[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----NEV., FLA., OHIO, ILL.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Jul 27 18:18:14 CDT 2005
Death penalty in Elko murder upheld by Nevada Supreme Court
In Carson City, the Nevada Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from death
row inmate Kelly Rhyne, who said his mental problems should have been
examined more closely in his trial for kicking an Elko man to death in
The high court ruled Tuesday against Rhyne, 45, from Carlin, found guilty
of first-degree murder in the death of Donald "Lobo" Brown, whose body was
found in a trash bin outside a bar.
On appeal, Rhyne said a lower court judge erred in denying his claim that
3 lawyers who handled his trial and an earlier appeal, rejected in a split
Supreme Court decision in 2002, were ineffective in dealing with the issue
of his competency.
But justices said the competency issue came up repeatedly, experts who
evaluated him determined he was able to help in his defense, and the trial
judge found that Rhyne's unwillingness to help his lawyers was "the result
of his own choice, rather than mental illness."
The Supreme Court also said there was evidence that Rhyne killed Brown in
an alley at night to avoid any witnesses, and later got rid of the body
and other incriminating evidence.
"This evidence shows that Rhyne was clearly aware of the wrongfulness of
his acts ... and belies any reasonable probability that a jury would find
him not guilty by reason of insanity," the court said.
While Justice Bob Rose said he agreed with the ruling, he still feels the
death penalty was excessive in Rhyne's case.
In the Supreme Court's 2002 ruling, Rose and Justice Nancy Becker said
Rhyne should never leave prison but shouldn't die by lethal injection
because of his history of severe mental illness.
The dissenting justices also said there was no valid reason for Rhyne to
get the death sentence while another man implicated in the case, James
Mendenhall, got life in prison with possible parole after pleading guilty
to second-degree murder.
Prosecutors cited Rhyne's previous criminal record in seeking the death
penalty - a "future dangerousness" argument. Another argument for the
death sentence was that the victim was mutilated. Experts testified that
Brown died from at least 10 to 18 kicks he received to the head. The blows
resulted in 3 skull fractures.
But the Becker-Rose dissent said the most severe damage to Brown's head
could have been caused by one of Mendenhall's boots, not Rhyne's tennis
(source: Associated Press)
Florida prosecutors push for death penalty in Bryan trial
Dennis Bryan, 24, originally of Ira Township and suspected of having a
role in the murder of Justin Mello, is led into court in St. Augustine,
Florida last week.
Prosecutors in St. Johns County, Florida, appear to be pushing ahead to
see that Dennis Bryan of Fair Haven is not only convicted of murder but
also sentenced to death.
And if action in court last week is any indication, they may stand a
chance of achieving their goal. The state attorney rejected a possible end
to the case before it even started on Monday, July 18, when Bryan's
defense attorney, Tom Mott, said his client would be willing to plead
guilty to 1st-degree murder as long as the death penalty was taken off the
Prosecutors rejected that, saying it would amount to no punishment in
light of the 50-year sentence Bryan has already been given in Virginia.
Bryan, 24, and David Baumann, 23, were serving time in Virginia for the
murder of a gun store clerk in Bristol, Virginia, when they were
extradited to Florida to stand trial for the death of a lone 22-year-old
who was working at a Subway sandwich shop in St. Augustine the night of
Aug. 14, 2000.
They are also the prime suspects in the murder of Justin Mello, a
16-year-old Anchor Bay High School junior who was murdered on Oct. 21,
After jury selection and a hearing on a host of defense motions, Bryan's
first-degree murder trial got underway last Thursday.
A clerk in the St. Johns County Circuit Court confirmed that Judge William
Parsons, brought in from an outside county for the death penalty case,
rejected pre-trial motions relating to suppression of several details
defense attorneys said were gained illegally through a warrantless search.
One was upheld, disallowing items found in a duffel bag that was in the
trunk of the Firebird the two drove during a suspected cross-country
robbery and killing spree in the summer and fall of 2000.
After prevailing on most pre-trial motions, prosecutors jumped right into
the meat of their case last Thursday as assistant state attorney Maureen
Christine Sullivan examined eight of the 36 people on their witness list.
The most damaging exhibit may have been a 2 1/2 minute surveillance tape
showing Charles Lee Pennington being killed by a single shot fired into
the back of his head by one of the men, according to a report published in
the St. Augustine Record.
