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2012: Richard Stokley, while his accomplice goes free

December 5th, 2012 Headsman

On a summer’s day in 1991, Richard Stokley and Randy Brazeal picked up two 13-year-old girls from a fair in Cochise County, Arizona and drove them to the desert. There they raped them, then stomped, strangled and stabbed the two to death and dumped their naked bodies in a flooded mineshaft.

Today, Richard Stokley is set to bewas executed for that double homicide.

His accomplice Randy Brazeal is a free man living in Arkansas.

And little but the chance progress of justice and the human judgment calls that officers of the court make every day will distinguish the fate of two men, even though their trial judge has said that he “didn’t have a feeling that one was less culpable than the other.”

Brazeal, a 19-year-old troublemaker new to the area, and Stokley, a local brute twice his age, would spin different stories about exactly what happened in the desert that night to Mandy Meyers and Mary Snyder: about how the attacks began, and who particpated in what.

Long story short: Stokley’s version had both men as full participants, raping at least one girl apiece and each strangling a different victim. Brazeal’s version had him basically just giving people a ride and Stokley committing the crimes. (It’s not clear whether the victims were abducted from the fair, or went along willingly only to be attacked later.)

Forensic DNA testing was only just emerging in 1991, and it required months to process … months that the state did not have before Brazeal’s murder trial was set to begin. Even then, the state’s attorney worried that “the status of the law is in some question as to whether the DNA evidence would be admissible.”

This uncertainty set the parameters for a plea deal in which prosecutors took the guaranteed conviction and Brazeal dodged the needle. He was released in 2011 after serving concurrent 20-year sentences for second-degree murder.

But weeks after that deal was sealed (and before Stokley’s trial) DNA tests on semen retrieved from Mandy Meyers showed that both men had indeed raped her.

The DNA evidence helped seal Stokley’s conviction, even though it and other forensic evidence around the scene also tended to buttress Stokley’s “equal partners in the crime” story to the detriment of Brazeal’s version.

The net outcome* doesn’t necessarily look like justice. Mandy’s devastated mother, Patty Hancock, has been vocal in the run-up to Stokley’s execution about her disgust with the sentencing disproportion.

“With the evidence that they did have, Randy Brazeal should be sitting right next to Richard Dale Stokley,” she told one reporter. “And I will say that until the day I die.”

Stokley, for his part, filed a similar appeal in the courts as grounds for reducing his own sentence. But even though he’s availed every legal avenue possible, he didn’t bother trying the long odds at a gubernatorial reprieve — instead writing the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency:

I am also sorry I was mixed up in those awful events that brought me to this. I have been sorry for the victims and the victims’ families. But no one wants to hear of my miserable sorrow, they just want for me to get dead, which is vengeance. They think it will bring ‘closure.’ But there is no healing in that. Ever.

I have decided to decline a clemency hearing. I don’t want to put anyone through that, especially since I’m convinced that, as things stand now, it’s pointless. I reckon I know how to die, and if it’s my time, I’ll go without fanfare. And if it ain’t, I won’t. God’s will be done.

God’s will is scheduled for 10 a.m. Mountain time today. (Update: Stokley was executed as scheduled.)

* It’s particularly striking that the man who was more forthcoming and cooperative with investigators ended up with the heavier sentence.

Also on this date

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Arizona,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Lethal Injection,Murder,Rape,Ripped from the Headlines,USA

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8 Responses to “2012: Richard Stokley, while his accomplice goes free”

  1. 1
    Meaghan Says:

    This was indeed most unjust. Mr. Brazeal is probably laughing his head off right about now. It reminds me of Paul Bernardo and Karla Faye Tucker.

    However Mr. Stokley’s letter really raised my hackles:

    “I am also sorry I was mixed up in those awful events that brought me to this.” There’s no acceptance of responsibility here; he just acts like “those awful events” happened through no fault of his own, like they were a natural disaster or something and he just happened to be there. And “that brought me to this.” Self-pity. How about “that lead to the horrible deaths of two innocent girls”?

    I suppose any letter of apology is not going to save his life or make any difference about how the victims’ families feel about him or mitigate their anger and grief in any way. But it seems like if he were truly sorry he ought to write something like “I’m terribly sorry for the crimes I committed and all the innocent people I hurt.”

  2. 2
    KYGB Says:

    My only problem with the US death penalty is that it isn’t applied equally in some instances.

    The Arizona Republic reports that Stokley is the 3rd person executed this year in Arizona that has had his co-defendant get a lessor sentence in exchange for a plea and or testimony.

  3. 3
    Fiz Says:

    For goodness sake, if there is going to be a death penalty it should either be applied fairly or not at all, surely?

  4. 4
    Meaghan Says:

    Yeah, the arbitrary nature of the DP in the US is a big issue with death penalty opponents, including myself.

  5. 5
    JCF Says:

    RIP, Richard. The Only Judge who can truly judge w/ Justice, wills always to grant Mercy…

  6. 6
    KYGB Says:

    In all three of the AZ cases, the co-defendant was out on the streets on the day his crime partner was executed.

    There is the famous Texas case in which Michael Perry and Jason Burkett were convicted of first degree murder. The crime included home invasion and automobile theft, in addition to a triple homicide. Perry got a conviction on one murder charge, Burkette on 3.

    Perry was executed in 2010. Burkett was convicted of triple homicide & got 40 to life, mainly because his father made a tearful plea at Burkett’s penalty phase.

    Burkett has since fathered a child in prison and has a big following now urging his release. Burkett is eligible for parole in 2041.

  7. 7
    Meaghan Says:

    How did he manage to father a child in prison?

  8. 8
    Mary O'Grady Says:

    Meaghan, the mother of his child alludes coyly to the circumstances of the child’s conception in Werner Herzog’s documentary, “Into the Abyss.” From what I could gather it had something to do with smuggling fresh body fluids out of the prison. (Texas does not allow conjugal visits of the sort that allowed Manson Family member “Tex” Watson to father children in the usual way.)

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