But when I visited with James Chambers on death row, knowing that in 2 days the state of Missouri would kill him unless the governor granted a stay, I could only listen and cry.
Here was a healthy man who had done a terrible thing. In 1982 Chambers killed Jerry Oestricker outside a bar near Arnold, Mo. The violence that resulted in Oestricker's death can never be acceptable, and my compassion extends to the Oestricker family and friends.
There are personal factors that help explain why Chambers behaved as he did, though none of them excuse his actions. There are questions about the fairness of the legal system, the adequacy of counsel and the proportionality of the sentence of death for this particular crime. Such circumstances are not unique.
In recognition of similar questions surrounding many capital cases, our United Methodist General Conference in May and our Missouri Annual Conferences in June passed resolutions asking for an immediate moratorium on imposition of the death penalty.
All of that was abstract until I looked Chambers in the eye and listened to him tell me about his mother, siblings and wife. When I asked him how he had spent these 18 years in prison, he said, "I have been fighting for my life."
His wife, Darlene, has remained faithful and has joined him in this fight. She talks, without stopping for breath, reflecting the urgency she feels, desperate to let me hear their side of the story. He speaks much the same way.
Now it is days later and I have watched him die. Strapped to a gurney in a glassed-in room, surrounded on one side by family and concerned people, on another side by the victim's family and on the third side by state's witnesses and news media, he groggily looked toward Darlene and with his last breath said, "I love you." Then the drugs that stop heart and breathing kicked in and he died.
Darlene beat the glass and screamed in pain. Her two young adult sons tried to help as they patted her and said, "Mama, don't cry. Mama, we are so sorry. Mama, we will take care of you."
2 hours before his death, I watched Jim as he spoke with me and Darlene by phone. He sat in his cagelike cell where he was placed 48 hours earlier. He was not allowed a bath or shave. The lights were always on, though they could be dimmed. A guard was with him at all times.
He got to touch no one, not even his wife. She was allowed to visit only by phone after 7 p.m. On that night, Jim was docile and resigned. He was already being given sedatives. He talked a little about God and his hope for forgiveness. We prayed again and I had to leave.
An hour before the time of execution, the governor called and said, "Go ahead." Darlene was stunned. She had fought for 18 years to keep this moment from coming and here it was. She voiced disbelief and cried softly as her family comforted her. We prayed. She asked, "Why is God letting his happen?"
They told us it was time and we went in and watched a man die.
The guards and the staff behaved professionally. There was an air of solemnity. Everyone was polite. Armed personnel were everywhere. Outside, protesters gathered. Inside, people did the job you and I paid them to do.
Almost a thousand prisoners are in this maximum-security prison in Potosi, Mo. A high percentage of the inmates have committed murder. Nearly 10 % have been sentenced to die. 46 people have been killed since Missouri reinstituted the death penalty in 1989. The cycle of violence continues, and we share in it.
of the inmates come from hard-living backgrounds. Many have experienced
violence since their earliest days. That is no excuse, but it helps a little
with understanding. Many are abusers of drugs and alcohol. Few have a good
education. Although most have poor impulse control, all prisoners -- including
most death-row prisoners -- stay 2 to a cell until their execution date
is set. There are a few psychopaths who are kept separate from the other
prisoners, as they need to be. Justice issues disturb me. There are a disproportionate
number of minorities and poor people in jail. What kind of difference would
it make if they had the
money for high-powered legal assistance? What if one of these persons scheduled to die is innocent? What if the sentence is disproportionate because they did not get the best legal representation? The questions are haunting.
I remember an employee of the Federal Correctional Institute in Texarkana, Texas, telling me, his pastor, "Now Ann, remember none of these folks are here for cutting Sunday school."
In Potosi, many have killed. Some should never be released. They are a danger to society, but they are human. We are not smart enough to decide who lives and who dies. This is God's job.
Since 1956 United Methodists, in our Book of Discipline, have said "no" to capital punishment and urged its elimination from all criminal codes.
felt called to witness this execution and its horror. The images are burned
into my mind and soul. Yet, I am viscerally aware that murder is even more
terrible. We must continue to protect all members of the community, and
I am grateful for the law enforcement and prison staffs
who do this difficult task.
We have a deep responsibility to care for and protect the victims of crime. But state killing is not the answer. It perpetuates violence. I trust God to help us find another way, the way of restorative justice where we are engaged in ministry with the victims and the victimizers.
