[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----OHIO, NEB., CALIF., N.C.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Jun 4 23:51:02 CDT 2005
An attorney for Kenneth Richey will seek to have Richey moved from Ohios
death row to the Putnam County jail after a ruling Friday that starts the
clock on whether Richey is retried or released within 90 days.
Ken Parsigian is adamant on removing Richey from death row and starting
the trial, if there is one. Parsigian placed a phone call to Putnam County
Prosecutor Gary Lammers on Friday but was unable to reach Lammers, he
"He stands an unconvicted man. No unconvicted person is on death row,"
Ohio Attorney General spokeswoman Kim Norris said there are no immediate
plans to move Richey from death row. The state maintains trial
preparation, if thats what Lammers chooses, must start in the 90 days, not
the trial, she said.
The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals tossed Richeys 1987 conviction in January
saying his trial attorneys didn't do a good enough job representing him.
Also, the charge of aggravated murder, as the law read in 1986, was not
the appropriate charge. It would have applied if Richey had killed the
person he allegedly intended to kill - not 2-year-old Cynthia Collins.
Collins died in the fire at a Columbus Grove apartment complex in 1986.
Lammers has not decided on whether he will attempt to retry Richey. He has
been trying to schedule a meeting with deputy attorney generals to review
legal options, he said Thursday.
Norris said attorneys in her office are eager to meet with Lammers and
will try to set up a meeting as soon as possible. The ultimate decision on
whether to retry the case rests with Lammers, she said.
Parsigian said he and other members of Richeys defense team will begin
preparing for trial although he doesnt believe the state has a chance of
Witnesses are gone or have changed stories, scientific evidence has been
discredited and the ruling by the 6th Circuit takes away the chance to
seek the death penalty based on double jeopardy, Parsigian said.
"They really have next to nothing left and it's time to do what the state
often says to criminal defendants, which is, it's time to accept its
over," he said.
Norris said Parsigian is wrong on the issue of double jeopardy and
prosecutors have the ability to retry the entire case. There have been
death penalty cases in the past sent back for trial and prosecutors have
successfully placed the defendants back on death row, she said.
(source: Lima News)
Judge confirms ruling that may free Richey
Ohio death-row inmate Kenny Richey moved a step closer to possible freedom
yesterday after a federal judge in Cleveland confirmed an earlier
appellate court decision, giving the state 90 days to retry Richey or
The action, taken by U.S. District Court Judge Patricia Gaughan, came the
day after a motion was filed by Richey's attorneys asking Judge Gaughan to
act on a mandate in Richey's favor given to her May 16 by the U.S. 6th
Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
The attorneys, Ken Parsigian and Paul Nemser, of Goodwin Procter in
Boston, believed Judge Gaughan, who ruled against Richey in a 2001 appeal,
intentionally was stalling on an action she had no choice but to OK.
"The day after we file the motion she mysteriously [issues the writ]," Mr.
Parsigian said yesterday.
Stella Leno-Clifford, Judge Gaughan's deputy clerk, disputed Mr.
Parsigian's claim that the judge intentionally stalled issuing the writ.
"Everything was promptly done," she said.
Ms. Leno-Clifford said the state on May 16 asked Judge Gaughan to stay
execution of the writ. Subsequent proceedings related to that action
lasted 11 days, and Judge Gaughan denied the state's request May 27. The
holiday weekend, in part, delayed her action favoring Richey until
yesterday, Ms. Leno-Clifford said.
Said Mr. Parsigian: "Yeah, except that she denied their motion because the
6th Circuit Court already denied the same motion. And she knew that the
day they filed."
With a potential Sept. 3 release date, the decision now rests with Putnam
County Prosecutor Gary Lammers whether to retry Richey, 41, for the 1987
arson death of 2-year-old Cynthia Collins, of Columbus Grove. Mr. Lammers
could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The state still has a keen interest in the Richey case, which has gained
international attention because Richey was reared in Scotland and holds
U.S. and British citizenships.
