Condemned Man Orders Fried Chicken & Biscuits Dec 6, 2018 18:06:35 GMT -5
Post by Graveyardbride on Dec 6, 2018 18:06:35 GMT -5
Condemned Murderer Orders Fried Chicken Prior to Electrocution
If everything goes as planned, David Earl Miller (above), 61, will eat a meal of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits and coffee before he’s strapped into the electric chair at 7 p.m. Miller was condemned to die for the brutal murder of Lee Standifer 37 years ago.
Miller chose the electric chair over lethal injection because he – and many other condemned criminals – are convinced the chair is “the lesser of two evils,” citing the August execution of Billy Ray Irick. It took approximately 20 minutes for Irick to die, during which time he was observed huffing and coughing before turning a dark shade of purple.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam denied a clemency application by Miller’s legal team. His attorney asked for mercy on behalf of the inmate, saying if the convicted killer were tried today, he would not be sentenced to death and “it is likely he would not even be convicted of first-degree murder.” The request, filed last week, argued Miller suffered from “severe mental illness” at the time of the crime and “accepts responsibility for the death of his friend.” The lawyer asked Miller’s life be spared so he can live the remainder of his years in prison. Separately, Miller has two last-minute petitions to the U.S. Supreme Court to halt his execution.
If the execution takes place, Miller will be the third Tennessee death row inmate executed this year and the second to die by electrocution. In November, Edmund Zagorski died in the electric chair after a federal court judge ordered the state to honor the inmate’s wishes.
The victim. Lee Standifer, who was almost 24 when she was killed, was diagnosed as having mild brain damage as a child. “We never did know the cause,” Helen Standifer, the young woman’s mother said. “Her vocabulary and her reading ability were always above average, but her comprehension was not always on target.”
Richard Standifer, her father, was a chemical engineer and the family moved around the country with him as he worked on various various jobs and projects. Lee attended special education classes in Colorado until the family moved to Tennessee in 1975. Her disability didn’t prevent her attending Farragut High School, where she graduated the following year. Between classes, she helped her mother with crafts – knitting, painting, wire sculptures – traveling to shows and making friends wherever she went.
Authorities later described Standifer as a grown woman with the mental age of around 12. Her parents knew she wasn’t ready to drive or attend college, but they also knew she deserved a chance to live her own life. First she moved in with her younger sister, Audrey, who was attending the University of Tennessee. When her sister graduated, Mr. and Mrs. Standifer found a room for her at the YWCA on Clinch Avenue and a job at Cavalier Food Products, where she packed boxes on an assembly line. Every day she rode the bus to and from work and called her mother. She visited her parents most weekends.
“It was a gradual transition,” her mother recalled. “Most people would have found the work mind-numbing, but she loved it. She was always early, never late. She was just so glad to be out on her own. I’m sure there were people who thought we were doing wrong by putting Lee out in the world. She may not have lived long, but at least she lived her life. I didn’t live it for her. I’m just sorry it didn’t last longer.” All the bus drivers knew her by name and she never hesitated to say hello to a stranger. “I feel like I’ve finally begun to live,” she told her mother the day she died.
A new friend. Lee Standifer didn’t tell her mother the name of the man she’d met and to this day, she’s not sure how her daughter and the man who killed her crossed paths. “She spent the weekend before at home with us and she said she’d met a new friend at the library,” Mrs. Standifer continued. “I think she just met him once. He probably said, ‘Let’s go do something,’ she said yes and that was it.”
Lee confided to a friend she “wasn't sure” about the man she’d met. It was certain she didn’t know his history: how he’d drifted about following a childhood of alleged physical and sexual abuse; the trail of crimes that followed him, including two arrests on suspicion of rape; or that he worked as a prostitute, supplementing his income by sponging off the Reverend Benjamin Calvin Thomas, a secretly homosexual Baptist minister in South Knoxville.
On Wednesday, May 20, Lee hung up the phone around 5 30 p.m. after talking with her mother, and left the YWCA with Miller at 7 o’clock. Witnesses saw them together in the hours that followed: at the Hideaway Lounge, a bar on Gay Street; at the library, where Miller checked out a book that included a description of murder during sex; at the bus station cafeteria; and in the back of a taxi that carried them to the pastor’s home on Wise Hills Road.
The murder. There was no one else at the house and this was where Miller beat the young woman to death with a fire poker. He then dragged her body to a wooded area and stabbed her corpse several times with a knife.
Miller attempted to clean up the bloody mess in the house. The carpet was saturated with blood and there was blood on the floors and walls. When Thomas returned home to find blood on the carpet, Miller told him he’d been in a fight and gotten a bloody nose. The mess on the carpet angered Thomas, who told Miller he would have to move out of his house.
The following morning, Thomas drove Miller to a truck stop at the Mabry Hood Road exit on Interstate 40, gave him $25, then proceeded to the school where he served as principal. He got home around 6 p.m. and noticed a t-shirt hanging in a dogwood tree in his yard. When he discovered Standifer’s body nearby, he called police. Detectives determined the woman had been dead around 20 hours.
There were bloodstains “all over the house,” according to Detective J.L. Gatlin of the Knoxville Police Department. “There was a trail of blood from the living room to the dining room and into the kitchen. Then the trail went down the steps to the basement. You could tell that attempts had been made to clean up the blood, but we still found plenty of traces,” Gatlin explained. “We have evidence that Miller killed the girl inside the house, in the living room by the fireplace. That’s where the largest concentration of blood was in the house. Blood was all over the fireplace and on the fire pokers.”
In a May 23 news report, Gatlin was quoted as saying: “The man who did this is sick, mentally sick. He has a history of sexual offenses and beating up women. Not only will he be charged with first-degree murder, but I would not be surprised if he also was charged with sexual misconduct, rape and possibly some other charges.”
When Lee didn’t show up for work the following day and failed to call home, her mother feared the worst. “You never know what can happen,” Mrs. Standifer insisted. “You can’t know.” She called police to report her daughter missing and the following night, learned Lee’s body had been discovered, bound and battered, in the woods adjacent to the pastor’s house.
Police caught up with Miller a week later when he attempted to pass a counterfeit bill at a bar in Columbus, Ohio. He returned to Knoxville in handcuffs, hiding his face from the cameras as officers escorted him to jail.
Trials and Appeals. The years of court dates that followed run together into a blur in Mrs. Standifer’s memory. First came the trial in March 1982, when a jury found Miller guilty of first-degree murder and he was sentenced to death. The Tennessee Supreme Court threw out that sentence two years later, with justices finding no fault in Miller’s conviction, but ruling prosecutors shouldn’t have told the jury about his history of arrests for rape. The court ordered a new sentencing hearing: a mini-trial before a new jury to decide whether he deserved death.
Thirty-one years of appeals followed. Lee Standifer’s mother, father and sister moved across the country. Her father died in 2014. The appeals dragged on. “There have been so many appeals,” lamented the frustrated mother, now in her 80s. “I wouldn’t have been averse to a life sentence. But that wasn’t an option (at the time of the trial). This was the only way to go. I miss my daughter and I want my memories to be of her.”
Sources: The Associated Press; Kathleen Lam, Fox News, December 6, 2018; Jim Matheny, WBIR, December 5, 2018; and Matt Lakin, The Knoxville News-Sentinel, November 30, 2018.