[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----TEXAS, FLA., ARK., NEV., CALIF.

2017-08-19 Thread Rick Halperin






August 19




TEXAS:

As lethal injection lawsuit continues, Texas replenishes execution drug 
supplies




Even with a lawsuit over lethal injection drugs winding its way through court, 
Texas has managed to replenish its supply.


The last doses of the state's execution drugs, pentobarbital, were set to 
expire in January, just days before a scheduled execution. A new record 
indicates that the supply won't expire until July 2018, well past all scheduled 
executions.


It's unclear whether the state purchased more of the drug or just established a 
new expiration date, and Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason 
Clark declined to clarify.


Robert Dunham, director of the Death Penalty Information Center, wasn't 
surprised to learn of the state's renewed stock.


"While Texas has from time to time stated that it's having difficulty obtaining 
pentobarbital, it has always been able to obtain the drugs to carry out 
executions," he said. "When it's needed the drugs, Texas has always found 
them."


Since 2012, the state has used a single-drug protocol, administering a lethal 
dose of the barbiturate pentobarbital.


On Thursday, the US Food and Drug Administration told Texas and Arizona that 
over a thousand vials of drugs they ordered for executions in their states 
would not be released to them. the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the 
Arizona Department of Corrections ordered sodium thiopental from India in 2015. 
The drugs were and seized by U.S. Customs. The confiscated shipments have been 
refused because they seem to contain unapproved new drugs and misbranded drugs.


Texas came close to exhausting its supplies with executions still on the 
calendar in spring 2015. Ultimately, TDCJ managed to get more of the lethal 
drug, but Clark declined to offer details except to say that no executions in 
the Lone Star State have been delayed due a lack of execution drugs.


A records request last month showed that eight pentobarbital doses were set to 
expire in July 2017 and another 10 in January.


1 of those doses was used in the July 27 execution of Taichin Preyor, leaving 9 
that expire just after the new year.


And now, instead of 8 doses expiring on July 20, 2017, state logs list eight 
doses received that day as "return from supplier" and set to expire on July 20, 
2018.


"Given the documents supplied by TDCJ designating that these vials were 
returned to the supplier and then the reemergence of vials with a brand new 
expiration date exactly one year out, an educated guess is that they're using 
the same drugs that they previously stated already expired," said Maurie Levin, 
a Texas death penalty lawyer with experience in lethal injection litigation. 
"But because they insist on keeping this information secret, we don't know what 
they're doing."


Currently, the state is embroiled in a lawsuit over an intercepted order of 
another lethal injection drug, sodium thiopental. The powerful drug was part of 
the execution process until 2011 when dwindling supplies forced the state to 
replace it with pentobarbital as part of a 3-drug cocktail.


The following year, the state switched from a 3-drug mix to a single dose of 
pentobarbital.


But when pentobarbital suppliers started drying up, Texas started searching for 
other lethal injection drugs.


That search landed Texas in hot water when authorities at Bush Intercontinental 
Airport seized 1,000 vials of sodium thiopental en route to Hunstville from 
India-based supplier Harris Pharma.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration later said the drugs were improperly 
labeled and not approved for injection in humans, but TDCJ this year filed a 
lawsuit demanding the return of what state officials deemed an "unjustified 
seizure."


Although the detained drugs appear to have expired in May, Texas has continued 
its legal action, which also seeks to lift the FDA's ban on importation of 
sodium thiopental for law-enforcement use.


(source: Houston Chronicle)

***

Execution set for man who killed cousin



A Mexican national on death row for the rape-slaying of his 16-year-old cousin 
in the Rio Grnde Valley more than 20 years ago has received anexecution date.


Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark said the agency has 
received court documents setting the lethal injection of 47-year-old Tuben 
Ramirez Cardenas for Nov. 8.


Cardenas was convicted of the February 1997 slaying of Mayra Laguna. Her body 
was found dumped in a a canal near Edinburg, about 10 miles northeast of 
McAllen, after she was abducted from her home. Evidence showed he slipped in 
through a window, bound her with duct tape and drove her away. Evidence showed 
whe was raped, beaten and strangled.


Prison records list Cardenas as originally from Guanajuato in central Mexico.

(source: Dallas Morning News)








FLORIDAimpending execution

Sister hopeful brother's looming execution will be blockedMan who killed 2 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., N.C., GA., FLA., ARK.

2017-08-18 Thread Rick Halperin






August 18




TEXASnew execution date

Ruben Cardenas has been given an execution date for November 8; it should be 
considered serious


**

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present25

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982present-543

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #

26-Aug. 30-Steven Long544

27-Sept.7--Juan Castillo--545

28-Oct. 12-Robert Pruett--546

29-Oct. 18-Anthony Shore--547

30-Oct. 26-Clinton Young--548

31-Nov. 8--Ruben Cardenas-549

32-Nov. 16-Larry Swearingen---550

33-Jan. 30-William Rayford551

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

***

What should happen now to Paul David Storey? Nothing.



"Nothing" would mean leaving Storey, a convicted capital murderer, to live out 
the rest of his days at his current address, which is prison.


Late last week, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted Storey's execution, 
which had been scheduled to take place Wednesday. The court was motivated - 
indirectly, at least - by the pleas of the victim's parents, who do not want 
their son's killer put to death.


As I said last week in writing about this case, we cannot allow victims or 
their survivors to assess punishment for the criminals who have wronged them. 
That would be too arbitrary, too inconsistent, too emotional.


But there was wisdom in considering the statements made by Glenn and Judith 
Cherry of Fort Worth. Their adult son, Jonas, was killed during a 2006 holdup 
at the Tarrant County business he managed.


Storey and an accomplice eventually confessed to the murder. The accomplice 
accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to life in prison. Storey went to trial 
and was sentenced to death.


"As a result of Jonas' death, we do not want to see another family having to 
suffer through losing a child and family member," said the statement the couple 
recently forwarded to state criminal justice authorities.


The appellate court wants the trial court to determine whether jurors in 
Storey's 2008 trial, and subsequent appeals lawyers assigned to his case, were 
aware of the Cherrys' opposition to Storey's execution.


Appeals lawyers for Storey claim Tarrant County prosecutors told jurors that it 
"went without saying" that the victim's family considered a death sentence 
appropriate.


The case is further complicated by a juror, who now says he would not have 
sided with his fellow jury members in voting for death in the case had he known 
their sentiments.


These are all challenging issues, complicated by emotion as much as by legal 
procedure and the passage of time.


But the very central role that emotion plays in every death penalty case makes 
a dispassionate argument against executing capital offenders.


I have no love for Paul Storey, no sentimental indulgence for his grandiose 
jailhouse dreams of becoming a poet or novelist, no sympathetic ear for 
besotted activists who try to recast stone killers as tragic victims of a cruel 
system.


Justice, by definition, needs to be guided by fact and by law, not by emotion. 
But when we move into the painfully conflicted territory of capital punishment, 
emotion is all we have - on all sides.


And as fervently as death penalty supporters deride its opponents as "bleeding 
hearts," they're operating on an emotional basis themselves. It's 
understandable that many of us might want to assess the most severe punishment 
imaginable on those who commit the most heinous and unforgivable crimes.


But from a pure policy standpoint, the death penalty is expensive - unavoidably 
so, given the constitutional guarantees to which inmates are entitled. It's 
also irreversible, unevenly assessed and arbitrarily applied.


Admitting as much does not make us suckers and rubes. It highlights the 
practical reality that society is as just as well protected by sentencing our 
worst criminals to life without the possibility of parole as it is by killing 
them. Should appeals lawyers succeed on Storey's behalf, he could be entitled 
to a new trial on punishment only. His guilt would remain unchanged.


Prosecutors might conceivably save everyone a great deal of time, expense and 
painful emotion by choosing not to retry this and leave Storey where he is, 
where he belongs, where the grief this case has already caused can be 
contained: permanent incarceration.


The death penalty still enjoys considerable public popularity, which I 
understand. Nothing will cure a bleeding heart like sitting through a few 
murder trials. The cruelty inflicted and the grief victims endure can harden 
even the most sympathetic onlookers.


But capital punishment is too fraught with problems, too controversial, and in 
the 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, N.J., PENN., N.C., ALA.

2017-08-17 Thread Rick Halperin






Aug. 17



TEXAS:

'Shoot me in the head': Defense attorneys claim mental illness was reason 
Laredo man killed wife




A man standing trial for slaying his 23-year-old wife asked responding officers 
to shoot him in the head and told family members he should be given the death 
penalty before being taken into custody, according to testimony heard Tuesday 
in the 111th District Court.


Alberto Espinoza's attorneys are not disputing that he fatally slashed the 
throat of his wife, Yolanda Martinez-Perez, on July 22, 2014. However, they are 
asking the jury to find Espinoza not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.


"He was paranoid, he was delusional and he was hearing voices," Joaquin Amaya, 
Espinoza's attorney, said.


While insanity defenses are rare, Amaya is arguing his client was not 
responsible for his actions due to a psychiatric disease when he attacked his 
wife with a knife in their home in 2014.


Espinoza wasn't previously competent to stand trial, according to Amaya, who 
said his client had to be sent to a state hospital so he could know what was 
going on.


Amaya said the jury will hear from 3 experts who will say Espinoza suffers from 
"severe mental illness" and would not have committed the offense if it wasn't 
for his illness.


During opening statements, assistant district attorney Julia Rubio asked the 
jury to return a guilty verdict, saying the prosecution will show evidence to 
prove Espinoza is criminally responsible for his wife's death.


"A troubled relationship, stress and rage, that is what this case is about," 
Rubio said.


The prosecution rested its case at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday after calling first 
responders, police investigators, medical personnel and family members of 
Espinoza to the stand to provide insight into what occurred in the weeks before 
and after Martinez-Perez's death.


The day of the homicide, Espinoza allegedly heard a voice tell him that his 
wife, whom he had been estranged from for about 6 months, was cheating on him 
and betraying him.


Espinoza told police investigators he heard a voice tell him that 
Martinez-Perez intended to kill him by poisoning potatoes being cooked for 
breakfast.


Using photographs taken of the crime scene, Espinoza's defense counsel noted a 
bottle of bleach on the kitchen sink and a container of ant killer seen in a 
lower cabinet near Martinez-Perez's body.


In a recorded interview played for the jury, Espinoza said he "smashed (the 
knife) against her on her throat" when Martinez-Perez was standing up from 
bending down by the oven to pick up a pan.


The prosecution said Espinoza approached Martinez-Perez with a knife he had 
sharpened and slashed her throat in one swift movement, cutting through every 
part of her neck except the bone.


Later in the interview, Espinoza said that after the incident, "I didn't feel 
rage. I didn't feel anything anymore. I just felt love for my daughters."


His daughters, ages 3 and 6 at the time, were in another room inside the 
residence at the time of the slaying. After Martinez-Perez's death, Espinoza 
collected a photo of his wife and took it to the girls so they would have 
something to remember her by.


Investigators found the photo lying on the bed, where Espinoza allegedly told 
his daughters to lay down. The girls were found crying and clinging to each 
other by a responding officer, according to testimony heard Tuesday.


LPD Officer Juan Lorenzo Villarreal said he responded to the 4500 block of 
Corrada Avenue after Espinoza's relatives called police, concerned about 
Espinoza's welfare.


Espinoza had called a relative, telling her that he had done something bad.

Villarreal discussed seeing Espinoza, with blood on his shirt, pants and 
sandals, answer the door.


"The first thing he told me (was) 'I did something very bad. I want to kill 
myself. I want you to kill me,'" Villarreal said. Another officer, Mauricio 
Ivan Chaires, recalled Espinoza telling him, "shoot me, shoot me in the head."


Alleged voices

Lorena Espinoza and her husband, Jesus Eduardo Garay, said they arrived at the 
scene as Espinoza was being taken to a patrol car.


Garay said he approached the vehicle and asked Espinoza where his wife was. In 
response, Espinoza gestured while smiling, moving his hand across his throat, 
according to Garay.


While Garay said he had heard Espinoza was hearing a voice and didn't trust 
anyone, he said Espinoza seemed "normal" and did not appear sick when working 
with Garay at a restaurant.


Lorena Espinoza, the defendant's cousin, testified about a conversation that 
occurred between Alberto Espinoza and some of his extended relatives a few days 
before his wife's death.


"That day, he sat us down to talk to us. He looked very upset and he told us 
that 'he' - we don't know who he was referring to - would tell him things," 
Lorena Espinoza said.


That same day, Alberto Espinoza had been released from the hospital after 
seeking treatment. It was 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., ALA.

2017-08-13 Thread Rick Halperin





August 13




TEXASnew execution date

Judge sets death date for Montgomery County killer



Death row inmate Larry Swearingen, a Willis man who raped a 19-year-old coed 
before strangling her with panty hose nearly 2 decades ago, is now set to die 
on Nov. 16.


After 7 thwarted attempts, Montgomery County has finally succeeded in setting 
yet another execution date for its only death row convict, a Willis man who 
raped a 19-year-old coed before strangling her with panty hose nearly 2 decades 
ago.


Larry Swearingen, convicted of killing Montgomery College student Melissa 
Trotter in 1998 and dumping her body in the Sam Houston National Forest, is 
slated to meet his fate in Huntsville's death chamber on Nov. 16, a judge ruled 
late Wednesday.


"It still won't bring back Melissa," her mother, Sandy Trotter said in July.

"There are no winners in this because we still don't have Melissa."

Victim advocate Andy Kahan said it's been a "painstaking" wait for the Trotter 
family.


"Even when you finally believe that you're going to achieve justice, until it 
actually happens you're questioning whether the actual execution will take 
place or not," he said.


And in Swearingen's case, those questions are particularly well placed.

This is the state's 8th effort to get Swearingen's execution on the calendar. 
At least 4 times, similar requests yielded a death date, but every time the 
Court of Criminal Appeals stayed the execution.


But it is those repeated bids for testing that have become the hallmark of 
Swearingen's legal case. For years, his lawyers have insisted that crime scene 
DNA taken from evidence near Trotter's body could hold the keys to prove his 
innocence. But prosecutors - and higher courts - have deemed such testing 
unnecessary.


At least twice, a trial court judge sided with Swearingen's testing requests - 
but each time the state slapped down the lower court's grant, ruling that new 
DNA wouldn't be enough to counter the "mountain of evidence" pointing to 
Swearingen's guilt.


Swearingen and Trotter were seen in the college's library together on Dec. 8, 
1998 - the day of the teen's disappearance. Afterward, a biology teacher 
spotted Trotter leaving the school with a man. Hair and fiber evidence later 
showed that she'd been in Swearingen's car and home the day she vanished.


The killer's wife testified that she came home that evening to find the place 
in disarray - and in the middle of it all were Trotter's lighter and 
cigarettes. Swearingen later filed a false burglary report, claiming his home 
had been broken into while he was out of town.


That afternoon, Swearingen placed a call routed through a cell tower near FM 
1097 in Willis - a spot he would have passed while heading from his house to 
the Sam Houston National Forest where Trotter's decomposing body was found 25 
days later.


"A too trusting 19-year-old in the wrong place at the wrong time," Sandy 
Trotter said, recalling her daughter's death. "It's just every parent's 
nightmare."


Swearingen was convicted and sentenced to death in 2000. He went on to file 
what prosecutors described as "an abundance of habeas corpus applications, pro 
se motions, mandamus petitions, civil-right actions, and amended pleadings in 
both state and federal courts."


The state's Court of Criminal Appeals rejected all 7 of Swearingen's habeas 
appeals, and in July a federal district court slapped down a civil suit seeking 
to win the convicted killer more DNA testing.


Through it all, Swearingen maintained his innocence.

"The way I look at it, I'm a POW of Texas," the former electrician has told the 
media. "It's my army against their army."


Even though his bids for more testing ultimately didn't pan out, Swearingen's 
DNA complaints sparked charges in state law in 2015. That year, lawmakers 
expanded access to testing by removing the requirement that the accused prove 
biological material - like saliva, sweat or skin cells - exists before testing 
evidence for it.


But no amount of DNA evidence would be enough to exonerate the convicted 
killer, prosecutors say.


Visiting Judge J.D. Langley greenlit Wednesday's decision in the 9th state 
District Court after Judge Phil Grant recused himself from the case in June 
2016 given his prior involvement as a prosecutor during his time in the 
District Attorney's office.


"It appears there is no necessity for an evidentiary hearing related to any 
issue raised in either the motion or the response," Langley wrote.


"The court can find no reason to further delay the imposition of the sentence."

Even at this late date in legal saga, Montgomery County prosecutor Bill Delmore 
still anticipates pushback from Swearingen's attorneys.


"I would say I'm cautiously optimistic that if there's an execution date we 
might finally see the culmination of this case," he said. "But I fully expect 
the attorneys for Swearingen to request another stay and they've been very 
tenacious in the 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., OHIO, UTAH, ARIZ.

2017-07-30 Thread Rick Halperin




July 30




TEXAS:

Book details history of hangings in Texas -- Brazos County included



Before lethal injections and electric chairs, the preferred method of 
death-penalty execution in Texas was hanging, conducted by local sheriffs at 
their county jails, not at prison facilities.


Such is the subject of a new book, Death on the Gallows: The Encyclopedia of 
Legal Hangings in Texas, by West Gilbreath, captain of the criminal 
investigation division at the University of North Texas Police Department. 
Gilbreath, who published a similar book in 2002 about New Mexico's legal 
hangings, said he decided to compile the executions for a book so future 
historians could have a more reliable source of information than the internet.


"I was trying to come up with a better resource for researchers and 
historians," Gilbreath, adding that the book is for anyone who is interested in 
true crime or Old West or Texas histories and wants to read eyewitness accounts 
of the men and women who stood on the gallows or their last words spoken to the 
crowd before they were hanged.


Gilbreath's book details 467 legal executions conducted between 1834 and 1923, 
the year Texas authorized the use of the electric chair for executions 
conducted by the state in Huntsville; of those, he found 2 in Brazos County.


Authorities executed the `st man, Ezekiel Bradley, on May 2, 1879. In 
Gilbreath's recounting, Bradley had been drinking and gambling on Christmas Day 
in 1878 before going with his friend Shep Wilson to a Steele's store, about 15 
miles west of Bryan, to buy more whiskey. At the shop, Wilson began arguing 
with a man named Buck Pollock, who eventually struck Wilson in the face. Drunk, 
Bradley rushed to help his friend, pulling out a concealed pistol and shooting 
Pollock in the mouth, killing him.


According to a story published in the Galveston Daily News on May 3, 1879, 
Bradley told the paper on the day before his execution that he had "been a 
drinking and quarrelsome boy all my life," and that he greatly regretted having 
killed Pollock.


"I have lain down and wept at the thought of having killed a man who never done 
me harm or injury, and whom I had not known," Bradley told the reporter.


Gilbreath said that between 4,000 and 6,000 people came to Bryan -- far more 
than lived there at the time -- to see Bradley's execution on May 2.


"The entertainment value of an execution was a big deal," said Bill Page, 
library associate II at Texas A University's Evans Library.


The same Galveston Daily News story notes that a doctor offered up prayers 
before Bradley's execution. After praying, "the sheriff pulled the drop and the 
prisoner was launched into eternity." The 6-foot fall dislocated his neck, and 
he struggled for 5 minutes before the doctor pronounced him dead almost 12 
minutes after his hanging began.


Gilbreath said the 2nd man executed in Brazos County, Bob Ballard, died in a 
more private setting on Nov. 22, 1901, a year after the law changed, requiring 
sheriffs' to take precautions to make executions as private as possible.


Public sentiment, Gilbreath said, had changed to thinking that executions 
"shouldn't be a carnival or public spectacle."


Gilbreath said Ballard shot two men Nov. 7, 1900, a little more than a year 
before he would be executed.


An article in The Eagle published on Nov. 8, 1900, states that Ballard shot "2 
Bohemians at Smetana yesterday." One man, Jacob Shramek, a postmaster, survived 
after being shot in the chest, but Joe Blazek, shot "in the lower part of his 
body," died.


"The tragedy," The Eagle reported the next day, "caused bitter feelings among 
the Bohemians and there were some indications that violence might possibly be 
resorted to."


The sheriff at the time, fearing a violent mob, took Ballard to another jail in 
Houston, according to the a story published on Nov. 16, 1900, in the Houston 
Daily Post.


Page said Ballard had been "denied due process" and received an unjust death 
sentence.


"Officials didn't want a lynching on their hands, so they arranged to have him 
found guilty and sentenced to death," Page said of the jury's verdict, which 
originally was for life imprisonment but changed after the judge and district 
attorney indicated the ruling had to be the death penalty.


Page sent a document to The Eagle in which he wrote Ballard had been 
"essentially lynched under a veneer of law."


Page said that some immigrant whites new to the U.S. participated in lynchings 
to "establish their own whiteness," and that Ballard's stepfather had been a 
county commissioner, so it's possible the whites who lived in his precinct 
resented him for being a successful, powerful black man.


Gilbreath said he's still finding new hangings he'd missed before publishing 
his book. Currently, he's reviewing around 20, which he may publish in a second 
volume or a revised edition of his book.


One such case is Frank Hammond, executed on May 21, 1875. An 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., OHIO, TENN., OKLA., NEB., UTAH, NEV., USA

2017-07-29 Thread Rick Halperin






July 29



TEXAS:

Death Row Sentencing In Texas Has Significantly DecreasedTexas carried out 
its 5th execution of the year Thursday night, but overall executions are 
dwindling, and that trend is likely to continue.




Last year, Texas executed 7 inmates on death row.

That was the lowest number in the past 20 years.

Kristin Houle suggests that the state will keep following that trend.

She is with the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

"Well, Texas like the rest of the United States has been experiencing a steady 
decline in use of the death penalty," Houle says.


This decline can be attributed, in part to sentencing.

Houle says there is a big difference from 1999 when Texas peaked at sentencing 
48 people to death row and only sentencing 3 in the past 2 years.


She says what's led to the decrease in sentencing is cases being put on hold 
and advancements in forensic science.


"Where the science that was presented at the original trial has been called 
into question or even debunked," Houle says.


Although, executions are decreasing in the U.S., she says Texas continues to 
account for about 1/3 of them.


"This year so far Texas has carried out five of the 16 executions nationwide," 
Houle says.


In the state, there are 5 more executions scheduled for this year.

(source: houstonpublicmedia.org)








FLORIDA:

Woman charged in Jupiter homicide to see psychiatric test results



Prosecutors agreed Friday to give notes and test results from a state-order 
psychiatric evaluation to lawyers for Kimberly Lucas, the Jupiter woman charged 
with the 2014 drowning of her 2-year-old daughter and attempted murder of her 
then-10-year-old son.


That agreement regarding Dr. Wade Myers' evaluation of Lucas comes less than 2 
months before the long awaited death-penalty case is scheduled to go to trial 
in front of Judge Charles Burton.


Confusion surrounding Florida's death penalty law had stalled Lucas' case from 
moving forward. That trial now is slated to begin Sept. 14.


Lucas, 43, was not present for the brief hearing Friday. She has been in 
custody since her arrest May 27, 2014, on murder charges to which she has since 
pleaded not guilty.


Jupiter police say Lucas drowned her 2-year-old daughter, Elliana 
Lucas-Jamason, May 26, 2014, in a bathtub and attempted to kill her son, Ethan, 
and herself by overdosing on Xanax.


Lucas' suicide note blamed her actions on Jacquelyn Jamason, her then-separated 
partner and the biological mother to Elliana and Ethan. On that day, Ethan, 
then 10, woke up drowsy from the drugs, found his sister unresponsive in the 
bathtub and called 911.


Lucas and Jamason, the children's biological mother, had been together for more 
than 20 years and joined together in a 2001 civil union, but were estranged at 
the time of the killing. Jamason has said that Lucas suffered from 
complications from gastric bypass surgery and had subsequently developed a 
prescription drug problem that contributed to their split.


Lucas' attorneys plan to pursue an insanity defense, arguing that she suffers 
from dissociative identity disorder - formerly known as multiple personality 
disorder - and that one of her alternate personalities committed the crimes.


Her attorneys wrote in a 2015 pleading: "The defendant was receiving mental 
health-care treatment long before, as well as the time of, the events which 
resulted in her arrest."


Jamason is anxious for the case to go to trial.

"I think that once trial is over, Ethan and I can finally have more peace, and 
not put it behind us, but look to the future," Jamason told The Post in May.


(source: Palm Beach Post)

*

Judge rejects challenge to new execution drugs



A death row inmate scheduled to be executed next month failed in a bid to get a 
Jacksonville judge to delay his execution because of the state's new 
triple-drug lethal injection protocol.


Duval County Circuit Court Judge Tatiana Salvador on Friday rejected a request 
from Mark James Asay to put a hold on an Aug. 24 execution date scheduled by 
Gov. Rick Scott.


Asay's appeal included a challenge to a new lethal injection protocol --- which 
includes a drug never used before for executions in Florida, or in any other 
state --- adopted by the Florida Department of Corrections earlier this year. 
In its new protocol, Florida is substituting etomidate for midazolam as the 
critical first drug, used to sedate prisoners before injecting them with a 
paralytic and then a drug used to stop prisoners' hearts.


In a 30-page order issued Friday, Salvador ruled that Asay failed to prove that 
the new three-drug protocol is unconstitutional. Etomidate, also known by the 
brand name "Amidate," is a short-acting anesthetic that renders patients 
unconscious.


20 % of people experience mild to moderate pain after being injected with the 
drug, but only for "tens of seconds" at the longest, the judge noted. 
"Defendant has only 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., ALA., OHIO, MO., NEV., USA

2017-07-28 Thread Rick Halperin






July 28




TEXASexecution

S.A. man executed after Supreme Court rejects bid for stay



A San Antonio man was executed Thursday night for killing a woman in 2004 after 
a last-minute request for a stay to the Supreme Court was rejected.


TaiChin Preyor, 46, had been on death row for 13 years after a Bexar County 
jury convicted him of killing Jami Tackett, 24, in a drug-related attack.


Preyor was pronounced dead at 9:22 p.m., about 20 minutes after a lethal dose 
of Pentobarbital was sent through the veins of both of his arms.


In a brief final statement, Preyor said, "First and foremost, I'd like to say, 
'Justice has never advanced by taking a human life,' by Coretta Scott King. 
Lastly, to my wife and to my kids, I love y'all forever and always. That's it."


Neither Preyor's nor Tackett's relatives were present for the execution, just 4 
journalists and some corrections officers.


Preyor is the 5th inmate to be executed in Texas this year, and the 16th 
nationally, according to data provided by the Texas Department of Criminal 
Justice.


Earlier Thursday, Cate Stetson, an attorney representing Preyor said via email 
that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied an appeal and stay for her 
client, just hours before he was to be executed.


Preyor's lawyers had argued that his appeals should be reviewed more fairly 
because poor legal representation had tainted his case.


After that bid was rejected, Stetson then filed a petition seeking a stay from 
the nation's highest court. That request to Justice Samuel Alito was denied 
some time after 8 p.m.


On Feb. 26, 2004, Preyor said he went to Tackett's Southeast Side apartment to 
buy drugs and that he defended himself when attacked by Tackett and her friend, 
Jason Garza, 20. Preyor told police he "poked" Tackett with a knife to defend 
himself.


Preyor was arrested in the parking lot of the Grove Park Apartments in the 2500 
block of Goliad Road near Interstate 37 South after he returned to the scene to 
look for his car keys, according to court documents. He had been covered in 
Tackett's blood.


Tackett, whose throat was slashed, was found when her neighbors heard her 
screams.


Prosecutors told the Bexar County jury that heard the case that Tackett also 
suffered defensive wounds to her hand and forearm and had cuts on her face and 
abdomen.


Defense attorneys argued that Preyor went to Tackett's house to buy drugs from 
her and that she and Garza attacked Preyor when he arrived, and intended to rob 
him. He told police that he pulled a knife and "poked" Tackett with the weapon 
in an attempt to defend himself.


Witnesses testified during the trial that Tackett's throat and windpipe were 
severed, and that she bled to death in her apartment. Neighbors heard the 
screams, and Garza, who was wounded in the attack, managed to escape and call 
911. Preyor left the scene. He was arrested when he returned to get his keys.


(source: Houston Chronicle)

**

Texas executes man who claimed his lawyers committed fraudTexas carried out 
its 5th execution of the year Thursday evening, putting to death TaiChin Preyor 
in the 2004 murder of a San Antonio woman.




After more than 12 years on death row, a San Antonio man convicted in a fatal 
stabbing was executed Thursday night. It was Texas' 5th execution of the year.


TaiChin Preyor, 46, had filed a flurry of appeals in the weeks leading up to 
his execution date, claiming his trial lawyer never looked into evidence of an 
abusive childhood and his previous appellate counsel - a disbarred attorney 
paired with a real estate and probate lawyer who relied on Wikipedia in her 
legal research - committed fraud on the court.


But he lost all of the appeals, with the U.S. Supreme Court issuing a final 
ruling in the case more than 2 hours after his execution was originally set to 
begin. At 9:03 p.m., he was injected with a lethal dose of pentobarbital in 
Texas' death chamber and pronounced dead 19 minutes later, according to the 
Texas Department of Criminal Justice.


In his final words, he mentioned his love for his wife and kids and cited a 
Coretta Scott King quote, saying, "Justice has never advanced by taking a 
life," according to TDCJ.


Preyor was accused of breaking into 20-year-old Jami Tackett's apartment in 
February 2004 and stabbing her to death. He was found at the scene by police 
covered in her blood. Preyor claimed the killing was done in self-defense after 
a drug deal gone bad, but the jury was unconvinced. He was convicted and 
sentenced to death in March 2005.


No witnesses for Preyor or Tackett attended the execution, according to TDCJ 
spokesman Robert Hurst.


During his latest appeals, Preyor's attorneys argued that his trial lawyer, 
Michael Gross, was inadequate because he didn't present evidence of a 
physically and sexually abusive childhood that could have swayed a jury to hand 
down the alternate sentence of life in prison.


"[The 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS

2017-07-27 Thread Rick Halperin





CORRECTIONthe execution of Taichin Preyor in Texas is the 543rd for the 
state since 1982.not the 544th as originally reported in the story below





July 27




TEXASexecution

Texas puts prisoner to death for killing woman in 2004 after breaking into her 
apartment



A Texas prisoner has been executed for killing a San Antonio woman after 
breaking into her apartment more than 13 years ago.


46--year-old TaiChin Preyor was put to death Thursday evening after his 
attorneys failed to convince courts that he had deficient legal help during 
earlier stages of his appeals and that he deserved a reprieve so his case could 
be reviewed more fairly.


After the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his final appeal, he was taken to the 
death chamber in Huntsville, Texas, for lethal injection.


Preyor was convicted in the February 2004 slaying of 24-year-old Jami Tackett, 
who court records identified as Preyor's drug supplier. She was stabbed and her 
throat was cut.


Preyor becomes the 5th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
Texas and the 544th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on 
December 7, 1982.


Preyor becomes the 16th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the 
USA and the 1458th overall since the nation resumed executions on

January 17, 1977.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)








Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present25

Executions in Texas:  Dec. 7, 1982present-544

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #





26-Aug. 30-Steven Long544

27-Sept.7--Juan Castillo--545

28-Oct. 12-Robert Pruett--546

29-Oct. 18-Anthony Shore--547

30-Oct. 26-Clinton Young--548

31-Jan. 30-William Rayford549

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

___
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu

DeathPenalty mailing list
DeathPenalty@lists.washlaw.edu
http://lists.washlaw.edu/mailman/listinfo/deathpenalty
Unsubscribe: http://lists.washlaw.edu/mailman/options/deathpenalty


[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS

2017-07-27 Thread Rick Halperin








July 27




TEXASexecution

Texas puts prisoner to death for killing woman in 2004 after breaking into her 
apartment



A Texas prisoner has been executed for killing a San Antonio woman after 
breaking into her apartment more than 13 years ago.


46-year-old TaiChin Preyor was put to death Thursday evening after his 
attorneys failed to convince courts that he had deficient legal help during 
earlier stages of his appeals and that he deserved a reprieve so his case could 
be reviewed more fairly.


After the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his final appeal, he was taken to the 
death chamber in Huntsville, Texas, for lethal injection.


Preyor was convicted in the February 2004 slaying of 24-year-old Jami Tackett, 
who court records identified as Preyor's drug supplier. She was stabbed and her 
throat was cut.


Preyor becomes the 5th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
Texas and the 544th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on 
December 7, 1982.


Preyor becomes the 16th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the 
USA and the 1458th overall since the nation resumed executions on

January 17, 1977.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)








Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present25

Executions in Texas:  Dec. 7, 1982present-544

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #





26-Aug. 30-Steven Long545

27-Sept.7--Juan Castillo--546

28-Oct. 12-Robert Pruett--547

29-Oct. 18-Anthony Shore--548

30-Oct. 26-Clinton Young--549

31-Jan. 30-William Rayford550

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

___
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu

DeathPenalty mailing list
DeathPenalty@lists.washlaw.edu
http://lists.washlaw.edu/mailman/listinfo/deathpenalty
Unsubscribe: http://lists.washlaw.edu/mailman/options/deathpenalty


[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS

2017-07-27 Thread Rick Halperin





July 27



TEXASimpending execution

Appeals court refuses to halt Texas execution


A federal appeals court Thursday refused to block the scheduled execution of a 
Texas prisoner who killed a San Antonio woman more than 13 years ago.


The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an appeal from lawyers for 
46-year-old TaiChin Preyor.


The attorneys contend he received deficient legal help during earlier stages of 
his appeals and he deserves a reprieve so his appeals can be reviewed more 
fairly.


They argue an inexperienced California attorney who handled earlier federal 
appeals in his case was "utterly unqualified" and that her use of a disbarred 
lawyer for guidance perpetrated a fraud on the courts.


His lawyers say they'll now take their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Preyor would be the fifth Texas inmate put to death this year and the 16th 
nationally if his lethal injection is carried out Thursday evening.


He was convicted of breaking into the San Antonio apartment of 24-year-old Jami 
Tackett in February 2004 and fatally slashing her.


Court documents show she was his drug supplier.

(source: Associated Press)
___
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu

DeathPenalty mailing list
DeathPenalty@lists.washlaw.edu
http://lists.washlaw.edu/mailman/listinfo/deathpenalty
Unsubscribe: http://lists.washlaw.edu/mailman/options/deathpenalty


[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS

2017-07-27 Thread Rick Halperin





July 27



TEXASimpending execution

Killer of San Antonio Woman Set for Execution ThursdayAttorneys for a 
46-year-old Texas death row inmate convicted of fatally slashing a woman in her 
San Antonio apartment are trying to halt his execution.




A man dressed in black and wearing a hood and gloves kicked in the door of a 
San Antonio apartment where his drug supplier lived, attacked 2 people inside 
with a knife and fled, only to return because he dropped his car keys in the 
struggle.


By the time Taichin Preyor tried to flee a 2nd time, police had arrived and 
arrested him covered with the blood of his victims. He later said he was acting 
in self-defense when he stabbed and slit the throat of 24-year-old Jami Tackett 
and wounded her boyfriend.


The 46-year-old Preyor was set for lethal injection Thursday evening in 
Tackett's killing more than 13 years ago. It would be the 5th Texas execution 
this year and the 16th nationally.


Preyor's attorneys hoping to halt his execution argued in appeals that his 
previous trial and appeals lawyers "failed him at every turn" and that he 
deserves a reprieve so he can get a more fair appeals review. They say an 
inexperienced attorney from California with little knowledge of Texas law took 
on his appeal and relied on a disbarred attorney for assistance. His trial 
attorneys were deficient for not uncovering evidence and telling jurors of 
Preyor's traumatic and abusive childhood, his lawyers argued.


State attorneys said the late appeals were legally improper and that it was 
Preyor's decision to stay with the inexperienced lawyer. Also, the name of the 
disbarred lawyer never appears on any court documents in his case and he wasn't 
precluded from assisting Preyor's lawyer even if he was disbarred, the Texas 
attorney general's office said. His trial attorney handling punishment during 
the trial disputed the claim of a cursory investigation, saying Preyor's 
friends and relatives never shared evidence of childhood abuse.


The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 6-0 Tuesday against recommending 
clemency for Preyor and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused to stop the 
punishment. Preyor's lawyers took their case to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of 
Appeals after a federal judge in San Antonio also declined to halt the 
execution.


Testimony at Preyor's trial showed Tackett recognized Preyor on Feb. 26, 2004, 
when he barged into a bedroom, calling him by his nickname "Box." He attacked 
her boyfriend, who escaped to a neighbor's apartment and called for help. 
Evidence showed Preyor, also a drug seller and user since adolescence, then 
stabbed Tackett and cut her throat.


Tackett died before paramedics arrived but was able to tell police "the guy who 
ran from the apartment did this," John Economidy, Preyor's lead defense 
attorney, recalled this week.


"He is caught at the scene, and the dying declaration did not help us a whole 
lot," Economidy said.


Preyor, in the 2nd of 2 statements to San Antonio police, said Tackett and her 
boyfriend attacked him and that he "poked" at Tackett with a knife to protect 
himself.


"I felt like I was a victim," he said. "I was the one being robbed, and I 
defended myself."


A Bexar County jury decided he should die.

(source: Associated Press)

***

Lawyers Say Death Row Inmate's String of Awful Attorneys Should Halt Thursday 
Execution




On the eve of TaiChen Preyor's scheduled execution date, his lawyers are 
scrambling to make requests for more time to change his death sentence to one 
of life-long imprisonment or, at least, to fully investigate his case.


His lawyers claim that Preyor's previous counsel was under-qualified and held 
back crucial information about his past, which they say could have affected the 
outcome of his trial and several appeals. The new team of lawyers have made 
requests to Texas' highest criminal court for more time to fully investigate, 
but it rejected the pleas saying Preyor's previous lawyer "competently 
represented" him. The lawyers have filed a request to the Fifth Circuit Court 
of Appeals and are waiting for its ruling, which is expected this morning.


Preyor was convicted for killing a 20-year-old San Antonio woman in 2004, and 
has been on death row for 12 years. The lawyers are not contesting the murder 
charge, but they're hoping to change the execution date in order to give them 
more time to do a deeper investigation, claiming Preyor's 2 previous lawyers 
weren't up to the task.


Their biggest issue? Preyor's main legal consultant, Phillip Jefferson, was a 
lawyer who was disbarred for "gross misconduct" and "indifference to the 
interests of his clients." Preyor's family alleged that Jefferson claimed he 
was retired and would need an active lawyer to file all of the official 
paperwork. That lawyer was Brandy Estelle, a California lawyer who works 
primarily in real estate law and probate. According to Preyor, Estelle 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., OHIO, TENN., ARIZ.

2017-07-26 Thread Rick Halperin





July 26



TEXAS:

Death row inmate Scott Panetti to get further competency review



Scott Panetti, 59, remains on death row in Huntsville, convicted of killing a 
Fredericksburg couple in 1992.


"It's still so fresh in my mind, " said Rowena Alvarado. Alvarado's parents, 
Joe and Amanda Alvarado, were shot and killed by Panetti.


Panetti was the couple's son-in-law, and married to Rowena's sister. "We never 
saw it in him."


Panetti has already been sentenced to death and has been granted stays of 
execution.


From the very beginning, Panetti's case has been about mental illness. 
Panetti's attorneys claim he's suffered from severe mental illness for nearly 4 
decades and that he's also a paranoid schizophrenic.


Panetti represented himself during his 1995 trial, he also dressed up as a 
western TV cowboy and tried to subpoena the Pope, John F. Kennedy, and Jesus 
Christ.


"We had no idea, nor did he have any episodes. He was just a normal guy," 
Alvarado went on to say.


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has now returned Panetti's case 
to the federal district court in Texas to further review Panetti's competency.


"The taxpayers have been paying for this for many years, and that is just not 
fair for us," added Alvarado.


While Alvarado says she has forgiven Panetti.

"I'm kinda in between because I do feel that the death penalty would be too 
good for him," she said.


Panetti's legal team issued the following statement:

"We are grateful that the court found that Mr. Panetti's nearly 4 decades of 
documented schizophrenia and severe mental illness provided a sufficient 
showing to obtain experts and resources to pursue the claim that he is 
currently incompetent for execution. And we are grateful to the Texas Defender 
Service for their support, which allowed us to obtain a stay and to litigate on 
behalf of Mr. Panetti in the Fifth Circuit. Mr. Panetti has not been evaluated 
by any mental health experts since 2007 and his severe mental illness has only 
worsened while in prison. We are confident that when the lower court is 
presented with all the evidence, it will find that Mr. Panetti, a schizophrenic 
man who insisted on representing himself at trial and attempted to subpoena the 
Pope, John F. Kennedy, and Jesus Christ, is not now competent for execution. 
Ultimately, commuting Mr. Panetti's sentence to life in prison without parole 
would keep the public safe and affirm our shared beliefs in a humane and moral 
justice system."


(source: foxsanantonio.com)








FLORIDA:

'NICOLE WAS LEFT TO DIE': Prosecutors call 1st witnesses in Sean Bush death 
penalty trial




Jurors heard the 1st day of testimony Monday as prosecutors began laying out 
their case against Sean Alonzo Bush, who is facing the death penalty should he 
be convicted of 1st-degree murder in the death of his estranged wife Nicole 
Bush.


During her opening statement in Circuit Judge Howard Maltz's St. Johns County 
courtroom, Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Dunton told the all-white jury 
that Nicole Bush was shot 5 times in the face, stabbed, and beaten with an 
aluminum baseball bat in the early morning hours of May 31, 2011, in her 
Julington Creek townhome.


"Nicole was left to die, but she didn't die right away," Dunton said.

Instead, she explained, the mother of 2 managed to get a phone call out to a 
friend who, in-turn, called another friend who called 911 and travelled to the 
home to see what was the matter.


Jurors heard from both of those friends Monday morning as well as the 1st 
responding deputy and a paramedic who was at the scene. The 1st friend, Tracie 
Walker, testified that she only heard Nicole Bush whisper "help" into the phone 
when she answered a call around 6 a.m. When the call went silent, Walker called 
another friend, Lenora Jerry, who said that she called Nicole Bush who answered 
but was "whispering" like "she was struggling to speak."


Jerry said her friend told her, "Send help, I can't make it to the door."

A deputy, she said, arrived at the home shortly after she made it to Julington 
Creek.


That deputy, Graham Harris, told jurors that he found Nicole Bush lying in a 
pool of a blood in the doorway to her bedroom. She was wearing only a bra and a 
pair of ripped underwear.


Lieutenant Michelle Grant with St. Johns County Fire Rescue, who was a 
paramedic at the time, described some of the efforts to save the woman and the 
wounds that were apparent at the scene.


Grant said Nicole Bush had at least 1 exit wound from a gunshot on top of her 
head and was suffering from a good deal of swelling. She said she appeared 
"like her head was dipped in blood."


Grant and Harris both testified that Nicole Bush was speaking somewhat when 
they began rendering aid but she could not identify who attacked her.


Nicole Bush died later that day after being flown to a Jacksonville hospital.

Through the testimony of St. Johns County Sheriff's Office crime scene 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, OHIO

2017-07-25 Thread Rick Halperin




July 25



TEXASimpending execution

Texas death row inmate facing execution this week loses appeals


Texas' highest criminal court and a federal judge have refused to stop this 
week's scheduled execution of the convicted killer of a woman in San Antonio in 
2004.


Taichin Preyor is scheduled to receive a lethal injection Thursday evening in 
Huntsville for killing Jami Tackett, 24, during a break-in at her apartment.


Tackett is described in court documents as a drug dealer and Preyor, 46, as a 
customer and dealer.


Preyor's attorneys contend his trial lawyers didn't properly investigate and 
tell jurors about his abusive childhood and that an earlier inexperienced 
appeals attorney relied on a disbarred lawyer for guidance.


The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and U.S. District Judge Fred Biery in San 
Antonio rejected their appeals.


Preyor's attorneys said Tuesday they're appealing to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court 
of Appeals.


(source: Associated Press)





OHIOimpending execution

Condemned killer in Ohio arrives at death house ahead of execution


A condemned killer in Ohio arrived at the death house a day ahead of his 
scheduled execution Wednesday with several requests for a delay pending before 
the U.S. Supreme Court.


Ronald Phillips arrived at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in 
Lucasville around 10:15 a.m. Tuesday, about 24 hours before he was set to die 
in Ohio’s first execution in more than three years, a prisons spokeswoman said.


The last execution in Ohio was in January 2014, when a condemned inmate 
repeatedly gasped and snorted during a 26-minute procedure with a 
never-before-tried drug combination. Gov. John Kasich put several scheduled 
executions on hold. The delays have continued, prompted by shortages of 
acceptable drugs and legal challenges by death row inmates to Ohio’s plans for 
a new three-drug execution method.


A federal court last month upheld the use of the sedative midazolam, which has 
been problematic in several executions, including Ohio’s in 2014 and others in 
Arkansas and Arizona. The ruling clears the way for the state to move forward 
with three executions, but it isn’t a decisive ruling on the constitutionality 
of the three-drug method.


On Monday, 15 pharmacology professors argued in Phillips’ favor that midazolam 
is incapable of inducing unconsciousness or preventing the unconstitutional 
infliction of serious pain.


Phillips, 43, was convicted for the 1993 rape and killing of his girlfriend’s 
3-year-old daughter in Akron. He also has requested that the execution be 
halted based on his age at the time of the killing. He was 19, older than the 
Supreme Court’s cutoff of 18 for purposes of barring executions of juveniles, 
and argues the cutoff age should be 21. The latest delay request on that issue 
was filed Tuesday.


Attorneys for the state argued against Phillips’ request, saying he made 
meritless, often conflicting, legal claims.


“Phillips argues that youth, like IQ, cannot be reduced to a number. But he 
also argues that the Eighth Amendment prohibits the execution of adults under 
age twenty-one,” they wrote in a court document filed Tuesday. “He cannot have 
it both ways; if age cannot make one eligible for death, it cannot make one 
ineligible for death.”


The state of Ohio also has told U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, who 
handles such appeals for Ohio, that continued delays in Phillips’ case are 
harming the state by costing time and resources.


Phillips has had several previous delays to scheduled executions, most notably 
in 2013 when he made a last-minute plea to donate his organs. He said he wanted 
to give a kidney to his mother, who was on dialysis, and possibly his heart to 
his sister. His request was denied. His mother has since died.


As he awaited action from the high court, Phillips was being permitted to see 
family, friends and spiritual advisers and to meet with his attorneys.


For his last meal, to be served Tuesday evening, he requested a large cheese 
pizza with bell peppers and mushrooms, a 2-liter bottle of Pepsi and strawberry 
cheesecake, along with grape juice and a piece of unleavened bread.


(source: Toledo Blade)
___
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu

DeathPenalty mailing list
DeathPenalty@lists.washlaw.edu
http://lists.washlaw.edu/mailman/listinfo/deathpenalty
Unsubscribe: http://lists.washlaw.edu/mailman/options/deathpenalty


[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, OHIO, ARIZ., NEV., USA

2017-07-25 Thread Rick Halperin





July 25



TEXASimpending execution

Set for execution, death row inmate alleges legal fraud in hopes of a 
stayWith 2 days left before TaiChin Preyor's scheduled execution, his 
lawyers have tried just about everything to stop it. That includes alleging 
that his previous counsel committed fraud.




With 2 days left before TaiChin Preyor's scheduled execution, his lawyers have 
tried just about everything to stop it. That includes alleging that his 
previous counsel - a disbarred California attorney and a probate and real 
estate lawyer who reportedly relied on Wikipedia to research Texas legal 
procedure - committed fraud against a federal court.


So far, they've had no luck.

Preyor, 46, is set to be executed Thursday night for the 2004 killing of a 
20-year-old San Antonio woman during a home invasion. If he doesn't receive a 
stay, it will be the state's 5th execution of the year - and end the unusually 
long 4-month lull in Texas' death chamber.


In recent weeks, Preyor's attorneys have filed a flurry of pleas, with the 
Texas governor and in state and federal court. They have argued Preyor should 
be spared the death penalty because his original attorney overlooked an abusive 
childhood and because his appellate attorneys were incompetent.


The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one. "Even if you are someone who 
believes that there is a role for the death penalty to play with respect to 
certain crimes, there has to be a baseline there that the person ... was 
capably and competently represented throughout all of his proceedings," said 
Cate Stetson, one of Preyor's current attorneys. "And that baseline clearly was 
not met here."


On Monday afternoon, both the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and a federal 
district court rejected Preyor's requests for a stay. Preyor will appeal now to 
the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.


Texas and Bexar County have requested that the execution proceed, noting that 
it "has been postponed for over a year in order to accommodate [Preyor] and his 
attorneys, but at the expense of the victims and the state's interest in 
finality."


In court, Bexar County prosecutors accused Preyor of breaking into Jami 
Tackett's apartment in the early hours of a February morning. Tackett was in 
bed with Jason Garza, who testified that Preyor attacked and stabbed him before 
he ran away to call for help. With Garza gone, Preyor stabbed Tackett multiple 
times, killing her. He was arrested at the scene covered in her blood.


Preyor claimed he acted in self-defense. In a statement to police, he said 
Tackett, who sold him drugs, had invited him over and ambushed him with Garza. 
Preyor said he pulled out his knife after the 2 began attacking him and that he 
didn't intend to hurt Tackett "that bad."


A jury was unconvinced. They found him guilty and sentenced him to death.

Preyor's current attorneys aren't focusing on his conviction but on his death 
sentence. They argue the lawyer who represented Preyor during his sentencing, 
Michael Gross, failed to present evidence about Preyor's abusive childhood, 
which they argue could have swayed a jury to give him life in prison.


"Gross failed to hire a mitigation specialist, failed to investigate known red 
flags regarding Preyor's childhood, neglected to interview family members 
regarding Preyor's childhood and social history, and neglected to follow up on 
not 1, but 2, medical professionals' recommendations that Preyor be screened 
for mental illness or other executive-function issues affecting his capacity 
and judgment," Stetson and attorney Hilary Sheard wrote in a filing to the 
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals last week. "The cumulative effect of these 
omissions was disastrous."


But Gross said in an affidavit filed to the court that he "adequately" 
represented Preyor, and talked to many family members, school officials, 
friends and even Preyor himself, none of whom mentioned abuse. "If they had 
given me any such information, I would have developed that evidence and 
presented it as mitigation at trial," Gross said in his affidavit.


Sheard and Stetson argue concerns about Gross' representation should have been 
raised during Preyor's appeals. Preyor blames this on his unusual appellate 
lawyers.


After becoming frustrated with Preyor's court-appointed lawyer during his 
post-conviction appeal, Preyor's mother turned to Philip Jefferson, a disbarred 
California attorney who claimed he was retired, according to Preyor's most 
recent court filing. Preyor claims Jefferson did most of the heavy lifting in 
the case and had Brandy Estelle, a California attorney who specialized in 
probate and real estate law, file documents to the court.


Estelle relied on Wikipedia to research Texas habeas procedures, Preyor 
alleged, and Preyor's appeals were denied in federal court.


