[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----CONN., CALIF., PENN., MD.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Feb 17 09:49:32 CST 2005
Ross Case: Advocacy Roles Shifting
Chief Public Defender Gerard Smyth said Tuesday he sees no reason for his
office to seek once again to intervene in behalf of Michael Ross because
he believes court-appointed attorney Thomas Groark will "zealously" argue
that the serial killer is mentally incompetent to forgo furtherappeals and
Ross now has a new execution date - May 11- and faces a fresh set of
challenges to his competence. The next evaluation is expected to focus on
whether restrictive death row conditions have driven him to despair and to
choose "state-assisted suicide" by waiving further appeals.
Groark on Tuesday - commenting for the 1st time since his appointment as
special counsel in the case last Thursday - said the assignment is itself
the greatest challenge facing him.
"The total assignment is the challenge," said Groark, a prominent
securities lawyer and partner in the state's largest law firm - Day Berry
& Howard. He is volunteering his services, and said his firm has also
provided 2 lawyers - Michael Shea and Jim Mahanna - to assist him.
Within hours of Groark's appointment last Thursday, all three lawyers met
with Smyth and Patrick Culligan, who heads the elite capital defense unit
of Smyth's office.
"I am becoming familiar with the background and have spoken to a number of
people," Groark said. He does not believes he is handicapped by the fact
that his specialty is securities and corporate, rather than criminal, law.
"Not for this limited issue, no," Groark said. He said he has dealt with
the issue of competence in civil cases. "Competence does come in a variety
of areas of litigation."
Superior Court Judge Patrick Clifford has yet to schedule hearings in
Ross' renewed bid to proceed to his execution.
Ross' last execution date of Jan. 26 was postponed 4 times as Smyth's
office and other defense attorneys filed appeals and tried other legal
machinations to halt the execution. The U.S. Supreme Court twice vacated
stays of execution - the last time 4 hours before Ross' rescheduled
execution date of 2 a.m. Jan. 29.
It was Ross' handpicked lawyer, T.R. Paulding, who ultimately halted the
execution that night, hours after a federal court judge had instructed him
to reconsider his advocacy of Ross' execution and threatened to go after
Paulding's law license if he was found to have been derelict in his
obligation to examine Ross' competence and present all relevant
information to the court.
Smyth's office, which had represented Ross for 17 years, had argued since
Dec. 1 that Ross is not mentally competent, and sought to intervene in his
behalf. Clifford denied their request to intervene and, after hearing from
court-appointed psychiatrist Michael Norko Dec. 28, deemed Ross competent
to make a knowing and voluntary waiver of further appeals still open to
him and opt for death.
Clifford's ruling was upheld by the state Supreme Court, but Smyth's
lawyers found a sympathetic ear in Chief U.S. District Judge Robert N.
Chatigny, who ultimately threatened Paulding's law license. Paulding moved
to reopen the competency hearing Jan. 31 after Norko agreed that some of
the evidence in the possession of the public defenders might have prompted
him to reach a different conclusion about Ross' state of mind.
Smyth said his office is prepared to defer to Groark, confident that
Groark and his associates "will zealously advocate the position we've
taken right along - that Ross is mentally incompetent to waive his
appeals. There is no reason for us to separately intervene, and we won't
"We will work closely with them, provide them all the information we have
and give them access to our witnesses and experts," Smyth said.
"In the final analysis, the court has ordered exactly what we were
requesting - a full and adversarial competency hearing," Smyth said. "The
fact that we don't get to litigate it ourselves really is unimportant."
Groark confirmed that defense attorney Jacob "Jack" Zeldes first
approached him about filling the role of advocating Ross' mental
incompetence, but would not elaborate on when Zeldes first made overtures.
Paulding had sought the counsel of Zeldes' law partner, David Atkins, on
the ethical tug of war of representing a client who wants to be executed,
while at the same time fulfilling his obligation to the court.
(source: Hartford Courant)
Confessed killer gets another sanity hearing----Lawyers say he is
incompetent, wants to be put to death
Admitted police officer-killer Marvin Patrick Sullivan, who has escaped
prosecution after twice being deemed psychotic and incompetent for trial,
returned to court Tuesday to determine once again if he is fit to answer
for his alleged crimes.
The twist this time is that Sullivan, 50, says he wants to receive the
death penalty for the April 1998 shooting of Millbrae police Officer David
Chetcuti. His attorneys attribute his newfound desire to delusions.