Salt Lake City Tribune; Sherer is bishop of the Missouri
Area of the United Methodist Church, via United Methodist News Service)
you wish to help, you can write a check to "Darlene Chambers" (earmarking
it for the funeral expenses, her living expenses or for her discretion)
"Moore Funeral Home" (earmarked for Jim Chambers...) Mail it to the funeral home at:
"Jim Chambers' funeral expenses".
c/o Moore Funeral Home
105 Clark St.,
Letters of condolence may be sent to Darlene at her mother's home. Write to:
c/o Alma DeClue
Rt. 1 Box 1510
From Margaret Phillips - Missourians to Abolish the Death Penalty
James W. Chambers, 48, is to die at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday at Potosi Correctional Center. Chambers was condemned three times for the murder of Jerry Lee Oestricker outside the old Country Club Lounge near the Meramec River on May 29, 1982. Appeals courts overturned the first 2 trials, and he was convicted the 3rd time in 1991.
Prosecutors say Chambers sought revenge because Oestricker, 33, had struck another man inside the bar earlier that day. They say Chambers provoked a quarrel with Oestricker, dared him to step outside and shot him in the chest.
Chambers' lawyers say he killed the taller, heavier Oestricker in self-defense. They say no one has been executed in modern times in the United States for murder during a bar fight.
Darlene Chambers and the lawyers pressed their case in a private 2-hour meeting with representatives of Gov. Roger Wilson in the state capital. They seek a stay of execution and appointment of a special board to review the case again. "I just don't believe the governor will let him die," she said.
If appeals fail, she said, she will go tonight to the special viewing room next to the death chamber in the prison at Potosi, Mo. "I won't let him go through that alone," said Darlene Chambers, 51, of north St. Louis County.
She said they were married one year before the murder. She said she, her husband and Oestricker knew each other as students at Fox High School in Arnold.
A spokesman said Wilson would follow the system of Gov. Mel Carnahan, who died on Oct. 16. Joseph Bednar, general counsel to both governors, is reviewing the case and will announce a decision today, the spokesman said.
Wilson, the former lieutenant governor, supports the death penalty and twice allowed executions to be carried out while Carnahan was out of the country.
In a telephone interview Monday, James Chambers praised his wife's efforts, saying, "A man couldn't have a better wife than I've got."
But after the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis denied another appeal Monday, he said, "If the governor don't step in, I'm a dead man."
On the day of the murder, Chambers was on a weekend pass from St. Mary's Honor Center in St. Louis, where he was completing a sentence for wounding a man outside a tavern in Antonia in 1972. Darlene Chambers said she and her husband had planned to camp and fish overnight across the Meramec from the tavern.
According to trial testimony, James Chambers drove there with Jack Turner, whom Oestricker had pushed during a quarrel an hour earlier. Chambers argued with Oestricker and said, "Come on out, you . . . We'll settle this outside." When Oestricker followed him outside, Chambers struck him with a .38-caliber pistol, shot him and threatened other tavern customers.
"One of his friends had been dissed, and he went there for the sole purpose of provoking a fight, getting the guy to step outside and killing him," said Richard Callahan, the Cole County prosecuting attorney, who handled the 1991 trial on a change of venue. "If this had just been a bar fight, I wouldn't have even gone for the murder charge. He was in a mean mood, and this was a revenge murder."
Kent Gipson of Kansas City, one of Chambers' lawyers, provided the governor with examples of what he called inconsistencies in testimony from a key prosecution witness. Gipson said Chambers' trial lawyers had failed to adequately outline Chambers' need for self-defense.
"It was a bar fight," Gipson said. "That's when two guys get drunk, get into an argument that escalates into a fight and one of them ends up dead."
Chambers said he wished that his trial lawyers had allowed him to take the stand, even though he would have had to admit his criminal record. "It's hard to argue self-defense if you can't get up and tell your story," he said.
If Chambers is executed, he will be the 46th person put to death in Missouri since 1989.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
As his tearful wife wailed from across a glass window, James W. Chambers was executed earlier today at the Potosi Correctional Center for murdering a man outside a tavern in Arnold in 1982.
