[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, MO., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Jun 30 13:08:02 CDT 2005
Mom gets life for her kids' decapitation deaths
In Brownsville, a woman pleaded guilty to 3 counts of capital murder today
in the decapitation deaths of her 3 young children, getting 3 concurrent
life prison sentences instead of the death penalty.
Angela Camacho, 25, will be eligible for parole in 40 years. Her attorneys
failed to prove she was mentally retarded and therefore ineligible for the
death penalty, but the plea agreement spared her. Had she been convicted
and sentenced to death, she would have become the 1st Mexican national
female on Texas' death row.
Camacho and 24-year-old John Allen Rubio, her common-law husband, were
accused of strangling and decapitating her 2 daughters, 3-year-old Julissa
Quezada and 2-month-old Mary Jane Rubio, in 2003. The couple allegedly
washed themselves afterward and had sex before decapitating their
1-year-old son, John Esthefan Rubio.
A relative called police, who found the girls stuffed in a trash bag and
the boy on a bed. Rubio and Camacho told police they thought the children
Camacho answered state District Judge Benjamin Uresti's questions in
Spanish as he accepted her guilty plea.
"I hope that God will touch your heart and that you ask for forgiveness,"
Uresti said. "Good luck to you."
Alberto Pullen, one of Camacho's attorneys, said she would face
deportation if released from prison. He said she wants to stay in the U.S.
Rubio was convicted and sentenced to death in 2003 after he requested the
death penalty. Rubio has since decided to fight the sentence. In February,
he was found competent to choose his attorney for the appeal.
According to evidence during Rubio's trial, he had inhaled so much spray
paint that he had damaged his brain and might have been psychotic.
Camacho's case was tied up for more than 2 years due to issues of her
Houston crime lab neglected for years, report says
Years of paltry staffing, sloppy supervision, absentee management and
shabby conditions left the Houston Police Department's troubled crime lab
ripe for the crisis that led to its DNA section shutdown in 2002,
according to an independent investigator's report released Thursday.
Michael Bromwich, a former inspector general with the U.S. Justice
Department, said in the third report of his investigation that the
critical DNA section of the lab was in shambles by the time it was closed
after an outside audit revealed serious deficiencies, including lack of
worker training and possible evidence contamination.
In his report Thursday, Bromwich examined root causes of the DNA section's
The next phase of his investigation, to begin next month, will involve
reviewing thousands of cases analyzed for forensic scientists in all 6
sections of the lab - DNA, firearms, drugs, toxicology, trace evidence and
For 2 1/2 years the Police Department and the Harris County District
Attorney's office has worked with outside DNA laboratories to review 407
criminal cases involving DNA tests that emerged from the Houston lab.
So far, one man, Josiah Sutton, was released from jail based on DNA
retesting in his rape case. He was pardoned last year. A 2nd man, George
Rodriguez, who was imprisoned for 17 years for kidnapping and rape, was
released when a judge said inaccurate evidence may have led to his 1987
conviction and recommended a new trial. Problems in his case surfaced
separately from the lab investigation.
In addition, two former analysts from the controlled substances section of
the lab, Vipul H. Patel and James Price, have been accused in Bromwich's
investigation of "drylabbing," or fabricating scientific results.
Bromwich said in Thursday's report that 15 years before the lab's DNA
section was closed, the Police Department and the city left it to fend for
itself and scramble for grants to hire and train people and buy equipment.
Analysts alerted former Houston Police Chief Clarence Bradford to lack of
supervision in DNA and toxicology sections in 1999, but he said there
wasn't money to fill the positions, the report said.
Other problems cited in the report include:
- Lack of support within the lab for disciplining analysts for serious
misconduct, illustrated by the allegations involving Patel and Price.
- Ineffective and detached management of Donald Krueger, the head of the
crime lab from 1995 through 2003. The report said Kruger told Bromwich's
team that he was "genuinely shocked" at the outside audit's findings of
problems in 2002. Krueger rarely met with analysts and relied on managers.
- Lack of quality control. The lab stopped performing quality control
audits in 1997 and the former DNA section head lacked training and
education in statistics, a qualification required under FBI standards.
- A leaky roof that went unrepaired for 6 years until the crime lab
scandal erupted in 2002, allowing water to soak and likely contaminate
Houston defense attorneys told the Houston Chronicle in Thursday's
editions that the Harris County District Attorney's Office kept them in
the dark for years about allegations of analysts falsifying results.
The Police Department has used outside contractors for DNA analysis since
2002 and hopes to resume DNA testing by the end of the year and has worked
over the past 3 years to accredit its crime lab.
The department gained accreditation of its controlled substances,
toxicology, questioned documents, firearms and serology sections through
the American Association of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory
Accreditation Board last month.
(source for both: Associated Press)
1 suspect may face death penalty in activist's slaying
1 of the 2 men arrested in connection with the slaying of civic leader
Gary Del Palacio may face the death penalty if he is convicted.
District Attorney Jaime Esparza said Wednesday that he was considering
seeking the death penalty against Jonathan Ruiz, 21, a Montana Vista
resident charged with capital murder in Del Palacio's death.
