Federal Death Penalty

Case Summaries for Modern Federal Death Sentences

Inmates Sentenced Under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988:

Richard Tipton, Corey Johnson, James H. Roane, Jr. — All Black. Tipton, Johnson, and Roane were members of an inner-city gang in Richmond, VA. They were sentenced to death in February 1993 for their participation in a series of drug-related murders. Execution dates were set for the three co-defendants in May 2006, but the executions were stayed because of a challenge to the lethal injection process. (Roane v. Holder, D.C. Dist. Ct.).

Sentenced Since the Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994:
(names in brackets had death sentences reversed, but are awaiting final disposition)

Orlando Hall, [Bruce Webster] — Black. Hall and Webster were charged in Fort Worth, Texas with the abduction, sexual assault, and beating murder of a 16-year-old black female. They were tried separately. Hall was sentenced to death in November 1995. Webster was sentenced to death in June 1996.

Webster had been scheduled for execution on April 16, 2007. After Webster joined the lethal injection challenge filed by other federal death-row prisoners, his execution was stayed. On June 18, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana vacated his death sentence, finding that he was ineligible for the death penalty because of intellectual disability.

Len Davis — Black. Davis, a New Orleans police officer who was under investigation in a drug conspiracy case, was sentenced to death on two convictions in April 1996 for ordering the murder of a young black woman who had previously seen him beat a witness in an unrelated incident. A co-defendant, Paul Hardy, also black, was the triggerman in the killing. Hardy was also sentenced to death on two convictions in May 1996. The Fifth Circuit reversed the sentences for both defendants and one of the two capital convictions for each defendant. The court ordered a new sentencing hearing for both defendants. A federal jury again recommended a sentence of death for Len Davis on August 9, 2005. (Associated Press, Aug. 10, 2005). Hardy is not under a sentence of death.

Anthony Battle — Black. Battle, a federal prisoner with a history of psychiatric problems, was sentenced to death in March 1997 for the murder of a guard in the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld his conviction and death sentence in 1999. A Georgia federal district court subsequently rejected a challenge to Battle’s mental competency and denied his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The Eleventh Circuit upheld the district court’s ruling in August 2005.

Jeffrey Paul — White. Paul was sentenced to death in June 1997 for the robbery-murder of a retired National Parks employee on federal land in Arkansas. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld his conviction and death sentence in 2000. An Arkansas federal district court subsequently denied Paul’s petition for writ of habeas corpus. The Eighth Circuit upheld the district court’s ruling in July 2008.

Aquilia Barnette — Black. Barnette was convicted of murdering a man in North Carolina in a carjacking and a woman, his former girlfriend, in Virginia. A jury sentenced him to death on February 10, 1998. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed his death sentence on May 4, 2000. Barnette was re-sentenced to death in 2002, and in December 2004, the Fourth Circuit upheld the conviction and death sentence. The U.S. Supreme Court vacated that judgment on October 3, 2005 and remanded the case back to the Fourth Circuit in light of the Court’s ruling on racial discrimination in jury selection earlier that year in Miller-El v. Dretke. The Circuit remanded the case to the district court, which, in May 2010, ruled that Barnette had not proven his claim of jury discrimination. The Fourth Circuit upheld the district court’s ruling in May 2011.

Billie Jerome Allen and Norris Holder — Both Black. Allen and Holder were convicted of the fatal shooting of a bank guard during a robbery in St. Louis, Missouri. Allen was sentenced to death by a jury on Mar. 10, 1998. In June 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated Allen’s death sentence and remanded the case back to the Eighth Circuit for reconsideration in light of the Court’s ruling in Ring v. Arizona. Because his federal indictment did not include the aggravating factors necessary to support his death sentence, the 8th Circuit said Allen’s sentence should be reduced to life in prison. (February 5, 2004, St. Louis Post-Dispatch). However, in September 2004, the 8th Circuit conducted a rehearing en banc of the earlier decision and reinstated Allen’s death sentence. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 3, 2005). Holder was sentenced to death by a jury on April 3, 1998.

Christopher Andre’ Vialva and Brandon Am Bernard — Both Black.+ A federal jury in Waco, TX, convicted the two in June 2000, of carjacking and the murder of an Iowa couple visiting central Texas. Both defendants were sentenced to death. Vialva was 19-years-old at the time of his arrest, and Bernard was 18. Four younger teenagers have also pled guilty to federal charges relating to the crime.

+According to Vialva’s mother—who is white—Vialva is biracial. Vialva’s father is from the West Indies and of African descent.

Dustin John Higgs — Black. Higgs was convicted in October 2000 of ordering the 1996 murder of three Maryland women after arguing with one of them in his apartment. The triggerman, Willis Mark Haynes, was convicted in May 2000 and sentenced to life plus 45 years in prison. Higgs’s case was the third death penalty prosecution in Maryland since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988, but marked the first time a jury imposed the death penalty. (Washington Post, 10/27/00)

Richard Allen Jackson — White. Jackson was convicted in federal court on May 7, 2001 for use of a firearm on federal property (Bend Creek Recreation Area) during a felony resulting in the death of the victim. He was subsequently sentenced to death. Jackson had earlier been convicted in North Carolina state court for offenses arising from the same actions. He was convicted of the kidnapping and murder of Karen Lynn Styles in 1994. That conviction was overturned and Jackson later pleaded guilty to second degree murder.

