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.


Alabama death row inmate maintains state is wrongly ignoring his claims of innocence

The latest Alabama inmate seeking freedom from death row maintains the state is wrongly ignoring his claims of innocence while his health fails behind bars, one of his attorneys said Monday.
Legal arguments filed by Donnis Musgrove contend the state is arguing about technicalities rather than addressing legitimate concerns about the man’s 1988 conviction and death sentence.
Musgrove’s appeal is currently in federal court, and the defense is asking the judge to rule quickly because the prisoner has lung cancer and was hospitalized last week in grave condition, said Cissy Jackson, one of his lawyers.
“We would love to get him out of prison … so he could have some peace after being wrongfully imprisoned for so many years,” said Jackson.
Out of the hospital and sent back to Donaldson prison near Birmingham, Musgrove will be treated in the prison infirmary for an indefinite period, Jackson said.
The attorney general’s office didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment on Musgrove’s legal arguments or health.
The state has argued that rules prohibit Musgrove from making new claims about being innocent and bar him from questioning evidence used in his trial, but prosecutors haven’t directly addressed his arguments about being wrongfully convicted based on bogus evidence conjured by prosecutors and police.
Musgrove, 67, was sentenced to die for the gunshot killing of Coy Eugene Barron in 1986, but his attorneys maintain the prosecution falsified every piece of evidence against him, including witness statements and a shell casing that was used to link him to the slaying.
Source: The Guardian, August 24, 2015

Life on Alabama Death Row? 45 convicted killers have served 20 or more years

It has been nearly 37 years since Willene and Carl Nelson were shot and stabbed to death in a robbery at their Blount County home in 1978. Their three children, then ages 10, 13 and 21, were critically wounded but survived, as did the children’s 85-year-old grandmother.

Arthur Lee Giles — who will turn 56 on July 15 — went to Alabama Death Row for the crime in 1979.

Giles is Alabama’s second longest serving death row inmate and one of 45 Alabama inmates who have faced execution for 20 or more years. There have been nine presidential elections since Giles first arrived on death row.

Only William Bush, sentenced in the 1981 shooting death of Montgomery convenience store clerk Larry Dominguez, has served more time on death row than Giles. According to the Alabama Department of Corrections, Bush has served 33 years, 10 months, and eight days.

Nearly two years have passed since Alabama executed an inmate, but a U.S. Supreme Court ruling this week might pave the way for more executions.

In a 5-4 decision Monday, the court ruled that one of the drugs used in lethal injections does not violate the Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment.

What does that mean for Alabama?

“The U.S. Supreme Court has spoken on the constitutionality of states’ use of lethal injections and death penalty opponents cannot continue to indefinitely delay lawful executions,” Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange stated in a press release issued Monday morning.

“Opponents of lethal injections have repeatedly used court challenges of certain lethal injection drugs as ways to delay or avoid lawful executions,” Strange stated. “The U.S. Supreme Court confirmed our belief that executions using these lethal injection drugs are not cruel and unusual punishment, and therefore are not prohibited under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”

There are 189 inmates on Alabama’s death row — all but three are men, according to ADOC. The average age is 39. (The oldest inmate, 80-year-old Walter Leroy Moody, has been on death row since 1997 in the 1989 pipe bomb murder of Judge Robert Vance.)

Forty-five inmates — 24 percent of death row’s population — have faced execution since at least 1995.

That includes:

  • James Edmond McWilliams: Sentenced to death in the 1984 rape, robbery and murder of Patricia Vallery Reynolds, a 22-year-old convenience store clerk shot to death at the store where she worked in Tuscaloosa County.
  • Larry Donald George: Convicted in the 1988 killings of two former next-door neighbors. Authorities say George killed Janice Morris, 29, of Talladega, and Ralph Swann, 24, of Alpine. George’s wife, Geraldine, was shot and paralyzed.
  • Anthony Boyd and Robert Shawn Ingram: Convicted for helping take Gregory Huguley to a baseball park in Munford  in 1993, where he was taped to a bench, soaked with gasoline and burned to death because Huguley owed $200 for cocaine.
  • Steven Wayne Hall and Wayne Holleman Travis: Sentenced to death for the murder of retired school teacher Clarene Haskew, 69, in 1991. She was beaten, strangled and shot twice in the head. A pentagram had been spray painted on a cabinet and the words ”thunder struck” were painted on the floor beside her body.
  • Alonzo Burgess: Sentenced to die for the murders of Sheila Nnodimele and her two daughters, Latoria Long, 14, and Alexis Nnodimele, 8. Burgess also was convicted of attempting to murder 2-year-old Larice Long, Ms. Nnodimele’s son  in Colbert County in 1993. They were fatally beaten and strangled in their home.

