Executed July 27, 2005 12:31 a.m. by Lethal Injection in Indiana
W / M / 22 - 40
31st murderer executed in U.S. in 2005
975th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
4th murderer executed in Indiana in 2005
15th murderer executed in Indiana since 1976
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder-Execution)
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder)
Kevin Aaron Conner
W / M / 19
W / M / 24
W / M / 19
Conner was drinking with friends Steve Wentland, Tony Moore, and Bruce Voge at Moore's home. Wentland left for a drive with Moore in the front seat and Conner in the back. Wentland and Moore argued and Moore struck Wentland with Conner's knife. Wentland fled from the car but was chased down and run over by Moore. Conner then stabbed him to death. They drove to the warehouse of Conner's employer, where Conner and Moore began arguing about the night's events. Cooner shot Moore to death with a shotgun. Conner then returned to Moore's home and shot Voge on the couch. Conner then fled to Texas.
W / M / 22 - 40
Conner v. State, 580 N.E.2d 214 (Ind. October 24, 1991)
Conviction Affirmed 5-0; DP Affirmed 5-0
Krahulik Opinion; Shepard, Debruler, Givan, Dickson concur.
Conner v. Indiana, 112 S. Ct. 1501 (1992) (Cert. denied).
Conner v. Indiana, 112 S. Ct. 2006 (1992) (Reh. denied).
PCR Petition filed 01-04-93. PCR denied 03-29-95 by Special Judge James K. Coachys.
Conner v. State, 711 N.E.2d 1238 (Ind. May 25, 1999)
(Appeal of PCR denial by Special Judge James K. Coachys)
Conviction Affirmed 5-0; DP Affirmed 5-0
Dickson Opinion; Shepard, Sullivan, Selby, Boehm concur.
Conner v. Indiana, 121 S. Ct. 812 (2000) (Cert. denied).
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed 09-26-00 in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana.
Writ denied by U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker on 01-15-03.
Conner v. Anderson, 259 F.Supp. 741 (S.D. Ind. January 15, 2003).
(Habeas denied by Judge Sarah Evans Barker, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana.)
Conner v. McBride, 375 F.3d 643 (7th Cir. July 20, 2004)
(Appeal of denial of Habeas Writ, Affirmed 3-0)
Conner v. McBride, 125 S. Ct. 1399 (2005) (Cert. denied).
Conner v. McBride, 125 S. Ct. 1930 (2005) (Reh. denied).
His final meal came from Dairy Queen: four chili dogs, onion rings, a banana split and an Oreo-cookie Blizzard ice-cream drink, Correction Department spokeswoman Java Ahmed said. Conner also smoked two cigars -- an exception to the prison's no-smoking policy granted to condemned inmates.
In an obscentity-laced final statement related by a prison spokeswoman, Conner said, "Everybody has to die sometime, so ... let's get on with the killing."
Clark County Prosecuting Attorney
CONNER, KEVIN AARON (ON DEATH ROW SINCE 11-03-88)
Court: Marion County Superior Court
Trial Judge: John W. Tranberg
Prosecutor: John V. Commons, David E. Cook
Defense Attorneys: Steven B. Lazinsky, Rick Mendes
Date of Murder: January 26, 1988
Victim(s): Steve Wentland W/M/19; Tony Moore W/M/24; Bruce Voge W/M/19 (Acquaintances of Conner)
Method of Murder: stabbing with knife (Wentland); shooting with shotgun (Moore/Voge)
Sentencing: November 3, 1988 (Death Sentences for murder of Moore and Voge, 60 years for murder of Wentland)
Aggravating Circumstances: 3 murders
Mitigating Circumstances: intoxication, 22 years old at time of murder, no significant history of criminal conduct, genuine remorse, loss of his father, interest in drawing and writing, generosity in helping pay rent for girlfriend.
"Man executed for '88 murders; Death penalty opponents protest; convict who killed 3 men didn't want governor to spare his life," by VicRyckaert. (7/27/05)
MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- An Indianapolis man who told the governor he wanted to die got his wish early this morning, as he was executed for killing three men back in 1988. Kevin A. Conner was put to death at 12:31 a.m. by lethal injection at the Indiana State Prison, officials said. Outside, a steady rain had limited protesters to a few moments of gathering outside their cars.
Conner had wanted no protests, no efforts to save his life, and had told Gov. Mitch Daniels just that in a letter, writing that "killing a person is far more honest and humane than imposed repression under the guise of justice in the penal system." A statement released earlier Tuesday through his attorneys reflected a similar view: "Everybody has to die sometime . . . let's get on with the killing."
Besides being convicted in the deaths of three men in Indianapolis, Conner also claimed to have killed a fellow Death Row inmate in 2002.
Despite Conner's wishes, capital punishment opponents wanted to use the occasion of another execution -- the fourth this year -- to call attention to an issue that, they said, goes beyond the desires of one condemned man. One protester, Marti Pizzini of the Duneland Coalition Against the Death Penalty, said fewer prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Capital punishment "is beginning to wither away in the United States," she said. "We want to keep nipping at its heels." Conner, an avid reader of philosophy and science fiction, donated most of his books to the prison library. He donated his television to Fredrick Michael Baer, sentenced to death last month for killing Cory Clark, 26, and Jenna Clark, 4, at their rural Madison County home.
Defense lawyer Linda Wagoner met with Conner on Monday and Tuesday. "He's definitely ready," Wagoner said. Monday, prison officials say, Conner was served a last meal from Dairy Queen: four chili dogs, onion rings, a banana split and an Oreo Blizzard. He also watched Showtime's "Dead Like Me," a dark comedy about a team of grim reapers.
Tuesday, he spent his final hours alone in his cell, making phone calls to friends and relatives. He also was allowed to smoke two cigars. He did not meet with a spiritual adviser.
