Execution delayed by Gov. Holden goes forward

Thursday, August 15, 2002


BY CHERYL WITTENAUER ~ The Associated Press

POTOSI, Mo. -- A Missouri inmate sentenced to death in the 1992 contract killing of a suburban St. Louis woman was executed Wednesday night, ending his 22-hour reprieve granted when a supposed alibi witness surfaced.

Daniel Basile, 35, died at 10:05 p.m. at the Potosi Correctional Center, four minutes after the first of three lethal chemical doses was administered, Department of Corrections spokesman John Fougere said.

Basile's fate was sealed after the Missouri Supreme Court, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court and Gov. Bob Holden refused to intervene.

Basile had been scheduled to die at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday in the slaying of Elizabeth DeCaro before Holden delayed that execution after 18-year Basile acquaintance Julie Ann Montgomery-Lewis came forward for the first time, claiming she could exonerate Basile.

Holden ultimately put that execution on hold to give the courts time to review the case, marking the first time in 13 death penalty cases since he took office that he has intervened.

In ruling Wednesday evening on a Basile appeal, a three-judge 8th Circuit panel found that "Basile knew of the witness at the time of his trial," and that "we are satisfied the alibi witness' story does not constitute 'clear and convincing evidence' of actual innocence ..."

After Basile's execution, Holden said "the citizens of Missouri can rest assured that the defendant was given every opportunity to present all claims prior to the sentence being carried out."

"While delays at this late date are difficult for all concerned, particularly for the victim's family, our court system is designed to accommodate this type of situation and ensure that justice is served," Holden said in a statement.

Basile had claimed he was innocent in the 1992 shooting death of Elizabeth DeCaro, 28, of St. Charles. Basile was convicted in a murder-for-hire plot by DeCaro's husband, Richard, who had taken a $100,000 life insurance policy on his wife.

Richard DeCaro was acquitted in state court but was later convicted, along with Basile, on federal charges, and is serving a life sentence.

Basile said Montgomery-Lewis could exonerate him in the killing because she drove him to a St. Charles parking lot to pick up the DeCaros' Chevrolet Blazer. It had been alleged that Basile murdered DeCaro, then drove the Blazer from her home.

Basile said he offered Montgomery-Lewis' name to his trial attorneys, but they never pursued her.

In her statement faxed to Holden's office Tuesday night, Montgomery-Lewis said "the reason I have not come forward before now with my knowledge is because I had discussed testifying with Daniel at the time his case went to court."

"He alone decided that it would appear improper due to the fact that we were both in relationships and would not allow me to say anything to anyone," Montgomery-Lewis said.

On Wednesday, Basile said he never called upon Montgomery-Lewis to testify at trial because he was convinced he would be acquitted without her, and that "I didn't think I'd have to go in there with some big show of evidence."

"I told her to go ahead and stay out of it," Basile said.

Georgianna Van Iseghem, Elizabeth DeCaro's mother, called Montgomery-Lewis' sudden surfacing a ploy to delay the execution, saying "I feel for his family and their anguish, but I know he's guilty."

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