[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----CONN., FLA., ALA., VER.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Jun 25 11:20:11 CDT 2005
Suspect could face death penalty
A city man charged with killing his girlfriend's year-old son could face
the death penalty.
Prosecutors on Friday upgraded a murder charge against Prince Jones, 19,
to a capital felony charge in the death of Naz'ayr Marshall.
If convicted of capital felony, Jones would receive either life in prison
without the possibility of parole or the death penalty. The murder charge
Jones had faced carries a maximum penalty of 60 years in prison.
"There's a possibility that we will seek the death penalty," Waterbury
State's Attorney John Connelly said. "We'll have to look at the case
closer. There will be a point in time when we'll determine whether to seek
the death penalty."
A person is charged with capital felony when he or she is accused of
committing 1 of 8 types of murders, such as killing a police officer or
kidnapping a person and killing them. Jones is charged with capital felony
because the boy was younger than 16.
If Jones is convicted of capitol felony and the state elects to pursue the
death penalty, a penalty phase hearing would be held and a jury or 3-judge
panel would decide whether Jones should die.
Police arrested Jones on May 27, a day after Naz'ayr died. Police allege
Jones failed to get medical treatment for the baby after the boy fell down
a flight of stairs on May 25. Authorities further allege Jones smashed the
baby's head against a bathtub the morning of May 26, and again didn't
immediately seek medical help.
The baby's mother, Chada Marshall, had left her son with Jones at an
apartment at 261 Grove St. Marshall, 19, and Jones do not live together.
It is unclear exactly how long, and for what reason, Marshall had left the
baby with Jones.
Along with public defender John Cizik, Jones is also being represented by
public defender Patrick Culligan, chief of the state public defender's
capital defense and trial services unit. Both lawyers said they had not
received enough evidence from the state to comment on the charges against
"One has to wonder why a young 19-year-old guy who wants to be a surrogate
father for Naz'ayr, and took him out to Chuck E. Cheese for his first
birthday, would ever have the intention of having him dead," Culligan said
Jones appeared despondent during a brief appearance in Waterbury Superior
Court on Friday. Shackled and wearing a tan prison uniform, Jones's voice
was barely audible when Judge Frank Iannotti asked him if he understood he
was waiving his right to a probable cause hearing within 60 days of his
arrest. That hearing is scheduled for Aug. 31.
About 20 people filled several courtroom benches behind Jones. About a
half dozen women, some wearing T-shirts with Naz'ayr's picture screened on
The charges against Jones are reminiscent of the case of Ivo Colon, who
was sentenced to die for killing his girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter in
Colon, 24, also of Waterbury, was convicted in 2000 of smashing Keriana
Tellado's head against a shower wall because she vomited on herself. He
had previously punched the toddler, lashed her buttocks and broken her arm
because she was having problems being toilet trained.
The state Supreme Court overturned Colon's death sentence late last year
because of improper jury instructions during the penalty phase hearing. A
second penalty phase hearing is expected to begin late this year.
Robert Nave, of Waterbury, who is the executive director of the
Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty, hopes Connelly does not
elect to seek the death penalty against Jones.
"It is a colossal waste of taxpayer money," Nave said. "It is the ultimate
in civil rights abuse, it emulates the act of murder when it is sanctioned
by the state and it has no societal value whatsoever."
(source: Waterbury Republican-American)
Convicted Killer To Stay on Death Row
A convicted killer in Florida will not be getting off death row. Lamar
Brooks failed again to win a 3rd trial for the 1996 stabbing deaths of
Rachel Carlson and her 3-month-old daughter.
The Florida Supreme Court upheld Brooks' conviction and death sentence.
Brooks and his cousin, Walker Davis, killed Carlson and the baby so that
Davis could avoid paying child support and collect a $100-,000 insurance
Carlson, an Eglin Air Force Base medical technician, was stabbed more than
(source: WTVY News)
The Jessica Lunsford tragedy----Jury may not hear Couey's claims; Officers
say he admitted killing Jessica Lunsford, but a possible misstep could
keep it out of court.
Now that John Couey's detailed confession in the killing of Jessica
Lunsford has been made public, the question is whether a jury will ever
Legal experts say the statements may not hold up in court because Couey
asked for an attorney and didn't get one.
"The potential for this issue to be explosive and determinative is clearly
present," said J. Larry Hart, a former prosecutor who is now a criminal
defense attorney in New Port Richey. "It's very problematic for the
Whether the confession can be used in court is among several issues that
surfaced this week when prosecutors released transcripts of Couey's
interviews with investigators. The statements also renewed questions about
how long Jessica was kept alive after abduction, and why prosecutors
didn't file charges against Couey's housemates.
