Alabama Death Penalty News

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By: Associated Press
Published: December 09, 2011


Inmate: Judge allowed drinking during trial

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) A new death penalty ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court sides with Mobile County Circuit Judge Charlie Graddick, who's now running for chief justice.

Death row inmate Jeremy Bryan Jones contends in an appeal that Graddick let an alcoholic juror drink during his 2005 trial, which ended in a death sentence. His claim is revealed in an opinion released Friday by the court.

Jones' attorney claims a juror revealed that Graddick allowed him to drink while sequestered for the trial, and that Graddick knew the juror was an alcoholic. The lawyer argues Graddick didn't tell the defense and may now be a witness during appeals.

The Supreme Court says Graddick can remain on the case, however.

Jones was convicted in the slaying of 43-year-old Lisa Marie Nichols in Mobile County.


ALABAMA- Appeals court upholds pair of death sentences
Posted: May 26, 2012

An Alabama appeals court on Friday denied the appeals of two death row inmates, one from Montgomery County and the other from Jefferson County.

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the death sentence of 33-year-old Shonelle Andre Jackson in the 1997 slaying of Lefrick Moore during a carjacking in Montgomery.

Jackson was accused of shooting Moore after a traffic accident, and then two other men took Moore's car.

In his appeal, Jackson claimed misconduct by jurors. The appeal cited one juror whom Jackson's appeal claimed did not inform the court during jury selection that he owned two guns.

Jackson also cited that another juror did not say during jury selection that she had several friends in the Montgomery Police Department.

Jackson also said in his appeal that the trial judge erred in overturning the jury's sentencing recommendation that Jackson be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He also claimed that his attorney was ineffective in one phase of his trial.

The appellate court also upheld the death sentence given to 42-year-old Willie B. Smith III. Smith was convicted of the October 1991 slaying of Sharma Ruth Johnson, who was abducted while waiting to use a Birmingham ATM machine. She was later shot execution-style in a cemetery.

The court rejected Smith's claims on appeal, including that he shouldn't be executed because he is intellectually disabled and that his lawyers provided ineffective assistance at trial.

Both Smith and Jackson are on their second round of appeals.
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Death sentence dropped in Shelby County murders

Posted: Oct 18, 2012 12:01 AM

Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A death sentence has been changed to life in prison without parole for a man convicted of the 1996 killing and robbery of 2 people at a Shelby County pawn shop.

Shelby County Ciircuit Judge Michael Joiner has dropped the death sentence against 34-year-old LaSamuel Gamble and instead sentenced him to life in prison without parole. Gamble and Marcus Presley were convicted of the 1996 robbery and shooting deaths at of owner John Burleson and store manager Katie Littleton at John's 280 Pawn Shop.

In a court affidavit Gamble said he accepted the new sentence and agreed to drop his appeals. Shelby County District Attorney Robbie Owens agreed to drop Gamble's death sentence in 2007, but then-Attorney General Troy King continued to seek the death penalty.
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Grand Bay woman 'did not deserve her fate,' judge says in sentencing killer to death
on December 06, 2012 at 11:46 AM, updated December 06, 2012 at 1:28 PM

MOBILE, Alabama - Ruling that a Grand Bay woman who died from gunshots from her own weapon "did not deserve her fate," a judge this morning affirmed the jury's recommendation and sentenced convicted killer Derek Tyler Horton to death.

Reading from his written order, Mobile County Presiding Circuit Judge Charles Graddick recited a series of factors weighing for and against the death penalty and found that aggravating factors outweighed mitigating ones.  [Read the sentencing order here]

"In fact, the court finds the aggravating circumstances far outweigh the mitigating circumstances," he said.

Graddick's ruling sets off multiple rounds of automatic appeals. If Horton is unable to persuade state appellate courts to overturn his conviction or sentence, he will have the ability to raise constitutional objections in the federal courts.

Defense attorney Greg Hughes said he was disappointed by the judge's decision.

"You never like these things," he said. "We gave it our best shot, and the judge did what he thought was right."

