[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Dec 10 13:37:35 CST 2004
Supreme Court wades into international death penalty debate
The Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear the appeal of a Mexican national
on death row in Texas, stepping into an international debate over the
legal rights of foreigners in capital punishment cases.
The World Court at The Hague ruled earlier this year that the United
States violated the rights of 51 Mexicans on death row, including Jose
Medellin, whose appeal will be heard at the Supreme Court next spring.
The world court, which is the United Nations' highest judiciary, had ruled
that American officials should give the inmates "meaningful review" of the
convictions and sentences now, on grounds that the U.S. government failed
to inform their home countries of their arrests and trials. The world
court is charged with resolving disputes between nations, but cannot force
the United States to follow its decisions.
Lower U.S. courts had blocked appeals by Medellin, and justices will
decide whether those decisions were wrong.
Medellin was supported in his Supreme Court appeal by dozens of countries,
legal groups and human rights organizations, as well as former diplomatic
leaders and the European Union.
They argued that U.S. officials have disregarded the 1963 Vienna
Convention which requires an "arresting government" to notify a foreign
national of the right to talk with the detainee's consulate or embassy,
and says foreign governments can arrange legal help for their nationals.
It applies to Americans abroad and to foreigners arrested in the United
About 6,000 Americans are arrested or detained each year in other
countries and need consular help to "navigate and understand an
unfamiliar, and perhaps hostile, legal system," justices were told by a
coalition of former diplomatic leaders and nonpartisan groups. They said
Americans would suffer if the United States does not set a good example.
Texas attorneys had argued that it was too late for Medellin to bring the
challenge, because he did not file objections at his trial that the
Mexican government was not told of his arrest and allowed to help in his
(source: Associated Press)
Tilly Murder Suspect Makes First Court Appearance
The prime suspect in the murder of an Alamo Heights teacher went face to
face with a judge Thursday.
Ronnie Neal, 33, had his 1st court appearance Thursday morning. He's
accused of robbing, raping and murdering Diane Tilly.
Neal has been represented by an attorney from Houston, but he has until
Wednesday to figure out if he also wants local attorneys to help him.
"Keep in mind, he was arrested on the charge of aggravated robbery," said
Asst. D.A. Catherine Babbitt. "Now that the charges have been upgraded to
capital murder, obviously that changes the stakes. He may indeed need
Neal's 15-year-old daughter is also charged in this case, but she's
working with prosecutors to reduce her punishment. If she cooperates,
she'll serve no more than 30 years.
(source: WOAI News)
Area man a suspect in Texas murders
A 2004 East Newton High School graduate has been arrested on capital
murder charges in Texas.
Timothy Doan Payne Jr., 18, a U.S. Army private in the 4th Infantry
Division stationed at Fort Hood, was arraigned Nov. 30 in connection with
2 murders which took place over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
According to court documents, Payne told authorities in Texas he
videotaped the killings while another man did the shooting. Richard L.
Tabler, 25, was also arraigned on Nov. 30 on 2 charges of capital murder,
which carries the death penalty if a conviction is reached. The men are
being held on a $4 million bond each.
The 2 are actually suspects in the deaths of four people: Mohamed-amine
Rahmouni, 25, of Killeen, a native of Morocco and manager of Teazer's
Gentlemen's Club, a strip club in Killeen; his friend, Haitham Frank
Zayed, 28, an Austin, Texas, resident; Tiffany Loraine Dotson, 18, a
dancer at the club who also lived in Killeen; and her friend, a
16-year-old runaway from Alabama.
According to published reports, the 3 men were shot to death on Nov. 26
west of Killeen outside of the city limits. 2 days later, the bodies of
the 2 women were found with multiple gunshot wounds in a car off of a
rural road near a lakeside park in central Texas.
Paul McWilliams, an attorney with the Bell County, Texas, district
attorney's office, said in a telephone interview Wednesday morning that
additional capital murder charges have not been filed in the deaths of the
"The case is still under investigation, and we are awaiting additional
information from the medical examiner," he said.
