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Robert Newland

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Robert Newland was executed by the state of Georgia on March 10, 2009.  He was pronounced dead at 7:35 pm.

Case Background:

Robert Newland grew up in Springfield, Ohio, in extreme poverty, raised by violently alcoholic parents.  Bob’s mother consumed alcohol throughout her pregnancy with Bob, and was drunk almost every day of her adult life.  When drunk, she was extremely violent and inflicted daily beatings on Bob.  Bob sometimes tried to escape the misery of his home life by staying with his uncle Clarence.  His nightmare continued when his uncle sexually abused Bob repeatedly starting around age 12.  Bob had nowhere to turn, so he turned to alcohol.  His school records document a 12-point drop in IQ from the 7th to the 10th grades, corresponding to the onset of heavy alcohol abuse when he was about 12 years old. 

Bob’s home life got so bad that he finally ran away from home at age 16, never to return.  He embarked on a life of constant movement – and heavy abuse of alcohol and drugs.  On his own in the world, Bob took up carpentry to support himself.  Bob suffered several serious head injuries while working on construction projects and also in a severe car accident.  A neuropsychologist and neurologist found that he suffered significant brain damage from these injuries, exacerbated by his extensive abuse of alcohol and drugs.  These injuries, while they do not render him unable to distinguish right from wrong, do impair his judgment and impulse control, particularly when under the influence of hard alcohol.

By the early 1980s, Bob had settled in St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, where he lived with his common law wife, Peggy, a social worker.  With Peggy’s help, Bob minimized his drug and alcohol use.  However, one night in the summer of 1986, he relapsed, consuming a large amount of vodka.  His neighbors and his wife Peggy testified that on the night of the crime he was extremely drunk and barely making sense.  Police noted Bob was slurring his speech and that he reeked of alcohol when he was arrested.

After his arrest, Bob expressed deep remorse for the murder of Ms. Beatty, a woman he knew as a kind friend and neighbor.  At his trial, he testified to his remorse and disbelief that he could have harmed this person.  However, the jury heard nothing about Bob’s past or his mental health problems because his attorneys made no effort to investigate his life for mitigating evidence.  The reason the attorneys gave for not investigating was that Bob had asked them not to trouble his family or involve them in his case.  It is this allegation that has defeated Bob’s legal claims of ineffective assistance of counsel.

People who knew Bob when he was sober uniformly describe him as a kind and generous person.  Since his imprisonment in 1986, Bob has had a spotless disciplinary record. He has consistently expressed remorse for his crime.