SCOTUS rejects Floyd County killer’s death sentence appeals

The United States Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected appeals from a Floyd County man sentenced to death after he was convicted of two counts of murder for killing two women eight years ago and later confessing to a 2003 slaying.

Justices rejected two petitions for certiorari filed on behalf of William Clyde Gibson III, who was convicted in the separate 2012 murders of Stephanie Kirk and Christine Whitis.

As Indiana Supreme Court Justice Mark Massa wrote in an opinion affirming Gibson’s convictions and sentence, Gibson invited Kirk to his house in March 2012, where he “brutally strangled her to death and sexually assaulted her corpse” before burying her body in a shallow grave. About a month later, he invited Whitis to his home, where he murdered her and likewise abused her corpse.

The next day, Gibson’s sisters discovered Whitis’ body and called New Albany police. Gibson was arrested after a brief car chase. Afterward, he confessed to the 2003 murder of Karen Hodella.

Gibson was later sentenced to death for the murders of Kirk and Whitis and 65 years in prison for pleading guilty to killing Hodella.

In denying cert, the high court let stand rulings of the Indiana Supreme Court, which affirmed Gibson’s convictions and sentence on direct appeal in 2016  and last October affirmed denial of his petition for post-conviction relief.

Gibson had argued ineffective assistance of counsel to the Indiana Supreme Court in January 2019. Among other things, he alleged his counsel failed to adequately investigate and present evidence of a traumatic brain injury.

Indiana’s high court rejected Gibson’s PCR arguments, which included among other claims that there was unreasonable delay in assembling his legal representation; that the defense team was deficient in questioning potential jurors; that his defenders failed to sufficiently pursue a plea agreement that would spare the death penalty; that mitigating factors were not sufficiently presented; and that counsel failed to object to allegedly coerced statements and allegedly false or prejudicial testimony.

The U.S. Supreme Court customarily denied Gibson’s cert petitions without comment. Those petitions are William C. Gibson v. State of Indiana, 19-8903 and 19-8904.

Gibson is one of seven inmates on death row at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, according to the Indiana Department of Correction. The state last carried out an execution in 2009, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

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