[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, ALA., IND., ARK., MO., WYO., CALIF., USA

2017-10-20 Thread Rick Halperin

Oct. 20


Last pretrial hearing Thursday in Telford death penalty case

Outstanding motions and other issues were discussed at a hearing Thursday in 
the case of a Texas prison inmate accused of capital murder in the July 15, 
2015, beating death of a Barry Telford Unit correctional officer.

Billy Joel Tracy, 39, could receive a death sentence or life without the 
possibility of parole if convicted of killing 47-year-old Timothy Davison 
during a walk from a prison dayroom to his cell in segregation. Opening 
arguments are scheduled to begin Monday, Oct. 23, at the Bowie County 
courthouse in New Boston.

At a hearing Thursday, Tracy's defense team, Mac Cobb of Mount Pleasant and 
Jeff Harrelson of Texarkana, said they still want the case moved out of Bowie 
County. Cobb said he is filing a supplemental change of venue motion and 
Harrelson said the defense wants its objections to 2 seated jurors put on the 

Lockhart said that the average age of the 7 men and 5 women chosen as jurors is 
48. 2 women will serve as alternates.

Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp asked that the defense provide her 
with information concerning the science and any testing their experts intend to 
rely on during the trial. Crisp said she believes those experts are expected to 
take the stand during the punishment phase of trial if Tracy is found guilty. 
Crisp said she would like to review brain scans and other reports before the 
witnesses are called so that if a hearing to determine whether they are 
admissible can be held before the jury is in the courthouse.

According to a Texas Department of Criminal Justice report, Tracy was able to 
slip his left hand free while cuffed and attack Davison, knocking him down. 
Tracy allegedly grabbed Davison's metal tray slot bar, a tool used to open the 
slots in cell doors, and beat him to death.

The Bowie County District Attorney's Office is seeking the death penalty for 
Tracy, who has a long history of violence in prison since he was assessed a 
life term by a jury in Rockwall County for burglary and assault in 1998. Since 
then Tracy has been a constant disciplinary problem, has repeatedly tried to 
escape, and has been sentenced to additional 10-year and 45-year terms for 
assaults on correctional officers.

Assistant District Attorneys Kelley Crisp and Lauren Richards are prosecuting 
the case.

(source: txktoday.com)

Texas high court rejects death penalty appeal in 1992 quadruple drug-related 

The state's highest criminal court this week split over whether a ballistics 
expert's testimony was material to a 1992 Harris County death penalty verdict.

In a ruling handed down Wednesday, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied 
47-year-old Arthur Brown a new trial or new sentencing phase because a Houston 
police analyst overstated the proof that 2 guns connected to Brown were 
involved in the shooting of 6 people during a drug deal 25 years ago.

The high court, with a single judge dissenting, said the analyst's possibly 
inaccurate testimony was not material to the jury's decision.

Appeals Judge Elsa Alcala authored the dissent, writing that she agreed with 
former Harris County District Judge Mark Kent Ellis who ruled that the firearms 
evidence introduced at Brown's trial was false or misleading.

"I agree with the (trial) court's determination that this evidence was not only 
false or misleading but also material," she said. Alcala wrote that she would 
support a new trial, a new punishment phase or even a new hearing to further 
flesh out the issue.

The 1993 death penalty verdict came back to Harris County last year because of 
a recent law allowing inmates to take advantage of scientific breakthroughs 
that were not available during their original trials.

During a hearing in front of Ellis last year, attorneys for Brown argued that 2 
guns that had been linked to him were not used to kill 4 people and injure 2 
others during a large-scale cocaine deal.

Brown was convicted of running drugs from Houston to Alabama with 2 other men. 
The trio apparently decided to cut out the middlemen and went into a southwest 
Houston cocaine deal with the intent to kill.

Court records show that Brown with Marion Dudley and Tony Dunson arranged to 
buy 3 kilograms of cocaine from Rachel Tovar and her estranged husband, Jose 

When the 3 went to Tovar's home in the 4600 block of Brownstone for the deal, 
they tied up the couple and 4 other people - friends and neighbors who were in 
the house coincidentally. All 6 were shot in the head. 4 people were killed: 
Tovar's husband; 19-year-old Jessica Quinones, who was 7 months pregnant; 
Audrey Brown, 21; and 17-year-old Frank Farias. Rachel Tovar survived along 
with family friend Nicholas Cortez.

Cortez said Dudley shot him and Jose Tovar with a .357-caliber Magnum handgun, 
according to court records. He was sentenced to death and has been executed. 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., GA., FLA., ALA., KAN., USA

2017-10-19 Thread Rick Halperin

Oct. 19

TEXASstay of impending executions

'Tourniquet Killer' execution date reset to January 2018'Tourniquet Killer' 
claims death row inmate convinced him to confess to murder

The execution date for Anthony Allen Shore, also known as the "Tourniquet 
Killer," has been reset for Jan. 18, 2018. He was scheduled to be put to death 

On the eve of his scheduled execution, Shore told investigators that a fellow 
inmate attempted to persuade Shore to take responsibility for the December 1998 
abduction and killing of 19-year-old Melissa Trotter.

Larry Ray Swearingen was convicted of Trotter's murder and is scheduled to be 
executed on Nov. 16.

Shore, who confessed to four slayings, was scheduled to be executed Wednesday 
evening, but the date has been reset while an investigation can be conducted.

Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon said investigators from his 
office spoke with Shore on Tuesday and he told them he decided to expose the 
scheme and not cooperate with Swearingen.

The prosecutor said Swearingen tried a similar scheme before his trial for 
Trotter's killing.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused an appeal from Swearingen last October. His 
attorneys have long wanted additional DNA testing of evidence they say could 
show he didn't kill Trotter.

During Tuesday's interview, Shore told investigators he initially refused 
Swearingen's request, but the 2 eventually became friends and he decided to try 
to exonerate Swearingen as a favor.

Shore told investigators that Swearingen gave him a hand-drawn map of the 
location where Swearingen left physical evidence of Trotter's murder.

Ligon asked Gov. Greg Abbott to grant Shore a single 30-day reprieve in order 
to process the contents of Shore's cell.

On July 21, authorities discovered a folder in Shore's cell containing 
approximately 10 items pertaining to Trotter's murder, including copies of 
court exhibits and scene photos, a hand-drawn page of a calendar for the month 
of December 1998 with handwritten notations regarding weather conditions, and a 
hand-drawn map which appears to depict the location where Trotter's body was 
found. The handwriting on the map appears to be Swearingen's, authorities said.

(source: click2houston.com)


Texas court halts execution to review claims that co-defendant lied at 
trialThe execution of Clinton Young, convicted in a 2001 Midland-area 
murder, was stopped by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The courts will 
look into claims that Young's co-defendant lied in his testimony against Young.

The execution of a man who insists he was framed in a 2001 murder was halted by 
the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday, 1 week before he was set to 

The court sent the case of Clinton Young back to trial court to look into 
claims that Young's co-defendant, a main witness for the state at trial, lied 
in his testimony. Young's lawyers claim four jailhouse witnesses have sworn 
they heard the co-defendant, David Page, brag about killing Samuel Petrey and 
blaming it on Young.

"I'm very grateful to the Criminal Court of Appeals for granting this stay and 
for giving me a chance to prove my innocence in court," Young told his 
attorneys on the phone, according to a statement.

In November 2001, Young and Page, ages 18 and 20, took part in a drug-related 
crime spree that involved fatally shooting Doyle Douglas and Samuel Petrey and 
stealing their cars over 2 days on opposite ends of the state, according to 
court documents. Douglas was shot in Longview on Nov. 24. The next day, Petrey 
was killed in Midland, more than 450 miles away.

Young was convicted and sentenced to death in Petrey's murder in 2003, with 
Page testifying against him. Page took a plea deal and was given 30 years in 
prison under an aggravated kidnapping conviction, according to court filings. 
He is currently eligible for parole but was denied release last year.

At trial, Page said Young shot Petrey, but Young has said he was sleeping off a 
methamphetamine high when the man was killed. Seeking to prove his innocence 
and stop his upcoming execution, Young's lawyers filed an appeal earlier this 
month claiming Page's testimony was false based on the new witness statements. 
The statements all include Page mentioning how the gloves he was wearing while 
shooting Petrey allowed him to blame Young for the murder.

The appellate court sent the case back to trial court to resolve this new claim 
of false testimony.

"We are confident the court will conclude that Page lied under oath to save 
himself and that our client is innocent of the crime that put him on death 
row," said Margo Rocconi, one of Young's lawyers, in a statement.

The Midland District Attorney's Office did not immediately respond to comment 
on Young's case Wednesday.

(source: Texas Tribune)


Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS

2017-10-18 Thread Rick Halperin

Oct. 18

TEXASstay of imminent execution

'Tourniquet Killer' execution date reset to January 2018
'Tourniquet Killer' claims death row inmate convinced him to confess to murder

The execution date for Anthony Allen Shore, also known as the "Tourniquet 
Killer," has been reset for Jan. 18, 2018. He was scheduled to be put to death 

On the eve of his scheduled execution, Shore told investigators that a fellow 
inmate attempted to persuade Shore to take responsibility for the December 1998 
abduction and killing of 19-year-old Melissa Trotter.

Larry Ray Swearingen was convicted of Trotter's murder and is scheduled to be 
executed on Nov. 16.

Shore, who confessed to 4 slayings, was scheduled to be executed Wednesday 
evening, but the date has been reset while an investigation can be conducted.

Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon said investigators from his 
office spoke with Shore on Tuesday and he told them he decided to expose the 
scheme and not cooperate with Swearingen.

The prosecutor said Swearingen tried a similar scheme before his trial for 
Trotter's killing.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused an appeal from Swearingen last October. His 
attorneys have long wanted additional DNA testing of evidence they say could 
show he didn't kill Trotter.

During Tuesday's interview, Shore told investigators he initially refused 
Swearingen's request, but the 2 eventually became friends and he decided to try 
to exonerate Swearingen as a favor.

Shore told investigators that Swearingen gave him a hand-drawn map of the 
location where Swearingen left physical evidence of Trotter's murder.

Ligon asked Gov. Greg Abbott to grant Shore a single 30-day reprieve in order 
to process the contents of Shore's cell.

On July 21, authorities discovered a folder in Shore's cell containing 
approximately 10 items pertaining to Trotter's murder, including copies of 
court exhibits and scene photos, a hand-drawn page of a calendar for the month 
of December 1998 with handwritten notations regarding weather conditions, and a 
hand-drawn map which appears to depict the location where Trotter's body was 
found. The handwriting on the map appears to be Swearingen's, authorities said.

(source: click2houston.com)
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[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, ALA., OHIO, S.DAK., UTAH, IDAHO, ARIZ., ORE.

2017-10-18 Thread Rick Halperin

Oct. 18

TEXASimpending executions

Texas Set to Execute Anthony Shore, Who Asked for Death Penalty

A Texas man who confessed to raping and strangling girls - and who asked the 
jury to give him the death penalty - is set to be executed Wednesday evening.

Anthony Allen Shore's lawyers said in court papers that their client, known as 
the "Tourniquet Killer," should be spared death because he is brain damaged, 
and they argued that his trial lawyer did not put on a robust defense.

But appellate judges rejected his appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined 
to take up the case. It's not clear whether Shore's lawyers will file a 
last-minute challenge.

Shore, 55, was convicted in 2004 of raping and strangling Maria del Carmen 
Estrada, 21, in 1992. He was prosecuted after investigators linked the Estrada 
murder, a cold case, to DNA that Shore had provided in an unrelated matter. 
Although he was tried for just her murder, police said he also confessed to 
killing 3 other women from 1986 to 1995.

At his trial, his attorney told jurors that they should find that the crime 
included aggravating circumstances that called for the death penalty.

"Anthony has asked on his behalf that we ask you to answer those questions in 
such a way that he's sentenced to death," the lawyer told the panel.

"Anthony still believes ... it is time for him to sacrifice his life for what 
he has done."

His current attorneys contended that the defense team should have challenged 
the state's case during the punishment phase. They also argued that mental 
illness should make him ineligible for execution.

The courts disagreed. In January, one panel of judges noted Shore's long 
history of violent behavior.

"Shore's sister testified that he stabbed a kitten to death when he was 4 or 5, 
that he pushed a screwdriver through his sister's head when they were children, 
and that he used his sister to get girls in the neighborhood to come out of 
their houses so he could grope and try to kiss them," they wrote.

"Shore's daughters testified about being abused, drugged, and molested by 
Shore. His wife and former girlfriends testified that he drugged and raped 
them, choked them while having sex, used drugs, and kept pornography of young 

They said the clinical director of a sex offender program "testified that he 
had superior intellectual and abstract reasoning abilities; was grandiose, 
opportunistic, manipulative, and narcissistic; understood what was socially 
acceptable but had sexual deviations and would break a law if he thought he 
could get away with it; and scored high on a measure of psychopathy."

If Shore is executed Wednesday, it will be the 7th lethal injection in Texas 
this year - more than in any other state.

(source: BBC News)


Stay the execution of Clinton Young.


(source: change.org)


Former Death Row inmate: "Go to the ballot box"

Anthony Graves, also known as Death Row Exoneree 138, visited Texas State Oct. 
10. Graves shared his story behind being wrongly convicted and spent 18 years 
in prison, 12 of which he spent on death row, and motivated students to take 
their frustrations by going to vote.

Graves' visit to campus was a part of the 2017-18 Common Experience theme: The 
Search for Justice. Graves shared his story in the lecture held in Evans 
Auditorium. He explained the process of being falsely accused to the moment he 
called his mom when he was released.

"At the most, I thought maybe I have a traffic ticket I forgot to pay," Graves 
said. "I never shot a gun in my life."

Graves was charged with capital murder for the death of six people in 
Somerville, in 1992. He waited 2 years for trial, where 11 white jurors and 1 
black juror convicted him of the crime. Two execution dates later, he was 
released in 2010.

Although Graves explained the effects media, racism and injustice had on his 
trial, he kept pointing to the importance of going to the ballot box and 
holding public officials accountable.

"We have a voice in this thing," Graves said. "You got to use it, and you got 
to use it at the ballot box. You got to know who your nominees running for 
office are, what they stand for. We are at a place in our country where it is 
so important to take your voice to the ballot box."

During the Q segment following Graves' testimony, 1 attendee asked Graves how 
people can change the criminal justice system. Graves responded, "Find an 
organization and donate your time."

Nathan Pino, a professor of sociology, said that Graves' story doesn't just 
tell a testimony, but it humanizes the larger issue.

"Graves puts a human face on important issues in the criminal justice system, 
and he can provide his personal experience with something that is usually 
discussed in the abstract in the classroom," Pino said. "His story can show 
students how one 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., N.C., GA., FLA.

2017-10-17 Thread Rick Halperin

Oct. 17

TEXASimpending execution

Houston serial killer faces execution this weekAnthony Shore, a convicted 
serial killer, is set to be executed Wednesday evening. His murders in the 
1980s and 1990s went unsolved until 2003.

Houston's "Tourniquet Killer" is on his way to the Texas death chamber.

Anthony Shore, the confessed serial rapist and strangler whose murders in the 
1980s and 1990s went unsolved for more than a decade, is scheduled for 
execution Wednesday evening. The courts have shot down his latest appeals that 
argued a traumatic brain injury decreases his culpability, and a plea for 
relief to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles was denied Monday afternoon.

Shore, 55, has been on death row since 2004, when he was convicted and 
sentenced to death in the 1992 rape and murder of 21-year-old Maria Del Carmen 
Estrada. The killing was 1 of 4 similar murders of young women and girls and 
one aggravated sexual assault where the girl was able to escape.

The murders took place between 1986 and 1995, according to court documents. All 
became cold cases in the years after the bodies of Estrada, 14-year-old Laurie 
Tremblay, 9-year-old Diana Rebollar and 16-year-old Dana Sanchez were found, 
dumped behind buildings or in a field, partially naked with rope or cord 
fastened around their necks like tourniquets.

Finally, in 2003, Houston police matched Shore's DNA - on file from a 1997 
no-contest plea of sexually molesting his 2 daughters - to Estrada's murder, 
according to a court ruling. After hours of interrogation, Shore confessed to 
all of the killings, telling police he had an "evilness" in him.

"I think if I tell you what I've done that it will release the evilness, and I 
would feel better," Shore told a police sergeant.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said Shore was a "true serial killer" 
after the trial court set his upcoming execution date in July.

"His crimes were predatory, and his victims the most vulnerable in society - 
women and children. For his brutal acts, the death penalty is appropriate," she 
said in a statement.

Recently, Shore's legal team has pointed to a previously undisclosed traumatic 
brain injury, likely obtained in a 1981 car accident, as a reason to stop the 
execution. Knox Nunnally, Shore's court-appointed appellate lawyer, said he is 
not arguing that Shore is innocent or undeserving of punishment, but that 
courts should look at people with brain injuries the way they look at minors 
and the intellectually disabled - ineligible for execution based on decreased 
reasoning skills and culpability.

"We think if a jury had heard that evidence ... that it is possible a jury 
could at least change their decision that Mr. Shore deserves life instead of 
death," Nunnally said, referring to the alternative sentence in a capital 
murder conviction. "Because by no means are we claiming that ... a head injury 
was the only reason he committed these crimes, we're saying it was a 
contributing reason."

The courts rejected Shore's appeal and the broader argument that brain-injured 
people are ineligible for execution. It's a rejection that concerns Nunnally as 
a combat veteran, he said.

"My fear is that if we're denying this for Anthony Shore, what's gonna happen 
if we have a combat vet who comes up 5 or 6 years from now and he has suffered 
a severe injury from combat?" he said. "The state's going to use Anthony 
Shore's case as an example of precedent."

On Monday morning, Nunnally said that his team was still looking at other 
possible appeals in the next 2 days before the execution but that nothing was 
currently pending. If it proceeds, Shore's execution will be the 7th in Texas 
this year and 21st in the nation.

(source: Texas Tribune)


Sister of notorious Houston serial killer: 'He should be killed'

Gina Shore feels it in her bones: There must have been more.

Sure as the tick-tick of the clock winding down her brother's final hours. 
Certain as the needle the state of Texas will slip into his arm. Fixed as the 
gruesome fates of the 4 girls he raped and murdered.

"I know in my heart without a doubt that there are more," she said. "There had 
to have been other girls."

But if there are, the world may never know.

Anthony Shore, the notorious Tourniquet Killer who terrorized the Bayou City in 
the 1980s and 1990s, is set to meet his fate Wednesday in Huntsville's death 

"I think it will give closure," Gina said. "Then when people ask what about 
him, we can just say he's dead."

The 55-year-old former telephone technician was sent to death row in 2004, 
after confessing to the rapes and murders then begging the court for capital 

He'd escaped detection for nearly 2 decades, but ultimately it was DNA - put on 
file after he was convicted of molesting his daughters and forced to register 
as a sex offender - that brought police to his door.

Researchers say they 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, LA., OHIO

2017-10-15 Thread Rick Halperin

Oct. 15


Sherman hotel clerk murder suspect caught in N.Y.

The final suspect in the August murder of a Sherman hotel clerk has been 
apprehended and is now in police custody.

Family members of the victim in the case, 32-year-old Brandon Hubert of 
Denison, confirm that Reginald Vernard Campbell Jr., 24, has been taken into 
custody in New York.

Campbell was added to the Texas 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list earlier this 
week. Their webpage shows he was captured Friday in Mt. Vernon, a suburb of New 
York City.

"The arrest was the result of tip information received through Texas Crime 
Stoppers and a reward will be paid," the posting said.

At an afternoon press conference, Sherman Police Chief Zachary Flores said 
Campbell was arrested without incident, and he will be extradited back to 
Grayson County "within the next couple of weeks."

Flores also noted, "The best feeling we can have is for the family, being able 
to see some closure for them."

Campbell, according to Flores, will face capital murder and unlawful flight to 
avoid prosecution charges.

Police said a tip led them to the home in Mount Vernon where Campbell was 
arrested, and the tipster will get $5,000.

"I know it's going to be a long road, but still I am able to have a smile on my 
face now," Brandon Hubert's twin brother Brent Hubert said.

On Aug. 11, Campbell was allegedly involved in a robbery at the Quality Suites 
hotel in Sherman that resulted in the front desk clerk, Hubert, being fatally 

An investigation led authorities to arrest two female accomplices and identify 
Campbell as the masked suspect in the robbery and murder. On Aug. 23, law 
enforcement authorities encountered Campbell near Columbia, South Carolina. 
However, Campbell assaulted the officers and escaped.

Sherman Police obtained a capital murder warrant for Campbell for his part in 
the murder of Brandon Hubert at the Quality Inn and Suites on Aug. 11. Karalyn 
Marie Cross, 19, and Nikeya Grant, 24, were arrested days earlier on capital 
murder warrants.

Court documents show on Aug. 10, Karalyn Cross was out with her boyfriend, 
Reginald Campbell, and her roommate Nikeya Grant.

The trio went to Oklahoma to a local strip club, then to a casino, where they 
left before sunrise.

Records state the trio came up with the idea to rob a hotel, so they tried the 
Super 8 off U.S. Highway 75 in Sherman, but the clerk was in a protected area, 
so they went to the Quality Suites, where Hubert was working at the front desk.

A security camera captured the trio pulling into the parking lot.

Documents state Campbell put on a mask, walked in the lobby, and after a brief 
struggle, shot Hubert in the head.

A coworker found Hubert laying in a pool of blood hours later, and called 911.

During a police interview, Cross and Grant admitted to driving Campbell to 
Dallas after the murder so he could leave the area.

If convicted, all 3 face life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

Hubert was working as a hotel clerk while attending Southeastern Oklahoma State 
University in Durant. His family has set up a scholarship fund in his name at 
the university.

The capturing agencies were listed as U.S. Marshals New York/New Jersey 
Regional Fugitive Task Force, U.S. Marshals Joint East Texas Fugitive Task 

(source: KXII news)


As man on death row awaits decision about new trial, group protests for his 
releaseA group of 20 people gathered outside the Court of Criminal Appeals 
to represent the 20 years Rodney Reed has sat in prison.

1 day after the hearing for Rodney Reed wrapped up, a group of University of 
Texas students and advocates gathered at the Court of Criminal Appeals to show 
their support for the man on death row for the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites.

For 4 days this week, Reed's defense argued new evidence shows he did not 
murder Stites. Reed was sentenced to death in 1998. Many believe evidence 
points to Jimmy Fennell as the suspect in her murder. Fennell was Stites' 
fiance and a law enforcement officer when she was found on the side of a 
Bastrop County Road.

After the 4-day hearing wrapped up, Judge Doug Shafer said he may need up to 2 
months to give his recommendations to the Court of Criminal Appeals.

About 20 UT students and members of the "Free Rodney Reed Campaign" were at the 
event Saturday, rallying for a new trial for Reed. 20 people gathered to 
represent the 20 years that Reed has been in prison. Throughout the event, they 
read facts about the case and spoke out against the death penalty.

(source: KVUE news)


Man condemned in family murder plot loses high court appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court refused Tuesday to consider an appeal from a suburban 
Houston man on Texas death row who arranged the killings of his mother and 
brother in 2003 so he could collect a $1 million inheritance.

Attorneys for 37-year-old 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., VA., GA., FLA., LA.

2017-10-14 Thread Rick Halperin

Oct. 14


Murder Victim Families Lead Anti-Death Penalty Campaign in TexasBill Pelke 
originally supported the death penalty for the girls who killed his 
grandmother. His path to forgiveness led to start the Journey of Hope ...From 
Violence to Healing

As new death sentences and executions continue at record lows in Texas, a group 
of murder victim family members will kick off a two-week tour of the state with 
the Texas premiere of an award winning documentary film at 7pm on October 14, 
2017 at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston.

"The Gathering" is a film about exonerated death row survivors who become 
warriors against the death penalty. Award-winning filmmaker, Micki Dickoff, 
will be at this special screening for the Texas premiere. Admission is free.

Following the film, the Journey of Hope ...From Violence to Healing will host a 
panel discussion featuring exonerated death row survivors and murder victim 
family members who oppose the death penalty. This will be the 1st of dozens of 
such events in schools, colleges and faith communities in Houston, Dallas, San 
Antonio and Austin over the following 2 weeks.

The Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing is led by murder victim family 
members who oppose the death penalty, joined by the families of prisoners on 
death row and exonerated death row survivors who share their voices of 
experience with the aftermath of murder. This will be the 6th time the Journey 
of Hope will tour Texas since 1998.

"We can be safe from dangerous offenders and hold them accountable without 
killing them," said Ami Lyn White, whose pregnant mother was murdered in Alvin 
in 1986. "I can't speak for everyone who struggles with the aftermath of 
murder, but our experience is that having to wait a decade or more for an 
execution that may never come is not conducive to healing. I have no problem 
with a sentence of death by incarceration, which is what most killers get these 
days anyway."

In addition to Texans, the 2 week series of public events features speakers 
with compelling stories from across the United States.

"We feel that our message that the death penalty prevents healing and only 
creates more victims has helped reduce the desire for executions in Texas," 
said Bill Pelke, founder of the Journey of Hope ...From Violence to Healing. 
"The 1st time we came here in 1998, executions were at an all-time high, with 
nearly 100 each year. Dozens were in Texas, and many of those cases were from 
Harris County. Now, the vast majority of killers in Texas get the alternative 
sentence of life without parole. One thing we know from experience is that when 
there is no death sentence in your case, the healing process begins a lot 

"The death penalty is a distraction from the real needs of victim families," 
continued Pelke. "Most cases are not eligible for execution, but anyone with a 
relative who has been murdered wants the right person to be caught and held 
accountable. We include exonerated death row survivors on our tours because 
wrongful convictions are a real problem. It hurts victim family members even 
more when we learn that all this time we were focusing our anger on the wrong 
person. And to think they might have been killed in our names? That's 

Pelke supported the death penalty for the girl who killed his grandmother, but 
then he came to understand the healing power of forgiveness. This experience 
and that of others on the Journey of Hope tour provide the opportunity for the 
public to look at crime and punishment from different perspectives, including 
that of the families of killers.

"I also recognize that those in prison or on death row and those who have been 
executed have families too," said White. "Those family members, especially 
those who were children when their loved one was arrested, experience pain and 
devastation similar to that which I felt. They, like me, didn???t do anything 
wrong, but society need not make it worse by making them homicide survivors 

3 speakers on the tour have brothers who faced execution, including David 
Kaczynski who helped the FBI determine his brother Ted Kaczynski was the 
Unibomber, resulting in his apprehension. The juxtaposition of Kaczynski with 
Bill Babbitt is exposes issues of racism in the system which remain pervasive. 
Babbitt realized his brother Manny, a Vietnam veteran with diagnosed mental 
illnesses including PTSD, had killed a woman. He helped the police apprehend 
Manny on the promise of treatment. Instead, Manny was executed. The Babbitts 
are African American. Also on the tour is Randy Gardner, whose brother was the 
most recent person executed by firing squad in the United States.

The arts have been incorporated into some of the events. A photo display by 
Texas native Scott Langley will travel with the tour, and several of the events 
feature award-winning films. The Texas premiere of "The Gathering" is on 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, GA., FLA., OHIO, IND., KAN., OKLA., CALIF.

2017-10-13 Thread Rick Halperin

Oct. 13


Texas Inmate Executed for Prison Guard's Death

A Texas inmate convicted in the death of a prison guard was put to death 
Thursday after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his lawyer's attempts to halt 
the execution.

Robert Pruett was given a lethal injection for the December 1999 death of 
corrections officer Daniel Nagle at a prison southeast of San Antonio. Nagle 
was repeatedly stabbed with a tape-wrapped metal rod, though an autopsy showed 
he died from a heart attack that the assault caused.

Prosecutors have said the attack stemmed from a dispute over a peanut butter 
sandwich that Pruett wanted to take into a recreation yard against prison 

The 38-year-old Pruett, who was already serving a 99-year sentence for a 
neighbor's killing near Houston when he was convicted in Nagle's death, lost 2 
appeals at the Supreme Court as his execution neared. He became the 20th 
prisoner put to death this year in the U.S. and the 6th in Texas, which carries 
out the death penalty more than any other state. Texas executed 7 inmates last 

Pruett's lawyers had asked the high court to review whether lower courts 
properly denied a federal civil rights lawsuit that sought additional DNA 
testing in his case. They also questioned whether a prisoner like Pruett, who 
claimed actual innocence in federal court because of newly discovered evidence 
after exhausting all other appeals, could be put to death.

Pruett avoided execution in April 2015, hours before he could have been taken 
to the death chamber, when a state judge halted his punishment so additional 
DNA testing could be conducted on the rod used to stab the 37-year-old Nagle. 
The new tests showed no DNA on the tape but uncovered DNA on the rod from an 
unknown female who authorities said likely handled the shank during the appeals 
process after the original tests in 2002.

Pruett's attorneys unsuccessfully sought more DNA testing and filed a federal 
civil rights lawsuit arguing Pruett had been denied due process. The 5th U.S. 
Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the lawsuit last week, and the lawyers 
appealed to the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Attorneys for Texas told the Supreme Court that Pruett's appeals were delay 
tactics after issues were "repeatedly raised" and "properly rejected" by the 

No physical evidence tied Pruett to Nagle's death at the Texas Department of 
Criminal Justice's McConnell Unit near Beeville. At his 2002 trial, prisoners 
testified that they saw Pruett attack Nagle or heard him talk about wanting to 
kill the guard. According to some of the testimony, he talked about possessing 
a weapon as well.

Pruett had said he was framed and that Nagle could have been killed by other 
inmates or corrupt officers at the McConnell Unit.

Pruett's 99-year murder sentence was for participating with his father and a 
brother in the 1995 stabbing death of a 29-year-old neighbor, Raymond 
Yarbrough, at the man's trailer home in Channelview, just east of Houston. 
Pruett was 15 when the attack happened.

According to court testimony from a sheriff's detective, Pruett argued with 
Yarbrough and then got his father and brother to join him in attacking the man. 
Pruett punched and kicked Yarbrough and held him down while his father stabbed 
the man multiple times, the detective said.

Pruett's father, Howard Pruett, is serving life in prison. His brother, Howard 
Pruett Jr., was sentenced to 40 years.

(source: nbcdfw.com)


Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present25

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982present-544

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #

26-Oct. 18-Anthony Shore--545

27-Oct. 26-Clinton Young--546

28-Nov. 8--Ruben Cardenas---547

29-Nov. 16-Larry Swearingen-548

30Dec. 14-Juan Castillo---549

31Jan. 30-William Rayford550

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

Urgent Action


Ruben Cardenas Ramirez, a 47-year-old Mexican national denied his consular 
rights, is due to be executed in Texas on 8 November in violation of 
international law. Convicted in 1998 of a murder in 1997, he maintains his 
innocence and is seeking new DNA testing.

Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:

* Calling for the execution of Ruben Cardenas Ramirez, inmate #999275, to be 
stopped and his death sentence commuted;

* Stating that the execution would violate international law and an order of 
the International Court of Justice;

* Expressing concern that Ruben Cardenas Ramerez was denied his consular rights 
and not provided a lawyer until 11 days after his initial arrest and a week 
after being charged;

* Noting that the conviction was based upon highly 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS

2017-10-12 Thread Rick Halperin

Oct. 12


Texas executes man convicted of killing prison guard with shank

Texas executed a man on Thursday convicted of murdering a prison guard in 1999, 
after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a last-minute appeal to spare his life 
despite arguments by his lawyers that he was innocent.

Robert Pruett, 38, was put to death by lethal injection at the state’s death 
chamber in Huntsville and pronounced dead at 6:46 p.m. (2346 GMT), the Texas 
Department of Criminal Justice said. He was the 544th person executed in Texas 
since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, the most of 
any state. It was Texas' 6th execution this year.

"I've hurt a lot of people and a lot of people have hurt me. I love ya'll so 
much. Life don't end here it goes on forever. I've had to learn lessons in life 
the hard way. One day there won't be a need to hurt people," Pruett was quoted 
as saying in his last statement by the criminal justice department.

About an hour before the scheduled execution, the Supreme Court said it 
rejected Pruett's petition. It did not provide a reason.

Pruett, sent to prison as a teenager and serving a 99-year sentence as an 
accessory to a murder committed by his father, was convicted of killing prison 
guard Daniel Nagle by stabbing him repeatedly with a shank.

The Nagle family said in a statement released by the department: "Though it has 
been over 18 years since he was taken from us, we still miss Daniel every day 
and the execution will in no way minimize our loss."

Prosecutors said he murdered the corrections officer because Nagle had 
reprimanded him for carrying a sandwich into the recreation yard. Torn pieces 
of the disciplinary report on Pruett were found near Nagle’s body.

“No witnesses testified they observed the attack, and no physical evidence 
connected Robert Pruett to the murder,” Pruett’s lawyers wrote in their 
petition to the Supreme Court filed on Tuesday.

They said Pruett, who has maintained his innocence, was convicted on the 
unreliable testimony of prison informants and that neither Pruett’s 
fingerprints nor DNA material were found on the torn report. Lawyers had also 
asked the state to release the shank and Nagle’s clothes for DNA testing after 
inconclusive tests took place in 2000.

In a legal filing with the Supreme Court, the state of Texas said: “Pruett has 
raised nothing new that casts any doubt on his guilt.”

Pruett becomes the 6th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas 
and the 544th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 

Pruett becomes the 20th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the 
USA and the 1462nd overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 

(sources: Reuters & Rick Halperin)




Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present25

Executions in Texas:  Dec. 7, 1982present-543

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #

26-Oct. 18-Anthony Shore-545

27-Oct. 26-Clinton Young--546

28-Nov. 8--Ruben Cardenas---547

29-Nov. 16-Larry Swearingen-548

30Dec. 14-Juan Castillo---549

31Jan. 30-William Rayford550

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu

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[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., LA., OHIO, IND., ARK., USA

2017-10-12 Thread Rick Halperin

Oct. 13

TEXASimpending executions

Man convicted in Texas prison guard's death to be executed

A Texas death row inmate who sued unsuccessfully to try to halt his execution, 
arguing that more DNA testing needed to be done, is now trying to convince the 
U.S. Supreme Court to stop the punishment scheduled for Thursday.

Robert Pruett was already serving 99 years for a neighbor's killing when he was 
convicted in the death of a prison guard who was stabbed in an attack that 
prosecutors say stemmed from a dispute over a peanut butter sandwich. Pruett 
wanted to take the sandwich into a recreation yard against prison rules, they 
said. An autopsy showed corrections officer Daniel Nagle died of a heart attack 
brought on by the December 1999 stabbing.

Pruett, 38, has insisted he's innocent of Nagle's death at the McConnell Unit 
near Beeville, about 85 miles (136 kilometers) southeast of San Antonio. He 
would become the 6th prisoner executed this year in Texas, which carries out 
the death penalty more than any other states. Texas executed a total of seven 
inmates last year.

Pruett avoided execution in April 2015 when a state judge halted his punishment 
just hours before he could have been taken to the death chamber. His lawyers 
had convinced the judge that new DNA tests needed to be conducted on the 
tape-wrapped, 7-inch sharpened steel rod used to repeatedly stab the 
37-year-old Nagle. The new tests showed no DNA on the tape but uncovered DNA on 
the rod from an unknown female who authorities said likely handled the shank 
during the appeals process after the original tests in 2002. The execution was 
put on the schedule again.

After seeking even more DNA testing and being rejected by the courts, Pruett's 
attorneys filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in August in which they argued 
that the courts denied Pruett due process. The lawyers asked the federal courts 
to halt the rescheduled execution, allow the additional DNA testing and then 
check the results for matches in law enforcement databases.Last week, the 5th 
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the lawsuit. But Pruett's attorneys 
appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, arguing that a lower court judge 
wrongly rejected the case after sitting on it for 2 months.

In a second appeal to the Supreme Court, also filed on Tuesday, the attorneys 
asked the high court to revisit the question of whether it is constitutional to 
execute a prisoner who claims actual innocence because of newly discovered 
evidence. U.S. Supreme Court justices in 1993 ruled 6-3 in a Texas case that it 
was constitutional to do so.

State attorneys say Pruett's lawyers have long engaged in "a pattern of delay."

No physical evidence tied Pruett to Nagle's death. At his 2002 trial, prisoners 
testified that they saw Pruett attack Nagle or heard him talk about wanting to 
kill the guard. According to some of the testimony, he talked about possessing 
a weapon as well.

Pruett has said he was framed and that Nagle, an officer for more than 3 years, 
could have been killed by other inmates or corrupt officers at the McConnell 

"I never killed nobody in my life," Pruett testified at his trial. He said he 
was in a gym when he learned the officer had been stabbed.

Pruett's 99-year murder sentence that he was already serving was for 
participating at age 15 with his father and a brother in the 1995 stabbing 
death of a 29-year-old neighbor, Raymond Yarbrough, at the man's trailer home 
in Channelview, just east of Houston. Pruett's father, 70-year-old Howard 
Pruett, is serving life in prison. His brother, 47-year-old Howard Pruett Jr., 
was sentenced to 40 years.

(source: Associated Press)


Houston serial killer loses appeal 1 week before scheduled execution

With just a week to go before his scheduled execution, Houston serial killer 
Anthony Shore lost a last-ditch appeal claiming decades-old unrealized brain 
damage left him so impaired he was not morally culpable for his crimes.

The so-called Tourniquet Killer slated for execution Wednesday was convicted of 
capital murder in 2004 after he confessed to brutally slaying 4 young women in 
the Houston area.

In the latest appeal, turned down by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on 
Tuesday, Shore's lawyers argued that the extent of his brain damage rendered 
the execution unconstitutional, likening it to executing an intellectually 
disabled prisoner.

"Mr. Shore does not claim he is ineligible for the death penalty because he is 
unintelligent or uncharismatic," his lawyers wrote earlier this month in a 
court filing.

"Mr. Shore is ineligible for the death penalty because his brain injury 
decreases his moral culpability for his crimes, in the same way that a 
juvenile, despite intelligence or charisma, is nonetheless ineligible for the 
death penalty."

But the state's highest criminal court didn't buy into that argument.

"We find that applicant has 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, N.C., FLA., ALA., OHIO, OKLA., USA

2017-10-11 Thread Rick Halperin

Oct. 11

TEXASimpending execution

Junk Science? Unreliable Witnesses? No Matter, Texas Plans to Execute Robert 
Pruett AnywayThere's no physical evidence linking him the crime, but he's 
scheduled to die on Thursday.

Robert Pruett is scheduled to be executed in Texas on October 12, despite the 
fact that there is no physical evidence linking him to the crime he was 
convicted of. Pruett, who is 38-years-old, was sentenced to death after he was 
convicted of the 1999 murder of Daniel Nagle, a correctional officer at the 
McConnell Unit in Beeville, Texas. Pruett was already serving a 99-year 
sentence for being an accomplice to a murder his father committed. Pruett's 
execution date has been put off twice before, but there are few legal maneuvers 
remaining that could delay his death sentence ahead of October 12.

Pruett, who has now spent more than 1/2 his life behind bars, led a rough life 
before he ended up on death row. As a child, his parents and other family 
members repeatedly abused him, physically and sexually. At the urging of his 
parents, he began using marijuana and cocaine in elementary school. The Pruett 
family lived in abject poverty, cycling between apartments that they would get 
quickly evicted from and sleeping outside. For food, they rummaged through 
dumpsters and bathed using water hoses outside of restaurants.

In 1995, Pruett got into a verbal fight with his neighbor, Ray Yarbrough. When 
Pruett's father, Sam Pruett, returned home that evening, Yarbrough began 
screaming at the trailer the Pruetts were living in. Pruett, his older brother 
Steven, and his father went outside and the brothers watched as their father 
stabbed Yarbrough to death. Sam Pruett was sentenced to life. Steven Pruett 
received 40 years and Pruett was sentenced to 99 years - effectively a life 
sentence. He was just 15 years old. Texas' "Law of Parties" allowed anyone 
involved in a crime to be sentenced as if they committed the crime themselves.

"In a lot of cases where there's no physical evidence that directly ties the 
defendant to the crime scene, [the prosecution] will find experts who fit their 
theory of the crime."

In late 1999, 4 years into his prison sentence, Pruett was accused of stabbing 
Officer Nagle to death at the McConnell Unit, a medium-sized prison in a small 
town near Corpus Christi. The day of the murder, Nagle had written up Pruett in 
a disciplinary report because Pruett tried to eat his sack lunch in an area 
that wasn't authorized for eating. Nagle was discovered with a bloody shank and 
Pruett's torn up disciplinary report next to his body. While Pruett had a 
pending disciplinary case related to gambling, he did not have a history of 

No witnesses immediately came forward and 2 years passed between the original 
indictment and the trial. "People's stories can change many, many times" in a 
long period of time, says Kristin Houle, the executive director of the Texas 
Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, about the witnesses who eventually came 

"The State was not able to discover any physical evidence that connected Robert 
to Officer Nagle's murder," Pruett's lawyers wrote in his petition for clemency 
in September. "Such evidence simply does not exist."

At trial, the state claimed that Pruett's cellmate, who worked in the 
prison???s craft shop, gave Pruett tape that he used to wrap around the handle 
of the shank. The state relied on the testimony of Lisa Baylor, a forensic 
analyst who testified, using a now-debunked scientific method called "physical 
matching,??? that the tape came from the craft shop. "In a lot of cases where 
there's no physical evidence that directly ties the defendant to the crime 
scene, [the prosecution] will find experts who fit their theory of the crime," 
Houle says. And although the expert testified that the tape is a match, there's 
nothing to match Pruett to the tape. "No fingerprint and no cells," said Houle.

In the clemency petition, Pruett's lawyers write that DNA testing of the murder 
weapon in 2015 found DNA that didn't match either Pruett or the victim. 
Perhaps, Pruett???s lawyers write, it might belong "to the person that killed 
Nagle." The state has not yet responded to Pruett's petition. Typically, the 
parole board responds within a few days of the execution.

The prosecution in Pruett case's relied heavily on testimony from the 
defendant???s fellow inmates. But, unbeknownst to the defense and the jury, the 
state had made promises to inmates who testified against Pruett.

According to the clemency petition, which contains the state investigator's 
notes, one of the state???s key witnesses, Harold Mitchell, was told that if he 
testified against Pruett he???d be transferred to a prison in Virginia, where 
his family lived. And if he didn't testify, Mitchell would be charged with 
Nagle's murder. Mitchell later told his brother that he felt guilty for 
testifying against 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., N.C., GA., FLA., OKLA., CALIF.

2017-10-08 Thread Rick Halperin

Oct. 8

TEXASimpending executions

Death Watch: Where's Your Evidence?Exculpatory testimony, DNA at issue for 
Rodney Reed, Robert Pruett

Rodney Reed, the Bastrop man who's spent nearly 20 years on death row for the 
1996 murder of Stacey Stites - a crime he has steadfastly maintained he did not 
commit - could move 1 step closer to a new trial next week. On Tuesday, Oct. 
10, he'll step into Bastrop County's 21st District Court for a 4-day hearing 
set to address an interview CNN's Death Row Stories conducted in 2016 with 
Curtis Davis, the Bastrop County Sheriff's investigator and former best friend 
of Jimmy Fennell Jr., Stites' fiancee, then a Giddings police officer, and the 
person Reed and his supporters believe to be responsible for her death. The 
interview, according to Reed's attorney Bryce Benjet, validates longstanding 
questions concerning whether Fennell provided false testimony at Reed's trial 
about his whereabouts on the night of Stites' murder.

Most relevant to Reed's effort is the portion of the interview in which Davis 
admits that on the morning of April 23, 1996, after Stites was reported 
missing, Fennell confided to Davis that he'd been out drinking by his truck the 
night before with several other police officers after a Little League practice. 
Davis said he doesn't know the exact time Fennell returned home, but told CNN: 
"definitely 10ish, 11 maybe at night." That unassuming nugget stands in direct 
contrast to Fennell's statement to police and testimony at Reed's trial: that 
he'd spent the night of April 22 at home with Stites, and was asleep when she 
allegedly left for work with his truck at 3am.

Davis' reveal is remarkable on its own, but even more striking when stacked 
next to affidavits filed in 2015 by Werner Spitz, Michael Baden, and LeRoy 
Riddick - 3 of the country's leading forensic experts - each of which raises 
questions about the time of Stites' death; essentially, that her condition when 
investigators found her indicates that Stites must have died at least 4 hours 
before her official time of death, 3:30am. That time played an outsized role in 
the state's case against Reed: Prosecutors hung their argument around the 
assumption that Reed abducted, raped, and murdered her on her way to work, then 
abandoned Fennell's truck at a nearby high school.

Fennell is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for the in-custody rape 
and kidnapping of a woman while he was an officer with the Georgetown Police 
Department in 2007.

Visiting Judge Doug Shaver will preside over the hearing, a recent development. 
The county docket listed that court's usual judge Carson Campbell as the 
hearing's judge as recently as July, but District Clerk Sarah Loucks told the 
Chronicle that Campbell "never was going to hear" Reed's case. It has been 
Shaver's case since 2014, Loucks said on Sept. 29, and she had "no idea" how it 
got reported that Campbell was presiding over the hearing. (We reported it in 
July after seeing Campbell's name listed as the presiding judge on the Bastrop 
County district clerk's website. See "Rodney Reed Hearing Set for October," 
July 14. Loucks did not respond to additional requests for clarification.)

Some might recall that Shaver has made a few headlines of his own over the 
years, including last September, when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals 
instructed him to further investigate Reed's request for additional DNA 
testing. Once the prosecution and defense submitted their findings - in 
opposition to one another - Shaver approved both arguments and shipped them off 
to the CCA. Shortly after, Shaver wrote the court to apologize for what he 
called an "inadvertent mistake." Curiously, during our interview with Loucks on 
Friday, someone listening in on the call from Loucks' office interjected to say 
that Shaver's approval of both sides' findings "wasn't an accident." Asked to 
clarify, all that person (who declined to identify herself) could say was that 
Shaver "wanted the Court of Criminal Appeals to make that decision" - another 
odd development, since Shaver's letter to the CCA stated that he meant to 
approve only the prosecution's findings. The appeals court affirmed Shaver's 
decision to deny additional DNA testing, less than 1 month before mandating 
that the county court hold this upcoming hearing.

After that incident, Benjet told the Statesman that he planned to request a new 
judge preside over Reed's case. Neither Benjet nor the Bastrop County District 
Attorney's Office returned requests for comment concerning whether or not a new 
judge had indeed been requested and ??? if so ??? if that request had been 

Pruett's Last Stand

While Reed's hearing is going on, another longtime inmate of Texas' death row 
is slated for execution. Robert Pruett, convicted for the 1999 in-custody 
murder of Beeville prison guard Daniel Nagle, has a death date of Oct. 12. It's 
his 5th such date, as questions 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., ALA., LA., OHIO

2017-10-05 Thread Rick Halperin

Oct. 5


Irving killer who shot his baby girl, 3-year-old son wins death row reprieve

An Irving father sentenced to death for the revenge killing of his children 
after their mother left him has been granted a new punishment trial.

Hector Rolando Medina, 38, shot 3-year-old Javier and 8-month-old Diana in the 
head and the neck after his girlfriend left him in March 2007. He then shot 
himself in the neck outside his Irving home.

Medina was convicted of capital murder in 2008 and sent to death row, after 
defense attorney Donna Winfield didn't call a single witness or present closing 
arguments during the punishment phase of the trial.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld a lower court's ruling that Medina 
should be granted a new punishment trial because of his defense attorney's 
"deficient performance."

The Dallas County district attorney's office will decide whether to again seek 
the death penalty against Medina. The automatic sentence for capital murder in 
Texas is life without the possibility of parole.

"These cases are very expensive and very time-consuming," said First Assistant 
District Attorney Michael Snipes. "Those two factors have to be taken into 
consideration, not only in this case but in every case where a defendant is 
death penalty-eligible."

The district attorney's office is seeking the death penalty against Antonio 
Cochran, who is accused of kidnapping and killing 18-year-old Zoe Hastings in 

Justice Michael Keasler wrote in a concurring opinion that granting Medina a 
new punishment trial gives the convicted child killer "a 2nd bite at the 

Keasler expressed "profound disgust" at Winfield's handling of the punishment 
phase of the trial, saying that the attorney "intentionally torpedoed" the 

There was a six-week break after Medina was convicted before the punishment 
phase began. Winfield asked for more time to bring expert witnesses to the 
courthouse, but the judge denied the request.

In response, Winfield refused to call any witnesses or rest her case during 
punishment. She was thrown in jail for being in contempt of court.

During a hearing requesting a new trial after Medina was sentenced, Winfield 
said, "I wasn't going to put on a disjointed defense of Mr. Medina. ... That 
wasn't fair to him or to the jury."

Justice Sharon Keller wrote in a dissenting opinion that Medina's defense 
attorney had "fully participated in the state's punishment case, including 
cross-examining witnesses."

Prosecutors say Medina killed his children as revenge after his longtime 
girlfriend left him.

Elia Martinez-Bermudez testified that Medina would hold her down and force her 
to have sex with him. He begged her to come back after she left him in January 
2007. When she did, he threatened to kill her, the children and himself if she 
ever left him again.

In March 2007, Medina borrowed a friend's gun and a box of bullets and then 
refused to let Martinez-Bermudez see her children when she asked. Later that 
day, he shot Javier and Diana and then himself.

Diana "had a tombstone before she could talk," prosecutor Felicia Oliphant said 
during the trial. "Is there anything sadder than that?"

(source: Dallas Morning News)


Convicted murderer Randall Mays found competent to be executed

A Henderson County man found guilty of capital murder in the shooting death of 
two East Texas sheriff deputies, has been found competent to be executed.

Randall Mays was convicted of killing Henderson County Sheriff Deputy Tony 
Ogburn and Paul Habelt and seriously injuring Deputy Kevin Harris in May of 

The ruling of competency was made by visiting Judge Joe Clayton, of Tyler and a 
date has not been set for Mays' execution.

Prior to the imminent execution scheduled for March 18, 2015, Mays filed a 
motion regarding competency to be executed.

According to court documents, Mays was examined by several doctors. What the 
court ultimately determined was that Mays' mental illness does not deprive him 
of his understanding. The court's findings were detailed in documents filed in 
Henderson County:

After consideration of all the credible evidence, the Court has concluded that 
Randall Mays has failed to meet his burden by a preponderance of the evidence, 
and the Court rules as follows:

While Randall Mays does have some form of mental illness, it does not deprive 
him of the rational understanding of the connection between his crime and the 
punishment received.

