[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Dec 19 12:13:47 CST 2004
Killer facing death sentence
While lawyers took turns arguing over his sentence, the alleged
20-year-old member of the Tri-City Bombers hunched over his legal pad with
a pen, doodling a large heart on the right hand side of the page and the
word "death" in block capitol letters on the left.
3 hours later Juan Raul Navarro Ramirez would find out his fate lay on the
The jury returned a unanimous verdict shortly before 7 p.m. on Saturday,
sentencing Ramirez to death after finding him guilty on 2 counts of
capital murder earlier last week. Ramirez is the 1st of 10 TCB gang
members scheduled to stand trial for the 2003 murders of 6 Edinburg men.
The victims families were present in the courtroom when the decision was
read; some wept openly.
Police allege that on the night of Jan. 5, 2003, Ramirez and 10 other gang
members raided 2 homes on Monte Cristo Road, where several alleged members
of a rival prison gang, the Texas Chicano Brotherhood, were said to live.
Police theorized the TCB gang went in looking for marijuana and killed the
6 men when they didnt find any. There was 1 survivor who was left in the
house tied up, the mother of 2 of the men killed.
(source: The Monitor)
Government accused of bias in human smuggling case---Judge wants to know
why a black was singled out for death penalty
A federal judge on Friday threatened a prosecutor with contempt over the
Justice Department's decision to seek the death penalty against the truck
driver in a deadly immigrant smuggling case, a decision the driver's
lawyer contends was racially motivated.
The allegation is in a document filed by attorneys for Tyrone Williams,
33, of Schenectady, N.Y., accused in the deaths last year of 19
undocumented immigrants who were sealed in a trailer pulled by Williams en
route to Houston.
The document asked U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore to find the U.S.
Attorney's office in Houston in contempt for failing to produce
information showing why the Justice Department decided to seek the death
penalty for Williams and not 11 others indicted in the incident who were
eligible for the death penalty.
Williams' attorneys say prosecutors have repeatedly failed to heed her
order and ask that the judge bar prosecutors from seeking the death
Williams' attorney, Craig Washington, wrote in his contempt request, "To
this date, the purported responses to the discovery order have been
meaningless and not at all directed to the request for production or the
court's order for production."
On Friday, Gilmore threatened to hold one of the prosecutors in contempt
if he failed to get a letter from U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft by
the end of the day stating his refusal to explain why the only death
penalty ever sought in an immigrant smuggling case is against a black man.
Gilmore made the threat after Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Roberts told
her the Justice Department was refusing some information on how it
determined it would seek the death penalty against Williams.
Roberts told the judge it was doubtful that he could obtain the letter.
The U.S. Attorney's office responded with a request that Gilmore
reconsider her order to release the information. Gilmore denied the
request, but had not issued an order holding Roberts in contempt by the
time she left her office for the day.
Roberts told Gilmore that providing all the information on the
death-penalty decision-making process violated the constitutional
prerogatives of the executive branch.
Gilmore said, "They are taking the position that they can indict whoever
they want to and charge the death penalty and not disclose the reason."
Roberts said the government had not sought the death penalty for the other
black person in the case, Fatima Holloway of Cleveland, Ohio, who
accompanied Williams on the deadly journey. He insisted that he had done
his best to comply with the judge's orders in earlier filings with the
court and that some of the information was restricted and could not be
Attorneys at the hearing could not comment because they are under a gag
order imposed by Gilmore. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Herrera,
spokeswoman for the office, said she could not elaborate on what was said
in court. The Justice Department's Washington office did not respond to a
request for comment.
The contempt request by Williams' attorneys says the government is seeking
the death penalty because of his race.
"The defendant reiterates his allegation that race was the factor in
determining that the death penalty should be sought in this case and
therefore he was entitled to discovery of the information relating to the
government's capital-charging practices," the document filed with the
Washington provided a signed affidavit from Kevin McNally, resource
counsel for the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project.
McNally says in the affidavit Williams is the only person that the U.S.
Justice Department has decided to seek the death penalty against out of 68
defendants charged in federal court with immigrant smuggling resulting in
Of that number, the government decided not to seek the death penalty in 52
cases; it is in the process of deciding whether to seek the death penalty
in 11 cases and 2 are fugitives.
