[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----TEXAS
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Mar 4 10:25:31 CST 2005
The Mayor of Reggio Emilia, Graziano Delrio, comments on the decision of
the highest authority of USA justice which has declared executions of
offenders under 18 as unconstitutional.
"It is a reason of deep and true pleasure for the city of Reggio Emilia to
learn that the Supreme Court of the United States, with a decision of
historical importance and great civil valor, puts an end to death penalty
for juvenile offenders."
In this way the Mayor of Reggio Emilia comments on the decision of the
highest authority of USA justice, which has declared unconstitutional all
executions of minors. A sentence which has an immediate effect for around
70 juveniles offenders who are actually waiting for their execution in the
death rows of several American States.
"This sentence, that is also a first, encouraging sign of a new attitude
in American public opinion, now involving also justices, towards the death
penalty - adds Mr Delrio - supports us in our choice to continue to look
for a dialogue on this issue with friends of our Texan sister city Fort
Worth. We confirm our complete and absolute condemnation of the death
penalty, more than once reaffirmed by our City Council."
The attention and feelings of the community of Reggio Emilia and its
institutions is confirmed also by a series of concrete actions in favor of
human rights and for the abolition of the death penalty: it is some years
that the Municipality is a member and supporter of the World Coalition
against the death penalty and the Texas Coalition to abolish the death
penalty; through the Comunit di Sant'Egidio it supports the International
Fund for the legal defense of people sentenced to death and, since 3
years, every 30th of November, it participates with public initiatives and
occasions for debate and reflection to the "World Day against the death
(source: Mayor's Office, Reggio Emilia)
The murder of Rozanne Gailiunas had all the elements of a best-selling
mystery novel: a murder-for-hire, rich, beautiful people and a
spurned-socialite seeking revenge for an adulterous affair.
This story, though, is true, and George "Andy" Hopper is scheduled to be
executed next week for the 1983 killing of the Framingham native in
"I think it will be a relief to close this particular chapter," said Peter
Gailiunas Jr., the slain woman's widower. "On the other hand, there's
still three more people in prison who were involved in this. I don't think
anyone affected by this will ever be the same."
Several of Gailiunas' relatives still live in MetroWest. Her parents,
Angela and Henry Agostinelli live in Ashland. Her sister Paula Donahue
lives in Framingham.
Henry Agostinelli said the family is flying to Texas for the Tuesday
execution, and will not comment until it finally happens.
The story of Gailiunas' murder is intricate, long and sometimes seems like
fiction, but according to authorities, it is very true.
It has been the subject of two books, "Open Secrets: A True Story of Love,
Jealousy and Murder," by Carlton Stowers and "To Hatred Turned," by Ken
Englade. It also served as grist for a fictionalized television movie,
"Telling Secrets," which starred Cybill Shepherd.
Gailiunas was murdered in her Richardson home on Oct. 4, 1983. Hopper tied
her up, attempted to rape and strangle her and finally shot her twice in
the head, according to published reports.
Gailiunas was found bloody and unconscious by her then 4-year-old son,
Peter. She died 2 days later in a hospital, never regaining consciousness.
The now 25-year-old son remembers that day all too well, his father said.
"He remembers it extremely well," said the elder Peter Gailiunas. "He's
doing fine, but the aftermath for him, was horrific."
The story actually begins before the day of the killing, according to
Gailiunas, 33, had begun an affair with Larry Aylor, a wealthy builder of
expensive homes. The couple both filed for divorce from their spouses and
planned to marry.
But Aylor's socialite wife, Joy, had other plans.
She paid William Garland to kill Gailiunas. With another man, Brian Lee
Kreafle, Garland hired Hopper to commit the murder.
After the murder, police said they had three suspects, Peter Gailiunas and
Larry and Joy Aylor. Peter Gailiunas accused Larry Aylor of the murder.
Aylor, in turn, blamed Gailiunas, according to reports.
Both men were cleared, and no arrests were initially made.
In 1986, Larry Aylor survived an attack by two gunmen. Two years later, he
received an anonymous call from a woman claiming that the attack was
connected to Gailiunas' death.
