Several death row inmates escape execution after testing positive for Covid

Terre Haute jail where these guys were to be executed has a covid outbreak that’s infected even lawyers.


By Robert F. Howe
The Washington Post

Three drug dealers responsible for Richmond’s worst murder rampage were sentenced to death by a federal jury yesterday, the first time the federal death penalty for drug-related offenses has been used in Virginia, and the second time nationwide.

Only one other defendant, a man convicted of a drug-related slaying in Alabama, has been sentenced to death under a capital federal drug statute enacted in 1988. Federal juries determine sentences only in death penalty cases, and the sentences cannot be changed by a judge.

Described by Assistant U.S. Attorney Howard C. Vick Jr. as “mass murderers,” Richard Tipton, 22, Cory Johnson, 24, and James H. Roane Jr., 26, headed a Richmond gang that killed 11 people in six weeks in an effort to expand its turf and quiet people suspected of giving information to police.

During the four-week trial in U.S. District Court in Richmond, jurors heard about several brutal slayings in great detail. Few were more disturbing than the first, in which a gang member sitting in his car was stabbed with a 12-inch military knife more than 80 times in the neck, face and head.

Three of the blows were so fierce, according to testimony, that the blade burst through the victim’s skull. Tipton, who wielded the weapon while Roane restrained the victim from behind, once had to brace his feet against the car door to gain enough leverage to pry the weapon from the dying man’s skull.

“The inner-city crime problem is getting worse and worse . . . and this death penalty statute is our ultimate weapon,” said U.S. Attorney Richard Cullen, whose office handled the case. “It’s going to be used more and more. Citizens and government officials are going to demand it.”

Charles V. Guthrie, one of the jurors, said supporting the death penalty was “a very, very difficult decision, and a whole lot of prayer went into it. But with the severity of the killings, we felt that the death penalty was warranted.”