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Thread: Andrew Sasser - Arkansas Death Row

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    Andrew Sasser - Arkansas Death Row




    Facts of the Crime:

    Sentenced to death on March 3, 1994 for the brutal July 1993 murder of Jo Ann Kennedy, a convenience store clerk.

  2. #2
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    January 24, 2009

    Arkansas Death Row Inmate Wins Appeal

    A federal appeals court says an Arkansas death row inmate deserves a hearing on whether or not he is mentally retarded. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling yesterday sent Andrew Sasser's case back to the U.S. District Court for western Arkansas.

    If Sasser's claim that he is mentally retarded is verified, he would be exempt from execution.

    Sasser was convicted in 1994 of killing Jo Ann Kennedy, a Miller County convenience store clerk. He appealed his conviction and death sentence, but they were upheld by the Arkansas Supreme Court in 1999.

    A petition to appeal to federal court was denied by the Western District court in May 2002. But the following month, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional to execute a mentally retarded person, he filed another petition claiming retardation. That was also denied, but the appeals court ruling yesterday overturned that ruling.

    Sasser's petition says he did not offer a mental-retardation defense earlier because his lawyers were ineffective in his 1994 trial.

    http://www.todaysthv.com/news/news.aspx?storyid=79013

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    Judge: Killer still eligible for death row

    A federal judge has ruled that a man sentenced to death for the 1994 rape and murder of a Garland City, Ark., convenience store clerk is not mentally retarded as defined by law.

    If Andrew Sasser’s mental retardation claim had been validated by U.S. District Judge Jimm Larry Hendren, he would have been ineligible for the death penalty under federal law. In a 70-page opinion, Hendren analyzed the data and testimony offered by experts for the state of Arkansas and Sasser.

    Sasser killed Jo Ann Kennedy in July 1993 while she was working.

    http://www.texarkanagazette.com/news...eath-ro-15.php

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    Inmate Personal Information

    DOB: 10/21/1964
    Race: Black
    Gender: Male

    Crime and Trial Information

    * County of conviction: Miller
    * Number of counts: One
    * Race of Victim: White
    * Gender of Victim: Female
    * Date of crime: 07/12/1993
    * Date of Sentencing: 03/03/1994

    Legal Status

    Current proceedings:
    Habeas petition pending in W.D. Ark.;
    evidentiary hearing on Sasser's mental
    retardation claim held in June 2010

    Attorneys

    Julie Brain
    Bruce Eddy

    Court Opinions

    Sasser v. State, 902 S.W.2d 773 (Ark. 1995) (affirming conviction and sentence); Sasser v. State, 993 S.W.2d 901 (Ark. 1999) (affirming denial of post‐conviction relief); Sasser v. Norris, 2007 WL 63765 (W.D. Ark. Jan. 09, 2007) (denying habeas corpus); Sasser v. Norris, 2007 WL 1159634 (W.D. Ark. April 18, 2007) (denying motion to amend judgment); Sasser v. Norris, 553 F.3d 1121 (8th Cir.) (reversing in part, finding that the State forfeited its statute of limitations defense and remanding to district court for an evidentiary hearing on Sasser's mental retardation claim), cert. denied. 130 S.Ct. 397 (2009).

    Legal Issues

    On appeal from denial of habeas corpus:
    (1) right to evidentiary hearing on mental retardation claim
    (2) forfeiting statute of limitations defense
    (3) ineffective assistance of counsel

  5. #5
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Federal judge denies death penalty appeal of convicted murderer claiming mental retardation

    A man convicted of raping and murdering a Miller County store clerk has failed to convince a federal judge he shouldn't be executed because he is mentally retarded.

    Andrew Sasser was found guilty of capital murder for the 1993 slaying of EZ Mart clerk Jo Ann Kennedy. U.S. District Judge Jimm Larry Hendren upheld the sentence in a 2010 ruling and now has refused to reconsider his ruling.

    The Texarkana Gazette reports (http://bit.ly/pLAJUG) Sasser had served prison time for rape and had been free only a few months before killing Kennedy.

    Sasser can take his appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.

