March 13


Death Row Inmate Wants Sentence Overturned

A Lubbock death row inmate is asking a judge to overturn his sentence.
Michael Yowell appeared in Lubbock court Monday, 7 years after a jury
sentenced him to death.

On May 19, 1998, Yowell shot his father, strangled his mother and set fire
to their Central Lubbock home. Neighbors were able to pull Yowell's
89-year-old grandmother from the burning house but she died 2 weeks later.
Attorneys are now trying to get the death sentence overturned.

Attorney Rick Wardroup says, "The jury didn't get to hear everything they
needed to hear to really decide if this is the person they wanted to

Attorneys say Yowell was abusing drugs and alcohol and was having
psychotic episodes at the time of the murders. In the original trial,
Yowell's medical records were read but attorneys say they would like them
interpreted for a jury.

(source: KCBD News)


Wharton DA will seek death penalty against man accused of stabbing
ex-wife, killing baby

A man in jail accused of stabbing his pregnant wife, resulting in the
premature birth of their baby who later died, has been indicted on charges
he tried to have his now ex-wife killed.

Wharton County District Attorney Josh McCown said Geremy Wade Segrest, 20,
while incarcerated in the Wharton County Jail, tried to persuade another
inmate into killing his ex-wife, Ashley Korhoren.

The indictment, which was unsealed today, says that Segrest last week
promised money and other valuable property to the inmate in exchange for
his ex-wife's death. Segrest is charged with solicitation of capital

McCown would not elaborate on the solicitation plans except that the
inmate came forward and is cooperating with authorities.

Segrest is being held without bond. He has been incarcerated since the
Jan. 28, 2005 incident in which he was accused of stabbing Korhoren in the
bathroom of his grandmother's Wharton home.

Korhoren, who was five to six months pregnant at the time, was flown by
helicopter to a Houston hospital where she gave birth to the baby. The
baby died 30 minutes later from wounds related to the stabbing and the
premature birth. Segrest was charged with capital murder and aggravated
assault in the case.

State law allows a capital murder charge, which is punishable by death or
life in prison, if the victim is under age 6.

Segrest's trial had been set for May but now will be delayed, McCown said.

McCown also said he filed paperwork this afternoon notifying state
officials that he will seek the death penalty against Segrest.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Millionaire faces death penalty----Victim's mom: 'Should I forgive him? I

Prosecutors pressed for the death penalty Monday for a millionaire who was
convicted of hiring a hit man to kill his socialite wife.

James Sullivan was found guilty Friday of arranging the fatal shooting of
Lita Sullivan, his 35-year-old second wife, on January 16, 1987.

He was captured in Thailand in 2002, 4 years after he was indicted on
state murder charges in 1998.

"For 19 years he has lived without facing any consequence, any punishment
at all. Now it's different," prosecutor Anna Green told the jury.

"19 years is too long for there to be no consequence for a crime as
heinous as this."

James Sullivan was convicted of malice murder, felony murder, burglary and
2 counts of aggravated assault.

The jury has the option of sentencing Sullivan to death, life in prison
without parole or life in prison with parole.

"I have looked forward to this day for many years. Should I forgive him? I
cannot. Can I forgive him? I will not," Jo Ann McClinton, Lita Sullivan's
mother, said.

Sullivan showed no emotion while family members testified, often holding
his face in his left hand or chewing on the tip of his eyeglasses.

Sullivan's lawyer asked for mercy.

"You don't need to kill Jim Sullivan," defense attorney Josh Moore told
the jury. "Part of Jim Sullivan is already dead. Your verdict ... ensured
this man will die in a state prison."

The victim was shot to death on the doorstep of her Atlanta town house by
a man carrying a dozen long-stemmed pink roses. The murder occurred the
same day a hearing was scheduled to discuss property distribution in the
couple's divorce.

Sullivan was extradited to the United States in 2004 to face a 2nd trial
on charges stemming from the murder.

Federal charges that accused him of interstate use of a telephone to set
up the murder were thrown out at trial in 1992. The Georgia Supreme Court
ruled that double jeopardy did not prevent Sullivan from being tried again
in state court.

Prosecutors said Sullivan paid trucker Phillip Harwood $25,000 to kill his
wife. Harwood, 55, is serving a 20-year sentence for manslaughter after
pleading guilty and admitting he killed Mrs. Sullivan, but on the stand
Monday he denied being the triggerman.

The trial started with jury selection on January 5. The sentencing hearing
is expected to last a day.

(source: Associated Press)


Angry judge questions U.S. death case against Moussaoui----Judge to
consider witness coaching by government lawyers

An angry federal judge unexpectedly recessed the death penalty trial of al
Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui to consider whether government
violations of her rules against coaching witnesses should remove the death
penalty as an option.

The stunning development came at the opening of the 5th day of the trial
as the government informed the judge and the defense over the weekend that
a lawyer for the Federal Aviation Administration had coached 4 government
FAA witnesses.

The coaching violated the rule set by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema
that no witness should hear trial testimony in advance.

