[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----IND., NEB., MD., N.J.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Dec 17 12:46:19 CST 2005
Parolee who killed 3 in Indiana given life -- Murderer pleaded not to be
freed; then he murdered again
Minutes before an Indiana man was sentenced to spend his life in prison
for murdering and burying 3 Hammond teens under a basement floor in 2003,
prosecutors blasted Illinois prison officials for letting him out of jail.
David Maust, 51, confessed to the murders of Nicholas James, 19, on May 2,
2003; James Raganyi, 16, on Sept. 10, 2003, and Raganyi's friend Michael
Dennis, 13, on Sept. 11, 2003, after the prosecutor took the death penalty
off the table.
During the sentencing, Lake County prosecutor Bernard Carter said that
Maust warned prison officials he would kill again and asked not to be
released from an Illinois prison where he had been serving 17 years of a
35-year sentence for murdering a teen in Elgin in 1981. Maust also
admitted killing 2 other teens.
"He wrote that he would go out to be a law-abiding citizen and go back to
killing," Carter said. "He has an insatiable urge to kill."
Illinois officials said they could not hold Maust because he served his
sentence and, in 2002, completed his parole. He lived in Oak Park after
his prison sentence. Carter said he does not believe Maust committed any
murders in Oak Park.
Maust did not speak at the hearing, but in portions of a psychiatric
interview his lawyer, Thomas Vanes, read in court, Maust described himself
as an evil man and apologized.
"As a child, I was not planning on growing up to hurt people, and I never
wanted to be labeled a serial killer," Vanes read in court. "They were
good, non-violent, and innocent young people who did not deserve to die."
Judge Clarence Murray said he accepted the deal knowing Maust would never
"You will nevertheless die behind prison walls," he said. "You will just
do it one day at a time."
Lynn Smith, Raganyi's mother, said Maust should never have been released
from prison in Illinois.
"He's going away," Smith said. Referring to Maust's prior release from
prison, she said: "I wish he never got out to hurt anybody else. I'm glad
he's never going to hurt anybody else again."
Family friend Melissa Garcia told the court Michael Dennis' death had left
"gaping holes" in the Dennis family, adding, "a young man who had so many
things left to achieve in his life will never have the opportunity to do
any of them."
Nicholas James' family did not attend the hearing.
(source: Chicago Tribune)
Death row inmate loses appeal
Death row inmate David Dunster's claim that his guilty plea should be
vacated because he was under the influence of medications was rejected by
the Nebraska Supreme Court Friday.
Dunster was later sentenced to death in the case, which stemmed from the
1997 strangulation of his cellmate at the Nebraska State Penitentiary.
In subsequent communications with the Lancaster County District Court in
the case, Dunster fired his court-appointed lawyer, at one point telling
the Judge Paul D. Merritt Jr. he would rather receive the death sentence
than spend the rest of his life in prison.
In a July 1999 hearing, Dunster told the judge he was taking Prozac and
Depakote, among other medications, but that the drugs did not affect his
ability to understand the court proceedings.
Dunster suffers from hepatitis C, diabetes and bipolar disorder.
Merritt, finding that Dunster knowingly waived his right to an attorney,
accepted the guilty plea, but strongly urged Dunster to have an attorney
at the sentencing.
Dunster refused, at one point saying, "It is really a pain in the ass to
get you people to kill me."
At the sentencing hearing that November, Dunster submitted a letter in
which he wrote a death sentence would be his "'parole and pardon all in
Merritt sentenced Dunster to death in January 2000.
Dunster's current attorney, Jerry Soucie, then filed a motion for a new
trial, arguing that Correctional Services medical records, some of which
were unavailable earlier, showed that Dunster had serious health problems
that made him unable to waive his right to an attorney.
The Supreme Court rejected the claim Friday, finding that many of Dunsters
health problems arose after he was sentenced. In addition, the court said,
Merritt would have reached the same conclusions on Dunsters competence
even if all the records had been available to him.
(source: Lincoln Journal Star)
Death sentence upheld in murder-for-hire case
In a 4-3 decision, Maryland's highest court upheld a death sentence
yesterday for a drug kingpin convicted of hiring someone to kill 2
witnesses scheduled to testify against him in a federal narcotics case.
The Court of Appeals rejected 3 appeals from Anthony Grandison, who argued
that Baltimore County prosecutors suppressed evidence favorable to his
case, that Maryland's process for sentencing capital cases is flawed and
that he was not eligible for the death penalty because he did not kill the
Grandison and Vernon L. Evans Jr. were convicted and sentenced to death in
the April 1983 killing of David Scott Piechowicz and Susan Kennedy at the
Warren House Motor Hotel in Pikesville. Grandison was found guilty of
paying Evans $9,000 to kill Piechowicz and his wife, Cheryl, who were
witnesses in the drug case. Kennedy was working for her sister Cheryl that
day, and prosecutors said at trial that they believed Evans mistook
Kennedy for her sister on the day of the killings.
