The Latest From Florida’s Death Row

Jury Recommends Death Penalty for Brandon Bradley in Brevard Deputy Murder: 

The jury which convicted Brandon Bradley of murder recommended he receive the death sentence for the murder of Brevard County Deputy Barbara Pill during a traffic stop in 2012.

A judge will now decide whether to accept the recommendation, or hand down a life sentence.

The vote was 10-2, and revealed to the court after three hours of deliberations.

Read more on the case here.

Florida Supreme Court Upholds Death Sentence for Toney Davis: 

The Court ruled against Davis’s appeal of his conviction for the 1995 rape and murder of Caleasha Cunningham in Duval County. The case summary from the Florida Commission on Capital Cases is as follows:

Toney Davis lived with Gwen Cunningham from September 1992 until 12/09/92.  On 12/09/92, Gwen Cunningham left her two-year-old daughter, Caleasha, in the care of Davis while she ran an errand.  An acquaintance of Davis, Thomas Moore, arrived at the apartment around 12:45 p.m.  Davis answered the door with Caleasha draped over his arm.  Davis told Moore that Caleasha had choked on a French fry, and while Moore called 911, Davis gave Caleasha mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.  Prior to the 911 call, neighbors reported hearing thumping noises and Davis’ raised voice coming from the apartment.

Caleasha was wet, unconscious, and had blood in her mouth when she was examined at the apartment.  She was naked from the waist down, although she was fully clothed when Gwen Cunningham left the apartment.  Caleasha was revived, but later died on 12/10/92.

The emergency room doctor who examined Caleasha noticed bruising, swelling of the brain, and pools of blood in the skull, as well as injuries that suggested vaginal penetration by a penis, finger, or other object.  The cause of death was cerebral hemorrhage, caused by four blows to the head.

Caleasha’s hair bow was found in the bed and her blood was found on the sheet, pillowcase, in the bathroom, and on the crotch of Davis’ shorts and underwear.

Florida Supreme Court Upholds Death Sentence for Robert Hendrix: 

Robert Hendrix, 47, was convicted in the August 1990 murders of his cousin Elmer Scott and Scott’s wife, Michelle, in Lake County. According to the Orlando Sentinel,  Scott was killed to keep him from testifying in an upcoming armed robbery case that could have resulted in Hendrix serving life in prison. Scott’s wife was then killed because she could identify Hendrix.

Hendrix is slated for execution on April 23. His attorneys argued that he had ineffective counsel, that the trial judge was biased, and that the prosecutors committed a Brady violation by withholding evidence about an informer. However, the Court ruled that his claims were without merit, and at this time his execution is set to proceed.

 

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The Latest Death Penalty Headlines

Editor’s Note: Some readers may have noticed this blog hasn’t been updated in almost a year. Due to a variety of factors, not least of which was a simple lack of time, I took a hiatus from posting here. I’m now trying to make more time in my schedule for this project, so with any luck regular postings will be returning. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

The Tennessee Senate Has Backed a Bill to Reinstate the Electric Chair

Tennessee Senators overwhelming voted on Wednesday to reinstate the electric chair to execute capital inmates in the event that the state is unable to procure the necessary chemicals to perform lethal injections.

In a 23-3 vote, the Senate approved the Capital Punishment Enforcement Act, tabled by Sen. Ken Yager, which would provide the state’s Department of Corrections with the legal backing to kill inmates with the electric chair as an alternative, according to The Tennessean.

A similar piece of legislation has reportedly been tabled in Tennessee’s House of Representatives.

Related: The First Photograph of an Execution by Electric Chair

Now He Tells Us: John Paul Stevens Wants to Abolish the Death Penalty:

A man who consistently upheld capital convictions and the death penalty itself for over 35 years, who helped send hundreds of men and women to their deaths by failing to hold state officials accountable for constitutional violations during capital trials, who more recently endorsed dubious lethal injection standards because he did not want to buck up against court precedent, now wants the Eighth Amendment to read this way, with five new words added:

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments such as the death penalty inflicted.

 

Indiana Woman Starts Petition to get the American Pharmacist Association to Alter Code of Ethics to Ban Participation in Executions: 

“The Association could help put a stop to the manufacturing and supplying of drugs used for lethal injections,” Kauffman’s petition, which garnered more than 36,000 signatures, explains, “and help end the use of the death penalty in the U.S. once and for all.”

