died of natural causes

Augusta death row inmate dies of cancer nearly 14 years after conviction


January 3, 2018

A death row inmate convicted of fatally beating an Augusta woman died Tuesday in an Atlanta prison hospital where he was undergoing cancer treatment.

 

Robert O. Arrington, 70, was convicted of the April 2001 murder of 46-year-old Kathy Hutchens. She and her dog were found dead in her George Road residence 10 days after she called the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office for help in making Arrington leave her home. They had dated and lived together for a short time.

His boot prints and fingerprints were found in Hutchens’ blood. When arrested on April 13, 2001, the day Hutchens’ body was found, he still had her blood on his boots, according to prior reports in The Augusta Chronicle.

Hutchens wasn’t the first woman Arrington beat to death. In 1986 he killed his 53-year-old wife, Elizabeth Arrington, then dumped her body in a ditch in Burke County. The murder charge in that case was reduced to voluntary manslaughter and he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

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Texas leads the nation in executions, but its death row population is dropping


December 14, 2017

The number of inmates on Texas’ death row dropped again this year, continuing a decades-long trend.

The decline is caused largely by fewer new death sentences and more reduced punishments in recent years, according to end-of-year reports released Thursday by groups critical of the death penalty in Texas and across the country. But Texas still held more executions than any other state.

“Prosecutors, juries, judges, and the public are subjecting our state’s death penalty practices to unprecedented scrutiny,” said Kristin Houlé, executive director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, in the release of the group’s annual report. “In an increasing number of cases, they are accepting alternatives to this flawed and irreversible punishment.”

Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which has supported death penalty practices in legal cases throughout the country, said he agrees that the decline is partially due to shifting attitudes among jurors and prosecutors, but added that death sentences are also down because there has been a drop in the murder rate nationwide.

“The support for the death penalty for the worst crimes remains strong,” he said.

There are currently 234 inmates living with death sentences in Texas, according to the state’s prison system. That number has been dropping since 2003. The death row population peaked at 460 in 1999, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Here’s how the death row population has changed over the last year:

Seven men were executed.

The same number of men were put to death this year as in 2016, which had the fewest executions in two decades. But even with its relatively low number, Texas was still the state with the most executions in the country. This isn’t unusual given that the state has put to death nearly five times more individuals than any other state since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Texas accounted for 30 percent of the nation’s 23 executions in 2017. Arkansas was second in the country with four. Last year, Georgia put more people to death than Texas — the first time Texas hasn’t been responsible for the most executions since 2001.

Four more men got cells on death row.

One more person was sentenced to death this year than in 2015 and 2016, when only three men were handed the death penalty in each of those years.

The number of new sentences, which ranged in the 20s and 30s each year in the early 2000s, dropped in 2005 after jurors were given the option to sentence convicts to life without the possibility of parole as an alternative to the death penalty. Before then, if a capital murder convict wasn’t sentenced to death, he or she would be eligible for parole after 40 years. About 10 people in Texas were sentenced each year after that until the additional decrease in 2015.

Two men died while awaiting execution.

Joseph Lave and Raymond Martinez both died this year before they were taken to the death chamber, even though they had had extended stays in prison. Lave passed away more than 22 years after his murder conviction, and Martinez had lived more than 30 years with a death sentence.

Four men had their sentences changed from death to life in prison.

Two U.S. Supreme Court decisions this year have so far resulted in the reduction of three death sentences to life in prison. The high court ruled against Texas in the death penalty cases of Duane Buck and Bobby Moore.

Buck reached a plea agreement with Harris County prosecutors to change his death sentence to life in October after a February ruling by the court said his case was prejudiced by an expert trial witness who claimed Buck was more likely to be a future danger because he is black.

In Moore’s case, the justices invalidated Texas’ method for determining if a death-sentenced inmate was intellectually disabled and therefore ineligible for execution. Though Moore’s case has yet to be resolved (Harris County has asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to reduce his sentence to life), two other men on death row with intellectual disability claims received life sentences after the ruling.

Another man this April received a new punishment hearing in a 1991 murder and pled guilty, landing four consecutive life sentences over the death penalty, according to the Texas death penalty report.

Nine men narrowly escaped execution — for now.

Executions were scheduled — then canceled — for nine men this year. Six were stopped by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in light of pending appeals, and one was stopped by a federal court, the report said.