61 were Hispanic, 3 white, 2 black and 2 of unknown ethnicity.
Ashcroft has said that there is "no evidence of racial bias" in federal
death penalty cases, although a study in New York found that all cases in
which Ashcroft ordered prosecutors to seek the death penalty involved
blacks or Hispanics.
A survey in the final year of the Clinton administration found 80 % facing
federal death penalty charges nationwide were black and Hispanic.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
UNDER SUSPICION----From local star to muder suspect
David Mark Temple, a former Katy high school football player and coach at
Alief High School, was charged with murder in the death of his wife,
Belinda Tracie Temple.
Until recently, the Katy High School Class of 1987's claim to fame was
graduating with Rene Zellweger, who later skyrocketed from small-town
cheerleader to Oscar-winning movie star.
But the arrest of one of its favored sons - a handsome football hero
charged last month in the death of his pregnant wife - has brought new
notoriety to a graduation class already used to the spotlight.
David Mark Temple had a storybook marriage, or so it seemed in this
clean-cut town 28 miles west of Houston. Known as the "Temple of Doom" on
the football field, he was the star player voted "Most Athletic" his
senior year, a burly warrior who went on to play on a conference
championship-winning team in college and returned home with a lovely young
bride and a promising career in coaching.
His wife, Belinda Tracie Temple, 30, nicknamed the "Sunshine Girl" by her
co-workers, was a buoyant, upbeat Katy High School teacher with a quick
smile who nurtured her special-education students. The couple made their
home in a 2-story, red-brick house with 3 bedrooms and a pond in back.
They were the parents of a 3-year-old son.
All that changed on Jan. 11, 1999, when the Sunshine Girl, eight months
pregnant, was found dead in an upstairs closet at the home, shot in the
back of the head with a shotgun.
The blast shattered her entire cranial cavity and exited on the right side
of her face, creating a 5-inch hole, an autopsy report shows. The unborn
baby girl she was carrying - well developed and weighing 6 pounds - also
Her husband, an Alief high school football coach, was taken in for
questioning that night.
It was a long way from the university football field where he had proposed
marriage to his wife.
For nearly 6 years, there were suspicions, investigations and pleas for
justice. Last month, David Temple, 36, was charged with murder - even
though previous grand juries declined to hand up an indictment.
He is now suspended with pay from his coaching job at Hastings Ninth Grade
Center in southwest Houston, though the Alief Independent School District
board could take further action against him if he is formally indicted.
News of his arrest stunned the community of Katy. But some were less
surprised, saying Temple had a short fuse at times, especially in sports.
And then there was the affair Temple was having with a co-worker in the
days before his wife's violent death, detailed in an affidavit used to
secure the arrest.
That co-worker was Hastings Ninth Grade teacher Heather Scott, now Heather
Temple, his wife.
Attorney Dick DeGuerin, who represents David Temple, denies there was any
full-blown, ongoing affair. He says his client was "deeply in love" with
his slain wife and was devastated by her violent death.
The case has long simmered in Katy's consciousness, and the football
hero's public fall from grace has brought the crime back to the forefront.
Many will not comment publicly or allow their names to be published,
citing fears of harassment or retaliation.
And even though some friends say David Temple's 1st marriage was
significantly strained in the months before the fatal shooting, people
still wonder how a union that appeared so idyllic could have ended so
The good years
While any classmate's arrest on murder charges would be a shock, Temple's
troubles have been especially surprising for those who remember the
adulation he received in high school and college.
The muscular 5-foot-11, 225-pound young man is prominently featured
throughout Katy High School's 1987 yearbook, which marked his senior year.
The varsity football team earned the district title after an undefeated
season. Temple was pictured receiving a plaque as an outstanding member of
the "Fighting Tigers" and was shown signing a 4-year football scholarship
with his parents beaming in the background.
Temple is remembered as an unofficial leader of a clique of jocks known
throughout the school as "The Rebels." Their counterparts were a group of
female students nicknamed "The Rebel Women."
"He was probably the perennial athlete of our class," said Katy classmate
Darrell Bacak. "He was, like, Mr. Jock. I knew he was a very intense guy,
Another Katy classmate, who asked that her name not be published, had less
"I remember he was just a little s--t. He really was," she said. "The
group he ran with, they thought they were high and mighty."
