[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----TEXAS, N.J., N.Y., OHIO
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Mar 8 10:18:14 CST 2005
Hit man to die tonight for Dallas slaying ---- He killed Richardson woman
in '83 plot by scorned socialite wife
The 4-year-old boy walked into his mother's bedroom and found her naked
and bound, gagged and dying from 2 gunshot wounds to her head.
She had been raped. Tissue paper was jammed down her throat. High levels
of the tranquilizer Thorazine, doctors later discovered, coursed through
her failing heart.
Richardson nurse Rozanne Gailiunas died 2 days later.
Barring court intervention, George A. "Andy" Hopper Jr. will himself die
tonight in the Huntsville death chamber for killing Ms. Gailiunas.
The 1983 murder remains one of Texas' most macabre in a generation,
orchestrated by Joy Davis Aylor, the scorned socialite wife of Dallas
homebuilder Larry Aylor, with whom Ms. Gailiunas was having an affair.
The case was so bizarre that it took more than a decade to fully crack,
spawning worldwide news coverage, true-crime novels and a TV miniseries.
"It was just such a Byzantine situation, so many people involved, so
difficult to unwind," said Cedar Hill author Carlton Stowers, whose 1994
book Open Secrets: A True Story of Love, Jealousy and Murder chronicled
the saga. "When police finally solved it, there was just a cast of
characters involved that seemed to keep growing."
Mr. Hopper, who pocketed $1,500 for the hit job, in part to feed his drug
habit, evaded police for more than 5 years. Dallas police eventually
caught him in December 1988, after he had fled from the car dealership
where he worked during a police interview.
In 1992, a jury of 7 men and 5 women, which took 6 months to select,
convicted Mr. Hopper of capital murder in the strangling and shooting of
He was the 4th link in a murder conspiracy chain: Ms. Aylor hired William
Wesley Garland, who hired Brian Lee Kreafle, who hired Mr. Hopper to
commit the murder. Both Mr. Garland and Mr. Kreafle are serving 30-year
Ms. Aylor received a life sentence in 1994 for her role in the killing but
will be eligible for parole at some point.
Like Mr. Hopper, she evaded authorities for months, jumping her $140,000
bail in 1990 on the eve of her murder trial, in which prosecutors said
they'd seek the death penalty. She was also charged with the attempted
murder-for-hire of her husband when arrested in 1989.
That decision to flee might have spared her Mr. Hopper's fate.
Hiding out in the south of France, Ms. Aylor lived a luxurious, if brief,
life on the lam. French authorities captured her in 1991.
In jail, she attempted suicide but failed. For 2 1/2 years she fought
extradition to the United States, and French authorities wouldn't release
her into U.S. custody unless prosecutors promised not to seek the death
penalty, which France outlaws. Ultimately, U.S. authorities relented, and
Ms. Aylor returned to Dallas to face trial.
Given that Mr. Hopper is the only member of the conspiracy condemned to
death, his case deserves scrutiny up to the moment he's strapped to a
death gurney, said Abe Bonowitz, spokesman for Citizens United for
Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
While there is no doubt Mr. Hopper's crime is gruesome, "it's the whole
question of fairness," Mr. Bonowitz said. "You have a system that treats
Mr. Hopper has one appeal pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, said
Jerry Strickland, spokesman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. Mr.
Hopper's attorney could not be reached for comment.
"We will continue to wait," Mr. Strickland said. "Nothing prevents him
from raising more claims. If he does, we'll be ready to respond."
If not, and courts do not issue stays, the execution will take place at
some point after 6 p.m., said Mike Viesca, spokesman for the Texas
Department of Criminal Justice.
And even with Mr. Hopper's death, the case's closest observers will still
be in search of an answer to the most basic question: Why?
"You look at this guy, and he's a nice-looking, clean-cut kid. He seemed
to be an intelligent guy who fit into society," Mr. Stowers said. "You
just wonder how in the world does someone get to the point where he was,
why he carried things to such extremes. I don't even know if he knows."
