[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----OHIO, N. MEX., CALIF., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Mar 9 17:09:35 CST 2005
Appeals court rejects new trial bid in capital murder case
A man sentenced to death for stabbing his partially paralyzed mother to
death during an argument in 1991 lost an appeal on Tuesday in his bid for
a new trial.
A 3-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously
rejected claims by Jeffrey D. Hill that his trial lawyers inadequately
represented him by not hiring a psychologist until the day before his
The appeals court noted, however, that nine psychological and background
assessments of Hill had been done by then and all were submitted to the
jury during the sentencing hearing.
The appeals judges also said the psychologist's testimony that Hill was
under the influence of crack cocaine when his mother was killed differed
little from the argument that would likely have been presented with more
Hill, 40, was convicted of stabbing Emma Hill 10 times with a kitchen
knife during the argument at her Cincinnati apartment in which she
complained he did not visit her regularly, Hill told police.
Hill admitted that he left his mother, took $20 from her apartment and
bought crack cocaine that he smoked. Hill, 26 at the time, admitted that
he took an additional $120 from his mother's closet later that day, police
His execution date is on hold while appeals are pending.
On the Web: Appeals court: http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov
(source: Associated Press)
Senators soul-searching on death penalty repeal
Questions about the New Mexico death penalty have a way of stopping
lawmakers in their tracks - even as a ban on executions inches toward
Rep. Gail Beam made history in this year's Legislature by getting a bill
repealing the death penalty past the House.
Now the Albuquerque Democrat and her allies are focused on the Senate,
which has a tricky history - and an uncertain future - with the
"It's very, very close," Beam said.
Just four years ago, powerful Senate Majority Leader Manny Aragon came
within one vote, 21-20, of repealing the death penalty.
But Aragon, an Albuquerque Democrat, is gone now. In his place sits Sen.
James Taylor, another Albuquerque Democrat, who supports the death
Such ideological shifts are taking place all over the Senate, with
once-predictable votes getting mushier.
In the hallway outside the Senate floor, Sen. William Sharer took a long
look at his shoes when asked whether he would vote to repeal the death
penalty if it were replaced with life without parole, as Beam's bill does.
In 2001, the Farmington Republican voted against the repeal. But that was
before the life-without-parole ingredient got added.
"I don't know," Sharer finally said. "It's not one of those things I'm
ready to make a decision on right now."
And that was all, for now. But his indecision could be weighing on other
lawmakers, as well.
"There's some soft votes in here, one way or another," said Lt. Gov. Diane
Denish, a Democrat who acts as Senate president during floor sessions.
And you can count her in that "soft votes" group. Denish is aware that if
it came down to a tie of the Senate, she would have to break it and vote
for or against a death penalty repeal.
"I've been thinking a lot about it," Denish said. "I have a lot of
concerns about it, being able to mete it out in a fair manner."
She also knows her tiebreaker would send the measure upstairs to her
partner in governance, Gov. Bill Richardson.
"We need to have a chat," Denish said. "I'm not sure if it's my job to
force him to consider it."
Richardson has said he supports the death penalty, but only with adequate
protections against improper use of the ultimate punishment.
Beam's measure has to survive one more committee in the Senate before it
can get to a floor vote. She believes she has the votes in that panel, the
Senate Judiciary Committee, to get the bill moving.
"We're working it very hard," Beam said.
The life-imprisonment ingredient, Beam said, is crucial to getting the
support of Republicans, such as Rep. Justine Fox-Young, an Albuquerque
lawmaker who stunned her party by voting for Beam's bill when it got to
the House floor. Fox-Young later said the life-imprisonment factor gave
her comfort in voting for the repeal.
"It's really a two-pronged question," Beam said. "You've really got to
ask: `What if you replaced it with life without parole?' Then support (for
the death penalty) plummets."
So, she and the Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty are hoping to turn
some votes in the Senate.
They came into this session already having persuaded Sen. Phil Griego, a
San Juan Democrat who for 8 years running has voted to keep the death
"It's just not working," Griego said. "Life without parole seems to me to
be the way to go."
Like many others, Griego worries about the prospect of taking the life of
someone later found, through new technology, to be innocent.
