[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----N.C., GA., USA., PENN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Feb 25 11:16:24 CST 2005
Defendant enters plea in murder
Lonnie Berry didn't like it, but he said he could deal with it.
His sister's killer agreed Thursday in court to plead guilty to
first-degree murder in the 1999 asphyxiation death of 37-year-old Jessica
Pettaway during a burglary of her home.
In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to stop any death
sentence proceedings against the defendant, Parish L. Matthews.
But Matthews, who was sentenced to death in 2001 for the same crime and
won an appeal for a new trial three years later, entered an Alford plea on
Thursday. An Alford plea means he doesn't admit his guilt, but agrees to
take the punishment for the crime.
Judge Frank Brown sentenced the 26-year-old Matthews to life in prison
"He admits he did it, but he's not responsible," Berry said after the
sentencing. "Death is death; there's no such thing as half dead.
"He could have at least said he was sorry."
Matthews' attorneys said they advised him not to say anything in court.
"There's nothing he could say that would make the family feel any better,"
said Durham attorney Jonathan Broun. "He wanted to say he was sorry, and
he is genuinely sorry.
"He is very remorseful."
But Matthews entered the Alford plea, Broun said, because he said he never
intended to murder Pettaway. Intent is a key element in capital murder.
Matthews was originally convicted of first-degree murder in 2001, and a
jury recommended that he die for the crime. Evidence in his trial
indicated that Matthews met Pettaway about 2 weeks before she was killed
while working together at McDonald's, and the became acquaintances.
Pettaway ran a day care center out of her home.
Mathews admitted that he intended to commit larceny but that he had no
intentions of killing Pettaway. Pettaway died from asphyxiation after
Matthews left her tied up with her mouth stuffed with toilet tissue and
covered with duct tape.
Assistant District Attorney Steve Graham, who prosecuted Matthews in 2001,
told the judge Thursday that Matthews eventually took the gag out, "but it
was too late."
Matthews stole Pettaway's Nissan Pathfinder and was captured two weeks
later in Illinois in the stolen vehicle. The woman's body was found by her
then 13-year-old son.
Matthews was on death row for 3 years before he won an appeal a year ago
after his defense attorney admitted his guilt to jurors during closing
arguments. During Matthews' trial, defense attorney Bo Simmons argued that
the panel should find Matthews guilty of second-degree murder, not
1st-degree murder, in an effort to remove capital punishment from the
During Matthews' appeals, his new attorneys argued that Matthews never
gave Simmons permission to admit his guilt.
Although Graham said he felt he still had strong evidence in the case, he
agreed to a deal with Matthews for various reasons, including to spare
Pettaway's family of another trial.
"The passage of time (between the crime and trial) never helps the state,"
Graham said. "But more importantly, I took the plea to resolve the case
and get closure for the family.
"Plus, we've all seen the evolution of the death penalty process in the
past few years. Juries are getting away from giving the death penalty.
It's not a guaranteed thing anymore, no matter how bad the case is."
(source: Rocky Mount Telegram)
Victim's mother opposes death penalty----Convicted Gwinnett killer set to
The mother of a man shot to death in a 1991 pizza store robbery is
expected to plead for the killer's life Friday before the state parole
Stephen Anthony Mobley, 39, of Lawrenceville is scheduled to die at 7 p.m.
Tuesday by lethal injection at the state prison in Jackson in Butts
County. Mobley was sentenced to death for the murder of 24-year-old John
Collins during the robbery of a Domino's Pizza store in Hall County.
At a 10 a.m. hearing before the state Board of Pardons and Parole,
Mobley's lawyers - former Attorney General Mike Bowers and former DeKalb
County District Attorney J. Tom Morgan - will argue that Mobley's sentence
should be commuted to life in prison without parole.
Collins' mother, Nina, and his 2 sisters are expected to meet privately
with the board also to ask that Mobley's life be spared, the lawyers said
in documents submitted Thursday to the parole board.
"It's the byproduct of a long period of soul-searching and decision-making
that would lead her to finding peace," said Bill Finch, Nina Collins'
son-in-law. "And seeing Tony Mobley put to death is not going to achieve
Finch, a classmate of John Collins at North Georgia College in Dahlonega,
said the family's decision has not been easy.
"It's very difficult for the parent of a child lost in this manner," said
Finch. "It's remarkable to me, the strength she has displayed."
Mobley's lawyers argue that life in prison without parole was not an
option in Georgia when he was sentenced to death. The pleadings to the
parole board contain affidavits from six of the 10 living jurors in
Mobley's trial saying they would've chosen life in prison without parole
if it had been an option.
Prosecutors who sought the death penalty against Mobley also have written
letters to the parole board saying they would not object if his sentence
was commuted, even though they believe the sentence is justified.