One event that senior year was not captured in the yearbook: the February
1987 arrest of Temple and a varsity football teammate on a charge of
burglary of a motor vehicle. Katy police reports show the pair admitted to
being involved in numerous car break-ins over the previous 7 months. Their
statements helped police clear 7 cases.
One of the other football players named in the police reports said he
traded some of the stolen items for steroids. But Temple told police only
that radar detectors stolen in the break-ins were sold.
Court papers show Temple gave a written, voluntary statement admitting to
one car burglary. He pleaded guilty to a reduced Class A misdemeanor
charge of attempted burglary of a vehicle, was sentenced to 3 days in the
Harris County Jail and was ordered to pay a $100 fine.
Temple went on to greater glories as an honorable mention All-American
middle linebacker at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches,
where his picture was plastered around town and he was featured in a few
TV commercials. A 1989 Chronicle article detailed his aggressiveness on
In the article, Temple said, "I've got a temper, a pretty short fuse. But
you have to have that aggressiveness to play in the middle."
The career high came when the SFA Lumberjacks won the 1989 Southland
Conference title and went on to the national finals. They lost, but Temple
took home a gold conference championship ring.
Temple met fellow kinesiology major Belinda Lucas at the university.
Belinda was a hometown girl, having grown up in Nacogdoches with her twin
sister, Brenda. Friends described her as self-assured, outgoing and sassy.
She was supporting herself, working 2 different jobs while studying full
time. She was inspired to pursue a career in special education because of
her older brother's deafness.
She was well into her college career by the time she met Temple.
"I didn't care for him - he wasn't my type," said Belinda's former
roommate, Staci Rios of Houston. "He was cocky and arrogant." But with
Belinda, Rios added, "he just wasn't that way with her at all. He was very
kind and sweet."
A former roommate and teammate could recall only one incident in which
Temple came to blows off the field, when a fight broke out during an
intramural coed basketball game.
Reno Moore, of Whitehouse, said he did not see the fracas but that Temple
later told him another man would not stop using foul language in front of
"This was in Belinda's defense," Moore said. " ... David kept telling the
guy to shut his mouth. A brawl broke out, and (David) broke the guy's
A university report on that 1991 incident makes no mention of defending a
woman's honor. Rather, the victim told university police Temple cursed
him, then hit him in the face when a violation was called during the game,
the report shows. Temple claimed he and the other man exchanged
profanities after the foul was called and admitted he "slapped" the other
man. He agreed to make restitution for medical expenses, and no charges
were filed, the report shows.
Temple approached Belinda's father to formally ask for her hand before
proposing to her at the university's football field. The couple married at
a Nacogdoches church in January 1992. Temple's father officiated.
"It was truly one of those weddings that you never forget. ... I think
everybody was crying in the audience," said friend Kimberly Bradshaw, of
Missouri City. "Even my parents have always said that is the best wedding
they've ever been at, and they are just so shocked now."
After the couple graduated, they settled in Livingston, where both coached
and taught school.
They soon relocated to Katy, and their son, Evan, was born in April 1995.
They eventually bought a house at 22502 Round Valley, off South Mason
"I always thought Belinda was such a strong person," Bradshaw said. "I
don't really feel like she would put up with being made unhappy. I just
don't see Belinda being a passive, badly treated person."
David Temple took a coaching job in 1994 with Alief ISD. There, he became
known for his charm and for his temper during sports events.
2 people in the Hastings coaching circle said they had heard of a physical
fight that happened in the field house between Temple and another coach.
The other coach, who later quit for another job, declined to discuss the
incident with the Chronicle. No disciplinary action was taken against
Temple by Alief ISD.
DeGuerin said the fight was only a scuffle and that Temple and the other
coach remained friends. One cannot assume high emotions in competitive
sports translate into personal turmoil off the field, he said.
DeGuerin denies the Temples had any major problems, but friends suggested
Belinda Temple's marriage was in serious trouble during the last year of
They said she never complained of physical abuse or expressed any fear for
her safety but that she confided in friends that her husband seemed
distant and often was not home. David Temple wanted to get separate
checking accounts, they said. Belinda told one friend of a period during
the summer before she died when she and her husband did not speak for 7
"I think she felt like their problems weren't any different than anyone
else's - that they were going to get through it," said Belinda's close
friend, Stacy Nissley, a former Katy High School coach.
