2017-09-27 10:59:24 UTC
S. Carolina moves death row inmates closer to execution site
South Carolina has again moved its death row facilities, transferring more than
30 condemned inmates early Tuesday morning from a remote prison to a Columbia
location across town from the state's death chamber.
35 inmates were moved from Lieber Correctional Institution in Dorchester
County, to Kirkland Correctional Institution in Columbia, 90 miles (145 km) to
the northwest, according to Corrections Director Bryan Stirling.
South Carolina's death chamber is located at Broad River Correctional
Institution, a different maximum-security prison in Columbia. Housing the
inmates in the same city is more efficient for the agency, Stirling said.
Lieber is located in remote, rural Ridgeville, meaning that inmates and the
officers who must accompany them need to travel long distances any time they
need to go to court or seek health care services outside the prison.
The return marks the reversal of a move made 20 years ago. In 1997, South
Carolina's death row inmates left Columbia for Lieber, with the agency's
then-director saying the move was driven by a desire "that the correctional
staff who deal with those inmates on a daily basis are not the same individuals
charged with the responsibility of carrying out the death warrant."
At the time, inmate advocates said the move would make it harder for relatives
and attorneys to visit.
South Carolina hasn't executed an inmate since 2011, citing lack of access to
the drugs needed for lethal injection, the state's primary execution method.
(source: Associated Press)
1 killed his parents, the other a cop. York County's 2 death row inmates moved
2 death row inmates from York County got new homes Tuesday.
James Robertson was convicted in 1999 of using a hammer and baseball bat to
bludegon his parents to death. Mar-Reece Hughes was convicted of killing a York
County sheriff's deputy named Brent McCants almost 25 years ago.
Robertson and Hughes were among 34 South Carolina death row inmates transferred
Tuesday from Lieber prison in the Lowcountry, where death row has been located,
to Kirkland Correctional Institute in Columbia. The pair are the only two from
York, Chester, and Lancaster counties on death row.
The S.C. Department of Corrections said the inmates were moved to improve
"I was told this morning in a call that Hughes was being moved," said Myra
McCants, mother of the late deputy McCants.
McCants was shot by Hughes and Dwayne Eric Forney on Sept. 25, 1992, during a
traffic stop. Hughes, now 51, and Forney, now 50, were convicted in 1995.
Hughes received the death penalty because he was convicted of being the
Hughes and Robertson will stay in prison until the state of South Carolina puts
both to death, each dies in jail, or appeals give them a chance at freedom. A
lack of lethal injection drugs has halted executiuons in South Carolina.
James "Jimmy" Robertson, 43, has been on death row since 1999. He was convicted
of the 1997 killing of his parents, Terry and Earl Robertson, at the family
home in Rock Hill. Prosecutors argued he wanted his parents' money, estimated
in the millions. Robertson was just days from execution more than a decade ago,
but an appeal halted it.
Robertson's appeals have for 18 years been fruitless.
Hughes was accused of killing another inmate at the York County jail while
waiting for trial. Lawyers for Hughes have stated that he has mental problems
that should bar him from being executed, and his exeuction has been stayed
several times, court documents show.
GEORGIA----stay of execution
SCOTUS stays execution of Georgia death row inmate amid claims of racial bias
The US Supreme Court issued a stay of execution Tuesday night for a Georgia
death row inmate who argued that a racist juror voted to put him to death
because he is black.
Keith Tharpe, 59, was scheduled to die at 7 p.m. Tuesday night for the 1990
murder of his sister-in-law, Jacquelin Freeman. The justices granted the stay
while they consider whether to take up his appeal. If the justices decide not
to hear the case the stay will be lifted.
Conservative justices Clarence Thomas, Sam Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented,
saying they would not have granted the stay.
In post-conviction appeals, Tharpe did not deny killing Freeman. He sought a
stay of execution based in part on racist comments from a juror who has since
In an interview seven years after Tharpe's sentencing, juror Barney Gattie used
the n-word in reference to Tharpe and other black people and wondered "if black
people even have souls." Tharpe's lawyers argued that a biased juror violated
Tharpe's constitutional rights to a fair trial. Furthermore, his attorneys
argued Tharpe is ineligible for execution because he is intellectually
The Supreme Court of Georgia declined to hear Tharpe's claims on Tuesday,
prompting his appeal to the US Supreme Court.
