March 6


Franklin County seeing more death-penalty cases

Killers who gun down police officers. Serial predators who serve time, only to get out, find new prey and kill. Murderers who snatch away the lives of young children. Those are among the groups Ohio prosecutors typically target for the death penalty.

But death-penalty cases have been relatively uncommon in Franklin County - until this year.

The last time someone was sentenced to death in Franklin County was in 2012. A 3-judge panel showed no remorse for Caron Montgomery, who stabbed his girlfriend and her 2 children to death.

Franklin County has seen 2 death-penalty indictments in 2017 and 2 this year, and a 3rd one is possible in the case of Quentin L. Smith, who is charged in the fatal shooting of 2 Westerville police officers. Normally, Franklin County sees about one death-penalty indictment a year.

Jury selection in a death-penalty case began last week for Brian Golsby, a violent offender accused of kidnapping, raping and killing Ohio State University student Reagan Tokes last year.

"I think Columbus has become a more violent place ... with extremely violent crimes that seem to cry out for that to be an appropriate sentence," Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said when asked about the increased number of death-penalty indictments.

O'Brien changed the way death-penalty cases are evaluated in 2005 after working on a federal death-penalty case. That also was the year that state law changed to allow a life sentence without chance of parole. Now, prosecutors assess the defendant as much as possible. A good defense attorney can use mitigating factors such as mental health to sometimes sway jurors to a lesser sentence.

"It's hard to gauge," O'Brien said. "We try to make a determination by putting ourselves in the seats of the jurors. Would we have a reasonable likelihood of making that judgment?"

Jurors, for example, didn't feel that Lincoln Rutledge should die for killing Columbus Police Officer Steven Smith in 2016. Rutledge's defense was built on his mental state leading up to the shooting during a SWAT call.

"I think that's what won the day with jurors for a life sentence in his case," O'Brien said.

Historically, some counties - notably Hamilton County, home to Cincinnati - have had high rates of death-penalty indictments and sentences. Hamilton County is the source of the most inmates on Ohio's death row, with 24. Cuyahoga County has 21. Franklin County has 10.

Ohio has 137 inmates awaiting execution.

"There is no evidence that murders are worse in Cincinnati than they are in Columbus or Cleveland. What's different are the views of the prosecutors," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C., that researches the death penalty.

Counties in which there are high conviction rates for the death penalty often have prosecutors who say their decision is based solely on the facts of the case, Dunham said.

That's true for Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters.

"Either (the case) fits the law, or it doesn't. I know there (are) prosecutors who don't like it," Deters said of the death penalty. "There (are) judges who don't like it. Frankly, I don't care either way. If you want to get rid of it, get rid of it. In Ohio, we have a death-penalty statute."

Dunham noted, however, that state laws don't require prosecutors to seek the death penalty. They have discretion.

"It is unquestionably related to local politics," Dunham said. "What we have seen historically" is that, "as a prosecutor becomes entrenched, challenges to him or her tend to be more difficult."

O'Brien said his office asks the victim's family members what they would like to see as a sentence. Prosecutors ultimately make the call, though.

"We just try and do the best we can ... with what we believe is the appropriate charge and the appropriate punishment, and factor in whether we believe a jury will impose a death sentence with the facts as we best know them," O'Brien said.

In cities such as Houston, Birmingham, Alabama, and Jacksonville and Tampa, Florida, where prosecutors used the death penalty often, they were challenged and defeated at the polls, Dunham said. Over the years, many people have softened their views about the use of the death penalty.

It raises the question about whether a murder committed in 1 county would result in a different legal outcome if it had been committed in another county where the prosecutor holds a different philosophy.

"It may be the case that the prosecutorial practices in Hamilton County reflect the views of Hamilton County," Dunham said. "That doesn't make the outcomes any less arbitrary."

Deters said that in Cincinnati, there are "some very bad crimes, very bad violence, hideous criminals down here," that require the death penalty if there aren't legal issues of proof with the cases.

"If someone is executed, they can't kill again," he said. "I don't care about sending messages. I don't care about deterrence, but we get these guys that get out, and they kill and kill again."