Darlene Chambers witnessed the execution from a room adjacent to the death chamber. Comforted by relatives and a Methodist bishop, she wept loudly and banged her fist against the glass.
spoke a few words to her and gazed at her until the first drug rendered
him unconscious. He was pronounced dead at 12:05 a.m. Chambers, 48, was
executed by injection for the shooting death of Jerry Lee Oestricker outside
the old Country Club Lounge on May 29, 1982. 3 juries concluded that Chambers
went to the tavern looking for Oestricker, dared
him to come outside to settle a fight and then shot him in the chest.
He received a death sentence all 3 times, but the 1st 2 convictions were reversed for courtroom errors. His final conviction in 1991 was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Chambers was turned down twice Tuesday by the U.S. Supreme Court. Gov. Roger Wilson announced at 10:35 p.m. that he would not intervene.
Chambers said he killed Oestricker in self-defense.
On Monday, Darlene Chambers, of north St. Louis County, went to Wilson's office to plead for her husband's life. Chambers' lawyers asked Wilson to reduce the sentence to life in prison.
Members of Oestricker's family witnessed the execution from an adjacent room.
"Our mother, who is dead, always wanted to be there, and this is the only way for us to carry out her wishes," said Jessica Coplin of Herculaneum, one of Oestricker's sisters. "It has been more than 18 years, and we want some closure."
On the day of the murder, Chambers was on weekend leave from St. Mary's Honor Center in St. Louis, where he was serving the final year of a sentence for shooting and wounding a man outside a tavern in Antonia in 1973.
the Chambers family awaited word Tuesday from Wilson's office, 2 courts
turned him down. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a final bid to reconsider
the case, and U.S. District Judge Ortrie D. Smith of Kansas City dismissed
a lawsuit by Chambers' lawyers and the Missouri Catholic Conference that
claimed the governor did not follow procedure in
At 9 p.m. Tuesday, the Supreme Court backed Judge Smith, ending Chambers' chances in court.
Members of Oestricker's family who witnessed the execution could not be seen either by reporters or Darlene Chambers. While the drugs were being administered a male voice in the victim's area shouted: "Now you know how it feels." Several other voices from that area told him to keep quiet.
Chambers becomes the 5th condemned prisoner to be put to death this year in Missouri and the 46th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1989.
becomes the 77th condemned prisoner to be put to death this year in the
USA and the 675th overall since America resumed executions on January 17,
Last year, James Chambers was within
hours of execution when his execution
was stayed by the US 8th Circuit Court because the US Supreme Court had
taken up an unrelated case in Nevada (Slack) that may affect the way death
row inmate appeals are interpreted under the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and
Effective Death Penalty Act. The US Supreme Court made their Slack decision
which unfavorably impacted Mr. Chambers, his stay of execution was lifted
and a new execution date is now set for November 15, 2000.
Mr. Chambers is on Missouri Death Row
for the shooting death of Jerry
Oestricker in a tavern brawl outside a bar in Arnold, Missouri in 1982.
Chambers was convicted three times in the shooting death of Oestricker. Two
of these convictions were overturned on state and federal appeals.
No person in modern history of the United
States has ever been executed for
a homicide that occurred in the context of a bar room brawl. There is no
case in Missouri on record where the death penalty has been imposed for an
individual acting in self-defense in a bar fight. There has been only one
case in modern times when an American jury has given the death penalty to a
defendant who killed someone in a bar room fight and that death sentence was
overturned on appeal as disproportionate to the crime by the Supreme Court
Mr. Chambers’s case is clearly not one
of the small percentage of
particularly heinous and aggravated homicides supposedly reserved for the
Evidence was not presented at trial
to prove that Chambers was acting in
self-defense against whom many considered the “town bully” a person who
regularly assaulted and battered people.
Mr. Oestricker had a notorious reputation
for violence and had been involved
in several barroom altercations similar to this one. Bill Lee sent an
affidavit to Governor Carnahan stating that he too had been a victim of
Oestricker’s violence in a barroom incident in South St. Louis similar to
the Chambers incident.
Never before in the modern history of
Missouri has an execution been carried
out where the victim’s violent and provocative behavior contributed to his
own tragic death. Witnesses were available to present this violent history
of Mr. Oestricker but were not called by the defense.
It is doubtful Mr. Chambers act in self-defense
met the statutory
requirements under the Law for a first-degree murder charge in the first
place. The requirement is the defendant (Chambers) must knowingly and
deliberately cause the death of the victim. Ordinarily this type of crime
would have been charged in the 2nd degree or voluntary manslaughter
requiring much less than a death sentence.
