May 2004 Executions

Three killers were executed in May 2004. They had murdered at least 5 people.

killers were given a stay in May 2004. They have murdered at least 5 people.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
May 13, 2004 Pennsylvania Daryl Martin Francis Harris stayed

The execution date is set for a man convicted of a 1996 murder in Lancaster County. Gov. Ed Rendell Monday signed the warrant for Francis Bauer Harris’ execution. His death by lethal injection is scheduled for May 13. Harris is convicted of killing Daryl Martin, of Lancaster. The state Supreme Court turned down Harris’ appeal in November 2002, and late last year the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case. UPDATE: In Harrisburg, a federal judge has stayed the execution of a man convicted of a 1996 murder in Lancaster County. Francis Bauer Harris’ execution by lethal injection had been scheduled for May 13. In an order filed Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe appointed the Defender Association of Philadelphia to represent him and gave them 120 days to file a petition. Harris, 37, of East Rutherford, N.J., was convicted of killing Daryl Martin of Lancaster. Since 1995, Pennsylvania governors have signed a total of 282 execution warrants, and 229 people are currently on death row. 3 executions have been carried out, the most recent in July 1999.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
May 18, 2004 Texas Louis Oates
Dorothy Harris
Kelsey Patterson executed

A 49-year-old former Palestine man who has spent the past 10 years on Texas Death Row for a 1992 double murder has been scheduled to die in May. Kelsey Patterson, 49, is set to be put to death May 18 at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Walls Unit in Huntsville for murdering a local Texaco distributor and his secretary on Sept. 25, 1992. In 1993, an Anderson County jury convicted Patterson of capital murder in the shooting deaths of Louis Oates and his secretary, Dorothy "Kay" Harris. J. Gary Hart, Patterson’s Austin-based attorney, recently filed a handful of motions, including one to determine his client’s competency for execution. Persons must be competent at the time of execution under federal law. 87th State District Judge Deborah Oakes Evans recently signed an order allowing Hart to obtain Patterson’s TDCJ psychiatric records. A competency hearing which could stop or delay Patterson’s execution is currently scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on March 26 at the Anderson County Courthouse. Patterson, who has been diagnosed by some mental health professionals as paranoid schizophrenic, has referred to court officials as "hell workers" during past court proceedings, while also complaining of "remote control devices" inside his body. Authorities have said Patterson shot Oates twice from point-blank range in the yard of the victim’s West Reagan Street business. According to testimony in the man’s 1993 Anderson County trial, Patterson then halted his escape and returned to shoot Harris who had walked outside and screamed at the sight of Oates laying helplessly on the ground. Oates was pronounced dead at the scene, while Harris died the following day at a Tyler hospital. Patterson’s death sentence has been upheld by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, while the defendant’s federal writ of habeas corpus also was denied last November. UPDATE: A local district judge has denied a motion made by attorneys representing death row inmate Kelsey Patterson, keeping the former Palestine man’s execution on schedule for May. Patterson’s Austin-based attorneys, Gary Hart and Robin Norris, had filed a motion on behalf of their client, asking that 2 mental health experts be appointed to examine the convicted capital murderer. Patterson has previously been found competent to stand execution. The 50-year-old Patterson is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection May 18 in Huntsville for the 1992 capital murders of local Texaco distributor, Louis Oates, and his secretary, Dorothy "Kay" Harris. 87th State District Judge Deborah Oakes Evans heard arguments by attorneys representing both sides and then took the matter under "advisement," telling the parties she would rule by early this week. In a brief letter, Evans informed attorneys she had denied the motion for the appointment of two experts, concluding "the Defendant has failed to raise a substantial doubt of the Defendant’s competency to be executed." Hart argued that Patterson, who has been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic, has been unable to assist them in his defense and "has had a long history of…delusional statements." In the past Patterson has spoken of "remote control devices" inside his body and referred to court officials as "hell workers." Sue Korioth, a special prosecutor from Dallas, represented the state along with Anderson County District Attorney Doug Lowe during Friday’s hearing. Korioth argued that the standard for mental competency to be executed is "lower, by far" than the same standard to stand trial. "Mental illness does not equal incompetency to be executed," Korioth argued. "Many of these defendants are mentally ill, but still competent to be executed." Lowe was out-of-town this morning and unavailable for comment on the court’s ruling. Had the court granted the defendant’s motion to appoint mental health experts, Patterson’s execution would have likely been delayed. Testimony in Patterson’s 1993 trial showed that he shot Oates twice from point-blank range in the yard of the victim’s West Reagan Street business and then halted his escape to return to shoot Harris who had emerged from inside the business.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
May 18, 2004 Oklahoma Francisco Morales
Maria Yanez
Osvaldo Torres stayed

