[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, MO., GA., OKLA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Jul 15 13:07:03 CDT 2007
Murder suspect says he was doing God's work----Cypress man is being held
in the June death of flight attendant
A Cypress man charged in the death of a Southwest Airlines flight
attendant said Saturday that he was doing God's work when he went to a
Montrose-area bar last month, hunting for a gay man to kill.
"I believe I'm Elijah, called by God to be a prophet," said 26-year-old
Terry Mark Mangum, charged with murder June 11. " ... I believe with all
my heart that I was doing the right thing."
Interviewed in the Brazoria County Jail Saturday morning, Mangum said he
feels no remorse for killing 46-year-old Kenneth Cummings Jr., whom
relatives described as a "loving" son who never forgot a holiday and a
devoted uncle who had set up college funds for his niece and nephew. He
worked at Southwest for 24 years.
Mangum, who described himself as "definitely not a homosexual," said God
called on him to "carry out a code of retribution" by killing a gay man
because "sexual perversion" is the "worst sin."
Mangum believed Cummings to be gay.
"I planned on sending him to hell," he said.
Cummings disappeared June 4. His charred remains were found June 16,
buried on a 50-acre ranch near San Antonio owned by Mangum's 90-year-old
Brazoria County District Attorney Jeri Yenne would not comment on the
case, citing a gag order issued by a judge Saturday afternoon.
The Chronicle was unable to reach Mangum's attorney, Perry Stevens.
Mangum who claimed he has studied the Bible for "thousands and thousands
and thousands of hours" said God first commanded him to kill during a
"visitation," or dream, while he was in prison in 2001. He said his victim
must be a man because men "carry the harvest of the sinner."
After six months' planning, Mangum said, he went to E.J.'s, a
Montrose-area club, where he met Cummings. After they drank a couple of
beers, he said, the two went to Cummings' home in Pearland.
Mangum said he stabbed Cummings with a "6-inch blade."
"It's not that I'm a bad dude," he said, expressing concern that people
might view him as "strange." Pausing briefly, he said, "I love God."
When police searched Cummings' home, they found traces of blood that
someone had tried to clean up, as well as evidence that a struggle had
taken place, according to court documents.
Mangum became a suspect not long after Cummings disappeared, for reasons
officials have declined to disclose.
Tim Miller, executive director of Texas Equusearch, which found Cummings'
remains, said last month that Mangum had used Cummings' credit cards to
buy lighter fluid, a flashlight and hydrogen peroxide while he was en
route to dispose of the body outside San Antonio.
When credit card records showed that the cards had been used near San
Antonio, investigators ran a property-records search that led them to the
ranch owned by a Robert Mangum, Miller said.
Store video also showed that the person using the cards appeared to be
Terry Mangum, investigators have said.
Cummings' remains were soon found in a shallow grave.
The Facts, the daily newspaper in Brazoria County, has reported that
Mangum told investigators he did not kill Cummings. Mangum first said he
killed Cummings, during a jailhouse interview Friday with that paper.
He is being held on $500,000 bail.
A 1970s mystery may be solved----Advanced DNA testing planned on 3
unidentified victims of local serial killer Corll
For more than 30 years the skeletal remains of three teenage boys stored
in a cooler at the Harris County morgue have been called No. 11, No. 16
and No. 22.
But new technology and analysis may solve the mystery of their identities
and give names to the last of at least 26 victims in one of the country's
most macabre serial killings.
The breakthrough came after forensic anthropologists at the Harris County
Medical Examiner's Office analyzed the bones and recently submitted
samples to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification
for mitochondrial DNA, or mDNA, testing.
The mDNA will be compared to samples in a national database. One also will
be compared to a sample from parents who fear their missing son could be
one of the boys.
Center officials said they don't know when their testing and analysis will
be complete. But Arthur Eisenberg, director of the center's DNA Identity
Laboratory in Fort Worth, said new technology used to obtain genetic
material from very old bones offers the best chance that the boys may be
"Hopefully, the mitochondrial DNA will tell us something," said Jennifer
Love, a forensic anthropologist who heads the Harris County Medical
Examiner's forensic anthropology division.
The remains of the three unidentified teenage boys are the oldest stored
at the morgue, Love said. They boys were among the victims, who ranged in
age from 13 to 20, police believe were sexually assaulted, tortured and
slain in a killing spree that began in 1972.
Police learned of the grisly slayings on Aug. 8, 1973 when Elmer Wayne
Henley, then 16, told authorities he had shot and killed a man at the
man's Pasadena home after hours of drinking and glue-sniffing.
Officers found the body of Dean Corll, 33, a Houston Lighting & Power
Henley told investigators about luring young boys to Corll's apartment,
where Corll shackled them to a plywood "torture board" before sexually
assaulting and killing them.
Henley, who was convicted in connection with six of the deaths and
sentenced to concurrent 99-year prison terms, led police to their bodies
buried in shallow graves at Corll's southwest Houston boat shed, along a
Galveston beach and near Lake Sam Rayburn.
An accomplice, David Owen Brooks, then 18, admitted he helped Henley lure
victims for Corll. He received a 99-year sentence in one slaying.
Investigators used missing persons reports, dental records and items found
with the bodies to identify most of them.
