Marilyn Kay Mitchell
Birth: June 13, 1967
Death: May 15, 1990
No obituary found.
Burial: Woodlawn Memorial Gardens, Ozark, Dale County, Alabama, USA
The Dothan Eagle
Lance Griffin – Apr 26, 2012
A federal judge has denied the appeal of a death row inmate convicted of murder in the 1990 death of Dothan resident Marilyn Mitchell.
U.S. District Judge Mark E. Fuller denied the petition for a writ of habeas corpus from Artez Hammonds, convicted in 1997 of the brutal rape and murder of Mitchell. Hammonds exhausted various appeals in the state court system before attorneys filed the petition in federal court on his behalf. It took almost seven years for the appeal to work its way through the court system.
Mitchell was found dead in her Dothan townhouse on May 15, 1990, not long after graduating from the University of Alabama School of Nursing. The case remained unsolved until 1996 when the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences conducted DNA testing on samples recovered at the crime scene. The DNA testing resulted in a match to Hammonds, who was already serving a 20-year sentence at Holman Prison for attempted murder in an unrelated case. Hammonds was charged with capital murder and convicted by a Houston County jury in 1997. He was sentenced to death.
Attorneys for Hammonds argued that his conviction and/or death sentence should be overturned for numerous reasons. Attorneys offered 25 separate examples of what they believed were incidents of ineffective counsel during Hammonds’ trial as well as his initial appeal.
Fuller declined to consider several of the examples because attorneys had failed to bring up the incidents in earlier appeals. He ruled the remaining examples did not have merit.
“That Hammonds’ lawyers had little evidence to work with hardly makes their efforts unsatisfactory,” Fuller wrote in his 100-page opinion and order. “Indeed, the overwhelming evidence of his guilt prejudiced Hammonds, not his attorneys’ performance.”
Hammonds’ attorneys also argued that Hammonds did not receive a fair trial because District Attorney Doug Valeska made a reference to Hammonds’ decision not to testify during the trial, which is improper. Trial judge Larry Anderson instructed the jury to disregard the statement and Fuller agreed with the lower appeals court that the statement did not prejudice the jury to the point of causing a mistrial.
Hammonds’ attorneys further argued that his trial lawyers could have argued mitigating factors during the penalty phase of the trial that could have kept a jury from recommending the death penalty.
“(Hammonds) raped and viciously stabbed to death a woman much smaller than he in a brutal, senseless and planned act of violence. Under these facts, this court can not say that had counsel presented more mitigation evidence, or better prepared the witnesses that testified, there would have been a reasonable probability that consideration of these facts would have led the jury to a different result,” Fuller wrote.
Hammonds can appeal Fuller’s ruling to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. If the 11th Circuit denies the appeal, he can continue the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.