2017-07-15 11:57:15 UTC
Death row inmate requests electric chair, Florida law may make it possible
Considered among the most dangerous inmates, Action News met with Wayne Doty in
a small room at Florida's death row. Despite his wrists being shackled,
security still watched his every move.
"An individual has the right to choose their own destiny," Doty professed.
Then, the Plant City man uttered what no Florida inmate has requested before.
The 44-year-old is demanding to be put to death by the electric chair and not
by the lethal injection method.
"The bottom line is, at the end of the day I'm the one that murdered an
individual," said Doty. "Not you, not anybody else. So it is my life, it is my
crime, it is my means of execution."
His reasons even dumbfounded Mark Elliott, Executive Director of Floridians for
Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
"I don't understand. I don't know what his motives are," said Elliott.
Why he wants the electric chair
Doty's claims are flabbergasting. He doesn't like needles. He was also a former
welder and believes that electrocution is a more humane way to die.
"Electricity, 2000-3000 volts of electricity right through a person's brain
will render you dead within seconds," said Doty.
The state doesn't agree
Florida took the electric chair out of commission after the execution of triple
murderer Allen Lee *Tiny* Davis back in 1999 went horribly wrong. Davis'
execution drew nationwide attention after he bled profusely from the nose while
? Many argued that execution by electrocution was outdated.
Then Governor Jeb Bush, agreed that lethal injection would become the primary
means of capital punishment.
The loophole in the law that may grant Doty his wish
"Although we are locked up in prison we have our own rights," said Doty.
A rarely used Florida law gives the state no choice but to honor Doty request.
Once sentenced, inmates have a one time option of requesting their means of
What landed Doty on death row
Doty shot to death Harvey Horne II, a worker at a manufacturing plant in Plant
City in 1996. But that murder didn't send Doty to death row. He got life in
Doty landed on death row only after killing another inmate, Xavier Rodriguez
years later in 2011.
Why Doty says he did it
His reasons behind killing the inmate are another mind twister.
Doty said he did it for Horne's sake.
"It is just my right to bring closure to the victim's family," said Doty.
According to court records, for weeks, if not months, Doty had been planning
the murder of Rodriguez.
What his victim's son thinks
"I was shocked and flabbergasted and totally disgusted," said Harvey Horne III.
Horne is the son of the man Doty killed in 1996.
"He and another man shot him 5 times in the face," said Horne.
Doty ultimately confessed to the murder of Harvey Horne admitting he shot Horne
in the face during a drug robbery, according to court records.
"He didn't say he wanted to die when he was on trial when he first went to
court when he killed my father. He tried to fight it," said Horne.
Doty saying that he killed the inmate for Horne's sake, truly infuriates
"My father's loss had a tremendous impact on me. I did not get a chance to be
with my dad. He was killed right before my 20th birthday and now you just took
this man a way to give me peace? That does not give me any peace it makes it
worse. What kind of man are you?" asked Horne.
Doty's 2nd motive
He said was to get out of general population.
"Would you like to do life in prison?" he asked.
Doty's request comes to light as Florida's death row policies are in complete
Pressure from the federal and state courts led to a new law in March. Now,
death verdicts have to be unanimous.
Legal experts explained that nearly 150 inmates, nearly half on Florida's death
row could get a new trial or even their sentences reversed.
Doty is one of those inmates, but is waiving appeals.
Is Doty seeking the electric chair as a delay tactic?
"If something happens and capital punishment is thrown out which could happen
in the foreseeable future. That's not my problem," said Doty.
(source: WFTS news)
On Death Row for a 1960 murder, freed Jacksonville man reflects on another
The mid-morning air feels like a wet blanket, but to 74-year-old Calvin Thomas,
that suits him just fine. In fact, just about anything does these days.
Using a cane to steady himself, Thomas directs his long-legged body to the
chair at an outdoor table and slowly eases into it. A grin steals over his face
as he takes in surroundings at the halfway house. It's a place for those, like
him, who are starting over.
"It's a beautiful thing. It's a beautiful thing," he says seemingly about
nothing in particular and at the same time about everything.