Tharpe convicted of shooting sister-in-law
Tharpe and his wife were estranged when the crime occurred on September 25,
Prosecutors said Tharpe stopped his wife and sister-in-law in the road as they
drove to work, according to court records. He grabbed Freeman, his
sister-in-law, from the vehicle and shot her before throwing her into a ditch
and shooting her again, killing her.
Then, prosecutors alleged Tharpe raped his wife and took her to withdraw money
from a credit union, where she was able to call police for help, according to
3 months later, after he was convicted of malice murder and kidnapping, Tharpe
was sentenced to death.
Juror expressed racist views
Tharpe's appeal centered on the post-conviction testimony of Barney Gattie, a
white juror in his trial.
During jury selection for the initial 1991 trial, Gattie told attorneys from
both sides that he could be fair and impartial during the trial, said Brian
Kammer, Tharpe's attorney with the Georgia Resource Center, a nonprofit that
offers free legal representation to prisoners on death row,
Then, in May 1998, lawyers from Georgia Resource Center conducted interviews
with each juror as part of a routine investigation to prepare for Tharpe's
petition for habeas corpus, the process of determining whether his imprisonment
In his interview, Gattie showed that he "harbored very atrocious, racist views
about black people," Kammer said.
According to his affidavit, Gattie said, "In my experience I have observed that
there are 2 types of black people: 1. Black folks and 2. "N****rs."
Gattie went on to say in his affidavit, "I felt Tharpe, who wasn't in the
'good' black folks category in my book, should get the electric chair for what
he did." As of 2001, Georgia carries out its executions by lethal injection.
"After studying the Bible, I have wondered if black people even have souls,"
Gattie later said in a deposition that he did not intend to use the n-word as a
racial slur, according to court documents.
Weeks after the interview, Tharpe's attorneys returned to Gattie's home and
read his statements back to him, periodically stopping to ask him if the
statements were accurate, court documents say.
Gattie had only one correction, but the rest of his statement stood, court
documents filed by Tharpe's attorneys say. He signed the 1998 affidavit under
Supreme Court Stays Death Sentence of Keith Tharpe
The U.S. Supreme Court stayed the death sentence Tuesday of Keith Tharpe, a
black man who was on death row for over 25 years despite the fact that one of
his white jurors later recounted the case using slurs when referring to black
people and said that "because a black person doesn't have a soul, giving one
the death penalty was no big deal." Tharpe was scheduled to be executed last
Affidavits signed by the former juror and Tharpe's legal team attesting to the
fact that juror racism influenced his trial were deemed inadmissible by state
"One of the many ways that the death penalty system is irrevocably broken is
the discriminatory way it is applied," said Kristina Roth, senior program
officer with Amnesty International USA. "Keith Tharpe's case is a chilling
example of how callous the state can be in matters of life and death. While the
Supreme Court granted a temporary reprieve to Keith Tharpe, this cannot be
allowed to happen again. Capital punishment is cruel and inhuman and should be
left in the dustbin of history once and for all."
(source: Amnesty International USA)
Death Row Inmate Fighting for His Life
Death Row inmate Cary Michael Lambrix and his attorneys continue to literally
fight for his life.
Governor Rick Scott signed the warrant for the execution of Lambrix earlier in
September. The warrant states the date of Lambrix execution is October 5.
Lambrix was convicted of murdering Aleisha Bryant and Clarence Moore in 1983.
Lambrix lawyers have filed a brief with the Florida Supreme Court asking that
Lambrix's death sentence be revoked because the jury in the murder trial did
not unanimously agree to the death penalty.
From the trial, it was explained that Lambrix met Bryant and Moore at a bar.
Lambrix invited them to home for dinner.
State Attorney ends legal fight over death penalty----Aramis Ayala dismisses
federal lawsuit against governor
State Attorney Aramis Ayala has voluntarily dismissed a federal lawsuit she had
previously filed against Gov. Rick Scott over his decision to reassign 30
potential death penalty cases from her office.
Ayala originally filed the lawsuit in April, weeks after she announced her
office would not seek the death penalty in any case.
The federal lawsuit claimed that by "summarily removing Ayala from her position
due to a disagreement over her prosecutorial discretion," the governor
unconstitutionally deprived the "democratically elected" state attorney of her
In a separate legal action, Ayala petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to
review whether Scott had the authority under state law to transfer those murder
cases Brad King, the state attorney in a neighboring judicial district.
