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  1. #1
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    Jason Michael Sharp - Alabama Death Row




    MONTGOMERY - The capital murder conviction of Jason Michael Sharp for the 1999 rape and stabbing death of a Huntsville nurse was overturned today for the second time by a state appeals court.

    The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals ruled prosecutors unfairly excluded some potential black jurors when selecting the jury even though the victim and the defendant were white.

    Sharp was arrested on Jan. 15, 1999, in the Jan. 2, 1999, murder-rape of Tracy Lynn Morris.

    The appeals court originally upheld Sharp's conviction and sentence, even though there was only one black member on the jury.

    But the Alabama Supreme Court on Dec. 4, 2009, reversed a lower court's decision, setting up an April 27, 2010, hearing in Madison County Circuit Court to determine whether prosecutors used their juror strikes in a racially discriminatory manner.

    The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a prosecutor's use of peremptory challenge - the dismissal of jurors without stating a valid cause for doing so - may not be used to exclude jurors based solely on their race.

    The trial court ruled on July 16, 2010, that prosecutors' reasons for its peremptory strikes against potential black jurors weren't race-related.

    After going through a recitation of why each black juror was struck, however, the appeals court disagreed with the trial court's finding, sending Sharp's case back for a retrial.

    Judge Elizabeth Kellum said the state failed to meet its burden to show there was a "race-neutral" explanation for the strikes of African-Americans.

    "The state struck a high percentage of African-American jurors and failed to question the potential jurors it struck about many of the reasons it later proffered for its strikes," she wrote.

    Because of a series of delays ranging from mental evaluations, DNA testing, requests for the victim's computer, a series of pretrial appeals to the state's appeals courts and a spat over attorney's fees that was settled by an attorney general's opinion, Sharp didn't go to trial until Aug. 21, 2006.

    He was found guilty of capital murder Aug. 28, 2006, and sentenced to death the next day.

    During the trial, Lynn Morris, the victim's mother, testified she drove to her daughter's home after she didn't show up for dinner and discovered her barely alive on her bedroom floor.

    She died at Huntsville Hospital of numerous sharp and blunt force injuries. A forensic scientist testified at Sharp's trial that Morris was beaten and stabbed 37 times with a flathead screwdriver.

    Sharp washed and detailed cars that belonged to Morris and her family, the prosecutors said, and developed an obsession for her.

    http://blog.al.com/breaking/2011/02/...al_murder.html

  2. #2
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    Alabama appeals court reverses its 2011 decision that granted convicted murderer Jason Sharp a new trial

    The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals Friday reversed its decision granting convicted capital murder defendant Jason Sharp of Huntsville a new trial on the grounds that prosecutors improperly kept black citizens from the jury.

    Sharp was convicted in August 2006 for the January 1999 rape and murder of Tracy Lynn Morris and remains under a death sentence.

    In their appeal, Sharp's lawyers raised a "Batson challenge," named after a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court decision that aimed to ensure jurors are not barred from service because of race. Neither Sharp or the victim are black.

    The standard requires attorneys to have "race-neutral" reasons for striking people from the jury pool and be able to prove it.

    Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard, who prosecuted the case, was pleased by Friday's decision.

    "I'm elated and I'm not surprised as far as the ultimate issue," Broussard said. "I tried the case, there was no unfairness or discrimination toward the defendant. I could not be happier, because in all this mix, this is the guy who brutally raped and killed a girl with a screwdriver."

    The murder case took seven years to go to trial and the appeals process has seen several twists.

    Brian Stevenson, executive director of the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative and who represented Sharp on appeal, was not immediately available for comment Friday.

    The Alabama Supreme Court ruled in December 2009 that Broussard had to show prosecutors used race-neutral reasons for striking 11 of the 13 eligible black jurors from the pool, or Sharp would be entitled to a new trial. The defense struck the other two eligible blacks.

    Circuit Court Judge Laura Hamilton, who presided over the trial, ruled in June 2010 that prosecutors did not discriminate in picking a jury. They had argued a number of the black potential jurors said they opposed or would be reluctant to impose the death penalty, or didn't appear to have the professional or social "sophistication" to comprehend technical DNA evidence.

    Broussard said he struck twice as many white potential jurors based on the DNA issue.

