By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
"Mind you, the defendant is good. He isgood. Able to convince Rebecca Holberton, Candace Walters, Angela Fite, Suzanne of unbelievable things."
Pointing at Neal, Tingle says, "He knew Kyle and knew Kayla, and he murdered their mother."
He places the photograph of Angela, still taped in the chair, back on the overhead. What does it say about the character of a man who forced Suzanne into oral sex just inches from the body of a dying woman? he asks.
The prosecutor plays excerpts from Neal's confession. "I was better than Bundy would have ever been...I had a killer in me all my life...
"A pale horse, and the rider is Death with Hades following. That's me."
Tingle cautions the judges not to believe Neal's assertions that he has "turned back," as he likes to quote a Turkish philosopher. "Those words have no meaning coming from him. He is a manipulator of the highest degree, a schemer, a con artist of unequaled ability.
"He does not deserve your mercy. Your compassion should be reserved for his murder victims...The death penalty is justice. To be merciful and not impose the death penalty is wrong, for to be merciful to the cruel is to be indifferent to the good."
Tingle takes his seat. Judge Woodford asks Neal if he wishes to make a closing argument. The defendant listens to Canney, his advisory counsel, then shakes his head. "I said what I wanted to say in allocution."
And that's it. That's the strategy that Neal would not reveal to anyone. That's the end result of all those telephone calls, all that time in the law library, those stacks of death-penalty materials.
Woodford announces that judges will render their decision on Wednesday, September 29. The court is adjourned.
During deliberations, the three judges find that the state had proved all of its aggravators, with only minor deviations. They then reject all of Neal's mitigators. More than that, they spurn everything Neal had to say for himself.
For starters, they don't believe his claim to have been sexually assaulted. "Given William Neal's pattern of habitual lying, the panel questions the accuracy of these events," they write in the court order that will be handed down with the final sentence.
They doubt his remorse. "William Neal is so self-absorbed that his capacity for remorse is questionable."
Nor are they impressed that Neal chose not to cross-examine family members in order to save them further anguish. "The panel discounts such concessions given the overwhelming evidence, pre-arrest statements and self-serving post-arrest confessions."
Even his religious conversion "is suspect, given the timing."
In fact, they throw Neal's words back at him. "William Neal referred repeatedly to his religious conversion and cited the Bible during his allocution, requesting mercy and forgiveness. The panel also recalls that William Neal used the Bible in his statement to police: 'It's Revelations 8:6, about this pale horse, and on it was a rider, and his name was Death, and Hades followed him. That's me, okay.'
"William Neal claims to be a changed man and, therefore, requests mercy. William Neal cannot point to the past as a basis for mercy but asks the Panel to trust him in his promise toward the future. This Panel is unwilling to do so. The Panel relies upon the past as the best predictor of the future. William Neal's plea rings hollow in light of his past deceits and evil deeds.
"All three murder victims in this case were warm, loving, caring individuals. Each, in their own way, was in a vulnerable position at the time they met and began to interact with William Neal. It is clear William Neal chose them in large measure precisely because of their vulnerabilities.
"All three murder victims came from close-knit families. They shared close bonds. The impact of this murderous slaughter on the families has been enormous. Their grief is immeasurable, and their loss incalculable. An integral part of each family member has been taken from them and can never be replaced. All have suffered tremendously. Beyond all of this is the fact that one day Angela Fite's two children will learn the brutal way in which their mother died and, at that time, will have to deal with this horror yet again."
For perhaps the first time in his adult life, Neal's words have failed to move their intended audience. He is revealed, in his own words, as "just a stinkin' liar."
he Jefferson County courtroom is packed on September 29.
As he and the two other judges take their seats at the dais, Woodford says he will not be reading the 36-page findings of the panel. They are there only to announce the verdict.
Neal's eyes are fixed straight ahead at the panel, his hands clasped in front of him. As judges Martinez and Meyer stare down at the defendant, Woodford quickly announces that "the only penalty for the brutal, needless killing visited upon these kind and lovely ladies is death."
Neal doesn't react. A single, collective shout -- "Yes!" -- comes from the family section of the gallery. Although he says he knows this is an "emotional issue," Woodford admonishes the crowd to be quiet. And then, a surprise: The lights blink and the courtroom goes black. The deputies move quickly to surround their prisoner. Just as quickly, the lights come on. William Cody Neal will not escape his fate.