"The federal habeas petition filed in this court ... was so abysmal that it 
subsequently became an exemplar, circulated 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., VA., N.C., GA., FLA., ALA.

2017-07-22 Thread Rick Halperin





July 22



TEXASimpending execution

Texas Prepares for Execution of Taichin Preyor on July 27, 2017



Taichin "Box" Preyor's execution is scheduled to occur at 6 pm CDT, on 
Thursday, July 27, 2017, at the Walls Unit of the Huntsville State Penitentiary 
in Huntsville, Texas. Taichin was scheduled to be executed on Wednesday, July 
20, 2016, however, that date was later removed from Texas' online execution 
calendar, without comment. 46-year-old Taichin is convicted of the murder of 
24-year-old Jami Tackett on February 26, 2004, in Bexar County, Texas. Taichin 
has spent the last 12 years of his life on Texas' death row.


Prior to his arrest, Taichin worked as a truck driver and a laborer. He did not 
graduate high school, dropping out after the 10th grade. In 1999, Taichin was 
arrested and served time for a drug offense in Syracuse, New York. After being 
released from prison, Taichin moved to San Antonio, Texas, where he was later 
joined by his wife and children. Police had previously been called to the 
residence for a "family violence call." Taichin's brother was one of the police 
officers who responded to the call.


During the early morning hours of February 26, 2004, at approximately 4 am, 
Taichin Preyor broke into the apartment of his ex-girlfriend, Jami Tackett, by 
breaking down the door. Preyor went to Jami's bedroom, where he jumped on the 
bed and began attacking her with a knife. He also stabbed Jami's new boyfriend, 
Jason Garza, who fled the apartment, going to a neighbor and asking them to 
call the police.


During the fight, Preyor lost his car keys, leaving him unable to flea the 
scene. Preyor searched the apartment while Jami lay on the floor, struggling to 
breathe. As he attempted to leave the building for a 2nd time, Preyor 
encountered the police. The police were forced to use pepper spray to subdue 
Preyor, who refused to comply with their demands. Preyor was covered in blood 
when he was arrested.


Jami died from her injuries before paramedics arrived on the scene. Jason 
survived his injury.


During his trial, Preyor attempted to argue that his actions that morning was 
self defense. Prosecutors argued that the door being broken down indicates that 
Preyor was the aggressor.


Please pray for peace and healing for the family of Jami Tackett and for Jason 
Garza. Please pray for strength for the family of Taichin Preyor. Please pray 
that if Taichin is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed, or should not 
be executed for any other reason, that evidence will be presented prior to his 
execution. Please pray that Taichin may come to find peace through a personal 
relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already.


(source: theforgivenessfoundation.org)



Waco: Judge denies habeas corpus relief to convicted killer



A Waco district judge refused to grant habeas corpus relief to a man convicted 
in the same courtroom 2 years ago of capital murder but did allow appeals 
lawyers to submit briefs on 2 topics.


Judge Ralph Strother, in 19th District Court, said granting relief on the 
habeas corpus issue would "be like trying this case all over again," as US 
Carnell Petetan, dressed in jail clothing, sat silent and motionless at the 
defense table.


Petetan was convicted in the same courtroom in 2014 and Strother, after the 
jury's recommendation, sentenced him to death.


Bailiffs cleared the courtroom of visitors and attorneys while Petetan, 
shackled at the wrists and ankles, was led in.


After he was seated the judge allowed everyone back in the courtroom.

Lawyers with the state Office of Capital and Forensic Writs, in Austin, 
presented Strother with an 8-page application that listed 8 major issues at 
trial and expanded on each one.


Strother, as presiding judge, was directed to determine if there were any 
unresolved issues stemming from the trial, if so, identify them and finally 
determine what action needed to be taken, Jeremy Schepers, 1 of the appellate 
lawyers, said.


Schepers argued that Petetan was convicted by the jury who didn\'t have 
knowledge of his behavioral deficiency and that deficiency, under state law, 
means Petetan is ineligible for the death penalty.


But Assistant District Attorney Sterling Harmon reminded Strother that Petetan, 
himself, testified at his own trial and the jury was able to see and hear him 
for themselves.


As well, Schepers said, Petetan's lawyers at trial were ineffective and did not 
properly represent him.


At the end of the 40-minute hearing Strother denied habeas corpus relief but 
did direct appellate lawyers to prepare briefs on 2 issues: the 1st Petetan's 
developmental disability and 2nd his claim of ineffective assistance of 
counsel.


Waco attorney Russ Hunt, Sr., represented Petetan at trial and Strother 
directed that Hunt be given 120 days to respond to the appeals charge.


The briefs are due back to Strother and he will review them to decide if 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., OHIO, KY., ARK.

2017-07-20 Thread Rick Halperin





July 20




TEXASimpending execution

Death Watch: Represented by WikipediaTaiChin Preyor did not get the legal 
expertise he deserved




The exact details of the crime that delivered Taichin Preyor to death row 
remain unclear and continue to be investigated by his current team of 
attorneys. What's clear is that Preyor was denied certain constitutional rights 
during both his trial and the appeals process. But unless Gov. Greg Abbott 
grants him clemency or he receives a stay, he will be executed next Thursday, 
July 27.


Three recently filed motions by Preyor's latest attorneys argue that Preyor was 
represented through his appeals by a disbarred attorney, Phillip Jefferson. His 
current lawyer, Catherine Stetson, of the Washington, D.C., firm Hogan Lovells, 
told the Chronicle that Jefferson used Brandy Estelle, a California attorney 
who works in real estate, as his legal stand-in to represent Preyor. A federal 
court in San Antonio originally denied Estelle's motion to represent Preyor, 
but the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals later granted her request and began paying 
the real estate lawyer for her services. (Estelle was also collecting money 
from Preyor's mother for much of the same work.) What's more egregious is the 
possibility that Estelle may have relied on Wikipedia to file Preyor's federal 
appeal. The latest motion, filed on July 14, states within Estelle's files was 
"a copy of the Wikipedia page" titled "Capital punishment in Texas" on the 
printout with a Post-It note reading "Research" next to highlighted passages of 
"Habeas corpus appeals" and "Subsequent or successive writ applications."


A July 11 supplement also argues that Preyor's previous attorneys "completely 
overlooked" the physical and sexual abuse Preyor experienced as a child. The 
mitigating evidence, says Stetson, could have convinced the trial jury to spare 
him a death sentence. Stetson said she and her team are currently investigating 
Preyor's past as well as the crime itself that landed him on death row.


? The state claims that Preyor "fatally stabbed" his "girlfriend" Jami Tackett 
after breaking into her San Antonio apartment in February 2004, and in the 
process stabbed another man. But in Preyor's appeals, Estelle argued that 
Tackett was actually his drug dealer (not his girlfriend), and that Preyor 
acted in self-defense against her and her male companion. Preyor was arrested 
shortly after the attack, covered in Tackett's blood.


In March 2015, a judicial clerk reviewing death penalty cases contacted the 
Texas bar to seek new counsel for Preyor. The clerk, Stetson said, had concerns 
about how Estelle and Jefferson had handled the case. "When the federal court 
system sees this and asks for help, it tells you something awful happened," 
said Stetson. Austin attorney Hilary Sheard took over Preyor's case (one year 
after the 5th Circuit denied his appeal), and ushered in Stetson's firm in May 
after she fell ill. That month, the court approved her budget request of 
$45,000 to further investigate the case. The new motions seek a stay on 
Preyor's execution so that his new attorneys can prepare a case for mitigation.


A week before Preyor's execution date, Stetson said his team remains "in the 
dark" about what or when a ruling will come, but they're "continuing their 
investigation to better expose" Estelle and Jefferson's fraud. Should their 
efforts be unsuccessful, Preyor will be the 1st Texan killed by the state since 
James Bigby in March, and only the 5th this year. 542 Texans have been executed 
since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.


(source: Austin Chronicle)








FLORIDA:

State Attorney to seek Death Penalty in CR 340 murder case



The State Attorney plans to seek the Death Penalty in the Staleys murder case. 
Bill Cervone, State Attorney for the 8th Judicial Circuit said on Monday, July 
17, "We intend to pursue the Death Penalty in this case." Cervone went on to 
say that they are working on the case, but he did not expect the case to come 
to trial until sometime in 2018.


On April 28, 2017, Phillip David Wheeler was indicted for the murder of Kevin 
Lawrence Staley, 49 and Kevin Justice Staley, 19. The Gilchrist County Spring 
Term Grand Jury returned a True Bill indicting Phillip David Wheeler at the 
Gilchrist County Courthouse. The Staleys were found dead back in November of 
2015. The murders occurred at a mobile home located off CR 340 near Bell.


Phillip David Wheeler was 37 when he was indicted and a resident of Old Town 
and a former resident of Newberry.


(source: Gilchrist County Journal)

***

3rd death penalty sentencing for convicted killer J.B. Parker likely a year 
away




State prosecutors will try for a third time to get a death sentence that will 
stick for convicted killer J.B. "Pig" Parker, but it will be at least a year 
before they will have the chance.


Parker is 1 of 4 men convicted of the April 2, 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., N.C., GA., FLA., MISS., OHIO, KY.

2017-07-18 Thread Rick Halperin





July 18



TEXASimpending execution

Court papers: 'Utterly unqualified' attorney used Wikipedia to defend death 
penalty inmateLawyers for death row inmate file last-minute motions days 
before scheduled execution



With just days left till the next scheduled execution in the Lone Star state, 
lawyers for convicted Bexar County killer TaiChin Preyor on Friday filed a 
flurry of last-minute paperwork seeking to halt the condemned man's death.


The pair of motions - in the Western District of Texas - claim one of Preyor's 
former attorneys on the case, Brandy Estelle, was "utterly unqualified" and may 
have even resorted to the popular crowdsourcing site Wikipedia for research in 
the case.


Preyor, who murdered a woman who sold him drugs more than a decade ago, is 
scheduled to meet his fate in Huntsville on July 27.


The 46-year-old was convicted in the 2004 slaying when he repeatedly stabbed 
Jami Tackett before cutting her throat. Neighbors found the dying woman after 
hearing her screams - and police caught Preyor after he came back to retrieve 
his car keys, the San Antonio Express-News previously reported.


The San Antonio man has been on death row since 2005 fighting his case. At 
issue now is the allegedly subpar defense counsel who represented Preyor during 
parts of the federal appeals process.


"It appears she relied on Wikipedia, of all things, to learn the complex ins 
and outs of Texas capital-punishment," Preyor's attorneys wrote of their 
client's former counsel, noting that Estelle's case files included a print-out 
of the Wikipedia page "Capital punishment in Texas" with a Post-It note 
labelled "Research."


In addition, court papers contend Estelle was getting help on the case from an 
attorney disbarred for showing a "gargantuan indifference to the interests of 
his clients," a federal court wrote in a published decision.


"No doubt fearing repercussions, Estelle never disclosed her disbarred 
co-counsel's lead role in the case to this Court," claims the convicted man's 
legal team, which includes Catherine Stetson, Preyor's pro bono attorney and a 
partner at Hogan Lovells.


The dozens of pages of motions and exhibits filed Friday call Jefferson and 
Estelle's work "shocking conduct" and "exactly the kind of extraordinary 
circumstance that warrants this Court's intervention."


The motions for stay of execution and relief from judgment ask the court to 
halt Preyor's death date and reopen his federal appeal, this time with 
"licensed and qualified counsel."


Last-minute stays of execution are more the exception than the rule - but 
they're certainly not unheard of.


In 2011, Harris County death row inmate Duane Edward Buck was granted a 
last-minute reprieve amid questions of racially tainted expert testimony. He's 
still on death row as the appeals process continues to play out.


(source: Houston Chronicle)






PENNSYLVANIA:

Pennsylvania execution notices are 'not worth the paper they're written 
on'The death warrants have been around since 1995, a strain on court time 
and resources.



The news rolled in earlier this month, for the 460th time since 1985: A 
Pennsylvania death row inmate had received an execution notice or warrant. This 
time it was for Philadelphia murderer Omar Sharif Cash, and like 457 men who've 
come before him he will almost certainly never be put to death.


Cash could get a reprieve for several reasons, the best-known likely being Gov. 
Tom Wolf's death penalty moratorium. Should any death penalty case go the 
distance, Wolf has said he will halt the execution. But long before it comes to 
that, the execution notice signed for Cash will likely be stayed, amounting to 
what one of the country's foremost death penalty opponents considers a waste of 
time. And since 1995, 350-plus other notices and warrants could be classified 
in the same category.


"They're legally premature," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the 
Death Penalty Information Center, "meaning they're not worth the paper they're 
written on."


Pennsylvania elected officials created the execution warrant system still used 
today in 1995, during the beginning of Gov. Tom Ridge's 1st term. At the time, 
he and many legislators - Republican and Democrat - were pushing a 
tough-on-crime stance. Ridge even held a special session focused on 
crime-related legislation. The bill, proposed by Rep. Ron Marsico (R-105th), 
mandated the governor sign an execution warrant for a death row inmate by at 
least 90 days after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision of the inmate's 
direct appeal. If the governor didn't sign the warrant, then the Department of 
Corrections would have to issue a notice of execution within 30 days of the 
previous deadline.


"Despite the law, there was no death penalty in Pennsylvania," Ridge said in 
1995. "When you kill in cold blood, you deserve to pay the highest penalty."


The thought behind the bill was inmates had no motivation 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., GA., ALA., CALIF., ORE.

2017-07-16 Thread Rick Halperin





July 16




TEXAS:

Texas Cracks Down on the Market for Jailhouse Snitches


Prosecutors love jailhouse informants who can provide damning testimony that a 
cellmate privately confessed to a crime. Jailhouse informants, in turn, love 
the perks they get in exchange for snitching, like shortened sentences, 
immunity from prosecution or a wad of cash.


As you might imagine, though, in a market driven by such questionable motives, 
the testimony these informants provide is often unreliable.


Even worse, it can be deadly. False testimony from jailhouse informants has 
been the single biggest reason for death-row exonerations in the modern 
death-penalty era, according to a 2005 survey by the Center on Wrongful 
Convictions. They accounted for 50 of the 111 exonerations to that point, and 
there have been 48 more exonerations since then.


Last month, Texas, which has been a minefield of wrongful convictions - more 
than 300 in the last 30 years alone - passed the most comprehensive effort yet 
to rein in the dangers of transactional snitching.


Texas has become a national leader in criminal-justice reforms, after having 
long accommodated some of the worst practices and abuses in the nation. The 
state, particularly in light of past abuses, deserves credit for seeking 
innovative solutions to problems that have long proved resistant to change.


Every weekday, get thought-provoking commentary from Op-Ed columnists, the 
Times editorial board and contributing writers from around the world.


The new law requires prosecutors to keep thorough records of all jailhouse 
informants they use - the nature of their testimony, the benefits they received 
and their criminal history. This information must be disclosed to defense 
lawyers, who may use it in court to challenge the informant's reliability or 
honesty, particularly if the informant has testified in other cases.


The law was recommended by a state commission established in 2015 to examine 
exonerations and reduce the chances of wrongful convictions. The commission 
also persuaded lawmakers to require procedures to reduce the number of mistaken 
eyewitness identifications and to require that police interrogations be 
recorded - smart steps toward a fairer and more accurate justice system.


But the new procedures on jailhouse informants shouldn't have been necessary in 
the 1st place. Under longstanding Supreme Court rulings, prosecutors are 
required to turn over any evidence that might call an informant's credibility 
into question - such as conflicting stories or compensation they get in 
exchange for their testimony. Yet far too many fail to do so.


A better solution would be to bar the use of compensated informants outright, 
or at least in cases involving capital crimes, as one Texas bill has proposed. 
Studies have shown that even when a defense lawyer is able to make the case 
that an informant has an incentive to lie, juries are just as likely to 
convict. And that's assuming a defense lawyer uses such evidence - not always a 
safe assumption given the wide range of quality in the defense bar.


Also, making evidence admissible at trial only goes so far. The vast majority 
of convictions are the result of guilty pleas, which means a defendant may not 
even find out that an informant was paid to incriminate him before having to 
decide whether to accept a plea offer.


Some states have begun to require that judges hold hearings to test an 
informant's reliability, much as they would test an expert witness's knowledge 
- before the jury can hear from him.


But the deeper fix that's needed is a cultural one. Many prosecutors are far 
too willing to present testimony from people they would never trust under 
ordinary circumstances. Until prosecutors are more concerned with doing justice 
than with winning convictions, even the most well-intentioned laws will fall 
short.


(source: Editorial, New York Times)






PENNSYLVANIA:

Lynn Abraham vies for interim D.A. job


Former District Attorney Lynne Abraham, who held the job longer than anyone 
else in the history of the city, heads a list of applicants to serve as the 
interim D.A. until a replacement for former D.A. Seth Williams is elected this 
November.


Abraham, the city's first female district attorney, held the office from 1991 
to 2010. During her term she earned nicknames such as "Deadliest D.A." and 
"Queen of Death" for the high rate at which her office sought the death 
penalty. However, none of her cases has ever resulted in an actual execution.


Former D.A. Williams, an Abraham protege who eventually succeeded her, resigned 
from the position on June 29 after pleading guilty to 1 charge of bribery. 
Williams was indicted on 29 federal charges including bribery, wire fraud and 
extortion back in March. He will be sentenced later this year.


The interim will hold the position until the fall general election when 
Democratic favorite Larry Krasner faces off against Republican 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., S.C., GA., FLA.

2017-07-14 Thread Rick Halperin





July 14



TEXAS:

Hogan Lovells Argues Disbarred Lawyer's 'Mouthpiece' Doomed Death Row Inmate


In a Texas death row case in which a disbarred lawyer may have previously 
represented the defendant, a Hogan Lovells team has joined with local Texas 
counsel to try to derail an execution set for later this month.


The lawyers are seeking either commutation or, alternatively, a delay of 
convicted murderer TaiChin Preyor's July 27 scheduled execution.


They have asked Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for the reduced sentence or 
delay so they can deploy $45,000 that a federal court has awarded Preyor to 
pursue his clemency request and investigate allegations about his initial 
post-conviction counsel, Brandy Estelle.


Estelle, a court-appointed public defender, was "woefully unqualified," and 
served only as a "mouthpiece" for Phillip Jefferson, the disbarred lawyer, who 
handled the legwork for Preyor's appeals, according to Preyor's application for 
commutation of sentence filed last week with the Texas Board of Pardon and 
Paroles.


Estelle also double charged the federal court and Preyor's mother for the legal 
work she was having Jefferson do, according to the same application's 
allegations.


"This is not just an individual plea for mercy," said Catherine "Cate" Stetson, 
a member of Hogan Lovells' global board and a co-director of its appellate 
practice group, who represents Preyor.


Her firm handles multiple death row cases on a pro bono basis, but "this one 
was to our collective sensibilities jarring," Stetson said, given the 
allegations about Preyor's prior appellate counsel.


Neither Preyor nor his present lawyers deny that he committed "a terrible act," 
but "the gross infirmities in his representation during the sentencing phase 
and during habeas proceedings should give this Board pause," his commutation 
application stated.


According to an Associated Press account, Preyor was sentenced to death in 2005 
for killing 20-yea-old Jami Tackett in a brutal San Antonio slashing and 
stabbing attack that also wounded Tackett's boyfriend.


Estelle did not return a call for this story. Jefferson could not be reached. 
Estelle's law firm's website lists her as graduate of Loyola Law School and 
notes her "15 years of legal work in both public law and private practice," 
citing specifically "her extensive background in real estate.'


***

Habeas Reforms


Texas lawmakers have made efforts to reform the process for appointing lawyers 
to help death row defendants pursue their writs of habeas corpus - the appeals 
that serve as the criminal justice system's final safety net. In habeas 
proceedings, a defendant's lawyer can present new exculpatory evidence, 
previously untapped witnesses and indications that trial counsel failed to do 
their job properly.


In 1995, Texas lawmakers passed the Habeas Corpus Reform Act, a law 
guaranteeing Texas death row inmates "competent counsel" for their habeas 
appeals. 4 years later they passed another law giving trial courts the 
authority to pick lawyers from an "approved attorneys" list drawn up by Texas' 
highest court for criminal appeals.


But those reforms "were not enough to target this kind of practice," Stetson 
said of the Preyor case.


According to Preyor's application this month, Jefferson, who like Estelle is 
from California, had been castigated in an unrelated case by the U.S. Court of 
Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for having shown "a gargantuan indifference to 
the interests of his client," committed "gross misconduct," shown "chronic 
inattention to his client's interests," and been "wholly incompetent."


Jefferson never disclosed to Preyor or his family that he was disbarred, 
according to Preyor's commutation application.


For her part, Estelle never informed the court about Jefferson's role in the 
case, the same application alleged.


"[I]t appears from the documents filed by Ms. Estelle that she and Mr. 
Jefferson conducted no investigation beyond the record as it then existed, and 
raised no arguments before the habeas court regarding the sentencing phase of 
his trial," the application stated.


Estelle and Jefferson "overlooked" that Preyor's trial counsel had failed to 
hire a mitigation specialist during a sentencing phase, and "it appears they 
conducted only a cursory mitigation investigation despite references in trial 
counsel's files to the fact that Mr. Preyor experienced a deeply troubled 
childhood," the application asserted.


The Texas governor isn't exactly known for granting frequent commutations and 
pardons, Stetson noted.


"The record is not good, but we are still hopeful," she said. "If you look at 
the fact pattern here and the nature of the representation, a disbarred lawyer 
using a California real estate lawyer [Estelle] as his beard, even if you are 
supportive of capital punishment, there is a baseline foundation of fairness 
that was not met."


(source for both: Texas 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., S.C., FLA., OHIO

2017-07-13 Thread Rick Halperin







July 13




TEXAS:

Texas' slow, tortuous fight to kill a mentally ill manThe state's fight to 
kill Scott Panetti is now in its 3rd decade.



Scott Panetti is very seriously mentally ill. He once buried his furniture in 
his backyard in the belief that this would purge the devil, who Panetti 
believed to have possessed his home. He was institutionalized about a dozen 
times, often involuntarily, for suicidal and homicidal behavior. Eventually, 
Panetti's illness overcame him, and he murdered his estranged wife's parents.


At Panetti's trial, he was inexplicably allowed to represent himself. With his 
life on the line, Panetii wore a purple bandana around his neck, a cowboy hat 
and suspenders. He tried to call the Pope, Jesus Christ, and John F. Kennedy to 
the witness stand. And he sometimes shifted into an alternate personality named 
"Sgt. Ranahan Ironhorse."


He was sentenced to die.

Since then, Panetti's been the center of a seemingly never-ending legal fight 
between lawyers trying to save his life and Texas officials who want to kill 
him. The 1st time Panetti's lawyers sought a court order stopping his 
execution, Bill Clinton was in the White House, TLC was topping the music 
charts, and Buffy Summers was still in high school.


Panetti won a victory in the Supreme Court, had that victory rendered largely 
meaningless by lower courts, sought refuge in a second, unrelated Supreme Court 
decision, and, just this week, won another incremental victory in a federal 
appeals court. There are no signs that his litigation saga is anywhere near 
completion.


Tuesday's decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth 
Circuit arose out of Texas' apparent effort to execute Panetti without telling 
his lawyers about it.


At a prosecutor's request, a state court set a December 3, 2014 execution date 
for Panetti without consulting his attorneys. The lawyers found out that their 
client was about to be killed from an October 30 news report. Multiple courts 
then refused to delay Panetti's execution or to provide his lawyers with the 
time or resources they needed to contest his execution?- though the Fifth 
Circuit did eventually stay that execution to give the lawyers time to seek 
these resources.


Tuesday's decision in Panetti v. Davis holds that Panetti must receive paid 
legal counsel, assistance from mental health experts that can help him build 
his case, and a full hearing to determine whether he is competent to be 
executed. The Texas legislature, it should also be noted, since changed the 
state's law to prevent the kind of ambush executions attempted in this case.


But Panetti's life remains in jeopardy largely due to an inconsistency in the 
Supreme Court's precedents governing people with mental disabilities charged 
with capital crimes.


In Atkins v. Virginia, the Supreme Court held, using a term that is now 
considered antiquated, that "death is not a suitable punishment for a mentally 
retarded criminal." People with intellectual disabilities, the Court explained, 
"have diminished capacities to understand and process information, to 
communicate, to abstract from mistakes and learn from experience, to engage in 
logical reasoning, to control impulses, and to understand the reactions of 
others." These deficiencies sufficiently "diminish their personal culpability" 
to take the death penalty off the table.


A few years later, the Court extended this holding to juvenile offenders in 
Roper v. Simmons.


The Court has not, however, held that people with severe mental illnesses like 
Panetti are similarly ineligible for the death penalty, even though people with 
such disabilities also possess diminished capacities like the ones described in 
Atkins. Instead, the Court applies a very different test to determine whether 
someone with a severe mental illness may be executed.


???It might be said that capital punishment is imposed because it has the 
potential to make the offender recognize at last the gravity of his crime," 
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the Court in Panetti v. Quarterman -?an 
earlier stage of Mr. Panetti's litigation saga. But "the potential for a 
prisoner's recognition of the severity of the offense and the objective of 
community vindication are called in question . . . if the prisoner's mental 
state is so distorted by a mental illness that his awareness of the crime and 
punishment has little or no relation to the understanding of those concepts 
shared by the community as a whole."


A death row inmate must have a "rational understanding" of why they are being 
executed before the state may put them to death.


This rule creates a bizarre framework whereby an inmate who flashes back and 
forth between periods of delusion and moments of sanity may be killed so long 
as the execution occurs while the inmate is lucid. It encourages the very kind 
of never-ending litigation that characterizes the Panetti case, and potentially 
pulls 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., IND., MO., KAN., UTAH, ORE., USA

2017-07-12 Thread Rick Halperin







July 12




TEXAS:

Death row inmate who shot in-laws in Fredericksburg granted evaluation


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit sided with a Texas death row 
inmate, ordering on Tuesday that Scott Panetti's case be returned to a federal 
district court in Kerr County with orders to appoint counsel, authorize funds 
for a mental health evaluation and allow adequate time to prepare a petition 
raising the claim he is currently incompetent to be executed.


Panetti, who suffers from schizophrenia, shot and killed his in-laws in 
Fredericksburg in 1992. Dressed as a cowboy, he insisted on representing 
himself at his trial and attempted to subpoena the Pope, John F. Kennedy and 
Jesus Christ. Panetti was found guilty and sentenced to death.


Panetti has twice been granted a stay of execution, in 2004 and 2014. In 2007, 
the U.S. Supreme Court blocked Panetti's execution, saying lower courts should 
have considered psychiatric evidence about his mental illness.


His attorneys, Greg Wiercioch and Kathryn Kase released a statement Tuesday 
saying Panetti has suffered from extreme mental illness for nearly 40 years and 
has not been evaluated by a mental health expert since 2007.


A defendant must be found competent in order to be executed. Competency is 
defined by state laws as being aware of what is going on in the case. Panetti's 
attorneys said he was convinced the reason was going to be executed in 2014 was 
for preaching the gospel.


His attorneys released a statement: "We are grateful that the court found that 
Mr. Panetti's nearly 4 decades of documented schizophrenia and severe mental 
illness provided a sufficient showing to obtain experts and resources to pursue 
the claim that he is currently incompetent for execution. And we are grateful 
to the Texas Defender Service for their support, which allowed us to obtain a 
stay and to litigate on behalf of Mr. Panetti in the Fifth Circuit. Mr. Panetti 
has not been evaluated by any mental health experts since 2007 and his severe 
mental illness has only worsened while in prison. We are confident that when 
the lower court is presented with all the evidence, it will find that Mr. 
Panetti, a schizophrenic man ... is not now competent for execution. 
Ultimately, commuting Mr. Panetti's sentence to life in prison without parole 
would keep the public safe and affirm our shared beliefs in a humane and moral 
justice system.:


(source: Austin American-Statesman)

***

Windows On Death Row: Boiling Down the Death Penalty to a Single FrameAn 
exhibit at the University of Houston-Downtown showcases editorial cartoons 
about the death penalty and artwork by inmates, some of them on death row. 
"Windows on Death Row: Art from Inside and Outside the Prison Walls" is on 
display through July 31.


An editorial cartoon about the death penalty from the Houston Chronicle's Nick 
Anderson, which is part of the exhibit "Windows on Death Row: Art From Inside 
and Outside the Prison Walls."


How do you encapsulate an issue as complex and sensitive as capital punishment 
into an editorial cartoon or a painting?


A traveling exhibit looks to answer that question at the O'Kane Gallery at the 
University of Houston-Downtown through July 31, 2017.


"Windows on Death Row: Art from Inside and Outside the Prison Walls" features 
more than 60 pieces of artwork on the subject of the death penalty from 
political cartoonists and prison inmates on death row. It includes work from 
Nick Anderson, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist for the Houston Chronicle.


Michael Hagerty recently visited the exhibit to take a look at the artwork and 
to talk with Dr. Krista Gehring, an assistant criminal justice professor at the 
University of Houston-Downtown.


(source: houstonpublicmedia.org)






FLORIDA:

Trial begins for St. Cloud man accused of fatally beating infant son


The murder trial of a St. Cloud man accused of killing his 3-month-old son in 
2013 will begin Wednesday morning.


Investigators said Larry Perry beat Ayden Perry so badly at their home that the 
boy died at a hospital.


Archie Guzman, Perry's neighbor at the time, told Channel 9 in 2013 that she 
often babysat the child for Larry Perry and his girlfriend.


Guzman said the beating was so loud that she could hear it from next door.

"I was coming into the kitchen, and all of a sudden I heard boom," she said. 
"He didn't mean to. I can feel it, because he just snapped."


Larry Perry told investigators that he harmed his son, because he couldn't take 
it anymore, an arrest report said.


Larry Perry faces the death penalty if convicted.

The case was 1 of 24 that Florida Gov. Rick Scott reassigned from State 
Attorney Aramis Ayala to State Attorney Brad King after she announced she 
wouldn't pursue the death penalty during her tenure.


Opening statements will begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

(source: WFTV news)



Ayala's Office Operating With $1.3M Budget Cut In Rift Over 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, GA., LA., ILL. USA

2017-07-09 Thread Rick Halperin





July 9




TEXAS:

Convicted pedophile, serial killer is set to die by lethal injection in 
TexasOctober execution date scheduled for 'Tourniquet Killer,' Anthony 
Allen Shore.



Anthony Allen Shore, age 55, is scheduled to die on October 18. Maria T. 
Jackson, Criminal District Court Judge, Harris, TX, set the date for his 
execution on Thursday. Shore has been dubbed the "Tourniquet Killer." Between 
the 1980s and the 1990s, Houston's Hispanic females were strangled with 
handmade tourniquets.


For almost 2 decades, gruesome murders he committed went unsolved. Shore's 
unraveling happened when he sexually assaulted 2 girls, who were his relatives. 
He was arrested. For sexually assaulting his 2 relatives, he accepted a plea 
bargain arrangement that entailed giving up DNA and being placed on probation.


DNA collected, tested provided path to solving serial murder cold cases

That DNA collected and tested provided a much-needed break in solving the cold 
cases. He was 41-years-old when he was arrested in 2003 and eventually 
confessed to having committed the following murders:


1986, Laurie Tremblay, 14-years-old

1992, Maria del Carmen Estrada, 21-years-old

August 1994, Diana Rebollar, 9-years-old, and

July 1995, Dana Sanchez, 16-years-old

1 victim survived serial murderer following assault

The strength of the DNA test results tying him to the killing of Estrada led to 
prosecutors take him to trial on the merits of the compelling DNA evidence. He 
was tried and convicted of capital murder in the state's case against him. It 
was the only murder committed by Shore that prosecutors sought and saw a 
capital murder charge decided against him.


He was sentenced to death by a jury on October 21, 2004.

In addition to the assaults against 2 relatives and the serial murders, Shore 
additionally sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl who survived the attack. 
According to court records, Shore wore ill-fitting or loose clothing, 
sunglasses, and surgical gloves. He masked his face with a bandana. Though he 
used duct tape binding her hands and also wrapping her head, investigators said 
escaped.


It was 2 years later, August 1994, when Shore kidnapped Rebollar not even a 
block away from her house.


Houston victim advocate, Andy Kahan stated that there is a reason for having 
the death penalty in Texas. He said Shore is a "poster child for why," 
according to the Houston Chronicle.


Killer appeals to U.S. Supreme Court on basis of 'brain damage'

Shore's attorney, K. Knox Nunnally, said there is an appeal, it is his killer 
client's "last chance" plea before the United States Supreme Court. Though he 
believes that there is the strength to his client's argument, he also 
acknowledged that the "odds" are not favorable to Shore.


The appeal is premised on a traumatic brain injury, according to Nunnally, who 
asserts his client's brain damage was sustained before Shore targeted and 
murdered Hispanic females. He further stated that the injury might have altered 
the killer's ability to distinguish between "right or wrong."


Kim Ogg is currently the Harris County District Attorney. Once Shore's 
execution date was scheduled she described him as a "true" serial killer who 
deserves capital punishment. She said he was predatory, his acts were brutal, 
and the execution is "appropriate."


(source: blastingnews.com)






GEORGIAfemale Mexican national may face death penalty

Ga. mother appears in court day after allegedly stabbing husband, 4 kids to 
death



The day after she allegedly stabbed to death her husband and 4 of their 
children, a Gwinnett County mother smiled for cameras, flashed the thumbs-up 
sign, and told a judge she doesn't want a lawyer.


"I don't need an attorney," Isabel Martinez said Friday through an interpreter. 
"My attorney is the people that we are fighting for ... It does not matter what 
color you are because God loves us all."


But whether or not she has an attorney may not be up to Martinez.

Though her mental health has not been discussed publicly by law enforcement or 
the court, the 33-year-old woman's bizarre behavior in court - and the very 
nature of her alleged crimes - raises questions about whether she will be 
deemed competent to stand trial, according to legal experts.


That's a determination to be made by forensic psychiatrists - the likely next 
step in what is sure to be a long, complex process, attorneys observing the 
case said Friday.


Martinez is accused of killing the 4 children and their father early Thursday 
morning at the family's home in Loganville. A 5th child, a daughter, was also 
attacked but survived and is now awake and talking in a hospital. Martinez was 
taken into custody, interviewed and arrested later Thursday, charged with 5 
counts of malice murder, 5 counts of murder and 6 charges of aggravated 
assault.


Police have not released details about a possible motive or whether Martinez 
confessed to the killings.


Her 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., VA., N.C., GA., FLA., ALA., MISS.

2017-07-08 Thread Rick Halperin






July 8



TEXAS:

US appeals court to review case of Argentine on death row in Texas


A federal court has agreed to review the appeal of an Argentine who is on death 
row in Texas for a 1995 killing.


The Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals said last week it will examine whether 
Victor Saldano, 44, was competent to stand trial and whether his lawyers were 
deficient for not requesting a competency hearing before he was resentenced to 
death years after the initial trial.


Saldano, who was in the US illegally, was sentenced to death for the killing of 
46-year-old Paul King, who was abducted from a Plano supermarket, robbed and 
shot.


His case has drawn the attention of Pope Francis, who has met at least twice 
with the inmate's mother. The Catholic Church opposes capital punishment.


Saldano was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to die in 1996, but a 
judge later threw out the original sentence because a psychologist improperly 
testified that Saldano's "Hispanic background" made him likely to be a future 
danger, which Texas juries factor into death penalty decisions. The trial's 
punishment phase was repeated in 2004 and Saldano was again sentenced to die.


In its decision to consider the case, the appeals court wrote that "ample 
evidence supports an inference of incompetency" and pointed to "numerous 
instances" of Saldano's incoherent and strange behaviour around the time the 
punishment phase was repeated. Physicians offered various explanations for 
Saldana's behaviour, including his isolation on death row and that he was 
faking his condition to get drugs.


Lower courts have ruled that the trial court had no obligation to hold a 
competency hearing.


The appeals court record showed both the trial judge and Saldano's lawyers had 
concerns about his mental state, but the court's record includes no results of 
any examinations of Saldano. Defence attorneys never requested a competency 
hearing and the judge indicated he "had no reason to believe Saldano was 
legally incompetent," the Fifth Circuit wrote.


Defence lawyers, meanwhile, made a strategic decision at the resentencing phase 
to not introduce evidence of Saldano's mental condition. Instead, they stressed 
that Saldana didn't have a prior criminal record, that he was under the 
influence of drugs and alcohol, and that it was a companion, Jorge Chavez, who 
came up with the idea to commit the crime.


Chavez is serving a life prison term.

The appeals court has given Saldano's attorneys 30 days to present written 
arguments. State attorneys then will have 15 days to respond.


(source: Buenos Aires Herald)






PENNSYLVANIA:

Death penalty sought in Mount Wolf woman's homicide


An 18-year old Bronx man who attended Northeastern High School is facing the 
death penalty for allegedly murdering Ahshantianna Johnson outside her Mount 
Wolf home.


Edia Antonio Lawrence, who goes by "Richie," was in York County Court Friday 
morning for his formal court arraignment on charges of 1st-degree murder, 
conspiracy to commit that offense, 2nd-degree murder, robbery, burglary, theft, 
simple assault and receiving stolen property.


Chief deputy prosecutor David Maisch said the York County District Attorney's 
Office is citing 2 aggravating factors to argue for the death penalty.


First, he said, Johnson was killed during the course of another felony - 
specifically, robbery. The 2nd is that the slaying occurred as part of a 
drug-delivery operation, Maisch said.


Lawrence's alleged accomplices in the homicide remain at large, the prosecutor 
confirmed.


'A little surprised': Philadelphia-based defense attorney Jack McMahon said he 
intends to defend the case vigorously.


"We were a little surprised they're seeking the death penalty. He's only an 
18-year-old young man," he said.


McMahon noted that the only identification of Lawrence being involved is a 
voice identification.


"I think that's a bit suspect," he said. "We think the defendant did not do 
this."


McMahon said it's a sad case.

"But just because it's sad doesn't mean he's guilty," the attorney said.

Prosecutors consulted with Johnson's family and Northeastern Regional Police 
before deciding to seek the death penalty, according to Maisch, who said 
Johnson's family supports the decision.


Lawrence's 1st pretrial conference is scheduled for Oct. 16.

The background: 3 armed, masked men, allegedly including Lawrence, fatally beat 
the 19-year-old Johnson at her Second Street home because Lawrence believed 
she'd stolen his drug money and vowed to "take care of it," according to 
charging documents.


About 2:15 a.m. March 25, the trio barged into the home Johnson shared with her 
mother, Noemi Capo, and started stealing property, documents state.


One of the men threatened Capo with a metal baseball bat and a knife, demanding 
she call her daughter and have her come home, police said.


E Capo eventually reached Johnson by phone and told her she needed to come 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., FLA., ALA.

2017-07-07 Thread Rick Halperin






July 7




TEXASnew execution date

Houston's 'Tourniquet Killer' set for October execution


He was a musician. A hard-working father. A charismatic charmer. But now, he's 
just a convicted killer who has a date with death.


Houston's so-called "Tourniquet Killer" - a 55-year-old who admitted to raping 
and killing young Hispanic women in Harris County for nearly a decade - is 
slated for execution this fall.


Anthony Allen Shore terrorized the county in the 1980s and 1990s, leaving 
behind a trail of young victims in a gruesome set of crimes marked by the 
killer's use of handmade tourniquets.


He was found guilty on 1 count of capital murder in 2004 and, finally, on 
Thursday, state District Judge Maria T. Jackson set his execution for Oct. 18. 
He is the only inmate from Harris County with a death date on the calendar.


"There's a reason we have the death penalty in Texas and Anthony Shore is a 
poster child for why," said Andy Kahan, Houston's victim advocate.


One final long-shot plea for consideration is pending before the U.S. Supreme 
Court.


"I would certainly say that the odds are not in our favor," said his attorney, 
K. Knox Nunnally, of Houston. "But we believe that we have a strong argument."


The brutal killings went unsolved for nearly 2 decades until Shore was arrested 
for molesting 2 girls - both of whom were relatives - and a DNA breakthrough 
cracked the cold cases.


As a convicted sex offender, Shore's DNA went on file. And after testing cold 
case evidence, investigators realized that Shore's sample matched a speck 
recovered from underneath the fingernails of a dead woman. When police 
confronted Shore with the newfound connection to the killing, the former 
telephone technician calmly confessed to four crimes, starting with the slaying 
of 14-year-old Laurie Tremblay in 1986.


6 years later, he raped and murdered 21-year-old Maria del Carmen Estrada 
before leaving her naked body in the drive-through of a Spring Branch Dairy 
Queen.


In 1994, he killed 9-year-old Diana Rebollar. When he snatched her, his 
youngest victim was on the way to the store to buy sugar so her mom could make 
lemonade.


The following year, Shore slaughtered 16-year-old Dana Sanchez, who vanished 
while hitchhiking to her boyfriend's house in north Houston.


All of the victims were raped and tortured before he strangled them with 
handmade tourniquets.


At the time of his 2003 arrest in the slayings, Shore was still on probation 
for the earlier molestations.


Shore is a "true serial killer, a person deserving of the ultimate punishment," 
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement Thursday. "His 
crimes were predatory, and his victims the most vulnerable in society - women 
and children. For his brutal acts, the death penalty is appropriate."


Before he was sentenced in 2004 for Estrada's slaying, Shore stunned listeners 
in court by requesting the death penalty, and a Harris County jury quickly 
complied.


Prosecutors at the time chalked his bizarre request up to a deranged mind and 
psychopathic narcissism.


Now, Shore's lawyers are still fighting for their client's life.

Nunnally, who's represented Shore as appointed pro bono counsel through the 
federal appeals process, said there's currently a petition for a writ of 
certiorari pending in the U.S. Supreme Court. If granted, that could require a 
lower court to reconsider a request for appeal.


The crux of the appeal is that Shore has previously unrealized brain damage.

"In the course of our appeal we discovered he suffered a traumatic brain injury 
prior to the times he committed the crimes he was accused of," Nunnally said. 
"That possibly could have affected his reasoning and determination of what is 
right or wrong."


His lawyers aren't seeking to exonerate him, though.

"This is not a guilty/innocent argument," Nunnally said. "This is a 
death/life-in-prison argument."


Shore's scheduled execution comes amid a dip in the use of capital punishment 
both statewide and across the nation. So far, Texas has only executed four 
offenders this year, and just six more - including Shore - are scheduled to die 
before the year's end.


"This will be the 1st execution date out of Harris County this year and leaving 
aside any particulars about his case, we're seeing a general downward trend in 
both executions and death sentences," said Kristin Houle, executive director of 
the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. "But it's always 
disappointing to see new dates added to the list."


(source: Houston Chronicle)

**

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present24

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982present-543

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #

25-July 27-Taichin Preyor-544

26-Aug. 30-Steven Long545

27-Sept.7--Juan Castillo--546


[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., S.C., FLA., USA

2017-07-05 Thread Rick Halperin





July 5




TEXAS:

My grandfather was a death row doctor. He tested psychedelic drugs on Texas 
inmatesAn Austin-based writer's quest to learn his grandfather's story 
leads to death row - and a little-known series of experiments that involved 
giving hallucinogens to inmates in the early 1960s.



[In this special contribution to The Texas Tribune, Austin writer Ben Hartman 
tells the story of his search for the truth about his late grandfather, a 
prison psychiatrist on Texas' death row who performed little-known medical 
experiments on inmates in the 1960s.]


Eusebio Martinez was polite - even happy - as he entered the death chamber that 
August night in Huntsville in 1960. He may not have understood his time was up.


A few years earlier, Martinez had been convicted of murdering an infant girl 
whose parents had left her sleeping in their car while they visited a Midland 
nightclub. He???d been ruled "feeble-minded" by multiple psychiatrists and had 
to be shown how to get into the electric chair.


As he was strapped in, a priest leaned in and coached him to say "gracias" and 
a simple prayer. Just before the first bolt knifed through his brain, Martinez 
grinned and waved at the young Houston doctor who would declare him dead a few 
minutes later.


That doctor was my grandfather.

For 3 years at the end of his life, Dr. Lee Hartman worked as a resident 
physician and psychiatrist at Huntsville's Wynne Unit. From 1960 to 1963, he 
witnessed at least 14 executions as presiding physician, his signature scrawled 
on the death certificates of the condemned men. All of them died in the 
electric chair - "Ol' Sparky" - a grisly method that left flesh burned and 
bodies smoking in the death chamber as my grandfather read their vital signs.


I had always known from my father that his dad, who died before I was born, 
worked for the prison system as a psychiatrist.


But I had no idea that he'd worked in the death chamber, witnessing executions. 
Or that he'd been involved in testing psychedelics on prisoners to see if drugs 
like LSD, mescaline and psilocybin could treat schizophrenia. Or that he'd been 
hospitalized repeatedly during his lifelong struggle with depression.


And I didn't know the truth about his death at age 48, when he was found on the 
staircase of his house in Houston's exclusive River Oaks neighborhood.


My obsession with my grandfather's life grew from my father's sudden death from 
a stroke at his Austin home in 2014. Last summer, I came back to Austin after 
14 years overseas and began searching for clues about my grandfather - in the 
state archives, in Huntsville and in boxes of old family keepsakes kept by my 
aunts.


I reported on crime and police and prisons for several years as a journalist in 
Israel, and now I wanted to investigate a mystery in my own family tree. I 
wanted to learn about the man whose story had always seemed more literary than 
real - a Jewish orphan from the Deep South who fought in World War II, sang in 
operas and became a successful doctor before tragedy cut the story short.


I wanted to know the man my father was named for, and to use the search as a 
way to beat a path through my grief over my own father's death.


Through my grandfather's personal papers, newspaper clippings and long-buried 
state records, I found a man - brilliant, thoughtful and sensitive - who 
witnessed great human drama and suffering in the Death House, and in the 
process became a determined opponent of capital punishment. He outlined his 
thoughts in a collection of diary entries and a 19-page handwritten treatise I 
found in my grandmother's old keepsakes.


"The death penalty," he wrote in 1962, "is irreparable."

My grandfather was born in Greenville, Miss., in 1916, 1 of 2 twin boys placed 
in foster care after their father died of yellow fever and their mother moved 
away.


The boys ended up at the New Orleans Jewish Children's Home and attended the 
elite Newman School down the street, just like hundreds of other Jewish orphans 
of their day.


My grandfather and his brother went on to graduate from Louisiana State 
University's medical school. Along the way, my grandfather trained as an opera 
singer, met my grandmother, started a family, served in the Army Air Corps as a 
flight surgeon during World War II, then returned home to his family and 
started his medical career. For a decade he worked as a small-town general 
practitioner in Louisiana and East Texas.


In 1957, he moved to Houston and enrolled in the Baylor College of Medicine to 
study psychiatry, a major mid-life career move that, according to my father, 
was partly motivated by my grandfather's desire to understand his own battles 
with depression.


Within a few years, he had gone to work in Huntsville as part of a contingent 
of Baylor College of Medicine psychiatrists sent to the Wynne Treatment Center, 
a diagnostic unit for mentally ill inmates that had opened the previous year.


It was 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, N.C., GA., FLA., OHIO, OKLA., USA

2017-07-03 Thread Rick Halperin





July 3




TEXAS:

Death penalty nearing historic lows in Texas and nationwide


The death penalty is on the downswing - not just in Texas, but nationwide.

A mid-year review by the Death Penalty Information Center found that the use of 
capital punishment is likely to hover near historic lows in 2017, with just 13 
executions completed and 12 more slated to occur.


Last year, just 14 executions had been carried out by mid-point in the year.

Even the Lone Star State, which has typically been a heavy user of capital 
punishment, has seen a long-term drop in executions. In 2016, the state 
executed the fewest inmates it had in 2 decades, as the Chronicle reported in 
December.


"There is clearly a political climate change under way in the United States on 
the death penalty," Robert Dunham, DPIC executive director, said last year.


"It has many different causes - you can't attribute it to any single thing - 
but there are a combination of factors that have led to substantial change in 
America's view of the death penalty."


Some of the factors at play in the changing trend could include legal 
uncertainties, moratoriums, and death penalty drug shortages, according to The 
Washington Post.


And on top of those logistical issues, public opinion has slowly shifted away 
from the practice. A Pew Research Survey in 2016 found that support for the 
death penalty had fallen below 50 % for the 1st time in almost half a century. 
While a Gallup poll a year earlier found a slightly higher level of support in 
the general populace with 60 % favoring the practice, even that higher number 
represents a decline.


"People feel much more comfortable with that alternative because if you make a 
mistake, you can fix it later," ACLU senior staff attorney Brian Stull said 
last year. "That is certainly lurking in the background."


But the current dip may not be record-setting; as of now, 2017 execution 
figures look to be slightly above the 26-year-low seen in 2016. But, that could 
change depending on whether Ohio is able to carry out the 5 executions 
scheduled between now and December.


And it's also possible 2017 could see a new low in death sentences handed out. 
So far, states have only doled out 16 death sentences. Last year saw just 31 by 
the end of the year.


But even though Texas has witnessed a marked decrease in the use of capital 
punishment, it's still near the head of the pack for the remainder of the year, 
with 5 executions scheduled for the 2nd half of 2017.


(source: Houston Chronicle)






NORTH CAROLINA:

Bradley found guilty in murder of Shannon Rippy Van Newkirk


More than 3 years after Shannon Rippy Van Newkirk was last seen, a Pender 
County jury on Thursday found James Opelton Bradley guilty of 2nd-degree murder 
in her presumed death.


Superior Court Judge Paul Jones sentenced Bradley to 30.4 to 37.5 years in 
prison.


Bradley's defense attorneys said they would appeal the verdict. New Hanover 
County District Attorney Ben David David said he is "thrilled" with the verdict 
and is confident it will hold up under appeal.


Bradley, 54, of Wilmington was charged with 1st-degree murder April 29, 2014, 
after Wilmington Police Department detectives looking for Van Newkirk unearthed 
a woman's nude and bound body from a shallow grave in a Pender County farm 
field.


Missing

Van Newkirk, 53, of Wilmington was last seen April 5, 2014, at the Husk Bar in 
downtown Wilmington. Her mother Roberta Lewis reported Van Newkirk missing 
after she didn't show up for a brunch to celebrate her 54th birthday on April 
6, 2014.


Van Newkirk and Bradley were employed by Steve Mott's landscaping company and 
occasionally went to work on a farm Mott owns in Hampstead. It was on that farm 
where the woman's buried body was found, wrapped in garbage bags.


Detectives at first thought the woman's body was Van Newkirk's. Tattoos 
observed during an autopsy confirmed it was not Van Newkirk, but the body of 
Elisha Tucker, 33, of Wilmington, who had been missing since August 2013. A DNA 
expert testified during the trial that Tucker's DNA was found on the carpet pad 
of Bradley's Chevrolet Tahoe. Crystal Sitosky, a Wilmington woman who said she 
had seen Bradley with Tucker in the summer of 2013, also testified she went to 
meet with Bradley on the property where Tucker's body eventually was found.