    The sophistication argument was derided by the defense for appearing to suggest the jurors weren't intelligent enough. And in one instance, a woman with a bachelor's degree from Alabama A&M University was excluded, the defense argued, but two white jurors with no college did make the jury.

    The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in February 2011 that the jurors were improperly struck and that Sharp should receive a new trial.

    Judge Elizabeth Kellum said the state failed to meet its burden to show there was a "race-neutral" explanation for the strikes of African Americans.

    The Alabama Attorney General's Office asked the court to rehear the case. The court reversed its earlier opinion 3-2 after taking a second look at the prosecution's reasoning for striking the black potential jurors.

    Presiding Judge Mary Becker Windom and judges Liles Burke and J. Michael Joine, issued an essentially anonymous opinion by the majority. Judges Samuel Henry Welch and Kellum dissented.

    http://blog.al.com/breaking/2012/03/..._reverses.html
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  3. #3
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    New Alabama anti-stalking law named for slain Huntsville nurse Tracy Morris

    In memory of his slain sister, Brian Morris led a charge that turned his grief into a new Alabama law that targets stalking.

    Morris, a former Huntsville Police Department officer, worked on the measure known as "Tracy's Law" for two years before its passage in the 2012 legislative session.

    It is named for Tracy Morris, who was killed in 1999. Morris was a nurse and the man convicted of killing her, Jason Sharp, is on death row.

    Brian Morris, who now lives in Newport News, Va., said the law is an appropriate tribute.

    "What it means is that although my sister may be dead, her legacy lives, Tracy Lynn Morris lives," Morris said. "Her legacy was helping people and that legacy will now live forever and ever."

    Tracy's Law is aimed at stopping many of the upsetting and disruptive behaviors stalkers use, but those same behaviors had not been previously criminalized, he said. Morris said Sharp "bothered his sister for about 18 months" before she was killed.

    The law establishes a misdemeanor charge for behaviors that under different circumstances might be considered ordinary.

    The law targets a person "acting with an improper purpose who intentionally follows, harasses, telephones or initiates communication" with another person, any member of the person's immediate family, or any third party "with whom the person is acquainted."

    The behavior becomes criminal if the person is asked to stop and does not.

    The measure has already been signed by Gov. Robert Bentley and will go into effect Aug. 1. A formal signing ceremony will be held today with Bentley, Morris and the bill's chief sponsors Alabama Rep. Mac McCutcheon, R-Huntsville, and Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston.

    The law requires that the stalking behavior causes material harm to the other person's mental or emotional health or causes the person to reasonably fear that his or her "employment, business or career is threatened."

    The new second-degree stalking charge carries a sentence range of up to six months in jail.

    Morris said the penalty is important, but more importantly, the person will face a judge and the system will be formally aware of the problems he or she is causing. Morris said under harassment laws the threat of violence is required, but the new law doesn't need the violence threat, only the consistently unwelcome and upsetting behavior.

    "The ultimate purpose of the law is to save lives," Morris said. "Most of the people who have a stalking mentality, once they get in front of a judge - and early in the process - the higher the probability you can prevent them from turning violent."

    McCutcheon, a retired Huntsville Police Department investigator who worked numerous domestic violence murders, said the law will help investigators identify potentially violent offenders.

    "Many times, stalking incidents occur after there's already been some type of act, whether harassment, domestic violence or misdemeanor assault," McCutcheon said. "Now, if investigators get a case like this, that would be a factor to show the intent of the suspect or the offender.

    "It can show more than someone who just has an infatuation, it can show a connection between them and the possibility of a violent act."

    Under previous Alabama law, stalking covered intentionally following and harassing another person and making a credible threat to cause that person to fear death or serious injury. The law has been changed to simply include making a threat, the word "credible" was struck from the law. Stalking is felonythat carries a penalty of a year to 10 years in prison.

    A person who engages in that behavior while already under a court order or injunction would be guilty of aggravated stalking, which carries a sentence of two to 20 years in prison.

    http://blog.al.com/breaking/2012/06/...lking_law.html
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  4. #4
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    Death row inmate Jason Sharp, convicted in 1999 Madison County slaying, to get new case review

    The Alabama Supreme Court wants the state's criminal appeals court to take another look at the case of Jason Sharp, who is on death row after being convicted of the 1999 rape and murder of Tracy Morris.

