Not in My Name

...but they're dead just the same...

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#206 - Thomas Dean Stevens - GA - 6/29/1993

This case is one where I just have no words.  Absolutely senseless.

Victim:  Roger Earl Honeycutt               9/4/1977

Codefendant:  Christopher A Burger – Was 17 at the time of the crime.  Sentenced to death.  
Executed 12/7/1993.

Source:  The New York Times
Man Is Executed in Georgia For Killing a Soldier in 1977
Published: June 29, 1993

A man was executed tonight for killing a fellow soldier in 1977 by locking him in the trunk of a car that was pushed into a water-filled pit.

Thomas Dean Stevens, 36, was sentenced to death in the electric chair for the killing of Roger Honeycutt, a soldier who was moonlighting as a cab driver. Mr. Honeycutt was robbed of $16, sodomized and locked in the trunk of his cab. He drowned when Mr. Stevens and another man pushed the car into the pit.

The United States Supreme Court tonight unanimously denied two requests for stays of execution and two applications to hear an appeal, said a Supreme Court spokeswoman, Kathy Arberg. Mr. Stevens' lawyers had argued that their client was mentally retarded and was convicted with perjured testimony.

Tommy Morris, acting chairman of the state Board of Pardons and Paroles, said the panel concluded Mr. Stevens "was a willing and active participant who knew the consequences of his actions."

Source: (court docs)

The state's evidence, including Thomas Stevens's confession, showed that on the night of September 4, 1977, Stevens was drinking beer in the enlisted men's club with Christopher A. Burger, a friend and fellow serviceman at Fort Stewart. The two ran out of money and decided to rob a cab driver. 

They called a Shuman Company cab, but decided not to use it upon finding that the driver was accompanied by a friend. They then received a call from James Robert Botsford, their friend and squad leader, who asked to be picked up at the Savannah airport. 

Stevens and Burger took a knife sharpener and a 14-inch butcher knife from the dining facility, and called a D & M cab. When the driver, Roger E. Honeycutt, arrived alone, Stevens and Burger entered the cab and later, at an agreed signal, they drew the two weapons forcing the driver to the curb. He was able to give them less than $20. 

Stevens then ordered him to remove all of his clothes, which Stevens then rifled, throwing them out of the cab window as Burger drove the three. Honeycutt, now naked, was pleading for his life, saying he would do anything. Stevens forced him to commit an act of oral sodomy, then an act of anal sodomy, and then bound him with the microphone cord from the cab's CB radio and placed him in the trunk of the cab.

Stevens and Burger then drove to the airport to pick up Botsford, to whom they admitted that the cab was stolen and the driver had been robbed, sodomized and placed in the trunk. Stevens showed Botsford the weapons. From time to time Stevens and Burger would shout to the victim, Roger Honeycutt, "Are you still back there?" and Botsford heard the reply from the trunk, "Yes, sir."

Botsford's testimony at trial was that Stevens said he thought they should kill Honeycutt, but Burger disagreed, and Botsford tried to talk him out of it. When they arrived back at Fort Stewart to deposit Botsford, Stevens and Burger seemed to him to have agreed to let the driver go and leave the cab beside the road.  Because Stevens and Burger told him they would let Honeycutt go, Botsford thought that he had succeeded in getting them to abandon the notion of murder. He therefore chose not to report Stevens and Burger on that night.

After dropping Botsford off, Stevens and Burger drove to Jack's Mini Mart in Jesup for milk and sandwiches. Later, when a police car appeared to be following them, they decided they had to get out of the car, so Burger drove to a pond in a wooded area. They wiped their fingerprints off the car, and Stevens removed the CB radio. This radio was later recovered by police from the automobile of Burger's mother-in-law. 

Burger drove the automobile into the pond, leaping free before it went in. The two looked back and saw the automobile sinking. Roger Honeycutt, bound in the trunk, drowned. Burger and Stevens returned to Fort Stewart, paying another taxi an $ 11 fare for the return trip. 

The next day the two inquired of Botsford whether he had said anything to authorities, and he said not. They told him they had freed the driver. 

A few days later, amid reports of the missing driver, Botsford went to authorities and gave a statement of what he knew. Burger confessed. Stevens, who was aware of Burger's confession, confessed. In his handwritten confession he stated that he had advised against killing the driver and had not known Burger was planning to drive the automobile into the pond. The car was pulled from the pond, and the victim was found in the trunk. Numerous pieces of Honeycutt's clothes were recovered from the route Stevens and Burger had driven. The two weapons were found in the cab. Honeycutt's identification was found above the sun visor of the cab, and the cab was identified by its owner as the one driven by Honeycutt. 

On September 12, 1977, the United States Army's Criminal Investigation Division ("CID") arrested Stevens. After being apprised of his rights, Stevens indicated that he wished to speak to a lawyer before making a statement. Through an appointed military lawyer, Stevens then informed the CID that he did not wish to make a statement and that he did not wish to be questioned. 

On the following evening, after it was determined that jurisdiction over Honeycutt's murder lay with civilian rather than military authorities, Stevens and Burger were transported to the Wayne County Correctional Facility. Because of the transfer to the jurisdiction and custody of civilian authorities, Stevens was no longer entitled to his military lawyer. 

While in civilian custody, Stevens was again read his Miranda rights. Although it appears from the record that authorities in Jesup and Wayne County knew that Stevens had not given a statement to the CID, it is unclear whether they had any reason to believe that Stevens had requested a lawyer and asked not to be questioned. Stevens never mentioned these requests to the civilian authorities.

In any event, the police brought Stevens into a room where they were reviewing the statement that Burger had previously given to the CID. That statement was read aloud to Burger in Stevens' presence. When the statement depicted the murder as Stevens' idea, Stevens began to protest. 

The police stopped Stevens' attempts to interrupt, however, telling Stevens that he should remain quiet because he had not wanted to speak earlier. Stevens was also told that, if he so desired, he could make a statement after the police finished going over Burger's statement. Stevens in fact chose to make such a statement. He was again read his Miranda rights, and he thereafter made a statement that was introduced at his trial. 

On January 26, 1978, a jury in Wayne County, Georgia convicted Stevens of capital murder and sentenced him to death. On direct appeal, the Supreme Court of Georgia affirmed Stevens' conviction, but vacated his death sentence due to defects in the jury charge. 

A second sentencing trial was concluded on July 19, 1979, again imposing the death sentence. This time, the Supreme Court of Georgia affirmed the sentence.


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