(source: Dallas Morning News)
Last meal ordered in execution with local ties
A man convicted of killing a Framingham native in Texas in 1983 was
scheduled to die by lethal injection later today, more than 20 years after
George "Andy" Hopper is set to die by lethal injection sometime this
evening for the Oct. 4, 1983, murder of Framingham native Rozanne
Gailiunas in Richardson, Texas.
The spokesman said Hopper spent last night on death row at the Polunsky
Unit in Livingston, Texas. This morning, he was to be brought to
Huntsville, Texas, where he will be executed.
While in the holding cell prior to the execution, Hopper will be allowed
access to his lawyer and his spiritual adviser.
The DOC spokesman said executions generally occur between 6 p.m. and 9
p.m., but a time is not usually set, pending the completion of any
last-minute appeals, either by the inmate's attorney or automatic appeals.
Authorities say Hopper killed Gailiunas after he was paid $1,500 by Joy
Aylor. Aylor was sentenced to life in prison for the murder. She paid for
the murder because her husband was leaving her to marry Gailiunas, a
33-year-old registered nurse.
Members of Gailiunas' family were to leave for Texas yesterday and
declined comment until after the execution.
(source: Metro West Daily News)
High Court Remands 3 Juvenile Execution Cases
The U.S. Supreme Court sent 3 Texas juvenile death penalty cases back to
lower courts Monday, the first since last week's decision banning the
execution of offenders who were 16 or 17 at the time of their crimes. In
effect, the court vacated the death sentences of Mauro Barraza of Fort
Worth, Edward Capetillo of Houston and Anzel Jones of Lamar County. Each
was convicted of a murder committed when he was 17. The 3 were the 1st of
29 death sentences in Texas expected to be reduced to life in prison.
(source: Associated Press)
Sherman Man Convicted Of Murder----Man Faces Death Penalty
A north Texas jury took only 35 minutes to find a Sherman man guilty of
capital murder Monday.
Andre Thomas was charged of killing his 4-year-old son, his estranged wife
and her 1-year-old daughter nearly a year ago.
The guilty verdict is for the death of the young girl only.
The jury is now deciding his punishment, which includes the death penalty
Lawmakers consider life without parole----Supreme Court decision barring
execution of juvenile offenders has lawmakers rethinking ultimate prison
Bolstered by a U.S. Supreme Court decision barring the execution of
killers under age 18, a controversial bill that would allow a sentence of
life without parole was granted a Senate committee hearing on Monday as
proponents pushed for a new alternative to the death penalty in
The author, state Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, said he thinks Senate
Bill 60 stands a better chance of passage this year than in the three
previous sessions when he filed similar legislation, due in part to a
growing concern that the high court's ruling has created a void through
which youthful murderers could be paroled after serving 40 years in
"Public opinion is stronger now, and the Supreme Court decision is part of
that," Lucio said, insisting that offenders younger than 18 who commit
capital crimes cannot be held accountable in the same way as adults who
commit the same heinous crimes.
"I fear the survivors of the victims in these cases may seek revenge . . .
because one day these (offenders) will be eligible for parole and may be
released," he said. "That is a situation we need to address."
Under Lucio's bill, which gained new legislative favor last week after the
Supreme Court decision spared the lives of 28 Texas criminals, life
without parole would become a third option that juries could consider in
capital cases. Now, a death sentence and a life term are the only options.
Although some previous opponents of the measure have hinted recently that
they might change their mind if it were limited to juvenile offenders
covered by the Supreme Court ruling, Lucio said he is not considering
Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, said
he scheduled the bill for a hearing in two weeks because it appears to be
"an issue that needs to be heard." He would not rate its chances of
Texas is 1 of only 3 states without a life without parole sentence, said
Steve Hall, director of Stand Down Texas, a group that advocates, among
other criminal justice reforms, a moratorium on executions until various
issues can be studied. New Mexico and Alaska are the others.
"Support for life without parole is growing," he said. "Part of that is
concern over (death sentence) exonerations and part of it is people
learning that life without parole is the norm in other states."
In the past, victims' rights groups and some prosecutors have opposed the
measure as an unnecessary option that would dilute the death penalty. Some
corrections professionals have argued that offenders who are given
sentences of life without parole will prove difficult to control in prison
because they will have nothing to lose.
