Tennessee

TENNESSEE: Measure allowing use of electric chair for executions headed to governor


April 18, 2014

Tennessee could electrocute death row inmates if lethal injection drugs are unavailable under legislation that’s headed for Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk.

The Senate voted 25-3 on Thursday to agree to changes to the legislation made by the House, which approved the measure 68-13 the day before.

The legislation keeps lethal injection as the preferred method for executions, but allows the electric chair if the state were unable to obtain the necessary drugs or if lethal injections were found unconstitutional.

And electrocutions would be allowed regardless of when the crime was committed.

Under Tennessee law, death row inmates could choose to be electrocuted if their crimes were committed before 1999, when lethal injection became the preferred method.

There are 76 inmates on Tennessee’s death row, including 1 woman.

(source: Associated Press)

TENNESSEE -Senate authorizes electric chair for executions


April 10, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – The Senate has voted to allow the state to electrocute death row inmates if lethal injection drugs cannot be obtained.

The measure sponsored by Sen. Ken Yager passed on a 23-3 vote on Wednesday.

The Harriman Republican said current law allows the state to use its alternate execution method only when lethal injection drugs are not legally available. But Yager said there was no provision for what do if there was a shortage of those drugs.

The state’s lethal injection protocol uses a sedative commonly used to euthanize animals, but states are exhausting supplies.

The state’s last electrocution was in 2007. The companion bill is awaiting a House floor vote.

Previous story

A plan to bring back the electric chair is making its way through the Tennessee legislature, though some lawmakers have voiced uneasiness about returning to an execution method the state largely had abandoned.

A House committee approved a bill Tuesday morning that would make electrocution the state’s method for killing inmates sentenced to death if lethal injection were declared unconstitutional or the drugs needed to carry it out were unavailable. But a handful of members said they have reservations about the electric chair, which the state has used only once since 1960.

(www.wbir.com)

“It seems barbaric to me,” said state Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Nashville. “I’d rather go with the gas chamber, myself. … The electric chair bothers me.”

Tennessee switched to lethal injection when it brought back the death penalty in the 1990s, but lawmakers gave inmates the option of choosing the electric chair for crimes committed before Jan. 1, 1999. One inmate, Daryl Keith Holton, was electrocuted in 2007.

In recent years, lethal injection has come under scrutiny. Death penalty opponents have pressed manufacturers to stop making available the drugs used in lethal injections, and courts have begun to weigh whether the method really produces the painless death that supporters claim. That has led state officials to reconsider electrocution, which the attorney general said last month never has been found unconstitutional.

State officials nonetheless expect House Bill 2476 would be challenged in court if it were to pass. Jernigan, sighing heavily, spelled out why, describing the damage electrocution does to the body. But state Rep. Dennis Powers, the Jacksboro Republican who filed the bill, stood by the measure.

“What seems barbaric is someone that’s been on death row 29 years,” he said. “This is really not about the death penalty. The death penalty is already the law in Tennessee. This is about how we do it.”

Jernigan responded by noting that some states allow death by firing squad. State Rep. Kent Williams, I-Elizabethton, said that method did not phase him either.

“That’d be the easiest way to go,” he said, adding, “I don’t know why we got away from hanging.”

“We’re wanting to make sure that these people on death row go ahead and get the just sentence that they deserve,” Powers replied. But some members still weren’t convinced.

“I just kind of feel that some kind of injection is a more humane way … than it is, I think, to just fry somebody,” said state Rep. Johnny Shaw, D-Bolivar.

“Our job is not to judge. Our job is to arrange the meeting between the (defendant) and the creator, for him to judge,” Powers said.

HB 2476 now heads to the House Finance Committee and could be voted on by the full House of Representatives by the end of the legislative session. The state Senate is scheduled to vote on companion legislation, Senate Bill 2580, on Wednesday.

