[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----NEV., N.C., NEB.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Jul 26 23:45:33 CDT 2004
Appeals court hears Nevada death row inmate's case
A federal appeals court was urged Monday to let a Reno lawyer intervene on
a next-friend basis in an effort to block the scheduled Aug. 12 execution
of Terry Jess Dennis for strangling a woman in Reno in March 1999.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in an
hour-long telephone conference call, listened to the plea and to opposing
arguments from the state attorney general's office.
Michael Pescetta, an assistant federal public defender, argued the
execution would amount to state assisted suicide given Dennis' previous
failed attempts - as many as a dozen - to take his own life.
But Deputy Attorney General Bob Wieland countered that Dennis has been
found mentally competent by the courts, and his past mental illness is
Pescetta, arguing for Reno attorney Karla Butko who sought the next-friend
status, said the circuit court must consider the statement of a
psychiatrist that the death row inmate's desire to die stems from his
mental illness. He added there's no other expert testimony to contradict
Wieland countered that the court records show that Dennis fully
understands the consequences of his decision against appealing his death
sentence, and the next-friend petition should be rejected.
Dennis, 57, was convicted of killing Ilona Strumanis, 51, an Eastern bloc
immigrant who he had recently met, during a vodka-and-beer binge in a
motel room. He told police he strangled Strumanis with a belt after she
made fun of him for being unable to perform sexually and questioned his
claim that he killed enemy soldiers while serving as an Air Force clerk in
Dennis, who has a history of alcoholism, mental illness and failed suicide
attempts, has said he'd rather die then spend the rest of his life behind
bars. A psychiatrist's report said depression and self-hatred prompted
Dennis to refuse any more appeals.
Dennis, raised in Washington state, has been described by former
classmates and friends as a nice person who sang in his high school choir
but who also got hooked on drugs and alcohol as a teenager.
Court records state Dennis claimed he had been drinking since he was 13 or
14 years old, had been jailed at age 14 for marijuana use, and had made
his 1st suicide attempt in 1966.
Dennis was convicted in 1979 in Snohomish County Superior Court, Wash.,
for assault and also had a 1984 conviction in the same court for arson and
assault, and spent about 2 1/2 years in prison before moving to Reno in
Dennis' execution would be the 2nd this year in Nevada. His close friend
on death row, Lawrence Colwell Jr., 35, was executed March 26 for the 1994
strangling of an elderly tourist in Las Vegas.
(source: Associated Press)
Gamble Faces the Death Penalty in 11-year-old's Death
Lee County DA, Tom Locke confirmed that he will seek the death penalty
against 19-year-old, Victor Gamble. Gamble has already been indicted on
first degree murder charges in the killing of 11-year-old Bradley Way.
Authorities say Gamble broke into Bradley's home to rob the place. That's
when investigators say Gamble beat the boy to death.
The district attorney would not comment on his specific arguments for the
death penalty, but said aggravating circumstances could be argued because
he says the murder was especially brutal and the murder happened during a
kidnapping, both of which are elements that he says warrant the death
Right now, Victor Gamble is in the Lee County Jail without bond. A trial
date has not been set.
(source: WTVD News)
DA to seek death penalty in slaying of Lee County boy
A man will be put on trial for his life to face charges of breaking in and
killing an 11-year-old boy who was home alone while his parents worked,
District Attorney Tom Locke said Monday.
Locke said the slaying would be presented to a jury as a "heinous and
atrocious crime" that qualified to be punished with a death sentence.
Bradley Way, 11, was found in an abandoned mobile home near his Lee County
home on July 11.
"The fact that the murder occurred in the course of a kidnapping can be
aggravating circumstances," he said.
Victor Jermaine Gamble, 20, of Cameron, was charged with first-degree
murder, kidnapping, breaking and entering, larceny, and possession of
An autopsy report shows Way was beaten about the head, stepped on and
kicked. He had skull fractures, bleeding in the brain and drag marks.
"It was a very brutal beating," Locke said.
Gamble also was charged with taking jewelry from Way's home that he later
pawned, the sheriff's department said. He was traced after fingerprints
were found at the Way home.
(source: Associated Press)
State's death penalty again focus of appeal
As expected, the state's longest-term death-row inmate appealed his
sentence Monday - arguing that use of the electric chair constitutes cruel
and unusual punishment.
Carey Dean Moore, convicted of the 1979 killings of cabdrivers Reuel Van
Ness Jr. and Maynard Helgeland, filed the appeal, contending that the
electric chair violates "evolving standards of decency."
The appeal details several electrocutions both nationally and locally -
and the effects each had on the prisoner.
Moore's appeal, known as a motion for post-conviction relief, also
challenges Nebraska's new protocol for administering the death penalty.
After mounting legal challenges, the state switched this year to a single,
15-second jolt of 2,450 volts - instead of the 4 cycles of 8 jolts that
had been used. The death penalty has not been imposed since the switch.
Moore said prison officials have said they would apply a 2nd 15-second
jolt if the 1st jolt doesn't kill the prisoner.
Such a process would be cruel and unusual, Moore argues.
Some state officials, including Gov. Mike Johanns, have said the
Legislature needs to quickly switch to lethal injection to avoid further
delays in the administration of the death penalty.
Johanns said last month that Moore's appeal might require state senators
to act on the electric chair issue in the 2005 session.
But State Sen. Kermit Brashear of Omaha said last month there is no need
for hasty action.
(source: Omaha World-Herald)
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