In January 1988, Conner killed Steven Wentland, 19; Anthony Moore, 24; and Bruce Voge, 19, during an hourlong rampage. Last week, he also admitted stabbing to death inmate Jerry Thompson, 41, during a recreation break at the prison on Oct. 27, 2002. Thompson was convicted of fatally shooting two people in 1991.
Moore's sister Dianna Bevers said Conner has never shown remorse. "We feel like Kevin's life was a tragedy to start with," Bevers said. "My heart goes out to his family and him because he destroyed his life; he destroyed my brother's life." Conner calls his spiritual beliefs "nondenominational mystic," which troubles Bevers. "I'm gonna be on my knees praying that at the last minute he asks God for forgiveness," she said. Wentland's mother said her family has found closure. "You can't dwell on it," Sharon Wentland said. "It's much better to say yes, we lost a son, we miss him and love him, but now we have to keep going."
Some have described Conner as a cold, remorseless killer; Kathy Stinton-Glen, a Zionsville attorney who also represents him, said the inmate she knows has been generous, kind and funny. "I think he is a bright, talented kid who's paying for a hell of a night," she said. "He's easy to work with, and very appreciative. I will miss him."
Conner and his victims were drinking at Moore's Southside home. Prosecutors say Conner, Moore and Wentland went for a drive. They argued, and Moore stabbed Wentland and struck him with a car. Conner also stabbed Wentland more than a dozen times, police say. Soon after, prosecutors say, Conner shot Moore to death with a sawed-off shotgun at a business in the 1600 block of Deloss Street. Conner then returned to Moore's home and gunned down Voge. Police captured Conner two days later in Amarillo, Texas, on a bus bound for California.
The day after a judge sentenced Conner to die, he jumped a wall and escaped from the Marion County Jail. He ran for about three minutes before being recaptured. In 1994, Conner and four others on Death Row used hacksaw blades, makeshift knives and a grappling hook in an attempt to escape from prison. Conner and three others made it to the base of the outside wall before being spotted and captured.
"Indiana executes killer of three," by Karen Murphy. (Wed Jul 27, 2005 2:18 AM ET)
MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. (Reuters) - An Indiana man who was convicted of killing three men during a 1988 drinking spree and said he would rather die than spend the rest of his life in prison was executed Wednesday, officials said. Kevin Conner, 40, died from a lethal injection at 12:31 a.m. inside the death chamber at Indiana State Prison.
In an obscentity-laced final statement related by a prison spokeswoman, Conner said, "Everybody has to die sometime, so ... let's get on with the killing."
His final meal came from Dairy Queen: four chili dogs, onion rings, a banana split and an Oreo-cookie Blizzard ice-cream drink, Correction Department spokeswoman Java Ahmed said. Conner also smoked two cigars -- an exception to the prison's no-smoking policy granted to condemned inmates.
Kathy Stinton-Glen, one of Conner's attorneys who witnessed the execution, described his demeanor beforehand as "calm and ready to be done with things." Conner had refused to seek clemency from Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, writing in a letter to the governor: "Killing a person is far more honest and human than imposed repression under the guise of justice in the penal system."
On Jan. 26, 1988, Conner was drinking at the home of a friend, Anthony Moore, with two other men, Steven Wentland and Bruce Voge. While out for a drive, Conner stabbed Moore, hit him with a car, and later killed him with a blast from a sawed-off shotgun. He then stabbed Wentland more than a dozen times and returned to Moore's home and killed Voge, waking him first so he could see what was coming. He was arrested two days later in Texas on a bus bound for California. Conner appealed his conviction on the grounds that the jury did not fully weigh the the impact of his drunkenness on his judgment, but a panel of judges denied the appeal.
While in prison, he attempted a breakout with four other inmates, and he was suspected in the unresolved killing of another death-row inmate.
Conner's execution was the fourth this year in Indiana and the 31st in the United States. It was the 975th execution since the United States resumed the death penalty in 1976.
The Indiana Supreme Court has set an execution date for a man convicted of killing three people following an argument. The court ordered Thursday that Kevin Conner, 38, of Indianapolis be executed on July 27. He was sentenced to death in 1988. Conner appealed his death sentence in state and federal courts, both of which rejected his arguments.
Conner was convicted in the January 1988 slayings of three former schoolmates, Bruce Voge, Steve Wentland and Tony Moore. Prosecutors said three of the men, who had been drinking, went for a drive while Voge remained behind and Moore stabbed Wentland during an argument. Moore then chased and struck Wentland with the car and Conner stabbed him several times, according to court documents. Conner and Moore then argued and Conner shot Moore, then drove to Moore's house and shot Voge, prosecutors said.
Conner had sought a new trial because the jury was not property instructed to consider that Conner was drunk when he committed the murders, an assertion the justices rejected. "The jury was instructed that, although voluntary intoxication did not excuse commission of a crime, intoxication could be a defense if it was so extreme that the defendant could not form the requisite intent (knowing or intentional) required for murder. This was an accurate statement of law," the justices wrote in their ruling. The court said the jury was adequately advised of the intoxication defense and that Conner was not deprived of a fair trial and he had received all the appeals to which he was entitled.
From appeals court account of the case: The facts surrounding Conner’s crimes, which occurred on the south side of Indianapolis, are essentially undisputed. Sometime during the early morning of January 26, 1988, Conner, Tony Moore, Bruce Voge, and Steve Wentland were drinking at Moore’s house. When Conner, Moore, and Wentland went for a drive in Wentland’s car, Voge stayed behind at the house. During the drive, an argument broke out between Moore, who was seated in the front, and Wentland, who was driving. As a result, Moore stabbed Wentland with Conner’s knife, which caused Wentland to abandon the car and run. Conner, armed with the knife, pursued Wentland on foot, while Moore took control of the car and ran Wentland down. After Wentland was down, Conner beat him with his fists and stabbed him multiple times with the knife, eventually killing him. Conner and Moore then drove to Conner’s place of employment, where they awoke Conner’s employer and were given access to a warehouse. Another argument ensued between Conner and Moore about what had just happened and what they should do. During the argument, Conner obtained his sawed-off shotgun, shot, and killed Moore. This reawakened Conner’s employer, who confronted Conner as he exited the warehouse building. Conner replied that “he had to off Tony.” Conner next left the warehouse and drove to Moore’s house, where he shot and killed Voge, while Voge lay on the couch. Conner then went about disposing of Moore’s body with the aid of various friends, abandoned Wentland’s automobile, and fled the area.
