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Robert Charles GLEASON Jr.

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Killed two fellow inmates while serving a life sentence and vowed to keep on killing unless he was put to death
Number of victims: 3
Date of murder: 2007 / 2009 / 2010
Date of birth: April 10, 1970
Victims profile: Michel Kent Jamerson / Harvey Watson Jr., 63 / Aaron Alexander Cooper, 26
Method of murder: Shooting / Strangulation
Location: Virginia, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on September 6, 2011. Executed by electrocution in Virginia on January 16, 2013
 
 

 
 

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Supreme Court of Virginia

 
Robert Charles Gleason v. Commonwealth of Virginia
 
 

 
 

Summary:

Gleason was serving life in prison for the 2007 fatal shooting of Michael Kent Jamerson in Amherst County. The murder was committed to cover up his involvement in a drug gang.

In 2009, he became frustrated with prison officials because they refused to move out his new, mentally disturbed cell mate. Gleason hog-tied, beat and strangled 63-year-old Harvey Watson Jr. who was also serving time for murder. Gleason pled guilty. Both in court and in media interviews, Gleason vowed to continue killing if not given the death penalty.

While awaiting sentencing at a highly secure prison for the state's most dangerous inmates, Gleason strangled 26-year-old Aaron Cooper through wire fencing that separated their individual cages in a recreation yard in 2010. Cooper was serving a 34 year sentence for Robbery.

Gleason again pled guilty, waived appeals, and got his wish after choosing the electric chair over lethal injection.

Citations:

Gleason v. Commonwealth, 726 S.E.2d 351 (Va. 2012). (Direct Appeal)
Gleason v. Pearson, Slip Copy, 2013 WL 139478 (W.D.Va. 2013). (Habeas)

Final/Special Meal:

Confidential upon request.

Final Words:

In Irish Gaelic, the phrase “Pog mo thoin,” translated as "Kiss my ass."

ClarkProsecutor.org


Va. man who killed two inmates is executed

By Frank Green - TimesDispatch.com

January 16, 2013

JARRATT - Robert Charles Gleason Jr., who strangled two fellow prison inmates, died in Virginia's electric chair Wednesday night, unapologetic to the end. Gleason, 42, was pronounced dead at 9:08 p.m. at the Greensville Correctional Center. Asked if he had a last statement, he said among other things, "Put me on the highway going to Jackson and call my Irish buddies. ... God bless."

He was sentenced to death for the brutal slayings of Harvey Gray Watson Jr., 63, his cellmate at Wallens Ridge State Prison in 2009, and Aaron Alexander Cooper, 26, at Red Onion State Prison in 2010. Both men were strangled. Watson was tied up, taunted, beaten and had a sock stuffed in his mouth. Cooper was repeatedly strangled and allowed to catch his breath before he finally died.

Family members of at least one of the victims witnessed the execution from a private viewing area. Authorities keep the identities and number of such witnesses confidential. Of the 110 people executed in Virginia since executions resumed in 1982, he was just the second to die for killing an inmate. Gleason was serving life for a murder in Amherst County in 2007 when he killed Watson and Cooper.

Gleason refused to appeal his death sentences and told lawyers not to oppose his execution. Gleason told The Associated Press that execution was the only way to stop him from killing. In a brief filed with the Virginia Supreme Court last year, the Virginia Attorney General's Office wrote that Gleason was, "an unrepentant murderer, has no regard for human life and will continue to kill." "Killing to him is no different than 'going to the fridge to get a beer' or 'tying a shoe,' " wrote officials, quoting Gleason himself. Gleason, said authorities, "repeatedly made clear that he would continue to kill unless he received a death sentence."

In affirming the death sentences, the Virginia Supreme Court noted that when Gleason pleaded guilty to Cooper's slaying, he claimed he deliberately targeted him as a favor to another inmate to be released soon and who would owe him a favor on the outside. Larry Traylor, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections, said Gleason's only visitor Wednesday was his spiritual adviser.

Death row inmates in Virginia have had the option to choose execution by lethal injection or the electric chair since 1995. Gleason was the seventh to opt for the chair while 79 have died by injection. At 8:55 p.m., Gleason was led into the death chamber surrounded by execution team members who held his heavily tattooed arms. He was quickly strapped into the wooden electric chair at his chest, arms and ankles. He smiled, winked and nodded at times toward his spiritual adviser sitting in the witness area. The adviser, Tim "Bam Bam" Spradling of the Richmond Outreach Center, said he believed Gleason was indicating all was well and he was ready.

After making his last statement, a wide leather strap - that covered his eyes and mouth but with a hole for his nose - was placed over his face and secured to the back of the chair. A brine-soaked sea sponge was attached to his right calf and a metal cap holding another brine-soaked sponge was strapped to the top of his head. Power cables were then connected to the head and leg. A key on the wall was turned to activate the system, and an execution team member watching the chair from a one-way window pressed the execution button.

The first cycle of electricity - approximately 1,800 volts at 7½ amps - lasted 30 seconds followed by 60 seconds at 250 volts at 1½ amps. His body tensed and his skin turned pink when the first cycle began. After a brief pause, a second 90-second cycle was conducted. After five minutes, a physician put a stethoscope to Gleason's chest just below a tattooed skull and failed to detect a heartbeat.

A psychiatric evaluation of Gleason in 2010 found that he had a history of substance abuse, depression and other problems but concluded that he was not suicidal and was competent to stand trial. Gleason was a native of Lowell, Mass., not far from Boston, and was an accomplished tattoo artist in Colonial Heights.

He wasn't a stone-cold killer with a dysfunctional personality to everyone. To Patrick Hoffman, 24, of Colonial Heights, Gleason was an extraordinary tattoo artist, friend and something of a father figure. Hoffman said he had known Gleason since he was a teenager, had some tattoos from him and worked in his second shop, Mom's Tattoo Parlor, from 2006 to 2007. "I knew him as Bobby, a lot of people called him Bobby," he said. "The Bobby Gleason I knew - he was a genuine nice guy, all-around good person," Hoffman said. "He was never, ever aggressive that I ever saw ... and he was a great artist." He added: "I had heard in 2007 that he had gotten involved in a shooting. It was mind-blowing. No one could believe it."

Former lawyers fought an eleventh-hour effort to have Gleason re-evaluated for competency but were given a final turn-down by the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday. Gov. Bob McDonnell said last week that he would not intervene.


Va. executes convicted killer who sought death penalty

By Justin Jouvenal - WashingtonPost.com

January 16, 2013

A convicted murderer who killed two fellow inmates while serving a life sentence and vowed to keep on killing unless he was put to death was executed Wednesday night in Virginia. Robert Gleason Jr., 42, originally of Lowell, Mass., was pronounced dead at 9:08 p.m. at Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, the Associated Press reported.

