April 14


Why This Judge Dreads Execution Day----“I wondered whether the system I have been a part of for so long was, simply, barbaric.”

The execution was set for 6 p.m. I knew because I set the date and time myself.

With a little more than an hour to go, I sat alone by the phone in my office. More than three decades had passed since the defendant was first convicted of murdering a police officer. I had been the judge at his final trial, and now there was a chance I’d be called on to spare his life.

Higher courts and the Texas governor had already denied the man’s last-ditch appeals. His lawyers had tried to broker a deal with prosecutors to keep him alive, but that had failed, too. Now he was down to his last shot: The defense could present some new argument or evidence to convince me to intervene and stop the execution. If they did, I would have to make a life-or-death decision with essentially no time for research or discussion.

I waited. As the minutes passed, I felt a familiar sense of unease. In the years since I’d presided over his trial, the defendant had become a gray-haired, middle-aged man. He had put together a nearly flawless record helping other inmates. It was hard to see how he still constituted a violent threat to society, a requirement for death penalty cases in Texas. Now, barring a final legal maneuver, he would be erased from the Earth by a system in which I was a key participant.

I stared out the window, feeling jealous of folks headed home or to a happy hour. Eventually, the clock ticked to 6 pm. My phone never rang. I turned on the TV, and learned from the evening news that the execution had proceeded as planned.

As I left the office, I fell into a dark funk. Usually, I was proud and confident about my work as a judge, but a terrible feeling settled over me—the same feeling I had each time I was involved in a death penalty case. Sometimes I was able to rationalize that my role in the outcome of these cases was minimal. After all, jurors were the ones who weighed evidence and reached a lawful verdict. But other times I wondered whether the system I have been a part of for so long was, simply, barbaric.

I ran for office and took the oath knowing that the death penalty would be part of my job, whether I liked it or not. Each time I encountered a capital case — 8 came before me during my 2 decades on the bench - there would be at least one moment that brought my internal conflict starkly into focus. These moments are painfully fresh in my mind.

In my first death penalty trial, in 1998, the defendant had sexually assaulted and brutally slashed and stabbed a woman who had befriended him. The jury found him guilty of capital murder, but it was my duty to formally pronounce his sentence in open court. He displayed no emotion - during the trial, he’d only seemed interested in the crime scene and autopsy photos - and there was evidence he was a psychopath, that he felt no remorse. Still, after announcing his sentence, I felt an urgent need to drink and gulped 2 huge glasses of water.

I wondered: Is my throat dry, or am I trying to wash the words out of my mouth?

Years later, I had to sign the order setting a time for this man’s death—“by intravenous injection of a substance or substances in a lethal quantity sufficient to cause death and until such convict is dead”—and I remember staring at the paper, feeling strange and unnerved. Later, in my journal, I wrote about how I felt I was “invading God’s province.” I heard about another judge who placed a smiley face next to his signature on a death warrant. I couldn’t comprehend that attitude.

Writing in my journal helped me stay balanced and objective. Once, I wrote about a defendant who was facing the death penalty, “He was almost always seated with his head tilted slightly downward and his eyes staring downward into space.” During the trial, he had showed little emotion. But when it was time for me to say the required words pronouncing his death sentence, I looked him in the eye. As I wrote later, “I was struck by a sight I will never forget. He looked so small, helpless, pathetic. His eyes looked like those of the proverbial deer in the headlights. He had been convicted of being a brutal, sadistic killer, and it was hard to argue that he was not getting what he deserved—but at that moment, for an instant, I saw the other side of the man, the side his family loved.”

I continued: “If only we could execute the bad side and keep the good side alive.”

On another occasion, as an execution was approaching, I was visited by the defendant’s lawyers. The appeals had been exhausted; there was nothing they could do. They suggested we get together on the night of the execution. At first, I thought the idea was sick, demented, heartless - a social hour during an execution! But I knew these lawyers; they were compassionate, serious. We kept talking about the idea, and I realized they were dreading the execution as much as I was. They thought sharing the moment would make things a little less difficult. I joined them, and it was a therapeutic, somber evening. Far better than sitting alone in my office.

