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  1. #1
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    Dale Wayne Eaton - Wyoming Death Row


    Lisa Marie Kimmell





    Summary of Offense:

    Eaton was convicted of the 1988 kidnapping, rape and murder of 18-year-old Lisa Marie Kimmell, whose hometown was Billings, Montana.

  2. #2
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    August 19, 2008

    The Wyoming Supreme Court on Monday denied the appeal of Dale Wayne Eaton, Wyoming's lone death-row inmate, who was convicted of the 1988 kidnapping, rape and murder of a teenager.

    In a unanimous ruling, the justices affirmed Eaton's 2004 conviction and death sentence, while rejecting his motion for a new trial.

    Eaton's attorneys asserted, among other things, that his trial counsel offered ineffective assistance, that he was not competent for trial and that jury selection was unconstitutional. The justices, however, said they were satisfied that evidence in the case supported the jury's findings and that the death penalty was not imposed "under the influence of passion, prejudice or any other arbitrary factor."

    At trial, Eaton's attorney, Wyatt Skaggs, admitted to jurors his client raped and killed Lisa Marie Kimmell, an 18-year-old woman who was driving from Denver to Billings, Mont., when she disappeared on March 25, 1988. Fishermen found her body in the North Platte River eight days later. She had been stabbed multiple times.

    While conceding Eaton's guilt at trial, Skaggs asserted Kimmell's killing was not premeditated and that a second-degree murder conviction was more appropriate. That strategy, according to the justices, was designed with the intent of saving Eaton's life.

    In his appeal, Eaton maintained the theory was unrealistic and really conceded guilt to first-degree murder -- eliminating any real chance for success.

    The justices disagreed, concluding the trial strategy did not constitute ineffective counsel.

    "Our experience tells us that juries have minds of their own, and a theory such as that propounded by the defense team was as good as anything we can think of, given the circumstances of the case," the justices wrote, adding that Eaton's appellate attorney did not offer a more compelling theory that could have been offered to jurors.

    During the trial, Eaton made multiple outbursts. In one incident, he cursed in front of the jurors after his defense decided not to cross-examine a witness. The justices found those outbursts, along with the fact that Eaton was generally an uncooperative client, did not suggest he wasn't competent for trial.

    Prosecutors did not charge Eaton with Kimmell's murder until roughly 15 years after her body was found, when DNA linked him to the killing. Authorities later found Kimmell's car on property he owned near Moneta.

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  3. #3
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    October 13, 2008

    Judge sets execution date for Eaton

    A Natrona County district judge Monday set a December execution date for Wyoming's only death row inmate, who was convicted of the 1988 kidnapping, rape and murder of a teenager.

    Dale Wayne Eaton, 63, is set to be put to death before sunrise on Dec. 19, although future appeals will almost certainly push back that date.

    "It is very difficult to say, but just based on other cases, I would say we are less than halfway through that process," said District Attorney Michael Blonigen, who prosecuted the case against Eaton.

    A jury in March 2004 sentenced Eaton to die for the murder of 18-year- old Lisa Marie Kimmell, who disappeared in 1988 while driving from Colorado to Cody. Fishermen found her body floating in the North Platte River 8 days later, but it was not until 2003 that prosecutors, with the help of DNA evidence, charged Eaton with her death.

    Kimmell had been sexually assaulted, hit in the head and stabbed before being thrown from Government Bridge, off State Highway 220.

    The Wyoming Supreme Court rejected Eaton's appeal in August and directed the trial court set a new date for his execution.

    That task was completed during a short hearing Monday morning in Natrona County District Court. Eaton is being held at the Wyoming State Penitentiary in Rawlins but was transported to Casper for the proceedings.

    Eaton, dressed in an orange jail uniform, sat at the defense table and rested his shackled hands on his belly during the hearing. He showed no emotion and declined an opportunity to address the court.

    Judge David Park acknowledged there was a "substantial possibility" the execution would not take place on the date he set. But, the judge added, the Supreme Court's ruling and state law directed him to set it regardless.

    Reached Monday afternoon, Kimmell's mother, Sheila Kimmell, declined to comment.

    Blonigen said chances are low the execution will happen on Dec. 19, unless Eaton forgoes further appeals. There has been no indication he plans to do that, the prosecutor added.

    "Unfortunately, this process has become very drawn out throughout not only Wyoming, but the United States," Blonigen said. "And it is something you have to deal with in cases like that."

    ' At this point in the process, the defense typically files a motion to "stay" the execution pending additional legal proceedings, Blonigen said. After that, Eaton's attorneys could file a petition with District Court that argues he was convicted in violation of his constitutional rights. That petition must be submitted to the court by May.

    If that is rejected, the case could enter the federal court system. The entire process could be complicated, with multiple filings proceeding through the legal system at the same time.