Last month, in a 5-2 opinion, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that Ayala's
blanket prohibition against the death penalty provided the governor with "good
and sufficient reason" to remove those cases from her office.
Ayala did not challenge the Florida Supreme Court's decision within a 15-day
deadline to request a rehearing, records show.
On Sept. 14, a U.S. district judge granted Ayala's request to dismiss the
simultaneous federal lawsuit.
The state attorney did not explain in court papers why she chose to drop the
litigation alleging violations of the U.S. Constitution.
Following the Florida Supreme Court ruling, Ayala reversed her office's policy
against the death penalty, announcing that she would seek capital punishment in
murder cases if a panel of seven attorneys in her office unanimously agree it
Invoices show Ayala spent $378,314 of taxpayer money on her litigation against
the governor, including expenses related to her now-dismissed federal lawsuit.
PR firm billing records revealed
In addition to hiring private attorneys based in Tampa and Washington D.C., a
News 6 investigation revealed that Ayala paid $20,285 to Kivvit, a high-powered
public relations firm.
Ayala has repeatedly refused to explain what specific services Kivvit provided,
only to say that the Washington, D.C., public relations firm conducted
In July, after News 6 requested invoices Kivvit billed to Ayala's office, the
state attorney provided heavily redacted copies of the public records. Large
black boxes concealed many details on billing statements.
At the time, Ayala's office claimed the redacted information was exempt from
release under Florida public records laws because it reflected her legal team's
"mental impression, conclusion, litigation strategy or legal theory."
After Ayala formally ended her litigation against the governor, News 6 once
again requested un-redacted copies of the public relations firm invoices.
Those newly released billing records reveal very little information about
Ayala's legal strategy in her lawsuit against the governor.
Likewise, the invoices do not provide many specific details about the services
provided by the public relations firm at taxpayer expense.
On March 29, Kivvit managing director Tracy Schmaler billed Ayala's office for
2 hours of work at a cost of $570.
On the invoice activity report, Schmaler wrote, "Organized calendar for
upcoming events and task; call with stakeholders and legal team; discussion on
That same day, Schmaler received an email from one of Ayala's advisors asking
the public relations specialist to craft a short statement that would be read
to the state attorney's supporters who were attending a rally in Tallahassee, a
News 6 investigation revealed.
Ayala has repeatedly declined to discuss whether Schmaler drafted that message
on her behalf, and if so, whether it was part of the PR firm's taxpayer-funded
Over a 4-month period, Kivvit billed the state attorney's office for such tasks
as "outreach to stakeholders", "researching and detailing case information on
previous murder cases", "planning and discussions around amicus filings", and
"(editing) litigation materials for legal team", invoices from the public
relations firm show.
"Enlisting outside consultants, like Ms. Schmaler, to assist in litigation is a
common practice and courts across this country have long recognized the value
of employing these kinds of litigation support experts," Ayala's attorney Roy
Austin previously told News 6.
(source: WKMG news)
Death row decisions: Sentencing killers to death may be harder under new
Florida law----Jurors in capital punishment cases speak out
The state may carry the burden of proof, but in capital murder cases, the jury
carries the burden of a life or death sentence.
A new Florida law may make it even harder for juries to send a convicted killer
to death row.
A jury's job is not yet over when they find a suspected killer guilty in a
capital murder case. Those 12 people return to the jury room to debate one more
thing: life or death.
A jury sentenced Rodney Clark to life in prison on Sept. 19, 2017 for the
murder of Dana Fader, a Lake Worth woman, in 1987. In 2006, the sheriff's
office received a federal grant and a DNA profile was conducted in the Fader
case. No suspects were found at that time. But when deputies placed the DNA
into a database in 2012, they found a match to Rodney Clark.
"Life in prison or the death penalty. Could you do that?" said Rodney Crockett,
an architect in Boca Raton who recently served as a juror in a Palm Beach
County capital murder case.
The prosecution and defense ask jurors their feelings on the death penalty long
before a capital murder trial starts.
"A lot of people there said, 'no, I do not think I could.' I was just honest. I
said, 'yeah I think I could,'" Crockett said.
Crockett voted to sentence Rodney Clark to life in prison in Sept. 2017 for the
murder of Dana Fader.
The jury voted 9-3 to sentence Clark to life in prison, sparing him from the
The state of Florida executed 93 people since 1979. 360 people are on death row
as of today.
