Sept. 15




VIRGINIA:

Prosecutors to seek death penalty in case of Henrico man accused of murdering parents


Henrico Commonwealth's Attorney Shannon Taylor told a Henrico County judge Wednesday she will pursue the death penalty in the trial of a 23-year-old man accused of killing his parents on Easter Sunday.

William Roy Brissette has been charged with 2 counts of capital murder and 2 counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. If convicted, Brissette could face life in prison or death.

Brissette was arrested after police found his mother Martha B. Brissette, 56, and her husband Henry J. Brissette III, 59, dead from gunshot wounds in their home along the 8300 block of Forge Road around 9:30 p.m. on March 27.

In a letter to the court, the Commonwealth said their decision to seek the death penalty was due to the "Outrageously or wantonly vile" crimes and the probability that the Brissette would continue to be a "serious threat to society."

Neighbors were shocked by the crime describing the Brissettes as hard-working, kind individuals who did their best to provide for their children. Neighbors said William lived at the Forge Road home with his parents.

Brissette's criminal record in Henrico, according to court records, dates back to 2013. He had several charges for marijuana distribution, and one for stalking/fear of death that was nolle prosse.

Prosecutors also said police had been called to the family's Forge Road home on several occasions involving William Brissette.

Since 2006, Henrico Police records show they visited the family's Forge Road home for 30 different calls, including drunk/disorderly, suspicious situation, domestic, mental subject, drugs, animal cruelty/neglect, missing person and, on Easter, a fatal shooting.

Brissette continues to be held without bond at the Henrico Jail. His trial is set for June 5-16, 2017.

(source: WTVR news)






NORTH CAROLINA:

District Attorney: Will seek death penalty after Shelby officer fatally shot

The District Attorney says he plans to seek the death penalty for the man accused of fatally shooting a Shelby Police officer early Saturday morning.

Officer Tim Brackeen was shot early Saturday morning while he was attempting to serve a warrant in the area of Parkview Street. Investigators say he was shot in the torso and passed away Monday morning at Carolinas Medical Center, in Charlotte.

The Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner's Office said Brackeen died after suffering a "lethal gunshot wound to the chest." The report was released Wednesday afternoon after an autopsy was completed.

The man accused in the shooting death, 23-year-old Irving Fenner Jr., was arrested in Providence, Rhode Island early Wednesday morning after being on the run since Saturday morning.

Fenner's arrest in Rhode Island

"It's been a long period of time where the detectives and the FBI agents all cultivating information, pretty good police work tracking [Fenner] here. And they surrounded the house and they talked him out, and he surrendered, he came out peacefully," Rhode Island State Police told WPRI.

According to WPRI, Fenner was taken to the hospital after his capture because he had an injury from a gunshot wound. Investigators said that the injury did not come from his capture in Rhode Island, but believe Fenner was shot in his earlier struggle with Brackeen.

"There is a bullet behind his rib cage and they are going to leave it there for now," State Police Major Joseph Philbin said.

Philbin said he called the Shelby Police Department in the middle of the night to tell them they had captured Fenner.

"[The dispatcher] had to take a breath because she was emotional," Philbin said.

Police from Shelby and the FBI were expected to be in Rhode Island to interview Irving Fenner Jr. by Wednesday afternoon. Fenner will then be arraigned as a fugitive from justice after he is questioned.

When police arrested Fenner his head was shaved, according to WPRI. Police said he had tried to elude capture by altering his appearance. FBI Special Agent Colin Woods said analysis of Fenner's cell phone, which authorities seized shortly after the shooting, led them to Rhode Island.

Other people arrested

Since Tuesday afternoon, six other people have been charged for their alleged involvement in the case, including Fenner's half-sister.

Casey Fenner of New York, Jolisa Peeler of Rhode Island and Deitra Morris of Shelby were each charged Tuesday night with accessory after the fact of 1st- -degree murder, which is a Class C felony.

Fenner's uncle, Corry Peeler and his girlfriend Hope Wyman, are both charged with harboring a criminal.

Police say the charges stem from "aid that they provided the suspect, Irving Lucien Fenner Jr., after the murder of Officer Tim Brackeen."

