[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----PENN., CONN., CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Nov 10 09:22:47 CST 2004
DA will seek death penalty for Gacha
He is accused in the murder of Carrie Martin
Prosecutors filed notice in Luzerne County Court Tuesday that they intend
to seek the death penalty against Joseph Gacha Jr., 27, for the murder of
20-year-old Carrie Lynn Martin inside a Larksville apartment on May 28.
Martin was killed during an alleged robbery, one of 18 aggravating
circumstances required to seek the death penalty in Pennsylvania.
Before Judge Joseph Augello, Gacha appeared and pleaded not guilty to
charges of criminal homicide, robbery, theft by unlawful taking and
Gacha and Daniel Joseph Kukucka, 26, were accused of breaking into an
apartment on Howard Street, where they fatally stabbed Martin multiple
An autopsy conducted by Luzerne County Coroner Dr. George Hudock Jr.
determined Martin died from multiple stab wounds and ruled the manner of
Martin had defense wounds to both hands, a sign she fought her assailants.
Judge Augello scheduled Gacha's trial to begin Monday. Jan. 3, at 9:30
a.m. He remains imprisoned at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility
Gacha's defense lawyers, Mark Bufalino and Paul Galante, filed a motion
seeking to dismiss the criminal homicide, robbery and criminal conspiracy
charges claiming prosecutors failed to establish a sufficient case against
their client at the preliminary hearing held Aug. 12 before District
Justice John Hasay.
Bufalino and Galante alleged prosecutors failed to present evidence that
Gacha was the person responsible for Martin's murder.
A hearing on the defense motion is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 22, at 10
According to the affidavit of probable cause, state police at Wyoming
received a tip from Gacha's stepbrother Chris Howell, who allegedly stated
Gacha and Kukucka stopped at his residence during the morning hours on May
While at Howell's residence, Gacha allegedly told his stepbrother that he
and Kukucka went into a residence in Larksville and stabbed a man in his
throat killing him for drugs and money, according to the affidavit.
Gacha allegedly had shown Howell an injury to his hand where Martin bit
He also possessed money taken during the robbery and murder.
Kukucka was apprehended a day after Martin's body was found. He killed
himself July 22 while imprisoned at LCCF.
Gacha surrendered to authorities from his mother's Nanticoke residence on
Assistant District Attorneys William T. Finnegan Jr., Robert Trichilo and
Jerrett J. Ferentino are prosecuting.
Luzerne County Lt. Det. Gary Sworen was the investigating officer.
(source: The Citizens Voice)
Judge strikes down death row inmate's appeal
Death row inmate Sedrick Cobb's claim that he had inadequate defense
during his trial has been rejected by a state judge.
But the ruling will likely be appealed to the state Supreme Court.
Cobb was sentenced to death for the 1989 kidnapping, rape and murder of
Julia Ashe in Waterbury. She was abducted from a Waterbury parking lot
while holiday shopping on Dec. 16, 1989. Her body was found on Christmas
Day in a pond.
Cobb, 42, said last year he wanted to halt all further appeals to his
death sentence, but later said he wanted to continue the challenges. His
lawyer, David Golub, said he would vigorously appeal the latest ruling.
Under scrutiny in the appeal was Chief Public Defender Gerard Smyth's
decision to not call psychiatrist Dr. Kenneth Selig to the witness stand
during the trial. Selig was prepared to testify that Cobb was severely
impaired with mental illness, and tie that illness to Cobb's actions on
the night he kidnapped Ashe.
Cobb told Selig that he had returned to the crime scene and watched Ashe
struggling to survive, then returned again the next morning, propped her
body against a tree and became sexually aroused. Those details, which were
unknown to Waterbury State's Attorney John Connelly during the case,
persuaded Smyth not to call Selig.
"We think you can't sentence someone to death when the court isn't told
that a respected psychiatrist has diagnosed the defendant as having a
severe mental illness," Golub said Tuesday.
In the ruling, Judge Stanley T. Fuger rejected the idea that calling Selig
would have changed the outcome of Cobb's trial.