McWilliams said he could not comment as to the nature of the information,
nor could he say anything about Payne's alleged role in the murders. He
also could not speculate as to when additional capital murder or other
charges would be filed in the case.
"We're covering quite a few bases right now," he said.
According to an arrest affidavit filed Nov. 30, Tabler told authorities
that Payne filmed the murder of the two men with a video camera. Payne's
written statement collaborated Tabler's that he videotaped the shootings,
and that he helped search the bodies for money and other valuables.
Texas authorities have speculated the slayings were out of revenge, as
Rahmouni banned Tabler from the strip club about 3 weeks before.
In a written statement to reporters, Bell County Sheriff Dan Smith said
Tabler had a "hit list" of about a dozen people, all of whom either worked
for or were associated with the strip club.
"He alleges that (Rahmouni) threatened to have Tabler and his family
killed for as little as $10," Smith said in the statement, which was
distributed to Texas media, including the Killeen Daily Herald. "This
alleged threat made Tabler very angry."
Tabler allegedly lured the two men to a rural area near West Fort Hood
under the guise of buying stolen property, where he allegedly killed them.
"Tabler continued his fixation on other employees of the club who he
believed had wronged him in one way or another, and he set out about his
mission to kill several employees of the club," Smith told The Austin
Two days later, the 2 teen-agers were lured to a remote spot between
Nolanville and Belton with the promise of crack cocaine.
Smith told Texas reporters that Tabler likely targeted Dotson because she
was "running her mouth" about the first murders. And the sheriff said he
believed the second teen was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Questions to Smith's office regarding the case were deferred to the Bell
County District Attorney's Office Wednesday morning.
And in a story published Tuesday in the Austin American-Statesmen, Payne's
attorney said his client will enter a not guilty plea to the charges and
has a "believable account" of his suspected role in the quadruple
"He spoke clearly," defense attorney Steven Lee said. "He looked right at
me when he talked. He's not a shifty guy."
Lee has said he intends to seek to reduce the $4 million bond.
Payne is a 2004 graduate of East Newton High School, where he was involved
in FFA. He worked for area farmers before leaving the Neosho area for the
Army shortly after graduation in May.
A Fort Hood spokeswoman told the Austin American-Statesman that the Army
has started the process of discharging Payne, who had been at Fort Hood
about 3 months.
(source: Neosho Daily News)
Lewis' Fate In Judge's Hands
Mental retardation experts testified Thursday that a Tyler man awaiting
execution does have learning disabilities but is not mentally retarded.
The opinions of 2 doctors hired by the state differ from those who
testified earlier this week on behalf of Rickey Lynn Lewis at his writ of
habeas corpus hearing.
The attorneys must file their proposed findings of fact and conclusions of
law, as well as an executive summary and any written argument by Feb. 3.
Judge Cynthia Stevens Kent, of the 114th District Court, will then have a
deadline of Feb. 15 to file her proposed findings of fact and conclusions
of law before an appeals court will make the ultimate decision in
determining whether 42-year-old Lewis is mentally retarded.
In a mental retardation claim, the defense has the burden of proof since
the state has already proven its case in the guilt/innocence phase. If
Lewis is found to be mentally retarded, his death sentence will be
commuted to life in prison.
The three-pronged approach to diagnosing mental retardation outlined in
the Health and Safety Code includes below-average intellectual functioning
usually denoted by an IQ score of 70 or less, manifestation of the
disorder by age 18 and consideration of adaptive functioning, or how a
person operates in daily life.
Lewis was convicted and twice sentenced to die for the Sept. 17, 1990,
shooting death of George Newman during a burglary. He was also found
guilty of sexually assaulting the victim's common-law wife, Connie Hilton.
Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Edward Gripon said a mental retardation
diagnosis is not common and occurs in less than 1 % of the population. The
issue of mental retardation does come up a lot in court concerning
competency issues, he said.
"It is my opinion with reasonable psychiatric ability that he (Lewis) is
not retarded," he said.
