2001: Willie ‘Ervin’ Fisher, traveling man

4 comments March 9th, 2014 Headsman

(Thanks to John S. Carbone of Alienists Compendium. Dr. Carbone is also the Director of Mental Health Services and Chief of Forensic Psychiatry for the North Carolina prison system.)

On this date in 2001, Willie ‘Ervin’ Fisher, aged 39, was put to death by lethal injection at North Carolina’s Central Prison in Raleigh.

His was a forgettable if lamentable crime were it not for the changes to the state’s administrative code that his passing — nay, his post-mortem travels — effected.

Fisher at first invoked that time-tested excuse of addling by drugs and alcohol as exculpation for the slaying of April 2nd 1992.

He admitted from the time of arrest to the murder of Angela Johnson, his on-again, off-again girlfriend, during a domestic altercation that was witnessed by many as it spilled outside to a parking lot for its finale by knife and broken broomstick.

Interestingly, Fisher had no prior felony arrests, and when he was deemed able to have formed the specific intent necessary for first-degree murder, that other time-tested excuse — ineffective counsel — was raised with equal futility. Throughout, however, prison officials described him as a ‘model prisoner’ on death row, one who received nary a single disciplinary charge in the decade he was incarcerated. And though he later abandoned the pretense of chemical sway and accepted full personal responsibility in a videotaped appeal for clemency to the governor, his pleas fell on deaf ears.

Fisher gave a brief last statement on the evening of his demise, and was pronounced dead after 9:00 p.m. His earthly remains were then transported across town to the medical examiners’ office.

But that wasn’t the end of the story.

The decedent’s sister, Sally Fisher, was at that time the deputy registrar of vital records for the Forsyth County (NC) Health Department, and as such was familiar with then-existing rules pertaining to the handling and transportation of dead bodies. Ms Fisher later recounted that “I just got up that [next] morning and said, ‘we might as well [bring] Ervin home’…. I just wanted to be close to him for a while.”

So Ms Fisher, her sister, and her niece piled in the latter’s SUV and drove to Raleigh at 6:00 a.m. on the 10th to claim the corpse. At first, the medical examiner balked at releasing the body thusly, but Ms. Fisher was versed in statute and code, and after a number of frantic phone calls for guidance, the ME had no choice but to turn Fisher’s remains over to his family.

Then, with the help of an employee of the ME’s office, the four struggled to wedge Fisher’s by-then-stiff corpus into the back of the SUV. Fisher had to be placed recumbent as he wouldn’t sit up straight. Ms. Fisher and her sister got in the back seat and talked with the departed while the niece drove the 100 miles west on Interstate 40 to Winston-Salem and the family residence.

Though it was only early March, Fisher’s family turned on the air conditioning inside the SUV — to the highest setting.

En route, they stopped at least once for sodas and to make phone calls to family and friends to let them know that Fisher was headed home, and that everyone should come to visit upon his arrival. There was a brief and impromptu reunion of sorts held in the front yard when the travelers reached the family’s residence. This was followed by a meandering drive around town to visit old haunts (pun fully intended) before eventually reaching the funeral parlor.

Word traveled fast, and it wasn’t many hours before a local television station in Winston-Salem had called the warden at Central Prison for comment regarding the inmate of whom he had overseen the execution mere hours before who was nevertheless now cruising out west with crowds forming to wave at him.

Some said that the family fetched Fisher to save expenses. The Department of Correction, though, was authorized to provide up to $300 to indigents for burial costs if a letter were received from a funeral home … and no such letter had been received. Ms. Fisher herself later said that money had nothing to do with the decision. “To me, it was … closure. For ten years, I was talking to him through glass and couldn’t touch him. That was my brother. He was the baby…. Bringing him back home helped me out.”

