Shannon Agofsky—white, age 30
Sentenced to death in federal District Court for the Eastern District of Texas
By: A jury
Date of crime: 1/01
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Agofsky was serving a life-without-parole sentence in federal prison in Beaumont in connection with the kidnapping/bank robbery/murder of a bank president. (He and his older brother kidnapped the bank president, forced him to open the safe, then strapped him to a chair and threw him from a bridge into a lake to drown.) While in an exercise cage Agofsky stomped the head and neck of fellow inmate Luther Plant. Plant’s throat was crushed and he died by drowning in his own blood. Agofsky had planned the murder. Agosky was adept in martial arts, and wrote in a letter shortly before the murder, “All I do is work out, wait to leave and hope the cops mess up and let me around some other [profanity deleted] so I can test out my hand.” The defense presented three other inmates to testify that Plant started the fight.
Prosecutor(s): John B. Stevens, Jr.
Defense lawyer(s): Patrick Black
Sources: Tulsa World 7/9/04, Houston Chronicle 7/17/04, Fort Worth Star-Telegram 1/17/04; Wichita Eagle 7/16/04; Press release from the Office of the U. S. Attorney, Eastern District of Texas 7/16/04
Alfred Bourgeois—black, age 37
Sentenced to death in federal court, Southern District of Texas
By: A jury
Date of crime: 6/28/02
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Bourgeois tortured his two-year-old daughter for six weeks while he had custody, eventually killing her with blows to the head. Because the daughter’s injury was reported on military property, the case went to federal court. At first, Bourgeois claimed his daughter fell from the truck, but medical experts determined a fall could not have caused the child’s injuries. At the penalty phase the prosecution presented evidence of Bourgeois’s long history of domestic violence. In mitigation, the defense argued that Bourgeois was a victim of abuse.
Prosecutor(s): Patti Hubert Booth, Elsa Salinas Patterson, Tony R. Roberts
Defense lawyer(s): John Gilmore, Doug Tinker
Sources: Times-Picayune 3/18/04, 3/26/04; U.S. Department of Justice (Press Release) 3/24/04; Death Penalty Information Center, http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org
Meier Jason Brown—black, age 32
Sentenced to death in Federal court in the Southern District of Georgia
By: A jury
Date of crime: 11/30/02
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Brown robbed the post office in the small town of Fleming, Georgia. He stabbed the post-mistreess, Sallie Gaglia, to death, with 10 wounds. Brown had a long criminal record. The defense claimed that Brown had accidentally stabbed the victim the first time as he scrambled over the counter, and had then panicked. In mitigation, the defense presented evidence of Brown’s difficult upbringing, which included a largely absent father who had shot Brown’s older brother, and a household plagued by fighting, drugs, and drinking. The defense also presented numerous witnesses to testify that Brown was normally and caring, gentle, church-going, hard-working person who had done many good deeds, and who had been a sedate inmate.
Prosecutor(s): William Frentzen, Joseph D. Newman
Sources: U.S. v Brown, 441 F.3d 1330 (11th Cir. 2006); press release, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia 3/15/06.
Odell Corley—black, age 37
Sentenced to death in Federal N. D. Indiana
By: A jury
Date of crime: 8/27/02
Prosecution’s case/defense response: A group of five accomplices attempted to rob a bank. Corley was one of the accomplices who entered the bank. He immediately shot and killed tellers Kay Peckat and Chandler Simpson, and shot guard Keith Hill, leaving him a quadriplegic.
Defense lawyer(s): unknown
Sources: Chicago Tribune 9/5/02 (2002 WL 26771433), 12/11/02 (2002 WL 104022734), 11/19/03 (2003 WL 68334032); Chicago Sun-Times 9/5/02 (2002 WL 6470367); Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette 11/10/02 (2002 WL 107241375), Courier-Journal (Louisville) 10/8/04 (2004 WL 95774746)
Sherman Fields – black, age 26
Sentenced to death in federal court in Western District of Texas
By: A jury
Date of crime: 11/6/2001
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Fields was angry with his girlfriend, Suncerey Coleman, after he learned she got pregnant by another man. Fields was in jail at the time, but bribed a guard to assist him in escaping. He took Coleman from the hospital where she was caring for her baby and shot her twice in the head. Fields’ former girlfriend testified that Fields confessed to killing Coleman, and other inmates testified Fields bragged about having sex with Coleman before he killed her. Fields represented himself until the penalty phase and claimed he was innocent and there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime. In mitigation, the defense argued that Fields was suicidal and had a possible diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Fields also had a difficult childhood because he was abused by his mother’s boyfriend and saw his grandfather killed.
Prosecutor(s): Jake Snyder, Greg Gloff
Defense lawyer(s): Scott Peterson, Rob Swanton
Sources: Cox News Service 1/27/04, 1/28/04, 2/3/04, 2/4/04, 2/7/04, 4/9/04
Chadrick Fulks—white, age 25
Sentenced to death in federal District Court for the District of South Carolina
By: A jury
Date of crime: 11/14/02
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Fulks and cohort Branden Basham escaped from jail in Kentucky and went on a two-week crime spree in November, 2002. They carjacked Alice Donavan from a parking lot, killed her, and dumped her body in a location where it was never found. They also kidnapped and killed West Virginia college student Samantha Burns, whose body was also not found; committed another carjacking where the victim was tied to a tree in the woods, attempted at least one other carjacking, and shot at the police and a civilian. Fulks pleaded guilty, so only the penalty phase was tried to a jury. At that phase, the prosecution presented evidence that Fulks had physically and sexually abused women, was a liar and con artist, and had tried to escape after his arrest. The defense attempted to paint Basham as the leader of the crime spree and Fulks as the follower, and argued that Basham killed Donovan outside Fulks’ presence and without his knowledge. The defense also presented evidence that Fulks was brain-damaged due to fetal alcohol syndrome, and that he had a horrific upbringing. (Note: this case had a particularly vigorously litigated penalty phase—the prosecution called over 100 witnesses, and the defense a substantial number, as well.)
