully completed 2 years of the community
(source: Greenville Herald-Banner)
Judges rely on costlier lawyers ---- Study: Dallas County could save
millions using public defenders
Dallas County formed the state's first public defender's office more than
2 decades ago to offer inexpensive and efficient representation for the
The office has since grown, but the county's criminal court judges have
continued to rely on more costly court-appointed lawyers for felony cases
despite the state's urging to the contrary, county records show.
A 2006 state judiciary report said Dallas County could save millions each
year by primarily using public defenders like nearly every other
metropolitan area outside Texas.
But some judges say cost isn't the only factor. They say public defenders
aren't always the best choice for certain cases. For specialized cases,
they like having the option of tapping more experienced defense lawyers.
"While the public defender's office is maybe of a benefit financially,
we're all aware that there are many good defense lawyers that we want
representing the folks in jail," said Judge Lena Levario of the 204th
District Court, who was a private defense lawyer before being elected this
year. "I think there is a great benefit to having a wide variety of
attorneys representing defendants."
But money can influence the appointment system, some observers say. That's
because judges get most of their campaign money from private defense
lawyers, some of whom rely on appointments for their livelihood.
Last year, Dallas County criminal district judges assigned just 38 percent
of cases to public defenders, county budget office figures show.
Misdemeanor court judges assigned more of their cases to public defenders.
A new crop of judges was elected in November, most from the local defense
bar. Some have added public defenders, but there are no indications that
the county's rising court-appointed lawyer bills are going to subside.
District judges recently agreed to increase court-appointed lawyers' pay,
which is estimated to cost taxpayers an extra $1.9 million annually.
Last year, the county spent $8.9 million on court-appointed lawyer fees in
felony and misdemeanor courts a nearly 40 % increase since 2003,
according to county auditor and budget office figures.
9 of the 21 new Democratic judges increased the number of public defenders
assigned to their courts, 3 judges reduced the number and the others
haven't yet made up their minds, said Chief Public Defender Brad Lawler.
Statistics showing the new judges' use of public defenders are not yet
Judge Larry Mitchell, newly elected to the 292nd District Court, hasn't
replaced a public defender who resigned to move out of state. He said he
wants to see how his two other public defenders operate before deciding
whether to restore the 3rd.
A 2006 report from the Texas Task Force on Indigent Defense, which
oversees compliance with the 2001 Fair Defense Act, said exclusive use of
public defenders would cost Dallas County $7.2 million less in one year
than using only court-appointed lawyers. That was based on county auditor
numbers showing that public defenders cost $303 per case, while private
lawyers cost $544.
Exclusive use of public defenders, however, is unrealistic, Mr. Lawler
said, because judges need to appoint private lawyers for specialty cases
such as death penalty cases or cases involving multiple defendants to
Nevertheless, he said, it would be more cost-effective in the long run for
Dallas County judges to assign more cases to public defenders especially
given last month's pay raise for private lawyers.
Court-appointed lawyers, who last got a raise in 2002, approached judges
after the November election about an increase. Judges raised their flat
fees by $100 and bumped their hourly rate from $75 to $100.
Now they can be paid a $600 flat fee for a 1st-degree felony case, for
example, or $100 an hour if they spend more time on it.
A complete comparison of lawyer fees isn't possible because of various
combinations of flat fees and hourly rates in the larger Texas counties.
However, Dallas County lawyers are already among the highest paid for jury
trials, for example, at $750 per day.
The Fair Defense Act went into effect in January 2002, requiring faster
and better legal defense for the poor. It also meant higher costs.
Dallas County's bill for indigent defense last year, which includes the
public defender's office, was more than $20.3 million a 26 % increase
Taxpayers pick up the tab for much of that. A portion of the fines and
fees offenders pay helps offset the expense. Last year, offenders paid
$492,212 in lawyer fee reimbursements, county auditor records show.
But indigent defense costs were significantly higher in counties without a
public defender's office.
Tarrant County only uses court-appointed lawyers to defend the poor. Its
costs increased 95 percent since 2001, according to numbers reported to
the state. Harris County's costs rose 86 percent during the same period,
task force figures show.
Just 8 of Texas' 254 counties have public defender offices that handle
juvenile and adult cases.
