Sunday, April 20, 2008

Florida's death row inmates await fate

By David Angier

Charles Foster has a pending appeal that might keep him off the governor’s death list.

Foster, 61, has been on death row longer than any other prisoner from Bay County. Nine men await death sentences imposed by Bay County judges and juries.

According to the Department of Corrections, Gov. Charlie Crist’s staff is putting together a list of “five or so” death row inmates who might be eligible for execution now that the U.S. Supreme Court last week found lethal injection to be a humane form of execution.

A corrections spokeswoman said Thursday she did not know if Foster’s appeal would keep him off the list, even though it appears he is one of the five defendants who have been on death row the longest.

Thomas Philpot, a deputy press secretary for Crist, said by e-mail that Crist has “encouraged the staff to look at factors including the length of time spent on death row and the heinous nature of the crime committed.”

He did not say if appeals would keep defendants off the list, but said each case would be evaluated individually.

Philpot said Crist will wait for a ruling in convicted child killer Mark Schwab’s death case, which is on appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court, before taking any action, but “he may consider signing additional death warrants” because of the high court’s ruling this week that Kentucky can continue to use lethal injection.

Foster was convicted in 1975 of first-degree murder in the death of Julian Lanier, a 65-year-old tourist from Ohio visiting family in Panama City. Lanier and Foster met in a bar, picked up two women and drove to a secluded area in Callaway in Lanier’s Winnebago.

Lanier and one of the girls were preparing to have sex when Foster became enraged. He cut Lanier’s throat and dragged him from the vehicle. Foster covered Lanier with pine branches then cut his spine at the base of his neck when he saw Lanier was breathing.

Foster and the women divided the money in Lanier’s wallet and went their separate ways. One of the women reported the murder.

According to the Commission on Capital Cases in Tallahassee, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed Foster’s conviction and sentence in 1979, and the United States Supreme Court denied his petition for appeal that year. Foster then filed motions for ineffective assistance of counsel and writs asking the federal government to take control of his case. Both were denied.

He was granted new sentencing hearings in 1990 and 1993, again was given the death penalty and a new round of appeals began.

“The delay in the execution of the sentence appears to be due to Foster’s death sentence being vacated multiple times at multiple levels of the court system,” according to the commission’s Web site, “and the resulting legal and judicial procedures necessary to entertain legal challenges and re-impose the death sentence.”

Then-Gov. Bob Graham signed death warrants for Foster twice, in 1981 and 1984, but both were stayed.

Foster filed a writ of habeas corpus to the U.S. Court of Appeals in February 2005, which has yet to be acted upon. His last appeal was to the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 27, 2006, which was denied last year.

Death Row
No one has been put to death for a crime committed in Bay County in recent memory. These inmates are now on death row after being convicted here:
• Kayle Bates, 49, sentenced to death the first time in 1983 for killing Janet Renee White on June 14, 1982. He was a day away from being executed in 1989 when he was given a stay. Two later juries also recommended the death penalty.
• Darryl Barwick, 41, stabbed to death Rebecca Ray Wendt on March 31, 1986. He was sentenced to die in 1987 and 1992.
• Charles Foster, 61, killed and robbed Julian Lanier in 1975. He was sentenced to death that year and twice more in 1990 and 1993.
• James A. Card, 61, killed Janis Franklin on June 3, 1981. He was sentenced to death the first time in 1982 and twice more later.
• Mark Geralds, 40, was convicted in 1990 of beating and stabbing to death Tressa Pettibone in 1989. Two juries sentenced him to death, the last one unanimously in 1992.
• Olen Gorby, 58, beat to death W. Jay Raborn on May 5, 1990. He was sentenced to death on Aug. 30, 1991.
• Roderick Orme, 46, beat, raped and strangled Lisa Redd on March 3, 1992. He was sentenced to die in 1993 and again in July 2007.
• Paul Everett, 28, beat to death Kelli Bailey on Nov. 2, 2001. He was sentenced to die Jan. 9, 2003.
• Robert Bailey, 25, shot to death Panama City Beach Police Sgt. Kevin Kight on March 27, 2007. He was sentenced to death April 11, 2007.

Christopher Offord was sentenced to death Aug. 3, 2005, for beating to death Dana Noser on July 31, 2004. The Florida Supreme Court later overturned his sentence. He is serving life in jail.

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