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Entries in Execution (22)

Wednesday
Jan162013

Convicted Murderer Who Pleaded for Death Electrocuted in Virginia

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(JARRATT, Va.) -- A Virginia inmate who begged -- and even killed -- for the death penalty was executed by electric chair Wednesday night.

Robert Gleason Jr., 42, was pronounced dead at 9:08 p.m. authorities said. He was executed at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Va.

Gleason was already serving a life sentence for murder when he killed two other prisoners in a quest for the death penalty. He threatened to continue killing until he was sentenced to death.

Despite Gleason's determination to be executed, his former lawyers battled to keep him alive and sought a stay of his execution.

"This is going to look to most people like a case that is appropriate for the death penalty," Gleason's former attorney Jon Sheldon told ABC News Wednesday. "But what's odd about the case is it flips the death penalty precisely on its head in that the motive for the prison killing was only so he could get the death penalty."

Sheldon said killing Gleason would send a bad message to other inmates who could potentially use killing to get what they want.

Gleason was convicted of murdering Michael Kent Jamerson in Amherst, Va., in 2008. He was sentenced to life without parole. In prison, he strangled Harvey Watson, his cellmate, and Aaron Cooper, a fellow inmate.

The inmate has been insisting on his execution.

Gleason chose the electric chair over lethal injection, making him the first in Virginia to do so in almost three years.

Gleason waived death penalty appeals and battled his former court-appointed lawyers who have filed a number of appeals to stay the execution, claiming that he was not mentally sound to make the decision.

"There is substantial current evidence to suggest that Mr. Gleason, who is not thinking or behaving rationally, and that he is unable to assist counsel," the attorneys wrote in a Jan. 9 filing. Gleason was in solitary confinement for the past year.

They said that Gleason exhibited, "serious paranoia, racing thoughts, anxiety, disordered thinking, pressured speech," and other mental problems. The lawyers also wrote that Gleason's mental health has not been evaluated in over a year, which he spent in solitary confinement.

Sheldon filed several last minute appeals to stay the execution. Both state and federal courts have rejected the motions for stay the execution. A Supreme Court motion has not yet been answered.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said last week he would not intervene in the execution.

"Gleason has expressed no remorse for these horrific murders," McDonnell said in a statement. "He has not sought to appeal his convictions and has not filed a petition for clemency. He has consistently rejected any offers of legal assistance. Gleason has said that he wants the Jan. 16 execution to 'go as is.' He has been found competent by the appropriate courts to make all of these decisions."

McDonnell said that even though Gleason did not file a petition for clemency, he reviewed the case and, "found no compelling reason to intercede."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct292012

Mom Raises Money to Watch Daughter’s Killer Die

David J. Sams/Getty Images(SIOUX FALLS, S.D.) -- Friends, family members and strangers have helped Tina Curl’s grim dream come to fruition -- to watch the man who raped and murdered her 9-year-old daughter be strapped to a gurney and fight for his final breath as lethal drugs course through his veins.

Curl, 50, spent months raising money for the trip from New York to South Dakota where she’ll get a “front row seat” to watch Donald Moeller be executed.  The execution could happen any time between Monday and Nov. 3.

“I have waited 22 long years for this,” Curl, who has arrived in Sioux Falls, S.D., told ABC News during her fundraising drive.  "He watched her die and I am going to watch him die.”

Curl's daughter, Becky O’Connell, went to the convenience store to buy candy on May 8, 1990.  The following morning, her body was found in a wooded area in Lincoln County, S.D.

An autopsy found O’Connell had been raped vaginally and anally and died of a cut to the jugular vein of her neck, according to court documents.

Curl and her husband, Dave, who was O’Connell’s stepfather, had lived in South Dakota for five months at the time of the murder.  The couple later relocated to Lake Luzerne, N.Y.

“After this she wasn’t going to stay in that state,” said Rhonda Springer, a longtime friend of Curl who helped spearhead the fundraiser to send Tina and Dave Curl to South Dakota to witness the execution.

Although a one week window has been set for Moeller’s execution, the actual date of lethal injection is at the warden’s discretion, with 48 hours’ notice required, Tina Curl said.