Gripon said it is not difficult for a person to "dumb down" while taking
an IQ test and there are limitations to what information the patient might
choose to provide. He said Lewis' IQ scores of 59 and 79 could not both be
correct but through clinical experience he could determine which one is
"The tests are reliable," he said. "It is the people who are not always
When questioned by District Attorney Matt Bingham, he said there were
several instances in which Lewis' behavior and actions were inconsistent
with the 59 IQ score he received when tested by Dr. Stephen Martin.
Lewis does have difficulties in reading and writing, which he performs at
a third-grade level. He suffers from a learning disability that could
partly be attributed to his substantial absenteeism in 1st and 2nd grades,
when a child's foundation for development is laid.
Gripon said he did not find significant adaptive deficits in the defendant
and that he had an education deficit based on his learning disability and
truancy in school.
Defense attorney Mike Charlton, of New Mexico, attempted to discredit
Gripon's knowledge and expertise of mental retardation and questioned his
ethics in testifying for the state.
Gripon said he has never been hired under any circumstances where someone
told him what findings they expected.
Dr. Susana Rosin, a licensed psychologist and mental retardation expert,
said although Lewis might have a motive to malinger in the testing, she
did not believe he did so when she administered the IQ test, for which he
scored a 79.
Dr. Rosin administered several tests to Lewis, as well as reviewed about
10 hours worth of documents, more than 4,800 pages provided by the state,
and video tapes of interviews and tests performed with Lewis to make her
determination that he is not mentally retarded.
She said 99 % of the records she reviewed did not mention the issue of
mental retardation except recent affidavits from family members provided
by the defense.
But his late mother's testimony during trial indicated he was a "bright"
child who began having problems when the family moved in with his father,
who beat him and whom he later shot to protect his mother. The shooting
occurred when he was 10 years old and is an example of his capability to
formulate and carry out plans, she said.
A civil proceeding in federal court in which Lewis acted as his own
attorney and used legal terms to present a case showed planning and
thinking things through, Dr. Rosin said.
Lewis was cooperative and very much on task during her examination as well
as Gripon's, she said.
On a videotaped interview with a local television station regarding Lewis'
baptism while on death row Lewis appeared engaged and animated, she said.
Referring to a test performed by an expert hired by the defense, Dr. Rosin
said testing can only be performed on someone at the present time. The
doctor can then retrospectively look at collective data such as records to
determine if the person had adaptive deficits before the age of 18.
Martin, a neuropsychologist, testified to administering adaption deficit
tests on Lewis, who was asked to perform tests, to the best of his
ability, as he believed he would have performed them at certain ages
younger than 18.
The adaptive deficit test must be conducted to the intelligence of someone
prior to the age of 18, he said.
Dr. Rosin and Gripon said it is impossible for someone to remember how
they did things so many years ago.
"I can't tell you how inaccurate that information is going to be straight
across the board ... that is going to be totally useless to me in a
forensic setting," Gripon said.
While Dr. Rosin said a person could not be diagnosed as language and
learning disabled (LLD) and mentally retarded at the same time, Gripon
said it was possible.
She said a doctor could rely on other expert's testing but cannot
ethically change scores as Dr. Richard Garnett, an expert hired by the
state, did with hers. If he questions a doctor's testing, he should
administer his own.
Gripon said psychiatrists do not administer IQ tests, but review other's
reports, as well as any available records and information to make their
Lewis' capital murder trial attorney, Jeff Baynham, testified that the
defendant was very inquisitive in his trial proceedings. The longtime
Tyler attorney said he tried to explain everything to his client in great
detail but on a very basic level.
He said a lot of people, even those in the legal profession, sometimes do
not understand court proceedings. He said he believed Lewis generally
understood complex issues when Baynham explained them.
No issues of incompetence or mental retardation came up at any time during
Lewis' two trials, he said.
Assistant DA Mike West is also representing the state while defense
attorneys Gary Taylor, of Austin, and Gerald Bierbaum, of Houston, are
(source: Tyler Morning Telegraph)
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