Executions – January 2009

January 2, 2009

14 – Curtis Moore (TX)

15 – James Callahan (AL)

15 – Jose Garcia Briseno (TX)

21 – Frank Moore (TX)

22 – Darwin Brown (OK)

22 – Reginald Perkins (TX)

27 – Larry Swearingen (TX)

28 – Virgil Martinez (TX)

29 – Ricardo Ortiz (TX)

Tim Hennis Argues Army Has No Jurisdiction

February 5, 2008

News Update 02.05.08

North Carolina

Yesterday a dozen friends and family members testified on behalf of Lisa Greene, urging the jury to spare her life. Some said they didn’t believe Greene was guilty, others said that the death penalty would only bring more pain to a family that has already endured the loss of two children. Greene’s attorneys have not ruled out the possibility that Greene herself might take the stand today.

At a pretrial hearing yesterday, lawyers for Army Master Sgt. Timothy B. Hennis argued that the military does not have jurisdiction to try him for the 23-year-old triple murder of which Hennis was acquitted in civilian court. The lawyers argued that (1) there was a break in Hennis’s service, which severs the military’s ability to prosecute incidents occurring during the first term of service; (2) the incident occurred off-base and did not involve military personnel, and so did not have the requisite connection to the military; and (3) that the military did not follow proper procedure in pulling Hennis out of retirement back into active duty. The judge did not issue a decision. Hennis’s next pretrial hearing is scheduled for April 8th. Background on the Tim Hennis case is here.


Nebraska will be the next state to abolish the death penalty, if State Senator Ernie Chambers has anything to say about it. Among those speaking in favor of Chambers’ bill: a man who spent 19 years on death row for a crime he did not commit, and a woman whose brother was murdered 23 years ago. Among those speaking against the bill: no one. More on former death row inmate Curtis McCarty here. There are nine people on Nebraska’s death row. Three Nebraskans have been executed since 1976. (c/o SLAP)

The Birmingham News on how a prosecutor’s decision to push for the execution of James Callahan despite the near certainty of a stay of execution brought needless suffering to the families of the defendant and the victim:

By the time the U.S. Supreme Court intervened to block the execution, Callahan was just a little more than an hour away from being put to death. He had visited with his family to say his goodbyes, and the prison system had gone through the necessary motions to prepare for the execution. Even worse, the mother and sister of his victim, Rebecca Suzanne Howell, had already traveled to Atmore to witness the execution. One of them came from Tennessee. The family called the ordeal “cruel and unusual.” They are right, and [Alabama Attorney General Troy] King should be ashamed.

(c/o StandDown)

No Death Penalty for Turner

February 1, 2008

News Update 02.01.08

North Carolina

The State has opted not to seek the death penalty against Dr. Kirk Turner, the Davie County dentist accused of killing his wife in their home last September. Prosecutors are still seeking a sentence of life without parole. Turner’s attorneys presented letters of support from 55 members of the community, and his bond was set at $1 million. Trial has been set for June.

Appalachian State University is presenting a series of events related to capital punishment and wrongful convictions. Discussions, films, and plays are offered (mostly free of charge) as part of a joint effort from the school’s Anthropology, English, History, Political Science and Criminal Justice, Sociology and Social Work, and Theater and Dance Departments. Darryl Hunt is among the featured speakers.


James Callahan received a stay of execution last night, a little more than an hour before he was scheduled to die. The Supreme Court has given Callahan reprieve, at least until he can file a complete appeal of the 11th Circuit’s decision in his case earlier this week. Amnesty International wonders if Alabama is the new Texas, given their recent push for executions and failure to provide counsel to people on death row.

The Texas Prison Museum (now there’s an interesting school field trip) is running a new exhibit called “Last Statement,” which features photographs and statements from the families of murder victims and the families of the executed, alongside facts about the case and a portion of the inmate’s final words. (c/o MVFHR)

State Seeks Death Against Tommy Lee Holiday

January 31, 2008

News Update 01.31.08

North Carolina

Nash County prosecutors have formally announced their intent to seek death against Tommy Lee Holiday, who is accused of killing a Meals on Wheels worker in 2007. Another woman survived the attack. The case has gained attention from white supremacists because Holiday is black and the victims are white. (An informal announcement of intent to seek death was made a week after the crime occurred.)