Commutation of a death sentence in Georgia has happened 8 times since the
reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. During that time, 37 men have
been put to death. Though governors in other states have the power to
commute death sentences, that authority in Georgia lies solely with the
parole board. The last time the board commuted a death sentence was in
2004 for Willie James Hall, convicted for the stabbing death of his
estranged wife in DeKalb County. At the time, Morgan, then DeKalb district
attorney, told the board he was OK with the commutation of Hall's
Russ Willard, a spokesman for Attorney General Thurbert Baker, said a
commutation of Mobley's sentence is a bad idea.
"If the board is going to be base its determination solely on what a
victim's family does or does not say, then no victim's family in the
future will be safe from daily, if not hourly, bombardment from the
condemned's lawyer asking them to intervene," Willard said.
Mobley shot Collins, the store manager, in the back of the head shortly
after midnight on Feb. 17, 1991. He then went on a three-week crime spree,
committing 6 more armed robberies of restaurants and dry cleaning shops,
according to Baker's office.
While in jail, Mobley had the word "Domino" tattooed on his back and hung
a Domino's Pizza box on the wall of his cell, according to Baker's office.
He also boasted to guards that he was going to apply for a job as night
manager at Domino's after his release "because he knew they needed one."
Mobley's lawyers dispute the existence of such a tattoo, and Department of
Corrections officials said Mobley currently does not appear to have such a
tattoo on his body. His lawyers contend in documents that Mobley has been
a "model inmate" during his time on death row at the Georgia Diagnostic
and Classification Prison in Jackson.
(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Prof Scrutinizes Fingerprinting
Everyone has heard that no 2 fingerprints are exactly alike, but does that
mean that fingerprint evidence is infallible? Prof. Michael Lynch '70,
science and technology studies, and Prof. Simon Cole '98, criminology, law
and society, University of Californa, Irvine, are coming to the end of
their research on the history of fingerprinting and DNA profiling, funded
by a $144,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
"Fingerprinting has not been put through the same process as DNA profiling
to determine error rate, validity and statistics," said Cole.
Lynch explained that there is a difference between latent fingerprints,
prints left on a surface, rolled prints, which are the ones in the records
where a finger was rolled in ink to make the print. He said that although
no two prints are exactly alike, sometimes it can be very hard to
determine a match, for example if the print is smudged.
Both researchers conducted many interviews and looked at court cases,
rulings, and transcripts to study fingerprint and DNA evidence. According
to Lynch, there has been an inversion of credibility between fingerprints
and DNA profiling: at first, fingerprints were the gold standard and DNA
profiling was intensely scrutinized. Over time, however, DNA profiling has
gotten to have much more credible and fingerprinting, more likely to be
Judge Louis H. Pollack made a ruling which placed some restrictions on
fingerprint evidence, questioning its validity. In a second ruling on the
matter, Pollack changed his mind, saying that it was admissible evidence.
"You can have perfectly matching DNA or fingerprint evidence, but that
doesn't determine guilt, it's a question of testimony and circumstance,
DNA evidence can't get you around that problem," said Lynch. He added that
often this scientific evidence intimidates people, including juries, into
thinking that thre is no way to criticize it.
The Death Penalty Project at Cornell Law School, a program comprised ot
two parts, the first studying how the death penalty works and the second,
representing clients in cases, has worked with DNA testing and fingerprint
evidence in some cases.
According to Prof. John Blume, law, there was a case in which a client was
on death row, largely due to fingerprint evidence.
"We mounted a challenge to the fingerprint evidence, ultimately casted
enough doubt on it and were able to get another trial and though the
client is still in prison, he is no longer on death row," Blume said.
"DNA can generally indicate that a person is not the perpetrator of an
offense, but the fact that DNA evidence points towrard somebody doesn't
always mean that the person is guilty," Blume said. In a current case, DNA
testing is being done for a person who has been on death row for 21 years
and this is his 1st access to DNA testing.
People have come to different conclusions from the opportunity for DNA
testing. The the Innocence Project, based in New York City, for exapmle,
works on using DNA testing to exonerate those wrongfully convicted.
On the other hand, "just as science can be used to free the innocent, it
can be used to identify the guilty," said Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney
who proposed bringing back the death penalty to Massachusetts by using DNA
and other scientific techniques.
(source: Cornell Daily Sun)
Death penalty could be sought
Prosecutors could seek the death penalty in the beating death of
2-year-old Kellen Tate Koller if they decide to charge his alleged killer
with 1st-degree murder, the York County District Attorney's Office said.
Travis Matthew Laughman, 20, was arraigned Monday on criminal homicide and
aggravated assault. He's being held without bail.
It's routine for a criminal homicide charge to be filed initially, said
David Cook, head of the family violence unit with the district attorney's
office. Prosecutors won't declare what degree of murder Laughman will be
charged with until charging documents are filed at his arraignment.
Prosecutors can only file a notice of intent to seek the death penalty if
they charge Laughman with 1st-degree murder, he said.
There is a list of 18 statutorily defined aggravating circumstances that
enable prosecutors to seek the death penalty. One such circumstance
applies if the victim is a child under 12 years of age, he said.
"There certainly will be questions of intent throughout this case in
whether the intent was to cause serious bodily injury or whether it was to
cause death," Cook added.
(source: York Daily Record)
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