He was the first death row inmate since 2010 in Virginia to choose death by the electric chair instead of lethal injection. There were no complications. He also was the first inmate to be executed in more than a year. He had one visitor Wednesday: a spiritual adviser.

Earlier Wednesday, the Richmond-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit denied a request by Gleason’s former attorneys to determine whether he was competent to waive his right to federal appeals. Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) announced last week that he would not intervene in the execution. Gleason’s attorneys also appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to block the execution. “This is a bizarre case where the death penalty is actually the sole motivator for the killing,” said John Sheldon, one of the attorneys.

In court documents, the attorneys wrote there was “significant evidence” of mental illness in Gleason’s history, including prolonged bouts of depression and multiple suicide attempts. Wise County prosecutors declined to comment on the case before the execution, but they wrote in court filings that the trial court had found that Gleason voluntarily and intelligently waived his appeals and had actively sought the death penalty.

Gleason pleaded guilty to strangling his cellmate, Harvey Watson, with a bedsheet at the Wallens Ridge State Prison in 2009, saying under oath that he timed it to coincide with the anniversary of the killing for which he was sent to prison in the first place, according to court documents. Gleason later told the court that he “already had a few [other] inmates lined up, just in case I didn’t get the death penalty, that I was gonna take out.”

In 2010, he strangled another inmate through a wire fence in a recreation pen at the Red Onion State Prison, a “supermax” facility, according to court records. Prosecutors said he mocked the prison staff as they tried to revive Aaron Cooper. Gleason also pleaded guilty to that slaying and was sentenced to death in both killings. Gleason was given a life sentence for the slaying of Mike Jamerson in Virginia’s Amherst County in 2007. Prosecutors said he carried out that killing to cover up his involvement in a drug gang.

Virginia Department of Corrections officials said Wednesday that Gleason requested a final meal but asked that officials not tell the media what it was. As of late afternoon, officials said, he had received no visitors. Members of the victims’ families attended the execution. Gleason was the 110th person put to death in Virginia since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 and the first since Jerry Jackson was executed in August 2011.

Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty planned to hold a vigil outside the prison for Gleason and his victims. “Gleason’s case demonstrates the folly of capital punishment,” said Stephen Northup, the executive director of the group. “If we didn’t have a death penalty, he wouldn’t have killed these men.’’


Va. inmate executed for killing 2 fellow prisoners

By Dena Potter - PilotOnline.com

January 17, 2013

JARRATT - A man who strangled his prison cell mate and made good on a vow to continue killing if he wasn't executed was put to death Wednesday in Virginia's electric chair. Robert Gleason Jr., 42, was pronounced dead at 9:08 p.m. at Greensville Correctional Center. He became the first inmate executed in the United States this year and the first to choose death by electrocution since 2010. In Virginia and nine other states, death row inmates are allowed to choose between electrocution and lethal injection.

Gleason was serving life in prison for the 2007 fatal shooting of a man when he became frustrated with prison officials because they wouldn't move out his new, mentally disturbed cell mate. Gleason hog-tied, beat and strangled 63-year-old Harvey Watson Jr. in May 2009 and remained with the inmate's body for more than 15 hours before the crime was discovered. "Someone needs to stop it," he told The Associated Press after Watson's death. "The only way to stop me is put me on death row."

While awaiting sentencing at a highly secure prison for the state's most dangerous inmates, Gleason strangled 26-year-old Aaron Cooper through wire fencing that separated their individual cages in a recreation yard in July 2010. As officers tried to resuscitate Cooper - video surveillance shows he had been choked on and off for nearly an hour - Gleason told them "you're going to have to pump a lot harder than that."

Gleason subsequently said in phone interviews that he deserved to die for what he did. "The death part don't bother me. This has been a long time coming," he said in one of the many interviews from death row. Gleason said he only requested death to keep a promise to a loved one that he wouldn't kill again. He said doing so would allow him to teach his children, including two young sons, what could happen if they followed in his footsteps. "I wasn't there as a father, and I'm hoping that I can do one last good thing," he said previously. "Hopefully, this is a good thing."

Gleason had fought last-minute attempts by attorneys to block the scheduled execution. The lawyers had argued that he was not competent to waive his appeals and that more than a year spent in solitary confinement on death row had exacerbated his condition. Two mental health evaluations done before Gleason was sentenced in 2011 said he was depressed and impulsive but competent to make decisions in his case. Late Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request for a stay.

Use of the electric chair remains rare in Virginia. Since inmates were given the option in 1995, only six of the 85 inmates executed have chosen electrocution over lethal injection. Cooper's mother, Kim Strickland, had made plans to witness the execution. She has sued the prison system over her son's death and said she hopes Gleason's family can have closure. "May God have mercy on his soul," Strickland said before the execution. "I've been praying and will continue to pray that his family can heal from this ordeal."

Watson's sister, Barbara McLeod, said she had "mixed feelings" about the execution but "didn't want him to be able to kill more people." She, nor anyone else from Watson's family, witnessed the execution.

Gleason did not visit with family before his execution. Inmate's families are not allowed to witness executions in Virginia. Some protested outside the prison on Wednesday, saying Gleason's threats to continue killing should not be a reason to justify execution. Despite Gleason's crimes and his insistence on being executed, "the state should not kill its own citizens under any circumstances," said Stephen Northup, Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty's executive director.


Convicted Murderer Robert Gleason, Killer of 2 Fellow Inmates, Wants the Dealth Penalty

By Cory Zurowski - TrueCrimeReport.com

Monday, August 16, 2010

Robert Gleason Jr. loathed his new cellmate, Harvey Gray Watson Jr. He told officials at Wallens Ridge State Prison in Virginia as much. Gleason also told counselors and correctional officers that if they didn't move Watson, bad shit was going to go down. They didn't listen... For a solid week in the early days of May 2009, the 63-year-old Watson -- serving a 100-year sentence for killing a man and wounding two others with a 10-gauge shotgun in 1983 -- became an obnoxious fuck to Gleason's uneventful, incarcerated existence.

Watson, who suffered from mild mental impairment, spent almost every minute of every day with Gleason locked up in an eight-by-ten-foot cell, singing verses from the song "Dixie" at all hours, hollering expletives and jerking off. During eating hours and rec time, other inmates would egg Watson on to drink his own urine and spoiled milk in exchange for cigarettes. Gleason couldn't take it. Despite his pleas to have Watson shipped off to another cell, prison officials scoffed. Going onto the eighth day of their shared existence, Gleason knew the time had come: "That day I knew I was going to kill him. Wallens Ridge forced my hand."

