2017-09-24 17:17:21 UTC
Death penalty changes cause families, jurors to relive cases----"I thought
justice had been served," one juror said of her role in an 11-1 death penalty
decision. But the convicted murderer now has a second chance at life. "I had
nightmares during that time," another said.
As each of the 12 jurors rose to announce their decision, all but one looked
James Armando Card in the eye and affirmed his condemnation to death.
Several children were present in the courtroom that day as Pamela Pursley
scanned the audience from the jury box. She recalled that during the trial,
Card would glare at members of the jury and jot notes on a legal pad, seemingly
sending a message of intimidation.
"I had nightmares during that time," Pursley said in an interview with The News
Herald. "I'd just moved into an apartment on my own, and I had to go back home
and stay with my parents."
It was the 1st and only time Pursley has been called to jury duty. She had
registered to vote mere months before receiving the summons, which would lead
to her participation in one of Bay County's oldest and most brutal murder
On June 3, 1981, then-35-year-old Card had armed himself with a knife before
robbing the Western Union office in Panama City where Janis Franklin worked.
During a struggle, Franklin's fingers were severely cut on both hands, with
several fingers on her right hand almost severed. Card then forced Franklin
into a car and drove 8 miles to a wooded area, where he - falsely - promised he
wouldn't hurt her.
As Card's kidnapping, armed robbery and first-degree murder trial unfolded,
jurors learned that when they arrived at the wooded area, Card instead came up
from behind Franklin, grabbed her hair, pulled her head back and slit her
throat several inches deep. Card then stood over Franklin, a woman he knew, and
watched her bleed to death, later telling a friend he even enjoyed it.
Franklin's body would remain undiscovered for almost a day, and Card remained
at large for 5 days before being arrested.
By the trial's end, Pursley felt confident enough in the prosecution's case to
face Card and announce in open court that she was 1 of the 11 jurors who wanted
him to be executed.
"I thought justice had been served," she said. "Based on the evidence, I felt
he was very guilty. ... It was a senseless act, and I felt like it was my duty
to society to get this guy off the streets. There was also a little bit of me
wanting justice for (Franklin's) 2 girls."
In the years that followed Card's death sentence, Pursley regularly checked
records to make sure he remained on death row.
However, recent changes to the state's death penalty procedures have reversed
Pursley's vote, and Card now is looking at a 2nd chance at life.
Card's case is among 11 1st-degree murder death sentences in the 14th Judicial
Circuit, which includes Bay County, currently being considered for a new
penalty phase or proceeding toward one. The cases were opened for
reconsideration as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in January 2016
that found Florida's death penalty process unconstitutional. By the end of
about a year-long debate in the Florida Legislature, lawmakers reached the
agreement that capital punishment had to be levied unanimously by a jury, and a
judge could not diverge from the jury's verdict.
The decision not only will apply to future Bay County murder cases, but also to
those that have been pending for the 45-year modern era of the death penalty in
Florida. It already has had significant effects on the lives of the victims'
families, as they now are being made to relive the brutal demises of their
However, family members on the other side - those related to inmates executed
by the state - likewise suffer the emotional fallout from the system of the
Card's case is the 2nd in Bay County's history since the reinstatement of the
death penalty. It is preceded only by that of Charles "Kenny" Foster, now 70,
who was condemned to death in 1975 after he confessed to killing 65-year-old
Julian Franklin Lanier and laughed about it on the witness stand.
Although the jury returned a unanimous recommendation that Foster be executed
for the crime, he has sat on death row appealing the outcome ever since. He now
also is seeking a new sentencing phase despite the jury's unanimous verdict.
"While I can understand that the state doesn't want to execute an innocent
person, in this case that is not the question," said Beatrice Long, Lanier's
niece. "This was a man who at his age was not new to the life of crime. ... I
know what kind of person he was in some respects. I never knew he would ever
meet my family and surely not my uncle."
Long said she is 1 of only 3 living relatives who witnessed Foster's trial and
are awaiting justice. She remembered the day before Lanier's July 15, 1975,
death when their family gathered supplies and prepared for a fishing trip in
"My uncle wanted to make sure I would make the potato salad and cole slaw, of
course," Long said. "... When he left my house, I never dreamed that he would
be the victim a brutal attack and murder."
Lanier met then-29-year-old Foster at a bar in downtown Panama City that night.
The 2 men had picked up 2 young women, who agreed to go elsewhere to drink and
have sex for money.
The 4 left for a wooded area east of Callaway to party in Lanier's Winnebago.
