Tennessee Death Penalty News

Started by Jeff1857, April 10, 2008, 02:24:02 AM

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Man on death row for '87 Clarksville murder to be re-sentenced
Man accused of strangling Fort Campbell nurses
Nov. 14, 2013

CLARKSVILLE, TENN. -- A Tennessee man facing execution for the 1987 killing of two Fort Campbell nurses was granted a new sentencing hearing Thursday when judges ruled he shouldn't have been compared to "the devil incarnate" and serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer at his second sentencing hearing in 1995.

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled Ronnie M. Cauthern's defense attorney did not properly investigate which family members would be willing to testify on his behalf and failed to pull together a coherent strategy to try to save his life.

The court ordered Cauthern, 46, resentenced within six months or for the death sentence to be vacated.
Initial trial

A jury condemned Cauthern for the Jan. 8, 1987, slaying of Rosemary Smith, a captain in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps at the military post on the Kentucky-Tennessee line. Her husband, Patrick Smith, also a captain and nurse, died in the attack at the couple's home in Clarksville.

Prosecutors said Cauthern and a co-defendant, Brett Patterson, placed Rosemary Smith in a closet and forced her to listen to Patrick Smith's death in the next room. The men strangled Patrick Smith to death with 880 military cord, prosecutors said in the trial, and Rosemary Smith was then raped twice, lived through one unsuccessful strangling attempt and then strangled to death.

Patterson, 49, was sentenced to life in prison and is eligible for parole in 2047. Cauthern received a life sentence for Patrick Smith's death.
Resentencing hearing

In addressing a Gibson County jury at a resentencing hearing in 1995, then-Assistant Attorney General Steve Garrett cited the Rolling Stones song "Sympathy For The Devil," and referenced Dahmer, a Wisconsin man convicted of killing and eating parts of his victims. The prosecutor also repeatedly referred to Cauthern as "the evil one."

"The evil one took the name of Ronnie Cauthern on that day," Garrett said. "That was his name, and he's beyond redemption."
U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals

Lower courts have found that it is a stretch to think anyone would conclude that Cauthern really was the devil and jurors didn't base their decision on those remarks.

"While that may be true, it's real relevance is that it highlights the outlandish nature of the prosecutor's remarks," Judge Eric Clay wrote for the court's majority. "And, one would not need to believe that (Cauthern) was himself the devil in order to have been improperly inflamed such that the verdict cannot be trusted."

Judge John M. Rogers dissented from that section of Clay's opinion, saying the "substantial evidence of the grisly manner" in which Rosemary Smith died, as well as the differing sentences for the deaths of the husband and wife, bolster the contention that jurors weren't swayed by the prosecution's remarks.

"The evidence before the jury much more clearly established that Rosemary's death was heinous, atrocious or cruel," Rogers wrote.

Rogers and Judge R. Guy Cole Jr. signed on with Clay's conclusion that the defense was inadequate.

The re-sentencing will mark the third time Cauthern appears in court to learn his fate in the death of Rosemary Smith. A Tennessee state court granted him a new sentencing in 1995 after concluding that the judge improperly allowed jurors to hear about a statement Cauthern made to police.
District Attorney weighs in

District Attorney John Carney said it is unknown when Cauthern will have a court date or who will prosecute him. He said it will later be determined if re-sentencing proceedings will be conducted in Montgomery County or another county as it did in 1995.

"It is the third re-sentencing. This is ridiculous," Carney said. "I think his remarks in the re-sentence was something about the devil. He used that phrase, and you can't refer to the Bible or anything. You can't say Biblical terms to reflect on the person's religion. We've had to come back and have a rehearing on every (sentencing)."

The State's Attorney General Office will decide the next course of action in the Cauthern case, and the DA's office will take guidance from them, Carney said.

Carney, who worked at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation at the time of the murder, remembers a few details about the crime. He said the case will be handled with care and concern as it revisits the judicial system.

"It was a very important case that was followed by a lot of people when it occurred," Carney said. "It was a horrible case."


