25 March 1981 – Hoyt Franklin Clines, James William Holmes and Darryl Richley

In a bid to scrimp and save money, Arkansas bumped off a trio of men on this day in 1981. All this took place, despite their valiant efforts to plead the Sixth Amendment.

Three men were charged with murder, after a gang burst in on a family with the intention of robbing them. A fourth man, Ray Orndorff, was also charged, but his sentence was commuted to life.

Job lot

Not so the other three. Hoyt Franklin Clines, James William Holmes and Darryl Richley were sentenced to death by lethal injection in Arkansas after the ski-mask-clad killers were found guilty of whipping Don Lehmann with a motorbike chain, before shooting him at point blank range in the chest and head and making off with over $1,000 and some guns.

So how did the police solve the crime so quickly? Clines apparently pulled off his mask and the daughter got a view of his ugly mug. But it was inconclusive as to who actually pulled the trigger on the fatal shot that killed Don Lehmann, so, as a result, the men were treated as a job lot from start to finish.

Law of the land

‘ Kill me and get this comedy over’, said Darryl Richley to his jailers in the run-up to the triple execution in 1981. This was probably said in exasperation after they failed in an attempt to plead US law’s Sixth Amendment.

The law states that the accused has the right ‘to be confronted with the witnesses against him’. The three men launched their appeal on the basis that their rights had been violated. They had not been privy to crucial testimony from Lehmann’s wife Virginia and daughter Vickie, which had been extracted under the influence of hypnotism. Indeed, the daughter’s testimony actually put them away.

Withheld?

However, the robbers didn’t even know she’d been hypnotised – there was no taped record, only the hypnotist’s written notes. They didn’t even get to see those. The problem was that the two women’s testimonies differed wildly from their original statements to the police – around 140 differences to be exact, but the observation notes had conveniently been destroyed.

The judge ruled that this was a genuine mistake and that no rights had been violated.

Bargain

So the three men, in succession, were hastily and cheaply strapped down and pumped full of toxins – 37-year-old Clines first at about 7pm, followed by Richley, 43, around 50-odd minutes later and finally Holmes, 37, at 9:24pm.

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