Day: September 17, 2012

MISSOURI – Hearing starts Monday in Mo. death row case – REGINALD CLEMONS

Update September 21, 2012

ST. LOUIS • A special review of Reginald Clemons’ death sentence in the 1991 Chain of Rocks Bridge double murder case ended for the week on Thursday.

Lawyers for both sides intend to call at least one more witness each, which will be done through depositions out of the public eye.

The attorneys will then submit legal briefs by Dec. 1 to Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Michael Manners, who the Missouri Supreme Court appointed as “special master” to review the case.

After that, the parties may reconvene for final statements before the judge. Manners is expected to take several months before submitting all the evidence and a final recommendation to the high court, which would then begin its process of reviewing Clemons’ appeal.

Ultimately, the court could decide anything from upholding the conviction or vacating it, to ordering a new trial.

After the hearing Thursday, family of the victims, Robin and Julie Kerry, said they are one step closer in their more than 20-year wait for closure.

“I’m glad, for all intents and purposes, it’s over,” said Virginia Kerry, mother of the two young women. “Now I can start burying everything again. I don’t have to deal with these people who say he’s innocent.”

For Clemons’ family, it’s also been a hard journey.

Bishop Reynolds Thomas, of the New Life Worship Complex, said fighting his son’s case has plunged him into bankruptcy. But it was worth it, he said. He still firmly believes his son is innocent.

“After 20 years, we took it as far as we could,” he said. “Now we just take it one day at a time.”

Thursday’s hearing brought several state witnesses who testified they saw Clemons without any apparent injuries after the police interrogation in which he claims his confession was beaten out of him. Among those who took the stand were a fingerprint technician and a family friend.

Several lab technicians also were called to speak to the testing of biological evidence. Items tested included a rape kit taken from Julie Kerry, a used condom found on the bridge, and pants and boxers taken from Marlin Gray, one of three men convicted of the crime separately from Clemons.

The evidence was re-tested in recent years with new DNA technology.

Stacey Bolinger, of the Missouri State Highway Patrol Crime Lab, said the rape kit did not have sufficient DNA evidence to test. Julie Kerry’s body had been in the Mississippi River for three weeks and was moderately decomposed when two fisherman found it. Robin Kerry’s body was never recovered.

There was male DNA from at least two individuals on Gray’s boxers and from at least three individuals on his pants. Clemons could not be eliminated as a source of it, she said.

Also on the clothing was the same female DNA that was found on the condom. Kim Gorman, formerly of the St. Louis police crime lab, testified that DNA had “a very high likelihood” of belonging to one of the Kerry sisters.

Update September 20, 2012

On the second day of a special hearing before a judge in Missouri, Clemons, 41, said that when charges were read against him in 1991 a judge noticed signs he had been hit and ordered him to be examined in hospital, said Laura Moye of Amnesty International-USA.

Clemons‘ attorneys maintain that Clemons only admitted raping one of his victims under police duress. He later reversed himself.

“The only time they stopped hitting me was when I agreed to make a taped statement,” he told

“When I was being beaten, I wasn’t counting.”

“His counsel interrogated him on the alleged brutality when he testified the first night,” court spokesman Matt Murphy said.

“He was cross examined by the State, then the State played a 20 minute taped confession he made that night about what happened that night.”

Clemons was found guilty in 1993 of the murder of two sisters, aged 19 and 20, who allegedly were pushed from a bridge into the Mississippi River in 1991.

The events occurred at Chain of Rocks Bridge, a popular hangout at night for youths from Saint Louis, where Clemons and three friends came into contact with the two sisters, Julie and Robin Kerry, and their cousin Thomas Cummins.

The group Clemons was with is alleged to have raped the women and robbed Cummins before pushing them off the bridge.

Amnesty International has pushed for the state to commute Clemons’ death sentence because of allegations of police coercion, prosecutorial misconduct and a “stacked” predominantly white jury.

A former lawyer for Clemons testified Monday that he had not been informed about the existence of DNA samples taken from one of the bodies recovered from the Mississippi

September 16, 2012

T. LOUIS — The effort to free Reginald Clemons from Missouri’s death row goes to a St. Louis courtroom starting Monday.

Clemons was one of four men convicted in the 1991 killings of two St. Louis-area sisters, 20-year-old Julie Kerry and 19-year-old Robin Kerry. Both girls, along with their visiting male cousin, were thrown from an abandoned Mississippi River bridge. The cousin, Thomas Cummins, survived.

Clemons confessed to the killings, but later recanted. His lawyers say the confession was beaten out of him by police interrogators.

Jackson County Circuit Judge Michael Manners will oversee the hearing. He will then issue a report to the Missouri Supreme Court, which will decide whether Clemons should get a new trial. The Supreme Court could also decide to commute Clemons’ death sentence, said Matt Murphy,spokesman for the St. Louis Circuit Court.

Murphy said it will likely be several months before the Supreme Court makes a decision.

Clemons is expected to be in the courtroom for the hearing, which will proceed much like a trial. Murphy is expected to testify Monday or Tuesday. The trial is expected to last five days.