Ronnie M. Cauthern is led back to the Montgomery County Jail by Montgomery County Sheriff's Deputies during his original trial for the January 1987 murders of Patrick and Rosemary Smith.
I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.

Grinning Grim Reaper

TN makes unprecedented push to execute 10 killers

The Tennessean, WBIR 6:49 a.m. EST December 5, 2013

Never before has Tennessee asked to execute so many of the condemned.

Officials here, believing they are free of the latest round of challenges to Tennessee's death penalty, recently asked the state Supreme Court for execution dates for 10 death row inmates. One of those 10, Billy Ray Irick, is scheduled to die Jan. 15 for raping and killing a 7-year-old Knoxville girl he had been baby-sitting in 1985.

An 11th man, Nickolus Johnson, whose execution was sought separately from the 10, is scheduled to be put to death April 22 for killing a Bristol police officer in 2004.

Those the state has petitioned to execute who don't yet have dates set include David Miller, who killed a disabled woman with a fire poker in 1981. He has lived on death row ever since, longer than all but one other of the 78 inmates housed in Tennessee's death row facility at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.

For a state that has executed only six death row inmates since 1960 and none since 2009, the request marks an unprecedented push to carry out the death penalty.

"I've been representing death row inmates for two decades, and never in my experience have I ever seen a situation where a state has requested 10 execution dates all at once," said Kelley Henry, who supervises capital punishment defense cases with the Federal Public Defender's Office in Nashville and represents several of those the state is looking to execute. "This is an unprecedented situation."  Well you've experienced it now ambulance chaser.

Legal hurdles

Henry and other attorneys for the condemned men are asking a lower court to halt the executions over questions about the drug the state now plans to use. The Supreme Court could set those dates at any time, but similar challenges in the past have delayed executions in Tennessee, sometimes for years.

The state minimized the significance of seeking execution dates for 10 inmates, saying instead that those 10 had exhausted the normal appeals and review process. Corrections officials believe they now have a system in place to carry out lethal injections since they recently changed their execution drug.

"We filed all 10 motions at the same time because they were all ready to be set for execution, and TDOC was in a position to carry them out under a new protocol," said Sharon Curtis-Flair, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Attorney General's Office, which requested the 10 execution dates.

"The Department could not have carried out the executions earlier because it was unable to procure all of the drugs required under the old protocol."

But Michael Rushford, executive director of the pro-death penalty, California-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, said executions aren't ordered by happenstance.

"You don't get this unless the governor wants this," he said. "So obviously they're moving forward because he told the Department of Correction, 'Move forward.' "

Gov. Bill Haslam said through a spokesman that he had no involvement.

"The AG recommends the dates, and the Supreme Court makes the call," spokesman Dave Smith said.

'Sort of backed up'

The average inmate on Tennessee's death row has been sitting there for nearly 19 years. The 10 selected by the state for possible execution dates average more than 27 years on death row.

Miller, convicted of murdering a disabled woman with a fire poker, has had the second-longest wait for an execution in the state, outlasted only by Donald Strouth, 54, who has been on death row since 1978 for slashing the throat of a store owner in Kingsport.

In the years since then, the death penalty here and across the nation has faced a barrage of legal challenges and drug shortages as pharmaceutical companies have pulled commonly used lethal injection drugs from the shelves. Tennessee found itself without sodium thiopental in 2011, putting all executions on hold until it could come up with a new drug, which it finally did in September.

Those delays probably played a major factor in the state's recent double-figure request, said Nashville defense attorney David Raybin, who essentially wrote the state's death penalty statute.

"For lack of a better word, (executions) sort of backed up," Raybin said. "I think what they've done is, they've said, 'We've backed up for so long and now we want to put them all on a fast track because nothing has happened for years.' "

Rushford agreed.

"I think what happened is, is the pipe has been cleared," he said. "This is just built-up cases that they now are able to get into this position."

Another motive?

But Raybin suggested that Tennessee officials may have another motive for asking for so many executions.

