Execution date set for first Indian-origin death-row prisoner in US

JANUARY 12, 2018

The execution of the first death-row Indian prisoner, convicted of killing a baby and her Indian grandmother, has been set for February 23.

In 2014, Raghunandan Yandamuri, 32, was given the death penalty for kidnapping and killing a 61-year-old Indian woman and her 10-month-old grand-daughter.

However, he is likely to get a reprieve because of a 2015 moratorium on the death penalty by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf.

Authorities alleged that the killings were part of a botched ransom plot. Yandamuri had come to the U.S. on an H-1B visa.

The local Times Herald reported that even though his execution by lethal injection is set for February 23, he might get a reprieve because a death penalty moratorium previously was put in place by Governor Tom Wolf.

“The law provides that when the governor does not sign a warrant of execution within the specified time period, the secretary of corrections has 30 days within which to issue a notice of execution,” Pennsylvania Department of Corrections said in a news release.

According to the report, Wolf imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in 2015. State officials are awaiting the results of a study conducted by the Pennsylvania Task Force and Advisory Committee on Capital Punishment, before moving forward with any executions.

Pennsylvania has not seen any executions in the last nearly 20 years. Since 1976, three persons have been executed in the States between 1995 and 1999.

Who’s on death row in York County murders?

November  21,  2017

There are nearly 200 people on death row in Pennsylvania. Thirteen of them — all men — were convicted and sentenced to death for murders committed in York County.

One currently is awaiting a resentencing hearing, another is awaiting a new trial.

Since 1985, Pennsylvania governors have signed hundreds of execution warrants.

Three executions have been carried out — two in 1995 and one in 1999– since a 10-year national moratorium on the death penalty ended in 1977.

Gov. Tom Wolf put a moratorium on the death penalty in 2015 citing a need for further study.

York County death row inmates, who all are housed at the maximum security prison in Greene County, are:

·Paul Gamboa-Taylor

Gamboa-Taylor was sentenced Jan. 23, 1992, after pleading guilty to the May 18, 1991, hammer slayingsof four family members: his wife, Valeria L. Gamboa-Taylor; their two children, Paul, 4, and Jasmine, 2; and another child, Lance Barshinger, 2.

He received a life sentence for killing his mother-in-law, Donna M. Barshinger.

·Hubert Lester Michael Jr.

Michael was sentenced March 20, 1995, after pleading guilty to the July 12, 1993, abduction and shooting death of 16-year-old Trista Elizabeth Eng in the Dillsburg area.

Michael unsuccessfully attempted to withdraw his guilty plea. Execution warrants were signed in 1996 by Gov. Tom Ridge and 2004 by Gov. Ed Rendell.

·Mark Newton Spotz 

Spotz was sentenced April 24, 1996, for the Feb. 2, 1995, shooting death of Penny Gunnet, 41, of New Salem.

Gunnet was his third victim in a four-day crime spree through central and eastern Pennsylvania.

Spotz also received death sentences for the murders of June Rose Ohlinger of Schuylkill County, and Betty Amstutz, 71, of Cumberland County.

An execution warrant for the York County conviction was signed by Ridge in 2001. He received a stay in the Gunnet murder in 2001.

·John Amos Small 

Small was sentenced June 19, 1996, after being convicted of murder and attempted rape of 17-year-old Cheryl Smith.

Smith’s body was found in West Manheim Township in 1981.

Execution warrants were signed in 2001 by Ridge and in 2009 by Rendell.

·Kevin Brian Dowling

Dowling was sentenced Dec. 14, 1998, for the Oct. 20, 1997, shooting death of Jennifer Lynn Myers inside her art and frame shop just outside Spring Grove.

An execution warrant was signed in 2007 by Rendell.

·Milton and Noel Montalvo

Milton was sentenced Feb. 14, 2000, and Noel was sentenced April 14, 2003, for the April 19, 1998, stabbing deaths of Miriam Asencio-Cruz and Manuel Ramirez Santana inside Cruz’s York apartment.