He was apprehended in Texas on January 30, 1988 and returned to Indiana to face murder charges in the Marion County Superior Court in Indianapolis. The trial lasted from October 3 to 7, 1988, and the jury found Conner guilty of each killing. The penalty phase hearing was held on October 9, and the jury recommended death, as sought by the state. Then on November 3, the state court sentenced Conner to death for the murders of Voge and Moore, and to a term of 60 years for the murder of Wentland.
National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
Kevin Aaron Conner - Indiana - July 27, 2005 12:00 CST
The state of Indiana is scheduled to execute 40 year-old Kevin A. Conner, a white man, July 27th for the January 26, 1988 stabbing death of Steve Wetland, 19, and the shooting deaths of Tony Moore, 24, and Bruce Voge, 19, all white in Marion County.
The court rejected Conner's five arguments that the Indiana death penalty statute was unconstitutional. His argument outlined the main problems with the death penalty as a punishment. He argued that it was arbitrary and capricious and, therefore, cruel and unusual based on the fact that the prosecution chooses when to pursue the death penalty and when not to, and that even if the jury recommends the death penalty, that the judge has the discretion to override that recommendation and sentence an individual to death. He argued that the jury's lack of guidance in determining when aggravating factors outweigh mitigating factors renders the statute unconstitutional. He claimed that the Indiana statute does not sufficiently detail appelate review or require comparative proportionality review. He also highlighted the fact that the statute fails to properly narrow the class of homocides which are eligible for the death penalty. This meant that just because an individual committed the "worst" crime did not guarantee that individual would get the death penalty.
He was denied the opportunity for individualized, sequestered questioning of prospective jurors. He also argues that conducting questioning in the presence of other jurors and the press inhibits openness and honesty and thus may adversely affect the jury selection process. Conner's challenge to evidentiary rulings and to the sufficiency of the evidence were all rejected. He testified at court that the police continued to question him after his request for an attorney, and therefore his confession should not have been admitted into evidence. He also argued that the three separate counts should have been tried separately so that the jury would not get confused. The trial court found that trying the three counts together would not be too confusing and complex for the jury to distinguish between the separate counts.
At the time, Conner had no significant history of criminal conduct. Conner was still dealing with the loss of his father. He shows genuine remorse for these incidents. There is evidence that he has the ability to live peacefully. This and other mitigating evidence was taken into account at trial and appeal, but was found by the court not to be a significant factor in sentencing Conner to death.
Please take a moment to write Governor Mitch Daniels and the Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend that Kevin Conner's life be sparred.
"Kevin Conner Executed by Chemical Injection." (July 27, 2005, 09:01 AM )
38-year-old Kevin Conner was executed by chemical injection early today. A jury convicted the Indianapolis man for the 1988 murders of three former friends. Prosecutors say the men had been drinking and went for a drive. Connor then stabbed one of the friends, Steve Wentland, and the two got out of the car. Another man, Tony Moore, drove the car into Wentland, then Moore and Conner left Wentland to die. The pair later argued about what they had done and Conner shot Moore to death. Conner then drove to the home of a third friend, Bruce Voge, and shot Voge as he lay on the couch.
Officials say Conner was pronounced dead at 12-31 Eastern Standard Time.
He did not fight his execution... saying he's rather die than spend his life in prison. His final statement included an expletive and ended with "Let's get on with the killing."
Prison officials say the Indianapolis man spent Tuesday evening talking on the phone, calling family and friends. Officials also gave him special permission to smoke two cigars. Tobacco use is banned at the prison. Conner had six witnesses for the execution... including two lawyers. His was Indiana's fourth execution of the year.
"State Executes Indy Man Who Killed Three." (UPDATED: 4:10 am EST July 27, 2005)
MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- Kevin A. Conner, convicted of killing three men in 1988, was executed by chemical injection early Wednesday, prison officials said. Officials said he was pronounced dead at 12:31 a.m. His final statement was, "Everybody has to die sometime." It also included an expletive and ended with, "let's get on with the killing."
Kathy Stinton-Glen, one of Conner's attorneys, said after the execution that Conner wanted the statement read with the expletive included, which she did. When asked what the statement revealed about Conner, Stinton-Glen said, "Kevin's always been matter of fact. He was very to the point. He was blunt. To be honest, I thought it was quite tame." Linda Wagoner, another of Conner's attorneys, said the last time they spoke, he seemed calm. "He waved at us and pretty much went to sleep," she said after the execution. "I think he's been at peace with what's going on for some time."
Conner had six witnesses for the execution, two of whom were his lawyers. He spent Tuesday evening talking on the phone, calling family and friends, said Java Ahmed, an Indiana Department of Correction spokeswoman. Prison officials also gave him special permission to smoke two cigars, officials said. Tobacco use is banned at the prison.
Dianna Bevers says Conner had never shown any remorse for killing her brother and two other men. She hoped that before he was put to death, he would seek forgiveness. "I'm going to pray that he asks God to forgive him," she said before the execution. "Then I'm going to pray for him, because this is another young man that will be lost to the world who maybe could have done something with his life." Bevers' 24-year-old brother, Anthony Moore, was killed on a bitterly cold morning, Jan. 26, 1988, along with Steven Wentland, 19, and Bruce Voge, 19.
