May 1999 Executions

Six killers were executed in the month of May, 1999. They murdered at least 9 people.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
5/4/99 Texas Domingo Rosas, 24 Jose De La Cruz executed

Jose De La Cruz stabbed Domingo Rosas to death. The Friday night before the murder De La Cruz was a guest in Rosas’ home and played a drinking game called "quarters" with Rosas until early Saturday morning. After leaving Rosas’ home, De La Cruz returned and killed Rosas in order to steal Rosas’ television, VCR and stereo, a theft which yielded him approximately $80. De La Cruz was observed Saturday morning driving around with a television in his car. Later that day, De La Cruz and his friend Michael Rios tried to sell a television to Michael’s uncle, Joe Rios. Joe Rios declined but directed the pair to Ray and Irma Flores, who paid De La Cruz $80 for Rosas’ belongings. Later that night, De La Cruz was arrested for public intoxication. The arresting officer found De La Cruz staggering in the road, near a borrowed car that De La Cruz had run into a ditch. De La Cruz smelled like paint and seemed intoxicated. The officer placed De La Cruz in the patrol car. Inside the ditched car, the officer discovered a large blood-stained knife and a bottle of medicine prescribed to Rosas. When the officer returned to the patrol car, De La Cruz volunteered that the knife was his and repeatedly asked whether it would be returned. De La Cruz then announced at his booking that he was Domingo Rosas, the victim. De La Cruz was released from jail, only to be arrested again a few days later. This time, De La Cruz entered Rosas’ bank and attempted to withdraw money using Rosas’ bank identification card. The bank, knowing that Rosas was dead, notified the police, and De La Cruz was arrested on suspicion of murder. After his arrest for Rosas’ murder, De La Cruz told his trial counsel that he did not commit the murder, but had delivered the stolen property to a "fence." Counsel explained that the state might be willing to arrange a plea agreement if De La Cruz could recover the stolen property. Counsel also explained that any deal with the state would be unenforceable unless De La Cruz was being truthful about his role. Thereafter, and without finalizing any plea agreement, De La Cruz led police to some of the stolen property, which was recovered with De La Cruz’ fingerprints. In addition to the stolen television, the state produced overwhelming evidence of De La Cruz’ guilt at trial. For example, De La Cruz’ clothing and the knife recovered from the ditched car were both stained with type-A blood, the same blood type as Rosas. Moreover, blood spatters on De La Cruz’ pants indicated that the wearer had forcefully stabbed a seated victim. De La Cruz does not raise any issue of actual innocence.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
5/4/99 Pennsylvania Jerome Slobotkin
Alexander Gutman
Antuan Bronshtein stayed

Antuan Bronshtein of Montgomery County Pennsylvania was sentenced to death on Aug. 10, 1994, for the 1991 murder of Alexander Gutman inside Gutman’s jewelry store in the Valley Forge Shopping Center, Montgomery County. Previously, Bronshtein had received a life sentence for the 1991 murder of Jerome Slobotkin, a Philadelphia jeweler. Bronshtein had waived all further appeals but decided to revive them four days before his scheduled execution and was granted a stay.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
5/4/99 Pennsylvania June Ohlinger, 52 Mark Spotz stayed

Mark Spotz was convicted of 1st-degree murder on March 4, 1996, for murdering 52-year-old June Ohlinger in February 1995. He was sentenced to death on March 6, 1996. Ohlinger was killed as part of a 4-county Central Pennsylvania crime spree in which Spotz killed 4 people.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
5/4/99 California Leah Schendel, 78 Manuel Babbitt executed

