Mar. 4


Prosecutors to seek death penalty against man accused of killing drug
sales rep

Cook County prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against a Chicago
man accused of killing a pharmaceutical sales representative he briefly

Reginald Potts Junior has pleaded not-guilty to 20 counts of murder,
kidnapping, vehicular hijacking and robbery in the death of Nailah

Franklin's badly decomposed body was found in late September, 8 days after
she was reported missing. She and 31-year-old Potts dated on and off in
the past.

Authorities have said Potts' cell phone activity conflicted with his
alibi, and witnesses contradicted his story about where he was when
Franklin vanished.

Potts has been held without bail since December when he was charged in
Franklin's death.

(source: Associated Press)

USA---re: federal death penalty

Judges Revolt Over Death Penalty

A revolt over capital punishment is brewing among Brooklyn's federal
judges, who are appealing to Attorney General Mukasey to stem the rising
number of death penalty trials over which they must preside.

Since the beginning of 2007, when the U.S. Courthouse in Brooklyn emerged
as the hub of death penalty prosecutions in the Northeast, local federal
judges have asked the Justice Department to reconsider decisions to seek
the death penalty in 4 cases  nearly 1/2 the capital cases on the docket.
Judges have no authority to force the Justice Department to withdraw
capital charges. The judges framed their requests as just that, requests.

It is not clear how the Justice Department has responded. During court
proceedings, prosecutors have said they would pass along the requests to
Washington, where the final decision for whether to pursue the death
penalty rests.

The judges in Brooklyn have not framed their requests in terms of
ideological opposition to the death penalty. Nor have they mentioned any
complaints about the strengths of prosecutors' cases. In three instances,
judges have voiced concerns about the monetary and manpower costs of
holding capital trials. In 2 of those instances, judges said outright that
they didn't expect the jury to return death verdicts.

Most recently, Judge Jack Weinstein told the U.S. attorney's office in
Brooklyn that its chances were "virtually nil" for getting a jury to
deliver a death verdict against a drug dealer charged with dismembering 2
rivals, according to an order by the judge. The defendant, Humberto Pepin
Taveras, is scheduled to go to trial in May. Judge Weinstein's order notes
that the court is waiting for the Justice Department to review Pepin's
motion for reconsideration of the capital charges.

In the order, which was released last week, Judge Weinstein appeared to
make a case for why the government should forgo seeking the death penalty.
Judge Weinstein wrote that the defendant, Pepin, was already in his
mid-40s and willing to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of 40
years, which "would result in a life sentence." Judge Weinstein's order
also points out that the costs to the defense and prosecution to prepare
the case have reached $1.5 million and will keep growing.

The order echoes comments made last year by another judge, Frederic Block,
during a conference with attorneys about a separate capital case.

"Will you kindly advise Washington that in this judge's opinion, there is
no chance in the world there would be a death penalty verdict in this
case?" Judge Block told prosecutors who were seeking the death penalty for
a Queens drug trafficker, Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff, charged with murder
for hire.

3 months later, Judge Block, in an op-ed article published in the New York
Times, wrote of the monetary cost of capital trials and called for a "more
prudent and realistic approach in the way the government seeks the death

Over the past 15 months, judges in the U.S. Courthouse in Brooklyn have
seen five juries weigh death sentences for 6 defendants, including
McGriff. In only one case did a jury return a death sentence, which
requires a unanimous finding by the jury. That death sentence was for
Ronell Wilson, who executed 2 undercover detectives.

The juries' track record appears to have prompted some federal judges in
Brooklyn to conclude that the Justice Department is overreaching in
seeking the death penalty at times.

Beyond their beliefs about a particular case, judges have a professional
stake in whether prosecutors pursue death penalty charges or not. A
capital trial involves a painstaking jury selection process and can extend
months beyond a non-capital trial.

A defense attorney, Ephraim Savitt, who represented the man sentenced to
death last year in Brooklyn, said Judges Weinstein and Block were "sending
a message to Washington that this type of a program seeking death is
uncalled for."

Another judge, Nicholas Garaufis, who is handling the heaviest load of
capital cases in Brooklyn, has asked prosecutors to reconsider whether to
go ahead with capital charges against an accused drug dealer. The
defendant, Gerard Price, had been acquitted in state court of the same
murder for which he now faces capital charges.