In 1994, a victim, Mark Scott, was identified through DNA. Mary Scott said
that finally knowing what happened to her son and saying a final goodbye
at his funeral has not eased her grief.
"It still hurts me," she said, "and I think about it every day."
Love and her team of forensic anthropologists work on the most difficult
identification cases at the medical examiner's office, which receives
about 4,000 bodies annually, including some that are unidentified.
102 remains not ID'd
Made up of 3 forensic anthropologists and an identification specialist,
the team has been analyzing the unidentified remains in 102 cold cases
including the 3 boys.
The anthropologists specialize in using bones to determine age, gender and
stature. They note healed fractures, scars and unique bone
The team is scouring files of 317 other unidentified bodies dating back to
1957, when the medical examiner's office opened, that have been buried in
the county's graveyard.
"The office believes in helping families find closure by identifying their
missing loved ones," he said.
Stephen Gammon, missing person's administrator at the center's DNA lab,
said quality and age of DNA samples influence test results, but new
technologies and methods have improved the chances of success. Gammon said
the lab recently has extracted DNA from bones that are 40 years old, which
was once nearly impossible.
Advantages of mDNA
Traditionally, nuclear DNA is tested for identity, but it degrades and is
less definitive in very old samples, said Phillip C. Williamson, assistant
director of the center's DNA lab.
The mDNA, however, is protected by the mitochondrion, the cell's power
plant, and does not degrade as easily as nuclear DNA, Williamson said.
It has been used for years to trace the ancestry of many species back
hundreds of generations.
Love said if the center matches mDNA in the samples, the medical examiner
will consider it positive identification.
"Hopefully," Love said, "we can solve this mystery."
(source for both: Houston Chronicle)
Hoping to die free
In 1992, Brian Kinder was sent to death row because a court ruled he
should die for the rape and murder of a Crystal City, Mo., woman.
15 years later, Kinder says doctors have recommended that he should die a
free man because of an ongoing struggle with throat cancer. In early July,
Kinder requested a medical parole.
Though Kinder is the first death row inmate prison officials can recall
ever making a request for medical parole, if it is granted he will follow
in the footsteps of a handful of convicted murderers granted parole for
"Now that I'm dying they want to bring me to this," he said, using a
mechanical larynx in a sterile visitation room at Potosi Correctional
Kinder switched to writing his answers to interview questions. He wrote
that the parole request had been prompted by his doctors' evaluation after
the surgery that removed his voice box a year ago.
Kinder's hands shook as he wrote about a typical day in the prison
"I can't breathe. I don't want to eat. Hospice workers stop by constantly
to visit. They have me on Tylenol," he wrote.
If his request for medical parole is granted, he will have no family
support. He will be released into the care of a medical facility. Kinder
has a brother, but his sibling is unwilling to take responsibility for
Kinder because of the financial burden of the medical bills and living
expenses that have been paid by the state up to this point. For 17 years,
Kinder has maintained his innocence and says his brother supports that
"He don't think it's right to send me home so he can watch me die," Kinder
Fred Duchardt Jr., Kinder's attorney, said his client's condition has
gotten progressively worse since the surgery. He does not represent Kinder
in the parole request and did not know whether doctors considered the
The prison denied a Southeast Missourian request to speak to Kinder's
In order to be granted medical parole in Missouri, an inmate must
demonstrate he or she has a terminal illness in which death is anticipated
within six months, that long-term nursing care is required or that
confinement will greatly endanger the inmate's life.
The parole board receives about 12 requests for medical parole each month,
said Brian Hauswirth, chief public information officer for the Missouri
Department of Corrections. Most are turned down.
In 2006, 19 medical paroles were granted, according to Hauswirth. 20
medical paroles were granted in 2005, and 18 in 2004.
Each year, the parole board conducts hearings on 8,000 to 9,000 requests
for all reasons, not just medical.
Although they are handed out sparingly, medical paroles are given despite
the severity of the crime, Hauswirth said. However, the crime is a
consideration taken into account by the board, he said.
In October 2005, Harold Burton of Jackson County, Mo., who had been
serving life without parole on a first-degree murder conviction, was
granted medical parole. Burton died a year later, having served 9 years of
Danny Hahn of Greene County, Mo., another convicted killer, had been
serving a life sentence when he was granted medical parole in 2005. He
died less than a month after leaving prison.
2 convicted murderers, Dolores Miller and Shirley Little, are still alive
after having been paroled for medical reasons. Miller, of Franklin County,
who had been convicted on capital murder charges but sentenced to life
without parole, was released on parole in April 2004. Little, of St. Louis
County, was convicted of 2 counts of 2nd-degree murder when she was
paroled in the summer of 2005.
Convicted serial killer Faye Copeland of Kansas City was on death row for
a short time, but a judge had reduced her sentence to life in prison by
the time she was released to a nursing home in 2002. She died in 2003.
Another convicted murderer received medical parole in 2006, but he died
before he could be released.
Of the 19 inmates who received medical parole last year, nine of them had
been found guilty of class C felonies, which carry a sentence of seven
years for those not considered persistent and dangerous offenders.
Hauswirth pointed out that no convicted rapists have received medical
parole before. Frank Moody, who had been convicted on charges of statutory
sodomy, was paroled in 2006 and died 1 month after his release.
