[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, ORE., CONN., TENN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Jun 4 23:46:47 CDT 2005
Killer's 1-word creed: violence----Fearing he'll kill again, dreading a
prison life, Alex Martinez is ready to be executed
The blue prison tattoos on Alex Martinez's arms and torso, as intense in
imagery as anything on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, tell the story
of his life. Somewhere, surely, are references to his wretched childhood,
the endless beatings and psychological abuse.
But it's the tombstones, macabre tributes to the women whose throats he
slashed, that are most chilling.
"Maria," reads one, referring to Maria Martinez, the stepmother who
miraculously survived his brutal attack in August 2001. "To be continued."
The 2nd cuts to the heart of what brought the 28-year-old one-time Houston
fast-food worker to death row. Beneath the inscription, "RIP," are a date,
a woman's name and the sum, "$300." Seemingly cryptic, the tattoo is a
crude ink-and-skin memorial to South Houston prostitute Helen Joyce
Oliveros, who, on Aug. 12, 2001, was murdered by Martinez during a
squabble over her fee.
Martinez admitted that the slashings, just weeks after he was freed from
prison where he served a sentence for attempted murder, might seem extreme
responses to minor provocations unless one believes in violence.
"Yeah, I believe in violence," said Martinez, who is scheduled to be
executed Tuesday and become the ninth killer to die in the state's
Huntsville death house this year. "I was raised up with violence. I was
hit, kicked, hollered at. It destroyed my family. Even in here (prison)
I'm subject to violence. Even the state will be violent when I'm killed."
Partly out of fear that he will kill again, partly out of dread of
spending his life behind bars, Martinez said in a recent death row
interview that he wants to die. To the consternation of his appeals
attorney, Houston lawyer Pat McCann, the killer has insisted that all
efforts to save his life be halted.
"I think Alexander's life still has value," he said. "I wish he would
change his mind."
McCann thinks a key element of the prosecution's case - testimony by his
client's Harris County cellmate, Cesar Rios - is faulty.
"This is a case that never should have been a capital case to start with,"
McCann said. "A lying jailhouse snitch was one of the key elements in
making a murder case a capital case. ... If Alexander dies, he'd be dying
for a lie. That's not justice."
In rejecting Martinez's initial, automatic appeal in March 2004, however,
the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals found that other evidence was
"consistent with and corroborated" Rios' testimony. Evidence also
supported the accuracy of 3 confessions Martinez gave investigators after
"He's one of the scariest people I've encountered across the table," said
Assistant District Attorney Tammy Thomas, lead Harris County prosecutor in
the case. "He seems to enjoy the kill. That's pretty apparent from the
trial transcript. He's not sorry."
"He is among the most dangerous individuals this forensic psychiatrist has
evaluated," Dr. Seth Silverman wrote after examining Martinez to determine
his competency to waive appeals.
"He has taken pride in his short temper and proclivity to extreme
violence. The violence has escalated through his life, including during
his incarceration. ... Mr. Martinez's decision to refuse his death penalty
appeal is a logical extension of his lifelong disrespect of his own, as
well as others' physical well-being."
Martinez, in the death row interview, affirmed that he likely would kill
"Maybe not now," he said, "maybe not in 10 years. But someday, maybe 20
years from now, somebody would set me off. I give my life freely."
Psychologist Carmen Petzold found that Martinez suffered from "numerous
disorders," possibly stemming from his hellish childhood. Born to a heroin
addict, Martinez was placed for adoption with a family in which he was
verbally, physically and, he claimed, sexually abused by his new mother.
Martinez told officials he was "beaten every night until my mother's hands
hurt and she had to stop."
'His life just fell apart'
Martinez's adoptive mother, Velma Griffin, who raised the child from 15
months to 9 years, when her marriage ended in divorce, denied all the
abuse allegations. Today, she prays for him and hopes his life will be
spared. She routinely attempts to visit him on death row, though on each
occasion he has rebuffed her, silently returning to his cell when he
determines the identity of his visitor.
"I feel very sad," she said. "I cry all the way home. I have to sit in the
car five to 10 minutes to compose myself. I just wanted him to know that
somebody loves him."