The witching hour came when bed checks were over and lights were out at the facility. It was sometime past midnight. Gleason tied Watson's hands and arms to his torso using fragments of bed sheets. He also fashioned a gag using a pair of socks. Gleason soon removed the gag and lit a cigarette for Watson. He told him to enjoy it as it would be his last. Watson spit on Gleason's face when the smoke was removed. Gleason responded by hopping on Watson's back, beating him, and ultimately strangling him to death. Gleason covered the corpse with a bed sheet to make it look like Watson was sleeping. Officials wouldn't discover the murdered man's body until almost dinnertime the following day.

In the aftermath of Watson's strangulation death, Gleason -- already serving a life term for killing another man -- told The Associated Press: "I murdered that man [Watson] cold-bloodedly. I planned it, and I'm gonna do it again. Someone needs to stop it. The only way to stop me is to put me on death row." Now, a year and change later, Gleason is still not getting his wish of being introduced to capital punishment granted, so he decided to sending prison officials another reminder.

Late last month at the maximum security Red Onion State Prison -- Gleason's new home -- in southwestern Virginia, 26-year-old inmate Aaron Alexander Cooper was found strangled to death in the recreation yard. According to Wise County Commonwealth's Attorney Ron Elkins, Gleason was at the very least "involved" in the murder. It is more likely, though, the facts will bare out that Cooper died at the hands of Gleason. Authorities believe Cooper was strangled with a towel, piece of clothing or bed sheet that was somehow put through the chain link fence separating each inmate.

In two weeks Gleason is scheduled to be sentenced for murdering Watson last year. Attorney Elkins has said he will wait until that sentencing before he decides what course to take regarding Gleason's involvement in his latest killing.


Va. inmate: 'Only way to stop me' is death row

By Dena Potter - PilotOnline.com

June 13, 2010

For seven days, Robert Gleason Jr. begged correctional officers and counselors at Wallens Ridge State Prison to move his new cellmate. The constant singing, screaming and obnoxious behavior were too much, and Gleason knew he was ready to snap.

On the eighth day — May 8, 2009 — correctional officers found 63-year-old Harvey Gray Watson Jr. bound, gagged, beaten and strangled. His death went unnoticed for 15 hours because correctional officers had not followed proper procedure for inmate head counts at the high-security prison in southwestern Virginia.

Now, Gleason says he'll kill again if he isn't put to death for killing Watson, who had a history of mental illness. And he says his next victim won't be an inmate.

"I murdered that man cold-bloodedly. I planned it, and I'm gonna do it again," the 40-year-old Gleason told The Associated Press. "Someone needs to stop it. The only way to stop me is put me on death row."

Gleason already is serving a life sentence for killing another man. He fired his lawyers last month — they were trying to work out a deal to keep him from getting the death penalty — so he could plead guilty to capital murder. He's vowed not to appeal his sentence if the judge sentences him to death Aug. 31.

"I did this. I deserve it," he said. "That man, he didn't deserve to die."

Watson was serving a 100-year sentence for killing a man and wounding two others in 1983 when he shot into his neighbor's house in Lynchburg with a 10-gauge shotgun. According to prison records, Watson suffered from "mild" mental impairment and was frequently cited for his disruptive and combative behavior.

Watson was sent to Wallens Ridge on April 23, 2009, a day after he set fire to his cell at Sussex II State Prison. Gleason and Watson became cellmates on May 1, 2009.

In the days the two spent locked in an 8-by-10-foot cell, Watson would talk about how he had "drowned" two television sets because they "had voodoo in them," Gleason said.

He would also belt out "I wish I was in the land of cotton" from the song "Dixie" and other songs at all hours, scream profanities and masturbate. In the chow hall and in the recreation yard, Watson would get inmates to give him cigarettes for drinking his urine and clabbered milk.

"You can't be upset with someone like that," Gleason said. "He needed help."

Gleason said his requests to separate the two were met with mockery and indifference by correctional officers and prison counselors. He said he knew what he'd do once officials refused to put Watson in protective custody.

"That day I knew I was going to kill him," he said. "Wallens Ridge forced my hand."

It was after midnight when Gleason used slivers of bed sheets to tie Watson's hands and arms to his body and fashioned a gag out of two socks. He later removed the gag and gave Watson a cigarette, telling him it would be his last. Gleason said Watson spit in his face when he went to take the cigarette out of Watson's mouth, so he jumped on his cellmate's back and beat and strangled the man.

He then covered Watson's body with a bed sheet to make it look like he was sleeping.

Gleason kept Watson's death a secret through two mandatory standing counts — when guards are supposed to make rounds of the cells and have inmates actually stand up to be counted — and two meals. Officers didn't find the body until Watson's psychiatrist went to see him at 4:40 p.m. and found him dead, according to court documents. Officers falsely indicated on reports that they had done the counts properly.

Prison employees involved in the case denied repeated requests for comment from the AP. Department of Corrections spokesman Larry Traylor also declined to discuss the situation, but said that two officers were disciplined and two others were fired. One of the fired officers was reinstated upon appeal.

Gleason has since been transferred to the "supermax" Red Onion State Prison.

Watson's sister, Barbara McLeod of Longmont, Colo., said Gleason should be forced to spend the rest of his life in prison with no privileges.

"He doesn't deserve to be able to control his own destiny at this point. He doesn't deserve to have his death on the conscience of the state of Virginia," she said.

McLeod said her brother had a history of mental problems that grew worse during his last decade of incarceration. McLeod said she's upset that her brother was housed with such a violent prisoner — and angry that it took so long for guards to realize he was dead.

"Supposedly they are monitoring these prisoners," she said. "I guess not."

During a hearing a week before his June 1 trial was to start, Gleason warned Wise County Commonwealth's Attorney Ron Elkins that he would kill again if Elkins didn't seek the death penalty.

Elkins had offered to let Gleason plead to second-degree murder. He also offered to drop the capital murder charges and come back with a charge that didn't carry a death sentence. Elkins wouldn't say why he made those offers.

However, capital murder cases are typically lengthy and expensive, especially as appeals wind through the courts. Even though Gleason confessed, Elkins said he proceeded cautiously to ensure the case couldn't be overturned on appeal.

Court records show that Gleason told Elkins he had no remorse for killing Watson. He said he learned from his father to own up to his mistakes, and that he needed to prove to his loved ones that actions have consequences.

"There's nothing you guys can do to me to hurt me. Nothing," he told the prosecutor. "But there's something you guys can do to prevent someone else from getting hurt."


Robert Charles Gleason Jr.

