2017-11-13 14:28:23 UTC
Who's on death row in York County murders?----2 await court proceedings that
could take them off the execution list
There are nearly 200 people on death row in Pennsylvania. 13 of them -- all men
-- were convicted and sentenced to death for murders committed in York County.
1 currently is awaiting a resentencing hearing, another is awaiting a new
Since 1985, Pennsylvania governors have signed hundreds of execution warrants.
3 executions have been carried out -- 2 in 1995 and 1 in 1999-- since a 10-year
national moratorium on the death penalty ended in 1977.
Gov. Tom Wolf put a moratorium on the death penalty in 2015 citing a need for
York County death row inmates, who all are housed at the maximum security
prison in Greene County, are:
Gamboa-Taylor was sentenced Jan. 23, 1992, after pleading guilty to the May 18,
1991, hammer slayings of 4 family members: his wife, Valeria L. Gamboa-Taylor;
their 2 children, Paul, 4, and Jasmine, 2; and another child, Lance Barshinger,
He received a life sentence for killing his mother-in-law, Donna M. Barshinger.
Hubert Lester Michael Jr. Michael was sentenced March 20, 1995, after pleading
guilty to the July 12, 1993, abduction and shooting death of 16-year-old Trista
Elizabeth Eng in the Dillsburg area.
Michael unsuccessfully attempted to withdraw his guilty plea. Execution
warrants were signed in 1996 by Gov. Tom Ridge and 2004 by Gov. Ed Rendell.
Mark Newton Spotz
Spotz was sentenced April 24, 1996, for the Feb. 2, 1995, shooting death of
Penny Gunnet, 41, of New Salem.
Gunnet was his 3rd victim in a 4-day crime spree through central and eastern
Spotz also received death sentences for the murders of June Rose Ohlinger of
Schuylkill County, and Betty Amstutz, 71, of Cumberland County.
An execution warrant for the York County conviction was signed by Ridge in
2001. He received a stay in the Gunnet murder in 2001.
John Amos Small
Small was sentenced June 19, 1996, after being convicted of murder and
attempted rape of 17-year-old Cheryl Smith.
Smith's body was found in West Manheim Township in 1981.
Execution warrants were signed in 2001 by Ridge and in 2009 by Rendell.
Kevin Brian Dowling
Dowling was sentenced Dec. 14, 1998, for the Oct. 20, 1997, shooting death of
Jennifer Lynn Myers inside her art and frame shop just outside Spring Grove.
An execution warrant was signed in 2007 by Rendell.
Milton and Noel Montalvo Milton was sentenced Feb. 14, 2000, and Noel was
sentenced April 14, 2003, for the April 19, 1998, stabbing deaths of Miriam
Asencio-Cruz and Manuel Ramirez Santana inside Cruz's York apartment. Rendell
signed an execution warrant for Noel Montalvo in July 2010 and signed one for
Milton in January 2011. Milton Montalvo is awaiting a resentencing hearing.
Harve Lamar Johnson
Johnson was sentenced Nov. 16, 2009, for the April 7, 2008, beating death of
2-year-old Darisabel Baez, his girlfriend's daughter, in York.
More: Jury gives death penalty in murder of York's D Kevin Edward Mattison
Mattison was sentenced Dec. 17, 2010, for the Dec. 9, 2008, robbery and
shooting of Christian Agosto in York.
Mattison had previously been convicted of 3rd-degree murder and served prison
time in Maryland.
Morales was sentenced Jan. 21, 2011, for the 2009 shooting death of Ronald
"Country" Simmons Jr.
Police said Morales broke into Simmons' York home and shot him 6 times because
Simmons was set to testify in a drug case.
Aric Shayne Woodard
Woodard was sentenced to death Dec. 18, 2013, for the Nov. 7, 2011, beating
death of 2-year-old Jaques Omari Twinn.
Timothy Matthew Jacoby
Jacoby was sentenced to death Oct. 9, 2014, for the March 31, 2010, shooting
death of Monica Schmeyer, 55, while he burglarized her West Manheim Township
Also of note
Daniel Jacobs was sentenced to death Sept. 18, 1992, for the Feb. 10, 1992,
stabbing death of his girlfriend, Tammy Lee Mock of York, and life in prison
for the drowning of their 7-month-old daughter, Holly Danielle Jacobs.
Federal courts overturned Jacobs' conviction and death penalty for Mock's
murder in 2005, ruling his jury should have been informed his mental
deficiencies might not have allowed him to form the specific intent to kill
While Jacobs continues to serve a life sentence for Holly's death, he will
stand for re-trial in 2016 for Mock's murder. The Pennsylvania Department of
Corrections still lists him as a death row inmate.
(source: York Daily Record)
Heinze attorney moves for new trial, cites missing evidence
A Glynn County jury found Guy W. Heize Jr. guilty in October 2013 of killing 8
people - including his father - 4 years earlier at the New Hope Plantation
mobile home park. But allegations of missing and mishandled evidence dogged the
prosecution, and Nov. 6, Heinze's attorney filed an amended motion for a new
trial. The original motion was filed Nov. 1.
