Murderpedia

 

 

Juan Ignacio Blanco  

 

  MALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

  FEMALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

 

 

 
 

Morris Odell MASON

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 


A.K.A.: "The killer for the Eastern Shore"
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape - Arson
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: 1978
Date of birth: March 28, 1954
Victims profile: Margaret K. Hand (female, 71) / 86-year-old woman
Method of murder: Beating with an ax / Setting the victim's house on fire
Location: Northampton County, Virginia, USA
Status: Executed by electrocution in Virginia on June 25, 1985
 
 
 
 
 
 

Morris Odell Mason, a 32-year-old convicted murderer who called himself "the killer for the Eastern Shore," died in Virginia's electric chair on June 25, 1985.

He was convicted of rape, murder and arson in the 1978 slaying of 71 year old Margaret K. Hand in Northampton County, Virginia. Mason nailed his victims wrist into the seat of a chair and bound her with rope into it before burning her home down.

Attorneys for Mason contended that their client was mentally retarded and did not comprehend his crimes, thus warranting the commutation of his death sentence by Governor Chuck Robb.

The Governor rejected their appeals after having read internal memos stating that several psychiatric analyses of Mason done by the state during his life of crime showed that Mason had a low IQ but understood his actions.

In particular, after killing Hand, Mason took steps in an effort to avoid implicating himself in the crime, by returning to the burning house to recover a bag with his identity papers in it.

Mason pleaded guilty to assault on two teen-age sisters the day after Hand's murder. In all, Mason received the death penalty and seven life terms plus 100 years for his crimes.

 
 

Morris Odell Mason (March 28, 1954 - June 25, 1985) was a convicted rapist and murderer who called himself "the killer for the Eastern Shore."

He was convicted of rape, murder and arson in the 1978 slaying of 71 year old Margaret K. Hand in Northampton County, Virginia. Mason nailed his victims wrist into the seat of a chair and bound her with rope into it before burning her home down.

Attorneys for Mason contended that their client was mentally retarded and did not comprehend his crimes, thus warranting the commutation of his death sentence by Governor Chuck Robb. The Governor rejected their appeals after having read internal memos stating that several psychiatric analyses of Mason done by the state during his life of crime showed that Mason had a low IQ but understood his actions. In particular, after killing Hand, Mason took steps to avoid implicating himself by returning to the burning house to recover a bag with his identity papers in it.

Mason plead guilty to assault on two teen-age sisters the day after Hand's murder. In all, he received the death penalty and seven life terms plus 100 years for his crimes. He was executed in Virginia's electric chair.

According to a report by Human Rights Watch 'he had so little conception of death that he asked advisors what he should wear to his own funeral, and said cheerfully, on his way to the execution chamber, that a visitor should tell a fellow inmate that "when I get back, I'm gonna show him I can play basketball as good as he can".'

  


 

Man convicted of murder executed in Virginia

The New York Times

June 26, 1985

Two men convicted of murder in separate slayings were executed yesterday in Virginia and Texas.

Morris Odell Mason, who was mentally retarded, was executed in Virginia last night for raping and murdering an elderly woman and then setting her house on fire during a crime spree.

Mr. Mason's execution was the 14th in the United States in 1985 and the 46th since the Supreme Court cleared the way for renewed application of the death penalty in 1976.

Mr. Mason's execution in Virginia's electric chair was the state's third in eight months and fourth since 1976.

He was pronounced dead at 11:07 P.M., said Kathi King, an operations officer at the State Penitentiary in Richmond, Va. Mr. Mason gave no final statement.

''He appeared calm,'' the operations officer said. ''He walked on his own and required no assistance.''

Hours before Mr. Mason was executed, the Supreme Court, by a 7-to-2 vote, turned down his appeal.

Mental Condition Cited

Gov. Charles S. Robb of Virginia, who met with a group of clergymen asking clemency for Mr. Mason, said he did not intend to issue a reprieve.

Mr. Mason's lawyer, J. Lloyd Snook, had argued in appeals that Mr. Mason's mental condition was not adequately brought out at his trial and that his mental impairment made the death sentence inappropriate.

Mr. Mason, 32 years old, was sentenced to death for the slaying of Margaret K. Hand, 71, of rural Northampton County. She was raped and beaten with an ax; her hand was nailed to a chair and her house was set on fire.

The slaying was part of a two-week crime spree waged by Mr. Mason less than a month after he was paroled from prison where he had been sentenced to 10 years for arson and grand larceny.

He also confessed to raping and murdering an 86-year-old woman, raping and sodomizing a 12-year-old girl and shooting her 13-year-old sister, who was left a paraplegic.

 
 

Morris Odell Mason

Morris Mason, a man burdened by mental retardation (I.Q. 62-66) and mentally illness, murdered an elderly woman during "an alcoholic rampage." A paranoid schizophrenic with a mental age of eight, Morris Mason had been in and out of mental hospitals for much of his life and had a history of violent acts. When he was twenty-one, he began to hear voices in his head ordering him to "do things, break things, tear things, and destroy things."

Not sane or mentally competent enough to stop himself from hurting others, Mason was nonetheless just sane enough and just intelligent enough to know that he was out of control. In the week before the killing, he had twice sought help from his parole officer for his uncontrollable drinking and drug abuse. The day before the crime, he had asked to be placed in a halfway house, but no openings were available.

After Mason was charged with murder, a state psychiatrist who interviewed him found him "seemingly uncaring as to his fate. He offers no complaints and seems to have no full association [sic] of the gravity of his situation."