Unlike in other states, Dallas County judges have the ability to decide
how many public defenders to have in their courtrooms and which cases to
assign them a system that a state-commissioned consultant called flawed.
Taking that discretion away from judges would allow the county to better
predict costs and set accurate budgets for indigent defense, according to
the Spangenberg Group, a research and consulting firm that has studied
public defender offices across the nation. Elsewhere, chief public
defenders typically determine where to assign their lawyers, the
Bill Beardall, executive director of the Austin-based Equal Justice
Center, said public defenders are used infrequently because private
lawyers, who give generously to judges' political campaigns, have come to
rely on court appointments for their livelihood.
"You have a constituency that wants to maintain that livelihood," said Mr.
Beardall, whose nonprofit civil rights and legal advocacy group helped
write the Fair Defense Act. "The culture of dependence on appointments for
livelihood has to change."
Mr. Beardall's group led the campaign to reform Texas' indigent defense
In its state-commissioned 2004 study of Dallas County's indigent defense
system, the Spangenberg Group noted the politics behind some appointments.
"One judge said that politically, a judge would not want too many public
defenders in their courtroom because they want to keep the private bar
happy," the study said.
Mr. Lollar said he thinks judges' use of public defenders fell last year
because it was an election year. He said some Republican judges told him
they were planning to add public defenders but wanted to wait until after
the November election.
The new Democratic judges, who were considered election underdogs, didn't
receive a lot of campaign money last year compared with their Republican
predecessors, many of whom had been in office for some time.
Robert Udashen, president of the Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyers
Association, said politics is not a factor in appointments. He said the
current system allows judges to choose lawyers they think will provide the
"A judge should have some control over how indigent defense is handled in
their court," he said.
Historically, private defense lawyers handled most of the indigent
caseload in Dallas County even after the public defender's office opened
in 1983. Judges typically had a single public defender for routine pleas
and used private lawyers for most indigent cases, despite county
officials' warnings of budget shortfalls due to soaring lawyer bills.
Judges here began assigning more cases to public defenders after the Fair
Defense Act passed. A catalyst for the law was a case in Houston in which
a court-appointed defense attorney slept through portions of his client's
capital murder trial.
8 of Dallas County's 28 criminal court judges have one public defender,
while the rest have 2 or 3. That's better than last year, when half the
judges had a single public defender.
Judges offer contradictory views on the effectiveness of public defenders.
Judge Tom Fuller, a misdemeanor court judge who assigns most of his cases
to 2 public defenders, said doing so allows him to move cases quicker.
"The fact that they're right here, they can move more cases," he said.
"These public defenders only have to go to one court."
But Vic Cunningham, a former felony court judge who ran for district
attorney last year, said private lawyers move cases faster so they can get
paid quicker, which leads to fewer people in jail.
"If you've got 50 people in jail with one lawyer or 50 people with 50
lawyers, who's going to get out of jail first?" he asked.
Mr. Lollar said that since he started in December 2005, his office has
grown from 55 lawyers to 80. Eight are board certified, he said, meaning
they have a higher level of experience and training. An appellate section
was recently added.
Mr. Lollar said he is hopeful that his office will continue to expand. He
said his lawyers now earn as much as prosecutors in the district
attorney's office and that turnover in his office is low.
A common concern about public defenders is high caseloads, which can
affect quality of representation.
"Ironically, costs may be lowest where caseloads are increased to the
point that public defenders have little time available for close case
evaluation," a 2005 state-commissioned Texas A&M University study said.
"Cost savings achieved by overloading PD attorneys is a danger counties
must be vigilant to avoid."
The National Advisory Commission's standards for caseloads, adopted by the
American Bar Association, are 150 felony cases a year and 400 cases per
year for misdemeanor public defenders.
In Dallas County, felony defenders' average yearly caseload last fiscal
year was 379 cases, Mr. Lollar said, while the average misdemeanor
caseload was 1,033.
However, Dallas County uses a different methodology than the ABA when
counting its cases. Here, each charge against a defendant arising from a
single incident is counted as a separate case.
The National Center for State Courts recommends that all charges against
someone from one incident be counted as a single case a standard adopted
by the Texas indigent defense task force.
