March 2


Jury pool narrowed to 51 for death-penalty trial

The pool of potential jurors for the Brian L. Golsby trial stands at 51 after prosecution and defense attorneys spent 3 1/2 days eliminating those who were considered too influenced by pretrial publicity or too inflexible in their views on the death penalty.

The group will return to Franklin County Common Pleas Court Monday morning as the attorneys work to seat 12 jurors and as many as 6 alternates to hear the case. Golsby is accused of the February 2017 kidnapping, rape and murder of Ohio State University student Reagan Tokes.

Golsby, 30, is accused of kidnapping Tokes, 21, at gunpoint as she walked to her car after her shift at a Short North restaurant. Her body was found the following afternoon near the entrance to Scioto Grove Metro Park in Grove City. She had been raped and shot twice in the head, investigators said, after being forced to withdraw $60 from an ATM.

Judge Mark Serrott said he expects the final phase of jury selection to wrap up by Monday afternoon, when opening statements would be presented.

The court began with 167 potential jurors last Monday, Feb. 26, and a goal of finding at least 50 who were qualified to hear the case.

Of the 84 people interviewed, 10 were eliminated because of their views on the death penalty. 8 were too strongly anti-death penalty and 2 were too strongly pro-death penalty.

To qualify to hear a death-penalty case, jurors must be able to follow state law in determining whether death is the appropriate sentence if a defendant is convicted of a capital crime.

Another 8 people were eliminated because their knowledge of the case, particularly through pretrial publicity, would make it difficult for them to be objective.

15 were excused for other reasons, such as scheduling conflicts or a language barrier.

(source: Columbus Dispatch)


Dickson-connected death row inmate's fate remains unclear

The 35-year winding saga of Edmund Zagorski's time on Tennessee's death row for the convicted murder of 2 Dickson County men appeared to be nearing its end. A recent lawsuit, however, may have again delayed the execution.

First, the state Supreme Court opinion a year ago had seemingly cleared the way for lethal injections the state attorney general said were backlogged after legal challenges for using the drugs. The court's summarized message for death row inmates: A completely pain-free and quick death is not guaranteed.

"The intended result of an execution is to render the inmate dead," wrote Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins in the opinion.

Next, on Feb. 15, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery wrote in a court document that the state should move forward with 8 sentences before June 1, when the availability of lethal injection drugs would become "uncertain." One of those death sentences is for Zagorski.

"Years of delay between sentencing and execution undermines confidence in our criminal justice system," wrote Slatery, adding that the state, through the Department of Correction, is "required by law to carry out executions by lethal injection." However delaying past June 1 would make the executions "uncertain due to the ongoing difficulty in obtaining the necessary lethal injection chemicals," he wrote.

5 days later, a lawsuit filed by lawyers representing 33 death row inmates argues that Tennessee cannot execute death row inmates using the controversial 3-drug mix because doing so would violate constitutional bans on cruel and unusual punishment.

The lawsuit filing could delay executions, including Zagorski's execution.

Murders, legal system

Zagorski was convicted of shooting John Dotson of Hickman County and Jimmy Porter of Dickson and then slitting their throats, after robbing them in April of 1983. The victims, who at the time owned the former Eastside Tavern in Dickson, had planned to buy marijuana from Zagorski. Their bodies were found in Robertson County, which where Zagorski was tried.

Lethal injection is the primary means of carrying out the death penalty in Tennessee, although the electric chair is also legal. The state had used pentobarbital, a barbituate, but manufacturers have largely stopped selling the drug to anyone using it for executions.

In January, the Tennessee Department of Correction adopted a new protocol for lethal injections, relying on a 3-drug mixture intended to put an offender to sleep before stopping the lungs and heart.

Tennessee corrections officials knew this could be a problem, according to documents obtained by the USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee that are also cited in the lawsuit.

In September, a supplier noted potential problems with midazolam in an email to Tennessee prison officials.M

"Here is my concern with does not elicit strong analgesic effects. The subjects may be able to feel pain from the administration of the second and third drugs. Potassium chloride especially," wrote the supplier in an email.

In January, the Supreme Court and Tennessee Department of Correction confirmed 3 execution dates had been set for 2018.

The last time Tennessee executed at least 8 people in a single year was 1939, according to Department of Correction records. The last execution in Tennessee was 2009.

2 of the inmates have additional avenues for appeal, while the 3rd - a Knox County man who has spent more than 3 decades on death row - has fewer remaining paths to avert execution this year.

That man - Billy Ray Irick, a 59-year-old convicted of the 1985 rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl - is set to be executed Aug. 9.

Other inmates referenced in Slatery's court request Thursday are:

Donnie Johnson, Shelby County: Convicted in 1985 of killing his wife.

Stephen Michael West, Union County: Convicted in 1987 of kidnapping, rape and murder.

Leroy Hall, Hamilton County: Convicted in 1992 of murder and aggravated arson.

Abu-Ali Abdur'Rahman, Davidson County: Convicted in 1987 of murder.

Charles Walton Wright, Davidson County: Convicted in 1985 of 2 murders.

Nicholas Todd Sutton, Morgan County: Convicted in 1986 of murder.

