|1926 Tennessee Supreme Court: W.L. Cook, William Swiggart, Grafton Green, C.J., Colin McKinney and A.W. Chambliss|
The high court found a multitude of problems with the evidence and sentencing phase of Sexton’s murder trial. Examples include inappropriate remarks made by jurors and the impact of prejudicial evidence that was admitted.
Sexton was convicted of first-degree murder by a jury for the May 2000 murders of Stanley and Terry Sue Goodman. The Goodmans were shot to death while they slept in their home only days after Sexton was accused of sexually abusing one of Stanley Goodman’s children.
Despite the problems uncovered by the Supreme Court, the justices refused to take the additional step of overturning his murder conviction. The majority clearly believed Sexton was guilty of the crime, stating that, “Aside from the unfairly prejudicial nature of the inadmissible evidence and the inappropriate argument by the prosecution, however, the proof of guilt for each of the two murders was simply overwhelming.” The doubt about Sexton’s guilt is very small as Sexton reportedly told at least three different friends that he had murdered the Goodmans.
The problems with the case began before the trial even started as the voir dire process was tainted. Apparently some people were improperly excluded as jurors. Later, jurors heard allegations of the sexual abuse Sexton was alleged to have committed but never officially charged with, something that never should have happened. The Court said that prosecutors should have instead attempted to charge Sexton separately for the abuse. The jurors were further prejudiced by hearing that Sexton initially agreed to take a polygraph but later changed his mind.
The accumulation of misconduct was enough to earn Sexton a new sentencing trial but not enough for a reprieve.
To read the full opinion, click here.
Read: “Tenn. Supreme Court overturns death sentence in E. Tenn. Case,” by Sheila Burke, published at TimesNews.net.
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