[Deathpenalty]death penalty news---TEXAS, PENN., MO., N.C., MISS.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Dec 3 20:24:53 CST 2005
Woman found drowned tied to Sinegal case
Preliminary autopsy results on a Port Arthur woman found Thursday floating
in a reservoir near the Motiva Enterprise refinery indicated she
accidentally drowned, Justice of the Peace Robert "Bob" Morgan said.
A passing tractor-trailer driver spied 40-year-old Karon Benton's body in
Star Enterprise Utility Reservoir No. 7 in the 2500 block of 25th Street,
between Savannah Avenue and Memorial Boulevard.
Police found a fishing pole near Benton's body. There were no signs of
trauma, police said.
Although it is considered a drowning, Benton's death still is under
investigation, said Lt. Troy LeBouef, a Port Arthur police department
In April, Benton was 1 of 2 women who said they were attacked by Gary
Sinegal. Sinegal later was indicted on capital murder charges in
connection with the beating deaths of 2 elderly women found stuffed in
Benton told The Enterprise at the time that Sinegal came into her house in
the 2700 block of Florida Avenue on April 10, hit her on the back of her
head, made her take off her shirt and grabbed her breasts.
A total of 3 women were found dead in their closets the next week.
On Friday, Benton's neighbors on Florida Avenue said she and her family
had moved out several months ago.
Tom Maness, Jefferson County district attorney, said he had not heard of
Benton's connection to the Sinegal case. It could have a slight impact on
the case, he said, which is mostly based on DNA evidence.
Maness added her testimony could have been used in the punishment phase to
show other bad behavior on Sinegal's part.
A full autopsy report, including toxicology tests, still is pending.
(source: The Beaumont Enterprise)
Spirit of justice remains caged behind prison bars
It is said that there are actual breathing, thinking human beings in
prison, some of whom have something worthwhile to say.
After being incarcerated for 15 years, the old convict had little left to
say. A 238-year sentence gave him plenty of time to try to think of
something, but he rarely came up with anything worthwhile. Few people
cared to listen anyway.
A spirit named Quidnunc appeared to the old con. A quidnunc is a minder of
other people's business. The old con had gotten old by minding his own.
"Greetings, you who are highly favored," said the spirit.
"Quidnunc," said the old con, "you don't even resemble an angel, much less
an archangel. Stop stealing lines from Luke 2:28 before the blessed
Archangel Gabriel gets you for plagiarism. Now, what do you want?"
"I want your opinion," the spirit replied.
The old con waved dismissively. "Who in the world gives a flying pig about
"Paul says in First Corinthians 6:3 that you saints will judge angels. I
want you to judge a prison matter."
"All right," the old man shrugged.
"Several years ago, some Texas counties sued the state for money,"
Quidnunc began. "When a local district attorney prosecuted a state
prisoner for a crime committed in a state prison, the county wanted state
money. To avoid paying money to the counties, the state hired its own
Texas Department of Criminal Justice defense attorney."
"Yes, it's cheaper that way," said the old con. "I know the background;
give me some facts."
"A TDCJ guard died at a TDCJ prison," Quidnunc continued. "A TDCJ prisoner
was charged with the killing. TDCJ officials investigated the charges. The
TDCJ prosecutor got an indictment for capital murder against the
"Proceed," said the old con.
"A TDCJ defense attorney was appointed to represent the TDCJ prisoner. The
attorney advised the prisoner to plead guilty, which he did. The TDCJ
prisoner was sentenced to death."
The old con tugged at his tired ear. "Then the question is what?"
"Should the guilty verdict stand? the spirit replied. "Should the death
sentence stand? Based on your own experience in prison, why should they
stand, or why should they not stand?"
The old con lacked enough facts to fairly judge this matter.
He could, though, form some reasonable opinions.
He knew that few prison guards innocently doing their jobs in a
professional manner got injured. Odds were good that the deceased TDCJ
guard had done something unprofessional. Even police, military personnel
and other prison guards had admitted that.