But, as Lanier began to undress with one girl, Foster struck him over the head,
put a knife to his neck and slit his throat. Foster then dragged Lanier's body
into the bushes to cover it with pine branches and leaves before he noticed
Lanier was still breathing. So Foster took the knife, cut Lanier's spine at the
base of his neck and stole his camper.
Long said many of those closest to her uncle have died awaiting justice.
Lanier's daughter suffered from alcoholism after the trial and his son
committed suicide, which Long directly attributed to the murder.
Long said before Lanier's murder, she didn't think much about the death
penalty. She is now a staunch supporter - in Foster's case at least. Long said
she hoped to witness it for before she passes away.
"I'd like to see him die - look him in the eyes," she said. "My Uncle Julian
was the kindest, most generous person who ever walked this Earth ... If you
needed anything, all you had to do was ask or let him find out and he would
come to your aid, be it in person or anonymously. That's the person that Kenny
Foster brutally beat, slashed, buried alive and then went back, nearly
Since 1972, when Florida reinstated the death penalty, only 93 people have been
executed by the state. In the Bay County area, of the 11 death row inmates,
that number is zero.
Nonetheless, its effects have been felt by local residents.
In September 2002, guards strapped 40-year-old Michael Passaro to the
crucifix-shaped gurney inside a South Carolina execution chamber. Moments after
the lethal serum was administered, Passaro's eyes glazed over and closed for
the last time, and in about a minute, a subtle smile appeared upon his face.
Gina Farthing, Passaro's older sister and now a resident of Panama City,
watched from the box alongside their mother. She said she considered it more
similar to euthanasia than an execution.
"It was more like relief," Farthing said. "I started to cry, but I had to stop
myself. I wanted him to see me smile. I wanted to wish him well on his
Farthing said her brother led a troubled life with a history of mental illness
before being convicted of killing of his 2-year-old daughter, Maggie, and
sentenced to death.
Passaro had attempted to commit suicide the Monday before Thanksgiving 1998 by
setting fire to a vehicle with himself and his daughter inside, but Maggie was
the only one to die in the blaze. In the course of the next 4 years of legal
proceedings, prosecutors offered Passaro life in prison for what was considered
a premeditated crime, which he declined in favor of being tried and executed by
the state. Passaro also waived his automatic appeal with the state supreme
court - an unprecedented decision in South Carolina.
Ultimately, his death provided needed closure, both for Passaro and his family.
Farthing said she was always close to and protective of her brother, so she
understood his decision. But her parents, particularly her father, felt
"I had a different reaction. I was glad to see my brother go," Farthing said.
"My father didn't. That was his son, and he did not want him to die."
The stances and circumstances of the case further sowed schisms within her
family, Farthing said. The most surprising result of the entire case was the
reaction from people they considered their neighbors, who treated the family as
pariahs for supporting Passaro despite his actions.
"There's not just 1 side of a story," Farthing said. "People will never know
all the victims because some stay on the sidelines out of fear of ridicule.
Even when people try to get the whole picture, they can only guess at best."
So far, 5 of the 11 pending death penalty cases in the 14th Judicial Circuit
have been reversed and granted a new penalty phase. The State Attorney's Office
has announced its intention to again pursue the death penalty in 2 - that of a
cop killer and the rapist and killer of a 13-year-old girl. Prosecutors also
are pursuing the death penalty in 3 other cases that have yet to go to trial.
For those personally affected by death penalty decisions, opinions vary.
Farthing, who at one point was a corrections officer, said she always supported
the death penalty. In the case of her brother, he was able to find the peace he
sought through capital punishment. In other cases, she said, the decisions are
sometimes clear cut.
"I've always been grateful that our country has a death penalty. For me, it was
a gift," she said. "But murder is murder, whether by state or individual. I
just wish it was not necessary and people treated each other as they would be
For family members of victims, however, the possibility of a death sentence
acts as a deterrent so others don't suffer as they have. And many of them think
those who already have been sentenced to death should receive swift punishment.
"It upsets me that when laws are made that they are not abided by," Long said.
"This is why people never learn to respect the laws. There are very slim
chances that a criminal will ever face the consequences for their actions that
were put forth by the law."
Pursley added the reversals of the death penalties seemed to undermine the
justice she thought she was attaining for the family and society.
"I felt like what I thought was being kicked to the curb," she said. "That was
a heartbreaking trial. I hope (the death penalty) is upheld. It's not fair to
the family or the taxpayers."
Man guilty of raping, murdering Tennessee student avoids death penalty
A Tennessee man avoided a possible death penalty by agreeing Saturday to a
sentence of life in prison plus 50 years for the kidnapping, rape and killing
of nursing student Holly Bobo.
