June 4


Judge suspends Culpeper murder charge against death-row inmate

Death row inmate Ricky Javon Gray won't go on trial this fall for the 2005
slaying of Culpeper mother of 3 Sheryl Embrey Warner.

A judge today nol-prossed a capital-murder charge against Gray at the
request of Commonwealth's Attorney Gary Close. That suspends the case
against Gray, but leaves the door open for it to be revived.

Close said FBI Lab analysis excluded Gray as the source of some evidence
found at the crime scene. He said the investigation is continuing.

The prosecutor referenced football strategy in explaining his decision.
"The best analogy is when a team is on its own 30-yard line and it's
4th-down and 20," Close said. "You punt. Its not the end of the game. It's
merely a punt for better field position."

Gray had been scheduled for trial in Culpeper in September. He has already
been convicted and sentenced to die for the brutal murders of 7 people in
Richmond two weeks after the Dec. 18, 2005, slaying of the 37-year-old

The mother of three's body was found hanging by an electrical cord from
the basement ceiling in her rural Culpeper home. She had been shot in the
head with a small-caliber handgun and a fire had been set in the basement.

The prosecution's case suffered a major blow in March, when a judge
refused to allow testimony from a 4-time convict now serving time in a
federal prison. The inmate claimed Grays girlfriend told him she was with
Gray when he killed Warner.

Circuit Judge John Cullen ruled that testimony inadmissible at trial,
saying it contradicted earlier statements the inmate gave to police.

Gray's girlfriend, Ashley Baskerfield, was among his 7 victims. She and
her parents were killed Jan. 6, 2006, 5 days after Gray killed a Richmond
couple and their 2 young daughters.

Gray was convicted of the Richmond slayings and given the death penalty.
His nephew, Joseph Ray Dandridge, pleaded guilty to helping Gray kill
Baskerville and her parents and was given a life sentence.

(source: Free Lance-Star)

GEORGIA----impending execution

Execution set for today, despite questionable defense

Condemned double murderer Curtis Osborne made no special request for his
last meal, telling prison officials he would eat the same thing the other
inmates have on Wednesday.

The state Board of Pardons and Paroles, which under the Georgia
Constitution is the only entity that can commute a sentence, declined
Osborne's plea for mercy Monday. With that decision made and all possible
court challenges resolved, any successful last-minute maneuvering seems

Osborne stands to be the second person Georgia has executed in a month and
the fourth in the nation since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld lethal
injection, used by the 3-drug procedure Georgia and 36 other states.

Osborne was sentenced to die in Spalding County for the 1990 murders of
Arthur Jones and Linda Lisa Seaborne. The prosecutor said at trial Osborne
killed Jones because Osborne didn't want to give him the $400 he got for
selling Jones' motorcycle. Seaborne was killed because she was there,
authorities have said.

On Tuesday, high-powered people continued lobbying for Osborne, arguing
his lawyer failed him at trial. The claims each repeated are that his
defense attorney, the late Johnny Mostiler, was a racist and that was the
reason he did not tell Osborne there was a plea offer for a life sentence
and the reason he offered very little evidence that might lead the jury to
sentence Osborne to life instead of death.

Former President Jimmy Carter and former Deputy U.S. Attorney General
Larry Thompson wrote letters to the state Board of Pardons and Paroles as
did former U.S. Attorney General Griffin Bell  now senior counsel to the
law firm that is representing Osborne at no charge. Former Georgia Supreme
Court Justice Norman Fletcher also appealed to the board.

On Tuesday, William Sessions, a former federal judge and once the head of
the FBI, also argued on Osborne's behalf in an opinion column in The
Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"Osborne admits that he is guilty of the murders for which he was
sentenced to die, but that sentence has been permanently stained by the
acute inadequacy of his counsel," Sessions wrote. "When a person accused
of murder is failed by his or her attorney, our faith in the verdict  and
in the criminal justice system itself  is shaken."

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)


New legislation calls for death penalty

The extended area has seen its share of police officers killed on duty in
recent years with Officer Thomas Lindsey of the Utica Police Department
and Officer Joseph Corr of the New Hartford Police Department.

But the people who commit these crimes could now face the death penalty.

Sen. James L. Seward announced that legislation he cosponsored to will
establish the death penalty for criminals who kill police officers,
correction officers and other law enforcement personnel.

"New York needs the death penalty to protect our society, our correction
and police officers who risk their lives every day for our safety and
well-being," said Seward. "We must not let danger rule our streets."

He said the legislation will toughen up laws to protect police from being
victims of violent criminals. "Too many law enforcement officers are
killed while honoring their commitment to protect and serve this state,
and many more are injured in the line of duty. We need to do something we
can to protect our brave heroes, and the bill will protect communities and
our police officers, from violent criminals," said Seward.

The legislation, S.6414, has passed in the Senate and has now been
forwarded to the Assembly. Seward said in 1995, 94 members of the assembly
voted in favor of death penalty legislation and he believes the bill would
pass if brought up for a vote.

"I urge the assembly to bring this critically important bill to protect
our police officers on the floor," said Seward.

