[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----CALIF., IDAHO, UTAH
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Jul 30 00:51:10 CDT 2005
S.C. Upholds Pro Pers Death Sentence in Hollywood Poisoning
The California Supreme Court yesterday unanimously affirmed a Hollywood
mans death sentence for poisoning his neighbor to death, rejecting claims
that James Nelson Blair should not have been allowed to represent himself,
particularly in the penalty phase of the 1987 trial in which virtually no
mitigating evidence was offered.
"[W]e adhere to the weight of state and federal authority that concludes,
consistent with our own precedent, that the Sixth Amendment right to
self-representation extends to the penalty phase, and that the Eighth
Amendment poses no barrier to the self-represented defendants control of
the presentation of mitigating evidence," Chief Justice Ronald M. George
wrote for the court.
Blair was already serving a prison term for poisoning Dorothy Green and
Rhoda Miler when Green died of pneumonia, which doctors said was a direct
result of ingesting a large dose of cyanide. Green succumbed following 2
years of hospitalization, after paramedics found her unconscious on the
floor of her apartment in September 1984.
Miller testified that she and Green became ill after drinking gin that
Blair had given the women, supposedly as a gift. Miller said that she
drank a little bit of gin mixed with water, while Green drank a full glass
The paramedics took the gin bottle with them when they rushed the women to
the hospital, later giving it to police. Tests revealed the presence of
sodium cyanide in a significant amount, and an expert testified that Green
would have died at the scene if she had not been resuscitated by the
Prosecutors said Blair was upset with Green because she owed him money,
and had threatened to "get" her, in addition to getting into a fight with
the man she was living with. A search of the briefcase Blair was carrying
at the time of his arrest produced an envelope with writing on it, in the
form of a shopping or "to do" list, including the words "get cyanide," as
well as a piece of paper with the names, addresses, and phone numbers of
Blair waived his right to counsel but requested that Ray Newman, a Los
Angeles attorney who was doing a good bit of capital defense work at the
time, be appointed as "associate counsel." Los Angeles Superior Court
Judge Aurelio Munoz granted the request.
At a subsequent hearing, however, Judge Henry Patrick Nelsonwho had
presided over Blairs earlier trial and briefly oversaw the pretrial
proceedings in the new case - expressly found that Blair was representing
himself and that Newmans status was that of advisory counsel, after
declaring that "I don't see how a pro. per. can be chief counsel and . . .
have a lawyer in effect representing him."
Prior to trial, Newman informed the trial judge, Jerold Krieger - since
deceased - that he would be unable to attend the entire trial because of
scheduling conflicts. Krieger then appointed a 2nd attorney, Lonzo Lucas -
later a Los Angeles Superior Court commissioner but now retired - to serve
as a 2nd advisory lawyer.
Jurors found Blair guilty of 1st degree murder with a murder-by-poison
special circumstance. In the penalty phase, prosecutors presented evidence
that Blair had been convicted of 2 robberies, as well as the attempted
murders of Green and Miller, and called the defendants college chemistry
teacher to testify that he had conducted an experiment involving cyanide
in the class.
Krieger imposed the death sentence in accordance with the jurys verdict,
and the Supreme Court appointed San Rafael attorney David Nickerson to
represent Blair on appeal.
Nickerson argued that Blair was incompetent to stand trial and/or waive
counsel, citing the facts that he had been committed to Atascadero State
Hospital for several months in 1972 and that Nelson had called him a
"psychopath" when sentencing him in the earlier case.
But George said the fact that a defendant was committed a dozen years
earlier does not, in and of itself, create a doubt as to his present
Placed in context, the chief justice went on to say, the "psychopath"
reference referred to someone with no compunction about hurting others,
and did not suggest that the judge considered Blair to be "psychotic, out
of touch with reality, or otherwise unable to understand the proceedings
George rejected the broader contention that the Supreme Court's Faretta
decision and its progeny, allowing virtually any defendant who is mentally
competent to stand trial to waive counsel, should not be applied to the
penalty phase of a capital case, particularly if the defendant is
unwilling to present mitigating evidence that is available, such as the
testimony of family members.