"Since Mr. Mays has been sitting on death row, he has not been diagnosed, 
treated or received prescribed medications for any mental illness or obsession 
that has any bearing on this inquiry," the court found.

During Mays' trial, jurors heard more than a week of testimony. It took jurors 
just under three hours to hand down Randall Mays' death sentence for the murder 
of Ogburn and Habelt. Mays was sentenced by Judge Carter Terrance to the 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VT., FLA., ALA., OHIO, IND., KY., CALIF.

2017-10-04 Thread Rick Halperin

Oct. 4


Texas Man's Death Sentence Thrown Out Over Racist Testimony

Duane E. Buck barged into his girlfriend's Texas home after she broke up with 
him and killed her and a friend. Later that morning in July 1995, he fired a 
rifle at his stepsister, who survived because the bullet just missed her heart.

His guilt was never in doubt, and Mr. Buck, 54, who is black, was sentenced to 
death by lethal injection. But concerns about testimony from a psychologist in 
the sentencing phase - that black people were more dangerous than white people 
- raised concerns about the role of race in the jury's decision and led the 
case to reach the Supreme Court.

In February, the Supreme Court ordered a new sentencing trial for Mr. Buck, 
calling the psychologist's testimony racist. In a Houston courtroom on Tuesday, 
Mr. Buck pleaded guilty to 2 counts of attempted murder, including the shooting 
of his stepsister, in a deal that exchanged the death penalty for a life 
sentence plus 2 60-year terms.

"This case can accomplish something," said Kim Ogg, the Harris County district 
attorney. "It can close a chapter in the history of our courts, in that they 
will never again hear that race is relevant to criminal justice or to the 
determination of whether a man will live or die. Race is not and never has been 

After Mr. Buck's conviction in 1997, his lawyer called Walter Quijano, a former 
chief psychologist for the state prison system, to the stand during the 
sentencing phase. Mr. Quijano, who had evaluated Mr. Buck, testified that race 
could be a factor in predicting whether a person posed a future danger to 

A prosecutor asked Mr. Quijano, "The race factor, black, increases the future 
dangerousness for various complicated reasons - is that correct?"

"Yes," the psychologist replied.

The psychologist's answers became the basis of an appeal claiming that Mr. Buck 
had not been properly represented by his lawyer.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the Supreme Court's majority in 
a 6-to-2 ruling, said Mr. Quijano's testimony "appealed to a powerful racial 
stereotype - that of black men as 'violence prone.'"

Mr. Buck will be moved from death row in Texas, where more than 230 inmates 
await lethal injection, and he will be eligible for parole in 2035. Ms. Ogg 
said her office would work to ensure he is never granted release.

Over the years, Mr. Buck had an unusual advocate in his stepsister, Phyllis 
Taylor, who had forgiven him and had argued for his release from death row. Ms. 
Taylor said in a statement on Tuesday she was thankful that Ms. Ogg had reached 
a deal to avoid another sentencing trial.

"The thought of going through another trial was just too much to bear," Ms. 
Taylor said.

(source: New York Times)

New charges filed on death row inmate Duane Buck

Duane Buck, whose 1997 death penalty case went to the U.S. Supreme Court and 
was sent back to Harris County for a retrial because of concerns about 
racially-biased testimony, is expected in court Tuesday on new charges.

2 additional charges of attempted murder were filed last week by the Harris 
County District Attorney's Office in connection with the 1995 shooting rampage 
that landed Buck on death row.

Buck, 53, was sentenced to death for the slaying of his girlfriend, Debra 
Gardner, and her friend, Kenneth Butler, after Buck and Gardner had an 
argument. He returned to her home after a night of drugs and alcohol in July 
1995, broke in and started shooting, witnesses said.

In the new charge, he is accused of attempting to kill his sister, Phyllis 
Taylor, who was shot and survived. The 2nd new charge alleges that he attempted 
to kill Harold Ebenezer, who was also at the home when Buck returned and 
started shooting.

He is expected in court Tuesday, where he will be arraigned by state District 
Judge Denise Collins on the new charges.

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this granted Buck a new sentencing hearing 
because of testimony from an expert who testified that he was more likely to be 
dangerous in the future because he is black.

The hearing means he could be re-sentenced to death or life in prison.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


'The Exonerated': A Play At UVM Presents Stories From Death Row

The Exonerated tells the story of 6 death row inmates who were wrongfully 
convicted and later had their convictions overturned and were released. We're 
talking to the director and an actor from a new production of the play at the 
University of Vermont. We'll discuss the play itself and the big issues it 
explores around incarceration and the justice system.

We're joined by Gregory Ramos, chair of UVM's theater department and director 
of the production. And by Randall Harp, who plays the character of Robert Earl 
Hayes and is also a UVM philosophy professor.

The Exonerated will run at UVM beginning Wednesday, Oct. 4 through Sunday, 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, GA., FLA., ALA., OHIO

2017-10-03 Thread Rick Halperin

Oct. 3

TEXASimpending executions

2 Texas inmates set to die this month lose at Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused appeals from 2 convicted killers 
facing execution in Texas this month, including 1 inmate set to die next week.

The high court, without comment, declined to review appeals from death row 
inmates Robert Pruett and Anthony Shore.

Pruett, 38, is set to die Oct. 12 for the fatal 1999 stabbing of a corrections 
officer at a South Texas prison where he already was serving a 99-year sentence 
for his involvement in another killing. Shore, 55, is scheduled for lethal 
injection Oct. 18 for the 1992 slaying of a 21-year-old woman in Houston.

Pruett's attorneys have long questioned the evidence in his case. They have 
sought additional DNA testing of evidence used to convict him of the December 
1999 killing of Daniel Nagle, a 37-year-old officer at the Texas Department of 
Criminal Justice's McConnell Unit near Beeville, about 85 miles southeast of 
San Antonio.

Pruett was serving 99 years for murder at the prison for participating with his 
father and a brother in a neighbor's slaying. Evidence showed the killing of 
the corrections officer stemmed from a dispute over a peanut butter sandwich 
that Pruett wanted to take into a prison recreation yard in violation of rules. 
Pruett testified at his 2002 trial in Corpus Christi that he was innocent in 
Nagle's death.

His attorney, David Dow, a law professor at the University of Houston, did not 
immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment Monday.

In 2015, Pruett came within hours of execution before his punishment was 
stopped by a state judge.

Shore, who confessed to killing the 21-year-old woman, 2 teenage girls and a 
9-year-old girl, is known in Houston as the "Tourniquet Killer" because his 
victims were tortured and strangled with handmade tourniquets.

The slayings connected to Shore went unsolved for years until DNA evidence 
linked him to the sexual assault of 2 relatives who were juveniles. He 
subsequently confessed to the killings and was convicted in 2004 in the slaying 
of 21-year-old Maria del Carmen Estrada. Her body was found in 1992 in the 
drive-thru lane of a Dairy Queen.

Shore's lawyer, Knox Nunnally, had hoped his client's death sentence could be 
reduced to life in prison. He has said Shore suffered from traumatic brain 

Nunnally didn't immediately respond to a call for comment on the Supreme Court 

The justices on Monday also refused the appeals of 3 other Texas death row 
inmates: Kwame Rockwell of Fort Worth; Jaime Cole, from Ecuador and convicted 
in Houston; and Garcia White of Houston. None of them has an execution date.

Rockwell, 41, received a death sentence for the 2010 killing of 22-year-old 
Fort Worth convenience store clerk Daniel Rojas during a robbery. A bread 
deliveryman also was killed in the holdup.

Cole, 47, was sent to death row for the fatal 2010 shootings of his estranged 
wife, Melissa Cole, 31, and her 15-year-old daughter, Alecia Castillo, at their 
apartment in Houston.

White, 54, was convicted in the fatal stabbings of twin 16-year-old sisters, 
Annette and Bernette Edwards, in 1989 in Houston. He was charged but not tried 
for killing their mother, and was linked to 2 other slayings.

(source: Associated Press)

U.S. Supreme Court denies Houston serial killer's appeal, execution date set

The U.S. Supreme Court slapped down a Houston serial killer's bid for life 
Monday, propelling "Tourniquet Killer" Anthony Shore 1 step closer to his Oct. 
18 date with death.

Now, the 55-year-old murderer's hope hangs on last-ditch efforts in the Texas 
Court of Criminal Appeals.

"We are disappointed," said Knox Nunnally, the Houston attorney representing 
Shore through the federal appeals process.

Currently the only Houston killer with a scheduled execution date, Shore was 
convicted of 1 count of capital murder in 2004 - even after he confessed to 3 

His brutal killing streak started at least as far back as 1986, when he 
slaughtered 14-year-old Laurie Tremblay. 6 years later, he raped and murdered 
21-year-old Maria del Carmen Estrada then ditched her naked body outside a 
Spring Branch Dairy Queen.

In 1994, he killed his youngest victim, 9-year-old Diana Rebollar. A year 
later, he murdered 16-year-old Dana Sanchez, who disappeared while hitchhiking 
to her boyfriend's house in north Houston.

But the cases turned cold and the crimes went unsolved for nearly 2 decades, 
until Shore was arrested for molesting family members.

As a convicted sex offender, the former telephone technician's DNA went on file 
and eventually investigators matched it to the Estrada case.

When police confronted him, he calmly confessed to Estrada's brutal murder 
along with the 3 others.

After he was convicted the following year, he stunned onlookers in court by 
asking for the death 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., ALA., TENN., ARK., OKLA., COLO.

2017-09-30 Thread Rick Halperin

Sept. 30


Texas Set to Execute Man Despite DNA Evidence Excluding him from Murder

A Texas man on death row is scheduled to be executed on November 16, even 
though DNA evidence excludes him from a 1998 murder for which he was convicted.

In 2000, Larry Swearingen was sentenced to the death penalty for the murder and 
rape of 19-year-old Melissa Trotter.

Since then, Swearingen has maintained his innocence and fought for DNA testing 
of evidence including Trotter's clothes, the murder weapon and a rape kit.

Texas courts have struck down his repeated requests.

But some DNA testing has been performed.

And it supports Swearingen's innocence, according to the Innocence Project.

Blood from beneath Trotter's fingernails excluded Swearingen and yielded the 
profile of an unknown man.

To this day, Trotter's clothes have never been tested for DNA and the swabs in 
the rape kit collected from her body were also never tested.

Cigarette butts found at the scene of Trotter's murder could have been swabbed 
for saliva, which would reveal DNA.

But they never were.

Since Swearingen's conviction, Texas has made improvements with its 
post-conviction DNA testing statute.

Swearingen was twice granted DNA testing.

But the state Court of Criminal Appeals struck down his request, ruling the 
court should only consider whether the DNA evidence would exclude Swearingen 
and should not be required to "rely on the ramifications of hypothetical 
matches" to an unknown genetic profile.

"The notion that they're expressing - which is that we only consider 
exclusionary results - has nothing to do with how DNA actually works," Bryce 
Benjet, one of Swearingen's attorneys, told The Intercept.

"I don't know why they haven't figured that out, but the end result of that 
error is that DNA testing is no longer available to most people in prison."

Under a 16-year statute, defendants have rights to testing only if several 
conditions are met including the requirement to establish "by a preponderance 
of the evidence" that "the person would not have been convicted if exculpatory 
results had been obtained through DNA testing."

In 2011, legislators revised the statute to require unidentified DNA profiles 
be uploaded to a government database.

The DNA found under Trotter's fingernails was not linked to a known offender, 
which would bolster Swearingen's claim of innocence.

DNA matches to offenders in the government database occurred in roughly 42 % of 
351 DNA exonerations to date, according to the Innocence Project.

(source: photographyisnotacrime.com)

FLORIDAimpending execution

Florida Supreme Court denies Death Row inmate's appeal. Execution scheduled 

The Florida Supreme Court on Friday said it won't reconsider the case of a 
longtime death row inmate who is scheduled to be put to death next week.

The ruling means the execution of convicted double-murderer Michael Lambrix 
will, for now, take place as planned at 6 p.m. Oct. 5.

Lambrix had filed another challenge to his death sentences - his 8th successive 
post-conviction motion, the court said - on the basis of recent changes to 
Florida's death-penalty sentencing procedures, which were prompted by a U.S. 
Supreme Court ruling in a case known as Hurst v. Florida.

That ruling in January 2016 demanded Florida fix its then-unconstitutional 
procedures. The Legislature enacted changes this spring so now a unanimous jury 
recommendation is required in all death penalty cases.

In his latest request for the Florida Supreme Court to rehear his case, Lambrix 
argued that his death sentences are unconstitutional under Florida's new law 
because they came from non-unanimous juries. He also argued the state Supreme 
Court's decisions on how the Hurst opinion applied retroactively to previous 
death sentences was a violation of equal protection rights.

Following Hurst, the Florida Supreme Court in December cemented death sentences 
for nearly 200 prisoners - including Lambrix - whose sentences were finalized 
before a June 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling referenced in the Hurst decision.

The justices cited their December decision and related rulings as their reasons 
for denying Lambrix's request for a rehearing. The Supreme Court had also 
previously ruled that Lambrix "is not entitled to relief based on Hurst" 
because of when his sentences were finalized, which they emphasized again 

"While it is true that the jury non-unanimously recommended death for the 1983 
murders of the 2 victims, Lambrix's sentences were final in 1986," the court 
wrote in its majority opinion. "No rehearing will be entertained by this 

The decision was 5-1, with Justice Barbara Pariente dissenting. The court's 7th 
justice, Peggy Quince, recused herself.

Pariente said she preferred to vacate Lambrix's death sentences and send the 
case back to a lower court so Lambrix can be re-sentenced - the same process 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, GA., FLA., IND.

2017-09-28 Thread Rick Halperin

Sept. 28


Appeals court orders review in Fort Worth death penalty case

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is asking a Tarrant County trial court to 
review 2 of 3 appeals claims that prompted the state's top criminal court to 
stop the scheduled May execution of 37-year-old Tilon Carter for the slaying of 
an 89-year-old man in Fort Worth.

Carter is on death row for 2004 killing of James Tomlin during a robbery at his 

The appeals court Wednesday told the trial court in Carter's case to resolve 
questions raised by the prisoner's lawyers about the propriety of a medical 
examiner's trial testimony regarding Tomlin's cause of death. The appeals court 
also wants the trial court to examine statements from 3 forensic pathologists 
who contend the prosecutors' theory that Tomlin's death was a capital murder 
wasn't supported by the autopsy findings.

(source: Associated Press)

Denton County District Attorney Paul Johnson talks track record, possible 4th 

The Denton County district attorney's race is starting to take shape as 
incumbent Paul Johnson looks to contend against local attorney Brent Bowen in 
the Republican primary in March.

Candidates won't be able to officially file until November, but Johnson sat 
down with the Denton Record-Chronicle on Wednesday to discuss his track record 
during his 10 years in office and the possibility of another 4-year term.

Denton County has only had 2 district attorneys since 1990: Bruce Isaacks and 
Johnson. Since Johnson officially took office in 2007, he said he's added more 
pre-trial diversion programs, which offer low-level or 1st-time offenders an 
opportunity to have their cases dismissed.

He's also had to cope with the fast growth in the county by streamlining the 
case intake process, he said.

Johnson said he doesn't judge his overall reputation in office by the number of 
convictions in criminal trials or death-penalty cases.

"It's not just wins and losses because, basically, we have thousands and 
thousands of cases every year," he said. "My prosecutors do a great job. Are 
there slip-ups at times? There are. But we correct those problems."

Johnson, 59, graduated with a degree in criminal justice from the University of 
Texas at Arlington. He became a prison guard at the Eastham Unit in the East 
Texas town of Lovelady before getting his law degree at the University of 
Houston. After working as a private civil attorney for a few years, he moved on 
to the Denton County District Attorney's Office to get more experience, he 

There, he served as an assistant district attorney for 15 years handling 
misdemeanor cases and later felonies. Although his initial interest was in 
civil law, he dove into criminal cases when one particularly egregious assault 
case crossed his desk, he said.

"When I saw that [case], it kinda brought me back to my childhood, and I had an 
epiphany," he said, adding that his broken household and tough upbringing 
allows him to relate to crime victims.

Johnson said one of his first moves as district attorney was to condense the 
number of police officers that present cases to a grand jury every Thursday. 
Before he started, he said dozens of officers from departments around the 
county would line up in a courtroom and present their cases to a 12-member 
grand jury.

Now, only one or two officers serve as a representative from each department 
and present the cases. That eases the burden on the county and the police 
agency, Johnson said.

"So [the officers] would be lined up the wall ... and someone might be running 
late and the grand jury has to ask a question of the officer. So it can stretch 
out," he said.

Johnson emphasizes the importance of pre-trial diversion programs implemented 
during his tenure, such as the Veterans Treatment Court Program and the Mental 
Health Treatment Court.

The Veterans Treatment Court is geared toward service members with a 
service-related injury or disorder who have been charged with a crime. The 
mental health court applies to certain offenders who are suffering from a 
mental illness that may have played a role in an alleged crime.

If they complete the programs, the offenders' charges could be dismissed.

"Just with pre-trial diversion programs, they used to only allow the case load 
to be 10 to 15," he said. "We've got hundreds on there now."

Some of Johnson's former political opponents, including Bowen, criticize him 
because they say he's reluctant to seek the death penalty. Johnson has sought 
the penalty twice since 2007 - once in 2011 and again in 2016.

In the 2011 case, capital murder suspect Tony Burrell was convicted and 
sentenced to life without parole. The most recent case, against capital murder 
suspect Daniel Greco, is still pending in the 431st Judicial District Court.

Greco is accused of strangling a 40-year-old pregnant woman in March 2016. The 
victim's body was later found in a 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, GA., FLA., ALA., MISS., OHIO, IND.

2017-09-23 Thread Rick Halperin

Sept. 23


Pair charged with murder outside parole office

2 Houston men on Thursday were indicted for allegedly killing a man as he sat 
in his car in the parking lot of a local parole office,

Ronald Donell Brown, aka "Dorsey Robinson," 44, and Clyde "Pete" Williams, 50, 
are charged with conspiracy to commit murder for hire, intentional killing 
related to drug trafficking and 2 counts of using a firearm in the commission 
of a murder.

Davis "Cuz" Roberts, 42, also named in the indictment, is charged with 1 count 
of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and possession with the intent to 
distribute, and faces up to life in prison if convicted.

Brown and Williams could potentially face the death penalty, according to a 
news release from the U.S. Attorney's office. For his role in the drug 
conspiracy, Roberts faces up to life in prison, if convicted.

According to a 7-count federal grand jury indictment, Brown allegedly hired 
Williams, and provided him with a firearm, to kill Marcus Celestine as he sat 
in his car outside a Houston parole office on July 1, 2014.

(source: Houston Chronicle)

GEORGIAimpending execution

Many of slain woman's family members support clemency for her killer, lawyers 

Many family members of a woman fatally shot in 1990 support clemency for her 
condemned killer, lawyers for Keith "Bo" Tharpe argue in a petition seeking 
clemency on the eve of Tharpe's scheduled execution.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole is set to consider Tharpe's case 
Monday, the 27th anniversary of Jacqueline Freeman's killing in Jones County. 
Freeman was Tharpe's sister-in-law.

Lawyers for Tharpe are asking that his execution - set for Tuesday - be stayed 
and that his sentence be commuted to life without the possibility of parole.

The copy of Tharpe's clemency application released to the media Friday after 
being declassified doesn't list which of Freeman's family members support 

The portion of the document addressing their support was redacted "to protect 
the victims' and victims' family members' identities and privacy," according to 
the application.

Tharpe's application describes his early introduction to alcohol, drug 
addiction and remorse.

According to the application:

When jurors convicted Tharpe and sentenced him to death - just 3 months after 
Freeman's Sept. 25, 1990 killing - they didn't hear about his childhood, drug 
addiction or "limited intellectual abilities" that would have provided context 
for understanding how someone others described as being "kind, loving and 
generous" could kill his sister-in-law.

Tharpe's mother admitted in an affidavit that she drank moonshine and beer 
daily while pregnant with her son.

Both of Tharpe's parents drank "excessively" and ran an illegal moonshine 
business - a shot house - out of their home. At age 5, Tharpe began serving the 
homemade alcohol to customers and taking sips himself.

By the time he was 10, Tharpe was drinking enough liquor to make him drunk 
enough to lose consciousness. His early exposure to alcohol impaired his 

Despite his childhood, Tharpe has been described as being a "friendly, 
outgoing, happy and athletic child" who had many friends and was a standout 
high school athlete.

He married his high school sweetheart and the couple shared 4 children. Tharpe 
had another daughter from a previous relationship.

Later, Tharpe became addicted to crack cocaine which led to his alienating his 
family and losing himself in the drug culture.

In August 1990, Tharpe's wife took their children and left him. Tharpe was 
desperate to win his family back, but his wife's relatives were protective of 
her and wanted him to stay away.

On the night before Freeman's murder, Tharpe drank and smoked crack until the 
early morning hours.

Then, he drove toward the Freeman family's home where several family members 
had homes and his wife was staying.

He encountered his wife and Freeman on the road leading to the family's 
property, stopped them and told his wife to get into his truck. Tharpe and 
Freeman argued. Then Tharpe shot Freeman with a shotgun, reloaded and shot her 

"To this day, Mr. Tharpe cannot fathom what came over him and caused him to act 
as he did and kill Mrs. Freeman," his lawyers wrote in the application. "It is 
an act for which he takes full responsibility and will regret every day for the 
rest of his life."

Tharpe regularly talks about his remorse and has endeavored to live a Christian 
life, devoted to helping others learn from his mistakes, his lawyers argue.

Tharpe's lawyers are continuing to appeal his conviction and death sentence 
alleging that 1 member of the juror voted for the death penalty due to racial 

(source: Macon Telegraph)


Georgia Set To Execute Second Inmate Of 2017Keith Leroy Tharpe, 59, was 
convicted in the 1990 shotgun killing of his 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, GA., FLA., IND., TENN., ARIZ., USA

2017-09-22 Thread Rick Halperin

Sept. 22


Battaglia ruled competent for executionCase sent back to lower court to 
schedule new date for lethal njection

An appeals court has found John Battaglia is mentally fit to be executed for 
killing his daughters, a punishment the Dallas man has twice tried to postpone.

Battaglia made national headlines in 2001 when he shot his daughters, 
9-year-old Faith and 6-year-old Liberty, at his Deep Ellum loft while their 
mother listened on the phone.

"No, Daddy! Don't do it!" Faith pleaded, seconds before her father pulled the 
trigger in an act of revenge against his ex-wife.

He was first scheduled for execution in March 2016 but was granted a stay after 
he sought new legal counsel to help appeal his sentence.

His execution was rescheduled for December 2016 after a state district judge 
found Battaglia mentally fit to be put to death. But the Court of Criminal 
Appeals granted him a stay to evaluate his competency.

The appeals courted Wednesday that Battaglia is mentally fit and the Dallas 
County trial court can set a new execution date.

Court records show Battaglia is "convinced that hsi trial and conviction were a 
sham" and that his death sentence is part of a conspiracy involving "the KKK, 
child molesters and homosexual lawyers."

Mental health experts testified during a competency hearing in November that 
Battaglia was likely faking or exaggerating his delusions in order to save his 

The appeals court affirmed that assessment and supported the trial court's 
ruling of competence.

"There is support in the record that Battaglia is malingering," Justice Bert 
Richardson wrote in the appeals court finding.

Justice Elsa Alcala was the lone dissenting voice. She wrote in her dissent 
that the case should be snet back to the trial court for further clarity.

A defendant should not be executed when he "lacks a rational understanding of 
the reason for his execution due to delusions stemming from a severe mental 
illness," Alcala wrote.

(source: Dallas Morning News)


Confronting the Truth About My Friend on Death Row

[This article was published in collaboration with the Marshall Project.]

On November 3, 2000, a 22-year-old woman named Amy Kitchen went out for dinner 
at the El Rancho restaurant in Dallas, Texas, with her father, Jerry, and her 
fiancee, James Mosqueda.

I often try to imagine what that meal was like: Amy chatting with her dad about 
the classes she was taking in nursing school, the plans she had to go shopping 
with her mother the next day. Her dad giving her some money to spend; he always 
had a weakness for his only girl. James, 27, leaning back, sipping a beer. A 
waitress arriving.

It would have been an evening like any other - except for the fact that it was 
the couple's last.

Later that same night, the state of Texas says, James's cousin, Ivan Cantu - 
motivated by his relative's drug debt and his own greed and jealousy - killed 
Amy and James in an execution-style double murder. He is now on death row, and 
for 13 years I have been his loyal friend.

I never planned to be in this situation, to be friends with someone who could 
be executed. I live the mundane life of a working mother in Washington, DC - 
packing lunches, taking the bus to work, attending meetings, reading stories to 
my child at night, and, usually, falling asleep before 10.

But back in 2004, I had been inspired by progressive Catholics to reach out to 
someone on death row. So I answered a plea from the Community of Sant'Egidio, a 
worldwide Catholic prayer and charity organization, to write a letter of 
solidarity to a mentally-disabled death row prisoner named Johnny Paul Penry. 
It was part of a campaign to overturn his sentence for a 1979 rape and murder.

Johnny wrote back - and so did Ivan. They lived in adjacent "pods," as they are 
called on Texas' death row, the Polunsky Unit. Ivan would help Johnny write 
letters, but he was looking for his own friends on the outside, too.

It was mainly out of pity that I replied to Ivan. I never would have guessed 
where it's led me.

His letters and cards now fill a Rubbermaid container nestled into a bookshelf 
beside my bed. Just a stack of words on paper, they are also a chronicle of the 
past 13 years: descriptions to him of my travels as a development consultant; 
his accounts to me of trying to get innocence projects, journalists, and 
attorneys to listen to his case. The birth of my son. His struggle to live 
alone 23 hours a day.

Ivan is 44; I'm 42. He and I write once or twice a month, and there is not a 
letter I receive in which he doesn't encourage me in some way, and ask how my 
son and husband are. I count on his letters and, he says, he counts on mine. He 
also says there's a picture of my family, which I sent him years ago, taped to 
the wall of his cell.

Ivan pleaded not guilty and has consistently maintained he's innocent. I've 
always believed his 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, OHIO, MO., ARIZ., NEV., CALIF., USA

2017-09-14 Thread Rick Halperin

Sept. 14


Hudson murder trial could face lengthy delay

William Hudson, 33, has been indicted on 3 counts of capital murder in the 
massacre of 2 families at a hunting campsite in the East Texas town of 
Tennessee Colony.

Health problems suffered by William Mitchell Hudson's attorney could delay the 
trial of the accused murderer for weeks. Hudson's lawyer, Stephen Evans, was 
hospitalized on Tuesday for an undisclosed health matter and remained under 
medical care on Wednesday.

The trial, set for Sept. 25, will take place in Bryan College Station. The 
final pre-trial hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 21. That hearing is 
still on the docket, said Judge Mark Calhoon, who will preside over the trial.

Hudson is represented by Evans and defense attorney Jeff Herrington. Hudson 
will be tried for the November 2015 murders of six people: the Johnson and Kamp 
families, who were spending the weekend in Tennessee Colony at a campsite.

Thomas Kamp had purchased the campsite from a relative of William Mitchell 
Hudson, adjacent to property owned by Hudson and his family. Hudson helped the 
Kamp/Johnson group with a vehicle stuck in the mud; he was invited to hang out 
with the family at its campsite.

After a night of drinking with Hudson, events reportedly became violent. 
Cynthia Johnson survived a night of horror, before contacting Anderson County 
law enforcement the following morning.

Law-enforcement officers and first-responders found the bodies of Carl Johnson 
and his daughter in a travel trailer at the campsite; the other victims were in 
a pond on Hudson's property. All of the victims were shot to death, except 
Hannah Johnson, who was killed with blunt force.

Hudson was arrested and charged with 3 counts of capital murder for killing 6 
people. He was indicted in December 2015 for the capital murders of Carl 
Johnson, 76; his daughter, Hannah Johnson, 40; his grandson, Kade, 6; Thomas 
Kamp, 45; and his 2 sons, Nathan Kamp, 23, and Austin Kamp, 21.

In a February 2016 arraignment, Hudson plead "not guilty" to all 3 counts of 
capital murder.

On Jan. 23, according to court records, District Attorney Allyson Mitchell 
filed a State of Notice to Seek the Death Penalty. The next day, Mitchell 
signed documents stating that the court had officially moved to Bryan in Brazos 
County for the change of venue.

Hudson spent 2 weeks in a hospital in Tyler in July. Speculation that Hudson 
attempted suicide has not been confirmed by the court, the Anderson County Jail 
or Sheriff Taylor.

(source: palestineherald.com)


Death sentence upheld in Warren execution-style slaying

The Ohio Supreme Court has upheld the death penalty for the man convicted of 
murdering a Warren man and kidnapping a woman during a robbery.

The court affirmed the death sentence for David Martin on Wednesday, just 1 day 
before Martin will turn 33-years-old.

Martin has been on death row since 2014 when he was sentenced by a judge in 
Trumbull County on convictions of aggravated murder, attempted aggravated 
murder, aggravated robbery, kidnapping and tampering with evidence.

Investigators say Martin shot 21-year-old Jeremy Cole execution style and 
wounded Melissa Putnam during an attempted robbery in Warren in 2012.

According to investigators, after Martin tied up both victims, Melissa Putnam 
heard a shot then saw Martin standing over her.

Putnam put her hand over her face and said, "Please don't shoot me in the 
face." Martin said, "I'm sorry, Missy," and shot her, according to court 

The bullet passed through Putnam's right hand and entered her neck, leaving 
fragments in the right side of her neck near the base of her skull.

On the day of the sentencing, Assistant Prosecutor Chris Becker described 
Martin as a cold-blooded killer and a life-long criminal.

Among other issues, Martin's attorney questions whether an impartial jury was 
seated to hear the case due to pretrial publicity regarding the crime and 
Martin's association with a hostage situation at the Trumbull County Jail four 
months before his trial.

Martin is scheduled for execution on May 26, 2021.

(source: WFMJ news)


Attorney for executed Parma murderer says she believes inmate suffered pain 
during lethal injection

An attorney for Gary Otte, a man put to death Wednesday for killing 2 people in 
Parma in 1992, said she saw signs that her client experienced pain as the 
execution team injected him with a sedative, the 1st of 3-drug combination.

Carol Wright, the supervising attorney for the Columbus Federal Public 
Defender's Office's capital unit, watched Otte's execution from the viewing 
area of the state's death house. The execution was carried out Wednesday 
morning at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, and Otte was 
pronounced dead at 10:54 a.m.

Wright said Otte's movements and actions as he received midazolam, a sedative, 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., N.C., GA., OHIO

2017-09-13 Thread Rick Halperin

Sept. 13


Parents of slain Putt-Putt manager still opposed to execution of their son's 

The parents of a Putt-Putt assistant manager killed in 2006 told a judge 
Tuesday they are still against the death penalty even though their son's killer 
received it.

Paul Storey, 32, of Fort Worth received the death penalty for the murder of 
Jonas Cherry, who begged for his life before he was shot to death. The Texas 
Court of Criminal Appeals in April granted Storey a stay of execution.

A district court hearing continued Tuesday to determine whether defense 
attorneys were notified by prosecutors during Storey's 2008 trial that Cherry's 
parents were against the death penalty.

"Judith and Glenn Cherry did not want death for Mr. Storey," an affidavit from 
the parents stated. "Unknown to the jury and contrary to the state's argument, 
they stood with the family members who pleaded for the jury to spare Mr. 
Storey's life."

"I've always thought that way," Judith Cherry, the mother of Jonas Cherry, 
testified Tuesday. "Yes, it stayed that way even after my son's murder because 
I did not want to change my values on that. We were told because [Jonas 
Cherry's widow] was next-of-kin, her opinion carried more weight."

The hearing Tuesday was before Judge Everett Young. Attorneys Mike Ware and 
Keith Hampton represent Storey, who was dressed Tuesday in a red Tarrant County 
Jail outfit, sat without showing emotion in the courtroom and rarely spoke to 
his lawyers.

Attorneys Travis Bragg, Matthew Ottoway and Rachel Patton from the state 
attorney general's office represented the Tarrant County district attorney's 

3 defense attorneys in the case - Larry Moore, Mark Daniel and Tim Moore - 
testified Tuesday they were never told by former Tarrant County assistant 
district attorneys Robert Foran and Christy Jack about Cherry's parents 
opposing the death penalty.

Defense attorney William "Bill" Ray testified that he couldn't say if he was 

Daniel and Tim Moore represented Storey's accomplice, Mark Porter, in the 2008 
trial. Larry Moore and Ray represented Storey.

"But if I had known, I would have tried to get the state to waive the death 
penalty," Ray testified.

Larry Moore, who is now with the Tarrant County district attorney's office, 
testified he didn't learn about how the Cherrys opposed the death penalty until 
this year.

"I was shocked and surprised," Moore said when asked how he felt when he heard. 
"My opinion has changed considerably about [Jack]. My concerns are about her 

He noted that, had he known, he could have raised objections during Jack's 
closing argument in Storey's trial when she told jurors the Cherry family 
believed the death penalty was appropriate.

State District Judge Mollee Westfall, U.S. Magistrate Jeffrey Cureton and Letty 
Martinez, a partner at Varghese Summersett, testified Tuesday afternoon that 
Jack was a credible and truthful attorney.

Jack and Foran testified repeatedly Monday that lawyers for Storey and Porter 
were told that Cherry's parents were against the death penalty.

Prosecutors have said that while the Cherrys were generally opposed to the 
death penalty, they were in agreement at the time of the 2008 trial that Storey 
should be executed because he had refused to accept a plea bargain for life 
without parole.

On Monday, Bragg introduced a card from the Cherrys to Foran and Jack, thanking 
them for their work on the case and their "professionalism."

Jonas Cherry was at Putt-Putt Golf and Games, across Texas 121/Loop 820 from 
North East Mall in Hurst.

Shortly before 9 a.m. on Oct. 16, 2006, Storey and Porter stood over Cherry, 
who pleaded: "Please! I gave you what you want. Don't hurt me." They refused, 
shot him twice in the head and twice in his legs and fled with $200 to $700.

Storey and Porter were convicted of capital murder, but only Storey got the 
death penalty. Porter got life without parole after making a deal with the 
district attorney's office.

The hearing recessed Tuesday, and more testimony is pending sometime in the 
next few weeks. After the conclusion of testimony, a decision could take weeks 
or months, according to attorneys on Tuesday.

(source: star-telegram.com)


Report needed fresh numbers on death penalty

Frank Green of the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported in an article running in 
the Free Lance-Star [Only 4 inmates are on death row in Virginia, Sept. 6, 
2017] that a 2016 Gallup national poll showed that 60 % of respondents favored 
the death penalty and only 37 % opposed it.

However, a 2017 Pew Foundation national poll asking the same question found 
that 49 % favored the death penalty and 42 % opposed it, a large shift in 
public opinion in just 1 year. One wonders why the more recent and dramatically 
different poll results were not reported by Mr. Green.

A 2014 Gallup poll asked about the death penalty in a slightly different 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, N.C., FLA., ALA., OKLA., IDAHO, NEV., ORE.

2017-09-04 Thread Rick Halperin

Sept. 4


Austin has too few defense lawyers for death penalty cases

Capital murder cases are demanding of attorneys, who sometimes spend 400 hours 
on them.

If participation continues to dwindle, the county might have to go elsewhere to 
find lawyers.

When you see one at the courthouse, the other usually is nearby.

Allan Williams and Steve Brittain, friends for decades, are among a handful of 
Travis County defense attorneys who are approved to represent indigent 
defendants in death penalty cases.

Both are 68 and not long from turning in their courthouse badges and retiring. 
And that's a concern, according to observers, who point to a shortage of 
up-and-comers ready to replenish the roster.

"It's dwindling," state District Judge Julie Kocurek said.

Capital murder cases chew up big chunks of time - 400 hours, sometimes - which 
might be the biggest reason just 9 attorneys in Austin have applied and been 
approved to represent the indigent defendants in the 21 capital cases pending 
in Travis County.

Williams has 3 of them and Brittain 2. They're teaming up on another one.

"It's challenging," Brittain said. "It might be a little like childbirth. You 
forget how bad it is, and then you want to do it again."

The vast majority of capital murder defendants are indigent and receive free 
legal representation that's paid for by the county.

Hoping to recruit reinforcement attorneys, Kocurek, chairwoman of a judicial 
region that covers 26 Central Texas counties, put together a symposium Thursday 
that attracted about 45 lawyers to the Austin Bar Association building for 
education on the finer points of capital law.

Why should the public care? Because, says lawyer Ariel Payan, there will be 
significant costs to taxpayers if the county has to cast a wider net and bring 
in attorneys from other counties.

Payan's docket includes 9 capital cases - 4 with him as lead counsel - plus 
another one in Waco. Increasing the stable of capital-approved attorneys "would 
be a benefit," he said.

"We need capable people," he said. "The last thing you want is to convict an 
innocent person or have to try a case again because the trial attorney screwed 

Lawyers who defend those charged with capital murder are paid $150 per hour by 
the county. On the low end, they'll make $30,000. But more complicated cases 
can reach $60,000.

There are 20 attorneys in Travis County who are approved to provide 2nd-chair 
assistance in indigent cases.

Simple murder rises to capital murder - and puts the death penalty on the table 
- when the defendant is charged with an associated crime such as robbery, 
kidnapping or aggravated sexual assault. A conviction triggers an automatic 
sentence of life without parole. Unless, of course, the state seeks death.

Unlike other areas in the state that dole out far more death sentences - Texas' 
543 executions outnumber the next 6 states combined - Travis County generally 
prefers life sentences. The most recent death penalty case was for cop killer 
Brandon Daniel, who a jury decided should die after finding him guilty in 2014 
of the 2012 shooting of Austin police officer Jaime Padron.

District Attorney Margaret Moore has yet to pursue the death penalty in her 
eight months on the job but says she's in favor of execution when it's 
appropriate. 2 defendants accused in separate slayings at the University of 
Texas fail to satisfy the state's criteria for death. Meechaiel Criner was 17 
in April 2016, when he is accused of strangling UT student Haruka Weiser. 
Kendrex White, who authorities say killed Harrison Brown in a random stabbing 
spree in May, is not charged with any associated crimes that would bring 
capital charges.

It's not uncommon for a death penalty trial to last a month, with jury 
selection alone eating up 2 weeks. Lawyers press 120 or more jurors on their 
feelings about the death penalty.

Invariably, Brittain said, a juror will comment that he looks exhausted.

"Yes, ma'am," Brittain responds, setting up the punch line. "I'm 35 years old."

(source: Austin American-Statesman)


Husband Admits to Killing Wife After Taking Too Much Cold Medicine

"She didn't deserve this." "I can't believe this." Not the sort thing you'd 
expect to hear from a person who admits to killing their wife, but that's what 
Raleigh, North Carolina man Matthew James Phelps told 911 dispatch Friday. He 
said he stabbed his wife Lauren Ashley-Nicole Phelps to death after taking too 
much cold medicine.

"I have blood all over me and there's a bloody knife on the bed, and I think I 
did it," he said. "I can't believe this."

Phelp said he took the medicine because he had trouble sleeping. He seemed to 
be crying as the 911 dispatcher tried to help save Ms. Phelps' life, if 

"Oh my God," the suspect said. "Oh God. She didn't deserve this. Why?"

We have reached to the Raleigh Police Department for comment.

Jail records 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, N.C., FLA., ALA., LA., OHIO, NEV., CALIF., USA

2017-08-31 Thread Rick Halperin

August 31

TEXASstay of impending execution

Bexar County delays execution because of Hurricane HarveyHurricane Harvey 
has delayed the execution of a San Antonio man. Bexar County officials withdrew 
the execution date because part of the man's defense team works in the Houston 

A man sentenced to death in San Antonio and facing execution next week had his 
death delayed due to Hurricane Harvey.

The execution of 36-year-old Juan Castillo was scheduled for next Thursday, but 
a Bexar County judge issued an order Wednesday delaying the man's death for 3 
months because some of his defense team works in the Houston area, which has 
been devastated by flooding from the storm. The request to move the execution 
didn't come from the defense, but from the Bexar County District Attorney's 

"A portion of Mr. Castillo's defense team resides and works in Harris County 
and the surrounding areas, and has been affected by Hurricane Harvey," wrote 
Bexar County Assistant Criminal District Attorney Matthew Howard in the motion. 
"...Under the extraordinary circumstances, the State would move to withdraw the 
execution date and seek a new date."

Castillo's new execution date is now set for Dec. 14, granting him an extra 3 
months of life in his prison cell, where he has lived almost 12 years.

In 2005, Castillo was convicted in the 2003 robbery and murder of Tommy Garcia, 
Jr. in San Antonio, according to court records. Prosecutors said Castillo and 3 
others planned to rob Garcia after luring him to a secluded area with the 
promise of sex with one of the women involved in the plan. But when Garcia 
tried to run, Castillo shot him, according to the accomplices.

There have been 5 executions in Texas this year. The next one is scheduled for 
Robert Pruett on Oct. 12.

(source: The Texas Tribune)


Student murder suspect gets another capital charge

The man charged with killing NE student Molly Matheson has been indicted in 
another capital murder in North Texas.

Reginald Kimbro, 24, is accused of killing and sexually assaulting Megan 
Getrum, 36, of Plano within days of killing Matheson.

Matheson's body was found in her garage apartment near the Texas Christian 
University campus April 10.

On April 14, Fort Worth police interviewed Kimbro. During the interview, he 
admitted the 2 used to date and that he had been in her apartment the night she 
was killed. He said he left after a few hours and had nothing to do with her 
death. Police didn't arrest him at the time, according to an arrest warrant 

The same day, it is believed Getrum disappeared while out hiking in the Arbor 
Hills Nature Preserve in Plano, close to where she lived, according to the 
affidavit. Her body was found nearly 30 miles away in Lake Ray Hubbard April 15 
but was not identified until her family reported her missing.

Police found Kimbro's DNA on both women's bodies, court records say.

Kimbro has since been charged and indicted in both cases for capital murder.

Given that the deaths occurred in 2 different counties, they are being 
prosecuted separately by 2 different district attorneys.

With a charge of capital murder, a guilty verdict automatically carries a death 
sentence or mandatory life in prison without parole.

On Aug. 10, Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson said in a statement 
that Kimbro will face the death penalty if convicted.

Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson has not yet said whether she 
intends to seek the death penalty or life without parole when she tries Kimbro.

However, Johnson said she intends to find a just resolution for Getrum's and 
Kimbro's families.

"We continue to pray for Megan Getrum's family. We also continue to pray for 
the family of Molly Matheson of Fort Worth," Johnson said in a statement. "We 
believe that justice will be served in both of these cases."

If Johnson seeks the death penalty against Kimbro, it will be the 2nd time 
she's made that choice since becoming Dallas County's DA in 2016.

In addition to Matheson and Getrum's murders, police in Plano and South Padre 
Island believe Kimbro is linked to 2 other rapes that involved choking, in 2012 
and 2014, according to the affidavit.

The 1st assault happened in September 2012 in Plano. Kimbro was never arrested 
in the case because the victim didn't want to pursue charges, Plano police 

The 2nd assault allegedly happened in March 2014 in South Padre Island. Kimbro 
claimed the sex was consensual, and the charges were dismissed, according to 
the affidavit.

However, in June, the Cameron County District Attorney indicted Kimbro on an 
aggravated sexual assault charge from the 2014 incident. The DA has not said 
why the office is pursuing the case now.

Following Kimbro's indictment in the South Padre rape, Matheson's family 
released a statement saying, "We are pleased that the South Padre District 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, N.J., N.C., FLA., NEB., ARIZ. NEV., ORE., USA

2017-08-29 Thread Rick Halperin

August 29

TEXASimpending execution

Motion filed to call off execution of S.A. inmate

A Houston lawyer acting on behalf of a San Antonio death row inmate is seeking 
a last-minute reprieve with a newly filed motion citing a need for more DNA 
testing on evidence from the 2003 lovers' lane slaying.

Juan Castillo is set for execution on Sept. 7 for his role in the murder of 
Tommy Garcia during a bungled robbery. But on Tuesday, David Dow, a University 
of Houston law professor with the Texas Innocence Network, filed a motion to 
withdraw the execution date.

The case centers around the death of a 19-year-old rapper, who was shot 
repeatedly after Castillo's then-girlfriend lured him to a secluded spot with 
the promise of sex and drugs. Castillo was 1 of 4 people convicted in the 
crime, but he was fingered as the trigger man and was the only one hit with a 
capital sentence.

In April, Castillo's counsel filed a motion requesting DNA testing on a knit 
cap sent to a crime lab back in 2003, a few weeks after the slaying. The Bexar 
County District Attorney's Office filed a response opposing the testing, but 
the court has not yet issued a decision - and that's why lawyers are asking to 
cancel the death date.

"Given today's date, and the certainty additional proceedings will be needed to 
ultimately resolve Mr. Castillo's motions, the court should exercise its power 
to withdraw the imminent execution date," Dow wrote in the latest court 

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Court upholds ruling granting new trial for N.J. man once on death row

An appeals court has upheld a lower court's decision granting a former death 
row inmate a third trial in a decades-old murder in Middlesex County.

Authorities, however, plan to bring their case in the notorious murder before 
the state's highest court.

Nathaniel Harvey, now 67, had his conviction overturned two years ago in the 
killing of a Plainsboro woman with a hatchet in 1985 after a state Superior 
Court judge ruled Harvey didn't receive "adequate assistance" from the public 
defenders during trial in the early 1990s.

On Monday, the state Appellate Court agreed with Judge Stuart Peim, affirming 
the court's decision that Harvey was not provided with proper representation 
guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment.

The 3-judge panel wrote, "Defendant's counsel's errors were sufficiently 
serious so as to undermine confidence that defendant's trial was fair, and that 
the jury properly convicted him."

Harvey was convicted of murder in 1994 and sentenced to death. His attorneys 
have since argued that advances in DNA technology could prove that Harvey was 
not guilty in the murder of 37-year-old Irene Schnaps.

Harvey's sentence was reduced to life without parole after New Jersey's move to 
abolish the death penalty in 2007.

The court did not rule on whether or not the new forestic evidence helped the 
defense's case or it was sufficient enough to warrant a new trial.

"The Prosecutor's Office is very disappointed in the court's decision," 
Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey said Monday." We plan on filing a 
motion for leave to appeal to the N.J. Supreme Court."

Harvey's attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

Authorities say that DNA evidence linked Harvey to Schnaps' apartment where a 
co-worker found the Plainsboro woman bludgeoned to death. Schnaps was hit 15 
times in the head with a hatchet.

Prosecutor's said Harvey, who lived in East Windsor, confessed to the murder 
after he was arrested in connection with a string of burglaries, but he quickly 

Harvey was first found guilty in the woman's murder in 1986, but the state 
Supreme Court overturned the conviction, ruling that Harvey confessed without 
being read his Miranda rights.

During his 2nd trial in 1994, prosecutors presented blood samples from the 
woman's box spring, arguing that the genetic traits in the samples connected 
Harvey to the murder.

His defense argued that new tests would prove the woman's neighbor was the 

The state's highest court upheld his conviction in 1997.

New DNA tests were ordered by the state Supreme Court in 2007.

Harvey is serving currently serving a 70-year prison term. He was convicted in 
1989 on charges of sexual assault and kidnapping, as well as other charges, 
according to court records. The details of that case were not known.

(source: nj.com)


Eric Campbell found guilty of murder after 3-week delay

A jury found Eric Campbell guilty of 1st-degree murder and other charges Monday 
as his trial resumed following a 3-week delay caused by a juror getting injured 
in a car crash.

The Granville County jury had only been deliberating for 2 1/2 hours before the 
judge dismissed them August 2 because the injured juror needed surgery. They 
began deliberating again just after 9:30 a.m. Monday and came back at 11 a.m.

Prosecutors say 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, ALA., OHIO, KY., ARK., UTAH, USA

2017-08-26 Thread Rick Halperin

August 26

TEXASimpending execution

Texas Prepares for Execution of Juan Castillo on September 7, 2017

Juan Edward Castillo is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm CDT, on Thursday, 
September 7, 2017, at the Walls Unit of the Huntsville State Penitentiary in 
Huntsville, Texas. 36-year-old Juan is convicted of the murder of 19-year-old 
Tommy Garcia, Jr., on December 3, 2003, in San Antonio, Texas. Juan has spent 
the last 11 years of his life on Texas' death row.

Juan had previously worked as a cook and a laborer. He was previously convicted 
of deadly conduct with a firearm. During the trial, witnesses also testified 
that Juan was a violent man, threatening and beating the mother of his child. 
Additionally, he had previously shot a man during a road rage incident, boasted 
about similar crimes, and bragged about committing home invasions and 

In December 2003, Juan Castillo was dating Debra Espinosa. Late on December 2, 
and during the early morning hours of December 3, 2003, the couple was with 
Francisco Gonzales, a friend with Castillo, and Gonzales' girlfriend Teresa 
Quintero. The 4 of them created a plan to rob Tommy Garcia, Jr., with who 
Espinosa had previously been intimate.

Espinosa was to take Tommy to secluded spot in a residential neighborhood in 
San Antonio, Texas. Castillo and Gonzales, in masks and armed with guns, would 
storm the car and rob Tommy. Espinosa would play along, as if she were a victim 
too. Quintero would serve as the get away driver from Castillo and Gonzales. 
During the ensuing robbery, Tommy was shot and killed by Castillo, according to 
the others.

Gonzales was arrested by the police as he fled from the scene, with Espinosa 
arrested a short time later. Both agreed to testify against Castillo in 
exchange for a reduced charge and a sentence of forty years in prison. Gonzales 
and Espinosa testified that Castillo took the lead in planning the robbery. 
They also testified that he was the person who shot and killed Tommy.

Some of Gonzales's family members also testified that they heard Castillo 
confess to the crime and speak of how he hid the evidence. 2 of Tommy's friends 
testified that they were with him when he received a phone call to meet up with 
Espinosa. Shortly thereafter, they received a phone call from a hysterical 
Espinosa, who said that Tommy had been shot. Castillo had also been seen 
wearing a distinctive necklace that Tommy had been wearing the night he was 

Castillo was convicted. During the punishment phase of the trial, Castillo 
elected to represent himself, a move that was allowed after the court 
determined Castillo was making a knowing and voluntary decision. His 2 
appointed attorneys remained as stand-by counsel. Castillo was sentenced to 

Please pray for peace and healing for the family of Tommy Garcia. Pleas pray 
for strength for the family of Juan Castillo. Please pray that Juan is 
innocent, lacks the competency to be executed or should not be executed for any 
other reason, that evidence will be presented prior to his execution. Please 
pray that Juan may come to find peace through a personal relationship with the 
Lord, if he has not already. (source: theforgivenessfoundation.org)


Cruel and unusual - the case of schizophrenic death row inmate Scott Panetti

In 1999, Texas death row inmate Scott Panetti talks during a interview in 
Huntsville, where he is on death row for the 1992 murder of his wife's parents. 
It was obvious he was not fit to stand trial.

