death penalty news-----PENN., N.C., OHIO, IOWA, FLA., CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Apr 21 23:51:43 CDT 2005
PA Governor Rendell Signs Execution Warrant
Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell today signed a warrant for the
execution by lethal injection of Joseph Carmen D'Amato of Philadelphia
D'Amato's execution is scheduled for Thursday, June 16.
On February 9, 1983, D'Amato was convicted of 1 count of 1st-degree murder
and sentenced to die for shooting Anthony Patrone whom D'Amato feared
intended to betray him in an insurance fraud scheme. D'Amato was formally
sentenced to death on July 25, 1984. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court
affirmed his death sentence on May 22, 1987.
In March 1989, D'Amato filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief.
During the next 10 years, he filed 3 amended post-conviction relief
petitions, as well as a habeas corpus petition. Habeas relief was denied
on June 24, 1996.
A warrant was first issued on July 13, 1999. The execution was stayed by
the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County pending the resolution of
post-conviction proceedings, which had been pending in that court for more
than ten years. Post-conviction relief was denied on February 14, 2001,
and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed that decision on March 29,
2005, thereby lifting the stay.
D'Amato, 54, is an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Greene.
Governor Rendell has now signed 35 death warrants.
CONTACT: Nina Tinari, Pennsylvania Office of the Governor,
(source: Pennsylvania Office of the Governor)
NORTH CAROLINA----possible military death sentence
Guilty Verdict Could Mean Death Penalty For Akbar
A military jury on Thursday afternoon convicted an Army sergeant of murder
in a grenade and rifle attack on his comrades 2 years ago in Kuwait.
The 15-member panel deliberated for less than 3 hours before returning the
unanimous first-degree murder and attempted murder verdicts against Sgt.
Hasan Akbar. He now faces a possible death sentence when the sentencing
phase of the court-martial takes place next Monday.
Akbar, who celebrated his 34th birthday on Thursday, showed no emotion
when the verdicts were read. His parents were also in the courtroom and
likewise displayed little emotion.
Akbar was charged with killing 2 officers and injuring 14 others in a
March, 22, 2003, attack on members of the 101st Airborne Division
stationed in Kuwait shortly before the beginning of the war in Iraq.
Authorities said he rolled four grenades into the tents of sleeping
soldiers and then opened fire on them in the ensuing chaos. Army Capt.
Christopher Scott Seifert was killed by the grenade blast, and Air Force
Maj. Gregory Stone was shot in the back during the attack.
Although Akbar admitted to the attack, his lawyers maintained it wasn't
planned out. They said he had suffered from mental illness for years, was
under extreme stress while deployed and was the subject of numerous racial
taunts from fellow soldiers because he is a black Muslim.
"This was not a well thought out, premeditated plan. He was running on
fear and emotion," defense attorney Maj. Dan Brookhart told jurors in his
closing argument Thursday morning.
But prosecutors said Akbar sought "maximum carnage of his fellow soldiers"
during the attack. During closing arguments, the prosecution displayed two
entries from the soldier's diary on a large-screen television in the
"I may not have killed any Muslims, but being in the Army is the same
thing," he wrote on Feb. 2, 2003.
2 days later, he wrote of U.S. troops, "As soon as I am in Iraq, I am
going to kill as many of them as possible."
(source: NBC News)
State to appeal ruling throwing out death sentence
The state will appeal a federal court decision that threw out the
conviction and death sentence of a man with dual U.S.-British citizenship
found guilty of killing a 2-year-old girl in an apartment fire.
Attorney General Jim Petro said the evidence supports the conviction of
Kenneth Richey in the 1986 death of Cynthia Collins.
Petro wants the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to delay its decision
overturning Richey's conviction while he appeals to the U.S. Supreme
Court. The high court traditionally hears very few appeals of this sort.
Prosecutors say Richey intended to kill his ex-girlfriend but ended up
killing the child in the fire in the northwest Ohio town of Columbus
Richey maintained he did not start the fire, although he acknowledged
being so intoxicated that night that he did not remember everything that
The federal appeals court on April 15 affirmed a panel's 2-1 decision from
January that Richey received incompetent legal counsel at his trial. The
judges ordered Ohio to retry Richey within 90 days or release him.
The case has received wide attention in Great Britain, where filmmakers
produced two documentaries questioning Richey's guilt. British citizens
and politicians wrote thousands of letters to news organizations and
government offices to protest his conviction.