And in what may be Ervin Fisher’s lasting legacy, it is now mandated by amended state administrative code that only a hearse from a licensed funeral home can take possession of the dead at the medical examiner’s office.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Guest Writers,Lethal Injection,Murder,North Carolina,Other Voices,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,USA

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2001: Jeffrey Doughtie, “It started with a needle and it is ending with a needle”

2 comments August 16th, 2013 Robert Elder

(Thanks to Robert Elder of Last Words of the Executed — the blog, and the book — for the guest post. This post originally appeared on the Last Words blog. Fans of this here site are highly likely to enjoy following Elder’s own pithy, almanac-style collection of last words on the scaffold. -ed.)

“For almost nine years I have thought about the death penalty, whether it is right or wrong and I don’t have any answers. But I don’t think the world will be a better or safer place without me. If you had wanted to punish me you would have killed me the day after, instead of killing me now. You are not hurting me now. I have had time to get ready, to tell my family goodbye, to get my life where it needed to be. It started with a needle and it is ending with a needle.”

— Jeffrey Doughtie, convicted of robbery and murder, lethal injection, Texas.
Executed August 16, 2001

Doughtie had a $400-a-day drug habit, which he financed by selling stolen property. He had once worked for the antique store in Corpus Christi where he sold much of his loot. One day, after shooting a mix of heroin and cocaine, Doughtie beat the store’s proprietors to death with a piece of metal tubing. He confessed to the murders.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Guest Writers,Lethal Injection,Murder,Other Voices,Texas,Theft,USA

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2001: An adult actress stoned to death in Evin prison

Add comment May 20th, 2013 Headsman


(From the May 22, 2001 Eugene Register-Guard, which is also the source of the quoted text below.)

Sex workers face a struggle worldwide for labor rights and human rights. At the extreme end of the criminalization spectrum was the fate of the unidentified 35-year-old woman who, according to the Iranian newspaper Entekhab, “was partially buried in a hole at Tehran’s Evin prison and stoned to death Sunday.”

She had been arrested eight years before for acting in “obscene sex films,” which of course are as prevalent in Iran as everywhere else.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Artists,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Gruesome Methods,History,Iran,Sex,Stoned,Women

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2001: Kojiro Asakura, frustrated realtor

Add comment December 27th, 2012 Meaghan

(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.)

On this day in 2001, 66-year-old Kojiro Asakura was executed by hanging at the Tokyo Detention House for the murders of almost an entire family eighteen years before.

In June 1983, he had killed Akira Shirai, age 45, and Shirai’s wife, one-year-old son and two daughters aged six and nine by beating them to death with a hammer and an ax. He then dismembered three of the bodies.

The only survivor was the family’s oldest daughter, age ten, who was away at summer camp at the time of the murders.

The motive for Asakura’s crimes lay in frustrations related to his job. A property assessor, he had bid successfully on the Shirai family’s house and land in Tokyo when they came up for public auction. He planned to resell the property at a profit, but the deal stalled when the Shirais refused to move out. Four months after the auction, they were still residing in the house illegally.

Enraged, Asakura beat the wife and children to death, then waited for the husband to come home and killed him too.

At his trial, the defense argued insanity or at least diminished capacity, pointing out that normal, sane people do not go on gruesome murder sprees. The court didn’t buy it.

Asakura was hanged on the same day as another Japanese multiple murderer, Toshihiko Hasegawa, who breathed his last at the Nagoya Detention House. These were the first executions in Japan in eleven months, and thirteen months more would pass before anyone else stepped up to the scaffold.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Businessmen,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Guest Writers,Hanged,Japan,Murder,Other Voices,Pelf

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2001: Jay Scott, trend-setter

1 comment June 14th, 2012 Headsman

Not Ohio’s first execution in the “modern” era — that distinction belongs to Wilford Berry, who voluntarily waived his appeals to hasten a 1999 execution — Jay Scott, who was put to death by lethal injection on this date in 2001, stands at the headwaters of Ohio’s 21st century death penalty binge.

Prior to Scott’s death, Ohio had carried out only that one execution, Berry’s, in all the previous 48 years.

But it’s made up for lost time with another 45 executions in the eleven years since Scott died.

A paranoid schizophrenic and career criminal, Scott entered an East Cleveland deli in May 1983, ordered bologna and crackers, and then shot the 74-year-old proprietess at point-blank range after she served him. Then he went for the restaurant brace by gunning down a security guard at another restaurant. (That death sentence was eventually reversed; technically, Scott died for the first murder only.)