One man, Larry Swearingen, evaded execution in November because of a clerical error, and convicted serial killer Anthony Shore’s death was postponed because prosecutors were concerned he would confess to the murder for which Swearingen was convicted.

 

Death row inmate dies in solitary cell – Roger Coulter


November  3,2017

The Arkansas Department of Correction announced late this evening that Roger Coulter, a death row inmate at Varner Supermax, died in a solitary cell at 6:28p.m. He was 57. According to the ADC website, Coulter was imprisoned on this day in 1989.

coulter_roger.jpg

The Arkansas State Police were notified and will investigate said Solomon Graves, ADC spokesperson, as well the corner and medical examiner.Here is the full release:

Earlier this evening, at approximately 6:28 p.m., Inmate Roger Coulter SK911 was found unresponsive in his cell at the Varner Unit by a correctional officer. Inmate Coulter was pronounced dead at 7:07 p.m. Inmate Coulter was sentenced to death in 1989 for the offence of Capital Murder by a jury in Ashley County.

Here are ADC’s policies on what occurs after an inmate death.

Scott Braden, from the Federal Public Defender’s Office, sent the following statement:

We are heartbroken to hear of the passing of our long-time client and friend Roger Coulter. He was an accomplished artist and a dedicated friend and brother. We find solace in the knowledge that Roger was a committed Christian, sought forgiveness for his crimes, and is finally free from death row.

Charles Manson, leader of murderous ’60s cult, dead at 83


November 20,2017

Charles Manson, the wild-eyed 1960s cult leader whose followers committed heinous murders that terrorized Los Angeles and shocked the nation, died Sunday of natural causes, according to the California Department of Corrections. He was 83.

Manson served nine life terms in California prisons and was denied parole 12 times. His notoriety, boosted by popular books and films, made him a cult figure to those fascinated by his dark apocalyptic visions.
“He was the dictatorial ruler of the (Manson) family, the king, the Maharaja. And the members of the family were slavishly obedient to him,” former prosecutor Victor Bugliosi told CNN in 2015.
To the point they would kill for him.
The brutal killings began on August 9, 1969, at the home of actress Sharon Tate and her husband, famed movie director Roman Polanski. He was out of the country at the time. The first set of victims were Tate, who was eight months’ pregnant; a celebrity hairstylist named Jay Sebring; coffee fortune heiress Abigail Folger; writer Wojciech Frykowski; and Steven Parent, a friend of the family’s caretaker.
The next evening, another set of murders took place. Supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, were killed at their home.
Although Manson ordered the killings, he didn’t participate.
Over the course of two nights, the killers took the lives of seven people, inflicting 169 stab wounds and seven .22-caliber gunshot wounds. Both crime scenes revealed horrifying details. And a few details linked the two crime scenes.
The word pig was written in victim blood on the walls of one home and the front door of another. There was also another phrase apparently scrawled in blood: Helter Skelter (it was misspelled Healter). The reason for the disturbing writings, the prosecutor argued, was because Manson wanted to start a race war and had hoped the Black Panthers would be blamed for the killings.
On June 16, 1970, Manson and three of his followers — Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten — went on trial in Los Angeles.
All of those details came tumbling out in the trial that both mesmerized and horrified the nation. During the trial, Manson and his followers created a circus-like atmosphere in the court with singing, giggling, angry outbursts and even carving X’s in their foreheads.
The charges came after a major break in the case when Atkins, who was already in jail on another charge, bragged to a fellow inmate about the Tate murders. She said they did it “because we wanted to do a crime that would shock the world. …”
Manson was originally sentenced to death but the death penalty was briefly abolished in the state and his concurrent sentences were commuted to life in prison.
He also was convicted in the connection with the killings of Gary Hinman, a musician, and stuntman Donald “Shorty” Shea in 1969.

Disease, suicide killing Ala inmates faster than execution


August 29, 2015

IRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Disease and suicide are claiming inmates on Alabama’s death row faster than the executioner.

With Alabama’s capital punishment mechanism on hold for more than two years because of legal challenges and a shortage of drugs for lethal injections, five of the state’s death row inmates have died without ever seeing the inside of the execution chamber.

