Friday, February 8, 2013

The Impending Execution of Carl Blue

Carl Henry Blue sits on death row awaiting execution by the people of Texas on 21 February 2013. From the decision in Blue v. Thaler (2010):
Blue left his College Station apartment in the early morning hours of August 19, 1994.He walked seven miles to Bryan where the victim, his ex-girlfriend Carmen Richards-Sanders, lived.Blue entered a convenience store across the street from her apartment complex three times: once to purchase a beer, once to pay for fifty cents worth of gasoline, and once to obtain a  soda cup.
At the same time, the victim readied herself for work.  She was not alone in the apartment; Lawrence Williams was an eyewitness to the events that would unfold.  A few minutes before eight o’clock, the victim prepared to leave.  As Mr. Williams wished her goodbye, she unlocked the door.  Blue’s eligibility for a death sentence depended on the events transpiring in the next few seconds.  At trial, the State of Texas argued that, after the victim unlocked the door but before she could open it, Blue threw the door open from the outside. 
Blue has never disputed his identity as the killer.  In fact, only hours after the crime Blue turned himself into the police and confessed.  During closing arguments at trial, his attorneys emphatically stated: “We’re not going to suggest to you that Carl Blue did not murder Carmen Richards. He did. And I agree, it would be ridiculous for us to suggest that he did not.” 
Blue’s defense in the 1995 trial of his guilt instead focused on whether his crime amounted to a capital, rather than simple, murder.  In essence, the defense argued that “he did not murder her in the course of a burglary.” ... 
The defense did not seriously question the events that transpired once Blue opened the door. Blue entered the apartment, doused the victim with gasoline, and set her on fire with a lighter. As Mr. Williams stepped out of the kitchen, Blue threw gasoline on him and also lit him on fire. Blue then turned to the victim, emptied the last bit of gasoline from his cup, and said “I told you I’m gonna get you.” 
Blue “threw the cup down on the ... floor and left.” Mr. Williams rolled on the floor, but could not entirely put out the flames.  He struggled  to the bathroom shower and extinguished the remaining sparks. The victim, still burning, stumbled into the bathroom. Mr. Williams helped her into the shower.  Because Blue’s assault had also set the room aflame, Mr. Williams and the victim staggered from the apartment. Mr. Williams spent two weeks in the hospital recovering.  Blue’s assault caused second degree burns on 40% of the victim’s body. She died 19 days later from multi-system organ failure resulting from her burns.
A jury convicted Blue of capital murder. After a separate punishment hearing, he received a death sentence.
I oppose the execution of any person who might be innocent of the crime for which he is to die. In all other cases, I stand mute regarding the propriety and wisdom of the execution. In the case of Carl Blue, I stand mute.

The Impending Execution of Warren Hill

Warren Hill sits on death row awaiting execution by the people of Georgia sometime during the week of 19-26 February 2013. I find few details of his crime, the most "thorough" collection coming from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals:
In 1990, while Hill was serving a life sentence for the murder of his girlfriend, he murdered another person in prison.  Using a nail-studded board, Hill bludgeoned a fellow inmate to death in his bed.  As his victim slept, “Hill removed a two-by-six board that served as a sink leg in the prison bathroom and forcefully beat the victim numerous times with the board about the head and chest as onlooking prisoners pleaded with him to stop.” Hill “mocked the victim as he beat him.” Even locked up in jail for one murder, Hill continued to kill. 
A jury unanimously convicted Hill of malice murder and unanimously imposed a death sentence. Despite the fact that [Georgia] already exempted mentally retarded persons from execution at the time of Hill’s trial, Hill did not assert at trial that he was mentally retarded.  To the contrary, Hill called clinical psychologist William Dickinson, who testified that Hill’s IQ was 77 and he was not mentally retarded.
There are many, many articles about Hill and his impending execution. They focus almost exclusively on Hill's mental competence or incompetence. In this blog, I limit myself to considering issues of actual guilt or innocence. No one, not even Hill, seems to claim that he did not kill his cellmate as described.

I oppose the execution of any person who might be innocent of the crime for which he is to die. In all other cases, I stand mute with regard to the wisdom of propriety of the execution. In the case of Warren Hill of Georgia, I stand mute.