[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----MD., KY., CALIF., OKLA.

Rick Halperin rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Jun 11 12:13:44 CDT 2004

June 11


Oken's lawyers move on 3 fronts to delay execution

With the execution date for Steven Oken rapidly approaching, his lawyers
are working on 3 legal fronts in what could be their final push to spare
his life.

U.S. District Court Judge Peter J. Messitte agreed to hear an appeal for a
stay of execution Monday at 2 p.m. Although Okens execution could take
place as early as Monday, lawyers for both sides said the state has agreed
not to go ahead with the execution until after the district court hearing.

Oken's lawyers, Fred Warren Bennett and Michael Lawlor, also are preparing
an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In both courts, they are seeking a stay of execution based on a claim that
the states method of execution by lethal injection violates the
Constitutions prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

Bennett also filed a motion in Baltimore County Circuit Court asking that
Oken's case be reopened, arguing that he had ineffective counsel during
his 1991 trial.

Oken was sentenced to die for the rape and murder of Dawn Marie Garvin in
Baltimore County in 1987. He also was convicted of murdering 2 other

Oken was taken into custody in Freeport, Maine, the day after the murder
of Lori Ward, a motel clerk in Kittery, Maine. He received a life sentence
for that killing.

The Maryland Court of Appeals refused Wednesday to grant a stay of
execution, rejecting Bennetts arguments that the combination of 3 drugs
that will be used by prison officials violates the law that changed the
method of execution from the gas chamber to lethal injection. The law
specifies the use of 2 drugs, a barbiturate and a paralytic agent.

The appeals court also did not accept Bennetts argument that the execution
would amount to cruel and unusual punishment because Oken would feel pain
and would basically suffocate to death because the paralytic drug would
make it impossible for him to breathe.

"Our argument (to the Supreme Court) is that the method used is cruel and
unusual punishment," Lawlor said.

Bennett said Wednesday he also is considering an appeal for clemency to
Gov. Robert Ehrlich. The governor is a supporter of capital punishment,
but has said he would consider any requests that reach his desk asking him
to commute death sentences.

(source: Associated Press)


Prosecutor cites religious beliefs in seeking out of murder case

In Louisville, a Kentucky prosecutor has raised religious objections to
the death penalty in asking to step aside in the case of 2 men charged
with killing a couple and setting their house on fire.

J. Stewart Schneider, the commonwealth's attorney in Boyd County in
northeastern Kentucky, said Thursday he filed his motion to withdraw from
the case after spending last weekend at a religious retreat. Schneider
also is a minister with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

"I spent that weekend in prayer," he said. "The more I thought about it,
the more convinced I became that for me to make the decisions in asking
for a penalty ... I would be speaking contrary to my calling.

"I would not be speaking Gospel, but would rather be speaking as a
prosecutor. And I don't know that I can do both things, that I can wear 2
hats in that case."

Attorney General Greg Stumbo will appoint a special prosecutor, as
requested by Schneider, said Stumbo spokeswoman Vicki Glass.

Veteran employees in the attorney general's office in Frankfort could not
recall a similar objection from another prosecutor, she said.

Schneider said another prosecutor could decide what penalty to seek
against the 2 defendants without "injecting other issues into it."

"That seems to me to be the best way to be faithful to both oaths" - as a
prosecutor and minister, he said.

His recusal request, filed Wednesday in Boyd County Circuit Court, was 1st
reported by The Daily Independent of Ashland. It must still be approved by
a judge.

Schneider said the case against the 2 defendants - Jonathon Nolan and
Patrick Campbell - could potentially meet standards allowing prosecutors
to seek the death penalty.

Nolan, 24, of Catlettsburg, and Campbell, 21, of Ashland, were indicted
this week on 2 counts each of 1st-degree murder, 1 count of 1st-degree
arson and one count of tampering with physical evidence.

Both men are charged in the slayings of Phillip "Bo" Booth, 32, and his
wife, Shonda Booth, 26. The Booths were found dead May 24 in their home
outside of Catlettsburg following a fire.

An autopsy revealed that Phillip Booth was shot and stabbed and his wife
was stabbed before their home was set on fire, Kentukcy State Police said.
Both were likely dead before the fire started, police said.

Nolan and Campbell were arrested at their homes shortly after the fire.
Neighbors told police they saw the two at the Booths' home and heard
gunshots moments before the fire broke out, the Daily Independent

Nolan and Campbell are scheduled to be arraigned in Boyd County Circuit
Court next week, Schneider said. Both are being held in the Boyd County
Detention Center on $1 million bond.

The Rev. Patrick Delahanty, head of the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the
Death Penalty, said Thursday he applauded Schneider for "his faithfulness
to his religious convictions."

But Delahanty said he wished Schneider would have prosecuted the case and
sought life without parole as a possible punishment. A special prosecutor
could come in and seek the death penalty, Delahanty said.

