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Ronald Gene SIMMONS Sr.

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Parricide
Number of victims: 16
Date of murders: December 22/28, 1987
Date of arrest: December 28, 1987
Date of birth: July 15, 1940
Victims profile: Men, women and children (relatives)
Method of murder: Shooting / Strangulation
Location: Pope County, Arkansas, USA
Status: Executed by lethal injection in Arkansas on June 25, 1990
 
 

 
 

Victims

Date of
Murder

Method of
Murder

Relationship
to Murderer

Gene Simmons

12-22-87 Handgun  Son

Rebecca Simmons

12-22-87 Handgun  Wife

Barbara Simmons, 3

12-22-87 Strangulation  Daughter

Loretta Simmons, 17

12-22-87 Strangulation  Daughter

Eddy Simmons

12-22-87 Strangulation  Son

Marianne Simmons

12-22-87 Strangulation  Daughter

Becky Simmons

12-22-87 Strangulation  Daughter

Billy Simmons

12-26-87 Handgun  Son

Renata Simmons

12-26-87 Handgun  Daughter in Law

Trae Simmons

12-26-87 Drowning  Grandson

Sheila McNulty

12-26-87 Handgun  Daughter

Dennis McNulty

12-26-87 Handgun  Son in Law

Sylvia Gail Simmons

12-26-87 Strangulation  Daughter/ Granddaughter

Michael Simmons

12-26-87 Strangulation  Grandson

Kathy Kendrick, 24

12-28-87 Handgun  None

J.D. Chaffin, 33

12-28-87 Handgun  None
 
 

 
 

Summary:

Ronald Gene Simmons was a retired Air Force Sergeant. Over the Christmas holidays in 1987, he methodically executed 14 members of his family: 6 daughters, 3 sons, 2 grandsons, 1 son-in-law, 1 daughter-in-law and his wife. (One of his daughters was also his granddaughter). Two days later, he went into town and killed two others. Waived all appeals.


Ronald Gene Simmons, Sr. (15 July 1940 – 25 June 1990) was a retired United States Air Force sergeant who killed sixteen people, fourteen of whom were members of his family, and wounded four others.

The murders

Shortly before Christmas 1987, Simmons decided to kill all the members of his family. On the morning of 22 December, he first killed his son Gene and his long-suffering wife Rebecca at his home in Dover, Arkansas, by shooting them with a .22 caliber pistol.

Thereafter he killed his three-year-old granddaughter Barbara by strangulation. Simmons dumped the bodies in the cesspit he had made his children dig. Simmons then waited for his other children to return to the house.

After their arrival, he told them he had presents for them but wanted to give them one at a time. First to receive her "gift" was his eldest daughter, seventeen-year-old Loretta, whom Simmons strangled and held under the water in a rain barrel. The three other children, Eddy, Marianne, and Becky, were killed in the same way.

Around midday on 26 December, the remaining members of the family arrived for their Christmas visit. The first to be killed was Simmons’s son Billy and his wife Renata; both were shot dead. Then their son Trae was strangled and drowned, soon followed by their daughter Sheila and her husband, Dennis McNulty, who were both shot dead.

Ronald Simmons’s child by his own daughter, Sylvia Gail, was strangled, and finally his grandson Michael. Simmons laid the bodies of his whole family in neat rows in the lounge.

All the corpses were covered with coats except that of Sheila, who was laid in state covered by Rebecca Simmons’s best tablecloth. The bodies of the two grandsons were wrapped in plastic sheeting and left in abandoned cars at the end of the lane.

After the murders, Simmons went for a drink in a local bar, then returned to the house and, apparently oblivious to the corpses lined up around him, spent the rest of the evening and the following day drinking beer and watching television.

On the morning of Monday, 28 December, Simmons drove into Russellville, and at a law office shot dead the receptionist, a young woman named Kathy Kendrick, with whom he had been infatuated and who had rejected him.

He next went to an oil company office where he shot dead a man named J.D. Chaffin and wounded the owner, Rusty Taylor, and then drove on to a convenience store where he had previously worked, shooting and wounding two more people.

Afterwards he went to the office of the Woodline Motor Freight Company, where he shot and wounded a woman, ending his killing spree. Simmons simply sat in the office and chatted to one of the secretaries whilst waiting for the police. When they arrived, he handed over his gun and surrendered without any resistance.

Simmons was charged with sixteen counts of murder, found guilty, and sentenced to death. He refused to appeal his death sentence, stating, "To those who oppose the death penalty in my particular case, anything short of death would be cruel and unusual punishment."

Execution

Simmons was first tried for the Russellville crimes, and a jury convicted him of capital murder and sentenced him to death. He made an additional statement, under oath, supporting his sentence: "I, Ronald Gene Simmons, Sr., want it to be known that it is my wish and my desire that absolutely no action by anybody be taken to appeal or in any way change this sentence. It is further respectfully requested that this sentence be carried out expeditiously."

The trial court conducted a hearing concerning Simmons's competence to waive further proceedings, and concluded that his decision was knowing and intelligent.

While on Death Row, Simmons had to be separated from other prisoners as his life was threatened constantly. This was because he refused to appeal his death sentence. The other prisoners believed Simmons was damaging their chances of beating their own death sentence.

On 31 May, Arkansas governor (later president) Bill Clinton signed Simmons' execution warrant, and on 25 June 1990 he died, by the method he had chosen, lethal injection.

Wikipedia.org


Ronald Gene Simmons (1940–1990)

By Angela Swanlund - Magazine, Arkansas

On December 22, 1987, Ronald Gene Simmons began a killing spree that would be the worst mass murder in Arkansas history and the worst crime involving one family in the history of the country. His rampage ended on December 28, 1987, leaving dead fourteen members of his immediate family and two former coworkers.

Ronald Gene Simmons was born on July 15, 1940, in Chicago, Illinois, to Loretta and William Simmons. On January 31, 1943, William Simmons died of a stroke. Within a year, Simmons’s mother married again, this time to William D. Griffen, a civil engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The corps moved Griffen to Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1946, the first of several transfers that would take the family across central Arkansas over the next decade.

On September 15, 1957, Simmons dropped out of school and joined the U.S. Navy. His first station was Bremerton Naval Base in Washington, where he met Bersabe Rebecca “Becky” Ulibarri, whom he married in New Mexico on July 9, 1960.

Over the next eighteen years, the couple had seven children. In 1963, Simmons left the navy and approximately two years later, he joined the air force. During his twenty-two-year military career, Simmons was awarded a Bronze Star, the Republic of Vietnam Cross for his service as an airman, and the Air Force Ribbon for excellent marksmanship. Simmons retired on November 30, 1979, at the rank of master sergeant.

On April 3, 1981, Simmons was being investigated by the Cloudcroft, New Mexico, Department of Human Services for allegations that he had fathered a child with his seventeen-year-old daughter, Sheila. Fearing arrest, Simmons fled first to Ward (Lonoke County) in late 1981 and then to Dover (Pope County) in the summer of 1983. The family took up residence on a thirteen-acre tract of land that would become known as “Mockingbird Hill.”

The residence was constructed of two older-model mobile homes joined to form one large home and was surrounded by a makeshift privacy fence, as high as ten feet tall in some places. The home did not have a telephone or indoor plumbing.

Simmons worked a string of low-paying jobs in the nearby town of Russellville (Pope County). He quit a position as an accounts receivable clerk at Woodline Motor Freight after numerous reports of inappropriate sexual advances. He went to work at a Sinclair Mini Mart for approximately a year and a half before quitting on December 18, 1987.

Evidence indicates that Simmons bludgeoned and shot his wife on December 22, 1987. Simmons also bludgeoned and shot his visiting son, twenty-nine-year-old Ronald Gene Simmons Jr. He then strangled his three-year-old granddaughter. All three bodies were later found in a shallow pit Simmons had instructed the children to dig months before for a third family outhouse.

Later the same day, the Dover school bus dropped off the younger Simmons children for their Christmas break from school. Based on crime scene investigation, it is believed the Simmons children (ages seventeen, fourteen, eleven, and eight) were separated and killed individually, by strangulation and/or drowning in a rain barrel. Their bodies, too, were found in the hole for the outhouse.

The older Simmons children had been invited to the Simmons home on December 26, 1987, for an after-Christmas dinner. Twenty-three-year-old William H. Simmons II, his twenty-one-year-old wife, Renata May Simmons, and their twenty-month-old son, all of Fordyce (Dallas County), were likely the first to arrive. William and Renata were shot, and their bodies were left by the dining room table, and covered with their own coats and some bedding. The child was killed and placed into the trunk of a car behind the Simmons home.

Next to arrive were Simmons’s twenty-four-year-old daughter, Sheila, and her husband, thirty-three-year-old Dennis Raymond McNulty, as well as their children, seven-year-old Sylvia (the daughter of Sheila and her father) and twenty-one-month-old Michael. Sheila was shot, and her body was laid on the dining room table and covered with a tablecloth. Simmons shot Dennis and strangled Sylvia. Michael was strangled and placed into the trunk of yet another parked car.

Later this same day, Simmons drove to Russellville, where he stopped at a Sears store and picked up Christmas gifts that had been ordered but had not made it in before the holiday. Later that night, he drove to a private club in Russellville. Then he went home and waited out the weekend.

On Monday, December 28, 1987, Simmons drove a car that had belonged to his son, Ronald Jr., to Russellville. He purchased a second gun from Wal-Mart. His next stop was the Peel, Eddy and Gibbons Law Firm. After entering the building, Simmons shot and killed receptionist/secretary Kathy Cribbins Kendrick.

He next went to the Taylor Oil Company, where he shot and wounded Russell “Rusty” Taylor, the owner of the Sinclair Mini Mart where he had worked, and then shot and killed J. D. (Jim) Chaffin, a fireman and part-time truck driver for Taylor Oil. Simmons shot at and missed another employee before exiting the building.

Simmons then went to the Sinclair Mini Mart, where he shot and wounded Roberta Woolery and David Salyer. His last stop was the Woodline Motor Freight company. Simmons located his former supervisor, Joyce Butts, and wounded her in the head and chest.

He then took worker Vicky Jackson at gunpoint into the computer office and advised her to phone the police. Simmons allegedly told Jackson: “I’ve come to do what I wanted to do. It’s all over now. I’ve gotten everybody who wanted to hurt me.” He surrendered to Russellville police when they arrived.

Simmons was sent to the Arkansas State Hospital in Little Rock (Pulaski County) for a competency evaluation by staff psychiatrist Dr. Irving Kuo. Kuo found Simmons to be sane and capable of standing trial. Public defenders Robert G. “Doc” Irwin and John Harris were appointed to represent Simmons. The prosecuting attorney was John Bynum. Jury selection for the first trial took less than six hours.

Simmons was convicted on May 12, 1988, in the Franklin County Circuit Court for the deaths of Kendrick and Chaffin. On May 16 Judge John Samuel Patterson sentenced Simmons to death by lethal injection plus 147 years. Simmons refused all rights to appeal.

Simmons was found guilty of fourteen counts of capital murder in the deaths of his family members on February 10, 1989, in the Johnson County Circuit Court, with Judge Patterson presiding. Bynum offered a possible motive when he presented an undated note that was discovered in a safe deposit box at a Russellville bank after Simmons’s arrest. The letter seemed to indicate a strong love/hate relationship between Simmons and his daughter Sheila.

After the judge ruled the letter admissible, Simmons lashed out at Bynum, punching him the face, and then unsuccessfully struggled for a deputy’s handgun. Officers rushed him out of the courtroom in chains. Simmons was sentenced to death by lethal injection on March 16, 1989. He again waived all rights to appeal.

On March 1, 1989, Simmons was found competent to waive his rights to appeal his conviction. However the filing of Whitmore v. Arkansas challenged this right. Reverend Louis Franz and Jonas Whitmore contended that Simmons using his right to refuse appeal in fact jeopardized the appellate rights of other death row inmates.

By 7–2 vote, the Supreme Court justices threw out this appeal; however, the ongoing legal proceedings had prevented the execution of Simmons from being carried out. Simmons was watching television and eating what he thought would be his last meal when the news of his stay of execution was announced.

On May 31, 1990, Governor Bill Clinton signed Simmons’s second execution warrant for June 25, 1990. This was the quickest sentence-to-execution-to-death time in United States history since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Simmons refused all visitors, including legal counsel and clergy. His last words were: “Justice delayed finally be done is justifiable homicide.” No family members claimed the body, so Simmons was buried in a paupers’ plot at Lincoln Memorial Lawn in Varner (Lincoln County).


The Mass Murder Website: Ronald Gene Simmons

Just before Christmas 1987, Russellville, Arkansas, Ronald Gene Simmons made a conscious decision to kill all the members of his family. On the morning of 22 December he first bludgeoned and shot his son Gene and his long-suffering wife Rebecca; then he strangled his three-year-old daughter Barbara.

After having a beer, Simmons dumped the bodies in the cesspit he had made his children dig. Now Simmons sat back and awaited the return of his other children. When they arrived off the bus he said he had presents for them but wanted to give them one at a time. First to receive her ‘gift’ was eldest daughter, seventeen-year-old Loretta, who Simmons strangled and held under the water in the rain barrel. The three other children, Eddy, Marianne and Becky were dispatched in a similarly callous manner.

Around midday on 26 December, the remaining members of the family arrived for their planned Christmas visit; it was to be their last Christmas. The first to die was Simmons’ son Billy and daughter-in-law Renata, both shot dead; then his grandson Trae was strangled and drowned; then daughter Sheila and her husband Dennis McNulty were shot. Ronald Simmons’ child by his own daughter, christened Sylvia Gail, was strangled, and finally grandson Michael. Simmons laid the bodies of his whole family in neat rows in the lounge. All the corpses were covered with coats except that of Sheila, who was laid in state covered by Mrs Simmons’ best tablecloth.

The bodies of the two grandsons were wrapped in plastic sheeting and left in abandoned cars at the end of the lane. After popping out for a drink in a local bar Simmons returned to the house and, apparently oblivious of the corpses lined up around him, spent the next two nights and the Sunday drinking beer and watching television.

On the Monday morning Ronald Simmons drove into Russellville and at a law office shot dead a young woman named Kathy Kendrick, who for some reason he blamed for many of his problems. Next stop on his murderous tour was an oil company office where Simmons shot dead a man named J.D Chaffin and wounded the owner. He then drove on to a store where he shot and wounded two more people. Now on to another office where he shot and wounded a woman.

And that was the end of his killing spree. Simmons simply sat in the office and chatted to one of the secretaries while waiting for the police. When they arrived he handed over his gun and surrendered without any resistance.

Simmons was charged with sixteen counts of murder, found guilty and sentenced to death. On 31 May Arkansas governor (later president) Bill Clinton signed Simmons execution warrant, and on 25 June 1990 he died, as he had chosen to do, by lethal injection.


The Ronald Gene Simmons Story

By Anna Swan - AssociatedContent.com

May 03, 2006

Ronald Gene Simmons was a retired Air Force Sergeant and Viet Nam Veteran. He was well known in Cloudcroft, New Mexico. He was someone most people feared. "He had a beer in his hand all the time. He had one little room he would stay in all the time. It was dark and seemed spooky, and it stunk," said a friend of his oldest daughters.