“It means everything,” she said.  “I ain’t only doing it for me.  I am doing it for Becky.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May172012

Study Questions Execution of Possibly-Innocent Texas Man

Carlos Hernandez (L), and Carlos De Luna (R). (Corpus Christi Police Department)(NEW YORK) -- A brutal murder, two similar-looking suspects, and a death sentence.  For Jim Liebman, these three ingredients became the catalyst for exposing one of the judicial system's greatest risks: executing an innocent person.

In a new book-length study written by Liebman, a Columbia law professor, and six of his students, and published in the Columbia Human Rights Law Review, the decision to execute Carlos De Luna for the 1983 murder of a Corpus Christi gas station attendant is called into question again and again.

"This case, because it is such an everyday case, a very commonplace case, an 'everycase' if you've got problems in this kind of case that no one was paying attention to.  It contributes to the wider debate about what the risks [of the death penalty] are to human life," Liebman told ABC News.

De Luna was arrested in 1983 for the murder of Wanda Lopez, a brutal killing in which Lopez was stabbed to death by a Hispanic man shopping in the convenience store where she worked.  But throughout his arrest, trial and time on death row, De Luna insisted it was Carlos Hernandez, a friend of his from Corpus Christi, who looked uncannily similar to De Luna, who'd actually killed Lopez.

Liebman, who set out to examine whether the judicial system had put seemingly-innocent criminals to death, spent five years investigating the details of the De Luna case.  He and his team of investigators and students talked to more than 100 witnesses, combed through 20 feet of documents and compiled a 400-plus page narrative case study of the Lopez murder.  To back up their assertions, the team put the study online, with hundreds of footnotes and links to original documents and primary source materials so that people could come to their own conclusions about the two Carloses.

Liebman's students arranged to have the study published in a special issue of the Human Rights Law Review, which will be devoted entirely to the De Luna narrative.  The decision to publish their findings as a nonfiction narrative story, rather than as an academic paper, was made to try to bring a more general readership to the story of Carlos De Luna.

"My hope is that this will bring more readers to the story and potentially a broader category of readers, including college students around country and even the public," Liebman said.

During its investigation, the team found a mountain of evidence that convinced them De Luna was innocent.  They talked to Hernandez's family and friends, who made it seem as if it was "common knowledge" in Corpus Christi that Hernandez had bragged about making De Luna his "fall guy," Liebman said.

While prosecutors pushed forward with the case against De Luna, Hernandez allegedly confessed multiple times, including just weeks after Lopez's death.

Liebman and his students also found glaring mistakes about how police and prosecutors had treated the case, including contamination of the crime scene by investigators.

De Luna maintained his innocence throughout his trial, his time on death row and in his last words before he was executed in 1989.

Hernandez went on to be arrested more than a dozen times, including for the murder of a different woman, killed by a knife similar to the one used in Lopez's killing.  The charges were dropped because of prosecutorial delay, according to Liebman's study.

Hernandez died in prison in 1999 of liver disease, and the case will never be reopened, Liebman acknowledged.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Nov272011

Death Row Inmate Blasts Oregon Governor Over Execution Halt

David J. Sams/Getty Images(SALEM, Ore.) -- A two-time murderer, who was scheduled to die by lethal injection in December, blasted Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber for not allowing executions for the remainder of his term.

“I feel he’s a paper cowboy,” convicted murderer Gary Haugen, 49, told the Statesman Journal in a phone interview. “He couldn’t pull the trigger.”

Haugen said he was looking forward to his execution, scheduled for Dec. 6, because he wanted to protest a criminal justice system he viewed as broken.

Kitzhaber announced a stop to all executions on Tuesday, saying that he felt the death penalty was “compromised and inequitable.” The governor, who held Oregon’s top job from 1994 to 2002 and was elected again in 2010, is also a doctor, and cited the oath of “do no harm” in announcing his decision.

Capital punishment was reinstated by referendum in Oregon 27 years ago. Since then, the state has only executed two men, the last one 14 years ago, during Kitzhaber’s previous term in office.

Haugen, who has already had two reprieves, said he would be exploring his legal options to find out what it would take to carry forward his execution.

“I think there’s got to be some constitutional violations,” he said, adding, “You don’t bring a guy to the table twice and then just stop it.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov082011

Texas Court Stays Hank Skinner’s Execution

David J. Sams/Getty Images(AUSTIN, Texas) -- A Texas appeals court on Monday stayed Wednesday’s scheduled execution of Henry “Hank” Skinner “pending resolution” of his appeal for further DNA testing.

