Oct. 17


Defense attorneys not surprised by Florida Supreme Court's decision to require unanimous verdicts in death penalty case

Attorney Bill Sheppard said he was "dumbfounded" by a change in the death penalty law made by Florida legislators in March.

Ann Finnell said she didn;t think the change, which required a 10-2 vote of jurors to impose the death penalty, would pass the muster of a U.S. Supreme Court decision months earlier.

And even some Duval County lawmakers who had a hand in the law knew the day would come where it would be changed.

Friday was that day, when the Florida Supreme Court decided the Legislature's tweak still wasn't good enough - death penalty cases instead need a unanimous jury decision.

It's the 2nd time this year the system has been impacted by a court ruling, but many didn't see it as a big surprise.

"I don't understand why in the world the Florida Legislature didn't correct it in the first place," said Sheppard, of Sheppard, White, Kachergus & DeMaggio.

His career has included defending clients in several death penalty cases, including work for Gary Alvord, who spent more than 30 years on death row.

"I think it was a waste," Sheppard said of the Legislature's attempt this year.

The law should have been changed to require a unanimous decision, he said.

2 members of the Duval Legislative Delegation who worked on crafting the law both believed unanimity among jurors was the way to go. Yet, like many issues in Tallahassee, there were trade-offs made.

"The choice was either to compromise at 10-2 or we would not have had a fix," said state Sen. Rob Bradley, who served on the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

Bradley on Friday said he supports the unanimous approach and thought even with the March fix "this day would come sooner rather than later."

State Sen. Audrey Gibson, vice chair of the criminal justice committee, said she also backed unanimity among juries for the death penalty.

"I'm not surprised," she said of the Florida Supreme Court's rulings. "It did seem they were heading that way, anyway."

Gibson said many states have changed their laws on the "very weighty issue," but Florida would need to continue to work toward a solution for both victims' families and those accused.

Both Bradley and Gibson said they expect the issue to come up early when the Legislature reconvenes in March, instead of in a special session that would be called before then.

It creates somewhat of a standstill on the matter, said Finnell, who has handled death penalty cases since the early 1980s.

Finnell, of Finnell, McGuinness, Nezami & Andux, said she suspects many past death penalty cases will get a new chance to seek life in prison.

That would end up creating a strain on the system - prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and others - that will have to dedicate a "tremendous" amount of time and resources on the issue, she said.

"I think we are going to go through a little scrambling here," Finnell said.

Sheppard agreed.

"Oh my God, it's going to take an avalanche of resources," he said, noting it would add to the already exorbitant amount spent on each case.

Long-term, Finnell thinks the court rulings are a positive step.

They bring Florida more into accordance with the rest of the country.

It also could result in prosecutors less frequently filing notices to seek the death penalty, which Finnell said often are used as leverage against defendants.

State Attorney Angela Corey's office, in a statement about Friday's rulings, said the decisions by the Florida Supreme Court "will not affect the way we determine whether to seek a death sentence in a case" and the law would be followed when such an outcome is sought.

The office said it expects the Legislature to amend the current death penalty statute to comply with the court's decision, which would then be applied to all pending cases.

(source: Daily Record)

OHIO----new death sentence

Glen Bates gets death penalty in toddler daughter's death----Jury recommended death penalty

Glen Bates was sentenced to death Monday morning, 19 months after his two-year-old daughter was beaten and tortured to death. Hamilton County Judge Megan Shanahan handed down the sentence to the 34-year-old. After a 7-day trial, the jury recommended a death sentence after only an hour of deliberation in September. Shanahan had the option to impose a lesser sentence than the jury's recommendation.

Bates' attorney said his client wants to appeal the sentence; he has 30 days to file an appeal.

In late September, Bates was found guilty of aggravated murder in the 2015 beating and killing of Glenara Bates. The jury said it found Bates to be "the principal offender" in the torture; the girl's mother, 30-year-old Andrea Bradley, is also charged with aggravated murder and is scheduled for a possible plea hearing Tuesday.

Glenara's 10-year-old sister testified last month that she saw Bates swing the toddler by the legs and bang her head against a wall until she stopped crying. The next day, Glenara's eyes were shut and she was motionless, her sister said.

That was the fatal blow, prosecutors said, and they drove that home in closing arguments during the trial. They said the bites, scratches and bruises were too numerous to count and that a gash on her forehead was held together by sewing thread.

"Imagine him swinging her around," the prosecution said at Bates' sentencing hearing. "Tell me he's not a monster."

The deputy coroner who performed the autopsy on Glenara Bates testified in court in September. She called Glenara's death "one of the worst I've ever seen."

Hamilton County Deputy Coroner Dr. Jennifer Schott said Glenara Bates weighed only 13 pounds when she died, less than 1/2 the average weight of a 2-year-old. Schott also testified that Glenara was covered in "C-shaped scars," determined to be bite marks.

Schott also highlighted severe diaper rash that extended from Glenara's lower back to her thighs. During Bates' taped interrogation, he said Glenara was often made to sleep in a downstairs bathtub because of a bed-wetting problem. Prosecutors said the tub was filled with feces.

The deputy coroner said she believes Glenara could have survived had she been taken to a hospital.

Jurors viewed more than 70 photos from the toddler's autopsy, detailing bruises, cuts and sores on her small body. Glen Bates' attorney tried to have the photos barred from evidence, but the 70 photos are only 25 % of those taken during the autopsy. Several jurors were in tears while viewing the photos.

The defense tried to create reasonable doubt about who exactly caused the wounds and fatal blow to the girl -- Bates or the girl's mother, Andrea Bradley. The deputy coroner testified that she could not be certain who caused the injuries on the girl.

Bates' attorney called character witnesses -- family and friends of Bates -- who called Bates "a protector" and "friend."

Stacey Jones, the mother of Bates' 12-year-old son, asked that the court not take the father away from the boy.

"My son would be devastated if his dad died," Jones said. "You can't have another father."

Bradley also faces the death penalty.

"It don't matter what I want," she said. "Give the world what they want. If they want the death penalty, give it to 'em. I don't care."

Tests show that Bradley has an IQ of 67, below the threshold for the death penalty. As her attorneys asked Judge Ruehlman to continue a hearing in September so they could renegotiate a plea deal with prosecutors, Bradley blurted out that she didn't care whether she got the death penalty or not.

Bradley chose not to take a plea deal that would have given her 15 years behind bars in May. This decision meant her case would head to trial.


He's on death row, but he never killed anybody. Should he be put to death?----The actual killer got a life sentence

Austin Myers became the youngest inmate on Ohio's death row 2 years ago after a judge sentenced him to the ultimate punishment for the 2014 murder of Warren County U.S. Navy recruit Justin Back.

Now the 21-year-old convicted killer is asking the Ohio Supreme Court to overthrow his murder conviction and death penalty sentence, arguing, among other issues, that he didn't actually kill the victim, yet he received a harsher sentence than his co-defendant, Tim Mosley, who he says carried out the actual murder.

"The imposition of the death penalty was so grossly unfair that it shocks the conscience in that the actual killer Mosley received life without (parole), while the accomplice Myers received the death penalty," says an appeal filed last month by Myers' attorneys, Timothy McKenna and Roger Kirk.

Indeed, legal experts say that executions of people who did not directly kill their victims are incredibly rare. The Death Penalty Information Center lists just 10 such cases out of the more than 1,400 executions since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

The case of a Texas man facing execution for a murder he did not directly take part in attracted national attention this summer. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted the scheduled execution of Jeff Wood 6 days before he was set to die by lethal injection.

"(Myers' case) is a rare scenario where the actual physical killer cuts a deal and gets out of the death penalty," said Mark Krumbein, a former prosecutor turned defense attorney who's defended more than a dozen clients in capital murder cases. "I don't know how the (appeals) court would react to that."

But prosecutors in the case argue that Myers doesn't fit within that narrow category of convicted killers who face execution under Ohio's felony-murder laws despite not actually killing anyone.

(source for both: WCPO news)


Ohio execution drugs affect Arizona death penalty lawsuit

Ohio's ability to acquire a controversial drug used in lethal injections will affect an ongoing lawsuit over Arizona's execution practices.

The Arizona Capitol Times reports (http://bit.ly/2diAO7z ) that U.S. District Judge Neil Wake has scheduled a hearing for Oct. 19 to discuss how Ohio's acquisition affects the ongoing lawsuit over whether inmates can press forward with allegations that Arizona abused its discretion in the methods and amounts of the drugs used in past executions.

The Arizona Department of Corrections has argued that it doesn't have any midazolam, making the lawsuit moot.

Ohio officials on Oct. 3 announced they would be able to use the drug for executions in January thanks to a secret drug supplier.

Wake says Ohio's drugs may defeat Arizona's mootness argument.

(source: Associated Press)


A Spiritual Take on California's Death Penalty

"2 rival death penalty initiatives are on the November ballot," writes columnist Andrew Fiala in the Fresno Bee (California). "Proposition 62 seeks to abolish the death penalty. Proposition 66 intends to make it more efficient. The moral questions raised are complex."

Complex indeed, although I probably would have gone with "perplexing" or "myriad." All the more reason, then, to keep this particular discussion focused on just one question: Is there anyone who is not capable of being redeemed?

Of course, no one can say for sure. That doesn't mean, however, that the question is not everyone's to consider.

Thousands of years ago, at least for the nascent Jewish nation, it wasn't so much a matter of one's ability as it was their worthiness of redemption. "If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him," it says in the Bible. "And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe."

Whoever wrote this wasn't saying people can't be redeemed, only that in certain situations, they shouldn't be allowed to.

Years later, it was a Jewish reformer who called this theology into question. "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth," said Jesus during his Sermon on the Mount, "But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also."

As a kid it was pretty easy for me to understand the downside of taking an "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" approach to justice. As the ever-thoughtful Tevye says in "Fiddler on the Roof," this would eventually leave "the whole world ... blind and toothless." But I still didn't get the part about turning the other cheek. Somehow that sounded weak, if not unwise.

But then, probably sometime in my early teens, I ran across what Christian theologian Mary Baker Eddy had to say on the subject. "'Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also," she wrote, quoting Jesus, in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. "That is, Fear not that he will smite thee again for thy forbearance."

I don't think she was suggesting that we should let those who have done something wrong off the hook, but rather, that we can't be harmed by giving them the opportunity to improve themselves, to be reformed, to be redeemed.

There were those in Eddy's day, and many today in fact who are familiar with her work as the discoverer and founder of Christian Science, who would say that her approach to redemption was to pretend that evil did not exist, that God was incapable of creating sinners and, therefore, that there was no need for punishment or reformation of any kind. This, however, was not how Eddy saw things.

"A sinner is not reformed merely by assuring him that he cannot be a sinner because there is no sin," she wrote in Science and Health. "To put down the claim of sin, you must detect it, remove the mask, point out the illusion, and thus get the victory over sin and so prove its unreality."

For Eddy, "put[ting] down the claim of sin" - exposing its unreality by challenging its veracity - involved a willingness to see one's self as something besides a mortal personality defined by mortal circumstances; to reject the idea that once you've chosen a particular path in life, there???s no turning back; to dismiss the notion that the grace of God is available to some but not all, and even then only in certain situations.

She didn't see redemption as merely possible, but inevitable - a divinely inspired, divinely supported process born of an innate though sometimes latent desire in all of us to live our lives in concert with God or good, as she often defined God.

Eddy also didn't see herself as being in a position to influence her fellow voters on the deeply moral political decisions of her day. "I am asked, 'What are your politics?"' she writes in The First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany. "I have none, in reality, other than to help support a righteous government; to love God supremely, and my neighbor as myself."

No matter what we decide in November with regard to the death penalty, we would do well to follow her lead.

(source: Eric Nelson, sfgate.com)


Man's death penalty appeal rejected in Whatcom County case

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected the death penalty appeal of Clark Elmore, who was convicted in 1995 of raping and killing his girlfriend's 14-year-old daughter in Whatcom County.

But the decision Monday drew a dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They argued that Elmore's lawyer - the current Whatcom County public defender, Jon Komorowski - had failed to present evidence that the defendant previously suffered from brain damage due to exposure to pesticides and Agent Orange.

Sotomayor wrote that such mitigating evidence might have persuaded a jury to impose a life sentence rather than execution. Komorowski later acknowledged it was a mistake, one he attributed to inexperience. It was the 1st capital case he ever handled.

Though Washington state has the death penalty, Gov. Jay Inslee has imposed a moratorium on its use.

(source: Associated Press)

A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu

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