According to a transcript of the court proceeding from last September,
Judge Garaufis asked an assistant U.S. attorney to allow Mr. Mukasey,
whose nomination for attorney general was then pending, the chance "to
make his own evaluation regarding the suitability of this case as a death
penalty case."

"I'm agnostic about the outcome," Judge Garaufis said. "I just think that
a clear-headed independent evaluation is in order with regard to this

It is not clear what became of that request.

In recent years, the Justice Department has tried to bring more uniformity
nationwide to decisions to seek the death penalty for federal crimes. One
result is local U.S. attorneys have less discretion to forgo the death
penalty in some cases. It is not known whether prosecutors in Brooklyn
were at odds with Washington over whether to purse the death penalty in
any of the capital cases that judges have asked the department to

A 4th request for reconsideration of death penalty charges came from the
courthouse's chief judge, Raymond Dearie, last month in the case of a man
charged with murder for hire, Gilberto Caraballo. Judge Dearie asked a
prosecutor for a "response by the end of this work week" as to whether the
government would reconsider seeking Caraballo's death. The Justice
Department does not appear to have changed course in the case, as the
death penalty phase of Caraballo's trial begins next Monday.

(source: New York Sun)


Brooklyn Judges Question Sensibility Of Recent Death Penalty Cases

Several federal judges in Brooklyn have asked the U.S. Department of
Justice and the U.S Attorney General to reconsider the decision-making
process involved in seeking the death penalty for several murderers

Citing monetary and manpower reasons as well as speculation that a death
sentence was unlikely, some U.S District Court judges are wondering
whether these capital cases are sensibly brought. Judge Jack Weinstein
told the U.S Attorney's Office in Brooklyn that the upcoming capital case
of murder defendant Humberto Pepin Taveras was highly unlikely to end with
a death sentence and has already cost lawyers and prosecutors about $1.5

According to Robert Nardoza, spokesman for the U.S Attorneys Office in
Brooklyn, there have been 6 capital cases brought by federal prosecutors
in Brooklyn during the last 4 years or so. Only one of them, Ronell
Wilson, who executed 2 police detectives, was sentenced to death.

However, while the majority of recent capital cases in Brooklyn have been
unsuccessful, Nardoza said that it is not up to his office but rather up
to U.S Attorney General Michael Mukasey on whether to pursue the death
penalty in these cases.

2 weeks ago, infamous gang leader and killer James McTier, 25, of
Brownsville, had his life spared by a jury that could not agree on a death
sentence, and was therefore sentenced to life without the possibility of
parole. To sentence a man to death, federal law requires that the jury's
decision be unanimous.

(source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle)


Bill Changes Ga. Public Defender Funding

The state's ailing public defender system would get help from local
governments under a measure passed Tuesday by the Georgia House which
requires counties to chip in funds for some death penalty defenses.

The House measure is a response to the state's plodding case against
accused courthouse gunman Brian Nichols, whose death penalty trial has
infuriated lawmakers and racked up at least $1.8 million in defense
charges before a jury has even been chosen.

Backers of the legislation say the case against Nichols - who is accused
of killing 4 in a 2005 rampage that started at a downtown Atlanta
courthouse - has given lawmakers a new urgency to overhaul the statewide
public defender system.

"The consensus is that this is a program that is worth saving," said state
Rep. David Ralston, the bill's sponsor. "But if we are to save it, it's a
program that must be changed."

The measure, approved 141-21, creates a new cost-sharing formula that
requires counties to pick up some of the tab for some death penalty cases.
It now goes to the state Senate.

Under the bill, the state would pay the first $150,000 of each capital
punishment defense, but the county would have to pay 25 % of the next
$100,000 and half of the cost of expenses beyond $250,000.

It also encourages the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council to adopt
a flat fee structure for outside counsel brought in to handle capital
cases, whose hourly wages are blamed by some lawmakers for costs that they
say are spiraling out of control.

"There's not an endless pot of money to defend these cases," said House
Majority Whip Barry Fleming, R-Harlem. "It shines the light on the fact
that we have a limited amount of money, and we need to spend it wisely."

