Sept. 20


Capital Costs

Your right to an attorney. It's a right we all have. Even if we can't afford one, one will be appointed for us. But in the end, who picks up the tab for those lawyers? KIDY's Senora Scott this evening with a look at how many alleged killers are in our jail right now, and how much it's costing us.

As of mid-September, in the Tom Green County Jail, there are 4 people charged with murder and 10 people charged with Capital Murder. Of those cases involving Capital Murder, it's estimated they'll cost 1 to 2 million dollars per person. So who's paying for it? You are.

"Each county bears the burden of the expense of any death penalty trial," 51st District Attorney Allison Palmer said.

So why do they cost so much? If the state is seeking the death penalty, defense attorneys from the regional public defender's office will take the case. These lawyers are based out of Lubbock but have offices all over the state.

"Capital murder cases take longer to get to trial and capital murder cases where we're seeking the death penalty are vastly more expensive than other kinds of prosecutions," Palmer said.

Travel, scheduling, experts witnesses, gathering all types of evidence, and lab testing are just a few factors that rack up the taxpayer's bill. How many of these current cases are going to potentially fall under this category?

"I have given notice that I intend to seek death on 4 offenders, 4 indicted offenders," Palmer said.

Allison Palmer is the one who makes those decisions but she says she takes the jury into account when doing so. She asks herself the questions the jury would be asked. Like: Will the defendant be a future danger to society? Is there a criminal history? Did the person act as an accomplice or commit the crime themselves? Still the sheer number of pending cases creates its own set of questions.

"I've been here for more than 20 years in this district attorney's office and we've gone for a period of years without any homicide cases, without any murder cases, much less capital offenses," Palmer said.

And some of these cases involve juveniles - or people under the age of 17. We can't show their faces or give their names but palmer told me - due to their age, they are not eligible for the death penalty. While there are just a few juveniles involved, most would say, it's a few too many.

"It's the 1st time in my experience where offenders under the age of 17 have been charged with a capital offense," Palmer said.

If the courts stays on schedule, a few of those trials are slated to begin in October.



Raleigh man charged with killing his wife

Ukranian immigrant Volodymyr Kocherhin and his wife, Olha Kocherhina, had both been in trouble with the law in recent years for driving under the influence and minor larcenies.

Now Kocherhin, 51, faces the possibility of life in prison or the death penalty, after he was charged over the weekend with the 1st-degree murder of his wife. Kocherhin had called police from behind a Kimbrell's Furniture store on New Bern Avenue early Friday morning to report that he'd found his wife "lying in blood" in the grass after she had gone missing the day before.

A sheriff's deputy pushed the wheelchair-bound Kocherhin into a Wake County District courtroom Monday afternoon for his 1st court appearances. A week earlier, he had pleaded guilty in Wake District Court to shoplifting and was given credit for the 20 days he had spent in jail.

Kocherhin and his wife were both scheduled to appear in court Nov. 17 in Dare County where police charged him with driving while impaired on July 20. They charged Olha Kocherhina with one misdemeanor count each of aiding and abetting an impaired driver and possession of an open container and consuming alcohol in the passenger area of the vehicle they were traveling in, state records show.

Dare County law officials revoked Kocherhin's driver's license for 30 days, pending the outcome of the DWI trial, state records show.

In 2007, police in Chatham County, Ga., charged Kocherhin with driving under the influence, along with a misdemeanor count of endangering the life of a child, state records show.

Olha Kocherhina was convicted in a Wake County courtroom of driving while impaired on April 6. She was sentenced to 1 year probation, state records show. Investigators reported that Kocherhina???s blood alcohol content was .35, more that 4 times the state limit of .08. Kocherhina spent nine days in jail after her arrest and lost her driver's license.

A Wake County judge ordered her to complete child safety and substance abuse programs after she pleaded guilty in 2009 to being intoxicated and disruptive. She was also convicted that year of shoplifting, state records show.

In 2008, the couple was convicted of misdemeanor larceny and sentenced to 1 year probation and ordered to complete 45 days of community service, state records show.

Investigators say Olha Kocherhina, 44, died of internal injuries, but they have not provided details or the circumstances surrounding her death. An arrest warrant charging Kocherhin with murder does not list a weapon.

Kocherhin called 911 shortly before 1:30 a.m. Friday. He told an emergency dispatcher he did not speak English very well, and the dispatcher relied on an interpreter to communicate with him.

Kocherhin said that he last saw his wife the day before when they had lunch together. He said that his wife had gone to the pool but never returned and that he called a taxi to help him look for her.