Clemons’ case has drawn international attention. Laura Moye, director of Amnesty InternationalUSA’s Death Penalty Abolition Campaign, is expected to attend the hearing.

Amnesty International has cited what it sees as several concerns about the case, concerns that include potential police misconduct, a lack of physical evidence and inconsistent witness testimony.

Moye has also argued that racial bias may have played a role in his conviction; the victims were white and the defendants were black.

New evidence could be presented at the hearing. In 2010, the Missouri Attorney General’s office found lab reports and physical evidence, including a rape kit, taken during an exam of one of the victim’s remains. Those findings have never been released publicly, but could come up during the hearing.

The Kerry sisters took Cummins, then 19, to the unused Chain of Rocks Bridge on the night of April 5, 1991, to show him a poem they had placed on the span. They happened upon a group of young men. The girls were raped and all three were pushed off the bridge.

Clemons and Marlin Gray were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. Gray was executed in 2005. Clemons was just weeks from execution in 2009 when a federal appeals court delayed it.

Another of the suspects, Antonio Richardson, had his death sentence overturned by the Missouri Supreme Court in 1993 because of procedural errors.

The fourth suspect, Daniel Winfrey, testified for the prosecution. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He has been released from prison and is on parole.

PENNSYLVANIA – Jimmy Dennis another innocent man on death row – Read and share when u can !

Hi everyone, 

First at all, i wanna say THANKS Ana for your post about Jimmy. We need more people like U ! 

Claim your innocence is ready from Switzerland for support Jimmy and follow him !

No more innocent on death Row 


In Philadelphia on October 22, 1991, a young woman named Chedell Williams went to the Fern Rock subway station to buy a transit pass. At approximately 1:50 p.m. she was approached by two men, one of whom demanded her gold earrings and shot her. These two men then ran to a getaway car, where a third accomplice drove them away. By all accounts, the crime took place in mere seconds, and in those few seconds, Miss Williams tragically lost her life. She was only 17.

Jimmy Dennis was convicted of this crime and given a death sentence, yet he has steadfastly maintained his innocence. After several months of thoroughly studying his case, collecting and reading the documents (including police statements, the trial transcript, and appeal brief), we- an international volunteer group of supporters- have concluded that the facts in this case fully support his innocence. There is simply no reason to believe that Jimmy Dennis had anything whatsoever to do with this murder. In the meantime, we have exchanged many letters with Jimmy, and even traveled to Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, to meet him personally.

He has languished on death row since 1992 (not including a year he spent in jail awaiting trial), confined to his cell for 22 to 23 hours a day. We are horrified by the idea that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania intends to kill an innocent man. Indeed, we don’t even want to think about that. Instead, we are persuaded that if enough people knew the facts of this case, there would be an enormous outcry for justice that would not only assist in preventing Jimmy’s execution, but would also help in securing his release.

At the time of his arrest, Jimmy was 21 years old. As a member of a music group called Sensation, Jimmy had a promising future. He was looking forward to the birth of his daughter, who was born about a week after Jimmy was imprisoned; sadly, he has never spent a full day with her.


The Facts:

1.  Jimmy was a complete stranger to the victim and witnesses. No evidence was presented at the trial to connect Jimmy with the victim and/or with the witnesses.

2.  There is no physical evidence linking Jimmy Dennis to this crime.

No car – The getaway car was described by witnesses as a gold or tan 4-door Chevy Malibu or Caprice with a Pennsylvania license plate ending in 988. Jimmy neither owned a car nor had a license. The vehicle used in the crime was never connected in any way to Jimmy, nor was it ever located.

No weapon – The gun used at the crime was never recovered, nor was any gun found among Jimmy’s possessions.

No fingerprints – A button was torn from Miss Williams’ clothes. Either the state never tested the button for fingerprints or the results were never made known to the defense.

No earrings – The earrings that were allegedly stolen from Miss Williams were never found, and there is no evidence that Jimmy ever had them in his possession.

3.  There is no evidence to connect Jimmy with a previous incident in which the earrings were stolen.

Chedell Williams’ former boyfriend, Walter Gilliard, testified at the trial that Miss Williams’ earrings had been stolen previously, in June of 1991, just four months prior to her murder. Mr. Gilliard testified that Miss Williams had once pointed out to him who stole the earrings. Gilliard testified that Jimmy wasn’t this person. (Gilliard also stated that he learned on the street who purchased the earrings from the thief, and he had repurchased them for Miss Williams for approximately $125.)

4.  Jimmy, who is 5’4″, doesn’t match the eyewitnesses’ descriptions.

The evidence against Jimmy was largely dependent on the eyewitness testimony of three people who were strangers to Jimmy: Zahra Howard, Thomas Bertha and James Cameron. All three identified Jimmy as the shooter at the trial, despite the fact that Jimmy’s physical characteristics don’t match their original descriptions. Witnesses who identified other suspects were not called to testify.

