death penalty news----ALABAMA
- March 9
ALABAMA---death sentence (via jury override) upheld:
The Alabama Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of a Mobile man
convicted of fatally shooting 3 people execution-style during a robbery
of a car dealership.
The justices, in a 7-0 decision released Friday, upheld lower court
rulings sentencing Jarrod Taylor to die in Alabama's electric chair in
the 1997 deaths of Steve Dyas, 48, and Bruce and Sherry Gaston, both 42,
at Dyas' car dealership in Mobile.
Justice Douglas Johnstone recused himself.
The jury at Taylor's 1998 trial recommended, by a 7-5 vote, that he
receive life in prison without parole. The trial judge overrode that
recommendation and sentenced Taylor to death.
The Court of Criminal Appeals later affirmed the conviction and the death
The victims were each shot in the head with a .380-caliber pistol on Dec.
12, 1997. Taylor and co-defendant Kenyatta Mudada McMillan stole the
men's wallets, Mrs. Gaston's purse and a 1995 Ford Mustang convertible.
McMillan and Taylor were arrested in Selma a day after the murders,
riding around in a stolen car.
McMillan received life without parole after testifying against Taylor.
Taylor argued in both appeals that the judge violated his constitutional
right to due process and equal protection and that his decision to
override the jury constituted cruel and unusual punishment.
The justices found no error in either the guilt or sentencing phase of
Taylor's trial that warranted a reversal.
(source: Associated Press)
- June 24
Alabama Execution Delays Stir Deabte
For 3 consecutive months, attempts to execute 3 inmates on Alabama's
death row have been stalled by federal courts, and in 2 cases part of the
reason was the lack of a lawyer at a crucial point in an appeal.
Now advocates for inmates facing death sentences are looking to Congress
to put pressure on the state to make changes.
"The state of Alabama bears responsibility of assuring that people who
are poor have the same quality of representation as people of above-
average means," said Diann Rust-Tierney of the American Civil Liberties
Union's capital punishment project. "Other states have put money into
statewide public defender services."
A bill introduced in March by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., would create a
National Commission on Capital Representation and withhold federal funds
from states not complying with standards for capital representation. The
bill also would provide capital defense incentive grants and resource
grants for capital cases.
Stephen Bright, director of the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human
Rights, an anti-death penalty group, said he will testify Wednesday in
favor of the federal legislation.
"States like Alabama, Georgia and Texas simply are not providing
competent lawyers," Bright said.
"Alabama and a lot of the South have taken some raps on this issue. They
ought to make it go away. Don't hand the opponents stuff to beat up on
you," said Michael Rushford, president of the Criminal Justice Legal
Foundation, a pro-death penalty group in Sacramento, Calif.
Alabama had 186 men and women on death row as of May 31. The next
execution is set in July.
State judges can appoint lawyers to represent indigent defendants, and
defendants convicted of capital crimes get automatic appeals.
However, an inmate who wants to pursue his case beyond that initial
appeal - setting up a process that can go on for years - has to request a
lawyer and may not find a qualified one willing to work for the limited
amount of money available.
"It's a money-losing proposition for a lawyer. It just takes so much
time," said Greg Hughes, a criminal defense lawyer in Mobile.
At the trial level, the pay is $60 an hour in court and $40 an hour for
out-of-court time on an indigent's case, noted Joe D. Quinlivan Jr.,
another Mobile lawyer with death-penalty experience. There is no cap on
payments at the trial level, he said.
During the appeal, there is a maximum of $2,000 for attorney fees at $60
an hour plus a maximum $875 in overhead. That's followed by post-
conviction remedies, which pays only $1,000.
"It's really ridiculous," Quinlivan said. The Montgomery-based Equal
Justice Initiative tries to recruit death row lawyers, but there's no
state-run office for that purpose.
"It's completely hit-and-miss. That's what's unique to Alabama," Bright
Court deadlines bear on the inmate's appeal and can short-circuit the
process if unmet.
"And as time runs, you're deprived of both state and federal post-
conviction review," Bright said.
In 2 of Alabama's 3 recently blocked execution dates, federal judges
granted delays to consider appeals claims that included a lack of legal
counsel when appeal deadlines were missed.
