In Pasquotank County, Samuel Jackson has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and accepted a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Jackson was accused of a 2006 double homicide. The plea was entered the same day Jackson’s capital trial was set to begin.
In Chatham County, Bobby Lee Person has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and accepted a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Person was charged in the 2007 stabbing death of his mother. From the beginning, the family (of both victim and offender) have insisted that they did not want Person sentenced to death.
When Eve Carson was murdered last March, it shook the UNC-Chapel Hill community to the core. Still, no one was more devastated that the young woman’s parents. Now both State and Federal law enforcement appear poised to seek the death penalty against one of Eve’s alleged killers, despite her and her family’s opposition to capital punishment. “They are very, very grateful to law enforcement and to the state and to the federal prosecutors for the way they’ve gone about their work,” said an attorney for the Carson family. “They would never want to say anything to discourage them from aggressively doing their job. But they do not believe in the death penalty, and neither did Eve.”
[Click here for The Progressive Pulse's thoughts on how seeking the death penalty in federal court is an attempt to ensure death for the defendant, despite the county's historical opposition to the death penalty. No one has been executed for a crime committed in Orange County since 1948.]
Conaway was convicted and sentenced to death in 1992 for the murders of Thomas Weatherford and Paul Callahan. Conaway’s co-defendants, Kelly Harrington, Michael McKinnon, and Kevin Scott, all testified against him and were rewarded by having the murder charges against them dropped. Each pleaded guilty to kidnapping, and all were released from prison within 10 years. The testimony of Conaway’s co-defendants was the only proof that he committed the murders in question.
Investigation by post-conviction counsel revealed that one of the jurors who found Conaway guilty and sentenced him to death was double first cousins once removed with co-defendant Kelly Harrington. (Harrington’s father and the juror were double first cousins, as their mothers were sisters and their fathers were stepbrothers.) During voir dire, the juror denied knowing any of the witnesses, despite the fact that he and Harrington’s father were extremely close, and he and Harrington lived in the same small town for 13 years. Even after Harrington testified and other family members confronted the juror about his inappropriate service, the juror continued to hide this relationship from the court.
The Sixth Amendment guarantees a defendant the right to be tried by an impartial jury. Surely a jury composed of close relatives of one’s co-defendants, who stand to benefit from their testimony against you, cannot be impartial.
It should be noted that Conaway’s trial counsel received an anonymous phone call tipping them off to the relationship between the juror and Kelly Harrington. The trial judge refused to allow them to inquire further. Sixteen years of costly litigation could have been saved if the judge had allowed Conaway’s trial counsel to ask a few simple questions.
North Carolina has 120 days to decide whether to retry Mr. Conaway or set him free.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a stay of execution for Georgia inmate Troy Davis. The Court’s order is available here.
The order gives Davis’ attorneys 15 days to file a brief, and allows the State of Georgia 10 days to respond. The questions to be addressed are:
1) Whether Davis can meet the stringent requirements for permission to file a second petition for habeas corpus; and
2) Even if Davis cannot meet those requirements, can he still be executed if he can establish that he is innocent?
More as this story develops.
A few quick nods to stories outside of North Carolina.
The AJC has this on Troy Davis’ attorneys’ attempt to get his claims of innocence into court.
A life verdict for Michael Davis of Ohio, who was convicted of six counts of aggravated murder.
A life verdict for Ronald Hankins of Delaware, who was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder.
In Tennessee, the news was less good for Rejon Taylor. Taylor became the 56th resident of federal death row, which is housed in Terre Haute, Indiana. Taylor, who is black, was 19 years old when he killed a white restaurant owner. Some are asking whether race played a role in his death sentence. More information on the federal death penalty is available here.
Meanwhile, Texas has scheduled 10 executions in 30 days. Fortunately for Bobby Wayne Woods, he won’t be one of them. Mr. Woods was granted a stay of execution, apparently due to evidence that he is mentally retarded.
Testimony will continue today in the trial of Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez. Martinez is accused of exploding a claymore mine in the window of Captain Phillip Esposito’s office, killing Esposito and First Lieutenant Louis Allen. If convicted, Martinez could face the death penalty. After brief testimony from the widows, the witnesses thus far have been other soldiers stationed in Iraq with Martinez, including one of the first responders to the scene of the explosion.
Opening arguments in the trial of Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez will begin tomorrow morning at Fort Bragg. Martinez’s jury consists of eight officers and six enlisted soldiers. He is accused of killing two officers near Tikrit, Iraq in 2005.
Learn more about the military death penalty here. Nine men are held on the military’s death row at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. A servicemember was last executed in 1961.
Yesterday’s hearing in Wake County brought no resolution to the controversy over lethal injection in North Carolina. Attorneys for five death row inmates were in court yesterday, arguing that their clients have a right to challenge the Council of State’s approval of a new lethal injection protocol.
Judge Donald Stephens said that he wouldn’t decide the issue until after the state Supreme Court has had a chance to rule on a separate but related appeal filed by doctors opposed to active medical participation in executions. The North Carolina Supreme Court will hear arguments in that case on November 18th.
Some video from the hearing is available here.