Kocherhin did not answer the dispatcher when she asked where his wife lived. He said he did not know why she was in the back of a parking lot.



Triple murder suspect in court after requesting speedy trial

A man accused of killing his wife and her 2 children appeared in court Monday after he submitted a handwritten request for a speedy trial.

The request by Luis Toledo, 34, would have had his trial starting in 45 days.

Toledo is charged with three counts of murder, accused of killing his wife Yessenia and her children 9-year-old Thalia and 8-year-old Michael.

The family was reported missing from their Deltona home in October of 2013.

Volusia County Judge Raul Zambrano told Toledo and 1 of his 3 defense attorneys, "I need to know whether there is any issues between you and him or he's on his own. This is a chance to say whatever he wants to say if he wants to say anything at all."

Toledo had nothing to say.

Defense attorney Jeff Dean asked that the motion be stricken.

The judge did just that, but cautioned the defendant.

"Mr. Toledo, I think it is very wise (for you) to go through your attorneys whenever you want to communicate anything to the court," Zambrano said. "To file something like this in the court file will cause me react and schedule a hearing and I think it's very inconvenient to the attorneys to have to run from wherever they are on a very short moment's notice to address these issues. So always go through your attorneys. You do have a right to demand (a) speedy trial and your attorney can tell you how, and what is the proper way to exercise that right."

The bodies of Toledo's wife and children have not been found.

If convicted of killing either of the children, Toledo could face the death penalty.

There is a tentative trial date of Jan. 9.

(source: WESH news)


Mistrial ruled in Seman case; change of venue denied

Judge Maureen Sweeney Monday denied defense motions to move the capital murder case of Robert Seman out of Mahoning County but she did agree to grant a mistrial and to dismiss the pool of jurors summoned for duty in the case.

Judge Sweeney instead ruled that a new pool of jurors will be summoned for the case against Seman, 47, of Green Township, who could face the death penalty if convicted of the deaths of Corinne Gump, 10, and her grandparents, William and Judith Schmidt, during a March 30, 2015, arson at the Schmidts' Powers Way home on the day Seman was to go on trial on a charge of raping the girl.

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

A new trial date has not been set. A pretrial hearing in the case is set for Oct. 5.

Judge Sweeney based her mistrial ruling on arguments made by defense attorneys that during the Sept. 9 jury orientation, 1 of the jurors filling out a questionnaire was discussing the case with other potential jurors, which violated the oath that potential jurors took to not discuss the case.

That juror, defense attorneys claimed, already had determined that Seman was guilty and he was telling other potential jurors details of the case, which defense attorneys said skewed the pool against Seman and made it harder to find an impartial jury.

"There is no way to ferret out the negative publicity," said defense attorney Lynn Maro, in a brief oral hearing before Judge Sweeney issued her ruling.

Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer McLaughlin said during the hearing that there is evidence that jurors were following instructions because they told the juror who was making remarks about the case to stop talking about it.

"They told the juror to stop talking about it as you instructed them to do so," McLaughlin said.

Jury orientation in the case was Sept. 9, when more than 150 jurors reported to the courtroom to be questioned by attorneys to see if they could serve as jurors in the case. Individual questioning of jurors began Sept. 13, however, it was halted shortly after that because Judge Sweeney was attending a previously scheduled judicial conference.

Defense attorneys filed motions months ago to change the venue of the trial because of intense pretrial publicity, and Judge Sweeney denied that motion Sept. 12 but said she would revisit it during the jury selection process if it became difficult to pick a jury.

She said in her ruling Monday that she still thinks a motion to change venue in the case is "premature," but she added she is troubled that some people called for jury duty in the case ignored the oath they took before they filled out the questionnaires to not discuss the case.

In her ruling, Judge Sweeney said when the next jury pool reports for orientation, they will be split into small groups and those groups will be taken into the courtroom separately to be given their oaths and instructions, and that a deputy sheriff will then accompany each group as they fill out their questionnaires.

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 2 or more people; killed to escape prosecution from a crime; 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 2nd 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.



Double murder death penalty trial continues

As she lay dying from 2 gunshot wounds, Carly Hughley told her 10-year-old son, "Tell the family I love them," the now 14-year-old boy testified in Harvey Lee Jones' murder trial.

Jones, 37, could face the death penalty if he's found guilty in the Jan. 24, 2013 aggravated double murder of Hughley, 32, and Demetrius Beckwith, 29 in a Harrison Twp. apartment.

Jones has pleaded not guilty to 6 counts of aggravated murder, 2 counts of aggravated burglary, 2 counts of kidnapping, 2 counts of aggravated robbery, and 1 count of having a weapon under disability.

The boy told the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court jury on Monday that Jones lived with him and his mother for a few months in 2012 and that during that time he saw Jones "every day."

Asked by Montgomery County assistant prosecutor Dan Brandt if Hughley and Jones got along, the boy replied, "sometimes," that "they would argue" and that Jones sent his mother threatening text messages.

The boy testified how he and his mother were watching TV in the living room before he went upstairs to watch TV in his bedroom.

The boy said he knew when "Fatboy" (Beckwith) came over and that when he heard the door open again, he saw Jones enter the apartment.

The boy testified that he hid behind the stairway wall and saw Jones with a gun in his hand shoot his mother and Beckwith 7 times.

The boy testified that he saw Jones then take a phone, money and keys out of his mother's and Beckwith's clothes and leave the apartment.

The boy recounted how - with blood on his hands from listening to his mother's last words - he asked a neighbor for help and told law enforcement about the gold car Jones drove. He used a pointer to show jurors where on the stairs he was when he watched the incident.

On cross examination by defense attorney Dennis Lieberman, the boy denied saying some statements from a police interview, that Beckwith often had a lot of cash and that he wasn't sure what Jones was wearing the night of the killings.

The boy denied telling deputies that all 3 adults had walked out of the apartment together before Jones forced the other 2 to get on the floor in the apartment.

The boy testified that he remembered his mother saying, "Please don't hurt my baby," that Beckwith begged for Jones to just take his money and not hurt him. The boy also said he thought Jones never saw him.

On redirect examination, Brandt asked the boy to identify Jones, which he did by pointing to him in the courtroom and saying the defendant was wearing a burgundy shirt.

Brand also asked if he was certain that Jones pulled the trigger and the boy said, "Yes." Asked if he'd ever forget that night, the boy said, "No."

Earlier Monday, Harrison Twp. first responders testified about the life-saving efforts they tried on Hughley and that a firefighter had left a bloody boot-print on the backside of a rug. Photos of the scene were shown to the jury.

The trial in Judge Steven Dankof's courtroom resumes Tuesday in front of 12 jurors and 6 alternates.

(source: WHIO news)


State answers Rule 37 petition of convicted killer----State says convicted killer provides no proof for allegations

The state of Arkansas answered a Rule 37 petition filed by convicted double murderer Nicholas Ian Roos, stating the allegations in the petition are without merit, the petition was filed too late and that Roos never says in the petition he did not shoot and kill Midway couple Donald and LaDonna Rice during an armed robbery conspiracy with 2 co-defendants who have pled to lesser roles in the double murder.

One of the claims Roos made centered around what he alleged was a faulty identification of him as a suspect. Roos, who is serving a life sentence, claimed the witness was allowed to view Roos alone and handcuffed. What Roos failed to say in the petition, the state points out, is that the witness came to police first, stating he saw 2 men exit the woods where the victims' burned out truck was found and gave them a ride.

Roos, 23, of Flippin, also alleged in his petition that his attorneys, Katherine Streett and Teri Reynolds, provided ineffective counsel, did not file a motion to suppress evidence nor did they investigate his claim that he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. Roos also alleged in his petition that his guilty plea was coerced by his attorneys who allegedly told him if he did not plea, he would get the death penalty.

In answer to those allegations, prosecutors noted Streett and Reynolds have each handled more than 50 death penalty cases and are "2 of the finest death penalty qualified attorneys in the state."

It was also noted by prosecutors that defense attorneys are not required to file a flurry of motions in order to see which ones stick. The state said the evidence against Roos and his codefendants Mikayla Mynk and Zach Grayham was overwhelming including a confession by Roos himself, a codefendant who agreed to testify against him, being seen in the vicinity of the stolen, burned out truck of the victims and being in possession of items identified as stolen from the Rice home.

Roos also claims in his petition that his attorneys did not sufficiently investigate his claim of suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. In answer to this claim, the state notes Roos offered no tangible proof of being diagnosed with the disease. Prosecutors note a diagnosis such as the one Roos claims is a life-long diagnosis that would leave a significant paper trail through the medical profession and with social workers. Bad behavior, the state argued, is just that, and not an indication of mental disease.

Finally, prosecutors noted Roos' petition was not filed within the time frame allowed by and should be denied by the court for that reason alone.

Circuit Court Judge Gordon Webb, who handled the case and accepted Roos' guilty plea to killing the couple, appointed local attorneys John Crain and Justin Downum to assist Roos with the petition. Electronic court records indicate Roos is scheduled to appear Oct. 25 in Baxter County Circuit Court.

(source: The Baxter Bulletin)

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