    "It is not always a neat and simple progression of one remedy to the next," Blonigen said.

    Mark Hopkinson, the last person executed in Wyoming, was put to death by lethal injection in 1992 after 13 years on death row. He is the only person to be executed in the state since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

    Last we knew: The Wyoming Supreme Court rejected the appeal of Dale Wayne Eaton, the state's sole death row inmate.

    The latest: A Natrona County district judge set Eaton's execution for Dec. 19.

    What's next: Several more years of appeals on Eaton's behalf are expected.

    (source: Star-Tribune)

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    November 14, 2008

    Supreme Court delays Eaton's execution

    The Wyoming Supreme Court halted the execution of Dale Wayne Eaton in a ruling on Friday.

    The ruling, written by Chief Justice Barton Voigt, delayed Eaton's execution pending his application for appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. It also ordered the appeal be filed within 90 days.

    A jury in March 2004 sentenced Eaton to die for the murder of 18-year-old Lisa Marie Kimmell, who disappeared in 1988 while driving from Colorado to Cody. Fishermen found her body floating in the North Platte River 8 days later, but it was not until 2003 that prosecutors, with the help of DNA evidence, charged Eaton with her death.

    Kimmell had been sexually assaulted, hit in the head and stabbed before being thrown from Government Bridge, off State Highway 220.

    The Wyoming Supreme Court rejected Eaton's appeal in August and directed the trial court set a new date for his execution. In October, Eaton's death was scheduled for "no later than December 19, 2008."

    (source: Casper Star-Tribune)

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    December 19, 2008

    The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal from Wyoming's lone death row inmate. Attorneys for Dale Wayne Eaton had petitioned the nation's highest court in December to consider his case. On Monday, the petition was denied.

    Eaton was convicted of the 1988 kidnapping, rape and murder of 18-year-old Lisa Marie Kimmell, whose hometown was Billings, Mont. He still has other options for appeals.

    The next step will be for him to file a petition for post conviction relief in Natrona County District Court, said Attorney Tina Kerin, who has represented Eaton during the appeals process. Such petitions ask for a review of alleged constitutional errors. That petition must be filed within five years of his sentencing. A judge signed Eaton's death warrant in May 2004.

    Kerin said she won't be representing Eaton in the future, but he will continued to be represented by the Wyoming Public Defender's Office. In addition to state appeals, Eaton also has the option of seeking relief at the U.S. District Court level, Kerin said. Natrona County District Attorney Michael Blonigen said he doesn't expect Eaton will be executed soon.

    The Supreme Court's decision to reject Eaton's petition isn't unusual. The court receives thousands of requests each year to hear cases and grants a relative few. State and federal courts have already heard and decided on the legal issues raised in Eaton's case, Blonigen said. "From a legal point of view, it did not have any issues of great consequence in it or great originality in them," he said.

    In March 2004, a jury convicted Eaton and sentenced him to die for murdering Kimmell, who disappeared in 1988 while driving from Colorado to Cody. Fishermen found her body floating in the North Platte River eight days later, but it was not until 2003 that prosecutors, with the help of DNA evidence, charged Eaton with her death. She had been raped, hit in the head and stabbed before being thrown from a bridge.

    Wyoming last executed a prisoner in 1992, when Mark Hopkinson was put to death by lethal injection. He spent 13 years on death row and is the only person executed in the state since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

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  6. #6
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    March 11, 2009

    Eaton execution will remain on hold, court says


    The Wyoming Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered that the execution of the state's lone death row inmate should remain on hold pending additional appeals.

    The order comes less than a month after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a petition to hear the appeal of Dale Wayne Eaton, who was convicted in 2004 of kidnapping, rape and murder.

    Following that rejection, Eaton's attorneys notified the state supreme court they plan to file a petition for post-conviction relief in Natrona County District Court. Such petitions ask for a review of alleged constitutional errors.

    The petition must be filed within five years of sentencing. A judge signed Eaton's death warrant in May 2004.

    Although Eaton has been on death row for almost five years, he is not expected to be executed soon. In addition to his appeal in Natrona County, he can also seek relief at the federal district court level.

    In March 2004, a jury convicted Eaton of murdering 18-year-old Lisa Marie Kimmell, who disappeared in 1988 while driving from Colorado to Cody. Fishermen found her body floating in the North Platte River eight days after she vanished, but it was not until 2003 that prosecutors, with the help of DNA evidence, charged Eaton with her death.

    Eaton had raped Kimmell, hit her in the head and stabbed her multiple times before throwing her body from Government Bridge off State Highway 220.

    At trial, Eaton's attorney admitted his client had raped and killed Kimmell, but argued Eaton had been overcharged. During his state appeal -- which was rejected by the Wyoming Supreme Court -- Eaton asserted his trial counsel offered ineffective assistance and that jury selection had been unconstitutional.

