Tuesday, November 14, 2006

November 9, 2006

...The man was one month from getting married when Schmitt killed him...

Last Meal: Schmitt, 33, had a final meal request of cheese pizza, a cheese omelet with sausage, green peppers and onions, and white cake with white icing.

The skinny: Schmitt was executed for the murder of a guard during a bank robbery.

More skinny: Schmitt shot the victim to death during the Feb. 17, 1999, robbery of a NationsBank branch in Bon Air. The man, 39, had just retired from the military and was one month from getting married when Schmitt killed him.

Schmitt entered the bank wearing sunglasses and a bulky jacket, attracting the attention of the victim, who followed him inside. During the bank robbery, Schmitt fired two shots, one of them hitting the man in the chest. No one in the bank witnessed the murder, and it was not captured by a security camera. The dead man's handgun remained in its closed, snapped holster. Schmitt fled with nearly $36,000 in cash.

It was the second time that Schmitt had robbed the bank. The first time he robbed it of $65,000 armed with a sawed-off shotgun, was accompanied by an accomplice and there was no security guard present.

Schmitt was captured days later at a hotel room in Williamsburg with more than $27,000 taken in the robbery. Schmitt claimed he shot the man accidentally as the two struggled over Schmitt's weapon.

Authorities, however, said the killing was premeditated and the jury recommended the death penalty after finding Schmitt was a future danger to society.

Schmitt's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court contended he should have been allowed to present evidence of security conditions in Virginia prisons in an attempt to reassure jurors that it would be safe to impose a sentence of life in prison without parole instead of death.

Last words and such: Schmitt entered the death chamber at 8:55, unaccompanied by a lawyer or spiritual adviser, Schmitt looked straight ahead without expression at the stainless steel gurney. Six correctional officers moved the stout man onto the gurney and quickly fastened straps around his arms, legs and torso.

As Schmitt lay with his feet facing witnesses, arms at 45-degree angles on armrests, the prison warden held a microphone near his mouth and asked if he had any last words. "Come on with it," Schmitt said in a matter-of-fact tone.

Factoids: Schmitt was the...

52nd murderer executed in U.S. in 2006
1056th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
4th murderer executed in Virginia in 2006
98th murderer executed in Virginia since 1976

A half-hour before the execution, more than a dozen protesters gathered outside the prison for a candlelight vigil.

November 8, 2006

...He urged the relatives of his victim to "go home, have fun, smile" ...

Last Meal: Shannon had no final meal request.

The skinny: Shannon was executed for the murder of a man whom he shot dead during a car hijacking outside a Houston shopping center. The man was waiting for his wife and children in his car when he was attacked.

More skinny: The victim was a witness enrolled in the federal witness protection program and had driven with his family from Lubbock for a vacation to the Astroworld amusement park and the Houston Zoo. He had been in the program for a decade and had been living under a new identity after testifying at drug trials in the Rio Grande Valley. He had just dropped his family off at a shoe store. An 11-year-old boy who was the key witness to the murder, testified that the man was sitting alone in his car, waiting for his family to return and Willie Shannon, 19 at the time, climbed into the passenger seat. The boy heard Shannon say to the man, "Get out of the car." After a scuffle, three shots were fired, one striking the victim in the head. Shannon kicked his body out of the car, firing two more rounds and ran over the man’s hand as he drove away in the victim's vehicle. Shannon took off but abandoned the station wagon in a nearby county after wrecking.

He was arrested five hours later at a truck stop.

Shortly before he killed the man, Shannon raped a motel maid nearby.

Priors: Shannon had a prior conviction for aggravated assault and had a juvenile record in which he was adjudicated delinquent. The prosecutor told jurors Shannon was a sociopath who would be certain to commit more violent crimes if he ever goes free. The jury agreed and sentenced Shannon to death.

Last words and such: In his last statement while strapped to the gurney, Shannon said he had not meant to kill Garza. "I took a father, it wasn't my fault, it was an accident ... God knows the truth." Shannon was smiling and humming as witnesses entered the death chamber. He told the Garza family that his smile was "not from happiness. If my life could bring your father back, then let it be. Don't take my smile for disrespect." Shannon said he was going to heaven. "If I see your father I will ask for his forgiveness. I'll say when I see him, 'I'm sorry." He urged the relatives of his victim to "go home, have fun, smile. I'm happy. Why should I lie now. I have no anger. I have no fear."