On Wednesday, Kim Norris, a spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro,
said her office is conferring with Mr. Lammers but nothing has been
decided. "[But we still believe Richey's] actions resulted in the death of
a little girl," she said.
Richey supporters, who have fought for years to get the state to overturn
what they say was an unjust conviction, are growing increasingly impatient
as the case drags on.
"[Gary Lammers] should get in touch with Jim Petro without delay and make
public his intentions as to whether he is going to retry this case," said
Richey's fiancee, Karen Torley Richey, of Scotland, who has directed the
campaign to free him.
Still at issue is a dispute between Richey's attorneys and the attorney
general over what the 90-day period means in relation to a new trial. Mr.
Petro's office believes beginning preliminary trial proceedings is enough
to nullify the deadline. Mr. Parsigian feels differently.
"Try him does not mean 'try to try him.' It's not 'start thinking about
trying to try him.' It means try him," he said in an earlier interview.
Also, the attorney general's office has said it might appeal to the U.S.
Supreme Court the 2-1 decision by the appellate court. The Supreme Court
does not reconvene until October, at which time Richey already could be
But Mr. Parsigian said the high court could decide to hear the case and
overturn the appellate court's ruling, which would send Richey back to
prison. "It's the longest of long shots," he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Parsigian said he will ask the state to move Richey from
the Mansfield Correctional Institution to the Putnam County jail. "Kenny's
conviction was thrown out. Nobody who is unconvicted stays on death row,"
(source: The Toledo Blade)
This is the first of a series of followup articles by Andrew Welsh-Huggins
and other AP reporters to the recent AP analysis of the death penalty in
After 4 people were slaughtered in southern Ohio 5 years ago, including a
9-year-old boy who begged to live, prosecutors filed murder charges that
carried the death penalty.
Days before the trial began for James Rick Curry, relatives of the victims
decided they couldn't go through weeks of traumatic court proceedings.
They asked the prosecutor to offer a plea bargain, and Curry is serving
life with no chance of parole.
"I hope he lives to be 90, and I want him to stay in prison and just pay
every day," said Eugene Chamberlain, whose handicapped daughter, Pam, was
stabbed more than 20 times and her throat cut. "To me that's more
punishment. If they execute you, it's over with."
While lawmakers intended Ohio's 1981 death penalty law to punish the worst
of the worst with the ultimate penalty, prosecutors have regularly agreed
to plea bargains that took execution off the table, according to a review
of death penalty data by The Associated Press.
Of the 1,936 capital indictments filed statewide from 1981 through 2002,
just over 1/2 ended in plea bargains, the study showed.
Of those, 131 people charged with killing multiple victims have escaped
death row by pleading guilty. They include 25 people accused of killing 3
or more victims, according to the AP analysis, the first-ever study of the
By contrast, the majority of people sentenced to death row during the same
time were convicted of killing just one person. Of 274 death sentences,
196 involved single-victim killers.
The offer of plea bargains to multiple-victim murderers is "one of the
things that makes the modern death penalty in this country unworkable,"
said Colin Garrett, a death penalty attorney for the Atlanta-based
Southern Center for Human Rights.
A man executed last year, Lewis Williams, refused to discuss a plea
bargain, even as 30 others charged in the same county the same year
accepted pleas to escape the death sentence.
Cuyahoga County had 54 capital indictments in all in 1983. The plea
agreements represented 55 % of those cases. All but 1 of the 8 men
sentenced to die, including Williams, had killed 1 person. 2 of those
sentences were overturned, and federal courts are allowing new appeals for
Death sentences can be avoided at many stages of a capital case based on
decisions made by a judge, the jury or the accused, as well as
prosecutors, said Timothy Miller, criminal division chief for the county
Those decisions include a defendant's willingness to discuss plea bargains
and take responsibility for a crime, neither of which Williams did, he
said. "If these 30 other defendants had not exhibited some level of
accepting responsibility, they very likely - if the jury had agreed that
the death penalty was appropriate - they'd be on death row also," Miller
Such cases are examples of how the death penalty is not being used the way
the people who promote it and the people who want it intended, responded
Terry Sherman, a veteran defense attorney in Columbus.
