[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Jun 8 17:06:29 CDT 2004
Judge terminates parental rights of Texas death row inmate
A judge in Beaumont today terminated the parental rights of a woman sent
to death row for the 1998 slaying of her newborn son.
Kenisha Berry has 4 surviving children -- daughters who are 9 and 7, a
3-year-old son and a 1-year-old girl.
The youngest girl was found abandoned in a ditch last June, but survived.
That 2003 investigation and D-N-A evidence led jurors in February to
convict Berry of capital murder in the November 1998 death of her infant
The boy's body was discovered in a Beaumont trash bin.
Berry's 4 children will be placed with their aunt and uncle -- Joyce and
Edward Johnson of Beaumont.
The judge also terminated the parental rights of the father of the 3
oldest children. The Johnsons want to adopt those 3 youngsters.
The father of the youngest girl will be allowed supervised visits as he
seeks custody of her.
(source: Associated Press)
Perry's duty: Show mercy to Joe Lee Guy
Unless Gov. Rick Perry rethinks his constitutional duty to grant
commutations in appropriate cases, a tragic injustice could soon befall
Texas Death Row inmate Joe Lee Guy. Perry appears hesitant to grant
clemency to Guy, despite unprecedented agreement among trial officials
that Guy's death sentence should be commuted. A presiding judge, the
district attorney and 2 sheriffs from Hale County, where Guy's crime
occurred, all support clemency. And in a rare move, the Texas Board of
Pardons and Paroles in January unanimously urged Perry to commute Guy's
This support for clemency among those who would ordinarily advocate
carrying out the execution might seem surprising, until you learn of the
circumstances that led to the death sentence. Guy was convicted of felony
murder for acting as an unarmed lookout in a robbery during which
storekeeper Larry Howell was killed and his elderly mother wounded. In a
striking instance of sentencing disparity, Guy received the death
sentence, while the actual killers and instigators of the crime were given
For most chief executives, such disparity in punishment would be
considered adequate grounds for clemency. In 1857, President James
Buchanan commuted a death sentence after others involved in the murder
received only prison sentences -- because, he said, the inconsistency
would "impair and diminish that absolute confidence which ought to be
reposed in a verdict in which the life of a human being is to be taken
Ohio Gov. Thomas Herbert, faced with a similar situation in 1948, set
aside a death sentence, not out of sympathy for the defendant, but because
"in America we pride ourselves on doing comparative justice." More
recently, authorities in North Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, California
and Georgia have commuted death sentences owing to sentencing disparities
comparable to that confronting Guy.
Yet the case for clemency for Guy rests on more than this disparity. Guy's
trial was appalling in its inadequacy. According to court filings, his
defense attorney was addicted to drugs and even snorted cocaine in the car
on the way to the courthouse for Guy's trial.
As if this weren't bad enough, the attorney hired an untrained
"investigator" who developed an inappropriate relationship with the
surviving victim, which caused her to name the investigator as heir to her
substantial fortune. In an affidavit, the investigator later admitted this
relationship "caused me to conduct my investigation in a way that was
damaging to Joe Lee Guy getting a proper defense."
The clemency power, which in Texas is vested in both the Board of Pardons
and Paroles and in the governor, is designed to remedy such flagrant
injustices. Although the board has done its job in recommending clemency,
Perry has been reluctant to act on its recommendation, choosing to wait
and see whether the federal courts will intervene.
His inaction is wrong. The narrow review that federal courts give to
habeas corpus petitions is far less suited to remedying Guy's death
sentence than the governor's broad clemency authority. Complicated legal
technicalities often prevent federal courts from acting, even in the face
of blatant errors. But the opposite is true of the governor: once the
parole board has made a favorable recommendation, he is duty-bound to
consider all of the circumstances and act to remedy profound injustices.
Perry's "wait-and-see" approach assumes that clemency today is little more
than a quasi-judicial appeal that should be denied if the courts don't
act. Indeed, Perry voiced this view in refusing to follow a recommendation
that clemency be granted to mentally ill inmate Kelsey Patterson, noting
that the courts had "determined there is no legal bar to execution."
Patterson was executed last month.
This is a myopic vision of clemency. Historically, Americans have vested
their executives with unique authority to remit punishments meted out by
the courts. As Alexander Hamilton explained, the clemency power is needed
to assure that justice is not "too sanguinary and cruel."
