[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, ALA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Jun 2 11:03:42 CDT 2005
HPD admits it failed to review suspect lab work--Report alleges hundreds
of cases were ignored for 'reasons unknown'
Despite knowing about the suspect work of a crime-laboratory analyst in at
least two drug cases, the Houston Police Department failed to conduct a
review of hundreds of other cases handled by the employee because of
"reasons unknown," according to a written statement released by department
The allegations of fabricated work by the analyst came to light Tuesday in
a report issued by an independent investigator hired to probe widespread
problems in the HPD crime lab.
Among other things, the report accused two analysts in the crime lab's
controlled substances division of "drylabbing," or concocting results, in
two cases each without conducting tests on evidence.
The work was conducted between 1998 and 2000 during the tenure of former
Chief C.O. Bradford. In all 4 cases, supervisors discovered the problems
before the analyses were used in court.
In the statement released Wednesday, HPD Executive Assistant Chief Martha
Montalvo said the department had reviewed 574 cases processed by former
analyst James E. Price, who has since resigned. But they could not explain
why no such review had been conducted in connection with the work of
analyst Vipul H. Patel - who was suspended for three days but continues to
work in the crime lab.
Patel's work between 1999 and 2003 will soon also come under scrutiny.
The Houston Chronicle was unable to contact Price or Patel on Wednesday.
"The review will look to see if proper processing and analyses were
conducted in accordance with established procedures," said Montalvo.
Whether the department or special investigator Michael Bromwich will
review Patel's work is unclear, a department spokesman said.
A former Justice Department inspector general, Bromwich was hired earlier
this year to investigate the practices and work of the troubled crime lab.
Those troubles began in December 2002 after an outside audit found
numerous problems at the department's DNA lab, which remains shuttered.
Since then, problems have surfaced in the lab's toxicology, ballistics and
On Tuesday, the controlled substances division was added to that list and
potentially could be the most troublesome as it is responsible for 75 % of
the work conducted at the crime lab.
Shoddy or criminal?
In his report, Bromwich described drylabbing as "the most egregious form
of scientific misconduct that can occur in a forensic laboratory."
On Wednesday, Bromwich confirmed that, at the time the alleged drylabbing
by Price was discovered, the department's findings were forwarded to the
Harris County District Attorney's Office for possible prosecution.
2 prosecutors declined to pursue the cases.
"I think it was extremely ill-advised to keep people who had engaged in
such fraudulent activity in roles in the crime lab where they continued to
perform scientific analysis," said the investigator.
Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said Wednesday that, after
reviewing the case files, he is satisfied with the decision of the two
prosecutors not to take the analysts to court. He said that, in one of the
cases, Price apparently violated analytical procedure by comparing a drug
to its depiction in a pharmaceutical reference book.
"I'm sure he just looked at them and went by the scorings on the pills, as
opposed to actually doing the tests," said Rosenthal, who took over the
office in 2001.
In the 2nd case, Rosenthal characterized the work as sloppy rather than
"Apparently they were both handled properly," Rosenthal said about the
investigations by the DA's office.
Other legal observers, however, are not as confident - especially when it
comes to Patel's work. In cases where the analyst's reports contend that
tests had been performed when, in fact, none had, criminal charges could
have possibly been filed, according to a former appellate court justice.
Attorney Murry Cohen, formerly a justice on the 1st Court of Appeals, says
he thinks that actions of the 2 analysts may have constituted tampering
with a governmental record.
"I don't know why you couldn't argue that, why a jury could not find that,
and court could not hold that that's sufficient (for a conviction)," Cohen
said. He also noted that the statute of limitations on the offense has
expired, so no charges in those cases can be filed.
Stanley Schneider, past president of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers
Association, said the problems found in the controlled substances division
represent the first time the district attorney's office has been found to
have had prior knowledge of problems at that lab.
"There have been complaints for a long time that the (crime lab)
investigation conducted by the district attorney's office was not a fair
and impartial investigation," Schneider said. "And this confirms it."
Bromwich said he will explore whether defense counsels in other cases were
advised of the allegations brought against the analysts.
"Such information would pretty plainly be impeachment material," he said.
Bromwich also said his team will continue to explore to what extent the
DNA lab was affected during the 6 years it went without a supervisor.
