Sept. 17

TEXAS----new execution date

February execution date set for Fort Worth man

An execution date was set this week for a 36-year-old Fort Worth man condemned for smothering an 89-year-old Bell Helicopter retiree in 2004 and robbing him.

A date of Feb. 7 was set for Tilon Lashon Carter in 371st State District Court in Fort Worth. It is the 1st execution date for Carter, who has been on death row since December 2006.

He was condemned for the robbery and slaying of James Tomlin, who was known to keep cash in containers around his Handley home.

Prosecutors said Carter and his girlfriend, Leketha Allen - whose mother, a prostitute, had a 20-year relationship with Tomlin - went to Tomlin's home to rob him. His daughter found him dead later that day.

Investigators found more than $20,000 cash hidden in containers inside Tomlin's house and car. Allen and Carter made off with a shotgun and some coins, prosecutors said.

Allen reached a deal with prosecutors and received a 25-year sentence. She is in prison with a projected release date of 2029.

In March, the U.S. Supreme Court declined without comment to hear Carter's appeal. His appeals have focused on whether his Tarrant County trial attorneys were deficient and whether faulty instructions were given to trial jurors. At his trial, prosecutors portrayed Carter as a longtime criminal whose violence was escalating and who deserved the death penalty.

4 other Texas death row inmates have execution dates in the coming months.

(source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram)


Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----19

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----537

Abbott#--------scheduled execution date-----name------------Tx. #

20---------October 5----------------Barney Fuller---------538

21---------October 19---------------Terry Edwards---------539

22---------November 2---------------Ramiro Gonzales-------540

23---------December 7---------------John Battaglia--------541

24---------February 7---------------Tilon Carter----------542

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Judge's conflicting orders roil Rodney Reed appeal----Judge signs 2 documents, with conflicting recommendations, on additional DNA tests sought by Rodney Reed.

A judge has issued conflicting recommendations for resolving death row inmate Rodney Reed's request for additional DNA testing, throwing into disarray an appeal that has already lasted 2 years and 2 months.

The latest legal fight began in July 2014, when Reed - on death row since 1998 - filed a request to conduct DNA testing on crime scene evidence that Bastrop County prosecutors opposed. Visiting Judge Doug Shaver rejected the request toward the end of 2014, and Reed appealed.

Last June, the Court of Criminal Appeals returned the case to Shaver to determine whether evidence from the 1996 killing of Stacey Stites was still available for testing, whether its chain of custody was preserved and whether the items were likely to contain DNA traces.

Shaver, a retired judge who was appointed to Reed's case after the original judge stepped aside, ordered prosecutors and defense lawyers to draft proposed answers to the questions - a common practice - and both sides submitted a written list of findings and conclusions they hoped Shaver would adopt.

Problems arose when Shaver signed both sides' proposals last week and forwarded them to the Court of Criminal Appeals, even though they came to opposite conclusions about the chain of custody and the likelihood that the items contain biological material to test.

"This is a new one. I've never quite seen anyone rule for both sides at the same time," said Bryce Benjet, Reed's lawyer. "Not only is he just affixing his name on the bottom, he didn't even figure out whose side he was taking."

Bastrop County District Attorney Bryan Goertz on Thursday asked the appeals court to return the matter to Shaver with an order to clarify his position within 14 days.

As it stands now, Goertz said, Shaver has agreed with defense lawyers who believe the chain of custody is intact, and with prosecutors who insist that some items Reed wants tested could have been cross-contaminated because they were handled without gloves during Reed's trial and weren't stored in separate packages after trial.

"Both cannot be right," Goertz wrote.

Benjet said he intends to object to returning the case to Shaver, arguing that the Court of Criminal Appeals should be able to decide whether to grant the DNA testing based on a voluminous record that has been developed in hearings and briefs.

If the appeals court wants definitive answers from the court below, Benjet said he will ask that the case be assigned to another judge - one who will give proper consideration to a matter involving the death penalty.

"We've been waiting for a decision in this case for going on 2 years now," he said. "Furthermore, when you have an error of this magnitude, we think it's appropriate for the court to reassign the case to a judge who can issue orders based on the record."

