Indiana Death Penalty News

Started by Jeff1857, January 26, 2008, 02:41:47 PM

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January 26, 2008, 02:41:47 PM Last Edit: May 24, 2008, 04:34:33 AM by Jeff1857
INDIANAPOLIS -- People who murder law enforcement officers could face a mandatory death penalty, under a bill proposed in the Indiana House of Representatives.

Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Lakeville, proposed an amendment to the bill that would require a prosecuting attorney to seek the death penalty against a person who kills a police officer serving in the line of duty or whose murder was motivated by the officer's actions while acting in the course of duty. If the prosecutor meets this burden of proof, juries would have to recommend either a death sentence or life without parole.

Walorski said several officers in St. Joseph County have been killed in the line of duty since 1997, including most recently South Bend officers Scott Severns and Nick Polizzotto. Many officers in other northern Indiana counties have also lost their lives in the line of duty in recent years.

This amendment will send a strong message, Walorski said, and hopefully deter criminals from even considering killing an officer.

"We have to start turning the tide by sending a message that we're not going to tolerate this kind of crime," she said.

Rep. Trent Van Haaften, D-Mount Vernon, said he is concerned the amendment could tie the hands of prosecutors by mandating that level of discretion. Van Haaften, who is a former prosecuting attorney, said evidence is different in every case and prosecuting attorneys should be trusted with the decision on whether or not to pursue the death penalty.

It's a difficult decision for prosecuting attorneys, who also have to take victims' family into consideration and what that family's beliefs are on the death penalty. Depending on the case, the prosecuting attorney may at times have to go against what the family believes, he said.

The amendment passed the House, 68-20. It is part of a larger bill, House Bill 1074, that makes it a Class C felony for someone to attempt to disarm a law enforcement officer.

After the vote, Walorski said she is grateful the amendment made it onto the bill and is on its way to a final vote in the House. The House is scheduled to take a vote on the entire bill Monday.
Should be like this in all cases involving law enforcement


The following link has the most up-to-date information on the status of appeals by Indiana DR inmates:

It looks as if Mathew Eric Wrinkles and Joseph Corcoran could easily go this year. There's also a fair chance that Howard Allen will get a date.


Indiana has not had an execution in two years
Indiana executions at slowest pace in 15 years

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- Indiana has gone two years without an execution for the first time since the mid-1990s, when it put five inmates to death, and prosecutors say the decline could be a sign of things to come.

"We're running out of death row inmates," said Clark County Prosecutor Steven Stewart, who maintains a pro-death penalty Web site.

Indiana, which reinstated the death penalty in 1977, has handed down 93 death sentences since 1980, including 35 between 1984 and 1988. But the last person put to death was Michael Lambert, who was executed on June 15, 2007, for fatally shooting a Muncie police officer 16 years earlier. Only two death sentences have been imposed since 2004.

The decline is part of a larger national shift away from the death penalty. The number of people sentenced to death in the U.S. dropped from 326 in 1995 to 115 in 2007, according to U.S. Department of Justice statistics.

Prosecutors and death penalty experts say time and money issues are driving the decline, which has prompted several states to move to abolish the death penalty.

In March, New Mexico repealed its death penalty, just as New Jersey had two years earlier. Last month, the Colorado Senate rejected a proposal to abolish the death penalty by one vote. Eight other states considered abolishing the death penalty this year, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center and a law professor at Catholic University in Washington.

"Every state is facing budget crises, so the debate of whether to keep it has been more poignant this year," Dieter said.

"Prosecutors know that you may get a death sentence, but you may get it overturned and even if it's upheld it's going to take 13 to 15 years to get to the execution, and the victims' families are going to be put through a lot of uncertainty," he said. "Given all of that, it may not be worth seeking the death penalty except in rare cases."

A 2002 study ordered by then-Gov. Frank O'Bannon found defense and appeals in a capital murder cost an average of $623,668, compared with $77,684 for a life without parole trial. In the latter case, counties received a 40 percent reimbursement from the state, while counties shoulder half the cost of a death penalty case.

The defense costs alone for Daniel Ray Wilkes, who received the death penalty in 2008 for killing Donna Claspell, 38, and her daughters Avery Pike, 13, and Sydne Claspell, 8, in their Evansville home two years earlier, were $578,758.

Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Stan Levco says he has more reservations about seeking the death penalty than he had 15 years ago because of the rising costs.

Levco was a deputy prosecutor when he convicted Donald Ray Wallace Jr. of killing a family of four while burglarizing their Evansville home in 1980. He waited 25 years to see Wallace put to death.

Levco, who has prosecuted four cases that led to death sentences, now serves on an Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council committee that advises other prosecutors on whether a case is a strong capital murder case. He said he still believes the death penalty should be used in heinous crimes, but the costs might sway him in a borderline case.

He doesn't think support for the death penalty has waned in Indiana, but he believes public defenders are using the costs as an effective strategy.

"Whereas the defense and the public defenders get state money to help, the prosecution doesn't get nearly the same type of assistance in paying for death penalty trials," he said. "There's more than a few small counties that have filed death penalty cases who after they've gone through it for a while have just thrown up their hands and have said, 'I give.'"

Paula Sites, assistant executive director of the Indiana Public Defender Council, said death penalty cases cost more because they involve more than a finding of guilt or innocence. Experts also have to be called in to evaluate the psychological and social history of the accused to determine whether there are any mental illnesses or other factors that could affect a death sentence.

"It's very slow and painstaking, and the bottom line is you can't just go to a family member or a client and just ask these questions by just running down a list: "Did you ever molest your son? Did you ever beat him on the head, or anything like that?'" she said.

Diana Harrington, whose sister Theresa Gilligan, brother-in-law Patrick, 5-year-old niece and 4-year-old nephew were murdered by Wallace, doesn't think money should be a factor in the decisions.

"Cost itself is probably a minor issue when it comes to what the purpose of the death penalty actually is," she said. "If you have a consensus that says that death penalty deters crime, then that would be the major issue and the cost would come."

Attorney Alan Freedman, who represented Lambert on appeal, believes this two-year stretch without an execution is a glimpse into the future.

"The death penalty in Indiana will become an oddity," he said.

But no one expects Indiana to go another year without an execution.

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal of Matthew Wrinkles of Evansville, who was convicted for the 1994 murder of his estranged wife and two of her relatives. The Indiana Supreme Court is expected to set an execution date for him this summer or fall.
I´m not sure if there´s a hell, but I believe in executed murderers.


Ind. lawmakers: Death penalty abolition unlikely

The Associated Press • November 17, 2010

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Indiana state lawmakers say the General Assembly is more likely to try to find ways to help counties pay for death penalty cases than to abolish executions to save money.

"There aren't a majority of votes in the Indiana legislature to impose either a moratorium or a revocation of the death penalty, so that's not going to happen," state Sen. John Broden, D-South Bend, a Judiciary Committee member, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, chairman of the Senate Corrections, Criminal and Civil Matters Committee, told The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne that he doesn't think lawmakers are interested in eliminating the death penalty.

"There are some cases that are so heinous in nature that the only penalty that is just is death," he said.  Broden said lawmakers need to look at how the state can help counties with the costs.

"In an era of declining revenues, we either need to come up with a way to fund future death penalty cases or take a look at other options. I guess everything is on the table right now," he said.

The comments were in response to an assertion earlier in the week by Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller that lawmakers should look at whether the costs of death penalty cases are justifiable in tough economic times. A group that includes prosecutors and defense attorneys, professors, an Indiana Supreme Court justice and legislators discussed the issue Monday at the University of Notre Dame.

An analysis conducted earlier this year by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency found that the average cost for trial and direct appeal in six capital cases averaged $449,887, not including the costs incurred by prosecutors or sheriffs. That compares with an average cost of $42,658 for seven trials in cases involving sentences of life without parole.

Indiana has executed 20 inmates since it reinstated the death penalty in 1977, and 11 more are awaiting execution.

The Elkhart Truth reported that Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Stan Levco said at the summit where Zoeller spoke on Monday that he believes Indiana's death penalty system is "nearly broken" because it costs so much.

"It's almost at the point where it's no longer viable. Unless we decrease the costs, it's not worth it," he said.

The newspaper reported that Clark County Prosecutor Steve Stewart said the system is broken because it costs too much.

"Prosecutors are scared to death about filing a death-penalty case and risking bankrupting their office budget and bankrupting their county budget," Stewart said.