Aylor convinced the woman to call police, and she did. When she contacted
police, she asked about the $25,000 reward Peter Gailiunas put up for
information that led to an arrest for his wife's murder.
The informant, Stowers wrote, was Joy Aylor's sister Carol Davis Garland.
She told police about everything, and both Joy Aylor and Hopper were
Hopper was arrested after he abandoned his family and ran to the Rocky
Mountains. He was eventually arrested in December 1998.
2 men accused of the attempted murder of Larry Aylor, Gary and Buster
Matthews, also ran, hiding in New Mexico until they were finally arrested
3 months later.
Hopper remained in custody, but Joy Aylor was released on $140,000 bail.
She emptied her bank accounts right before her 1990 murder trial was set
to begin and fled to Canada with her defense attorney lover. She then went
to Mexico, and then Europe.
She was eventually arrested in France in March 1991, but the country
refused to extradite her because of its opposition to capital punishment.
As that drama played out, Hopper was found guilty in March 1992 of the
murder and sentenced to death. Garland and Kreafle were sentenced to life
in prison for their roles in the murder.
After 33 months, Aylor was returned to Texas to face justice after the
state guaranteed she would not face the death penalty. She is in prison
Also in 1993, Gailiunas' parents won a $35 million lawsuit against Joy
Aylor after a judge found her responsible for the death. In 1990, Larry
Aylor won a $31.2 million lawsuit against his wife for the murder attempt.
Attorneys expected the money to be paid because Joy Aylor was the daughter
of a rich oil and real estate magnate.
In 1994, she was found guilty of Gailiunas' murder.
While Aylor remains in custody, Hopper is only days away from being put to
death by lethal injection.
Peter Gailiunas said the execution will not make anyone forget about the
"Frankly, I don't think either family, the Agostinellis or mine, can undo
or repair the heartbreak and the grief this caused everybody," said
Gailiunas. "I'm going to be glad. All things considered, I'm pretty
(source: Metro West Daily News)
Double edged: Parents of death row inmate also had son murdered
Dozens of young convicted killers on Texas death row won't be executed and
could even be paroled someday because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
One family has been touched by the issue on 2 sides.
Michael Lopez looks like any other kid in the family photos. But he looks
different in the photo of him as he sits on death row.
Michael Lopez will not be executed, but will he be paroled?
"I don't see that he has grown up very much," says grandmother Cathy
"Michael was a child when it happened, and Michael never really had a
chance in life," says his aunt, Yvonne Montoya.
But thanks to the Supreme Court, he not only has a chance, some are even
sure he'll see the outside of the prison walls.
That is what frustrates Dianne Clements of the victim's rights group,
Justice For All, most. "I am very convinced that they will all leave
prison," she says. "They will leave prison. They will age. They will
benefit from changes in statute. They will benefit from any supreme court
decisions," says Clements.
And they will walk the streets again.
While many worry the soon-to-be-former death row inmates will someday be
out, the mother of the youngest killer on the row isn't optimistic.
"Nobody has made it out of jail after being there for 40 years. I think
the longest is 37 years. It is not very conducive to longevity," his
mother, Barbara Acuna says.
You'd expect the Lopez family to be elated that Michael will not face
lethal injection, and could one day be released. But they understand from
the other side, as well.
"I had another son who was murdered a couple of years ago and it is the
worst thing that could happen. I know as a parent what it feels like to
have someone murdered," says Michael Lopez, the father.
"I know how they feel. I know that they wanted my grandson to get
executed. I know that, and I don't see why they would because it wouldn't
bring their son back," Cathy Lopez says.
Legislative action in Austin is picking up as a result of the Supreme
A bill has already been filed that would legally bring Texas in line with
the decision and ban death sentences for juveniles.
An aid for senator Rodney Ellis, who is again sponsoring a life without
parole bill, says there is new attention there too. He says it isn't quite
a flood, but a faucet is definitely open.
(source: KHOU News)
Smuggling case again delayed----Jury is seated, but the driver's appeal
may push trial back further
A federal judge rescheduled the much-delayed trial of truck driver Tyrone
Williams and swore in 4 alternate jurors Thursday, completing the panel
that will hear the case.
