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Thread: Freddie Eugene Owens - South Carolina Death Row

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    Freddie Eugene Owens - South Carolina Death Row




    Summary of Offense:

    Sentenced to death in Greenville County in 1999, 2003 and 2006 for the 1997 murder of Irene Graves during a robbery spree.

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    September 6, 2008

    Execution date set for man who killed store clerk

    The state Supreme Court has set an execution date for the man convicted of killing a Greenville convenience store clerk.

    The South Carolina Corrections Department said in news release Friday that Freddie E. Owens will be put death on Oct. 3.

    Owens has been sentenced to death 3 separate times for killing Irene Grainger Graves during a convenience store holdup in 1997. His 1st 2 sentences were overturned.

    Owens also is accused of killing a man in jail after his 1st conviction in Graves' death. At his sentencing hearing a few days later, Owens told the jury he killed 28-year-old Christopher Lee by strangling him with a bedsheet.

    Owens has not been prosecuted in that case.

    (Source: The Associated Press)

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    September 28, 2008

    Owens faces death this week in slaying of single mother

    Freddie Eugene Owens is a young man who once said his life's goal was to be Greenville’s most prolific — and uncaught — killer.

    He didn't make it on either count.

    Barring a stay of execution by the U.S. Supreme Court, Owens will be put to death by lethal injection at 6:30 p.m., Friday in a stark, hospital-like setting at Broad River Correctional Institution in rolling hills north of Columbia.

    Owens, 30, did make his mark in one respect. His case is one of the most notorious in recent Greenville history.

    The condemned killer gave a veteran homicide detective "cold chills." An ex-girlfriend testified that Owens once vowed to "go down in history for committing the most murders in Greenville County without getting caught."

    A robbery spree culminated in murder in a now torn-down Laurens Road Speedway convenience store, not long after midnight on Halloween in 1997.

    Witnesses would later testify that Owens and 3 others donned ski masks and hoods, clutched handguns and robbed Greenville stores during a reckless sweep that ended in the slaying of Irene Grainger Graves, a 41-year-old single mother of 3.

    Surveillance videos from the store showed the incident from 4 angles. One masked gunman went behind the counter while the another stayed on the customer side, pointing a pistol at the clerk.

    Toward the end of one video, 1 gunman's hand jerks back and the clerk falls out of the frame.

    Within days of the murder, Owens was in custody.

    Joe Wood, a Greenville County sheriff's deputy who responded to the shooting, testified in the 1999 trial that he took a profanity-laced statement from Owens. Wood said Owens told him he wanted to be remembered "as the one who killed the most people in Greenville," the deputy testified.

    "He was one of 2 people I've interviewed in 25 years of doing homicide that's given me cold chills," Wood said.

    Owens' girlfriend at the time of the Graves slaying, Aisha Austin, testified that Owens told her, “I shot the (expletive).”

    Thirteenth Circuit Solicitor Robert Ariail said, “There are mean and evil people in this world who don't deserve to live with the rest of us, no matter how confined. The death penalty is for the worst of the worst...and that is Freddie Owens.”

    A jury agreed.

    Owens didn’t.

    Hours later, angry at his conviction, he beat senseless Christopher Bryan Lee, who had just been booked on a 90-day traffic offense. Lee was mistakenly placed in the high-security unit and was killed when a pen was rammed into a nostril, suffocating him.

    Owens described his actions during the sentencing phase of the Speedway convenience store murder trial. “I really did it because I was wrongly convicted of murder.

    “I got on top and started hitting him mostly in the face and throat. I took a pen from his right hand with my right hand and stabbed him in his right eye. I then tried to stab him in the chest but the pen would not go in. Then I stabbed him in his throat.

    "I heard the crazy moaning so I grabbed the pen off the floor where I had thrown it and went back into his cell. I got back over him and rammed the pen up his right nostril. I closed his left nostril with my left hand and started choking him with my right hand.

    According to Owens' statement that Ariail read in court, Lee had told Owens he had a cousin on the Graves' trial jury.

    The 6-man, 6-woman jury recommended the death sentence in the Speedway case.

    It and a 2nd death sentence were tossed out by the state Supreme Court whose members cited judges' errors. A 3rd death sentence was upheld this summer, clearing the way for Friday's planned execution.

    Ariail has kept the jailhouse slaying as a backup for prosecution should the current sentence be blocked.

    The U.S. Supreme Court is now weighing an appeal.

    By all accounts, Owens' life, from growing up in a poverty-ridden Greenville neighborhood to his days on death row, has been steeped in violence.

    Throughout the trial, no one disputed that violence has always swirled around Owens.

    While growing up, Owens began skipping school to stay home with his mother after he watched his stepfather chase her with a machete, testified Donna Schwartz-Watt, a forensic psychiatrist.

    A social worker, Marjorie Brittain Hammock, testified that Owens' grandmother did prison time after shooting a family member.

    The second of five children, he had 2 brothers who were incarcerated, she said then. Owens had little contact with his biological father while growing up, Hammock said.

    "This was his existence," she said.

    Owens shot at a group of boys when he was 16 and was taken into the custody of the state Department of Juvenile Justice, Schwartz-Watts testified.