Several of his friends were present at the execution, hands pressed against the viewing glass, offering quiet prayers, softly repeating the words, “thank you, Jesus.” All four had white, silk flowers tied to their wrists with a white ribbon.

Factoids: Shannon was the...

51st murderer executed in U.S. in 2006
1055th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
24th murderer executed in Texas in 2006
379th murderer executed in Texas since 1976

Monday, November 13, 2006

November 1, 2006

...That $200 meant the difference between life and death...

Last Meal: Jackson had a final meal request of two double-meat bacon burgers, bbq ribs, freedom fries, onion rings, root beer soda, banana split ice cream and peach cobbler.

The skinny: Jackson, 33, was executed for the $200 contract killing of a witness in an assault case.

More skinny: Jackson, who was then 20, and his friend, David Smith, drove to the house where the victim and his father lived. After entering the house and speaking to both men. Jackson asked if the victim would go outside with him because he had something else that he wanted to tell him. Once outside, Jackson pulled a gun from his waist that Smith had given to him and shot the man once in the head. A neighbor saw the victim and Jackson seconds before the shooting and later identified him from a lineup. Smith quickly became a suspect because the dead man was scheduled to testify against him in an upcoming aggravated assault trial. Smith eventually admitted that he was with Jackson, but he did not know Jackson was going to shoot Stubblefield. Once Jackson heard this, Jackson admitted that Smith had paid him $200 to shoot the man.

David Smith later was convicted of paying Jackson the $200 to shoot the victim and was sentenced to life in prison.

That $200 meant the difference between life and death. In Texas, murder warrants the death penalty only in specific situations, including murder during a robbery or a rape, murder of a child or, in this case, murder for money. Of the 377 men and women executed in Texas since 1982, Jackson was just the 15th to die in such a case.

Jackson's confessed fee is one of the smallest amounts ever offered in a murder-for-hire case resulting in the death penalty in Texas.

Last words and such: From the death gurney, Jackson acknowledged killing the man before he could testify. "The calmness I was telling you about, I still have it. I love you all. I just want you to know that. I’m all right. Make sure momma knows. All right? “Jermaine, I love you, too, man. You are Mario’s uncle? Correct? I just want you to know that I wronged your family. I received nothing, I was not paid. I took his life for the love of a friend.”

Factoids: Jackson was the...

50th murderer executed in U.S. in 2006
1054th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
23rd murderer executed in Texas in 2006
378th murderer executed in Texas since 1976

October 25, 2006

...Hutcherson thanked the judge for the death sentence....

Last Meal: Hutcherson had a breakfast of grits and eggs, but made no request for a final meal. He said he would eat from a vending machine with family members.

The skinny: Hutcherson was executed for the killing of an 89-year-old woman who was nearly decapitated in her home. There was also evidence she had been sodomized.

More skinny: According to his confession at hisretrial, Hutcherson broke into the home of the 89-year old woman after taking six Valium and drinking whiskey. When she returned home as he was ransacking the house, Hutcherson took a knife from the kitchen and killed her. An autopsy confirmed that she had been beaten and her throat cut so severely that she was almost decapitated.

Hutcherson left his driver's license and other evidence at the crime scene. And he returned the next day to steal an air conditioner, microwave and more of the woman's belongings. According to his confession, he sold some and gave some away.

After his first conviction was reversed, Hutcherson pled guilty to capital murder in 1996, and a Mobile County jury recommended the death penalty by an 11-1 vote. A judge adopted the jury's penalty. Hutcherson thanked the judge for the death sentence.

The day of: Prison officials said beginning at 9:30 a.m. Hutcherson met with 23 family members, including his ex-wife, Tracie Havens, and daughter Candace Hutcherson, who took home his letters, photos and three Bibles. He left a television set to one inmate and a radio and headphones to another. He was described as very calm.

Last words and such: Hutcherson apologized to the victim's family in a brief final statement and asked for forgiveness. "I'm so very sorry for hurting you like this. It's been a long time coming. If I could go back in time and change things, I most certainly would. I hope this gives you closure and someday find forgiveness for me."

Strapped on his deathbed, Hutcherson stared quietly at the ceiling. When the chemicals begin to flow into both arms he gave a thumbs-up sign to the prison chaplin. He then motioned the man to his bedside, where the chaplin knelt for prayer. Hutcherson appeared to be praying aloud while the chaplin clasped his hands, but he fell silent about a minute later.