    The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that execution of mentally retarded convicts constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

    http://www.therepublic.com/view/stor...Sasser-Appeal/

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    On October 27, 2011, Sasser filed an appeal in the US Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals over the denial of his habeas petition in Federal District Court.

    http://dockets.justia.com/docket/cir...s/ca8/11-3346/

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    Panel orders new hearing for condemned killer

    By JOHN LYON
    ARKANSAS NEWS BUREAU

    LITTLE ROCK — An Arkansas death-row inmate is entitled to a hearing to present arguments that he is mentally retarded and that he had ineffective counsel at his trial, a federal appeals court said Friday.

    The 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis ordered new proceedings for Andrew Sasser, who was convicted in Miller County Circuit Court of capital murder and sentenced to die in the July 12, 1993, slaying of Jo Ann Kennedy, a clerk at an E-Z Mart in Garland.

    The appeals court said a federal judge erred in dismissing a petition by Sasser that argued he should not be executed because of mental retardation. The U.S. Supreme Court said in 2002 that it is unconstitutional to execute mentally retarded people, and Arkansas already had a state law banning executions of retarded people.

    In its unanimous opinion Friday, a three-judge panel of the appeals court said the federal judge’s ruling was based on the mistaken belief that an IQ score of 70 or below was required under Arkansas law for a finding of mental retardation. Sasser scored a 79 on an IQ test in 1994 and an 83 on an IQ test in 2010.

    The appeals court said that if Arkansas law did establish a cutoff IQ score for determining retardation, then it would be necessary to consider whether the law conflicted with U.S. Supreme Court precedent, but in fact there is no such cutoff score in state law.

    “Under Arkansas law, mental retardation is not bounded by a fixed upper IQ limit, nor is the first prong a mechanical ‘IQ score requirement.’ … Neither does Arkansas law compel a finding of mental retardation below a certain IQ limit, although it establishes a ‘rebuttable presumption of mental retardation when a defendant has an intelligence quotient of 65 or below,’” Chief Judge William Riley wrote in the court’s opinion.

    The appeals court also said Sasser is entitled to a hearing to argue that he received ineffective counsel at his trial because Arkansas’ justice system has denied him a meaningful opportunity to present that argument.

    Earlier this year, in the case Trevino v. Thaler, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that if a state “in theory” grants a defendant permission to raise a claim but grants no meaningful opportunity to do so, it effectively has has provided no opportunity to raise the claim.

    Arkansas does not automatically appoint a defendant in a capital case a new attorney for direct appeal, and in Sasser’s case the same lawyer represented him at trial and on direct appeal, the appeals court noted.

    The court said that in such a situation a lawyer could be forced “to choose between accurately asserting he was effective or inaccurately asserting that he was not.”

    “The first option would violate the lawyer’s duty of zealous representation to his client and the second his duty of candor to the court. A direct appeal procedure predicated on such a conflict of interest does not present indigent capital defendants a viable opportunity to challenge their appointed trial counsel’s effectiveness,” Riley wrote in the court’s opinion.

    http://thecabin.net/news/2013-11-15/...ndemned-killer

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    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Appeals court turns away state request for new hearing in Miller County death penalty case

    The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has turned down a request from the state for a new appeal hearing over claims by an inmate from Miller County who is awaiting execution.

    Andrew Sasser was convicted of the 1993 killing and rape of EZ Mart clerk Jo Ann Kennedy. Last year, the 8th Circuit agreed that he should get a hearing to determine whether he can raise issues on appeal that his prior lawyers should have addressed. On Wednesday, the 8th Circuit denied a petition from the state to hold a new hearing on the matter.

    The U.S. district court hearing, which hasn't been scheduled yet, will determine whether Sasser can argue that he is mentally retarded and thus not eligible for execution. He also claims he had ineffective counsel.

    (Source: The Associated Press)

    The Federal District Court proceedings can be followed here.
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    Store clerk's killer gets new trial to decide punishment

    Judge rules Andrew Sasser's lawyers didn't do enough to show his intellectual limitations and mental health problems

    By Lynn LaRowe
    The Texarkana Gazette

    A federal judge has thrown out the death sentence ordered in 1994 by a Miller County jury in the stabbing death of an EZ Mart clerk in an opinion issued last week.