In a two-page order, the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas noted that the state law regarding DNA has recently changed.

“Because the DNA statute has changed, and because some of those changes were because of this case, we find that it would be prudent for this Court to take time to fully review the changes in the statute as they pertain to this case,” according to the order.

Rob Owen, Skinner’s lawyer, issued a statement, saying, “The Court of Criminal Appeals with its decision today has ensured that Mr. Skinner’s request for DNA testing will receive the thorough and serious consideration it deserves.  We are grateful for the Court’s action and look forward to the opportunity to make Mr. Skinner’s case for DNA testing in that forum.”

Skinner hopes that he might one day be found innocent of the death of his girlfriend and her two sons.

Skinner’s girlfriend, Twila Busby, was bludgeoned to death with an axe handle in 1993 and her sons were stabbed.  Skinner was found nearby with his clothes soaked in the victims’ blood.

Skinner claims that he could not have committed the crimes because he was incapacitated by alcohol and codeine.  At his trial, his lawyers chose not to ask for additional testing of knives found at the scene, the axe handle, vaginal swabs, fingernail clippings and additional hair samples.  Skinner was convicted and sentenced to death.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct242011

Texas Death Row Inmate Wants Access to Untested DNA

David J. Sams/Getty Images(AUSTIN, Texas) -- A Texas death row inmate who was hours from execution in 2010, now finds himself with two new avenues of appeal to attempt to prove his innocence through DNA testing.

For years since his murder conviction, Henry “Hank” Skinner had unsuccessfully sought access to untested DNA evidence found at the scene of the crime.

Last year, hours before his scheduled execution, a final appeal to the Supreme Court went in Skinner’s favor.  The justices halted the execution and eventually ruled that he could go back to court and argue his case.

The ruling from the Supreme Court, coupled with a new DNA law passed in Texas last month, have given Skinner new hope that he might one day be found innocent of the death of his girlfriend and her two sons.

Skinner’s girlfriend, Twila Busby, was bludgeoned to death with an axe handle in 1993 and her sons were stabbed.  Skinner was found nearby with his clothes soaked in the victims’ blood.

Skinner claims that he could not have committed the crimes because he was incapacitated by alcohol and codeine.  At his trial, his lawyers chose not to ask for additional testing of knives found at the scene, the axe handle, vaginal swabs, fingernail clippings and additional hair samples.  Skinner was convicted and sentenced to death.

While the Supreme Court did not weigh in on his guilt or innocence it said he could go to federal court and attempt to sue state officials under federal civil rights law.

At the same time, Skinner’s lawyers are pursuing a separate appeal in state court.  Just last month, Texas revised its DNA law to ensure that procedural barriers do not prevent prisoners from testing biological evidence that hadn’t been tested.  Skinner’s lawyers have filed papers asking the court, pursuant to the new law, to compel the DNA testing.

But the State of Texas believes that Skinner is abusing the system. In court papers, Jonathan F. Mitchell, the Solicitor General of Texas, argues that at the time of his trial Skinner’s original attorneys made an “informed, tactical” decision to forego the testing because they feared it would further implicate their client.  Mitchell notes that Skinner was convicted on an “overwhelming evidence of guilt” tied to physical evidence as well as his own statements.

Mitchell argues that if the state allowed Skinner access to the materials he initially declined to test, it would set a dangerous precedent.

On Monday, the parties will appear in federal court to address the changes in Skinner’ case and the fact that a new date for his execution -- Nov. 9 -- is quickly approaching.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep232011

Troy Davis' Sister Recounts Last Moments with Executed Brother

ERIK S. LESSER/AFP/Getty Images(SAVANNAH, Ga.) -- The sister of Troy Davis, the Georgia man executed Wednesday night, said her brother was calm and treated his last moments with his family like any doting uncle would: he watched his 3-year-old niece's latest ballet moves.

"Our last moments were joyous.  My brother was giving us charge as to what he wanted us to do, telling us to hold our heads up, telling my nephew to continue to be all that he could be... My niece was showing him her ballet shoes and telling him to stand on his tippy toes like a ballerina," said Kimberly Davis from her Savannah, Ga., home.

