State of Missouri v. James H. Hampton

959 S.W. 2d 444 (Mo.banc 1997)

James Henry Hampton was executed March 22, 2000

AUDIO: Statement by DOC spokesman Tim Kniest, following the execution of James Hampton. 3/22/00 :31
AUDIO: Statements by members of Frances Keaton’s family following the execution. First to speak are LaVon Bowlin of Smithton, Illinois and her husband Carl; then Les Keaton of Florissant. LaVon is Frances Keaton’s daughter. Les is Keaton’s son. 3/22/00 2:30

Hampton_James2Case Facts: On 8-3-92 at around 1:15 a.m. James Hampton, armed with a sawed off shotgun, broke into the residence of Ms. Frances Keaton in Warrenton, Missouri. He demanded $30,000 from Ms. Keaton and her fiance Mr. Allen Mulholland because he believed that Ms. Keaton had the money in a checking account for a real estate transaction. Hampton learned of the transaction through a real estate agent that he had been staying with after his release from a federal prison in Illinois. Hampton told the couple that he would take one of them hostage to ensure that he would get the money.

Hampton tied the couple up. Ms. Keaton stated that although she did not have the money she thought she might be able to raise $10,000 through her minister. Hampton released Ms. Keaton to get dressed. Ms. Keaton made an attempt to escape, but Hampton restrained her and threatened to kill her if she resisted again. Hampton then told the couple that he would kidnap Ms. Keaton and if Mr. Mulholland tried to contact the police he would kill Ms. Keaton. Hampton told the couple that he had a police scanner and would know if the police were looking for him and Ms. Keaton. Hampton left Mr. Mulholland tied up in the house.

Hampton and Ms. Keaton then got into her car and headed toward Callaway County, Missouri. Ms. Keaton called her minister via her cellular telephone but he told her he did not have the money. The minister called Ms. Keaton’s son to alert him of his mother’s predicament. The son then called his mother on her cellular telephone around 1:30 a.m. That was the last contact anyone had with Ms. Keaton.

At some point during their drive Hampton learned from his police scanner that the authorities were searching for Ms. Keaton. According to his trial testimony, Hampton decided to kill Ms. Keaton after learining that the police were looking for him. Hampton drove Ms. Keaton to the farm of the real estate agent from whom he had learned about Ms. Keaton. Hampton blindfolded Ms. Keaton and took her into a wooded area about one-half mile from the real estate agent’s farm. He then killed Ms. Keaton by repeatedly striking her in the head with a hammer. He then buried her and burned all of her belongings.

The next morning Hampton returned to Warrenton to retrieve his car, but found that it had already been impounded by the police. Hampton fled the state and was later apprehended in New Jersey where he had been arrested and convicted of another murder. As he was about to be placed into custody Mr. Hampton shot himself in the head.

Legal Chronology

5/17 – Hampton was arrested in Jefferson County, Kentucky for Attempted Operating a Motor Vehicle with out the Owner’s Consent. He was sentenced to one year in the county jail. Execution of the sentence was suspended and he was placed on five years probation.

2/7 – Hampton was arrested in Louisville, Kentucky for two counts of Burglary of a Dwelling. He was sentenced to two years in the Kentucky State Penitentiary and was discharged on 10-21-58.

12/2 – Hampton was arrested in Frankfort, Kentucky for Armed Robbery and Operating a Motor Vehicle with out the Owner’s Consent. He was sentenced to six years in the Kentucky State Penitentiary and was released on 12-2-65.

03/10 – Hampton was arrested in Louisville, Kentucky for two counts of Attempted Burglary. He was fined $200.
04/09 – Hampton was arrested in Clayton, Missouri for Burglary and Stealing. He was sentenced to three years in the Missouri Department of Corrections on each count to be served concurrently. He was discharged on 1-26-68.

03/12 – Hampton was arrested in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma for Burglary and Stealing. He was sentenced to five years in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. He was discharged on 3-14-80.
03/13 – Hampton was arrested in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma for Interstate Transportation of Counterfeit Securities. He was sentenced to ten years in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He was released to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections on 3-25-77.

12/81 – Hampton was arrested in Portland, Oregon for Distribution of Heroin and Conspiracy to Distribute Heroin. He was sentenced to ten years in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He was paroled on 10-4-85.

