[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----NEV., CALIF., ARIZ., KAN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Jul 9 23:06:12 CDT 2005
Beau Maestas may get death penalty after all
Beau Maestas may yet get the death penalty.
District Judge Donald Mosley this morning opted not to sentence the
admitted child killer to life in prison without the possibility of parole
as allowed by Nevada law. Instead Mosley scheduled a new penalty hearing
for Maestas for April 10.
Maestas, 21, previously pleaded guilty to one count each of murder,
attempted murder and burglary, all with use of a deadly weapon for killing
3-year-old Kristyanna Cowan and stabbing and leaving her half-sister
Brittney Bergeron paralyzed.
After hearing testimony and arguments about whether Maestas should be
executed for the crimes, a Clark County District Court jury on June 9
announced that it was deadlocked 10 to 2 in favor of death for Maestas.
Because of the deadlock, Mosley granted a mistrial.
The jury was trying to decide whether Maestas would be sentenced to death,
life in prison without the possibility of parole, life in prison with the
possibility of parole or a set term of 40 to 100 years in prison.
As detailed in the penalty phase before the jury, Maestas stabbed the
girls in a Mesquite trailer park in 2003. Prosecutors allege he and his
sister, Monique Maestas, was looking for their mother and her
then-boyfriend, who he said ripped him off in a drug deal.
Previously, if a jury was deadlocked during a death penalty case in
Nevada, a three-judge panel was created to determine sentencing, but in
2002 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the death penalty should be applied only
by a jury.
Mosley's decision over whether to set a new penalty hearing or sentence
Maestas to life in prison without the possibility of parole as the result
of a mistrial marked the first time such a ruling was required since the
3-judge panel sentencing method was discarded.
Beau Maestas' sister, Monique, faces the same charges as her brother plus
one count of conspiracy to commit murder.
Mosley scheduled her trial for April 17.
She will not face a possible death sentence because of this year's U.S.
Supreme Court ruling that people who were younger than 18 when they
committed their crimes can't be executed for those crimes.
Monique Maestas was 17 at the time of the attack.
The victims' mother, Tamara Schmidt and her husband, Robert, are facing
charges of child abuse and neglect in connection with the stabbing attack
for leaving the children unattended the night of the killing while the
They are scheduled to stand trial on July 25 before Mosley.
(source: Las Vegas Sun)
Jury: Death penalty for killer of speedway owner
In El Cajon, a jury Friday recommended the death penalty for a Poway
tattoo artist who fatally shot the owner of Cajon Speedway during a
botched robbery at the victim's East County home in April 2003.
Eric Anderson, 31, who goes by the name of "Stressed Eric," was convicted
last week of 1st-degree murder and special circumstances in the death of
Judge Lantz Lewis will sentence Anderson on Oct. 28.
Earlier this week, Anderson maintained his innocence and yelled at jurors
to give him the death penalty if they thought he was guilty.
Co-defendant Apollo Huhn, who was at the door of Brucker's home when the
victim was shot, was convicted of murder and conspiracy by a separate jury
and faces life in prison.
A 3rd defendant, Randy Lee, was acquitted of murder charges.
Brandon Handshoe, 19, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter before
Prosecutor Glenn McAllister told jurors in his closing argument of trial
that Lee, a high school friend of the victim's son, told his co-defendants
that a large amount of cash could be found in a safe at the home.
Lee did not go along for the April 14, 2003, robbery but asked for a 15
percent cut, McAllister said.
Anderson was supposed to hold Brucker hostage while Huhn cracked the safe,
but instead fired his .45 caliber handgun shortly after the victim
answered the door, McAllister said.
(source: San Diego Union Tribune)
Possible Death Penalty in Toddler's Murder
An additional charge has been filed against a South Valley man, jailed for
the murder of a 15-month-old baby.
Tulare County prosecutors say Javier Nunez beat his girlfriend's little
boy with the intent to kill him. That's why he's now facing a "special
circumstance" charge of torture, making him eligible for the death
Javier Nunez and Eliza Zamudio were supposed to hear the evidence against
them. But, the preliminary hearing was delayed so Nunez' new attorney
could research the case.
26-year-old Javier Nunez did learn prosecutors have added another charge.
"Based on the facts of the medical reports that were coming forward, we
believe we have sufficient evidence to prove that the victim died as a
result of torture," said Tulare County Prosecutor Shani Engum.
Investigators believe Nunez killed 15-month-old Isaiah Marquez in March at
a Tulare apartment complex where he lived with Zamudio and her 4 children.
Police say the baby was badly beaten and suffered severe head injuries.
Nunez has plead not guilty. Although prosecutors haven't decided whether
they'll seek the death penalty, Nunez' attorney says he understands the
seriousness of the new charge.
"He doesn't like it, he doesn't like it one bit. And that certainly will
be one part of the case we'll be attacking," says Nunez' attorney, Mark
Nunez and his 7-month pregnant girlfriend are both charged with murder and
Zamudio's family claims she wasn't present when the beating happened and
blames Nunez for the child's death.
