Welcome to Death Row

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 9, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

Since the Alabama Legislature sanctioned state-sponsored execution in 1923, there have been 21 inmates put to death who were from Dallas, Marengo, Hale, Lowndes and Wilcox counties – none in Perry County.

Charlie Bennett, who is charged with capital murder in Perry County, is scheduled to go on trial later this month. If convicted, he could join 193 inmates on Alabama’s Death Row, including five from the Black Belt – four inmates are from Dallas County and one is from Hale County.

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According to the Alabama Department of Corrections, the average age of inmates on Alabama’s Death Row is 39. There are 97 whites and 94 blacks. Two are identified as other, according to the DOC. There are three females currently awaiting execution.

“Yellow Mama,” the chair used to carry out executions, was used for the first execution in Alabama on April 8, 1927. After Alabama was admitted to the Union in 1819, and for decades afterwards, the state did not have a prison system. The state’s early settler’s administered “frontiers justice,” according to the history of the DOC.

“Festive spectacles attracted large crowds” for floggings, and hanging offenses were “murder, rape, robbery, burglary, stealing slaves, rustling livestock, counterfeiting and treason.”

Swift justice is no longer the order of the day.

Convicted murderer Dominique Ray, 30, was back in Dallas County last week, for a hearing that was part of his automatic appeal process.

He has been on death row at Holman Correctional Facility since Oct. 4, 1999, for the murder of 15-year-old Tiffany Harville.

Also at Holman is Jeffrey Lee, also 30, who has been on death row since Oct. 12, 2000, for the Orrville robbery and murder of Jimmy Ellis and his wife. Lee also shot another woman during the robbery that was captured on video surveillance.

A Dallas County jury found Lee guilty and recommended life in prison. However, Circuit Judge Jack Meigs overruled the jury and sentenced Lee to death, as is the prerogative of the court.

Earl Jerome McGahee, 49, has been on death row since Oct. 10, 1986, for the brutal slaying of a Wallace Community College Selma nursing student. Matthew Reeves, 29, has been on death row since July 24, 1998, for the shooting death of a stranded motorist that also involved Reeves’ brother, Julius, and a female. Julius Reeves was sentenced to life in prison without opportunity for parole, and the female was sentenced to life, according to court records.

Hale County’s Victor R. Stephens, 42, has been on death row since July 24, 1989, charged with murder.