Police say the four men were drinking at Moore's house in Indianapolis when Wentland, Moore and Conner went for a drive. Moore got into an argument with Wentland, who was driving, and stabbed him. When Wentland tried to get out and run, Moore struck him with a car and knocked him down. Conner then got out and beat Wentland and stabbed him numerous times. Conner and Moore then drove to a factory where Moore worked and argued over what they should have done. Conner shot Moore with a sawed-off shotgun, killing him, then drove back to Moore's house and killed Voge.
Conner originally appealed his sentence on grounds the jury did not receive proper instructions. But in recent weeks he told his attorneys not to seek any further appeals and not to seek clemency from Gov. Mitch Daniels. In an interview last week with The Indianapolis Star, Conner said he would rather die than spend the rest of his life in prison. "I'm not bugging about it," he told the newspaper. "What is there to be afraid of? It's an inevitable fact of reality that at some point you have to die."
He also had asked the Duneland Coalition Against the Death Penalty not to hold a candlelight vigil for him outside the prison Tuesday night as it usually does, saying he wanted to die. But a dozen people, about half the number that typically shows up, gathered in the steady rain Tuesday night outside the prison to protest the execution. At past executions, the protesters had candlelight vigils and spoke about their opposition to the death penalty. On Tuesday, they chatted briefly outside then went to their cars to escape the rain and talk. A handful remained as the execution time approached. "We're here in our usual presence to show our usual position that we're against the death penalty," said the Rev. Charles Doyle, the coalition's chairman. "His soul is not my concern," said John Souder Roser, a coalition member. "I'm concerned about the state's power to commit murder."
Conner was the fourth person executed by the state so far this year and the 15th since state executions resumed in 1981 after a 20-year gap. Arthur P. Baird II of Darlington, about 20 miles south of Lafayette, was scheduled to be executed Aug. 31 for the 1985 murders of his seven-months pregnant wife and his parents. Indiana is on pace to have the most executions since there were eight in 1938.
"Prison death-watch vigil continues despite rain," by Mary Fox. (July 27, 2005)
MICHIGAN CITY — Lisa Williams passed out homemade brownies and chocolate cake as death penalty opponents clustered under umbrellas and waited in cars during a downpour outside Indiana State Prison on Tuesday night. A member of the group held up a sign “The State is not the Angel of Death.” About 20 people gathered in the parking lot across from the prison to protest the execution of Kevin Conner.
Marti Pizzini, secretary of the Duneland Coalition Against the Death Penalty, called the number “a marvelous turnout,” with people coming from New Buffalo and Hammond. Had the rain abated, Pizzini said those gathered would have held a candlelight vigil. Ducking into their cars for shelter still made a statement, she said. “What it accomplishes is faithful witness to a principle,” Pizzini said.
The individuals gathered in the parking lot, awaiting the midnight execution, for personal and religious reasons. “My stepdad is behind the walls,” said Williams, of Michigan City. She added, “I don’t believe in death row. I think it’s cruel. The state locks them up for murder. And the state wants to kill. There shouldn’t be no death penalty nowhere.”
Retired Indiana State Prison corrections officer Martin Hayes knew Conner. “Kevin Conner was my porter,” he said, referring to a job in which inmates hand out meals. A lector at the St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic church in Michigan City, Hayes said his religious beliefs influenced him to come to vigils for executions. “I’ve been coming since I retired,” he said. “I’m Catholic. And I believe in pro-life. When people hear pro-life, they associate it with abortion, but I’m also against the death penalty.” His wife Gwenda, a nurse for St. Anthony Hospice in Michigan City, views the executions as needless.
St. Ann of the Dunes parish member Dick Vaneko said he cannot equate the executions with his Catholic faith. “I just don’t see how anyone makes it fit the message of Jesus Christ, and how people can call themselves Christians in a demonstrative way and approve of killing people thought the death penalty. It doesn’t fit. It doesn’t jive.”
The vigil was the second for Andy Burd of New Buffalo, Mich. Before the night was over he said he would walk over to the prison wall to pray for peace for Conner and the victims’ families. “I believe that capital punishment is a dead end,” he said. “I’d really like to see us as a people move beyond it. It’s immoral.”
University of Notre Dame graduate and St. Mary of the Lakes Church (New Buffalo) said, “This isn’t what God wants.” A sign on the car of the Rev. Charles Doyle, retired pastor of St. Anne of the Dunes, read “No vindictive justice.” Inside his car, Doyle said he has been at every vigil for an execution since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. “I’m here because I believe in the dignity of human life,” he said. “I believe that it’s the purpose of the government to protect and develop human life. It distresses me that we are the only one of the civilized nations that kills its own people. All of Europe, Canada and Mexico rejected capital punishment years ago.”
"Convicted murderer to get wish: execution ," by Vic Ryckaert. (July 23, 2005)
Condemned killer Kevin A. Conner said he would rather die than remain in prison. He'll get that wish. Convicted of multiple murders, the former Southside Indianapolis man will be executed by injection Wednesday at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. "I'm not going to beg and grovel anyone for my life," Conner, 40, said during a telephone interview from prison last week. "I got here when I was 22. I've got no desire to grow old in prison."
Conner killed three men in Indianapolis in 1988 and a fourth in prison in 2002. He has asked Gov. Mitch Daniels not to halt his execution. He killed Steven Wentland, 19, Anthony Moore, 24, and Bruce Voge, 19, during an hourlong rampage on the city's Southside and at a Downtown business. Last week, he admitted stabbing to death inmate Jerry Thompson, 41, during a recreation break at the prison on Oct. 27, 2002.