    Wyoming last executed a prisoner in 1992, when Mark Hopkinson was put to death by lethal injection. His execution came 13 years after his sentence.

    Hopkinson is the only person executed in Wyoming since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

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  7. #7
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    June 5, 2009

    Death row inmate files new appeal


    The Wyoming Supreme Court failed to adequately review the appeal of the state's lone death row inmate, his attorney argues in a newly filed petition.

    The state's highest court erred in concluding Dale Wayne Eaton received effective legal representation at trial and failed to address all the claims made in his earlier appeal, defense attorney Michael Reese wrote in his petition to Natrona County District Court.

    "The findings of the Wyoming Supreme Court are so undefined, so murky and in general so unanalyzed that (Eaton) will almost certainly be prejudiced in the future as he attempts to obtain review of his claims in the federal court system," Reese wrote in the 79-page petition, which was filed Wednesday.

    Reese asked the District Court to throw out his client's 2004 conviction and death sentence for the kidnapping, rape and murder of 18-year-old Lisa Marie Kimmell.

    Eaton's latest petition comes less than four months after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider his case. Wyoming's highest court reviewed his case last year and denied his appeal.

    Wednesday's petition was expected. The Wyoming Supreme Court in March ordered that Eaton's execution should remain on hold pending further appeals. This week's appeal, a petition for post-conviction relief, asks for a review of alleged constitutional errors.

    In the petition, Reese argues that Wyoming's high court "repeatedly hinted at error but did not make clear rulings" and failed to offer proper explanations of its conclusions. He offered several examples to bolster his assertions and focused considerable attention on perceived failures by Eaton's trial attorneys.

    At trial, Eaton's lead attorney admitted his client kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered Kimmell. However, he argued that Eaton hadn't committed first-degree murder, and was therefore ineligible for the death penalty.

    Eaton signed a document before trial that gave his attorneys permission to concede he held some criminal responsibility for the killing, but not for 1st-degree murder.

    By admitting to both the kidnapping and the killing, Eaton's trial attorneys effectively admitted to felony murder, Reese argues.

    "Felony murder is 1st-degree (ie. death eligible) murder," he wrote in the petition. "Defense counsel did not have consent to concede (Eaton's) guilt to 1st-degree murder."

    The Wyoming Supreme Court, he went on, violated Eaton's due process rights by endorsing the trial attorneys' actions.

    In addition to claims that the state Supreme Court failed to provide an adequate review, Eaton's attorney argues the death penalty in Wyoming violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

    He further contends that Eaton's behavior during the trial -- which included outbursts in front of jurors -- suggests he lacks a rational understanding of the link between his criminal actions and the reason he has been sentenced to death. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that an inmate's inability to make such a connection renders him incompetent for execution.

    Eaton has been on Wyoming's death row since 2004, when a jury sentenced him to die for Kimmell's murder.

    Kimmell disappeared in 1988 while driving from Colorado to Cody. 8 days after she vanished, fishermen found her body floating in the North Platte River.

    Prosecutors, with the help of DNA evidence, charged Eaton with the killing in 2003.

    Eaton had raped Kimmell, hit her in the head and stabbed her multiple times before throwing her body from Government Bridge off Wyoming Highway 220.

    (source: Casper Star-Tribune)

  8. #8
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    September 5, 2009

    Convicted murderer Dale Eaton's deteriorating mental condition has made him incapable of helping in his own defense, an attorney said Friday.

    "After his conviction, his doctor indicated he cannot assist counsel," Michael Reese said after a procedural hearing at 7th District Court.

    "He has certain cognitive issues; he's declining," Reese said.

    Eaton's mental fitness was an issue during his trial at which he was sentenced to death in 2004 on three felony murder counts for the kidnapping, robbery, rape and murder of 18-year-old Lisa Marie Kimmell near Casper in 1988.

    His depression was cited during the trial, during which he sometimes would yell at his attorneys and witnesses.

    But he was competent enough to be at the trial, unlike during Friday's hearing when Reese told District Judge David Park that Eaton waived his right to be present.

    Since his conviction, Eaton has filed a number of appeals that have been rejected by state courts and the U.S. Supreme Court in February. The Wyoming Supreme Court then placed Eaton's execution on hold pending more appeals, including the "petition for post-conviction relief" filed by Reese.

    The petition process is necessary for a further appeal to the federal court on constitutional grounds because of the ultimate sentence, he told Park. "The death penalty is different."

    In his 79-page petition filed in early June, Reese wrote the Wyoming Supreme Court failed to adequately review Eaton's appeal that his legal representation at his trial was inadequate.

