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Georgia's dysfunctional death penalty 

Troy Davis' execution was the fifth scheduled this year. Each raises hard questions about the death penalty.

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"This is just my guess now," Mears says, "but looking at how he was basically tricked into pleading guilty and waiving his jury trial, I think that had to have something to do with it."

Curtis Osborne

Execution date: June 4

Georgia has a history of inadequately funding death penalty cases. It also has a history of racism. In the case of Curtis Osborne, those two histories appear to have converged.

Osborne was convicted of the 1990 murder of Arthur Jones, a man to whom he owed $400, and Jones' girlfriend, Linda Seaborne. The couple was sitting in the front seat of their car, and Osborne, seated in the back, shot them both from behind. The killings were senseless. Osborne admitted as much.

"Sometimes things happen out of emotion and not just deliberation," he told the jury during the sentencing phase of his trial. "I want to say I'm sorry, and I just ask you people to have mercy on me."

They didn't. Osborne was sentenced to death.

But evidence unearthed later suggests that Osborne might have been spared the death penalty –had he been made aware of a plea deal offered by the government. Under the alleged deal, Osborne would have received a life without parole sentence. According to Osborne's appeals attorney, however, the man who represented him at trial, Johnny Mostiler, never told Osborne about the offer. The reason? Mostiler, who was Spalding County's only public defender, allegedly was a racist.

At the time leading up to Osborne's trial, Mostiler also represented another murder defendant, Gerald Huey. Huey is white. Osborne was black. Years later, in a sworn affidavit, Huey described how surprised he was at the way Mostiler described Osborne.

"The first time I recall Mr. Mostiler saying anything about Curtis Osborne's case was when he said, 'The little nigger deserves the death penalty,'" Huey said in the affidavit. "I was shocked, because I knew that Mr. Osborne had not gone to trial yet."

That wasn't the only time Mostiler allegedly bad-mouthed the man whose life he was supposed to save. According to Huey: "I recall Mr. Mostiler telling me that I wouldn't believe the amount of money he was going to spend on my case. He said he was going to hire a private investigator and get expert witnesses. He said the money he would spend on me was going to be a lot more than he would spend on Mr. Osborne, because 'that little nigger deserves the chair.'"

Another of Mostiler's clients later claimed that Mostiler had called him "one dumb nigger" after he refused a plea deal in 1992.

"I find it kind of hard, you know, to have an attorney to represent me when he uses those types of words," Derek Middlebrooks testified, after asking the court if he could have a new lawyer.

When the judge later asked Mostiler about Middlebrooks' allegation, he said he couldn't remember whether he said such a thing. He also said that he didn't "use those terms out in public."

Mostiler died in 2000, but not before denying that he withheld a plea offer from Osborne.

In May, Osborne's appeals attorney made one last plea –to the state Board of Pardons and Paroles –to spare his client's life due to Mostiler's allegedly egregious handling of the case. The request was denied, and on June 4, Osborne became the second Georgia inmate to be executed this year.

Jack Alderman

Execution date: Sept. 16

As with William Earl Lynd, Samuel David Crowe and Curtis Osborne, there was no reason to question Jack Alderman's guilt. The evidence clearly showed that Alderman, with the help of his friend, John Arthur Brown, killed his wife, Barbara.

Two days before the murder, Alderman called Brown and asked him to meet him at the Piggly Wiggly supermarket where he worked. Brown later testified that Alderman wanted help to make his wife's death look like an accident, and he offered half of her life-insurance policy to Brown for his troubles.

When Brown showed up at the couple's Savannah apartment two nights later, he complied with Alderman's instructions to strike his wife in the head with a wrench. Brown later said Alderman then smothered her, and the two men submerged her in the bathtub. After leaving the scene to go drinking, the men returned to the apartment, put the body in the trunk of Alderman's Pontiac, drove to a creek, put the body in the driver's seat and pushed the car into the water.

Alderman later provided a rather implausible version of events. He said he happened to drive by the creek and saw the Pontiac with his wife inside –then he panicked, fled the scene, and mentally blocked out the discovery of the dead body.

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