Christina Rudy, a lawyer with the Metro Capital Defender's Office, represents
Heinze. While a member of the Georgia Capital Defender's Office was part of
Heinze's defense team, the office did not participate in the trial.
In the motion, she presents 11 errors committed during Heinze's trial in Glynn
County Superior Court.
Among those alleged errors:
-- "The jurors that were empaneled in the trial of this case failed to comply
with the instructions that the Court charged. The jury shifted the burden of
proof to Mr. Heinze to prove his innocence, required him to provide evidence of
an alibi, and rendered a verdict despite not understanding the evidence."
-- An item "... was destroyed without Mr. Heinze having had an opportunity to
view or test the item. The State also elicited testimony concerning blood
spatter on this item that was not disclosed to the defendant prior to trial, to
which the defense objected and moved for mistrial."
-- "Upon information and belief, former Glynn County Police Chief Matthew
Doering conducted fingerprint comparisons on the evidence collected in this
case. The discovery provided to the defense does not contain any documentation
concerning these fingerprint comparisons."
-- "Additional evidence related to the murders at Lot 147 - nunchucks and an
Estwing Hammer - was found after law enforcement concluded processing the crime
scene .... This evidence was turned over to Glynn County Police but is now
missing and was not available for Mr. Heinze to examine, inspect and/or test
prior to trial."
-- "The State suppressed an Internal Affairs investigation into the prior
conduct by Investigator Michael Owens in which he admitted to collecting
evidence in a criminal case, and failing to properly collect and preserve that
-- Additionally, "... the State lost or destroyed the audio recording of an
interview with Joseph Bryant 'Big Joe' Anderson. The contents of the interview
ere exculpatory in that Mr. Anderson provides information concerning alternate
-- The presiding judge made errors in his jury instructions before
deliberations, and the lead prosecutor in the case stepped outside the bounds
of closing arguments by making "... improper comments on the role of defense
counsel at trial, improper comments concerning the magistrate's role in the
issuance of arrest warrants, comments contradicted by the evidence during the
course of the trial, and impermissibly vouching for the credibility of
The motion also includes a notation of the unusual agreement during the trial
between prosecutors and the defense "... which resulted in a (juror) being
removed from the jury panel and replaced with an alternate and by the State
(withdrawing) the Notice of Intent to Seek the Death Penalty 'in this case for
this trial and any subsequent trial, should there be a subsequent trial.'"
During the trial, prosecutors argued Heinze, on his own and while high on
crack, bludgeoned the 8 victims and assaulted the 9th, a child, with a 20-gauge
Investigators never found the murder weapon, though a hammer was discovered at
the crime scene a year later. A forensic pathologist testifying for the defense
said more than 1 person was likely involved in the crime, and a hammer would
account for the victims' wounds.
Prosecutors have until Dec. 15 to file a response to the motion. The defense
then has until Jan. 15, 2018, to file a response to the prosecution, with a
hearing scheduled for Feb. 13, 2018.
udge: Jury won't hear part of accused killer's confession
A judge has tossed out David Mariotti's confession that he killed 84-year-old
Bernadine Montgomery in her home because of "improper police tactics."
Prosecutors, who are seeking the death penalty because the crime was
"especially heinous, atrocious and cruel," argued in August that Leesburg
Detective James Dunagan did nothing wrong, and a Leesburg police spokesman said
Friday it won't make any difference.
"The confession is one piece of evidence. There is a lot more to this case,"
said Leesburg Lt. Joe Iozzi. "I don't feel that the case hinges on the
Jurors will still be able to hear him confess that he was in her Palmora Park
home when she was killed and helped hide her body, Circuit Judge Don Briggs
Executive Assistant Public Defender John Spivey, who filed the motion to
suppress, said it will help his case.
"It makes my job easier," he said, though he acknowledges there are still a lot
There are challenges for prosecutors, too. Police have never found her body,
which was dumped somewhere along State Road 19 in Putnam County.
Assistant State Attorney Rich Buxman told the Daily Commercial in June that it
would be good to have the body in evidence, but it was not necessary since the
Recent court rulings have already made it more difficult for prosecutors to get
jurors to recommend a death sentence. Juries must now come back with a
unanimous 12-0 vote to send someone to death row.
The murder stunned neighbors in the old, tree-lined, lakefront neighborhood
near Venetian Gardens. "I think everyone liked Bea," neighbor Bob Lovell told
the Daily Commercial.
Mariotti told police he strangled the church-going widow with a piece of rope
when she discovered Mariotti's companion, Tracie Jo Naffziger, stealing and
threatened to call the police. She had allowed the couple to come into her home
on Palmora Boulevard to do chores.
They laid her body on the couch, covered her with pillows and took joyrides in
her 2005 Chevy while using her credit cards and selling her belongings.
Mariotti was arrested in Gilchrist County on credit card allegations. Police
explained Mariotti's right to remain silent in that case.