"This is the second significant error by the government affecting the
constitutional rights of the defendant and the criminal justice system in
this country in the context of a death case," Brinkema told lawyers in the
case outside the presence of the jury.

Defense attorney Edward MacMahon moved to have the judge dismiss the death
penalty as a possible outcome, saying "this is not going to be a fair
trial." In the alternative, he said, at least she should excuse the
government's FAA witnesses from the case.

Prosecutor David Novak replied that removing the FAA witnesses would
"exclude half the government's case." Novak suggested instead that the
problem could be fixed by a vigorous cross-examination by the defense.

But Brinkema said she would need time to study what to do.

"In all the years I've been on the bench, I have never seen such an
egregious violation of a rule on witnesses," she said.

Brinkema noted that last Thursday, Novak asked a question that she ruled
out of order after the defense said the question should result in a
mistrial. In that question, Novak suggested that Moussaoui might have had
some responsibility to go back to the FBI, after he got a lawyer, and then
confess his terrorist ties.

Brinkema warned the government at that point that it was treading on shaky
legal ground because she said she knew of no case where a failure to act
resulted in a death penalty as a matter of law.

Moussaoui pleaded guilty 11 months ago to conspiring with al Qaeda to
hijack planes and commit other crimes.

The sentencing trial is being held for the jury to choose between
execution or life in prison without possibility of release.

To obtain the death penalty, prosecutors must first prove Moussaoui took
an action that led directly to deaths on September 11.

Moussaoui denies he had any role in September 11 and says he was training
for a possible future attack on the White House.

(source: The Associated Press)


Judge mulling dismissal of Moussaoui death penalty

A federal judge on Monday was considering whether to dismiss the death
penalty case against September 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui after a
government lawyer violated a rule on sharing information with witnesses.

"In all the years I've been on the bench, I've never seen such an
egregious violation of the court's rule on witnesses," U.S. District Judge
Leonie Brinkema said.

She then recessed the court, before jurors were brought in, to decide
whether to dismiss the possible death sentence for Moussaoui, who last
year pleaded guilty to conspiracy in connection with the September 11
attacks, and instead sentence him to life in prison.

Moussaoui, 37, an admitted al Qaeda member and the only person convicted
in the United States in connection with the hijackings, is represented by
a team of court-appointed lawyers, which he has repeatedly denounced in

He also has cursed America and smiled during accounts of the four
airplanes that were slammed into the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and
a Pennsylvania field, killing nearly 3,000 people.

Brinkema said a lawyer for the Federal Aviation Administration had
violated the rule by reading the transcript of the 1st day of the trial
and discussing the case with several potential witnesses who were due to
be called by both the prosecution and the defence.

Brinkema said the lawyer, identified only as "Ms. Martin," had read
transcripts of the opening arguments and discussed some of the testimony
with potential witnesses.

Defence lawyer Edward MacMahon asked Brinkema to rule that Moussaoui
cannot be sentenced to death for his crimes.

"This is not going to be a fair trial," MacMahon said.

"The proceedings just should be dismissed and Mr. Moussaoui sentenced to
life in prison," he added.

The defence already had requested a mistrial following an error by the
government during the questioning of an FBI witness.

"This is the 2nd significant error by the government affecting the
constitutional rights of this defendant," Brinkema said. "More
importantly, it affects the integrity of the criminal justice system of
the United States."

The sentencing trial started March 6 and was expected to last up to 3

(source: Reuters)


Music Review----'Dead Man' is accessible, unflinching----Baltimore Opera
Company is masterful in this story of redemption and execution

The death penalty, like war, is easier to support in the abstract, when
someone else is doing the actual dirty work, the switch-pulling, the
injection, the shooting - and in a place out of view, out of earshot, far
removed from our safe, comfortable world.

Perhaps the best thing about Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking, which is
receiving an exceptionally strong production by the Baltimore Opera
Company, is how quickly and irrevocably it pulls audiences into an issue
and a reality that usually get no closer to us than a newspaper headline
or a snippet of film at 11.

Based on Sister Helen Prejean's influential book, the opera doesn't flinch
from the naked or the dead, the sacred or the profane, the horrid or the
mundane. It's a remarkably honest work, one reason it has been known to
confirm the convictions of both pro- and anti-death penalty factions since
its sensational premiere in San Francisco 6 years ago.

With Heggie's accessible, vivid score and a mostly fine-tuned libretto by
multi-Tony Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally, Dead Man Walking
takes us right into this nun's innermost thoughts, the progress from
gut-reaction to soul-searching.

We also get pretty close to the inner workings of a disgusting killer.
He's called Joseph De Rocher, but he could be almost anyone who ever
slaughtered a human being. The opera compels us to think of him as a human
being, too.

Baltimore Opera's presentation of Dead Man Walking finds the company
operating at peak strength. The uniformly impressive cast includes the
originator of De Rocher, John Packard; the work's original conductor,
Patrick Summers, is also on hand, exerting an obvious authority. The
staging, a co-production with six other American companies, provides a
good deal of atmosphere in economical fashion.