Bradley also is charged with 1st-degree murder in Tucker's death, but a trial 
date has not been set. The state has said it will seek the death penalty in 
that case.


(source: Wilmington Star News)






GEORGIA:

Alleged gunman in Savannah gang revenge slaying makes court appearance


The alleged shooter in what prosecutors call a gang revenge slaying of 
Dominique Powell in Tatemville today appeared in court as officials begin new 
death-penalty proceedings on a June re-indictment.


Timothy Coleman Jr., 21, appeared with his lawyer from the state Capital 
Defense Office in a "first apperance" before 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., FLA., ALA., USA

2017-07-02 Thread Rick Halperin






JULY 2



TEXAS:

Appeals court to review case of Argentine on Texas death row


A federal court has agreed to review the appeal of an Argentine man who is on 
death row in Texas for a 1995 killing.


The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Wednesday it will examine whether 
Victor Saldano, 44, was competent to stand trial and whether his lawyers were 
deficient for not requesting a competency hearing before he was resentenced to 
death years after the initial trial.


Saldano, who was in the U.S. illegally, was sentenced to death for the killing 
of 46-year-old Paul King, who was abducted from a Plano supermarket, robbed and 
shot.


His case has drawn the attention of Pope Francis, who is also Argentine and has 
met at least twice with the inmate's mother. The Catholic Church opposes 
capital punishment.


Saldano was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to die in 1996, but a 
judge later threw out the original sentence because a psychologist improperly 
testified that Saldano's Hispanic background made him likely to be a future 
danger, which Texas juries factor into death penalty decisions. The trial's 
punishment phase was repeated in 2004 and Saldano was again sentenced to die.


In its decision to consider the case, the appeals court wrote that "ample 
evidence supports an inference of incompetency" and pointed to "numerous 
instances" of Saldano's incoherent and strange behavior around the time the 
punishment phase was repeated. Physicians offered various explanations for 
Saldana's behavior, including his isolation on death row and that he was faking 
his condition to get drugs.


Lower courts have ruled that the trial court had no obligation to hold a 
competency hearing.


The appeals court record showed both the trial judge and Saldano's lawyers had 
concerns about his mental state, but the court's record includes no results of 
any examinations of Saldano. Defense attorneys never requested a competency 
hearing and the judge indicated he "had no reason to believe Saldano was 
legally incompetent," the 5th Circuit wrote.


Defense lawyers, meanwhile, made a strategic decision at the resentencing phase 
to not introduce evidence of Saldano's mental condition. Instead, they stressed 
that Saldana didn't have a prior criminal record, that he was under the 
influence of drugs and alcohol, and that it was a companion, Jorge Chavez, who 
came up with the idea to commit the crime.


Chavez is serving a life prison term.

The appeals court has given Saldano's attorneys 30 days to present written 
arguments. State attorneys then will have 15 days to respond.


(source: Associated Press)






VIRGINIAimpending execution

An execution will not equal justice


On July 6, Virginia is scheduled to carry out its 3rd execution under Gov. 
Terry McAuliffe, D, and 113th since 1976. The inmate, William C. Morva, was 
convicted of fatally shooting 2 men - a deputy sheriff and a hospital security 
guard - in 2006. His guilt is not in question. What is less clear is if jurors 
would have sentenced him to death had they been aware of the true extent of his 
mental illness.


At varying points, Morva reportedly believed that he was meant to lead a 
distant indigenous tribe; that he was gifted with special powers to carry out 
an unidentified quest; that he was unjustly persecuted by local officials and 
the administration of President George W. Bush; and that his real name was 
Nemo, which is Latin for "nobody." These are not signs of a rational mind, but 
rather one afflicted with debilitating mental illness. A mental-health expert 
who assessed him after his conviction diagnosed him with delusional disorder, a 
serious psychotic condition similar to schizophrenia.


We have previously written that capital punishment is dehumanizing. But the 
execution of a man suffering from severe mental illness is an act of particular 
barbarism - especially if his condition may have been misdiagnosed in trial. 
According to Morva's attorneys, the mental-health experts who provided 
statements to the jury did not receive his full case history and diagnosed him 
with a personality disorder rather than psychosis.


Despite his personal opposition to the death penalty, McAuliffe is committed to 
upholding Virginia law, a stance we understand and respect. He commuted a death 
sentence in April, however, after he found flaws in the sentencing process of 
Ivar Teleguz. His predecessors - then-Gov. James Gilmore, R, and now-Sen. Tim 
Kaine, D-Va. - had granted clemency on grounds of mental illness. Morva's case 
raises many of the same questions and adds fodder to the national effort to 
abolish capital punishment for people with serious mental illnesses.


McAuliffe should look favorably on the petition for clemency before him and 
commute Morva's sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. 
He should also ensure that Morva receives the mental-health treatment he so 
obviously needs. The killing of 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., OHIO, MICH., MO., ARIZ., USA, USA/EU

2017-06-28 Thread Rick Halperin






June 29




TEXAS:

Surviving bad lawyers just got tougher for death row inmates


For inmates on death row, having a bad lawyer just got deadlier.

In a ruling Monday against a Texas death row inmate who claimed his lawyer 
failed to argue his case adequately, the Supreme Court ruled that federal 
courts could not review prisoners' claims that their state appeals lawyers were 
ineffective, resolving an issue that had split courts across the country.


The decision makes it harder for death row inmates who had poor legal 
representation to make that part of their appeals, a particular issue for poor 
inmates who likely have court-appointed lawyers in the early stages of their 
cases.


"It does perpetuate a system of inequality," said Sean O'Brien, a law professor 
at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law who has argued several 
capital punishment cases and served as the director of many of the school's 
criminal defense law clinics. "It gives the state a reward for giving prisoners 
incompetent lawyers in state post-conviction That's the net effect of 
this."


In 2008, Erick Davila was convicted of fatally shooting a 5-year-old girl and 
her grandmother. Davila argued that he had meant to shoot a rival gang member - 
the girl's father. The fact that he had not meant to kill more than 1 person 
should have made him ineligible for a capital murder verdict and the death 
penalty. But the judge gave the trial jury incorrect instructions about 
Davila's eligibility, and they sentenced him to death by lethal injection.


During Davila's appeal, his lawyer failed to argue that those bad instructions 
affected Davis' sentencing. Then, crucially, during Davila's post-conviction 
proceedings in state court, a new lawyer didn't bring up the appeal lawyer's 
failure to mention the instructions. With his case now up for a federal appeal, 
Davila's latest lawyer argued that because his appeals lawyer was incompetent, 
the federal court should review the impact of the inaccurate instructions to 
the jury.


Federal courts, however, typically won't rule on issues that could have been 
reviewed at the state level.


"The question is [not] really whether or not Davila had a fair trial," O'Brien 
said. "He did not. The question is whether the federal court can remedy that he 
had an unfair trial."


The answer to that question, the justices ruled in a 5-4 decision in Davila v. 
Davis, is no.


"Claims of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel, however, do not pose 
the same risk that a trial error - of any kind - will escape review 
altogether," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the majority opinion. (Thanks to 
a 2011 Supreme Court case, federal courts can already review lawyers' mistakes 
at the trial level.) Thomas added that, if the court ruled in Davila's favor, 
"Not only would these burdens on the federal courts and our federal system be 
severe, but the benefit would - as a systemic matter - be small."


It's unclear just how many cases will be affected by Monday's ruling. During 
oral arguments, lawyers for Texas argued that a ruling in Davila's favor could 
unleash a "flood" of cases into federal courts. Texas Attorney General Ken 
Paxton echoed that assessment in a statement celebrating the ruling, saying, 
"Had the high court ruled otherwise, states and the federal court system would 
have been burdened with an avalanche of claims facing an infinitesimal chance 
of success."


"It's going to exacerbate the difference between prisoners who have access to 
good lawyers and those who don't."


Stephen Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law who wrote 
about the case for the Supreme Court outlet SCOTUSBlog, says this case wasn't 
just about the fates of what both he and O'Brien believe will actually be only 
a small number of prisoners who find themselves in situations like Davila's. 
Instead, Vladeck says, the case demonstrates a "lack of doctrine that responds 
to and accounts for these inequalities" in the criminal justice system - 
particularly for people facing capital punishment.


"It's going to further exacerbate the difference between state prisoners who 
have access to good lawyers for their post-conviction proceedings, and those 
who don't," Vladeck said. "Because the good lawyers will be able to salvage the 
ineffectiveness of the appellate counsel."


That difference may be steep. A Harvard Law School study of the 16 counties 
that imposed the death penalty 5 or more times between 2010 and 2015 (3 were in 
Texas) found "appalling inadequacies" in the quality of legal defense.


"You've got to win the lottery and get 3 good lawyers in a row," O'Brien said 
of the trial, appellate, and post-conviction process. "Even if you do get 1 
good lawyer, the other 2 lawyers are going to undo the work of that lawyer 
They have a hard time consistently providing competent lawyers at the trial 
level, especially Texas."


As of late last year, Texas had 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., VA., N.C., FLA.

2017-06-28 Thread Rick Halperin






June 28



TEXAS:

Former death row inmate now eligible for parole, victim's family strikes back


Noe Santana, whose 20-year-old cousin was kidnapped, raped and murdered in 
1991, did not mince words when he had the chance Tuesday to talk to the killer.


"When you're looking at yourself in the mirror, I hope you take that razor you 
shave your face with, shave your head with, and cut across your throat," 
Santana shouted at him in the courtroom. "There's nothing left for you in this 
life."


Santana was in court to see 44-year-old Robert James Campbell's death sentence 
reduced to life in prison after he was declared intellectually disabled.


Before he was sentenced, Campbell apologized to the family and wished them 
peace.


"I would just like to offer my deepest and sincerest apologies for all I've 
hurt," he said softly.


Campbell was convicted in 1992 of capital murder in the death of Alejandra 
Rendon, a bank teller he abducted while she was pumping gas.


He spent 25 years on death row, survived an execution day, and is now eligible 
for parole after mental health professionals determined he is too disabled to 
be executed, prosecutors said Tuesday.


The U.S. Supreme Court recently outlawed the execution of mentally disabled 
people, sending Campbell's case back to Harris County for evaluation. A 
prosecution expert declared him mentally disabled.


Wearing the yellow jail uniform typically reserved for high-profile inmates, he 
appeared before Visiting Judge Michael Wilkerson, who sentenced him to life in 
prison.


Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said the law in 1991 did not allow for 
the option of life without parole, so he will be eligible for parole.


"Times have changed when it comes to people with mental disabilities," Ogg 
said. "It was with a heavy heart that our expert came back and agreed with the 
defense that Campbell is intellectually disabled so we were forced to withdraw 
our plan to seek the death penalty."


Defense attorney Rob Owen, of Northwestern University School of Law, has in the 
past extended his condolences to the victim's family on behalf of the defense 
team, which included Burke Butler and Callie Heller of the Powell Project and 
Raoul Schonemann of the Capital Punishment Clinic at the University of Texas 
School of Law.


"Robert expressed his remorse for his actions, apologized to everyone he had 
hurt, and said he would continue to pray that his victims find peace," Owen 
said Tuesday in an emailed statement. "We likewise extend our sympathy to the 
victims for the terrible loss they have suffered, and our appreciation to the 
District Attorney's office for their decision to forego further efforts to seek 
Robert's execution."


Ogg said her office will protest all of Campbell's future parole hearings to 
remind officials of the brutality of his crime.


"We can successfully fight his parole and keep Mr. Campbell behind bars," she 
said. "He was a person who was a predator in our society."


Victim's advocate Andy Kahan said Campbell will likely go before the parole 
board within 6 months. He said Rendon's family will ask the board to deny 
parole and put Campbell on a special list in which he will not go before the 
board again for at least 10 years.


If he is classified that way, he would only get parole hearings every decade, a 
comforting thought for Rendon's family.


"Your last meal should be behind bars," Santana told the killer.

(source: Houston Chronicle)






PENNSYLVANIA:

What it's like to spend 22 years on death row for a crime you didn't commit


Nick Yarris served 22 years in solitary confinement on death row for a crime he 
didn't commit.


He was stabbed, strangled, savagely beaten and came face-to-face with some of 
the most notorious serial killers America has ever produced, all the while 
knowing he was innocent.


But, despite all this, despite being dismissed as a rapist and murderer, and 
feeling so low he asked a judge if he could be put to death, he considers 
himself 'extremely lucky'.


'Look at the physical features,' he told metro.co.uk from his home near Yeovil 
in Somerset, as he prepared to travel to Los Angeles to work on a biopic of his 
life.


'[I] faced the death penalty but got out, acclimatised to society, overcame 
Hepatitis C, and went on to stand next to some of the most brilliant actors in 
the world performing in the Colosseum in Rome.'


'Guess what? There are 160 other men who have been proven innocent off death 
row. Not all of them are getting the same play.


'A lot of them go and die in abstract, terrible ways and they don't get 
anything.'


It's true that the 56-year-old's case has been the subject of widespread 
coverage since his release from prison in Pennsylvania in 2004 after DNA proved 
his innocence.


But anyone who has watched Netflix documentary The Fear of 13 or read Yarris' 
book by the same title will be able to testify that there is something 
particularly compelling about his 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, S.C.., FLA., ALA., LA.

2017-06-27 Thread Rick Halperin






June 27



TEXASnew execution date

Robert Pruett has been given an execution date for October 12; it should be 
considered serious.



Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present24

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982present-543

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #

25-July 27-Taichin Preyor-544

26-Aug. 30-Steven Long545

27-Sept.7--Juan Castillo--546

28-Oct. 12-Robert Pruett--547

29-Oct. 26-Clinton Young--548

30-Jan. 30-William Rayford549

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)



Texas death row inmate loses at U.S. Supreme Court, could face execution 
dateThe U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a Texas death row inmate Monday, 
making Erick Davila's case ineligible for review in federal court.



A Texas death row inmate whose case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme 
Court could now face an execution date after the justices ruled against him in 
a 5-4 decision Monday morning split among ideological lines. The man was 
convicted in the 2008 shooting deaths of a 5-year-old girl and her grandmother 
in Fort Worth.


The question before the high court in Erick Davila's case was whether claims of 
ineffective assistance of counsel during state appeals should be treated the 
same as during the original trial. Appellate courts throughout the country have 
ruled differently on the issue, a situation that often prompts the Supreme 
Court to step in. In the Monday opinion presented by Justice Clarence Thomas, 
the justices ultimately decided that the different types of lawyers should not 
be treated the same, making Davila's case ineligible for consideration in 
federal court.


"Because a prisoner does not have a constitutional right to counsel in state 
postconviction proceedings, ineffective assistance in those proceedings does 
not qualify as cause to excuse a procedural default," Thomas wrote in his 
opinion, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Anthony Kennedy, 
Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch.


Justice Stephen Breyer, a notable death penalty critic, wrote a dissenting 
opinion, joined by liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and 
Elena Kagan.


"The fact that, according to Department of Justice statistics, nearly 1/3 of 
convictions or sentences in capital cases are overturned at some stage of 
review suggests the practical importance of the appeal right, particularly in a 
capital case such as this one," Breyer wrote in his dissent.


Davila's case started in Fort Worth in 2008, when he fatally shot a rival gang 
member's 5-year-old daughter and mother during a child's birthday party, 
according to court documents. Davila, now 30, claims he only meant to kill his 
rival, Jerry Stevenson. In his confession to police he stated he was trying to 
get Stevenson and "the guys on the porch."


If the jury had believed Davila only intended to kill 1 person, he would have 
been ineligible for a capital murder verdict and the death penalty would have 
been off the table. In this case, Davila must have intended to kill multiple 
people to be found guilty of capital murder.


During deliberations, the jury asked the judge for clarification on the intent 
issue, and the judge said Davila would be responsible for the crime if the only 
difference between what happened and his intention was that a different person 
was hurt. He did not affirm to the jury that Davila must have intended to kill 
more than 1 person to be found guilty.


It's that jury instruction that Davila's long, complicated case hinged upon. 
His lawyer at trial objected to the instruction, but was overruled. But in his 
automatic, direct appeal after being convicted and sentenced to death, his new 
lawyer never mentioned the judge's instruction, even though that is the appeal 
where death-sentenced individuals raise what they think are wrongdoings from 
the trial. Afterward, during his state habeas appeal, which focuses on issues 
outside of the trial record, the lawyer didn't fault the previous lawyer for 
not raising the issue on direct appeal.


The next step in the death penalty appeals process after going through state 
courts is to move into the federal court system. But federal courts generally 
can't rule on issues that could have been raised in state appeals. So, when 
Davila's current lawyer, Seth Kretzer, tried to claim his client's direct 
appellate lawyer was inadequate for not raising the issue of an improper jury 
instruction by the judge, the federal courts said they couldn't look at the 
issue because it could have been raised by the state habeas appellate lawyer.


"The way the law works right now is if the trial counsel made a mistake, the 
federal court could save the inmate's life, but if the appellate counsel made 
the mistake, they would 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., N.C., FLA., ALA., LA.

2017-06-24 Thread Rick Halperin





June 24




TEXAS:

Love gets new attorneys for capital murder retrial


Former convicted murderer Albert Leslie Love Jr. has 2 new lawyers for a 
retrial of his capital murder case, including one who represented him on 
appeal.


In a brief hearing Friday, Love informed 19th State District Judge Ralph 
Strother that he requires court-appointed attorneys to represent him because he 
and his family can't afford to hire attorneys for the retrial of his 
death-penalty case.


Love left death row and has been back in the McLennan County Jail since May 2. 
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned his capital murder conviction 
and death sentence in December.


Strother appointed Austin attorneys Ariel Payan, who worked on Love's appeal, 
and Jim Young to represent Love on retrial. Strother said Friday it likely will 
be 2019 before Love's case can be tried again.


A Williamson County jury returned the death penalty against Love in 2013 in the 
2011 shooting deaths of Keenan Hubert, 20, and Tyus Sneed, 17, at the Lakewood 
Villas apartment complex, 1601 Spring St.


The Court of Criminal Appeals, in a 6-3 opinion, ruled that Love's Fourth 
Amendment rights were violated when Waco police seized the contents of his 
cellphone, including text messages, without a search warrant. Prosecutors then 
used the messages at his trial.


In a motion for rehearing rejected by the Court of Criminal Appeals in April, 
prosecutors argued that Waco police officers relied on what they understood the 
law to be at the time and exhibited a "good-faith belief" that warrants were 
not necessary for the cellphones.


Love was appointed new attorneys because his original trial attorneys, John 
Donahue and Jon Evans, bowed out of representing him again because Love's 
appellate attorneys alleged in briefs that the attorneys were ineffective, a 
common tactic on appeal.


Love's trial was moved to Georgetown because one of his co-defendants, Rickey 
Donnell Cummings, was tried first in Waco. The appeals court affirmed Cummings' 
conviction and death sentence.


Cummings' younger brother, D'Arvis Cummings, was sentenced to 20 years in 
prison in 2014. He pleaded guilty to murder as a party to the ambush slayings.


Deontrae Majors and Marion Bible, who were in the front seat of the car Hubert 
and Sneed were in when they were killed, were wounded in the attack but managed 
to escape.


Testimony from both trials showed Cummings and Love wanted to kill Hubert out 
of revenge because they thought he killed their best friend, Emuel "Man Man" 
Bowers III, at East Waco Park the year before.


McDonald capital murder trial postponed

In other court activity Friday afternoon, Strother indefinitely postponed the 
capital murder trial of Todric Deon McDonald to give his attorneys sufficient 
time to have DNA evidence analyzed.


McDonald, 30, and 32-year-old Tony Olivarez are co-defendants in the shooting 
deaths of Justin Javier Gonzalez, 24, and Ulysses Gonzalez, 30, at the Pecan 
Tree Apartments in the 2600 block of Grim Avenue. The cousins died of multiple 
gunshot wounds, police said.


Prosecutor Michael Jarrett told the judge his office likely will get a report 
back next week concerning 36 items that were tested for DNA, and then he will 
forward the information to the defense.


Evans and Donahue, who represent McDonald in the death-penalty case, told 
Strother they would need time to have the evidence analyzed by defense experts 
to provide McDonald with a proper defense.


Jury selection in the case had been set for October. Jarrett said the state has 
no objections to the postponement.


(source: Waco Tribune-Herald)






VIRGINIA:

Judge hears motions in capital murder case in Danville


A Danville judge this week denied a motion by defense counsel to declare a 
capital murder case unconstitutional.


The Danville Commonwealth's Attorney Office filed a notice of intent to seek 
the death penalty against Pierre Antoine Dixon, 30, in December 2016.


Dixon, of Danville, is charged with capital murder in the November 2013 
shooting death of Lynchburg resident Antwan Lamontah George Rucker. Police have 
said Rucker was believed to have been led to the Innkeeper hotel on Piney 
Forest Road to be robbed.


Danville Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Petra Haskins said in an email 
Friday afternoon the state is seeking the death penalty in the case for 
numerous reasons.


Rucker "was lured to the Innkeeper by [Sharika] Murphy who was in cahoots with 
Dixon to rob Antwan Rucker," Haskins said in the email.


"A homicide in the course of a robbery is potentially a capital crime," Haskins 
continued.


The death penalty is sought in this case due to the "aggravating factors of 
both future dangerousness and vileness," according to a motion filed by Steve 
Milani with the Roanoke Capital Defense Unit.


Milani filed the motion to "declare 1 part of Virginia's capital murder 
sentencing scheme unconstitutional, the so-called 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., GA., FLA., OHIO, ILL.

2017-06-23 Thread Rick Halperin




June 23



TEXAS:

A Texas Death Row Inmate's Fight for Basic Justice Is Finally Heading to the 
Supreme CourtCarlos Ayestas' case is about "the right to be fairly charged 
and defended."



A man on Texas' death row has what seems like a fairly simple request: he wants 
his lawyers to do an investigation into his background - something his counsel 
says he's legally entitled to before being put to death.


Carlos Ayestas, a mentally ill undocumented immigrant from Honduras, is arguing 
that a series of missteps by his trial lawyers led him to be sentenced to death 
in 1997 at the age of 28, without the jury hearing any mitigating evidence that 
could spare his life. Even after appealing to a federal court in 2009, there 
has been no investigation into his personal history, nor have any of the courts 
given weight to his mental health, and therefore there has been no way bring up 
the kind of personal details that could spare Ayestas his sentence.


Now, in his last chance for justice, the US Supreme Court will hear Ayestas' 
case this fall. According to the brief filed in June, the defendant will ask 
the high court to enforce the statutes that are supposed to protect poor 
defendants facing the death penalty. Specifically under consideration are the 
state resources that should be made available to pay for experts or 
investigators, but have been denied throughout Ayestas' appeals process.


In 1995, Ayestas, who'd come to the United States seven years prior, and 2 
accomplices fatally strangled 67-year-old Santiaga Paneque in the course of a 
robbery in her home in Harris County, Texas. Police quickly identified the 
perpetrators but did not yet have them in their custody when, 2 weeks after the 
crime, Harris County Assistant District Attorney Kelly Siegler wrote a memo 
recommending that Ayestas receive the death penalty based on 2 aggravating 
factors: 1, because the victim was elderly and murdered in her own home and, 2, 
because Ayestas "is not a citizen."


"It's intolerable that a person's nationality would play a role in seeking the 
death penalty," says Sheri Johnson, one of Ayestas' current lawyers. "In Texas, 
there are at least a handful of [undocumented people on death row]." (Foreign 
nationals on death row have a right to consular notice, but they don't always 
receive it, Johnson explains. Right now she says that this issue is on hold 
while the team litigates the funding issue.)


Lawyers appointed to indigent defendants are frequently undertrained, 
underpaid, and overworked, placing defendants at an immediate disadvantage. 
But, making matters worse, Harris County is notorious for its poor handling of 
death penalty cases for indigent defendants. According to a 2016 report from 
the Fair Punishment Project that focused on the counties still applying the 
death penalty, Harris County was plagued by subpar lawyering, overzealous 
prosecutors, and racial bias - all of which disproportionately impact poor 
defendants. And in 2015, a state court found that Siegler herself committed 36 
instances of misconduct in just one murder case.


2 days after the Siegler wrote the memo, Ayestas was captured in Kenner, 
Louisiana, and charged with capital murder.


For the trial, the state court appointed 2 lawyers, Diana Olvera and Connie 
Williams, to represent Ayestas. Olvera and Williams then asked the state court 
to appoint an investigator to look into Ayestas' background, a routine part of 
capital murder trials. But the investigator, John Castillo, didn't actually 
start his investigation until 15 months after it was assigned - and just 1 
month before jury selection was slated to start.


As part of his investigation, Castillo had Ayestas fill out a questionnaire. 
His responses, according to his current lawyers, indicated that he suffered 
multiple head traumas, had been drinking since he was a teenager, regularly 
used cocaine, and was under the influence of the drug and alcohol on the day he 
murdered Paneque. But, according to Johnson, his lawyers did little with that 
information at trial.


Ayestas' trial lawyers did not look into his past either, which would also be 
typical in capital trials to supplement the work of the state-appointed 
investigator. They did not meet with any friends or family or with anyone who 
knew him in any of the places that he lived as an adult. Although Olvera says 
that Ayestas originally asked not to have his family contacted, about 2 weeks 
before jury selection began in June 1997, they reached out to his family 
members in Honduras and asked them to come testify at trial. Ayestas' mother, 
though, believed she was going to receive a letter from her son's lawyers that 
she could use to obtain a visa. It's unclear whether there was miscommunication 
about the letter, but no such letter arrived; Ayestas' family members' visas 
were denied and no one showed up to his trial.


The guilt phase of the trial began in July 1997 and lasted 2 days. The 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., S.C., FLA., ALA., OHIO

2017-06-21 Thread Rick Halperin







June 21



TEXAS:

Suspect charged with capital murder in slaying of Houston 
10-month-oldBefore he was accused of killing a 10-month-old, Jared Balogun 
had been arrested repeatedly.



6 days after a 10-month-old was shot in his father's arms, a Houston man was 
charged with capital murder in the shocking southwest Houston slaying that 
authorities say may be gang-related.


Jared Balogun, a 24-year-old with a long history of minor arrests, was already 
behind bars when authorities Tuesday afternoon accused him in the shooting 
death of baby Messiah Marshall.


Although the mayor praised the Houston Police Department for "working 
feverishly" for justice, authorities believe there are 2 other assailants who 
may still be at large.


"No murder in the City of Houston is acceptable, but let it be very, very clear 
when there is a child or a kid murdered in this city we are going to expend 
every and all available resources in order to find these people and bring them 
to justice," Mayor Sylvester Turner told reporters at a Tuesday press 
conference.


The exact events of June 14 are still unclear, but police now say the gunfire 
may have been in retaliation for a previous altercation with the boy's father.


The tragedy unfolded around 1:30 p.m., when Nigel Marshall was out walking with 
his son near the Nob Hill Apartments on North Braeswood.


3 men approached the pair and began firing multiple rounds "indiscriminately," 
police said.


Marshall fled across the complex parking lot, seeking to shield his son from 
the gunfire.


But at least one bullet hit the baby, who died at a nearby Valero gas station.

(source: Houston Chronicle)

*

US Supreme Court Refuses Appeal From Dallas Man on Death Row


The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to review an appeal from a Dallas man on 
death row for fatally shooting his cousin during a November 2000 robbery where 
a 2nd person also was killed.


The high court had no comment Monday in its decision in the appeal from 
44-year-old inmate Ivan Cantu. He argues his legal help at his 2001 trial was 
deficient for failing to investigate and present evidence that he's innocent.


Cantu was convicted of killing 27-year-old James Mosqueda and was indicted for 
the death of Mosqueda's girlfriend, 22-year-old Amy Kitchen. The 2 were shot at 
Mosqueda's Collin County home in north Dallas.


Mosqueda's Corvette was taken and found outside Cantu's apartment. Evidence 
showed he took Kitchen's engagement ring and gave it to his own girlfriend.


(source: Associated Press)






VIRGINIAimpending execution

Morva attorneys ask governor to stop execution


William Charles Morva's attorneys are asking that the convicted murderer's 
execution - scheduled for July 6 - be halted by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.


In a petition filed Tuesday, the Virginia Capital Representation Center says 
that Morva has mental illness that was never adequately taken into account 
during his 2008 trial, and that life imprisonment would be a more appropriate 
punishment for him. The attorneys group also asked that McAuliffe order mental 
health care for Morva.


"For more than a decade, William Morva has suffered from a serious psychotic 
disorder similar to schizophrenia," a statement from the attorney group said.


"Mr. Morva has never received treatment for his mental illness, although 
administration of anti-psychotic medications has proven successful in 
controlling symptoms of people similarly affected."


McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy wrote in an email Tuesday that the governor, who 
is presently in Europe on a trade mission set to run through June 30, and a 
team will review the petition.


"We'll make an announcement when that review is complete," Coy wrote.

The attorneys' statement said Morva believes local law enforcement and the 
administration of former President George Bush conspired to harass and unfairly 
arrest him, that he had a life-threatening gastrointestinal condition that 
required him to spend hours on the toilet every day and "adhere to a diet of 
raw meat, berries, and pinecones."


The statement said Morva felt called "to lead indigenous tribes on an 
unexplained quest" and that "remote tribes would recognize his leadership 
status from his facial features."


In 2006, Morva, then a 24-year-old Blacksburg resident, was jailed and awaiting 
trial on theft-related charges when he complained of falling from his bunk and 
was taken to what was then called Montgomery Regional Hospital.


There, Morva knocked out a sheriff's deputy who was guarding him, took his gun 
and killed hospital security officer Derrick McFarland. The next day Morva 
killed Montgomery County Sheriff's Deputy Eric Sutphin.


In 2008, Morva was convicted of 3 counts of capital murder, 1 for each victim 
and a 3rd for killing 2 people in less than 3 years, which is a capital offense 
in Virginia.


In the appeal to McAuliffe, the attorneys wrote that the jury that recommended 
the death 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, ALA., OHIO, CALIF., USA

2017-06-20 Thread Rick Halperin






June 20




TEXAS:

Thousands in jury pool for Zoe Hastings murder trial


Work has started on finding a jury for the trial of a man accused of killing an 
18-year-old Dallas woman in 2015.


About 3,000 Dallas County residents will be called in and fill out 
questionnaires so prosecutors and lawyers can find 12 people in the death 
penalty case of Antonio Cochran. He's accused of stabbing Zoe Hastings to death 
and dumping her body in the minivan she was driving in a creek after kidnapping 
her from an East Dallas Walgreens in Oct. 2015.


The trial is set to start in late October, but to get there the jury selection 
process is starting 4 months out.


The goal of the 19 page, 200-plus question document is to help prosecutors and 
defense attorneys know who the jurors are. Nearly 1/4 of the questions are 
about potential jurors' views on capital punishment.


Jury consultant Kacy Miller analyzed the questionnaire.

"The state is looking for jurors who are willing to give the death penalty," 
Miller said. "The defense also needs jurors who are willing to give the death 
penalty -- but maybe just not as frequently."


Recent Dallas County juryies have said no to the death penalty for quadruple 
murderer defendant Erbie Bowser and another convicted killer, Juan Andrade. 
Both juries in those cases opted for life in prison without parole.


When there is a guilty verdict in a death penalty case jurors must then answer 
2 questions: Is the person a continuing threat to society? Is there no reason 
worth saving their life?


Heath Harris, former First Assistant Dallas County D.A. who is now in private 
practice, has tried death penalty cases from both the prosecution and defense 
table.


"Seems like there's an increase in whether people feel like the death penalty 
is a deterrent," Harris said.


But the death penalty and how it's administered has also itself, seemingly, 
been on trial of late.


Some courts are debating whether its practice is humane. Plus, several 
exonerations across the country - including death row inmates ??? are also 
impacting potential jurors and making it more difficult to get a unanimous 
death penalty verdict.


"It's absolutely more difficult today," said attorney Robert Udashen. "When I 
first started practicing law police and prosecutors always wore the white hats 
and juries trusted anything prosecutors and police officers said."


Udashen says the overall climate change towards police grand juries and 
prosecutors has caused jurors to think long and hard before voting yes to the 
ultimate punishment - death.


(source: Fox News)

***

HCSO: Mom charged with capital murder in daughter's death


A mother has been charged with capital murder in the stabbing death of her 
4-year-old daughter in west Harris County.


According to the Harris County Sheriff's Office, 34-year-old Laquita Lewis was 
charged with capital murder Monday morning. The single mother of 4 has been 
denied bail and faces life in prison or the death penalty if convicted.


Prosecutors said that Lewis allegedly stabbed her child, Fredricka Allen, 
multiple times in the chest and left her on the floor of the master bedroom.


Neighbor Burim Hoax is having a tough time dealing with the news.

"I couldn't believe that happened. Bad news. I didn't have any idea what 
happened last night and I still don???t believe," he said.


Hoax says 4-year-old Fredricka would greet him in the apartment complex parking 
lot almost every morning. "She would say to me, good morning."


Family members say they got some text messages from the Lewis. She basically 
told them she hurt Fredricka.


Those family members called 911 and urged deputies to come check on the girl at 
the Timberwalk Apartment Homes located in the 5600 block of Timber Creek Place.


Deputies found that little girl dead inside her home just before 9 p.m., but 
investigators think she was stabbed to death earlier in the day.


Investigators said the mother was in a car accident and rushed to a hospital 
around 6 p.m. It was there at the hospital that deputies say the mother started 
texting family, apologizing for what she had done.


Deputies also say, earlier in the day, the woman got into a fight with her 
boyfriend.


"We don't really know what the catalyst of that argument was," said Thomas 
Gilliland, spokesman for the Harris County Sheriff's Office. "Obviously it was 
some sort of, enough to escalate to where she killed the 4-year old.


Now, Lewis is in custody.

The scene was so bad that chaplains were out here to console family members of 
the little girl, as well as the deputies who discovered her body.


"There's not enough words to describe the horrible death of this child," said 
Gilliland.


According to the Harris County DA's office, Lewis was charged in November for 
making a terroristic threat during a Thanksgiving incident in which she 
brandished a knife at her 16-year-old son. Lewis, who at the time had no prior 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., GA., FLA., ALA., OHIO

2017-06-17 Thread Rick Halperin






June 17



TEXAS:

Larry Fitzgerald, face for Texas death row, dies at 79


Larry Fitzgerald, former Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman, sits 
on the sofa in his living room in what had been his quarters in Huntsville. He 
witnessed more than 200 executions during his 8 years as the face of the 
nation's busiest death chamber. He died June 12.


As prison system spokesman, Fitzgerald was the face of the nation's busiest 
death chamber for 8 years.


Friends and relatives remember his wit, empathy with death-row inmates and his 
notorious gallows humor.


Larry Fitzgerald, who for years was the Texas prison system's spokesman, 
working as the public face of the busiest death chamber in the nation, died 
June 12 at his Austin home, according to his family.


Fitzgerald was the Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman for 8 years 
during which Texas was building new prisons and dealing with the attention 
drawn by then Gov. George W. Bush's run for the presidency. He was inevitably 
drawn into stories about the death penalty and Texas' approach to it, fielding 
inquiries from American media he said were generally cordial and foreign 
outlets that he said treated him as if he personally sharpened the 
executioner's axe.


A hard-drinking, chain-smoking archetype of a public relations era now past, 
Fitzgerald, according to a 2014 Texas Monthly article, once showed his 
mischievous streak by taking a newly hired spokeswoman to a prison on the 
pretense of educating her about the business - only to lead her "past dozens of 
newly shorn arrivals who had been divested of not just their hair but all their 
clothes."


Fitzgerald's obituary - most of which he wrote himself - notes that as a prison 
system spokesman he "witnessed 219 executions, allowing him to meet many state, 
national and international media types. Big whoop."


But as the public face of a notorious prison system, "If Larry said it, you 
could take it to the bank," said Michelle Lyons, the co-worker Fitzgerald had 
led past the cluster of nude inmates. "He was, quite simply, the face of TDCJ 
and he always will be."


Fitzgerald is survived by his wife, Marianne Cook Fitzgerald; daughter, Kelly 
Anne Fitzgerald; and son, Kevin Lane Fitzgerald. He died from what his wife 
said was a serious internal disease, for which he had been in hospice care. The 
family is planning a public memorial, though they are still working out the 
details, Marianne Fitzgerald said.


Clyde Larry Fitzgerald was born Oct. 12, 1937, in Austin, according to his 
obituary. He was the son of a government land man and a schoolteacher, 
according to an article by Houston Chronicle reporter Mike Ward, one of the 
many Texas journalists Fitzgerald grew to know over the years. Fitzgerald 
graduated from McCallum High School and attended the University of Texas. He 
worked for years at radio stations around Texas as a disc jockey, reporter and 
news director, developing the authoritative voice he would employ before the 
cameras. He worked in political campaigns for Bill Hobby, who was then the 
lieutenant governor, and Ann Richards during her run for governor. His obituary 
notes that he "was proud that he kept one particular promise he had made to 
himself: never vote Republican."


(source: Austin American-Statesman)






PENNSYLVANIA:

Convicted killer 'should go to the very top' of execution list, judge says


A Lancaster County man has been formally sentenced to death for fatally 
stabbing a woman and her 16-year-old daughter because they were going to 
testify against him in a child sexual assault trial.


Lancaster County President Judge Dennis Reinaker ordered the sentence Friday 
for 40-year-old Leeton Thomas and said if Pennsylvania lifts a moratorium on 
the death penalty, Thomas "should go to the very top of the list."


Thomas, 40, was found guilty by a jury Tuesday of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder 
in the June 2015 killings of 44-year-old Lisa Scheetz and her daughter.


The Quarryville man was also convicted of attempted homicide for severely 
wounding Scheetz's then-15-year-old daughter after breaking into the family's 
East Drumore Township home. She testified at trial and identified Thomas as the 
killer.


The jury decided on the death sentence Wednesday night.

(source: WHTM news)






GEORGIA:

Prison bus was 'tank of piranhas' as guards slain; death penalty sought for 
escapees



Convicts on a Georgia prison bus appeared to laugh and jump around as 2 
corrections officers were shot to death earlier this week in an escape that 
prompted a nationwide manhunt.


The callousness of the crime has authorities preparing to seek the death 
penalty for accused killers Ricky Dubose and Donnie Russell "Whiskey" Rowe.


"We've got too many of these savages out here. We need to keep them caged up 
and send those to hell that we can," Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills said 
Friday, a day after Rowe and Dubose were caught south of Nashville, 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., FLA.

2017-06-15 Thread Rick Halperin





June 15




TEXAS:

Execution halted for man who murders lady realtor in model home


A Texas man facing the death penalty for the stabbing murder of a real estate 
agent saw his own life spared, at least temporarily.


Kosul Chanthakoummane, who was scheduled to die by lethal injection on July 19 
after 9 years on death row, was granted a stay of execution last week. The 
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued the order and sent the man's case back 
to the Collin County trial court to review discredited forensic science claims, 
reported the Texas Tribune.


Chanthakoummane, 36, was convicted in 2007 in the stabbing death of Dallas-area 
real estate agent Sarah Walker. Walker's body was discovered in a model home by 
a couple coming to view the property on July 8, 2006. Walker had been stabbed 
33 times and had a bite mark on her neck.


Bloody fingerprints found at the scene and DNA under Walker's fingernails 
linked Chanthakoummane to the scene of the crime and he was arrested nearly 2 
months later.


Chanthakoummane reportedly claimed his car had broken down nearby and cuts on 
his hand had bled, explaining his blood at the murder scene.


A jury convicted him of murder after 30 minutes of deliberation, based largely 
on the DNA evidence, according to the Dallas News. During the trial, state 
prosecutors presented forensic experts who claimed the bite mark on Walker's 
neck and DNA at the scene pointed to Chanthakoummane.


However, in 2016, a White House report concluded that forensic bite-mark 
evidence was not scientifically valid, reports the Texas Tribune.


An extremely successful real estate agent and mother of 2, the 40-year-old 
Walker was showing the high-end model home alone when she was attacked. 
Chanthakoummane was living with relatives in Dallas after being released on 
parole in North Carolina. He had been convicted of aggravated robbery and 
kidnapping after he and a friend held 2 women at gunpoint before stealing a car 
and leading police on a chase when he was 16, reported the Dallas News.


The Rolex watch Walker had purchased the night before and a ring she was 
wearing had been stolen. The Dallas News reported that, at his murder trial, 
Chanthakoummane's attorneys admitted he stabbed Walker but that he didn't 
deserve the death penalty because it was a robbery that "didn't go the right 
way."


(source: crimeonline.com)






PENNSYLVANIAnew death sentence

Jury sentences Leeton Thomas to death for stabbing deaths of a mother and her 
teen daughter



Leeton Thomas, 40, should pay with his life for the vicious murders of a mother 
and her teen daughter who accused him of sexual molestation, a jury ruled 
Wednesday night.


At the verdict, Thomas nodded slightly but looked straight ahead.

Lisa Scheetz, 44, and her daughter, Hailey, 16, died of severe stab wounds in 
the early hours of June 11, 2015 as they were watching a Netflix movie in their 
basement apartment in East Drumore Township.


The death sentence came a day after the jury of 6 men and 6 women convicted 
Thomas of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and a count of attempted homicide for 
severely stabbing a younger daughter who survived the attack.


The girl, now 17, testified at the trial that Thomas, who was a neighbor and a 
former family friend, was the attacker.


The prosecution alleged that Thomas entered through a window and sprang upon 
the unsuspecting family, stabbing forcefully. The defense contended he was at 
home in bed at the time of the attack.


After the jury announced the verdict, Kim Scheetz, who lost his daughter and 
former wife, said, "I'm totally happy."


"It's what I wanted," he added. "It's not going to bring my family back, but he 
got what he deserved."


The verdict came after a day of testimony by family members and friends seeking 
to spare Thomas' life.


"I gave him life," said Thomas' mother, Sharon Frances Campbell, 58, her voice 
quavering on the witness stand earlier Wednesday. "I'm begging you, please save 
him. Please."


The jury also heard from other family members, friends and neighbors who 
described Thomas, a father of 4, as a helpful, hard-working, self-sacrificing 
and church-going family man.


The jury returned with the death sentence at 7:50 p.m. after deliberating for 
about 3 3/4 hours.


Family members of the victim and defendant filled the gallery, but they abided 
by President Judge Dennis Reinaker's warning not to react.


9 deputy sheriffs stood at various spots around Courtroom 8 where the 6-day 
trial took place.


Jury polled

Defense counsel asked that the jury members be polled.

The judge had each of the 12 jurors to stand individually and say whether they 
agreed with the verdict.


Each rose and answered, "Yes, I do."

After being handcuffed, Thomas looked back at his family and, smiling, said, 
"See you guys. It's not over."


Thomas becomes the 8th Lancaster County resident on death row and the 1st since 
Jakeem Towles was sentenced to death in 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., FLA., OHIO, ARIZ., CALIF., USA

2017-06-13 Thread Rick Halperin






June 13



TEXAS:new execution date

William Rayford has received an execution date for January 30, 2018; it should 
be considered serious.


Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present24

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982present-543

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #

25-July 27-Taichin Preyor-544

26-Aug. 30-Steven Long545

27-Sept.7--Juan Castillo--546

28-Oct. 26-Clinton Young--547

29-Jan. 30-William Rayford548

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

**

Forced to Endure Extreme Heat, Prisoners Are Casualties of Texas' Climate 
Denial, Documents Show



On a spring day in May, temperatures in Dallas, Texas, were already in the 90s. 
Sunlight glinted off the barbed wire perimeter outside the Hutchins State Jail, 
located just a mile down down the road from Hutchins High School. The 1st 
blooms of Castilleja, colloquially known here as "prairie fire," seemed to set 
a field across from the prison ablaze.


It was hot outside, but it's nothing compared to the temperatures inside the 
Hutchins Unit, one of 79 state-run prison units still lacking air-conditioning 
in its cellblocks in 2017. Even those temperatures, though, still pale further 
in comparison with the extreme summer heat wave that broiled the jail on July 
28, 2011, pushing the heat index up to about 150 degrees in the cellblocks, 
according to the state's own records, and transforming the jail into an oven 
that slowly baked Hutchins prisoner Larry McCollum alive.


Truthout and Earth Island Journal Investigate America's Toxic PrisonsMcCollum, 
a 58-year-old cab driver from the Waco area, was found having convulsions in 
his top bunk. He was taken to Dallas' Parkland Hospital, where his body 
temperature was measured at 109.4 degrees. McCollum, who was incarcerated for 
writing a bad check, had recently begun serving his 11-month sentence, and was 
eager to get through his time and reunite with his wife and 2 children.


"He was taken from us. He was supposed to go in for 11 months, and he wound up 
with a death sentence," McCollum's daughter, Stephanie Kingrey, said. "It was 
very heartbreaking that he had to sit there and suffer as long as he did before 
they got any help for him or got him to emergency room."


Kingrey said that officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice 
(TDCJ) even tried to deny her access to her father during the 7 days he spent 
on life support at Parkland Hospital, eventually relenting as Kingrey and other 
relatives were forced to make the devastating decision to take McCollum off of 
life support.


"They had guards on him 24 hours, like he was just going to jump up and go 
somewhere, and he was handcuffed to the bed the whole time," Kingrey says. "He 
was literally brain dead, and there was nothing he could do. He didn't regain 
consciousness or anything. He wasn't there. He died back in the prison cell."


McCollum is one of 22 heat-related deaths that TDCJ has been forced to 
acknowledge in its prison units after litigation -- 10 of those deaths 
occurring during that same 2011 summer heat wave. But these deaths are likely 
the first few indications of what may be a much larger heat problem.


"[TDCJ] has acknowledged the deaths because we proved we knew about them," said 
Attorney Jeff Edwards, who is representing the McCollum family in an ongoing 
lawsuit against TDCJ, during an interview in his Austin office. "In fact, there 
are far more than [22] deaths because the only deaths that they count are 
confirmed autopsies with a diagnosis of hyperthermia. In order to get that 
diagnosis, you have to have a temperature north of 105 or 106 degrees. So 
unless you find the body and do an autopsy quickly, you're not going to have 
that diagnosis. [TDCJ] also doesn't count the probably 100 or more people who 
suffered heart attacks in the summertime where heat was a contributing factor, 
or people who suffered asthmatic deaths because heat contributed to that."


The medical risk of heat stroke increases significantly when the temperature 
rises to more than 90 degrees, and can lead to other causes of death like heart 
attacks. This is especially true for people with medical conditions such as 
diabetes, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues, as well as 
asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The risk rises further still 
for people on medications that inhibit their ability to shed heat or sweat, or 
certain psychiatric medications. There aren't yet full statistics on how many 
prison deaths have involved heat as a significant contributing factor, but the 
number is likely to be much higher than deaths directly attributable to 
hyperthermia.


"1 death is enough to cause concern -- 2, 3, you need to be reacting 
immediately," Edwards says. 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, USA

2017-06-12 Thread Rick Halperin






June 12



TEXAS:

Rodney Reed's mother hopes finding of false testimony leads to 'justice'


The mother of death row inmate Rodney Reed said Saturday she is guardedly 
optimistic about her son's chances for freedom after the Texas Court of 
Criminal Appeals ruled prosecutors presented "false and misleading" testimony 
in his 1998 capital murder conviction.


"I'm hoping for justice," Sandra Reed told the American-Statesman. "But we have 
presented so many other pieces of evidence before this that should have at 
least opened up a new trial. How can you bring a case to justice without the 
truth?"


She and other family members held a news conference late Saturday at the 
Bastrop County Courthouse.


"We want to keep it in the air that there is an innocent man on death row and 
that he's suffered enough," she said. "We're ready for him to come home."


Reed was convicted of the 1996 murder of Stacy Stites, a 19-year-old Giddings 
resident with whom he claimed he was having a secret affair. Prosecutors argued 
Reed abducted, raped and strangled Stiles on her way to work.


But defense attorneys have argued that Stites was was killed by her fiance, 
Jimmy Fennell, a former Georgetown police officer who is now serving a 10-year 
sentence for the kidnapping and sexual assault of a woman in his custody in 
2007.


Reed's attorney Bryce Benjet has said that the state's key expert witness at 
the trial, then-Travis County Medical Examiner Roberto Bayardo, has since 
disavowed his testimony implicating Reed, saying that the sperm found in 
Stites' body was likely deposited more than 24 hours before her death.


Benjet said a new analysis of medical and forensic evidence by a pair of 
forensic pathologists shows that Stites was likely killed hours before she was 
supposed to have left for work and that her body was moved to a rural Bastrop 
County road after her death.


The court of appeals last month rejected the defense claim that the new 
evidence established Reed's innocence, but sent the case back to a Bastrop 
County court to consider the claims of false testimony during the original 
trial.


Bastrop District Attorney Bryan Goertz said at the time: "It's just another 
legal hurdle that needs to be dealt with."


Reed was 10 days from his execution date in February 2015, when the court 
ordered a closer look at his request for modern DNA testing of items linked to 
the murder. But in April the appeals court denied Reed's request for additional 
DNA testing, citing the possibility of "cross-contamination" of evidence that 
had mingled in boxes after repeated handling by court employees.


Sandra Reed said though she's hopeful the finding of false testimony will lead 
to a new trial and her son's exoneration, she remains somewhat skeptical. 
"You're sending him back to the same county that convicted him in the first 
place," she said. "We will keep fighting and demanding justice for as long as 
it takes."


(source: Austin American-Statesman)






USA:

Why America still executes peopleThe legal reasoning behind the continued 
use of the death penalty



America is 1 of only a few countries in the Western world that still puts 
criminals to death. Even there, executions are on the wane: just 20 were 
carried out in 2016, down from a peak of 98 in 1999. Popular support is 
declining, too. Just 60% of Americans approve of the death penalty for murder, 
down from 80% in the 1990s. Only 8 states have carried out an execution since 
2015, and around 2/3 either have abolished capital punishment or have a 
moratorium on its use. But it has not disappeared altogether: during an 
eight-day stretch in April, Arkansas executed 4 people, so as not to waste its 
expiring supply of a lethal-injection drug. And last month in Alabama, a man 
who spent 35 years on death row - and eluded 7 execution dates - was finally 
put to death. Why does America continue to execute people?


Following the Supreme Court's 1972 ruling in Furman v Georgia, capital 
punishment was put on hold. The penalty was applied in an arbitrary and 
capricious manner, violating the Eighth Amendment bar on "cruel and unusual 
punishments", the justices held. If any factor explains why some criminals get 
death sentences while most do not, Justice Potter Stewart wrote, "it is the 
constitutionally impermissible basis of race". 4 years later the Supreme Court 
reinstated the death penalty in Gregg v Georgia by a 7-2 majority, finding that 
states had mended their death-penalty laws to address the concerns in Furman.


One way to understand why America still executes people is to look at the Fifth 
Amendment, which provides that nobody will "be deprived of life...without due 
process of law". How could the framers of the constitution have banned capital 
punishment in the Eighth Amendment when, in the Fifth, they specifically 
contemplated its existence? In Gregg, the court cited 2 justifications for the 
death penalty: retributive justice and 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., FLA., OHIO, MO., ARK., N.DAK.

