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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: death row

Report details Gibson’s criminal history

When a man now charged in the 1992 shooting death of a Spokane Valley businessman left prison in the last few years, his brother attended a community meeting defending him. 

Patrick Kevin Gibson's neighbors had been notified of his status as a level 3 sex offender, and Michael Gibson was trying to explain his past crimes and justify his presence in the community.

Michael Gibson told sheriff's detectives he specifically asked his brother if he'd ever killed someone “and Patrick said he had not,” according to a police report.

“Patrick did tell Michael that he was the mastermind of everything he had done and had always acted alone,” the report says. Michael told detectives that his brother liked to flash his money around and may have been attracted to the excitement of robberies.

Patrick Gibson, 60, (pictured) has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. His trial was temporarily halted Monday because of the last-minute discovery by prosecutors that “America's Most Wanted” host John Walsh and an actor had handled the killer's hat after it was left at the scene.

Detectives say Michael was emotional in May 2011 when he learned his brother had been arrested for the nearly 20-year-old homicide.

“His first response was that he would never see Patrick again and that he had placed his own reputation on the line to help Patrick,” according to the report.

Michael said he went to bat for Patrick with concerned neighbors and said he told him if he messed up again, he'd be the first to turn him in, police wrote. Gibson has spent most of adult life in prison.

In August 1978, he fired shots at a Utah highway patrolmen who tried to  stop him for a traffic violation as he drove with his wife and her two children.

In November, he and another inmate escaped from jail, stole a car and traveled to Nevada, where he and an accomplice robbed and raped two convenience store clerks. Gibson was arrested three days later near Vancouver B.C.

He was sentenced to 20 years in prison in May 1979 but paroled in March 1992, about seven months before Cole was murdered.

Police say Gibson worked at a phone company in Stanwood, Wash., as a voice and data man but traveled frequently without his probation officer's permission. He's believed to have committed robberies in Oregon that same year.

The robberies are similar to gunpoint attacks at a clothing store in Coeur d'Alene and Cole's murder, both which occurred on Nov. 7, 1992.

While prosecutors believe Gibson himself got away with murder for nearly 20 years, Gibson  says he's partly responsible for helping convict a major drug lord who nearly got away with the murder of five people in Iowa in 1993, including two girls, ages 6 and 10.

The situation led Gibson to become a member of the federal government's witness protection program and resulted in death sentences for Dustin Lee Honken, 44, (pictured in 2005 by the Associated Press) and Honken's girlfriend, Angela Johnson, 48, though Johnson's sentence was overturned on appeal because of ineffective counsel.

Gibson told Spokane County sheriff's Detective Michael Drapaeu he shared a prison cell with Honken when Honken bragged about killing government witnesses and executing a family that included children.

“I decided to do the right thing,” Gibson told Drapaeu, according to court records. “I just tried to make amends for my past wrongs.”

It's unclear how exactly Gibson assisted in the case, but media reports say authorities placed an experienced jailhouse informant, Robert McNees, in a cell with Johnson who was able to obtain a map of of the grave sites.

A jury recommended Honken be sentenced to death after a lengthy trial in Sioux City, Iowa, in 2004. News reports at the time say the bodies of his five victims, which included two girls, ages 6 and 10, were found in late 2000 after Johnson drew a map and gave it a jailhouse informant.

Honken, who Iowa news reports say introduced methamphetamine to the state in the early 1990s, already was serving a 27-year sentence for drug trafficking when the bodies were discovered. Gibson was serving a 12-year sentence for bank robbery.

Gibson told Drapeau he would need to be isolated at the jail because he is a protected witness. Drapeau said he informed the jail of that, according to court documents.

Duncan’s death penalty NOT overturned

BOISE – The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has ordered convicted child-killer Joseph Duncan back into court in Idaho, saying a federal judge should have ordered a competency hearing before allowing Duncan to waive his appeal of his death sentence.

The high court ordered U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge to hold a “retrospective” competency hearing, exploring whether Duncan was competent in November 2008 when he told Lodge he didn’t want to appeal his triple death sentence for the kidnapping, torture and murder of a North Idaho boy. If he’s found competent after the hearing, the death sentence would go forward.

Read the rest of Betsy Z. Russell's story here.

Duncan returns to federal death row

A man who tortured and killed two boys in California and Idaho has been returned to death row in federal prison.

Federal prison officials say 48-year-old Joseph Edward Duncan III — who spent more than two years in a Riverside County jail — arrived at a federal prison in Indiana Wednesday.

Duncan was sentenced Tuesday for killing Anthony Martinez, who was kidnapped in 1997 as he played near his Beaumont home. Duncan confessed to the crime after his arrest in Idaho.

He was convicted of kidnapping, raping, torturing and killing a Coeur d'Alene boy, Dylan Groene, in 2005 and beating to death the boy's older brother, mother and her fiance with a hammer.

He will await execution in Terre Haute, where the nation's federal death row inmates are held.

Read past coverage here.

Court OK’s solitary for death row inmate

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The state Supreme Court ruled today that it was OK for corrections officials to move a death row inmate to solitary confinement after a special housing unit 

that allowed him more privileges was closed due to budget cuts.

In a 7-2 ruling, the high court dismissed a petition by Jonathan Gentry (pictured), who argued that the move unlawfully changed the terms of his sentence. Gentry was sentenced to death in 1991 for killing a 12-year-old girl in Kitsap County.

Under Department of Corrections regulations, after a year in solitary confinement, qualified inmates can be transferred to another unit where they are allowed daily contact with other inmates and family contact visits.

However, that special housing unit was closed in 2009 due to budget cuts, and Gentry argued that his return to solitary confinement was a constitutionally impermissible increase in the severity of his punishment.

The majority, lead by Chief Justice Barbara Madsen, said neither the state nor U.S. constitutions create a “liberty interest in a particular form of prison housing, absent allegations of cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment, which Gentry does not assert.”

The majority wrote that that housing in the special unit is a privilege that can end through no fault of the prisoner, including budget cuts. And because all death row inmates start out in solitary confinement, being returned there does not create a harsher sentence than they first faced.

Also signing on to the majority opinion were Justices Susan Owens, Charles Johnson, Mary Fairhurst, Gerry Alexander, Jim Johnson, and Tom Chambers.

The dissent, written by Justice Debra Stephens, argued the petition should be heard in superior court to address some unanswered questions.

The state's claim that the closure of the unit was prompted by budget cuts “is arguably a valid administrative reason,” Stephens wrote. “However, budget cuts do not necessarily explain why the graduated system of prisoner benefits, most notably contact visits with family, had to be cut as well.”

Stephens also wrote that the question of whether moving prisoners back to solitary confinement is a violation of their sentencing terms is a question that affects all death row inmates. Gentry is among eight prisoners on death row at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. He has been on death row longer than any other current death row inmate. Since 1904, 78 men have been put to death in Washington.

“It is necessary to have a more complete factual record as to DOC's policies regarding conditions of confinement as they presently exist and as they existed at the time of Gentry's crime and sentence,” she wrote. Justice Richard Sanders signed on to the dissent.

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