Zahra Howard, who had accompanied Miss Williams to the Fern Rock Station, told police that the shooter was as tall as or taller than the detective who interviewed her. According to police notes, this meant that the murderer was 5’9″ or 5’10”. Miss Howard testified at a preliminary hearing that she saw the shooter’s face for 5 seconds.

Thomas Bertha testified at the trial that he told the police the shooter was 5’9″ and weighed approximately 180 pounds. Mr. Bertha testified at a preliminary hearing that he saw the shooter’s face for just 1 second.

James Cameron didn’t give a description of the murderer’s height and weight in the original police statement, but his description of the shooter’s jacket doesn’t match that of Zahra Howard. Mr. Cameron testified at a preliminary hearing that he saw the shooter’s face for 20 seconds.

Jimmy Dennis’ height was established at the trial as 5’5″ with dress shoes. Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections website states that Jimmy is 5’4.” Jimmy weighed approximately 130 pounds at the time of the murder. Witnesses described the shooter as having very dark skin, unlike Jimmy’s lighter complexion. Yet, the prosecutor, Roger King, told jurors to dismiss such details. He told them it wasn’t a case about weight, race and height, but rather about the right to take public transportation.

5.  As DNA evidence has repeatedly helped prove, eyewitness stranger identification is notoriously unreliable. 

When shown a photo spread and asked to identify the murderer, Zahra Howard selected Jimmy’s picture and stated, “This one looks like the guy, but I can’t be sure.”When the police detective asked, “Can you be sure that this is in fact the guy that shot Chedell?”, Miss Howard replied, “No.”

When shown a photo spread, James Cameron stated, “Number one looks familiar, but I can’t be sure.”

6.  Shanaqua Ramsey, a high school friend of Zahra Howard, has given a statement that Miss Howard told her that she was not sure she picked out the right person from the photo spread. According to Miss Ramsey, Miss Howard said that she really did not get a good look at the person because all she saw was “pulling and tugging.”

7.  The defense did not call any of several witnesses of the murder to testify at the trial, including David LeRoy, Dr. Clarence Verdell, and George Ritchie. These witnesses either failed to identify Jimmy as the assailant or identified someone else.

David LeRoy, a hot dog stand owner who witnessed the crime, described the assailant as 5’10” and wearing a red and white jacket or red jacket with a white shirt. However, he insisted that the crime happened so fast that he “only caught a glimpse of these males.” He refused to select anyone from the police officers’ photo spreads, saying, “I will not make an identification that could wrongly affect someone’s life.”

Dr. Clarence Verdell selected another suspect from the photo spread. Furthermore, Dr. Verdell states that there were as many as ten other witnesses giving descriptions to the police on the day of the murder.

George Ritchie described the assailants as being 5’9″ or 5″10″ in height and weighing approximately 170 to 190 pounds.

Yet Mr. LeRoy, Dr. Verdell, and Mr. Ritchie were NOT called to testify.

James Cameron said that there were as many as 50 witnesses to the crime. Sergeant John Fetscher testified that he could conservatively estimate that hundreds of people would have been present at the station at the time of the crime, yet only three (Zahra Howard, James Cameron, and Thomas Bertha) testified at the trial.

8.  Jimmy lacked a motive to rob or murder anyone.

George Pratt was a promoter, producer and manager in the production and entertainment division of  G. W. Management Incorporated. He had his own record label. Mr. Pratt testified that at the time of Jimmy’s arrest, he had a verbal contract with Jimmy and was in the process of completing a written contract with him to produce gospel music.

The Sensation group members gave statements and trial testimony that the group practiced singing and dance steps for 4 ½ to 9 hours every day.

9.  Charles Thompson and police coercion

Charles Thompson was a member of Jimmy’s singing group, Sensation. On November 8, 1991, Charles Thompson gave a statement to the police that he had seen Jimmy with a gun on the night of the murder during the singing group’s rehearsal. Mr. Thompson also testified to this at Jimmy’s trial in 1992. On January 24, 1996, Mr. Thompson retracted his statement and his 1992 trial testimony, explaining that his original statement was a result of intimidation. In his recantation, he states that he was handcuffed to a chair and badgered for hours by five police officers, who were insisting that he implicate Jimmy or face murder charges himself. He ultimately decided to tell the police officers “what they wanted to hear and just get out and not be charged with anything.” He insists that he has never seen Jimmy with a gun, and that he attempted to retract his statement prior to the trial. Mr. Thompson explains: “It was in my conscience, I couldn’t sleep and get it out of my mind.  It was like a monkey on my back.” However, Mr. Thompson states that the prosecutor, Roger King, told him that nothing could be changed in his statement.

Charles Thompson had a motive to lie about Jimmy. At the time of his statement to the police in 1991, there were charges against Mr. Thompson for assault of a pregnant woman. These charges were dropped prior to Jimmy’s trial. At the time of the trial in 1992, Mr. Thompson had been charged with a felony involving drugs. Mr. Thompson confessed in his recantation that he was expecting help with his drug case because he was helping them (the prosecution).

10.  Police did not immediately arrest Jimmy after getting Mr. Thompson’s statement, nor is there any mention of Charles Thompson in the arrest warrant.