“I was reading an article last July about an execution that was postponed in Georgia because the Department of Corrections wouldn’t give any information to the lawyers or the judges about what execution drugs were going to be used and where they had gotten them from. The article mentioned that pharmacists, unlike other medical professionals, are not banned from participating in executions. And I remember thinking — wow, that’s surprising,” Kauffman recounted in an interview with ThinkProgress. “I happen to be opposed to the death penalty. But I’m especially opposed to the medicalization of the death penalty.”

Report Recommends 56 Changes to Ohio Death Penalty, Would Restrict Use of Law: 

Ohio should restrict the use of capital punishment charges and create a state panel to approve them, according to two of the 56 recommendations in the final report by a committee that spent more than two years studying changes to the law.

The committee proposes eliminating cases where an aggravated murder was committed during a burglary, robbery or rape, requiring solid proof of a defendant’s guilt such as DNA evidence, and banning the execution of the mentally ill, according to a draft copy of the report obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.

 

New York Times Debate: What It Means if the Death Penalty Is Dying:

Last week, lawmakers in New Hampshire heard testimony on a bill outlawing the death penalty. If passed, the law would make New Hampshire the 19th state to abolish capital punishment. The United States, the only country in the Americas to practice the death penalty last year, executed 39 people, four fewer than the year before, and Texas accounted for 41 percent of them, according to Amnesty International.

As executions become concentrated in fewer and fewer states and racial disparities continue, does the application of capital punishment make it unconstitutionally cruel and unusual?

 

Man on Texas Death Row Testifies in Court to Hurry His Execution:

A Corpus Christi man on death row for fatally shooting a five-year old boy nearly 22 years ago is one step away from getting a solid execution date.

Larry Hatten, 38, testified Thursday in the 347th District Court about his own competency before Judge Missy Medary. He was brought back from death row to testify after he sent his attorney a letter saying he did not want anymore appeals.

On Thursday, Hatten told the judge that he just didn’t want to waste anymore time.

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Last Night’s Execution: John Quintanilla, Texas

Article from the Associated Press. Read the original here

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — A Texas man convicted of fatally shooting a retired sheriff’s deputy during the robbery of an amusement center more than a decade ago was put to death Tuesday.

John Manuel Quintanilla received lethal injection for gunning down 60-year-old Victor Billings at a game room in Victoria, about 125 miles southwest of Houston. The 2002 slaying came just a few months after Quintanilla had been released from prison after serving a sentence for several burglary convictions.

Asked to make a final statement before his execution, Quintanilla told his wife he loved her.

“Thank you for all the years of happiness,” he said.

He never acknowledged his victim’s friends or relatives, including two daughters, who watched through a window.

As the lethal drug began taking effect, he snored about a half dozen times, then stopped breathing. At 7:32 p.m. CDT – 15 minutes after being given the drug – he was pronounced dead.

Quintanilla’s wife, a German national who married him by proxy while he was in prison, watched through an adjacent window and sobbed.

Quintanilla, 36, became the ninth Texas inmate to receive lethal injection this year and the 501st since the state resumed carrying out capital punishment in 1982. His was the first of two executions set for this week; the other is planned for Thursday.

Quintanilla’s punishment was carried out after the U.S. Supreme Court refused two last-day appeals.

His lawyers contended his confession was coerced by authorities threatening to also charge one of his sisters and that the statement improperly was allowed into evidence at his trial in 2004. The lawyers obtained affidavits from two jurors who said the confession was a key to their decision to convict him.

“It is clear that Quintanilla would not have been convicted of capital murder if his confession had not been admitted – a fact confirmed by two of his jurors,” appeals lawyer David Dow told the high court.

The appeal also argued Quintanilla had deficient legal help during his trial and in earlier stages of his appeals, and that his case would give justices the opportunity to define filing rules in light of recent death penalty rulings from the court.

The Texas attorney general’s office said the appeal was without merit and improperly filed, and that the juror affidavits also were improper.

