[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----TEXAS, PENN., CALIF., IND
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Jun 30 11:18:18 CDT 2005
TEXAS----new death sentence
Death sentence ordered----Farmersville: Killer's sister apologizes to
slain woman's mother
In McKinney, convicted murderer Moises Sandoval Mendoza was sentenced to
death Wednesday for killing a Farmersville mother last year.
As he stood for the verdict, Mr. Mendoza looked to the last row of the
audience. There, Mercedes Mendoza, the family matriarch, sat, eyes closed
and mouth moving, as if in prayer. His brother, Paul Mendoza, sat
stoically. Older sister Elizabeth Palos wiped tears even before hearing
that Mr. Mendoza was sentenced to die.
After the hearing, the family of the murdered woman, Rachelle O'Neil
Tolleson, wept in relief outside the courtroom.
But then Mrs. Palos apologized to Ms. Tolleson's mother, Pam O'Neil, for
her brother's actions.
"I'm so sorry," she repeated as she embraced Ms. O'Neil. Her voice shook
as she begged, "Please, forgive him. Please, forgive him."
As the 2 women held one another and sobbed, the crowd that had just left
state District Judge Mark Rusch's courtroom stepped back, forming a loose
"You are all right. We just need time. We will. We just need time," Ms.
O'Neil said, patting Mrs. Palos' back.
Mr. Mendoza confessed to strangling the 20-year-old mother, stabbing her
in the throat with a knife and burning her body to hide his fingerprints.
Before killing her, Mr. Mendoza took Ms. Tolleson from her house, leaving
her 6-month-old daughter alone. Ms. O'Neil discovered Avery on the bed the
The same Collin County jury of six women and six men that convicted Mr.
Mendoza last week deliberated for about four hours Wednesday. The capital
murder conviction left them with the choice of life in prison or the death
Mr. Mendoza's attorney, Juan C. Sanchez, had said his client should have
received life in prison.
"There are many reasons that explain his conduct ... not excuses. But they
explain the situation," Mr. Sanchez said.
He said that Mr. Mendoza had a girlfriend who was a "bad influence," and
that his father, Jose Concepcion Mendoza, went through bouts of
depression, even attempting suicide.
During the hearing, Mr. Mendoza's mother, father, four siblings and best
friend testified on his behalf. They described him as a caring man who
began to act differently in his late teenage years.
Mrs. Mendoza said she watched her son go into deep states of depression
and begged him to seek medical help. She said he showed the same symptoms
as his father.
The elder Mendoza said he tried to kill himself two or three times because
he didn't feel like he could provide for his family. He had been injured
doing construction work and was unable to work for long stretches of time.
The day Ms. Tolleson's body was found, Mr. Mendoza admitted to a friend
what he had done. Stacy Garcia, Mr. Mendoza's best friend, described that
day in court.
She said he was crying and shaking as he told her how he strangled Ms.
"He was scared. He was crying and he said, 'Stacy, I did it,' " Ms. Garcia
said. "I didn't know what to do."
So she drove Mr. Mendoza to their church, St. William Catholic Church in
Greenville, where Mr. Mendoza spoke to the Rev. Paul Weinberger and
promised to turn himself in after spending time with his family.
Ms. Garcia called police that night, and officers raided Mr. Mendoza's
home the next day, arresting him.
Collin County First Assistant District Attorney Greg Davis said Mr.
Mendoza had a good life with 2 loving parents and four caring siblings,
who had become successful. The crime wasn't the family's fault, he said.
Violent track record
He pointed to the escalating violence that Mr. Mendoza exhibited as
reasons for him to receive the death penalty - 2 Dallas aggravated robbery
charges to which he confessed, raping an underage girl when he was an
adult and videotaping it, and attacking his own mother and sister in
At a house party 19-year-old Sarah Benedict, who was admittedly drunk,
said she asked Mr. Mendoza for a cigarette in an "annoying" manner.