In Texas, capital murder is punishable by death or life in prison.
Esparza said he might seek the death penalty because it is a capital
murder case and because of "the facts surrounding the case." He declined
to comment further.
Jesus Soltero Jr., 20, the other Montana Vista resident arrested in
connection with Del Palacio's death, is charged with murder. The offense
is a 1st-degree felony punishable by up to life in prison.
Ruiz and Soltero were arraigned last week, and each pleaded not guilty to
Ruiz's lawyer, Joe Spencer, said the death penalty would not be
appropriate in this case.
"All the studies have shown that when you are young, that is the time you
can be rehabilitated, and certainly given Jonathan's age, he should be
given an opportunity for rehabilitation instead of just being
institutionalized" if convicted, Spencer said.
Del Palacio's body was found March 12 in the desert in the Montana Vista
area. An autopsy report indicated he had several injuries, including a
defensive wound to the right hand, but died from two fatal stab wounds to
Del Palacio was allegedly abducted from the Montana Hideaway, 12905
Montana, and forced to drive his vehicle to the location where he was
killed, a sheriff's investigator stated in the arrest affidavit for Ruiz.
After Del Palacio was killed, the affidavit stated, his money was
allegedly taken and his vehicle was allegedly burned at another location.
According to Texas Department of Public Safety records, Ruiz has been in
trouble with the law since he was a juvenile. He is a registered sex
offender and is also known as Jonathan Rivera. DPS records state that Ruiz
was a juvenile when he was convicted of sexually assaulting an 8-year-old
As an adult, Ruiz was sentenced to 5 years of probation in September 2002
after pleading guilty to a June 12, 2002, burglary-of-building charge,
court records show.
In April 2003, Ruiz was sentenced to 180 days in jail followed by 6 months
of probation after pleading guilty to possession of marijuana under 2
About 10 days before Del Palacio's body was found, Ruiz was charged with a
Jan. 12 burglary of a vehicle. The offense is a Class A misdemeanor and
was assigned to County Criminal Court No. 2.
(source: El Paso Times)
Rep. leads second try at ending executions ----Demonstrators at the
Columbia courthouse call for a moratorium on the death penalty.
Though Missouri reinstated the death penalty in 1989, Rep. Judy Baker,
D-Columbia, wants to lead a 2nd effort to end executions in the state. "A
moratorium will allow for an impartial review (of the death penalty),
which is what we need," she said.
Baker is a co-sponsor of bill HB 557, which would place a moratorium on
the death penalty in Missouri. The bill would allow for a review of how
the death penalty is applied.
Baker spoke to nearly 20 people about the bill in front of the Boone
County Courthouse Wednesday afternoon. The audience was assembled for a
demonstration organized by the Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation.
Columbia attorney Melinda Pendergraph said anyone in the law business
takes it as a given that applying the death penalty is arbitrary. The
races of the victim, defendant and jury all play a part in the application
of the death penalty, as well as economic biases that lead to poor people
getting the death penalty, she said.
"I think we have a problem with how the death penalty is applied," Baker
said. "Until studied, we must stop applying it."
The demonstration was based on an annual event in Washington D.C, said
Jeff Stack of the Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation. This is the
2nd time the Columbia event was held. The demonstrations commemorate 2
decisions by the U.S. Supreme court - the June 29, 1972, Furman vs.
Georgia decision and the July 2, 1976, Gregg vs. Georgia decision. These
decisions temporarily abolished the death penalty.
Abe Bonowitz, director of Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death
Penalty, said this is his 10th year at the 12th annual Washington event.
Because the anniversaries of the court rulings are 4 days apart, the group
maintains a presence in front of the Supreme Court building for 4 days.
Stack said he wants the Missouri legislature to look more closely at how
the death penalty is applied in Missouri.
"This is a perfect time to be evaluating the death penalty, during these
anniversaries," he said.
(source: Columbia Missourian)
DNA exoneration of felons raises questions
Exoneration of convicted felons using genetic information raises questions
about the best way to use DNA technology without encroaching on civil
liberties, say investigators and professors writing in Wednesday's issue
of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Exonerations raise questions about how many innocent people have been
convicted and are serving long sentences or are on death row, wrote Mark
Rothstein, a professor of law and medicine at the University of Louisville
School of Medicine in Kentucky.
But efforts to boost the use of DNA, including data banks to store genetic
information and dragnets where all people in a certain area are asked to
submit samples, have problems of their own, he wrote.
"Critics argue that it is unfair to regard as suspects all men who decline
to submit a sample and that the DNA profiles of those who volunteer to
submit a sample should not be entered into the state DNA data bank," wrote
In England and Wales, a national DNA database has more than 2.75 million
samples, wrote Peter Gill, a consultant at the Forensic Science Service in
DNA is taken from criminals and suspects, "and the law allows authorities
to retain the DNA profile even if the suspect is found innocent," Gill
More than 2 million people were incarcerated in the United States at the
end of 2003. Only a few have been cleared using DNA technology.
Rothstein wrote that it's unclear "whether the benefits to law enforcement
of expanding the use of forensic DNA testing are worth the cost in civil
(source: Bloomberg News)
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