A "handful of committed lawyers have been able to at least try to find
lawyers or help prisoners file petitions that need to be filed, but the
pace of justice in Alabama is quickly outrunning the resources currently
available," said Rust-Tierney of the ACLU's capital punishment project.
"People with mental retardation are most at risk," she said.
On the Net:
American Civil Liberties Union: http://www.aclu.org/
Southern Center for Human Rights: http://www.schr.org/center/
Criminal Justice Legal Foundation: http://www.cjlf.org/
(source: Associated Press)
- May 6
ALABAMA-----impending female execution:
Siegelman denies clemency request from Lynda Lyon Block
Gov. Don Siegelman on Monday denied a clemency request from death row
inmate Lynda Lyon Block, who is scheduled to die in the electric chair
for the 1993 shooting death of a police officer.
Siegelman received Block's handwritten request for a reprieve in the mail
last week. A political extremist who would be the 1st woman to die in
Alabama's electric chair since 1957, Block has no lawyer and has filed no
She is scheduled to die in the electric chair at 12:01 a.m. Friday at
Holman Prison in Atmore. MO< "There was nothing in her petition nor
anything else that would indicate that she wasn't guilty of the crime
with which she was charged," Siegelman told the Opelika-Auburn News on
"The evidence during the trial was overwhelmingly clear. There are
absolutely no mitigating circumstances whatsoever."
In her April 29 letter requesting a stay, Block accused prosecutors of
deliberately losing important case files, threatening or bribing her
former lawyer, plus other allegations of professional misconduct.
Block and common-law husband George Sibley were convicted of capital
murder in the death of officer Roger Motley, who was shot repeatedly in a
store parking lot in 1993. Sibley also is on death row for the slaying.
The couple contends the shooting was justified because Motley reached for
his holster. Also, they claim, public employees including police have no
power because of a constitutional amendment approved by Congress in 1811
but never ratified by the states.
Block's execution date originally was set for April 19, but was
rescheduled after the Alabama Supreme Court postponed the date until May
10. April 19 was the anniversary of the Waco fire and the Oklahoma City
Block and Sibley were both wanted in Florida on outstanding charges, and
were traveling with Block's son. Block and Sibley were both convicted of
capital murder in 1994 and sentenced to die in the electric chair.
Block, who prefers the name Lynda Lyon, once put out a radical political
newsletter, and she and Sibley met at a Libertarian Party gathering in
Florida, where she lived. The 2 describe their imprisonment as a
conspiracy by a twisted court system.
Block may be the last person to die in the Alabama electric chair since
the Alabama Legislature has approved lethal injection as a method of
execution beginning July 1.
(source: Associated Press)
- Sept. 11
State Supreme Court hears arguments on death penalty law
In Montgomery, the attorney general told the Alabama Supreme Court on
Tuesday that the state's death penalty law, which allows judges to impose
death sentences, wasn't harmed when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that
juries should decide if a killer should live or die.
But an attorney for death row inmates said the federal high court's
ruling in an Arizona case means Alabama judges cannot continue to impose
death sentences after juries recommend a sentence of life in prison
"The jury is now empowered to make these decisions," Bryan Stevenson told
the Alabama court.
Attorney General Bill Pryor argued that Arizona's death penalty law was
so dramatically different from Alabama's that the ruling against the
Arizona statute doesn't affect the Alabama law.
The Alabama Supreme Court justices heard the arguments in the case of
death row inmate Bobby Wayne Waldrop. A Randolph County jury recommended
Waldrop serve life in prison without parole for robbing and killing his
grandparents, but Circuit Judge Dale Segrest sentenced him to death.
On June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in an Arizona case that juries,
not judges, should decide whether a killer should live or die. The
decision also affected Colorado, Idaho, Montana and Nebraska, where
judges alone decide whether to impose the death penalty.
The ruling raised questions about the capital punishment laws in Florida,
Alabama, Indiana and Delaware, where juries recommend sentences but
judges have the final say. Death penalty opponents say 45 inmates -- or
slightly less than 1/4 of the people on Alabama's death row -- had juries
that recommended life in prison without parole.
