Texas seeks to fast-track executions
A request by Texas to opt in on the 1996 Federal Anti-terrorism and Effective
Death Penalty Act is drawing sharp criticism from civil rights groups and local
According to the state Attorney General's office, the move would avoid
"stressful delays" and "excessive costs" associated with executions.
Defense attorney Raymond Fuchs said opting in to the act is "a horrible idea."
"Texas spends very little money on counsel, on investigators, on mitigation
experts, on psychologists and psychiatrists," he said. "They're as
penny-pinching as you can get.
"When I read that (U.S. Attorney) Jeff Sessions is actually considering Texas'
application for this fast track, I thought it was a joke. We now have people
running this state, who I guess think it's a Wild West show where the idea is,
'Let's have a trial and string 'em up.'"
Whether Texas gets to opt in on the federal law is up to Sessions.
(source: KSAT news)
Walter Leroy Moody seeks stay of execution for judge's pipe bomb slaying
Walter Leroy Moody Jr., 83, the oldest inmate on Alabama Death Row, is waiting
to see if a court will block his execution by lethal injection Thursday for a
bombing nearly three decades ago that killed a federal appeals court judge.
Moody maintains he didn't do it.
And in the past few months since his April 19 execution date was set he and his
attorneys have filed a flurry of appeals in federal and state courts. Last week
both he - in a hand-written motion - and his attorneys filed requests for stay
of execution. And now he and his attorneys are awaiting a ruling by the U.S.
11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which listened to arguments in the case last
U.S. 11th Circuit of Appeals Judge Robert Vance Sr. was killed Dec. 16, 1989 in
a blast from a pipe bomb hidden in a package sent to the judge's Mountain
Brook, Ala., home. The judge's wife, Helen, was seriously injured in the blast.
In 1991, a federal jury convicted Moody of 71 charges related to the pipe-bomb
murders of Vance and Georgia civil rights attorney Robert E. Robinson, who also
was killed in a pipe-bomb blast two days after the judge. That federal trial
was conducted in Minnesota. Moody was placed on death row after a jury
convicted him of capital murder at a trial in Alabama five years later. The
jury recommended 11-1 that the death penalty be imposed and the judge agreed.
Alabama asked that an execution date be set for Moody on Jan. 9, the day after
the U.S. Supreme Court denied his request to consider an appeal.
Moody recently argued to a federal appeals court that the federal government
which convicted him first on non-death penalty charges should have him in
Both the Alabama Attorney General and U.S. Justice Department have said that
the federal government had the right, under an agreement, to allow the state to
take custody of Moody and have him serve his state sentence first.
"Moody cannot challenge any determination by the United States or Alabama as to
the order in which he will face his federal and state sentences. The comity
rules that govern priority of jurisdiction between the United States and
Alabama do not confer on Moody any legally enforceable right that he may assert
in a federal habeas proceeding," according to a federal appeals court brief
filed April 10 by the U.S. Justice Department.
Moody lost his appeal on another issue in January before the U.S. Supreme
Court. He had appealed an 11th Circuit decision in March 2017. That appeal was
about his decision to represent himself at his 1996 capital murder trial in
Alabama. After convicting him, the jury voted 11-1 to recommend a death
sentence. Courts have found that the trial judge did not err in allowing Moody
to represent himself.
Much of prosecutors' evidence centered on the similarities between pipe bombs
Moody had previously been convicted of using.
According to a summary of the bombings and investigations in one federal court
document, prosecutors claimed that in May 1972, a bomb exploded in Moody's home
in Macon, Ga. "The bomb, contained in a package addressed to a car dealer who
had repossessed Moody's car, exploded when opened by Moody's wife. Moody was
convicted in federal court in Macon for possessing the bomb, although he was
acquitted of manufacturing it, and he served three years in federal prison."
"Moody eventually became obsessed with overturning his 1972 conviction. He
devised an elaborate story to shift the blame to a mythical "Gene Wallace," who
Moody had claimed at trial had been attempting to assist him in regaining
possession of his car and was responsible for the bomb," according to the court
document. "Moody recruited a witness to substantiate his account, a destitute,
young handicapped woman, Julie Linn-West, and he paid her in small monthly
installments as she learned her fabricated story. Moody petitioned for a Writ
of Error Coram Nobis, seeking to overturn his 1972 conviction."
A lower federal court denied his petition and then a panel of three 11th
Circuit judges (Vance was not one of them) affirmed the denial in June 1989.