Davis' family last saw him between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Wednesday when there was still hope that his execution might be stopped.  The execution was postponed briefly by the Supreme Court for a legal review, but at 11:08 p.m., Davis, 42, was dead from lethal injection.

"When we left my brother yesterday, my brother told us to hold our heads up and be strong because if the state of Georgia did succeed in executing him, they would only take his physical body and not his soul," she said Thursday, crying at times.  "My brother said he only wanted to be a free man and right now, he is free."

Davis was convicted of the 1989 murder of police officer Mark MacPhail and sentenced to the death penalty.  Members of the MacPhail family are convinced Davis was guilty, but many other observers are not.

Before being executed, Davis said, "I'd like to address the MacPhail family.  Let you know, despite the situation you are in, I'm not the one who personally killed your son, your father, your brother.  I am innocent."

Witnesses said Davis' eyes fluttered as he received his first injection and lost consciousness, and that the entire process of lethal injection lasted about 15 minutes.

Following Davis' death, the Twitter and Facebook world buzzed with the lyrics of "Strange Fruit," the poem sung by Billie Holiday about the lynching of black men in the South.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep222011

Troy Davis Pleaded Innocence before Execution

ERIK S. LESSER/AFP/Getty Images(JACKSON, Ga.) -- Troy Davis was executed Wednesday evening for the murder of an off-duty policeman after the U.S. Supreme Court denied a last-minute stay of execution amid widespread public doubts about his guilt.

Davis, 42, died at 11:08 p.m. ET, according to a Georgia Department of Corrections official.  His death by lethal injection came after an approximately four-hour delay for legal review.

Eyewitnesses described the mood in the execution chamber as "somber" as Davis was wheeled in strapped to a gurney.  He declared his innocence a final time in the 1989 murder as witnesses and relatives of the victim -- off-duty Savannah, Ga., policeman Mark MacPhail -- looked on.

"The incident that happened that night is not my fault.  I did not have a gun," Davis said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"I did not personally kill your son, father and brother.  I am innocent," he continued.

"For those about to take my life, may God have mercy on your souls, may God bless your souls," Davis said.

Witnesses said Davis' eyes fluttered as he received his first injection and lost consciousness, and that the entire process of lethal injection lasted about 15 minutes.

"Justice has been served for Officer Mark MacPhail and his family," state Attorney General Sam Olens said in a statement.

Members of the MacPhail family are convinced Davis was guilty, but many other observers are not.

Davis had his execution stayed four times over the course of his 22 years on death row, but multiple legal appeals during that time failed to prove his innocence.

Public support grew for Davis based on the recanted testimony of seven witnesses from his trial and the possible confession of another suspect, which his defense team claimed cast too much doubt on Davis' guilt to follow through with an execution.

A growing tide of celebrities, politicians and social media users called for the execution to be delayed because of "too much doubt" present in his case.

Up to and beyond the moments of execution, the criticism continued.  "Strange Fruit," a classic song about lynching, trended on Twitter, celebrities tweeted their disapproval and, after it was over, an Amnesty International official released a written statement condemning the execution.

"Killing a man under this enormous cloud of doubt is horrific and amounts to a catastrophic failure of the justice system," said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International AIUSA.  "Our hearts are heavy, but we have not lost our spirit of defiance.  Millions of people around the world now know of Troy Davis and see the fallibility of the U.S. justice system."

The execution was delayed more than four hours as the U.S. Supreme Court weighed last-minute arguments from Davis' legal team and the state of Georgia over whether his execution should be blocked.  The court's decision to deny the stay came without comment after 10 p.m. ET.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep212011

Troy Davis Executed After Stay Is Denied by Supreme Court

ERIK S. LESSER/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Supreme Court denied a last-minute stay of execution for Troy Davis after a delay to weigh arguments from Davis' legal team and the state of Georgia over whether his execution should be blocked.

The court's decision to deny the stay came without comment after 10 p.m. ET, more than three hours after Davis' execution originally was scheduled Wednesday.

The execution took place Wednesday at 11:08 p.m. ET.

At 7:05 p.m. Wednesday, five minutes after his scheduled death, Davis' supporters erupted in cheers, hugs and tears outside the jail in Jackson, Ga., as supporters believed Davis had been saved from the death penalty. But the Supreme Court only granted a temporary reprieve as it considered the decision.