Police dubbed him "Iceman" for his cold demeanor. Conner liked the nickname and, according to trial testimony, asked friends to sell souvenir T-shirts depicting an ice block and a bloody knife. He wanted to use the proceeds to bribe the judge, officials said. The Indianapolis police detective who investigated the murders still remembers Conner's matter-of-fact tone as he confessed to the killings. "He was proud of what he did," said Edmund Stamm, now assigned to the city's East District. "He showed no remorse."
Sharon Wentland still grieves over the death of her son Steven but holds no hatred toward Conner. "I feel that we have suffered the loss of a son. I let go of it at that point," said Wentland, who lives in Seymour. "The punishment for his crime is not in my hands. It's in the hands of the judicial system."
Meanwhile, Conner's upcoming execution is dredging up pain and tears for Moore's sister. "It seems like to me prison hasn't helped him," Dianna Bevers said. "He's been on Death Row for 18 years. He's still not remorseful." Death, Bevers said, is the only suitable punishment. "In one night, four young men's lives were totally gone," Bevers said. "He has destroyed numerous lives. There's just been so much heartache."
But Conner's sister said her family doesn't deserve to go through the pain of losing him. "I felt pretty sickened, and desperately helpless, that my brother's going to be murdered at the hands of the state," Debbie Noll said. Noll still sees Conner as the big brother who protected her, the joker who made her stomach hurt with laughter, the creative boy who loved to write stories and draw pictures. She was reminded of that boy Thursday when a package from her brother arrived in the mail. It was a picture of Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam he had drawn in ink for her daughter. As painful as it is, Noll supports her brother's decision not to ask for clemency. She doesn't want him to endure jail any longer, she said.
Conner's lawyers wrestled with whether to comply with Conner's refusal to ask for clemency, defense lawyer Linda Wagoner said. For years, Conner has consistently said he preferred death to life in prison. "Kevin is very bright, very articulate," Wagoner said, "and he has been extremely consistent with the reasons why he doesn't want the clemency."
And his lawyer acknowledged that Conner would have virtually no chance in front of the Indiana Parole Board, which makes recommendations on clemency to the governor. Prisoners often emphasize their good behavior at clemency hearings. But Conner has been a problem for authorities since his arrest, officials said. The day after a judge sentenced Conner to die, he jumped a wall and escaped from the Marion County Jail. He ran for about three minutes before being recaptured. In 1994, Conner and four others on Death Row used hacksaw blades, makeshift knives and a grappling hook in an attempt to escape from prison. Conner and three others made it to the base of the outside wall before being spotted and captured. "If it's built by man, it's capable to be gotten out of," Conner said last week.
He also claims to have killed a fellow Death Row inmate in 2002. Conner was among seven inmates present when Jerry Thompson was stabbed to death. Thompson was convicted in the March 14, 1991, shooting deaths of Melvin Hillis and Robert Beeler. Conner refused to talk to The Star about the stabbing, but Wagoner said Conner admitted he killed Thompson and gave a statement last week to lawyers defending another inmate linked to the crime.
Despite his past, Conner said he has no regrets. He said he's not one who dwells on the past. "I'm not trying to sound cold or inhumane; that's always been me," he said. "What's done is done." Death, Conner said, is a more humane alternative to life devoid of meaning in prison. "I'm not bugging about it," Conner said. "What is there to be afraid of? It's an inevitable fact of reality that at some point you have to die."
Conner v. State, 580 N.E.2d 214 (Ind. October 24, 1991) (Direct Appeal).
Defendant was convicted by jury in the Marion Superior Court, Criminal Division, John W. Tranberg, J., of three counts of murder and was sentenced to death for two of the three murders. Defendant appealed. The Supreme Court, Krahulik, J., held that: (1) trial court could deny defendant's request for individualized, sequestered voir dire and could delete three questions from defendant's tendered jury questionnaire; (2) death penalty statute was not unconstitutional for various reasons asserted; (3) evidence of defendant's prior threats and acts of violence directed toward one victim, and of defendant's earlier possession of weapons, was properly admitted; and (4) convictions were supported by evidence, and trial court properly considered both aggravating and mitigating circumstances and imposed death penalty in accordance with statute. Affirmed. DeBruler, J., concurred in result and filed opinion.
Defendant-Appellant Conner was convicted of three counts of murder by a Marion Superior Court jury on October 7, 1988. Subsequently, the jury recommended that he suffer the penalty of death for such murders. The trial court accepted the jury's recommendation and sentenced Conner to death for two of the three murders. This direct appeal followed.
Conner alleges that 15 errors occurred prior to, during, and subsequent to the trial. Conner alleged that the court acted improperly in the following instances: (1) Denying individual sequestered jury voir dire. (2) Deleting three questions from defendant's tendered jury questionnaire. (3) Denying defendant's motion to dismiss the death penalty count and sentencing defendant to death. (4) Admitting defendant's confession. (5) Denying defendant's motion for severance. (6) Admitting evidence of defendant's prior threats and acts of violence against one of the victims. (7) Admitting evidence of defendant's earlier possession of weapons. (8) Admitting evidence of defendant's nicknames. (9) Instructing the jury of their advisory role in sentencing. (10) Denying defendant's motion for continuance of the sentencing hearing. (11) Ruling that the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions. (12) Ruling that the evidence was sufficient to support the imposition of the death penalty. (13) Ordering defendant committed to the Department of Corrections between sentencing and the court's ruling on the motion to correct errors. (14) Permitting the State to file an amended information. (15) Denying funds to the defendant for a polygraph examination. Having reviewed the transcript in light of the alleged errors, we affirm Conner's convictions for murder and sentence of death.
