Saturday, May 21, 2005

May 17, 2005

...more than three hours strapped to a gurney...

Last Meal: Brown requested shrimp, french fries, salad and cake.

The skinny: Vernon Brown was executed for killing a 9-year-old girl and a 19-year-old woman, and was a suspect in a child killing in Indiana.

More skinny: Walking home from school, the nine-year-old girl passed the home of Vernon Brown, who enticed her into the house. Brown’s stepsons and a neighbor saw the girl enter the house. Brown’s claims that at this point he began suffering PCP-induced blackouts. Brown then locked the stepsons in their bedrooms, but they listened to her screams through the air vents as he took the victim to the basement and bound her feet and one hand with a coat hanger. Brown then strangled her to death with a rope.

The next day, the body was found in two trash bags near a dumpster in an alley behind Brown’s house. Upon arrest, Brown confessed to the murder and also admitted murdering a 19 year old a year earlier. At that time, Brown was living under an alias and working as a maintenance man in an apartment building when he strangled her in her basement apartment with an electrical cord and stabbed her in the chest and throat. Brown was also convicted of this murder and sentenced to death.

Brown had been convicted of sexually assaulting a 12 year old girl in the 1970's and spent four years in prison.

Leading up to...Brown watched a little television and took calls from his brother and a woman proporting to be his mother. However, a prison spokesmen said that Brown's mother is dead. Brown mood during the evening was described as "scared." Brown declined a sedative at 7 p.m. but agreed to sedation at about 1 a.m. Brown fell asleep for a "good amount of time" before the procedure was begun.

Waiting: After more than three hours strapped to a gurney waiting to hear the U.S. Supreme Court's final decision on his appeal, Brown looked to the left towards his spiritual advisor and one of his lawyers, then looked up at the ceiling of the death chamber. After the first drug was administered at 2:32 a.m., Brown moved his head slightly with his eyes closed, and pointed his chin up towards the ceiling blowing air out of his mouth, which then fell open. A doctor pronounced Brown dead at 2:35 a.m.

The issues in front of the court dealt with the constitutionality of Missouri's method of lethal injection and racial disparity in executions.

Last words and such: Brown issued his own statement. "You'll see me again. To all my friends, don't think of me as being gone, but there with you." He continued, "And to Jazz, who has my heart and love. Peace, love. Vernon Brown." A prison spokesmen said he was uncertain who Jazz was.

Factoids: Brown was the...

23rd murderer executed in U.S. in 2005
967th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
3rd murderer executed in Missouri in 2005
64th murderer executed in Missouri since 1976

May 13, 2005

... the first convict executed in New England in 45 years...

Last Meal: Ross lunched on a cheeseburger and hash browns, and at 3 p.m. For his late meal, Ross ate the regular prison meal of the day, which was turkey a la king with rice, mixed vegetables, white bread, fruit and a beverage.

The skinny: Michael Bruce Ross, an insurance agent and a serial killer who admitted killing eight women in the 1980s, was the first convict executed in New England in 45 years.

Ross was the first person executed in Connecticut since May 17, 1960, when Joseph "Mad Dog" Taborsky was electrocuted for a spree of slayings.

More skinny: Mr. Ross, 45, grew up on an egg farm in eastern Connecticut.

On Thanksgiving Day, 1983, Ross accosted a nineteen year old woman on the grounds of a State Hospital. He forcefully pulled her into a wooded area and ordered her to remove her clothing. He then sexually assaulted her and, after ordering her to turn over on her stomach, strangled her. Before leaving, he covered her body with leaves.

On June 13, 1984, Ross accosted a seventeen year old as she was walking along Route 12. After a short conversation, he pulled her over a stone wall, forcing her to go with him into a wooded area that led to an open field. There he sexually assaulted her, forced her to turn over on her stomach, and then strangled her.

On Easter Sunday, 1984, Ross picked up two fourteen year old hitchhikers on Route. Once the girls had entered his car, he drove them over their protests past their intended destination. When one girl tried to force the defendant to stop the car by threatening him with a knife, he disarmed her and continued into Rhode Island. At Beach Pond, he parked his car and bound both girls hand and foot. He then untied one's feet and forced her to walk a short distance from his car, where he assaulted her sexually, turned her over on her stomach and strangled her. Returning to the car, the defendant killed the second. without sexually assaulting her. He then placed the bodies of both girls in his car and drove back to Preston, Connecticut, where he deposited their bodies in a culvert.