How much does it cost to house — and execute — those inmates?

Since 1983, when another U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowed Alabama to execute an inmate for the first time since 1965, the average time an inmate has served on death row in Alabama is approximately 16 years, according to ADOC spokesman Bob Horton.

The cost to incarcerate a death row inmate in Alabama is $53 per day. Over the course of 16 years, that comes to roughly $309,732.

That means Alabama has spent approximately $640,742 caring for William Bush.

For Giles, who has served 32 years, five months, and 28 days, that is approximately $628,898. Giles would have been Alabama’s longest serving death row inmate, but his 1979 conviction was overturned and he was again sentenced to death upon his second conviction in the 1990s.

It’s estimated lethal injection drugs run about $100 — the Texas Department of Criminal Justice put the cost of their drug cocktails at $83 in 2011, reported in 2014.

A Seattle University study found that each death penalty prosecution cost an average of $1 million more than a case where the death penalty was not sought, an anti-death penalty organization reported.

Whatever the cost, opponents of the death penalty found some signs of hope in Monday’s ruling that maybe the court will one day find the death penalty cruel and unusual.

“For me what was more significant was the affirmative suggestion by some members of the Court that the constitutionality of the death penalty itself be reconsidered,” Bryan Stevenson, executive director and founder of the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative stated in an email to

“It’s unfortunate this decision won’t resolve issues surrounding lethal injection we are still litigating in Alabama, but I’m encouraged to see members of the Court warming up to the idea that we may be on the brink of a new era where capital punishment is prohibited.” reporters Kent Faulk and Izzy Gould contributed to this report.

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1st Alabama. execution since 2011 set for Thursday

July 20, 2013

This March 18, 2009 photo provided by the Alabama Dept. of Corrections shows inmate Andrew Reid Lackey. Alabama’s second execution in almost two years is scheduled for Thursday, July 25, 2013 at Holman Prison in Atmore, Ala.. Court records show that 30-year-old Andrew Lackey asked the state to set his execution date, and Alabama has not taken action to stop it. Photo: Alabama Dept. Of Corrections

MONTGOMERY, Ala.  — Alabama’s second execution in almost two years is scheduled for Thursday at Holman Prison in Atmore.

Court records show that 30-year-old Andrew Lackey asked the state to set his execution date, and has not taken action to stop it.

Lackey is scheduled to die by lethal injection at Holman Prison in Atmore for the beating and shooting death of 80-year-old Charles Newman during a 2005 Halloween night robbery at Newnan’s home in Limestone County. Lackey is to be executed by lethal injection at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Lackey would be the first inmate executed in Alabama since Christopher T. Johnson of Escambia County received a lethal injection Oct. 20, 2011. He was the sixth inmate executed in 2011.

The state’s executions have been slowed partly because of a legal dispute over the drugs used in executions.

Lackey’s execution was set after he wrote a letter to the Alabama Supreme Court saying that he had “an odd request.”

“Please set me an execution date. I do not wish to pursue any further appeals for my death sentence,” Lackey said in the letter to the justices, according to court records. Lackey said he would not file any further appeals.

Court records show Lackey has taken no action to stop the execution.

In a letter to Assistant Attorney General Richard Anderson, Lackey says, “I do not know what else I can do. Will you please help me get an execution date.”

Court records show that Newman made an emergency phone call to the Athens Police Department on Halloween night 2005 in which he could be heard saying, “Don’t do that,” ”Leave me alone” and “What do you want.”

The police operator then heard the apparent assailant repeatedly ask, “Where’s the vault?” according to the records.

Bryan Stevenson, an attorney with the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative, said both the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and the trial court have ruled that the state can go ahead with Lackey’s execution.

