[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----MONT., KAN., CALIF., USA, GA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Jul 31 10:35:14 CDT 2004
MONTANA----death row inmate seeks to drop appeals
Family's killer asks court for execution date
A man convicted of murdering 3 members of a Billings family in April 1986
has notified the Montana Supreme Court that he is ready to die.
On Friday, David Thomas Dawson filed papers of his "desire to dismiss all
appeals and to set an execution date."
Dawson was convicted in Billings on Feb. 28, 1987, of kidnapping and
robbing David and Monica Rodstein, and their children, Andrew and Amy, and
killing all but Amy.
Dawson also filed papers this week asking the U.S. District Court to stop
any appeals related to his death sentence.
Dawson, 46, said he would waive hearings in Yellowstone County District
"Defendant understands that there may be need for him to appear in this
Court to explain the decision to stop the appeal of his Death Sentence,"
Dawson wrote. "However, in light of time, expense and even security issue
concerns, etc., Defendant would be more than willing to waive any right
that he might have to such a hearing."
If a hearing is required, Dawson wrote, he will need a court-appointed
defense attorney because his "appeal attorneys will not participate."
The filings could close a more than 15-year cycle of appeals on the local,
state and national level. They do not, however, outline why Dawson wants
to give up appeals or why he is seeking an execution date.
In 1987, District Court Judge Diane Barz sentenced Dawson to death, which
was automatically reviewed by the Montana Supreme Court. Throughout the
1990s, Yellowstone County District Court and the Montana Supreme Court
denied Dawson's appeals for a new trial and sentencing. Dawson attempted
to avoid the death penalty in another appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court,
after that court's 2002 decision that juries, not judges, should decide
findings of fact in life or death cases.
Most recently, Dawson's case was under scrutiny as state officials
reviewed the work of Arnold Melnikoff, a former director of the Montana
State Crime Lab. Scores of cases Melnikoff worked on were questioned after
a Billings man was released from prison because DNA evidence cleared him
of the crime.
Dawson, then 29, was tried by a jury in Barz's court in February 1987 on
counts of deliberate homicide, aggravated kidnapping and robbery. The jury
deliberated about 14 hours and returned with guilty verdicts for
deliberate homicide of the three Rodsteins, four guilty verdicts for
kidnapping each family member, and a guilty verdict for robbery.
>From the time of his arrest through the trial, Dawson claimed to have been
coerced by an accomplice who hid under a bed, but Amy Rodstein testified
that no one else was there. Over the years, Dawson's appeals pointed to
mitigating factors such as drug use and head injuries, according to
Montana Supreme Court records.
The Rodstein family died on April 18 or 19, 1986. They were staying at the
Airport Metra Inn on Main Street while awaiting a move to David Rodstein's
new job in Atlanta. Monica Rodstein was a secretary for Billings School
District. Their son, Andrew, 11, was a 6th-grader at Alkali Creek school
and Amy, 15, was a Skyview High School majorette.
Early on April 18, Monica and Amy Rodstein were packing a car to travel to
Nebraska to visit family. David and Andrew Rodstein were to follow later
in the week. While they were loading the car, Dawson, using the name John
Munroe, checked into the motel and was given the room next to the
Rodsteins. Dawson forced his way into their room at gunpoint when Amy
Rodstein returned from a trip to the car.
2 days later, after family members and co-workers said the Rodsteins had
not arrived, police began looking for the family. Late that evening,
officers found the Rodsteins' cars at the motel and began checking rooms.
In the room Dawson checked into, they found the bodies of David, Monica
and Andrew Rodstein. They had died of strangulation. Amy Rodstein, who was
found in the bathroom, had no physical injuries.
(source: The Billings Gazette)
KANSAS----federal death penalty to be sought
Feds to seek death penalty for accused triple killer
U-S Attorney General John Ashcroft will allow prosecutors in Kansas City,
Kansas, to seek the death penalty against a man accused of killing 3
Demetrius Hargrove of Kansas City, Kansas, is serving a 35-year sentence
at the U-S Penitentiary in Leavenworth for kidnapping and use of a
He was charged in December with pre-meditated murder.
Prosecutors claim Hargrove killed Leavenworth residents Elmer Berg and
Misty Castor in February of 1998, during a drug trafficking crime. They
say he murdered Tyrone Richards, also of Leavenworth, in June 1998 to
prevent him from testifying at a federal trial.
Hargrove, of Kansas City, Kansas, also is charged with conspiracy to
commit murder, stemming from jailhouse phone calls to arrange for killing
(source: Associated Press)
THE PETERSON TRIAL ---- Judge rejects defense bid to dismiss case;
Erroneous testimony by detective is called a simple mistake
The judge in the Scott Peterson double-murder trial denied a motion
Thursday to dismiss the case against the former fertilizer salesman,
rejecting defense assertions of prosecutorial misconduct and saying a
police detective's erroneous testimony would not affect the outcome of the
Defense attorney Mark Geragos said prosecutors had repeatedly failed to
turn over evidence, as required by law. But the focus of Geragos' legal
challenge was testimony by Modesto police Detective Al Brocchini, whom the
defense attorney accused of trying to cause a mistrial because the case
wasn't going well for prosecutors.
