[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----MD., N.C., FLA., KAN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Apr 1 10:08:41 CST 2005
Death Row Inmate Granted Stay Of Execution
The state's highest court has granted a stay of execution to death row
inmate Vernon Evans.
He was scheduled to put to be death by lethal injection in the 5-day
period that begins April 18th. But the Court of Appeals granted a defense
request to block the execution until his latest appeal could be
The defense asked for time to argue that Evans' sentence was unfair, based
on a University of Maryland study in 2003 that found racial and geographic
disparities in the application of the death penalty in the state.
Oral arguments on the appeal are scheduled for June 7th.
The same study is the basis for an appeal by another condemned man --
Wesley Baker -- that the Court of Appeals is also scheduled to hear in
Evans was one of two men convicted and sentenced to death for the April
1983 killings of David Piechowicz and Susan Kennedy at a motel in
(source: Associated Press)
Death row convict to get new trial--Judge says officials withheld evidence
A judge has ruled that a Greensboro man should have a new trial after a
quarter century on death row, saying investigators and prosecutors
withheld evidence that could have helped him.
Michael Pinch, 45, is the 8th death-row inmate in recent years granted a
new trial on a finding of misconduct by prosecutors. Defense lawyers
hailed the ruling Thursday as further proof that the criminal justice
system has been biased against the accused.
"The kind of trial Michael Pinch got, you cannot give to anyone anymore,"
said Pinch's attorney, James Cooney III of Charlotte.
Pinch has admitted shooting two men in October 1979 at Strokers'
Motorcycle Clubhouse in Greensboro but claimed he was guilty of 2nd-degree
murder, arguing that he did not plan the crime. He avoided execution for
25 years because his numerous appeals were inching through the courts.
Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Melzer A. Morgan Jr., in granting
him a new trial, cited 6 legal reasons why Pinch didn't receive a fair
Among other things, he said, police failed to tell Pinch's lawyers that a
key witness failed a lie detector test and gave 3 different statements,
and that one victim had a history of stabbing people.
The prosecutor, Charles W. Wannamaker III, failed to share notes of
interviews with witnesses, which "differed significantly" from their trial
testimony, Morgan found. And prosecutors and police failed to share notes
and a tape of an interview with a witness about another man's role in the
Wannamaker, reached by telephone Thursday night, declined to comment.
Guilford County District Attorney Stuart Albright said the state Attorney
General's Office will appeal the judge's ruling. Albright said that if the
case is retried, he is inclined to seek another death sentence but would
decide based on the evidence and available witnesses.
If Pinch were to receive a life sentence for 1st-degree murder, he would
be eligible for parole. If convicted of 2nd-degree murder, he would be
freed because he already has served the maximum sentence.
His relatives were elated by the ruling.
"It's a step in the right direction," said Andrea Gaines, a cousin who
lives in Old Saybrook, Conn. Gaines, 40, said she has visited Pinch in
prison every three months for 4 years.
Relatives of the victims Freddie Pacheco, 19, and Tommy Dale Ausley, 18,
said a killer has gotten a break.
"I don't understand it whatsoever. I never will understand it," said
Ausley's father, George, 68, a Greensboro fence contractor. "I'm really
mad about this situation."
Prosecutors contended during the trial that before Pinch arrived at the
motorcycle club that night in 1979, he had talked about killing Pacheco
and had borrowed a shotgun. Prosecutors said Pinch shot Pacheco and then
Ausley, whom Pinch didn't know and who had begged Pinch for his life.
The prosecutors said Pinch then orchestrated moving the victims' bodies
into the back of a car and leaving the car in southwest Greensboro.
The defense argued at trial that the killings culminated a drunken,
brawling evening and that Pinch was too intoxicated to have formed the
intent to kill.
Morgan ruled that the verdict might have been different if the defense had
the evidence that was not shared.
"There is a reasonable probability that Pinch did not receive a fair trial
and verdicts worthy of confidence," Morgan wrote in the 153-page order.
"There is a reasonable probability that there would have been a different
result, guilty of 2nd-degree murder, had the withheld information been
available and presented."
In his ruling, Morgan highlighted what he called a recurring problem:
Police and prosecutors flout the law by failing to turn over evidence that
would aid the defense and that impeaches their witnesses.
"Time and again, law enforcement has failed to provide prosecutors with
contradictory information or information that doesn't fit into their
theory of a case," Morgan wrote. "Prosecutors, at best, have had
difficulty in either analyzing their own witness interview notes for
impeaching information or analyzing file information for impeaching
information. Some prosecutors have simply not looked at investigative file
information with such an eye."
