Joseph Goff – white, age 28

Sentenced to death in George County, Mississippi
By: A jury
Date of crime: 8/27/2004
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Goff murdered his girlfriend by crushing her head in a nightstand drawer and by using the metal track to slash her throat and mutilate the body. Brandy Stewart Yates, 29, was found dead in her hotel room, her body organs had been thrown about the room and had toothpicks sticking out of them, and the room has been set on fire. Yates planned to return to her husband, and prosecutors argue Goff knew that and wanted revenge. The defense argued that Yates’ husband was the more likely killer. Goff said when he went to the hotel room found Yates’ body already mutilated. Goff said he was worried he would be blamed because of his criminal past, so he burned the room and left the crime scene. The defense said DNA testing should have been conducted; investigators did not conduct the testing when Goff admitted to being at the crime scene. Authorities determined Yates’ husband had not been in the area at the time of the murder. Goff was diagnosed as psychotic and bi-polar.
Prosecutor(s): Tony Lawrence, Kevin Bradley
Defense lawyer(s): Defendant represented himself.
Sources: Sun Herald (Biloxi, MS) 5/4/05 (2005 WLNR 6953463), 5/5/05 (2005 WLNR 7020607), 5/6/05 (2005 WLNR 7099984), 5/7/05 (2005 WLNR 7174826).

Ernest Lee Hargon – white, age 44

Sentenced to death in Yazoo County, Mississippi
By:  A jury
Date of Crime:  Feb. 14, 2004
Prosecution’s Case/Defense Response:  Ernest Lee Hargon beat, shot, and strangled his 27 year-old cousin, Michael, his cousin’s wife, and their 4 year old son.  He then took the bodies from their house and buried them 100 miles away.  The prosecution showed evidence that Hargon’s adoptive father had originally named Hargon as the beneficiary in his will, but 1 month before the murders, he had changed the will to have Michael as the beneficiary.  Hargon confessed to the crimes and his wife testified that he also confessed to her while trying to get her to cover for him.  The defense presented evidence of Hargon’s former good reputation in the community before he became addicted to methamphetamine.  The defense stated the Hargon had been coerced into confessing and that Michael giving testimony in the murder case of his father may have led to gang retaliation.
Sources: Sun Herald (Biloxi, MS) 12/2/05 (2005 WLNR 19401600), 12/3/05 ((2005 WLNR 19458424), 12/4/05 (2005 WLNR 19545934), Mobile Register 12/4/05 (2005 WLNR 22069999), Memphis Commercial Appeal 12/4/05 (2005 WLNR 19600700), AP Alert-Mississippi 12/4/05, 12/5/05 (available in Westlaw USNEWS database)