[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----ALA., FLA., USA, GA., N.C., ILL.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Sep 30 17:50:03 CDT 2007
A lethal combination
The state of Alabama had no shortage of reasons to block Thursday's
scheduled execution of Thomas Arthur. But the reason Gov. Bob Riley chose
to give Arthur a 45-day reprieve was certainly a salient one.
"The decision to grant a brief stay is being made only because the state
is changing its lethal injection protocol, and this will allow sufficient
time for the Department of Corrections to make that change," Riley said
Thursday, just hours before Arthur's execution was scheduled to take
That certainly is reasonable. It's beyond comprehension that the state
would have tried to carry out Arthur's execution as planned, with all the
new questions about lethal injection swirling around.
Just this week, the U.S. Supreme Court said it would hear a challenge of
Kentucky's lethal injection protocol, which Arthur's lawyers say involves
the same drugs used in Alabama.
Even more astounding, the lawyers disclosed, the state of Alabama already
had plans to change its lethal injection procedures, but not in time for
Arthur's execution. The lawyers said the procedural changes suggest
officials were well aware the procedures that would have been used on
Arthur weren't acceptable.
That's a reasonable conclusion, and one has to wonder why the information
wasn't disclosed sooner by the state.
Under the proposed new procedures, the inmate's level of consciousness
will be tested before the final drugs are administered. This is an
apparent effort to address concerns that inmates may be paralyzed but
conscious as they are executed and may endure a cruel, suffocating death.
While Riley decided to hold off on Arthur's execution long enough to get
the new procedures, he made it a point to say he is convinced of Arthur's
guilt in the 1982 murder of Troy Wicker and that he is determined to see
the execution carried out.
"I have encouraged the attorney general to make a motion with the Alabama
Supreme Court for a new date of execution as soon as possible," Riley said
in his statement.
Here's another idea: This 45-day period is more than enough time for Riley
to order DNA testing on biological evidence in Arthur's case, which was
prosecuted before today's scientific methods were developed.
The nonprofit Innocence Project of New York has said the results could be
available in a couple of weeks, and the testing would come at no cost to
the state. Even Wicker's family has expressed support for DNA testing;
Arthur's case contains enough weird elements to justify some doubts.
For one thing, Arthur was allegedly hired by Wicker's wife to kill her
husband. Judy Wicker initially denied that and claimed an intruder raped
her and committed the murder. She changed her story to implicate Arthur
after prosecutors agreed to recommend parole. In the end, the woman who is
said to have ordered the murder and collected the life insurance from it
served only 10 years in prison, while the alleged hired killer was sent to
Even though Riley is convinced of Arthur's guilt, the governor has nothing
to lose by ordering DNA tests. If they confirm Riley's beliefs, Arthur's
execution would at least be less troubling on the guilt/innocence front.
If the tests raise questions about Arthur's guilt - or identify another
suspect - all the better to know the truth now.
Riley did the right thing in delaying the execution. Now, he has a perfect
opportunity to go a step further and order DNA tests. As the Innocence
Project said Thursday in a statement, there's no excuse not to.
(source: The Birmingham News)
Arthur granted 45-day stay
Less than 7 hours before he was scheduled to be executed for the 1982
Colbert County slaying of Troy Wicker, Tommy Arthur was granted a 45-day
stay Thursday by Gov. Bob Riley.
Arthur's execution was set for 6 p.m. Riley's order was issued at 11:15
Riley stressed that the stay has nothing to do with the question of
Arthur's guilt, and he intends for Arthur ultimately to be executed.
The governor said he issued the stay because the state is changing the
manner in which it administers lethal injection, which is the form of
capital punishment used in Alabama.
Riley said in a press release that the execution should proceed once the
form of administering the injection is changed.
"The evidence is overwhelming that Thomas Arthur is guilty, and he will be
executed for this crime," Riley said. "The decision to grant a brief stay
is being made only because the state is changing its lethal injection
protocol, and this will allow sufficient time for the Department of
Corrections to make that change.
"It is my desire that, as soon as the stay has expired, justice will be
administered to Thomas Arthur. I have encouraged the attorney general to
make a motion with the Alabama Supreme Court for a new date of execution
as soon as possible."