"We don't yet know in how many cases the analysis was adversely affected,
and to what degree," he said.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Death penalty fight continues
ALABAMA CITY COUNCILS AND COUNTIES THAT HAVE CALLED FOR A MORATORIUM ON
1. Birmingham, Jefferson Co
2. Leighton, Lawrence Co
3. North Courtland, Lawrence Co
4. Selma, Dallas Co
5. Prichard, Mobile Co
6. Hobson City, Calhoun Co
7. Bessemer, Jefferson Co
8. White Hall, Lowndes Co
9. Hayneville, Lowndes Co
10. Five Points, Chambers Co
11. Gordonsville, Lowndes Co
12. Greene County
13. Mosses, Lowndes Co
14. Eutaw Greene Co
15. Forkland, Greene Co
16. Boligee, Greene Co
17. Brighton, Jefferson Co
18. Uniontown, Perry Co
19. Gainesville, Sumter Co
20. LaFayette, Chambers Co
21. Camp Hill, Tallapoosa Co
22. Sumter County
23. Lowndes County
24. Wilcox County
25. Macon County
26. Fairfield. Jefferson Co
27. Bullock County
28. Midway, Bullock Co
29. Akron, Hale Co
30. Colony, Cullman Co
31. Epes, Sumter Co
32. Ridgeville, Calhoun Co
33. Hurtsboro, Russell Co
34. Union Springs, Bullock Co
35. Clayton, Barbour Co
36. Tuskegee, Macon Co
37. Yellow Bluff, Wilcox Co.
As the state prepares today to execute convicted murderer Jerry Paul
Henderson, one Alabama group continues its push to stop capital punishment
That group is seeking recruits.
Members of Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty released Wednesday a
list of more than 160 civic groups, counties, cities, business owners and
religious organizations they say have joined them in their stand against
capital punishment in Alabama.
The list also includes heavy-hitters in the world of civil rights,
including the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Southern Christian
Leadership Conference. Project Hope also has received the support of an
"We are very grateful to these groups," said Esther Brown, a spokeswoman
for Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty, established in 1989 by
death row inmates and their supporters. "What it shows us is that they
Rhonda Brownstein, legal director of the SPLC, said there are major racial
disparities in how the death penalty is administered.
"It's a civil rights issue because the death penalty is not fairly
applied," she said. "Historically, and to this day, the death penalty is
administered in a racially discriminatory manner. Research has
demonstrated repeatedly that defendants who kill white victims are far
more likely to receive the death penalty than defendants who kill black
Although the group's support list is getting a lot longer, the state
doesn't appear to be getting any closer to imposing a moratorium on the
death penalty in Alabama.
Brown said she and others met earlier this year with Alabama Gov. Bob
Riley, who supports the death penalty, and spoke of their desire to see
Alabama's death penalty squashed.
"It is not that we condone killing; we don't condone it when the state
does it either," Brown said.
Riley's office reiterated the governor's stance in support of capital
punishment Wednesday, one day before the scheduled 6 p.m. execution of
"Gov. Riley supports the death penalty because he believes it is a
deterrent and because it brings justice to those who have committed the
most heinous crimes," said Riley communications director Jeff Emerson.
There are 193 inmates on death row in Alabama, according to figures from
the Alabama Department of Corrections.
The Rev. John L. Alford Sr., acting president of the Montgomery chapter of
the SCLC and a member of the state SCLC board of directors, disagrees with
the governors view on the death penalty.
He believes the death penalty "should not exist and should be wiped out as
quickly as it came."
"I don't believe that the death penalty is a deterrent in controlling
crime; to put a man to death does not change any behavior," Alford said.
"We are not saying that a person should not pay for the crime committed if
they are in fact guilty, but we are saying there should be other methods
of dealing with a person who has violated the law."
Father Michael Farmer, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Mobile, which
overseas the Montgomery and Prattville areas, confirmed Wednesday that
Archbishop Oscar H. Lipscomb has given his support to the groups cause.
"Our society has other alternatives beside capital punishment," Farmer
said. John Matson, Rileys deputy press secretary, said the governor's
office has not received a request for clemency in Hendersons case.
"The governor said he will not intervene to block the execution," Matson
Henderson, 58, of Calhoun, Ga., is to die by lethal injection. He was
convicted of capital murder in the Jan. 1, 1984, shooting death of Jerry
Haney, 33, a textile worker in Talladega County.