In making that argument, Nickerson cited decisions by some state high
courts that require judges to create a record of mitigating evidence, such
as through pre-sentence reports, if the defendant does not present such
evidence at trial. He also cited a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that
defense counsel is obligated to present mitigating evidence even if the
Those rulings, George said, represent a minority view, as other state and
federal appellate courts have held that a defendant may not only represent
himself in the penalty phase and refuse to present mitigating evidence,
but may argue in favor of the death penalty.
Deputy Attorney General Marc Nolan represented the prosecution on appeal.
The case is People v. Blair, 05 S.O.S. 3847.
(source: Metropolitan News Company)
Peterson Releases First Death Row Statement
Scott Peterson has made his 1st public statements since arriving on death
The man convicted of killing his pregnant wife posted a message on a
Canadian anti-death penalty website.
In the message penned from his San Quentin prison cell, he thanks the
public for the support he has received.
"The thoughtfulness and benevolence shown is a source of strength and
spirit, an affirmation of a considerate community," writes Peterson. "In
every conversation among our family, there is always the mentions of your
thoughts and letters. At mail call I am encouraged by, and enjoy hearing
"I wish I could respond to express my gratitude, and continue to
correspond," continues Peterson. "However, people having sold my notes,
and sometimes fabricating content, preclude me from doing so. It is an
irritating, unfortunate situation."
Peterson has been imprisoned at San Quentin since March 17th.
To read Petersons complete statement visit:
http://www.ccadp.org/scottpeterson.htm (source: CBS News)
Former death row inmate may try to get out of plea deal
Convicted murderer Faron Earl Lovelace says he might try to get out of a
Lovelace is a former death row inmate who won a new resentencing in an
appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court.
During his resentencing, he entered a plea agreement with prosecutors that
would spare him the death penalty for the 1995 kidnapping and murder of
24-year-old Jeremy Scott.
But now Lovelace has filed papers in First District Court saying he'll try
to get out of the plea deal unless his attorneys follow through with a
Lovelace doesn't say what the promise is. But he claims the attorneys
promised him something to get him to agree to the plea, and that they
haven't fulfilled that promise yet.
Lovelace's attorney, Teresa Hampton, did not immediately return phone
(source: Associated Press)
Hearing in death-row inmate's appeal is delayed
In Ogden, a hearing next week on whether death-row inmate Doug Lovell
should be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea to the 1985 murder of Joyce
Yost has been postponed to give attorneys more time to prepare.
Lovell is seeking to withdraw his 1993 guilty plea to aggravated murder in
the death of the 39-year-old South Ogden woman.
Lovell contends his trial attorney failed to provide effective counsel
when he allowed Lovell to make a plea agreement requiring him to lead
police to Yost's body in exchange for a life sentence.
The deal did not address what would happen if Lovell were unable to find
He spent 5 weeks trying unsuccessfully to show authorities where he buried
the woman's body in Ogden Valley.
The agreement was voided, but Lovell still pleaded guilty to aggravated
murder and was sentenced to death.
In April the Utah Supreme Court directed 2nd District Judge Michael Lyon
to hear Lovell's 12-year-old motion seeking to withdraw his guilty plea.
Lyon inherited Lovell's appeal process from now-retired Judge Stanton
Lovell's new defense attorneys and the Utah Attorney General's Office were
to argue the motion next Tuesday before Lyon, but on Thursday the hearing
was postponed without a date.
However, a hearing was set for Sept. 7 to allow filing of briefs regarding
the defense request to clarify the parameters of the coming legal debate.
Weber County public defender Jim Retallick has been appointed as Lovell's
new lead appeals counsel, assisted by Ryan Bushell, since the Salt Lake
lawyer, L. Clark Donaldson, who earned the Supreme Court decision giving
life to Lovell's plea withdrawal request, took a new job.
Lovell killed Yost to keep her from testifying about his raping her in
1985. Despite her disappearance, Lovell was convicted at trial which
turned on the transcript of Yost's preliminary hearing testimony on the
rape. Lovell was serving his prison sentence for rape when he was arrested
for Yost's murder in 1992.
(source: Associated Press)
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