Arthur's daughter, Sherrie Stone, said she was awake all night Wednesday
running through plans in her head, including plans for her father's
funeral. Father and daughter were together Thursday at the prison saying
their goodbyes when the stay was issued.
"We were in the visiting room," Stone said. "All of his personal
belongings had been taken away and boxed up, and I was going to take them
with me, and while we were sitting there, something just came over me. I
had this feeling that we were going to get a stay.
"5 minutes later, he was called into an office and told what was going on.
I think he was a little confused at first, and then relieved."
Arthur and his daughter say this isn't a postponement of the inevitable.
They say it is a chance to continue their quest to push for testing on DNA
that was taken from the Wicker crime scene.
Arthur's attorney, Suhana Han, has filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme
Court, asking for the DNA to be tested. That appeal remains active.
"The governor said the evidence is overwhelming," Stone said. "I dispute
that. All the evidence was circumstantial and the physical evidence has
never been tested. All we want is for this DNA to be tested and the truth
to come out."
Arthur was moved back to death row and his personal belongings that had
been boxed up were given back to him.
Clay Crenshaw, of the attorney general's office, has maintained that the
DNA evidence wouldn't establish innocence, no matter what it shows. He
agrees with Riley's office that the evidence against Arthur is
This is the 2nd time Arthur has received a stay. He was scheduled to be
executed at 12:01 a.m. on April 27, 2001. 3 days before that date, a U.S.
District Judge for the Court of Criminal Appeals issued the stay, saying
Arthur should have the opportunity to offer evidence showing he is
innocent in Wicker's death.
This 2nd stay of execution is the latest chapter in a long-running fight
from Arthur to avoid execution.
He was sentenced to death on Feb. 19, 1983, and has remained on death row
Arthur's case has been tried three times because of appeals. In all three
cases, he was found guilty. He requested the death penalty in order to
have automatic appeals, according to court transcripts from his trials.
Those who have been involved in his case throughout the years expressed
frustration and amazement at Arthur's Houdini-like ability to avoid the
"He's led a charmed life," said Tuscumbia attorney James Patton, a former
Colbert County district attorney who prosecuted Arthur.
"I just thought maybe they'd go ahead and do it, but they're going to let
him go on for 45 days," Patton said. "Gov. Riley's not going to change his
mind, as far as the execution. There are certain things that deserve
death. This is one of them. I'm sure Riley will stick to his guns."
Still, after decades of watching Arthur elude capital punishment, Patton
said of his execution, "I'll believe it when I see it."
Tuscumbia lawyer William Hovater, who was one of Arthur's defense
attorneys, said he is not surprised by Riley's decision.
"If (Riley) thought (lethal injection) was being done wrong and the
protocol needed to be changed, he did what he was morally obligated to
do," Hovater said. "I'd say Tommy's dodged another bullet."
According to published reports, Daniel Lee Seibert, another death-row
inmate, is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Oct. 25. It was unknown
Thursday whether Arthur's stay would affect Seibert's case.
Riley's decision comes one day after the Alabama Supreme Court declined to
issue a stay in Arthur's case. Arthur had requested the stay, on the heels
of a Kentucky case. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed a Tuesday
execution of a Kentucky inmate because of questions about lethal
The questions surround the effectiveness of drugs administered before the
lethal drug. The 1st drug is supposed to prevent the inmate from feeling
pain during the lethal dose. The 2nd dose paralyzes the inmate. The
question surrounds the theory that no one can tell whether the inmate is
in pain during the lethal injections, because of the paralysis.
(source: Times Daily)
In Alabama, Rare Delay of Inmate's Execution
In a fresh sign that the use of lethal injection in capital punishment
faces an uncertain future, the Supreme Court issued an unusual last-minute
reprieve for a death-row inmate in Texas late last night.
Although the court gave no reason for its decision, the inmate, Carlton
Turner Jr., had appealed to the court after it agreed on Tuesday to
consider the constitutionality of lethal injection, the most commonly used
method of execution in the United States. The decision suggests that until
it issues a ruling on lethal injection, the court may be receptive to
requests to delay such executions, at least for defendants whose cases
raise no procedural issues.