In 1981 Simmons and his family fled town when he was reported for having sex with his daughter. He was seen giving her more than friendly kisses good-bye each morning and eventually she admitted to a school Counselor she was pregnant with his baby. Charges were filed, but eventually dropped as the Simmons family disappeared. 

Almost a year later, they surfaced in Dover, Arkansas. Some 15 miles outside town, in a remote and densely wooded area, at the end of a rutted, red-clay drive, two old mobile homes were joined together and barricaded like a fortress with cinder blocks and barbed wire. For Simmons and his family - this was his Kingdom, and he was the King. Simmons called his Castle of squalor, "Mockingbird Hill". 

The driveway was dotted with several large “No Trespassing” signs. The road leading to the home was badly rutted red clay, at times impossible to enter when wet or slick from snow and ice. The yard area, or area which the Simmons children kept mowed, was covered in piles of junk Simmons claimed to be “building materials”. There were several junk automobiles up on blocks and in various stages of demolition scattered around the home. The home itself was actually two separate mobile homes that had been haphazardly connected together to make one large structure.

It will be 16 years on June 25, 2006 since Ronald Gene Simmons was put to death by lethal injection. Yet, the mention of his name around Pope, Yell, or Johnson county Arkansas still sparks fear in the hearts and minds of the locals who remember the news around Christmas, 1987.

He is the “boogy man” in children’s nightmares, his family was the epitome of everything Social Service workers and school Counselors thought they were trained to spot, and his reclusive and bazaar lifestyle was something you would assume would have drawn the scrutiny and concern of people in the area.

Yet this man and his family lived in this tiny Arkansas town only 1.8 miles in size, with 1,329 people, 529 households, and 372 families - unnoticed. His children attended public school, his wife often attended a local Church, and Simmons had worked several jobs in the nearby town of Russellville, Arkansas.

Simmons school age children were never allowed to attend school functions, friends were never allowed to spend a night at the Simmons home, nor were the Simmons children ever allowed to stay over at a friends home. Yet, this peculiarity went unnoticed.

Later, school officials were interviewed about the Simmons children and only commented on having noticed the children were always clean and ready to catch the bus in the mornings. Although none of the Simmons children excelled in their studies, none drew attention by falling behind either.

There were no records of disciplinary actions for the Simmons children, and their attendance had been near perfect. When Teachers were questioned about the children in their class, most commented that they really didn’t know the children well. It seems incredible that these children could have attended such a small school for so long and manage to remain relatively unnoticed and unknown.

Simmons wife, Rebecca, reportedly tried to leave him on several occasions. Witnesses who were interviewed later remarked that they had noticed bruises on Rebecca’s face and arms on numerous occasions. Yet, this too, went unreported. The Simmons home had no telephone, they never received mail, nor sent mail from their rural box by the side of their driveway.

Just before Christmas 1987, Ronald Gene Simmons made a conscious decision to kill all the members of his family. On the morning of December 22, Simmons drove to the local Wal-Mart and purchased a .22 caliber handgun.

When he returned home, he first bludgeoned and shot his son Gene and his long-suffering wife Rebecca. For a while, he left their bodies laying where they had fallen. He next focused his attention on his 3 year old daughter Barbara. Simmons strangled little Barbara, and wrapped her body in a black plastic trash bag.

After having a beer, Simmons dumped the bodies in the cesspit he had made his children dig in the back yard several days prior. Now Simmons sat back and awaited the return of his other children. When they arrived off the bus he said he had presents for them but wanted to give them out one at a time.

Sending all the children to their rooms, Simmons first summoned 17 year old Loretta, the oldest daughter still at home. Simmons strangled and held Loretta under the water in a rain barrel outside the home until she drowned. The three other children, Eddy, Marianne and Becky were all killed in a similar manner, one at a time.

Around noon on December 26, the remaining members of the family arrived at Simmons home for their planned Christmas visit with the family. The first to die was Simmons’ son Billy and daughter-in-law Renata, both shot dead as they entered the home, in full view of their son Trae. Trae was next to be strangled and drowned as Barbara and the other small children had been.

Arriving at the house less than an hour later were, daughter Sheila and her husband Dennis McNulty, and the incestuous daughter Simmons had fathered with Sheila, Sylvia Gale, and the child Sheila and Dennis had together, Michael. Both Sheila and Dennis were shot not long after they entered the house. Simmons’ child by his own daughter, the christened Sylvia Gail, was strangled, and finally grandson Michael, in the same manner as the other small children had been put to death.

Simmons laid the bodies of his whole family in neat rows in the living room. All the corpses were covered with coats except that of Sheila, who was laid out as if in a formal “viewing” state, covered by Mrs. Simmons’ best tablecloth. The bodies of the two grandsons were wrapped in plastic sheeting and left in abandoned cars at the end of the lane. Simmons soaked the bodies in kerosene, he said he believed that it would stop the smell coming out of the ground and prevent attracting animals and people.

After going out for a drink in a local bar, Simmons returned home later the evening of the 26th. Apparently oblivious of the corpses lined up around him, Simmons spent the next night and the following Sunday drinking beer and watching television. He drove into the nearby town of Russellville, Arkansas on Monday the 28th, with the .22-caliber pistol he‘d purchased days earlier.

Simmons drove to a law office and shot dead a young woman named Kathy Kendrick, age 24, who for some reason he blamed for many of his problems. Simmons then moved on down the street to the Taylor Oil Company. Simmons shot dead a man named J.D. Chaffin, 33 years old, and wounded the owner.

He then drove to a convenience store where he had once worked and shot and wounded two more people. Simmons continued on to yet another office, Woodline Motor Freight Company, where he shot and wounded a woman. That was the end of his killing spree.

Simmons simply sat in the office and chatted to one of the secretaries while waiting for the police. When they arrived he handed over his gun and surrendered without any resistance. No one at the scene that morning guessed Ronald Gene Simmons was actually winding down his killing spree. What appeared to be a contained incident of workplace violence was far worse. In fact, it had set a record.

Simmons was charged with sixteen counts of murder, found guilty and sentenced to death. On May 31, Arkansas Governor (later president) Bill Clinton, signed Simmons execution warrant, and on June 25, 1990 he died, as he had chosen to do, by lethal injection. To this day speculation runs rampant as to what Simmons motive had been.

Books such as, "Zero at the Bone: The True Story of the Ronald Gene Simmons Christmas Massacre," by Paul Williams and Bryce Marshall attempt to answer the questions. But even if the motive is established - there will remain unanswered questions. How could such a family live and work in such a small town - and no one notice the signs of obvious dysfunction?

How could a school system see these children on a daily basis and notice nothing odd psychologically, emotionally, or socially? Perhaps we lull ourselves into believing agencies, trained professionals, and organizations are in place to spot problematic families such as this - and intervene before a tragedy such as this can occur. But the sad fact is that this sort of child abuse, spousal abuse, and dysfunction go unheeded every day.


The Morbid Archives

May 7, 1998 - Ronald Gene Simmons, the hillbilly from hell, allegedly was the father of his daughter's son. In Christmas, 1987, he killed his whole family after his wife threatened him with divorce. Gene killed fourteen members of his inbred clan making him one of the most efficient family annihilators. When he was arrested for two other unrelated murders, the police sensed something suspicious about the way he talked about his family. When they went to his property they discovered the bunch of them dead. (Source: Crimes And Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia)


The New American

Ronald Gene Simmons killed 14 members of his family during Christmas week in 1987. He was sentenced to death, said he was willing to die, and refused to appeal. But his scheduled March 16, 1989 execution was delayed when a fellow inmate, also on death row, persuaded the Supreme Court to block it (while Simmons was having what he expected to be his last meal) on the grounds that the execution could have repercussions for other death-row inmates. It took the Court until April 24th of this year to reject that challenge. Simmons was executed on June 25th.


Family Annihilation

By Tom Zoellner - The Arizona Republic

April 22, 2001

The perpetrator of family annihilations frequently commits suicide after the initial act of violence, academics said. But not every case fits that mold. Occasionally, the killer survives:

Ronald Gene Simmons killed 16 members of his extended family in Russellville, Ark., over a course of three days at Christmas 1987. Between the murders he drank beer and watched television. His daughter had recently embarrassed him by revealing that he was the father of her child. He was executed in 1990.


Ronald Gene Simmons

"You have destroyed me, and you have destroyed my trust in you...

I will see you in Hell."

Taken from a letter written to his daughter after she reported him for molesting her.

Simmons was well known in his town, Cloudcroft, New Mexico. He was someone most people feared. "He had a beer in his hand all the time. He had one little room he would stay in all the time. It was dark and seemed spooky, and it stunk," said a friend of his daughters.

In 1981 Simmons and his family fled town when he was reported for fucking his daughter. He was seen giving her more than friendly kisses good-bye each morning and eventually she admitted she was pregnant with his baby. Charges were filed, but eventually dropped as the Simmons family disappeared.

They surfaced in Russellville, Arkansas. His wife attempted to leave him on numerous occasions, but always returned. It would seem she made one too many attempts.

On December 22, 1987 Simmons went out to the local Wal-Mart and bought a .22 caliber handgun (you gotta love the US gun laws). He then went home and beat, then shot his wife and son, Gene. He then strangled his 3-year-old daughter.

Once he'd had a beer he dumped the bodies in a cess-pit in the backyard (he had ordered his kids dig the hole days before). When his other children arrived home he told them he had a present for each, but had to give them one at a time.

Loretta, 17, was first to get her present. She was beaten, strangled, then drowned in her in a rain barrel (whatever that is). He then gave very similar presents to the remaining children Eddy, Marianne and Becky.

On December 26 Simmons eldest son, Billy, and his wife arrived for a christmas visit with their son, Trae. Their bodies were found with the rest. The adults had been shot, the child drowned. Later in the day Simmons favorite daughter Sheila and her husband arrived with their child. Michael, and Simmon's own child (the one his daughter had), Sylvia. Once again the adults were shot and the kids were drowned. All these bodies were then lined up in the lounge room of Simmons house, and stayed that way for days.

A few days later Simmons drove into town and found Kathy Kendrick, 24, who had earlier ignored his come-ons. He shot the bitch. He then met up with James D. Chaffin, 33, who he worked with. He killed him too. He went into a Mini mart and shot another woman (this one survived), then found another ex-workmate and shot her as well (she also survived). Simmons was eventually arrested and his family were found.

Simmons pleaded for the death sentence at his first trial (for the final two murders), and got it.

And at his second trial (for his family) he attacked the prosecutor, punching him in the face, and attempted top grab a deputy's handgun. This took place as the jury were about to go into deliberation. Not a good thing to have in their minds just before they were about to decide on his life. He received a heap more death sentences.

He was executed by lethal injection on June 25, 1990.

INTERESTING BITS

For some bizarre reason he soaked the bodies in kerosene, he said he believed that it would stop the smell coming out of the ground and attracting animals and people.

Simmons's death warrant was signed by Bill Clinton.

While on Death Row Simmons had to be separated from other prisoners as his life was threatened constantly. This was because he refused to appeal his death sentence. The other prisoners believed Simmons was damaging their chances of beating their own death sentence.

"To those who oppose the death penalty in my particular case, anything short of death would be cruel and unusual punishment."

Simmons statement before the court at his first trial.

After Simmons had a stay of execution put in place the local Sheriff showed his concern for human life:

"I'm angry that a country such as we live in can go through with this kind of thing, I had hoped our U.S. Supreme Court judges would have a little more sense than to listen to some cockeyed death row inmate."

The Wacky World of Murder


Ronald Gene Simmons

Just before Christmas 1987, Russellville, Arkansas, Ronald Gene Simmons made a conscious decision to kill all the members of his family. On the morning of 22 December he first bludgeoned and shot his son Gene and his long-suffering wife Rebecca; then he strangled his three-year-old daughter Barbara. After having a beer, Simmons dumped the bodies in the cesspit he had made his children dig.

Now Simmons sat back and awaited the return of his other children. When they arrived off the bus he said he had presents for them but wanted to give them one at a time. First to receive her gift was eldest daughter, seventeen-year-old Loretta, who Simmons strangled and held under the water in the rain barrel. The three other children, Eddy, Marianne and Becky were dispatched in a similarly callous manner.

Around midday on 26 December, the remaining members of the family arrived for their planned Christmas visit; it was to be their last Christmas. The first to die was Simmons son Billy and daughter-in-law Renata, both shot dead; then his grandson Trae was strangled and drowned; then daughter Sheila and her husband Dennis McNulty were shot. Ronald Simmons child by his own daughter, christened Sylvia Gail, was strangled, and finally grandson Michael.

Simmons laid the bodies of his whole family in neat rows in the lounge. All the corpses were covered with coats except that of Sheila, who was laid in state covered by Mrs Simmons best tablecloth. The bodies of the two grandsons were wrapped in plastic sheeting and left in abandoned cars at the end of the lane. After popping out for a drink in a local bar Simmons returned to the house and, apparently oblivious of the corpses lined up around him, spent the next two nights and the Sunday drinking beer and watching television.

On the Monday morning Ronald Simmons drove into Russellville and at a law office shot dead a young woman named Kathy Kendrick, who for some reason he blamed for many of his problems. Next stop on his murderous tour was an oil company office where Simmons shot dead a man named J.D Chaffin and wounded the owner. He then drove on to a store where he shot and wounded two more people. Now on to another office where he shot and wounded a woman. And that was the end of his killing spree. Simmons simply sat in the office and chatted to one of the secretaries while waiting for the police. When they arrived he handed over his gun and surrendered without any resistance.

Simmons was charged with sixteen counts of murder, found guilty and sentenced to death. On 31 May Arkansas governor (later president) Bill Clinton signed Simmons execution warrant, and on 25 June 1990 he died, as he had chosen to do, by lethal injection.


7 dead in Arkansas rampage

Man surrenders to police

Lexington Herald-Leader

December 29, 1987

A man wielding two revolvers killed two people, wounded four and briefly took a hostage in a 45-minute rampage yesterday in Russellville, Ark., authorities said. Officers later found five more bodies at his house.

At least six other relatives were unaccounted for after the bodies in the house were tentatively identified. The other six were feared dead, authorities said.


16 are dead in holiday rampage

Philadelphia Daily News

December 29, 1987

Authorities found nine bodies today near the home of a man already suspected in the shooting deaths of at least seven other people, including five members of his family.

Seven bodies were found in a shallow grave about 150 feet from the home of R. Gene Simmons, the man charged in two of the shooting deaths yesterday, and the bodies of two children were found in the trunk of a vehicle parked outside the house, according to Edie Deal, warrant officer for the Pope County Sheriff's Department.


TOLL REACHES 16 IN ARK. SHOOTINGS

30 December 1987, BOSTON GLOBE

RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. -- Police discovered nine bodies outside a rural home yesterday, bringing to 16 the number of slayings linked to a man arrested after a shooting spree one day earlier, officials said.

The victims -- relatives and former co-workers of the gunman, R. Gene Simmons Sr. -- died in their beds, offices and beneath a Christmas tree in one of the worst mass killings in the United States this decade, said authorities in this Arkansas River Valley college town of 14,000 people.