Marvin Gabrion — White. On March 16, 2002, Marvin Gabrion was sentenced to death for a 1997 murder in Michigan’s Manistee National Forest. Although Michigan does not have the death penalty, Gabrion was sentenced under the federal system because the victim was killed on federal property. Gabrion’s case was the first time since the federal death penalty was reinstated that a federal death sentence was imposed in a state that did not itself authorize capital punishment. Gabrion’s death sentence was overturned by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (Chicago Tribune, Aug. 3, 2011) because the trial judge had not allowed the defense to raise as an issue that Gabrion could not have been sentenced to death if he had been tried in a Michigan state court. The Sixth Circuit reviewed the decision en banc and in May 2013 reversed the panel. His lawyers subsequently filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus. A subsequent January 2017 pleading argued that Gabrion is mentally incompetent, and detailed “a long history of severe mental illness” that “may have deteriorated over the last 15 years while he has been housed on death row.” (J. Agar, “Death-row inmate Marvin Gabrion ‘actively delusional,’ no help to attorneys,” Michigan Live, January 27, 2017.)

Julius Robinson — Black. Robinson was sentenced to death on March 18, 2002, for the killings of Juan Reyes in May 1999 and Rudolph Resendez in June 1999 in Fort Worth, Texas. Both men were killed in drug related incidents. Robinson was formally sentenced by the trial judge on June 5, 2002.

Meier Jason Brown — Black. A U.S. District judge affirmed the recommendation of a jury for a death sentence against Meier Brown on November 8, 2003. Brown was convicted of the November 2002 murder of a 48-year-old white female — a Fleming, Georgia postal worker — during a robbery. Brown had agreed to plead guilty in return for a sentence of life without parole in light of Brown’s confession, but federal prosecutors sought the death sentence. (Savannah Morning News, November 8, 2003)

Gary Sampson — White. Sampson pled guilty to the carjacking and murder of two Massachusetts men during a weeklong crime spree. A jury sentenced Sampson to death on December 23, 2003. Sampson is only the second federal case tried in Massachusetts since the federal government reinstated the federal death penalty in 1988. (Las Vegas Sun, December 23, 2003) Judge Mark L. Wolf sentenced Sampson to death, but ordered that the execution be carried out in New Hampshire, which has not carried out an execution since 1939. (Boston Globe, January 30, 2004). Judge Wolf overturned Sampson’s sentence because a juror had made significant misrepresentations during voir dire. (Boston Globe, Oct. 20, 2011). After the government appealed, the U.S Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the district court’s reversal of sentence. (July 25, 2013). Prosecutors capitally retried Sampson. The jury re-sentenced him to death on one of the two murder charges, but did not reach a unanimous verdict on the second charge, which resulted in the imposition of a life sentence for that murder. (Associated Press, January 9, 2017) On August 16, 2017, the district court denied Sampson’s post-trial motions, affirming the death sentence imposed in his case. (Boston Globe, August 16, 2017).

Alfred Bourgeois — Black. On March 24, 2004 a jury recommended a death sentence for Alfred Bourgeois for the 2002 murder of his daughter at the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station in Texas, based in part on the testimony of a prisoner housed with Bourgeois. The judge is required to follow the jury’s sentencing recommendation. (Department of Justice Press Release, March 24, 2004)

Sherman Lamont Fields — Black. A jury sentenced Fields to death for the shooting death of his girlfriend in 2001. Fields was also sentenced to lengthy prison terms for other charges. An U. S. District Judge formalized the sentence in April 2004, and ordered Fields transferred to Terre Haute, IN. The murder took place during Fields’ escape from a detention center in Texas while Fields was being held on a federal weapons charge. (Associated Press, April 8, 2004)

Chadrick Fulks and Branden Basham — Both White. A jury recommended the death sentence for the 2002 kidnapping and murder of a 44-year-old-white South Carolina woman following Fulks’ escape from a Kentucky jail. Fulks’ codefendant, Branden Basham, was tried in September 2004 for crimes committed during the escape. Fulks is the first federal death conviction in South Carolina. The judge is required to uphold the recommendation and confirm the death sentence. (The State (Columbia, SC), July 1, 2004). On November 2, 2004, a jury recommended a death sentence for Basham for the murder. The judge is required to follow the recommendation of the jury and impose a death sentence. (Associated Press, November 2, 2004).

Shannon Agofsky — White. Agofsky was given a death sentence on July 17, 2004 for the murder of a fellow inmate at the Beaumont Federal Penitentiary in Texas in 2001. The jury was shown a video of the attack that prison officials said was gang-related. Agofsky was originally in prison for a murder that occurred when he was 18. (Associated Press, July 18, 2004).

Naish Ra’id (formerly Odell Corley) — Black. On October 29, 2004, a jury recommended a death sentence for Ra’id for the murder of two white bank employees during a robbery attempt at a Porter, Indiana bank in 2002. Ra’id’s sentence will be the first one in the history of the Northern District of Indiana federal court system. The judge is required to impose the sentence against Ra’id, who was alleged to be the triggerman in the robbery. Two co-defendants pleaded guilty and were given lesser sentences. (Indiana Herald-Argus, October 29, 2004).

