PHOENIX – A prison inmate serving a sentence for murder will receive the death penalty for brutally killing another prisoner in 2010. Jasper Phillip Rushing (D.O.B. 5/18/1980) was serving a sentence of life without parole for 25 years for the 2001 murder of his stepfather when he attacked and killed his cellmate, 41-year-old Shannon Palmer.
“The death penalty is a just punishment for those particular murders that qualify for the most severe penalty permitted under Arizona law,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “This defendant’s case is just such an instance and also proves that incapacitating a violent offender does not guarantee they will not offend again, including taking the life of another.”
In 2010, Jasper Rushing and Shannon Palmer were housed at the Buckley Unit of the Lewis prison complex in Buckeye. Palmer, who had prior felony offenses, was serving a 3-year sentence for criminal damage when the two men were placed in the same isolation cell. They did not know each other and had independently requested to be moved after claiming that they were being extorted by other inmates. In such cases, DOC houses inmates in isolation cells until an alternative placement can be found. On September 10, 2010, after they had been sharing the cell for about two weeks, a correctional officer went to serve them lunch around noon. Rushing told the officer that he had killed his cellmate.
Investigators later determined that Rushing had fashioned a bludgeoning device out of a soft covered book and a sheet. He had also obtained a disposable razor and wrapped cellophane around it to make a handle. As Palmer lay on the bunk in the cell, Rushing struck him in the head with the bludgeoning device, knocking out one of Palmer’s teeth, breaking his nose and causing internal bleeding of the brain. Rushing took the razor and cut Palmer’s throat. He then cut off Palmer’s penis and threw it on the floor. Palmer was still alive when Rushing told the correctional officer he had killed his cellmate. Staff at the facility attempted life saving measures, but Palmer died after about 40 minutes without regaining consciousness.
A Grand Jury indicted Rushing on November 16, 2010 on one count of first degree murder. On March 2, 2011, the State filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty, alleging as aggravating factors the defendant’s prior conviction for which a sentence of life imprisonment or death was imposable; the especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner in which the offense was committed; and the defendant’s commission of the offense while in the custody of the Arizona Department of Corrections. Rushing’s trial began on May 11, 2015 and continued for ten days. The jury deliberated for less than an hour before returning a guilty verdict. After the subsequent aggravation and penalty phases, the jury deliberated four-and-a-half hours before reaching a verdict to sentence Rushing to death.