Manuel Babbitt was convicted of murdering an elderly Sacramento woman. Babbitt, 49, was sentenced to death for murdering Leah Schendel, 78, while robbing her retirement complex apartment in December 1980. The coroner said she died of a heart attack brought on by a severe beating and possible suffocation. Babbitt was convicted of murder, robbery and attempted rape. He was also convicted of robbing and attempting to rape another Sacramento woman, whom he grabbed and beat unconscious the following night. Babbitt did not deny the attacks. But he claimed insanity or diminished capacity because of head injuries suffered at age 12 and aggravated during 2 combat tours as a Marine in Vietnam. State and federal courts have upheld his convictions and sentence, and the Supreme Court denied review of his appeal. Leah Schendel had a large and close family and had spent the evening of her murder with her siblings. Her brother and sister-in-law drove her home and walked her to the door. As they left, they saw a man walking nearby. Later that night, Leah’s apartment was ransacked; the intruder had cut through her screen door and viciously attacked her. Leah was only 5 feet tall and weighed less than one hundred pounds. Her brutally beaten body was found partially undressed, under a mattress in the bedroom. Babbitt’s request for clemency was denied by the governor of California.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
5/5/99 Texas Leetisha Joe Clydell Coleman executed

Clydell Coleman has been on death row since October 1989. He was convicted in the strangulation death of his former neighbor, Leetisha Joe. Yolanda Phillips, a former prostitute and girlfriend of Coleman’s, testified that they were high on crack cocaine when they broke into Joe’s house looking for things to steal to buy more drugs. Trial testimony showed Coleman and Phillips entered the house through a back door. When they unexpectedly found Ms. Joe at home, Phillips said Coleman threw a blanket over the elderly woman’s head and beat her head in with a hammer, then ripped a stocking off her leg and choked her with it. Coleman, who worked as a janitor, was condemned for the Feb. 24, 1989, murder of 87-year-old Leetisha Joe at her Waco home. Coleman grew up in a house across the street. The 2 fled with the woman’s television, a clock radio, sheets, a cooler, fan and ladder. Phillips’ fingerprints were found at the home. She was arrested and implicated Coleman, telling authorities they both were high on cocaine and needed to steal items to sell so they could support their drug habits. McLennan County District Attorney John Segrest said Coleman’s crime was made for the death penalty. "All murders are uncalled for, but there are certain murders that really meet the description," he said. "To take advantage of an old person and then take her property and kill her is an unbelievable act of gratuitous violence." A witness at his trial said Coleman had bragged of robbing the same woman of $4,000 less than a year earlier and that he talked of planning to rob her again once she had a chance to rebuild her savings. "Since the day of the sentencing, it’s been on my mind," Ms. Joe’s son, 73-year-old Arthur Joe of Dallas, told the Waco Tribune-Herald, adding he thought the more than 9 years Coleman spent on death row awaiting execution was appropriate. "I wouldn’t have wanted it to be the next day," he said of the punishment. "I wanted extensive time for him to suffer for what he did to my mother." Coleman 1st served prison time in 1954 when he was given 5 years for a McLennan County burglary. He was paroled after 19 months. 2 years later, he was convicted in Dallas of another burglary, serving 28 months of a 5-year sentence. He was back in prison in 1966, again for burglary in Dallas. He was released after serving 3 years of a 6-year sentence. In July 1974, he got 15 years for a McLennan County burglary and was paroled 6 years later. He also was accused, but not tried, for a burglary similar to the Joe case, where an 88-year-old woman was robbed after she had a blanket thrown over her head. Ms. Phillips, 40, plea-bargained for a 30-year prison term in exchange for her testimony. Her criminal record has at least 15 convictions, including 9 for prostitution. She could be paroled in 2004.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
5/5/99 Arizona Frank Ponciano
Buster Holsinger
Robert Vickers executed

