Romano and Woodruff were convicted of killing a jeweler, Roger
Sarfaty, during the course of a robbery.
Sarfaty was an acquaintance of Romano and had been bound hand and
foot and strangled, beaten about the head and stabbed five times. A
friend first discovered his body, around 11:00 P.M. Tuesday, October
At the time, Romano was serving a prison sentence and had been out
on weekend furlough from Friday evening, October 11 through Sunday
evening, October 13.
The State's theory was that the murder occurred on Saturday, October
12, between 2:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M. Romano and Woodruff do not have
alibis for at least part of that time period.
On Sunday, October 13, Woodruff's girlfriend observed that Woodruff
had a lot of jewelry which he could not afford. Sarfaty also kept as
many as six large containers of quarters in his apartment, which
were missing after the murder.
On Saturday afternoon, October 12, Romano and Woodruff, who were
then intoxicated, attempted to purchase a television at a mall
store, using only quarters. When mall security took them into
custody for being drunk and disorderly, Romano had a "lock blade"
folding knife. He was also wearing an expensive-looking gold
When police arrested Woodruff ten months after
Sarfaty's murder, he called his girlfriend and asked her to "clear"
the house. A few weeks before the murder, Romano was in need of
money and had asked a friend, Tracy Greggs, to help him rob Sarfaty,
and stated he would have to kill him.
The State jointly tried Woodruff and Romano. The jury convicted both
of first degree malice murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon.
In a related matter, prior to the Sarfaty trial, the State had
jointly tried Woodruff and Romano for murdering another Romano
acquaintance, Lloyd Thompson.
In that case, a jury also convicted both men of first degree murder
and sentenced them to death. The State introduced evidence of those
Thompson convictions and death sentences during sentencing in the
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the Thompson
convictions and death sentences, holding the trial court had erred
in jointly trying Woodruff and Romano for that murder.
subsequently retried Woodruff and Romano for Thompson's murder.
Separate juries again convicted both of first degree murder.
Romano's jury sentenced him to death, but Woodruff received a
sentence of life imprisonment without parole.
Romano v. Oklahoma, 827 P. 2d 1335 (1992) (Thompson Direct
Romano v. Oklahoma, 847 P. 2d 368, 390 (1993) (Sarfaty Direct
Spaghetti with meatballs, ravioli and sausage and strawberry or
"For whoever I've wronged, I'd like for them to forgive me. I'd like
to tell my family and friends I love you. Thanks for your love and
Oklahoma Attorney General
News Release - W.A. Drew Edmondson, Attorney
November 27, 2001
Execution Dates Requested for Romano, Woodruff.
Attorney General Drew Edmondson today asked the
Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to set execution dates for the
two men convicted of killing a 52-year-old Oklahoma City man.
U.S. Supreme Court yesterday denied the final appeals of death row
inmates John Joseph Romano, 43, and David Wayne Woodruff, 42, who
were convicted of the Oct. 12, 1985, murder of Roger Joel Sarfaty.
Sarfaty's body was found Oct. 16, 1985, in his Oklahoma City
apartment. He had been stabbed five times, beaten and strangled. His
apartment had been robbed.
Romano also has a death sentence for murdering
63-year-old Lloyd Thompson during a July 19, 1986, robbery in
Oklahoma City. Woodruff received a sentence of life without parole
for his part in the crime.
"It is the practice of this office, before an
execution date is requested, to examine each case to determine if
the testing of DNA evidence should occur," said Edmondson. "We have
determined, after a thorough review, that DNA testing would be of no
value and would have no relevance as to actual innocence. I see
nothing that should stand in the way of these executions being
The state Criminal Appeals Court set execution
dates for two death row inmates for their part in the 1985 murder of
an Oklahoma City man.
John Joseph Romano is to be put to death Jan. 29,
two days before his accomplice, David Wayne Woodruff, is executed.
Romano and Woodruff were convicted of killing
Roger Joel Sarfaty, 52, on Oct. 12, 1985. Roger's body was found
four days later in his Oklahoma City apartment. He had been stabbed
five times, beaten and strangled. His apartment had been robbed.
Romano, 43, also has a death sentence for killing
Lloyd Thompson, 63, during a robbery July 19, 1986, in Oklahoma City.
Woodruff, 42, received a life sentence without the possibility of
parole for his part in the murder of Lloyd Thompson.