"It's just not right for us to do that," Griego said.
Bumping people off their positions about the death penalty, advocates
said, is getting easier.
"Sister Helen Prejean said support for the death penalty is an inch deep
and a mile wide," said Ruth Hoffman, who works with the New Mexico
Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty. "I think that's what you're
Repeal advocates are focusing their lobbying efforts on newcomers to the
One of those is Sen. John Ryan, an Albuquerque Republican who took the
seat held by Republican Ramsay Gorham, who had supported the death
Ryan said he carries on that tradition, but that doesn't mean he hasn't
gotten an earful on Beam's measure.
"I would say it's an education," Ryan said. "And I asked for it. It's so
serious to me."
He knows the arguments against it. In fact, he can recite them, and does,
"I love the provisions about life without parole," Ryan said. "I think
they're needed whether we repeal or not."
But so far, Ryan remains a "no" vote.
"We're working on him," Beam said.
(source: Albuquerque Tribune)
Fatal lies----Angelina Rodriguez is many things. Wife, mother, sister,
daughter. She is also a convicted killer.
Angelina RODRIGUEZ furrows her dark brow and places her hands over her
eyes, smearing the mascara and eyeliner she had so carefully applied. She
has been talking for hours, the drama of her stories escalating with every
telling, her role consistent in every one of them - the victim. She
describes herself as a "people person," "the mothering type," an easy
target for domineering, unfaithful men. "I'm not a violent person," she
says. "That is not who I am."
Yet Rodriguez lives on death row here at the Central California Women's
Facility, convicted of killing Frank Rodriguez, her husband of four
months, in September 2000 by feeding him oleander soup and so much
antifreeze-laced Gatorade that, as the medical examiner noted, the
chemical seeped from his eyes. 7 years earlier, investigators say, she
killed her toddler daughter by shoving a piece of pacifier down her
throat, then successfully sued the manufacturer for its "faulty" product.
Money was the motive in both cases. In his 20 years on the bench, Los
Angeles County Superior Court Judge William R. Pounders, who sentenced
Rodriguez, said he'd "never seen a colder heart."
It was a sensational crime, the stuff of pulp fiction. Court TV recently
memorialized it with a moody reenactment titled "The Persistent Wife." And
Rodriguez hopes the story's cinematic potential piques Hollywood's
interest enough to benefit her appeal, which is still years away. For
investigators, it was "a once-in-a-career case." Police had no physical
evidence linking Rodriguez to the murder. Instead, it was her bizarre
behavior that convinced them - and a jury - of her guilt and ultimately
resulted in a death sentence.
Rodriguez is 1 of 15 women on California's death row, the nation's
largest. They represent a fraction of the state's 637 death row inmates,
and most expect to die of natural causes, not lethal injection. A woman
hasn't been executed here since 1962; a man was executed Jan. 19. Despite
America's preoccupation with serial killers and random murder, most women
on the row are like Rodriguez, sentenced for killing children and
husbands. Yet the real intrigue of this gothic tale lies in the portrait
of the woman, not the crime.
She was so capable of blending into suburban life that even her closest
relatives remember her as a caring mother who was easily bullied. She was
a romantic, they say, despite a deeply troubled childhood and a series of
bad marriages. She cried when her dog fell ill. She was so devout that she
often wept as she prayed. She was a pretty girl whose only fault, it
seemed, was an insatiable need for affection.
With a "high average" IQ of 112, Rodriguez is intelligent. But her doctors
contend that for most of her life she has lived amid emotional chaos,
overwhelmed by self-loathing and shame, the result of repeated incest and
molestation in childhood. Still, Rodriguez was rarely out of work and
never without a boyfriend. She joined the Air Force at 20 and later the
Army National Guard, managed a fast-food restaurant, sold insurance
door-to-door and earned a cosmetology license. She married four times and
was engaged twice - each man, she says, more demanding than the last.
Then there were the lawsuits. In 6 years, she won about $286,000 in
settlement payments. She accused a fast-food restaurant of sexual
harassment, Target of negligence after she slipped and fell in a dressing
room and Gerber Co. of product liability after her daughter's death. When
she was arrested in February 2001, investigators say, Rodriguez was
preparing to sue her landlord for asbestos poisoning.