Frank Ponciano was the cellmate of Robert Vickers and was strangled with a knotted bed sheet because he had failed to awaken Vickers at lunchtime and also drank his Kool-Aid. After strangling Ponciano, Vickers then used a sharpened toothbrush to stab him six times and carve his name into the dead inmate’s back. A corrections officer realized Ponciano was dead under the covers of his bunk when Ponciano didn’t react to the lighted cigar Vickers shoved into the sole of the Ponciano’s foot. Vickers had called the officer to his cell to remove the victim. They had been cellmates less than 2 weeks. Ponciano had been serving a life term for a Coconino County murder. Before killing Ponciano, Vickers had received an additional 10-15 sentence for stabbing another inmate. After being sent to death row for Ponciano’s murder, Vickers killed Buster Holsinger, a fellow death row inmate, by fire-bombing his cell. Vickers started the fire with an incendiary device he created by pouring five bottles of Vitalis into an empty ice cream container, stuffing a tissue inside and lighting it. Immediately preceding the burning, Vickers had shown to Holsinger a letter and drawing from his niece. This elicited an obscene comment from Holsinger about the niece. Holsinger asked Vickers if he had ever performed a sex act on her. Vickers at the time was on clean up-duty in the central area of a "pod" containing four death row cells. Vickers returned to his cell, made the incendiary device and repeatedly splashed the burning liquid into Holsinger’s cell while the prison guard was absent from the pod emptying trash. When the firebomb failed to generate enough flames to engulf the obese and disabled Holsinger fast enough, Vickers doused him with more hair tonic. In addition to killing Holsinger, the other occupants of the pod suffered from smoke inhalation from the fire. After pulling Vickers from the pod area, a guard asked him what had happened and he replied "I burned Buster." When asked whether Buster was dead, Vickers stated,"he should be, he is on fire." Holsinger died as a result of tracheobronchial. burns suffered in the resulting flash fire. Vickers has at all times acknowledged that he caused the fire and the death. He later sent a letter to the medical examiner asking if Holsinger looked and smelled like a burnt piece of toast. Vickers asked for a quick execution in 1981, 3 years after he murdered Ponciano. "I told my lawyer & attorney General to pull my appeals and gas me," he wrote to Bruce Babbitt, then governor. "I know it don’t take to long to do that, so whats the hold up fella?’ If ya don’t do it soon, i’m gonna draw more blood then your cheap mop’s can absorb." In 1982, after a federal judge granted him a stay of execution, Vickers burned Holsinger to death. 17 hours before Vickers was to die in the gas chamber, then-U.S. District Judge Carl Muecke in Phoenix granted him a stay of execution. He ruled that Vickers and another inmate scheduled to die then were covered under a 1980 moratorium on executions. Hours after the ruling, Vickers told reporters that he hoped someone "snuffs Judge Muecke’s momma" and that he would carve the judge’s name on his next victim. He has crafted weapons out of virtually anything – toothbrushes, newspapers, plastic foam – and used them whenever he had the chance. The door of his cell was covered with a thick layer of plastic to keep him from throwing bodily waste or stabbing at those who walked by. It wasn’t a violent crime that brought Vickers to the Arizona State Prison in Florence in 1977. He was 19 when he was sentenced to 3 to 9 years for a Tempe burglary. But Vickers, who was 1st arrested in the 6th grade, walked into the prison with a history of violence. He had gained a reputation at the Catalina Mountain School north of Tucson for stabbing other boys with pencils, and would be convicted in 1978 of a jailhouse stabbing that would add 10 to 15 years to his original sentence. At the time Vickers said he was a member of the Aryan Brotherhood and attacked the inmate because he was black. Vickers – who turned 41 recently – has spent the most time on death row of the state’s current 118 condemned prisoners. He is the only one set to die for murdering other inmates. Vickers’ voluminous prison file is filled with 2 decades of disciplinary reports, from asking corrections officers to slip him some cigarettes to attacks on guards and other inmates. Vickers and another inmate tried to escape in 1980, squeezing through the ventilation system to reach the prison roof, where they were captured. His file shows that Vickers has easily slipped out of handcuffs by either squeezing through them or using handcuff keys he has made out of plastic lighters. Far more of the disciplinary reports document the confiscation of weapons – mostly "shanks" – he has fashioned from an assortment of items, including the leg of a metal locker, a scrap of steel, toothbrushes and plastic foam he melted, then hardened into a knife to attack inmates and jailers. In June 1986, Vickers stabbed a corrections officer in the ribs with a spear. He made it from a sharpened piece of metal from a typewriter and a 30-inch handle he’d made out of newspapers. Vickers is so dangerous that until he was moved last month to a special holding cell to await his execution, he was housed in a pod for the most violent on death row. The pod also houses Robert Charles Comer, on death row for the 1987 killing of a camper at Apache Lake and the rape of another there. No relatives have contacted the Corrections Department regarding the execution, officials said late last week. Vickers still uses a swastika to dot the "i" in letters he signs "Bonzai Bob." It is a nickname he earned in prison for his vicious attacks, some of which he readily admits to prison officials occurred solely because the victims were black. Yet some of his letters are decorated with smiley faces, and one 1988 letter to a Corrections captain asking for contact visits with a lady friend is written on stationery bordered with flowers and a Bambi-like wilderness scene. Vickers’ letter to the governor’s office didn’t end with his 1981 request for a swift execution. In 1983, he again wrote Babbitt, asking that he be executed quickly so he could donate his heart to a Fort Huachuca boy who needed a transplant. The boy died a day before Babbitt’s office received the letter. At the time, a doctor said the heart of a person killed in the gas chamber would be unsuitable for transplant. Another letter to the governor that same year asks for permission to wear a 3-piece suit when he is executed. "I wanna die dressed," he wrote. "Gonna be some ladies there. I don’t want to go nude or in state clothes." He also asked that his last meal be prepared by a woman. Neither request will be granted Wednesday.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
5/6/99 Pennsylvania Robert Berger, 76 Jerome Gibson stayed

