[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----IOWA, IND., CALIF., N.C.

Rick Halperin rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Aug 17 10:39:42 CDT 2004

August 17

IOWA----re: federal death penalty trial

Jury selection begins in federal death penalty case

Jury selection for Iowa's first death penalty case in more than 40 years
begins today in U.S. District Court in Sioux City.

Dustin Honken, 35, formerly of Britt, Iowa, is charged with 5 counts of
1st-degree murder for the execution-style slayings of 3 adults and 2
children in 1993. Iowa has no death penalty, but the federal justice
system allows the death sentence.

Jury selection could take up to 3 weeks because of the length of the
trial, expected to take at least 8 weeks. Trial testimony is scheduled to
begin Sept. 7.

"We certainly are bringing in a larger number of jurors for this trial.
There will not be a shortage of qualified (potential) jurors," said Jud
Watkins, clerk of court for the Northern District of Iowa.

Watkins said 641 jurors from 14 counties will be called. Normally,
approximately 50 jurors would be called, Watkins said, but the expected
length of the trial necessitated the larger number.

Security also is expected to be at a level never seen before in Sioux
City's federal courthouse. The building will remain open, and visitors to
other offices can expect the usual security measures of walking through a
metal detector. The U.S. Marshal's Service would not discuss any
additional security steps that will be taken before or during the trial.

"We won't comment on any specific security measures or where he or any
witnesses will be held during the trial," said Duane Walhof, supervisor of
the Marshal's Sioux City office.

Currently serving a 27-year federal prison sentence for a drug conviction,
Honken was charged in 2001 with the deaths of Terry DeGeus, 32, of Britt;
Gregory Nicholson, 34, of Mason City, Iowa; his girlfriend, Lori Duncan,
31, and her daughters, Kandace, 10, and Amber, 8, all of Mason City.
Shortly after the charges were filed, federal prosecutors filed notice
that they would seek the death penalty.

The 5 bodies were found 7 years after their death buried near Mason City.
The bodies showed signs of beating and torture; 2 of them were bound with
duct tape.

Nicholson and DeGeus had agreed to cooperate with federal officials in a
drug case against Honken before their disappearance.

Honken was charged after prosecutors received information gathered from
Honken's girlfriend, Angela Johnson, by a fellow jail inmate. Johnson, 40,
also faces the death penalty for 5 counts of aiding and abetting in the
slayings. Her trial is next year.

(source: Sioux City Journal)


Murderer seeks to get off death row

4 years after receiving a death sentence, the man convicted of killing
Franklin College student Kelly Eckart is asking a Johnson County judge for
a different sentence.

Attorneys for Michael Dean Overstreet are asking Judge Cynthia Emkes to
re-examine evidence and reverse the death sentence she handed down in July

A jury convicted Overstreet that year for the 1997 abduction, rape and
murder of Eckart, an 18-year-old Franklin College student from Boggstown.

On Monday, the state public defenders office began a weeklong appeal for a
reduced sentence in Johnson Superior Court 2, the same court where
Overstreet was sentenced to death.

Overstreets three-member defense team argues that mistakes were made
during the original trial, that Overstreet did not receive adequate legal
representation and that Emkes should reverse her decision.

"We feel the death sentence is an inappropriate resolution to this case,"
said lead defense attorney Tom Hinesley. "Questions also remain about the
trial and the evidence and testimony given."

The defense is recalling witnesses and testimony from the trial that
include defense lawyers, police officers, doctors and Overstreet's family

Emkes has set aside an entire week for the court proceeding. She does not
expect to make a final ruling until November, a deadline set by the
Indiana Supreme Court.

The state's highest court rejected Overstreet's appeal in February 2003
and upheld his conviction and death sentence.

"This is an example of how a capital trial should be conducted," deputy
attorney general Jim Martin said about the trial. "We expect that we will
be able to convince the post-conviction court that that is the case in
these proceedings."

For Eckart's parents, Dale and Connie Sutton, the new appeal brings back
memories they've tried to forget for the past 7 years.

The 2 have not seen Overstreet since the summer of 2000, when he received
the death sentence. They attended all court hearings before and during his
trial, as well as his supreme court appeal last year, which Overstreet was
not allowed to attend.

The couple took a weeklong vacation from work to attend the appeal. They
sat together in the front row behind the state prosecuting attorneys,
listening to testimony from witnesses.