    The case took years to go to trial before Sharp was convicted in 2006.

    The appeals process has bounced back and forth from various Alabama courts since Sharp's lawyers alleged prosecutors improperly struck black would-be jurors from the jury pool.

    The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that prosecutors must have race-neutral reasons for striking jurors. Both Sharp and Morris are white.

    The state's high court today denied a request by the State of Alabama to reconsider its order from last month, directing the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals to allow Sharp's attorneys and the state to file new briefs on the issue of whether Sharp received a fair trial.

    The dispute centers the complaint by Sharp's attorneys that the prosecution improperly struck all but two of 13 potential jurors who were African American. The defense struck the other two black potential jurors.

    In December 2009, the Alabama Supreme Court overturned the conviction and ordered a hearing before Circuit Judge Laura Hamilton, who presided over Sharp's trial. The court required prosecutors to spell out their reasons for striking black jurors. If the prosecution, led by Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard failed to persuade the trial court that the juror strikes were proper, Sharp would be entitled to a new trial.

    The hearing was held and Hamilton ruled in June 2010 that prosecutors did not discriminate in picking a jury. The prosecution had argued a number of the black potential jurors said they opposed or would be reluctant to impose the death penalty, or didn't appear to have the professional or social "sophistication" to comprehend technical DNA evidence.

    Broussard said he struck twice as many white potential jurors based on the DNA issue and has insisted there was no discrimination in the Sharp case.

    The sophistication argument was ridiculed by the defense for appearing to suggest the jurors weren't intelligent enough. And in one instance, a woman with a bachelor's degree from Alabama A&M University was excluded, the defense argued, but two white jurors with no college education did make the jury.

    The case took another turn in February 2011, when the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the prosecution had discriminated against the black members of the jury pool and said Sharp was entitled to a new trial.

    But in February of this year, the same court, though with a slightly different make-up, reversed its decision from the previous year and said prosecutors did not discriminate.

    That ruling was appealed by Sharp's lawyers to the Alabama Supreme Court. The court ruled Oct. 18, that the lower court must let the two sides provide briefs to the appeals court on the issue of whether Hamilton's ruling was correct that the prosecution did not discriminate against members of the jury pool.

    http://blog.al.com/breaking/2012/11/..._orders_l.html
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  5. #5
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    Jason Sharp Appeals Court Ruling


    Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals again rules no discrimination in Jason Sharp capital murder case


    The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals today sided with a Madison County judge who found no discrimination during jury selection in the capital murder case of Jason Sharp.

    Sharp was convicted in 2006 of capital murder and given a death sentence for the 1999 stabbing death of Tracy Morris.

    The case took years to go to trial, but it has also taken a twisting road in the appeals courts.

    The court of criminal appeals in 2011 granted Sharp a new trial based on allegations that prosecutors violated the law by striking African Americans from the jury pool for reasons that were not race-neutral.

    But the appeals court reversed itself last year, finding that Sharp was not discriminated against.

    Sharp is white and Tracy Morris was also white.

    The dispute came during the appeals process when Sharp's attorneys filed a "Batson" challenge in the case. A Batson challenge is named after a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court decision in a Kentucky case. The court set standards to ensure jurors are not barred for jury service for race-based reasons. The standard requires attorneys to have "race-neutral" reasons for striking people from the jury pool and to be able to prove it, if challenged.

    The Alabama Supreme Court issued an order last October directing the court of criminal appeals to receive briefs from the State of Alabama and Sharp's attorneys on the issue of whether he was not given a fair trial given the alleged jury discrimination.

    The court ruled today that there was no plain error by the trial court in ruling that Sharp was not discriminated against.

    The decision affirms the ruling by Madison County Circuit Judge Laura Hamilton from July 2010 that prosecutors did not act improperly.

    Hamilton's ruling followed an order by the Alabama Supreme Court. The court required Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard, who prosecuted Sharp, to explain the reasons why African Americans in the jury pool were struck in a hearing, or Sharp would receive a new trial.

    In the jury selection for Sharp's trial, 11 of 13 black jurors were struck from the jury pool and Sharp's attorneys were critical of the reasons given, calling them a "sham."