A PRIVATE MAN'S DEADLY REVENGE

'I'VE GOTTEN EVERYBODY WHO WANTED TO HURT ME,' GUNMAN TOLD WITNESS

31 December 1987, LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER

PLEASANT GROVE, Ark. -- Two days after Ronald Gene Simmons Sr. and his family moved into the mobile home atop the ridge, the "No trespassing" sign went up at the bottom of the road, and the barbed-wire fence came soon after.

Local residents say they were baffled by Simmons, an unsmiling man with a piercing stare who forbade his four children to visit friends or play outside of their expanded mobile home.


'THE SYSTEM' ON TRIAL

1981 Simmons prosecution stalled by family

Philadelphia Daily News

December 31, 1987

Six years ago, prosecutors in a small town in the mountains of New Mexico started piecing together an incest case against a recluse named Ronald Gene Simmons.

If the outcome of that case had been different, one of the most gruesome mass murders in America might have been avoided, according to law enforcement officers, a former district attorney and neighbors of Simmons.


Hilltop fortress concealed dead family's secrets

The Miami Herald

January 1, 1988

RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. -- He had the kids help him build the wall a couple of years ago. The fence, too. That went up last year. And behind the eight-foot-high barrier of cinder blocks, bricks and barbed wire lived Ronald Gene Simmons in his converted mobile home, a hilltop fortress in the pine-studded Ozarks, surrounded by his wife and kids and dogs Bo and Duke.


Killer of 14 sentenced to die

The Phoenix Gazette

February 11, 1989

A man who told his daughter he would see her in hell was sentenced to death by lethal injection late Friday for killing her and 13 other relatives in a Christmas holiday massacre at the family's rural home.

Judge John Patterson set a March 16 execution date, but defense attorneys were expected to file appeals.


Court gives killer his death wish

Philadelphia Daily News

April 24, 1990

The Supreme Court, ruling today in the case of an Arkansas mass murderer, allowed states to execute convicted murderers even if no appeals court reviews the validity of their convictions or death sentences.

By a 7-2 vote, the justices threw out an appeal filed for - but not by - R. Gene Simmons, sentenced to death for killing 16 relatives and acquaintances in 1987.


Arkansas killer is put to death for 16 murders sought execution as end to "torture"

The Arizona Republic

June 26, 1990

R. Gene Simmons, convicted of 16 murders in a Christmastime 1987 rampage, was put to death Monday night two years after he pleaded in court for a swift execution to "let the torture and suffering in me end."

A lethal injection terminated the life of the blue-eyed, bearded killer, who had waived his appeals. Prison spokesman David White said the first solution began at 9:02 p.m., and Simmons was pronounced dead 17 minutes later.


16 murders and countless questions

December 30, 1987

DOVER, Ark., Dec. 30 - To George Boyd, a Baptist minister who is Mayor of this town of 948 people, Scripture offers the only clue to understanding the nightmare that has unfolded here. "The Bible says the heart is desperately wicked, and who can know it?"he said at the local bank where he works as a teller. "When man strays from God, anything can happen."

For all of Dover's townspeople, as for Mr. Boyd, today was a day to try to make sense of Ronald Gene Simmons Sr., the lonely stranger in their midst who moved here from New Mexico five years ago and is now suspected of 16 murders, including those 14 members of his own family, here and in nearby Russellville.

Law-enforcement officials say they still have found no motive for the killing spree, which was uncovered bit by bit starting Monday morning. It was then that a gunman later identified as Mr. Simmons invaded several business and professional establishments in Russellville, shot six people, two fatally. The police found the bodies of five members of his family at the Simmons home outside Dover later that day, and uncovered nine more family members Tuesday in a shallow grave and in abandoned cars outside the home.

Indicted for Incest

In addition to his suspected responsibility for the slayings, officials in Alamogordo, N.M., disclosed Tuesday that Mr. Simmons was indicted there in 1981 on three counts of incest with his daughter Sheila, who was among those found dead here, and that he might have fathered a child by her, one of the four grandchildren he is believed to have killed. Mr. Simmons apparently fled with his family after the indictment, which was dropped when the authorities were unable to find them.

Mr. Simmons, 47 years old, a former Air Force master sergeant who has worked at a variety of jobs in recent years, was taken late this afternoon from Russellville to the Rogers Hall State Hospital in Little Rock, where he will undergo psychiatric examinations. Meanwhile, relatives of the victims began arriving here to make arrangements for 16 funerals, the first of which are scheduled for Thursday.

The Pope County sheriff, James Bolin, said Mr. Simmons had not spoken a word to law-enforcement officers at the detention center here where he had been held before his transfer to Little Rock, 90 miles to the southeast. He has spoken to his two attorneys, but they declined to say, how ever, that they would try to block the use of any evidence found at the Simmons home, on the ground that it had been entered without a search warrant.

Christmas Tree and Bloody Walls

From the outside, that home today was a quiet picture of rural repose, with it's clutter of bicycles and lawn mowers. Inside, however, was a frightening mixture of the banal and the horrific; a neatly trimmed Christmas tree amid blood-spattered walls and carpets. Sheriff Bolin said his investigation had been slowed by the reclusive nature of Mr. Simmons, who apparently had neither real friends nor even casual acquaintances after five years of living here. "I feel there's a lot more information out there if I can gather it and put it together," the sheriff said. "But we're having problem running across relatives or people who really knew him". "He'd come in here to buy a paper or cigarettes, but he never would say a word," said Allen Bowles, who runs Bowles Market & Gas down the road from the Simmons home.

Educators Meet

Local educators and religious leaders met today at the Dover middle School to try to decide how to deal with the tragedy, particularly for the town's children, who return to classes from the holidays Monday. A meeting was scheduled for Sunday to counsel teachers on how to handle the situation. "We're trying to decide what we tell children, but I don't see any answers," said Earl Humphrey, principal of the Dover Elementary School, where one of Mr. Simmons's slain daughters, Rebecca, 8 years old, had been enrolled. "I see a lot of adults with no answers. There's no way to explain this." Local psychologists called in to help in the process said the incident would have a lasting impact on the town and its children.


Sheriff reconstructs the murders of 16

Friday, Janurary 1 1988

RUSSELLVILLE, Ark., Dec. 31 - The man suspected of one of America's worst mass murders probably began slaughtering his sleeping children on Christmas Eve, according to the sheriff investigating the slayings.

Funerals were held today for nine of the people the authorities say were slain Mr R. Gene Simmons Sr. At St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Conway, 300 mourners remembered Mr. Simmons's daughter, Sheila Simmons McNulty, 24 year old, and her husband, Dennis, 23, as loving parents to Sylvia, 6, and Michael, 20 months. Mr. Simmons was said to be the father of Sylvia by an incestuous relationship with his daughter.

In a funeral home at Russellville, the Rev. Kenny Jay eulogized another victim, 24-year-old Kathy Kendrick, as "a very special person who loved other people." Mrs. Kendrick was a former co-worker of Mr. Simmons who had turned him away when he made advances. Funerals were held at Fordyce for the three members of the family of William Simmons 2d and at Russellville for J.D. Chaffin, 33.

Mr. Simmons, 47 years old, is accused of killing 14 relatives and two other people in a rampage that the authorities say began at his home in Dover before Christmas and ended in a 45-minute shooting spree in downtown Russellville. Mr. Simmons was formally charged Wednesday with two counts of capital murder and four of attempted murder. The prosecutor, John Bynum, said he would seek the death penalty.

Mr. Simmons was secretly transferred from the Russellville jail where he had been held without bond to the State Hospital in Little Rock, 70 miles away for a psychiatric examination. "We had death threats he wouldn't get there," said the chief deputy sheriff Billy Baker. The authorities seized two pistols, a crowbar, two hammers and several small ropes they believe may have been used to shoot, bludgeon or strangle the victims.

Sheriff Jim Bolin of Pope County, who described the killer as calculating and cunning, has constructed a theoretical chronology that breaks the killings into these three clusters: seven slain at Mr. Simmons's eight-room house near Dover on Dec. 23 or Christmas Eve; seven more slain at the house Friday or Saturday, and two slain Monday at four businesses in Russellville, seven miles south of Dover.

Wife Called Earlier Victim

The sheriff said those killed in the first cluster were Mr. Simmons's wife, Becky, 46, and the Simmons sons, R. Gene Jr., 26, and Eddie, 14, and daughters Loretta, 17, Marianne, 11, and Rebecca, 8, and a granddaughter Barbara Jean, 3. One of the two sons apparently lived long enough to leave bloody hand prints on a wall and may have struggled, the sheriff said.

The second group killed were the Simmons's son, William H. Simmons 2d, 23; the son's wife, Renada, 22; their son, William Jr., 1, and the McNultys. The sheriff theorized that the son's family arrived first, removed their coats, and were shot in dinning room. Later, the McNulty couple arrived, sheriff Bolin said. The wife came in, went to the Christmas tree in the living room and was shot there. The noise of the shot, sheriff Bolin believes, may have prompted her husband to rush into the house. He was shot just inside the door. The McNultys were in their overcoats when their bodies were found.

Six-year-old Sylvia may have fled to a bedroom, where her body was found face down on a bed, apparently suffocated, sheriff Bolin said. "I'm waiting on autopsy results to tell me how much of my theory is right," sheriff Bolin said. The victims in the third cluster were Ms. Kendrick and Mr. Chaffin, both of Russellville. Four other people were wounded in the downtown rampage.


Chronicling a massacre

ARK. Trail of blood retraced

Sunday, January 3, 1988

DOVER, Ark. - A lot of hunting and target shooting goes on in rural Arkansas, so Ed Shaddon thought little of it last Saturday afternoon when he heard gunfire across Brumfield Road, from the direction of the Simmons trailer home. Only those faint echoes escaped from the slaughterhouse.

Large blotches of coagulated blood still stain the yellow and brown carpet in the living room, some just inches from where Christmas presents lie wrapped under a colorfully decorated tree. Old toys are scattered all over the house; tattered dolls are stacked in a cardboard box in a rear bedroom where a bloody handprint smeared on a wall is viewed as evidence of a fight between a father bent on exterminating his family and a son struggling to survive.

The scene, in and around the home of Ronald Gene Simmons, is macabre. It could be the set for a horror movie, with its makeshift fence constructed of concrete blocks on one side and barbed wire on another. Within the perimeter are abandoned, rusting vehicles crammed with yellow buckets full of firewood and soiled clothing and a jumble of assorted junk. Empty Schlitz beer bottles litter the property; there are three children's bicycles, one lying on its side, and a small brown and white mutt is nearby, whimpering quietly alongside a dilapidated doghouse. A few chickens peck for crumbs inside their pen; the hand-lettered sign on their small coop reads "Snake's Pit." Inside a blue Chevrolet Luv pickup, apparently driven here by one of Simmons' older children, is a baby seat with a small pillow and blanket lying atop it.

Family Dead in a Shallow Grave

Last Tuesday, about 40 yards southwest of the house, hidden under a sheet of corrugated tin, buried under a web of wet earth, rocks and barbed wire, police found a shallow grave with seven bodies inside, with all their heads pointed in one direction. In the trunks of two abandoned cars nearby, they discovered the tiny forms of two of Simmons' grandchildren, ages 20 months and 21 months, stuffed in green garbage bags that were wrapped heavily with tape.

Police said the nine persons apparently were killed a couple of days before Christmas, and that five other family members - a daughter, a son, their spouses and one child - were cut down as they entered the house for a holiday visit the following Saturday. An employee at the local Sears store said Simmons stopped by Christmas Eve to check on some gifts he had ordered: two girls' watches, a woman's hair- styling machine, a box of 24 children's books and an array of games.

Investigators found the five bodies inside the house on Monday, four with their coats still on, all of them lying where they had dropped. Autopsies on the 14 dead family members revealed that the youngest of the seven children had been strangled, and that the older victims had been shot at least once in the head. Simmons' wife, Rebecca, 46, had two bullet wounds in her temple. A daughter-in-law, Renada Simmons, drew five bullets to the head and two to the neck.

The county sheriff's department went to check on the family last Monday, after Simmons was arrested for allegedly killing two persons and wounding four in Russellville, about 17 miles down Highway 7 from his 13.7 acres of land in Dover. Officials say he clearly knew who his targets were to be, and drove to four different offices in his son's brown Toyota Corolla to get them. At each site, according to witnesses and investigators interviewed last week, the story was the same: no hesitation, no conversation, only a quick series of point-blank shots from two .22-caliber pistols.

At the end of the shooting, he allegedly offered his weapons to a former coworker and asked her to call the police. "I've done what I wanted to do and now it's all over," he was quoted as saying. said. "I've gotten everybody who hurt me." Thus far, Simmons has been charged with two counts of murder and four of attempted murder, all stemming from the shootings in Russellville. Authorities expect eventually to charge him with the killings of his 14 family members as well. For now, he is undergoing psychiatric examinations in Little Rock, which is about 90 miles northwest of this rural patch of Arkansas.

A Demented Ruler of his Castle

No one in town really knew the 47-year-old Simmons, a former Air Force officer who went through a string of low-paying jobs during the four years he lived in the area. Neighbors, acquaintances and shopkeepers described him as a recluse who sometimes answered a friendly inquiry with a glare.

He did not let his wife out of the house without him, except to do laundry; she apparently knew how to drive but was not allowed to do so. The five children living at home were sentenced in effect to internal exile. They were not permitted to go to church or to socialize, though they sometimes did by deceiving him. The four who were of school age were not allowed to walk to the bus; he drove them. When they returned in the late afternoon, he had them do chores until dark - mostly carrying piles of firewood or rocks or earth from the road at the bottom of the driveway.

"He worked them like a general," said Gwyn Collins, the school bus driver. One rumor police are investigating is that he had the kids dig the hole that was to become their grave. The family had no telephone.

Simmons' obsession with privacy seemed almost absolute. His home was his fortress, and his bedroom was his personal domain. Friends of his 17-year-old daughter, Loretta, said that on their infrequent visits to the house, Simmons would not say a word. He would lie on the couch and drink his beer, watch the news on television and look intruded upon. "They just tiptoed around him," said Liesl Smith, a classmate and friend of Loretta's. "Whenever he wasn't around, they would act like normal people. When he was around, her mom's main concern was keeping the kids quiet . . . He was the keeper in his kingdom. The look he gave you in his house was, 'When are you leaving?' It was creepy."

Relatives and neighbors said Simmons did not hit his children except when they tried to keep him from striking his wife. But Simmons allegedly did abuse one child in another way. On Aug. 11, 1981, while he and his family were living in Cloudcroft, N.M., he was charged with three counts of incest after his daughter testified before a grand jury that he had impregnated her. She was 17 at the time, and the child she bore was 6 when both of them were murdered last week. The incest charges were dismissed on Aug. 10, 1982, after police coming to arrest Simmons found he had fled in the middle of the night with his family.

By all accounts, Simmons' wife, Becky, was a kind woman who raised likable children who did well in school. Several relatives, and some of Loretta's friends, asserted in interviews that she was saving up the money and gathering up the nerve to file for a divorce. That is the closest thing to a motive that authorities have been able to piece together for Simmons' behavior. Somehow, they theorize, Simmons discovered that his wife was planning to leave him and he lost control. He apparently proceeded to kill the youngest children in the house overnight, shot the others the following day and then buried them, police said. He then apparently killed the five family members who arrived last Saturday, they added, and two days later decided to head for Russellville.