"Basically, the only way you're given medical parole, you're going to be
so weak you aren't going to be able to harm anyone," Hauswirth said.
Someone who receives medical parole is subject to the same guidelines that
govern every inmate released on probation. Parolees must request
permission from a parole officer before leaving the state or changing
their address. They are forbidden from owning or possessing weapons, and
they are barred from using drugs unless they obtain a prescription. They
are still supervised by the court through their probation officer, and
they must devise a "release plan" for how that supervision will be
Though nothing in the 21-page statute governing parole excludes an inmate
sentenced to death from medical parole eligibility, Hauswirth said that
just because Kinder has applied for medical parole doesn't mean he's going
to get it.
The board is reviewing Kinder's medical information, talking to his
doctors and considering the severity of his crime. They also intend to
hear from Donielle Williams, the 27-year-old daughter of the victim.
Though the chief medical examiner for the parole board will make the
ruling on whether Kinder's illness meets the criteria for medical parole,
Hauswirth said the board will have "ultimate discretion."
"Our top priority is public safety," Hauswirth said.
Kinder said he intends to tell the parole he "would like to go home."
"I've done my time," Kinder said.
(source: Southeast Missourian)
Memory of witnesses is key issue
The allegations are similar: Witnesses involved in a decades-old murder
case change their story. Police and prosecutorial misconduct is alleged.
An innocent man is said to have been executed.
Prosecutors in both St. Louis and Texas issued reports in the last few
weeks that grappled with those accusations and reached the same
conclusion: The right man was put to death.
Both the case of Larry Griffin, executed by Missouri in 1995 for the
drive-by murder of Quintin Moss in 1980, and Ruben Cantu, put to death in
Texas in 1993, center on the same issue: memory and eyewitness testimony.
False eyewitness testimony or misidentification were involved in more than
75 % of the 205 cases where DNA testing has led to an exoneration, said
Innocence Project spokesman Eric Ferrero.
Experts say the memory of an event can be a surprisingly mutable thing,
even just hours later.
DNA testing proved in 2005 that Anthony D. Woods could not have been
responsible for the rape of a 15-year-old St. Louis girl in 1983. She told
police she had seen her attacker clearly. She spotted Woods walking by her
house hours after the rape and told relatives. She insisted, even after
DNA results proved Woods innocent 22 years later, that she had the right
man, prosecutors said after Woods was exonerated.
Memory is not like a recorder, Washington University psychology professor
Mark McDaniel said little research has been done on decades-old memories,
but laboratory studies covering months-old memories have shown that
memories can change to accommodate new information.
Eyewitness testimony can be the most damaging testimony, yet researchers
know memory is fallible, he said. "That's an implication here. You have to
be very, very careful."
He noted that not all memories are faulty and people differ in their
ability to recall events.
So, how do you ever know if a memory, old or new, is accurate?
"That's the million-dollar question," McDaniel said. "You probably don't
Handling witnesses Is key
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce said witness testimony must be
taken correctly, then corroborated with other witnesses and evidence, as
was done in the Griffin case.
St. Louis prosecutor Rachel Smith, who worked on the Griffin
re-investigation, said witnesses were first asked what they remembered,
then asked what they needed to help them remember, such as trial
transcripts and depositions. They were also asked whether anyone had done
anything to influence their memory or testimony.
Scott Birch, a criminal investigator for the Idaho Attorney General's
office who has solved several cold cases and is now working on a 1979
murder, said investigators must give witnesses information to refresh
their memories when decades have passed since a crime.
"Can you remember what you were doing 10, 15 years ago?" he asked. "Their
memory is going to come back to them if they review their statements from
the original investigation."
The technique is admissible in courts across the country.
Birch said investigators must ask the proper questions.
"You have to be careful not to plant information with witnesses or a
suspect who simply regurgitate it back to you," Birch said. "You have to
ask open-ended questions."
The Bexar County, Texas, District Attorney's office report in the Cantu
case accused a private investigator working for the NAACP Legal Defense
and Educational Fund of undermining shooting victim Juan Moreno's memory
and replacing it with suggestions that another man was responsible and
accusations of police misconduct.
Investigator Richard Reyna went to Moreno and said Cantu was innocent,
First Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg said last week, "and he
begins to suggest another person to him. That's impermissible as hell."
Reyna did not respond to a message seeking comment Friday. In a statement
issued after the report was released, Reyna said, "No fair minded person
could doubt his (Moreno's) account that police repeatedly pressured him to
falsely identify Cantu. I am completely confident that Mr. Moreno told me
The Legal Defense Fund said Moreno had expressed remorse for sending the
wrong man to death row before ever talking to Reyna, who has been involved
with successful exonerations.
Changes in Griffin case
In the Griffin case, several witnesses told fund investigators and others
that their memories contradicted what the state's star witness, Robert
Fitzgerald, said. But prosecutors said those witnesses were now saying
something different than they had said after the shooting or at trial. In
some cases, prosecutors said, a witness had changed his story multiple
Prosecutors said fund investigators used highly suggestive interviewing
techniques when talking to Michael Ruggeri, the first officer on the
scene, and never said in their 2005 report questioning the guilt of
Griffin that Ruggeri had undergone operations to remove two brain tumors.
Prosecutors said Ruggeri told them that his memory was confused by
multiple crime scenes and information he had received since the trial.