However, Dunagan's statements about the punishment he might face in the murder
were "incorrect, grossly unrealistic, unconstitutional and coercive," Spivey
wrote in his motion to suppress.
"Let me ask you this," Mariotti asked. "What are, am I going to be charged with
here at the end of the day?"
"That almost 100 % depends on you explaining if you had an intent or anything
like that ... If you sit here and say I went over there to that house with the
intention of killing Ms. Bea, then that would be 1st degree murder," Dunagan
replied. "If you say that I went over and punched her and she fell and that's
how I know she was dead, that would, I would call the State Attorney's Office,
and that is looking more like manslaughter or something like that."
Spivey argued that the detective's interpretation of the law was "false and
grossly misleading," because it completely ignored felony murder, in which
defendants can be charged with murder while committing other crimes if someone
is killed during those crimes.
(source: Daily Commercial)
Lawsuit: Man 'wrongfully discharged' from center before triple homicide
The Dayton man facing a death-penalty murder trial for killing 3 people was
improperly discharged from health care facilities due to negligence, according
to claims in an amended wrongful death lawsuit brought by administrators of the
Muhammad Shabazz Ali, 62, was indicted on 29 counts - including 6 for
aggravated murder - for the Aug. 10, 2016 shooting deaths of 74-year-old Jasper
Taylor, 53-year-old Tammy Cox and 25-year-old Michael Cox inside 35 Oxford Ave.
Ali has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. No trial date has been set.
Ali - who police and court reports indicate used to be named Robert Ford Jr. -
served more than 2 decades in prison for voluntary manslaughter after he was
convicted of killing his pregnant girlfriend.
Ali allegedly shot to death the three people around 3 p.m. Aug. 10, 2016, hours
after he was released from Grandview Hospital, according to police. Ali had
been taken to Grandview by Dayton police, who "pink-slipped" him so he could
get in-patient treatment. Police use so-called pink slips when they believe a
suspect needs a mental health evaluation.
According to police reports, police had responded to a 911 call the morning of
Aug. 10, 2016 from Day-Mont Behavioral Center when workers there said Ali was
throwing chairs and repeatedly yelling, "I want my medication!"
In the pink slip written by police and included as an exhibit in the lawsuit,
Dayton police wrote, "Ali stated he needed his medicine so he doesn't hurt
himself or others."
According to the amended complaint that includes some of Ali's medical history,
social worker Jeannie Dobrovolc wrote in a consultation note to the
psychiatrist on call that Ali had no assault history.
According to the amended complaint filed in October, Dobrovolc's consultation
note about whether to release Ali from Grandview didn't include anything about
Ali's previous conviction for voluntary manslaughter.
"All Defendants, the mental health care professional Defendants, Grandview and
Day-Mont knew, or should have known, or had a duty to know, of the
incarceration of Ali for manslaughter for killing a former girlfriend and his
violent propensities, with or without proper medication, and inquire about the
same to become knowledgeable persons for Ali's care," the amended complaint
The named defendants include Grandview, Kettering Health Network, Day-Mont,
Emcare, Inc., the Ohio Dept. of Job and Family Services and 13 individuals
including health care providers and Ali plus several Jane and John Does.
"Unfortunately, due to patient privacy rights and pending litigation, we are
unable to share any information at this time," said attorney Charles Shane, who
represents and was speaking for Grandview and Kettering Health Network
employees and Dobrovolc.
A Job and Family Services spokesman declined to comment. Messages seeking
comment were left with Emcare, Inc. and Day-Mont. We will update the story if
and when they respond.
In a December 2016 response to the original complaint, a Day-Mont attorney
wrote that: "Day-Mont denies that it was negligent, or that any treatment or
care provided in its facility causally resulted in any harm or death to any
other 3rd party."
Emcare, Inc. did not file an answer to the original complaint.
The lawsuit - which combines and replaces 2 civil actions brought earlier - was
filed by Michael Taylor, administrator of Jasper Taylor's estate, and Arryiss
Richardson, on behalf of Tammy Cox, Michael Cox and a minor child.
Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Steven Dankof gave defendants an
extension until Nov. 29 to answer the amended complaint in court.
Dobrovolc did write in her consultation note that Ali was found in the parking
lot screaming, stating he was hearing voices and needed medication, according
to the amended complaint. She also noted Ali was emotionally unstable and that
Ali had been seeing and hearing things and that "people are always watching,"
according to the amended complaint.
The amended complaint claims Dobrovolc advised the psychiatrist on duty, fellow
defendant Dr. Brent Crane, that she did not believe that Ali met the criteria
for inpatient psych help. Crane, who was not in the hospital, according to the
amended complaint, "did not independently examine, evaluate, or diagnose Ali,
his records, interview him, or call those at Day-Mont," according to the
Efforts to locate Crane for comment were unsuccessful and he did not file an
answer to the original original complaint.
The amended complaint alleges Crane did not follow protocol in approving Ali's
release from Grandview.
