[Deathpenalty]death penalty news---TEXAS, VA., ALA., OKLA., PENN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Jul 19 11:20:48 CDT 2004
County debate centers on need for public defender office
A state grant promising start-up costs for a public defender's office has
officials considering an overhaul of Lubbock County's system for providing
lawyers to the poor.
Rising expenses for indigent defense concern county commissioners and
judges, who say they must balance justice and fiscal responsibility.
"If the public defender's office is a cost-effective way to deliver
court-appointed services, the county must take a hard look at it," County
Court-at-Law Judge Rusty Ladd said.
But private attorneys paid by the county to represent indigent defendants
worry that such an office would be underfunded and overworked.
"We have no problem with the concept of a public defender's office,"
attorney Chuck Lanehart said. "We question whether a public defender's
office is necessary in Lubbock County, can be operated efficiently and
cost-effectively and provide effective assistance of counsel."
A 1963 Supreme Court ruling requires states to provide lawyers to the
poor, and counties pay 90 percent of those expenses in Texas.
Only seven of Texas' 254 counties use public defender offices to provide
indigent defense. The rest, including Lubbock, pay private attorneys
appointed by the courts.
Lubbock County's payments to court-appointed attorneys nearly doubled from
1999 to 2003, according to information provided by the County Auditor's
Budget predictability and potential cost cuts make a public defender's
office attractive, officials say.
"It's our duty as elected officials to do what's right for the citizens,"
County Court-at-Law Judge Drue Farmer said. "I don't know of any of the
judges who are dead set one way or the other. We don't have all the
The county Board of Judges held an informational meeting on the topic
Friday, inviting officials with the state Task Force on Indigent Defense
to discuss its "Blueprint for Creating a Public Defender Office in Texas,"
a step-by-step guide for counties.
"This is a tool," said James Bethke, task force director. "It's not an
advocacy piece for or against it."
The task force plans to offer $1.7 million in grants to counties that
establish public defender offices. Grants would cover up to 80 % of
expenses the 1st year and decrease by 20 % each of the next 3 years.
"Providing start-up costs, that's where we're taking the financial risks
off the counties," Bethke said.
Lubbock County spent $2.1 million for court-appointed attorneys in fiscal
year 2003, according to the County Auditor's Office. After Friday's
meeting, officials said that figure may actually include investigative
expenses, appointed special prosecutors and visiting judges' salaries.
Lanehart said his analysis puts court-appointed attorney payments closer
to $1.6 million.
Based on preliminary calculations by the task force, a public defender's
office handling 50 % of the county's indigent cases would cost $956,687
per year to operate. Factoring payments to private attorneys hired to
represent the remaining 50 % of indigent defendants, the county would save
But that savings is based on $2.1 million in expenses, which may be
"We need to do a lot more investigating on our numbers," District Judge
Brad Underwood said.
Initiating a public defender's office does not eliminate the need for
private appointed attorneys. Among co-defendants, only one can be
represented by the public defender. And the office might not include
attorneys qualified for specialized cases, such as mental health issues
and capital murders.
"Public defender offices don't displace the private bar," Bethke said.
The 2 largest counties operating public defender offices in Texas - El
Paso and Dallas - assign about 50 percent of the indigent cases to their
The creation of El Paso's office in 1987 directly resulted from a lawsuit
by jail inmates who claimed they were incarcerated too long without
getting lawyers. The 17-attorney office cost $1.3 million to operate in
A state comptroller's report on the office issued the same year
recommended increasing the office's staff and caseload, which could save
the county $1.24 million in payments to private attorneys.
Bethke said the El Paso public defender's office has an excellent
reputation. But Fred Stangl, president of the Lubbock Criminal Defense
Lawyers Association, said his group fears a Lubbock office might not reach
the same level.
The suggested average salary for attorneys - $50,000 - and the projected
annual caseload - 400 misdemeanors or 150 felonies - could deter
applicants, he said.
"The really good experienced lawyers, which are needed in court-appointed
cases, are not going to give up their practice to go work at the public
defender's office," Stangl said. "We anticipate a drop in the quality of
But the county's judges expressed no qualms about the capabilities of
public defenders to do the work.
"We've got lawyers here, whether they're hired or appointed, they go after
a case with the same zealousness," District Judge Cecil Puryear said. "I
don't think the quality of representation is any less" with a public
County commissioners ultimately will decide whether to form a public
defender's office, but Bethke said support from the judges, private
attorneys and prosecutors is essential to success.
Underwood said further investigation is needed before deciding if Lubbock
County should pursue an office and the grant. The grant application
deadline is Oct. 20.
(source: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)
VIRGINIA----new execution date
VADP Execution Alert----Execution Date Set for James Hudson - August 18,
The Commonwealth of Virginia has set an execution date of August 18, 2004
for James Hudson. Hudson will be the second death row inmate to be
executed this year after deciding not to seek available appeals. (Brian
Lee Cherrix, who was executed on March 18, 2004, also had appeals that
could have been filed.)
In 2003, Hudson plead guilty to one count of capital murder and one
1st-degree murder charge in the deaths of brothers Walker Stanley Cole and
Thomas Wesley Cole, and Thomas Coles' wife Patsy Ayers Cole. All 3 were
killed on July 4, 2002 from shotgun blasts at close range.
The murders were attributed to long standing animosity between Hudson and
the Cole family who were his neighbors.