Ronald Mikos — White. On May 23, 2005 a jury recommended a death sentence for this 56-year-old Chicago podiatrist who was convicted of fatally shooting Joyce Brannon, a white former patient, to prevent her from testifying in a federal probe of a Medicare fraud scheme in January 2002. (Chicago Tribune, May 23, 2005). In the federal system, a jury’s recommendation for either life without parole or death is binding on the judge.

Edward Fields — White. On July 22, 2005, a jury in the eastern district of Oklahoma recommended a death sentence for Fields, 38, a former prison guard. Fields pleaded guilty to the murder of two white campers in the Ouachita National Forest while wearing his homemade sniper suit. There was some evidence that Fields was mentally ill. A federal judge sentenced him to death on Nov. 8, 2005. (Muskogee Phoenix, July 26, 2005; Associated Press, July 15, 2005).

Kenneth Lighty — Black. On Nov. 10, 2005, a federal jury in Maryland recommended a death sentence for Lighty for the kidnapping and murder of Eric Hayes (black), an alleged PCP dealer and son of a D.C. police lieutenant, in 2001. The kidnapping occurred in Washington, DC and the murder was committed in Maryland. Lighty was convicted on October 21. A co-defendant, James Flood was also found guilty but faces a mandatory life sentence. In April, a 3rd defendant, Lorenzo Wilson, was convicted of conspiracy to kidnap and faces a life sentence.

Kenneth Barrett — White. On Nov. 18, 2005, a federal jury in Muskogee, Oklahoma, recommended a death sentence for Barrett for the murder of a white police officer, David Eales, on Sept. 24, 1999. The death sentence was for intentionally killing a state law enforcement officer during a drug crime and during the officer’s performance of his official duties. Another officer was wounded. Barrett had already been convicted of first-degree manslaughter in state court for the murder of Eales, and he was given a 20-year sentence, followed by 10 years for the wounding. (Muskogee Phoenix, Nov. 21, 2005).

Robert Bolden — Black. On May 23, 2006, a federal jury in St. Louis, Missouri, recommended a death sentence for Bolden for the murder of a white bank security guard, Nathan Ley, during an attempted robbery in St. Louis in 2002. Two accomplices pleaded guilty to attempted bank robbery. The formal sentencing will take place on August 25. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 23, 2006). Bolden is a Canadian citizen.

Daryl Lawrence — Black. Convicted on Feb. 28, 2006 of the murder of a police officer, Bryan Hurst, during an attempted bank robbery in Columbus, Ohio on Jan. 6, 2005. Lawrence was also convicted of other bank robberies in Ohio. A jury recommended a sentence of death on Mar. 10, 2006. (Press Release, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern Dist. of OH, Mar. 10, 2006). His death sentence was overturned by the trial judge (e-mail from Diane Menashe, Counsel for Daryl Lawrence, on July 3, 2007). That decision was reversed by the 6th Circuit in 2009, reinstating his death sentence.

Alfonso Rodriguez, Jr. — Latinx. Convicted on August 30, 2006, of the murder of a college student, Dru Sjodin. Sjodin was kidnapped from North Dakota and her body was found in Minnesota. A jury in North Dakota recommended a death sentence on September 22. The judge formally sentenced Rodriguez to death on Feb. 8, 2007. North Dakota does not have a state death penalty and has not had an execution since 1905. The judge chose South Dakota as the place of execution. South Dakota utilizes lethal injection for executions, though none has been carried out. South Dakota’s execution process is being reviewed by the legislature. The U.S. Attorney who prosecuted Rodriguez, Drew Wrigley, commented about the state’s distaste for the death penalty: “It’s just not part of the culture up here really at all. We live in the safest state in the the union.” (Associated Press, Sept. 22, 2006; N.Y. Times, Feb. 9, 2007).

Jurijus Kadamovas and Louri Mikhel — White. In Los Angeles, a federal jury recommended the death penalty on Feb. 13, 2007 for two men convicted of murders in a kidnapping-for-ransom scheme targeting Russian immigrants. Prosecutors said the two men kidnapped affluent Russian immigrants from Los Angeles in late 2001 and early 2002 and attempted to extort money from their families and friends. Three co-conspirators pleaded guilty and testified at the trial for the government. The court formally imposed the jury’s death verdicts on March 12, 2017. (CBS News, Mar. 12, 2007).

Carlos Caro — Latinx. A jury in the Western District of Virginia recommended a death sentence for Caro on Feb. 13, 2007 for the murder of his cellmate, Robert Sandoval. Caro was serving a 30-year sentence for drug offenses. Both Caro and Sandoval were reportedly members of a prison gang called the Texas Syndicate. The murder occurred in 2003. A judge will still have to pronounce the formal sentence at a later date. (Roanoke Times, Feb. 14, 2007). UPDATE: Caro was formally sentenced to death in District Court on March 30, 2007.

Lisa Montgomery — White/Female. On Oct. 26, 2007, a jury in Kansas City, Missouri recommended a death sentence for Montgomery following her conviction for kidnapping and killing Bobbie Jo Stinnett, also white, and stealing her unborn baby. Montgomery took the baby with her to Kansas and claimed the baby was her child. (Kansas City Star, Oct. 26, 2007). Montgomery was formally sentenced to death on April 4, 2008 in U.S. District Court. (Topeka Capital-Journal, Apr. 3, 2008). She became the third woman on the federal death row.

