[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----CALIF., KAN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Jul 21 00:23:56 CDT 2004
Detective: Unable to rule out other suspects in Peterson case, still
Scott Peterson's defense lawyer on Tuesday continued to shift the case to
other potential suspects he claims could have killed Laci Peterson, but
authorities failed to check out fully.
Detective Ray Coyle already testified that Modesto police investigating
Laci Peterson's disappearance questioned hundreds of registered sex
offenders and parolees, but decided not to follow up even though they
couldn't verify many of their alibis.
Atttorney Mark Geragos repeatedly got the detective to acknowledge that
police closed the cases on many of the offenders, marking the files
"complete," without eliminating them as suspects.
Holding a list of names in his hand, Geragos asked the detective about
several sex offenders with sketchy alibis, including one possible suspect
whom Coyle said confessed to the crime. The man's admission was discounted
because he had "severe" mental problems and wasn't on medication,
prosecutor Rick Distaso later pointed out.
"He said he murdered a female named Lisa Peterson, right? ... He said the
only witness was the dog ... He said he broke her neck?" defense attorney
Mark Geragos asked Coyle when he first took the stand Monday.
"Yes," Coyle replied.
Geragos continued to tick off more names Tuesday as he worked to create
reasonable doubt in the jurors' minds that Peterson killed his pregnant
Under questioning by prosecutors, Coyle said many of the offenders'
stories -- more than "51 %" -- checked out, though that didn't necessarily
eliminate them as suspects.
"A lot of them had alibis," Coyle said.
"Why was the list created?" Distaso asked. "What was the goal?"
"It was sort of like 'Round up the usual suspects.' It was a starting
point. ... We had really not much to go on in the beginning and it was
suggested that something of this type could have been done by a person who
was a convicted felon or a sex predator," Coyle said. He added that
efforts to track down the offenders did not dilute authorities' suspicions
that Peterson was the killer.
Distaso also pointed out that a number of the offenders were elderly,
dead, sick or incarcerated.
Coyle was originally called by the prosecution last week to testify about
the extensive search for evidence at Peterson's home, but Geragos quickly
turned the witness in favor of the defense with questions about the sex
offenders and parolees who lived near the Peterson's Modesto home.
The detective said Monday that after police tracked down 285 of the 309
sex offenders and parolees living in the area, they closed most of the
files without ruling them out as suspects or confirming their whereabouts
on Dec, 24, 2002, the night Laci Peterson was reported missing.
Coyle said he was still working to track down the remaining 24 offenders.
One of those contacted said he was out of state visiting his sister on
that Christmas Eve, yet police were never able to substantiate his story,
"That was the extent of the investigation as far as you know?" Geragos
"Yes," Coyle said.
Another registered sex offender listed his address as a homeless mission
less than a mile from the Peterson home, Geragos said. He was contacted by
police, but authorities were unable to verify where he had been the day
"Didn't have any alibi so to speak, is that correct?" Geragos asked.
"Correct," Coyle said.
"Did that constitute a completed investigation?" Geragos prodded.
"Yes," Coyle replied.
Prosecutors allege Peterson murdered his pregnant wife, Laci, in their
Modesto home on or around Dec. 24 , 2002, then drove to San Francisco Bay
and dumped the body.
Peterson acknowledges being on the bay that day, but said he went fishing
alone and returned to an empty home. Geragos asserts that someone else
abducted and killed Laci, then framed her husband.
The remains of Laci Peterson and the couple's fetus washed ashore just 2
miles from where Peterson claims he was fishing. He could face the death
penalty or life without parole if convicted on the double-murder charges.
Earlier Monday, Detective Henry "Dodge" Hendee testified under
cross-examination that residue from 7 suspicious stains collected from
Peterson's pickup truck were not blood, and that no incriminating evidence
was found in a large tool box in the bed of the vehicle.
Prosecutors allege Peterson used the tool box to conceal Laci's body
during the drive from the couple's home to the bay.
Geragos peppered the detective with questions about tests on other stains
found in the Peterson kitchen, bedroom and on a pair of gloves taken from
Peterson's truck, repeatedly asking, "What were the results?"
