"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Friday, April 1, 2016

Georgia executes Joshua Bishop

Joshua Bishop
Joshua Bishop
"Almost all my [Death Penalty] clients should have been taken out of their homes when they were children. They weren't. Nobody had any interest in them until, as a result of nobody's interest in them, they became menaces, at which point society did become interested, if only to kill them." -- David R. Dow, Texas Public Defender Service attorney

A 41-year-old death-row inmate was put to death Thursday night at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison for the 1994 Baldwin County murder of Leverett Morrison. 

Joshua Bishop had been scheduled to be executed at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday at the state prison in Jackson by injection of the barbiturate pentobarbital, but the execution was delayed after his lawyers made a final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court refused to stop the execution. No dissent was recorded.

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles had announced Thursday morning that they would not spare Bishop's life.

Bishop's lawyers had also appealed to a Superior Court judge in Butts County, where Georgia's death row is located, and the Georgia Supreme Court.

They said that the judge's instructions to the jury in the sentencing were ambiguous and so the jury failed to make the necessary findings of fact.

Both courts rejected the appeal.

Bishop was pronounced dead a 9:27 p.m.

During his final evening of life, Bishop ate all of his last meal. He also received 13 visitors - a mixture of friends, clergy and legal reps - and recorded a final statement.

While strapped on the execution gurney and moments before the lethal injection began, Joshua Bishop nodded an acknowledgment to the men who sent him to prison, mouthed "I love you" to his attorney and then uttered his last words Thursday night.

"Our Father . . ." and his voice trailed off as he slipped into unconsciousness, unable to continue the Lord's Prayer aloud as the poison entered his bloodstream.

As he lay on the gurney, Bishop apologized "to the people of Baldwin County," where his crimes took place, and to the family of the man he killed.  

A number of demonstrators gathered outside the Georgia State Capitol to protest against Bishop's execution.

Bishop spent June 19, 1994, drinking and using drugs with Morrison and a third man, Mark Braxley. They drank at a bar that evening and then went to Braxley's trailer, where they continued to drink and use drugs.

Morrison fell asleep and Braxley decided he wanted to take Morrison's Jeep to visit his girlfriend and instructed Bishop to "get them keys." Morrison woke up as Bishop was trying to take his keys from his pocket, and Bishop hit him over the head with a piece of a closet rod to knock him out.

Bishop told investigators he and Braxley both beat Morrison and, once they realized he was dead, they dumped his body between two trash bins and burned his Jeep.

While in police custody, Bishop told investigators he and Braxley also had killed another man, Ricky Willis, about two weeks earlier, also at Braxley's trailer. Bishop told police he repeatedly punched Willis after Willis bragged he had sexually assaulted Bishop's mother and then Braxley cut Willis' throat, killing him.

Bishop and Braxley were both charged with murder and armed robbery in Morrison's death. After a trial, a jury convicted Bishop and sentenced him to die. Braxley pleaded guilty and got life in prison. He's been denied parole twice and will next be eligible for consideration next year.

While Bishop confessed to his involvement in both killings, his lawyers argue that Braxley, who was 36 at the time, was the instigator and exerted his influence over Bishop, who was 19.

Steeped in violence, alcoholism and drug addiction from the day he was born

Bishop's lawyers also said he had an extremely rough childhood, with a mother who constantly drank and used drugs and had a weakness for abusive men who beat her and her sons. He bounced between foster families and group homes and was homeless at times, they said.

Baldwin County Sheriff Bill Massee, whose office investigated the killings of Morrison and Willis, said the slayings were very violent and that he believes Bishop was the most aggressive.

A small group standing vigil for Joshua Bishop at the GA State Capitol
According to family members, Bishop was steeped in violence, alcoholism and drug addiction from the day he was born.

When Leverett and Wills were murdered, Bishop had been living under a bridge with his mother, an alcoholic and drug addict who sometimes prostituted herself. She was heard telling her son that men show their love with punches, slaps and verbal assaults. She knew a man loved her, she told her son, if he beat her.

The details of Bishop's life reside in written statements, used in his appeals, from almost four dozen people, including some from Morrison's family. They described lives controlled by alcohol, drugs and physical and verbal abuse.

Bishop's mother treated her 2 sons like "drinking buddies," wrote Barbara Cheeley, the boys' aunt. "This seemed to be the way she dealt with them best."

"I had watched him as a juvenile, and he had issues," said Massee, who has been sheriff in the Middle Georgia county for almost 3 decades. "You will read nothing good about his family. If there is something good out there, I don't know about it."

Carolyn Bishop was 17 when she gave birth to Joshua Bishop's older brother, Michael. Michael Bishop's father, Mike, was 14 years old when he married Carolyn.