John Milton Hardy, convicted of killing Clarence Nugene Terry during a robbery at a convenience store in Decatur in 1993, was the most recent death row inmate to die. Prison officials say he died of unspecified natural causes on June 15.

Convicted killer Benito Albarran, 41, hanged himself in the infirmary at Donaldson prison about two months earlier. A decade earlier, he was convicted of fatally shooting Huntsville police officer Daniel Golden outside a Mexican restaurant where he worked.

Golden’s brother, David Golden, said family members wanted to witness Albarran’s execution and felt cheated by his death.

“He took the coward’s way out,” Golden told reporters in Huntsville after Albarran killed himself.

Attorney Joseph Flood, who represented Albarran as he challenged his conviction in state court, said the inmate’s mother died a week or two before he took his own life.

“He fell into a deep depression after that,” said Flood.

In March, David Eugene Davis, 56, died of natural causes at Holman prison near Atmore after suffering from liver failure. He was convicted of killing Kenneth Douglas and John Fikes in St. Clair County in 1996.

Two more death row inmates died last year, Ricky Dale Adkins of cancer and Justin T. Hosch, who hanged himself at Holman prison. Hosch was convicted in Autauga County in the 2008 shooting death of Joey Willmore, and Adkins was condemned for killing real estate agent Billie Dean Hamilton in St. Clair County in 1988.

The last inmate put to death in Alabama was Andrew Reid Lackey, who died by lethal injection on July 25, 2013, for killingCharles Newman during a robbery in Limestone County in 2005. At the time, he was the first inmate put to death in the state since October 2011.

With 189 people currently on death row, the state is trying to resume executions, but legal challenges could be a roadblock.

The state is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by death row inmate Tommy Arthur, who challenged the use of the sedative midazolam as inhumane during lethal injections. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the use of the drug in an Oklahoma case, but Arthur contends Alabama’s execution protocol is different from the one used there.

The state switched to midazolam after it had to halt executions because it was out of other drugs needed for lethal injections.

Texas: Cathy Lynn Henderson, babysitter convicted of murder, dies in hospital


Cathy Lynn Henderson, who dominated national headlines in 1994 for the the killing of 3-month-old Brandon Baugh, died Sunday after a month of hospitalization, her lawyer said Monday. She was 58.
Once just two days away from execution, the former babysitter spent nearly two decades in prison before winning a new trial in 2012. On June 12, just months before her case was to go to trial a second time, Henderson hobbled into the courtroom on crutches with the help of her lawyers and pleaded guilty to murder. She was sentenced then to 25 years in prison, but with credit for time served, she could have been released in four years.
Henderson was taken to the hospital on June 25 after she had trouble with her breathing. She was diagnosed with pneumonia and had a stroke during her stay.
Cathy Lynn Henderson passed away last night, at peace and without pain,” her lawyer, Jon Evans, told the American-Statesman. “In the last few weeks of her life she was relieved of a 21-year burden. Her version of the events of the tragedy of Brandon Baugh finally was given the proper respect and credence it deserved. She passed with that satisfaction.”
A sharply divided Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Henderson’s capital murder conviction and sentence in December 2012. The court upheld a recommendation by District Judge Jon Wisser that she have a new trial based on new scientific discoveries into the nature of head injuries.
Henderson claimed that Baugh died after slipping from her arms and falling about 4 feet to the concrete floor in her home in the Pflugerville area. She said she panicked, burying the boy’s body in a Bell County field before fleeing to Missouri, where she was found and arrested 11 days later.
Some supporters of the Baugh family said they were relieved to see Henderson plead guilty after years of lies and denials. But Brandon’s parents, grandmother and sister said they had been surprised and disappointed to learn she would not face a jury once more.
“I have no doubts that your plea today is not an act of contrition but another act of selfishness in order to gain your freedom,” Brandon’s father, Eryn Baugh, told Henderson on the witness stand on the day she took her plea.
Source: Statesman, Jazmine Ulloa, August 3, 2015

San Quentin Death Row Inmate Found Dead in Cell- Ralph Michael Yeoman


march 6. 2014

A death row inmate at San Quentin State Prison died in custody this week, a prison spokesman said.

Ralph Michael Yeoman, 66, who was sentenced to death for the 1988 murder of a Sacramento County woman, was found unresponsive in his cell Tuesday  morning and subsequently pronounced dead at 5:24 a.m., according to Lt. Sam Robinson.