The entire court then denied it in August 1989.
Soon after the 11th Circuit denied Moody's appeal, according to federal
prosecutors, "Moody began to prepare to do battle with the Eleventh Circuit
Court of Appeals."
Besides the bombs that killed Vance and Robinson, 2 other bombs were
intercepted - 1 to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals building in Atlanta and
the Jacksonville, Fla. Office of the NAACP.
Trumbull prosecutor seeks appeal to U.S. Supreme Court of Danny Lee Hill
The judges from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati have
refused to hear an appeal of a ruling calling for the removal of the death
penalty for killer Danny Lee Hill.
The ruling leaves open the possibility a Trumbull County judge will be ordered
to resentence Hill, 51, to a life prison sentence instead of the death penalty
he received in 1986 for the 1985 killing of Raymond Fife, 12, in a field off
Palmyra Road Southwest.
County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins wrote to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on
Monday asking his staff to appeal the 6th Circuit decision to the U.S. Supreme
Watkins said the attorney general’s office’s track record of successfully
appealing such cases and winning reversals of 6th Circuit decisions “merits one
He said, “Ohio has nothing to lose and everything to gain with an appeal to the
... Supreme Court in the next 90 days.”
On Feb. 2, a 3-judge panel of the 6th Circuit reversed the decision of Judge
John Adams, an Akron-based federal judge, who affirmed Hill’s death sentence.
The federal appellate panel said Hill is too intellectually disabled to be
executed under a 2002 Supreme Court ruling saying that execution of mentally
disabled criminals violates the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual
In his letter to DeWine, Watkins said he believes the appellate court has not
given “proper deference ... to the many Ohio court decisions affirming that
Danny Hill was not mentally retarded and thus subject to the death penalty.”
The 6th Circuit’s ruling Feb. 2 said Ohio courts have unreasonably applied the
U.S. Supreme Court’s 3-part standard for determining intellectual disability.
All three parts must be present for someone to be declared too disabled for the
The 6th Circuit said there is agreement Hill’s IQ score of between 48 and 71
means he “easily meets the first element of the clinical definition of
The federal appellate court also thinks Hill meets the definition of
intellectual disability on the 2 other measurements – adaptive abilities and
whether his deficits manifested themselves before he turned 18. Earlier judges
disagreed Hill was intellectually disabled in the last two areas.
(source: The Vindicator)
Judge’s Lawsuit Against Arkansas Supreme Court Members Claiming Religious
Liberty Violations Proceeds
A fascinating case is making its way through the federal courts in Arkansas, as
a judge who was removed from death penalty cases because of his stated
religious and moral opposition has sued members of the state’s Supreme Court
for violations of the First Amendment and Arkansas Religious Freedom
Restoration Act (ARFRA). Last week, a federal district court allowed claims
against the justices to proceed.
Here is an excerpt from the opinion describing the issues raised by the
In his Complaint, Plaintiff acknowledges that “in his personal life and his
capacity as a pastor, [he] has expressed his personal religious and moral views
on the death penalty.” He admits participating in prayer vigils as an exercise
of his religious expression and claims to have “always conducted his religious
activities outside the auspices of his judicial role.” Plaintiff contends that
“notwithstanding his personal religious beliefs and moral views about the death
penalty, [he] has always attempted to interpret Arkansas law on the death
penalty fairly, without predisposition and according to law and precedent.”
Plaintiff admits that on April 10, 2017 he expressed his personal view, in a
blog post about religious faith,that “the death penalty is ‘morally’ -not
On Good Friday, April 14, 2017, Plaintiff attended a rally organized to
demonstrate opposition to the death penalty on the steps of the Arkansas
Capitol. On the same day, he attended a prayer vigil outside the Arkansas
Plaintiff alleges that “the Arkansas Supreme Court entered Order No. 17-155 in
retaliation for [his] exercise of his religious freedom through attendance at
the Good Friday prayer vigil and gathering…
The ruling allows the case to move ahead with discovery.
(source: Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty)
Lawyers question why Carey Dean Moore's pardon request wasn't addressed sooner
Several things struck Nebraska's former defender of the death penalty as
unusual about the recent pardon application filed by Carey Dean Moore.
Condemned inmates often submit clemency requests right before their execution
dates to force last-minute delays, said J. Kirk Brown, who for 30 years worked
on death penalty litigation as assistant attorney general. An execution can't
take place while such a request remains undecided.