Joshua Bishop, however, never knew for certain who his father was.

"Josh was almost obsessed with finding out who his daddy was," the brother wrote in an affidavit. "It was sad for me to hear Josh ask so many people while he was growing up who his daddy was. The answer was usually 'I don't know,' and this was really painful for him to hear."

Two decades in prison had given Bishop stability that had led him to become a positive influence on fellow inmates and others, and he still had good to do in the world, his lawyers argued.

They gave the Board of Pardons and Paroles statements from two of Morrison's sisters and his niece, as well as others who were close to Morrison and Willis, who wrote that they don't want to see Bishop executed.

But Sheriff Massee said he met on Monday with three of Morrison's family members, two daughters and a son, who said it is important that Bishop be executed for their father's death.

Bishop becomes the third Georgia inmate executed this year. Another inmate, Kenneth Fults, is scheduled to die on April 12.

Bishop becomes the 3rd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Georgia, and the 63rd overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983. Only Texas (536), Oklahoma (112), Virginia (111), Florida (92) and Missouri (86) have executed more inmates than Georgia since the death penalty was re-legalized on July 2, 1976.

Bishop becomes the 10th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1432nd overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

Sources: The Associated Press, Mail Online, AJC, Twitter feed, Rick Halperin, March 31, 2016


Josh Bishop Obituary, The Telegraph

Macon, GA- Josh Bishop, 41, was executed by the State of Georgia and died on March 31, 2016. His last words were ones of repentance and love.

Josh lived a Dickensian childhood in the modern era. He grew up under bridges in Milledgeville, Georgia, in group homes and foster care, often hungry or afraid. He loved the outdoors, though, and later—wholly without bitterness—described golden days of his childhood as ones where he could fish for food or fry up green tomatoes left out for trash by families who had more than they needed. Everyone who knew him as a boy recalls his sweetness, eagerness to help others, and his devotion to his mother.

Unlike the street urchins of the Dickens stories, however, Josh was never saved by a kindly, wealthy gentleman—or even by the State agencies charged with protecting abused children. Instead, he fell into drug and alcohol abuse and at age 19 made horrible mistakes that were not otherwise in his character. His addiction, and what came of it, cost him his life, and he wanted youth growing up in similar circumstances to learn from his story.

In the bleak and alienated world of Georgia's Death Row, however, Josh found that he could be loved by others and by God, and he came to flourish there as an artist and as a man. He was embraced by the Shertenlieb family, who ministered to him, visited him, and taught him that no is one beyond the reach of forgiveness and redemption. He was baptized as a Catholic.

He taught himself to draw, and, having little else to offer, gave gifts of his art to his friends and family—and even other prisoners and guards. He began to read ("Anne Frank blowed my mind!") and never tired of discussing the Old Masters, Sturgill Simpson songs, or the beauty of the natural world. He was accepted and cared for by others who came to write and visit him—Amy and Ryan Dunn, Gene and Kathi Gunter, Timothy Tew—and he blossomed in their love and friendship. He was a friend to them, too.

In his last years, working with a clinic at Mercer Law School, he taught close to fifty students lessons about justice that they could never learn in a classroom. He offered (...) apologies to the families of his victims, and was comforted in the grace offered by a number of those he had hurt. His heart bled for children who lived without hope for a better life, and did what he could to encourage teenagers who struggled with bitterness or apathy. From his prison cell, Josh reached others with his kind and open heart. He bore others up. He made the world better.

In his last hours, Josh comforted his friends, prayed with us, reminded us to take care of one another, and sang "Amazing Grace." He hoped that his death would "take away from the pain and add to the peace" of those he had hurt. His continued concern for the suffering of others while he faced the ultimate penalty showed that the evil the State wanted to stamp out was not there, and all that was lost was the potential of a redeemed soul to do good. If there is justice in heaven, if not on earth, he is painting with Rembrandt and humming along with Merle Haggard.

Josh is survived by his brother, Mike Bishop: his best fishing buddy, surrogate parent, and hero. His other beloved relatives include his niece, Sarah, and nephew, Tristan; their mother, Christy Lewis; and his cousins, Crystal Bishop Griffin and Adam Bishop. He is preceded in death by his mother, Carolyn Bishop.

A Mass will be celebrated at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Conyers, Georgia, at 10:30 am on Tuesday, April 12, 2016. A burial will follow at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. Centenary United Methodist Church in Macon, Georgia, will also host an ecumenical service in Josh's honor on Sunday, April 17, 2016, at 2pm.

In lieu of flowers, we encourage donations to the Methodist Home for Children and Youth, 304 Pierce Avenue, Macon, Georgia 31204.

Source: legacy.com, published in The Telegraph on Apr. 10, 2016

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