[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----OKKLA., UTAH, DEL.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Thu Jan 5 18:59:31 CST 2012
Okla. inmate executed for fatal stabbing in 1994
An Oklahoma inmate who recently attempted suicide was put to death Thursday
evening for killing a man during a knife fight nearly 2 decades ago, marking
the nation's 1st execution this year.
Gary Roland Welch, 49, was given a lethal injection at the state penitentiary
in McAlester for fatally stabbing 35-year-old Robert Hardcastle in Miami, Okla.
He was pronounced dead at 6:10 p.m.
Welch's execution came nearly three weeks after he tried to kill himself by
slitting his throat with a smuggled shaving razor. Prison officials and Welch's
own court-appointed attorney insisted he was sane and understood his fate.
Welch maintained that he only killed Hardcastle in self-defense.
He remained defiant at a hearing last month before the state Pardon and Parole
Board, telling the board he wasn't "here today crying, begging or sniveling for
"I did what I had to do," Welch told the panel. "I didn't intend to kill him,
but I certainly didn't intend for him to kill me, either." The board voted 3-2
to deny clemency.
After Welch's suicide attempt on Dec. 16, prison guards rushed him to a
hospital where he was treated before being returned to death row. He was
evaluated by a psychiatric unit based at the prison and deemed competent to be
executed because he was aware of what was going to happen to him and why — the
standard required for death row inmates in Oklahoma.
Nothing in Welch's court record indicated that the issue of his sanity or
mental capacity was ever raised, and prosecutors presented evidence at the
pardon and parole hearing suggesting that Welch was a bully in prison who
enjoyed watching violent movies, pushed around other inmates and was once
caught with a homemade knife in his cell.
The question of Welch's mental state was addressed this week by his
court-appointed attorney, Robert Wyatt, who insisted his client knew what he
was doing and added that the suicide attempt could have been influenced by
Welch's belief that he "never got a fair shake" because he was given the death
penalty for murder instead of a lesser charge, such as manslaughter.
"He always felt the system was against him, and as a result of that, that
influences how a person reacts," Wyatt said this week. "(Welch) said openly at
the pardon and parole hearing, that during his stay at the Oklahoma State
Penitentiary, he's always been treated fairly."
According to court records, several witnesses testified they saw Welch and a
co-defendant, Claudie Conover, beating and stabbing Hardcastle outside of
Hardcastle's Miami home on Aug. 25, 1994. Conover also was sentenced to death,
but his sentence was later reduced to life without parole. He died in prison
from natural causes in 2001.
Ben Loring, the lead prosecutor in the case, recalled Welch's self-defense
argument as flimsy.
"The problem was, nothing matched up," Loring told The Associated Press this
week. "None of the physical evidence matched up to what he was saying."
Loring said Welch had "ample opportunity" to stop the assault but continued
with the beating. At one point, Loring recalled, Conover ended up with the
knife and was walking to the car with it. That's when Welch got a broken beer
bottle and continued slashing Hardcastle, he said.
"It just went way too far,' Loring said. "I'm not a big proponent of the death
penalty, but if anybody deserved it, I felt the case (for a death sentence)
should have been presented to a jury."
Welch's suicide attempt marked the second time in nearly 20 years that an
Oklahoma death row inmate tried to kill himself rather than face a state
Hours before condemned killer Robert Brecheen's execution in 1995, he attempted
to overdose on sedatives and anti-anxiety pills he had hoarded in his cell. He
was rushed to a hospital, had his stomach pumped and was returned to the death
chamber, where he was executed hours later.
Welch becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Oklahoma
and the 97th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1990. It
marks the 2nd consecutive year that the initial execution in the USA occurred
in Oklahoma; last year Billy Alverson was put to death on Jan. 6 and was
followed by the execution 5 days later of Jeffrey Matthews. Oklahoma has
carried out more executions than any state except Texas (477) and Virginia
(109) since the death penalty was re-legalized on July 2, 1976.
Welch becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year and the
1278th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
Ogden police shooting likely death penalty case
Investigators converged on a cordoned- off Ogden neighborhood Thursday to
continue the grim task of investigating the shooting death of a veteran
policeman and the wounding of five other officers in a fierce shootout.
The investigators seemed to be focused Thursday morning on collecting evidence
from the barren backyard of the home of suspect Matthew David Stewart, 37, of
3268 Jackson Ave.
Stewart was wounded in the gun battle Wednesday night when a dozen agents with
the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force attempted to serve a warrant at his
residence. He sustained non-life threatening injuries and is under guard at
Ogden Regional Hospital.
Ogden Assistant Police Chief Wayne Tarwater said during a Thursday morning news
conference that Stewart has a “limited criminal history” but did not elaborate.
