Archive for January 23rd, 2011

1996: Richard Townes, Jr.

Add comment January 23rd, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 1996, the executioners of Richard Townes, Jr., mucked about for 22 minutes looking for a vein before sticking the lethal injection needle into his foot. (Source)

The Vietnam veteran’s last words were murmured to the prison warden, an assertion of innocence in the execution-style murder of convenience store worker Virginia Goebel in 1985.

He didn’t have a lot of takers; even the de rigueur anti-death penalty protesters outside the prison were reportedly nowhere to be found.

Townes’s clemency push turned on a once common issue now largely passe: his trial jurors were concerned that the alternative “life” sentence might put the killer back on the street before his dotage. The panel asked the judge to clarify the matter, and in 1985, the judge wasn’t allowed to answer the question — even though the real answer was a reassuring “life means life.” In most jurisdictions, jurors are now entitled to know that information.

Once they got off the jury and found out the answer, two of Townes’s jurors regretted the death sentence sufficiently to sign affidavits opposing Townes’s execution.

“I would not have sentenced Mr. Townes to death had I known that a life sentence meant that he would have really served a life sentence and not been eligible for parole,” juror Ethel Keith said in an affidavit. “In fact, I do not believe any of the jurors would have sentenced him to die under those circumstances.” (Virginian-Pilot, Jan. 23, 1996)

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Lethal Injection,Murder,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,USA,Virginia

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