Organizations, Businesses, Religious Groups in Alabama Supporting the
Equal Justice Initiative
Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty
Southern Poverty Law Center
Alabama New South Coalition
Chestnut, Sanders, Sanders, Pettaway, Campbell & Albright Llc
Law Firm of Attorney Wilson Meyers
Law Office of Attorney Edward M. Wayland
David Gespass & Assoc.
Salem Resha, Attorney at Law
Mary Ellen Bates, Attorney at Law
Johnny Norris, Attorney at Law
John Lentine, Attorney at Law
The Greene County Democrat
Alabama Prison Project
Chambers County Chapter of the Alabama New South Coalition
Bullock County Chapter of the Alabama New South Coalition
Talladega County Chapter of the Alabama New South Coalition
Wilcox County Chapter of the Alabama New South Coalition
Etowah County Chapter of the Alabama New South Coalition
Butler County Chapter of the Alabama New South Coalition
Monroe County Chapter of the Alabama New South Coalition
Madison County Chapter of the Alabama New South Coalition
Wiregrass County Chapter of the Alabama New South Coalition
Jefferson County Chapter of the Alabama New South Coalition
Lee County Chapter of the Alabama New South Coalition
SCLC Montgomery Chapter
SCLC Jefferson Co Chapter
SCLC Greene Co Chapter
SCLC Anniston Chapter
The Birmingham Urban League
Auburn Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
The Birmingham Friends (Quakers)
The Quest for Social Justice, Mobile
North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church
The Catholic Archdiocese of Mobile
Auburn Ministerial Association
Greater Birmingham Ministries
Church Women United
Black Muslim Community
Fairhope Unitarian Fellowship
Peace & Justice Committee Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham
Peace & Justice Committee Our Savior Catholic Church of Mobile
Carlisa Inc, Brewton
Alabama Coalition Against Hunger
The Federation of Child Care Centers of Alabama
Alabama Organizing Project
John Carroll Catholic High School Amnesty International Chapter
The Sisters of Mercy, Baltimore Regional Community
Stretches from Maryland-Florida and includes Alabama
Benedictine Sisters of Cullman
The Jesuit Community at Spring Hill College
St Josephs Convent, Vredenburgh
St. Josephs Convent, Pine Apple
The Institute for Theology and Social Justice,Selma
Alabama Alliance to Restore the Vote
1 For Life, Mobile
Concerned Citizens Organization, Montgomery
Inmate Family Ministry, Mobile
Fresh Start Ministries, Mobile
Pax Christi, Montgomery
Pax Christi, Birmingham
Pax Christi Huntsville
Mitigation Services of Alabama
Fairhope Inc. Selma
College Hill Zion AME Church, Selma
Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, LaFayette
New Horizons Foundation, Inc, LaFayette
Jesus Christ Missionary Baptist Church, Montgomery
Urban Ministry, Birmingham
Catholic Social Ministries, Selma
Southern Regional Office, Amnesty International
Huntsville Chapter Amnesty International
Mobile Chapter Amnesty International
Birmingham Chapter Amnesty International
University Alabama Chapter Amnesty International
University of Montevallo Chapter Amnesty International
Auburn University Chapter Amnesty International
Lee County Democratic Club
Pastoral Council of St. Marys Catholic Church, Opelika
Vine and Fig Tree Community, Lanett
Veterans for Peace, Gen. David M. Shoup Chapter (Alabama).