(source: Columbus Dispatch)


Board to hear Ohio death row inmate's push for clemency

An Ohio death row inmate scheduled to be executed next month will seek a recommendation of clemency from the Ohio Parole Board this week.

William Montgomery was convicted of fatally shooting Debra Ogle and her roommate, Cynthia Tincher, in Toledo in 1986. He is to be executed on April 11.

The parole board decides whether to recommend clemency, but the decision on whether to grant it rests with Republican Gov. John Kasich.

Montgomery's lawyer is expected to argue Thursday to the parole board that the 52-year-old inmate was sentenced after an unfair trial and deserves a chance at a new trial. Montgomery maintains his innocence. He alleges that a convicted conspirator killed the women using Montgomery's gun and blamed Montgomery.

A federal court once ordered another trial for Montgomery, but an appeals court reversed that ruling.

(source: Associated Press)


Jury selection underway for The People vs. James Worley

Jury selection is underway Monday as the trial of The People vs. James Worley officially begins.

The task of picking a fair and impartial jury could prove to be a difficult one as the death of Sierah Joughin was so public.

Security is tight in Fulton County as jurors are unable to bring cellphones, drinks or food inside the courtroom. Everyone entering the courthouse must go through a metal detector, and everyone's bag is searched. There is only 1 entrance that will be open into the courthouse for the next month as the trial plays out.

The clerk's office said this is the 1st death penalty and high-profile case the county has seen since the 1980's.

James Worley was wearing a dress shirt and pants as he talked with his attorneys before court began, possibly strategizing on the jury selection process.

All 120 jurors summoned to the courtroom were questioned by the judge and attorneys. The jurors were first asked if they knew any of the attorneys, the defendant or the victim.

Then they were asked if they could be unbiased in the case or if they had formed an opinion on Worley's guilt or innocence. Several jurors spoke up after this question, which upset Judge Jeffery Robinson.

Robinson claimed the news they watch on TV or hear on the radio about this case is sensationalized in order to gain ratings.

"Look, I'm going to ask some specific questions. I'm going to try to find an unbiased jury here. So if you would just refrain from making any additional commentary and base your answers on what I ask, I would very much appreciate it," Robinson said.

Another 120 jurors will be questioned on Tuesday.

(source: WTOL news)


Commentary: Capital punishment

When the Indiana Supreme Court put the state's capital punishment pursuits back on track last month, ruling in effect that it could choose whichever drug cocktail it wished for executions, it prompted my sister and me to have a discussion about the death penalty. We discovered that we had arrived at different but similar positions.

She acknowledges that there are some crimes so heinous that nothing less than the death penalty seems appropriate, but she is so bothered by many aspects of capital punishment that she can't quite bring herself to endorse it. I have been increasingly disturbed by capital punishment over the years, but the fact that there are monstrous people capable of truly evil acts keeps me from completely abandoning it.

We are both on the razor's edge of the same moral dilemma, one leaning one way, one the other, neither completely comfortable with where we seem to have landed. And that seems appropriate when considering the most profound action a state can take against its citizens.

There are currently only 11 men on Indiana's death row. And only 94 people have been sentenced to death in the state since 1897. Those low numbers are both a good thing and part of the problem. They help reinforce my sister's position and mine as well.

On the one hand, they show that Indiana is not a bloodthirsty state, executing its miscreants with reckless abandon. You can't get the death penalty in this state for mere murder. You have to really work at it by killing with an "aggravating circumstance" such as murder for hire, serial murder or killing a child or a police officer. Capital punishment in this state is truly for the worst of the worst.

On the other hand, when so few killers face the death penalty - the tiniest fraction of 1 % of the tens of thousands of them - what exactly is the point?

The death penalty is the most severe punishment of all, but it has to undergo the same scrutiny of the three justifications we use for all punishments - retribution, deterrence and reform.

The point of rehabilitation is that a prisoner might return to decent society or, failing that, at least finish out his days a more decent person. It seems absurd to claim we are reforming people by killing them. And the rarity of capital punishment makes it an unlikely inducement for other would-be killers to reconsider their evil ways.