"We've tried to forget, but now this brings it all flooding back to the
front of your mind where it hurts the most," Connie Sutton said outside
the courtroom Monday evening. "But we know it will turn out all right,
even if it takes 15 years."

In court Monday, Dale Sutton frequently put his arm around his wife and
also took notes in a black-and-white notebook that he said is a part of
his therapy. They listened, sometimes grimacing, as witnesses recalled
memories of Eckarts murder in 1997.

Eckart was on her way back to her Shelby County home from her part-time
job at the Franklin Wal-Mart the night of Sept. 26, 1997, when she was
abducted from her car at Graham Road and Earlywood Drive. She was raped,
strangled to death and dumped in a Brown County ravine.

A map of the Brown County ravine was discovered in Overstreet's house.
Scientific evidence showed sperm found in the victim's body matched
Overstreet's DNA. An expert testified that the odds of the sperm matching
anyone else were 1 in 4 trillion.

The defense has accused the Johnson County Prosecutors Office of not fully
disclosing evidence and testimony immediately, specifically testimony from
Overstreet's ex-wife.

In court Monday, the defense brought up what it called damaging testimony
from Overstreet's ex-wife that Overstreet cleaned out his van in the days
following the murder and that defense attorneys at the time did not have
sufficient time to counter her testimony.

Original defense attorneys during the trial should also have more
carefully examined Overstreet's mental health before and during the trial,
Hinesley said.

A "psychotic break" he experienced in March 2000 may have hindered his
ability to consider a plea offer by the prosecutors office, the defense
said. The offer would have given Overstreet a jail sentence of life
without parole if he pleaded guilty.

"There's more evidence that needs to be heard regarding the crimes
themselves, and there's much more evidence about Mr. Overstreet that needs
to be carefully assessed by this judge," Hinesley said.

Shackled at the hands and feet and wearing a black-and-white jail
jumpsuit, Overstreet displayed little movement or emotion during Mondays
court hearing. He did not answer questions about the appeal.

If Emkes denies the post-conviction relief petition, Overstreet can appeal
to the Indiana Court of Appeals and again to the state Supreme Court.
Failing that, he can try to appeal in federal courts.

The entire appeals process could take years. If the death sentence is
carried out, Overstreet would be executed by lethal injection.

Overstreet has been on death row at Indiana State Prison in Michigan City
and was brought to the Johnson County jail for the hearing.

(source: Johnson County Daily Journal)


State Supreme Court upholds death sentence for convicted murderer

The California Supreme Court on Monday upheld the death sentence of a Los
Angeles man convicted of the 1988 murder of his girlfriend.

The state high court rejected Stephen Cole's claims that there was
insufficient evidence to support his 1st-degree murder conviction and that
errors were made in his trial, such as the introduction of his two prior
convictions of cohabitant abuse of the victim.

Cole was convicted of 1st-degree murder for Mary Ann Mahoney's killing,
along with the special circumstance allegation that the murder involved
the infliction of torture.

Jurors recommended Cole be sent to death row.

Cole told a firefighter after the Aug. 14, 1988, attack at the home they
shared in North Hollywood that he "lit the house on fire" and wanted to
kill Mahoney and burn the house down, according to the Supreme Court's

"The defendant deliberately poured a flammable liquid on Mary Ann, his
unsuspecting companion, and set fire to her and the house she was in," the
87-page ruling stated.

Mahoney died of multiple organ system failure as a result of smoke
inhalation and burns.

(source: Associated Press)


Phone tapes reveal apologies, cajoling ----Jury hears more calls between
suspect, girlfriend

Scott Peterson hinted to his lover that the picture-perfect portrayal of
his marriage in the news was an exaggeration and refused to say whether he
had slept in the same bed with his wife the night before she disappeared.

Laci Peterson had been missing less than a month, and like so many times
since her disappearance, the Modesto fertilizer salesman picked up his
cell phone and called his girlfriend, Amber Frey. He apologized. He
cajoled. He begged for a 2nd chance.

He swore that he had nothing to do with his wife's disappearance. He
assured Frey that his spouse knew about their brief affair. He promised
that he had told his parents about the clandestine relationship. He spoke
lovingly of the single mother's little girl. And he plied her with honeyed
words and Bible verses.

What he didn't do was talk much about his feelings for his wife, who was
eight months pregnant when she disappeared just before Christmas 2002, and
the son they were expecting in February.