In the early hours of July 12, 1993, Jorge Ochoa and Osvaldo Torres broke into the Oklahoma City home of Francisco Morales and his wife, Maria Yanez, intending to rob them. Torres and Ochoa entered the couple’s bedroom and awakened the sleeping couple. The intruders then opened fire, killing Morales and Yanez in their bed. The shooting awoke Maria’s 14-year old daughter Christina who called 911 and reported that shots had been fired. According to the 911 tape, the 14-year old reported that the shots may have been fired by her stepfather. Morales’ 11-year old son Francisco also awoke when the first shot was fired. He witnessed a man in a black t-shirt shoot and kill his father. Christina testified that she peeked out of her bedroom and saw two men. One was wearing a white t-shirt. The other was wearing a black one. The man in the black t-shirt had something in his hand, but Christina admitted that she could not see what it was. After they were arrested a block or so from the Morales home by police responding to the "shots fired" call, Christina identified Ochoa as the man in the black t-shirt and Torres as the man in the white t-shirt. A few minutes before they broke into the Morales home, Ochoa and Torres had parked their car at a friend’s house. A witness at that location told police that one of the men –Torres–took a small handgun from the back trunk of the car and stuck it in his pants. Police stopped the pair about a block from the Morales home because the men appeared to be nervous and sweating–and had blood on their clothing. A search of the suspects produced sufficient evidence that they were the guilty party. Morales’ billfold contained $300 and the dead man’s identification, and some of Maria Yanez’s jewelry were found on Torres. Positively identified by Christina Yanez, Francisco Morales and the witness where the car was parked, the pair was subsequently tried for the double murder. The first trial was held in October, 1995. The trial judge was forced to declare a mistrial when the jury could not reach a verdict. Ochoa and Torres were retried in February, 1996. Found guilty of two counts of aggravated murder with malice aforethought and one count of first degree burglary in March of that year, both men were sentenced to death.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
May 21, 2004 Louisiana Rita Rabalais, 82 Cedric Howard stayed

RitaRabalais001 small1The scheduled execution of a man convicted of killing an elderly woman in 1994 has been put off. Cedric Howard had been scheduled to be executed by injection on May 21. The trial judge, Donald Johnson, issued a stay on March 11 and no new execution date was set, prosecutor Thomas "Rocky" Willson said. Rita Rabalais, 82, was beaten and stabbed during a robbery at her Alexandria home. Howard was 1 of 10 men who physically attacked the woman, authorities said. Howard and co-defendant Frederick Gradley received death sentences, two men received life sentences and the rest received varying sentences after manslaughter convictions. Gradley remains on death row. Howard was 16 when he helped kill Rabalais, and authorities said her killing was part of a street gang initiation. Howard’s appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court failed. Lawyer Nick Trenticosta of New Orleans recently took over the case and filed papers for post conviction relief, but the judge set no deadline for new filings in the case, Willson said.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
May 18, 2004 North Carolina Lashenna "Jo Jo" Moore, 7 Sammy Perkins stayed

