Friday, January 2, 2009

Update on Death Penalty Case in Indiana

Here's an update from The Journal Gazette on the case of Joseph Corcoran, a severely mentally ill death row inmate in Indiana ("Quadruple-murderer loses death penalty appeal," December 31, 2008):

The state of Indiana can once again reinstate the death penalty against convicted quadruple-murderer Joseph E. Corcoran, according to a 2-1 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals issued Wednesday morning.

Just over a year ago, the 3-judge panel of the 7th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago heard arguments about whether Corcoran's death sentence should be overturned.

In 1999, a jury convicted the then-22-year old Corcoran of four counts of murder. In July 1997, Corcoran shot and killed his brother, James Corcoran, 30; his sister's fiance, Robert Scott Turner, 32; and 2 of his brother's friends - Timothy G. Bricker, 30; and Douglas A. Stillwell, 30 -at a Bayer Avenue home.

At issue was whether Corcoran, who has paranoid schizophrenia, was mentally competent when he waived his right to have a court review his death sentence and whether his constitutional rights were violated when then-Allen County Prosecutor Robert Gevers offered to take the death penalty off the table if Corcoran would agree to a bench trial rather than a jury trial.

In April 2007, U.S. District Judge Allen Sharp overturned Corcoran's death sentence, ruling Gevers inappropriately punished Corcoran by pursuing the death penalty against Corcoran after he declined to face a trial before a judge and chose to allow a jury decide his fate.

The Indiana Attorney General's office appealed Sharp's decision and in it sruling, the 7th Circuit ruled that Corcoran's rights were not violated.

"If it is constitutionally permissible to use the threat of more severe punishment to encourage a guilty plea it should follow that the state's use of the same tactics to encourage a defendant to proceed by bench trial would also be constitutionally permissible," Judge William Bauer wrote in his opinion for the majority.

Judge Ann Claire Williams wrote a dissenting opinion, disagreeing with the ruling that Corcoran was mentally competent to waive his right to having a court review his death sentence.

Corcoran's attorneys could appeal this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.


Anonymous said...

Joseph Corcoran murdered my son for no reason. I saw my son in a body bag half way open at the furnal home. He had been shot in the face and it left a large hole in the back of his head. I almost buckeled. He was a great son and we were close. I Last talked to him at 5:30 pm on that day and he was coming to pick me up around nine. At 7pm he was murdered. It's hard to discribe but stunned is a good start and it goes much farther than that. It's been a long time now, in fact eleven years, six months, seventeen days and one hour ago. His 42nd birthday is in three days same as his twin brother who I'm thankful to still have. As far as corcoran being put to death it really dosn't matter to me as long as he never gets out. I think he'll be punished enough being in prison for life. He'll die someday anyway just like the rest of us. Do I think he's crazy? not for a second he's just evil and he deserves the death penality but that's to fast then it's over. He might live another 50 years in prison and that's got to be hell on earth. I dispise the word closure people use the phrase way too much. Closure would be if my son was injured and he recovered and was still alive. I still have short dreams about my son at least a dozen times a year. Funny it's never a bad dream or a nightmare. It's always a good memory dream about how we laughed together as he was a humorus person. Closure? No there's no such thing.

Anonymous said...

My brother was one of the murder victims that Joseph Corcoran executed. He left behind a fiance and a 2 year old son. My mother died soon after the trial was completed, stating "you shouldn't have to bury your children". I no longer care whether Joe dies quickly as the court decided or he rots in jail, possibly thinking about what he did. At the time of the trial and investigations both before and after. Joe was found to be aware of his actions and understood the premeditation of his actions. Joe was found to be a "sociopath" and not a "psychopath". Joe considered it perfectly acceptable to murder his brother and three others as a resolution to their "talking about him". I don't believe in using the death penalty in cases where there is obviously a defendant that is incapable of understanding his actions or situations where there is an inability to defend themselves. In this instance, Joe was definitely aware of his actions and the repercussions. I have sympathy for all of the people involved. Unfortunately, by trying to portray Joe as the innocent victim of a hysterical effort to execute the mentally ill it hinders the case for not punishing the actual mentally ill, unfairly. As an additional note, Joe was found to be sane enough to be tried for the murder of both of his parents when he was younger. He was acquitted on insufficient evidence.

Shera said...

Joseph Corcoran took my best friend who I loved dearly. He will never come back to us. I try to at this the way that Scott would, but I have a hard time. I really don't care how Corcoran dies. Whether it be the state that does it or he just dies in prison. Either way he will have to stand before God on judgement day. What I do care about is all the bleeding hearts out there who are so oppsed to the death penalty that they will come out in support of an evil man like Corcoran. Saying that he is mentally incapable of making the decision to murder these good men in an effort to get revenge because they were "talking about him". He knew what he was doing! He took his neice to her bedroom and told her not to come out until mommy came to get her no matter what she hears. Sound like someone who doesn't know what he's doing? I don't think so! If you want to do away with the death penalty then fight for that. Say what you mean, that you don't believe that anyone should die by death penalty. But do not come out and insult the survivors of this horrible tragedy by saying that this evil man didn't know what he was doing!!