"He just snapped. He leaned over and grabbed my neck," she said. "He was
squeezing his hands around my neck. I couldn't talk. I couldn't scream.
His face was completely blank."
Others at the party pulled him off of her, she said.
In testimony in between tears and long pauses, a 16-year-old girl, who is
not being named because of her age, described how Mr. Mendoza picked her
up after she sneaked out of her house to attend a house party 2 years ago.
She said he raped her twice - once in the back seat of the car and again
at the party.
Mr. Mendoza has said that the sex was consensual.
A friend at the party videotaped the incident and showed it in the living
room of the same party, she and another partygoer told the jury.
"I was thrown on the bed and all my clothes were taken off," she said with
her head hanging down, her face hidden by her curtain of hair. "Then the
light switched on, and there was a camera in my face. I felt nasty and
Angela Ivory, one of Mr. Mendoza's attorneys, asked if she told anyone
that Mr. Mendoza had raped her in the car on the way to the party once she
arrived there. The girl said no.
Notes in his cell
And his disrespect toward women has not changed, Mr. Davis said during the
trial. A piece of paper taken from a trash can in Mr. Mendoza's jail cell
had all the jurors' names, phone numbers, spouses, children and Social
Security numbers written on it. Next to the information for an unnamed
female juror, derogatory comments were written in Mr. Mendoza's
handwriting, Mr. Davis said.
Also taken from his cell were poems, drawings of skulls and rap lyrics
that Mr. Davis said showed Mr. Mendoza's lack of remorse.
"[Expletive] the world. [expletive] the reason. Time to release the inner
demons...," Mr. Mendoza wrote. "Plain and simple. If I lose my temper,
it's the end of your time." Mr. Mendoza was wearing a leg-monitoring
device and had 2 aggravated robbery cases from Dallas pending at the time
of Ms. Tolleson's death.
(source: Dallas Morning News)
Prosecutors accused of withholding drug test suspicions from
defenders--Defense lawyers say that being kept in the dark may have
damaged their clients' cases
The Harris County District Attorney's Office for years ignored its
obligation to inform defense lawyers about accusations that Houston crime
lab analysts had falsified drug test results, attorneys said this week.
Evidence in thousands of drug cases during the past seven years might have
received closer scrutiny, the attorneys said, if they had been informed
that 2 Police Department analysts were suspected of "drylabbing" -
concocting results without performing tests.
"I was told something about a misidentification, but not that it was a
faked result," said Jonathan Munier, who handled one of four cases in
which it was recently revealed the two analysts were accused of faking
His client, charged with felony drug possession in 1999, accepted a deal
and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.
Munier, a former Harris County prosecutor, says he was not told that
analyst Vipul Patel's supervisors had accused him of drylabbing.
"If they had told me that, I would have come unglued," he said. "I would
have said, 'Kiss my ass. Dismiss the whole case.'"
District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal acknowledged Wednesday that attorneys in
cases involving the analysts' work should have been notified about the
He noted that Munier was informed of the erroneous test result in his case
and that charges also were adjusted or dropped in the other 3 cases.
Disclosure of the allegations would have discredited the 2 analysts years
before the problems became public, Munier said. "They would have been dog
meat from the very beginning if this had been known."
Officials knew of cases
An independent investigator probing the crime lab problems revealed last
month that Patel and James Price, who no longer work for the lab, had been
disciplined after being accused of faking results in four drug cases
between 1998 and 2000.
RESOURCES -- DRYLABBING TIMELINE
Houston Police Department crime lab analysts were accused of fabricating
drug tests four times between 1998 and 2000. Prosecutors knew of the
problems, but defense attorneys say they did not.
- April 30, 1998: James Price misidentifies pills.
- May 15, 1998: Price's supervisor catches the error and alleges that
Price fabricated his results.
- May 26, 1998: Assistant District Attorney Roberto Gutierrez declines to
charge Price until the police department completes its investigation.
- Sept. 30, 1998: Assistant District Attorney Kaylynn Williford tells HPD
that she will not prosecute Price.