Sorting fact from fiction in Rodriguez's life has long been difficult for
those closest to her - and for Rodriguez. "She wanted a good life," says
Rodriguez's sister Gigi Colaiacovo. "But I also believe that she felt that
the world owed her something."
Rodriguez says all she ever wanted was a loving family. Yet each time she
came close to that dream, catastrophe struck.
"When you try to sort through it all," says Rodriguez's former neighbor
Betty Hailey, "you just get tired of trying to find the truth."
She was a 'dreamer'
Childhood, as Rodriguez recalls it, was a dark, confusing time. She grew
up in the working-class neighborhood of Rockaway Beach in Queens, N.Y.,
the younger and more troublesome of two daughters. Her father was Puerto
Rican-born, a trucker and cabdriver, who left the family. Her mother was a
nurse who worked day and night to send her daughters to Catholic schools
and provide lessons in ballet, cheerleading and basketball.
"My sister was always the hopeful romantic," says Colaiacovo, now a real
estate comptroller in West Babylon, on Long Island. "She was definitely
the dreamer of the 2."
The girls were always surrounded by relatives. When their grandfather
baby-sat them, Rodriguez and her sister say, he molested her. The
relationship began when she was 2 and lasted through high school, resulted
in an abortion and the creation of an alter ego she named "Victoria." She
told several relatives of the abuse, she says, but nothing changed.
"She allowed it to happen," Colaiacovo says. "She was always looking to be
accepted and looking to be 'Daddy's little girl.'" The grandfather abused
the other girls in the family, Colaiacovo says, but "we kind of stopped it
when it was supposed to be stopped."
Rodriguez says she first attempted suicide at age 8 with some
over-the-counter pain relievers. At 16, hospital records show, she
overdosed on sleeping pills and was hospitalized for depression. At 19,
she married and divorced a neighborhood boy named Hector Gonzalez. After
that, she says, she started "running - to find my place."
She moved to Florida and enlisted in the Air Force. She fell in love with
Tom Fuller, a good-looking, athletic "Mr. Right," while both were based in
Colorado. Within three months, she was pregnant. They got married and
moved to Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lompoc. Two years later, Rodriguez
was raising her daughter Autumn and her premature newborn, Alicia. The
baby's first four months were spent in and out of the hospital with
several health problems, including bradycardia, an abnormally slow
heartbeat. Yet Rodriguez remembers this as the happiest time of her life.
"She really seemed to be as grounded as I had ever seen her," Colaiacovo
says. "If she could have had any job she did perfectly, it was as a
Inside the marriage, however, the relationship was disintegrating.
Rodriguez became especially protective of the girls. In an interview,
Fuller says that she became preoccupied with their afterlife. "They had to
be christened," he says. " 'Just in case anything happened.'"
On the morning of Sept. 18, 1993, when Fuller was out of town on business,
Alicia choked to death on the plastic nipple of her pacifier. Rodriguez
told police she found the child dead in her crib, the pacifier's shield
lying on the floor. "They're going to pay for this," she said of the
pacifier's manufacturer, Gerber, according to police reports.
Weeks later, Fuller learned that Rodriguez had purchased a $50,000 life
insurance policy for the child. But it wasn't until the investigation of
Frank Rodriguez's murder that Fuller recalled a waitress' warning, months
before Alicia died, that the pacifier had been recalled because the nipple
sometimes separated from the shield. That memory still plagues him.
"There's times when all I want to do is see her dead," says Fuller of his
ex-wife. "Then there are times I'm just not 100% sold on it. And then
maybe I'm in denial that I could marry someone who could have done
something like that."
Colaiacovo still can't believe her sister killed Alicia. Just the memory
of those accusations makes her cry. "There is no way," she says. "That is
ridiculous. I would stake my life on it." Colaiacovo sat through every day
of her sister's trial and sentencing, heard the wiretapped recordings of
her sister plotting to kill a witness, heard the judge call her
"She really is a good person," she says. "I know that sounds ironic. She
wouldn't do anything to hurt anybody. If she did, in fact, do it, who
knows what she was thinking? She could never do something like that. She's
not smart enough. I can't imagine what would possess her."