ProDeathPenalty.com

On May 8, 2007, Robert Charles Gleason, Jr. fatally shot Michael Kent Jamerson to death off of Virginia 130 in westerm Amherst County, Virginia. A turkey hunter found his body in a wooded area. He was shot four times; twice to the head and twice to the body. The murder weapon was found on the banks of the James River by a college student who was fishing there. Gleason was part of a methamphetamine drug ring and believed that Jamerson was going to cooperate with the government against the ring. At trial, Gleason burst out with a string of profanities, denouncing the court and was removed. Shortly thereafter, he told the judge he wanted to just "get this over with today" and pled guilty to the murder.

Two years to the day after the Jamerson murder, Harvey Watson was murdered at Wallens Ridge State Prison. His cellmate, Gleason, was serving a life plus three years sentence for the Jamerson murder and was charged with the "willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of any person by a prisoner confined in a state or local correctional facility," a capital offense. On December 21, 2010, following an evaluation to confirm his competency, Gleason pled guilty to the murder of Watson in the Circuit Court of Wise County. Gleason confessed under oath, stating that he planned the murder to occur on the two-year anniversary of a previous homicide that he had committed. In 1983, Gleason admitted to binding Watson with torn bed sheets, beating him, taunting him about his impending death, shoving a urine sponge in his face and a sock in his mouth, and finally strangling him with fabric from the sheet. According to Gleason, he concealed the body in his cell for fifteen hours, making excuses for Watson's failure to emerge. Gleason further stated that he planned, once rigor mortis had passed, to dispose of the body in the garbage that was circulated to pick up food trays. Gleason was unsuccessful in disposing of the body before Watson was discovered by prison personnel. Throughout the circuit court proceedings, Gleason consistently repeated that he had no remorse. Rather, knowing that the premeditated murder of an inmate and more than one murder within a three-year period was punishable by the death penalty in Virginia, he commented to the court that he "already had a few other inmates lined up, just in case I didn't get the death penalty, that I was gonna take out." Following Watson's death, Gleason had been moved to solitary confinement in Virginia's "supermax" Red Onion Prison.

On July 28, 2010, Gleason was in a solitary recreation pen that shared a common wire fence with that of Aaron Cooper. Gleason asked Cooper to try on a "religious necklace" that Gleason was making. Gleason proceeded to strangle Cooper through the wire fence, repeatedly choking Cooper "'til he turned purple," waiting "until his color came back, then going back again" until Cooper finally expired. Gleason described himself laughing at the reaction of the other inmates. He then watched and mocked the prison staff attempting to revive Cooper. Cooper was serving a 34 year sentence for carjacking and robbery. Gleason was charged in the capital murder of Cooper for "the willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of more than one person within a three-year period." On April 22, 2011, Gleason pled guilty to the murder of Cooper. He informed the court that he had deliberately targeted Cooper so as to make a point to the prosecutor and as a favor to another inmate who was to be released soon, so that the inmate would owe Gleason, and Gleason would then have someone outside the prison to do his bidding. After accepting both guilty pleas, the court conducted a multi-day joint sentencing proceeding, considering evidence and argument by counsel and Gleason. The court also reviewed a pre-sentence report, Gleason having waived a post-sentence report. The court fixed Gleason's sentences at death, finding the aggravating factors of both vileness and future dangerousness in both cases beyond a reasonable doubt, and concluding that these factors were not outweighed by mitigating facts.


Gleason v. Commonwealth, 726 S.E.2d 351 (Va. 2012). (Direct Appeal)

Background: In two separate cases, defendant was convicted on guilty pleas in the Circuit Court, Wise County, John C. Kilgore, J., of two counts of capital murder of prison inmates, and he was sentenced to death in both cases. Defendant waived appeal as of right.

Holdings: On consolidated review, the Supreme Court, Leroy F. Millette, Jr., held that: (1) death sentences were not imposed under influence of passion, prejudice or any other arbitrary factor, and (2) death sentences were not excessive or disproportionate to sentences imposed in other capital murder cases involving killing of inmates or murders committed within period of three years. Affirmed.

Opinion by Justice LEROY F. MILLETTE, JR.

Robert Charles Gleason, Jr., received two death sentences following pleas of guilty to capital murder in the killings of Harvey Grey Watson and Aaron Cooper. Although Gleason has waived his appeals of right, Code § 17.1–313 mandates that we review the death sentences. In this review, we consider whether the sentences were imposed “under the influence of passion, prejudice or any other arbitrary factor” and whether the sentences are “excessive or disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases, considering both the crime and the defendant.” Code § 17.1–313(C).

I. Background

On May 8, 2009, Harvey Watson was murdered at Wallens Ridge State Prison. His cellmate, Robert Gleason, was charged with the “willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of any person by a prisoner confined in a state or local correctional facility,” a capital offense under Code § 18.2–31(3). On December 21, 2010, following an evaluation to confirm his competency, Gleason pled guilty to the murder of Watson in the Circuit Court of Wise County. Gleason confessed under oath, stating that he planned the murder to occur on the two-year anniversary of a previous homicide that he had committed.

Gleason admitted to binding Watson with torn bed sheets, beating him, taunting him about his impending death, shoving a urine sponge in his face and a sock in his mouth, and finally strangling him with fabric from the sheet. According to Gleason, he concealed the body in his cell for fifteen hours, making excuses for Watson's failure to emerge. Gleason further stated that he planned, once rigor mortis had passed, to dispose of the body in the garbage that was circulated to pick up food trays. Gleason was unsuccessful in disposing of the body before Watson was discovered by prison personnel.

Throughout the circuit court proceedings, Gleason consistently repeated that he had no remorse. Rather, knowing that the premeditated murder of an inmate and more than one murder within a three-year period was punishable by the death penalty in Virginia, he commented to the court that he “already had a few [other] inmates lined up, just in case I didn't get the death penalty, that I was gonna take out.”

Following Watson's death, Gleason had been moved to solitary confinement in Virginia's “supermax” Red Onion Prison. On July 28, 2010, Gleason was in a solitary recreation pen that shared a common wire fence with that of Aaron Cooper. Gleason asked Cooper to try on a “religious necklace” that Gleason was making. Gleason proceeded to strangle Cooper through the wire fence, repeatedly choking Cooper “ ‘til he turned purple,” waiting “until his color came back, then [going] back again” until Cooper finally expired. Gleason described himself laughing at the reaction of the other inmates. He then watched and mocked the prison staff attempting to revive Cooper.

Gleason was charged in the capital murder of Cooper under Code § 18.2–31(8) for “[t]he willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of more than one person within a three-year period.” On April 22, 2011, Gleason pled guilty to the murder of Cooper. He informed the court that he had deliberately targeted Cooper so as to make a point to the prosecutor and as a favor to another inmate who was to be released soon, so that the inmate would owe Gleason, and Gleason would then have someone outside the prison to do his bidding.