- Oct. 14, 1999: Vipul Patel identifies pills without performing tests.
- Dec. 17, 1999: Patel uses data from 1 pill to identify a 2nd.
- Dec. 20, 1999: A supervisor calls Patel's error a "flagrant example" of
faked results. Assistant District Attorney John Metzger tells police it
does not harm the case.
- Aug. 24, 2000: Price is accused of using another chemist's work to
identify a substance. Prosecutors request a review of 574 of his cases. It
reveals discrepancies in 6 cases.
- Nov. 29, 2000: Assistant District Attorney Margaret Harris declines to
- February 2001: HPD officials consider firing Price, who resigns.
- June 13, 2005: Patel resigns after City Council members call for his
(source: Houston Police Department internal affairs division reports)
The investigator, Michael Bromwich, noted that lab supervisors discovered
all four instances before the evidence could be used in trials. He plans
to conduct at least a partial review of the 7,660 cases processed by Patel
since 1998, and the district attorney's office is contacting defense
attorneys who have pending cases involving Patel's work.
Police internal affairs reports on the allegations - and investigators'
correspondence with the district attorney's office, obtained by the
Houston Chronicle through the state open-records law - detail actions at
the highest level of the Police Department and within the district
attorney's office in response to the problems.
The documents show that prosecutors in the 4 cases, in addition to 3 who
considered prosecuting one of the analysts, were aware of the allegations.
The documents also show that prosecutors requested a large-scale review of
Price's work, which uncovered 6 more cases with "discrepancies."
Yet, local defense attorneys say, they never were informed of the June
2000 review or its results.
It is unclear where communications broke down.
Three prosecutors - Kaylynn Williford, Roberto Gutierrez and Margaret
Harris - who declined to prosecute Price, said this week that they told
their supervisors of the problems. Harris, now a criminal court judge,
also said she briefed then-District Attorney Johnny Holmes.
Holmes said he does not recall the cases or the briefing.
Cases predated Rosenthal
Rosenthal, who took office in January 2001, said he learned of them
shortly before he was elected.
Both men said this week that attorneys who defended clients in cases where
Price or Patel analyzed evidence should have been informed about their
histories. Rosenthal said he asked that all prosecutors who handled drug
cases be made aware of the problems with Price's work in 2001, but added
that he does not know if that information was shared with defense
"If we learned that people made mistakes and if they testified in trial,
we are obligated to tell the defense attorneys about what we know,"
Rosenthal said. "If there are cases where that did not happen, I'd like to
know specifics on those."
Holmes added that the prosecution should have ordered retesting "by
somebody whose credibility they had confidence in." He said he does not
know why that wasn't done or why he wasn't informed of the problem or case
Local defense attorney Kent Schaffer, who for years has handled drug
cases, including some processed by Patel and Price, said attorneys would
have used that sort of information to attack the analysts' credibility or
would have considered hiring their own experts.
"Once one person knew they were falsifying results, they had the
responsibility to take action," he said. "And if they did not, they are
just as guilty as the person falsifying the evidence."
He characterized the withholding as "widespread misconduct."
While Rosenthal said defense attorneys should have been informed of the
mistakes, he said prosecutors had no obligation to inform them of the
allegations that Price and Patel had fabricated results.
"They were informed that (the original results) were wrong and that they
were caught by a supervisor," Rosenthal said. "I still don't know that
they were fabricated. What I am still believing is that (they) made a
Bert Graham, a first assistant of the District Attorney's Office under
Rosenthal and Holmes, said defense attorneys were not informed of the
review of Price's work or the other problems because prosecutors did not
think they indicated widespread problems.
"They were told that mistakes were made, but not in the detail they
preferred," he said. "There was no reason to think there was a systemic
One former prosecutor, who now is a judge and asked not to be named,
voiced concern about the failure to turn over information to defense
"This flies in the face of what we were taught as young prosecutors," the
Perhaps most troubling, the judge said, is the decision not to prosecute
the alleged drylabbing, or at least take the cases to a grand jury. "That
way, you can at least say the grand jury refused to indict."