2017-06-11 Thread Rick Halperin




June 11




TEXAS:

Don't execute people with intellectual disabilities


The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has the opportunity in the case of Bobby 
James Moore, a death row inmate with severe intellectual disability, to bring 
the state's capital punishment standards in line with those established by the 
U.S. Supreme Court, which kicked Moore's case back to the appeals court.


The Gospel compels Christians to speak for those without a voice and to 
advocate for society's most vulnerable members, including those with 
intellectual disability. For this reason, I feel compelled to speak out on 
behalf of Bobby James Moore, an individual with documented lifelong 
intellectual disability who has spent the past 37 years on Texas' death row.


While Christians have varying views on the death penalty, hopefully we can all 
agree no person with intellectual disability should be executed. As the U.S. 
Supreme Court recognized more than 15 years ago, "no legitimate penological 
purpose is served by executing a person with intellectual disability" because 
such persons "do not act with the level of moral culpability that characterizes 
the most serious adult criminal conduct."


While the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has been reticent to heed this 
message, it has both the legal and moral duty to do so now. And it should take 
an important 1st step here by reforming Moore's death sentence to life 
imprisonment.


As a 13-year-old, Moore lacked a basic understanding of the days of the week, 
the months of the year, telling time and the concept that subtraction is the 
reverse of addition. He failed the 1st grade twice and every grade after that 
before dropping out of school in the 9th grade. At age 14, his father - after 
subjecting Moore to years of severe mental and physical abuse - threw him out 
of the house because Moore still did not know how to read. Moore lived on the 
streets, eating out of garbage cans and sleeping in a pool hall. He survived 
largely due to the kindness of strangers.


Then, at age 20, Moore was involved in a bungled grocery store robbery, in 
which he shot and killed a grocery store clerk. He has spent nearly 40 years on 
death row for that crime, which we all condemn.


In 2014, a Harris County district court judge held a two-day hearing. After 
carefully listening to experts and witnesses, Judge Susan Brown applied current 
medical standards and determined that Moore is intellectually disabled and 
therefore exempt from the death penalty. She noted that Moore has an average IQ 
score of 70.66, which is well within the range of intellectual disability. And 
she found in her lengthy fact-finding that Moore's serious mental and social 
difficulties were very clear from early childhood.


The judge's determination that Moore is intellectually disabled and exempt from 
the death penalty should have been the end of the matter. Instead, in 2015, the 
Court of Criminal Appeals said that the lower court erred in applying current 
medical standards in making its determination that Moore was intellectually 
disabled. Applying nonclinical and outdated medical standards, it decided that 
Moore was not intellectually disabled and could be executed.


In March, in Moore vs. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court emphatically reversed the 
appeals court's decision. The U.S. Supreme Court carefully reviewed the record. 
It emphasized that Moore's IQ score is clearly within the range of 
intellectually disabled and that the evidence just as clearly supported that he 
had significant mental and social difficulties from an early age. The U.S. 
Supreme Court also strongly endorsed Brown's application of current medical 
standards in concluding that Moore is intellectually disabled. Moore's case is 
back before the Court of Criminal Appeals.


This case presents not only a legal issue but also a moral one. In Moore's 
case, the U.S. Supreme Court questioned why Texas applies current medical 
standards for diagnosing intellectual disability in other contexts, "yet clings 
to superseded standards when an individual's life is at stake." The appeals 
court now has the opportunity to chart a new course for how Texas handles 
intellectual disability claims and ensure that no person with intellectually 
disability is executed.


Moore is not the worst of the worst, but due to his significant intellectual 
deficits, he is certainly among the most vulnerable. He is worthy of God's love 
and our fair and humane treatment. There is a path forward that affirms Moore's 
innate dignity as a human being, while still ensuring that justice is done. The 
Court of Criminal Appeals should follow this path and reform Moore's death 
sentence to life imprisonment.


(source: Commentary; Steve Wells is pastor of South Main Baptist Church in 
HoustonSan Antonio Express-News)







PENNSYLVANIA:

Judge tosses death sentence in double murder, orders new hearing


A Pennsylvania judge has thrown out the death sentence imposed 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., MISS., KY., ARK.

2017-06-10 Thread Rick Halperin






June 10




TEXAS:

Death penalty sought for alleged hitman accused of killing Uptown dentist


The Dallas County district attorney's office is seeking the death penalty 
against the man accused of shooting a dentist in a murder-for-hire plot.


Authorities say a love triangle may have led to the 2015 slaying of 35-year-old 
Kendra Hatcher in her Uptown apartment parking garage.


Kristopher Love, 33, is one of three people charged with capital murder in the 
case. Investigators believe Brenda Delgado, who used to date Hatcher's 
boyfriend, hired Love to be the triggerman.


Prosecutors filed a motion Friday to seek the death penalty against Love.

Police said Delgado, 34, was jealous of Hatcher's relationship with Ricardo 
Paniagua, whom Delgado had dated for two years. She's accused of hiring 
23-year-old Crystal Cortes to help rob Hatcher.


Cortes told police Delgado paid her $500, and she drove Love to Hatcher's 
parking garage. Before the slaying, Cortes asked Love how much he was being 
paid to rob Hatcher. He told her it was "none of her business."


Cortes said she waited in the getaway car while Love attacked Hatcher. She 
heard 1 gunshot, and then Love got back into the Jeep with 2 purses. He told 
Cortes that if she told police, she and her son "would be next," police records 
show.


But their getaway car, a Jeep Cherokee belonging to Delgado, was captured on 
surveillance cameras.


Initially, police questioned and released Delgado about her role in Hatcher's 
slaying. She told police that she loaned the Jeep to Cortes, who was arrested 
shortly after the killing.


About a month later, police issued arrest warrants for Love and Delgado, but by 
then Delgado had fled to Mexico.


Delgado was extradited to the United States a year after the killing. Though 
authorities believe she was the mastermind behind Hatcher's killing, she isn't 
eligible for the death penalty as part of the extradition agreement with 
Mexico.


Trial dates for Love, Cortes and Delgado have not been set.

(source: Dallas Morning News)






FLORIDA:

State could seek death penalty for Naomi Jones' alleged killer


The man accused of murdering 12-year-old Pensacola girl Naomi Jones has been 
denied bond.


Robert Letroy Howard, 38, made his first appearance in court Friday morning via 
video conferencing. At the hearing, Judge Joyce H. Williams determined there 
was probable cause for the State Attorney's Office to charge Howard with 
1st-degree murder, kidnapping and failure to register as a sex offender.


In a press conference following the hearing, Assistant State Attorney Greg 
Marcille said the state will present to a grand jury within the next 2 weeks 
its reasons for charging Howard. If the grand jury indicts Howard on the 
charges, the state will then decide whether or not to pursue the death penalty.


Marcille said he anticipates that decision will be made before Howard's 
arraignment June 30.


Marcille added the state is still investigating and reviewing the facts of the 
case, but at this point, "the factors of the case do indicate there are 
circumstances that would justify the death sentence."


A few of the factors under consideration are Naomi's age and whether her death 
was heinous, atrocious or cruel. Another factor will be Howard's previous 
criminal history.


Howard, of Brewton, Alabama, is a convicted felon who served 15 years in prison 
for 2 counts of rape. According to Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Community 
Information Center, Howard was arrested Dec. 8, 1998, and convicted Sept. 1, 
1999, in Escambia County, Alabama. Howard's address in Brewton was last 
verified the day after Naomi's murder.


Marcille said the state is reviewing the information on Howard's previous 
convictions.


"If the prior cases do constitute a violent felony, then we could consider 
those in seeking a sentence," Marcille said.


Howard was given a $600,000 bond for his failure to register charge, but was 
denied bond on the murder and kidnapping charges. Procedurally, the no bond 
takes priority, meaning Howard will remain in jail until his trial unless a 
judge orders otherwise.


Howard developed as a person of interest in Naomi's disappearance June 2, two 
days after the 12-year-old went missing, according to his arrest report.


Naomi lived in Aspen Village Apartments on East Johnson Avenue, the same 
complex where Howard's girlfriend resides. During a neighborhood canvas, Howard 
reportedly gave investigators inconsistent statements about his whereabouts at 
the time of Naomi's disappearance.


Naomi was found deceased in a creek bed near Ashland Avenue and Detroit 
Boulevard June 5.


On June 7, investigators recovered surveillance video from a business in the 
area. It allegedly showed Howard's silver Nissan Altima traveling around the 
intersection and bridge near the creek bed around 2:35 a.m. June 1, 
approximately 14 hours after Naomi disappeared.


Investigators re-interviewed Howard later in the 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., GA., FLA., ALA., MISS., LA.

2017-06-08 Thread Rick Halperin





June 8



TEXASstay of impending execution

Execution halted for man convicted in Texas real estate agent's murderThe 
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday halted the execution of a man 
convicted in the murder of a McKinney real estate agent in 2007.



Another Texas execution has been stopped by the state's highest criminal 
appellate court, giving relief to the man convicted in 2007 in the robbery and 
murder of a McKinney real estate agent.


Kosoul Chanthakoummane, 36, was scheduled to die on July 19 after more than 9 
years on death row. He was convicted in the 2006 stabbing death of Sarah Walker 
in the model home of a subdivision where she worked, according to court 
documents. On Wednesday morning, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued a 
stay of execution and sent his case back to the Collin County trial court to 
review claims of discredited forensic sciences.


On July 8, 2006, a couple coming to view the model home found Walker dead, 
stabbed 33 times with a bite mark on her neck, according to a federal court 
filing. Her watch and ring were missing from her body. Bloody fingerprints 
found at the scene and DNA under Walker's fingernails linked the crime to 
Chanthakoummane, who was arrested nearly 2 months later.


Chanthakoummane told police he went to a model home after his car broke down, 
and that he had cuts on his hands that could explain his blood at the scene, 
according to the filing. At trial, the state presented forensic experts who 
claimed the bite mark on Walker's neck and DNA at the scene pointed to 
Chanthakoummane.


In 2016, a White House report concluded forensic bite-mark evidence was not 
scientifically valid.


This is the 3rd time the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has halted a scheduled 
execution this year (2 of those scheduled executions were for the same man, 
Tilon Carter). Another execution was halted by a federal court.


There have been 4 executions in the state this year.

(source: Texas Tribune)



Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present24

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982present-543

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #

25-July 27-Taichin Preyor-544

26-Aug. 30-Steven Long545

27-Sept.7--Juan Castillo--546

28-Oct. 26-Clinton Young--547

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

***

Intellectually disabled death row inmate should be exempt from death penalty


The Gospel compels Christians to speak for those without a voice and to 
advocate for society's most vulnerable members, including those with 
intellectual disability. For this reason, I feel compelled to speak out on 
behalf of Bobby James Moore, an individual with documented life-long 
intellectual disability who has spent the last 37 years on Texas' death row.


While Christians have varying views on the death penalty, hopefully we can all 
agree no person with intellectual disability should be executed. As the U.S. 
Supreme Court recognized more than 15 years ago, "(n)o legitimate penological 
purpose is served by executing a person with intellectual disability" because 
such persons "do not act with the level of moral culpability that characterizes 
the most serious adult criminal conduct." While the Texas Court of Criminal 
Appeals has been reticent to heed this message, it has both the legal and moral 
duty to do so now. And it should take an important 1st step here by reforming 
Moore's death sentence to life imprisonment.


As a 13-year-old, Moore lacked a basic understanding of the days of the week, 
the months of the year, telling time, and the concept that subtraction is the 
reverse of addition. He failed the 1st grade twice and every grade after that 
before dropping out of school in the ninth grade. At age 14, his father - after 
subjecting Moore to years of severe mental and physical abuse - threw him out 
of the house because Moore still did not know how to read. Moore lived on the 
streets, eating out of garbage cans and sleeping in a pool hall. He survived 
largely due to the kindness of strangers.


Then, at the age of 20, Moore was involved in a bungled grocery store robbery, 
in which he shot and killed a grocery store clerk. He has spent nearly 40 years 
on death row for that crime, which we all condemn.


In 2014, a Harris County District Court judge held a 2-day hearing. After 
carefully listening to experts and witnesses, Judge Susan Brown applied current 
medical standards and determined that Moore is intellectually disabled and 
therefore exempt from the death penalty. She noted that Moore has an average IQ 
score of 70.66, which is well within the range of intellectual disability. And 
she found in her lengthy fact-finding that Moore's serious mental and social 
difficulties were very clear from early childhood.


The 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS

2017-06-07 Thread Rick Halperin





June 7



TEXASnew execution date

Judge signs execution warrant for Clinton YoungClinton Young was sentenced 
to death in 2003 for 2 murders committed in 2001.



The 33-year-old has an execution date of Oct. 26 at the Texas Department of 
Criminal Justice Huntsville Unit.


Judge Robert Moore, visiting judge for the 238th District Court, issued a 
warrant of execution on Monday for Clinton Lee Young, according to the Midland 
County District Attorney's Office. The 33-year-old has an execution date of 
Oct. 26 at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Huntsville Unit.


Young was sentenced to death in 2003 after he was convicted of the 2001 murders 
of Doyle Douglas and Samuel Petrey for the use of their vehicles.


The men were fatally shot during a crime spree that ended when Midland 
authorities apprehended Young, according to previous Reporter-Telegram reports.


Douglas, 41, of Ore City was killed near Longview. Petrey, 52, of Eastland was 
kidnapped in his hometown and killed in an oilfield near Midland, according to 
the reports. The incidents occurred within a 48-hour period, according to TDCJ 
records.


Young exhausted his state appeals, according to a Reporter-Telegram report from 
2010.


Young, a Titus County native, was being held Tuesday at the Polunsky Unit in 
Livingston, according to TDCJ records. He is the only Midland County offender 
on death row, according to the records.


David Lee Page, a co-defendant in the case, is serving a 30-year sentence for 
aggravated kidnapping. His parole was denied in November, according to TDCJ 
records.


(source: mrt.com)

***

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present24

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982present-543

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #

25-July 19-Kosoul Chanthakoummane---544

26-July 27-Taichin Preyor-545

27-Aug. 30-Steven Long546

28-Sept.7--Juan Castillo--547

29-Oct. 26-Clinton Young--548

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

*

County pays for capital cases


he Henderson County Commissioners Court approved payment of expenses from 
capital murder cases on Tuesday, by a 4-1 vote, which Precinct 4 Commissioner 
Ken Geeslin opposed.


The bills amounted to $21,514.47. Geeslin objected to more money being spent 
for a mental evaluation of Randall Mays, who was convicted in May of 2008 for 
killing Henderson County Sheriff's Office Deputies Paul Habelt and Tony Ogburn.


"It makes one wonder why we ever tried to convict somebody of a capital offense 
after shooting 2 deputies," Geeslin said. "The taxpayers are still paying 
today, another $21,514.47. If anyone in the audience thinks that doesn't upset 
me, well, think again."


Mays was scheduled to be executed in March, 2015, before an appeals court 
stopped the proceedings on the grounds he might not be competent to receive the 
death penalty. The county is required to pay bills for defense in capital cases 
when presented by the district court judge.


(source: Athens Daily Review)





*

Death penalty


America has become a land of cowards.

Even when a killer is found guilty of murder, rarely do they receive their 
death punishment. The death penalty should be the only option available when a 
person commits murder and is 16 and up. One who commits murder should die. 
Folks stay on death row 30 years or more and it cost millions of dollars of 
taxpayer money to keep them alive and in most cases a slick lawyer will figure 
out a way for his guilty client to never face the death march. There should be 
no insanity pleas.


The death sentence should be federal mandated in all 50 states. I am proud of 
Arkansas. Several well deserved murderers got fried recently. Speaking of the 
drugs that are used to kill the killers, some say that they are "cruel and 
unusual punishment." No, cruel and unusual punishment is what these murderers 
did to their victims. The answer to all the flak over these drugs used for 
executions? Eliminate all of them. Bring back hanging. It's cheap and works. 
Bring back Judge Parker's court! I would love the job of pulling the lever to 
hang them! All citizens should be required to watch on TV. Ask a woman or man 
who has been raped, if they don't relive it every day. Rapists of all children 
should be put to death. In a lot of ways, rape is worse than murder.


American's entire judicial and punishment approach is all messed up. Third 
world counties have better. Punishment for murderers and rapists than the USA 
does. No, America is not the greatest country on the planet. At one time it was 
- not anymore. My vote for the greatest country on the planet? It is Israel. If 
one kills an Israeli, see what happens to them? Don't mess with God's chosen 
people. I am sure 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., DEL., GA., FLA., ALA.

2017-06-03 Thread Rick Halperin






June 3




TEXAS:

Is the death penalty dying in Dallas County?


The crimes were heinous but Dallas County jurors couldn't condemn the convicted 
killers.


A college student killed 3 people at a drug house in a premeditated robbery.

A former special education teacher and U.S. Army veteran killed his girlfriend, 
her teenage daughter, his estranged wife, her adult daughter and severely 
wounded 4 children in a 2-city rampage.


But neither killer received the death penalty, a punishment reserved for the 
"worst of the worst."


Statewide, juries have declined death sentences in nearly 1/2 of the cases 
presented to them in the past 2 years.


So, what does it take to win a death penalty sentence?

"You gotta be perfect probably these days," said Edwin King, a special 
prosecutor in one of the Dallas County cases.


Jurors couldn't agree to the death sentence in the 2 recent capital murder 
trials. They were the first Dallas County cases in which the state sought the 
death penalty since 2014.


The Dallas County District Attorney's office is planning to seek death for 
Antonio Cochran, the man accused of kidnapping and killing 18-year-old Zoe 
Hastings in 2015 while she was on her way to a pharmacy to return a rental 
movie.


The decision to seek the death penalty is based on the the severity of the 
crime, criminal background and what the victim's family wants, said Dallas 
County District Attorney Faith Johnson.


"Our office only seeks the death penalty in the most heinous and serious of 
crimes," Johnson said.


The death penalty case against Cochran is the 1st filed since Johnson took 
office in January. Prosecutors in the case may face an uphill battle.


National support for the death penalty has drastically declined in recent 
years. Fewer than 1/2 of the population supports capital punishment, according 
to the Pew Research Center.


"Even in Texas, the death penalty is dying," said Jason Redick of the Texas 
Coalition Against the Death Penalty.


In the 15 death penalty cases tried in Texas since 2015, jurors have sent only 
eight men to death row.


Death sentences peaked in the 1990s. Between 2007 and 2013, Dallas County led 
the state in defendants sent to death row. During that time, the county 
sentenced 12 people to death.


Executions in Texas are also declining because of legal reforms that give 
prisoners more chances to have their sentences reviewed.


Jurors are only selected after they agree that they can give the ultimate 
punishment. Even so, they appear to be split on the issue in recent years.


"We know these aren't folks who are anti-death penalty folks," Redick said. "At 
one point, they said they could hand out a death sentence."


Capital punishment has been controversial for years. There have been botched 
executions. People sitting on death row have been exonerated. And critics point 
to the disproportionate number of minorities sentenced to death.


Pursuing the death penalty can cost taxpayers millions. For many small 
counties, the price is too high.


Seeking the death penalty in Montague County would've eaten up nearly 1/10 of 
the yearly budget when Tim Cole was district attorney there. He is now a law 
professor at the University of North Texas at Dallas and tracks death penalty 
cases in the state.


His opinion of capital punishment has shifted over time.

"It is time for the death penalty to go away," he said. "My primary concern 
with it is we don't seem to get it perfectly. ... The execution of one innocent 
person isn't worth it to me."


He said the decision to pursue the punishment is too subjective. It's left to 
each county's district attorney, and there are no standard guidelines to 
determine when the lethal injection would be appropriate.


And in 2005, Texas passed a bill creating an automatic sentence of life in 
prison without parole for anyone convicted of capital murder. The new 
punishment put an end to a time when the worst killers might have once been 
released into society.


Cole believes the automatic sentence is a factor in the death penalty decline. 
Prosecutors may seek the punishment less often knowing the defendant will die 
in prison.


Also, jurors who say they support the death penalty may have a tough time when 
faced with an actual decision.


"When you see the person, when you hear their history, their background, 
sometimes they were abused as children themselves, sometimes they're mentally 
ill ... it's a different thing," he said. "Now you have a face."


Jurors aren't simply asked to answer "yes" or "no" when considering the death 
penalty. They must unanimously agree that the defendant poses a continuing 
threat to society and that there are no reasons to save that person's life.


Those issues posed a problem for the 2 recent Dallas County cases.

In the case of Justin Smith, the college student who killed 3 people in a drug 
house, more than a dozen people vouched for him. They believed he was once a 
good man. He 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., N.C., FLA., ALA.

2017-06-01 Thread Rick Halperin





June 1



TEXAS:

Death Row Solitary: 'Their Walls Have Driven Them Mad'


Anthony Graves emerged from solitary confinement over 6 years ago to become a 
national crusader for justice reform, but it took a recent report by 
researchers at the University of Texas at Austin to add new urgency to his 
campaign to reform the practice in his own state.


Graves spent more than 18 years in the Texas prison system, including 16 years 
in the all-solitary Allan B. Polunksy Unit, after being convicted for murders 
that he didn't commit. He was released in 2010 after DNA evidence helped 
exonerate him - but the trauma of his nearly 2 decades behind bars is with him 
still.


Graves started his own foundation - with about $250,000 the state compensated 
him for the years he was wrongfully imprisoned - to support his efforts. His 
argument that solitary confinement on death row is inhumane has been reinforced 
by the study published earlier this spring by the Human Rights Clinic at the 
University of Texas School of Law-Austin, entitled "Designed to Break You: 
Human Rights Violations on Texas' Death Row."


The study's title, he believes, couldn't be more accurate.

"Every day you have something going on in solitary confinement," Graves, who 
spent some 12 years of his solitary confinement on death row, told The Crime 
Report.


"From men going insane, to men dropping their appeals, to men overdosing on 
their medication - and some men not even being men because their walls have 
driven them mad."


Texas death row inmates, according to the report, are subjected to a total ban 
of visits from attorneys, friends and family; "substandard" physical and 
psychological health care; and lack of access to what human rights activists 
would consider "sufficient" religious services.


"Prolonged solitary confinement has overwhelmingly negative effects on inmates' 
mental health, exacerbating existing mental conditions, and causing more 
prisoners to develop mental illness for the 1st time," the report said.


As of April 2017, 233 men were on death row in the Texas Department of Criminal 
Justice's Polunksy Unit in Livingston, which "Texas Tough" author Robert 
Perkinson called the "most lethal" death row prison "anywhere in the democratic 
world." Another 6 women are housed in death row at the Mountain View Unit in 
Gatesville.


According to the UT-Austin study, inmates on death row spend an average of 14 
years and 6 months housed there - most of the time in solitary.


According to a 2014 ACLU brief, Texas death-row prisoners had most of the same 
privileges as those in the general prison population until 1999, when they were 
effectively confined to permanent solitary confinement until their execution. 
Under current conditions, according to the report, inmates on solitary are 
confined to 8 by 12-foot cells for at least 22 hours per day, and are banned 
from socializing or eating with other inmates. Inmates are only able to see out 
a small window in their cells by rolling their mattresses and standing on them.


A bill calling for an Office of Independent Oversight Ombudsman for the Texas 
Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), which would increase transparency in the 
prison system was considered by the Texas legislature this session, but failed 
to move forward.


The problem is not confined to Texas. According to the UT-Austin Human Rights 
Clinic researchers, more than 3,000 death row inmates across 35 states are in 
solitary confinement. Most are isolated due to their original capital 
conviction - and not for behavior while in prison.


Some states have reformed conditions. 7 - California, Alabama, Georgia, 
Missouri, Nevada, Ohio and Indiana - now allow visits on death row with family 
and attorneys, for example.


But the number of exonerations has focused attention on what happens to all 
prisoners who experience solitary confinement.


Graves said he was fortunate to have a support system when he was released from 
prison. However, he says he suffered from PTSD, sleep deprivation and 
loneliness. He was so used to having only himself for company that he had a 
difficult time adjusting to the company of others.


"It's like landing on Mars," Graves said of his return to civil society. "The 
whole word has changed, and you have to deal with that. You're starting to feel 
like maybe you can't make it out here and you start to deal with it 
psychologically.


"The sad part is there are no facilities or programs trying to deal with these 
issues."


He believes inmates held in solitary confinement are set up for failure when it 
comes to rehabilitation, and that runs counter to the purpose of any criminal 
justice system. Considering that even inmates on death row could be released, 
as he was, on new evidence that exonerates their charges, authorities should 
not exclude those inmates from reform measures.


Researchers found "self-injury" is 8 times more likely, and suicide 5 times 
more likely, in Texas' 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., N.C., FLA., OHIO

2017-05-31 Thread Rick Halperin




May 31




TEXAS:

Capital murder trial nears for suspect in girl's death


Trial is weeks away in the case of capital murder suspect Isidro Miguel 
Delacruz, 26, who is accused of killing his ex-girlfriend's 5-year-old daughter 
on Sept. 2, 2014.


Delacruz is scheduled to appear for a pretrial hearing at 2 p.m. Wednesday, 
before 119th District Court Judge Ben Woodward.


He is slated for another pretrial hearing July 10, before his trial begins on 
July 31.


Delacruz had been expected to stand trial earlier this year. That was delayed 
in January after Woodward granted a motion from the defense requesting more 
time to prepare for trial.


Delacruz has made more than a dozen court appearances since his arrest the day 
of the girl's death.


He has been in custody at the Tom Green County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail 
since.


Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Delacruz, who allegedly used a 
knife to cut the throat of Tanya Bermea's daughter, Naiya Villegas. A jury 
could also choose punishment of life in prison if Delacruz is found guilty.


Delacruz was arrested at his ex-girlfriend's home in the 2700 block of Houston 
Street following a domestic violence call about 2:30 a.m. Sept. 2, 2014, 
according to police.


According to the arrest affidavit, Delacruz forced his way into Tanya Bermea's 
house through a bathroom window at the rear of the home the day of Naiya's 
death.


Bermea told police she ran from the house and called for her mother, Jesusita 
Bermea, while Naiya remained at home, according to the affidavit.


When the 2 women arrived at the residence Delacruz wouldn't let them inside, so 
they left to get Delacruz's mother, Elizabeth Delacruz, to help them get 
Delacruz out of the house.


When the 3 women returned, Tanya Bermea said she saw her daughter with a slit 
throat and Delacruz covering the wound with paper towels, according to court 
documents.


Tanya Bermea told police that when she walked into the home, Delacruz punched 
her several times, pushed her outside onto the sidewalk and began to choke her, 
according to court documents.


Police found blood throughout the house and outside the home - in the bathroom, 
living room and kitchen; on a walkway leading from the front door of the 
residence to the street; and on the bedding in Tanya Bermea's bedroom leading 
to Naiya's room.


Police searched the area and found a knife, according to court documents, and 
indicated that Delacruz had a laceration on the back of his left upper arm.


(source: San Angelo Standard-Times)






VIRGINIA:

Could Travis Ball face death penalty?


The man accused of shooting and killing a Virginia State Police special agent 
remains behind bars after a judge denied him bond.


Travis Ball, who was arraigned in court Tuesday morning, is charged with 
malicious wounding and firearms charges in connection with last week's shooting 
death of Virginia State Police Special Agent Michael Walter.


Why isn't he charged with murder? That question has flooded our social media 
pages in recent days. Essentially, the charges against him right now are enough 
to keep him locked up. And that's all investigators need as they work to build 
a strong case against him.


When police tracked down Ball early Saturday morning in Lancaster County, they 
arrested him for malicious wounding and firearms violations. At the time, VSP 
Special Agent Walter was still clinging to life.


After Walter was pronounced dead, people expected more serious charges against 
the man suspected of killing him. 8News Legal Analyst Russ Stone believes 
they're coming.


"I fully expect within the next month or so, you will see additional charges 
placed that will probably become a lot more serious than malicious wounding," 
Stone explained.


Stone says that as long as Ball is in custody, police and prosecutors are going 
to take their time putting together a case against him. It's an investigation 
that could lead to the death penalty.


"That's the kind of thing because it involves the death penalty that the 
prosecutors are going to be careful about," Stone said. "They're not going to 
just do it on a whim, they're going to want to review as much as evidence as 
possible and then make a fully informed, intelligent decision as to what to 
charge."


Stone says prosecutors could file more serious charges against Ball at any 
time, but it's more likely they will take the case to a grand jury.


(source: WRIC news)






NORTH CAROLINA:

Wilmington man held without bail in beating death


A Wilmington man charged with murder after the victim of a May 10 beating died 
was denied bail Tuesday during his first appearance in New Hanover County 
Superior Court.


The man and his 16-year-old son were charged with murder in the death of 
Gregory Gineman, 58, of Wilmington, according to the Wilmington Police 
Department.


Gineman was beaten as he and a friend rode bicycles just before midnight in the 
200 block of Myrtle Avenue, 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, DEL., FLA., ALA., MISS., LA., OHIO

2017-05-26 Thread Rick Halperin







May 26




TEXAS:

Appeals court: Names of Texas execution drug suppliers should have been public


A Texas appeals court ruled Thursday against expanding government secrecy in a 
case involving the public's right to know who supplies the lethal drugs Texas 
uses to execute death row inmates.


The decision in favor of openness by the state's 3rd Court of Appeals addressed 
the broader question about when potential safety concerns should trump the 
public's right to know how the state is spending taxpayer money.


The ruling likely has a limited effect immediately, however, because the Texas 
Legislature passed a law requiring state prison officials to keep the 
identities of the drug makers secret.


But the case has been watched by open-government advocates who said its outcome 
could be significant in other cases where the state has withheld information by 
claiming that doing so could create "a substantial threat of physical harm" -- 
a litmus test put in place by the Texas Supreme Court in 2011 in a case 
involving gubernatorial security records.


The appeal came after a state district judge in Austin ordered officials to 
make information about drug suppliers public under the state's open records 
act.


The lawsuit and appeal were filed by attorneys representing two condemned 
convicts challenging their impending executions. Both convicts were executed 
while the case was pending.


Lawyers for the Texas Department Criminal Justice argued that officials need to 
keep the names and details about the suppliers secret to prevent them from 
being threatened or harmed by death-penalty opponents.


Attorneys representing the convicts argued that the threats were vague and 
should not preempt public disclosure.


State officials could appeal the ruling to the Texas Supreme Court.

Maurie Levin, an Austin attorney who was 1 of 3 parties who challenged the 
secrecy, said the ruling is significant because it overruled the state's 
assertion that the suppliers of lethal drugs were confidential under the Texas 
Public Information Act.


And while the law has since been changed to allow state officials to keep the 
information secret, "it's a significant opinion because it affirms that the 
reasons (the state) used to withhold the information were not appropriate," she 
said.


"Information may be withheld if disclosure would threat a substantial threat of 
physical harm," the opinion cites as the standard for releasing information. 
Levin said the appellate decision affirms that the state did not meet that 
standard.


Representatives with the Texas Attorney General's Office and the state 
Department of Criminal Justice said they were reviewing the decision and had no 
immediate comment.


(source: Houston Chronicle)






DELAWARE:

Smyk, Schwartzkopf vote in favor of death penaltyRetired state troopers say 
CO Lt. Steven Floyd shows need for capital punishment



When the call came for a House vote on the bill reinstating the death penalty 
in Delaware, main sponsor Rep. Steve Smyk said he wasn't nervous.


"It was easier than I thought. I thought it might just barely pass," said the 
Milton and Lewes area Republican May 16. "But, I believed I had the votes when 
I walked onto the floor that day."


In August 2016, the state Supreme Court ruled Delaware's capital punishment law 
is unenforceable because the law allows a judge and not a unanimous jury to 
rule if a crime's aggravating circumstance justified a death sentence.


House Bill 125, entitled the Extreme Protection Act, would require a jury to 
determine unanimously at least one statutory aggravating circumstance exists 
and to impose the death penalty. The bill passed through the House by a 24-16 
vote May 9.


All 9 Sussex County legislators voted in favor of the bill, but Smyk, a retired 
state trooper, said the bipartisan support from across the state - there were 
10 Democrats - shows it's not just his district that wants the death penalty 
reinstated in Delaware.


"That's the majority of the state," he said.

Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, of Rehoboth was one of the 
Democrats who supported the bill.


"I've said all along I wouldn't be driving the bus, but I'd be on it," he said.

Schwartzkopf, also a retired state trooper, said most of his beliefs on the 
issue come from his years of experience as a police officer. He said people act 
tough when they're running around outside, but then they'll plead guilty and 
get life because they're afraid of dying. Once they're in the system with a 
life sentence, he said, nothing prevents them from doing something else if the 
death penalty is not an option.


"I firmly believe that if the death penalty was a punishment, the homicide of 
Steven Floyd would not have happened," said Schwartzkopf speaking of the 
correction officer who was murdered during a prisoner uprising in February at 
Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna. "We???ll never know, but even if 
someone is found 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., FLA., ALA., OHIO, KY.

2017-05-25 Thread Rick Halperin





May 25



TEXAS:

Was a convicted murderer incompetent to stand trial - 6 years ago?Fort Bend 
County jurors wrestle with a rare retrospective question



Albert James Turner was convicted in 2011 of murder in the deaths of his 
mother-in-law and wife. The jury sentenced him to death - a choice made only 
every few years in Fort Bend.


The case returned last week to the same courtroom with the same judge, the 
268th District Court with Judge Brady Elliott, to take on an issue Turner's 
defense argued should have been addressed in the first place.


The question before the jury was not whether he committed the crimes, cutting 
the throats of his relatives. Rather, the issue at hand was dubbed 
"retrospective competency," meaning jurors had to decide whether evidence 
showed Turner had not been mentally fit for trial.


It was "a case that's not normally one we take up," the judge told the jurors. 
Judge Elliott had denied a request for a competency trial 6 years ago. A state 
appellate court had now granted it to Turner, allowing a chance at a totally 
new trial if jurors found him incompetent.


Stakes were high. Turner's appellate defense attorney, Amy Martin, believed 
Turner was delusional. Turner felt convinced his attorneys had conspired 
against him, Martin said. And this illness might have affected his decision to 
testify originally, a fateful choice that perhaps influenced the jury to 
sentence him to death, rather than life in prison.


That possibility, Martin said, was "not something we could stomach."

Competency refers to one's ability rationally to understand proceedings in 
court. It is a different question altogether from whether someone was insane at 
the time of the crime. It deals instead with whether defendants can reasonably 
consult with their attorneys and understand the charges being brought against 
them.


Evaluating a defendant for competency before a trial begins is fairly standard 
procedure. Doing so retrospectively is not.


Several mental health professionals evaluated Turner before his trial began, 
court records show. One conducted an evaluation in May 2010, and the other in 
June. Both found him competent. If they had not, he could have been sent to a 
hospital for rehabilitation.


Still, the question of his mental faculties didn't stop there. Turner became a 
detriment to his own defense, said Patrick McCann, his attorney at the time. 
"Time dragged on," McCann said. "He got worse."


On April 15, 2011, defense attorneys filed a request for a trial on Turner's 
competency. 3 days later, on the 1st day of jury selection, the judge denied 
it.


But the defense persisted, and on May 6, the judge ordered 1 more evaluation, 
this time by the county's director of behavioral health services. After a 
30-minute conversation during which Turner remained standing, she concluded his 
functioning had not significantly changed.


The case went to trial. Turner testified. The jury sentenced him. An appeal 
followed, and the higher court decided he deserved the competency trial after 
all - leading to last weeks' proceedings.


Testimony continued to midday Thursday, when the 12-person jury heard closing 
arguments.


Proesecutor Fred Felcman painted the case as woefully lacking in the expected 
indicators, such as family speaking of his illness or physicians having treated 
him. He said a defendant didn't have to help his attorneys.


"This is not what you thought it was going to be, was it?," Felcman said.

Martin argued that even though Turner wasn't curled up in a corner or foaming 
at the mouth, he still had a mental illness. She insisted he had a delusional 
disorder, which could be hard to detect.


"He didn't have a disagreement with his attorneys," she said. "He had a break 
with reality."


Turner refused to be in the courtroom. A video camera allowed him to watch 
proceedings from jail.


The jurors made a decision in 2 hours. Members of the Fort Bend County District 
Attorney's Office sat in the room, as did Darren Frank, whose sister and mother 
were the people Turner killed.


Frank had cared for his sister's 4 children since the murders. He said he felt 
a little surprised to see Turner's case return to Fort Bend and had prepared 
for whatever the outcome would be. His main priority, he said, was supporting 
the children.


"Even one day, if [Turner] dies, it can't bring back what we've lost," Frank 
said. "I have to remove myself from the situation and just really focus on them 
and how I can help them."


Cases like these didn't come around every day. Martin, who wrote the appellate 
brief, said she knew of only one other, from 2012 in Harris County.


The judge read Turner's verdict. They jury said Turner had been competent.

His appeal will continue.

(source: Houston Chronicle)






PENNSYLVANIA:

Prosecutor seeking death penalty against man accused in 4-year-old's death


A Butler County man accused in the death of his girlfriend's young son was in 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, N.C., FLA., MISS., OHIO

2017-05-20 Thread Rick Halperin






May 20



TEXAS:

Inmate facing death penalty appears in Bowie County court


A Texas prison inmate accused of bludgeoning a correctional officer at the 
Barry Telford Unit to death in 2015 appeared in court Friday for a pretrial 
hearing.


Billy Joel Tracy, 39, was flanked by a cadre of Texas Department of Criminal 
Justice officers as he entered 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart's courtroom 
Friday morning. Tracy is facing the death penalty in the beating death of 
Timothy Davison, a correctional officer with less than a year's experience who 
was attacked July 15, 2015.


Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp and Tracy's defense attorneys, Matt 
Cobb of Mount Pleasant, Texas, and Jeff Harrelson of Texarkana, told Lockhart 
they have plans to meet June 2 and discuss matters concerning Tracy's upcoming 
trial. A motion to suppress video of Tracy's murder and of interviews with 
Tracy after the deadly attack filed by Cobb is expected to be argued at the 
next pretrial hearing June 16.


Crisp handed the defense a large volume of papers which she said includes a 
transcript of Tracy's 1998 trial in Rockwall County for aggravated assault, 
burglary and assault on a peace officer which resulted in 2 life sentences with 
parole possible and a 20-year sentence. Crisp said she also has the actual 
exhibits from Tracy's 1st trial in her office at the Bowie County District 
Attorney's Office where the defense is welcome to review them.


Tracy turned down an offer from Lockhart to speak at the hearing Friday. The 
case is scheduled for jury selection mid-September. However, Crisp said she, 
Cobb and Harrelson believe the jury pool should be summoned to the courthouse 
in early August for preliminary matters and instructions to return in 
September.


If the jury finds Tracy guilty of Davison's murder, he faces death or life 
without the possibility of parole.


(source: txktoday.com)






NORTH CAROLINA:

Monkey Junction murder suspect makes 1st court appearance


A Lumberton man accused of the fatal shooting of a Wilmington woman in the 
Monkey Junction area last month made his 1st court appearance Friday.


William James Bernicki, 48, is charged with 1st-degree murder in the slaying of 
34-year-old Brittany Fullwood on April 25.


Bernicki is accused of bursting into Fullwood's home on Woods Edge Road and 
shooting her several times before reportedly shooting himself in the face. The 
following day, investigators issued arrest warrants for Bernicki charging him 
with Fullwood's death.


Bernicki was taken to New Hanover Regional Medical Center for treatment 
following the shooting and remained hospitalized until Friday afternoon. 
Deputies served Bernicki the warrants and took him to the New Hanover County 
Courthouse for his 1st appearance.


A judge ordered that Bernicki be held under no bond.

He was then taken to Central Prison in Raleigh and put in safe keeping for 
additional medical treatment, according to District Attorney Ben David.


David said while it's too early to determine if his office will seek the death 
penalty against Bernicki, he has asked that the Capital Defender's Office be 
appointed to defend Bernicki. The Capital Defender's Office represents 
individuals that will face the death penalty.


911 calls released the day after the shooting revealed the frantic moments 
following the deadly encounter.


A woman, who just got home from work, called dispatch shortly after the 
shooting, saying, "there's gunfire, gunfire! A man running down the road said 
his roommate had been shot. I've heard about 6 shots."


When pressed by the dispatcher for more information about the shooting, the 
caller yelled to the man for details.


"Saw him bust through the door...and the barrel of the gun come through the 
door," the caller said.


Fullwood's 3-year-old son was in the backyard at the time of the shooting. He 
was found unharmed by deputies shortly after they arrived at the scene. 
Investigators said the shooting happened at Fullwood's mother's home and the 
boy is now in her care.


(source: WECT news)






FLORIDA:

Death penalty prosecutions delayed despite new state law


Even after Florida got a new death penalty law in March, several trials in 
South Florida remain in limbo over yet more legal wrangling.


Defense lawyers, and some judges, say prosecutors still can't pursue the death 
penalty because the grand jury indictments don't include certain elements 
needed to support capital charges.


These elements are called aggravating factors, such as the killing was 
"especially heinous, atrocious or cruel," or possibly involved the slaying of a 
child.


A state appeals court is considering arguments from lawyers for Fidel Lopez - 
the Sunrise man accused of disemboweling his girlfriend in 2015 - that 
challenge his indictment, and the pending decision will affect other cases. It 
is not known when the court will rule, leaving several death penalty cases 
stalled.


The changes in 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., ALA., LA.

2017-05-19 Thread Rick Halperin




May 19



TEXAS:

Court lifts reprieve for Nicaraguan man on Texas death row


The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday lifted a reprieve it gave a 
Nicaraguan man a day before he was to be executed 2 years ago for killing a 
Houston high school teacher during a 1997 robbery.


The state's highest criminal appeals court had halted the scheduled August 2015 
lethal injection of Bernardo Tercero, 40, after his attorneys contended Harris 
County prosecutors unknowingly presented false testimony at his trial in 2000 
for the death of Robert Berger, 38.


Wednesday's ruling affirms the findings of Tercero's trial court that last year 
held a hearing on the claim and determined the testimony was proper.


Berger was at a Houston dry cleaners in March 1997 with his 3-year-old daughter 
when Tercero came in to rob the store, records show. Berger was fatally shot 
and the store was robbed of about $400. Prosecutors said Tercero was in the 
U.S. illegally at the time.


Tercero, now 40, argued the shooting was acciental. He testified Berger 
confronted him and tried to thwart the robbery, and the gun went off as they 
struggled. He was arrested in Hidalgo County near the Texas-Mexico border more 
than 2 years after the slaying. A 2nd man sought in the case never has been 
found.


In another case, the appeals court Wednesday denied an appeal from Bartholomew 
Granger, condemned for the slaying of a 79-year-old woman during a 2012 
shooting rampage outside the Jefferson County Courthouse.


Attorneys for Granger, 46, raised 10 challenges to his 2013 conviction and 
death sentence. 5 issues foused on claims his trial attorneys were deficient, 4 
raised questions about the constitutionaltiy of the death penalty in Texas and 
the last contended he was denied his right to an impartial jury.


He was convicted of fatally shooting Minnie Ray Sebolt, a bystander walking 
outside the courthouse in downtown Beaumont. Granger admitted he opend fire on 
his daughter outside the courthouse after she testified against him a sexual 
assault case.


His daughter and her mother were among 3 people wounded.

In a 3rd case, the appeals court refused an appeal from Charles Raby, 47, who 
was sent to death row in 1994 for killing 72-year-old Edna Mae Franklin. The 
court said the appeal focusing on DNA testing was improperly filed and did not 
rule on the merits of the argument. In 2015, the court upheld a lower court 
finding that results of new DNA tests didn't cast doubt on Raby's conviction 
for Frankling's stabbing death.


The appeals court also sent back to trial in Bastrop County the case of Rodney 
Reed to review claims that new evidence was improperly withheld and to show 
prosecutors presented false and misleading testimony at his trial, where he was 
convicted and sentenced to die for the 1996 rape and strangling of 19-year-old 
Stacy Stites. Her body was found off the side of a road about 35 miles 
southeast of Austin.


Last month, the appeals court refused to allow additional DNA testing of 
evidence in the case, saying the request was meant to "to unreasonably delay 
the execution of his sentence or the administration of justice."


(source: Associated Press)






FLORIDA:

Matthew Caylor granted new sentencing hearing


Matthew Caylor, the man convicted of strangling a 13-year-old then hiding her 
body under the bed of a Panama City motel, has been granted a new sentencing 
hearing after the Supreme Court of Florida threw out his original death 
sentence. In a move that was expected, the Supreme Court of Florida has ruled 
that Matthew Caylor is eligible for a new penalty phase. Caylor killed Melinda 
Hinson, 13, in a Panama City Motel in July of 2008 after raping her.


In an opinion released Thursday, Justices ruled 6-0 that because Caylor's death 
sentence in 2009 wasn't unanimous (it was 8-4) that he was entitled to a new 
penalty phase.


Caylor, who is now 41, is the man who murdered Melinda Hinson, 13, at the 
Valu-Lodge Motel in Panama City on July 8, 2008. Caylor used a telephone cord 
in the motel room to strangle Hinson after he raped her. He hid her body 
underneath the bed in the motel room then took off. Hinson's body was 
discovered 2 days later.


Caylor's case is just the latest death penalty case to get a new sentencing 
phase. Last year the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that all death 
sentences from juries must be unanimous and that a judge can't impose a death 
penalty without it. So all of the convicts on death row are filing appeals of 
their sentences if the jury recommendation for death wasn't unanimous.


So far, no new sentencing hearings in any of the cases have occurred. They're 
scheduled to happen within the next few months. If the recommendation for death 
isn't unanimous, all of the killers will more than likely be sentenced to life 
in prison without parole. But that determination won't be made until the new 
sentencing phases take place.


(source: WJHG news)



[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., FLA., ALA., LA., KY.

2017-05-18 Thread Rick Halperin






May 18



TEXAS:

Court lifts reprieve for Nicaraguan man on Texas death row


The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday lifted a reprieve it gave a 
Nicaraguan man a day before he was to be executed 2 years ago for killing a 
Houston high school teacher during a 1997 robbery.


The state's highest criminal appeals court had halted the scheduled August 2015 
lethal injection of Bernardo Tercero after his attorneys contended Harris 
County prosecutors unknowingly presented false testimony from a witness at his 
trial in 2000 for the death of 38-year-old Robert Berger. Wednesday's ruling 
affirms the findings of Tercero's trial court that last year held a hearing on 
the claim and determined the testimony was proper.


Berger was a customer in a Houston dry cleaners shop in March 1997 and was with 
his 3-year-old daughter when records show Tercero came in to rob the store. 
Berger was fatally shot and the store was robbed of about $400. Prosecutors 
said Tercero was in the U.S. illegally at the time.


Tercero, now 40, argued the shooting was accidental. He testified Berger 
confronted him and tried to thwart the robbery, and the gun went off as they 
struggled. He was arrested in Hidalgo County near the Texas-Mexico border more 
than 2 years after the slaying. A second man sought in the case never has been 
found.


Tercero's case has attracted attention in his home country, where a clemency 
plea from Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega in 2015 was forwarded to Texas 
Gov. Greg Abbott.


(source: Associated Press)

**

Appeals court hears arguments in Williamson County death penalty case


A defense lawyer for a man given the death penalty for a Williamson County 
killing argued before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday that the 
evidence used to convict Steven Alan Thomas did not prove he committed the 
crime.


A Williamson County jury convicted Thomas of capital murder in October 2014 and 
sentenced him to death for the sexual assault and strangulation of 73-year-old 
Mildred McKinney in 1980.


Defense lawyer Ariel Payan said Wednesday that Thomas' fingerprint, which was 
found on the back of a clock in McKinney???s bedroom, could have been there 
because Thomas worked for a pesticide company that had been to her house.


Payan also said Thomas' sperm was found on a piece of medical tape wrapped 
around one of McKinney's thumbs but that did not prove he sexually assaulted 
her. McKinney also had DNA inside of her from 3 other unknown men, he said.


The same arguments about how the evidence could not prove Thomas' guilt were 
made by his lawyers during his trial.


Payan also said Wednesday the testimony of a jailhouse snitch during Thomas' 
trial could not be confirmed and should have been inadmissible. The inmate, 
Steven Shockey, told a jury that Thomas told him about being high on cocaine, 
breaking into a house, having to restrain a woman before she got out of bed and 
taking money and jewelry.


Williamson County Assistant District Attorney John Prezas, who was representing 
the state on the appeal, said the physical evidence alone was enough to convict 
Thomas without Shockey's testimony. The clock that had Thomas' fingerprint on 
it was found in the middle of McKinney's bed near some of the cord used to tie 
her up, Prezas said.


He also said Thomas' sperm was found not on medical tape but on a ribbon tied 
around McKinney's thumb that was used to restrain her hands. Prezas also 
questioned whether Thomas had been to McKinney's house when he worked for his 
brother's pesticide company. Thomas' brother testified during the trial that 
McKinney was one of their clients but he didn't have records that showed Thomas 
made a service call to her house, Prezas said.


By state law, every death penalty case is automatically sent to the Court of 
Criminal Appeals.


"The litigants can request oral argument or not," Payan said after the hearing. 
"I almost always do, and it is usually granted but not always."


It was unclear Wednesday when the judges would make a decision.

(source: Austin American-Statesman)






PENNSYLVANIA:

The slowly-shifting status of capital punishment in PA


Anti-establishment lawyer Larry Krasner's win in the Philadelphia District 
Attorney Democratic primary Tuesday put him on track for a probable victory in 
November.


Krasner has made a name for himself as a longtime defense lawyer in civil 
rights cases, but he is perhaps best-known for his ardent opposition to the 
death penalty. His election dredged up a recurring discussion Pennsylvania has 
been grappling with for decades: what does the future of capital punishment in 
the commonwealth look like?


Pennsylvania is 1 of only 2 states in the northeast that still allows the death 
penalty. It has the 5th most inmates on death row in the nation, but in the 
last 40 years, has only executed 3 people.


Why the disparity?

Marc Bookman, with the Atlantic Center for Capital 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS

2017-05-17 Thread Rick Halperin






May 17



TEXAS:

Lawyer says DNA, prints don’t prove Steven Thomas killed woman


The judges on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals heard arguments Wednesday 
about the case of Steven Thomas who was given the death penalty in 2014 after 
he was convicted of the capital murder of a Williamson County woman. It was 
unclear when they might make a decision in the case.


Defense lawyer Ariel Payan argued Wednesday morning that the evidence used to 
convict Thomas did not prove he was at the scene of the crime. A Williamson 
County jury convicted Thomas in October 2014 and sentenced him to death for the 
sexual assault and strangulation of Mildred McKinney in 1980.


Thomas’ fingerprint was found on the back of a clock in McKinney’s bedroom. 
Payan said Wednesday at a hearing before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals 
that it could have been there because Thomas worked for a pesticide company 
that had been to her house, Payan said.


He also said Thomas’ sperm was found on a piece of medical tape wrapped around 
the thumb of the 73-year-old McKinney, but that didn’t prove he sexually 
assaulted her. McKinney also had DNA inside of her from three other unknown 
men, Payan said.