David Earl Miller, Knox County: Convicted in 1982 of murder.

(source: The Tennessean)


Legislation Prohibiting Death Penalty for Mentally Ill Offenders Backed by Senate Judiciary Committe

Legislation to prohibit capital punishment for people suffering from severe mental illness is expected to go before the full Kentucky Senate.

Current law prohibits execution of anyone with significant intellectual challenges. The measure is not retroactive to current death row inmates.

Judiciary Committee Member Will Shroder would like to examine that further.

"Regardless of how the law interprets it, I think that is something that I think we would have to wrestle with," said Shroder. "Is it fair that someone could be on death row for something that happened 2 years ago, but then today if they committed that crime they wouldn't be on death row, if they had one of those conditions such as schizophrenia?"

Michael Gray with Kentucky's chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness said the determination would be made by a judge.

"There's a motion by the defense. They present evidence of mental illness at the time of the offense. The commonwealth, prosecution may rebut and then the court makes the decision, based on that evidence," said Gray.

Bill sponsor Julie Raque Adams told committee members a serious mental illness doesn't include a disorder manifested primarily by repeated criminal conduct or attributed solely to the acute effects of the voluntary use of alcohol or other drugs.

"I'm actually optimistic that we can get this on, we can pass this on the floor pretty soon," said Raque Adams

Raque Adams said there has been an effort in the Kentucky House to push for similar legislation.

(source: WKMS news)


Court drops stays for 2 Ark. men set to die last spring----Bruce Ward and Don Davis had been set to die last April, but they won stays after claiming independent psychiatrists should've been available to help develop trial strategies

Arkansas' Supreme Court on Thursday lifted stays of execution for 2 condemned killers, saying they were not entitled to special assistance from mental health professionals before and during their trials.

Bruce Ward and Don Davis were among 8 prisoners scheduled to die over 11 days last spring, but their April 17 executions were postponed so that the state's high court could consider their arguments that, by law, independent psychiatrists should have been available to help develop trial strategies. Lawyers for the state argued that the men didn't meet the minimum threshold to qualify for such aid and that they were "sandbagging" the court to delay their executions.

Writing for the majority, Justice Karen Baker said Ward's new argument "rehashes" previous ones and noted he had refused to cooperate in mental health evaluations at the state hospital when given the opportunity.

"The defendant does not have a constitutional right to search for a psychiatrist of his personal liking or to receive funds to hire his own, but is entitled to a competent psychiatrist and the examination afford to Ward satisfied that right," she wrote, citing a 2015 decision in a Ward case.

In the other case, which was argued separately but covered similar issues, Justice Shawn Womack wrote that a review of Davis' hyperactivity disorder determined he did not suffer from a mental disease and that his lawyers found no sign that an independent expert would reach a different conclusion.

"Davis made the strategic decision to not pursue a partisan psychiatrist," Womack wrote. "While the U.S. Constitution guarantees a right to a competent psychiatrist, it does not guarantee a psychiatrist who will reach the medical conclusions the defense team desires."

Ward still has a separate case pending on whether Arkansas' prison system director, Wendy Kelley, is qualified to determine whether he is currently sane enough to be executed. He and another condemned inmate, Jack Greene, argue that Kelley shouldn't be their "arbiter of sanity" because her boss, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, sets execution dates. Filings from the state in Greene's case are due March 23. The court has agreed to hear oral arguments in Ward's still-pending case.

In the cases decided Thursday, the inmates had said they had failed to receive assistance required after a 1985 U.S. Supreme Court targeting mentally ill indigent defendants. When the men asked for stays last April, the U.S. Supreme Court was reviewing its 1985 decision, but the justices ultimately didn't change it significantly.

Arkansas planned to execute 8 prisoners over 11-days last spring because its supply of an execution drug was about to expire, but it only executed 4 in 8 days.

The state's supply of 1 of its 3 execution drugs, the muscle relaxant vecuronium bromide, which stops the inmate's lungs, is set to expire after midnight on Thursday. The state's potassium chloride supply expires Aug. 31 and its midazolam is good through Jan. 31, 2019.

(source: Associated Press)


Trial begins today for Arkansas man accused of killing wife, daughter; state seeking death penalty

After 2 days of questioning, a jury of 7 men and 5 women was selected Wednesday afternoon to hear the trial of a Hot Springs man charged with 2 counts of capital murder for the 2015 shooting deaths of his wife and daughter, the Hot Springs Sentinel-Record reported.

Opening arguments and testimony in the case of Eric Allen Reid, 57, are scheduled to begin today in Garland County Circuit Court. Prosecutors have said they plan to seek the death penalty if Reid is convicted.

Reid is charged in the shooting deaths of his wife, Laura J. Reid, 57, and his daughter, Mary Ann Reid, 32, who both lived at his residence at 607 Northwood Trail.

Reid surrendered to sheriff's deputies in the driveway of his residence when they arrived at the scene shortly after 9 p.m. on Oct. 20, 2015.

Deputies made entry into the house and discovered the bodies of Laura and Mary Ann Reid. Also inside the house was Reid's younger daughter, 20, who also lived there, and Mary Ann Reid's 2 young children, none of whom were injured.