Correction Secretary Theodis Beck has set May 21, 2004 as the execution date for inmate Sammy Crystal Perkins. The execution is scheduled for 2:00 a.m. at Central Prison in Raleigh. On December 15, 1993, Perkins was sentenced to death in Pitt County Superior Court for the April 18, 1992 murder of 7-year-old Lashenna “Jo Jo” Moore, who died April 19, 1992. Perkins, who was sentenced to death Dec. 15, 1993, was convicted of raping JoJo, then smothering her with a pillow in her bed in a Greenville public housing project. Her school picture showed a pretty girl with pigtails and a gap-toothed smile. Her teacher said she was a child with a great laugh, the kind you wanted to take home. On April 18, 1992 Perkins was living with his mother in Greenville. After visiting with his family and drinking several beers, Perkins went to the home of a woman he had been dating for two months and had known for ten or eleven years. She lived in the house with her two children and four grandchildren, one of whom was JoJo. The woman shared a room with two of her grandchildren, a three-year-old boy and JoJo, who slept together on a daybed. After leaving the woman’s home for a short time, Perkins returned and drank more beer and smoked crack cocaine. At approximately 3:00 am on April 19, Perkins entered the woman’s bedroom, where she and her two grandchildren were sleeping. Perkins watched a pornographic video and then tried to have sex with the woman, who was surprised that he was in the room. She discovered a large butcher knife under her pillow, and Perkins explained that he had used it to open a can of beer. She ordered Perkins out of the house. As she walked him to the door, the young boy rose from his bed and claimed that Perkins had bitten his finger. After Perkins left, he called the woman twice to insist that he had not bitten the boy. The woman then went to sleep; when she awoke at around 9:00 am, she observed that the boy’s finger was swollen. At approximately 11:30 am, while the family was preparing to go to church for Easter services, the woman discovered that JoJo was dead. The evidence tended to show that sometime early that morning, Perkins had mounted the victim, held a pillow over her face, and had sex with her. The medical examiner determined that JoJo died of suffocation and estimated that her mouth and nose were covered for a period of between three to seven minutes before she became unconscious. Perkins testified that on the night and morning in question, he had been drinking and smoking crack cocaine. He stated that JoJo awoke while he was having sex with her grandmother. He put a pillow over her face so that she would not see them. He said that he administered CPR, which he thought was successful in resuscitating her. He then went to the kitchen for a beer, used a knife to open the can, and placed the knife by the grandmother’s bed. Sometime in the morning, he took the boy to the bathroom. The boy stuck his finger in Perkins’s mouth, and Perkins bit it. He said the woman threw him out of the house after discovering the knife and the biting incident. Perkins, who was in a wheelchair by the time of trial, explained that he suffers from a debilitative muscular disease called myasthenia gravis which precluded him from having sexual intercourse in any position where he would have to support himself with his arms. On cross examination Perkins admitted that he had a prior conviction for attempted rape in 1981 and was released from prison in 1986. He also had prior convictions for possession with intent to sell and deliver heroin and cocaine in 1988 and 1989. UPDATE: A federal judge has ordered a halt to plans to execute a death-row inmate convicted of raping and killing a 7-year-old girl. Sammy Perkins, 50, was scheduled to be executed May 21 for the death of Lashenna "Jo Jo" Moore, but U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle ordered a stay that was filed Tuesday while the U.S. Supreme Court considers a case that challenges the constitutionality of lethal injection for some inmates. "It is clear that an execution cannot be permitted, where the possibility of further review by a higher court and a different outcome remain," Boyle wrote. Perkins was one of four death-row inmates who filed a petition in January seeking to prevent the state from carrying out or scheduling their executions, saying lethal injection constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. The other inmates were Raymond Dayle Rowsey, George Franklin Page and Kenneth Bernard Rouse. Rowsey was executed in January. Boyle stayed Page’s scheduled March execution while the Supreme Court considers the case involving Alabama death-row David Larry Nelson. Nelson contends that his collapsed veins would require prison officials to cut deep into his flesh to insert the needle, constituting cruel and unusual punishment. A state judge stopped Rouse’s execution, which was scheduled for last month, after his lawyers presented evidence that their client was mentally retarded. The office of state Attorney General Roy Cooper office has chosen not to challenge those stays, deciding to wait instead for appeals courts to issue rulings that could clarify the issues. In the past, the state’s lawyers would fight stays in high appeals courts nearly to the execution hour. "Obviously we’re very grateful that the stay has been entered," said Edwin West, a Wilmington-based attorney representing Perkins. "We believe that was this was the appropriate action for the court to take. The lethal injection procedure is one that must be scrutinized and reviewed." Nora Hargrove, who is also representing Perkins out of Wilmington, said she spoke with her client Wednesday morning about the stay. "He’s greatly relieved," she said. Keith Acree, a spokesman with the state Department of Correction, declined comment on the ruling. During clemency hearings Tuesday, Perkins’ attorneys asked Gov. Mike Easley to spare the killer’s life because jurors improperly discussed the case before deliberations began. Perkins also suffered from bipolar disorder at the time of the April 1992 slaying of Lashenna in Greenville, West said. Authorities said Perkins sexually assaulted the girl, who was his girlfriend’s granddaughter, and smothered her with a pillow. He was sent to death row the following year. West said two court officials in Perkins’ trial told a judge that members of the jury had decided Perkins was guilty before beginning deliberations. When jurors were questioned individually, they denied that. West said that Perkins should spend the rest of his life in prison. But Clark Everett, Pitt County’s district attorney, and retired investigator Ricky Best both asked Easley to allow the execution. "It’s a horrible, horrible crime. This was a young girl, 7 years old, brutally raped and murdered in her own bed," Everett said. "If there was ever a case for the death penalty, this is it."