After a short hearing with lawyers in a Redwood City courtroom, Judge
Alfred Delucchi refused Geragos' request, saying errors are to be expected
in a case in which more than 40,000 documents are being entered into
"In a case of this length and magnitude, these things are going to
happen," Delucchi said. "Unfortunately, it keeps happening with Detective
Brocchini; that's just the way it is."
Geragos clearly anticipated the ruling, even telling the judge during the
hearing that he'd jokingly told a reporter he'd buy him a Mercedes-Benz if
Delucchi granted his request.
In his oral argument before the judge, Geragos said that what he really
wanted was for the judge to give a verbal admonition to the jury about
At issue was a statement Brocchini made in court earlier this month about
a tip Modesto police received from a friend of Peterson's from his days at
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Brocchini testified that the tipster had said Peterson bragged to him
about the way he would dispose of a body -- and offered a description that
closely resembled what police say happened to Peterson's pregnant wife,
Laci, who was reported missing on Christmas Eve 2002.
Scott Peterson said he went fishing that day, but police believe he was
actually getting rid of his wife's body on San Francisco Bay. Peterson is
standing trial for the murder of his wife and the couple's unborn son.
The tipster said Peterson had told him that if he were trying to get rid
of a body, he would wrap a bag around its neck with duct tape and weigh
its hands and feet with anchors, Brocchini testified.
When Laci Peterson's body washed ashore in Richmond in April 2003, a piece
of duct tape was found sticking to her tattered maternity pants.
Geragos later determined that the tipster had never mentioned the duct
tape, and accused Brocchini of embellishing the story to inflame the jury
and possibly force a mistrial.
He cited a 1998 case in Stanislaus County in which a mistrial was declared
after Brocchini made what a judge said were prejudicial remarks from the
witness stand. The defense in that case said Brocchini had done so on
purpose to cause a mistrial, though the judge later determined that wasn't
"He knows what happens when he does something like this is the court is
going to grant a mistrial," Geragos said of Brocchini.
But Delucchi seemed skeptical.
"I don't see what the gain is here (for Brocchini to force a mistrial),"
Delucchi said. In any new trial, he pointed out, the defense could point
to his earlier blunder and make the prosecution and police look bad.
Prosecutor Rick Distaso called Brocchini's erroneous testimony a simple
At the least, Geragos said, Delucchi should tell the jury, "with a little
bit of gravitas," that Brocchini's duct-tape testimony wasn't true.
But Delucchi rejected that request as well, pointing out that Brocchini
had testified that he hadn't found the informant's tip credible.
On another matter, Delucchi ruled against a defense request that unaired
portions of an interview that ABC's Diane Sawyer conducted with Peterson
be shown to the jury.
The prosecution plans to show jurors the aired version, which was taped a
little more than a month after Laci Peterson vanished. Prosecutors hope to
show that the story Peterson tells Sawyer contradicts what he told police.
For example: Peterson told Sawyer that he disclosed his affair with Amber
Frey to detectives the night his wife was reported missing. Investigators
say they didn't learn of Frey until she contacted them almost a week
Peterson also told Sawyer that Frey was his first and only affair. It
turns out, according to prosecutors, that he had at least one other affair
just after he and Laci married.
What's more, Peterson tearfully told Sawyer he was too distraught to go
inside the nursery that the couple had set up for their unborn son. A
police officer testified last week that when investigators searched
Peterson's house in February 2003, the defendant was using the room to
store extra furniture.
Defense attorneys argued that the edited interview is prejudicial to their
client. They said the unedited tape would show Peterson's range of
emotions during the interview.
They also complained that the prosecution had sliced the edited interview
to omit a segment in which Sawyer said Peterson had called after the
interview to admit that he had not told police about Frey that first
Delucchi agreed with an ABC attorney that the unaired segments of the
interview are the network's property and do not have to be released.
Prosecutors also lost a media-related request, when Delucchi refused to
compel staff members from the Modesto Bee to testify to the authenticity
of photographs the newspaper took of Peterson on the night of a vigil for
his missing wife. Distaso said the pictures "show the defendant with a big
smile on his face -- as happy as can be."
Karl Olson, a lawyer representing a group of Northern California
newspapers including The Chronicle, argued that there were hundreds of
people at the vigil that night and that any of them could testify to
Peterson's range of emotions.
(source: San Francisco Chronicle)
Kerry Favors Bin Laden Trial in U.S.
John Kerry said Friday he would put Osama bin Laden on trial in U.S.
courts rather than an international tribunal to ensure the "fastest,
surest route" to a murder conviction if the terrorist mastermind is
captured while he is president.
"I want him tried for murder in New York City, and in Virginia and in
Pennsylvania," where planes hijacked by al-Qaida operatives crashed Sept.