    "The findings of the Wyoming Supreme Court are so undefined, so murky and in general so unanalyzed that [Eaton] will almost certainly be prejudiced in the future as he attempts to obtain review of his claims in the federal court system," Reese wrote.

    Furthermore, Eaton's behavior during the trial suggested he lacked a rational understanding of the link between his criminal actions and the reason he was sentenced to death, Reese wrote.

    In the petition, he identified six reasons Eaton should receive post-conviction relief, including:

    * The Eighth Amendment bans the death penalty for individuals who are so mentally ill that they do not understand the reason for their execution. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld that opinion in Panetti v. Quarterman in 2007.

    * He was deprived of a meaningful appellate review.

    * The death penalty, as used in Wyoming, is cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth and 14th amendments.

    * Wyoming law about administering capital punishment is unconstitutional.

    * Wyoming law on post-conviction relief is unconstitutional and should be overturned.

    The Wyoming Supreme Court, Reese said, could have done a better job of reviewing Eaton's appeal, and Park should do something about that.

    Park seemed taken aback by Reese's comment.

    "What would you have me do, require the Wyoming Supreme Court write better opinions?" he asked.

    "Yes," Reese replied.

    "Do you have any authority [for me] to do that?" Park asked.

    "No," Reese said.

    But Park's court, where Eaton was tried, has at least some clout, he added. "I think you have the right to say there wasn't adequate review."

    However, Wyoming Senior Assistant Attorney General David Delicath told Park that Reese's claims cannot be tried in state District Court because they addressed the sentencing portion of Eaton's case.

    Reese's claims would be valuable only if they dealt with Eaton's guilt or innocence, Delicath said. "None of [Reese's] claims allege constitutional issues in the trial."

    The law also bars many of these claims on procedural grounds, he said.

    Park said he would take the petition under advisement and issue an opinion soon.

    After the hearing, Reese said he is pursuing every possible way to appeal the sentence of Eaton, Wyoming's lone death-row inmate.

    "What we're doing here is exhaustion," he said. "There's always a chance that Mr. Eaton should not have the death penalty."

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    November 23, 2009

    Death Row Inmate Files Request For Attorney

    Dale Wayne Eaton, the only inmate on Wyoming's death row, is challenging a death warrant in district court and has asked a federal court to appoint an attorney for him while his case is under review.

    Eaton made the filings last week. In Natrona County District Court, he is challenging the death warrant being sent to that court. The warrant sets a hearing date for Dec. 14.

    "As the Wyoming Supreme Court granted the last stay of execution, any motion to issue a warrant of execution must be addressed to the Wyoming Supreme Court, not this Court," Eaton wrote with the help of Diane Courselle, director of the Defender Aid Program of the University of Wyoming's College of Law.

    "Moreover, Mr. Eaton currently has pending in the Wyoming Supreme Court a petition for writ of review seeking review of this Court's decision on the post-conviction petition. Thus issuing a warrant of execution also would be premature."

    Eaton was sentenced to death for the 1988 rape and murder of 18-year-old Lisa Marie Kimmell of Billings, Mont.

    Kimmell went missing while driving from Colorado to Cody. A fisherman found her body floating in the North Platte River 8 days later. She had been raped, hit in the head and stabbed before being thrown from a bridge.

    DNA evidence led to charges against Eaton in 2003, and he was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, and first degree sexual assault, and sentenced to death.

    The Wyoming Supreme Court has already upheld Eaton's death sentence, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review his case.

    In October, Judge David B. Park of Casper ruled Eaton received a fair trial before receiving the death sentence.

    Eaton has asked that the state supreme court review Park's ruling.

    Also last week, in Wyoming U.S. District Court, Eaton filed a request for an attorney to handle his case.

    "As there are no other state court avenues of relief for Mr. Eaton to pursue after the Wyoming Supreme Court rules on the pending petition, Mr. Eaton respectfully asks that this Court appoint counsel at the earliest opportunity," the motion states.

    Eaton also submitted information showing he could not afford an attorney.

    (source: Associated Press)

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    November 26, 2009

    Wyoming Supreme Court upholds Eaton execution

    The Wyoming Supreme Court has denied a request from the state's lone death row inmate to review his case.

    The state Supreme Court on Monday ordered District Judge David B. Park of Casper to issue a new death warrant against inmate Dale Wayne Eaton.

    The state Supreme Court already had upheld Eaton's death sentence for the rape and murder of 18-year-old Lisa Marie Kimmell, of Billings, Mont. The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review his case.

    However, Eaton recently filed papers in federal court in Cheyenne asking a federal judge to appoint a lawyer to help him in a new round of federal appeals. Officials say the federal review will delay his possible execution.

    (source: Associated Press)


    Denial of cert opinion

    Lifting of stay-of-execution opinion

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