That rarity also makes the deterrence argument problematic. If we went back to hanging - Indiana's 1st method of execution - and dispatched 10 or 20 people a month in the public square, there would quite likely be a noticeable reduction in capital crimes. But putting on average fewer than one person a year on death row to face execution after 10 to 20 years of appeals does not give a single potential murderer the slightest pause.

That leaves us with retribution, and that's the hardest moral case to make. There can be a fine line between retribution and revenge, and if that line is crossed, society is not replacing the hot blood of passion with the cold logic of reason, as it should, but adding to the nihilism it ought to be trying to erase.

Certainly, the case can be made for retribution. We have not just the right but the duty to protect ourselves and each other by clearly defining the crimes we will not tolerate and setting punishments that are appropriate to the crimes. If we say we will not resort to the ultimate punishment, that gets close to saying there is no ultimate crime, and I'm not sure society can afford to do that. Immanuel Kant argued that for the most heinous crimes, the death penalty is even a moral obligation.

I don't know that I'd go that far, but I'd say it's certainly permissible. We are all moral agents, responsible for our actions and their consequences, the wicked few no less than the righteous many.

My biggest problem, as a conservative with strong libertarian tendencies, is allowing public officials to handle that moral duty. At times, I can barely trust the government to fill potholes or haul away the trash with any degree of competence. So how much can I trust it with the power of life and death?

But as long as there are monsters so depraved that nothing less than removing them from the planet seems appropriate, I don't think there is any choice but to offer that trust, if reluctantly and cautiously.

That might sound like a bad bargain but I think it's the best one possible in the uncertainty of an imperfect world.

"Communities would plunge into anarchy," said constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein, "if they could not act on moral assumptions less certain than that the sun will rise in the east and set in the west."

(source: Commentary: Leo Morris, columnist for The Indiana Policy Review, is this year's winner of the Hoosier Press Association's award for Best Editorial Writer.)

MISSOURI----impending execution

#SpareRussell a painful death - stay his execution---Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty started this petition to Governor Eric Greitens

The Missouri Supreme Court has scheduled Russell Bucklew to be executed on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. His previous execution date in 2014 was stayed by the United States Supreme Court because of his rare health condition that could cause him great pain during the execution process.

Russell's medical condition, cavernous hemangioma, causes weakened and malformed blood vessels. During the execution process, tumors in his nose and throat could rupture and bleed.

The U.S. Supreme Court already found his medical condition reason to stay his execution in 2014. Today, Russell continues to suffer from this same condition. Carrying out this death sentence would be inhumane, especially in the context of many other recent botched executions around the country.

Russell was convicted and sentenced to death by a Boone County jury in 1997. He has been in prison for 2 decades now, and an inhumane execution will not restore or undo the harm he caused so long ago.

We do not ask that he be exempt from accountability for his crimes - we only ask that Missouri avoid its own horrific display of how the state can use its power to take life so ineffectively and inhumanely.

Our justice system, and particularly our response to violence, fails to heal our communities. We need a response to crime that does not perpetuate the cycle of violence. The death penalty is rife with errors and inconsistencies, fails to deter crime, and has a steep cost in not only financial but human terms. Death is not justice, and we should not execute this man.

In light of the recent Buzzfeed investigation revealing that Missouri's source of lethal injection drugs is a backwater, shady pharmacy with multiple citations and lawsuits against it, we must stop this execution.

As BuzzFeed found, "Foundation Care, a 14-year-old pharmacy based in the suburbs of St. Louis that has been repeatedly found to engage in hazardous pharmaceutical procedures and whose cofounder has been been accused of regularly ordering prescription medications for himself without a doctor???s prescription... Foundation Care is what is known as a compounding pharmacy, one that mixes specialty drugs that are not readily available on the market. These pharmacies are more loosely regulated than traditional manufacturers, and slipshod practices at some of them have led to tainted drugs and deadly disease outbreaks."