He may get a chance at his wish if a San Mateo County Superior Court judge
rules he is competent for trial, setting the stage for a potential
Sullivan has twice been found incompetent to stand trial for the slaying
of officer Chetcuti, whom Sullivan confessed to killing in a confrontation
on Highway 101. A year after the shooting, in 1999, Sullivan was diagnosed
with paranoid schizophrenia and was deemed unfit for trial.
After 2 years of treatment at a state hospital in Napa, Sullivan's doctors
declared him competent in 2001. But a year later he was once again found
mentally unfit for trial after he stopped taking his antipsychotic
medication. Last year, Sullivan, who is currently taking his medication,
was again deemed competent by his doctors.
Sullivan's attorneys, appearing at his latest competency hearing, insisted
that Sullivan, in his desire for prosecution, is being guided by delusions
and a psychosis that renders him unfit even with the help of medication.
During testimony Tuesday, a psychiatrist and a psychologist retained by
the defense testified that after evaluating Sullivan, they found he is not
capable of rationally assisting his attorneys, 1 of 2 criteria for mental
The defense presented a Feb. 10 video in which Sullivan asks for a trial
and tells his attorney the Holy Spirit wants him to seek the death penalty
so he can be reunited with God.
"His motivation is to get back to trial for some psychotic agenda," said
defense attorney Vincent O'Malley. "It's all driven by his psychotic
process. He's not making rational decisions."
For more than 10 years, Sullivan has suffered from a host of delusions,
including his belief that he is an NASA astronaut and that the CIA and the
Mafia are conspiring to persecute him, doctors testified Tuesday. Doctors
also testified that Sullivan has told them that as an archangel, he
receives orders from God, including instructions on his case.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe agreed that Sullivan
suffers from psychosis, but he said Tuesday that if properly medicated
Sullivan would be fit for trial.
If the case proceeds to trial, Wagstaffe is now aided by a 2003 U.S.
Supreme Court ruling that allows doctors to forcibly medicate defendants
in certain cases to ensure their competency.
The appearance of Sullivan in court brought the return of family members
of officer Chetcuti, who are skeptical Sullivan will be made to answer for
his alleged crimes. "I don't care if he's crazy or not, he's killed
someone and he should pay," said brother Joe Chetcuti, 59, of San Bruno.
The competency hearing continues today.
(source: San Francisco Chronicle)
Mayor in middle of Abu-Jamal dispute
A French delegation's visit turned into a rally. Street phoned the slain
What started as a private meeting in City Hall for a delegation of French
politicians is evolving into a political mess for Mayor Street.
The mayor called the widow of slain Philadelphia Police Office Daniel
Faulkner Monday to apologize for any pain caused by a meeting city
officials held with two French politicians last Friday. That meeting ended
with an impromptu rally inside City Hall by a group of demonstrators
protesting on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the man convicted of killing
During the private phone conversation Monday, Street told Maureen Faulkner
that he believed Abu-Jamal murdered her husband, and that Abu-Jamal is in
prison "and that is where he belongs," Faulkner said in an interview
But that brought a swift - and angry - reaction yesterday from the woman
leading the movement to free Abu-Jamal.
Pam Africa, who heads the International Concerned Friends and Family of
Mumia Abu-Jamal, said that Street "better be prepared to back up that
statement," and that it contradicts comments he had made to her in the
past about Abu-Jamal.
Africa said that when Street was president of City Council, he met with
her and told her that he believed Abu-Jamal had not received a fair trial.
Also present at that meeting, Africa said, were A. Bruce Crawley, then a
close confidante of Street's, and Minister Rodney Muhammad of the Nation
"Stand up and be a man," Africa said angrily of Street, whom she said she
would hound about the matter.
Contacted yesterday, Crawley said of the meeting in question: "I think the
gist of the conversation was that he [Street] would be in favor of
ensuring that Mumia got a fair trial, that he believed that Mumia was
entitled to a fair trial.
"He said he thought that if there was any question that he did not get a
fair trial, there should be efforts to ensure that it happens."
Muhammad could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Street spokesman Dan Fee said yesterday that "the mayor has been
consistent - that the issue is an issue to be decided by the courts, and
that has been decided by the courts."
Fee confirmed that the mayor spoke with Maureen Faulkner on Monday. Though
he did not hear it, Fee did not contradict Maureen Faulkner's account of
the phone call.
