Friday, November 15, 2002

[ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 11/15/02 ]

Dawson sentenced to life in 4 killings

Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writer

A jury Thursday spared the life of a man it had convicted of four murders, largely because of religious faith and a lingering question of his guilt.

The Fulton County jury decision to sentence Timothy Carl Dawson to life imprisonment without parole stunned prosecutors, investigators and the families of victims because they viewed the evidence of his guilt as overwhelming. Dawson was arrested with the murder weapon and numerous personal items from all the victims and had taken friends to a Atlanta Falcons game with the tickets of three men killed at the Atlanta Hilton & Towers hotel.

He claimed he was set up by a gang of drug dealers.

District Attorney Paul Howard said Dawson's deeds were the kind for which the death penalty was created. Dawson was convicted of the execution-style slayings of three tourists at the Hilton on Oct. 18, 1998, and of another man a few days earlier at a College Park inn. He was also suspected of killing a fifth man in DeKalb County, and two women testified that he had brutally raped them.

"In this case, the only appropriate decision would be death," Howard said.

Even defense lawyers Tom West and Robert Citronberg looked amazed. West said he had expected a death sentence despite Dalton's testimony that he was innocent.

"I think this shows how difficult it is in 2002 for a jury to impose a death sentence," said Citronberg, who embraced West after the sentence.

It was a second win in the Dawson case for the defense lawyers. They had helped make history in 2001 when they successfully argued to Superior Court Judge Wendy Shoob that she should rule the electric chair unconstitutional. It became one of the cases that carried that issue to the Georgia Supreme Court, delaying Dawson's trial for a year. The high court upheld the ban on electrocution. Georgia now uses lethal injection.

Jury foreman Ron Allen, 42, of Sandy Springs said he and five other jurors favored acquittal until they analyzed Dawson's lengthy testimony, in which he proclaimed a broad conspiracy and dueled with prosecutor Clint Rucker. Arglidian McElheney called unbelievable Dawson's claims that law officers from Memphis to Atlanta and Rucker were seeking to frame him.

"Once he testified, that is what made me go against him," said McElheney, 26, of Atlanta. "Before that, I was, like. 'Prove it to me.' "

But Allen said jurors felt uncomfortable in imposing a death penalty in a case in which they had been so hesitant to convict. And juror Ralph Anderson said religious faith caused many jurors to balk at sentencing Dawson to death even if they were convinced of his guilt.

Another juror, Keith Suss, said he believed strongly that Dawson should be sentenced to death but finally compromised because he feared otherwise Dawson might get a life sentence with the possibility of parole in 14 years. "There are just a lot of people in this country who don't have the stomach for the death penalty, and that just couldn't be overcome," said the 56-year-old Buckhead man.

Dawson was convicted of murdering Ronald Gutkowski, 51, of Leesburg, Fla.; Phillip Dover, 31, of Gainesville, Ga.; Gerrold Shropshire, 50, of Altamonte Springs, Fla.; and LaDarius Hawkins, 19 of College Park.

Some relatives of the victims left the court in tears.

Clarence Dover, whose son had the football tickets to take friends Shropshire and Gutkowski to the Falcons game, was philosophical but sad.

"What's done is done," he said. "I wish it had come out differently. When he can commit crimes like that and not get the death penalty, it seems like they won, not us."

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Jury convicts Dawson of 4 murders

By Steve Visser
Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writer

Alice Gutkowski, widow of Ronald Gutkowski, 51, hugs Debbie Wiley (left) after the verdict. Alice's husband, Jim Stanley (background), embraces Nikki Berger of the Fulton DA's victim serrvices program.

A Fulton County jury found Timothy Carl Dawson guilty today on all counts in the murder of four men in 1998.

Superior Court Judge Wendy Shoob ordered jurors to return Thursday to begin hearing evidence in the penalty phase of the trial to decide whether Dawson should face imprisonment or death by lethal injection. That phase is expected to last into next week.

Some family members of victims wept or crossed themselves after the verdict. They had become nervous about a mistrial after the jury -- which deliberated 19 hours -- announced Monday it might be deadlocked.

