[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----TEXAS, CONN., FLA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Dec 16 22:53:29 CST 2004
1st of 12 suspects found guilty in gang massacre
In Edinburg, the 1st of 12 suspected gang members to be tried in the fatal
shooting of 6 men in an apparent battle over drugs was convicted of
Jurors deliberated about 5 hours Wednesday night before convicting Juan
Raul Navarro Ramirez, 20, of 2 counts of capital murder. The penalty phase
began today, and prosecutors were expected to argue for the death penalty.
During the January 2003 attack, heavily armed masked men stormed a house
and a nearby ramshackle building and gunned down the six men, according to
Rosie Gutierrez, the mother of victims Jerry Eugene Hidalgo, 24, and Ray
Hidalgo, 30, testified that she was bound with electrical tape and
witnessed the slayings. Also killed were Jimmy Edward Almendariz, 22;
brothers Juan Delgado Jr., 32, and Juan Delgado III, 20; and Ruben Rolando
Police recovered nearly a dozen weapons from the shooting. Ballistic
experts determined the most of the bullets found at the scene came from an
AK-47 and an SKS assault rifle.
During testimony, jurors heard a tape of a statement Ramirez gave police
the day he was arrested.
"It was a horrible crime," Prosecutor Joseph Orendain said. "In a violent
nature they were put down. You listen to him talk about it. It's amazing
how calm he is, not scared, shaking, crying, he doesn't ask for a lawyer."
Defense attorney Alma Garza said police made up their minds based on
Gutierrez's account and overlooked evidence against her client. She said
police allegations that Ramirez belonged to the Rio Grande Valley gang the
Tri-City Bombers were based on hearsay.
Some witnesses testified that a disagreement over marijuana led to the
(source: Associated Press)
The murders he can't remember----Relatives' deaths are recounted as man
Floyd Thompson remembered the cursed paperwork from family court that
would give his wife the Ford truck and camper, his only way back home to
West Virginia to escape after their bitter breakup.
He remembered visiting his daughter's house Sept. 2 to talk to his wife,
Betty, about the divorce settlement. He recalled leaving with the wrong
set of keys, which left him locked out of his own home in a woodsy RV park
There, he sat on his pine-shaded patio and tried to figure out what just
This much he knew: Betty refused to come home. He was dripping with sweat.
His daughter and son-in-law's house - the one he just left - was on fire.
And he was clutching an empty pistol.
Then there is the part he claims not to remember - 4 people were killed
that day: Thompson's wife, daughter, son-in-law and grandson. All four
were shot and their bodies burned in the house fire.
On Wednesday, in a Polk County district courtroom, Thompson, 76, pleaded
guilty to four counts of capital murder. In the same courtroom, family
members from East Texas, Houston and Missouri retold stories of the love
the deceased shared and vented their anger at the man who took their
"Living in a hole as you did," said Gail Shannon, mother, mother-in-law,
grandmother and friend of those killed, "and forcing Betty to live as she
did - shutting the drapes, sitting in the dark, watching Law & Order day
in and day out. That is the way you forced Betty to exist. You are
possibly the biggest fool I have ever known."
Family members reconstructed their loved ones' final moments from official
On the day of the murders, Betty Thompson opened the door for her
estranged husband. After a quick exchange, she walked away from him,
perhaps knowing he was aiming a loaded gun at her. He shot her in the back
and left her to die on the kitchen floor.
The Thompsons' daughter, her husband and their son retreated to a rear
bedroom, where Floyd found and shot them all, reloading the .38-caliber
handgun at some point. Gasoline was poured over the bodies and the house
The job done, he closed the door behind him and went home. He later drove
to the police station, where he reported the fire, but not the murders.
In court, a sister cried, an uncle wept. Even the defense attorney let
Thompson, awaiting sentencing, said in court he would like to be executed.
With the claim that he does not recall the murders and the psychiatric
evaluation finding that he acted in a moment of passion, defense attorney
Karen Zellars said she could have tried to have the charges reduced to
"But Floyd said he didn't want that," Zellars said. "He said, 'I don't
remember what I've done. But they're all gone. I want them to go ahead and
give me the needle.'"
(source: Houston Chronicle
Local legislators debate death penalty
Mourn for the victims, not their killer.
That was the message Governor Jodi Rell (R) delivered last week as she
announced her decision not to grant a reprieve to convicted rapist and
murderer Michael Ross.
The decision clears the way for Connecticut's 1st execution in 44 years.
Shelton's legislative delegation had the same reaction. State Reps.
Richard Belden (R-113) and Larry Miller (R-122) applauded the governor's
decision, as did state Sen. George Gunther (R-21).
