[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., IND., MASS.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Jul 22 13:55:38 CDT 2005
Mom's statements OK'd for murder trial
The mother of 2-year-old Diamond Alexander-Washington denied to police
that she ever whipped the toddler and, instead, said it was the child's
father who would do the spanking, according to a statement ruled
admissible Thursday in the woman's upcoming capital murder trial.
Kimberly Alexander, 26, who could face the death penalty, is accused of
beating her daughter for wetting her pants and causing the injuries that
led to her death a day later on June 6, 2004.
In a pretrial hearing Thursday before 144th District Judge Mark Luitjen,
attorneys for Alexander first tried to get the judge to postpone his
ruling on the admissibility of their client's statements to police.
They argued that she is mentally retarded and was not competent to undergo
police interrogation on her own.
Defense attorney Cornelius Cox said Alexander has an IQ of 69, according
to a preliminary test administered by a court-appointed consultant to the
defense team, and, therefore, she couldn't have known the statements she
gave to police were detrimental to her legal position.
Luitjen denied the defense request and, after hearing testimony from
police officers who interviewed Alexander, ruled all the statements were
freely given and were admissible.
Evidence will include statements given during a 1-hour, 45-minute
video-recorded interrogation the evening of June 5, 2004, at police
headquarters as University Hospital doctors were trying to save Diamond's
At no time during the recording, which was played for the court, does
Alexander appear confused or unable to answer questions put to her by
homicide Detective John David Slaughter. Alexander was not told the
interview was being recorded.
At one point, Alexander tells the detective, "I want to call and check on
my baby," and Slaughter leaves her alone to use the phone. But after
dialing one number and getting no answer, Alexander makes no further
inquiries as to Diamond's condition or the whereabouts of her 10-month-old
During the questioning, Alexander revealed that, by age 24, she was the
mother of 6 children ranging in age from 10 months to 9 years, and she had
custody of only the 2 youngest, having been reunited with Diamond 6 weeks
Within a week of Diamond's birth on April 22, 2002, and after tests
revealed barbiturates in her system, Child Protective Services took her
away from Alexander.
The little girl's death set off a firestorm of criticism and
investigations of the state's system for handling child abuse and neglect
cases, and led to increased funding and more caseworkers for the agency.
Among other things, Alexander told police she had a violent relationship
with Diamond's father, Tarri Washington Sr., and that another woman,
26-year-old Elizabeth Youngblood, had started living with the family about
two weeks earlier.
Police verified that Washington was not around when Diamond was injured
and he has not been charged in the child's death.
Youngblood was an eyewitness to the alleged beating and is expected to be
the state's star witness during the trial.
(source: San Antonio Express-News)
U.S. high court weighs stay of execution for Justin Wolfe
Attorneys for a Chantilly man convicted in the murder-for-hire killing of
a fellow drug dealer in 2001 have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a
stay of execution.
Justin Michael Wolfe, 23, is scheduled to be executed Wednesday, July 27,
but most legal observers say that date will likely be put off since he has
yet to exhaust all options for appeal.
His attorneys have also petitioned the high court for a review of the
case. A court spokesperson said Tuesday that no decision has been made
about whether to grant either request, but a decision is expected any day.
Last week, the court granted a stay for another Virginia man just hours
before his scheduled execution. Justices will review that case when they
reconvene in October.
The Virginia Supreme Court recently denied Wolfe's request for a stay and
has previously denied his appeals. Wolfe's petition to the U.S. Supreme
Court centers in part around limits placed on materials presented during
his state court appeal.
Wolfe was convicted in January 2002 for hiring Owen Barber IV, 24, also of
Chantilly, to kill Daniel Petrole Jr., 21, a former Virginia Run resident
who was living in Prince William County, in March 2001.
The 3 men, who all graduated from Fairfax County high schools - Wolfe and
Barber from Chantilly and Petrole from Centreville - were active players
in a large regional drug ring. Petrole alone reportedly sold more than $1
million worth of marijuana, and police seized one of the largest caches of
drugs in Prince William history when they searched his home as part of the
Barber confessed to shooting Petrole nine times, telling police Wolfe
ordered the killing to escape a drug debt. Barber participated because he
was in debt to Wolfe at the time.
As part of a deal with prosecutors, Barber pleaded guilty to first-degree
murder and testified against Wolfe in exchange for a life sentence, which
he is serving out at Wallens Ridge State Prison in Big Stone Gap.
Wolfe awaits word of his appeal on death row at the Sussex I State Prison
His appeals have centered on more than three dozen alleged errors made
during his trial and the inadequacy of his court-appointed attorney, who
has since lost his law license for problems handling other cases.
(source: Times Communtiy Newspapers)
Indiana schedules 2 more executions
Indiana has scheduled 2 more executions, which if carried out, will
surpass any single year since 1938.
Kevin Conner is scheduled to die by lethal injection July 27 at the
Indiana State Prison in Michigan City for the Jan. 26, 1988 shooting and
stabbing deaths of 3 acquaintances in Marion County.
He will be followed Aug. 31 by Arthur Baird, who was convicted of
strangling his pregnant wife and stabbing both his parents. The crimes
occurred in 1985.