"This court is convinced that had Dr. Selig been called to testify at the
punishment phase of the trial, his testimony would have been insufficient
to allow (Cobb) to escape the death penalty," Fuger wrote. "Indeed, it is
possible that testimony by Dr. Selig may well have cemented in the 3-judge
panel's finding that death was the appropriate punishment."
Connelly said he spoke with Ashe's parents Monday night.
"It's been a long time for them, but they remain strong," Connelly said.
"They were grateful another hurdle had been successfully cleared."
The state is currently preparing for its 1st execution in decades. Serial
killer Michael Ross is scheduled to be put to death on Jan. 26. The last
person executed in Connecticut was Joseph "Mad Dog" Taborsky in May 1960.
(source: The Hartford Courant)
Peterson Judge Dismisses Juror for Misconduct
The judge presiding over the Scott Peterson murder trial dismissed a juror
for misconduct Tuesday and then ordered the panel to start deliberations
from scratch, as required by law.
In dismissing juror No. 7, the judge, Alfred A. Delucchi, forbid her from
talking about the case. The juror, who is 50 to 60 years old, said during
jury selection that she worked for a utility company.
The judge did not disclose any details of the misconduct, and the decision
to dismiss the juror was made in closed chambers. But legal experts said
they suspected she might have conducted her own research, which could
include a number of possibilities, from looking up a word in a dictionary
to looking up information on the Internet.
The replacement juror is the second alternate to advance to the panel that
will decide the fate of Mr. Peterson, 32, who is charged with 2 counts of
murder in the death of his pregnant wife, Laci Peterson.
Another juror was dismissed in June.
The second replacement juror is a woman in her 30's, who has at times
stood out because she has tattoos and tends to change her hair color.
Because her brother had been in prison, she was initially viewed as
sympathetic to the defense. But during the prosecution's case she cried
when she saw autopsy photos of the victims.
The defense did not request a mistrial in open court on Tuesday.
But Mark Geragos, the lead defense lawyer, asked for a mistrial Monday,
after jurors looked at the boat Mr. Peterson used to go fishing around the
time his wife disappeared. One or 2 jurors apparently tried to rock the
boat, and such experimentation is prohibited.
(source: New York Times)
Juror dismissed -- did own research -- With alternate replacing her, jury
must start again
Jurors started deliberating anew Tuesday in Scott Peterson's double-murder
trial, after a panel member was abruptly removed for doing her own
research on the case.
Frances Gorman, a retired Pacific Gas and Electric Co. employee and
formerly juror No. 7, was replaced after the noon recess by an alternate
-- a mother with flaming pink hair and tattoos who works in a bank. Judge
Alfred Delucchi told jurors they had to leave behind whatever they had
accomplished during nearly 5 days of deliberations and start from scratch.
The foreman, a 46-year-old Peninsula man with medical and law degrees, sat
in the jury box appearing flushed and shaken after the judge replaced
Gorman. He seemed physically exhausted as he left the courtroom, rubbing
the side of his head with an anguished expression on his face. Juror No.
11 also showed signs of frustration and disappointment. And Juror No. 12
just looked disgusted.
Even before Tuesday, deliberations in the Peterson trial had become
controversial. On Monday someone on the panel complained that at least one
among them was causing trouble in the jury room. That same day, the
defense protested that jurors examining the boat Peterson allegedly used
to dispose of his wife's body were conducting experiments to see if the
vessel would tip. The judge ruled that the defense's complaint was
Monday's grievances appear to be unrelated to Tuesday's dismissal. Despite
the problems over the last couple of days, the defendant has appeared
unfazed. Dressed in a blue suit, Peterson was brought from the jail to
attend the brief afternoon hearing. As he walked into the Redwood City
courtroom, he smiled at his family seated in the front row.
Gorman, the excused juror, is the second to leave during the trial. In
June, a juror was dismissed after talking with a member of the victim's
Delucchi did not say why he dismissed the 58-year-old Foster City woman on
Tuesday, but sources say she broke the rules when she conducted her own
study of the case rather than relying solely on the evidence presented in
court. It was not immediately clear what her research entailed.
