[Deathpenalty]death penalty news---TEXAS, PENN., VA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Dec 15 10:29:06 CST 2004
Local Man Convicted For Hurting His Child
A Travis County jury has found an Austin man guilty of hurting his own
son. Edwin Garcia is convicted of injury to a child.
He was facing a capital murder charge for the 2001 death of his son,
Sebastian, but the jury also considered lesser charges of manslaughter and
injury to a child.
The state says that Garcia was alone with the child when Sebastian was
shaken. His brain swelled, causing his skull to crack.
"He cannot tell you how scared he was. He cannot tell you how much it
hurt. He cannot tell you what his head felt like when his brain kept
swelling and swelling and swelling," Allison Wetzel, prosecutor, said.
"14 different people came in here, 14 people went on that stand, and not
one of them, for one instant, has ever believed that this man would have
intentionally hurt his child," Leslie Halasz, defense attorney, said.
Garcia faces a punishment of up to life in prison. A judge will sentence
him on Jan. 6.
(source: KXAN News)
Mom to officer: 'I felt like I had to'----New details emerge in case;
psychiatrist to weigh woman's mental state
A court-appointed psychiatrist will examine the 35-year-old Plano
homemaker who is charged with cutting off her infant daughter's arms with
a 9-inch kitchen knife.
Attorneys said Tuesday that the capital murder case against Dena Schlosser
will not move forward until she is found mentally competent to stand
New details about the case emerged in court papers in which Plano police
described Schlosser as having a "dazed look in her eyes" when they arrived
at her apartment Nov. 22. An officer said she told him she killed
10-month-old Margaret because "I felt like I had to."
State and defense attorneys agreed to appoint Dr. David Self, the senior
psychiatrist at Rusk State Hospital, to examine Schlosser.
State District Judge Chris Oldner ordered Self to report on Schlosser's
mental state by Jan. 21. Self said he has testified as a psychological
expert for both the defense and prosecution, and has been a witness for
the state in several death penalty cases.
David Haynes, Schlosser's attorney, said his client is "still somewhat
confused" and unable to help in her own defense.
"She is on medication and has been getting better," Haynes said, adding
that his client is taking the anti-psychotic drug Haldol.
"Nothing is going to happen until she is found mentally competent," Haynes
said. "If she isn't, then she is going to have to be sent off for
Schlosser was hospitalized for postpartum depression last January, when
her third child was born, and appeared to be in a fog shortly after the
attack on her daughter.
Schlosser, who was found covered in blood and holding a knife, had a
"dazed look" when officers questioned her, according to a police
affidavit. Schlosser said "I felt like I had to," when officer David
Tilley asked why she had killed her daughter.
She failed to respond when Tilley asked her to elaborate, the affidavit
Tilley wrote that he found Schlosser splashed with blood, sitting in her
living room, listening to church hymns and repeatedly saying "praise God,
thank you God."
"Several times, both during my interviewing her and also just randomly,
Schlosser would smile," Tilley wrote. "I asked her why she was smiling but
got no response."
He found a Bible at the foot of the bed in the master bedroom opened to
the book of Timothy.
Haynes, the defense lawyer, said he had not seen the affidavit and did not
know what, if any, passage his client was reading at the time of the
He said his client recently quoted to him a Bible verse in the book of
Matthew that he said he believes influenced her actions.
The verse Schlosser told him was: "If thy right hand offend thee, cut it
off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy
members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into
Haynes said he believes his client might have taken the passage literally.
"I'm not a theologian, but I think the meaning is: If anything gets
between you and your faith, get rid of it. It doesn't mean take a meat
cleaver and cut something off," he said.
"Her entire life is relevant to our defense," Haynes said.
He said he is interested in exploring his client's childhood affliction
with fluid on the brain, which was treated with three surgeries, and her
frequent attendance in the past two years at the nondenominational Water
of Life Church.
The small Plano congregation is led by Doyle Davidson, a self-proclaimed
prophet. Schlosser's parents have told reporters they believe Davidson's
teachings helped push her toward psychosis and the killing of her child.
Davidson has dismissed those claims, saying he had little interaction with
The day before the attack, Schlosser told her husband she wanted to give
her children to God, according to Texas' Child Protective Services. The
agency took temporary custody of the couple's other girls, ages 6 and 9,
after the baby was killed, and cited the father's failure to act after his
Attorneys said that if Schlosser is found mentally competent, prosecutors
will decide by early spring whether they will seek the death penalty.
A trial could begin as early as next fall.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Murderer sentenced to life imprisonment
A Luzerne County judge Tuesday re-sentenced a Philadelphia man to life
imprisonment for the shooting death of Nicholas Romanchick in 1982.
Tyrone Moore, 50, was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1983
for the cold-blooded murder of Romanchick, 31, of Plymouth Township. Moore
shot Romanchick during an Oct. 1, 1982, holdup of the Forty Fort Animal
Hospital in Wyoming.