When Belinda became pregnant with the couple's second child, a girl, David
showed little interest and criticized her weight gain, she told friends.
"She just mentioned he didn't seem real thrilled," Nissley said. "It
wasn't like she surprised him and said, 'I'm pregnant.' It was planned.
They had talked about having a baby. ... It really upset her that he
wasn't taking more interest, and she wasn't sure why."
Belinda eventually painted the baby's nursery bright yellow and installed
shelves in the closet without her husband's help.
"She did it all herself - and this is, like, 7 months pregnant," Nissley
DeGuerin dismissed that observation as nitpicking, saying Temple was a
"devoted father" both before and after the slaying.
On New Year's weekend, just days before the couple's 7th wedding
anniversary, Temple told his wife he was going on an out-of-town hunting
trip. Co-worker Heather Scott later told authorities Temple actually spent
2 nights at her home that weekend and said they had become romantically
involved about 3 months earlier, the arrest affidavit shows.
Scott, a petite blonde with a charming smile, was hired by Alief ISD in
1997. A Texas A&M graduate with a twin sister herself, Scott was a high
school English teacher focusing on classics such as Romeo and Juliet. She
had sought to become a flight attendant before teaching school, according
to information on Alief ISD's Web site.
Belinda was upset by her husband's purported hunting trip. With her
husband away, she and her twin sister spent New Year's Eve with Nissley,
who was then living in Katy.
"It wasn't like he was an avid hunter and that was his life," Nissley
recalled. "It would have been different if he went all the time, but he
didn't. I don't think he even had all the gear himself. She just said, 'It
really bothers me. I can't believe he's going. What can I do?' She was
eight months pregnant and could have gone into labor anytime."
Scott later told detectives that she tried to break off the relationship
on Jan. 5, 1999, six days before the murder, and said Temple agreed. But
in a subsequent statement to authorities, she said Temple told her several
days later, "I think you know I have totally fallen in love with you," the
arrest affidavit shows. She recalled telling him she felt the same way.
Three days later - 1 week after her 7th wedding anniversary - Belinda was
shot to death.
DeGuerin claims the "fallen in love" comment was inaccurate. He says David
and Heather, by mutual agreement, broke off their brief romance before the
The couple didn't rekindle their relationship until more than a year after
the shooting, DeGuerin said.
The blood spatter on the walls of the closet where Belinda Temple's body
was found suggested she had been on her knees, facing away from the door
of the closet when she was shot, according to the arrest affidavit.
Temple's attorneys say it appeared she was hiding in the closet and trying
to call for help, since a portable phone was found near her body.
David reported her death when he returned from running errands with their
3-year-old son. He claimed he arrived home to find a partially open back
door with a broken window pane. He told detectives he found his pregnant
wife balled up on the floor of the closet upstairs.
He initially signed a "consent to search" authorizing detectives to look
through the home and two vehicles but later withdrew that consent.
DeGuerin said he cannot speculate on that about-face since Temple had
another attorney then, but he emphasized his client cooperated from the
beginning. Temple, he said, talked with the police freely and voluntarily
until his lawyer at the time became involved.
"He didn't have anything to hide," DeGuerin said. "He answered all their
questions. He cooperated with searches and so forth."
But detectives claimed the supposed burglary at the home appeared staged.
The shattered glass was strewn in a direction indicating the back door was
open when its window pane was broken, the affidavit says. The investigator
noted that burglars prefer to keep their hands free and seldom carry a
weapon, much less a shotgun.
Other things disturbed detectives. The first responding officers could not
get in the house because the Temples' dog, Shaka, was in the fenced back
yard, acting viciously. David had to put the dog in the garage before
officers could enter.
Inside the house, a large TV had been placed on the floor, but was still
plugged into the wall. Detectives found David's watch and gold SFA
conference championship football ring on a tray in the master bedroom.
Jewelry was still on Belinda's body. Though drawers were open in several
places throughout the house, the contents were not disturbed, and no items
of value were missing, the affidavit said.
