[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, CALIF., N.DAK., ALA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Nov 1 09:17:31 CST 2004
Death row inmate changes his story----4 days before his execution, he
admits he killed a student in '96
With his execution imminent, Robert Morrow fidgeted in his chair and was
testy as he spoke on a telephone through a Plexiglas window on death row.
He then began to spin a new story that substantially changed his long-held
account of his part in the kidnapping and slaying of a Liberty
councilman's daughter eight years ago.
"I don't care who ... believes me," the 47-year-old man said in a thick
Cajun accent laced with profanity at the Polunsky prison unit. He then
confessed to being the one who beat and slashed the throat of 21-year-old
Lisa Allison while she was home on spring break, contradicting his trial
testimony and media statements in which he had named another man as the
But he also contended that the college student had willingly gone with him
to smoke crack cocaine, denying that he had abducted her at knifepoint
from a car wash. Without committing another crime along with the slaying
on April 3, 1996, Morrow reasoned, his case should not qualify under state
law for the death penalty.
He is slated for execution at the Walls Unit in Huntsville on Thursday.
If Morrow thought his admission might help redeem him, it has had the
opposite effect on Allison's parents and the Liberty County district
attorney. They say Morrow's latest statements are another attempt to
manipulate the system and cruelly smear the family's memory of their
daughter by falsely implying she willingly accompanied him and used drugs.
"There are monsters out there who are wearing people suits. I want to see
this monster stand in front of God Almighty and try to lie his way out,"
said Allison's father, Mike, a certified public accountant.
The emotional stress of her death also caused Mike Allison to resign from
the Liberty City Council seat that he had held 6 years in the usually
tranquil community northeast of Houston.
His daughter had already faced death once when she had won a battle with
thyroid cancer three months before her murder, her family said.
"We are battle-weary," said Lisa Allison's mother, Susan, a teacher. "You
don't realize the physical pain you feel when something like this happens.
It's like having open-heart surgery without the anesthetic."
The Allisons and their daughter, Ashley, who was 7 years younger than
Lisa, say they are constantly reminded of their loss.
"We cannot enjoy simple things like going out to eat. They don't make a
table for 3. There is always an empty chair," said Susan Allison.
But Morrow said he had no choice but to kill Allison. After driving down
an isolated road to the Trinity River to smoke crack, Morrow said, he and
Allison got into a physical confrontation over a flat tire on the car that
she had taken to the car wash. She was upset with him for not quickly
changing it and bit him and stabbed him in the leg with a screwdriver, he
"I'm high on cocaine, and it blew my fuse. So I knotted up and slapped her
and beat the (expletive) out of her," he said.
At one point, he said, he chased her down the road and dragged her back to
the car, throwing her in the trunk so he could "change the tire."
"When I opened the trunk again, she came at me like a raving ... maniac.
So I had to whop her upside the head with a jack handle," he said. He also
cut her throat.
"I knew who her family was. I was a convicted felon that had been to the
pen 3 times. I didn't have a snowball's chance in hell. I did what I had
The background of Morrow and Allison couldn't be more different. In
addition to serving on the council, Allison's father founded the town's
only funeral home in 1947. Lisa Allison also had a cousin who was a
constable and another who was a deputy sheriff and bailiff.
Morrow had grown up 1 of 5 children in a home with an abusive, alcoholic
father, said his 75-year-old mother, Mary Morrow. He ran away to join a
carnival at age 9 and returned a few years later. He dropped out in the
Although Morrow never admitted the killing to his mother, Mary Morrow
remembers him coming home that night with blood on his clothing and saying
that he'd been in a fight.
"I'm sorry he (did) it. I guess he's being punished now," said Mary
Morrow, who is rail thin from arthritis and diabetes. "I can't attend the
execution because I can't walk without holding onto something. I know he's
going to die and I don't want to see it."
District Attorney Mike Little said the only truth in Morrow's latest
admission is that "he brutally killed a young woman who fought for her
virtue and her life." Little said any insinuations that she willingly
accompanied Morrow on a drug binge are "totally preposterous" because
tests at the time of her death found no trace of any drugs in her system.
