Alabama Death Penalty News

Started by Jeff1857, October 23, 2007, 11:10:09 AM

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Death sentence for John DeBlase: 'I am not going to beg for mercy'
January 08, 2015

MOBILE, Alabama -- John DeBlase, the father convicted in November in the deaths of his two young children, asked a judge on Thursday for mercy.

"I am not going to beg for mercy," DeBlase told Mobile County Circuit Judge Rick Stout. "I am not going to ask for mercy. I am going to ask for my life. I love my kids. I did not kill my kids."

But Stout decided not to give DeBlase the leniency he was asking for and sentenced him to death by lethal injection in the 2010 torture and killing of his children, Natalie DeBlase, 4, and her brother, Chase DeBlase, 3.

"The court has never encountered facts showing a more callous disregard for the sanctity of human life," Stout wrote in a 22-page order that he read during DeBlase's sentencing hearing. "The court finds that the state has proven beyond a reasonable doubt these capital offenses were especially heinous, atrocious or cruel."

DeBlase, 31, was found guilty of three counts of capital murder during a trial that lasted 12 days. During the penalty phase of the trial, a jury by a 10 to 2 vote recommended sentencing DeBlase to death.

"What he did to these children, it was horrendous," Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich said after the sentencing hearing. "It was horrific. It was something that the community didn't even want to know could have happened in our community. But it did, and now finally we have justice for those victims, and John DeBlase has got a death sentence."

The jury had to sit through troubling testimony about how the children suffered through cruel punishments before being killed.

Duct tape was tied around Natalie's hands and feet and a sock was shoved into her mouth before she was stuffed inside a suitcase during one incident. She was then locked in a closet, where she stayed for 12 hours, according to court records.

During another incident, Chase was tied to a broom handle with duct tape to force him to stand upright. He had to stand in a corner with a sock in his mouth while DeBlase and his common-law wife, Heather Leavell-Keaton slept, according to the records.

When the DeBlase children were killed in 2010, they were gagged for several hours and then choked to death.  It is believed Natalie's body was dumped on March 4, in a wooded area near near Citronelle, and Chase's body was disposed of on June 20, north of Vancleave, Miss.

Leavell-Keaton, 26, also is charged in the children's deaths. Her trial is set for April.

Defense attorney Glenn Davidson asked the judge to sentence DeBlase to life in prison without parole.

Davidson said he believes that the jury saw DeBlase as an accomplice in his children's death and saw Leavell-Keaton as the dominant figure in the case.

"She had no qualms at displaying a significant amount of hostility toward the children in front of people that she barely knew," Davidson said.

Leavell-Keaton also exerted dominance over DeBlase, Davidson said.

"You should not impose the death sentence in this case, judge," Davidson said. "It's not necessary. It's wrong. We ask that you not do it."
I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.


Court upholds 3 Ala death penalty cases
Feb 6, 2015

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- A state appeals court is upholding the convictions and death sentences of two men convicted of killing police officers.

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals issued opinions Friday denying appeals by Kerry M. Spencer and Bart Wayne Johnson.

Spencer was sentenced to death in the slayings of three Birmingham police officers in 2005. Jurors recommended life without parole, but a judge sentenced Spencer to die.

Johnson was convicted of killing a Pelham police officer in 2009. A Shelby County judge had to issue a new sentencing order for Johnson, and the appeals court says that order was sufficient to explain the penalty.

The court also upheld conviction and death sentence of James Earl Walker, who was convicted of killing an 87-year-old woman in Houston County in 2003.
I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.


Innocent black man 'sat on death row for 30 years' in US
Apr 3, 2015

An African American man who spent three decades on death row in the US state of Alabama has been exonerated after he was proven innocent by lawyers.

Ray Hinton, 58, was released from prison on Friday after spending 30 years awaiting execution in Birmingham, Alabama, another example of a wrongfully convicted black man sentenced to death for a crime he didn't commit.

"I shouldn't have sat on death row for 30 years," Hinton told reporters. "All they had to do was test the gun."

    "Everybody that played a part in sending me to death row, you will answer to God," he added. "They had every intention of executing me for something I didn't do."

Hinton is one of the longest-serving death row inmates in Alabama history and among the longest-serving prisoners in the US to be freed, having spent more than half his life incarcerated.

Hinton was convicted for the murders of two restaurant workers in Birmingham in 1985, even though there was no evidence linking him to the killings.