Charles Thompson gave his statement to the police on November 8, 1991. Though his statement later became a focal point in the trial, there is no mention of Mr. Thompson’s statement in the arrest warrant dated November 22, 1991. This corroborates Mr. Thompson’s recantation; that is, the fact that the police didn’t include Thompson’s statement in the arrest warrant supports Thompson’s insistence that his original statement was coerced. There also is no reasonable explanation as to why the police didn’t immediately arrest Jimmy after obtaining Thompson’s November 8 statement. In fact, Jimmy wasn’t arrested until November 23. Furthermore, any evidence mentioned in the arrest warrant was available to the police as early as October 28.

11.  All of the other members of Jimmy’s singing group testified at the trial that Charles Thompson was lying and that they never saw Jimmy with a gun.

12.  Where are the accomplices? Though there were a number of other potential suspects, and witnesses agreed that three people were involved, no one else was ever charged with this crime.

13.  Jimmy’s case was not properly investigated by the defense. The lack of preparation is evident in the fact that numerous witnesses who should have been called to testify on Jimmy’s behalf were not contacted. In 1991, Jimmy’s attorney, Mr. Lee Mandell, had 46 active court-appointed cases, not including his private practice.

14.  Jimmy Dennis has always maintained his innocence. He was unwilling to accept any plea bargains or deals.

15. Jimmy’s alibi is supported by at least three other individuals. However, LaTanya Cason, who was merely an acquaintance of Jimmy’s, unintentionally gave false information at Jimmy’s trial due to her misinterpreting a time stamp on a bank check, which was stamped in military time. Jimmy knew that he saw Ms. Cason at approximately 2:00 pm on the day of the murder. Ms. Cason testified that after leaving work that day, she cashed a check and did some shopping. She estimated that she saw Jimmy about an hour after cashing her check, which was stamped 13:03. Falsely believing that 13:03 meant 3:03 pm, Ms. Cason testified that she saw Jimmy between 4:00 and 4:30 pm. She has since given a statement rectifying her mistake, stating that she would have seen Jimmy between 2:00 and 2:30 pm, which supports Jimmy’s alibi.

16.  Police were pressured to find a murderer. This was a high profile case in Philadelphia. The city was outraged over yet another senseless murder. The local media focused on this crime, with numerous stories in the major newspapers. The media had portrayed Jimmy as the killer even before the trial, which was held in Philadelphia. One juror mentioned in a statement that other jurors slept during various parts of the trial. No reprimand regarding this was given by the judge to the jurors, as such instruction is absent from the transcripts.

17.  The conduct and words of Roger King, the prosecutor, were so inflammatory that Pennsylvania’s State Supreme Court nearly overturned Jimmy’s case on the basis of Mr. King’s startling behavior. Here are some quotes: “And as I said in my opening, stick a fork in him and turn him over. He will be done when you say he is done.”And, “We’re talking about the right to take public transportation. . .’cause this is what this case is about, ladies and gentlemen. It’s not about race, it’s not about size and height.”

18.  The angle of the bullet wound suggests a murderer who was as tall as or taller than the victim. According to the postmortem report, the direction of the gunshot wound was “slightly downwards.” David LeRoy, who witnessed the murder, gave a statement that the murderer was “a little taller” than the victim. Though it was never mentioned at the trial, Chedell Williams was 5’10”.

19.  There is evidence of documents that were never turned over to the defense.

In some cases, it is known that specific individuals gave statements to the police, but these statements were never produced for the defense to review.

20.  Numerous individuals appeared at Jimmy’s trial and testified to his good conduct and character in the community. Unfortunately, Mr. Mandell did not give all of the people an opportunity to testify individually. In the interest of time (which should not have been a factor, considering Jimmy’s life was at stake), Mr. Mandell had several of Jimmy’s friends and family members agree in unison that they could attest to Jimmy’s good character in his community without actually having them take the stand. In any case, 26 people either testified on Jimmy’s behalf or publicly vouched for Jimmy’s good character at his trial.

Jimmy’s pastor, Rubin Jones, stated that he knew Jimmy all his life and that Jimmy was a member of his church, the Christian Tabernacle Church of God in Christ. He testified that Jimmy had been an active member of the choir and in the last couple of years had attended the church’s services “about every time the door opened.”

21.  Though this final point is not objective evidence, we the members of “Justice for Jimmy International”– a global volunteer-based support organization– have had the opportunity to read hundreds of letters from Jimmy and to meet him in person. We are privileged to know Jimmy and consider him a good friend. Our intense study of his case in the last few years and our own personal knowledge of his character have caused us to conclude that not only is Jimmy Dennis innocent, but also that the world has been far worse off in his absence. Jimmy is a beautiful person of incredible substance, a true gem who has a lot to offer to all of us, and yet he has been assigned to die. In fact, a death warrant was signed by a former governor of Pennsylvania, and an execution date was once set for him. 