Petro's petition contains no overriding reason for the court to hear the
case, said Ken Parsigan, Richey's attorney.
(source: Associated Press)
Death penalty will be part of sex abuse law debate
Iowa lawmakers say they'll provide up to 8 million dollars more to enhance
the state's efforts in treating and monitoring sex offenders. In addition,
Senator Larry McKibben says he'll insist on a death penalty debate next
week when the 50-member Senate considers legislation designed to get tough
on those who commit sex crimes. "I think if you polled Iowans...by a
strong majority they'd tell us to have the debate," McKibben says. But
Mike Gronstal, a Democrat from Council Bluffs who is Co-Leader of the
Senate, has said he'll block McKibben's attempt to debate the death
penalty. "I guess what I'm asking him to do and what I hope Iowans ask
Senator Gronstal...to do is allow us to have a debate and a discussion on
this," McKibben says. McKibben will propose a very limited death penalty
for those convicted of 2 serious felonies -- one of which must involve the
murder of a child.
"I have not had one person tell me that we shouldn't be pushing for a
debate on the death penalty for child killers in this state," McKibben
says. As for the spending connected to tougher laws for those who commit
sex crimes, Senator Bob Dvorsky, a Democrat from Iowa City, says
legislators have their eyes wide open and realize getting tough on sexual
predators will cost the state money. "We're not only going to talk the
talk but walk the walk and put the money in there and the resources that
are needed," Dvorsky says.
Senator Keith Kreiman, a Democrat from Bloomfield, says legislators are
committed to ensuring sexual predators sentenced to prison go through a
treatment program. "The better the treatment, the more effective the
treatment, then frankly, the fewer victims," Kreiman says. The discussion
on the sex offender bill came today (Thursday) during a Senate
subcommittee meeting. Senator Chuck Larson, a Republican from Cedar
Rapids, says a task force will be formed to review Iowa's sex offender
treatment program, the Sex Offender Registry and other related matters.
"It's a very, very difficult subject and the committee has been extremely
cautious in how we've approached these issues because the fact of the
matter is if it's not drafted properly, legal loopholes can be created
that would result in the whole law being struck down," Larson says.
(source: Radio Iowa)
Gay Killers Death Penalty Upheld----Florida says murderers sexuality
relevant to his premeditated killing of another gay man
The Florida Supreme Court has unanimously rejected the final possible
state appeal of a death sentence for Donald W. Dufour, a gay man convicted
by a jury in the cold-blooded murder of another gay man in the course of a
robbery in 1982.
Among the claims rejected by the court was Dufours contention that his
case was prejudiced by the prosecutions introduction of evidence about his
The courts decision, in a case that has lingered for more than 20 years,
was not attributed to any individual justice.
The courts April 14 decision relates that the trial evidence included
testimony by Stacey Sigler, Dufours "former girlfriend," that he told her
in September 1982 that he intended to "find a homosexual, rob and kill
him," and then he asked her to drop him off at a nearby bar and wait for
him to call.
"About one hour later," writes the court, "appellant called Sigler and
asked her to meet him at his brothers home. Upon her arrival, appellant
was going through the trunk of a car she did not recognize, and wearing
new jewelry. Both the car and the jewelry belonged to the victim."
According to evidence offered by the prosecution, Dufour met the victim in
the bar, drove with him to a nearby orange grove, robbed him and shot him
twice, once in the back of the head and, "from very close range, through
Dufour told Sigler that he had killed a man and left him in an orange
2 other prosecution witnesses, apparently members of a gang with whom
Dufour associated, described by the court as his "close associates,"
testified that Dufour told them he had shot a "homosexual from Tennessee
in an orange grove with a .25 automatic and taken his car."
Dufour was convicted by a jury 2 decades ago, and in the penalty hearing,
evidence that Dufour had been convicted of first-degree murder once before
in Mississippi, had been a heavy drug and alcohol abuser since childhood,
had a sexually abusive father and an older brother who was gay and was
himself sexually attracted to men was presented. Psychiatric testimony
marked him as having anti-social behavior, showing little signs of a
conscience and having average intelligence. The court-appointed
psychiatrist found him mentally competent at the time of the offense and
during his trial.