Maple Bronner, whose fiance Gerrold Shropshire was one of three men slain in a multiple murder in the Atlanta Hilton & Towers in 1998, kept her stoic visage but said it had been tough bearing up as jurors entered their fourth day of discussing the evidence.

"After two days went by, I got real nervous," she said. "I was praying we wouldn't have to do this again."

Law officers found driver's licenses, credit cards and other property belonging to victims in the trunk of Dawson's car when they pulled him over in Memphis in 1998.

Ballistic tests tied Dawson's pistol to all five killings. DNA tests tied miniscule blood droplets found on the gun to the four Fulton County slaying victims.

Dawson, however, claimed he was framed by a mysterious gang of drug dealers and by police and prosecutors.

Besides Shropshire, 50, of Altamonte Springs, Fla., the jury convicted Dawson of killing

Ronald Gutkowski, 51, of Leesburg, Fla.; and Phillip Dover, 31, of Gainesville, Ga., at the downtown hotel during a robbery on Oct. 18, 1998.

The jury also convicted him of killing LaDarius Hawkins, 19, during another robbery at a College Park Days Inn a few days earlier.

Dawson, 42, is suspected of killing a fifth man during a robbery in DeKalb County and of robberies at hotels in Marietta and Stockbridge although he wasn't on trial for those crimes.

The case, in which testimony began Oct. 15, took a long time to get to trial partly because it was delayed for nearly a year while courts waited for the Georgia Supreme Court to decide the constitutionality of the electric chair, and it was delayed again last spring after lead defense lawyer Tom West suffered a long-term hospitalization from illness.

Gutkowski's widow, Alice, attended the trial as a newlywed. She said she had justice now that Dawson was convicted after "a long, long four years." Her new husband Tim Stanley, who had trouble containing his frustration with the long deliberation Tuesday, nodded in agreement that the death penalty wasn't a requirement

"He is where we want him to be," Stanley said. "That's the main thing. He can't hurt anybody else."

Bronner, who four years ago said Dawson stole her future with Shropshire, said death was the penalty Dawson needed to pay.

"If it was good enough for them," she said of the victims. "It's good enough for him."

Judge tells deadlocked Dawson jurors to try again

By Steve Visser Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writer

The jury deciding the death penalty case of a man accused of murdering four people may be deadlocked.

After seven hours of deliberation, the Fulton County jurors sent a note to Superior Court Judge Wendy Shoob on Monday saying they were unable to decide whether Timothy Dawson is guilty of killing three guests at the downtown Atlanta Hilton & Towers and another man at a Days Inn in College Park in October 1998.

Shoob questioned the foreman, who said six jurors had firmly decided Dawson was guilty, while the other six had differing opinions. Shoob asked if all jurors were fully participating in deliberations. The foreman said some jurors were less involved than others.

The participation question is critical because the judge could dismiss any juror found to be refusing to discuss the evidence. Such a juror would be replaced by one of the four alternates who are waiting in another room.

Shoob told jurors to continue deliberating. The jury is to return Tuesday.

The jury's division seemed to surprise prosecutors and defense lawyers because of the extensive circumstantial evidence in the case. "Who would have thought it?" said Tom West, the lead defense lawyer. "But there is plenty of room for reasonable doubt in this case

Sunday, March 03, 2002



Tuesday, November 20, 2001

Lethal Injection Hearing - Debbie Wiley
İFulton County Daily Report, November 20, 2001

Judge Denies Lethal Injection Hearing

Trisha Renaud

The Fulton judge who was the first jurist in Georgia to declare electrocution unconstitutional refused Monday to schedule a hearing on a similar challenge to lethal injection.

An attorney for Timothy Carl Dawson, accused of the 1998 killings of three men at the Atlanta Hilton and Towers, argued to Fulton Superior Court Judge Wendy L. Shoob that a hearing was needed to examine Georgia's use of lethal injection.

Defense lawyer Thomas M. West said events during two of Georgia's three recent executions by lethal injection raised "serious questions" about the state's protocols for carrying out the procedure.