"It's an indication that the court believes there are real questions about
what states are doing in this area," said Bryan Stevenson, executive
director of the Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama, which opposes
executions. "What this signals is that the burden is now shifting to the
states to do something about all these problems folks have been talking
The vote on the stay of execution was not announced, but at least 5
justices needed to support it.
Earlier in the day, another rare stay of an execution came in Alabama,
where Gov. Bob Riley said the state would not execute an inmate named
Tommy Arthur while it came up with a new formula for lethal injection.
State officials said they wanted to make sure prisoners were completely
unconscious before they were killed.
The full effect of the Supreme Court's decision is not yet known, but it
may interrupt what appears to be emerging as a patchwork, state-by-state
response to its decision Tuesday to look at whether lethal injection
causes unnecessary suffering.
Some states, even ardent pro-death penalty ones like Alabama, are slowing
down. Others, like Texas, had been cruising at full speed; the state
executed a prisoner a few hours after the court's decision on Tuesday and
was planning to proceed with its 27th execution of the year last night
when the Court intervened. 11 states have stopped lethal injections
altogether, as litigation proceeds.
"It's going to be a hodgepodge," said George Kendall, a veteran civil
rights lawyer in New York. "Some states will shut down, and in some it
will be business as usual."
All week, Texas officials had maintained that nothing had changed and that
executions could proceed. Mr. Turner, 28, of Dallas, was convicted of
having fatally shot his adoptive parents in 1998. Another execution is
scheduled in the state next week.
Steve Hall, executive director of the StandDown Texas Project, which
advocates a moratorium on executions pending a state study, said Tuesday's
execution might have come too soon after the high court's decision to
review lethal injection for the justices to want to intervene in that
case. Mr. Hall said he would welcome a stay of all other executions until
the court rules on the constitutionality of lethal injection.
The Supreme Court's decisions this week seemed certain to at least slow
the pace, particularly in Southern states. Death penalty lawyers in North
Carolina and Virginia, for instance, are already asking for delays both in
executions and the development of new procedures for them.
"I think it will hold up quite a few executions," said Richard C. Dieter
of the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit group opposed to
In Alabama, where politicians rarely challenge the death penalty, the
state is developing a "consciousness awareness test" for inmates being
executed, but state officials maintained that the action was unconnected
to the Supreme Court decision.
"Somebody would come in and do something to assess consciousness, after
the anesthesia is delivered," Assistant Attorney General Clay Crenshaw
said. For now, he said, "the consciousness-awareness is being done
visually by the warden."
In a separate case next week, a federal judge in Alabama will hear
arguments from 2 death-row inmates that lethal injection is
Jeff Emerson, a spokesman for Governor Riley, said the change in injection
procedures was not related to that case but to a federal judge's ruling in
Tennessee last week that lethal injection in that state "presents a
substantial risk of unnecessary pain," and could "result in a terrifying,
The judge halted a scheduled execution in Tennessee. Mr. Emerson said
Alabama's execution procedure was similar to Tennessee's, and thus needed
to be altered.
The cases set to be heard next week in Alabama, filed by 2 death row
inmates, Willie McNair and James Callahan, are similar to the Kentucky
case that led to the Supreme Court decision. They argue that the condemned
prisoner could suffer during the execution because of improper
administration of the chemicals.
(source: The New York Times)
Prosecutors expect to rest case in killer's death penalty trial
Jurors today will hear how convicted murderer James Darrell Lewis brutally
beat an elderly man to death with a wrench several months after he
shattered another man's skull with a metal pipe, prosecutors said.
Then the defense will have an opportunity to present evidence why
37-year-old Lewis does not deserve to die for the killings.
Lewis -- currently serving 2 consecutive life sentences for the November
1999 slaying of the elderly man -- pleaded guilty last year to the April
14, 1999, beating death of Donald Kirby, a homeless man whom he lived near
in a homeless camp in Rockledge.
In at least one beating, police said Lewis' motive was drug money.
The state, seeking the death penalty for Kirby's killing, expects to rest
its case today or Monday.
Lewis' attorneys said they plan to present neurological evidence that
Lewis was mentally incapacitated at the time of Kirby's killing. They also
plan to present witnesses who will testify about Lewis' change in
character since his arrest in 1999.