Ashley Hamrick, the woman WBTV previously interviewed, was charged Tuesday afternoon with felony harboring a fugitive "for giving Fenner aid and comfort while he was subject to outstanding warrants for 1st degree burglary, robbery with dangerous weapon, and 2nd degree kidnapping," according to Shelby police.

Hamrick is accused of harboring Fenner, knowing he was wanted, when officer Brackeen attempted to serve warrants on him early Saturday morning.

During the interview with WBTV Monday evening, Hamrick said, "Irving Fenner if you're watching this you better turn yourself in because it's not gonna end pretty." Hamrick is being held on a $100,00 bond.

Authorities said Casey Fenner and Peeler "will be brought back here {NC} to face charges" but police don't know when because "the extradition process takes different amounts of time based on the state."

Casey Fenner, Irving's half-sister, spoke with WBTV Monday night and claimed she didn't know where her brother was. She said Brackeen shot him and that he could be dead "somewhere in the woods."

Funeral arrangements

Brackeen's body was escorted Tuesday from the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner's Office in Charlotte to the Cecil Burton Funeral Home in Shelby. The procession, which temporarily shut down part of Interstate 85 southbound, started just after 12:30 p.m. and ended around 2 p.m.

According to Officer Brackeen's pastor, a memorial service will be held Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at Bethel Baptist Church, along South Dekalb Street in Shelby.

A funeral service will be held on Friday, September 17, 2016 at 3:00 pm at Keeter Stadium, 230 E Dixon Blvd, Shelby, NC 28152 with Rev. Stephen Brackeen officiating. Burial will follow at Sunset Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, Memorials can be made;Shelby Police Department K-9 Unit, PO Box 207, Shelby NC 28151.

A GoFundMe page was set up for Brackeen. The page says "the funds raised will go to help Tim, Tim's wife, and daughter during their time of crisis."

(source: WBTV news)

***************

DA to seek death penalty for Whiteville murder suspect


District Attorney Jon David announced Wednesday his office intends to seek the death penalty for James Edward McKamey, 51, who is accused of stabbing 1 woman to death and another nearly 20 times.

David, along with Whiteville Police Chief Jeff Rosier, Columbus County Sheriff Lewis Hatcher and SBI agent Mac Warner held a news conference Wednesday to talk about McKamey's case.

David said a grand jury indicted McKamey on charges of 1st-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon for the stabbing death of 65-year-old Carol Greer, a retired teacher who had taught music at Whiteville Primary School, as well as attempted murder and assault charges related to the stabbing of Reshonta Love.

According to police, McKamey stabbed Love numerous times in the arms, head and chest in the 300 block of West Nance Street on Aug. 29. Authorities were called to Greer's residence on Smyrna Drive the next day, where they found her dead with multiple stab wounds near a shed behind her home, approximately 100 yards from the location Love was assaulted.

"These were 2 separate, but related incidents that happened mere minutes apart," David explained. "Mrs. Greer's killing was really a crime of opportunity that was transactionally connected to the savage assault of Ms. Love."

McKamey, along with his wife, Carol Smith Greer, were taken into custody on Sept. 1 in Brunswick County in Greer's vehicle, which had been taken from her home. Carol was released without charges.

David said he has filed paperwork with the court expressing his intent to certify this "vicious killing" as a death penalty case, but a hearing will be held to make an official ruling.

In reference to comments that Greer was "in the wrong place at the wrong time," David said he disagreed.

"She was in her driveway in the middle of the day. Who could possibly say that was in the wrong place at the wrong time?" David questioned. "After all, we're dealing with a woman who was in her golden years. She was at a time and place in her life when she should feel most secure. And the fact this incident happened reminds us that evil does exist in the world."

(source: WECT news)






ALABAMA----2 new execution dates set

Fall execution dates set for 2 Alabama death row inmates


The Alabama Supreme Court today set execution dates this fall for death row inmates Tommy Arthur and Ronald Bert Smith Jr.

The court set Arthur's execution for Nov. 3 at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore and Smith's for Dec. 8.

Arthur

This is the 7th time Arthur has had an execution date set.

The Alabama Attorney General's Office asked the Alabama Supreme Court in July that an execution date be set "as soon as possible" for Arthur, who was convicted in the 1982 contract killing of a Muscle Shoals man.