"Negative," Hendee replied.
Hendee said a spot on the inside driver's door of Peterson's truck did
test positive for blood. Peterson previously told authorities he had cut
his hand and they would likely find his blood on the truck.
Geragos then asked Hendee about a hair found inside the tool box, pointing
out that testing indicated it came from a law enforcement officer
processing the crime scene.
"At the time I thought it could possibly be Laci's," Hendee said.
(source: Associated Press)
THE PETERSON TRIAL 285 sex offenders ruled out as suspects -- Defense team
tries to show police work was hasty, haphazard
Modesto police searching for Laci Peterson's killer ruled out a number of
registered sex offenders and parolees without ever checking what appeared
to be flimsy alibis, a detective testified Monday.
Investigators reviewing 285 sex offenders and parolees also dismissed the
confession of an ex-convict after concluding he had a history of mental
illness, Detective Ray Coyle testified.
The testimony came as the defense in the double-murder trial of Laci
Peterson's husband, Scott Peterson, tried to show that investigators cut
corners while tracking down the ex-cons and haphazardly cut them loose
because they had already concluded the 31-year-old salesman was guilty of
killing his wife and unborn child.
Coyle, a prosecution witness who was recalled to the stand in Redwood City
by defense attorney Mark Geragos, acknowledged that in some cases
investigators had accepted unverifiable explanations for some of the ex-
convicts' whereabouts Dec. 24, 2002, the day Laci Peterson was reported
missing. Some of the sex offenders and parolees lived within a mile of the
Petersons' Modesto home, Coyle said.
"So you say (attempts to contact all 285 ex-convicts) were completed?"
Geragos asked. "That does not mean by any means that (they) were
eliminated as suspects?"
Coyle responded: "As far as I'm concerned, I'm the only guy I know for
sure that didn't do it."
Coyle played a small part in the investigation, but Geragos has made it
clear he thinks the lead detectives eliminated the ex-convicts as suspects
when they arrested Scott Peterson in April 2003.
One registered sex offender confessed to killing Laci Peterson even as
Scott Peterson was sitting in a jail cell, Coyle testified.
The man had been arrested for vandalism and a traffic violation in
December 2003. Sometime after, he told investigators that he killed "a
woman named Lisa Peterson" in a park by breaking her neck, according to
Coyle. The man said he was driving his sister's van at the time, but
called some friends to pick up the body.
Detective Al Brocchini, one of the lead investigators on the case,
disregarded the confession because the man had a history of mental
illness, Coyle testified. The theory that Laci Peterson was abducted while
walking her dog in a park had been in the news for more than a year, as
had reports that witnesses had seen a suspicious van in the area.
Coyle said investigators had also dismissed a registered sex offender who
had been staying at a halfway house a few blocks from the Petersons' home.
Investigators accepted his alibi that he was at the library, the park and
the grocery store on Dec. 24 without checking to see if it was true, Coyle
They also concluded he couldn't have been the killer because they saw no
injuries or indications he had been in a struggle when they met him Aug.
18, 2003 -- 9 months after Laci Peterson was reported missing.
"Did that then complete the investigation?" Geragos asked.
"Yes," Coyle answered.
Police wrote off another ex-convict because he had no cuts or scratches on
him. The problem, according to Geragos -- who got his information from the
police report -- is that investigators conducted the interview over the
Coyle said that report has since been corrected to reflect that
investigators couldn't have seen the man over the telephone.
Coyle said Geragos was trying to make a big deal out of a handful of
examples. He said the majority of the 285 ex-convicts police looked at
were either dead, in jail or had verified alibis. He said he had
interviewed about 50 people on the list.
Even today, Coyle said, he continues to look for at least two dozen more
people beyond the 285.
Earlier in the day, prosecutors tried to explain why investigators
initially believed that a home-made concrete anchor found in Peterson's
fishing boat was made in a plastic pitcher seized during a search of a
warehouse he used.
