DA seeks death penalty in slaying of prison worker
An inmate accused in the 2002 slaying of a prison worker will be placed on
trial and prosecutors will seek the death penalty after a judge Tuesday allowed
the suspect to withdraw his guilty plea.
Edward Montour Jr., already serving a life sentence in the 1997 death of his
11-month-old daughter, is accused of killing Eric Autobee, 23, by striking him
in the head with a heavy kitchen ladle at Limon Correctional Facility. Montour
represented himself in the case and in January 2003, barely three months after
the slaying, pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder.
He told his advisory attorneys that he wanted to die by execution, according to
The case has lingered in court for more than 10 years following a judge's
imposition of the death penalty, which was later thrown out by the Colorado
Supreme Court. The court ruled in 2007 that only a jury, not a judge, can hand
down death sentences.
While prosecutors have been seeking a penalty phase trial so a jury can impose
the death penalty, Montour's defense attorneys have been trying to strike a
deal that would spare Montour's life.
An offer to have Montour plead guilty and serve a life sentence in solitary
confinement was rejected by prosecutors, attorney David Lane said, and Douglas
County District Judge Richard B. Caschette on Tuesday allowed Montour to
withdraw his guilty plea, setting the stage for a new trial. Caschette said in
his ruling that he could not allow Montour's "calculated plan of state-assisted
"In giving up a 1st-degree murder conviction, all for the sake of attempting to
get a death penalty, all things are possible now in this case including a
verdict of not guilty after trial," Lane said in a statement.
Many prosecutors who support the death penalty have long argued that it remains
the sole deterrent against inmates who are already serving life sentences from
killing prison guards. District Attorney George Brauchler, who earlier this
month announced that he would seek the death penalty for Aurora theater
shooting suspect James Holmes, said the death penalty in this case sends the
message that killing prison guards will not be tolerated.
"When a man already serving a life sentence kills a prison guard, a 'new' life
sentence defies justice, common sense, and makes the taking of Eric Autobee's
life a 'freebie,'" Brauchler said in a statement.
Autobee's family opposes the death penalty, but Brauchler said he's taking
prison workers' safety into consideration.
The day before he was fatally shot while answering his front door, Colorado
Department of Corrections Executive Director Tom Clements testified at the
Legislature on behalf of improved prison worker safety. Clements' March 19
slaying remains unsolved.
Former inmate and white supremacist prison gang member Evan Ebel had the gun
used in Clements' slaying when he died in a shootout with Texas authorities.
Authorities have not said what role they believe Ebel played in Clements'
slaying or whether others were involved.
An associate of Ebel's is in custody while another remains at large. El Paso
County sheriff's officials say both are persons of interest in Clements'
Until Autobee's death in 2002, no corrections officer had been killed since
1929. Since Autobee's slaying, Sgt. Mary Ricard, 55, was killed last September
while breakfast was being prepared for inmates at the Arkansas Valley
Correctional Facility, and then Clements died at his home in Monument.
(source: Associated Press)
Utah on the wrong side of history
Last month, the state of Maryland became the eighteenth state in the U.S. to do
away with the death penalty. In which direction do you think this issue is
going? Will the number of states with the death penalty increase or decrease?
While working for the U.S. Department of Justice, I assisted Poland and Albania
with criminal justice issues surrounding requirements for European Union
membership. Dissolving the death penalty is required for membership in the EU.
Besides Texas, what state do you think will be one of the last to give up the
Statistically, the death penalty in America is racially misrepresented.
According to the last U.S. census, African Americans account for approximately
13 % of our population. African Americans currently account for 42.6 % of the
people on death row. I ask you to visualize the metaphor portrayed in Lady
Justice. Blindfolded with a scale in one hand and a sword in the other - do you
think she can see these percentages? I'm not suggesting these people are
innocent. I'm challenging our solution.
It is important to point out that of the 13 % of African Americans in the
United States, half are women. There are very few women on death row in
America. In addition, of the 13 % of African-Americans in the U.S. 1/3 are
children. We do not execute children under the age of 18 years. If you do the
math, the 42.6 % on death row are African American adult men. African American
adult men make up approximately 5 % of our total U.S. population; yet they make
up 42.6 % of those on death row. Do you think Lady Justice can do the math?
President Harry Truman was often blunt spoken. He once said, "People think I
give them hell. I never give them hell. I just tell them the truth and they
think it's hell."
With President Truman's statement in mind, I want to clearly state some facts
that have placed Utah on the wrong side of history and have hurt Utah. First,
most Utahns, in the late 1800s, didn't want to give up polygamy. Utah was on
the wrong side of this issue, and eventually gave up. Second, not giving
African Americans the priesthood, until 1978, again placed the majority of
Utahns on the wrong side of history and made all of Utah appear to be racist.
As we look at what the future holds in America, what side of history will Utah
be on? From gay rights, and women's issues, to gun violence and the death
penalty, what side of history do you think Utah will be on? It appears that
many Utahns are fearful of the future. Decisions based on fear are never good.
Is stashing gold, clutching guns and ammunition, storing 2 years worth of food,
all based on the unfounded expectation of Armageddon or the failure of
government - circumstantial evidence?
