[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----KY., USA, CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Nov 19 16:29:37 CST 2004
Ragland to get new trial in murder of UK player
A divided Kentucky Supreme Court yesterday overturned Shane Ragland's
conviction in the murder of University of Kentucky football player Trent
DiGiuro, saying the prosecutor violated Ragland's constitutional right not
to testify against himself.
In a 4-3 decision, the court ordered a new trial for Ragland, who is
serving a 30-year sentence at the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex in
Ragland's father, Jerry Ragland, said the ruling left him feeling "great
better than I have been for a long time." He said he believes his son is
innocent and looks forward to a retrial.
"But I know it will be tough on everybody," he said. DiGiuro's father,
Mike DiGiuro of Goshen in Oldham County, said he would ask Fayette County
Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson to seek a harsher penalty in the
"I think he got off easy the last time," Mike DiGiuro said. "...I'm
certainly not looking forward to sitting through a new trial, but the only
other option is to let him walk, and we're not going to do that."
Larson said at a news conference at his Lexington office that he plans to
retry Ragland as soon as possible.
"We will begin our preparation immediately, and we are confident that at
the end of the day justice will prevail again," Larson said. "I feel very
comfortable that we'll be able to put on, probably, a stronger case."
Larson wouldn't elaborate but said the evidence against Ragland is
At a news conference yesterday in his Frankfort office, one of Ragland's
lawyers, Guthrie True, said he spoke with Ragland by phone soon after
learning of the Supreme Court's decision.
"He's relieved and very pleased and looking forward to another opportunity
to plead his case," said True, who said he would ask to have the trial
moved from Fayette County and is considering filing a request for
In March 2002, a Fayette County jury deliberated 5 hours before finding
that Ragland shot and killed DiGiuro while DiGiuro celebrated his 21st
birthday at a rented house near the UK campus in 1994.
Prosecutors claimed Ragland blamed DiGiuro for getting him blackballed
years earlier from a UK fraternity.
In its decision yesterday, the Supreme Court found that First Assistant
Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Malone erred during his closing
statement when he noted that prosecutors didn't know exactly where the
shot that killed DiGiuro came from.
"The only person who knows where that shot was fired from exactly is the
person sitting in that chair over there, and he hasn't seen fit to tell
us," Malone told the jury, referring to Ragland.
The majority opinion, written by Justice William Cooper, said Malone's
statement prejudiced the jury by pointing out that the defendant did not
Courts have held that jurors cannot consider the fact that a defendant
doesn't testify as evidence of guilt or innocence. And they have
prohibited prosecutors from reminding jurors when a defendant didn't
After a defense lawyer objected at the trial, Malone told the jury he
meant Ragland hadn't volunteered to police where the shot came from when
they questioned him.
But the Supreme Court said, "The problem with the prosecutor's explanation
is that the videotape of the (police) interrogation reflects that the
police never asked appellant about the location from where the shot was
The court called Malone's statement "intentional and flagrant." It noted
that Fayette Circuit Judge Thomas Clark also failed to admonish the jury
at the time to not consider whether Ragland testified.
Larson defended Malone yesterday, saying his statement was not
intentional, and that he would not be reprimanded. Malone probably would
be lead prosecutor in Ragland's retrial, Larson said.
"Mike Malone has been an outstanding prosecutor for Fayette County for
over 26 years, and he is always involved somehow in our most difficult
cases," Larson said. "There is no finer nor more ethical prosecutor in
Kentucky than Mike Malone. To say or think differently is just plain
Malone declined to comment, referring questions to Larson.
Three justices dissented in the ruling. Justice James Keller wrote that
Malone's statement didn't warrant reversal, in part because there was
"compelling" evidence against Ragland, and the jury would have found him
guilty even if Malone had never made the statement.
He accused the court's majority of placing "spin" on Malone's words.
In its ruling, the court rejected nine other claims made by True and
Ragland's other lawyers, William Johnson and Jerry Wright. Among their
claims was that Ragland wasn't properly read his rights and wasn't given
access to a lawyer promptly, and that search warrants used to find
evidence against Ragland were invalid.