The old con remembered a letter to the editor from Richard L. Judy Sr. he
had seen in the Nov. 4 Globe-News. Judy had "12 years total experience" in
the military, as a cop and as a prison guard.
"I was trained to treat the public and offenders with tact and
professionalism," he wrote. "If an officer has a poor demeanor or a 'John
Wayne' attitude, a situation can escalate. A professional demeanor can
de-escalate any situation."
The old con nodded in agreement. He wondered if the deceased guard also
would have agreed. He wondered if the convicted prisoner would agree, if
he could have read the Amarillo newspaper on death row.
Still, nothing could change the evil fact that a man had died. Another man
awaited lethal injection from TDCJ medical personnel. Maybe that man
deserved to die and burn in hell thereafter - maybe not.
The old con frowned at Quidnunc.
"Here is my opinion. The TDCJ prisoner had both a TDCJ prosecutor and a
TDCJ defense attorney, creating the appearance of a conflict of interest.
It doesn't matter if there actually was any such conflict; the appearance
is enough. Even Saddam Hussein got a lawyer who is not from Iraq. Because
of this appearance, the death sentence must not stand."
The old con sighed and adjusted his glasses. "However, the TDCJ prisoner
pleaded guilty, the strongest proof there can be. A guilty man must be
punished. Texas law prescribes only two punishments for capital murder:
death or life in prison. The prisoner must not be put to death; his
sentence must be life in prison."
Finally, the old man shrugged. "But who in the world gives a flying pig
about my opinions?"
Quidnunc suggested: "Maybe there could be some kind of quid pro quo here.
Maybe as you judged, you will be judged. Perhaps a good measure, pressed
down and shaken together, soon will be dumped in your lap."
The old con finally lost his patience. "I got all the time I need,
Quidnunc! I don't need no life sentence! Now get out of here so I can go
eat chow. Go!"
>From nowhere in particular a voice said, "Skip the potatoes and lose 20
Matthew Tomlinson is incarcerated at the William P. Clements Jr. Unit in
(source: The Amarillo Globe-News)
Blair County suspect will face death penalty
In Hollidaysburg, a man accused of shooting and killing 3 men at a private
night club will face the death penalty if he is convicted.
Blair County prosecutors told a judge of the decision Friday during the
arraignment for Miguel Padilla, 25, of Gallitzin, who pleaded not guilty.
Padilla is accused of shooting and killing 3 men on Aug. 28 in Altoona
outside a private club.
During a preliminary hearing in the case in October,a brother of one of
the victims attempted to attack Padilla. Friday's arraignment was heavily
guarded and Padilla wore a bulletproof vest.
Without any announcement, the proceeding was also moved to a different
courtroom and began an hour early.
The time and location were changed unexpectedly, Judge Elizabeth Doyle
said from the bench, because of "information the courts received as to
certain threats to the security of this proceeding."
(source: Centre Daily Times)
Death Penalty Sought in Precious Doe Case----Authorities confirm bodies
found near highway are missing siblings
A prosecutor announced Saturday he would seek the death penalty against a
man charged with beheading his 3-year-old stepdaughter, whose body was
unidentified for nearly four years and was known only as "Precious Doe."
Harrell Johnson, 26, was initially charged with second-degree murder in
the death of Erica Michelle Green. But that charge was upgraded in August
to 1st-degree murder, opening the door for the death penalty.
"Very few cases have touched our community more deeply than Erica's
death," Jackson County Prosecutor Mike Sanders said. "It was really
because of the community, which wouldn't let Erica's death be forgotten,
that we're seeking the death penalty now against Harrell Johnson."
Johnson and his wife, Michelle M. Johnson, 30, of Muskogee, Okla., were
arrested May 5 when Kansas City police followed up on a tip from a
relative identifying Erica and linking them to her death.
Erica's body was found in a park in Kansas City in 2001, when she would
have been almost 4. Her head was discovered in a trash bag nearby.