These nonsensical positions and fears are firmly placing Utah on the wrong side
of history and pushing Utah politics to the margins of American society.
There is a curious thinness to Utah's collective thinking on these contemporary
As Oscar Wilde, the prolific Irish poet said, "You can't reason a man out of
something he didn't reason himself into." Will Utah be reasonable about gay
rights, women's rights, gun violence, and the death penalty or will we again
find ourselves on the wrong side of history? I think this is one of those
problems that even duct tape can't fix!
(source: Opinion; Robert C. Wadman is professor, emeritus, criminal justice
department, at Weber State University----Standard-Examiner)
Accused serial killer has links to New Mexico
There's a nationwide search for more victims of an accused serial killer - who
may have killed women right here in New Mexico.
Detectives are dusting off cold case files around the country to link
72-year-old Samuel Little to other crimes.
Records show he was here in New Mexico a few years after those murders and as
recently as 2 years ago.
Now, APD and BCSO detectives may be taking a 2nd look at what he did during his
Little is now in custody with LAPD after DNA evidence linked him to the murder
of 3 women in Los Angeles in the late 1980s. He's also accused of 2 murders and
2 attempted murders in Mississippi and Florida.
Cold case murder detectives say he was a thief by day, murderer by night -
sexually attacking women and strangling them.
LAPD linked Little to three murders in the late 1980s and now they're looking
through many more cold case files to find more victims.
Los Angeles detectives are coming through cold case murders through the early
1990s for matches - and they're urging departments across the country to do the
Little has a rap sheet spanning 24 states - including New Mexico.
In 1992, he was arrested at 300 Menaul NW in Albuquerque - then the site of a
Kmart - for shoplifting.
He didn't show up in court the following week and a decade later, a judge at
Metro Court dismissed the charges.
As recently as 2 years ago, Little was accused of shoplifting in Hobbs - and
then he again failed to appear in court.
The Metro Crime lab shared by APD and BCSO will be running Little's DNA to see
if there are any matches to cold cases in New Mexico.
All told, his criminal record spans more than 56 years - but so far, he's only
spent about 10 years in prison.
He's currently awaiting trial on the triple-murder charges in California. He'll
be eligible for the death penalty.
(source: KRQE News)
Mental evaluation finds Lake Oswego murder suspect fit for trial
A man charged in the slashing death of a Lake Oswego-area high-tech engineer is
fit to stand trial, according to a mental health evaluation discussed in court
However, defense attorneys for Erik John Meiser dispute the report, maintaining
their client suffers from delusions and cannot aid in his own defense -- the
minimum requirement set by law.
Clackamas County Circuit Judge Eve L. Miller set an April 29 hearing on
Meiser's fitness. Another hearing on Meiser's Oregon State Hospital records
will be held April 22.
Meiser, 38, arrested in the Sept. 17 slaying of 57-year-old Frederick "Fritz"
Hayes Jr., was placed in the state hospital in January, after telling a
clinical psychologist he was the target of conspirators who constantly
tormented him and wanted to turn his son into a cannibal. His trial in
Clackamas County Circuit Court was postponed while he underwent treatment to
restore his mental health.
Last month, a team headed by Dr. Christopher Lockey, Oregon State Hospital's
supervising psychiatrist, then evaluated Meiser and sent its report to Miller.
Meanwhile, Meiser was returned to the Clackamas County Jail on March 20. Facing
an aggravated murder charge, he is being held without bail.
If convicted, Meiser could face the death penalty.
According to court documents, Meiser is accused of hacking Hayes to death after
burglarizing his home in the 900 block of Atwater Road. Shortly before 6:30
a.m. Sept. 17, Fritz and his wife, Margaret "Maggie" Hayes, returned home after
taking a walk together. When Maggie Hayes entered the kitchen, she saw a tall
man brandishing a machete in one hand and a knife in the other. She ran out a
back door, screaming. When she looped around to the front, she saw her husband
lying outside the front door and called 9-1-1.
Fritz Hayes suffered several "large cuts across his head, neck and facial area"
in the attack. He was dead when firefighter-paramedics arrived. A bloody
machete was found tossed away next door.
Oregon State Police forensics experts matched fingerprints on the machete to
records on file for Meiser, who has a 23-year record of arrests in 10 states.
He was arrested Sept. 22 in Corvallis.
Meanwhile, Meiser remains a person of interest in the July 27 stabbing death of
28-year-old Nick Fickett, who was camping north of Kelso, Wash.
Police in Ogden, Utah, said Meiser also is accused of slashing a man in the
face with a knife, then running off before officers arrived.
(source: The Oregonian)
The mentally ill require a different calculation for the death penalty
As the father of an adult with a severe mental illness, I am dismayed by a
Colorado prosecutor's decision to seek the death penalty in the Aurora movie
Attorneys for the accused gunman, James Eagan Holmes, offered to have their
client plead guilty in return for a life sentence without parole. That was not
good enough for Arapahoe District Attorney George Brauchler.
After consulting with "800 victims and their families" on the July 2012
shootings that left 12 dead and dozens wounded, Brauchler declared that for
Holmes, "justice is death."