The US Supreme Court unanimously ruled last year that Hinton's constitutional right to a fair trial had been violated and overturned his conviction.

Prosecutors had been preparing for a retrial but moved to dismiss the case after modern forensic methods did not show the fatal bullets came from a revolver in Hinton's home, or even from the same gun.

Bryan Stevenson, Hinton's attorney and director of the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative, said he pressed the state of Alabama for years to re-test the gun, and for years officials refused. He said the case was symbolic of broader problems with the US justice system.

"Race, poverty, inadequate legal assistance, and prosecutorial indifference to innocence conspired to create a textbook example of injustice," Stevenson said in a statement. "I can't think of a case that more urgently dramatizes the need for reform than what has happened to Anthony Ray Hinton."

According to a study released in April 2014, one in every 25 death row inmates in the United States is innocent. Approximately 3,000 US prisoners are waiting to be put to death.

African Americans are also far more likely to be arrested and imprisoned by police than any other racial group, according to a recent analysis by USA TODAY.

Experts say the dramatic gap in arrest and prison rates reflects biased policing as well as the vast economic and educational inequalities that plague much of the US.

n November, two black men imprisoned in the US for nearly 40 years for a murder they did not commit were freed.

Ricky Jackson, 58, and Wiley Bridgeman, 61 were both exonerated in a 1975 murder after a key witness against them, who was 13 years old at the time, admitted in 2013 that he lied during his testimony.
I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.


Man on Alabama death row is freed after 15 years
17 April 2015

William Ziegler's murder conviction had been overturned but, threatened with a retrial, he struck plea deal on lesser charge of aiding and abetting

An Alabama prisoner has become the second within two weeks to avoid the state's death penalty, agreeing to a plea deal that avoids his retrial on a murder chanrge.

William Ziegler, 39, has argued he is innocent but pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting in the killing of Russell Allen Baker to end the case. A Mobile county judge gave him credit for the more than 15 years he already has served in prison.

Ziegler was convicted of capital murder in 2001 and sentenced to die for Baker's killing. Circuit Judge Sarah Stewart overturned Ziegler's conviction in 2012, indicating there were numerous errors and serious doubts about his guilt.

Prosecutors had said they planned to try him again but Ziegler instead was allowed to plead guilty to the reduced charge.

During a hearing Stewart urged Ziegler to resist turning bitter and said she knew he recognised God's grace. "I want you to appreciate that gift," she said. "You need to be very careful with your gift ... The world is a very different place than it was 15 years ago when you went to jail."

The decision came less than two weeks after another condemned Alabama prisoner was freed after claiming he was innocent. Anthony Ray Hinton was released on 3 April after nearly 30 years on Alabama's death row for a pair of killings in Jefferson county. Charges in the 1985 gunshot deaths of two fast-food workers were dismissed after new testing on the defendant's gun could not prove it fired the fatal shots.

Baker's body was found in a wooded area in Mobile county in 2000. Authorities said Ziegler had argued at a party and Ziegler was convicted along with three accomplices.

But a key witness who claimed Ziegler had threatened Baker later recanted, helping lead to Stewart's decision to overturn the case.

Ziegler's plea acknowledged that his conduct helped lead to Baker's death.

Relatives of both Ziegler and Baker, from Bayou La Batre, came away from the hearing disappointed. O'Della Wilson, the defendant's mother, said she was happy he would go free but angry that he had to plead guilty to any crime.

Baker's relatives were not happy Ziegler would be released. "He's a menace to our society. He will be back," said Beth Johansen, the victim's aunt. "This is not justice for our nephew."
I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.


Judge rules Alabama death penalty mechanism unconstitutional
March 3, 2016

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- An Alabama judge has thrown out the state's system for imposing the death penalty the same day Florida lawmakers passed a bill to revamp a similar sentencing mechanism.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Tracie Todd sided Thursday with defense attorneys who had cited a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that Florida's law was unconstitutional.

Juries recommend sentences in Alabama and Florida death penalty cases, but judges have the final decision. The Florida Legislature on Thursday passed a bill that would overhaul that state's law.

Prosecutors argued Alabama's law was different in key aspects, but Todd disagreed.

Todd's decision bars prosecutors from seeking the death penalty against four men charged in three slayings.