In addition, Little said a friend of Morrow's testified at the trial that
he once mused about how easy it would be to kidnap, rob, sexually assault
and kill a woman from that very car wash before it happened.
"Those who knew Lisa would never consider for a moment that she would have
anything to do with this human piece of garbage unless he had a knife to
her throat," Little said.
A year away from degree
Allison had been attending the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, where she
was a year away from a degree in hotel management, her family said.
In high school, she had been an honor student and won a state competition
in prose. She was always involved as a class officer, student council
member and drill team dancer, her family said.
"She was electric. When she walked in a room, you could feel the energy,"
said Susan Allison.
Morrow, meanwhile, said he is ready to die. He has had plenty of time to
think about his death while isolated in his dank cell with no air
conditioning and only a radio for company.
"I'd have to be retarded or stupid to want to live on death row," he said.
Mike and Susan Allison and 3 other family members plan to make the trip to
Livingston to witness Morrow receive the lethal injection.
Morrow said none of his family members will attend. He said he has a
20-year-old son, Clyde, who cannot come because he is in prison for
cocaine possession. However, Morrow said a Catholic priest from Boston and
some friends from Switzerland will attend.
"I want you to tell the Allison family that I have arranged for a friend
to get my ashes and scatter them over their daughter's grave," he said
with a loud laugh. But then he said he was really sending his ashes to
members of his father's family in Ireland.
He said he has made his atonement and has no fear of dying: "I'll go in
myself and help with it (the execution). They're doing me a big favor. I'm
getting set free."
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Peterson Could Evade Death Penalty----Peterson Defense Rests Case
"Statistics will show he probably did it and who else could have done it?
But unfortunately for the state, they still don't have 'did he really do
it?'" -- CBS News Legal Analyst Mickey Sherman
The judge in the Scott Peterson case ruled Friday that the jury will be
allowed to consider a lesser murder charge that would spare the former
fertilizer salesman a possible death sentence if convicted.
Legal experts said the ruling is a victory for the prosecution because
allowing the lesser charges could make it easier for undecided jurors to
The penalty for a 2nd-degree conviction, says CBS News Reporter Tim Ryan,
would be 15 years to life for each of the 2 counts. Murder One means life
behind bars or even the death penalty.
Peterson already faces two counts of 1st-degree murder in the deaths of
his pregnant wife and the fetus she was carrying. Prosecutors are seeking
life without parole or the death penalty under those charges.
"The jury could say, 'Well, we think that Mr. Peterson killed Laci
Peterson but we're not persuaded beyond a reasonable doubt that there was
premeditation,"' Judge Alfred A. Delucchi said in his ruling - part of
instructions that will be given to jurors next week.
Defense attorneys vehemently objected to the inclusion of the lesser
charges because most experts agree the defense has done a good job at
explaining away premeditation. In order for the jury to find Peterson
guilty of 1st-degree murder, the members must first believe he planned the
killing in advance.
"There is no case I've been able to find ... where you have a situation
where (prosecutors) can't tell you where, they can't tell you when, they
can't tell you how ... and the jury" was given the 2nd-degree option,
defense lawyer Mark Geragos told the judge.
"Well, this is going to be the first," Delucchi replied.
Geragos then argued to include voluntary manslaughter as an option. The
"I would consider that to be at your peril," Geragos said, alluding to
inevitable appeals should there be a conviction.
Prosecutors have built their entire case on premeditation, that Peterson
planned for weeks to kill his eight-months pregnant wife, Laci, and had
even devised a way to dispose of the body by purchasing a boat.
Peterson is accused of killing his wife on or around Christmas Eve 2002,
then dumping the weighted body into San Francisco Bay. The remains of Laci
Peterson and her fetus were discovered along a rocky shoreline about four
months later, a few miles (kilometers) from where Scott Peterson claims to
have gone fishing alone the day his wife vanished.
The trial is in its 22nd week. Closing arguments are scheduled to begin
Most legal experts agreed the judge's ruling bodes well for the
"For the most part, it gives jurors a real option to convince or convert
any holdouts who aren't so sure about premeditation but may still think he
killed his wife," said Loyola Law School professor Stan Goldman, a regular
trial observer. "The most difficult thing in this case for prosecutors to
prove has been premeditation."