Prosecutor(s): Scott Schools
Defense lawyer(s): John Blume
Sources: Lexington Herald-Leader (KY) 6/1/04; Myrtle Beach Sun News (SC) 6/4/04; Evansville Courier 6/4/04; The State (Columbia SC) 6/6/04; 6/19/04, 6/23/04, 6/25/04, 6/29/04, 6/30/04, Charleston Gazette 6/30/04, 7/1/04, 7/2/04
William LeCroy Jr. —white, age 31
Sentenced to death in federal court, Northern District of Georgia
By: A jury
Date of crime: 10/7/01
Prosecution’s case/defense response: LeCroy was robbing Joann Tiesler, when she arrived home and he raped and stabbed her to death. After the murder, LeCroy stole the victim’s car and got as far as the Canadian border before he was arrested. The case went to federal court because it fell under the federal carjacking statute. The defense argued the case should have never been in federal court in the first place because LeCroy’s actions did not fit under the federal carjacking statute.
Prosecutor(s): Dan Summer
Defense lawyer(s): Roger Queen
Sources: Atlanta Constitution, 10/10/01, 10/11/01, 3/11/04; Criminal Defense Lawyer News 2/16/04; Death Penalty Information Center, http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org
Lezmond Mitchell—Native American, age 20
Sentenced to death in Federal court, District of Arizona
By: A jury
Date of crime: 10/28/01
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Mitchell and cohorts formed a plan to rob a trading post, and decided to steal a vehicle to use in the robbery. They posed as hitchhikers, and Alyce Slim and her 9-year-old granddaughter Tiffany Lee picked up Mitchell and another man. When Slim stopped to let them out, they killed her with 33 stab wounds, and then drove Lee into the mountains where Mitchell slit her throat, and when she wouldn’t die, threw heavy rocks at her head. The men left, but later returned to chop the heads and hands off the bodies in an attempt to foil identification. Three days later, Mitchell and his cohorts robbed the trading post. The carjacking made it a death-eligible case under federal law. The defense argued that Mitchell had been more of a passive participant, and that one of the other accomplices had done most of the heinous actions. A letter from the Navajo Nation was read to the jury at the sentencing hearing asking that the death penalty not be imposed since it was contrary to Navajo tribal custom and culture. At the time of his sentencing, Mitchell became the only Native American on federal death row.
Prosecutor(s): Vincent Q. Kirby, Kurt M. Altman
Defense counsel: John M. Sears
Sources: Navajo Times 11/15/01 (2001 WLNR 9797467), 11/29/01 (2001 WLNR 9787205), 10/5/03 (2003 WLNR 3336566); Gallup Independent 5/13/03, (gallupindependent.com/2003/05-13-03deathpenalty.html), 5/21/03 ((gallupindependent.com/2003/05-13-03killer.html).
Wesley Ira Purkey—white, age 46
Sentenced to death in Federal court, Western District of Missouri
By: A jury
Date of crime: 1/22/98
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Purkey, who had a long criminal history (including an attempted murder), was in jail in Kansas charged with the murder of 80-year-old Mary Ruth Bales. He had bludgeoned her to death in her home during a robbery when he was there working for a plumbing company. While awaiting trial, Purkey summoned federal authorities and offered to confess to another murder in which there was federal jurisdiction if he could serve his sentence in federal prison, which he deemed to be a superior place to serve time. He then confessed to kidnapping, sexually assaulting, and fatally stabbing 16-year-old Jennifer Long, then dismembering her body, burning it in a fireplace, and disposing of the ashes. He also said he had transported her across state lines during the kidnapping (from Missouri to Kansas), thus making it a federal offense. It is the Long killing for which he received a death sentence. At trial, Purkey tried to defeat federal jurisdiction by claiming that he had lied about transporting the victim across the state line. In the penalty phase, the defense presented evidence that he had suffered brain damage earlier in his life. (Despite the seeming irrationality of confessing to a murder the authorities would not have otherwise discovered, with the goal of serving time in federal prison, Purkey in fact achieved his objective—although it is doubtful that incarceration on federal death row was quite what he had in mind.)
Sources: U.S. v. Purkey, 428 F.3d 738 (8th Cir. 2005); Kansas City Star 10/30/98 (1998 WLNR 179015), 10/31/98 (1998 WLNR 7199174), 10/28/01 (2001 WLNR 154824); Wichita Eagle 6/11/00 (2000 WLNR 1007068); AP Alert 1/24/04 (APALERTKS 03:12:19).
Gary Lee Sampson—white, age 41
Sentenced to death in federal court, District of Massachusetts
By: A jury
Date of crime: 7/01
Prosecution’s case/defense response: During a week-long crime spree,, Sampson was hitchhiking and killed the people who picked him up — an elderly man and college student. Sampson stabbed both of his victims to death after tying them up. He also strangled another victim and committed an additional carjacking and attempted murder. Sampson confessed and pled guilty to the killings, but a jury was impaneled for the sentencing. In the punishment phase, the defense argued Sampson was mentally ill. Because Massachusetts does not have a state death penalty, the judge ordered the execution to take place in New Hampshire, where Sampson faces other murder charges.
Prosecutor(s): Michael Sullivan
Defense lawyer(s): David Ruhnke
Sources: Boston Globe 12/24/03, 1/30/04, 1/31/04, 2/15/04, 5/21/04