Georgia Death Penalty News

Started by Jeff1857, March 20, 2008, 01:44:04 AM

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March 20, 2008, 01:44:04 AM Last Edit: May 26, 2008, 04:37:32 AM by Jeff1857
Imposing the death penalty in Georgia would take only 10 of 12 jurors under an amended bill approved by the state House Wednesday.

The controversial amendment would change the way capital punishment has been imposed in Georgia for more than two centuries. It allows a judge to decide the ultimate sentence if a jury votes at least 10-2 in favor of death. Current law requires a unanimous jury verdict for a capital sentence.

Senate Bill 145, sponsored by Sen. Preston Smith (R-Rome), began as non-controversial legislation. It allows district attorneys to seek life-without-parole sentences in aggravated murder cases. Under current law, prosecutors can only obtain life without parole for murder when they seek the death penalty or when a murder defendant has an earlier conviction for a serious violent felony.

But it was amended on the House floor to allow death sentences when juries cannot reach unanimity. A similar measure passed the House a year ago, but died in a Senate committee.

The amendment only addresses the sentencing stage of a trial and does not change the guilt or innocence phase of a verdict. Unanimity is still required for a judgment of guilt.

If the non-unanimous jury provision becomes law, it would dramatically change death-penalty trials in Georgia, Stephen Bright, a lawyer with the Southern Center for Human Rights, said.

"The value of requiring unanimity is that everybody's view is given equal weight," Bright said. "And, now, 10 jurors can simply disregard the views of two jurors. That changes the whole dynamic of how juries decide these cases."

Smith, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that passed the bill that was amended, expressed disappointment the House changed his legislation and did not work the non-unanimous jury proposal through his committee.

"We feel like the two issues are very different policy decisions," Smith said. "Each one ought to have its own consideration on its own merits. By bootstrapping them together, both are now in jeopardy of failing to pass."

When the bill was debated last year, supporters said prosecutors seeking death were being thwarted by holdout jurors. Since then, Georgia's district attorneys have had greater success in obtaining death sentences. In 2007, state prosecutors sent six killers to death row â€" the most in at eight years.

Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram) said Wednesday that the amendment would prevent heinous killers from escaping a punishment they deserve. Richardson cited the 2005 murder of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, who was kidnapped, raped and killed after being buried alive near her home in Homosassa, Fla. A Florida jury, by a 10-2 vote last year, sentenced John Evander Couey to death. Couey's lawyers had argued their client was mentally retarded and mentally ill.

"If you need further convincing perhaps you ought to go talk to the family of Jessica Lunsford," Richardson said. If the murder had taken place in Georgia, Couey would not have gotten death, he said.

State Reps. Ed Lindsey (R-Atlanta) and Robert Mumford (R-Conyers), who is a former prosecutor, argued against the bill, saying that it would overturn centuries-old legal precepts that give juries the power to render life and death decisions in capital cases.

"Today we're imposing a new line at 10, next year it'll be nine, next year it will be eight, next year it'll be zero, because we've chosen no longer to trust juries," said Lindsey. "Well I'm here to tell you that that is an enormous step backwards for our civil society"

Lindsey, who said he supports the death penalty, also argued that if the bill becomes law, death row inmates could delay their executions even longer, because "of countless appeals on whether or not this proposed change is constitutional."

If the bill passes the Senate and is approved by the governor, Georgia would be one of only five states in the nation with the death penalty that does not require a unanimous jury verdict for a death sentence, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The other four are Alabama, Delaware, Florida and Montana. A judge decides sentences in Delaware and Montana, while juries only make recommendations to judges in Alabama and Florida.


ATLANTA -- Georgia's bid to allow judges to sentence defendants to death without unanimous support from a jury has run into a brick wall.

The state Senate's 44-7 vote Thursday would erase last-minute changes that would allow a judge to impose the death penalty even if one or two members of the 12-person jury vote against it.

The vote means House and Senate leaders must either strike a compromise -- or drop the proposal completely.