01/11 – Hampton was arrested in Portland Oregon for Assault Fourth Degree and Recklessly Endangerment. He was sentenced to five years in the Oregon Department of Corrections.

8/3 – Frances Keaton is abducted from her home.
8/15 – Ms. Keaton’s body is found on a farm in Callaway County, Missouri.
12/19 – James Hampton is arrested in West Orange, New Jersey for murder.

7/29 – Hampton goes on trail for Murder 1st Degree in Circuit Court of Callaway County.
8/2 – He is found guilty by a jury and they recommend a sentence of death.
9/16 – Hampton is sentenced to death.

12/23 – The Missouri Supreme Court affirms Hampton’s conviction and sentence.

4/27 – Hampton files a motion for post-conviction relief in Circuit court of Callaway County.

1/26 – Circuit Court of Callaway County dismisses the motion for post-conviction relief.

1/11 – The Missouri Supreme Court dismisses the appeal from the dismissal of the post-conviction relief motion.

2/23 – The Missouri Supreme Court sets March 22, 2000, as the date for Hampton’s execution.

The following used with permission of Bill McClellan and Postnet

Killer without a conscience

Murderer forgoes his last chance for some redemption

By Bill McClellan St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 24, 2000

Jim Hampton got his wish and was executed early Wednesday morning.

His final words were, “Take the phone off the hook.” Apparently, he wanted to make sure there would be no last-second phone call from the governor. He need not have worried. Despite the efforts of death penalty opponents who argued that Hampton was incompetent to decide his own fate — I guess they had to argue something — there was no way the governor was going to spare Hampton’s life.

He had been given the death penalty for the 1992 murder of Frances Keaton, a 58-year-old beautician who worked in Florissant and lived in Warrenton. Her two children, both adults, attended the execution.

“He got off easy,” said LaVon Bowlin, Keaton’s daughter. “It was like he just went to sleep.”

Keaton’s death had not been so peaceful. Hampton beat her to death with a hammer. It was part of a kidnapping for ransom plan that went bad.

Also in attendance at the execution was a daughter of Christine Schurman, a New Jersey woman who was murdered by Hampton. He shot her after another botched kidnapping attempt.

I visited Hampton a few days before his execution, and I asked if he felt any remorse for either of the murders. He seemed to think the question was off-base. He said he had not intended to kill anybody. Instead, he had decided that if his plans went bad, the people would have to die. The plans went bad. The people had to die. Why would he feel remorse?

I left the interview thinking that Hampton was a bad man. Way to go, Dr. Freud, you might be saying to yourself. How astute. What an unlikely observation.

For me, though, it was unlikely. I’ve talked to a lot of guys in prison, and I almost always have some sympathy for them. You don’t have to be a bad person to do a bad thing. That’s the way I look at it.

But Hampton struck me as just plain bad. I asked him if he had committed any murders other than the two for which he had been convicted. Yes, he said. There had been six others during his long career as a criminal. Hampton, you may remember, was 62 years old.

I asked about these other murders. Were they fellow criminals? Killed when drug deals went bad, or something along those lines? Or were they like the two women we know about — innocent citizens?

More like that, said Hampton. They were people who maybe saw something they shouldn’t have seen, or heard something they shouldn’t have heard. For whatever reason, I thought they were a threat to my personal freedom, he said.

More than that he wouldn’t say. With a fellow like Hampton, it’s impossible to know what to believe. But still, he was a career criminal, a drifter, an amoral man. Other murders were possible, maybe even likely.

I talked to Hampton one last time on the phone. You’ve got a chance to do something good, something right, at the very end of your life, I said. Write me a letter about the other six murders. Put in enough details so we’ll know you did them. Mail it to me, and I’ll get it after your execution.

Why would I do that? asked Hampton.

Because there’s a chance that somebody is doing time for a murder you committed, I said.

That’s very possible, Hampton said. But I’m not going to do it. If I were to write a letter, the state could get ahold of it before I’m killed. If I admit to some other murders, those jurisdictions will want to talk to me, and my execution could be put on hold. I don’t want to take that chance, he concluded.

And so he died — went to sleep, as LaVon Bowling described it — without taking advantage of an opportunity to do, at long last, a good thing.