Rendell signed an execution warrant for Noel Montalvo in July 2010 and signed one for Milton in January 2011. Milton Montalvo is awaiting a resentencing hearing

·Harve Lamar Johnson

Johnson was sentenced Nov. 16, 2009, for the April 7, 2008, beating death of 2-year-old Darisabel Baez, his girlfriend’s daughter, in York.

·Kevin Edward Mattison

Mattison was sentenced Dec. 17, 2010, for the Dec. 9, 2008, robbery and shooting of Christian Agosto in York.

Mattison had previously been convicted of third-degree murder and served prison time in Maryland.

·Hector Morales

Morales was sentenced Jan. 21, 2011, for the 2009 shooting death of Ronald “Country” Simmons Jr.

Police said Morales broke into Simmons’ York home and shot him six times because Simmons was set to testify in a drug case.

·Aric Shayne Woodard

Woodard was sentenced to death Dec. 18, 2013, for the Nov. 7, 2011, beating death of 2-year-old Jaques Omari Twinn.

·Timothy Matthew Jacoby

Jacoby was sentenced to death Oct. 9, 2014, for the March 31, 2010, shooting death of Monica Schmeyer, 55, while he burglarized her West Manheim Township home.

·Also of note

Daniel Jacobs was sentenced to death Sept. 18, 1992, for the Feb. 10, 1992, stabbing death of his girlfriend, Tammy Lee Mock of York, and life in prison for the drowning of their 7-month-old daughter, Holly Danielle Jacobs.

Federal courts overturned Jacobs’ conviction and death penalty for Mock’s murder in 2005, ruling his jury should have been informed his mental deficiencies might not have allowed him to form the specific intent to kill Mock.

While Jacobs continues to serve a life sentence for Holly’s death, he will stand for re-trial in 2016 for Mock’s murder. The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections still lists him as a death row inmate.

Woman’s Serial Killer Claims Can’t Be Verified: Investigators – MIRANDA BARBOUR 19 -YEAR- OLD

Authorities have expressed doubt and skepticism over the claims of a teenager who told the Daily Item, a small newspaper in Sunbury, Pa., that she had been killing people since she was 13 as part of a satanic cult.

“As of this date, there has been no verification of any of the information that has been the subject of media coverage regarding prior acts of the defendant, Miranda Barbour,” Anthony Rosini, the district attorney of Northumberland County, said in a statement today to

Any information about alleged crimes “committed in other jurisdictions has been or will be forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement agencies and the FBI for investigation,” he said.

In a jailhouse interview with a reporter from the Daily Item, Barbour, 19, said that she went on a cross-country satanic killing spree that claimed at least 22 victims, according to the newspaper.

The claim, if true, would make her a rare female serial killer.

Barbour is charged along with her husband of three weeks of murdering Troy LaFerrara, a Pennsylvania man she met on Craigslist. She claimed that she had solicited LaFerrara for sex on Craigslist in November. Authorities said Barbour and husband Elytte Barbour stabbed LaFerrara to death while in her car.

The suspect told the newspaper she had killed what she calls “bad people” from Alaska to North Carolina. Police in Alaska, California, North Carolina and Texas have been called to check out Barbour’s story, authorities said. The FBI said it “will offer any assistance requested in the case.”

Noelle Talley, spokeswoman for the North Carolina Bureau of Investigation, told that authorities were in touch with their counterparts in Pennsylvania and will “remain in contact with them to determine if there is any credible information related to any unsolved homicide in North Carolina.”

Bill James, a baseball writer and statistician who analyzed prolific murderers in the book, “Popular Crime,” told that authorities have every reason to be skeptical of Barbour’s claims.

“I don’t think there has ever been a 19-year-old that killed 22 people. I don’t think that has ever happened in the country,” he said.

Still, James said authorities are right to follow up on Barbour’s claims to the newspaper.