Supporters have insisted that life without parole would enhance public
safety by giving juries a way to keep heinous criminals locked up.
"Instead of a life term, which is 40 years under current law, this would
keep these people in prison for their life," Lucio said. "I support the
death penalty. . . . This is not soft on crime."
A similar bill he filed in 2001 failed in the House. In 2003, it was not
brought up for debate in the Senate.
Without taking sides, Gov. Rick Perry has said in recent days that he
supports a public debate on the issue.
"We've never had a full discussion of the pros and cons of this proposal,"
said Kathy Walt, the governor's spokeswoman. "There are a number of issues
that need to be considered, and the governor feels that the legislative
process is the place to do that."
Since the Supreme Court decision March 1, prosecutors across Texas have
adopted a wait-and-see attitude on life without parole, partly to see what
happens to Lucio's bill in the Senate.
(source: Austin American-Statesman)
Retrial in a New Jersey Killing
A New Jersey appeals court overturned a 1997 murder conviction yesterday,
ruling that an F.B.I. crime lab technique that prosecutors relied on to
link the fatal bullets to the defendant was based on "erroneous scientific
The decision is believed to be the first to overturn a conviction based on
a challenge to the F.B.I. analysis of the lead content of bullets since
the National Academy of Sciences raised new questions last year about the
technique, which has been used for decades to match bullets to crimes.
Dwight Adams, the director of the F.B.I. laboratory, asked for the study
in 2003 after The Associated Press reported the findings of a retired
bureau metallurgist, who began questioning the science that matches
bullets by comparing the chemical composition of lead content.
The technique has been used in about 2,500 cases since 1980 and has been
mentioned in court testimony about 500 times since then, according to the
F.B.I., which is the only law enforcement agency that uses it.
The retired metallurgist, William Tobin, had submitted a sworn statement
in the New Jersey case that resulted in an order yesterday for a new trial
for Michael S. Behn, who had been sentenced to life in prison after his
1997 conviction in the fatal shooting of a coin dealer.
The chemical analysis is done when fragments are too small or damaged to
examine marks left on the slug by the firearm's barrel. The goal is to
determine whether the crime bullet matches bullets found in the suspect's
In a technique known as chaining, researchers compare the amounts of trace
elements in a series of bullets to determine whether they are part of the
same chain in a box.
In the New Jersey case, the appellate court said the F.B.I. analysis that
used chaining to link bullets found at Mr. Behn's residence with those
used in the killing was the only expert testimony in the circumstantial
case that had not been countered by Mr. Behn's lawyers.
"We conclude that the expert testimony was based on erroneous scientific
foundations," the court said, in reversing his conviction and ordering a
"The integrity of the criminal justice system is ill-served by allowing a
conviction based on evidence of this quality, whether described as false,
unproven or unreliable, to stand," the judges said. Similar challenges are
expected in other courts.
(source: Associated Press)
Winner offers return of death penalty
State lawmakers, including state Sen. George Winner, R-Elmira, are moving
swiftly to restore the state death penalty.
The punishment was struck down by the state Court of Appeals last June.
The Court of Appeals ruled the existing law was unconstitutional because
jurors were uncertain about the potential outcomes of the statute's
Winner said Monday he actively supports the revised death penalty
legislation, set for a Senate vote Wednesday.
Winner said the death penalty is an important element in preventing
violent crime in the state and cited studies indicating violent crime rate
in the state has declined by nearly 50 percent between 1994 and 2003.
The state reinstituted the death penalty in 1995 after an 18-year hiatus.
"The death penalty isn't the sole reason for this remarkable turnaround
(in violent crime), but you can bet that criminals have known that New
York state has a death penalty," Winner said.
Steuben County Assistant District Attorney Michael D. McCartney said the
revision proposed by the Senate should address the state's highest court's
objections to the penalty phase.
McCartney said the Court of Appeals struck down the earlier statute
because jurors were faced with the possibility that a defendant would
eventually go free even if found guilty of a capital offense.
The previous statute instructed jurors they must unanimously agree on life
in prison or the death penalty for a defendant. If the jurors were
deadlocked on the two possible punishments, the judge in the case could
impose an "indeterminate" sentence, such as 25 years to life.
