[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, LA., ALA., CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Feb 24 16:13:49 CST 2005
D.A. to seek death in Biker Santa' killing
Prosecutors announced Wednesday they would seek the death penalty for a
Hitchcock man charged in the shooting death of a La Marque man who died as
he tried to foil a robbery at a bar.
Amador Gonzales Sanchez Jr., 34, faces a capital murder charge in the
October 2002 death of Joe Morreale, known to many as the "Biker Santa."
The night of Oct. 11, 2002, Morreale went to Murphys bar and was there
shortly before the midnight closing time when 2 men walked in with guns
and demanded money.
Another patron struggled with one of the robbers, but the other shot
Morreale when he lunged at him in an effort to foil the crime.
Morreale, 48, was a Murphys regular. He ran a Toys for Tots drive at the
bar each year and was known in the community for his charity work with the
Shriners Burns Center Toy Run. He owned Custom Specialists, a motorcycle
customizing shop on state Highway 3, just around the corner from where he
was gunned down.
Capital murder carries a possible death sentence or a prison term of life.
2 others indicted on capital murder charges in the
robbery-turned-shooting, Scott Anderson Copeland, 23, of Houston and
Galveston resident Brandy Bergara, 23, will not face the death penalty
when their cases go to trial.
After the hearing, First Assistant District Attorney Mo Ibrahim said
Sanchez criminal record played a major role in the district attorneys
office seeking the death penalty in his case. Ibrahim also accused Sanchez
of being the one who fired the shot that killed Morreale.
Defense attorney Katherine Scardino said Sanchez, her client, would be
pleading not guilty and maintained his innocence.
"He says he was not present that night," she said.
Sanchez trial is set for January. His co-defendants trials will occur
after his concludes.
Sanchez remained in jail Wednesday, under bonds totaling $500,000. He also
faces a charge of failing to register as a sex offender, which carries a
possible prison term of 2 to 10 years in prison, as well as a fine of up
Sanchez spent time in prison after being convicted of sexual assault of a
child in an attack on a young girl in April 1992.
(source: Galveston County Daily News)
'Death-qualified' jury criticized----Some say those jurors are more likely
to convict in Williams trial
As 2 more jurors were selected Wednesday for the death-penalty trial of
Tyrone Williams, experts said the process itself is a subject of intense
Williams, a Jamaican immigrant from Schenectady, N.Y., is accused of
causing the deaths of 19 illegal immigrants who were locked in his trailer
during a smuggling attempt in Texas in 2003.
"Most scholars feel that a death-qualified jury is a conviction-prone
jury," said David Graeven, a jury consultant in the San Francisco office
of Trial Behavior Consulting.
That view was echoed by Clay Conrad, a Houston lawyer who deals with the
issue in a book sponsored by the libertarian Cato Institute.
"The death qualification process does give you a biased jury," Conrad
said. "Among academics, I don't think there is any disagreement."
Houston jury consultant Robert Gordon, however, disagreed.
"I see no reason why that should be true," Gordon said. "It's saying
jurors could never be fair, and I don't believe that to be true."
Their comments reflect the concerns of attorney Craig Washington, who will
defend Williams in the Houston court of U.S. District Judge Vanessa
Washington said during the first day of jury selection Tuesday that the
process of picking a death-qualified jury - one that can recommend a death
sentence - systematically eliminates most minorities because they tend to
oppose the death penalty. Prosecutors, who are seeking the death penalty,
accuse Williams of ignoring the agony of more than 74 illegal immigrants
who endured deadly temperatures in the trailer he was towing.
Officials discovered 17 bodies in Williams' abandoned trailer May 14,
2003, at a Victoria truck stop. 2 more passengers died in a hospital.
Judge Gilmore and attorneys for both sides are interviewing 25 prospective
jurors a day in a process that will pick 12 jurors and four alternates.
The two chosen Wednesday bring the total to 6.