Thomas Hager — Black. On November 1, 2007, a jury in Alexandria, Virginia recommended a death sentence for Hager, 34, after deliberating for 2 days. Hager was convicted of the drug-related murder of Barbara White committed in 1993. Prosecutors said that Hager killed White because she had learned of the safe house where he was staying. Two associates of Hager who were also responsible for White’s murder received life sentences and testified against him. The defendant grew up in a poor area of Southeast Washington, DC, and both of his parents were drug addicts who neglected and abused their children. (Associated Press (Va. Daily Press), Nov. 1, 2007). The judge immediately imposed the death sentence on Hager.

Joseph Duncan — White. On August 27, 2008, a jury in Idaho returned a unanimous verdict for a death sentence for Duncan after deliberating for 3 hours. Duncan had pleaded guilty to ten federal charges, including the murder and kidnapping of a young boy and the kidnapping of a young girl in May 2005. He insisted on defending himself, and offered no mitigating evidence and no closing argument in the sentencing trial. (KNDO/KNDU Web site, NBC affiliates; also AP, Aug. 27, 2008). The judge is required to follow the jury’s verdict.

Rejon Taylor — Black. On October 21, 2008, a jury in Chattanooga, Tennessee recommended a death sentence for Taylor after convicting him of murder, kidnapping and carjacking. The victim was Guy Luck, a white businessman who lived in Atlanta, Georgia. He was brought across state lines and murdered in Tennessee. Taylor’s attorney said he was very confident that the verdict would be overturned on appeal. The judge indicated that formal sentencing would take place in about a month. (Chattanooga Times Free Press, Oct. 22, 2008).

Daniel Troya and Ricardo Sanchez, Jr. — Both Latinx. On March 31, 2009, a jury in West Palm Beach, Florida, recommended a death sentence for Troya and Sanchez for the murder of two children on the Florida Turnpike in 2006. The defendants also were convicted of murdering the children’s parents and received life sentences for that crime. All the victims were Hispanic. The father of the children was allegedly killed because of a drug debt. The reputed kingpin of the drug operation did not receive a death sentence. The judge is required to follow the jury’s recommendation in imposing the formal sentence. (South Florida Sun Sentinel, April 1, 2009). On May 13, 2009 both Troya and Sanchez were formally sentenced to death.

Joseph Ebron — Black. On May 11, 2009, a jury convicted Ebron of the 2005 murder of Keith Davis, also black, in a federal prison in Beaumont, Texas. The District Court judge followed the jury’s recommendation and condemned Ebron to death on May 18. Both defendant and victim were said to be members of a Washington, D.C. gang. Ebron is 30 years old and has been incarcerated for most of his life since he was 15. (Beaumont Enterprise, May 19, 2009).

David Runyon — Asian. On August 27, 2009, a jury in Norfolk, Virginia, unanimously recommended a death sentence for Runyon for the murder of Cory Allen Voss, a white Naval officer, in Newport News in 2007. Runyon, a former soldier, was convicted of shooting Voss in a murder-for-hire plot organized by Voss’s wife, Catherina Voss, and her boyfriend, Michael Draven. The federal government did not seek the death penalty against the other two defendants. Catherina Voss pled guilty and received a life sentence. Draven was found guilty and faces a life sentence. Catherina hired Runyon to kill her husband in the hope of being the beneficiary of a $500,000 life insurance policy. U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith will formally sentence Runyon in December. (Daily Press, Aug. 27, 2009).

Alejandro Umana — Latinx. On April 28, 2010, a jury in Charlotte, NC, unanimously recommended a death sentence for Umana, who was reputed to be a member of the gang MS-13. He was found guilty of killing 2 brothers in a Greensboro restaurant in 2007. Both victims were Latinx. Umana was one of 26 suspected MS-13 gang members indicted in Charlotte in 2008. Chief U.S. District Judge Bob Conrad is required to follow the jurors’ recommendation and impose the death penalty. (Charlotte Observer, Apri 29, 2010). Umana was formally sentenced to death on July 27, 2010.

Mark Snarr (White) and Edgar Garcia (Latinx)— On May 24, 2010, a jury in Beaumont, Texas, recommended death sentences for these two federal prison inmates for the murder of a fellow inmate, Gabriel Rhone. They also stabbed and wounded 2 corrections officers. They were convicted on May 7, 2010, of the murder that occurred in the U.S. Penitentiary in Beaumont. Both inmates were serving lengthy sentences for drug trafficking. (AOL News, May 24, 2010). According to the FBI, the presiding judge sentenced the defendants to death on the same day.

[Azibo Aquart] — Black. On June 15, 2011, a jury in New Haven, Connecticut, recommended a death sentence for Aquart’s role in a 2005 triple murder of multiple alleged rivals in the drug business by leaders of a Jamaican drug gang. All victims were black. Azikiwe Aquart (Azibo’s brother) also faced capital prosecution in the offense. A third co-defendant, who cooperated with the government, did not face capital charges. (CT Post, June 15, 2011). The court formally sentenced Aquart to death on Dec. 17, 2012. His brother was sentenced to life earlier. Aquart became the first person in Connecticut history to receive the federal death penalty. (CT Post, Dec. 18, 2012). The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld his conviction but overturned his death sentence on December 20, 2018, finding that the prosecution improperly vouched for the testimony of a penalty-phase witness. The government’s petition for rehearing was denied in March 2019 and prosecutors agreed not to seek review of the grant of relief in the Supreme Court. Aquart is no longer sentenced to death but still faces the possibility of a death penalty in a capital resentencing trial.