“You have to assume you could be dealing with a killer until proven otherwise,” he said. “A lot of times you never know the truth.”

Despite her confession to the newspaper, a lawyer for Barbour entered a not-guilty plea at her arraignment. was not able to immediately reach Barbour’s family members or her public defender.

february 15, 2014

Nineteen-year-old satanist Miranda Barbour admits to killing Troy LaFerrara of Port Trevorton. In a prison interview Friday night, she said that she considered sparing his life until he said the wrong thing. She also said LaFerrara was one of dozens of such victims she killed in the past six years.

Barbour, with her husband, Elytte Barbour, 22, of Selinsgrove, has been charged by Sunbury police in the Nov. 11 fatal knifing of LaFerrara. She requested an interview that was recorded by the Northumberland County Prison on Friday night.

While she offered scant details of her participation in slayings in Alaska, Texas, North Carolina and California, city police confirmed Saturday they had been working, prior to her revelations Friday night, with investigators from other states and the FBI about Miranda Barbour’s possible connection to other killings. The majority of her murders, she said, took place in Alaska.

City police on Saturday would not comment on the status of those investigations.

At 22 victims, “I stopped counting”

Asked Friday night how many people she had killed, Miranda Barbour said through a jailhouse phone: “When I hit 22, I stopped counting.”

She wants to plead guilty to LaFerrara’s murder, and said she is ready to speak with police about her other victims.

“I can pinpoint on a map where you can find them,” she said.

LaFerrara, Miranda Barbour said, was Elytte’s first victim.

The 42-year-old Port Trevorton resident was killed on the Barbours’ three-week wedding anniversary.

“I remember everything,” Miranda Barbour said. “It is like watching a movie.”

She said she agreed to sex for $100 with LaFerrara, whom she met through a Craigslist ad. The two met in the parking lot of the Susquehanna Valley Mall in Hummels Wharf, and drove nearly six miles to Sunbury.

At one point, she planned to let LaFerrara out of her Honda CRV.

“He said the wrong things,” she said. “And then things got out of control. I can tell you he was not supposed to be stabbed. My husband was just supposed to strangle him.”

Time to “get it out”

According to court documents, Miranda Barbour knifed LaFerrara 20 times as Elytte Barbour sprang from the floor of the back seat to strap a cord around LaFerrara’s neck.

As she said upon her arrest, Miranda Barbour on Friday night repeated that LaFerrara tried to grope her, but she said it was his words that set her off.

“I lied to him and told him I just turned 16,” she said.

“He told me that it was OK. If he would have said no, that he wasn’t going to go through with the  arrangement, I would have let him go.”

Miranda Barbour said she doesn’t care whether people believe her, that she wanted to tell her story to The Daily Item because she wanted to come clean and stop living a lie. She said she felt no remorse for her victims and said she killed only “bad people,” a belief she traced through a troubled childhood.

She said she was sexually molested at age 4 and was introduced to murder at 13, literally in the hands of a man who led her to satanism — beliefs that she said she held at the time of the LaFerrara homicide.

“I feel it is time to get all of this out,” she said. “I don’t care if people believe me. I just want to get it out.”

Suspect: I joined satanic cult

Miranda said when she was 4, she was sexually molested by a relative.

Elizabeth Dean, Miranda’s mother, confirmed Saturday that her sister’s husband was later arrested and charged with sexual abuse of a minor and sentenced to 14 years in prison.

“It was bad,” Dean said. “I never let (her) stay anywhere except for my sister’s house, and I was devastated when I found out.”

Nine years later, Miranda joined a satanic cult in Alaska. Soon after, Miranda said, she had her first experience in murder.

Barbour said she went with the leader of the satanic cult to meet a man who owed the cult leader money.

“It was in an alley and he (the cult leader) shot him,” she said, declining to identify the cult leader.

