A 55-year-old man who was convicted of the kidnapping and murder of an
8-year-old girl, has been sentenced to death in South Carolina.
In recent years
South Carolina has used the death penalty sparingly. There have been no executions in the Palmetto state for three years.
Ricky Lee Blackwell Sr., 55, choked Heather Brooke Center and shot her
four times in the presence of ex-wife Angela Davis and his grandsons in 2009,
The Spartanburg Herald Journal reported.
The newspaper reported that Blackwell and Davis were separated at the time
of the crime and Davis was dating Bobby Center, the father of the child.
News reports depicted the murder as an act of revenge.
The jury deliberated for more than five hours on Blackwell's fate.
His execution is scheduled for June 14 but it is likely to be delayed
as the case is appealed.
During closing arguments, Solicitor Barry Barnette told jurors that Center's
parents would miss many memories with their daughter.
"They'll never see her go on her first date." He said, according
to reports. "They won't see her go to her first prom. They won't
see her graduate from high school. How much would they pay to have one
phone call, to send a piece of mail to her?"
The defense argued Blackwell was mentally disabled. Barnette said the forensic
psychologist who testified was not "credible," pointing to two
other psychologists who did not find Blackwell to have mental disability issues.
Blackwell made a number of suicide attempts. He shot himself in the stomach
after officers arrived responding to the 2009 shooting. Barnette said
these were ploys for attention rather than evidence of a mental problem.
The jurors did not find Blackwell mentally challenged and unanimously agreed
there were aggravating circumstances to the crime.
In the past South Carolina has passed the death penalty on prisoners with
low IQs and mental disability issues. Earlier this month
, Edward Lee Elmore was released from prison in South Carolina after agreeing
to a plea arrangement in which he maintained his innocence but the state
could re-convict him of murder in a new trial. His release came after
30 years on death row following a conviction in 1982 for the sexual assault
and murder of an elderly woman in Greenwood, South Carolina.
"The state's case was based on evidence gathered from a questionable
investigation and on testimony with glaring discrepancies," stated the
Death Penalty Information Center.
In February 2010, Elmore was taken off death row after he was found to
have intellectual disabilities and was thus was ineligible for execution.
His defense attorneys claimed police planted evidence and prosecutors manipulated
the facts of the case to cast Elmore as the only suspect in the 1982 murder
of 75-year-old Dorothy Edwards, CNN reported.
The team at Masella Law Firm, PA has a long track record of successfully
defendants charged with violent crimes in South Carolina. Call us at 803.748.9990.