Arthur had 6 previous execution dates set by the Alabama Supreme Court: 2001, twice in 2007, 2008, 2012 and 2015. Several were stayed within one to 2 days of the execution dates.

If the Alabama Supreme Court agrees to set an execution date, it would the 7th time Tommy Arthur has faced execution.

Arthur was first convicted of capital murder in 1983 in the contract killing death of Troy Wicker of Muscle Shoals. Wicker's wife had claimed she hired Arthur who at the time was serving at a Decatur work release center for a conviction in the 1977 murder of his sister-in-law in Marion County.

The original Wicker conviction and a 2nd conviction were overturned. He was convicted a 3rd time in 1991 and that conviction was upheld. Arthur admits he killed his sister-in-law but maintains he did not kill Wicker.

"For 33 years, since his February 1983 conviction of the capital murder of Troy Wicker, Arthur has engaged in nearly constant litigation in every state and federal court available to him, and he has thoroughly exhausted his appeals at every level," according to the Attorney General request to the Alabama Supreme Court. "6 times, this Court has set Arthur's execution date; six times, he has managed to evade justice. The State requests that this Court issue an expedited 7th execution date so that the State may carry out the sentence that Arthur has so unjustly avoided for so many years."

Smith

Smith, who has been on death row since Oct. 6, 1995, was convicted in Madison County in the November 1994 slaying of Circle C convenience store clerk Casey Wilson during a robbery. A judge overrode a jury recommendation for life without parole and imposed the death penalty.

Smith and 2 others were charged with capital murder in the killing.

One of Smith's co-defendants, Jay Allen Zuercher, was sentenced to life in prison with parole possible in 10 years. The other, Chad Roundtree, accepted a reduced charge in exchange for his testimony. He pleaded guilty to felony murder and was sentenced to 20 years with parole possible in less than 10.

The Alabama Attorney General's Office in February asked the Alabama Supreme Court to set execution dates for Smith and 2 other inmates - Vernon Madison and Bryant Melson.

An execution date was set for Madison but was stayed hours before the execution time.

Execution method

The Alabama Supreme Court's orders setting the dates for Arthur and Smith state that "the Warden of the William C. Holman Unit of the prison system at Atmore in Escambia County, Alabama, execute the order ... by the means provided by law, causing the death of such convict."

The current execution method is lethal injection using a new drug combination. Death row inmates have been challenging the new drug combination, but in January it was used in the execution of inmate Christopher Brooks. The prison system reported no problems with the execution.

Attorneys for Arthur, and other death row inmates who have also sued, don't want their clients executed by any method. But based on a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in order to prevail on method-of-execution claims of cruel and unusual punishment, the inmates must name an alternative form of execution that is "feasible, readily implemented" and significantly reduces a substantial risk of severe pain.

Arthur's attorneys suggested the firing squad as one alternate method. Other inmates suggested other methods. The attorneys also suggested lethal injection by pentobarbital and sodium thiopental. State officials have argued that the state no longer has a supply of those 2 drugs and that's why they had to find another lethal injection drug combination.

State officials won't reveal where they get their supply of drugs, although the major manufacturers of the drugs have said they won't supply them for executions.

The Attorney General's Office had sought Arthur's execution soon after he lost his federal court challenge on method of execution. Arthur, who claims the lethal injection method could be painful because of his current health condition, has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

(source: al.com)






CALIFORNIA----new death sentence

Jury recommends death penalty for convicted LA killer


A jury has recommended the death penalty for a man found guilty of arranging the murder of a witness from his jail cell.

City News Service reports Wednesday that sentencing for 50-year-old Michael Thomas was set for Sept. 30. He was convicted Sept. 8 of murder for the killing of 42-year-old Erik Poltorak.

At the beginning of the trial's penalty phase on Monday, Thomas asked his attorneys not to defend him against the death penalty.

Poltorak was shot on his Los Angeles doorstep in 2011.

Poltorak had been expected to testify that Thomas robbed him during a home invasion robbery a year earlier.

(source: Associated Press)

*******************

California Can't Decide Whether to Speed Up Capital Punishment - Or Get Rid of It


The death penalty debate is alive and well in several states this election.