After accepting both guilty pleas, the court conducted a multi-day joint sentencing proceeding, considering evidence and argument by counsel and Gleason. The court also reviewed a pre-sentence report, Gleason having waived a post-sentence report. The court fixed Gleason's sentences at death, finding the aggravating factors of both vileness and future dangerousness in both cases beyond a reasonable doubt, and concluding that these factors were not outweighed by mitigating facts. Although Gleason was found competent to waive appeal and did so, we must proceed with the required statutory review.

II. Statutory Review

A. Passion, Prejudice, or Other Arbitrary Factors

We first consider whether the death sentences were imposed “under the influence of passion, prejudice or any other arbitrary factor.” Code § 17.1–313(C)(1). We find no evidence to suggest that this was the case. Counsel for Gleason have conceded that they cannot point to any evidence in the record that would indicate that the circuit court was influenced by passion, prejudice, or any other arbitrary factor. The circuit court, hearing the case without a jury, was meticulous in ensuring that Gleason was competent, and the record makes clear that Gleason consistently had advice from stand-by counsel throughout the proceedings. The court took great pains to explain to Gleason the procedure, the law, and his rights. Gleason was permitted to change his plea in the Watson case from not guilty to guilty to not guilty, and back again to guilty. The court granted each of Gleason's requests for a continuance, appointed every expert he requested, and granted all accommodations within its power to grant.

The circuit court also explicitly stated that, while Gleason had asked the court to consider a variety of reasons why Gleason should be sentenced to death on either or both charges, “the only things that I am allowed to consider and the only things that I have considered throughout this case, regardless of what testimony has been offered or regardless of what opinions have been given, are the statutory factors that a fact-finder in Virginia [may] appropriate[ly] consider”: whether the Commonwealth has proved vileness or future dangerousness in either of the two cases beyond a reasonable doubt, as well as whether mitigating facts outweigh these proofs. Gleason points to no portion of the record that suggests that the sentences were issued as a result of passion or prejudice, or that they were arbitrary in any way. Our review of the record likewise has revealed no such bias.

B. Proportionality Review

The statutory mandate against excessive or disproportionate sentencing in Code § 17.1–313(C) is not to “ ‘[e]nsure complete symmetry among all death penalty cases,’ ” but rather “ ‘to determine if a sentence of death is aberrant.’ ” Prieto v. Commonwealth, 283 Va. 149, 188–89, 721 S.E.2d 484, 507–08 (2012) (alteration in original) (quoting Porter v. Commonwealth, 276 Va. 203, 267, 661 S.E.2d 415, 448 (2008), cert. denied, 556 U.S. 1189 (2009)). The two crimes share several features relevant to our review. The murders were both clearly premeditated and accomplished by means of ligature strangulation, a very deliberate and personal method of killing. They both involved taunting or torture indicative of a particularly high level of cruelty: Watson was tied up, beaten, taunted, given his last cigarette and then had a urine sponge stuffed in his face, while Cooper was repeatedly strangled and permitted to catch his breath before he was killed.

We are required by Code § 17.1–313(C) to consider not only the crime itself but the defendant. In both instances, Gleason was dispassionate after the killing: Watson's body remained in his cell with him for fifteen hours as he plotted attempts to hide the body, and Gleason mocked officers attempting to revive Cooper. Gleason was very clear to the court that he had “no remorse for it, zero.” Gleason presented witnesses testifying to the fact that, even from prison, he was a danger to both the prison population and the population at large. He has shown from his actions that he is capable of orchestrating a murder in Virginia's most secure prison. He himself stated to the court: “You guys can lock me 24/7, take everything out of my cell.... Sooner or later, I'm gonna be the nice little man, and get out there” and kill again.

In the course of this review, we have considered similar cases for which a death sentence was imposed involving capital murders committed by inmates. See, e.g., Remington v. Commonwealth, 262 Va. 333, 551 S.E.2d 620 (2001), cert. denied, 535 U.S. 1062, 122 S.Ct. 1928, 152 L.Ed.2d 834 (2002), Lenz v. Commonwealth, 261 Va. 451, 544 S.E.2d 299, cert. denied, 534 U.S. 1003, 122 S.Ct. 481, 151 L.Ed.2d 395 (2001), Payne v. Commonwealth, 233 Va. 460, 357 S.E.2d 500, cert. denied, 484 U.S. 933, 108 S.Ct. 308, 98 L.Ed.2d 267 (1987). We have also considered similar cases for which a death sentence was imposed for more than one murder within three years. See, e.g., Andrews v. Commonwealth, 280 Va. 231, 699 S.E.2d 237 (2010), cert. denied, ––– U.S. ––––, 131 S.Ct. 2999, 180 L.Ed.2d 827 (2011) (death penalty vacated on other grounds by our Court); Muhammad v. Commonwealth, 269 Va. 451, 619 S.E.2d 16 (2005), cert. denied, 547 U.S. 1136, 126 S.Ct. 2035, 164 L.Ed.2d 794 (2006); Walker v. Commonwealth, 258 Va. 54, 515 S.E.2d 565 (1999), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 1125, 120 S.Ct. 955, 145 L.Ed.2d 829 (2000). We have additionally reviewed similar cases in which, after a finding of both aggravating factors of future dangerousness and vileness, a death sentence was imposed for a willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing by means of ligature strangulation. See, e.g., Bramblett v. Commonwealth, 257 Va. 263, 513 S.E.2d 400, cert. denied, 528 U.S. 952, 120 S.Ct. 376, 145 L.Ed.2d 293 (1999); Spencer v. Commonwealth, 240 Va. 78, 393 S.E.2d 609 (1990), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 908, 111 S.Ct. 281, 112 L.Ed.2d 235 (1990); Spencer v. Commonwealth, 238 Va. 563, 385 S.E.2d 850 (1989), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 1093, 110 S.Ct. 1171, 107 L.Ed.2d 1073 (1990); Spencer v. Commonwealth, 238 Va. 295, 384 S.E.2d 785 (1989), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 1093, 110 S.Ct. 1171, 107 L.Ed.2d 1073 (1990); Spencer v. Commonwealth, 238 Va. 275, 384 S.E.2d 775 (1989), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 1036, 110 S.Ct. 759, 107 L.Ed.2d 775 (1990); Clanton v. Commonwealth, 223 Va. 41, 286 S.E.2d 172 (1982). Finally, we have reviewed capital murder cases in which life imprisonment was imposed rather than the death penalty. After reviewing these cases and Gleason's actions as admitted to under oath before the circuit court, we are convinced that Gleason's death sentences are neither excessive nor disproportionate.

III. Conclusion

In sum, we determine that the death sentences were not imposed under the influence of passion, prejudice, or any other arbitrary factor and are not excessive or disproportionate. Accordingly, we will affirm the judgments of the circuit court. Record No. 111956— Affirmed. Record No. 111957— Affirmed.