The younger daughter gave a statement to authorities indicating her father had shot and killed her sister and mother.

Authorities said Reid at one point provided a videotaped statement in which he admitted to shooting both victims.

Garland County Sheriff Mike McCormick, at a news conference the next day, called the killings "a horrific event in Garland County," and noted there was "some discord going on in the family" preceding the shootings. Further details about the motive weren't divulged.



Nevada Supreme Court upholds death penalty in double murder

The Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the death sentence ordered for Ralph Jeremias, rejecting the argument the conviction can't stand because jury selection was closed to the public.

Under federal case law, closing jury selection normally entitles a defendant to reversal of his conviction because he didn't get a public trial.

But in this case, the high court ruled Jeremias didn't preserve that error for appellate review because he and his counsel made no objection at the time.

"Under Nevada law, this means he must demonstrate plain effort that affected his substantial rights," according to the opinion by Justice Lidia Stiglich.

She wrote that failed to demonstrate the jury selection process affected his rights.

Jerenias was convicted of murdering Brian Judson and Paul Stephens by shooting them in the head in the apartment they shared.

Credit cards belonging to the victims were used at various locations after the murders and surveillance videos identified Jeremias as a subject.

He was convicted of double murder with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit robbery and burglary and 2 counts of robbery with a deadly weapon.

All seven members of the Nevada Supreme Court concurred in the opinion.

(source: Nevada Appeal)


Supreme Court upholds death sentence in vicious East Bay home-robbery murder

The state Supreme Court unanimously upheld the death sentence Thursday of a man convicted of murdering a Lafayette woman in 1998 during a home robbery.

A Contra Costa County jury found Joseph Perez Jr. guilty of robbing and murdering Janet Daher, 46, in her home after he and 2 other men selected the house for robbery. Police said Perez and the others boarded a BART train in San Francisco planning to rob a drug dealer they knew, but changed their minds. They got off in Orinda and headed for Lafayette in search of a large home to break into.

They entered Daher's home through an open garage door and found the mother of 2 children painting a watercolor in her kitchen. 1 of the 3 men, Maury O'Brien, who testified for the prosecution, said Perez decided she had to be killed, wrapped a phone cord around her neck and then stabbed her repeatedly. They drove off in her sport utility vehicle with several thousand dollars' worth of jewelry.

O'Brien, tried separately, was convicted of murder and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, and the 3rd man, Lee Snyder, who was 17 at the time of the killing, was sentenced to life.

Perez had spent years in juvenile detention, starting at age 14, had adult convictions for robbery and car theft, and had been paroled from prison 30 days before the killing. Defense witnesses at the penalty phase said Perez had been abused by his teenaged parents, taught to smoke marijuana when he was a toddler, and, when he was a teenager, acted as a lookout while his father committed burglaries.

When he was sentenced to death in 2002, Perez, then 30, told Superior Court Judge Peter Spinetta, "It's your system's fault for who I am. You taught me to be violent. You put us in subhuman conditions."

In Thursday's ruling, the court rejected defense arguments that Perez's trial lawyer, William Egan, had a conflict of interest because Spinetta had ruled that Egan had presented an incompetent defense in another case. That ruling was on appeal at the time of the trial, and Perez's appellate lawyer argued that Egan was so afraid of offending Spinetta that he refrained from defending Perez aggressively.

The court found no evidence that Egan had acted incompetently in Perez's case, and questioned why he would have wanted to do so. The events of the earlier case might instead "have motivated Egan to provide Perez more effective counsel," Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuellar said in the 7-0 ruling.

He also said Spinetta's comments at the earlier trial of O'Brien, at which the judge called the murder "senseless" and "vicious," did not show that he was biased at Perez's trial. And the court rejected a defense claim that the trial - which began the day after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack - took place in an atmosphere of patriotic fervor that could have prejudiced the jury.

The case is People vs. Perez, S104144.

(source: San Francisco Chronicle)


Death Penalty Sought For Gang Leader Married To Gary City Councilor----42-year-old Teddy Caldwell is charged with conspiracy, drug dealing and murder as he stands accused of killing 2 men in the last year and a half.

The US Attorney in northern Indiana wants the death penalty for an accused gang leader and the husband of a Cary City councilor.

42-year-old Teddy Caldwell is charged with conspiracy, drug dealing and murder as he stands accused of killing 2 men in the last year and a half. According to the Northwest Indiana Times, Caldwell is married to but separated from City Councilwoman Linda Barnes-Caldwell.

He was ID'd by the FBI and ATF in a months long federal investigation as the ring leader of drug trafficking operation and they say he's responsible for the murders of Akeem Oliver in 2016 and Kevin Hood in the summer of 2017.

Kirsch is looking for the death penalty for Caldwell and 3 other men linked to his drug operation: 23-year-old Devonte Hodge, 24-year-old Devontae Martin, 24-year-old Taquan Clarke.

However, the Times reports, Kirsch cannot unilaterally seek the death penalty in the case and must wait for a ruling from the Department of Justice in Washington.

(source: WIBC news)

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