The trial could be delayed even beyond Tuesday's planned start, however,
if the U.S. Supreme Court decides today to hear an appeal by Williams'
Opening arguments were to have begun this morning, but U.S. District Judge
Vanessa Gilmore agreed to requests from the defense and prosecution that
the trial be put off until next week.
The trial's start already has been delayed for 2 months by legal
skirmishes between the sides.
Williams, 34, a Jamaican immigrant from Schenectady, N.Y., is accused of
causing the deaths of 19 illegal immigrants who were locked in a trailer
he was towing in South Texas in May 2003.
He could be sentenced to death if convicted.
The 6-day process of selecting the regular jury was completed Wednesday
with the seating of 7 women and 5 men.
The jury includes 2 black women, one black man and one Hispanic woman. The
alternates are 2 white men, a black woman and a white woman. The jurors'
race could be significant because Williams' attorney, Craig Washington,
has accused the government of singling out his client for the death
penalty because he is black.
Washington objected each time a black prospect was disqualified during
Prosecutors have said that, of the 14 people indicted in the case,
Williams is the only one who could have prevented the deaths.
He is the first defendant against whom the U.S. Attorney General's Office
has sought the death penalty under a 10-year-old immigrant-smuggling law.
The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to decide today whether to hear
Washington's appeal of the government's refusal to provide information on
why it decided to seek a death sentence against Williams and not the 11
other defendants who also were eligible for that sentence.
If the high court decides to hear the case, it probably will further delay
A decision is expected to be announced Monday.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
DA not surprised by ruling banning execution of juveniles
Anderson County District Attorney Doug Lowe said Wednesday he was not
surprised by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision earlier this week banning
the execution of juveniles who were under 18 at the time of their offense.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, that the execution of inmates
convicted of capital murders committed when they were juveniles violates
the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
In response, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has requested the Texas Board of
Pardons and Paroles to review the cases of 28 of the 445 inmates currently
on the state's death row.
Anderson County currently has two offenders on Death Row - Danielle
Simpson and Robert Leslie Roberson III - although neither was a juvenile
at the time of their offense.
Lowe indicated Wednesday that the Supreme Court's decision was no surprise
to his office.
"I think we probably could have seen it coming based on the decision
relating to mental retardation," Lowe said. "We don't have any cases it
applies to in this county."
The Supreme Court had earlier prohibited the execution of mentally
"I don't know if I agree with an outright ban on the execution of
17-year-olds," Lowe added about this week's ruling. "But they are the
Supreme Court, and we'll do what they say."
The district attorney stated that today's most violent crimes are often
committed by young offenders.
"My experience is the younger people tend to be more violent," Lowe said.
"I don't know if that's a societal thing or what's causing that. The worst
case we've had was the Geraldine Davidson case. They were all young
The 84-year-old Davidson, a former Palestine school teacher and church
organist, was murdered by four local youths who placed her body in the
chilly waters of the Neches River with cinder blocks tied to her ankles in
Simpson, who was 20 at the time, was the only of the four offenders
eligible for the death penalty under past and present law. The other three
individuals charged in connection with Davidson's death were 16 or under
at the time.
Napoleon Beazley, who grew up in Grapeland, was executed in May 2002 for
the April 1994 slaying of Tyler businessman John Luttig in Smith County.
Beazley was 4 months shy of his 18th birthday at the time of the offense,
and his attorneys and other death penalty opponents argued that his
sentence should be commuted to life since he was a juvenile at the time of
On the day of Beazley's execution, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
voted, 10-7, not to recommend that his death sentence be commuted to life
Just days prior to Beazley's death, his attorney, Walter Long, told the
Herald-Press that he was hopeful the Board of Pardons and Paroles would
halt the execution, mentioning his belief that the Supreme Court would
prohibit such executions in the not-too-distant future.
"I think that there appears to be some movement in the Supreme Court to
possibly change the law in regards to the Eighth Amendment jurisprudence
in a way that would help juvenile offenders such as Napoleon," Long told
the newspaper on May 23, 2002, 5 days before Beazley's execution.