Scott Panetti was just hours from death on Nov. 29, 2014. Not because of some 
rare disease with an unpronounceable name but, sadly, because of a not-so-rare 
disease with a name that can strike terror in the heart of the patient's loved 
ones: Paranoid schizophrenia.

Inmate No. 999164, the other label by which Panetti goes, received the sentence 
of death in 1995 after murdering his in-laws during a psychotic episode.

What makes his case newsworthy is not the heinousness of the killings, which 
they were, not the outlandish behavior of Panetti at trial, which it was, and 
not the multiple attempts to subpoena the pope, Jesus Christ and President John 
F. Kennedy, which he did, but the fact that his case progressed to within mere 
hours of his execution before the courts acknowledged that his consistently 
disturbing behaviors, over more than 19 years as a diagnosed schizophrenic, 
signaled that he may not have been competent to stand trial in the first place.

Virtually every country in the world prohibits pursuit of the death penalty 
against the mentally ill. The United States, however, has yet to uniformly 
abolish the practice. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1986 definitively ruled in Ford 
vs. Wainwright that the execution of the insane - by definition, someone who 
does not comprehend the reason for, the reality of, nor the gravity of his or 
her crime and the subsequent punishment - violates 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., N.C., FLA., MO., OKLA.

2017-08-23 Thread Rick Halperin

August 23


Reginald Kimbro, Man Accused in Two North Texas Assaults, Murders, Faces 2nd 
Capital Murder ChargeOfficials have not said when trials in Dallas, Tarrant 
counties will begin

Reginald Gerard Kimbro, the man accused of sexually assaulting and murdering 2 
North Texas women and raping a 3rd, has been indicted on a 2nd capital murder 

Kimbro, 24, is accused of killing both 36-year-old Megan Getrum, of Plano, and 
22-year-old Molly Matheson, a former college girlfriend who lived in Fort 
Worth, within days of each other.

Matheson's body was found in her Fort Worth garage apartment by her mother on 
April 10. Detectives learned Matheson and Kimbro previously dated in 2014 while 
both were students at the University of Arkansas.

In an interview with detectives 4 days after Matheson's death, Kimbro told 
police he and Molly were no longer dating but had kept in touch. He admitted to 
being at her apartment the night she died but said he left after a few hours 
and had nothing to do with her death.

That same day, April 14, was the last time anyone saw Getrum alive. She is 
believed to have disappeared from the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in Plano, not 
far from where she lived. Getrum's body was found in Lake Ray Hubbard April 15, 
but not identified until days later after her family reported her missing.

Authorities said an autopsy report revealed Getrum's death was the result of a 
"blunt injury" to the back of her neck. She had also been strangled and 
sexually assaulted. An arrest warrant indicated that detectives found Kimbro's 
DNA on Getrum's body during an autopsy. Authorities said they matched it with 
his DNA found earlier on the body of Matheson, who had also been sexually 

Given that the 2 deaths occurred in 2 different counties, they are being 
prosecuted separately by 2 different district attorneys. Tarrant County 
District Attorney Sharen Wilson announced Aug. 10 she was seeking the death 
penalty in the Matheson capital murder case while Dallas County District 
Attorney Faith Johnson is seeking either the death penalty or a life sentence 
in the the Getrum case, whose body was found in Dallas County.

"We continue to pray for Megan Getrum's family. We also continue to pray for 
the family of Molly Matheson of Fort Worth, as Reginald Kimbro is also being 
charged with Capital Murder in connection to her death. We believe that justice 
will be served in both of these cases," Johnson said Tuesday.

With a charge of capital murder, a guilty verdict automatically carries a death 
sentence or mandatory life in prison without parole.

Kimbro was twice before accused of sexual assault, though no charges were filed 
in either case. The f1st assault allegedly took place in September 2012 where a 
woman reported Kimbro sexually assaulted her in Plano. Kimbro was never 
arrested in this case and the arrest warrant affidavit does not say why 
prosecutors declined to pursue the case.

The 2nd assault allegedly took place in March 2014 at a resort on South Padre 
Island. In that incident, Kimbro claimed the sex was consensual and the charges 
were dismissed. However, in June 2017, the Cameron County District Attorney 
indicted Kimbro on an aggravated sexual assault charge from the 2014 incident. 
Officials did not say why, now, they were pursuing the case.

In both cases, police said Kimbro knew the women and strangled them during the 
assault. While Kimbro's connection to Matheson is clear, investigators have not 
said if Kimbro knew Getrum.

Kimbro is currently being held at the Tarrant County Lon Evans Correction 
Center on a $2.1 million bond. Officials have not said when they expect the 
trials to begin.

Online jail records do not indicate an attorney for him.

(source: nbcdfw.com)


Pa. high court orders new death penalty hearing in '84 murder of Germantown 

In a case that reignited scrutiny of Pennsylvania's death penalty and the 
workings of the state's highest court, an evenly divided Pennsylvania Supreme 
Court has ordered a new death penalty hearing for Terrance Williams, convicted 
and condemned in the 1984 slaying of Germantown church deacon Amos Norwood.

Just 4 of the 7 justices participated in Tuesday's decision and, under court 
rules, the stalemate automatically affirmed a Philadelphia judge's 2012 ruling 
that Williams deserved a new jury to decide whether he should be sentenced to 
death or to life in prison without parole.

2 justices - Christine Donohue and David N. Wecht - favored a new sentencing 
hearing, and 2 - Sallie Updyke Mundy and former Philadelphia Common Pleas Court 
Judge Kevin M. Dougherty - supported reinstating Williams' death sentence. The 
3 remaining justices - Thomas G. Saylor, Max Baer, and Debra McCloskey Todd - 
recused themselves because they were part of the unanimous 2014 Supreme Court 
decision that reinstated Williams's death sentence.

That decision was 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., MO., COLO., USA

2017-08-22 Thread Rick Halperin

August 22

TEXASstay of impending execution

Court halts execution of convicted child killer who claims intellectual 

A man convicted in the sexual assault and murder of an 11-year-old girl was set 
to die next Wednesday. But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stopped his 
execution amid claims of intellectual disability.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Monday halted the execution of a 
convicted child murderer who claims he's intellectually disabled and therefore 
ineligible for the state's harshest punishment.

Steven Long, 46, was set to die next Wednesday for the 2005 rape and murder of 
an 11-year-old girl in Dallas County. Courts had previously rejected his 
appeals claiming intellectual disability, but that was before the U.S. Supreme 
Court invalidated Texas' methods for determining intellectual disability for 
death-sentenced people in March.

With that ruling in mind, Long's lawyer, Thomas Scott Smith, again asked the 
courts to stay Long's execution earlier this month, presenting evidence that 
Long's IQ score has regularly been placed in the low 60s. His request was 
granted Monday afternoon - the court tossed out the execution to further review 
the case.

"In light of this new law and the facts of applicant's application, we have 
determined the applicant's execution should be stayed pending further order of 
this Court," the court order said.

Long was sentenced to death in the murder of Kaitlyn Smith. In October 2005, 
Long had recently moved in with a couple and their daughter across the street 
from Kaitlyn, and one night she came over for a sleepover, according to a court 
opinion. By morning, Kaitlyn was missing, and her body was later found 
partially wrapped in trash bags underneath an empty trailer.

A bloody fingerprint near her body matched Long's, and he confessed to the rape 
and murder of the girl. He was sentenced to death the next year, and he has 
lived on death row for almost 11 years.

In a 2008 appeal, Long's lawyers appealed his sentence, claiming he was 
intellectually disabled. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that executing 
intellectually disabled people was unconstitutional, but it left it up to the 
states to determine the disability. The courts ruled him fit for execution 
under Texas' standards at the time.

But over the years, the high court had several more rulings further refining 
how states may determine who is disabled. In March, the case invalidated Texas' 
method in the case of death row inmate Bobby Moore.

In 2014, a state court used current medical standards to deem Moore 
intellectually disabled, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overruled that 
determination, saying the court should have used the state's standards instead. 
The state relied on decades-old medical standards and a requirement that a 
person has a low IQ and has had poor adaptive functioning since childhood, 
which it determined in a controversial set of factors.

The high court rejected the method, saying Texas' refusal to use current 
medical standards and its reliance on nonclinical factors violated the U.S. 
Constitution. Since the ruling, other Texas death row inmates have had their 
sentences changed from death to life in prison.

With a new standard in place after Moore, Long again brought his intellectual 
disability claim to the courts.

"The use of [Texas' rejected method] in deciding the claim creates the 
impermissible risk that Mr. Long will be executed despite significant evidence 
establishing that he is among the class of persons for whom execution is 
proscribed as cruel and unusual," his lawyer, Smith, wrote in a court filing.

(source: Texas Tribune)


Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present25

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982present-543

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #

26-Sept.7--Juan Castillo--544

27-Oct. 12-Robert Pruett--545

28-Oct. 18-Anthony Shore--546

29-Oct. 26-Clinton Young--547

30-Nov. 8--Ruben Cardenas-548

31-Nov. 16-Larry Swearingen---549

32-Jan. 30-William Rayford550

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

FLORIDAimpending execution

Florida Supreme Court's mea culpa doesn't halt execution

The Florida Supreme Court on Monday rejected a reprieve for a convicted 
murderer scheduled to be executed Thursday, after justices acknowledged the 
court had been mistaken for more than 2 decades about the race of 1 of the 

Lawyers for Mark James Asay, convicted of killing Robert Booker and Robert 
McDowell in 1987, asked state and federal courts to grant a new hearing after 
the Florida Supreme Court last week issued a rare mea culpa for mistaking 1 of 
the victims as black.

But the 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----TEXAS, FLA., ARK., NEV., CALIF.

2017-08-19 Thread Rick Halperin

August 19


As lethal injection lawsuit continues, Texas replenishes execution drug 

Even with a lawsuit over lethal injection drugs winding its way through court, 
Texas has managed to replenish its supply.

The last doses of the state's execution drugs, pentobarbital, were set to 
expire in January, just days before a scheduled execution. A new record 
indicates that the supply won't expire until July 2018, well past all scheduled 

It's unclear whether the state purchased more of the drug or just established a 
new expiration date, and Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason 
Clark declined to clarify.

Robert Dunham, director of the Death Penalty Information Center, wasn't 
surprised to learn of the state's renewed stock.

"While Texas has from time to time stated that it's having difficulty obtaining 
pentobarbital, it has always been able to obtain the drugs to carry out 
executions," he said. "When it's needed the drugs, Texas has always found 

Since 2012, the state has used a single-drug protocol, administering a lethal 
dose of the barbiturate pentobarbital.

On Thursday, the US Food and Drug Administration told Texas and Arizona that 
over a thousand vials of drugs they ordered for executions in their states 
would not be released to them. the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the 
Arizona Department of Corrections ordered sodium thiopental from India in 2015. 
The drugs were and seized by U.S. Customs. The confiscated shipments have been 
refused because they seem to contain unapproved new drugs and misbranded drugs.

Texas came close to exhausting its supplies with executions still on the 
calendar in spring 2015. Ultimately, TDCJ managed to get more of the lethal 
drug, but Clark declined to offer details except to say that no executions in 
the Lone Star State have been delayed due a lack of execution drugs.

A records request last month showed that eight pentobarbital doses were set to 
expire in July 2017 and another 10 in January.

1 of those doses was used in the July 27 execution of Taichin Preyor, leaving 9 
that expire just after the new year.

And now, instead of 8 doses expiring on July 20, 2017, state logs list eight 
doses received that day as "return from supplier" and set to expire on July 20, 

"Given the documents supplied by TDCJ designating that these vials were 
returned to the supplier and then the reemergence of vials with a brand new 
expiration date exactly one year out, an educated guess is that they're using 
the same drugs that they previously stated already expired," said Maurie Levin, 
a Texas death penalty lawyer with experience in lethal injection litigation. 
"But because they insist on keeping this information secret, we don't know what 
they're doing."

Currently, the state is embroiled in a lawsuit over an intercepted order of 
another lethal injection drug, sodium thiopental. The powerful drug was part of 
the execution process until 2011 when dwindling supplies forced the state to 
replace it with pentobarbital as part of a 3-drug cocktail.

The following year, the state switched from a 3-drug mix to a single dose of 

But when pentobarbital suppliers started drying up, Texas started searching for 
other lethal injection drugs.

That search landed Texas in hot water when authorities at Bush Intercontinental 
Airport seized 1,000 vials of sodium thiopental en route to Hunstville from 
India-based supplier Harris Pharma.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration later said the drugs were improperly 
labeled and not approved for injection in humans, but TDCJ this year filed a 
lawsuit demanding the return of what state officials deemed an "unjustified 

Although the detained drugs appear to have expired in May, Texas has continued 
its legal action, which also seeks to lift the FDA's ban on importation of 
sodium thiopental for law-enforcement use.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Execution set for man who killed cousin

A Mexican national on death row for the rape-slaying of his 16-year-old cousin 
in the Rio Grnde Valley more than 20 years ago has received anexecution date.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark said the agency has 
received court documents setting the lethal injection of 47-year-old Tuben 
Ramirez Cardenas for Nov. 8.

Cardenas was convicted of the February 1997 slaying of Mayra Laguna. Her body 
was found dumped in a a canal near Edinburg, about 10 miles northeast of 
McAllen, after she was abducted from her home. Evidence showed he slipped in 
through a window, bound her with duct tape and drove her away. Evidence showed 
whe was raped, beaten and strangled.

Prison records list Cardenas as originally from Guanajuato in central Mexico.

(source: Dallas Morning News)

FLORIDAimpending execution

Sister hopeful brother's looming execution will be blockedMan who killed 2 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., N.C., GA., FLA., ARK.

2017-08-18 Thread Rick Halperin

August 18

TEXASnew execution date

Ruben Cardenas has been given an execution date for November 8; it should be 
considered serious


Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present25

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982present-543

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #

26-Aug. 30-Steven Long544

27-Sept.7--Juan Castillo--545

28-Oct. 12-Robert Pruett--546

29-Oct. 18-Anthony Shore--547

30-Oct. 26-Clinton Young--548

31-Nov. 8--Ruben Cardenas-549

32-Nov. 16-Larry Swearingen---550

33-Jan. 30-William Rayford551

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


What should happen now to Paul David Storey? Nothing.

"Nothing" would mean leaving Storey, a convicted capital murderer, to live out 
the rest of his days at his current address, which is prison.

Late last week, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted Storey's execution, 
which had been scheduled to take place Wednesday. The court was motivated - 
indirectly, at least - by the pleas of the victim's parents, who do not want 
their son's killer put to death.

As I said last week in writing about this case, we cannot allow victims or 
their survivors to assess punishment for the criminals who have wronged them. 
That would be too arbitrary, too inconsistent, too emotional.

But there was wisdom in considering the statements made by Glenn and Judith 
Cherry of Fort Worth. Their adult son, Jonas, was killed during a 2006 holdup 
at the Tarrant County business he managed.

Storey and an accomplice eventually confessed to the murder. The accomplice 
accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to life in prison. Storey went to trial 
and was sentenced to death.

"As a result of Jonas' death, we do not want to see another family having to 
suffer through losing a child and family member," said the statement the couple 
recently forwarded to state criminal justice authorities.

The appellate court wants the trial court to determine whether jurors in 
Storey's 2008 trial, and subsequent appeals lawyers assigned to his case, were 
aware of the Cherrys' opposition to Storey's execution.

Appeals lawyers for Storey claim Tarrant County prosecutors told jurors that it 
"went without saying" that the victim's family considered a death sentence 

The case is further complicated by a juror, who now says he would not have 
sided with his fellow jury members in voting for death in the case had he known 
their sentiments.

These are all challenging issues, complicated by emotion as much as by legal 
procedure and the passage of time.

But the very central role that emotion plays in every death penalty case makes 
a dispassionate argument against executing capital offenders.

I have no love for Paul Storey, no sentimental indulgence for his grandiose 
jailhouse dreams of becoming a poet or novelist, no sympathetic ear for 
besotted activists who try to recast stone killers as tragic victims of a cruel 

Justice, by definition, needs to be guided by fact and by law, not by emotion. 
But when we move into the painfully conflicted territory of capital punishment, 
emotion is all we have - on all sides.

And as fervently as death penalty supporters deride its opponents as "bleeding 
hearts," they're operating on an emotional basis themselves. It's 
understandable that many of us might want to assess the most severe punishment 
imaginable on those who commit the most heinous and unforgivable crimes.

But from a pure policy standpoint, the death penalty is expensive - unavoidably 
so, given the constitutional guarantees to which inmates are entitled. It's 
also irreversible, unevenly assessed and arbitrarily applied.

Admitting as much does not make us suckers and rubes. It highlights the 
practical reality that society is as just as well protected by sentencing our 
worst criminals to life without the possibility of parole as it is by killing 
them. Should appeals lawyers succeed on Storey's behalf, he could be entitled 
to a new trial on punishment only. His guilt would remain unchanged.

Prosecutors might conceivably save everyone a great deal of time, expense and 
painful emotion by choosing not to retry this and leave Storey where he is, 
where he belongs, where the grief this case has already caused can be 
contained: permanent incarceration.

The death penalty still enjoys considerable public popularity, which I 
understand. Nothing will cure a bleeding heart like sitting through a few 
murder trials. The cruelty inflicted and the grief victims endure can harden 
even the most sympathetic onlookers.

But capital punishment is too fraught with problems, too controversial, and in 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, N.J., PENN., N.C., ALA.

2017-08-17 Thread Rick Halperin

Aug. 17


'Shoot me in the head': Defense attorneys claim mental illness was reason 
Laredo man killed wife

A man standing trial for slaying his 23-year-old wife asked responding officers 
to shoot him in the head and told family members he should be given the death 
penalty before being taken into custody, according to testimony heard Tuesday 
in the 111th District Court.

Alberto Espinoza's attorneys are not disputing that he fatally slashed the 
throat of his wife, Yolanda Martinez-Perez, on July 22, 2014. However, they are 
asking the jury to find Espinoza not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.

"He was paranoid, he was delusional and he was hearing voices," Joaquin Amaya, 
Espinoza's attorney, said.

While insanity defenses are rare, Amaya is arguing his client was not 
responsible for his actions due to a psychiatric disease when he attacked his 
wife with a knife in their home in 2014.

Espinoza wasn't previously competent to stand trial, according to Amaya, who 
said his client had to be sent to a state hospital so he could know what was 
going on.

Amaya said the jury will hear from 3 experts who will say Espinoza suffers from 
"severe mental illness" and would not have committed the offense if it wasn't 
for his illness.

During opening statements, assistant district attorney Julia Rubio asked the 
jury to return a guilty verdict, saying the prosecution will show evidence to 
prove Espinoza is criminally responsible for his wife's death.

"A troubled relationship, stress and rage, that is what this case is about," 
Rubio said.

The prosecution rested its case at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday after calling first 
responders, police investigators, medical personnel and family members of 
Espinoza to the stand to provide insight into what occurred in the weeks before 
and after Martinez-Perez's death.

The day of the homicide, Espinoza allegedly heard a voice tell him that his 
wife, whom he had been estranged from for about 6 months, was cheating on him 
and betraying him.

Espinoza told police investigators he heard a voice tell him that 
Martinez-Perez intended to kill him by poisoning potatoes being cooked for 

Using photographs taken of the crime scene, Espinoza's defense counsel noted a 
bottle of bleach on the kitchen sink and a container of ant killer seen in a 
lower cabinet near Martinez-Perez's body.

In a recorded interview played for the jury, Espinoza said he "smashed (the 
knife) against her on her throat" when Martinez-Perez was standing up from 
bending down by the oven to pick up a pan.

The prosecution said Espinoza approached Martinez-Perez with a knife he had 
sharpened and slashed her throat in one swift movement, cutting through every 
part of her neck except the bone.

Later in the interview, Espinoza said that after the incident, "I didn't feel 
rage. I didn't feel anything anymore. I just felt love for my daughters."

His daughters, ages 3 and 6 at the time, were in another room inside the 
residence at the time of the slaying. After Martinez-Perez's death, Espinoza 
collected a photo of his wife and took it to the girls so they would have 
something to remember her by.

Investigators found the photo lying on the bed, where Espinoza allegedly told 
his daughters to lay down. The girls were found crying and clinging to each 
other by a responding officer, according to testimony heard Tuesday.

LPD Officer Juan Lorenzo Villarreal said he responded to the 4500 block of 
Corrada Avenue after Espinoza's relatives called police, concerned about 
Espinoza's welfare.

Espinoza had called a relative, telling her that he had done something bad.

Villarreal discussed seeing Espinoza, with blood on his shirt, pants and 
sandals, answer the door.

"The first thing he told me (was) 'I did something very bad. I want to kill 
myself. I want you to kill me,'" Villarreal said. Another officer, Mauricio 
Ivan Chaires, recalled Espinoza telling him, "shoot me, shoot me in the head."

Alleged voices

Lorena Espinoza and her husband, Jesus Eduardo Garay, said they arrived at the 
scene as Espinoza was being taken to a patrol car.

Garay said he approached the vehicle and asked Espinoza where his wife was. In 
response, Espinoza gestured while smiling, moving his hand across his throat, 
according to Garay.

While Garay said he had heard Espinoza was hearing a voice and didn't trust 
anyone, he said Espinoza seemed "normal" and did not appear sick when working 
with Garay at a restaurant.

Lorena Espinoza, the defendant's cousin, testified about a conversation that 
occurred between Alberto Espinoza and some of his extended relatives a few days 
before his wife's death.

"That day, he sat us down to talk to us. He looked very upset and he told us 
that 'he' - we don't know who he was referring to - would tell him things," 
Lorena Espinoza said.

That same day, Alberto Espinoza had been released from the hospital after 
seeking treatment. It was 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., ALA.

2017-08-13 Thread Rick Halperin

August 13

TEXASnew execution date

Judge sets death date for Montgomery County killer

Death row inmate Larry Swearingen, a Willis man who raped a 19-year-old coed 
before strangling her with panty hose nearly 2 decades ago, is now set to die 
on Nov. 16.

After 7 thwarted attempts, Montgomery County has finally succeeded in setting 
yet another execution date for its only death row convict, a Willis man who 
raped a 19-year-old coed before strangling her with panty hose nearly 2 decades 

Larry Swearingen, convicted of killing Montgomery College student Melissa 
Trotter in 1998 and dumping her body in the Sam Houston National Forest, is 
slated to meet his fate in Huntsville's death chamber on Nov. 16, a judge ruled 
late Wednesday.

"It still won't bring back Melissa," her mother, Sandy Trotter said in July.

"There are no winners in this because we still don't have Melissa."

Victim advocate Andy Kahan said it's been a "painstaking" wait for the Trotter 

"Even when you finally believe that you're going to achieve justice, until it 
actually happens you're questioning whether the actual execution will take 
place or not," he said.

And in Swearingen's case, those questions are particularly well placed.

This is the state's 8th effort to get Swearingen's execution on the calendar. 
At least 4 times, similar requests yielded a death date, but every time the 
Court of Criminal Appeals stayed the execution.

But it is those repeated bids for testing that have become the hallmark of 
Swearingen's legal case. For years, his lawyers have insisted that crime scene 
DNA taken from evidence near Trotter's body could hold the keys to prove his 
innocence. But prosecutors - and higher courts - have deemed such testing 

At least twice, a trial court judge sided with Swearingen's testing requests - 
but each time the state slapped down the lower court's grant, ruling that new 
DNA wouldn't be enough to counter the "mountain of evidence" pointing to 
Swearingen's guilt.

Swearingen and Trotter were seen in the college's library together on Dec. 8, 
1998 - the day of the teen's disappearance. Afterward, a biology teacher 
spotted Trotter leaving the school with a man. Hair and fiber evidence later 
showed that she'd been in Swearingen's car and home the day she vanished.

The killer's wife testified that she came home that evening to find the place 
in disarray - and in the middle of it all were Trotter's lighter and 
cigarettes. Swearingen later filed a false burglary report, claiming his home 
had been broken into while he was out of town.

That afternoon, Swearingen placed a call routed through a cell tower near FM 
1097 in Willis - a spot he would have passed while heading from his house to 
the Sam Houston National Forest where Trotter's decomposing body was found 25 
days later.

"A too trusting 19-year-old in the wrong place at the wrong time," Sandy 
Trotter said, recalling her daughter's death. "It's just every parent's 

Swearingen was convicted and sentenced to death in 2000. He went on to file 
what prosecutors described as "an abundance of habeas corpus applications, pro 
se motions, mandamus petitions, civil-right actions, and amended pleadings in 
both state and federal courts."

The state's Court of Criminal Appeals rejected all 7 of Swearingen's habeas 
appeals, and in July a federal district court slapped down a civil suit seeking 
to win the convicted killer more DNA testing.

Through it all, Swearingen maintained his innocence.

"The way I look at it, I'm a POW of Texas," the former electrician has told the 
media. "It's my army against their army."

Even though his bids for more testing ultimately didn't pan out, Swearingen's 
DNA complaints sparked charges in state law in 2015. That year, lawmakers 
expanded access to testing by removing the requirement that the accused prove 
biological material - like saliva, sweat or skin cells - exists before testing 
evidence for it.

But no amount of DNA evidence would be enough to exonerate the convicted 
killer, prosecutors say.

Visiting Judge J.D. Langley greenlit Wednesday's decision in the 9th state 
District Court after Judge Phil Grant recused himself from the case in June 
2016 given his prior involvement as a prosecutor during his time in the 
District Attorney's office.

"It appears there is no necessity for an evidentiary hearing related to any 
issue raised in either the motion or the response," Langley wrote.

"The court can find no reason to further delay the imposition of the sentence."

Even at this late date in legal saga, Montgomery County prosecutor Bill Delmore 
still anticipates pushback from Swearingen's attorneys.

"I would say I'm cautiously optimistic that if there's an execution date we 
might finally see the culmination of this case," he said. "But I fully expect 
the attorneys for Swearingen to request another stay and they've been very 
tenacious in the 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., OHIO, UTAH, ARIZ.

2017-07-30 Thread Rick Halperin

July 30


Book details history of hangings in Texas -- Brazos County included

Before lethal injections and electric chairs, the preferred method of 
death-penalty execution in Texas was hanging, conducted by local sheriffs at 
their county jails, not at prison facilities.

Such is the subject of a new book, Death on the Gallows: The Encyclopedia of 
Legal Hangings in Texas, by West Gilbreath, captain of the criminal 
investigation division at the University of North Texas Police Department. 
Gilbreath, who published a similar book in 2002 about New Mexico's legal 
hangings, said he decided to compile the executions for a book so future 
historians could have a more reliable source of information than the internet.

"I was trying to come up with a better resource for researchers and 
historians," Gilbreath, adding that the book is for anyone who is interested in 
true crime or Old West or Texas histories and wants to read eyewitness accounts 
of the men and women who stood on the gallows or their last words spoken to the 
crowd before they were hanged.

Gilbreath's book details 467 legal executions conducted between 1834 and 1923, 
the year Texas authorized the use of the electric chair for executions 
conducted by the state in Huntsville; of those, he found 2 in Brazos County.

Authorities executed the `st man, Ezekiel Bradley, on May 2, 1879. In 
Gilbreath's recounting, Bradley had been drinking and gambling on Christmas Day 
in 1878 before going with his friend Shep Wilson to a Steele's store, about 15 
miles west of Bryan, to buy more whiskey. At the shop, Wilson began arguing 
with a man named Buck Pollock, who eventually struck Wilson in the face. Drunk, 
Bradley rushed to help his friend, pulling out a concealed pistol and shooting 
Pollock in the mouth, killing him.

According to a story published in the Galveston Daily News on May 3, 1879, 
Bradley told the paper on the day before his execution that he had "been a 
drinking and quarrelsome boy all my life," and that he greatly regretted having 
killed Pollock.

"I have lain down and wept at the thought of having killed a man who never done 
me harm or injury, and whom I had not known," Bradley told the reporter.

Gilbreath said that between 4,000 and 6,000 people came to Bryan -- far more 
than lived there at the time -- to see Bradley's execution on May 2.

"The entertainment value of an execution was a big deal," said Bill Page, 
library associate II at Texas A University's Evans Library.

The same Galveston Daily News story notes that a doctor offered up prayers 
before Bradley's execution. After praying, "the sheriff pulled the drop and the 
prisoner was launched into eternity." The 6-foot fall dislocated his neck, and 
he struggled for 5 minutes before the doctor pronounced him dead almost 12 
minutes after his hanging began.

Gilbreath said the 2nd man executed in Brazos County, Bob Ballard, died in a 
more private setting on Nov. 22, 1901, a year after the law changed, requiring 
sheriffs' to take precautions to make executions as private as possible.

Public sentiment, Gilbreath said, had changed to thinking that executions 
"shouldn't be a carnival or public spectacle."

Gilbreath said Ballard shot two men Nov. 7, 1900, a little more than a year 
before he would be executed.

An article in The Eagle published on Nov. 8, 1900, states that Ballard shot "2 
Bohemians at Smetana yesterday." One man, Jacob Shramek, a postmaster, survived 
after being shot in the chest, but Joe Blazek, shot "in the lower part of his 
body," died.

"The tragedy," The Eagle reported the next day, "caused bitter feelings among 
the Bohemians and there were some indications that violence might possibly be 
resorted to."

The sheriff at the time, fearing a violent mob, took Ballard to another jail in 
Houston, according to the a story published on Nov. 16, 1900, in the Houston 
Daily Post.

Page said Ballard had been "denied due process" and received an unjust death 

"Officials didn't want a lynching on their hands, so they arranged to have him 
found guilty and sentenced to death," Page said of the jury's verdict, which 
originally was for life imprisonment but changed after the judge and district 
attorney indicated the ruling had to be the death penalty.

Page sent a document to The Eagle in which he wrote Ballard had been 
"essentially lynched under a veneer of law."

Page said that some immigrant whites new to the U.S. participated in lynchings 
to "establish their own whiteness," and that Ballard's stepfather had been a 
county commissioner, so it's possible the whites who lived in his precinct 
resented him for being a successful, powerful black man.

Gilbreath said he's still finding new hangings he'd missed before publishing 
his book. Currently, he's reviewing around 20, which he may publish in a second 
volume or a revised edition of his book.

One such case is Frank Hammond, executed on May 21, 1875. An 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., OHIO, TENN., OKLA., NEB., UTAH, NEV., USA

2017-07-29 Thread Rick Halperin

July 29


Death Row Sentencing In Texas Has Significantly DecreasedTexas carried out 
its 5th execution of the year Thursday night, but overall executions are 
dwindling, and that trend is likely to continue.

Last year, Texas executed 7 inmates on death row.

That was the lowest number in the past 20 years.

Kristin Houle suggests that the state will keep following that trend.

She is with the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

"Well, Texas like the rest of the United States has been experiencing a steady 
decline in use of the death penalty," Houle says.

This decline can be attributed, in part to sentencing.

Houle says there is a big difference from 1999 when Texas peaked at sentencing 
48 people to death row and only sentencing 3 in the past 2 years.

She says what's led to the decrease in sentencing is cases being put on hold 
and advancements in forensic science.

"Where the science that was presented at the original trial has been called 
into question or even debunked," Houle says.

Although, executions are decreasing in the U.S., she says Texas continues to 
account for about 1/3 of them.

"This year so far Texas has carried out five of the 16 executions nationwide," 
Houle says.

In the state, there are 5 more executions scheduled for this year.

(source: houstonpublicmedia.org)


Woman charged in Jupiter homicide to see psychiatric test results

Prosecutors agreed Friday to give notes and test results from a state-order 
psychiatric evaluation to lawyers for Kimberly Lucas, the Jupiter woman charged 
with the 2014 drowning of her 2-year-old daughter and attempted murder of her 
then-10-year-old son.

That agreement regarding Dr. Wade Myers' evaluation of Lucas comes less than 2 
months before the long awaited death-penalty case is scheduled to go to trial 
in front of Judge Charles Burton.

Confusion surrounding Florida's death penalty law had stalled Lucas' case from 
moving forward. That trial now is slated to begin Sept. 14.

Lucas, 43, was not present for the brief hearing Friday. She has been in 
custody since her arrest May 27, 2014, on murder charges to which she has since 
pleaded not guilty.

Jupiter police say Lucas drowned her 2-year-old daughter, Elliana 
Lucas-Jamason, May 26, 2014, in a bathtub and attempted to kill her son, Ethan, 
and herself by overdosing on Xanax.

Lucas' suicide note blamed her actions on Jacquelyn Jamason, her then-separated 
partner and the biological mother to Elliana and Ethan. On that day, Ethan, 
then 10, woke up drowsy from the drugs, found his sister unresponsive in the 
bathtub and called 911.

Lucas and Jamason, the children's biological mother, had been together for more 
than 20 years and joined together in a 2001 civil union, but were estranged at 
the time of the killing. Jamason has said that Lucas suffered from 
complications from gastric bypass surgery and had subsequently developed a 
prescription drug problem that contributed to their split.

Lucas' attorneys plan to pursue an insanity defense, arguing that she suffers 
from dissociative identity disorder - formerly known as multiple personality 
disorder - and that one of her alternate personalities committed the crimes.

Her attorneys wrote in a 2015 pleading: "The defendant was receiving mental 
health-care treatment long before, as well as the time of, the events which 
resulted in her arrest."

Jamason is anxious for the case to go to trial.

"I think that once trial is over, Ethan and I can finally have more peace, and 
not put it behind us, but look to the future," Jamason told The Post in May.

(source: Palm Beach Post)


Judge rejects challenge to new execution drugs

A death row inmate scheduled to be executed next month failed in a bid to get a 
Jacksonville judge to delay his execution because of the state's new 
triple-drug lethal injection protocol.

Duval County Circuit Court Judge Tatiana Salvador on Friday rejected a request 
from Mark James Asay to put a hold on an Aug. 24 execution date scheduled by 
Gov. Rick Scott.

Asay's appeal included a challenge to a new lethal injection protocol --- which 
includes a drug never used before for executions in Florida, or in any other 
state --- adopted by the Florida Department of Corrections earlier this year. 
In its new protocol, Florida is substituting etomidate for midazolam as the 
critical first drug, used to sedate prisoners before injecting them with a 
paralytic and then a drug used to stop prisoners' hearts.

In a 30-page order issued Friday, Salvador ruled that Asay failed to prove that 
the new three-drug protocol is unconstitutional. Etomidate, also known by the 
brand name "Amidate," is a short-acting anesthetic that renders patients 

20 % of people experience mild to moderate pain after being injected with the 
drug, but only for "tens of seconds" at the longest, the judge noted. 
"Defendant has only 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., ALA., OHIO, MO., NEV., USA

2017-07-28 Thread Rick Halperin

July 28


S.A. man executed after Supreme Court rejects bid for stay

A San Antonio man was executed Thursday night for killing a woman in 2004 after 
a last-minute request for a stay to the Supreme Court was rejected.

TaiChin Preyor, 46, had been on death row for 13 years after a Bexar County 
jury convicted him of killing Jami Tackett, 24, in a drug-related attack.

Preyor was pronounced dead at 9:22 p.m., about 20 minutes after a lethal dose 
of Pentobarbital was sent through the veins of both of his arms.

In a brief final statement, Preyor said, "First and foremost, I'd like to say, 
'Justice has never advanced by taking a human life,' by Coretta Scott King. 
Lastly, to my wife and to my kids, I love y'all forever and always. That's it."

Neither Preyor's nor Tackett's relatives were present for the execution, just 4 
journalists and some corrections officers.

Preyor is the 5th inmate to be executed in Texas this year, and the 16th 
nationally, according to data provided by the Texas Department of Criminal 

Earlier Thursday, Cate Stetson, an attorney representing Preyor said via email 
that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied an appeal and stay for her 
client, just hours before he was to be executed.

Preyor's lawyers had argued that his appeals should be reviewed more fairly 
because poor legal representation had tainted his case.

After that bid was rejected, Stetson then filed a petition seeking a stay from 
the nation's highest court. That request to Justice Samuel Alito was denied 
some time after 8 p.m.

On Feb. 26, 2004, Preyor said he went to Tackett's Southeast Side apartment to 
buy drugs and that he defended himself when attacked by Tackett and her friend, 
Jason Garza, 20. Preyor told police he "poked" Tackett with a knife to defend 

Preyor was arrested in the parking lot of the Grove Park Apartments in the 2500 
block of Goliad Road near Interstate 37 South after he returned to the scene to 
look for his car keys, according to court documents. He had been covered in 
Tackett's blood.

Tackett, whose throat was slashed, was found when her neighbors heard her 

Prosecutors told the Bexar County jury that heard the case that Tackett also 
suffered defensive wounds to her hand and forearm and had cuts on her face and 

Defense attorneys argued that Preyor went to Tackett's house to buy drugs from 
her and that she and Garza attacked Preyor when he arrived, and intended to rob 
him. He told police that he pulled a knife and "poked" Tackett with the weapon 
in an attempt to defend himself.

Witnesses testified during the trial that Tackett's throat and windpipe were 
severed, and that she bled to death in her apartment. Neighbors heard the 
screams, and Garza, who was wounded in the attack, managed to escape and call 
911. Preyor left the scene. He was arrested when he returned to get his keys.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Texas executes man who claimed his lawyers committed fraudTexas carried out 
its 5th execution of the year Thursday evening, putting to death TaiChin Preyor 
in the 2004 murder of a San Antonio woman.

After more than 12 years on death row, a San Antonio man convicted in a fatal 
stabbing was executed Thursday night. It was Texas' 5th execution of the year.

TaiChin Preyor, 46, had filed a flurry of appeals in the weeks leading up to 
his execution date, claiming his trial lawyer never looked into evidence of an 
abusive childhood and his previous appellate counsel - a disbarred attorney 
paired with a real estate and probate lawyer who relied on Wikipedia in her 
legal research - committed fraud on the court.

But he lost all of the appeals, with the U.S. Supreme Court issuing a final 
ruling in the case more than 2 hours after his execution was originally set to 
begin. At 9:03 p.m., he was injected with a lethal dose of pentobarbital in 
Texas' death chamber and pronounced dead 19 minutes later, according to the 
Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

In his final words, he mentioned his love for his wife and kids and cited a 
Coretta Scott King quote, saying, "Justice has never advanced by taking a 
life," according to TDCJ.

Preyor was accused of breaking into 20-year-old Jami Tackett's apartment in 
February 2004 and stabbing her to death. He was found at the scene by police 
covered in her blood. Preyor claimed the killing was done in self-defense after 
a drug deal gone bad, but the jury was unconvinced. He was convicted and 
sentenced to death in March 2005.

No witnesses for Preyor or Tackett attended the execution, according to TDCJ 
spokesman Robert Hurst.

During his latest appeals, Preyor's attorneys argued that his trial lawyer, 
Michael Gross, was inadequate because he didn't present evidence of a 
physically and sexually abusive childhood that could have swayed a jury to hand 
down the alternate sentence of life in prison.


[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS

2017-07-27 Thread Rick Halperin

CORRECTIONthe execution of Taichin Preyor in Texas is the 543rd for the 
state since 1982.not the 544th as originally reported in the story below

July 27


Texas puts prisoner to death for killing woman in 2004 after breaking into her 

A Texas prisoner has been executed for killing a San Antonio woman after 
breaking into her apartment more than 13 years ago.

46--year-old TaiChin Preyor was put to death Thursday evening after his 
attorneys failed to convince courts that he had deficient legal help during 
earlier stages of his appeals and that he deserved a reprieve so his case could 
be reviewed more fairly.

After the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his final appeal, he was taken to the 
death chamber in Huntsville, Texas, for lethal injection.

Preyor was convicted in the February 2004 slaying of 24-year-old Jami Tackett, 
who court records identified as Preyor's drug supplier. She was stabbed and her 
throat was cut.

Preyor becomes the 5th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
Texas and the 544th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on 
December 7, 1982.

Preyor becomes the 16th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the 
USA and the 1458th overall since the nation resumed executions on

January 17, 1977.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present25

Executions in Texas:  Dec. 7, 1982present-544

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #

26-Aug. 30-Steven Long544

27-Sept.7--Juan Castillo--545

28-Oct. 12-Robert Pruett--546

29-Oct. 18-Anthony Shore--547

30-Oct. 26-Clinton Young--548

31-Jan. 30-William Rayford549

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

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[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS

2017-07-27 Thread Rick Halperin

July 27


Texas puts prisoner to death for killing woman in 2004 after breaking into her 

A Texas prisoner has been executed for killing a San Antonio woman after 
breaking into her apartment more than 13 years ago.

46-year-old TaiChin Preyor was put to death Thursday evening after his 
attorneys failed to convince courts that he had deficient legal help during 
earlier stages of his appeals and that he deserved a reprieve so his case could 
be reviewed more fairly.

After the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his final appeal, he was taken to the 
death chamber in Huntsville, Texas, for lethal injection.

Preyor was convicted in the February 2004 slaying of 24-year-old Jami Tackett, 
who court records identified as Preyor's drug supplier. She was stabbed and her 
throat was cut.

Preyor becomes the 5th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
Texas and the 544th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on 
December 7, 1982.

Preyor becomes the 16th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the 
USA and the 1458th overall since the nation resumed executions on

January 17, 1977.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present25

Executions in Texas:  Dec. 7, 1982present-544

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #

26-Aug. 30-Steven Long545

27-Sept.7--Juan Castillo--546

28-Oct. 12-Robert Pruett--547

29-Oct. 18-Anthony Shore--548

30-Oct. 26-Clinton Young--549

31-Jan. 30-William Rayford550

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

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[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS

2017-07-27 Thread Rick Halperin

July 27

TEXASimpending execution

Appeals court refuses to halt Texas execution

A federal appeals court Thursday refused to block the scheduled execution of a 
Texas prisoner who killed a San Antonio woman more than 13 years ago.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an appeal from lawyers for 
46-year-old TaiChin Preyor.

The attorneys contend he received deficient legal help during earlier stages of 
his appeals and he deserves a reprieve so his appeals can be reviewed more 

They argue an inexperienced California attorney who handled earlier federal 
appeals in his case was "utterly unqualified" and that her use of a disbarred 
lawyer for guidance perpetrated a fraud on the courts.

His lawyers say they'll now take their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Preyor would be the fifth Texas inmate put to death this year and the 16th 
nationally if his lethal injection is carried out Thursday evening.

He was convicted of breaking into the San Antonio apartment of 24-year-old Jami 
Tackett in February 2004 and fatally slashing her.

Court documents show she was his drug supplier.

(source: Associated Press)
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[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS

2017-07-27 Thread Rick Halperin

July 27

TEXASimpending execution

Killer of San Antonio Woman Set for Execution ThursdayAttorneys for a 
46-year-old Texas death row inmate convicted of fatally slashing a woman in her 
San Antonio apartment are trying to halt his execution.

A man dressed in black and wearing a hood and gloves kicked in the door of a 
San Antonio apartment where his drug supplier lived, attacked 2 people inside 
with a knife and fled, only to return because he dropped his car keys in the 

By the time Taichin Preyor tried to flee a 2nd time, police had arrived and 
arrested him covered with the blood of his victims. He later said he was acting 
in self-defense when he stabbed and slit the throat of 24-year-old Jami Tackett 
and wounded her boyfriend.

The 46-year-old Preyor was set for lethal injection Thursday evening in 
Tackett's killing more than 13 years ago. It would be the 5th Texas execution 
this year and the 16th nationally.

Preyor's attorneys hoping to halt his execution argued in appeals that his 
previous trial and appeals lawyers "failed him at every turn" and that he 
deserves a reprieve so he can get a more fair appeals review. They say an 
inexperienced attorney from California with little knowledge of Texas law took 
on his appeal and relied on a disbarred attorney for assistance. His trial 
attorneys were deficient for not uncovering evidence and telling jurors of 
Preyor's traumatic and abusive childhood, his lawyers argued.

State attorneys said the late appeals were legally improper and that it was 
Preyor's decision to stay with the inexperienced lawyer. Also, the name of the 
disbarred lawyer never appears on any court documents in his case and he wasn't 
precluded from assisting Preyor's lawyer even if he was disbarred, the Texas 
attorney general's office said. His trial attorney handling punishment during 
the trial disputed the claim of a cursory investigation, saying Preyor's 
friends and relatives never shared evidence of childhood abuse.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 6-0 Tuesday against recommending 
clemency for Preyor and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused to stop the 
punishment. Preyor's lawyers took their case to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of 
Appeals after a federal judge in San Antonio also declined to halt the 

Testimony at Preyor's trial showed Tackett recognized Preyor on Feb. 26, 2004, 
when he barged into a bedroom, calling him by his nickname "Box." He attacked 
her boyfriend, who escaped to a neighbor's apartment and called for help. 
Evidence showed Preyor, also a drug seller and user since adolescence, then 
stabbed Tackett and cut her throat.

Tackett died before paramedics arrived but was able to tell police "the guy who 
ran from the apartment did this," John Economidy, Preyor's lead defense 
attorney, recalled this week.

"He is caught at the scene, and the dying declaration did not help us a whole 
lot," Economidy said.

Preyor, in the 2nd of 2 statements to San Antonio police, said Tackett and her 
boyfriend attacked him and that he "poked" at Tackett with a knife to protect 

"I felt like I was a victim," he said. "I was the one being robbed, and I 
defended myself."

A Bexar County jury decided he should die.

(source: Associated Press)


Lawyers Say Death Row Inmate's String of Awful Attorneys Should Halt Thursday 

On the eve of TaiChen Preyor's scheduled execution date, his lawyers are 
scrambling to make requests for more time to change his death sentence to one 
of life-long imprisonment or, at least, to fully investigate his case.

His lawyers claim that Preyor's previous counsel was under-qualified and held 
back crucial information about his past, which they say could have affected the 
outcome of his trial and several appeals. The new team of lawyers have made 
requests to Texas' highest criminal court for more time to fully investigate, 
but it rejected the pleas saying Preyor's previous lawyer "competently 
represented" him. The lawyers have filed a request to the Fifth Circuit Court 
of Appeals and are waiting for its ruling, which is expected this morning.

Preyor was convicted for killing a 20-year-old San Antonio woman in 2004, and 
has been on death row for 12 years. The lawyers are not contesting the murder 
charge, but they're hoping to change the execution date in order to give them 
more time to do a deeper investigation, claiming Preyor's 2 previous lawyers 
weren't up to the task.

Their biggest issue? Preyor's main legal consultant, Phillip Jefferson, was a 
lawyer who was disbarred for "gross misconduct" and "indifference to the 
interests of his clients." Preyor's family alleged that Jefferson claimed he 
was retired and would need an active lawyer to file all of the official 
paperwork. That lawyer was Brandy Estelle, a California lawyer who works 
primarily in real estate law and probate. According to Preyor, Estelle 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., OHIO, TENN., ARIZ.

2017-07-26 Thread Rick Halperin

July 26


Death row inmate Scott Panetti to get further competency review

Scott Panetti, 59, remains on death row in Huntsville, convicted of killing a 
Fredericksburg couple in 1992.

"It's still so fresh in my mind, " said Rowena Alvarado. Alvarado's parents, 
Joe and Amanda Alvarado, were shot and killed by Panetti.

Panetti was the couple's son-in-law, and married to Rowena's sister. "We never 
saw it in him."

Panetti has already been sentenced to death and has been granted stays of 

From the very beginning, Panetti's case has been about mental illness. 
Panetti's attorneys claim he's suffered from severe mental illness for nearly 4 
decades and that he's also a paranoid schizophrenic.

Panetti represented himself during his 1995 trial, he also dressed up as a 
western TV cowboy and tried to subpoena the Pope, John F. Kennedy, and Jesus 

"We had no idea, nor did he have any episodes. He was just a normal guy," 
Alvarado went on to say.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has now returned Panetti's case 
to the federal district court in Texas to further review Panetti's competency.

"The taxpayers have been paying for this for many years, and that is just not 
fair for us," added Alvarado.

While Alvarado says she has forgiven Panetti.

"I'm kinda in between because I do feel that the death penalty would be too 
good for him," she said.

Panetti's legal team issued the following statement:

"We are grateful that the court found that Mr. Panetti's nearly 4 decades of 
documented schizophrenia and severe mental illness provided a sufficient 
showing to obtain experts and resources to pursue the claim that he is 
currently incompetent for execution. And we are grateful to the Texas Defender 
Service for their support, which allowed us to obtain a stay and to litigate on 
behalf of Mr. Panetti in the Fifth Circuit. Mr. Panetti has not been evaluated 
by any mental health experts since 2007 and his severe mental illness has only 
worsened while in prison. We are confident that when the lower court is 
presented with all the evidence, it will find that Mr. Panetti, a schizophrenic 
man who insisted on representing himself at trial and attempted to subpoena the 
Pope, John F. Kennedy, and Jesus Christ, is not now competent for execution. 
Ultimately, commuting Mr. Panetti's sentence to life in prison without parole 
would keep the public safe and affirm our shared beliefs in a humane and moral 
justice system."

(source: foxsanantonio.com)


'NICOLE WAS LEFT TO DIE': Prosecutors call 1st witnesses in Sean Bush death 
penalty trial

Jurors heard the 1st day of testimony Monday as prosecutors began laying out 
their case against Sean Alonzo Bush, who is facing the death penalty should he 
be convicted of 1st-degree murder in the death of his estranged wife Nicole 

During her opening statement in Circuit Judge Howard Maltz's St. Johns County 
courtroom, Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Dunton told the all-white jury 
that Nicole Bush was shot 5 times in the face, stabbed, and beaten with an 
aluminum baseball bat in the early morning hours of May 31, 2011, in her 
Julington Creek townhome.

"Nicole was left to die, but she didn't die right away," Dunton said.

Instead, she explained, the mother of 2 managed to get a phone call out to a 
friend who, in-turn, called another friend who called 911 and travelled to the 
home to see what was the matter.

Jurors heard from both of those friends Monday morning as well as the 1st 
responding deputy and a paramedic who was at the scene. The 1st friend, Tracie 
Walker, testified that she only heard Nicole Bush whisper "help" into the phone 
when she answered a call around 6 a.m. When the call went silent, Walker called 
another friend, Lenora Jerry, who said that she called Nicole Bush who answered 
but was "whispering" like "she was struggling to speak."