All 3 of Shelton's legislators support the death penalty with some
"She is 100 % right in everything she said in the statement," Gunther
said, declaring that Ross is the poster boy for the death penalty.
However, Belden said the death penalty has always been a tough issue for
"It's one of the most difficult votes legislators have to do here," Belden
said, noting that he was part of the General Assembly when the death
penalty was reinstated. "It was one of the most difficult votes I have
ever had to make in the general assembly."
Miller, a long-time capitol punishment supporter, believes that the death
penalty is warranted in this case.
"He's an animal," Miller said of Ross. "To commute his sentence would've
been wrong. This guy should get the death penalty."
"This man is a prime example of why we should have the death penalty,"
Gunther said. "I'd like to be on hand to wave him goodbye."
In her announcement, Rell said she had sworn an oath to uphold state law,
and that she intended to do so, regardless of her personal beliefs.
"To uphold the law of Connecticut is to uphold the death penalty," Rell
In her statement, Rell provided an option for death penalty opponents by
throwing the issue back to the state Legislature.
"If the Legislature wishes to change the law, they will have three weeks
from the time they convene until the scheduled execution time to do so,"
The next legislative session begins Jan. 5. With Ross' execution set for
Jan. 26, lawmakers would have to move quickly to change the law. If the
Legislature does overturn the death penalty law, it would need an
overwhelming majority. Rell has threatened to veto any repeal.
Democratic State Rep. Bill Finch of Bridgeport sad he would be one of the
voices urging a change in the law.
"I'm sure there will be some sort of effort in the next session," he said.
"I have already signed on to legislation to change the law in the past."
He noted, however, that an announcement made two weeks ago by House
Speaker James Amann, a Milford Democrat, supporting Ross' execution, would
make legislative action less likely.
Democrats hold a veto-proof majority in the state Senate and are one vote
short in the state House of Representatives. Amann's statement appears to
close the door on any chance of last-minute legislative action.
"I know he is a proponent, but he will allow a full debate on the issue,"
Belden believes that there may be changes to the death penalty, but he
doesn't see it being repealed.
"I don't believe that it will happen in the next two years," he said. " I
don't believe there is significant support to change the law."
Belden said that there had been some changes made over the years that
further defined who the death penalty applied to. He said that these
changes made it less likely that an innocent person would be put to death.
One of the changes to the death penalty was the addition that if an inmate
killed a correction officer, the inmate would face the death penalty.
Belden believes that this is a good deterrent against more correction
guards being killed.
"There's not too much keeping a prisoner from killing a guard," Belden
said. "One of those deterrents is the death penalty."
He was unsure, however how much of a deterrent the death penalty is
outside of those circumstances.
Miller also was unsure of the deterrent affect of the death penalty but
maintained that some people deserved it.
"There's people out there that are just animals and have no consideration
for other people's lives," Miller said. "Too often we coddle these people.
They get all of the attention, all of the sympathy. These guys are
Ross, 45, received 6 death sentences and two life sentences in 1987. In
1994, the state Supreme Court ordered a new hearing, ruling that
prosecutors had withheld a letter from a psychiatrist that could have
helped the defense. Ross has been attempting to waive his appeals process
and become the 1st inmate executed since 1960.
The convictions included the rape and murder of 4 teenage girls in
Connecticut in 1982 and 1983. He also admitted killing 2 others in New
York in 1982, while a student at Cornell University. Prosecutors suspect
he killed at least 2 other women, but he has never faced charges on these
At his trial, Ross never denied his guilt, instead claiming a sexual
sadism dysfunction that that drove him to commit those crimes.
(source: Huntington Herald)
Former classmate now residing on death row
Convicted serial killer Michael Ross is counting down his final days, now
that Gov. Jodi Rell has declined to grant him a reprieve on his death
Ross was convicted and sentenced to death in 1987 for the kidnapping, rape
and murder of 4 women. While in jail, he has admitted to killing a total
of 8 women in Connecticut and New York.
Ross's death sentence was overturned due to an appeal, but a second death
sentence was given in 2000. Ross has waived the remainder of his appeals,
so now it looks like, come Jan. 26, Ross will be the 1st person executed
in Connecticut in more than 40 years.
Currently eight people are biding their time on death row, watching the
days slip by until they face their punishment. The 8th and most recent
convict sentenced to death row is former Torrington resident Eduardo
Santiago. He was sentenced to death in September for killing a West
Perhaps one of the few things that make Santiago's case different from the
other 7 inmates on death row - for me, at least - is that I knew him. I
wouldn't say we were friends, but we were acquaintances who went to the
same high school in Winsted.