“Then he said to me that it was my turn to shoot him. I hate guns. I don’t use guns. I couldn’t do it, so he came behind me and he took his hands and put them on top of mine and we pulled the trigger. And then from there I just continued to kill.”

While in the satanic cult, Miranda became pregnant. The cult did not want her to have the baby, so, she said, members tied her to a bed, gave her drugs and she had an “in-house abortion.”

However, her mother on Saturday said that when Miranda told her about the abortion, she took her daughter to a doctor who said there were no signs of an ended pregnancy.

Miranda said she spent the next three years in Alaska, continuing in the satanic cult and participating in several murders.

“I wasn’t always there (mentally),” she said, adding that she had begun to use drugs. “I knew something was bad inside me and the satanic beliefs brought it out. I embraced it.”

During those three years, Miranda said she became pregnant again.

“And I moved to North Carolina,” she said. “I wanted to start over and forget everything I did.”

She left Alaska as a high-ranking official in the satanic world, leaving the father of her second pregnancy, a man named Forest, the No. 2 leader in their cult, who was murdered.

Ready to talk to police

Although Miranda would not say who else may have been involved in the alleged murders, she said all police have to do is talk to her because she is ready to speak.

“I would lure these people in,” she said. “I studied them. I learned them and even became their friend. I did this to people who did bad things and didn’t deserve to be here anymore.”

Sunbury police Chief Steve Mazzeo said authorities are aware of Miranda’s claims of murders, are taking them very seriously, and are also aware of Friday night’s interview. Prison officials have been cooperating with his department, Mazzeo said.

“We are reviewing the recording of The Daily Item interview and I will not confirm or deny anything at this point,” he said.

“I will however say that through investigations by lead officer Travis Bremigen he has been in contact with several other states and is working with law enforcement from various cities and towns.

“From information we gathered and from information gathered from her interview we are seriously concerned and have been in contact with the proper authorities.”

During the interview, Miranda was asked that, given her small stature, how people would believe she would be capable of murder.

“Looks,” she said, “can be deceiving.”

Asked why she pleaded not guilty to the LaFerrara murder, she simply said: “I didn’t want to.”

“When I was at my arraignment and the judge asked me how do I plead, I was ready to say guilty and my attorney (chief public defender Ed Greco) grabbed the microphone and said not guilty.”

Miranda Barbour said she has not spoken with her husband since the day she was arrested, but saw The Daily Item photo of Elytte Barbour’s new teardrop tattoo that he displayed at his most recent court appearance.

Husband “proud of what he did”

Elytte Barbour is being held in Columbia County Jail.

“He is proud of what he did,” she said. “I will always love him.”

Miranda said she has no regrets for any of her alleged crimes.

“I have none,” she said.

“I know I will never see my husband again and I have accepted that. I know I wanted to talk about all this because I know I had a 20-year window where I would possibly get out of jail and I don’t want that to happen. If I were to be released, I would do this again.

“By no means is this a way to glorify it or get attention. I’m telling you because it is time for me to be honest and I feel I need to be honest.”

Ray’s Mom Petition : Read and share when u can

Another post on the blog from Ray’s mom :

In Pennsylvania anything is probable in the not so justice system there. the innocent may be prosecuted and the guilty go free due to the political corruption and police, DA and coroner, medical examiner that are untrained in death scene investigation. My son died from poison and the coroner refuses to allow an investigation. Their word over rules that of the DA or prosecutor.

My petition is here : 

the blog

Many thanks for what you are doing and perhaps with proper publicity we can effectively change the justice system. Contact me – I welcome participation

Lawsuit has potential to stay all executions in Pennsylvania

NOVEMBER 4, 2012

It’s been more than a decade since Pennsylvania executed an inmate on death row. Although another execution is scheduled for Thursday, it’s possible the execution will not happen and that the chamber at Rockview State Prison will remain empty for some time to come.

There’s a little-known 6-year-old federal class action lawsuit — Chester v Beard — that has the potential to stay all executions in Pennsylvania until it is resolved.

