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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 May, 2003, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK
Facing the death penalty at 19
By Chris Summers
BBC News Online

She is 19-years-old and has a son, aged two. If things go well for her she could be released from jail in 30 years' time. If things go badly, she will be executed. No wonder Falicia Blakely has turned to religion.

Falicia Blakely (right) and Ameshia Ervin used to dance together

Prosecutors in Atlanta, Georgia have sought the death penalty in the case of Falicia Blakely, who is accused of murdering three men over two sweltering days last summer.

Her lawyer is hoping they will drop the death penalty demand when they realise her true age and take note of her "horrific upbringing".

When Falicia Blakely, and her co-accused Ameshia Ervin, were arrested in the toilet of a fast food restaurant in Atlanta, she was carrying documents which suggested she was 24.

But her lawyer, Ken Driggs, told BBC News Online: "She had actually faked her ID a few years ago so she could get a licence to work in a nude dancing club.

ALLEGED VICTIMS
15 Aug 2002: Claudell Christmas, 35
15 Aug 2002: Raymond Goodwin, 34
16 Aug 2002: Lemetrius Twitty, 29

"In fact she is only 19 and I hope that, once the prosecutors realise that, they will drop the motion to seek the death penalty."

There are few arguments about the basic facts of the case, which is due to come to trial in the autumn.

Falicia Blakely and Ameshia Ervin were arrested in the restroom of a diner called Mrs Winner's, which they were apparently preparing to rob.

The pair had committed a series of similar robberies in fried chicken restaurants in Atlanta and the police were called when the owner became suspicious.

Driving dead man's car

When police arrived and detained the pair, they realised they had been driving a car belonging to a man who had been shot dead in his apartment a week earlier.

Mr Driggs said the pair apparently declined the offer of lawyers and gave statements in which they confessed to killing three men.

Claudell Christmas, 35, and his friend Raymond Goodwin, 34, had been robbed and shot in an Atlanta apartment shortly before the murder of 29-year-old Lemetrius Twitty.

Atlanta skyline
Many young girls are drawn to the bright lights of Atlanta

Mr Driggs said he did not want to play down the scale of the crimes his client had confessed to, but he pointed out that she had had an "horrific upbringing".

He said: "She was brought up in Jacksonville, Florida, but barely knew her father, who was in and out of prison on heroin charges.

"She was bounced from mother to grandmother and was often pretty much living on her own.

"When she was 15 or 16 she followed her mother to Atlanta, but was soon moved into a place on her own and got involved in nude dancing."

I realise that this is hard for the victims' families but there are other actors in this drama who are not on the rap sheet
Ken Driggs
Defence lawyer

He said: "She was a high school drop-out but she had a nice figure. That is all she had to trade with."

But it was an unhealthy environment and she fell prey to pimps and drug pushers.

She eventually teamed up with fellow dancer Ameshia Ervin, but Mr Driggs said: "I'm not sure if the idea of robbery was entirely either girl's. They are victims too.

"I realise that this is hard for the victims' families but there are other actors in this drama who are not on the rap sheet."

Mr Driggs said his client had detoxified since being locked up and had become very religious.

'Na´ve'

He said: "Despite what she was doing, I'm struck by how na´ve she was. I am not saying she was mentally retarded, but she was not equipped for the life she was in."

But DeKalb County's Assistant District Attorney, Tom Clegg, said the defendants had shown "no remorse" and he described the killings as "classic executions".

He told BBC News Online: "They were almost like business propositions for these young women."

He said they were "100% certain" Falicia Blakely was the shooter.

Mr Clegg said the first two victims were known to both women.

It boggles my mind that someone could kill two people, go to a nightclub and have a good time, pick up another poor guy and kill him without batting an eyelid
Tom Clegg
Assistant District Attorney

After they were killed, the pair went to a club in the Buckhead area of Atlanta and allegedly picked up Mr Twitty, who they lured back to an apartment with promises of sex.

Mr Clegg said: "It boggles my mind that someone could kill two people, go to a nightclub and have a good time, pick up another poor guy and kill him without batting an eyelid. You don't get more cold-blooded than that."

He said there was an offer on the table to Ameshia Ervin that, in return for pleading guilty and testifying against Ms Blakely, she would receive concurrent life sentences and could be eligible for parole in 14 years.

Mr Clegg said he was aware Falicia Blakely had supposedly had an "horrific upbringing" and said if she were to plead guilty they would consider offering her life without parole.

Aileen Wuornos, who was executed in Florida last year

The three victims' families will have a role in sentencing but Mr Clegg said there was no "consensus".

"Some of them are happy to accept a life sentence without parole for her, but others were adamant that we seek the death penalty," said Mr Clegg.

Some newspapers have drawn similarities with the case of Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute who robbed and murdered at least six of her clients.

Mr Driggs, for one, is hoping this case will turn out differently. In October last year, Wuornos was executed by lethal injection in neighbouring Florida.




SEE ALSO:
'Damsel of Death' executed
09 Oct 02  |  Americas


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