University of Michigan law school professor Samuel R. Gross, who led the
fund's Griffin investigation, denied that improper techniques had been
(source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Family, friends of Davis gather for vigil
Rain failed to dampen a gathering for a prayer vigil Saturday in support
of Troy Anthony Davis at Sacred Heart Church.
Davis, a death row inmate from Savannah who is scheduled to be executed
Tuesday, made an audio appearance at the vigil through the telephone.
His message was relayed to the estimated 100 family members and supporters
who participated in the vigil.
"Thank you for your love and your prayers," he told Aleta Toure, who
relayed the words to those gathered in the church pulpit. "We are going to
get through all of this.
"It really touches my heart that so many people have come together on my
behalf. Through God's grace, this is happening. We will be together to
celebrate real soon."
Toure, a member of the Interracial Interfaith Community and a community
activist, helped organize the vigil.
Many of those gathered said they were deeply concerned about the looming
execution date because evidence demonstrating that Davis might be innocent
has yet to be reviewed by the courts.
At one point during the phone call, they raised their voices in cheer,
chanting over and over again, "Free Troy Davis!"
Apparently overwhelmed with emotion, Davis momentarily stopped speaking.
Then he got back on the phone and relayed another message to all young men
in Savannah, telling them to make a stand, even if that meant standing
"But when you stand together," he said, "nothing can bring us apart."
Speaker Michael Porter said it is a very sobering thought to imagine that
someone very near and dear to your heart - your mother, father, sister or
brother - is scheduled for execution.
Porter said he hoped the state will have the maturity to put aside what he
called its blood-thirsty desire for revenge, not only to give Davis
another chance for a fair trial, but also so that "we do not teach the
message to society that we believe in killing."
"What gives anyone the power to put an expiration date on the life of a
human being?" asked Masjid Jihad, another speaker at the vigil. "What
happened to the officer is a tragedy. It is also a tragedy and a crime to
sentence someone to death unjustly."
Toure said she wanted it to be known that the community can come together
and make a difference by signing a petition to win a new trial for Davis.
She said anyone can go online to www.troyanthonydavis.org  or
www.amnestyusa.org/troydavis  to sign the petition.
(source: Savannah Morning News)
Some say their lies framed convicted killer
If Troy Anthony Davis is executed Tuesday, Tonya Johnson will be in
mourning. Not just because she has known Davis since they played together
as children. But because she will have to accept that she played a role in
"It will be hard to live with myself after what I [have] done," she says.
"It will be very hard."
Hard because Johnson believes Davis is an innocent man. Harder still
because she says she did not tell the whole truth to police when they
questioned her about the events that took place on a summer night in 1989.
Fear ate at her soul then, she says.
She never spoke openly about the murder of Savannah police Officer Mark
Allen MacPhail. Not with her friends, not with her family. Only years
later did she tell a cousin, who nudged her to "do the right thing" and
7 of 9 key witnesses who implicated Davis in MacPhail's murder have
recanted their testimony since the 1991 trial. Others, like Johnson, later
made sworn statements that shifted the blame away from Davis.
Some say they lied initially or withheld vital information. They were
young then, as fearful of the police as they were of neighborhood thugs.
Some were in trouble with the law and say they acted out of
Johnson is still scared of retaliation from the man she thinks really
killed MacPhail. But over time, she felt the risks were worth taking,
especially after her cousin promised to protect her.
"I couldn't hold it in anymore," she says, sitting on a small brick wall
along a former Burger King parking lot where MacPhail was killed. The
restaurant moved to another location, but a homeless shelter and Greyhound
bus station are still there. So is the motel across the street, now The
Thunderbird Inn, where a witness said Davis had a "little smirky smile"
and a gun in his hand.
The passing of months and years reshaped lives and chipped away at what
was allegedly untold. Some witnesses say Davis' fate weighed heavily on
"This is real. The death warrant has been signed. An innocent man is going
to die," says April Hester Hutchinson, Johnson's friend who was with her
the night of the murder.
Many of the witnesses claim that detectives were intent on pinning Davis
with the crime and intimidated them into giving incriminating statements.
Back in 1989, Savannah's police force was not a welcome sight in
African-American communities. "They weren't nice," Johnson says. "You did
all you could to avoid them."
But by the time the witnesses spoke up,it was too late for Davis, who has
always maintained his innocence.
Because of a 1996 federal law that aims to accelerate death penalty
appeals, courts have ruled that new evidence cannot be considered in a
capital case if it should have been presented during the appeals process.
Davis was convicted of shooting MacPhail, an off-duty officer who was
responding to a fight at the Burger King. Police did not find a murder
weapon. Nor was there any DNA evidence. The prosecution relied on the
testimony of eyewitnesses.
Davis is scheduled to die Tuesday unless the state Board of Pardons and
Paroles decides to commute his sentence. A clemency hearing is set for
Though never heard in court, the witness recantations fuel hope for Davis'
defense and an army of anti-death-penalty forces, including Amnesty
International, which decry the state for putting to death a possibly
But witness recantations are not always well-received in the justice
Are witnesses remorseful for having testified against a man who lived
among them? Or why would anyone now believe a person who lied once under
Johnson says fear prevented her from telling police the whole truth about
what she saw on a balmy summer night 18 years ago. She says she was
sitting on the porch of unit No. 1152 at the Yamacraw Village public
housing complex with her friends when a man came running from the
direction of the Burger King and hid two guns behind the screen door of
the abandoned unit next door. He returned a while later and asked Johnson:
"Is he dead?"