Under California law, jurors are barred from doing their own experiments,
demonstrations or investigations during a trial. Former San Francisco
prosecutor Jim Hammer said jurors can't even so much as look up a word in
the dictionary. Even though the rules are explained to the jurors, Hammer
said he has seen them broken time after time.
"This is classic misconduct of the worst sort," said Chuck Smith, a former
San Mateo County prosecutor who is following the case. "(A juror doing)
any research, on the issue of fact or independent research on the issue of
law, is inappropriate."
Gorman, who reportedly was placed under a gag order by the judge, wouldn't
comment. She was chosen in May to serve on the jury out of a pool of more
than 1,500 people.
During the selection process, she told the attorneys and Delucchi that she
could vote to execute someone, but that based on some of the media
coverage she'd seen, she didn't see a motive for Peterson to murder his
wife, Laci, and their unborn child. She sat through 5 months of testimony
and was sequestered last Wednesday with the other 11 jurors and 5
alternates during deliberations.
That came to an end for her sometime Tuesday morning, when she was
dismissed and secretly ushered out of the courthouse. More than a dozen
cameramen and a crowd of reporters staked out the courthouse's back
entrance to catch a glimpse of her. After a court official came out and
said the juror was long gone, the group dispersed.
But by late afternoon, the frenzied journalists had moved to Gorman's
two-story, gray stucco house, where American and San Francisco 49ers flags
adorned the entrance and an upstairs window. She eventually arrived in the
passenger seat of a white Porsche and shielded her face from the media
A young woman, who had followed in another car, said, "We're not talking
to the press. We're not commenting at all. And you're not supposed to be
on the driveway."
As night fell, one member of Gorman's family yelled, "Get off the
Alternate Juror No. 1, a mother of four, is expected to start her first
full day of deliberations today. Her dyed pink-and-red hair, nine tattoos
and sparkly personality have captured the attention of courtroom
spectators. Legal pundits believe she may bode favorably for Peterson
because she frequently smiles at his lawyers and nods her head when they
are trying to make a point. She has also been seen crying during portions
of the trial -- specifically when autopsy photos were shown of the
Petersons' unborn baby.
"This is Christmas in November for the defense," said Rich Mathews, a San
Francisco legal consultant who has watched the case unfold.
But, warned Smith, "a juror could smile to your face and then stab you in
the back." The seasoned former prosecutor said there is no way to know
what a juror is thinking.
During jury selection last spring, the new Juror No. 7 told the court that
she worked in a bank and wouldn't get paid for the duration of her jury
service but wanted to participate anyway. She said she grew up visiting
her brother in San Quentin Prison. He was in and out for drug use, she
said. His problems motivated her mother to become a drug counselor who
runs a methadone clinic for heroin addicts, she said. The juror said she
likes to debate and was considering going to law school.
When asked if she could be fair, she responded: "I know what it's like to
be judged, and I know what it's like to be prejudged. You have to be
willing to listen to everything. ... This is somebody's life."
She is the second alternate to replace someone on the panel. Just three
weeks after the trial began, Juror No. 5, Justin Falconer, was dismissed
from the jury after he was captured by television cameras talking to Laci
Peterson's brother. His replacement is now the jury foreman.
Of the six original alternates, four remain. Because the alternates are
not permitted to deliberate with the panel, the jurors are required by law
to start over to get their new member up to speed. Before Tuesday's
dismissal, the jury had already re-examined dozens of court exhibits,
including a number of audiotapes of conversations between the defendant
and his girlfriend, Amber Frey.
Peterson is accused of planning the murders of his eight-months-pregnant
wife and the couple's unborn child sometime in the days before Christmas
2002. The jury has the option to acquit Peterson or find him guilty of
second- or first-degree murder. For him to be eligible for the death
penalty, the jurors must find that Peterson is guilty of 2 counts of
murder with at least 1 in the 1st degree and of the special circumstance
of multiple murders.
(source: San Francisco Chronicle)
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