"This is a disaster in criminal jurisprudence. It would so completely and utterly destroy the death penalty law, it would render it ineffective," said Republican state Sen. Preston Smith of Rome. 

Smith is the author of a proposal that gives prosecutors more leeway to pursue life without parole sentences in some cases. But the death penalty provision was added to his bill by the House yesterday in a surprise move, infuriating Smith and other Senate Republicans.

The changes were sponsored by House Majority Whip Barry Fleming, a Harlem Republican who is running for Georgia's 10th Congressional District seat.

Fleming and other supporters say it is a way to prevent death penalty opponents from sabotaging capital punishments with one or two "no" votes, and cited cases where convicted murderers were let off the hook because of a sole dissenter.


Georgia moved quickly Wednesday to clear the way for the execution of two condemned killers after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of lethal injection.

Just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Kentucky's lethal-injection method does not violate the Eighth Amendment's guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment, Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker asked that stays be lifted to allow the executions of Jack Alderman and Curtis Osborne.

Their executions were put on hold in October by the Georgia Supreme Court because the lethal-injection challenge was pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court's splintered, 7-2 decision effectively ended a de facto moratorium on capital punishment nationwide. Georgia, like Kentucky, uses a three-drug cocktail to execute death-row inmates.

Alderman awaits execution for killing his wife in 1974 in Chatham County. Osborne sits on death row for a 1990 double murder in Griffin.

Alderman already is challenging the constitutionality of lethal injection in a federal lawsuit filed in Atlanta.

One of his lawyers, Michael Siem, said Wednesday that nothing in the high court's ruling counters Alderman's contention that lethal injection procedures in Georgia are unconstitutional. "As such, we continue to press the state of Georgia to make the changes necessary to ensure constitutional executions," Siem said.

Siem filed a federal court motion Wednesday saying there are key differences between lethal injection in Kentucky and Georgia. "The Georgia procedures lack basic safeguards to prevent an inmate from suffering substantial harm," the motion said.

Of the 36 states that allow the death penalty, 27 -- including Georgia -- require lethal injection as the sole method of execution.

Chief Justice John Roberts on Wednesday announced the high court's decision.

Roberts noted that the two death-row inmates from Kentucky who mounted the challenge acknowledge that lethal injection, if applied as intended, will result in a humane death.

Much of the inmates' case rested on their contention that the three-drug cocktail posed a potential risk of excruciating pain because the protocol for administering it might not be properly followed. They also proposed an alternative protocol.

"We cannot say that the risks identified by [the condemned inmates] are so substantial or imminent as to amount to an Eighth Amendment violation," Roberts wrote. Also, "a condemned prisoner cannot successfully challenge a state's method of execution merely by showing a slightly or marginally safer alternative."

In 1976, in the case Gregg v. Georgia, the high court upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty.

"It necessarily follows that there must be a means of carrying it out," Roberts wrote. "Some risk of pain is inherent in any method of execution -- no matter how humane -- if only from the prospect of error in following the required procedure. It is clear, then, that the Constitution does not demand the avoidance of all risk of pain in carrying out executions."

Throughout U.S. history, society has steadily moved to more humane methods of execution, Roberts wrote. The firing squad, hanging, the electric chair and the gas chamber have each given way to more humane methods, culminating in a consensus on lethal injection.

The high court never struck down one of those methods, Roberts said, noting that nothing has stopped legislatures from taking steps to ensure more humane methods of execution. "There is no reason to suppose that today's decision will be any different," he said.

Justices Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito agreed with Roberts' opinion. Alito also wrote a separate concurring opinion, as did four other justices, to give the court its seven-vote majority.

One of them was Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote for the first time that he believes the death penalty is unconstitutional. But Stevens said he would continue to respect the court's precedents upholding capital punishment and agreed with the court that the Kentucky inmates did not prove lethal injection was cruel and unusual punishment.

Stevens said he had hoped the court's decision would bring the debate about the lethal injection to a close.

"It now seems clear that it will not," Stevens wrote. "The question whether a similar three-drug protocol may be used in other states remains open" and could be decided differently in another case with more evidence, he said.