Mr. Lollar said his office is probably close to the caseload standard when
factoring in the correct definition of a case. His office, however, has
not done that calculation.
Mr. Lollar said any lawyers who feel swamped have been instructed to tell
judges not to assign them more cases. Then, supervisors or public
defenders in other courts will step in to help, he said.
The Texas A&M study looked at several public defender offices in Texas,
including Dallas County's. It noted some benefits for defendants in using
In fiscal 2004, Texas counties with public defenders spent 71 % more on
litigation-related expenses such as investigators and expert witnesses
than counties without them, the study said.
Other benefits noted were:
A public defender office can assume the duties of assigning and
monitoring lawyers while judges have to do so when they appoint private
Public defenders work in certain courts and get to know the judges and
Public defenders don't have to worry about the demands of private
Costs can be predicted.
"Overall, the public defender system of assigning counsel holds
considerable promise as a cost-saving approach if pay scales and workloads
can be set at reasonable levels," the study concluded.
(source: Dallas Morning News)
The death penaltyhas served its time
The death penalty is useless.
Even those who believe in the death penalty should come to that conclusion
after reading The Sentinels package of stories Sunday. Those stories
showed that after the considerable expense of sentencing people to die,
those defendants spend another dozen years or so fighting with appeals,
again to the public's great expense.
In Pennsylvania, a felon has to volunteer to die for the death penalty to
This has led to 221 residents on Pennsylvania's death row, the 4th-largest
number in the nation. The one sure way and an option rarely chosen to
get off death row is to jump on the gurney and stick out your arm for the
injection. Another is to be released, which is more likely, considering
the 6 inmates whose sentences have been overturned since 1982.
Death penalty supporters point to the victims and their families as they
argue for the punishment. But what about the families? What about the
lengthy trial that compounds the anguish of their loved one's awful death?
What about the years of awaiting appeal court decisions? And perhaps most
important, what about their feelings on the occasions the defendant was
What is right for the families is dependable, quick justice.
The reflex is to peel off the layers of appeals available to defendants.
But considering the number of defendants exonerated by DNA evidence and
other means, we would consider that unwise. And as state Rep. Willl Gabig
told The Sentinel story, "We haven't heard that the statute is preventing
people from being executed."
So we are left with a grueling process that in the end only guarantees
more suffering for victims' families and society at large as faith in the
justice system erodes. Beyond the emotional reasoning for capital
punishment, many argue the death penalty as a deterrent is too important
to let go. As compelling an argument that might be, a look at the record
pace of homicides in Pennsylvanias cities casts a shadow of doubt on that
And doubt is what is developing about capital punishment in general. One
of The Sentinel's stories Sunday pointed to a Gallup poll last year that
found for the 1st time in decades a majority of Americans prefer prison
without parole over the death penalty in cases of murder.
Whether this opinion results from frustration with the system or revulsion
at the punishment, we don't know. We do know the pendulum is swinging away
from Pennsylvania's position on a law it cannot even execute.
(source: Editorial, The Sentinel)
Rate of executions slowing ---- Annual state report reflects national
After 24 executions in eight years, capital punishment appears to be at a
crossroads in Ohio.
The state's annual Capital Crimes Report issued yesterday by Attorney
General Marc Dann's office reflected mixed signals from 2006:
- 5 executions took place last year but only four new death sentences were
issued statewide. The next scheduled execution is James Filiaggi?s on
April 24. - 22 cases - including 3 from Franklin County - have been
inactive in state or federal courts for at least 2 years.
- A lawsuit challenging Ohio?s use of lethal injection as
unconstitutional, cruel and inhumane punishment has been filed by 10 Death
Row inmates. An additional 19 inmates have filed mental-retardation
claims, seeking to avoid execution under a 2002 ban by the U.S. Supreme
- DNA testing has become increasingly important in both convicting and
exonerating inmates. Jerome Campbell of Cincinnati had his sentence
commuted by then-Gov. Bob Taft to life in prison after DNA results proved
it was his own blood, not the victim's, on his tennis shoes.
Barry Scheck, co-director of the New York-based Innocence Project, said
the number of death verdicts nationwide dropped dramatically in recent
years. His 20-year-old group is poised to record its 200 th exoneration
through DNA testing. 6 have been in Ohio.