Prosecutors and Citrus County Sheriff's Office officials say they are
confident their case remains strong.
They say they will seek the death penalty against the 46-year-old Couey,
who is being held at the Citrus County jail on a 1st-degree murder charge.
The central legal concern with the confessions arose halfway through
Couey's 1st conversation with Citrus sheriff's detectives Scott Grace and
It was March 17, hours after Couey's arrest in Augusta, Ga.
According to the transcript, the detectives read Couey his Miranda
warnings and then questioned him about the disappearance of the 9-year-old
girl. He denied ever speaking to her.
The detectives told him they believed he was lying and asked him to take a
"I guess. I'm just, I want a lawyer, you know," Couey said.
"Hang on, hang on, John. All right. Hang on, I'm just asking," Grace said.
"If that's what you want to do, but I mean, you know . . ." Couey said.
"I'm just asking, "Would you?' I'm not saying do it now. I'm saying would
you . . ." Grace said.
"I said I would," Couey said. "I just want to talk to a lawyer."
"Okay," Grace said.
After the tape was turned off, the detectives asked Couey if they could
talk with him again the next day, said Chief Assistant State Attorney Ric
Ridgway. Couey took a polygraph test the next morning, and then asked to
speak to Citrus investigators. After again being read his rights, Couey
admitted the killing, officials say.
Couey didn't speak to an attorney until he returned to Citrus County days
later and was appointed a public defender.
Ridgway and Sheriff Jeff Dawsy said they could not explain why
investigators didn't stop the interview when Couey asked for an attorney.
"Anybody who is critical of the Citrus County Sheriff's Office in this
case either doesn't know what they're talking about or they haven't done
the job," Ridgway said.
The defense has not asked a judge to suppress the statement, but
prosecutors expect as much.
Largo defense attorney John Trevena said he was "floored" when he read
that part of the transcript.
"I can't imagine those detectives would not know the basics of
interrogation and how to respond to a suspect's request for counsel," he
said. "They stammered; they actually stammered. What kind of response is
that? They should have ceased and hoped for reinitiation (by Couey), which
often occurs. Let the suspect reinitiate the conversation."
One legal doctrine likely to come into play, several experts said, is the
"fruit of a poisonous tree."
That means evidence gathered from a tainted confession is also tainted.
In this case, that would include details Couey disclosed, including the
location of Jessica's body, said Joe Little, a constitutional law
professor at the University of Florida.
"Once he's asked for an attorney, he's entitled to have them back off and
stop questioning," Little said. "That could have a major bearing on
whether or not any of the evidence thereafter obtained is admissible."
That Couey was read his rights before the polygraph test and again before
each of his confessions could be a mitigating factor, the professor said.
"The argument is going to be he never would have agreed to any polygraph
had he been given an attorney," Little said.
Ridgway said if the confession is thrown out, the finding of Jessica's
body still would be admissible under the doctrine of "inevitable
discovery," which means that investigators would have found the body
eventually, even without Couey's help.
"The regular investigative techniques would have led them to the body," he
said. "(Couey's) directing them to it just shortcutted it."
By the time Couey was interviewed, investigators already had searched his
mobile home and found a mattress stained with blood, prosecutors say.
Ridgway said they eventually would have found Jessica's body, which was
buried in a shallow grave behind Couey's mobile home.
Trevena, however, predicted prosecutors would have difficulty arguing that
the body would have been found anyway because it was underground.
Without the confession, the case likely would rely on the mattress and
other physical evidence, as well as witnesses and whatever else
prosecutors can get into court, Ridgway said.
"I do not want the citizens of Citrus County to be concerned about whether
he'll be convicted. . . . This case is rock solid," Dawsy said.
Couey repeatedly says in his statements that he kept Jessica in his
bedroom closet for 3 days before killing her.
Ridgway, however, said he thinks the girl was likely dead before sun-up,
just hours after Couey abducted her from her bed.
He said his opinion is based on evidence and the typical behavior of sex
Couey said he fed Jessica grits, hamburgers, eggs and pizza. But the
medical examiner reported her stomach was empty when she died. The
Lunsford family said Jessica didn't like pizza.
Couey said Jessica urinated on the closet floor where he kept her.
Investigators found no evidence of that, Ridgway said. They found a
plastic jug in the closet, but Couey said the urine in it was his.
He also said Jessica was alive and hidden in his closet when officers
visited the mobile home shortly after her disappearance. He suggested
officers could have found her alive if they had searched the home.
Sex offenders - Couey has a prior conviction for a sex offense on a child
- often blame crimes on others and suggest the victim's family or law
enforcement is at fault, said Amy Swan, a forensic psychologist and former
chairwoman of the Florida Board of Psychology.