Jerome Gibson was sentenced to death on Aug. 24, 1995, for the Sept. 29, 1994 murder of Robert Berger, a 76-year-old store clerk, during a robbery.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
5/7/99 Louisiana ? James Baldwin IV stayed
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
5/11/99 Ohio Andre Brooks, 25 Ulysses Murphy stayed

Ulysses Murphy followed Andre Brooks, 25, and his sister Condrea Webber out of a bar May 11, 1997. Murphy, who was intoxicated, demanded the gold chains from Brooks’ neck and shot him when he apparently took too long to surrender them. Webber escaped unharmed and yesterday rebuked Murphy for showing no remorse. "You couldn’t even look me in the eye when I testified, but you looked me in the eye the night you took my brother from me," Webber said before Murphy was sentenced. Murphy declined to address the court at sentencing. Murphy’s mother, Barbara, said her son is sorry for what he did. "He has always been closemouthed about important things," Mrs. Murphy said. "He has told (our family) that he was sorry. But it is different talking to us." Pfeiffer set Murphy’s execution date for May 11, 1999. The sentence will be automatically appealed.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
5/11/99 Pennsylvania Guy Goodman, 74 Bradley Martin stayed

Carolyn Ann King and Bradley Martin were sentenced to die on Nov. 30, 1994, for murdering 74-year-old Guy Goodman. On Dec. 2, 1998, the state Supreme Court affirmed both death sentences.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
5/12/99 Pennsylvania Rashawn Bass, 23 Antyane Robinson stayed

Antyane Robinson was sentenced to death on April 1, 1997, for shooting his former girlfriend’s boyfriend, 23-year-old Rashawn Bass, in Carlisle, Cumberland County.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
5/12/99 Virginia Conway Forrest Richter Calvin Swann commuted

On November 7, 1992, Calvin Swann, in pursuit of drug money, entered Dan River Inc. worker Conway Forrest Richter’s home, shot him to death with a sawed-off 16-gauge shotgun and robbed him of $60. He had a previously been convicted of burglary, armed robbery and assault. At the time he murdered Conway in the man’s own home, Swann told investigators he had roamed the streets looking for a victim so he could find the money to buy cocaine. He settled on Conway Richter because his front door was open. In 1993, Swann was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death by a jury based on his future danger to society. "Nowhere we put this man are other people safe," said Danville Commonwealth’s Attorney William H. Fuller III during Swann’s sentencing hearing in July of 1993. Before he murdered Richter, Swann spent years in jail on charges ranging from assault and battery to a burglary in which he broke a brick over a woman’s head. He also spent about eight years in the state’s mental hospital, Central State, in Petersburg, being treated for schizophrenia.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
5/13/99 Pennsylvania Guy Goodman, 74 Carolyn Ann King stayed