HOW YOU CAN HELP: Become an educated spokesperson for Jimmy by learning the facts of his case. Spread the word. Tell your family members, friends, and acquaintances that you know about an innocent man on death row named Jimmy Dennis. Find opportunities to speak about Jimmy. If you would be willing to distribute literature, wear a “Free Jimmy Dennis” bracelet or t-shirt, sign a petition, receive monthly email updates on Jimmy’s case, or put a bumper sticker on your car, let us know. Also, if you would be interested in helping us advertise about Jimmy’s case in major newspapers in Philadelphia, please contact us.

If you have any information whatsoever about this case, please call Jimmy Dennis’ Tip Line at 1-800-728-1854 (toll free and confidential) or contact his support team, “Justice for Jimmy, International” at

Please consider giving to Jimmy’s defense fund. Checks or money orders can be made out to The James A. Dennis Legal Expense Trust. The address is The James A. Dennis Legal Expense Trust, Sun Trust Bank Dept. 28, Washington, D.C., 20042-0028.

Lastly, if you have any questions or comments, or if you would like to receive monthly email updates on Jimmy’s case, please contact us at or visit our Facebook page, “Justice for Jimmy International, Inc.”

More info here:,



TEXAS – CLEVE FOSTER – Execution scheduled september 25, 2012 EXECUTED 6.43 p.m.

Cleve Foster, one of the more controversial death row inmates,  is currently up for execution on September 25 in Texas. I say controversial because there are plenty of people who believe Foster is innocent of the crime he’s on death row for.

Foster even has his own website Cleve Foster – Innocent on TX Death Row.

He was found guilty and sentenced to death for the February 13, 2002 abduction, rape,  and murder of 28-year-old Nyanuer “Mary” Pal in Tarrant County, Texas. His partner in crime was Sheldon Ward, who was also sentenced to death. He’s since died of a brain tumor, so one less monster to worry about. One of the main reasons, besides the presence of Foster’s semen in Pal, is that there is substantial proof that these two men committed a similar crime in December 2001 against Rachel Urnosky. The gun used in that murder was also used in Pal’s murder. Both men were convicted of Urnosky’s murder, but never tried. The jurors in Foster’s trial never got to hear about Rachel Urnosky. What are the odds that this man is innocent when he’s linked to TWO similar crimes? Will he receive a fourth stay of execution?

Update septembre 24, 2012

What Cleve Foster remembers most about his recent brushes with death is the steel door, the last one condemned Texas inmates typically walk through before their execution.

‘You can’t take your eyes off that door,’ he says.

But twice over the past year and a half, Foster has come within moments of being escorted through the door, only to be told the U.S. Supreme Court had halted his scheduled punishment.

On Tuesday, Foster, 48, is scheduled for yet another trip to the death house for participating in the abduction and murder of a 30-year-old Sudanese woman, Nyaneur Pal, a decade ago near Fort Worth.

It takes just under an hour to drive west from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Polunsky Unit, where the state’s male death-row inmates are housed, to the Huntsville Unit, where condemned Texas prisoners have been put to death for nearly a century. The last 485 have been by lethal injection; the first 361, from 1924 through 1964, from the electric chair.

On execution day, the condemned inmate waits, usually for about four hours, in a tiny cell a few steps from the steel door to the death chamber.

Foster, a former Army recruiter known to his death row colleagues as ‘Sarge,’ denies his role in the murder. Prosecutors say DNA ties him to the killing and that he gave contradictory stories when questioned about Pal’s death.

‘I did not do it,’ he insisted recently from a tiny visiting cage outside death row.

Appeals again were pending in the courts, focusing on what his lawyers argued was poor legal help both at his 2004 trial in Fort Worth and by attorneys early in the appeals process. Similar appeals resulted in the three previous reprieves the courts subsequently have lifted, but his lawyers argue his case should get another look because the legal landscape has changed in death penalty cases.

‘I don’t want to sound vain, but I have confidence in my attorney and confidence in my God,’ he said. ‘I can win either way.’

Pal’s relatives haven’t spoken publicly about their experiences of going to the prison to watch Foster die, only to be told the punishment has been delayed. An uncle previously on the witness list didn’t return a phone call Friday from The Associated Press.

Foster, however, shared his thoughts of going through the mechanics of facing execution in Texas – and living to talk about it.

The process shifts into high gear at noon on the scheduled execution day when a four-hour-long visit with friends or relatives ends at the Polunsky Unit outside Livingston.

‘That last visit, that’s the only thing that bothers me,’ he said. ‘The 12 o’clock-hour hits. A dozen or so guards come to escort you.’

By Foster’s count, it’s 111 steps to the prison gate and an area known as the box cage. That’s where he’s secured to a chair for electronic scrutiny to detect whether he has any metal objects hidden on his body.

It’s the legacy of inmate Ponchai Wilkerson. Wilkerson, asked by the warden if he had a final statement after he was strapped to the death chamber gurney for execution in 2000, defiantly spit out a handcuff key he’d concealed in his mouth.

You’re in handcuffs, you’re chained at the ankles, they give you cloth shoes and you have to shuffle to keep them on,’ he said.