CBS News Early Show Legal Analyst Wendy Murphy, a former prosecutor,
expects prosecutors to use their closing arguments to highlight what she
calls the most understated piece of evidence in the case - the injuries on
Scott Peterson's hand.
"I think he reached up to strangle her and we know, those of us in this
business know, when there is a strangulation under way the first thing the
victim does is reach up to try to remove the hand from the neck," often
scratching the attacker's hands," Murphy said. "Scott Peterson lied about
how he got those injuries. He said 'I cut my hand on the tool box in my
truck.' They tested that tool box, every which way. No blood, no tissue,
nothing, no DNA from Scott Peterson."
But fellow CBS News Legal Consultant Mickey Sherman, a defense attorney,
predicts a not guilty verdict or hung jury.
"They've got the death of a very lovely young girl and a baby who
certainly didn't deserve any harm to come to it. And you've got a family
there who is grieving and they want to do something nice for them. You've
got Scott Peterson whose alibi puts him in the place where the bodies were
found. That's certainly the most damning evidence," said Sherman. "It's a
case of 'he probably did it.' Statistics will show he probably did it and
who else could have done it?
"But unfortunately for the state, they still don't have 'did he really do
(source: CBS News)
Rodriguez death penalty option hardly a surprise
Duh. News last week that suspected killer Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. would face
death penalty consideration in the abduction slaying of Dru Sjodin was as
much a surprise as death and taxes.
Factor, at least partially, the "Beauty and the Beast'' angle behind this
tragic and emotionally charged case, one that has made national and
Rodriguez is a convicted and high-risk sexual predator who was released
last year after serving 23 years for a brutal sexual assault. Sjodin was a
bubbly, energetic and high-spirited 22-year-old student at the University
of North Dakota in Grand Forks.
What is known is that Sjodin, of Pequot Lakes, Minn., vanished Nov. 22
after leaving work at a shopping mall in Grand Forks.
I first confirmed that Rodriguez was arrested and charged after the
missing girl's blood and DNA were reportedly found in his car. In April,
her remains were found in a ravine near the suspect's residence in
It didn't help his situation that at the time, Rodriguez claimed he had
gone to the mall to see "Once Upon a Time in Mexico," a film authorities
confirmed was not being shown then. If he is indeed the culprit, Rodriguez
made a grievous mistake by not negotiating a plea with prosecutors before
Sjodin's body was found.
Prosecutors would be foolish now to strike any deal. Rodriguez's exposure
to death penalty prosecution is not so much an aberration of prosecution
discretion, but a consistent one in recent years.
Under U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, the U.S. Justice Department has
been 3 times more likely to seek the death penalty in federal court for
minority defendants than non-minority defendants.
At least 75 % of murder defendants facing federal death penalty trials in
recent decades, both under Ashcroft and his predecessor, Janet Reno, were
black or non-white. Half of the cases recommended for death penalty
prosecution since 2000 have been in states that don't have capital
Kevin McNally, a Kentucky-based lawyer who helps run a national capital
defense counsel project, points out that as of Jan. 26 the federal
government has tried 91 federal death penalty cases. According to
McNally's group, there are currently 59 death penalty defendants in states
or other jurisdictions under U.S. law. 43 are African-Americans or members
of minority groups.
"Federal prosecutors have great discretion and latitude in which case they
select for capital consideration," explains McNally.
A Clinton administration survey of similar prosecution decisions in 2000
confirmed a troubling geographic and racial disparity problem in death
penalty case considerations.
More often than not, such cases involve sexual crimes and the victim is a
different race than the perpetrator, McNally said.
"As human beings, even prosecutors react to that," he said. "I can tell
you that it is usually the gender and the background of the victim that
drives this. Rodriguez is a man of Mexican descent. Sjodin was young,
white and female."
In talking about high-profile cases like Dru Sjodin's murder, he said:
"These are the kind of potential death penalty cases that attract federal
prosecutors like bugs to a light bulb.''
Richard Ney, who is helping to represent Rodriguez at trial, says he
doesn't know and wouldn't speculate on the religious or political motives
behind last week's decision.