Samantha Alspaugh, the daughter of victim Jeannette Romprey, expressed conflicted feelings after today's hearing.

"I really don't know what to feel," she said. "I don't want to say I'm happy with the decision, but I'm very pleased with the way things turned out."

Newcomer to death row

The same day that Graddick sentenced Horton, a judge in another Mobile County courtroom was changing the death sentence of another defendant to life in prison without parole, so the number of Mobile County defendants on death row remains at 14.
Mobile's death row inmates

Derek Tyler Horton joined death row the same day another inmate left it, leaving 14 Mobile County defendants waiting for execution. The others are:

    Vernon Madison -- killed Mobile police Cpl. Julius Schulte in 1985.
    Jarrod Taylor -- execution-style shooting deaths of Steve Dyas, Sherry Gaston and her husband, Bruce Gaston, at Dyas' car dealership, Dec. 12, 1997.
    Thomas Dale Ferguson -- killed a Colbert County man and his 11-year-old son on a fishing trip, July 20, 1997. Case moved to Mobile County because of pre-trial publicity.
    Joseph Clifton Smith -- robbed and killed carpenter Durk Van Dam, Nov. 25, 1997.
    George Martin -- killed his wife, Hammoleketh Jackson Martin, and burned her body inside a car, Oct. 8, 1995. George Martin was a state trooper.
    William John Ziegler* -- tortured and murdered 19-year-old Russell Allen Baker Jr. at Ziegler's apartment, February 2000.
    Jeremy Bryan Jones -- raped and killed Lisa Marie Nichols in her Turnerville home, September 2004.
    Garrett Dotch -- ambushed and killed onetime girlfriend Timarla Taldon, outside the Subway sandwich shop in west Mobile where she worked, July 10, 2006.
    Donald Dwayne Whatley -- murdered downtown motel owner Pete Patel, December 2003.
    Lam Luong -- dropped his four young children to their deaths from the Dauphin Island bridge, Jan. 7, 2008.
    Aubrey Lynn Shaw -- stabbed his great-aunt and uncle to death at their St. Elmo home in August 2007.
    Michael Woolf-- shot his wife and 2-year-old son on March 5, 2008.
    Derrick Shawn Penn -- shot his estranged wife and her boyfriend in May 2009.

    *Judge Sarah Stewart has ordered new trial for Ziegler.

A jury in August convicted Horton of capital murder during the course of an arson, burglary and robbery. According to testimony, Horton had exhibited odd signs of obsession with religion in the weeks leading up to the murder. On the night before April 10, 2010, slaying, he was at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church about three miles from Romprey's Grand Bay home.

After asking to see a priest and finding out one was not available, according to testimony, Horton went to a Chevron station less than a mile and a half from the victim's trailer home.

Later, Horton came across Romprey's trailer. The 59-year-old woman recently had returned home, where she lived alone, after visiting friends.

By all accounts, Horton had never met the victim. According to trial testimony, he used Romprey's gun to shoot her twice in the head and then, in the judge's words, set a fire to the home that "burned her beyond all recognition."

Someone saw flames shooting from the structure at about 1:30 a.m. on April 10.

Police later found Romprey's television, jewelry, computers and other items hidden behind an embankment. Horton also drove off in her Chrysler PT Cruiser.

A Capitol police officer later found Horton wandering on Interstate 65 near Brewton. Police found his palm print on Romprey's abandoned car, which contained her gun. His DNA was in a white knit cap found off of the highway. Surveillance footage from the previous night showed him wearing the cap.

Horton turned directly to Romprey's family this morning and apologized.

"I know there's probably nothing I can say to make you feel any different," he said. "I just want you to know that my family and I are praying for you."

Horton also apologized to his own family and thanked them for their support.

Alspaugh said afterward that she was not moved by Horton's apology because he did not admit to his actions. "He still did not accept responsibility," she said. "It didn't mean anything to me."

'callous and cold-blooded act'

Graddick said that he considered a number of factors offered by the defense, including his age -- he was only 18 at the time, barely old enough be executed -- his lack of previous significant criminal conduct and extreme mental or emotional disturbance.

