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Death Penalty Appeal Denied in Child Abuse Murder Case


The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected the appeal of a man sentenced to death for fatally abusing his girlfriend's 3-year-old son. Richard Stephen Fairchild was convicted of first degree murder and given a death sentence for the 1993 murder of Adam Scott Broomhall. He appealed the death penalty, claiming, among other things, that the jury was not given adequate information about a sentence of life without parole in lieu of the death penalty, and that they were wrongfully not allowed to consider lesser charges than first degree murder in the child's death.

The appeals court ruled that Fairchild did, indeed, have a fair trial, and they upheld the death sentence in his case.

The court's opinion in an appeal to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals in the late 1990s gives shocking detail about the child's death--details that led the jury to find the boy's murder "especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel" and to recommend a sentence of death.

Fairchild and the child's mother, Stacy Barnhall, had been drinking all day prior to Adam's death. They went to Stacy's mother's home and continued to drink, but when they decided to head home, the mother said both were too intoxicated to drive. She had her 17-year-old daughter drive the pair home. The teen intended to stay the night at the home of Fairchild and Barnhall, but decided to leave after Fairchild became sexually aggressive with her. She said that when she called a cab to pick her up, Fairchild grabbed a baseball bat and said that if anyone other than a cab driver came to pick her up, he would beat him.

The teen left in a cab at approximately 10:30 p.m., after checking on Adam who was asleep in his bed. Fairchild says that the boy woke up crying about 3 hours later. He admits that he punched the child in the mouth to get him to be quiet, and when that obviously didn't work, he held the child's back and chest to a heated wall heater. Needless to say, severely burning the child did nothing to alleviate his crying, and when the boy began screaming, Fairchild repeatedly hit him before throwing him against a table, knocking the child out and causing a severe head injury that would prove to be fatal.

In Fairchild v. Trammel, the appellant argued that he received ineffective assistance of counsel, saying that his attorney failed to adequately investigate the possibility of organic brain damage from Fairchild's heavy drinking, saying that his violent and explosive temper while drinking might have been attributed to brain damage from said drinking.

He also argued that the actions that led to Adam's death did not qualify as first degree child abuse murder, which by statute is "willful." Fairchild said that because of his intoxication and his explosive temper while drunk, he had no intent to harm the child, much less kill him. Instead, he was unable to realize that his violence would not stop the child's crying and was only making matters worse. He was unable to stop his rage until he realized that he might have killed the 24-pound child.

In its opinion, the court found no reversible errors, and it upheld the death penalty for Fairchild. 

Fairchild is one of dozens of Oklahoma death row inmates who filed a lethal injection lawsuit saying that the manner of execution is a violation of their constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.  

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