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  1. #1

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    Oct 2010
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    James Earl Walker - Alabama Death Row

    Facts of the Crime:

    James Earl Walker was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 2003 for the killing of an 87-year-old Wicksburg woman, Bessie Lee Thweatt. According to authorities, Walker and his stepbrother Rex Allen Beckworth broke into Thweatt’s isolated home on January 5, 2000. The pair broke through her dining room window with a cinder block to gain entry after disabling her security light and telephone lines.

    According to authorities, Thweatt was hit several times in the face by a blunt object before being shot in the head with a .22 caliber rifle. Tim Byrd, a former cellmate of Walker’s, testified that Walker was the shooter. Beckworth was also sentenced to death for his part in the crime.

    For more on Beckworth, see: http://www.cncpunishment.com/forums/...ight=beckworth

  2. #2

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    January 20, 2010


    Man on death row for Wicksburg murder seeks new trial


    Lawyers for a man who has been on death row for more than six years believe a jury that heard the case could have reached a different conclusion during his trial if valuable information had been brought to its attention.

    James Earl Walker, 30, was convicted in 2003 for the shooting death of 87-year-old Bessie Lee Thweat during a robbery attempt. Police believe Walker participated in the killing with his half-brother, Rex Allen Beckworth, who was also convicted and sentenced to death. Walker has claimed he was present during the crime, but did not enter the Thweat home or participate in her murder.

    Walker’s current attorneys questioned his trial counsel, Michael Crespi, for more than two hours Tuesday, claiming numerous errors made in his defense could have — if corrected — led the jury to a different verdict.

    Some of the potential errors discussed Tuesday included:

    — Crespi hired an investigator during trial preparation, but the investigator died before the trial began and Crespi chose not to hire a new investigator.

    — Crespi filed a motion to suppress the statement Walker made to police, and used a written argument that police had no probable cause to arrest Walker, but did not advance that argument during oral arguments to the judge during trial.

    — Crespi did not make an argument that Walker was not promptly taken to the magistrate for a first appearance after his arrest.

    — Part of the prosecution’s case was the use of a jailhouse informant at the Houston County Jail who indicated Walker confessed. Apparently, Crespi did not remember during the trial that the district attorney had provided him with prior information about his intention to use the witness, as well as information as to what the informant would testify to, generally. He then had no information to rely on during cross examination, and was given only an afternoon to investigate the informant for bias or other motivation to testify against Walker.

    — Crespi did not question the informant about statements he said Walker made in connection with the confession that were inconsistent with the facts of the case.

    — Defense counsel did not retain an expert to rebut the prosecution’s claim that the murder was particularly heinous, atrocious and cruel, which is one of the aggravating circumstances of the crime the prosecution used to argue for the death penalty.

    — Defense counsel did not provide adequate records, nor give adequate time for the mitigation expert - the witness used to develop evidence and testify at trial as to why a defendant deserves life in prison instead of the death penalty - to develop a case.

    Walker’s attorneys are seeking a new trial for Walker. They are expected to present more evidence in front of Circuit Judge Larry Anderson at a later date. To receive a new trial, the judge must determine that errors made, if any, were to the extent that a jury could have reached a different conclusion, either in the guilt phase of the trial or the penalty phase.

    http://www2.dothaneagle.com/dea/news..._trial/123771/

  3. #3

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    March 31, 2010


    Lawyer claims ineffective counsel in death penalty case


    A Dothan defense lawyer said Tuesday he may not have been an effective counselor for a capital murder defendant during his trial.

    Attorney David Hogg told the court when questioned by Circuit Court Judge Larry Anderson that he may have been an ineffective lawyer in some regards as he and another attorney, Mike Crespi, defended James Earl Waker.

    Walker, 30, and his half brother, Rex Allen Beckworth, were arrested and charged with shooting Bessie Lee Thweat to death during a burglary at her Wicksburg home. Walker has been on death row for the Thweat murder since October 2003. Beckworth is also on death row.