The judge noted that Horton left his grandmother's home when he was 14 and went to live with his mother, a longtime drug addict. In that environment, according to testimony, he began using drugs, himself, and got into trouble with the law.

Graddick said that he found Horton's upbringing to be a mitigating factor but added that it was "not a license to commit and act of senseless rage or murder directed at an innocent person."

And Romprey, the judge said, did nothing to invite the "callous and cold-blooded act" against her.

"She was in her own home when the defendant shot her in the head and burned her beyond all recognition," he said. "Jeannette Romprey did not deserve her fate."
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Appeals court upholds Ala. inmate's death sentence
Published 6:19 pm, Friday, December 14, 2012

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- An Alabama appeals court has confirmed the capital murder conviction and death sentence given to Donald Broadnax for the deaths of his wife and her grandson in 1996.

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals Friday rejected the 50-year-old man's arguments to have his conviction and sentence overturned. Broadnax claimed that his attorneys were ineffective.

Broadnax, who was 35 at the time of the slayings, was found guilty in the deaths of Hector Jan Stamps, 42, and her grandson DeAngelo. Prosecutors say Broadnax beat them to death with a plank during an argument after he left a prison work-release program in Alexander City.
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Grinning Grim Reaper

Inmate Passes Away On Alabama's Death Row

January 7, 2013

An inmate on Alabama' s death row has passed away of natural causes.

Alabama Department of Corrections death row inmate Clarence Leland Simmons,74, was pronounced dead at approximately 12:38 a.m., on Monday, January 7.  Simmons died of multiple chronic illnesses with final cause of death pending autopsy results from the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. Simmons passed away in the healthcare unit at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore.

Convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death out of Jefferson County on January 9, 1998, Simmons served 16 years, 11 months, and 29 days on Alabama's death row.

Well he saved Alabama some drug costs!  8)
Vengence is mine saith the Lord...who are we to question the instruments used to carry it out?


Alabama appeals court throws out conviction of man tried for throwing 4 children off bridge
| Feb 16, 2013 | Last Updated: Feb 17, 2013 - 12:04 UTC

MOBILE, Ala. - An Alabama appeals court has thrown out the 2009 conviction and death sentence of a Vietnamese immigrant tried for killing four small children by tossing them off a coastal bridge, ruling that publicity surrounding the case made it impossible for the suspect to have a fair trial in Mobile where the crime occurred.

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals ordered a new trial for Lam Luong, whose wife testified he laughed when he told her their children -- whose ages ranged from 3 years to just 4 months -- would never be found. Alabama's attorney general could appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

The case of Luong, a part-time shrimp boat worker, took odd twists that made headlines right up to the start of his trial. Days before jury selection, Luong said he wanted to plead guilty but he ended up withdrawing that decision. The trial judge denied requests by Luong's defence lawyers to move the trial outside of Mobile County.

"It is clear that publicity surrounding the murders completely saturated the Mobile community in 2008. A great deal of that publicity was prejudicial," the appeals court said in its ruling Friday. "... Luong was denied his constitutional right to an impartial jury. Therefore, we must reverse Luong's convictions and sentence of death and remand this case for a new trial."

Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich and a spokeswoman for state Attorney General Luther Strange did not immediately return phone calls Saturday.

Greg Hughes, Luong's lead defence attorney, applauded the decision.

"Maybe this will save his life," Hughes said. "I don't know how this will come out down the road. But he's certainly better off than he was."

At the trial, Hughes told jurors that Luong was on drugs in January 2008 when he threw the children from the Dauphin Island bridge into the Mississippi Sound more than 80 feet (24 metres) below. Three of the children were Luong's while the other was his wife's from a prior relationship.

The bodies of all four -- Ryan Phan, 3, Hannah Luong, 2, Lindsey Luong, 1, and Danny Luong, 4 months -- were later recovered along the coasts of Alabama, Mississippi and even Louisiana, where Hannah's body was found 144 miles (232 kilometres) from the bridge. Autopsies found the children were all alive when they were tossed off the bridge.