Ross, a Cornell University graduate who studied economics, confessed to the murder of all four women and four others during the same time period. At his trial, the defendant did not deny having committed the kidnappings, rapes, and murders, and asserted an insanity defense.

1987, Ross was convicted for the murders of four of the eight women he confessed to killing. It took the jury 86 minutes of deliberations to convict him and only four hours to decide on his punishment.

Many legal machinations: Although Ross said he was personally opposed to the death penalty, he wanted his execution to serve as closure for his victims' families and last year he waived all remaining appeals.

That did not stop another round of competency hearings, appeals and last-minute legal machinations by lawyers seeking to halt the execution. Attorney Diane Polan represented Ross' sister, Donna Dunham, in efforts to intervene on behalf of her brother. Another suit, filed on behalf of state inmates, claims that Mr. Ross's execution would "cause suicide contagion among suicidal and suicide-prone prisoners." (we could only hope) if Ross was allowed to willingly go to his death.

Leading up to: Visits consumed most of Ross' last day. He awoke about 5:45 a.m. and had a breakfast of oatmeal and grapefruit. Ross watched television and read newspapers until 8:10 a.m., when he was moved to the execution holding cell.

Where formerly Ross could hold hands with visitors, now he could not. Only priests were allowed physical contact, necessary so they could give him the Holy Eucharist, which Ross received at 9 a.m. later he received last rites.

Butler said he and Ross joked Thursday morning about the "Hannibal Lecter death cell," a reference to the cannibal psychiatrist in the thriller movie "Silence of the Lambs."

Because of his status as a volunteer, Mr. Ross held the right to change his mind up until the moment of the lethal injection and to say he wanted to appeal. "All he has to do is say so and the machinery of death will stop," Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said..

Among his possessions was a Bible, a book of Bible verses and some candy.

Money quote:
"We wish to have him destroyed. Mr. Ross is a diseased animal that society is well justified to flush down its sewer system." -Lan Manh Tu, brother of Ross' first victim. her body was found in 1981 in a gorge at Cornell University.

Last words and such: Ross made no statement before his death.

Factoids: Ross was the....

22nd murderer executed in U.S. in 2005
966th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
1st murderer executed in Connecticut in 2005
1st murderer executed in Connecticut since 1976

The ranks of death penalty opponents had swelled to nearly 300 as they marched through the chilled air to the driveway of the prison where Ross was executed. Candlelight highlighted expressions that ranged from tearful to stoic as they learned of Ross' death by word of mouth rippling through the crowd. Jacob Grossouw, 16 of Enfield, said he was shocked. "I don't know how to feel. I can't believe they just killed a man," he said.

By 6:30 p.m., a group of teenage girls came to the site to make their own signs and show their support for the death penalty. "I was chanting this all day in school," said Kaylah Winter, 16 of Somers, who was a holding a sign that said, "Turn Ross into Moss."

High above them Trooper One, the Connecticut State Police helicopter hovered. It was prepared to chase any aircraft that approached within 1,000 feet of the prison.

Mr. Ross pushed Connecticut toward its 74th execution since it adopted capital punishment in 1893.

Over two decades in prison, Ross sought to parlay his criminal notoriety into celebrity status. He wrote articles for psychiatric journals and granted dozens of interviews. He distributed a newsletter from prison that detailed his incarceration and his views about the death penalty.

Friday, May 20, 2005

May 12, 2005

Last Meal: Miller requested sliced beef brisket, pork spareribs and a Coke.

The skinny: Miller was executed for beating and stabbing an Oklahoma City motel clerk and pouring acid down his throat.

More skinny: The twenty-five year old victim worked as the night auditor for the Central Plaza Hotel located in Oklahoma City. He registered a hotel guest at approximately 3:15 a.m. Shortly thereafter he was attacked by an assailant who stabbed him repeatedly, beat him with hedge shears and a paint can, and poured muriatic acid on him and down his throat. He was discovered two and a half hours later, still moaning, by a motel housekeeper.

His responses to police were mostly unintelligible, but did understand him say his attacker was a black man who wore gray pants. He died later that day at the hospital from blunt force trauma to his head.