Tennessee Man May Get Death Penalty in Holly Bobo Murder


march 6, 2014

Tennessee resident Zachary Rye Adams was charged on Wednesday with especially aggravated kidnapping and felony murder in the first degree for the death of Holly Bobo on April 13, 2011.  Bobo, a nursing student, has not been seen for almost three years and was last seen being led into the woods by an unidentified man.  Police now believe that the unknown man was Adams.  If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Just 20 at the time of her disappearance, Bobo was getting ready to go to her nursing school for class the morning she disappeared.  Her body has never been found and scant evidence has been uncovered.  Besides a small measure of blood found in the carport of the family home, the only clue on which to build the investigation was the account of Bobo’s brother, who saw his sister being led into the woods behind their home by an unknown man wearing hunting attire.  Although at first he believed the man to be Bobo’s boyfriend, he became concerned by how the man was holding onto her and telephoned his mother.  She called 911.

News of Bobo’s disappearance filled the Tennessee town with approximately 2,400 volunteers and investigators who thoroughly searched the area.  A reward offered for information related to the case topped out at $460,000.

Adams, 29, was arrested after police officers conducted a search of his home last week while investigating an unrelated case of assault.  Police would not detail what the search yielded that led to the arrest of Adams.  Of note is that Adams’ house in Holladay is located approximately 15 miles from Parsons, where Bobo lived at the time of her disappearance.  Adams was formally charged by a grand jury special session and is set to be arraigned on Tuesday in Decatur County.

The director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Mark Gwyn, said that despite Adams’ arrest, they have not ruled out the chance that other arrests might be forthcoming and the investigation is continuing.  According to Gwyn, the case of Bobo’s disappearance was the most time-consuming and expensive investigation ever to occur in Tennessee.

Gwyn described the Bobo family as “devastated” upon hearing the news of the arrest.  The pastor of the Corinth Baptist Church, Don Franks, stated that he had visited with the Bobo’s before Thursday’s news conference and that they have relied and will continue to depend on their faith throughout this entire ordeal.   Kelly Allen, a friend of the Bobo family, said by phone that the news of an indictment was upsetting because she had never stopped hoping that Bobo might be found alive.

District Attorney General Hansel McAdams has not ruled out seeking the death penalty for Adams should he be convicted.  Prosecutors believe they have a solid case against Adams, which was confirmed by McAdams, who said that his office believes that they can prove that Bobo was taken without her consent and that their evidence will show that she was murdered during the kidnapping.

Adams is currently in jail on an unrelated charge.  He is being held on a bond set at $1 million.

Tennessee sets execution dates for 10 men


february 6, 2014

The state of Tennessee plans to execute 10 death row inmates over the next two years after changing the drug protocol to be used in lethal injections, officials said Wednesday.

The state is scheduled to execute the condemned prisoners between April 22, 2014, and Nov. 17, 2015, the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts confirmed. Three executions are scheduled this year and seven in 2015.

Gov. Bill Haslam, noting that three execution orders were handed down Friday by the state Supreme Court, told The Tennessean Wednesday that the decision to seek the executions didn’t go through him. But he said he agrees with it.

State officials asked the Tennessee Supreme Court in October for execution dates for 10 inmates, the highest number of condemned people the state has ever sought to kill at one time. The court has since ordered execution dates for nine of those men. Another inmate, Nickolus Johnson, whose execution was sought separately from the other 10, is scheduled to die April 22.

Dates have not yet been set for Lee Hall, the other man in the October group, or Donald Wayne Strouth, for whom the state requested an execution date in December.

Kelley Henry, who supervises capital punishment defense cases with the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Nashville, said it was unfortunate that so many death row inmates were being grouped together. Henry and other attorneys have asked a Davidson County judge to halt the executions over questions about the drug the state now plans to use.

“Each and every one of these cases has a story that is an example of how the death penalty system in Tennessee is broken,” she said Wednesday. “They each have different stories of ineffective counsel, of evidence that was suppressed by the state, stories of trauma and mental abuse that were never presented to a jury or a judge.”