Factoids: Hutcherson was the...

49th murderer executed in U.S. in 2006
1053rd murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
1st murderer executed in Alabama in 2006
35th murderer executed in Alabama since 1976

There are currently 192 inmates on Alabama's death row.

Hutcherson was the 11th to die by lethal injection since the state changed from the electric chair in 2002.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

October 25, 2006

...the region of Tuscany and the municipality of Cascina, both had agreed to have Summers buried there at their expense..

Last Meal: Summers had a final meal request of salad, onion rings, chili dogs, and sweet iced tea.

The skinny: Summers, 48, was executed for initiating a murder-for-hire plot that led to the fatal stabbing of his parents and an uncle.

More skinny: Summers was convicted of hiring another man for $10,000 to kill his adoptive parents. His father's brother, who was mentally retarded and living with the couple was also killed. Each had been stabbed repeatedly and the home was set on fire.

Summers was the beneficiary and hoped to collect $24,000 in insurance benefits. Relatives told authorities that he was having financial problems, and his father had decided to stop bailing him out financially.

Police were first contacted by Keenan Wilcox, who said that his acquaintance, Gregory Summers, tried to hire him to murder his parents and mentally retarded uncle and to burn their house down. He said that Summers offered to pay him from insurance money and cash in the house. Another tipster said that his brother, Andrew Cantu, told him that he was hired for $10,000 to commit the murders. Cantu, a paroled burglar at the time, was supposed to find his payoff in a dresser drawer at the Summers' Abilene home, but no money was there.

Numerous relatives and acquaintances testified about Summers' difficult relationship with his father and about his many threats to kill him and burn his house down with him in it. Witnesses also testified to his history of violence against his family, including kicking his first wife in the stomach when she was pregnant, beating his second wife, holding a gun to her head, and forcing her to beg for her life on her knees, and beating his sons.

Andrew Cantu was also convicted and sentenced to death, and was executed in 1999. Two accomplices, Ramon Gonzales and Paul Flores, received plea bargains and testified against Cantu and Summers. Two men testified that Cantu slipped through a back window, stabbed the husband nine times in the chest, his wife eight times and the uncle seven times, then set the house on fire. Cantu denied involvement and blamed the companions.

Adoption: Gene and Helen Summers adopted their son when he was 3 days old. He was their only child.

The Trial: About 70 witnesses testified for the prosecution at Summers' trial, which was moved from Abilene because of publicity and held in Denton, about 185 miles to the east.

Prosecutors also showed how Summers previously collected insurance payoffs from fires at his grandmother's house and a vehicle.

Last words and such: Summers' execution was delayed about three hours by final appeals efforts.

Asked by Warden Thomas Prasifka if he had a final statement while strapped to the death chamber gurney, Summer replied, "No."

Three of Summers’ friends came in support of him, each dressed in a pink shirt and black slacks. They offered tears and prayers to the condemned, hands pressed firmly upon the glass. As Summers’ final moments passed his friends could be seen huddled together, sending out one final silent good-bye.

Italian Saps or Saints? Officials in the Tuscany region of Italy are seeking to have Summers buried in a small town near Pisa at the man's request. An Italian school teacher is leading the effort. Summers had been corresponding with students from a local middle school for several years from prison. "He let it be known that he wanted to be buried in a white coffin with the (school) children's signatures," said the teacher, Maria Carmela Carretta. "He wanted it to be white as a symbol of innocence, and I, too, have decided that while it is not my favorite color, I will wear something white at the funeral."

Massimo Toschi, Tuscany's official in charge of international cooperation, said the region and the municipality of Cascina, 11 miles east of Pisa, both had agreed to have Summers buried there at their expense. "This is dependent, obviously, on getting consent from the family," Toschi said.

Italy is a firm opponent of capital punishment, which is banned throughout the European Union. S ince 1999, the lights illuminating Rome's ancient Colosseum have turned from white to gold every time a death sentence is commuted around the world or a country abolishes capital punishment.

Factoids: Summers was the....

48th murderer executed in U.S. in 2006
1052nd murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
22nd murderer executed in Texas in 2006
377th murderer executed in Texas since 1976

The lethal injection of Summers came more than seven years after the execution of Andrew Cantu.