DeGuerin said the broken glass from the back door could have been pushed
into the house when the door was opened. Evidence suggests an intruder was
surprised by Belinda's presence in the house and hastily left, he said.
The affidavit, DeGuerin pointed out, does not mention that a neighbor
reported seeing a car with at least two people inside speeding away from
the area after a gunshot was heard. Neighbors who saw that car later hired
their own attorney because they felt detectives were not pursuing the
information they provided, Temple's attorneys say.
The shotgun used to kill Belinda Temple was never found. Gunshot residue
was found not only on her clothes, but also on David's jacket in the
master bedroom, his shirt in the downstairs utility room and a tennis shoe
outside the back door, the arrest affidavit said.
DeGuerin claims there's a high probability those clothes could have been
He will seek independent testing of all evidence before the case goes to a
grand jury for review.
He said he hopes a grand jury, like others in the past, will decline to
Detectives have not revealed why an arrest was made so long after the
fact, saying only, "The totality of the evidence finally reached that
point." The affidavit contains no new bombshells.
David married Heather in June 2001, more than 2 years after the slaying,
and purchased a home in Richmond.
They have raised Temple's son, now 9 years old, but have no other
Heather, 35, is having a tough time coping with her husband's arrest, but
she knew the shadow of Belinda's unsolved killing was a risk when she
married David and plans to stand by him, her stepfather said.
"It's been something we've all had to deal with, because it became part of
our family when she married David," said Jeff Munson, 56, of Franklin.
"I don't know how else to say it, but she loved him enough to take this
The idea of his stepdaughter marrying someone under such a cloud was
initially "scary," Munson admitted, "but then after I got to know David, I
felt real comfortable with the whole thing. And then I had to give Heather
credit for what she saw in David."
David Temple's family declined to comment, referring all questions to
At his initial court appearance two weeks ago, the "Temple of Doom"
weighed about 275 - 50 pounds heavier than his glory days in college.
He bonded out of jail and ran to a waiting vehicle without comment to the
It was a long way from the Stephen F. Austin State University football
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Mad moms, insane law
At a time when I should be thinking about a particular Madonna and child,
I find myself preoccupied with Andrea Yates.
And three other Texas women since Yates who, like her, killed their babies
after a history of mental illness.
This is not a column of Christmas cheer, but it hopes to tap Christmas
Yates' lawyer and prosecutors argued before an appeals court last week
over whether her conviction and sentence of life in prison should stand.
Yates' lawyers presented 19 points of error in the trial. I don't envy the
justices having to wrestle with the Yates case.
But from my point of view, the trial itself was an error, an error caused
by the primitive state of Texas law.
4 similar cases
Consider these brief facts from the four recent cases:
- Andrea Yates killed her 5 children in 2001. She had been repeatedly
hospitalized for depression. A psychiatrist who saw her after her 4th
birth described her as one of the sickest people he had seen. She called
the police on herself, and said she killed the children after
conversations with Satan because it was the only way to guarantee heaven
for them and protect them from her inadequacies as a mother.
- Lisa Diaz of Plano killed her 2 children, 3 and 5, in 2003. She had
repeatedly sought medical help for terminal illnesses she did not have.
She said she killed her children, and then repeatedly stabbed herself in
an attempted suicide, to save them from evil spirits and terminal diseases
that she thought she had given them. A jury found her not guilty by reason
- Deanna Laney of Tyler killed 2 sons and maimed a 3rd in 2003, then
called 911. She said God told her to do it to test her faith. Even the
prosecution's expert psychiatrist said she was legally insane. A jury
found her not guilty.
Hymns in background
- Earlier this year, Dena Schlosser of Plano killed her 10-month-old son,
then called her husband to tell him what she had done. She belonged to a
fundamentalist sect. When police arrived, a hymn was playing in the
background and a Bible was open in her bedroom. She told a police officer
she "felt like I had to" kill the baby. The night before, she told her
husband she wanted to "give her child to God," according to police.
Schlosser had been investigated by Child Protective Services for
neglecting her baby. She was put on medication for depression, then weaned
off. After a relapse, she was reportedly put on medication again but
appears to have quit again. The court this week ordered her to be tested
to see if she is competent to stand trial. Her attorney, David Haynes,
said Friday his understanding is that the psychiatrist found she isn't. If
so, she will have to receive medication and therapy so she will be sane
enough to be tried.