Gilbert High School is a small school with a student population that was
less than 400 during my time there at the end of the 1990s. My graduating
class, which included Santiago, only comprised about 60 people. In a
school that small, everyone knows everyone and their business, regardless
of whether they're friendly with one another.
I got to know Santiago a little, because we had mutual friends and
occasionally hung out in the same part of school, waiting for classes to
begin in the morning. Though we never actually hung out together, I had no
inkling that he would be found guilty of murder barely 6 years after we
On Dec. 13, 2000, Santiago and his friend Matthew Tyrell broke into Joseph
Niwinski's apartment. Mark Pascual hired Santiago to kill Niwinski because
Pascual wanted to date Niwinski's girlfriend. Pascual reportedly offered
Santiago a broken-down snowmobile as payment. Santiago accepted and then
enlisted Tyrell's help.
The 2 entered the house, one carrying a baseball bat and the other a
rifle. There was debate about who carried what and who actually shot
Niwinski in the head.
Ultimately a jury found Santiago guilty of pulling the trigger. Santiago
was said to have fashioned a homemade silencer out of a soda bottle and
rags and to have carved the victim's name onto the bullet casings.
The jury also found Tyrell guilty of murder, but since it determined that
Santiago pulled the trigger, Tyrell's sentence was life in prison without
Pascual agreed to testify against Santiago if the state didn't seek the
death penalty against him. He is currently awaiting sentencing.
I don't remember if this case was the talk of the town when Santiago was
found guilty, but I do remember talking to some friends about it - friends
who were just as shocked about it as I was.
Equally shocking were some of the allegations that came out as the jury
was deliberating over Santiago's sentence. His defense attorney had tried
to assert that he was high on drugs and mentally unstable at the time of
the killing. While I could understand that he could have been high at the
time of the murder, he never came off as being mentally unstable when we
were in school together.
Who knows if Santiago will indeed be put to death by lethal injection - he
has a lengthy appeals process before him, and state legislators plan to
take up the death penalty issue when they return to Hartford in January.
They just may eliminate it before Santiago comes up for execution.
Either way, the rest of our graduating class is bound to be discussing our
brush with infamy at future high school reunions.
(source: Editorial, Ed Harris, Huntington Herald)
2 Florida death row inmates win appeals; one killed a Fort Lauderdale
2 death row inmates won appeals Thursday in the Florida Supreme Court,
including a North Carolina man who gunned down a 27-year-old police
officer in Fort Lauderdale.
Jeffrey Weaver was sentenced to death by Broward County Judge Mark Speiser
in August 1999 even thought the jury recommended that Weaver be sentenced
to life in prison.
The unsigned ruling upheld Weaver's conviction but vacated his death
sentence and ordered that he be sentenced to life in prison.
In the 2nd capital case, the court reversed both the conviction and the
death sentence given to Michael Mordenti for the 1989 murder of Thelma
Royston in Hillsborough County.
Weaver, from Salisbury, N.C., was convicted of fatally shooting Officer
Bryant Peney during a chase in January 1996.
Weaver denied that he had ever aimed at Peney, insisting he fired a shot
to try to frighten the officer so he would stop chasing him across South
Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale.
The high court said the trial judge erred in overriding the jury, which
recommended life in prison by a vote of 8 to 4.
Under Florida law, a judge cannot condemn a killer after a jury has
recommended life in prison unless evidence is "clear and convincing that
virtually no reasonable person could differ."
That standard, which has been in place for nearly 30 years, was not met in
the Weaver sentencing, Florida's high court concluded.
"Here, the jury heard testimony from Weaver's family about his caring
behavior toward them and how, even from prison, they believe that he could
serve a purpose in their lives," the court wrote.
"The jury also heard testimony about Weaver's work habits and the fact
that this was essentially his 1st violent offense, though not necessarily
his 1st encounter with the legal system."
Weaver's criminal record had 5 misdemeanor offenses between 1979 and 1982.
The unsigned opinion was unanimous with the exception of Justice Harry Lee
Anstead, who concurred in the result only as to upholding Weaver's
In the 2nd capital ruling, the court said the failure of prosecutors to
give Mordenti's attorney evidence that might have helped him undermined
its confidence in the trial. Mordenti was convicted primarily through the
testimony of his ex-wife, who was given immunity.
The entire case against Mordenti "rose and fell" on that testimony, the
court wrote. Yet Mordenti's attorney wasn't told about a datebook that
contradicted her testimony or about information about her relationship
with the husband of the murder victim.
"There was no money trail, no eyewitnesses, no confession, no murder
weapon, no blood, no footprints and no DNA evidence linking Mordenti to
the murder," Thursday's unsigned opinion reads.
The opinion was unanimous with the exception of Justice Charles Wells, who
concurred in the result only.
(source: Associated Press)
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