National Coalition to Abolish
The Death Penalty
John Romano - Scheduled Execution Date and Time:
1/29/01 10:00 PM EST
David Woodruff - Scheduled Execution Date and
Time: 1/31/01 10:00 PM EST
John Romano and David Woodruff are scheduled to
be executed in Oklahoma on Jan. 29 and Jan. 31, respectively. In the
same trial, Romano and Woodruff were convicted of the 1985 murder of
jeweler Roger Safarty.
Their conviction was bolstered by the all-too-common
practice of prosecutors giving leniency to “jailhouse snitches” in
exchange for their incriminating statements. Much too often, however,
the confession of such witnesses turns out to be completely false.
In their federal appeals, Romano and Woodruff
argued that the district attorney prosecuting their case had secured
a deal with Greg Myers, who at one point shared a jail cell with
Romano. Myers, who was then in jail for check fraud, had previously
been convicted of a sex crime involving a child.
The same DA’s
office prosecuting Romano and Woodruff offered Myers a plea-bargain
whereby he would only serve one year of the mandatory ten for his
felony crime. Although the law requires that deals like this be
presented to the trial jury, the prosecution offered no such
Thus far, no court has ruled in favor of Romano
and Woodruff on this claim. In denying relief, Judge Ebel of the
Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals noted, “…we remain suspicious about
whether Myers in fact had a deal with the State, particularly in
light of the timing of these events and the significant benefit
Myers derived from avoiding a ten-year prison sentence when the
State did not charge him as a former felon…” No proof of the quid
pro quo exists, but the facts are too obvious to ignore. Write to
the Governor of Oklahoma and urge that this claim by Romano and
Woodruff be fully investigated.
John Joseph Romano Homepage
About Me: Dead Man Waiting . . . John Joseph
Romano is on death row in the state of Okalahoma, the current leader
in number of executions (17) for this year. His appeals are all but
run out and he has little hope of any clemency or relief.
wish is to get enough funding to pay for his own funeral and allow
his family to claim his body, rather than be buried in the prison
cemetery where it would be all but impossible for his family to
visit or tend his grave.
In a recent letter to me, he said, "I have hurt
my family, my mother, so much with the things I have done in my life
that I truly wish to give them this final bit of comfort." At this
time, you may send contributions for John's funeral fund to C&E
Jasper, 2109 Harmony Place, Bloomington, IN 47403; or through
PayPal.com, Elizabeth Jasper/Readings by Elizabeth.
Please help John's family to have a little dignity in the loss of
their son. Few of us realize how terribly families suffer for the
crimes of their children. Many families abandon their family members
in prison altogether, especially on death row, but John's has not.
They just simply don't have the money to give John a private burial.
We see many responses from opponents accusing prisoners of wanting
fancy funerals. All we are talking about here is a marked grave, not
on prison property. Even small donations are a big help. John has,
in my best judgement, three to five months before his execution date
will be set.
Hobbies & Interests: John has been a model
prisoner during his 15+ year stay on death row. He serves as a
messenger/runner for H-Unit. You can also find more information
there about Oklahoma's dedicated execution practices. John is a very
religious person and a sincere Christian. If you want to write to
John, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will forward it to
John via regular mail. Prisoners have no e-mail or internet access.
Friends & Family: John's family has given him
rare support in his difficult situation. I don't know a great deal
about them, except that he loves them so much, the same way my
children love me. John has been fortunate, he says, in the friends
he has been able to make on death row. "There are high prices to pay
emotionally for developing friendships in this place, but it has
been worth it to me. I have been here since I was a very young man
(28), so it has really been my only chance to have friends." I met
John through my pen-pal at H-Unit. We have shared a few letters and
I find him to be sincere, responsible for his life and actions and
determined to act in the best interests of his family.
COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
JOHN JOSEPH ROMANO,
On writ of certiorari to the
court of criminal appeals of Oklahoma
June 13, 1994
Ginsburg, with whom Justice Blackmun,
Justice Stevens, and Justice Souter join,
Caldwell v. Mississippi, 472 U.S. 320
(1985), this Court overturned a capital sentence
as inadequately reliable because of a statement
made by the prosecutor, in closing argument at
the penalty phase of the trial. The Caldwell
prosecutor told the jury: "[Y]our [sentencing]
decision is not the final decision"; "the
decision you render is automatically reviewable
by the [state] Supreme Court." Id., at
to the issue presented in Caldwell, this
Court observed that capital sentencing jurors,
required to determine "whether a specific human
being should die at the hands of the State,"
id., at 329, are "placed in a very
unfamiliar situation and called on to make a
very difficult and uncomfortable choice." Id.,
at 333. Such jurors, the Court noted, might find
"highly attractive" the prosecutor's suggestion
that persons other than themselves would bear "responsibility
for any ultimate determination of death." Id.,
possibility the jury might have embraced the
prosecutor's suggestion, the Court concluded,
rendered the imposition of the death penalty
inconsistent with the Constitution's requirement
of individualized and reliable capital
sentencing procedures. See id., at 323,
329-330,340-341. Emphasizing the " `truly
awesome responsibility' " imposed upon capital
sentencing juries, id., at 329, quoting
McGautha v. California, 402 U.S.