Prosecutors played four telephone conversations Monday between Scott
Peterson and the Fresno massage therapist that took place in early January
2003. It's part of a series of phone discussions between the pair that
investigators secretly recorded with Frey's help. Each one is being played
to the jury.

Prosecutors are trying to show that Peterson, 31, was a cold-blooded,
pathological liar who could murder his wife one day and then woo his
paramour the next. The defense concedes that the calls were caddish and
the romance completely inappropriate. But a philanderer, they say, does
not a murderer make.

Frey, on the other hand, said she believed her lover might have done away
with his wife to make way for his relationship with her. So she agreed to
help the Modesto police just weeks after 27-year-old Laci Peterson was
reported missing by trying to get Peterson to open up while investigators
monitored his calls.

She told him that she had been through some rocky relationships in her
time, but now she was unwittingly caught up in the sinister intrigue of
his wife's disappearance -- and she wanted answers.

"I have a hard time finding your innocence in this," Frey told Peterson on
Jan. 14, 2003.

"I hope that's just defense and rationale as opposed to your true spirit,"
Peterson responded.

He told her he was sorry for lying to her about not being married when the
couple first met in early in December. He said that he had told his wife
about the two of them but had failed to come clean with Frey because he
feared she would reject him.

"I just don't know why I lied to you," he told her. "I mean, you know, the
obvious reason is just I lied to you because then I could, you know, be
with you."

Frey told Peterson that she found it difficult to believe that he had told
his wife about them and pushed for details on the married couple's last
night together.

"So you watched the movie together?" she asked. "And then you went to
sleep together or went to bed together, right? Where did you sleep?"

"In a bed," Peterson answered.

"You went in separate beds to go to sleep then?" Frey continued.

"I can't say yes or no to that," Peterson responded.

"Why?" Frey asked.

"Because those are details that we can't talk about now," Peterson said.

He pleaded with Frey to believe that he had nothing to do with his wife's
disappearance and insinuatedthat his relationship with Laci wasn't as good
as it had been painted, but that he wasn't ready to disclose what the
troubles might have been just yet. He made it seem like it could
compromise the investigation into his wife's disappearance.

"When you get all the facts, it'll make sense to you," Peterson told Frey.

"You know, at this point you sound like a broken record, Scott," Frey

But Peterson wouldn't give up.

On Jan. 12, 2003, he told Frey in a phone call that "the situation will be
resolved. ... They will find her."

"And that's gonna make sense of everything to me?" Frey asked.

"Then you'll know everything," he told her.

That same day Peterson read Frey a parable from the Bible's book of
Matthew. Four days earlier he asked for her forgiveness.

"I know that I need to gain your trust," he said. "It's only through time
that I'll be able to do that, Amber. I hope I have the opportunity. It's
all up to you."

Peterson is accused of murdering his wife and their unborn son in the days
before Christmas 2002. Prosecutors say he wrapped her body in a tarp and
drove from Modesto to the Berkeley Marina, where he dumped her body in San
Francisco Bay.

If convicted of double murder, the jury will have to decide whether
Peterson should be executed or be sentenced to life in prison.

More audiotapes of Peterson and Frey's conversations are expected to be
played today.

(source: San Francisco Chronicle)


Peterson Mistress Gets No Confession in Call Tapes

The mistress of accused double-murderer Scott Peterson did not succeed in
getting him to confess to killing his pregnant wife in taped phone calls
played on Monday for jurors in his closely watched murder trial.

Despite Amber Frey's persistent and creative efforts, Peterson, 31, never
even admitted to having an unhappy marriage.

"I can't tell you these things," Peterson repeatedly tells Frey, a
29-year- old massage therapist and mother of 2 who dated Peterson for a
month before his eight-months-pregnant wife, Laci, disappeared on Dec. 24,
2002, setting off a massive search that captivated the nation. Frey
cooperated with the police after learning of Laci Peterson's


Laci Peterson's badly decomposed body and that of her unborn fetus, a boy
she planned to name Conner, washed out of San Francisco Bay in mid-April
of 2003.

Police said Peterson murdered his wife on the night of Dec. 23 or the
morning of Dec. 24 and dumped her body in the San Francisco Bay while
pretending to be fishing.

During the recordings, taped in mid-January 2003, Peterson tells a
skeptical Frey that he told Laci about Frey after their 1st date.