Building Bridges for a Better Community, Butler Co
No Murder In My Name, Inc. Tuskegee
Social Justice Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Church of
Family Members of People in Prison, Montgomery,
Tuscaloosa Peace Project
Alabama Peace First, Anniston
Blount County Committee for Peace and Justice
Montgomery Peace Project
East Alabama Alliance for Global Justice
North Alabama Peace Network
PSM at Refuge Deliverance Holiness Chapel, Livingston
Praying in the Spirit Ministry Inc. Marengo Co. Chapter
Praying in the Spirit Ministry Inc. Greene Co. Chapter
Praying in the Spirit Ministry Inc. Sumter Co Chapter
Montevallo Young Democrats
Clayton Dry Cleaners, Clayton
Eufala Dry Cleaners, Eufala
Photography By McLemore, West Point
Owner resides in Lanett
NAACP Chambers Co
Mercy Seat Press, Birmingham
Imani Way Enterprises, Selma
Bells Barber and Style Shop, Talladega
Partners in Progress, Pine Apple
Marys Food & Fashion, Pine Apple
Sweet Gum Baptist Church, Tuskegee
First Baptist Church, Hayneville
Faith In Action Outreach Ministries, Inc Lowndes Co
Teresa Moore DBA Mirror Image Inc. Huntsville
NAACP Dothan, Wiregrass Chapter
Marys House, Birmingham
Porters Autobody Shop, Gainesville
Reggies Autobody Shop, Epes
Out of State Attorneys representing Alabama death row inmates in support
of a moratorium
MARTIN BROTHERS, ATLANTA
ATTORNEY ANGELA WESSELS, DORCHESTER
ATTORNEY ART CODY, NEW YORK
ATTORNEY MARK GOMBINER, NEW YORK
LAW OFFICE OF MICHAEL KENNEDY McINTYRE, ATLANTA
SOUTHERN CENTER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
TO GET YOUR CHURCH OR ORGANIZATION ON BOARD CALL
334 499 0003 OR EMAIL ESTHER @beesther at earthlink.net
(source: Axis of Logic)
ABI Agent: Harris confessed to killing six at Rutledge
A state investigator testified Wednesday that Westley Devon Harris
admitted killing 6 members of his girlfriend's family when he "lost it"
while on illegal drugs.
ABI agent Johnny Tubbs, testifying at Harris' capital murder trial, also
said Harris told investigators that his girlfriend, 16-year-old Janice
Ball, claimed to have been sexually abused by her father and 3 teenage
They were among the 6 Ball family members shot to death on Aug. 26, 2002,
at their home in rural Rutledge.
The Harris defense challenged the accuracy of the statement, which Tubbs
wrote down on a form as he questioned Harris from 2:30 a.m. to 5:53 a.m.
on Aug. 30, 2002, several hours after Harris was in custody.
Defense attorney Steve Townes, during cross-examination of Tubbs, pointed
out that the Harris questioning was not tape recorded and that he took no
notes for the first 2 hours before the statement form was brought out. He
raised the implication that the words could have been altered.
Tubbs said he wrote the words almost verbatim as Harris spoke them and
that Harris reviewed and signed the form. He said the Harris statement
included the confession: "I don't know what got into me. I just lost it.
Plus, I was under the influence of illegal drugs."
He said Harris told of the sexual abuse claim that Janice Ball made
against her father and 3 brothers.
"I also thought they were having sex with my 1-year-old daughter," Harris
is quoted as saying.
Prosecutors contend Janice Ball was forced to cooperate out of fear Harris
would harm her and their young daughter. The defense argues Janice Ball
was more than a mere witness to the killings and wanted her family dead,
citing her claim of sexual abuse by family members.
Retired ABI agent Raymond Smith, who led the investigation at the time,
was also present when Harris was questioned. Under cross-examination
Wednesday, he was accused by the defense of omitting evidence that could
have conflicted with the theory that Harris was the killer.
The defense said Smith lost track of certain blood samples, clothing items
and shotgun shells that could have been pertinent to the case.
Smith earlier identified three long guns that were recovered from Gregory
Daniels, a close friend of Harris. Smith said Harris had given the guns to
Daniels around Aug. 27, 2002, the day after the killings when the bodies
Another prosecution witness, Wendel Edwards, said he purchased three long
guns from Harris and another friend, Leon Marshall, on Aug. 27, 2002. He
said one of the guns smelled of gunpowder, as if it had been recently
Edwards said he turned over the guns soon after learning Harris was a
suspect in the killings.
Earlier Wednesday, Janice Ball kept her eyes down as the jury was shown
large graphic photographs of the 6 bloodied bodies found at the Crenshaw
County home - the most victims in an Alabama shooting murder case in at
least several decades and possibly a century or longer.
The photographs showed Janice Ball's grandmother, Mila Ruth Ball, 62,
whose hands had been bound by electrical tape before she was shot in the
face in her kitchen, the first victim that morning.
The other photos showed the bodies of Janice Ball's mother, JoAnn Ball,
35, and brother Tony, 17, in a nearby trailer; brother John, 14, in the
kitchen of the main house where the grandmother died; brother Jerry, 19,
stuffed in a car trunk; and father Willie Hasley, 40, who also went by the
name Willie Haslip, in a hog pen.
(source: Tuscaloosa News)
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