"His lack of personal knowledge, lack of personal examination, lack of
treatment, diagnosis, plan, failure to provide medication was not on personal
knowledge as required by law," according to the amended complaint.
The amended complaint also alleges that Ali, when released from prison in 2009,
told several health care professionals at Day-Mont about his conviction and
violent tendencies, but that records were not kept well enough to adequately
inform all medical personnel about Ali's history.
"Ali was wrongfully discharged/released from Grandview at 12:21 p.m. on Aug.
10, 2016 by the social worker and/or a nurse, being allowed to simply walk out
of the hospital, without anyone bothering to ascertain if he had transportation
or other means of getting home, and with no documented follow-up plan," the
amended complaint said.
(source: Dayton Daily News)
2 more suspects arrested in Cleveland car dealership murders
A Cleveland couple was found dead inside the car dealership they owned on April
On Sunday, sources revealed that 2 more arrests had been made in the case.
Cleveland police have spent the past 8 months investigating the deaths of Mike
Kuznik and Trina Tomola.
The pair was found shot to death at Mr. Cars on East 185th street.
According to reports, the 1st of the 2 arrests was made Saturday after the
suspect was arrested for a different crime and later revealed information on
the 2 murders.
29-year-old, Joseph McAlphin was arrested and charged with the crime, he could
now face the death penalty.
At the time of McAlphin's arrest, officials suspected 1 or more others were
involved with the crime.
Police now believe they have everyone responsible in this case.
A source told WKYC that a press conference to announce the identifies of this
weekend's arrests will be held "in the near future."
(source: WKYC news)
Arkansas Justice: Racism, Torture, and a Botched ExecutionM
Just over 6 months have passed since the disturbing execution of Kenneth
Williams, but as far as the state of Arkansas is concerned, it might as well be
ancient history. No sooner did media witnesses return to the press room on the
night of April 27 to describe how Williams coughed and convulsed on the gurney
than officials acted like nothing had happened. Never mind the veteran reporter
who said it was unlike any execution he had ever seen. Gov. Asa Hutchinson
dismissed calls for an investigation. "My goal was to make sure that we had
justice in Arkansas in a way that reflected well on the state," he said the
next day, "and I think that was accomplished."
In reality, the apparently botched execution was the culmination of an ugly
ordeal that had put Arkansas at the center of international controversy for
weeks. Hutchinson had originally scheduled execution dates for 8 men to take
place over 11 days last spring, in a rush to use drugs set to expire at the end
of April. The plan sparked chaos, with defense attorneys scrambling to write
clemency petitions, state lawyers beating back legal challenges, and prison
staff preparing to try out a questionable sedative, midazolam, never previously
used in Arkansas. The drug has been linked to several executions gone awry, and
many observers warned something was bound to go wrong. Of the 4 executions that
proceeded, Williams's fulfilled the worst predictions. One attorney called it
Yet there has been no reckoning; no meaningful look at how the drugs were
administered or whether Williams was tortured to death. Shielded by the state's
secrecy law, there has been no sanction for state officials who were willing to
buy drugs by any means necessary, including by misleading drug manufacturers
who did not wish their products to be used to kill. In fact, just this week
Arkansas was poised to execute another man, Jack Gordon Greene, until his
execution was stayed by the Arkansas Supreme Court over concerns about his
severe mental illness.
Today, the only public official held accountable for any potential misconduct
during the state's execution spree is a man who stood briefly in the way.
Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen issued a temporary
restraining order after a pharmaceutical corporation sued the Arkansas
Department of Correction, charging officials with buying drugs under false
pretenses and then refusing to return them. That same day, Griffen, a Baptist
minister, took part in a dramatic Good Friday protest outside the governor's
mansion, playing the condemned in a mock execution. Arkansas Attorney General
Leslie Rutledge cried foul - and the consequences were swift: The Arkansas
Supreme Court ordered a disciplinary review and announced it would reassign all
of Griffen???s death penalty cases. In a special session, state legislators
voted to implement rules that would allow for his impeachment.
Griffen defended himself, citing his First Amendment rights. But his fight with
what he calls Arkansas's "white power structure" has exposed a deeper divide.
"In the history of Arkansas, no white member of the Arkansas judiciary has ever
been summarily banned from hearing an entire category of cases based on his or
her exercise of the First Amendment protected freedoms of speech, peaceful
assembly, religion, and exercise of religion," Griffen argues in a lawsuit
filed against the Arkansas Supreme Court last month. He cites "multiple white
judges in Arkansas who admitted to engaging in criminal behavior have been
treated more favorably."
Among them is a judge who led police officers on a high-speed chase after
blowing through a sobriety checkpoint. That man pleaded guilty to driving while
intoxicated, on same day Griffen took part in the demonstration in Little Rock.
The white judge will go back to presiding over DWI cases next month.
"African-American Judge Griffen, on the other hand, is barred for life from
presiding over any cases involving the death penalty," his lawsuit argues.