As he waddles the 111 steps, he gets acknowledgement from fellow prisoners who tap on the glass of their cells.

At the prison gate, armed officers stand by as he’s put in a van and secured to a seat for the roughly 45-mile trip to Huntsville that he says feels like a ’90-mph drive.’ There are no side windows in the back of the van where Foster, accompanied by four officers, rides to the oldest prison in Texas. Only the back doors have windows.

‘It’s like stepping back in time, dungeons and dragons,’ he said of entering through two gates at the back of the Huntsville Unit, more commonly known as the Walls Unit because of its 20-foot-high red brick walls.

Prison officials then hustle him into the cell area adjacent to the death chamber.

‘Going inside, it’s a little spooky. You can tell it’s been there a while,’ he said. ‘Everything’s polished, but still it’s real old. You look down the row. History just screams at you.

‘It’s almost like `Hotel California,” he said, referring to the song by The Eagles. ‘You can check out anytime, but you can’t leave.’

Both times he’s been there, most recently last September, he’s been treated ‘like a human being,’ Foster said. Officers look at him but don’t smile, he said.

At one point, he saw someone walk by with a bulging envelope that he assumed contained the lethal injection drugs.

At 4 p.m., during his first trip to the death house in January 2011, he was served a final meal. He’d asked for several items, including chicken.

‘It tasted so good,’ he said. ‘It actually had seasoning on it.’

Two hours later, at the start of a six-hour window when his execution could be carried out, he received the Supreme Court reprieve.

Since then, inmates no longer get to make a final meal request. Procedures were changed after a state lawmaker complained that condemned inmates were taking advantage of the opportunity and that murder victims never get that chance.

Foster was looking forward to nachos and chicken, the same food served to other inmates the day last year that he made his second trip to the death house, but he never received it. Instead, his attorney tearfully brought him news of another Supreme Court reprieve just before dinner time.

He asked for a doggie bag but was refused. He was put back in the van and returned to death row.

‘I’ve already told the chaplain: Take the phone off the hook before 4 o’clock,’ he said, anticipating his next trip Tuesday. ‘I want to get that last meal.’

TEXAS – ROBERT WAYNE HARRIS – Execution scheduled September 20, 2012 EXECUTED 6:43 p.m

Harris expressed love to his brother and three friends who were watching through a window.

“I’m going home. I’m going home,” Harris said. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll be alright. God bless, and the Texas Rangers, Texas Rangers.”

Picture of Offender

last meal: the same meal as all the other inmates.

No. 11-70016.United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

The CCA summarized the facts of Harris’s crime in its opinion on direct appeal:

[Harris] worked at Mi-T-Fine Car Wash for ten months prior to the offense. An armored car picked up cash receipts from the car wash every day except Sunday.

Therefore, [Harris] knew that on Monday morning, the safe would contain cash receipts from the weekend and the cash register would contain $200-$300 for making change.

On Wednesday, March 15, 2000, [Harris] masturbated in front of a female customer. The customer reported the incident to a manager, and a cashier called the police. [Harris] was arrested and fired.

On Sunday, March 19[th], [Harris] spent the day with his friend, Junior Herrera, who sold cars. Herrera was driving a demonstrator car from the lot. Although [Harris] owned his own vehicle, he borrowed Herrera’s that evening. He then went to the home of friend Billy Brooks, who contacted his step-son, Deon Bell, to lend [Harris] a pistol.

On Monday, March 20[th], [Harris] returned to the car wash in the borrowed car at 7:15 a.m., before it opened for business. [Harris] forced the manager, Dennis Lee, assistant manager, Agustin Villaseñor, and cashier, Rhoda Wheeler, into the office. He instructed Wheeler to open the safe, which contained the cash receipts from the weekend. Wheeler complied and gave him the cash. [Harris] then forced all three victims to the floor and shot each of them in the back of the head at close range. He also slit Lee’s throat.

Before [Harris] could leave, three other employees arrived for work unaware of the danger. [Harris] forced them to kneel on the floor of the lobby area and shot each of them in the back of the head from close range. One of the victims survived with permanent disabilities. Shortly there after, a seventh employee, Jason Shields, arrived. Shields noticed the three bodies in the lobby and saw [Harris] standing near the cash register. After a brief exchange in which [Harris] claimed to have discovered the crime scene, pointed out the bodies of the other victims, and pulled a knife from a nearby bookshelf, Shields became nervous and told [Harris] he needed to step outside for fresh air. Shields hurried to a nearby doughnut shop to call authorities. [Harris] followed Shields to the doughnut shop, also spoke to the 911 operator, then fled the scene.

