Capital punishment in Indiana

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Capital punishment is a legal penalty in the U.S. state of Indiana.

Legal process[edit]

When the prosecution seeks the death penalty, the sentence is decided by the jury and must be unanimous.

In case of a hung jury during the penalty phase of the trial, the trial court judge decides the sentence.[1]

The power of clemency belongs to the Governor of Indiana after receiving a non-binding advice from the Indiana Parole Board.[2]

Capital crimes[edit]

The following constitutes first-degree murder with aggravating circumstances, which is the only capital crime in Indiana.[3]

  1. The murder was especially heinous, atrocious, cruel or depraved (or involved torture)
  2. The capital offense was committed during the commission of, attempt of, or escape from a specified felony (kidnapping, rape, sodomy, arson, oral copulation, train wrecking, carjacking, criminal gang activity, drug dealing, or aircraft piracy)
  3. The murder was committed from a motor vehicle or near a motor vehicle that transported the defendant
  4. The murder was committed by intentionally discharging a firearm into an inhabited dwelling
  5. The defendant killed the victim while lying in wait
  6. The murder was committed by means of a bomb, destructive device, explosive, or similar device
  7. The defendant caused or directed another to commit murder, or the defendant procured the commission of the offense by payment, promise of payment, or anything of pecuniary value
  8. The victim of the murder was less than 12 years of age
  9. The victim was a pregnant woman, and the murder resulted in the intentional killing of a fetus that has attained viability

List of current Indiana death row inmates[edit]