Waldrop's case is the first of that type to be heard by the Alabama
Supreme Court since the Arizona ruling. The Alabama justices did not
indicate when they may rule.
Waldrop was a crack cocaine addict who was convicted of stabbing his
ailing grandparents, Sherrell and Irene Prestridge, to death on April 5,
1998, and stealing $900 from them.
After the jury convicted him and recommended life in prison without
parole, the judge decided the aggravating circumstances -- such as the
heinous nature of his crime and committing the second crime of robbery
during the killings -- outweighed the mitigating circumstance of his drug
addiction. With that finding, the judge ruled the death sentence was
Stevenson said the jury, not the judge, must weigh the aggravating and
mitigating circumstances and then decide the sentence.
Pryor argued that Arizona's law left much more for the judge to decide
than Alabama's law does. In Arizona, the jury convicted a defendant of
1st-degree murder. Then a judge decided whether the circumstances
elevated the case to capital murder, which could bring the death
Unlike Arizona's law, Alabama's law makes a defendant eligible for the
death penalty as soon as the jury returns a guilty verdict, Pryor said.
"If a person deserves a sentence of death, it is Bobby Wayne Waldrop,"
In Waldrop's case, Pryor said, the jury actually found aggravating
circumstances existed because he was convicted of killing his
grandparents during a robbery.
Chief Justice Roy Moore asked numerous questions about other capital
murder cases where there is not a 2nd crime involved, such as killing a
child or a drive-by shooting. "My problem is if there is no aggravating
circumstances, the jury can't find death eligible," Moore said.
Pryor said that's an issue for a future case. But told reporters later
that 75 % of Alabama's death row inmates committed a 2nd crime, such as
rape, robbery and kidnapping, in addition to killing someone.
(source: Associated Press)
David Nelson is scheduled for execution on October 9, 2003.
The letter below has been provided by the Alabama Committee to Abolish the
Death penalty in the hope of preventing on this execution, raising
awareness, and drawing attention of the suffering caused in so many
different ways to so many people.
If anyone would like to send a copy to Governor Riley it would be greatly
Hon. Bob Riley
600 Dexter Ave #N 104
Montgomery, Al. 36130
Dear Gov. Riley:
Re: David Nelson
We respectfully ask you to intervene in the execution of David
Nelson scheduled for October 9. Please grant clemency or
alternatively ask the Pardon & Parole Board to review the serious
questions which still remain open.
1. A Judge rather than a jury set the penalty back in 1975. The ninth
appeals court has now determined only a jury can set a death penalty.
This has NOT been reviewed in the case of Alabama.
2. Holman has blocked calls from Mr. Nelson to his attorney despite
repeated attempts. This is disgraceful.
3. He was denied a Faretta hearing. He has never received one. This is a
critical question in review to determine if he is knowledgeable enough
to defend himself.
4. The law gives a choice of lethal injection or electrocution as the
means of the death penalty. He asked for electrocution because he has no
veins suitable for injection. It took them an hour to kill Michael
Thompson. Now he is told they will do a "cut down " operation the night
before. Leaving him in agonizing pain the night before and the whole day
of execution. Do you really endorse such brutality?
Please intervene. Common decency demands it. He also has turned
his life around. He was baptized into the Episcopal Church in 1997, and
have since them lived an exemplary life.
- Nov. 7
Man gets life sentence for youth officer's killing
A judge Thursday sentenced Antoine Lipscomb to life in prison without
parole for the killing of a juvenile detention officer in Midfield. Try
After a two-day trial, a Bessemer Cutoff jury convicted Lipscomb, 26, of
capital murder for the Jan. 10, 2002, shooting of Dennis Smith. The jury
deliberated about 2 hours Thursday and an hour Wednesday before reaching
The prosecution waived the sentencing phase of the trial because Smith's
family gave its approval for Lipscomb to receive life without parole.
Assistant District Attorney James Butler said he had planned to seek the
"But that is what the family decided, and we respect their decision," said
Butler, who prosecuted the case with David Michaels.
Smith was shot while in the front yard of his Vann Street home while
washing his pick-up truck. Before he died, Smith, 29, was able to tell
police what happened to him, according to testimony.