The Events of the Final Day of Murder

There, according to authorities, he first sought out Kathy Kendrick, 24, who had spurned his advances when they worked together at a nearby trucking firm a year earlier. She was sitting at her receptionist's desk at a law firm when he walked in and, according to police and witnesses, fired repeatedly at her head, killing her. Police were called at 10:17 a.m. By the time they arrived at the scene, he was gone.

Brenda Hefner, a legal secretary, was working in the back with a colleague when "suddenly I heard a gun." At first she thought it was just some kids playing with toys they had gotten for Christmas. "Then all of the sudden we heard two shots and Kathy screamed," she recalled in an interview. The two women opened a file drawer and took cover behind it. "He just kept shooting and kept shooting," said Hefner. "It was at least six times. I figure he unloaded the gun."

A bullet is still lodged in the area over Kendrick's desk. A client who was in the office at the time watched as the scene unfold; Simmons did not talk to her or harm her. Afterward, according to Hefner, the woman "ran to our door and started yelling, 'He shot her.' "There was blood coming out of her head. It was real dark, red blood, not like you'd expect to get from a cut. It's not blood like that. It's bright red. It was coming out of the back of her head. She was breathing. She had trouble breathing, but she was breathing.. . . I thought he was going to kill everybody in the room. We didn't know why he was here." Hefner said she is scared to be alone at home now, and at the same time is afraid to leave her house. "There might be some crazy out there," she said.

At 10:27, the police got a second call, saying there had been a shooting at Taylor Oil Co. There, Simmons allegedly was gunning for Rusty Taylor, 38, the owner of the Sinclair Mini-Mart where Simmons had been a part-time clerk, a job he had quit weeks earlier after complaining of low pay. Taylor has survived a gunshot wound in the chest, but a fellow employee, J.D. Chaffin, 34, was killed. Juli Money was starting the second hour of her first day as a bookkeeper at the office. She was in the adjoining warehouse, returning from the bathroom, when she heard shots.

She thought it was some kind of joke until she opened the door, glimpsed Chaffin lying in a pool of blood - and saw a .22 revolver aimed point-blank at her forehead. Simmons fired, Money felt the heat of the bullet as it whisked through her short blond hair, and she dove behind some crates. "I just screamed, 'No!' and went down," she recounted. "I believe that he thought that he hit me and that's why he left." "He just had a look in his eye like a mad dog. And when he looked at Jim on the floor and Jim was bleeding profusely, he showed no emotion or anything. He just turned around and pointed the gun at me and shot."

Money played out the scene as she related it, pretending to aim a gun held with both hands. "I thought of my kids immediately. I have a boy 8 and a girl 15. And of course, then I thought of my husband and I thought, am I dying? And my head felt warm, so I felt it, and I looked down expecting to see blood on my hand, but there was no blood."

Simmons was wearing a straw cowboy hat, a black leather jacket and "a horrid grin on his face," Money said. The hat was pulled down to his eyebrows. Simmons almost always wore a hat to cover his balding head. Later during that savage day, he would confront his victims while wearing a white baseball cap.

The episode at Taylor Oil took perhaps 45 seconds from start to finish. Money said she mourned Chaffin particularly because he had four children and was working there as a second job to help support them. Her voice was even and her manner strong as she talked, but Money's voice quavered when she said, ''I've never seen anybody die before." By the time the police arrived at Taylor Oil, Simmons was on his way up US 64 to the Sinclair Mini-Mart, about three miles away. The call from there came in at 10:39, after Simmons allegedly shot and injured the proprietor, David Salyer, 38, and an employee named Roberta Woolery, 46. It has not been determined what grudge Simmons might have had against Woolery, who was his initial target at the convenience store.

Salyer said last week that he was drinking coffee in the back when Simmons approached Woolery at the cash register, drew a pistol and fired twice. Like all of those who witnessed the carnage, Salyer said his first thought was that it was a joke. When he realized it was not, he grabbed a chair and threw it at Simmons. "That's when he shot me," he said.

A friend who was in the store at the time ducked behind an aisle of groceries and started heaving cans of Coke at the assailant. This apparently drove him off. Simmons had worked at the store, part time, for 1 1/2 years but resigned last month after complaining of low pay for long hours.

As he was mopping the blood off the floor the other day, Bill Mason, a Marine reservist and a store employee, said he had thought Simmons was a decent if somewhat odd and reserved man. On Dec. 7, he said, he had told Simmons that he was collecting toys for local children for distribution near Christmas. "I'm glad to see the Marines are helping the kids around here," he recalled Simmons as telling him. When Mason arrived at the Simmons home on Dec. 22 to offer some of the gifts for the youngsters there, however, the father shooed him away. "I don't want any toys for my kids," he said.

As police officers sped to the Mini-Mart, they received their final radio call of the spree, at 10:48 a.m. Someone had been shot at the Woodline Motor Freight Co. The victim, wounded in the heart and head, was Elaine Butts, who as Simmons' supervisor at the firm a year earlier had admonished him to stop making romantic advances to Kathy Kendrick. Simmons had been an accounts receivable clerk, Kendrick a secretary. He had sent her notes, flowers, small gifts.

Friends said he recently had begun doing so again, and even showed up at her front door some mornings; he may have been following her. He reportedly persisted even after she told him she had married since they had last known each other. Simmons, wearing a baseball cap, walked in through a side door near where Butts' desk had been the year before. He walked across the large room to where she now sat, and, according to a score of witnesses, fired at her twice. "He didn't say anything until after he'd shot Miss Butts," said Robert Wood, the company's president.

After he did, he walked into an enclosed office nearby and locked the door. A woman he knew was kneeling on the floor there, hiding. Wood said Simmons put a gun to her head, grabbed one of her arms and told her, "Don't worry, I'm not going to hurt you." The gun still trained, he helped her up and offered her a chair, then cigarettes.

Wood recalled that Simmons then dropped the gun to his side and offered the woman his second weapon. "Why didn't you visit me at the Mini-Mart?" he asked. She responded that he was never there when she shopped, and she refused the gun. He put it on a nearby table and told her to call the police. "I've done what I wanted to do and now it's all over," he said. "I've gotten everybody who hurt me." Moments later, he surrendered.

The Russellville police took possession of his guns - an H and R .22 with a 3-inch barrel, commonly called a Saturday Night Special; and a Ruger .22 with a 9 1/2-inch barrel - and they marched the gray-bearded suspect to a jail cell. From that time until he was transported to the psychiatric hospital in Little Rock, he did not speak a word to authorities. The only emotion he showed, according to Sheriff James Bolin, was when Bolin mentioned the slain family. Then Simmons' bottom lip quivered.


Letter sheds light on family's problems

Here is the complete text of the letter sent by Rebecca Simmons, the wife of R. Gene Simmons Sr., to her son William, daughter-in-law Renata, and grandson William "Trae" Simmons Jr. The three lived at Fordyce, Ark.

Dear Bill, Renata and Trae,

Loretta, may be staying in town Friday night, so I'll have her mail this. I've been thinking of all you said Bill and I know you are right, I don't want to live the rest of my live with Dad, but I'm still trying to figure out how to start, what if I couldn't find a job for some time. You have to remember I've never had a job since I've been married, or before that either. I now I have to start some where. It would all be so much easier if it was just me, but I have three kids (apparently not counting 17-year-old Loretta) also by then. So if you want to do any checking by telephone go ahead and check and we can talk about it when you come. I've decided if I borrow from Mom, that I would have her send it to you. I'm still all very confused but like I said I do know I don't want to stay with Dad, but don't want him getting more than he deserves. Yet sometimes I feel God is telling me to be more patient. Right now I'll just say do some checking and then it will help make my decision. I would like for Loretta to move with you after she turns 18. She wants to go to college, and she can get a job too. I don't think San Antonio is the place for her.

L. Gene (apparently referring to son Ronald Gene Simmons Jr. of San Antonio, Texas, who died in the massacre) and Wilma are back together, but they want to try it out and try to come get Barbara. I'm sure enjoying Barbara, she is a sweet lovable, polite little girl. She is a good girl and we all love her and enjoy her so much. She always has us laughing.

I'm so proud of Trae. The last time you came, Dad wanted to know how come you didn't stay long enough to see him too.

Now that L. Gene and Wilma are back together I wish they could move from San Antonio. Barbara needs both her parents. They both been through so much I hope it works out. I love them both. Wilma wrote me a letter telling me she loves L. Gene very much, and she must, she went back to him, and I'm sure she has been hurt deeply. I want to see all my children happy.

I've remembered a lot what you said Bill, I am a prisoner here and the kids too. I know when I get out, I might need help, Dad has had me like a prisoner, that the freedom might be hard for me to take, yet I know it would be great, having my children visit me anytime, having a telephone, going shopping if I want, going to church. Every time I think of freedom I want out as soon as possible. I don't want to put any burden on my children, and I think its best while or before I get out too old. I want out, but its the beginning, once I get a job and place than I can handle it with the mental support of my children I can do it. It was hard to talk in front of L. Gene. He had been having it so hard, and his problems were deeply in my mind. I felt sorry for him. I was so afraid what he might go back and do. You are lucky Bill, you have a very good wife, she had led you the right way, and that is toward God. She is very pretty, too. I've always thanked God for sending you a good wife, I'm thankful for Dennis too.

Give my darling Trae a lot of hugs and kisses for me. I love you all very much. Barbara gets bored if I take too long to write, so I hope I made sense in this letter. Hope Loretta can mail this Fri. or Sat., on her way home.

Love you very much.

Mom.

P.S. You all look so nice when you came. Loretta had a great time Renata, she talked a lot about it.


Whitmore ex rel. Simmons v. Arkansas, 110 S.Ct. 1717 (1990).

On December 28, 1987, Ronald Gene Simmons shot and killed two people and wounded three others in the course of a rampage through the town of Russellville, Arkansas. After police apprehended Simmons, they searched his home in nearby Dover, Arkansas, and discovered the bodies of 14 members of Simmons' family, all of whom had been murdered. The State filed two sets of criminal charges against Simmons, one based on the two Russellville murders and the other covering the deaths of his family members.

Simmons was first tried for the Russellville crimes, and a jury convicted him of capital murder and sentenced him to death. After being sentenced, Simmons made this statement under oath: " 'I, Ronald Gene Simmons, Sr., want it to be known that it is my wish and my desire that absolutely no action by anybody be taken to appeal or in any way change this sentence. It is further respectfully requested that this sentence be carried out expeditiously.' " The trial court conducted a hearing concerning Simmons' competence to waive further proceedings, and concluded that his decision was knowing and intelligent.

As Simmons' execution date approached Louis J. Franz, a Catholic priest who counsels inmates at the Arkansas Department of Corrections, petitioned the Supreme Court of Arkansas for permission to proceed as Simmons' "next friend" and to prosecute an appeal on his behalf. The court held that Franz did not have standing as "next friend," because he had not alleged facts showing that he had ever met Simmons, much less that he had a close relationship with the defendant.

It also rejected both his argument for standing under the Arkansas Constitution as an aggrieved taxpayer and his assertion that he should have standing as a concerned citizen to prevent an important legal issue from going unresolved at the appellate level. In dicta, the court went on to state that Arkansas law does not require a mandatory appeal in all death penalty cases.

Franz and another Arkansas death row inmate, Darrel Wayne Hill, then applied in Federal District Court for a writ of habeas corpus to prevent Simmons' execution, but the petition was denied on the ground that Franz and Hill did not have standing.

The State subsequently tried Simmons for the murder of his 14 family members, and on February 10, 1989, a jury convicted him of capital murder and imposed a sentence of death by lethal injection. Simmons again notified the trial court of his desire to waive his right to direct appeal, and after a hearing, the court found Simmons competent to do so. The Supreme Court of Arkansas, pursuant to the rule established in Franz, reviewed the competency determination and affirmed the trial court's decision that Simmons had knowingly and intelligently waived his right to appeal.

Three days later, petitioner Jonas Whitmore, another death row inmate in Arkansas, sought permission from the Supreme Court of Arkansas to intervene in Simmons' proceeding both individually and "as next friend of Ronald Gene Simmons." The court concluded that Whitmore had failed to show he had standing to intervene, and it denied the motion. Simmons v. State, 298 Ark. 255, 766 S.W.2d 423 (1989). Whitmore then asked this Court to stay Simmons' execution, which was scheduled for March 16, 1989.

New England Journal on Criminal and Civil Confinement, Winter/Summer, 1992 - Case Comment: WHITMORE v. ARKANSAS: EXECUTION OF AN INDIVIDUAL, WITHOUT A PRIOR MANDATORY APPELLATE REVIEW, DENIED SCRUTINY, by Carol A. Fitzsimmons.

On December 28, 1987, in the Town of Russellville, Arkansas, Ronald Gene Simmons went on a murderous rampage at four different locations over a period of approximately thirty minutes. During this violent spree, Simmons shot five people, seriously injuring three and killing two. Simmons was later apprehended and a search of his home was conducted, in which more dead bodies, later identified as family members, were discovered.

As a result of these findings, the State of Arkansas filed criminal charges in two counties against Ronald Gene Simmons. On May 16, 1988, in the Circuit Court of Franklin County, a jury convicted Simmons of capital murder and sentenced him to death for the murders of the two innocent bystanders during the rampage through the Town of Russellville. With respect to this conviction, Simmons made the trial court aware that he did not wish to seek any direct appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court for the purpose of reviewing the validity of his conviction for capital murder.

In response to this request, the Franklin County Circuit Court held a hearing on May 16, 1988, at which time experts testified as to "Simmons' mental competence to make a voluntary waiver of his right to a direct appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court." Upon hearing such testimony, the trial court concluded that Ronald Gene Simmons was sufficiently competent to voluntarily waive his right to direct appeal and that his choice to do so was made knowingly and intelligently.

Subsequently, on February 10, 1989, Ronald Gene Simmons was tried in the Circuit Court of Johnson County for the murders of the fourteen members of his family, whose bodies were discovered December 28-29, 1987. The jury convicted Simmons of capital murder and sentenced him to death by lethal injection to be carried out on March 16, 1989 at 7:00 a.m.

Following the trial, Simmons notified the trial judge of his desire to waive his right to appeal. An evidentiary hearing was held on March 1, 1989, and the trial judge found that Simmons was again competent to waive his right to direct appeal.

The Arkansas Supreme Court, pursuant to the rule established in Franz v. State, reviewed the competency evaluation and subsequently affirmed the trial court's decision that Simmons had made a knowing and intelligent waiver of his right to appeal. Although the Arkansas Supreme Court has affirmed Simmons' right to waive appeal, the execution scheduled for March 16, 1989, has yet to be carried out. Two individuals, Reverend Louis Franz and Jonas Whitmore sought review of this sentence both individually and as "next friend" to Ronald Gene Simmons.


U.S. Supreme Court

495 U.S. 149

WHITMORE, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS NEXT FRIEND OF SIMMONS
v.
ARKANSAS ET AL.