But Roberts responded, saying that a stay of execution may be granted only when a condemned prisoner establishes a demonstrated risk of severe pain.

"A state with a lethal injection protocol substantially similar to the [Kentucky] protocol we uphold today would not create a risk that meets this standard," Roberts said.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter, dissented. Ginsburg said she would ask Kentucky courts to consider whether the state includes adequate safeguards to ensure an inmate is unconscious and unlikely to suffer severe pain.

Georgia was not the only state to respond quickly to the decision. Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, who suspended executions as the high court considered the lethal injection challenge, said Wednesday that Virginia can resume executions of condemned killers.

In Georgia, a third death-row inmate, William Lynd, who was sentenced to death for the 1988 murder of his live-in girlfriend in Berrien County, may also get a death warrant soon. Lynd's appeals were exhausted last year, making him eligible for a death warrant. None was sought, however, when it became clear there was a de facto moratorium until the U.S. Supreme Court decided the lethal injection challenge.
Georgia is joining the Purple Posse!!!!


May 01, 2008, 02:04:39 AM Last Edit: May 26, 2008, 04:38:44 AM by Jeff1857
ATLANTA (AP) - A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Georgia's method of execution does not violate the Constitution.

U.S. District Court Judge Beverly Martin said the lethal injection procedure used in Georgia is substantially similar to Kentucky's. The U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld the Kentucky protocol, clearing the way for executions to resume in the roughly three dozen states that use lethal injection.

Martin ruled from the bench on Wednesday, rejecting a challenge brought by condemned killer Jack Alderman. His lawyer, Michael Siem, said he would appeal to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Alderman's legal team argues that Georgia lacks the procedural safeguards that Kentucky has. They contend that Georgia execution officials lack necessary training and that the dosages of the lethal drugs are insufficient, which could lead the person being executed to suffer excruciating pain.

State officials maintain they take precautions to ensure that the condemned inmate does not suffer. And they said an experienced registered nurse is involved in the procedure.

Alderman is sentenced to die in the 1974 slaying of his 20-year-old wife, Barbara, in Chatham County. Authorities say he and an accomplice killed Barbara Alderman to collect $20,000 in life insurance money.

He had been scheduled for execution in October but the Georgia Supreme Court issued a stay to await the high court decision on lethal injection. Attorney General Thurbert Baker has asked for the stay to be lifted but the court has yet to act.

Georgia is set to move forward with another execution Tuesday, which could make it among the first states in the nation to put an inmate to death following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. It has been nearly seven months since an execution in the United States, the longest pause in a quarter-century.

William Earl Lynd is set to die in Georgia for the 1988 slaying of his girlfriend in Berrien County.

Mississippi's attorney general is seeking to have death row inmate Earl Wesley Berry executed on Monday.
Let's roll Georgia. Sign the other 2 or 3 warrants.


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 07/14/08

The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a person found guilty of murdering a law enforcement officer is eligible for the death penalty, even if the killer did not know the victim was an officer at the time.

The 5-2 ruling was issued before the upcoming trials against Antron Dawayne Fair and Damon Antwon Jolly, who are accused of killing Bibb County Sheriff's Deputy Joseph Whitehead in 2006. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against both men, who will be tried separately.

Whitehead, the lead officer in a drug investigation, entered the home using a "no-knock" warrant. Within seconds, Whitehead was shot and killed. Investigators found crack cocaine and marijuana while processing the scene.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Fair and Jolly on the grounds they committed the aggravating circumstance of killing a law enforcement officer in the performance of his duty. Defense lawyers contend their clients should not be eligible for the death penalty because they did not know Whitehead was an officer.

In Monday's ruling, Justice George Carley wrote that the state's death-penalty statute "is silent regarding the defendant's knowledge of the officer's status." If the Legislature, when enacting the law in 1973, had intended to require knowledge, it would have done so, Carley said.

Justice Carol Hunstein, joined by Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, dissented on this issue.