Kaboni Savage — Black. On May 31, 2013, a jury in Pennsylvania recommended the death penalty for each of 12 murders Savage committed or directed between 1988 and 2004, plus an additional death sentence related to witness retaliation. The murder victims were government witnesses, their relatives, and rivals in Savage’s drug operation. A federal judge officially imposed 13 death sentences on June 3, 2013. (Philadelphia Inquirer, June 3, 2013).

Jorge Torrez — Latinx. On April 24, 2014, a jury in Virginia recommended the death penalty for this ex-marine convicted of killing a fellow service member in 2009. Torrez allegedly committed other murders in Illinois. He instructed his attorneys not to put on mitigating evidence. (Associated Press, Apr. 24, 2014). Torrez was formally sentenced to death by the judge on May 30, 2014. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld his conviction and death sentence on direct review on August 28, 2017.

Charles Hall and Wesley Coonce — Both White. Hall and Coonce received jury verdicts of death on June 2, 2014, for the murder of a Latinx prisoner in a federal penitentiary in Missouri. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld Coonce’s conviction and death sentence on July 25, 2019 and upheld Hall’s death sentence on December 19, 2019. Hall did not raise any guilt-stage issues in his direct appeal.

Thomas Sanders — White. Sanders was sentenced to death by a federal jury on September 26, 2014, for the kidnapping and murder of a 12-year-old girl in Louisiana in 2010. Sanders also killed the girl’s mother earlier in Arizona.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev — White. Convicted of 30 counts including murder related to the Boston (Mass.) Marathon bombing (2013). Three victims died in the bombing, hundreds were wounded, and a police officer was killed in an attempt to avoid arrest. A death verdict was returned by the jury on May 15, 2015, for one of the bombing deaths. Formal sentencing occurred on June 24, 2015.

Dylann Roof — White. Roof was sentenced to death by a jury on January 10, 2017 for the race-related murders of nine parishioners at an historic Black church in Charleston, South Carolina. The court formally imposed the death penalty on January 11.

Christopher Cramer and Ricky Fackrell — Both White. Cramer and Fackrell received jury verdicts of death on June 13, 2018, for the murder of a White prisoner in a federal penitentiary in Texas.

Brandon Council — Black. Council was sentenced to death on October 3, 2019 by a jury in South Carolina for killing a teller and bank manager during the 2017 robbery of a CresCom bank.

Permanently Removed From Death Row:

John McCullah — White. McCullah was sentenced to death for a drug-related kidnap/murder of a Muskogee, Oklahoma auto dealership employee. The 10th Circuit granted McCullah a new penalty hearing in 1996, and in February 2000, McCullah was resentenced to life in prison.

David Ronald Chandler — White. Chandler, a marijuana grower in Alabama, was sentenced to death under the drug kingpin statute in 1991 for the murder-for-hire of a white male. Most of the government’s witnesses, including the triggerman in the killing, have recanted their testimony. A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit overturned his death sentence in October 1999 because of ineffectiveness of counsel. In December 1999, the circuit court voted to rehear the case en banc, and by a 6-5 vote reversed the panel’s grant of relief and reinstated Chandler’s death sentence. Chandler filed a petition for writ of certiorari asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review his case. Sentence commuted to life by President Clinton on January 20, 2001.

Boutaem Chanthadara — Asian. Chanthadara was sentenced to death in October 1996 for the armed robbery/murder of the female proprietor of a Chinese restaurant in Wichita, Kansas. In November 2000, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit overturned Chanthadara’s death sentence and remanded his case for a new sentencing hearing. At resentencing, Chanthadara was sentenced to life in April 2002.

Paul Hardy — Black. Hardy was the triggerman in a killing in New Orleans along with a co-defendant Len Davis. Hardy and Davis were sentenced to death on two convictions in May 1996. The U.S Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed the sentences for both defendants and one of the two capital convictions for each defendant. The court ordered a new sentencing hearing for both defendants. In 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Ginger Berrigan, who sentenced Hardy and Davis to death after their trial in 1996, found that Hardy is not eligible for death under a 2002 Supreme Court ruling prohibiting the execution of the intellectually disabled. (WWL-TV News, Jan. 15, 2011). Davis was resentenced to death.

Richard Thomas Stitt — Black. Stitt was convicted of ordering the murder of three people in Norfolk, Virginia. He was sentenced to death by a jury in November 1998 after a joint trial with three codefendants, who did not face the death penalty. Stitt’s death sentence was overturnedby a federal District Court judge in April 2005 because of ineffectiveness of counsel. In March 2006, a panel of the U.S Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the district court’s judgment, finding that Stitt’s attorney did not render effective assistance because of a conflict of interest. (Associated Press, Mar. 25, 2006). On remand, the prosecution requested that a new capital sentencing jury be empaneled. However, the district court instead ruled that Stitt’s sentence should be reduced to life plus 65 years. (Virginian Pilot, June 17, 2007). On appeal, the 4th Circuit overturned the district court’s sentence and allowed the government to conduct a new sentencing hearing. Attorney General Eric Holder approved the seeking of the death penalty at the new sentencing trial. (Virginian Pilot, Oct. 27, 2009). The government subsequently announced that it would no longer seek the death penaltyagainst Stitt. (Virginian-Pilot, Oct. 20, 2010).

