Medical Board Appeals Death Docs Decision

July 31, 2008

News Update 07.31.08

North Carolina

The North Carolina Medical Board filed an appeal in the NC Supreme Court yesterday, hoping to overturn a 2007 decision by a Superior Court that would prevent the Board from sanctioning doctors who actively participate in the taking of life. The Board asserts that active participation violates both a doctor’s oath and the intent of the legislature in passing a statute that requires only the presence of a doctor.

Stacey Lee Wynn will serve consecutive sentences of life without parole for two murders that occurred in the span of three days in 2005. Wracked by bipolar disorder and in the middle of a cocaine binge, Wynn is said to have bound a 66-year-old man at the hands and feet and beat him to death with a toilet seat. Two days later, he shot an acquaintance in the head and robbed him of cash and drugs. Wynn then disappeared for three months until he was found living in South Carolina under an assumed name. Before he was struck by mental illness and discovered cocaine, Wynn was a full-scholarship music student at UNC-Wilmington.

DW was recently contacted by the Delaware Libertarian blog with a request to spread the word about NC gubernatorial candidate Dr. Michael Munger, who opposes the death penalty. DW does not endorse candidates for political office.


In Alabama, the execution of Tommy Arthur was stayed after another inmate (who is serving a life sentence for another murder) confessed to the crime for which Arthur was supposed to die. Arthur’s attorneys asked the court to delay the execution and asked the governor to order testing of the DNA of the second man, Bobby Ray Gilbert, against the DNA in a rape kit taken at the scene. Oops, said Alabama, we lost it. Arthur’s attorneys have been trying to get Alabama to conduct DNA testing for years. Arthur was sentenced to die for the murder of Troy Wicker, Jr., based in large part upon the testimony of Wicker’s wife. Judy Wicker admitted to hiring someone to kill her husband. Prosecutors agreed to release her ten years into what was supposed to have been a life sentence if she testified that the man she hired was Arthur.

Kentucky is resisting DNA testing in the case of Thomas Clyde Bowling, who is on death row for a double murder the state has always claimed he committed alone. Unfortunately for Kentucky, preliminary testing on the evidence shows that the DNA of at least three people (not including the victims) is present. It is also not clear if any of that DNA belongs to Bowling. “If Bowling’s DNA isn’t on it, it definitely helps him,” said Bowling’s attorney, David Barron. “Even if his DNA is on it, it still helps him.”

Executions – July 2008

July 1, 2008

1 – Mark Dean Schwab (FL)

10 – Carlton Turner (TX)

10 – Kent Jermaine Jackson (VA)

11 – Eric Hanson (IL – stayed)

14 – Tamir Hamilton (NV – stayed)

15 – Dale Leo Bishop (MS – stayed)

22 – Kevin Young (OK)

22 – Lester Bower (TX)

23 – Derrick Sonnier (TX)

24 – Edward Nathaniel Bell (VA – stayed)

24 – Christopher Scott Emmett (VA)

28 – George Decay (AR – stayed)

30 – John Middleton (MO)

31 – Larry Davis (TX)

31 – Tommy Arthur (AL)

Charles Triplin Not Guilty

December 6, 2007

News Update 12.06.07

North Carolina

Yesterday, a Cumberland County jury found Charles Triplin not guilty of the crime for which he has spent more than four years behind bars. Until a month before trial, Triplin faced the death penalty for the 2003 murder of Shelly Wooten. The jury reported that they did not believe the testimony of the State’s two main witnesses, both of whom received plea deals in exchange for their testimony, that Triplin was with them on the night of the murder. Said Triplin on his way out of the Cumberland County Jail, “I only came to Fayetteville three times in my life, and I ain’t coming back.”


In Tennessee, Michael McCormick was found not guilty of a murder for which he spent 16 years on death row. McCormick received a new trial after it was revealed that a hair found in the victim’s car, used at his first trial to tie McCormick to the scene, came from someone else. The real killer has not been identified.

The Supreme Court has stayed the Alabama execution of Tommy Arthur, until such time as the Court takes action on Arthur’s lethal injection lawsuit. The order is here.

The transcript of the oral argument in Snyder is available online here. Media coverage here.

Dead Men Tell Many Tales

November 30, 2007

News Update 11.30.07

North Carolina

Alan Gell, who was freed from prison in 2004 after being sentenced to die for a crime he could not have committed, is back in prison. The News & Observer explores why. More information on Gell’s exoneration is available here.

In 2003, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that an attorney can be forced to reveal statements made to him in confidence by a now-deceased client, where that information would be useful in convicting a guilty person. In 2007, an attorney is facing disbarment for voluntarily revealing statements made to him in confidence by a now-deceased client, where that information would be useful in freeing an innocent person.


As mentioned here, here, and here, the issue of the death penalty was raised in this week’s CNN-YouTube Republican presidential debate. A young man from Tennessee, directing his question to Christian conservatives, asked, “The death penalty – what would Jesus do?” Mike Huckabee, being the only person on the stage to ever greenlight an execution or obtain a divinity degree, took the question. (Huckabee is an ordained Southern Baptist minister, and approved the executions of fifteen men and one woman while serving as Governor of Arkansas.) Huckabee’s reply, “Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office,” is discussed in the above-linked blogs.

I was given pause by another part of Huckabee’s answer. In talking about denying clemency, the Governor said, “Let me tell you, it was the toughest decision I ever made as a human being. I read every page of every document of every case that ever came before me…” Presumably Huckabee meant that he read whatever was put in front of him, not the entire case file. It seems to me that reading the condemned man’s clemency petition is the least a governor can do, and that there is no reason to be patting yourself on the back for taking this duty seriously. Clemency is the last chance to right wrongs that the courts may have overlooked, ignored, or been powerless to correct. (Innocence is one example; innocence alone is not grounds for relief in federal court.) If bothering to consider materials prepared in the last-ditch effort to save a man’s life is exemplary behavior, our standards of justice have fallen very far indeed.

Amnesty International asks, “To DNA test or not to DNA test – why is this even a question?” Tommy Arthur, scheduled to die next week in Alabama, may or may not be guilty. Often in murder cases, the perpetrator leaves no DNA traces behind, so it is hard to be sure. In Arthur’s case, however, there is a rape kit, hair samples, and bloody clothing, any or all of which could conclusively identify the killer. Amnesty is asking people to contact Governor Riley and urge him to order DNA testing. You can learn more about the case here.


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