Georgia Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker offers the following information in the case against Robert Dale Conklin, who is currently scheduled to be executed at 7:00 p.m. on July 12, 2005.
On June 24, 2005, the Superior Court of Fulton County filed an order, setting the seven-day window in which the execution of Robert Dale Conklin may occur to begin at noon, July 12, 2005, and ending seven days later at noon on July 19, 2005. The Commissioner of the Department of Corrections has set the specific date and time for the execution as 7:00 p.m., July 12, 2005, pursuant to the discretion given the Commissioner under state law. Conklin has concluded his direct appeal and his state and federal habeas corpus proceedings.
On March 26, 1984, attorney George Crooks left his office at approximately 3:00 p.m. because he was not feeling well. (T. 530; 542-543). After getting a prescription filled, Mr. Crooks was at home in Smyrna, Georgia during the early evening hours. (T. 531-532). Twenty-eight year old Mr. Crooks knew Conklin as they had met at an I-20 highway rest stop. (T. 530, 880-881, 908). The men had established a physical relationship over a period of time. (T. 610, 881-882, 908). Mr. Crooks went to Conklins Lake Forest Apartment in Atlanta, Georgia on Monday night, March 26, 1984. (T. 610, 880). Mr. Crooks took his codeine medication and both men smoked marijuana. (T. 610, 885). Mr. Crooks remained at Conklins apartment overnight. (T. 886).
George Crooks parents and co-workers were unable to contact him on Tuesday, March 27, 1984. (T. 532, 535, 543-544). Mr. Crooks father went to his sons empty apartment and saw his sons open briefcase lying beside the telephone answering machine. (T. 534). Mr. Crooks automobile was not parked at his apartment and a missing persons report was filed. (T. 533; 535).
A maintenance man employed at Conklins Lake Forest apartment complex was collecting aluminum cans from the trash dumpster on Wednesday, March 28, 1984, when he discovered dissected human body parts encased in black plastic garbage bags. (T. 549-550; 551-552). The authorities were notified. (T. 552). Fulton County Police Department investigators arrived at the apartment complex dumpster site shortly after 9:00 a.m. and removed the contents of the large metal trash container. (T. 534-535, 562, 568, 570). Various body parts, knives, bloody bed clothes, screwdrivers, rope, credit cards, a wallet and miscellaneous papers belonging to George Crooks were recovered from the dumpster. (T. 555-557, 569-570, 581-582). The reverse side of the attorneys business card contained Conklins name and telephone number. (T. 582). A total of ten plastic garbage bags were removed from the garbage dumpster, nine of which contained body parts. (T. 570, 579-580). Mr. Crooks father positively identified the body as that of his son, George Crooks. (T. 536-538).
The authorities learned that Conklin resided at the Copeland Road apartment complex in an apartment located approximately 260 feet from the dumpster site. (T. 582-583, 619-620). Conklins apartment was searched on April 7, 1984. (T. 557-559, 666). The bed clothing was missing from Conklins bed and the mattress appeared to be blood-soaked. (T. 585). The jammed kitchen garbage disposal contained what appeared to be internal organs. (T. 585, 683).
Conklin was arrested on April 8, 1984 and advised of the Miranda warnings. (T. 586, 653, 662-663). At the police department, after again being advised of his rights, Conklin signed the waiver of rights form, made and signed a statement. (T. 590, 609, 610-616). The Conklin claimed that he and George Crooks were wrestling and struggling on Conklins bed. (T. 610-611). However, a co-worker of Conklin s testified that he did not exhibit body bruises during the early morning hours of March 28, 1984. (T. 632-634). Another co-worker also testified at trial that although Conklin appeared ill at ease on Tuesday evening, March 27, 1984, Conklin did not evidence scars or body bruises. (T. 787-788). Trial testimony also revealed that Mr. Crooks coordination wasnt what it should be. (T. 886).
In Conklins statement, he acknowledged that he grabbed a screwdriver and stuck the victim. (T. 611). When Mr. Crooks rolled from the bed, Conklin pushed the screwdriver into the victims ear and wriggled the weapon around. (T. 611). Conklin attempted to dispose of the victim by cutting up the body. (T. 612-615, 915-916). Conklin drove to Mr. Crooks apartment and removed potentially incriminatory material including an answering machine tape and cards. (T. 612, 911-912). Conklin purchased cleaning supplies, knives, gloves, garbage bags, garbage cans and a cart with Mr. Crooks money. (T. 612-614, 916, 938). Conklin placed the evidence in the trash dumpster and fled to Florida, subsequently returning to Atlanta, Georgia. (T. 615-616, 913).
Fulton County Associate Medical Examiner Saleh Zaki examined the body pieces of George Crooks. (T. 580-581, 748, 751-754). The victims body had ten knife stab wounds to the right upper side of the neck which were inflicted prior to the victims death. (T. 754-755, 759, 776). Dr. Zaki observed a downward narrow stab wound to the back of the left ear area that tore the ear canal and mastoid area, which wound also occurred before death and was associated with hemorrhaging. (T. 755-756). Bruising with swelling to the right ear auricle was consistent with blunt force trauma. (T. 756). A linear scratch to the right cheek area occurred prior to death. (T. 756). Areas of bruising to the right, middle and left portions of the scalp and head that had been inflicted prior to death were consistent with blunt force trauma. (T. 757-759). Deep neck bruises were inflicted prior to death. (T. 758-759). The left collarbone area sustained two short stab wounds, one penetrating the left lung, while George Crooks was breathing. (T. 759, 776-777). This wound was consistent with a screwdriver being used as the weapon. (T. 776). The right shoulder area contained four stab wounds caused prior to death. (T. 760). Dr. Zaki also observed stab wounds to the left hand inflicted before death. (T. 762-763).
