[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Jul 23 10:57:10 CDT 2004
Defendant guilty in triple slayings----Prosecutors will ask for the death
penalty for man who attacked ex-girlfriend's family
Jurors convicted a 36-year-old man of capital murder Thursday for gunning
down his 16-year-old ex-girlfriend's 2 younger sisters after he learned
she was dating a boy close to her own age.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Anthony Quinn Francois, who
said he "just snapped" and shot the victims in a fit of jealous rage on
Sept. 11, 2003.
The jury deliberated for about 2 1/2 hours before finding Francois guilty
in the slayings of sisters Ashley Patterson, 11, and Britteny Patterson,
10. He also is accused but not charged in the shooting death of another
sister, Naikesha Patterson, 15.
Francois also wounded his former girlfriend, Shemeka Patterson, and the
girls' mother, Sheila Patterson, 34.
"Just give him the death penalty. That's fine with me," Tracy Jackson, a
cousin of the victims, said outside the courtroom. "He took the lives of
three kids. I'll never see them grow up. They won't get married. They
won't have children."
Police said the rampage took place about 5:30 a.m. after Francois sneaked
into the family's southeast Houston home. 2 of the young girls were shot
at close range as they slept in their bunk beds.
Shemeka Patterson testified that Francois, who had vowed to kill her if he
couldn't have her, shot her in the face.
Earlier in the trial, jurors watched a videotape of Francois speaking to
police after his arrest. He said he had not intended to shoot the younger
"I don't know. I just snapped and it's like, when I shot one of them,
somebody else screamed or something. ... It was like I was just, just
losing control," Francois said.
Shemeka Patterson said she was 14 when she began a sexual relationship
with Francois in 2001.
They broke up after about one year, she said, but he continued to call and
come to her house. He became enraged when he learned she was dating a
"She had the right at age 14 or 16 to two-time anyone she wanted,"
Assistant District Attorney Terese Buess told jurors.
"That doesn't equal having your family massacred. That doesn't earn a
Punishment phase begins
After the guilty verdict, Buess and Assistant District Attorney Vanessa
Velasquez opened the punishment phase with evidence of Francois' extensive
At age 16, he pleaded guilty as a juvenile to murder in the shooting of
another teenager and was sentenced to incarceration with the Texas Youth
Commission, Buess said.
As an adult, Francois' criminal record includes convictions on such
charges as robbery, burglary, and drug and weapons offenses, court records
Defense attorney Marshall Mack Arnold conceded that Francois shot his
ex-girlfriend but urged jurors not to believe other aspects of what
"He just snapped; there's no question," Arnold said in his closing
He noted shell casings found in locations in the house that prosecutors
did not explain.
"Something happened other than what they're telling you happened," Arnold
Several of Francois' family members plan to testify during the punishment
phase, which will continue today, defense attorney Loretta Muldrow said.
"He was more than just these murders," Muldrow said. "This trial is only
half over and we haven't had a chance to show the human side of Anthony
Francois. He had a family, people who love him."
Patterson family members, who have attended much of the trial, said they
have no sympathy for Francois.
"If he was going to kill anybody, he should have put that gun to his head
and killed himself," said Tiffany Patterson, 21, a cousin of the victims.
Suit challenges injection makeup
A death row inmate has filed a lawsuit accusing Texas of using chemicals
in its lethal injections that violate the constitutional ban on causing
unusual pain and suffering.
The lawsuit by Donald Loren Aldrich, 39, sentenced to death for the 1992
hate slaying of a gay man, is one of a growing number of lawsuits alleging
the use of lethal injection by Texas and other states violates the Eighth
Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
The attorney who filed the lawsuit Wednesday, David Dow of the Texas
Innocence Network at the University of Houston Law Center, said Aldrich
has a much better chance than previous cases because of a recent ruling by
the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In allowing the execution of David Ray Harris last month, who had made a
similar claim in a last-minute appeal, the appeals court essentially
agreed with the lower court's reasoning for challenging lethal injection
but said the claim had been made too late, Dow said.
Attorney general's office spokesman Ben Taylor said the office had not
been served with the suit and could not comment.
The lawsuit says 1 of 3 chemicals used in the injection, pancuronium
bromide, paralyzes the inmate and prevents him from showing the agony
caused by potassium chloride.
A memorandum in support of the lawsuit lists eight gruesome incidents of
pain and suffering during Texas executions, including one in which the
prisoner reacted so violently to the injection that a witness fainted.
The memorandum also points out that Texas law bans as inhumane the use of
the same chemicals on animals.
Aldrich and two other men boasted in videotaped confessions that they
killed Nick West because he was a homosexual.