"It should be for the most heinous. It shouldn't be for the guy hopped up
on drugs and he committed a robbery," he said.
Prosecutors say plea bargains, even for the worst crimes, must be
"There's so many factors, I don't think you can paint with a broad brush
and say, 'This is what should be done everywhere,' because each case is
different," said Lynn Grimshaw, the former Scioto County prosecutor who
agreed to a plea deal in the Curry case.
Yet even Grimshaw acknowledges, "If there's ever a guy that deserved
death, he was it."
In Clark County, Prosecutor Stephen Schumaker oversaw the 1990 plea
bargain offered to Harry Sanford for shooting three people, including a
5-year-old boy. Schumaker was an assistant prosecutor when a deal was
offered to Thomas DeWitt, convicted of killing his 78-year-old grandmother
and 3 others in 1983.
Relatives of Sanford's victims wanted a deal. In the DeWitt case, the
county faced a legal battle over forcing a minister to testify about
conversations he had with the suspect.
"If we hadn't pled that case, he may be on death row or he may be walking
the streets a free man," Schumaker said.
The use of plea bargains in capital cases gained national attention 2
years ago in Washington state, when Gary Ridgway pleaded guilty to 48
murders in exchange for information about the whereabouts of several
"The prosecutor's initial reaction was, 'No way, because if not Ridgway,
who?'" said Dan Satterberg, chief-of-staff in the King County prosecutor's
"In the end we thought that the principle of seeking the truth and seeking
answers for families who were hurting was a sufficient principle to set
aside seeking the death penalty," Satterberg said. "Every case has to be
tested on its own merits and the strength of its evidence. I don't believe
it's a legal precedent in any way."
The AP analysis mirrored findings in other states.
In New York, plea bargains were offered in 26 of the 54 capital cases
between 1995 and 2003, according to the state's Capital Defender Office.
In California, 47 % of 2,866 capital cases were resolved without a trial -
almost all through plea bargains - from 1977 through 1989, according to
the most recent data compiled by the state public defender's office.
In federal death penalty cases, 95 out of 285 cases, or 33 %, have ended
with plea bargains since 1988, according to the Federal Death Penalty
Resource Counsel Project.
The percentage dropped after former Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered
federal prosecutors to limit the use of plea deals beginning in 2003, said
Margaret O'Donnell, a Kentucky attorney involved with the project.
The use of plea bargains diminishes the effectiveness of the death penalty
in important ways, said Welsh White, a University of Pittsburgh law
professor and expert on capital punishment.
"It certainly adds to the arbitrariness, in that plea bargaining is going
to depend so much on the resourcefulness of a defendant's attorney, not
only getting a plea but persuading the defendant to accept it, that has
nothing to do with the heinousness of the crime," he said.
In the Curry case, family members worried about the effect of a death
penalty trial on Dwayne Spradlin, a mentally retarded man who survived the
killings, said Roberta White, Spradlin's sister.
Early March 19, 2000, Curry broke into the home of his ex-girlfriend, Lana
Spradlin, and stabbed her to death. When her son Daniel woke up, "He said,
"Please don't kill me,'" said White, but was stabbed anyway.
Curry also killed Lana Spradlin's sister, Pam, and Spradlin's mother, and
threatened to kill Dwayne if he didn't leave the room.
"I wish I could see him put to death, and sit there and just smile at him,
and say what I want to say to him, and him be put to death," White said.
"But I also hope that we made the right decision in him going to jail and
living every day."