Their mother, Kieu Phan, testified at Luong's trial that their relationship soured when they moved from Alabama after Hurricane Katrina demolished Bayou La Batre on Aug. 31, 2005, and relocated to Hinesville, Georgia. She said Luong had begun using crack cocaine and had a girlfriend, so she moved with her children to Mobile. Luong followed and had been unable to find work, she testified.

The Alabama appeals court ruled that the trial judge should have allowed Luong's attorneys to individually question jurors about their knowledge of the case before the trial. The appeals judges said 139 out of 156 prospective jurors who completed questionnaires for jury selection said they had heard about the case -- and 38 of those said they had heard Luong confessed or tried to plead guilty.

The court's decision said all 12 jurors who convicted Luong had heard of or read about the case. It took them only 40 minutes of deliberating to convict Luong in March 2009.

The appeals court ruled the trial judge also erred by refusing to grant Luong's defence team $7,500 to travel to Vietnam to investigate his childhood and by allowing a videotape to be show to the jury in which a police investigator simulated the crime by tossing four sandbags off the bridge.
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Supreme Court sends death case back to lower court
Posted: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 5:59 pm | Updated: 3:03 pm, Thu Jul 4, 2013.

The Alabama Supreme Court has sent the case of a death row inmate convicted in the 2000 death of an 87-year-old widow to a lower court for further review.

The court asked the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals Wednesday to review the conviction of 46-year-old Rex Allen Beckworth. He was sentenced to death for the beating and shooting death of Bessie Lee Thweatt.

Beckworth and his younger half- brother, James Walker, were accused of killing Thweatt after breaking into her Houston County home. Court records said Thweatt was known to keep money in the house.

The court asked the criminal appeals court to study whether the state failed to disclose to defense attorneys a statement made be Walker that he was the one who killed Thweatt.
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Court upholds death sentence for AU student's killer
Posted: Friday, August 30, 2013 5:42 pm | Updated: 12:11 am, Sat Aug 31, 2013.

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals has affirmed Courtney Lockhart's conviction and death sentence for the 2008 murder of Auburn University student Lauren Burk.

In the 196-page opinion, which was released Friday, the court determined that "Lockhart's conviction for murder made capital because it was committed during a robbery" and that the death sentence was "affirmed."

Lockhart, who was a resident of Smiths Station and a Iraq War veteran, was convicted of capital murder in 2010 for the March 4, 2008, robbery and shooting death of Burk, 18, along Alabama Highway 147 (North College Street).

Burk, who was shot once in the upper body, was a native of Marietta, Ga., and a freshman at Auburn. Lockhart confessed to the shooting three days later.

During the trial, Lockhart's defense team argued he accidentally fired the gunshot that killed Burk and his prior military service caused him to suffer from mental illness. A Lee County jury had recommended that Lockhart receive a life sentence in prison. But in March 2011, Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Walker III overturned the jury's recommendation and sentenced Lockhart to death by lethal injection.

The five-member court affirmed Walker's decision.

"The record reflects that Lockhart's sentence was not imposed under the influence of passion, prejudice, or any other arbitrary factor," the opinion stated. "We determine that Lockhart's sentence is neither disproportionate nor excessive to the penalty imposed in similar cases."

The opinion cited other cases, stating that two-thirds of the death sentences imposed in Alabama involve cases of robbery/murder. It also stated that the court "searched the record for any error that has or probably has adversely affected Lockhart's substantial rights and have found no plain error or defect in the proceedings under review."
Judge Liles C. Burke authored the opinion. Presiding Judge Mary Becker Windom along with Judge Samuel Henry Welch concurred. Judge J. Elizabeth Kellum concurred in the result while J. Michael Joiner concurred in part and dissented in part.

In a 2011 Opelika-Auburn News article, Walker said while the jury's unanimous recommendation of life without parole was a mitigating factor, the charges and indictments against Lockhart for crimes surrounding Burk's murder were compelling aggravating circumstances the jury did not hear during the trial phase.

