Georgia Supreme Court Blog

February 24, 2010

Georgia’s Death Row

Filed under: criminal law, Death Penalty, murder — bce30064 @ 8:08 pm

A significant share of the Georgia Supreme Court’s work is devoted to death penalty cases. As one might expect, death penalty cases are subject to extensive appellate review. Most of these cases will be heard before the Georgia Supreme Court as direct appeal of a verdict of guilt as well as subsequent challenges to the form and manner of the original trial.

A February 1, 2010 query of the Georgia Department of Corrections web site indicates that 100 inmates are currently under death sentences:

Andrews, James Douglas
Arevalo, Joaquin E
Arrington, Robert Oliver
Barrett, Clay
Bishop, Joshua Daniel
Blankenship, Roy W
Brannan, Andrew Howard
Brockman, Ward Anthony
Brookins, Brian Duane
Brookshire, Kelly R
Bryant, Nicholas Jason
Burgess, Raymond
Butts, Robert
Clark, Cleveland
Cohen, Michael A
Collins, Roger
Conner, John W
Cook, Andrew Allen
Cromartie, Ray Jefferson
Davis, Troy Anthony
Deyoung, Andrew Grant
Drane, Leonard
Edenfield, David H
Ellington, Clayton Jerrod
Esposito, John Anthony
Ferrell, Eric L
Finney, Eddie W
Ford, Melbert Jr
Foster, Timothy T
Franks, David Scott
Fults, Kenneth E
Gary, Carlton
Greene, Daniel
Hammond, Emmanuel Fitzgera
Heidler, Jerry Scott
Henry, George R
Hill, Warren L
Hittson, Travis Clinton
Holiday, Dallas B
Holsey, Robert W
Hulett, Donnie Allen
Humphreys, Stacey Ian
Jarrells, Jonathen
Jefferson, Lawrence J
Jenkins, Larry Leonardre
Johnson, Marcus R
Jones, Ashley Lyndol
Jones, Brandon Astor
Jones, Jerry W
King, Warren
Lamar, Cedrick
Lance, Donnie
Lawler, Gregory P
Ledford, J W
Ledford, Michael William
Lee, James Allyson
Lewis, Christopher K
Loyd, Roger
Lucas, Daniel A
Mcpherson, Mark
Meders, Jimmy Fletcher
Miller, Michael
Mitchell, Nelson Earl
Morrison, Ernest U
Morrow, Scotty G
Nance, Michael W
Okelley, Dorian Frank
Pace, Lyndon Fitzgerald
Palmer, Willie
Perkins, David Aaron
Perkinson, Eric Alexander
Presnell, Virgil Delano
Pye, Willie
Raheem, Askia Mustafa
Raulerson, Bill Daniel
Rhode, Brandon J
Rice, Lawrence
Riley, William David
Rivera, Reinaldo Javier
Rogers, James Randall
Sallie, William C
Sealey, Richard
Sears, Demarcus Ali
Spears, Steven Frederick
Speed, Norris U
Stinski, Darryl Scott
Stripling, Alfonzo
Tate, Nicholas Cody
Terrell, Brian Keith
Tharpe, Keith L
Thomason, Gary Chad
Todd, William L
Tollette, Leon
Waldrip, Tommy L
Walker, Artemus Rick
Walker, Gregory
Ward, Jamie R
Wellons, Marcus A
West, Keith
Whatley, Frederick Ramone

Nearly all of Georgia’s “death row” inmates are incarcerated at Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, Georgia. There is one woman sentenced to death, Kelly Brookshire. All but one of Georgia’s death row inmates have been convicted of murder; Demarcus Sears has been sentenced to death for kidnapping.


January 26, 2010

Court Reinstates Death Penalty Despite Defender’s Deficient Trial Preparation

Filed under: attorneys, Carol Hunstein, criminal law, Death Penalty, murder — bce30064 @ 7:30 pm


Donnie Lance (Source: GA DOC)

The Supreme Court of Georgia has reinstated the death sentences given to a Jackson County man for the 1997 murders of his former wife and her boyfriend.

Donnie Cleveland Lance was convicted in 1999 of killing Sabrina “Joy” Lance and Dwight “Butch” Wood and sentenced to death for each murder. In 2002, the state Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the convictions and death sentences. But the following year, Lance filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus – a civil proceeding that gives already convicted prisoners another chance to challenge their case in the county where they’re imprisoned. In April 2009, the habeas judge upheld Lance’s convictions but overturned his death sentences, finding that his trial attorney had provided “ineffective assistance of counsel” for failing to investigate claims that Lance had mental health problems. The state attorney general, representing the prison warden and on behalf of the State, appealed the ruling that threw out the death penalty, while Lance’s attorneys appealed the ruling that upheld his murder convictions.

In a unanimous January 25, 2010 decision, Chief Justice Carol Hunstein (data), wrote “we reverse and reinstate Lance’s death sentences.” In response to Lance’s cross appeal, “we affirm” Lance’s convictions.

According to evidence at trial, Lance had a history of violence against his wife, including electrocuting her with a car battery, beating her with his fist, a belt and a handgun and threatening her with flammable liquid and a chain saw. Joy’s father testified that just before midnight on Nov. 8, 1997, Donnie had called looking for Joy, and he told him she wasn’t there. Lance went to Wood’s trailer home, kicked in the front door and shot Wood twice with a shotgun, killing him. He then beat Joy with a shotgun with such force that the gun broke into pieces and her face was “utterly unrecognizable.” Lance later told a friend that his ex-wife, whom he called a derogatory name, would not be coming that day to clean the house and that both Joy and her boyfriend were dead. After his arrest, Lance bragged to an inmate that “he hit Joy so hard that one of her eyeballs stuck to the wall.”

In a 29-page decision, the high court agreed that Lance’s trial attorney “performed deficiently in failing to prepare for Lance’s trial by investigating Lance’s background.” Had the attorney investigated, he would have learned that Lance had a history of alcohol abuse, had ingested gasoline as a child, was once exposed to toxic fumes while cleaning an oil tank, had been shot in the head and had been injured in car crashes, one of which when he was fleeing police while drunk. He’d also been treated at Georgia Regional Hospital for depression. However, “[g]iven Lance’s long history of contemplating the murder of Joy Lance and Butch Wood, the manner in which he finally carried out their murders, and his utter disregard for their suffering and deaths afterward, we conclude that the new evidence of Lance’s subtle neurological impairments, even when considered together with the other mitigating evidence that was or should have been presented at trial, would not in reasonable probability have changed the outcome of the sentencing phase if it had been presented at Lance’s trial,” the decision states. “We also conclude, contrary to Lance’s arguments in his cross-appeal, that the new evidence of subtle neurological impairments would not have significantly affected the jury’s deliberations during the guilt/innocence phase.”

More Information: Georgia Supreme Court Database: HALL, WARDEN V. LANCE (S09A1536) and LANCE V. HALL, WARDEN (S09X1538) : Full Text and Visual Summary

Summary by Georgia Supreme Court Public Information Office

Attorneys for Appellant (State): Thurbert Baker, Attorney General, Mary Beth Westmoreland, Dep. A.G., Beth Burton, Sr. Asst. A.G.
Attorneys for Appellee (Lance): L. Joseph Loveland, James Boswell

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