The state attorney general's office didn't immediately return a telephone call requesting comment about whether prosecutors would appeal.
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

Alabama AG seeks execution dates for 3 death row inmates

 The Alabama Attorney General's Office has asked the Alabama Supreme Court to set execution dates for three death row inmates in murder cases from Madison, Etowah and Mobile counties.

 The three inmates that have pending execution motions are Vernon Madison, Robert Bryant Melson, and Ronald Bert Smith, according to the Attorney General's Office. All three inmates are currently on the death row at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore.

 As of Thursday the Alabama Supreme Court had not set dates for the executions.

 The requests by the Attorney General's Office come about a month after the state executed by lethal injection death row inmate Christopher Eugene Brooks - the state's first execution in more than two years.

 Brooks was among a group of inmates who had challenged Alabama's new lethal injection drug cocktail, which the state says it had to turn to after pharmaceutical companies refused to have their drugs used in executions. Brooks' attorneys and other inmates have claimed the first drug in the cocktail - midazolam - does not put the condemned inmate in deep enough sleep to prevent pain when the other two drugs are administered.

 The Alabama Department of Corrections reported no problems with the execution.

 A judge had ruled that Brooks was too late in filing his challenge to the drug protocol. A hearing is set next month for the remaining inmates on that issue.

 The three inmates for which the Attorney General's Office is seeking execution dates are not a part of that midazolam litigation.

Vernon Madison

 Madison, who has been on death row since Nov. 12, 1985, was convicted in September 1985 and sentenced to death in Mobile County in the April 18, 1985 slaying of police Officer Julius Schulte, who was responding to a domestic disturbance call. Madison was on parole at the time.

 Madison had three trials, the last one in 1994. State appellate courts twice had sent the case back to Mobile County, once for a violation based on race-based jury selection and once based on improper testimony for an expert witness for the prosecution. He is one of Alabama's longest-serving death row inmates.

Robert Bryant Melson

 Melson, who has been on death row since May 16, 1996, was convicted in Etowah County, along with another man, Cuhuatemoc Peraita, in the shooting deaths of Tamika Collins, 18, Nathaniel Baker, 17, and Darrell Collier, 23, during the April 1994 robbery at a Popeye's Chicken & Biscuits restaurant in Gadsden.

 The lone survivor, Bryant Archer, was shot four times. Archer identified Melson as the one who fired the shots. Prosecutors said Peraita planned the crime.

 Peraita was sentenced to life in prison but joined Melson on Death Row in 2001 after he was convicted of taking part in the 1999 stabbing death of fellow Holman Prison inmate Quincy Lewis.

Ronald Bert Smith

 Smith, who has been on death row since Oct. 6, 1995, was convicted in Madison County in the November 1994 slaying of Circle C convenience store clerk Casey Wilson during a robbery. A judge overrode a jury recommendation for life without parole and imposed the death penalty.

 Smith and two others were charged with capital murder in the killing.

 One of Smith's co-defendants, Jay Allen Zuercher, was sentenced to life in prison with parole possible in 10 years. The other, Chad Roundtree, accepted a reduced charge in exchange for his testimony. He pleaded guilty to felony murder and was sentenced to 20 years with parole possible in less than 10.

 John Palombi, Assistant Federal Defender for the Middle District of Alabama, represents Melson and Smith. "We have received the motions to set execution dates and will be responding to them. We believe that these motions are premature in light of the questionable constitutionality of Alabama's death sentencing scheme," he said.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Tracie Todd sided Thursday with defense attorneys who had cited a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that Florida's law was unconstitutional.

 Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange vowed to appeal and have Todd's ruling reversed.

 The attorney for Madison had not responded to a request for comment prior to publication of this story.
Vengence is mine saith the Lord...who are we to question the instruments used to carry it out?


Alabama committee votes to allow nitrogen executions

Wed. Feb. 14, 2018

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama moved closer to allowing death row inmates to be executed with nitrogen gas, a method that has so far never been used. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill Wednesday on an 11-1 vote. It now moves to the full Senate.
Sen. Trip Pittman, the bill sponsor, says nitrogen hypoxia could be a painless way to put a person to death that is more humane than lethal injection or electric chair. The Montrose Republican said Alabama needs another execution method as lethal injection methods face legal challenges. However, no state has used nitrogen gas in an execution. Only two states -- Oklahoma and Mississippi -- conditionally authorize the use of nitrogen gas as a back-up method of execution.

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