Other provisions require public defender circuits to hire employees to
verify whether defendants are truly eligible for an indigent defender. It
also would bar senior judges from hearing death penalty cases, a swipe at
Hilton Fuller, the senior judge who was appointed to preside over the
Nichols case but stepped down in January.

Critics urged lawmakers not to reverse too many of the protections adopted
five years ago when a statewide public defender system was first approved.

"We cannot afford to change the system so much that we reverse these steps
and waste the investments we have made in creating a strong and
functioning justice system for all Georgians," said Sara Totonchi, public
policy director for the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights.

Nichols is accused of killing a Fulton County judge, a court reporter and
a sheriff's deputy at the downtown Atlanta courthouse where he was facing
rape charges. He is also charged with killing a federal agent he
encountered later.

The trial has stalled over a funding dispute highlighted by the council's
decision to cut off funding for Nichols' defense in July.

Attorneys were back in court Tuesday for a hearing in the case, which had
cost $1.8 million by June's end. That's 4 times more than the $400,000 the
council estimates for the average death penalty defense.

(source: Associated Press)


Making History: The Repeal Of The Death Penalty In New Jersey

The Editor interviews David Pascrell, Chair, and David Filippelli,
Associate, in the Government Affairs Department of Gibbons P.C.

Editor: Would you tell our readers about your background?

Pascrell: I have been a registered lobbyist on the state and federal
levels for almost 12 years now. After law school, I clerked for a chancery
court judge, Judge Amos Saunders. I have worked in government affairs for
the lion's share of my career. I litigated for about a year before I took
a position at a firm in Trenton, after which I moved to the government
affairs practice group of Gibbons. I have been here for about 6 years.

Filippelli: Before joining Gibbons I served as a legislative director and
communications director in Washington D.C. and in New Jersey for a member
of Congress. I came to Gibbons about 5 years ago, around the time that
David Pascrell started this project with Judge Gibbons.

Editor: How did Judge Gibbons contribute to this project?

Pascrell: He was a professor at Seton Hall Law School, of which I am an
alumnus. When I joined the firm, we opened Gibbons' Trenton office to
start the government affairs practice group. Several months later, Judge
Gibbons called to tell me about New Jerseyans for a Death Penalty
Moratorium, an organization on whose board he was serving and which has
since grown into New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
(NJADP). He was very active in promoting the organization's mission, which
at that time was to legislatively impose a moratorium on the death penalty
in New Jersey. Not surprisingly, I was very excited that the standard
bearer of our firm was calling me a few months into a relatively new
practice group for the firm. In 2002, I began to work with (then
chairperson and now director) Celeste Fitzgerald on the group's lobbying
efforts for enactment of the 1st-in-the-nation legislative moratorium on
capital punishment, which also included the creation of the New Jersey
Death Penalty Study Commission.

Editor: Can you tell us more about the Study Commission? Who were its

Filippelli: The make-up of the 13-member commission was striking. They
were appointed by the governor, the leaders of the Senate and Assembly and
by several non-government groups. Members included a retired Supreme Court
justice who had sought the death penalty during his tenure; a Republican
police chief who supported the death penalty; family members of murder
victims, and other concerned citizens. It was very much a bipartisan group
of distinguished people, and they conducted 5 very fair and open public
hearings throughout 2006. Several were pro death penalty when they
convened on day one, but the vote that came out in their January 2007
report was 12-1 in favor of repeal.

Editor: How was all of this paid for?

Pascrell: Our representation began as a pro bono assignment. As the
organization grew over the course of several years, Celeste seized the
growing momentum in the state for repeal and began to seek more funding.
Meanwhile, several national organizations who were looking for a state
that was ripe to abolish the death penalty threw their energy behind New
Jersey. Private contributions from philanthropic institutions began to
come into the organization, enabling it to hire staff, as well as to
retain us as government affairs counsel. Along with us came seasoned media
professionals, whom we were able to advise, thanks to David Filippelli's
background in communications.

Editor: What would you say were significant turning points for the move
toward repeal?

Pascrell: The first was the Senate's passage of Public Law 2005, C.321. A
de facto moratorium was in place already because the lethal injection
regulations had yet to be revised by the Department of Corrections in
accordance with a state court decision, but NJADP thought it an important
initial step to have the legislature manifest its desire to impose a
moratorium during a death penalty study commission phase. When this
legislation came up before the Senate, we thought we would win by a razor
thin majority. Several Republicans and Democrats opposed to the moratorium
bill decided to change their votes in caucus through a spirited debate and
under guided leadership. I was very much encouraged by the bipartisan
nature of that vote; all along we have strived to avoid making the death
penalty a partisan issue.