(Source: The Tennessean)

Read and share when u can – Amanda Hodge and Shaun Hodge need our support


Amanda wrote this post on the blog, i  share with u : 

My name is Amanda Hodge My husband Shaun Hodge is currently incarcerated at Riverbend Maximum Security Inst. in Nashville Tennessee his lawyers have recently discovered new evidencane in his case..and have filed a writ of error coram novis petition in the case..my husband has been incarcerated 13 yrs. and is innocent and was wrongfully convicted anyone that would like to follow his case we’d love the support!Shaun Alexander Hodge

Tennessee death-row inmate’s conviction overturned – Michael Dale Rimmer


October 12, 2012 http://www.usatoday.com

8:33PM EDT October 12. 2012 – A Tennessee judge on Friday overturned the conviction and death sentence of a man who has spent 14 years on death row over the killing of an ex-girlfriend whose body was never found.

A USA TODAY investigation last year showed that Memphis prosecutors responsible for the case never told the man, Michael Dale Rimmer, or his lawyers, about an eyewitness who had told the police that two different men were inside the office around the time she disappeared, and that both had blood on their hands. One of the men that the witness identified was already wanted in connection with a stabbing.

Document: Court order

Shelby County Judge James C. Beasley Jr. wrote in a 212-page order released late Friday afternoon that Rimmer’s trial lawyers repeatedly failed to unearth that evidence, a “devastating” blow to his contention that someone else committed the crime. That problem was compounded, the judge wrote, because the lead prosecutor in the case, Thomas Henderson, made “blatantly false, inappropriate and ethically questionable” statements to defense lawyers denying that the evidence existed.

The case is the latest black eye for prosecutors in Memphis, who have been faulted repeatedly for failing to disclose evidence that could be helpful to defendants. In 2008, for example, a federal appeals court blasted the office in another death penalty case for a “set of falsehoods” that was “typical of the conduct of the Memphis district attorney’s office.” At least two other cases handled by Henderson — who went on to supervise all of Memphis’ criminal prosecutions — have come under scrutiny over similar lapses.
Beasley on Friday accused Henderson of “purposefully” misleading Rimmer’s lawyers, and making “comments to counsel and the court were both intellectually dishonest and may have been designed to gain a tactical advantage.”

Still, Beasley wrote, that conduct alone wasn’t enough to overturn Rimmer’s conviction and death sentence, because his lawyers could have discovered the evidence on their own if they had looked more carefully. Instead, he said, it was the “seriously deficient” investigation by Rimmer’s “overburdened” lawyers that required him to order a new trial.

John Campbell, Shelby County’s deputy district attorney general, said Friday he had not read the entire order and could not comment on specific findings. But he said prosecutors would either appeal the decision or re-try Rimmer for Ricci Ellsworth’s murder. “I can’t imagine ever not re-prosecuting the case,” he said.
Rimmer’s new lawyer, Kelly Gleason, said she “happy and relieved that the court has set aside this unjust conviction.”

Ellsworth, Rimmer’s former girlfriend, disappeared from the office of a seedy Memphis motel where she worked as an overnight clerk in February 1997, leaving behind only an office and bathroom soaked with blood. Her body has never been located.

Rimmer, then 30, was the obvious suspect. The two had dated, but the relationship soured, and Rimmer eventually went to prison for raping her. There, other prisoners said, he repeatedly threatened to kill Ellsworth, suggesting that he could make sure she was not found. Rimmer was arrested in Indiana a month after Ellsworth disappeared; police there found blood on the back seat of the car he was driving that they later said was consistent with samples taken from the motel office and from Ellsworth’s mother.

Still, a witness who visited the motel office around the time Ellsworth disappeared told the police that he had seen two different men inside, both with blood on their hands. When FBI agents showed him photographs of possible suspects that included a photo of Rimmer, he picked out a different man, Billy Wayne Voyles, who was already wanted in connection with an unrelated stabbing.