He also did not release any information about a possible motive for the
Weber County Attorney Dee W. Smith told reporters that Stewart likely faces a
charge of aggravated murder, which carries the death penalty, and additional
charges of attempted aggravated murder.
Jared Francom, a member of the Ogden Police Department since 2005, died early
Thursday morning of his wounds.
Other officers wounded are Shawn Grogan, Kasey Burrell and Michael Rounkles,
all of the Ogden Police Department; Sgt. Nate Hutchinson, Weber County
Sheriff’s Office; and Jason VanderWarf, Roy Police Department.
VanderWarf was treated at Ogden Regional Medical Center and released Thursday.
Hutchinson was in stable condition with multiple gunshot wounds while Grogan,
Burrell, Rounkles remained in critical condition Thursday at McKay-Dee
Tarwater said the shooting occurred when a dozen strike force officers
attempted to execute a "knock" arrest warrant for a narcotics offense at
Stewart’s home. Officers knocked on Stewart’s door and when no one answered
entered the house and were fired upon, he said.
Authorities declined to say what type of weapon or weapons were used, how many
shots were fired and how the suspect was injured.
Tarwater said police had heard that Stewart has a military background, but that
had not been confirmed.
Lt. Darin Parke, who heads the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force, said it
isn’t unusual to deploy as many as a dozen officers to execute a search
He said officers assigned to the task force are well trained, adding that
Francom was one of the most experienced members of the unit.
About 40 officers from various Weber County law enforcement agencies converged
on McKay-Dee Hospital and Ogden Regional Hospital in solidarity immediately
after the shooting, said Tarwater.
"This is a law enforcement family," he said explaining the shooting has had a
deep and profound effect on law officers throughout the area. "The law
enforcement community is grieving."
Mayor Mike Caldwell, whose first day in office was Wednesday said the shooting
"I can’t imagine a more difficult thing to be put into on your first day on the
job," he said at the news conference. "It’s a little overwhelming. There are
six families that have been forever changed by last night’s events. We are here
to support them."
Weber County Sheriff Terry Thompson echoed Tarwater’s comments about the
broader effects of the shooting.
"All the strike force agents involved in this tragic incident reacted
honorably, with courage, fidelity and valor in the face of significant danger
that has claimed the life of a fellow officer," he said. "We train and prepare
for deadly force incidents hoping that we will never find ourselves or our
fellow officers in deadly peril yet are ever willing and prepared to step up
and to serve our fellow citizens and each other."
Thompson also paid tribute to Francom.
"We have lost a brother," he said. "We will grieve this loss knowing that
officer Francom laid down his life for his friends and community. He will be
Roy Police Chief Greg Whinham, his voice chocked with emotion, told reporters
at the press conference that Francom and the other wounded officers should be
honored for their service.
"As I worked and watched these noble officers go about their duties I have been
honored to be counted among them," he said.
DELAWARE----death sentence overturned
Judge Throws Out 1991 Murder Conviction, Death Sentence ---- Prosecutors were
left stunned in the case of Jermaine Marlow Wright, who had been on death row
for 21 years.
A Delaware man who has been on death row for 21 years has had his murder
Jermaine Marlow Wright, 39, may soon be released on bail after a hearing that
left prosecutors speechless. On Tuesday, Superior Court Judge John A. Parkins
said that he had “no confidence” in the evidence against Wright and in response
he overthrew Wright’s murder conviction. Parkins plans to hold a hearing next
week that appears likely to release the defendant on bail.
In 1991, Wright was sentenced to death twice for the fatal shooting of a
66-year-old liquor store clerk during a store robbery. Although Parkins called
the death of the clerk, a 66-year-old amputee who was filling in for his
brother, the owner, “brutal and senseless,” he says that the chief
investigating police officer “did not advise the prosecutors of evidence” which
may have shown that Wright was innocent.
“…The court stands as a guardian of the constitutional rights of every citizen,
including those of the defendant,” Parkins said, “and that is what this court
has done today.”
Wright isn’t the only one who has been wrongly convicted, however. A study by
Ohio State University suggests about 10,000 people in the U.S. may be wrongly
convicted of serious crimes each year. Additionally, since 1989, when the 1st
DNA exoneration took place, there have been 281 post-conviction DNA
exonerations in the nation, according to the Innocence Project.
The news of Wright’s release comes just months after Philadelphia’s district
attorney decided to stop seeking the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal, and amidst
news that Illinois signed into law a legislation abolishing death sentences in
Perhaps the controversial death of Troy Davis and others is making those in the
legal system think twice about punishing prisoners to death.
(source: BET News)
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