[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----FLA., CALIF., CONN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Dec 2 23:04:49 CST 2004
Fla. Supreme Court denies appeals in 4 death cases
The state Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the murder conviction and death
sentence of the man condemned for the 1997 strangulation of a woman
related to one of the five students killed in Gainesville in 1990.
Florida's high court rejected appeals by 3 other death row inmates in
other capital cases.
The body of Carla Larson, an engineer working on a Walt Disney World
project, was found in a palmetto thicket near Disney World seven years
after the unrelated murders of her sister-in-law, Sonja Larson, and the
John Huggins, 42, has been twice convicted of Carla Larson's murder.
In 1999, a month after his 1st conviction, the judge ordered a new trial
because prosecutors withheld key evidence from the defense. A 2nd jury
convicted him in July 2002.
Larson, 30, had gone to the supermarket during her lunch break in June
1997. Her body was found 2 days later.
Huggins was spotted driving Larson's white Ford Explorer, which was
eventually spray-painted black and then torched on a Brevard County beach.
Larson's jewelry was later found stashed in an electrical switch box at
the home of Huggins' mother-in-law.
The unsigned opinion was fully supported by Justices Charles Wells, Peggy
Quince, Raoul Cantero and Kenneth Bell. Justice R. Fred Lewis concurred in
the result only. Chief Justice Barbara Pariente and Justice Harry Lee
The other death row inmates who lost appeals Thursday:
- Kenneth Dessaure, 26, condemned for the February 1999 murder of his
next-door neighbor, Cindy Riedweg, who was fatally stabbed in her Oldsmar
apartment. All 7 justices agreed Dessaure's conviction and sentence should
be affirmed but only Wells, Lewis, Cantero and Bell concurred fully in the
- Broderick Monlyn, 43, condemned for the October 1992 murder of Alton
Watson, who lived across the road from Monlyn in a rural north Florida
area in Madison County. Monlyn had escaped from the county jail and Watson
found him hiding in his barn. The men struggled for Watson's shotgun and
Watson was fatally beaten in the struggle. All of the justices concurred
in the opinion except for Anstead who concurred in the result only;
- George Brown, 56, condemned for the April 1990 murder of Horace Brown in
Polk County, who was fatally stabbed. Pariente, Wells, Lewis, Cantero and
Bell concurred in the opinion; Anstead said he believed Brown deserved a
new penalty hearing and Quince was recused.
(source: Associated Press)
Peterson defense team scrambles to avoid death sentence
Scott Peterson's defense lawyers are pulling the stops in their effort to
spare him a death sentence.
They're calling family, friends and teachers to tell the 6 men and 6 women
of the jury that he is more than the ruthless killer jurors decided he was
on Nov. 12.
Included in that fight Thursday was a subtler, surprising witness: Laci
Peterson's defense is hoping the image of his slain wife will evoke
sympathy for the man convicted of killing her and their unborn son, legal
"That's the theory," said Chuck Smith, a former San Mateo County
prosecutor following the case. "I don't know if it's effective, but that's
Aligning Peterson's family with the victims or, perhaps, revealing that
they, too, suffered a great loss in her death could win points with
pessimistic jurors, lawyers said. It could convey that standing up for
Peterson is not the same as demeaning Laci or diminishing the loss by her
loved ones, they said.
"They're trying to show that this family loves Laci," said Oakland defense
attorney Daniel Horowitz, who is analyzing the case for reporters.
"There's a shared loss, so the loss doesn't belong solely to the Rochas."
In court Thursday, Janey Peterson praised Laci while pleading for the life
of her brother-in-law. She connected Peterson with the woman jurors
believe he killed, saying she enjoyed watching their loving relationship
"Laci - she took my breath away," she said. "She was just bubbly and fun
and energetic and beautiful. I couldn't use enough words to describe her."
And again in photos, defense lawyers presented a smiling Laci next to her
man. Full of life and appearing happy, they showed Laci next to Peterson
at her wedding and at family functions showing no signs that they had
anything other than a loving relationship.
"It's absolutely deliberate," Smith said.
But the defense is treading dangerous ground, lawyers said. Jurors, who
must decide between a death sentence or life in prison, could resent the
pairing of murderer and the murdered. They could dismiss the loss of the
Peterson family in deference to Laci's family. Or, very simply, they might
just not get the meaning.
"I don't think it's the right tactic," Horowitz said. "I think they should
take it on more directly. Ask them and have them say 'We loved Laci. It
hurt us very, very deeply.' The way he's doing it is a little cheesy."
Backing defense lawyers up is a parade of witnesses for this penalty phase
of the trial, all trumpeting the value of the former Modesto salesman.