The man was sweating heavily and in a panicked state. "He gave me the
impression that he did it."
That man, Johnson says, was not Davis but someone else from the
neighborhood. The man implicated Davis at his trial and has not recanted.
Davis' lawyers have alleged in court motions that the man Johnson saw is
the real killer.
Neighborhood residents describe the man as a "nasty bully" who fell in and
out of trouble as routinely as the Savannah River ebbs and flows. Johnson
says he carried guns and drank heavily.
Johnson did not point the finger at Davis. But she, like her friend
Hutchinson, kept quiet about seeing the other man that night. She felt
harassed by him, harassed by the police.
"A lot of us were afraid" of the man, she says, standing outside her old
home at Yamacraw. "I still am afraid. He threatens a lot of people."
Johnson thinks he doesn't know where she lives now but worries he could
find out. "It's not hard. Savannah's too small."
Jeffrey Sapp says he stepped forward after sleepless nights thinking about
the friend he helped send to death row.
Police officers repeatedly questioned Sapp at his mother's home in
Cloverdale, a black middle-class subdivision where the Davis family also
lived. The neighborhood was crawling with police after the MacPhail
"They told me they could lock me up for withholding evidence," Sapp says,
sitting in the same living room in which he was questioned. "I got tired
of it. So I told them Troy confessed to me. None of it was true.
"It was almost 20 years ago. It's hard to believe. We were so young then."
Sapp derides himself for being a pawn in a dangerous game. He sometimes
walks around the corner and stands in front of Davis' house. He thinks:
"That's my home-boy Troy on death row for something he didn't do."
Sapp looks weighed down by the thought of the pending execution. He drops
his head and stares at the carpet. His only consolation is that Davis once
told him he knew the police questioned him under duress. Sapp says Davis
forgave him after he spoke the truth. That is how he is able to live with
(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
A very modern lynching
The quaint, Deep South charm of Columbus, Georgia, conceals a hideous
truth - it was a crucible of the Ku Klux Klan's lynch mobs.
Now another black man is to be killed in the state, by lethal injection.
The man behind his execution? The direct descendents of one of Columbus's
first racist killers.
On a warm, early summer's morning, the wide streets of Columbus, Georgia,
are perfumed by forests of azaleas.
They bloom from the handsome, well-cultivated gardens of Victorian villas,
standing proud behind lush lawns and elaborate, wrought-iron verandas.
On the far shore, beyond the city limits, the smoky blue Alabama hills
fade into the distance.
It is the picture of Deep South serenity; modern America in the cradle of
Columbus is indeed a handsome city. Its middle-class citizens like to
declare it "simply one of the best places on Earth". But then they are
affluent and white, and many prefer not to dwell on its insidious history:
of racism and injustice.
Because Columbus, where Coca-Cola was born, is also a crucible of American
slavery and one of its hideous by-products, lynch-mob killing.
This is the birthplace of the 1st journal to advocate Southern
independence in order to preserve slavery.
In the Civil War it was a stronghold of Confederate support and the place
where, 3 years after losing the war, the white ruling elite marked the
beginning of the murderous reign of the Ku Klux Klan in Georgia by
orchestrating its first documented killing.
They assassinated George W Ashburn, one of the South's leading white
champions of racial equality.
Even today, the city is still divided by a racial fissure marked by the
east-west thoroughfare of Macon Road ? white people live to the north;
black to the south.
On both sides of this great divide lie the unmarked sites of past
atrocities - racial murders and lynchings.
They include the place where, in 1912, a mob grabbed a terrified
14-year-old black boy from a courtroom after the jury had found him not
guilty of murdering a white playmate, Cedron 'Cleo' Land, in a hunting
On his knees in front of the angry crowd the black boy pleaded for his
life, but it was to no avail.
Under the leadership of the boy's father and uncle, a wealthy local farmer
called Aaron Land, he was shot up to 50 times.
Yet today, nearly a century later, the echoes of those killings ring
The direct descendants of that mob's leaders have played a hand in a grave
new injustice: the arrest, trial and handing down of the death sentence on
a black man whose guilt has palpably not been proved beyond reasonable
doubt; where box files of fresh evidence are consistently ignored; where
self-interest appears to be driving the man to his end.
In Georgia's forbidding Diagnostic And Classification Prison, 56-year-old
Carlton Michael Gary has been on death row since 1986 for the rape and
murder of 7 elderly white women in the so-called Stocking Stranglings.
His most recent attempt to win a retrial failed 6 weeks ago.
I first met Gary in November 1998 in a bare, oppressive death row
He made no secret of his previous convictions for robbery and handling
stolen goods, but he protested his innocence of the stranglings: "I'm not
Prince Valiant," he said, "but I'm not Satan, either."
As I investigated his case further, I became certain the trial was a
farce, in which evidence was systematically hidden and misrepresented.
Of course, Gary is just 1 of dozens of black men on America's death row
with questionable convictions.
But what kept me coming back to his case was its almost incredible links
with the area's deeply rooted racist past.