On Saturday night at the Lyric Opera House, Packard's sturdy baritone and
uncanny way of physically inhabiting the role made De Rocher a compelling
presence. The slow melt of the murderer's unrepentant facade was
masterfully achieved.

As Sister Helen, Theodora Hanslowe was equally impressive at creating a
three-dimensional figure, with acting as astute and incisive as her
vocalism. Her mellow, penetrating mezzo and superb diction (the whole cast
articulated admirably, but surtitles were used nonetheless) tapped deeply
into the opera's rich lyrical vein. Only her final solo, an a cappella
version of the opera's recurring hymn, disappointed. The pace was a little
too fast, the style a little too edgy to give this poetic coda its full

Diana Soviero, the wonderful soprano best known for her idiomatic
performances in the Italian repertoire, nearly stole the night with her
gripping portrayal of Mrs. De Rocher, who gets some of Heggie's most
inspired and moving music. Her almost Anna Magnani-like intensity laid
bare the pain of a mother who thinks she has failed her child. Even
allowing for some technical roughness in the voice, this was great singing
- and great theater.

As Sister Rose, Kishna Davis heated up the place with her gleaming soprano
and natural, animated phrasing. As the parents of the teenagers whose
murder launches the opera, Phyllis Burg, Suzanne S. Chadwick, John Weber
and, especially, Kelly Anderson offered dynamic voices and effective
characterizations. Other sturdy contributions came from Patrick Toomey as
the chaplain and David Langan as the warden.

Summers coaxed some of the most attentive and fully alive playing I've
heard from the Baltimore Opera orchestra, adding to the impact of a
performance attended by Heggie and the real Sister Helen Prejean (the 2
shared in the onstage bows before the sizable, enthusiastic audience.)

Director Christopher Thomas had the action progressing with cinematic
fluidity. It did look odd, though, for Sister Helen to stand during most
of her driving-to-the-penitentiary scene. And the tension of the
lethal-injection scene seemed oddly diluted; a nurse took too long
affixing the tubes, while the sight of cast members assembled close to the
gurney proved more distracting than symbolically meaningful.

A few mechanical glitches should be cleaned up for the remaining
performances. (The worst on Saturday was a sudden burst of amplification
during the execution scene.)

Other things about the opera cannot be changed. The passages in the score
that have all the obviousness and predictability of the soundtrack to a
murder mystery show on TV, for example. The way the music slips into a
kind of musical saccharine when Sister Helen tells De Rocher that "the
truth will set you free." The rather cheesy Elvis Presley stuff in the
scene when De Rocher and Sister Helen recall the King. Or the ordinariness
of Heggie's hymn tune, which is such a key element in the opera's musical
structure; I wish it had the emotional pull of a vintage spiritual.

That said, the best in this opera is very substantial, especially the
sextet, which works as effectively as any ensemble scene in grand operas
of the past. And the way Heggie has De Rocher enter for the 1st time
without a drop of melodramatic harmony or thundering percussion is just

Above all, the composer's use of motives is skillful and telling, starting
with the twisty, portentous opening one that makes many a subtly altered
guise as it helps propel the characters on their individual journeys of
self-discovery and redemption.

Dead Man Walking Baltimore Opera Company. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, 8:15 p.m.
Friday, 3 p.m. Sunday. Lyric Opera House, 140 W. Mount Royal Ave. $40 to
$132. 410-727-6000

(source: Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun)


Close death row----The state shouldn't answer a killing with one of its

New York state has a perfect record on the death penalty, one it should
maintain in the years ahead.

The number is zero.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court declared capital punishment to be
constitutional in 1976 and in the 11 years since New York adopted its own
statute, no one has been executed. This isn't for lack of trying by either
prosecutors or politicians, who tend to flog the importance of this type
of punishment when heinous crimes are committed.

If it weren't for the Court of Appeals declaring in 2004 that the state
law has a fatal, and rather glaring, constitutional flaw, there might
already have been executions.

And recently, in the wake of the shootings of two upstate police officers,
Gov. Pataki reiterated his call for executions of cop killers. The
Republican Senate has been supportive of fixing the deficient statute
while the Democratic Assembly has thus far said no.

The answer is repeal, not repair. The death penalty fails - as practical
policy and as a function of criminal justice in a civilized society.
Executions were for years sold as a deterrent. But violent crime has been
falling precipitously in this state without the so-called deterrence of
capital punishment.

DNA testing has uncovered a sordid truth - innocent people are on death
row. Since 1973, 123 people condemned to death have been exonerated. Just
last month, a Florida man awaiting execution was freed after an appeals
court ordered his acquittal.

The disparities in death sentences are disturbing. In interracial murders,
the black defendant has been executed 209 times, the white defendant 42

More and more, the public favors life imprisonment without parole over the
death penalty. People see the flaws and are appalled by the errors.

New York's zero is the right number.

(source: Editorial, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle)

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