Foundation Care has also had multiple lawsuits from employees, one of which is ongoing and alleges that "Foundation Care violated state or federal regulations by reselling drugs returned by patients, purposefully omitting the names of ingredients in drugs it prepared, and failing to notify other states about a $300,000 settlement with Kansas over allegations of Medicaid fraud. The suit also accuses one of the pharmacy's founders of 'regularly and frequently' ordering prescription medications for himself without a prescription, a crime that carries up to a year behind bars."

Learn more about Russell, Missouri, and the broken death penalty at our website:



2nd murder suspect denies charges

A 19-year-old Lincoln man denied charges connected to a shooting homicide Monday in Adams County District Court.

Deante H. Mullen pleaded not guilty to charges of 1st-degree murder and use of a firearm to commit a felony, accused of trying to rob 19-year-old Jose "Joey" Hansen and killing him in the process.

Adams County District Judge Stephen Illingworth accepted the plea and scheduled a progression conference for April 9 at 4 p.m.

Authorities say Mullen and Daniel B. Harden, 21, of 2619 Butterfoot Lane allegedly intended to rob Hansen and the attempted robbery lead to Hansen's death on Sept. 11, 2017, in 700 block of West G Street. Hansen was killed by a single gunshot wound to the back which exited the front of his body.

Harden also faces charges of 1st-degree murder and use of a firearm to commit a felony. He pleaded not guilty on Feb. 27 and his progression hearing was set for March 26 at 10:30 a.m.

1st-degree murder is a Class 1 or Class 1A felony punishable by death or life in prison, respectively. Prosecutors haven't indicated whether they will pursue the death penalty. Use of a firearm to commit a felony is a Class 1C felony punishable by 5 to 50 years in prison.

Mullen's girlfriend at the time, Katherine E. Creigh, 21, of Lincoln, is charged with accessory to a felony for helping Harden and Mullen avoid arrest after the shooting. Accessory to 1st-degree murder is a Class 2A felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

A preliminary hearing in Creigh's case has been scheduled for April 16 at 2 p.m.

(source: Hastings Tribune)


Judge To Decide Fate Of Confessed Cop Killer Luis Bracamontes

Luis Bracamontes is due in court Monday morning for the penalty phase of his jury trial.

Bracamontes confessed to killing Sacramento County sheriff's deputy Danny Oliver and Placer County sheriff's detective Michael Davis Jr. in 2014.

Last month, Bracamontes was convicted on 2 counts of 1st-degree murder.

At several points during the trial, Bracamontes acted out in court - prompting the judge to remove him from the courtroom.

Bracamontes faced a total of 15 charges. He was found guilty on all counts, including five special circumstances, and is now eligible for the death penalty.

(source: CBS News)


State Supreme Court upholds Shasta County death penalty case

The California Supreme Court upheld Monday the death penalty sentence of a Cottonwood man convicted in 2001 of murder in the 1998 murder-for-hire shooting death of his pregnant wife.

Todd Garton, 48, has been on death row in San Quentin Prison since May 2001 following his murder conviction in the death of his wife, Carole, and their unborn baby.

The 2-to-1 ruling was made on an automatic appeal to the California Supreme Court.

In one of the strangest murder cases in Shasta County history, officials said Garton was able to convince his lover, Lynn Noyes, and fellow Cottonwood residents, Dale Gordon and Norman Daniels III, that he was a former Irish Republican Army member, CIA agent and a Marine sniper who worked for an international company of covert hit men.

After a botched attempt to kill Noyes' husband in Oregon, Garton was able to convince Daniels that orders from his superiors demanded he kill Garton's wife in the hopes of cashing in on insurance money, prosecutors have said.

Garton told the would-be assassin that Daniels and his family would be killed if he didn't follow through with the murder plot.

Daniels shot the 28-year-old woman five times at point-blank range inside her tiny Cottonwood home, later sending a pager message to Garton notifying him of the successful hit.

One of the bullets went right through the fetus.

At trial, prosecutors have said, Garton lied so much he even started to believe his own bogus stories, noting he started answering questions on the witness stand in a phony Irish brogue.

It took jurors an hour and 10 minutes to come back with a death sentence.

Daniels, the man who killed Carole Garton, was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison.

