[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----KAN., CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Dec 17 16:34:13 CST 2004
Kansas death penalty ruled unconstitutional----State's high court throws
out law in decision affecting 6 inmates
6 inmates will be resentenced and avoid execution after the Kansas Supreme
Court ruled Friday that the state's death penalty law is unconstitutional.
In its 4-3 opinion, the state high court said the 1994 law is flawed
because of a provision about how jurors should weigh death penalty
arguments during sentencing.
The Kansas law states that when juries find arguments for and against
execution equal, their decision should favor a death sentence.
But a majority of the justices said such a requirement violates the Eighth
and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution, according to court
The Eighth Amendment addresses "cruel and unusual punishment." The 14th
Amendment addresses guaranteed rights, due process and equal protection
for U.S. citizens.
The Kansas statute's "express language was clearly intended to mandate the
imposition of a death sentence when the existence of aggravating
circumstances was not outweighed by any mitigating circumstances," the
The Kansas court said it would be up to the Legislature to write a law
that is constitutional.
Kansas Supreme Court spokesman Ron Keefover said the six death row inmates
affected by Friday's ruling will be resentenced, including one case in
which an appeal has not yet been filed.
"These cases will be immediately remanded for resentencing without the
death penalty," Keefover said.
The ruling came in an appeal brought on behalf of Michael L. Marsh II, who
was convicted of capital murder and arson in the June 1996 deaths of Marry
Ane Pusch and her daughter.
Marry Ane and her 19-month-old daughter, Marry Elizabeth, were murdered in
their Wichita home. Marry Ane was shot and stabbed, and the child left to
burn to death in a fire.
In addition to addressing the death penalty issue, the justices
unanimously ordered a new trial for Marsh on the capital murder conviction
in the girl's death and aggravated arson charge, saying the trial judge
prejudiced the defense by not admitting evidence that Pusch's husband may
have been involved in the slayings.
Marsh remains convicted of aggravated burglary and premeditated 1st-degree
murder in Pusch's death. The court affirmed his sentence on those charges
of 42 years in prison without the option of parole.
Ruling could invalidate death sentences of Robinson, 6 others
The Kansas Supreme Court ruled 4-3 today that the state's 10-year-old
death penalty law is unconstitutional.
The decision in the Sedgwick County case of Michael L. Marsh II could also
invalidate the death sentences of 6 other men, including convicted Johnson
County serial killer John E. Robinson Sr.
And it could prevent prosecutors from seeking death sentences in pending
capital murder cases such as the one recently filed against Benjamin
Appleby, who is charged in the death of Leawood teenager Ali Kemp.
The decision authored by Justice Donald Allegrucci makes it clear that the
technical flaw in the law cited by the majority is an issue that must be
addressed by the Kansas Legislature, which could re-write it "to pass
The offending section of the law according to the majority has to do with
the method jurors are instructed to decide if a death sentence or life in
prison is imposed.
The Kansas law as written requires jurors to vote for death if the
"aggravating factors" offered by prosecutors and the "mitigating factors"
offered by the defense balance each other out, the justices said.
In essence the fact that a tie goes to the state renders the law
unconstitutional, the court said.
The three dissenting justices disagreed, and argued that the U.S. Supreme
Court has already "implicitly approved" the Kansas law by upholding an
Arizona law that is "functionally identical" to the one in Kansas.
Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston said she will ask the U.S.
Supreme Court to review today's decision.
(source: Kansas City Star)
CALIFORNIA----new death sentence
Helzer Sentenced To Death
A 9-man 3-woman jury in Contra Costa County today recommended that
confessed murderer Glenn Taylor Helzer receive 5 death penalties for the 5
murders he committed during the summer of 2000.
This is 3rd death penalty recommendation in the Bay Area this week
following Monday's death sentence for double murderer Scott Peterson in
San Mateo County and Tuesday's finding for triple murderer Stuart
Alexander in Alameda County.
Helzer, 34, admitted in early March to killing 22-year-old Selina Bishop,
the daughter of blues guitarist Elvin Bishop; Bishop's mother Jennifer
Villarin, 45, of Novato; Villarin's friend, James Gamble, 54; and elderly
Concord couple Ivan and Annette Stineman.
The murders were part of a bizarre extortion scheme Helzer devised as a
way to raise money for a self-awareness group he hoped would spread peace,
love and joy and quicken Christ's return to earth.
Helzer had been the Stinemans' stockbroker.
According to witness statements made in court, Helzer had been dating
Bishop with the sole intention of convincing her to open a bank account so
he would have someplace to hide the money he extorted from the Stinemans.
Since the beginning of their relationship, Helzer planned to kill Bishop,
who knew nothing about the murder-extortion plan, according to statements
made in court.
In August 2000, dive teams found the dismembered remains of the Stinemans
and Bishop inside several gym bags floating in the Sacramento Delta.
Villarin and Gamble were found shot to death inside Bishop's Woodacre
Bishop's mother was shot and killed because she had seen Helzer's face.
Gamble was killed because he happened to be with Villarin the night Helzer
shot her, according to court testimony.
Helzer had two accomplices -- his brother Justin Helzer and former
roommate, Dawn Godman. The two went along with Glenn's scheme because they
believed he was a prophet of God, according to Godman's testimony.
A Contra Costa County Superior Court jury convicted Justin, 32, in June
and recommended he be sentenced to death. He is scheduled to be formally
sentenced on Feb. 4.
Godman pleaded guilty to the murders and agreed to testify against the
brothers in exchange for immunity from the death penalty. She was
sentenced in 2003 to 37 years and 7 months in prison.
Glenn Helzer pleaded guilty to all 18 charges filed against him.
His trial, which began Nov. 8, was held in Contra Costa County Superior
Court in Martinez.
(source: CBS News)
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