04michael.jpgHUBERT MICHAEL

The suit challenges the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s execution protocol; the “class” in the action is composed of all inmates on death row, and there’s a hearing in the case Monday morning.

The immediate relevance is the pending execution of Hubert Michael, whose lawyers have asked the judge for a stay.

Michael is on death row for the July 12, 1993, murder of 16-year-old Trista Eng near Dillsburg in York County.

Michael, who was living in a boarding house in Lemoyne at the time, picked up Eng as she walked to work at the Dillsburg Hardee’s on Route 15. He drove her to a remote area of State Game Lands 242 and shot her three times with a .44 magnum — twice in the chest and once in the head.

When Michael subsequently pleaded guilty to the murder, he said he had been frustrated with women due to an unrelated rape charge in Lancaster County.

His attorneys recently asked a federal judge to reopen his appeals proceedings, citing serious mental health issues as the reason for Michael having repeatedly changed his mind on whether or not he wanted the appeal to proceed.

There’s a hearing on that later this week.

But the separate class action suit, in which his attorneys have also filed a motion for a stay, has the potential to affect all executions in Pennyslvania.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that death by lethal injection is not — in and of itself — unconstitutional, but the ruling left open the possibility that individual state protocols for lethal injection could be challenged on constitutional grounds.

At issue is the fact that two of the three drugs used in the procedure can cause excruciating pain if the first drug — a fast-acting barbiturate — is an insufficient dose or improperly administered. What’s more, the second drug paralyzes the person, so he would not be able to communicate the fact he’s in excruciating pain. For this reason several states have banned use of the second drug when euthanizing animals.

In an oft-cited concurring opinion in the 2008 decision, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, “It is unseemly — to say the least — that Kentucky may well kill [inmates] using a drug that it would not permit to be used on their pets.”

Nevertheless, the Supreme Court — including Stevens — ruled that Kentucky’s protocol passed constitutional muster.

Among the issues raised in the Pennsylvania case is the source of drugs to be used in the execution.

Certain drug manufacturers have banned the use of their product in executions, and lawyers for the prisoners argue that if black market or diluted drugs are used, the procedure could be unconstitutional.

The Department of Corrections argues that revealing the source of the drugs could result in the source refusing to sell them the drugs.

Two federal judges have ruled that the source of the drugs is pertinent and ordered DOC to reveal the information, but in doing so, both judges recognized DOC’s concern and ordered the information to be kept confidential. DOC refused.

Last week, Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel, on the advice of lawyers from the Attorney General’s office, refused to divulge the source of the drugs desipte the federal court orders.

Today’s hearing now includes a request for sanctions against Wetzel and DOC for “clear, flagrant and deliberate” violation of federal court orders.

With the parties in the case still fighting over discovery, it’s possible there might be no final resolution soon.

Experts in death penalty law say execution stays could be likely as long as the case is open.

Marc Bookman of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation said the judge in the Pennsylvania case — Yvette Kane — “is a thorough judge who wants to do it properly.”

He noted that, “Lethal injection litigation has stayed executions in other states.”

Michael’s death warrant is the only one signed by Gov. Tom Corbett that has not been stayed for some other reason.

If Kane grants a stay, and if Chester v Beard continues its path through federal court, it could render any future death warrants moot until the case is settled.

When asked about that, Janet Kelley in the governor’s press office said, “The governor took an oath to uphold the law, and the law in Pennsylvania includes signing execution warrants.”

PENNSYLVANIA – Johnson sentenced to death in murder of wildlife conservation officer

October 9,  2012

An Adams County man has been sentenced to death for the murder of a law enforcement officer, Thursday, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

The death penalty verdict carries an automatic appeal. Earlier in the week, Christopher L. Johnson, 29, of Carroll Valley, was found guilty of first degree murder in the Nov. 11, 2010 shooting death of Pennsylvania Wildlife Conservation Officer David L. Grove, 31, a Waynesboro native. The case against Johnson was heard by a 12-member jury composed of Lancaster County residents, who were chosen for the trial that was held in Adams County Court. The change of venire was granted due to pretrial publicity. That jury deliberated for about 30 minutes.