It would be a grave injustice to execute
a man for a crime that is so
disproportionate to the punishment of death reserved for the most heinous
and deliberate of crimes.
The key prosecution witness, Fred Ippert,
gave four different stories about
what he saw happen. This testimony was crucial to charge of first degree,
premeditated and deliberate homicide.
In fact at the preliminary hearing Ippert
testified that he witnessed the
shooting from his barstool through the window. At a later trial it was
discovered that the barroom window was painted black at the time of the
shooting. So in later testimony. aided by the prosecution, the key witness
was moved to the barroom door.
The prosecution also violated the Brady
Rule.(Brady v. Maryland-US S. Ct.
1963) Brady Rule is a claim that the prosecution failed to disclose helpful
information, generally exculpatory or impeaching, to the defense team.
The failure to disclose can be inadvertent
or purposeful; it doesn’t matter
so long as the evidence is “material, i.e. significant, likely to make a
difference. The prosecutor's duty of disclosure extends to knowledge of
facts known by everyone for the state, including police.
Recent files discovered in police files
at the time of the arrest were not
shared with the defense. This evidence would have made a big difference in
determining the circumstances and charge of First-Degree murder had it been
made available to the defense.
If Mr. Chambers had had competent representation
and discovery rules had not
been violated, the defense would have been able to demonstrate the key
witness for premeditation was neither reliable nor credible.
Evidence that Mr. Chambers has low mental
ability with an IQ of 78 was not
presented to the jury due to the incompetence of his attorney. Last year
before Chambers scheduled execution, the jury foreman of Chambers third
trial filed an affidavit with Governor Carnahan.
In this affidavit the jury foreman appealed
to Governor Carnahan that
Chambers life be spared because had the jury known Chambers mental
limitations they would not have sentenced him to death.
This jury foreman, Eric Chism, also
regrets haranguing one juror until she
agreed to vote for a death sentence. Mr. Chism also says in his affidavit
that had he known about the mental evaluations and the unreliable
prosecution witness, he, himself, would not have voted for the death
No Court has fully litigated and ruled
on these charges of perjured
testimony and Brady violations in the Chambers case.
We are asking Governor Carnahan to stay
the scheduled execution and call for
an evidentiary hearing to fully litigate these charges of perjured testimony
and Brady violations that have denied James Chambers his right to due
Please Contact Governor Carnahan!
Governor Mel Carnahan
Missouri State Capitol
PO Box 720
Jefferson City, MO 65101
Tom and Jeanette Block
Missourians Against State Killing (MASK)
PO Box 190466
St. Louis, MO 63119-6466
The Missouri Supreme Court has set a
new execution date for James
Chambers, thrice-convicted and long under death sentence for a tavern
slaying nearly 2 decades ago.
Chambers, 49, is to die by injection
at 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 15 at Potosi
Correctional Center, Missouri's highest court said Thursday.
His supporters promised to continue
court fights, based on Chambers'
latest assertion that a 1996 federal law aimed at curbing lengthy
death-row appeals denies him the right to battle for exoneration.
"We're going to try every avenue, file
every piece of paper in every
court we can," Chambers' wife, Darlene Chambers, told the Associated
Chambers has been convicted 3 times
of killing Jerry Oestricker outside
an Arnold, Mo., bar on May 29, 1982.
2 of the convictions were set aside,
with a state court and a federal
appeals court each ordering new trials.
Chambers was tried and convicted a 3rd time in 1991.
Darlene Chambers said she was not surprised
about the setting of her
husband's latest execution date, because "the Missouri Supreme Court has
been denying everything and anything we have tried to."
Chambers latest appeal is based on how
the federal Anti-Terrorism and
Effective Death Penalty Act affects his case.
Chambers' attorney, Kent Gipson, said
the law was designed to limit the
ability of death row inmates to appeal in federal courts.
Even though the law was passed in `996,
well after Chambers filed some of
his appeals, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals retroactively applied
it to his case.
Chambers won a stay of execution from
the St. Louis-based 8th Circuit
last November after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to decide about the
federal law's application in a Nevada death row case. Last April, the
Supreme Court upheld the decision from Nevada.
That's when Attorney General Jay Nixon
filed a motion with the 8th
Circuit to lift Chambers' stay of execution. The Missouri Supreme Court
sets state execution dates.