Noyes, Garton's longtime lover, was sentenced to a 25-year-to-life prison term for her part in the murder plot and the unsuccessful conspiracy to kill her husband, Dean Noyes.

Gordon was sentenced to a 10-year prison term in the Noyes conspiracy. However, the court overturned Garton's conviction on the charges he conspired to attempt to kill Noyes' husband, Dean Noyes.

(source: Record Searchlinght)


Bill to abolish death penalty dies

SB 6052, which removes the death penalty as an option for aggravated 1st-degree murder cases and replaces it with life in prison without the possibility of parole, died in House committee on Monday.

The Senate approved the bill on Feb. 15 in a 26-22 vote.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson is hopeful to get this legislation done next session.

"I am deeply disappointed, but my disappointment is tempered somewhat by the historic progress the bill made this year," Ferguson said.

Clock is ticking for Washington state Legislature to vote on critical issues

According to the governor's office, Gov. Inslee "is encouraged that the bill made good progress this year and hopes that eventually Washington will join the list of states that are choosing to end the death penalty."

The effort got an extra push this year when Republican King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg testified in favor of ending the death penalty during a Senate Law and Justice Committee hearing. All 3 argue the death penalty is too costly, doesn't offer closure for victim's families, and is applied unequally.

Groups concerned about those wrongfully convicted ending up on death row have also been supporting the effort.



Speaker Frank Chopp should allow House to vote on death-penalty repeal

Speaker of the House Frank Chopp should allow a floor vote to repeal Washington's death penalty. If not, that would be a major disappointment of the 2018 legislative session.

The death penalty should be repealed because of the disturbing inequity of its application around the state and the way it squanders public resources that could be used to actually deter crime.

This is not a failure of the state Senate, where a bipartisan majority voted 26-22 to approve Senate Bill 6052. And the state House Judiciary Committee approved the bill.

Time is short before the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn Thursday. Speaker Chopp told his caucus the House didn't have enough votes. Yet, several supporters of the measure believe the repeal would pass if brought to a vote in the House.

The speaker should reconsider and put the repeal to a vote on the House floor.

If not, lawmakers will have to try again next year. Or perhaps those who believe Washington should repeal the death penalty will introduce an initiative for the ballot.

Gov. Jay Inslee declared a moratorium on executions in 2014, which helped restart this policy debate. But that does not bind future governors.

Death-penalty cases costs as much as $1 million dollars more to prosecute than the cost of non-death penalty cases for smiliar crimes. Only a handful of Washington counties can afford to consider pursuing that penalty in a murder case. Smaller counties couldn't pursue the death penalty even if their prosecuting attorneys and their citizens wanted to.

After 27 years as a prosecutor in the state's largest and wealthiest county, King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg has declared the death penalty broken and not fixable.

Support for the death penalty is at a historic low across the nation, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. A Gallup poll found 55 % support the death penalty, the lowest number since 1972. That might translate to a favorable statewide vote in Washington.

The idea also has gradually gained support in the Legislature, supporters agree.

"We're so close," said Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines. "I feel like every year we introduce it, we get a little further along."

There is much to do in the short time remaining, but Speaker Chopp should make time for a floor vote to repeal the death penalty.

(source: Editorial board, Seattle Times)


Feds seek death penalty for suspect in Navajo officer's death

Federal officials are seeking the death penalty for a man accused of killing a Navajo Nation police officer.

Kirby Cleveland is accused of shooting officer Houston Largo about one year ago.

The death penalty was outlawed in New Mexico in 2009, but it's still legal on a federal level. In court documents, federal prosecutors say the death sentence is justified in this case.

(source: KOB news)


Four Corner Hustlers trial date set; Feds may pursue death penalty

The federal racketeering trial of 11 members of the Four Corner Hustlers has been scheduled to start on Sept. 3, 2019.

Federal prosecutors also disclosed that they are considering pursuing the death penalty for 3 of the defendants: Labar "Bro Man" Spann, Tremayne Thompson and Juhwun Foster, court records show.

The defendants are accused of being involved in a wide-ranging conspiracy dating to the mid-1990s that includes the commission of 6 murders between 2000 and 2003.