“There wasn’t any coercion whatsoever,” Dexter Eaves, the former Victoria County district attorney who was lead prosecutor at the trial, recalled last week. He also said that while the robbers, who fled with about $2,000, were masked, witnesses were able to “describe very clearly who the triggerman was.”

Court records show Billings, a retired chief deputy from nearby Edna in adjacent Jackson County, was at the game center with his wife on the Sunday before Thanksgiving in 2002 when the gunmen came in through a back door. Billings approached one of them and grabbed the barrel of the gunman’s rifle “so no one else was going to be hurt and paid for it dearly,” Eaves said.

He said Billings was shot three times, the last one fired while he was on his knees.

“A very cold killing,” Eaves said.

During questioning by detectives for an unrelated robbery some two months later, Quintanilla made references to the still unsolved Billings case, then led authorities to a canal where divers recovered items used in the holdup.

“They had the mask, the guns and his statements saying who did what,” Jim Beeler, Quintanilla’s lead trial lawyer, said. “He told them everything.”

Beeler said the trial judge overruled his objections and ruled the statements proper and admissible into evidence. He also said Quintanilla signed affidavits ordering that his defense team present no mitigating evidence during the punishment phase of his trial, where jurors deciding his sentence could have considered he had virtually no parental supervision while growing up.

“You want to argue your case, completely and totally,” Beeler said. “In that situation, we’re not being allowed to present our case, based on our client.

“It’s extremely frustrating.”

Prosecutors bolstered their case for Quintanilla’s future dangerousness by presenting evidence he attacked a jailer with a homemade weapon while awaiting trial.

“He did not do himself any favors,” Eaves said.

Quintanilla’s accomplice, Jeffrey Bibb, 33, is serving 60 years for murder and 50 years for aggravated robbery.

On Thursday, another Texas inmate is set for lethal injection. Vaughn Ross, 41, is to be executed for a double slaying in Lubbock in 2001.

 

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Florida’s Execution of Marshall Lee Gore Stayed a Second Time

Florida death row inmate Marshall Lee Gore, scheduled to be executed tonight, has been given another last-minute stay, his second one in a little more than two weeks.

Gore, who received two death sentences for the 1988 killings of Susan Roark and Robyn Novick, was only an hour away from execution June 24, when his first reprieve came through. The lethal injection was temporarily stayed by the  U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in order to hear arguments from Gore’s attorneys that he is insane, and therefore ineligible for execution.

That appeal was denied a few days later on June 28, when judges ruled he had not met the necessary criteria for halting the execution. The stay was lifted and a new execution date was set for today.

But Gore got another reprieve Tuesday when a judge ordered more hearings. From David Ovalle for the Miami Herald:

On Tuesday, a Bradford County circuit judge agreed with Gore’s defense lawyers and found “reasonable grounds” that the Death Row inmate was too insane to be executed.

Circuit Judge Ysleta McDonald ordered that more hearings be held to determine Gore’s mental state and whether his execution may proceed without violating the Supreme Court’s ruling banning the execution of the mentally incompetent.

One of Gore’s attorneys, Todd Scher, told the Sun Sentinel“he has a long history of mental illness and delusional behavior and all of that needs to be brought to the court’s attention. The law is very clear that somebody who is not sane cannot be executed.”

The additional last-minute reprieve frustrated the victims’ family members, some of whom planned to attend the execution.

“I don’t know why we have to protect individuals like this when it was clearly shown that he was responsible for the death,” Novick’s cousin Phil Novick told the Sentinel in a telephone interview Tuesday. “When he finally does meet his end, I’ll just forget about him like last Wednesday’s trash. It’s like putting down a dog. Just a wasted life and an all-lose situation all the way around.”

Related Reading: 
Stay of Execution Lifted for Marshall Gore

Tonight’s Execution of Marshall Lee Gore in Florida Temporarily Stayed

Execution of Marshall Lee Gore Set To Move Forward As Planned

Florida Executions Speeding Up As Gov. Scott Signs Another Death Warrant

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The Latest From Florida’s Death Row

Brevard Killer’s Appeal Rejected by Florida Supreme Court: James Phillip Barnes—who was convicted of killing two women—will remain on Florida’s death row after his latest appeal was rejected by the state’s highest court. In a decision made public today, Florida Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Barnes, who is facing lethal injection for the 1988 killing of Melbourne nurse Patricia “Patsy” Miller.