ON THE NET
New York Capital Defender Office: _http://www.nycdo.org/_
King County, Washington, Prosecuting Attorney:
Ohio Death Row: _http://www.drc.state.oh.us/public/deathrow.htm_
(source: Associated Press)
State officials should pass study bill
A study just released by The Associated Press uncovered some disturbing
facts about the application of the death penalty in Ohio. 2 of the most
disturbing are that the race of the victim and the county of the crime
affect who receives the ultimate penalty.
If the victim is white, the offender is twice as likely to be executed. In
Cuyahoga County, of those charged with a capital crime, only 8 % go on to
receive the death penalty, while in Montgomery County, 40 % of those
charged will be put to death. Disturbing, isn't it?
Add this to the national statistic of 119 exonerees released since 1973
and one becomes even more disturbed. In an unfair, racist process, we as a
state are killing men who may not even be guilty of the crime they
In fact, there are 2 individuals on Ohio's death row, John Spirko and
Kenneth Richey, who have compelling innocence claims. Spirko may receive
his death warrant in the coming months. Troubling, isn't it?
These troubling and disturbing facts have led a record 102 groups in Ohio
to call for a moratorium on death sentences until the process can be more
fully studied. Among the groups, the City of Dayton is at the top of the
list. Despite the widespread popular support for a moratorium, Gov. Bob
Taft has said that he will not support a moratorium.
Despite Taft's objection, we must stop executing individuals until we are
sure that the process is fair, equitable and only applied to guilty
persons. In addition to a moratorium, Ohio should launch a study of the
process and its application.
A bill was introduced and passed the House of Representatives last
session, but died in the Senate. It has been re-introduced in the House.
Let's call on our elected officials to pass this study bill and call for a
Beth Wood, Dayton
(source: Letter to the Editor, Dayton Daily News)
Judges agree with killer: Death penalty deserved
Jeffrey Hessler asked Monday for the death penalty. 3 judges quickly
Less than 6 hours after Hessler said that he deserved to die for the
February 2003 abduction, rape and murder of a 15-year-old Gering newspaper
carrier, a 3-judge panel issued that sentence.
Hessler, 26, a former airport security screener, provided no arguments why
he should be given life in prison.
In a rambling nine-page written statement he provided to the judges,
Hessler said he would fight even the required automatic appeal of his
"I, Jeffrey Alan Hessler, must be put to death without dialectic," Hessler
wrote, in capital letters. "Dialectic" means argumentation.
Hessler nodded his head in affirmation as the presiding district judge,
Randy Lippstreu of Scottsbluff, read the death sentence order.
Hessler mouthed the words, "I'm sorry," toward the family of the victim,
Heather Guerrero, as he was lead in shackles from the courtroom.
"It's a little late for that," responded one of Heather's aunts.
A 25-minute hearing Monday morning, followed by the 20-minute sentencing
session in the afternoon, provided a swift ending to a tragic case.
Heather Guerrero, three days past her 15th birthday, was abducted as she
finished an early-morning paper route in a Gering neighborhood at the foot
of Scotts Bluff National Monument.
Hessler, whose parents' home was on Guerrero's paper route, drove the girl
into the country, raped her and shot her execution style, leaving her
partly clothed body in the basement of an abandoned home near Lake
Arguing for the death penalty, Chief Deputy Scotts Bluff County Attorney
Doug Warner compared the case to that of convicted murderer John Joubert,
a Bellevue airman who kidnapped, sexually assaulted and killed 2 boys and
was executed in 1996.
"This is one of those cases . . . where a life sentence cannot satisfy the
requirements of the law," Warner told the judges.
Hessler, representing himself after dismissing his court-appointed
attorneys in March, offered no rebuttal.
In his written statement, he apologized to Guerrero's family, his own
family and a 5-year-old daughter by a former girlfriend.
He said that he suffered from "certain mental conditions" that didn't
totally explain what he did but that he had found God in prison. He asked
the judges to "bring the Justice and Wrath of God onto myself. . . . I
pray day in and day out for what my hands have brought down on everyone
that I effected (sic) in this nightmare. . . ."
