05-08-2010, 01:06 PM
A man convicted of the 1987 murder of a Union County mother and daughter will get another two weeks to fight the state setting his execution date, as his attorneys are having difficulty reaching the inmate due to flooding.
Stephen Michael West was convicted of the 1987 murders of Wanda and Sheila Romines. A court found West guilty of the aggravated rape of Sheila Romines and the aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder of both Sheila Romines and her mother Wanda.
The United States Supreme Court has twice declined to take up West's appeal, so the state of Tennessee filed to set an execution date for West.
His attorneys requested and were granted a two-week extension to file their response to the state's request.
His attorneys said in their request for an extension that they plan to demonstrate "that no court has ever evaluated Mr. West's extensive mitigating evidence under the proper legal standard, that the imposition of the death penalty in this case would be grossly unfair where the actual killer of both victims received a life sentence, and that no execution date should be set for a prisoner suffering from severe mental illness."
His attorneys will now have until Monday, May 24 to respond.
05-08-2010, 01:10 PM
In 1986, Jack Romines returned home to discover the bodies of his wife, Wanda Romines, 51, and their daughter Sheila, 15. Both had been stabbed repeatedly and tortured, and his daughter had been raped. In 1987, Stephen Michael West, then 24, was convicted and sentenced to death. Accomplice Ronald David Martin, then 17, was not subject to the death penalty because of his age. He was sentenced to two life terms. At the trial, West claimed he was coerced into participation in the crimes by Martin. West and Ronnie Martin, co-workers at a McDonald's restaurant, were sent to prison for the stabbing murders of Wanda and Sheila Romines, a mother and daughter. West was convicted by a jury. Martin, a juvenile at the time of the killings, pleaded guilty to 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and was given consecutive life sentences. He is in the Brushy Mountain state prison. West also was convicted of aggravated kidnapping of both women, and of aggravated rape of the daughter. Sheila Romines was stabbed 17 times in the abdomen. 14 of the stab wounds were described as "torture type cuts," according to the Tennessee Supreme Court's ruling upholding the conviction and death sentence. Wanda Romines suffered "a number of deep stab wounds," 1 of which severed an artery and caused her to bleed to death within a few minutes.Unless he changes his mind or someone steps in on his behalf, West will die in Tennessee's electric chair on March 1. West, convicted of a 1986 double murder in Union County in East Tennessee, has taken the unusual step of declining to pursue federal appeals. His state court appeals expired last November when the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld his convictions and death sentence. West has opted to die in the electric chair, which has not been used since 1960. Recent state law makes lethal injection the automatic method of execution unless the condemned chooses electrocution. The state's high court set the March 1 execution date last November. Such execution dates are routinely stayed by further appeals - West's original execution date was in May of 1989, for example -- and so little notice has been given to West's case until the last few days. "It popped up on our radar screen about 10 days ago," said state Solicitor General Michael Moore. "Absent the filing of a (federal appeal), the execution will go forward. It's my understanding be still has time to file one, but we have no indication he plans to do so." West has so far refused to let any attorneys represent him in a federal appeal, nor has he filed one on his own behalf. However, a letter was received by the Department of Correction on Friday from a lawyer in Chattanooga asking to see West's files. An attorney in that office Roger Dickson, said his firm has offered to represent West. Attorneys apparently can step in on West's behalf even if he does not request their help. The state Department of Correction is proceeding as if the execution will be on March 1, said spokesman Steve Hayes. UPDATE - 2/23/01 - A federal judge issued a stay of execution for death-row inmate Stephen Michael West, one week before he was scheduled to be electrocuted at Riverbend prison. U.S. District Judge Curtis L. Collier of Chattanooga set a hearing June 13 on the issue of whether West has made a "knowing, voluntary, intelligent and competent" decision to waive appeals that he could file in the federal courts. The Tennessee Supreme Court had set West's execution for March 1, and state prison officials were preparing to carry it out when three Chattanooga lawyers who formerly represented West filed a petition Tuesday in U.S. District Court here. They asked for a stay until they could investigate why West had chosen to forgo appeals that would probably delay his execution for several years. U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell decided, after a hearing Wednesday, to appoint 1 of 3 lawyers, Roger Dickson, to represent West. However, Campbell transferred the case to the federal courts in East Tennessee for a ruling on whether the execution should proceed. West exhausted his appeals in the Tennessee court system last spring. UPDATE - 2/24/01 - The state has appealed a federal judge's decision to delay the execution of double murderer Stephen Michael West, who was scheduled to die in the electric chair Thursday. The petition was filed yesterday in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. It asks the court to overturn a judge's decision to stay the execution. The stay was granted so West can undergo a mental health evaluation. U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier stayed the execution date so West's attorneys could determine whether he has the mental competency to understand his choices and his pending