Stevenson said he and other attorneys opposed to Lackey being executed and “have argued that he is mentally ill.”

“Our point is that he needs to be examined,” Stevenson said.

US – Executions Scheduled for 2013 June 18 – November

Month State Inmate
18 OK James DeRosa  – executed
24 FL Marshall Gore    STAYED
25 OK Brian Davis Executed
26 TX Kimberly McCarthy executed
10 TX Rigoberto Avila – execution moved to January1, 2014
16 TX John Quintanilla executed
18 TX Vaughn Ross executed
25 AL Andrew Lackey
31 TX Douglas Feldman
7 OH Billy Slagle
18-24 CO Nathan Dunlap – Stayed
19 TX Robert Garza
25 OH Harry Mitts
26 TX Arturo Diaz
9 TX Michael Yowell
14 OH Ronald Phillips

Death row inmate Jason Sharp, convicted in 1999 Madison County slaying, to get new case review

NOVEMBER 1, 2012

The Alabama Supreme Court wants the state’s criminal appeals court to take another look at the case of Jason Sharp, who is on death row after being convicted of the 1999 rape and murder of Tracy Morris.

The case took years to go to trial before Sharp was convicted in 2006.

The appeals process has bounced back and forth from various Alabama courts since Sharp’s lawyers alleged prosecutors improperly struck black would-be jurors from the jury pool.

jason sharp.JPGJason Sharp is led from Judge Laura Hamilton’s courtroom by Madison County Sheriff deputies from left, Sgt. Emmanuel Simmons, E.T. Burrows and Avery Miller after being sentenced to the death penalty Thursday Sept. 14, 2006 for the murder of Tracy Morris. (The Huntsville Times/Robin Conn)Brian Lawson |

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that prosecutors must have race-neutral reasons for striking jurors. Both Sharp and Morris are white.

The state’s high court today denied a request by the State of Alabama to reconsider its order from last month, directing the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals to allow Sharp’s attorneys and the state to file new briefs on the issue of whether Sharp received a fair trial.

The dispute centers the complaint by Sharp’s attorneys that the prosecution improperly struck all but two of 13 potential jurors who were African American. The defense struck the other two black potential jurors.

In December 2009, the Alabama Supreme Court overturned the conviction andordered a hearing before Circuit Judge Laura Hamilton, who presided over Sharp’s trial. The court required prosecutors to spell out their reasons for striking black jurors. If the prosecution, led by Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard failed to persuade the trial court that the juror strikes were proper, Sharp would be entitled to a new trial.

The hearing was held and Hamilton ruled in June 2010 that prosecutors did not discriminate in picking a jury. The prosecution had argued a number of the black potential jurors said they opposed or would be reluctant to impose the death penalty, or didn’t appear to have the professional or social “sophistication” to comprehend technical DNA evidence.

Broussard said he struck twice as many white potential jurors based on the DNA issue and has insisted there was no discrimination in the Sharp case.

The sophistication argument was ridiculed by the defense for appearing to suggest the jurors weren’t intelligent enough. And in one instance, a woman with a bachelor’s degree from Alabama A&M University was excluded, the defense argued, but two white jurors with no college education did make the jury.

The case took another turn in February 2011, when the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the prosecution had discriminated against the black members of the jury pool and said Sharp was entitled to a new trial.

But in February of this year, the same court, though with a slightly different make-up,reversed its decision from the previous year and said prosecutors did not discriminate.

That ruling was appealed by Sharp’s lawyers to the Alabama Supreme Court. The court ruled Oct. 18, that the lower court must let the two sides provide briefs to the appeals court on the issue of whether Hamilton’s ruling was correct that the prosecution did not discriminate against members of the jury pool.

ALABAMA – Court won’t hear Ala. death row appeal – Bobby Baker Jr

October 1, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court won’t hear an appeal from a convicted murderer who kidnapped and fatally shot his estranged wife in 1994.

The high court on Monday refused to hear an appeal from Bobby Baker Jr., who is on death row in Alabama. He was accused of kidnapping and shooting Tracy Baker four times while she sat in the back seat of his car in April 1994.