Florida Supreme Court Reverses Two Death Sentences, Citing Mental Issues: In two separate pre-Independence Day decisions, the Florida Supreme Court this week overturned the death sentences of Michael Shellito, 37, and Ralston Davis, 28, ruling in both cases that the murderers’ mental state at the time of the killings should have played a larger role in theirs sentences.

Supreme Court Denies Gregory’s Death-Penalty Appeal for 2007 Murders in Flagler BeachWilliam Gregory, 30, was sentenced to death on April 14, 2011, for the murder of his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend as the couple slept in a house in Flagler Beach on August 21, 2007. On Thursday, a unanimous Florida Supreme Court rejected Gregory’s appeal.

Jonathan LeBaron Faces Sentencing Aug. 12 in Murder Case: Following a May 10 jury recommendation in favor of the death penalty, convicted murderer Jonathan LeBaron will face sentencing August 12 in Monroe County Circuit Court. Judge Mark Jones will pronounce sentence in a proceeding set to begin at 11:30 a.m. in Courtroom B of the Freeman Justice Center in Key West.

New Trial Ordered for Florida Death Row Inmate:  The Florida Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for a man sentenced to death for a 1996 fatal stabbing. The court unanimously upheld a lower court’s 2010 decision Thursday to grant a retrial to 51-year-old Michael Peter Fitzpatrick. Justices found that Fitzpatrick had ineffective help from his trial attorney, who should have consulted with experts on the DNA and other forensic evidence used against him.

Death Sentence Upheld for Convicted Cop-Killer Jason Wheeler: The Florida Supreme Court today upheld the conviction and death sentence for Jason Wheeler, who was convicted of killing a Lake County deputy in 2005. Wheeler was found guilty of shooting Deputy Wayne Koester, one of the deputies dispatched to his Paisley home in February 2005 for a domestic-violence complaint. Wheeler escaped arrest initially, but deputies tracked him down, shot him and paralyzed him.

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Stay of Execution Lifted for Marshall Gore

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

UPDATE: A new execution date has been set for Marshall Gore. He is now set for execution on July 10, 2013 at 6 p.m. 

According to Miami Herald reporter David Ovalle, the stay of execution for Marshall Gore, whose execution was halted Monday night, has been lifted and a new date will soon be set. (Update: here’s a link to the Herald story that’s now published.)

Gore, who received two death sentences for the 1988 killings of Susan Roark and Robyn Novick, was only an hour away from execution when a federal appeals court temporarily stayed the lethal injection.

The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals stopped the execution in order to hear arguments from Gore’s attorneys that he is insane, and therefore ineligible for execution. However, the court wanted to move quickly so they could come to a decision before the death warrant, signed in May, could expire.

Oral arguments were held today and Gore’s appeal was subsequently denied. Because the warrant is still active, a new execution date will likely be set quite soon.

Related Reading: 

Federal Court Halts Execution of Miami Killer Marshall Lee Gore

Execution of Marshall Lee Gore Set to Move Forward As Planned

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Florida’s Timely Justice Act Challenged in State Supreme Court

Attorneys for a group of Florida’s death row inmates have filed a challenge to the newly passed Timely Justice Act, which would speed executions in Florida. (Yours truly has not yet been able to blog about the law at this point, but you can find a wealth of articles about it, like this one from Slate and this one from The Miami Herald.)

The Palm Beach Post has an article detailing the challenge which I’ve pasted below. You can also read the original here as well as an Associated Press story on the suit here.

By Dara Kam

Palm Beach Post Capital Bureau

TALLAHASSEE — Attorneys representing Death Row inmates have filed a challenge to a law aimed at speeding up executions, saying the “Timely Justice Act” is an unconstitutional power grab by the Legislature and violates convicts’ constitutional rights to due process and equal protection.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday with the Florida Supreme Court is led by two lawyers — Neal Dupree, capital collateral regional counsel south; and Bill Jennings, capital collateral regional counsel middle. They lead the state agencies that represent Death Row inmates in postconviction proceedings in their respective Florida districts.

Dozens of lawyers and more than 150 inmates awaiting execution joined the suit against Attorney General Pam Bondi and the state of Florida.