Irene Guerrero, Heather's mother, was unmoved. She said Hessler's writings
were more "from a dictionary" than from his heart.
"I'm human. I want the death penalty. I don't know if that's going to ease
my pain . . . but I feel that's what he deserves," she said.
As required by law, the three judges - Lippstreu and district judges
Richard Spethman of Omaha and John Icenogle of Kearney - concluded
unanimously that Hessler's actions deserved the death penalty.
Hessler was convicted last December of 1st-degree murder. Jurors also
ruled that he qualified for the death penalty because of 3 aggravating
factors: the murder was especially heinous, Hessler killed Guerrero to
conceal the crime and his identity, and Hessler had a history of serious
The 3rd factor referred to the rape of a Scottsbluff girl delivering
newspapers 6 months prior to Guerrero's murder.
Hessler's parents, a brother and sister declined to comment before leaving
This will be the 1st time a condemned Nebraska man has served as his own
attorney in a death penalty appeal, said to Jim Mowbray of the State
Commission on Public Advocacy, one of Hessler's former lawyers.
Mowbray said Hessler told him he didn't know why he killed Guerrero but
realized he did it and accepted responsibility.
Anthony and Irene Guerrero said their family struggle with the loss of
their daughter, 1 of 4 children.
An angel outlined in purple lights - Heather's favorite color - shines
nightly in a small flower garden in front of their house.
Anthony's pickup carries a "Heather G" message on the license plate. And
Heather's older brother, Mark, fights depression brought on by the murder
of his closest sibling.
His mother said he can't understand why Heather's friends can be happy
while he cannot. "It's like we've lost 2 children," she said.
Of Hessler, she said, "He has no idea the loss he's caused to our family."
"The most important thing is to love your children," said her husband,
"because you never know; tomorrow, you may not get the chance."
(source: Omaha World-Herald, May 16)
Jury Gets Fresno Murder Case - Panel weighs charges that Marcus Wesson
killed nine of his children in city's worst mass slayings. Defense blames
A jury began deliberations Friday in the murder trial of Marcus Wesson - a
case that has captivated this town with talk of incest, vampires, a
murder-suicide pact and 9 slain children discovered in a back bedroom,
their bodies stacked youngest to oldest, ages 1 to 25.
The day Wesson walked out of his home 15 months ago - his clothes
bloodstained and nine of his children dead - he seemed well on his way to
national infamy, the kind reserved for serial killers and child rapists.
The mayor called the case Fresno's 9/11. Police called it Fresno's worst
mass murder. National media carried headlines: "House of Horrors" and
"Suffer the Little Children: Murder in Fresno."
But now, national media are mostly absent. They left for the Michael
Jackson case long before testimony about Wesson's fixation with vampires,
his talk of being Jesus Christ and the "marriages" to his daughters.
"I love you, my Daddy, always know that. I am deeply in love with you. I
will never leave you," Kiani Wesson said on the witness stand, reading
from a diary.
Although Jackson's child-molestation case has dominated national news, the
Wesson case has dominated the news here since it began in March.
The jury is deliberating on nine murder counts, nine counts of forcible
rape and oral copulation, and five counts of continuous sexual abuse. If
convicted on the murder charges, Wesson, 58, could face the death penalty.
The prosecution has argued that Wesson constructed a world in which child
rape, physical abuse and polygamy were accepted. When a child custody
dispute with 2 of his "wives" threatened to end that world, a prosecutor
said, he murdered his children.
Even if Wesson didn't actually pull the trigger, the prosecutor argued, he
is still responsible for the deaths because of a murder-suicide pact he
formed with his children, teaching them that it would be better to "go
home to the Lord" than to allow authorities to separate the family.
The defense maintains that incest, polygamy and a perversion of Bible
teachings do not equal murder. The killer, who later committed suicide,
was not Wesson but his 25-year-old daughter Sebhrenah April Wesson, they
argued. According to testimony, she was so obsessed with guns and knives
that she carried bullets in her purse and painted her face in green and
black camouflage so she could "play Army."