The facts in support of the convictions are that during the early morning hours of January 26, 1988, Conner, Tony Moore, Bruce Voge, and Steve Wentland were drinking in Tony Moore's house. Bruce Voge remained at the house while Conner, Moore, and Wentland went for a drive in Wentland's automobile. Wentland drove with Moore in the passenger seat and Conner in the back. During the drive, an argument began which resulted in Moore striking Wentland with Conner's knife, causing Wentland to abandon the car and run. Conner, armed with the knife, pursued Wentland on foot while Moore took over the driving of the car and ran Wentland down. While Wentland was down, Conner struck him several times with his fists and stabbed him multiple times with the knife, killing him. Conner and Moore drove from the scene and went to City Enterprises, Conner's place of employment. There, they woke up Conner's employer and were allowed access to the warehouse area. They began arguing about what had occurred and what future course of action to take and, during the argument, Conner, who had obtained possession of his sawed-off shotgun, shot and killed Moore. The shotgun blasts awakened Conner's employer who confronted Conner as he left the warehouse area. Conner told his employer that he "had to off Tony." Conner left the warehouse and returned to Tony Moore's house where he shot and killed Bruce Voge while Voge was lying on the couch in the living room.
Following these three killings, Conner enlisted the help of various friends to dispose of Moore's body, abandon Wentland's automobile, and leave town. He was apprehended in Texas and returned to Indiana to face charges of murder.
* * *
For all of the reasons set forth above, we hereby affirm Conner's convictions for murder and the trial court's sentencing of Conner to be executed. SHEPARD, C.J., and GIVAN and DICKSON, JJ., concur. DeBRULER, J., concurs in result with separate opinion.
Conner v. State, 711 N.E.2d 1238 (Ind. May 25, 1999) (Appeal of PCR denial)
Following final affirmance of his convictions on three counts of murder, and his sentences of death on two counts and 60 years' imprisonment on remaining count, 580 N.E.2d 214, petitioner sought post-conviction relief. The Marion Superior Court, James K. Coachys, Special Judge, denied petition, and petitioner appealed. The Supreme Court, Dickson, J., held that: (1) evidence in post-conviction proceeding established that no improper communication occurred between jury and bailiff during deliberations in underlying prosecution; (2) report prepared by state psychologist had been available to petitioner through exercise of reasonable diligence prior to trial; (3) jury was clearly instructed to acquit in presence of reasonable doubt; (4) post-conviction evidence established that petitioner's confession had been voluntary, reliable, and not product of coercion or misconduct; (5) petitioner's trial counsel was not ineffective; (6) petitioner's appellate counsel was not ineffective; (7) post-conviction evidence was insufficient to support claim of entitlement to presumption of ineffective assistance; (8) mental health evaluations of petitioner ordered and funded by trial court were adequate; (9) petitioner's challenges to constitutionality of death penalty system did not allege fundamental error; and (10) accumulation of errors throughout prosecution, conviction, and sentencing did not constitute fundamental error. Affirmed.
The defendant-appellant, Kevin Conner, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. On October 7, 1988, he was convicted of the January 26, 1988, murders of Steven Wentland, Tony Moore, and Bruce Voge at Indianapolis. The jury recommended the death penalty for the murders of Moore and Voge. The trial court ordered the death penalty for these murders and sentenced the defendant to sixty years imprisonment for the murder of Wentland. We affirmed in Conner v. State, 580 N.E.2d 214 (Ind.1991), cert. denied, 503 U.S. 946, 112 S.Ct. 1501, 117 L.Ed.2d 640 (1992). The defendant then sought post-conviction relief. Upon the post-conviction court's denial of post-conviction relief, the defendant instituted this appeal.
The defendant claims thirteen errors, which we regroup into ten topics: (1) ex parte communication to the jury; (2) non-disclosure of exculpatory evidence; (3) jury instructions; (4) admission of confession; (5) assistance of trial and appellate counsel; (6) mental health evaluations; (7) constitutionality of Indiana's death penalty statute; (8) exclusion of evidence at the post-conviction hearing; (9) cumulative effect of claimed errors as violation of due process; and (10) propriety of the death sentence.
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Assistance of Counsel at the Penalty and Sentencing Phases In challenging the assistance of counsel at the penalty and sentencing phases, the defendant contends that trial counsel failed to conduct a reasonable penalty phase investigation, to provide the jury with any meaningful explanation of the crimes, and to present available mitigating evidence of the defendant's childhood traumas, mental disabilities, and intoxication.
The record indicates that in the penalty and sentencing phases defense counsel's strategy was to humanize the defendant, an appropriate strategic decision. Defense counsel presented opening and closing arguments and testimony from several witnesses in order to present evidence of the defendant's background, including alcohol, drug, and family problems, his relationships, his good qualities, his employment history, and his relatively minor criminal history. Defense counsel also conducted cross-examination, objected to the admission of evidence, and identified mitigating circumstances. Defense counsel requested funds and identified corrections for the pre-sentence report.
We conclude that the evidence does not lead unerringly and unmistakably to a result contrary to that reached by the post-conviction court in rejecting the defendant's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel at the penalty and sentencing stages.
The defendant also contends that trial counsel provided ineffective assistance when they argued that the death penalty should not be imposed so that the defendant could give back to society. During part of their summation in the penalty phase, the defense counsel argued that the defendant's life should be preserved so that experts could study him scientifically to discover how he worked and why people commit such crimes. The defendant cites two federal circuit court cases for the proposition that asking the jury to spare the defendant's life in order to study him constitutes ineffective assistance. Wade v. Calderon, 29 F.3d 1312, 1324 (9th Cir.1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 1120, 115 S.Ct. 923, 130 L.Ed.2d 802 (1995); Waters v. Zant, 979 F.2d 1473, 1497 (11th Cir.1992), vacated in part sub nom. Waters v. Thomas, 46 F.3d 1506 (11th Cir.1995), cert. denied sub nom Waters v. Thomas, 516 U.S. 856, 116 S.Ct. 160, 133 L.Ed.2d 103. Neither of these opinions supports the defendant's argument. [FN4] Arguing that the defendant's life *1252 should be spared in order to provide opportunities for study does not necessarily constitute ineffective assistance. Rather, such an argument could be a reasonable strategy in making the best argument in a hard case.