Missouri last cararied out an execution
on Sept. 13, when George "Baby"
Harris was put to death at Potosi for killing a man after they argued at
a Kansas City drug house in 1989.
Harris was the 4th inmate put to death
in Missouri this year and the 45th
since the state reinstated the penalty in 1989.
Press & Missourians Against State Killing)
Outlined below are the central issues
that will be advanced in Mr. Chamber’s
clemency application that will be presented to Governor Carnahan’s office.
Disproportionate punishment for the facts of the case The punishment of death is disproportionate to the circumstances of Mr. Chambers’ case. There is no other Missouri case where the death penalty was imposed for a murder committed in the course of a bar fight. All of the cases cited by the Missouri Supreme Court as similar to this case in conducting its so-called proportionality review, involve different and more aggravated types of homicide. There has only been one case in modern times where an American jury has given the death penalty to a defendant who killed someone in a bar fight and that death sentence was overturned as disproportionate to the crime by the Supreme Court of Nevada.
2. Ineffective assistance by trial counsel.
a) Trial counsel did not present evidence that Chambers was mentally retarded, having scored 78 on a previous IQ test and that he had suffered head trauma as a child. A mental health expert stated it was ‘quite likely’ that Chambers mental limitations caused him to act impulsively after provocation which indicated that Mr. Chambers did not possess the required mental state to be found guilty of capital murder under Missouri law. Counsel had absolutely no excuse for not presenting this mental retardation evidence in the penalty phase.
b) Significant evidence which
established that Mr. Chambers acted in self
defense was not presented to the jury. In particular, evidence that the homicide was not premeditated, and that Mr. Chambers actions were an impulsive response to a violent attack by the victim, as well as the victim’s reputation for violence, was inexplicably never presented at trial.
c) Trial counsel failed to highlight
the obvious discrepancies and inconsistencies in the testimony of the prosecution’s
star witness, Fred Leppert. This was the only evidence that refuted Mr.
Chambers’ self defense claim and supported the prosecution’s theory
of premeditation. Competent
counsel would have established the unreliability and lack of credibility of this crucial witness.
3. On Death Row for Seventeen Years
Mr. Chambers has been forced to spend seventeen years on death row awaiting execution. This case is exceptional in that the majority of delays have
been a result of errors by the State of Missouri which led to Mr. Chambers being
tried three times. Additionally, for over six years Mr. Chambers was housed
in the basement of the Missouri State Penitentiary where he endured cruel
and dehumanizing living conditions which resulted in the filing of a Federal
Law Suit by Mr. Chambers and other death row inmates in August 1985. Such
inordinate delays, coupled with the psychological torture involved violate
the Eighth Amendment. There is also a growing body of international law,
particularly from the British Commonwealth countries, that has held that such delays violate the English Bill of Rights which is undoubtedly the legal precursor of our own Eighth Amendment. Under these unique facts it would violate the Eighth Amendment and constitute cruel and unusual punishment to permit Mr. Chambers to be executed after such a delay.
From Missourians to Abolish
the Death Penalty
PO Box 54
Jefferson City, MO 65102
St. Louis: 314-241-8062, Sr. Carleen Reck;
314-516-6864, Margaret Phillips
Kansas City: 816-235-1600, Cathleen Burnett;
816-252-8000, Kathy Robinson
Columbia: 573-449-4585, Jeff Stack
Williamsburg/Fulton: 573-254-3993, Brad Sheppard
Jefferson City: 573-635-7239, Rita Linhardt
Pittsburg: 417-852-4601, Fr. Paul Jones
Potosi: 573-436-0068, Paula Skillicorn
Cape Girardeau: 573-335-3899, Sr. Cynthia Hruby
FROM THE NEWS
Killer's long stay on
death row wanes
By Jeremy Kohler Of the Post-Dispatch
Sentenced in 1982 to death
for fatally shooting a man during a bar fight, James W. Chambers of Jefferson
County has lingered on Missouri's death row for 17 years while higher courts
have reversed his first two convictions. His wait is almost over.
A federal appellate court in September denied the appeal of his third conviction. Chambers' attorneys have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear arguments on Chambers' behalf. A response from the court is expected in mid-June, said George M. Winger, a Kansas City-based attorney assigned to Chambers' case.