Reed, now 48, was 10 days from execution when the Court of Criminal Appeals issued a delay in February 2015. Reed's lawyers claimed that a new look at old forensic evidence would show that he did not kill Stites, a 19-year-old Giddings resident who was strangled 18 days before her wedding date. Her body was found along a rural road in Bastrop County.

(source: Austin American-Statesman)


Family of Austin man on death row hopes new DNA analysis will reopen case

There are questions surrounding nearly 1,000 criminal convictions in Travis County.

Delia Perez Meyer says her brother, Louis Castro Perez, is among the death row inmates who received a Brady notice stating his case could be compromised due to new DNA information. Meyer hopes reanalysis will prove her brother's innocence.

"That picture's been sitting there for 18 years," Meyer says while pointing to the center of her kitchen table, where you'll find the center of her world. "It's 99.9 % of my life."

Meyer said defending her brother's innocence has become her life's work.

"We've just been fighting."

Perez is on Texas death row for the 1998 murders of 31-year-old Michelle Fulwiler, 38-year-old Cinda Barz and Barz's 9-year-old daughter, Staci Mitchell. The women worked for the Travis County Juvenile Probation Department, and evidence indicated Louis fatally beat the women with a cast iron skillet and strangled the young girl in their Austin home.

"I have never thrown away one shred of evidence that I thought may help my brother someday," Meyer says.

Now, some of the DNA evidence is under review. It was last fall when the Perez family and his attorney received a letter from the Travis County District Attorney's Office, outlining issues the Texas Commission on Forensic Science found with the way DNA was analyzed. It could impact cases across the state, including those like Perez's, where DPS analyzed the DNA evidence. Upon receiving the letter, Perez's attorney says she immediately requested a re-analysis.

"Now, 18 years later, Louis' case is not the only one that was possibly messed up."

As KXAN reported 2 weeks ago, legal experts say it was a change in scientific standards that's prompting the unprecedented statewide analysis. The issue is not with the actual testing of what are called DNA mixtures, but rather, with the probabilities scientists generate. Prosecutors often use these probabilities as evidence of the degree of the tests' conclusiveness.

DNA mixtures are cases where evidence from a crime scene contains 2 or more persons DNA profiles.

"I think the science evolved in the area of how to calculate the frequency that certain DNA profiles appear at random in the population," said Bob Wicoff, director of the Texas DNA Mixture Review Project.

Meyer says as she looks forward, she can't help but flash back to where it all began: in court, the day her brother was given the death penalty.

Her last words to her brother were, "I know at some point the truth is going to come out."

"And I think maybe we're closer to the truth now than ever before," says Meyer.

(source: KXAN news)


'We do forgive him,' says family of Spring Lake military vet charged with murdering wife, daughter

Several family members who were in attendance at the 1st court appearance for a 79-year-old military veteran charged with murdering his wife and daughter Thursday morning said he doesn't belong in prison.

Bobby King entered the courtroom using a walker and family members became very emotional as the judge read the 2 1st-degree murder charges against him.

The judge said King could get the death penalty if convicted.

According to police, King shot and killed his 84-year-old wife, Dorothy King, and 54-year-old daughter, Cynthia King, Thursday morning at their home at 1011 Diane Circle. He then called police at approximately 8:45 a.m. to admit what he had done. Police said that King did not say why he did it or what led up to the shooting.

The 2 women were later pronounced dead at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center.

King's daughter, Cheryl King, described meeting with her father after the shooting.

"When I walked in, Father didn't know who I was," she said. "Then, when his mind came back, he said, 'Hey, baby,' like he had no idea what went on. ... But I wanted Dad to know I loved him, I forgive him and that we're here for him."

While King did not have a criminal record, this was not the first time police had responded to the home at 1011 Diane Circle in Spring Lake in the past few years for domestic-related incidents, police said.

"We have received some additional information from the family about domestic-related calls, situations at the home, the father making accusations that property was taken away from him," said Spring Lake Police Chief Troy McDuffie.

Family members told CBS North Carolina that Cynthia King had just moved into the home with her parents to help care for them. The family had lived in the neighborhood for nearly 50 years.

A family member said Bobby King suffered from depression and dementia.

