[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, GA., FLA., USA, ALA.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Wed Sep 21 16:18:13 CDT 2011
Man set to die for Byrd dragging death----1 of 2 Jasper white supremacists
A white supremacist gang member was headed to the death chamber Wednesday for
the infamous dragging death 13 years ago of James Byrd Jr., a black man from
Jasper in East Texas.
Byrd, 49, was chained to the back of a pickup truck and pulled whip-like to his
death along a bumpy asphalt road in one of the most grisly hate crime murders
in recent Texas history.
Appeals to the courts for inmate Lawrence Russell Brewer, 44, were exhausted
and no last-day attempts to save his life were filed.
Besides Brewer, John William King, now 36, also was convicted of capital murder
and sent to death row for Byrd's death, which shocked the nation for its
brutality. King's conviction and death sentence remain under appeal. A third
man, Shawn Berry, 36, received a life prison term.
"One down and one to go," said Billy Rowles, the retired Jasper County sheriff
who first investigated the horrific scene. "That's kind of cruel, but that's
Byrd's sister, Clara Taylor, said someone from her brother's family needed to
be present to watch Brewer die so she planned to be in the death chamber.
"He had choices," she said Tuesday, referring to Brewer. "He made the wrong
While the lethal injection wouldn't compare to the death her brother endured,
she said, "knowing you're going to be executed, that has to be a sobering
It was about 2:30 a.m. on a Sunday, June 7, 1998, when witnesses saw Byrd
walking on a road not far from his home in Jasper, a town of more than 7,000
about 125 miles northeast of Houston. Many folks knew he lived off disability
checks, couldn't afford his own car and walked where he needed to go. Another
witness then saw him riding in the bed of a dark pickup.
6 hours later and some 10 miles away on Huff Creek Road, the bloody mess found
after daybreak was thought at first to be animal road kill. Rowles, a former
Texas state trooper who had taken office as sheriff the previous year, believed
it was a hit-and-run fatality but evidence didn't match up with someone caught
beneath a vehicle. Body parts were scattered and the blood trail began with
footprints at what appeared to be the scene of a scuffle.
"I didn't go down that road too far before I knew this was going to be a bad
deal," he said at Brewer's trial.
Fingerprints taken from the headless torso identified the victim as Byrd.
Testimony showed the three men and Byrd drove out into the county about 10
miles and stopped along an isolated logging road. A fight broke out and the
outnumbered Byrd was tied to the truck bumper with a 24½-foot logging chain.
Three miles later, what was left of his shredded remains was dumped between a
black church and cemetery where the pavement ended on the remote road.
Brewer, King and Berry were in custody by the end of the next day.
The crime put Jasper under a national spotlight and lured the likes of the Ku
Klux Klan and the Black Panthers, among others, to try to exploit the notoriety
of the case. Byrd's killing continues — many say unfairly — to brand Jasper
more than a decade later.
King was tried 1st, in Jasper. Brewer's trial was moved 150 miles away to
Bryan. Berry was tried in Jasper.
Brewer, from Sulphur Springs, about 180 miles to the northwest, had been
convicted of cocaine possession. He met King, a convicted burglar from Jasper,
in a Texas prison where they got involved in a KKK splinter group known as the
Confederate Knights of America and adorned themselves with racist tattoos.
Evidence showed Brewer had violated parole and was involved in a number of
burglaries and thefts in the Jasper area.
King had become friends with Berry and moved into Berry's place. Evidence
showed Brewer came to Jasper to stay with King and Berry after losing a job
because he lied about his criminal past on an application.
Membership in the white supremacist group, in which Brewer was known as
"exalted cyclops," was necessary in prison to ward off attacks from black
inmates, Brewer said.
At his trial, Brewer blamed Byrd's death on Berry, and said the slaying
climaxed a fight between Byrd and King.
"I had no intentions of killing nobody," Brewer testified. "If I knew the
results, I would have gone to the cops."
DNA evidence showed Byrd's blood on all three men's clothing.
Rowles and Guy James Gray, the former county district attorney who prosecuted
the trio, visited with Brewer a few weeks ago at death row "to kind of see if
he had a change of heart or was still the same," Gray said.
"He didn't show any kind of remorse," Rowles said. "He said he wasn't the one
to put (Byrd) on the chain. He was there. He still contends as he did on the
witness stand that Berry cut Byrd's throat and killed him before he was
chained. But that just wasn't so. He pretty much stayed with what he testified.
"It was so nonchalant. It was unreal."