For some time, I had been thinking about retiring, but it was a moment of pronouncing a death sentence—and thinking “no more of these” — that finally made me decide to leave the bench, six years ago. Since then, I have felt a deep satisfaction and pride about my career, despite those terrible, uncomfortable moments.

I suppose they were the price I had to pay.

(source: Mike Lynch, a former judge in Texas District 167, retired in 2012----themarshallproject.org)


Chris McCarthy: Death Penalty Needed for Cop Killers in Mass

Another police officer has been murdered in Massachusetts. Sean Gannon of the Yarmouth Police Department is dead and his alleged murderer is in custody.

The fact that Tom Latanowich, the alleged murderer of Officer Gannon, is still alive is a testimony to the professionalism of police officers in America. According to the anarchists and radicals, the police are the ones who are violent and out of control. Those of us in the less and less silent majority know it is the police who protect our lives and property, and carry a gun for a reason.

Officer Gannon, a New Bedford native and Bishop Stang graduate, was murdered because he decided to defend the life and liberty of the people in his community. He was killed because he represented law and order in the face of a person who didn't want law and order. The criminal who murdered Officer Gannon was going to murder any police officer he encountered. The criminal who shot this young officer in the head understood what too many take for granted or have forgotten. The police are there to serve and protect the public against the criminals who want to terrorize, rob, rape and otherwise victimize.

We need a death penalty in Massachusetts for the convicted killers of police officers, correction officers, and prosecutors. While those individuals employed in law enforcement are not more important than anyone else, they do serve as a canary in a mine shaft; if a person will kill an officer, they will certainly kill a civilian.

In the past, we have seen legislators file a bill to create a death penalty for killing a police officer in Massachusetts. This time it must be different.

The only way to accomplish this is for every city and town to file a local petition with the legislature in support of the death penalty for cop killers. Every local elected official needs to weigh in on this situation and explain their position.

I fully expect many to disagree with the death penalty, and I welcome their input on the matter. I am concerned with wrongful convictions, and it is a horrible tragedy on the level of what happened to Officer Gannon if an innocent person is executed. The advances in technology have helped to convict and vindicate defendants in Massachusetts, and that should be considered in this debate.

I want every local city councilor, mayor, and selectman to take a stand here on the importance of the lives of the men and woman who they employ to keep their citizens' lives and property safe.

Make a motion, see who seconds the motion, and call for the recorded vote.

Officer Gannon had the courage. Do you?

(source: Opinion; Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford----WBSM news)


DA seeks death penalty in Venango County murder case

A Venango County judge has determined that a high profile murder case may be a little too high profile. The attorneys are being prohibited from talking about the case.

The District Attorney is seeking a death penalty option for Richard Kennedy who, along with Amanda Cypher, is charged with beating and setting 25-year-old Tausha Baker on fire.

Baker's body was found when firefighters put out a small fire on Waterworks Road. Police believe that she was beaten in a home in Franklin then taken to a field to be set on fire.

The judge issued the gag order during a conference to update the status of the court case.

(source: yourerie.com)


State seeks death penalty in Jacksonville...

State Attorney Melissa Nelson intends to seek the death penalty for Adam Lawson, the 25-year-old ex-convict charged in the home invasion killing of beloved Jacksonville music teacher Deborah Liles.

Prosecutors notified Lawson of their plans Friday, a day after a Duval County grand jury indicted him on first-degree murder charges in the 62-year-old woman’s March 2017 beating death.

Liles' murder, which galvanized the community, is especially noteworthy because she was the victim of a break-in decades ago. In that case, she survived and helped send her attacker to prison for life.

“I can't see any other charge with what he made her face. He took her life and I think he set the terms for the value of his life when he did that," Michael Liles, the victim's husband, told News4Jax Friday.