He has had his death sentence overturned once by the courts before being sentenced to death for a second time. Baker wanted the Supreme Court to rule on whether the aggravating circumstances that were used to decide to seek the death penalty were unconstitutionally vague.

ALABAMA – Trial begins on isolation of HIV-positive inmates

September 26, 2012

MONTGOMERY, ALA. — Alabama prisons continue to isolate inmates who have tested positive for HIV even though the virus is no longer the death sentence it once was considered, an attorney for HIV-positive prison inmates said Monday.

ACLU attorney Margaret Winter asked U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson Monday to end a longstanding Alabama prisons policy of isolating inmates who have tested positive for HIV.

Thompson is hearing testimony in a trial of a lawsuit brought by HIV-positive inmates challenging the Alabama prisons policy of keeping HIV-positive inmates separate from the remainder of the prison population. Alabama and South Carolina are the only states that continue to do so.

Attorney Bill Lunsford, representing Alabama prisons, said the HIV-positive prisoners are kept together in dormitories at Limestone Correctional Facility in north Alabama and at Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka. But he said the inmates can participate in most of the programs available to other inmates.

Lunsford and Winter made the remarks in opening statements in a trial of a federal lawsuit challenging the Alabama prisons’ HIV policy. The trial is expected to last about a month.

The ACLU claims the policy is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Winter said in her opening statement that the policy keeps HIV-positive inmates from participating in some programs to help in their rehabilitation.

But Lunsford said the only thing the HIV-positive inmates are prohibited from doing is working in the prison kitchen. Winter, however, said the HIV-positive inmates often can’t get the same work-release jobs as other inmates, particularly food service jobs.

The trial’s first witness was Frederick Altice of Yale University, who described himself as an expert in the incarceration of HIV-positive inmates.

He described the prison system’s policy of isolating HIV-positive inmates as a mistake, particularly for inmates who are just learning that they are HIV-positive. He said some people still have the same reaction to HIV they had in past years, when it was considered more deadly.

“They think, ‘Am I never going to be able to see my children?’ or ‘Am I going to die?'” Altice said. “Being alone is not a good place for them to be.”

Lunsford repeatedly questioned Altice’s credentials, particularly when it comes to understanding how the Alabama prison policy works.

The trial continues Tuesday morning.

ALABAMA – Amy Bishop sought the death penalty

September 26, 2012

Amy Bishop, a Massachusetts native, is accused of killing her brother in Braintree in 1986.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — A former college professor who killed three people and wounded three others during a faculty meeting wanted to go to death row and had to be convinced by her parents to accept a plea deal that spared her life, her lawyer said Tuesday.

Amy Bishop, 47, did not want to live among other ­inmates because she was terrified of being sexually abused in Alabama’s lone prison for women, defense attorney Roy Miller told the Associated Press.

‘‘She wanted to die,’’ he said. Bishop did not want to ‘‘live in a chicken coop the rest of her life,’’ he said.

A judge sentenced Bishop, a Harvard University-educated biologist, to life without parole Monday after jurors convicted her during an abbreviated ­trial.

She had pleaded guilty earlier this month, but state law ­required a trial because she ­admitted to a capital murder charge.

Authorities have said that Bishop opened fire during a University of Alabama biology department meeting Feb. 12, 2010, in Huntsville, ­because she had been denied tenure.

Bishop, who has been held without bond in the Madison County jail since the shootings, could be transferred to Julia Tutwiler, the women’s prison, at any time.

Bishop met at the jail Tuesday with a defense attorney representing her on a murder charge in her native Massachusetts, where she is accused of killing her brother with a shotgun blast in their home in Braintree in 1986.

Authorities initially ruled the shooting accidental, based partly on claims by Bishop’s mother, who said her daughter did not mean to kill Seth ­Bishop, 18 at the time.

Authorities in Massachusetts said they would make a decision later this week on whether to pursue the case.

District Attorney Rob Broussard of Madison County said a prosecutor from Massachusetts phoned him last week to ask about Bishop’s plea.

‘‘He wanted verification from me on the guilty plea and that life without [parole] really means life,’’ Broussard said. ‘‘It does.’’

A spokesman for Norfolk District Attorney Michael ­Morrissey in Massachusetts ­declined to comment.