The community called her "Precious Doe" and hundreds gathered for a
funeral in December 2001.
The body was exhumed in July 2003 so experts could make a lifelike bust of
what she may have looked like. She was buried a 2nd time in August, under
a new marble grave marker bearing her name.
Sanders said Saturday that additional charges were not immediately
expected against Michelle Johnson, who is charged with 2nd-degree murder
in Erica's death.
According to court documents, Harrell Johnson admitted he was under the
influence of alcohol and the hallucinogenic drug PCP when he became angry
with Erica because she refused to go to bed. He allegedly admitted kicking
her and throwing her to the ground. After she died, he said, he used hedge
clippers to sever her head and dispose of her body, with his wife's help.
The couple will be tried separately. Harrell Johnson is being held without
bail, Sanders said. Michelle Johnson remains in jail in lieu of $500,000
(source: Associated Press)
Put to Death----Executions in U.S. continue despite doubts
In just 16 hours, the milestone execution of Kenneth Lee Boyd became a
memory. Boyd, 57, was put to death early yesterday morning at Central
Prison in Raleigh for killing his wife and father-in-law in Rockingham
County in 1988. His execution, the 1,000th in the United States since
1977, garnered worldwide attention.
But shortly after 6 p.m. yesterday, in South Carolina, Shawn Humphries
replaced Boyd as the latest person to be executed since the Supreme Court
ruling in 1976 that allowed the reinstatement of the death penalty.
Boyd's execution became a lightning rod for the national debate over
capital punishment even as South Carolina prison officials prepared
Humphries for his death.
Public support for the death penalty has waned, but the majority of
Americans - 64 percent - support its use, according to a Gallup Poll
conducted in October. With 59 executions nationwide in 2004, the United
States remains near the top of a list of countries with the most
executions, behind China, Iran and Vietnam. Trailing the United States are
Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Kuwait.
In Winston-Salem yesterday, Darryl Hunt, who nearly faced a death sentence
for a crime he did not commit, criticized the use of capital punishment.
But in another capital-murder case, the parents of a restaurant manager
killed here in 1982 lashed out yesterday at "bleeding-heart liberals" for
opposing the death penalty.
"We've been from the death scene to the death chamber," said Dick Adams,
70. "I speak from experience."
His son, Richard, was working as a manager trainee at a Steak and Ale
restaurant on Dec. 23, 1982, when he was killed. John Gardner was executed
10 years later for Adams' death as well as the killing of Kim Miller.
"It's been that long, and we still live with it every day," said Richard's
mother, Diane Adams, 66. "Unless you get rid of these rabid killers, they
get out and do it again."
Humphries' death brought to 57 the number of people executed in the United
States in 2005. He was on death row for killing a convenience-store clerk
on New Year's Day 1994. In December alone, more executions have been
scheduled, in Maryland, Texas, California, Mississippi and South Carolina,
and could bring the year's total to 61, barring last-minute stays or
clemencies, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Hunt, the Winston-Salem man who spent 18 years in prison before he was
cleared in the 1984 slaying of Deborah Sykes, doesn't need to call up
statistics to back his argument against the death penalty. But one fact is
all too familiar to Hunt: In the past 30 years, 122 inmates have been
found innocent and released from death row, according to the American
Civil Liberties Union.
Hunt missed getting the death penalty by just one vote.
One juror voted against it in his first trial. In a 2nd trial, Hunt was
convicted and spent nearly 20 years in prison before he was cleared.
"The system is broken, and until they fix it they need to stop executing
people," Hunt said yesterday. "I just wonder how many other people were
innocent and have been executed."
Efforts to pass a two-year moratorium on executions in North Carolina
faltered in the General Assembly this year despite an intense lobbying
effort by anti-death penalty groups and legislators. However, a
legislative study commission willlook at how the state applies the death
"As a lawyer and one who used to be a prosecutor, it scares me we've had
cases like Alan Gell, and they turn out to be innocent. We have to do
better," said Rep. Joe Hackney, D-Orange, who led the effort for a
Gell spent 5 years on death row before being acquitted in February 2004.