(source: Associated Press)
CORRECTIONS OFFICIALS SIGN-ON FOR TROY DAVIS
This morning, 6 retired corrections officials, including Dr. Allen Ault,
retired Director of the Georgia Department of Corrections and former Warden of
the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison where he oversaw executions
for the state, have sent the following letter to Georgia Corrections Officials
and Governor Nathan Deal asking them to urge the Georgia Board of Pardons and
Paroles to reconsider the decision they made on Tuesday, September 20, 2011 to
deny Troy Davis Clemency despite concerns about his guilt. Davis is scheduled
to be executed on Wednesday, September 21 at 7:00pm at Georgia Diagnostics &
Classifications Prison in Jackson, Georgia.
We write to you as former wardens and corrections officials who have had direct
involvement in executions. Like few others in this country, we understand that
you have a job to do in carrying out the lawful orders of the judiciary. We
also understand, from our own personal experiences, the awful lifelong
repercussions that come from participating in the execution of prisoners. While
most of the prisoners whose executions we participated in accepted
responsibility for the crimes for which they were punished, some of us have
also executed prisoners who maintained their innocence until the end. It is
those cases that are most haunting to an executioner.
We write to you today with the overwhelming concern that an innocent person
could be executed in Georgia tonight. We know the legal process has exhausted
itself in the case of Troy Anthony Davis, and yet, doubt about his guilt
remains. This very fact will have an irreversible and damaging impact on your
staff. Many people of significant standing share these concerns, including,
notably, William Sessions, Director of the FBI under President Ronald Reagan.
Living with the nightmares is something that we know from experience. No one
has the right to ask a public servant to take on a lifelong sentence of nagging
doubt, and for some of us, shame and guilt. Should our justice system be
causing so much harm to so many people when there is an alternative?
We urge you to ask the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to reconsider their
decision. Should that fail, we urge you to unburden yourselves and your staff
from the pain of participating in such a questionable execution to the extent
possible by allowing any personnel so inclined to opt-out of activities
related to the execution of Troy Anthony Davis. Further, we urge you to provide
appropriate counseling to personnel who do choose to perform their job
functions related to the execution. If we may be of assistance to you moving
forward, please do not hesitate to call upon any of us.
Respectfully and collegially,
Allen Ault – Retired Warden, Georgia Diagnostic & Classifications Prison
Terry Collins – Retired Director, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and
Ron McAndrew – Retired Warden, Florida State Prison
Dennis O’Neill - Retired Warden, Florida State Prison
Reginald Wilkinson – Retired Director, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and
Jeanne Woodford – Retired Warden, San Quentin State Prison
6 Prison Wardens say to Georgia “Do not kill Troy Davis”
For the past 2 weeks, I have been posting about the Troy Davis case as his
execution date (September 21, 2011 at 7:00PM) was fast approaching. Please join
me and the other now one million people from around the world that have asked
for clemency for Troy Davis.
Below is the most recent email alert related to the Troy Davis case from
Georgians For Alternatives to the Death Penalty. The email implores us to
continue to take action today to ensure that Georgia does not execute an
We have only hours left to stop the execution of Troy Davis. We ask allof you
to stay engaged, to stay active. Keep calling on the Parole Board to reconsider
its decision, and on the Chatham County(Savannah) District Attorney Larry
Chisolm to do the right thing by contactingthe Chatham County’s District
Attorney’s office by phone/fax: Telephone: 912-652-7308. Fax: 912-652-7328.
Continue to send a send a letter to Dr. Carlo Musso at Rainbow Medical
Associates and urge him torefuse to participate in the execution of Troy Davis.
Rainbow Medical Associates is the medical team that assists with Georgia’s
Dr. Carlo Musso, President, and Employees
9020 Peridot Parkway
Stockbridge, GA 30281
Here is a statement issued from corrections officials cautioningagainst the
execution of Troy Davis because “living with the nightmares issomething that we
know from experience.” Please forward this statement far and wide.
If you are use Twitter, please post one or all of these sample messages to help
get the word out on the letter from the corrections officials:
Corrections officials urge #TroyDavis #executioners against proceeding, warn
6 Prison Wardens say to Georgia”Do not kill #TroyDavis”
Prison wardens tell GA:”Living with the nightmares is something that we know
fromexperience” – don’t #execute #TroyDavisbit.ly/r0VFQ5
We really appreciate the interest in comingout to support tonight. We strongly
encourage you to stay in Atlanta and attend the vigil at the Capitol that the
Open Door Community is leading. It is always moving and steeped intenets of our
social justice movement. The prison is going to be packed. Please stay in
Atlanta(or attend a site near you) to show your support.