Herkimer and Mohawk Police Departments Chief Joseph Malone thought the
legislation was a good idea and supports the bill 100 %.

He said it is about time this bill came out.

"I'm not saying officers are better than anyone else, but when someone
kills an officer who is doing his or her duty, that is a serious offense,"
said Malone.

Malone believed this measure would do something to slow down the rash of
killed police officers and act as a deterrent, making people think twice
before their actions.

Herkimer County Sheriff Christopher Farber said in his opinion, anyone who
is convicted of killing a police officer or corrections officer should be
prosecuted to the full extent of the law that is available at that time,
especially when the officer is doing his or her job to protect law abiding
citizens. Malone added that this is a good example of how Seward supports
law enforcement.

(source: Herkimer Evening Telegram)


Lift moratorium on the death penalty

On Jan. 31, 2000, ex-Gov. George Ryan, on a whim, called a moratorium on
the Illinois death penalty. His primary reason behind this was to make
sure safeguards were in place to prevent the death penalty from being
carried out on potentially innocent persons.

At the time this was, perhaps, a cautious decision to make. Since then,
however, our state's justice system has had over eight years to address
any weaknesses and put the necessary safeguards in place. This is more
than enough time.

Further, with recent advancements in scientific methods, such as DNA
analysis, there leaves absolutely no doubt whether a person was involved
in a crime or not.

There is no reason for the moratorium to continue. Some activists, and
even religious groups, claim the death penalty is inhumane. Was the
original act of murder not an inhumane crime against innocent victims?
This is so clear, how can the opposition find basis to continue?

Further, the U. S. Supreme Court has ruled that capital punishment is
constitutional. Recently the court also ruled that carrying out the death
penalty by lethal injection is, indeed, humane. This is the method used in

State Rep. Dennis Reboletti has rightfully introduced a resolution
(HR0969) in Springfield calling on Gov. Blagojevich to lift the
moratorium. The governor can do this on a whim, too.

The moratorium has become nothing but a smokescreen used by current
Illinois' leadership to avoid the politically charged issues relating to
the death penalty. In Illinois, capital punishment is the law. No
question. The courts are still able to apply the sentence of death. Our
obligation to the law is to carry it out. As all citizens are expected,
our leaders must also abide by the law.

The time has passed, and to continue the moratorium is no longer prudence,
but, rather, lawlessness.

Garth Taylor----Bensenville

(source: Letter to the Editor, Daily Herald)


Ruling on death penalty due soon

Attorneys challenging the state's lethal injection process on behalf of 2
accused killers failed to prove that the way the state executes prisoners
is unconstitutional or that it violates Ohio law, according to prosecutors
defending the process.

The state's protocols are not only constitutional, they meet the
requirements of an Ohio law that requires executions to be quick and
painless, Assistant Lorain County Prosecutor Tony Cillo wrote in his
closing argument, filed Tuesday.

"Because the undisputed evidence establishes that the properly
anesthetized inmate cannot feel pain, Ohio's 3-drug cocktail is, by
definition, 'painless,'" Cillo wrote.

Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge said he will likely issue a
ruling in the cases of Ruben Rivera and Ronald McCloud, who could face
execution if convicted in separate killings in Lorain, within the next 2

Jeff Gamso, one of the attorneys representing the pair, has conceded that
the three-drug cocktail used by Ohio in executions offers a painless death
if properly administered, but he argued that the state cant guarantee that
nothing will go wrong in the execution process

Cillo asked Burge to throw out the closing argument submitted by Gamso,
who also serves as legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union's
Ohio chapter, saying that he didnt follow the judge's instructions on how
he should present his argument.

Gamso also had asked Burge to reconsider allowing him to interview the
three members of the execution team with medical training, something Burge
had previously refused.

In his closing argument, Cillo also renewed his objections to Burge even
holding hearings on the constitutionality of lethal injection, saying that
the judge shouldnt even consider the issue unless McCloud and Rivera are
convicted and sentenced to death.

Burge and the Ohio Supreme Court both rejected that argument, and Burge
held hearings earlier this year in which 2 anesthesiologists testified
that the lethal injection protocols used in Ohio were sound, as long as
they are done correctly.

But the defense expert, Mark Heath, argued that if the first drug in the
process  a sedative  didn't keep an inmate unconscious, the second and
third drugs  which paralyze the condemned inmate and stop his heart  would
cause excruciating pain.

Mark Dershwitz, who testified for prosecutors in the case, said the amount
of the sedative used by the state is powerful enough to kill an inmate
without the aid of the other 2 drugs.

That prompted Gamso to say that the state should switch to using only the
sedative, although he remains opposed to the death penalty.

Cillo countered that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision upheld lethal
injection and Gamso had failed to prove that there was a significant
chance of something going wrong.

(source: The Chronicle-Telegram)


Whitehall vet may face death penalty----He waives hearing in fatal
shooting of church leader.

Delaware prosecutors said Tuesday they haven't decided whether to seek the
death penalty for a Whitehall Township veterinarian accused of gunning
down a church leader at a fundraiser last week in Newark.

