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Daniels' Case Takes Unusual Twist Days Before Scheduled Execution

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RALEIGH, N.C. — For the sixth time this year, North Carolina is getting ready to put a convicted killed to death.

But in a plot twist worthy of a John Grisham novel, a witness who testified for the prosecution during John Daniels' sentencing hearing eight years ago hnow says her testimony was wrong.

The witness traveled cross-country this week to ask Gov. Mike Easley to spare Daniels' life.

Easley spent some happy moments with school children Wednesday. But in the next day and a half, he has the grim task of deciding if a man lives or dies.

"Every case is different," Easley said. "You have to look at every case in a different light, take in all of the information and then make a decision."

A jury convicted Daniels of killing his aunt, Isabella Crawford, in Charlotte in 1990. He also was found guilty of assaulting his wife and son with a hammer.

Dr. Cynthia White, a psychiatrist, testified for the state at Daniels' sentencing that Daniels knew what he was doing when he killed Crawford and had no remorse.

In a Perry Mason moment, after an eight-year search, defense attorneys tracked down White in Las Vegas two weeks ago. She now recants her testimony.

"My words should not be used to continue with the influence of this man being put to death," White said Wednesday, when she came to Raleigh to plead with Easley to spare Daniels' life.

White said the state did not give her enough information about Daniels before she took the stand, and she never interviewed him herself.

"The jury was misled," White said. "I was misled, and I'm outraged and do not believe John Daniels should be put to death."

Daniels' attorney, who lost an appeal earlier this week, said Daniels' sentence was wrongfully imposed.

"I hope and pray the governor will grant John Daniels clemency," attorney Kim Stevens said. "His sentence was wrongfully imposed, and Dr. White is here to say that."

Stevens said the jury never heard an apology from Daniels because his attorneys at the time refused to let him speak.

Said Daniels: "I tried to tell everybody I'm sorry."

Meanwhile, Crawford's family has issued

a statement asking for Daniels' clemency

. They say executing Daniels "cuts against all that Ms. Crawford lived by and taught others."

One of Crawford's nine grandchildren appeared before Easley along with White on Wednesday.

Daniels' wife and son, who survived his attack, also want his life spared.

"I ask you to not take his life," said Dianne Durham, Daniels' wife. "I have forgiven him, and I ask you to forgive him, too."

Daniels' attorneys made one last-ditch appeal to the North Carolina Supreme Court Wednesday. After the court rules, Easley will consider the case.

Daniels is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 2 a.m. Friday.

Daniels, meanwhile, sits on Death Row in Central Prison. In about 24 hours, the lawn outside the prison will be full of protestors. But they cannot change the outcome. Only the Supreme Court or Easley can spare his life.


Amanda Lamb, Reporter
Robert Meikle, Photographer
Paul Ensslin, Web Editor

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