Thomas nods toward the outdoor grill and explains that on his 1st night here
there were juicy burgers with slices of cheese waiting for him when he arrived
after the bus ride to Bradenton in Manatee County from Jacksonville, a place
that long ago he called home. The meal, something so simple to many, was a far
cry from those he had day in and day out while eating alone on Florida's death
"God has blessed me," he says. "I don't have a sentence no more."
Thomas truly is in the midst of a transition after being given another shot at
life. He entered death row at the age of 18. Today, 56 years later, Thomas
toddles on a cane and smiles broadly, revealing gaps where teeth once stood.
Steadfastly, Thomas prays for forgiveness for his terrible misdeeds while
offering up thanks for his blessings.
Blessings include an about-face with Florida's tough-on-crime approach for
juvenile offenders such as himself, a successful legal challenge that said the
state's parole system was lip service and a public defender who made Thomas'
case - the oldest of about 80 or so that will come through Northeast Florida's
4th Judicial Circuit for re-sentencing hearings - a priority.
At the halfway house just two months now, Thomas is a leader and an inspiration
to others starting over.
"I know what I did was wrong and it was horrible," he says. "I'm just sorry
that I had to be part of something that caused problems and harmed lives. I'm
just so sorry it happened."
They were inseparable. If people saw 1, they'd see all 3. All went by
nicknames. 17-year-old Calvin Thomas was Pop; Harold Simon, also 17, was known
as Jackie; and the eldest at 24, Willie Young, was called Booster.
Being black didn't get you far in Jacksonville in 1960. The Ku Klux Klan held
sway and economic opportunities were slim. But there was something that saved
and then ruined these 3 young men: moonshine.
Thomas' father peddled moonshine, the poor man's gold, and so it seemed fitting
that his son would too when Calvin Thomas Sr. skipped out on the family in the
1950s - leaving the eldest boy to help his mother support the then family of
five. Ertha Lee Cooper worked as a maid to white families in Jacksonville.
Back then, a 5-gallon drum of moonshine fetched $25. In today's dollars,
that???s the equivalent of $205.
Not bad, thought Thomas. Good money for someone who dropped out of school after
8th grade. And for a time, as long as there was a need for the homespun booze,
Thomas, his buddies and his family were set.
"That was big money. That was the way of life," Thomas recalls.
That is until one day in the spring of 1960. The 3 friends were walking through
the woods to make a delivery when the rumbling of a truck churning up the dusty
road caught their attention. They slipped off the path and into the bushes to
hide. As the truck passed, they popped their heads up and saw their still,
their entire operation - save for the barrel of moonshine that they carried -
being carted away on the back of someone else's truck.
They were devastated. To start over, they'd need at least $300 upfront to
rebuild their still. Their business. Their lives. So they roamed the old
Arlington neighborhood, begging for money from family and friends. Nothing.
The 3 friends then made a decision that ruined their lives - and the lives of
"We go across town," Thomas recalls, "and we see this little grocery store and
so we say, 'Let's go in there and get the money,' and I say, 'Are you sure?'
And Young says 'Yeah.'"
It was closing time on June 9, 1960, for Catherine and Eugene Richardson at the
Daylight Grocery Store on North Myrtle Street when Thomas' 2 friends pulled
handkerchiefs up to their eyes and entered the store. Thomas, the lookout, said
he was checking out the back of the store when the gunshots went off near the
Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop.
"I ran and ran and ran. I ran down a dark alley, waiting and listening and I'm
thinking, Lord have mercy. Then I heard someone say, 'Hey, Pop. Hey. Hey.
It was Young.
"He shot Jackie," Young said. "He was trying to shoot me, so I shot back."
In just a few hours, there was banging at Thomas' door. The police had come for
him. 40-year-old shopkeeper Eugene Richardson was dead. No money was ever
Police yanked Thomas from bed and took him down to the station. There, in an
interrogation room known as the Shoot, he was in instant fear. Growing up, he
heard all sorts of stories of what happens in the Shoot. They weren't stories
any more. Thomas said he was forced down in a chair, his arms pinned behind his
"They whipped me. They beat me," he said. Someone shouted: "Don't hit him in
So they hit him in the chest, Thomas said.