    "Despite his behavior" at the facility, Owens was promoted to the highest rank in the ROTC but was eventually discharged from the program, she said. He underwent anger management training and other programs while in the facility, she said, and asked for counseling as early as 1995.

    But he received none after his transfer to Turbeville Correctional Institution, Schwartz-Watts testified.

    Owens would tell a courtroom in another sentencing hearing in 2003 that he was the creation of a white society that had taught him how to rob and kill.

    As an inmate, two different portraits of Owens have emerged — one an inside-the-walls extension of his earlier life, another as a young man finally able to find himself.

    In the 2nd sentencing trial, prison officials painted the former, psychiatrists and social workers the latter.

    Defense attorneys presented testimony showing an Owens who reformed himself after opening up to psychiatrist Thomas Cobb at Lieber Correctional Institution in August 2005. Much of Cobb's testimony focused on Owens’ mental disorders, but a scholarly portrait also emerged.

    Cobb testified that he and Owens talked about religion and "existential" issues, including what it was like to live in an environment where his outcome has already been determined.

    Schwartz-Watts testified that Owens taught himself Arabic, Swahili, some French and sign language and uses the book, "Alexander the Great," to show other inmates how to read.

    Cobb and Schwartz-Watts testified that Owens' behavior had improved since he began taking medicine for an impulsive disorder.

    Defense attorney Ken Gibson said it was the disorder that was aggravated during a lifetime of abuse and neglect.

    "He was raised into criminality. It was beaten into him, literally," Gibson told jurors.

    Prosecution testimony showed an Owens decidedly less scholarly and more violent.

    Ariail sought to tie Owens to 28 jailhouse infractions dating back to April 2001, some that occurred after he began treatment under Cobb.

    Owens has thrown coffee at a correctional officer and has twice been caught with stabbing weapons, known as shanks, since beginning treatment under Cobb, according to the trial testimony.

    "He is — within that housing unit — bar none, my most problematic inmate," Maj. Thierry Nettles testified.

    (Source: The Greenville News)

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    September 30, 2008

    Two-time killer Freddie Eugene Owens has received an indefinite stay of his scheduled Friday execution from the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. signed the order Tuesday afternoon.

    Roberts ordered the stay to allow the Greenville man’s attorney time to raise constitutional issues to the high court dealing with his death sentence stemming from a 1997 robbery-murder on Laurens Road.

    In his order, Roberts wrote that should Owens’ petition for a writ of certiorari be denied by the justices, the stay would automatically terminate. That would clear the way for the state Supreme Court to set another execution date. A writ of certiorari requests the Supreme Court to review a decision by a lower court.

    John Blume, a Cornell University law professor and death penalty opponent, filed the appeal. Blume is a former executive director of the South Carolina Death Penalty Project. He heads a similar program at Cornell.

    The appeal that was filed Sept. 24 raises three issues from the penalty phase of Owens’ trial that will be included in a writ of certiorari that will be filed with the state Supreme Court. They center on the trial judge’s admission of records dealing with Owens’ behavior in prison.

    Blume contended in the appeal that without the stay, "Mr. Owens will not have adequate time to properly prepare and file a writ ... in which to raise these constitutional claims."

    He couldn’t be reached for comment.

    State Attorney General Henry McMaster opposed Owens request for a stay.

    Office spokesman Gene McCaskill said Tuesday that the order gives Owens’ attorney until Nov. 6 to file a petition for appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, The Associated Press reported.

    Owens, 30, had been sentenced to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m. Friday for the 1997 shooting death of Greenville convenience store clerk Irene Grainger Graves.

    Hours after his conviction in 1999, he killed a fellow inmate, Christopher Bryan Lee, according to testimony and a statement by Owens that was read into the court record. Prosecutors have held that charge in abeyance pending the outcome of Owens’ appeals.

    Owens has been sentenced to death three times for the Graves’ shooting, most recently in 2006. That sentence was unanimously upheld by the state Supreme Court on July 14. The court set aside two others because of judges’ errors.

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    Owen was denied certiorari by the US Supreme Court in its January 21, 2009 orders.

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    The Greenville County Court of Common Pleas held an evidentiary hearing on his application for post-conviction relief in July 2010.

    http://www.lawschool.cornell.edu/res...inic-Cases.cfm

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    On July 27, 2015, Owens filed a habeas petition in Federal District Court.

    https://dockets.justia.com/docket/so...mc00254/222066

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    On July 12, 2016, Owens filed another habeas petition in Federal District Court.

    https://dockets.justia.com/docket/so...cv02512/229818

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    On May 29, 2018, Owens' habeas petition was DENIED in Federal District Court.

    https://docs.justia.com/cases/federa...512/229818/216

    On December 11, 2019, oral argument will be heard in Owens' appeal before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

    http://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/cal/inte...c102019ric.pdf

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    On July 22, 2020, the Fourth Circuit DENIED Owens' appeal. The panel was made up of Judges Wilkinson (Reagan), Keenan (Obama) and Diaz (Obama).

    https://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/opinions/188.P.pdf

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