The black and white tape showed one of the 2 men first taking a fistful of
cash from the store's register before the 2, who were both wearing masks,
returned and executed the 22-year-old, who was working alone just before
In New Baltimore, Mello died 2 months and seven days after Pennington in
an eerily similar manner, with a single gunshot to the head fired at close
range after he had been taken into the cooler at Mancino's Pizza and
Grinders in the Plaza at the Pointe shopping center.
Police initially arrested 3 local teens; 6 months later, Baumann told
prosecutors in Virginia he was responsible for Mello's murder. Neither
Bryan nor Baumann have been back to Michigan to answer for the crime.
Sheriff deputies arrested them in a small Kentucky town in November 2000.
(source: The Voice News)
Supreme Court temporarily block Richey decision
Ohio's attorney general won a U.S. Supreme Court stay Wednesday that will
keep Kenneth Richey in prison while the state fights an appeals court
decision that threw out his death sentence.
Justice John Paul Stevens, in a one paragraph order, temporarily blocked a
decision of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeals court in
January ordered the state to either retry Richey or release him.
The full Supreme Court will decide this fall whether to take up Ohio's
appeal, which seeks to have the death sentence reinstated.
Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro has asked the court to reverse the appeals
Richey, a dual U.S.-British citizen, was sentenced to death in 1987 for
setting a fire in 1986 that killed 2-year-old Cynthia Collins in the
northwest Ohio of Columbus Grove. The case has attracted interest in
Scotland, where Richey grew up.
Putnam County Prosecutor Gary Lammers planned to ask a grand jury next
month to bring new charges against Richey, which could include another
It's not known how Stevens' order will affect those plans. A message
seeking comment was left with Lammers. A message also was left with
Petro praised the decision and said it "keeps Richey on death row where we
believe he properly belongs for his just conviction and sentence."
Prosecutors say Richey intended to kill his ex-girlfriend but ended up
killing the child.
Richey maintained he did not start the fire, and numerous questions have
been raised about the evidence used to convict him.
Petro argued that the 6th Circuit erred in requiring the state to prove
that Richey intended to kill Cynthia, not her mother. Petro said that if
Richey set the fire and killed anyone, it is still murder under Ohio law.
(source: Associated Press)
SR. HELEN PREJEAN, DEATH PENALTY FOE, to GIVE BERNARDIN LECTURE Nun Who
Inspired "Dead Man Walking" Movie Will Speak on Campus September 14
Sister Helen Prejean, the death-penalty abolitionist who inspired the
feature film "Dead Man Walking," will speak at Elmhurst College on
Wednesday, September 14, at 7:30 p.m. She will deliver the College's
annual Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Lecture (her topic is "Dead Man Walking:
The Journey Continues") in Hammerschmidt Memorial Chapel. Admission is
free and the public is welcome.
[ Hammerschmidt Chapel is located at the west end of the Elmhurst College
campus. The college is at 190 Prospect Av., Elmhurst (6 miles south of
Sister Helen campaigns internationally for the abolition of capital
punishment. She authored the 1993 New York Times best-seller, Dead Man
Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States.
It became a feature film in 1995, starring Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon,
who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Sister Helen. This past December,
Sister Helen released a 2nd book, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness
Account of Wrongful Executions, which chronicles the executions of 2
potentially innocent men.
"I am excited to have Sister Helen come to Elmhurst and share both the
story of her journey and her passion for abolishing the death penalty,"
said Kevin ODonnell, co-chaplain for Catholic students at Elmhurst
College. "She speaks from 20 years of first-hand work with death row
inmates, and with the families of victims. Whether a person supports
capital punishment or not, I know that Sister Helen will provide unusual
insights, and help us think about the death penalty's fairness and
Elmhurst scheduled this event nearly 2 years in advance, which is an
indication of both the demands for Sister Helen as a speaker, and the
College's strong wish to have her deliver its annual Bernardin Lecture.
This speech honors the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin (archbishop of
Chicago from 1982 to 1996), a prominent thinker and spokesman for the
Catholic Church in the United States. The Bernardin Lecture is part of the
Religious Lecture Series at Elmhurst College, an annual event which
embraces the Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Islamic traditions. For
more information, call (630) 617-3033 or visit www.elmhurst.edu .
Admission to Sister Helen's talk is free, and a book signing will follow.
Child care is available by calling (630) 617-3222 in advance. Elmhurst
College is a premier comprehensive college in metropolitan Chicago. For
134 years, the College has sought to prepare students superbly for their
first jobs, and for lifetimes of personal and professional fulfillment. On
a classic campus, in a charming suburb, the College offers students of
many ages and backgrounds purposeful learning for the whole of life.