"Clearly, a defendant who knowingly murders a peace officer ... is more culpable than one who does not know the status of his victim," the dissent said. "Without such knowledge, there is nothing to distinguish the defendant who murders a victim who by happenstance was such a public servant from a defendant who murders any other victim, and thus nothing to specifically justify imposition of the ultimate punishment."

Fair and Jolly also contended that they were justified in opening fire on the officers because they thought they were being robbed, not the subject of a "no-knock" warrant.

The state's high court said the trial judge erred during pretrial hearings by not ruling on the issue of whether the two men were entitled to immunity from prosecution for that reason. The state Supreme Court directed the judge to decide that issue before the case goes to trial.
I've said it all the time. If someone murders a law enforcement officer should be automatic DP case and in those states with no DP should be a federal case.


ATLANTA (AP) -- The state Senate has approved legislation which would allow prosecutors to seek life without parole against convicted killers without first pursuing the death penalty.

The legislation from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Preston Smith passed unanimously Tuesday.

Under current law, prosecutors may not obtain a sentence of life without parole unless they first seek the death penalty. Smith, a Rome Republican, says such capital trials are time-consuming and costly.

Life without parole is already an option for prosecutors in rape cases.

Smith says the bill has the support of prosecutors but that lawyers in the defense community are split on the change.

The bill now moves to the state House.


This bill is not a bad idea. It makes sense to have LWOP and DP for the killers without seeking every time the DP.

I´m not sure if there´s a hell, but I believe in executed murderers.


Fulton County is the place to commit murder - and have your room, meals, medical and educational expenses paid for in full for the rest of your miserable life by the people who knew and loved your victims.

This week, the State of Georgia carried out the execution of white supremacist William Mark Mize, convicted of killing a man in Oconee County 15 years ago - no doubt a just punishment.  But that's Oconee County, with a population of just over 26,000.

Enter now, Fulton County, with a much higher crime rate and a population of just over one-million, making up a large part of Atlanta - a town where the per capita violent crime rate is higher than New York.
Yes.  Statistically, you are more likely to be murdered in Atlanta, than in New York City.
Yet, of all the cases before them, Fulton County juries have only sentenced two men to death since 2000, which begs the question; Just how many people does a person have to kill around here to get the death penalty, anyway?  Apparently, four aren't enough.
Everyone is keenly aware that Brian Nichols escaped his date with the executioner, aided by the three jurors who voted against the death penalty - jurors who had been asked, during jury selection, if they would be able to render a death sentence should the evidence in the trial call for it.  Those three people decided that, for whatever reason, a cold-blooded, worthless piece of human garbage should be allowed to continue living after ending the lives of four innocent people because - as he claimed - his warped mind thought he was a slave trying to flee his captors.

Or how about the H. Rap Brown case?  Remember H. Rap Brown, a leader of the Black Panthers?  His real name is Harold Gerold Brown and he was often filmed by news reporters in the 1960s calling for the murder of police officers and stating that violence is a vital tool for blacks and is "as American as Cherry Pie".  Or maybe you remember him best when he went by the Muslim name, Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin.  It was during his deep thinking Muslim cleric days as Al-Amin that he gunned down two sheriff's deputies in Atlanta with an assault rifle and a 9mm semi-automatic pistol - in keeping with the peaceful teachings of Islam.

I covered this case.  Fulton County Sheriff's Deputy Ricky Leon Kinchen died from the multiple gunshot wounds he received at the hands of Brown or Al-Amin or whatever he's calling himself these days.  The point is Brown/Al-Amin is still alive, aka's and all...Deputy Kinchen is dead.
The Fulton County jury deciding his fate gave the Black Panther life without parole.  Brown/Al-Amin stood there in the courtroom in the cap and robes of a Muslim cleric, showing no emotion.

