Wednesday, July 23, 2003

July 22, 2003

...three weeks later...

Last Meal: Swisher had no special requests for his last meal. He ate the same food as the rest of the prisoners: a hot dog and bun with mustard and onions, oven-browned potatoes, cole slaw and watermelon.

The skinny: Bobby Wayne Swisher was executed, after a three-week delay, for the rape and murder of a 22-year-old woman.

Swisher abducted victim as she was working late preparing for Valentine's Day at a florist she co-owned. Her body was found later that month in a field within two miles of the shop.

During the trial, Swisher's lawyers did not dispute that he committed the crime, but they argued that Swisher should be spared because he was too high on drugs and alcohol to know what he was doing.

Three Week Delay: The execution came less than a week after the Virginia Supreme Court refused to hear the final appeal by Swisher's attorneys. The governor delayed the execution, which had been set for July 1, until today to give Swisher a chance to ask the Virginia Supreme Court for a new sentencing. In his July 1 statement, Warner said the matter was best handled by the courts and that he would not intervene if the court rejected Swisher's request.

"Bobby Wayne Swisher committed a vile and reprehensible act - an act which I believe justifies the death penalty," the governor said.

Last words and such: "I hope you all can find the same peace in Jesus Christ as I have," Swisher said in his last statement.

Factoids: In a telephone interview this month, Swisher said he was ready to die, if it came to that, because of a religious conversion about a year ago. "I was just a wild child. I was out there having fun and partying. That was it," he said. "I was a stupid, narrow-minded kid and made bad choices with devastating results."

At 8:30 p.m., three people stood outside the prison to protest Swisher's execution.

One, Francis Carlhian, who is from Belgium but lives in Charlottesville, said he was surprised there were so few protesters at the prison, noting that opposition to the death penalty is widespread in Europe.

"I was thinking a lot of people would come," said Carlhian, a housemate of Schrader. "A man is dying. It's crazy."

Swisher was the....
46th murderer executed in U.S. in 2003
866th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
2nd murderer executed in Virginia in 2003
89th murderer executed in Virginia since 1976

This summary was compiled from various news accounts.

July 22, 2003

Beware the Honeymooners Bar...

Last Meal: Toles requested a last meal of four fried chicken breasts, mashed potatoes and gravy, three Bama pecan pies, two foot-long chili cheese dogs, a small order of chili cheese fries and a two liter cream soda.

The skinny: Toles was executed for the killing a 39-year-old man and his teen-age son.

Toles and two friends got into a fight at the Honeymooners Bar in Lawton, Oklahoma. Fleeing the bar on foot, they eventually got tired and decided to steal a car. None of them knew how to hot-wire the red Mustang 5.0 in the driveway, so they had to get the keys.

Toles rang the doorbell while the two others hid around the corner and put bandannas over their faces outlaw-style. Toles, armed with a .22 revolver, pushed his way into the home when 15-year-old son opened the door. Hearing the commotion, the father met the the two friends of Toles in the hall. The father struggled with them while Toles, who had been kicking the son, turned and shot the father in the arm.

Thinking that the father could identify him, and that he "might as well go ahead and kill him," Toles aimed at father's chest and shot.

Meanwhile the son was still kneeling on the floor near the front door with his hands behind his back. Toles saw him on his way out of the house and thought, "damn, there's still him left." Realizing the boy could identify him, Toles shot the boy in the back of his head.

Toles confessed to the murders following his arrest. A 16-year-old accomplice was also convicted on murder charges and sentenced to life in prison.

Final words and such: As he lay strapped to a gurney, Toles offered his condolences to the victim's family. "I'd like to apologize to the victims' family and ask them for their forgiveness."

Then Toles talked to members of his family and his spiritual adviser, who were witnesses at his execution. "I love all y'all thanks for coming. Take care of my mother," he said. "I'll see y'all later. We're all right." Toles' eye lids began to flutter as the injections took effect. "I fixing to pass out, I think."

About 15 minutes before his execution, other prisoners on death row began banging their cell doors to acknowledge the execution and give Toles a send-off. The banging could be heard in the death chamber and muffled what Toles said.

Factoid: Toles was the 12th inmate executed in Oklahoma this year.

Two other executions are scheduled in July: Jackie Lee Willingham on July 24 and Harold Loyd McElmurry III on July 29.

From the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

The state of Oklahoma is scheduled to execute Bryan Toles, a black man, July 22 for two murders in Lawton. Toles allegedly shot them in their home shortly after midnight on July 16, 1993 in an attempt to steal the red Mustang parked in their driveway. Toles confessed to the shootings the next morning, and received a death sentence in 1994.

Although his crime is certainly inexcusable, Toles is a victim of the economic discrimination inherent in the death penalty system. He did not have the necessary funds to secure the presence of Dr. Jonathan Lipman, a neuropharmacologist, and therefore forfeited what could have been the strongest mitigating factor in his case: voluntary intoxication.

....Dr. Lipman, who interviewed Toles, reviewed his videotaped statements, and studied reports prepared by police investigators and social workers, could have given serious credibility to a defense of voluntary intoxication. After reviewing the case, Dr. Lipman reported that Toles had smoked eight rocks of crack cocaine prior to the murders, and had a blood alcohol level of .596. Since Toles could not afford to pay for Dr. Lipman, or private attorneys for that matter, he could not produce an effective defense on these grounds. Unfortunately, his case is not an isolated incident; 95 percent of death row inmates in the United States could not afford to hire private attorneys.

Toles also challenged the admission of his confessions at trial, which he made the morning after the murder. He claimed he did not knowingly and intelligently waive his constitutional rights as required by Miranda v. Arizona (1966). Police officers and Toles agree that he asked to speak to an attorney numerous times, but the state contends that after those requests, he changed his mind and decided to confess.

Most defendants convicted of murder in the United States do not receive death sentences. A small number do, and sadly, they are disproportionately African American and overwhelmingly poor. Please contact Gov. Brad Henry to protest the pending execution of Bryan Toles, as well as the racial and socio-economic discrimination in Oklahoma’s death penalty system.

This summary was compiled using various news accounts and also from Jason Whitehorn KSWO-ABC (Lawton, OK).