Selection of a non-death penalty jury can take less than a day, but it
takes longer to pick a death-penalty jury because of the necessity to weed
out those who oppose capital punishment, said Charles "Rocky" Rhodes, a
professor at Houston's South Texas College of Law.
The process also screens out those who have decided Williams is guilty,
"It becomes more of a tightrope in a death-penalty case than in a regular
case, where you are just trying to exclude those with obvious bias," he
The process ensures that the jury will fall off that tightrope into the
arms of the prosecution, said Conrad, who deals with the issue in a
chapter of his book, Jury Nullification: The Evolution of a Doctrine.
Conrad said the process "means that anyone with death-penalty qualms is
excused from a death-penalty jury."
"Statistically, those who have no qualms are biased toward the
prosecution," he said.
But Gordon called that reasoning faulty and said statistics can be bent to
prove any case.
People with qualms about the death penalty are not excluded from jury
duty, he said - only those opposed to it are.
If academics agree that the selection process favors the prosecution, that
view has yet to make its way into the halls of justice.
Conrad said the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the state's interest in
the death penalty outweighs concerns about the makeup of the jury.
"The courts have pretty much said, 'So?'" he said.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Suspect's wife says he's not a murderer
Trish Barbee wants the world to know that her husband loves children and
is "not capable" of killing a pregnant woman and her 7-year-old son.
"It's impossible," Barbee said in a tearful interview Wednesday night. "He
is the sweetest man in the world."
Stephen D. Barbee, 37, her husband of 2 months, is in the Mansfield Jail,
accused of capital murder in the slayings of Lisa Underwood, 34, and her
"I'm not mad at him," said Barbee, 39. "I don't hate him. I still love
Barbee said that she talked to her husband in jail Wednesday for the first
time since his arrest Tuesday in Tyler and that he was doing "awful."
"He said everyone has this all wrong," she said. "I said, 'What do you
mean?' And he just started crying. He just kept saying how much he loved
Barbee said her husband told her that he was not sure he was the father of
Underwood's unborn child and that Underwood had been calling him,
threatening to tell her about the baby.
"She was trying to blackmail him," Barbee said in an interview with the
Star-Telegram. "She wanted his money. She said she wanted his business.
... She even said that she wanted to take him to the cleaners."
Investigators in the case gave little credence to Trish Barbee's
"I wouldn't expect any other response from an accused killer's wife," said
Detective R.A. Gallaway of the major case unit.
Homicide Sgt. J.D. Thornton said Barbee's comments didn't "merit a
"Actions committed by a suspect in a case like this cannot be reasonably
explained or justified," he said.
Barbee said she first learned about Underwood in 2003, a few months after
she and Stephen Barbee started dating.
She said Underwood came to Stephen Barbee's apartment and started banging
on the door one morning.
"He said it was the girl he used to go out with," Barbee said. "He told
her to go away and don't come back."
Later that day, she said, they found a note Underwood had stuck under a
windshield wiper on Stephen Barbee's car.
"She said on the note: 'How come you haven't called me? Why haven't you
returned my calls? What did I do wrong?' " Barbee said. "She wrote,
'Please call me,' and she underlined it. She signed it Lisa."
Barbee said Stephen Barbee, a former reserve police officer in Blue Mound,
told her that he had dated Underwood a few times and that the woman now
wouldn't leave him alone.
"I asked him if he told her about me and he said, 'Yes.'"
She said that she and Stephen Barbee got married in Las Vegas in December
and that she had no idea Underwood was still calling her husband. She said
she didn't learn that Underwood was pregnant until police came to talk to
her husband Saturday night, after Underwood and her son were reported
Barbee said she asked her husband who they were talking about and he said
it was the same woman who had banged on his apartment door.
"That is all he told me at that time," she said.
On Monday, Barbee said, she and her two children accompanied Stephen
Barbee to Tyler, where he was cutting trees.