During an August interview, Rodriguez shed no tears as she recalled her
daughter's death. "If I'd wanted to kill my daughter," she said. "I could
have just let her die from the bradycardia."
In an October letter for this article, however, her tone was tender. "I
love my girls more than anything or anyone," she wrote. "They are my
breath, my heart, my life. I had never felt so alive as I did with them.
Finally, I had the love I wanted." As for grief, she wrote, "it's not that
I don't feel it. Hell, sometimes it's screaming out so loud inside me, I
Deception as a way of life
After the 1993 death of Alicia, Rodriguez's world shifted radically. She
and Fuller divorced. They settled their case against Gerber for $750,000;
Rodriguez got about $250,000, according to court records. She bought a
house, a car and a boat.
Lying became a way of life, according to friends, relatives and
investigators. Friends say Rodriguez started telling people she was
pregnant with twins, even though most of them knew she'd had an operation
that left her infertile. When the babies never arrived, she told them she
had fallen down a flight of stairs and miscarried. When she totaled her
car, she said a boyfriend drove her off a cliff.
She got a cosmetology license, married a trucker named Don Combs, and then
divorced him a few months later, she says, because he was too possessive.
She joined the Army National Guard, fell in love with another man, who she
says deserted her after she loaned him $20,000.
"She became flighty again," Colaiacovo says. Despite the settlement,
Rodriguez always had a hard-luck story for her family, she says. She
always needed money. "She is the boy who cried wolf," Colaiacovo says. "I
definitely lost trust in her."
Betty Hailey met Rodriguez around 1997 at a school-bus stop. Rodriguez had
just put her well-landscaped, 4-bedroom home in Paso Robles on the market,
a house she bought with the settlement money from Alicia's death. Hailey
bought the house, and soon the 2 women became friends. She was impressed
by Rodriguez's lifestyle - the cars, the clothes, the furniture. "Whatever
she wanted, she bought," Hailey says. They prayed together. They baby-sat
for one another. Rodriguez took Hailey on a cruise to Mexico. And when
Rodriguez married Frank, Hailey was her matron of honor.
Yet Hailey says she never really trusted her impulsive friend. She
wouldn't leave her husband alone with Rodriguez because she suspected her
neighbor might try to seduce him. When Rodriguez found out Hailey's son
was single, she invited herself to his Washington, D.C., home for
Thanksgiving. "I prayed with her and I counseled with her, but to tell you
the truth, I didn't know that much about her," Hailey says.
Rodriguez has been diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorders several
times since childhood. After her arrest, doctors concluded that she also
suffered symptoms of manic and borderline personality disorders but was
competent to stand trial. During jailhouse interviews with forensic
psychiatrist William Vicary, transcripts show that Rodriguez told him, "I
have remorse in my heart." I'm sorry for what happened to Frank." But she
wouldn't acknowledge any guilt.
"If I admit responsibility, then I'll lose everything. I lose all hope,"
she told Vicary.
"She'd lose hope of ever having a chance for some kind of freedom or
life," Vicary said in a September interview. "And she cannot stand she
might lose what little affection and support she has from her own family.
That's all she's got left."
Joking about murder
The courtship of Angelina and Frank Rodriguez was so brief it shocked
their friends and relatives. They met in February 2000 at Angel Gate
Academy in San Luis Obispo, a boot camp for wayward youth operated by the
California National Guard and the Los Angeles Unified School District.
They were platoon sergeants when Angelina accused another staffer of
sexual misconduct with a student. No one but Frank believed her. Soon they
Frank was a devout Christian who insisted they save sex for marriage;
Angelina says they spent a lot of time praying together. She wasn't in
love, but Frank was smart, grounded and loved Autumn.
On the surface, they had a lot in common. The oldest son of 6 children,
Frank also grew up in a chaotic family, moving from Connecticut to Texas
and finally settling in central Illinois in the 1970s. His father, Jose
Francisco Rodriguez, was a doctor and, relatives say, a jealous, abusive
man with a drug and alcohol problem, who later deserted the family. His
mother, Janet Baker, was a lab technician who raised her children alone.
