Conviction, Death Penalty Upheld for Bragging Killer


A convicted murder who bragged about his crimes will not be granted a hearing, the Supreme Court has ruled.

The justices rejected the appeal of Paul Warner Powell, a man who sits on Virginia’s death row, after having delayed his execution last July in order to debate the claims he made about double jeopardy.

The case began in 1999, when Powell, then 20, went to the home of a 16-year-old acquaintance, Stacie Reed. Powell, an admitted racist, verbally attacked Reed for having a black boyfriend, then pinned her down and threatened to rape her. When she resisted, he stabbed her in the heart and stomped on her throat.

Afterwards, he drank some iced tea that he found in the refrigerator and smoked a cigarette—acts which left behind forensic evidence which prosecutors were able to use to convict Powell. When Stacie’s 14-year-old sister came home from school, Powell then raped and attempted to murder her.

Powell was originally convicted of the crimes and sentenced to death, but the Supreme Court of Virginia overturned the verdict, claiming that there was no additional offense in the case to warrant the death penalty. Prosecutors, it said, had failed to prove such “aggravating” factors as rape, attempted rape, or robbery committed at the same time as the murder, factors without which Powell did not deserve to sit on death row. The court, however, upheld the convictions on sexual assault and attempted murder of the younger Reed, and Powell received a long prison sentence for those convictions.

Believing that he could not now be retried, because of double jeopardy, or sent back to death row, Powell wrote taunting letters to the Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney, Paul Ebert in 2001, providing additional details about the crimes.

“Since I have already been indicted on first degree murder and the Va. Supreme Court said that I can’t be charged with capital murder again, I figured I would tell you the rest of what happened on Jan. 29, 1999, to show you how stupid all of y’all … are,” Powell wrote.

The new information, however, made it possible for Powell to be indicted again—since double jeopardy only applies in cases of acquittal, not if a conviction is overturned—and charged with the murder and attempted rape of Stacie Reed, for which he was again convicted. Both state and federal courts upheld that conviction on appeal. The U.S. Supreme Court justices rejected the latest appeal without comment, and Powell will again face lethal injection, although a new execution date has not yet been scheduled.


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