"That's in no small measure because the general public, through these DNA
exonerations, is questioning the death penalty," Scheck said.
Officials in New York, New Jersey, Maryland and other states are debating
capital punishment, as much from a public-policy standard as a moral
issue, Scheck said.
Ohio's capital-crimes report is required by law to be sent by the attorney
general to state officeholders and legislative leaders annually by April
Not cited in the report was the X-factor - Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat
who backs capital punishment but seems open to studying its use.
One significant category is the number of cases classified as "notable."
Those cases have been in the same court for at least 2 years and been
essentially inactive for at least a year.
The notable cases list has slowly increased from 16 in 2004 to 21 in 2005
and 22 this year. Most are in federal courts.
By far, the longest-delayed case is that of Daniel Bedford of Hamilton
County. It has been locked in federal court 14 years.
The 3 stalled Franklin County cases are Kevin Scudder's (7 years), Mark
Burke's (6 years) and Kareem Jackson's (3 years).
Overall, the number of death sentences handed down in Ohio is declining,
from 13 in 2003, 4 in 2004 and 7 in 2005 to 4 last year. There were fewer
than 100 death sentences nationwide last year.
Of the 24 inmates executed since 1999, 2/3 were white, the average age was
45 and the average time on death row was 14 1/2 years.
(source: Columbus Dispatch)
Court to hear case on executions----Suit challenges doctors' roles in
Arguments in a lawsuit challenging the role of physicians in carrying out
Georgia's death penalty will be heard by the state Court of Appeals
A group of 7 doctors, including 3 practicing in Georgia, filed a lawsuit
in 2005 arguing that the state Composite Board of Medical Examiners, which
licenses and investigates complaints against doctors, should punish
physicians who help the state carry out lethal injections.
The doctors contend the medical board should uphold American Medical
Association guidelines that prohibit the profession from participating in
executions. They also maintain that physician participation violates the
Hippocratic Oath to never do harm or prescribe a deadly drug.
The board has said that Georgia law is the prevailing guide in its
decisions, not the AMA. Physician attendance at executions is required by
state law. Lawyers for the state argued the doctors challenging the system
lacked standing to sue because they cannot show they have been harmed in
Last year, a Fulton County Superior Court judge sided with the state and
dismissed the claims the doctors, who include Dr. Arthur Zitrin, a death
penalty abolitionist in New York, three other out-of-state physicians and
three Georgians Drs. Daniel Blumenthal, Kelly Thrasher and Jerome Walker.
Atlanta lawyers Gerry Weber and Hollie Manheimer appealed the decision. In
a brief before the appeals court, the lawyers wrote that the plaintiffs'
"professional reputations are injured when Georgia physicians violate the
Hippocratic Oath and an explicit American Medical Association ethical
standard barring physician participation in executions."
The death penalty is on hold in 11 states over questions of lethal
injection, including whether it violates the U.S. Constitution's ban on
cruel and unusual punishment. Though the death penalty is not on hold in
Georgia, the state has not carried out an execution since July 2005, when
Robert Dale Conklin was put to death for a mutilation murder in Sandy
Prison guards in Georgia operate the machinery that automatically
administers a combination of fatal drugs to condemned inmates. But
physicians occasionally have had to help nurses find a suitable vein or
order up more drugs to hasten death.
Zitrin, who opposes physician participation in executions, tried
unsuccessfully in 2004 to get the state medical board to punish Dr. Hothur
V. Sanjeeva Rao, a Georgia doctor who used to assist the Georgia
Department of Corrections in carrying out lethal injections at the state
prison in Jackson, about 45 minutes south of Atlanta in Butts County.
(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
MISSOURI----female to face death penalty
Judge rules death penalty allowed in Montgomery case
Prosecutors will be able to seek the death penalty against a Kansas woman
accused of killing an expectant mother and cutting the baby from her womb,
a federal judge ruled Monday.
U.S. District Judge Gary Fenner denied Lisa Montgomery's motions to remove
the death penalty as a potential penalty if she is convicted in the 2004
slaying of Bobbi Jo Stinnett, 23, of Skidmore.
Montgomery, 39, is accused of strangling Stinnett, who was 8 months
pregnant, at Stinnett's home on Dec. 16, 2004.
