dies on Kentucky death row
Oct 3, 2007
Death row inmate
Sherman Noble of Louisville died Monday of an illness, 2 years after he
was sentenced to death for the 1987 murders of 2 Jefferson County men.
Noble was sentenced
to life in prison in the murder of a 3rd man.
officials did not release the cause of death but said Noble, 54, had
been transferred recently from death row at the Kentucky State
Penitentiary at Eddyville to the Kentucky State Reformatory at La Grange
because of multiple health problems.
Noble died early
Monday at Baptist Hospital Northeast in La Grange, said Lisa Lamb, a
spokeswoman for the Corrections Department.
Noble was charged in
1987 with fatally beating three men within one week.
Noble had some of the victims' possessions when he was caught and he
confessed to the slayings.
He was accused of
killing and robbing Charles Thompson, Lorenzo Harris and Walker Ison.
But because of
mental illness, Noble was found incompetent to stand trial in 1988 and
spent nearly 10 years in mental institutions until he was found
competent in 1997.
He was tried on the
charges in 2004, with Noble helping defend himself in the case, making
opening statements and questioning some witnesses.
He was convicted and
sentenced to death for killing Thompson and Harris. The jury recommended
and the judge imposed a life sentence for killing Ison.
Sherman Noble was
sentenced to death on February 8, 2005.
In 1987, Noble gained entrance into the
home of his first victim, 40-year-old Walker Wendell Ison. Using a ball
peen hammer, he struck the victim in the head. Ison died of massive head
trauma. Marijuana was taken from the victimís residence.
On March 13, 1987, Noble gained entrance
into the home of his second victim, Charles F. Tompkins, age 70. He
struck the victim once in the head with a ball peen hammer, forcing him
to the ground. Noble continued to strike Tompkins in the face and head
area, causing death by massive blunt force trauma. After the murder and
over the course of several days, Noble stole numerous items that
belonged to the victim.
On March 16, 1987, Noble entered the
residence of his third victim, 87-year-old Lorenzo F. Harris. He struck
the victim in the head with a ball peen hammer, forcing him to the
ground. He then stabbed the victim approximately 18 times in the throat
and neck, resulting in the victimís death. He also stole several
personal items from the victimís residence.
The first victim,
Michael Edward Cox, 24, was found on July 31, 1985, shot dead in an
alley on Maple Street.
Noble to death for 1987 killings
Associated Press - Feb. 7,
- A man who languished in custody for 18 years without a
trial was sentenced to death Monday for the murders of two people in
Sherman Noble's case had been delayed for nearly two
decades while questions lingered about his mental competency.
A jury recommended that Noble be sentenced to death
for the killings of Charles Thompson, 71, and Lorenzo Harris, 87, in
March of 1987. The jury also recommended a life sentence for the killing
of 40-year-old Walker Ison, who was also killed in that month. Noble was
convicted Dec. 18 of three counts of murder, and a count each of robbery
Jefferson Circuit Judge Stephen P. Ryan accepted the
jury's recommendation in sentencing Noble to death on Monday.
Noble, 53, who has fired several of his defense
attorneys over the years and delivered his own opening statements during
his trial, appeared in court Monday in a wheelchair.
He said he regretted trying to argue his case with
little help from his appointed attorneys.
"I know that I was stupid to try this case like I did,"
Noble said to Ryan Monday in court.
Noble has been in jail or a state mental hospital
since his arrest in March 1987. Prosecutors said Noble beat the men to
death with a hammer. Harris also was stabbed more than 18 times.
Prosecutor Mac Shannon said that Noble knew all three victims, who were
killed in their homes.
Noble had professed his innocence at his December
trial, and claimed that police interrogators beat him and let him go
without food for most of a day until he confessed to three bludgeoning
Shannon called Noble a serial killer and said the
defendant was lying about police abuse to try to win sympathy from the
A police report following the arrest said that Noble
had proclaimed himself "a messenger from the Lord, sent to Earth to do
away with dope dealers, homosexuals and old men who were poisoning the
Noble was declared incompetent by judges in 1988 and
1994. He later was found competent by several psychiatrists, and another
judge declared him competent in 1997. The case later was put on hold
again when Noble filed a petition to prohibit proceeding on the grounds
that his right to a speedy trial was denied.