According to federal authorities, from the mid-1990s until the September 2017 indictment, the Four Corner Hustlers operated in West Garfield Park and Humboldt Park on the West Side and in the former LeClaire Courts public housing development on the Southwest Side, dealing drugs, robbing rivals and using violence and intimidation to keep their victims and any witnesses from cooperating with law enforcement.

The gang used police scanners to try to stay clear of investigations, conducted surveillance of their victims and used rental cars to cover their tracks, authorities say.

Sammie Booker, Marchello Devine, Rontrell Turnipseed, Keith Chatman, Stevon Sims, DeAndre Spann, Mikal Jones and Antonio Devine are also charged.

Last year, prosecutors acknowledged they were reviewing "hundreds" of hours of wiretap recordings made during the investigation.

Since the case's December status hearing, prosecutors have started to share with defense attorneys evidence entered into discovery.

"These sets are quite voluminous and include, but are not limited to, documents, photographs, and electronic media," court records show.

Labar Spann is accused of taking part in all 6 killings, including the fatal June 2003 shooting at a West Side barbershop of former Latin Kings boss Rudy "Kato" Rangel. His killing inspired "A 'Yo Kato" by rapper DMX.

Charged with murder by the Cook County state's attorney's office in Rangel's death, Labar Spann was acquitted in state court but, in the federal indictment, he is again accused of killing Rangel.

(source: Chicago Sun-Times)


This Week in History: 6 March 1951 The Rosenberg Trials

On the 6 of March 1951 in New York the Trial of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg began. The charge? 'Conspiracy to commit Espionage'. The act? The leaking of atomic weapon plans to the USSR. Though often considered treasonous, the fact that the USA and the USSR were on the same side in the Second World War, prevents this from being the case.

The USA's efforts to create an atomic bomb were carried out in Los Alamos in New Mexico as part of the Manhattan project, with the best scientists gathering to aid American military hegemony. It soon became clear however, that atomic secrets were being passed to the Russians. This is due to the fact that, when Russia exploded its 1st bomb, it was an exact replica of the USA's. It has since been estimated that the information smuggled out of Los Alamos to the USSR enabled them to develop their atomic bomb 2 years earlier than they otherwise would have done.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were the scientists caught smuggling out these secrets. Caught due to the 'Verona Cables', deciphered cables between the Soviet consulate and the KGB, their guilt was confirmed by the testimony of David Greenglass, the brother of Ethel.

When questioned, Greenglass claimed to the FBI that he was recruited for espionage by Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, his sister and brother-in-law. Due to his cooperation with the authorities, David received a mere 15 years and his wife Ruth, (who was also implicated) was never charged at all. The Rosenbergs, however, were not so fortunate, both being sentenced to death. During the 3-week trial, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg both denied all charges whilst invoking their 5th amendment right, refusing to speak when repeatedly asked about their political affirmations. Many felt that this refusal to speak was proof of their communist sympathies, incriminating them as allies of the USSR.

The death penalty was justified by the judge by saying that, "[he] consider[ed their] crimes worse than murder...Putting into the hands of the Russians the A-bomb, years before our best scientists predicted Russia would perfect the bomb...caused, in my opinion, the Communist aggression in Korea, with the resultant casualties exceeding 50,000, and who knows how many millions more of innocent people may pay the price of your treason." He concluded that the Rosenbergs' "love for their cause dominated their lives - it [being] greater than their love for their children." On the 19th of June 1953, 2 years after the trial and after 9 unsuccessful appeals to the U.S Supreme court, the couple were executed on the electric chair.

During their wait on death row, there was an intense national debate as to the justification for their fate. It was strongly felt that justice was being ignored due to the atmosphere of fear surrounding Soviet Russia and communism. Since then much more information has been released regarding the espionage that went on between Los Alamos and the KGB, making it more and more apparent that the roles that the Rosenbergs played were incredibly minor. Due to this, the trial has often been seen since as a miscarriage of justice and the Rosenbergs as victims of a court system that was weighted against them from the outset.

A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law

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