Evidence regarding a series of robberies that began on Feb. 25, 2008, and lasted until March 7, 2008, when Lockhart was arrested in Phenix City, was presented during suppression hearings in early 2010, Walker said. He added the evidence would have likely had a bearing on the jury's decision.
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Death row inmate, Nicholas Acklin, wants a new trial
Posted: Thursday, August 29, 2013 9:30 pm | Updated: 9:45 am, Fri Aug 30, 2013.

HUNTSVILLE Ala. (WAAY) - An Alabama inmate facing the death penalty is asking for a new trial.

Nicholas Acklin is in prison for the shooting deaths of four people in a home on University Drive in Huntsville in 1996.

The victims were shot execution style during an argument over a cell phone.

Thursday Acklin's attorney argued that in his 1998 trial, the jury should have been informed that Aiklen was on Xanex.

The defense claims the medication could have changed Acklin's personality in the trial affecting the jury's verdict.

The judge has granted a motion to hear expert testimony at new hearing in December.
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Riley's capital murder conviction, death sentence upheld
Posted: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 1:01 pm | Updated: 1:37 pm, Tue Sep 3, 2013.

FLORENCE -- The Alabama Court of Appeals has upheld the murder conviction and sentence of a Lauderdale County man on death row in connection with the January 2005 shooting death of a liquor store clerk, officials said.

Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly said Monday he was notified of the appellate court's decision in the case against David Dewayne Riley Jr.

The 27-year-old Riley, of Florence, was convicted of capital murder in March 2011 and was sentenced in April 2011 to death by Lauderdale County Circuit Judge Mike Jones.

Riley is accused of shooting Scott Michael Kirtley, 38, of Florence, during a robbery at Dandy's Package Store No. 2, on Florence Boulevard.

In their 147-page decision, the appellate court pointed out that it "searched the entire record for any error that may have adversely affected Riley's substantial rights and has found none."
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Appeals court OKs death sentence in child killing
March 14, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- An Alabama appeals court has again upheld the capital murder conviction and death sentence of a Georgia man in the killing of a 12-year-old Alabama boy.

The Court of Criminal Appeals on Friday unanimously rejected the appeal of Michael David Carruth. This is Carruth's second round of appeals. He contended he had an ineffective attorney at his trial, but the appeals court disagreed.

Carruth, a bail bondsman from LaGrange, Ga., was convicted of the kidnapping and shooting death of 12-year-old William Brett Bowyer of Phenix City. The boy and his father were abducted from their home. The father was robbed of $40,000 and a gun, and then had his throat cut. He survived to testify at Carruth's trial.

Co-defendant Jimmy Lee Brooks Jr. was also convicted of capital murder.
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Grinning Grim Reaper

Alabama out of lethal injection drug pentobarbital

Published: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 3:34 p.m.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama has run out of one of the drugs used to execute death row inmates.

Clay Crenshaw, who heads capital litigation for the state attorney general's office, says Alabama currently does not have access to pentobarbital, the first drug in the state's three-drug execution process. He says there are 16 death row inmates who have exhausted their appeals and are awaiting execution, but the state has no pentobarbital to use.

The Alabama Department of Corrections, seeking to open up new suppliers, is pushing for legislation this session that would keep execution drug sources secret.

Crenshaw says death penalty opponents want to uncover the sources so those suppliers will stop providing the drugs.

He says the difficulty in obtaining pentobarbital has slowed the pace of executions.

Alabama should talk to Texas...they could find pentobarbital on a desert island.  8)
Vengence is mine saith the Lord...who are we to question the instruments used to carry it out?


Alabama appeals court upholds 8 death penalty cases
Friday, May 2, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A state appeals court is refusing to overturn the convictions of eight inmates on Alabama's death row.

In cases from Jefferson County, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the convictions and death sentences of Justin White; William Bruce Marshal; Demetrius Avery Jackson; and Anthony Lane.

The judges also refused to overturn the cases of Calvin Stallworth from Baldwin County and David H. Wiggins from Russell County.

From Mobile County, the court upheld the convictions and death sentences of William John Zeigler and Michael Bragg Woolf.