Defense attorneys Ralph Torres and Peter M. Jones have also presented
witnesses who allege that sloppy police work contaminated the crime scene.
"Does it matter?" prosecutor Lisa Gamoian asked, grilling one witness who
questioned police handling of the crime scene. "Does it change the fact
that 9 people were killed with a .22-caliber pistol?"
Testimony from about 50 witnesses over three months has unveiled a family
whose history reads like a chapter from the Old Testament: a generational
story of sin begetting sin, and children suffering for the indiscretions
of their father.
It began in the 1960s. Wesson had sex with one woman, years later with her
daughter, and decades later with her granddaughters.
By the time the story reached its tragic apex, an entire generation - the
children Wesson conceived with the granddaughters - had been killed.
During the trial, Wesson has at times voiced objections and at other times
sat eerily oblivious while witnesses testified about his life, his family
and the killings.
Marcus Delon Wesson grew up in Kansas and San Jose in what his mother
described as a hard-working Christian family; they were Seventh-day
Adventists. During the Vietnam War, Wesson was a medic in the Army,
stationed in Germany and Vietnam. He was honorably discharged and returned
to San Jose.
There he began a relationship with Rose Solorio, who was 13 years his
senior and the mother of 8 children. Eventually, Wesson moved into the
Solorio household and became its head. They had 1 son together.
Then the family tree bent toward the bizarre: Wesson impregnated Solorio's
daughter, Elizabeth, when she was 14. With Solorio's permission, Wesson
and Elizabeth married. She was 15, Wesson was 27. It was 1974.
Over the years, they would have 5 boys and 4 girls. Their family ballooned
even larger when the couple took in 7 nieces and nephews. Witnesses
described life in the home with 16 children in strikingly different terms.
In Wesson's view, the outside world was full of sin and danger, so the
children were home-schooled. And Wesson taught from the Bible, often
asking: "Are you ready for the Lord?"
Wesson spanked the children, but offered an explanation: "Well, you know I
love you still, and the only reason I'm doing this is to make you a better
person," a niece, Rosa Solorio, quoted him as saying.
Wesson bought 10 caskets that were found after the killings, but he
purchased them for their wood, Rosa Solorio testified. They also easily
converted into beds, she testified. The family eventually moved to Fresno,
owned property, boats and enjoyed a good life.
But testimony also portrayed a man who dominated his family through sexual
and physical abuse - beatings with a stick wrapped in duct tape - and
preached a twisted religion, emphasizing biblical passages that justified
He also talked of Christ and of vampires and the link between them -
eternal life. The family watched vampire movies, took vampire names and,
the prosecutor suggested, fashioned a lifestyle with vampiric elements,
including multiple wives.
An exchange between a prosecutor and Rosa Solorio illustrated the point:
Question: And what's a "fledgling" in vampire terminology?
Answer: It's like um - they would be like people out there that would go
out there and do the vampire's work.
Q: And with regards to fledglings, isn't it true that fledglings are
females? They are women, right? . And they hunt for the head vampire,
Wesson also practiced what he called "loving" - teaching girls how to
please their future husbands. Prosecutors called that abuse. By the time
his daughters and nieces were 8 or 9 years old, according to testimony,
Wesson began kissing and fondling their genital areas through their
clothes. As they grew older, the fondling turned to oral sex and then
The girls washed his long dreadlocks, scratched under his armpit and sat
on his lap."He would just ask us to do it," Kiani Wesson, a daughter,
The boys were encouraged to leave home when they grew up, but the women
occupied a dual role that contorted the family tree once again: They were
Wesson's daughters and nieces, but they also became his wives.