Filippelli: Another important moment in our effort came when our message
switched from simply seeking abolition of the death penalty to seeking an
alternative to it - life in prison without parole. To argue simply that
the death penalty had failed without articulating that we were going to
replace it with a very strong penalty, we felt, would be a mistake. I
believe it was a turning point when this organization understood that to
achieve its objective we had to speak in different terms and renamed
itself New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Editor: Tell us more about the NJADP.

Pascrell: The goal of our client was to impose a moratorium and then begin
to debate on replacing the death penalty with life without the possibility
of parole. They asked that a study commission convene, and the hope was
that it would recommend repeal of the death penalty. None of the current
death row inmates would be put to death during the course of this.

This was by no means a foregone conclusion in the state of New Jersey.
Richard Codey, President of the New Jersey Senate, had on many public
occasions stated that he was supportive of the death penalty, and his
staff indicated in private conferences that he would not change his
position. It was an amazing turning point when Senator Codey put the
abolition bill up for a vote, and not only did he not oppose the bill, he
ultimately decided to vote for and advocate for repeal - thanks to the
extraordinary efforts of the NJADP over many years. The NJADP is a tribute
to the concept that if you believe in something strongly enough; if you
are creative enough in terms of your approach; and if you never give up,
then ultimately you will prevail.

Filippelli: The strength of this group cannot be underestimated. We
certainly are proud of the lobbying efforts that we undertook, but at the
end of the day it was the 12,000 New Jerseyans in the NJADP who made
passage of S-171 a reality.

What made our work with the NJADP so special was the process by which we
put it together. There was a significant media component, a significant
grassroots component and a significant legislative component, and they all
worked hand in hand. Literally every week we evaluated how we were doing
on each of those fronts because they were all integral to the process. We
had to convince the media. We had to keep our grassroots supporters
engaged so that they would continue to communicate with their legislators.
Members of the legislature needed to understand that the trend in New
Jersey public opinion was moving more and more to replacing this outdated

Editor: Who were the drivers at the NJADP?

Filippelli: The founding father of the organization, Lorry Post, lost his
daughter to murder and he opposed the death penalty for her killer - as do
many family members of murder victims. He recruited Celeste Fitzgerald,
who ultimately became the director and leader of the effort. Every time
Lorry and Celeste came in the State House they delivered a powerful
message, as did many people who shared his experience and views. A
critical part of this project was that victims' family members convinced
the legislators that they could no longer claim that the death penalty had
to be kept for the sake of the victims' families.

Editor: How did you convince the legislature?

Filippelli: New Jersey has 40 members in the Senate and 80 in the
Assembly, and throughout a 5 year period we got to know an awful lot about
those people - what each one's particular concerns were and what would
move him or her toward our side. This effort did not rely on one
particular argument. It was not just that we might execute an innocent
person, that the death penalty cost too much or that we had not executed
anyone in 40 years. It was all of those things.

Pascrell: Dozens of people who had lost a family member to murder came
forward to say that with the unending appeals and the fact that no one was
put to death, there was never any closure for them. These people wanted to
concentrate on honoring the life of their loved ones, not putting their
murderers to death.

Editor: Did recent cases of exoneration by DNA evidence play a role?

Pascrell: DNA exoneration was not specifically pertinent to the inmates
then on death row in New Jersey, as their guilt was well established.
Nonetheless, the argument that innocent persons may be executed was
highlighted by the over 100 cases of death row exoneration that had popped
up all over the United States. These cases give credence to the argument
that wrongful executions are occurring in this day and age despite all of
the civil protections in place through the trial and appellate process,
and this was the key argument to win over some members of the Legislature.

Filippelli: At the very first hearing of the study commission, Larry
Peterson, who had just been exonerated in South Jersey (a capital case,
but not a death row inmate), testified unbelievably forcefully about the
fact that he had spent 18 years in prison for a capital crime that he did
not commit. Sitting next to him was Barry Sheck, the leading DNA attorney
from the Innocence Project in New York at the Benjamin Cardozo School of

Editor: How strong were the findings on the death penalty as a deterrent?