Texas leads the nation in carrying out the death penalty with 355 of the
1,000 - 19 of them this year, according to the Death Penalty Information
However, Gov. Rick Perry signed into law an option to the death penalty in
June. Texas juries involved in capital-crime cases now have the choice of
meting out life-without-parole sentences or the death penalty - a choice
some opponents of capital punishment think will blunt the pace of
executions in Texas.
In North Carolina, 5 people have been executed this year, including Boyd.
With that comparison, the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
said that the pace in its state was alarming.
"If Texas keeps handling their business the way they have been, it won't
take too long to get to the next 1,000," said Vicki McCuistion, the
coalition's program coordinator.
Even though the United States is on course to exceed the 59 executions
that were carried out in 2004, the pace of capital punishment has been
declining since it peaked at 98 in 1999, according to the Bureau of
Since then, the number of people put to death nationwide has dropped to 85
in 2000, 66 in 2001, 71 in 2002 and 65 in 2003, according to the bureau.
Tracy Snell, a statistician for the bureau, also pointed out that the
number of inmates on death row dropped for the 4th straight year in 2004,
according to the latest statistics.
In 2004, there were 3,315 inmates on death row, according to a report
co-written by Snell and published last month, or 63 fewer than in 2003,
when there were 3,378. In 2002, there were 3,562, and 3,562 inmates were
on death row in 2001.
The report also shows that 2004 marked the year in which the fewest
inmates entered prison with a death sentence - 125. It hasn't been that
low since 1973, when 44 were admitted.
In Washington, a White House spokesman reaffirmed President Bush's support
for the death penalty
Branny Vickory, the president of the N.C. Conference of District
Attorneys, supported capital punishment in extreme cases.
Of the criminals Vickory has convicted, one has been executed. In that
case, the man was already in prison for murder. He wanted to switch to
another prison and thought he could do it by killing someone. He initially
wanted to kill a guard, Vickory said. When the guard didn't show up, the
prisoner took a poll to see whom he should kill before killing an inmate.
"It is definitely the ultimate punishment for the ultimate crime," Vickory
said, noting that relatives of the victim opposed the killer's execution.
(source: Winston-Salem Journal)
1,000th execution follows course
He was the 1,000th, a landmark execution in the United States.
That's what the headlines tell you.
But as he lived his last minutes Friday morning, Kenneth Lee Boyd was just
a man, not a milestone:
Strapped to a gurney, he is wheeled in to the execution chamber at 1:50
Here he is, the man who shot and killed his father-in-law, Thomas Dillard
Curry, before murdering his estranged wife, Julie Curry Boyd -- a woman he
shot 5 times as their son struggled out from underneath her body.
Here he is, the caring father whose dying words are spent inquiring about
the welfare of another son, Kenneth Smith, and his grandchildren. Take
care of them, he tells his daughter-in-law.
Propped on 2 powder-blue pillows, he blinks. 14 sets of eyes blink back,
looking through the 2 thick panes of glass. He sees some familiar faces
and others he doesn't know.
"Hi, how are you," it looks like he asks his daughter-in-law, Kathy Smith.
Smith can't hear through the glass, but can read Boyd's lips. She responds
After several more exchanges, Boyd looks up at the ceiling, then back into
the room -- searching.
He's a man with big, clear eyes and a muddied past. And now, he's just
He half-smiles, knowingly but uncertain where to look. It's 1:54 a.m.
10 minutes go slowly when you're waiting for a man to die.
Smith has been crying the entire time, and now she's rustling up some
tissues. "It'll be all right," Boyd mouths.
His face is motionless, then he looks at Richard Hopper, a retired officer
with the Rockingham County Sheriff's Department, seated in the front row.