The suit was filed less than two weeks after Gov. Rick Scott signed the measure into law. “We will defend it,” Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said in an email.

Scott’s office has launched a public-relations campaign disputing reports that the new law abbreviates judicial rights, insisting instead that the law “makes technical amendments to current law and provides clarity and transparency to legal proceedings.”

Florida has 405 inmates on Death Row. The average length of time between conviction and execution is more than two decades.

The new law, which takes effect July 1, requires the Florida Supreme Court to certify to the governor when a Death Row inmate’s appeals have been exhausted. The governor will have 30 days to sign a death warrant once the capital clemency process is complete.

The law also creates time limits for production of public records in postconviction cases and imposes penalties on defense lawyers deemed ineffective.

Dupree and Jennings asked the Florida Supreme Court to issue an emergency injunction blocking the law, warning it will create a “flood of death warrants that will inundate the courts” and diminish the court’s review of capital cases. They also requested that the court hear oral arguments in the case.

If the law is not halted, “the process will have the unconstitutional and irreversible result of individuals being executed under a legislatively determined judicial procedure in which violations of their constitutional rights go unresolved,” the lawyers wrote in an 89-page filing. “Further, Florida history shows that diminished process can have tragic and irreversible consequences.”

The request for an injunction also includes a lengthy examination of efforts by the Supreme Court, the Legislature and previous governors to come up a more expedited yet fair death penalty procedure.

That process “cannot and should not be displaced by a lawmaking process based on political, rather than constitutional and equitable, concerns,” wrote Dupree and Jennings, joined by Martin McClain, who has represented numerous Death Row inmates, including some who have been exonerated.

The lawyers rely on many of the same arguments used by the Supreme Court when it struck down the 2000 Death Penalty Reform Act, the Legislature’s last attempt to speed up executions. The 200 law imposed time limits on appeals and created a two-tiered system for direct appeals and collateral proceedings.

In much the same way, the new law imposes time lines for appeals, thereby taking away the court’s power to establish its own rules, the lawyers argued.

Among the top concerns with the new law are limits on appeals that can be made once a warrant is signed. Only 19 of the 75 prisoners executed in Florida since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 were put to death after their first warrant, the lawyers wrote.

According to Scott’s office, 13 Death Row inmates would fit the criteria under the new law to have a death warrant signed.

The lawsuit is a rehashing of the “same spurious arguments that have turned our death penalty into a mockery in Florida,” said state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, the bill’s sponsor.

“Their stated role is to not have anyone executed on their watch. They oppose the death penalty in every case and use all legal filings necessary to delay the inevitable. And that’s exactly what this legislation was designed to put a stop to,” he said.

Negron said he is confident the court will uphold the law.

But lawyers for the condemned argued in the brief that the new process lacks an understanding of the complexities of the process and imposes restrictions on federal appeals.

The Legislature “has made profoundly critical decisions determining what judicial vehicles are available to capital defendants prior to the State taking the ultimate punitive act of terminating their lives, yet it seems the Legislature does not have an understanding of those vehicles and their names. Unless, that is, we must presume that the Legislature intended to cut off U.S. Supreme Court review of Florida death cases, which would present concerns of federalism, constitutionality and fairness beyond those addressed herein,” the lawyers wrote.

 

 

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The Latest From Florida’s Death Row

Florida Death Row Inmate Seeks Eau Claire HearingConvicted murderer Bill P. Marquardt believes his convictions in Eau Claire County played a role in his Florida death sentence. The 37-year-old Marquardt, an inmate in a Florida prison, is requesting an Eau Claire County judge appoint an attorney for him and hold an evidentiary hearing at which he can present more than a dozen issues related to his January 2003 conviction on animal cruelty, burglary and firearms charges.

“These Eau Claire convictions were Florida (aggravators),” Marquardt wrote in a 30-plus-page handwritten petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed in Eau Claire County Court.

Florida Supreme Court Chooses New Clerk:  A Tallahassee lawyer with experience defending death row prisoners and expertise in court technology will become clerk of the Florida Supreme Court next November. Chief Justice Ricky Polston announced the selection of John Tomasino to succeed Clerk Thomas D. Hall, who is retiring in October after 13 years in the post.