Smith told officers Lipscomb - without a word - "shot me 3times and took
my truck." Smith was also able to give police a description of the
shooter, which matched Lipscomb.
Smith later died at Carraway Methodist Medical Center.
"We're thankful that our client will not receive the death penalty," said
defense lawyer David Hobdy, who defended Lipscomb with Horace Kynard. "It
was refreshing to see that both mothers were able to hug afterwards."
About an hour before the shooting, Fairfield police stopped a truck driven
by a man matching Lipscomb's description. The truck had been stolen in
Savannah, Ga. The man, later identified as Lipscomb, got out and escaped
into the woods. Cigars containing Lipscomb's DNA were found at the scene
of the shooting in Midfield and in the truck abandoned in Fairfield.
Butler said the DNA, Smith's identification and the identification of
Lipscomb by a Fairfield officer were critical to the case because there
were no eyewitnesses to the shooting.
Smith had been a juvenile detention officer at the Jefferson County Youth
Detention Center in West End since November 1998. Before that, he worked
at the Birmingham City Jail and at Donaldson Correctional Facility in
western Jefferson County.
(source: Birmingham News)
Manassa verdict: capital murder---Member of Prichard Three found guilty in
attack that killed 6-year-old
Earl Manassa Jr., one of the so-called Prichard Three, was found guilty
Thursday of the capital murder of a 6-year-old boy and guilty of 4 counts
of attempted murder of Prichard police officers.
After nearly 8 hours of deliberations, the jury handed down the verdict to
screaming cries from Manassa's family members and friends as police
escorted them from Mobile Circuit Judge John Lockett's courtroom and
Manassa, who will be sentenced at 8:30 a.m. today, showed no trace of
emotion after his conviction, may result in the death penalty or life in
prison without parole.
Lakiesha Bonham, mother of the slain Kearis Bonham, silently wept as the
jury foreman read the verdicts. Afterward, smiling, Bonham told reporters
that the memory of her son and her "faith in God" had kept her strong.
"I'm truly grateful. I think justice has truly been served," Bonham said.
Kearis Bonham was shot in the head Dec. 12, 2001, as he stood in the front
doorway of his grandfather's house about a half block from the Queens
Authorities said the child was hit by a stray bullet fired during an
ambush of police officers who had been lured to Queens Court by a bogus
call for assistance. Witnesses had testified earlier this week that they
saw Manassa shoot an AK-47-style assault rifle into the air that night and
that he had hyped up the crowd there to attack the police.
Manassa's attorney, Sid Harrell, told jurors Thursday that there was no
evidence that his client intended to kill Kearis Bonham.
"He may not have intended it, but he sure didn't care if it happened,"
said the lead prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Jo Beth Murphree,
during her closing argument Thursday.
Retired Lt. Cedric Nettles, who was one of the four Pri chard police
officers ambushed in the Dec. 12, 2001 incident at Queens Court II
apartments, sat quietly throughout the 12 hours of court proceedings
Manassa was found guilty of the attempted murder of officers Nettles,
Lance LaPorte, Preston Lewis and Lorna McCarroll.
"For me, right now is a sad time and a sad day because whenever people in
the community take it upon themselves to take the law in their own hands,
we all suffer and we all lose," Nettles said after the verdict was read.
Attorneys, friends and family members, showed signs of fatigue in the
hours before the jury handed down its decision shortly before 9 p.m.
Manassa, who had shed the glasses he was wearing during the closing
arguments Thursday morning, put his head down on the defense desk while
his attorneys held their heads in their hands.
Earlier that morning, nearly 3 dozen of Manassa's family members and
friends held hands, bowed their heads and silently moved their lips in
prayer before the trial continued in its 4th day. Outside the courtroom
during jury deliberations, they exclaimed that he was innocent of shooting
A father of 8 children himself, Manassa, who declined to testify on his
own behalf Thursday, said in a statement given to police early in the
investigation that he believed it wrong to shoot at police and that he
"Earl Manassa is not a child killer. Earl Manassa is not a cop killer,"
Harrell said during his closing argument. "Earl Manassa is a human being.
They're making him out to be an animal. This man is not an animal."
(source: Mobile Register)