8 years ago, in 2009, a 12-person jury in St. Lucie County sentenced Andrew
Gosciminski to death after they found him guilty of killing Joan Loughman, a
mother to twin daughters.
Vera Sanchez was 1 of the chosen 12.
"It was just traumatizing," Sanchez said. "It's not what you would expect it to
be watching TV.
Sanchez, who had a newborn baby at home during Gosciminski's trial, says she
was most emotional during the twins' testimony about their mother.
Andrew Gosciminski, of a former Fort Pierce assisted living center employee,
was convicted of murdering a resident's daughter. Gosciminski met Joan Loughman
through an assisted-living facility where he worked and her father was a
patient. Prosecutors say Gosciminski had planned to steal $40,000 worth of
jewelry. He attacked the Connecticut woman in September 2002 at her father's
Fort Pierce home where he beat her, stabbed her and cut her throat, according
"They said their mom was their best friend. One day she left home and never
came back," Sanchez said.
Despite the brutal crime, and a unanimous guilty verdict, during the sentencing
phase of the trial, Sanchez recommended Gosciminski serve life in prison.
"Some people think of it as, 'if they commit a murder and they killed somebody,
why shouldn't they pay the price?' I think of it as, 'who are we to decide?'"
Sanchez said. "I feel like the death penalty is kind of the easy way out for a
person that commits such a horrible murder. Wouldn't it be just as bad to be in
prison their whole life?"
In the end Sanchez was overruled when the majority of jurors voted Gosciminski
be put to death.
Today, Gosciminski sits on death row, awaiting his fate with 359 other
convicted Florida killers. But if Gosciminski's trial had taken place today,
Sanchez' vote could have saved his life.
Change in Florida law
In March, Florida's governor signed a new death penalty law. Now, if a jury
wants to recommend the death penalty, all 12 jurors must agree. (In the past,
The law was changed after a convicted killer, Timothy Hurst, successfully
argued before the Florida Supreme Court a death penalty recommendation should
be unanimous. In Hurst's case, seven jurors voted for the death penalty and
five voted for life in prison.
Almost 60% of death row inmates are white males, nearly 38% of them are black
Florida's Supreme Court ordered a re-write of the death penalty statute.
Contact 5 investigators found a unanimous recommendation for the death penalty
is rare. Out of the 24 killers from the Palm Beaches and the Treasure Coast
sitting on death row, only four received unanimous death sentences.
From Sept. 2015 to Sept. 2016, juries heard 33 capital murder cases in the Palm
Beaches and Treasure Coast.
St. Lucie County Sheriff's deputy Gary Morales was shot and killed on Feb. 28,
2013 during a traffic stop south of Fort Pierce.
Eriese Tisdale was convicted of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to death for
Morales' murder in 2016.
Only 1 jury recommended death, in the case of Eriese Tisdale who shot and
killed St. Lucie County Sgt. Gary Morales in 2013.
Palm Beach County saw the 1st capital murder case go to trial since the new
unanimous death penalty rule was enacted.
Crockett was 1 of the 12 jurors. "On day 1 they said, 'this is for a murder
case.' They called us back in and started reading the names, and they read my
name, 'juror number 7.'"
Eventually, Crockett and the 11 other jurors found Rodney Clark guilty of
murdering Fader back in 1987. The majority of the jury, including Crockett, did
not think Clark should pay for the crime with his life.
"I wasn't looking over [at defense or prosecutors]. I did not want to see their
The average age of a death row inmate is just under 51 years. The average time
they have been on death row is over 19 years.
Fader left behind 3 children who were ripped apart from each other after their
mother died. 2 of them, Angie Fader Sampler and Colby Manas, were present for
"I cannot imagine what it was like for them," said Crockett, looking down at
the floor. "I don't know, it had to be devastating for them. I know of feel
like, I feel kind of close to them, you know?"
Crockett says you are not supposed to make death penalty decisions based on
emotion, but the thought crossed his mind.
"I thought, what if they wanted this guy to have the death penalty," Crockett
The siblings spoke to Contact 5 outside of the courtroom after the trial, and
said they were happy Clark was serving a life sentence so "he couldn't hurt
Crockett and his fellow jurors were far from sentencing Rodney Clark to death,
and Crockett confessed the new 'unanimous' law did not come into play during
the deliberation process.
"I think it is going to make it extremely difficult to administer the death
penalty," Crockett said.