Rutgers University economics professor Anne Morrison Piehl presented a study on the fiscal considerations of the death penalty in Indiana at the summit and said Indiana could lower costs by developing stricter limits on reimbursement for trial expenses.

Larry Landis, executive director of the Indiana Public Defenders Council, said Wednesday that cutting back on funding for such cases is not the solution because that could cost more in the long run.

"You're just risking having to spend another couple of hundred thousand dollars on retrial," Landis said. "Trying to cap defense costs just increases substantially the risk that you're going to get a reversal and have to do it over again. So that's not a very wise avenue to pursue."

The Elkhart Truth reported that Zoeller said it becomes an issue of fairness.

"The costs can't be borne by smaller counties particularly, so if the crime occurs in a large county you might be charged with the death penalty, in a smaller county you're not," he said.

I don't know about ya'll, but I'll kick in a few bucks...   :)


If I was a DA, I'd try a death penalty case for free  8)
My reason for supporting the death penalty? A murderer has less of a right to live than his victim and already presents a danger while incarcerated for life. They have nothing to lose when the most they can get is Life in prison without parole.


How about raising taxes to cover the cost?  :)


Any updates on this?
My reason for supporting the death penalty? A murderer has less of a right to live than his victim and already presents a danger while incarcerated for life. They have nothing to lose when the most they can get is Life in prison without parole.


Historic electric chair gets preserved

Updated: Thursday, 26 Jan 2012, 12:57 PM EST

Published : Thursday, 26 Jan 2012, 12:56 PM EST

NEW CASTLE, Ind. (WISH) - One piece of Indiana's death penalty history is now on display.

An electric chair used at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City is now being shown as part of the Indiana Department of Correction's Reflections of Pride: The History of the IDOC Museum.

Indiana no longer uses an electric chair. In 1995, the state designated lethal injection as the only way to perform executions. The chair was used from 1913 until the change in 1995.

The electric chair Indiana created was based on sketches of Ohio's electric chair. It was created using parts of Indiana's original hangman scaffold.

In order to see the chair and other artifacts, people must schedule a tour by emailing with when they'd like to come by. The museum is located at 2050 N. County Road 50 East in New Castle.

Photo : Indiana's former electric chair sits in its new home. (IDOC Photo) :-*







Ind. man convicted of killing 4 loses appeal
Posted: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 5:52 am | Updated: 2:02 pm, Tue Jan 15, 2013.

A Fort Wayne man on Indiana's death row for his conviction in the fatal 1997 shootings of four men has lost his latest appeal.

A federal judge in South Bend last week denied Joseph Corcoran's death sentence appeal, finding that he failed to show that Indiana's decisions to uphold the death penalty in his case were contrary to decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Journal Gazette reports ( Corcoran's attorneys said they plan to appeal. Corcoran's case has been reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court twice, a federal court twice and the Indiana Supreme Court five times.

The now 37-year-old Corcoran was convicted in 1999 of killing his brother, his sister's fiance and two other men in July 1997. His attorneys have said he was mentally ill.
I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.


September 04, 2013, 05:27:23 PM Last Edit: September 04, 2013, 05:29:23 PM by turboprinz
Michael Overstreet execution order to be reviewed
Sep. 4, 2013 1:02 PM

The Indiana Supreme Court has granted a new hearing for a man facing the death for the abduction and slaying of a former Franklin College coed.

A ruling issued Tuesday ordered a new hearing for Michael Dean Overstreet, who was convicted and sentenced to death in the killing of Kelly Eckart, 18, of Boggstown.

Eckart, a Franklin College student at the time, was abducted, raped and murdered in 1997. A Johnson County jury convicted Overstreet of Eckart's murder in May 2000. He is on Indiana's Death Row.

The Supreme Court gave the Johnson Superior Court a deadline of March 3 to provide a final judgment on new claims by Overstreet's attorney and a psychiatrist. They argued the convicted killer "does not have, and does not have the ability to produce, a rational understanding of why the State of Indiana plans to execute him."

The state had opposed the request for a new hearing, and instead asked the court to set an execution date.

The Eight Amendment prohibits the state from executing a person who is deemed insane. Legal rulings addressing that threshold cite a person being "unaware of the punishment they are about to suffer or why the are to suffer it" and unable to understanding the link between a crime and its punishment in a context far removed from reality," the court order explains.