Name Description of crime Time on death row Other
Frederick M. Baer Convicted of the murder of 26-year-old Cory Clark, murder of her 4 year old daughter. Baer later admitted that he intended to rape Clark, but decided not to go through with it for fear of disease. He decided to go through with the murders to avoid being identified.[4] 11 years, 10 months and 7 days Baer appealed the verdict on the basis that he suffers from multiple serious mental illnesses, cognitive impairments, substance induced psychotic disorder, and schizotypal, paranoid, and borderline personality disorders. Dr. Philip Harvey, a neuropsychologist with a specialty in psychosis, diagnosed Baer with persisting dementia, most likely the result of his substance abuse as well as substance induced psychosis. Baer contends the combination of these illnesses meant Baer was under an extreme mental or emotional disturbance at the time of the crime which affected his ability to conform his conduct. Dr. George Savarese concluded that Baer could understand his conduct, but had no ability to control his behavior.[5]
Debra Brown Along with Alton Coleman, Brown was convicted of several murders as part of a midwestern crime spree. Coleman was executed in 2002.[4] 30 years, 9 months and 24 days Despite being on death row in Indiana, Brown was held in Ohio on unrelated murder charges.[4]
Joseph Edward Corcoran Corcoran was living with his brother, sister, and his sister's fiance. He became enraged when he heard his brother, future brother in law, and two of his brother's friends talking about him. After putting his 7-year-old niece in an upstairs bedroom to protect her, he loaded his semiautomatic rifle and fatally shot the four men. He then went to a neighbor's house and asked them to call police.[4] 17 years, 7 months and 21 days Corcoran suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and has had ongoing issues with delusions and auditory hallucination. When asked why he was not pursuing post conviction relief, he stated: "I want to waive my appeals because I am guilty of murder. I think that I should be executed for what I have done...I am guilty of murder. I should be executed. That is all there is to it. That is what I believe. I believe the death penalty is a just punishment for four counts of murder, and I believe that I should be executed since I am guilty of four counts of murder."[6]
William Gibson[4] Gibson pleaded guilty in 2013 for the sexual assault and bludgeoning death of Christine Whitis, a family friend who had come to his New Albany home to console Gibson after his mother's death.[4] 3 years, 5 months and 5 days Gibson has pleaded guilty to three murders. After he was arrested for Whitis' murder, police excavated Gibson’s yard to recover the body of Stephanie Kirk, a 35-year-old Charlestown woman who disappeared in 2012. He also admitted to fatally stabbing Karen Hodella of Port Orange, Florida, in October 2002. At sentencing, in response to being sentenced to death, he replied “I deserve what I’m getting. It ain’t no big deal.” He is known for his signature handlebar mustache.[7][8]
Eric D. Holmes Holmes was fired from his job at a restaurant after an argument with co-worker Amy Foshee. At closing on the day of his firing, Holmes waited in the parking lot with Michael Vance. Holmes and Vance attacked Foshee and 2 managers as they exited the building, stabbing them multiple times, and stealing the bank deposit money. Blosl and Ervin died; Foshee survived. Vance was tried separately and sentenced to 190 years.[4] 24 years and 21 days
Kevin Isom In response in learning his wife was planning to leave him, Isom shot his wife and his two stepchildren. He then barricaded himself in the family's apartment and shot at police officers attempting to take him into custody.[4] 4 years, 1 month and 8 days Isom's defense attorney argued that a death sentence was inappropriate given the emotional state of his client, who suffered an extreme emotional disturbance from losing his job and then being left by his wife. He also pointed out that Isom had a stressful upbringing growing up in gang-ridden projects in Chicago. Despite this Isom had no significant criminal history and lived a productive life.[9]
Wayne D. Kubsch Kubsch's wife Elizabeth was found stabbed to death in the basement of the family home along with the bodies of her ex-husband and one of her sons. Kubsch took out a $575,000 life insurance policy on Elizabeth two months before the murders. Prosecutors found that Kubsch had more than $400,000 in debt and alleged that this was a motive for the murders.[4] 16 years, 7 months and 19 days
Paul Michael McManus Divorce papers were served on him at his mother's house on the day of the murders of his wife Melissa and the couple's two daughters. After the murders, he jumped off a bridge in a suicide attempt, but survived. McManus had told acquaintances the weekend before the murders to "watch the papers" because he was going to "do something big.[4] 14 years, 10 months and 11 days McManus unsuccessfully attempted to use an insanity defense at trial. Police retrieved a cassette tape recorded by McManus that said: "Well, if you're listening to this tape, I guess I've done what I had to do. I don't expect you guys to understand, but I had to do it․ I want you to make sure that I am buried with my kids and my wife. No matter what, I want you to make sure that happens."[10]
Michael Dean Overstreet Kelly Eckart, an 18-year-old freshman at Franklin College, was last seen on September 27, 1997 after leaving work. The next morning, her car was found abandoned in a rural area, with its lights on and keys in the ignition. She was found in a ravine in Brown County four days later. She also had been shot and strangled. Semen found on the body was matched to Overstreet. 16 years, 8 months and 16 days Overstreet suffers from schizoaffective disorder and suffered from hallucination as a child including "demons". He was discharged from the marines on the basis of mental illness.[4] Overstreet was found not competent to be executed in November 2014 and will remain on death row indefinitely.[11]
Tommy R. Pruitt Pruitt was pulled over by Morgan County Deputy Dan Starnes, who was investigating Pruitt for involvement in a burglary a few days earlier. Pruitt exited the vehicle and pulled a .45-caliber handgun. Starnes died after being shot five times by Pruitt. Pruitt was shot seven times but recovered. 13 years, 4 months and 26 days Pruitt has an IQ of 60, putting him in the range of mental retardation and suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.[12]
Benjamin Ritchie Ritchie was involved in a police chase after he was spotted driving a stolen vehicle. The chase ended when he wrecked the vehicle and proceeded on foot before shooting officer William Toney in the chest.[4] 14 years, 6 months and 1 day Ritchie suffers from a number of cognitive and emotional disorders. He has bipolar disorder and a non-specified cognitive disorder. The cause of the physiological defect was not identified, but experts speculated that several past serious head injuries, his mother's heavy use of drugs and alcohol during pregnancy, his own history of drug use, and a history of abuse throughout his childhood.[13]
John M. Stephenson Stephenson was convicted of the murders of Jay Tyler, 29, and his wife, Kathy, 29, and another woman named Brandy Southard, 21. Prosecutors allege that the trio were chased in their car to an intersection in rural Warrick County, where they were shot and then stabbed. Stephenson also was convicted of an earlier burglary at Southard's residence. His 8 month trial was, at the time, the longest and most expensive in Indiana history. Sister Helen Prejean, who was portrayed in the movie Dead Man Walking, testified at his sentencing hearing. 19 years, 9 months and 30 days Stephenson maintains his innocence, alleging that the witnesses who testified against him are lying and that a surveillance tape proving he was at a convenience store was hidden by police. In his statement to police, Stephenson claimed that he spoke to the victims at a convenience store, went to another residence, and then went home. The investigating officer visited the Circle S to view surveillance footage to corroborate his statement. The officer testified at trial that the footage had been erased by the time he arrived. Lisa Huddleston, the clerk at Circle S, claims she indeed reviewed the footage with a police officer and saw both Stephenson and one of the victims on the tape. His appeal was denied.[14]
Roy Lee Ward Ward was convicted of the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl in her home. Her 14-year-old sister was sleeping upstairs when she heard the screams of her sister. She called 911. Police found Ward still in the home when they arrived. 14 years, 3 months and 29 days Ward's first conviction was overturned in 2004 on the basis that pretrial publicity tainted the jury pool. He was again convicted and sentenced to death. Ward has been diagnosed with a number of psychiatric disorders including exhibitionism, antisocial personality disorder, and ADHD.[15]
Jeffrey A. Weisheit Weisheit was convicted for setting a fire that killed the two children of his girlfriend. After his arrest, Weisheit admitted stuffing a dish towel in Caleb's mouth and using duct tape to bind his arms behind his back. Two flares were found near the boy's body. Autopsies revealed the children were alive when the fire was set. He told police he did it because Caleb was misbehaving on the night before the fire.[16] 3 years, 9 months and 5 days Weisheit suffers from bipolar disorder.[4]