Racism has always helped decide who gets punished in Arkansas, and how.
Griffen is 65 years old, raised by sharecroppers in the rural town of Delight,
Arkansas. He may never have become a judge if not for a lawsuit brought in
1989, which exposed how black voters were being disenfranchised from judicial
elections, in violation of the Voting Rights Act. In 1991, just as executions
were returning to Arkansas, a consent decree forced the state to create new
electoral subdistricts. Several black judges would be elected in years to come,
among them Griffen, voted onto the bench in 2010.
Griffen is no stranger to controversy. He is outspoken against racism on his
blog, sometimes using his sermons to point out ways in which Arkansas has not
abandoned the white supremacy of its past, but has reinvented it. He has been
open about his moral opposition to the death penalty, while also issuing legal
rulings against people facing execution. Griffin argues he is perfectly capable
of following the law even when it conflicts with his personal views. Others
decry him as an activist judge.
Yet his critics' own controversies have raised questions about how fairly they
approach questions of law and order. Chief among them is Rutledge, who
continues to lead the charge to carry out executions. A Donald Trump supporter
whose father was the drug czar under former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, she
came under criticism a few years ago after sending a shockingly racist email
mocking black people in 2014. There were no consequences.
Racism has always helped decide who gets punished in Arkansas, and how. Three
black men and one white man died in the Arkansas death house last April. Of all
of them, Kenneth Williams undoubtably had the most blood on his hands. But if
no one cares to consider how he died, it is also because whitewashing torture
has a long tradition in Arkansas prisons. State officials ignored their own
grim history in their rush to execute last spring. By absolving itself of
wrongdoing, Arkansas continues to repeat it.
Mayor Essie Mae Cableton was in her office the day Arkansas killed Kenneth
Williams, across from the Dollar General on Highway 65. The city of Gould,
population 836, lies on the southern edge of sprawling farmland owned by the
Arkansas Department of Correction, in unincorporated parts of Lincoln County.
The land is anchored by 2 maximum-security prisons: the Varner Unit, which
houses men on death row, and the Cummins Unit, where they are sent to die.
That morning, 38-year-old Williams waited in a holding cell next to the death
chamber just up the road. News vans would soon start arriving to cover his
death, scheduled for 7 p.m. It would be the 4th execution at the prison in 8
Cableton once worked at the Cummins Unit. Now 76, she was born and raised in
Gould during a different era. She remembers picking cotton in the fields
alongside her sisters by the time she was 6. "We would get like $2.50 or $3 per
hundred pounds," Cableton said. White students passing on school buses
sometimes threw things out the window, laughing at "those niggers picking
cotton." After graduating from Gould Colored High School, Cableton worked
factory jobs and joined the civil rights movement. She married an organizer
with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which had a field office in
town. In one corner of her office, an old photograph shows the safe house where
activists met to hide from the Ku Klux Klan.
The Arkansas prison system was built upon "an ancient philosophy of
retribution, corruption, exploitation, sadism and brutality."
Back then, the local penitentiary, known as Cummins Prison Farm, was "a very
horrible place," Cableton said. Neighbors saw men getting whipped in the
fields. In the 1969 expose, "Accomplices to the Crime: The Arkansas Prison
Scandal," former prison superintendent Tom Murton described the system as one
of modern-day slavery, built upon "an ancient philosophy of retribution,
corruption, exploitation, sadism and brutality." Rather than pay civilian
guards, the state relied on armed "trusties," who violently enforced the
state-ordered regimen of hard labor on fellow prisoners. Men were towed to the
fields like cattle, harvesting crops under close supervision. Many compared it
to a Nazi concentration camp.
Whippings were routine and legal in those years - and torture was an open
secret. Especially notorious was an instrument called the "Tucker Telephone,"
facilitated by so-called prison doctors at a penitentiary of the same name. As
Murton described it, "An undressed inmate was strapped to the treatment table
at Tucker Hospital while electrodes were attached to his big toe and to his
penis. The crank was then turned, sending an electrical charge into his body.
In 'long distance calls,' several charges were inflicted - of a duration
designed to stop just short of the inmate's fainting."
The brutality in Arkansas prisons made national headlines following a police
probe in 1966. A handful of firings followed, but many politicians dismissed
the revelations. "95 % of the complaints of convicts are lies," said one
lawmaker, a former chair of the penitentiary board. Another simply declared:
"Arkansas has the best prison system in the United States." After Murton
discovered 3 skeletons buried at Cummins - proof of longtime rumors that some
"escapees" had actually been murdered - evidence and press witnesses who saw
the exhuming were whitewashed by a state investigation. Murton was pushed out.
One state senator called for him to be censured for digging up the bodies in
the first place.
In 1970, a federal judge declared the whole Arkansas prison system
unconstitutional, deeming it a "dark and evil world." By the time Cableton took
a job as a guard 30 years later, the system had been totally overhauled. The
Tucker Telephone was moved to a museum. Still, at the Cummins Unit, she could
see the "circle in the floor where the whipping block used to be."