Jerry said her friend told her, "Send help, I can't make it to the door."

A deputy, she said, arrived at the home shortly after she made it to Julington 

That deputy, Graham Harris, told jurors that he found Nicole Bush lying in a 
pool of a blood in the doorway to her bedroom. She was wearing only a bra and a 
pair of ripped underwear.

Lieutenant Michelle Grant with St. Johns County Fire Rescue, who was a 
paramedic at the time, described some of the efforts to save the woman and the 
wounds that were apparent at the scene.

Grant said Nicole Bush had at least 1 exit wound from a gunshot on top of her 
head and was suffering from a good deal of swelling. She said she appeared 
"like her head was dipped in blood."

Grant and Harris both testified that Nicole Bush was speaking somewhat when 
they began rendering aid but she could not identify who attacked her.

Nicole Bush died later that day after being flown to a Jacksonville hospital.

Through the testimony of St. Johns County Sheriff's Office crime scene 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, OHIO

2017-07-25 Thread Rick Halperin

July 25

TEXASimpending execution

Texas death row inmate facing execution this week loses appeals

Texas' highest criminal court and a federal judge have refused to stop this 
week's scheduled execution of the convicted killer of a woman in San Antonio in 

Taichin Preyor is scheduled to receive a lethal injection Thursday evening in 
Huntsville for killing Jami Tackett, 24, during a break-in at her apartment.

Tackett is described in court documents as a drug dealer and Preyor, 46, as a 
customer and dealer.

Preyor's attorneys contend his trial lawyers didn't properly investigate and 
tell jurors about his abusive childhood and that an earlier inexperienced 
appeals attorney relied on a disbarred lawyer for guidance.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and U.S. District Judge Fred Biery in San 
Antonio rejected their appeals.

Preyor's attorneys said Tuesday they're appealing to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court 
of Appeals.

(source: Associated Press)

OHIOimpending execution

Condemned killer in Ohio arrives at death house ahead of execution

A condemned killer in Ohio arrived at the death house a day ahead of his 
scheduled execution Wednesday with several requests for a delay pending before 
the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ronald Phillips arrived at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in 
Lucasville around 10:15 a.m. Tuesday, about 24 hours before he was set to die 
in Ohio’s first execution in more than three years, a prisons spokeswoman said.

The last execution in Ohio was in January 2014, when a condemned inmate 
repeatedly gasped and snorted during a 26-minute procedure with a 
never-before-tried drug combination. Gov. John Kasich put several scheduled 
executions on hold. The delays have continued, prompted by shortages of 
acceptable drugs and legal challenges by death row inmates to Ohio’s plans for 
a new three-drug execution method.

A federal court last month upheld the use of the sedative midazolam, which has 
been problematic in several executions, including Ohio’s in 2014 and others in 
Arkansas and Arizona. The ruling clears the way for the state to move forward 
with three executions, but it isn’t a decisive ruling on the constitutionality 
of the three-drug method.

On Monday, 15 pharmacology professors argued in Phillips’ favor that midazolam 
is incapable of inducing unconsciousness or preventing the unconstitutional 
infliction of serious pain.

Phillips, 43, was convicted for the 1993 rape and killing of his girlfriend’s 
3-year-old daughter in Akron. He also has requested that the execution be 
halted based on his age at the time of the killing. He was 19, older than the 
Supreme Court’s cutoff of 18 for purposes of barring executions of juveniles, 
and argues the cutoff age should be 21. The latest delay request on that issue 
was filed Tuesday.

Attorneys for the state argued against Phillips’ request, saying he made 
meritless, often conflicting, legal claims.

“Phillips argues that youth, like IQ, cannot be reduced to a number. But he 
also argues that the Eighth Amendment prohibits the execution of adults under 
age twenty-one,” they wrote in a court document filed Tuesday. “He cannot have 
it both ways; if age cannot make one eligible for death, it cannot make one 
ineligible for death.”

The state of Ohio also has told U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, who 
handles such appeals for Ohio, that continued delays in Phillips’ case are 
harming the state by costing time and resources.

Phillips has had several previous delays to scheduled executions, most notably 
in 2013 when he made a last-minute plea to donate his organs. He said he wanted 
to give a kidney to his mother, who was on dialysis, and possibly his heart to 
his sister. His request was denied. His mother has since died.

As he awaited action from the high court, Phillips was being permitted to see 
family, friends and spiritual advisers and to meet with his attorneys.

For his last meal, to be served Tuesday evening, he requested a large cheese 
pizza with bell peppers and mushrooms, a 2-liter bottle of Pepsi and strawberry 
cheesecake, along with grape juice and a piece of unleavened bread.

(source: Toledo Blade)
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[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, OHIO, ARIZ., NEV., USA

2017-07-25 Thread Rick Halperin

July 25

TEXASimpending execution

Set for execution, death row inmate alleges legal fraud in hopes of a 
stayWith 2 days left before TaiChin Preyor's scheduled execution, his 
lawyers have tried just about everything to stop it. That includes alleging 
that his previous counsel committed fraud.

With 2 days left before TaiChin Preyor's scheduled execution, his lawyers have 
tried just about everything to stop it. That includes alleging that his 
previous counsel - a disbarred California attorney and a probate and real 
estate lawyer who reportedly relied on Wikipedia to research Texas legal 
procedure - committed fraud against a federal court.

So far, they've had no luck.

Preyor, 46, is set to be executed Thursday night for the 2004 killing of a 
20-year-old San Antonio woman during a home invasion. If he doesn't receive a 
stay, it will be the state's 5th execution of the year - and end the unusually 
long 4-month lull in Texas' death chamber.

In recent weeks, Preyor's attorneys have filed a flurry of pleas, with the 
Texas governor and in state and federal court. They have argued Preyor should 
be spared the death penalty because his original attorney overlooked an abusive 
childhood and because his appellate attorneys were incompetent.

The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one. "Even if you are someone who 
believes that there is a role for the death penalty to play with respect to 
certain crimes, there has to be a baseline there that the person ... was 
capably and competently represented throughout all of his proceedings," said 
Cate Stetson, one of Preyor's current attorneys. "And that baseline clearly was 
not met here."

On Monday afternoon, both the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and a federal 
district court rejected Preyor's requests for a stay. Preyor will appeal now to 
the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Texas and Bexar County have requested that the execution proceed, noting that 
it "has been postponed for over a year in order to accommodate [Preyor] and his 
attorneys, but at the expense of the victims and the state's interest in 

In court, Bexar County prosecutors accused Preyor of breaking into Jami 
Tackett's apartment in the early hours of a February morning. Tackett was in 
bed with Jason Garza, who testified that Preyor attacked and stabbed him before 
he ran away to call for help. With Garza gone, Preyor stabbed Tackett multiple 
times, killing her. He was arrested at the scene covered in her blood.

Preyor claimed he acted in self-defense. In a statement to police, he said 
Tackett, who sold him drugs, had invited him over and ambushed him with Garza. 
Preyor said he pulled out his knife after the 2 began attacking him and that he 
didn't intend to hurt Tackett "that bad."

A jury was unconvinced. They found him guilty and sentenced him to death.

Preyor's current attorneys aren't focusing on his conviction but on his death 
sentence. They argue the lawyer who represented Preyor during his sentencing, 
Michael Gross, failed to present evidence about Preyor's abusive childhood, 
which they argue could have swayed a jury to give him life in prison.

"Gross failed to hire a mitigation specialist, failed to investigate known red 
flags regarding Preyor's childhood, neglected to interview family members 
regarding Preyor's childhood and social history, and neglected to follow up on 
not 1, but 2, medical professionals' recommendations that Preyor be screened 
for mental illness or other executive-function issues affecting his capacity 
and judgment," Stetson and attorney Hilary Sheard wrote in a filing to the 
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals last week. "The cumulative effect of these 
omissions was disastrous."

But Gross said in an affidavit filed to the court that he "adequately" 
represented Preyor, and talked to many family members, school officials, 
friends and even Preyor himself, none of whom mentioned abuse. "If they had 
given me any such information, I would have developed that evidence and 
presented it as mitigation at trial," Gross said in his affidavit.

Sheard and Stetson argue concerns about Gross' representation should have been 
raised during Preyor's appeals. Preyor blames this on his unusual appellate 

After becoming frustrated with Preyor's court-appointed lawyer during his 
post-conviction appeal, Preyor's mother turned to Philip Jefferson, a disbarred 
California attorney who claimed he was retired, according to Preyor's most 
recent court filing. Preyor claims Jefferson did most of the heavy lifting in 
the case and had Brandy Estelle, a California attorney who specialized in 
probate and real estate law, file documents to the court.

Estelle relied on Wikipedia to research Texas habeas procedures, Preyor 
alleged, and Preyor's appeals were denied in federal court.

"The federal habeas petition filed in this court ... was so abysmal that it 
subsequently became an exemplar, circulated 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., VA., N.C., GA., FLA., ALA.

2017-07-22 Thread Rick Halperin

July 22

TEXASimpending execution

Texas Prepares for Execution of Taichin Preyor on July 27, 2017

Taichin "Box" Preyor's execution is scheduled to occur at 6 pm CDT, on 
Thursday, July 27, 2017, at the Walls Unit of the Huntsville State Penitentiary 
in Huntsville, Texas. Taichin was scheduled to be executed on Wednesday, July 
20, 2016, however, that date was later removed from Texas' online execution 
calendar, without comment. 46-year-old Taichin is convicted of the murder of 
24-year-old Jami Tackett on February 26, 2004, in Bexar County, Texas. Taichin 
has spent the last 12 years of his life on Texas' death row.

Prior to his arrest, Taichin worked as a truck driver and a laborer. He did not 
graduate high school, dropping out after the 10th grade. In 1999, Taichin was 
arrested and served time for a drug offense in Syracuse, New York. After being 
released from prison, Taichin moved to San Antonio, Texas, where he was later 
joined by his wife and children. Police had previously been called to the 
residence for a "family violence call." Taichin's brother was one of the police 
officers who responded to the call.

During the early morning hours of February 26, 2004, at approximately 4 am, 
Taichin Preyor broke into the apartment of his ex-girlfriend, Jami Tackett, by 
breaking down the door. Preyor went to Jami's bedroom, where he jumped on the 
bed and began attacking her with a knife. He also stabbed Jami's new boyfriend, 
Jason Garza, who fled the apartment, going to a neighbor and asking them to 
call the police.

During the fight, Preyor lost his car keys, leaving him unable to flea the 
scene. Preyor searched the apartment while Jami lay on the floor, struggling to 
breathe. As he attempted to leave the building for a 2nd time, Preyor 
encountered the police. The police were forced to use pepper spray to subdue 
Preyor, who refused to comply with their demands. Preyor was covered in blood 
when he was arrested.

Jami died from her injuries before paramedics arrived on the scene. Jason 
survived his injury.

During his trial, Preyor attempted to argue that his actions that morning was 
self defense. Prosecutors argued that the door being broken down indicates that 
Preyor was the aggressor.

Please pray for peace and healing for the family of Jami Tackett and for Jason 
Garza. Please pray for strength for the family of Taichin Preyor. Please pray 
that if Taichin is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed, or should not 
be executed for any other reason, that evidence will be presented prior to his 
execution. Please pray that Taichin may come to find peace through a personal 
relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already.

(source: theforgivenessfoundation.org)

Waco: Judge denies habeas corpus relief to convicted killer

A Waco district judge refused to grant habeas corpus relief to a man convicted 
in the same courtroom 2 years ago of capital murder but did allow appeals 
lawyers to submit briefs on 2 topics.

Judge Ralph Strother, in 19th District Court, said granting relief on the 
habeas corpus issue would "be like trying this case all over again," as US 
Carnell Petetan, dressed in jail clothing, sat silent and motionless at the 
defense table.

Petetan was convicted in the same courtroom in 2014 and Strother, after the 
jury's recommendation, sentenced him to death.

Bailiffs cleared the courtroom of visitors and attorneys while Petetan, 
shackled at the wrists and ankles, was led in.

After he was seated the judge allowed everyone back in the courtroom.

Lawyers with the state Office of Capital and Forensic Writs, in Austin, 
presented Strother with an 8-page application that listed 8 major issues at 
trial and expanded on each one.

Strother, as presiding judge, was directed to determine if there were any 
unresolved issues stemming from the trial, if so, identify them and finally 
determine what action needed to be taken, Jeremy Schepers, 1 of the appellate 
lawyers, said.

Schepers argued that Petetan was convicted by the jury who didn\'t have 
knowledge of his behavioral deficiency and that deficiency, under state law, 
means Petetan is ineligible for the death penalty.

But Assistant District Attorney Sterling Harmon reminded Strother that Petetan, 
himself, testified at his own trial and the jury was able to see and hear him 
for themselves.

As well, Schepers said, Petetan's lawyers at trial were ineffective and did not 
properly represent him.

At the end of the 40-minute hearing Strother denied habeas corpus relief but 
did direct appellate lawyers to prepare briefs on 2 issues: the 1st Petetan's 
developmental disability and 2nd his claim of ineffective assistance of 

Waco attorney Russ Hunt, Sr., represented Petetan at trial and Strother 
directed that Hunt be given 120 days to respond to the appeals charge.

The briefs are due back to Strother and he will review them to decide if 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., OHIO, KY., ARK.

2017-07-20 Thread Rick Halperin

July 20

TEXASimpending execution

Death Watch: Represented by WikipediaTaiChin Preyor did not get the legal 
expertise he deserved

The exact details of the crime that delivered Taichin Preyor to death row 
remain unclear and continue to be investigated by his current team of 
attorneys. What's clear is that Preyor was denied certain constitutional rights 
during both his trial and the appeals process. But unless Gov. Greg Abbott 
grants him clemency or he receives a stay, he will be executed next Thursday, 
July 27.

Three recently filed motions by Preyor's latest attorneys argue that Preyor was 
represented through his appeals by a disbarred attorney, Phillip Jefferson. His 
current lawyer, Catherine Stetson, of the Washington, D.C., firm Hogan Lovells, 
told the Chronicle that Jefferson used Brandy Estelle, a California attorney 
who works in real estate, as his legal stand-in to represent Preyor. A federal 
court in San Antonio originally denied Estelle's motion to represent Preyor, 
but the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals later granted her request and began paying 
the real estate lawyer for her services. (Estelle was also collecting money 
from Preyor's mother for much of the same work.) What's more egregious is the 
possibility that Estelle may have relied on Wikipedia to file Preyor's federal 
appeal. The latest motion, filed on July 14, states within Estelle's files was 
"a copy of the Wikipedia page" titled "Capital punishment in Texas" on the 
printout with a Post-It note reading "Research" next to highlighted passages of 
"Habeas corpus appeals" and "Subsequent or successive writ applications."

A July 11 supplement also argues that Preyor's previous attorneys "completely 
overlooked" the physical and sexual abuse Preyor experienced as a child. The 
mitigating evidence, says Stetson, could have convinced the trial jury to spare 
him a death sentence. Stetson said she and her team are currently investigating 
Preyor's past as well as the crime itself that landed him on death row.

? The state claims that Preyor "fatally stabbed" his "girlfriend" Jami Tackett 
after breaking into her San Antonio apartment in February 2004, and in the 
process stabbed another man. But in Preyor's appeals, Estelle argued that 
Tackett was actually his drug dealer (not his girlfriend), and that Preyor 
acted in self-defense against her and her male companion. Preyor was arrested 
shortly after the attack, covered in Tackett's blood.

In March 2015, a judicial clerk reviewing death penalty cases contacted the 
Texas bar to seek new counsel for Preyor. The clerk, Stetson said, had concerns 
about how Estelle and Jefferson had handled the case. "When the federal court 
system sees this and asks for help, it tells you something awful happened," 
said Stetson. Austin attorney Hilary Sheard took over Preyor's case (one year 
after the 5th Circuit denied his appeal), and ushered in Stetson's firm in May 
after she fell ill. That month, the court approved her budget request of 
$45,000 to further investigate the case. The new motions seek a stay on 
Preyor's execution so that his new attorneys can prepare a case for mitigation.

A week before Preyor's execution date, Stetson said his team remains "in the 
dark" about what or when a ruling will come, but they're "continuing their 
investigation to better expose" Estelle and Jefferson's fraud. Should their 
efforts be unsuccessful, Preyor will be the 1st Texan killed by the state since 
James Bigby in March, and only the 5th this year. 542 Texans have been executed 
since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

(source: Austin Chronicle)


State Attorney to seek Death Penalty in CR 340 murder case

The State Attorney plans to seek the Death Penalty in the Staleys murder case. 
Bill Cervone, State Attorney for the 8th Judicial Circuit said on Monday, July 
17, "We intend to pursue the Death Penalty in this case." Cervone went on to 
say that they are working on the case, but he did not expect the case to come 
to trial until sometime in 2018.

On April 28, 2017, Phillip David Wheeler was indicted for the murder of Kevin 
Lawrence Staley, 49 and Kevin Justice Staley, 19. The Gilchrist County Spring 
Term Grand Jury returned a True Bill indicting Phillip David Wheeler at the 
Gilchrist County Courthouse. The Staleys were found dead back in November of 
2015. The murders occurred at a mobile home located off CR 340 near Bell.

Phillip David Wheeler was 37 when he was indicted and a resident of Old Town 
and a former resident of Newberry.

(source: Gilchrist County Journal)


3rd death penalty sentencing for convicted killer J.B. Parker likely a year 

State prosecutors will try for a third time to get a death sentence that will 
stick for convicted killer J.B. "Pig" Parker, but it will be at least a year 
before they will have the chance.

Parker is 1 of 4 men convicted of the April 2, 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., N.C., GA., FLA., MISS., OHIO, KY.

2017-07-18 Thread Rick Halperin

July 18

TEXASimpending execution

Court papers: 'Utterly unqualified' attorney used Wikipedia to defend death 
penalty inmateLawyers for death row inmate file last-minute motions days 
before scheduled execution

With just days left till the next scheduled execution in the Lone Star state, 
lawyers for convicted Bexar County killer TaiChin Preyor on Friday filed a 
flurry of last-minute paperwork seeking to halt the condemned man's death.

The pair of motions - in the Western District of Texas - claim one of Preyor's 
former attorneys on the case, Brandy Estelle, was "utterly unqualified" and may 
have even resorted to the popular crowdsourcing site Wikipedia for research in 
the case.

Preyor, who murdered a woman who sold him drugs more than a decade ago, is 
scheduled to meet his fate in Huntsville on July 27.

The 46-year-old was convicted in the 2004 slaying when he repeatedly stabbed 
Jami Tackett before cutting her throat. Neighbors found the dying woman after 
hearing her screams - and police caught Preyor after he came back to retrieve 
his car keys, the San Antonio Express-News previously reported.

The San Antonio man has been on death row since 2005 fighting his case. At 
issue now is the allegedly subpar defense counsel who represented Preyor during 
parts of the federal appeals process.

"It appears she relied on Wikipedia, of all things, to learn the complex ins 
and outs of Texas capital-punishment," Preyor's attorneys wrote of their 
client's former counsel, noting that Estelle's case files included a print-out 
of the Wikipedia page "Capital punishment in Texas" with a Post-It note 
labelled "Research."

In addition, court papers contend Estelle was getting help on the case from an 
attorney disbarred for showing a "gargantuan indifference to the interests of 
his clients," a federal court wrote in a published decision.

"No doubt fearing repercussions, Estelle never disclosed her disbarred 
co-counsel's lead role in the case to this Court," claims the convicted man's 
legal team, which includes Catherine Stetson, Preyor's pro bono attorney and a 
partner at Hogan Lovells.

The dozens of pages of motions and exhibits filed Friday call Jefferson and 
Estelle's work "shocking conduct" and "exactly the kind of extraordinary 
circumstance that warrants this Court's intervention."

The motions for stay of execution and relief from judgment ask the court to 
halt Preyor's death date and reopen his federal appeal, this time with 
"licensed and qualified counsel."

Last-minute stays of execution are more the exception than the rule - but 
they're certainly not unheard of.

In 2011, Harris County death row inmate Duane Edward Buck was granted a 
last-minute reprieve amid questions of racially tainted expert testimony. He's 
still on death row as the appeals process continues to play out.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Pennsylvania execution notices are 'not worth the paper they're written 
on'The death warrants have been around since 1995, a strain on court time 
and resources.

The news rolled in earlier this month, for the 460th time since 1985: A 
Pennsylvania death row inmate had received an execution notice or warrant. This 
time it was for Philadelphia murderer Omar Sharif Cash, and like 457 men who've 
come before him he will almost certainly never be put to death.

Cash could get a reprieve for several reasons, the best-known likely being Gov. 
Tom Wolf's death penalty moratorium. Should any death penalty case go the 
distance, Wolf has said he will halt the execution. But long before it comes to 
that, the execution notice signed for Cash will likely be stayed, amounting to 
what one of the country's foremost death penalty opponents considers a waste of 
time. And since 1995, 350-plus other notices and warrants could be classified 
in the same category.

"They're legally premature," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the 
Death Penalty Information Center, "meaning they're not worth the paper they're 
written on."

Pennsylvania elected officials created the execution warrant system still used 
today in 1995, during the beginning of Gov. Tom Ridge's 1st term. At the time, 
he and many legislators - Republican and Democrat - were pushing a 
tough-on-crime stance. Ridge even held a special session focused on 
crime-related legislation. The bill, proposed by Rep. Ron Marsico (R-105th), 
mandated the governor sign an execution warrant for a death row inmate by at 
least 90 days after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision of the inmate's 
direct appeal. If the governor didn't sign the warrant, then the Department of 
Corrections would have to issue a notice of execution within 30 days of the 
previous deadline.

"Despite the law, there was no death penalty in Pennsylvania," Ridge said in 
1995. "When you kill in cold blood, you deserve to pay the highest penalty."

The thought behind the bill was inmates had no motivation 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., GA., ALA., CALIF., ORE.

2017-07-16 Thread Rick Halperin

July 16


Texas Cracks Down on the Market for Jailhouse Snitches

Prosecutors love jailhouse informants who can provide damning testimony that a 
cellmate privately confessed to a crime. Jailhouse informants, in turn, love 
the perks they get in exchange for snitching, like shortened sentences, 
immunity from prosecution or a wad of cash.

As you might imagine, though, in a market driven by such questionable motives, 
the testimony these informants provide is often unreliable.

Even worse, it can be deadly. False testimony from jailhouse informants has 
been the single biggest reason for death-row exonerations in the modern 
death-penalty era, according to a 2005 survey by the Center on Wrongful 
Convictions. They accounted for 50 of the 111 exonerations to that point, and 
there have been 48 more exonerations since then.

Last month, Texas, which has been a minefield of wrongful convictions - more 
than 300 in the last 30 years alone - passed the most comprehensive effort yet 
to rein in the dangers of transactional snitching.

Texas has become a national leader in criminal-justice reforms, after having 
long accommodated some of the worst practices and abuses in the nation. The 
state, particularly in light of past abuses, deserves credit for seeking 
innovative solutions to problems that have long proved resistant to change.

Every weekday, get thought-provoking commentary from Op-Ed columnists, the 
Times editorial board and contributing writers from around the world.

The new law requires prosecutors to keep thorough records of all jailhouse 
informants they use - the nature of their testimony, the benefits they received 
and their criminal history. This information must be disclosed to defense 
lawyers, who may use it in court to challenge the informant's reliability or 
honesty, particularly if the informant has testified in other cases.

The law was recommended by a state commission established in 2015 to examine 
exonerations and reduce the chances of wrongful convictions. The commission 
also persuaded lawmakers to require procedures to reduce the number of mistaken 
eyewitness identifications and to require that police interrogations be 
recorded - smart steps toward a fairer and more accurate justice system.

But the new procedures on jailhouse informants shouldn't have been necessary in 
the 1st place. Under longstanding Supreme Court rulings, prosecutors are 
required to turn over any evidence that might call an informant's credibility 
into question - such as conflicting stories or compensation they get in 
exchange for their testimony. Yet far too many fail to do so.

A better solution would be to bar the use of compensated informants outright, 
or at least in cases involving capital crimes, as one Texas bill has proposed. 
Studies have shown that even when a defense lawyer is able to make the case 
that an informant has an incentive to lie, juries are just as likely to 
convict. And that's assuming a defense lawyer uses such evidence - not always a 
safe assumption given the wide range of quality in the defense bar.

Also, making evidence admissible at trial only goes so far. The vast majority 
of convictions are the result of guilty pleas, which means a defendant may not 
even find out that an informant was paid to incriminate him before having to 
decide whether to accept a plea offer.

Some states have begun to require that judges hold hearings to test an 
informant's reliability, much as they would test an expert witness's knowledge 
- before the jury can hear from him.

But the deeper fix that's needed is a cultural one. Many prosecutors are far 
too willing to present testimony from people they would never trust under 
ordinary circumstances. Until prosecutors are more concerned with doing justice 
than with winning convictions, even the most well-intentioned laws will fall 

(source: Editorial, New York Times)


Lynn Abraham vies for interim D.A. job

Former District Attorney Lynne Abraham, who held the job longer than anyone 
else in the history of the city, heads a list of applicants to serve as the 
interim D.A. until a replacement for former D.A. Seth Williams is elected this 

Abraham, the city's first female district attorney, held the office from 1991 
to 2010. During her term she earned nicknames such as "Deadliest D.A." and 
"Queen of Death" for the high rate at which her office sought the death 
penalty. However, none of her cases has ever resulted in an actual execution.

Former D.A. Williams, an Abraham protege who eventually succeeded her, resigned 
from the position on June 29 after pleading guilty to 1 charge of bribery. 
Williams was indicted on 29 federal charges including bribery, wire fraud and 
extortion back in March. He will be sentenced later this year.

The interim will hold the position until the fall general election when 
Democratic favorite Larry Krasner faces off against Republican 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., S.C., GA., FLA.

2017-07-14 Thread Rick Halperin

July 14


Hogan Lovells Argues Disbarred Lawyer's 'Mouthpiece' Doomed Death Row Inmate

In a Texas death row case in which a disbarred lawyer may have previously 
represented the defendant, a Hogan Lovells team has joined with local Texas 
counsel to try to derail an execution set for later this month.

The lawyers are seeking either commutation or, alternatively, a delay of 
convicted murderer TaiChin Preyor's July 27 scheduled execution.

They have asked Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for the reduced sentence or 
delay so they can deploy $45,000 that a federal court has awarded Preyor to 
pursue his clemency request and investigate allegations about his initial 
post-conviction counsel, Brandy Estelle.

Estelle, a court-appointed public defender, was "woefully unqualified," and 
served only as a "mouthpiece" for Phillip Jefferson, the disbarred lawyer, who 
handled the legwork for Preyor's appeals, according to Preyor's application for 
commutation of sentence filed last week with the Texas Board of Pardon and 

Estelle also double charged the federal court and Preyor's mother for the legal 
work she was having Jefferson do, according to the same application's 

"This is not just an individual plea for mercy," said Catherine "Cate" Stetson, 
a member of Hogan Lovells' global board and a co-director of its appellate 
practice group, who represents Preyor.

Her firm handles multiple death row cases on a pro bono basis, but "this one 
was to our collective sensibilities jarring," Stetson said, given the 
allegations about Preyor's prior appellate counsel.

Neither Preyor nor his present lawyers deny that he committed "a terrible act," 
but "the gross infirmities in his representation during the sentencing phase 
and during habeas proceedings should give this Board pause," his commutation 
application stated.

According to an Associated Press account, Preyor was sentenced to death in 2005 
for killing 20-yea-old Jami Tackett in a brutal San Antonio slashing and 
stabbing attack that also wounded Tackett's boyfriend.

Estelle did not return a call for this story. Jefferson could not be reached. 
Estelle's law firm's website lists her as graduate of Loyola Law School and 
notes her "15 years of legal work in both public law and private practice," 
citing specifically "her extensive background in real estate.'


Habeas Reforms

Texas lawmakers have made efforts to reform the process for appointing lawyers 
to help death row defendants pursue their writs of habeas corpus - the appeals 
that serve as the criminal justice system's final safety net. In habeas 
proceedings, a defendant's lawyer can present new exculpatory evidence, 
previously untapped witnesses and indications that trial counsel failed to do 
their job properly.

In 1995, Texas lawmakers passed the Habeas Corpus Reform Act, a law 
guaranteeing Texas death row inmates "competent counsel" for their habeas 
appeals. 4 years later they passed another law giving trial courts the 
authority to pick lawyers from an "approved attorneys" list drawn up by Texas' 
highest court for criminal appeals.

But those reforms "were not enough to target this kind of practice," Stetson 
said of the Preyor case.

According to Preyor's application this month, Jefferson, who like Estelle is 
from California, had been castigated in an unrelated case by the U.S. Court of 
Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for having shown "a gargantuan indifference to 
the interests of his client," committed "gross misconduct," shown "chronic 
inattention to his client's interests," and been "wholly incompetent."

Jefferson never disclosed to Preyor or his family that he was disbarred, 
according to Preyor's commutation application.

For her part, Estelle never informed the court about Jefferson's role in the 
case, the same application alleged.

"[I]t appears from the documents filed by Ms. Estelle that she and Mr. 
Jefferson conducted no investigation beyond the record as it then existed, and 
raised no arguments before the habeas court regarding the sentencing phase of 
his trial," the application stated.

Estelle and Jefferson "overlooked" that Preyor's trial counsel had failed to 
hire a mitigation specialist during a sentencing phase, and "it appears they 
conducted only a cursory mitigation investigation despite references in trial 
counsel's files to the fact that Mr. Preyor experienced a deeply troubled 
childhood," the application asserted.

The Texas governor isn't exactly known for granting frequent commutations and 
pardons, Stetson noted.

"The record is not good, but we are still hopeful," she said. "If you look at 
the fact pattern here and the nature of the representation, a disbarred lawyer 
using a California real estate lawyer [Estelle] as his beard, even if you are 
supportive of capital punishment, there is a baseline foundation of fairness 
that was not met."

(source for both: Texas 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., S.C., FLA., OHIO

2017-07-13 Thread Rick Halperin

July 13


Texas' slow, tortuous fight to kill a mentally ill manThe state's fight to 
kill Scott Panetti is now in its 3rd decade.

Scott Panetti is very seriously mentally ill. He once buried his furniture in 
his backyard in the belief that this would purge the devil, who Panetti 
believed to have possessed his home. He was institutionalized about a dozen 
times, often involuntarily, for suicidal and homicidal behavior. Eventually, 
Panetti's illness overcame him, and he murdered his estranged wife's parents.

At Panetti's trial, he was inexplicably allowed to represent himself. With his 
life on the line, Panetii wore a purple bandana around his neck, a cowboy hat 
and suspenders. He tried to call the Pope, Jesus Christ, and John F. Kennedy to 
the witness stand. And he sometimes shifted into an alternate personality named 
"Sgt. Ranahan Ironhorse."

He was sentenced to die.

Since then, Panetti's been the center of a seemingly never-ending legal fight 
between lawyers trying to save his life and Texas officials who want to kill 
him. The 1st time Panetti's lawyers sought a court order stopping his 
execution, Bill Clinton was in the White House, TLC was topping the music 
charts, and Buffy Summers was still in high school.

Panetti won a victory in the Supreme Court, had that victory rendered largely 
meaningless by lower courts, sought refuge in a second, unrelated Supreme Court 
decision, and, just this week, won another incremental victory in a federal 
appeals court. There are no signs that his litigation saga is anywhere near 

Tuesday's decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth 
Circuit arose out of Texas' apparent effort to execute Panetti without telling 
his lawyers about it.

At a prosecutor's request, a state court set a December 3, 2014 execution date 
for Panetti without consulting his attorneys. The lawyers found out that their 
client was about to be killed from an October 30 news report. Multiple courts 
then refused to delay Panetti's execution or to provide his lawyers with the 
time or resources they needed to contest his execution?- though the Fifth 
Circuit did eventually stay that execution to give the lawyers time to seek 
these resources.

Tuesday's decision in Panetti v. Davis holds that Panetti must receive paid 
legal counsel, assistance from mental health experts that can help him build 
his case, and a full hearing to determine whether he is competent to be 
executed. The Texas legislature, it should also be noted, since changed the 
state's law to prevent the kind of ambush executions attempted in this case.

But Panetti's life remains in jeopardy largely due to an inconsistency in the 
Supreme Court's precedents governing people with mental disabilities charged 
with capital crimes.

In Atkins v. Virginia, the Supreme Court held, using a term that is now 
considered antiquated, that "death is not a suitable punishment for a mentally 
retarded criminal." People with intellectual disabilities, the Court explained, 
"have diminished capacities to understand and process information, to 
communicate, to abstract from mistakes and learn from experience, to engage in 
logical reasoning, to control impulses, and to understand the reactions of 
others." These deficiencies sufficiently "diminish their personal culpability" 
to take the death penalty off the table.

A few years later, the Court extended this holding to juvenile offenders in 
Roper v. Simmons.

The Court has not, however, held that people with severe mental illnesses like 
Panetti are similarly ineligible for the death penalty, even though people with 
such disabilities also possess diminished capacities like the ones described in 
Atkins. Instead, the Court applies a very different test to determine whether 
someone with a severe mental illness may be executed.

???It might be said that capital punishment is imposed because it has the 
potential to make the offender recognize at last the gravity of his crime," 
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the Court in Panetti v. Quarterman -?an 
earlier stage of Mr. Panetti's litigation saga. But "the potential for a 
prisoner's recognition of the severity of the offense and the objective of 
community vindication are called in question . . . if the prisoner's mental 
state is so distorted by a mental illness that his awareness of the crime and 
punishment has little or no relation to the understanding of those concepts 
shared by the community as a whole."

A death row inmate must have a "rational understanding" of why they are being 
executed before the state may put them to death.

This rule creates a bizarre framework whereby an inmate who flashes back and 
forth between periods of delusion and moments of sanity may be killed so long 
as the execution occurs while the inmate is lucid. It encourages the very kind 
of never-ending litigation that characterizes the Panetti case, and potentially 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., IND., MO., KAN., UTAH, ORE., USA

2017-07-12 Thread Rick Halperin

July 12


Death row inmate who shot in-laws in Fredericksburg granted evaluation

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit sided with a Texas death row 
inmate, ordering on Tuesday that Scott Panetti's case be returned to a federal 
district court in Kerr County with orders to appoint counsel, authorize funds 
for a mental health evaluation and allow adequate time to prepare a petition 
raising the claim he is currently incompetent to be executed.

Panetti, who suffers from schizophrenia, shot and killed his in-laws in 
Fredericksburg in 1992. Dressed as a cowboy, he insisted on representing 
himself at his trial and attempted to subpoena the Pope, John F. Kennedy and 
Jesus Christ. Panetti was found guilty and sentenced to death.

Panetti has twice been granted a stay of execution, in 2004 and 2014. In 2007, 
the U.S. Supreme Court blocked Panetti's execution, saying lower courts should 
have considered psychiatric evidence about his mental illness.

His attorneys, Greg Wiercioch and Kathryn Kase released a statement Tuesday 
saying Panetti has suffered from extreme mental illness for nearly 40 years and 
has not been evaluated by a mental health expert since 2007.

A defendant must be found competent in order to be executed. Competency is 
defined by state laws as being aware of what is going on in the case. Panetti's 
attorneys said he was convinced the reason was going to be executed in 2014 was 
for preaching the gospel.

His attorneys released a statement: "We are grateful that the court found that 
Mr. Panetti's nearly 4 decades of documented schizophrenia and severe mental 
illness provided a sufficient showing to obtain experts and resources to pursue 
the claim that he is currently incompetent for execution. And we are grateful 
to the Texas Defender Service for their support, which allowed us to obtain a 
stay and to litigate on behalf of Mr. Panetti in the Fifth Circuit. Mr. Panetti 
has not been evaluated by any mental health experts since 2007 and his severe 
mental illness has only worsened while in prison. We are confident that when 
the lower court is presented with all the evidence, it will find that Mr. 
Panetti, a schizophrenic man ... is not now competent for execution. 
Ultimately, commuting Mr. Panetti's sentence to life in prison without parole 
would keep the public safe and affirm our shared beliefs in a humane and moral 
justice system.:

(source: Austin American-Statesman)


Windows On Death Row: Boiling Down the Death Penalty to a Single FrameAn 
exhibit at the University of Houston-Downtown showcases editorial cartoons 
about the death penalty and artwork by inmates, some of them on death row. 
"Windows on Death Row: Art from Inside and Outside the Prison Walls" is on 
display through July 31.

An editorial cartoon about the death penalty from the Houston Chronicle's Nick 
Anderson, which is part of the exhibit "Windows on Death Row: Art From Inside 
and Outside the Prison Walls."

How do you encapsulate an issue as complex and sensitive as capital punishment 
into an editorial cartoon or a painting?

A traveling exhibit looks to answer that question at the O'Kane Gallery at the 
University of Houston-Downtown through July 31, 2017.

"Windows on Death Row: Art from Inside and Outside the Prison Walls" features 
more than 60 pieces of artwork on the subject of the death penalty from 
political cartoonists and prison inmates on death row. It includes work from 
Nick Anderson, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist for the Houston Chronicle.

Michael Hagerty recently visited the exhibit to take a look at the artwork and 
to talk with Dr. Krista Gehring, an assistant criminal justice professor at the 
University of Houston-Downtown.

(source: houstonpublicmedia.org)


Trial begins for St. Cloud man accused of fatally beating infant son

The murder trial of a St. Cloud man accused of killing his 3-month-old son in 
2013 will begin Wednesday morning.

Investigators said Larry Perry beat Ayden Perry so badly at their home that the 
boy died at a hospital.

Archie Guzman, Perry's neighbor at the time, told Channel 9 in 2013 that she 
often babysat the child for Larry Perry and his girlfriend.

Guzman said the beating was so loud that she could hear it from next door.

"I was coming into the kitchen, and all of a sudden I heard boom," she said. 
"He didn't mean to. I can feel it, because he just snapped."

Larry Perry told investigators that he harmed his son, because he couldn't take 
it anymore, an arrest report said.

Larry Perry faces the death penalty if convicted.

The case was 1 of 24 that Florida Gov. Rick Scott reassigned from State 
Attorney Aramis Ayala to State Attorney Brad King after she announced she 
wouldn't pursue the death penalty during her tenure.

Opening statements will begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

(source: WFTV news)

Ayala's Office Operating With $1.3M Budget Cut In Rift Over 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, GA., LA., ILL. USA

2017-07-09 Thread Rick Halperin

July 9


Convicted pedophile, serial killer is set to die by lethal injection in 
TexasOctober execution date scheduled for 'Tourniquet Killer,' Anthony 
Allen Shore.

Anthony Allen Shore, age 55, is scheduled to die on October 18. Maria T. 
Jackson, Criminal District Court Judge, Harris, TX, set the date for his 
execution on Thursday. Shore has been dubbed the "Tourniquet Killer." Between 
the 1980s and the 1990s, Houston's Hispanic females were strangled with 
handmade tourniquets.

For almost 2 decades, gruesome murders he committed went unsolved. Shore's 
unraveling happened when he sexually assaulted 2 girls, who were his relatives. 
He was arrested. For sexually assaulting his 2 relatives, he accepted a plea 
bargain arrangement that entailed giving up DNA and being placed on probation.

DNA collected, tested provided path to solving serial murder cold cases

That DNA collected and tested provided a much-needed break in solving the cold 
cases. He was 41-years-old when he was arrested in 2003 and eventually 
confessed to having committed the following murders:

1986, Laurie Tremblay, 14-years-old

1992, Maria del Carmen Estrada, 21-years-old

August 1994, Diana Rebollar, 9-years-old, and

July 1995, Dana Sanchez, 16-years-old

1 victim survived serial murderer following assault

The strength of the DNA test results tying him to the killing of Estrada led to 
prosecutors take him to trial on the merits of the compelling DNA evidence. He 
was tried and convicted of capital murder in the state's case against him. It 
was the only murder committed by Shore that prosecutors sought and saw a 
capital murder charge decided against him.

He was sentenced to death by a jury on October 21, 2004.

In addition to the assaults against 2 relatives and the serial murders, Shore 
additionally sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl who survived the attack. 
According to court records, Shore wore ill-fitting or loose clothing, 
sunglasses, and surgical gloves. He masked his face with a bandana. Though he 
used duct tape binding her hands and also wrapping her head, investigators said 

It was 2 years later, August 1994, when Shore kidnapped Rebollar not even a 
block away from her house.

Houston victim advocate, Andy Kahan stated that there is a reason for having 
the death penalty in Texas. He said Shore is a "poster child for why," 
according to the Houston Chronicle.

Killer appeals to U.S. Supreme Court on basis of 'brain damage'

Shore's attorney, K. Knox Nunnally, said there is an appeal, it is his killer 
client's "last chance" plea before the United States Supreme Court. Though he 
believes that there is the strength to his client's argument, he also 
acknowledged that the "odds" are not favorable to Shore.

The appeal is premised on a traumatic brain injury, according to Nunnally, who 
asserts his client's brain damage was sustained before Shore targeted and 
murdered Hispanic females. He further stated that the injury might have altered 
the killer's ability to distinguish between "right or wrong."

Kim Ogg is currently the Harris County District Attorney. Once Shore's 
execution date was scheduled she described him as a "true" serial killer who 
deserves capital punishment. She said he was predatory, his acts were brutal, 
and the execution is "appropriate."

(source: blastingnews.com)

GEORGIAfemale Mexican national may face death penalty

Ga. mother appears in court day after allegedly stabbing husband, 4 kids to 

The day after she allegedly stabbed to death her husband and 4 of their 
children, a Gwinnett County mother smiled for cameras, flashed the thumbs-up 
sign, and told a judge she doesn't want a lawyer.

"I don't need an attorney," Isabel Martinez said Friday through an interpreter. 
"My attorney is the people that we are fighting for ... It does not matter what 
color you are because God loves us all."

But whether or not she has an attorney may not be up to Martinez.

Though her mental health has not been discussed publicly by law enforcement or 
the court, the 33-year-old woman's bizarre behavior in court - and the very 
nature of her alleged crimes - raises questions about whether she will be 
deemed competent to stand trial, according to legal experts.

That's a determination to be made by forensic psychiatrists - the likely next 
step in what is sure to be a long, complex process, attorneys observing the 
case said Friday.

Martinez is accused of killing the 4 children and their father early Thursday 
morning at the family's home in Loganville. A 5th child, a daughter, was also 
attacked but survived and is now awake and talking in a hospital. Martinez was 
taken into custody, interviewed and arrested later Thursday, charged with 5 
counts of malice murder, 5 counts of murder and 6 charges of aggravated 

Police have not released details about a possible motive or whether Martinez 
confessed to the killings.


[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., VA., N.C., GA., FLA., ALA., MISS.

2017-07-08 Thread Rick Halperin

July 8


US appeals court to review case of Argentine on death row in Texas

A federal court has agreed to review the appeal of an Argentine who is on death 
row in Texas for a 1995 killing.

The Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals said last week it will examine whether 
Victor Saldano, 44, was competent to stand trial and whether his lawyers were 
deficient for not requesting a competency hearing before he was resentenced to 
death years after the initial trial.

Saldano, who was in the US illegally, was sentenced to death for the killing of 
46-year-old Paul King, who was abducted from a Plano supermarket, robbed and 

His case has drawn the attention of Pope Francis, who has met at least twice 
with the inmate's mother. The Catholic Church opposes capital punishment.

Saldano was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to die in 1996, but a 
judge later threw out the original sentence because a psychologist improperly 
testified that Saldano's "Hispanic background" made him likely to be a future 
danger, which Texas juries factor into death penalty decisions. The trial's 
punishment phase was repeated in 2004 and Saldano was again sentenced to die.

In its decision to consider the case, the appeals court wrote that "ample 
evidence supports an inference of incompetency" and pointed to "numerous 
instances" of Saldano's incoherent and strange behaviour around the time the 
punishment phase was repeated. Physicians offered various explanations for 
Saldana's behaviour, including his isolation on death row and that he was 
faking his condition to get drugs.

Lower courts have ruled that the trial court had no obligation to hold a 
competency hearing.

The appeals court record showed both the trial judge and Saldano's lawyers had 
concerns about his mental state, but the court's record includes no results of 
any examinations of Saldano. Defence attorneys never requested a competency 
hearing and the judge indicated he "had no reason to believe Saldano was 
legally incompetent," the Fifth Circuit wrote.

Defence lawyers, meanwhile, made a strategic decision at the resentencing phase 
to not introduce evidence of Saldano's mental condition. Instead, they stressed 
that Saldana didn't have a prior criminal record, that he was under the 
influence of drugs and alcohol, and that it was a companion, Jorge Chavez, who 
came up with the idea to commit the crime.

Chavez is serving a life prison term.

The appeals court has given Saldano's attorneys 30 days to present written 
arguments. State attorneys then will have 15 days to respond.

(source: Buenos Aires Herald)


Death penalty sought in Mount Wolf woman's homicide

An 18-year old Bronx man who attended Northeastern High School is facing the 
death penalty for allegedly murdering Ahshantianna Johnson outside her Mount 
Wolf home.

Edia Antonio Lawrence, who goes by "Richie," was in York County Court Friday 
morning for his formal court arraignment on charges of 1st-degree murder, 
conspiracy to commit that offense, 2nd-degree murder, robbery, burglary, theft, 
simple assault and receiving stolen property.

Chief deputy prosecutor David Maisch said the York County District Attorney's 
Office is citing 2 aggravating factors to argue for the death penalty.

First, he said, Johnson was killed during the course of another felony - 
specifically, robbery. The 2nd is that the slaying occurred as part of a 
drug-delivery operation, Maisch said.

Lawrence's alleged accomplices in the homicide remain at large, the prosecutor 

'A little surprised': Philadelphia-based defense attorney Jack McMahon said he 
intends to defend the case vigorously.

"We were a little surprised they're seeking the death penalty. He's only an 
18-year-old young man," he said.

McMahon noted that the only identification of Lawrence being involved is a 
voice identification.

"I think that's a bit suspect," he said. "We think the defendant did not do 

McMahon said it's a sad case.

"But just because it's sad doesn't mean he's guilty," the attorney said.

Prosecutors consulted with Johnson's family and Northeastern Regional Police 
before deciding to seek the death penalty, according to Maisch, who said 
Johnson's family supports the decision.

Lawrence's 1st pretrial conference is scheduled for Oct. 16.

The background: 3 armed, masked men, allegedly including Lawrence, fatally beat 
the 19-year-old Johnson at her Second Street home because Lawrence believed 
she'd stolen his drug money and vowed to "take care of it," according to 
charging documents.

About 2:15 a.m. March 25, the trio barged into the home Johnson shared with her 
mother, Noemi Capo, and started stealing property, documents state.

One of the men threatened Capo with a metal baseball bat and a knife, demanding 
she call her daughter and have her come home, police said.

E Capo eventually reached Johnson by phone and told her she needed to come 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., FLA., ALA.

2017-07-07 Thread Rick Halperin

July 7

TEXASnew execution date

Houston's 'Tourniquet Killer' set for October execution

He was a musician. A hard-working father. A charismatic charmer. But now, he's 
just a convicted killer who has a date with death.

Houston's so-called "Tourniquet Killer" - a 55-year-old who admitted to raping 
and killing young Hispanic women in Harris County for nearly a decade - is 
slated for execution this fall.

Anthony Allen Shore terrorized the county in the 1980s and 1990s, leaving 
behind a trail of young victims in a gruesome set of crimes marked by the 
killer's use of handmade tourniquets.

He was found guilty on 1 count of capital murder in 2004 and, finally, on 
Thursday, state District Judge Maria T. Jackson set his execution for Oct. 18. 
He is the only inmate from Harris County with a death date on the calendar.

"There's a reason we have the death penalty in Texas and Anthony Shore is a 
poster child for why," said Andy Kahan, Houston's victim advocate.

One final long-shot plea for consideration is pending before the U.S. Supreme 

"I would certainly say that the odds are not in our favor," said his attorney, 
K. Knox Nunnally, of Houston. "But we believe that we have a strong argument."

The brutal killings went unsolved for nearly 2 decades until Shore was arrested 
for molesting 2 girls - both of whom were relatives - and a DNA breakthrough 
cracked the cold cases.

As a convicted sex offender, Shore's DNA went on file. And after testing cold 
case evidence, investigators realized that Shore's sample matched a speck 
recovered from underneath the fingernails of a dead woman. When police 
confronted Shore with the newfound connection to the killing, the former 
telephone technician calmly confessed to four crimes, starting with the slaying 
of 14-year-old Laurie Tremblay in 1986.

6 years later, he raped and murdered 21-year-old Maria del Carmen Estrada 
before leaving her naked body in the drive-through of a Spring Branch Dairy 

In 1994, he killed 9-year-old Diana Rebollar. When he snatched her, his 
youngest victim was on the way to the store to buy sugar so her mom could make 

The following year, Shore slaughtered 16-year-old Dana Sanchez, who vanished 
while hitchhiking to her boyfriend's house in north Houston.

All of the victims were raped and tortured before he strangled them with 
handmade tourniquets.

At the time of his 2003 arrest in the slayings, Shore was still on probation 
for the earlier molestations.

Shore is a "true serial killer, a person deserving of the ultimate punishment," 
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement Thursday. "His 
crimes were predatory, and his victims the most vulnerable in society - women 
and children. For his brutal acts, the death penalty is appropriate."

Before he was sentenced in 2004 for Estrada's slaying, Shore stunned listeners 
in court by requesting the death penalty, and a Harris County jury quickly 

Prosecutors at the time chalked his bizarre request up to a deranged mind and 
psychopathic narcissism.

Now, Shore's lawyers are still fighting for their client's life.

Nunnally, who's represented Shore as appointed pro bono counsel through the 
federal appeals process, said there's currently a petition for a writ of 
certiorari pending in the U.S. Supreme Court. If granted, that could require a 
lower court to reconsider a request for appeal.

The crux of the appeal is that Shore has previously unrealized brain damage.

"In the course of our appeal we discovered he suffered a traumatic brain injury 
prior to the times he committed the crimes he was accused of," Nunnally said. 
"That possibly could have affected his reasoning and determination of what is 
right or wrong."

His lawyers aren't seeking to exonerate him, though.

"This is not a guilty/innocent argument," Nunnally said. "This is a 
death/life-in-prison argument."

Shore's scheduled execution comes amid a dip in the use of capital punishment 
both statewide and across the nation. So far, Texas has only executed four 
offenders this year, and just six more - including Shore - are scheduled to die 
before the year's end.