No Death Penalty for Woman in Stepdaughter’s Killing:  The prosecution announced it is not seeking the death penalty against Misty Stoddard, who is accused of killing her 11-year-old autistic stepdaughter in December. The revelation came Tuesday during a court hearing as Stoddard, 36, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, the latest charge against her.

Changes Coming for Florida’s Death Penalty System:  Florida is moving to a new death penalty system designed to reduce delays.

State lawmakers passed the “Timely Justice Act” last spring to create specific timeframes for appeals and legal motions. Supporters of the bill argued it made no sense to allow inmates to remain on death row for 30 years or more. Gov. Scott signed the bill, saying it would improve the orderly administration of capital punishment in Florida.

But opponents say Florida is charging ahead with executions at a time when a more careful review of the system is warranted.

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The Last Words of William Van Poyck

Dear Sis, 
If you are reading this, I have gone the way of the earth, my atonement fulfilled.

William Van Poyck‘s sister has posted his final words, by way of two last letters he wrote her prior to his June 12 execution.

Here’s one from June 3rd, only a little more than a week away from his execution:

Dear Sis~

Ten days ’till departure time. You already know that they killed my neighbor, Elmer, 5 days ago. Then they moved me into his cell. After they execute someone they move the rest of us down one cell, working our way to cell#1, the launching pad to the gurney next door.  This is a bad luck cell; very few of us get out of here alive!  In two days I’ll go onto Phase II and they’ll move all  my property from my cell, and post a guard in front of my cell 24/7 to record everything I do.  These will be hectic days, freighted with emotion, all the final letters, all the final phone calls, final visits, final goodbyes.  Things have become even more regimented as “established procedures” increasingly take over.  More cell front visits from high ranking administration and DOC officials asking if everything is O.K., forms to fill out (cremation or burial?).  I declined the offer of a “last meal”.  I’m not interested in participating in that time-worn ritual, to feed some reporter’s breathless post-execution account.  Besides, material gratification will be the last thing on my mind as I prepare to cross over to the non-material planes.  Watching Elmer go through his final days really drove home how ritualized this whole process has become; the ritual aspect perhaps brings some numbing comfort – or sense of purpose – to those not really comfortable with this whole killing people scheme.  This is akin to participating in a play where the participants step to a rote cadence, acting out their parts in the script, with nobody pausing to question the underlying premise.  It’s like a Twilight Zone episode where you want to grab someone, shake them hard, and yell “Hey, wake up! Don’t you know what’s going on here?!!!”

My very accelerated appeal is before the Florida Supreme Court; my brief is due today, (Monday), the state’s brief tomorrow and oral arguments are scheduled for Thursday June 6th (D-Day Anniversary).  I expect an immediate ruling, or perhaps on Friday.  By the time you read this you’ll already know the result and since there’s no higher court to go to on this you’ll know if I live or die on June 12th.  I am not optimistic, Sis.  Although I have some substantial, compelling issues, as you know (e.g., my appointed direct appeal attorney who turned out to be a mentally ill, oft-hospitalized, crack head, convicted of cocaine possession and subsequently disbarred whose incompetence sabotaged my appeal) the law provides the courts with countless ways to deny a prisoner any appellate review of even the most meritorious claims.  I won’t turn this into a discourse on legal procedures; but many years of observation has taught me that once a death warrant is signed it’s near impossible to stop the  momentum of that train.  Issues that would normally offer you some relief, absent a warrant, suddenly become “meritless” under the tension of a looming execution date.  Nobody wants to be the one to stop an execution, it’s almost sacrilegious.

So many people are praying and fighting to save my life that I am loathe to express any pessimism, as if that’s a betrayal of those supporting me.  And, there is some hope, at least for a stay of execution.  But honestly my worst fear is a temporary stay of 20, 30 days.  Unless a stay results in my lawyers digging up some new, previously undiscovered substantial claim that will get me a new sentencing hearing, a stay simply postpones the inevitable.  What I don’t want is to be back here in the same position in 30 days, forcing you and all my loved ones to endure another heart-breaking cycle of final goodbyes.  I cannot ask that of them.  I’d rather just go on June 12th and get this over with.          This may be disappointing to those who are trying so hard to extend my life, even for a few days, but there it is.

