Tison V Arizona Essay Research Paper Donny

Tison V. Arizona Essay, Research Paper

Donny, Ricky and Raymond have always seen their father in jail. This time he was in jail for breaking parole and doing a string of robberies. Their mother always brought them to the prison for weekly visits with their father, which would lead to his having a significant influence over them, even though he only saw them once a week. Once again he was paroled and broke his parole. He was on his way back to prison when he produced a gun and shot the only guard assigned to take his to prison. He was quickly captured after that and went back to jail with a life imprisonment sentence. (Kennedy, pp. 287-288)

Even from jail, Gary had a considerable amount of influence on the boys. He would do all of the things fathers would do, just from behind bars. This level of influence would eventually lead to Raymond and Ricky planning and helping execute their father s prison break. Gary always had thoughts of escape and even had one failed attempt seven months earlier. Somehow, he got himself transferred to a medium security compound from the maximum-security prison. Gary also informed his sons one day that the break was two weeks away and told them they were taking another prisoner with them, Randy Greenawalt, who proves to be an asset to the break. Greenawalt is the captain s clerk, so he has access to the control room. (Kennedy, p288-289)

On July 30, 1978 Raymond walked into the foyer of the prison and was later followed by Donny and Ricky, who were carrying a picnic basket filled with guns. They knew all the guards by name and were welcome. Greenawalt was in the control room about to take a two-way radio as a distraction when one of the officers saw him and tried to stop him. It was then that the officer noticed that Ricky pointing a shotgun to one of the sergeant s head. Greenawalt was passed a shotgun and a pistol and opened the gate for the boys, who tied up all the prison guards and put them in a storage closet. The three boys, their father, and Randy Greenawalt walked out to the family Ford. They took off and later switched cars to a Lincoln and drove all day sticking to back roads. As they were getting away, one of their tires blew, so they planned to get another car. (Kennedy, p290)

They pulled to the side of the road, armed themselves, hid, and Raymond flagged down a car with the Lyons family in it. After coming out to help, the four armed men appeared, put the Lyons family into their Lincoln, drove a mile into the desert, and started to transfer the belongings. When the boys were finished, Gary began shooting his shotgun into the radiator of the Lincoln to disable it. (Kennedy, p. 292) John Lyons was pleading with his captors to just leave the family there with water, but not to kill them. After an internal conflict, Gary agreed and sent the boys to the car for the water jug. They took too long and heard gunshots. When they looked they saw Gary on one side of the car and Greenawalt on the other side firing shotgun rounds into the car, killing the entire family. (Tison, 137) John Lyons suffered many shots, but still tried to get out alive. He was found about twenty-five feet from the Lincoln. Donnelda Tison was killed instantly. It seemed as though she had her body wrapped around her son to protect him from the shots. He was hit with one shot in the head. Theresa Tyson, no relationship to the Tisons, miraculously only took a shot in the hip and struggled out of the car and tried to make her way back to the highway. However, she was found about a quarter of a mile away from the car and probably bled to death. (Kennedy, p294)

During their getaway, they stopped by a friend of Greenawalt to request that she take out a loan so they can buy a car. She agreed and they switched to a Chevy pickup. A week later they switched vehicles again, this time taking a blue and silver van from a newly married couple. The couple s bodies were later found, killed by a single gunshot at close range. The Tisons were never charged with this murder, but they were driving the couple s van. (Kennedy, p. 295)

The police were given a tip where the Tison s may be heading, so they set up a roadblock, but were expecting to see a Mazda, since they didn t know that the gang had switched cars again. As the van approached the roadblock, Gary saw the roadblock and ordered Donny, who was driving, to run it, which he did, while Gary and Greenawalt leaned, out of the rear windows firing at the police. The police chased them in a high-speed gun battle, which eventually resulted in the van stopping at the second roadblock with Donny shot several times in the head. He later died from his wounds. Gary escaped to the desert, but was later found dead from exposure. Randy, Ricky and Raymond were all arrested. (Kennedy, p. 297)