"This will be the 1st execution date out of Harris County this year and leaving 
aside any particulars about his case, we're seeing a general downward trend in 
both executions and death sentences," said Kristin Houle, executive director of 
the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. "But it's always 
disappointing to see new dates added to the list."

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present24

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982present-543

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #

25-July 27-Taichin Preyor-544

26-Aug. 30-Steven Long545

27-Sept.7--Juan Castillo--546

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., S.C., FLA., USA

2017-07-05 Thread Rick Halperin

July 5


My grandfather was a death row doctor. He tested psychedelic drugs on Texas 
inmatesAn Austin-based writer's quest to learn his grandfather's story 
leads to death row - and a little-known series of experiments that involved 
giving hallucinogens to inmates in the early 1960s.

[In this special contribution to The Texas Tribune, Austin writer Ben Hartman 
tells the story of his search for the truth about his late grandfather, a 
prison psychiatrist on Texas' death row who performed little-known medical 
experiments on inmates in the 1960s.]

Eusebio Martinez was polite - even happy - as he entered the death chamber that 
August night in Huntsville in 1960. He may not have understood his time was up.

A few years earlier, Martinez had been convicted of murdering an infant girl 
whose parents had left her sleeping in their car while they visited a Midland 
nightclub. He???d been ruled "feeble-minded" by multiple psychiatrists and had 
to be shown how to get into the electric chair.

As he was strapped in, a priest leaned in and coached him to say "gracias" and 
a simple prayer. Just before the first bolt knifed through his brain, Martinez 
grinned and waved at the young Houston doctor who would declare him dead a few 
minutes later.

That doctor was my grandfather.

For 3 years at the end of his life, Dr. Lee Hartman worked as a resident 
physician and psychiatrist at Huntsville's Wynne Unit. From 1960 to 1963, he 
witnessed at least 14 executions as presiding physician, his signature scrawled 
on the death certificates of the condemned men. All of them died in the 
electric chair - "Ol' Sparky" - a grisly method that left flesh burned and 
bodies smoking in the death chamber as my grandfather read their vital signs.

I had always known from my father that his dad, who died before I was born, 
worked for the prison system as a psychiatrist.

But I had no idea that he'd worked in the death chamber, witnessing executions. 
Or that he'd been involved in testing psychedelics on prisoners to see if drugs 
like LSD, mescaline and psilocybin could treat schizophrenia. Or that he'd been 
hospitalized repeatedly during his lifelong struggle with depression.

And I didn't know the truth about his death at age 48, when he was found on the 
staircase of his house in Houston's exclusive River Oaks neighborhood.

My obsession with my grandfather's life grew from my father's sudden death from 
a stroke at his Austin home in 2014. Last summer, I came back to Austin after 
14 years overseas and began searching for clues about my grandfather - in the 
state archives, in Huntsville and in boxes of old family keepsakes kept by my 

I reported on crime and police and prisons for several years as a journalist in 
Israel, and now I wanted to investigate a mystery in my own family tree. I 
wanted to learn about the man whose story had always seemed more literary than 
real - a Jewish orphan from the Deep South who fought in World War II, sang in 
operas and became a successful doctor before tragedy cut the story short.

I wanted to know the man my father was named for, and to use the search as a 
way to beat a path through my grief over my own father's death.

Through my grandfather's personal papers, newspaper clippings and long-buried 
state records, I found a man - brilliant, thoughtful and sensitive - who 
witnessed great human drama and suffering in the Death House, and in the 
process became a determined opponent of capital punishment. He outlined his 
thoughts in a collection of diary entries and a 19-page handwritten treatise I 
found in my grandmother's old keepsakes.

"The death penalty," he wrote in 1962, "is irreparable."

My grandfather was born in Greenville, Miss., in 1916, 1 of 2 twin boys placed 
in foster care after their father died of yellow fever and their mother moved 

The boys ended up at the New Orleans Jewish Children's Home and attended the 
elite Newman School down the street, just like hundreds of other Jewish orphans 
of their day.

My grandfather and his brother went on to graduate from Louisiana State 
University's medical school. Along the way, my grandfather trained as an opera 
singer, met my grandmother, started a family, served in the Army Air Corps as a 
flight surgeon during World War II, then returned home to his family and 
started his medical career. For a decade he worked as a small-town general 
practitioner in Louisiana and East Texas.

In 1957, he moved to Houston and enrolled in the Baylor College of Medicine to 
study psychiatry, a major mid-life career move that, according to my father, 
was partly motivated by my grandfather's desire to understand his own battles 
with depression.

Within a few years, he had gone to work in Huntsville as part of a contingent 
of Baylor College of Medicine psychiatrists sent to the Wynne Treatment Center, 
a diagnostic unit for mentally ill inmates that had opened the previous year.

It was 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, N.C., GA., FLA., OHIO, OKLA., USA

2017-07-03 Thread Rick Halperin

July 3


Death penalty nearing historic lows in Texas and nationwide

The death penalty is on the downswing - not just in Texas, but nationwide.

A mid-year review by the Death Penalty Information Center found that the use of 
capital punishment is likely to hover near historic lows in 2017, with just 13 
executions completed and 12 more slated to occur.

Last year, just 14 executions had been carried out by mid-point in the year.

Even the Lone Star State, which has typically been a heavy user of capital 
punishment, has seen a long-term drop in executions. In 2016, the state 
executed the fewest inmates it had in 2 decades, as the Chronicle reported in 

"There is clearly a political climate change under way in the United States on 
the death penalty," Robert Dunham, DPIC executive director, said last year.

"It has many different causes - you can't attribute it to any single thing - 
but there are a combination of factors that have led to substantial change in 
America's view of the death penalty."

Some of the factors at play in the changing trend could include legal 
uncertainties, moratoriums, and death penalty drug shortages, according to The 
Washington Post.

And on top of those logistical issues, public opinion has slowly shifted away 
from the practice. A Pew Research Survey in 2016 found that support for the 
death penalty had fallen below 50 % for the 1st time in almost half a century. 
While a Gallup poll a year earlier found a slightly higher level of support in 
the general populace with 60 % favoring the practice, even that higher number 
represents a decline.

"People feel much more comfortable with that alternative because if you make a 
mistake, you can fix it later," ACLU senior staff attorney Brian Stull said 
last year. "That is certainly lurking in the background."

But the current dip may not be record-setting; as of now, 2017 execution 
figures look to be slightly above the 26-year-low seen in 2016. But, that could 
change depending on whether Ohio is able to carry out the 5 executions 
scheduled between now and December.

And it's also possible 2017 could see a new low in death sentences handed out. 
So far, states have only doled out 16 death sentences. Last year saw just 31 by 
the end of the year.

But even though Texas has witnessed a marked decrease in the use of capital 
punishment, it's still near the head of the pack for the remainder of the year, 
with 5 executions scheduled for the 2nd half of 2017.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Bradley found guilty in murder of Shannon Rippy Van Newkirk

More than 3 years after Shannon Rippy Van Newkirk was last seen, a Pender 
County jury on Thursday found James Opelton Bradley guilty of 2nd-degree murder 
in her presumed death.

Superior Court Judge Paul Jones sentenced Bradley to 30.4 to 37.5 years in 

Bradley's defense attorneys said they would appeal the verdict. New Hanover 
County District Attorney Ben David David said he is "thrilled" with the verdict 
and is confident it will hold up under appeal.

Bradley, 54, of Wilmington was charged with 1st-degree murder April 29, 2014, 
after Wilmington Police Department detectives looking for Van Newkirk unearthed 
a woman's nude and bound body from a shallow grave in a Pender County farm 


Van Newkirk, 53, of Wilmington was last seen April 5, 2014, at the Husk Bar in 
downtown Wilmington. Her mother Roberta Lewis reported Van Newkirk missing 
after she didn't show up for a brunch to celebrate her 54th birthday on April 
6, 2014.

Van Newkirk and Bradley were employed by Steve Mott's landscaping company and 
occasionally went to work on a farm Mott owns in Hampstead. It was on that farm 
where the woman's buried body was found, wrapped in garbage bags.

Detectives at first thought the woman's body was Van Newkirk's. Tattoos 
observed during an autopsy confirmed it was not Van Newkirk, but the body of 
Elisha Tucker, 33, of Wilmington, who had been missing since August 2013. A DNA 
expert testified during the trial that Tucker's DNA was found on the carpet pad 
of Bradley's Chevrolet Tahoe. Crystal Sitosky, a Wilmington woman who said she 
had seen Bradley with Tucker in the summer of 2013, also testified she went to 
meet with Bradley on the property where Tucker's body eventually was found.

Bradley also is charged with 1st-degree murder in Tucker's death, but a trial 
date has not been set. The state has said it will seek the death penalty in 
that case.

(source: Wilmington Star News)


Alleged gunman in Savannah gang revenge slaying makes court appearance

The alleged shooter in what prosecutors call a gang revenge slaying of 
Dominique Powell in Tatemville today appeared in court as officials begin new 
death-penalty proceedings on a June re-indictment.

Timothy Coleman Jr., 21, appeared with his lawyer from the state Capital 
Defense Office in a "first apperance" before 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., FLA., ALA., USA

2017-07-02 Thread Rick Halperin



Appeals court to review case of Argentine on Texas death row

A federal court has agreed to review the appeal of an Argentine man who is on 
death row in Texas for a 1995 killing.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Wednesday it will examine whether 
Victor Saldano, 44, was competent to stand trial and whether his lawyers were 
deficient for not requesting a competency hearing before he was resentenced to 
death years after the initial trial.

Saldano, who was in the U.S. illegally, was sentenced to death for the killing 
of 46-year-old Paul King, who was abducted from a Plano supermarket, robbed and 

His case has drawn the attention of Pope Francis, who is also Argentine and has 
met at least twice with the inmate's mother. The Catholic Church opposes 
capital punishment.

Saldano was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to die in 1996, but a 
judge later threw out the original sentence because a psychologist improperly 
testified that Saldano's Hispanic background made him likely to be a future 
danger, which Texas juries factor into death penalty decisions. The trial's 
punishment phase was repeated in 2004 and Saldano was again sentenced to die.

In its decision to consider the case, the appeals court wrote that "ample 
evidence supports an inference of incompetency" and pointed to "numerous 
instances" of Saldano's incoherent and strange behavior around the time the 
punishment phase was repeated. Physicians offered various explanations for 
Saldana's behavior, including his isolation on death row and that he was faking 
his condition to get drugs.

Lower courts have ruled that the trial court had no obligation to hold a 
competency hearing.

The appeals court record showed both the trial judge and Saldano's lawyers had 
concerns about his mental state, but the court's record includes no results of 
any examinations of Saldano. Defense attorneys never requested a competency 
hearing and the judge indicated he "had no reason to believe Saldano was 
legally incompetent," the 5th Circuit wrote.

Defense lawyers, meanwhile, made a strategic decision at the resentencing phase 
to not introduce evidence of Saldano's mental condition. Instead, they stressed 
that Saldana didn't have a prior criminal record, that he was under the 
influence of drugs and alcohol, and that it was a companion, Jorge Chavez, who 
came up with the idea to commit the crime.

Chavez is serving a life prison term.

The appeals court has given Saldano's attorneys 30 days to present written 
arguments. State attorneys then will have 15 days to respond.

(source: Associated Press)

VIRGINIAimpending execution

An execution will not equal justice

On July 6, Virginia is scheduled to carry out its 3rd execution under Gov. 
Terry McAuliffe, D, and 113th since 1976. The inmate, William C. Morva, was 
convicted of fatally shooting 2 men - a deputy sheriff and a hospital security 
guard - in 2006. His guilt is not in question. What is less clear is if jurors 
would have sentenced him to death had they been aware of the true extent of his 
mental illness.

At varying points, Morva reportedly believed that he was meant to lead a 
distant indigenous tribe; that he was gifted with special powers to carry out 
an unidentified quest; that he was unjustly persecuted by local officials and 
the administration of President George W. Bush; and that his real name was 
Nemo, which is Latin for "nobody." These are not signs of a rational mind, but 
rather one afflicted with debilitating mental illness. A mental-health expert 
who assessed him after his conviction diagnosed him with delusional disorder, a 
serious psychotic condition similar to schizophrenia.

We have previously written that capital punishment is dehumanizing. But the 
execution of a man suffering from severe mental illness is an act of particular 
barbarism - especially if his condition may have been misdiagnosed in trial. 
According to Morva's attorneys, the mental-health experts who provided 
statements to the jury did not receive his full case history and diagnosed him 
with a personality disorder rather than psychosis.

Despite his personal opposition to the death penalty, McAuliffe is committed to 
upholding Virginia law, a stance we understand and respect. He commuted a death 
sentence in April, however, after he found flaws in the sentencing process of 
Ivar Teleguz. His predecessors - then-Gov. James Gilmore, R, and now-Sen. Tim 
Kaine, D-Va. - had granted clemency on grounds of mental illness. Morva's case 
raises many of the same questions and adds fodder to the national effort to 
abolish capital punishment for people with serious mental illnesses.

McAuliffe should look favorably on the petition for clemency before him and 
commute Morva's sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. 
He should also ensure that Morva receives the mental-health treatment he so 
obviously needs. The killing of 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., OHIO, MICH., MO., ARIZ., USA, USA/EU

2017-06-28 Thread Rick Halperin

June 29


Surviving bad lawyers just got tougher for death row inmates

For inmates on death row, having a bad lawyer just got deadlier.

In a ruling Monday against a Texas death row inmate who claimed his lawyer 
failed to argue his case adequately, the Supreme Court ruled that federal 
courts could not review prisoners' claims that their state appeals lawyers were 
ineffective, resolving an issue that had split courts across the country.

The decision makes it harder for death row inmates who had poor legal 
representation to make that part of their appeals, a particular issue for poor 
inmates who likely have court-appointed lawyers in the early stages of their 

"It does perpetuate a system of inequality," said Sean O'Brien, a law professor 
at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law who has argued several 
capital punishment cases and served as the director of many of the school's 
criminal defense law clinics. "It gives the state a reward for giving prisoners 
incompetent lawyers in state post-conviction That's the net effect of 

In 2008, Erick Davila was convicted of fatally shooting a 5-year-old girl and 
her grandmother. Davila argued that he had meant to shoot a rival gang member - 
the girl's father. The fact that he had not meant to kill more than 1 person 
should have made him ineligible for a capital murder verdict and the death 
penalty. But the judge gave the trial jury incorrect instructions about 
Davila's eligibility, and they sentenced him to death by lethal injection.

During Davila's appeal, his lawyer failed to argue that those bad instructions 
affected Davis' sentencing. Then, crucially, during Davila's post-conviction 
proceedings in state court, a new lawyer didn't bring up the appeal lawyer's 
failure to mention the instructions. With his case now up for a federal appeal, 
Davila's latest lawyer argued that because his appeals lawyer was incompetent, 
the federal court should review the impact of the inaccurate instructions to 
the jury.

Federal courts, however, typically won't rule on issues that could have been 
reviewed at the state level.

"The question is [not] really whether or not Davila had a fair trial," O'Brien 
said. "He did not. The question is whether the federal court can remedy that he 
had an unfair trial."

The answer to that question, the justices ruled in a 5-4 decision in Davila v. 
Davis, is no.

"Claims of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel, however, do not pose 
the same risk that a trial error - of any kind - will escape review 
altogether," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the majority opinion. (Thanks to 
a 2011 Supreme Court case, federal courts can already review lawyers' mistakes 
at the trial level.) Thomas added that, if the court ruled in Davila's favor, 
"Not only would these burdens on the federal courts and our federal system be 
severe, but the benefit would - as a systemic matter - be small."

It's unclear just how many cases will be affected by Monday's ruling. During 
oral arguments, lawyers for Texas argued that a ruling in Davila's favor could 
unleash a "flood" of cases into federal courts. Texas Attorney General Ken 
Paxton echoed that assessment in a statement celebrating the ruling, saying, 
"Had the high court ruled otherwise, states and the federal court system would 
have been burdened with an avalanche of claims facing an infinitesimal chance 
of success."

"It's going to exacerbate the difference between prisoners who have access to 
good lawyers and those who don't."

Stephen Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law who wrote 
about the case for the Supreme Court outlet SCOTUSBlog, says this case wasn't 
just about the fates of what both he and O'Brien believe will actually be only 
a small number of prisoners who find themselves in situations like Davila's. 
Instead, Vladeck says, the case demonstrates a "lack of doctrine that responds 
to and accounts for these inequalities" in the criminal justice system - 
particularly for people facing capital punishment.

"It's going to further exacerbate the difference between state prisoners who 
have access to good lawyers for their post-conviction proceedings, and those 
who don't," Vladeck said. "Because the good lawyers will be able to salvage the 
ineffectiveness of the appellate counsel."

That difference may be steep. A Harvard Law School study of the 16 counties 
that imposed the death penalty 5 or more times between 2010 and 2015 (3 were in 
Texas) found "appalling inadequacies" in the quality of legal defense.

"You've got to win the lottery and get 3 good lawyers in a row," O'Brien said 
of the trial, appellate, and post-conviction process. "Even if you do get 1 
good lawyer, the other 2 lawyers are going to undo the work of that lawyer 
They have a hard time consistently providing competent lawyers at the trial 
level, especially Texas."

As of late last year, Texas had 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., VA., N.C., FLA.

2017-06-28 Thread Rick Halperin

June 28


Former death row inmate now eligible for parole, victim's family strikes back

Noe Santana, whose 20-year-old cousin was kidnapped, raped and murdered in 
1991, did not mince words when he had the chance Tuesday to talk to the killer.

"When you're looking at yourself in the mirror, I hope you take that razor you 
shave your face with, shave your head with, and cut across your throat," 
Santana shouted at him in the courtroom. "There's nothing left for you in this 

Santana was in court to see 44-year-old Robert James Campbell's death sentence 
reduced to life in prison after he was declared intellectually disabled.

Before he was sentenced, Campbell apologized to the family and wished them 

"I would just like to offer my deepest and sincerest apologies for all I've 
hurt," he said softly.

Campbell was convicted in 1992 of capital murder in the death of Alejandra 
Rendon, a bank teller he abducted while she was pumping gas.

He spent 25 years on death row, survived an execution day, and is now eligible 
for parole after mental health professionals determined he is too disabled to 
be executed, prosecutors said Tuesday.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently outlawed the execution of mentally disabled 
people, sending Campbell's case back to Harris County for evaluation. A 
prosecution expert declared him mentally disabled.

Wearing the yellow jail uniform typically reserved for high-profile inmates, he 
appeared before Visiting Judge Michael Wilkerson, who sentenced him to life in 

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said the law in 1991 did not allow for 
the option of life without parole, so he will be eligible for parole.

"Times have changed when it comes to people with mental disabilities," Ogg 
said. "It was with a heavy heart that our expert came back and agreed with the 
defense that Campbell is intellectually disabled so we were forced to withdraw 
our plan to seek the death penalty."

Defense attorney Rob Owen, of Northwestern University School of Law, has in the 
past extended his condolences to the victim's family on behalf of the defense 
team, which included Burke Butler and Callie Heller of the Powell Project and 
Raoul Schonemann of the Capital Punishment Clinic at the University of Texas 
School of Law.

"Robert expressed his remorse for his actions, apologized to everyone he had 
hurt, and said he would continue to pray that his victims find peace," Owen 
said Tuesday in an emailed statement. "We likewise extend our sympathy to the 
victims for the terrible loss they have suffered, and our appreciation to the 
District Attorney's office for their decision to forego further efforts to seek 
Robert's execution."

Ogg said her office will protest all of Campbell's future parole hearings to 
remind officials of the brutality of his crime.

"We can successfully fight his parole and keep Mr. Campbell behind bars," she 
said. "He was a person who was a predator in our society."

Victim's advocate Andy Kahan said Campbell will likely go before the parole 
board within 6 months. He said Rendon's family will ask the board to deny 
parole and put Campbell on a special list in which he will not go before the 
board again for at least 10 years.

If he is classified that way, he would only get parole hearings every decade, a 
comforting thought for Rendon's family.

"Your last meal should be behind bars," Santana told the killer.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


What it's like to spend 22 years on death row for a crime you didn't commit

Nick Yarris served 22 years in solitary confinement on death row for a crime he 
didn't commit.

He was stabbed, strangled, savagely beaten and came face-to-face with some of 
the most notorious serial killers America has ever produced, all the while 
knowing he was innocent.

But, despite all this, despite being dismissed as a rapist and murderer, and 
feeling so low he asked a judge if he could be put to death, he considers 
himself 'extremely lucky'.

'Look at the physical features,' he told metro.co.uk from his home near Yeovil 
in Somerset, as he prepared to travel to Los Angeles to work on a biopic of his 

'[I] faced the death penalty but got out, acclimatised to society, overcame 
Hepatitis C, and went on to stand next to some of the most brilliant actors in 
the world performing in the Colosseum in Rome.'

'Guess what? There are 160 other men who have been proven innocent off death 
row. Not all of them are getting the same play.

'A lot of them go and die in abstract, terrible ways and they don't get 

It's true that the 56-year-old's case has been the subject of widespread 
coverage since his release from prison in Pennsylvania in 2004 after DNA proved 
his innocence.

But anyone who has watched Netflix documentary The Fear of 13 or read Yarris' 
book by the same title will be able to testify that there is something 
particularly compelling about his 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, S.C.., FLA., ALA., LA.

2017-06-27 Thread Rick Halperin

June 27

TEXASnew execution date

Robert Pruett has been given an execution date for October 12; it should be 
considered serious.

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present24

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982present-543

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #

25-July 27-Taichin Preyor-544

26-Aug. 30-Steven Long545

27-Sept.7--Juan Castillo--546

28-Oct. 12-Robert Pruett--547

29-Oct. 26-Clinton Young--548

30-Jan. 30-William Rayford549

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

Texas death row inmate loses at U.S. Supreme Court, could face execution 
dateThe U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a Texas death row inmate Monday, 
making Erick Davila's case ineligible for review in federal court.

A Texas death row inmate whose case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme 
Court could now face an execution date after the justices ruled against him in 
a 5-4 decision Monday morning split among ideological lines. The man was 
convicted in the 2008 shooting deaths of a 5-year-old girl and her grandmother 
in Fort Worth.

The question before the high court in Erick Davila's case was whether claims of 
ineffective assistance of counsel during state appeals should be treated the 
same as during the original trial. Appellate courts throughout the country have 
ruled differently on the issue, a situation that often prompts the Supreme 
Court to step in. In the Monday opinion presented by Justice Clarence Thomas, 
the justices ultimately decided that the different types of lawyers should not 
be treated the same, making Davila's case ineligible for consideration in 
federal court.

"Because a prisoner does not have a constitutional right to counsel in state 
postconviction proceedings, ineffective assistance in those proceedings does 
not qualify as cause to excuse a procedural default," Thomas wrote in his 
opinion, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Anthony Kennedy, 
Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch.

Justice Stephen Breyer, a notable death penalty critic, wrote a dissenting 
opinion, joined by liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and 
Elena Kagan.

"The fact that, according to Department of Justice statistics, nearly 1/3 of 
convictions or sentences in capital cases are overturned at some stage of 
review suggests the practical importance of the appeal right, particularly in a 
capital case such as this one," Breyer wrote in his dissent.

Davila's case started in Fort Worth in 2008, when he fatally shot a rival gang 
member's 5-year-old daughter and mother during a child's birthday party, 
according to court documents. Davila, now 30, claims he only meant to kill his 
rival, Jerry Stevenson. In his confession to police he stated he was trying to 
get Stevenson and "the guys on the porch."

If the jury had believed Davila only intended to kill 1 person, he would have 
been ineligible for a capital murder verdict and the death penalty would have 
been off the table. In this case, Davila must have intended to kill multiple 
people to be found guilty of capital murder.

During deliberations, the jury asked the judge for clarification on the intent 
issue, and the judge said Davila would be responsible for the crime if the only 
difference between what happened and his intention was that a different person 
was hurt. He did not affirm to the jury that Davila must have intended to kill 
more than 1 person to be found guilty.

It's that jury instruction that Davila's long, complicated case hinged upon. 
His lawyer at trial objected to the instruction, but was overruled. But in his 
automatic, direct appeal after being convicted and sentenced to death, his new 
lawyer never mentioned the judge's instruction, even though that is the appeal 
where death-sentenced individuals raise what they think are wrongdoings from 
the trial. Afterward, during his state habeas appeal, which focuses on issues 
outside of the trial record, the lawyer didn't fault the previous lawyer for 
not raising the issue on direct appeal.

The next step in the death penalty appeals process after going through state 
courts is to move into the federal court system. But federal courts generally 
can't rule on issues that could have been raised in state appeals. So, when 
Davila's current lawyer, Seth Kretzer, tried to claim his client's direct 
appellate lawyer was inadequate for not raising the issue of an improper jury 
instruction by the judge, the federal courts said they couldn't look at the 
issue because it could have been raised by the state habeas appellate lawyer.

"The way the law works right now is if the trial counsel made a mistake, the 
federal court could save the inmate's life, but if the appellate counsel made 
the mistake, they would 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., N.C., FLA., ALA., LA.

2017-06-24 Thread Rick Halperin

June 24


Love gets new attorneys for capital murder retrial

Former convicted murderer Albert Leslie Love Jr. has 2 new lawyers for a 
retrial of his capital murder case, including one who represented him on 

In a brief hearing Friday, Love informed 19th State District Judge Ralph 
Strother that he requires court-appointed attorneys to represent him because he 
and his family can't afford to hire attorneys for the retrial of his 
death-penalty case.

Love left death row and has been back in the McLennan County Jail since May 2. 
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned his capital murder conviction 
and death sentence in December.

Strother appointed Austin attorneys Ariel Payan, who worked on Love's appeal, 
and Jim Young to represent Love on retrial. Strother said Friday it likely will 
be 2019 before Love's case can be tried again.

A Williamson County jury returned the death penalty against Love in 2013 in the 
2011 shooting deaths of Keenan Hubert, 20, and Tyus Sneed, 17, at the Lakewood 
Villas apartment complex, 1601 Spring St.

The Court of Criminal Appeals, in a 6-3 opinion, ruled that Love's Fourth 
Amendment rights were violated when Waco police seized the contents of his 
cellphone, including text messages, without a search warrant. Prosecutors then 
used the messages at his trial.

In a motion for rehearing rejected by the Court of Criminal Appeals in April, 
prosecutors argued that Waco police officers relied on what they understood the 
law to be at the time and exhibited a "good-faith belief" that warrants were 
not necessary for the cellphones.

Love was appointed new attorneys because his original trial attorneys, John 
Donahue and Jon Evans, bowed out of representing him again because Love's 
appellate attorneys alleged in briefs that the attorneys were ineffective, a 
common tactic on appeal.

Love's trial was moved to Georgetown because one of his co-defendants, Rickey 
Donnell Cummings, was tried first in Waco. The appeals court affirmed Cummings' 
conviction and death sentence.

Cummings' younger brother, D'Arvis Cummings, was sentenced to 20 years in 
prison in 2014. He pleaded guilty to murder as a party to the ambush slayings.

Deontrae Majors and Marion Bible, who were in the front seat of the car Hubert 
and Sneed were in when they were killed, were wounded in the attack but managed 
to escape.

Testimony from both trials showed Cummings and Love wanted to kill Hubert out 
of revenge because they thought he killed their best friend, Emuel "Man Man" 
Bowers III, at East Waco Park the year before.

McDonald capital murder trial postponed

In other court activity Friday afternoon, Strother indefinitely postponed the 
capital murder trial of Todric Deon McDonald to give his attorneys sufficient 
time to have DNA evidence analyzed.

McDonald, 30, and 32-year-old Tony Olivarez are co-defendants in the shooting 
deaths of Justin Javier Gonzalez, 24, and Ulysses Gonzalez, 30, at the Pecan 
Tree Apartments in the 2600 block of Grim Avenue. The cousins died of multiple 
gunshot wounds, police said.

Prosecutor Michael Jarrett told the judge his office likely will get a report 
back next week concerning 36 items that were tested for DNA, and then he will 
forward the information to the defense.

Evans and Donahue, who represent McDonald in the death-penalty case, told 
Strother they would need time to have the evidence analyzed by defense experts 
to provide McDonald with a proper defense.

Jury selection in the case had been set for October. Jarrett said the state has 
no objections to the postponement.

(source: Waco Tribune-Herald)


Judge hears motions in capital murder case in Danville

A Danville judge this week denied a motion by defense counsel to declare a 
capital murder case unconstitutional.

The Danville Commonwealth's Attorney Office filed a notice of intent to seek 
the death penalty against Pierre Antoine Dixon, 30, in December 2016.

Dixon, of Danville, is charged with capital murder in the November 2013 
shooting death of Lynchburg resident Antwan Lamontah George Rucker. Police have 
said Rucker was believed to have been led to the Innkeeper hotel on Piney 
Forest Road to be robbed.

Danville Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Petra Haskins said in an email 
Friday afternoon the state is seeking the death penalty in the case for 
numerous reasons.

Rucker "was lured to the Innkeeper by [Sharika] Murphy who was in cahoots with 
Dixon to rob Antwan Rucker," Haskins said in the email.

"A homicide in the course of a robbery is potentially a capital crime," Haskins 

The death penalty is sought in this case due to the "aggravating factors of 
both future dangerousness and vileness," according to a motion filed by Steve 
Milani with the Roanoke Capital Defense Unit.

Milani filed the motion to "declare 1 part of Virginia's capital murder 
sentencing scheme unconstitutional, the so-called 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., GA., FLA., OHIO, ILL.

2017-06-23 Thread Rick Halperin

June 23


A Texas Death Row Inmate's Fight for Basic Justice Is Finally Heading to the 
Supreme CourtCarlos Ayestas' case is about "the right to be fairly charged 
and defended."

A man on Texas' death row has what seems like a fairly simple request: he wants 
his lawyers to do an investigation into his background - something his counsel 
says he's legally entitled to before being put to death.

Carlos Ayestas, a mentally ill undocumented immigrant from Honduras, is arguing 
that a series of missteps by his trial lawyers led him to be sentenced to death 
in 1997 at the age of 28, without the jury hearing any mitigating evidence that 
could spare his life. Even after appealing to a federal court in 2009, there 
has been no investigation into his personal history, nor have any of the courts 
given weight to his mental health, and therefore there has been no way bring up 
the kind of personal details that could spare Ayestas his sentence.

Now, in his last chance for justice, the US Supreme Court will hear Ayestas' 
case this fall. According to the brief filed in June, the defendant will ask 
the high court to enforce the statutes that are supposed to protect poor 
defendants facing the death penalty. Specifically under consideration are the 
state resources that should be made available to pay for experts or 
investigators, but have been denied throughout Ayestas' appeals process.

In 1995, Ayestas, who'd come to the United States seven years prior, and 2 
accomplices fatally strangled 67-year-old Santiaga Paneque in the course of a 
robbery in her home in Harris County, Texas. Police quickly identified the 
perpetrators but did not yet have them in their custody when, 2 weeks after the 
crime, Harris County Assistant District Attorney Kelly Siegler wrote a memo 
recommending that Ayestas receive the death penalty based on 2 aggravating 
factors: 1, because the victim was elderly and murdered in her own home and, 2, 
because Ayestas "is not a citizen."

"It's intolerable that a person's nationality would play a role in seeking the 
death penalty," says Sheri Johnson, one of Ayestas' current lawyers. "In Texas, 
there are at least a handful of [undocumented people on death row]." (Foreign 
nationals on death row have a right to consular notice, but they don't always 
receive it, Johnson explains. Right now she says that this issue is on hold 
while the team litigates the funding issue.)

Lawyers appointed to indigent defendants are frequently undertrained, 
underpaid, and overworked, placing defendants at an immediate disadvantage. 
But, making matters worse, Harris County is notorious for its poor handling of 
death penalty cases for indigent defendants. According to a 2016 report from 
the Fair Punishment Project that focused on the counties still applying the 
death penalty, Harris County was plagued by subpar lawyering, overzealous 
prosecutors, and racial bias - all of which disproportionately impact poor 
defendants. And in 2015, a state court found that Siegler herself committed 36 
instances of misconduct in just one murder case.

2 days after the Siegler wrote the memo, Ayestas was captured in Kenner, 
Louisiana, and charged with capital murder.

For the trial, the state court appointed 2 lawyers, Diana Olvera and Connie 
Williams, to represent Ayestas. Olvera and Williams then asked the state court 
to appoint an investigator to look into Ayestas' background, a routine part of 
capital murder trials. But the investigator, John Castillo, didn't actually 
start his investigation until 15 months after it was assigned - and just 1 
month before jury selection was slated to start.

As part of his investigation, Castillo had Ayestas fill out a questionnaire. 
His responses, according to his current lawyers, indicated that he suffered 
multiple head traumas, had been drinking since he was a teenager, regularly 
used cocaine, and was under the influence of the drug and alcohol on the day he 
murdered Paneque. But, according to Johnson, his lawyers did little with that 
information at trial.

Ayestas' trial lawyers did not look into his past either, which would also be 
typical in capital trials to supplement the work of the state-appointed 
investigator. They did not meet with any friends or family or with anyone who 
knew him in any of the places that he lived as an adult. Although Olvera says 
that Ayestas originally asked not to have his family contacted, about 2 weeks 
before jury selection began in June 1997, they reached out to his family 
members in Honduras and asked them to come testify at trial. Ayestas' mother, 
though, believed she was going to receive a letter from her son's lawyers that 
she could use to obtain a visa. It's unclear whether there was miscommunication 
about the letter, but no such letter arrived; Ayestas' family members' visas 
were denied and no one showed up to his trial.

The guilt phase of the trial began in July 1997 and lasted 2 days. The 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., S.C., FLA., ALA., OHIO

2017-06-21 Thread Rick Halperin

June 21


Suspect charged with capital murder in slaying of Houston 
10-month-oldBefore he was accused of killing a 10-month-old, Jared Balogun 
had been arrested repeatedly.

6 days after a 10-month-old was shot in his father's arms, a Houston man was 
charged with capital murder in the shocking southwest Houston slaying that 
authorities say may be gang-related.

Jared Balogun, a 24-year-old with a long history of minor arrests, was already 
behind bars when authorities Tuesday afternoon accused him in the shooting 
death of baby Messiah Marshall.

Although the mayor praised the Houston Police Department for "working 
feverishly" for justice, authorities believe there are 2 other assailants who 
may still be at large.

"No murder in the City of Houston is acceptable, but let it be very, very clear 
when there is a child or a kid murdered in this city we are going to expend 
every and all available resources in order to find these people and bring them 
to justice," Mayor Sylvester Turner told reporters at a Tuesday press 

The exact events of June 14 are still unclear, but police now say the gunfire 
may have been in retaliation for a previous altercation with the boy's father.

The tragedy unfolded around 1:30 p.m., when Nigel Marshall was out walking with 
his son near the Nob Hill Apartments on North Braeswood.

3 men approached the pair and began firing multiple rounds "indiscriminately," 
police said.

Marshall fled across the complex parking lot, seeking to shield his son from 
the gunfire.

But at least one bullet hit the baby, who died at a nearby Valero gas station.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


US Supreme Court Refuses Appeal From Dallas Man on Death Row

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to review an appeal from a Dallas man on 
death row for fatally shooting his cousin during a November 2000 robbery where 
a 2nd person also was killed.

The high court had no comment Monday in its decision in the appeal from 
44-year-old inmate Ivan Cantu. He argues his legal help at his 2001 trial was 
deficient for failing to investigate and present evidence that he's innocent.

Cantu was convicted of killing 27-year-old James Mosqueda and was indicted for 
the death of Mosqueda's girlfriend, 22-year-old Amy Kitchen. The 2 were shot at 
Mosqueda's Collin County home in north Dallas.

Mosqueda's Corvette was taken and found outside Cantu's apartment. Evidence 
showed he took Kitchen's engagement ring and gave it to his own girlfriend.

(source: Associated Press)

VIRGINIAimpending execution

Morva attorneys ask governor to stop execution

William Charles Morva's attorneys are asking that the convicted murderer's 
execution - scheduled for July 6 - be halted by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

In a petition filed Tuesday, the Virginia Capital Representation Center says 
that Morva has mental illness that was never adequately taken into account 
during his 2008 trial, and that life imprisonment would be a more appropriate 
punishment for him. The attorneys group also asked that McAuliffe order mental 
health care for Morva.

"For more than a decade, William Morva has suffered from a serious psychotic 
disorder similar to schizophrenia," a statement from the attorney group said.

"Mr. Morva has never received treatment for his mental illness, although 
administration of anti-psychotic medications has proven successful in 
controlling symptoms of people similarly affected."

McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy wrote in an email Tuesday that the governor, who 
is presently in Europe on a trade mission set to run through June 30, and a 
team will review the petition.

"We'll make an announcement when that review is complete," Coy wrote.

The attorneys' statement said Morva believes local law enforcement and the 
administration of former President George Bush conspired to harass and unfairly 
arrest him, that he had a life-threatening gastrointestinal condition that 
required him to spend hours on the toilet every day and "adhere to a diet of 
raw meat, berries, and pinecones."

The statement said Morva felt called "to lead indigenous tribes on an 
unexplained quest" and that "remote tribes would recognize his leadership 
status from his facial features."

In 2006, Morva, then a 24-year-old Blacksburg resident, was jailed and awaiting 
trial on theft-related charges when he complained of falling from his bunk and 
was taken to what was then called Montgomery Regional Hospital.

There, Morva knocked out a sheriff's deputy who was guarding him, took his gun 
and killed hospital security officer Derrick McFarland. The next day Morva 
killed Montgomery County Sheriff's Deputy Eric Sutphin.

In 2008, Morva was convicted of 3 counts of capital murder, 1 for each victim 
and a 3rd for killing 2 people in less than 3 years, which is a capital offense 
in Virginia.

In the appeal to McAuliffe, the attorneys wrote that the jury that recommended 
the death 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, ALA., OHIO, CALIF., USA

2017-06-20 Thread Rick Halperin

June 20


Thousands in jury pool for Zoe Hastings murder trial

Work has started on finding a jury for the trial of a man accused of killing an 
18-year-old Dallas woman in 2015.

About 3,000 Dallas County residents will be called in and fill out 
questionnaires so prosecutors and lawyers can find 12 people in the death 
penalty case of Antonio Cochran. He's accused of stabbing Zoe Hastings to death 
and dumping her body in the minivan she was driving in a creek after kidnapping 
her from an East Dallas Walgreens in Oct. 2015.

The trial is set to start in late October, but to get there the jury selection 
process is starting 4 months out.

The goal of the 19 page, 200-plus question document is to help prosecutors and 
defense attorneys know who the jurors are. Nearly 1/4 of the questions are 
about potential jurors' views on capital punishment.

Jury consultant Kacy Miller analyzed the questionnaire.

"The state is looking for jurors who are willing to give the death penalty," 
Miller said. "The defense also needs jurors who are willing to give the death 
penalty -- but maybe just not as frequently."

Recent Dallas County juryies have said no to the death penalty for quadruple 
murderer defendant Erbie Bowser and another convicted killer, Juan Andrade. 
Both juries in those cases opted for life in prison without parole.

When there is a guilty verdict in a death penalty case jurors must then answer 
2 questions: Is the person a continuing threat to society? Is there no reason 
worth saving their life?

Heath Harris, former First Assistant Dallas County D.A. who is now in private 
practice, has tried death penalty cases from both the prosecution and defense 

"Seems like there's an increase in whether people feel like the death penalty 
is a deterrent," Harris said.

But the death penalty and how it's administered has also itself, seemingly, 
been on trial of late.

Some courts are debating whether its practice is humane. Plus, several 
exonerations across the country - including death row inmates ??? are also 
impacting potential jurors and making it more difficult to get a unanimous 
death penalty verdict.

"It's absolutely more difficult today," said attorney Robert Udashen. "When I 
first started practicing law police and prosecutors always wore the white hats 
and juries trusted anything prosecutors and police officers said."

Udashen says the overall climate change towards police grand juries and 
prosecutors has caused jurors to think long and hard before voting yes to the 
ultimate punishment - death.

(source: Fox News)


HCSO: Mom charged with capital murder in daughter's death

A mother has been charged with capital murder in the stabbing death of her 
4-year-old daughter in west Harris County.

According to the Harris County Sheriff's Office, 34-year-old Laquita Lewis was 
charged with capital murder Monday morning. The single mother of 4 has been 
denied bail and faces life in prison or the death penalty if convicted.

Prosecutors said that Lewis allegedly stabbed her child, Fredricka Allen, 
multiple times in the chest and left her on the floor of the master bedroom.

Neighbor Burim Hoax is having a tough time dealing with the news.

"I couldn't believe that happened. Bad news. I didn't have any idea what 
happened last night and I still don???t believe," he said.

Hoax says 4-year-old Fredricka would greet him in the apartment complex parking 
lot almost every morning. "She would say to me, good morning."

Family members say they got some text messages from the Lewis. She basically 
told them she hurt Fredricka.

Those family members called 911 and urged deputies to come check on the girl at 
the Timberwalk Apartment Homes located in the 5600 block of Timber Creek Place.

Deputies found that little girl dead inside her home just before 9 p.m., but 
investigators think she was stabbed to death earlier in the day.

Investigators said the mother was in a car accident and rushed to a hospital 
around 6 p.m. It was there at the hospital that deputies say the mother started 
texting family, apologizing for what she had done.

Deputies also say, earlier in the day, the woman got into a fight with her 

"We don't really know what the catalyst of that argument was," said Thomas 
Gilliland, spokesman for the Harris County Sheriff's Office. "Obviously it was 
some sort of, enough to escalate to where she killed the 4-year old.

Now, Lewis is in custody.

The scene was so bad that chaplains were out here to console family members of 
the little girl, as well as the deputies who discovered her body.

"There's not enough words to describe the horrible death of this child," said 

According to the Harris County DA's office, Lewis was charged in November for 
making a terroristic threat during a Thanksgiving incident in which she 
brandished a knife at her 16-year-old son. Lewis, who at the time had no prior 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., GA., FLA., ALA., OHIO

2017-06-17 Thread Rick Halperin

June 17


Larry Fitzgerald, face for Texas death row, dies at 79

Larry Fitzgerald, former Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman, sits 
on the sofa in his living room in what had been his quarters in Huntsville. He 
witnessed more than 200 executions during his 8 years as the face of the 
nation's busiest death chamber. He died June 12.

As prison system spokesman, Fitzgerald was the face of the nation's busiest 
death chamber for 8 years.

Friends and relatives remember his wit, empathy with death-row inmates and his 
notorious gallows humor.

Larry Fitzgerald, who for years was the Texas prison system's spokesman, 
working as the public face of the busiest death chamber in the nation, died 
June 12 at his Austin home, according to his family.

Fitzgerald was the Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman for 8 years 
during which Texas was building new prisons and dealing with the attention 
drawn by then Gov. George W. Bush's run for the presidency. He was inevitably 
drawn into stories about the death penalty and Texas' approach to it, fielding 
inquiries from American media he said were generally cordial and foreign 
outlets that he said treated him as if he personally sharpened the 
executioner's axe.

A hard-drinking, chain-smoking archetype of a public relations era now past, 
Fitzgerald, according to a 2014 Texas Monthly article, once showed his 
mischievous streak by taking a newly hired spokeswoman to a prison on the 
pretense of educating her about the business - only to lead her "past dozens of 
newly shorn arrivals who had been divested of not just their hair but all their 

Fitzgerald's obituary - most of which he wrote himself - notes that as a prison 
system spokesman he "witnessed 219 executions, allowing him to meet many state, 
national and international media types. Big whoop."

But as the public face of a notorious prison system, "If Larry said it, you 
could take it to the bank," said Michelle Lyons, the co-worker Fitzgerald had 
led past the cluster of nude inmates. "He was, quite simply, the face of TDCJ 
and he always will be."

Fitzgerald is survived by his wife, Marianne Cook Fitzgerald; daughter, Kelly 
Anne Fitzgerald; and son, Kevin Lane Fitzgerald. He died from what his wife 
said was a serious internal disease, for which he had been in hospice care. The 
family is planning a public memorial, though they are still working out the 
details, Marianne Fitzgerald said.

Clyde Larry Fitzgerald was born Oct. 12, 1937, in Austin, according to his 
obituary. He was the son of a government land man and a schoolteacher, 
according to an article by Houston Chronicle reporter Mike Ward, one of the 
many Texas journalists Fitzgerald grew to know over the years. Fitzgerald 
graduated from McCallum High School and attended the University of Texas. He 
worked for years at radio stations around Texas as a disc jockey, reporter and 
news director, developing the authoritative voice he would employ before the 
cameras. He worked in political campaigns for Bill Hobby, who was then the 
lieutenant governor, and Ann Richards during her run for governor. His obituary 
notes that he "was proud that he kept one particular promise he had made to 
himself: never vote Republican."

(source: Austin American-Statesman)


Convicted killer 'should go to the very top' of execution list, judge says

A Lancaster County man has been formally sentenced to death for fatally 
stabbing a woman and her 16-year-old daughter because they were going to 
testify against him in a child sexual assault trial.

Lancaster County President Judge Dennis Reinaker ordered the sentence Friday 
for 40-year-old Leeton Thomas and said if Pennsylvania lifts a moratorium on 
the death penalty, Thomas "should go to the very top of the list."

Thomas, 40, was found guilty by a jury Tuesday of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder 
in the June 2015 killings of 44-year-old Lisa Scheetz and her daughter.

The Quarryville man was also convicted of attempted homicide for severely 
wounding Scheetz's then-15-year-old daughter after breaking into the family's 
East Drumore Township home. She testified at trial and identified Thomas as the 

The jury decided on the death sentence Wednesday night.

(source: WHTM news)


Prison bus was 'tank of piranhas' as guards slain; death penalty sought for 

Convicts on a Georgia prison bus appeared to laugh and jump around as 2 
corrections officers were shot to death earlier this week in an escape that 
prompted a nationwide manhunt.

The callousness of the crime has authorities preparing to seek the death 
penalty for accused killers Ricky Dubose and Donnie Russell "Whiskey" Rowe.

"We've got too many of these savages out here. We need to keep them caged up 
and send those to hell that we can," Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills said 
Friday, a day after Rowe and Dubose were caught south of Nashville, 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., FLA.

2017-06-15 Thread Rick Halperin

June 15


Execution halted for man who murders lady realtor in model home

A Texas man facing the death penalty for the stabbing murder of a real estate 
agent saw his own life spared, at least temporarily.

Kosul Chanthakoummane, who was scheduled to die by lethal injection on July 19 
after 9 years on death row, was granted a stay of execution last week. The 
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued the order and sent the man's case back 
to the Collin County trial court to review discredited forensic science claims, 
reported the Texas Tribune.

Chanthakoummane, 36, was convicted in 2007 in the stabbing death of Dallas-area 
real estate agent Sarah Walker. Walker's body was discovered in a model home by 
a couple coming to view the property on July 8, 2006. Walker had been stabbed 
33 times and had a bite mark on her neck.

Bloody fingerprints found at the scene and DNA under Walker's fingernails 
linked Chanthakoummane to the scene of the crime and he was arrested nearly 2 
months later.

Chanthakoummane reportedly claimed his car had broken down nearby and cuts on 
his hand had bled, explaining his blood at the murder scene.

A jury convicted him of murder after 30 minutes of deliberation, based largely 
on the DNA evidence, according to the Dallas News. During the trial, state 
prosecutors presented forensic experts who claimed the bite mark on Walker's 
neck and DNA at the scene pointed to Chanthakoummane.

However, in 2016, a White House report concluded that forensic bite-mark 
evidence was not scientifically valid, reports the Texas Tribune.

An extremely successful real estate agent and mother of 2, the 40-year-old 
Walker was showing the high-end model home alone when she was attacked. 
Chanthakoummane was living with relatives in Dallas after being released on 
parole in North Carolina. He had been convicted of aggravated robbery and 
kidnapping after he and a friend held 2 women at gunpoint before stealing a car 
and leading police on a chase when he was 16, reported the Dallas News.

The Rolex watch Walker had purchased the night before and a ring she was 
wearing had been stolen. The Dallas News reported that, at his murder trial, 
Chanthakoummane's attorneys admitted he stabbed Walker but that he didn't 
deserve the death penalty because it was a robbery that "didn't go the right 

(source: crimeonline.com)

PENNSYLVANIAnew death sentence

Jury sentences Leeton Thomas to death for stabbing deaths of a mother and her 
teen daughter

Leeton Thomas, 40, should pay with his life for the vicious murders of a mother 
and her teen daughter who accused him of sexual molestation, a jury ruled 
Wednesday night.

At the verdict, Thomas nodded slightly but looked straight ahead.

Lisa Scheetz, 44, and her daughter, Hailey, 16, died of severe stab wounds in 
the early hours of June 11, 2015 as they were watching a Netflix movie in their 
basement apartment in East Drumore Township.

The death sentence came a day after the jury of 6 men and 6 women convicted 
Thomas of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and a count of attempted homicide for 
severely stabbing a younger daughter who survived the attack.

The girl, now 17, testified at the trial that Thomas, who was a neighbor and a 
former family friend, was the attacker.

The prosecution alleged that Thomas entered through a window and sprang upon 
the unsuspecting family, stabbing forcefully. The defense contended he was at 
home in bed at the time of the attack.

After the jury announced the verdict, Kim Scheetz, who lost his daughter and 
former wife, said, "I'm totally happy."

"It's what I wanted," he added. "It's not going to bring my family back, but he 
got what he deserved."

The verdict came after a day of testimony by family members and friends seeking 
to spare Thomas' life.

"I gave him life," said Thomas' mother, Sharon Frances Campbell, 58, her voice 
quavering on the witness stand earlier Wednesday. "I'm begging you, please save 
him. Please."

The jury also heard from other family members, friends and neighbors who 
described Thomas, a father of 4, as a helpful, hard-working, self-sacrificing 
and church-going family man.

The jury returned with the death sentence at 7:50 p.m. after deliberating for 
about 3 3/4 hours.

Family members of the victim and defendant filled the gallery, but they abided 
by President Judge Dennis Reinaker's warning not to react.

9 deputy sheriffs stood at various spots around Courtroom 8 where the 6-day 
trial took place.

Jury polled

Defense counsel asked that the jury members be polled.

The judge had each of the 12 jurors to stand individually and say whether they 
agreed with the verdict.

Each rose and answered, "Yes, I do."

After being handcuffed, Thomas looked back at his family and, smiling, said, 
"See you guys. It's not over."

Thomas becomes the 8th Lancaster County resident on death row and the 1st since 
Jakeem Towles was sentenced to death in 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., FLA., OHIO, ARIZ., CALIF., USA

2017-06-13 Thread Rick Halperin

June 13

TEXAS:new execution date

William Rayford has received an execution date for January 30, 2018; it should 
be considered serious.