He said the testimony of a jailhouse snitch during Thomas’ trial also could not 
prove that Thomas killed McKinney. The inmate, Steven Shockey, testified in 
front of a jury that Thomas told him about being high on cocaine, breaking into 
a house and having to restrain a woman before she got out of bed and that 
Thomas took money and jewelry.


Williamson County Assistant District Attorney John Prezas, who was representing 
the state on the appeal, said the physical evidence alone was enough to convict 
Thomas without Shockey’s testimony. The clock that had Thomas’ fingerprint on 
it was found in the middle of McKinney’s bed near some of the cord used to tie 
her up at the crime scene, Prezas said.


He also said Thomas’ sperm was found not on medical tape but on a ribbon tied 
around McKinney’s thumb that was used to restrain her hands. Prezas also 
questioned whether Thomas had been to McKinney’s house when he worked for his 
brother’s pesticide company. Thomas’ brother testified during the trial that 
McKinney was one of their clients but he didn’t have records that showed Thomas 
made a service call to her house, Prezas said.


One of Thomas’ lawyers, Ariel Payan, said in his appeal to the Court of 
Criminal Appeals in August that the evidence presented at the trial showed 
McKinney was killed by more than one person. No evidence at the trial showed 
Thomas had killed McKinney or helped commit any other crime against her, Payan 
said.


Evidence at the trial showed that a throat swab taken during McKinney’s autopsy 
showed male DNA that didn’t belong to Thomas and also ruled out other suspects 
in the case, including serial killer Henry Lee Lucas and his partner Ottis 
Toole.


The ribbon wrapped around one of McKinney’s thumbs not only had DNA on it from 
Thomas but also from an unknown man, according to a DNA analyst who testified 
at the trial.


(source: Austin American-Statesman)
___
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu

DeathPenalty mailing list
DeathPenalty@lists.washlaw.edu
http://lists.washlaw.edu/mailman/listinfo/deathpenalty
Unsubscribe: http://lists.washlaw.edu/mailman/options/deathpenalty


[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, MAINE, GA., ALA., TENN., ARK., CALIF., USA

2017-05-17 Thread Rick Halperin





May 17




TEXASVienna Convention issues for foreign national

Court refuses to hear appealNo execution date set for Mexican man convicted 
of killing family found buried



The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to review an appeal from a Mexican 
citizen sentenced to death for the sledgehammer killings of his wife and 2 
children, who were found buried under the bathroom floor in their Texas home.


The high court didn't include an explanation of its decision not to review the 
capial murder conviction of 62-year-old Robert Moreno Ramos. His attorneys have 
argued that Ramos wasn't told when he was arrested for the 1992 killings that 
he could get legal help from the Mexican government and that he had deficient 
legal help at his trial and in earlier appeals. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of 
Appeals rejected their arguments last year.


In 2004, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, found 
that Ramos, from Aguascalientes, Mexico, and more than 4 dozen other Mexican 
citizens awaiting execution in the U.S. weren't advised of their consular 
rights under the Vienna Convention when they were arrested. It recommended that 
they be tried again to determine if consular access would have affected their 
cases. President George W. Bush agreed and directed states to reopen the cases.


The Supreme Court overruled that directive, saying that only Congress can 
require states to follow the international court's ruling. That has not 
happened and several Texas inmates named in the international court ruling have 
since been executed.


Ramos, who also is identified in some court documents as Roberto Moreno Ramos, 
does not have an execution date. Evidence at his 1993 trial in Hidalgo County 
showed he used a sledge hammer to kill his 42-year-old wife, Leticia, their 
7-year-old daughter, Abigail, and their 3-year-old son, Jonathan, at their home 
in Progreso, which is along the Mexico border about 20 miles southeast of 
McAllen.


According to court records, Ramos told a cousin they were killed in a car wreck 
and their bodies were cremated.


After provideing other conflicting explanations, thouigh, another relative went 
to police to report the woman and children missing. Their bodies were found 
buried under a freshly tiled floor in the home's bathroom.


(source: Dallas Morning News)

*

Bexar County has shortage of death penalty defense attorneysOnly 11 'first 
chair' lawyers meet qualification criteria



The stakes in a capital murder case are as high as they can get. Defendants are 
facing either life in prison without the possibility of parole or death by 
lethal injection.


Among the attorneys in Bexar County qualified to serve as first chair - lead 
counsel - in capital murder cases are Joel Perez and Raymond Fuchs.


Right now, there are 68 capital murder cases pending in Bexar County, but only 
11 lawyers who meet the qualifications to represent those defendants.


"I like the challenge," Perez said. "I feel that those individuals need the 
best defense that they can get."


Handling capital murder cases, he said, is work intensive and not financially 
lucrative.


"There are some lawyers that either for financial reasons or stress have 
dropped off the first chair list because of that," Perez said.


The pool of lawyers is selected by a local committee of judges and veteran 
lawyers and is governed by state regulations. Regulations District Judge Sid 
Harle, who is on the committee, described them as "very, very stringent."


"We have too many courts and too many cases competing for the same pool of 
lawyers," Harle said.


Those lawyers are required to have experience that, more often than not, is 
elusive.


"You've got to be qualified, but yet they want you to have done it," Fuchs 
said. "So you have to be a 2nd chair and that just puts a huge burden on the 
first chair."


Death penalty opponents point out that the solution to the problem is to do 
away with the death penalty. If things don't change, it is something Harle said 
could happen.


"Frankly, if we continue at this pace, then, de facto, we're going to do away 
with the death penalty simply because we're not going to be able to get to 
trial," he said.


Harle said that legislative changes to the rules are the solution.

"We're not really relaxing the requirements," Harle said. "We're simply giving 
the local selection committee more discretion."


Discretion, the judge added, that would mean expanding the pool with additional 
competent lawyers.


(source: KSAt news)






MAINE:

Amid offers to help opiate users, LePage suggests death penalty for dealers


Gov. Paul LePage kept his focus on fighting Maine's opiate addiction epidemic 
Tuesday when he said he supports a pending bill that would make dealing drugs 
that cause an overdose Class A manslaughter.


The bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Scott Cyrway of Benton, has been voted 
out of the Criminal Justice and Public 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, ALA., COLO., USA

2017-05-16 Thread Rick Halperin






May 16



TEXASexecution date re-set

Steven Long's execution date has been re-set for August 30; it should be 
considered serious.



Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present24

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982present-543

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #

25-July 19-Kosoul Chanthakoummane---543

26-July 27-Taichin Preyor-544

27-Aug. 30-Steven Long545

28-Sept.7--Juan Castillo--546

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)






ALABAMA:

House to Debate Death Penalty Legislation


The Alabama House of Representatives is headed toward contentious debate on a 
bill to shorten death penalty appeals. Representatives on Tuesday evening will 
debate the bill to require inmates to raise claims such as ineffective counsel 
at the same time as direct appeal claiming trial errors.


Sen. Cam Ward, the bill's sponsor, says the current process can take decades 
and is often abused. Ward says the bill is based on Texas procedures and would 
shorten the time that appeals take from 18 to 9 years.


American Bar Association President Linda Klein sent lawmakers a letter opposing 
the bill, saying it increases the likelihood that an innocent person will be 
executed.


Opposed lawmakers are expected to mention the case of an Alabama inmate freed 
after nearly 30 years on death row.


(source: Associated Press)






COLORADO:

Judge denies new trial in Sir Mario Owens murder caseOrder concerns 2004 
murder in Aurora's Lowry Park



A judge in Arapahoe County has denied a defense request to grant death row 
inmate Sir Mario Owens a new trial in a murder case that prosecutors later used 
to win the capital sentence against Owens.


Senior Judge Christopher Munch concluded in an order issued Tuesday that Owens' 
attorneys in the trial represented him adequately, the information prosecutors 
did not disclose to his defense attorneys did not taint the trial, and that a 
juror who later said she recognized several witnesses who testified during the 
case did not commit misconduct.


"Owens is 'entitled to a fair trial, but not a perfect trial,'" Munch wrote, 
quoting partly from a well-known Colorado Supreme Court ruling. "A fair trial 
is a trial whose result is reliable. Owens received a fair trial, and its 
result is reliable."



Owens was convicted of 3 murders tried in 2 separate cases. In the 1st, jurors 
found him guilty of murdering a man named Gregory Vann in Aurora's Lowry Park 
in 2004 and also of trying to kill Vann's friend Javad Marshall-Fields.


In 2005, Marshall-Fields had been scheduled to testify against another man, 
Robert Ray, who had been charged as an accessory to murder in the Lowry Park 
case. But Marshall-Fields and his fiancee, Vivian Wolfe, were killed before he 
could. Owens was also charged and convicted for those murders, and he was 
sentenced to death. Prosecutors used Owens' conviction in the Lowry Park case 
to provide a legal basis for the death sentence.


Owens' attorneys appealed both cases. Munch's ruling on Tuesday deals with the 
defense's request for a new trial in the Lowry Park case. The appeal of the 
death penalty case is still pending.


In a statement issued shortly after Munch's ruling was released, Owens' defense 
attorney James Castle offered thoughts and prayers for the family members of 
the murder victims.


"As the defenders of Mr. Owens we are saddened and disappointed in the decision 
of the court but it does not weaken our unflinching resolve to seek a just 
result," he wrote.


(source: Denver Post)






USA:

Report: Dylann Roof said white nationalists would save him from death row


Convicted mass murderer Dylann Roof told a psychologist working for his defense 
team that his death penalty wouldn't be carried out because he'd "be rescued by 
white nationalists after they took over the government."


That's according to a November report composed amid Roof's trial for killing 
nine parishioners in 2015 at Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal 
Church. The report also says Roof was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder 
"based on the presence of social-communication challenges and atypical 
behaviors."


It goes on to say Roof was suffering or had suffered from "psychiatric symptoms 
that are not explained by autism spectrum disorder, including anxiety, 
depression, suicidal ideation, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, disordered 
thinking, and psychosis (including delusions of grandeur and somatic 
delusions)."


Roof's somatic delusions -- which are defined as false beliefs that something 
is grossly wrong with one's body -- include unfounded complaints of hair loss 
and thyroid disease, according to reports.


"It is my impression that it is too early to predict his psychiatric 
trajectory," Dr. Rachel Loftin wrote in one report, "but his symptoms appear to 
me to be 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., GA., KY., OKLA., COLO.

2017-05-13 Thread Rick Halperin






May 13




TEXASstay of impending execution

Fort Worth death row inmate gets second stay of execution this year


An appeals court has postponed a 2nd execution date for a death row inmate from 
Fort Worth who was scheduled to die next week.


In an order issued Friday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that they 
would review Tilon Lashon Carter's application for relief before going forward 
with his execution, which was scheduled for Tuesday.


Carter, 37, was convicted of the robbery and 2004 slaying of James Tomlin, 89, 
a Bell Helicopter retiree. Prosecutors said that Carter and his girlfriend, 
Leketha Allen, went to Tomlin's home to rob him and took $6,000. Allen was 
sentenced to 25 years after agreeing to a plea bargain arrangement with 
prosecutors.


Carter's attorney, Raoul D. Schonemann, filed a motion on Tuesday to set aside 
the execution date, arguing that new evidence conflicts with evidence that was 
presented at trial. The motion also states that Carter had ineffective trial 
counsel and was denied due process because Nizam Peerwani, Tarrant County 
medical examiner, presented false and misleading testimony.


Peerwani's testimony led the jury to believe that Tomlin had been intentionally 
smothered, even though Tomlin's cause of death was listed as "smothering with 
positional asphyxia," which may not have been intentional, the motion contends. 
Carter's trial attorney never sought evidence highlighting the role that intent 
played in the trial, which Schonemann used to bolster his allegation that 
Carter had ineffective counsel.


The motion also argues that the autopsy results, from Peerwani and 3 other 
experts, do not support the theory that Tomlin's death was caused by an 
intentional act.


Carter survived an earlier execution date scheduled for Feb. 7 due to a 
technicality. The appeals court granted a stay of execution by a 5-4 vote on 
the grounds that notice of the scheduled execution date arrived 1/2 a day late 
at a state office that sometimes works on death penalty appeals.


2 death row inmates from Tarrant County have been executed this year. 
Christopher Wilkins was put to death on Jan. 11 for a double murder committed 
in Fort Worth. He was the 1st person to be executed in the United States this 
year.


Texas also executed a former Kennedale auto mechanic who killed a father and 
his infant son in a 1987 Christmas Eve killing spree. James Eugene Bigby, 61, 
was pronounced dead on March 14.


An execution date for Paul Storey, which had also been set for this year, was 
stayed pending a hearing.


Storey, 32, who was convicted for the murder of Jonas Cherry, was scheduled to 
die on April 12. Cherry, a manager at the Putt-Putt Golf and Games in Hurst, 
was shot twice in the head and twice in his legs on Oct. 16, 2006 on a robbery.


(source: star-telegram.com)



Juan Castillo's execution date has been changed from May 24 to September 7.

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present24

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982present-543

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #

25-June 28--Steven Long---543

26-July 19-Kosoul Chanthakoummane---544

37-July 27-Taichin Preyor-545

28-Sept.7--Juan Castillo--546

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)



Former Mavs ManiAAC dancer receives life sentence after jury deadlocks


A former Mavs ManiAAC dancer received life in prison after the jury in his 
murder trial deadlocked on the death penalty.


Erbie Bowser killed 4 people and wounded 4 children during a 2013 shooting 
rampage. He was on trial for 1 of the murders.


The jury got hung up on the death penalty and deadlocked. The judge had to go 
with a life sentence in prison without the chance of parole.


The jury had already signaled it was having trouble with a verdict on the 
punishment after being sequestered overnight. They began sending out a note on 
Friday for a clarification on "beyond a reasonable doubt".


Bowser was found guilty of capital murder for the death of 4 women and wounding 
several children.


Prosecutors said in 2013 Bowser went to his girlfriend's house and killed Toya 
Smith and her 17-year-old daughter and then went to DeSoto to kill his 
estranged wife, Zina Bowser, and her 28-year-old daughter.


Smith's mother, Lurlean, had some words for Bowser at the end of the trial.

"You not only killed once, you killed 4 times," she said. "And you left four 
innocent children without parents. But those children are going to go on with 
their lives and will have a good life."


Defense attorneys tried to show Bowser was not guilty by reason of insanity 
because of his military service and concussions from playing football had 
impacted his mental state.


(source: Fox News)






FLORIDAfemale to face death penalty

Kimberly 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, GA., FLA., ALA., LA., KY.. S.DAK., USA

2017-05-12 Thread Rick Halperin




May 12



TEXAS:

Deadly gamesThe Court of Criminal Appeals must treat executions with a new 
sense of skepticism.



How can you tell if a criminal is too mentally disabled to merit the death 
penalty?


If you're a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, you look at the prevailing 
standards of psychology and medicine.


If you're a judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA), you look at his 
ability to hustle pool.


This mismatched standard has the state's highest criminal court rehearing the 
death sentence of Bobby Moore, who was convicted for shooting a grocery store 
employee during a robbery in 1980. Moore's lawyers have argued that he is 
mentally disabled and executing him would violate the Eighth Amendment's 
prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.


In a 5-3 decision released in March, the Supreme Court found that the CCA 
failed to consider current clinical standards when determining Moore's 
intelligence and relied too much on invented standards that have no real basis 
in medicine or law. Among those invented standards were the facts that Moore 
"lived on the streets, mowed lawns, and played pool for money."


Now the CCA is going to reconsider Moore's death sentence, and we encourage 
them to listen to the dissenting judge who had it right the whole time: Judge 
Elsa Alcala.


Over the past several capital punishment cases to face the CCA, Alcala has 
refused to shy away from pointing out the flaws in our state's death penalty 
process. In fact, the former prosecutor and trial judge has twice called for 
the CCA to address the underlying constitutionality of the death penalty 
itself.


There are 3 key legal arguments to consider: Is the death penalty in Texas 
unconstitutionally arbitrary because race, rather than violence, is a better 
predictor of its application?


Is the death penalty in Texas unconstitutionally cruel because it essentially 
requires convicts on death row to sit in solitary confinement for years, if not 
decades?


Is the death penalty in Texas unconstitutionally unusual because, since 2010, 
capital punishment is practiced in only 16 counties out of more than 3,000 
across the United States?


Beyond the legal realm of Alcala's expertise, Texas also needs to consider the 
deep questions of policy and morality wrapped up in the application of 
government-administered death.


Innocent people like Anthony Graves have been rescued from death row. Others, 
like Cameron Todd Willingham, were executed while questions of guilt still 
lingered.


There's no undoing a mistaken execution, yet Texas persists.

The death penalty doesn't save money - the constitutionally compelled appeals 
process is often more expensive than life in prison. And there's no conclusive 
evidence that it does a better job at deterring crime. In fact, states without 
capital punishment routinely have lower murder rates.


That's why the rest of western civilization has abandoned the practice. 
Countries like Iran, China, North Korea and Saudi Arabia sit among Texas' peers 
in executing criminals - not exactly the company the Lone Star State should 
want to keep.


Questions of life and death aren't a game - pool hustling or otherwise. Nor 
should executions be treated like a political pawn. The CCA and the entire 
state of Texas need to address the death penalty with a new and serious 
skepticism.


(source: Houston Chronicle)



Jury Clears the Prosecutor Who Sent Cameron Todd Willingham to death 
rowJohn Jackson did not commit misconduct in 1992 case, a jury finds.



After a trial of more than 2 weeks, a Texas jury on Wednesday found that former 
state prosecutor John Jackson had not committed misconduct in the 1992 death 
penalty trial of Cameron Todd Willingham.


By an 11-to-1 vote, a Navarro County jury rejected claims by the State Bar of 
Texas that Jackson made false statements, concealed evidence favorable to 
Willingham's defense and obstructed justice.


The state bar had accused Jackson of failing to disclose to Willingham's 
defense lawyers that jailhouse snitch Johnny Webb had been promised favorable 
treatment on an aggravated robbery conviction in return for testimony at 
Willingham's trial.


Webb testified at Willingham's trial that while he and Willingham were in the 
Navarro County Jail Willingham confessed to setting a fire that killed his 3 
daughters. In 2014, Webb recanted that testimony, saying Willingham never 
confessed and that he had testified after Jackson promised him leniency on his 
own criminal charge.


Jackson testified during his trial that he had made no deal with Webb. He said 
he only made efforts to obtain a reduction of Webb's conviction from aggravated 
robbery to simple robbery and an early release from prison because Webb was 
being threatened in prison.


Willingham was executed on Feb. 17, 2004 for setting the fire that killed his 
daughters on Dec. 23, 1991 in their Corsicana, Texas home. The prosecution's 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., S.C., FLA., ALA., OHIO

2017-05-11 Thread Rick Halperin





May 11




TEXASimpending execution

Death Watch: The Capital of Capital PunishmentTilon Carter set for 
execution - again



For the 2nd time this year, Tilon Carter faces execution - this time, he's set 
for Huntsville's gurney next Tuesday, May 16. Carter was convicted of capital 
murder in 2006 in Tarrant County, for the robbery and suffocation of 
89-year-old James Eldon Tomlin. He received a stay in January based on a 
technicality involving the filing of his death warrant, so the Court of 
Criminal Appeals ordered the lower court to reset Carter's execution date. 
Carter has exhausted his appeals, but maintains that Tomlin's death was 
accidental. Robin Norris, his attorney, did not respond to requests for 
comment.


The resetting of execution dates combined with last-minute stays is one of 
several injustices highlighted in "Designed to Break You: Human Rights 
Violations on Texas' Death Row," a recent report from the Human Rights Clinic 
at the UT School of Law. The yearlong study focused on the Texas Department of 
Criminal Justice's repeated resetting of execution dates, inmates' limited 
access to religious services, and - most significantly - the Polunsky Unit's 
use of solitary confinement.


Texas has been dubbed the Capital of Capital Punishment. Since the Supreme 
Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, the state has executed 542 people. 
(Carter would bump that to 543.) Oklahoma and Virginia have the 2nd and 3rd 
most deadly death rows, each with 112 executions. Texas' death row inmates 
spend 22-24 hours a day in solitary. Though the TDCJ allows inmates up to 2 
hours of "recreation" time daily, the report notes: "In practice, death row 
inmates often do not receive outdoor [time]." And even outside, the so-called 
"yard" is a slightly larger cell closed off by high concrete walls and caging 
over the top, which limits natural light. It's typical for death row inmates to 
spend more than a decade living in these conditions prior to their execution.


Mandatory confinement has been required since the men's death row was 
transferred from Huntsville to the Polunsky Unit in nearby West Livingston in 
1999. All human contact has been banned as well. The TDCJ's severe use of 
solitary and isolation has been called inhumane by the Inter-American 
Commission on Human Rights, the Organization of American States, and the 
European Convention on Human Rights. The UT report states the use of solitary, 
to such a degree, is incredibly detrimental to inmates' mental health - most 
noticeably those already suffering from mental illness. In what is dubbed 
"death row syndrome," prisoners report experiencing severe depression, memory 
loss, suicidal tendencies, and more. The study summarizes, they're "effectively 
subject to a severe form of psychological torture every day of their lives."


Asked for a response to the study, Jason Clark, the TDCJ's director of public 
information, told us: "Offenders on death row are individuals who've been 
convicted of heinous crimes and given the harshest sentence possible under the 
law. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice will continue to ensure it 
fulfills its mission of public safety and house death row offenders 
appropriately."


According to Ariel Dulitzky, a UT Law professor and the director of the Human 
Rights Clinic, TDCJ declined to meet with the clinic over the course of the 
study, and has yet to respond to a follow-up request made earlier this month. 
However, Dulitzky said the clinic hopes this report will secure a "complete 
ban" of mandatory solitary confinement. In the interim, the clinic is 
advocating for the prohibition of confinement for all inmates with mental 
health problems, for the implementation of "physical contact visits with 
families and attorneys, communal religious services," and for improvements to 
health care.


(source: Austin Chronicle)

**

Convicted rapist, murderer to get off death row


A convicted rapist and murderer will be removed from death row due to new 
evidence and changes in the law, according to the Harris County District 
Attorney's Office.


Robert James Campbell, 44, was sentenced to death in the 1990's for the murder 
of Alexandra Rendon.


Rendon, a Houston bank teller, was kidnapped from a gas station and driven to a 
remote location in south Houston in 1991. Campbell and an accomplice raped and 
robbed her. Campbell then fatally shot Rendon in the back as she tried to run 
away.


Campbell was set to be executed in 2014, but the 5th US Circuit Court of 
Appeals halted the punishment at the last minute.


The court allowed defense attorneys to pursue an appeal, which claimed Campbell 
was mentally impaired due to his low IQ, and ineligible for the death penalty.


A 70 IQ is the minimum threshold set by the court.

The appeal has been pending ever since.

Then Wednesday morning, prosecutors with the Texas Attorney General???s Office 
filed a request for the case 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, DEL., VA., N.C., GA., FLA., ALA.

2017-05-10 Thread Rick Halperin






May 10



TEXASimpending execution

Texas Gives Tilon Carter Execution Date of May 16, 2017

Tilon Lashon Carter is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm CST, on Tuesday, May 
16, 2017, at the Walls Unit in the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, 
Texas. 37-year-old Tilon is convicted of the robbery and murder of 89-year-old 
James Eldon Tomlin in Tarrant County, Texas. Tilon has spent the last 10 years 
of his life on Texas' death row.


Tilon did not graduate from high school, dropping out after the 11th grade. He 
worked as an auto mechanic and a roofer. Tilon was previously arrested for 
robbing a couple at gunpoint and using the stolen money to pay off a drug debt. 
While in prison, he led a riot. Tilon was also convicted of indecent exposure 
and assault against his girlfriend.


On April 28, 2004, Tilon Carter and his 31-year-old girlfriend Leketha Allen 
were discussing how they needed money. Allen's mother overhear them and 
suggested that they rob James Tomlin, and elderly man who lived nearby and was 
known to keep large quantities of cash in his house. Allen's mother then drove 
them by the house, pointing it out.


Carter and Allen returned to James' home the next day, forcing their way inside 
after James opened the door. Cater bound James' hands and feet tightly with 
duct tape. Duct tape was also placed over his mouth. Carter and Allen then 
searched home, discovering approximately $6,000 in cash.


James was discover the following day, lying face down in his hallway. A medical 
examiner determined that he had been severely beaten, but that the cause of 
death was asphyxiation. The evidence indicated that James was likely smothered 
to death.


At his trial, Carter's ex-girlfriend and a cell mate testified that Carter had 
boasted about Laketha and him killing an old man during a robbery. Carter was 
convicted and sentenced to death.


Leketha was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison. She is eligible for 
parole this year.


Tilon Carter's execution had been scheduled for Tuesday, February 7, 2017. His 
execution was stayed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals due to a technical 
error; the trial court was a day late in notifying the Office of Capital and 
Forensic Writs that an execution date had been set. According to the law, the 
Office of Capital and Forensic Writs must be notified within 2 business days, 
however, in Tilon's case, it was 3 days before they were notified. Since the 
notification was late, the execution date was reset to Tuesday, May 16, 2017.


Please pray for peace and healing for the family of James Tomlin. Please pray 
for peace and healing for the family of Tilon Carter. Please pray that if Tilon 
is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed or should not be executed for 
any other reason, that evidence will be provided prior to his execution. Please 
pray that Tilon will come to find peace through a personal relationship with 
Jesus Christ, if he has not already.


(source: theforgivenessfoundation.org)






DELAWARE:

House lawmakers vote in favor of reinstating Delaware's death penalty


The Delaware State House of Representatives has voted in favor of legislation 
that, if passed, would reinstate Delaware's death penalty.


On Tuesday, House lawmakers voted to revive the death penalty with 21 votes in 
favor, 16 votes against, and 1 absent.


House Bill 125 revises Delaware's death penalty statute to ensure its 
compliance with the U.S. Constitution, which would require that before a death 
sentence can be imposed, a jury (unless the Defendant waives their right to 
one) must first determine unanimously and beyond a reasonable doubt that at 
least one statutory aggravating circumstance exists.


In an interview with Delaware 105.9's Rob Petree, Representative Steve Smyk, 
the primary sponsor of the Bill, made it clear that the death penalty is "still 
in the books," and this legislation is simply addressing what was deemed 
unconstitutional by Delaware's Supreme Court.


"The Bill doesn't create the death penalty, that's actually still in the books, 
but there's parts of Delaware's death penalty that have found to be 
unconstitutional by a panel of our 5 chief justices, at only a margin of 3 to 
2," said Rep. Smyk. "With that being said those issues, that 3 of our justices 
did find problematic, are addressed in the Bill. So that way it can be used as 
a tool for our criminal justice system. Those issues are the relationship 
between a judge, a jury, and unanimity."


"What we know is that there are people in our society, a very small sliver of 
our society, that are predators. Those individuals actually do pray on the 
weakest and the most vulnerable of our society. Everytime Delaware, throughout 
its history has put a reprieve on the death penalty, we've suffered terrible 
terrible crimes," Rep. Smyk explained. "In 1958 when Delaware lifted the death 
penalty there was a series of activities where victims had suffered tremendous 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, DEL., FLA., ALA., OHIO

2017-05-09 Thread Rick Halperin





May 9




TEXASnew death sentence

Joseph Colone Jr. sentenced to death


Joseph Colone Jr. has been sentenced to death in the 2010 double killings of 
Mary Goodman and her 16-year-old daughter Briana at their South End Beaumont 
home.


Both sides rested Monday in the sentencing phase of the capital murder case 
against Colone, who last week was convicted of capital murder.


On Monday, Colone's family members testified as character witnesses in an 
effort to spare him of the death penalty.


Jurors heard from Colone's teenage daughter, his aunt, and multiple deputies 
from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.


(source: KFDM news)






DELAWARE:

Delaware House votes on reinstating death penalty


House lawmakers are set to vote on a bill reinstating Delaware's death penalty.

Tuesday's scheduled vote comes amid a public outcry over the killing of a 
correctional officer during a prison riot and hostage-taking in February, and 
the fatal shooting of a state trooper 2 weeks ago.


Under the bill, jurors would have to find unanimously and beyond a reasonable 
doubt that a defendant should be executed.


A majority of state Supreme Court justices declared Delaware's death penalty 
law unconstitutional in August because it allowed judges too much discretion 
and did not require that a jury find unanimously and beyond a reasonable doubt 
that a defendant deserves execution.


That ruling came after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida's death 
sentencing law, which was similar to the one in Delaware.


(source: Associated Press)






FLORIDA:

Ayala-Scott death penalty suit waiting for Florida Supreme Court ruling


Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala has filed a reply to Gov. Rick 
Scott's argument in their legal fight over death-penalty cases, and the 2 now 
wait for a response from the Florida Supreme Court.


Ayala announced in March that she would not seek the death penalty against 
anyone while she is in office, and Scott responded by reassigning 23 
death-penalty cases from her office to that of Ocala-based State Attorney Brad 
King. Ayala sued last month.


Ayala had asked the court to order Scott to provide his valid legal reasoning 
for reassigning the cases. Scott's attorneys responded with counter-arguments, 
and people with interest in the matter - lawmakers, activists and families of 
homicide victims - filed their own legal briefs.


The filing Monday is the final step in the initial state of the process. Ayala 
and Scott will now wait for the Florida Supreme Court???s next ruling in the 
case.


(soruce: Orlando Sentinel)

*

State to seek death penalty against man charged in Jupiter triple homicide


State attorneys said during a Monday court hearing they will seek the death 
penalty against a man arrested in connection with the February shooting deaths 
of 3 people in Jupiter.


Christopher Vasata, 24, was arrested in March after the homicides occurred Feb. 
5 on Mohawk Street.


Vasata faces 3 counts of 1st degree murder with a firearm, 1 count of attempted 
1st-degree murder with a firearm and 1 count of a felon possession of a firearm 
or ammunition.


Kelli J. Doherty, 20, of Tequesta, Brandi El-Salhy, 24, of Gainesville and Sean 
P. Henry, 25, of Jupiter died in the shootings.


(source: WPTV news)






ALABAMAimpending execution

Alabama death row inmate Tommy Arthur writes to Gov. Kay Ivey: 'My life is in 
your hands'



Alabama death row inmate Tommy Arthur, who is set to be executed later this 
month, has sent a letter to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey pleading for his life and DNA 
testing on hair he claims was collected in his case.


"Please do not let me die for a crime I did not commit and the facts on these 
pages point to (the) real killer," Arthur writes in a 4-page hand-written 
letter. He states that "my life is in your hands" and asks her to consider his 
claims about evidence in his case.


The letter was first sent by the 75-year-old inmate last week to AL.com, which 
forwarded it to Ivey's press secretary.


"We just received the letter and it will be reviewed. The AG's (Alabama 
Attorney General's) office will be given an opportunity to respond, and Gov. 
Ivey will be thoroughly briefed on all the issues raised by Mr. Arthur and his 
attorneys," according to a statement emailed to AL.com from Bryan Taylor, 
Governor's Legal Counsel.


Arthur's execution is set for May 25 at the Holman Correctional Facility in 
Atmore. It is the 8th time since 2001 that the state has set an execution for 
Arthur for his conviction in the 1982 shooting death of Troy Wicker.


Last month, Ivey denied a request by Arthur's attorneys for DNA testing of a 
wig purportedly used by Wicker's killer. Ivey, in her letter denying the 
testing, stated that no genetic material had been found when the wig was tested 
8 years ago.


Arthur, however, states that his attorneys did not include a request to test a 
hair he claims is also among the evidence collected by 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., DEL., WYO., ARIZ., CALIF., USA

2017-05-06 Thread Rick Halperin





May 6




TEXAS:

State's Narrow Disability Definition Resulted In Unconstitutional Death 
Sentence



In 1985, Pedro Solis Sosa was sentenced to death for kidnapping and killing a 
sheriff's deputy in Wilson County. Prosecutors alleged that Sosa killed Ollie 
Childress Jr. with the officer's own pistol after robbing a bank.


Sosa claims he's innocent, and as of Wednesday, he won't be executed for the 
crime. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that because of his 
intellectual disabilities, killing Sosa would be unconstitutionally cruel.


The definition of what classifies a person as 'intellectually disabled' when it 
comes to the death penalty has been a bit of a grey area for some time. Robert 
Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center at 
Washington, says the U.S. Supreme Court it attempting to clarify that 
definition,


"The definition of intellectual disability is relatively clear in medical 
circles but states that have been carrying out executions have been creating 
their own definitions," Dunham says. "They've made it so that some people who 
are intellectually disabled will still be executed."


The Supreme Court ruled in March that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals had 
improperly sentenced Bobby Moore to death - that the medical standards used to 
do that didn't follow a proper legal framework. Moore's case was cited in 
Sosa's decision.


Texas has used what's called the Bricenio Factors to determine what the 
criteria for an intellectual disability is. But the Supreme Court said the 
factors were basically a set of lay stereotypes that had nothing to do with 
whether a person was actually intellectually disabled, Dunham says.


"Instead of looking at whether they had deficits in adaptive functioning and 
significant impairments in intellectual functioning," Dunham says, "the court 
in Texas [used] this requirement under the Bricenio Factors that you ask a 
series of questions including 'Did people who knew the person growing up think 
that they were intellectually disabled? Were they able to lie successfully and 
avoid detection?' Things like that, that have nothing to do with whether you 
are or aren't intellectually disabled."


Dunham says the Supreme Court's ruling does not necessarily mean there has to 
be a medical determination that a person is intellectually disabled before the 
court can sentence someone to the death penalty, but there does have to be a 
court determination that a defendant meets the clinical criteria.


"It will make it clearer how you go about deciding whether someone is eligible 
for the death penalty instead of having lay stereotypes being used," Dunham 
says, "You will have to pay closer attention to the clinical definitions that 
will make the determinations, I think, more accurate. And it will also have the 
effect of excluding some people from the death penalty who in the past were 
still being subjected to it."


This ruling doesn't broaden the definition of intellectual disability, instead 
it merely brings states up to medical standards that have already been set in 
place.


"There is a fixed set of standards that are pretty clear in the medical 
community," Dunham says. "States that want to execute people who have 
intellectual disability have been creating their own rules that have 
artificially narrowed the definition the United States Supreme Court is saying 
you've got to apply the established clinical definition. That definition hasn't 
changed it's just being made clearer."


(source: kut.org)






PENNSYLVANIA:

The death penalty - 2 views


With all the attention the recent trial of Eric Frein has received, questions 
about the death penalty in Pennsylvania have been raised again, not only in 
Pike County, but across the state, and even nationally among law enforcement 
officers, attorneys, civil rights groups, and the general public.


As might be expected, the views of District Attorney Ray Tonkin and Defense 
Attorney Michael Weinstein, the prosecution and defense respectively in the 
Frein case, represent 2 ends of the spectrum.


A brief history and current status of the death penalty in PennsylvaniaIn 
December of 2011, the Pennsylvania State Senate adopted Senator Greenleaf's 
Senate Resolution 6 establishing a bi-partisan task force and advisory 
committee to conduct a study of capital punishment in the Commonwealth.


When Gov. Tom Wolf took office in 2015, he announced that he would put all 
executions on hold until the committee released its report. The committee has 
not yet released its report. Meanwhile, Wolf has been issuing reprieves on an 
individual case basis.


The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Dec. 2015 upheld Wolf's constitutional 
authority to grant temporary reprieves to inmates on death row. Thus far, he 
has reprieved 5 convicted killers scheduled for execution.


There are currently 185 inmates on death row in Pennsylvania.

The death penalty remains the law of the 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, DEL., S.C., FLA., ALA.

2017-05-05 Thread Rick Halperin






May 5



TEXAS:

College football stars could face death penalty after grand jury indicts them 
on capital murder charges over the fatal shooting of a man, 29, during a 
botched marijuana robbery



2 college football stars are facing a murder trial over the fatal shooting of a 
29-year-old man.


Dontrell Dock, 20 and Brodrick Ross, 18, were indicted by a grand jury in 
Tarrant County over the January 11 murder of Chris-Dion Russell in Fort Worth, 
Texas.


Prosecutors claim Dock and Ross broke into Russell's apartment to steal 
marijuana and shot him in the chest.


Russell was rushed to hospital but died within an hour.

According to the Star Telegram, the grand jury decided against recommending 
charges against a 3rd player, Ryan McBeth, who had also been arrested in 
connection with the investigation.


Both Dock and Ross were playing with the McMurry University football team.

Police investigating the shooting saw on CCTV covering the area a Chrysler 300 
leave the scene.


The car is understood to belong to Ross' brother.

Dock is due to appear in court in Fort Worth this morning at 9am.

***

Man on death row gets life sentence instead


A man on death row for abducting a sheriff's deputy, keeping him handcuffed 
inside a patrol car trunk while demanding money from a bank officer will serve 
life in prison instead after Texas' highest criinal court reduced his sentence 
Wednesday.


The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said executing 55-year-old Pedro Solis Sosa 
for the 1983 slaying could carry "an uncacceptable risk" that his punishment 
would be unconstitutionally cruel because of his intellectual disabilities.


A life sentence for a 1983 capital murder means that the defendant is eligible 
for parole after 20 years. Sosa has been in prison more than 30 years. It will 
be up to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to decide whether Sosa ever is 
paroled.


The appeals court in its decision Wednesday cited a March ruling from the U.S. 
Supreme Court in another Texas death row mental disability case.


(source: Dallas Morning News)

**

Deputy's son 'dejected' after his father's killer gets off death row


Roger Childress, whose father Ollie "Sammy" Childress Jr. a Wilson County 
deputy sheriff was murdered in 1983 by Pedro Sosa, speaks about his father on 
Thursday, May 4, 2017. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reduced Sosa's death 
penalty sentence on Wednesday to life in prison, making Sosa eligible for 
parole.


On November 4, 1983, Roger Childress was working in San Antonio when he got a 
call from his uncle telling him that his father - Ollie "Sammy" Childress Jr., 
a Wilson County sheriff's deputy - had been kidnapped and killed in the line of 
duty.


Over the past 33 years, Childress has waited for his father's convicted killer, 
Pedro Solis Sosa, to be executed. Twice the younger Childress prepared to make 
the drive to Huntsville to witness the execution, only to get a call hours 
before telling him there was a last-minute stay. A 3rd time, Sosa's execution 
was delayed 3 days before his scheduled death.


"You feel dejected every time," Childress, now 63, said Thursday. "The time 
never came."


On Wednesday, Childress got a similar call from his niece, who tearfully told 
him that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals had reduced Sosa's sentence to 
life in prison. The court ruled that executing Sosa, 55, would carry "an 
unacceptable risk" that his punishment would be unconstitutionally cruel 
because of his intellectual disabilities.


Sosa, who grew up in San Antonio, has been in prison for more than 30 years, 
making him eligible for parole now.


"I wish they would execute him, but since they won't, I'd like him to be in 
prison the rest of his life," Childress said in an interview in Stockdale.


Sammy Childress was off duty when he was flagged down by 2 men, Sosa and his 
nephew Leroy Sosa. The men handcuffed the deputy and placed him in the trunk of 
his patrol car before driving to La Vernia State Bank. Pedro Sosa wore 
Childress' shirt and badge into the bank and told tellers, "I'm the damn 
sheriff now. I've got the sheriff in the trunk of my car." The 2 robbed the 
bank of $51,038.


After the robbery, Sosa shot Childress once in the neck with the deputy's 
.44-caliber service revolver. The 2 men left the scene but returned so Pedro 
Sosa could wipe his fingerprints off the car. They realized Childress was still 
alive and shot him once more in the neck, killing him.


Leroy Sosa, who was 17 at the time of the robbery, told police his uncle was 
the one who shot Childress. The younger Sosa got life in prison in exchange for 
his testimony.


Pedro Sosa also confessed but later retracted his statement. He said law 
enforcement officials forced a confession by threatening him and his wife.


Since then, Sosa has maintained that he is innocent. His attorneys also say he 
suffers from a mental illness that alters his sense 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, DEL. N.C., GA., FLA., ALA., OHIO

2017-05-04 Thread Rick Halperin




May 4



TEXAS:

13 % of Texas death row inmates wait 25 years or more for execution


Texas has executed 23 inmates since 2014, but 32 of the 238 condemned inmates 
have been awaiting execution for 25 years or more. That wait is nearly a decade 
more than the average time elapsed between conviction and execution nationally.


Scroll through the gallery to see which Texas death row inmates have waited 
more than 25 years for execution


For some Texas death row inmates, being condemned can feel like a life 
sentence.


Roughly 13 % (30 of 238) of the inmates awaiting execution in the Lone Star 
State have been on death row for 25 years or more. That length of stay is 
nearly a decade above the national average time awaiting execution of 15 years 
and 9 months.


The longest resident of death row in Texas, Raymond Riles, has been sitting in 
solitary confinement (except for doctor visits and court appearances) since 
February 1976.


Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, 41 inmates on death row 
have died either of natural causes or suicide while awaiting execution.


This is in a state that has executed 23 people in the last 3 years and isn't 
shy about carrying out death sentences.


But, the state is also suing the federal government to get a hold of a shipment 
of the lethal injection drug Pentobarbital.


While that is tied up in court, there's little the state can do if it runs out 
of the current supply of the sedative, prolonging the time on death row for the 
inmates and the wait for the victim's families.


(source: Houston Chronicle)






DELAWARE:

Death penalty supporters pass 1st test


Legislators from both parties say they will try to re-institute the death 
penalty in Delaware this year, but might they face an uphill battle.


The General Assembly took the 1st step towards reinstating the death penalty in 
Delaware on Wednesday when a committee voted 7-4 to send legislation to the the 
full House of Representatives for a vote.


A vote in the full House is expected on Thursday.

The "Extreme Crimes Protection Act" comfortably passed the 11-member House 
Judiciary committee, but the almost 2-hour hearing foreshadowed the intensity 
of the battle that will be waged in Legislative Hall over the coming weeks.


Supporters of the legislation said it would limit the punishment to truly 
abominable crimes that can be proved with the highest standards of truth.


But opponents of the legislation said changing the way sentences are delivered 
doesn't change their opinion that the death penalty is fundamentally wrong.


"I don't think the state should be in the business of committing homicide, no 
more than I think anyone else should be in the business of committing 
homicide," said Rep. J.J. Johnson, D-New Castle.


Delaware's current capital punishment law is unenforceable after the state 
Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional last year. In a 4-1 vote, the Court 
faulted the law for allowing a judge to find that aggravating circumstances in 
a crime merited a death sentence without a unanimous jury agreeing.


Aggravating circumstances can include things like crimes committed against a 
police officer, crimes in which hostages are taken or if the crimes that are 
"outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman in that it involved torture 
or depravity of mind."


A group of lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, are pushing to change the 
law to address those concerns. Their legislation would require a unanimous jury 
to rule on the aggravating circumstances and raise the burden of proof to the 
highest standard.


"We're not trying to enact capital punishment, we're trying to restore it," 
said Rep. Steve Smyk, R-Milton, the bill's chief House sponsor.


Dozens of members of the public testified during the hearing.

Many of those speaking in favor of the bill were law enforcement officers.

"We have seen over the years that there are some truly evil people who commit 
truly heinous crimes," said Lt. Tom Brackin, head of the Delaware State Police 
Troopers Association. "The troopers I represent and myself believe you do have 
to have the ultimate punishment for the ultimate crime."


Peggy Marshall Thomas, the former chief prosecutor in Sussex County, recalled 
prosecuting a person who was convicted of five homicides, including 2 different 
incidents after being jailed the first time. She invoked the death of Lt. 
Stephen J. Ballard, who was gunned down in Bear last week.


"The murder of the uniformed officer is an extreme act of violence that 
undermines our peaceful and lawful society," she said.


Brendan O'Neill, the state's public defender, said the cost of the death 
penalty should give state leaders pause. His office alone has saved significant 
money in the period without capital punishment cases, he said.


O'Neill and many other speakers who opposed the bill also noted that those 
executed by the death penalty are disproportionately poor and black.


"If 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., DEL., ALA., OHIO, TENN.

2017-05-03 Thread Rick Halperin





May 3



TEXAS:

Former Texas Prosecutor Probably Sent Innocent Man to His Death. Now He's on 
Trial for Misconduct.



The courthouse in Corsicana, Texas, roughly 60 miles southeast of Dallas, has 
been meticulously restored to its original 1905 glory, a time when the county 
was awash in oil money. Its main courtroom has soaring, 2-story pink walls and 
gold-flecked architectural details that frame the judge's bench, witness stand, 
and jury box. For more than 3 decades, John Jackson worked this room (though 
during those years it was a far more utilitarian space), 1st as a prosecutor 
with the Navarro County district attorney's office and later as an elected 
judge, until his retirement in 2012.


Last week he returned, this time as a defendant, facing charges brought by the 
State Bar of Texas, whose lawyers argue that Jackson violated basic legal 
ethics in connection with his conduct in prosecuting the county's most 
notorious case, the death penalty trial of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was 
convicted and ultimately executed for what the state insists was the December 
1991 arson-murder of his 3 young children in the home they shared just over a 
mile away.


Specifically, the state's lawyers contend that Jackson made a deal with a 
jailhouse snitch who agreed to testify against Willingham and then hid that 
deal from Willingham's defense attorneys - a clear violation of both law and 
ethics. They say that Jackson took extraordinary measures over the next 2 
decades to conceal his deceitful actions.


"It is a duty of the prosecution - an ethical obligation - to turn over that 
evidence," state bar lawyer Kristin Brady told jurors in her opening arguments 
last Wednesday afternoon. "For years he protected this snitch; for years. It 
wasn't for [the snitch's] protection, it was for his own protection."


The prosecution of Willingham has been widely reported and litigated, in part 
because his conviction was secured on twin pillars of evidence known to wreak 
havoc in the criminal justice system: junk science and incentivized snitch 
testimony.


Where the junk science is concerned, there is now little question that the fire 
that killed Willingham's children was not arson - caused, as the state claimed, 
by Willingham spreading lighter fluid around his house and setting it ablaze. 
Leading fire scientists have weighed in to say that the evidence the Corsicana 
Fire Department and Texas fire marshal investigator relied upon in fingering 
Willingham as the cause of the deadly blaze was based on outdated, discredited 
fire-science folklore.


It is the 2nd basis of the prosecution, however, that underlies Jackson's 
current civil disciplinary trial.


In short, lead prosecutor Jackson called a man named Johnny Webb to testify at 
Willingham's 1992 trial to say that while he was locked up in the county jail 
on an aggravated robbery charge, his fellow inmate, Willingham, randomly, and 
in detail, confessed to Webb his alleged crime. Under questioning by Jackson, 
Webb asserted that he did not expect any benefit in exchange for his 
incriminating testimony.


In the years since Willingham's 2004 execution, significant evidence has come 
to light indicating that was untrue. Records amassed by the bar association and 
the Innocence Project - including lengthy correspondence between Jackson and 
Webb spanning roughly a decade - strongly suggest not only that it was at least 
implied to Webb that he would receive a reduced sentence for his testimony, but 
also that Jackson went to great lengths to make that happen. Moreover, Webb now 
insists that his trial testimony was false and compelled by Jackson.


On the witness stand on April 27, Jackson vehemently denied the allegations.

Lawyers for the bar's Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel have tried to 
make clear that they are not here to re-litigate the question of Willingham's 
guilt or innocence, which they say is irrelevant. The sole issue at hand, they 
argue, is whether Jackson's actions as they relate to his dealings with Webb 
violated legal ethics - so far to seemingly thin effect.


Indeed, where the bar attorneys have toed that straight-line, Joseph Byrne, 
Jackson's attorney, has done his best to conflate the issue of Willingham's 
guilt with Jackson's innocence: The bar, he has suggested, is motivated only by 
an interest in tarring Jackson in order to demonstrate that his client - and 
the state of Texas - hastened the execution of an innocent man.


The Shoulders of a Jailhouse Snitch

It was roughly 10:30 a.m. on December 23, 1991, when the fire broke out in the 
5-room wood frame house on West 11th Ave. in Corsicana that Willingham shared 
with his wife, Stacy, and their 3 young daughters. The bodies of Willingham's 
twin 1-year-old girls were found amid the charred remains of the house. They 
had perished in the fire. First responders later carried out the 2-year-old, 
who was still alive. She died at the hospital shortly 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., DEL., N.C., ALA., OHIO

2017-05-02 Thread Rick Halperin





May 2



TEXAS:

Man accused of killing Corpus Christi woman could face death penalty


A man accused of killing his girlfriend and leaving her body in a grassy ditch 
last summer is slated to stand trial in September, and could face death 
penalty.


Nigel Green is charged with capital murder in the death of Carina Castellanos, 
26. He also faces family violence assault charges related to a report she made 
to police about a month before she went missing.


Green has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors initially planned to pursue a murder charge but while interviewing 
a witness learned information they believe makes the crime capital murder, 
First Assistant Prosecutor Melissa Madrigal said a Nueces County grand jury 
re-indicted Green on the higher charge, which is punishable by either life in 
prison without parole or the death penalty. State District Judge Jack Pulcher 
gave prosecutors a deadline of May 8 to decide whether they'll seek the death 
penalty.


If prosecutors pursue the death penalty, the judge may have to appoint new 
lawyers and could delay the case, defense lawyer Deeann Torres said.


U.S. Marshals arrested Green, 31, in connection with an aggravated assault 
warrant related to a June 10 incident in which Castellanos called Corpus 
Christi police and described Green attacking her. The case had been originally 
closed after Castellanos left a message on a detective's answering machine 
saying she no longer wanted to pursue charges since Green was leaving Corpus 
Christi.


Castellanos' mother reported her missing on June 30. Before Green's arrest he 
told the Caller-Times he believed Castellanos was alive and pleaded for her to 
call her mom.


After his arrest in the assault case, Green admitted to killing Castellanos and 
led police to her body, according to an arrest affidavit.


(source: Corpus Christi Caller-Times)






PENNSYLVANIA:

Pennsylvania Supreme Court upholds Indian national Raghunandan Yandamuri's 
death sentence



The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Friday upheld the death sentence imposed on 
Raghunandan Yandamuri, convicted of killing an infant and her grandmother.


The 30-year-old Indian techie, of Upper Merion, was convicted by a Montgomery 
County Court jury of 1st-degree murder in connection with 2 murders. On Oct. 
22, 2012, Yandamuri killed 61-year-old Satyavathi Venna and her 10-month-old 
granddaughter Saanvi, after a botched kidnapping attempt, patch.com reported.


According to the report, Justice Max Baer reaffirmed that the evidences against 
Yandamuri was sufficient, and the court also rejected the convict's allegations 
of unfair treatment.


Yandamuri had earlier told investigators that he panicked and that the deaths 
were accidental. The prosecutors argued that he knew the baby's parents and 
planned the kidnapping plot to pay for a gambling habit.


The court found that the sentence was based on the evidence presented at the 
trial. The death sentence will now be sent to Gov. Tom Wolf, who declared a 
state-wide moratorium on death penalty in 2015.