All of the evidence against George Miller was circumstantial but substantial. Miller's sandals could have left the bloody footprints found at the scene, but could not be exclusively identified. A microscopic drop of blood found on Miller's sandal was consistent with the man's blood, but also could not be exclusively identified. Miller told police he was home with his wife at the time of the murder. The Millers were divorced by the time of trial, and she testified he was not home; he had taken her car keys from the place where she hid them under the mattress and left. The evening before the murder, Miller was broke and tried unsuccessfully to borrow money from several different friends including one who lived at the Central Plaza Hotel. The morning after the murder, Miller gave his wife one hundred and twenty dollars. When questioned by police about this, he claimed he had cashed a paycheck. When they reminded him he was not working at the time, Miller denied he gave his wife the money. One hundred twenty-two dollars was missing from the motel cash drawer. Miller had worked as a maintenance man at the Central Plaza Hotel for two weeks about a month before the murder. The vicitm knew Miller, but knew him under an alias, Jay Elkins. Photographs of the crime scene revealed what appears to be finger-writing in the blood on the floor and wall which could be the word, "Jay."

Last words and such: Strapped to a gurney inside the death chamber, Miller nodded to his mother and other family members who witnessed the execution. "I love you," were his final words.

Factoids: Miller was the...

21st murderer executed in U.S. in 2005
965th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
2nd murderer executed in Oklahoma in 2005
77th murderer executed in Oklahoma since 1976

May 6, 2005

...He even served as a pallbearer at the funerals....

Last Meal: Richmond declined a last meal. At 5 p.m. Thursday, nine hours before the execution, Richmond was scheduled to get the traditional final meal, a dinner of whatever he requested, within reason. Richmond decided not to take this last privilege. "My victims got no last meal," he said in his testimony to the other inmates

The skinny: Richmond, a former Army drill sergeant, was executed for killing and raping a woman and then strangling her two children to death with electrical cords.

More skinny: The bodies of a 27-year-old woman and her two children, aged 8 and 7, were found in their home at the Sunshine Mobile Home Park. She had been beaten and strangled. Her son had been stabbed 40 times with a pair of scissors and had an electrical cord wrapped around his neck five times. Her daughter was strangled with the cord from a curling iron.

Richmond, was a family friend and had dated one the victim's sisters. He even served as a pallbearer at the funerals.

DNA evidence later confirmed that the semen found inside of the woman’s body belonged to Richmond. Richmond initially denied any involvement in the murders, but confessed upon being informed of the DNA evidence.

Richmond was separately convicted in New Jersey and sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder seven months before the the three North Carolina murders. The woman, a payroll clerk at Fort Dix, N.J., had been beaten with a hammer, stabbed, hog-tied and strangled. Richmond did not become a suspect in thatdeath until after he was arrested in the N.C. murder.

The legal machinations...Richmond's appeals lawyers argued that his trial attorneys failed to present expert evidence that he couldn't form intent to kill his victims because he had consumed 20 beers, a fifth of liquor and smoked crack cocaine on the night of the slayings.

Last words and such: Richmond flashed a quick smile at his lawyers. He winked at his two sisters, who gazed at him through thick glass, and told them he loved them. "At this time, I'd like to extend my deepest apologies to all the victims' families and their loved ones. I'd like to say that I'm not a man that shies away from his responsibilities. I'd like to say that I hope that now, through my death, that y'all can move forward with your lives. Thank you and God bless you."

Factoids: Richmond was the....

20th murderer executed in U.S. in 2005
964th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
2nd murderer executed in North Carolina in 2005
36th murderer executed in North Carolina since 1976

Thursday, May 19, 2005

May 3, 2005

...he was on parole for a third time...

Last Meal: Pursley requested a cheeseburger, four fried pork chops, french fries, two dinner rolls, a piece of cheesecake and iced tea with sugar,

The skinny: Pursley was executed for the robbery and fatal beating of an East Texas man while he was on parole for a third time.

More skinny:
On Good Friday, Pursley and his family were visiting relatives. After getting into an argument with his wife, Pursley left the house on foot. The victim stopped and offered Pursley a ride. After spending some time at the victm's in his home, Pursley had the man drive out into the woods where Pursley savagely beat him to death, took his rings and left the body. Pursley was later seen by several witnesses driving the bloodstained car. Pursley used the rings to buy drugs and admitted to several people that he had beaten a person to death. DNA evidence and witnesses linked Pursley to the crime.