In an informal ceremony, daughters Kiani Wesson and Sebhrenah Wesson and
nieces Rosa Solorio, Ruby Ortiz and Sofina Solorio "married" Wesson and
agreed to have his children. The women viewed themselves as surrogates for
Elizabeth Wesson, who according to testimony, could no longer have
children. According to testimony, Wesson told the women, who were not
allowed to date and wore long skirts and scarves, they were having babies
"for the Lord."
Eventually, Ortiz and Sofina Solorio grew disenchanted and departed as
other siblings had done, but they left their children behind to be raised
in the Wesson household.
On March 12, 2004, the women returned to reclaim their children after
learning that the family planned to leave Fresno. They also learned that
Wesson was still having sex and children with his daughters and nieces,
breaking a promise they said he made to stop.
That day, the two women gathered a group of friends and relatives and
headed to the house at 761 Hammond Ave. When Sofina Solorio entered and
grabbed her son by the hand, mayhem broke out. According to testimony,
there was pushing, name-calling, yelling and tears. The child was pulled
away from her. In the doorway, Wesson blocked others from entering.
Sofina Solorio testified that Kiani Wesson, Sebhrenah Wesson, Rosa Solorio
and 17-year-old Elizabeth began taunting her with chants of "Judas!
Judas!" Sebhrenah Wesson, the tomboyish daughter who wanted to join the
Army, called Ortiz an adulterer for leaving the household.
The pandemonium continued. Witnesses testified that Wesson stayed at the
front door, blocking others from entering. At one point, witnesses
testified, he went back inside the house. When he emerged, his clothes
were smeared with blood and everyone inside was dead.
The defense says that Sebhrenah Wesson placed a gun to the socket of each
child's right eye and fired, killing her own son, Marshey St. Christopher
Wesson, 18 months, and six other siblings: Jeva St. Vladensvspry Wesson,
1; Sedona Vadra Wesson, 18 months; Ethan St. Laurent Wesson, 4; Johnathon
St. Charles Wesson, 7; Aviv Dominique Wesson, 7; and Illabelle Carrie
Experts testified that Sebhrenah and Elizabeth died an hour to two hours
after the children, bolstering the defense's argument that after killing
the children, Sebhrenah turned the gun on 17-year-old Elizabeth and then
A .22-caliber Ruger Mark II pistol, as well as a knife, was found
underneath Sebhrenah's body. The coroner testified that Sebhrenah Wesson's
wound could have been self-inflicted.
Jurors were also told that Marcus Wesson's fingerprints were not found on
the pistol and that gunshot residue was not found on his hands. Sebhrenah
Wesson's fingerprints were not found on the weapon, but her DNA was
present. Her hands were also free of residue.
But the prosecution has tried to keep the focus on Marcus Wesson. Even if
he did not pull the trigger, he influenced his children to kill, Gamoian
Attorneys for both sides declined The Times' requests for interviews.
Marcus Wesson has not taken the stand. Jurors have heard his words read
from transcripts of jailhouse conversations with family. In one he tries
to explain "electrical sounds" in his head:
"I said, Lord, what is that? . And then he said that I had an angelic
brain. I started laughing so hard I was losing faith in him," he said.
On trial for the murder of nine of his children, Marcus Wesson fathered
them in a complex series of relationships:
Marcus Wesson + Rose Solorio
Rose's children: Elizabeth Solorio, Rosemary Solorio and 6 other children
Marcus and Elizabeth's children: Adair Wesson
and 4 other children
Marcus Wesson + Elizabeth Solorio
Sebhrenah Wesson (dead)
Elizabeth (Lise) Wesson (dead)
and 6 other children
Marcus Wesson + Kiani Wesson
Illabelle Wesson (dead)
Jeva Wesson (dead)
Marcus Wesson + Sebhrenah
Marshey Wesson (dead)
Marcus Wesson + Rosa Solario
Sedona Wesson (dead)
Ethan Wesson (dead)
Marcus Wesson + Sofina Solorio
Johnathon Wesson (dead)
Marcus Wesson + Ruby Ortiz
Aviv Wesson (dead)
(source: The Times)
Robber found guilty in student's killing
An Oakland man may face the death penalty for robbing and fatally stabbing
a St. Mary's College student as she walked home on a quiet North Oakland
street in 1997.