183, 208 (1971), the Court held:
constitutionally impermissible to rest a death
sentence on a determination made by a sentencer
who has been led to believe that the
responsibility for determining the
appropriateness of the defendant's death rests
elsewhere." 472 U. S., at 328-329.
In my view,
this principle, reiterated throughout the
Court's Caldwell opinion,
covers the present case: The jury's
consideration of evidence, at the capital
sentencing phase of petitioner Romano's trial,
that a prior jury had already sentenced Romano
to death, infected the jury's life or death
deliberations as did the prosecutorial comments
condemned in Caldwell. Accordingly, I
would vacate the death sentence imposed upon
Romano and remand for a new sentencing hearing.
penalty phase of Romano's trial for the murder
of Roger Safarty, the prosecution sought to put
before the jury a copy of the "Judgment and
Sentence" from an earlier and unrelated
prosecution. That document revealed that Romano
had been convicted of the first degree murder of
Lloyd Thompson and that he was to be executed
for that crime. Defense counsel offered to
stipulate to Romano's conviction for the
Thompson murder, but objected to the jury's
consideration of the death sentence.
court overruled defense counsel's objection and
admitted the "Judgment and Sentence" document.
That document stated that Romano had given "no
good reason why [the] Judgment and Sentence [for
the murder of Thompson] should not be pronounced,"
and commanded the State's Department of
Corrections "to put the said JOHN JOSEPH ROMANO
to death." App. 6. The jury in the instant,
Safarty murder case also sentenced Romano to
pendency of Romano's appeal from his conviction
and sentence for the Safarty murder, the
Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals vacated his
conviction for the Thompson murder. Romano
v. State, 827 P. 2d 1335 (1992). Romano
urged on appeal in the Safarty case that, under
Caldwell v. Mississippi, it was
impermissible to place before the jury, as
relevant to its deliberations whether Romano
should live or die, evidence that he was already
under sentence of death.
court rejected that contention and affirmed
Romano's conviction and death sentence for the
Safarty murder. 847 P. 2d 368, 390 (Okla. Crim.
App. 1993). In so ruling, the court acknowledged
that "[l]earning that the defendant had
previously received a death sentence for another
murder could diminish the jury's sense of
importance of its role and mitigate the
consequences of [its] decision." Ibid.
The court further recognized that "evidence of
the imposition of the death penalty by another
jury is not relevant in determining the
appropriateness of the death sentence for the
instant offense." Id., at 391.
the court concluded, "when the jury is properly
instructed as to its role and responsibility in
making such a determination we cannot, on
appellate review, conclude that the jur[ors]
inany way shifted the responsibility for their
decision or considered their decision any less
significant than they would otherwise." Id.,
That judgment is now before the Court.
Caldwell, this Court found constitutionally
impermissible a prosecutor's statement, at the
penalty phase of a capital trial, that the
jury's decision was "not the final decision"
because it was "automatically reviewable." The
prosecutor's assurances were impermissible, the
Court ruled, because they created an
unacceptable risk that the jury would "minimize
the importance of its role," "believ[ing] that
the responsibility for determining the
appropriateness of the defendant's death rest[ed]
elsewhere." Caldwell, 472 U. S., at 333,
329. This belief, the Court explained, is
inconsistent with the "heightened `need for
reliability' " in capital sentencing. Id.,
at 323, quoting Woodson v. North
Carolina, 428 U.S. 280, 305 (1976) (plurality
The risk of
diminished jury responsibility was also grave in
Romano's case. Revealing to the jury that Romano
was condemned to die for the Thompson murder
signaled to the jurors in the Safarty murder
case that Romano faced execution regardless of
their life or death decision in the case before
them. Jurors so informed might well believe that
Romano's fate had been sealed by the previous
jury, and thus was not fully their
responsibility. See People v. Hope,
116 Ill. 2d 265, 274, 508 N. E. 2d 202, 206
(1986) (" `[T]he jury's awarenessof defendant's
prior death sentence would diminish its sense of
responsibility . . . . Assuming that defendant
was already going to be executed, the jurors may
consider their own decision considerably less
significant than they otherwise would.' "),
quoting People v. Davis, 97 Ill.