Griffin said Martinez's early years showed promise - as a Boy Scout he was
selected to address the Texas Senate. But after the divorce, when she gave
up custody of her 4 children to her ex-husband, "his life just fell
Martinez said the situation hardly improved when his adoptive father
remarried. His stepmother, he asserted, intensely disliked him and worked
to alienate his father.
"She wouldn't do anything," he said. "She'd wait until my dad came home,
and he'd hit me hard."
Martinez's father, stepmother and siblings could not be located for
By the time Martinez dropped out of the 9th grade, he was a steady inhaler
of spray paint fumes and similar substances. His adolescence and young
adulthood were marked by continual violent skirmishes - only during 3
years was he free of the criminal-justice system, records show.
"I always looked at it like everybody owed me something," Martinez said.
"My mentality was not giving a damn. I couldn't see myself in the world
for some reason. I was mad all the time. ... I always thought that I could
go right someday. I always thought that things would work out for the
best. And all the time I was getting further in the hole."
In 1994, he stabbed a co-worker during an altercation at the pizza
restaurant at which they worked, resulting in a seven-year sentence for
attempted murder. He had been out of prison three weeks when he murdered
Oliveros, a 45-year-old prostitute with a history of narcotics offenses.
Martinez said he contacted the escort service for which Oliveros worked.
When Oliveros arrived at Martinez's home - he was staying at Griffin's
residence - the 2 quarreled over the woman's $300 fee.
In 3 statements to police, Martinez acknowledged that he had sex with the
woman, then killed her. In one, he admitted that he had taken money and
cocaine from her belongings. Martinez's county cellmate, Rios, who
received a reduced sentence for his testimony, told jurors the killer told
him he had placed a knife to the woman's throat as she gathered her things
to leave, engaged in sex, forced the knife into her throat, then, to
silence her, slashed her throat.
He then placed the corpse in a bedroom closet, retrieving it 3 days later
to dump it in a nearby vacant lot.
Prosecutors told jurors that to find Martinez guilty of capital murder
they could accept that he had robbed and/or sexually assaulted his victim.
It was not necessary that jurors agree on which felony he committed. The
court of criminal appeals upheld prosecutors' interpretation of the law.
In his death row interview, Martinez said he took money and drugs in the
incident, but the theft was an afterthought, not a motivating factor. He
indicated the couple had engaged in consensual sex.
Residents of a well-kept South Houston neighborhood, where Oliveros
apparently lived with her parents, now deceased, would not comment on the
victim's descent into drug abuse and prostitution.
On Aug. 23, 2001, Martinez slashed his stepmother's throat in an
unprovoked attack as his 8-year-old half-brother and 12-year-old
half-sister watched. The injured woman survived after spending 9 days in
the hospital, 5 of them in intensive care. Martinez was arrested later the
same day after he confided his crimes to a relative in La Porte, who
When police searched Martinez's bedroom the next day, they found blood on
the bed frame, wall, floor, closet shelves and door. Some of the blood,
said Assistant District Attorney Marie Munier, was from Oliveros, some
from Martinez. Because of irregularities the Houston Police Department's
crime lab, the blood samples were tested a 2nd time with the same results,
Behind bars, Martinez seethed.
He demanded to be housed "with my people," members of the violent Mexican
Mafia prison gang.
He denounced those who might have been sympathetic to him, notably the
Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, for failing to adequately
champion his case.
And he wrote a letter to his adoptive mother:
"I have not decided what discipline I will give you, but it will be
severe," he said in the missive. " ... Wherever you go, I'll find you. I
pray you go straight to hell when you die because when I meet you there, I
will torture you for eternity, just as I am condemned forever."
Texas leads the nation in the number of executions since capital
punishment was resumed
- Executions, year to date: 8
- Executions since 1982: 344
- Next execution: Alex Martinez of Harris County, Tuesday
- Also scheduled: 4 more are planned, including Francis Newton of Harris
County, Sept. 14
(source: Houston Chronicle)
WILLIAMS TRIAL ADVANCES
A state district judge denied a motion Friday to postpone an upcoming
trial for a man facing the death penalty.