The court also rejected arguments that testimony from an FBI metals expert
should not have been allowed because she testified incorrectly at a
The analyst, Kathleen Lundy, had compared the bullet fragments in DiGiuro
with bullets found at Ragland's parents' homes, and said they came from
the same manufacturing lot. She ultimately pleaded guilty in Fayette
District Court to "false swearing," a lesser crime than perjury.
Release request likely
Ragland's lawyer, True, wouldn't say if he would ask Ragland to testify in
his own defense at a retrial. But he said he would likely ask a judge to
release Ragland "at the appropriate time."
Mike DiGiuro said he would oppose Ragland's release pending a new trial.
True said the 1st step procedurally is for prosecutors to determine
whether they will ask the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision.
Supreme Court Clerk Susan Stokely Clary said Attorney General Greg Stumbo
has 20 days to ask for a rehearing.
Jennifer Dean, a spokeswoman for Stumbo, said yesterday that Stumbo's
office was studying the decision but had not yet decided whether to ask
for a rehearing.
Larson said he doesn't plan to seek a rehearing.
If a rehearing is requested by Stumbo, the Supreme Court could act quickly
or wait until next year when Will T. Scott, who was elected to the court
earlier this month, replaces Justice Janet Stumbo, who is distantly
related to Greg Stumbo. Janet Stumbo sided with the majority in the
In his campaign against Janet Stumbo, Scott aired a TV ad showing mug
shots of 4 offenders whose convictions Janet Stumbo had voted to reverse.
Under state Supreme Court rules, a newly elected member of the court may
vote on any matter pending before it, including the rehearing of a case
previously decided, Clary said. A tie vote would affirm the court's
previous ruling, she said.
Tom Bullock, the lawyer for Aimee Lloyd, who is Ragland's former
girlfriend and was a key witness in Ragland's trial, said Lloyd hasn't
decided whether to testify voluntarily in a retrial.
Bullock said the trial was difficult for her because she was thoroughly
investigated by Ragland's lawyers and much of her personal life was put on
"Most people don't understand the trauma and the time commitment it takes
to go through a trial like this," said Bullock. "They don't understand the
impact it had on her personal life and her business life."
Lloyd testified at the trial that Ragland had told her in a Lexington pub
that he had killed DiGiuro. She directed police to where she said he kept
the rifle he allegedly used in the murder and even wore a recording device
when she talked to him about DiGiuro.
During the trial, Johnson questioned her extensively about her sex life
and intimate details she had written about in a journal.
Bullock said prosecutors could require Lloyd to testify, but "nobody wants
a hostile witness."
Larson declined to say what witnesses he would call for the retrial but
said he could subpoena any witness who doesn't want to testify
Fatal inequities ---- Growing unease with death penalty
Over the past 10 years, Americans have been forced to face reality: Death
penalty laws are deeply flawed.
More than 100 death row inhabitants have been freed after their
convictions were overturned, many of them exonerated by DNA evidence that
conclusively proves their innocence. Years, sometimes decades, pass
between conviction and execution. And executions gruesomely botched have
many recoiling in horror.
As a result, prosecutors are more reluctant to seek the death penalty, and
juries are more reluctant to impose it. A recent study by the U.S.
Department of Justice shows that from 2000 to 2003, death-row populations
across the nation declined for the 1st time since revised
capital-punishment statutes were approved by courts in the mid-1970s.
That's true even though several states and the federal government are
expanding the list of crimes eligible for the death penalty. Over the last
10 years, the number of inmates sentenced to death each year has steadily
dropped, from 327 in 1994 to 144 in 2003.
Why are Americans turning away from this vestige of frontier justice? One
possible explanation is the growing international pressure on the United
States as the last industrialized nation to so enthusiastically apply the
death penalty. But a more likely theory hits closer to home. The
continuing spate of stories about inequities in the way the death penalty
is administered has forced many to consider whether the notion of
retributive justice is itself fundamentally flawed.
The myth that capital punishment serves as a deterrent has been exploded.
Death penalty proponents argue that over the past 10 years, the number of
executions increased while murder rates have decreased. But that's true in
states that don't have the death penalty -- and on average, their murder
rates are dropping faster than they are in states that still execute, the
Death Penalty Information Center reports.