(source: Florida Today)
Drip by drip, U.S. support for execution wanes
It took so long to kill Christopher Newton that they had to give him a
Mr. Newton was sentenced to be executed by the state of Ohio last May for
murdering a fellow inmate in a dispute over a chess game. But he was a big
man, and his executioners had trouble finding a vein in which to inject
the lethal cocktail. It took 10 tries, almost two hours and a trip to the
john before they finally managed to kill the man. Witnesses said Mr.
Newton remained quite cheerful through it all.
Joseph Clark was not so patient. His execution last year by the same state
lasted an hour and a half - it should have only taken 20 minutes - again
because the executioners had difficulty finding a usable vein. At one
point Mr. Clark pushed himself up and declared, "It don't work." He even
pleaded, "Can't you just give me something by mouth to end this?"
The Supreme Court agreed this week to consider whether execution by lethal
injection in its current form constitutes cruel and unusual punishment,
and is thus a violation of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Although the court's term begins Monday, it is unlikely to hear arguments
until January or February, with a ruling due by summer. During that time,
lawyers representing condemned inmates across the United States will argue
for a moratorium on capital punishment.
Their arguments cut little ice in states like Texas, which executes
prisoners with positive enthusiasm. Texas executed Richard Bird Tuesday,
hours after the court announced its decision to review the
constitutionality of lethal injections. But in Alabama, an execution
scheduled for last night was stayed yesterday.
Even a partial moratorium resulting from the court's review will
contribute to the slow, steady, merciful decline of capital punishment in
the United States.
"It's no longer a question of whether the United States will abolish the
death penalty; it's a question of when the United States will abolish the
death penalty," argues David Elliot of the National Coalition to Abolish
the Death Penalty. "The death penalty is simply withering away."
Executions are on the wane in the United States. 53 people were put to
death last year, compared with 98 in 1999. Acquittals of condemned
prisoners through DNA evidence, recent court rulings that banned the
execution of minors and the mentally handicapped, and concern over the
humaneness of lethal injections - by far the most common form of execution
- have led to formal or informal moratoriums in many states. Thus far this
year, only 10 states have performed executions, all in the South or
Midwest. 26 of the 42 people put to death were in Texas.
The concern over lethal injections goes beyond the problem of
insufficiently skilled executioners. (Doctors and nurses are
professionally prohibited from killing anyone.) Critics maintain that the
drugs mask what could be agonizing deaths.
Typically, the person to be executed is given 3 drugs from a team
operating outside the execution chamber: sodium thiopental, to sedate him;
pancuronium bromide, to induce paralysis; and potassium chloride, better
known as road salt, to induce cardiac arrest.
Critics maintain that the sedative typically begins to wear off shortly
after it is administered. If that is true, the second drug that paralyzes
the victim would make him able to feel pain but unable to communicate that
he is awake. If so, the injection of the potassium chloride would cause
The case before the court, brought by lawyers on behalf of Ralph Baze and
Thomas Bowling, who are sentenced to die in Kentucky, does not ask the
court to prohibit lethal injections entirely. (If it did, surely all other
forms of execution, from electrocution to hanging to gassing to firing
squad, would also be deemed unconstitutional.)
"This case is about whether using chemicals or a procedure that creates a
known risk of pain and suffering violates the cruel and unusual punishment
clause when the chemicals and procedures could be replaced with
alternatives that cause less risk of pain and suffering," declares the
plaintiffs' petition to the court.
Even if the court were to declare that some other form of lethal injection
should substitute for the current one, however, the consequences would be
significant. Although the laws differ from state to state, many states
would be required to pass legislation authorizing the new form of
execution - legislation that, in at least some states, might fail to pass.
Most observers believe that, as in so many rulings, the court is divided
4-4 on the issue, and that Mr. Justice Anthony Kennedy will cast the
Whatever the court decides, Mr. Elliot is convinced that the number of
executions will steadily decline over the next 15 years to something
"Maybe we'll have 1 or 2 executions each year, just to prove that we still
can," he speculates.
In which case, it will still be 1 or 2 more than occur anywhere else in
the civilized world.
(source: Globe and Mail)
High court moderates may leave after Bush, writer says
A trio of moderate U.S. Supreme Court justices will likely leave the court
soon after President Bush leaves office, according to the author of a
just-published insider's look at the Supremes.
