Thursday, May 3, 2012

The No Longer Impending Execution of Todd Wessinger

Todd Wessinger sits on death row awaiting execution by the people of Louisiana. He had been scheduled for execution on the 9th of this month, but his execution has been stayed. I present the facts of the crime from the adverse opinion of State v. Wessinger (1999):
This case arises from the murder of two employees of Calendar's Restaurant in Baton Rouge on Sunday, November 19, 1995, at approximately 9:30 a.m. 
The evidence shows that defendant [Todd Wessinger], a former employee at Calendar's, rode his bicycle to the restaurant that morning armed with a .380 semi-automatic pistol. Mike Armentor, a bartender at the restaurant, saw defendant just outside of the restaurant, and they exchanged greetings. Immediately after entering the restaurant through a rear door, defendant shot Armentor twice in the back. Although Armentor sustained severe abdominal injuries, he survived. 
Defendant then tried to shoot Alvin Ricks, a dishwasher, in the head, but the gun would not fire. As Ricks ran out of the restaurant, defendant attempted to shoot him in the leg, but the gun misfired. As he was running across the street to call 911, Ricks told Willie Grigsby, another employee of the restaurant who escaped the restaurant without being seen by defendant, that he had seen the perpetrator, and the perpetrator was Todd. Ricks also told the 911 operator that the perpetrator was Todd. 
Stephanie Guzzardo, the manager on duty that morning, heard the commotion and called 911. Before she could speak to the operator, defendant entered the office, armed with the gun. After a short exchange with Guzzardo, in which she begged for her life, defendant, after telling her to "shut up," shot her through the heart. Guzzardo died approximately thirty seconds after being shot. Defendant then removed approximately $7000 from the office. 
Defendant next found David Breakwell, a cook at the restaurant who had been hiding in a cooler, and shot him as he begged for his life. Defendant then left the restaurant on his bicycle. EMS personnel arrived at the scene shortly thereafter, and Breakwell died en route to the hospital. 
Defendant was eventually arrested and charged with two counts of first degree murder. Testimony adduced at trial established that defendant had asked one of his friends to commit the robbery with him, and that he planned to leave no witnesses to the crime. Several people also testified that they had seen the defendant with large sums of money after the crime. The murder weapon was subsequently discovered, along with a pair of gloves worn during the crime, at an abandoned house across the street from defendant's residence. One of defendant's friends testified that defendant had asked him to remove the murder weapon from the abandoned house. Defendant was convicted of two counts of first degree murder for the deaths of Breakwell and Guzzardo and sentenced to death. The jury found three aggravating circumstances: (1) that defendant was engaged in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of aggravated burglary or armed robbery; (2) that defendant knowingly created a risk of death or great bodily harm to more than one person; and (3) the offense was committed in an especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel manner.
I can find no one, not even Todd Wessinger himself, who claims Wessinger is factually innocent of the crime for which he is slated to die. His stay was granted for further consideration of a claim that the jury was not allowed to hear some mitigation evidence during the sentencing phase of the trial.

I oppose the execution of anyone who might be factually innocent of the crime for which they are to die. In all other cases, I stand mute.  In the case of Tood Wessinger, I stand mute.

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