Supreme Court upholds man’s death sentence

The Indiana Supreme Court affirmed a man’s death sentence Tuesday after he pleaded guilty to brutally murdering a woman.

William Clyde Gibson III pleaded guilty to murdering Stephanie Kirk on March 25, 2012. He confessed to the murder while in jail accused of committing a second murder, that of 75-year-old Christine Whitis. He was convicted by a jury of the Whitis murder. He received a death sentence in that case, which the Supreme Court previously affirmed.

In the Kirk case, the state asked for and was granted the death penalty consideration due to four death-penalty aggravator that were combined into three: His acts of deviate conduct were compelled by force or threat of force, that he was convicted of the Whitis murder, that he was on probation for Class D felony auto theft. He was sentenced to death for Kirk’s murder. Gibson appealed his sentence.

Gibson argued there was not sufficient evidence to prove he committed the murder while committing criminal deviate conduct, but the court disagreed. In the decision written by Chief Justice Loretta Rush, she said Gibson has been inconsistent about what happened on the night he killed Kirk and how he attacked her. Also, the forensic evidence supports the fact that she was alive during some of his conduct, and three bruises on her arm and other physical injuries proved that. Also, it proves a violent sexual assault before Kirk’s death, and not consensual sex.

Gibson also claimed the state being allowed to amend the charging information from Gibson committing the murder of Whitis to being convicted of it was a fundamental error because it was a blatant due process violation. However, Rush wrote Gibson knew the Whitis murder was the only basis for this aggravator, and they only way he could defend it was to prove he didn’t murder Whitis. He also had sufficient notice and an opportunity to object.

Also, Gibson claimed the trial court abused its discretion in weighing the aggravating and mitigating circumstances when sentencing him to death. Rush said Gibson was essentially asking the court to reweigh the aggravators and mitigators, which it cannot do, and the Supreme Court did not see any determinations that made the sentence obviously unreasonable.

Finally, the court ruled Gibson’s sentence was not inappropriate in light of the nature of the offense and what the record reveals about his character. “He murdered a defenseless woman in a brutal attack,” Rush wrote. She acknowledged a few mitigating factors but said, “Nevertheless, we cannot overlook his long criminal history, his aversion to alcohol or mental health treatment, or his lack of remorse as documented in the record.”

The case is William Clyde Gibson III v. State of Indiana, 22S00-1206-DP-00360.

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