James Edward Barber—white, age 42
Sentenced to death in Madison County, Alabama
By: A judge, after an 11-1 recommendation of death by a jury.
Date of crime: 5/20 or 21/2001
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Barber was a handyman who had been doing work for 75 year-old Dorothy Epps. During a robbery, he beat her to death with a hammer. He confessed on videotape and was linked to the crime scene through physical evidence. The defense contested guilt on the basis that the confession was false and that the circumstantial evidence was weak. In the penalty phase, the defense presented evidence that Barber was in a cycle of drug use and that his violent behavior was not characteristic of him.
Prosecutor(s): Bill Starnes, Robert Broussard
Defense lawyer(s): Robert Tuten, Ben Boyanton
Sources: Huntsville Times, 5/26/01; 8/5/03; Telephone conversation with prosecutor Starnes 9/22/04
Brandyn Benjamin—black, age 19
Sentenced to death in Houston County, Alabama
By: A judge after a jury 10-2 jury recommendation of death
Date of crime: 11/18/00
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Benjamin pistol-whipped and robbed Jimmie Floyd Lewis in a rainy mall parking lot, and then shot Lewis in the heart and leg, killing him. Benjamin bragged of the murder (although he would later claim the gun accidentally discharged). In mitigation the defense argued that Benjamin had an absent father and had endured years of physical and emotional abuse; further, he had experienced the deaths of four primary caregivers.
Prosecutor(s): Doug Valeska
Defense lawyer(s): Michael Crespi, Kalia Lane
Sources: Ozark Alabama News 1/29/01; Dothan Eagle (Alabama) 5/20/03, 9/25/03, 5/28/04
Jimmy Lee Brooks – white, age 22
Sentenced to death in Talladega County, Alabama
By: A judge, after a unanimous jury recommendation of death
Date of crime: 2/17/2002
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Brooks and Michael Carruth kidnapped Forest Bowyer and his 12-year-old son, Brett Bowyer, from their home by posing as police officers. The kidnappers stole $47,000 and took the victims to a construction site. Brooks shot the son in the head three times, slit the father’s throat and dumped them both into a shallow grave. The son died, but the father survived and was able to identify Brooks and Carruth. The defense argued that Carruth forced Brooks to commit the murder. In mitigation, the defense presented evidence that Brooks came from a broken home, and did not intend to harm the child. (Although no evidence was presented in this trial, Brooks and Carruth were also charged in another county with robbing and murdering an elderly couple in a home invasion burglary.)
Prosecutor(s): Kenneth Davis
Defense lawyer(s): Joel Collins and Charles Floyd III
Sources: Columbus Ledger-Enquirer 3/2/2002, 2/11/2004, 4/9/2004; CNN.com, 2/20/2002
Michael Lee Brown—white, age 24
Sentenced to death in Jefferson County, Alabama
By: A judge, after a jury recommendation of death (vote unknown)
Date of crime: 10/19/01
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Brown burglarized the trailer of 66-year-old Betty Kirkpatrick to rob her. He strangled her, slashed her throat, and put a bag over her head. The robbery netted $91, some jewelry, and Kirkpatrick’s 1986 Thunderbird car. Brown had done odd jobs for Kirkpatrick, and called her “grandma.” The same week, Brown had tried to rob a family planning clinic. He also had a conviction for attempted rape. A tipster also reported that Brown had bragged about the murder. Brown contended that while he had been present during the murder, someone else had killed Kirkpatrick. As mitigation the defense presented evidence that Brown had been abused as a child, and had some positive character traits.
Prosecutor(s): Ted Mills, David Michaels
Defense lawyer(s): Bill Neumann
Sources: The Birmingham News 8/11/2004, 6/18/2004, 10/19/2001.
James Brownfield—white, age 27
Sentenced to death in Jackson County, Alabama
By: A judge, after a jury recommendation of death
Date of crime: 12/24/2001
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Brownfield beat to death with a hammer his sister Brenda McCutcheon, and her 3-year-old grandson. He scrawled in lipstick on a wall, “Tammy I love you. Never forget. Killing is my business now.” Then he went to the home of Brenda’s estranged husband Latham and beat him to death with the hammer, also. There was evidence that Brownfield was high on several drugs, including Xanax, at the time of the killings.
Sources: Associated Press 12/26/01, Mobile Register 2/16/04
Emanuel Gissendanner—black, age 25
Sentenced to death in Dale County, Alabama
By: A judge, after an 11-1 jury recommendation of death
Date of crime: About 6/22/01
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Gissendanner assaulted the 77-year-old victim Margaret Snellgrove, kidnapped her by putting her in the trunk of her car, stole her car, and killed her by inflicting severe head and neck trauma, finally dumping her body in a ravine. He then forged a check from her purse and cashed it. Gissendanner claimed he rented the car and received the check from another man, and denied involvement in crimes against Snellgrove. He claimed he was at home at the time of the murder. Gissendanner had a prior forgery conviction. In mitigation the defense offered evidence that Gissendanner had no history, either criminal or non-criminal, of violence.
Prosecutor(s): David Emery
Defense lawyer(s): Joe Gallo, Bill Kominos
Sources: Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (Ga) 6/28/01, 12/19/01; Ozark News 6/27/01; Telephone call with defense lawyer Kominos 9/27/04
Antonio Jones – black, age 21
Sentenced to death in Houston County, Alabama
By: A judge, after an 11-1 jury recommendation of a death sentence
Date of crime: 12/31/1999 Prosecution’s case/defense response: Jones beat 80-year-old Ruth Kirkland to death during a home invasion burglary. After the murder, police found Jones wearing blood stained clothes and driving Kirkland’s car. Kirkland’s grandson discovered his grandmother beaten to death with fractured ribs, broken arms and bruises all over her body. Prosecution presented DNA evidence linking Jones to the crime. Jones argued that he went to Kirkland’s house with some other men and it was one of them who killed her. In mitigation, the defense focused on Jones’ hyperactivity and a low IQ. Jones also had a rough childhood and was raised in a broken home.
Prosecutor(s): Doug Valeska
Defense lawyer(s): Tom Brantley and Clarke Parker
Sources: Dothan Eagle 3/16/04, 6/9/04
Charlie Washington—black, age 54
Sentenced to death in Elmore County, Alabama
By: A judge, after a 10-2 jury recommendation of death
Date of crime: 1/3/2003
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Julian and Florence McKinnon (ages 82 and 84) were beaten to death by numerous blows from a blunt object in their home by Washington during a burglary/robbery. Washington was found in possession of the couple’s car at the time of his arrest, as well as a large sum of money roughly corresponding to the amount taken from the home, as well as a coin collection from the home. Traces of the blood of both victims were found on his clothes. Washington claimed an alibi: he had been on the way to Atlanta to do a drug deal at the time of the murders, but the alibi was not supported. In mitigation, the defense offered evidence of a rough childhood, and drug usage. (Note: Defense lawyer Walter K. Jones reports that he has since randomly encountered two of the jurors in the community, and both said that if Washington had admitted the crime and expressed remorse, the jury would have had more than 2 votes for a life sentence—and 10 is the minimum number that will support a death recommendation.)
Prosecutor(s): Sam Partridge
Defense lawyer(s): Walter K. “Kenny” Jones, Wayne Perdue
Sources: Montgomery Advertiser, 2/1/03; Telephone calls with prosecutor Partridge and defense lawyer Jones on 9/24/04.