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
May 25, 2004 Florida Raymond Wigley John Blackwelder executed

John Blackwelder pled guilty to the 05/06/00 murder of Raymond Wigley. Both men were inmates at Columbia Correctional Institution at the time of the murder. Blackwelder said that he and Raymond Wigley consented to a sexual encounter together in May of 2000. Knowing that Wigley would badger him for sex, Blackwelder said he devised a plan to murder him. On 05/06/00, Wigley proceeded to Blackwelder’s cell and asked for sex. Prior to the proposition, Blackwelder had hidden several pieces of cord around his bunk so he could restrain Wigley when the opportunity arose. Blackwelder consented to the proposition for sex and tied up Wigley after he had disrobed. Wigley allowed Blackwelder to bind his hands and feet to the bed and to tie a towel around his mouth. Blackwelder positioned himself on top of Wigley’s back and strangled him with a piece of the cord that he had hidden near his bunk. Prior to his death, Wigley was strangled for nearly ten minutes while pleading for his life. Blackwelder then alerted prison authorities about the murder. UPDATE: Florida postponed the execution on Tuesday of a man who, while serving a life sentence for another crime, murdered a cellmate in an effort to force the state to execute him. John Blackwelder, 49, had been scheduled to die by chemical injection at 6 p.m. EDT at Florida State Prison near Starke for the 2000 murder of fellow prisoner Raymond Wigley. But Gov. Jeb Bush delayed the execution for 24 hours after receiving a letter from another prisoner who claimed someone else had confessed to Wigley’s murder. The delay until Wednesday evening was granted "in abundance of caution" to allow the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the new claims, the governor’s spokeswoman said. Tuesday marked the 25th anniversary of Florida’s resumption of capital punishment. On May 25, 1979, John Spenkelink became the first prisoner Florida put to death after the U.S. Supreme Court (news – web sites) lifted a ban on capital punishment. Death penalty opponents said that in executing Blackwell, prison officials would be carrying out a suicidal wish from a man who does not want to spend a lifetime behind bars. Blackwelder has said he killed Wigley, also serving a life sentence, to force the state to execute him. Blackwelder had been sentenced to life without parole for sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy and said he was innocent of that crime. But he told a judge that he knew what he was doing when he strangled Wigley and that if he returned to prison he would kill "as many times as necessary" to be put to death. "The point is I know how I am," Blackwelder said. "I’m stuck in prison the rest of my life. There’s no way of getting out. I’m not being in there. I can’t handle it."

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
May 28, 2004 South Carolina Rosa Lee "Dolly" Oakley, 54
Shannon Mellon, 21
James Tucker executed

James Neil Tucker will be the first state inmate since 1996 to die by electrocution, one of the oldest yet rarest forms of execution in the nation. Tucker will be put to death for the killing of Rosa Lee "Dolly" Oakley in her Sumter County Home, but he also faces a second death sentence in Calhoun County for the murder of 21-year-old Shannon Mellon. The death penalty is implemented in the state against those who commit murder with one of 10 aggravating circumstances. The minimum age to receive the death penalty is 16. Prior to June 1995, all persons receiving the death penalty were to be executed by electrocution under state law. Legislation signed into law on June 8, 1995, provided the option of lethal injection. A death row inmate, however, has to choose the option in writing 14 days before the execution date, or it is waived. If the person waives the right of election and the sentence was imposed prior to June 8, 1995, the penalty will be administered by electrocution. If the inmate waives the right of election and the penalty was imposed on or after that date, lethal injection will be administered. "He chose not to choose," said Mark Plowden, spokesman for the S.C. Attorney General’s office. Since Tucker was originally sentenced to death in December 1992, under state law he will die in the electric chair. He had until midnight May 15 to choose otherwise. UPDATED: A man convicted of killing two women while looking for money 12 years ago was executed Friday in South Carolina’s electric chair. James Neil Tucker, 47, was pronounced dead at 6:11 p.m. He was the first person to die by electrocution in more than a year. Tucker was remorseful in a final statement read to witnesses by his attorney: "To those I hurt, I offer my deepest apologies and regrets. I am ashamed," the statement said. Tucker was convicted of killing 54-year-old Rosa Lee "Dolly" Oakley in her home in June 1992. He stole $14 from Oakley, then shot her twice in the head. He said he needed money to help his pregnant wife. Tucker was convicted of killing 21-year-old Shannon Mellon six days after killing Oakley. Her hands and legs had been bound and she was shot three times in the head. Tucker took her car and $20. Tucker was the first person on death row to be executed by electrocution since Eric Bramblett on April 9, 2003, in Virginia, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. He was the first to die in the electric chair in South Carolina since 1996. Condemned inmates in South Carolina currently receive lethal injection, but those sentenced before June 1995 are electrocuted unless they choose injection. Tucker’s lawyer said he felt if he made a choice, he would be condoning his own death.

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