The controversy is the latest to hit the crime lab, where questions have
been raised about DNA, ballistics, toxicology and serology tests since
Shortly after the problems became public, the county's 22 criminal
district court judges called on Rosenthal to clear the way for a special
prosecutor who - unlike Bromwich - would have subpoena power.
Rosenthal repeatedly refused.
Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association president Wendell Odom says the
drylabbing problem crystallizes why Rosenthal should have stepped aside.
"When Rosenthal was opposing the independent examiner coming in and
looking at the crime lab, he was already aware of these problems," Odom
said. "Had the examiner not brought this out, we never would have known
(source: Houston Chronicle)
REMINDER----the annual conference of the National Coalition to Abolish the
Death Penalty (NCADP) will take place in Austin, Texas, Oct. 28-30. For
details, see http://ncadp.org/2005-conference/
Frey appealing death sentence
James E. Frey Jr. has apparently changed his mind and no longer wants to
face the death penalty.
Five months after the former Milton resident pleaded guilty to killing his
estranged wife and asked a judge to impose the death penalty, Mr. Frey has
told his attorney he wants to appeal that sentence.
"His position has changed," defense attorney Paige Rosini said Wednesday.
"At this point, he no longer wants the death penalty imposed."
In February, Mr. Frey, 47, pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder for the
January 2004 killing of Debra Frey.
After a hearing in which Northumberland County District Attorney Tony
Rosini said the death penalty was warranted because Debra Frey was
kidnapped at gunpoint prior to her killing, President Judge Robert B.
Sacavage handed down the death sentence.
At that hearing, the defense - at Mr. Frey's request - didn't dispute any
of the assertions made by prosecutors.
At that time, the defense attorney said that if her client had allowed her
to call them, she had a roster of witnesses - including family members of
Mr. Frey and a psychiatrist - to testify on his behalf.
All death penalty cases are automatically appealed to the Pennsylvania
Supreme Court, Ms. Rosini said. But that automatic appeal only relates to
the death penalty component of the case.
Mr. Frey has asked his attorney to appeal all of the sentences imposed
against him. In addition to the death penalty, Mr. Sacavage sentenced Mr.
Frey to 2-years in prison on a kidnapping charge.
Ms. Rosini said she has filed the notice of appeal with the Supreme Court
and that court is now waiting for all of the county court records in the
case before asking the defense attorney and district attorney to file
(source: The Daily Item)
Fresno Man Gets Death for Kids' Murders
For years, Marcus Wesson was a domineering patriarch of a large clan he
bred through incest, controlling nearly every move his children made.
But on Wednesday he could only watch impassively as a court clerk read the
verdict recommending that he be sentenced to death for masterminding the
murders of nine of those children.
Wesson, 58, was convicted earlier this month on nine counts of
first-degree murder. The bodies of the victims -- ages 1 to 25 -- were
discovered March 12, 2004, in a bloody mound in Wesson's Fresno home after
a police standoff.
Each victim had been shot once in the eye. Among the dead were children
Wesson fathered with his own daughters and nieces.
The body of the oldest victim -- Wesson's daughter Sebhrenah -- was found
lying on top of the pile of others, including her infant son Marshey, a
child she had with her father.
As Wesson waited for the verdict, he never once turned to look at his many
family members gathered in the gallery behind him. The man with dreadlocks
to his knees occasionally ran his fingers up and down the long table he
shared with attorneys, as if playing a grand piano.
Prosecutors said he had the children killed for fear authorities were
about to break up the clan and take the youngsters away. The standoff
began after two of Wesson's nieces escaped from the home went back to try
to get their children.
Jurors spoke publicly for the first time Wednesday, saying they were
relieved to see the end of an emotionally draining case that led some of
them to tears and nightmares.
"People wrestled with their emotion. People had to wrestle with their
spirituality and their faith. It'll stay with us forever," said juror No.