Schneider said he has never prosecuted a case in which he sought the death
penalty. He has been commonwealth's attorney since 1993, and before that
had 2 stints as an assistant prosecutor dating back to 1977.

He said his opposition to capital punishment was based on religious
grounds. He said that with use of the death penalty, "we terminate God's
opportunity to work" to change lives.

"Even murderers can be redeemed," he said.

Schneider said his views about capital punishment never came up in any of
his campaigns. "This hasn't been a hot button issue in any election I've
been involved in," he said.

Schneider said he plans to run for re-election in 2006. Delahanty said he
doesn't think Schneider will face a backlash from voters for his stand.

"In a case where someone says that this is part of my religious and moral
convictions, generally I don't think that hurts politicians," Delahanty

(source: Associated Press)


Police Detail Suspicions of Scott Peterson

Just like Scott Peterson's in-laws, police were almost immediately
suspicious after the fertilizer salesman reported his pregnant wife

Within hours of responding to Peterson's home Christmas Eve, 2002, police
summoned a detective - an uncommon practice for a missing persons case,
Modesto Police Sgt. Byron Duerfeldt testified Thursday during Peterson's
murder trial.

"Based on what they told me I felt it was necessary to have a detective
respond," Duerfeldt said.

Duerfeldt was stopped from explaining what the officers told him they saw
in the home because he is not allowed to testify about what others said.

Prosecutors allege Peterson killed his wife, Laci, in their Modesto home,
then dumped her body from his small boat on San Francisco Bay. His
attorneys have speculated someone else abducted her while she walked the
dog and have accused authorities of focusing too quickly on Peterson while
ignoring other leads.

The remains of Laci Peterson and her fetus washed ashore nearly 4 months
later, just 2 miles from where Scott Peterson claimed to have been

Duerfeldt was the 1st law enforcement officer to testify in the trial,
which concluded its 2nd week of testimony Thursday. If convicted, Peterson
could face the death penalty or life in prison.

Earlier, Peterson neighbor Susan Medina testified about a burglary at her
home after she and her husband left on Dec. 24, 2002, to visit family and
returned 2 days later.

Defense lawyers have hinted the burglars may have been involved in Laci's
disappearance. But prosecutors said the Petersons' dog was found wandering
alone in the street before the Medinas left their home at midday -
indicating Laci disappeared before the break-in.

Police recovered much of the stolen property and arrested 2 men in the
case, ruling out any connection to Laci's disappearance.

Medina later testified she saw nothing unusual in the neighborhood that

"You didn't see anybody drag anything out of the house? You didn't see
anybody load anything into a truck?" defense lawyer Pat Harris asked.

"No," Medina replied.

"You could see directly what's going on at the Petersons' house in the
driveway?" Pat Harris asked.

"Correct," she replied.

Testimony was to resume Monday with additional police officers taking the

(source: Associated Press)


Nichols Jury Deliberations Enter 3rd Day

3 years to the day that Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was executed,
jurors continued deliberating whether his conspirator should die or spend
his life in prison.

It took the 12-member panel only 5 hours on May 26 to convict Terry
Nichols of 161 counts of 1st-degree murder for deaths in the April 19,
1995, blast at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The sentencing
deliberations - 12 hours so far - entered their third day Friday.

Victims' family members who believe Nichols should get the death penalty
said they are concerned the jury is taking longer to decide Nichols'
sentence than it did to find him guilty.

"You might say we're disappointed. It's been a day and a half," said Joyce
Cleveland, 64, whose daughter, Pamela Argo, died in the federal building's
Social Security Administration office.

Survivor Priscilla Salyers is concerned the lengthy deliberations could
mean jurors will not reach a decision.

"I think there's some kind of a problem," Salyers said. "I can't imagine
being on this jury. It's got to be hard to do."

Judge Steven Taylor has said the jurors will take as much time as they

"The length of your deliberations and your deliberation schedule is up to
you," Taylor told the panel as the sequestered panel resumed deliberations
Thursday morning.

If jurors can't reach a decision, Taylor will be required to sentence
Nichols to life in prison.

Members of Nichols' family, including mother Joyce Wilt, sister Suzanne
McDonnell and ex-wife Lana Padilla waited at the courthouse. Victims'
relatives were at a nearby church.

Nichols was convicted in a federal trial in 1997 of conspiracy and the
involuntary manslaughter of eight federal agents killed in the blast. A
federal jury in Denver deliberated for 13 1/2 hours over two days before
deadlocking over whether Nichols should be given a death sentence or a
life term.

The state trial is for the others who were killed, including one victim's
fetus. Prosecutors brought the state case specifically to seek the death

U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch then sentenced Nichols to life in
prison without the possibility of parole.

(source: Associated Press)

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