Thursday, that included Peterson's brother, friends and a family friend. 6
witnesses in all told jurors Peterson was a humble man who cared deeply
John Peterson told stories about his brother growing up in San Diego. They
chased squirrels, road bikes and were the best of friends, he said,
looking at Peterson, who sat at the defense table smiling and chuckling at
A death sentence just isn't an option the family could withstand, John
"I'd be devastated," he said. "I can't even imagine. I'd be wrecked. My
little brother - I love him. I don't even want to go there."
Scott Peterson also wiped away tears during Janey's testimony.
But jurors appeared disinterested at times or even bored as lawyers called
what could ultimately be dozens of witnesses.
Judge Alfred Delucchi said the case will run into next week.
"They're putting on too much that's not important," Horowitz said of the
defense case. "But enough's there. Jurors understand that (the witnesses)
do love Scott, as shallow as Scott is, as spoiled as he was, the youngest
child in a family of privilege. He does have value."
The trial resumes Friday.
(source: Knight Ridder Tribune)
Rell feels pressure on both sides over execution
She had called reporters to her office Thursday to draw attention to a
home heating oil assistance program, but Gov. M. Jodi Rell was instead
peppered with questions about how she'll handle the state's 1st execution
Rell, sworn in as governor only five months ago, finds herself in the
middle of a burgeoning debate over the fate of convicted serial killer
Michael Ross and the state's death penalty statute.
And she is already feeling the pressure from both sides.
The Republican governor has no power to commute Ross' death sentence. But
according to the state constitution, Rell has the power to grant a
reprieve that would postpone Ross' planned Jan. 26 execution until after
the "next" legislative session.
That would give state lawmakers, who return to the Capitol on Jan. 5, the
opportunity to eliminate Connecticut's capital punishment law and possibly
stop Ross' execution.
Ross, 45, is on death row for killing 4 young women in eastern Connecticut
in the 1980s. He has admitted to killing eight women in Connecticut and
Rell, who supports the death penalty for heinous crimes, repeated Thursday
that her lawyers are reviewing the constitutional provision on postponing
an execution, as well as state statutes and case law surrounding
Connecticut's death penalty _ as far back as 1673 - to determine what
action, if any, she will take in the coming weeks.
"There has not been an execution in this state, carrying out the death
penalty, in over 40 years," she said. "And I think the decisions
surrounding the events right now should not be taken lightly. They should
be weighed very carefully."
Since acknowledging last week that her office was reviewing the matter,
Rell has received numerous calls and letters from people urging her to
either grant Ross a reprieve or allow the execution to proceed. Rell's
office has also heard from at least one angry family member of one of
She defended the research on Thursday, saying she will make a decision
after she has all the facts.
"I also believe that I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing, as
the governor of the state of Connecticut," Rell said. "And that is to be
looking at everything, literally everything: the statutes, the
constitution and case law that surrounds the death penalty in the state of
House Majority Leader James Amann, D-Milford, expected to be the next
House Speaker, said he was "puzzled" by news reports that Rell might
utilize her authority to postpone the execution. Amann supports the death
penalty and believes Ross should be executed by lethal injection -
especially after considering the heinous nature of Ross' crimes.
"I would hope she chooses not to do that. We have debated this issue over
the years in the General Assembly and legislators have voted
overwhelmingly for the death penalty," Amann said.
But Robert Nave, executive director of the Connecticut Network to Abolish
the Death Penalty and the Connecticut state death penalty abolition
coordinator for Amnesty International, said he believes the state
legislature hasn't had an opportunity to take a thorough, hard look at the
death penalty statute.
"Now that we are facing an execution and it has caught the public eye,
it's time for legislators to take a look at this public policy and see it
for what it is _ poor public policy," Nave said.
Nave's group has already called Rell's office and asked to meet with the
governor and her staff. If nothing materializes, Nave said his
organization is prepared to step up the public pressure. He recently
called on the governor to be the one to inject Ross if the state
ultimately proceeds with the execution.
"I think she needs to consider the political ramifications of a stay,"
Nave said. "I believe the wise, political and moral move is to let the
legislature consider this."
Although Ross has indicated that he does not want to pursue more appeals,
his execution could still be tied up in court. The state's public defender
office filed motions this week in a bid to stop the execution, claiming
Ross is incompetent and the lethal injection would amount to
"state-assisted suicide." New London Superior Court Judge Patrick J.
Clifford has not said when he will rule on the motions.
Both Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, and
Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said they backed
Rell's decision to review the matter. Both said the legislature will take
up the death penalty in the new session.
"The death penalty is a very important issue, and we should be
deliberative," said Williams, who lives in Ross' hometown. "Michael Ross
has committed heinous crimes and now wants his execution to go forward.
But the governor, and not Michael Ross, has the power to control whether
the legislature has the ability to consider the long-term impact of our
current death penalty laws."
(source: Associated Press)
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