Darryl Alamont Johnson — Black. Johnson was convicted of ordering the murder of two informants in Illinois in connection with the Gangster Disciples drug conspiracy cases. He was sentenced to death on November 17, 1997. His co-defendant was sentenced to life in prison. A federal district court in Illinois overturned Johnson’s death sentence in Dec. 2010 because jurors had not been given sufficient information about the conditions in which Johnson would have been confined if he had been sentenced to life imprisonment. In 2011, the government decided not to appeal this decision, removing Johnson from death row. On April 9, 2013, Johnson was sentenced to life without parole in District Court. The judge remarked that he had become a changed man since his conviction 16 years before. (Business Wire, Apr. 11, 2013).

German Sinistera — Hispanic. In May 2000, a federal jury in Kansas City, Missouri, recommended a death sentence for Sinistera of Houston, Texas, for his role as triggerman in the murder of a drug dealer. Sinistera was a citizen of Colombia. He was convicted along with two co-defendants, Arboleda Ortiz and Plutarco Tello, who are also Colombian nationals. The jury also recommended a death sentence for Ortiz, but not for Tello. The judge sentenced Sinistera and Ortiz to death. In March 2013, Sinistera died in prison. In 2017, President Obama commuted Ortiz’s death sentence to life without parole.

David Lee Jackson — Black. Case: E.D. TX CR No. 1:05-CR-51 B. Jackson was convicted in the Eastern District of Texas for the 1999 killing of an inmate at the federal prison in Beaumont, Texas. On Nov. 13, 2006, the sentencing jury voted to impose the death penalty. The district court formally imposed the sentence on Dec. 15, 2006. At the time of the murder, Jackson had been incarcerated for a weapons violation. His co-defendant, Arzell Gully, was in prison for drug trafficking. Both men were sent to the high security federal prison in Florence, Colorado, after the homicide. Gully did not face the death penalty. Jackson, Gully, and the victim all were African American. (Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel). Jackson’s death sentence was vacated in District Court on March 25, 2013 and he was sentenced to life without parole on March 26, 2013. (Federal Capital Habeas Project).

David Paul Hammer — White. Hammer is a mentally ill prisoner who was convicted of killing a federal prison inmate at the federal penitentiary at Allenwood, Pennsylvania, where he was serving a 1200+ year Oklahoma state sentence. After initially pursuing an insanity defense, Hammer pled guilty to the murder. He was sentenced to death on July 24, 1998. Hammer then sought to discharge counsel and proceed pro se during post-trial motions. Counsel was appointed for an appeal and after counsel filed the appeal, Hammer moved pro se to dismiss the appeal, moved to withdraw the motion to dismiss, and changed his mind again. After protracted proceedings in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the court ultimately ruled that Hammer was competent to waive his appeal and that the federal death penalty statute permitted such a waiver. The federal Bureau of Prisons set an execution date for Nov. 15, 2000. Hammer then filed a clemency petition and a request to appeal. The district court stayed his execution, and directed that he file a habeas corpus challenge to his conviction and sentence on or before January 31, 2001. The district court overturned Hammer’s death sentence because the prosecution had violated its constitutional obligation to disclose exculpatory evidence, in this case withholding a number of witness statements that rebutted the government’s aggravating circumstance that the murder had been the product of “substantial planning and premeditation.” (Associated Press, Dec. 27, 2005). The government appealed, but the Third Circuit ruled that, under the federal sentencing statute, it lacked jurisdiction to review the case until Hammer had been resentenced either to life or death. On July 17, 2014,after a three-week penalty hearing, a federal district court judge in Philadelphia sentenced Hammer to life imprisonment without parole.

Angela Johnson — White. On June 21, 2005, a federal jury in Iowa recommended a death sentence for Angela Johnson (co-defendant with Dustin Honken)for her role in aiding drug kingpin Honken in 4 of the 5 murders he committed. If the sentence had been carried out, she would have been the first woman executed by the U.S. government since Bonnie Brown in December 1953. Johnson’s death sentence was overturned by the District Court on March 22, 2012 because of ineffectiveness of his penalty-phase counsel. In mid-June 2012, the DOJ announced that it would again seek the death penalty against Johnson. However, on December 17, 2014, DOJ announced that it would no longer seek death in the case. (Assoc. Press, Dec. 17, 2014).

Arboleda Ortiz — Black/Hispanic. In May 2000, a federal jury in Kansas City, Missouri, recommended a death sentence for Ortiz for his role in the murder of a drug dealer. Ortiz and two co-defendants, German Sinisterra and Plutarco Tello, are Colombian nationals. The jury recommended a death sentence for Ortiz and Sinistera, but not for Tello. The judge sentenced the two to death. Sinistera died in prison in 2013. Ortiz’s lawyers sought clemency from President Barack Obama on the grounds that Ortiz was intellectually disabled, his right to consular notification under the Vienna Convention had been violated, he did not himself commit the murder and was not in the room when it occurred, and had been denied effective assistance of counsel at trial. On January 17, 2017, President Obama commuted his death sentence to life without parole.

