James Homer Elledge

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James Homer Elledge (December 9, 1942 – August 28, 2001) was an American murderer who was executed by lethal injection in Washington State Penitentiary for the murder of 47 year old Eloise Jane Fitzner. The case raised questions before and after the execution about how the death penalty was applied in Washington State, especially in cases where a defendant refused to present a defense in the penalty phase and refused to allow the filing of any appeals.

The crimes[edit]

In 1965, Elledge robbed a Western Union office in Albuquerque, New Mexico. During this robbery, he also kidnapped a female attendant. He was sentenced to prison in Santa Fe, New Mexico and, after his parole, he wound up in Seattle, Washington, where he killed motel manager Bertha Lush in 1974 by beating her to death with a ball-peen hammer in an argument over his bill. While in prison for that crime, he got paroled three times, the last of which happened in August 1995.

On April 18, 1998, Elledge invited Eloise Fitzner and her friend, only referred to as "S.C.", into a Bible-study room of a church where he worked as a custodian. After closing the door, he pulled a knife and bound the two women’s wrists and ankles. He put a sweatshirt over S.C.'s head and made her face the wall. When S.C. heard struggling behind her, she tried to see what was happening. Elledge noticed this and threatened to kill S.C. next if she did not remain faced to the wall. Elledge first strangled Ms. Fitzner with his hands and then, not sure if she was dead, he fatally stabbed her in the neck. After hiding the body, Elledge abducted S.C. and drove them home in Ms. Fitzner’s car. At his home, he sexually assaulted S.C. and released her the following day. S.C. immediately went to police. Elledge was arrested two days later and confessed.

Trial and Execution[edit]

On May 27 1998 Elledge plead guilty to aggravated first degree murder. He forbade his lawyer from presenting any defense during the penalty phase.[1][2] When he testified himself he said: "that there is a very wicked part of me. And this wicked part of me needs to die."[3] On July 28, 1998 Elledge was sentenced to death. Waiving all his rights to appeal, was executed by lethal injection on August 28, 2001 at Washington State Penitentiary, becoming only the fourth person to be executed since the restoration of the death penalty in Washington state in 1981. His requested final meal of scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, waffles, sweet roll, orange juice, milk and cold cereal was declined. In his last words he expressed remorse for Fitzner's murder.

His confession, refusal to assist his own defense, and his successful efforts to prevent 3rd party groups from appealing on his behalf raised issues of state assisted suicide, and public debate over how Washington state selected which prisoners would be executed.[4][5]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Rule, Ann Last Dance, Last Chance and Other True Cases (2003) pp. 391-394
  2. ^ JAMES HOMER ELLEDGE: Catholic bishops seek clemency Kitsap Sun (2001-08-23)
  3. ^ Rule, Ann Last Dance, Last Chance and Other True Cases (2003) p. 394
  4. ^ Rebekah Denn and David Fisher. Execution leaves a trail of unease. Seattle Post-Intelligencer (2001-08-29).
  5. ^ Michael Hood. Witness to an execution. Seattle Weekly (2001-09-05)

See also[edit]

References[edit]