Prosecutors have theorized that Peterson used similar anchors to weigh
down his wife's body and dumped her in the bay off Berkeley. The defense
tried to score points last week by showing the pitcher was bigger than the
concrete anchor, and got police Detective Henry "Dodge" Hendee to say
investigators were mistaken when they first concluded the pitcher was the
Stanislaus County prosecutor David Harris, who had introduced photos of
the pitcher and anchor as evidence, implied during his questioning of
Hendee on Monday that the real mold was conspicuously missing from
Peterson's equipment in the warehouse.
But Geragos wouldn't let it go. When it was his turn he asked Hendee: "Why
didn't you say you were mistaken until I had to ask the question?"
"Because I wasn't asked," Hendee responded.
"By the D.A.?"
"Yes," Hendee said.
WEEK 8 -- Truck yields few clues
Modesto police Detective Henry "Dodge" Hendee testified that investigators
examined Scott Peterson's truck several times and held it for nearly a
year but found no blood or other physical evidence inside belonging to
Peterson's wife, Laci.
Under cross-examination by defense attorney Mark Geragos, Hendee said
authorities had collected several samples of what they interpreted as
suspicious stains -- including some from the truck's tail gate and
steering wheel -- but that all tested negative for blood.
Hendee also acknowledged that police had found nothing in a large tool box
that Peterson kept in the bed of his truck. Prosecutors have alleged that
Peterson hid Laci Peterson's body in the tool box, drove to the Berkeley
Marina and dumped her body in the bay.
"Is it fair to say that there was no tissue-like debris collected from
anywhere on the tool box?" Geragos asked.
"That's correct," Hendee answered.
Geragos also questioned Hendee about a videotape taken by the Modesto
police that showed how a pregnant woman of about the same height and
weight as Laci Peterson easily fit inside Peterson's toolbox.
Geragos asked why the tape was edited. The tape did not show how the
pregnant woman got into the tool box, and Geragos seemed to be suggesting
she might have struggled to get inside, something prosecutors would not
want a jury to see.
Geragos also questioned Hendee about why detectives did not try to
demonstrate that Peterson could have thrown the body of a 153-pound woman
- and additional weights -- overboard without sinking his boat.
Hendee said police had talked about producing such a demonstration, but
had decided against it. But, he said, he believes the body could have been
thrown overboard without any trouble.
(source: San Francisco Chronicle)
S.C. Affirms Death Sentence in Rape, Killing of Stepdaughter
The California Supreme Court yesterday unanimously affirmed the death
sentence imposed on a Fresno County man convicted of raping, sodomizing
and murdering his 12-year-old stepdaughter.
It was the second time that Donald Griffin had received the maximum
sentence for killing Janice Kelly Wilson in 1979. The original sentence,
imposed after a 1980 trial, was overturned on appeal.
The state high court upheld Griffins convictions on all counts, along with
the special-circumstance findings that the murder occurred during the
commission of the felonies of rape, sodomy, and lewd conduct, in its 1988
opinion. But it ordered a retrial as to the penalty because the jury had
been told that the governor had the power to commute a life sentence, but
was not told that a death sentence could also be commuted.
That instruction was required by the 1978 death penalty initiative but was
held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1984. Griffins 1992 retrial
resulted in the same penalty verdict and sentence.
Griffin has admitted the murder, but denied having committed a sexual
assault. Prosecutors and defense lawyers presented conflicting expert
opinion as to whether rape and/or sodomy had been committed, and the
defense suggested that it was frustration over marital difficulty and the
recent loss of his job that led Griffin to kill the girl.
Griffin had originally claimed, before the body was found, that he had
taken the youngster to his parents house for a visit and that she had left
the house with another girl and not returned. Her body was found by a
motorist on a road north of Kerman, the small municipality where the
She had been stabbed and the body mutilated. At the penalty retrial,
prosecutors introduced evidence--which they said was unavailable at the
time of the 1st trial--that the youngster, known as Kelly, told a friend
on the day she was killed that Griffin had been molesting her and that she
was going to tell her mother if he didnt stop.