Ronell Wilson — Black. Wilson’s case was the first federal death sentence handed down in New York since 1954. Wilson, 24, was convicted of killing two undercover police detectives in Staten Island in 2003. The jury recommended a sentence of death on January 30, 2007. (Associated Press, February 1, 2007). The district court formally sentenced Wilson to death on March 29, 2007. Three years later, in June 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned Wilson’s death sentence because of prosecutorial misconduct: the prosecutor improperly commented on Wilson’s silence, in violation of his constitutional privilege against self-incrimination and his right to a fair trial. The government did not seek Supreme Court review of the circuit’s decision. On February 7, 2013, the District Court ruled that Wilson was not exempt from the death penalty because of mental retardation, and hence could be subject to a capital re-sentencing trial. On July 24, 2013, a jury in Brooklyn, New York, voted to resentence Wilson to death. The district court formally imposed that sentence on September 10, 2013. On March 15, 2016, the district court reviewing Wilson’s sentence found that the initial ruling on Wilson’s intellectual disability had applied an inappropriate standard for determining his intellectual functioning, in violation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 Hall v. Florida. Applying the correct standard, the court ruled that Wilson was intellectually disabled and ineligible for the death penalty. On June 26, 2017, the U.S. Attorney’s office announced that it would not appeal the district court’s ruling. (Associated Press, June 27, 2017).

Donald Fell — White. On July 14, 2005, a jury in Vermont recommended a death sentence for Fell, 25, for a carjacking in Vermont and subsequent murder of a woman in New York in 2000. He was convicted of carjacking and kidnapping resulting in death. The woman and her car were seized by Fell and a codefendant as they were fleeing Vermont where Fell’s mother and a friend were also killed hours earlier. The co-defendant hanged himself in prison in 2003. Prosecutors had originally arranged a plea bargain for Fell in which he would have been sentenced to life without parole, but the deal was rejected by Attorney General John Ashcroft. This was the first capital trial in Vermont in nearly 50 years. (N.Y. Times, July 15, 2005). The conviction was overturned in July 2014 because of juror misconduct. (WCAX News, July 26, 2014). In July 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that prosecutors could not admit into evidence statements made by Fell’s deceased co-defendant that attempted to shift blame for the killing to Fell. (Vermont Digger, July 23, 2018). The parties subsequently reached a plea deal, which the district court approved on September 28, 2018, in which Fell was sentenced to life without parole. (Vermont Digger, Sept. 28, 2018).

Jury Verdict for Death but No Formal Sentence

George Lecco and Valerie Friend (female) — Both White. On May 29, 2007, a jury in Charleston, West Virginia, recommended death sentences for both defendants for the murder of Carla Collins in order to protect their drug ring. Prosecutors maintained that Lecco arranged to have Collins killed and that Friend did the shooting in 2005. These were the first federal death verdicts in West Virginia since the federal law was reinstated in 1988. (Charleston Daily Mail, May 29, 2007). Lecco and Friend’s convictions were overturned by the federal district court in May 2009 before the judge had formally imposed the jury’s death sentence, because one of the jurors at the trial, William Griffith, had not disclosed that he was being investigated by the same U.S. Attorney’s Office that was prosecuting Lecco and Friend for allegedly possessing child pornography. (Williamson Daily News, May 7, 2009). A new trial date of October 27, 2009 was set for Friend, and the prosecution indicated that it intended to again seek the death penalty. On October 1, 2009, Friend entered a deal with the prosecution in which she pleaded guilty to a number of charges—including the murder of Collins—and agreed to cooperate against her co-defendant in exchange for being sentenced to life in prison. (Assoc. Press, Oct. 1, 2009). On May 3, 2010, a federal jury chose not to sentence Lecco to death after finding him guilty. He was sentenced to life without parole. (Charleston Gazette, May 3, 2010).

John Wayne Johnson — Black. On May 27, 2009, a jury in New Orleans, Louisiana, unanimously recommended a death sentence for Johnson for the murder of an off-duty sheriff’s deputy working as a guard during a bank robbery. There were two other accomplices in the 2004 robbery in which officer Sidney Zaffuto was killed. Johnson admitted he shot Zaffuto, but said it was unintentional. The jury found him guilty on May 19. Johnson’s attorneys planned to appeal on several grounds, including an assertion that the federal death penalty was being employed unconstitutionally in New Orleans because all 42 defendants indicted on capital offenses were either black or Hispanic. (Times-Picayune, May 27, 2009). The District Court judge delayed formal sentencing until February 3, 2010 to permit the defense more time to challenge the trial. Prior to formal sentencing, the District Court vacated Johnson’s death verdict and ordered a new penalty hearing for multiple constitutional violations including: admission of improper victim-impact evidence; a discovery violation related to this victim-impact evidence; introduction of an unadjudicated murder that the jury had found was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt; and improper government argument in the penalty phase that (a) compared the worth of the defendant and the victim, (b) compared conditions of a life sentence to the permanency of the victim’s death, and (c) pressured the jury into believing that a life sentence would be a capitulation. (Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel, May 18, 2010). On March 29, 2011, the U.S. Attorney moved to dismiss its appeal of the District Court’s order vacating Johnson’s death sentence and that motion was granted. The prosecutors subsequently withdrew their authorization to seek the death penalty and Johnson was formally sentenced to life without parole.