"[We're] gonna stand firm, gonna stand our ground, and fight for him, he doesn't deserve to go to prison and we love him and we do forgive him," Cheryl King said.

A spokesperson for the Cumberland County Sheriff's Department said "authorities are working to figure out the best plan of action in this case."

(source: WNCN news)


The Execution That Birthed a Movement----Troy Davis' death at the hands of the state on Sept. 21, 2011, transformed Occupy and kindled Black Lives Matter.

Jordan Taylor remembers precisely when Troy Davis was executed. It was 11:08 p.m. on Sept. 21, 2011, less than an hour before Taylor's 18th birthday.

"I had never heard his name before," says Taylor, who says he nonetheless attended a rally fellow students at SUNY New Paltz organized for a death row inmate they told him was innocent. On the threshold of adulthood, Taylor's eyes were opened: The execution of a Black man by the state of Georgia was connected to Black America's overall subjugation. "This new understanding of what it was to be a young, Black male washed over me," he says.

5 months later, when Trayvon Martin was killed by vigilante George Zimmerman, Taylor helped organize his campus's response. "Troy Davis cracked the screen of reality and Trayvon literally shattered it," he says. While he had initially seen Davis' case as the outcome of a broken system, he now understood that the system was functioning just as intended. Taylor later became a founding member of Black Lives Matter-Hudson Valley.

The current wave of racial justice organizing is often traced back to Zimmerman's acquittal, when the slogan "Black Lives Matter" came into being. But for Taylor and many others, it was Troy Davis' execution that planted the seeds of political consciousness.

Kenneth Foster Jr., an activist previously on Texas's death row (now serving a life sentence) puts it like this: "'I am Troy Davis' created a kinship among victims and supporters. 'I am Trayvon Martin' and 'I am Mike Brown' unified and spread the message that this could happen to anyone. This new awareness fueled Black Lives Matter."

Davis was sentenced to death in 1991 for the 1989 murder of a white police officer in Savannah, Ga. Despite the absence of physical evidence linking Davis to the murder - and several witnesses who said police coerced them - the state of Georgia doggedly pursued his execution.

As her body was beset with breast cancer, Troy's sister Martina Davis-Correia led what became an international campaign to save his life. The mobilization was unprecedented for an anti-death penalty case. From France to Peru to Hong Kong, thousands took to the streets. 51 members of Congress, President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI and former FBI Director William Sessions appealed for clemency. Hundreds of college students in Washington, D.C., marched on the White House in hopes of appealing to the nation's 1st Black president to use his power to stop the execution of an innocent man.

But President Obama and Eric Holder, the 1st Black U.S. attorney general, said nothing.

"It was heartbreaking," Taylor says of Obama's inaction. "I didn't understand. He's the president. The president has this platform, and he's a Black man." For the 1st time, Taylor, and many others like him, questioned their faith in Obama.

"People experienced [Troy's execution] as a failure on every level of government," says Thenjiwe McHarris, co-founder of the anti-racist, anti-police violence group Blackbird.

Though there were those (including McHarris) who were never under the illusion that putting a Black person in the White House could eradicate white supremacy, many Black folks had hoped Obama's election would help. To them, Davis' execution delivered a painful but eye-opening message: Even under a Black president, Black lives still didn't matter.

"It got a lot of us more enraged, because even with a Black president this stuff still happened. That was an impetus for a lot of organizing energy," says Cherrell Brown, 27, a community organizer who also works for the African-American Policy Forum at Columbia Law School.

Davis' execution not only prompted protests against racism and injustice throughout the criminal justice system, but also helped catalyze the emergent Occupy movement. On the night of Davis' execution, McHarris and others organized a group of his supporters at St. Mary's Church in Harlem. Simultaneously, Occupiers who had just begun camping at Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan held a vigil for Davis, using the "people's mic" to amplify a message Davis had given Amnesty International USA the previous day: "The struggle for justice doesn't end with me. This struggle is for all the Troy Davises who came before me and all the ones who will come after me."

On September 22, the night after the execution, hundreds gathered at Union Square for a Day of Outrage for Troy Davis. The marchers, chanting "We Are All Troy Davis!" merged with Occupiers.