On Nov. 1, mass murderer Paul Dennis Reid Jr. died, not strapped to a gurney by lethal injection but in a bed at Nashville General Hospital at Meharry. Reid murdered seven fast-food restaurant workers in Nashville and Clarksville in 1997 and was sentenced to die -- seven death sentences in all -- the same year.

The family of Angela Mace, who was killed by Reid at a Clarksville Baskin-Robbins, found out he had died in the hospital through the media and was furious. Mace's mother, Connie Black, told the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle, "If you think about it, he's in a hospital surrounded by family and has a peaceful death. It wasn't supposed to happen that way.

"He just died a normal death like everyone else."

Raybin suspects the state, regardless of its public stance, took notice of Reid's death and the backlash that ensued.

"You've got a guy who killed all those people, the most infamous guy on death row, and he dies a natural death," Raybin said. "Some people could say, 'We're offended because he wasn't executed.' "

Kelley, with the federal public defender's office, said she worries that the push for so many executions will obscure the death row inmates' "individual stories of injustice," particularly because Tennessee has been putting fewer and fewer killers on death row. She thinks perceptions about the death penalty have softened over the years. The injustice is what the victims experienced ambulance chaser.

"There is no doubt in my mind that if they were tried today, they would not receive the death penalty," she said.  ;D ;D ;D

Vengence is mine saith the Lord...who are we to question the instruments used to carry it out?

Angelstorms OL'Man

I dont care about there right's.. i my self would have asked for all 78 in the same week...
This was designed to hurt....Its a SEAL Candace unless you have been there yo will never understand...


December 06, 2013, 05:29:09 PM Last Edit: December 06, 2013, 09:08:47 PM by time2prtee

Death row inmates

Billy Ray Irick raped and killed a 7-year-old Knoxville girl he had been baby-sitting in 1985. He has been on death row since 1986 and is scheduled to die from lethal injection Jan. 15.

Abu-Ali Abdur'Rahman, formerly James Jones, stabbed and killed a drug dealer in 1986 in Davidson County. He has been on death row since 1987.

Leroy Hall set his girlfriend on fire as she sat in her car in 1991 in Hamilton County. She lingered for hours before succumbing to her wounds. He has been on death row since 1992.

Olen Hutchinson plotted with several others in 1988 in Campbell County to drown a businessman and collect the insurance money. He has been on death row since 1991.

Donnie Johnson suffocated his wife in 1984 in Shelby County. He has been on death row since 1985 and at one point had asked to be executed by electric chair instead of lethal injection -- an option still on the books for the condemned whose crimes were committed before 1999.

David Miller killed a disabled woman in 1981 in Knox County by stabbing her multiple times with a fire poker. He has been on death row since 1982 -- longer than all but one of
the 78 people awaiting execution.

Nicholas Sutton was already serving life in prison in Morgan County in 1985 for three murders when he stabbed a fellow inmate 38 times in the chest and neck, killing him. He has been on death row since 1986.

Stephen West killed a Union County woman and her teenage daughter in 1986. He has been on death row since 1987.

Charles Wright shot and killed two people during a drug deal in 1984 in Davidson County. He has been on death row since 1985.

Edmund Zagorski shot, stabbed and robbed two men in 1983 in Robertson County during a drug deal. Both died. Zagorski has been on death row since 1984.

Nickolus Johnson murdered a Bristol police officer in 2004. The state has already scheduled his execution for April 22.
"Indeed, the decision that capital punishment may be the appropriate sanction in extreme cases is an expression of the community's belief that certain crimes are themselves so grievous an affront to humanity that the only adequate response may be the penalty of death."  SCOTUS

Peace and Comfort to all Victims and Families


Good for them. Will be interesting to see if dates are given and even more interesting to see it happen.

If this happens it might wake a few other states up....


Tennessee sets execution dates for 10 men
Feb. 5, 2014

The state of Tennessee plans to execute 10 death row inmates over the next two years after changing the drug protocol to be used in lethal injections, officials said Wednesday.

The state is scheduled to execute the condemned prisoners between April 22, 2014, and Nov. 17, 2015, the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts confirmed. Three executions are scheduled this year and seven in 2015.

