April 15


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 defense attorneys.

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)

ALABAMA----impending execution

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 Thursday.

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 custody instead.

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.

(source: al.com)


Trumbull prosecutor seeks appeal to U.S. Supreme Court of Danny Lee Hill decision

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 Court.

Watkins said the attorney general’s office’s track record of successfully appealing such cases and winning reversals of 6th Circuit decisions “merits one last appeal.”

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 punishment.

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 death penalty.

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 intellectual disability.”

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 plaintiff judge:

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 legally- unjustified.”

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 Governor’s Mansion.
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 Brown.

"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.

(source: mdjonline.com)
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu

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