Thomas confessed. Simon and Young did too, telling investigators that the plan
was just to run into the store, grab the money and run back out. Obviously it
didn't go as planned.
"I'm just so sorry that it happened," Thomas says. "I made this bad choice when
I was young. It was the worst decision that I ever made in all my life and it
cost me almost my entire life in prison."
In racially divided Jacksonville, the pace at which the case moved through the
court system was swift. The crime was in June. The trial in September. The
sentencing in October after a motion to vacate the guilty verdict was denied.
On Oct. 31, 1960, Thomas and Simon and Young became the 18th, 19th and 20th
prisoners on Florida's death row, Thomas said.
LIFE IN A BOX
Day by day his life was spent in a 6-foot-by-9-foot box at the Florida State
Because death row inmates aren't allowed in the chow line of the general prison
population, food is brought to their tiny cells. Showers, that brief reprieve
outside the cell, lasted only minutes every few days. It wasn't until Thomas
was in there a few years that the state built a small recreation yard for death
row prisoners to occasionally get a little bit of air and sunshine.
Life in the world outside his box slipped past Thomas. Outside the prison
walls, the nation went to war in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Assassins
killed President Kennedy; the president's younger brother, Robert Kennedy; and
Martin Luther King Jr.
Thomas tasted freedom when a judge granted his release in 1979, but he returned
on a parole violation in 1989. He was behind bars when the World Trade Center
When Thomas first went to prison, Dwight Eisenhower was the nation's 34th
president. A few months before his latest release, the country's 45th
president, Donald Trump, moved into the White House.
Thomas was supposed to die before any of those events ever happened.
The fact he is alive today is remarkable, said Bill White, the former public
defender for the 4th Judicial Circuit.
"If he was white, he had a shot," White said of the court system in
Jacksonville in 1960. "If he was black, he had no shot."
Across the South, young black people were rounded up guilty or not. There were
lynchings and death row wasn't just a place for the most heinous of killers.
Rapists and robbers were sent there as well.
Back then no blacks were allowed to serve on jury duty. Back then the KKK held
sway. Back then a 1st-degree murder conviction automatically sent someone to
the electric chair.
All 3 young men were tried for murder although only one, Young, was the killer.
It took 33 minutes for the jury to deliver a guilty verdict.
THE WANING HOURS
Thomas could take no more than 5 steps before reaching the end of his cell, so
he'd turn around and pace another 5 steps back to where he started. He did that
again and again in the Ready Room, his last stopover before the death chamber
Days earlier on Oct. 3, 1963, 2 of the largest men Thomas had ever seen came to
his cell and moved him there. Florida Gov. C. Ferris Bryant had given the OK to
Before he would die, Thomas had choices to make: Gray, blue or black were
Thomas' color choices for a suit - care of the state - to be buried in. Thomas
chose gray and the men took out measuring tapes to get his size. His final
choice in life was when he ordered his last meal. He picked pork chops - hands
down his favorite - as well as shrimp, steak, crab, fried fish and lots of
banana pudding - all gifts for the guards, as he knew he'd be too nervous to
eat his last meal.
"I thought maybe I'd just have a sip of juice or a bit of milk in the morning
to settle my stomach," Thomas said.
As hours ticked closer to 8 a.m. on Oct. 7, 1963, the time when Thomas was set
to be executed in the electric chair, he paced his cell. He cried out to God.
"Don't let them kill me. Don't let them kill me."
Just 14 hours before Thomas was set to die, he saw 2 men, strangers, standing
with a sergeant outside his cell. "Are you Calvin Thomas Jr.?" one asked.
"Yes sir," he said.
"We have a stay of execution for you."
Thomas dropped to his knees. He cried. He prayed.
"I've been crying and praying ever since, you know. It's beautiful. It's
wonderful," he said.