Judge C. Creed McGinley told a jury that Zachary Adams made a deal with
prosecutors just minutes ahead of his sentencing hearing. Adams, 33, was
convicted Friday of murder, especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated
rape after an 11-day jury trial in Savannah, Tennessee.
Under the agreement, Adams received a state prison term of life without parole
for Bobo's killing. He was sentenced to consecutive terms of 25 years for both
the kidnapping and rape convictions.
Bobo was 20 when she disappeared from her home in rural Parsons on April 13,
2011. Her remains were found by 2 men who were hunting for ginseng not far from
her Decatur County home in September 2014.
Bobo's vanishing led to a massive search of the farms, fields and barns of
western Tennessee. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has said that the Bobo
investigation is the most exhaustive and expensive in the agency's history.
But investigators found no DNA evidence connecting Bobo to Adams. Instead, they
relied on testimony from friends and jail inmates who said Adams spoke of
In court Saturday, McGinley told the jury the deal was reached with "some
reluctance." The judge asked Adams if he voluntarily agreed to the deal that
may have saved his life.
"Yes sir," Adams responded in a soft voice.
Bobo's mother Karen addressed the jury, telling the panel that her daughter was
a loving person who "appreciated the small things in life."
"She was the sweetest soul I ever knew," Karen Bobo said.
She also pointed at Adams and called him an "animal." She said Adams has showed
"absolutely no remorse."
Adams did not testify during the trial.
Karen Bobo also said she saw her husband Dana smile for the 1st time since
their daughter went missing 6 years ago.
"I didn't know the man had dimples," prosecutor Jennifer Nichols told reporters
after the court hearing.
2 other men, Jason Autry and Adams' brother, John Dylan Adams, also face
charges of kidnapping, raping and killing Bobo.
Autry testified against Adams, telling jurors that Adams told him that he, his
brother and their friend, Shayne Austin, had raped Bobo. Autry also said that
he served as a lookout as Adams shot Bobo near a river in the day she was
Autry was on a list of witnesses offered immunity in the case. He said he
testified because he wanted leniency.
Autry's lawyer has told the judge that a trial does not need to be set for
Autry, indicating he has reached a deal with prosecutors. A trial date has not
been set for John Dylan Adams.
Prosecutor Paul Hagerman said none of the men charged in the case showed any
grace for Holly Bobo.
Yet, the Bobo family "chose to end this thing with grace."
(source: Associated Press)
New Rector lawyer makes 1st appearance
The lead attorney for a Bullhead City man facing the death penalty for murder
made his 1st appearance Friday in Superior Court.
Justin James Rector, 29, of Bullhead City is charged with 1st-degree murder,
kidnapping, child abuse and abandonment of a dead body in the Sept. 2, 2014,
death of 8-year-old Isabella Grogan-Cannella.
Rector is accused of strangling Grogan-Cannella and leaving her body in a
shallow grave near her Bullhead City home. He is being held in county jail
Quinn Jolly made his 1st appearance as 1st chair in Rector's case. Co-counsel
Julia Cassels remains as 2nd counsel.
2 death penalty qualified attorneys are required in a capital murder case.
Jolly told the judge he has been on the case for 3 weeks and is going through
volumes of evidence and other documents left by Rector's previous attorney.
Cassels also said they have received FBI notes including DNA reports.
Cassels said she has until Oct. 25 to file a motion to remand Rector's newest
case to the grand jury. Rector is also charged with 3 counts of aggravated
assault after he allegedly assaulted a detention officer July 17 in his cell.
Cassels is Rector's attorney in the assault case.
Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen said he has no desire to start over with a new
attorney on the murder case and hoped the case could now move forward. The
judge set Rector's next hearing for Nov. 17.
(source: Mohave Valley Daily News)
California gang members found guilty of killing 5
2 gang members have been found guilty of killing 5 people at a homeless
encampment near Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office says jurors found David Ponce and
Max Rafael guilty of 5 counts of murder Friday.
Prosecutors say Ponce and Rafael fatally shot 3 men and 2 women living at the
encampment near a freeway off-ramp in Long Beach.
The November 2008 mass killings baffled investigators after the 5 bodies were
found on a Sunday morning. A phone tip led authorities to the bodies.
Police said the motive was an ongoing feud over drug debts between Ponce and a
victim, Lorenzo Villicana. Police believe the others were killed to ensure
there were no witnesses.
Ponce faces the death penalty while Rafael faces life in prison.
(source: Associated Press)
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
DeathPenalty mailing list