Liles was the one who found his wife bludgeoned to death inside the kitchen of the couple's home in the Panama Park neighborhood March 23. Their house was ransacked. Her car was gone.

“For him to do that to somebody he didn’t know, that had no reason to have that level of hatred, it is unconscionable,” Liles said of his wife's killing.

Police found her stolen Buick LaCrosse two days later. It was ditched near Notter Avenue and Golfair Boulevard. Surveillance video led them to a mobile home park a few miles from the couple's home.

Based on that footage and a tip from a woman who spoke with Lawson after the killing, police searched the man's home. Inside, they said, they found a pair of shoes that had traces of blood on them.

Lawson, who was released from prison in 2016 after a six-year stint for burglary, was booked on charges of murder, armed burglary, grand theft auto and possession of a firearm by a felon.

Even though a year has ticked by since Michael Liles lost the love of his life, he's still coming to grips with the fact that she's gone. He said he would give anything to spend just one more day with her.

"We had 41 years together of as good of a relationship as you can have," he told News4Jax.

He's not alone. His wife meant the world to the couple's five children and nine grandchildren. She also was a fixture at San Jose Elementary, where she touched thousands of lives over the years.

While the ordeal has been devastating, Liles is glad his wife's case is moving forward. Now in charge of the Justice Coalition, a crime victims advocacy group, Liles knows families don't always get justice.

As executive director of that organization, Liles devotes his time and energy to helping other families of crime victims pick up the pieces after their lives have been upended by violence.

"There's no real way to celebrate somebody facing the death penalty because of what they did to your family. ... But at the same time, I think it is the only fair charge for him to face," he said.

Lawson is scheduled to appear in court next month. Liles said he and his family will be there. While the case is not expected to go to trial for at least another year, he's hopeful that someday he'll get closure.

"I would love for it to be over," he said. "I would."

(source: WJXT news)


Florida seeing steady decline in number of death sentences

Florida has been seeing a steady decline in the number of criminals sentenced to death. Currently, there are 347 inmates on death row, but only 96 have been put to death since 1979.

In fact, 2016 and 2017 saw a record low, with only 6 people sent to death row combined; a number far fewer than any single year since the death penalty was reinstated nearly 50 years ago.

Experts claim that a possible reason for these low numbers is the fact that jury convictions for death sentences have to be unanimous

Florida halted executions in January of 2016 after the U.S. Supreme Court claimed that the state’s sentencing process was unconstitutional, which led to the requirement of the unanimous jury vote.

Nationally, death sentences have dropped dramatically down 90 percent in the last 20 years.

Ingrid Delgado with the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops says that Floridians’ attitudes towards the death penalty is also changing.

"We're cautiously optimistic that the higher standard is going to continue to lower number of death sentences," Delgado said. "In general, we support an end to the use of the death penalty, as society can be kept safe with alternatives like life without parole."

However, experts say that the trend toward fewer death sentences isn’t likely to continue.

"It would not be unreasonable to anticipate that the numbers may increase again since the legislature has final responded to the U.S. Supreme Court," said Mark Schlakman, a human rights attorney.

There has already been 1 person sentenced to death in Florida since the start of 2018.

(source: WCTC news)

ALABAMA----impending execution

Alabama set to execute 83-year-old for pipe bomb murders

Alabama on Thursday is set to execute its oldest death row inmate, an 83-year-old man convicted of mailing a deadly pipe bomb to a Birmingham judge in 1989.

Walter Moody was convicted of mailing the bomb that killed U.S. 11th Circuit Judge Robert Vance, 58, and seriously injured his wife, Helen, in the kitchen of their Mountain Brook home in December 1989. A similar bomb killed a Georgia civil rights attorney, Robert Robinson, at his Savannah law office the same month.

Moody was convicted in federal court in 1991 on 71 charges before an Alabama jury sentenced Moody to the death penalty in 1997.

