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Thread: Steven Vernon Bixby - South Carolina Death Row

  1. #1
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    Oct 2010

    Steven Vernon Bixby - South Carolina Death Row

    State Constable Donnie Ouzts

    Sergeant Danny Wilson

    Summary of Offense:

    Convicted of shooting Abbeville County Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Daniel Wilson and State Constable Donnie Ouzts with a 7mm rifle on the morning of December 8, 2003.

    Bixby was sentenced to death on February 21, 2007 in Abbeville County.

  2. #2
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    Oct 2010
    February 22, 2007

    ABBEVILLE, South Carolina (AP) -- A man convicted of gunning down two law enforcement officers during a dispute about his family's land was sentenced to death Wednesday a little more than an hour after jurors began deliberating.

    Steven Bixby, 39, showed no reaction as he was condemned for the murders of sheriff's Sgt. Danny Wilson and State Constable Donnie Ouzts.

    Bixby and his parents were upset that the state wanted a 20-foot strip of land near their home to widen a highway. Authorities said he and his father, who also is charged with murder, threatened to attack any officer who set foot on their property.

    Wilson was shot on Dec. 8, 2003, while standing on the front porch of Bixby's parents' home. Authorities say Ouzts, who arrived to check on Wilson once radio contact with the officer was lost, was shot as he stepped out of his patrol car.

    Defense attorneys declined to comment on the jury's decision but said they planned to appeal.

    Bixby joins 59 other inmates awaiting execution in South Carolina, which allows death row inmates to choose between electrocution or lethal injection.


  3. #3
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    Oct 2010
    The South Carolina Supreme Court upheld Bixby's conviction and sentence on August 16, 2010.

    Opinion is here:


  4. #4
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    Oct 2010
    August 17, 2010

    South Carolina court upholds death sentence for cop killer

    COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence for a man convicted of killing two police officers in a dispute over a highway widening project.

    Steven Bixby's attorneys said his sentence should be overturned because prosecutors tried to play on jurors' emotions by showing scenes from one of the officer's funerals. Chief Justice Jean Toal said in the ruling released Monday that the video showed the impact of Abbeville County Sheriff's Sgt. Danny Wilson's death on the community.

    Prosecutors say Wilson was ambushed as he knocked on the family's door to talk about their dispute with state transportation officials. Constable Donnie Ouzts was killed when he went to check on Wilson.

    Bixby's father has been involuntarily committed to a mental institution. His mother is serving a life prison sentence.


  5. #5
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    Oct 2010
    August 22, 2010

    Officer's Funeral Video Key in South Carolina Death Row Appeal

    The death sentence of an anti-government reactionary who killed two Abbeville law enforcement officers over a road maintenance dispute will stand- for now - as Steven Bixby's lawyers fight for the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on one of the Upstate's most notorious cases.

    The state Supreme Court's decision to keep the 43-year-old on death row was far from unanimous, with some justices calling for a new trial to determine whether he should be executed.

    Central to the appeal is a tactic used by prosecutors to seal Bixby's fate - the introduction during Bixby's trial of a tape of one officer's funeral, including a mock 911 call, to help sway the jury.

    The use of the video, one legal expert said, might not mean a reversal of the court's decision, but it could lead to a national clarification on how depictions of funerals are used in capital cases.

    "This is an issue that has some legs," said Charleston School of Law professor Miller Shealy, a former state and federal prosecutor. "It has some traction."

    Notable in the justices differing opinions, he said, was a lack of reference to similar cases to base their decision on.

    The lack of a "structure" for judges to follow might attract the attention of the U.S. Supreme Court, Shealy said.

    The lead prosecutor in the 2003 killing of Abbeville County Sheriff's Sgt. Danny Wilson and State Constable Danny Ouzts said the decision to show the tape was heavily debated among his staff but was correct.

    The chief defender in Bixby's case said it was "highly improper" and that a separate ruling preventing defense attorneys from fully questioning jurors on their understanding of murder before being selected was unfair.

    Road dispute

    What would seem to be a simple dispute over details of a road-widening project culminated in a 14-hour gunfight between the Bixby family and an army of police outside their home, all while the 2 officers lie dead.

    In February 2007, a Chesterfield County jury recommended the death penalty for Steven Bixby.

    Later that year, Bixby's mother - 78-year-old Rita Bixby- was sentenced to life in prison after an Abbeville County jury found she had aided in the killings.