Carolyn Ann King and Bradley Martin were sentenced to die on Nov. 30, 1994, for murdering 74-year-old Guy Goodman, a Palmyra, Lebanon County, florist. King also received a life sentence in Nevada for aiding in the kidnapping and killing of a Bismarck, N.D., woman.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
5/14/99 Kentucky Deborah Pooley, 36 Gregory Wilson stayed

Wilson has been sentenced to die for the kidnapping, rape, robbery and murder of restaurant worker Deborah Pooley, 36, who was kidnapped at knife-point as she got out of her car near her Covington apartment on May 29, 1987. Her body was found more than 2 weeks later in a field in Indiana.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
5/19/99 Texas Wayne Walters Stanley Baker stayed

Stanley Allison Baker was convicted of murdering Wayne Walters, an employee at the Adult Video Store in College Station, for his truck and all of the money in the store’s cash register on Sept. 28, 1994. Police seized Baker’s notebook, which noted his goals for the year included "30 victims dead, 30 armed robberies, and steal a lot of cars."

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
5/19/99 Arizona Tammy? John Hinchey stayed

On September 29, 1985, Hinchey and his common-law wife of 12 years got into an argument about a domestic matter. After his wife had gone into the living room to sleep, Hinchey came in with a gun he had purchased that day, and shot her four times. He then ran to the bedroom where her 17-year-old daughter, Tammy, was sleeping. Tammy’s infant son was sleeping beside Tammy. Hinchey kicked in the door and shot Tammy twice in the face. Meanwhile, his wife had managed to run outside so Hinchey chased her and hit her over the head with the gun until he broke the gun. He then beat her head against some rocks. When he returned to the house, he heard Tammy moaning. He hit her in the face with a glass bottle until it shattered. He then grabbed a butcher knife from the kitchen and stabbed her several times, leaving the blade protruding from her stomach. Tammy died, her infant son was unhurt, and his wife survived. Hinchey originally pled guilty to avoid the death penalty, but the trial court set aside his plea at his request.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
5/20/99 Louisiana Ray Liuzza John Thompson stayed

For the 1st time in his 25 years as district attorney, Harry Connick has asked a judge to put off execution of a man his office put on death row and has worked to keep there. Connick said he is still convinced that John Thompson killed hotel executive Ray Liuzza during a robbery Dec. 6, 1984. The problem is with a lab report that shows Thompson could not have committed a carjacking which was committed 22 days later, and for which he is serving 49 1/2 years. A victim in that case testified in the penalty phase of the murder trial, when jurors were deciding whether to execute Thompson or to send him to prison for life for shooting Liuzza. Criminal District Judge Patrick Quinlan granted the stay of execution only 2 weeks after he had scheduled Thompson to die on May 20, telling him his lawyers had exhausted their chances for a reprieve. "The murder conviction is something we’re very comfortable with," Connick said. "But we felt we had to do this now. John Thompson can rest a little easier — for now." Thompson’s attorneys say they will ask Quinlan for a new trial because the sentence, and perhaps the verdict, is tainted. They found evidence in a city police archive that Thompson’s blood type was not the same as that of the gunman who carjacked 2 brothers and their sister near the Superdome on Dec. 28, 1984. Defense attorneys say jurors might have spared Thompson’s life if prosecutors or police had shared that evidence, which is dated a month before his murder trial. Defense attorneys said they were cautiously encouraged by Connick’s unprecedented request for the stay of execution. Connick said the Thompson case has left him deeply shaken. "Some of the other cases they talk about have been frivolous, almost absurd," Connick said. "This is unsettling. We don’t know what happened — whether the system failed and prosecutors acted with a clear conscience, but if it’s not that way, I don’t like it." Relatives of Liuzza and victims of the carjacking refused to comment.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
5/25/99 Pennsylvania ? Scott Blystone stayed
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
5/25/99 Kentucky Alice Harper, 67
Edward Lee Harper Sr., 64
Eddie Harper executed