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year declined to take up Moody's appeal, leading Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall to set an April 19 execution date. Moody on Thursday filed a stay of execution motion over jurisdiction issues.

Moody, who maintains his innocence in the case, has previously argued his federal sentence of 7 life terms plus 400 years should take precedent over the state's death penalty sentence, and that Alabama is holding him unlawfully.

"We’re fighting until we can’t fight anymore, and we appreciate that the courts are giving us an opportunity to be heard,” said Christine Freeman, executive director of the Middle District of Alabama Federal Defender Program.

Vance's son, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Bob Vance, said the family doesn't plan to attend Moody's execution.

"I got closure in my life when Mr. Moody was convicted," Vance said. "I realized that he would never be in a position to hurt anyone else.That was the point that was most important to me. The execution coming up next week really, to me, doesn’t add anything to that. I’ve moved on, having gotten that peace of mind with the realization that he would no longer pose a danger to anyone."

The December 1991 explosions set off a massive federal investigation which found and disarmed two additional bombs at an Atlanta circuit court and Florida NAACP office, but also hit several dead ends.

Federal agents at first focused on Alabama salvage shop owner Robert O'Ferrell, who investigators believed owned the typewriter used by a letter writer claiming credit for the bombs.

Investigators ultimately linked Moody to the crimes through a 1972 bombing incident, in which Moody's then-wife Hazel was injured by a homemade bomb in their Georgia home. He was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for possessing the bomb.

Bob Vance still finds Moody's murky motive frustrating.

"When something like that happens, one of the first things that torments you is, 'Who would do this?' That question has been answered," Bob Vance said. "The 2nd question is, 'Why?"

Investigators originally believed the bombings to be racially motivated. Vance, who was white, was politically active and progressive on civil rights issues, his son said.

Prosecutors later alleged Moody harbored an obsession over his 1972 conviction, and anger at the court system motivated Moody in the 1989 bombings. Moody hoped the civil rights links would throw investigators off his scent, prosecutors said.

"There wasn’t any real good reason why Moody targeted my dad," Vance said. "It’s always so frustrating when you think about it, it’s almost a random act of violence."

"I try to focus on my dad's life more than the circumstances surrounding my dad's death He was a one-of-a-kind, larger-than-life person in many respects," Bob Vance said. " … He was a special guy. He was a great dad. I miss him every day."

Moody's execution date is the fourth scheduled in Alabama this year. One execution has been carried out.

(source: Montgomery Advertiser)


Court orders tests for inmate convicted of killing prison guard, reopening chance of execution

An inmate convicted of killing a prison guard must be re-evaluated to determine whether he is too intellectually disabled for the death penalty, the Mississippi Supreme Court said Thursday.

In a 5-4 ruling , justices ordered a fresh evaluation of Willie Russell, originally sentenced to death for stabbing and killing prison guard Argentra Cotton in 1989 at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. The case will go before a Sunflower County Circuit Court judge, who will again be asked to decide whether Russell should be executed or spared.

Russell originally went to Parchman on convictions of robbery, kidnapping and escape after abducting a guard from the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson and leading police on a high-speed chase in 1987. He was convicted of killing Cotton, had his death penalty set aside, and then was sentenced to death a 2nd time. He came within an hour of being put to death in 1997 before a federal appeals court stopped the execution.

The current proceedings center on a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that issued a broad ban on the death penalty for people with mental disabilities.

Sunflower County Circuit Judge Better Sanders set aside Russell’s death sentence in 2015. But the state Supreme Court found that Sanders should have agreed with the state’s position that it needed to administer additional tests before its experts could form an opinion.

Associate Justice James Maxwell wrote for the majority that “Russell was never evaluated on the specific criteria for intellectual disability,” set out by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Chief Justice William Waller Jr., dissenting on behalf of the four judges, said there had been enough testing and would have allowed Russell’s commutation to stand.