The reasoning of the jury was, that due to Brown/Al-Amin's notoriety as a radical Muslim leader, he would become a mortar if he were put to death.  However, sentenced to life, thus, relative obscurity, he would be no more than an asterisk in the pages of history - which has become true.
Think about it.  Once he was an arrogant, riot inciting mouthpiece for the Black Panthers.  Now, he's shut away inside the "supermax" federal prison in Florence, Colorado.  Has anyone heard anything from him or about him since his sentencing in 2002?
Nichols was different.  He was a nobody who found his fifteen minutes of infamy on CNN simply because he was a killer.  He should have been sentenced to die.
But, again, that historically doesn't happen in Fulton County - even in some of the county's worst cases:
-          Chiman Rai, a native of India, was sentenced to life without parole for the murder-for-hire of his daughter-in-law, Sparkle Rai. The elder Rai, did not approve of his son, Rajeeve Rai, marrying an African-American woman.  The hit man in the case, Cleveland Clark, the man who actually strangled Sparkle Rai to death with an electrical cord as her baby lay crying, also received life without parole.

-          Christopher Allen James was given two consecutive life sentences in the double murder case of Jeremiah Ingram and Fatima Fisher, murders that occurred because of some missing drugs. 

-          Matthew Colzie was sentenced to life for the murder of Torrence Brown, having shot and killed Brown after attempting to rob him. 

-          Kelvin T. Williams, Quanthony D. Williams and Quinton Robinson were each given two life sentences for the execution style murder of Brian Stringer and Myron Long. 

-          A jury took less than three hours to find Herman Ingram guilty in the stabbing death of Gloria Cochran, but they couldn't muster up a death sentence. Ingram received life.  Perhaps they should have taken longer.

-          Xzavier Scott was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his 13-month-old daughter, Shaniya West.

And in what is considered one of the most vicious and heinous crimes ever prosecuted in Fulton County:

-          Chaunson McKibbins, formerly on the FBI's most wanted list, was convicted of  killing his longtime friend, Demetrius Robbins, over stolen drugs.  Robbins was tortured and butchered into ten pieces with a chainsaw.  The murder was committed 13 months after McKibbins escaped from the Fulton County Courthouse where he was on trial for drug trafficking.  McKibbins received two life sentences.
A frustrated - some say, ineffective - Fulton County District Attorney's office  finally managed to coax its first death sentence from a jury in eight years, last summer, in the case of Demetrius Willis.  Willis killed his ex-girlfriend, her boyfriend and their 3-year-old child in 2004.
Before that you have to go all the way back to 2000 and the case of Gregory Lawler, convicted and sentenced to death for the killing of Atlanta Police Officer John Sowa.
Many experts say race plays a role.  The case of Mize, the white supremacist in Oconee County was convicted, not of killing a minority, but of killing another white supremacist - follower who would not carry out a hate crime.  But then, there are fewer distractions in Oconee County, which tends to make seeing right from wrong a little easier.
But what about bustling Fulton County and Atlanta?  Is it a racial thing or an ineffective DA thing?
Gallup polls indicate that only 40-percent of the black population is supportive of the death penalty, while 70-percent of the white population supports capital punishment. 
Another major factor appears to be the sentencing option "life without parole", adopted in Georgia in 1993.  This "option" seems to give jurors an "out".
But Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard has to take some of the blame.
I also covered the double murder trial of Baltimore Ravens Linebacker Ray Lewis in 2000.  Howard decided to lead the prosecution team himself in a case that appeared to have all of the mass appeal of the O. J. Simpson trial; a star football player, sex, money, cover-ups and a double murder.  But we all watched as Superior Court Judge Alice D. Bonner had to interrupt Howard on numerous occasions and actually instructed the District Attorney as to proper courtroom protocol and procedure.  Judge Bonner seemed, at times, close to loosing her patience, but usually opted to gently admonish with a smile instead of a gavel.
Ultimately, Lewis pleaded to a lesser charge, his co-defendants were acquitted and no one ever paid for the deaths of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar.
Still, despite the efforts of the prosecution or the defense, it usually remains up to the jury members to private...weighing all the facts...and voting their individual consciences...much like the election process.  Unfortunately, just like an election, "herd" mentality and deep-seated prejudices often replace common sense and justice.  Any questions now as to why 67-percent of the Fulton County voters chose Obama?
I´m not sure if there´s a hell, but I believe in executed murderers.

heidi salazar

Cleveland Clark, the man who actually strangled Sparkle Rai to death with an electrical cord as her baby lay crying, also received life without parole.