Sentenced to death and executed

Timothy McVeigh — White. McVeigh was sentenced to death in June 1997 for the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995. The United States Supreme Court denied review on March 8, 1999. McVeigh was scheduled for execution on May 16, 2001 but was granted a 30-day stay of execution by Attorney General John Ashcroft after it was discovered that the FBI had failed to disclose more than 3,000 pages of document to McVeigh’s defense team. McVeigh was executed on June 11, 2001.McVeigh’s co-defendant, Terry Nichols, was capitally prosecuted by the federal government in a separate trial. He was convicted by the jury and sentenced to life without parole. Nichols was later capitally tried in Oklahoma state court for the murders of the 161 non-federal employees in Oklahoma City. He was convicted, and again the jury sentenced him to life in prison without parole.

Juan Raul Garza — Latinx. Garza, a marijuana distributor, was sentenced to death in August 1993 in Texas for the murders of three other drug traffickers. Garza was denied review by the U.S. Supreme Court in late 1999 and was facing an execution date of August 5, 2000. The date was postponed until the Justice Department finished drafting guidelines for federal death row inmates seeking presidential clemency, which were issued in early August. Garza was offered the opportunity to apply for clemency under the new guidelines and a new execution date of Dec. 12, 2000 was set. In December, 2000, President Clinton again delayed Garza’s execution for at least six months to allow further study of the fairness of the federal death penalty. Garza was executed on June 19, 2001.

Louis Jones — Black. Jones was sentenced to death in November 1995 in Texas for the kidnap/murder of a young white female soldier. The United States Supreme Court granted review of the case and heard arguments on February 22, 1999. The Supreme Court affirmed the conviction on June 21, 1999. Jones, a decorated Gulf War veteran who had no prior criminal record, claimed that his exposure to nerve gas in Iraq and post-traumatic stress from his combat tours contributed to his murder of Pvt. Tracie Joy McBride in Texas. President Bush refused Jones’ clemency request. Jones was executed on March 18, 2003.

Daniel Lee White. Lee was convicted in Arkansas in May 1999 of the triple murder of a gun dealer and his family. Lee was convicted along with Chevie Kehoe in a plot to set up a whites-only nation in the Pacific Northwest. Although prosecutors considered Kehoe the mastermind of the plot, the same jury that sentenced Lee to death sentenced Kehoe to life. The court formally sentenced Lee to death on May 13, 2002. Lee was executed on July 14, 2020.

Wesley Purkey White. A jury recommended that Purkey be sentenced to death for the 1998 kidnapping, rape, and murder of a Kansas City, Missouri, teen. While serving life in prison for another 1998 murder in Kansas, Purkey confessed to the Kansas City crime in hopes of being transferred to federal prison. Prosecutors instead chose to seek the death penalty for Purkey under the 1994 federal statute. The judge is required to follow the jury’s recommendation. (Kansas City Star, November 19, 2003) Purkey was executed on July 16, 2020.

Dustin Honken White. On October 27, 2004 a federal jury voted to sentence Honken to death for the murder of two girls in Iowa in 1993. Honken was also given three life sentences: one for the murder of the girls’ mother, and two more for the murders of two other adults who were to have testified against Honken in a federal drug case. The children, white girls age 10 and 6, were witnesses to the murder of their mother. The judge is required to uphold the jury’s recommendation and impose the death sentence. (Des Moines Register, October 28, 2004). This is the third federal death sentence handed down in a state that does not have the death penalty in its own law. The other two were in Michigan and Massachusetts. Honken was executed on July 17, 2020.

Lezmond Mitchell
Native American. Mitchell and his co-defendants (including a juvenile) allegedly got a ride from a woman and her 9 year old granddaughter in Arizona. They killed both victims and stole the car supposedly for use in an armed robbery. Each victim was stabbed at a separate location. The Attorney General authorized a capital prosecution against Mitchell under a carjacking theory — although the murders occurred on Navajo tribal land and the tribe had not “opted in” to the federal death penalty. Attorney General Ashcroft directed that the case be tried capitally without consulting the tribal government. Mitchell was found guilty on May 20, and sentenced to death on September 15, 2003. Mitchell was executed on August 26, 2020.

Keith Nelson
White. Nelson was convicted of kidnapping a girl from her Kansas home and murdering her in Missouri. On November 28, 2001 a jury recommended the death penalty for Nelson, and on March 11, 2002, a federal judge imposed the death penalty. Nelson was executed August 28, 2020.

William LeCroy, Jr.
White. A jury sentenced LeCroy to death in the 2001 carjacking and murder of a North Georgia woman. Attorneys for LeCroy argued that the murder took place inside the victim’s house, and thus did not fall under the 1994 federal death penalty statute. The judge is required to follow the jury recommendation. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 11, 2004). LeCroy was executed August 28, 2020.

Note: Because of different definitions of what constitutes being “on death row,” some organizations such as the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel or the Bureau of Justice Statistics, may have a slightly different list of those on death row. Names in [ ] are defendants whose conviction or death sentence have been reversed but who still face the possibility of being resentenced to death on retrial. This list may also include prisoners who have been sentenced to death by a jury, but the judge has not yet formally imposed the sentence. These cases are marked with an asterisk (*).

See also list of federal prisoners executed since 1927.