Monday, December 9, 2013

The Clock is Ticking for Billy Ray Irick

After a long stretch on Tennessee's death row, time is finally running out for convicted killer Billy Ray Irick. Sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl, Irick has been awaiting execution for an astounding 27 years. But on January 15th, that long wait will finally come to an end.

Despite overwhelming evidence, Irick's lawyers withdrew an insanity defense originally filed at the beginning of his trial. Perhaps they considered it normal behavior for someone to hear and obey voices in their head--sometimes referred to by Irick as "the devil," and other times simply as "the voice." They might've also seen nothing wrong with Irick chasing a girl down the street with a machete just because he didn't like the way she looked, or Irick's constant fear that the police would break into his home and kill him with chainsaws. Irick also once destroyed a television with an axe, and cut his sister's pajamas off of her with a razor while she slept.

But while sanity is subjective, inevitability is not. Only one month remains before Irick pays the ultimate penalty for his crimes.

UPDATE: Apparently that clock will keep on ticking just a little bit longer. Irick's execution has been rescheduled for October 7.

UPDATED UPDATE: Irick's execution has now been pushed back indefinitely as the state of Tennessee wrangles with red tape regarding its method of execution.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Franklin's Fashionable Follicles

Not many serial killers can claim to have as many hairstyles as they had victims, but Joseph Paul Franklin was the exception. Although none of the styles he experimented with were ever as popular as The Rachael, The Mullet, or even that weird thing Miley Cyrus does when she twists her hair into those stubby blonde horns, Franklin was still a man who knew how to turn heads on the death row cell block--even if the brains inside those heads were thinking, "What the hell has Franklin done now?"


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Manhandling Mannequins Like Murderer Martin MacNeill

Okay, so the Martin MacNeill trial isn't a death penalty case, but many people think it should be. I had the chance to recreate Michelle MacNeill's death scene on HLN After Dark recently, and if I could get that body out of the bathtub, I'm sure Dr. MacNeill could've done it, too. Watch the video and see what you think.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Who's Bad? Missouri's Death Row Inmates!

Death row inmates have always had a special affinity for Michael Jackson. After all, some of his top hits practically serve as anthems for their distinctive lifestyle. (Bad, Dangerous, Smooth Criminal, and a favorite among serial bludgeoners, Beat It) And although most convicted felons never get the chance to live like a rock star, some of them might get the chance to die like one.

Due to a shortage of traditional lethal injection drugs, the state of Missouri has now approved the use of the sedative propofol in its executions. That particular drug gained notoriety after Michael Jackson died from an accidental overdose in 2009. The need for a new execution drug stems from the fact that manufacturers of formerly-used drugs like pancuronium bromide and sodium thiopental stopped selling to US prisons because they didn’t want their products used for such unsavory procedures.

While a change in execution protocol sometimes causes concerns, Missouri’s death row inmates couldn’t be happier. Some have requested extensive plastic surgery and skin bleaching treatments prior to their executions, and others plan to wear a sequined glove to the lethal injection table.

Now whenever someone asks the musical question “Who’s bad?”, every death row inmate in Missouri can reply “Me! Me!”

Monday, July 15, 2013

The One Hill Georgia Lawmakers Can't Get Over

Georgia has a landmark called Stone Mountain. It's a huge chunk of rock soaring 825 feet into the sky, and it looks impossible to climb. But lately Georgia lawmakers have had more trouble with a six-foot hill--Warren Lee Hill, that is. The man who simply cannot be executed.

Hill was originally convicted for murdering his girlfriend, which earned him a life sentence. While in jail, he used a nail-studded board to murder his cellmate Joseph Handspike  (how ironic is that?). Hill was given the death penalty for that murder, but the state has had a devil of a time carrying that sentence out.

Last year, Hill's first execution was stayed when his lawyers challenged Georgia's switch from a three-drug lethal injection to a single drug process. Hill then came within an hour of execution in early 2013, but was given another stay when his lawyers argued that their client was mentally retarded. Hill was issued another date with death tonight, but the execution was halted for a third time at the last minute because Hill's lawyers claimed that the new drug used in Georgia's lethal injection process might be unsafe.

Yes, you heard me right. A drug that's designed to kill a person might be hazardous to your health. Hill's lawyers are also arguing that the steel bars on the prison's jail cells are too hard, and the ice in the prison cafeteria's drinks is too cold.  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Paula Cooper Has Flown the Coop

Every once in a while, a death row inmate does manage to exit "out the back door," so to speak. Such was the case when Paula Cooper was released from Indiana's Rockville Correctional Facility on Monday.

Cooper once held the dubious honor of being the youngest death row inmate in the country. At the age of 15, she and three other young girls brutally stabbed a 78-year-old woman to death during the course of a robbery. Cooper, who confessed to the crime, was convicted of murder and given the death penalty. Her three accomplices were given jail terms.