Pursley's repeated paroles, despite increasingly longer sentences, were attributed in part to bed shortages and court-imposed population limits at Texas prisons before a billion-dollar construction program eased the crowding problems.

Last words and such: "Yes. I would like to address the victim's family. I received your poem and I ma very grateful for your forgiveness. I still want to ask for it anyway. I have Jesus in my heart and I am sorry for any pain I caused you all. Thank you for your forgiveness. I am sorry. Ashlee, Pam -- I am going to miss you all. I love you all. Give everybody my love. Give everybody my love, O.K.? Mother, James, Justin, Corey, Brent, grand-babies and Daddy - I love you Pam. I love you Ashlee, Pammy and Irene. I will see you all on the other side. Couple friends on death row who have helped me; Shy town and Crazy Jay...I love you all and for all your support. Uncle Ray too. I am saved and I am going home, O.K.? You all stay strong. You all stay strong. That is all."

The victim's sister responded between sobs, "We forgive you."

Family and friends of Pursley could be heard sobbing and praying that God would "take his soul to a better place." Pursley's daughter, overcome with emotion, was escorted prematurely from the chamber.

Factoids: Pursley was the...

19th murderer executed in U.S. in 2005
963rd murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
6th murderer executed in Texas in 2005
342nd murderer executed in Texas since 1976

Penpals : Hello! My name is Lonnie. I am currently on Texas' infamous Death Row. I was arrested on April 20, 1997 when I turned myself over to the authorities after finding that there was a warrant for arrest on the charge of Capital Murder. Family members are no longer supporting me, nor are they keeping in contact with me. I would like to find someone to correspond with. Please be patient with me, as I am not financially stable. There are things in here that are very much needed to get by, such as : hygiene items, writing supplies, and stamps. Any and all help will be greatly appreciated. I was born in Houston, Texas on September 17, 1961. I was raised in a small East Texas town called Coldsprings. I'm 5'9" tall, 230 pounds, with blue eyes and dusty blone hair. My interet are rodeo - both watching and participating when I had the chance to, playing handball and lifting weights. I also like to do art work. RACE, SEX, AGE - none of these matter. I hope to hear from you soon. THANKS! I remain, Lonnie Wayne Pursley

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

April 28, 2005

...`I'm nice to them and I tell 'em what they want to hear.'"...

Last Meal: Centobie did not make a request for a last meal, but prison officials say he ate heartily: Chili and rice, okra and corn tomato soup, cornbread, gingerbread cake and fruit punch for lunch. Pizza, poor boy and Philly cheesesteak sandwiches and three sodas from prison vending machines for a snack. Barbecue chicken, egg noodles with butter, turnip greens, candied sweet potatoes and a strawberry soda for dinner at 3 p.m.

The skinny: Centobie, a sensational escape artists, was executed for the 1998 murder of a police officer.

More skinny: Centobie was convicted of kidnapping his ex-wife and son and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Centobie escaped with fellow prisoner Jeremy Granberry while being transferred between jails. They overpowered their guards and stole their car. They fled into Alabama, where they were stopped by Tuscaloosa police officer Cecil Lancaster. Centobie shot and wounded Lancaster from the car's passenger seat. The next day, they were pulled over again on a traffic stop by the victim. After speaking with the cop, Centobie reached back into the car as if to retrieve his driver’s license. Instead, he pulled the deputy's stolen handgun and shot the victim three times - one bullet hit his bullet resistant vest, another entered his hip, and the last struck the back of his head.

Granberry was soon captured, but Centobie slipped away, only to be captured later, returning to the home of his ex-wife. While incarcerated awaiting trial, Centobie again escaped, this time with the help of a prison guard, Donna Hawkins, whom he had charmed. He was captured in Georgia two weeks later. Hawkins was sentenced to an 18-month prison sentence for permitting or facilitating his escape. Granberry pleaded guilty to the crimes against him and in July 2000 was sentenced to three life terms.

After his second capture, women sent cards, letters and pictures to him in jail. His lawyer once asked him how he charmed women. "He said, `I'm nice to them and I tell 'em what they want to hear.'"

Leading up to: Centobie spent his final day with his own family, meeting with his mother, two brothers and a sister, along with two members of Kairos, a prison ministry group. Centobie had a final meal of barbeque chicken, turnip greens, candied sweet potatoes, egg noodles with butter and cornbread. Centobie left his television and radio to other death row inmates. At 4:10 p.m. he was served communion by Rev. Raymond McDonough, a Catholic priest from Birmingham.

