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Cited today in Federal Court in Alabama: “literally as I say zombies”

April 1, 2014

In a decision dated today, March 31, 2014, the Federal Court in Alabama denied the death row petition of Bobby Wayne Waldrop, convicted of the murder of his grandparents in the late 1990s.

Today’s opinion is signed by Judge W. Keith Watkins, for the Middle District of Alabama, Eastern Division.

This is CASE NO. 3:08-CV-515-WKW, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 43168,

BOBBY WAYNE WALDROP, Petitioner,
v.
KIM T. THOMAS, Commissioner, Alabama Department of Corrections, et al., Respondents

In denying this habeas petition, Judge Watkins quotes from the 2009 U.S. Supreme Court case, Porter v. McCollum, noted in previous ZombieLaw:

In Porter v. McCollum, 558 U.S. 30, 42 (2009), the Supreme Court held that the state court’s finding that petitioner was not prejudiced by his counsel’s failure to investigate and present certain mitigating evidence was unreasonable because the state court “either did not consider or unreasonably discounted the mitigation evidence adduced in the postconviction hearing.” This evidence would have informed the sentencer about “(1) Porter’s heroic military service in two of the most critical-and horrific-battles of the Korean War, (2) his struggles to regain normality upon his return from war, (3) his childhood history of physical abuse, and (4) his brain abnormality, difficulty reading and writing, and limited schooling.” Id. at 41. The Court recounted the mitigating evidence adduced in state postconviction proceedings:
….
To escape his horrible family life, Porter enlisted in the Army at age 17 and fought in the Korean War. His company commander, Lieutenant Colonel Sherman Pratt, testified at Porter’s postconviction hearing. Porter was with the 2d Division, which had advanced above the 38th parallel to Kunu-ri when it was attacked by Chinese forces. Porter suffered a gunshot wound to the leg during the advance but was with the unit for the battle at Kunu-ri. While the Eighth Army was withdrawing, the 2d Division was ordered to hold off the Chinese advance, enabling the bulk of the Eighth Army to live to fight another day. As Colonel Pratt described it, the unit “went into position there in bitter cold night, terribly worn out, terribly weary, almost like zombies because we had been in constant-for five days we had been in constant contact with the enemy fighting our way to the rear, little or no sleep, little or no food, literally as I say zombies.” The next morning, the unit engaged in a “fierce hand-to-hand fight with the Chinese” and later that day received permission to withdraw, making Porter’s regiment the last unit of the Eighth Army to withdraw.

Ok so that’s the part we already knew, that’s 2009 Supreme Court precedent. Here’s the scary factual basis of this current case:

The following factual summary of the events leading to petitioner’s conviction and sentence is excerpted from the opinion of the Alabama Supreme Court affirming his conviction and sentence.

The evidence at trial revealed the following. Waldrop and his wife, Clara, resided with Waldrop’s grandparents, Sherrell Prestridge and Irene Prestridge. Sherrell had heart and hip problems and had difficulty walking. Irene was bedridden, blind, and suffered from diabetes. Because of the Prestridges’ numerous medical problems, the living room of their house had been converted into a bedroom with two hospital beds. Testimony at trial indicated that Waldrop knew that his grandmother and grandfather received Social Security checks before the third day of each month.

Between 10:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on April 5, 1998, Waldrop and Clara left the Prestridges’ house and checked into a hotel in Anniston. That same day, Waldrop and Clara pawned Sherrell’s lawn mower and Waldrop smoked an undetermined amount of crack cocaine. Later that evening, Waldrop and Clara returned to the Prestridges’ house. Testimony at trial indicated that Waldrop was not high on crack cocaine when he and Clara returned to the house. While Waldrop was in his grandparents’ bedroom, Waldrop and Sherrell began arguing over money. In a statement Waldrop made to the police, which was introduced at trial, Waldrop stated:

“I went into the kitchen and got the knife and [came] back. [Sherrell] pushed me and he saw the knife and that’s when I [swung] the knife at his throat and he started to bleed from the throat real bad. [Sherrell] was at the foot of the bed and I started to stab him and I had the knife in my left hand and I cut myself in the hand. I got on top of him [on] the floor and started to choke him, and he wouldn’t stop breathing, so I cut a little more on both sides of his neck. It was [too] late. I stuck the knife into his back and I figured it would hit his lungs and he’d stop breathing. I just wanted to finish what I started. It looked like he was suffering.”

Sherrell suffered 43 stab wounds to his head, neck, back, and chest; he died as a result of his injuries.

Waldrop’s grandmother, Irene, had been lying in her bed in the same room while Waldrop attacked his grandfather. She heard Waldrop kill her husband, and she was screaming throughout the incident. After he killed Sherrell, Waldrop instructed Clara to kill Irene. Clara cut and stabbed Irene twice. Waldrop then took the knife from Clara. Testimony at trial indicated that Irene told Waldrop that she loved him before he placed a pillow over her face and stabbed her in the chest, throat, and shoulders until she died. Irene suffered a total of 38 stab and cut wounds. Waldrop and Clara took Sherrell’s wallet, and they left to buy drugs, ultimately driving to Georgia where they were apprehended.

Waldrop was charged with two counts of murder made capital because the murder was committed during a robbery in the first degree and one count of murder made capital because two or more persons were murdered by one act or pursuant to one scheme or course of conduct. At trial, the jury found Waldrop guilty of all three counts. Subsequently, the trial court conducted a sentencing hearing pursuant to Ala. Code 1975, § 13A-5-46. After the sentencing hearing, the jury, by a vote of 10-2, recommended that Waldrop be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Circuit Judge Dale Segrest overrode the jury’s recommendation and sentenced Waldrop to death.

Damn.

It’s a 16 year old murder, by a cracked-out 19 year old, with today’s decision denying the habeas petition, it doesn’t seem to be going very well for Mr. Waldrop’s appeals. Perhaps we do still reserve a special death for matricide zombies.

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