Johnny Lee Williams Jr. was in court for his 2nd pre-trial hearing, where
attorneys discussed issues surrounding the case.
The defendant is charged with the alleged Jan. 19 Wal-Mart abduction and
slaying of Tyler college student Megan LeAnn Holden.
Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham said the state had 367
potential witnesses in the case, for which he has decided to seek the
Prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed on examining three cellular
phones in the case already seized by law enforcement because they are all
interested in what evidence they might contain. They also agreed to save
time by sending certain pieces of evidence to a private lab for testing,
with the results to be given to both sides.
Defense attorney Bobby Mims said there could be evidence of interracial
relationships between the victim and defendant and said potential jurors
should be asked racial questions.
Bingham said he was not aware of any evidence indicating the two had any
relationship prior to Jan. 19.
Williams' indictment charges him with kidnapping, sexually assaulting,
strangling and shooting Ms. Holden to death before he allegedly discarded
her body in a West Texas ditch.
Judge Cynthia Stevens Kent, of the 114th District Court, went over those
juror questions, as well as others pertaining to the death penalty and
other issues in the case.
Lead defense attorney LaJuanda Lacy said she was concerned that she, Mims
and Tonda Curry would not have sufficient time to prepare for the July 25
trial and provide effective counsel to her client. She asked for a
continuance to move back the trial date, as well as the start of jury
selection scheduled for June 23.
Ms. Lacy said the state continues to provide discovery nearly every day
once it receives the evidence and she is having trouble contacting several
of the Marines in Williams' battalion because they are on a 30-day leave
and some are still serving in Iraq.
She also informed the judge that the defense's experts wouldn't examine
Williams until they get paid and she wasn't sure when the lab results
would be returned.
"We don't have all that we need to be ready to go to trial on the proposed
date," she said.
Chief Felony Prosecutor April Sikes said she believed that she had
received the last of the case's evidence on Friday, which included
surveillance tapes from Wal-Mart that could show Williams allegedly
attempting to abduct 3 other people before Ms. Holden.
Mrs. Sikes objected to the motion to delay the trial and said the state
would be ready.
Surveillance footage already released by law enforcement shows a man
following Ms. Holden to her pickup in the Wal-Mart parking lot after her
shift as a clerk there ended.
It shows a man rushing up behind her, shoving her into the vehicle and
Judge Kent, who often says "death is different" and gives more leniency to
attorneys in death penalty cases, said she has granted the
defense-requested experts and has worked with the commissioners court to
approve funds for their services.
She said she found it "very odd" that an expert would not begin work even
after a judge signed an order that he or she would be paid.
The judge said she appointed 3 defense attorneys in the case, which is not
required, and had gone over the scheduling order with everyone involved.
The trial, she said, is still a "significant period of time out" and
denied the motion.
Judge Kent also decided that any hearings that may be needed to be held on
whether to allow statements Williams may have made to Arizona law
enforcement before the jury would be held right before the trial.
She set the last pre-trial hearing for the case next Friday.
Williams is charged with abducting Ms. Holden, who lived in Chandler, at a
Wal-Mart Supercenter parking lot. After allegedly dumping her body in
Martin County, he fled out of state.
A convenience store clerk at an RV park near Bowie, Ariz., shot Williams
in the shoulder as the suspect allegedly attempted to rob him.
Authorities located the suspect, along with the victim's pickup, at a
hospital in Willcox, Ariz., where he was seeking aid for a gunshot wound.
Judge Kent issued a restrictive and protective order even before Williams
was indicted, limiting the information that those involved in the case can
disseminate to the public.
(source: Tyler Morning Telegraph)
Man arrested for capital murder
Police last night arrested a man suspected of killing a man more than 4
Juan Resendiz Jr., 24, was charged with capital murder in the death of
Oscar Castillo Sr., 47. He is being held at the Bexar County Jail on a $1
Castillo was strangled on December 4, 2000 by people who robbed him and
dragged his body out into the street. His pockets were turned inside out
and his shirt was pulled up, according to the arrest affidavit.