Few states still routinely put criminals to death. "I think the death penalty is fading away," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg remarked recently, noting a drop in executions nationwide. But the debate over capital punishment is still alive this election season, and in some states, it's as polarizing as ever. In California, a state with more inmates on death row than anywhere else in the country, voters will decide in November whether to approve or reject 2 competing ballot initiatives - one that would put an end to executions in the state, and another that would speed them up.

While the 2 ballot measures are certainly at odds, they're based on the same idea: that the status quo isn't working. Since the death penalty was reinstated in California in 1978, it's cost taxpayers more than $4 billion. During that time, nearly 1,000 criminals have been sentenced to death, but only 13 have been executed. (None have been put to death over the past decade while the state reviews its lethal injection protocol.)

The 1st ballot initiative, Prop. 62, says enough is enoug - it's time to ban executions. Proponents of the measure oppose the death penalty for both financial and moral reasons, noting that the people executed are sometimes innocent. The state would be better off, they say, if it converted all existing death sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole, requiring inmates to work in detention and pay wages to their victims.

"While many think it is cheaper to execute murderers than to imprison them for life, in fact it is far more expensive," writes actor Mike Farrell, who proposed Prop. 62. An analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office posits that the ballot initiative would save California taxpayers $150 million annually within a few years, in part because the state wouldn't have to keep paying so much for death penalty legal proceedings.

"Counties are sending more men to death row than the California Supreme Court can find lawyers for."

Rather than abandoning capital punishment, the second ballot initiative, Prop. 66, seeks to make it more efficient. It would try to reduce the huge number of inmates on death row by speeding up the appeals process - limiting the number of petitions a prisoner can file and setting expedited deadlines for legal proceedings. "The solution is to mend, not end, California's death penalty," reads the proposal, submitted by former NFL star Kermit Alexander, whose mother, sister, and two nephews were murdered in 1984. (One of the three killers is still on death row.) In August, a poll by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California-Berkeley found that three-quarters of about 1,500 respondents supported his proposal.

But legal experts are raising alarm, saying the push to speed up executions could actually make the situation worse. Among these critics is Michael Hersek, a former public defender who's now executive director of the Habeas Corpus Resource Center, a state agency that represents inmates in capital cases. He says Prop. 66 does nothing to fix the main problem with California's capital system: a lack of funding for attorneys. Prop. 66's expedited timeline only kicks off after an attorney is appointed to the case, he notes, but on average death row inmates wait a decade for an attorney to be appointed - in part because compensation for private lawyers is too low to encourage more of them to pick up these cases. "I don't believe it will speed up executions," Hersek says of the proposal. "Counties are sending more men to death row than the California Supreme Court can find lawyers for."

And even if a lawyer were appointed quickly, he says, the new deadlines wouldn't be feasible because the proposal requires extra layers of litigation, which would rope in more judges, court clerks, and lawyers. And there's another potential problem, Hersek says: What if speeding up capital cases leads to more mistakes? "Some folks will cut corners - they won't be able to do the comprehensive job they're supposed to do, and innocent people will be at risk of being executed," he says. The Legislative Analyst's Office predicts Prop. 66 would drain tens of millions of dollars annually from the state for several years, thanks to the appeals proceedings - though as the LAO also points out, it could save tens of millions of dollars annually for prisons.

If Prop. 66 passes, "some folks will cut corners - and innocent people will be at risk of being executed," says former public defender Michael Hersek.

The state Legislature has previously considered several similar proposals to speed up executions, Hersek says, and they've been rejected every time. Californians have also previously considered whether to repeal the death penalty: A 2012 ballot initiative that would have done so was narrowly defeated, with 48 % of voters supporting it. (A majority is necessary to approve statewide ballot initiatives.) This time, if both the anti- and pro-death-penalty initiatives secure enough votes for approval, the one with the highest number of affirmative votes will be enforced.

Over the past several years, the United States has seen a sharp decrease in the number of states carrying out executions, in part because of shortages of execution drugs and legal challenges to death sentences. But while only 3 states - Texas, Georgia, and Missouri - still regularly put people to death, capital punishment remains legal in 31 states. California won't be the only one contemplating it on November 8. In Nebraska, voters will consider a ballot initiative that would bring back the death penalty, after a law repealed it last year. And Oklahomans will vote on an initiative that would amend the state constitution to say that all methods of execution are constitutional, and that the death penalty is not cruel and unusual punishment.