That night, for the 1st time, police attacked Occupiers at Zuccotti Park, pushing demonstrators to the ground and arresting 6.

This experience drew attention and support to the nascent movement, as well as sharpening its analysis. "Before the Troy Davis execution, I feel like Occupy had a completely different dynamic," says brandon king, a member of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement who was arrested that night. In the aftermath of the execution, says king, "the conversation about police violence and militarism became more apparent." Several weeks later, more than 30 protesters were arrested in New York at an Occupy Wall Street-backed protest against stop and frisk. Meanwhile, Occupy protests continued to pop up steadily in cities nationwide, resuscitating civil disobedience and militant protest.

On Feb. 26, 2012, 5 months after Davis' execution and the start of Occupy, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman. "On the heels of Davis' killing came another visible case of a teen who was criminalized and killed because of his Blackness," says McHarris.

In the wake of Martin's killing, thousands of people across the country took to the streets, with word of the protests spreading rapidly online. Activists occupying Florida's capitol building after Martin's killing posted real-time updates on Twitter and Facebook.

Social media allowed activists to circumvent mainstream media that either downplayed the activism or ignored it altogether. It also allowed ordinary people to remain connected to events long after the news cameras stopped rolling. "[With Troy], people realized we could use [social media] to get a message out. With Trayvon, that potential was fully realized," says Cherrell Brown.

Brown was a college senior when Troy Davis was executed. Though she had organized efforts to educate students about Davis' case on her North Carolina campus, she felt that she hadn't done enough. Three years later, she watched from her Washington Heights apartment as hundreds took to the streets of Ferguson. "I remembered how it felt to not be able to do anything in Troy's case," she says. So she set up a crowd funding campaign to purchase a plane ticket to Missouri. Upon arrival, she connected with the Organization for Black Struggle, a St. Louis-based group involved in the Ferguson protests. "I didn't know this resistance was possible," Brown says of the protests. "It was beautiful to witness."

It's no coincidence that organizers involved in Davis' case, including McHarris, played an instrumental role in developing the August 2016 policy platform of the Movement for Black Lives, a collective of more than 50 racial-justice organizations across the country. The platform includes a call to end executions.

"Troy's execution had an impact on folks," says McHarris. "A world that honors Black life, Black joy, Black resilience - it cannot be one that includes the death penalty."

Beyond this call, says McHarris, the core of the Black Lives Matter movement is honoring the resilience and strength of those who fight for their loved ones. As inspiration, she points to the tireless advocacy of Davis' sister Martina Davis-Correia. Human rights activists worldwide mourned when, 2 months after Davis' execution, Davis-Correia passed away.

"She fought so hard. She taught so many people what resistance really looks like and what it means to love somebody," says McHarris. "Those fighting to prevent injustices, like Troy's [family], and those who fight after their loved ones have been taken from them: That love sits at the heart of any movement for liberation. It's certainly at the heart of this one."


Jen Marlow is an author, documentary filmmaker, playwright and journalist. She co-authored I am Troy Davis with Davis - who was executed by the state of Georgia in 2011 - and his sister, Martina Davis-Correia.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Talor is an assistant professor of African American Studies at Princeton University and the author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation.



Attorneys ask for mistrial in Seman case

Attorneys in the capital murder case against Robert Seman have filed a motion in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court asking for a mistrial.

The motion was filed Thursday before Judge Maureen A. Sweeney. Because it is under seal, specific details are not available. The motion also asks the judge to disqualify the jury and discharge the jury pool in the case and also for a change of venue.

Jury selection started in the case Tuesday after more than 150 jurors showed up Sept. 9 for jury orientation. It has been delayed this week because Judge Sweeney is attending a previously scheduled judicial conference.

Judge Sweeney did overrule a defense request Monday for a change of venue due to intense pretrial publicity.

The motion was filed by defense attorneys Lynn Maro and Tom Zena several months ago. It was augmented over the weekend, however, with supplemental briefs from the jury orientation, where the defense attorneys said some potential jurors glared at Seman, some cried and a corrections officer at the jail where Seman is being held showed up in uniform and told jurors he supervised Seman at the jail.