Man convicted in long-delayed Ky. trial
December 18, 2004
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A man who languished in
custody for nearly 18 years was convicted Friday night of three
killings in a case long delayed by questions over his mental
Sherman Noble had professed his innocence at his
trial, claiming police interrogators beat him and let him go without
food for most of a day until he confessed to the three bludgeoning
Noble, 53, was convicted of three counts of murder,
as well as robbery and burglary, but was acquitted of one robbery count.
The penalty phase is set to begin Monday; Noble could be sentenced to
"He was stoic," attorney Ramon McGee said of his
client's reaction to the conviction. "He accepted the jury's verdict. He
thanked the court and congratulated the commonwealth on the verdict."
Jurors returned about a half-hour before rendering
the verdict and asked the judge if they had any additional options to
consider, but Jefferson County Circuit Judge Stephen P. Ryan told jurors
he could not add any instructions to those they had already received.
McGee said an appeal is likely.
Noble has been in jail or a state mental hospital
since his arrest in March 1987 after the beating deaths over a span of
several days that month.
He was declared incompetent by judges in 1988 and
1994. He later was found competent by several psychiatrists, but the
case was delayed again when Noble filed a petition to have the charges
dismissed on the grounds that his right to a speedy trial was denied.
The petition was rejected.
Noble was assisted by McGee but handled much of his
"The commonwealth has not proven that I killed anyone,"
Noble said in his closing argument, his voice filled with emotion. "They
didn't see me kill anyone."
Prosecutor Mac Shannon said Noble is a serial killer
who lied about police abuse to try to win jurors' sympathy.
A police report following the arrest said Noble had
proclaimed himself "a messenger from the Lord, sent to Earth to do away
with dope dealers, homosexuals and old men who were poisoning the
children." Noble accused police of fabricating those words.
Noble was convicted in the beating deaths of Walker
Ison, 40; Charles Thompson, 71; and Lorenzo Harris, 87. Prosecutors
accused Noble of beating the men to death with a hammer. Harris also was
stabbed more than 18 times.
Shannon said Noble knew all three victims, who were
killed in their homes. There was no forced entry, and each victim was
facing his attacker and taken by surprise when assaulted, the prosecutor
Noble said that police failed to find "even one drop"
of his blood on his clothes or at the murder scenes. Shannon countered
that the victims were unable to defend themselves and never touched
serial killer waits for trial since 17 years!
being charged in the 1980s with murdering four men, three of them
bludgeoned with bricks, Sherman NOBEL (51) has yet to stand trial. For
more than 15 years, he has waited while a revolving cast of judges,
prosecutors and defense attorneys have debated his mental competency.
As time drags by, the 51-year-old NOBLE says witnesses are dying,
memories are fading--including his own--and his chance for justice is
Now, it is NOBLE who is slowing the process. A request to dismiss all
charges on speedy trial grounds is making its rounds through the higher
courts, temporarily suspending the possibility of a criminal trial.
It isn't uncommon for competency issues to delay a trial. But NOBLE's
delay has been unusually long.
who spent time in mental hospitals before his arrest, is accused of
robbing Walker ISON, Charles THOMPSON and Lorenzo HARRIS, and then
bludgeoning them to death with bricks during a five-day period in March
1987. NOBLE knew all three men and had been invited into their homes
prior to their slayings, police say.
Five months after NOBLE was charged with those murders, a grand jury
also indicted him in the 1985 shooting death of Michael Edward COX.
Prosecutors say NOBLE shot COX after a "long-running feud."
NOBLE acknowledges that he confessed to the killings, but says he was
beaten by police. "I would have said I murdered Jesus Christ the way I
was being beat," he says.
What exactly he said in the confessions is unclear because NOBLE's
initial interview with police is missing.
Deborah CORK, the mother of NOBLE's children, said in police interviews
that a mixture of religion and retribution was behind the slayings.
She told police in 1987 that NOBLE told her "he's tired of all these
snakes going around trying to cross him. And that he's going to do away
with them." She also said NOBLE admitted killing ISON, quoting him as
saying he "done it for my little girl and for God."
While McGee can understand why his client's competency has been
evaluated, he says the process spiraled out of control.
McGee says after the first evaluation in 1989, NOBLE should have been
admitted to the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center and re-evalutated
in a year. Instead, he was shuttled between mental hospitals and jail
and not evaluated again until 1991.
In NOBLE's 1995 evaluation, the third time he was been found
incompetent, Dr. J. Robert Noonan wrote that NOBLE's "psychopathology
appears to be limited to his perception of the judicial system and the
roles of his attorneys in it."