8, a middle-aged woman.
None of the jurors gave their name, profession, or any identifying
Defense attorney Pete Jones suggested that doubts remain about Wesson's
culpability despite his conviction, since jurors decided the government
failed to prove Wesson pulled the trigger on the gun used to shoot each
But prosecutor Lisa Gamoian called Wesson a "master manipulator" whose
sexual, financial and emotional exploitation of his children over decades
culminated in their execution. It didn't matter whether Wesson fired the
gun -- he orchestrated the killings, she said.
According to testimony, Wesson would repeatedly ask his children if they
were ready to "go to the Lord." Witnesses said he preached a plan that if
authorities ever tried to break up the clan, they were kill each other,
youngest to oldest.
In addition to the murder counts, Wesson was convicted on 14 counts of
sexual abuse, including the rape of some of his underage daughters. Formal
sentencing is set for July 27.
Outside court, Jones said he was "extremely disappointed" with the
"I've gotten to know Marcus Wesson over the last year. I've spent a lot of
time with him in isolation," Jones said. "In spite of what the perception
might be, we've developed a good relationship."
Gamoian declined to comment.
(source: Associated Press)
Attorney: Condemned Man Doesn't Want Execution
A Fort Wayne man convicted of killing 4 people, including his brother and
his sister's fiance, does not want to be put to death despite waiving his
state clemency rights this week, his attorney said.
The Indiana Supreme Court earlier this month ordered Joseph Corcoran, 30,
be executed on July 21. He was sentenced to death in 1999.
His attorney, Alan Freedman, on Monday filed an appeal in U.S. District
Court in South Bend to halt the execution. Freedman said Wednesday that
the clemency waiver, which Joseph Corcoran signed this week, would be
useless if the court grants the stay.
Both Freedman, from the Midwest Center for Justice, and Stephen Creason,
representing the state attorney general's office, said they expect Judge
Allen Sharp to grant the stay this week.
"No one is under the illusion this execution date is going to happen,"
However, the Indiana Parole Board on Monday gave Corcoran a packet of
information at the Indiana State Prison and asked him to waive his state
clemency rights, Freedman said. Clemency is granted by the governor
usually as the last effort to save someone from execution.
Corcoran, who was not represented by an attorney and whose mental
competency has been an issue in the case, signed the waiver that day,
Earl Coleman, assistant to the parole board, defended the move.
"The execution has not been set aside, although we are assuming it will
be," he said. "We were afraid if it had gone to the wire, we wouldn't have
enough time to conduct hearings."
The parole board usually hosts 2 days of hearings and conducts interviews
with all involved that take 3 weeks to prepare.
Freedman disputed that reason.
"They're doing this because they know he's schizophrenic and they want to
mess with him," Freedman said. "It's meaningless. Shame on them."
Corcoran waived his right to appeal in 2003 despite urgings from his
attorneys and a judge, and refused to sign the paperwork authorizing the
next legal step in the appeals process. He said at the time that he
believed he should be put to death for his crimes.
When he decided years later to pursue a post-conviction relief petition in
state court, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled he had waited too long.
The public defenders appointed to the case sought to have him ruled
mentally incompetent so they could continue to appeal, but an Allen
Superior Court judge rejected their arguments and the state Supreme Court
upheld her decision.
In the meantime, Corcoran recanted his decision to waive further appeals
and asked the high court to dismiss the involuntary appeal so he could
restart the appeals process. The justices denied his request in January.
Corcoran appealed again. But the justices ruled last month that he had not
signed paperwork for his appeal before the required deadline and that he
still had other avenues for appeal, which Freedman is using.
Corcoran was convicted in the 1997 shooting deaths of his 30-year-old
brother, James Corcoran; Douglas A. Stillwell, 30; Robert Scott Turner,
32; and Timothy G. Bricker, 30. Turner was the fiance of Corcoran's
sister. Corcoran said killed them because he overheard them talking about
(source: Associated Press)
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