Carlos Canady, who was sentenced to death in 1999, has entered a plea to life in prison plus 40 years. Canady’s conviction was overturned by the North Carolina Supreme Court in 2002, which found that his trial had been “riddled with errors,” so much so that the Court didn’t bother to discuss them all before granting relief. “We are satisfied with [the plea],” said a member of the victims’ family. “Our main concern was that he was not out on an early release and then somebody else have to go through this.”

Judge Quentin Sumner has imposed a gag order in the case of Mark Bowling, who stands accused of having his mistress kill his wife. “The case will not be tried in the press. It will be tried in the courtroom,” the judge said. The case has attracted a tremendous amount of publicity in the Rocky Mount area, where Bowling was a well-known businessman.

More on the conviction of Lisa Greene here and here. Jurors will hear evidence in the sentencing phase of the trial beginning on Friday.


SCOTUSBlog has all you need to know about Callahan v. Allen. James Callahan’s attorneys have filed their petition to the US Supreme Court, asking that the Court delay his execution until they can file a proper appeal from the 11th Circuit’s surprise decision two days before Callahan’s scheduled execution. Callahan’s future petition will raise three issues: 1) whether the 11th Circuit erred in vacating his stay of execution based on a particular statute of limitations; 2) whether a state statute of limitations is properly applied to a claim based in federal civil rights; and 3) whether a statute of limitations can fairly begin to run when the claim is not ready for review because the method of execution remains uncertain. Callahan’s execution is set for 6:00 PM tonight.

Meanwhile back in Alabama, two state lawmakers have introduced bills to change the state’s capital punishment system. Senator Hank Sanders is proposing a moratorium on executions and a study on the fairness of the administration of the death penalty, while Representative Randy Wood is proposing legislation to expand the death penalty statute to include child rape. Click here for more information about the death penalty in Alabama.

The US Supreme Court has issued its argument calendar for April. Kennedy v. Louisiana, the case testing whether a person can be sentenced to death for a non-fatal crime, will be heard on April 16th.

How Appealing has the goods on Judge Hilton Fuller’s surprise decision to step down from the Brian Nichols/courthouse shooting case. Fuller has come under a great deal of fire over the last several years for having the audacity to, among other things, suggest that Nichols’ lawyers should be paid for their work. The final straw was a recent article in The New Yorker, which published comments made by Fuller to the effect that insanity is Nichols’ only possible defense because, “everyone in the world knows he did it.” The search for a new judge is not expected to be easy.

11th Circuit Orders Callahan Execution

January 30, 2008

This morning, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the stay of execution granted to James Callahan by a federal district court in Alabama in December. The two judges in the majority held that Callahan filed his lethal injection complaint too late, and refused to consider any of the constitutional issues he raised. In Alabama, inmates can choose their method of execution – lethal injection or the electric chair. The Court said that Callahan had two years from the date he selected lethal injection, July 31, 2002, to issue a challenge to that method.

In dissent, Judge Charles Wilson wrote that the clock cannot reasonably begin to run “until the prisoner knows or has reason to know the facts giving rise to his claim and the prisoner’s execution becomes imminent.” If the inmate were required to file his complaint years in advance, the protocol might change in the intervening years and the earlier litigation would have been a waste. Courts generally decline to rule on issues until they are ripe. It is also unclear how Callahan can be expected to have known in 2004 that the Supreme Court would grant cert on an issue in 2007 that they have not ruled on since 1879.

Callahan will now appeal to the United States Supreme Court. The Court has not allowed an execution since September of 2007 when Michael Richard was killed in Texas. Oral arguments were heard in Baze v. Rees, the Kentucky case which put executions on hold nationwide, on January 7th. A decision is expected in June.

Executions – January 2008

January 2, 2008

3 – Paul Dennis Reid (TN – stayed)

9 – Edward Harbison (TN – stayed)

17 – Bobby Woods (TX – stayed)

24 – John Spirko (OH)

31 – James Callahan (AL)


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