Zamudio's 3 other children remain in foster care. Her attorney says once
she gives birth, the infant will be turned over to the county.
The couple's preliminary hearing is now set for next month.
(source: ABC News)
County seeks death penalty ---- Driver, 22, charged with murder
Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas said Friday that he will seek the
death penalty for a young man accused of causing a fatal accident by
driving the wrong way on Loop 101.
David James Szymanski, 22, was charged with 1st-degree murder in the April
death of Cody Brett Morrison, also 22.
"This is the first time the death penalty has been sought in a vehicular
homicide case" in Arizona, Thomas said. "Just because the murder weapon
was a vehicle does not mean the death penalty will be ruled out."
Szymanski's attorney could not be reached Friday.
An attorney for the Morrison family released a written statement but did
not refer directly to the death penalty.
"The Morrisons have been permanently and profoundly affected by the
senseless loss of Cody, their only son," the statement said. "Vengeance is
not their motive, and they have faith in our criminal and civil justice
systems in addressing this tragedy."
Defense attorneys call the decision to seek the death penalty a reach.
"If the guy did what they say he did, the conduct is reprehensible," said
Michael Black, a Phoenix attorney, "but it doesn't meet the statutory
aggravating circumstances for the death penalty."
Attorney Larry Kazan agreed.
"This is pretty over the top," he said. "Shouldn't the death penalty be
reserved for society's worst?"
Donna Elm, head of Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice, an association
of defense attorneys, said, "It's a seriously reckless risk of life, but
it's not the same quality of what we charge for death penalties."
According to police reports, Szymanski was celebrating his 22nd birthday
on April 7 and stopped at the apartment of an acquaintance. He allegedly
threatened her with a butcher knife, scuffled with 2 men and caused damage
to the apartment. He had reportedly been drinking.
Police vehicles followed him through Scottsdale and onto Loop 101, where
the head-on collision occurred, police say.
Morrison was killed. The driver and another passenger were injured.
Under Arizona law, 1st-degree murder is the only crime that can be
punished by death. A person can be charged with 1st-degree murder if the
crime is premeditated or if the death occurred during the commission of
certain felonies, in this case "unlawful flight," or fleeing from police
officers. This is called "felony murder."
The death penalty can be imposed only if a jury finds certain aggravating
factors. Thomas cites the assaults at the apartment, a prior allegation
and the "grave risk of death" created by the wrong-way ride up the
Similar attempt failed
Thomas knew of one other case in the country where prosecutors tried to
get a death penalty in a vehicular homicide case. They failed.
In 1996, prosecutors in North Carolina indicted a man for 1st-degree
felony murder in the crash deaths of 2 women. The jury found him guilty
but chose not to condemn him to death.
Then that state's Supreme Court threw out the conviction because it ruled
that driving while intoxicated was not an appropriate underlying felony
for a murder charge.
"Unlawful flight" is an appropriate underlying felony for first-degree
murder, according to Arizona statutes, but the charge can backfire for
"One of the elements that they have to prove is that the guy knew he was
being pursued by law enforcement officers," Black said.
The Arizona Republic has reported that Scottsdale police violated
department policy while pursing Szymanski by not using emergency lights,
among other transgressions.
In a premeditated 1st-degree murder case, a jury can choose to impose a
lesser verdict of 2nd-degree murder, manslaughter or negligent homicide.
But in felony murder, if the underlying felony is disproved, then the
homicide charge is dismissed.
Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center
in Washington, D.C., could not point to any cases other than the North
Carolina case in which state prosecutors sought the death penalty for
"What is happening is that death sentences have dropped by 50 percent over
the past five years," he said. "And it's the worst cases - multiple
murders, rape murder, the worst of the worst - are still getting the death
penalty, but it's actually being used less. So this would be unusual for
the prosecution and more unusual for the jury to return such a verdict. It
may fit under the law, but it doesn't fit the trends in the country."
County defends action
Bill FitzGerald of the County Attorney's Office pointed out that the
decision was made by a majority vote of the office's capital review
committee, which comprises 8 senior staff attorneys.
Thomas denied that the harsh punishment was meant to deter drunken
"The purpose of seeking the death penalty in this case is not to send a
message," he said. "We look at each case individually."
In the Szymanski case, they decided that the facts of the case made the
death penalty appropriate.
(source: The Arizona Republic)
Attorney Outlines Case for Death Penalty
U.S. Attorney Eric Melgren has outlined the reasons that he wants to
pursue the death penalty against the man accused of killing Greenwood
County Sheriff Matt Samuels.
If Cheever is convicted of killing Samuels, Melgren says 3 factors would
make him eligible for the death penalty under federal law.
In a court filing yesterday, Melgren said those factors are: being a grave
risk to other people; substantial premeditation and planning of the crime;
and multiple killings or attempted killings.
Cheever is also accused of firing at 2 deputies after he killed Samuels,
who was trying to serve a warrant on Cheever in January.
Melgren also says Cheever poses a future danger to society, in part
because he has said he wants to escape from prison.
Cheever's trial is scheduled for early next year.
(source: WIBW News)
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