Monir A. George, 58, of 2958 MacArthur Road, waived a preliminary hearing
in New Castle County Court and was ordered to face trial on charges of
first-degree murder and possession of a firearm during commission of a
felony in the May 25 shooting of Malek S. Michael, 63, of Bear, Del.

Authorities said George armed himself with two semiautomatic handguns and
150 rounds of ammunition and shot and killed Michael at the Coptic
Orthodox church event at the Christiana Hilton Hotel.

The church's pastor has said George intended a massacre but was prevented
by members of Michael's family, who subdued him.

George is in Howard Young Prison in Wilmington without bail. By waiving
the hearing, he avoided a public court appearance and a detailing of the
accusations against him.

Delaware law permits capital punishment for those who commit 1st-degree
murder with at least one of 18 aggravating factors, among them if the
victim was 62 or older or if the defendant attempted more than one murder
at the same time.

Kathryn van Amerongen, George's public defender, said prosecutors could
seek the death penalty given Michael's age, but she also noted that George
has no criminal record.

''No determination has been made on that,'' Deputy Attorney General Diane
Walsh said.

The final decision on whether to seek the death penalty will be made by
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, Walsh said. Typically a capital
charge is brought during the indictment stage of a case, but not always,
she said.

The case now heads for New Castle County Superior Court for indictment, a
process that usually takes 45 days, but murder cases often proceed more
slowly, van Amerongen said.

Michael, the deacon of St. Mary's Coptic Church of Delaware, had just sat
down after giving a speech to raise money for a new building when George
allegedly shot him in front of about 80 people. State police say in a
court affidavit that George was driven by disagreements with the church's

St. Mary's pastor, the Rev. Mina Mina, has said George was angry at the
overall church and blamed it for his failed marriage.

On Tuesday, Mina said the Coptic Church doesn't oppose the death penalty
as part of its tenets, as do some other Christian churches.

''The Bible allows for capital punishment in order to give closure for the
family of the victim,'' Mina said. ''But we hope that the murderer would
repent and reconcile with God.''

Mina said a sentence of life in prison would satisfy him. ''For me, it is
the same,'' he said.

George's arrest stunned acquaintances of his from the Lehigh Valley, who
described him as jovial and friendly. But George, who owned AAA Animal
Clinic, also drew complaints from customers, including one who said he
dropped her cat's frozen, dead body at her workplace after she failed to
pay for its disposal.

In 1998, he was cited by a state veterinary inspector for filthy
conditions at his treatment room after a dog died while in his care. He
eventually paid a fine, reimbursed the customer and was publicly
reprimanded by the Board of Veterinary Medicine.

This week, a Northampton man said he took his dog to George in fall 2005
and was unhappy with the condition of the office and George's treatment of
the animal.

''It was a dirty, disgusting place; something just didn't seem right,''
said Steve Sorace, 40, a computer engineer who said he took his bichon
fris to another vet.

''The place smelled. The place reeked,'' Sorace said. ''The guy was

(source: Allentown Morning Call)


Prosecutors will appeal Koon death penalty ruling

The District Attorneys Office will ask the nation's top court to review a
federal judges decision to toss out Walter Joey Koons conviction and death
sentence and order a new trial in the 1993 slaying of his estranged wife
and her elderly parents in Baton Rouge, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed U.S. District Judge James
Bradys decision last month, prompting the East Baton Rouge Parish District
Attorney's Office to ask the appellate court for a rehearing. The appeals
court denied the request last week.

Assistant District Attorney Dale Lee said the office will take the case to
the U.S. Supreme Court. Prosecutors have 90 days to do so.

"That's the plan," he said.

Brady and the 5th Circuit said they were forced to rule the way they did
because the performance of Koons court-appointed trial lawyer, Kevin
Monahan, was  as Brady put it  "egregious."

"unprofessional" and "constitutionally deficient."

Lee said the District Attorney's Office respectfully disagrees that Koon's
conviction and death verdict had to be thrown out and a new trial granted.
"There was plenty evidence of guilt," he said.

Lawyer Jim Boren, who represents Koon, said defense attorneys are
typically the ones accused of delay tactics, so he steered clear of
criticizing the state for exercising its right to take its appeal one step

Koon, of Denham Springs, was found guilty in 1995 in the killing of
Michelle Guidry Koon and her parents, 73-year-old Richard Guidry and
66-year-old Felicie Guidry.

Prosecutors allege Koon drove to the Audubon Avenue home of his in-laws,
where his wife was staying, and shot her twice with a handgun in the

He then went into the house and shot Felicie Guidry while she tried to
call authorities, prosecutors say.

Koon allegedly later shot Richard Guidry twice in the chest, then, after
Guidry had fallen, moved closer and shot him twice more, killing him,
prosecutors say.

Immediately after the shootings, Koon drove to his Livingston Parish home,
where he called the local authorities and surrendered in the killings.

Koon took the stand in his own defense and admitted killing his wife and
her parents. The jury rejected defense arguments that the proper verdict
was manslaughter.

(source: The Advocate)

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