(source: Palestine Herald-Press)
Killers could be set free by 2043----Ruling sparing juveniles could mean
parole for 11 men from Harris County
Once a "dead man walking," a Tarrant County killer spared by this week's
U.S. Supreme Court ruling may already be eligible for parole
But when, or if, Mauro Barraza, 32, is allowed to walk the streets a free
man is up to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. The minimum
eligibility dates for him and 27 other affected Texas death row inmates
are dictated by state laws that increasingly have lengthened the minimum
time inmates must serve when convicted of capital murder but not sentenced
All of the killers affected by Tuesday's high court ruling outlawing
executions for murderers who committed their crimes while minors,
including 11 from Harris County, will be considered for release by 2043.
Barraza, condemned for the June 1989 robbery-murder of a Fort Worth-area
woman, already has served the 15-year minimum prison stretch mandated by
law at the time of his offense, and likely will be the first considered
After a series of moves to tighten the parole regulations, Texas lawmakers
in 1993 increased the minimum term to 40 years. Based on those rules, the
11 Harris County inmates will become eligible for parole consideration
between 2028 and 2043, depending on when their crimes occurred and when
they were arrested.
Efrain Perez and Raul Villarreal, both 29, likely will be among the first
Harris County killers to be considered for release. Arrested in 1993,
weeks after they raped and murdered two teenage girls in what one
investigator called the "most vicious, sadistic, animal-like" attack he
had ever seen, both men have served more than a third of their mandated 35
years behind bars. They could be freed as early as 2028.
Robert Acuna, 19, convicted of the 2003 murders of his Baytown neighbors,
James Carroll, 75, and his wife, Joyce, 74, likely will be the last to be
considered. He will be eligible for parole in 2043. Rissie Owens,
presiding officer of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which Gov.
Rick Perry directed to review the killers' cases, did not return phone
calls Thursday. But officials and law professors familiar with Texas
statutes outlined how the timetable for parole consideration may work.
"Of course, any decision would be completely within the discretion of the
parole board," said Robert Owen, an adjunct law professor and co-director
of the Capital Punishment Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law.
Consideration for parole, he stressed, does not guarantee that an inmate
will be released.
Since 1977, Texas law increasingly has mandated longer prison time for
capital killers who escaped the death penalty, said Williamson County
District Attorney Ken Anderson, co-author of a book concerning Texas
Before September 1977, only 10 years behind bars were required before
killers were eligible for parole consideration. By August 1993, that
minimum had increased to 40 years.
Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said necessary prison time
is calculated by the law as it stood at the time of the offense. The clock
begins ticking when the inmate first is jailed. Owen noted that when the
first of these former death row inmates come up for review, the parole
board members might factor into their decisions how public opinion and the
law have grown tougher.
Charlie Baird, a visiting professor at Houston's South Texas College of
Law and a former justice of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, said the
state's mandatory prison requirements for capital killers constitutes
"life without parole."
"It is very difficult to spend that period of time in confinement for any
number of reasons," Baird said.
"Prison is a very dangerous place, and the odds of being murdered by other
inmates is very high," he said. "It is a sedentary lifestyle, and that
adds to shorter life spans. Health benefits are not as good there as
elsewhere, and just the stressful nature of trying to exist every day
severely reduces one's lifespan."
A 1993 report by the Legislature's Criminal Justice Policy Council found
that the average capital killer who escaped death row lived only 64 years
- about 10 years less than the general population.
Advocates for crime victims, however, expressed concern.
"It sounds absurd that any of them might be paroled," said Andy Kahan of
Houston, the mayor's advocate for crime victims, "but the winds of
government change quite often."
As a worst-case scenario, he cited the case of Kenneth McDuff, who was
sentenced to death for the 1966 rape, torture and murder of three Central
Texas teenagers. McDuff's death row tenure ended in 1972 when, in the wake
of a Supreme Court ruling that stopped executions, his sentence was
commuted to life. Seven years later he was paroled.