If torture was officially a thing of the past, a harsh new form of punishment
had been introduced in the meantime. In 1990, after more than 25 years without
an execution in Arkansas, Gov. Bill Clinton ushered in a wave of new
executions, replacing the electric chair with lethal injection. It was
ostensibly a more humane method of killing, overseen by medical personnel. But
the 1st execution, of Ronald Gene Simmons, was harrowing; witnesses saw him
cough and heave, shaking the gurney. 2 years later, while on the campaign
trail, Clinton himself famously witnessed the execution of brain-damaged Ricky
Ray Rector, who died a similarly disturbing death.
These executions took place before Cableton's time at Cummins. But she
remembers the 1995 execution of Barry Lee Fairchild, a black man with mental
disabilities who had been railroaded by a racist sheriff for a crime he swore
he did not commit. "It still bothers me," Cableton said, "because I'm wondering
was an innocent man put to death?"
As a member of Cummins's Emergency Response Team, Cableton provided security on
execution nights. "At that time to me, it was just part of the job," she said.
Still, the job had always been a last resort. She grew tired of the overnight
shifts and "John Wayne-type" supervisors, who reminded her of the men who
cursed at her when she was a child working in their fields. "I told them it was
time I come out of Egypt," she said. "I can't stand for a man now to tell me
what to do." In 2007, at age 65, Cableton left Cummins. She went back to school
and got a degree in criminal justice. In 2015, she ran for mayor. She won by 5
That same year, Hutchinson signed a new lethal injection protocol into law.
Cableton's perspective on the death penalty had evolved. "I've come to be a
little more sympathetic and compassionate," she said. As Rutledge deployed
dozens of lawyers to work over Easter weekend to push through Hutchinson's
execution plans earlier this year, Cableton questioned the governor's
priorities. He had yet to visit her corner of the Arkansas Delta - and Cableton
had yet to secure funding to fix the partially caved-in roof of the town hall
building where she works. "If those are our taxpayers' dollars out there, why
is it so difficult to get it to do the things that we need to do down in this
end of Arkansas?"
As the executions proceeded, other questions were hard to avoid. On April 20, 2
black men were scheduled to die back-to-back. Both insisted they were innocent
- and both had disastrous defense representation at trial. "I didn't even want
to watch the news," Cableton said. "I really didn't. I called my sister and I
asked her, 'Have they executed those 2?'" The next morning, she learned that
one execution had gone through while the other had been stayed.
It seemed to be arbitrary, who lived and who died. But as the execution dates
came and went, Cableton was not surprised that the single recommendation for
clemency went to a white man, or that the 2 black men put to death so far had
been convicted of crimes against white women. It was a story she knew too well,
a lesson that went back to the murder of Emmitt Till. "That's something I've
been mad about all my life," she said.
At 5 p.m. on April 27, reporters settled into the media room at the Cummins
Unit. The prison had provided pastries and chocolate frosted cookies, along
with fruit punch and sugary coffee, flavored with cinnamon. Media packets
featured corrections department's slogan: "Honor and integrity in public
Reporters also received a list of everyone executed in Arkansas since 1913.
Kenneth Williams would be the 200th - and the 140th black man killed by the
state. But he was unusual in one sense. His would be only the third execution
ever to come out of small, rural Lincoln County. The 1st was a black man named
Fred Pelton, who had killed someone following an escape from Cummins, after
going to prison in the late 1800s for the attempted rape of 5 white women in
Little Rock, a crime he swore he did not commit. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
praised police for avoiding a lynching of the "negro brute," but he was
executed in 1914. Then there was Revertia Reynolds, killed in 1921 for
murdering a black man. His execution was notable for being witnessed by the
daughter of a local businessman. The headline in the Arkansas Gazette was
"Young Woman Sees Negro Go to Death."
Kenneth Williams arrived at Cummins in 1998. Sentenced to life for abducting
and killing a 19-year-old college student, he escaped the next year, climbing
into a vat of hog slop being towed from the prison. He broke into the home of a
local farmer named Cecil Boren, shooting him in the head with his own gun.
After driving some 300 miles to Missouri, Williams crashed Boren's truck,
killing a 24-year-old man. Later, from death row, Williams wrote a letter
confessing to yet another murder.
Members of Boren's family were at the prison that night. Like many in Lincoln
County, their lives were intertwined with the Cummins Unit. Boren and his
relatives had worked at the prison during some of its most volatile times.
After the barracks were forcibly integrated in the spring of 1970, Boren was
among those tasked with handling the unrest. Excerpts from local news reports
in the 1977 book "Killing Time" included a quote from Boren, who warned that
the black prisoners were intent on "burning this place down." His cousin David
would later testify that he had been ordered by a field supervisor to fatally
shoot a black prisoner, but refused. David said he had "seen inmates assaulted
by guards, beaten in the stomach and personally had falsified disciplinary
records of inmates to prolong their sentences in isolation cells."