Prosecutors referred reporters to Swan.
"I don't place a lot of credibility in his statements ... There's often a
lot of untruths mixed in with truths in order to show it was someone
else's fault," she said.
Couey has been the only person charged in the case, a fact that has drawn
criticism from Fox News host Bill O'Reilly and U.S. Rep. Ginny
Brown-Waite, among others.<>P> Couey shared the mobile home with his
half-sister, Dorothy Marie Dixon, 47; her daughter, Madie Catherine
Secord, 27; her daughter's husband, Gene Allan Secord, 35; and Dixon's
boyfriend, Matthew Oley Dittrich, 31.
An infant and a teenage girl also lived there.
But Couey's statements, while new to the public this week, weren't new to
the State Attorney's Office. Prosecutors knew Couey's story two months ago
when they declined to charge the housemates with obstruction, or as
Ridgway repeated Friday that investigators have no evidence that the
housemates knew Jessica was in the mobile home, or that Couey killed her.
They will not be prosecuted, he said, "barring discovery of evidence that
thus far does not seem to exist."
"What's missing thus far is that they knew she was there," he said. "They
have to know that (Couey) did it."
(source: St. Petersburg Times)
Court upholds death sentences
A state appeals court upheld death sentences Friday for the killing of a
federal drug agent in Shelby County and the murder and robbery of a man
who attended a birthday party in Macon County.
The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals rejected arguments from Eugene
Milton Clemons II that he is mentally retarded and shouldn't be executed
for the shooting death of federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent
Douglas Althouse. The agent was killed on May 28, 1992, during the theft
of his undercover car from a Shelby County convenience store.
The appeals court also ruled that Michael Irvin's capital murder
conviction and death sentence were appropriate for the robbery and
shooting death of Jackie Thompson in Macon County.
In Clemons' case, the Court of Criminal Appeals looked at his sentence in
2003, after the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled against executing the
mentally retarded. The appeals court told Shelby County Circuit Judge Al
Crowson to review whether Clemons was mentally retarded and should have
his sentence switched from death to life in prison without parole. The
judge, after reviewing mental evaluations and school records, decided
Clemons did not qualify as mentally retarded.
The appeals court agreed in a 5-0 decision Friday. The court also rejected
arguments from Clemons that there were numerous errors in his 1994 trial
for capital murder.
In Irvin's case, Thompson, a construction worker from Eclectic, attended a
birthday party for Irvin in Tuskegee on Nov. 12, 1997. The next day,
Thompson's burned auto was found in a rural part of Macon County, but
there was no sign of Thompson.
In 1999, Irvin was arrested for another killing and confessed to being
present when a companion shot and killed Thompson. Irvin admitted they
took $3,000 from Thompson's body, burned his car and dumped his body in
another part of the county. He led investigators to the remains.
In a 5-0 ruling, the Court of Criminal Appeals said the death sentence was
appropriate for the crime because 2/3 of the death sentences imposed in
Alabama are for robbery-homicide convictions.
(source: Associated Press)
Man Convicted in Vt. Death Penalty Case
The conviction of a man accused of abducting and bludgeoning to death a
woman as she prayed for her life marked the 1st death penalty case in
Vermont in nearly a half century.
The federal court jury will begin hearing evidence next week in the
penalty phase of the case and decide whether Donald Fell should be
executed for the death of Terry King.
"It's what we've been waiting for for the last four years," said King's
sister, Barbara Tuttle after the conviction Friday. "Now we hope they
continue on and decide to give him the death penalty."
Fell, 25, was accused of joining another man in carjacking King from a
Rutland supermarket in 2000, taking her across the state line to New York,
and killing her. The other defendant, Robert Lee, hanged himself in prison
Vermont does not have a state death penalty and has not executed anyone
since the 1954. But federal prosecutors brought charges under a U.S. law
that allows the death penalty for a carjacking that results in a death.
Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft rejected a plea bargain that would
have given Fell life in prison.
The jury took less than two hours to find Fell guilty on all 4 counts. He
showed no emotion as he stood and listened to the verdict.
The verdict came after federal prosecutor William Darrow told jurors in
closing arguments that Fell made "cold-blooded, rational decisions" to
kidnap and kill.
Defense attorney Alexander Bunin argued that Fell made "a series of bad
decisions that led to tragedy."
"This is not planning," the lawyer said.
Authorities said Fell and Lee killed Fell's mother and a friend of hers
after a night of drinking and smoking crack, then set off on the journey
that ensnared King, 53, as she arrived for work. In a taped confession
played for the jury, Fell said, "I didn't want her in the car anymore."
The last time a defendant was sentenced to death in Vermont was in 1957,
but the sentence was later commuted.
(source: Associated Press)
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