Only the most egregious cases should merit the death penalty, and despite the
monstrosity of these shootings, executing a defendant who was receiving
psychiatric care and who appears to have a severe mental illness violates that
Although a definitive diagnosis has yet to be made public, Holmes was seeing a
doctor who specializes in treating schizophrenia. News reports say Holmes told
a fellow college student before the murders that he had been diagnosed with
dysphoric mania, a form of bipolar disorder. Common symptoms for both
schizophrenia and dysphoric mania can include delusions and impaired reasoning.
Both illnesses frequently surface in men during their early 20s. The causes of
both are unknown but are not thought to be brought on by an individual's own
My son got sick when he was 22. Chances are, you too know someone with a mental
illness. Those of us with mentally ill family members have seen how
schizophrenia and bipolar disorder can distort our loved ones' thinking and
sometimes cause them to break the law. Their actions are symptoms of their
Mental illness does not excuse murder - a fact that Holmes's attorneys readily
acknowledged. But murders spawned in psychosis should be adjudicated
differently from those for profit, jealousy or revenge.
Our legal system does a poor job in dealing with mentally ill defendants. The
standard legal test is whether the defendant knew at the time of the crime the
difference between right and wrong and whether he understood the consequences
of his actions. But that's often a fool's reasoning when applied to an ill
person's mind. I once asked a convicted murderer with schizophrenia if he
understood that murder was wrong and that if he murdered someone, he would be
punished. Of course he did, he quickly replied to both questions: "Everyone
knows you shouldn't kill people. I didn't kill anyone. I killed an alien that
had crawled into a baby's body. I saw it go inside him."
Brauchler's Pontius Pilate-style explanation does not absolve him of his
prosecutorial responsibility to use discretion in the face of public cries for
blood. Nor is Brauchler delivering "justice" to the victims and their families.
Sending Holmes to prison for life without parole would have brought swift
closure while ensuring public safety. Now victims face a protracted public
trial, decades of legal appeals and appellate hearings in which they will be
required to rehash their nightmares. Arapahoe County prosecutor Brauchler
should have followed suit. Instead, he chose a road that will add more pain to
an already unbearable tragedy.
(source: Pete Earley is the author of "Crazy: A Father's Search Through
America's Mental Health Madness."--Washington Post)
Death row inmates' last meals prove morbidly fascinating in The Last Meals
Project ; New York-based photographer Jonathon Kambouris' work matches the mugs
of murderers with the last food they ate.
Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, requested 2 pints of mint chocolate
chip ice cream as his last meal before he was executed by lethal injection in
Indiana. For serial killer Ted Bundy, it was steak, eggs, hash browns and
coffee. Stacey Lamont Lawton, who was convicted of murdering 47-year-old Dennis
Price in Texas in 1992, asked for a jar of dill pickles.
No matter your thoughts of the death penalty, there is something fascinating
yet creepy about the last meals of murderers. Photographer Jonathon Kambouris,
30, started thinking about the practice after reading about McVeigh and his ice
"I just thought that was so intense - knowing his final meal," he told the
Kambouris said the last meal selection is "a thought-provoking concept" that
"brings up an interesting idea of what makes us human." Here, John William
Elliot's mug shot is paired with his final foods: 6 cookies and a cup of tea.
In 2006, Kambouris decided to jump forward with what would become The Last
Meals Project. He started researching what those on death row selected as their
final meals. Kambouris gathered the mug shots and paired them with some
information about the criminal as well as a depiction of the requested items.
"I thought it was important to see the face as well as the food," he said.
Gary Leon Brown simply asked for an ice cream sandwich. Kambouris did the bulk
of the work between 2006 and 2009, but he considers it to be an ongoing work.
"It's such a thought-provoking concept," he said. "It brings up an interesting
idea of what makes us human."
James David Autry requested comfort food as his last meal before he was put to
death by lethal injection in Texas. Kambouris said that the meal selection is
the last choice - the final decision - one makes before the end.
Someone's last words are not as important as their last meal, Kambouris said.
He pointed out that Jonathan Wayne Nobles, who was convicted of murdering 2
women in Austin, Texas, in 1986, was singing "Silent Night" when the lethal
drugs took effect. His last meal was the Eucharist Sacrament. Both are
perplexing tidbits on their own, but put them together and it paints an even
more confusing picture of Nobles.
Ted Bundy's last meal? Steak, eggs, hash browns and coffee. Kambouris said his
last meal would probably be comfort food, like a cheeseburger and french fries
"But hopefully I won't be making that decision," he said with a laugh.
Studies have shown that the average last meal includes meat and tallies more
than 2,700 calories. The nutritional recommendation for an entire day is about
The most recent death row inmate to be executed was Steven Ray Thacker, who was
put to death by lethal inject in Oklahoma on March 9. His last meal was a meat
lover's pizza, a small bag of peanut M&Ms and an A&W root beer.
The death penalty is legal in 33 states. Of the 1,325 executions since 1976,
493 of them have been in Texas. According to the Death Penalty Information
Center, there are currently 304 people on death row.
(source: New York Daily News)
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