Judi (right) became the first woman to get the
electric chair in America since Rhonda Belle Martin was executed in Alabama on
the 11th of October 1957. She was the first woman to be executed in
Her execution on
Like so many of the other criminals discussed in these pages, she had had a difficult childhood.
She was born Judias Welty, in
Her father remarried and took Judi and Robert to live with his new wife in
Judi was miserable there and claimed that both her father and stepmother abused her.
Allegedly she was beaten, starved, forced to work long hours as a virtual slave - hardly an ideal upbringing for an adolescent girl. Her family eventually pushed her too far and at the age of 14 she was sentenced to two months in prison for attacking them and her two stepbrothers. After she was released, she chose to go to a reform school rather than back to her abusive family and went to the
Her first job came in 1960 when she was employed as a nursing assistant in
A life of crime.
She married for the first time on
James Goodyear, Sr. had done a tour of duty in
Judi soon found a new boyfriend in the shape
of Bobby Joe Morris who lived in
His family, however, suspected that Bobby Joe had been murdered and that he was not the only victim. In 1974, Judi and Bobby Joe had been visiting Bobby Joe's hometown of Brewton in
It is claimed that Bobby Joe's mother overheard Judi telling "The son of a bitch shouldn't have come up here in the first place. He knew if he came up here he was gonna die". Bobby Joe confessed to his part in this killing on his deathbed. However, at the time, the police could find no fingerprints inside the room and no bullet was recovered from the corpse so they did not have enough evidence to bring charges. On
as he had now become, had done badly at school and joined the army in June
1979. He was based in Georgia. He soon started to show signs of illness and was
diagnosed as suffering from arsenic poisoning which rapidly affected his upper
and lower limbs. He was given heavy metal leg braces in the military hospital
and on discharge, into the care of his mother, unable to walk or use his hands.
In February, the body of Bobby Joe Morris was exhumed and arsenic found. It was also found in the body of James Goodyear who was exhumed in March of that year.
Judi was tried separately for each murder and for the
attempted murder. She was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for the
first 25 years on
It is estimated that she collected around $240,000 in insurance money from the deaths of her husband, son and boyfriend in
Judi pictured at her trial
On death row.
Condemned female inmates are housed at the
Inmates may receive mail every day except holidays and weekends. They may have cigarettes, snacks, radios and black and white televisions in their cells. They do not have cable television or air-conditioning and they are not allowed to associate with each other. They can watch church services on closed circuit television. While on death watch, (after a death warrant has been signed), inmates may have radios and black and white televisions positioned outside their cell bars.
Death row inmates wear orange t-shirts and blue colored pants (as worn by regular inmates). They are counted at least once an hour and are escorted in handcuffs to the exercise yard and the shower. They are confined to their cells at all other times, except for medical reasons, exercise, social or legal visits or media interviews.
It is a fairly harsh regime for long term incarceration.
Judi spent the 13 years writing letters and crocheting blankets and baby clothes and also taught Bible study to other inmates. A former death row inmate, Deirdre Hunt, claimed that "Judy was like a mother to me."
All executions in
Judi's last appeal was turned down on
Judi spent her final hours seeing her adult children, Kim Hawkins and James Goodyear, other relatives and her legal and religious advisers. Jeanne Eaton, a cousin who visited before the execution, was quoted as saying afterwards "She had no fear at all, she’s mostly afraid of leaving her children and how upset they were." In a television interview a few days before the execution, Judi said "I would like to clear the record for my grandson, I would like for him to know that his grandmother was not a murderer."
Execution was set for on
Judi entered the execution chamber at accompanied by several guards. She was strapped into
the large oak chair (see right) with eight leather straps over her waist,
wrists, chest and legs. The calf and head piece electrodes were fitted, each containing moistened sponge to reduce burning
of the flesh.
Asked if she had a final statement, she replied "No sir," squeezing her eyes shut and keeping them shut, not looking at the witnesses on the other side of a glass partition. A leather mask was placed over her face and at the signal from the warden, the automatic electrocution cycle commenced at A small amount of white smoke (or steam?) was seen to curl up from her right leg throughout the 38 second cycle but there were no flames. She was pronounced dead at
In an interview afterwards, prison spokesman Gene Morris said. "She was very solemn. This is the first time I’ve seen that expression on her," he said. "She stared straight ahead, made no visible expression."
Judi's was the third of a series of four executions carried out in
The execution protocol is as follows : - The automatic cycle begins with a nominal 2,300 volts, 9.5 amps, for 8 seconds; 1,000 volts, 4 amps for 22 seconds; and 2,300 volts, 9.5 amps for 8 seconds (actual values below). When the cycle is complete, the equipment is manually disconnected and the safety switch is then opened. In Judi's case, the cycles of electricity were officially recorded as follows :
Judy was dubbed the "Black Widow" at her trial by
Like so many of the other cases examined on
these pages, Judi had a hard and difficult upbringing. One wonders how this
affected her personality. Did her own low self-worth lead her to the view that
the lives of others were also of little value while her hatred of childhood
poverty made her resolve never to be poor herself? It would seem that the
motive for the arsons and the murders was principally for financial gain as
Russell Edgar said and that she had a shallow relationship with her husband and
Did she think, as so many have done before her, that she would somehow get away with murder. She very nearly did - had she not tried to kill John Gentry she may well have done. According to Ted Chamberlin, the Pensacola detective who painstakingly examined her past and discovered her trail of insurance scams and death. "Judy just went one murder too far. If she’d just let that last boyfriend alone, she probably could have walked away from the other murders." He described her as " the coldest killer I ever knew."
It seems that once a person has committed the first murder, each successive crime is easier and when the perpetrator can just walk away from it without too many awkward questions (as she had done), - why not do it again when it so profitable?