execution. A hearing was set for June 13-14 to determine whether West is competent. In its appeal, the Tennessee attorneys general office called Collier's decision "an abuse of discretion." It said there was no evidence West suffered from a mental deficiency and asked the court to overturn the stay of execution and allow it to go forward as scheduled Thursday. "They failed to present one scintilla of credible evidence that Mr. West is incompetent," the state wrote in its appeal. Collier wrote in his decision that West's attorneys had not been granted enough time to determine whether West was incompetent. He wrote that he was "concerned about whether West has knowingly, voluntarily, and unequivocally waived his right to federal review." On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell invited West 3 times to explain his position, but he declined. Campbell then assigned Chattanooga attorney Roger Dickson as West's attorney and authorized a mental health evaluation. Dickson said West has refused to speak with him, and he questions whether West understands what is at stake. Dickson also said he was confident the appeals court would reject the state's petition. "I've read Judge Collier's decision. It think it's a sound one, and I think the 6th Circuit will agree with him," he said. The earliest that the appeals court could hear the case would be Monday. If the court rules in favor of the state, a new execution date would likely be scheduled, according to Sharon Curtis-Flair, spokeswoman for the attorney general. Dickson said he did not pursue a competency hearing earlier because he assumed West would file a federal appeal, as most death row inmates do. "We kept waiting for him to make the decision, and when it became clear he wasn't going to file the appeal we stepped in." UPDATE - 2/27/01 - The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a stay issued by a federal judge. The Court said that West could not be forced by others to appeal his case. UPDATE - 3/1/01 - A federal judge in Knoxville Wednesday afternoon issued a stay for death row inmate Stephen Michael West, less than 10 hours before his scheduled execution by electrocution. U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier issued the stay after West changed his mind in the morning and signed a document saying he wants to pursue his federal appeal, after all. The order, filed at 3:14 p.m. CST, stays the execution until April 30, the deadline the judge set for West's lawyers to file that federal appeal. Until this morning, West had refused to sign documents that would have allowed his lawyers to file that federal appeal of his state death sentence. The federal appeals process is likely to keep him alive for years. Last week, West's attorneys asked for a stay so their client's mental health could be evaluated - to be sure he understood that if he did not pursue his federal appeals, he would be executed. Collier agreed and issued a stay, giving West's lawyers until June to have him evaluated. But that stay was overturned Tuesday by a 3-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said West could not be forced by others to appeal his case. Tuesday's late afternoon ruling by the federal appeals court put West's execution back on track for 1 a.m. Thursday. The appeals court ruling left West the option of changing his mind, and this morning the death row inmate exercised that option. West signed a brief declaration that read in part: "I hereby affirm and declare that I do wish to have counsel appointed on my behalf and it is my express intent that the court enter a stay of execution necessary for the full exercise of my rights. The document was filed in federal court in Knoxville at 11:44 a.m. CST. Citing attorney-client privilege, West's attorney, Roger Dickson, said he couldn't say why West changed his mind this morning. But Dickson did say that defense team lawyers had promised to pursue West's claims that prison conditions were so bad that he would rather be executed than continue to live on death row. Steve Hayes, the Department of Correction spokesman, said West remained on death row, about 50 feet from the electric chair. West, 38, has been imprisoned since 1986 for the stabbing deaths of a woman and her 15-year-old daughter in rural Union County, north of Knoxville. The victims were Wanda Romines and daughter Sheila Romines. In its automatic review of the case, the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1989 called the crime, in which both women were repeatedly stabbed and the daughter was raped, "grossly inhuman." West had told prison officials that he wanted to be electrocuted, rather than killed by lethal injection, which is now the standard method of execution under Tennessee law.
05-08-2010, 01:19 PM
We briefly summarize the facts of the two murders that led to West’s arrest. On
March 17, 1986, twenty-three year-old West and seventeen year-old Ronnie Martin left their
jobs at a McDonald’s in Lake City, Tennessee. They had known each other only about two
weeks. After driving around and drinking in Martin’s car for several hours, Martin told West
that he knew a girl who would “give them some sex.” Martin was referring to fifteen yearold
Sheila Romines, a classmate of Martin who had previously rebuffed his advances and
embarrassed him in front of other students. Martin and West went to the Romineses’ house,
but did not approach it. Instead the two laid in wait until around 5:20 A.M., when Mr.
Romines left for work. They knocked on the door and Wanda Romines, Sheila’s mother, let
the two into the house. Sometime between 6:00 A.M. and 8:30 A.M., Wanda and Sheila
were brutally murdered. Dr. Cleland Blake, a forensic pathologist, testified that Sheila had
been raped prior to being stabbed seventeen times in the abdomen. Fourteen of those
wounds were torture-type cuts. Wanda Romines had also suffered a large number of deep
stab wounds, including torture-type wounds. West and Martin were arrested the next day.
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