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In the Bible Belt, Christmas Isn’t Coming to Death Row

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When it comes to the death penalty, guilt or innocence shouldn’t really matter to Christians.  

NASHVILLE — Until August, Tennessee had not put a prisoner to death in nearly a decade. Last Thursday, it performed its third execution in four months.
This was not a surprising turn of events. In each case, recourse to the courts had been exhausted. In each case Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, declined to intervene, though there were many reasons to justify intervening. Billy Ray Irick suffered from psychotic breaks that raised profound doubts about his ability to distinguish right from wrong. Edmund Zagorksi’s behavior in prison was so exemplary that even the warden pleaded for his life. David Earl Miller also suffered from mental illness and was a survivor of child abuse so horrific that he tried to kill himself when he was 6 years old.
Questions about the humanity of Tennessee’s lethal-injection protocol were so pervasive following the execution of Mr. Irick that both Mr. Zagorski and M…

U.S. Supreme Court rejects appeal from Virginia death row inmate who shut down Virginia Tech's campus in 2006

The nation's highest court on Tuesday refused to hear the appeal of a Virginia death row inmate who killed a hospital security guard and sheriff's deputy during an escape that sparked a massive manhunt that shut down Virginia Tech's campus in 2006.

William Morva argued that he should have been allowed to present evidence that he wouldn't pose a threat to prison guards or others if he was sentenced to life in prison. But the U.S. Supreme Court left in place a ruling from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejecting Morva's claims.

Morva's attorneys didn't immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

Morva had been in jail for about a year awaiting trial on attempted robbery charges when he was taken to a Blacksburg hospital for treatment of an injury in August 2006. 

After arriving at the hospital, he overpowered a Montgomery County sheriff's deputy and used the deputy's pistol to shoot an unarmed security guard, 32-year-old Derrick McFarland, while fleeing.

Morva's escape set off a police manhunt that forced Virginia Tech to cancel classes on the first day of the academic year and warn students to stay inside.

A day after McFarland's killing, Morva fatally shot Montgomery County Sheriff's Deputy Eric Sutphin, who had been searching for the inmate on a walking trail near the Blacksburg campus. Later that day, police found Morva lying in a ditch with the sheriff's deputy's gun on the ground nearby.

Attorneys for Morva, now 35, told the Supreme Court that he was unfairly prevented from presenting evidence at trial to refute prosecutors' argument that Morva would threaten the lives of prison guards and others if allowed to live. 

Morva's trial lawyers had said a forensic psychologist would have shown jurors that Morva wasn't dangerous in prison, but they were blocked from presenting that testimony.

"With that testimony excluded, the prosecution argued freely to the jury - without fear of any meaningful rebuttal - that Mr. Morva would endanger the lives of prison guards unless sentenced to death," his attorneys told the Supreme Court.

Morva is 1 of 6 inmates on Virginia's death row. A circuit court will hold a hearing on Friday to set an execution date for another inmate, Ivan Teleguz, who was convicted in 2006 of hiring another man to kill his ex-girlfriend.

Source: Associated Press, February 22, 2017


Justices reject appeal from South Carolina death row inmate


The Supreme Court has turned away an appeal from a South Carolina death row inmate who pleaded guilty to killing an off-duty police officer during a multistate crime spree in 2004.

The justices on Tuesday left in place a lower court ruling that rejected Mikal Dean Mahdi's claims that his lawyer didn't do enough to present evidence of his troubled childhood.

Mahdi said his lawyer relied on a single expert witness instead of calling family members and others to offer more details about Mahdi's years growing up with an abusive father.

Prosecutors said that during his crime spree Mahdi killed a North Carolina convenience store clerk, carjacked a sport-utility vehicle in South Carolina and later killed Orangeburg Public Safety Capt. James Myers on Myers' farm.

Source: therepublic.com, February 22, 2017

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