    Arthur Bixby - the 81-year-old father of Steven and husband of Rita - hasn't faced murder charges as a judge ruled he isn't mentally competent to stand trial.

    Arthur Bixby could face the charges if he were ruled competent, but the likelihood is slim because of his age and the level of his dementia, 8th Circuit Solicitor Jerry Peace told The Greenville News.

    In its opinion, the Supreme Court laid out the facts of the case.

    In December 2003, the Bixbys - who had espoused extremist views against the government- began to threaten state transportation workers surveying land for the widening of State 72 in Abbeville.

    The family told the officials that their documents proving the government had right of way for a small slice of their property were forgeries. The family threatened to kill any officers who trespassed on their property.

    The morning of the standoff, Wilson was dispatched to the Bixby home to mediate.

    Wilson's patrol car was seen idling in the driveway. Transportation department workers saw Steven Bixby standing in the doorway with two guns.

    Steven Bixby called his mother, who had taken her disabled son to an apartment, to tell her the shooting had begun. Rita Bixby called the Governor's Office, the Attorney General's Office and a local chiropractor and later said she wished she was in the house but needed to "tell the outside world why they died."

    The chiropractor went to the house, hearda shot and saw Ouzts fall to the ground dead.

    Agents converge

    Armored law enforcement swarmed the house as Steven and Arthur Bixby dug in and traded hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

    At one point, agents were able to dispatch a robot, which recorded images of Wilson lying dead with his hands cuffed behind his back.

    Another robot showed that Arthur Bixby had been shot and was sitting on the floor surrounded by weapons.

    The 2 surrendered

    Following Steven Bixby's trial, his defense asked for a new sentencing trial based on a number of issues- among them the introduction of the 7-minute video. The defense argued the video depicted a dramatic compilation of Wilson's funeral service, including the playing of "Taps" and a mock 911 call that grants permission for an officer to "return home."

    Bob Dudek, chief appellate defender for the state Commission on Indigent Defense, told The News that the video appealed to the jury's "sentiment" and not "reasoned moral response."

    Allowing the video, Dudek said, could create a precedent in which attorneys for both sides of a capital case enlist the costly help of professionals to create dueling productions to sway a jury.

    Dudek said that defense attorneys will request a rehearing before the state Supreme Court before seeking audience with the U.S. Supreme Court.

    In addition to the video, Dudek objected to the trial judge's decision not to allow defense attorneys to probe deeper into potential jurors' understanding of what constitutes murder.

    Jurors would clarify their positions on whether they would consider a life sentence once they were told that murder is a "coldblooded killing," Dudek said. Without being able to ask the questions, defense attorneys didn't have enough information to object to a juror's participation, he said.

    Chief Justice Jean Toal wrote in the majority opinion that the trial judge was correct to allow the video.

    The defense argued in its appeal that the video was similar to the events in another capital trial, which ultimately was overturned, in which the prosecutor placed a veil over a baby crib and wheeled it out of the courtroom. That staged event introduced "an arbitrary factor" into sentencing, she wrote.

    However, Toal wrote, the video of Wilson's funeral was different as it "showed events that actually took place."

    Toal wrote that the jurors had been educated sufficiently on the elements of murder through jury instruction and that defense attorneys didn't use each of the strikes that allow a side to dismiss a juror.

    In the dissent, Justice Costa Pleicones, joined by Justice John Waller, wrote that Steven Bixby should be entitled to a new sentencing trial.

    Pleicones wrote that the video "didn't demonstrate anything about the victim's uniqueness" and that it improperly appealed to the passions of the jury.

    Pleicones also wrote that the questioning should have been allowed to discern which jurors would be able to follow their oath and instructions and that they shouldn't be expected to enter a courtroom with an understanding of the legal definition of murder.

    (Source: The Greenville News)

  6. #6
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    In today's United States Supreme Court orders, Bixby's petition for a writ of certiorari and motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis was DENIED.

  7. #7
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010

    SC court denies Rita Bixby's appeal that son's letters shouldn't have helped convict her

    A South Carolina court has denied the appeal of a 79-year-old woman sentenced to life in prison as a conspirator in the 2003 killings of two Abbeville County police officers in a dispute over a highway project.

    The Court of Appeals denied Rita Bixby's argument that four letters her son wrote from prison, and separate conversations he had with two women before the shootout, should not have been used in her prosecution, The Greenville News reported Tuesday (http://bit.ly/prUMjO).