Davis was convicted of the 1989 murder of Savannah cop Mark MacPhail, and had his execution stayed four times over the course of his 22-year stay on death row, but multiple legal appeals during that time failed to prove his innocence.

Public support grew for Davis based on the recanted testimony of seven witnesses from his trial and the possible confession of another suspect, which his defense team claimed casted too much doubt on Davis' guilt to follow through with an execution.

Davis spent 22 years on death row and in recent years support for his plea of innocence has grown as several witnesses recanted their testimony that he fired the shot that killed MacPhail.

A tide of celebrities, politicians, and social media users called for the execution to be delayed because of "too much doubt" present in his case.

At a protest in front of the White House Wednesday at least 12 Howard University students were arrested for failing to move off the White House sidewalk, according to ABC News affiliate WJLA.

A flurry of messages on Twitter using the hashtags #TroyDavis and #TooMuchDoubt showed thousands of supporters of Davis were intent on flooding the Jackson Distirct Attorney's office, Georgia Judge Penny Freezeman's office, and the U.S. Attorney General's office with phone calls and emails to beg for a stay on the execution.

Some users accused Twitter of blocking the topic from trending on Tuesday, though a representative from Twitter told ABC News there was no such action taken. The hashtags were trending Wednesday in cities around the U.S. as well as Germany, the UK, Sweden, and France. Many Tweets called the case a symbol of a return to Jim Crow laws and racial inequalities in the justice system.

The NAACP and the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson held a news conference Wednesday calling for the execution to be halted.

Others who have voiced support for Davis include former president Jimmy Carter, the pope and a former FBI director.

Davis's execution had been stayed four times for appeals since his conviction in 1989, and the Supreme Court gave him a rare chance to prove his innocence last year, but rejected his plea.

A Georgia board of pardons and paroles rejected Davis's plea for clemency on Tuesday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep212011

Troy Davis Execution Delayed

ERIK S. LESSER/AFP/Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- Troy Davis' execution was delayed Wednesday night as the Supreme Court weighed arguments by Davis' legal team and the state of Georgia over whether he deserves a stay.

At 7:05 p.m. Wednesday, five minutes after his scheduled death, Davis' supporters erupted in cheers, hugs and tears outside the jail in Jackson, Ga., as supporters believed Davis had been saved from the death penalty. But the Supreme Court only granted a temporary reprieve as it considers the decision.

The Supreme Court could decide at any time Wednesday night or in the next seven days whether to go through with his execution.

Davis was convicted of the 1989 murder of Savannah cop Mark MacPhail, and had his execution stayed four times over the course of his 22-year stay on death row, but multiple legal appeals during that time failed to prove his innocence.

Public support grew for Davis based on the recanted testimony of seven witnesses from his trial and the possible confession of another suspect, which his defense team claims cast too much doubt on Davis' guilt to follow through with an execution.

Davis has spent 22 years on death row and in recent years support for his plea of innocence has grown as several witnesses recanted their testimony that he fired the shot that killed MacPhail. His impending execution has brought those efforts to a head.

A growing tide of celebrities, politicians, and social media users called for the execution to be delayed because of "too much doubt" present in his case.

At a protest in front of the White House Wednesday at least 12 Howard University students were arrested for failing to move off the White House sidewalk, according to ABC News affiliate WJLA. The protest there is expected to last until 7 p.m.

A flurry of messages on Twitter using the hashtags #TroyDavis and #TooMuchDoubt showed thousands of supporters of Davis were intent on flooding the Jackson Distirct Attorney's office, Georgia Judge Penny Freezeman's office, and the U.S. Attorney General's office with phone calls and emails to beg for a stay on the execution.

Some users accused Twitter of blocking the topic from trending on Tuesday, though a representative from Twitter told ABC News there was no such action taken. The hashtags were trending today in cities around the US as well as Germany, the UK, Sweden, and France. Many Tweets called the case a symbol of a return to Jim Crow laws and racial inequalities in the justice system.

The NAACP and the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson held a news conference today calling for the execution to be halted.

Others who have voiced support for Davis include former president Jimmy Carter, the pope and a former FBI director.

Davis's execution has been stayed four times for appeals since his conviction in 1989, and the Supreme Court gave him a rare chance to prove his innocence last year, but rejected his plea.

A Georgia board of pardons and paroles rejected Davis's plea for clemency on Tuesday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio