March 2

TEXAS----impending execution

State responds to convicted murderer's request for stay of execution

The state has responded to convicted murderer Rosendo Rodriguez III's motion for a stay of execution, although the court has not officially ruled on the motion.

Rodriguez is scheduled to be executed on March 27, 2018.

Last week, Rodriguez's attorneys asked for additional time to investigate accusations regarding Lubbock County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Sridhar Natarajan.

Rodriguez's attorneys cited a civil lawsuit filed in 2015 by Dr. Luisa Florez under the Texas Whistleblower Act.

In the lawsuit, she claimed Dr. Natarajan was not conducting his autopsies, instead delegating the "cutting, removal of tissue and organs, and collection of forensic evidence to technicians who were not licensed or trained doctors or forensic pathologists."

Dr. Natarajan and Lubbock County settled the lawsuit on November 7, 2017, paying Dr. Florez the sum of $230,000.

The motion claims that Lubbock County District Attorney Matt Powell was aware of this lawsuit and failed to disclose it to Rodriguez, which his attorneys argue is a Brady violation.

In the state's response, Powell argues there has been no Brady violation because it does not apply to the post-conviction context and the evidence is not material.

"Any allegations within the lawsuit are not relevant to determining how Dr. Natarajan ran the Medical Examiner's Office on September 13-14, 20005. In fact, Dr. Florez could not provide any relevant information about how the office was run in September of 2005 since the office Dr. Florez worked for in 2013 to 2015 was under a different organizational structure than the one Dr. Natarajan operated in September of 2015."

Powell said, "...multiple portions of the record make it clear that Dr. Natarajan personally performed the autopsy in this case."

The court has not ruled on the motion.

Kretzer said he is going to request a hearing in state court, and will soon file a motion to stay in the court of criminal appeals.

(source: KCBD news)


Bishops hail Texas governor for granting clemency to death row inmate Thomas Whitaker

The bishops released a statement to cite the governor's decision as "an example of restorative justice." The Catholic community in Texas offered prayers of thanks and reflected on the mercy shown towards a prisoner, but the bishops also said prayers for the victims.

Whitaker had been sentenced in 2003 for plotting to kill his family for the inheritance money with his accomplice, Chris Brashear. Mom Patricia and brother Kevin, who was 19, died on the spot, while dad Kent survived the attack but went through the harrowing experience of learning that his older son was the one of the culprits.

Brashear was also in prison for being the triggerman. He, however, did not receive the death penalty but was sentenced to 30 years to life imprisonment.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended Whitaker's stay of execution at least a week before he was to die via lethal injection, but Abbot's final say on his status became official a half-hour before his execution.

Whitaker's dad and stepmom had been at the death chamber for his final moments when lawyer Keith Hampton told them of the governor's decision. Abbot was apparently moved by the father's appeal.

"Mr. Whitaker's father, who survived the attempt on his life, passionately opposes the execution of his son." Abbot's statement read. "Mr. Whitaker's father insists that he would be victimized again if the state put to death his last remaining immediate family member."

Reports also revealed that Whitaker's father, a very religious man, mentioned a lot of quotes from the Bible to plead for his son's case. The elder Whitaker believed his son's execution would be meaningless if it proceeded.

30 people on death row have, so far, been executed under Abbot's term. Whitaker's stay of execution is only the 3rd clemency granted by a Texas governor in the last 4 decades.

(source: Christian Daily)


Death penalty repeal deserves full and fair debate

For the 1st time in decades. it appears a bill to repeal the death penalty has enough votes to pass the New Hampshire House and Senate.

The Legislature last passed a death penalty repeal in 2000, when it was vetoed by Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said he'll veto this death penalty repeal bill if it reaches his desk because, in his view, "There is no doubt that the most heinous crimes warrant the death penalty."

Despite the governor's veto threat, we urge legislators to debate death penalty repeal and then to vote their consciences. If we, as citizens, are going to authorize the state to kill in our names, we should regularly affirm that belief and declare why we think this action is right and just and moral.

The death penalty is a highly emotional topic, particularly for murder victims' loved ones. The victims' families, in whose name we pursue justice, do not speak with 1 voice. Some believe that putting a convicted murderer to death is justice, while others believe it is simply another act of violence, this time committed by the state, that brings neither emotional closure nor a sense that justice has been done.

New Hampshire has not executed anyone since 1939. In 2005, John Brooks of Londonderry was convicted of murder for hiring a hitman to kill a Derry handyman. The state pursued capital murder charges but Brooks, who is white and wealthy, was sentenced to life in prison.

In 2008, William Addison, a poor black man, was found guilty of capital murder for the 2006 killing of Manchester police officer Michael Briggs. Addison was sentenced to death and the New Hampshire Supreme Court rejected his appeal. He remains on death row pending further appeals of his case. The repeal bill currently before the Legislature is not retroactive and would not affect Addison's sentence, according to 1 of the bill's sponsors, Sen. Bob Giuda, R-Warren.

In the wake of the 2 capital murder cases, in 2009 the state created the Commission to Study the Death Penalty in New Hampshire. The 22-member commission reviewed whether the death penalty served as a deterrent to crime, was levied impartially, its cost, and whether alternative punishments might be equally effective. The committee's final report found 12 members voting to keep the laws the way they are and 10 members voting for repeal. The members did not fall predictably along party lines or divide between law enforcement and victims of crime. Those in favor of repeal and those against it brought their own intensely personal analysis to the issue that did not appear overly influenced by their politics or profession.

Seacoast Media Group's newspapers have consistently called for the repeal of the death penalty, arguing that the risk of human error is too high, that minorities and poor people are disproportionately sentenced to death, that it doesn't help victims heal, has not been proven a deterrent and is wildly expensive for taxpayers, far more expensive than a prosecution and sentence of life without parole.

Judge Walter Murphy, who chaired the death penalty study commission, and voted with the minority, concluded: "There is no assurance that the death penalty does what its advocates claim is its purpose; nor is there any reason to believe it is necessary for public safety. The alternative, that is, life without the possibility of parole, offers the same protection without the attendant risks of mistakes and without the vast expense both monetary and otherwise."

Hampton State Rep. Renny Cushing, whose father was murdered in town in 1988, is a sponsor of the bill currently before the Legislature and served on the death penalty commission. In an essay published in 2010, "Why I oppose the death penalty," Cushing wrote: "I view the death penalty not as a criminal justice sanction, but as a human rights violation. I aspire to live in a society, in a world, where human life is cherished and the dignity of all is respected."

We urge the House and Senate to give full and serious debate to this issue and when that debate is done, all members should vote their consciences. If the bill passes, Gov. Sununu will do what he thinks is right. While we obviously side with repeal, the important thing at this time is to have a full and fair debate so that the public understands just what the criminal justice system is doing in our names.

(source: Editorial,


A 1982 murder, a capital sentence, two escapes and now, a reprieve from death row

3 decades ago, Joseph Kindler was a serial burglar convicted of murder after tossing a potential witness into the Delaware River with a concrete block tied around his neck.

Kindler then escaped from prison twice - once with the help of another inmate, the other time using bed sheets as a rappelling line. And he nearly caused an international incident when officials in Canada, where he'd fled after his 1st escape, initially balked at extraditing him back to Philadelphia to face a death sentence, an illegal punishment north of the border.

Kindler's colorful legal history likely came to an end Thursday, when the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office agreed to vacate his death sentence and instead keep him in prison for life.

"What I did," Kindler said in court, "still haunts me to this day."

Kindler's release from death row fits with the stance of District Attorney Larry Krasner, who on the campaign trail last year pledged that he would never seek to impose capital punishment.

The position went unmentioned at the Criminal Justice Center during Kindler's hearing; Anthony Voci, head of the district attorney's homicide unit, instead said prosecutors agreed with Kindler's lawyers that he had made "an extraordinary adjustment while in prison," citing his becoming a Jehovah's Witness and even inventing, from his cell, a patented wireless smoke detector.

But 1 of Kindler's attorneys, public defender Andrea Konow, said after the hearing that she had been fighting in court for Kindler to be removed from death row since 2013 - and it wasn't until after Krasner took office that she felt sustained agreement that Kindler deserved to have his death sentence dropped for good.