Relatives say Frank was a quiet, trusting man who took responsibility for
his siblings. He left home to join the Navy, married a hometown girl,
earned a teaching degree from Southern Illinois University and tried to
finish law school. Eventually he became a teacher with an affinity for
After 14 years, his marriage to Judy Adams ended, devastating Frank. Baker
says the settlement left him penniless but desperate for a fresh start and
a family of his own. He joined a Pentecostal church and stopped drinking
and smoking. He became a rape hotline counselor, she says, even inviting
one victim into his home who ultimately tried to stab him. Later, Frank
moved to San Luis Obispo and became engaged to another teacher at Angel
Gate, but, Baker says, she fell in love with someone else and broke it
Then he met Angelina. "He was looking for love," Baker says. "Someone who
would love him, for him."
Frank and Angelina exchanged vows in an April 2000 ceremony at his small
church in Paso Robles. Within days, they moved to Montebello into a house
they could barely afford, given Frank's new teaching job at a local middle
school. For a while, life was stable. But Angelina says Frank became
intolerably possessive and overly strict with Autumn. He insisted on being
the sole breadwinner. "He was everything," she says. "I was nothing. I
just wanted out."
Frank's family says the trouble came from Angelina. "He was so patient,"
says Frank's sister Carmen Pipitone. "He would have given her anything."
In July, at Angelina's urging, Frank bought a $250,000 life insurance
policy for himself and made her sole benefactor. And, as her friends would
later testify at her trial, Angelina starting talking about killing Frank.
"Well, he's got a life insurance policy," she told one friend, according
to prosecutor Doug Sortino's opening statement. "I ought to just kill him
and get it over with." Everyone thought she was kidding. They joked about
murder methods and told the story of a woman arrested for using oleander
to poison her husband, testimony shows. "Whatever you do," one friend
said, according to court transcripts, "don't use oleander." They talked
about some vicious neighbor dogs who deserved to die by antifreeze-soaked
"Why would anybody eat something with antifreeze?" Angelina asked,
according to prosecutors. "Don't you know?" said one friend. "It tastes
sweet. It says so right on the label."
In August, Angelina says, she started an affair with Matt Morones, an
ex-con and old friend from Paso Robles. She says she swiped one of Frank's
paychecks, hid the money and made plans to live with Morones' family.
Around the same time, testimony shows, Frank found natural gas leaking
from their dryer during a weekend Angelina was away.
On Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2000, Frank Rodriguez woke from a nap feeling ill -
again. Angelina later told police that it had been days since he'd felt
like himself. He'd had a headache and couldn't keep his food down. In
fact, she told them, he'd come home 2 months earlier with similar
symptoms, suspicious that someone at school was trying to poison him, and
they had rushed him to the hospital.
This time, Angelina dragged him to the emergency room again. According to
police, she told the doctor, "I don't know what's wrong. I've tried
everything I know. My mom was a nurse. I tried. It didn't work." Food
poisoning, the doctor said. Go home, rest and drink lots of fluids,
So, Angelina says, she put her husband to bed and for the next two days
she and her daughter Autumn nursed Frank with Gatorade and soup, every
four hours. At about 3 a.m. Saturday, Angelina says, she woke up to find
Frank face down on the bedroom floor, dead.
Days later, she told Frank's mother she was pregnant with twins - a story
she'd told friends after the death of her daughter. "She wanted to know if
I would help her out with her maternity stuff, monetarily," Baker says. "I
said, 'Angelina, you bring me a report that says you truly are pregnant
and a DNA report that says that it's my grandson and then we'll talk.'"
At the funeral, friends and relatives noticed that Angelina looked
relaxed, even content. She was telling people she suspected Frank had been
poisoned by a vengeful co-worker at Angel Gate. In the limo ride to the
cemetery, Frank's sister Shirley Coers asked: "How can someone just poison
somebody?" "There's lots of things you can use to poison people," Angelina
told her, according to Coers' testimony. "Botanical things. Oleander, for
Investigators say if it wasn't for Angelina's tenacity and greed, they may
never have determined what killed Frank. County toxicologists tested
Frank's blood for all the common poisons PCP, heroin, methamphetamine,
arsenic, cyanide - but found none. And without a cause of death, police
told her the insurance company wouldn't release any money to Angelina.