All those incidents, the defense attorneys contended, would poison the remaining jurors against their client.

Judge Sweeney said while overruling the motion she would revisit the issue should there be problems picking a jury.

? Prosecutors on Friday filed a response to the defense motion, but it also is under seal.

Seman, 47, of Green Township, could face the death penalty if convicted of the deaths of Corinne Gump, 10, and her grandparents, William and Judith Schmidt, after an arson March 30, 2015, at their Powers Way home on the South Side the day Seman was to go on trial on charges of raping the girl.

Seman was free on bond at the time of the fire.

Seman is eligible for the death penalty if convicted of aggravated murder because prosecutors charged he killed the witness to a crime; killed a person younger than 13; killed two or more people; and killed someone in the commission of another felony, which in this case means aggravated arson or aggravated burglary.

If jurors find Seman is eligible for the death penalty, a second phase of the trial, or mitigation phase, will take place at which defense attorneys will present evidence to jurors showing them why they should spare Seman's life.


ARKANSAS----2, including female, face death penalty

Judge to allow interview recording in Bella Vista murder trial

A Benton County circuit judge closed a hearing to the media and public over concerns about recordings from an accused killer being played in open court.

Mauricio Alejandro Torres, 46, and and his wife Cathy Torres, 45, of Bella Vista are charged with capital murder and 1st-degree battery. The 2 will be tried separately. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty in both cases.

The couple is accused of killing their 6-year-old son. The jury trial for Mauricio Torres is set to begin Nov. 1.

Benton County Circuit Judge Brad Karren presided over a suppression hearing Friday. Defense attorneys want Mauricio Torres' statements to police excluded from as evidence at trial.

Jeff Rosenzweig, one of Torres' attorneys, requested Karren close the hearing to the media and public. Rosenzweig believes if the recordings were in the public domain they would impact Torres' chance for a fair trial.

"We would have to try this case on the other side of the state," Rosenzweig said.

Nathan Smith, Benton County's prosecutor, agreed playing the recordings in open court could have a negative impact on jury selection. Smith also was concerned if the recordings were played in open court they then could be subject to the state Freedom of Information Act.

Karren said he already had reviewed the recordings and transcripts of the interviews at the attorneys' request. He saw the issue of free press and vs. the right to a fair trial.

If potential jurors learned any information from the recordings it might make it impossible to qualify a jury, Karren said.

Karren closed his courtroom to the media and public for the suppression hearing, but said his ruling only concerned Mauricio Torres' case.

Capt. Tim Cook with the Bella Vista Police Department testified for about 3 minutes before the courtroom was closed to begin playing the recordings.

They listened to several hours of recordings before Karren issued his ruling.

Karren will allow the recordings to be used as evidence at Torres' trial. Karren said it was evident after reviewing the recordings Torres voluntarily agreed to speak with police. Karren said none of the interviews showed Cook made any inducements or promises to Torres to obtain the statements.

Torres testified during the suppression hearing and the judge found Cook was the more credible witness.

Mauricio and Cathy Torres could each be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole or the death penalty if convicted of capital murder. They face from 5 to 20 years if convicted of 1st-degree battery.

Maurice Isaiah Torres was pronounced dead at an area hospital March 29, 2015. A medical examiner determined the boy suffered chronic child abuse and his death was from internal injuries caused by rape, according to court documents.



Mexican national charged with killing 4 Kansans has murder trial shifted to St. Louis ---- Man is charged with killing 5 total

A judge has granted a venue change for a Mexican national accused of killing a Missouri man and 4 others in Kansas, ordering the Missouri trial to be held in St. Louis.

A judge in mid-Missouri's Montgomery County signed off Thursday on the venue change for 40-year-old Pablo Serrano-Vitorino.

Serrano-Vitorino is charged in Missouri with 1st-degree murder in the March 8 shooting death of Randy Nordman in New Florence. Missouri prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the case, and Serrano-Vitorina has pleaded not guilty.

Serrano-Vitorino also is charged in Kansas with 4 1st-degree murder counts related to the March 7 shooting deaths of a Kansas City, Kansas, neighbor and 3 other men at the neighbor's home.

(source: Associated Press)

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