[Deathpenalty]death penalty news---N.Y., CALIF., FLA., ILL., MICH.

Rick Halperin rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Jun 24 10:50:43 CDT 2004






June 24


NEW YORK:

Court: Part Of N.Y.'s Capital Punishment Law Unconstitutional


In Albany, the state's highest court Thursday threw out the death sentence
imposed on a Long Island killer and declared a sentencing provision of New
York's capital punishment statute violates the state constitution.

The 4-3 ruling by the state Court of Appeals not only spares the life of
Stephen LaValle, who was convicted and condemned to die for raping and
killing a jogger in 1997, but also appears to invalidate capital sentences
against the other 3 men on death row in New York.

All 4 men were sentenced under a provision of the death penalty law that
is unconstitutional because it might coerce jurors into voting for death
for defendants when jurors do not want to, the majority of the court said
Thursday.

In New York, judges must tell jurors during the penalty phase of capital
trials that they can choose between death or life without parole for
defendants. Judges also must say that if jurors deadlock between the 2
punishments, the law orders judges to sentence defendants to between 20
and 25 years to life in prison, a sentence that carries with it the
possibility of parole.

"The deadlock instruction gives rise to an unconstitutionally palpable
risk that one or more jurors who cannot bear the thought that a defendant
may walk the streets again ... will join jurors favoring death in order to
avoid the deadlock sentence," wrote Judge George Bundy Smith for the
majority of the court.

The judges ordered that LaValle be resentenced to life without parole or a
parole-eligible sentence of between 20 and 25 years to life.

Besides affecting the three men already convicted in death penalty cases,
the majority of the court also ruled that the nine pending capital
prosecutions in which death notices have been served on defendants can
proceed -- but that life without parole has to be the maximum sentence
imposed.


CALIFORNIA:

Death Penalty Sought For Man Accused Of Killing Of 2 Ex-Girlfriends--
Proceedings Not Expected To Begin Until Next Year


In Los Angeles, prosecutors will seek the death penalty for a man accused
of killing his former girlfriend last year and strangling another
ex-girlfriend 9 years ago.

Mark Jeffery Brown, 45, is charged with the Feb. 14, 2003, murder of
40-year-old Denny's waitress Faye Williams, and the June 28, 1995, murder
of 37-year-old Charmaine Cannon. A special circumstance of multiple
murders also is alleged.

Deputy District Attorney Tracy Prior told Judge William Kennedy Wednesday
that her office will seek Brown's execution if he is convicted of all
charges.

After Brown was arrested for killing Williams, investigators found
evidence -- through advanced DNA testing unavailable in 1995 -- that tied
him to Cannon's murder, police said.

A trial date is tentatively set for Oct. 4, but the proceedings are not
expected to begin until next year. That's because Brown's attorney
recently discovered a conflict and handed off the case to another lawyer.
A status conference is scheduled for July 21.

Williams' body was found on May 3, 2003, in the Otay River Valley near the
Coors Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, Calif.

The defendant was in jail on an arson charge at the time.

Cannon's body was found in a City Heights, Calif., apartment in 1995 by
county marshals serving an eviction notice.


(source: NBC4 News)






FLORIDA:

Man Pleads Guilty, Asks for Execution


In Panama City, a man rejected a plea offer that would have spared his
life and pleaded guilty Tuesday, saying he wants a death sentence.

David Ronald Nolan pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder, turning down a
prosecution offer of life in prison for 2nd-degree murder for fatally
beating 29-year-old Michael Sessions with a hammer Oct. 9, 2001, in a
motel room.

A jury next week will recommend whether Nolan, 35, of nearby Parker,
should get his death wish.

(source: Associated Press)






ILLINOIS:

State to seek death penalty in Wood River slaying


In Edwardsville, prosecutors filed a notice Wednesday that they plan to
seek the death penalty against Matthew A. Davis of Alton, accused in the
Feb. 29 stabbing death of Rachel L. Hayes of Wood River.

The crime fits 3 of the legal criteria, including evidence of torture, to
support the states contention that Davis should be executed if found
guilty, said Stephanee Smith, a spokeswoman for Madison County States
Attorney William R. Mudge.

Davis is charged with 10 counts of 1st-degree murder, 3 counts of
aggravated criminal sexual assault and 6 counts of residential burglary.

Hayes was found dead in her Wood River apartment in the 1300 block of
Virginia Avenue. She had been stabbed several times, and the evidence
suggests she was sexually assaulted and stabbed in the genitalia, court
documents claim.

Smith said prosecutors are claiming, among other aggravating factors, that
the killing was intentional and involved the infliction of torture.