Rimmer’s lawyers, Beasley wrote, were unaware of those facts, though they could have learned of the witness’ identification if they had reviewed the “residual” evidence in the court clerk’s vault. Instead, he wrote, they relied on Henderson’s repeated representations that no such evidence existed. As a result, he wrote, the jurors who found Rimmer guilty of the murder and sentenced him to die never heard about it.

That witness, James Darnell, told a court for the first time that he had seen one of the men carry what looked like a heavy object wrapped in a comforter out of the motel office and load it into the trunk of a car.

Tennesse – Memphis man released after 27 years in prison


June 12, 2012  Source : http://www.commercialappeal.com

A former death row inmate who won a new trial in the 1983 murder of a Memphis grocer has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to time he already has served.

Erskine Leroy Johnson, 54, was released Friday morning after serving 26 years, 11 months and five days for the shooting death of Joe Belenchia during a holdup on Oct. 2, 1983, at the Food Rite Grocery at 2803 Lamar.

“He is overjoyed at being out,” said Gerald Skahan, chief capital-case attorney in the Public Defenders Office. “He is looking forward to enjoying the rest of his life and spending it helping others.”

He said Johnson has always maintained his innocence, but entered an Alford plea, also called a best-interests plea, so he could get out of prison and avoid putting his family through a trial.

He was released Friday morning from the Shelby County Jail after entering his plea this week in Criminal Court.

Johnson was on death row from Jan. 26, 1995, to Nov. 15, 2004, but was re-sentenced to life in prison after the state Supreme Court ruled prosecutors did not give the defense a police report showing the defendant could not have fired a shot that wounded a customer in the store.

Then last December the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals awarded Johnson a new trial, ruling that newly discovered evidence raised by the defense may have caused the jury to reach a different verdict.

The court found that new evidence indicating close relationships among several of the state’s witnesses, if true, could have been viewed as a motive to protect other possible suspects and could have weakened the witnesses’ credibility before the jury.

Johnson said that around the time of the murder he was in St. Louis at a birthday party for his mother.

Prosecutors said Johnson’s palm print was found on the getaway car and that one witness told the jury that Johnson had confessed to “a cold-blooded” shooting in Memphis.

Deputy Dist. Atty. John Campbell said the state offered the settlement because the case was nearly 30 years old and Johnson already had served nearly 27 years in prison. A life sentence under laws in effect at the time of the murder was at least 25 years.

Campbell said prison officials had called Johnson “an exemplary prisoner” and that the state parole board had granted his release scheduled for June 11.

 

TENNESSEE – Tenn. Supreme Court overturns death sentence – Hubert Sexton


May 30, 2012 Source : http://www.timesnews.net

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned a death sentence for a man convicted of murdering a Scott County couple in their bed and ordered that a new jury decide whether to execute him.

The state’s highest court cited numerous problems with both the evidence and sentencing phase of the murder trial of Hubert Glenn Sexton, including prosecutors making inappropriate statements to jurors and the admission of prejudicial evidence.

A Scott County jury convicted Sexton of two counts of first-degree murder for the May 2000 murders of Stanley and Terry Sue Goodman. The Goodmans were shot to death as they slept in their Huntsville home days after Sexton was accused of sexually abusing one of Stanley Goodman’s children.

In spite of the problems during the trial, the Supreme Court refused to overturn the murder convictions.

“Aside from the unfairly prejudicial nature of the inadmissible evidence and the inappropriate argument by the prosecution, however, the proof of guilt for each of the two murders was simply overwhelming,” the opinion, written by Justice Gary Wade, said. The court noted that the evidence included Sexton telling at least three of his friends that he had murdered the Goodmans.

The court said problems started even before the trial began when some people were improperly excluded as jurors. The court said jurors never should have heard allegations about the sexual abuse because Sexton had not been charged. The opinion noted that prosecutors could have elected to charge Sexton separately in the matter.

And the court said that jurors may have been prejudiced by hearing that Sexton initially agreed to take a polygraph but then changed his mind and refused. Prosecutors were also said to make inappropriate comments to jurors during opening statements and closing arguments.