Chambers killed Jerry Lee Oestricker outside the Country Club Lounge in Arnold on May 29, 1982, after an argument in the bar. Earlier that night, Oestricker shoved Jack Turner, a friend of Chambers', for no apparent reason. All sides agree the fight began when Chambers entered the bar later and asked Oestricker to buy him a drink. When the bar owner asked the men to leave, Chambers walked out, saying, "We'll settle this outside." Oestricker followed.
What happened next is in dispute. According to the state, Chambers shot Oestricker standing in the doorway and shouted into the bar: "The rest of you want some of this?"
According to the defense, once the two men were outside, they faced each other briefly and exchanged words. Oestricker knocked Chambers to the ground. As Oestricker moved toward him, Chambers shot him in self-defense.
During his ride through the judicial system, three juries agreed with the state's version, that Chambers pulled the trigger as revenge for Oestricker's shoving Turner. All three juries condemned Chambers to death. Chambers' lawyers admit they have a slim chance of being heard by the Supreme Court, which hears about 60 cases per year out of 10,000 petitions and traditionally rules only on cases that will have a broad impact.
"The odds are astronomical they will do anything but summarily deny it," said Kent E. Gipson, another Kansas City-based attorney working with Winger on Chambers' defense.
If the Supreme Court denies Chambers' petition, he'll be executed this year, possibly as early as August, Gipson said. If the court heard the case, it could affirm the capital murder conviction and the death penalty; affirm the conviction but order a new hearing for
thepunishment; or order a fourth trial to determine guilt and punishment.
Since he was first convicted of murder in 1982 and sentenced to death:
The Missouri Supreme Court reversed the first conviction because jurors were not told that they could consider whether Chambers shot Oestricker in self-defense.
In the second trial in 1985, Chambers was again convicted and sentenced to death. The conviction was upheld by the Missouri Supreme Court, although a dissenting judge questioned why Chambers should be sentenced to death for "an ordinary barroom altercation."
* The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, however, overturned the second conviction because Chambers' attorney in that trial decided against calling a witness, James Jones. Jones could have said that Chambers shot Oestricker in self-defense, the defense said.
* In the third trial, Chambers was convicted in October 1991 and sentenced to death. This time, Jones testified he was in the tavern's parking lot at the time of the killing and that Chambers was thrown to the ground first in the fight. Chambers then got up and shot Oestricker, Jones testified. The third conviction was upheld by the Missouri Supreme Court.
* In 1997, U.S. District Judge Howard F. Sachs denied Chambers' request for a new trial. "This case seems to have been comparatively well tried, even If some may consider the result surprising," Sachs wrote.
* The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's denial of Chambers' appeal in September 1998.
If given the opportunity to present their case to the U.S. Supreme Court, Winger and Gipson will try to demonstrate that Chambers is the victim of a succession of ineffectual defense lawyers, that a key witness for the prosecution changed his account of the shooting at each trial, and that, in the first place, Chambers never should have been charged with capital murder.
The death penalty usually is reserved for the most heinous, premeditated murders, those involving torture or rape, Gipson said. It's never been proved that Chambers intended to kill Oestricker, he said.
Witnesses have said Oestricker was drunk and aggressive the entire day leading up to the fight with Chambers. Gipson said Oestricker is partly responsible for causing his own death.
"The thing that struck me is there has never been a case in America where someone has been executed for killing someone in a bar fight," he said. "I've researched this exhaustively."
How, then, Gipson asked, does it happen that Chambers is on death row? Sachs addressed that question in his 1997 opinion. While a tavern-related homicide may be unfamiliar context for capital punishment, 36 jurors have found it appropriate," he wrote. "They could
have found (the shooting) a successful assassination attempt or the deliberate execution of a large but lightly armed antagonist."
Winger and Gipson also would argue that executing a man who's been on death row for so many years is cruel and unusual punishment, a violation of Chambers' rights under the 8th and 14th amendments. This is called a "Lackey claim," after a similar death penalty case in which the claim was made.
Other judges have rejected that claim in Chambers' case, including Circuit Judge Richard S. Arnold: "Delay, in large part, is a function of the desire of our courts, state and federal, to get it right..."
Chambers' wife, Darlene, hopes a fourth trial would downgrade the capital murder conviction to second-degree murder or manslaughter, which would carry a penalty of about 20 years in prison.
If that happened, Chambers already would have served most of that sentence and could be released by his 50th birthday.
The CCADP offers free webpages to over 500 Death Row Prisoners
Contact us for more information.