"We're extremely pleased," Konow said. "Mr. Kindler has truly made a remarkable adjustment."

Kindler became eligible for resentencing in 2011, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ordered his death sentence vacated due to ineffective assistance of counsel.

At issue was the fact that Kindler, at trial, had barely any witnesses or evidence presented on his behalf as jurors weighed capital punishment. The practice, known as mitigation, is standard today but was a relatively new concept when Kindler was tried in 1983.

He had been arrested a year earlier, after the body of 18-year-old David Bernstein was found in the Delaware River near Bensalem with 20 head wounds from a baseball bat and a chunk of concrete tied around the neck. Bernstein, before he was killed, had agreed to testify against his friend Kindler regarding burglaries the 2 had committed together.

While awaiting trial on murder charges, Kindler twice escaped from prison. The 1st time, in 1983, he and another convicted murderer, Reginald Lewis, escaped after Lewis flooded his cell, yelled for help, and assaulted the guard who responded.

Lewis was caught in Buffalo, but Kindler remained on the lam for 7 months, until he was arrested by Canadian police for committing a burglary outside Montreal. Authorities hesitated to return him to Philadelphia to face the death penalty because they had outlawed the punishment. But they eventually relented out of fear that their country would become a safe haven for American killers fleeing the law.

In 1986, however, before he had an extradition hearing, Kindler broke out of a Montreal jail when fellow inmates lifted him onto the prison roof through a skylight and he rappelled to freedom using a rope of bed sheets. He was discovered 2 years later in the Canadian province of New Brunswick after being recognized on the television show America's Most Wanted. He finally was extradited to Philadelphia in 1991.

In court Thursday, Kindler, wearing a blue prison uniform and eyeglasses, acknowledged his troubled history while reading from a statement. But he said he had become a Jehovah's Witness upon his return to Pennsylvania, and accepted responsibility for his crimes.

No family members were in attendance, but Konow said Kindler's father - who is in his 80s and in poor health - had visited his son in prison regularly for many years. The elder Kindler converted to become a Jehovah's Witness after interacting with his son, Konow said.

Speaking to Common Pleas Court Judge Rose Marie DeFino-Nastasi, Kindler - who will be returned to a general prison population after years in solitary confinement - said he hopes he will be forgiven for his actions.

"I am truly sorry," he said, "for what I've done."



DA to seek death penalty in shooting outside bar

The Lancaster County district attorney is seeking the death sentence for a man accused in a shooting death outside a city bar in February.

Alexander Cruz, 34, is charged with homicide and attempted homicide in the Feb. 9 death of Marcus McCain and the wounding of McCain's brother outside O'Halloran's Pub on Fairview Avenue.

Cruz, formerly of South Lime Street, waived his preliminary hearing this week, and remains in Lancaster County Prison without bail.

Travis Anderson, Lancaster County assistant district attorney, cited aggravating circumstances in seeking the death penalty if Cruz is convicted. They include the fact the killing was committed during another felony; he presented grave risk to another person (the brother); he has a prior felony conviction involving use or threat of violence.


GEORGIA----impending execution

Parole Board to hear serial killer's clemency plea

One day before Georgia is scheduled to carry out its 1st execution of 2018, supporters of convicted serial killer Carlton Gary will ask the state Board of Pardons and Parole to spare his life.

Gary is scheduled to be put to death at 7 p.m. March 15. He was convicted in 1986 for raping and strangling 3 elderly women with their pantyhose.

Known as the "Stocking Strangler," Gary has long maintained that someone else killed the women.

The 5-member board will hold 2 separate hearings on March 14, 1 will include backers of Gary and the other those who want the state to carry out the execution. Both meetings are closed to the public.

Carlton Gary, now 67, was sentenced in the brutal slayings of 3 Columbus, Ga. women in the 1970s - Florence Scheible, 89; Martha Thurmond, 70; and Kathleen Woodruff, 74. He also was linked to the deaths of 4 other older women, who were also strangled with their stockings in their homes in the same neighborhood over a seven-month period that began in September 1977.

Local prosecutors did not charge him with those other four homicides. Gary also was linked to the strangulations of 2 women in New York earlier in the 1970s but not tried for those murders either.