Back in Jacksonville, an expected funeral turned into a party, said Marion
Erwin, who was 15 when her brother was sent to death row.
"We were just elated that he was not put to death," she said.
It didn't dawn on her or her family that a commuted death sentence didn't
necessarily spell freedom.
TIDE OF CHANGE
By the mid-1960s, America began to change.
The faces of young blacks on death rows across the land filled newspapers and
news magazines. Everyday people began to react, to think twice about the death
penalty, White said.
The change in opinion, coupled with scores of legal appeals by the American
Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP, put the brakes on the use of Florida's
electric chair. Then came the landmark 1972 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that
outlawed capital punishment.
In Florida the ruling meant the sentences of 95 men and one woman were commuted
to life in prison. No longer would they see the same fate as Frank Johnson of
Duval County who on Oct. 7, 1924, became the 1st Department of Corrections
inmate to die in Florida's 1st electric chair.
4 of the first 5 death row inmates killed in the chair were from Duval.
3 months after the Supreme Court abolished the death penalty, Thomas, Simon and
Young were transported back to Jacksonville so that their death sentences could
be set aside and they could be re-sentenced.
Young asked Judge Marion Gooding for credit for the 12 years that he'd already
Gooding said no. "I am not willing to do it. This was a very vicious murder ...
and frankly I have no sympathy with you whatsoever."
What the judge refused to do in 1972, the Florida Department of Corrections did
7 years later when Thomas, Simon and Young were released on parole. For Thomas,
the allure of drugs, booze, sex - making up for 20 years of the outside world
that that he missed - pulled him in. He was sent back to prison in 1989 when he
stabbed his girlfriend during an argument. Police records say her injuries were
A judge in Duval sentenced Thomas to 4 1/2 years in prison for the battery
charge. But because Thomas violated his parole, he'd now have to complete his
life sentence and try again to get out on parole.
"I hate it. I hate it. I hate it," Thomas said of failing to stay out of
trouble in 1989. "I did something stupid and that hurts. I wasn't ready. I
really wasn't quite ready to get out. I wasn't in the right frame of mind. I
thought the world owed me something and I felt like I had to catch up."
Much changed in the judicial system in the 57 years since Eugene Arnold
Richardson was killed. Back then Florida law allowed for anyone connected with
a crime that ends in a killing to meet the same fate as the actual killer even
if the penalty was death. Today, only the killer can be condemned to die and
not the accomplices.
Also a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision said it is unlawful to sentence
juvenile killers to death. Both Simon and Thomas were juveniles at the time of
More legal rulings followed regarding automatic life sentences for juveniles
and death penalty decisions. All the while the number of cases that were going
to be sent back to the 4th Judicial Circuit for re-sentencing hearings were
mounting. Thomas, who had a relatively blemish-free inmate record and who was
asked to start a prison ministry in the gang-plagued Columbia County Correction
Institution, estimates that he went before the parole board 10 times seeking
another shot at freedom. Each time he was denied.
Even though parole was largely done away with 34 years ago, the parole board
still exists to hear older cases like Thomas'. For years lawyers have argued
that few convicts who were juveniles at the time of their offenses, and who are
eligible for parole, are really given a meaningful shot at freedom. A Florida
Supreme Court case said as much last May.
"It's not a system that really works," said Stephen Harper, Florida
International University law professor. "... People accused of 1st-degree
murder were not very likely to get out."
The Florida case regarding parole opened up that possibility for Thomas on
Using a cane to steady himself, Thomas methodically made his way through a
Duval County courtroom and stood before Judge Mark Borello. Because his case
dated back longer than any of the roughly 80 re-sentencing cases that are
expected to come back to the circuit due to legal decisions, the Public
Defender's Office made Thomas' case a priority, said Kate Bedell, his attorney.
As Thomas stood in court, Borello looked through the paperwork. Borello spoke
of Thomas' conviction from nearly 57 years ago. He spoke of the death sentence.
He spoke of Thomas' old friend Young being 81 years old and how his old friend
Simon died of natural causes 9 years ago.
Borello remarked that Thomas lived a relatively problem-free life behind bars.