In 1997, NOBLE was finally found competent to participate in his own
defense. But lawyers and judges weren't convinced, and NOBLE, who says
he participated in the evaluations only to get to the trial he was sure
would exonerate him, stopped cooperating.
When McGEE came on board, he considered the competency issue settled and
began preparing for a trial. But NOBLE's appeals attorney, Jay POLOMBI,
is working to get the charges dismissed before one can be held.
Kentucky's Court of Appeals has already rejected NOBLE's speedy trial
petition, but POLOMBI said the state Supreme Court and perhaps even
federal courts remain an option.
NOBLE isn't giving up. He complains that the jailhouse food is robbing
his eyesight and that his skin is blotchy from spending 23 hours a day
in his cell.
Murder Suspect Still Awaits Trial 15 Years After Charge
January 21st, 2002
Louisville - Sherman Louis Noble
spends each day in the Jefferson County Jail, still awaiting a trial on
murder charges that are nearly 15 years old. Now 49, he has been locked
up in jails or state mental hospitals since his arrest in March 1987.
That's because Noble's lawyers, two circuit judges
and even the prosecution have questioned his mental competence and think
he's unable to assist in his defense. But Noble continues to insist that
he is mentally fit and should have been brought to trial years ago.
"I've never given up hope that justice will prevail,"
Noble said in a recent interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Several psychiatrists have deemed Noble competent.
His most recent evaluation described him as "lucid, coherent and
rational." And mental health experts said he acted appropriately in the
1997 trial of a federal lawsuit in which he claimed he was illegally
medicated and restrained.
He won his case against two Central State Hospital
officials, and his lawyer said he cooperated fully and testified at
length. But his murder case has been on hold since June 2000, when Noble
filed a petition to prohibit proceeding on the grounds that his right to
a speedy trial has been denied.
The Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled against him, but
the state Supreme Court agreed to hear his appeal, which is pending.
Jefferson Circuit Judge Stephen Ryan, prosecutors and
defense attorneys are scheduled to meet Friday to discuss Noble.
Currently, he is being held on a $250,000 full cash bond.
He is charged with killing one man in 1985 and three
others in March 1987. The first victim, Michael Edward Cox, 24, was
found on July 31, 1985, shot dead in an alley.
He's also charged with the deaths of Walker Ison Jr.,
Charles F. Thompson, and Lorenzo F. "Pat" Harris between March 11 and
March 15, 1987.
Noble says the courts have conspired to cover up
negligent police investigations and the public defender's office. Since
his arrest, he has been evaluated by at least half a dozen psychiatrists
and psychologists. The mental health experts split sharply on whether he
was competent for trial.
Under Kentucky law, a defendant is incompetent if he
lacks the capacity to appreciate the nature and consequences of the
proceedings against him or to assist in his defense. Drs. John Schremly
and Frank DeLand, who examined Noble in 1988 and 1991, said they found
But Dr. Theodore Feldmann, who evaluated Noble in
1988, 1990 and 1993 at the request of Noble's lawyers, consistently drew
the opposite conclusion, saying he suffered from "grandiose delusions
involving themes of religion, racism and personal persecution" and their
paranoid nature prevented him from trusting or cooperating with others.
Noble was declared incompetent, first by Judge Jack
Mudd in 1988 and later by his successor, Judge Dan Schneider, in 1994.
When Noble appeared before Ryan for another competency hearing in August
1997, Dr. J. Robert Noonan, a court-appointed psychologist, said Noble
had participated "appropriately and competently" in the federal case
against the Central State officials and was competent to stand trial.
Noble also stipulated that he was competent.
Ryan declared Noble competent, but Noble, however,
had represented himself at the hearing, and four months later, he asked
the court to appoint him a lawyer. That attorney, Jay Lambert,
questioned the validity of the August 1997 hearing, arguing that a
person whose own competency is questioned shouldn't be allowed to
stipulate that they are competent.
Ryan agreed to suspend the proceedings until Noble
could be evaluated again, but Noble refused to be evaluated, and Lambert
was allowed to withdraw as counsel.
Ryan stuck by his ruling that Noble was competent and
agreed to let him represent himself, although the court appointed two
attorneys as "shadow" counsel to assist him.
With Noble's appeal pending at the Supreme Court,
however, the case has gone nowhere. "We are just twiddling our thumbs,"
said Barbara Owens, one of the shadow lawyers.