Gleason v. Pearson, Slip Copy, 2013 WL 139478 (W.D.Va. 2013). (Habeas)

GLEN E. CONRAD, Chief Judge.

Robert Charles Gleason, Jr. is scheduled to be executed on January 16, 2013 for murdering Harvey Watson, his cellmate at Wallens Ridge State Prison, and for murdering Aaron Cooper, a fellow inmate at Red Onion State Prison. Gleason has plainly and clearly expressed his desire to forgo any challenges to his death sentences, and he has steadfastly rejected legal assistance to spare his life. Contrary to Gleason's directives, Jonathan Sheldon and Joseph Flood, Gleason's appointed state habeas counsel, commenced proceedings in this court by filing a motion for appointment of counsel.FN1 Citing 18 U.S.C. § 3599 and McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849 (1994), the movants' initial filing requests an order appointing themselves and another attorney to represent Gleason in any federal habeas corpus proceedings under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Following oral argument on January 4, 2013, the movants were given the opportunity to submit additional evidence in support of the motion. The movants have now filed a motion to determine competency, in which they request that the court enter a stay of execution, conduct an evidentiary hearing regarding Gleason's competence to waive further review, and appoint them for the purpose of adjudicating the competency issue. The movants have also filed a motion for discovery. For the reasons set forth below, the motions will be denied. FN1. The court will hereinafter refer to Sheldon and Flood as “the movants.”

Background

In affirming Gleason's sentences of death on direct appeal, the Supreme Court of Virginia provided the following summary of Gleason's crimes: On May 8, 2009, Harvey Watson was murdered at Wallens Ridge State Prison. His cellmate, Robert Gleason, was charged with the “willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of any person by a prisoner confined in a state or local correctional facility,” a capital offense under Code § 18.2–31(3). On December 21, 2010, following an evaluation to confirm his competency, Gleason pled guilty to the murder of Watson in the Circuit Court of Wise County. Gleason confessed under oath, stating that he planned the murder to occur on the two-year anniversary of a previous homicide that he had committed.

Gleason admitted to binding Watson with torn bed sheets, beating him, taunting him about his impending death, shoving a urine sponge in his face and a sock in his mouth, and finally strangling him with fabric from the sheet. According to Gleason, he concealed the body in his cell for fifteen hours, making excuses for Watson's failure to emerge. Gleason further stated that he planned, once rigor mortis had passed, to dispose of the body in the garbage that was circulated to pick up food trays. Gleason was unsuccessful in disposing of the body before Watson was discovered by prison personnel. Throughout the circuit court proceedings, Gleason consistently repeated that he had no remorse. Rather, knowing that the premeditated murder of an inmate and more than one murder within a three-year period was punishable by the death penalty in Virginia, he commented to the court that he “already had a few [other] inmates lined up, just in case I didn't get the death penalty, that I was gonna take out.”

Following Watson's death, Gleason had been moved to solitary confinement in Virginia's “supermax” Red Onion Prison. On July 28, 2010, Gleason was in a solitary recreation pen that shared a common wire fence with that of Aaron Cooper. Gleason asked Cooper to try on a “religious necklace” that Gleason was making. Gleason proceeded to strangle Cooper through the wire fence, repeatedly choking Cooper “til he turned purple,” waiting “until his color came back, then [going] back again” until Cooper finally expired. Gleason described himself laughing at the reaction of the other inmates. He then watched and mocked the prison staff attempting to revive Cooper.

Gleason was charged in the capital murder of Cooper under Code § 18.2–31(8) for “[t]he willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of more than one person within a three-year period.” On April 22, 2011, Gleason pled guilty to the murder of Cooper. He informed the court that he had deliberately targeted Cooper so as to make a point to the prosecutor and as a favor to another inmate who was to be released soon, so that the inmate would owe Gleason, and Gleason would then have someone outside the prison to do his bidding. Gleason v. Commonwealth, 726 S.E.2d 351, 352–53 (Va.2012).

After accepting Gleason's pleas of guilty to the capital murder charges, the Circuit Court of Wise County conducted a joint, multi-day sentencing hearing. Gleason represented himself at the hearing with the assistance of stand-by counsel. On September 6, 2011, after considering the evidence and argument presented by counsel and Gleason, the Circuit Court sentenced Gleason to death for both murders, finding that the aggravating factors of vileness and future dangerousness had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

While his cases were before the Circuit Court, Gleason filed a document expressing his desire to “waive[ ] all right of appeal in all of these cases and specifically and emphatically request[ing] that no one, attorney or otherwise, file any appeal[s] on his behalf in any of these cases.” (Joint Appendix at 244.) FN2 Leigh D. Hagan, Ph.D., the psychologist appointed to evaluate Gleason on the defense's motion prior to sentencing, was also appointed to determine whether Gleason possessed the capacity to waive his right to appeal his death sentences. FN2. The court will hereinafter refer to the joint appendix filed on direct appeal as “J.A.”

On September 19, 2011, the Circuit Court conducted a hearing on the matter. After questioning Gleason and receiving testimony and a written report from Dr. Hagan, the Circuit Court granted Gleason's motion to waive his right to appeal. The Circuit Court found that Gleason was competent to make a decision regarding whether or not to exercise his right to appeal; that he possessed the adequate level of intelligence to make the decision; that he was not suffering from a mental illness that would render him unable to make an informed decision; that he had the capacity to make reasoned choices; and that his decision was made knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently. (J.A. 1605–06.)

The Circuit Court entered an amended final sentencing order on September 19, 2011. Despite Gleason's waiver of his right to appeal the death sentences, the Virginia Supreme Court was required to review the sentences under Virginia Code § 17.1–313. On June 7, 2012, after briefing and oral argument, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentences, finding that they “were not imposed under the influence of passion, prejudice, or any other arbitrary factor and are not excessive or disproportionate.” Gleason v. Commonwealth, 726 S.E.2d 351, 354 (Va.2012). Gleason did not seek a rehearing or petition the United States Supreme Court for certiorari. After Gleason's death sentences were affirmed on direct appeal, the movants were appointed to represent Gleason during the course of any state habeas proceedings, pursuant to the mandatory appointment provision set forth in Virginia Code § 19.2–163.7. Gleason ultimately forbade the filing of a state habeas petition, and no petition was filed on his behalf.

On October 3, 2012, the movants filed in the Virginia Supreme Court a “motion to establish jurisdiction prior to filing a petition for writ of habeas corpus.” (Docket No. 4–8.) The movants stated that Gleason was refusing to permit the filing of a habeas petition. They requested the Supreme Court to establish which court would have jurisdiction to determine whether Gleason was competent to waive habeas review. The Attorney General of Virginia filed a brief in opposition to the motion, arguing that Gleason had not requested the relief sought, and that the movants were attempting to intervene against Gleason's wishes without standing to do so. The Supreme Court denied the motion in a summary order entered on October 17, 2012.