(source: americanbazaaronline.com)






DELAWARE:

Death penalty bill gets 1st hearing this week


The controversial plan to bring back the death penalty gets its 1st committee 
hearing Wednesday.


Hearings and debates would rage for hours when advocates unsuccessfully tried 
to repeal Delaware's capital punishment program in 2013 and 2015. It took a 
court decision last year to dismantle the death penalty here.


But state Sen. Brian Pettyjohn (R-Georgetown), one of the bill's main sponsors, 
says he thinks momentum to revive it is on his side.


"I believe there is renewed interest in reestablishing this here in Delaware in 
a constitutional manner and having something that will hold these individuals 
accountable for the crimes that they commit," Pettyjohn.


Pettyjohn and others may have an ally in Gov. John Carney (D), too.

In a debate prior to the election, Carney said he would "probably" veto a bill 
like this. But when it was introduced in March, he said he wouldn't rule out 
supporting a death penalty for those who kill police or prison guards.


The proposal doesn't include a new method of execution - despite pharmaceutical 
companies refusing to resupply states with drugs used for lethal injections.


Pettyjohn says that's something they'll consider at a later date.

"I believe that we should leave all options on the table. Let's see where we 
stand right now with the existing stock of pharmaceuticals that we have," he 
said.


A 2014 Associated Press report showed 2 of the 3 drugs used during a lethal 
injection execution had expired.


The House Judiciary Committee will meet at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

(source: delawarepublic.org)






NORTH CAROLINA:

Death Penalty Sought Against Suspect In Hickory Triple-Murder Case, Awaiting 
Decision On Co-Defendant



The State has announced that they will seek the death penalty in the case 
against 23-year-old Dontray Cumberlander of 18th Street 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., DEL., S.C., GA., ALA., LA.

2017-04-27 Thread Rick Halperin




April 27



TEXAS:

Texas Sues Trump Administration To Recover Execution Drugs It Bought From 
IndiaTexas and 2 other states bought a massive amount of execution drugs 
from India. The FDA says the drug is illegal to import, so Texas is taking them 
to court.



On Wednesday, Texas followed through on a promise to sue the federal government 
in an attempt to obtain lethal injection drugs the Food and Drug Administration 
maintains are illegal.


The Wednesday court filing sets up the unusual scenario of Texas suing the 
Trump administration for hindering the death penalty - a new complaint in a 
lawsuit originally brought against the Obama administration.


Texas, Arizona and Nebraska each purchased 1,000 vials of execution drugs from 
a man in India in 2015. Last week, the FDA formally denied the shipments, 
ruling that it's illegal to import the drug.


On Wednesday, the state filed an amended complaint in federal court, alleging 
that the FDA is harming the state by blocking the drugs.


"TDCJ has previously purchased and used thiopental sodium in numerous 
executions before" the sole FDA-approved supplier stopped making the drug, the 
state's lawyers wrote. "Through the import at issue in this case, TDCJ is 
attempting once again to utilize thiopental sodium for purposes of imposing 
lawful capital sentences."


The FDA blocking the shipments "directly harms TDCJ by preventing TDCJ from 
having the option of using the drugs at issue in lawful executions," the 
lawyers wrote. "This harm will continue unless and until the Court" forces the 
FDA to allow the drugs into the country.


In addition to state government lawyers from Attorney General Ken Paxtons 
office, the state has hired outside lawyers from the law firm Alston & Bird to 
help represent the state. Wednesday's filing was signed by Daniel G. Jarcho, a 
partner in the firm's DC office who used to represent the FDA when he worked 
for the Justice Department.


Last week, the FDA sent Texas and Arizona a 26-page letter denying the drugs, 
arguing that they are unapproved, mislabeled, and that the government is 
legally bound by a 2012 court order issued by the federal district court in DC 
that prohibits them from allowing thiopental into the country.


In Texas' complaint filed Wednesday, the state makes no mention of the 2012 
court order, which was upheld by a federal appeals court in DC, although it 
does note that the FDA's position on thiopental changed that year. Instead, the 
state focuses on arguing that it is exempt from the FDA's requirements because 
the drugs would be used for "law enforcement."


The state points to a statute that exempts drugs "shipped or sold to . . . 
persons . . . engaged in law enforcement, . . . and [are] to be used only for 
such . . . law enforcement.???


"Use of thiopental sodium to administer lawfully-imposed capital sentences 
through lethal injection is a use of the drug for law enforcement purposes," 
the state argues. "TDCJ is a state agency that is regularly and lawfully 
engaged in law enforcement."


The FDA declined to comment on the case. But in the letter the agency sent last 
week, the federal government wrote that the law enforcement exemption does not 
apply when the drugs are to be used on humans. The FDA also pointed out that 
the exemption was written before lethal injection was created.


"As an initial matter," the FDA noted, "the law enforcement exemption could not 
have been intended to apply to lethal injection, because FDA issued the 
regulation adding the exemption ... in 1956, well before any State used lethal 
injection as a method of execution."


Texas is asking the court to force the FDA to allow the drugs in, and to 
prohibit the FDA from detaining any future shipments of execution drugs it 
buys. Judge George Hanks set a telephone hearing for Thursday to discuss the 
status of the case.


In its complaint, Texas does not name the supplier of the drugs at issue, 
referring to it only as a "foreign distributor."


In 2015, Texas first planned on buying sodium thiopental from a small company 
in India, according to documents obtained by BuzzFeed News. That sale, however, 
fell through when the would-be supplier was raided by India's Narcotics Control 
Bureau, its employees arrested, its drugs seized, and its facility shut down. 
Indian law enforcement seized a massive amount of generic versions of Xanax, 
Ritalin, Ambien, Viagra, and various opioids.


When that deal fell through, Texas instead turned to a man in India named Chris 
Harris. Harris sold 3,000 vials of sodium thiopental to Texas, Arizona, and 
Nebraska for more than $75,000 - promising that there would be no legal 
problems with the sale.


Before the drugs were shipped, the FDA and DEA warned the states and Harris 
that the sale would be illegal and that the government would have to stop the 
shipment. The states bought the drugs anyway.


In its court filing Wednesday, Texas lamented that the FDA was 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, GA., FLA., ALA., TENN., LA.

2017-04-25 Thread Rick Halperin






April 25



TEXAS:

Texas Prisons Violate Internationally Recognized Human Rights Standards: Report


Prisons in Texas are in violation of international human rights standards and 
deny civil rights of its prisoners on death row kept in solitary confinement, a 
report released Monday by the Human Rights Clinic of the University of Texas 
School of Law concludes.


Titled "Designed to Break You: Human Rights Violations on Texas' Death Rows," 
the 48-page report calls for a sweeping array of changes in the operation of 
the Texas Department of Criminal Justice centered on policies related to the 
use of solitary confinement as a punitive measure and access to healthcare.


Texas death row inmates spend an average of more than 14 years awaiting 
execution in solitary confinement, posited by UT-Austin researchers as akin to 
torture, an assessment shared by several human rights organizations.


The study comes amid a backdrop of prolific capital punishment in Texas, a 
state that executes more prisoners than any other state - by far. This year 
alone, 4 people have been put to death through the use of the drug 
Pentobarbital for various crimes: Christopher Wilkins, 48, executed Jan. 11; 
Terry Darnell Edwards, 43, executed Jan. 26; Rolando Ruiz, 44, put to death on 
March 7; and James Bigby, 61, executed March 14 (Source: Death Penalty 
Information Center).


The 4 prisoners put to death this year all had been awaiting execution for 
years, and in once case decades. Wilkins had the shortest wait at 8 years, 
while Bigby sat on death row for 25 years, according to data collected by the 
Death Penalty Information Center.


The prisoner with the longest time on death row is Raymond Riles, who has been 
sitting on death row for more than 41 years after robbing and killing a Houston 
used car salesman in 1974. Due to mental illness, he was previously considered 
ineligible to be executed, but prison officials said he could become eligible 
given continual testing of his mental state. In 1985, Riles attempted suicide 
by setting his prison cell on fire.


The list of prisoners sitting on death row is so great, that even WikiPedia 
doesn't attempt to list them all: "Due to the high number of Texas death row 
inmates, only prisoners with Wikipedia pages are listed in this article," 
WikiPedia reads. "The full list is externally linked."


According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the number of death row 
inmates is nearly 250.


Among recommendations outlined in the University of Texas School of Law report 
is an end of solitary confinement for prisoners suffering from mental illness 
or physical disabilities, enhanced healthcare access, provision of religious 
services and greater access to outdoor recreation.


"The State of Texas stands today as one of the most extensive utilizers of the 
death penalty worldwide," the report's author's wrote. "Consequently, inmate 
living conditions on Texas??? death row are ripe for review. This report 
demonstrates that the mandatory conditions implemented for death row inmates by 
the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) are harsh and inhumane."


The upshot: "Conditions on death row at TDCJ's Polunsky Unit must be remedied 
posthaste," the report's authors concluded.


Texas re-introduced the practice of mandatory solitary confinement - total 
segregation of individuals confined to their cells for 22 to 24 hours a day - 
for all prisoners convicted of capital murder. The practice bans recreation or 
eating with other inmates as death row inmates are confined to cells of average 
size of 8 feet by 12 feet in size, the report's authors noted.


The cells consist only of a sink, toilet and 30-inch wide steel bunk with a 
thin plastic mattress, according to the findings. Most include a small window, 
but inmates are only able to see oudoors by rolling up their mattresses to 
stand on them, according to the report.


"Every individual on Texas???'death row thus spends approximately 23 hours a 
day in complete isolation for the entire duration of their sentence, which, on 
average, lasts more than a decade," researchers found. "This prolonged solitary 
confinement has overwhelmingly negative effects on inmates' mental health, 
exacerbating existing mental health conditions and causing many prisoners to 
develop mental illness for the 1st time."


Stays of execution, when execution dates are re-set for a variety of reasons, 
also play havoc on prisoners' psychological state, according to the report: "In 
addition to the detrimental effects of isolation, the practice of setting 
multiple execution dates means that many prisoners are subjected to the 
psychological stress of preparing to die several times during their sentence."


In 1999, Texas reintroduced the practice of mandatory solitary confinement for 
every individual convicted of capital murder. Solitary confinement involves 
total segregation of individuals who are confined to their cells for 22 to 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., FLA., OHIO, ARK., OKLA., CALIF., USA

2017-04-23 Thread Rick Halperin






April 23



TEXAS:

Death Sentence on Line for Would-Be Rapper in Triple KillingA former 
University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff student who once aspired to become a famous 
rapper now faces a possible death penalty in a Dallas triple slaying.



A former University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff student who once aspired to become a 
famous rapper now has his life on the line after his capital murder conviction 
in the shooting deaths of three people at a Dallas drug house.


The Dallas Morning News (http://bit.ly/2pSU8ee) reports the penalty phase opens 
Monday in the trial of 24-year-old Justin Pharez Smith, in which prosecutors 
will present evidence in their bid for a death sentence.


Prosecutors say a need for money compelled Smith to kill a man and 2 women in 
the August 2014 holdup. A woman and a man survived the attack and identified 
Smith as the killer.


Prosecutor Kobby Warren said Smith came to Dallas intending to get "on the dope 
game." The problem was "he was a terrible drug dealer."


(source: Associated Press)






PENNSYLVANIA:

Prosecution faces tough challenge in Frein death sentence phase


If Pike County prosecutors succeed in putting convicted cop killer Eric Matthew 
Frein on death row, they will buck the national trend of death sentences 
dramatically dropping over the past few decades.


Death sentences reached a peak between 1992 and 1994, when 315 defendants were 
sentenced to die, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The rate 
continued to drop over the years.


In 2016, just 30 defendants were sentenced to death, according to the Death 
Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit organization that provides information 
and analysis on death penalty issues.


Legal experts say the decline is the result of several factors, including a 
reduction in the murder rate, increasing scrutiny by prosecutors in evaluating 
which cases to seek death, and the reluctance of jurors to impose death in all 
but the most heinous cases.


Pike County District Attorney Ray Tonkin went to great lengths to try to 
convince the Chester County jury deciding Frein's fate that he deserves to die 
by lethal injection for the Sept. 12, 2014, sniper attack at the Blooming Grove 
state police barracks that killed Cpl. Bryon K. Dickson II,38, of Dunmore.


Frein, 33, of Canadensis, was convicted of 1st-degree murder, 1st-degree murder 
of a law enforcement officer and 10 other charges on Wednesday, stemming from 
the ambush that also severely injured Trooper Alex Douglass, 34, of Olyphant.


During the penalty phase that began Thursday, Tonkin presented several 
witnesses, including Dickson's widow and mother, who talked of the devastating 
impact his death had on them. The defense began presenting its case Friday 
afternoon. The hearing resumes Monday.


The case comes at a time when public support for capital punishment is at an 
all-time low.


A 2016 survey by Pew Research Center shows 49 % of Americans support the death 
penalty. That is down from a peak of 80 % who supported it the mid-1990s.


"There has been a very effective effort by anti-death penalty folks to convince 
people the death penalty is unfair to minorities and is not being imposed 
fairly," said Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, a vocal 
death penalty supporter. "Some of that public campaigning has an impact on 
jurors."


The decline in support has been fueled, in part, by the number of death row 
inmates who have been exonerated, said Robert Dunhan, executive director of the 
Death Penalty Information Center. Since 1972, 158 people sentenced to death 
have been exonerated, according to the center.


"Americans are reaching the point that they feel they can't trust the 
government," Dunhan said. "The public does not want a system that has a high 
risk of sentencing innocent people to death."


Joshua Marquis, a board member of the National District Attorney's Association, 
said he believes the decline in death sentences is tied more to the reduction 
in the nation's murder rate. In 2015, the murder rate was 4.9 murders per 
100,000 people, according to the Department of Justice. Throughout the 1980s 
and '90s, the per capita murder rate ranged from a low of 5.7 in 1999 to 10.2 
in 1980.


Morganelli and Marquis agree jurors today closely scrutinize cases and are only 
willing to impose death in the most egregious cases. That is how it should be, 
they said, and has led prosecutors to be more selective in the type of cases 
for which they seek death.


Marquis, a district attorney in Clatsop County, Oregon, said he prosecuted 
about 12 cases where he could have sought death, but has only done so in 2.


"As a prosecutor you have to ask, should you really be seeking death except 
only in the worst of the worst cases?" he said. "I have to look at the 
likelihood of success because it's extremely expensive for both sides."


There is no dispute Frein's crime was heinous. His attorneys face a monumental 
task in 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., FLA., LA., ARK.

2017-04-21 Thread Rick Halperin





April 21



TEXAS:

Smith County District Attorney to seek death penalty in Kayla Gomez-Orozco case


When the Bullard man accused of abducting and killing 10-year-old Kayla 
Gomez-Orozco goes on trial in October, he will be facing the death penalty if 
found guilty.


Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham filed his intent to seek the death 
penalty in the case on Wednesday morning. Bingham cannot speak on the case due 
to a gag order, but a document filed in Smith County's 241st District Court 
states the prosecution's intention.


Gustavo Zavala-Garcia, 24, was arrested and charged with capital murder this 
past November after the body of Gomez-Orozco was discovered inside a water well 
outside his residence off Old Jacksonville Highway in southern Smith County. 
Family reported Gomez-Orozco missing after a church service in Bullard on Nov. 
1. Zavala-Garcia, who is related to the child through marriage, is named among 
those who were the last to see her alive.


Zavala-Garcia has remained jailed in Smith County on a $10 million bond and 
immigration detainer.


In February, Zavala-Garcia was involved in an incident in the recreation area 
on top of the Smith County Jail, when he climbed a basketball goal and refused 
to come down. Officials said the incident is not regarded as an escape attempt, 
there were no injuries and no additional charges were added to Zavala-Garcia's 
arrest record.


The 1st pre-trial hearing in the case is set for April 27, in the 241st 
District Court in Smith County. Jury selection is scheduled to begin in August 
for the Oct. 2 trial.


(source: KLTV news)






VIRGINIAcommutation of death sentence

Gov. McAuliffe commutes Ivan Teleguz's death sentence to life without parole


Ivan Teleguz's death sentence for the murder-for-hire of his ex-girlfriend in 
2001 was commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole by Gov. 
Terry McAuliffe on Thursday.


Teleguz, 38, was scheduled to be executed Tuesday for the capital murder of 
Stephanie Yvonne Sipe, the mother of their 23-month-old son. Sipe was stabbed 
to death in her Harrisonburg apartment. According to trial testimony, he hired 
2 men to kill her for $2,000 and drove them from Pennsylvania, where Teleguz 
had moved.


On July 23, 2001, Sipe's mother, Pamela Woods, went to her daughter's apartment 
because she had not heard from Sipe for 2 days. Woods found her daughter's body 
and her grandson unharmed in a bathtub full of water. A neighbor took Woods and 
her grandson out of the apartment.


Teleguz's current lawyers filed a clemency request with McAuliffe, among other 
things arguing that courts have never fully examined new evidence pointing to 
his innocence. They say 2 prosecution witnesses admitted "that they testified 
falsely in exchange for leniency in their own cases, and have no reason to 
think Teleguz was involved in the murder-for-hire."


His lawyers say that 1 of the witnesses has been deported, and the other was 
told he would lose his release date if he went back on his testimony.


In 2015, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals noted 
that a lower court judge held an evidentiary hearing in 2013 concerning the 
recantations. One recanter refused to testify and the other did not appear. "In 
other words, neither of the recanters testified in support of their 
recantations," said the appeals court.


Marsha L. Garst, the commonwealth's attorney for Rockingham County, has 
declined to comment on the case. However, the appeals court opinion noted: 
"Prosecutor Marsha Garst, whom (the recanters) accused of threatening them into 
testifying against Teleguz, appeared and testified that those accusations were 
false."


Some religious leaders urged McAuliffe to grant clemency and a Change.org 
petition in support of clemency has been signed by more than 114,000 people. 
Teleguz also has submitted written requests for clemency from thousands of 
supporters.


Earlier this week 3 former Virginia attorneys general - 2 of whom became 
opposed to the death penalty since leaving office - wrote to McAuliffe urging 
the death sentence be commuted, citing what they said was "unreliable 
investigative techniques, coercive tactics by both law enforcement and the 
prosecution, recantations of key trial witnesses and consideration of false 
testimony in support of a death sentence."


Virginia has executed 112 people since the death penalty was allowed to resume 
in 1976. Virginia governors have commuted eight death sentences during the same 
period.


(source: Daily Progress)

***

Governor commutes death sentence of Virginia inmate Ivan Teleguz


Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe called a 3:30 p.m. press conference to make a 
public statement "regarding his review of Ivan Teleguz's petitions for a pardon 
and for commutation of his death sentence."


Teleguz was scheduled to be executed on April 25.

"As a result of the thorough review process that 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., VA., FLA., LA., OHIO

2017-04-20 Thread Rick Halperin






April 20




TEXAS:

Texas man convicted in double slaying gets Supreme Court hearing MondayThe 
U.S. Supreme Court, including its newest justice, Neil Gorsuch, will decide on 
a legal technicality in the case of a Fort Worth man who killed a 5-year-old 
girl and her grandmother.



The now-9 justices of the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Monday morning 
in the Texas death penalty case of a Fort Worth man who killed a 5-year-old and 
her grandmother during a children's birthday party.


The issue before the court in the case of 30-year-old death row inmate Erick 
Davila focuses on a legal distinction between ineffective lawyering in the 
trial court and during state appeals. The high court's newest justice, Neil 
Gorsuch, previously ruled against an argument similar to Davila's when he sat 
on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.


Seth Kretzer, the lawyer who will argue on behalf of Davila in front of the 
court Monday, told The Texas Tribune it might be difficult to obtain Gorsuch's 
vote in the case, but if the new, seemingly very vocal justice has questions, 
"I'll be happy to answer each and every one of them," he said.


The Texas Attorney General's Office did not respond to an interview request on 
Davila's case.


Davila landed on death row 8 years ago after the April 2008 murders. He drove 
to the house of a rival gang member, Jerry Stevenson, and opened fire on the 
porch before speeding off, according to court filings. Davila didn't hit 
Stevenson, however; instead, he fatally shot the man's mother and daughter, 
Annette Stevenson and 5-year-old Queshawn, who were outside during another 
girl's birthday party.


For a jury to have found Davila guilty of capital murder in this case, they 
needed to have determined that he intended to kill multiple people. Davila's 
main defense in trial was that he only intended to kill Jerry Stevenson. 
Tarrant County prosecutors countered that argument by pointing to Davila's 
confession to police: "I was trying to get the guys on the porch, and I was 
trying to get [Jerry Stevenson]."


As jurors deliberated, they focused on the intent issue, asking the judge if 
they should decide if Davila intended to kill his 2 victims or if he intended 
to kill someone and in the process fatally shot 2 others.


In his answer, the judge sent the definitions again and instructed jurors that 
Davila would be responsible for a crime if the only difference between what 
happened and what he wanted was that a different person was hurt - without 
affirming to them that Davila must have intended to kill more than 1 person. 
"The judge responded with a misleading instruction, which permitted the jury to 
convict Davila based only on the intent to kill Jerry Stevenson," Kretzer wrote 
in Davila's brief to the high court.


Davila's lawyer during his trial objected that the judge should not add that 
instruction at that time, but he was overruled. It was the right move by the 
lawyer but one that hurt Davila in the long run, Kretzer claimed.


This instruction wasn't brought up during Davila's automatic, direct appeal 
concerning the trial record. And his lawyer in his state habeas appeal - which 
focuses on facts outside of the trial record - never claimed his direct 
appellate lawyer was wrong to not bring it up.


2 big mistakes, according to Kretzer.

Death penalty cases can also be appealed in the federal courts system, but it 
is generally ruled that issues that could be raised at the state level can't be 
reviewed federally until they go through state courts. So, when a federal 
lawyer tried to raise the claim that Davila's direct appellate lawyer was 
ineffective for not faulting the judge's instruction, federal courts said they 
couldn't rule on that because it could have been brought up during the state 
habeas appeal.


There is an exception to this rule, created in the Supreme Court decision 
Martinez v. Ryan, which says that if state habeas lawyers fail to raise the 
issue of ineffective trial counsel, the federal courts can still hear it to 
ensure that the defendants are guaranteed their Sixth Amendment right to a fair 
trial.


What Kretzer will argue before the high court Monday is that Martinez should be 
interpreted to include issues of ineffective appellate counsel as well. Kretzer 
said that if trial counsel had not objected to the judge's instruction, the 
federal courts could rule on the merits of the case based on the Martinez 
exception.


"A defendant should not be worse off because appellate counsel - rather than 
trial counsel - rendered the ineffective assistance," Davila's brief states.


Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller will argue against opening up the Martinez 
exception, and 30 other state attorneys general filed a brief in support of 
Texas in the case. The list includes all states with the death penalty except 
4, and 5 states without.


"The right to appellate counsel, while surely important, is not foundational 
and 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., ALA., LA., OHIO, KY.

2017-04-19 Thread Rick Halperin





April 19




TEXAS:

Condemned inmate avoids execution with life sentence for Houston crime spree


A North Carolina man who spent years on Texas' death row awaiting execution was 
sentenced Monday to 4 consecutive life sentences, a plea bargain that Harris 
County prosecutors hope will keep him behind bars for the rest of his life.


Randolph Mansoor Greer, 43, was on death row until 2011, when the U.S. Supreme 
Court handed down a ruling that meant he and dozens of condemned inmates would 
get new sentencing hearings because of insufficient jury instructions.


Those cases, called Penry retrials because of the Supreme Court case, have been 
winding their way through Houston's courts for years. Some have successfully 
been retried as death penalty cases, others have gotten plea bargains with 
elaborately structured pleas to ensure the former death row inmates are never 
free.


Since Texas did not have a punishment of life in prison without parole when 
those crimes were committed, prosecutors and families of victims have worried 
that even a capital murder conviction in these cases might one day lead to 
parole. The decision to grant parole is made by prison officials with the Texas 
Department of Criminal Justice under the law at the time of the crime.


On Monday, Greer was sentenced to 4 consecutive life sentences in a Texas 
prison after pleading guilty to capital murder and other crimes he committed 
during a 1991 spree in the Houston area, according to the Harris County 
District Attorneys Office.


"26 years after committing a murderous crime spree, Mr. Greer has been 
resentenced to 4 consecutive life terms without parole," First Assistant Tom 
Berg said Tuesday. "Greer, now 43, has been incapacitated and will never again 
pose a threat to public safety."


Prosecutors said his crime spree spanned 6 months. In separate incidents, he 
abducted and sexually assaulted 2 Houston area women who survived the attacks.


He also robbed from a business, stole a car, and shot and killed Walter Chmiel, 
owner of the Alamo gun shop in Bellaire.


Greer also committed a capital murder in North Carolina as well as sexual 
assaults, robberies and a home invasion.


Prior to new sentencing, prosecutors consulted with survivors and the families 
of victims, Berg said.


Defense attorneys Allen Tanner and Gerald Bourgue said it was a just result.

"It was an agreement based on the fact that he was 18 at the time, and he's 
been a model inmate ever since then," Tanner said. "We think his prison record 
was helpful for him."


Tanner also said mitigation experts combed through records and witnesses in 
North Carolina and Cleveland and were expected to testify about how Greer's 
troubled childhood led him to a life of crime.


(source: Houston Chronicle)






FLORIDA:

Death penalty will be pursued against man accused of shooting Sanford mother, 
sonSuspect Allen Cashe faces 1st-degree murder charges



The death penalty will be pursued against Allen Cashe, who is accused of 
killing a mother and her son and shooting 4 other people, was indicted Monday 
on 1st-degree premeditated murder charges, according to the Seminole County 
State Attorney's Office.


Cashe was indicted Monday on 1st-degree premeditated murder charges in 
connection with the deaths of Latina Herring, 35, and her 8-year-old son, 
Branden Christian. Officials on Tuesday filed a notice of intent to pursue the 
death penalty in that case.


Cashe was also indicted on 4 counts of attempted 1st-degree murder with a 
firearm in connection with the shootings of Latina Herring's father, 
60-year-old Bertis Herring; Latina Herring's youngest child, 7-year-old Brenden 
Christian; and 2 bystanders, Rakeya Jackson, 18, and Lazaro Paredes, 43.


Sanford police released body camera footage of Cashe and Herring had been 
arguing about a set of keys hours before the double fatal shooting on March 27. 
Police encountered the couple twice before the shooting, but no arrests were 
made.


Cashe left Herring's home in Sanford after the 2nd police encounter, then 
returned around 6:20 a.m. with an AK-47, police said. Cashe is accused of 
opening fire on the family as they were sleeping.


Herring was shot 7 times and killed in her bedroom, police said.

Her 2 sons were sleeping on the couch when they were shot 3 times, the report 
said. Bertis Gerard Herring was shot 5 times in another bedroom.


Cashe is accused of shooting Jackson and Paredes as he was fleeing the area.

Assistant State Attorney Dan Faggard and the lead Sanford Police Department 
investigator presented information to the Grand Jury before the indictment was 
returned late Monday afternoon.


Cashe also faces charges of burglary of a dwelling with assault or battery with 
a firearm, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and shooting into a 
dwelling.




Aramis Ayala used direct verbiage from anti-death penalty group, emails 
showState attorney consulted few 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., VA., FLA., LA., TENN.

2017-04-18 Thread Rick Halperin





April 18



TEXAS:

5 death penalty reform bills heard in Texas House committee5 death penalty 
bills were heard in a seven-hour-long meeting at the Capitol Monday night.


The death penalty was a hot topic at the Texas Capitol Monday night.

Testimony on 5 capital punishment bills was heard by the House Criminal 
Jurisprudence Committee in a 7-hour-long meeting that lasted until close to 
midnight. The bills included 2 that would stop the practice of sentencing 
accomplices to death in certain cases and 2 which would abolish the death 
penalty altogether.


House Bills 147 and 316, by Democrats Harold Dutton and Terry Canales, 
respectively, would change how a person could be sentenced to death under 
Texas' "law of parties," which holds that those involved in a crime resulting 
in death are equally responsible even if they weren't the actual killer.


"At the end of the day, the logic should be, 'Did you intend to participate in 
that murder? Were you a part of it?'" Canales exclaimed while laying out his 
bill near the end of the long meeting. "Let's cut the nonsense out."


The most prominent case of a current Texas death row inmate sentenced under the 
law of parties is Jeff Wood. Wood was convicted in the 1996 murder of Kriss 
Keeran, who was fatally shot by Wood's friend in a Kerrville convenience store 
while he sat outside in a truck. Last year, Wood's case garnered national 
attention as his execution neared. Texas lawmakers from both parties spoke out 
against the execution, which was halted days before the scheduled date.


Republican Rep. Jeff Leach has been one of the most adamant supporters of 
reforming the law of parties. He has taken an interest in Wood's case, going so 
far as to visiting him on death row in February.


"I promised Jeff that I and Chairman Dutton and Rep. Canales would do 
everything that we can this session to ensure that another case like Jeff 
Wood's case would never happen again in the state of Texas," Leach said at a 
news conference earlier Monday on the bills.


There are 2 ways to find someone guilty under Texas' law of parties. The 1st 
puts responsibility on those who help commit or solicit a crime, even if they 
weren't directly involved. The second states that all parties are responsible 
for 1 felony that stems from another if the 2nd "should have been anticipated." 
For Wood, the state argued he was willfully participating in a robbery and knew 
his accomplice would resort to killing if Keeran did not comply, so Wood should 
have anticipated the robbery would lead to a murder. Wood has maintained he 
didnt know his friend had a gun on him.


The reform bills focus mainly on the "anticipation" clause, removing the 
possibility of a death sentence if someone is found guilty under the 2nd part 
of the law of parties and automatically granting them a sentence of life 
without parole. Currently, after being convicted, a jury still must agree the 
convict intended to kill or anticipated death to issue a death sentence.


Travis County Assistant District Attorney Justin Wood was the lone testifier 
against the bills, with eight others testifying in support of the bills that 
were laid out close to 11 p.m. He said the law of parties has been a "useful 
tool" for prosecutors, adding that "there are a lot of monsters who never get 
their hands dirty."


But Dutton argued that those people would still be punished, just not to death.

Chairman Joe Moody, D-El Paso, said Wood's testimony resonated with him as he 
has long struggled to "strike a balance" with the law of parties and the death 
penalty. In 2009, a similar bill filed in the House made it to the Senate, but 
died there. Terri Been, Jeff Wood's sister, said she has been lobbying against 
the law of parties for 20 years and pleaded through tears for the Legislature 
to move it forward this year.


"My cries have fallen on mostly deaf ears. I'm begging you to be leaders and to 
lead your constituents in the right direction," she said before wiping her 
eyes.


It is not common for a jury to sentence someone to death under the law of 
parties, but it happens. In 2007, prison inmates Jerry Martin and John Ray 
Falk, Jr., attempted escape. In the escape, Martin hit and killed prison guard 
Susan Canfield with a van. This March, Falk was sentenced to death as a party 
to the murder.


And Texas has executed at least 5 people under the statute, according to the 
Death Penalty Information Center. Only 5 other states have executed anyone 
under similar laws.


Aside from the law of parties, two identical bills to get rid of the death 
penalty in Texas completely were also heard Monday evening. Dutton and Rep. 
Jessica Farrar filed House Bills 64 and 1537.


Both lawmakers have repeatedly filed abolition bills in past legislative 
sessions, and they acknowledged their main goal was to keep up a discussion on 
the death penalty. In a Republican-led legislature, it is almost certain that 
the bills will not 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, DEL., ARK., USA

2017-04-17 Thread Rick Halperin





April 17


TEXAS:

Texas death penalty practice deserves abolition


Arkansas wants to execute 8 people over the next 10 days. The state's stock of 
Midazolam, a sedative used for lethal-injection, is due to expire at the end of 
the April. Not one to let taxpayer dollars go to waste, Gov. Asa Hutchinson 
opted to clear the state's death row as soon as possible. For now, a federal 
judge has put a pin in these plans, but Arkansas plans to appeal. Gruesome 
instances like these remind us of a grim reality - capital punishment is a 
fundamentally flawed institution that has no place in modern society.


Texas is no stranger to death penalty complications. In March, the Supreme 
Court ruled that Texas used an antiquated standard to determine the necessary 
intellectual ability a death row defendant must demonstrate. Moreover, just 
last week Texas refused to conduct additional DNA testing for another 
defendant. This is especially concerning in a state that has the second highest 
rate of executions per capita. If a society is determined to provide the death 
penalty it must also be willing to pursue a gamut of opportunities to prove 
innocence. Anything less creates a legal system which stacks the deck against 
the accused.


The laws of Texas seem predisposed for inmates to be put to death. Currently, a 
panel of jurors must unanimously agree upon the death sentence for the 
defendant to be put on death row. A single juror's dissent automatically 
renders life in prison. However, state law bans judges and attorneys from 
communicating this 2nd contingency. The impact is profound. In a 2008 trial 
juror Sven Berger didn't believe defendant Paul Storey qualified for the death 
penalty. Berger also knew he couldn't convince the other 10 jurors otherwise 
and so, unaware of the power of his dissent, Berger voted for the death 
sentence. Justice may be blind, but Texas laws are trying their hardest to keep 
jurors in the dark.


Capital punishment is a difficult subject to mediate. Society has an inherent 
drive to achieve justice, and the families of victims must not feel as if the 
law has marginalized them. However, the law must not be vengeful and it must 
not discriminate. The disproportionate representation of minorities on death 
row is an outgrowth of the bitter legacy of lynching in the United States. The 
death penalty requires complex moral gymnastics to justify taking a life. It 
fails as a deterrent and at best has an imperceptible effect on the homicide 
rate. Victims deserve justice, but so do the defendants.


The fight to repeal capital punishment in Texas will take years to come to 
fruition. However, attempts to iron out some of the most glaring flaws can be 
made. DNA testing in Texas is only conducted when the defendant can prove the 
tests would change the outcome of the case. This standard unduly limits 
potential evidence and is far more restrictive than necessary. Senate Bill 
1616, if passed, would improve juror transparency by removing the gag order on 
capital punishment case sentencing instructions.


Finally, the criminal justice system needs a dramatic overhaul. For far too 
long minorities have been disproportionately represented in the criminal 
justice system. A study by the University of Maryland, using Houston's Harris 
County as a test case, found that black Americans were three times as likely to 
have their cases advanced to a death penalty trial than their white 
counterparts. Adopting a bottom-up approach to reform - amending drug 
possession and bail laws, for example - will mitigate the nefarious impacts of 
the modern day death penalty.


Arkansas is creating an environment in which assembly line justice is the norm 
and the basis of the criminal justice is eroded. Texas must learn from the 
failure of Arkansas and let the death penalty take its last breath.


(source: Opinion; Usmaan Hasan is a business freshman from PlanoThe (Univ. 
Texas) Daily Texan)







DELAWARE:

Delaware returns to death penalty debate after prison uprising


Just after 10 a.m. EDT on Feb. 1, a group of inmates took four staff hostage as 
they seized control of Building C at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in 
Smyrna, Delaware, with 120 prisoners inside.


By the end of the 18-hour standoff, Sgt. Steven Floyd Sr. was dead.

The state has shared little information about the attack and now, "All 120 are 
considered suspects," said Jayme Gravell, a corrections spokeswoman. But 
lawmakers and human rights groups tell completely different stories about what 
led to the uprising and how to move forward.


"We have been begging for help for years." - Correctional Officers Association 
of Delaware union president Geoff Klopp


Republican Rep. Steve Smyk said corrections officers had recently been on the 
receiving end of a 1-2 punch. The 1st came in August, when the state Supreme 
Court ruled that Delaware's death penalty was unconstitutional because it 
allowed a judge's sentence 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., FLA., ALA., MISS., OHIO

2017-04-14 Thread Rick Halperin






April 14




TEXAS:

Court grants Duane Buck relief that could remove him from Texas death row


The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has granted Texas death-row inmate Duane Buck 
the right to pursue his claims of ineffective counsel and relief under a rule 
that covers mistakes and neglect - a move that could spare him from execution.


In February, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that race improperly tainted inmate 
Buck's death sentence and remanded the case to the lower court for a new 
hearing.


In a two-page ruling filed Thursday, the federal appeals court also ordered him 
released unless the state initiates proceedings for a new trial for punishment 
within six months or "elects not to seek the death penalty and accedes to a 
life sentence."


Buck was convicted in Houston 20 years ago for the killings of his girlfriend, 
Debra Gardner, and her friend, Kenneth Butler. He was sentenced to death after 
a psychologist testified he would be a continuing threat to society because he 
is black.


The case, which has made national headlines for years, could be a harbinger of 
how the country's highest court deals with death penalty cases with racial 
overtones, experts have said.


After February's decision, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said her 
office would review Buck's case, including speaking with the victims' families 
and looking over mitigation evidence, before deciding how to proceed.


"Racially charged evidence has no place in any courtroom, and this 
administration will not tolerate its presence," she said. "We remain committed 
to seeking justice for the victims of Duane Buck's heinous criminal acts and 
will do so without what Chief Justice Roberts described as the 'strain of 
racial prejudice' present at the 1997 trial in which Buck was convicted."


[see: http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/14/14-70030-CV0.pdf]

(source: Houston Chronicle)






VIRGINIAimpending execution

3 Reasons Why Virginia May Execute an Innocent Man


In 2006, a jury convicted Ivan Teleguz of hiring someone to kill Stephanie 
Sipe, his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child. Now, more than a decade 
later, Virginia is scheduled to execute Teleguz on April 25, 2017, and there is 
substantial evidence suggesting that Teleguz is innocent.


How is that possible in the United States - the land of the free, where a poor 
person is entitled to legal counsel and a criminal defendant has numerous 
chances to be heard in court? Actually, it happens with some ease, and in part, 
it happens because of conscious choices we have made about our legal system. 
There are at least 3 reasons for this counter-intuitive reality.


1. Prosecutors, Not Judges or Juries, Resolve Most Criminal Cases in America

When most people think of criminal cases, they have visions of Atticus Finch 
and dramatic closing arguments before juries. In fact, 97 % of federal cases 
and 94 % of state cases are resolved through plea-bargaining. The prosecutor 
determines what charges to bring against a defendant, offers him a lesser 
sentence if he accepts the deal in lieu of a trial, and often plays one 
defendant off of another in the process. In most cases, criminal defendants 
accept a plea rather than insisting upon their day in court because the penalty 
and risk associated with going to trial is simply too high.


Teleguz's case demonstrates this phenomenon well. There was no physical 
evidence connecting him to the murder of Ms. Sipe; the prosecution's case was 
based on the testimony of three witnesses. Since his trial, 2 of those 
witnesses have recanted their testimony and have admitted that they lied when 
they implicated Teleguz in exchange for favorable treatment from the 
government. The Commonwealth repeatedly told the 3rd witness, Ms. Sipe's actual 
killer, that he would face the death penalty unless he "cooperated" with them 
by agreeing to testify against Teleguz in Ms. Sipe's murder and sticking to 
that story. Not surprisingly, he did just that and he is serving out a life 
sentence while Teleguz faces imminent death.


2. The Myth of the Right to Counsel

Speaking of Atticus Finch, why didn't Teleguz's lawyer prevent this outcome? 
Indeed, the United States Supreme Court has held time and again that "[t]he 
right of one charged with crime to counsel may not be deemed fundamental and 
essential to fair trials in some countries, but it is in ours."[1] There is a 
huge divide, though, between the right and the reality. Like Teleguz, 80 % of 
criminal defendants are poor, and they are entitled to a lawyer at the state's 
expense. Those lawyers are overworked, underpaid and operate without anything 
close to what the government has in the way of investigative and expert 
resources. For these reasons, while in office, Attorney General Eric Holder 
regularly described indigent defense systems nationwide as "unjust," "morally 
untenable," "economically unsustainable," and "unworthy of a legal system that 
stands as an 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., GA., FLA., ALA., LA., OHIO

2017-04-13 Thread Rick Halperin





April 13



TEXAS:

Death Row Inmate Rodney Reed Loses DNA Appeal


The state's top criminal appeals court is refusing to allow additional DNA 
testing of evidence in the lengthy Central Texas death penalty case of Rodney 
Reed.


The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals says the request by Reed's attorneys was 
the latest of a number of legal moves to unreasonably delay his execution for 
the April 1996 abduction, rape and strangling of 19-year-old Stacy Stites. Her 
body was found off the side of a road in Bastrop County.


Reed was arrested nearly a year later when his DNA surfaced in another sexual 
assault. He sought tests on more than 40 items collected in the murder 
investigation.


Reed long has insisted he and Stites had a consensual sexual relationship and 
that her police officer fiance more likely was her killer.


(source: Associated Press)






PENNSYLVANIA:

Defense: Test Murder Weapon in Death Penalty Case


An attorney for a man on death row in the shooting death of a Pennsylvania 
police officer is asking that the murder weapon be tested to make sure it 
didn't go off by accident.


The (Easton) Express-Times (http://bit.ly/2p8MjRc ) reports that defense 
attorney Jonathan Polonsky brought up the idea at a hearing Wednesday in 
Northampton County Court in the case of 51-year-old George Hitcho Jr.


He was convicted of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to death in the 2011 
shotgun slaying of Freemansburg police officer Robert Lasso, who responded to a 
disturbance call at Hitcho's home.


Polonsky argued that his client's former attorney should have had the gun 
tested to counter an argument by prosecutors that had the weapon not jammed 
after the fatal shot, the defendant would have kept firing.


(source: Associated Press)






VIRGINIAimpending execution

With Execution Date Approaching, Evidence Suggests Teleguz Is Innocent


Pressure is building on Governor Terry McAuliffe to grant clemency in the case 
of a former Harrisonburg man who could be executed later this month. New 
evidence suggests prosecutors and police used questionable tactics to convict 
him, and witnesses who pointed a finger at him are now admitting they lied.


Ivan Teleguz faces execution this month for a crime that supporters say he did 
not commit.


When a young Harrisonburg mother was brutally murdered more than a decade ago, 
police were anxious to find the killer, and DNA from the crime scene led to 
Michael Hetrick - a man who said he didn't even know Stephanie Sipe and had no 
motive to kill her. Detectives thought the woman's former boyfriend and the 
father of her child hired Hetrick, and they urged him to confirm that theory:


"The police just fed him every detail of their case. They even gave him this 
document that laid out their entire theory of the case, and said, 'We want you 
to read this so you can understand the facts of the case."


Elizabeth Peiffer - staff attorney at the Virginia Capital Representation 
Resource Center - says officers then called the Commonwealth's attorney, who 
said she would ask for the death penalty unless Hetrick could confirm that Ivan 
Teleguz was behind the killing.


"That if he didn't give them Ivan - if he didn't repeat this story back to 
them, his own life would be in jeopardy - that they would seek the death 
penalty, and he would get it," she explains.


Hetrick then said he was hired by Teleguz, and 2 other men testified that's 
what happened. One of them - an immigrant from Kyrgystan - was promised help in 
getting a visa from the federal government to save him from deportation. The 
other was told he might face the death penalty if he didn't implicate Teleguz.


In court, attorney Peiffer says, the prosecutor claimed Teleguz had also 
committed a murder in Pennsylvania.


"They told jurors that this is how he solves his problems. He has people commit 
murder for him, and jurors were really scared," she says. "They sent out a 
question to the judge during deliberations asking if he had their addresses, 
and the judge had them instructed that he did have this information, and jurors 
were so scared that they very quickly sentenced him to death."


But it turned out the Pennsylvania murder they described never happened, and 
the 2 men who originally linked Teleguz to the crime in Virginia have since 
said they lied. Now the Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center and the 
law firm Kirkland and Ellis are asking the governor to pardon Teleguz or at 
least commute his sentence so he won't be executed.


"We have asked that he grant a full pardon, because we believe the current 
state of the evidence, with 2 of the key prosecution witnesses recanting their 
testimony that no juror could have found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."


And, Peiffer says, public support for Teleguz, who - along with his family -- 
left the Soviet-controlled Ukraine as a child to avoid religious persecution, 
is growing.


"Not only do we have over 113,000 people 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, DEL., N.C., S.C., FLA., LA., OHIO

2017-04-11 Thread Rick Halperin






April 11



TEXAS:

You don't have to be a bleeding heart to oppose the death penalty


What should happen now to the convicted murderer Paul David Storey? Nothing.

"Nothing" would mean leaving Storey to live out the rest of his days at his 
current address in prison.


Late last week, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted Storey's execution, 
which had been scheduled to take place Wednesday. The court was motivated -- 
indirectly, at least -- by the pleas of the victim's parents, who do not want 
their son's killer put to death.


As I said last week in writing about this case, we cannot allow victims or 
their survivors to assess punishment for the criminals who have wronged them. 
That would be too arbitrary, too inconsistent, too emotional.


But there was wisdom in considering the statements made by Glenn and Judith 
Cherry of Fort Worth. Their adult son, Jonas, was killed during a 2006 holdup 
at the Tarrant County business he managed.


Storey and an accomplice eventually confessed to the murder. The accomplice 
accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to life in prison. Story went to trial 
and was sentenced to death.


"As a result of Jonas' death, we do not want to see another family having to 
suffer through losing a child and family member," said the statement the couple 
recently forwarded to state criminal justice authorities.


The appellate court wants the trial court to determine whether jurors in 
Storey's 2008 trial, and subsequent appeals lawyers assigned to his case, were 
aware of the Cherrys' opposition to Storey's execution.


Appeals lawyers for Storey claim Tarrant County prosecutors told jurors that it 
"went without saying" that the victim's family considered a death sentence 
appropriate.


The case is further complicated by a juror, who now says he would not have 
sided with his fellow jury members in voting for death in the case had he known 
their sentiments.


These are all challenging issues, complicated by emotion as much as by legal 
procedure and the passage of time.


But the very central role that emotion plays in every death penalty case makes 
a dispassionate argument against executing capital offenders.


I have no love for Paul David Storey, no sentimental indulgence for his 
grandiose jailhouse dreams of becoming a poet or novelist, no sympathetic ear 
for besotted activists who try to recast stone cold killers as tragic victims 
of a cruel system.


Justice, by definition, needs to be guided by fact and by law, not by emotion. 
But when we move into the painfully conflicted territory of capital punishment, 
emotion is all we have -- on all sides.


And as fervently as death penalty supporters deride its opponents as "bleeding 
hearts," they're operating on an emotional basis themselves. It's 
understandable that many of us might want to assess the most severe punishment 
imaginable on those who commit the most heinous and unforgivable crimes.


But from a pure policy standpoint, the death penalty is expensive -- 
unavoidably so, given the constitutional guarantees to which inmates are 
entitled. It's also irreversible, unevenly assessed, and arbitrarily applied.


Admitting as much does not make us suckers and rubes. It highlights the 
practical reality that society is as just as well protected by sentencing our 
worst criminals to life without the possibility of parole as it is by killing 
them.


Should appeals lawyers be successful on Storey's behalf, he could be entitled 
to a new trial on punishment only. His guilt would remain unchanged.


Prosecutors might conceivably save everyone a great deal of time, expense, and 
painful emotion by choosing not to retry this, and leave Storey where he is, 
where he belongs, where the grief this case has already caused can be 
contained: Permanent incarceration.


The death penalty still enjoys considerable public popularity, which I 
understand. Nothing will cure a bleeding heart like sitting through a few 
murder trials -- the cruelty inflicted and the grief victims endure can harden 
even the most sympathetic onlookers.


But capital punishment is too fraught with problems, too controversial, and in 
the end, too impractical to continue in widespread use. It is already dying a 
slow death of its own, as statistics chronicle its steady decline.


You don't have to love Paul Storey, or think he has been somehow misunderstood, 
or view him as a victim, to see permanent incarceration as the best way for the 
state to handle him.


You just have to be pragmatic.

(source: Commentary; Jacquielynn Floyd, Dallas Morning News)

**

Fort Worth Man on death row Loses Federal Appeal


A federal appeals court has rejected an appeal from a Fort Worth man on Texas 
death row for a 2010 convenience store holdup that left 2 men dead.


The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday refused arguments from 
41-year-old Kwame Rockwell that he had poor legal help at his Tarrant County 
trial when his 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., N.C., FLA., ALA., LA.

2017-04-09 Thread Rick Halperin





April 9




TEXAS:

Putt-Putt killer gets stay of execution, but 'case is far from over'


The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay of execution Friday for a 
man convicted in the 2006 murder of an assistant manager of a Putt-Putt golf 
park in Hurst.


Paul Storey, 32, who was convicted in 2008 for the murder of Jonas Cherry, was 
scheduled to die on Wednesday.


Storey did not immediately learn of his stay because he was in transport Friday 
afternoon from Fort Worth to Huntsville. He had been in the Tarrant County Jail 
for a recent hearing in connection with his case.


"The 1st thing I did is rush back to the jail but he had already been sent back 
to prison to be executed," said attorney Mike Ware.


While his conviction remains in place, the court's decision will put into 
motion a lengthy legal process that will eventually decide whether Storey 
should live or die for his crime.


Storey's lawyers, his family and the parents of Cherry have all fought to save 
Storey's life. Cory Session, a justice reform advocate who fought for the 
posthumous exoneration of his convicted brother, Tim Cole, also pushed for 
Storey's execution to be stayed.


"This case is far from over," Ware said. "At the time being I'm very relieved 
for Paul and Marilyn and for that matter, I'm relieved for the Cherrys."


Said Marilyn Shankle-Grant, Storey's mom: "I am just elated. I am so happy. I 
know now it is an indefinite stay until we get some answers from the lower 
court."


Cherry begged for his life during the crime at Putt-Putt Golf and Games at a 
highly visible location across Texas 121/Loop 820 from North East Mall in 
Hurst.


It was about 8:45 a.m. on Oct. 16, 2006 and Storey and Mark Porter stood over 
Cherry, who pleaded: "Please! I gave you what you want. Don't hurt me."


They refused and shot him twice in the head and twice in his legs and fled with 
between $200 and $700. Cherry, who was approaching his 1st wedding anniversary, 
was pronounced dead at the scene.


Storey and Porter were convicted of capital murder, but only Storey got the 
death penalty. Porter got life without parole after making a deal with the 
Tarrant County district attorney's office.


Session said Friday that the appeals court has called for another hearing at 
the trial court presided over by State District Judge Robb Catalano. That 
hearing will seek to determine whether defense attorneys were notified by 
prosecutors during Storey's trial that Cherry's parents, Glenn and Judy Cherry, 
were against the death penalty during the 2008 trial.


"Judith and Glenn Cherry did not want death for Mr. Storey," an affidavit from 
the parents stated. "Unknown to the jury and contrary to the state's argument, 
they stood with the family members who pleaded for the jury to spare Mr. 
Storey's life."


Prosecutors, however, have said that while the Cherrys were generally opposed 
to the death penalty, they were in agreement at the time of the 2008 trial that 
Storey should be executed because he had refused to accept a plea bargain for 
life without parole.


Christy Jack, 1 of the prosecutors who is now in private practice, recently 
told the Star-Telegram that Storey's defense team was informed before the trial 
about how Cherry's parents felt.


"Death penalty litigation is the most important thing that attorneys do," Jack 
said. "So I want everything that I do in these cases to be above reproach."