In 1984, Gary's case was assigned to Judge John Land, 63 at the time, who
fatally skewed the trial by refusing to grant a cent of public funding to
his defence lawyer.
Land was the son of farmer Aaron Land. Moreover, Gary's request for a
retrial was handed to Judge Clay Land - John Land's great-nephew.
His recent judgment came as a complete shock: the new evidence had
It means that at some point in the next 2 years, Gary will be strapped to
a bed and injected with a lethal cocktail of drugs.
It is my view that his death will amount to a legally endorsed modern-day
lynching. But my view is unnecessary: it is the facts that shout the
The Columbus Stocking Stranglings would have been terrifying anywhere.
The killer usually struck at night, picking socially prominent, elderly,
white women who lived alone.
Before they were strangled, the victims were raped and brutalised. Most
had terrible head injuries, one a fractured chest bone.
Nevertheless, the racial history of Columbus and the wider South
intensified their impact.
All but one of the murders happened in the affluent, all-white
neighbourhood of Wynnton, and from an early stage the police believed that
the killer was black - it was claimed pubic hairs at the crime scenes had
Yet despite their supposed leads, the killer continued to rampage with
impunity. The strangler claimed his 1st victim - Ferne Jackson, 59,
Columbus's director of public health - on September 15, 1977.
His 7th, and last, strike was in April 1978, the victim Janet Cofer, a
61-year-old primary school teacher.
Throughout that time, the only suspect the police produced was Jerome
Livas, an odd-job man with learning difficulties.
He was arrested after the first 2 killings. 2 weeks later, and with Livas
still in jail, the killer struck again.
Bizarrely, the police continued to insist that Livas was their man,
because he had told them things that "only the killer could have known".
The charges against Livas were dropped after a reporter interviewed him in
He confessed to the murders in Columbus - but he also confessed to the
murders of several US presidents including John F Kennedy and William
McKinley, and the Thirties kidnapping of the aviator Charles Lindbergh's
baby. The Columbus police needed a new suspect.
Carlton Gary, the son of a construction worker who left when Carlton was
still an infant, had been raised in Columbus up to the age of 13, and
moved back there around the time of the 1st strangling.
A year after the final strangling, he was arrested trying to rob a South
The murder-squad detectives compared his fingerprints to those found at
the strangling crime scenes. They did not find a match.
Then, 5 years later, in March 1984, Sgt Michael Sellers, the detective who
"solved" the case, went after Gary again.
He told me that his tip-off came from a very unorthodox source - what he
described, with complete seriousness, as a "phone call from God".
He said he received a message from a man with Alzheimer's Disease, whose
conscious mind had no idea of what he was saying.
Despite the more than dubious nature of this "source", and despite Gary's
character, which bore little resemblance to the standard psychologist's
profile of the driven and inadequate serial killer, Sellers managed to get
the case moving by again comparing Gary's prints with those from the
This time, remarkably, they did match.
After a seven-week manhunt, Sellers and his partner Ricky Boren tracked
Gary down to a motel where he was in bed with a girlfriend.
On the night of May 3, 1984, they interrogated him for 9 hours, by the end
of which they had obtained a damning confession.
Awkwardly, they made no contemporaneous notes, and neither, apparently,
did they tape their conversation.
Instead, Sellers testified that he went home afterwards and sat at his
kitchen table at 4.30am, producing a full and accurate record from memory
of what Gary had said.
2 months later, he showed it to Boren, who recalled more details: together
they then produced the undated and unsigned, typed, 12-page document that
was handed to the jury at Gary's eventual trial in 1986.
No court in Britain, nor in most of America, would have admitted it as
evidence, but the judge in Columbus accepted it without demur.
It was not the hearing's only strange feature.
John Land's pre-trial ruling that Gary's defence should not receive any
public funding meant that his lawyer, a Vietnam veteran named Bud Siemon,
was unable to do his job.
At the same time, the police and prosecution spent millions of dollars as
they tried to build their case.
When the prosecution presented scientific evidence - much of which has
turned out to be very dubious - Siemon had no means of scrutinising it.
He worked on the case for 2 years and it almost bankrupted him.
Judge Land was a powerful figure, not only in Columbus but across the
state - the leader of a secretive network of politicians, lawyers and
businessmen known as the Fish House Gang.
As a young man, he had been a segregationist state senator and, later, as
district attorney, he helped protect the murderer of Dr Thomas H Brewer, a
leading black civil-rights activist, accepting the killer's spurious claim
that he shot him seven times in self-defence.
Years later, in interviews with me, John Land said he regretted his racist
past, and realised that his actions in Gary's case were wrong.
But his change of heart had come a little late. At the end of Carlton
Gary's trial, the jury took less than an hour to find him guilty.
Under Georgia law, while the prosecution has wide powers to decide what
evidence to keep secret when a case goes before a jury, it can later, at
the appeals stage, be compelled to hand over almost everything to the
In 1992, 6 years after Gary was sent to death row, his appeal lawyer, Jeff
Ertel, saw the prosecution's sealed files.
There, Ertel found documents that undermined much of what the jury had
Gertrude Miller, who survived the strangler's attack, had identified Gary
The prosecutor, Bill Smith, told the jury that she had never picked out
In fact, she had identified three previous suspects, and when she first
spoke to the police, she had said it was so dark she could not say whether
the man who raped her was black or white.