Almost immediately after Frank's death, according to investigators'
transcripts, she started referencing oleander and antifreeze. "It could be
anything," she told investigators. "It could be the flowers on the road."
What the heck are those? You know, they grow in the middle of the
She claimed to have received an anonymous call on her cellphone from
someone who knew how Frank died. "All I heard was, um, 'Ask them about
antifreeze,'" she told them. "Does that help, you think? If they test
[Frank] and say, 'Yeah, it's there, maybe that'll be enough for them to
say, 'This is the cause of death.'"
Toxicologists took her recommendation. They determined Frank had received
a massive dose of antifreeze 4 to 6 hours before he died. Angelina was
arrested a few weeks later.
Investigators never determined how Angelina got the poisons into Frank. He
had been dead for 2 days before they searched the house. They found
oleander plants within arm's reach of her back patio but no antifreeze.
"Just the way we had to work the case, we had to lie to her," says Los
Angeles County Sheriff's Det. Brian Steinwand. "We had no witnesses. Our
only witness was her." She provided us with the poisons. [County
toxicologists] check for standard ones, but they don't check for oleander
and antifreeze. We knew she was the only one alive that knew what poisons
Tears and excuses
As Angelina recalls Frank's last days now, there are no signs of grief.
She says he committed suicide because she wanted a divorce. The marriage
was so bad, she says, she started mixing painkillers and alcohol, spending
long afternoons alone, sobbing. All of this, she says, points to her
"How could I have gotten all that green goop into this intelligent man?"
she asks. "I might have been depressed. I might have been sad. But I'm not
But if she thought Frank committed suicide, why did she tell police he had
been poisoned by a vengeful co-worker? Her answer: It was only in
retrospect that she realized how desperate Frank had become.
If she was innocent, why did she try to arrange the murder of a witness in
her case, suggesting the killer use "what I killed my husband with -
antifreeze"? Her answer: She was overmedicated, incoherent and didn't know
what she was saying.
What about testimony from friends claiming she talked about killing Frank?
Her answer: All lies.
And why did she take out a $50,000 life insurance policy on the
13-month-old just days before the child's death? The insurance money was a
college fund, she says.
When the line of questioning creeps uncomfortably close to incriminating
her, she stops talking and stares at the wall. She rubs her temples and
sighs loudly. Then she puts both hands on the table and says, "I did not
kill my husband. I did not kill my daughter. I'm so tired of feeling
Most everyone from Rodriguez's old life has cut ties with her. Only
Rodriguez's stepfather, Jose Rivera, who has paid for her paralegal
studies, keeps in touch. Still, for this article, she provided a long list
of old friends and close relatives in the hopes that they would attest to
her character. "Maybe," she says, "if they hear you aren't really looking
to prove my innocence, they will relax."
Today Rodriguez has nothing but time. She can't afford an attorney. But
even if she could, there's not much one could do for her now. The
California Supreme Court won't even consider the automatic appeal of her
case - which is required by law after a death sentence - until 2009.
Rodriguez's conviction has devastated almost everyone close to her. Her
mother, Anita Rivera, died of emphysema and pulmonary disease soon after
Rodriguez was sentenced to death. Fuller says their daughter, Autumn, who
is now 13, is tortured by the possibility that she may inadvertently have
helped her mother kill Frank. She recently told Rodriguez she never wants
to see her again.
Colaiacovo says she broke off contact with her sister after Rodriguez
demanded costly care packages - a television, a VCR and expensive perfume.
This, she says, after the family drained its savings to fund her defense.
Still, Colaiacovo struggles with guilt over not rescuing her little sister
from their grandfather. Rodriguez was never equipped to handle the harsh
truths of the world, she says.
"I don't think she had a true grip of reality," Colaiacovo says. "I think
she lived in a dream world. I think she made up stories and believed them.
Truly believed them."
(source: Los Angeles Times)
Hidden Deal Dooms Death Sentence
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a reprieve Monday to a
condemned California man because prosecutors didn't tell the trial court
they had a deal with the main witness.