11, 2001, Kerry said in his first interview as the Democratic presidential
The Saudi-bred terrorist is suspected of plotting attacks that have shed
blood across the globe, not just in the United States. Kerry suggested he
would place the highest priority on avenging American deaths.
He called the Bush administration's attempt to create a Muslim security
force in Iraq an overdue act of desperation. "Great idea," he said.
"Should have been done from the very beginning."
Kerry, fielding questions about foreign policy, presidential politics,
abortion and the death penalty during a 12-minute interview with The
Associated Press in this GOP-leaning Hudson Valley community, took Bush
and his Republican allies head-on.
"They don't have a record to run on so all they can do is attack," Kerry
said. He was responding to Bush, who a few minutes earlier had said from
the campaign trail that Kerry had no significant achievements in Congress.
Word of the criticism drew a chuckle from the fourth-term senator, who
wore an open-collar shirt and slacks. "That's the response to a positive
campaign," he said sarcastically.
The night before, in his hometown of Boston, Kerry accepted the Democratic
nomination at a convention scripted to project a positive, upbeat image to
independent voters. The Democratic National Committee launched a one-week,
$6 million ad campaign that features images of the convention, and party
officials expect the DNC ads to turn negative this summer.
Noting that federal law limits his influence over DNC ads, Kerry didn't
rule out airing his own ads critical of the White House. "I'm going to
certainly reserve the right to respond to these people if they continually
hack away," he said.
On the Muslim force initiative pushed by Saudi Arabia, Kerry said "Why is
that being done as an act of desperation today rather than two years ago
before a lot of lives were lost?" He said it was yet another lost
opportunity to build a coalition that would help ease the U.S. burden in
money and lives.
"A change in the presidency is essential to our ability to restore our
respect" in the world, Kerry said.
Replied Bush spokesman Steve Schmidt: "John Kerry's decision to
characterize progress in the war on terror as an act of desperation is his
latest attempt to inject politics and opportunism into a subject that
should unite Americans."
Kerry has long been an opponent of the death penalty, but in recent years
has made an exception for terrorism. The former prosecutor said crimes
like rape and child murder do not warrant the highest punishment.
"It's certainly terrorizing to the person who's undergoing it. I
understand that," Kerry said. "But terrorism is a political act to
terrorize a nation, to try to challenge a way of life and a standard..
It's just a different act."
He said bin Laden deserves to die.
"I would go the fastest, surest route of conviction, and in my belief that
would be a trial for murder in the United States," the Democrat said when
asked if he would seek to try bin Laden at The Hague.
Stepping gingerly into another social issue, Kerry reiterated that he
believes that life begins at conception - and that a woman has the right
to choose whether to abort.
Asked whether he believes abortion is taking a life, Kerry said a fetus is
a "form of life."
"The Bible itself - I mean, everything talks about different layers of
development. That's what Roe v Wade does. It talks about viability. It's
the law of the land." The Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v Wade ruling legalized
abortion in America.
"I don't believe personally that it's the government's job to step in and
take my article of faith and transfer it to somebody who doesn't share
that article of faith," said Kerry, a Roman Catholic.
(source: Associated Press)
One of my friend's first dates after a divorce was with a psychologist.
When he advised her that she manipulated reality, she looked him in the
eye and cheerfully admitted, "I do!" She needed to manipulate reality to
keep going in the direction she wanted.
The same thing is being done with the death penalty.
Its supporters have consistently manipulated reality about the fairness of
the nation's justice system, the ability of jurors to leave their
prejudices behind when they go into the deliberation room and the
possibility that innocent persons may have been executed.
When it became impossible to deny that the death penalty was fraught with
problems, everyone jumped on the DNA bandwagon. With DNA, reality was
manipulated in an attempt to convince us that the chance an innocent
person would be put to death is almost nil.
DNA testing is a panacea for the real problems surrounding the death
penalty. Only 19 of 114 people freed from the nation's death rows have
been exonerated because of DNA evidence. Jorge Melendez, No. 99, is a
Melendez served almost 18 years on Florida's death row before a
15-year-old taped confession exonerated him. He later learned that both
the prosecutor and his court-appointed attorney were aware of its
existence all those 15 years.
In his interview for my radio program today, Melendez says that as his
sentence reached the 15, 16 and 17th years, he was glad that he wasn't in
Texas, alluding to the Lone Star State's "fast track to the needle"
"I would been dead by then," he said.
(source: Kathy Clay-Little is publisher of African American Reflections
and host of "Community Round Table" Saturdays at 10 a.m. on KSJL 810 AM;
San Antonio Express-Mews)
DA seeks death penalty in murder case
Prosecutors will seek the death penalty for a man suspected of murdering
an elderly Tifton woman. Investigators believe Holsenbeck beat Hancock,
stole her car, then dumped her body in a wooded area.
33-year-old Waylon Holsenbeck remains in jail tonight, charged with the
June murder of 76-year old Mary Hancock. Paul Bowden is also asking a
judge to issue a gag order in the case. Holsenbeck is set to enter a plea
in the fall.
(source: WALB TV News, July 30)
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