[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, IDAHO, VA., ILL.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Jul 9 23:03:05 CDT 2005
Miller-El case to be retried----Irving: Hill wants death penalty for man
whose '86 verdict was reversed
Less than a month after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned celebrated death
row inmate Thomas Miller-El's murder conviction, District Attorney Bill
Hill announced Friday that he plans to retry the case and will seek the
Mr. Hill appointed veteran felony prosecutor Pat Kirlin to take over the
nearly 20-year-old case. A trial date has not been set.
Although the high court found that prosecutors in Mr. Miller-El's 1986
trial had unfairly excluded minority jurors, Mr. Hill said in a prepared
statement that a new trial is necessary because the facts of the case have
never been disputed.
"His guilt of this heinous crime is not in question," he said.
Mr. Kirlin was unavailable for comment Friday.
Jim Marcus of the Texas Defender Service, one of the lawyers handling Mr.
Miller-El's appeal, declined to comment in detail about the case now that
prosecutors have decided to retry it. He was critical of Mr. Hill's
"Mr. Miller-El is innocent until proven guilty in a constitutionally fair
trial," he said. "To the extent that the Dallas district attorney's office
is commenting on his guilt prior to his trial, they are violating the
rules of ethics that govern prosecutors and are seeking an unfair
advantage by attempting to taint the jury pool."
The six justices who overturned Mr. Miller-El's conviction found that
Dallas County prosecutors had used a variety of techniques to make sure
minorities were not selected to serve as jurors. The ruling was also
critical of two earlier lower court opinions for disregarding "clear and
convincing evidence" that prosecutors had discriminated during jury
The justices ruled that prosecutors had treated black and white potential
jurors differently when they gave the same answers to questions about
criminal justice and their values. The justices also cited prosecutors'
practice of shuffling the order of the jury pool to push blacks to the
back of the group and make it less likely that they would be selected.
Prosecutors ultimately struck 10 of 11 eligible black jurors.
At the time of the trial, a 20-year-old jury selection manual was still in
circulation among prosecutors. The manual offered tips on jury selection
and advised prosecutors to keep minorities off juries.
The jury in Mr. Miller-El's trial ultimately convicted him of murdering
Douglas Walker, a night clerk at an Irving Holiday Inn, during a November
1985 robbery. Mr. Walker and co-worker Donald Ray Hall were bound, gagged
and shot during the robbery.
During the trial, Mr. Hall, who was paralyzed in the shooting, and Mr.
Miller-El's accomplice identified Mr. Miller-El as the triggerman in the
Reading from a prepared statement, Mr. Hill stressed Friday that he was
not district attorney at the time of Mr. Miller-El's 1st trial and that
the methods of selecting juries and other trial practices have changed
"Miller-El's original trial took place 13 years before I assumed office as
district attorney," he said. "I cannot speculate as to the motivations of
the prosecutors who tried this case."
About 40 minority prosecutors stood behind Mr. Hill during the Friday
afternoon news conference, during which he also stressed that his office
is committed to fairness.
"Despite this sobering reality, the fact remains that we as a community
and we as a district attorney's office have come far in making unlawful
bias and discrimination a thing of the past," he said.
THE MILLER-EL CASE
Dallas County District Attorney Bill Hill announced Friday that he would
retry Thomas Miller-El in the 1985 shooting death of a hotel clerk in
Irving. Nov. 16, 1985: Douglas Walker a 25-year-old clerk, dies from a
gunshot wound to the back after being bound and gagged during an early
morning robbery at a Holiday Inn near Dallas/Fort Worth International
Airport. A co-worker, Donald Ray Hall, 29, survives the shooting but is
Nov. 20, 1985: Thomas Joe Miller-El is arrested after a shootout in
Nov. 22, 1985: Dorothy Miller-El, his wife and a former worker at the
hotel, and Kennard Sonny Flowers are arrested in the robbery-murder.
December 1985: Mr. Miller-El is indicted on a charge of capital murder
after Mr. Flowers agrees to testify against him.
March 1986: During jury selection, a judge denies a defense motion to
quash the jury after prosecutors used their peremptory strikes to
eliminate 10 of 11 eligible black jurors. The seated jury includes nine
Anglos, one black, one Hispanic and one Filipino. During the trial, Mr.
Hall identifies Mr. Miller-El as the shooter. Mr. Miller-El is sentenced
to die by injection.
April 1986: The U.S. Supreme Court bars race bias in jury selection
nationwide in the landmark case of Batson vs. Kentucky. It cites a study
by The Dallas Morning News that shows the near-total exclusion of eligible
black jurors by the Dallas County district attorney's office.