The state has already carried out 3 executions so far this year.
(source: Northwest Indiana News)
Time for Legislature to act on death penalty
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney last week again outlined for the
Legislature his proposal to reinstate the death penalty. The governor has
done everything possible to craft, in his words, "as foolproof a death
penalty as exists." It's time legislators restored this important
deterrent to our state's crime-fighting arsenal.
Romney's death-penalty proposal, which the governor has been pushing for
much of his term in office, would allow executions in cases of terrorism,
for murder of law-enforcement officials, multiple killings, torture and
when the defendant has a previous 1st-degree murder conviction. The law
would require a jury to have "no doubt" of the defendant's guilt, rather
than the usual "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard. Cases would get an
automatic review by the Supreme Judicial Court and require corroborating
The people of Massachusetts have long desired a reinstatement of the death
penalty, but legislators or courts have thwarted them at every turn. In
1982, voters approved a constitutional amendment restoring the death
penalty only to see the Supreme Judicial Court declare that effort
unconstitutional in 1984. Governors William F. Weld and A. Paul Cellucci
both backed the death penalty. A bid in 1997 fell one vote short in the
That close vote during the Cellucci administration came just after the
brutal murder of 10-year-old Jeffrey Curley. Without such a compelling
case behind it, any new effort to pass death penalty legislation will
likely fail. But it's important to keep pushing the measure until the will
of the public is accepted. It's important to put legislators on the spot
and force them to back up their rhetoric with votes.
While no human endeavor is free from the risk of human error, modern
technology such as DNA screening can establish guilt to the point of it
being an almost absolute certainty. And there are certain crimes so
heinous that their perpetrators have forfeited their right to live.
We expect that, given the standards of evidence and limits on its reach,
the death penalty would be used rarely in Massachusetts. But the death
penalty is available to prosecutors on the federal level and in 37 other
states. It should be here as well.
(source: The Salem News)
Feds sneaking death penalty back into New England
New Hampshire's state prison could have been used for a Jazz Age gangster
It's an imposing pile of brick, surrounded by a chain-link fence that's
topped by coils of razor wire. In the old building, stories of cells are
tiered across from catwalks. A visitor can easily imagine James Cagney and
Humphrey Bogart rattling tin cups along the bars.
The gallows chamber hasn't been used for a lifetime. The old trap has been
boarded up to store office supplies. Nearby, the death row cells store
Last year, U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ordered the Department of
Corrections to execute murderer Gary Sampson here, but no one's hurrying.
"They haven't told us anything," Corrections Department spokesman Jeffrey
Lyons said this week. "Maybe they're planning for the execution in the new
federal prison in Berlin."
Sampson is on a federal death row in the Midwest.
This case is another victory in the U.S. Justice Department's quiet effort
to impose capital punishment on New England, an area where citizens are
ambivalent at best about the death penalty.
Federal prosecutors with "death experience" intervene in cases where the
defendant would not face death under state laws. Using federal statutes,
particularly one that makes carjacking a capital crime, they have won
convictions - and death sentences - from juries in states that have no
Asked about this strategy, Justice Department officials say they want the
death penalty applied consistently across the nation. In fact, the Justice
Department seems to be imposing the frequent use of capital punishment,
present in such states as Texas and Virginia, on states where the death
penalty is illegal or limited.
I know of no state where Washington complains of too many executions.
The most recent example of intervention was in Vermont, where this month a
federal jury sentenced to death Donald Fell, who killed Terry King of
Rutland on Nov. 27, 2000. With an accomplice, Fell beat this 53-year-old
woman to death on the side of a road. King was praying.
"We respect that jury's findings," said U.S. Attorney David Kirby. "They
have spoken and expressed the conscience of the community."
Perhaps. But in concentrating on the details of this truly horrible crime
and the relief expressed by King's family, prosecutors have obscured one
reality: Fell would never have been sentenced to die in a state court.
Vermont's rejection of capital punishment laws and New Hampshire's strict
limitation of the death penalty reveal a divided opinion at best among
Before the trial, Fell had offered to plead guilty in exchange for a life
sentence. John Ashcroft, attorney general at the time, said no, one of
about a dozen cases where Washington rejected pleas, insisting upon
New Hampshire's Sampson case was another, involving three brutal murders
in 2001. Sampson surrendered in Massachusetts, where no death penalty
exists (although Gov. Mitt Romney is trying to legalize capital
punishment). Federal prosecutors used the carjacking law to bring Sampson
into federal court, where he was convicted in 2004.
Judge Wolf ordered that the death sentence be carried out in New
Hampshire, not out of New England's view at the federal death row in
Indiana. Maybe they'll have the Berlin prison built in time to add a death
Here is an area in which President Bush's new nominee to the Supreme Court
can change death-penalty case law. In 2001, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor,
who just resigned, expressed concern about the number of death-penalty
cases in which the defendant was later exonerated.
I hope someone asks John G. Roberts Jr. several state's rights questions
on this issue.
(source: The Salem News; John Milne is a veteran New Hampshire political
reporter and analyst.)
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