[Deathpenalty]death penalty news------OHIO, KAN., VA., LA., TENN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Apr 12 14:51:59 CDT 2005
In rare move, justices wrote victims' family to explain ruling
In a rare move, 2 Ohio Supreme Court justices wrote to family members
outraged by a court decision that overturned a man's murder conviction and
death sentence in the killing of 2 college students because they happened
Justices Evelyn Lundberg Stratton and Maureen O'Connor sent the letter to
relatives of Aaron Land, 20, and Brian Muha, 18, students at Franciscan
University in Steubenville in eastern Ohio. The 2 were kidnapped in Ohio
and killed in Pennsylvania in 1999.
The 2 justices were part of an unanimous decision last year that
overturned Terrell Yarbrough's murder conviction and death sentence in
"Please know that none of us wanted this legal outcome and all of us were
painfully aware of its consequences," according to the Feb. 15 letter.
The justices were responding to a Dec. 8 letter sent by 148 friends and
family members of the victims criticizing the court decision.
In its Dec. 1 ruling, the Supreme Court said Yarbrough should have been
tried in Pennsylvania where the 2 were killed.
A bill was quickly introduced after the court's decision to close the
out-of-state loophole. Gov. Bob Taft planned to sign it into law Tuesday.
Legal experts say it's almost unheard for justices to write this kind of
letter about a court decision. Messages were left with Lundberg Stratton
and O'Connor seeking comment.
ACLU asks court to block move of death row to supermax prison
Civil rights advocates asked a federal court Tuesday to block the move of
the state's death row to a supermaximum security prison near Youngstown.
Moving death row inmates to the Ohio State Penitentiary would deny them
their constitutional due process rights, the American Civil Liberties
Union of Ohio argued in a motion filed in U.S. District Court in
State prison officials last month said they plan move death row from
Mansfield to the 500-bed prison near Youngstown sometime this summer to
The prison is designed for the most dangerous inmates. Except for an hour
a day, inmates are kept in 90-square-foot cells built to prevent them from
communicating with each other. Inmates also face tighter security, with
strip searches, and less access to telephones and personal items.
A message seeking comment was left for Attorney General Jim Petro's
The ACLU is also involved in a class-action lawsuit against the state in
2001. That lawsuit contends that supermax prisons are too restrictive and
that inmates should be given an opportunity to contest a state's decision
to transfer them to such a facility. The case is pending before the U.S.
The prison opened in 1998 after a deadly inmate riot 5 years earlier at
the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.
ON THE NET----ACLU: http://www.acluohio.org/
Ohio Death Row: http://www.drc.state.oh.us/Public/deathrow.htm
(source for both: Associated Press)
Prosecutors may seek death penalty against Newton man
Prosecutors could seek the death penalty against a Newton man suspected of
fatally shooting a sheriff's deputy during this weekend's deadly standoff.
Gregory A. Moore, 46, is facing one count of capital murder in the death
of Harvey County Deputy Sheriff Kurt Ford, 38, according to the criminal
complaint filed in Harvey County District Court.
Filing the capital murder charge allows Kansas Attorney General Phill
Kline to seek the death penalty, but the final decision about whether
pursue that has not yet been made, Whitney Watson, spokesman for Kline's
office, said Tuesday.
Moore was also charged with 2 counts of attempted capital murder - one for
allegedly shooting and injuring Hesston Police Detective Christopher
Eilert and another for allegedly shooting at Harvey County investigator
B.J. Tyner. Eilert, who was shot 4 times, has been released from the
Other charges include one count of aggravated kidnapping and 1 count of
criminal possession of a firearm. The firearms charge noted Moore has an
earlier felony conviction for aggravated battery.
Moore was in handcuffs and shackles for his 1st appearance Monday in a
courtroom packed with law enforcement officers and relatives of the
District Judge Richard Walker ordered Moore held without bond pending a
May 9 preliminary hearing. The state's Death Penalty Defense Unit was
appointed to represent him.
Kansas' death penalty law was ruled unconstitutional in December by the
Kansas Supreme Court, but that ruling was stayed during the appeal to the
U.S. Supreme Court. Moore would only face capital punishment if the
Supreme Court upholds Kansas' death penalty law.
Officers went to Moore's home after a 14-year-old girl called police
around 12:50 a.m. Saturday to report that her mother, Alveda Sparks, was
being beaten and that the suspect had a gun. During the ensuing standoff,
two officers rushed into the house and were met by gunfire. In the
exchange of shots, the hostage broke free from Moore and was able to
Other law enforcement officers were able to retrieve the two officers.
Moore, who was not hurt, remained barricaded in the house before
surrendering around 8:30 a.m.
The U.S. Attorney's office issued a statement Monday saying it had not yet
decided whether to prosecute Moore and were looking at the case to
determine whether there is federal jurisdiction.
Earlier this year, Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels, 42, was shot
near Virgil in northeast Greenwood County as he was serving a search
warrant. The allegedly killer, Scott Cheever, initially was charged in
Greenwood County District Court, but Kline asked federal authorities to
take that case because of the cloud over the state's death penalty law.