The Instant Motions

On December 20, 2012, the movants initiated proceedings in this court by filing a motion for appointment of counsel, in which they expressed concerns regarding Gleason's competence. Following the filing of a brief in opposition by the respondent, the movants argued their motion on January 4, 2013. During that proceeding, the court also received argument by Katherine Burnett, the Senior Assistant Attorney General representing the respondent, as well as a statement by Gleason. When given the opportunity to address the court, Gleason plainly and clearly stated that he wants to maintain his current execution date, that he does not want to pursue federal habeas corpus relief, and that he does not want the movants or any other attorney to attempt to pursue such relief on his behalf. Gleason confirmed that he has spoken to family members, friends, and officers about his decisions. Gleason emphasized that he has hurt people, that he deserves the punishment imposed for his crimes, and that there is no valid reason to delay his execution. When questioned by the court regarding what he wants to occur, Gleason responded as follows: “I don't want an attorney. I want to let the January 16th [execution] day go as is.” (Docket No. 14 at 22.)

Following the proceeding, the movants requested that the court delay its ruling on the motion for appointment of counsel, pending the submission of additional evidence regarding Gleason's alleged incompetence. The court ultimately granted the request and gave the movants until 5:00 p.m. on January 9, 2013 to submit any additional evidence in support of the motion for appointment of counsel. Minutes before the deadline set forth in the court's order, the movants filed a motion to determine Gleason's competency to waive proceedings. Shortly after the deadline, the movants filed a memorandum in support of the second motion, along with a number of exhibits. The exhibits include, among other submissions, declarations from the movants and other attorneys; a declaration from Eileen P. Ryan, D.O., a psychiatrist who evaluated Gleason's competency to stand trial in March of 2010 in connection with the first capital murder case; records from Gleason's July 1998 admission to John Umstead Hospital in Butner, North Carolina following an overdose; and prison records indicating that Gleason was placed on “hunger strike protocol” in June of 2012 after missing several consecutive meals.

On January 10, 2013 at 1:46 p.m., the movants filed a motion for discovery. Emphasizing that their motion for appointment of counsel under 18 U.S.C. § 3599 is currently pending, the movants request an order directing Sussex I State Prison to disclose Gleason's medical and psychiatric records, and directing the Attorney General of Virginia to disclose “any and all of its communications” with Gleason. (Docket No. 26 at 1.)

Discussion

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. “They are not generalized overseers of the state court systems, not even in death penalty cases.” West v. Bell, 242 F.3d 338, 341 (6th Cir.2001). Although death row inmates can invoke the jurisdiction of the federal courts by filing a petition for writ of habeas corpus under § 2254, Gleason has elected not to do so.

Under existing United States Supreme Court precedent, a third party, or “next friend,” may challenge the validity of a death sentence imposed on a capital defendant who has elected to forgo further review only if the third party has standing to do so. See Whitmore v. Arkansas, 495 U.S. 149, 162–64 (1990); Demosthenes v.. Baal, 495 U.S. 731, 734–35 (1990). The “burden is on the ‘next friend’ clearly to establish the propriety of his status and thereby justify the jurisdiction of the court.” Whitmore, 495 U.S. at 164. A prerequisite to “next friend” standing is “a showing by the proposed ‘next friend’ that the real party in interest is unable to litigate his own cause due to mental incapacity, lack of access to court, or other similar disability.” Id. at 165. In attempting to meet this requirement, the “usual explanation” proffered by a party seeking next friend standing is an inmate's mental incompetency. Sanchez–Velasco v. Sec'y of the Dep't of Corr., 287 F.3d 1015, 1029 (11th Cir.2002).

In this case, the movants have not expressly sought to obtain next friend standing. Instead, they seek to be appointed as counsel, to stay Gleason's execution, to obtain discovery, and to have an evidentiary hearing on Gleason's competence, so that they can, apparently, attempt to establish standing to file a petition for writ of habeas corpus on Gleason's behalf. As the respondent has emphasized, however, there is no authority for the process proposed by the movants. Neither 18 U.S.C. § 3599 (requiring the appointment of counsel for an indigent death row inmate who wishes to file a habeas corpus petition), nor McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849, 859 (1994) (concluding that “a capital defendant may invoke the right to a counseled habeas corpus proceeding by filing a motion requesting the appointment of habeas counsel, and that a district court has jurisdiction to enter a stay of execution where necessary to give effect to that statutory right”), mandate the appointment of counsel or a stay of execution, regardless of an inmate's wishes. See West, 242 F.3d at 341 (holding that “ McFarland applies, at most, to a prisoner's seeking counsel to file a habeas, or, perhaps a qualified next friend seeking time to prepare a habeas petition) (emphasis added). Instead, to intervene against an inmate's wishes, the requirements of Whitmore must be met. Id . In this case, the court is convinced that the movants have failed to establish their entitlement to proceed under this precedent.

The Circuit Court of Wise County considered Gleason's mental capacity on multiple occasions, and was “meticulous” in ensuring that Gleason was competent to stand trial; that he had the ability to knowingly and voluntarily plead guilty to both charges of capital murder; and that he was capable of representing himself at sentencing with the assistance of stand-by counsel. Gleason, 726 S.E.2d at 353. Likewise, following an evidentiary hearing and the submission of an additional competency evaluation by Dr. Hagan, the Circuit Court found that Gleason had the capacity to decide whether or not to exercise his right to appeal, and that Gleason's decision to waive this right was made knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently.