Gary has remained on Georgia's death row for decades primarily because of the extraordinary path his appeals took after newly-discovered physical evidence raised questions about his 1986 conviction.

It was the questions about that DNA evidence that saved him from execution in December 2009. The Georgia Supreme Court stopped his execution with 4 hours to spare and ordered the court in Muscogee County to consider DNA testing.

Superior Court Judge Frank Jordan Jr. subsequently allowed the DNA testing and held evidentiary hearings. Last September, Jordan denied Gary's motion for new trial.

Gary's lawyers filed an appeal, but the state Supreme Court decided not to hear it.

If his execution is carried out as scheduled, Gary will be the 1st person Georgia has put to death this year.

(source: Atlanta Journal Constitution)


Senate Plan Could Lead To Hundreds Of Death Penalty Appeals

Florida Senators have teed up a change to the state's death penalty rules now heading to the chamber floor. It comes 2 years after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring the previous system unconstitutional.

When the nation's high court ruled Florida's death penalty scheme unconstitutional it didn't quite upend the whole system. That's because the ruling only applied to cases decided after 2002. But what about those convicted before that time?

"Senate Bill 870 requires a jury vote for a death sentence must be unanimous and that the unanimity requirement is applied retroactively to all death penalty cases," Democratic Sen. Randolph Bracy told the Rules committee.

His proposal would allow people convicted prior to 2002 to challenge their cases. Why that year? That's when the court decided another case, Ring v. Arizona, which was used as a basis to challenge Florida's death penalty. Under the old system, all that was required to sentence someone to death was a simple majority. The new system requires a unanimous vote. And Bracy's prush to extend the same considerations to people convicted before 2002 is supported by Republican Senator Jeff Brandes. For him, it's a matter of equal application of the law.

"At the end of the day, the standard should be the same no matter when the penalty was applied, and this bill seeks to rectify that. It's the right bill at the right time. We need to address this issue. It's a travesty in the state of Florida that we don't have a consistent standard for the death penalty."

But there are caveats. According to the Florida Department of Corrections, there are presently 350 people on death row, and an unknown number of those are already entitled to review by the Florida Supreme Court. Bracy's proposal could open all cases to review.

A staff analysis of the bill says if the bill becomes law, it's likely going to increase the court system's workload - placing more pressure on prosecutors, already under-staffed public defender offices, and appeals court counsel. And Republican Sen. Rob Bradley worries making even more changes would likely cause log-jams in the judicial branch.

"The Florida Supreme Court has given its stamp of approval we're allowed to move forward with carrying out justice in these cases," Bradley said. "And my concern is if we go tinkering again, we'll cause the delays that were concern to many members before. The Florida Supreme Court has craved stability and I don't think we should disturb that."

Earlier this week the Florida Supreme Court rejected 9 death penalty appeals because the person was convicted prior to 2002. The News Service reports at least 80 similar cases have been rejected since the 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

(source: WFSU news)


Death penalty trial begins for Palm Springs man in wife's 2013 murder

There is no question that Elton Taylor barged into the home of his estranged wife's parents in 2013, forced Watisha Wallace outside and shot her dead, a defense attorney for the burly 39-year-old Palm Springs man told a Palm Beach County jury on Thursday.

But in an apparent attempt to spare her client a death sentence, Assistant Public Defender Christine Geraghty insisted Wallace's murder wasn't premeditated.

"This case is indeed about the loss of Watisha Wallace," Geraghty told the jury in a hushed voice during opening statements. "But it is also about the loss of a dream to build a life together."

During the course of what is expected to be a roughly weeklong trial, the jury will learn not only about how the 41-year-old Wallace was killed but why Taylor took the action he did, Geraghty told the courtroom packed with the grieving families of both Wallace and Taylor.

Wallace's father, Herman Wallace, and her now 20-year-old daughter testified that Watisha Wallace, a Palm Tran Connection bus driver, feared her husband of 3 years. As he became increasingly abusive, she persuaded a judge to give her a restraining order to keep him away and she moved into her parents' West Palm Beach home.

Neither the move nor the restraining order spared Wallace when Taylor barged into her parents' home, shouting: "I want my wife. I want my wife," Herman Wallace testified Thursday.