Woolf was convicted of killing his wife and their 2-year-old son. While the court upheld his case, the court did tell a judge to clarify a sentencing order.

The eight cases represent 4 percent of all the 197 inmates on death row in Alabama.
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Man being removed from Alabama Death Row for retrial in 1985 slayings of Birmingham fast food managers
January 15, 2015

After spending nearly 30 years awaiting execution for the deaths of two Birmingham area fast-food restaurant managers, Anthony Ray Hinton will be removed from Alabama Death Row in the next few weeks to await a new trial in the slayings.

Meanwhile, prosecutors are trying to track down witnesses from the first trial and searching to see what physical evidence may still be available to decide how, or even if, they have enough to prosecute Hinton again.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Laura Petro on Wednesday ordered the Alabama Department of Corrections to bring Hinton from death row at Holman Prison to the county jail to await a new trial in the 1985 slayings. The judge in October had overturned Hinton's conviction and ordered he be retried in the wake of rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.

Hinton, 58, is to be returned to Jefferson County in time for a Feb. 18 hearing, Petro stated in her order.

Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls said that he expects Petro will set a trial date at that hearing.

Petro on Dec. 11 had issued an order allowing both prosecutors and the defense access to physical evidence in the circuit clerk's office.

The passage of nearly three decades, however, will make it tough for prosecutors to retry the case, Falls said.

"Obviously it's difficult to try a case after 30 years," Falls said. "That's why we're in the process of determining where all the physical evidence is now, what witnesses are available to testify and (gather) any evidence the defense has complied over the years through their investigations."

Some witnesses may no longer be alive, Falls said.

Many of the death penalty cases where convictions were set aside and the inmate was ultimately freed was because the prosecution was unable to put a case back together years later, Falls said. "It is often claimed that the person was exonerated when in fact the simple passage of so much time prevented anyone from re- prosecuting the case," he said.

Chief Deputy District Attorney John Bowers and Deputy District Attorney Mike Anderton are now assigned to the case, Falls said.

Efforts to reach Hinton's attorney, Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative, were unsuccessful. The EJI maintains Hinton is inncocent. 

Petro in October had ordered Hinton's conviction set aside and for him to be retried. She issued the order after rulings earlier in 2014 from the U.S. Supreme Court and Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals that she should look at whether the lawyer for Anthony Ray Hinton should have hired a better firearms expert for his trial. 

Hinton was convicted of killing two fast-food restaurant managers and wounding a third during three robberies in 1985.

Hinton was convicted largely on the strength of the eyewitness testimony of the surviving restaurant manager and expert testimony from prosecution witnesses that bullets recovered from all three crime scenes had been fired by a pistol police found in his home.

A man hired by Hinton's trial attorney to counter state forensics experts testified the bullets could not be matched to the gun, but in stinging cross examination was discredited by the prosecution over his qualifications and findings.

Hinton's court appointed defense attorney had contended that he tried to find a better firearms expert cut could not find one with the limited funds he had. But the appeals courts ruled that the defense attorney did not know that the spending limits for such experts had been lifted and he could have hired a better one.

Hinton was convicted and sentenced to death for the Feb. 25, 1985 shooting death of John Davidson, an assistant manager at a Southside Mrs. Winner's, was forced into the restaurant's cooler and shot twice in the head. The store was robbed of $2,100. He also was convicted in the July 2, 1985 death of 25-year-old Thomas Vason, an assistant manager at a Captain D's in Woodlawn, was forced into a cooler and shot twice in the head. That restaurant was robbed of $650.

Hinton also was charged related to the July 26, 1985 shooting of Quincy's night manager Sid Smotherman Jr., who was shot in the head and hand in a robbery at the Bessemer restaurant. Smotherman survived and testified at Hinton's trial that he was driving home after work when Hinton bumped his car, and when he got out to check for damage Hinton forced him at gunpoint to drive back to the restaurant.

The issue over whether the defense gun expert was qualified to testify in Hinton's case has been going for more than six years.

As of today Hinton has been on death row 29 years, four months and 28 days. He also spent another 485 days in the county jail.
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