Rodney Adkins – black, age 40

Sentenced to death in Cook County, Illinois
By: A judge.
Date of crime: 2003
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Adkins was convicted in the murder of Catherine McAvinchey during an attempted burglary of McAvinchey’s house. Adkins broke McAvinchey’s back and nearly severed her head with a kitchen knife. The defense made note of the abusive and loveless childhood that Adkins had endured. The defense noted that Adkins had dropped out of school in the 7th grade and had spent more than 20 years of his adult life in prison. The defense labeled its client as a ‘crackhead’ thief and argued that society was safe with Adkins in prison. The prosecution countered that Adkins was a cold, remorseless, and calculating career criminal who could have let McAvinchey live, but instead chose to kill her.
Prosecutor(s): Maureen O’Brien
Defense lawyer(s): Preston Jones
Sources: WB 9 WGN-IL 8/8/07 2007 WLNR 15330718;

Laurence Lovejoy – black, age 38

Sentenced to death in Dupage County, Illinois
By: A jury.
Date of crime: March, 2004
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Lovejoy was convicted of killing his 16 year old stepdaughter, Erin Justice, in order to keep her from pursuing a rape case against him. Justice was beaten, poisoned, stabbed and drowned in her home. The prosecution elicited testimony concerning evidence of Lovejoy’s criminal record which included two separate prison sentences for residential burglary. The prosecution also elicited testimony from Erin’s parents and best friend with regard to their memories of Erin and the pain they were suffering. The defense countered by showing the jury photos of Lovejoy as a young child and elicited testimony concerning the difficult upbringing faced by Lovejoy. Lovejoy’s sister testified for the defense that both her and her brother were physically and verbally abused and lived in 15 different homes as children. There was also testimony by defense experts of Lovejoy’s low IQ which the prosecution countered was no excuse for the brutality and heinousness of Lovejoy’s crimes.
Prosecutor(s): Joseph Birkett
Defense lawyer(s): Robert Miller, Stephen Richards
Sources: Chicago Tribune 2/15/07 2007 WLNR 2972306, 2/16/07 2007 WLNR 3061072; Daily Herald 2/14/07 3200692; AP Alert-Ill 2/16/07 08:47:38

Brian Nelson – white, age 19

Sentenced to death in Will County, Illinois
By: A jury.
Date of crime: 2002
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Nelson was convicted of the murders of his 19 year old ex-girlfriend Sara Tennant, Sara’s 16 year old brother Eric Tennant, Sara’s 46 year old father Harold Tennant, and Harold’s 46 year old girlfriend, Jean Bookwalter. All the victims were savagely beaten while Harold Tennant and Jean Bookwalter were also stabbed. Nelson admitted to the police that he used a crowbar to commit the killings before setting the house on fire in an attempt to cover up the crimes. The defense argued that Nelson’s life should be spared for the sake of 15 month old Amber, Nelson and Sara’s child. The defense argued that when she grew up Amber would have questions of her father and deserved the right to confront her father and get closure. The prosecution countered that the child’s main concern growing up will be whether justice was done for her mother, uncle, grandpa, and friend. The defense argued that Nelson was troubled by the death of his stepfather when Nelson was only 7 and that when he was 17 he sustained head injury that resulted in impulsive behavior. Prosecutors countered noting Nelson’s three prior felony convictions for stealing guns, vehicles, and stabbing another man.
Prosecutor(s): Stephen Plazibat
Defense lawyer(s): George Lenard
Sources: Chicago Sun Times 9/26/06 2006 WLNR 166669209; Chicago Tribune 9/27/06 2006 WLNR 16723290, 10/13/06 2006 WLNR 17762068; AP-Alert-Illinois 10/14/06 01:51:25

Daniel Ramsey – white, age 19 (re-sentence after appellate reversal)

Sentenced to death Fulton County, Illinois
By: A jury.
Date of crime: 1996
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Ramsey was convicted of raping and killing 16 year old Laura Marson and killing 12 year old Lonna Sloop. Ramsey raped and killed Marson following an argument concerning Ramsey’s failed relationship with Rachel Sloop followed by Ramsey going to Sloop’s home, wounding Rachel before killing Rachel’s sister Lonna. Ramsey was convicted of murder and sentenced to death a year after the killings, but in 2000 the Illinois Supreme Court overturned his conviction and ordered a new trial because the insanity defense used during the trial was later ruled unconstitutional. The defense tried to argue that the execution of Ramsey would not bring the victims back to life and argued that the jury needed to break the cycle of death and instead sentence Ramsey to life without parole. The defense also argued that Ramsey was mentally ill at the time of the shootings in that he suffered from attention deficit disorder and borderline personality disorder. The defense also pointed out Ramsey’s troubled childhood beginning when he learned that his parents were actually his grandparents. The prosecution argued that the killings were cold and calculated focusing on the phone lines being cut and Ramsey’s luring the parents out of both the Marson and Sloop house by making up a story that another house was being vandalized. The prosecution pointed out the fact that the Marson and Sloop family had trusted and supported Ramsey and pointed to Marson’s rape as warranting the death penalty for Ramsey.
Prosecutor(s): Mike Atterberry
Defense lawyer(s): Jim Dennis
Sources: AP Alert-IL 5/15/07 00:23:33