Roy Lee Ward
If there was ever a “poster child” to advocate for the death penalty I am pretty sure Roy Lee Ward would be in the running. I know that you have seen me blog about cases in which I question whether the death penalty was the right and appropriate sentence but this will not be one of them. This is not a case of not knowing who was the perpetrator and it definitely falls into my category of “extremely heinous” crimes. While most murders are senseless, this murder seemed to have no rhythm or reason or motive or gain.
On July 11, 2001 fifteen year old Stacy Payne and her fourteen year old sister, Melissa, were home alone at their rural Dale Indiana home. The adults had gone off to work and it seems that Stacy was headed out soon herself. Melissa was upstairs sleeping when she was awaken by her sister's screams. She went to the top of the stairs and saw Roy Lee Ward on top of her sister. She ran to a bedroom and called 911. When police arrived on the scene Roy Lee Ward was in the doorway of the home covered in blood and had a pocket knife in his hand. The officer pulled his weapon, aimed it at Roy Lee Ward and ordered him to the ground. As he complied Ward would say, “I didn't do anything.” Right!!
Inside officers would find Stacy Payne barely holding onto life. Her torso was nearly cut in two, her windpipe had been severed and her wrists were slashed to the bone. She lived four hours after the incredible torture, beating and mutilation she endured. A medical examiner would say she suffered from eighteen “blunt force” injuries including those in the “vaginal vault.” She had vaginal bruising from the force this man (and even I have trouble using this word) used in raping her, or at least attempting to. It is unclear if he “finished” the job as I did not see a report of seminal fluid being found, but it did not matter because Stacy's DNA was found on his genitals.
After hearing all of the evidence a Spencer County jury (where Dale is located) convicted Roy Lee Ward and after less than forty-five minutes of continued deliberation they recommended the death penalty. In 2004 however an appeals court overturned that conviction and sentence saying that there had been too much pre-trial publicity to ensure a fair jury.
Roy Lee Ward would be scheduled to go on trial in Evansville Indiana in southern Indiana, two counties over from Dale, in June of 2007. The jury was scheduled to come from Clay County, located in the middle of the state. Just days before the start of the trial Ward decided to plead guilty to all charges, murder, rape and criminal deviant conduct. The courts decided to continue to allow the jury to be seated and hear testimony to determine his sentence.
The defense argued what they believed to be “mitigating facts.” They argued that Ward had come from a “dysfunctional family,” a bad social environment, even that his parents had divorced. And while I saw nothing to back this up, they argued that Ward had a low intelligence level and “mental retardation.” The defense would call a psychologist who would say that Ward was a psychopath and devoid of emotion and conscience. I am unsure what they planned to gain with that testimony to be truthful. The defense, while arguing for life without parole and against the death penalty stated plainly that he was too dangerous to live life outside the walls of a prison. His mother, grandmother and other relatives all pretty much said the same. The prosecution argued the crime was heinous beyond belief and with the sexual assault added it rose to the level in which the only sentence reasonable was the death penalty. On June 9, 2007 Roy Lee Ward was sentenced to death for a second time.
In May of 2014 the Department of Corrections in Indiana announced they were altering the three drug combination that was being used in executions. In December of 2015, through his attorneys, Roy Lee Ward find a complaint saying that the DOC did not have the right to do this in the manner in which it was done. By this time Roy Lee Ward had already gotten one stay of execution in 2013. Ward's complaint was dismissed and the Indiana Supreme Court upheld that decision in February of 2018. In June of 2017 Ward was once again given a stay of execution as the state said that the new regiment of “lethal cocktail” could not be used until the DOC changed their execution protocol. I could not find anything specific to explain this so I can only gander to guess that they procedure and protocol must be in writing before they could proceed.
As I stated in my last blog, Indiana has not executed anyone since 2009 when they executed Matthew Eric Wrinkles in the murders of his wife, brother and sister in law. It is uncertain when they will carry out their next execution but hopefully Roy Lee Ward is firs in line.