"Torture means the infliction of, or subjection to, extreme physical pain,
motivated by an intent to increase or prolong the pain suffering or agony
of the victim," the death penalty statute states.

Another aggravating factor is that the slaying occurred in the course of
another felony. In this case, Davis is also charged with sexual assault
and burglary.

The 3rd aggravating factor was "the murder was committed in a cold,
calculated and premeditated manner pursuant to a preconceived plan, scheme
or design to take a human life by unlawful means.

"And the conduct of the defendant created a reasonable expectation that
the death of a human being would result."

At the time of the crime, Mudge said the attack was particularly brutal
and noted that Hayes had a 4-year-old son. She was killed on his birthday.

Davis, 25, of the 3800 block of Horn Street in Alton, was indicted on 19
felony counts.

Authorities allege he entered the victims apartment with the intent to
rape her. Davis was arrested within days after the body was discovered. He
is being held without bond.

Hayes lived in the apartment with her son, Blake Thompson. He was not home
at the time of the attack.

Hayes was last reported seen alive at the Time Out Lounge in Downtown
Alton between 2:30 and 3:30 a.m. on the day she died. Her body was found
by a friend who came by to pick her up later that day.

The crime could have happened anytime between when she left the bar and
when the body was found, investigators said. Deputies said Davis and Hayes
knew each other but that they were not in a dating relationship.

On March 1, investigators executed a search warrant at Davis house and
took several items of evidence.

Hayes was a 2000 graduate of Civic Memorial High School and worked at U.S.
Bank in St. Louis. She was the daughter of Craig and Carole Hayes of
Bethalto and the granddaughter of Henry and Dolores Studnicki of Wood
River. Henry Studnicki was the superintendent of the East Alton-Wood River
High School and former Wood River city councilman.

Davis has a criminal history dating to 1998, when he was placed on two
years probation for felony theft. He also has been convicted of burglary,
violation of probation and aggravated domestic battery. He was sentenced
to probation on those charges.

In the July 2000 aggravated domestic battery case, he was accused of
hitting a girlfriend (not Hayes) in the chest and breaking her sternum,
according to an order of protection signed by the victim.

The victim told authorities that when she tried to leave, Davis kicked
her, aggravating the injury.

The judge sentenced him to 2 years probation and treatment for drugs and
alcohol abuse and "aggressive offender disorder."

The victim said in an interview that she was holding their child when
Davis attacked her.

"He has a violent temper. He has done so much to me," she said, adding
that she is grateful she did not come to the same end as Rachel Hayes.

After serving the probation through the Madison County Drug Court, Davis
was charged in January 2001 with home invasion. He was accused of entering
the same womans Roxana home and hitting a man in the face.

That charge later was reduced to battery, and he was sentenced to 23 days
time served in the Madison County Jail.

He was charged in July 2001 with a felony domestic battery of that same
victim as in the July 2000 case. The charge later was reduced to a
misdemeanor, and he was sentenced to 120 days time served in the Madison
County Jail.

(source: The (Alton) Telegraph)






MICHIGAN----federal death penalty possible

Federal death penalty could apply in Farmington Hills killing


In Farmington Hills, the people responsible for the slaying of a
21-year-old man could possibly face the death penalty if and when they are
brought to justice, police said.

Farmington Hills Police Chief William Dwyer said that he's seriously
considering seeking the federal death penalty in the ambush slaying of the
brother of a federal drug informant. The U.S. Attorney's Office said it
would consider the request.

Dwyer called the killing a case of mistaken identity.

"It was an execution-style slaying," Dwyer told the Detroit Free Press for
a Wednesday story. "Here's a guy who every morning went to work trying to
provide a living for himself and his partner."

Armond Hickmon, 21, was gunned down as he left his apartment Tuesday
morning. Dwyer said the killers thought they were shooting Hickmon's
brother, Antoine, 31, who had testified as recently as October in a major
federal drug case.

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel said his office would
consider the request "based on the facts and the law."

But requesting the federal death penalty, getting it cleared by the
Department of Justice and persuading a federal jury to impose it is a
tough task -- especially in states like Michigan that prohibit the death
penalty in murder cases filed under state law.

Since 1988, the Justice Department has authorized the death penalty in 318
cases. In the 254 cases that have gone to trial, juries imposed the death
penalty only 38 times. Only three of those sentences have been carried
out.

Federal law permits the death penalty for premeditated killings in federal
crimes, including cases of mistaken identity where killers try to silence
federal witnesses.

(source: Associated Press)






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