The 7-4 en banc ruling reverses a 3-judge panel decision from 2002. The
defendant, Blufford Hayes Jr., got lucky with the make-up of the en banc:
Judge Sidney Thomas, who had dissented on the earlier panel, wrote
Monday's majority tossing the death conviction.
Chief Judge Mary Schroeder and Judges Susan Graber, Kim McLane Wardlaw,
William Fletcher, Raymond Fisher and Richard Paez joined Thomas. Judges
Richard Tallman, Andrew Kleinfeld, Ronald Gould and Jay Bybee dissented.
A jury had convicted Hayes for murdering Vinod "Pete" Patel on New Year's
Day 1980. Patel was the manager of a resident hotel in Stockton where
Hayes was staying.
At trial, prosecutor Terrence Van Oss -- now a San Joaquin County, Calif.,
Superior Court judge -- presented testimony from Hayes' acquaintance,
Andrew "A.J." James, who told jurors Hayes had confessed to him and that
he drove Hayes to his mother's house after the killing.
The problem, according to Monday's decision, is that Van Oss had made a
secret deal with James' attorney to help secure that testimony.
Van Oss agreed to drop pending felony charges against James in exchange
for the cooperation. But Van Oss made the deal only with James' attorney,
and the attorney and Van Oss agreed not to tell James so that James could
truthfully testify that he wasn't getting special treatment from the DA's
Monday's majority rests its decision upon a U.S. Supreme Court case, Napue
v. Illinois , 360 U.S. 264, which says that "the state may not use false
evidence to obtain a criminal conviction." The state Attorney General's
office, which defended the conviction, argued that there wasn't a Napue
violation because James did not perjure himself on the stand.
"The state is wrong," Thomas wrote. "There is nothing in Napue ... to
suggest that the Constitution protects defendants only against the knowing
use of perjured testimony. Due process protects defendants against the
knowing use of any false evidence by the state."
Van Oss also told the trial court there had been "no promises, no
discussions about this other offense at all."
The en banc panel further ruled that the false evidence was material to
Hayes' conviction and criticized Van Oss for "artificially bolstering
The majority also argued that James would not have testified at all
without the deal with prosecutors, and that would have changed the entire
case against Hayes.
"The due process violations have undermined our confidence in the
verdict," according to the opinion.
But the dissent, written by Tallman, points out that the prosecution
actually made 2 deals with the defense.
Besides getting the secret get-out-of-jail card for unrelated felonies,
James was also granted transactional immunity in connection with his role
in Hayes' crimes -- something the jury was well aware of, according to the
"To label the testimony of James 'false' is a misnomer on these facts,"
Because the jury knew that prosecutors had agreed not to pursue those
charges against James, the secret deal would not have had as big of an
effect on James' credibility.
Although the dissenters agree that Van Oss' behavior was "repugnant," they
would let the conviction stand. Reiterating a constant criticism leveled
by the 9th Circuit's conservative judges upon their liberal colleagues,
the dissent urges the court to trust "jurors who had the distinct benefit
of hearing all the testimony and seeing the evidence first-hand" rather
than intruding into something that occurred "more than 20 years ago."
Hayes v. Brown , 05 C.D.O.S. 1972, was the 2nd decision in less than a
week in which judges voided death convictions citing California
prosecutors' unethical trial strategy.
Thursday, in In re Sakarias , 05 C.D.O.S. 1846, the California Supreme
Court criticized Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Steven Ipsen
for presenting inconsistent theories at two different capital murder
trials based on the same circumstantial evidence.
Niece describes abuse in house of man charged with 9 murders
In graphic testimony that made some jurors recoil, the niece of a man
charged with killing 9 of his children described the sexual abuse she
endured while living in his household.
Sofina Solorio testified Tuesday that the abuse by Marcus Wesson escalated
from touching to oral sex to intercourse.
Wesson forced his nieces and daughters to perform sexual acts on him and
on each other as he watched, according to testimony.
Solorio, 28, was the 2nd among Wesson's daughters and nieces to have a
child by the defendant, a boy she named Jonathon St. James Wesson.