But Senior Assistant District Attorney Peggy A. Katz said such a hearing would be expensive and frivolous. In Dawson's own case, Katz reminded the judge, the Georgia Supreme Court recently struck down the electric chair in favor of lethal injection. And implicit in that decision, she added, was that lethal injection "is an accepted, humane procedure."

Shoob agreed. The Supreme Court, in an Oct. 5 decision, she noted, had before it evidence of the new lethal injection protocols and found lethal injection to be a minimally intrusive procedure that didn't produce the mutilation generated by electrocution. Dawson v. State, No. S01A1041 (Sup. Ct. Ga. Oct. 5, 2001).

"The Supreme Court [of Georgia] has been quite clear that lethal injection is the acceptable method of carrying out the death penalty," Shoob said.

The justices could have stayed any of the last three executions, but didn't do so, she said. "If the Supreme Court doesn't want to look at a case that is about to experience lethal injection, why look at it in a case where it is years away if at all?"

Shoob said West could submit evidence for her to consider, but denied his request that she conduct an evidentiary hearing.

Less than a month after the Supreme Court, ruling in Dawson and a second case consolidated with it, found the electric chair to be cruel and unusual punishment, defense lawyers began to assail lethal injection on the same grounds. Moore v. State, No. S01A1210 (Sup. Ct. Ga. Oct. 5, 2001). (Daily Report, Oct. 25, 2001)

Their biggest obstacle, however, appeared to be their victory in the Supreme Court electric chair ruling.

Unlikely Test Vehicle

That ruling-coupled with Shoob's Jan. 11 ruling in which she found lethal injection to be "a less cruel and more humane means of execution"-makes it unlikely that the Dawson case will be the vehicle of change on lethal injection that it was on electrocution.

She originally had agreed to let West and co-counsel Robert H. Citronberg stage a hearing on the matter and had scheduled it for Wednesday. But prosecutors objected, filing a motion to bar such a hearing.

Katz told Shoob Monday that there was no reason to conduct a hearing "when the Supreme Court has spoken just months ago, when this court has spoken."

But West argued that the legality of lethal injection wasn't an issue before the Supreme Court, although he conceded that the justices did cite its availability as a less barbaric method of execution than electrocution.

No Review of Execution Protocols

"Perhaps a properly administered, properly established protocol might be a constitutional way to do it, but we don't know [that] because no court in Georgia has reviewed the protocols," West said.

Two of the three executions carried out in Georgia in the past month have been "botched in some manner," West said. Chemicals that were supposed to "knock out" condemned killer Jose High, didn't work, West said, leaving High to cry out and thrash about during the procedure. And prison officials, after having trouble finding a suitable vein, made deep cuts in High's hand to reach one and inserted a catheter in his neck, West said.

"We're not saying it's per se unconstitutional," he told Shoob. Carried out properly, lethal injection is probably the most humane method, he said. He asked Shoob for a chance to show that Georgia's protocols need adjusting to ensure that the procedure does not involve the infliction of needless pain or mutilation.

Katz said that an inability to find a vein immediately doesn't mean the execution was botched. And, she argued, a defendant isn't entitled to a "pain-free or instantaneous death." Nor can West show that cruelty is inherent in lethal injection-a requirement to find that method unconstitutional, Katz said.

Furthermore, she added, there is no available alternative to lethal injection and no reason to devote the resources of the court to a lengthy hearing on protocols that may not even be in place when and if Dawson faces execution.

Shoob said she had agreed with West on the electric chair. Now, however, she said, "Here you are back, telling me what's wrong with lethal injection."

West protested that he had never hidden his intent to challenge lethal injection.

Dawson's trial is scheduled for March 18. He is accused of shooting Phillip Dover, Gerrold Shropshire and Ronald Gutkowski repeatedly in their heads in what police said was a robbery. [end]

Friday, October 26, 2001

TRIAL DATE SET - Debbie Wiley
A new trial date has been set for March 18, 2002. A year later than was originally set and 3 yrs and 5 months from the date Phillip was murdered. This date is one month after the date that would have been Phillip's 35th birthday. Born 2/18/67 - murdered 10/18/98 - trial date 3/18/02.