Prosecutors say Montgomery then cut a baby girl from Stinnett's womb and
returned to Kansas, where she said the girl was her newborn daughter
before she was arrested in Melvern, Kan.
The child was returned to her father, Jeb Stinnett.
Attorneys for Montgomery had filed several motions asking Fenner either to
declare the death penalty unconstitutional or to block prosecutors from
seeking it against Montgomery.
Last week, defense attorneys said Montgomery would rely on an insanity
A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Thursday, and the trial is scheduled
to begin April 30.
(source: Associated Press)
What made a hardnosed prosecutor become advisor, pen pals with a killer?
Christopher Adams of Putnam County had been in and out of trouble most of
his life. He killed his father as a youth and was treated in a mental
health facility. Since then, most of his crimes were relatively minor
issues until the murder of 79-year-old Lillian Kelley of Putnam County.
Kelley was found stabbed twice with her neck slashed. She had been tied
with packing tape and her checkbook missing.
Letters between the 2 which District Attorney Bill Gibson described as
being of a pen pal nature suggest a betrayal of not only Adams' defense
attorney, but Gibson's own staff by the chief prosecutor.
Gibson was familiar with Adams because of his many appearances in court,
but it was something as simple as a soap box derby that brought the two
together for several hours 1 night.
The Police Athletic League in Cookeville an organization of law
enforcement officials dedicated to giving children "something to do"
sponsored the soap box derby in 2000 which required a lot of work setting
In addition to the law enforcement volunteers, Bill Gibson and his 2
children were joined by trustees wearing orange jumpsuits in setting up
the racing course.
Gibson recalled from the stand that his children were taken by the men in
jumpsuits who were bad guys, but also had a human side to them. He felt it
was a good lesson for his children, learning compassion for those who make
In 2003 Adams asked for a furlough to enter the Teen Challenge program and
Gibson and his office agreed to the furlough. When Adams found the
religion-based program a little bit "too religious," he left. But the
inmate did something curious. He called Gibson and told him he was leaving
That same year Adams was accused of killing Kelley.
Investigators first thought a relative had killed Kelley, but soon
investigators zeroed in on the career criminal and TBI Agent Bob Krofssik
soon had Adams down at the jail, questioning the new number one suspect.
At some point during the interrogation, Adams suddenly became less
cooperative and announced he might need to "lawyer-up," legalese for not
answering any more questions without the presence of a lawyer.
One story has it that Krofssik told Adams, "Bill Gibson is a lawyer. Want
to talk to him?" Another story has Krofssik simply calling Gibson and
advising him that Adams is going to be charged with murder, and then
handing the phone over to Adams so the two could talk.
"Chris, have you messed up?" Gibson said he asked Adams. "I then told him
he was going to have to talk to an attorney and pray about it." The
conversation lasted 2 minutes or less, Gibson testified. He added that he
had never had a suspect call him from the jail as he was about to be
charged, and that coupled with being awakened from a deep sleep, left him
a bit foggy as to what was going when he was engaged in the conversation.
After Adams was charged, Gibson said he became concerned over the validity
of the confession and whether it would hold up in court.
Gibson said he went to Adams' attorney, 13th Judicial District Public
Defender David Brady, and told him of his fears concerning the confession.
In October 2003 an unusual event occurred. Brady and Gibson together went
to Southeast Tennessee Regional Corrections Facility to meet with Adams
and to discuss the case. Gibson also wanted to hand deliver a book as a
gift to Adams.
The book, of an inspirational nature, was written by a former drug addict
who was able to turn his life around.
Adams appeared in Putnam Criminal Court in March 2004 for arraignment and
the following month he sent the first of several letters to Gibson. The
prosecutor said he would respond, but seldom responded right away. Gibson
said he sometimes put the letters to the side and would not respond for a
couple of weeks or more.
The content of the letters, for the most part, were of a spiritual nature
and designed to be uplifting to the inmate who was now serving a total of
35 years for second-degree murder and robbery convictions.
Gibson provided a chronological order to the letters Adams wrote and the
In one letter Gibson wrote, "I am taking a chance by writing to you
without your attorney knowing it. It would mean a lot of trouble for me if
you ever mentioned it. It is against the rules to communicate with someone
who has counsel without the permission of the lawyer ... so please keep
this between you and me."