The penalty phase of trial began Tuesday afternoon and ended Thursday night when the jurors returned their recommendation for the death penalty. To find the death penalty was warranted, the jurors had to determine that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstances. One of those circumstances was Johnson’s previous felony conviction.

Throughout the trial, which began the previous week, the prosecution painted a detailed picture of the shootout that led to Grove’s death. Officer Grove stopped a pickup truck, operated by Johnson, on Schriver Road, near Red Rock Road, in Freedom Township, Adams County. Grove was investigating a deer poaching incident., in connection with a poaching incident. Johnson had told police he fired at Grove because he did not want to go back to prison for illegally possessing a .45 caliber handgun when he was stopped.

At 10:32 p.m., that night, Officer Grove notified county dispatch that he had spotted a vehicle that was illegally using a spotlight to see deer. He also reported to county that he heard shots. Officer Grove pulled the pickup truck occupied by Johnson and another man and ordered them out of the vehicle. Grove then ordered Johnson to come to him.

Johnson was also wounded during the ensuing gun battle. On his way for treatment at York Hospital, Johnson told a state trooper who was accompanying him that he had been carrying the gun in his waistband. He said that when Officer Grove attempted to handcuff him, he drew the pistol and the shooting began. Officer Grove was shot four times.

A bullet fired by Officer Grove hit Johnson in the hip. Johnson fled the scene but was arrested and taken into custody the next day. A total of 15 shell casings fire from Johnson’s weapon were recovered at the scene. The fact that Johnson had to reload the pistol was another aggravating factor the jury considered in rendering its decision. Officer Grove fired 10 shots, from his .357-caliber Glock revolver.

The jury also found Johnson guilty of weapons offenses and game-law violations. That was another of the aggravating factors reviewed by the jury.

Grove can also appeal the conviction. Johnson has been committed to the State Correctional Institute at Rockview. Before a death sentence warrant can be signed by the governor, all of Grove’s appeals must be exhausted.

Executions Rarely Reason for Leaving Pa. Death Row

September 27, 2012

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Two-hundred Pennsylvania convicts are sentenced to die, but they’re less likely to be executed than to be removed from death row for other reasons. State Corrections Department spokeswoman Sue McNaughton, who has kept records on death-row prisoners since 1985, said Wednesday 184 inmates have left death row in that time.

The largest proportion – 133 inmateswere resentenced to life imprisonment. That’s what condemned killer Terrance Williams is seeking in court and from the governor as Williams’ Oct. 3 execution date draws near.

McNaughton says 12 other former death-row inmates were resentenced to other penalties and nine death sentences were vacated.

Twenty-four death-row inmates died of natural causes, three committed suicide and three were executed.

Pardons Board takes death row inmate Terrance Williams’ case ‘under advisement’ STAY

September 27, 2012

The state Pardons Board won’t immediately rule on a condemned Philadelphia man’s clemency bid, just six days before his scheduled execution.

The pardons board heard new arguments today but will take the case “under advisement,” after earlier rejecting the clemency bid.

The fate of 46-year-old Terrance Williams now moves back to a Philadelphia judge weighing new evidence in the 1984 murder case. Judge M. Teresa Sarmina has pledged to rule Friday on a motion to stay the execution.

Williams is on death row for killing two men as a teenager. His lawyers say both men had been sexually abusing him and that prosecutors hid that information from jurors in the second trial, who sentenced Williams to death.

Williams is scheduled to be executed Wednesday.

The US Is Still Executing People For Crimes Committed As Teens

September 25, 2012

The United States never misses an opportunity to castigate other countries for “uncivilized” behavior, and certainly there is enough of that to go around almost anywhere you look in the world. But there’s plenty of it here in the U.S. too.