Within three years, he had committed at least 2 additional capital
murders. McDuff, 52, was executed in fall 1998 for the 1992 abduction
murder of Waco convenience store worker Melissa Northrup and the 1991
abduction-murder of an Austin woman.
"Basically these families (of murder victims) are being placed on a
proverbial roller coaster they never thought they'd be entering," Kahan
Kahan said his office will work to ensure surviving relatives of victims
will be routinely advised as killers' parole dates approach. Beginning
next week, he will begin videotaping survivors' accounts of the emotional
trauma the deaths engendered. Those tapes, he said, will be filed with the
The Supreme Court ruling comes as state Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville,
pushes for adoption of a life-without-parole option for capital offenders.
Such a law, said Lucio's legislative director Ian Randolph, would keep
victims' relatives from having to endure repeated parole hearings.
Randolph said Lucio is optimistic his Senate Bill 60 soon will be heard in
Texas, he said, is 1 of 3 states without such a law.
(source : Houston Chronicle)
Jurors hear from Thomas' brother
In addition to more mental health professionals, the jury in Andre Thomas'
capital murder trial heard from Thomas' brother Wednesday.
The testimony of Thomas' older brother seemed to bring the trial back down
to the ground after days of dueling experts. Rather than discussing
possible diseases or causes for diseases from which Thomas might have
suffered when he brutally killed his wife, Laura Boren Thomas, their son,
Andre Boren, and Mrs. Thomas' daughter, Leyha Marie Hughes last March,
Danny Ross talked about the kid brother he loved.
Ross said Thomas is one of five boys in their family. He smiled slightly
and nodded when he called Thomas, "my little brother."
Defense attorney Bobbie Peterson asked Ross if he and Thomas were close
and Ross said they were. But, the closeness seemed to have a limit. Ross
said the two, both of whom were married and had children, never discussed
their relationships with their wives. Ross said Thomas loved his only son,
Andre Boren, like any dad would and was good with his nieces and nephews.
"He would stop and play with them before he would say hello to me," Ross
said. He added that was one way he knew something was wrong when Thomas
visited him on the night before he killed 3 people.
This trial centers on Leyha's death and on whether or not Thomas was sane
at the time he plunged a knife into the toddler's chest and ripped out her
Prosecutors Joe Brown and Kerye Ashmore say although Thomas undoubtedly
suffered from some sort of psychosis at the time of the killing, that
mental illness was drug induced and did not keep him from knowing what he
was doing was wrong. Under Texas law, voluntary intoxication (with drugs
or alcohol) is not a defense to criminal conduct.
Peterson and R.J. Hagood contend that the psychosis which drove Thomas to
commit the unspeakable acts was not drug related and had been overtaking
Thomas for quite some time before that dreadful Saturday morning.
Ross said his brother seemed depressed on the Friday night before he
killed the young family.
"He just sighed," Ross said. He added that Thomas made the sound a number
of times during the hour or so that they visited in Ross' home.
"He told me that nobody would help him," Ross said. He said he and Thomas
discussed the fact that Thomas had gone to the hospital earlier that day
seeking help because he had stabbed himself in the chest. Ross said Thomas
reported that the hospital told him they couldn't help him because he
didn't have insurance or a job.
"Did you believe that?" Ashmore asked Ross.
"Yes," the older brother said quickly with little emotion. He couldn't
prevent the emotion from showing however, when he talked about his
reaction to the wound Thomas showed him.
"I laughed," Ross said and then he hung his head and shook it back and
forth before trying to explain that he really just wanted Thomas to know
that trying to hurt himself was not a good idea.
"I said 'what do you think, I want to go to my brother's funeral?'" Ross
recalled. He said Thomas didn't have much to say in return. In fact, he
didn't have much to say at all during the visit. Ross said Thomas just
left without their usual friendly parting.
"Whenever we leave each other, we always give each other some love," Ross
said. He explained it was their custom to hug each other good bye, but
Thomas didn't do that this time around and it caused his older brother
The concern had been growing for a while though. Ross said his brother had
been acting strangely for a while, but was not really clear on how long.