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present24

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982present-543

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #

25-July 27-Taichin Preyor-544

26-Aug. 30-Steven Long545

27-Sept.7--Juan Castillo--546

28-Oct. 26-Clinton Young--547

29-Jan. 30-William Rayford548

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Forced to Endure Extreme Heat, Prisoners Are Casualties of Texas' Climate 
Denial, Documents Show

On a spring day in May, temperatures in Dallas, Texas, were already in the 90s. 
Sunlight glinted off the barbed wire perimeter outside the Hutchins State Jail, 
located just a mile down down the road from Hutchins High School. The 1st 
blooms of Castilleja, colloquially known here as "prairie fire," seemed to set 
a field across from the prison ablaze.

It was hot outside, but it's nothing compared to the temperatures inside the 
Hutchins Unit, one of 79 state-run prison units still lacking air-conditioning 
in its cellblocks in 2017. Even those temperatures, though, still pale further 
in comparison with the extreme summer heat wave that broiled the jail on July 
28, 2011, pushing the heat index up to about 150 degrees in the cellblocks, 
according to the state's own records, and transforming the jail into an oven 
that slowly baked Hutchins prisoner Larry McCollum alive.

Truthout and Earth Island Journal Investigate America's Toxic PrisonsMcCollum, 
a 58-year-old cab driver from the Waco area, was found having convulsions in 
his top bunk. He was taken to Dallas' Parkland Hospital, where his body 
temperature was measured at 109.4 degrees. McCollum, who was incarcerated for 
writing a bad check, had recently begun serving his 11-month sentence, and was 
eager to get through his time and reunite with his wife and 2 children.

"He was taken from us. He was supposed to go in for 11 months, and he wound up 
with a death sentence," McCollum's daughter, Stephanie Kingrey, said. "It was 
very heartbreaking that he had to sit there and suffer as long as he did before 
they got any help for him or got him to emergency room."

Kingrey said that officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice 
(TDCJ) even tried to deny her access to her father during the 7 days he spent 
on life support at Parkland Hospital, eventually relenting as Kingrey and other 
relatives were forced to make the devastating decision to take McCollum off of 
life support.

"They had guards on him 24 hours, like he was just going to jump up and go 
somewhere, and he was handcuffed to the bed the whole time," Kingrey says. "He 
was literally brain dead, and there was nothing he could do. He didn't regain 
consciousness or anything. He wasn't there. He died back in the prison cell."

McCollum is one of 22 heat-related deaths that TDCJ has been forced to 
acknowledge in its prison units after litigation -- 10 of those deaths 
occurring during that same 2011 summer heat wave. But these deaths are likely 
the first few indications of what may be a much larger heat problem.

"[TDCJ] has acknowledged the deaths because we proved we knew about them," said 
Attorney Jeff Edwards, who is representing the McCollum family in an ongoing 
lawsuit against TDCJ, during an interview in his Austin office. "In fact, there 
are far more than [22] deaths because the only deaths that they count are 
confirmed autopsies with a diagnosis of hyperthermia. In order to get that 
diagnosis, you have to have a temperature north of 105 or 106 degrees. So 
unless you find the body and do an autopsy quickly, you're not going to have 
that diagnosis. [TDCJ] also doesn't count the probably 100 or more people who 
suffered heart attacks in the summertime where heat was a contributing factor, 
or people who suffered asthmatic deaths because heat contributed to that."

The medical risk of heat stroke increases significantly when the temperature 
rises to more than 90 degrees, and can lead to other causes of death like heart 
attacks. This is especially true for people with medical conditions such as 
diabetes, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues, as well as 
asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The risk rises further still 
for people on medications that inhibit their ability to shed heat or sweat, or 
certain psychiatric medications. There aren't yet full statistics on how many 
prison deaths have involved heat as a significant contributing factor, but the 
number is likely to be much higher than deaths directly attributable to 

"1 death is enough to cause concern -- 2, 3, you need to be reacting 
immediately," Edwards says. 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, USA

2017-06-12 Thread Rick Halperin

June 12


Rodney Reed's mother hopes finding of false testimony leads to 'justice'

The mother of death row inmate Rodney Reed said Saturday she is guardedly 
optimistic about her son's chances for freedom after the Texas Court of 
Criminal Appeals ruled prosecutors presented "false and misleading" testimony 
in his 1998 capital murder conviction.

"I'm hoping for justice," Sandra Reed told the American-Statesman. "But we have 
presented so many other pieces of evidence before this that should have at 
least opened up a new trial. How can you bring a case to justice without the 

She and other family members held a news conference late Saturday at the 
Bastrop County Courthouse.

"We want to keep it in the air that there is an innocent man on death row and 
that he's suffered enough," she said. "We're ready for him to come home."

Reed was convicted of the 1996 murder of Stacy Stites, a 19-year-old Giddings 
resident with whom he claimed he was having a secret affair. Prosecutors argued 
Reed abducted, raped and strangled Stiles on her way to work.

But defense attorneys have argued that Stites was was killed by her fiance, 
Jimmy Fennell, a former Georgetown police officer who is now serving a 10-year 
sentence for the kidnapping and sexual assault of a woman in his custody in 

Reed's attorney Bryce Benjet has said that the state's key expert witness at 
the trial, then-Travis County Medical Examiner Roberto Bayardo, has since 
disavowed his testimony implicating Reed, saying that the sperm found in 
Stites' body was likely deposited more than 24 hours before her death.

Benjet said a new analysis of medical and forensic evidence by a pair of 
forensic pathologists shows that Stites was likely killed hours before she was 
supposed to have left for work and that her body was moved to a rural Bastrop 
County road after her death.

The court of appeals last month rejected the defense claim that the new 
evidence established Reed's innocence, but sent the case back to a Bastrop 
County court to consider the claims of false testimony during the original 

Bastrop District Attorney Bryan Goertz said at the time: "It's just another 
legal hurdle that needs to be dealt with."

Reed was 10 days from his execution date in February 2015, when the court 
ordered a closer look at his request for modern DNA testing of items linked to 
the murder. But in April the appeals court denied Reed's request for additional 
DNA testing, citing the possibility of "cross-contamination" of evidence that 
had mingled in boxes after repeated handling by court employees.

Sandra Reed said though she's hopeful the finding of false testimony will lead 
to a new trial and her son's exoneration, she remains somewhat skeptical. 
"You're sending him back to the same county that convicted him in the first 
place," she said. "We will keep fighting and demanding justice for as long as 
it takes."

(source: Austin American-Statesman)


Why America still executes peopleThe legal reasoning behind the continued 
use of the death penalty

America is 1 of only a few countries in the Western world that still puts 
criminals to death. Even there, executions are on the wane: just 20 were 
carried out in 2016, down from a peak of 98 in 1999. Popular support is 
declining, too. Just 60% of Americans approve of the death penalty for murder, 
down from 80% in the 1990s. Only 8 states have carried out an execution since 
2015, and around 2/3 either have abolished capital punishment or have a 
moratorium on its use. But it has not disappeared altogether: during an 
eight-day stretch in April, Arkansas executed 4 people, so as not to waste its 
expiring supply of a lethal-injection drug. And last month in Alabama, a man 
who spent 35 years on death row - and eluded 7 execution dates - was finally 
put to death. Why does America continue to execute people?

Following the Supreme Court's 1972 ruling in Furman v Georgia, capital 
punishment was put on hold. The penalty was applied in an arbitrary and 
capricious manner, violating the Eighth Amendment bar on "cruel and unusual 
punishments", the justices held. If any factor explains why some criminals get 
death sentences while most do not, Justice Potter Stewart wrote, "it is the 
constitutionally impermissible basis of race". 4 years later the Supreme Court 
reinstated the death penalty in Gregg v Georgia by a 7-2 majority, finding that 
states had mended their death-penalty laws to address the concerns in Furman.

One way to understand why America still executes people is to look at the Fifth 
Amendment, which provides that nobody will "be deprived of life...without due 
process of law". How could the framers of the constitution have banned capital 
punishment in the Eighth Amendment when, in the Fifth, they specifically 
contemplated its existence? In Gregg, the court cited 2 justifications for the 
death penalty: retributive justice and 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., FLA., OHIO, MO., ARK., N.DAK.

2017-06-11 Thread Rick Halperin

June 11


Don't execute people with intellectual disabilities

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has the opportunity in the case of Bobby 
James Moore, a death row inmate with severe intellectual disability, to bring 
the state's capital punishment standards in line with those established by the 
U.S. Supreme Court, which kicked Moore's case back to the appeals court.

The Gospel compels Christians to speak for those without a voice and to 
advocate for society's most vulnerable members, including those with 
intellectual disability. For this reason, I feel compelled to speak out on 
behalf of Bobby James Moore, an individual with documented lifelong 
intellectual disability who has spent the past 37 years on Texas' death row.

While Christians have varying views on the death penalty, hopefully we can all 
agree no person with intellectual disability should be executed. As the U.S. 
Supreme Court recognized more than 15 years ago, "no legitimate penological 
purpose is served by executing a person with intellectual disability" because 
such persons "do not act with the level of moral culpability that characterizes 
the most serious adult criminal conduct."

While the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has been reticent to heed this 
message, it has both the legal and moral duty to do so now. And it should take 
an important 1st step here by reforming Moore's death sentence to life 

As a 13-year-old, Moore lacked a basic understanding of the days of the week, 
the months of the year, telling time and the concept that subtraction is the 
reverse of addition. He failed the 1st grade twice and every grade after that 
before dropping out of school in the 9th grade. At age 14, his father - after 
subjecting Moore to years of severe mental and physical abuse - threw him out 
of the house because Moore still did not know how to read. Moore lived on the 
streets, eating out of garbage cans and sleeping in a pool hall. He survived 
largely due to the kindness of strangers.

Then, at age 20, Moore was involved in a bungled grocery store robbery, in 
which he shot and killed a grocery store clerk. He has spent nearly 40 years on 
death row for that crime, which we all condemn.

In 2014, a Harris County district court judge held a two-day hearing. After 
carefully listening to experts and witnesses, Judge Susan Brown applied current 
medical standards and determined that Moore is intellectually disabled and 
therefore exempt from the death penalty. She noted that Moore has an average IQ 
score of 70.66, which is well within the range of intellectual disability. And 
she found in her lengthy fact-finding that Moore's serious mental and social 
difficulties were very clear from early childhood.

The judge's determination that Moore is intellectually disabled and exempt from 
the death penalty should have been the end of the matter. Instead, in 2015, the 
Court of Criminal Appeals said that the lower court erred in applying current 
medical standards in making its determination that Moore was intellectually 
disabled. Applying nonclinical and outdated medical standards, it decided that 
Moore was not intellectually disabled and could be executed.

In March, in Moore vs. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court emphatically reversed the 
appeals court's decision. The U.S. Supreme Court carefully reviewed the record. 
It emphasized that Moore's IQ score is clearly within the range of 
intellectually disabled and that the evidence just as clearly supported that he 
had significant mental and social difficulties from an early age. The U.S. 
Supreme Court also strongly endorsed Brown's application of current medical 
standards in concluding that Moore is intellectually disabled. Moore's case is 
back before the Court of Criminal Appeals.

This case presents not only a legal issue but also a moral one. In Moore's 
case, the U.S. Supreme Court questioned why Texas applies current medical 
standards for diagnosing intellectual disability in other contexts, "yet clings 
to superseded standards when an individual's life is at stake." The appeals 
court now has the opportunity to chart a new course for how Texas handles 
intellectual disability claims and ensure that no person with intellectually 
disability is executed.

Moore is not the worst of the worst, but due to his significant intellectual 
deficits, he is certainly among the most vulnerable. He is worthy of God's love 
and our fair and humane treatment. There is a path forward that affirms Moore's 
innate dignity as a human being, while still ensuring that justice is done. The 
Court of Criminal Appeals should follow this path and reform Moore's death 
sentence to life imprisonment.

(source: Commentary; Steve Wells is pastor of South Main Baptist Church in 
HoustonSan Antonio Express-News)


Judge tosses death sentence in double murder, orders new hearing

A Pennsylvania judge has thrown out the death sentence imposed 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., MISS., KY., ARK.

2017-06-10 Thread Rick Halperin

June 10


Death penalty sought for alleged hitman accused of killing Uptown dentist

The Dallas County district attorney's office is seeking the death penalty 
against the man accused of shooting a dentist in a murder-for-hire plot.

Authorities say a love triangle may have led to the 2015 slaying of 35-year-old 
Kendra Hatcher in her Uptown apartment parking garage.

Kristopher Love, 33, is one of three people charged with capital murder in the 
case. Investigators believe Brenda Delgado, who used to date Hatcher's 
boyfriend, hired Love to be the triggerman.

Prosecutors filed a motion Friday to seek the death penalty against Love.

Police said Delgado, 34, was jealous of Hatcher's relationship with Ricardo 
Paniagua, whom Delgado had dated for two years. She's accused of hiring 
23-year-old Crystal Cortes to help rob Hatcher.

Cortes told police Delgado paid her $500, and she drove Love to Hatcher's 
parking garage. Before the slaying, Cortes asked Love how much he was being 
paid to rob Hatcher. He told her it was "none of her business."

Cortes said she waited in the getaway car while Love attacked Hatcher. She 
heard 1 gunshot, and then Love got back into the Jeep with 2 purses. He told 
Cortes that if she told police, she and her son "would be next," police records 

But their getaway car, a Jeep Cherokee belonging to Delgado, was captured on 
surveillance cameras.

Initially, police questioned and released Delgado about her role in Hatcher's 
slaying. She told police that she loaned the Jeep to Cortes, who was arrested 
shortly after the killing.

About a month later, police issued arrest warrants for Love and Delgado, but by 
then Delgado had fled to Mexico.

Delgado was extradited to the United States a year after the killing. Though 
authorities believe she was the mastermind behind Hatcher's killing, she isn't 
eligible for the death penalty as part of the extradition agreement with 

Trial dates for Love, Cortes and Delgado have not been set.

(source: Dallas Morning News)


State could seek death penalty for Naomi Jones' alleged killer

The man accused of murdering 12-year-old Pensacola girl Naomi Jones has been 
denied bond.

Robert Letroy Howard, 38, made his first appearance in court Friday morning via 
video conferencing. At the hearing, Judge Joyce H. Williams determined there 
was probable cause for the State Attorney's Office to charge Howard with 
1st-degree murder, kidnapping and failure to register as a sex offender.

In a press conference following the hearing, Assistant State Attorney Greg 
Marcille said the state will present to a grand jury within the next 2 weeks 
its reasons for charging Howard. If the grand jury indicts Howard on the 
charges, the state will then decide whether or not to pursue the death penalty.

Marcille said he anticipates that decision will be made before Howard's 
arraignment June 30.

Marcille added the state is still investigating and reviewing the facts of the 
case, but at this point, "the factors of the case do indicate there are 
circumstances that would justify the death sentence."

A few of the factors under consideration are Naomi's age and whether her death 
was heinous, atrocious or cruel. Another factor will be Howard's previous 
criminal history.

Howard, of Brewton, Alabama, is a convicted felon who served 15 years in prison 
for 2 counts of rape. According to Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Community 
Information Center, Howard was arrested Dec. 8, 1998, and convicted Sept. 1, 
1999, in Escambia County, Alabama. Howard's address in Brewton was last 
verified the day after Naomi's murder.

Marcille said the state is reviewing the information on Howard's previous 

"If the prior cases do constitute a violent felony, then we could consider 
those in seeking a sentence," Marcille said.

Howard was given a $600,000 bond for his failure to register charge, but was 
denied bond on the murder and kidnapping charges. Procedurally, the no bond 
takes priority, meaning Howard will remain in jail until his trial unless a 
judge orders otherwise.

Howard developed as a person of interest in Naomi's disappearance June 2, two 
days after the 12-year-old went missing, according to his arrest report.

Naomi lived in Aspen Village Apartments on East Johnson Avenue, the same 
complex where Howard's girlfriend resides. During a neighborhood canvas, Howard 
reportedly gave investigators inconsistent statements about his whereabouts at 
the time of Naomi's disappearance.

Naomi was found deceased in a creek bed near Ashland Avenue and Detroit 
Boulevard June 5.

On June 7, investigators recovered surveillance video from a business in the 
area. It allegedly showed Howard's silver Nissan Altima traveling around the 
intersection and bridge near the creek bed around 2:35 a.m. June 1, 
approximately 14 hours after Naomi disappeared.

Investigators re-interviewed Howard later in the 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., GA., FLA., ALA., MISS., LA.

2017-06-08 Thread Rick Halperin

June 8

TEXASstay of impending execution

Execution halted for man convicted in Texas real estate agent's murderThe 
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday halted the execution of a man 
convicted in the murder of a McKinney real estate agent in 2007.

Another Texas execution has been stopped by the state's highest criminal 
appellate court, giving relief to the man convicted in 2007 in the robbery and 
murder of a McKinney real estate agent.

Kosoul Chanthakoummane, 36, was scheduled to die on July 19 after more than 9 
years on death row. He was convicted in the 2006 stabbing death of Sarah Walker 
in the model home of a subdivision where she worked, according to court 
documents. On Wednesday morning, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued a 
stay of execution and sent his case back to the Collin County trial court to 
review claims of discredited forensic sciences.

On July 8, 2006, a couple coming to view the model home found Walker dead, 
stabbed 33 times with a bite mark on her neck, according to a federal court 
filing. Her watch and ring were missing from her body. Bloody fingerprints 
found at the scene and DNA under Walker's fingernails linked the crime to 
Chanthakoummane, who was arrested nearly 2 months later.

Chanthakoummane told police he went to a model home after his car broke down, 
and that he had cuts on his hands that could explain his blood at the scene, 
according to the filing. At trial, the state presented forensic experts who 
claimed the bite mark on Walker's neck and DNA at the scene pointed to 

In 2016, a White House report concluded forensic bite-mark evidence was not 
scientifically valid.

This is the 3rd time the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has halted a scheduled 
execution this year (2 of those scheduled executions were for the same man, 
Tilon Carter). Another execution was halted by a federal court.

There have been 4 executions in the state this year.

(source: Texas Tribune)

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present24

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982present-543

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #

25-July 27-Taichin Preyor-544

26-Aug. 30-Steven Long545

27-Sept.7--Juan Castillo--546

28-Oct. 26-Clinton Young--547

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Intellectually disabled death row inmate should be exempt from death penalty

The Gospel compels Christians to speak for those without a voice and to 
advocate for society's most vulnerable members, including those with 
intellectual disability. For this reason, I feel compelled to speak out on 
behalf of Bobby James Moore, an individual with documented life-long 
intellectual disability who has spent the last 37 years on Texas' death row.

While Christians have varying views on the death penalty, hopefully we can all 
agree no person with intellectual disability should be executed. As the U.S. 
Supreme Court recognized more than 15 years ago, "(n)o legitimate penological 
purpose is served by executing a person with intellectual disability" because 
such persons "do not act with the level of moral culpability that characterizes 
the most serious adult criminal conduct." While the Texas Court of Criminal 
Appeals has been reticent to heed this message, it has both the legal and moral 
duty to do so now. And it should take an important 1st step here by reforming 
Moore's death sentence to life imprisonment.

As a 13-year-old, Moore lacked a basic understanding of the days of the week, 
the months of the year, telling time, and the concept that subtraction is the 
reverse of addition. He failed the 1st grade twice and every grade after that 
before dropping out of school in the ninth grade. At age 14, his father - after 
subjecting Moore to years of severe mental and physical abuse - threw him out 
of the house because Moore still did not know how to read. Moore lived on the 
streets, eating out of garbage cans and sleeping in a pool hall. He survived 
largely due to the kindness of strangers.

Then, at the age of 20, Moore was involved in a bungled grocery store robbery, 
in which he shot and killed a grocery store clerk. He has spent nearly 40 years 
on death row for that crime, which we all condemn.

In 2014, a Harris County District Court judge held a 2-day hearing. After 
carefully listening to experts and witnesses, Judge Susan Brown applied current 
medical standards and determined that Moore is intellectually disabled and 
therefore exempt from the death penalty. She noted that Moore has an average IQ 
score of 70.66, which is well within the range of intellectual disability. And 
she found in her lengthy fact-finding that Moore's serious mental and social 
difficulties were very clear from early childhood.


[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS

2017-06-07 Thread Rick Halperin

June 7

TEXASnew execution date

Judge signs execution warrant for Clinton YoungClinton Young was sentenced 
to death in 2003 for 2 murders committed in 2001.

The 33-year-old has an execution date of Oct. 26 at the Texas Department of 
Criminal Justice Huntsville Unit.

Judge Robert Moore, visiting judge for the 238th District Court, issued a 
warrant of execution on Monday for Clinton Lee Young, according to the Midland 
County District Attorney's Office. The 33-year-old has an execution date of 
Oct. 26 at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Huntsville Unit.

Young was sentenced to death in 2003 after he was convicted of the 2001 murders 
of Doyle Douglas and Samuel Petrey for the use of their vehicles.

The men were fatally shot during a crime spree that ended when Midland 
authorities apprehended Young, according to previous Reporter-Telegram reports.

Douglas, 41, of Ore City was killed near Longview. Petrey, 52, of Eastland was 
kidnapped in his hometown and killed in an oilfield near Midland, according to 
the reports. The incidents occurred within a 48-hour period, according to TDCJ 

Young exhausted his state appeals, according to a Reporter-Telegram report from 

Young, a Titus County native, was being held Tuesday at the Polunsky Unit in 
Livingston, according to TDCJ records. He is the only Midland County offender 
on death row, according to the records.

David Lee Page, a co-defendant in the case, is serving a 30-year sentence for 
aggravated kidnapping. His parole was denied in November, according to TDCJ 

(source: mrt.com)


Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present24

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982present-543

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #

25-July 19-Kosoul Chanthakoummane---544

26-July 27-Taichin Preyor-545

27-Aug. 30-Steven Long546

28-Sept.7--Juan Castillo--547

29-Oct. 26-Clinton Young--548

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


County pays for capital cases

he Henderson County Commissioners Court approved payment of expenses from 
capital murder cases on Tuesday, by a 4-1 vote, which Precinct 4 Commissioner 
Ken Geeslin opposed.

The bills amounted to $21,514.47. Geeslin objected to more money being spent 
for a mental evaluation of Randall Mays, who was convicted in May of 2008 for 
killing Henderson County Sheriff's Office Deputies Paul Habelt and Tony Ogburn.

"It makes one wonder why we ever tried to convict somebody of a capital offense 
after shooting 2 deputies," Geeslin said. "The taxpayers are still paying 
today, another $21,514.47. If anyone in the audience thinks that doesn't upset 
me, well, think again."

Mays was scheduled to be executed in March, 2015, before an appeals court 
stopped the proceedings on the grounds he might not be competent to receive the 
death penalty. The county is required to pay bills for defense in capital cases 
when presented by the district court judge.

(source: Athens Daily Review)


Death penalty

America has become a land of cowards.

Even when a killer is found guilty of murder, rarely do they receive their 
death punishment. The death penalty should be the only option available when a 
person commits murder and is 16 and up. One who commits murder should die. 
Folks stay on death row 30 years or more and it cost millions of dollars of 
taxpayer money to keep them alive and in most cases a slick lawyer will figure 
out a way for his guilty client to never face the death march. There should be 
no insanity pleas.

The death sentence should be federal mandated in all 50 states. I am proud of 
Arkansas. Several well deserved murderers got fried recently. Speaking of the 
drugs that are used to kill the killers, some say that they are "cruel and 
unusual punishment." No, cruel and unusual punishment is what these murderers 
did to their victims. The answer to all the flak over these drugs used for 
executions? Eliminate all of them. Bring back hanging. It's cheap and works. 
Bring back Judge Parker's court! I would love the job of pulling the lever to 
hang them! All citizens should be required to watch on TV. Ask a woman or man 
who has been raped, if they don't relive it every day. Rapists of all children 
should be put to death. In a lot of ways, rape is worse than murder.

American's entire judicial and punishment approach is all messed up. Third 
world counties have better. Punishment for murderers and rapists than the USA 
does. No, America is not the greatest country on the planet. At one time it was 
- not anymore. My vote for the greatest country on the planet? It is Israel. If 
one kills an Israeli, see what happens to them? Don't mess with God's chosen 
people. I am sure 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., DEL., GA., FLA., ALA.

2017-06-03 Thread Rick Halperin

June 3


Is the death penalty dying in Dallas County?

The crimes were heinous but Dallas County jurors couldn't condemn the convicted 

A college student killed 3 people at a drug house in a premeditated robbery.

A former special education teacher and U.S. Army veteran killed his girlfriend, 
her teenage daughter, his estranged wife, her adult daughter and severely 
wounded 4 children in a 2-city rampage.

But neither killer received the death penalty, a punishment reserved for the 
"worst of the worst."

Statewide, juries have declined death sentences in nearly 1/2 of the cases 
presented to them in the past 2 years.

So, what does it take to win a death penalty sentence?

"You gotta be perfect probably these days," said Edwin King, a special 
prosecutor in one of the Dallas County cases.

Jurors couldn't agree to the death sentence in the 2 recent capital murder 
trials. They were the first Dallas County cases in which the state sought the 
death penalty since 2014.

The Dallas County District Attorney's office is planning to seek death for 
Antonio Cochran, the man accused of kidnapping and killing 18-year-old Zoe 
Hastings in 2015 while she was on her way to a pharmacy to return a rental 

The decision to seek the death penalty is based on the the severity of the 
crime, criminal background and what the victim's family wants, said Dallas 
County District Attorney Faith Johnson.

"Our office only seeks the death penalty in the most heinous and serious of 
crimes," Johnson said.

The death penalty case against Cochran is the 1st filed since Johnson took 
office in January. Prosecutors in the case may face an uphill battle.

National support for the death penalty has drastically declined in recent 
years. Fewer than 1/2 of the population supports capital punishment, according 
to the Pew Research Center.

"Even in Texas, the death penalty is dying," said Jason Redick of the Texas 
Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

In the 15 death penalty cases tried in Texas since 2015, jurors have sent only 
eight men to death row.

Death sentences peaked in the 1990s. Between 2007 and 2013, Dallas County led 
the state in defendants sent to death row. During that time, the county 
sentenced 12 people to death.

Executions in Texas are also declining because of legal reforms that give 
prisoners more chances to have their sentences reviewed.

Jurors are only selected after they agree that they can give the ultimate 
punishment. Even so, they appear to be split on the issue in recent years.

"We know these aren't folks who are anti-death penalty folks," Redick said. "At 
one point, they said they could hand out a death sentence."

Capital punishment has been controversial for years. There have been botched 
executions. People sitting on death row have been exonerated. And critics point 
to the disproportionate number of minorities sentenced to death.

Pursuing the death penalty can cost taxpayers millions. For many small 
counties, the price is too high.

Seeking the death penalty in Montague County would've eaten up nearly 1/10 of 
the yearly budget when Tim Cole was district attorney there. He is now a law 
professor at the University of North Texas at Dallas and tracks death penalty 
cases in the state.

His opinion of capital punishment has shifted over time.

"It is time for the death penalty to go away," he said. "My primary concern 
with it is we don't seem to get it perfectly. ... The execution of one innocent 
person isn't worth it to me."

He said the decision to pursue the punishment is too subjective. It's left to 
each county's district attorney, and there are no standard guidelines to 
determine when the lethal injection would be appropriate.

And in 2005, Texas passed a bill creating an automatic sentence of life in 
prison without parole for anyone convicted of capital murder. The new 
punishment put an end to a time when the worst killers might have once been 
released into society.

Cole believes the automatic sentence is a factor in the death penalty decline. 
Prosecutors may seek the punishment less often knowing the defendant will die 
in prison.

Also, jurors who say they support the death penalty may have a tough time when 
faced with an actual decision.

"When you see the person, when you hear their history, their background, 
sometimes they were abused as children themselves, sometimes they're mentally 
ill ... it's a different thing," he said. "Now you have a face."

Jurors aren't simply asked to answer "yes" or "no" when considering the death 
penalty. They must unanimously agree that the defendant poses a continuing 
threat to society and that there are no reasons to save that person's life.

Those issues posed a problem for the 2 recent Dallas County cases.

In the case of Justin Smith, the college student who killed 3 people in a drug 
house, more than a dozen people vouched for him. They believed he was once a 
good man. He 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., N.C., FLA., ALA.

2017-06-01 Thread Rick Halperin

June 1


Death Row Solitary: 'Their Walls Have Driven Them Mad'

Anthony Graves emerged from solitary confinement over 6 years ago to become a 
national crusader for justice reform, but it took a recent report by 
researchers at the University of Texas at Austin to add new urgency to his 
campaign to reform the practice in his own state.

Graves spent more than 18 years in the Texas prison system, including 16 years 
in the all-solitary Allan B. Polunksy Unit, after being convicted for murders 
that he didn't commit. He was released in 2010 after DNA evidence helped 
exonerate him - but the trauma of his nearly 2 decades behind bars is with him 

Graves started his own foundation - with about $250,000 the state compensated 
him for the years he was wrongfully imprisoned - to support his efforts. His 
argument that solitary confinement on death row is inhumane has been reinforced 
by the study published earlier this spring by the Human Rights Clinic at the 
University of Texas School of Law-Austin, entitled "Designed to Break You: 
Human Rights Violations on Texas' Death Row."

The study's title, he believes, couldn't be more accurate.

"Every day you have something going on in solitary confinement," Graves, who 
spent some 12 years of his solitary confinement on death row, told The Crime 

"From men going insane, to men dropping their appeals, to men overdosing on 
their medication - and some men not even being men because their walls have 
driven them mad."

Texas death row inmates, according to the report, are subjected to a total ban 
of visits from attorneys, friends and family; "substandard" physical and 
psychological health care; and lack of access to what human rights activists 
would consider "sufficient" religious services.

"Prolonged solitary confinement has overwhelmingly negative effects on inmates' 
mental health, exacerbating existing mental conditions, and causing more 
prisoners to develop mental illness for the 1st time," the report said.

As of April 2017, 233 men were on death row in the Texas Department of Criminal 
Justice's Polunksy Unit in Livingston, which "Texas Tough" author Robert 
Perkinson called the "most lethal" death row prison "anywhere in the democratic 
world." Another 6 women are housed in death row at the Mountain View Unit in 

According to the UT-Austin study, inmates on death row spend an average of 14 
years and 6 months housed there - most of the time in solitary.

According to a 2014 ACLU brief, Texas death-row prisoners had most of the same 
privileges as those in the general prison population until 1999, when they were 
effectively confined to permanent solitary confinement until their execution. 
Under current conditions, according to the report, inmates on solitary are 
confined to 8 by 12-foot cells for at least 22 hours per day, and are banned 
from socializing or eating with other inmates. Inmates are only able to see out 
a small window in their cells by rolling their mattresses and standing on them.

A bill calling for an Office of Independent Oversight Ombudsman for the Texas 
Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), which would increase transparency in the 
prison system was considered by the Texas legislature this session, but failed 
to move forward.

The problem is not confined to Texas. According to the UT-Austin Human Rights 
Clinic researchers, more than 3,000 death row inmates across 35 states are in 
solitary confinement. Most are isolated due to their original capital 
conviction - and not for behavior while in prison.

Some states have reformed conditions. 7 - California, Alabama, Georgia, 
Missouri, Nevada, Ohio and Indiana - now allow visits on death row with family 
and attorneys, for example.

But the number of exonerations has focused attention on what happens to all 
prisoners who experience solitary confinement.

Graves said he was fortunate to have a support system when he was released from 
prison. However, he says he suffered from PTSD, sleep deprivation and 
loneliness. He was so used to having only himself for company that he had a 
difficult time adjusting to the company of others.

"It's like landing on Mars," Graves said of his return to civil society. "The 
whole word has changed, and you have to deal with that. You're starting to feel 
like maybe you can't make it out here and you start to deal with it 

"The sad part is there are no facilities or programs trying to deal with these 

He believes inmates held in solitary confinement are set up for failure when it 
comes to rehabilitation, and that runs counter to the purpose of any criminal 
justice system. Considering that even inmates on death row could be released, 
as he was, on new evidence that exonerates their charges, authorities should 
not exclude those inmates from reform measures.

Researchers found "self-injury" is 8 times more likely, and suicide 5 times 
more likely, in Texas' 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., N.C., FLA., OHIO

2017-05-31 Thread Rick Halperin

May 31


Capital murder trial nears for suspect in girl's death

Trial is weeks away in the case of capital murder suspect Isidro Miguel 
Delacruz, 26, who is accused of killing his ex-girlfriend's 5-year-old daughter 
on Sept. 2, 2014.

Delacruz is scheduled to appear for a pretrial hearing at 2 p.m. Wednesday, 
before 119th District Court Judge Ben Woodward.

He is slated for another pretrial hearing July 10, before his trial begins on 
July 31.

Delacruz had been expected to stand trial earlier this year. That was delayed 
in January after Woodward granted a motion from the defense requesting more 
time to prepare for trial.

Delacruz has made more than a dozen court appearances since his arrest the day 
of the girl's death.

He has been in custody at the Tom Green County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail 

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Delacruz, who allegedly used a 
knife to cut the throat of Tanya Bermea's daughter, Naiya Villegas. A jury 
could also choose punishment of life in prison if Delacruz is found guilty.

Delacruz was arrested at his ex-girlfriend's home in the 2700 block of Houston 
Street following a domestic violence call about 2:30 a.m. Sept. 2, 2014, 
according to police.

According to the arrest affidavit, Delacruz forced his way into Tanya Bermea's 
house through a bathroom window at the rear of the home the day of Naiya's 

Bermea told police she ran from the house and called for her mother, Jesusita 
Bermea, while Naiya remained at home, according to the affidavit.

When the 2 women arrived at the residence Delacruz wouldn't let them inside, so 
they left to get Delacruz's mother, Elizabeth Delacruz, to help them get 
Delacruz out of the house.

When the 3 women returned, Tanya Bermea said she saw her daughter with a slit 
throat and Delacruz covering the wound with paper towels, according to court 

Tanya Bermea told police that when she walked into the home, Delacruz punched 
her several times, pushed her outside onto the sidewalk and began to choke her, 
according to court documents.

Police found blood throughout the house and outside the home - in the bathroom, 
living room and kitchen; on a walkway leading from the front door of the 
residence to the street; and on the bedding in Tanya Bermea's bedroom leading 
to Naiya's room.

Police searched the area and found a knife, according to court documents, and 
indicated that Delacruz had a laceration on the back of his left upper arm.

(source: San Angelo Standard-Times)


Could Travis Ball face death penalty?

The man accused of shooting and killing a Virginia State Police special agent 
remains behind bars after a judge denied him bond.

Travis Ball, who was arraigned in court Tuesday morning, is charged with 
malicious wounding and firearms charges in connection with last week's shooting 
death of Virginia State Police Special Agent Michael Walter.

Why isn't he charged with murder? That question has flooded our social media 
pages in recent days. Essentially, the charges against him right now are enough 
to keep him locked up. And that's all investigators need as they work to build 
a strong case against him.

When police tracked down Ball early Saturday morning in Lancaster County, they 
arrested him for malicious wounding and firearms violations. At the time, VSP 
Special Agent Walter was still clinging to life.

After Walter was pronounced dead, people expected more serious charges against 
the man suspected of killing him. 8News Legal Analyst Russ Stone believes 
they're coming.

"I fully expect within the next month or so, you will see additional charges 
placed that will probably become a lot more serious than malicious wounding," 
Stone explained.

Stone says that as long as Ball is in custody, police and prosecutors are going 
to take their time putting together a case against him. It's an investigation 
that could lead to the death penalty.

"That's the kind of thing because it involves the death penalty that the 
prosecutors are going to be careful about," Stone said. "They're not going to 
just do it on a whim, they're going to want to review as much as evidence as 
possible and then make a fully informed, intelligent decision as to what to 

Stone says prosecutors could file more serious charges against Ball at any 
time, but it's more likely they will take the case to a grand jury.

(source: WRIC news)


Wilmington man held without bail in beating death

A Wilmington man charged with murder after the victim of a May 10 beating died 
was denied bail Tuesday during his first appearance in New Hanover County 
Superior Court.

The man and his 16-year-old son were charged with murder in the death of 
Gregory Gineman, 58, of Wilmington, according to the Wilmington Police 

Gineman was beaten as he and a friend rode bicycles just before midnight in the 
200 block of Myrtle Avenue, 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, DEL., FLA., ALA., MISS., LA., OHIO

2017-05-26 Thread Rick Halperin

May 26


Appeals court: Names of Texas execution drug suppliers should have been public

A Texas appeals court ruled Thursday against expanding government secrecy in a 
case involving the public's right to know who supplies the lethal drugs Texas 
uses to execute death row inmates.

The decision in favor of openness by the state's 3rd Court of Appeals addressed 
the broader question about when potential safety concerns should trump the 
public's right to know how the state is spending taxpayer money.

The ruling likely has a limited effect immediately, however, because the Texas 
Legislature passed a law requiring state prison officials to keep the 
identities of the drug makers secret.

But the case has been watched by open-government advocates who said its outcome 
could be significant in other cases where the state has withheld information by 
claiming that doing so could create "a substantial threat of physical harm" -- 
a litmus test put in place by the Texas Supreme Court in 2011 in a case 
involving gubernatorial security records.

The appeal came after a state district judge in Austin ordered officials to 
make information about drug suppliers public under the state's open records 

The lawsuit and appeal were filed by attorneys representing two condemned 
convicts challenging their impending executions. Both convicts were executed 
while the case was pending.

Lawyers for the Texas Department Criminal Justice argued that officials need to 
keep the names and details about the suppliers secret to prevent them from 
being threatened or harmed by death-penalty opponents.

Attorneys representing the convicts argued that the threats were vague and 
should not preempt public disclosure.

State officials could appeal the ruling to the Texas Supreme Court.

Maurie Levin, an Austin attorney who was 1 of 3 parties who challenged the 
secrecy, said the ruling is significant because it overruled the state's 
assertion that the suppliers of lethal drugs were confidential under the Texas 
Public Information Act.

And while the law has since been changed to allow state officials to keep the 
information secret, "it's a significant opinion because it affirms that the 
reasons (the state) used to withhold the information were not appropriate," she 

"Information may be withheld if disclosure would threat a substantial threat of 
physical harm," the opinion cites as the standard for releasing information. 
Levin said the appellate decision affirms that the state did not meet that 

Representatives with the Texas Attorney General's Office and the state 
Department of Criminal Justice said they were reviewing the decision and had no 
immediate comment.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Smyk, Schwartzkopf vote in favor of death penaltyRetired state troopers say 
CO Lt. Steven Floyd shows need for capital punishment

When the call came for a House vote on the bill reinstating the death penalty 
in Delaware, main sponsor Rep. Steve Smyk said he wasn't nervous.

"It was easier than I thought. I thought it might just barely pass," said the 
Milton and Lewes area Republican May 16. "But, I believed I had the votes when 
I walked onto the floor that day."

In August 2016, the state Supreme Court ruled Delaware's capital punishment law 
is unenforceable because the law allows a judge and not a unanimous jury to 
rule if a crime's aggravating circumstance justified a death sentence.

House Bill 125, entitled the Extreme Protection Act, would require a jury to 
determine unanimously at least one statutory aggravating circumstance exists 
and to impose the death penalty. The bill passed through the House by a 24-16 
vote May 9.

All 9 Sussex County legislators voted in favor of the bill, but Smyk, a retired 
state trooper, said the bipartisan support from across the state - there were 
10 Democrats - shows it's not just his district that wants the death penalty 
reinstated in Delaware.

"That's the majority of the state," he said.

Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, of Rehoboth was one of the 
Democrats who supported the bill.

"I've said all along I wouldn't be driving the bus, but I'd be on it," he said.

Schwartzkopf, also a retired state trooper, said most of his beliefs on the 
issue come from his years of experience as a police officer. He said people act 
tough when they're running around outside, but then they'll plead guilty and 
get life because they're afraid of dying. Once they're in the system with a 
life sentence, he said, nothing prevents them from doing something else if the 
death penalty is not an option.

"I firmly believe that if the death penalty was a punishment, the homicide of 
Steven Floyd would not have happened," said Schwartzkopf speaking of the 
correction officer who was murdered during a prisoner uprising in February at 
Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna. "We???ll never know, but even if 
someone is found 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., FLA., ALA., OHIO, KY.

2017-05-25 Thread Rick Halperin

May 25


Was a convicted murderer incompetent to stand trial - 6 years ago?Fort Bend 
County jurors wrestle with a rare retrospective question

Albert James Turner was convicted in 2011 of murder in the deaths of his 
mother-in-law and wife. The jury sentenced him to death - a choice made only 
every few years in Fort Bend.

The case returned last week to the same courtroom with the same judge, the 
268th District Court with Judge Brady Elliott, to take on an issue Turner's 
defense argued should have been addressed in the first place.

The question before the jury was not whether he committed the crimes, cutting 
the throats of his relatives. Rather, the issue at hand was dubbed 
"retrospective competency," meaning jurors had to decide whether evidence 
showed Turner had not been mentally fit for trial.

It was "a case that's not normally one we take up," the judge told the jurors. 
Judge Elliott had denied a request for a competency trial 6 years ago. A state 
appellate court had now granted it to Turner, allowing a chance at a totally 
new trial if jurors found him incompetent.

Stakes were high. Turner's appellate defense attorney, Amy Martin, believed 
Turner was delusional. Turner felt convinced his attorneys had conspired 
against him, Martin said. And this illness might have affected his decision to 
testify originally, a fateful choice that perhaps influenced the jury to 
sentence him to death, rather than life in prison.

That possibility, Martin said, was "not something we could stomach."

Competency refers to one's ability rationally to understand proceedings in 
court. It is a different question altogether from whether someone was insane at 
the time of the crime. It deals instead with whether defendants can reasonably 
consult with their attorneys and understand the charges being brought against 

Evaluating a defendant for competency before a trial begins is fairly standard 
procedure. Doing so retrospectively is not.

Several mental health professionals evaluated Turner before his trial began, 
court records show. One conducted an evaluation in May 2010, and the other in 
June. Both found him competent. If they had not, he could have been sent to a 
hospital for rehabilitation.

Still, the question of his mental faculties didn't stop there. Turner became a 
detriment to his own defense, said Patrick McCann, his attorney at the time. 
"Time dragged on," McCann said. "He got worse."

On April 15, 2011, defense attorneys filed a request for a trial on Turner's 
competency. 3 days later, on the 1st day of jury selection, the judge denied 

But the defense persisted, and on May 6, the judge ordered 1 more evaluation, 
this time by the county's director of behavioral health services. After a 
30-minute conversation during which Turner remained standing, she concluded his 
functioning had not significantly changed.

The case went to trial. Turner testified. The jury sentenced him. An appeal 
followed, and the higher court decided he deserved the competency trial after 
all - leading to last weeks' proceedings.

Testimony continued to midday Thursday, when the 12-person jury heard closing 

Proesecutor Fred Felcman painted the case as woefully lacking in the expected 
indicators, such as family speaking of his illness or physicians having treated 
him. He said a defendant didn't have to help his attorneys.

"This is not what you thought it was going to be, was it?," Felcman said.

Martin argued that even though Turner wasn't curled up in a corner or foaming 
at the mouth, he still had a mental illness. She insisted he had a delusional 
disorder, which could be hard to detect.

"He didn't have a disagreement with his attorneys," she said. "He had a break 
with reality."

Turner refused to be in the courtroom. A video camera allowed him to watch 
proceedings from jail.

The jurors made a decision in 2 hours. Members of the Fort Bend County District 
Attorney's Office sat in the room, as did Darren Frank, whose sister and mother 
were the people Turner killed.

Frank had cared for his sister's 4 children since the murders. He said he felt 
a little surprised to see Turner's case return to Fort Bend and had prepared 
for whatever the outcome would be. His main priority, he said, was supporting 
the children.

"Even one day, if [Turner] dies, it can't bring back what we've lost," Frank 
said. "I have to remove myself from the situation and just really focus on them 
and how I can help them."

Cases like these didn't come around every day. Martin, who wrote the appellate 
brief, said she knew of only one other, from 2012 in Harris County.

The judge read Turner's verdict. They jury said Turner had been competent.

His appeal will continue.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Prosecutor seeking death penalty against man accused in 4-year-old's death

A Butler County man accused in the death of his girlfriend's young son was in 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, N.C., FLA., MISS., OHIO

2017-05-20 Thread Rick Halperin

May 20


Inmate facing death penalty appears in Bowie County court

A Texas prison inmate accused of bludgeoning a correctional officer at the 
Barry Telford Unit to death in 2015 appeared in court Friday for a pretrial 

Billy Joel Tracy, 39, was flanked by a cadre of Texas Department of Criminal 
Justice officers as he entered 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart's courtroom 
Friday morning. Tracy is facing the death penalty in the beating death of 
Timothy Davison, a correctional officer with less than a year's experience who 
was attacked July 15, 2015.

Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp and Tracy's defense attorneys, Matt 
Cobb of Mount Pleasant, Texas, and Jeff Harrelson of Texarkana, told Lockhart 
they have plans to meet June 2 and discuss matters concerning Tracy's upcoming 
trial. A motion to suppress video of Tracy's murder and of interviews with 
Tracy after the deadly attack filed by Cobb is expected to be argued at the 
next pretrial hearing June 16.

Crisp handed the defense a large volume of papers which she said includes a 
transcript of Tracy's 1998 trial in Rockwall County for aggravated assault, 
burglary and assault on a peace officer which resulted in 2 life sentences with 
parole possible and a 20-year sentence. Crisp said she also has the actual 
exhibits from Tracy's 1st trial in her office at the Bowie County District 
Attorney's Office where the defense is welcome to review them.

Tracy turned down an offer from Lockhart to speak at the hearing Friday. The 
case is scheduled for jury selection mid-September. However, Crisp said she, 
Cobb and Harrelson believe the jury pool should be summoned to the courthouse 
in early August for preliminary matters and instructions to return in 

If the jury finds Tracy guilty of Davison's murder, he faces death or life 
without the possibility of parole.

(source: txktoday.com)


Monkey Junction murder suspect makes 1st court appearance

A Lumberton man accused of the fatal shooting of a Wilmington woman in the 
Monkey Junction area last month made his 1st court appearance Friday.

William James Bernicki, 48, is charged with 1st-degree murder in the slaying of 
34-year-old Brittany Fullwood on April 25.

Bernicki is accused of bursting into Fullwood's home on Woods Edge Road and 
shooting her several times before reportedly shooting himself in the face. The 
following day, investigators issued arrest warrants for Bernicki charging him 
with Fullwood's death.

Bernicki was taken to New Hanover Regional Medical Center for treatment 
following the shooting and remained hospitalized until Friday afternoon. 
Deputies served Bernicki the warrants and took him to the New Hanover County 
Courthouse for his 1st appearance.

A judge ordered that Bernicki be held under no bond.

He was then taken to Central Prison in Raleigh and put in safe keeping for 
additional medical treatment, according to District Attorney Ben David.

David said while it's too early to determine if his office will seek the death 
penalty against Bernicki, he has asked that the Capital Defender's Office be 
appointed to defend Bernicki. The Capital Defender's Office represents 
individuals that will face the death penalty.

911 calls released the day after the shooting revealed the frantic moments 
following the deadly encounter.

A woman, who just got home from work, called dispatch shortly after the 
shooting, saying, "there's gunfire, gunfire! A man running down the road said 
his roommate had been shot. I've heard about 6 shots."

When pressed by the dispatcher for more information about the shooting, the 
caller yelled to the man for details.

"Saw him bust through the door...and the barrel of the gun come through the 
door," the caller said.

Fullwood's 3-year-old son was in the backyard at the time of the shooting. He 
was found unharmed by deputies shortly after they arrived at the scene. 
Investigators said the shooting happened at Fullwood's mother's home and the 
boy is now in her care.

(source: WECT news)


Death penalty prosecutions delayed despite new state law

Even after Florida got a new death penalty law in March, several trials in 
South Florida remain in limbo over yet more legal wrangling.

Defense lawyers, and some judges, say prosecutors still can't pursue the death 
penalty because the grand jury indictments don't include certain elements 
needed to support capital charges.

These elements are called aggravating factors, such as the killing was 
"especially heinous, atrocious or cruel," or possibly involved the slaying of a 

A state appeals court is considering arguments from lawyers for Fidel Lopez - 
the Sunrise man accused of disemboweling his girlfriend in 2015 - that 
challenge his indictment, and the pending decision will affect other cases. It 
is not known when the court will rule, leaving several death penalty cases 

The changes in 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., ALA., LA.

2017-05-19 Thread Rick Halperin

May 19


Court lifts reprieve for Nicaraguan man on Texas death row

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday lifted a reprieve it gave a 
Nicaraguan man a day before he was to be executed 2 years ago for killing a 
Houston high school teacher during a 1997 robbery.

The state's highest criminal appeals court had halted the scheduled August 2015 
lethal injection of Bernardo Tercero, 40, after his attorneys contended Harris 
County prosecutors unknowingly presented false testimony at his trial in 2000 
for the death of Robert Berger, 38.

Wednesday's ruling affirms the findings of Tercero's trial court that last year 
held a hearing on the claim and determined the testimony was proper.

Berger was at a Houston dry cleaners in March 1997 with his 3-year-old daughter 
when Tercero came in to rob the store, records show. Berger was fatally shot 
and the store was robbed of about $400. Prosecutors said Tercero was in the 
U.S. illegally at the time.

Tercero, now 40, argued the shooting was acciental. He testified Berger 
confronted him and tried to thwart the robbery, and the gun went off as they 
struggled. He was arrested in Hidalgo County near the Texas-Mexico border more 
than 2 years after the slaying. A 2nd man sought in the case never has been 

In another case, the appeals court Wednesday denied an appeal from Bartholomew 
Granger, condemned for the slaying of a 79-year-old woman during a 2012 
shooting rampage outside the Jefferson County Courthouse.

Attorneys for Granger, 46, raised 10 challenges to his 2013 conviction and 
death sentence. 5 issues foused on claims his trial attorneys were deficient, 4 
raised questions about the constitutionaltiy of the death penalty in Texas and 
the last contended he was denied his right to an impartial jury.

He was convicted of fatally shooting Minnie Ray Sebolt, a bystander walking 
outside the courthouse in downtown Beaumont. Granger admitted he opend fire on 
his daughter outside the courthouse after she testified against him a sexual 
assault case.

His daughter and her mother were among 3 people wounded.