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF ARKANSAS

No. 88-7146.

Argued January 10, 1990
Decided April 24, 1990

After his trial on multiple murder charges, Ronald Simmons waived his right to direct appeal of his conviction and death sentence. The trial court conducted a hearing and determined that Simmons was competent to waive further proceedings. Pursuant to its rule that Arkansas law does not require a mandatory appeal in all death penalty cases, but that a defendant can forgo his direct appeal only if he has been judicially determined to have the capacity to understand the choice between life and death and to knowingly and intelligently waive any and all rights to appeal his sentence, the State Supreme Court reviewed the competency determination and affirmed the trial court's decision that Simmons had knowingly and intelligently waived the right to appeal.

The court then denied the motion of petitioner Whitmore - a death-row inmate convicted in a robbery-murder case, who had exhausted his direct appellate review, been denied state postconviction relief, and not yet sought federal habeas corpus relief - to intervene in the proceeding both individually and as Simmons' "next friend," concluding that Whitmore lacked standing.

This Court granted Whitmore's petition for certiorari on the questions whether a third party has standing to challenge the validity of a death sentence imposed on a capital defendant who has elected to forgo his right of appeal, and whether the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments prohibit the State from carrying out a death sentence without first conducting a mandatory appellate review of the conviction and sentence.

Held:

Whitmore lacks standing to proceed in this Court. Pp. 154-166.

    (a) Before a federal court can consider the merits of a legal claim, the person seeking to invoke the court's jurisdiction must establish the requisite standing to sue. To do so, he must prove the existence of an Art. III case or controversy by clearly demonstrating that he has suffered an "injury in fact," which is concrete in both a qualitative and temporal sense. He must show that the injury "fairly can be traced to the challenged action," and "is likely to be redressed by a favorable decision." Simon v. Eastern Kentucky Welfare Rights Organization, 426 U.S. 26, 38 , 41. Pp. 154-156.

    (b) Whitmore does not have standing in his individual capacity based on a legal right to a system of mandatory appellate review assertedly granted to him personally and to Simmons by the Eighth Amendment. His principal claim of injury in fact - that if he obtains federal habeas relief but is convicted and resentenced to death in a new trial, then, in light of Arkansas' comparative review in death penalty cases, he has a direct and substantial interest in having the data base against which his crime is compared to be complete and to not be arbitrarily skewed by the omission of Simmons' heinous crimes - is too speculative to invoke Art. III jurisdiction. Even assuming that Whitmore would eventually secure habeas relief and be convicted and resentenced to death, there is no factual basis on which to conclude that the sentence imposed on a mass murderer would be relevant to a future comparative review of his robbery-murder sentence. His theory is at least as speculative as other allegations of possible future injury that have been found insufficient to establish Art. III injury in fact. See e. g., O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488 . United States v. SCRAP, 412 U.S. 669 , distinguished. Whitmore's further contention that, as an Arkansas citizen, he is entitled to the Eighth Amendment's public interest protections and has a right to invoke this Court's jurisdiction to insure that the State does not carry out an execution without mandatory appellate review raises only the generalized interest of all citizens in constitutional governance and is and inadequate basis on which to grant him standing. Nor does the uniqueness of the death penalty and society's interest in its proper imposition justify creating an exception to traditional standing doctrine, since the requirement of an Art. III case or controversy is not merely a traditional "rule of practice," but rather is imposed directly by the Constitution. Pp. 156-161.

    (c) Whitmore's alternative argument that he has standing as Simmons' "next friend" is also rejected. The scope of any federal "next friend" standing doctrine, assuming that one exists absent congressional authorization, is no broader than the "next friend" standing permitted under the federal habeas corpus statute. Thus, one necessary condition 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. That prerequisite is not satisfied where, as here, an evidentiary hearing shows that the defendant has given a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of his right to proceed, and his access to court is otherwise unimpeded. Pp. 161-166.

298 Ark. 193 and 255, 766 S. W. 2d 422 and 423, certiorari dismissed.

REHNQUIST, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, BLACKMUN, STEVENS, O'CONNOR, SCALIA, and KENNEDY, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 166.

Arthur L. Allen, by appointment of the Court, 493 U.S. 804 , argued the cause and filed a brief for petitioner.

J. Steven Clark, Attorney General of Arkansas, argued the cause for respondents. With him on the brief for respondent State of Arkansas was Clint Miller, Assistant Attorney General. John Harris filed a brief for respondent Simmons. *  

[ Footnote * ] Gary B. Born, Daniel J. Popeo, and Paul D. Kamenar filed a brief for the Washington Legal Foundation et al. as amici curiae urging affirmance.

William Webster, Attorney General of Missouri, John M. Morris and Stephen D. Hawke, Assistant Attorneys General, Don Siegelman, Attorney General of Alabama, Jim Jones, Attorney General of Idaho, Hal Stratton, Attorney General of New Mexico, Anthony J. Celebrezze, Jr., Attorney General of Ohio, T. Travis Medlock, Attorney General of South Carolina, and Mary Sue Terry, Attorney General of Virginia, filed a brief for the State of Missouri et al. as amici curiae.

CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents the question whether a third party has standing to challenge the validity of a death sentence imposed on a capital defendant who has elected to forgo his right of appeal to the State Supreme Court. Petitioner Jonas Whitmore contends that the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments prevent the State of Arkansas from carrying out the death sentence imposed on Ronald Gene Simmons without first conducting a mandatory appellate review of Simmons' conviction and sentence. We hold that petitioner lacks standing, and therefore dismiss the writ of certiorari.

I

On December 28, 1987, Ronald Gene Simmons shot and killed two people and wounded three others in the course of a rampage through the town of Russellville, Arkansas. After police apprehended Simmons, they searched his home in nearby Dover, Arkansas, and discovered the bodies of 14 members of Simmons' family, all of whom had been murdered. The State filed two sets of criminal charges against Simmons, one based on the two Russellville murders and the other covering the deaths of his family members.

Simmons was first tried for the Russellville crimes, and a jury convicted him of capital murder and sentenced him to death. After being sentenced, Simmons made this statement under oath: "`I, Ronald Gene Simmons, Sr., want it to be known that it is my wish and my desire that absolutely no action by anybody be taken to appeal or in any way change this sentence. It is further respectfully requested that this sentence be carried out expeditiously.'" See Franz v. State, 296 Ark. 181, 183, 754 S. W. 2d 839, 840 (1988). The trial court conducted a hearing concerning Simmons' competence to waive further proceedings, and concluded that his decision was knowing and intelligent.

As Simmons' execution date approached Louis J. Franz, a Catholic priest who counsels inmates at the Arkansas Department of Corrections, petitioned the Supreme Court of Arkansas for permission to proceed as Simmons'"next friend" and to prosecute an appeal on his behalf.

The court held that Franz did not have standing as "next friend," because he had not alleged facts showing that he had ever met Simmons, much less that he had a close relationship with the defendant. It also rejected both his argument for standing under the Arkansas Constitution as an aggrieved taxpayer and his assertion that he should have standing as a concerned citizen to prevent an important legal issue from going unresolved at the appellate level.

In dicta, the court went on to state that Arkansas law does not require a mandatory appeal in all death penalty cases. It did note, however, that a defendant sentenced to death in Arkansas will be able to forgo his direct appeal "only if he has been judicially determined to have the capacity to understand the choice between life and death and to knowingly and intelligently waive any and all rights to appeal his sentence." Id., at 189, 754 S. W. 2d, at 843.

After reviewing the record of the trial court's competency hearing, the Supreme Court held that Simmons had made a knowing and intelligent waiver of his right to appeal. Franz and another Arkansas death row inmate, Darrel Wayne Hill, then applied in Federal District Court for a writ of habeas corpus to prevent Simmons' execution, but the petition was denied on the ground that Franz and Hill did not have standing. Franz v. Lockhart, 700 F. Supp. 1005 (ED Ark. 1988), appeal pending, No. 89-1485EA (CA8).

The State subsequently tried Simmons for the murder of his 14 family members, and on February 10, 1989, a jury convicted him of capital murder and imposed a sentence of death by lethal injection. Simmons again notified the trial court of his desire to waive his right to direct appeal, and after a hearing, the court found Simmons competent to do so.

The Supreme Court of Arkansas, pursuant to the rule established in Franz, reviewed the competency determination and affirmed the trial court's decision that Simmons had knowingly and intelligently waived his right to appeal. Simmons v. State, 298 Ark. 193, 766 S. W. 2d 422 (1989).

The court commended the trial court and Simmons' counsel for doing "an exceptional job in examining and exploring [Simmons'] capacity to understand the choice between life and death and his ability to know and to intelligently waive any and all right he might have in an appeal of his sentence." Id., at 194, 766 S. W. 2d, at 423.

The court also noted that Simmons' counsel "thoroughly discussed seven possible points that could be argued for reversal on appeal" and that Simmons acknowledged those points but "rejected all encouragement and suggestions to appeal." Ibid.

Three days later, petitioner Jonas Whitmore, another death row inmate in Arkansas, sought permission from the Supreme Court of Arkansas to intervene in Simmons' proceeding both individually and "as next friend of Ronald Gene Simmons." The court concluded that Whitmore had failed to show he had standing to intervene, and it denied the motion. Simmons v. State, 298 Ark. 255, 766 S. W. 2d 423 (1989).

Whitmore then asked this Court to stay Simmons' execution, which was scheduled for March 16, 1989. We granted a stay pending the filing and disposition of a petition for certiorari, 489 U.S. 1073 (1989), and later granted Whitmore's petition for certiorari. 492 U.S. 917 (1989).

II

A

This is not the first time we have encountered a third party seeking to prevent the execution of a capital defendant who has decided to forgo further judicial proceedings. In Gilmore v. Utah, 429 U.S. 1012 (1976), we considered an application for a stay of the execution of Gary Mark Gilmore, filed by his mother Bessie Gilmore after the defendant declined to request relief. A majority of the Court concluded that Gilmore had made a knowing and intelligent waiver of any federal rights available to him and, accordingly, allowed the execution to go forward.

Four Members of the Court, however, felt that the standing and other constitutional issues raised by the application were substantial and would have given the matter plenary consideration. Since Gilmore, we have been presented with other applications from third parties for stays of execution, see Lenhard v. Wolff, 443 U.S. 1306 , stay of execution denied, 444 U.S. 807 (1979); Evans v. Bennett, 440 U.S. 1301 , stay of execution denied, 440 U.S. 987 (1979), but until the present case, we have not requested full briefing and argument and issued an opinion of the Court on this recurring issue.

Petitioner Whitmore asks this Court to hold that despite Simmons' failure to appeal, the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments require the State of Arkansas to conduct an appellate review of his conviction and sentence before it can proceed to execute him. It is well established, however, that before a federal court can consider the merits of a legal claim, the person seeking to invoke the jurisdiction of the court must establish the requisite standing to sue.

Article III, of course, gives the federal courts jurisdiction over only "cases and controversies," and the doctrine of standing serves to identify those disputes which are appropriately resolved through the judicial process. See Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church & State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 471 -476 (1982). Our threshold inquiry into standing "in no way depends on the merits of the [petitioner's] contention that particular conduct is illegal," Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 500 (1975), and we thus put aside for now Whitmore's Eighth Amendment challenge and consider whether he has established the existence of a "case or controversy."

Although we have acknowledged before that "the concept of `Art. III standing' has not been defined with complete consistency in all of the various cases decided by this Court which have discussed it," Valley Forge, supra, at 475, certain basic principles have been distilled from our decisions. To establish an Art. III case or controversy, a litigant first must clearly demonstrate that he has suffered an "injury in fact."

That injury, we have emphasized repeatedly, must be concrete in both a qualitative and temporal sense. The complainant must allege an injury to himself that is "distinct and palpable," Warth, supra, at 501, as opposed to merely "[a]bstract," O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 494 (1974), and the alleged harm must be actual or imminent, not "conjectural" or "hypothetical." Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 101 -102 (1983).

Further, the litigant must satisfy the "causation" and "redressability" prongs of the Art. III minima by showing that the injury "fairly can be traced to the challenged action" and "is likely to be redressed by a favorable decision." Simon v. Eastern Kentucky Welfare Rights Organization, 426 U.S. 26, 38 , 41 (1976); Valley Forge, supra, at 472. The litigant must clearly and specifically set forth facts sufficient to satisfy these Art. III standing requirements. A federal court is powerless to create its own jurisdiction by embellishing otherwise deficient allegations of standing. See Warth, supra, at 508, 518. 1  

B

As we understand Whitmore's claim of standing in his individual capacity, he alleges that the State has infringed rights that the Eighth Amendment grants to him personally and to the subject of the impending execution, Simmons. He therefore rests his claim to relief both on his own asserted legal right to a system of mandatory appellate review and on Simmons' similar right. Under either theory, Whitmore must establish Art. III standing, see Secretary of State of Md. v. Joseph H. Munson Co., 467 U.S. 947, 956 (1984); Singleton v. Wulff, 428 U.S. 106, 112 (1976), and we find that his allegations fall short of doing so.

Whitmore's principal claim of injury in fact is that Arkansas has established a system of comparative review in death penalty cases, and that he has "a direct and substantial interest in having the data base against which his crime is compared to be complete and to not be arbitrarily skewed by the omission of any other capital case." Brief for Petitioner 21. Although he has already been convicted of murder and sentenced to death, has exhausted his direct appellate review, see Whitmore v. State, 296 Ark. 308, 756 S. W. 2d 890 (1988), and has been denied state postconviction relief, Whitmore v. State, 299 Ark. 55, 771 S. W. 2d 266 (1989), petitioner suggests that he might in the future obtain federal habeas corpus relief that would entitle him to a new trial.

If, in that new trial, Whitmore is again convicted and sentenced to death, he would once more seek review of the sentence by the Supreme Court of Arkansas; that court would compare Whitmore's case with other capital cases to insure that the death penalty is not freakishly or arbitrarily applied in Arkansas. Petitioner asserts that he would ultimately be injured by the State Supreme Court's failure to review Simmons' death sentence, because the heinous crimes committed by Simmons would not be included in the data base employed for Whitmore's comparative review. The injury would be redressed by an order from this Court that the Eighth Amendment requires mandatory appellate review.

Petitioner's alleged injury is too speculative to invoke the jurisdiction of an Art. III court. Whitmore's conviction and death sentence are final, and his claim that he may eventually secure federal habeas relief from his conviction is obviously problematic. Nor, although the odds may well be better, can petitioner prove that if he were to obtain habeas relief, he would be retried, convicted, and again sentenced to death.

And even were we to follow Whitmore this far down the path, it is nothing more than conjecture that the addition of Simmons' crimes to a comparative review "data base" would lead the Supreme Court of Arkansas to set aside a death sentence for Whitmore, whose victim died after he stabbed her 10 times, cut her throat, and carved an "X" on the side of her face. 296 Ark., at 317, 756 S. W. 2d, at 895.

In its comparative review of Whitmore's current sentence, the Arkansas court simply noted that defendants in similar robbery-murder capital crimes had also been sentenced to death. Ibid. Whitmore provides no factual basis for us to conclude that the sentence imposed on a mass murderer like Simmons would even be relevant to a future comparative review of Whitmore's sentence.

