[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, MISS., CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Jul 14 00:26:10 CDT 2004
Man ruled incompetent to stand trial in asphyxiation of 6-year-old in oven
Attorney says defendant doesn't comprehend crime
In Beaumont, a judge ruled Monday that a man accused of killing a
6-year-old boy whose body was found in an oven is not competent to stand
During a 15-minute hearing, two reports from doctors were presented that
concluded Kenneth Lee Pierott, 27, is not competent to be tried, said Tom
Burbank, one of his defense attorneys.
Burbank said prosecutors offered no evidence to dispute the medical
reports. At the end of the hearing, state District Judge Layne Walker
agreed with the defense's medical assessment of Pierott and ordered he
receive treatment at North Texas State Hospital's site in Vernon.
Pierott has been charged with the murder of Tre-Devin Odoms. According to
a police affidavit, Pierott placed the boy in an oven and left him there
all night on April 15. Pierott had been dating the boy's mother.
Police say the pilot light wasn't lit so the oven did not heat. An autopsy
report indicated the boy died from asphyxia due to smothering.
In 1998, Pierott was found innocent by reason of insanity in the fatal
beating of his sister.
"We anticipated it," Burbank said of Walker's decision. "The basis of it
in our opinion is that he doesn't realize what he has done. Though he
sometimes is cognizant of who a lawyer is, who a judge is, the process,
when you get down to the facts of the case, he doesn't realize or
comprehend what he has done or appreciate the allegations and in that case
he cannot fully assist us in providing a defense at this time."
Pierott's trial, which had been set for Sept. 13, has now been
Burbank said he expects his client to receive psychiatric treatment for at
least the next 180 days. After that, he will be brought back before the
court and re-evaluated.
(source: Associated Press)
Court reverses order on some Mississippi death row improvements
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has lifted some requirements it
imposed last month for Mississippi to improve conditions on death row at
the state penitentiary at Parchman.
The court also let stand some required improvements only on death row. It
said those improvements - such as screens for windows and cold water on
hot days - don't apply in other parts of Parchman's maximum-security unit.
Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps and prisoners' rights attorney
Ron Welch could not immediately be reached Tuesday.
In the order handed down Friday, the appeals court lifted a requirement
that the Mississippi Department of Corrections return inmates' laundry
clean and without a foul smell.
The order said death-row inmates could wash their laundry with bar soap if
they're not happy with the smell and "there was no proof of any serious
medical harm to any inmate" from laundry that's not fresh.
The court also lifted an order that required the department to let inmates
wear sneakers instead of flip-flop sandals while exercising. MDOC called
the requirement "inadmissible micromanagement."
Prison officials say flip-flops make it harder for inmates to escape. The
appeals court wrote that "there is no support for the proposition that
exercising in flip-flops constitutes cruel and unusual punishment."
Another requirement the appeals court lifted said MDOC had to have a
written maintenance schedule and program.
The Appeals Court let stand a requirement that the corrections agency
improve mental health care for inmates.
Among the improvements still required for death row but not for other
parts of the maximum-security unit was one that "pingpong" toilets be
fixed. When a toilet is flushed in one cell, the waste appears in the
toilet of the adjoining cell unless both are flushed at the same time.
A 3-judge Appeals Court panel on June 28 rejected arguments from MDOC that
U.S. Magistrate Jerry Davis should not have considered a lawsuit by death
row inmate Willie Russell that led to the court's intervention.
The department had appealed Davis' order to the 5th Circuit. It had argued
that no inmate had suffered an illness or physical harm because of
conditions cited in the lawsuit.
The 5th Circuit, referring to state Health Department reports, said there
was concern because unsanitary conditions had been repeatedly reported to
prison officials and lingering problems were not being corrected.
The American Civil Liberties Union's National Prisons Project had sued
over conditions on death row. Davis ordered the improvements not only to
death row but also the entire building where death row is located, called
Unit 32. Appeals Court Judge James L. Dennis said because Russell and
other inmates were housed in death row, called Unit 32-C, the court would
not allow Davis' order to be placed on the other area of the prison.
The ACLU lawsuit, which represented only one side of a legal argument,
said inmates were subjected daily to excessive heat, human excrement,
biting insects and the ranting of psychotic prisoners.
The lawsuit said conditions at Parchman are so harsh they contribute to a
high rate of mental illness among the prisoners.
MDOC said it was hiring a health care provider and was headed toward
compliance with Davis' order. Dennis, writing for the 5th Circuit, said
the inmates showed that mental health care was inadequate.
(source: Associated Press)
Technician testifies he found no bruises on Scott Peterson
An evidence technician who examined Scott Peterson's body for scratches or
bruises days after his pregnant wife vanished testified Tuesday he found
Doug Lovell of the Modesto Police Department testified as prosecutors
shifted the focus of their case to evidence collected during searches of
San Francisco Bay and at the Modesto home of Peterson and his missing
Lovell said he was looking or any evidence Peterson had been involved in a
struggle, as police became increasingly suspicious he was responsible for
his wife's disappearance.
"Did you notice any scratches or marks or anything on his body?" defense
lawyer Mark Geragos asked during his cross-examination.
"No, I didn't," Lovell replied.
The examination was done more than a week after Laci Peterson was reported
missing on Christmas Eve 2002.
Prosecutors are still making their case that Peterson killed his wife in
their home on or around Dec. 24, 2002, trucked the body to San Francisco
Bay in a large tool box and plunged it overboard from a small boat.
Defense lawyers maintain someone else abducted Laci Peterson while she
walked their dog and held her captive before dumping her body to frame her
husband. Peterson, 31, could face the death penalty if convicted.
Two weeks ago, prosecutors' focus was on Peterson's affair with massage
therapist Amber Frey his alleged motive, they say, for killing his wife
and the couple's fetus.
Last week, testimony centered on witnesses who described where the bodies
were discovered and their decomposed state, and prosecutors showed jurors
photographs of the corpses and of tissue and bone.
On Monday, police officers testified about the extensive search for Laci
Peterson's remains in the bay and of numerous items collected as evidence.
Modesto police Detective Ray Coyle testified that he examined the home for
"blood spatter and blood drops" on Dec. 26 and Dec. 27, 2002.
Coyle said he found small spots that appeared to be blood on a comforter
on the couple's bed, but did not elaborate.
Detective Rudy Skultety said officers also seized 2 hair brushes, shotgun
shells, a camera, a vacuum cleaner and samples of Scott Peterson's hair.
Skultety testified that the FBI tested the house with Luminol, a chemical
that can detect unseen traces of blood and body fluids. But on
cross-examination he acknowledged that brown stains found in the kitchen
and on a water heater tested negative for blood.
Coyle also testified he tracked down 285 of the 309 registered sex
offenders and parolees living in the area, but said nothing led him to
believe any of them were involved in Laci Peterson's disappearance.
Laci Peterson's torso and the body of the fetus washed ashore in April
2003, just 2 miles from where her husband claimed to have been fishing on
the bay the day she was reported missing.
(source: Associated Press)
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