In the Samuels' case, the defendant was accused of possessing a weapon
during a federal drug trafficking crime and using it to kill a law
But Ford's killing arose from a domestic dispute. The U.S. Attorney's
office said murder is not in itself a federal crime.
(source: Associated Press)
Opening Arguments Start in Va. Gang Trial
Trial began Monday for four members of a notorious street gang accused of
killing a pregnant teenager who joined the gang -- and later became a
The lawyer for 1 of the 4 essentially admitted his client's guilt, telling
jurors that trying to understand the backward code of honor among members
of MS-13 -- which has its roots in El Salvador and is also known as Mara
Salvatrucha -- is fruitless.
"What you're going to hear is a story of absolute tragedy: lost children,
lost souls, how lives can be so tragically mishandled," said James Clark,
attorney for Ismael Juarez Cisneros, who admitted his role and implicated
his co-defendants. "Please don't expect to make any sense of it."
The lawyer for the man who allegedly masterminded the slaying of Brenda
Paz argued at least a dozen other gang members wanted her dead.
"A lot of people had a problem with Ms. Paz," said Jerome Aquino, lawyer
for Denis Rivera. "Ms. Paz played a dangerous game."
The 2 other defendants are Oscar Antonio Grande and Oscar Alexander
According to prosecutors, Paz joined the gang when she was 14, and it
became her surrogate family; her pleasant demeanor earned her the nickname
She also was Rivera's former girlfriend, but at some point disenchanted
with her life and agreed to testify against Rivera and reveal what she
knew about the gang, said prosecutor Ronald Walutes.
She entered the federal Witness Protection Program, but did poorly and was
moved around, eventually leaving the program and rejoining her old gang,
"Brenda Paz was pregnant, lonely and she missed her family -- MS-13,"
Walutes said. The prosecutor said Rivera became increasingly suspicious of
her and eventually enlisted trusted gang members to kill her.
Walutes acknowledged there is no physical evidence or eyewitnesses
connecting the defendants to the murder scene. But he said other gang
members will testify, and prosecutors will play tapes of coded phone
conversations between Rivera and others in which they say he planned the
Aquino said Rivera and the other defendants make an easy scapegoat for
Paz's murder and said authorities brought the charges as a way to escape
blame for their own failure to protect Paz once she entered witness
The trial, being held in U.S. District Court, could last up to 2 months if
the defendants are convicted, which would trigger a penalty phase to
determine if the death penalty is warranted.
Death penalty experts said it is very rare for a single jury to hear 4
capital cases simultaneously.
(source: Associated Press)
Louisiana's Wise Word
The Louisiana Supreme Court recently delivered a dramatic decision -- and
a valuable lesson to Virginia. Poor people facing criminal charges have a
constitutional right to a state-provided lawyer, the court noted, but the
legislature hasn't provided adequate funds to fulfill that right. The
remedy: Judges should halt prosecutions in which defendants are not being
provided adequate counsel.
Louisiana's system for funding indigent defense is perhaps the country's
most bizarre. The bulk of money in each parish, or county, comes from
court fees, in most cases local traffic enforcement. So some jurisdictions
simply run out of money to pay attorneys. In the case before the state's
supreme court, one parish wished to try 2 accused murderers but couldn't
drum up money to pay a lawyer to represent them.
The high court took 2 key steps. First, it overturned a lower court order
tapping a separate local fund for the money. Figuring out how to fund
indigent defense, the court rightly ruled, is a legislative, not a
judicial, duty. But courts are responsible for "ensur[ing] that the
criminal justice system is functioning in a constitutional manner." So the
court said that if the state doesn't find some way to ensure payment of
lawyers for the poor, it can't put the poor on trial.
Virginia should take note, since it too has abdicated its responsibility
to provide reasonable counsel to defendants, a constitutional obligation
the U.S. Supreme Court articulated more than four decades ago. The problem
in Virginia is not that funds run out but that payments to court-appointed
lawyers are capped at levels so absurdly low as to be inconsistent with a
constitutionally adequate defense in any case that is the least bit
complicated. A lawyer facing a potentially lengthy trial for a pittance
has an overwhelming interest in a quick guilty plea, not an aggressive
defense. The Virginia courts cannot order the legislature to lift the fee
caps. They could, however, bar prosecutions when the state refuses to pay
adequately for an indigent's defense.
(source: Editorial, Washington Post)
Robbery, murder draw death sentence in Memphis
A 21-year-old man convicted of killing a subdued robbery victim was
sentenced to death by a Criminal Court jury today in Memphis.
Devin Banks was convicted by the same jury Saturday of 1st-degree murder
and aggravated robbery.
Banks was found guilty of shooting Kadhem Al-Maily to death and critically
wounding Hussain Altilebawi during a robbery in September 2002.
The two victims were shot at a Memphis residence where their attackers
stole money, stereo equipment and 2 cars.
Al-Maily was forced to lie face down on the floor and then shot in the
back of the head.
Sentencing will be May 6th.
(source: WVLT news)
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