In a 3rd case, the appeals court refused an appeal from Charles Raby, 47, who 
was sent to death row in 1994 for killing 72-year-old Edna Mae Franklin. The 
court said the appeal focusing on DNA testing was improperly filed and did not 
rule on the merits of the argument. In 2015, the court upheld a lower court 
finding that results of new DNA tests didn't cast doubt on Raby's conviction 
for Frankling's stabbing death.

The appeals court also sent back to trial in Bastrop County the case of Rodney 
Reed to review claims that new evidence was improperly withheld and to show 
prosecutors presented false and misleading testimony at his trial, where he was 
convicted and sentenced to die for the 1996 rape and strangling of 19-year-old 
Stacy Stites. Her body was found off the side of a road about 35 miles 
southeast of Austin.

Last month, the appeals court refused to allow additional DNA testing of 
evidence in the case, saying the request was meant to "to unreasonably delay 
the execution of his sentence or the administration of justice."

(source: Associated Press)


Matthew Caylor granted new sentencing hearing

Matthew Caylor, the man convicted of strangling a 13-year-old then hiding her 
body under the bed of a Panama City motel, has been granted a new sentencing 
hearing after the Supreme Court of Florida threw out his original death 
sentence. In a move that was expected, the Supreme Court of Florida has ruled 
that Matthew Caylor is eligible for a new penalty phase. Caylor killed Melinda 
Hinson, 13, in a Panama City Motel in July of 2008 after raping her.

In an opinion released Thursday, Justices ruled 6-0 that because Caylor's death 
sentence in 2009 wasn't unanimous (it was 8-4) that he was entitled to a new 
penalty phase.

Caylor, who is now 41, is the man who murdered Melinda Hinson, 13, at the 
Valu-Lodge Motel in Panama City on July 8, 2008. Caylor used a telephone cord 
in the motel room to strangle Hinson after he raped her. He hid her body 
underneath the bed in the motel room then took off. Hinson's body was 
discovered 2 days later.

Caylor's case is just the latest death penalty case to get a new sentencing 
phase. Last year the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that all death 
sentences from juries must be unanimous and that a judge can't impose a death 
penalty without it. So all of the convicts on death row are filing appeals of 
their sentences if the jury recommendation for death wasn't unanimous.

So far, no new sentencing hearings in any of the cases have occurred. They're 
scheduled to happen within the next few months. If the recommendation for death 
isn't unanimous, all of the killers will more than likely be sentenced to life 
in prison without parole. But that determination won't be made until the new 
sentencing phases take place.

(source: WJHG news)

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., FLA., ALA., LA., KY.

2017-05-18 Thread Rick Halperin

May 18


Court lifts reprieve for Nicaraguan man on Texas death row

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday lifted a reprieve it gave a 
Nicaraguan man a day before he was to be executed 2 years ago for killing a 
Houston high school teacher during a 1997 robbery.

The state's highest criminal appeals court had halted the scheduled August 2015 
lethal injection of Bernardo Tercero after his attorneys contended Harris 
County prosecutors unknowingly presented false testimony from a witness at his 
trial in 2000 for the death of 38-year-old Robert Berger. Wednesday's ruling 
affirms the findings of Tercero's trial court that last year held a hearing on 
the claim and determined the testimony was proper.

Berger was a customer in a Houston dry cleaners shop in March 1997 and was with 
his 3-year-old daughter when records show Tercero came in to rob the store. 
Berger was fatally shot and the store was robbed of about $400. Prosecutors 
said Tercero was in the U.S. illegally at the time.

Tercero, now 40, argued the shooting was accidental. He testified Berger 
confronted him and tried to thwart the robbery, and the gun went off as they 
struggled. He was arrested in Hidalgo County near the Texas-Mexico border more 
than 2 years after the slaying. A second man sought in the case never has been 

Tercero's case has attracted attention in his home country, where a clemency 
plea from Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega in 2015 was forwarded to Texas 
Gov. Greg Abbott.

(source: Associated Press)


Appeals court hears arguments in Williamson County death penalty case

A defense lawyer for a man given the death penalty for a Williamson County 
killing argued before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday that the 
evidence used to convict Steven Alan Thomas did not prove he committed the 

A Williamson County jury convicted Thomas of capital murder in October 2014 and 
sentenced him to death for the sexual assault and strangulation of 73-year-old 
Mildred McKinney in 1980.

Defense lawyer Ariel Payan said Wednesday that Thomas' fingerprint, which was 
found on the back of a clock in McKinney???s bedroom, could have been there 
because Thomas worked for a pesticide company that had been to her house.

Payan also said Thomas' sperm was found on a piece of medical tape wrapped 
around one of McKinney's thumbs but that did not prove he sexually assaulted 
her. McKinney also had DNA inside of her from 3 other unknown men, he said.

The same arguments about how the evidence could not prove Thomas' guilt were 
made by his lawyers during his trial.

Payan also said Wednesday the testimony of a jailhouse snitch during Thomas' 
trial could not be confirmed and should have been inadmissible. The inmate, 
Steven Shockey, told a jury that Thomas told him about being high on cocaine, 
breaking into a house, having to restrain a woman before she got out of bed and 
taking money and jewelry.

Williamson County Assistant District Attorney John Prezas, who was representing 
the state on the appeal, said the physical evidence alone was enough to convict 
Thomas without Shockey's testimony. The clock that had Thomas' fingerprint on 
it was found in the middle of McKinney's bed near some of the cord used to tie 
her up, Prezas said.

He also said Thomas' sperm was found not on medical tape but on a ribbon tied 
around McKinney's thumb that was used to restrain her hands. Prezas also 
questioned whether Thomas had been to McKinney's house when he worked for his 
brother's pesticide company. Thomas' brother testified during the trial that 
McKinney was one of their clients but he didn't have records that showed Thomas 
made a service call to her house, Prezas said.

By state law, every death penalty case is automatically sent to the Court of 
Criminal Appeals.

"The litigants can request oral argument or not," Payan said after the hearing. 
"I almost always do, and it is usually granted but not always."

It was unclear Wednesday when the judges would make a decision.

(source: Austin American-Statesman)


The slowly-shifting status of capital punishment in PA

Anti-establishment lawyer Larry Krasner's win in the Philadelphia District 
Attorney Democratic primary Tuesday put him on track for a probable victory in 

Krasner has made a name for himself as a longtime defense lawyer in civil 
rights cases, but he is perhaps best-known for his ardent opposition to the 
death penalty. His election dredged up a recurring discussion Pennsylvania has 
been grappling with for decades: what does the future of capital punishment in 
the commonwealth look like?

Pennsylvania is 1 of only 2 states in the northeast that still allows the death 
penalty. It has the 5th most inmates on death row in the nation, but in the 
last 40 years, has only executed 3 people.

Why the disparity?

Marc Bookman, with the Atlantic Center for Capital 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS

2017-05-17 Thread Rick Halperin

May 17


Lawyer says DNA, prints don’t prove Steven Thomas killed woman

The judges on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals heard arguments Wednesday 
about the case of Steven Thomas who was given the death penalty in 2014 after 
he was convicted of the capital murder of a Williamson County woman. It was 
unclear when they might make a decision in the case.

Defense lawyer Ariel Payan argued Wednesday morning that the evidence used to 
convict Thomas did not prove he was at the scene of the crime. A Williamson 
County jury convicted Thomas in October 2014 and sentenced him to death for the 
sexual assault and strangulation of Mildred McKinney in 1980.

Thomas’ fingerprint was found on the back of a clock in McKinney’s bedroom. 
Payan said Wednesday at a hearing before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals 
that it could have been there because Thomas worked for a pesticide company 
that had been to her house, Payan said.

He also said Thomas’ sperm was found on a piece of medical tape wrapped around 
the thumb of the 73-year-old McKinney, but that didn’t prove he sexually 
assaulted her. McKinney also had DNA inside of her from three other unknown 
men, Payan said.

He said the testimony of a jailhouse snitch during Thomas’ trial also could not 
prove that Thomas killed McKinney. The inmate, Steven Shockey, testified in 
front of a jury that Thomas told him about being high on cocaine, breaking into 
a house and having to restrain a woman before she got out of bed and that 
Thomas took money and jewelry.

Williamson County Assistant District Attorney John Prezas, who was representing 
the state on the appeal, said the physical evidence alone was enough to convict 
Thomas without Shockey’s testimony. The clock that had Thomas’ fingerprint on 
it was found in the middle of McKinney’s bed near some of the cord used to tie 
her up at the crime scene, Prezas said.

He also said Thomas’ sperm was found not on medical tape but on a ribbon tied 
around McKinney’s thumb that was used to restrain her hands. Prezas also 
questioned whether Thomas had been to McKinney’s house when he worked for his 
brother’s pesticide company. Thomas’ brother testified during the trial that 
McKinney was one of their clients but he didn’t have records that showed Thomas 
made a service call to her house, Prezas said.

One of Thomas’ lawyers, Ariel Payan, said in his appeal to the Court of 
Criminal Appeals in August that the evidence presented at the trial showed 
McKinney was killed by more than one person. No evidence at the trial showed 
Thomas had killed McKinney or helped commit any other crime against her, Payan 

Evidence at the trial showed that a throat swab taken during McKinney’s autopsy 
showed male DNA that didn’t belong to Thomas and also ruled out other suspects 
in the case, including serial killer Henry Lee Lucas and his partner Ottis 

The ribbon wrapped around one of McKinney’s thumbs not only had DNA on it from 
Thomas but also from an unknown man, according to a DNA analyst who testified 
at the trial.

(source: Austin American-Statesman)
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[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, MAINE, GA., ALA., TENN., ARK., CALIF., USA

2017-05-17 Thread Rick Halperin

May 17

TEXASVienna Convention issues for foreign national

Court refuses to hear appealNo execution date set for Mexican man convicted 
of killing family found buried

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to review an appeal from a Mexican 
citizen sentenced to death for the sledgehammer killings of his wife and 2 
children, who were found buried under the bathroom floor in their Texas home.

The high court didn't include an explanation of its decision not to review the 
capial murder conviction of 62-year-old Robert Moreno Ramos. His attorneys have 
argued that Ramos wasn't told when he was arrested for the 1992 killings that 
he could get legal help from the Mexican government and that he had deficient 
legal help at his trial and in earlier appeals. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of 
Appeals rejected their arguments last year.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, found 
that Ramos, from Aguascalientes, Mexico, and more than 4 dozen other Mexican 
citizens awaiting execution in the U.S. weren't advised of their consular 
rights under the Vienna Convention when they were arrested. It recommended that 
they be tried again to determine if consular access would have affected their 
cases. President George W. Bush agreed and directed states to reopen the cases.

The Supreme Court overruled that directive, saying that only Congress can 
require states to follow the international court's ruling. That has not 
happened and several Texas inmates named in the international court ruling have 
since been executed.

Ramos, who also is identified in some court documents as Roberto Moreno Ramos, 
does not have an execution date. Evidence at his 1993 trial in Hidalgo County 
showed he used a sledge hammer to kill his 42-year-old wife, Leticia, their 
7-year-old daughter, Abigail, and their 3-year-old son, Jonathan, at their home 
in Progreso, which is along the Mexico border about 20 miles southeast of 

According to court records, Ramos told a cousin they were killed in a car wreck 
and their bodies were cremated.

After provideing other conflicting explanations, thouigh, another relative went 
to police to report the woman and children missing. Their bodies were found 
buried under a freshly tiled floor in the home's bathroom.

(source: Dallas Morning News)


Bexar County has shortage of death penalty defense attorneysOnly 11 'first 
chair' lawyers meet qualification criteria

The stakes in a capital murder case are as high as they can get. Defendants are 
facing either life in prison without the possibility of parole or death by 
lethal injection.

Among the attorneys in Bexar County qualified to serve as first chair - lead 
counsel - in capital murder cases are Joel Perez and Raymond Fuchs.

Right now, there are 68 capital murder cases pending in Bexar County, but only 
11 lawyers who meet the qualifications to represent those defendants.

"I like the challenge," Perez said. "I feel that those individuals need the 
best defense that they can get."

Handling capital murder cases, he said, is work intensive and not financially 

"There are some lawyers that either for financial reasons or stress have 
dropped off the first chair list because of that," Perez said.

The pool of lawyers is selected by a local committee of judges and veteran 
lawyers and is governed by state regulations. Regulations District Judge Sid 
Harle, who is on the committee, described them as "very, very stringent."

"We have too many courts and too many cases competing for the same pool of 
lawyers," Harle said.

Those lawyers are required to have experience that, more often than not, is 

"You've got to be qualified, but yet they want you to have done it," Fuchs 
said. "So you have to be a 2nd chair and that just puts a huge burden on the 
first chair."

Death penalty opponents point out that the solution to the problem is to do 
away with the death penalty. If things don't change, it is something Harle said 
could happen.

"Frankly, if we continue at this pace, then, de facto, we're going to do away 
with the death penalty simply because we're not going to be able to get to 
trial," he said.

Harle said that legislative changes to the rules are the solution.

"We're not really relaxing the requirements," Harle said. "We're simply giving 
the local selection committee more discretion."

Discretion, the judge added, that would mean expanding the pool with additional 
competent lawyers.

(source: KSAt news)


Amid offers to help opiate users, LePage suggests death penalty for dealers

Gov. Paul LePage kept his focus on fighting Maine's opiate addiction epidemic 
Tuesday when he said he supports a pending bill that would make dealing drugs 
that cause an overdose Class A manslaughter.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Scott Cyrway of Benton, has been voted 
out of the Criminal Justice and Public 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, ALA., COLO., USA

2017-05-16 Thread Rick Halperin

May 16

TEXASexecution date re-set

Steven Long's execution date has been re-set for August 30; it should be 
considered serious.

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present24

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982present-543

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #

25-July 19-Kosoul Chanthakoummane---543

26-July 27-Taichin Preyor-544

27-Aug. 30-Steven Long545

28-Sept.7--Juan Castillo--546

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


House to Debate Death Penalty Legislation

The Alabama House of Representatives is headed toward contentious debate on a 
bill to shorten death penalty appeals. Representatives on Tuesday evening will 
debate the bill to require inmates to raise claims such as ineffective counsel 
at the same time as direct appeal claiming trial errors.

Sen. Cam Ward, the bill's sponsor, says the current process can take decades 
and is often abused. Ward says the bill is based on Texas procedures and would 
shorten the time that appeals take from 18 to 9 years.

American Bar Association President Linda Klein sent lawmakers a letter opposing 
the bill, saying it increases the likelihood that an innocent person will be 

Opposed lawmakers are expected to mention the case of an Alabama inmate freed 
after nearly 30 years on death row.

(source: Associated Press)


Judge denies new trial in Sir Mario Owens murder caseOrder concerns 2004 
murder in Aurora's Lowry Park

A judge in Arapahoe County has denied a defense request to grant death row 
inmate Sir Mario Owens a new trial in a murder case that prosecutors later used 
to win the capital sentence against Owens.

Senior Judge Christopher Munch concluded in an order issued Tuesday that Owens' 
attorneys in the trial represented him adequately, the information prosecutors 
did not disclose to his defense attorneys did not taint the trial, and that a 
juror who later said she recognized several witnesses who testified during the 
case did not commit misconduct.

"Owens is 'entitled to a fair trial, but not a perfect trial,'" Munch wrote, 
quoting partly from a well-known Colorado Supreme Court ruling. "A fair trial 
is a trial whose result is reliable. Owens received a fair trial, and its 
result is reliable."

Owens was convicted of 3 murders tried in 2 separate cases. In the 1st, jurors 
found him guilty of murdering a man named Gregory Vann in Aurora's Lowry Park 
in 2004 and also of trying to kill Vann's friend Javad Marshall-Fields.

In 2005, Marshall-Fields had been scheduled to testify against another man, 
Robert Ray, who had been charged as an accessory to murder in the Lowry Park 
case. But Marshall-Fields and his fiancee, Vivian Wolfe, were killed before he 
could. Owens was also charged and convicted for those murders, and he was 
sentenced to death. Prosecutors used Owens' conviction in the Lowry Park case 
to provide a legal basis for the death sentence.

Owens' attorneys appealed both cases. Munch's ruling on Tuesday deals with the 
defense's request for a new trial in the Lowry Park case. The appeal of the 
death penalty case is still pending.

In a statement issued shortly after Munch's ruling was released, Owens' defense 
attorney James Castle offered thoughts and prayers for the family members of 
the murder victims.

"As the defenders of Mr. Owens we are saddened and disappointed in the decision 
of the court but it does not weaken our unflinching resolve to seek a just 
result," he wrote.

(source: Denver Post)


Report: Dylann Roof said white nationalists would save him from death row

Convicted mass murderer Dylann Roof told a psychologist working for his defense 
team that his death penalty wouldn't be carried out because he'd "be rescued by 
white nationalists after they took over the government."

That's according to a November report composed amid Roof's trial for killing 
nine parishioners in 2015 at Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal 
Church. The report also says Roof was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder 
"based on the presence of social-communication challenges and atypical 

It goes on to say Roof was suffering or had suffered from "psychiatric symptoms 
that are not explained by autism spectrum disorder, including anxiety, 
depression, suicidal ideation, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, disordered 
thinking, and psychosis (including delusions of grandeur and somatic 

Roof's somatic delusions -- which are defined as false beliefs that something 
is grossly wrong with one's body -- include unfounded complaints of hair loss 
and thyroid disease, according to reports.

"It is my impression that it is too early to predict his psychiatric 
trajectory," Dr. Rachel Loftin wrote in one report, "but his symptoms appear to 
me to be 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., GA., KY., OKLA., COLO.

2017-05-13 Thread Rick Halperin

May 13

TEXASstay of impending execution

Fort Worth death row inmate gets second stay of execution this year

An appeals court has postponed a 2nd execution date for a death row inmate from 
Fort Worth who was scheduled to die next week.

In an order issued Friday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that they 
would review Tilon Lashon Carter's application for relief before going forward 
with his execution, which was scheduled for Tuesday.

Carter, 37, was convicted of the robbery and 2004 slaying of James Tomlin, 89, 
a Bell Helicopter retiree. Prosecutors said that Carter and his girlfriend, 
Leketha Allen, went to Tomlin's home to rob him and took $6,000. Allen was 
sentenced to 25 years after agreeing to a plea bargain arrangement with 

Carter's attorney, Raoul D. Schonemann, filed a motion on Tuesday to set aside 
the execution date, arguing that new evidence conflicts with evidence that was 
presented at trial. The motion also states that Carter had ineffective trial 
counsel and was denied due process because Nizam Peerwani, Tarrant County 
medical examiner, presented false and misleading testimony.

Peerwani's testimony led the jury to believe that Tomlin had been intentionally 
smothered, even though Tomlin's cause of death was listed as "smothering with 
positional asphyxia," which may not have been intentional, the motion contends. 
Carter's trial attorney never sought evidence highlighting the role that intent 
played in the trial, which Schonemann used to bolster his allegation that 
Carter had ineffective counsel.

The motion also argues that the autopsy results, from Peerwani and 3 other 
experts, do not support the theory that Tomlin's death was caused by an 
intentional act.

Carter survived an earlier execution date scheduled for Feb. 7 due to a 
technicality. The appeals court granted a stay of execution by a 5-4 vote on 
the grounds that notice of the scheduled execution date arrived 1/2 a day late 
at a state office that sometimes works on death penalty appeals.

2 death row inmates from Tarrant County have been executed this year. 
Christopher Wilkins was put to death on Jan. 11 for a double murder committed 
in Fort Worth. He was the 1st person to be executed in the United States this 

Texas also executed a former Kennedale auto mechanic who killed a father and 
his infant son in a 1987 Christmas Eve killing spree. James Eugene Bigby, 61, 
was pronounced dead on March 14.

An execution date for Paul Storey, which had also been set for this year, was 
stayed pending a hearing.

Storey, 32, who was convicted for the murder of Jonas Cherry, was scheduled to 
die on April 12. Cherry, a manager at the Putt-Putt Golf and Games in Hurst, 
was shot twice in the head and twice in his legs on Oct. 16, 2006 on a robbery.

(source: star-telegram.com)

Juan Castillo's execution date has been changed from May 24 to September 7.

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present24

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982present-543

Abbott#scheduled execution date-nameTx. #

25-June 28--Steven Long---543

26-July 19-Kosoul Chanthakoummane---544

37-July 27-Taichin Preyor-545

28-Sept.7--Juan Castillo--546

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

Former Mavs ManiAAC dancer receives life sentence after jury deadlocks

A former Mavs ManiAAC dancer received life in prison after the jury in his 
murder trial deadlocked on the death penalty.

Erbie Bowser killed 4 people and wounded 4 children during a 2013 shooting 
rampage. He was on trial for 1 of the murders.

The jury got hung up on the death penalty and deadlocked. The judge had to go 
with a life sentence in prison without the chance of parole.

The jury had already signaled it was having trouble with a verdict on the 
punishment after being sequestered overnight. They began sending out a note on 
Friday for a clarification on "beyond a reasonable doubt".

Bowser was found guilty of capital murder for the death of 4 women and wounding 
several children.

Prosecutors said in 2013 Bowser went to his girlfriend's house and killed Toya 
Smith and her 17-year-old daughter and then went to DeSoto to kill his 
estranged wife, Zina Bowser, and her 28-year-old daughter.

Smith's mother, Lurlean, had some words for Bowser at the end of the trial.

"You not only killed once, you killed 4 times," she said. "And you left four 
innocent children without parents. But those children are going to go on with 
their lives and will have a good life."

Defense attorneys tried to show Bowser was not guilty by reason of insanity 
because of his military service and concussions from playing football had 
impacted his mental state.

(source: Fox News)

FLORIDAfemale to face death penalty


[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, GA., FLA., ALA., LA., KY.. S.DAK., USA

2017-05-12 Thread Rick Halperin

May 12


Deadly gamesThe Court of Criminal Appeals must treat executions with a new 
sense of skepticism.

How can you tell if a criminal is too mentally disabled to merit the death 

If you're a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, you look at the prevailing 
standards of psychology and medicine.

If you're a judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA), you look at his 
ability to hustle pool.

This mismatched standard has the state's highest criminal court rehearing the 
death sentence of Bobby Moore, who was convicted for shooting a grocery store 
employee during a robbery in 1980. Moore's lawyers have argued that he is 
mentally disabled and executing him would violate the Eighth Amendment's 
prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

In a 5-3 decision released in March, the Supreme Court found that the CCA 
failed to consider current clinical standards when determining Moore's 
intelligence and relied too much on invented standards that have no real basis 
in medicine or law. Among those invented standards were the facts that Moore 
"lived on the streets, mowed lawns, and played pool for money."

Now the CCA is going to reconsider Moore's death sentence, and we encourage 
them to listen to the dissenting judge who had it right the whole time: Judge 
Elsa Alcala.

Over the past several capital punishment cases to face the CCA, Alcala has 
refused to shy away from pointing out the flaws in our state's death penalty 
process. In fact, the former prosecutor and trial judge has twice called for 
the CCA to address the underlying constitutionality of the death penalty 

There are 3 key legal arguments to consider: Is the death penalty in Texas 
unconstitutionally arbitrary because race, rather than violence, is a better 
predictor of its application?

Is the death penalty in Texas unconstitutionally cruel because it essentially 
requires convicts on death row to sit in solitary confinement for years, if not 

Is the death penalty in Texas unconstitutionally unusual because, since 2010, 
capital punishment is practiced in only 16 counties out of more than 3,000 
across the United States?

Beyond the legal realm of Alcala's expertise, Texas also needs to consider the 
deep questions of policy and morality wrapped up in the application of 
government-administered death.

Innocent people like Anthony Graves have been rescued from death row. Others, 
like Cameron Todd Willingham, were executed while questions of guilt still 

There's no undoing a mistaken execution, yet Texas persists.

The death penalty doesn't save money - the constitutionally compelled appeals 
process is often more expensive than life in prison. And there's no conclusive 
evidence that it does a better job at deterring crime. In fact, states without 
capital punishment routinely have lower murder rates.

That's why the rest of western civilization has abandoned the practice. 
Countries like Iran, China, North Korea and Saudi Arabia sit among Texas' peers 
in executing criminals - not exactly the company the Lone Star State should 
want to keep.

Questions of life and death aren't a game - pool hustling or otherwise. Nor 
should executions be treated like a political pawn. The CCA and the entire 
state of Texas need to address the death penalty with a new and serious 

(source: Houston Chronicle)

Jury Clears the Prosecutor Who Sent Cameron Todd Willingham to death 
rowJohn Jackson did not commit misconduct in 1992 case, a jury finds.

After a trial of more than 2 weeks, a Texas jury on Wednesday found that former 
state prosecutor John Jackson had not committed misconduct in the 1992 death 
penalty trial of Cameron Todd Willingham.

By an 11-to-1 vote, a Navarro County jury rejected claims by the State Bar of 
Texas that Jackson made false statements, concealed evidence favorable to 
Willingham's defense and obstructed justice.

The state bar had accused Jackson of failing to disclose to Willingham's 
defense lawyers that jailhouse snitch Johnny Webb had been promised favorable 
treatment on an aggravated robbery conviction in return for testimony at 
Willingham's trial.

Webb testified at Willingham's trial that while he and Willingham were in the 
Navarro County Jail Willingham confessed to setting a fire that killed his 3 
daughters. In 2014, Webb recanted that testimony, saying Willingham never 
confessed and that he had testified after Jackson promised him leniency on his 
own criminal charge.

Jackson testified during his trial that he had made no deal with Webb. He said 
he only made efforts to obtain a reduction of Webb's conviction from aggravated 
robbery to simple robbery and an early release from prison because Webb was 
being threatened in prison.

Willingham was executed on Feb. 17, 2004 for setting the fire that killed his 
daughters on Dec. 23, 1991 in their Corsicana, Texas home. The prosecution's 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., S.C., FLA., ALA., OHIO

2017-05-11 Thread Rick Halperin

May 11

TEXASimpending execution

Death Watch: The Capital of Capital PunishmentTilon Carter set for 
execution - again

For the 2nd time this year, Tilon Carter faces execution - this time, he's set 
for Huntsville's gurney next Tuesday, May 16. Carter was convicted of capital 
murder in 2006 in Tarrant County, for the robbery and suffocation of 
89-year-old James Eldon Tomlin. He received a stay in January based on a 
technicality involving the filing of his death warrant, so the Court of 
Criminal Appeals ordered the lower court to reset Carter's execution date. 
Carter has exhausted his appeals, but maintains that Tomlin's death was 
accidental. Robin Norris, his attorney, did not respond to requests for 

The resetting of execution dates combined with last-minute stays is one of 
several injustices highlighted in "Designed to Break You: Human Rights 
Violations on Texas' Death Row," a recent report from the Human Rights Clinic 
at the UT School of Law. The yearlong study focused on the Texas Department of 
Criminal Justice's repeated resetting of execution dates, inmates' limited 
access to religious services, and - most significantly - the Polunsky Unit's 
use of solitary confinement.

Texas has been dubbed the Capital of Capital Punishment. Since the Supreme 
Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, the state has executed 542 people. 
(Carter would bump that to 543.) Oklahoma and Virginia have the 2nd and 3rd 
most deadly death rows, each with 112 executions. Texas' death row inmates 
spend 22-24 hours a day in solitary. Though the TDCJ allows inmates up to 2 
hours of "recreation" time daily, the report notes: "In practice, death row 
inmates often do not receive outdoor [time]." And even outside, the so-called 
"yard" is a slightly larger cell closed off by high concrete walls and caging 
over the top, which limits natural light. It's typical for death row inmates to 
spend more than a decade living in these conditions prior to their execution.

Mandatory confinement has been required since the men's death row was 
transferred from Huntsville to the Polunsky Unit in nearby West Livingston in 
1999. All human contact has been banned as well. The TDCJ's severe use of 
solitary and isolation has been called inhumane by the Inter-American 
Commission on Human Rights, the Organization of American States, and the 
European Convention on Human Rights. The UT report states the use of solitary, 
to such a degree, is incredibly detrimental to inmates' mental health - most 
noticeably those already suffering from mental illness. In what is dubbed 
"death row syndrome," prisoners report experiencing severe depression, memory 
loss, suicidal tendencies, and more. The study summarizes, they're "effectively 
subject to a severe form of psychological torture every day of their lives."

Asked for a response to the study, Jason Clark, the TDCJ's director of public 
information, told us: "Offenders on death row are individuals who've been 
convicted of heinous crimes and given the harshest sentence possible under the 
law. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice will continue to ensure it 
fulfills its mission of public safety and house death row offenders 

According to Ariel Dulitzky, a UT Law professor and the director of the Human 
Rights Clinic, TDCJ declined to meet with the clinic over the course of the 
study, and has yet to respond to a follow-up request made earlier this month. 
However, Dulitzky said the clinic hopes this report will secure a "complete 
ban" of mandatory solitary confinement. In the interim, the clinic is 
advocating for the prohibition of confinement for all inmates with mental 
health problems, for the implementation of "physical contact visits with 
families and attorneys, communal religious services," and for improvements to 
health care.

(source: Austin Chronicle)


Convicted rapist, murderer to get off death row

A convicted rapist and murderer will be removed from death row due to new 
evidence and changes in the law, according to the Harris County District 
Attorney's Office.

Robert James Campbell, 44, was sentenced to death in the 1990's for the murder 
of Alexandra Rendon.

Rendon, a Houston bank teller, was kidnapped from a gas station and driven to a 
remote location in south Houston in 1991. Campbell and an accomplice raped and 
robbed her. Campbell then fatally shot Rendon in the back as she tried to run 

Campbell was set to be executed in 2014, but the 5th US Circuit Court of 
Appeals halted the punishment at the last minute.

The court allowed defense attorneys to pursue an appeal, which claimed Campbell 
was mentally impaired due to his low IQ, and ineligible for the death penalty.

A 70 IQ is the minimum threshold set by the court.

The appeal has been pending ever since.

Then Wednesday morning, prosecutors with the Texas Attorney General???s Office 
filed a request for the case 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, DEL., VA., N.C., GA., FLA., ALA.

2017-05-10 Thread Rick Halperin

May 10

TEXASimpending execution

Texas Gives Tilon Carter Execution Date of May 16, 2017

Tilon Lashon Carter is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm CST, on Tuesday, May 
16, 2017, at the Walls Unit in the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, 
Texas. 37-year-old Tilon is convicted of the robbery and murder of 89-year-old 
James Eldon Tomlin in Tarrant County, Texas. Tilon has spent the last 10 years 
of his life on Texas' death row.

Tilon did not graduate from high school, dropping out after the 11th grade. He 
worked as an auto mechanic and a roofer. Tilon was previously arrested for 
robbing a couple at gunpoint and using the stolen money to pay off a drug debt. 
While in prison, he led a riot. Tilon was also convicted of indecent exposure 
and assault against his girlfriend.

On April 28, 2004, Tilon Carter and his 31-year-old girlfriend Leketha Allen 
were discussing how they needed money. Allen's mother overhear them and 
suggested that they rob James Tomlin, and elderly man who lived nearby and was 
known to keep large quantities of cash in his house. Allen's mother then drove 
them by the house, pointing it out.

Carter and Allen returned to James' home the next day, forcing their way inside 
after James opened the door. Cater bound James' hands and feet tightly with 
duct tape. Duct tape was also placed over his mouth. Carter and Allen then 
searched home, discovering approximately $6,000 in cash.

James was discover the following day, lying face down in his hallway. A medical 
examiner determined that he had been severely beaten, but that the cause of 
death was asphyxiation. The evidence indicated that James was likely smothered 
to death.

At his trial, Carter's ex-girlfriend and a cell mate testified that Carter had 
boasted about Laketha and him killing an old man during a robbery. Carter was 
convicted and sentenced to death.

Leketha was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison. She is eligible for 
parole this year.

Tilon Carter's execution had been scheduled for Tuesday, February 7, 2017. His 
execution was stayed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals due to a technical 
error; the trial court was a day late in notifying the Office of Capital and 
Forensic Writs that an execution date had been set. According to the law, the 
Office of Capital and Forensic Writs must be notified within 2 business days, 
however, in Tilon's case, it was 3 days before they were notified. Since the 
notification was late, the execution date was reset to Tuesday, May 16, 2017.

Please pray for peace and healing for the family of James Tomlin. Please pray 
for peace and healing for the family of Tilon Carter. Please pray that if Tilon 
is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed or should not be executed for 
any other reason, that evidence will be provided prior to his execution. Please 
pray that Tilon will come to find peace through a personal relationship with 
Jesus Christ, if he has not already.

(source: theforgivenessfoundation.org)


House lawmakers vote in favor of reinstating Delaware's death penalty

The Delaware State House of Representatives has voted in favor of legislation 
that, if passed, would reinstate Delaware's death penalty.

On Tuesday, House lawmakers voted to revive the death penalty with 21 votes in 
favor, 16 votes against, and 1 absent.

House Bill 125 revises Delaware's death penalty statute to ensure its 
compliance with the U.S. Constitution, which would require that before a death 
sentence can be imposed, a jury (unless the Defendant waives their right to 
one) must first determine unanimously and beyond a reasonable doubt that at 
least one statutory aggravating circumstance exists.

In an interview with Delaware 105.9's Rob Petree, Representative Steve Smyk, 
the primary sponsor of the Bill, made it clear that the death penalty is "still 
in the books," and this legislation is simply addressing what was deemed 
unconstitutional by Delaware's Supreme Court.

"The Bill doesn't create the death penalty, that's actually still in the books, 
but there's parts of Delaware's death penalty that have found to be 
unconstitutional by a panel of our 5 chief justices, at only a margin of 3 to 
2," said Rep. Smyk. "With that being said those issues, that 3 of our justices 
did find problematic, are addressed in the Bill. So that way it can be used as 
a tool for our criminal justice system. Those issues are the relationship 
between a judge, a jury, and unanimity."

"What we know is that there are people in our society, a very small sliver of 
our society, that are predators. Those individuals actually do pray on the 
weakest and the most vulnerable of our society. Everytime Delaware, throughout 
its history has put a reprieve on the death penalty, we've suffered terrible 
terrible crimes," Rep. Smyk explained. "In 1958 when Delaware lifted the death 
penalty there was a series of activities where victims had suffered tremendous 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, DEL., FLA., ALA., OHIO

2017-05-09 Thread Rick Halperin

May 9

TEXASnew death sentence

Joseph Colone Jr. sentenced to death

Joseph Colone Jr. has been sentenced to death in the 2010 double killings of 
Mary Goodman and her 16-year-old daughter Briana at their South End Beaumont 

Both sides rested Monday in the sentencing phase of the capital murder case 
against Colone, who last week was convicted of capital murder.

On Monday, Colone's family members testified as character witnesses in an 
effort to spare him of the death penalty.

Jurors heard from Colone's teenage daughter, his aunt, and multiple deputies 
from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.

(source: KFDM news)


Delaware House votes on reinstating death penalty

House lawmakers are set to vote on a bill reinstating Delaware's death penalty.

Tuesday's scheduled vote comes amid a public outcry over the killing of a 
correctional officer during a prison riot and hostage-taking in February, and 
the fatal shooting of a state trooper 2 weeks ago.

Under the bill, jurors would have to find unanimously and beyond a reasonable 
doubt that a defendant should be executed.

A majority of state Supreme Court justices declared Delaware's death penalty 
law unconstitutional in August because it allowed judges too much discretion 
and did not require that a jury find unanimously and beyond a reasonable doubt 
that a defendant deserves execution.

That ruling came after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida's death 
sentencing law, which was similar to the one in Delaware.

(source: Associated Press)


Ayala-Scott death penalty suit waiting for Florida Supreme Court ruling

Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala has filed a reply to Gov. Rick 
Scott's argument in their legal fight over death-penalty cases, and the 2 now 
wait for a response from the Florida Supreme Court.

Ayala announced in March that she would not seek the death penalty against 
anyone while she is in office, and Scott responded by reassigning 23 
death-penalty cases from her office to that of Ocala-based State Attorney Brad 
King. Ayala sued last month.

Ayala had asked the court to order Scott to provide his valid legal reasoning 
for reassigning the cases. Scott's attorneys responded with counter-arguments, 
and people with interest in the matter - lawmakers, activists and families of 
homicide victims - filed their own legal briefs.

The filing Monday is the final step in the initial state of the process. Ayala 
and Scott will now wait for the Florida Supreme Court???s next ruling in the 

(soruce: Orlando Sentinel)


State to seek death penalty against man charged in Jupiter triple homicide

State attorneys said during a Monday court hearing they will seek the death 
penalty against a man arrested in connection with the February shooting deaths 
of 3 people in Jupiter.

Christopher Vasata, 24, was arrested in March after the homicides occurred Feb. 
5 on Mohawk Street.

Vasata faces 3 counts of 1st degree murder with a firearm, 1 count of attempted 
1st-degree murder with a firearm and 1 count of a felon possession of a firearm 
or ammunition.

Kelli J. Doherty, 20, of Tequesta, Brandi El-Salhy, 24, of Gainesville and Sean 
P. Henry, 25, of Jupiter died in the shootings.

(source: WPTV news)

ALABAMAimpending execution

Alabama death row inmate Tommy Arthur writes to Gov. Kay Ivey: 'My life is in 
your hands'

Alabama death row inmate Tommy Arthur, who is set to be executed later this 
month, has sent a letter to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey pleading for his life and DNA 
testing on hair he claims was collected in his case.

"Please do not let me die for a crime I did not commit and the facts on these 
pages point to (the) real killer," Arthur writes in a 4-page hand-written 
letter. He states that "my life is in your hands" and asks her to consider his 
claims about evidence in his case.

The letter was first sent by the 75-year-old inmate last week to AL.com, which 
forwarded it to Ivey's press secretary.

"We just received the letter and it will be reviewed. The AG's (Alabama 
Attorney General's) office will be given an opportunity to respond, and Gov. 
Ivey will be thoroughly briefed on all the issues raised by Mr. Arthur and his 
attorneys," according to a statement emailed to AL.com from Bryan Taylor, 
Governor's Legal Counsel.

Arthur's execution is set for May 25 at the Holman Correctional Facility in 
Atmore. It is the 8th time since 2001 that the state has set an execution for 
Arthur for his conviction in the 1982 shooting death of Troy Wicker.

Last month, Ivey denied a request by Arthur's attorneys for DNA testing of a 
wig purportedly used by Wicker's killer. Ivey, in her letter denying the 
testing, stated that no genetic material had been found when the wig was tested 
8 years ago.

Arthur, however, states that his attorneys did not include a request to test a 
hair he claims is also among the evidence collected by 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., DEL., WYO., ARIZ., CALIF., USA

2017-05-06 Thread Rick Halperin

May 6


State's Narrow Disability Definition Resulted In Unconstitutional Death 

In 1985, Pedro Solis Sosa was sentenced to death for kidnapping and killing a 
sheriff's deputy in Wilson County. Prosecutors alleged that Sosa killed Ollie 
Childress Jr. with the officer's own pistol after robbing a bank.

Sosa claims he's innocent, and as of Wednesday, he won't be executed for the 
crime. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that because of his 
intellectual disabilities, killing Sosa would be unconstitutionally cruel.

The definition of what classifies a person as 'intellectually disabled' when it 
comes to the death penalty has been a bit of a grey area for some time. Robert 
Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center at 
Washington, says the U.S. Supreme Court it attempting to clarify that 

"The definition of intellectual disability is relatively clear in medical 
circles but states that have been carrying out executions have been creating 
their own definitions," Dunham says. "They've made it so that some people who 
are intellectually disabled will still be executed."

The Supreme Court ruled in March that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals had 
improperly sentenced Bobby Moore to death - that the medical standards used to 
do that didn't follow a proper legal framework. Moore's case was cited in 
Sosa's decision.

Texas has used what's called the Bricenio Factors to determine what the 
criteria for an intellectual disability is. But the Supreme Court said the 
factors were basically a set of lay stereotypes that had nothing to do with 
whether a person was actually intellectually disabled, Dunham says.

"Instead of looking at whether they had deficits in adaptive functioning and 
significant impairments in intellectual functioning," Dunham says, "the court 
in Texas [used] this requirement under the Bricenio Factors that you ask a 
series of questions including 'Did people who knew the person growing up think 
that they were intellectually disabled? Were they able to lie successfully and 
avoid detection?' Things like that, that have nothing to do with whether you 
are or aren't intellectually disabled."

Dunham says the Supreme Court's ruling does not necessarily mean there has to 
be a medical determination that a person is intellectually disabled before the 
court can sentence someone to the death penalty, but there does have to be a 
court determination that a defendant meets the clinical criteria.

"It will make it clearer how you go about deciding whether someone is eligible 
for the death penalty instead of having lay stereotypes being used," Dunham 
says, "You will have to pay closer attention to the clinical definitions that 
will make the determinations, I think, more accurate. And it will also have the 
effect of excluding some people from the death penalty who in the past were 
still being subjected to it."

This ruling doesn't broaden the definition of intellectual disability, instead 
it merely brings states up to medical standards that have already been set in 

"There is a fixed set of standards that are pretty clear in the medical 
community," Dunham says. "States that want to execute people who have 
intellectual disability have been creating their own rules that have 
artificially narrowed the definition the United States Supreme Court is saying 
you've got to apply the established clinical definition. That definition hasn't 
changed it's just being made clearer."

(source: kut.org)


The death penalty - 2 views

With all the attention the recent trial of Eric Frein has received, questions 
about the death penalty in Pennsylvania have been raised again, not only in 
Pike County, but across the state, and even nationally among law enforcement 
officers, attorneys, civil rights groups, and the general public.

As might be expected, the views of District Attorney Ray Tonkin and Defense 
Attorney Michael Weinstein, the prosecution and defense respectively in the 
Frein case, represent 2 ends of the spectrum.

A brief history and current status of the death penalty in PennsylvaniaIn 
December of 2011, the Pennsylvania State Senate adopted Senator Greenleaf's 
Senate Resolution 6 establishing a bi-partisan task force and advisory 
committee to conduct a study of capital punishment in the Commonwealth.

When Gov. Tom Wolf took office in 2015, he announced that he would put all 
executions on hold until the committee released its report. The committee has 
not yet released its report. Meanwhile, Wolf has been issuing reprieves on an 
individual case basis.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Dec. 2015 upheld Wolf's constitutional 
authority to grant temporary reprieves to inmates on death row. Thus far, he 
has reprieved 5 convicted killers scheduled for execution.

There are currently 185 inmates on death row in Pennsylvania.

The death penalty remains the law of the 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, DEL., S.C., FLA., ALA.

2017-05-05 Thread Rick Halperin

May 5


College football stars could face death penalty after grand jury indicts them 
on capital murder charges over the fatal shooting of a man, 29, during a 
botched marijuana robbery

2 college football stars are facing a murder trial over the fatal shooting of a 
29-year-old man.

Dontrell Dock, 20 and Brodrick Ross, 18, were indicted by a grand jury in 
Tarrant County over the January 11 murder of Chris-Dion Russell in Fort Worth, 

Prosecutors claim Dock and Ross broke into Russell's apartment to steal 
marijuana and shot him in the chest.

Russell was rushed to hospital but died within an hour.

According to the Star Telegram, the grand jury decided against recommending 
charges against a 3rd player, Ryan McBeth, who had also been arrested in 
connection with the investigation.

Both Dock and Ross were playing with the McMurry University football team.

Police investigating the shooting saw on CCTV covering the area a Chrysler 300 
leave the scene.

The car is understood to belong to Ross' brother.

Dock is due to appear in court in Fort Worth this morning at 9am.


Man on death row gets life sentence instead

A man on death row for abducting a sheriff's deputy, keeping him handcuffed 
inside a patrol car trunk while demanding money from a bank officer will serve 
life in prison instead after Texas' highest criinal court reduced his sentence 

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said executing 55-year-old Pedro Solis Sosa 
for the 1983 slaying could carry "an uncacceptable risk" that his punishment 
would be unconstitutionally cruel because of his intellectual disabilities.

A life sentence for a 1983 capital murder means that the defendant is eligible 
for parole after 20 years. Sosa has been in prison more than 30 years. It will 
be up to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to decide whether Sosa ever is 

The appeals court in its decision Wednesday cited a March ruling from the U.S. 
Supreme Court in another Texas death row mental disability case.

(source: Dallas Morning News)


Deputy's son 'dejected' after his father's killer gets off death row

Roger Childress, whose father Ollie "Sammy" Childress Jr. a Wilson County 
deputy sheriff was murdered in 1983 by Pedro Sosa, speaks about his father on 
Thursday, May 4, 2017. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reduced Sosa's death 
penalty sentence on Wednesday to life in prison, making Sosa eligible for 

On November 4, 1983, Roger Childress was working in San Antonio when he got a 
call from his uncle telling him that his father - Ollie "Sammy" Childress Jr., 
a Wilson County sheriff's deputy - had been kidnapped and killed in the line of 

Over the past 33 years, Childress has waited for his father's convicted killer, 
Pedro Solis Sosa, to be executed. Twice the younger Childress prepared to make 
the drive to Huntsville to witness the execution, only to get a call hours 
before telling him there was a last-minute stay. A 3rd time, Sosa's execution 
was delayed 3 days before his scheduled death.

"You feel dejected every time," Childress, now 63, said Thursday. "The time 
never came."

On Wednesday, Childress got a similar call from his niece, who tearfully told 
him that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals had reduced Sosa's sentence to 
life in prison. The court ruled that executing Sosa, 55, would carry "an 
unacceptable risk" that his punishment would be unconstitutionally cruel 
because of his intellectual disabilities.

Sosa, who grew up in San Antonio, has been in prison for more than 30 years, 
making him eligible for parole now.

"I wish they would execute him, but since they won't, I'd like him to be in 
prison the rest of his life," Childress said in an interview in Stockdale.

Sammy Childress was off duty when he was flagged down by 2 men, Sosa and his 
nephew Leroy Sosa. The men handcuffed the deputy and placed him in the trunk of 
his patrol car before driving to La Vernia State Bank. Pedro Sosa wore 
Childress' shirt and badge into the bank and told tellers, "I'm the damn 
sheriff now. I've got the sheriff in the trunk of my car." The 2 robbed the 
bank of $51,038.

After the robbery, Sosa shot Childress once in the neck with the deputy's 
.44-caliber service revolver. The 2 men left the scene but returned so Pedro 
Sosa could wipe his fingerprints off the car. They realized Childress was still 
alive and shot him once more in the neck, killing him.

Leroy Sosa, who was 17 at the time of the robbery, told police his uncle was 
the one who shot Childress. The younger Sosa got life in prison in exchange for 
his testimony.

Pedro Sosa also confessed but later retracted his statement. He said law 
enforcement officials forced a confession by threatening him and his wife.

Since then, Sosa has maintained that he is innocent. His attorneys also say he 
suffers from a mental illness that alters his sense 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, DEL. N.C., GA., FLA., ALA., OHIO

2017-05-04 Thread Rick Halperin

May 4


13 % of Texas death row inmates wait 25 years or more for execution

Texas has executed 23 inmates since 2014, but 32 of the 238 condemned inmates 
have been awaiting execution for 25 years or more. That wait is nearly a decade 
more than the average time elapsed between conviction and execution nationally.

Scroll through the gallery to see which Texas death row inmates have waited 
more than 25 years for execution

For some Texas death row inmates, being condemned can feel like a life 

Roughly 13 % (30 of 238) of the inmates awaiting execution in the Lone Star 
State have been on death row for 25 years or more. That length of stay is 
nearly a decade above the national average time awaiting execution of 15 years 
and 9 months.

The longest resident of death row in Texas, Raymond Riles, has been sitting in 
solitary confinement (except for doctor visits and court appearances) since 
February 1976.

Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, 41 inmates on death row 
have died either of natural causes or suicide while awaiting execution.

This is in a state that has executed 23 people in the last 3 years and isn't 
shy about carrying out death sentences.

But, the state is also suing the federal government to get a hold of a shipment 
of the lethal injection drug Pentobarbital.

While that is tied up in court, there's little the state can do if it runs out 
of the current supply of the sedative, prolonging the time on death row for the 
inmates and the wait for the victim's families.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Death penalty supporters pass 1st test

Legislators from both parties say they will try to re-institute the death 
penalty in Delaware this year, but might they face an uphill battle.

The General Assembly took the 1st step towards reinstating the death penalty in 
Delaware on Wednesday when a committee voted 7-4 to send legislation to the the 
full House of Representatives for a vote.

A vote in the full House is expected on Thursday.

The "Extreme Crimes Protection Act" comfortably passed the 11-member House 
Judiciary committee, but the almost 2-hour hearing foreshadowed the intensity 
of the battle that will be waged in Legislative Hall over the coming weeks.

Supporters of the legislation said it would limit the punishment to truly 
abominable crimes that can be proved with the highest standards of truth.

But opponents of the legislation said changing the way sentences are delivered 
doesn't change their opinion that the death penalty is fundamentally wrong.

"I don't think the state should be in the business of committing homicide, no 
more than I think anyone else should be in the business of committing 
homicide," said Rep. J.J. Johnson, D-New Castle.

Delaware's current capital punishment law is unenforceable after the state 
Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional last year. In a 4-1 vote, the Court 
faulted the law for allowing a judge to find that aggravating circumstances in 
a crime merited a death sentence without a unanimous jury agreeing.

Aggravating circumstances can include things like crimes committed against a 
police officer, crimes in which hostages are taken or if the crimes that are 
"outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman in that it involved torture 
or depravity of mind."

A group of lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, are pushing to change the 
law to address those concerns. Their legislation would require a unanimous jury 
to rule on the aggravating circumstances and raise the burden of proof to the 
highest standard.

"We're not trying to enact capital punishment, we're trying to restore it," 
said Rep. Steve Smyk, R-Milton, the bill's chief House sponsor.

Dozens of members of the public testified during the hearing.

Many of those speaking in favor of the bill were law enforcement officers.

"We have seen over the years that there are some truly evil people who commit 
truly heinous crimes," said Lt. Tom Brackin, head of the Delaware State Police 
Troopers Association. "The troopers I represent and myself believe you do have 
to have the ultimate punishment for the ultimate crime."

Peggy Marshall Thomas, the former chief prosecutor in Sussex County, recalled 
prosecuting a person who was convicted of five homicides, including 2 different 
incidents after being jailed the first time. She invoked the death of Lt. 
Stephen J. Ballard, who was gunned down in Bear last week.

"The murder of the uniformed officer is an extreme act of violence that 
undermines our peaceful and lawful society," she said.

Brendan O'Neill, the state's public defender, said the cost of the death 
penalty should give state leaders pause. His office alone has saved significant 
money in the period without capital punishment cases, he said.