Herman Wallace was eating dinner while sitting on a couch when Taylor, a truck driver, burst through the back door of the home on 36th Street at about 10 p.m., Oct. 21, 2013. He said Taylor charged up the stairs, grabbed Watisha Wallace and forced her outside.

As this was happening, Herman Wallace ran outside to bang on neighbors' doors for help.

"She screamed real loud, and I heard pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow," Herman Wallace remembered.

Before the sounds of gunfire filled the air, he said he heard his daughter's voice for the last time. "Daddy, come back. Daddy, come back," he said she screamed.

Arliesha Wallace, who was 16 when her mother was killed, shares many of the same memories. After she heard her mother's pleas and the gunshots, she said she ran upstairs. As she and her grandmother were frantically searching for a phone to call police, Taylor burst through the door of the bedroom where they were.

"And you," Arliesha remembered Taylor saying as he began hitting her grandmother with the butt of his gun.

Taylor then ran from the house again and shot himself, said Assistant State Attorney Adrienne Ellis. Police found him lying on top of Wallace's body, she said.

In addition to 1st-degree murder, Taylor faces 7 other charges, including kidnapping, aggravated assault and burglary.

He is the 3rd person this year to face the death penalty in a Palm Beach County courtroom. The other 2 men were convicted of murder, but juries declined to sentence them to death.



State keeps Barwick, Geralds on death row

2 convicted Bay County killers fighting for a 2nd chance at life will continue toward execution, the state's high court ruled Wednesday.

The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday denied the appeals filed by Darryl Brian Barwick, 51, and Mark Allen Geralds, 50, along with seven other inmates across the state. All had been hoping to get off death row since a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision led to Florida requiring unanimous jury decisions in capital punishment cases. Although Barwick and Geralds were sentenced to death by less than that margin, the Florida Supreme Court found their cases did not fall within the right time frame.

In March 1986, Barwick had been lurking around Rebecca Wendt's Panama City apartment while she was sunbathing outside. He followed her when she eventually went inside, stabbed her more than 37 times during a robbery attempt and left her body wrapped in a comforter for her sister to find in their bathroom. Authorities found that her bathing suit appeared to be tampered with but did not find proof of sexual contact. Barwick also was convicted of attempted sexual battery.

Geralds left the beaten and stabbed body of Tressa Pettibone in February 1989 for her 8-year-old son to discover in her kitchen after Geralds robbed them and fled. He had been a carpenter for the Pettibone family and remodeled their home. Court records state Pettibone's wrists had been bound with a plastic tie for at least 20 minutes leading up to her death, and she had numerous bruises and abrasions to her face, chest and abdomen from some form of blunt force trauma.

Both men had been seeking a new sentencing phase in their case after the U.S. Supreme Court's Hurst v. Florida decision that Florida's death-penalty sentencing system was unconstitutional because it gave too much authority to judges, instead of juries. The subsequent Florida Supreme Court ruling said juries must unanimously agree on critical findings before judges can impose death sentences and must unanimously recommend the death penalty.

However, the Florida Supreme Court made the new sentencing requirements apply only to cases since June 2002. That is when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling known as Ring v. Arizona that was a premise for striking down Florida's death-penalty sentencing system in 2016.

In Bay County, several gruesome cases have been awarded new penalty phases - including those of Robert James Bailey and Matthew Caylor - during which prosecutors intend to again pursue the death penalty. When those will go before a jury has yet to be announced.



Marlin Joseph: State intends to seek death penalty for double murder suspect

State prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty for a man accused of shooting and killing a woman and her daughter in West Palm Beach late last year.

Police said Joseph shot 36-year-old Kaladda Crowell and 11-year-old Kyra Inglett on Dec. 28. Joseph was caught after several days on the run.

He is charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and could be sentenced to death if found guilty.

Prosecutors call their deaths especially heinous, atrocious and cruel.

Joseph was previously convicted of battery on a child in December 2014. He was on probation, which was set to expire on Nov. 4, 2018, at the time of the homicides.

Joseph is expected to appear in court in May.