"I can tell you that there is evidence that the process has been found to
be racially and ethnically biased, and has been for quite a while," Ney
With an overwhelming body of heinous crimes relegated to state court, the
lingering question is whether federal prosecutors are taking the
politically easy way out in this case.
"They really have nothing to lose," Ney said.
Ultimately, it is juries - not prosecutors or judges - that decide who
should face the death penalty.
Perhaps the biggest question left unanswered - and is being legally
challenged in some places - is how the federal government can override the
law of a state that has consistently opposed the death penalty. Perhaps,
in the end, it ultimately depends on who the defendant is and who the
(source: Pioneer Press)
Death sentence appeal Friday
The appeals court will issue a ruling some weeks after hearing the appeal
of Charlie Washington's capital murder conviction. The options:
The conviction and death sentence could be allowed to stand
The sentencing phase could be ordered to be repeated
The case could be retried
A Montgomery man sentenced to death for the brutal murder of an elderly
Millbrook couple will have his case heard by the Alabama Court of Criminal
Appeals on Friday.
Charlie Washington was convicted of capital murder Jan. 15. Circuit Judge
John Bush accepted the jury's recommendation when he imposed the death
sentence. In Alabama, death sentences receive an automatic appeal.
On January 23, 2003, the bodies of Florence McKinnon, 81, and her husband,
Julian, 85, were found in their Tanglewood Drive home. Autopsy reports
show the couple died of blunt force trauma, being beaten to death by a
hard, dense object similar to a fireplace poker or tire tool.
It was the 1st double murder trial in the county's history, according to
records and longtime courthouse observers.
"Oh, God, I remember when that happened. It doesn't seem like it's been
almost 2 years ago," said Melanie Reynolds, who lives in the neighborhood
leading up to the McKinnon's home.
The McKinnons lived in a secluded antebellum home at the end of a long,
"We were at work the day they were found," Reynolds said. "We found out
about the murders and his arrest at the same time. The only thing to be
thankful for about this whole thing is the police acted so quickly in
Washington knew the couple because from time to time he worked for them as
a handyman, testimony shows.
Prosecutors believe he broke into the home in an attempt to steal the
money Julian McKinnon had received earlier for a real estate deal in Clio.
Washington drove McKinnon to pick up the $10,000 in cash. Since that
weekend was the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, banks were closed and
McKinnon could not put the money in the bank.
Millbrook police and agents of the Alabama Bureau of Investigation found
Washington about two hours after the murder was reported in a Montgomery
hotel. What happened at the hotel may be the main issue for the appeal.
"Charlie Washington's arrest was illegal because there was no probable
cause," said Joe Marston, his attorney. "Since the search of the hotel
room and car was made after the arrest, we will argue evidence discovered
Briefs filed by the Alabama Attorney General's Office dealt with his
arrest and the follow-up search of his hotel room and the McKinnon's car,
which he was driving at the time. The attorney general's office handles
appeals in these types of cases.
The arrest was made with probable cause, prosecutors say. The brief says
Washington consented to the search of the room and car. There,
investigators found $7,300 in $100 bills.
Sam Partridge, chief assistant district attorney for the 19th Judicial
Circuit, is confidant the conviction and sentence will stand. Partridge
was the lead prosecutor in the case.
"This is our justice system at work. Death sentences receive an appeal,"
he said. "The appeals court has their job to do, the attorney general's
office has their job to do and Joe Marston has his job to do. When
everything is over, I feel the case will stand."
Partridge won't be there to hear arguments in the case, since the court
will convene at Robertsdale High School in Baldwin County. The court
travels to area schools to give students a look at the justice system.
Both the defense and prosecutors have filed briefs with the court and will
be allowed a chance to defend those briefs. No witnesses will be called.
The court will not rule on Friday. The case will be taken under
advisement. Rulings won't be handed down for several weeks.
Washington now sits on death row at Hollman prison in Atmore. An execution
date hasn't been set, said Brian Corbett, spokesman for the Alabama
Department of Corrections.
(source: The Montgomery Advertiser)
More information about the DeathPenalty