Morris Mason was executed June 1985. He had so little conception of death that he asked advisors what he should wear to his own funeral, and said cheerfully, on his way to the execution chamber, that a visitor should tell a fellow inmate that "when I get back, I'm gonna show him I can play basketball as good as he can."

 
 

748 F.2d 852

Morris Odell MASON, Appellant,
v.
Raymond K. PROCUNIER, Director Virginia Department of
Corrections, Appellee.

No. 84-4005.

United States Court of Appeals,
Fourth Circuit.

Argued Oct. 31, 1984.
Decided Nov. 2, 1984.

Before HALL and ERVIN, Circuit Judges, and BUTZNER, Senior Circuit judge.

PER CURIAM:

Morris Odell Mason, a Virginia prisoner sentenced to be executed on November 21, 1984, appeals from an order of the district court denying his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. We affirm.

The facts are set forth in Mason v. Commonwealth, 219 Va. 1091, 254 S.E.2d 116 (1979)

Mason assigns the following errors:

1. The District Court erred in rejecting Appellant's claim that the trial court's refusal to order an independent psychiatric examination violated Appellant's Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

2. The District Court erred in rejecting Appellant's claim that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel at and in connection with the penalty phase of his capital murder trial, in violation of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

3. The District Court erred in rejecting Appellant's Counts I and II concerning the facial and systemic unconstitutionality of the death penalty.

Mason's first assignment of error is foreclosed by Smith v. Baldi, 344 U.S. 561, 73 S.Ct. 391, 97 L.Ed. 549 (1953) and Satterfield v. Zahradnick, 572 F.2d 443 (4th Cir.1978).

Mason's second assignment of error must be rejected on the basis of the court's findings of fact in the state habeas corpus proceedings. After a plenary hearing, the state court found that Mason's counsel were not ineffective at the penalty phase of the trial. Mason has not established that the state proceedings suffered any of the defects enumerated in 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2254(d). Consequently, we must accept the state court's findings. Sumner v. Mata, 449 U.S. 539, 101 S.Ct. 764, 66 L.Ed.2d 722 (1981).

Furthermore, the state habeas court ordered an examination to determine whether at the time of the offense Mason was under extreme mental or emotional disturbance, or whether his capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of law was significantly impaired. The scope of the examination was intended to elicit information about the mitigating factors set forth in Va. Code Sec. 19.2-264.4 pertaining to a defendant's mental condition.

Upon receiving the report of the examination, the state habeas court found no mitigating abnormalities. It also found that Mason was not prejudiced by any omission of trial counsel. These findings must be accepted by us pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2254(d). The absence of prejudice is an additional ground for affirmance. See Strickland v. Washington, --- U.S. ----, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984).

The claims raised in the third assignment of error are barred because of Mason's procedural default. Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72, 97 S.Ct. 2497, 53 L.Ed.2d 594 (1977). We note that the statutes have been held constitutional. Briley v. Bass, 742 F.2d 155 (4th Cir.1984), aff'g 584 F.Supp. 807, 838-43 (E.D.Va.1984); Waye v. Commonwealth, 219 Va. 683, 251 S.E.2d 202 (1979); Smith v. Commonwealth, 219 Va. 455, 248 S.E.2d 135 (1978).

A certificate of probable cause is granted. The judgment of the district court is affirmed. The motion for a stay is denied. Barefoot v. Estelle, 463 U.S. 880, 103 S.Ct. 3383, 77 L.Ed.2d 1090 (1983). The clerk is directed to issue the mandate forthwith.

ORDER

The petition for rehearing and for rehearing en banc filed by Morris Odell Mason presents two issues:

I. In rejecting appellant's claim that he was denied his right to the appointment of an independent psychiatric expert to assist counsel in the preparation of evidence in mitigation of sentence, the panel failed to address an apparent conflict with this court's decision in Williams v. Martin.

II. In rejecting Mason's claim that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel, the panel improperly relied upon state court "Findings of Fact," and overlooked an important aspect of the United States Supreme Court's decision in Strickland v. Washington.

With respect to the first issue, the court perceives no conflict with Williams v. Martin, 618 F.2d 1021 (4th Cir.1980), which dealt with the appointment of a pathologist for which the South Carolina statute made provision. In contrast, Virginia law made no provision for appointment of a psychiatrist to assist the defendant. See Mason v. Commonwealth, 219 Va. 1091, 254 S.E.2d 116 (1979).

Smith v. Baldi, 344 U.S. 561, 568, 73 S.Ct. 391, 394, 97 L.Ed. 549 (1953), holds that a state is not under a constitutional mandate to provide the defendant a psychiatrist. The court deems Smith v. Baldi to be controlling precedent to which it must adhere.

Elaborating on the second issue in his petition for rehearing, Mason emphasizes that "both the performance and the prejudice components of the ineffectiveness inquiry are mixed questions of law and fact." Strickland v. Washington, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 2070 (1984). Putting aside, for the purpose of addressing the petition for rehearing, the question of the performance of Mason's counsel at sentencing, we conclude that the district court did not err in holding that Mason had not established prejudice.

As the opinion points out, the psychiatric examination ordered by the state habeas court established that Mason suffered no mitigating abnormalities. The findings and conclusions of the state habeas court and the district court satisfy the standards for determining prejudice set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 104 S.Ct. at 2068.

The petition for rehearing is denied. No member of the court has requested a poll on the request for rehearing en banc.

 

 

 
 
 
 
home last updates contact