(source: Elmhurst College----A 4-year private College, Elmhurst is located
16 miles west of downtown Chicago. Approximately 2,600 full- and part-time
students are enrolled in its 22 undergraduate academic departments and
nine graduate degree programs. Founded in 1871, Elmhurst College is
affiliated with the United Church of Christ.)
Cuffed and chained, former death row inmate testifies he's 'a
Jurors were hurried out of the courtroom and former death row inmate Aaron
Patterson was wrestled into a holding cell Wednesday after he clashed
verbally with a prosecutor who was trying to cross-examine him about his
membership in a Chicago street gang.
"You testified that you were a member of the Apache Rangers street gang
before you went to prison, is that correct?" Assistant U.S. Attorney
Christopher S. Niewohner asked Patterson.
The 41-year-old Patterson, who was convicted of a double murder and served
17 years in prison before a full pardon from former Gov. George Ryan, was
silent for a moment and then spoke.
"You asked me who the Three Stooges were," Patterson said. When Niewohner
offered to repeat the question, Patterson said: "You asked me who the
Three Stooges were - Fitzgerald, Daley and Devine." He then started
yelling to the jury that he was a victim of "an illegal detention."
"We're adjourned," U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer said as
marshals ushered the jurors into a back hall and wrestled the bellowing
Patterson into a cell next to the courtroom.
"It's an illegal detention, it's wrong," Patterson could be heard yelling
as the door shut.
Patterson's comment clearly referred to U.S. Attorney Patrick J.
Fitzgerald, Mayor Richard M. Daley and Cook County State's Attorney
Patterson is charged with brokering a series of heroin sales to a
government witness, selling bags of marijuana and illegally buying 4 guns,
including a MAC-10 machine pistol.
In testimony Wednesday morning, Patterson said that he was tortured by
Chicago homicide detectives when questioned about a double murder he
didn't commit. He recalled how he was convicted, sentenced to death and
then pardoned by Ryan.
Ryan said there was no credible evidence that Patterson committed the
double murder. As one of his last acts in office, he pardoned Patterson
and three other former death row inmates and commuted the sentences of the
167 others on death row to life without parole.
"I am what you call a freedom fighter, a revolutionary and a professional
troublemaker," Patterson, wearing leg irons and handcuffs locked to a
metal chain around his waist, testified while 3 federal marshals stood
behind him and others hovered nearby.
The marshals were under orders to remove Patterson, clad in the bright
orange jumpsuit of a federal prisoner, if he caused any disruption.
Patterson has been removed from the courtroom several times in the past
for bickering with the judge, taking verbal potshots at prosecutors and
having outbursts of profanity. He was wrestled out of court by marshals
earlier this week for lunging at his own lawyers.
He was not allowed to sit in the witness box on Wednesday but instead gave
his testimony while seated behind the defense table at the opposite side
of the courtroom from the jury.
Patterson acknowledged that he had been a member of the Black P. Stone
Rangers street gang and said that when he got out of prison he wanted to
be a positive influence on gang members.
"I wanted to persuade them to try something else rather than just selling
drugs and killing people," he testified under questioning by defense
attorney Tommy Brewer.
But he said that persuading them to change their ways "isn't as easy as
people think it is."
"A lot of these young guys had no clue who I was," he said. He said he
tried to interest them in politics but "they didn't see my vision they
were just interested in making money."
On one tape jurors heard Patterson call part of the South Side "our land."
"Was that your land for the purpose of drug sales and violence?" Brewer
"No, no, no," Patterson said.
"You did not have anybody selling drugs, did you?" Brewer asked.
"No, no," Patterson said.
Patterson insisted that when he ordered guns from the government informant
he specified that he wanted replicas - not real ones. He said the replica
guns were to be part of an investigation of police corruption he had
"I was trying to do a reverse sting," Patterson said. "I don't think it
would have been healthy for me to have real guns around."
The city's chief lawyer, Mara Georges, testified Tuesday that she offered
to pay Patterson $4 million if he would settle a lawsuit against the
police for allegedly framing him for murder.
Patterson said he had no interest in the money because he was "a
He said he tried repeatedly to sit down with Daley and chat about the
circumstances in which youthful gang members find themselves but never
could make it happen.
"He eluded me so many times," Patterson said.
(source: Associated Press)
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