[Harris] returned the vehicle to Herrera and told him that he had discovered some bodies at the car wash. [Harris] then took a taxi to Brooks’s house. At Brooks’s house, he separated the money from the other objects and disposed of the metal lock boxes, a knife, a crowbar, and pieces of a cell phone in a wooded area. [Harris] purchased new clothing, checked into a motel, and sent Brooks to purchase a gold cross necklace for him. Later that afternoon, [Harris] drove to the home of another friend and remained there until the following morning, when he was arrested. Testimony also showed that [Harris] had planned to drive to Florida on Tuesday and kill an old girlfriend

To View the Opinion information, click on the Folder icons. ( from Texas Court)

View Case View Opinion Case Number Date Issued Disposition Opinion Type
View case WR-59,925-02 View Opinion for Case WR-59,925-02 WR-59,925-02 9/5/2012 DISMISS/ORD Other
View case WR-59,925-02 View Opinion for Case WR-59,925-02 WR-59,925-02 9/5/2012 DENIED/ORD Other
View case PD-1019-06 View Opinion for Case PD-1019-06 PD-1019-06 10/17/2007 AFFCOA Original
View case PD-1047-06 View Opinion for Case PD-1047-06 PD-1047-06 10/17/2007 AFFCOA Original
View case AP-75,151 View Opinion for Case AP-75,151 AP-75,151 11/9/2005 RELIEFDENIED Original
View case AP-75,151 View Opinion for Case AP-75,151 AP-75,151 11/9/2005 RELIEFDENIED Concurring
View case WR-59,925-01 View Opinion for Case WR-59,925-01 WR-59,925-01 9/15/2004 HCRDEN/ORDER Original
View case AP-73,787 View Opinion for Case AP-73,787 AP-73,787 5/5/2004 AFFIRM Original

OHIO – Palmer Says, ‘I deserve to die’ – execution scheduled september 20, 2012 at 10 a.m EXECUTED 10.35 A.m.

Update september 19, 2012

A condemned Ohio man is set to be moved from the state’s death row in Chillicothe to the site of his Thursday execution in Lucasville.

State officials are expected to move Donald Palmer to death row on Wednesday, the day before he is set to be executed by lethal injection for a crime committed 23 years ago.

The 43-year-old was convicted of aggravated murder for fatally shooting two strangers along a Belmont County road on May 8, 1989.
Palmer’s attorney says he hadn’t planned on filing any other appeals and expected the execution to proceed.
Palmer also decided not to request mercy from the Ohio Parole Board, which can recommend clemency for a condemned inmate to the governor.
Including Palmer, 10 Ohio inmates are scheduled for execution through March 2014.

September 16, 2012

CHILLICOTHE, Ohio – Donald “Duke” Palmer’s worldly possessions include a television, a radio, hot pot, a lamp and a fan.

He will spend much of this week giving those items to his fellow death row inmates. Palmer is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.

During a death row interview last week at Ohio’s Chillicothe Correctional Institution, Palmer, a Martins Ferry native who murdered Charles Sponhaltz and Steven Vargo along Belmont 2 near the Jefferson County line on May 8, 1989, offered regrets for the murders but said he’s ready to die.

“I killed Mr. Sponhaltz and I killed Mr. Vargo and I deserve to die for it,” Palmer, 47, said.

He talked at length during the hour-long interview about his victims and their loved ones but asked that his apologies not be published until after his death.

“I don’t want (my apologies) to be cheapened or be seen as a ploy to somehow stop what’s going to happen,” he said. “I’m not trying to forgive my way out of this. I’m not.”

Palmer said he did not ask for clemency because he does not want to spend the rest of his life in prison.

“I mean, either way is a death sentence in prison,” he said. “I don’t want to sit around and wait for forever to come down. I’m just at the end of this. I’m tired. I want it to be known that it’s OK that I am being executed.”

Palmer said he has known his execution date for 14 months.

Asked how he is dealing with knowing the exact date and time he is going to die, Palmer said, “I’ve been dealing with it since day one. I didn’t know that I had more than five years coming. Then 10 years went by. And then 15 years went by. And then 20 years. … By the time 20 years go by, I was ready to die. I’m just ready.”

While confirming that Ohio is not putting an innocent man to death, Palmer said “No” when asked if he received a fair trial.

He said he appealed for a new trial in an effort to get to the truth about what happened.

“They didn’t convict me of the truth,” he said.

“Now, like I said, I killed these two guys. So I know that I deserve to die for this. But, they didn’t convict me of the truth. They convicted me of innuendo. They convicted me of things that didn’t happen. They put on evidence of things that just weren’t true.”

Palmer’s recollection of May 8, 1989, the day of the murders, goes like this: he awoke that morning in Columbus, Ohio, with “the shakes” due to his cocaine addiction. He went to a liquor store with his co-defendant, Eddie Hill, where they purchased a bottle of whiskey. Palmer said he drank 80 to 90 percent of that bottle during the day.

The two drove to Belmont County and eventually made their way to Belmont 2, near the Jefferson County line. There, they encountered Sponhaltz when Hill’s vehicle struck the rear the Sponhaltz’s vehicle.

Hill and Sponhaltz exited their respective vehicles, followed by Palmer who had a gun in his hand. Palmer said he attempted to punch Sponhaltz when the gun went off, striking Sponhaltz in the head. He then shot Sponhaltz once more in the head, killing him.