She said police called them on a cellphone and they met the officers at
the Tyler police station. There, Barbee said, her husband was interviewed
for three and half hours before being arrested.
Barbee said her husband told her after his arrest that he had been keeping
the phone calls a secret because "he thought I would leave him.
"He said he couldn't live without me. He said he was sorry. He didn't mean
to hurt me."
Barbee, who works as a secretary for a Fort Worth law firm, said her
husband told her that Underwood had told him another man was the father of
her unborn child.
Nevertheless, Barbee said, her husband told her that he went to
Underwood's home Friday night to talk to her about the pregnancy and,
perhaps, child support.
"He wanted to talk to her and work something out," Barbee said. "She
started arguing with him and yelling at him. She hit him and kicked him
and he said she wouldn't stop.
"That's all I'm going to tell you that he said."
Gallaway, a lead investigator in the case, said allegations that Underwood
attacked Stephen Barbee appear untrue.
"I'm confident that the evidence presented to the district attorney's
office will contradict that statement," Gallaway said.
Debbie Lindley, a close friend of Underwood's, vehemently denied the
accusation that Underwood was harassing Stephen Barbee or trying to
Lindley said the only thing that Underwood ever asked of Barbee was that
he provide health insurance for the baby.
"If you call asking for medical care for your unborn child 'blackmailing,'
then that's what she was asking for," Lindley said.
Lindley said Underwood had no reason to demand money from Barbee.
"She had a house. She'd lived there for three years. She was able to pay
her bills. She lived independently. ... She was making it on her own just
fine. Why would she do that?"
Barbee said she met Stephen Barbee 13 or 14 years ago when he worked with
her ex-husband, Michael Reinhardt, who is the father of her two children.
Barbee and Reinhardt divorced in 2001 and, in September 2003, she and
Stephen Barbee reconnected.
"We got to talking and he knew I was divorced," she said. "He asked me out
and we started dating."
She characterized Barbee as a romantic who often brought her flowers.
"He called me all day everyday, He just wanted to hear my voice."
She said he adores her 6-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter, as they do
"He is absolutely the most wonderful man in the world," she said. "He
loves those kids and they love him so much. He is not capable of this. He
is just not. He wouldn't hurt a fly, and he loves children."
In fact, Barbee said, the couple were planning on having a child of their
Barbee stressed that her husband is not a violent man.
"He and I have never had a fight," she said. "... He has never even yelled
"All he cares about is taking care of me and making sure we're
comfortable," she said. "I don't think he did this. It's impossible. I'm
not supposed to talk to anyone, but I can't stand for people to think he's
bad because he is not."
(source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
Appeals court: Prosecutors can seek death penalty in murder retrial
In Benton, prosecutors can seek the death penalty against a man who won a
new trial on a murder conviction for which he received a life prison
sentence, a state appeals court has ruled.
James Carl Crandell had his first-degree murder conviction thrown out in
2004 when a federal judge ruled that blacks were excluded from being grand
jury foremen at the time of his indictment.
Crandell was convicted in 1991 of the the killing of Charles Parr inside a
motel room in Bossier City and received the no-parole life sentence after
the jury could not reach a unanimous decision on whether he should be put
After a new indictment was returned against Crandell last September,
prosecutors filed a notice to seek the death penalty over the objections
of defense attorneys, who contended that Crandell could not be subjected a
2nd time to capital punishment. Prosecutors are testing a long-standing
U.S. Supreme Court decision prohibiting prosecutors from seeking the death
penalty in the retrial of cases that originally resulted in a prison
State District Judge Parker Self sided with prosecutors on Jan. 3. In a
decision handed down Wednesday, the state 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal
upheld that ruling, saying that subjecting Crandell to the death penalty
would not violate his constitutional rights against double jeopardy.
District Attorney Schuyler Martin said he expected the defense to appeal
the ruling to the Louisiana Supreme Court.
