State fighting to lift stay of execution

The Associated Press

FLORENCE, Ariz. The question of whether the U.S. Supreme Court would lift a stay of execution loomed Monday as witnesses told the state clemency board a man facing death for the murder of a Phoenix jeweler almost 18 year ago is a harmless schizophrenic who didn't commit the crime.

Paris Hoyt Carriger was scheduled to die by lethal injection at 12:05 a.m. Wednesday at the Arizona State Prison at Florence until a federal appeals court halted the execution Friday.

Lawyers for the state immediately asked the U.S. Supreme Court to lift the stay and were waiting for word on the request Monday.

Despite the uncertainty, state officials went ahead with preparations for the execution. The Board of Executive Clemency convened a hearing at the Florence prison Monday.

After hearing testimony from each side, the seven-member board will recommend to Gov. Fife Symington either that he commute Carriger's death sentence or go ahead with the execution.

Carriger was sentenced to death in 1978 for robbing and murdering Phoenix jeweler Robert Shaw. Investigators said Shaw's hands were bound with tape before his skull was crushed with an iron skillet and he was strangled with his own necktie.

The state's chief witness against Carriger his friend and former prison cellmate Robert Dunbar confessed to the murder in 1987, but retracted the confession a short time later.

Dr. Michael Radalet, a sociology professor from the University of Florida, told the board Dunbar's actions were enough to warrant a new trial for Carriger.

''I believe as strongly as I've ever believed that the evidence in this case is flimsy and shoddy,'' Radalet said.

But the daughter of Carriger's alleged victim told the board Carriger deserves to die. Laureen Gannarrelli addressed the board by speaker phone from her home in Yorkshire, England.

She said Carriger has been given a fair chance to prove his innocence.

''This was the brutal murder of a man who wouldn't have fought back,'' she said. ''He'd been robbed in the past. He said it wasn't the money that was important as long as he wasn't hurt.''

Carriger's lawyers contend that because of legal technicalities, appeals courts have never reviewed important evidence in the case including psychiatrists' opinions that Carriger is mentally ill and information about Dunbar's background.

Four psychiatrists testified that Carriger showed signs of mental illness at a young age.

''He has through his life been victimized. He's paranoid, schizophrenic-like. He thinks there are schemes against him,'' said Dr. James Ray Merikangas, a Yale University psychologist.

Merikangas said Carriger suffers hallucinations and believes he has an IQ of 170 and controls companies and Swiss bank accounts.

Jackie McCuller, Dunbar's stepdaughter, said she and other family members were forced to give him an alibi. She also said she and her mother were coached by Dunbar before they testified against Carriger in his 1978 trial.

''My family has been devastated by this man,'' McCullar said of Dunbar, who died in 1991.

When Dunbar confessed to the murder in 1987, he said it was he and his then-wife who killed Walsh. When he retracted the confession, he said he had wanted to implicated his wife in the killing because he was angry with her.

Ladonna Bradley, whose husband, Doug, was shot in the stomach in an incident for which Carriger was sentenced to 12 years in prison in the 1960s, was among those who testified against Carriger.

She said Carriger was running from the police when he shot her husband in the couple's back yard.

''My husband still walks around with a bullet in his body,'' she said. ''He wasn't pushed into a corner. He had our whole backyard. He could have run.''

Read Next Article