Moore filed his application seven months ago, in September, at a time when the
state lacked the drugs to perform a lethal injection.
Even more odd, Brown said, is the fact that the Nebraska Pardons Board didn't
act on the request months ago. Now the governor, the attorney general and the
secretary of state must act quickly next week, or risk seeing the Nebraska
Supreme Court withhold a death warrant to carry out the execution.
"I'm kind of shocked that nothing had been done," Brown said. "They are not at
liberty to ignore it."
Meanwhile, a leading death penalty detractor, Danielle Conrad, director of the
American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska, said she is troubled by unanswered
questions involving the pardon request as Nebraska moves closer to its first
execution in 21 years.
Suzanne Gage, spokeswoman for Attorney General Doug Peterson, said, "We don't
discuss hearings before they occur," when asked about the matter.
Peterson's April 3 motion for an execution warrant noted that Moore has no
appeals or other pending legal challenges to stand in the way of the execution.
It did not mention the pardon request.
6 days later, the attorney general filed a supplemental motion calling the
court's attention to the clemency application. He said he expected the request
to be decided within 10 days.
Peterson, Gov. Pete Ricketts and Secretary of State John Gale will meet at 10
a.m. Tuesday in the Governor's Hearing Room at the State Capitol. Moore will
not be present, and public comment won't be received. The board will decide
whether to grant the inmate's request for a full hearing.
The Pardons Board has met at least twice since Moore filed his application in
September. Pardons Board meetings typically involve full agendas and sometimes
last four or five hours.
Moore, who is not currently represented by a lawyer, said in his application
that he deserves to be pardoned because the state has been unable to carry out
the sentence for almost 4 decades. He expressed a similar sentiment in a recent
letter to The World-Herald.
"I doubt that they'll be able to execute me," he said. "Not that I'm invincible
— because I know I am not by the grace of God — but I've been on the row for
nearly 38 years and the A.G.'s and the governor are clearly incompetent."
A 3-judge panel sentenced Moore to death for the slayings of Omaha cabdrivers
Reuel Van Ness and Maynard Helgeland. The men, shot 5 days apart in the summer
of 1979, were both 47-year-old fathers and military veterans.
Moore's letter also said he decided to stop fighting in the courts years ago.
"As to why, that is personal," he said.
Despite Moore's prediction, Nebraska is as close to carrying out an execution
as it has been in at least seven years, the last time the Supreme Court set
execution dates for Moore and cult killer Michael Ryan, who has since died of
cancer. The high court stayed the executions over questions about how one of
the lethal drugs was obtained.
Conrad, of the ACLU , said her organization sent a four-page letter to the
attorney general listing several pending actions that challenge the legality of
the death penalty. The letter asked Peterson not to file for a death warrant.
Conrad also submitted a letter to the Supreme Court, highlighting the legal
questions about Nebraska's execution protocol and how it obtained its current
batch of drugs. She urged the court to wait until those matters are settled
before it considers issuing a death warrant.
"While Nebraskans of goodwill have differing viewpoints on the death penalty,
nobody gave permission to state officials to cut corners or fall out of
compliance with state law," she said.
The fact that the attorney general's initial filing did not mention the pardon
application reflects a disappointing lack of due diligence, Conrad said. She
also said Peterson's apparent confidence that the issue will be decided quickly
did not inspire confidence that Moore's request will be seriously considered.
“If we are going to have a pardons process, it needs to be a fair process," she
said. "It can’t be a kangaroo court."
Brown, the state's former death penalty litigator, said the Pardons Board staff
used to have a procedure that immediately flagged any clemency application by a
death row inmate. When one came in, the staff notified the Attorney General's
Office so the application could be addressed quickly.
That's why, he said, he was surprised to learn that Moore's application had not
been acted upon for seven months.
The Supreme Court has wide discretion to block an execution or allow it to go
forward. Brown said he couldn't predict how the court would react to the
delayed notification about Moore's pardon application.
Brown disagreed with Conrad on one point: It's inaccurate to compare the
Pardons Board to a court. The board falls under the executive branch of
government and is, by definition, a political entity.
Unlike a judge, Pardons Board members are not ethically bound to be impartial.
The Nebraska Supreme Court has said as much in a key ruling, according to
"A pardon can be granted for any reason, or no reason," he said. "Granting a
pardon is an act of grace ... it's nothing you are entitled to."
Very few death row inmates in Nebraska have received a commutation.
The last was 54 years ago.
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