Here is more information about vigils beingheld around Georgia:
Thank you for taking action!”
It is my hope that you will join me and countless others around the world
seeking to make sure that justice is served in the Davis Case. It is important
to act now to let the state of Georgia – and the world – know that you stand by
Troy Davis in his fight for justice by joining the efforts undertaken by
Amnesty, NAACP, and countless other organizations to halt this injustice. This
is a matter of life and death, and time is running out. (sources: Nichelle
Mitchem, gather.com; Georgians For Alternatives to the Death Penalty)
As clock ticks toward Davis' execution, judge declines to issue stay
With only a few hours remaining before Troy Anthony Davis' execution scheduled
for tonight, his lawyers are pursuing final appeals and protests are mounting.
Superior Court Judge Thomas Wilson this afternoon declined to issue a stay,
rejecting Davis' last-ditch bid to halt his execution. Davis' lawyers will now
appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court and, if necessary, the U.S. Supreme Court.
Davis, 42, has been here before. On three prior occasions, the state of Georgia
set his execution date and on each occasion -- once with just about 2 hours to
go -- he was granted stays. But Davis and his lawyers had pinned their hopes
this week on the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, which has the sole
authority in Georgia to commute a death sentence. On Tuesday, the board
rejected their bid.
He is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection at 7 p.m.
The scene outside the state prison in Jackson, where Davis' execution is to
take place, is unlike any other previous execution in past years.
Television satellite trucks and media cars are parked bumper to bumper. Scores
of death penalty opponents gathered in the area set aside for them, while one
woman stands in an area cordoned off the those who support the death penalty.
Security was tighter than at previous executions with numerous state patrol
cars parked across from the prison.
The Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church who has visited
Davis in the past, was denied a chance to see the condemned inmate this
"We did not get a chance to see Troy," Warnock said. "We reached out to the
warden and the [Corrections] commissioner to no avail. We didn't get an
explanation [why it was denied]. We wanted to do a pastoral visit, to offer
comfort and last rights if you will, to pray. It's another insult to this
Davis' final chance to be spared execution now rests with the state's highest
court or the nation's highest court. Today's court filing in the Superior Court
of Butts County, home to Georgia's death row, says ballistics evidence used to
convict Davis during the 1991 trial has been discredited as has testimony from
a woman who said she was an eyewitness to the murder and a jailhouse informant
who testified at trial that Davis told him he was the killer.
"We are going to give the justice system one more chance to avoid a legal,
constitutional and moral disaster," Brian Kammer, one of Davis' lawyers, said.
Davis sits on death row for the 1989 murder of off-duty Savannah Police Officer
Mark Allen MacPhail, a 27-year-old former Army Ranger and father of two who was
shot three times before he could draw his weapon. Since the trial, a number of
key prosecution witnesses have recanted or backed off their testimony and
Davis' innocence claims have generated worldwide attention.
Early this morning, his lawyers tried to gain access to the state prison in
Jackson where Davis resides so he could be administered a polygraph test to try
and show he is not a cop killer. But his lawyers were rebuffed.
"We came here to try and prove Mr. Davis is innocent and unfortunately we were
denied that opportunity by the Department of Corrections," Stephen Marsh, one
of Davis' lawyers, said shortly after being turned away from the prison.
Protest rallies and vigils are planned today outside the prison -- and across
the world -- calling for a halt to Davis' execution as his supporters say there
is too much doubt in the case to allow him to be put to death by lethal
Prosecutors steadfastly maintain that Davis is guilty and MacPhail's family
members say they have no doubt in Davis' guilt and want his execution to be
"There is no doubt in my mind," MacPhail's mother, Anneliese MacPhail, said
when asked if she thought Davis was guilty. If Davis' execution is carried out
as planned, "I guess justice will be done and that's what we were fighting
for," she said.
Davis has mounted repeated court challenges to his conviction and sentence but
has been rebuffed every step of the way. The U.S. Supreme Court stepped in at
one point, issuing an extraordinary order directing a federal judge in Savannah
to determine if Davis could clearly establish his innocence. But the judge
discredited 6 of the 7 witnesses who recanted or backed off their testimony and
found Davis had not cleared that difficult legal threshold, denying his
Still, a host of dignitaries have called for Davis to be spared execution out
of concern an innocent man could be put to death. These include former
President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, former FBI Director Williams
Sessions, former Georgia congressman Bob Barr and former Georgia Supreme Court
Chief Justice Norman Fletcher.
Protesters are planning to gather across the street from the prison at the
Towaligia County Line Baptist Church around 3 p.m. The NAACP, which is
organizing the protest, said the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton will lead
the call to stop the execution.
