John T. Freeland Jr. was sentenced to death for the 2009 murder
of a Chester County woman he kidnapped and shot on a deserted lane in
Freeland motions denied by judge
August 3, 2011
A Madison County Judge has denied several motions
filed by attorneys for John T. Freeland Jr., including a motion for a
new trial and one to set aside the death penalty.
Freeland was convicted of first-degree murder,
especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence earlier
this year in the slaying of Carolyn Ward, 61, in Henderson. Madison
County Circuit Judge Roy Morgan Jr. made the ruling after a three-day
bench trial in January.
Morgan sentenced Freeland to death by lethal
injection for the 2009 murder of Ward, who was kidnapped and shot on a
deserted lane in Pinson.
Freeland filed motions for a new trial, for a
judgment of acquittal and to set aside the death penalty, according to
In an Aug. 1 ruling, Morgan said that the evidence
proven at the trial was sufficient to sustain Freeland's convictions.
In his motion for a new trial, Freeland said the
court erred in admitting his statements to police. He argued that the
statements were given without the advice of counsel and that he was
confused as to the purpose of the statements. But Morgan ruled that
Freeland was properly informed of his rights and voluntarily waived
those rights before making statements to police.
Freeland also challenged the constitutionality of
the death penalty. He asserted in the motion that the penalty in this
case amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
But Morgan said he would not change the sentence.
"This court stands by its earlier finding that the
statutory aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating
circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt," Morgan's ruling states in
The ruling said the punishment in Freeland's case
is similar to the punishment imposed by Tennessee courts in other
cases involving the kidnapping and murder of a victim.
Authorities said Freeland and Marcus Thompson, 40,
kidnapped Ward on March 7, 2009, outside a Henderson grocery store.
Freeland then shot her in the head while she lay in a ditch, and the
two stole her car, investigators have said.
Evidence included video surveillance that showed
Freeland approaching Ward in the parking lot of a Fred's store on
March 7, 2009.
Surveillance from Fred's and surrounding stores
showed Freeland and Thompson following Ward's vehicle in a blue Buick
After searching Freeland's car, police found a gun,
a blue bandana, a black bandana, two pairs of gloves, a black skull
cap, and a black ski mask. Gunshot residue was found on both pairs of
gloves. Freeland's fingerprints were also found on the back of Ward's
license plate recovered from the area where her vehicle had been
Authorities have said analysis of the gun and
cartridge cases found near Ward's body showed that the cartridge case
was fired from the gun in Freeland's car.
Police have said Freeland also gave a statement
admitting his participation in Ward's kidnapping and murder. And that
he also admitted to burning Ward's vehicle.
Man sentenced to death in murder, kidnapping
May 24, 2011
John T. Freeland Jr. will be executed by lethal
injection for the 2009 murder of a Chester County woman he kidnapped
and shot on a deserted lane in Pinson, a judge ruled Monday.
Madison County Circuit Judge Roy Morgan Jr.
sentenced the 28-year-old to death for the first-degree murder and
kidnapping of Carolyn Ward, 61.
Before delivering the sentence, Morgan cited "aggravating
circumstances" such as Freeland's past conviction of a violent felony
and his substantial role in Ward's killing. "May God have mercy on
your soul," Morgan said.
Freeland, who is in custody on a 12-year sentence
for robbery, also was sentenced Monday to 25 years for tampering with
evidence and especially aggravated kidnapping in Ward's case.
According to authorities, Freeland and Marcus
Thompson, 40, kidnapped Ward on March 7, 2009, outside a Henderson
grocery store. Freeland then shot her in the head while she lay in a
ditch, and the two stole her car, investigators have said.
Tashundra Mosley, 29, is set to testify in
Thompson's September murder trial before she is sentenced on charges
of facilitating first-degree murder, facilitating especially
aggravated kidnapping, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery and
tampering with evidence.
Thompson faces the same charges as Freeland, but
the state is not requesting the death penalty in his case.
Assistant District Attorney Jody Pickens said
Freeland picked Ward as a victim because he viewed her as easy prey
for stealing a car to use for other robberies.
A Jackson police sergeant testified Monday that
Freeland said he killed Ward because she saw his and Thompson's faces.
Pickens said Ward was no physical threat to the
"She gave freely of herself, gave her time, her
concern, not just to her family," he said during closing arguments
Several people testified about Ward, saying she was
a caring person.
Her nurse likened Ward to a character from "The
Andy Griffith Show."
"If anybody were to close their eyes and think
about (Ward), they would think about Aunt Bee — the sweetest, most
giving person God could create," Rhonda Hunt said.
A principal at an elementary school where Ward
volunteered said she tutored children and bought clothing items for
kids in need. The 300 children at the school affectionately called her
"Granny," said Jimmy Dyer, the now-retired principal of West Chester
Elementary School in Henderson.
"She had a great influence on all of us," he said.
"She was either a mother figure or grandmother figure to all of us in
Among Monday's witnesses for the defense were
Freeland, his mother, stepfather and brother. Her mother went through
his childhood pictures and school report cards.
His family said he Freeland was outgoing, involved
in athletics and church, and respectful.
His mother and stepfather said they noticed a
change after he moved out of their home, not too long before Ward's
"After he moved from home, he had a personality
change, and (I) had no idea who he was hanging around," said his
mother, Renee Johnson.
In his testimony, Freeland apologized for letting
Thompson use his car the day Ward died but said he was not there when
she was murdered. He denied parts of previous statements he made to
police and said he only had details about the case after hearing them
"I just wanted to speak to my family and loved ones
as well as the family of Mrs. Ward and express my apologies for the
entire situation," he said. "I just wanted to basically say I'm sorry
for any and everything, the hurt, the pain."
Freeland's attorney, Angela Hopson, said during
Monday's hearing that testimony shows Freeland came from a stable home
and he should be allowed to live so his family — including two
children — can visit him in prison.
"He's taking it as well as you can expect," she
said. "It doesn't get any worse than this, but he's staying positive."
A motion for a new trial will be made July 22 in
Hopson said during Monday's hearing that Freeland
was under the control of Thompson, who she said coaxed Freeland into
robbing a Dollar General Store two days before Ward's death.
District Attorney General Jerry Woodall thanked
sheriff's offices in Chester County and Madison County, the Henderson
and Jackson police departments and the Tennessee Bureau of
Investigation for their help in the case.
"I think the (outcome) was based on the facts, well
reasoned and appropriate," he said following the sentencing.