2d 1, 26, 452 N. E. 2d 525, 537 (1983); West
v. State, 463 So. 2d 1048, 1052-1053
(Miss. 1985) ("[I]f the jury knows that the [defendant]
is already under a sentence of death it would
tend to relieve them of their separate
responsibility to make that determination.").
uncertain whether to vote for death or for life
might be swayed by the knowledge that " `another
jury had previously resolved the identical issue
adversely to defendant.' " Hope, supra,
at 274, 508 N. E. 2d, at 206, quoting Davis,
supra, at 26, 452 N. E. 2d, at 537. Such
a juror, although "unconvinced that death is the
appropriate punishment, . . . might nevertheless
wish to `send a message' of extreme disapproval
for the defendant's acts," Caldwell, 472
U. S., at 331, reasoning that the defendant was
already to be executed in any event.
jurors otherwise inclined to hold out for a life
sentence might acquiesce in a death penalty they
did not truly believe warranted. Cf. id.,
at 333 ("[O]ne can easily imagine that in a case
in which the jury is divided on the proper
sentence, the presence of appellate review could
effectively be used as an argument for why those
jurors who are reluctant to invoke the death
sentence should nevertheless give in.").
State of Oklahoma correctly observes, however,
that evidence of a prior death sentence may not
produce a unidirectional bias toward death.
Brief for Respondent 23. Some jurors, otherwise
inclined to believe the defendant deserved the
death penalty for the crime in the case before
them, might nonetheless be anxious to avoid any
feeling of responsibility for the defendant's
execution. Jurors so minded might vote for a
life sentence, relying on the prior jury's
determinationto secure defendant's death. See
ante, at 12.
offending prosecutorial comments in Caldwell,
by contrast, created an apparently
unidirectional "bias toward a death sentence,"
for the appellate review that the Caldwell
jurors were encouraged to consider could occur
only if the jury sentenced the defendant to
death, not if it voted for life. 472 U. S., at
331-332. Oklahoma maintains that Romano remains
outside the Caldwell principle, because
he is unable to demonstrate that the evidence of
his prior death sentence tilted the jurors
Romano's prosecutor, at least, seems to have
believed that informing the jurors of the prior
death sentence would incline them toward death,
for otherwise, he probably would not have
insisted upon introducing the "Judgment and
Sentence" itself, over Romano's objection, and
despite Romano's offer to stipulate to the
underlying conviction. Most critically,
Caldwell, as I comprehend that decision,
does not require Romano to prove that the
prosecutor's hunch was correct, either in
Romano's case in particular or in death penalty
dominantly concerns the capital sentencing
jury's awareness and acceptance of its " `awesome
responsibility.' " Id., at 341. To assure
that acceptance, this Court's Eighth Amendment
jurisprudence instructs, capital sentencing
procedures must be especially reliable. See
id., at 323 (prosecutor's comments were "inconsistent
with the Eighth Amendment's heightened `need for
reliability in the determination that death is
the appropriate punishment in a specific case,'
" quoting Woodson v. North Carolina,
supra, at 305); 472 U. S., at 341 (death
sentence "does not meet the standard of
reliability that the Eighth Amendment requires,"
when it may have been affected by the State's
attempt "to minimize the jury's sense of
responsibility for determining the
appropriateness of death").
Caldwell'sreasoning, diminution of jurors'
sense of responsibility violates the Eighth
Amendment's reliability requirement, whether or
not a defendant can demonstrate empirically that
the effect of this diminution was to bias the
jurors' judgment toward death. According to
Caldwell, if a reviewing court "cannot say"
that an effort "to minimize the jury's sense of
responsibility for determining the
appropriateness of death . . . had no effect on
the sentencing decision, . . . [t]he sentence of
death must . . . be vacated" as unreliable.
today reads Caldwell to apply only if the
jury has been "affirmatively misled regarding
its role in the sentencing process." Ante,
at 7. According to the Court, because no
information, incorrect when conveyed, was given
to the jury responsible for sentencing Romano
for Safarty's murder, "[t]he infirmity
identified in Caldwell is simply absent
in this case." Ante, at 7.
rests its rendition of Caldwell on the
premise that only a plurality of the Court's
members endorsed the principle I regard as
pivotal: Diminution of the jury's sense of
responsibility "preclude[s] the jury from
properly performing its [charge] to make an
individualized determination of the
appropriateness of the death penalty." See
ante, at 6-7, citing Caldwell, 472 U.