A U.S. Supreme Court decision, Brady v. Maryland, ruled that criminal
defendants can see such evidence and requires police and prosecutors to
surrender it. Such evidence is called Brady material, and the Pinch case
and several recent rulings show that prosecutors are not sharing it, said
Gretchen Engel, a lawyer with Durham's Center for Death Penalty
"It shouldn't take 25 years to figure out there are severe problems with a
case," she said. "It's frustrating for the defendant. It undermines public
confidence in the system and must be incredibly painful for the family
members of the victims."
Mike Klinkosum, an appellate defender based in Winston-Salem, said the
Pinch case highlights the need to allow all criminal defendants who have
filed appeals, not just those on death row, to have access to the files of
investigators and prosecutors.
"We have eight cases where we know Brady material was not turned over,"
Klinkosum said. "If we have that going on in capital cases, what do you
think is going on in all the noncapital cases? What about the people who
were lucky enough to not get the death penalty but are sitting in jail for
the rest of their lives?"
(source: News & Observer)
Convicted killer on death row granted new penalty trial for new evidence
In Vero Beach, a circuit judge has vacated the death sentence Rodney Lowe
received 14 years ago after he was convicted of the 1st-degree murder of a
clerk at a Sebastian convenience store.
Judge Robert Hawley found that new evidence indicating Lowe, 34, may not
have acted alone during the 1990 attempted robbery and murder could have
influenced the outcome of the penalty phase of his trial.
Trials in capital cases in which the death penalty is sought are divided
into guilt and penalty phases. A jury found Lowe guilty in April 1991 of
attempted armed robbery at the Nu Pack Market on County Road 512 and the
1st-degree murder of 30-year-old Donna Burnell, who was working there at
At the penalty phase of the trial, the jury recommended Lowe receive a
death sentence. On May 1, the court sentenced Lowe to death on the murder
charge and to 15 years in prison on the robbery charge.
Under Hawley's March 18 order, a new jury will decide whether Lowe should
receive the death penalty. Until then, Lowe will serve a life sentence,
said his public defender, Stuart attorney Robert Watson.
John Peck, a spokesman with the State Attorney's Office, said prosecutors
are reviewing the order and considering their options. A status conference
is scheduled in Indian River County's circuit on April 22.
The Florida Supreme Court upheld the trial court's verdict in 1994, but
Lowe continued to pursue appeals. His most recent were requests for the
trial court to vacate his sentence and hold a new trial based on evidence
that was unavailable when he went to trial.
The new evidence comes in the form of affidavits and testimony from people
who implicate Dwayne Blackmon the state's key witness in Lowe's trial in
Burnell's murder. The Vero Beach man, who was a former friend of Lowe's,
suffered from a heart problem and died at age 32 in August 2003, according
to court records.
Hawley held hearings in 2003 and 2004 to hear testimony from 3 witnesses.
Blackmon's cousin Benjamin Carter and Carter's former girlfriend Lisa
Miller testified they heard Blackmon confess that he was involved in the
robbery and shot Burnell. An ex-girlfriend of Blackmon's, Lisa Grone,
testified he confessed to killing Burnell.
Before Hawley could rule on whether there was enough evidence to vacate
Lowe's sentence or schedule a new trial, Lowe's attorneys filed motions
asking Hawley to take into account statements from three more people.
2 statements, from Blackmon's friend David C. Stinson Sr. and another
ex-girlfriend Maureen McQuade, say that Blackmon told them that he was
involved in the robbery and shot Burnell.
Lowe's attorneys filed a motion last month saying Michael Lee, a man who
was incarcerated at the same time as Blackmon, is available to testify
that Blackmon also confessed to him. They also contend Lee's testimony
would show that police were aware that Blackmon was the killer, and state
prosecutors failed to disclose that evidence.
Lowe's attorney, Rachel Day of Capital Collateral Regional Counsel-South,
requested a hearing for the new evidence, saying it would show that it
would have produced an acquittal at trial or a sentence that did not
involve the death penalty.
Judge Who Struck Down Death Penalty Dies
Kansas Supreme Court Justice Robert Gernon, a member of the majority that
struck down the state's death penalty law in December, died Wednesday from
complications of cancer, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said. He was 61.
Appointed to the court in January 2003 by Gov. Bill Graves after serving
on the Court of Appeals since 1988, Gernon had been ill for some time, and
had surgery Nov. 24 to remove a kidney.
His death leaves a vacancy -- which Sebelius will fill -- on the
seven-member court as an appeal of the death penalty decision is pending
before the U.S. Supreme Court, and as it prepares to consider the
Legislature's response to the court's unanimous order that lawmakers
improve the state's public schools.
In December, Gernon was part of the 4-3 majority striking down the state's
death penalty law.
Gernon was born in Sabetha and graduated from the University of Kansas
with a degree in business administration. He received his law degree in
1969 from Washburn University.
(source: Associated Press)
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