News and Tribune

November 26, 2013

Gibson speaks out before learning execution date

Convicted murderer faces two more murder trials

By GARY POPP
gary.popp@newsandtribune.com

NEW ALBANY — Convicted murderer William Clyde Gibson on Tuesday was given his execution date: Nov. 26, 2014.

Between now and then, appeals and two more murder trials involving Gibson are expected to take place, and two more families will relive the pain of losing loved ones.

Before Floyd County Superior Court Judge Susan Orth delivered the execution date, Gibson, 56, New Albany, addressed the court.

The upcoming trials were on his mind.

“I know my attorneys really don’t want me to say anything, but I would like to have a fast and speedy trial for the next two trials,” said Gibson, who was found guilty last month of murdering longtime family friend Christine Whitis, 75. “It ain’t no big deal to me. That’s just how it is. I don’t want no deal. I want a trial.”

Orth had a few words of her own.

“Mr. Gibson, may God have mercy on your soul,” she said before the proceeding had adjourned.

Gibson is charged in the murders of Stephanie Kirk, 35, Charlestown — who was found buried in Gibson’s backyard nearly a week after Whitis’ remains were discovered in his home in April 2012 — and Karen Hodella, 45, whose body was found in the Ohio River in 2003.

Following the hearing, Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson and Chief Deputy Prosecutor Steven Owen said they are prepared to give Gibson his right to a speedy trial.

They will continue the costly process — the Whitis trial has a reported price tag of $400,000 and will continue to rise with required state and federal appellate processes — as Floyd County faces a $2.9 million deficit, for a simple reason.

“I haven’t seen the death penalty carried out yet,” Henderson said. “I would agree with you, on the eve of an execution, why would you carry out another death-penalty case? But, I haven’t seen that, and with the history of the appellate process in death penalty cases, I don’t anticipate seeing that anytime soon.”

Henderson pointed out that Gibson requested a fast and speedy trail, and that right should be granted to him.

“Under our rules and rules in any state, a defendant has a right to be brought to trial within a fairly quick period of time. Unless it [the murder charge] is waived, he has a right to be tried, and not sit in jail and wait for a trial,” Henderson said. “He has asserted that right, so the court is now under a different obligation to set these trial dates.”

When asked if the prosecutor’s office has considered dismissing the remaining murder charges in an effort to save tax dollars and resources, Henderson and Owen both balked at the notion.

“Absolutely, not. Absolutely, not,” Henderson said. “I would never trade justice for money.”

Added Owen: “Which one [murder charge] would you dismiss? Which family would tell that they are dismissing the charges?”

Henderson has said he will again seek the death penalty during the Kirk trial, but the Hodella trial will be a non-capital case.

Both trials are expected to be completed in 2014, but the appellate processes in the two capital cases are expected to continue for several years.

The Whitis family declined to comment, other than a message from Whitis’ son, Mike Whitis, which Henderson delivered during the proceeding: Whitis felt the jury had provided a “fair and just verdict.”

No date has been set for either of the upcoming Kirk or Hodella trials, but the Kirk trial is expected to take place first.

Gibson will wait for those trials as an inmate of Michigan City penitentiary.