    The conviction of Andrew Sasser, 53, in the July 12, 1993, murder of Jo Ann Kennedy stands but the case has been sent back to Miller County for a new punishment trial. U.S. District Judge P.K. Holmes issued an opinion last week in the Texarkana Division of the Western District of Arkansas which found that Sasser's trial lawyer and one of his first appellate lawyers didn't do enough to flesh out for the jury Sasser's intellectual limitations, mental health problems and social history.

    Kennedy's half nude body was found shortly after 1 a.m. just outside the door of the store where she was working in Garland City, Ark. Her pants and panties were discovered in the men's room but Kennedy, 55, wasn't raped. The store was locked after midnight but patrons could make purchases through a window.

    Buttons were ripped from Sasser's shirt as he forced his way through the window and into the store, according to court records. Blood was splattered on counters, floors and walls. A clump of Kennedy's hair was found in the store. Evidence showed that Kennedy fought for her life and attempted to take refuge in the office but Sasser made entry with a screwdriver.

    Kennedy suffered numerous blunt force injuries and numerous stab wounds, several of which proved fatal. Autopsy records state that her lungs were pierced and aorta severed in the horrific attack.

    A woman who lived across the street and who also worked at the store happened to look out her window and catch sight of the crime in progress. By the time Miller County Sheriff's Office deputies arrived, Sasser was gone and Kennedy was dead.

    Sasser had been sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1988 for a remarkably similar offense. Sasser struck a clerk at an EZ Mart in Lewisville, Ark., in the back of the head with a soda bottle before forcing her to undress and raping her in a nearby alley. Sasser spared the first victim's life after she begged him not to kill her and promised not to tell police he was her attacker. Once alone with an officer, the woman identified Sasser as her rapist and his prosecution and conviction for that crime followed.

    Presumably Sasser was on parole for battery, rape and kidnapping in the Lafayette County case when he murdered Kennedy in Miller County.

    Holmes issued two opinions March 2 which address Sasser's remaining appellate complaints. Holmes ruled in one opinion that while Sasser isn't of average intellect, his deficiencies don't rise to the level required to avoid the death penalty because of diminished intellectual capacity. Holmes' other opinion addressed Sasser's claims that his trial lawyer and appellate counsel were ineffective.

    Holmes' opinion states that Sasser's trial lawyer should have hired appropriately trained, licensed experts early on in the case to evaluate Sasser's mental state and that an in-depth investigation into his life should have been conducted. Had the jury heard testimony concerning his limitations and lack of opportunity, the jury might have chosen a sentence of life without parole possible rather than death, Holmes' opinion states.

    For example, the jury did not learn that Sasser was "socially promoted" through school and did not actually graduate from high school. The jury was not told that Sasser was turned down for basic military service because of his performance on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test or that he attempted to hide that fact from his family. The jury did not hear extensive testimony either concerning Sasser's upbringing in extreme poverty or that his father died when he was a toddler.

    Likewise Holmes found that Sasser's early appellate lawyer didn't fully examine those issues in Sasser's direct appeals although a lack of resources and funding probably contributed the failing.

    Miller County's Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, Chuck Black, who prosecuted Sasser in 1994 along with former Prosecuting Attorney and now Circuit Judge Brent Haltom, said his office intends to seek a second death sentence for Sasser if Holmes' ruling stands.

    "After almost 40 years of being a prosecutor and having been personally involved in and observed capital murder cases, I believe certain members of the judiciary have a bias against the death penalty," Black said. "It is indefensible and absurd that these cases languish so long in the federal system."

    Black said that he believes a new jury is likely to decide Sasser's punishment the same way the first jury did.

    "There was a jury of 12 Miller County citizens who considered all the evidence and felt he deserved to be executed," Black said. "My intention is to see that their will is carried out out. I don't believe it would have changed the jury's opinion to have heard evidence that his father died when he was that young or that he didn't perform well in school."

    When asked about mitigating evidence, Black pointed out that many people who experienced childhood poverty and whose intelligence is low do not commit capital murder.

    Sasser is currently being held in the Varner Supermax Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction. According to ADC's website, Sasser has had no major disciplinary action in his 24 years of life on death row.

    http://www.texarkanagazette.com/news...shment/716793/
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