What our country's founders appreciated is that clemency is a proper,
necessary part of our justice system that can allow -- indeed, require --
the executive to act as a check on the courts. And in exercising this
power, governors have a responsibility to look at each clemency case in
way that is different from how the courts do.
Looking dispassionately at Joe Lee Guy's troubling story, it is difficult
to imagine a more compelling case for clemency. We can only hope that
Perry becomes aware of the importance of discharging his vital
responsibility before it is too late.
(source: Kobil teaches at Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio,
and writes extensively on clemency issues; Austin American-Statesman)
Mom faces capital murder rap in 2-year-old daughter's death
San Antonio police have arrested a mother on a capital murder charge in
the death of her 2-year-old daughter.
Kimberly Alexander, 24, was being held Monday night at the Bexar County
Jail in connection with the death of Diamond Alexander-Washington.
Saturday, police responded to an injured child report in the 4800 block of
Raybon. When police arrived, EMS was treating the girl.
According to police, adults at the scene couldn't explain the nature of
the girl's injuries. The child was taken to University Hospital where she
later died. The responding officer viewed the toddler's body at the
medical examiner's office, noting bruises to the face and swelling in her
arms and legs.
After an autopsy, the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit called the officer and
said the girl had died from injuries. Based on the reports, homicide
detectives applied for and were granted an arrest warrant for Alexander.
Mary Walker, spokeswoman for Child Protective Services, said the agency
has investigated the mother since the girl's birth.
Walker said the agency took custody of the girl in April 2002 because the
mother tested positive for drugs. Staff members connected with the
incident said there wasn't any history of violence, but they were
concerned about neglect. She said Alexander finished all required service
plans and after consultation the child was placed back with her in April
"Ultimately it's the responsibility of the parents," Walker said. "We're
devastated that something like this has happened. It's not possible to
predict human behavior."
(source: San Antonio Express-News)
Mother arrested for death of child
San Antonio police believe 24-year-old Kimberly Alexander killed her own
daughter Saturday night.
"From the reports that I saw from the officers that made the scene they
felt from the very beginning that this just did not make a whole lot of
sense, based on no explanation - no reasonable explanation for the
injuries the child sustained," San Antonio Police Sgt. Gabriel Trevino
Alexander is now facing capital murder charges - the standard penalty for
someone who kills a child under the age of 6.
EMS workers were called to the Springhill Apartment complex Saturday night
to treat the child, 20-month-old Diamond Alexander-Washington.
She was then taken by Airlife to University Hospital were she died Sunday
Child Protective Services stepped in to take care of Alexander's other
"There was one other sibling, I believe an 11-month-old. We asked for an
emergency custody order to remove that child from the risk, or from the
home. We received that order and took that child into care Saturday," CPS
spokesperson Mary Walker said.
According to CPS workers, it was not the first time Alexander's children
were removed from the home. They said Diamond had only recently been
returned to her mother, as required by law.
"We were absolutely stunned at the violence perpetrated upon this child
because there was never any indication that the children in that home were
abused in any way," Walker added.
SAPD are taking the case seriously as the investigation continues.
"If you hurt our children, we are going to come after you. We are going to
see what we can do to put you behind bars. It's not going to be
tolerated," Trevino said.
If convicted, Alexander could face the death penalty.
(source: News 9 San Antonio)
Trial date set for local man accused in Upshur deaths
In Gilmer, District Judge Lauren Parish set a July 12 trial date Monday
for a Longview man accused of capital murder in the deaths of 2 men whose
bodies were found in an Upshur County pond.
William Glenn Bulington's lawyer said his client is eager for his case to
"I feel his case would be prejudiced because the witnesses' memories might
fade. We need to get their testimony as soon as we can," court-appointed
attorney Matthew Patton IV said after Monday's hearing. "Mr. Bulington has
been locked up a long time, and he wants a speedy trial."
A spokeswoman for District Attorney Mike Fetter said prosecutors have not
decided whether to seek the death penalty.
Bulington is accused of shooting to death 44-year-old Keith Crutcher of
Ore City and a second man who has not been identified. Authorities believe
the men were killed in mid-December. The bodies were found by fishermen
Bulington has been held without bond in the Upshur County Jail since his
March 18 arrest. A Kilgore woman investigators say witnessed the killings
is in the Gregg County Jail on an evidence tampering charge connected to
the slayings and an unrelated prostitution count. Bond for Ruby Marie Tate
is $101,000. Her bond was incorrectly reported in a June 3 article.
(source: Longview News-Journal)
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