Two earlier intelligence tests showed Russell’s IQ was low enough that he shouldn’t be executed. Waller wrote there was no reason to administer a third test.

Waller’s dissent argued that a 2006 exam was only incomplete because of a need for outside information on Russell’s school and life history that the defense provided as part of the hearing before Sanders.

(source: Associated Press)


Potential jurors in Grate case answer questions about death penalty

Jury selection in the Shawn Grate capital murder case got more intimate Friday.

After 8 sessions with about 45 potential jurors at a time, groups of 6 answered individual questions from both sides.

Some of the questions dealt with exposure to pretrial publicity, but most pertained to feelings about the death penalty.

3 groups were called Friday, at 9 and 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

In the afternoon session, there were 5 men and 1 woman. One person at a time answered questions, while the others waited in the jury room.

They were given questionnaires they had already filled out as a reference.

Attorneys disagreed on one man in the afternoon session. He said Friday he was in favor of the death penalty, though not in every aggravated murder case.

Defense attorney Robert Whitney was not convinced. On the man's questionnaire, he said the death penalty should be imposed in all capital murder cases.

Whitney asked Ashland County Common Pleas Judge Ron Forsthoefel to excuse the man.

Michael McNamara, a special prosecutor helping the state, objected. He pointed out the man said he could follow the law and recommend imposing a life sentence if the mitigating factors outweighed the aggravating circumstances.

In dismissing the potential juror, Forsthoefel agreed with Whitney, saying the man's questionnaire showed an "underlying bias."

Another potential juror was asked about being on social media. The judge told people in the jury pool to avoid Facebook, Instagram, etc.

The man in question made a post on Facebook on Thursday, though it had nothing to do with the Grate case.

"I totally misunderstood that," he said, adding it wouldn't happen again.

The last juror of the day said he had not been exposed to media coverage of the case.

"I have 5 children," he said. "I don't really have time for TV or newspapers."

He said most of what he had heard about the case came from his wife, who has not brought up the subject since he was summoned as a potential juror.

One man who didn't make the cut said he felt a bias.

"I don't think it would serve justice for me to be on the jury," he told the judge.

Before he was dismissed, the man said he believed the death penalty wasn't being used enough.

Forsthoefel ended up keeping four of the six people in the afternoon session. They are now death-penalty certified.

The next step is for them to come back, tentatively April 23, for consideration for the final jury.

Groups of 6 will continue to be called for most if not all of next week.

(source: Mansfield News Journal)


Death penalty sought in Easter house fire in Harrison Twp.; $1 million bond set

The death penalty is being sought against Shawn Albertson in the death of 75-year-old Gerald Manns, who was found in the basement of his home on Easter.

The Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office on Wednesday approved the charge of aggravated murder and aggravated burglary against Albertson, 48. He remains in the county jail on a $1 million bond.

Manns was found unconscious in the basement of his home in the 4200 block of Merrimac Avenue in Harrison Twp. His car had been stolen, his home burglarized and set on fire.

Manns was pulled from the home. He was pronounced dead at Miami Valley Hospital. The coroner’s office concluded he died as a result of the fire.

Albertson is due in court Thursday.

Nancy Dalton, 36, arrested at the same time as Albertson, is being detained in jail on drug charges.

Albertson and Dalton were booked into the jail about 12 hours after a neighbor first reported seeing smoke in the residence on that Sunday. Descriptions of the suspects from neighbors led to their apprehension.

“My neighbor across the street, their house, they had smoke rolling out the window,” one neighbor told a 911 dispatcher.

Manns’ empty driveway offered one of the first clues the fire was arson. Relatives noticed that his car and other belongings were missing. Sheriff’s detectives were called to the scene.

(source: WHIO news)


Appeals court to hear Columbia death penalty case

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals next month will hear a case challenging a sentence of death by lethal injection in a Columbia murder case.