Killer given a chance to prove incompetence----Lawyers contend client
isn't eligible to be executed
Lawyers for schizophrenic murderer Scott Panetti will get a chance to
argue in federal court that their client's mental illness makes him
incompetent to be executed.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks on Wednesday denied the state's motion to
dismiss Panetti's claim of incompetency. Sparks authorized funds for
experts and investigators, and set an Aug. 23 hearing.
In February, Sparks halted Panetti's execution one day before Panetti was
to be put to death for the 1992 murders of his estranged wife's parents.
The execution stay allowed Panetti's lawyers to ask the state trial court
to determine whether he understands that he is to be executed and why.
A psychiatrist and psychologist appointed by state District Judge Stephen
Ables of Gillespie County determined that Panetti is competent after they
jointly interviewed him.
They described Panetti as uncooperative and interested only in
"filibustering about the Bible and the Lord."
But they said although Panetti "chooses not to discuss the reason that he
is to be executed, he has the ability to understand."
Lawyer Michael Gross said he will use the investigative authority Sparks
allowed to have different mental health experts meet with Panetti.
Panetti has a long history of mental illness and represented himself,
wearing a purple cowboy costume, during a circuslike 1995 trial in
(source for all: Houston Chronicle)
Man gets death sentence after killing Lovelady neighbors in 2003
A Lovelady man who murdered his 2 neighbors and shot one of their children
during an alleged act of retaliation in Houston County was sentenced to
Barney Fuller Jr., 44, pleaded guilty Thursday to the May 14, 2003
shooting deaths of Annette and Nathan Copeland. Fuller also shot the
couple's 14-year-old son and injured their 10-year-old daughter.
At the beginning of Fuller's trial last week, he suddenly announced a
change in his plea, a move that wasn't completely unexpected, according to
Houston County District Attorney Cindy Garner.
During the punishment phase of the trial late last week and earlier this
week, the Copeland children testified how Fuller shot and killed Annette,
39, and Nathan, 43.
In addition to the 2 capital murder charges, Fuller was indicted for
retaliation, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, injury to a child,
attempted capital murder and attempted murder. At his indictment Sept. 12,
2003, in the courtroom of Houston County District Judge Jim Parsons,
Fuller pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Fuller was initially represented by court-appointed defense attorney
William House of Palestine. Defense attorney Wayne Slaughter, a 10-year
veteran in Crockett, eventually took over the case.
(source: The Huntsville Item)
'No Greater Experience Than Using The Law To Save Someone's Life'
Baylor Law Professor Bill Underwood reached the pinnacle of his
professional career when, following a 3-day trial in June, the 117th
District Court in Nueces County ordered that the death sentence of
Underwood's client be commuted to life. Underwood, who has represented
Alberto Valdez on a pro bono basis for nearly 15 years, said watching the
outpouring of emotions by Mr. Valdez's family members in the courtroom
when the decision was announced was the "greatest compensation I could
The man he represented, 48-years-old Valdez, received the death penalty in
1988 after being convicted of murdering a police officer in Corpus
Christi. Underwood and his colleague, Dallas lawyer Jeff Levinger,
undertook the case and have spent thousands of hours working on the death
row inmate's behalf, eventually winning him a new trial.
They successfully argued that Valdez did not have adequate legal
representation during his original trial in May 1988. Underwood said the
lawyers representing Valdez did not investigate his life history, and as a
result they never introduced him to the jury. "If they had done some
investigation into his background, they would have discovered that he's
mentally retarded," he said. "I am convinced that had the jury been
properly introduced to the man they would have concluded that despite the
crime he should continue to live."
The mental retardation issue, which Underwood and Levinger had raised as
long ago as 1990, became a crucial factor in the case following a U.S.
Supreme Court decision in 2002 that ended the death penalty for those
deemed to be mentally retarded.
At a June 11, 2004 hearing in the 117th District Court of Nueces County to
determine his mental capacity, a judge ruled that Valdez was mentally
retarded, and his sentence was commuted to life in prison.
Underwood said the hearing came to a sudden end when a psychologist called
by the state to say that Valdez was not mentally retarded had a change of
opinion on the witness stand, declaring instead that Valdez was mentally
retarded. Underwood said his change of mind was "remarkable, and something
I had never seen before during a hearing."
The law professor said Valdez had been diagnosed as mentally retarded when
he was 13 years old by the Corpus Christi public schools and that
diagnosis had been confirmed when he was 18 years old by the Big Spring
State Hospital, Texas. "But the state of Texas took the position that he
was not mentally retarded," he said. "We put on a pretty compelling case,
I think, of mental retardation. In addition to the diagnosis by the Corpus
Christi public schools and the Big Spring State Hospital, we called three
top mental health professionals, each of whom had examined Alberto Valdez
and each of whom had concluded he was mentally retarded. And then we
He said, "Handling these kinds of cases is the reason that you want to be
a lawyer. There's no greater experience than using the law to save
someone's life. I told my class the day after I got back (from the
hearing) that I consider the outcome of this case to be the high point of
my professional career.