Miller said Bishop would probably never face trial in Massachusetts because ­Alabama is unlikely to send her there.

‘‘Based on my experience, I don’t foresee her ever going up there to face that,’’ he said. ‘‘Practically speaking, it would be a disaster if she escaped or something happened.’’

Bishop accepted a plea deal in Alabama only after talking with her mother and father, Miller said. ‘‘She was never ­inclined to plead guilty to life without parole,’’ he said.

Bishop attempted suicide once in the county lockup by cutting her wrists, authorities said.

The Justice Department is reviewing allegations of rape, sexual assault, and harassment by male guards at Tutwiler prison after a legal aid group filed a complaint in May.

The Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative said it based the assertions on interviews with more than 50 women at the maximum-security prison, north of Montgomery.

Prison system spokesman Brian Corbett said Bishop would probably spend about a month in a cell by herself ­before moving into the prison’s general population.

‘‘I’m sure that every inmate entering the system has their own set of unique fears,’’ ­Corbett said in an e-mail. ‘‘I cannot address hers on an individual basis.’’

Bishop could have been sentenced to death by lethal injection if she had gone to trial and been convicted of capital murder, but none of the victims were pushing for a death sentence and some actively ­opposed it, Broussard said.

‘‘The settlement was a just outcome,’’ he said.

ALABAMA – Henderson gets death penalty for killing deputy

September 20, 2012

Judge Jacob A. Walker III sentenced Gregory Lance Henderson to death Thursday for the 2009 murder of a Lee County sheriff’s deputy, overriding a jury’s recommendation in a capital case for the second time in as many years.

Henderson, a Bibb City native, was convicted last year of running over and killing Deputy James W. Anderson during an attempted traffic stop. Jurors, in a 9-3 vote, recommended Henderson be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Alabama judges have the final say in capital cases, and Walker had been urged by law enforcement officials to send Henderson to death row. Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones had testified that Henderson deserved the “severest punishment” for his actions, and Attorney General Luther Strange had attended a hearing this summer in which Henderson was expected to be sentenced.

“Nothing can bring James back, but I believe there is a degree of closure provided to his loved ones and the law enforcement community in light of the court’s decision today,” Jones said Thursday. “We should never tolerate the deliberate killing of a law officer while performing their sworn duty. The punishment should fit the crime — this sentence does just that.”

Defense attorney Jeremy W. Armstrong of Phenix City cited a number of mitigating circumstances in Henderson’s background and said Walker had “ignored what the jurors thought was best for their community.”

“We had jurors here who were under enormous pressure by the law enforcement community to impose the death penalty, and they sat through all the testimony and chose that the best form of punishment was life without parole,” Armstrong said. “The death penalty, in my opinion, is for the worst of the worst. In this situation, I just think we had some pretty good mitigating things to support life without parole and not override.”

The sentence came nearly three years to the day after the fatal traffic stop off Lee Road 240. Anderson had been trying to pull Henderson over for a switched tag violation when he began evading him.

The deputy had stepped out of his vehicle and ordered Henderson to stop when he struck him with his Honda Civic. Witnesses said Henderson floored the accelerator, crushing Anderson, who was unable to breathe as he was pinned between the car and the ground.

“It is the state’s position that the only remorse by this defendant was remorse that he was caught and that he failed at his attempt to avoid apprehension on an outstanding warrant for parole violation,” Assistant District Attorney Kisha A. Abercrombie argued in court filings.

Henderson maintained he was high on methamphetamine and marijuana, and that Anderson’s death was an accident. Armstrong pointed to Henderson’s troubled upbringing and his borderline intellectual ability in asking Walker to affirm the jury’s recommendation.

In imposing the death sentence, Walker said Henderson sought to influence a witness from jail, and cited recordings of jailhouse telephone calls Henderson made that, according to prosecutors, pointed to a lack of remorse. Walker is expected to write a more detailed sentencing order explaining the reasons for the override.

Armstrong said he was disappointed in the outcome, but not surprised. Walker overrode a unanimous life without parole recommendation in March 2011 when he sentenced Courtney Lockhart to death for the murder of Auburn University student Lauren Burk.