Boyd quickly looks away. Maybe he recognizes Hopper. Maybe not.
He looks at the 3 people with note pads standing in the back. He must know
they're reporters, here to document his death.
It's 1:58. Gerald Branker, the deputy warden at Central Prison, enters the
witness room and says that the execution will proceed as scheduled.
Boyd can't hear. But he nods once, knowingly, after Branker leaves the
Boyd looks around again, that not-quite-smile on his face. "You okay?" he
asks Smith. She nods yes. Boyd asks Clyde Gwin, the minister he requested,
the same thing. It looks like Gwin says yes.
Boyd then turns to Thomas Maher, his lawyer. His eyelids suddenly drop and
his chin is resting on his chest motionless.
It's 2:01. The sodium pentothal has had its effect. Boyd's breathing is
labored. That must be the pancuronium bromide, which causes paralysis.
At 2:05, the color drains from his face. The final drug, potassium
chloride, which stops his heart, must be working.
Nothing much changes for 10 minutes. Then, at 2:16 a.m., a pair of tan
curtains snap shut, blocking the view.
Kenneth Lee Boyd is just a body now -- officially pronounced dead at 2:15
He was 57 -- the same age as Thomas Curry when he was killed. Julie Curry
Boyd was much younger, 36, on the night she died.
And so, Boyd became the 1,000th inmate executed in the United States since
the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.
It's an arbitrary distinction, really.
His heart would have stopped just the same if he'd been 1,001.
(source: The News & Record)
Murder victims father is a hit man on death row
When Davenport police went looking for a recent murder victim's next of
kin, the search took them to one place they didn't expect: Mississippi's
Police searched for the family of Davenporter Charles L. "Chris" Nixon
after dental records confirmed it was his body that was found burning
Saturday in rural Jefferson County, Ill.
"One of his friends told us his dad was on death row, but we didn't know
where," Davenport Sgt. Greg Glandon said.
After a brief search, police learned Mr. Nixon, 37, is the son of John B.
Nixon Sr., 77, the oldest inmate on Mississippi's death row. He's
scheduled to be executed by lethal injection Dec. 14 after sitting on
death row for nearly 2 decades.
Ironically, the chaplain at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in
Parchman, Miss., was looking for members of the Nixon family for the
execution, Sgt. Glandon said.
John Nixon was sentenced to death in 1986 after his conviction of capital
murder for the contract killing of 45-year-old Virginia Tucker, according
to the Mississippi Department of Corrections.
The Clarion-Ledger, in Jackson, Miss., reported the woman's ex-husband
paid Mr. Nixon, two of his sons - not the recently deceased Charles -- and
a friend to commit the 1985 murder. The 2 other sons have since been
released, the newspaper reported.
The Jefferson County coroner has ruled Charles Nixon's death a homicide by
blunt force trauma. Police say DNA evidence will be used for final
confirmation of the body's identity.
Scott County prosecutor Bill Davis said he will charge Steven Howard
Dietz, 50, and William Robert Smith, 35, both of Davenport, in Mr. Nixon's
death. They were both being held at the Sussex (Va.) County Jail Friday
without bond on fugitive-from-justice warrants on unrelated charges out of
Davenport police started looking for the three men, who Mr. Davis said
were romantically involved, after finding a large amount of blood in a
bedroom of a house at 5117 N. Pine St. in Davenport last Friday. Police
say one of the men lived in the house.
Police tracked Mr. Dietz and Mr. Smith to a house in Yale, Va., a small
town south of Richmond, through cell-phone records. They were arrested
after a short police chase with Sussex County Sheriff's deputies in a car
registered to Mr. Nixon.
Virginia and Scott County authorities said Mr. Dietz and Mr. Smith told
police that Mr. Nixon's body could be found in Mt. Vernon, Ill.
Authorities are currently working to have Mr. Dietz and Mr. Smith brought
to Scott County. They both have waived extradition proceedings in
(source: Quad-Cities Online)
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