Judge Les Osborn sentenced Hudson to death after 60 victim-impact
statements, regarding the pain caused to individuals and the community by
the murders, were submitted to the court. Public Defender Buddy Ward, at
Hudson's request, declined to argue that his client's life should be
spared and presented no witnesses. Hudson has since refused to file
available State and Federal appeals.
Hudson does not plan to seek clemency from Governor Warner. We respect Mr.
Hudson's decision not to seek clemency, but we still do not agree with his
execution. Mr. Hudson's decision to take his own life makes this execution
an example of state assisted suicide, and we do not believe that the state
should play a role in facilitating suicide.
We encourage VADP members and other to sign our online petition to
Governor Warner calling for a Moratorium on executions before Mr. Hudson's
scheduled execution date of August 18, 2004.
AG requests execution date for Centobie
Mario Centobie, who confessed to killing a Moody police officer, is set to
move a step closer to the fulfillment of his sentence as Alabama Attorney
General Troy King filed a motion requesting an execution date be set.
The motion, filed July 12, shows that Centobie has declined to pursue any
further appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court after his conviction and
sentencing were upheld in Alabama courts. The deadlines for other appeals
have already passed.
Centobie was sentenced to death in 1999 for the June 27, 1998, murder
officer Keith Turner. He was also sentenced to 3 life sentences for the
wounding of a Tuscaloosa police officer.
"Officer Turner was honoring his oath to serve and protect the citizens of
Moody when he was murdered in cold blood," King said in a press release
earlier this week.
Centobie and Jeremy Granberry escaped custody June 25, 1998, while being
transported from Parchman Prison in Mississippi to a court hearing. They
stole a sheriff's deputy patrol car and handgun and headed toward
Tuscaloosa, where they were stopped on Interstate 359 by Tuscaloosa police
Capt. Cecil Lancaster. After Lancaster was shot twice by the suspects, he
was able to return fire, preventing them from running him down with the
After stealing another car, the 2 continued on Interstate 20 until they
reached the Moody exit.
At approximately 10:29 p.m. June 27, 1998, Turner stopped to check a
suspicious vehicle. After speaking with Turner, Centobie reached back into
the car as if to retrieve his drivers license. Instead, he pulled out the
deputy's stolen handgun and shot Turner three times - one bullet hit his
bullet resistant vest, another entered his hip, and the last went into the
back of his head. Turner died instantly.
Former Moody police officer Chris Long was working patrol that same night
and heard Turner tell his dispatcher where he was and that he was checking
a suspicious vehicle.
"I was only a few seconds away," Long recalled in a previous interview. "I
heard the shots. In just a few seconds your whole world can turn upside
Long, who now works for the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department,
remembers every minute detail of that night and has not previously spoken
publicly about them. He has shared his experience with other officers to
impress upon them how fast things can go wrong and how bad a situation can
get in a short time.
"I was a half-a-mile from Keith that night when I heard him on the radio,"
Long said. "In 39 seconds Keith released his radio mike, was shot, and I
began to exchange gunfire with the suspect. That's all - 39 seconds."
Long said he is pleased to hear that King has finally requested an
execution date for Turner's murderer.
"It's sooner than I expected," he said. "But I'm glad to see them finally
Moody Police Chief John Kile was the shift supervisor the night Turner was
killed and he also said he is glad to see the tale coming to an end.
"I'm glad to see the day coming," Kile said. "I thought I'd be an old man
before his execution would be set. I'm truly glad the state is stepping up
and pressing ahead with an execution date."
For eight days after Turner's murder, more than 750 lawmen from across the
country descended upon the small community in one of the largest manhunts
in history. Granberry was quickly found, still in the Moody area. He was
convicted of capital murder in 1999 and sentenced to life without parole.
Centobie was not captured until July 5, 1998, near Biloxi, Miss. He was
still carrying the gun used to kill Turner. He now sits on Donaldson
Correctional Facility's death row awaiting the date he will die.
"Justice cries out to be served, certain and swift. It is time for Mario
Centobie to receive the justice he has so viciously earned," King said.
(source: The Daily Home)
Convicted Killer Brenda Andrew Sentenced To Death In Murder of Husband--
Prosecution Portrays Accused Killer As Anything But Meek, Mild
In Oklahoma City, a jury has sentenced Brenda Andrew to death in the
shotgun slaying of her estranged husband.
The 7-man, 5-woman jury recommended the death sentence this afternoon,
after convicting her on Tuesday of 1st-degree murder and conspiracy to
Prosecutors contend Andrew and her lover, James Pavatt, conspired to kill
her husband, Rob Andrew, to collect his 800-thousand-dollar life insurance
(source: Associated Press)
Pennsylvania Governor Rendell Signs Execution Warrant
Pennsylvania Governor Edward G.Rendell today signed a warrant for the
execution by lethal injection of Isaac Mitchell of Philadelphia.
Governor Rendell set Mitchell's execution for Thursday, Sept. 9, 2004.
In March 1999, Mitchell was convicted and sentenced to die for the
shooting deaths of 2 innocent bystanders, 22-year-old Jamika Wright and
21-year-old Derrick Washington, following an argument between his son and
a friend over a basketball game. Mitchell was formally sentenced to death
on June 28, 2000. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed that judgment on
Dec. 30, 2003.
Mitchell, 53, is a prisoner at the State Correctional Institution at
Governor Rendell has now signed 19 death warrants.
CONTACT: Abraham Amoros of the Pennsylvania Office of the Governor,
(source: Pennsylvania Office of the Governor)
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