On Tuesday, Davis' lawyers asked the parole board to reconsider its rejection
of clemency. The Innocence Project and the Innocence Network also asked the
board to reconsider. "The identification procedures used to convict Davis would
never pass muster today," Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project,
6 retired corrections officials, including Allen Ault, the former director of
the prison system, also asked the board to reconsider its decision. "We write
to you today with the overwhelming concern that an innocent person could be
executed in Georgia tonight," they wrote in a letter.
But the parole board, in a brief statement released this morning, said it would
not reconsider its decision to deny clemency.
Today's last-ditch court filing by Davis' lawyers says that new evidence
"exposes key elements of the state's case against Mr. Davis at trial to be
egregiously false and misleading."
The court filing says that GBI ballistics testimony at the 1991 trial is no
longer reliable. At the trial, a GBI expert said there were enough similarities
between shell casings found at the scene of MacPhail's murder and shell casings
found at the scene of another shooting earlier in the evening to show the
casings could have come from the same handgun.
Prosecutors said Davis first fired shots at a pool party in Savannah's
Cloverdale neighborhood, hitting a man in the face, and then later shot and
killed MacPhail. But forensics experts have now shown that the ballistics
testimony is no longer reliable, the filing said.
The filing also says that jailhouse informant Kevin McQueen's testimony at
trial that Davis confessed to him he killed MacPhail can no longer be relied
upon. The filing notes that a federal judge who heard recantation testimony
from McQueen found McQueen's trial testimony to be "patently false."
At trial, McQueen provided the state with a motive for Davis, saying Davis told
him he killed MacPhail because Davis didn't want to be tied to the Cloverdale
shooting. "Now it is clear that Mr. Davis never should have had to confront
this evidence as it was completely false," the court filing says.
A judge now having denied the motion, Davis' lawyers' final avenues for relief
are the Georgia Supreme Court and then the U.S. Supreme Court.
Marsh, a member of Davis' legal team from the Washington law firm Arnold &
Porter, said there is too much doubt about the eyewitness testimony at the 1991
trial to let Davis be convicted.
Marsh said in a telephone interview today that the eyewitnesses included an man
who initially said he could not recognize the shooter except for the clothes he
was wearing; a woman who initially said she could not put a face with the
shooter; a woman who said she recognized Davis in the dark from more than 120
feet away; and a man who was looking through his car's tinted windows and said
he was only 60 percent sure he could identify Davis.
"You can't execute someone based on that kind of testimony," Marsh said. "It's
Jennifer Dysart, an eyewitness expert, said she had planned to testify at
Monday's clemency hearing, but the parole board ended Davis' presentation
before she could give her presentation.
In an interview today, Dysart said numerous studies show that eyewitness
testimony is unreliable and the procedures used by Savannah police in the Davis
investigation would not be allowed today.
"Even if the parole board didn't believe the recantations, there were
significant problems with all the eyewitness testimony," she said "Nothing
reliable should come from that testimony. ... I wish the board had heard my
In Savannah this morning, about 18 supporters gathered outside Chatham County
District Attorney Larry Chisolm’s office to present 240,000 signatures of
people asking for clemency. Organizer Sister Jackie Griffith said the group
hopes Chisolm can use any influence he may have to urge Chatham Superior Court
Judge Penny Freesemann to halt the execution.
“We believe anyone who has power should use it for justice,” said Griffith, a
Catholic nun who has worked to stop Davis’ execution since 1998. She said she
was drawn to the case because she believes all life is sacred, “whether it’s a
guilty life or an innocent life.”
“We’re very prayerful and dogged in our efforts…we’re always hopeful, but hope
comes with reality,” she added.
Holding a sign that read “Justice for Troy Davis, Too Much Doubt," supporters
Denise Chaney and Valdara Wall chatted about the case, referencing the man who
was with Davis around the time of the shooting, Sylvester “Redd” Coles, who is
rumored to have admitted in recent years to have murdered Officer Mark Allen
“When Redd finally comes forth and admits it, how are they going to bring Troy
back?” Wall asked.
Supporter Sharon Burrell said she has worked on behalf of Troy Davis since
2009. She said she hopes the MacPhail family can have some peace, but that it
can’t be achieved through Davis’ death.
“I sure know it won’t bring closure for the family. They say it will, but it
won’t because it’s taking another a life,” she said.
Chisolm did not meet with the group, but the supporters delivered the boxes of
signatures to a representative before ending their rally with prayer. Moments
later, the group boarded a bus bound for Jackson, where they plan to hold vigil
in Davis’ final hours.