These cases have several things in common.
They involve horrible homicides of small children. The women have
histories of psychiatric illnesses. The women made no attempt to escape
responsibility for their acts, none of the deception that denotes most
None was shown to have any motive for what they did other than those
arising from their deranged mental states.
For a mother to kill her babies so goes against nature that she should be
assumed to be doing it out of insanity unless there is evidence that she
had some other motive - maybe an insurance policy she intends to collect
on or a boyfriend who can't stand the children.
Yet under Texas law, prosecutors feel impelled to try to convince a jury
that the women, in their mental illnesses, knew what they were doing was
"wrong." And we don't even provide a definition of "wrong."
So Andrea Yates kills her children because she thinks it's the only way
they're going to heaven, but calls 911 because she knows it's illegal.
Texas law made this mad woman sane, then sent her to a prison mental ward.
This law is itself either crazy or barbaric.
My Christmas wish: Let's change it.
(source: Column, Rick Casey, Houston Chronicle)
Life-without-parole option needed
Since 1999, state Sen. Eddie Lucio has pushed his life-without-parole
bill, which would give Texas juries a 3rd sentencing option in capital
murder cases. It has failed every time. The bill nearly became law in
2001, when it passed the Senate but fell 8 votes short in the House.
Even so, past failures haven't dettered the Brownsville Democrat, who
filed the bill again for the upcoming session. Lucio continues to chip
away at the issue, and he should be lauded for his persistence and
dedication. There's no doubt it's important to the veteran senator because
he filed it on the 1st day of filing for the session, which begins Jan.
"Texas jurors should be offered every option when making one of the
most-important decisions of our judicial system," Lucio said. "This bill
is tough on crime because it would help ensure our state's goal that
violent criminals, who prove to be a future danger to society, are never
Even though he hasn't convinced enough lawmakers of the bill's merits,
Lucio certainly has the public on his side. In the most recent Texas Poll,
78 % of Texans favor changing the law to allow life in prison without
parole - a 6-point increase from February 2003. It's clear that Texans,
who are staunch death-penalty supporters for the most part, want to give
juries another option.
Lawmakers who have rejected this option aren't listening to the public.
The life-without-parole bill doesn't weaken the death penalty in Texas. It
simply gives juries another option and guarantees that dangerous criminals
will be behind bars forever. What's the danger of giving juries as many
options as possible?
Currently, persons convicted of capital murder can be sentenced to life in
prison or to death. But a person sentenced to life in prison may become
eligible for parole after serving 40 years. This presents a dilemma for
some juries, which don't believe the defendant should be sentenced to
death but also don't want them ever paroled.
"It is time for Texans to have this option while staying tough on crime,"
said Lucio, who supports the death penalty. "I trust our juries make, and
will continue to make fair and just decisions. This bill should in no way
alter the death penalty, but it will ensure safer streets and justice for
the victims of crime and their families."
Currently, 47 states offer juries a life-without-parole sentencing option,
including 35 of the 38 states that allow the death penalty.
One of Lucio's main challenges has been to rebut the argument by some
legislators and prosecutors that life-without-parole could result in more
violent prisoners because they have no hope for parole and no incentive to
behave in prison.
But a study conducted in Missouri disputes that assertion. The study
compared the violence rates of 323 life-without-parole inmates with 232
life-with-parole inmates during 15 years of imprisonment from 1977 to
1992. Nearly 80 % of both groups didn't have any reported incidents of
assaults. Of the 20 % who received disciplinary reports for assaults, 1/3
of those were classified as minor.
Also, when a capital murderer is sent to prison for life under the current
system, family members of victims are often haunted by the possibility
that their loved ones' killer may some day be released. That would no
longer be a concern if juries could send capital murderers to life in
prison without parole.
It's too early to know whether lawmakers will approve life without parole
this session. But it's certain that Lucio will spend countless hours
trying to persuade them, and the public can help by urging their
legislators to back his effort. Giving juries the option of life without
parole will strengthen Texas' judicial system.
(source: Abilene Reporter News -- Ty Meighan is chief of the Scripps
Howard Austin Bureau)
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