Cleveland Clark was just convicted on Friday. He has not been sentenced yet.


Death Penalty Changes Could Lead To Challenge

A Senate panel has approved changes to Georgia's death penalty laws that could open the door to a legal challenge.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted last week to remove a rule that requires the Georgia Supreme Court to review whether a death penalty sentence is proportionate to the severity of the crime.

Criminal defense attorney Sandy Michaels tells the Daily Report that removing the requirement is a "golden invitation" for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit the issue. But the proposal's supporters say such reviews will still be required under federal law.

The measure must still be approved by the full Senate and House and Gov. Sonny Perdue.
I´m not sure if there´s a hell, but I believe in executed murderers.


Perdue appoints members to Ga. pardons board

Associated Press
05/11/10 5:31 PM EDT

ATLANTA -- Gov. Sonny Perdue has appointed two members to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, clearing the way for executions and clemency hearings to continue.

Perdue appointed Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Albert Murray and Republican state Rep. Terry Barnard to the five-member clemency panel. He is also recommending that current pardons board member Garland Hunt take Murray's former job.

The board in February delayed the execution of Melbert Ray Ford because a spot on the panel was not filled. Officials with the pardons board said at the time that holding a clemency consideration with a board of four members in a death case could violate state law.

Prosecutors must now return to court to get a new execution order for Ford.

(This will be important in case from Melbert Ford)



"If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself." Albert Einstein


Ga. AG candidates want to speed executions

Both Republican candidates for state attorney general say they would like to see execution sentences be carried out quicker.

Cobb County Commission chair Sam Olens and state Sen. Preston Smith are in a runoff to face Democratic nominee and former prosecutor Ken Hodges in the fall.

Besides executions, both candidates said at a debate in Dalton on Saturday that they would work to pass a stricter immigration enforcement law similar to that of Arizona.

Olens took some heat from Smith for not having a National Rifle Association endorsement. Olens said the lack of endorsement is because Smith has a voting record in Georgia Legislature while he none. Olens said he is a lifetime NRA member and strong Second Amendment supporter.

The runoff election is Aug. 10.

(source: Associated Press)


I hope these aren´t just the typical promises of a political campaign.

I´m not sure if there´s a hell, but I believe in executed murderers.


Georgia Top Court OKs Death Option for Cop Shooting

Submitted by WDEF News 12 and AP on November 22, 2010 - 11:12am.

ATLANTA (AP) - The Georgia Supreme Court has ruled 5-to-2 that two men will be eligible for the death penalty if they're found guilty of killing a Bibb County law enforcement officer.     

The state is seeking the death penalty against Antron Dawayne Fair and Damon Antwon Jolly for the killing in 2006 of sheriff's deputy Joseph Whitehead.     

Whitehead was attempting to serve a 'no-knock" warrant on a house that was the suspected site of illegal drug trafficking.   

The state announced plans to seek the death penalty against Fair and Jolly, citing the killing of a police officer.     
Attorneys for the men argued that the death penalty should be barred because Fair and Jolly did not know Whitehead was an officer.     

On Monday, the court upheld the state's right to seek the death penalty.







Death row inmate asks DOJ to investigate

Associated Press - February 24, 2011 2:54 PM ET

ATLANTA (AP) - Attorneys for a death row inmate are asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate whether Georgia corrections officials violated federal law to secure a supply of a key death penalty drug.

John Bentivoglio said in the letter Thursday that records show the Georgia Department of Corrections did not file a declaration with federal regulators to import sodium thiopental from a British company. The letter also said the state should have registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration as an importer of a controlled substance.

State corrections officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Bentivoglio is representing Andrew Grant DeYoung, who was convicted of the 1993 stabbing deaths of his parents and 14-year-old sister.






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