The Circuit Court's findings, and the ultimate decision that Gleason was competent to waive further challenges to his convictions and death sentences, are factual in nature and are entitled to a presumption of correctness under Demosthenes v. Baal, supra, and 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). See Demosthenes, 495 U.S. at 735 (concluding that a state court's competency determination is entitled to a presumption of correctness on federal habeas review); 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1) (providing that “[i]n a proceeding instituted by an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court, a determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct”); see also Daughtry v. Polk, 190 F. App'x 262, 275 (4th Cir.2006) (“Whether a defendant is competent is a question of fact. We also must accord the state court's determination that Daughtry was competent ... a presumption of correctness under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).”); Sanchez–Velasco, 287 F.3d at 1030 (“The district court failed to give the state courts' determination that Sanchez–Velasco was mentally competent to decide for himself whether to pursue further challenges to his conviction and death sentence the presumption of correctness it was entitled to under Demosthenes ”): Akers v. Angelone, 147 F.Supp.2d 447, 449 (W.D.Va.2001) (holding that a state court's competency determination was entitled to deference). This presumption of correctness “can be overcome only if the party challenging the inmate's mental competency comes forward with evidence that clearly and convincingly establishes incompetency.” Sanchez–Velasco, 287 F.3d at 1030; see also U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

In their 38–page memorandum filed on January 9, 2013, the movants make no specific reference to the presumption of correctness afforded to a state court's competency determination. Instead, relying on a declaration from Dr. Ryan, the movants emphasize that “[a]ny competency determination, by its nature, is temporal,” and that the Circuit Court's most recent competency determination was made over a year ago. (Docket No. 23 at 5, n. 1.) While the court recognizes that this is more time than had elapsed between the state court findings and the filing of the federal habeas corpus petition in Demosthenes, it is not so much time as to eliminate the presumption of correctness to which the Circuit Court's factual findings, and its ultimate competency determination, are entitled. See Sanchez–Velasco, 287 F.3d at 1030–31 (holding that “the district court should have accepted as correct the state court's finding,” made over two years earlier, “that Sanchez–Velasco is mentally competent to decide his legal fate”); Akers, 147 F.Supp.2d at 450–51 (applying the presumption of correctness to the state court's competency determinations, which were made nearly a year before an attorney attempted to file a federal habeas petition on the death row inmate's behalf).

The movants also argue that that there are “serious reasons” to doubt the validity of the Circuit Court's competency findings, and that “[t]his court should therefore conduct proceedings sufficient to determine [Gleason's] competency to assist counsel and waive post-conviction review, including an evidentiary hearing.” (Docket No. 23 at 5.) Having considered the evidence proffered by the movants and the relevant case law, the court is unable to agree. “In the face of a state court determination that the real party in interest inmate is mentally competent, in order to be entitled to a federal evidentiary hearing on the issue[,] a would-be next friend must proffer evidence that does one of two things.” Sanchez–Velasco, 287 F.3d at 1030. Specifically, “[t]he proffered evidence either must clearly and convincingly establish that the state court finding was erroneous when made, or it must show that even though the state court finding was correct when made[,] the mental condition of the inmate has deteriorated to the point that he is no longer mentally competent.” Id. Applying this standard, the court concludes that the movants have failed to proffer sufficient evidence to overcome the presumption of correctness afforded to the Circuit Court's competency findings, and that there is no valid basis for further inquiry into the issue of Gleason's competence.

The Circuit Court's determination that Gleason was competent to waive the right to appeal his sentences of death was based, at least in part, on the testimony and written opinions of Dr. Hagan, who was specifically appointed to evaluate Gleason's capacity in this regard. While the movants now challenge the validity of Dr. Hagan's most recent competency report from August of 2011, the court finds the movants' arguments unpersuasive. Aside from arguing, in a conclusory fashion, that “Dr. Hagan unreasonably relied almost exclusively on Mr. Gleason's self-report to find him competent,” (Docket No. 23 at 17), the movants' only other challenge to the validity of Dr. Hagan's report is that it makes no mention of Gleason's admission to John Umstead Hospital in 1998, following an overdose. Even assuming, however, that Dr. Hagan did not consider these hospital records, the movants have failed to demonstrate that the records would have altered Dr. Hagan's opinion that Gleason was competent to waive further review, or that the Circuit Court's competency determination was based on clear error.FN3 See Demosthenes, 495 U.S. at 736–37 (holding that evidence of a death row inmate's prior suicide attempts did not provide meaningful evidence of incompetency, and that the district court correctly denied a motion for further evidentiary hearing on the inmate's competence to waive his right to proceed); Dennis v. Butko, 378 F.3d 880, 892 (9th Cir.2004) (“[E]vidence of suicidal ideation or attempts to commit suicide in the past is insufficient to demonstrate incompetency.”). FN3. The court must note that the hospital records were among the documents reviewed by Dr. Ryan in March of 2010, when she determined that Gleason was competent to stand trial. (J.A. 1694.)

The movants' January 9, 2013 memorandum also purports to outline “current evidence of [Gleason's] incompetence.” (Docket No. 23 at 26.) This evidence, however, consists solely of declarations from the movants and other attorneys opining that Gleason's mental capacity has declined in more recent months, as well as the prison records indicating that Gleason was placed on hunger strike protocol after missing meals. While the movants have ample experience defending capital cases, they are not mental health experts, and the court is convinced that neither their declarations, nor the prison records, provide credible evidence that Gleason's mental capacity has “deteriorated to the point that he is no longer mentally competent.” Sanchez–Velasco, 287 F.3d at 1030; see also Akers, 147 F.Supp.2d at 451 (dismissing a habeas petition filed by an attorney against the wishes of a death row inmate, where the attorney offered “no credible evidence that [the inmate's] mental condition [had] changed” since the state court's competency findings were made); Smith v. Armontrout, 865 F.2d 1502, 1506 (8th Cir.1988) (holding “that the new allegations of fact made by the next friends, even when supplemented by the three new psychiatric affidavits,” did not warrant a new evidentiary hearing on a death row inmate's competence); Evans v. McCotter, 805 F.3d 1210, 1214 (5th Cir.1986) (holding that an affidavit from a death row inmate's sister, which stated that the inmate's mental condition had worsened, was insufficient to overcome the state court's sanity determination, or otherwise warrant an evidentiary hearing in federal court).

Sheldon's declaration also indicates that he spoke to Gleason by telephone on January 8, 2013. According to the declaration, Sheldon asked Gleason “whether he wanted the execution stopped or whether he wanted to die.” (Docket No. 23–1 at 2.) In response, Gleason noted that he had “never said [he] wanted to die.” ( Id.) While the movants reference Gleason's response in their January 9, 2013 memorandum, they wisely refrain from suggesting that Gleason now wishes to pursue federal habeas relief. Succinctly stated, the fact that a death row inmate does not “want to die” does not mean that he wishes to pursue a legal challenge to his sentence of death or seek to stay his execution. As set forth above, Gleason plainly and clearly stated in court on January 4, 2013 that he wishes to maintain his current execution date, and that he does not want the movants or any other attorney to intervene on his behalf.

Conclusion

In sum, the evidence presented by the movants, either standing alone or when considered in combination with other submissions, does not clearly and convincingly establish that the Circuit Court's competency findings were clearly erroneous. Likewise, the movants have failed to proffer sufficient evidence to establish that Gleason's condition has deteriorated to the point that he is no longer competent to waive further review. Accordingly, “no adequate basis exists for the exercise of federal power” in this matter, Demosthenes, 495 U.S. at 737, and the pending motions must be denied. The Clerk is directed to send certified copies of this memorandum opinion and the accompanying order to Gleason and all counsel of record.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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