Robert Foran, the lead prosecutor at the time of the 2008 trial, also confirmed 
Jack's account.


"The defense decided not to call the parents to the stand," Foran said. "That 
was a tactical decision on their part, but we told them and they damn well know 
it."


(source: star-telegram.com)






VIRGINIA:

Virginia's dark legacy of secrecy about executions


The newly enhanced secrecy behind Virginia's capital punishment protocols 
underscores a legacy of death born in institutionalized racism that upcoming 
executions - including that of Ivan Teleguz, scheduled April 25 - do not just 
prolong, but exacerbate.


In March 1879, after years of tolerating party atmospheres accompanying the 
public executions of blacks, Virginia first moved to shroud its execution 
process in secrecy after almost 1,000 revelers gathered after the hanging of 2 
young black men at New Kent Courthouse for a grand "Gallows Ball" that lasted 
until daybreak.


Afterward, a mortified General Assembly moved quickly to make hangings private, 
intending to stop the festival backdrops and remove black influence and 
traditions from the proceedings.


Most newspapers that year, including the April 2 Petersburg Progress-Index, 
praised the new statute, reporting that "this (law) shall put an end to all 
such gallows picnics and jollifications as was witnessed at New Kent 
Court-house."


There is little evidence to conclude that crowds gathered to condemn the crimes 
of the prisoner. On the contrary, the widespread prejudices in the judicial 
process, from 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., FLA., OHIO, TENN., ARK., NEB., S. DAK.

2017-04-08 Thread Rick Halperin





April 8



TEXASstay of impending execution

Texas court halts execution after parents seek mercy for their son's killer


Texas' top criminal court on Friday halted the scheduled execution of Paul 
Storey after the parents of the man he killed said they did not want him to 
die.


The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals sent Storey's case back to a lower court 
for review and halted his execution, which had been scheduled for Wednesday.


Paul Storey was convicted of the 2006 murder of Jonas Cherry during a robbery 
at a Hurst putt-putt golf park. His accomplice, Dewayne Porter, pleaded guilty 
and received a life sentence.


Storey was offered the same plea deal as Porter, but he chose to go to trial 
and was sentenced to death. His lawyers, in an appeal filed Friday, contend 
that Tarrant County prosecutors told jurors that the Cherry family wanted 
Storey to be executed, despite knowing they opposed the death penalty.


In a video released this week, Judith and Glenn Cherry pleaded with prosecutors 
and Gov. Greg Abbott to stop Storey's execution.


"It pains us to think that due to our son's death, another person will be 
purposefully put to death," Judith Cherry said in the video. "Also motivating 
us is that we do not want Paul Storey's family, especially his mother and 
grandmother, if she is still alive, to witness the purposeful execution of 
their son. They are innocent of his deeds."


The Cherrys asked state officials to commute Storey's sentence to life without 
parole.


At least 1 juror who served during Storey's trial told defense lawyers that he 
would have refused to vote for the death penalty had he known the Cherrys did 
not want it.


"I would have held out for a life without the possibility parole for as long as 
it took," juror Sven Berger wrote in an affidavit.


Because prosecutors gave the jury false information, Storey's lawyers contend 
in their latest appeal that he should be granted a new trial to determine his 
sentence.


The Court of Criminal Appeals asked a lower court to review Storey's claims and 
make recommendations about whether he should receive a new trial to determine 
his sentence.


(source: Dallas Morning News)

*

Texas court halts execution of man amid claims of false evidenceThe Texas 
Court of Criminal Appeals halted the execution of Paul Storey Friday afternoon, 
which was set for next Wednesday.



The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has halted the execution of Paul Storey, 
which was set for Wednesday.


In a 3-page order Friday afternoon, the court sent the case back to the Tarrant 
County trial court to review claims regarding the prosecution presenting false 
evidence at Storey's trial.


In 2008, Storey, 32, was sentenced to death for the 2006 murder of Jonas Cherry 
during a robbery of a miniature golf course where Cherry worked in Hurst, near 
Fort Worth. At the trial, the prosecution said that Cherry's parents wanted the 
death penalty.


"It should go without saying that all of Jonas [Cherry's] family and everyone 
who loved him believe the death penalty was appropriate,' the prosecution said 
during the penalty phase of the trial, according to Storey's appeal.


Storey and Cherry's parents, Glenn and Judith, say that's not true. The Cherrys 
wrote to Gov. Greg Abbott and the Board of Pardons and Paroles in February, 
asking for a life sentence for Storey. The Cherrys said they never wanted the 
death penalty and made that clear to the prosecution, according to Storey's 
appeal.


"As a result of Jonas' death, we do not want to see another family having to 
suffer through losing a child and family member ... due to our ethical and 
spiritual values we are opposed to the death penalty," the Cherrys said in 
their statement.


Sven Berger, a juror in Storey's trial who recently asked Texas legislators to 
change jury instructions in capital cases, also wrote an affidavit for Storey's 
recent appeal. In his affidavit, Berger said had he known the Cherrys didn't 
want death, he would have "held out for a [sentence of] life without the 
possibility of parole for as long as it took."


Now, the trial court has been ordered to determine whether the fact that the 
Cherrys opposed the death penalty could have been discovered by appellate 
attorneys earlier. Generally in death penalty cases, if evidence could have 
been raised at an earlier appeal and wasn't, it is not allowed to be used in 
future appeals. This evidence was brought forth to the courts less than 2 weeks 
before his execution.


The appeal claims the evidence of the Cherrys' disapproval of the sentence was 
learned only in the past 90 days. But the Court of Criminal Appeals said it's 
not yet clear whether his previous state appellate attorney could have learned 
about the Cherrys' beliefs.


"The trial court is ordered to make findings of fact and conclusions of law 
regarding whether the factual basis of these claims was ascertainable through 
the exercise of 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS

2017-04-07 Thread Rick Halperin





April 7





TEXASstay of impending execution

Texas court halts execution of man amid claims of false evidence



The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has halted the execution of Paul Storey, 
which was set for Wednesday.


In a three-page order Friday afternoon, the court sent the case back to the 
Tarrant County trial court to review claims regarding the prosecution 
presenting false evidence at Storey’s trial.


In 2008, Storey, 32, was sentenced to death for the 2006 murder of Jonas Cherry 
during a robbery of a miniature golf course where Cherry worked in Hurst, near 
Fort Worth. At the trial, the prosecution said that Cherry’s parents wanted the 
death penalty.


The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.

“It should go without saying that all of Jonas [Cherry’s] family and everyone 
who loved him believe the death penalty was appropriate,” the prosecution said 
during the penalty phase of the trial, according to Storey’s appeal.


Storey and Cherry’s parents, Glenn and Judith, say that’s not true. The Cherrys 
wrote to Gov. Greg Abbott and the Board of Pardons and Paroles in February, 
asking for a life sentence for Storey. The Cherrys said they never wanted the 
death penalty and made that clear to the prosecution, according to Storey’s 
appeal.


“As a result of Jonas’ death, we do not want to see another family having to 
suffer through losing a child and family member ... due to our ethical and 
spiritual values we are opposed to the death penalty,” the Cherrys said in 
their statement.


Sven Berger, a juror in Storey’s trial who recently asked Texas legislators to 
change jury instructions in capital cases, also wrote an affidavit for Storey’s 
recent appeal. In his affidavit, Berger said had he known the Cherrys didn’t 
want death, he would have “held out for a [sentence of] life without the 
possibility of parole for as long as it took.”


Now, the trial court has been ordered to determine whether the fact that the 
Cherrys opposed the death penalty could have been discovered by appellate 
attorneys earlier. Generally in death penalty cases, if evidence could have 
been raised at an earlier appeal and wasn’t, it is not allowed to be used in 
future appeals. This evidence was brought forth to the courts less than two 
weeks before his execution.


The appeal claims the evidence of the Cherrys’ disapproval of the sentence was 
learned only in the past 90 days. But the Court of Criminal Appeals said it’s 
not yet clear whether his previous state appellate attorney could have learned 
about the Cherrys’ beliefs.


“The trial court is ordered to make findings of fact and conclusions of law 
regarding whether the factual basis of these claims was ascertainable through 
the exercise of reasonable diligence on or before the date the initial 
application was filed,” the order states. “If the court determines that the 
factual basis of the claims was not ascertainable through the exercise of 
reasonable diligence on or before the date the initial application was filed, 
then it will proceed to review the merits of the claims.”


Storey’s appeal said the evidence of false claims warrants him a new punishment 
hearing, where he either could be sentenced to death again or receive a life 
sentence without the possibility of parole.


(source: Texas Tribune)

*




Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present24

Executions in Texas:  Dec. 7, 1982present-542

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #





25-May 16---Tilon Carter--543

26-May 24---Juan Castillo--544

27-June 28--Steven Long---545

28-July 19-Kosoul Chanthakoummane---546

29-July 27-Taichin Preyor-547

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)
___
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu

DeathPenalty mailing list
DeathPenalty@lists.washlaw.edu
http://lists.washlaw.edu/mailman/listinfo/deathpenalty
Unsubscribe: http://lists.washlaw.edu/mailman/options/deathpenalty


[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS

2017-04-07 Thread Rick Halperin





April 7




TEXAS:

Dallas County district attorney's office to show mercy to 'lost souls'


The new Dallas County district attorney and her first assistant view the people 
who go through the criminal court system as "lost souls or monsters."


Faith Johnson says her job as district attorney doesn't always call for 
toughness; sometimes justice requires mercy.


"We're compassionate where compassion is needed. We're merciful when mercy is 
needed," she said Tuesday night at a community forum at Concord Church in Red 
Bird.


It was the 1st of what Johnson says will be a quarterly forum to answer 
questions and explain how the local criminal justice system works.


Johnson, a Republican and former judge, was appointed in December by Gov. Greg 
Abbott to replace Susan Hawk, who resigned in September to focus on her mental 
health.


Johnson, the 1st black woman to become Dallas County district attorney, has 
said she plans to run for the office when her term expires next year.


In her first 90 days in office, she has attended more than 140 community events 
and meetings. She regularly takes her prosecutors to lunch to get to know them 
and their work. She is often 1st to the office and last to leave.


"I have been getting only four hours sleep so I can restore the relationship 
between the community and the DA's office," Johnson said.


Her top priority has been to facilitate an expungement program to clear some 
criminal records. The crimes must be non-violent and meet other requirements.


And for the people whose crimes can't be erased, Johnson wants to help them 
clear their public criminal records so they don't have trouble getting a job or 
qualifying for housing.


"We want them to get a job," she said. "Share the load of the taxes."

She said those efforts are part of being just. It's the same reason she says 
she wants to boost the DA's office conviction integrity unit, the group that 
has overseen the reversal of wrongful convictions.


And when asked about her approach to the death penalty, Johnson said it's her 
job to abide the law, and execution is legal in Texas.


But, she said, Dallas County prosecutors will pursue the death penalty only 
when they are "darn sure that that's what we need to do."


She said that's part of her oath: to uphold the law for everyone.

"I'm going to do what's right by you. I don't care who you are. You could be 
black, white, purple, green," Johnson said. "You could be rich, poor. You could 
live in North Dallas, south, east, west. I got you. I got you. I'm here for 
you."


First Assistant District Attorney Mike Snipes called Johnson the "real deal" 
and said she has a compassionate approach to the job.


"We're going to take care of the lost souls. We're going to try to rehabilitate 
them. We're going to try to reintegrate them into society," he said.


As for the monsters: "The judge and I are coming after them."

(source: Dallas Morning News)

***

Lost souls, not monsters


Re: "New DA pledges she'll uphold law for everyone -- Restoring the public's 
trust is crucial, Johnson says at her first forum," Thursday Metro story.


I am pleased that the current district attorney speaks of compassion and mercy 
for those she refers to as "lost souls." It is commendable that she seeks the 
reintegration of nonviolent offenders back into our society so they can 
hopefully lead productive lives.


It is unfortunate and inexcusable that Faith Johnson's office uses language to 
dehumanize those who may have committed violent offenses. To be sure, violent 
offenders need to be punished and imprisoned, as society has a fundamental 
right to be safe. But such offenders are not "monsters."


The law allows district attorneys to use judicial discretion to seek the death 
penalty; they are certainly not obligated to do so. It would be refreshing and 
humanizing to see our district attorney show true mercy to all offenders, and 
to see her extend justice in the name of the law while recognizing the inherent 
truth about human rights: There is no such thing as a lesser person.


Rick Halperin, Dallas, Director, Embrey Human Rights Program at Southern 
Methodist University


(source: Letter to the Editor, Dallas Morning News)

___
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu

DeathPenalty mailing list
DeathPenalty@lists.washlaw.edu
http://lists.washlaw.edu/mailman/listinfo/deathpenalty
Unsubscribe: http://lists.washlaw.edu/mailman/options/deathpenalty


[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, N.C., GA., FLA., ALA., LA.

2017-04-06 Thread Rick Halperin






April 6



TEXASimpending execution

Death Watch: No Comfort, No ClosureJonas Cherry's parents don't want their 
son's killer killed



32-year-old Paul Storey is the 5th person set for a state killing this year, 
his execution date currently set for Wednesday, April 12. In 2006, Storey shot 
and killed Jonas Cherry, manager of the Putt-Putt Golf & Games mini-golf course 
in Hurst (Tarrant County) during a botched robbery. His friend Mark Devayne 
Porter, who had served as accomplice, accepted a plea deal, and is currently 
serving life in prison. Storey refused a similar plea, and in 2008, he was 
found guilty of capital murder, and sentenced to death.


Storey's efforts for relief have since been unsuccessful. But recently, a few 
impediments to his execution have arisen. Austin attorney Keith Hampton, who's 
representing Storey with Mike Ware, says that Cherry's parents Glenn and Judy 
were appalled by the state's invitation to travel to Huntsville to witness 
Storey's execution, and have filed an affidavit with Tarrant Co. District 
Attorney Sharen Wilson and Gov. Greg Abbott requesting that Storey's life be 
spared. "It is very painful for us to consider the suffering of Paul Storey's 
mother, grandmother, and family if he is put to death," they wrote. "[His] 
execution will not bring our son back, will not atone for the loss of our son, 
and will not bring comfort or closure." Hampton called the Cherrys' request an 
"amazing act of mercy." He said it's rare to hear the family of a murder victim 
say "you'll multiply our pain by inflicting pain on another family."


Hampton and Ware have separately been at work to vacate Storey's sentence. On 
March 31, they filed a petition asking that their client's sentence be vacated 
in consideration of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. They say prosecutors 
knew of the Cherrys' opposition to the sentence, and that prosecutor Christy 
Jack lied in her closing argument about their desire to see Storey executed. 
And because the prosecution offered Storey a plea deal prior to trial, Hampton 
argued, the prosecution's pursuit of the death penalty raises a presumption of 
vindictiveness.


Making matters more muddy is that Sven Berger, one of the jurors during 
Storey's trial, spoke with the Marshall Project last March, confessing his 
regrets for sending Storey to death row. Referencing a 2010 affidavit he filed 
in Storey's support, Berger said he would have lobbied against the death 
penalty had he known of Storey's "'borderline intellectual functioning,' 
history of depression," and other mitigating evidence. And in a 2nd affidavit, 
Berger said he would also have rejected a death sentence had he known the 
Cherrys' stance.


Both Ware and Hampton hope that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will be 
swayed and grant Storey a new punishment hearing. If not, he'll be the 543rd 
Texan executed since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1976.


(source: Austin Chronicle)

**

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present24

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982present-543

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #

25-April 12-Paul Storey---543

26-May 16---Tilon Carter--544

27-May 24---Juan Castillo--545

28-June 28--Steven Long---546

29-July 19-Kosoul Chanthakoummane---547

30-July 27-Taichin Preyor-548

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

*

Ruling could mean new execution date for man convicted in prison guard's 
murderA death row inmate convicted in a Texas prison guard's murder lost 
another appeal Wednesday at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.



The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled against a death row inmate who 
claims he was framed in the 1999 murder of a prison guard. The ruling could 
allow Bee County to set his 4th execution date in the last 2 years.


Robert Pruett, 37, has consistently maintained his innocence in the murder of 
Daniel Nagle, and for the last several years, has worked to have DNA testing 
prove his innocence. But the trial court has twice tested DNA evidence in the 
case and twice found inconclusive results, ruling that the tests wouldn't have 
had any effect on his conviction and sentence had they been available during 
his 2002 trial, according to Wednesday's Court of Criminal Appeals opinion.


Pruett was serving a life sentence for murder in Beeville when Nagle was 
murdered in December 1999, according to court records. Nagle was found stabbed, 
unresponsive in a pool of his own blood next to a sharpened metal rod and a 
shredded disciplinary report Nagle filed against Pruett. Pruett says he was 
framed for the murder, that he threw the report at Nagle but didn't hurt him.


A Bee County jury sentenced Pruett to death in 2002 for 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., MD., N.C., FLA., ALA., LA.

2017-04-05 Thread Rick Halperin





April 5



TEXAS:

Dallas County district attorney's office to show mercy to 'lost souls'


The new Dallas County district attorney and her first assistant view the people 
who go through the criminal court system as "lost souls or monsters."


Faith Johnson says her job as district attorney doesn't always call for 
toughness; sometimes justice requires mercy.


"We're compassionate where compassion is needed. We're merciful when mercy is 
needed," she said Tuesday night at a community forum at Concord Church in Red 
Bird.


It was the 1st of what Johnson says will be a quarterly forum to answer 
questions and explain how the local criminal justice system works.


Johnson, a Republican and former judge, was appointed in December by Gov. Greg 
Abbott to replace Susan Hawk, who resigned in September to focus on her mental 
health.


Johnson, the 1st black woman to become Dallas County district attorney, has 
said she plans to run for the office when her term expires next year.


In her first 90 days in office, she has attended more than 140 community events 
and meetings. She regularly takes her prosecutors to lunch to get to know them 
and their work. She is often first to the office and last to leave.


"I have been getting only 4 hours sleep so I can restore the relationship 
between the community and the DA's office," Johnson said.


Her top priority has been to facilitate an expungement program to clear some 
criminal records. The crimes must be non-violent and meet other requirements.


And for the people whose crimes can't be erased, Johnson wants to help them 
clear their public criminal records so they don't have trouble getting a job or 
qualifying for housing.


"We want them to get a job," she said. "Share the load of the taxes."

She said those efforts are part of being just. It's the same reason she says 
she wants to boost the DA's office conviction integrity unit, the group that 
has overseen the reversal of wrongful convictions.


And when asked about her approach to the death penalty, Johnson said it's her 
job to abide the law, and execution is legal in Texas.


But, she said, Dallas County prosecutors will pursue the death penalty only 
when they are "darn sure that that's what we need to do."


She said that's part of her oath: to uphold the law for everyone.

"I'm going to do what's right by you. I don't care who you are. You could be 
black, white, purple, green," Johnson said. "You could be rich, poor. You could 
live in North Dallas, south, east, west. I got you. I got you. I'm here for 
you."


First Assistant District Attorney Mike Snipes called Johnson the "real deal" 
and said she has a compassionate approach to the job.


"We're going to take care of the lost souls. We're going to try to rehabilitate 
them. We're going to try to reintegrate them into society," he said.


As for the monsters: "The judge and I are coming after them."

(source: Dallas Morning News)






PENNSYLVANIA:

Remove restrictions on Pa. death penalty


We are still in limbo regarding the death penalty in Pennsylvania, and there is 
absolutely no light at the end of the tunnel. I would request that Gov. Wolf 
reinstate the death penalty and, if at some time in the future they decide to 
make some changes in the law to address it at that time.


The Eric Frein trial has started. This man, according to authorities, killed a 
state trooper in cold blood and wounded another trooper. He caused disruptions 
in the state for over a month, which cost taxpayers millions and took a huge 
toll on businesses. His actions caused fear in the public and affected schools 
and other public services.


This is a man who, if convicted, deserves death, and our governor would need to 
make sure Frein's death is not delayed one second due to some perceived issue 
with our existing law and death penalty procedures.


John Reilly

North Whitehall Township

(source: Letter to the Editor, Morning Call)






MARYLAND:

Revisiting the death penalty in Maryland is a bad idea


On Wednesday, March 22, The Frederick News-Post???s daily online poll asked 
readers' opinions on the death penalty. I presume that it was in response to 
the Feb. 6 introduction of House Bill 881 calling for the death penalty in 
1st-degree murder cases where the victim is a law enforcement officer, 
correctional officer or first responder.


Maryland's death penalty was repealed in May 2013 in favor of life imprisonment 
without the possibility of parole.


Given people's inclination to respond to issues emotionally and not always 
rationally, the desire by some to reinstitute the death penalty is 
understandable. Though understandable, it is misguided and not based on 
rational thought, data or sound social science research.


I was a proponent of the death penalty for most of my adult life. In more than 
a few incidents, as a police officer, I was upset when the killer of a law 
enforcement officer was captured alive and then ineligible for the death 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., GA., FLA.

2017-04-04 Thread Rick Halperin





April 4



TEXAS:

Supreme Court Will Take up 3rd Harris County Death Penalty Case This Year


After recently ruling in favor of 2 Harris County death row inmates, the U.S. 
Supreme Court is poised to take up yet another Houston death penalty case this 
year.


Carlos Ayestas was sentenced to death for his role in a 1995 home invasion, in 
which Ayestas and two others tied up a 67-year-old woman with duct tape and 
strangled her to death. His guilt is not at issue in the case - but his 
appellate attorneys argue that if the jury at his sentencing hearing had known 
he was schizophrenic and addicted to cocaine they would have decided against 
execution. Ayestas's original defense lawyers did not reveal this during the 
sentencing hearing. The only mitigating evidence they presented about Ayestas 
were 3 letters submitted by the Harris County Jail's English-as-a-2nd-language 
teacher, who said Ayestas was an attentive student.


The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to take up the case on the grounds of 
ineffective counsel, deciding whether the U.S. Fifth Circuit erred when it 
denied Ayestas additional resources to dig up evidence showing that his 
original lawyers failed him.


The justices denied to consider the case on one other basis Ayestas's attorneys 
put forth: that Harris County District Attorney's Office prosecutors sought to 
execute him based in part on his immigration status.


In 2014, Ayestas's appellate attorneys with the Texas Defender Service 
discovered an internal "Capital Murder Summary" memo never shared with 
Ayestas's trial defense counsel. In the memo, prosecutor Kelly Seigler lists 2 
"aggravating circumstances" that support sentencing Ayestas to death. One was 
the brutal nature of the senior citizen's murder. The other was the fact that 
Ayestas was not a U.S. citizen. He was an undocumented immigrant from Honduras.


As the Texas Attorney General's Office noted in its brief opposing Ayestas's 
appeal, someone later crossed out that second immigration-status reason, and it 
was never presented to the jury. The Supreme Court justices did not explain why 
they would not consider whether the U.S. Fifth Circuit erred when it declined 
to hear out Ayestas's claims that prosecutors sought his execution for 
discriminatory reasons. The Fifth Circuit's basis for declining that argument 
last March was that Ayestas's defense counsel didn't try hard enough to 
discover the Capital Murder Summary memo until more than a decade after his 
trial - reasoning the Texas Defender Service argued was flawed in its Supreme 
Court writ.


"Mr. Ayestas's case is about the right to be fairly charged and defended," his 
attorneys, Lee Kovarsky and Callie Heller, said in a statement. "From the 
charging decision through the federal habeas process, Mr. Ayestas has been 
denied his constitutional right to nondiscriminatory treatment and effective 
representation; these are rights to which all criminal defendants, especially 
those facing a death sentence, are entitled."


This is the 3rd time this year that a Harris County death penalty case is in 
the Supreme Court spotlight. Last week, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of 
Houston death-row inmate Bobby Moore, whose attorneys have maintained that he 
is mentally disabled and should not be executed. The court ruled that Texas's 
method of determining whether death-row inmates are mentally disabled, which is 
sometimes likened to the "Lennie test," a reference to the John Steinbeck novel 
Of Mice and Men, is invalid. And in February, justices ruled in favor of Duane 
Buck. At his sentencing hearing, an expert witness called by Buck's own 
attorney suggested on the stand that because Buck is black, he posed a greater 
"future danger." The court ruled Buck is entitled to a new hearing.


In the Texas Defender Service's brief submitted to the Supreme Court in support 
of Ayestas, they began by quoting Chief Justice John Roberts's opinion in the 
Buck case: "[T]his is a disturbing departure from a basic premise of our 
criminal justice system: Our law punishes people for what they do, not who they 
are."


(source: Houston Press)



Supreme Court to hear another Texas death penalty caseThe U.S. Supreme 
Court agreed Monday to hear the Texas death penalty case of a Honduran national 
who was convicted for his role in a 1995 murder of 67-year-old Santiaga Paneque 
during a Houston home invasion.



The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear the Texas death penalty case of a 
Honduran national who is arguing that a federal appeals court wrongly denied 
him resources to investigate and provide evidence of substance abuse and mental 
illness.


Advocates for Carlos Ayestas believe that if a jury had heard he had a history 
of cocaine addiction and mental illness, they may not have sentenced him to 
death for his role in a 1995 murder of 67-year-old Santiaga Paneque during a 
Houston home invasion. State officials have dismissed such 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, DEL., FLA., ARK., NEV., USA

2017-04-03 Thread Rick Halperin





April 3




TEXAS:

Texas House to hear 2 death penalty bills today


2 death penalty bills will be heard in committee Monday April 3, 2017 at the 
Texas House of Representatives in Austin, TX.


The 1st one is House Bill 3054 by Herrero (D-Robstown). Herrero is presenting a 
revision in jury instructions in death penalty cases to inform hold-out jurors 
of the effect of their holding out.


Also up for debate is House Bill 3080 by Rose (D-Dallas) which would create 
procedures to exclude persons with "severe mental illness" from the death 
penalty.


In light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Moore v. Texas, the 
discussion on the latter bill could be very interesting. The Moore opinion 
concerned the intellectual disability (formerly known as mental retardation) of 
an individual, not mental illness. HB 3080 could turn into a forum for 
addressing Moore - even though Moore does not need legislation to be 
implemented statewide.


(source: eparisextra.com)






DELAWARE:

Bill aims to amend death penalty statuteUnanimous jury would determine 
capital punishment



Legislators are proposing changes to Delaware law that would require a jury to 
unanimously agree before a person is sentenced to death.


Under the Extreme Crimes Protection Act, a jury - not a judge - would decide 
whether a defendant is sentenced to death.


In August, Delaware Supreme Court ruled Delaware's death penalty law violates a 
person's constitutional right to a jury as outlined in the U.S. Constitution's 
Sixth amendment by allowing a judge to decide whether a defendant receives a 
death sentence. Since then, Delaware's death penalty has been on hold, and 
sentences for 12 men on death row were reduced to life in prison.


The proposed amendments would require that a jury unanimously find that an 
aggravating factor or factors exist making a person eligible for a death 
sentence, and that those factors outweigh all mitigating factors. As written 
now, a jury recommends to a judge whether aggravating factors exceed mitigating 
factors. The jury's decision does not have to be unanimous.


Current law gives a judge the final say on the death sentence. A judge may 
sentence a defendant to death even if a jury is not unanimous on a death 
sentence or recommends life in prison.


The proposed legislation ends a judge's ability to issue a death penalty 
against a jury's decision. However, it allows a judge to give a lesser sentence 
even if a jury votes for a death sentence, said Rep. Steve Smyk, R-Milton, a 
prime sponsor of the bill.


"The judge can dial it down, but if a jury says life in prison, that's the 
system. That's what we go by, and we should accept that," Smyk said.


As another protection for a defendant in a death penalty case, the proposed 
legislation would allow a jury to consider mitigating factors presented by the 
defense, even if they have not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.


Still, Kathleen MacRea, executive director of the American Civil Liberties 
Union of Delaware, said her group will not support the Extreme Crimes 
Protection Act or the changes it espouses.


"The death penalty is not a deterrent to crime. It doesn't keep people safe. 

From a policy perspective, it risks convicting innocent people," she said.


The ACLU was a strong proponent of legislation proposed in 2015 to repeal 
Delaware's death penalty. That legislation had the support of then-Gov. Jack 
Markell and dozens of lawmakers, but the bill failed in a January 2016 vote. It 
has not been reintroduced.


MacRea said the ACLU intends to rally similar opposition against the Extreme 
Crimes Protection Act.


"We'll definitely testify against it," she said. "The bottom line is the death 
penalty system is a biased system."


Smyk said he expected groups opposed to the death penalty to be against any 
measure that could bring back the death penalty. However, he said, there has 
been a slight shift in favor of it since the Feb. 1 prison siege at James T. 
Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna.


"I don't support a death penalty, but I support the victims of crime," Smyk 
said. "Without a death penalty, you'll unleash more people of the caliber that 
took the life of Steven Floyd. And that's a reality."


Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, said he continues to support repealing the death 
penalty, but he would consider the statute changes and give the bill a thorough 
review.


"I'm still in support of the repeal. But if there is any piece of legislation 
that brings greater clarity to the code, I've typically been in support of it 
as long as it's balanced and fair," Lopez said. "I will definitely keep an open 
mind."


Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, did not return 
calls for comment.


"It has to be a united effort," Smyk said. "Many people are going to have to 
talk about it to get it done right."


The bill continues to be circulated for more sponsors at Legislative Hall, and 
it is expected to 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., GA., OHIO, ARK., OKLA., CALIF.

2017-04-02 Thread Rick Halperin





April 2



TEXAS:

Smith County judges eye pay increase for court-appointed attorneys in capital 
murder death penalty cases



The dwindling number of Smith County defense attorneys who are willing to take 
on capital murder death penalty cases for indigent defendants has prompted 
local district court judges to consider raising the hourly compensation.


During a recent meeting of the Smith County Council of Judges, Judge Jack Skeen 
Jr. with the 241st District Court said he believes the number of local 
attorneys on the list is down because the compensation is not sufficient to 
take the attorneys away from their regular practice and to make up for the 
stress they are going to incur while working the case.


In addition, he said, the hourly rate is insufficient to compensate them for 
their expertise.


"I just think it's time for us to look at it," he said.

The issue has come into play recently with Judge Christi Kennedy of the 114th 
District Court having to hire 3 out-of-county attorneys to represent defendants 
in a case in her court.


In another example, criminal defense attorney Jeff Haas, who is representing 
Gustavo Zavala-Garcia in a capital murder case, said he had been unable to find 
a 2nd-chair attorney for the case and believed the compensation rates were part 
of the problem.


Another part of the problem comes down to the circumstances after a conviction, 
he said.


Because of the mandatory appeals, the case isn't over when there is a 
conviction, and some attorneys don't want to be as tied up as long as they are 
when they do this type of case.


The fee schedule as outlined by an October 2001 local order calls for lead, or 
first chair, attorneys in capital cases, in which the state seeks the death 
penalty, to be paid $80 per hour for out-of-court time and $100 per hour for 
in-court time.


Co-counsel, or 2nd-chair attorneys, receive a rate of $50 per hour for 
out-of-court time and $60 per hour for in-court time.


The order goes on to say the lead counsel shall not receive more than $40,000 
in attorney fees for a capital murder death penalty case. Co-counsel shall 
receive no more than $22,500 in the same situation, according to the order.


That said, the order allows for the district court judges to increase or 
decrease the fees as they deem necessary.


"Total compensation ... shall be determined by the judge upon the circumstances 
and complexity of each case," the order reads.


When the local attorneys on the approved list are taken, the district court 
judges have to look for and hire out-of-county counsel, which often means 
paying more because of hotel stays, mileage and meals.


Though these rates may make many professionals envious, the amount of time, 
energy and stress involved in these cases is difficult to match.


"When you're the defendant's lawyer in a capital case, you stand between the 
defendant and death," said criminal defense attorney Buck Files of Tyler who 
has represented 9 defendants in 11 capital cases. "It is the most stressful 
challenge I believe any lawyer can ever have."


Because of the gravity of these cases, the time investment is huge. An attorney 
puts aside everything else to try to take care of the client, Files said.


Working on one of these cases essentially means an attorney focuses exclusively 
on this case. In addition, a capital murder case is not over when a guilty 
verdict is announced and a sentence read.


There are mandatory appeals, and although different attorneys are appointed to 
represent a defendant on appeal, the original attorneys often find themselves 
having to defend their work on the trial for years if their former client 
claims "ineffective assistance of counsel," which they typically do, in 
post-conviction proceedings.


So, in committing to represent a defendant in a capital murder death penalty 
case, the attorney is committing for the long haul.


Files said it is not uncommon for expert witnesses to receive much more than 
defense lawyers get in a case. He said in a case in which a partner in his firm 
served as defense attorney, the investigator and mitigation specialist got paid 
more than he did.


"(The) problem from my perspective in a capital murder case (is) the only 
people who are asked to sacrifice, other than jurors ... are criminal defense 
lawyers," Files said. "Everyone else gets to draw their standard rate."


The fee schedules for court-appointed attorneys in these types of cases vary 
statewide, Files said, adding that, to be fair, he has seen Smith County judges 
pay more in some cases.


For Haas, though, it comes down to a personal conviction as to why he is 
willing to represent indigent defendants charged with capital murder.


"I have a responsibility to the judicial system to do these cases," he said.

After discussing the issues of compensation rates, the judges ultimately 
decided to table it. Though they had some proposed rates for 1st- and 2nd-chair 
attorneys, they had 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., GA., FLA., LA., OHIO

2017-04-01 Thread Rick Halperin





April 1



TEXAS:

As execution looms, juror in Hurst Putt-Putt murder hopes to change law


When Sven Berger looked around at the other jurors in the deliberation room 
during a 2008 capital murder trial, he knew that the majority wanted the death 
penalty. He also knew he didn't.


But he voted for it anyway. It's a decision he still regrets, and one he says 
he wouldn't have made if the law had been clearly explained in that Tarrant 
County courtroom.


He'd sat in the courtroom and listened to how Paul Storey, the 22-year-old 
defendant in an ill-fitting suit, and another man had robbed Putt-Putt in Hurst 
and fatally shot the assistant manager, 28-ear-old Jonas Cherry. Berger knew 
Storey was guilty, he said in a recent Texas Tribune interview, but in his gut, 
he didn't believe the man would be a future danger to society, a requirement in 
issuing the death penalty in Texas.


What Berger didn't realize - in part because of the language in the jury 
instructions - was that his vote alone could have blocked the jury from handing 
down a death sentence and given Storey life in prison without the possibility 
of parole.


Thinking that he'd have to convince most of his fellow jurors to spare Storey 
from execution, he didn't fight as the jury deliberated, Berger said. When the 
life-or-death questions went around the table, he answered like everyone else.


Now, with Storey's execution set for April 12, Berger and at least 2 state 
lawmakers are hoping to change jury instructions in death penalty cases.


"The judge instructed us that any vote that would impose a life sentence would 
require a consensus of 10 or more jurors," Berger wrote in a letter to the 
Senate Criminal Justice Committee last week. "With the vast majority of the 
other jurors in the room ... voicing their vote for death, I seriously doubted 
I could persuade 1, let alone 9 other jurors, to vote to incarcerate Mr. Storey 
for the remainder of his life, and I switched my vote."


'I was shocked'

To hand down a death sentence in Texas, the jury's decision must be unanimous. 
If even 1 juror disagrees, the trial automatically results in a sentence of 
life without parole. But the jury instructions don't say that, and, under state 
law, no judge or lawyer can tell jurors that either.


Instead, deliberations in a trial's sentencing phase focus not on death versus 
life, but on 3 specific questions the jury must answer: is the defendant likely 
to be a future danger to society? If the defendant wasn't the actual killer, 
did he or she intend to kill someone or anticipate death? And, if the answer is 
yes to the previous questions, is there any mitigating evidence - like an 
intellectual disability - that the jury thinks warrants the lesser sentence of 
life without parole?


To issue a death sentence, the jury must unanimously answer "yes" to the first 
2 questions and "no" to the last question. But, the instructions state, to 
answer "no" to the first 2 questions or "yes" to the last, 10 or more jurors 
must agree.


What those complicated instructions don't say is that a single juror can 
deadlock the jury on any of the 3 questions, eliminating death as an option and 
triggering an automatic life without parole sentence.


Berger didn't get the distinction.

"I'm appalled that Texas' capital jury instructions misled jurors about the 
implications of their vote, and find it unconscionable that men and women like 
me, with the power of life and death, are told that they must act only as a 
single group, and that their individual voice doesn't matter," Berger wrote in 
his letter.


He's not the only one upset. Democratic Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. of Brownsville 
and Rep. Abel Herrero of Robstown filed bills in the Texas Legislature to 
strike the language that says ten or more jurors must agree to answer against 
the death penalty, and also remove a sentence that bars judges or lawyers from 
telling jurors what their votes mean. And Republican Rep. John Smithee, of 
Amarillo, has since signed on to Herrero's bill as a co-author. Senate Bill 
1616 and House Bill 3054 have both been referred to committee.


"I was shocked to learn that the instructions in place actually lie to jurors 
who are tasked with quite literally making a life or death decision," Lucio 
told the Tribune, saying religious advocates first informed him of the current 
jury instructions.


'A guessing game'

The bills might not make much headway in a Republican-dominated legislature 
that tends to avoid anything that could affect the death penalty. Though no 
opposition has come forward yet (neither bill has even been granted a hearing), 
prosecutors would likely fight it if it gained traction.


"In a death penalty case, the jury's job in sentencing is to answer the special 
questions required by the law, not decide the ultimate sentence. This bill 
informs them of the effect of their vote and basically encourages any hold-out 
jurors to try to hang the jury on 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, GA., FLA., ALA., TENN., ARK.

2017-03-31 Thread Rick Halperin





March 31



TEXAS:

Texas Executions May Slow Down, But Won't Stop


Texas executes more people than any state, but a U.S. Supreme Court ruling this 
week that spared the life of a mentally disabled Texan and proposed legal 
reforms are forcing it to confront its fondness for capital punishment.


Under the Texas law of parties each person involved in a crime can be charged 
and convicted for it, no matter if they were an accomplice or the perpetrator.


The law came up in the capital murder trial of Erica Yvonne Sheppard, who was 
sentenced to death in March 1995. The jury heard evidence that Sheppard, then 
19, and co-defendant James Dickerson, snuck inside Marilyn Sage Meagher's 
apartment in June 1993, intending to steal Meagher's car keys.


Meagher refused to give up the keys and Dickerson told Sheppard to find a 
butcher knife. She did, and held Meagher down while Dickerson cut her 5 times, 
then bashed her with a 10-pound statue.


Trying to get her sentence reduced to life in prison, Sheppard, now 43, argued 
in a federal habeas petition that her trial attorney erred by not objecting 
when the judge, in explaining the law of parties, incorrectly told jurors that 
a bank robber and getaway driver would both be guilty of robbery and each 
should get the same punishment.


U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas agreed in a March 29 order denying Sheppard's 
habeas petition that Sheppard's trial judge got it wrong.


Atlas cited Earl Enmund v. Florida, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 
1982 that the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment did 
not permit the death penalty for Enmund because he was the getaway driver for 2 
people who robbed and murdered an elderly couple, but he did not kill nor 
intend to kill the couple.


But Atlas found Sheppard's culpability sufficient to hold her responsible for 
the murder, even if the trial judge misled the jury.


"The evidence establishes that Sheppard was an active, not merely peripheral, 
participant in the robbery and murder. Therefore, the trial court's erroneous 
statement as to punishment on the law of parties was not relevant to Sheppard," 
Atlas wrote.


Texas State Reps. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, and Harold Dutton Jr., D-Houston, 
have introduced legislation that would change the law of parties, banning 
prosecutors from pursuing the death penalty for accomplices in capital felony 
cases who were not directly involved in the crime.


A bill proposed by state Rep. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, would undo another 
capital punishment law that favors prosecutors.


In Texas death penalty cases, a jury must answer 3 questions: Is the defendant 
a continuing threat to society? If the defendant was not the actual killer, did 
he or she intend to kill someone or anticipate death? Is there mitigating 
evidence in their background, character, or in the circumstances of the crime, 
sufficient to spare their life?


To sentence a defendant to death, a jury must unanimously answer yes to the 
future threat and intent to kill questions and no to the mitigating evidence 
question.


State law also says that 10 or more jurors must agree to answer the special 
questions in the defendant's favor to give them a life sentence.


Critics say that text is misleading at best, at worst a flat-out lie, because 
defendants must be given a life sentence if 1 juror decides they don't deserve 
to be executed, but there's a catch: Judges and attorneys can't tell jurors 
that under state law.


Lucio's SB 1065 would benefit defense attorneys because it would remove the bar 
against judges and attorneys telling jurors that one of them can prevent a 
death penalty, and nix the de facto rule that 10 or more jurors have to agree 
on 1 of the 2 special questions to recommend a life sentence.


Lucio told the Texas Tribune he filed the bill after religious groups told him 
about the mandatory jury instructions.


"I was shocked to learn that the instructions in place actually lie to jurors 
who are tasked with quite literally making a life or death decision," Lucio 
told the Tribune.


The U.S. Supreme Court undercut Texas' willingness to execute mentally 
deficient prisoners this week when it blocked the execution of Bobby James 
Moore, a 57-year-old African-American, who has been on death row since his July 
1980 sentence for fatally shooting a grocery store clerk with a shotgun during 
a botched robbery in April that year.


Experts have testified that at age 13, Moore could not differentiate the days 
of the week, tell time or understand that addition is the opposite of 
subtraction.


The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld Moore's death penalty, ruling that 
habeas cases need only consider rules it adopted in 2004 to guide lower courts 
in assessing intellectual disability.


The Briseno factors, named for plaintiff Jose Briseno, ask seven questions, 
most notably: "Can the person hide facts or lie effectively in his own or 
others' interests?" and 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., DEL., FLA., ARK.

2017-03-29 Thread Rick Halperin




March 29



TEXAS:

Texas Must Broaden Death-Penalty Exemption, High Court Says


A divided U.S. Supreme Court said Texas must broaden its death-penalty 
exemption for people who are intellectually disabled, ruling that the state was 
violating the Constitution by using outdated medical standards.


The 5-3 ruling could mean a new sentencing hearing for Bobby James Moore, 57, 
who was convicted of fatally shooting James McCarble during a 1980 grocery 
store robbery in Houston.


Writing for the majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that, while states 
have some flexibility to determine who's ineligible for the death penalty, they 
can't completely disregard current medical standards. The case divided the 
court along ideological lines, with Justice Anthony Kennedy joining the court's 
liberal wing in the majority.


"Texas cannot satisfactorily explain why it applies current medical standards 
for diagnosing intellectual disability in other contexts, yet clings to 
superseded standards when an individual's life is at stake," Ginsburg wrote for 
the majority.


The Supreme Court barred the execution of intellectually disabled people in 
2002 as violating the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishments. To a 
large degree, however, the court left it to the states to determine who 
qualifies for that exemption.


Texas is one of the nation's top death-penalty states, with 239 people on death 
row, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website.


In upholding Moore's death sentence, Texas's top criminal appeals court said 
the state could continue to use a 1992 definition of intellectual disability as 
part of a multi-factor test for determining eligibility for capital punishment.


The state court also said it stood by a 2004 ruling that used Lennie Small, a 
mentally challenged character in John Steinbeck's novel "Of Mice and Men," as 
an example of someone who might be exempt from the death penalty.


Ginsburg called that test an "outlier," saying that only 2 other state courts 
had adopted anything similar.


In dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts said the high court had overstepped its 
authority.


"Clinicians, not judges, should determine clinical standards," Roberts wrote 
for himself and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, "and judges, not 
clinicians, should determine the content of the Eighth Amendment."


(source: bloombergquint.com)

**

Texas Used Wrong Standard in Death Penalty Cases, Justices RuleThe case 
concerned Bobby J. Moore, who has been on death row in Texas since 1980 for 
fatally shooting a Houston supermarket clerk during a robbery.



The Supreme Court on Tuesday continued a trend toward limiting capital 
punishment, rejecting Texas' approach to deciding which intellectually disabled 
people must be spared the death penalty.


Writing for the majority in the 5-to-3 decision, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg 
said Texas had failed to keep up with current medical consensus, relied too 
heavily on I.Q. scores and took account of factors rooted in stereotypes.


"Texas cannot satisfactorily explain why it applies current medical standards 
for diagnosing intellectual disability in other contexts, yet clings to 
superseded standards when an individual's life is at stake," Justice Ginsburg 
wrote. She was joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia 
Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.


The case was the latest in a series of decisions refining the court's 2002 
decision in Atkins v. Virginia, which barred the execution of the 
intellectually disabled as a violation of the Eighth Amendment???s ban on cruel 
and unusual punishment. The Atkins decision gave states substantial discretion 
to decide just who was, in the language of the day, "mentally retarded."


But the decision did set out a general framework. It said a finding of 
intellectual disability required proof of 3 things: "subaverage intellectual 
functioning," meaning low I.Q. scores; a lack of fundamental social and 
practical skills; and the presence of both conditions before age 18. The court 
said I.Q. scores under "approximately 70" typically indicated disability.


The case before the court on Tuesday concerned Bobby J. Moore, who has been on 
death row since 1980 for fatally shooting a 72-year-old Houston supermarket 
clerk, James McCarble, during a robbery.


Justice Ginsburg wrote that Mr. Moore's I.Q. was in the range of 69 to 79, 
meaning that other factors had to be considered. In dissent, Chief Justice John 
G. Roberts Jr. wrote that only 2 I.Q. scores had been found reliable, of 78 and 
74.


"The court's ruling on intellectual functioning turns solely on the fact that 
Moore's I.Q. range was 69 to 79 rather than 70 to 80," Chief Justice Roberts 
wrote.


The reliable scores were enough, he said, to decide the case and to allow Mr. 
Moore's execution.


Justice Ginsburg said the courts have more work to do when I.Q. scores are 
close to the line. For 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS

2017-03-28 Thread Rick Halperin




March 28



TEXAS:

Justices side with Texas death row inmate who argued intellectual disability


The Supreme Court on Tuesday sided with a Texas man on death row who argued he 
was mentally disabled and could not be executed.


In a 5-3 ruling, the court said the state's definition and standards for 
assessing intellectual disability "create an unacceptable risk that persons 
with intellectual disability will be executed."


Those standards, known as the Briseno factors, take into account whether 
neighbors, teachers and friends think the person is intellectually disabled, 
makes plans or was impulsive, is a leader or a follower, responds in a rational 
way to situations, respond coherently to oral or written questions and can hide 
facts or lie to others in their own interest.


In delivering the opinion of the court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said 
adjudications of intellectual disability should be informed by the views of 
medical experts.


"Texas cannot satisfactorily explain why it applies current medical standards 
for diagnosing intellectual disability in other contexts, yet clings to 
superseded standards when an individual's life is at stake," she wrote in the 
majority opinion, which Justices Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer, Sonia 
Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined.


The case centered on Bobby James Moore, who was convicted of capital murder and 
sentenced to death for fatally shooting a store clerk during a botched robbery 
that occurred when Moore was 20 years old.


Evidence at his trial showed that he had significant mental and social 
difficulties beginning at an early age. At 13, he lacked basic understanding of 
the days of the week, the months of the year and the seasons. He could hardly 
tell time or understand the basic principle that subtraction is the reverse of 
addition.


The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA), however, said Moore had failed to 
prove significantly sub-average intellectual functioning with an IQ score of 
74.


Ginsburg said, however, that when an IQ score is close to, but above, 70, court 
precedent requires courts to account for the test's "standard error of 
measurement" and consider a defendant's adaptive functioning.


She said the court also deviated from prevailing clinical standards in 
considering his adaptive functioning.


Chief Justice John Roberts filed a dissenting opinion that Justices Samuel 
Alito and Clarence Thomas joined.


Roberts said he agrees that the state used unacceptable standards to analyze 
Moore's adaptive deficits, but disagreed that it erred in analyzing Moore's 
intellectual functioning.


"The Court overturns the CCA's conclusion that Moore failed to present 
sufficient evidence of both inadequate intellectual functioning and significant 
deficits in adaptive behavior without even considering 'objective indicia of 
society's standards' reflected in the practices among the states," he wrote.


"The Court instead crafts a constitutional holding based solely on what it 
deems to be medical consensus about intellectual disability."


(source: thehill.com)

___
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu

DeathPenalty mailing list
DeathPenalty@lists.washlaw.edu
http://lists.washlaw.edu/mailman/listinfo/deathpenalty
Unsubscribe: http://lists.washlaw.edu/mailman/options/deathpenalty


[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, DEL., FLA., ARK.

2017-03-28 Thread Rick Halperin





March 28



TEXASimpending execution

Texas death penalty juror hopes to change law as execution loomsAs Paul 
Storey's execution looms, 1 juror is asking the Texas Legislature to clarify 
the jury instructions in death penalty cases, claiming he didn't know he alone 
could have stopped the sentence.



When Sven Berger looked around at the other jurors in the deliberation room 
during a 2008 capital murder trial, he knew that the majority wanted the death 
penalty. He also knew he didn't.


But he voted for it anyway. It's a decision he still regrets, and one he says 
he wouldn't have made if the law had been clearly explained in that Tarrant 
County courtroom.


He'd sat in the courtroom and listened to how Paul Storey, the 22-year-old 
defendant in an ill-fitting suit, and another man had robbed a miniature golf 
park near Fort Worth and fatally shot the assistant manager, 28-year-old Jonas 
Cherry. Berger knew Storey was guilty, he said in a recent Texas Tribune 
interview, but in his gut, he didn't believe the man would be a future danger 
to society, a requirement in issuing the death penalty in Texas.


What Berger didn't realize - in part because of the language in the jury 
instructions - was that his vote alone could have blocked the jury from handing 
down a death sentence and given Storey life in prison without the possibility 
of parole.


Thinking that he'd have to convince most of his fellow jurors to spare Storey 
from execution, he didn't fight as the jury deliberated, Berger said. When the 
life-or-death questions went around the table, he answered like everyone else.


Now, with Storey's execution set for April 12, Berger and two state lawmakers 
are hoping to change jury instructions in death penalty cases.


"The judge instructed us that any vote that would impose a life sentence would 
require a consensus of 10 or more jurors," Berger wrote in a letter to the 
Senate Criminal Justice Committee last week. "With the vast majority of the 
other jurors in the room ... voicing their vote for death, I seriously doubted 
I could persuade 1, let alone 9 other jurors, to vote to incarcerate Mr. Storey 
for the remainder of his life, and I switched my vote."


To hand down a death sentence in Texas, the jury's decision must be unanimous. 
If even 1 juror disagrees, the trial automatically results in a sentence of 
life without parole. But the jury instructions don't say that, and, under state 
law, no judge or lawyer can tell jurors that either.


Instead, deliberations in a trial's sentencing phase (after the jury has issued 
a conviction) focus not on death versus life, but on 3 specific questions the 
jury must answer: is the defendant likely to be a future danger to society? If 
the defendant wasn't the actual killer, did he or she intend to kill someone or 
anticipate death? And, if the answer is yes to the previous questions, is there 
any mitigating evidence - like an intellectual disability - that the jury 
thinks warrants the lesser sentence of life without parole?