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The defendant claims that the post-conviction court erred in rejecting his claim that the trial court used an invalid aggravator to impose the death penalty, failed to enter a proper sentencing order, and improperly failed to consider certain mitigators. The post-conviction court noted that, on direct appeal, this Court had previously reviewed and affirmed the trial court's findings and death penalty decision, and it further found that no additional evidence presented in the post-conviction proceedings indicated that the trial court's findings or judgment were erroneous or inadequate.
In the defendant's direct appeal, we held that, "[i]n reviewing the record of the penalty phase of the trial as well as the court's sentencing order, we hold that the trial court properly considered both aggravating and mitigating circumstances and properly imposed the death penalty in accordance with the Indiana act." Conner, 580 N.E.2d at 221. Finding no compelling argument presented to justify departure from our well-established rules regarding forfeiture and res judicata, we hold that the post-conviction court was correct in denying relief on this claim.
Conclusion - We affirm the post-conviction court's denial of the defendant's petition for post-conviction relief.
Conner v. Anderson, 259 F.Supp.2d 741 (S.D. Ind. January 15, 2003) (Habeas).
Petitioner, convicted in state court of murder and sentenced to death, having exhausted state court appeals, 580 N.E.2d 214, and postconviction remedies, 711 N.E.2d 1238, sought federal habeas relief. The District Court, Barker, J., held that: (1) counsels' performance at guilt phase did not fall below objective standard of reasonableness; (2) counsels' performance at penalty phase did not fall below objective standard of reasonableness; (3) even if counsels' performance was deficient, petitioner was not prejudiced; (4) petitioner failed to identify issues which were clearly stronger than those raised by appellate counsel, as required to support claim of ineffective assistance; (5) petitioner's confession was voluntary; (6) petitioner failed to show that he was prejudiced by procedural default of claim that jury instructions were erroneous; (7) petitioner's challenge to jury instructions did not demonstrate his actual innocence; (8) Indiana death penalty statute satisfied constitutional requirement of guiding jury's discretion in weighing aggravating and mitigating factors; (9) petitioner's other challenges to constitutionality of statute were procedurally defaulted; and (10) state did not suppress evidence in violation of Brady. Petition denied.
BARKER, District Judge.
Kevin Conner was convicted in an Indiana state court for the murders of Anthony Moore, Bruce Voge, and Steve Wentland. He was sentenced to death for the murders of Moore and Voge, and to a term of 60 years for the murder of Wentland. Conner now seeks a writ of habeas corpus. For the reasons explained in this Entry, his petition must be denied.
Conner's convictions were affirmed on direct appeal in Conner v. State, 580 N.E.2d 214, 217 (Ind.1991)(Conner I). The trial court's subsequent denial of Conner's petition for post-conviction relief was affirmed on appeal in Conner v. State, 711 N.E.2d 1238 (Ind.1999) (Conner II).
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Conner was charged in Marion County with the murders of Anthony Moore, Bruce Voge, and Steven Wentland. The State sought the imposition of the death penalty as to the murder of Bruce Voge, because Conner had committed the murder of Steven Wentland and had committed the murder of Anthony Moore, and as to the murder of Anthony Moore, because Conner had committed the murder of Steven Wentland. Counsel were appointed for Conner, who was arrested in Texas on January 30, 1988, and various pretrial proceedings ensued. After a trial by jury from October 3, 1988, through October 7, 1988, Conner was convicted of each of the murders with which he had been charged. A hearing on the penalty phase commenced on October 9, 1988, and concluded that same day, with the jury recommending death as had been sought by the State. At a sentencing hearing held on November 3, 1988, Conner was sentenced to death for the murders of Voge and Moore, and was sentenced to a term of sixty (60) years for the murder of Wentland. Conner's challenges to his convictions and sentences were addressed by the Indiana state courts in the manner described in Part I of this Entry.
The evidence at trial favorable to the jury's verdict showed the following: [D]uring the early morning hours of January 26, 1988, Conner, Tony Moore, Bruce Voge, and Steve Wentland were drinking in Tony Moore's house. Bruce Voge remained at the house while Conner, Moore, and Wentland went for a drive in Wentland's automobile. Wentland drove with Moore in the passenger seat and Conner in the back. During the drive, an argument began which resulted in Moore striking Wentland with Conner's knife, causing Wentland to abandon the car and run. Conner, armed with the knife, pursued Wentland on foot while Moore took over the driving of the car and ran Wentland down. While Wentland was down, Conner struck him several times with his fists and stabbed him multiple times with the knife, killing him.
Conner and Moore drove from the scene and went to City Enterprises, Conner's place of employment. There, they woke up Conner's employer and were allowed access to the warehouse area. They began arguing about what had occurred and what future course of action to take and, during the argument, Conner, who had obtained possession of his sawed-off shotgun, shot and killed Moore. The shotgun blasts awakened Conner's employer who confronted Conner as he left the warehouse area. Conner told his employer that he "had to off Tony." Conner left the warehouse and returned to Tony Moore's house where he shot and killed Bruce Voge while Voge was lying on the couch in the living room.
Following these three killings, Conner enlisted the help of various friends to dispose of Moore's body, abandon Wentland's automobile, and leave town. He was apprehended in Texas and returned to Indiana to face charges of murder. Conner I, 580 N.E.2d at 217.
Conner's claims in his habeas corpus petition are the following: (1) he was denied the effective assistance of counsel during the guilt, penalty, and sentencing phases of his trial; (2) he was denied the effective assistance of counsel in his direct appeal; (3) the trial court improperly admitted his confession; (4) the trial court improperly instructed the jury; (5) a bailiff had improper ex parte communication with the jury; (6) the post-conviction court improperly excluded evidence; (7) Indiana's death penalty statute is unconstitutional; (8) the trial court improperly denied funds for a polygraph examination; (9) the sentence is improper; (10) the State failed to disclose exculpatory evidence; and (11) the cumulative effects of these errors denied him a fair trial and sentence. Certain of these claims have been withdrawn in full or in part, which will be specifically noted in Part IV of this Entry.