Randy, Ricky, and Raymond were tried together for the prison break and the shootout at the roadblock and sentenced to thirty years to life. They were tried separately with Randy as the actual triggerman. Rick and Raymond would stand trial under the felony murder law which states that a person who commits a felony is liable for any death that occurs during the felony, which meant that the Tison brothers would most likely face the death penalty. They agreed to a plea bargain but later rescinded after learning they would have to implicate their mother in the breakout. The trial was quick and the brothers received the death penalty. They appealed to the Supreme Court. (Kennedy p. 298)

One of the major issues at hand was Arizona s felony-murder law and its constitutionality. Was it constitutional to be able to put someone to death for something that doesn t warrant it. Another was the constitutionality of the death penalty. This was also connected to the Eighth Amendment and the question of the punishment fitting the crime. (Tison, 137)

The Supreme Court eventually upheld the brothers death sentence in a 5 to 4 decision. The consenting justices were Chief Justice Rehnquist, Justice O Connor, who also wrote the opinion of the court, Justice White, Justice Powell and Justice Scalia. On the dissenting side were Justice Brennan, who wrote the dissenting opinion, Justice Marshall, Justice Blackmun, and Justice Stevens. (Tison, 137)

The court understood that the Tison s didn t intend to kill anyone, so they were faced with the problem of whether or not the state can execute someone who did not kill, attempt to kill, or intend to kill. (Kennedy, p302) They answered yes to this question and made reference to Enmund v. Florida, which was also a case with felony murder in it. Enmund was in the car when two others went into the house of an elderly couple known to brag about the amount of money they kept in their house. The two went up to the door and asked for water for their overheating car. When the man stepped out to help, they produced their gun, causing the man to scream. His wife came out with a gun and shot one of the robbers in the arm. The robbers then killed the couple and took the money. Enmund drove the car away. He was sentenced to death under Florida s felony murder law and appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ended up vacating his sentence saying Putting Enmund to death to avenge two killings that he did not commit or had no intent of committing or causing does not measurably contribute to the retributive end of ensuring that the criminal gets his just deserts (Enmund, 782)

Unlike Enmund, who had no culpable mental state at all, meaning he never planned for anyone to die, the Tison brothers may have had reckless indifference to human life. After all, they did bring loaded guns into the prison and gave them to two convicts. The Court argued that the brothers could easily see someone getting killed through such an action. The cases could be distinguished even more, the Court says, because Enmund played a relatively minor role in his crimes. On the other hand, the Tison brothers actions, until the moment of the killing were identical to Gary s. The Court established a new section to the felony murder laws, major participation plus indifference to human life. (Kennedy, p304) The court also used the general consensus in state statutes that allow death penalty for cases like the Tisons s, but the court did not use a very thorough examination of these statutes. (Kennedy, 304)

One of the major issues Justice Brennan brought up in the dissent was the means of canvassing the state statutes. He said that it was an unfair canvass because they excluded states that have abolished the death penalty or authorized it for use in circumstances different from the Tison case. Brennan also argued that no individual convicted of felony murder in the past twenty-five years who did not kill, attempt to kill, or intend to kill has been put to death. (Kennedy, p. 305) It as also argued that the Tison brothers did not intend to kill the family, but wanted to help them since they went back to the car to get the jug of water for the family. (Tison, 137)

The court also used the case of Furman v Georgia to reestablish the constitutionality of the death penalty. The case did not make the death penalty unconstitutional, but the matter in which it was administered ten was unconstitutional. (Kennedy, p. 299)

This case was very significant in that it more clearly defined the death penalty. It upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty and its administration. It also more clearly define who could be sentenced to death based on what they did and their intent in the matter. It more clearly defined the mental culpability required to send a criminal to death row. The question of felony-murder was more clearly answered in this case. It started off by confirming the constitutionality of the felony murder law. It also added the requirement that the convicted must play a major role in the crime and have an indifference to human life in order for him to be sentenced to death. This makes it impossible for someone like Enmund to be put to death when he was at the scene, not planning to kill anybody, but to transport his colleagues after the job was done. (Kennedy, p.298-302)

The In 1992, the Supreme Court ruled the prosecution has failed to prove that the brothers showed reckless indifference since they were away from the scene and it was their father and Randy Greenawalt who did the shooting. They were resentenced to life in prison.(Associated Press, p2)


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