By the time he paid for the crimes, Scott had gotten to know the fledgling Ohio execution process pretty well.

Scheduled death dates on April 17 and May 15 had both been stayed at the last moment over legal appeals around his mental competency — on that latter date, he was three minutes from execution with the shunts that would carry the lethal chemicals already stuck in his arms.

Laborious as it was to finally consummate, Scott’s was the only Ohio execution in 2001.

But the state conducted three the next year — and it’s never carried out fewer than two in any year since then.

Part of the Themed Set: Ohio.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Diminished Capacity,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,History,Lethal Injection,Milestones,Murder,Ohio,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Theft,USA

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2001: Terrance Anthony James, snitch-killer

Add comment May 22nd, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 2001, Terrance Anthony James suffered lethal injection in Oklahoma for the vicious murder of a suspected jailhouse snitch.

Awaiting trial in 1983 for theft of government property, James became convinced that a fellow-inmate was responsible for his arrest, and proceeded to strangle Mark Allen Berry with a wire.

Usually, in death penalty cases, it’s the jailhouse snitch who does the killing.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Lethal Injection,Murder,Oklahoma,USA

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2001: Five machine-gunned in Thailand

1 comment April 18th, 2011 Headsman

On this date a decade ago, Thailand machine-gunned in Bangkwang Prison five men — four convicted drug-smugglers, and one murderer.

Lee Yuan-kuang, one of those executed this date.

Bazillionaire populist Thaksin Sinawatra had just become the country’s Prime Minister, and would soon stake his administration on a notorious drug suppression push that would be linked to 2,000-plus extrajudicial killings.

This date’s harvest, perhaps, was its judicial preview. Amnesty International complained that it was “outrageous … to flaunt its tough anti-drugs stance by executing people,” and that’s probably exactly the sort of reaction Thaksin had in mind.

According to the BBC, one of the traffickers had been caught with 50,000 methamphetamine pills — meth being the rising drug problem (pdf) du jour — and another with 30 kilos of heroin.

Thailand executed three more drug traffickers later in 2001.


Thailand’s execution arrangement, further described here.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Drugs,Execution,Shot,Thailand

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2001: Zhang Jun and his gang

2 comments May 20th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 2001, an infamous crime lord and 13 members of his gang were put to death in two Hunan Province cities.

Suave serial bank robber Zhang Jun had a reported 28 deaths on his conscience, including such underworld classics as forcing a lover to execute someone in order to prove her loyalty, in a years-long spree of robbery and mayhem. He was a major catch early in China’s execution-rich “strike hard” crime crackdown.

Despite-slash-because of the body trail, the cool Zhang — who appeared in court dressed modishly and flaunting such indifference to death that he disdained to defend himself — attracted a strain of fandom for his “gangland chic”.

He’s kind of like the gangsters in the movies, really likable.

The authorities, and his many victims, liked him less.


A still shot from the broadcast of Zhang Jun’s trial.

According to Courts and Criminal Justice in Contemporary China, the gang’s trial had the distinction of being the first ever broadcast live in China.

Zhang Jun’s trial was notable for its ripples in other media as well. The Committee to Protect Journalists reported that several writers and editors were demoted or fired after publishing a story in Nanfang Zhoumo (Southern Weekend) exploring the gang’s roots in poverty and inequality … a take deemed inimical to the dialectical historical march of the Peoples’ Republic. (See here for some of the more approved commentary angles.)

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,China,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Infamous,Mass Executions,Milestones,Murder,Organized Crime,Shot,Theft

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2001: Mariette Bosch, love triangulator

1 comment March 31st, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 2001, Botswana secretly hanged creepy South African emigre Mariette Bosch for whacking her neighbor in order to steal the neighbor’s husband.

That the black widow was actually white only threw the lurid scenario into sharper relief. In the well-heeled enclaves of Gaborone, one Ria Wolmarans was found shot dead in 1996, and inside a month her former husband Tienie Wolmarans had moved in with Mariette Bosch.