As Williams went to trial in 2000 for killing Boren. It was hard to find an
impartial jury in Lincoln County. Many prospective jurors "either work at the
prison or are related to someone who works there, or know Boren's family," the
AP reported at the time. As the execution neared 17 years later, the local
coroner spoke to the New York Times. "What I've heard nonstop in this community
- this entire community - is: 'This is the one we're waiting on.'"
At 5:30 sharp, Arkansas Department of Correction spokesperson Solomon Graves
welcomed reporters. A black man wearing a pink tie and a gray suit coat, Graves
reported that Kenneth Williams had refused a last meal, choosing instead to
take communion. Then he listed the food Williams had been given anyway: "2
pieces of fried chicken, barbecue beans, sweet rice, whole kernel corn, stewed
seasoned tomatoes, 2 cinnamon rolls, 2 cookies, 4 slices of bread, and fruit
A reporter asked Graves to repeat what came after the sweet rice. Another asked
whether Williams "ate the whole tray." An internal affairs log would later
detail precisely how much food Williams consumed: "all of the chicken, 1 peanut
butter cookie, 1/2 of the sweet rice, 1 slice of bread, and half cup of the BBQ
The atmosphere in the media room was one of collective tedium, peppered with
small talk, gossip, and some laughter. Reporters covering the executions had
spent long, late hours at the prison, waiting out last-minute legal challenges.
Officials came prepared for a long night, armed with candy and a Lays variety
pack. A chatty woman in a red blazer brought sudoku, sighing that she had
hardly slept for the past 2 weeks.
Reporters checked email and Twitter for the latest legal filings. Attorneys for
Williams pointed to his low IQ and abusive childhood as reasons he should be
spared. Separately, a story had gone viral about Michael Greenwood, the driver
killed in the crash caused by Williams after his escape from Cummins.
Greenwood's daughter, Kayla, had written to Hutchinson, asking him to spare
Williams. She had discovered he had a daughter her own age who could not afford
to come see her father before he died. Her family bought a flight for her,
picked her up at the airport, and took her to the prison. "If Mr. Williams is
executed, her loss, her pain, will be as real as mine," Kayla wrote. The
governor did not respond.
At 6 p.m., it was time to name the media witnesses. Only three local press
representatives are allowed to view executions, representing print, electronic
media, and the Associated Press. If reporters do not agree on the
representatives, the witnesses must be chosen at random. Reporters hastily
wrote their names on slips of paper, which were put in a Tupperware container.
Hours would pass with no new information. J.R. Davis, the official spokesman
for Governor Hutchinson, came in and out of the media room, with little to
share. At 10:11 p.m., a man in a jacket and tie came and finally asked for the
media witnesses. For a few minutes, the room silent. But before long, the
chatter started up again.
It was 11:07 when Graves answered his phone in the media room. He scratched his
head and wrote something down, hanging up a minute later. Then he addressed the
reporters. Williams had been declared dead at 11:05 p.m., he said. Then he
added, Williams "did shake for approximately 10 seconds" during the execution.
He declined to give further details.
Media witnesses returned looking solemn. One man's face was red. AP reporter
Kelly Kissel quickly got to the heart of the matter. "Coughing, convulsing,
lurching, jerking," he said, reading from their pooled notes. The execution
began at 10:52. After the midazolam had been administered, he said, Williams
lurched forward 15 times, then another 5 times, more slowly. It lasted no more
than a minute, he said. But after that, Williams gasped, taking labored
breaths. "It was clear that he was in trouble," Kissel said. "It was clear that
he was striving for breath."
Reporters asked what drugs had been administered at that point. The 3-drug
protocol relies first on an efficacious dose of a sedative - in this case
midazolam - to ensure that the effects of the next 2 drugs do not lead to a
tortuous death. Kissel said only midazolam should have been given, but there
was really no way to know for sure. No one alerted witnesses to when the other
drugs were being injected. Continuing through his notes, Kissel said that, at
10:58, witnesses heard a "moan or a groan" from Williams. After that, he went
still, eventually appearing "serene." He could not tell if Williams had been
conscious while he was lurching. Still, of the 10 executions Kissel had
witnessed, he had never seen one like this.
The reporters were still asking questions when a different group of witnesses
were led into the room. Several looked shaken. The daughter of Cecil Boren took
the podium, her voice strained with emotion. She thanked the state of Arkansas
for its handling of the execution, saying that any movement by Williams paled
in comparison to what her father had suffered. A reporter asked her if her
mother had found peace. "Our peace will come later," she said.
But the last word would belong to J.R. Davis, who took the podium on
Hutchinson's behalf. Davis had not witnessed the execution. He ignored the
reporters' descriptions, announcing that all had gone well. The convulsing was
merely an "involuntary muscular reaction," he said. He reiterated Williams's
crimes and said it was important to concentrate on the families of his victims.