    "The record contains a bounty of evidence suggesting Rita was involved in a conspiracy to lay in wait and murder officials who entered the Bixby property," the court wrote last month in its unanimous opinion. "We find the trial court did not abuse its discretion."

    A jury found Rita Bixby guilty in October 2007 of conspiracy and two counts of accessory. Her son, Steven Bixby, was sentenced to death for the shooting deaths of Abbeville County Sheriff's Sgt. Danny Wilson and Constable Donnie Ouzts. The state Supreme Court upheld his death sentence last year.

    Her husband, Arthur, was involuntarily committed to a mental institution in 2008 after he was found unfit to stand trial.

    The Bixby family became angry when highway workers started putting survey stakes in their yard to begin a widening project that took away about 20 feet of their land. State Department of Transportation officials showed the family documents proving they had the rights to the property, but the family couldn't find the information on their own and didn't trust the government, their attorneys said.

    Rita Bixby wasn't home at the time of the shootings, but prosecutors said she planned the ambush on the next law officer to come to their home and took their disabled son away for his own safety.

    Wilson, who was sent as a mediator, was shot Dec. 8, 2003, while standing on the front porch of the Bixby home, and his body was dragged inside. Ouzts, who arrived to check on Wilson, was shot as he stepped out of his patrol car. The shootings sparked a daylong gun battle with police. Officers were able to remove Ouzts, but he died on the way to the hospital. Wilson died of blood loss while handcuffed inside the Bixby home.

    Bixby's defense argued, among other things, that admitting the letters Steven Bixby wrote in prison following his arrest violated her Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses against her and that they were unnecessarily prejudicial, because her son's guilt was not in question.

    In the letters, also used earlier in his death penalty case, Steven Bixby described how he took Wilson's gun, handcuffed the dying man, dragged him inside the house and read him Miranda rights. The letters also give his explanation for shooting the officers, reference statements between him and his father, and allude to conversations he had with a woman.

    The appeals court ruled those conversations were admissible and not hearsay.

    The court also ruled the letters and conversations were non-testimonial and therefore didn't violate Bixby's right to cross examination. And it ruled the evidence was necessary to prove accusations that Rita Bixby was an accessory before a murder.

    Rita Bixby's attorney, public defender Elizabeth Franklin-Best, said she will ask the court to reconsider. If it doesn't, she will ask the state Supreme Court to review the case.


  8. #8
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    Oct 2010

    Killer's Convicted Mother Dies In Custody

    Rita Bixby Was Serving Life Sentence

    The mother of a death row inmate has died in prison, according to the South Carolina Department of Corrections.

    Eighth Circuit Solicitor Jerry Peace said that 79-year-old Rita Bixby died Monday morning.

    She was the mother of Stephen Bixby, who was convicted in the 2003 shooting deaths of Abbeville County sheriff's Sgt. Danny Wilson and Constable Donnie Outzs.

    Steven Bixby's father, Arthur Bixby, was charged with murder and conspiracy in the shooting deaths but was not competent to stand trial. A judge had ordered Bixby committed, saying he was a danger to himself and others.

    Rita Bixby was serving a life sentence for being an accessory to the killings.

    In 2003, the Bixbys were upset because of a state widening project that took about 20 feet off of their property off Highway 72.

    Prosecutors said Wilson was fatally shot when he went to the Bixby family home to try to talk with them about their dispute with state transportation officials.

    When Ouzts went to check on Wilson, he was also shot and killed.

    The shootings led to a 12-hour standoff between law enforcement and the Bixby family.


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  9. #9
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    Bixby, father of death row inmate, dies at 82

    COLUMBIA, S.C. - Arthur Bixby, who was involuntarily committed to a mental institution after being found unfit to stand trial for the 2003 deaths of two officers on his property, has died. He was 82.

    The director of the Woodsville, N.H. funeral home handling the service confirmed Monday that Bixby died Sept. 5 in Columbia.

    A judge ordered Bixby committed in July 2008 after a separate judge ruled that his dementia made him unfit for trial.

    Richland County Coroner Gary Watts says his wife, Rita Bixby, died of natural causes about 4 a.m. Monday. She was serving a life sentence for planning the ambush her husband and son carried out.

    Their son, Steven, is on death row. He was sentenced for killing Abbeville County Sheriff's Sgt. Danny Wilson and Constable Donnie Ouzts.


  10. #10
    Passed away.
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    Oct 2010
    The Phog
    Will Steven make it a trifecta?

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