Overstreet's conviction already has been appealed and upheld so the new hearing is focused solely on whether or not he should be executed.

Overstreet abducted and killed Eckart on Sept. 26, 1997shortly after leaving work at a Franklin Wal-Mart. Her body was found in a ravine in Brown County. She had been strangled and shot in the forehead.

DNA evidence linked Overstreet to the crime.

Fibers from a blanket investigatorsused to wrap Eckart's body were found on Overstreet's shirt, police said.

According to testimony, Overstreet was seen carrying that blanket from the Atterbury Fish and Wildlife Area just hours after Eckart's abduction. Police later confiscated the blanket from Overstreet's Franklin home.

Also, police said they found a hand-drawn map of the location of Eckart's body in Overstreet's home several days after her body had been found.

Authorities said during Overstreet's trial that he did not know Eckart, but somehow tricked her into stopping her car on a rural Johnson County road. Her car was found with the headlights on, keys in the ignition.
I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.


Indiana using new cocktail for executions
Jun 2, 2014

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Fourteen people are on death row in the state of Indiana. But the state has not executed any prisoner since 2009.  And the next time they do, they plan to use a cocktail for lethal injection that has never been used before.

The new drug is called Brevital, and it's part of a three step process the Department of Corrections says is completely painless.

Douglas Garrison with the Department of Corrections says the drug is appropriate to use for executions.

"It's a drug that's intended to cause deep and painless unconsciousness that is consistent with the use in the medical field when they put people to sleep before surgery," says Garrison.

The state of Indiana made the switch because of a shortage other available drugs, but officials say the options do essentially the same thing. 

Wayne Kubsch, 47, is the only man from St. Joseph County sitting on death row.

Back in August of 2000, he was sentenced to death after being convicted for three murders, including his wife, her ex husband, and their ten year old son from that marriage.

His execution date was scheduled for April 6, 2011, but he has filed several appeals with the federal court, delaying his execution.

His most recent appeal came just five weeks ago.

And when his execution does come, the state of Indiana will use the new execution cocktail including brevital. 

This move comes after the botched executions in both Ohio and Oklahoma. Drug makers are now refusing to sell their drug for the purpose of execution. The state of Indiana Department of Corrections says this is why they had to find a replacement.
I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.


Appeals court rejects Fort Wayne man's death sentence appeal
Apr 17, 2015

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) -- A federal appeals court has upheld the death sentence of a Fort Wayne man convicted of killing his brother, his sister's fiancé and two of his brother's friends in 1997.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments by 39-year-old Joseph Corcoran that Allen Superior Judge Fran Gull relied on non-statutory aggravating factors in sentencing him to death and that Gull failed to consider mitigating evidence.

The court ruled in the decision handed down Tuesday that Gull did consider Corcoran's age of 22 at the time he was sentenced and his behavior in jail when sentencing him to death, two factors Corcoran contended she had ignored.

It was the fourth time Corcoran's case has been considered by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.
I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.


Tommy Pruitt: Appeals court overturns death sentence for man convicted of killing deputy
Jun 2, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS -- A man convicted of murdering a Morgan County sheriff's deputy is no longer on death row.

A U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Tommy Pruitt is intellectually disabled and ineligible for the death penalty.

Pruitt was sentenced to death for the 2001 shooting of Deputy Dan Starnes.

Starnes pulled Pruitt over on a rural road on June 14, 2001. After he called in information about Pruitt's license and registration, he returned to Pruitt's vehicle and the two exchanged gunfire.

Starnes was struck by five shots and was taken to the hospital for surgery. He later developed an infection and died.

Pruitt was also convicted of attempted murder for shooting Starnes' son who was with his father at the time as part of a college internship.

The Indiana Supreme Court had previously upheld Pruitt's death sentence, despite reservations about his mental capacity.

"While some of Pruitt's scores suggest significantly subaverage intellectual functioning, others do not. In addition to this data, the trial court found that Pruitt was able to fill out applications for employment and to have the capacity, if not the will at all times, to support himself. In light of the inconsistent IQ scores and the other evidence cited by the trial court, the trial court's finding that Pruitt did not meet the statutory test is consistent with this record," Tuesday's ruling said.

Pruitt will receive a new sentence, but he will not be released from jail.
I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.

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