Edward Lee Harper was convicted in Jefferson County of killing Edward Lee and Alice Harper in 1982 so he could inherit their estate, valued at about $85,000. Even though Harper gave an extensive interview regarding giving up his appeals, he views as "water over the bridge" — and will not discuss — the events that led him to kill his adoptive parents, Alice and Edward Lee Harper Sr., on Feb. 19, 1982. The prosecutor said that Harper was a spoiled child who "killed both his parents in bed for the insurance money" — an $86,541 policy on his father’s life. At trial, Harper testified that his father, who had recently retired from a job at Ford Motor Co.’s Fern Valley assembly plant, asked him to shoot him and Harper’s mother because his mother was mentally ill and his father could not bear to put her in an institution. Harper, who tried to make it look like a burglary gone awry, also testified that his parents’ home was a misery-filled place. But prosecutors undercut that claim. They used testimony from witnesses who said that in the 9 weeks Harper remained free after the killings, he bragged about having money and discussed plans for spending that might seem lavish for a 33-year-old, twice-divorced, laid-off machinist who was so financially insecure he had been living with his parents.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
5/26/99 Missouri Geraldine McDonald
Ralph Gianino
Jesse Wise executed

Jesse Wise was sentenced to die by lethal injection for the murder in August 1988 of Geraldine McDonald in her condominium in Clayton. Judge Melvyn W. Wiesman said death was appropriate, because McDonald was not the first person Wise had killed. ”The prior murder conviction substantially outweighs any mitigating circumstances,” Wiesman said. In January 1972, Wise was convicted of killing Ralph Gianino, a man from Affton with six children. Barbara Gianino stayed up all night while her six children slept. She knew something was wrong. Her husband had never, ever stayed out all night. She didn’t call the police because she didn’t want the cops to think she was just a stupid wife. The cops found her husband’s body in the morning. They arrested an 18-year-old man for the murder. He had robbed Gianino of $26 and then murdered him. With the body still in the car, the youthful murderer spent the night driving around. Joy-riding. Barbara knew nothing about the criminal justice system, but she felt it was her wifely duty to attend the various hearings. She took a camera with her to the arraignment. She thought it would be a good idea to take a picture of the murderer. Someday she could show the photographs to her youngest children. Her youngest kids, twins, were too young to know what was going on. They were 3 when their father was murdered. At the arraignment, Barbara pulled her camera out of her purse. A deputy grabbed her. She was taken to the holdover. Put in a cell. Weeks later, the murderer pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to life in prison. Ralph Gianino, a plasterer, was 39 when he was murdered. Barbara received $20,000 in life insurance. She went to work. She raised her children. She never remarried. Two and a half years ago, she was in her kitchen. She had the radio playing. The news came on. Jesse Wise had been arrested for the murder of Geraldine McDonald. The man who had murdered Barbara’s husband had murdered again. At trial, the evidence was overwhelming. As a maintenance man, Wise had had a key to McDonald’s apartment. A neighbor saw him outside the apartment moments before she heard a terrible scream from the apartment. The murder weapon was a pipe wrench that belonged to Wise. His fingerprints were on McDonald’s jewelry box. He was photographed at a pawn shop hocking her jewelry. He admitted driving away from her apartment in her BMW. He confessed to the police, and then he recanted. After deliberating only a couple of hours, the jury convicted him of first-degree murder. Ralph and Barbara Gianino’s oldest son, who carries his slain father’s name, was 17 when his father was killed. ”If I did what I should have done 19 years ago, these people wouldn’t be going through this today,” he said, motioning toward McDonald’s family. He said he was disappointed with Wise’s conviction for Geraldine’s murder. ”I was hoping he’d get acquitted, and I could give him a ride home,” Gianino said. Barbara said the whole thing confused her. ”I don’t know if this trial shows the beauty of the system or mocks the system,” she said. There was one bit of good news, as far as the Gianino family was concerned. The oldest son was scheduled to testify in the penalty phase of the trial Tuesday. First-degree murder carries either a life sentence or the death penalty. Barbara took off from work to hear her son. Some of the other children were there, too. ”I’m glad it’s my son, and not me,” said Barbara when the family arrived at court Tuesday. ”I try to stay in control, and it would be so hard, I’d end up acting like a stone.” When John Ross, the prosecutor, began telling the jury about Wise’s previous conviction, Barbara started to cry. The words sounded so sterile. The judge called an immediate recess and had Barbara move to the back row, so the jury wouldn’t hear her if she were to cry again. Barbara’s son never did get to testify. That’s because the defense did not dispute the fact that Wise had murdered before. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled years ago that any testimony about the devastation to a victim’s family could prejudice a jury against the murderer. So the only testimony allowed was testimony for Wise. His wife testified that except for his heavy drug use, he was a fine father figure to her children from previous relationships. How would you describe him? the defense attorney asked. ”Very loving, very caring, very gentle,” said his wife. It sounded like a description of the man Wise murdered 19 years ago, the man the jury was not allowed to hear about. In the hallway, the man’s oldest son shook his head when he learned he would not be allowed to testify. ”The system is crazy,” he said. Wise served 12 years in prison for that murder and was released on parole in April 1984. At the trial in the McDonald case, Wise, 36, represented himself with the help of two public defenders, Bret Strand and Marty McClain of Columbia, Mo. He again represented himself at sentencing and argued that he should get a new trial or an acquittal, saying the state had failed to prove its case. But prosecutor John Ross told Wiesman that the issues raised by Wise ”were questions of fact that have already been decided by the jury.” In arguing for the death penalty, Ross cited the prior murder conviction and said the beating death of McDonald, 49, was ”particularly brutal and heinous.” Wise was a maintenance man at the condominium complex at Shaw Park Place, where McDonald lived. The state’s evidence consisted of a confession to Clayton police, later repudiated by Wise; Wise’s fingerprint at the murder scene; and the recovery of jewelry and a car that Wise had stolen from McDonald. The murder weapon was a wrench, police said. Its handle was found near the body; its jaw part was found in Wise’s storage locker. In addition to the death penalty for murder, Wiesman sentenced Wise to life in prison for robbery and 40 years in prison for armed criminal action and stealing.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
5/27/99 Pennsylvania ? Emanuel Lester stayed
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
5/28/99 Tennessee James Keegan Jeff Dicks died in prison