Whitmore's theory of injury is at least as speculative as others we have found insufficient to establish Art. III injury in fact. In O'Shea v. Littleton, supra, we held there was no case or controversy where residents of an Illinois town sought injunctive relief against a Magistrate and a Circuit Court Judge whom the plaintiffs claimed were engaged in a pattern and practice of illegal bondsetting, sentencing, and jury-fee practices in criminal cases.

The allegation of respondents (plaintiffs) in that case amounted to a claim "that if respondents proceed to violate an unchallenged law and if they are charged, held to answer, and tried in any proceedings before petitioners, they will be subjected to the discriminatory practices that petitioners are alleged to have followed." Id., at 497. That contention, which we think is analogous to Whitmore's, took us "into the area of speculation and conjecture," ibid., and beyond the bounds of our jurisdiction.

We have likewise thought inadequate allegations of future injury contingent on a plaintiff having an encounter with police wherein police would administer an allegedly illegal "chokehol[d]," Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S., at 105 , on the prospective future candidacy of a former Congressman, Golden v. Zwickler, 394 U.S. 103, 109 (1969), and on police using deadly force against a person fleeing from an as yet uneffected arrest. Ashcroft v. Mattis, 431 U.S. 171, 172 , n. 2 (1977). Recently in Diamond v. Charles, 476 U.S. 54 (1986), we rejected a physician's attempt to defend a state law restricting abortions, because his complaint that fewer abortions would lead to more paying patients was "`unadorned speculation'" insufficient to invoke the federal judicial power. Id., at 66 (quoting Simon v. Eastern Kentucky Welfare Rights Organization, 426 U.S., at 44 ).

Each of these cases demonstrates what we have said many times before and reiterate today: Allegations of possible future injury do not satisfy the requirements of Art. III. A threatened injury must be "`certainly impending'" to constitute injury in fact. Babbitt v. Farm Workers, 442 U.S. 289, 298 (1979) (quoting Pennsylvania v. West Virginia, 262 U.S. 553, 593 (1923)). See also Lyons, supra, at 102; United States v. Richardson, 418 U.S. 166, 177 -178 (1974).

Probably the most attenuated injury conferring Art. III standing was that asserted by the respondents in United States v. SCRAP, 412 U.S. 669 (1974). There, an environmental group challenged the Interstate Commerce Commission's approval of a surcharge on railroad freight rates, claiming that the adverse environmental impact of the ICC's action on the Washington metropolitan area would cause the group's members to suffer "`economic, recreational and aesthetic harm.'" Id., at 678.

The SCRAP group alleged that "a general rate increase would . . . cause increased use of nonrecyclable commodities as compared to recyclable goods, thus resulting in the need to use more natural resources to produce such goods, some of which resources might be taken from the Washington area, and resulting in more refuse that might be discarded in national parks in the Washington area." Id., at 688. The Court held that those pleadings alleged a specific and perceptible harm sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss for lack of standing, but also indicated that the United States could have been entitled to summary judgment on the standing issue if it showed that "the allegations were sham and raised no genuine issue of fact." Id., at 689, and n. 15.

Even under the analysis of the standing question in SCRAP, which surely went to the very outer limit of the law, petitioner's asserted injury is not enough to establish jurisdiction. In SCRAP, the environmental group alleged that specific and perceptible harms - depletion of natural resources and increased littering - would befall its members imminently if the ICC orders were not reversed.

That bald statement, even if incorrect, was held sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss, because the plaintiffs in SCRAP may have been able to show at trial that the string of occurrences alleged would happen immediately. But Whitmore does not make - and could not responsibly make - a similar claim of immediate harm. We can take judicial notice of the fact that writs of habeas corpus are granted in only some cases, and that guilty verdicts are returned after only some trials. It is just not possible for a litigant to prove in advance that the judicial system will lead to any particular result in his case.

Thus, unlike the injury alleged in SCRAP, there is no amount of evidence that potentially could establish that Whitmore's asserted future injury is "`real and immediate.'" See O'Shea, 414 U.S., at 494 . Moreover, as noted above, even if Whitmore could demonstrate with certainty that he would be retried, convicted, and sentenced, he has not shown that Simmons' convictions would be pertinent to his proportionality review in the Supreme Court of Arkansas.

Whitmore also contends that as a citizen of Arkansas, he is "entitled to the public interest protections of the Eighth Amendment," and has a right to invoke this Court's jurisdiction to insure that an execution is not carried out in Arkansas without appellate review.

This allegation raises only the "generalized interest of all citizens in constitutional governance," Schlesinger v. Reservists Committee to Stop the War, 418 U.S. 208, 217 (1974), and is an inadequate basis on which to grant petitioner standing to proceed. To dispose of this claim, we need do no more than quote our decision in Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 754 (1984): "This Court has repeatedly held that an asserted right to have the Government act in accordance with law is not sufficient, standing alone, to confer jurisdiction on a federal court." Accord, Valley Forge College v. Americans United, 454 U.S., at 482 -483, and 489-490, n. 26 ("Were we to recognize standing premised on an `injury' consisting solely of an alleged violation of a `"personal constitutional right" to a government that does not establish religion,' a principled consistency would dictate recognition of respondents' standing to challenge execution of every capital sentence on the basis of a personal right to a government that does not impose cruel and unusual punishment") (quoting Americans United for Separation of Church & State, Inc. v. United States Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare, 619 F.2d 252, 265 (CA3 1980) (citation omitted)); Schlesinger, supra, at 216-227; United States v. Richardson, supra, at 176-177.

Perhaps recognizing the weakness of his claim for standing, petitioner argues next that the Court should create an exception to traditional standing doctrine for this case. The uniqueness of the death penalty and society's interest in its proper imposition, he maintains, justify a relaxed application of standing principles. The short answer to this suggestion is that the requirement of an Art. III "case or controversy" is not merely a traditional "rule of practice," but rather is imposed directly by the Constitution. It is not for this Court to employ untethered notions of what might be good public policy to expand our jurisdiction in an appealing case.

We have previously resisted the temptation to "import profound differences of opinion over the meaning of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution into the domain of administrative law," Heckler v. Chaney, 470 U.S. 821, 838 (1985); id., at 839-840, n. 2 (BRENNAN, J., concurring), and restraint is even more important when the matter at issue is the constitutional source of the federal judicial power itself. 2 We hold that Whitmore does not have standing in his individual capacity to press an Eighth Amendment objection to Simmons' conviction and sentence.

C

As an alternative basis for standing to maintain this action, petitioner purports to proceed as "next friend of Ronald Gene Simmons." Although we have never discussed the concept of "next friend" standing at length, it has long been an accepted basis for jurisdiction in certain circumstances. Most frequently, "next friends" appear in court on behalf of detained prisoners who are unable, usually because of mental incompetence or inaccessibility, to seek relief themselves. E. g., United States ex rel. Toth v. Quarles, 350 U.S. 11, 13 , n. 3 (1955) (prisoner's sister brought habeas corpus proceeding while he was being held in Korea).

As early as the 17th century, the English Habeas Corpus Act of 1679 authorized complaints to be filed by "any one on . . . behalf" of detained persons, see 31 Car. II, ch. 2, and in 1704 the House of Lords resolved "[t]hat every Englishman, who is imprisoned by any authority whatsoever, has an undoubted right, by his agents, or friends, to apply for, and obtain a Writ of Habeas Corpus, in order to procure his liberty by due course of law." See Ashby v. White, 14 How. St. Tr. 695, 814 (Q. B. 1704).

Some early decisions in this country interpreted ambiguous provisions of the federal habeas corpus statute to allow "next friend" standing in connection with petitions for writs of habeas corpus, see, e. g., Collins v. Traeger, 27 F.2d 842, 843 (CA9 1928); United States ex rel. Funaro v. Watchorn, 164 F. 152, 153 (SDNY 1908), 3 and Congress eventually codified the doctrine explicitly in 1948. See 28 U.S.C. 2242 (1982 ed.) ("Application for a writ of habeas corpus shall be in writing signed and verified by the person for whose relief it is intended or by someone acting in his behalf") (emphasis added). 4  

A "next friend" does not himself become a party to the habeas corpus action in which he participates, but simply pursues the cause on behalf of the detained person, who remains the real party in interest. Morgan v. Potter, 157 U.S. 195, 198 (1895); Nash ex rel. Hashimoto v. MacArthur, 87 U.S. App. D.C. 268, 269-270, 184 F.2d 606, 607-608 (1950), cert. denied, 342 U.S. 838 (1951).

Most important for present purposes, "next friend" standing is by no means granted automatically to whomever seeks to pursue an action on behalf of another. Decisions applying the habeas corpus statute have adhered to at least two firmly rooted prerequisites for "next friend" standing. First, a "next friend" must provide an adequate explanation - such as inaccessibility, mental incompetence, or other disability - why the real party in interest cannot appear on his own behalf to prosecute the action. Wilson v. Lane, 870 F.2d 1250, 1253 (CA7 1989), cert. pending, No. 89-81; Smith ex rel. Missouri Public Defender Comm'n v. Armontrout, 812 F.2d 1050, 1053 (CA8), cert. denied, 483 U.S. 1033 (1987); Weber v. Garza, 570 F.2d 511, 513-514 (CA5 1978).

Second, the "next friend" must be truly dedicated to the best interests of the person on whose behalf he seeks to litigate, see, e. g., Morris v. United States, 399 F. Supp. 720, 722 (ED Va. 1975), and it has been further suggested that a "next friend" must have some significant relationship with the real party in interest. Davis v. Austin, 492 F. Supp. 273, 275-276 (ND Ga. 1980) (minister and first cousin of prisoner denied "next friend" standing). The burden is on the "next friend" clearly to establish the propriety of his status and thereby justify the jurisdiction of the court. Smith, supra, at 1053; Groseclose ex rel. Harries v. Dutton, 594 F. Supp. 949, 952 (MD Tenn. 1984).

These limitations on the "next friend" doctrine are driven by the recognition that "[i]t was not intended that the writ of habeas corpus should be availed of, as matter of course, by intruders or uninvited meddlers, styling themselves next friends." United States ex rel. Bryant v. Houston, 273 F. 915, 916 (CA2 1921); see also Rosenberg v. United States, 346 U.S. 273, 291 -292 (1953) (Jackson, J., concurring with five other Justices) (discountenancing practice of granting "next friend" standing to one who was a stranger to the detained persons and their case and whose intervention was unauthorized by the prisoners' counsel). Indeed, if there were no restriction on "next friend" standing in federal courts, the litigant asserting only a generalized interest in constitutional governance could circumvent the jurisdictional limits of Art. III simply by assuming the mantle of "next friend."

Whitmore, of course, does not seek a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of Simmons. He desires to intervene in a state-court proceeding to appeal Simmons' conviction and death sentence. Under these circumstances, there is no federal statute authorizing the participation of "next friends." The Supreme Court of Arkansas recognizes, apparently as a matter of common law, the availability of "next friend" standing in the Arkansas courts, see Franz v. State, 296 Ark., at 184, 754 S. W. 2d, at 840-841, but declined to grant it to Whitmore.

Without deciding whether a "next friend" may ever invoke the jurisdiction of a federal court absent congressional authorization, we think the scope of any federal doctrine of "next friend" standing is no broader than what is permitted by the habeas corpus statute, which codified the historical practice. And in keeping with the ancient tradition of the doctrine, we conclude that one necessary condition for "next friend" standing in federal court 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.

That prerequisite for "next friend" standing is not satisfied where an evidentiary hearing shows that the defendant has given a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of his right to proceed, and his access to court is otherwise unimpeded. See Gilmore v. Utah, 429 U.S., at 1017 (STEVENS, J., concurring). Although we are not here faced with the question whether a hearing on mental competency is required by the United States Constitution whenever a capital defendant desires to terminate further proceedings, such a hearing will obviously bear on whether the defendant is able to proceed on his own behalf.

The Supreme Court of Arkansas requires a competency hearing as a matter of state law, and in this case it affirmed the trial court's finding that Simmons had "the capacity to understand the choice between life and death and to knowingly and intelligently waive any and all rights to appeal his sentence." Simmons v. State, 298 Ark., at 194, 766 S. W. 2d, at 423. At oral argument, Whitmore's counsel questioned the validity of the waiver, but we find no reason to disturb the judgment of the Supreme Court of Arkansas on this point.

Simmons was questioned by counsel and the trial court concerning his choice to accept the death sentence, and his answers demonstrate that he appreciated the consequences of that decision. He indicated that he understood several possible grounds for appeal, which had been explained to him by counsel, but informed the court that he was "not seeking any technicalities." Tr. 15.

In a psychiatric interview, Simmons stated that he would consider it "`a terrible miscarriage of justice for a person to kill people and not be executed,'" id., at 29, and there was no meaningful evidence that he was suffering from a mental disease, disorder, or defect that substantially affected his capacity to make an intelligent decision. See Rees v. Peyton, 384 U.S. 312, 314 (1966). We therefore hold that Whitmore, having failed to establish that Simmons is unable to proceed on his own behalf, does not have standing to proceed as "next friend" of Ronald Gene Simmons.

    * * *

At the beginning of this century, the Court confronted a situation similar to this in which a concerned citizen sought to bring an ordinary civil action to secure relief for a condemned man. The Court's response on that occasion is equally apt today: "However friendly he may be to the doomed man and sympathetic for his situation; however concerned he may be lest unconstitutional laws be enforced, and however laudable such sentiments are, the grievance they suffer and feel is not special enough to furnish a cause of action in a case like this." Gusman v. Marrero, 180 U.S. 81, 87 (1901).

Jonas Whitmore lacks standing to proceed in this Court, and the writ of certiorari is dismissed for want of jurisdiction. See Doremus v. Board of Education of Hawthorne, 342 U.S. 429 (1952).

    It is so ordered.

*****

Footnotes

[ Footnote 1 ] In addition to the constitutional requirements of Art. III, the court has developed several now-familiar prudential limitations on standing. See Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church & State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 472 -475 (1982). These limitations are not involved in this case.

[ Footnote 2 ] The cases relied upon by petitioner to establish that the strict requirement of standing, in some circumstances, is only a "rule of practice" that can be relaxed in view of countervailing policies are inapposite, because they concern prudential barriers to standing, not the mandates of Art. III. See Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438, 445 (1972); Dombrowski v. Pfister, 380 U.S. 479, 486 -487 (1965); United States v. Raines, 362 U.S. 17, 22 (1960). Because we conclude that petitioner has not established Art. III standing, we need not decide whether it would be appropriate in this type of action to relax the general prudential rule that a litigant "must assert his own legal rights and interests, and cannot rest his claim to relief on the legal rights or interests of third parties." Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 499 (1975).