Jonathon was one of the 9 people found dead in a back bedroom of Wesson's
Fresno home on March 12, 2004, the day Solorio returned to the house to
rescue her 9-year-old son.
Eight of the victims ranged in age from 1 to 17 and were stacked in a pile
along with the body of Wesson's 25-year-old daughter.
Wesson, 58, has been charged with murder and with several counts of sexual
abuse of minors. He pleaded innocent to all counts.
Among those killed were 7 children Wesson allegedly had with his daughters
and nieces, and 2 of Wesson's daughters by his wife.
All of the victims had been shot once through the eye with a .22-caliber
Solorio and others who grew up in the Wesson home said the family
patriarch told his children over the years that it was better to die -- to
kill themselves and others -- than to allow a government agency to break
up the family. The prosecution may seek to show that Wesson brainwashed
the victims to the point where they were ready to commit suicide on
Solorio testified that Wesson began sexually abusing her when she was 12.
He called the acts he performed with his nieces and daughters "loving" and
told them he was preparing them for marriage.
As the girls grew up, he started asking them if they wanted to "have
children for the Lord," Solorio said. One by one, the girls agreed.
Wesson also held wedding ceremonies, Solorio said. He told 2 of his
teenage daughters and 3 of his nieces he was marrying them, even giving
them gold wedding bands.
The girls had to dress modestly, covering their hair, wearing long skirts
and avoiding any contact with boys. Infractions, such as being caught
laughing with their brothers, were punished by beatings with a stick
wrapped in duct tape, Solorio said.
(source: Associated Press)
Tyranny of Supreme Court
The United States Supreme Court decision striking down Missouri's juvenile
death penalty law presents a perfect example of what is wrong with the
The court's 5-4 opinion in Roper v. Simmons is extremely troubling, if not
alarming, for at least 2 reasons. First, the court has declared itself the
final arbiter of the nation's moral standards; and second, a majority of
the court's members are now committed to supplanting the will of the
American people with international law. Judicial tyrants are attacking
The Supreme Court majority's five unelected, life-tenured lawyers have
nullified 18 state legislatures' deliberations, most notably Missouri's.
Justice Anthony Kennedy's opinion declares that a "national consensus"
opposing the punishment has evolved in the 15 years since the Court upheld
Moreover, he rules that juveniles cannot appreciate the consequences of
their actions. (Of course, Kennedy's sentiment would be more convincing if
he applied the same logic to laws that would require an abortion facility
to notify a juvenile's parents that their daughter, who presumably cannot
appreciate fully the consequences of her actions, is seeking to undergo a
dangerous surgical procedure to kill her unborn child.)
What's going on here? In short, the Supreme Court believes that we 290
million Americans, through our elected representatives, cannot be trusted
to make morally sound laws. Wasted are the public hearings, committee
meetings and floor debates. Gone is the notion that those elected by the
people are best able to set community standards for behavior.
The Supreme Court's nine members will determine where our nation's
"evolving standards of decency" lie. "In the end," Kennedy bravely writes,
"our own judgment will be brought to bear on the question of the
acceptability of the death penalty under the Eighth Amendment." But that
is not their job. It's our job. More than that - it is our constitutional
Worse still, the Supreme Court's legal analysis relies on 2 international
treaties, which the United States, through Presidents Clinton and Bush,
has rejected. Our forefathers fought a revolutionary war to free
themselves from foreign rule; now these justices invoke international law
to strike down American laws. This ought to outrage every American who
cares about representative government.
In his book, Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America ,
my Landmark Legal Foundation colleague Mark Levin points out that the
lawyers on the Supreme Court are "no more wise or just than the next guy.
(They) simply use their high positions to impose by fiat that which should
be determined through the democratic process." That is precisely what has
happened in the Simmons case.
I oppose the death penalty and abortion in all cases. It is beyond me how
these 9 persons, about whom I and the vast majority of Americans know
almost nothing, are competent to divine that our "national standards of
decency" prohibit in all cases the one and requires in all cases access to
the other. The constitutional answer is that they can't.
(source: Opinion, Pete Hutchison is vice president and general counsel of
the Landmark Legal Foundation; Kansas City Star)
More information about the DeathPenalty