The letter continues, "First of all, you don't need to plead to
first-degree murder ... I knew the death penalty thing was not a real
possibility and didn't feel right having it used as a threat to get you to
plea away the rest of your life ..."
He then goes on to discuss the case and reminds Adams, "Again, keep
everything I have said here and even the fact that I have written to you
under your hat. I would be hung out to dry and also conflicted out of this
About the time this and other letters were being exchanged, former
assistant district attorney David Patterson, now a Criminal Court judge in
the district, was sending a letter to Brady advising him that the state
would offer life without parole in exchange for Adams pleading guilty to
Patterson added in his letter, according to Brady, that if Adams rejected
the offer, the state would file notice to enhance the charge and seek the
In another letter Adams expressed frustration over what he claims were
promises given to him by TBI Agent Krofssik that first-degree murder would
be dropped if Adams cooperated.
"Did everyone lie to me just to get my confession?" Gibson quoted Adams as
When the first letter arrived, Gibson said, "I did not tell Mr. Brady I
received it. It would have clearly been the thing to have done, to show
Mr. Brady," Gibson testified. "My feeling at the time is that it would not
have been beneficial to anyone ... I did not do the things I should have
In addition to problems swirling around the confession, Gibson said he was
also concerned about mental health issues which could have created more
problems for the case. "The mental health issues takes away the ability to
premeditate," Gibson noted.
During the two years that the letters were exchanged, Gibson said he was
not sleeping well and had taken a number of different kinds of sleeping
pills in an attempt to get sleep. He stated at the same time he was
withdrawing from duties at work, from friendships and social interactions.
In addition, he was going to through depression and had developed a
problem with alcohol.
"At that point I developed an inappropriate sympathy for Chris Adams,"
Gibson told the court in an emotional portion of his testimony. "I tried
to encourage, not abandon him."
After the letters became public and complaints were filed by Adams' post
conviction relief attorney Phil Parsons, Parsons and Judge Leon Burns
filed formal ethics complaints against Gibson. That was followed by
complaints from the Tennessee Attorney General's Conference and Judge John
In response, Gibson contacted the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program and
was referred to several psychiatrists. Gibson chose one and also attended
a treatment center in Arizona.
He continues to receive counseling, stays away from alcohol and threw the
medication away. "Life is better with me than it was last year." Gibson
also signed a contract with TLAP that includes having a mentor to help
monitor Gibson's status.
"I'm back, and I want to stay back," Gibson testified.
(source: Crossville Chronicle)
Prison officials want input on new death penalty process
Prison officials are in the process of changing the way inmates are pn
Tennessee and the public is invited to a public hearing to give its input
on the new process.
Doctors and lawyers who represent the condemned are among a number of
speakers invited to attend the public hearing Thursday.
Issues such as medical monitoring, staff training and preparation of drugs
used for lethal injection will be among the topics.
On Feb. 1, Gov. Phil Bredesen issued an executive order putting a 90-day
halt to all executions in Tennessee so the state could come up with new
The meeting will be at 3 p.m. at the multimedia room in the Tennessee
Snodgrass Tower, 312 8th Ave. N.
(source: Ashland City Times)
USA----stay of impending federal execution
Stay of Execution for Bruce Webster
We have confirmed with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) that Bruce Webster's
April 16th execution date has been stayed. There was a lot of confusion
about this case, because the BOP's news page still has the announcement of
the execution date posted, and the AP ran a story a few days ago
indicating that the execution was still scheduled for that date. However,
as this entry in NCADP's Abolish the Death Penalty Blog over the weekend
discussed, there have been many reports, including from pen friends of
Webster, that a stay was in place. Capital Defense Weekly posted a copy of
the stay order on their blog today. The order, which grants Webster's
motion for a preliminary injunction, is dated February 16, 2007.
Apparently, the stay went under the radar, and the reports from the press
and BOP led many (including Amnesty International) to believe that the
April 16th date was still set. The BOP informed us this morning that no
new date has been set for Bruce Webster, but that his execution has indeed
been stayed. We will continue to provide updates on this case as we
receive more information.
(source: Amnesty International USA Program to Abolish the Death Penalty)
More information about the DeathPenalty