Though a majority of Americans approve of the death penalty in cases of murder, overall support for capital punishment is at its lowest level in decades, according to 2015 Pew data. Still, opinions of capital punishment are split largely along partisan lines, with 77 % of Republicans supporting it, compared with just 40 % of Democrats. So while the death penalty may be "fading away," you can bet it won't disappear quietly.

. (source: Mother Jones)

********************

O.C. Sheriff, D.A. argue for proposition speeding up death penalty cases


Orange County's top law enforcement officials Wednesday made another public appeal for voters to approve a ballot initiative they say would reform the death penalty process.

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and District Attorney Tony Rackauckas also encouraged voters to reject Proposition 62, which would abolish the ultimate punishment in California. Instead, the 2 favor Proposition 66, which would establish changes in the death penalty process that are aimed at speeding up adjudication of cases.

Gary and Collene Campbell, whose son Scott was murdered in 1982, and Raquel and Steve Herr, whose son was killed and later dismembered in Orange County, joined the top officials at the news conference.

Critics have argued that death row inmates languish in prisons for years until they die of natural causes, costing taxpayers additional money as their cases are repeatedly appealed. Under Proposition 62, convicted killers would get life in prison without the possibility of parole instead of death.

Proposition 66 backers say their plan would save money by speeding up the legal process and having death row inmates work while imprisoned and pay restitution to the victims' families.

"Instead of waiting to have some attorney assigned, they do that immediately upon a death penalty judgment," Hutchens told City News Service.

The sheriff said it's "kind of a false argument" to say the death row process is too lengthy and, therefore, too costly.

"This (Proposition 66) is saying, 'Look, we'll make sure someone is assigned right away and the appeals are limited to 5 years.'"

The sheriff added, "The other argument is we have all of these people on death row and it's costing a lot of money. Well, we can reform that. There's another way to house these individuals."

Life in prison without the possibility of parole is no guarantee that a defendant's circumstances couldn't change and eventually allow them to go free, Hutchens said.

Since 1978, 900 convicts have been sentenced to death in California, but 94 of them have died of natural causes in prison and 13 have been executed. The last execution carried out in the state was in 2006.

Executions have been in limbo since a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling requiring a medical professional to administer lethal injection drugs. Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced in May it would work to guarantee none of its chemicals would be used in lethal injections, which has presented another hurdle for pro-death penalty advocates.

"We can come up with something other than the 3-drug cocktail," Hutchens said. "I just don't believe we can't figure this out and do what the voters have asked us to do, what the jurors have asked us to do and what the victims' families have been waiting for."

The sheriff declined to provide alternatives to lethal injection, but said, "We could see what other states are doing. They're still using the death penalty. Let's see what other people are doing."

Another aspect of Proposition 66 that has drawn criticism is having state Superior Court judges handle writs of habeas corpus appeals instead of federal judges. Critics say that won't pass constitutional muster and it would overburden the state trial courts already struggling with a shortage of judges.

Separately Wednesday, California billionaire activist Tom Steyer announced his support of Proposition 62.

"The death penalty is an expensive & failed policy California can no longer afford," Steyer said in a Tweet.

(source: Orange County Register)

*********************

California billionaire Tom Steyer announces support for November ballot measure to abolish death penalty


California billionaire Tom Steyer on Wednesday threw his support behind a November ballot measure that would repeal the death penalty in the state.

Steyer, a potential gubernatorial candidate and the president of NextGen Climate, said California had spent $5 billion to put 13 people to death since 1978 - or $384 million per execution.

"The death penalty is an expensive and failed policy that California can no longer afford," Steyer said in a statement. "Proposition 62 will save Californians $150 million a year, provide victims with swift and certain justice, and make sure no innocent person is mistakenly executed by the state."

Proposition 62 would replace capital punishment in California for 1st-degree murder with life in prison without the possibility of parole. It is 1 of 2 competing measures on the future of the death penalty on the Nov 8 ballot.

(source: Los Angeles Times)


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