Dr. Zaki testified at trial that George Crooks died as a result of the stab wounds to the chest and neck with the contributing factor being blunt force trauma to the neck and head. (T. 763). Dr. Zaki further testified that stab wounds to the buttocks and right thigh had been inflicted after the death of the victim. (T. 762). Medical Examiner Zaki stated that bruising basically does not occur after death. (T. 759). The two weapons used to inflict these injuries were a screwdriver and a knife. (T. 780).
A sample of carpet fibers removed from Conklins apartment was compared to fibers recovered from the bed clothing which was introduced as evidence. (T. 679-681). A large number of fibers from the bed clothing were found to possess the same microscopic characteristics as the carpet fibers. (T. 682). A comparison of known fingerprints of the victim to prints developed from a drinking glass recovered from Conklins bedroom showed that a latent print on the glass was made by the right middle finger of the victim. (T. 686, 688-689). A comparison of fingerprints from recovered incriminating evidence to known prints of Conklin showed that the evidence fingerprints belonged to Conklin. (T. 693-694).
The victims blood was found to be International Blood Group O. (T. 794-795). Blood samples taken from two knives, apartment carpet pieces, mattress stains, human tissue and bed clothes were the same blood type as that of the victim. (T. 796). Conklin testified at trial that he had informed Mr. Crooks that the men could not see each other any more and that the victim was upset. (T. 883-884). According to Conklin, Mr. Crooks initially poked Conklin in the chest, became angry and hit Conklin. (T. 889). Conklin stated that the victim died as the men struggled on the bedroom floor, after the victim was stuck in the ear and hit on the head with the screwdriver by Conklin. (T. 893-894, 932). The large quantity of Mr. Crooks blood observed on the soaked mattress was not consistent with Conklins statement of having attacked the victim on the floor. Conklin admitted having used the screwdriver as a weapon. (T. 965).
Conklin admitted dragging the victims body into the bathroom tub and attempting to drain the blood from the body. (T. 896-898). Conklin further testified to cutting up Mr. Crooks body because it was too late to do anything but go ahead and finish. (T. 936). Conklin admitted that the idea for disposing of the victims body might have come from a book, Foxfire, that was discovered laying on Conklins bedroom floor. (T. 939-940).
The Trial (1984)
The Fulton County Grand Jury indicted Conklin on April 3, 1984. A jury found Conklin guilty of malice murder on June 15, 1984. The jurys recommendation of a death sentence was returned on June 16, 1984.
The Direct Appeal (1985-1986)
The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Conklins conviction and sentence on June 27, 1985. Conklin v. State, 254 Ga. 558, 331 S.E.2d 532 (1985). In its decision, the Georgia Supreme Court held:
The evidence is amply sufficient to support the conviction for malice murder. Pollard v. State, 249 Ga. 21 (287 S.E.2d 189) (1982); Anderson v. State, 248 Ga. 682 (285 S.E.2d 533) (1982); Terry v. State, 243 Ga. 11 (252 S.E.2d 429) (1979); Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U. S. 307 (99 S. Ct. 2781, 61 L. Ed. 2d 560) (1979). It follows that the trial court did not err by refusing to direct a verdict of acquittal or to present the case to the jury only upon a manslaughter theory.
Conklin v. State, 254 Ga. at 564. Conklins motion for reconsideration was denied on July 23, 1985. Conklin filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, which was denied on December 16, 1985. Conklin v. Georgia, 474 U.S. 1038 (1985). Conklins motion for rehearing was denied on February 24, 1986. Conklin v. Georgia, 475 U.S. 1040 (1986).
State Habeas Corpus Petition (1986-1994)
Conklin, represented by Mark E. Olive and Brian Mendelsohn, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Superior Court of Butts County, Georgia on April 7, 1986. Evidentiary hearings were held on May 24, 1989 and September 24, 1990. On October 1, 1992, the state habeas corpus court denied Conklin state habeas corpus relief. Conklins application for a certificate of probable cause to appeal filed in the Georgia Supreme Court was denied on or about October 6, 1993. Conklin then filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, which was denied on May 16, 1994. Conklin v. Zant, 511 U.S. 1100 (1994).
Federal Habeas Corpus Petition (1995-2001)
Conklin, represented by Mark E. Olive, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on June 22, 1995. An oral argument was held July 18, 1997. On October 14, 1999, the district court denied Conklin federal habeas corpus relief as to certain claims raised in his petition. An oral argument on the remaining issues was held on December 15, 1999. On August 28, 2001, the district court denied Appellant federal habeas corpus relief as to the remaining claims raised in his amended petition. The district court entered a final order denying and dismissing Appellants petition for writ of habeas corpus on August 30, 2001. The district court denied a motion to alter and amend judgment on September 16, 2002. The district court granted Conklin a certificate of appealability on January 3, 2003.
11th Circuit Court of Appeals (2003-2004)
On February 19, 2003, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals granted an expansion of the certificate of appealability. The case was orally argued before the Eleventh Circuit on December 17, 2003. On April 21, 2004, the Eleventh Circuit issued an opinion which denied relief. Conklin v. Head, 366 F.3d 1191 (11th Cir. 2004). Specifically, the Eleventh Circuit rejected the following claims: insufficient evidence to support the jurys verdict; ineffective assistance of counsel; trial court error in refusing to appoint defense pathologist; and cumulative error. Conklin filed a petition for panel rehearing on June 14, 2004, which was denied on August 26, 2004.
United States Supreme Court (2005)
Conklin filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court on January 21, 2005, which was denied March 28, 2005. He then filed a petition for rehearing in the United States Supreme Court, which was denied June 6, 2005.