Centobie earlier rejected an unsolicited attempt to block his execution, saying in an affidavit he preferred death over a life in prison. Centobie said it was a ''luxury'' knowing when he would die because it gave him time to prepare.

Last words and such: Centobie repeatedly broke into a grin and sometimes nodded his head. He said nothing. He didn't acknowledge his mother or brother sitting in a witness room to his right, or the relatives and co-workers of the victim in a separate witness room straight ahead. Divorced for 10 years, Centobie wore his wedding ring.

Factoids: Centobie was the...

18th murderer executed in U.S. in 2005
962nd murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
1st murderer executed in Alabama in 2005
31st murderer executed in Alabama since 1976

A year before his turn to crime, Centobie won accolades in Mobile County from sheriff's officials as a diver for helping rescue victims of the Amtrak disaster on Bayou Canot in 1993 that killed 47 passengers and crew.

April 27, 2005

... the "monster" of crack cocaine....

Last Meal: Jones had a last meal of hamburger pizza, chicken strips, two orders of french fries, cole slaw, Pepsi and apple pie with ice cream.

The skinny: Jones was executed for killing his grandmother because she would not give him money to buy crack cocaine

His case was unusual because his family fought for years to keep him from being executed for killing one of their own.

More skinny: Jones went to the home of his grandmother around midnight to get some money to buy crack cocaine. She let him in and when Jones asked her for money, she refused and started lecturing Jones about his drinking and use of cocaine. Jones went downstairs to the kitchen, picked up a butcher block that contained knives, hid it behind him and went upstairs. His grandmother started lecturing him again, and Jones hit her several times with the butcher block while she screamed. Jones apparently became afraid that the neighbors might hear her screaming, picked up a knife that had fallen out of the butcher block and stabbed her until she stopped screaming and fell back onto her bed. Jones took his grandmother’s car keys, money, and VCR, and he drove off in her car. Jones purchased some drugs, sold the VCR and rented out the car to get money to but drugs. The grandmother’s body was discovered two days later. Upon questioning, Jones admitted the murder, blaming the "monster" of crack cocaine.

A bad call: Jones declined a prosecutor's offer to waive seeking the death penalty in exchange for his pleading guilty to first-degree murder and agreeing to spend the rest of his life behind bars. Jones opted to take his chances with jurors, convinced the killing was a second-degree murder not punishable by execution but carrying the prospect that he one day would be free.

Money quote: Jones’ family had hoped Blunt would commute the prisoner’s sentence to a life term without parole, arguing that Knuckles would not seek vengeance against her grandson. “We don’t have the death penalty so that families can feel a sense of vengeance,” Blunt said. “We have the death penalty because we believe as a society, we believe as a state and we believe as a people that some crimes are so horrific that the only appropriate punishment is the death penalty.”

Leading up to: Hours before his execution, Jones declined a sedative routinely offered to condemned inmates in their final hours but rarely refused.

Last words and such: Jones' final statement, written in his own hand: "Praise God! Every day is a day to give the Lord thanks for all He's done! To my Beautiful Family, Friends, and all those whose been in prayer, in thought and support, I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. To my Family, you will never truely know how your love, prayers, and forgiveness has sustained me all these years, to all my friends and supporters, especially my Beautiful Angels at St. Louis University, your courage and conviction is inspiring, keep the sturggle alive. To my mother who truly has been hurt the most, your love and strength I carry with me always. Take care of my son. I"m finally free and I'm going home to grandmother now. I love you all and God Bless. Donnie."

Factoids: Jones was the...

17th murderer executed in U.S. in 2005
961st murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
2nd murderer executed in Missouri in 2005
63rd murderer executed in Missouri since 1976

On a grass field outside the prison, many in a crowd of 120 protesters held votive candles and prayed. College students huddled and hugged. A few wept.

Many of the relatively large crowd of protesters were students from St. Louis University who were inspired by Jones' case to organize a group against executions. A few visited him during his final days. "We loved him. He was so sweet and gentle," said Anna Calhoun, a sophomore who saw him Monday. The murder "was a horrific mistake that he admitted to. This just caused more suffering for his family. There was no need for it."

Jones was the first to be executed in the new death chamber of the Eastern Diagnostic Reception and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre, which has replaced the old chamber at the Potosi Correctional Center, 15 miles away.