Four judges found no evidence that prosecutors had suppressed witness
statements in Grandison's case or that the witness testimony would have
changed the outcome of the trial. They also ruled that Maryland law is
clear that a defendant convicted in a contractual murder is eligible for
the death penalty.
The 3 dissenting judges -- Chief Judge Robert M. Bell and judges Irma S.
Raker and Clayton Greene Jr. -- refer in their opinion only to Grandison's
arguments regarding Maryland's capital sentencing procedures.
Raker wrote that the 3 judges dissented for the same reasons they had laid
out in previous similar cases.
In those cases, the judges agreed with death row inmates' arguments that
judges or juries at sentencing should weigh mitigating factors, such as a
defendant's troubled childhood, against aggravating factors, such as
another felony committed along with a murder, by the standard of "beyond a
reasonable doubt" before sentencing a convicted killer to death. Maryland
law sets the standard of proof for such decisions at "by a preponderance
of the evidence" -- a significantly lower legal threshold.
Judge refuses to dismiss death-penalty drug case
A judge rejected a motion yesterday from an often-charged but rarely
convicted West Baltimore man who tried to have his death-penalty case
thrown out of court because he argued the federal court has no
jurisdiction over his "flesh and blood."
Solothal "Itchy Man" Thomas, 29, was charged in U.S. District Court in
Baltimore last year with 3 other men whom federal prosecutors called
violent "enforcers" for a marijuana organization. They allegedly shared
$10,000 for their suspected roles in killing a Baltimore County man in
2001. Prosecutors say the men were part of a widespread marijuana
trafficking organization that supplied various "markets," violently
retaliating against those who tried to interfere.
In court yesterday, Thomas quickly read from a prepared script, ignoring
pleas from his attorney and the judge to speak more slowly so he could be
understood. He called attorneys Arcangelo M. Tuminelli and Teresa Whalen
"incompetent" and said he could hire no other attorney who didn't have a
conflict of interest.
The case marks at least the seventh time a prisoner from the state's
maximum-security prison in Baltimore has tried to argue that the federal
courts do not have the right to try defendants, according to Assistant
U.S. Attorney Jason M. Weinstein. They argue, so far unsuccessfully, that
the court may try them only if they had a contractual relationship under
the Uniformed Commercial Code.
In recent years, Thomas became known for his ability to absorb criminal
indictments and avoid conviction in state court. He was charged with
killing two people and attempting to kill a dozen more. But time after
time, he won acquittals or pleaded guilty to lesser charges, and received
relatively short stints in jail.
U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake said yesterday that the case against
him would proceed and he would be unable to fire his attorneys, who will
continue to represent him. "I think it's extremely unfortunate," Blake
said of Thomas' motion. "It's a travesty."
Thomas is scheduled for trial early next year.
(source for both: Baltimore Sun)
New Jersey Legislates a Moratorium on the Death Penalty
On December 15, New Jersey became the 1st state to legislate a moratorium
on the use of the death penalty. Celeste Fitzgerald, director of New
Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, who has been advocating
for the moratorium said, "the Senate has signaled its deep concern with
the State's current death penalty system and sent a clear message that the
death penalty just does not work." In a week in which the international
community has been condemning the United States and Governor
Schwarzenegger of California for allowing the execution of Stan Tookie
Williams, New Jersey has hopefully set an example for the rest of the
country to follow.
The only countries that allow state sponsored murder and have executed as
many people as the United States in a year are China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi
Arabia, and Congo. Since 1976, 1000 people have been executed, three
quarters of them since 1992. President Bush, set a new standard when
Governor of Texas, signing 152 death warrants on his watch. Contrast that
against Governor George Ryan of Illinois, who famously granted
commutations to all death row inmates before leaving office last year.
Ryan was convinced to do so because 13 men had been found innocent after
receiving their sentence. Thats one more than the twelve persons executed
in Illinois since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.
The death penalty is a system plagued by racial and economic prejudice and
a flawed legal system. While the majority of Americans still support the
use of the death penalty; its faults clearly call for a nationwide
Here are some facts compiled by the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and
the Death Penalty Information Center:
The death penalty is racist. Black Americans are 13 % of the US
population, but 43 % of prisoners on death row. Almost all capital cases83
% - involve white victims, even though nationally only 50 % of murder
victims are white. A black person who kills a white person is 19 times
more likely to receive the death penalty than a white person who kills a
The death penalty punishes the poor. More than 90 % of defendants charged
with capital crimes cannot afford to hire an experienced attorney. In
Texas, for instance, there is no public defenders office and judges often
appoint lawyers that are unable to mount an adequate defense.
The death penalty condemns the innocent to die. Since 1976, 119 death row
inmates have been found innocent - some within minutes of their scheduled
execution. That means for every 7 people executed, 1 has been found
The death penalty is not a deterrent to violent crime. The majority of
states with the death penalty have higher murder rates than states without
The death penalty is "cruel and unusual punishment." Since 1982, the
United States has executed 17 people who were under 18 at the time of
their crime. 70 more juveniles await execution on death rows throughout
(source: Michael Shtender Auerbach is a press officer at The Century
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