And then it was time for Thomas to be sentenced. The 56 years, 10 months and a
day since Thomas was sent to death row as a teen was enough time behind bars
for the man who went into prison as a teen and came out an old man.
"Time served, Mr. Thomas," Borello said. "Good luck to you, sir."
Thomas was stunned. He was free.
"I was praying the judge would have mercy on me and consider the time I spent
in prison," he said. "I thought maybe I was hearing things or that it was a
joke and then the public defender said, 'We did it.'"
The cook at the Bradenton halfway house greets Thomas as she walks past the
tidy outdoor area where he sits on a steamy summer day.
"Good morning, Mr. Thomas," she says. Thomas follows her inside.
The living room and kitchen are tidy. So is Thomas' 4-bunk room.
The pride of starting over and the giddiness of his new blessing has yet to
Thomas nods over to his collection of donated shirts that hang in his section
of the closet. He points to the 4 pairs of shoes lined with almost military
precision under the side of his bunk.
For the next year Thomas will call the Harvest House home. There is a curfew, a
job requirement and a program that consists of Bible study and anger
Borello told Thomas that if he is successful after a year of working the
program at the halfway house, he can come back to Jacksonville for 1 more year
So far Thomas has done much more than work the program. Because of his age, his
ailing back and positive attitude, the Harvest House gave Thomas the job of
house leader. In this peer support position, he makes sure that all the chores
assigned to about a dozen men starting over like Thomas get done.
Thomas has taken the peer support idea outside of Harvest House as well. Not
long after arriving here, he shared his life story, that of a young man messing
up terribly and landing on death row only to throw away his 1st chance of
freedom to today when he spoke to the 125 men and women participating in
Harvest House's Freedom Program.
"I wish I could live my life over again, but I can't," he says. "I must go on
from here and make the most of it, which I am going to do."
Thomas hopes to continue to share his story and speak at churches and schools,
basically anywhere he can encourage people to think hard before making rash
"He's awesome," said Erin Minor, the executive director of Harvest House.
Just as Thomas feels blessed to have landed at the halfway house, Minor said
the blessing is shared. "What a privilege for us."
As Thomas winds his way through what will be his home for the next year, he
takes out a set of keys and remarks that he - an old man who ordered his last
meal from death row - now holds the the keys to the halfway house's otherwise
"Can you believe it? I'm finally getting another chance at life to get away
from prison," he says. "I'm so grateful to God, I can't say enough I just can't
say it enough. I can't stop smiling. I'm a free man. It's great to be free to
see all the beauty of the things God created; to see the birds flying. ... It's
great not being in there. It feels so good and I???m never going back there."
With that, a smile breaks across his face.
(source: The Floirda Times-Union)
Death penalty reinstated for woman who fatally stabbed Orange County girl in
A federal appeals court Friday reinstated a death sentence for Maria Del Rosio
Alfaro, convicted of murdering a 9-year-old Orange County girl a
quarter-century ago .
Alfaro was sentenced to death in 1992 for fatally stabbing Autumn Wallace
during a burglary and robbery of her family's home in Anaheim Hills in 1990.
Wallace, home alone after school, let Alfaro in the house because she
recognized her as an acquaintance of her older sister.
Alfaro was 18 at the time and a drug addict. She had 4 children when she was
sentenced to death at age 20. She was convicted of stabbing Wallace more than
U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney overturned Alfaro's death sentence on the
grounds that delays in California's capital punishment system produced
arbitrary results in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
But a 3-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said Friday that
Alfaro should have raised that claim 1st in state court.
In a similar case in 2015, a different 9th Circuit panel reinstated a death
sentence for Ernest Dewayne Jones. Carney overturned Jones' sentence on the
same grounds he had overturned Alfaro's.
The majority in the Jones case ruled that that federal judges may not consider
new constitutional theories in cases of habeas corpus, the legal means
prisoners use to challenge their confinement.
The panel that reinstated Alfaro's sentence said the Jones ruling had been
undermined by subsequent U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
(source: Los Angeles Times)
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