The big break in the case came from Mariette’s sister Judith, to whom the murderess had unguardedly confided her love for Tienie prior to the shooting. (The lovebirds’ official story was that their loins only heated up as Ria Wolmarans’ body cooled.) Judith got ahold of the 9mm Mariette had borrowed and handed over to the police what proved to be the murder weapon.

Although the courts found Mariette’s erratic defense — something about hypnotism and her victim’s boss — absurdly implausible, her elite status helped make her the lightning rod for capital punishment in Botswana.

The international attention she attracted, however, simultaneously pressured the government to close the books with a very speedy hanging.

Bosch was hanged at 6 a.m. this date upon 24 hours’ notice to herself and none whatsoever to the outside world: Tienie — who always avowed disbelief that Bosch killed his wife — was turned away from the prison on what he figured was a routine visit the previous day, and found out about Bosch’s execution with the rest of the country when it hit the news two days later. Bosch had to go her last day on earth alone.

Although it remains an emblematic case, Bosch’s disposal hasn’t exactly changed Botswana’s hanging protocol: brief appeals process, executions in secrecy, scant prospect of clemency. The country’s politicians make no apologies about it, notwithstanding the high-profile work of its domestic human rights organization Ditshwanelo. (Here’s its statement on Bosch.)

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Botswana,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Murder,Sex,Women

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2001: Larry Keith Robison

15 comments January 21st, 2009 Kristin Houle

(Thanks to Kristin Houlé of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty for the guest post, adapted from her Mental Illness and the Death Penalty Resource Guide (pdf link). Kristin blogs at Prevention Not Punishment. -ed.)

A mentally ill man who had been refused treatment because his condition had not yet turned him violent suffered lethal injection in Texas eight years ago today for finally turning violent.

Larry Robison was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at the age of 21, three years before the murders for which he was sentenced to die. He began hearing voices and acting strangely as a teenager, claiming to have secret paranormal mental powers and the ability to read people’s minds and move objects from a distance. He joined the Army but was discharged after only a year.

Robison’s parents sought help and warned mental health authorities of their son’s erratic and increasingly aggressive behavior, but were told that the state could offer no resources unless he turned violent. He was shuffled in and out of mental hospitals, admitted after aggressive behavior and released after a period of medicated passivity. He received no regular, ongoing treatment. Robison was not covered by his parents’ insurance, nor did he have his own.

Robison claimed that voices in his head, which came through the clocks in his room, spewed out warnings about Old Testament prophecies of the Apocalypse and told him to murder, behead, and mutilate his roommate, Bruce Gardner. Robison then went next door and murdered four of his neighbors. When authorities arrested him, he told them that he had committed the murders in order to “find God.”

The four prosecutors developing the case against Larry Robison recognized his past history of mental illness and were willing to accept an insanity plea in exchange for life in a mental institution. The Tarrant County district attorney overruled them, however, and ordered them to seek a death sentence. In the courtroom, most evidence of Robison’s mental illness was ruled inadmissible, so the jury heard little of it. None of the three doctors who had diagnosed Robison before the crime as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia were called to testify at his trial. The jury rejected his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Once in prison, evidence of Robison’s mental illness continued to accumulate. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed his execution at one point, doubtful as to whether or not he was competent to be executed. When asked what the execution would be like, Robison replied that he felt like “a little kid at Christmas time waiting for Santa Claus to come.” Eventually, he demanded that his lawyers cease filing appeals based on his mental illness, but only if the state agreed to execute him on the night of a full moon. Despite protests from mental health organizations and concerned citizens throughout the world, the state complied.

Larry Robison’s case drew attention largely as a result of the tireless efforts of his own family, taking a public profile unusual for the family of the condemned. CBS News’ 48 Hours profiled the Robisons shortly before Larry’s execution. They continue to maintain a website, larryrobison.org; mother Lois Robison remains a vocal critic of executing the mentally ill, and delivered this address to a Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights conference last fall.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Diminished Capacity,Execution,Guest Writers,Lethal Injection,Murder,Other Voices,Texas,USA

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