"The way I felt is that if I never won another case, I would feel that I
have had a pretty good career. It's an experience that I've never had and
it's one that I never could have had if I wasn't doing this kind of pro
bono work. What I want my students to get out of this is the idea that
they ought to look for some cause that they can become involved in -- and
that they can really feel driven by something other than just monetary
Underwood, who directs Baylor Law School's nationally acclaimed Practice
Court Program, has been a member of the law faculty since 1990. He has
provided extensive legal service to Baylor University in recent years,
serving for 2 years as Baylor's General Counsel from 1997-98.
Prior to and since joining the Baylor law faculty, he practiced law in
Dallas with the firm of Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal and,
prior to that, he served as law clerk to the Hon. Sam D. Johnson of the
United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Underwood graduated
at the top of his class at the University of Illinois College of Law. He
is the first member of the Baylor law faculty elected to the prestigious
American Law Institute.
(source : Baylor University)
Life sentence not the answer for mentally ill
Andrea Yates, the mother who was convicted in the June 20, 2001, drowning
of her 5 children in the bathtub of her Clear Lake home, was recently
admitted into the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston after
she stopped eating.
Yates' lawyer, George Parnham, said she thought her children were still
alive. Parnham said she asked her husband, Rusty, why he didn't bring the
children to visit her in the Skyview Unit near Rusk, where Yates was
sentenced to life in prison in the deaths of 3 of the children.
Rusty Yates said the combination of the anniversary of the deaths, her
40th birthday and the status of her marriage sent Andrea into a relapse.
During her trial, experts testified Yates suffered from schizophrenia and
postpartum depression, but defense and prosecution expert witnesses
disagreed over the severity of her illness and whether it prevented her
from knowing that drowning her children was wrong - the 2 requirements to
be declared legally insane in Texas.
If a woman who drowned her children can't recognize that they are gone
does not meet the standard of insanity in Texas, then Texas has a problem.
We encourage lawmakers to get over the stereotypes of mental illness and
also the cynical views of these diseases. It's time to recognize there are
people among us who have serious mental illnesses that will not be solved
with a life sentence or a lethal injection.
Hiding victims in a prison cell will not help the patient or society.
We need another option, and we are calling upon our lawmakers to find a
sensible, proper treatment for crimes committed by the mentally ill.
(source: Opinion, Erin Graham, Galveston County Daily News)
UNWELL AND UNTREATED----Prison sentence may be the first official
attention for mentally ill
It's too late for Andrea Yates' 5 children.
And, in light of Yates' recent mental relapse, it's probably too late for
her. One hardly knows what to wish for this inmate of the Texas prison
system: the periods of clarity that gouge her with the guilt and horror of
drowning her offspring, or the delusive bouts like the one occurring now,
when Yates asks to see her children and must be kept from self-starvation.
"There's just a blackness to her mental state right now," Yates' attorney,
George Parnham, told Chronicle reporter Steve McVicker.
It is not too late, however, for Texas lawmakers and the voters who employ
them to act rationally about mental illness and violent crime in other
cases. Right now in Texas, thousands of mentally ill people - some as
severely ill as Yates - are wait-listed for treatment because state funds
cannot be found to treat them. Even if Texas does not give priority to
caring for ill citizens, it shouldn't ignore the danger to others produced
by withholding care. Decent funding and education about severe mental
illness are the obvious preventive steps.
This is a far more urgent issue than the decision jurors made on Yates'
sentencing, after she had already murdered her children in the psychotic
belief that she was saving them from hellfire. Then, the only choice was
weighing compassion against vengeance.
All the evidence indicated Yates was psychotic before and after her
devastating act, but somehow the prosecution persuaded jurors that Yates
rallied to sanity just in time to kill her offspring. The jurors selected
vengeance, and sentenced Yates to life in prison rather than a mental
hospital where her illness could be best treated.
In many other cases, however, the right decisions can save lives. More
than 6,825 mentally ill people languish on state waiting lists for
treatment. The vast majority of mentally ill people are not violent; taken
seriously, either with supervision or institutionalization, those who do
pose a threat to others can also be managed. While Andrea Yates did
receive treatment, it's fair to say that neither her family nor her last
physician understood her illness' gravity - or its implications for
According to Amnesty International, it would take $7,399 to provide
comprehensive mental health treatment for each mentally ill Texan on the
state's waiting list. The list exists because funds simply aren't there to
treat them all. Meanwhile, it costs about $2.3 million to try one capital
murder case and endless appeals can drive the cost higher. No matter how
many executions jurors order up, Texas always manages to find the cash.
These priorities are wrong and dangerous. For the sake of public safety,
legislators must value prevention as much as punishment for violent crime.
Attending to the mentally ill is a sane way to start.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
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