In an interview, Jeffrey Toobin, author of "The Nine: Inside the Secret
World of the Supreme Court" (Doubleday), identified the probable retirees
as Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
Toobin gives a detailed account of how the high court has evolved in the
past 20 years.
The core of the book, however, is its reporting of a campaign by movement
conservatives to gain control of a pivotal branch of American government.
"The political 'center' exists in Justice Anthony Kennedy, and is in a
different place than it was 2 years ago," Toobin explained in an
interview. He will be appearing in Seattle next Friday.
Kennedy, Toobin argues, is to the right of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor,
who spent more than a decade as the court's pivotal vote until her
retirement in 2005. O'Connor, a Reagan appointee, was replaced by Justice
Samuel Alito, a favorite of the conservative Federalist Society.
"There is a difference between the conservatism of a Sandra Day O'Connor,
which is by nature libertarian, and 'conservative' as defined by Justices
(Antonin) Scalia, (John) Roberts and Alito, which is oriented toward
executive power and upholding the authority of the state," Toobin said.
Kennedy continues to straddle. Influenced by traditions in foreign law, he
has voted to curb application of the death penalty to juveniles and the
mentally ill. He wrote a landmark decision that overturned Texas' sodomy
The Reagan appointee has been a pivotal vote in rejecting the Bush
administration's assertion of unlimited power when it comes to
incarceration of terrorism suspects.
"On issues like abortion and civil rights, Kennedy is much more on the
conservative side" than O'Connor, Toobin said.
Conservatism in America once stood for individual freedom and limits on
the federal government's scope of authority.
Its symbol was crusty 1964 presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, an
Arizonan and friend of O'Connor's. When Moral Majority founder Jerry
Falwell questioned how a good Christian could support O'Connor's
appointment, Goldwater growled: "I think every good Christian ought to
kick Falwell right in the ass."
With the rise of the Federalist Society, and the religious right,
conservatism took a different turn. Jurists such as Scalia and rejected
Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork became heroes to hard-core believers.
"Both were real conservatives, not 'squishies,' as young Federalist
Society lawyers referred to John Marshall Harlan, Potter Stewart and other
moderate conservatives," Toobin writes.
Toobin is blunt in his book. He depicts Supreme Court decisions from 1992
to 2005 as reflecting public opinion in America "with great precision." He
praises "moderate swing justices, first Lewis F. Powell and then Sandra
Day O'Connor who played a pivotal role on an evenly divided court.
"That, now, may be about to change," he writes. "Through the tense
standoff of the Burger and Rehnquist years, a powerful conservative
rebellion against the court has been building.
"It has been, in many respects, a remarkable ideological offensive,
nurtured at various time in such locales as elite law schools, evangelical
churches and, most importantly and most recently, the White House.
"Its agenda has remained largely the same over the decades. Reverse Roe v.
Wade and allow states to ban abortion. Expand executive power. End racial
preferences intended to assist African- Americans. Speed executions.
Welcome religion into the public sphere."
With the naming of Alito and Roberts as chief justice, the right's agenda
is within reach.
"They will be close allies on the court for decades," Toobin predicted. "I
don't see any meaningful differences. They are, as they were as young
Reagan administration lawyers, committed movement conservatives."
A bad joke in Southeast Alaska backs him up. Juneau- Douglas High School
students were let off school in 2002 to watch the Olympic torch pass by:
As it did, 18-year-old Joseph Frederick and friends unfurled a banner
saying "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" on the sidewalk.
School Principal Deborah Morse didn't find the joke amusing. She ran
across the street, grabbed the banner and gave Frederick a 5-day
suspension. It was boosted to 10 days when he quoted Thomas Jefferson on
The Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, upheld the principal's actions: In one
of his first opinions, Roberts wrote that the event constituted "school
speech," and emphasized the government's "important -- indeed perhaps
compelling interest" in fighting drug use by students.
Justice Clarence Thomas concurred, going further in arguing that students
in schools do not have a right to free speech.
The stunt was juvenile. Still, the Supremes' decision makes grown-ups
wonder whether individual freedoms in America are going up in smoke.
"The current definition of 'conservatism' is much more authoritarian than
libertarian," Toobin said.>
"This group of conservatives believe in state power. The opinion is an
example of how this court is cutting back on First Amendment freedoms."
