Justice denied for one family

By Staff
Leada Gore, Editor
In 1997, Mark Duke killed his father, his father's fiancee and her two small daughters and then went to the movies with friends.
After the movie – he saw the popular horror film "Scream" – he went to play pool and grabbed a bite to eat. He and his friends then ransacked his father's house to make it look like a robbery had occurred and called the police to report the murders.
Mark Duke was 16 when he killed four people. Today, he's 23 and, until last week, Duke was on death row. Last week, the US Supreme Court ruled that, because he was under age 18 when he committed his crimes, he can't be executed for them. Instead, Mark Duke, the teenager prosecutors said was driven to murder because his father wouldn't let him use his truck, will spend the rest of his life in prison with no chance of parole. His partner in the murders, Brandon Samra, was 19 at the time of the slayings, and will one day be executed. Two others, Michael Ellison and David Collums – both under the age of 18 at the time of the murders – are spending 15 years in prison for their part in planning and covering up the crime.
The trial of Mark Duke wasn't the first murder trial I ever covered as a reporter. It wasn't the first case I wrote about in which a death sentence was given. It wasn't even my first trial involving a teenage killer, having covered a trial just a few months earlier in which a 16-year-old walked into a pawn shop and killed two strangers.
But Duke's trial was the most disturbing. Duke looked like a regular teenager. He went to a good school and lived in a nice home. He had a group of friends he ran around with and they, too, looked like average teenagers.
The details that emerged in Duke's trial were horrific. He had shot his father in the head leaving his body slumped over the fireplace hearth. He and Samra then chased his father's fiancee, Dedra Hunt, and her two daughters, Chelisa, 6, and Chelsea, 7, up the stairs. He and Samra shot Hunt in the head and slit Chelisa's throat. They drug Chelsea kicking and fighting out from under a bed to slit her throat.
All of us in the courtroom that day saw the bloody crime scene photos. They were too graphic for many in the courtroom, including Chelisa and Chelsea's father. Most of his family left the courtroom before the photos of his murdered children were splashed across a screen.
I have mixed feelings about the death penalty, torn between an eye for an eye and turning the other cheek. But sitting in the courtroom that day, there were no mixed feelings. If someone like Mark Duke doesn't deserve to die for his crimes, I don't know who does.

FRONT PAGE FEATURED

Challenger Matthew Frost unseats longtime Morgan Commissioner Don Stisher

FRONT PAGE FEATURED

Cheers to 50 years  

FRONT PAGE FEATURED

Scott Stadthagen confirmed to University of West Alabama Board of Trustees 

Editor's picks

Hartselle graduate creates product for amputees 

FRONT PAGE FEATURED

Tigers roar in Athens soccer win

Danville

Local family raises Autism awareness through dirt racing  

FRONT PAGE FEATURED

Three Hartselle students named National Merit finalists  

FRONT PAGE FEATURED

Morgan chief deputy graduates from FBI National Academy

FRONT PAGE FEATURED

Hartselle students collect food for good cause 

Falkville

Falkville to hold town-wide yard sale next month

At a Glance

Danville man dies after vehicle leaves Hudson Memorial Bridge 

Editor's picks

Clif Knight, former Hartselle mayor, Enquirer writer, dies at 88

FRONT PAGE FEATURED

Hartselle Utilities reminds community April is safe digging month 

FRONT PAGE FEATURED

Teen powerhouse invited to compete in international strongman event

FRONT PAGE FEATURED

Azaleas: An Alabama beauty 

Decatur

Master Gardeners plant sale returns in April

FRONT PAGE FEATURED

Morgan leaders honored at annual banquet

FRONT PAGE FEATURED

Local students selected for 2024 Blackburn Institute Class

FRONT PAGE FEATURED

Hartselle sophomore represents Civil Air Patrol in D.C.  

Editor's picks

Hartselle council hires architect for new fire station, library and event center

At a Glance

PowerGrid Services in Hartselle evacuated for bomb threat

Morgan County

20 under 40: Trey Chowning

Falkville

20 under 40: TJ Holmes

FRONT PAGE FEATURED

20 under 40: Spencer Bell

x