Gov. Bill Haslam, noting that three execution orders were handed down Friday by the state Supreme Court, told The Tennessean Wednesday that the decision to seek the executions didn't go through him. But he said he agrees with it.

"The death penalty has been approved by the state," he said. "It's been our policy. When I ran, I got asked that question, and I said I will follow what the juries decide."

State officials asked the Tennessee Supreme Court in October for execution dates for 10 inmates, the highest number of condemned people the state has ever sought to kill at one time. The court has since ordered execution dates for nine of those men. Another inmate, Nickolus Johnson, whose execution was sought separately from the other 10, is scheduled to die April 22.

Dates have not yet been set for Lee Hall, the other man in the October group, or Donald Wayne Strouth, for whom the state requested an execution date in December.

Kelley Henry, who supervises capital punishment defense cases with the Federal Public Defender's Office in Nashville, said it was unfortunate that so many death row inmates were being grouped together. Henry and other attorneys have asked a Davidson County judge to halt the executions over questions about the drug the state now plans to use.

"Each and every one of these cases has a story that is an example of how the death penalty system in Tennessee is broken," she said Wednesday. "They each have different stories of ineffective counsel, of evidence that was suppressed by the state, stories of trauma and mental abuse that were never presented to a jury or a judge."

The death penalty here and across the nation has faced a barrage of legal challenges and drug shortages as pharmaceutical companies have pulled commonly used lethal injection drugs from the shelves. Tennessee found itself without sodium thiopental in 2011, putting all executions on hold until it could come up with a new drug, which it finally did in September.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Tennessean's editorial board, Haslam also said:

He wouldn't feel handcuffed by legislation that would require him to get the General Assembly's approval before expanding TennCare, the state's version of Medicaid, the federal health insurance program for the poor.

"We were fighting to have it be just that instead of have it be, 'Don't expand Medicaid, period,' " he said. "We were fine with the bill as it's written because we had already said, 'We won't do it without you.' But I think it shows a little bit of the political reality that we're in. But I don't think our hands are tied any different than they were before."

The governor has been negotiating with federal officials over a plan that would cover about 175,000 more Tennesseans with something modeled on private health insurance. Hospitals have pushed for TennCare expansion, but many of Haslam's fellow Republicans don't care for the idea.

He believes the state should keep its controversial system of appointing appellate judges.

"The Founding Fathers, when they did that for the federal system, got it right," he said.

Once they're appointed by the governor, appellate judges typically stand for yes-or-no "retention elections" every eight years. Nashville attorney John Jay Hooker has filed a lawsuit challenging that arrangement, arguing that the state constitution clearly calls for contested elections.

Voters will decide this fall if the state will amend the constitution to preserve the existing system, which has been in place for more than 40 years. If the proposed amendment fails, the existing system still could remain in force, depending on how a special state Supreme Court panel rules on Hooker's lawsuit.

He's studying legislation that would legalize hemp production in Tennessee and hasn't formed an opinion. He said he initially thought the proposal was "more of an amusing thing," but he came to see that its sponsors are serious.

Without naming specific bills, he said the legislature sometimes floats ideas that keep the state from "putting our best foot forward" in "incredibly competitive" economic development recruiting battles.

"I do think there are times that we do need to think about what's the message we're communicating," he said.

I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.

Grinning Grim Reaper

Tennessee sets execution dates...

Nickolus Johnson 4/22/14
Billy Ray Irick 10/7/14
Edmund Zagorski 12/9/14
Stephen Michael west 2/10/15
Donnie E Johnson 3/24/15
Olen E Hutchinson 5/12/15
Davisd E Miller 8/18/15
James Lee Jones 10/6/15
Nicholas T Sutton 11/17/15

Kelley Henry, who supervises capital punishment defense cases with the Federal Public Defender's Office in Nashville, said it was unfortunate that so many death row inmates were being grouped together.  :P Tough luck ambulance chaser.  :P
Vengence is mine saith the Lord...who are we to question the instruments used to carry it out?