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The stay of execution heretofore entered is terminated. Judgment consistent with this Entry shall now issue. IT IS SO ORDERED. JUDGMENT The court, having this day made its Entry, IT IS THEREFORE ADJUDGED that the petitioner take nothing by his petition for a writ of habeas corpus and this action is dismissed with prejudice.
Conner v. McBride, 375 F.3d 643 (7th Cir. 2004) (Habeas).
Background: Following affirmance of his murder conviction and death sentence, 580 N.E.2d 214, and denial of state postconviction relief, 711 N.E.2d 1238, state prisoner filed petition for writ of habeas corpus. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Sarah Evans Barker, J., 259 F.Supp.2d 741, denied petition, and petitioner appealed.
Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Kanne, Circuit Judge, held that:
(1) finding that petitioner's confession was voluntary was reasonable;
(2) finding that no ex parte jury communication occurred during deliberations was reasonable; and
(3) finding that counsel's investigation did not fall below prevailing professional standards was reasonable. Affirmed.
KANNE, Circuit Judge.
This habeas corpus appeal comes to us following Kevin Conner's October 7, 1988 conviction for three murders in Indiana. The jury recommended death for the killings and, subsequently, the state court judge sentenced Conner to two death sentences and a term of 60 years on November 3, 1988. After exhausting his state remedies, see Conner v. State, 580 N.E.2d 214, 217 (Ind.1991), cert. denied, 503 U.S. 946, 112 S.Ct. 1501, 117 L.Ed.2d 640 (1992) ("Conner I "); Conner v. State, 711 N.E.2d 1238 (Ind.1999), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 829, 121 S.Ct. 81, 148 L.Ed.2d 43 (2000) ( "Conner*647 II "), Conner then filed a petition for federal habeas corpus relief, which the district court denied, Conner v. Anderson, 259 F.Supp.2d 741, 769 (S.D.Ind.2003) ("Conner III ").
The facts surrounding Conner's crimes, which occurred on the south side of Indianapolis, are essentially undisputed. Sometime during the early morning of January 26, 1988, Conner, Tony Moore, Bruce Voge, and Steve Wentland were drinking at Moore's house. When Conner, Moore, and Wentland went for a drive in Wentland's car, Voge stayed behind at the house. During the drive, an argument broke out between Moore, who was seated in the front, and Wentland, who was driving. As a result, Moore stabbed Wentland with Conner's knife, which caused Wentland to abandon the car and run. Conner, armed with the knife, pursued Wentland on foot, while Moore took control of the car and ran Wentland down. After Wentland was down, Conner beat him with his fists and stabbed him multiple times with the knife, eventually killing him.
Conner and Moore then drove to Conner's place of employment, where they awoke Conner's employer and were given access to a warehouse. Another argument ensued between Conner and Moore about what had just happened and what they should do. During the argument, Conner obtained his sawed-off shotgun, shot, and killed Moore. This reawakened Conner's employer, who confronted Conner as he exited the warehouse building. Conner replied that "he had to off Tony." Conner next left the warehouse and drove to Moore's house, where he shot and killed Voge, while Voge lay on the couch.
Conner then went about disposing of Moore's body with the aid of various friends, abandoned Wentland's automobile, and fled the area. He was apprehended in Texas on January 30, 1988 and returned to Indiana to face murder charges in the Marion County Superior Court in Indianapolis. The trial lasted from October 3 to 7, 1988, and the jury found Conner guilty of each killing. The penalty phase hearing was held on October 9, and the jury recommended death, as sought by the state. Then on November 3, the state court sentenced Conner to death for the murders of Voge and Moore, and to a term of 60 years for the murder of Wentland.
On direct appeal in state court, Conner claimed fifteen errors had occurred in connection with his trial and sentencing, including that his confession was improperly admitted because it was obtained in violation of his Fifth Amendment rights, as outlined in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), and its progeny. Conner I, 580 N.E.2d at 216, 219. The Supreme Court of Indiana ultimately affirmed the lower courts' rejection of all these arguments. Id. at 221.
Conner next sought post-conviction relief, which under Indiana law is a remedy limited to issues not known at trial or not available on direct appeal. See Conner II, 711 N.E.2d at 1244. He again asserted numerous errors, including: (1) his confession was obtained through manipulation, without regard to his mental disorders, and was therefore improperly admitted at trial; (2) an improper ex parte communication between the jury and a bailiff took place during penalty-phase deliberations; and (3) he was denied effective assistance of trial counsel. Id. at 1244-45, 1247-48. After hearing testimony and receiving other evidence as to many of the issues raised, the original post-conviction court denied Conner's petition for relief. On appeal, because the Indiana Supreme Court did not find that the evidence unmistakably and unerringly led to a conclusion contrary to that reached by the post-conviction court below, it affirmed the denial of Conner's petition with respect to all issues. See id. at 1259.
Finding no relief in the state courts, Conner filed a petition for habeas corpus relief in federal district court. Conner III, 259 F.Supp.2d at 752. Among other myriad issues, Conner again raised the propriety of the admission of his confession at trial, the alleged ex parte communication between a bailiff and the jury, and the ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Id. After an exhaustive analysis of each of the issues raised by Conner, the district court denied relief. Id. at 769. He now appeals this denial, but only with respect to the three issues listed above. And for the reasons that follow, we affirm.
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To summarize, the district court's denial of Conner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus as to (1) the admissibility of his confession; (2) the ex parte jury communication; and (3) the assistance of trial counsel is AFFIRMED.