Just consider the case of Terry Williams.

Williams, a 47-year-old black man, has spent almost 30 years on Pennsylvania’s crowded death row while lawyers sought appealed his death penalty for two murders committed back when he was a 17 and 18-year old boy. Now he’s about to be killed by the state for those crimes.

At the time he was tried and convicted, although it was known to prosecutors that his two victims were adult men who had forcibly raped Williams when he was as young as 13, and that he had been a victim of sexual abuse since he was six, the jury was not informed about any of this. In recent years, a number of the 12 jurors who originally convicted him and sentenced the teenager to death have now said that had they known about the abuse he suffered — particularly at the hands of the two men he later killed — they would have decided the case differently, and certainly would not have voted for the death penalty. Even the wife of one of his victims has pleaded with the state to spare him.

Nevertheless, the state’s governor, Tom Corbett, a hard-on-crime Republican who, prior to being elected to the state’s top post, served as attorney general, making him the state’s top lawyer, had no hesitation in signing his death warrant earlier this month, with an Oct. 3 execution date.

The irony is that Pennsylvania has just gone through a huge ugly scandal involving the football program at its largest public university, Pennsylvania State University, where the defensive coach on the school’s nationally recognized football team, Jerry Sandusky, was found to have been raping dozens of young boys over a period of some 20 years, at least part of that time with the knowledge of the school’s athletic director and top school officials, who acted to cover up his crimes. Sandusky was tried and found guilty of multiple rapes, and could be sentenced to life in prison.

There are credible allegations that Corbett, as attorney general, ignored charges and evidence forwarded to his office that Sandusky was raping and molesting young boys at Penn State.

In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a narrow 5-4 ruling, abolished execution for people convicted of murder who were 17 or younger at the time they committed their crime. At the time of that decision there were more than 70 people on the nation’s death rows who had committed their capital crimes while aged 16 or 17. Interestingly, the court majority cited “international opinion” in partial explanation for its decision. Between 1990 and 2007, there were only seven countries that had executed someone under 18: Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and China. By 2007, even those nations had put a halt to such executions.

Williams’ case stands apart, because one of his two murders was perpetrated after he had turned 18. But the fact of his repeated abuse at the hands of both of his victims, plus his long history of sexual abuse as a child, complicates the picture, painting him clearly as a victim himself.

In most “civilized” countries, this history of abuse would be a clear mitigating factor in determining the appropriate punishment for his crimes, and perhaps even his guilt or innocence.

Meanwhile, while no one will again be executed in the US for a murder committed under the age of 18, those who were facing death before the Supreme Court’s decision merely had their sentences converted to life in prison without possibility of parole, which many critics argue is perhaps worse than death, and which certainly is “cruel and unusual,” particularly given modern neurological research showing that the brain and personality is still not even fully developed at the age of 18, or even 21.

In Pennsylvania alone — a state where the concepts of mercy, compassion and understanding appear to be uniquely in short supply –there are an astonishing 470 prisoners currently serving prison terms of life-without-chance-of-parole who committed their crimes as children. Nationwide, the figure is close to 2600. Some of these people committed their crimes when they were as young as 14. Many, we know, had suffered circumstances of neglect or abuse similar to what Terry Williams endured as a child, but had shoddy defense attorneys who failed to bring such evidence to the attention of the court and the jury, or had prosecutors who deliberately and illegally hid that evidence.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled in one such case — that of a woman named Trina Garnett, who was convicted of setting a house fire at the age of 14 which killed two young boys — that such permanent sentences were unconstitutional. Garnett, a low-IQ girl with diagnosed mental problems, was serving a life sentence and was 50 at the time that the court, in another 5-4 decision, granted her the right to a new sentencing hearing. All such prisoners sentenced to life in prison as children will now at least have a chance for a re-sentencing hearing.

It’s a small step towards civilized behavior in the nation that today has the highest percentage of its citizens behind bars of any country in the world.

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.”

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