September 1986: Mrs. Miller-El is convicted of murder and attempted
capital murder by a jury and receives two consecutive life sentences for
helping her husband in the hotel robbery. Those sentences are later
reduced to 15 years each.
March 1988: The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals orders hearings in Dallas
to decide whether prosecutors used race bias in excluding eligible black
jurors in Mr. Miller-El's trial. Two months later, the trial judge rules
that he has found no racial motive on the part of prosecutors.
November 1992: The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upholds Mr. Miller-El's
capital murder conviction.
November 1992: Mrs. Miller-El is paroled from prison for her role in the
robbery and murder.
February 2002: Mr. Miller-El's appeals attorneys persuade the U.S. Supreme
Court to stay his execution while the justices hear arguments on the issue
of race bias in jury selection.
February 2003: In an 8-1 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court orders the 5th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider Mr. Miller-El's appeal after
citing evidence that the Dallas County district attorney's office in 1986
was "suffused with bias."
December 2004: For the 2nd time, the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on
whether Mr. Miller-El was denied a fair trial because eligible black
jurors were discriminated against and barred from the jury in his death
June 13, 2005: The Supreme Court reverses Mr. Miller-El's conviction and
orders a new trial.
July 8, 2005: Dallas County District Attorney Bill Hill announces that Mr.
Miller-El will be tried. He says the office will seek the death penalty.
(source: Dallas Morning News)
Lovelace avoids death penalty in resentencing agreement
A self-proclaimed white supremacist who'd been sentenced to die in 1997
for kidnapping and murdering a 24-year-old man in the northern Idaho woods
will instead spend life behind bars following an agreement with the Idaho
Faron Lovelace, 47, accepted the life sentence without parole in 1st
District Court in Sandpoint on Friday morning. With the pact, Lovelace
waives all future direct appeals in his case.
This leaves 18 inmates on Idaho's death row, with 17 men and a single
Lovelace's sentence was vacated in 2003 following a U.S. Supreme Court
ruling that required juries, not judges -- as the case was in Idaho -- to
consider whether aggravating factors in a case warranted the death
penalty. He was returned earlier this year to the Bonner County Jail for a
new sentencing hearing.
At the time of his initial sentencing eight years ago, Lovelace said he
wanted to die rather than return to prison where he'd spent much of his
life. After his sentence was vacated, however, he vowed to fight for his
In the agreement, lawyers for the state said that life behind bars for
Lovelace would be a more just punishment than execution, in part because
of his confession to the crime, his good behavior while on death row and
other factors. State officials say Lovelace told them he was trying to be
"merciful" by killing Scott quickly.
"He prayed with Jeremy Scott both before and after he killed him, he shot
him at point blank range so the victim would not suffer," said Bob Cooper,
a spokesman for the Attorney General's office. "If you were to proceed
through a capital sentencing, you would be inappropriate."
In Sandpoint, court officials who had raised concerns that re-sentencing
Lovelace to death could cost rural Bonner County more than $250,000 --
including sequestering a jury for 6-to-8 weeks of hearings and reopening a
complex investigation -- said they were satisfied with the agreement.
"The county is definitely pleased," chief bailiff Mark Johnson told the
Associated Press. "Saving some money would be considered a good thing."
Lovelace acted as his own lawyer during his 1997 trial and admitted he'd
killed Scott because he thought the victim was a government informant.
Scott was urinating when Lovelace shot him in the head with a .38 caliber
handgun at his cabin. Lovelace, believed to be part of a secretive group
called the Aryan People's Republic, led law enforcement officers to the
shallow grave where he'd buried Scott's body.
Lovelace, who has made at least 1 suicide attempt while in prison, once
collaborated with Chevie Kehoe, a Colville, Wash. man now spending life in
prison in Arkansas following a murder conviction, on crimes in the Inland
Northwest, including kidnapping and robbery.
(source: Associated Press)
Lawyers debate death penalty trial witnesses----Prosecutor asks to cite
Lawyers in the Donald Fell trial tried to work out the details Friday of
who would testify and what the jury would learn about Fell's life in the
months before his arrest for killing a North Clarendon woman.
Prosecutors want to present witnesses who will tell the jury about an
episode in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., several months before Fell moved to Vermont
in which he allegedly held a young woman against her will for 3 weeks.
"Fell threatened to kill her," Assistant U.S. Attorney William Darrow
But defense attorneys countered the evidence in that episode was not
"This was investigated by local authorities (in Pennsylvania) and there
were no charges filed," Defense Attorney Paul Volk said. "The sole law
enforcement response was to seek to evaluate Fell."
Police never filed charges in the case and the witness' statements were
filled with contradictions.