O'Neill and many other speakers who opposed the bill also noted that those 
executed by the death penalty are disproportionately poor and black.


[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., DEL., ALA., OHIO, TENN.

2017-05-03 Thread Rick Halperin

May 3


Former Texas Prosecutor Probably Sent Innocent Man to His Death. Now He's on 
Trial for Misconduct.

The courthouse in Corsicana, Texas, roughly 60 miles southeast of Dallas, has 
been meticulously restored to its original 1905 glory, a time when the county 
was awash in oil money. Its main courtroom has soaring, 2-story pink walls and 
gold-flecked architectural details that frame the judge's bench, witness stand, 
and jury box. For more than 3 decades, John Jackson worked this room (though 
during those years it was a far more utilitarian space), 1st as a prosecutor 
with the Navarro County district attorney's office and later as an elected 
judge, until his retirement in 2012.

Last week he returned, this time as a defendant, facing charges brought by the 
State Bar of Texas, whose lawyers argue that Jackson violated basic legal 
ethics in connection with his conduct in prosecuting the county's most 
notorious case, the death penalty trial of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was 
convicted and ultimately executed for what the state insists was the December 
1991 arson-murder of his 3 young children in the home they shared just over a 
mile away.

Specifically, the state's lawyers contend that Jackson made a deal with a 
jailhouse snitch who agreed to testify against Willingham and then hid that 
deal from Willingham's defense attorneys - a clear violation of both law and 
ethics. They say that Jackson took extraordinary measures over the next 2 
decades to conceal his deceitful actions.

"It is a duty of the prosecution - an ethical obligation - to turn over that 
evidence," state bar lawyer Kristin Brady told jurors in her opening arguments 
last Wednesday afternoon. "For years he protected this snitch; for years. It 
wasn't for [the snitch's] protection, it was for his own protection."

The prosecution of Willingham has been widely reported and litigated, in part 
because his conviction was secured on twin pillars of evidence known to wreak 
havoc in the criminal justice system: junk science and incentivized snitch 

Where the junk science is concerned, there is now little question that the fire 
that killed Willingham's children was not arson - caused, as the state claimed, 
by Willingham spreading lighter fluid around his house and setting it ablaze. 
Leading fire scientists have weighed in to say that the evidence the Corsicana 
Fire Department and Texas fire marshal investigator relied upon in fingering 
Willingham as the cause of the deadly blaze was based on outdated, discredited 
fire-science folklore.

It is the 2nd basis of the prosecution, however, that underlies Jackson's 
current civil disciplinary trial.

In short, lead prosecutor Jackson called a man named Johnny Webb to testify at 
Willingham's 1992 trial to say that while he was locked up in the county jail 
on an aggravated robbery charge, his fellow inmate, Willingham, randomly, and 
in detail, confessed to Webb his alleged crime. Under questioning by Jackson, 
Webb asserted that he did not expect any benefit in exchange for his 
incriminating testimony.

In the years since Willingham's 2004 execution, significant evidence has come 
to light indicating that was untrue. Records amassed by the bar association and 
the Innocence Project - including lengthy correspondence between Jackson and 
Webb spanning roughly a decade - strongly suggest not only that it was at least 
implied to Webb that he would receive a reduced sentence for his testimony, but 
also that Jackson went to great lengths to make that happen. Moreover, Webb now 
insists that his trial testimony was false and compelled by Jackson.

On the witness stand on April 27, Jackson vehemently denied the allegations.

Lawyers for the bar's Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel have tried to 
make clear that they are not here to re-litigate the question of Willingham's 
guilt or innocence, which they say is irrelevant. The sole issue at hand, they 
argue, is whether Jackson's actions as they relate to his dealings with Webb 
violated legal ethics - so far to seemingly thin effect.

Indeed, where the bar attorneys have toed that straight-line, Joseph Byrne, 
Jackson's attorney, has done his best to conflate the issue of Willingham's 
guilt with Jackson's innocence: The bar, he has suggested, is motivated only by 
an interest in tarring Jackson in order to demonstrate that his client - and 
the state of Texas - hastened the execution of an innocent man.

The Shoulders of a Jailhouse Snitch

It was roughly 10:30 a.m. on December 23, 1991, when the fire broke out in the 
5-room wood frame house on West 11th Ave. in Corsicana that Willingham shared 
with his wife, Stacy, and their 3 young daughters. The bodies of Willingham's 
twin 1-year-old girls were found amid the charred remains of the house. They 
had perished in the fire. First responders later carried out the 2-year-old, 
who was still alive. She died at the hospital shortly 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., DEL., N.C., ALA., OHIO

2017-05-02 Thread Rick Halperin

May 2


Man accused of killing Corpus Christi woman could face death penalty

A man accused of killing his girlfriend and leaving her body in a grassy ditch 
last summer is slated to stand trial in September, and could face death 

Nigel Green is charged with capital murder in the death of Carina Castellanos, 
26. He also faces family violence assault charges related to a report she made 
to police about a month before she went missing.

Green has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors initially planned to pursue a murder charge but while interviewing 
a witness learned information they believe makes the crime capital murder, 
First Assistant Prosecutor Melissa Madrigal said a Nueces County grand jury 
re-indicted Green on the higher charge, which is punishable by either life in 
prison without parole or the death penalty. State District Judge Jack Pulcher 
gave prosecutors a deadline of May 8 to decide whether they'll seek the death 

If prosecutors pursue the death penalty, the judge may have to appoint new 
lawyers and could delay the case, defense lawyer Deeann Torres said.

U.S. Marshals arrested Green, 31, in connection with an aggravated assault 
warrant related to a June 10 incident in which Castellanos called Corpus 
Christi police and described Green attacking her. The case had been originally 
closed after Castellanos left a message on a detective's answering machine 
saying she no longer wanted to pursue charges since Green was leaving Corpus 

Castellanos' mother reported her missing on June 30. Before Green's arrest he 
told the Caller-Times he believed Castellanos was alive and pleaded for her to 
call her mom.

After his arrest in the assault case, Green admitted to killing Castellanos and 
led police to her body, according to an arrest affidavit.

(source: Corpus Christi Caller-Times)


Pennsylvania Supreme Court upholds Indian national Raghunandan Yandamuri's 
death sentence

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Friday upheld the death sentence imposed on 
Raghunandan Yandamuri, convicted of killing an infant and her grandmother.

The 30-year-old Indian techie, of Upper Merion, was convicted by a Montgomery 
County Court jury of 1st-degree murder in connection with 2 murders. On Oct. 
22, 2012, Yandamuri killed 61-year-old Satyavathi Venna and her 10-month-old 
granddaughter Saanvi, after a botched kidnapping attempt, patch.com reported.

According to the report, Justice Max Baer reaffirmed that the evidences against 
Yandamuri was sufficient, and the court also rejected the convict's allegations 
of unfair treatment.

Yandamuri had earlier told investigators that he panicked and that the deaths 
were accidental. The prosecutors argued that he knew the baby's parents and 
planned the kidnapping plot to pay for a gambling habit.

The court found that the sentence was based on the evidence presented at the 
trial. The death sentence will now be sent to Gov. Tom Wolf, who declared a 
state-wide moratorium on death penalty in 2015.

(source: americanbazaaronline.com)


Death penalty bill gets 1st hearing this week

The controversial plan to bring back the death penalty gets its 1st committee 
hearing Wednesday.

Hearings and debates would rage for hours when advocates unsuccessfully tried 
to repeal Delaware's capital punishment program in 2013 and 2015. It took a 
court decision last year to dismantle the death penalty here.

But state Sen. Brian Pettyjohn (R-Georgetown), one of the bill's main sponsors, 
says he thinks momentum to revive it is on his side.

"I believe there is renewed interest in reestablishing this here in Delaware in 
a constitutional manner and having something that will hold these individuals 
accountable for the crimes that they commit," Pettyjohn.

Pettyjohn and others may have an ally in Gov. John Carney (D), too.

In a debate prior to the election, Carney said he would "probably" veto a bill 
like this. But when it was introduced in March, he said he wouldn't rule out 
supporting a death penalty for those who kill police or prison guards.

The proposal doesn't include a new method of execution - despite pharmaceutical 
companies refusing to resupply states with drugs used for lethal injections.

Pettyjohn says that's something they'll consider at a later date.

"I believe that we should leave all options on the table. Let's see where we 
stand right now with the existing stock of pharmaceuticals that we have," he 

A 2014 Associated Press report showed 2 of the 3 drugs used during a lethal 
injection execution had expired.

The House Judiciary Committee will meet at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

(source: delawarepublic.org)


Death Penalty Sought Against Suspect In Hickory Triple-Murder Case, Awaiting 
Decision On Co-Defendant

The State has announced that they will seek the death penalty in the case 
against 23-year-old Dontray Cumberlander of 18th Street 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., DEL., S.C., GA., ALA., LA.

2017-04-27 Thread Rick Halperin

April 27


Texas Sues Trump Administration To Recover Execution Drugs It Bought From 
IndiaTexas and 2 other states bought a massive amount of execution drugs 
from India. The FDA says the drug is illegal to import, so Texas is taking them 
to court.

On Wednesday, Texas followed through on a promise to sue the federal government 
in an attempt to obtain lethal injection drugs the Food and Drug Administration 
maintains are illegal.

The Wednesday court filing sets up the unusual scenario of Texas suing the 
Trump administration for hindering the death penalty - a new complaint in a 
lawsuit originally brought against the Obama administration.

Texas, Arizona and Nebraska each purchased 1,000 vials of execution drugs from 
a man in India in 2015. Last week, the FDA formally denied the shipments, 
ruling that it's illegal to import the drug.

On Wednesday, the state filed an amended complaint in federal court, alleging 
that the FDA is harming the state by blocking the drugs.

"TDCJ has previously purchased and used thiopental sodium in numerous 
executions before" the sole FDA-approved supplier stopped making the drug, the 
state's lawyers wrote. "Through the import at issue in this case, TDCJ is 
attempting once again to utilize thiopental sodium for purposes of imposing 
lawful capital sentences."

The FDA blocking the shipments "directly harms TDCJ by preventing TDCJ from 
having the option of using the drugs at issue in lawful executions," the 
lawyers wrote. "This harm will continue unless and until the Court" forces the 
FDA to allow the drugs into the country.

In addition to state government lawyers from Attorney General Ken Paxtons 
office, the state has hired outside lawyers from the law firm Alston & Bird to 
help represent the state. Wednesday's filing was signed by Daniel G. Jarcho, a 
partner in the firm's DC office who used to represent the FDA when he worked 
for the Justice Department.

Last week, the FDA sent Texas and Arizona a 26-page letter denying the drugs, 
arguing that they are unapproved, mislabeled, and that the government is 
legally bound by a 2012 court order issued by the federal district court in DC 
that prohibits them from allowing thiopental into the country.

In Texas' complaint filed Wednesday, the state makes no mention of the 2012 
court order, which was upheld by a federal appeals court in DC, although it 
does note that the FDA's position on thiopental changed that year. Instead, the 
state focuses on arguing that it is exempt from the FDA's requirements because 
the drugs would be used for "law enforcement."

The state points to a statute that exempts drugs "shipped or sold to . . . 
persons . . . engaged in law enforcement, . . . and [are] to be used only for 
such . . . law enforcement.???

"Use of thiopental sodium to administer lawfully-imposed capital sentences 
through lethal injection is a use of the drug for law enforcement purposes," 
the state argues. "TDCJ is a state agency that is regularly and lawfully 
engaged in law enforcement."

The FDA declined to comment on the case. But in the letter the agency sent last 
week, the federal government wrote that the law enforcement exemption does not 
apply when the drugs are to be used on humans. The FDA also pointed out that 
the exemption was written before lethal injection was created.

"As an initial matter," the FDA noted, "the law enforcement exemption could not 
have been intended to apply to lethal injection, because FDA issued the 
regulation adding the exemption ... in 1956, well before any State used lethal 
injection as a method of execution."

Texas is asking the court to force the FDA to allow the drugs in, and to 
prohibit the FDA from detaining any future shipments of execution drugs it 
buys. Judge George Hanks set a telephone hearing for Thursday to discuss the 
status of the case.

In its complaint, Texas does not name the supplier of the drugs at issue, 
referring to it only as a "foreign distributor."

In 2015, Texas first planned on buying sodium thiopental from a small company 
in India, according to documents obtained by BuzzFeed News. That sale, however, 
fell through when the would-be supplier was raided by India's Narcotics Control 
Bureau, its employees arrested, its drugs seized, and its facility shut down. 
Indian law enforcement seized a massive amount of generic versions of Xanax, 
Ritalin, Ambien, Viagra, and various opioids.

When that deal fell through, Texas instead turned to a man in India named Chris 
Harris. Harris sold 3,000 vials of sodium thiopental to Texas, Arizona, and 
Nebraska for more than $75,000 - promising that there would be no legal 
problems with the sale.

Before the drugs were shipped, the FDA and DEA warned the states and Harris 
that the sale would be illegal and that the government would have to stop the 
shipment. The states bought the drugs anyway.

In its court filing Wednesday, Texas lamented that the FDA was 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, GA., FLA., ALA., TENN., LA.

2017-04-25 Thread Rick Halperin

April 25


Texas Prisons Violate Internationally Recognized Human Rights Standards: Report

Prisons in Texas are in violation of international human rights standards and 
deny civil rights of its prisoners on death row kept in solitary confinement, a 
report released Monday by the Human Rights Clinic of the University of Texas 
School of Law concludes.

Titled "Designed to Break You: Human Rights Violations on Texas' Death Rows," 
the 48-page report calls for a sweeping array of changes in the operation of 
the Texas Department of Criminal Justice centered on policies related to the 
use of solitary confinement as a punitive measure and access to healthcare.

Texas death row inmates spend an average of more than 14 years awaiting 
execution in solitary confinement, posited by UT-Austin researchers as akin to 
torture, an assessment shared by several human rights organizations.

The study comes amid a backdrop of prolific capital punishment in Texas, a 
state that executes more prisoners than any other state - by far. This year 
alone, 4 people have been put to death through the use of the drug 
Pentobarbital for various crimes: Christopher Wilkins, 48, executed Jan. 11; 
Terry Darnell Edwards, 43, executed Jan. 26; Rolando Ruiz, 44, put to death on 
March 7; and James Bigby, 61, executed March 14 (Source: Death Penalty 
Information Center).

The 4 prisoners put to death this year all had been awaiting execution for 
years, and in once case decades. Wilkins had the shortest wait at 8 years, 
while Bigby sat on death row for 25 years, according to data collected by the 
Death Penalty Information Center.

The prisoner with the longest time on death row is Raymond Riles, who has been 
sitting on death row for more than 41 years after robbing and killing a Houston 
used car salesman in 1974. Due to mental illness, he was previously considered 
ineligible to be executed, but prison officials said he could become eligible 
given continual testing of his mental state. In 1985, Riles attempted suicide 
by setting his prison cell on fire.

The list of prisoners sitting on death row is so great, that even WikiPedia 
doesn't attempt to list them all: "Due to the high number of Texas death row 
inmates, only prisoners with Wikipedia pages are listed in this article," 
WikiPedia reads. "The full list is externally linked."

According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the number of death row 
inmates is nearly 250.

Among recommendations outlined in the University of Texas School of Law report 
is an end of solitary confinement for prisoners suffering from mental illness 
or physical disabilities, enhanced healthcare access, provision of religious 
services and greater access to outdoor recreation.

"The State of Texas stands today as one of the most extensive utilizers of the 
death penalty worldwide," the report's author's wrote. "Consequently, inmate 
living conditions on Texas??? death row are ripe for review. This report 
demonstrates that the mandatory conditions implemented for death row inmates by 
the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) are harsh and inhumane."

The upshot: "Conditions on death row at TDCJ's Polunsky Unit must be remedied 
posthaste," the report's authors concluded.

Texas re-introduced the practice of mandatory solitary confinement - total 
segregation of individuals confined to their cells for 22 to 24 hours a day - 
for all prisoners convicted of capital murder. The practice bans recreation or 
eating with other inmates as death row inmates are confined to cells of average 
size of 8 feet by 12 feet in size, the report's authors noted.

The cells consist only of a sink, toilet and 30-inch wide steel bunk with a 
thin plastic mattress, according to the findings. Most include a small window, 
but inmates are only able to see oudoors by rolling up their mattresses to 
stand on them, according to the report.

"Every individual on Texas???'death row thus spends approximately 23 hours a 
day in complete isolation for the entire duration of their sentence, which, on 
average, lasts more than a decade," researchers found. "This prolonged solitary 
confinement has overwhelmingly negative effects on inmates' mental health, 
exacerbating existing mental health conditions and causing many prisoners to 
develop mental illness for the 1st time."

Stays of execution, when execution dates are re-set for a variety of reasons, 
also play havoc on prisoners' psychological state, according to the report: "In 
addition to the detrimental effects of isolation, the practice of setting 
multiple execution dates means that many prisoners are subjected to the 
psychological stress of preparing to die several times during their sentence."

In 1999, Texas reintroduced the practice of mandatory solitary confinement for 
every individual convicted of capital murder. Solitary confinement involves 
total segregation of individuals who are confined to their cells for 22 to 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., FLA., OHIO, ARK., OKLA., CALIF., USA

2017-04-23 Thread Rick Halperin

April 23


Death Sentence on Line for Would-Be Rapper in Triple KillingA former 
University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff student who once aspired to become a famous 
rapper now faces a possible death penalty in a Dallas triple slaying.

A former University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff student who once aspired to become a 
famous rapper now has his life on the line after his capital murder conviction 
in the shooting deaths of three people at a Dallas drug house.

The Dallas Morning News (http://bit.ly/2pSU8ee) reports the penalty phase opens 
Monday in the trial of 24-year-old Justin Pharez Smith, in which prosecutors 
will present evidence in their bid for a death sentence.

Prosecutors say a need for money compelled Smith to kill a man and 2 women in 
the August 2014 holdup. A woman and a man survived the attack and identified 
Smith as the killer.

Prosecutor Kobby Warren said Smith came to Dallas intending to get "on the dope 
game." The problem was "he was a terrible drug dealer."

(source: Associated Press)


Prosecution faces tough challenge in Frein death sentence phase

If Pike County prosecutors succeed in putting convicted cop killer Eric Matthew 
Frein on death row, they will buck the national trend of death sentences 
dramatically dropping over the past few decades.

Death sentences reached a peak between 1992 and 1994, when 315 defendants were 
sentenced to die, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The rate 
continued to drop over the years.

In 2016, just 30 defendants were sentenced to death, according to the Death 
Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit organization that provides information 
and analysis on death penalty issues.

Legal experts say the decline is the result of several factors, including a 
reduction in the murder rate, increasing scrutiny by prosecutors in evaluating 
which cases to seek death, and the reluctance of jurors to impose death in all 
but the most heinous cases.

Pike County District Attorney Ray Tonkin went to great lengths to try to 
convince the Chester County jury deciding Frein's fate that he deserves to die 
by lethal injection for the Sept. 12, 2014, sniper attack at the Blooming Grove 
state police barracks that killed Cpl. Bryon K. Dickson II,38, of Dunmore.

Frein, 33, of Canadensis, was convicted of 1st-degree murder, 1st-degree murder 
of a law enforcement officer and 10 other charges on Wednesday, stemming from 
the ambush that also severely injured Trooper Alex Douglass, 34, of Olyphant.

During the penalty phase that began Thursday, Tonkin presented several 
witnesses, including Dickson's widow and mother, who talked of the devastating 
impact his death had on them. The defense began presenting its case Friday 
afternoon. The hearing resumes Monday.

The case comes at a time when public support for capital punishment is at an 
all-time low.

A 2016 survey by Pew Research Center shows 49 % of Americans support the death 
penalty. That is down from a peak of 80 % who supported it the mid-1990s.

"There has been a very effective effort by anti-death penalty folks to convince 
people the death penalty is unfair to minorities and is not being imposed 
fairly," said Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, a vocal 
death penalty supporter. "Some of that public campaigning has an impact on 

The decline in support has been fueled, in part, by the number of death row 
inmates who have been exonerated, said Robert Dunhan, executive director of the 
Death Penalty Information Center. Since 1972, 158 people sentenced to death 
have been exonerated, according to the center.

"Americans are reaching the point that they feel they can't trust the 
government," Dunhan said. "The public does not want a system that has a high 
risk of sentencing innocent people to death."

Joshua Marquis, a board member of the National District Attorney's Association, 
said he believes the decline in death sentences is tied more to the reduction 
in the nation's murder rate. In 2015, the murder rate was 4.9 murders per 
100,000 people, according to the Department of Justice. Throughout the 1980s 
and '90s, the per capita murder rate ranged from a low of 5.7 in 1999 to 10.2 
in 1980.

Morganelli and Marquis agree jurors today closely scrutinize cases and are only 
willing to impose death in the most egregious cases. That is how it should be, 
they said, and has led prosecutors to be more selective in the type of cases 
for which they seek death.

Marquis, a district attorney in Clatsop County, Oregon, said he prosecuted 
about 12 cases where he could have sought death, but has only done so in 2.

"As a prosecutor you have to ask, should you really be seeking death except 
only in the worst of the worst cases?" he said. "I have to look at the 
likelihood of success because it's extremely expensive for both sides."

There is no dispute Frein's crime was heinous. His attorneys face a monumental 
task in 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., FLA., LA., ARK.

2017-04-21 Thread Rick Halperin

April 21


Smith County District Attorney to seek death penalty in Kayla Gomez-Orozco case

When the Bullard man accused of abducting and killing 10-year-old Kayla 
Gomez-Orozco goes on trial in October, he will be facing the death penalty if 
found guilty.

Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham filed his intent to seek the death 
penalty in the case on Wednesday morning. Bingham cannot speak on the case due 
to a gag order, but a document filed in Smith County's 241st District Court 
states the prosecution's intention.

Gustavo Zavala-Garcia, 24, was arrested and charged with capital murder this 
past November after the body of Gomez-Orozco was discovered inside a water well 
outside his residence off Old Jacksonville Highway in southern Smith County. 
Family reported Gomez-Orozco missing after a church service in Bullard on Nov. 
1. Zavala-Garcia, who is related to the child through marriage, is named among 
those who were the last to see her alive.

Zavala-Garcia has remained jailed in Smith County on a $10 million bond and 
immigration detainer.

In February, Zavala-Garcia was involved in an incident in the recreation area 
on top of the Smith County Jail, when he climbed a basketball goal and refused 
to come down. Officials said the incident is not regarded as an escape attempt, 
there were no injuries and no additional charges were added to Zavala-Garcia's 
arrest record.

The 1st pre-trial hearing in the case is set for April 27, in the 241st 
District Court in Smith County. Jury selection is scheduled to begin in August 
for the Oct. 2 trial.

(source: KLTV news)

VIRGINIAcommutation of death sentence

Gov. McAuliffe commutes Ivan Teleguz's death sentence to life without parole

Ivan Teleguz's death sentence for the murder-for-hire of his ex-girlfriend in 
2001 was commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole by Gov. 
Terry McAuliffe on Thursday.

Teleguz, 38, was scheduled to be executed Tuesday for the capital murder of 
Stephanie Yvonne Sipe, the mother of their 23-month-old son. Sipe was stabbed 
to death in her Harrisonburg apartment. According to trial testimony, he hired 
2 men to kill her for $2,000 and drove them from Pennsylvania, where Teleguz 
had moved.

On July 23, 2001, Sipe's mother, Pamela Woods, went to her daughter's apartment 
because she had not heard from Sipe for 2 days. Woods found her daughter's body 
and her grandson unharmed in a bathtub full of water. A neighbor took Woods and 
her grandson out of the apartment.

Teleguz's current lawyers filed a clemency request with McAuliffe, among other 
things arguing that courts have never fully examined new evidence pointing to 
his innocence. They say 2 prosecution witnesses admitted "that they testified 
falsely in exchange for leniency in their own cases, and have no reason to 
think Teleguz was involved in the murder-for-hire."

His lawyers say that 1 of the witnesses has been deported, and the other was 
told he would lose his release date if he went back on his testimony.

In 2015, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals noted 
that a lower court judge held an evidentiary hearing in 2013 concerning the 
recantations. One recanter refused to testify and the other did not appear. "In 
other words, neither of the recanters testified in support of their 
recantations," said the appeals court.

Marsha L. Garst, the commonwealth's attorney for Rockingham County, has 
declined to comment on the case. However, the appeals court opinion noted: 
"Prosecutor Marsha Garst, whom (the recanters) accused of threatening them into 
testifying against Teleguz, appeared and testified that those accusations were 

Some religious leaders urged McAuliffe to grant clemency and a Change.org 
petition in support of clemency has been signed by more than 114,000 people. 
Teleguz also has submitted written requests for clemency from thousands of 

Earlier this week 3 former Virginia attorneys general - 2 of whom became 
opposed to the death penalty since leaving office - wrote to McAuliffe urging 
the death sentence be commuted, citing what they said was "unreliable 
investigative techniques, coercive tactics by both law enforcement and the 
prosecution, recantations of key trial witnesses and consideration of false 
testimony in support of a death sentence."

Virginia has executed 112 people since the death penalty was allowed to resume 
in 1976. Virginia governors have commuted eight death sentences during the same 

(source: Daily Progress)


Governor commutes death sentence of Virginia inmate Ivan Teleguz

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe called a 3:30 p.m. press conference to make a 
public statement "regarding his review of Ivan Teleguz's petitions for a pardon 
and for commutation of his death sentence."

Teleguz was scheduled to be executed on April 25.

"As a result of the thorough review process that 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., VA., FLA., LA., OHIO

2017-04-20 Thread Rick Halperin

April 20


Texas man convicted in double slaying gets Supreme Court hearing MondayThe 
U.S. Supreme Court, including its newest justice, Neil Gorsuch, will decide on 
a legal technicality in the case of a Fort Worth man who killed a 5-year-old 
girl and her grandmother.

The now-9 justices of the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Monday morning 
in the Texas death penalty case of a Fort Worth man who killed a 5-year-old and 
her grandmother during a children's birthday party.

The issue before the court in the case of 30-year-old death row inmate Erick 
Davila focuses on a legal distinction between ineffective lawyering in the 
trial court and during state appeals. The high court's newest justice, Neil 
Gorsuch, previously ruled against an argument similar to Davila's when he sat 
on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Seth Kretzer, the lawyer who will argue on behalf of Davila in front of the 
court Monday, told The Texas Tribune it might be difficult to obtain Gorsuch's 
vote in the case, but if the new, seemingly very vocal justice has questions, 
"I'll be happy to answer each and every one of them," he said.

The Texas Attorney General's Office did not respond to an interview request on 
Davila's case.

Davila landed on death row 8 years ago after the April 2008 murders. He drove 
to the house of a rival gang member, Jerry Stevenson, and opened fire on the 
porch before speeding off, according to court filings. Davila didn't hit 
Stevenson, however; instead, he fatally shot the man's mother and daughter, 
Annette Stevenson and 5-year-old Queshawn, who were outside during another 
girl's birthday party.

For a jury to have found Davila guilty of capital murder in this case, they 
needed to have determined that he intended to kill multiple people. Davila's 
main defense in trial was that he only intended to kill Jerry Stevenson. 
Tarrant County prosecutors countered that argument by pointing to Davila's 
confession to police: "I was trying to get the guys on the porch, and I was 
trying to get [Jerry Stevenson]."

As jurors deliberated, they focused on the intent issue, asking the judge if 
they should decide if Davila intended to kill his 2 victims or if he intended 
to kill someone and in the process fatally shot 2 others.

In his answer, the judge sent the definitions again and instructed jurors that 
Davila would be responsible for a crime if the only difference between what 
happened and what he wanted was that a different person was hurt - without 
affirming to them that Davila must have intended to kill more than 1 person. 
"The judge responded with a misleading instruction, which permitted the jury to 
convict Davila based only on the intent to kill Jerry Stevenson," Kretzer wrote 
in Davila's brief to the high court.

Davila's lawyer during his trial objected that the judge should not add that 
instruction at that time, but he was overruled. It was the right move by the 
lawyer but one that hurt Davila in the long run, Kretzer claimed.

This instruction wasn't brought up during Davila's automatic, direct appeal 
concerning the trial record. And his lawyer in his state habeas appeal - which 
focuses on facts outside of the trial record - never claimed his direct 
appellate lawyer was wrong to not bring it up.

2 big mistakes, according to Kretzer.

Death penalty cases can also be appealed in the federal courts system, but it 
is generally ruled that issues that could be raised at the state level can't be 
reviewed federally until they go through state courts. So, when a federal 
lawyer tried to raise the claim that Davila's direct appellate lawyer was 
ineffective for not faulting the judge's instruction, federal courts said they 
couldn't rule on that because it could have been brought up during the state 
habeas appeal.

There is an exception to this rule, created in the Supreme Court decision 
Martinez v. Ryan, which says that if state habeas lawyers fail to raise the 
issue of ineffective trial counsel, the federal courts can still hear it to 
ensure that the defendants are guaranteed their Sixth Amendment right to a fair 

What Kretzer will argue before the high court Monday is that Martinez should be 
interpreted to include issues of ineffective appellate counsel as well. Kretzer 
said that if trial counsel had not objected to the judge's instruction, the 
federal courts could rule on the merits of the case based on the Martinez 

"A defendant should not be worse off because appellate counsel - rather than 
trial counsel - rendered the ineffective assistance," Davila's brief states.

Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller will argue against opening up the Martinez 
exception, and 30 other state attorneys general filed a brief in support of 
Texas in the case. The list includes all states with the death penalty except 
4, and 5 states without.

"The right to appellate counsel, while surely important, is not foundational 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., ALA., LA., OHIO, KY.

2017-04-19 Thread Rick Halperin

April 19


Condemned inmate avoids execution with life sentence for Houston crime spree

A North Carolina man who spent years on Texas' death row awaiting execution was 
sentenced Monday to 4 consecutive life sentences, a plea bargain that Harris 
County prosecutors hope will keep him behind bars for the rest of his life.

Randolph Mansoor Greer, 43, was on death row until 2011, when the U.S. Supreme 
Court handed down a ruling that meant he and dozens of condemned inmates would 
get new sentencing hearings because of insufficient jury instructions.

Those cases, called Penry retrials because of the Supreme Court case, have been 
winding their way through Houston's courts for years. Some have successfully 
been retried as death penalty cases, others have gotten plea bargains with 
elaborately structured pleas to ensure the former death row inmates are never 

Since Texas did not have a punishment of life in prison without parole when 
those crimes were committed, prosecutors and families of victims have worried 
that even a capital murder conviction in these cases might one day lead to 
parole. The decision to grant parole is made by prison officials with the Texas 
Department of Criminal Justice under the law at the time of the crime.

On Monday, Greer was sentenced to 4 consecutive life sentences in a Texas 
prison after pleading guilty to capital murder and other crimes he committed 
during a 1991 spree in the Houston area, according to the Harris County 
District Attorneys Office.

"26 years after committing a murderous crime spree, Mr. Greer has been 
resentenced to 4 consecutive life terms without parole," First Assistant Tom 
Berg said Tuesday. "Greer, now 43, has been incapacitated and will never again 
pose a threat to public safety."

Prosecutors said his crime spree spanned 6 months. In separate incidents, he 
abducted and sexually assaulted 2 Houston area women who survived the attacks.

He also robbed from a business, stole a car, and shot and killed Walter Chmiel, 
owner of the Alamo gun shop in Bellaire.

Greer also committed a capital murder in North Carolina as well as sexual 
assaults, robberies and a home invasion.

Prior to new sentencing, prosecutors consulted with survivors and the families 
of victims, Berg said.

Defense attorneys Allen Tanner and Gerald Bourgue said it was a just result.

"It was an agreement based on the fact that he was 18 at the time, and he's 
been a model inmate ever since then," Tanner said. "We think his prison record 
was helpful for him."

Tanner also said mitigation experts combed through records and witnesses in 
North Carolina and Cleveland and were expected to testify about how Greer's 
troubled childhood led him to a life of crime.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Death penalty will be pursued against man accused of shooting Sanford mother, 
sonSuspect Allen Cashe faces 1st-degree murder charges

The death penalty will be pursued against Allen Cashe, who is accused of 
killing a mother and her son and shooting 4 other people, was indicted Monday 
on 1st-degree premeditated murder charges, according to the Seminole County 
State Attorney's Office.

Cashe was indicted Monday on 1st-degree premeditated murder charges in 
connection with the deaths of Latina Herring, 35, and her 8-year-old son, 
Branden Christian. Officials on Tuesday filed a notice of intent to pursue the 
death penalty in that case.

Cashe was also indicted on 4 counts of attempted 1st-degree murder with a 
firearm in connection with the shootings of Latina Herring's father, 
60-year-old Bertis Herring; Latina Herring's youngest child, 7-year-old Brenden 
Christian; and 2 bystanders, Rakeya Jackson, 18, and Lazaro Paredes, 43.

Sanford police released body camera footage of Cashe and Herring had been 
arguing about a set of keys hours before the double fatal shooting on March 27. 
Police encountered the couple twice before the shooting, but no arrests were 

Cashe left Herring's home in Sanford after the 2nd police encounter, then 
returned around 6:20 a.m. with an AK-47, police said. Cashe is accused of 
opening fire on the family as they were sleeping.

Herring was shot 7 times and killed in her bedroom, police said.

Her 2 sons were sleeping on the couch when they were shot 3 times, the report 
said. Bertis Gerard Herring was shot 5 times in another bedroom.

Cashe is accused of shooting Jackson and Paredes as he was fleeing the area.

Assistant State Attorney Dan Faggard and the lead Sanford Police Department 
investigator presented information to the Grand Jury before the indictment was 
returned late Monday afternoon.

Cashe also faces charges of burglary of a dwelling with assault or battery with 
a firearm, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and shooting into a 

Aramis Ayala used direct verbiage from anti-death penalty group, emails 
showState attorney consulted few 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., VA., FLA., LA., TENN.

2017-04-18 Thread Rick Halperin

April 18


5 death penalty reform bills heard in Texas House committee5 death penalty 
bills were heard in a seven-hour-long meeting at the Capitol Monday night.

The death penalty was a hot topic at the Texas Capitol Monday night.

Testimony on 5 capital punishment bills was heard by the House Criminal 
Jurisprudence Committee in a 7-hour-long meeting that lasted until close to 
midnight. The bills included 2 that would stop the practice of sentencing 
accomplices to death in certain cases and 2 which would abolish the death 
penalty altogether.

House Bills 147 and 316, by Democrats Harold Dutton and Terry Canales, 
respectively, would change how a person could be sentenced to death under 
Texas' "law of parties," which holds that those involved in a crime resulting 
in death are equally responsible even if they weren't the actual killer.

"At the end of the day, the logic should be, 'Did you intend to participate in 
that murder? Were you a part of it?'" Canales exclaimed while laying out his 
bill near the end of the long meeting. "Let's cut the nonsense out."

The most prominent case of a current Texas death row inmate sentenced under the 
law of parties is Jeff Wood. Wood was convicted in the 1996 murder of Kriss 
Keeran, who was fatally shot by Wood's friend in a Kerrville convenience store 
while he sat outside in a truck. Last year, Wood's case garnered national 
attention as his execution neared. Texas lawmakers from both parties spoke out 
against the execution, which was halted days before the scheduled date.

Republican Rep. Jeff Leach has been one of the most adamant supporters of 
reforming the law of parties. He has taken an interest in Wood's case, going so 
far as to visiting him on death row in February.

"I promised Jeff that I and Chairman Dutton and Rep. Canales would do 
everything that we can this session to ensure that another case like Jeff 
Wood's case would never happen again in the state of Texas," Leach said at a 
news conference earlier Monday on the bills.

There are 2 ways to find someone guilty under Texas' law of parties. The 1st 
puts responsibility on those who help commit or solicit a crime, even if they 
weren't directly involved. The second states that all parties are responsible 
for 1 felony that stems from another if the 2nd "should have been anticipated." 
For Wood, the state argued he was willfully participating in a robbery and knew 
his accomplice would resort to killing if Keeran did not comply, so Wood should 
have anticipated the robbery would lead to a murder. Wood has maintained he 
didnt know his friend had a gun on him.

The reform bills focus mainly on the "anticipation" clause, removing the 
possibility of a death sentence if someone is found guilty under the 2nd part 
of the law of parties and automatically granting them a sentence of life 
without parole. Currently, after being convicted, a jury still must agree the 
convict intended to kill or anticipated death to issue a death sentence.

Travis County Assistant District Attorney Justin Wood was the lone testifier 
against the bills, with eight others testifying in support of the bills that 
were laid out close to 11 p.m. He said the law of parties has been a "useful 
tool" for prosecutors, adding that "there are a lot of monsters who never get 
their hands dirty."

But Dutton argued that those people would still be punished, just not to death.

Chairman Joe Moody, D-El Paso, said Wood's testimony resonated with him as he 
has long struggled to "strike a balance" with the law of parties and the death 
penalty. In 2009, a similar bill filed in the House made it to the Senate, but 
died there. Terri Been, Jeff Wood's sister, said she has been lobbying against 
the law of parties for 20 years and pleaded through tears for the Legislature 
to move it forward this year.

"My cries have fallen on mostly deaf ears. I'm begging you to be leaders and to 
lead your constituents in the right direction," she said before wiping her 

It is not common for a jury to sentence someone to death under the law of 
parties, but it happens. In 2007, prison inmates Jerry Martin and John Ray 
Falk, Jr., attempted escape. In the escape, Martin hit and killed prison guard 
Susan Canfield with a van. This March, Falk was sentenced to death as a party 
to the murder.

And Texas has executed at least 5 people under the statute, according to the 
Death Penalty Information Center. Only 5 other states have executed anyone 
under similar laws.

Aside from the law of parties, two identical bills to get rid of the death 
penalty in Texas completely were also heard Monday evening. Dutton and Rep. 
Jessica Farrar filed House Bills 64 and 1537.

Both lawmakers have repeatedly filed abolition bills in past legislative 
sessions, and they acknowledged their main goal was to keep up a discussion on 
the death penalty. In a Republican-led legislature, it is almost certain that 
the bills will not 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, DEL., ARK., USA

2017-04-17 Thread Rick Halperin

April 17


Texas death penalty practice deserves abolition

Arkansas wants to execute 8 people over the next 10 days. The state's stock of 
Midazolam, a sedative used for lethal-injection, is due to expire at the end of 
the April. Not one to let taxpayer dollars go to waste, Gov. Asa Hutchinson 
opted to clear the state's death row as soon as possible. For now, a federal 
judge has put a pin in these plans, but Arkansas plans to appeal. Gruesome 
instances like these remind us of a grim reality - capital punishment is a 
fundamentally flawed institution that has no place in modern society.

Texas is no stranger to death penalty complications. In March, the Supreme 
Court ruled that Texas used an antiquated standard to determine the necessary 
intellectual ability a death row defendant must demonstrate. Moreover, just 
last week Texas refused to conduct additional DNA testing for another 
defendant. This is especially concerning in a state that has the second highest 
rate of executions per capita. If a society is determined to provide the death 
penalty it must also be willing to pursue a gamut of opportunities to prove 
innocence. Anything less creates a legal system which stacks the deck against 
the accused.

The laws of Texas seem predisposed for inmates to be put to death. Currently, a 
panel of jurors must unanimously agree upon the death sentence for the 
defendant to be put on death row. A single juror's dissent automatically 
renders life in prison. However, state law bans judges and attorneys from 
communicating this 2nd contingency. The impact is profound. In a 2008 trial 
juror Sven Berger didn't believe defendant Paul Storey qualified for the death 
penalty. Berger also knew he couldn't convince the other 10 jurors otherwise 
and so, unaware of the power of his dissent, Berger voted for the death 
sentence. Justice may be blind, but Texas laws are trying their hardest to keep 
jurors in the dark.

Capital punishment is a difficult subject to mediate. Society has an inherent 
drive to achieve justice, and the families of victims must not feel as if the 
law has marginalized them. However, the law must not be vengeful and it must 
not discriminate. The disproportionate representation of minorities on death 
row is an outgrowth of the bitter legacy of lynching in the United States. The 
death penalty requires complex moral gymnastics to justify taking a life. It 
fails as a deterrent and at best has an imperceptible effect on the homicide 
rate. Victims deserve justice, but so do the defendants.

The fight to repeal capital punishment in Texas will take years to come to 
fruition. However, attempts to iron out some of the most glaring flaws can be 
made. DNA testing in Texas is only conducted when the defendant can prove the 
tests would change the outcome of the case. This standard unduly limits 
potential evidence and is far more restrictive than necessary. Senate Bill 
1616, if passed, would improve juror transparency by removing the gag order on 
capital punishment case sentencing instructions.

Finally, the criminal justice system needs a dramatic overhaul. For far too 
long minorities have been disproportionately represented in the criminal 
justice system. A study by the University of Maryland, using Houston's Harris 
County as a test case, found that black Americans were three times as likely to 
have their cases advanced to a death penalty trial than their white 
counterparts. Adopting a bottom-up approach to reform - amending drug 
possession and bail laws, for example - will mitigate the nefarious impacts of 
the modern day death penalty.

Arkansas is creating an environment in which assembly line justice is the norm 
and the basis of the criminal justice is eroded. Texas must learn from the 
failure of Arkansas and let the death penalty take its last breath.

(source: Opinion; Usmaan Hasan is a business freshman from PlanoThe (Univ. 
Texas) Daily Texan)


Delaware returns to death penalty debate after prison uprising

Just after 10 a.m. EDT on Feb. 1, a group of inmates took four staff hostage as 
they seized control of Building C at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in 
Smyrna, Delaware, with 120 prisoners inside.

By the end of the 18-hour standoff, Sgt. Steven Floyd Sr. was dead.

The state has shared little information about the attack and now, "All 120 are 
considered suspects," said Jayme Gravell, a corrections spokeswoman. But 
lawmakers and human rights groups tell completely different stories about what 
led to the uprising and how to move forward.

"We have been begging for help for years." - Correctional Officers Association 
of Delaware union president Geoff Klopp

Republican Rep. Steve Smyk said corrections officers had recently been on the 
receiving end of a 1-2 punch. The 1st came in August, when the state Supreme 
Court ruled that Delaware's death penalty was unconstitutional because it 
allowed a judge's sentence 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., FLA., ALA., MISS., OHIO

2017-04-14 Thread Rick Halperin

April 14


Court grants Duane Buck relief that could remove him from Texas death row

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has granted Texas death-row inmate Duane Buck 
the right to pursue his claims of ineffective counsel and relief under a rule 
that covers mistakes and neglect - a move that could spare him from execution.

In February, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that race improperly tainted inmate 
Buck's death sentence and remanded the case to the lower court for a new 

In a two-page ruling filed Thursday, the federal appeals court also ordered him 
released unless the state initiates proceedings for a new trial for punishment 
within six months or "elects not to seek the death penalty and accedes to a 
life sentence."

Buck was convicted in Houston 20 years ago for the killings of his girlfriend, 
Debra Gardner, and her friend, Kenneth Butler. He was sentenced to death after 
a psychologist testified he would be a continuing threat to society because he 
is black.

The case, which has made national headlines for years, could be a harbinger of 
how the country's highest court deals with death penalty cases with racial 
overtones, experts have said.

After February's decision, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said her 
office would review Buck's case, including speaking with the victims' families 
and looking over mitigation evidence, before deciding how to proceed.

"Racially charged evidence has no place in any courtroom, and this 
administration will not tolerate its presence," she said. "We remain committed 
to seeking justice for the victims of Duane Buck's heinous criminal acts and 
will do so without what Chief Justice Roberts described as the 'strain of 
racial prejudice' present at the 1997 trial in which Buck was convicted."

[see: http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/14/14-70030-CV0.pdf]

(source: Houston Chronicle)

VIRGINIAimpending execution

3 Reasons Why Virginia May Execute an Innocent Man

In 2006, a jury convicted Ivan Teleguz of hiring someone to kill Stephanie 
Sipe, his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child. Now, more than a decade 
later, Virginia is scheduled to execute Teleguz on April 25, 2017, and there is 
substantial evidence suggesting that Teleguz is innocent.

How is that possible in the United States - the land of the free, where a poor 
person is entitled to legal counsel and a criminal defendant has numerous 
chances to be heard in court? Actually, it happens with some ease, and in part, 
it happens because of conscious choices we have made about our legal system. 
There are at least 3 reasons for this counter-intuitive reality.

1. Prosecutors, Not Judges or Juries, Resolve Most Criminal Cases in America

When most people think of criminal cases, they have visions of Atticus Finch 
and dramatic closing arguments before juries. In fact, 97 % of federal cases 
and 94 % of state cases are resolved through plea-bargaining. The prosecutor 
determines what charges to bring against a defendant, offers him a lesser 
sentence if he accepts the deal in lieu of a trial, and often plays one 
defendant off of another in the process. In most cases, criminal defendants 
accept a plea rather than insisting upon their day in court because the penalty 
and risk associated with going to trial is simply too high.

Teleguz's case demonstrates this phenomenon well. There was no physical 
evidence connecting him to the murder of Ms. Sipe; the prosecution's case was 
based on the testimony of three witnesses. Since his trial, 2 of those 
witnesses have recanted their testimony and have admitted that they lied when 
they implicated Teleguz in exchange for favorable treatment from the 
government. The Commonwealth repeatedly told the 3rd witness, Ms. Sipe's actual 
killer, that he would face the death penalty unless he "cooperated" with them 
by agreeing to testify against Teleguz in Ms. Sipe's murder and sticking to 
that story. Not surprisingly, he did just that and he is serving out a life 
sentence while Teleguz faces imminent death.

2. The Myth of the Right to Counsel

Speaking of Atticus Finch, why didn't Teleguz's lawyer prevent this outcome? 
Indeed, the United States Supreme Court has held time and again that "[t]he 
right of one charged with crime to counsel may not be deemed fundamental and 
essential to fair trials in some countries, but it is in ours."[1] There is a 
huge divide, though, between the right and the reality. Like Teleguz, 80 % of 
criminal defendants are poor, and they are entitled to a lawyer at the state's 
expense. Those lawyers are overworked, underpaid and operate without anything 
close to what the government has in the way of investigative and expert 
resources. For these reasons, while in office, Attorney General Eric Holder 
regularly described indigent defense systems nationwide as "unjust," "morally 
untenable," "economically unsustainable," and "unworthy of a legal system that 
stands as an 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., GA., FLA., ALA., LA., OHIO

2017-04-13 Thread Rick Halperin

April 13


Death Row Inmate Rodney Reed Loses DNA Appeal

The state's top criminal appeals court is refusing to allow additional DNA 
testing of evidence in the lengthy Central Texas death penalty case of Rodney 

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals says the request by Reed's attorneys was 
the latest of a number of legal moves to unreasonably delay his execution for 
the April 1996 abduction, rape and strangling of 19-year-old Stacy Stites. Her 
body was found off the side of a road in Bastrop County.

Reed was arrested nearly a year later when his DNA surfaced in another sexual 
assault. He sought tests on more than 40 items collected in the murder 

Reed long has insisted he and Stites had a consensual sexual relationship and 
that her police officer fiance more likely was her killer.

(source: Associated Press)


Defense: Test Murder Weapon in Death Penalty Case

An attorney for a man on death row in the shooting death of a Pennsylvania 
police officer is asking that the murder weapon be tested to make sure it 
didn't go off by accident.

The (Easton) Express-Times (http://bit.ly/2p8MjRc ) reports that defense 
attorney Jonathan Polonsky brought up the idea at a hearing Wednesday in 
Northampton County Court in the case of 51-year-old George Hitcho Jr.

He was convicted of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to death in the 2011 
shotgun slaying of Freemansburg police officer Robert Lasso, who responded to a 
disturbance call at Hitcho's home.

Polonsky argued that his client's former attorney should have had the gun 
tested to counter an argument by prosecutors that had the weapon not jammed 
after the fatal shot, the defendant would have kept firing.

(source: Associated Press)

VIRGINIAimpending execution

With Execution Date Approaching, Evidence Suggests Teleguz Is Innocent

Pressure is building on Governor Terry McAuliffe to grant clemency in the case 
of a former Harrisonburg man who could be executed later this month. New 
evidence suggests prosecutors and police used questionable tactics to convict 
him, and witnesses who pointed a finger at him are now admitting they lied.

Ivan Teleguz faces execution this month for a crime that supporters say he did 
not commit.

When a young Harrisonburg mother was brutally murdered more than a decade ago, 
police were anxious to find the killer, and DNA from the crime scene led to 
Michael Hetrick - a man who said he didn't even know Stephanie Sipe and had no 
motive to kill her. Detectives thought the woman's former boyfriend and the 
father of her child hired Hetrick, and they urged him to confirm that theory:

"The police just fed him every detail of their case. They even gave him this 
document that laid out their entire theory of the case, and said, 'We want you 
to read this so you can understand the facts of the case."

Elizabeth Peiffer - staff attorney at the Virginia Capital Representation 
Resource Center - says officers then called the Commonwealth's attorney, who 
said she would ask for the death penalty unless Hetrick could confirm that Ivan 
Teleguz was behind the killing.

"That if he didn't give them Ivan - if he didn't repeat this story back to 
them, his own life would be in jeopardy - that they would seek the death 
penalty, and he would get it," she explains.

Hetrick then said he was hired by Teleguz, and 2 other men testified that's 
what happened. One of them - an immigrant from Kyrgystan - was promised help in 
getting a visa from the federal government to save him from deportation. The 
other was told he might face the death penalty if he didn't implicate Teleguz.

In court, attorney Peiffer says, the prosecutor claimed Teleguz had also 
committed a murder in Pennsylvania.

"They told jurors that this is how he solves his problems. He has people commit 
murder for him, and jurors were really scared," she says. "They sent out a 
question to the judge during deliberations asking if he had their addresses, 
and the judge had them instructed that he did have this information, and jurors 
were so scared that they very quickly sentenced him to death."

But it turned out the Pennsylvania murder they described never happened, and 
the 2 men who originally linked Teleguz to the crime in Virginia have since 
said they lied. Now the Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center and the 
law firm Kirkland and Ellis are asking the governor to pardon Teleguz or at 
least commute his sentence so he won't be executed.

"We have asked that he grant a full pardon, because we believe the current 
state of the evidence, with 2 of the key prosecution witnesses recanting their 
testimony that no juror could have found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."

And, Peiffer says, public support for Teleguz, who - along with his family -- 
left the Soviet-controlled Ukraine as a child to avoid religious persecution, 
is growing.

"Not only do we have over 113,000 people 

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