To issue a death sentence, the jury must unanimously answer "yes" to the 1st 2 
questions and "no" to the last question. But, the instructions state, to answer 
"no" to the 1st 2 questions or "yes" to the last, 10 or more jurors must agree.


What those complicated instructions don't say is that a single juror can 
deadlock the jury on any of the 3 questions, eliminating death as an option and 
triggering an automatic life without parole sentence.


Berger didn't get the distinction.

"I'm appalled that Texas' capital jury instructions misled jurors about the 
implications of their vote, and find it unconscionable that men and women like 
me, with the power of life and death, are told that they must act only as a 
single group, and that their individual voice doesn't matter," Berger wrote in 
his letter.


He's not the only one upset. Democrats Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., of Brownsville, 
and Rep. Abel Herrero, of Robstown, have filed bills in the Texas Legislature 
to strike the language that says 10 or more jurors must agree to answer against 
the death penalty, and also remove a sentence that bars judges or lawyers from 
telling jurors what their votes mean. Senate Bill 1616 and House Bill 3054 have 
both been referred to committee.


"I was shocked to learn that the instructions in place actually lie to jurors 
who are tasked with quite literally making a life or death decision," Lucio 
told the Tribune, saying religious advocates first informed him of the current 
jury instructions.


The bills might not make much headway in a Republican-dominated legislature 
that tends to avoid anything that could affect the death penalty. Though no 
opposition has come forward yet (neither bill has even been granted a hearing), 
prosecutors would likely fight it if it gained traction.


"In a death penalty case, the jury's job in sentencing is to answer the special 
questions required by the law, not decide the ultimate 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., FLA., ARK., USA

2017-03-25 Thread Rick Halperin





March 25



TEXASimpending execution

Hurst parents make video plea to Abbott to spare their son's murdererGlenn 
and Judy Cherry are pleading that Governor Greg Abbott save the life of Paul 
Storey, one of the men who killed their son and was condemned to death.



What his jurors did not know after all the evidence was presented at his trial 
may have doomed death row inmate Paul Storey, according to a clemency petition 
filed Wednesday with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.


Storey, convicted in 2008 for the brutal execution-style murder of Jonas 
Cherry, is scheduled to die on April 12. Storey's lawyers, his family, and 
Cherry's parents are fighting to save Storey's life.


Cherry begged for his life during the crime, which took place about 8:45 a.m. 
Oct. 16, 2006. Storey and Mark Porter stood over Cherry, who pleaded: "Please! 
I gave you what you want. Don't hurt me!"


They refused and shot him twice in the head and twice in his legs. Cherry, who 
was approaching his 1st wedding anniversary, was pronounced dead at the scene.


Storey and Porter were convicted of capital murder, but only Storey got the 
death penalty. Porter got life without parole after making a deal with the 
Tarrant County district attorney's office.


If recent history is any guide, the chances that Storey's request for mercy 
will be granted are slim.


The reality is at this stage of the proceedings a clemency petition is just 
about the only thing a defendant can ask for. Mike Ware, Paul Storey's 
attorney.


The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has received 82 clemency applications in 
capital cases during the past 5 fiscal years and has recommended that none be 
granted. Neither Governor Rick Perry nor Greg Abbott have granted anyone 
clemency in a capital case during the past 5 fiscal years.


Texas also tends not to commute sentences for those convicted of crime. Out of 
the 551 commutation applications received during the past 5 fiscal years the 
board has recommended that 4 be granted and Abbott and Perry have granted none.


Perry and Abbott have not granted any emergency reprieves, conditional pardons, 
restorations of civil rights or pardons based on innocence during the past 5 
years, despite the hundreds of applications received by the board during that 
same time period.


The pardons board has recommended that only a few applications be considered 
during the past 5 fiscal years.


Despite the daunting statistics, Storey's advocates say they have hope that 
mercy will be granted in his case.


"Every case is unique and every case should be looked at that way," said Mike 
Ware, 1 of the attorneys representing Storey. "Hopefully we can persuade the 
board and the governor to look at this case as a unique case. The reality is at 
this stage of the proceedings a clemency petition is just about the only thing 
a defendant can ask for."


Storey's attorneys argue in his clemency petition that almost no one associated 
with his case wanted him to be executed. The Tarrant County District Attorney's 
Office offered Storey a life sentence which he refused and Glenn and Judy 
Cherry, the victim's parents, have made a video and sent a letter to state and 
local officials asking that his life be spared.


Storey's mother, Marilyn Shankle-Grant, said Storey told her that he would have 
had to admit to killing Cherry in order to be offered a life prison sentence 
and Storey maintained that he did not kill Cherry.


"Paul said he did not shoot Cherry in the head," Shankle-Grant said.

Misrepresentations

According to the petition, the views of Cherry's parents were misrepresented by 
prosecutors during the original trial.


The prosecution argued that all of Cherry's family and everyone who loved him 
believe that the death penalty is appropriate, the petition said. According to 
Storey's attorneys and advocates, that was not true then and that is not true 
now.


"Judith and Glenn Cherry did not want death for Mr. Storey," the petition 
states. "Unknown to the jury and contrary to the state's argument, they stood 
with the family members who pleaded for the jury to spare Mr. Storey's life."


Subsequent psychological testing also indicated that Storey was just barely 
functional intellectually.


A juror, Sven Berger, who deliberated on Storey's case, signed affidavits 
stating that had he known that the parents of the victim did not want Storey to 
receive the death penalty or had he known about Storey's diminished 
intellectual capacity, he would not have voted for the death penalty.


"I hope that everything works out for Paul," Berger said during an interview. 
"I felt kind of guilty. I still feel kind of guilty. The trial has never left 
my mind completely. And lately, I've thought about it a lot more."


(source: star-telegram.com)

***

2 jurors seated in Colone capital murder trial, but selection could take 
another month



Testimony is still a month away in the capital murder 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS

2017-03-24 Thread Rick Halperin






March 24



TEXAS:

The Trouble with InnocenceFor almost 40 years, Kerry Max Cook did 
everything to clear his name after being convicted of a horrifying murder in 
Tyler. So when he was finally exonerated, why did he ask for his conviction 
back?



June 6, 2016, convicted murderer Kerry Max Cook walked into a Tyler courtroom. 
The 60-year-old was dressed in black, his silver hair trimmed short. Cook's 
eyes, dark and nervous, shot around the wood-paneled chamber, which was filling 
rapidly. Local news reporters and a documentary-film crew from New York were 
setting up cameras and microphones. Cook caught sight of 3 men in the audience, 
men who had once been convicted criminals themselves: Billy Smith, Michael 
Morton, and A.B. Butler Jr. All 3, famously, had been proved innocent of their 
alleged crimes after serving a collective 60 years behind bars. They had come 
from miles away to attend this hearing, and Cook walked over to greet them. 
Smiling, the 3 stood to shake his hand. Morton clapped him on the shoulder.


Cook, who has a big, square face, smiled too. He had fought for almost 4 
decades to get to this moment. In 1978 a jury found him guilty of the murder of 
Linda Jo Edwards, a 22-year-old Tyler secretary whose body was discovered in 
her apartment bludgeoned and mutilated. The case confounded the city's 
investigators and prosecutors with its gruesomeness, and Cook became known as a 
monster and a deviant, the most notorious killer in Smith County. Over the 
years, the county's prosecutors had sought - 4 different times - to send Cook 
to death row.


But Cook had always claimed he was innocent, saying he'd had no motive to kill 
Edwards. Though his protests garnered little attention early on, eventually his 
case attracted a number of sympathizers and advocates, some who reexamined the 
evidence and others who represented him in court for his numerous appeals. Cook 
and his supporters had clashed fiercely with Smith County, making repeated 
headlines, and he had become a celebrity worldwide, an indelible symbol - at 
least outside Tyler - of the overreach of the Texas criminal justice system. 
His story was dramatized in both a play and a movie, and Cook grew into an 
anti-death penalty hero, accumulating thousands of friends and followers on 
Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter; 1 of his fans, Madonna, had recently posted a 
short video made by New York fashion photographer Steven Klein about Cook. 
"Join me and Steven Klein," she wrote, "in his long struggle to prove his 
innocence and clear his name."


Now, finally, Cook had been granted this hearing, to determine whether his 
conviction should be thrown out at last. Scanning the room, he recognized many 
of the players who had moved his case through the courts. Up front was Scott 
Howe, who had represented him in the eighties, sitting next to Paul Nugent, who 
had done so in the nineties. In the back was Nugent's adversary, David Dobbs, 
the prosecutor who, for 8 years, had tried relentlessly to have Cook executed. 
Also present was Jim McCloskey, an investigator for Cook whose research had led 
to an exhaustive report naming another man - Edwards's boyfriend - as her 
killer.


That man, James Mayfield, was in the courthouse too, waiting in a hallway for 
his turn to testify. 40 years earlier, Mayfield had been a brazen lothario, 
carrying on a 17-month affair with Edwards - who was 1/2 his age - under his 
wife's nose. On this day, though, the 82-year-old sat quietly, wearing a green 
T-shirt and spectacles, looking tired.


Cook took a seat at a table in front of the judge's dais, next to his lawyers, 
Gary Udashen, the president of the board of directors of the Innocence Project 
of Texas, and Nina Morrison, from the national Innocence Project. Across from 
them were the district attorney of Smith County, Matt Bingham, and 2 
assistants. The 6 sat in awkward silence as they waited for the judge to 
appear. Finally Cook whispered something to Morrison, putting his arm around 
her shoulder. She leaned in and whispered something back.


Moments later, at 9:30, Judge Jack Carter climbed into his seat, banged his 
gavel, and announced to the world what Cook and his lawyers already knew. 
Peering over the bench, the judge declared in a deep East Texas accent that, as 
of that morning, the state had agreed to recommend that Cook's conviction be 
set aside. He was, for all practical purposes, exonerated.


Quickly, Udashen, whose graying eyebrows and glasses give him an owlish look, 
rose from his seat and addressed the court. He and Bingham had struck a deal, 
he explained: in return for the prosecution's acknowledging that Cook's due 
process rights had been violated by the state's use of false testimony in 
earlier trials, the defense had agreed to relinquish 6 of its 8 claims, 
including several that alleged prosecutorial misconduct. The defense would 
still fight for Cook to be declared "actually innocent" of the murder, a 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., GA., FLA., ALA.

2017-03-22 Thread Rick Halperin






March 22



TEXAS:

Fill gaps in capital case trial lawyers


The shrinking list of lawyers qualified to handle the growing list of capital 
murder defendants in Bexar County does not bode well for the criminal justice 
system.


With 68 capital murder cases pending and only 11 lawyers living in the county 
who meet the minimum requirement to represent indigent defendants who might end 
up on death row, the likelihood is high that many of those cases will not be 
resolved soon.


Most defendants charged with capital murder are at the mercy of the criminal 
justice system for their legal defense. They generally lack the financial means 
to hire legal counsel or post bond.


That means those accused of capital murder in Bexar County will spend a long 
time in the local lockup awaiting their day in court. It also means a long wait 
for resolution by the families of the victims in those cases.


Usually, 2 lawyers are assigned to each capital murder case. Texas law requires 
those assigned as lead lawyers in capital murder cases to have spent 5 years 
doing criminal law work; have experience challenging mental health or forensics 
experts in court; and be skilled at presenting mitigating evidence to a jury.


The rules are well intentioned given the growing number of death row inmates 
across the country who have been exonerated. In Texas alone, 12 people have 
been released from death row since 1973.


The problems with the strict appointment guidelines is that they do not allow 
the assignment of former prosecutors who may have tried capital murder cases or 
former judges who may have presided over such cases.


Lawyers on the list of candidates qualified to handle capital murder cases in 
Bexar County are vetted by a local selection committee, but the group of 
veteran lawyers and jurists serving on it are strictly bound by the state 
regulations.


Attempts by the Bexar County judiciary to broaden the rules to allow former 
prosecutors and judges to qualify for the appointments have met with stiff 
opposition at the state level.


The issue needs to be addressed.

Burdening a small group with the defense of the most serious of felonies is a 
disservice to the lawyers and their clients.


The cases can be emotionally and physically grueling on the defense team. The 
sheer number of cases each lawyer is handling makes a strong case for an appeal 
based on ineffective assistance of counsel.


The shortage of lawyers to handle capital murder defense work is not unique to 
Bexar County. Express-News Staff Writer Bruce Selcraig reports that other 
jurisdictions are experiencing the same situation.


Establishing a public defenders office that would include lawyers who are 
experienced in capital murder defense is an expensive proposition. The same can 
be said for hiring defense lawyers from out of town to tackle the caseload.


The fee paid to court-appointed lawyers in capital murder cases is only $150 an 
hour for actual trial work, but the costs add up quickly for taxpayers footing 
the bill. If lawyers are brought in from out of town, there is the added cost 
for travel, lodging and meals.


The number of death sentences in Texas has been steadily declining since life 
without parole became a sentencing option. It has gone from 48 people sent to 
death row in 1999 to only 4 in 2016.


Lack of eligible lawyers to handle capital murders defense work could bring 
those numbers down further.


If that was the intent behind the strict rules on the criminal defense 
appointments, then let's be upfront about it and start a serious discussion on 
the future of the death penalty in Texas.


If not, the stressful workload piled on the few attorneys qualified to 
represent capital murder defendants needs to addressed.


It is simply unacceptable that defendants without financial means have limited 
access to defense lawyers in capital cases. The list of available attorneys 
needs to be broadened.


(source: Editorial Board, San Antonio Express-News)






VIRGINIAimpending execution

'Innocent on Death Row' event calls on McAuliffe to issue a stay of execution 
for man convicted of murder-for-hireIvan Teleguz execution date set for 
April 25



Over 200 students gathered in Clark 107 Monday to listen to attorney Elizabeth 
Peiffer make the case that Ivan Teleguz - a death row inmate convicted of 
hiring a man to murder his ex-girlfriend and who is set to be executed on April 
25 - is innocent.


"He was charged with hiring someone to murder the ex-girlfriend and mother of 
his child, Stephanie Sipe," Peiffer, a staff attorney at the Virginia Capital 
Representation Resource Center, said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily 
prior to the event. "After he was convicted a lot of evidence began to emerge 
that he was innocent of the murder."


The murder took place in July 2001 in Harrisonburg. Teleguz is alleged to have 
hired and driven 2 men - Edwin Gilkes and Michael Hetrick - from Lancaster, 
Penn. 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., FLA., ALA., TENN.

2017-03-21 Thread Rick Halperin






March 21



TEXASimpending execution

Parents of slain Hurst Putt-Putt manager seek to halt killer's executio


The parents of a man slain during a robbery in 2006 in Northeast Tarrant County 
have signed an affidavit calling on the state not to execute one of the killers 
next month.


Glenn and Judy Cherry, whose son Jonas Cherry was killed at Putt-Putt Golf and 
Games in Hurst where he was an assistant manager, wrote a letter to state and 
local authorities requesting that Paul Storey's death sentence be commuted to 
life without parole.


"Paul Storey's execution will not bring our son back, will not atone for the 
loss of our son and will not bring comfort or closure," the affidavit states. 
"We are satisfied that Paul Storey remaining in prison until his death will 
assure that he cannot murder another innocent person in the community, and with 
this outcome we are satisfied and convinced that lawful retribution is 
exercised concerning the death of our son."


Cherry's parents, who are opposed to the death penalty, addressed the letter to 
Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson, Gov. Greg Abbott, state 
District Judge Robb Catalano and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.


Glenn and Judy Cherry said they know how hard it is to lose a child and have no 
wish to see Storey's family suffer in a similar way.


"His family did not harm us and are innocent regarding our suffering," the 
letter states.


Jonas Cherry begged for his life during the crime, which took place about 8:45 
a.m. Oct. 16, 2006. Storey and Mike Porter stood over Jonas Cherry, who 
pleaded: "Please! I gave you what you want. Don't hurt me."


They refused and shot him twice in the head and twice in his legs. Cherry, who 
was approaching his 1st wedding anniversary, was pronounced dead at the scene.


Storey and Porter were convicted of capital murder, but only Storey got the 
death penalty. Porter got life without parole after making a deal with the 
Tarrant County district attorney's office.


Storey is scheduled to be executed April 12. On Monday afternoon, Storey's 
lawyers continued their efforts to persuade the state to spare his life. During 
a hearing, attorneys Mike Ware and Keith Hampton said they plan to file their 
client's clemency petition with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles this 
week.


Clemency, or mercy, is something attorneys representing death row clients 
routinely ask for but seldom receive. According to the Death Penalty 
Information Center, 282 death row inmates nationwide have been granted clemency 
for humanitarian reasons since 1976, but only 2 of those inmates were in Texas.


According to documents filed in federal court, Storey's lawyers were never told 
that he was just barely functional intellectually. That information has, in 
part, led at least 1 juror to change his mind.


Sven Berger, a 36-year-old software engineer now living in Washington state, 
voted for the death penalty along with the other 11 jurors at the end of 
Storey's trial in 2008. The jury deliberated less than 2 hours before assessing 
the death penalty, Berger said.


"There was a definite sense in the room that a decision had already been made," 
Berger said. "Had I known he was mentally impaired there would have been a much 
longer conversation about my decision."


Berger, who has signed an affidavit detailing his change of mind, also said 
that prosecutors argued during the trial that Cherry's parents wanted the death 
penalty to be imposed. Ware recently told him that Cherry's parents wanted 
Storey to have a life sentence without parole.


"More than anything else that affected me," Berger said. "If the family of the 
deceased did not want the perpetrator executed, that would have been important 
for me to know, and I believe it would have been important to the other 
jurors."


Christopher Wilkins, who went on a 2-day killing spree in Fort Worth and was 
executed on Jan. 11, was the 1st person executed in the United States in 2017.


Berger said he got the impression during testimony that Storey was not very 
bright but was not a future danger to society. But he did not feel equipped at 
that time to sway other jurors to his way of thinking.


He said he never understood why Storey deserved a death sentence while his 
accomplice, Porter, received a life sentence.


"It seemed clear to me that Porter was the leader," Berger said. "It irritated 
me that he took the plea deal. It was infuriating to see Porter get life and 
Storey get death."


Storey's mother, Marilyn Shankle-Grant, said she spoke to Berger about his 
change of heart and forgave him.


"This young man was placed in the position of deciding whether someone was 
going to live or die," Shankle-Grant said. "He didn't want to go against the 
crowd. There were a whole lot of people who were going one way and he didn't 
want to voice his opinion.


"We all have things that we've done in the past that we wish we could have done 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, ALA., ARK., USA

2017-03-20 Thread Rick Halperin





March 20



TEXAS:

Severe mental illness and the death penalty


Over the course of our state's history, people with severe mental illnesses 
have faced serious consequences in the criminal justice system. All too often, 
these individuals faced capital punishment, a sentence that frequently extends 
an already emotionally difficult ordeal for family members, involves years of 
litigation and occurs at high financial cost to taxpayers.


The U.S. Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty for persons with intellectual 
disabilities and for juveniles - because medical research shows those 
individuals do not have the same mental capacity as fully-functioning adults. 
People experiencing symptoms of severe mental illnesses are clearly in the same 
category and should be treated the same way.


Assessing capital punishment in these unique and infrequent cases disregards 
the growing scientific consensus that severe mental illness can significantly 
impair one's ability to make rational decisions, understand the consequences of 
one's actions and control one's impulses. The diagnosis process is lengthy, 
detailed and accurate. The capital punishment approach sweeps aside our 
collective responsibility to provide adequate care options for persons with 
mental health disabilities.


In January, the Texas House Select Committee on Mental Health released its 
interim report and recommendations. The report acknowledged "an estimated 30 
percent of inmates have one or more serious mental illnesses." To address the 
issue of individuals with serious mental illness, one must broach the complex 
relationships between the mental health community and the criminal justice 
system.


It is clear that a lack of access to treatment can directly result in costly, 
non-therapeutic criminal justice system involvement. Individuals who are guilty 
should be held accountable for their actions, but we propose that individuals 
who qualify for the severe mental illness exemption from the death penalty 
should be subject to criminal prosecution, and if convicted, should serve terms 
of life without parole.


Our proposed exemption would not apply to a broad range of individuals. Only 
those with medical diagnoses such as schizophrenia, schizo-effective disorder, 
paranoia and other psychotic disorders, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive 
disorder or depression should be considered. It would apply on a case-by-case 
basis; a judge or jury would consider all of the evidence to determine whether 
a person had a severe mental illness with active symptoms at the time of the 
crime.


When individuals with severe mental illnesses enter the criminal justice system 
and are not appropriately diverted to treatment, the state runs the risk of 
executing innocent people. Individuals with severe mental illnesses run a 
higher risk of being executed, typically after bending to police pressure, 
firing their counsel and representing themselves or refusing to help with their 
own defense. A 2012 study found that approximately 70 % of wrongfully convicted 
defendants with mental illness confessed to crimes they didn't commit. This 
compares to only 10 % of defendants without a mental illness.


Mental illness is not a choice. We as a society have already answered the 
question of how to address persons with severe mental disabilities as it 
relates to the criminal justice system. Our challenge nationally, and as a 
state, is to ensure this approach is now reflected in all aspects of the law.


Toni Rose, State representative, District 110

(source: Texas Tribune)






ALABAMA:

Lawmakers to vote on death penalty bill


Alabama lawmakers will vote next month on whether to prohibit a judge from 
imposing a death sentence when a jury has recommended life imprisonment.


Alabama is the only state that allows a judge to override a jury's sentence 
recommendation in capital murder cases.


The Alabama House of Representatives is scheduled to debate the bill on April 4 
when lawmakers return from a 2-week spring break. The Senate has already 
approved the measure.


The bill is 3rd on the proposed debate agenda for the day.

According to the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative, since 1976 Alabama 
judges have overridden jury recommendations 112 times. In 101 of those cases, 
the judges gave a death sentence.


The legislation would only affect future capital cases, not inmates currently 
on Alabama's death row.


(source: Tuscaloosa News)






ARKANSAS:

Arkansas's Cruel and Unusual Killing Spree


Arkansas's plan to execute 8 men in 11 days next month is a recipe for 
disaster, one entirely of the state's making.


Although the state has not put anyone to death since November 2005, it now says 
that it must execute 2 people per day on April 17, 20, 24 and 27 because its 
current supply of midazolam, 1 of its 3 execution drugs, will expire at the end 
of the month.


This will be the fastest spate of executions in any state in more than 40 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, N.H., CONN., PENN., ALA., ARK., CALIF., USA

2017-03-09 Thread Rick Halperin





March 9



TEXASimpending execution

Death Watch: "No Need" for Mental TestsJames Bigby will be the 4th Texan 
executed in 2017



James Bigby, 61, is scheduled to be the 4th Texan executed this year when he 
goes to the Huntsville gurney on Tuesday, March 14. The Fort Worth native has 
spent the last 25 years on death row after a 2-day killing spree that left 4 
people dead.


The murders began on Dec. 23, 1987. Bigby was convinced that several of his 
acquaintances were conspiring against him when he arrived at his friend Mike 
Trekell's Fort Worth home for dinner. Trekell was cooking when Bigby shot him 
in the head, then drowned Trekell's 4-month-old son in the kitchen sink. He 
then moved on to the houses of 2 more friends - Calvin Crane and Frank "Bubba" 
Johnson - killing both. He was arrested at an Arlington hotel on Dec. 26.


Bigby confessed to the crimes when he was arrested and again later in a written 
statement. At his trial, during a recess, Bigby grabbed a gun from the bench, 
broke into chambers, and threatened his trial judge at gunpoint. Though he was 
disarmed before anything happened, the incident influenced the jury's decision 
in determining Bigby's future dangerousness; he was convicted of capital murder 
in March 1991, and sentenced to death.


Prior to his killing spree, Bigby had a history of robberies and sexual 
assault, which prosecutors focused on during sentencing. His defense argued 
their client suffered from schizophrenia and depression, and that he was a 
product of a neglectful upbringing. (The defense also addressed Bigby's 
newfound reverence for religion.) Appeals have focused on the trial counsel's 
failure to address Bigby's family's history - a violation of Bigby's right to 
assistance of counsel under the Sixth Amendment. Court records indicate that 
Bigby's mother gave away each of his siblings to relatives, which caused him to 
fear he too would be abandoned. Bigby also detailed his unhealthy relationship 
with his mother - noting that she breastfed him until he was 7 - as well as her 
alcoholism, and her attempted suicide. None of those hardships have done 
anything to sway any appeals court. Bigby has had no sustainable luck finding 
relief at the state or federal levels - however, in 2005, the district court 
wherein he filed his appeal vacated his death sentence after ruling that his 
trial jury was given inadequate instructions regarding death penalty 
sentencing, citing the 2001 case Penry v. Johnson. In 2006, he attended a 2nd 
sentencing trial and was handed a 2nd death sentence.


In March 2015, Bigby filed an appeal to the Supreme Court, though the effort 
was rejected by SCOTUS 2 months later. In September 2016, the state filed a 
motion to issue an execution date, but according to the order written by 
Tarrant County Judge Robb Catalano, Bigby's counsel requested additional time. 
Bigby "had been uncooperative and uncommunicative with him, such that he was 
unable to 'rationally evaluate' the Defendant's state of mind or mental 
ability," wrote Catalano. Bigby's attorney filed a report stating "no need" for 
a mental examination on Oct. 27, 2016 - Bigby "understands the reason for his 
execution." An execution warrant was signed a few days later. If all goes the 
way the state intends, Bigby will be the 2nd Tarrant County resident executed 
this year and 542nd in Texas since the state reinstated the death penalty in 
1976.


(source: Austin Chronicle)

*

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present23

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982present-541

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #

24-March 14-James Bigby---542

25-April 12-Paul Storey---543

26-May 16---Tilon Carter--544

27-May 24---Juan Castillo--545

28-June 28--Steven Long---546

29-July 19-Kosoul Chanthakoummane---547

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)



Court affirms conviction, death penalty for Petetan


The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday affirmed the April 2014 
capital murder conviction and death sentence of Carnell Petetan Jr.


A 19th State District Court jury convicted Petetan, 41, in the September 2012 
shooting death of his estranged wife, Kimberly Farr Petetan, a few months after 
he was released from a 20-year prison sentence.


8 judges on the Court of Criminal Appeals voted to reject Petetan's 30 points 
of appeal, while Judge Elsa Alcala dissented, saying she preferred not to rule 
on Petetan's case while the Texas standard for determining whether someone is 
intellectually disabled is in legal flux.


The McLennan County jury found that Petetan constitutes a continuing threat to 
society and rejected his claim that he is exempt from execution because of 
mental impairment.


[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, N.H., GA., FLA., ARK., NEB., USA

2017-03-08 Thread Rick Halperin






March 8



TEXASexecution

Texas killer Ruiz apologizes for '92 contract murder before execution"Words 
cannot begin to express how sorry I am," the condemned prisoner said in his 
final statement.



After the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his last appeal, condemned contract 
killer Rolando Ruiz, Jr., was executed Tuesday night by the state of Texas -- 
its 3rd lethal injection in the past 2 months.


Prison officials at the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville administered the 
lethal drugs at around 10:30 p.m., not long after the Supreme Court's decision. 
He was pronounced dead 29 minutes later.


Ruiz previously received 2 stays of execution from federal and state appeals 
courts. Monday, a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit denied 
another request for a stay and the United States' highest court followed suit 
late Tuesday.


Ruiz, 44, was tried and convicted of the 1992 contract killing of Theresa 
Rodriguez, which was orchestrated by her husband, Michael, and his brother, 
Mark, in order to collect on her $400,000 life insurance policy.


Ruiz showed remorse for the 29-year-old woman's death in his final statement 
Tuesday night.


"I would like to say to the Sanchez family how sorry I am. Words cannot begin 
to express how sorry I am and the hurt that I have caused you and your family," 
he told the woman's relatives just moments before his execution began. "To my 
family, thank you for all your love and support. I am at peace. Jesus Christ is 
Lord. I love you all."


2 of Theresa Rodriguez's sisters and 2 brothers in-law witnessed the execution, 
as did an acquaintance and half-brother of Ruiz's.


"There's never closure," the victim's father, Eddie Sanchez, said Monday. "It's 
not going to bring my daughter back."


Detectives found during their criminal investigation that Ruiz was paid $2,000 
to kill Rodriguez when she returned home from an outing with her husband and 
brother in-law, who were in on the plot, on July 14, 1992. She was shot once in 
the face by Ruiz, who ambushed her while she sat in a car in the driveway of 
her San Antonio home.


The Rodriguez brothers pleaded guilty in the case and received life in prison. 
Ruiz, who was 20 at the time of the crime, was given a death sentence after a 
jury found him guilty of capital murder in May 1995.


Michael Rodriguez was later a member of the Texas Seven, a group of prisoners 
who escaped from a prison in east central Texas in 2000. He was executed 8 
years later for killing a police officer during the escape.


The issue weighed by the Supreme Court Tuesday night was whether Ruiz had been 
subjected to cruel and unusual punishment by spending 17 years in solitary 
confinement. Ruiz's attorneys argued in their petition that he had been, which 
would constitute a violation of the Eighth Amendment. The high court disagreed.


Ruiz's execution follows the lethal injections of 2 other convicted killers in 
Texas this year -- Christopher Chubasco Wilkins and Terry Darnell Edwards on 
Jan. 11 and Jan. 26, respectively. It is the 5th death sentence carried out in 
the United States this year.


Historically, Texas is the most active state when it comes to executing 
inmates. Nearly 550 Texas prisoners have been put to death since a nationwide 
moratorium on capital punishment was lifted in 1976. By contrast, California, 
which holds a death row population nearly 3 times the size of Texas, has 
executed 13 people. Florida, which incarcerates the nation's 2nd-largest group 
of condemned inmates (396), has executed less than 100 in that same time span. 
In 2016, though, Georgia carried out the most executions (9) in the country, 
followed by Texas (7).


Earlier this year, Texas filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug 
Administration for preventing the state from importing drugs that are used in 
lethal injections. Several other states are also having difficulty obtaining 
the drugs traditionally used in a 3-step process. Last week, Arkansas scheduled 
the executions of 8 prisoners on 4 days in April, purportedly because its 
supply of 1 drug will expire in May.


(source: UPI)

***

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present23

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982present-541

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #

24-March 14James Bigby--542

25-April 12-Paul Storey---543

26-May 16---Tilon Carter--544

27-May 24---Juan Castillo--545

28-June 28---Steven Long---546

29-July 19-Kosoul Chanthakoummane---547

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

**

DA will seek death penalty in fatal beating of pregnant Corpus Christi woman


Prosecutors will seek the death penalty for a man accused of fatally beating to 
death his pregnant girlfriend, Nueces 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS

2017-03-07 Thread Rick Halperin




March 7



TEXASexecution


SA hit man Rolando Ruiz executed after Supreme Court denies appeals


The U.S. Supreme Court denied the appeals from attorneys trying to keep a paid 
hit man from execution in Texas for gunning down a San Antonio woman in a life 
insurance scheme nearly a quarter-century ago.


Rolando Ruiz was convicted of accepting $2,000 to fatally shoot Theresa 
Rodriguez, 29, outside her home in 1992 as she was getting out of a car with 
her husband and brother-in-law, who both orchestrated her murder.


The ruling came down just after 10 p.m. and he was pronounced dead at 11:06 
p.m.


The execution was delayed nearly 5 hours before the U.S. Supreme Court rejected 
last-day appeals from Ruiz's attorneys.


Ruiz approached a car pulling up to Rodriguez's home the night of July 14, 
1992, under the guise of seeking directions. Her husband of nearly seven years, 
Michael, was in the car along with Michael's brother, Mark. Ruiz, who already 
had pocketed $1,000 and had failed in two earlier killing attempts, asked Mark 
Rodriguez if he wanted him to "do it," and Rodriguez gave him the go-ahead. As 
Theresa Rodriguez was getting out of the car, Ruiz put a .357 Magnum revolver 
to her head and fired.


3 days later, Ruiz collected another $1,000 for the completed job.

Evidence showed Michael Rodriguez stood to collect at least a quarter-million 
dollars in insurance benefits from his wife's death and that he'd recently 
applied for another $150,000 in life insurance for her.


Ruiz had met Mark Rodriguez at the home of a mutual friend, was arrested nine 
days after the shooting and implicated the brothers. The police investigation 
was aided by a telephone tip after Theresa Rodriguez's employer, the San 
Antonio-based financial services giant USAA, offered a $50,000 reward for 
information about her slaying.


Ruiz becomes the 3rd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and 
the 541st overall since the state resumed capital punishment on december 7, 
1982.  Ruiz becomes the 23rd condemned inmate to be put to death in Texas since 
greg Abbott became governor.


Ruiz becomes the 5th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA 
and the 1447th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.


(sources: KSAT news & Rick Halperin






***



Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present23

Executions in Texas:  Dec. 7, 1982present-541

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #


24-March 14-James Bigby---542

25-April 12-Paul Storey---543

26-May 16---Tilon Carter--544

27-May 24---Juan Castillo--545

28-June 28--Steven Long---546

29-July 19-Kosoul Chanthakoummane---547

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

___
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu

DeathPenalty mailing list
DeathPenalty@lists.washlaw.edu
http://lists.washlaw.edu/mailman/listinfo/deathpenalty
Unsubscribe: http://lists.washlaw.edu/mailman/options/deathpenalty


[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, N.C., S.C., GA., ALA., OHIO, IND., CALIF.

2017-03-07 Thread Rick Halperin






March 7



TEXASimpending execution

Hit man in San Antonio murder-for-hire slaying set to dieRolando Ruiz is 
scheduled to die for the murder-for-hire slaying he carried out more than 24 
years ago



Rolando Ruiz walked up to a car as it pulled into the driveway of a San Antonio 
home and said he needed directions.


Then he asked Mark Rodriguez, 1 of the 2 men inside the vehicle, "Do I do it?" 
Rodriguez replied: "Yes."


Theresa Rodriguez, Mark's sister-in-law, was getting out the passenger side of 
the car, looked up at Ruiz as he walked toward her and smiled at him, according 
to court documents. Ruiz put a .357 Magnum revolver to her head and fired.


On Tuesday, Ruiz, 44, was set for lethal injection for the murder-for-hire 
slaying he carried out more than 24 years ago. Evidence showed he received 
$2,000 from Mark Rodriguez, whose brother, Michael, stood to collect at least a 
quarter-million dollars in insurance benefits from his 29-year-old wife's 
death. Evidence also showed Michael Rodriguez, who also was in the car the 
night of July 14, 1992, recently had applied for another $150,000 in life 
insurance for his wife.


Ruiz's execution would be the 3rd this year in Texas and the 5th nationally.

His lawyers argued to the U.S. Supreme Court that lower courts improperly 
rejected an earlier appeal. They also contended Ruiz's execution would be 
unconstitutionally cruel because he's suffered a "uniquely devastating 
psychological toll" after nearly a quarter-century on death row, multiple 
execution dates and 2 reprieves.


"It is entirely attributable to the state's failure to provide competent 
lawyers," attorney Lee Kovarsky told the high court in a filing. He also argued 
the deterrent value of the punishment was "undercut" by the lengthy time 
between imposing the sentence and carrying it out.


State attorneys contended Ruiz's arguments were meant to distract the courts 
from the weakness of his claims and said Ruiz had taken advantage of legal 
mechanisms to ensure his conviction and sentence were proper and previous 
judicial reviews found no constitutional error. While some individual Supreme 
Court justices have raised questions about long death row confinement, the 
courts consistently have ruled it was not unconstitutionally cruel, Assistant 
Texas Attorney General Edward Marshall told the justices. Ruiz's arguments 
about earlier deficient legal help "have been inspected, scrutinized, studied, 
probed, analyzed, reviewed and evaluated" at all levels of the federal courts, 
he said.


Ruiz had met Mark Rodriguez at the home of a mutual friend, was arrested nine 
days after the shooting and implicated the brothers in the contract killing 
scheme. Police focused on him after receiving a telephone tip after Theresa 
Rodriguez's employer, the insurance firm USAA, offered a $50,000 reward for 
information about her slaying.


Court records show Ruiz after the shooting drove off in a car waiting for him 
on the street. Evidence showed Mark Rodriguez already had paid him $1,000, then 
gave him another $1,000 3 days after the killing. Ruiz had made 2 earlier 
unsuccessful attempts to kill Theresa Rodriguez.


The Rodriguez brothers eventually accepted life prison terms in plea deals. 
Mark Rodriguez was paroled in 2011.


Michael Rodriguez later joined Ruiz on death row as one of the notorious Texas 
7, a group of 7 inmates who escaped from a South Texas prison in 2000, remained 
fugitives for weeks and killed a Dallas-area police officer. He was executed in 
2008. He blamed his infatuation with a younger woman for the contract murder 
plot.


Joe Ramon, who accompanied Ruiz the night of the shooting, and Robert Silva, 
identified as the intermediary who put the Rodriguez brothers in touch with 
Ruiz, also received life prison sentences.


(source: Associated Press)

*

Texas set to execute triggerman in San Antonio murder-for-hire caseTexas is 
set to execute hitman Ronaldo Ruiz 25 years after he killed a San Antonio woman 
for $2,000. It's the fourth time the state has set a date for his death. 
Prosecutors hope it's the last.



It's been almost 25 years since Rolando Ruiz shot and killed a San Antonio 
woman in her garage. He was a 20-year-old hitman, paid $2,000 by the woman's 
husband and brother-in-law, who were out to collect her life insurance money.


On Tuesday, Texas plans to execute Ruiz - the 4th time the state has set a date 
for his death in nearly a decade. Ruiz's attorneys are hoping to block this 
one, too, arguing his nearly 22 years on Texas' death row constitute cruel and 
unusual punishment.


Ruiz killed 29-year-old Theresa Rodriguez in July 1992; he was convicted and 
sentenced to death almost 3 years later. Rodriguez's husband and 
brother-in-law, Michael and Mark Rodriguez, both received life sentences.


Michael, the husband, escaped from prison in 2000, 1 of the notorious "Texas 
7." He was sentenced to death and executed in 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, N.C., GA., FLA., ALA., MISS., TENN., ARK.

2017-03-04 Thread Rick Halperin





March 4




TEXASimpending executions

Texas Prepares for Execution of Rolando Ruiz on March 7, 2017


Rolando Ruiz, Jr., is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm CST, on Tuesday, March 
7, 2017, at the Walls Unit of the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, 
Texas. 44-year-old Rolando is convicted of murdering 29-year-old Theresa 
Rodriguez on July 14, 1992, in San Antonio, Texas. Rolando has spent the last 
21 years of his life on Texas' death row.


As a child, Rolando was allegedly abused, which led him to be addicted to drugs 
and alcohol. Rolando also claims that because of his excessive use of drugs and 
alcohol, he has difficulty distinguishing between fantasy and reality. Rolando 
dropped out of school following the 10th grade. He worked as a laborer prior to 
his arrest. Rolando has previously been arrested and served time for assaulting 
his ex-girlfriend and stealing her vehicle. While in prison, he assaulted a 
jailer.


In 1992, Rolando Ruiz was hired by Michael and Mark Rodriguez to kill Michael's 
wife, Theresa. Michael agreed to pay Ruiz $1,000 up front, with an additional 
$1,000 being paid once the job was completed. Prior to the hiring of Ruiz, 
Michael took out a $150,000 life insurance policy on his wife and himself, in 
addition to the $250,000 policy he already had.


Michael planned for Ruiz to rob and murder Theresa on July 10, 1992, when she 
arrived for work at a restaurant. Ruiz called off the attack when he spotted a 
security guard. Michael then asked Ruiz to kill Theresa when they were leaving 
the movies later that night. Michael and Theresa never showed up at the movies.


On July 14, 1992, Mark told Ruiz that he was to follow Michael and Theresa home 
from the movie theater and then kill her. When Michael pulled the car to stop 
at his home, Ruiz ran up to the passenger side door and shot Theresa once in 
the head as she attempted to exit the vehicle Without robbing her, Ruiz fled 
the scene and spent the rest of the evening playing basketball. 3 days later, 
Ruiz received his 2nd payment of $1,000.


Mark and Michael were sentenced to life in prison after accepting plea 
agreements, while Rolando received the death sentence. In December of 2000, 
Michael broke out of prison as a member of the Texas 7. During efforts to 
recapture the group, police officer Aubry Hawkins was killed. Michael was 
sentenced to death and executed on August 14, 2008.


2 other men, Joe Ramon and Robert Silva were also sentenced to life in prison 
for their part in the murder if Theresa. Joe accompanied Ruiz on the night of 
the murder, while Robert was responsible for putting the Rodriguez brothers in 
touch with Ruiz. Since in prison, Ruiz is believed to have joined the Texas 
Syndicate, a notorious prison gang that causes disturbances and assaults other 
inmates and officers.


Rolando Ruiz was twice scheduled to be executed in 2016. The reasons those 
executions were halted has not been stated.


Please pray for peace and healing for the family of Theresa Rodriguez. Please 
pray for strength for the family of Rolando. Please pray that if Rolando is 
innocent, lacks the competency to be executed, or should not be executed for 
any other reason that evidence will be presented prior to his execution. Please 
pray that Rolando may come to find peace through a personal relationship with 
Jesus Christ, if he has not already.




Texas Prepares for Execution of James Bigby on March 14, 2017


James Eugene Bigby is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm CDT, on Tuesday, March 
14, 2017, at the Walls Unit of the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, 
Texas. 61-year-old James is convicted of the murder of 26-year-old Michael 
Trekell, Michael's 4-month-old son Jayson Kehler, Calvin Wesley Crane, and 
Frank "Bubba" Johnson, on December 23-24, 1987, in Tarrant County, Texas. James 
has spent the last 25 years of his life on Texas' death row.


James had a difficult upbringing. His mother allegedly drank while pregnant 
with him and breastfed him until the age of 7. James' mother also gave away his 
siblings to be raised by other relatives. He grew up fearing that his mother 
would abandon him, as his father had. Additionally, his mother and siblings all 
suffer from mental health issues and have struggled to live successful lives. 
James had previously been hospitalized multiple times for schizo-affective 
disorder and depression. He had also received electroshock therapy during one 
of his stays. James had previously been arrested and served time for various 
robberies and a sexual assault charge. James dropped out of school following 
the 9th grade and worked at Frito-Lay prior to his arrest as an auto mechanic.


In late December 1987, James Bigby had a pending worker's compensation claim 
against his employer, Frito-Lay. Bigby was paranoid that several of his friends 
were conspiring against him to thwart his claim. On December 23, 1987, Bigby 
bought 2 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, N.C., FLA., LA., CALIF., USA

2017-03-02 Thread Rick Halperin





March 2



TEXAS-new execution date

Condemned killer in San Antonio robbery set to die May 24


A 35-year-old San Antonio man on death row for a fatal shooting during a 
robbery more than 13 years ago has been set to die.


Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark said Tuesday the 
prison agency has received court documents setting Juan Castillo for lethal 
injection May 24.


Castillo was convicted of the December 2003 slaying of 19-year-old Tommy Garcia 
Jr. Evidence showed Garcia was lured to a San Antonio lovers' lane by 
Castillo's girlfriend and then ambushed. She pleaded guilty before Castillo's 
2005 trial and testified against him.


Late in his trial, Castillo fired his lawyers and represented himself.

The U.S. Supreme Court in October refused to review his case. He's among at 
least seven Texas inmates with execution dates this year, including 2 in March.


(source: Associated Press)

**

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present22

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982present-540

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #

23-March 7--Rolando Ruiz--541

24-March 14-James Bigby---542

25-April 12-Paul Storey---543

26-May 16---Tilon Carter--544

27-May 24---Juan Castillo--545

28-June 28--Steven Long---546

29-July 19-Kosoul Chanthakoummane---547

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

*

Falk gets death penalty for correctional officer's slaying


John Ray Falk Jr. was sentenced to die for his role in the murder of a 
correctional officer during an attempted escape from a Huntsville-area prison 
more than 9 years ago.


An Angelina County jury deliberated for 28 minutes this morning before reaching 
a decision following closing arguments. Falk, who chose to represent himself, 
pleaded guilty to capital murder last Thursday for the slaying of Texas 
Department of Criminal Justice employee Susan Canfield of New Waverly.


The jury had the option to give Falk the death penalty or sentence him to life 
in prison without the possibility of parole.


Falk and another inmate, Jerry Duane Martin, ran away from a work detail at the 
Wynne Unit in Huntsville on Sept. 24, 2007. Canfield was killed while trying to 
prevent the escape when her horse was struck by a stolen truck driven by Martin 
in the garage area of the city of Huntsville Service Center adjacent to the 
prison.


The inmates were apprehended that day a few miles from the prison.

Martin was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 2009 by a Leon 
County jury for Canfield???s murder. He was executed in 2013 after waiving his 
right to an appeal.


(source: Huntsville Item)






NORTH CAROLINA:

"Count": UNC Process Series Examines Life On Death Row


This weekend, you're invited to UNC's campus to experience a theatrical work in 
progress: a staged reading of a play developed through conversations with 
death-row inmates across the country.


The play is called "Count." Written by Lynden Harris in conjunction with Hidden 
Voices, the play examines the lives of 6 men on death row. Harris has worked on 
the piece for several years, forging strong relationships with numerous inmates 
along the way.


This weekend's performance will be a staged reading, but the curtain will go up 
on the finished product later this year: UNC's PlayMakers Repertory Company 
will stage "Count" as part of their PRC2 series next season.


"Count" - the title is derived from the headcount that begins and ends each day 
in prison - will be staged on Friday and Saturday, March 3-4, at 8 pm at Swain 
Hall Studio 6. (Admission is free, but there's a 5-dollar suggested donation.) 
In addition to the 2 readings, there will also be a panel discussion on the 
death penalty Thursday, March 2, from 4:30-6:00 at the Center for the Study of 
the American South (410 E. Franklin Street); Harris will speak along with 
Jennifer Thompson of Healing Justice and UNC professors Frank Baumgartner and 
Isaac Unah.


Hidden Voices is an organization dedicated to giving people a chance to express 
themselves - especially those who are marginalized, silenced, or otherwise 
rarely heard. (Harris is its founder.)


"Count" is part of UNC's Process Series - an annual series of innovative works 
in progress, part of UNC's Department of Communication.


(source: chapelboro.com)






FLORIDA:

40 years on death row and still living off your taxes


Expect a fiery debate on capital punishment when the new legislative session 
starts in the beginning of March in Tallahassee. A few months ago, the Florida 
Supreme Court decided the jury must be unanimous for a defendant to get death.


The NBC2 Investigators discovered this will likely 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, GA., FLA., LA., ARK., USA

2017-02-28 Thread Rick Halperin






Feb. 28



TEXAS:

SCOTUS refuses appeals from 3 on Texas death row  The U.S. Supreme Court 
refused to review appeals in 3 Texas death row cases, including one where a man 
pleaded guilty to a triple slaying



The U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to review appeals in 3 Texas death row 
cases, including one where a man pleaded guilty to a triple slaying in South 
Texas.


The high court's rulings moved 2 inmates closer to execution: LeJames Norman, 
31, condemned for the 2005 shooting deaths of 3 people during a botched robbery 
of a home in Edna, about 100 miles southwest of Houston, and Bill Douglas 
Gates, 67, condemned for strangling a Houston woman in 1999.


Neither has an execution date.

Norman and an accomplice also now on death row, Ker'Sean Ramey, were convicted 
in the slayings of Samuel Roberts, 24, Tiffani Peacock, 18, and Celso Lopez, 
38, inside the home they shared in Edna, in Jackson County. Roberts' parents 
discovered the bodies Aug. 25, 2005.


Court records indicated Ramey and Norman believed there was 100 kilograms of 
cocaine in the house and hoped to steal it, but they never found any drugs. 
Norman was arrested trying to cross a bridge into Brownsville from Mexico about 
5 months after the killings. He pleaded guilty to capital murder, leaving a 
jury to decide only on punishment. Norman's appeal raised questions about the 
competence of his trial attorneys.


Texas prison records show when Gates was arrested for the slaying of Elfreda 
Gans, 41, at her Houston apartment, the Riverside County, California, man was 
on parole after serving 6 years of 2 life prison terms in California for 
robbery, assault on a peace officer and possession of a weapon by a prisoner. 
His appeal also questioned whether his trial lawyers were deficient.


The 3rd case refused by the high court involved prisoner Michael Wayne Norris, 
whose case was returned by a federal district judge in 2015 to his trial court 
in Houston for a new punishment hearing. A federal appeals court last year 
upheld that decision. Norris has been on death row nearly 30 years for fatally 
shooting a Houston mother and her 2-year-old son.


Patrick McCann, Norris' attorney, said Monday the ruling involved legal 
procedural point related to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.


Norris is awaiting his new punishment trial and Monday's ruling had no effect 
on that, McCann said.


Norris was on parole after serving time for murder when he was arrested for 
fatally shooting Georgia Rollins, 38, and her 2-year-old son, Keith, at their 
Houston apartment in 1986. His appeal challenged the instructions provided to 
his jurors during the punishment phase of his 1987 trial in Harris County.


At the time, trial courts were wrestling with evolving jury instructions about 
mitigating evidence, like mental impairment or dysfunctional childhood, and how 
it should be applied to punishment in capital murder convictions. The Supreme 
Court visited the issue several times, refining trial procedures through its 
rulings, and several cases of Norris' era were returned to trial courts for new 
punishment hearings.


(source: Associated Press)






GEORGIA:

Justices to Consider Scope of Habeas Review in Death Penalty Appeals


The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to weigh into the issue of which prior state 
court rulings a federal court should evaluate when deciding the merits of a 
condemned inmate's appeal.


The case involves Marion Wilson Jr., a Georgia inmate, who, along with 
co-defendant Robert Earl Butts, was sentenced to death for the 1996 killing of 
state prison guard Donovan Parks.


The 2 men had approached Parks in a Milledgeville, Ga. Wal-Mart parking lot and 
asked him for a ride. Parks invited them into his car, but a short time later, 
they ordered him to pull over to the side of a residential street, where they 
killed him with a sawed-off shotgun blast to the head.


After a jury trial, Wilson was convicted of malice murder, felony murder, armed 
robbery, hijacking a motor vehicle, and possession of a firearm during the 
commission of a crime.


The jury later came back and sentenced him to death for the murder, finding as 
a statutory aggravating circumstance that Wilson killed Parks while engaged in 
the commission of an armed robbery.


The sentence was later affirmed by a Georgia superior court judge and the state 
Supreme Court.


Wilson appealed his sentence to the federal court in Atlanta, and after failing 
to have it overturned there, asked the 11th Circuit to intervene.


But that's where things got complicated.

The appeals court had to decide which of 2 lower court rulings it would 
consider when deciding the merits of Wilson's appeal: the short, summary 
opinion of the Georgia Supreme Court, or the far more detailed ruling handed 
down by the superior court judge.


Lawyers for Wilson and the state attorney general's office both argued the 
panel they should give the most weight to the superior 

  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   >