Speaking without the jury present, Judge William Sessions III asked
attorneys to present him with documents, including the records of the
woman who would testify, so he could study them over the weekend to
determine if the witnesses should be called in the case.
"By opening the door to this type of evidence we are essentially starting
a new trial," Sessions told the attorneys.
A federal court jury is hearing evidence that will help them decide
whether Fell should be sentenced to life in prison without parole or be
Last month the jury found Fell guilty of the kidnapping and carjacking
death of Terry King, the 53-year-old woman abducted when she arrived for
work in the early morning hours of Nov. 27, 2000. She was later killed in
Under federal law those crimes are eligible for the death penalty.
The jury could begin deciding Fell's fate by next week.
Prosecutors argue Fell should be executed because of the brutal nature of
This week defense attorneys have been presenting their case that Fell
should be sentenced to life without parole because of his chaotic
upbringing by 2 alcoholic parents and because he was a victim of sexual
and physical abuse.
The defense had witnesses testify about Fell's childhood, including
psychiatric hospitalizations, but their chronology of his life ended when
he was about 15.
Prosecutors want to have witnesses testify about Fell's behavior between
that time and when he killed King.
On Thursday, the defense presented a witness who said Fell would adapt
well to prison life and pose little threat to other inmates or prison
On Friday morning prosecutors cross-examined that witness, James E. Aiken,
a correctional consultant from Brevard, N.C., trying to show that Fell had
an explosive temper and a history of misbehaving in prison.
Aiken said Fell's prison infractions were relatively minor.
(source: Associated Press)
Ryan's lawyers seek to present death penalty efforts
Attorneys for former Gov. George Ryan say they should be allowed to
present evidence about the actions he took to prevent executions in
Illinois during Ryan's upcoming corruption trial.
In a court filing Friday, Ryan's attorneys accused prosecutors of trying
to present a "one-sided" and "distorted" view of Ryan's political career.
"George Ryan did not sell his office or abandon the citizens of Illinois,
and the jury is entitled to consider evidence relating to his entire term
in office," defense attorneys wrote in the filing.
As governor, Ryan declared a moratorium on executions and commuted the
sentences of all 167 inmates awaiting execution after several people were
released from death row for wrongful convictions.
Prosecutors urged federal Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer on June 17 to bar
defense attorneys from telling jurors about the steps Ryan took to prevent
executions in the state, saying that "whether a politician 'courageously'
reviewed the death penalty or not is not in any way pertinent to the issue
of whether he engaged in acts of fraud and racketeering over a 12-year
Ryan is accused of accepting free vacations and other perks while doling
out favors such as lucrative state contracts and leases to lobbyist
friends, starting in 1990 when he was elected secretary of state. He has
pleaded innocent to the racketeering charges.
Ryan's trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 15.
Ill. Ex - Death Row Inmate's Trial on Hold
The long-delayed drug-and-firearms trial of a former death row inmate
whose case helped launch an emotional campaign against the death penalty
in Illinois is on hold again.
The trial for Aaron Patterson has been delayed for a week amid squabbling
by attorneys. On Friday, Patterson's attorney walked out of the courtroom
for a second time and later said her client wanted to attend the
Patterson had been banished from U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer's
courtroom for repeatedly misbehaving during pretrial hearings.
Court was set to resume Tuesday, when the judge was expected to consider
Patterson's request to return. "I hope and expect that I'll hear from Mr.
Patterson'' concerning his desire to be allowed back, she said.
On Friday, attorney Demitrus T. Evans became upset after Pallmeyer twice
ruled against her on last-minute motions.
As Pallmeyer prepared to bring in the jury to hear the prosecution's
opening statement, Evans blurted, "I'm not going to do this."
Evans retreated into the cloakroom where she was heard sobbing. She later
retreated down the hallway to a rest room where attorneys sought to calm
her while reporters gathered at the door. She then left the building and
returned to court 90 minutes later.
Patterson, 40, was among 4 former death row inmates who were pardoned by
former Gov. George Ryan in 1 of his last acts in office in January 2003. A
day later, the governor commuted the sentences of all 160 other death row
inmates to life without parole.
Patterson insisted that he was tortured by police into confessing to a
double murder he did not commit. The head of the unit that investigated
his case, Lt. Jon Burge, was later fired for allegedly mistreating a
Patterson left prison saying he would devote his life to cleaning up
corruption in government and the police force. He was arrested in August
on charges of brokering a batch of heroin sales, selling marijuana and
trying to buy four guns, including a MAC-10 machine pistol.
He says he was set up by the same corrupt police he was investigating.
Patterson says he did not want to buy real guns, only replicas of the kind
that some people collect.
(source for both: Associated Press)
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