(source: WPTV news)


Alabama's aborted execution was 'botched and bloody,' lawyer says

A federal judge has ordered Alabama prison officials to preserve all evidence related to an aborted execution, including the clothing the inmate wore, following an unsuccessful lethal injection attempt that the convict's attorney described as "botched and bloody."

Chief US District Judge Karon Bowdre of the Northern District of Alabama also ordered corrections officials to allow for a full medical examination of inmate Doyle Lee Hamm, 61, whose execution last Thursday was called off about 2 1/2 hours after he was taken into the death chamber, court documents show.

Hamm's attorney, Bernard Harcourt, wrote Sunday in a blog post following a physician's 2-hour exam of his client that "the IV personnel almost certainly punctured Doyle's bladder, because he was urinating blood for the next day. They may have hit his femoral artery as well, because suddenly there was a lot of blood gushing out."

"He has pain going from the lower abdomen to the upper thigh," Harcourt wrote, noting more than 10 puncture wounds. "He is limping badly now and terribly sore."

Hamm on Tuesday was back on death row in solitary confinement, Harcourt told CNN, adding that a doctor's report of the exam would be filed by Wednesday.

"Physically, he's sore," Harcourt said of his client. "Emotionally, he's traumatized."

'More of a time issue,' prison chief says

Harcourt had argued for months that killing his client by lethal injection would amount to "cruel and unusual punishment" because Hamm's veins had become severely compromised by lymphatic cancer and "years of intravenous drug use," court records show.

Hamm "also has Hepatitis C, a history of seizures and epilepsy (and) multiple significant head injuries," Harcourt wrote in court pleadings.

Execution team members late Thursday stuck Hamm repeatedly in the lower legs, ankles and groin before the state called off the procedure, Harcourt stated in court documents.

"This went beyond ghoulish justice and cruel and unusual punishment," Harcourt, a Columbia Law School professor, is quoted in an online post on his law school website. "It was torture."

Corrections officials, however, denied any "problem" with the procedure, saying they halted it when they ran out of time to complete the protocol before a midnight deadline.

"I wouldn't necessarily characterize what we had tonight as a problem," Jeff Dunn, Alabama Department of Corrections commissioner, told reporters shortly after the execution was stopped. "The only indication I have is that in their medical judgment it was more of a time issue, given the late hour."

Joy Patterson of the Alabama's attorney general's office declined to comment on the case. The next hearing is set for March 6.

Attorney says he requested oral injection

Hamm's case follows difficult executions in other states, including Oklahoma and Arizona, that have raised questions about the humanity and appropriateness of lethal injections.

Injecting a fatal combination of drugs into a convict's bloodstream is the primary means of execution in all 31 states that exercise capital punishment. Since the US Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976 after a suspension of several years, 1,469 people have been executed in the United States -- all but 175 by lethal injection -- according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Hamm has been on death row nearly half his life. He was convicted and sentenced to death in the 1987 killing of motel clerk Patrick Cunningham. 2 accomplices testified against him in exchange for reduced sentences, Harcourt said.

Alabama carries out executions by lethal injections unless an inmate requests the electric chair, an option Hamm declined, according to court records.

Harcourt said he had asked the court to allow Hamm to die by oral injection of a "lethal drug cocktail ... that will eliminate the significant likelihood of pain and suffering associated with an intravenous injection in Mr. Hamm's case," court documents show.

That request was denied, the lawyer told CNN.....

"The court's independent experts said, 'It would be a piece of cake' to get into his veins," Harcourt said. "As I predicted, it was a botched and bloody mess."

"Doyle collapsed when he was unstrapped," Harcourt added. "Basically, he said he wanted it to be over with -- he wanted to die rather than that continue going on."

Attorney general supports execution

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall tweeted that petitions calling for the halt of Hamm's execution painted an unfairly sympathetic picture of the inmate.

In a video posted on Twitter, Marshall described the circumstances surrounding Hamm's crime and said the court was satisfied that any concerns about the method of execution had been met.

In earlier court filings, Marshall's office argued that Hamm had waited too long to challenge Alabama's method of execution and had failed to present proof that his medical condition had deteriorated.

The execution try began after the US Supreme Court declined to issue a stay.

A new execution date has not been set, said Samantha Banks, public information specialist at the Alabama Department of Corrections.

(source: CNN)

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