Tenn. can lawfully electrocute inmates if no drugs
March 14, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Tennessee can lawfully use the electric chair in executions if lethal injection is stopped by the courts or because the state can't get the drugs to carry out the sentence, the state attorney general said in a legal opinion this week.

Bob Cooper's interpretation comes as state lawmakers consider a bill that would allow condemned prisoners to be electrocuted if lethal injection can't be used. Tennessee and several other states are grappling about what do about executions because of a European-led boycott on sales of sedatives to American prisons and legal challenges to drugs made by compounding pharmacies.

Tennessee has not executed a prisoner since 2009. Part of the delay was because the state did not have one of the drugs used for the injection. Tennessee has since revised its lethal injection method to use only one drug -- pentobarbital, a sedative commonly used to euthanize animals-- but states are already exhausting their supplies of that drug.

The legal opinion was requested by Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, and Rep. Dennis Powers, R-Jacksboro. Both have sponsored versions of the bill that would allow electrocution.

Messages left for both Yager and Powers were not immediately returned.

States are concerned they won't have the drugs to carry out death sentences, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. He said other states have proposed similar bills but so far none has passed.

"I think these are attempts to warn the system -- the courts or the manufacturers or the suppliers -- that if the drugs that we need are not available we'll resort to these older methods, these more draconian methods," he said.

The attorney general's opinion said the proposed law would pass constitutional muster, but that still wouldn't guarantee it would not be challenged in court. The opinion quotes a 1997 federal appeals court decision that says "Electrocution has never been found to be cruel and unusual punishment by any American court."

There are currently 10 prisoners who are scheduled to be put to death in Tennessee, state Department of Correction officials said in an email to The Associated Press.

Even if the bill passes, it would not apply to these 10 prisoners. The proposal only covers inmates who were given the death penalty for a crime committed after July 2014.

The last time the electric chair was used in Tennessee was in 2007 when the state executed Daryl Holton, a Gulf War veteran who killed his three sons and a stepdaughter with a high-powered rifle in Shelbyville garage in 1997. Holton asked for the electric chair.

I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.


Tennessee Senate authorizes electric chair for executions
Apr 10, 2014.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Senate has voted to allow the state to electrocute death row inmates if lethal injection drugs cannot be obtained.

The measure sponsored by Sen. Ken Yager passed on a 23-3 vote on Wednesday. The Harriman Republican says current law allows the state to use its alternate execution method only when lethal injection drugs are not legally available. But Yager says there was no provision for what do if there was a shortage of those drugs.

Tennessee this year had 10 prisoners with scheduled executions, but has not put an inmate to death since 2009.

The state's lethal injection protocol uses a sedative commonly used to euthanize animals, but states are exhausting supplies. The state's last electrocution was in 2007.

The companion bill is awaiting a House floor vote.

I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.


TN death row inmate dies of natural causes
Posted: Nov 28, 2014 10:18 PM

A man who spent the past 29 years on death row has died.

Gregory Thompson was convicted of stabbing and killing Brenda Lane, a young newspaper reporter in Shelbyville, after abducting her in 1985.

Thompson would have been the second man to be put to death in Tennessee in 40 years, but his execution date came and went.

Thompson gained national attention after 60 Minutes reported on him, claiming Thompson was schizophrenic, paranoid and delusional at the time he was supposed to be put to death.

Randy Tatel, with the Coalition to Abolish State Killing, spoke to Channel 4 days after Thompson's scheduled execution date.

"If this execution takes place, there will be an outcry from the mental health care community like nothing we've ever heard," Tatel said.

Thompson, 52, was pronounced dead Thursday afternoon at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville. His death is believed to be from natural causes.

I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.


Tennessee Supreme Court upholds death sentence
March 21st, 2015

NASHVILLE -- The Tennessee Supreme Court on Friday upheld the death sentence of a man who killed an elderly couple near Land Between the Lakes after he escaped from a Kentucky prison.

William Eugene Hall was convicted of first-degree felony murder for his role in the 1988 killings of Buford and Myrtle Vester. The couple was found shot and stabbed outside their home, and their car and other belongings were missing.