[ Footnote 3 ] One section of the former habeas corpus statute provided that "[a]pplication or writ of habeas corpus shall be . . . signed by the person for whose relief it is intended." Rev. Stat. 754; 28 U.S.C. 454 (1940 ed.) (emphasis added). Nevertheless, the Collins and Watchorn courts found an implicit authorization of "next friend" standing in 760 of the revised statutes, which stated that "[t]he petitioner or the party imprisoned or restrained may deny any of the facts set forth in the return." Rev. Stat. 760; 28 U.S.C. 460 (1940 ed.) (emphasis added). At least one court concluded that "next friend" standing was not available under the old statute. Ex parte Hibbs, 26 F. 421, 435 (Ore. 1886). Other courts recognized the ability of third parties to apply for a writ but did not make clear the basis for their decisions. United States ex rel. Bryant v. Houston, 273 F. 915, 916-917 (CA2 1921); Ex parte Dostal, 243 F. 664, 668 (ND Ohio 1917). When Congress added the words "or by someone acting in his behalf" to 754 in 1948, the revisers noted that the change "follow[ed] the actual practice of the courts." Revisers' Notes to 28 U.S.C. 2242 (1982 ed.).

[ Footnote 4 ] Some courts have permitted "next friends" to prosecute actions outside the habeas corpus context on behalf of infants, other minors, and adult mental incompetents. See, e. g, Garnett v. Garnett, 114 Mass. 379 (1874) ("next friend" may bring action for divorce on behalf of an insane person); Campbell v. Campbell, 242 Ala. 141, 5 So.2d 401 (1941) (same); Blumenthal v. Craig, 81 F. 320, 321-322 (CA3 1897) ("next friend" was admitted by court to prosecute personal injury action on behalf of the plaintiff, who was a minor); Baltimore & Ohio R. Co. v. Fitzpatrick, 36 Md. 619 (1872) (same).

*****

JUSTICE MARSHALL, with whom JUSTICE BRENNAN joins, dissenting.

The Court today allows a State to execute a man even though no appellate court has reviewed the validity of his conviction or sentence. In reaching this result, the Court does not address the constitutional claim presented by petitioner: whether a State must provide appellate review in a capital case despite the defendant's desire to waive such review. Rather, it decides that petitioner does not have standing to raise that issue before this Court.

The Court rejects petitioner's argument that he should be allowed to proceed as Ronald Gene Simmons'"next friend," relying on the federal common-law doctrine that a competent defendant's waiver of his right to appeal precludes another person from appealing on his behalf. If petitioner's constitutional claim is meritorious, however, Simmons' execution violates the Eighth Amendment. The Court would thus permit an unconstitutional execution on the basis of a common-law doctrine that the Court has the power to amend.

Given the extraordinary circumstances of this case, then, consideration of whether federal common law precludes Jonas Whitmore's standing as Ronald Simmons' next friend should be informed by a consideration of the merits of Whitmore's claim. For the reasons discussed herein, the Constitution requires that States provide appellate review of capital cases notwithstanding a defendant's desire to waive such review.

To prevent Simmons' unconstitutional execution, the Court should relax the common-law restriction on next-friend standing and permit Whitmore to present the merits question on Simmons' behalf. By refusing to address that question, the Court needlessly abdicates its grave responsibility to ensure that no person is wrongly executed. I dissent.

I

This Court has held that the Constitution does not require States to provide appellate review of noncapital criminal cases. Ross v. Moffitt, 417 U.S. 600, 611 (1974) (citing McKane v. Durston, 153 U.S. 684, 687 (1894)). It is by now axiomatic, however, that the unique, irrevocable nature of the death penalty necessitates safeguards not required for other punishments.

    "Under the Eighth Amendment, the death penalty has been treated differently from all other punishments. Among the most important and consistent themes in this Court's death penalty jurisprudence is the need for special care and deliberation in decisions that may lead to the imposition of that sanction. The Court has accordingly imposed a series of unique substantive and procedural restrictions designed to ensure that capital punishment is not imposed without the serious and calm reflection that ought to precede any decision of such gravity and finality." Thompson v. Oklahoma, 487 U.S. 815, 856 (1988) (O'CONNOR, J., concurring in judgment) (citation omitted).

See also Zant v. Stephens, 462 U.S. 862, 884 (1983) ("[B]ecause there is a qualitative difference between death and any other permissible form of punishment, `there is a corresponding difference in the need for reliability in the determination that death is the appropriate punishment in a specific case'") (quoting Woodson v. North Carolina, 428 U.S. 280, 305 (1976) (plurality opinion)); Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U.S. 104, 118 (1982) (O'CONNOR, J., concurring) ("[T]his Court has gone to extraordinary measures to ensure that the prisoner sentenced to be executed is afforded process that will guarantee, as much as is humanly possible, that the sentence was not imposed out of whim, passion, prejudice, or mistake").

This Court has consistently recognized the crucial role of appellate review in ensuring that the death penalty is not imposed arbitrarily or capriciously. In Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976), the Court upheld Georgia's capital sentencing scheme in large part because the statute required appellate review of every death sentence.

    "As an important additional safeguard against arbitrariness and caprice, the Georgia statutory scheme provides for automatic appeal of all death sentences to the State's Supreme Court. That court is required by statute to review each sentence of death and determine whether it was imposed under the influence of passion or prejudice, whether the evidence supports the jury's finding of a statutory aggravating circumstance, and whether the sentence is disproportionate compared to those sentences imposed in similar cases." Id., at 198 (joint opinion of Stewart, Powell, and STEVENS, JJ.).

See also id., at 211 (WHITE, J., joined by Burger, C. J., and REHNQUIST, J., concurring in judgment) ("An important aspect of the new Georgia legislative scheme . . . is its provision for appellate review . . . in every case in which the death penalty is imposed"). The provision of automatic appellate review was also a significant factor in the Court's decisions that same Term upholding the capital sentencing schemes of Florida and Texas. See Proffitt v. Florida, 428 U.S. 242, 253 (1976) (joint opinion of Stewart, Powell, and STEVENS, JJ.) (risk of arbitrary or capricious infliction of death penalty "is minimized by Florida's appellate review system, under which the evidence of the aggravating and mitigating circumstances is reviewed and reweighed by the Supreme Court of Florida `to determine independently whether the imposition of the ultimate penalty is warranted'") (citation omitted); Jurek v. Texas, 428 U.S. 262, 276 (1976) (joint opinion of Stewart, Powell, and STEVENS, JJ.) ("By providing prompt judicial review of the jury's decision in a court with statewide jurisdiction, Texas has provided a means to promote the evenhanded, rational, and consistent imposition of death sentences under law").

More recently, in Zant v. Stephens, supra, the Court stressed that its decision to uphold the Georgia death penalty statute "depend[ed] in part on the existence of an important procedural safeguard, the mandatory appellate review of each death sentence by the Georgia Supreme Court to avoid arbitrariness and to assure proportionality." 462 U.S., at 890 . Accord, McCleskey v. Kemp, 481 U.S. 279, 303 (1987). See also Clemons v. Mississippi, 494 U.S. 738, 749 (1990) ("[T]his Court has repeatedly emphasized that meaningful appellate review of death sentences promotes reliability and consistency").

The existence of mandatory appellate review was also a significant factor in the Court's decision upholding California's capital sentencing scheme in Pulley v. Harris, 465 U.S. 37, 53 (1984). Moreover, although the Court held that the Constitution does not require appellate courts to engage in proportionality review, it nevertheless acknowledged that Gregg "suggested that some form of meaningful appellate review is required." Id., at 45 (citing Gregg, supra, at 153, 198, 204-206 (joint opinion of Stewart, Powell, and STEVENS, JJ.)). See also Pulley, 465 U.S., at 49 ("Gregg and Proffitt were focused not on proportionality review as such, but only on the provision of some sort of prompt and automatic appellate review"); id., at 54 (STEVENS, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment) (stating that this Court's precedents establish that "some form of meaningful appellate review is constitutionally required").

Thus, much of this Court's death penalty jurisprudence rests on the recognition that appellate review is a crucial means of promoting reliability and consistency in capital sentencing. The high percentage of capital cases reversed on appeal vividly demonstrates that appellate review is an indispensable safeguard. Since 1983, the Arkansas Supreme Court, on direct review, has reversed in 8 out of 19 cases in which the death penalty had been imposed. See Robertson v. State, 298 Ark. 131, 137, 765 S. W. 2d 936, 940 (1989) (Hickman, J., concurring); Fretwell v. State, 289 Ark. 91, 99, 708 S. W. 2d 630, 634-635 (1986) (Hickman, J., concurring).

Other States also have remarkably high reversal rates in capital cases. See, e. g., Burt, Disorder in the Court: The Death Penalty and the Constitution, 85 Mich. L. Rev. 1741, 1792 (1987) (Florida Supreme Court set aside 47% of death sentences between 1972 and 1984); Dix, Appellate Review of the Decision to Impose Death, 68 Geo. L. J. 97, 144-145, and n. 437 (1979) (Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed conviction or invalidated death sentence in 33% of cases between October 1975 and March 1979); id., at 111, and n. 92 (Georgia Supreme Court did same in 30% of capital cases between April 1974 and March 1979). Cf. Barefoot v. Estelle, 463 U.S. 880, 915 (1983) (MARSHALL, J., dissenting) (between 1976 and 1983, approximately 70% of capital defendants who had been denied federal habeas relief in district courts prevailed in courts of appeals); Greenberg, Capital Punishment as a System, 91 Yale L. J. 908, 918 (1982) (estimating that 60% of convictions or sentences imposed under capital punishment statutes enacted after Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972), were reversed at some point in postconviction appeals process; in contrast, federal criminal judgments in noncapital cases had a reversal rate of 6.5%); U.S. Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Bulletin, Capital Punishment 1988, p. 1 (July 1989) (116 of 296 death row inmates sent to prison in 1988 had sentences vacated or commuted during that year).

These statistics make clear that in the absence of some form of appellate review, an unacceptably high percentage of criminal defendants would be wrongfully executed - "wrongfully" because they were innocent of the crime, undeserving of the severest punishment relative to similarly situated offenders, or denied essential procedural protections by the State. See Greenberg, supra, at 919-922 (listing numerous examples of death row inmates subsequently found to be not guilty and instances of capital convictions and sentences reversed for violations of federal or state law).

Our cases and state courts' experience with capital cases compel the conclusion that the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments require appellate review of at least death sentences to prevent unjust executions. I believe the Constitution also mandates review of the underlying convictions. The core concern of all our death penalty decisions is that States take steps to ensure to the greatest extent possible that no person is wrongfully executed. A person is just as wrongfully executed when he is innocent of the crime or was improperly convicted as when he was erroneously sentenced to death. States therefore must provide review of both the convictions and sentences in death cases.

II

Appellate review is necessary not only to safeguard a defendant's right not to suffer cruel and unusual punishment but also to protect society's fundamental interest in ensuring that the coercive power of the State is not employed in a manner that shocks the community's conscience or undermines the integrity of our criminal justice system. See Gilmore v. Utah, 429 U.S. 1012, 1019 (1976) (MARSHALL, J., dissenting).

Because a wrongful execution is an affront to society as a whole, a person may not consent to being executed without appellate review. See id., at 1018 (WHITE, J., dissenting) ("[T]he consent of a convicted defendant in a criminal case does not privilege a State to impose a punishment otherwise forbidden by the Eighth Amendment").

As the District Court stated so compellingly on review of the habeas petition filed on Simmons' behalf by Reverend Louis Franz and Darrel Wayne Hill: "What is at stake here is our collective right as a civilized people not to have cruel and unusual punishment inflicted in our name. It is because of the crying need to vindicate that right, that basic value, that Simmons should be held unable `to waive resolution in state courts' of the correctness of his death sentence." Franz v. Lockhart, 700 F. Supp. 1005, 1024 (ED Ark. 1988) (quoting Gilmore v. Utah, supra, at 1018 (WHITE, J., dissenting)) (citation omitted), appeal pending, No. 89-1485EA (CA8). See also, e. g., Commonwealth v. McKenna, 476 Pa. 428, 441, 383 A. 2d 174, 181 (1978) ("The doctrine of waiver . . . was not . . . designed to block giving effect to a strong public interest, which itself is a jurisprudential concern[, or to] allo[w] a criminal defendant to choose his own sentence. . . . The waiver rule cannot be exalted to a position so lofty as to require this Court to blind itself to the real issue - the propriety of allowing the state to conduct an illegal execution of a citizen") (footnote omitted); People v. Stanworth, 71 Cal. 2d 820, 834, 457 P.2d 889, 899 (1969) ("[W]e are not dealing with a right or privilege conferred by law upon the litigant for his sole personal benefit. We are concerned with a principle of fundamental public policy. The law cannot suffer the state's interest and concern in the observance and enforcement of this policy to be thwarted through the guise of waiver of a personal right by an individual") (internal quotation marks omitted; citation omitted).

A defendant's voluntary submission to a barbaric punishment does not ameliorate the harm that imposing such a punishment causes to our basic societal values and to the integrity of our system of justice. Certainly a defendant's consent to being drawn and quartered or burned at the stake would not license the State to exact such punishments. Nor could the State knowingly execute an innocent man merely because he refused to present a defense at trial and waived his right to appeal. Similarly, the State may not conduct an execution rendered unconstitutional by the lack of an appeal merely because the defendant agrees to that punishment.

This case thus does not involve a capital defendant's so-called "right to die." When a capital defendant seeks to circumvent procedures necessary to ensure the propriety of his conviction and sentence, he does not ask the State to permit him to take his own life.

Rather, he invites the State to violate two of the most basic norms of a civilized society - that the State's penal authority be invoked only where necessary to serve the ends of justice, not the ends of a particular individual, and that punishment be imposed only where the State has adequate assurance that the punishment is justified. The Constitution forbids the State to accept that invitation.

Society's overwhelming interest in preventing wrongful executions is evidenced by the fact that almost all of the 37 States with the death penalty apparently have prescribed mandatory, nonwaivable appellate review of at least the sentence in capital cases. U.S. Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Bulletin, Capital Punishment 1988, p. 5 (July 1989); Carter, Maintaining Systemic Integrity in Capital Cases: The Use of Court-Appointed Counsel to Present Mitigating Evidence When the Defendant Advocates Death, 55 Tenn. L. Rev. 95, 113-114 (1987). 1

The Arkansas Supreme Court is the only state high court that has held that a competent capital defendant's waiver of his appeal precludes appellate review entirely. Franz v. State, 296 Ark. 181, 196-197, 754 S. W. 2d 839, 847 (1988) (Glaze, J., concurring and dissenting). Furthermore, since the reinstitution of capital punishment in 1976, only one person, Gary Gilmore, has been executed without any appellate review of his case. See Gilmore v. Utah, 429 U.S. 1012 (1976).

Following Utah's execution of Gilmore, that State amended its law to provide for mandatory, nonwaivable appellate review. Utah Code Ann. 77-35-26(10) (Supp. 1989); see also Utah Code Ann. 76-3-206(2) (1978). The extreme rarity of unreviewed executions in itself suggests the unconstitutionality of such killings. Cf. Enmund v. Florida, 458 U.S. 782, 788 -796 (1982) (finding unconstitutional Florida's death penalty for felony murder in part because only 8 of 36 jurisdictions authorized death for such a crime); Coker v. Georgia, 433 U.S. 584, 593 -597 (1977) (striking down Georgia's provision for death penalty for rape of adult woman in part because Georgia was only State with such a provision).