(source: Associated Press)
Jurors Convict Hyde In Triple Homicide
In Jasper, a Walker County jury has convicted 32-year-old Christopher
Shane Hyde of capital murder in the shooting deaths of 3 people at a
Sumiton funeral home in March 2003.
The 32-year-old Hyde had been charged in the deaths of June Williams, Rick
Peterson and Randle Lane at Bell Funeral Home in Sumiton.
The sentencing phase of the trial is now underway. Jurors will recommend
whether Hyde should die by lethal injection or spend the rest of his life
in prison without the possibility of parole.
Prosecutors completed their case Wednesday. Defense attorney Mark Turner
said in closing arguments that the state had produced no evidence linking
Hyde to the crime scene, and he implied evidence such as the murder weapon
could have been planted.
But Walker County District Attorney Charles Baker denied Turner's
accusations, claiming there was a "mountain of evidence" against Hyde.
Hyde had been released from prison in Florida 4 months before the killings
after serving time for attempted murder, robbery with a weapon and auto
theft. His crimes included beating a paraplegic with a microwave oven
after the wheelchair-bound man hired him for sex.
(source: NBC13 News)
Peterson sentence may face 2nd delay----Grantski asks lawmakers in Oregon
to pass laws that would protect fetuses
A judge's final word on whether Scott Peterson should be executed could be
delayed again at a hearing Friday, sources said.
Formal sentencing for the Modesto man, convicted of murdering his pregnant
wife and their unborn child, previously was changed from Friday to March
11. A possible scheduling conflict could push that back again, sources
Friday's hearing in Redwood City is expected to be brief. Attorneys on
both sides will be asked to approve transcriptions of court proceedings,
which stretched from June 1 to Dec. 13, when jurors returned a
They earlier had convicted the 32-year-old fertilizer salesman of killing
Laci Peterson around Christmas Eve 2002 and dumping her in San Francisco
Bay. The bodies of mother and son washed ashore nearly 4 months later.
Judge Alfred Delucchi can change the punishment to life in prison without
parole, though reducing capital sentences is not common.
Documents filed under seal by attorneys on both sides since the jury's
Dec. 13 sentence might be released Friday.
In related news, the man who raised Laci Peterson as his daughter
testified this week in favor of fetal protection legislation in a state
where his future grandchildren could live.
Ron Grantski, the longtime companion of the victim's mother, Sharon Rocha,
on Monday told Oregon legislators they should pass a law creating separate
charges for killing a pregnant woman and her unborn child. The legislation
is similar to a federal law President Bush signed in April with Rocha at
his side. California already has such a law.
Grantski, who lived in Eugene in his youth, read a letter of support he
and Rocha received from a Portland resident. "I told them, 'The people of
your state want this law,'" he said.
He has personal reasons as well. His adult son, Darrin, lives in Salem.
"I said, 'Someday he may get married and have a little one,'" Grantski
said, "'and I want to make sure that life is protected.'"
Previous commitments kept Rocha in Modesto, he said.
Grantski and Rocha have received thousands of letters and hundreds of
thousands of e-mails from throughout the United States, many from people
who support their lobbying efforts, he said. Rocha plans to testify soon
at the Texas Capitol, he said, adding that both will accommodate as many
requests as possible from other states.
Saying he supports abortion rights, Grantski dismisses the notion that
such fetal protection laws could erode abortion rights. Oregon's
legislation would exempt abortion.
"It should be easy to see that this has nothing to do with abortion,"
Grantski said. "This is strictly malice aforethought, trying to murder a
pregnant woman and kill her baby."
Grantski said reliving the ordeal of Peterson's disappearance and death
and her husband's lengthy trial caused him to become emotional Monday
after he testified before lawmakers. But he would - and will - do it
again, he said, because "I think this is important.
"When you're fighting for something you believe in," he said, "there's
nothing scary about that."
Friday's hearing is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in San Mateo County
Superior Court in Redwood City. A judge moved the trial there because of
pervasive publicity in Modesto.
(source: Modesto Bee)
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