Hall was one of eight inmates who escaped from the Kentucky State Penitentiary on June 16, 1988. Five of the escapees stole a pickup truck and drove over the state line into Tennessee and began a series of burglaries. Hall was later captured in Texas, and he and two other escapees were convicted of killing the Vesters.

Hall filed his delayed appeal on numerous grounds, including one that claimed that new evidence discovered after his conviction proves that he is innocent.

Hall, James Blanton and Derrick Quintero were all sentenced to death for their role in the Vesters' murders. Blanton has since died in prison. But two death row inmates condemned in other cases came forward and said that prior to his death in 1999, Blanton admitted that he alone killed the couple and Hall and Quintero were not with him.

"From all appearances, the defendant has simply attempted to take advantage of Blanton's death in order to manufacture an alternative defense which, if true, could have been presented at trial," Justice Gary Wade wrote in the opinion.

I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.


Man sentenced to death for 3rd time in 1997 slaying
May 09, 2016

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A jury again sentenced Michael Rimmer to death Saturday in the killing of his former girlfriend, who disappeared 19 years ago from her job as a night clerk at a Memphis motel.

Rimmer, 50, was sentenced to death in 1998 and at a resentencing in 2004 in the killing of 45-year-old Ricci Ellsworth. A new trial was ordered in 2012 after a judge found Rimmer's defense counsel failed to effectively investigate the capital case.

Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich announced in 2014 that she would ask for a special prosecutor to handle the trial. Rachel Sobrero of the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference, and Pam Anderson, of Davidson County, prosecuted the retrial.

Jurors on Friday convicted Rimmer of killing Ellsworth with premeditation and in perpetration of a robbery. He was also convicted of aggravated robbery.

Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Chris Craft told Rimmer he will be confined until all appeals have been exhausted and an execution date is set. He will be put to death by electrocution, or at his option, lethal injection, Craft said.

"May God have mercy on your soul," Craft said.

Ellsworth, a mother of two, disappeared Feb. 8, 1997, from the Memphis Inn near Interstate 40. Her blood and her ring were found at the scene, but her body has never been found.

"I wish I could tell you how much I loved her, still love her," her now deceased mother, Margie Floyd, testified previously. "And the horror that -- she was such a sweet, generous person -- that anyone would hate her that much. It had to be hate."

Rimmer asked his attorneys, Robert Parris and Paul Bruno, not to present any mitigating evidence on his behalf during the sentencing proceedings Saturday.

Sobrero told the jury about aggravating factors in the case, including that Rimmer was previously convicted of one or more violent felonies, not including the present charge.

Rimmer was convicted of raping Ellsworth in 1989. She forgave him and visited him in prison.

Rimmer had pleaded not guilty to killing Ellsworth, and Parris urged the jury to consider elements of the case that were missing. There was no body, murder weapon or identification of Rimmer at the scene by anyone, Parris said. Prosecutors presented evidence that DNA profiles from blood at the crime scene matched blood found in a car Rimmer was arrested in for speeding nearly a month after Ellsworth's disappearance.

Witnesses Roger Lescure and William Conaley testified Rimmer had threatened to kill Ellsworth.

Rimmer's attorneys emphasized the eyewitness identification of a man who saw two people at the motel around the time of Ellsworth's disappearance with what appeared to be blood on their hands.

James Darnell picked out Billy Wayne Voyles Jr. from a photo spread, according to a police document. The document was not disclosed for Rimmer's 1998 death penalty trial or his resentencing in 2004.

Rimmer's 1998 counsel asked for exculpatory evidence from the prosecutor handling the case at the time, who responded the state was not aware of any.

Voyles was also picked out of a sketch released to the media.

Rimmer will get an automatic appeal to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals. If that court affirms the conviction and sentence, the Tennessee Supreme Court automatically reviews it.

Tennessee has executed six people since 1976, and the last execution was in 2009.

Five were executed by lethal injection, and in 2007 the state electrocuted convicted killer Daryl Holton. Holton chose the method.

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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