Abu-Jamal was sentenced to death for Faulkner's murder in 1982. In 2001, a
federal judge upheld the conviction but overturned the death sentence.
Abu-Jamal has many supporters in the United States and abroad who believe
he is innocent and did not receive a fair trial.
The delegation from France - including a Paris city councilman - met with
members of Street's administration. It was supposed to be a private
meeting, but it attracted more than 100 Abu-Jamal supporters.
City officials said that on the advice of the Philadelphia police Civil
Affairs Unit, they allowed the protesters into the Mayor's Reception Room,
where the French politicians made their case for Abu-Jamal. The
politicians were given replicas of the Liberty Bell as gifts - a standard
practice, Fee said, for foreign dignitaries.
Maureen Faulkner said she was horrified when she heard about the meeting.
"It's very upsetting... . For the city to bestow an honor upon them, it's
inexcusable. And it's embarrassing."
(source: Philadelphia Inquirer)
Experts testify at killer's hearing----Defense says excluding their
statements at trial prevented fair sentence
A psychiatric social worker and clinical psychologist hired in 2000 by
lawyers representing a convicted killer at a capital sentencing hearing
testified yesterday that they never had an opportunity to present evidence
that the man's current attorneys say might have led a jury to sentence him
to life in prison rather than death.
Attorneys representing death row inmate Lawrence Michael Borchardt Sr. in
his quest to have his death sentence overturned say that the failure of
Borchardt's previous lawyers to present expert testimony about the
inmate's background and mental health at the sentencing hearing prevented
him from receiving a fair sentence.
"Right now, what we have is two screw-ups with no explanation," Brian
Murphy, one of three defense attorneys now representing Borchardt, said
after the more than 5-hour hearing in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.
In questioning the social worker and psychologist yesterday, prosecutors
suggested that the decisions of Borchardt's original defense attorneys to
selectively elicit testimony about their client's background at the
sentencing hearing were conscious trial tactics.
The 2 attorneys, William Kanwisher and David P. Henninger, have not been
called to testify. Neither returned phone messages yesterday.
Borchardt, 53, of Rosedale was sentenced to death in May 2000 after being
convicted of fatally stabbing Joseph and Bernice Ohler, both in their 80s,
while trying to get money to buy drugs. The Ohlers had twice given money
to Borchardt, a heroin addict who was going door to door and soliciting
funds, claiming that his wife needed cancer treatments.
Borchardt killed the couple on Thanksgiving Day in 1998, after they told
him they didn't have any more money to give. The case was moved from
Baltimore County to Anne Arundel after Borchardt's lawyers requested a
change of venue.
Pamela Taylor, a psychiatric social worker, testified yesterday that at
Kanwisher's request, she prepared in 2000 a psychosocial history on
Borchardt in advance of his trial and sentencing. She characterized the
convicted killer's upbringing as physically, sexually and emotionally
abusive and expressed frustration that she was not asked to testify or
prepare a report for presentation to jurors during the sentencing phase.
"I believe I could have put a psychological layer over the facts being
testified to," she said, adding that her expert opinion could have
highlighted not only Borchardt's background and mental deficiencies but
also "how important that was in how Larry turned out."
During cross-examination, Taylor confirmed for Baltimore County prosecutor
S. Ann Brobst that many of the details that she would have testified to
were covered at the sentencing hearing by Borchardt's older brother.
Taylor also agreed that prosecutors likely would have questioned her at
the sentencing hearing about aspects of Borchardt's background that Brobst
characterized as "distasteful to jurors," including, as Taylor testified,
sexual assaults on young girls, drug and alcohol addictions, and evidence
that he beat his wife.
Lawrence Donner, a clinical psychologist who evaluated Borchardt in 2000
for the defense, testified yesterday that he had been told to be prepared
to testify at the sentencing hearing May 30, 2000. But when he returned
May 28 from a 19-day cruise, he learned that the hearing had been held May
Murphy, an attorney now representing Borchardt, offered into evidence the
transcript of a hearing at which Kanwisher requested a postponement of the
trial and sentencing so that Donner could be present. A judge denied the
The hearing before Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Pamela L. North is scheduled
to resume today. Borchardt did not attend yesterday's court session. He
asked to be excused because health problems make it difficult for him to
make the trip.
(source: The Baltimore Sun)
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