“Everything happened in a panic and fear and in bad, bad judgment, bad decisions, drunken judgment. I’m an addict, I’m afraid and I’m drunk. And it was just, you know, anything that could have gone wrong did go wrong and I made all the wrong decisions,” Palmer recalled.

Vargo appeared a few minutes later, stopping to see if the men needed help. Palmer also shot him twice in the head.

“Vargo died because he showed up at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Palmer said.

Asked about his lifestyle at the time, Palmer said, “I was a punk, and I was an addict. I was … a broken person. I was messed up because of my divorce. … That’s why I tried to commit suicide on Feb. 6, 1989. … That was my identity. Father. Husband. I got married the week after I turned 18 at the First Christian Church in Martins Ferry. And, this was my life. …

“I didn’t put God first in my life. And I know that’s why my life didn’t work out for me. But when I got divorced it broke me. I ran around and tried to fill a hole inside of me. Everything. Drugs. Sex. Running around. Fast cars. Motorcycles. Living in Florida on the beach and sailing. You name it, I did it. I had no fear of doing anything. And I was living fast and loose and, I don’t know, God wasn’t around then. Not in my life anyway.”

Palmer said he sometimes questions why he lived while Sponhaltz and Vargo died.

“If I had died, Sponhaltz and Vargo wouldn’t have been killed just a few months later,” he said, referring to his failed suicide attempt. “So it made me question why would God do that? Why would he let me live and these two die to go all the way to this point? But I did find an answer to the question. And the answer was because I didn’t put God first in my life. … People don’t understand when I say it but I thank God for death row. For putting me here. Because if he didn’t put me here, I would have died in my sins. … But now, I know that I’m saved. I know that I’m going to be fine. Every single one of us has a date.”

Palmer said he is a graduate of Martins Ferry High School. He said he worked for a time in construction in Charlotte County, Fla.

As for  Hill,Palmer filed an affidavit with the Ohio Parole Board maintaining that Hill didn’t have anything to do with the murders of Vargo and Sponhaltz. Hill currently is serving lengthy prison sentences for his role in the murders.

Hill “didn’t kill anybody. He couldn’t have stopped me from killing anybody. He didn’t know that I was going to kill anybody. He wrecked the car. He was drinking and driving and wrecked the car. That’s the only crime he committed before the murders,” Palmer said. “I shot Sponhaltz. Eddie ran and jumped down over the side of the road. Didn’t even see Vargo get shot. But, he got 30 to life on Vargo and only 15 to life on Sponhaltz. … I feel really bad that I got this man doing a life sentence.”

Aside from the possessions he will give to fellow inmates, Palmer said he has a few treasured items.

“The only things that mean anything to me are my pictures of my kids and my artwork and my Bibles. That’s it,” he said.

Palmer also said he misses his hometown of Martins Ferry, where he spent his childhood.

“I loved Martins Ferry,” he said. “I loved waking up every morning right across from Nickles Bakery and smelling that bread baking. I could see the Ohio River every morning. I’d see the northern tip of the Island. You could literally walk right down over the hill and go fishing. Every day, I’d sit there and look at Wheeling.

“I miss those things. I remember the train bridge before it was gone. I used to walk across it. Go play on it. Jump off of it. Do all kind of weird things. It’s like Tom Sawyer but not quite, you know. … But I miss that place. That is home to me.”

Palmer said executions should be more public.

“If you have a law on the books, especially when it comes to punishment, if this is what you agree to, as citizens you need to take responsibility for what’s being done in your name,” he said. “I’m not saying there should be public executions. I’m saying that it should be more open. The public should know that it’s being done in their name. They should know that their representatives are the ones who are killing. My blood is on their hands.

“I think the death penalty should be on the ballot every year because if you’re going to kill people, you need to take responsibility for what’s being done. Period. Show me where it’s a deterrent. It’s going to deter me from ever doing it again. But, how is that going to deter the 24-year-old punk that’s out there now?”

Asked what he would say to death penalty protesters who may be outside of the prison during his execution, he said, “Nothing. They’re going to have to work that out for themselves.”

Palmer said there is some irony in his execution date because his mother died on the same date in 2003.

“I’m going to be executed the same date as my mom died,” he said. “My clemency hearing (Aug. 16, 2012) was the same date my son died, Aug. 16, 2005.”

Palmer will be moved from death row in Chillicothe to Lucasville 24 hours before his scheduled execution.

He will visit with his son and daughter on the night prior to the execution but he does not want them to witness it. His attorney, pastor and a penal chaplain will serve as witnesses in his behalf.

As the interview concluded, Palmer offered these final words: “I apologize and I hope that when it comes time for them to find peace that they will seek the Lord Jesus because there is peace there.”


Dates are subject to change due to stays and appeals

Pennsylvania execution dates and stays are generally not listed because the state routinely sets execution dates before all appeals have been exhausted.


Rodney Berget

South Dakota


Michael Travaglia




Donald Palmer


 Executed   10.35 a.m



Robert Harris

Cleve Foster



 ExecutedExecuted   06.43 p.m.

6.43 p.m