Later that day, Resendizs mother and brother called police saying Resendiz
had killed someone, according to the affidavit. Resendiz "told (his
brother) that he had killed a man last night and he had choked him until
he stopped breathing," the affidavit states. By the time police arrived at
the Resendizs home, Resendiz was gone.
The case was re-opened up by detectives in August 2004. They visited with
Resendiz and the 2 people who were with him that night. They found all 3
behind bars on unrelated charges.
Resendiz told police someone else had hit Castillo over the head with a
plastic bat and that the other 2 had gone through Castillos pockets and
taken his wallet.
Resendiz did admit to putting his arm around Castillos neck and choking
him and later carrying his body out of the apartment into the street,
according to the affidavit.
A woman told police she was in the apartment when Castillo died. She also
admitted to luring him there, knowing he was going to be robbed, according
to the affidavit. She told detectives the incident "just went too far,"
the affidavit states.
The man who Resendiz said was involved told police he had withdrawn money
using Castillos bankcard and had helped carry his body out of the
The woman and man have not been charged.
(source: San Antonio Express-News)
State high court upholds killer's death sentence -- The case is sent back
to the trial judge to correct a flaw in the sentencing of Travis Lee
The Oregon Supreme Court on Friday upheld the death sentence of Travis Lee
Gibson, 28, who was convicted of killing a man during a 2000 robbery in
The court unanimously rejected Gibson's claim that the trial court erred
by allowing the jury to hear that he had used the murder weapon in another
The court agreed the trial judge should not have allowed evidence that
Gibson had asked one of his co-defendants to prostitute herself. But the
court determined the error was "harmless" and did not warrant a new trial.
On a technical issue, the court ruled that Gibson should not have received
two death sentences for a single victim and ordered the case sent back to
the trial court to correct the mistake.
Gibson was convicted in 2001 of killing Joshua Michael Copp, 25. Gibson,
who was on parole for robbery at the time, was 1 of 4 people convicted on
various charges related to the murder of Copp and the attempted murder of
his roommate, Steve Eugene Johnson, 30.
Gibson denied the killing, but his co-conspirators testified that they
mistook Copp for a drug dealer.
Gibson is one of 29 men on Oregon's death row.
Since voters reinstated capital punishment in 1984, the state has executed
2 men: Douglas Franklin Wright in 1996 and Harry Charles Moore in 1997.
Each had abandoned his appeals.
Oregon High Court Upholds Death Sentence----Defendant Argued Judge Erred
In Salem, the Oregon Supreme Court has voted unanimously to uphold the
death sentence of a man convicted of killing a man during a 2000 robbery
28-year-old Travis Gibson had contended the court erred when it let the
jury hear that the murder weapon had been used in another robbery.
Gibson is one of 29 people on Oregon's death row. The last execution was
in 1997 and no more are expected for several years.
Gibson was on parole for robbery at the time and was 1 of 4 people
convicted on various charges relating to the killing of 25-year-old Joshua
Co-defendants testified they mistook Copp for a drug dealer.
(source: KOIN News)
Psychologist gives testimony in Rizzo case
In Waterbury, defense attorneys on Thursday tried to use the testimony of
an accomplished child psychologist to put into context the evidence they
believe should keep convicted killer Todd Rizzo off death row.
Cornell University professor James Garbarino, the author of about 20 books
relating to psychological development in children, testified during
Rizzo's death penalty hearing that bullying, violent movies, video games
or television and emotional neglect can lead to an adolescent committing
"The single variables rarely explain much," Garbarino said. He testified
he knew only a little about Rizzo's cause and did not offer any
explanations about Rizzo's crime.
Public defenders David Channing and Ronald Gold have argued Rizzo was
largely unsupervised as a child, watched violent movies at a young age and
was the victim of bullies. Those are among the mitigating factors they
have argued that should spare Rizzo, 26, the death penalty.
Waterbury State's Attorney John Connelly argued during cross-examination
that Garbarino's testimony was irrelevant because he neither interviewed
Rizzo nor testified specifically about the case.