According to previous published reports, Romanchick and his wife, Karen
Anne, were having their pet cat treated at the animal hospital when Moore
entered the examination room and forced the couple and a female attendant
at gunpoint to lie the floor.
While on the floor, Romanchick heard the cat make a noise and rose to his
feet. It was then that Moore shot Romanchick in the back.
Romanchick died 12 days later.
Moore appealed his conviction and death sentence in January 1997 under the
Post Conviction Relief Act.
In September 2000, Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella upheld Moore's
conviction but vacated the sentence of death.
Prosecutors appealed Judge Ciavarella's ruling to the state Supreme Court,
in which, on Oct. 21, affirmed the lower court's order and sent the case
back for re-sentencing.
On Nov. 3, prosecutors filed notice with Judge Ciavarella that they would
not seek to impose the death penalty.
Judge Ciavarella re-sentenced Moore to life imprisonment without the
possibility of parole.
(source: Citizens Voice)
Crime lab revamp promises needed oversight
A proposed revamp of the Virginia Division of Forensic Science, to be
unveiled today by the State Crime Commission, reflects mounting calls for
more independent scrutiny of the nations crime labs.
The Virginia lab, like many, is largely self-regulated.
The legislation, championed by Virginia Beach Sen. Ken Stolle, would make
DFS a separate state agency, beholden to a policy board and a scientific
The scientific group, in particular, is essential in an era when scandals
have rocked forensic labs from Texas to Montana to Ohio. Details arent
final, but the panel should be handed real authority to guide the
standards that labs use in interpreting DNA and other scientific evidence
admitted into court.
Too few judges, lawyers, and juries understand the science behind the use
of DNA testing as a crime-fighting tool. Too many mistakenly regard it as
unassailable and infallible.
Long recognized as a national leader among forensic labs, the Virginia
Division of Forensic Science recently spawned controversy with its
handling of DNA in the case of former death-row inmate Earl Washington Jr.
In late September, Gov. Mark Warner quietly ordered an outside audit of
the state results, which conflicted with the findings of a private lab.
The outcome has not been announced, but the six-month delay before Warner
acted highlights the gap in scientific understanding in both the executive
and legislative branches.
Currently, the state labs technical decisions and policies receive almost
no scrutiny within state government because the expertise doesnt exist. An
organization established by the nations crime lab directors performs
regular accreditation audits, but in many cases, the lab has to blow the
whistle on itself if it wants a controversial case reviewed. The upshot is
that scientific judgments affecting life and death outcomes often get
little, if any, serious external review.
To ensure the reliability of lab results, an independent board of
scientists could be helpful in the following areas:
Purchase of technology. For example, there are 2 major commercial systems
for processing and analyzing DNA. Some years ago, the Virginia lab elected
to invest millions of dollars in a system that, over time, has become the
least used. One consequence is that fewer "expert" witnesses are familiar
with the system chosen by DFS.
Eliminating bias. Some reformers argue that lab technicians analyzing DNA
should complete their evaluations without knowing the genetic makeup of
the defendants in a case. Contrary to popular understanding, technicians
have considerable leeway in interpreting DNA results in certain cases, and
bias toward the prosecution can easily result.
Lab expertise. Its important that individuals with strong academic
credentials and experience in scientific disciplines hold key positions at
the state lab. Currently, no one outside the department evaluates resumes
to see if thats happening.
Oversight. When allegations of error occur, as in the Washington case, a
scientific panel could give policy-makers a fast, independent evaluation
of DFSs procedures.
The potential value of scientific oversight is illustrated in the handling
of DNA evidence in the case of Anthony Winston, a Lynchburg man sentenced
to die for a 2002 double homicide.
University of California, Irvine criminology professor William C.
Thompson, who helped trigger the 2002 shutdown of the Houston Police
Departments DNA lab, reviewed the case for the editorial page of The
Virginian-Pilot. He found serious error in both the statistical
calculations and the quality assurance procedures.
Thompsons evaluation centers on gloves found at the crime scene. The
gloves were not the most compelling evidence of Winstons guilt, but the
way they were handled by the lab is instructive.
Thompson believes the testimony of the lab grossly exaggerated the
strength of the DNA evidence linking Winston to the gloves.
According to Thompson, the analyst "cherry-picked the data most favorable
to the prosecution theory and left other potentially exculpatory data out
of the equation."
Is Thompson right? Or is the lab? Theres no way to know for sure. Thats
why Stolles initiative is so necessary to the integrity of forensic
science in Virginia.
Lawmakers committed to the truth will push for a scientific advisory board
capable of understanding both the questions and the answers.
The consequences of error are too grave to rely so strongly on
(source: The Virginian-Pilot, Editorial)
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