Dufours homosexuality became an issue since the main witness against him,
Sigler, testified that he was specifically seeking out a gay man to rob
and murder that night. During the penalty phase, Dufours straight brother,
Gary, testified that Dufour had been "exposed to homosexuality by his
brother George." George refused to cooperate with Dufours trial lawyer or
have anything to do with the defense, but Gary testified that Donald
Dufour was gay, and another "close associate" testified that he "liked
Dufour was sentenced to death and exhausted his direct appeals, but raised
a variety of new claims and won the right to a post-conviction evidentiary
hearing. Gary, his gay brother, finally testified on this occasion, and
described the alcoholism of their father and his violent episodes, Donalds
own problems with alcohol and drugs as well as his "homosexual lifestyle."
The court found that this testimony merely duplicated Garys testimony and
didnt change the state of the record.
In appealing this ruling, Dufour argued to the Florida Supreme Court that
the testimony about his homosexuality prejudiced the case against him, but
the court did not buy the argument, noting that much of it was introduced
by his own defense witnesses and that the overwhelming evidence against
him made it unlikely that prejudicial testimony had changed the outcome.
Florida courts, like those in most states, will entertain the argument
that prosecution attempts to use a defendants sexuality to undermine his
credibility or suggest that he has a criminal character are unfairly
prejudicial. However, the courts also recognize that evidence about
homosexuality can be "relevant to establish state of mind and motive." The
court found that, in light of Siglers testimony, "testimony pertaining to
Dufours homosexuality was thus relevant to demonstrate motive or his state
of mind at the time of the murder, and it was not directed to illuminate
his character or propensity to engage in criminal conduct."
Dufour has one last shot at trying to get the U.S. Supreme Court to
intervene in his case, but that seems most unlikely in light of the
Florida courts thorough and lengthy opinion.
(source: Gay City News)
Condemned inmate, portrayed as Charles Manson, gets off death row
A federal appeals court on Thursday overturned the death sentence of a man
who killed a Riverside convenience store clerk in 1981, ruling a defense
attorney doomed his client to death row by comparing him to Charles
When jurors were considering whether to recommend a life or death sentence
after convicting Richard Boyde, his attorney argued that Boyde's misdeeds,
like Manson's, were a result of having been raised in California's jails
Attorney Malcolm MacMillan told Boyde's jury that he was struck by a scene
in the movie "Helter Skelter," when Manson informed his jury "I'm a child
of your prisons." MacMillan then told jurors that Boyde "to a certain
extent, is a child of your institutions."
Judge Alex Kozinski, a President Reagan appointee and one of the court's
more conservative members, was flabbergasted by that defense.
"It is difficult to conceive of any possible justification for referring
to a notorious mass murderer in trying to persuade the jury to spare
Boyde's life," Kozinski wrote for the unanimous 3-judge panel.
In 1971, Manson and three female followers were convicted in Los Angeles
of murder and conspiracy in the 1969 slayings of 7 people, including
actress Sharon Tate.
MacMillan, an Upland private attorney who was the Riverside public
defender at the time, said "Hindsight is 20-20."
"Clearly, the argument could have been made without mentioning him, but I
was making the argument that my client was the product of the prison
system," MacMillan added.
Boyde's appellate attorney, Robert Darby, said the case was an extreme
example of ineffective assistance of counsel.
"Given the fact that Judge Kozinski is fairly conservative, the fact that
he felt it was so egregious as he did says it all," Darby said.
State prosecutors declined comment on whether they would appeal, saying
the decision was under review.
Boyde, who had been in and out of jail for robberies and assaults since
his youth, was convicted of murdering Dicki Lee Gibson, an Arlington High
School wrestling and football coach who was clerking at a 7-Eleven store
Boyde robbed. Boyde and his nephew kidnapped Gibson and killed him in a
nearby orange grove after taking $33 from the cash register.
Boyde claimed his nephew, Carl Ellison, pulled the trigger. Ellison
testified against Boyde and is serving a life term.
The appeals court's decision upholds Boyde's conviction and commutes his
death sentence to life without parole. If the decision stands, Riverside
County prosecutors have the option of retrying Boyde with a new jury in an
effort to put the 48-year-old back on death row.
A spokeswoman for Grover Trask II, the Riverside County district attorney,
was not immediately prepared to comment.
The appeals court also said MacMillan failed to adequately represent Boyde
because he did not inform jurors during the penalty phase that Boyde was
routinely beaten by his parents who were sexually molesting his sisters.
"The jury may well have had sympathy for Boyde because of his damaged
childhood," Kozinski wrote.
The case is Boyde v. Brown, 02-99008.
(source: Associated Press)
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