S., at 330-331, 341. In fact, however, key
portions of Caldwell that the Court
attributes to a plurality of four were joined by
five of the eight Justices who participated in
O'Connor parted company with the other members
of the majority only as to a discrete, three
paragraph section, Part IV-A (id., at
335-336), in which "[t]he Court," in her view, "seem[ed]
generally to characterize information regarding
appellate review as `wholly irrelevant to the
determination of the appropriate sentence.' "
Id., at 342 (opinion concurring in part and
concurring in the judgment), quoting id.,
O'Connor explained that she did not read
California v. Ramos, 463 U.S. 992
(1983), "to imply that the giving of
nonmisleading and accurate information regarding
the jury's role in the sentencing scheme is
irrelevant to the sentencing decision." 472 U.
S., at 341 (emphasis omitted). It was in that
context that Justice O'Connor stated her view,
quoted ante, at 7, that "the prosecutor's
remarks were impermissible," not because they
referred to the existence of post-sentence
review, but "because they were inaccurate and
misleading in a manner that diminished the
jury's sense of responsibility." 472 U. S., at
O'Connor's concurring opinion thus appears to
rest on "grounds narrower" than those relied
upon by the other members of the Court's
Caldwell majority, see ante, at 7,
only insofar as her concurrence disavowed any
implication that the "giving of accurate
instructions regarding postsentencing procedures,"
472 U. S., at 342, is irrelevant or
of Romano's death sentence for the murder of
Thompson, however, was not information regarding
postsentencing procedures Romano might pursue.
Nor, as the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals
found, was the "Judgment and Sentence" for
Thompson's murder relevant to the Safarty jury's
sentencing decision. 847 P. 2d, at 391 ("evidence
of the imposition of the death penalty by
another jury is not relevant in determining the
appropriateness of the death sentence for the
I do not read JusticeO'Connor's concurring
opinion as narrowing the Court's Caldwell
holding with respect to the issue this case
presents. Nor, for reasons set out in the margin,
do I agree with the Court that several post-Caldwell
cases, beginning with Darden v.
Wainwright, 477 U.S. 168 (1986), confirm the
narrow interpretation of Caldwell the
Court announces today. See ante, at 7.
Court relies, as did the Oklahoma Court of
Criminal Appeals, on the trial court's
instruction to the jurors that "[t]he importance
and worth of the evidence is for you to decide,"
together with the court's disavowal of any view
as to the appropriate punishment. Ante,
at 3. The Court quotes the Oklahoma court's
conclusion that " `[i]t was never conveyed or
intimated in any way, by the court or the
attorneys, that the jurycould shift its
responsibility in sentencing or that its role in
any way had been minimized.' " Ante, at
8, quoting 847 P. 2d, at 390.
trial court's instruction to consider the
evidence cannot resolve the Caldwell
problem in this case: The "Judgment and Sentence"
form, bearing Romano's prior death sentence, was
part of the evidence the jury was told to
consider. Further, once it is acknowledged that
evidence of the prior death sentence "could
diminish the jury's sense of importance of its
role and mitigate the consequences of [its]
decision," 847 P. 2d, at 390, it cannot be said
that the court or attorneys did not "conve[y] or
intimat[e]" that the jury's role was diminished.
prosecution proffered the death commanding "Judgment
and Sentence" as evidence, and the trial court
admitted it--over Romano's objection, and
despite his offer to stipulate to the conviction.
As discussed supra, at 4-7, admission of
that evidence risked leading jurors to "minimize
the importance of [their] role," "believ[ing]
that the responsibility for determining the
appropriateness of the defendant's death rest[ed]
elsewhere." Caldwell, 472 U. S., at 333,
329. This risk was "unacceptable in light of the
ease with which [it] could have been minimized."
Turner v. Murray, 476 U.S. 28, 36
(1986) (opinion of White, J.).
the jury to consider evidence that Romano was
already under sentence of death, while that jury
determined whether Romano should live or die,
threatened to "minimize the jury's sense of
responsibility for determining the
appropriateness of death." Unable to say that
the jury's consideration of Romano's prior death
sentence "had no effect on the [instant]
sentencing decision," Caldwell, 472 U.
S., at 341, I would vacate that decision and
remand the case for a new sentencing hearing.