The cause of death remains unknown pending the results of an autopsy, Robinson said.

Yeoman was convicted of first-degree murder following the Feb. 13, 1988, killing, kidnap and robbery of 73-year-old Doris Horrell, a Citrus Heights resident, according to Robinson.

Her body was found later that evening in an open field west of Interstate Highway 5, near the former Arco Arena.

Yeoman was sentenced to death for the crime and had been on death row since July 23, 1990.

Since 1978 when California reinstated capital punishment, 63 condemned inmates have died from natural causes. Additionally, 23 have committed suicide, 13 have been executed in California, and one was executed in Missouri.

Six died from other causes, and the cause of death is still pending for two condemned inmates.

Of the 725 male offenders on California’s death row, 706 are housed at San Quentin. Nineteen condemned inmates are either out to court, in medical facilities or in custody in other jurisdictions.

CALIFORNIA – Fresno serial killer dies as Sacramento inmate – WILBUR JENNINGS


February 12. 2014

An inmate of the Sacramento County Main Jail who died at a hospital Tuesday morning has been identified as a serial killer, officials said.

Wilbur Jennings was 73 years old. His death doesn’t appear suspicious in nature, according to the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.

Jennings was convicted and sentenced to death in the 1980s for a long list of crimes, including rape, robbery and murder.

His four female victims were from the Fresno area. Jennings spent much of his time at San Quentin State Prison on death row.

He appealed the death penalty in 1991.

In 2005, Jennings was transferred to Sacramento County to stand trial on the 1981 rape and murder of Debra Chandler.

At the time of his death, the case still had not had a preliminary hearing, the Sacramento district attorney indicated, because it involved evidence from the Fresno case that was tied up on appeals in the federal court.

Then in 2008, DNA evidence tied Jennings to yet another rape and murder of a fifth Fresno woman killed in 1983.

Despite the death penalty and the new pending murder cases against Jennings, it was his terminal illness that killed him.

The Sheriff’s Department will conduct a thorough inmate-death investigation in accordance with the department procedures and state laws.

Jennings has a long medical history. He died about 10:30 a.m. Monday.

Why so many death row inmates in America will die of old age


february 3, 2014 (economist.com)

GARY ALVORD, a Florida man who was sentenced to death for strangling three women, died in May 2013—of natural causes. He had been on death row for nearly 40 years. The state never executed him because he was “too crazy to be killed“, as the Tampa Bay Times put it: “In 1984, he was sent to a state hospital in Chattahoochee to be restored to competence. But doctors there refused to treat him, citing the ethical dilemma of making a patient well just so that he could be killed. He was quietly returned to death row in 1987 and remained there ever since. His final appeal expired in 1998.”

Alvord’s case was extreme, but condemned prisoners in America typically spend a very long time waiting to die. The appeals process drags on for decades. It is endlessly painstaking because no one wants to see an innocent prisoner executed. Even the most enthusiastic advocates of capital punishment know that such a miscarriage of justice would undermine their cause. For prisoners who are actually put to death, the average time that elapses between sentence and execution has risen from six years in the mid-1980s to 16.5 years now. And even that startling figure makes the process sound quicker than it is, since most condemned prisoners will never be put to death. It’s simple maths.

At the end of 2011, there were 3,082 prisoners on state and federal death rows in America. That year, 43 were executed. At the current rate (which is slowing) a condemned prisoner has a one-in-72 chance of being executed each year. Since the average death row inmate was 28 when first convicted, it seems unlikely that more than a fraction of them will ever meet the executioner. In 2011 24 condemned prisoners died of natural causes and 70 had their sentences commuted or overturned. (There were 80 fresh death sentences passed in 2011, so the number of people on death row shrank by 57.)

We can expect the number who die of old age to increase. The death penalty was restored only in 1976, so nearly everyone on death row was convicted after that date, and most were young when convicted. As they get older, more will start to die each year of heart attacks, strokes and cancer. Conditions on death row are grim; inmates age fast. They are often locked up in a solitary cell for 23 hours a day. Throughout this time, they live in fear that soon they will be strapped to a gurney and pumped full of lethal chemicals. Some lawyers argue that death row itself amounts to a cruel and unusual punishment of the sort the constitution forbids.