US v. Basham: Basham, along with a co-defendant, escaped from jail in Kentucky and embarked on a multi-state crime spree that stretched from Indiana to South Carolina. Along the way, the two kidnapped one man in Kentucky, who managed to escape, and two women in West Virginia and South Carolina, who were never seen again. Basham was finally apprehended in Kentucky. He was indicted in South Carolina for carjacking that resulted in death and kidnapping that resulted in death, along with other charges. After a jury trial, he was convicted of those offenses and sentenced to death.
On appeal, Basham raised six challenges to his conviction and sentence, all of which the Fourth Circuit rejected. Each involves a detailed set of facts that cannot be reported here.
First, Basham argued that the district court should have granted his motion for a new trial when it came to light that the jury foreperson had contacted various local news outlets during the trial. Relying on the evidence developed during countless hearings on the matter, the court concluded that the district court had not abused its discretion in concluding that the Government had rebutted the presumption that the juror's actions were prejudicial.
Second, Basham argued that the district court erred by removing his initially appointed counsel because they might have to be witnesses during trial (due to their role in some searches for the victim's body once Basham was arrested). The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion, even though it later ruled that the testimony of those counsel was not admissible at trial.
Third, Basham argued that the district court erred by allowing the Government to introduce certain "bad act" evidence during the guilt phase. The court concluded that the district court had not abused its discretion in admitting that evidence, or that any such abuse was harmless error.
Fourth, Basham argued that the district court erred by admitting certain evidence at the penalty phase. As with the trial evidence, the court concluded that the district court had not abused its discretion in admitting that evidence, or that any such abuse was harmless error.
Fifth, Basham argued that the district court erred by not including the "catch all" mitigator on the verdict form for the penalty phase. The court concluded that, in light of the instructions informing the jury of its ability to rely on any mitigating factor, that the absence of the catch all from the form was not error.
Finally, the court concluded that Basham's sentence was not imposed "under the influence of passion, prejudice, or any other arbitrary factor."