Just two years later, though, Cooper's death sentence was overturned when a new law made it illegal to execute any person who was under the age of 16 at the time they committed their crime. Cooper was then given a 60-year sentence, but she was released early after serving only 28 years.

Emotions about the case have always run high, and will certainly continue to do so. Some people were incensed that a felon who committed such a terrible crime would have their death sentence commuted. Others complained about the fact that someone so young was given the death penalty in the first place.

Cooper's sister said she hopes that people will now see Cooper as more than just a killer. Based on the mug shot above, that wish will likely be granted. After viewing this image, people will probably see Cooper as:
  • Half-woman, half-bird
  • A repeat hair care product abuser
  • The inspiration for Lady Gaga's next stage outfit

Friday, June 7, 2013

Richard Ramirez Dies; Night Stalker is Hellbound at Last

Sometimes bad things do happen to bad people; Richard Ramirez, the notorious serial killer known as the Night Stalker, died this morning while serving time on California's death row.

Ramirez, a Satan-worshiping madman who was convicted of 13 murders and numerous rapes and assaults, had been on death row since 1989. But even though California has more death row inmates than any other state, the capital punishment system has been wrapped up in miles of red tape for years. There's no telling when--or even if--Ramirez would've actually been executed.

Prison officials said Ramirez died of "natural causes," but some reports claim the Night Stalker died from hepatitis C, which might have been contracted before the killer was even arrested. Either way, the man who claimed to love Satan should be knocking on his door right about now.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Lethal Lady Brittany Holberg Asks for New Trial

If you've been watching the Jodi Arias trial, you've heard countless people wonder how such a brutal crime could have been committed by a woman. And while Jodi's crime was savage, she seems downright mild when compared with Brittany Holberg.

Brittany, now a resident of death row in Texas, asked for a new trial this month based on the claim that she didn't receive proper legal counsel at her first one. She'll need a lot of luck--or a brain-dead judge and jury--to wriggle out of her death sentence, though.

Brittany was convicted of robbing and killing an 80-year-old man in his own home. The victim was beaten with a skillet, a steam iron, a hammer, a telephone, and a space heater, then stabbed almost 60 times with weapons including a butcher knife, a paring knife, a grapefruit knife, and a fork. She finally shoved a lamp pole five inches down the victim's throat to stop him from gurgling so much.

Just like Jodi Arias, Brittany claimed she committed the murder "in self defense." But unlike the Jodi Arias jury, Brittany's jury had no problem at all handing down a quick death sentence.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Jodi Arias, Meet Eva Dugan

If Jodi Arias is given the death penalty and executed by the state of Arizona, she would join a very small and select group. Only one woman has ever been executed there, and her story is about as wild as they get.

Eva Dugan was a feisty dame who worked as a cabaret dancer in Alaska during the days of the Klondike Gold Rush. In 1927, after all the excitement died down, Eva moved south to Arizona and took a job as a housekeeper on a chicken ranch. That job didn’t last long, though, and Eva was soon let go for unspecified reasons. Shortly afterward, the ranch owner Andrew Mathis vanished along with his car and his cash box.

Following tips from neighbors, police found that Eva had sold Mathis’s car and tried to sell some of his other possessions as well. She was imprisoned for auto theft, and when Mathis’s body turned up on his ranch nine months later, Eva was tried and convicted of murder. She accepted her death sentence with plenty of spunk, though, telling the jurors, “Well, I’ll die with my boots on and in full health. And that’s more than most of you old coots will be able to boast on.”

While in jail, Eva charged reporters $1.00 per interview and also sold hand-embroidered handkerchiefs so she could afford a fancy coffin. She also made herself a beaded jazz dress to wear to her hanging, but changed her mind at the last minute because she didn’t want the dress to get “mussed.”

After a last meal of oyster stew and crackers, Eva went to the gallows with her head held high—but not for long, because the hangman made an error when calculating the rope length and drop distance, resulting in a botched execution. Very ironic, considering the fact that Eva never lost her head during her trial and incarceration.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Social Media Goes to Prison

Ask any death row inmate to name their pet peeves, and boredom will show up at the top of every list. To help fill those long, dull hours, lawmakers are experimenting with new prison-themed social media applications.

The first program to hit the cell block is called Jailbook, which allows inmates to network and share moments from their daily lives. Users can connect with other prisoners who are categorized as friends, family, or accomplices, and then post status updates about visits from their lawyers, last-minute appeals, and other fun events. Jailbook friends can like a post or—if they find it distasteful or offensive—choose to shank the user who posted it. The beta version of the program crashed after a flurry of impulsive shanks from the test group, but technicians are working hard to fix the problem.

A second application, called Snitcher, allows inmates to rat on their fellow prisoners in 140 characters or less. Again, an overwhelming amount of shanking has interrupted the beta test.