Jurors needed less than 2 days to convict Marques Lott in the slaying of
Lisa Smith, 22, who was stabbed in the head and heart at about 1 a.m. on
June 10, 1997, as she returned home from the Rockridge BART station. The
jury on Wednesday found Lott guilty of murder with the special
circumstance of murder during a robbery.
Lott, 29, had admitted following Smith from the station and killing her in
the 5300 block of Manila Avenue. Police arrested him 2 months later after
linking him to Smith's stolen cell phone, Deputy District Attorney Matt
Golde said in his closing argument.
Investigators also found Lott's DNA under Smith's fingernails, showing
that she had resisted the attack, Golde said.
The penalty phase of the trial will begin June 13, after which the jury
will decide whether Lott will be executed or spend the rest of his life in
Smith had completed her junior year at St. Mary's College in Moraga, where
she was majoring in English and pursuing a minor in economics. A 1993
graduate of Roseville High School, Smith attended Sierra College in
Rocklin (Placer County) before transferring to St. Mary's.
A day before her death, Smith began an intensive 10-week summer school
course in Chinese at UC Berkeley. She had planned to earn a master's
degree in linguistics at San Francisco State University.
The jury also convicted Lott of attempting to escape from a courthouse and
for mayhem and assault with a deadly weapon for biting off part of an
(source: San Francisco Chronicle)
Study flawed system----State must re-examine how it carries out death
Speaker of the House Jim Black and his House allies deserve credit for
their efforts to boost legislation that would impose a 2-year pause in
executions. A temporary halt would give the state an opportunity to study
how North Carolina carries out the death penalty for 1st-degree murder --
and perhaps find a way to assure the public it can be administered fairly.
The study is important -- not because the death penalty hasn't been
studied, but because state legislators haven't commissioned an open-eyed
look at the problems with the way North Carolina prosecutors pursue the
But this much is clear: North Carolina's criminal justice system makes too
many mistakes. The state has convicted the wrong person for murder on
several occasions. Unless the legislature finds out why and corrects the
problem, it's only a matter of time before it executes an innocent person.
Lawmakers must not allow this to happen.
Independent groups, including The Charlotte Observer, have conducted
studies that identified alarming trends. Prosecutors in some judicial
districts pursue the death penalty more often than in others. Poor
defendants often get inadequate representation that increases their
chances of getting the death penalty. Death sentences are handed out more
often when the victim is white.
Some legislators lamely argue that the state could study the death penalty
without suspending executions for two years. That ignores the critical
point that legislators have an obligation to commission a study they will
believe. The record shows that so far, a majority of the legislature
hasn't believed previous studies -- or has chosen to ignore the results.
That's why the bill backed by Speaker Black and approved by a House
committee Tuesday is the right way to go.
The bill doesn't impair prosecutors' ability to prosecute murder
defendants or stop juries from sentencing murderers to death. It would
impose a temporary halt in executions, period. Meanwhile, a 15-member
study commission -- 2/3 of them members of the legislature itself -- would
study at least 6 specific issues.
The list includes adequacy of defendants' lawyers in all stages of capital
cases; the judicial review process; any disproportionate racial impact of
capital cases processing; discrimination in capital sentencing based
either on the defendant's or the victim's race; prosecutorial misconduct;
and the presence of innocent persons on death row.
Speaker Black and his allies had hoped for a vote in the House this week.
They wisely pulled the bill off the House calendar when it appeared it
might fall a few votes short of passage. In the next few weeks, uncertain
lawmakers must find the wisdom and courage to do the right thing -- and
correct the problems with North Carolina's deeply flawed death penalty.
(source: Charlotte Observer, June 3)
More information about the DeathPenalty