High Court upholds death sentence for man who shot deputies

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High Court upholds death sentence for man who shot deputies

By LORI YOUNT lyount@beaufortgazette.com 843-986-5531
Published Tuesday, March 20, 2007 in The Island Packet  |  385 Words  |  news/local

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld on Monday the death sentence of a man who gunned down two Beaufort County deputies in 2002.
Abdiyyah ben Alkebulanyahh, formerly known as Tyree Roberts, was sentenced in 2003 to die for shooting Cpl. Dyke "A.J." Coursen, 35, and Lance Cpl. Dana Lyle Tate, 44.
The deputies responded to a domestic-disturbance call at a mobile home Jan. 8, 2002, and were shot with an M-14 rifle.
The S.C. Supreme Court upheld the conviction in July, sending the appeal to the national stage. The
U.S. Supreme Court rejected the appeal without comment.
"I'm not surprised that we lost," said defense attorney Joseph Savitz, who heads up the S.C. Office of Appellate Defense. "He represented himself in trial, which was a mistake, and so we didn't have a whole lot to work with."
Savitz said he was disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court didn't hear the case or comment on Alkebulanyahh's appeal, because it was a unique situation and the court's position is
unclear.
The appeal claimed he deserved a new trial because it was unconstitutional for a judge to deny his request to skip the sentencing portion of his trial, in particular, the victims' impact statements, Savitz said. Instead, the Circuit Court judge forced Alkebulanyahh to sit in a holding cell in the back of the courtroom and was restrained on and off throughout the sentencing, which biased the jury, according to the appeal.
Savitz said his client was not helpful with the appeal.
"He could be the kind of guy that just says go ahead and execute me," Savitz said.
He estimated Alkebulanyahh would be executed within the next two years, though he does have a few more measures to pursue.
"He's still got a couple things to do," Savitz said. "But all he's got left is to delay execution."
D.J. Coursen, widow of one of the deputies killed, said she's relieved to see it's now less likely she will have to endure another trial. She said she plans to attend the execution.
"I want my eyes to be the last eyes he sees, because he shot my husband's eyes out," she said.
Cpl. Tate's widow, Marie Tate, declined to comment Monday.