However, prisoners serving indeterminate sentences are generally eligible
for parole, beginning with the earliest date of release possible,
That sentencing option meant a defendant convicted of a heinous crime and
eligible for life in prison or death could instead be released on parole
from prison if the judge, and not the jury, sentenced the convicted felon.
McCartney said the Court of Appeals ruled the optional judicial sentencing
meant jurors could feel forced into a unanimous decision in order to
prevent the defendant from being released.
The new law takes out the option of parole, restricting the penalty to
life in prison or death.
"Certainly we believe the new legislation, which caused the court to
declare the law unconstitutional, will pass muster," McCartney said.
Another local lawyer, certified by the state to defend death penalty
cases, questioned Winner's certainty that the death penalty is a deterrent
to capital crimes.
"I think the deterrent to any crime is knowing you will get caught and
quickly punished," said defense attorney David Wallace. "In a capital
crime, they simply don't think they will get caught."
Most capital cases subject to the death penalty involve premeditation and
Wallace said those who commit capital crimes are operating under a
different "state of mind."
There have been no death penalty cases tried in Steuben County since the
state reinstituted the death penalty 10 years ago, Wallace said. Local
death penalty cases were also rare before the state did away with the
penalty in 1977, he said.
Statewide, roughly 43 people have been sentenced to death in the state
since the law was brought back in 1995. However, no one has been executed,
Nationwide, some 38 states have enacted the death penalty.
Wallace said the new state Senate legislation does address the Court of
Appeals objections, but said the state can expect the constitutionality of
the penalty to be challenged again in the future.
Gov. George Pataki has said he will sign the new legislation if it is
approved by the Senate and the state Assembly.
The Assembly is holding public hearings on reinstating a capital
punishment statute. It is unknown when Assembly leaders will schedule a
vote on the new legislation.
(source: Corning Leader)
State executes killer who tried to prove brain damage
A murderer who said a brain abnormality may have affected his behavior
when he stabbed then raped a bleeding woman was executed Tuesday after
courts decided tests did not prove brain damage.
William H. Smith, 47, died by injection at 10:19 a.m. at the Southern Ohio
Correctional Facility for the death of Mary Bradford, whom he met at a bar
The defense did not challenge Smith's conviction but said a brain lesion
detected after he fainted in prison could have spared him from the death
sentence at his 1988 trial.
In a final statement that lasted 4 minutes, Smith took responsibility for
the crime and said he had given himself to the Lord.
"I hope you have the capacity to forgive," he said, addressing the
victim's grandson, Timmy Bradford, who watched with his hands clutched in
front of his face.
"I cannot control anything from this day. Find the right way. Be a better
person than I was," Smith said.
Smith was upbeat before the execution, visiting family, chatting about
Cincinnati sports with the execution team and sharing a cherry cake recipe
with them, a prisons spokeswoman said.
Smith and Bradford drank together at the bar for several hours before
going to her Cincinnati apartment, where they used cocaine and had sex,
police said. The 2 argued when Smith accused Bradford of owing him money
Smith, also of Cincinnati, told police he grabbed a knife away from
Bradford, and she was stabbed during the struggle. Bradford, 47, had 10
stab wounds in the neck and chest, and Smith had sex with her again as she
lay on her bed bleeding, police said.
He then made 3 trips to his car to steal her stereo and two television
sets, police said.
Smith becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
Ohio and the 16th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in
Smith becomes the 7th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the
USA and the 951st overall since America resumed executions on January 17,
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
Judge Finds Imposing Death Penalty Very Difficult--Man Becomes 1st Person
To Die In 3 Years
A Cleveland judge who has been on the bench for 18 years had to impose the
death penalty for the 1st time Monday -- and he said it was very
In fact, Common Pleas Judge Jose Villanueva said he put the sentence in
writing because "I thought I would not be able to say the words."
Villanueva sentenced Vernon Brown of Cleveland to death -- as recommended
by the trial jury -- for murdering two fellow drug world figures on New
Year's Day, 2004.
Brown became the 1st person sentenced to die in Cuyahoga County in more
than 3 years.
(source: Associated Press)
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