However, the Gosciminski jurors voted nine to 3 for the death penalty. 8 years
later, with a new death penalty law in place, Sanchez thinks Gosciminski should
get a new sentencing.
"Being put to death and taken out, it does not make them guilty. I mean, they
die but they do not really suffer," Sanchez said. "It is not like when they
committed the horrible, actually murder. It does not justify and it does not
make it the same."
A brief history of the death penalty in Florida ----(Source: Death Penalty
1827 - 1st known execution in Florida, Benjamin Donica hung for murder.
1923 - A bill places all executions in Florida under state (rather than local)
jurisdiction, and substitutes hanging for the electric chair.
1972 - The Supreme Court strikes down the death penalty in Furman v. Georgia.
Florida subsequently passes a new capital punishment statute.
1976 - The Supreme Court reinstates the death penalty when it upholds Georgia's
statute in Gregg v. Georgia. In Proffitt v. Florida, the Court also upholds the
1990s - Florida botches the electric chair executions of Jesse Tafero, Pedro
Medina, and Allen Lee Davis and subsequently begins using lethal injection as
its execution method.
2002 - Aileen Wuornos, called the 1st female serial killer by the media, is
2016 - Florida statutorily abolishes judicial override, the process by which
trial judges were permitted to impose death sentences despite an advisory
jury's recommendation for life.
2017 - Florida statutorily abolishes non-unanimous jury recommendations for
death and requires that the sentencing jury unanimously recommend a death
sentence before the trial judge may impose a death sentence.
(source: WPTV news)
Weber County officials pick new defense lawyer in Lovell death penalty case
Weber County commissioners have contracted with a new attorney to defend
Douglas Lovell in his death penalty case, agreeing to pay the lawyer up to
$100,000, maybe more.
Commissioners selected Salt Lake City lawyer Colleen Coebergh on Tuesday to
handle Lovell's appeal in the high-profile, 32-year-old case following Sam
Newton's decision to step down stemming from a dispute over payment. The 2015
decision by a Weber County jury to sentence Lovell to death by lethal injection
is at the heart of the appeal.
"This is a difficult case because it's a capital case and you have to be
specially qualified under the rules of criminal procedure and the rules of
appellate procedure," said Bryan Baron, deputy county attorney in the Civil
Division of the Weber County Attorney's Office.
Adding to the difficulty is Newton's departure - amid his charges that Weber
County wasn't adequately reimbursing him - in the middle of Lovell's appeal.
The county paid Newton $75,000 through the end of 2016, according to Baron, and
had approved up to $15,000 more in reimbursement earlier this year for his
"So the new attorney really has to hit the ground running," Baron said. He
expressed confidence in Coebergh's abilities, noting her involvement in a
Washington County death penalty case, among other things.
Coebergh, reached by phone, declined comment.
Per the agreement Tuesday, Coebergh has a soft payment cap of $100,000, though
she may seek and get more if she shows good reason. Lovell is indigent, thus
the county is obliged to cover his defense costs, per state law.
A Weber County jury convicted Lovell of 1st-degree murder in 2015 in the 1985
death of Joyce Yost and subsequently sentenced him to death by lethal
injection. He killed the South Ogden woman, whose body has never been found, to
prevent her from testifying against him in a rape case, though he was still
convicted in that matter.
In response to his appeal, the Utah Supreme Court has remanded Lovell's case
back to 2nd District Court in Ogden for an evidentiary hearing, according to
Baron. At issue is the imposition of the death penalty. Lovell contends that
his lawyers at the time didn't put up a sufficient defense during the
sentencing phase, according to Baron.
Evidentiary hearings had been set to go from Sept. 26 through Oct. 3, but the
dispute over Newton's payment put the process on hold. Following Tuesday's
action, a telephone conference is set for Nov. 2, according to online court
Baron said Newton, based in Kalispell, Montana, cited health reasons in his
decision to step down as Lovell's representative, though money figured big.
"It was all money related," Baron said. "He said lack of funding was causing
stress in his life and it was causing him to have heart issues."
County officials had set a soft cap of $75,000 in paying Lovell, giving him
leeway to seek more if he could provide good reason. The county paid the
$75,000, but then discord emerged over Lovell's request dating to last March
for additional funds, precipitating his departure from the case.
Lovell, now 59, is being held at the Utah State Prison in Uinta, according to
online Utah Department of Corrections records.
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
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