Both prosecutors and defense attorneys tried to pin down the time frame,
but Ross wasn't specific about dates. He said he knew Thomas smoked pot
and drank and they sometimes smoked the drug together. He also knew that
Thomas had abused the cold medicine Coricidin at least once.
"I told him I was stupid for doing it," Ross said.
As for the other odd things that people have testified Thomas did in the
months before the killings, Ross said the family saw those things, but no
one really talked about what to do about it. He was always just a little
weird," Ross said. He added that Thomas' habit of putting duct tape on his
mouth and refusing to talk for hours at a time was frustrating.
"I knew that he was going through something, but he wouldn't talk to me
about it. He was pushing me away," the older brother said.
He then described being awaken on the day of the killings by police
officers at his front door. They wouldn't tell him why, he said, but they
wanted to know where Thomas was.
Ashmore asked Ross if he knew the amount of drugs and alcohol his brother
is alleged to have been using in the days just before the killings and
Ross said he didn't have any idea.
The amount of drugs and their impact on Thomas was the topic of the rest
of the day's testimony. Jurors heard from three doctors who disagreed
about how the drugs might have effected Thomas.
Dr. Jim Harrison was appointed by the court to study Thomas's competency,
but he testified Tuesday that he thinks Thomas suffered from
schizoaffective disorder. Dr. Robin McGirk agreed with that diagnosis.
Their testimony was contrasted against Dr. Victor Scarano who said Thomas
suffered from a drug-induced psychosis rather than a long standing or
progressing mental illness.
The major difference between the 3 seemed to be the fact that Scarano
could actually give the jury something to hang their hats on with the
issue at hand. He told them Thomas was not insane at the time that he
committed the crimes. To win the insanity question, Hagood and Peterson
have to prove to the jury that their client didn't know right from wrong
in the minutes that it took him to kill his 3 victims. The proof, the
defense contends, need not be total or beyond a reasonable doubt. They
have to prove that there is more evidence that Thomas didn't know right
from wrong than there is that he did.
To prove that point, the defense has to contradict Scarano's contention
that Thomas' use of drugs led him to lose his mind temporarily and kill.
Both Harrison and McGirk pointed out indications that Thomas' strange
behavior started before and continued after the drugs Scarano blames were
in Thomas' system. Although alcohol and marijuana likely contributed, the
major drug involved was, dextromethorphan, a substance found in the
over-the-counter medication called Coricidin.
Under questioning from Ashmore, Harrison said the amount of DXM that
Thomas is alleged to have taken wasn't nearly enough to cause the kind of
psychosis Scarano attributes to the drug. Harrison said it would have
easily taken twice that amount to throw Thomas into such a long-lasting
break with reality.
The prosecution, however, contends that maybe the break hasn't been as
long lived as Thomas has made it seem. Harrison said the prosecution's
contention that jail nurse Natalie Sims thought Thomas was faking some of
his symptoms was news to him. When Ashmore asked if Harrison was calling
Sims a liar, Harrison seemed to think the idea absurd. He said he has a
great deal of respect for the nurse, but has not ever known her to
withhold such an opinion from him in the past.
Sims testified that she overheard Thomas tell another mental health worker
that he had smoked marijuana laced with another drug before the killings.
Harrison said Thomas denied smoking "wet" marijuana when asked about it as
part of Harrison's examination.
Harrison then said he disagreed with Dr. David Axelrod's contention that
Thomas suffers from borderline personality disorder. Harrison said it's
difficult to make such a diagnosis when the person being examined is
suffering from drug abuse because the 2 have similar symptoms.
Harrison contended that Thomas' abuse of drugs and the timing of his
apparent decline in mental stability better fit the diagnosis of
Scarano said that diagnosis doesn't fit at all with the evidence in the
Thomas case. He said he had never heard of a certain level of DXM required
to make a person suffer the type of symptoms Thomas suffered. He
maintained that each individual person would have a different reaction to
the drug depending on the amount of drug they took, and what they mixed it
The battle of the experts will continue when the trial resumes Thursday.
(source: The Herald Democrat)
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