Tuesday evening, Marsh had expressed hope that prison officials would allow
Davis to take a polygraph test.
But Davis also wanted some assurance from the parole board that it will take
his test into consideration, Marsh said, adding that Davis was not going to
spend hours away from his family on what could be the last day of his life if
taking the test was not going to make any difference.
(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Fla. Supreme Court denies another Valle appeal
A death row inmate set for execution next week has lost another appeal to the
Florida Supreme Court.
The justices Wednesday denied the appeal from Manuel Valle. He was convicted of
killing a Coral Gables police officer 33 years ago.
The high court refused to back away from prior decisions that state-paid
lawyers for death row inmates cannot bring civil cases.
That will prevent Valle's attorneys from filing a federal civil rights action
challenging the state's denial of clemency proceedings in his case.
The justices previously upheld a state law barring the lawyers from filing
civil cases and found that it doesn't violate inmates' constitutional rights.
Valle is scheduled to die by lethal injection next Wednesday.
His death warrant is the 1st signed by Gov. Rick Scott.
(source: Associated Press)
Troy Davis Execution: Death Penalty Cases in U.S. in Steep Decline
The state of Georgia will execute convicted cop-killer Troy Davis on Wednesday
evening, following the rejection of a last-minute appeal by Davis’ attorneys.
The state Pardons and Paroles Board said in a statement it will allow the
execution to occur.
Davis was tried and convicted for the 1989 murder of Mark MacPhail, a police
officer in Savannah, Ga.
"Justice was finally served for my father," Mark MacPhail Jr. told the
Associated Press. "The truth was finally heard."
However, while critics and proponents of the death penalty will likely never
see common ground, executions of condemned prisoners in the United States have
dramatically declined over the past decade or so.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), since 1976 (when the
U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty), a total of 1276 prisoners
have been executed in the U.S. (not including Davis). After reaching a one-year
peak of 98 executions in 1999; the annual number of state-sanctioned killings
has been steadily dropping to 46 in 2010 and 33 so far this year.
Also, of those 1276 executions, 474 (about 37 %) have been carried out in
Interestingly, executions were quite rare for the first 6 years after 1976 – a
maximum of 2 inmates were killed in any one of those years.
Similarly, the number of death sentence convictions have also fallen
dramatically over the past 15 years or so.
According to Bureau of Justice Statistics, such convictions have declined from
313 in 1994 to an estimated 112 last year.
However, DPIC highlights the racial disparities in the implementation of the
ultimate punishment. Since 1976, 35 % of executed prisoners have been black,
versus 56 % being white.
“Over 75 % of the murder victims in cases resulting in an execution were white,
even though nationally only 50 % of murder victims generally are white,” DPIC
(It should be noted that Troy Davis is black and his victim was white).
The DPIC also noted that 98 % of the chief district attorneys in death penalty
states are white; only 1 % are black. A comprehensive study of the death
penalty in North Carolina found that the odds of receiving a death sentence
rose by 3.5 times among those defendants whose victims were white. In addition,
a study in California found that those who killed whites were over 3 times more
likely to be sentenced to death than those who killed blacks and over 4 times
more likely than those who killed Latinos.”
34 states in the U.S. currently have the death penalty, including California,
Texas and Florida. The only non-Southern state not to have capital punishment
in West Virginia.
As of Jan. 1, 2011, a total of 3,251 prisoners are languishing on death row in
the U.S. – more than 1/3 of them (1440) in California, Florida and Texas.
Moreover, although men account for the overwhelming majority of death penalty
convicts (98.1 % as of April 1, 2010, according to the NAACP Legal Defense
Fund), 12 women have been executed in the U.S. since 1976.
Another interesting facet of the death penalty saga has to do with death row
prisoners who are exonerated and released.
DPIC indicated that since 1973, more than 130 inmates have been exonerated on
the basis of new evidence proving their innocence. More than 40 of these unique
scenarios have occurred in Florida and Illinois alone.
(source: International Business Times)
Death row inmate asks for last-minute stay
Alabama death row inmate Derrick O'Neal Mason has asked the Alabama Supreme
Court and Gov. Robert Bentley to stop his execution scheduled for Thursday.
The 37-year-old Mason is scheduled to die for the March 1994 shooting death of
25-year-old convenience store clerk Angela Cagle during an early morning
robbery of a Majik Mart convenience store in Huntsville.
Mason has argued that his death sentence should be thrown out because his
defense counsel was ineffective in the sentencing phase of the trial and that
the judge who sentenced him to die has since written a letter asking that his
life be spared.
(source: Montgomery Advertiser)
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