Mark Dwaytt Brown – White, age 34

Sentenced in Cleburne County, Alabama
By: a judge upon jury recommendation
Date of crime: February 8, 2005
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Brown bludgeoned Lena Benefield (age 88), and her sons, Reo (age 69), Shable (age 59), and Durward (age 49), to death with a baseball bat. Brown, along with his brother Shannon, and Timothy Patrick Morris, entered the home of Lena Benefield, beat the occupants to death, and then set fire to the home. Defense claimed that Reo Benefield had abused Mark Brown at age 11, and had been paying Brown significant amounts of “hush money” in an arrangement that Brown would not have wanted to end. The prosecution responded that even if the abuse spawned the violence it did not justify the murder of Reo Benefield, and certainly didn’t justify the murder of the other three present.
Sources: Anniston Star (Alabama) 12/04/08 (2008 WLNR 23288955), 12/13/08 (2008 WLNR 23919472), 12/16/08 (2008 WLNR 24059830); AP Alert 12/14/08 – AL 16:46:08

James Largin- White, age 35

Sentenced in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama
By: a judge upon jury recommendation (11-1)
Date of crime: March 2007
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Largin shot to death his parents Jimmy (age 68) and Peggy Largin (age 56). Largin robbed his parents’ home after the murder and used the money to purchase drugs that fueled a 24-hour binge. The presentencing report, which was read at Largin’s sentencing hearing, stated that he showed no remorse for his actions. The defense argued that Largin could provide a benefit to society in prison helping others to better their lives.
Sources: AP Alert 10/02/09 – AL 16:42:21

Lam Luong – Asian, age 37

Sentenced in Mobile County, Alabama
By: a judge upon jury recommendation
Date of crime: January 7, 2008
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Luong threw his four children, Ryan Phan (age 3), Hannah Luong (age 2), Lindsey Luong (age 1), and Danny Luong (age 4 months), off of a bridge in an act of revenge against his wife. Defense asked for lesser charges of manslaughter because Luong had spent the night drinking and smoking crack cocaine and could not have been is his right mind.
Sources: Press-Register (Alabama) 03/20/09 (2009 WLNR 5460451), 03/21/09 (2009 WLNR 6641060), 05/01/09 (2009 WLNR 8948762).

Calvin McMillan – Black, age 20

Sentenced in Elmore County, Alabama
By: a judge against jury recommendation (4-8)
Date of crime: August 29, 2007
Prosecution’s case/defense response: McMillan shot to death James Martin (age 23) during a carjacking. Martin was shot four times, the final bullet hitting him while laying on the asphalt after being pulled from the car. The jury voted in favor of life imprisonment, but the judge overrode that decision. The defense put evidence of abuse suffered by McMillan throughout his youth.
Sources: Montgomery Advertiser (AL) 06/25/09 (2009 WLNR 12120670), 07/01/09 (WLNR 12533818), 08/08/09 (2009 WLNR 15359542), 08/10/09 (2009 WLNR 15466211).

Steven Petric – White, age 28

Sentenced in Jefferson County, Alabama
By: a judge upon jury recommendation (10-2)
Date of crime: March 9, 1990
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Petric raped and slit the throat of Toni Lim (age 23). The prosecution argued that this was part of a pattern of raping women at knifepoint. Police were able to connect Lim to the case 16 years later by connecting his DNA to the case. The defense argued that the DNA only proved the two had sex, and not that Petric murdered her. The defense also pointed to another suspect that was convicted of a similar crime that occurred two months after Lim. There was another sample of DNA found at the scene, but the defense was unable to run that sample through the national database.
Sources: Birmingham News (AL) 08/05/09 (2009 WLNR 15186972), 08/13/09 (2009 WLNR 15856819), 08/14/09 (2009 WLNR 15919037), 08/15/09 (2009 WLNR 16090542).

Christie Michelle Scott – White, age 29

Sentenced in Franklin County, Alabama
By: a judge against jury recommendation (5-7)
Date of crime: August 16, 2008
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Scott set fire to her home killing her son, Mason (age 6), who was inside. She had purchased a substantial life insurance policy for her son less than twelve hours before the fire was started. The jury recommended a sentence of life in prison without parole, but the judge overrode that decision. The defense claimed Scott was innocent.
Sources: Press-Register (AL) 07/11/09 (2009 WLNR 13822835); AP Alert 06/08/09 – AL 14:09:01; 08/05/09 – AL 16:47:24.

Kevin Towles – Black, age 28

Sentenced in Etowah County, Alabama
By: a judge upon jury recommendation
Date of crime: December 2-3, 2006
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Towles beat to death Geontee “Gee” Glass (age 5) the son of his girlfriend. Geontee Glass was originally reported kidnapped by his mother, but was found the next day in the trunk of a vehicle at Towles’ home. At trial Glass’ older sister testified that Towles took Glass from the home while angry. When her brother returned he was not moving. The defense argued that Towles had been falsely accused and point to Glass’ mother had filed a false report saying Glass had been kidnapped. The report for the kidnapping came a full day after the time that the coroner says the boy died.
Sources: AP Alert 12/12/06 – AL 15:02:51, 12/21/09 – AL 18:19:36; Sun Herald (Biloxi, MS) 12/22/09 (2009 WLNR 25689764).

Donald Whatley – White, age 29

Sentenced in Mobile County, Alabama
By: a judge upon jury recommendation (details in case notes)
Date of crime: December 29, 2003
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Whatley beat, strangled, then ran over Pete Patel (age 43) with a vehicle. Whatley had gone to a gay bar specifically to find someone to rob. He left the bar with Patel, attempted to kill him by strangulation, and ran him over after hearing Patel was still alive. Whatley admitted to this crime while serving a life sentence for another murder in Texas. Whatley claimed he would have never commit the crime were he not under the influence, and that his problems stemmed from a difficult childhood with an abusive father. Whatley told the jury not to feel bad for recommending the death penalty, but the Judge did not immediately follow the recommendation. The Judge called a special hearing to determine what the appropriate sentence was, and did not issue a ruling until three months after the sentencing hearing.
Sources: Press-Register (Alabama) 11/08/08 (2008 WLNR 21935075), 11/11/08 (2008 WLNR 21935929), 11/13/08 (2008 WLNR 21937129), 12/12/08 (2008 WLNR 24004464), 01/23/09 (2009 WLNR 1499055).

David Wiggins – White, age 32

Sentenced in Russell County, Alabama
By: a judge upon jury recommendation
Date of crime: October 29, 2005
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Wiggins fatally shot Kyle Cavins (age 58). Cavins was shot 10-15 feet outside his business where Wiggins had also briefly worked. Wiggins was also sentenced in a carjacking for the day following the murder. During sentencing the judge spoke about Wiggins’ abusive childhood, his crack cocaine habit, and his struggle with alcoholism.
Sources: Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (Alabama) 03/11/09 (2009 WLNR 4637397), 05/01/09 (2009 WLNR 8228513).