Other papers suggested Gary's interrogation had been taped, as he had
always claimed, and that he had said nothing incriminating.
DNA testing was starting to become available, and the first of the now
almost 200 people freed from death row as a result had been exonerated.
In Gary's case, Ertel learnt, this would not be possible.
According to the prosecution, semen samples had been destroyed years
earlier on the grounds they constituted a "bio-hazard".
Meanwhile, Ertel decided to investigate a photo of Janet Cofer that showed
a deep bite wound on her left breast.
It might, he thought, be possible to compare the marks in the picture with
Gary's teeth. Ertel called an expert in Atlanta, Dr Thomas David.
When Ertel arrived at his office, David came straight to the point.
"I know about this case," he said. "I'm the guy they showed the bite cast
Ertel stared at him in amazement. "Bite cast? What bite cast?" David told
him that two months after Gary's arrest, prosecutor Smith and others had
been to see him with a mould made from the wound on Cofer's breast.
He said that the cast had been made by a Columbus dentist, Carlos "Sonny"
Ertel phoned him and asked what had happened to it, but Galbreath said the
cast had been lost or destroyed.
Seven years later, in March 2001, I met Galbreath for coffee in the
Columbus Hilton. We had only been talking a few minutes when he dropped
"I do know this. The bite cast is still in existence."
He went on to say that the cast would reveal the killer had a distinctive,
unusual deformity: a wide gap between his top front teeth, one of which
was "rotated" out of alignment by about 40 degrees.
"I guess that would have been visible every time he opened his mouth,"
Gary's teeth were straight and even, as those who had known him at the
time of the murders could confirm, including Gene Hewell, a fashion-store
owner for whom Gary had modelled.
"Believe me," Hewell said, "you don't get too many models with twisted
I had an obvious question: why had he not given it to Ertel years earlier?
The dentist laughed.
The thing was, he explained, that Doug Pullen, the assistant prosecutor at
Gary's trial, was his best buddy.
"Doug said, 'You tell him any damn story you like, but on no account can
he look at [that] model.'"
Finally, in 2005, Thomas Dunnavant, the Columbus coroner, announced that
he had found the cast, with identifying label still attached, in the back
of a cupboard.
Dr David, the dental expert, testified at this year's appeal hearing that
there were significant differences between the killer's teeth and Gary's.
He was satisfied that Gary was excluded as the man who had bitten Mrs
Clay Land, the judge conducting the appeal hearing, now had to decide
whether to quash Gary's conviction and order a new trial.
The bite cast was far from the only piece of fresh evidence that threw
doubt on the verdict.
For example, although DNA tests were impossible, I had managed to smuggle
some of Gary's semen out of death row.
Thanks to tests done after the murders, we demonstrated that the
biochemical make-up of Gary's semen was completely different to that of
The Stocking Strangler was a "non-secretor", meaning he produced a very
low level of the antigen that indicates blood type within semen.
Gary is a '="secretor" - his semen contains more than 3,000 times as much
of this antigen as the killer's.
Gary's lawyers were optimistic.
But they had not reckoned on the strength of Columbus's old-boy network.
Since Gary's trial, many of the white officials responsible for sending
him to death row have prospered.
Ricky Boren, the senior detective in the case, has risen to become the
city's chief of police.
Jim Wetherington, chief at the time, was last year elected mayor.
The 2 prosecutors, Bill Smith and Doug Pullen, are now superior court
A Columbus academic told me: "If Clay Land gives Gary a new trial, those
old guys are going to run him out of town."
Land's ruling came on May 31. In his judgment, he accepted that the bite
cast should not have been concealed from the trial: it was a breach of
Gary's constitutional right to due process.
But it was not enough to get him a retrial. It was "possible" that the
jury, had it seen the cast, would have reached a different verdict, but
not "probable": it was not enough "to undermine confidence in the outcome"
of the original trial.
Effectively, Judge Land was saying: the bite cast may not match Gary's
teeth, but this is no big deal.
If Gary reaches the end of his journey in the execution room, as now seems
likely, he will be taken, a day or 2 before his scheduled time, to a
special unit, H5, "the death house".
It contains a single cell and the death chamber itself, where the walls
still exude the indelible stench of burning flesh from the days of
After visits from friends, family and lawyers and - should he want it - a
final meal, he will be granted a last wish.
Many of the 39 killed in Georgia since the return of the death penalty in
1976 have asked to do what no death row prisoner is permitted to do during
their time there - to walk on the grass outside.
Then, at 7pm on the appointed day, he will be laid on a gurney with thick
straps around each limb, his neck, chest and abdomen.
A technician will fit him with intravenous lines. Then the curtains
dividing him from the spectators - reporters, relatives and, no doubt,
most of Columbus's top legal officials - will part.
The warden will ask if he has a final statement, and then the state will
kill Carlton Gary by lethal injection.
Andrew Hall, QC and chairman of the English Criminal Bar Association, said
that the appeal judgement that may lead Gary to this room would have been
"inconceivable" in the UK.
Where it can be proved that fresh evidence might have induced reasonable
doubt in jurors' minds, a conviction must be quashed.