Time – that surprisingly subjective, abstract concept – is becoming increasingly compressed for me.  I’m staying rooted in the here and now, not dwelling on the past or anxiously peering into the future, but inhabiting each unfolding moment as it arrives in my consciousness (F.Y.I., I highly recommend The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle, for anyone facing imminent execution!)  I’m still able to see the beauty of this world, and value the kindness of the many beautiful souls who work tirelessly to make this a better place.  I am calm and very much at peace, Sis, so don’t worry about my welfare down here on death watch.  I will endure this without fear, and with as much grace as I can summon.  Whatever happens, it’s all good, it’s just the way it’s supposed to be.
Much Love,
Bill

Bill’s final letter, written on the day of his execution, is much more brief:

Dear Sis,
If you are reading this, I have gone the way of the earth, my atonement fulfilled. When your tears have dried—as they will—and you look up at the sky, allow yourself to smile when you think of me, free at last. Though I have departed my physical vehicle, know that my soul—timeless, boundless and eternal—soars joyfully among the stars.

Despite my many flaws on earth, I was blessed to be loved by so many special souls who saw past my feet of clay and into my heart. Know that in my final hours, it was that love which sustained my spirit and brought me peace. Love, like our souls, is eternal and forever binds us, and in due time it will surely draw us all back together again. Until then, Godspeed to you and all who have loved me!
Light & Love,
Bill

 

Related Reading:

Dispatches From Death Row: William Van Poyck

“I Have 21 Days Left To Live”: Counting Down To An Execution

Florida Executes William Van Poyck

Gov. Scott Signs Death Warrant for Florida Inmate William Van Poyck

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Kimberly McCarthy’s Execution Tonight in Texas is State’s 500th

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

Texas marked a milestone tonight as the state carried out their 500th execution since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

The inmate executed, Kimberly L. McCarthy, was only the fifth woman to be put to death in the Lone Star State since 1854 and the 13th to be executed nationwide in the past 40 years. The last time a woman was executed was the lethal injection of Teresa Lewis in Virginia on Sept. 23, 2010. The last time a woman was executed in Texas was in 2005.

McCarthy, who was previously married to New Black Panther Party founder Aaron Michaels, was one of only 10 women on death row in Texas.

She was originally slated for lethal injection Jan. 29th, but received a stay in April, and then another postponement. Her attorneys tried to argue that McCarthy, who is black, received inadequate counsel and was convicted by an almost all white jury. However her appeals have all been denied and her attorneys have said there will be no stay tonight there were no stays this evening.

McCarthy was sentenced to death for the fatal stabbing and bludgeoning of her 71-year-old neighbor, Dorothy Booth. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas described the crime as follows:

“On July 21, 1997 McCarthy entered the home of her 71-year-old neighbor Dorothy Booth under the pretense of borrowing some sugar and then stabbed Mrs. Booth five times, hit her in the face with a candelabrum, cut off her left ring finger in order to take her diamond ring, and nearly severed her left little finger as well. McCarthy then took Mrs. Booth’s purse and its contents, along with her wedding ring and fled in her car. Later, McCarthy bought drugs with the stolen money, used the stolen credit cards, and pawned the stolen wedding ring.”

According to the state, the crime was fueled by drugs, as McCarthy had a crack cocaine problem and needed money to buy more. Prosecutors say McCarthy entered the home under the pretense of asking to borrow some sugar. On Nov. 17, 1998, a Dallas County jury found McCarthy guilty of capital murder and after a separate punishment hearing, she was sentenced to death.

While McCarthy’s case has not become particularly high-profile, her status as the 500th execution in the state with the most active execution chamber in the nation has drawn attention in the media both nationally and abroad. For comparison, Virginia, the state with the second largest number of executions, has executed 110 people.

Her attorney, Maurie Levin, told the LA Times, “she has become a symbol because she is the 500th execution. Perhaps that is fitting, perhaps that is extra shameful. It certainly should be a reminder to anybody that the system is profoundly problematic and is not one we should be comfortable with.”

McCarthy was pronounced dead at 6:37 p.m., 20 minutes after the drugs began to flow.

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