(source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Author speaks on prison reform
Prison reform advocate and Quaker Linda Magnani visited with Criminal
Justice students Sept. 26 to discuss her latest book, Beyond Prisons.
In the book published in 2006 by Fortress Press, Magnani discusses the
topic of what she sees as our flawed penal system, what went wrong with
the original system, and 12 ways it can be changed.
The book ties in the Quaker history with the penal system, discussing how
the Quaker faith began the system and how the American Friends Service
Committee wants to fix it. The original penitentiary, Philadelphia's own
Eastern State Penitentiary, was constructed as a way to change
dungeon-style prisons and a lot of use of the death penalty and corporal
punishment with more humane facilities, trained staff, good food, and
medical care," Magnani said.
These changes worked until the inevitable happened - overcrowding in the
facility. Instead of correcting the ways people were sentenced, "they were
saying, 'Well, gee, we're having some kinds of problems, so let's just
make it bigger. Let's have more space, let's have more guards.'.that
mentality of bigger and bigger and bigger is what's haunting us now,"
"Laura and her late co-author have provided a very strong moral analysis
and assessment of our prison system and have found it a dismal failure,"
Dr. Julia Hall, director of the criminal justice program, said.
Populations in prisons soared, causing more to be built, but the problem
seemed to worsen. Beyond Prisons has an explanation for this as well: the
legislative system is complex. For example, Magnani uses a statement from
Lee Griffith's The Fall of the Prison: Biblical Perspectives on Prison
Abolition: "Homicide is typically considered a crime-unless the
perpetrator acted in self-defense, by reason of insanity, or 'in the line
of duty.' soldiers might be criminally liable for refusing to kill on
order. [Meaning] killing (or refusing to kill).is or is not a crime,
depending on the widest range of circumstances."
"As a nation we continue this retributive approach despite continued
failure as indicated by the 66 percent recidivism rate," Hall commented.
Magnani believes that the penal system needs to be fixed. Her solution is
the complete replacement of our current system with a better, less harsh
"We have a one-size-fits-all system," Magnani said. "Anything can work
better at this point."
Her suggestion is a 12 point plan, which includes "Penal Abolition:"
Forget the current system and adopt a new one, as well as "Elimination of
Solitary Confinement," "Implementation of International Law," and her
position that the penal system "Let Children be Children" - that youth
should not be tried for crimes because they have not developed mentally,
as have adults.
(source: The Triangle)
Attorney: Humphries "not beyond redemption"--deliberations on punishment
The attorney for a convicted murderer asked a jury Friday to spare him
from the death penalty despite his horrific crime - forcing two Cobb
County real estate agents to strip naked and give him their bank cards
before shooting both women in the head.
"These crimes are beyond redemption, but a man is not beyond redemption,"
defense lawyer Jimmy Berry told jurors in closing arguments of the trial's
sentencing phase. "This is a test of our humanity."
The jury convicted Stacey Ian Humphreys on Tuesday of malice murder in the
slayings of 33-year-old Cyndi Williams and 21-year-old Lori Brown. Their
naked bodies were found Nov. 3, 2003, on the floor of their sales office
in suburban Powder Springs north of Atlanta.
Now the jury of 10 women and 2 men must decide whether to sentence
Humphreys to life in prison or death by lethal injection. Jurors
deliberated for nearly 6 hours before recessing late Friday. Deliberations
were to resume Saturday morning.
Cobb County District Attorney Pat Head told jurors Friday that Humphreys
deserved the death penalty for killing the women just so he could steal
money for a $565 truck payment.
"He's the one who, by his own hand, took innocent blood," Head said. "He
is an executioner. All people who commit murder believe in the death
penalty - at least for everybody but them."
Superior Court Judge Dorothy Robinson moved Humphreys' trial more than 300
miles from Cobb County to coastal Brunswick because of pretrial publicity.
Berry urged the jury to consider testimony that Humphreys suffers mental
disorders as the result of an abusive childhood - not as excuses for his
crime, but as factors showing he deserves mercy.
Humphreys' younger sister, Dayna Knowles, testified Friday that she and
her brother were abused by their father. While their father would whip her
with a belt or stick when they got into trouble, Knowles said, he would
beat Humphreys with his fists.