Ernest L. Johnson’s attorneys will argue his case May 16 in Omaha, according to online court records. Johnson was sentenced to death in 1995 for the murders of 3 convenience store employees. The U.S. Supreme Court granted Johnson a last-minute stay of execution in November 2015. In his latest appeal, Johnson argued brain tissue lost during the removal of a brain tumor in 2008 could combine with the lethal injection drugs to cause a painful seizure. Johnson requested the use of lethal gas instead.

Johnson had his case dismissed last year by a district court judge who said he couldn’t prove that death by lethal injection would constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

(source: Columbia Daily Tribune)


Nebraska Board to Decide Death Row Inmate's Clemency Hearing

Nebraska's longest-serving inmate on death row says he should be pardoned because he thinks state officials are either too lazy or incompetent to execute him.

The Nebraska Board of Pardons will decide Tuesday whether to grant Carey Dean Moore, 60, a hearing to consider his clemency request.

"Apparently they do not want to execute me, even though I haven't filed any appeals in over 10 years," Moore wrote in his pardon application.

Moore was convicted of first-degree murder in the 1979 shooting deaths of two Omaha cab drivers.

Courts stayed Moore's execution dates set in 2007 and 2011. Nebraska hasn't executed an inmate in more than 20 years.

The Pardons Board only commuted 2 death sentences over the past 6 decades. The board requires consent from 2 of its 3 members, who are Gov. Pete
Ricketts, Attorney General Doug Peterson and Secretary of State John Gale.

Both Ricketts and Peterson have supported the death penalty in the past.

Peterson requested an execution warrant from the Nebraska Supreme Court last week to carry out Moore's execution. The warrant gives state officials a 60-day window to set a date and complete the execution.

It's unclear when or if the state's high court would issue the warrant.

State officials also notified Moore in January of the drugs they intend to use for lethal injection.

(source: Associated Press)


Former Death Row inmate gets life in prison for…

A former death row inmate who more than 3 decades ago killed a man in Newport Beach was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

A Santa Ana jury last year convicted James Andrew Melton, 66, of special-circumstances murder for the 1981 killing of Antony Lial DeSousa, ending the third trial Melton had faced for the slaying.

Prosecutors say Melton used advertisements in gay magazines in order to meet rich, older men who he could rob. Prosecutors said that Melton – who had 2 rape convictions – met DeSousa, a 77-year-old retiree, through such an ad, robbed him and strangled him at his condo.

Melton has been behind bars since his 1981 arrest. In 1982, Melton was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. He spent more than a decade on death row at San Quentin State Prison, until a federal judge in 2007 ruled that he had been over-medicated by jail staff during his trial, preventing him from understanding the proceedings.

A 2014 retrial ended with jurors deadlocked 10-2 in favor of conviction. In the lead-up to his 3rd trial, prosecutors opted not to pursue the death penalty, partly because of the case’s age.

Melton’s attorney, Associate Defender Denise Gragg, unsuccessfully sought a new trial, after a court clerk reported hearing an alternate juror in Melton’s latest trial discussing the case with a manicurist at a Fountain Valley nail salon while the trial was still underway. A juror identified by the clerk initially denied being at the salon during the trial, but later said she realized she had indeed been at the salon after checking her credit-card records.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregg L. Prickett on Friday denied the motion for a new trial, noting that there was no indication that the alternate juror was biased against Melton, or that outside information about the case was passed to other jurors.

Melton’s lawyer wanted her client to at least have a chance at parole someday.

“He sits here before you as someone who has already suffered a punishment beyond (what) others who have committed this type of crime have suffered,” Gragg said.

However, Deputy District Attorney Steve McGreevy countered by telling the judge that thanks to Melton, DeSousa suffered an “extraordinarily violent and and vicious death. …

“For that, the appropriate punishment is life without the possibility of parole,” McGreevy said.

Melton did not speak prior to the sentencing. His only comment during the hearing was to answer, “Yes, yes your honor,” when the judge asked if he understood his right to appeal.

(source: Orange County Register)
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