Frey went on to grill him about the details of his last night with his

Peterson would not say that he went to bed with his wife -- only that they
"went to sleep."

"Together?" Frey asked.

"Amber, please don't ask. I can't ... tell you these things," Peterson

Frey, who wore a gray blazer, matching gray skirt and a small cross on a
silver necklace, sat in the audience as the tapes played, stepping up to
the stand for a couple of minutes at a time to discuss how the tapes were

In the recordings, Frey accuses Peterson of being a "pathological liar."

"You didn't only lie to me, you've lied to a nation, Scott," she said.

Peterson said on the tapes that he wanted to tell his family about Frey,
adding, "I have that hope that we can have some kind of relationship."

Also in the recordings, made with Frey's knowledge but not Peterson's,
Frey read Peterson a love letter that she said she wrote to him the
evening Laci disappeared. Peterson had told her he was spending the
holidays in Maine with his family.

"Do you think you'll meet someone while you're gone and be tempted?" she
wrote in the letter.

(source: Reuters)


N.C. Supreme Court Overturns 2 Death Sentences

A gang member sentenced to death for killing 2 women in an initiation rite
won a new sentencing hearing, while a man convicted of killing a teenager
and stealing his car won a new trial in decisions issued Friday by the
state Supreme Court.

The court found technical errors in the sentencing of Francisco Tirado and
in jury selection for the trial of Todd Boggess. Tirado's death sentence
was overturned, and Boggess was awarded a new trial.

Tirado was one of three people sentenced to die for the execution-style
murders of Susan Moore and Tracy Lambert in August 1998. The women were
abducted near Lambert's home in Hope Mills, taken to a field in rural
Cumberland County, forced to kneel and shot in the head.

His death sentence had already been thrown into question when the U.S.
Supreme Court said it would consider this fall whether it's constitutional
to execute inmates who were under age 18 when they committed their crimes.
Tirado was 17 when the killings occurred.

Tirado was tried and convicted along with Eric Queen. The sentencing phase
of their trial was split so that the prosecution could introduce an
unedited statement by Queen that implicated Tirado.

On Friday, April 7, 2000, the jury issued its sentence for Tirado, which
the judge reviewed and sealed. The panel returned the following Tuesday
for Queen's sentencing hearing, in which his statement was read.

It was at that point that the trial judge announced both death sentences
and polled the jury on each.

The high court said jury should have been polled immediately after
delivering its verdict on Tirado to be sure each juror's intent was clear
and none had been coerced.

"As a result, the poll failed to measure each juror's intentions at the
time the jury returned its sentencing verdicts as to Tirado," Justice
Robert Edmunds Jr. wrote for the court. "Under these circumstances, we
believe it unlikely that any juror who was wavering when the verdict was
returned on 7 April would have expressed any doubts when polled on 11

Boggess was convicted of first-degree murder in 1997 and sentenced to die
for the fatal beating of Wilmington honor student Danny Pence. The
then-21-year-old homeless drifter also was convicted of kidnapping Pence
from Wrightsville Beach and stealing his Ford Mustang.

His lawyers argued that the trial judge erred in refusing to let them use
a peremptory challenge to remove a juror who, after being selected but
before the trial started, discovered a personal connection to the case.

Jury selection was still under way and the defense had not exhausted its
peremptory challenges when the woman told the court she had discovered
that Pence's mother would be staying with a friend of hers while in town
for the trial.

Lawyers questioned the juror about the situation, but the judge refused to
let the defense exercise one of its remaining challenges.

The Supreme Court reversed Boggess' conviction, saying that, once the
judge allowed questioning, state law mandated that he should have allowed
the defense to exercise a challenge.

The court also said the judge erred in the sentencing phase by giving too
elaborate an explanation of the sentence of "life without parole."

Edmunds wrote that, according to jury instruction guidelines, the judge
should simply have said, "A sentence of life imprisonment means a sentence
of life without parole."

Instead, he discussed with lawyers "the various ramifications of this
inquiry, including the governor's pardon power and whether the jury was
indirectly asking whether defendant could be paroled," Edmunds wrote.

He gave the definition, then told the jury to "decide the question of
punishment according to the issues submitted to you by the Court, wholly
uninfluenced by consideration of what another arm of the government might
or might not do in the future."

(source: Associated Press)

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