Federal executions[edit]

Terre Haute, Indiana is the site of the Federal Correctional Complex, where the death row of the Federal government is located. Since the reinstatement of the death penalty, three (3) people have had their sentences carried out at Terre Haute, including Timothy McVeigh, convicted of his role in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, in which 168 people were killed.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Indiana Code - § 35-50-2-9(f)
  2. ^
  3. ^ Crimes Punishable by the Death Penalty
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Evans, Tim (February 1, 2014). "Indiana death row holds 13 prisoners". Indianapolis Star. 
  5. ^ "Frederick Michael Baer v. State of Indiana" (PDF) Indiana Supreme Court. January 26, 2011.
  6. ^ "Joseph E. Corcoran v. State of Indiana". Indiana Supreme Court. 
  7. ^ White, Charlie (October 26, 2013). "William Clyde Gibson found guilty of killing 75-year-old in 'sexual fantasy'". Courier Journal. 
  8. ^ Schneider, Grace (June 3, 2014). "William Clyde Gibson pleads guilty in third murder". Courier Journal. 
  9. ^ Krause, Ruth (February 8, 2013). "Isom gets death penalty, Gary man convicted of 3 murders". Post Tribune. 
  10. ^ "Paul M. McMANUS v. State of Indiana". Supreme Court of Indiana. August 31, 2004. 
  11. ^ Coyne, Tom. "Indiana judge rules man convicted in college student's 1997 death not competent for execution". Daily Journal. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 11 December 2014. Retrieved 10 December 2014. 
  12. ^ "Tommy Pruitt v. State of Indiana" (PDF). The Indiana Supreme Court. March 31, 2009. 
  13. ^ "Benjamin Ritchie v. State of Indiana" (PDF). Supreme court of Indiana. November 8, 2007. 
  14. ^ "John M. Stephenson v. State of Indiana" (PDF). Indiana Supreme Court. April 26, 2007. 
  15. ^ "Roy Lee Ward V. State of Indiana" (PDF). Indiana Supreme Court. June 21, 2012. 
  16. ^ Wilson, Mark (July 11, 2013). "Judge sentences Weisheit to death for murder of two children". Evansville Courier & Press. 

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