    Broussard argued in that April hearing that prosecutors primarily struck jurors who expressed opposition to the death penalty. Others were struck, he said, because prosecutors questioned their ability to process technical testimony about DNA evidence.

    Other reasons given by Broussard included a failure to fill out some answers on a juror questionnaire, prior jury service, schedule conflicts, criminal history and family members who were crime victims.

    The defense questioned each choice, including why a minister was on the panel, while a minister in training was not.

    It also questioned the validity of the prosecution's concerns about the "sophistication" of jurors related to scientific evidence.

    In her decision Hamilton found the state had race-neutral reasons for each juror struck. She found the death penalty opposition, failure to answer questions, jury service, criminal history and family exposure to crime, all met the requirements.

    Hamilton generally did not find the sophistication argument a sufficient basis for disqualification, but agreed each juror was properly struck for other reasons.

    "Those reasons which the court found to be valid were not a function of pretext or sham, and this court finds that no further relief is due to be afforded to the defendant in this case," Hamilton's order concludes.

    The court of criminal appeals said today that it reviewed the full record of the case and the briefs filed before concluding "that the trial court did not clearly err in holding that Sharp failed to demonstrate that the State engaged in purposeful discrimination.

    "Indeed, the totality of the relevant facts supports the trial court's determination that the prosecutor's challenges were not based on race or ethnicity," the court wrote in a 3-2 opinion.

    http://blog.al.com/breaking/2013/06/...inal_appe.html
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  6. #6
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    Alabama Supreme Court rejects new trial request by death row inmate Jason Sharp

    The Alabama Supreme Court today rejected a petition to consider a new trial for Jason Sharp, who was convicted of capital murder in 2006.

    Sharp was convicted of the 1999 stabbing death of Tracy Morris and given a death sentence.

    Sharp's first round of appeals was denied, but his case was revived in 2011 by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, which said Sharp deserved a new trial because prosecutors had improperly struck from the jury pool 11 of 13 African Americans.

    Sharp is white, Tracy Morris was also white.

    The appeals court reversed itself last year, issuing a new opinion that found prosecutors did not discriminate during jury selection.

    Sharp's attorneys appealed that ruling and late last year the Alabama Supreme Court ordered that attorneys from both sides provide the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals with briefs on the issue.

    The appeals court ruled in June that prosecutors did not discriminate during Sharp's trial.

    This morning's ruling, which included no remarks from the court, followed an appeal of the June ruling by Sharp's attorneys.

    Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard, who prosecuted Sharp, has maintained there was no discrimination in Sharp's trial.

    "I'm pleased and I'm not surprised," Broussard said of today's Supreme Court ruling.

    The appeals court's June decision affirmed the ruling by Madison County Circuit Judge Laura Hamilton from July 2010 that prosecutors did not act improperly.

    Hamilton's ruling followed an order by the Alabama Supreme Court. The court required Broussard to explain in a hearing the reasons why African Americans in the jury pool were struck, or Sharp would receive a new trial.

    In the jury selection for Sharp's trial, 11 of 13 African American would-be jurors were struck from the jury pool and Sharp's attorneys were critical of the reasons given, calling them a "sham."

    Broussard argued in that April hearing that prosecutors primarily struck jurors who expressed opposition to the death penalty. Others were struck, he said, because prosecutors questioned their ability to process technical testimony about DNA evidence.

    Other reasons given by Broussard included a failure to fill out some answers on a juror questionnaire, prior jury service, schedule conflicts, criminal history and family members who were crime victims.

    The defense questioned each choice, including why a minister was on the panel, while a minister in training was not.

    It also questioned the validity of the prosecution's concerns about the "sophistication" of jurors related to scientific evidence.

    In her decision Hamilton found the state had race-neutral reasons for each juror struck. She found the death penalty opposition, failure to answer questions, jury service, criminal history and family exposure to crime, all met the requirements.

    http://blog.al.com/breaking/2013/08/...rejects_1.html
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  7. #7
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    In today's United States Supreme Court orders, Sharp's petition for writ of certiorari was DENIED.

    Lower Ct: Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama
    Case Nos.: (CR-05-2371)
    Decision Date: June 14, 2013
    Discretionary Court
    Decision Date: August 23, 2013

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