It is probable also that she never thought
that she would actually one day sit in the electric chair. Hardly any of the
women who committed murder in the US have been sentenced to death and virtually
none executed even if the occasional jury had voted for death. No woman had
been executed in
United States Court of Appeals,
In Re: Judy A. BUENOANO, Petitioner.
March 29, 1998
Application for Leave to File Second or Successive Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus.
Judy Buenoano is scheduled to be executed on the morning of March 30, 1998 for the arsenic poisoning murder of her husband James Goodyear in 1971. We have previously affirmed the denial of her first federal habeas petition. See Buenoano v. Singletary, 963 F.2d 1433 (11th Cir.1992), on return from remand, Buenoano v. Singletary, 74 F.3d 1078 (11th Cir.1996). The procedural history of the case through that stage is contained in our two prior opinions. The procedural history of the case since our last opinion was issued is contained in the Florida Supreme Court's latest opinion in the case, Buenoano v. State, --- So.2d ---- (Fla. Mar. 26, 1998), which affirmed the state trial court's denial of Buenoano's third state post-conviction motion and her request for stay of execution.
Buenoano has now filed a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b) seeking an order authorizing her to file and the district court to consider a second federal habeas corpus petition attacking the state court judgment pursuant to which she is to be executed. She seeks to raise two claims in that second petition: 1) the State withheld critical exculpatory evidence of guilt or presented false or misleading evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963), and Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150, 92 S.Ct. 763, 31 L.Ed.2d 104 (1972); and 2) she was denied her right to a fair and impartial jury because one of the jurors failed to disclose during jury selection that he had been convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Buenoano raised both of these claims in her third state post-conviction proceeding, and the Florida Supreme Court's comprehensive opinion affirming the denial of relief in that proceeding accurately sets out the facts relating to each of the claims. See Buenoano, --- So.2d at ----.
The showing Buenoano must make before she is entitled to file a second federal habeas petition, since her claims are not based on a retroactively applicable new rule of constitutional law, is prescribed in 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(2)(B). Under § 2244(b)(2)(B)(i), Buenoano is required to show that the factual predicate of her claim could not have been discovered previously through the exercise of reasonable diligence. Under § 2244(b)(2)(B)(ii), she is also required to show that "the facts underlying the claim, if proven and viewed in light of the evidence as a whole, would be sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that, but for constitutional error, no reasonable factfinder would have found [her] guilty of the underlying offense."
As to the Brady and Giglio claim, even assuming that Buenoano has met the first requirement of § 2244(b)(2)(B), she has failed to meet the second one. Her new evidence relates to Special Agent Roger Martz's credibility. He did not even testify against her in the trial that resulted in her death sentence, which was imposed for the murder of James Goodyear. His laboratory examination of capsules Buenoano had given to John Gentry, a man with whom she was living in 1982, did lead to a stipulation at the trial that those capsules contained poison. The most Buenoano could hope to achieve with her new evidence about Special Agent Martz is erasure of that stipulation. However, even erasing that stipulation entirely, the evidence that Buenoano murdered James Goodyear in 1971, the only crime for which she was sentenced to death, is still quite strong.
It was essentially undisputed that John Goodyear, Buenoano's husband, died as a result of acute arsenic poisoning. See Buenoano v. Singletary, 74 F.3d at 1080. Special Agent Martz had nothing to do with that determination. Despite the fact that Goodyear was obviously seriously ill and even hallucinating, Buenoano hesitated to take him to the hospital. See id. Furthermore, as we have previously summarized:
Two of Buenoano's acquaintances, Constance Lang and Mary Beverly Owens, testified that Buenoano discussed with each of them on separate occasions the subject of killing a person by adding arsenic to his food. Lang testified that Buenoano had joked on several occasions about lacing her husband's food with arsenic. Owens testified that after hearing an upsetting phone call between Owens and her husband, Buenoano suggested that Owens take out more life insurance and then poison him with arsenic. Following Goodyear's death, Buenoano collected $33,000 in life insurance proceeds and $62,000 in indemnity compensation from the Veterans Administration. Owens and another acquaintance, Lodell Morris, both testified that Buenoano admitted killing Goodyear.
Id. at 1080-81. There was more evidence:
After Goodyear's death, Buenoano lived with Bobby Joe Morris, who became ill and died after exhibiting the same symptoms that Goodyear had exhibited. When Morris's remains were exhumed in 1984, the tissue analysis revealed acute arsenic poisoning. Buenoano collected approximately $23,000 in life insurance proceeds following Morris's death.
Id. at 1081. None of that evidence involved, either directly or indirectly, Special Agent Martz.
Accordingly, even if there is some constitutional error (which is by no means clear) connected with the new evidence relating to the stipulation about the capsules Buenoano gave to John Gentry, Buenoano clearly has failed to meet her § 2244(b)(2)(B)(ii) burden of showing that but for that error "no reasonable factfinder would have found [her] guilty of the underlying offense."
Buenoano's claim concerning one of the jurors at her trial failing to disclose that he had been convicted of involuntary manslaughter is not based upon a new rule of constitutional law that the Supreme Court has made retroactively applicable to her case, so the § 2244(b)(2)(A) exception to the bar against second habeas petitions does not apply. The § 2244(b)(2)(B) exception is also inapplicable because, even if the facts she alleges concerning the juror were proven, that would not establish by clear and convincing evidence that, but for any related constitutional error, no reasonable factfinder would have found her guilty of the underlying offense.
The application for an order authorizing the filing of a second federal habeas petition is DENIED.
Buenoano's request for a stay of execution is denied. The panel will not entertain a petition for rehearing.
APPLICATION DENIED; STAY DENIED.