Jeff Dicks and Donald Strouth were convicted of robbing a used clothing store of $200 and killing the owner, James Keegan, by slashing his throat in February of 1978. UPDATE – 5/10/99 – A death row inmate who aided in the 1979 killing of a Kingsport shopkeeper died in prison Monday morning. Jeffrey Stuart Dicks, 41, was pronounced dead at 5:07 a.m. at Nashville Memorial Hospital, a Tennessee Department of Corrections spokeswoman said. She would only confirm that Dicks died of ‘‘natural causes’’ because state law prohibits the department from releasing specific medical information about inmates. He’d been housed at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, where death row is located. Dicks, a North Carolina native, was convicted along with Donald ‘‘Chief’’ Strouth, and both were sentenced to death for killing James Keegan at his resale store. Dicks claimed he was the getaway car driver and never entered the store, where Keegan’s throat was slashed. He admitted to investigators he knew Strouth was planning to rob Keegan but denied any knowledge of the murder. Dicks’ last appeal in state courts was argued Wednesday before the Tennessee Supreme Court, but no opinion has been issued. At every level of Dicks’ appellate process, his conviction and sentence have been upheld. The primary focus of Dicks’ appeals have been his guilt because he contended he was not in the building when Keegan was killed and therefore was not guilty of murder. State law allows a person who did not actually kill a victim to be convicted of murder if he or she were knowingly taking part in another crime. Of the inmates currently on death row, Dicks had the second-longest stay. He was previously housed at Tennessee State Penitentiary, which closed in 1989 when Riverbend opened. His execution date was Sept. 30, but it would have been postponed because his appeals were not exhausted.

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