Filippelli: The commission took testimony from experts on both sides and
what they ultimately determined was that you could not prove at all
conclusively that the death penalty has a deterrent effect.

Editor: And the final push occurred over the course of 2007?

Pascrell: We could have pushed for consideration of S-171 earlier in 2007.
After much deliberation and consideration we decided that it would be best
for us to delay, and the Legislature came to the same conclusion. ,P>
Filippelli: This allowed us to spend 2007 educating legislators on what
the commission found. The comprehensive report covered eight different
topics - ranging from possible execution of innocent persons to whether or
not the death penalty was consistent with our standards of decency today -
and included a draft piece of legislation for review. Throughout 2007 we
helped the legislature take in the report and understand what was being
recommended - specifically, abolition of the death penalty and replacement
with life in prison without parole.

Editor: What was the practical result of this legislation in terms of
commuted sentences?

Filippelli: The first thing is that the Governor did was commute all of
the sentences of those currently on death row, which he announced when he
signed the bill into law.

Pascrell: It was unclear whether or not one could apply retroactively a
life without parole sentence - essentially a new sentence - on the death
row inmates. To relieve us of having to get into that debate the governor
commuted those sentences.

Editor: Are there any other states with similar bills pending?

Filippelli: Bills are pending in Maryland, Colorado and New Mexico, I

Editor: Did this experience affect you personally?

Pascrell: In my 12 year-lobbying career as an attorney, this has been by
far the most rewarding effort that I have ever undertaken. It has been an
honor for me to be involved in this. It happened by virtue of the fact
that I decided to come to Gibbons to become a part of what I think is just
a truly wonderful firm. When I first started representing this
organization I was pro death penalty myself, and I believe now that this
was the case because I simply did not spend the time to understand the
arguments for repeal and to really get into the debate. So I applied the
same techniques that had changed my opinion to my lobbying efforts. It
boiled down to this: the more information that we provided to members who
were in a position to vote on repealing the death penalty, the more
inclined they were to feel comfortable with replacing the death penalty
with life without parole. I saw first hand the power of information to
significantly change minds. I'm not sure that I will have another
experience as powerful in my career.

Filippelli: We take great pride in everything that we do for our clients
but this certainly was a rare, historic event. It was especially powerful
to hear the stories of family members. I, too, was conflicted about the
death penalty. What changed my mind was the testimony of the family
members of murder victims, who overwhelmingly told the legislature that it
was not doing them any favors by upholding this system, which ultimately
keeps the perpetrator in the news. More to the point, I came to believe
that abolishing the death penalty was simply the right thing to do.

(source: The Metropolitan Counsel)


Crittenden may face capital trial; Death penalty option considered by

Accused killer Duane Demaris Crittenden was indicted by a Palatka grand
jury Monday and will be tried on 3 counts of 1st-degree murder and 1 count
of robbery with a deadly weapon.

A decision on whether Crittenden will face the death penalty is a few
weeks away, said Assistant State Attorney Matt Cline, who will be
prosecuting the case.

"We have been meeting with the family of all the victims to get their
input," he said. "(The decision) will come in a couple of weeks."

The bodies of Richard Smith, Jerome Henry and Robert Ford were found early
Feb. 16 inside the former Paradise Inn on Carver Street near Palatka.

Smith and Henry had been shot execution style, authorities said, while
Ford had been shot multiple times and stabbed.

Their deaths followed an apparent robbery at the end of a night-long
high-stakes card game, investigators said.

According to a report from the Putnam County Sheriffs Office, Crittenden,
28, participated in the card game during the night of Feb. 15 and lost a
large sum of money.

Crittenden returned between 8:45 and 9 a.m. the next day and robbed and
killed the men, the report said. The bodies were discovered about 10:30

On Feb. 17, a tip to authorities led officers to the Town Plaza Motel in
Ocala, which was raided by a SWAT team. Crittenden was found walking on a
nearby street and arrested.

A knife and gun believed to be the weapons used in the triple slaying were
found in an Ocala pharmacy's trash bin.

Monday's grand jury indictment is required in Florida in order for the
State Attorney's Office to bring a charge of 1st-degree murder.

(source: Palatka Daily News)

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