    Hogg testified for nearly two hours Tuesday as part of a defense effort to get Walker a new trial and sentencing. Hogg said he was only ineffective in not coming to the court during trial to report poor communication issues between him and his co-counsel, Crespi.

    Anderson questioned Walker’s defense team whether they alleged in their petition for a new trial that both lawyers were ineffective during trial or just one.

    David Pitofsky, one of several lawyers from the Goodwin and Procter law firm out of New York City that represent Walker, said Hogg was ineffective in his failure to properly investigate the mitigating phase of the trial.

    “Even though he had a secondary role, we’re alleging he was ineffective,” Pitofsky said.

    Crespi served as lead counsel during the trial.

    “I did the best I was able to do under the circumstances,” Hogg said. “I would’ve jumped up and objected on some other occasions.“

    Defense attorney Yvonne Cristovic questioned Hogg about his working relationship with Crespi during the trial. She said their petition for a new trial stated Crespi failed to cooperate with the rest of the defense team during trial.

    Hogg said he would likely not work with Crespi again after being told he was too busy to work with Hogg on the Walker trial preparation.

    “There were times when he was somewhat condescending,” Hogg said. “He would talk to down to me.”

    Hogg said Crespi assigned him the mitigation and sentencing phase of the trial a week before the case went to trial.

    “It was the first mitigation I had ever handled in a death penalty case so there were definitely shortfalls,” Hogg said.

    Hogg also said Crespi didn’t think it necessary to hire a forensics expert to challenge the prosecution’s evidence at trial.

    During cross examination by Thomas Govan, who represented the state Attorney General’s Office, Hogg said he had already started preparation for the penalty phase before Crespi had assigned it to him. Hogg also acknowledged that he conducted individual interviews as part of his preparation.

    Hogg was one several witnesses scheduled to testify in the two-day evidentiary hearing as part of the petition for a new trial.

    http://www2.dothaneagle.com/dea/news...y_case/141576/

  4. #4

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    March 31, 2010


    New York lawyers seek relief in Wicksburg capital murder case


    Mar. 18--Lawyers for a man on death row for the murder of an 87-year-old Wicksburg woman claimed his defense counsel at his trial failed to fully understand their client's mental health history.

    Circuit Court Judge Larry Anderson partially granted a motion by Maria Calaf, who represented 29-year-old James Earl Walker at a hearing Tuesday. Calaf represented Walker with Stephanie Gooptu from the Goodwin Procter law firm out of New York City in an effort to get Walker a new trial and sentencing.

    Walker and his half-brother, Rex Allen Beckworth, were arrested and charged with shooting Bessie Lee Thweat to death during a burglary at her Wicksburg home. Walker has been on death row for the Thweat murder since October 2003. Beckworth is also on death row.

    Anderson granted a request by the defense for Walker's father's mental records from Taylor Hardin and Bryce Hospital. But he denied a similar request for records from the state Department of Corrections. Calaf said the records would help show how their client's previous lawyers failed to retain a mitigation expert to talk about his mental state.

    Thomas Govan, who argued for the state Attorney General's Office, said the defense did not specifically state which mental illness their client suffered. Calaf said as defense lawyers they were not qualified to say what their client suffered from without an examination or records that show a family history of mental illness.

    "The fact he may have suffered a mental health disorder should have been presented at sentencing," Calaf said.

    Anderson granted a request by the defense for Walker's incarceration record.

    Anderson denied a request by the defense for the Department of Human Resources records of Walker's immediate family members. Calaf said the records would help show what kind of an environment Walker grew up in. Calaf said the defense could not use testimony from her client's father because he died in 2007.

    "This is a case where we'll have to prove a lot of the mitigation phase with documents," Calaf said.

    Anderson also denied a defense motion for financial records for three of their client's family members.

    According to a previous Eagle report, Mike Crespi and David Hogg represented Walker during his trial, but defense attorney Charles Decker represented Walker during his sentencing.

    http://www.allbusiness.com/legal/leg...2243826-1.html

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