The fact that the prosecution decided not to disclose the cast made the
position more serious.
He added, "The test in Britain is whether the evidence that was not
disclosed would have been relevant: did it have the potential to influence
"In this case, it would have been fatal to the prosecution."
I cannot prove that any of the manifest unfairness of Carlton Gary's trial
and appeal has been the product of racism by its participants.
I have heard Doug Pullen state his own abhorrence of such attitudes, and I
have no doubt that the other white protagonists would do the same.
Yet this story has happened in the South, a region where historically
racism has been a constant theme.
It has also been acted out by descendants of long-standing families with
deep-rooted racist backgrounds.
This isn't quite the end of the road. Later this year, there will be a
hearing in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, covering Georgia, Alabama
and Florida, and after that, the US Supreme Court.
But getting anywhere at such a level is extremely difficult.
Last week, Gary sent me a message via his lawyers.
"I always said you were too optimistic.
"No judge who is part of Columbus was ever going to stop this legal
"My last hope is that the judges who will consider my case now will not be
from there. Maybe they will have open minds."
'Violation: Justice, Race And Serial Murder In The Deep South' by David
Rose is published by HarperPress, 16.99
(source: Daily Mail (UK)
State Corruption in the Name of 'A Noble Cause'
Released on May 31st, Curtis McCarthy was driven in an Oklahoma County van
to meet his family and friends. But at 44, he does not know many people
outside of prison, having been incarcerated, mainly on death row, since he
was 22. He even has an 8-year-old granddaughter he has never hugged.
He is the 3rd person released from custody in Oklahoma after the
revelations about an overzealous (corrupt) civilian employee in the police
forensics lab there in the 1980s and '90s. Joyce Gilchrist, a forensics
expert worked with the police for 20 years and was apparently an extremely
convincing and engaging prosecution witness.
The attractive, articulate woman was teasingly referred to in the
prosecutor's office as "Magic" for helping them win convictions. (There
was a CBS, "60 Minutes II," story on her in 2001, and CBS News did some
follow-ups on it.) She could, for instance, be a bit over-dramatic in her
testimony, implying a greater certainty about hair samples matching each
other than there really was, or perhaps she could just lie outright, as
she apparently did in McCarthy's case.
A district judge released McCarthy after deciding that Gilchrist had
destroyed evidence. McCarthy's lawyers claim that she had even switched
samples to get a match, and the national Innocence Project took up
McCarthy's case (New York Times, May, 27, 2007).
The Times quoted the district judge: "Frankly all of the evidence that
Joyce Gilchrist collected, if she inventoried it, if she stored it, if she
analyzed it, I believe is so questionable that it is difficult to
determine if it has any evidentiary value."
I teach ethics and enjoy analyzing these sorts of cases with my students.
One response I initially get is the "bad apple" response: There are some
bad people in every profession. But I tell the students that it is not
adequate ethical thinking to simply point out the bad apples and say
everything will be better after we get the bad ones out of the barrel.
Look, rather, at the whole criminal justice culture. If we can change the
culture, we will get rid of most of the bad apples -- not the other way
Jocye Gilchrist was a problem -- surely. But how does someone like her
function smoothly (receiving commendations) for twenty years? Doesn't that
imply a wider problem than just one bad apple in the police crime lab? Was
not something wrong with the prosecutors who were so anxious to get their
"magic" Gilchrist on the stand to testify, case after case, year after
(There were plenty of signs her work was too good to be true.) And here is
another clue that there is a wider culture problem: True, she was fired,
but she was never prosecuted for a crime. Perhaps "overzealousness" like
hers was institutionally tolerated, even though it meant someone like
McCarthy would spend years on death row.
A book I am re-reading, Police Ethics: The Corruption of Noble Cause,
tries to look at the barrel and not each apple separately. The author
thinks most police and criminal justice misconduct is not rooted in money
scams, but in a strange cultural problem: a strong certitude that police
work is a "noble cause." It is such a noble cause that one can bend the
rules, lie, use any means, to serve it. Look at Joyce Gilchrist in the
police lab. No one bribed her to fudge evidence. She would never take a
bribe from a criminal. But she apparently could lie to put "bad guys" in
jail and help the "good guys." Our side is noble; why fuss about tactics?
This noble cause tradition is handed down to new recruits from older
officers and other leaders in the criminal justice world decade after
decade, building a sort of culture that second-guesses ethics in order to
achieve grand purposes. The values of the whole system start changing,
even if the written rules do not.
The book I'm reading makes an excellent point on institutional acceptance
of misconduct. It references a study by the Chicago Tribune, "Break rules,
be promoted." (The title reflects the Joyce Gilchrist story well: she was
promoted to be head of the lab.) The Tribune examined 381 cases of
prosecutor misconduct in homicide cases since 1964.
These were serious cases of misconduct that ended with convictions being
overturned. For instance, one prosecutor won convictions against 2
Afro-Americans and did not tell the defense about 1 witness who said the
perpetrators were white. Another prosecutor knew evidence was planted. But
in these 381 cases, not one of the prosecutors was convicted of a crime.
And many went on to be district attorneys or judges.
For 22 years Curtis McCarthy was a victim of a culture condoning some
misconduct, because it serves the "noble cause."
(source: Texas Civil Rights Review)
More information about the DeathPenalty