Rizzo was 18 when he lured 13-year-old Stanley Edwards IV into his Marion
Avenue back yard and bludgeoned him to death with a sledgehammer. He
pleaded guilty in 1999 and received the death penalty, but the state
Supreme Court overturned that sentence in 2003.
Judges Salvatore Agati, William Cremmins and Thomas O'Keefe will decide
whether Rizzo, 26, receives life in prison without the possibility of
parole or returns to death row. At least 2 of the 3 judges must rule in
favor of the death penalty for that sentence to be imposed.
(source: Associated Press)
Death Row Inmate Sues Former Medical Examiner
He's come within days, even hours of the electric chair. But, convicted
cop killer Phillip Workman says what's causing him emotional distress is
former Shelby County Medical Examiner, Dr. O.C. Smith. Doctor Smith's
expert testimony in a parole hearing sealed Workman's fate. Smith
testified that it was Workman's bullet that killed Lt. Ronnie Oliver in
1981. But, the Circuit Court lawsuit filed in Davidson County, focuses on
what happened after that hearing. It alleges Dr. O.C. Smith orchestrated a
hate campaign against himself.. Involving barbed wire, religious letters,
and bombs to discredit Workman. It culminated in 2002, when Smith was
found outside the Medical Examiners office wrapped in barbed wire with a
bomb attached to his chest. The lawsuit claims Smith did it all to himself
to put Workman in a bad light. The lawsuit goes on to say that resulted in
emotional distress and the deterioration of Workman's mental health. The
suite is for 500,000 dollars. Phillip Workman is still awaiting an
execution date. His lawyers are working on getting him a new trial. You'll
remember Dr. O.C. Smith was taken to federal court, accused of faking the
bomb attack on himself. That case ended in a mistrial.
(source: News 3 Channel)
High court to hear lethal injection case
A challenge of the state's lethal injection procedures will be heard in
the Tennessee Supreme Court 1 p.m. Wednesday.
The Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled last fall in the case Abu-Ali
Abdur'Rahman v. Phil Bredesen, et al. that the state's lethal injection
process does not violate state and federal constitutional rights of
prisoners, upholding the 2003 judgment of Davidson County Chancellor Ellen
Rahman (formerly James Lee Jones) is being held at Riverbend Maximum
Security Institution for a 1st-degree murder conviction and faces death by
lethal injection. His attorneys claim the use of the neuromuscular
blocking agent Pavulon could mask pain felt by the person killed by lethal
injection if the other 2 agents injected - sodium pentothal and potassium
- don't work properly.
Pavulon, the defense further argues, has been outlawed in Tennessee when
But Judge William Koch Jr. stated in his Appeals Court opinion in October
that the Nonlivestock Animal Humane Death Act, which prohibits the use of
a neuromuscular blocking agent such as Pavulon, does not apply to human
"The logic of Mr. AbdurRahmans interpretation of the Nonlivestock Animal
Humane Death Act leads to absurd results," Koch wrote. "If he is a
nonlivestock animal for the purpose of the Nonlivestock Animal Humane
Death Act, then his execution may only be carried out by a licensed
veterinarian, a veterinarian technician, or a shelter employee who has
successfully completed a euthanasia-technician certification course."
Rahman Attorney Brad MacLean said the court was essentially saying "that
it is constitutionally permissible to execute a human being with drugs
that are not permitted for use in euthanizing animals."
Tennessees legislature authorized the use of lethal injections beginning
in May 1998 without leaving specific direction regarding the injection
procedure. The legislature directed the Department of Correction "to
promulgate necessary rules and regulations to facilitate the
implementation" of executions by lethal injection.
Rahmans defense claims the protocol was inadequately prepared when it was
drafted in 1998 and also does not present sufficient safeguards for
avoiding the potential risks that could result in a painful death.
The team put together by the Commission of Correction to promulgate the
rules did not include a medical expert or anyone with medical training;
but Koch wrote in his opinion that after obtaining information from other
states that had carried out executions by lethal injection and after
onsite visits to Texas and Indiana, one of the department's physicians
reviewed the suggested drugs with an anesthesiologist.
(source: The (Nashville) City Paper)
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