Kelly was stabbed in the neck, strangled and cut open with a hunting
knife, a pathologist testified. Prosecutors presented evidence that the
defendant had once worked at a meat company, suggesting that he
slaughtered the victim in the manner in which animals are slaughtered.
A former police officer who worked with Griffin at a security company said
that he once expressed interest in becoming a police officer, leading to a
discussion of how evidence is collected in rape cases. Prosecutors said
this explained why Griffin washed his genital area in a latrine in a cell
area at the police station after Kelly disappeared and before her body was
The prosecution also presented testimony from Kellys cousin that Griffin
had previously fondled her on a couple of occasions and threatened to hurt
Kelly, as well as the witness parents, if she told.
The defense urged the jury and judge to spare Griffins life based on a
"lingering doubt" about whether the murder had a sexual motivation and
because of the defendants difficult childhood. They claimed that he and
his brothers, one of whom received a life-without-parole sentence for an
unrelated murder, had been physically abused as children and that the
defendant was operating under extreme emotional distress at the time of
Prosecutors responded with expert testimony that Griffin was not mentally
ill, and with witnesses who said they had seen him around the time of the
murder and that his behavior was not unusual.
Chief Justice Ronald M. George, writing for the court, said Fresno
Superior Court Judge James L. Quaschnick may have been in error when he
declined to instruct jurors that they could have a lingering doubt as to
whether the defendant committed felony murder, and thus justify a life
sentence without possibility of parole, if they were less than certain the
victim had been sexually penetrated.
But even if that was error, the chief justice wrote, it was harmless
beyond a reasonable doubt. George noted that the defense was allowed to
present evidence in support of its claim that no penetration occurred,
that counsel for both sides had argued the effect of penetration or the
lack thereof as it pertained to the issue of lingering doubt, and that
neither the judge nor the prosecution had suggested that penetration was
not an element of rape and sodomy.
The court rejected all of the defendants other claims of sentencing error.
(source: Metropolitan News-Enterprise)
It's fair to say that Arturo Garcia will rot in prison. He's been
sentenced to 2 Hard 50 sentences, plus up to 13 more years for killing 3
men in the grisly Club Mexico murder case. With his sentences running
consecutively, the 30-something failed businessman will have more than 100
years without parole to contemplate his heinous actions and watch the
world pass him by.
It seems like a just punishment.
But it certainly also raises questions about what merits an execution in
Kansas -- and what doesn't.
Here is a guy who not only commits cold-blooded murder, but enlists (or
intimidates) others to help him cover up his crimes over several days by
butchering his victim's bodies, bagging up the body parts, hauling them to
another county, dousing them in gasoline and setting them aflame amid
trash. And that's the polite version of the story.
Yet the prosecution chose not to seek the death penalty.
Clearly, the Club Mexico case involved, as spelled out among the legal
conditions for the death penalty, "desecration of the victim's body in a
manner indicating a particular depravity of mind."
If execution is just, then surely justice would have been served by
pursuing execution in this case. But that little word --"if" -- is of
Even if one grants that the state has the right to take a life to avenge a
crime, it's hard to make a case for justice, knowing that the
consideration and application of the penalty vary by jurisdiction and the
decision makers' sensibilities. It's not quite the luck of the draw, but
it might as well be.
And given the expense of a typical capital punishment case, it's no wonder
that some officials would be hesitant to take on the additional burden to
their already tight budgets. Late last year, the Kansas Legislative
Division of Post Audit found that it costs an average of $1.26 million to
successfully prosecute death penalty cases in Kansas, well above the
$740,000 average for cases that result in Hard 40 or Hard 50 prison
Further, this brand of justice is not swift. No execution dates have been
set for any of the seven men on Kansas' death row. The extended appeals
process and the heightened due-process standards set by the U.S. Supreme
Court ensure that many, many years pass at taxpayer expense before the
actual punishment is meted out in any given case.
Mr. Garcia was not deterred by the existence of the death penalty, nor has
he been touched by it in the course of his trial and sentencing. If his
punishment of a lifetime behind bars is logical and appropriate, as
determined by the court, then how can the arbitrary nature of punishment
by death be defended?
(source: Editorial, Wichita Eagle)
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