This Court has recognized in other contexts that societal interests may justify limiting a competent person's ability to waive a constitutional protection. In Singer v. United States, 380 U.S. 24 (1965), for example, the Court upheld the constitutionality of Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 23(a), which conditions a defendant's waiver of his right to a jury trial on the approval of the court and the prosecution.

The Court reasoned that "[t]he Constitution recognizes an adversary system as the proper method of determining guilt, and the Government, as a litigant, has a legitimate interest in seeing that cases in which it believes a conviction is warranted are tried before the tribunal which the Constitution regards as most likely to produce a fair result." 380 U.S., at 36 .

Society's interest, expressed in the Eighth Amendment, of ensuring that punishments are neither cruel nor unusual similarly justifies restricting a defendant's ability to acquiesce in the infliction of wrongful punishment. Although death may, to some death row inmates, seem preferable to life in prison, society has the right, and indeed the obligation, to see that procedural safeguards are observed before the State takes a human life. 2

III

Given that the Constitution requires mandatory, nonwaivable appellate review, the question remains whether Whitmore may seek relief in this Court on Simmons' behalf. This Court should take whatever measures are necessary, and within its power, to prevent Simmons' illegal execution.

The common-law doctrine of next-friend standing provides a mechanism for doing so without exceeding the Article III limitations on our jurisdiction. 3 The Court's refusal to use that mechanism suggests that the Court's desire to eliminate delays in executions exceeds its solicitude for the Eighth Amendment.

As the Court acknowledges, a next friend pursues an action on behalf of the real party in interest. Ante, at 163. Simmons obviously satisfies the Article III and prudential standing requirements. The Court therefore does not dispute that Whitmore, standing in for Simmons, would also meet these requirements. The Court refuses to allow Whitmore to act as Simmons' next friend, however, because he has not shown that Simmons "is unable to litigate his own cause due to mental incapacity, lack of access to court, or other similar disability." Ante, at 165.

The Court suggests, without holding, that a party asserting next-friend status must also prove that he is "truly dedicated to the best interests of the person on whose behalf he seeks to litigate," ante, at 163, and perhaps, too, that he has "some significant relationship with the real party in interest," ante, at 164. 4  

Assuming for the sake of argument that Simmons was competent to forgo petitioning this Court for review 5 and that Whitmore is only minimally interested in Simmons' welfare, I would nevertheless permit Whitmore to proceed as Simmons' next friend. The requirements for next-friend standing are creations of common law, not of the Constitution. Ante, at 164-165. Thus, no constitutional considerations impede the Court's deciding this case on the merits. 6

The Court certainly has the authority to expand or contract a common-law doctrine where necessary to serve an important judicial or societal interest. Examples of the Court's exercise of that authority pervade our case law. See, e. g., Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 815 -819 (1982) (abandoning subjective element of qualified immunity defense to avoid excessive disruption of government and to permit the resolution of insubstantial claims on summary judgment); Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 645 (1987) (stating that Harlow "completely reformulated qualified immunity along principles not at all embodied in the common law, replacing the inquiry into subjective malice so frequently required at common law with an objective inquiry into the legal reasonableness of the official action"); Parklane Hosiery Co. v. Shore, 439 U.S. 322, 326 -333 (1979) (discarding common-law doctrine of mutuality of parties and authorizing offensive use of collateral estoppel to protect litigants from burden of relitigating issues and to promote judicial economy). See also Livingston v. Jefferson, 15 F. Cas. 660, 663 (No. 8,411) (CC Va. 1811) (Marshall, C. J., Circuit Judge) (common-law principle is "a principle of unwritten law, which is really human reason applied by courts, not capriciously, but in a regular train of decisions, to human affairs, according to the circumstances of the nation, the necessity of the times, and the general state of things, [and is] susceptible of modification"). In this case, the magnitude of the societal interests at stake justifies relaxing the next-friend requirements to permit Whitmore to challenge Simmons' execution.

Relaxation of those requirements is especially warranted here because judicial consideration of the claim that the Constitution requires appellate review of every capital case would otherwise be virtually impossible. If a capital defendant desires appellate review, he will undoubtedly obtain that review in state court, see n. 1, supra, and, perhaps, in federal court on a petition for habeas corpus. If he waives his right to appeal and is found incompetent, a next friend will be allowed to pursue the appeal, again obviating the need to decide whether the Eighth Amendment requires mandatory, nonwaivable review.

Although the fact that a constitutional issue will never be resolved may not justify carving out an exception to Article III's standing requirements, surely that fact, when considered with society's commitment to avoiding wrongful executions, provides ample cause for enlarging the scope of a federal common-law doctrine.

The only purpose the Court invokes for rigidly applying the restrictions on next-friend standing is preventing "`intruders or uninvited meddlers'" from pursuing habeas corpus relief "`as matter of course.'" Ante, at 164 (quoting United States ex rel. Bryant v. Houston, 273 F. 915, 916 (CA2 1921)).

This purpose, however, does not justify refusing to allow Whitmore to proceed as Simmons' next friend in this Court. 7 First, the Court need not hold that all federal courts must relax restrictions on next-friend standing; the common-law rules could be altered only to the extent this Court deems necessary. If this Court were to hold that Whitmore has standing before it, and then, on the merits, that the Constitution requires some form of nonwaivable appellate review in state court, at least one level of review would be assured for each capital case. Such a decision would obviate the need for relaxing the restrictions in federal district courts and courts of appeals. 8

More fundamentally, however, the interest in preventing a suit by an "uninvited meddler" pales in comparison to society's interest in preventing an illegal execution. When, as here, allowing the "meddler" to press the condemned man's interests is the only means by which the Court can prevent an unconstitutional execution, the Court should sacrifice the common-law restrictions rather than the defendant's life.

IV

The Court today refuses to address a meritorious constitutional claim by rigidly applying a technical common-law rule completely within its power to amend or suspend. It thereby permits States to violate the Constitution by executing willing defendants without requiring minimal assurance that their convictions were correct or their sentences justified. This decision thus continues the Court's unseemly effort to hasten executions at the cost of permitting constitutional violations to go unrectified. See, e. g., Butler v. McKellar, 494 U.S. 407 (1990); Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288 (1989). I dissent.

*****

[ Footnote 1 ] Thirteen States, by statute, rule, or case law, explicitly provide that review of at least the capital sentence will occur with or without the defendant's election or participation. Ala. Code 12-22-150 (1986); Cal. Penal Code Ann. 1239(b) (West Supp. 1990); People v. Stanworth, 71 Cal. 2d 820, 832-834, 457 P.2d 889, 898-899 (1969); Del. Code Ann., Tit. 11, 4209(g) (1987); Goode v. State, 365 So.2d 381, 384 (Fla. 1978) (construing Fla. Stat. 921.141(4) (1989)); Ill. Rev. Stat., ch. 110A,  606(a) (1987); Judy v. State, 275 Ind. 145, 157-158, 416 N. E. 2d 95, 102 (1981) (construing Ind. Code 35-50-2-9 (1988)); Mo. Rev. Stat. 565.035 (1986); Nev. Rev. Stat. 177.055(2) (1989); Cole v. State, 101 Nev. 585, 590, 707 P.2d 545, 548 (1985); N. J. Stat. Ann. 2C:11-3(e) (West Supp. 1989); Commonwealth v. McKenna, 476 Pa. 428, 439-440, 383 A. 2d 174, 181 (1978) (construing predecessor statute to 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. 9711(h) (1988)); Tenn.Code Ann. 39-2-205 (1982); State v. Holland, 777 P.2d 1019, 1022 (Utah 1989) (construing Utah Code Ann. 77-35-26(10) (Supp. 1989)); see also Utah Code Ann. 76-3-206(2) (1978); Vt. Rule App. Proc. 3(b). Twenty-two States' statutes or rules employ language indicating that their appellate courts must review at least the sentence in every capital case. Ariz. Rule Crim. Proc. 31.2(b); Colo. Rev. Stat. 16-11-103(7)(a) (Supp. 1989); Conn. Gen. Stat. 53a-46b (1985); Ga. Code Ann. 17-10-35 (1982); Idaho Code 19-2827 (1987); Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. 532.075 (Michie 1985); La. Code Crim. Proc. Ann., Art. 905.9 (West 1984); Md. Ann. Code, Art. 27, d 414 (1987); Miss. Code Ann. 99-19-105 (Supp. 1989); Mont. Code Ann. 46-18-307 (1989); Neb. Rev. Stat. 29-2525 (1989); N. H. Rev. Stat. Ann. 630.5(vi) (1986); N. M. Stat. Ann. 31-20A-4 (1987); N.C. Gen. Stat. 15A.2000(d)(1) (1988); Okla. Stat., Tit. 21, 701.13 (Supp. 1989); Ore. Rev. Stat. 163.150(1)(g) (1989); S. C. Code 16-3-25 (1985); S. D. Codified Laws 23A-27A-9 (1988); Tex. Crim. Proc. Code Ann. 37.071(h) (Supp. 1990); Va. Code 17-110.1 (1988); Wash. Rev. Code 10.95.100 (1989); Wyo. Stat. 6-2-103 (1988). Ohio's rule as to waiver is unclear. See Ohio Rev. Code Ann. 2929.05 (1987). In State v. Brooks, 25 Ohio St. 3d 144, 495 N. E. 2d 407 (1986), however, both the Ohio Court of Appeals and Ohio Supreme Court reviewed the defendant's death sentence after the State Court of Appeals denied his motion to withdraw his appeal.

[ Footnote 2 ] Underlying the Court's decision may be the assumption that a competent defendant would never waive his right to appeal unless he was guilty of the crime and deserved to die. See Franz v. Lockhart, 700 F. Supp. 1005, 1023 (ED Ark. 1988), appeal pending, No. 89-1485EA (CA8). There is no reason to believe, however, that only defendants guilty of the most heinous crimes would choose death over life in prison.

[ Footnote 3 ] The question whether Whitmore may act as Simmons' next friend in this Court is distinct from the question whether Whitmore could do so in the Arkansas Supreme Court. This Court cannot impose federal standing restrictions, whether derived from Article III or federal common law, on state courts. See ASARCO Inc. v. Kadish, 490 U.S. 605, 620 (1989); Department of Labor v. Triplett, 494 U.S. 715, 729 (1990) (MARSHALL, J., concurring in judgment). The Court's holding thus affects only federal courts.

[ Footnote 4 ] Despite the Court's suggestion, I cannot believe that this Court would ever hold that a defendant judged incompetent to waive his right to appeal could be executed without appellate review on the ground that no one with a sufficiently close relation to him had stepped forward to pursue the appeal. Rather, a court would be required to appoint someone to represent such a defendant. See Franz v. Lockhart, supra, at 1011, n. 2. See also Carter, Maintaining Systemic Integrity in Capital Cases: The Use of Court-Appointed Counsel to Present Mitigating Evidence When the Defendant Advocates Death, 55 Tenn. L. Rev. 95 (1987).

[ Footnote 5 ] In determining Simmons' competency to waive his right to seek relief in this Court, the majority relies on the Arkansas trial court's finding that Simmons was competent to waive his right to appeal in state court. Ante, at 165-166. At no point, however, has any court determined that Simmons was competent to waive his right to petition this Court for a writ of certiorari. Legal competency is not static. Given that Simmons' life turns on this question, the Court should at least require a specific determination that he was competent to forgo petitioning this Court before it dismisses this case without reaching the merits.

[ Footnote 6 ] The Court suggests that some restriction on next-friend standing is necessary to prevent a litigant who asserts only a generalized grievance from circumventing Article III's standing requirements. Ante, at 164. But as long as the real party in interest satisfies those standing requirements, as Simmons clearly does, this Court will be presented with an actual case or controversy. If the Court's suggestion were true, it would necessitate abolishing next-friend standing entirely. In terms of Article III, a next friend who represents the interests of an incompetent person with whom he has a significant relation is no different from a next friend who pursues a claim on behalf of a competent stranger; both rely wholly on the injury to the real party in interest to satisfy constitutional standing requirements.

[ Footnote 7 ] Appeal to stare decisis similarly cannot relieve the Court of responsibility for today's disturbing decision. This case is the first opportunity for this Court to address the next-friend issue raised here with the benefit of full briefing by the parties. Four times the Court was presented with this question in the context of applications for stays of executions filed by parties other than the defendants. Three times the Court denied the applications. See Gilmore v. Utah, 429 U.S. 1012 (1976); Evans v. Bennett, 440 U.S. 987 (1979); Lenhard v. Wolff, 444 U.S. 807 (1979). In Gilmore, the Court stated only that the competent defendant had knowingly and intelligently waived any federal rights. 429 U.S., at 1013 . In Evans, then-JUSTICE REHNQUIST, in his capacity as Circuit Justice, stayed the execution pending consideration by the full Court. 440 U.S. 1301 (1979) (in chambers). The Court then denied the application without opinion, 440 U.S. 987 (1979), with JUSTICE BRENNAN noting in his concurrence that a stay was not necessary because the State had not set an execution date, ibid. In Lenhard, the Court did not issue an opinion. 444 U.S., at 807 . In Rosenberg v. United States, 346 U.S. 273 (1953), however, the Court did consider the merits of an application to stay the executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg filed by counsel for a man who had no connection to the Rosenbergs and who had not participated in any proceedings related to their case until the stay proceedings in this Court. Id., at 288-289 (per curiam); id., at 291 (Jackson, J., concurring) ("Edelman [the applicant] is a stranger to the Rosenbergs and to their case. His intervention was unauthorized by them and originally opposed by their counsel"). Justice Jackson's concurring opinion stated that the Court "discountenance[d] this practice" of considering an argument not originally pressed by the defendant's own counsel, where those counsel were vigorously contesting the defendants' death sentences. Id., at 292. Far more importantly, however, the Court did not dismiss the application on the ground that the applicant did not satisfy the common-law requirements of next-friend status, but addressed the application on its merits. Id., at 289 (per curiam). See also id., at 294 (Clark, J., concurring) ("Human lives are at stake; we need not turn this decision on fine points of procedure or a party's technical standing to claim relief"); id., at 299-300 (Black, J., dissenting) ("I cannot believe . . . that if the sentence of a citizen to death is plainly illegal, this Court would allow that citizen to be executed on the grounds that his lawyers had `waived' plain error. An illegal execution is no less illegal because a technical ground of `waiver' is assigned to justify it"); id., at 312 (Douglas, J., dissenting) ("[T]he question of an unlawful sentence is never barred. No man or woman should go to death under an unlawful sentence merely because his lawyer failed to raise the point").

[ Footnote 8 ] The Court's decision today, which rests on federal common law developed in connection with habeas corpus cases, ante, at 164-165, apparently applies to next-friend standing in habeas cases brought in federal district court as well as to petitions for certiorari submitted to this Court. Congress could amend the habeas statute (which provides only that "[a]pplication for a writ of habeas corpus shall be in writing signed and verified by the person for whose relief it is intended or by someone acting in his behalf," 28 U.S.C. 2242 (emphasis added)) explicitly to permit next-friend suits in cases of this sort so as to ensure some form of review of capital cases.



Ronald Gene Simmons (top) killed a total of 16 people, of which 14 were family members, including his children Rebecca, Loretta, Marianne and Eddie (in snapshots).

 

 

 
 
 
 
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