"I know it's hard for a lot of people to understand, but I feel like my
brother and I have survived through sort of a battle and we made it to the
other side," Knowles said through tears. "He's like my connection to what
was real in my life, as horrible as it was."
Knowles also told the jury: "I will always love my brother, and he
completely loves me. He has a good heart."
Humphreys, 34, did not testify. He told the judge outside the jury's
presence that he was satisfied with his defense.
Dr. Robert Shaffer, a clinical psychologist, testified that he believes
Humphreys shows symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder as well as
Asperger's syndrome, often likened to autism. Some of those disorders, he
said, are often linked to physical abuse.
Shaffer said his review of Humphreys' family and medical history showed he
suffered cigarette burns on his body as a child as well as a skull
fracture when he was 3 years old.
"There were instances of physical battery of Stacey Humphreys where his
father would sit on him and batter his head which, interestingly, Stacey
Humphreys seems to have no memory of," Shaffer said.
He said Humphreys can't seem to recall his abuse - just as Humphreys told
police after his 2003 arrest in Wisconsin that he did not remember killing
Williams and Brown, though he suspected he was guilty.
"He exhibits this kind of denial to avoid re-experiencing the problems and
horrors of his life," Shaffer said.
(source: Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Man's Obsession With Death Row Caused Security Threat
A man's obsession with death row caused a security threat at a Georgia
prison that could have led to an escape, authorities said.
Gregory Gaskin told CBS 46 investigative reporter Adam Murphy that he was
told to smuggle papers into the state prison in Jackson, Ga., after he
befriended 2 death row inmates, James Lee and Ashley Jones. Both men are
"This is what was presented to me to be done," Gaskin said.
"You're blaming them, then?" Murphy asked.
"I was their fall guy," Gaskin replied.
Gaskin claims he's innocent even though he admitted to the crime in a
sworn statement and is serving a 3-year jail sentence.
Murphy asked Gaskin what his motive was.
"I'm an opponent of the death penalty, so one of my reasons was just going
to befriend them," Gaskin said.
The state's investigation revealed that Gaskin set up a pager account for
the 2 inmates. An e-mail from one of the inmates to Gaskin said "I need
you to get a pager that won't be traced to you (Gaskin)." Authorities said
one of the inmates sent threatening e-mails with the pager.
"The investigation was more or less discovered because a person who lived
in Texas contacted the prison warden and said one of your inmates is
e-mailing my daughter and I want them to stop," said Richard Milam, the
Butts County district attorney.
Warden Hilton Hall insists the Jackson prison is secure and is no threat
to the community. But investigators said other inmates were using the
pagers set up by Gaskin to e-mail death threats.
"Our main focus again is to have those good security measures, even to the
point of conducting shake downs to ensure what gets past us is detected,"
Gaskin continues to claim his innocence.
"You say you had nothing to do with this--guilty or innocent?" asked
"The only part I'm telling you is that I communicated with the inmate on
it," Gaskin answered.
Gaskin began serving his 3-year sentence last month. Prison officials are
warning residents to be cautious about befriending death row inmates.
They say one wrong call could land you in prison.
Prosecutors to seek death penalty in August slaying
The prosecution announced this week that it will seek the death penalty
against a Graham man accused of shooting a 16-year-old to death in August.
District Attorney Rob Johnson told Superior Court Judge Steve Balog on
Thursday that his office has evidence to support at least one aggravating
circumstance that would allow them to proceed with a capital case against
32-year-old Lawrence Donnell Flood Sr.
Flood, of East Parker Street, faces first-degree murder and kidnapping
charges after officers found Gregory Jerrod Watlington dead Aug. 14 in
some woods next to Flowers Street in Graham. Watlington had been reported
missing the day before.
Though the hearing was performed within the time frame established by law,
defense attorneys Robert Collins and Robert Sharpe asked Balog to continue
the hearing since they had only received one page of discovery in the
case, according to Collins.
He said Balog decided there was no need to delay the hearing and ruled in
favor of Johnson.
"We don't know what is going on," Collins said.
The office of Indigent Defense Services typically assigns a second counsel
after a case becomes capital. Collins said he was assigned to the case
about 2 weeks after Flood was charged because the prosecution had hinted
that it planned to pursue the death penalty.