Finally, he said, the execution of Williams should bring a renewed faith in its
The death of Kenneth Williams marked the last of the planned executions last
spring. As the national press left Arkansas, Williams's lawyer accused the
governor and his spokesman as "trying to whitewash the reality of what
happened." He subpoenaed the state crime lab for autopsy records, toxicology
reports, and handwritten notes. In response, the state asked a federal judge to
quash the subpoena, arguing that such a request would violate Williams's
In June, a brief article appeared in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on the
autopsy and toxicology reports for the executed men, obtained via Freedom of
Information requests. They were not revealing. Yet there was one macabre
detail: The autopsy for Jack Jones Jr., executed on April 24, found "tan
colored makeup" covering multiple needle marks on his neck - places where the
prison staff had repeatedly tried and failed to insert an IV. It was not clear
who applied it. But it seemed clear it was meant to make things look a little
In August, officials announced they had a new batch of midazolam, after the
state medical board quietly voted to end a short-lived probe into the
acquisition of its previous execution drugs. The new supply was supposed to be
used to kill Jack Greene last week. But 2 days after his stay, the manufacturer
of the drug was revealed to be a company based in New York state. In a
statement on its website, the company made clear it "does not want any of our
products used in capital punishment." Whether Arkansas cares is an open
Today, a state poll showed that Arkansas residents remain staunch in their
support for the death penalty, in contrast to the rest of the country. Governor
Hutchinson's popularity has gone up since last year. As Judge Griffen continues
to fight to keep his seat on the bench, members of the Arkansas Supreme Court
are now in the political crosshairs themselves. After halting 3 of the planned
executions last spring, the most recent stay has prompted cries of judicial
"It's just troubling," one politician said of the barrier to carrying out
executions. "I want to know the reason why we're delaying justice to these
families so we can properly move forward."
Guest opinion: Why I changed my mind about the death penalty
And with the majority of Americans being Christian I suspect this
"eye-for-an-eye" legal philosophy reflects the majority viewpoint. Like them,
this has always seemed a principled argument to me and I've never really
questioned the sentiment further.I mean, if someone takes the life of another
don't they forfeit their right to live? But as a national debate about the
death penalty has emerged, I have re-examined this issue and exposed myself to
new information on how the death penalty is applied. Doing so has caused me to
change my mind about the death penalty.
Theories aside, the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime. Criminal justice
experts agree on this. First, only a tiny fraction of 1st degree murderers are
ever executed. Deterrence experts know that a swift and guaranteed punishment
has a much greater impact on preventing crime than a harsh but highly
improbable punishment. Secondly, the infrequency with which the death penalty
is applied, and the long delay before executions, eliminates what little
deterrent effect might have existed in the first place. Even in areas where the
death penalty is most often used, no deterrent benefit is seen. In fact, the
region in the United States with the highest use of the death penalty (the
South) also has the highest murder rate. If the death penalty deterred crime in
a considerable way, the opposite should be true.
While the death penalty doesn???t keep us any safer than prison-for-life, it
comes with a far greater burden on taxpayers. According to Utah's Legislative
Office of Fiscal Analysis the cost for an average death penalty case to play
out is 1.6 million dollars more than a non-capital murder trial. These extreme
costs exist because of the extra safeguards in place. And caution is justified
when taking a human life.
Due to the gravity of capital cases, specially trained defense lawyers are
needed, cases are more complicated, a separate phase takes place after guilt or
innocence is decided to determine if life or death should be given, and
finally, when "death" is handed-out the long appeals process begins. In almost
all cases, the state ends up paying for both prosecution and defense throughout
this decades-long process.
And this process can be very harmful to the families of victims. Through every
appeal the family must constantly re-experience the most traumatic event of
their lives. And, besides lasting years and being highly publicized, capital
cases also come with great uncertainty. It is more likely that a death sentence
will be overturned than result in an execution. Victims are strung along with
the promise of a punishment that is unlikely to ever occur. In contrast, when
an offender is sentenced to life without parole, the sentence begins right away
and the family can truly move forward with their lives.
Data shows that capital punishment is a power that has been abused. To date, at
least 160 people have left death row - set free by new evidence after years of
just sitting there burdening taxpayers. Many of these individuals were
exonerated based on DNA evidence - evidence that has exposed mistakes by the
justice system in hundreds of non-capital cases. So while the death penalty may
make sense in theory, the way it plays out in real life makes it clear that it
is often a tool of injustice.
Government's primary function is to execute justice. So even though I may agree
with "an eye for an eye" in principle, the death penalty offers us sad and
compelling evidence that government cannot perform its most basic duty; neither
fairly nor swiftly. So why in the world would we give our fallible government
the power to decide life and death? Government shouldn't play God.
Let's save the money, stop the re-victimization of the families, and reduce the
power government yields. The reality is that we can never have a foolproof
system because humans are imperfect. So with that imperfection let's err on the
side of caution. It's time to get rid of the death penalty.We'll let God sort
it out in the next life.
(source: Thomas Dyches is a conservative podcaster, radio co-host, and
grassroots political activist who resides in St. George----utahpolicy.com)
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
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