The other likely contributor is the number of death sentences overturned,
a statistic that throws the permanent, irrevocable nature of the death
penalty into sharp focus. As DNA evidence has freed increasing numbers of
inmates, the number of Americans who say they favor the death penalty has
remained fairly stable -- but the number of Americans who say they oppose
the death penalty has steadily increased. While 60 to 70 % of Americans
say they approve of the death penalty, the number drops to about half when
they are asked to choose between death and life in prison without parole.
This growing uneasiness about the death penalty is already bearing fruit.
Last month, President Bush signed the Justice For All Act, which (among
other things) provides more hope to inmates awaiting DNA tests that could
prove their innocence. The act does not go far enough -- it limits access
to other scientific tests, for example -- but it will provide $25 million
to states over the next five years to conduct post-conviction DNA tests.
Yet too many death penalty inmates are still tried, convicted and
sentenced in states that deny them adequate legal representation. Without
a competent lawyer at trial, the accused lose much of their ability to
appeal wrongful convictions. Until recently, Florida had a good system to
provide attorneys to death row inmates. Unfortunately, Gov. Jeb Bush seems
intent on dismantling it.
A better solution -- the right solution -- is to recognize the death
penalty for what it is -- inefficient, ineffective, expensive, slow,
unjust and morally reprehensible -- and abolish it now, rather than wait
for it to wither away.
(source: Editorial, Daytona Beach News-Journal, Nov. 17)
THE PETERSON TRIAL -- Lawyer asks for 2nd jury; Geragos files motion to go
to new county for sentencing phase
Scott Peterson will not get a fair sentence in San Mateo County, says his
attorney, who wants a new jury and is asking that the remainder of the
case be held in another county.
Defense lawyer Mark Geragos said in a motion filed Wednesday afternoon
that the scene outside the Redwood City courthouse after last week's
verdicts showed that people in the county wanted Peterson's head on a
stick, according to sources who have seen the motion. The jury that
convicted Peterson of murdering his wife, Laci, and the couple's unborn
child is scheduled Monday to begin hearing evidence on whether the
defendant should die for his crimes or spend the rest of his life in
Geragos argues that the 12 members of the jury are likely to be influenced
by what they saw last Friday, when hundreds of people gathered at the foot
of the courthouse steps cheering the guilty verdicts, according to the
brief filed in San Mateo County Superior Court.
The defense attorney likened the crowd to a modern-day lynch mob and
blamed the media for feeding the frenzy, sources said. Less than an hour
after the verdicts were read, the San Mateo County Times and Redwood City
Daily News began circulating papers with "guilty" emblazoned on their
covers. The throngs began waving the newspapers in front of the television
news cameras filming in front of the courthouse.
Geragos's motion was not made public Wednesday, but a hearing on the issue
is scheduled for Monday morning. This is not the first time Geragos has
asked for a new panel to judge the penalty phase of Peterson's trial -- he
requested it before the trial started and after it began. But he was
always denied. Early on in the case, the defense lawyer lobbied hard for a
second change of venue because of pretrial publicity. The case had
originally been moved from Modesto to San Mateo County.
Judge Alfred Delucchi, who is presiding over the case, said the only way
to combat the enormous amount of exposure the case has received would be
to "hold the trial on Mars -- and that might not even be far enough."
In his latest motion, sources said, Geragos maintains that Friday's mob
scene only bolsters his earlier change-of-venue request, in which he
argued that his survey showed that even before the trial, people
overwhelmingly would have convicted Peterson. He could not be reached for
Legal experts say they don't believe Delucchi will grant Geragos' motion
but think he is giving himself a good basis for anappeal.
"The judge may take other measures," said Ellen Kreitzberg, director of
the death penalty college at Santa Clara University School of Law and a
criminal law professor. "He may question the jurors individually or as a
group to see if they can still be open-minded during this phase of the
trial. Or he may instruct them to render their own decisions and not be
influenced by anything else."
Steve Wagstaffe, chief deputy district attorney in San Mateo County, said
there hadn't been a death penalty verdict in the Redwood City courthouse
in 10 years even though his office has sought capital punishment in four
cases during that period. As far as seeing similar hordes to the ones that
gathered for the Peterson verdict, he said, "I have never seen anything
like it in my 25 years here."
(source: San Francisco Chronicle)
More information about the DeathPenalty