Flood is originally from Newark, N.J., where he served 10 years in the New
Jersey Department of Corrections on a manslaughter and unlawful weapons
conviction. He was released from prison in May 2005, according to the N.J.
Department of Corrections Web site.
(source: Times News)
Death penalty sought in slayings of 4 in Oswego family
A day after his 33rd birthday, Christopher Vaughn learned Thursday that
prosecutors plan to seek his execution if he is found guilty of murdering
his wife and 3 children in their sport-utility vehicle off Interstate
Highway 55 in rural Will County.
Vaughn of Oswego showed no emotion at the announcement made by State's
Atty. James Glasgow in a hearing before Circuit Judge Daniel Rozak.
A few minutes earlier, Vaughn, who had a short, full beard after months
ago shaving off the goatee he had when arrested, got into an apparently
intense but inaudible conversation with two of his attorneys who were
holding documents after walking into court shortly before Glasgow entered
He is charged with 4 counts of 1st-degree murder in the June 14 shooting
deaths of his wife, Kimberly, 34, and their 3 children, Abigayle, 12,
Cassandra, 11, and Blake, 8. He was arrested in Missouri as he showed up
for the funeral of his family 9 days later.
Vaughn, suffering relatively minor gunshot wounds, asked a passing
motorist near the Bluff Road interchange on I-55 in Channahon Township to
call 911. Police then discovered the slain family members in their SUV,
parked between rows of trees on a cell-tower access road just off a
In the hours after the shootings, Vaughn told authorities the family was
headed to a water park in Springfield when he pulled off the highway
because Kimberly felt sick, sources said. Vaughn said he got out of the
SUV to adjust the luggage rack and, while getting back in, noticed his leg
was bleeding, so he went for help, they said. He said he remembered little
of what happened after that and, while being treated in a hospital, asked
if his wife had been notified, they said.
Prosecutors have not discussed a possible motive in the case. Their long
witness list includes an insurance-fraud investigator and 2 strip-club
Kimberly Vaughn's family was not at the hearing Thursday but spoke later
of its struggle.
"All of our days and nights are difficult ... since the death of our
beautiful daughter, Kimberly, and her children," said Susan Phillips,
"We are saddened that today's circumstances were a necessary part of the
Illinois justice process," she added. "We fully support the Illinois State
Police and Will County prosecutor's investigation and leave their
determination of penalty to their learned legal judgment."
Vaughn's parents and two other family members attended the hearing but
said nothing on their way out of court. His defense attorneys took no
In the hearing, Glasgow filed a "notice of intent to seek the death
penalty." If Vaughn is convicted of multiple murders, and a judge or jury
decides against the death penalty, the only other punishment that can be
considered is natural life in prison, prosecutors said.
Glasgow said he reviewed state death penalty statutes, consulted with the
attorney general's office on death penalty guidelines and sat 3 times with
an 8-member committee of his office's top prosecutors before making his
"The most solemn decision a prosecutor can make is whether or not to seek
the death penalty," he said after the hearing. "It is a decision that
demands an intensive review of all the evidence available in a case, as
well as a thorough analysis of the factors in aggravation and mitigation
as set forth in the statute."
Aggravating factors that apply in the Vaughn case are the fact that two or
more people were killed and the killings were "committed in a cold,
calculated and premeditated manner pursuant to a preconceived plan, scheme
or design," according to the notice of intent.
A potentially mitigating factor not mentioned by Glasgow is Vaughn's
apparent lack of prior criminal activity.
In the nearly 15 years Glasgow has served as the county's top prosecutor,
the death sentence has been sought at least 4 times and was handed down in
each case. One was returned for resentencing, and with the attorney
general's office prosecuting, both sides agreed to a life sentence.
The other 3 death sentences were commuted by former Gov. George Ryan, who
cleared death row in early 2003, 3 years after imposing an execution
moratorium that remains in place.
Of 13 Illinois defendants sentenced to death since 2002, one is from Will
County, but he was prosecuted by the attorney general's office. Brian
Nelson, 25, formerly of Momence, was convicted last year of fatally
bludgeoning his ex-girlfriend, her father, her brother and the father's
girlfriend in the family's Custer Township farmhouse before setting them
(source: Chicago Tribune)
More information about the DeathPenalty