[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----IOWA, ILL., USA, LA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Mar 11 10:25:04 CST 2005
IOWA----re: possible federal death penalty trial
Prosecutors seek mental health records before death penalty trial
In Iowa City, federal prosecutors asked a judge this week to force lawyers
for Angela Johnson, facing trial in April in a possible death penalty
case, to turn over her mental health records.
Johnson, 42, is charged in the execution-style slayings of five people
near Mason City in 1993. She is the former girlfriend of convicted drug
kingpin Dustin Honken, who has been convicted in the killings and is
awaiting sentencing. A jury has recommended the death penalty.
In a motion this week, U.S. Attorney C.J. Williams requested mental health
records dating back to Johnson's jailhouse suicide attempt in the fall of
Typically, medical records are secret, but Williams argues Johnson
essentially waived her protection after defense attorneys announced they
intend to make Johnson's mental health part of her defense.
"She cannot at once use her alleged mental problems as a sword to benefit
her case, then invoke psychotherapist privilege as a shield to prevent the
government from obtaining records about her past treatment ..." Williams
Honken, who ran a multistate methamphetamine ring, was convicted last fall
of murder and other charges in the slayings of 2 of his former drug
dealers and 3 others.
Johnson has pleaded innocent to the charges, and late last year her
attorneys notified the court that they intend to argue that she suffers
from an undisclosed mental defect or disease during the penalty phase of
In October 2000, Johnson tried to commit suicide while in custody of the
Black Hawk County Jail and in the following days underwent evaluation and
treatment by mental health professionals, according to court papers.
Johnson's attempt came the day after news reports that the bodies of
Honken's five victims had been found in fields near Mason City.
Investigators found the grave sites using a map sketched by Johnson and
given to a jailhouse informant. He had told Johnson he planned to give it
to another inmate already serving a life sentence who was willing to take
responsibility for the murders.
In a separate issue, Bennett denied Thursday a motion by the defense
seeking to restrain the amount of photographs, evidence and testimony
prosecutors could present at trial to establish the identity of the
The defense offered to stipulate to the identity of the victims and argued
that showing the jury gruesome photographs would prejudice the jury
(source: Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier)
High death penalty standard advances
Judges and juries would have to have no doubt of a defendant's guilt
before sentencing that person to death, under a measure that narrowly
passed an Illinois House committee Thursday.
Seen by some as a move to help lift the state's moratorium on executions,
the bill would create a unique 2-tiered standard for murder convictions.
Juries would be instructed to weigh whether a defendant was guilty beyond
a reasonable doubt when rendering a verdict.
But in deciding whether the death penalty is warranted, juries would have
to apply a tougher standard, concluding beyond "all doubt" that the
defendant was guilty. If unable to reach that consensus, juries would have
to impose a life sentence.
The legislation, sponsored by House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego)
was passed by the House Criminal Judiciary Committee on a 9-7 vote and now
goes before the full House.
Critics say the measure is an effort to get the state to restore
executions, put on hold in January 2003 after former Gov. George Ryan
imposed a moratorium because of doubts about the guilt of some of the
inmates on death row.
Rep. William Delgado (D-Chicago) says the proposed law might create the
impression that the death penalty system is perfected, when he thinks it
is still flawed.
"Once that sentence is handed down, the state of Illinois will have no
excuse but put that person to death," said Delgado, who voted against the
bill. "Once doing that, we can lift the moratorium and say that we've
fixed everything. I've been here for seven years and not seen one bill fix
Cook County State's Atty. Richard Devine and DuPage County State's Atty.
Joseph Birkett testified against the measure at the Thursday hearing.
Birkett argued that the bill would "open a Pandora's box" if jurors were
told they must reassess their level of certainty after rendering a guilty
Devine said legislators should start talking about whether to abolish
"We're living in a hypocritical situation, and this is only going to add
to the hypocrisy," Devine said. "If people are truly concerned about the
death penalty, and I understand that there are many different views on it,
I think we should have that debate. And I think we should decide, Are we
going to have a death penalty?"
Although Cross supports the death penalty, proponents of the bill were
mostly against it.
One lawmaker admitted he was only voting for the bill because it
emphasizes the futility of trying to create a foolproof system of capital
"I'm going to vote 'yes' on this bill because I think it does add to the
hypocrisy, I really do," said Rep. Robert Molaro (D-Chicago), chairman of
(source: Chicago Tribune)
Death penalty ordered for businessman's killer
A jury has ordered the death penalty for a man convicted of killing a
Jesse Montejo, who was found guilty of 1st-degree murder in the Sept. 5,
2002, shooting death of Louis Ferrari, was ordered to die Thursday by a
state district court jury.
Prosecutors accused Montejo, 25, of planning Ferrari's murder at the
suggestion of handyman Jerry Moore, who told him Ferrari kept stacks of
$100 bills at home. Ferrari's wife and son found him dead on his kitchen
floor after he didn't show up to their weekly family dinner.
Moore, who was not at the scene of the killing, is awaiting trial on a
1st-degree murder charge.
Montejo testified that he an unknown man threatened his life when he
arrived at Ferrari's house for a job interview and later shot Ferrari
while Montejo ran away. Prosecutor Scott Gardner said afterward that
Montejo likely secured the death penalty with the testimony that he called
(source: Associated Press)
News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty
AI Index: AMR 51/050/2005 10 March 2005
USA: another "double standard" on consular rights?
Just over a week ago, President George W. Bush signed a memorandum to the
US Attorney General affirming that the United States would comply with the
binding decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) protecting
the consular rights of foreign nationals under sentence of death.
Consistent with the ICJ judgment of 31 March 2004 in the Avena case, the
President announced that state courts would be required to review and
reconsider the effect of violations of the Vienna Convention on Consular
Relations (VCCR) in 51 cases of Mexican nationals who were subsequently
sentenced to death.
In a brief submitted to the US Supreme Court regarding the judicial
enforcement of the ICJ decision, the US Solicitor General declared that
"Compliance serves to protect the interests of United States citizens
abroad, promotes the effective conduct of foreign relations, and
underscores the United States commitment in the international community to
the rule of law." The Solicitor General also promised that "a new trial or
a new sentencing would be ordered" wherever judicial review established
that the treaty violation had been prejudicial.
Despite that stated commitment to full treaty compliance, the United
States has now announced its withdrawal from the VCCR Optional Protocol
Concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes, the international legal
instrument which empowers the ICJ to interpret and apply the terms of the
Amnesty International welcomes the decision by President Bush to comply
with the ICJ judgment and calls on the US courts to provide a full, fair
and meaningful review in all cases where foreign nationals were deprived
of their consular rights and sentenced to death. At the same time,
however, the organization is deeply concerned by the USAs decision to
withdraw from the VCCR Optional Protocol. This backward step cannot be
reconciled with the United States' own declaration that compliance with
the ICJ serves to protect American interests abroad and promotes the
global rule of law.
Unquestionably, the timely access to consular assistance safeguarded under
the Vienna Convention serves to protect the human rights of foreign
detainees worldwide. As the US Government itself recognized following the
execution of Paraguayan national ngel Breard in Virginia in 1998, "We
fully appreciate that the United States must see to it that foreign
nationals in the United States receive the same treatment that we expect
for our citizens overseas. We cannot have a double standard." Any step
taken by the United States to undermine the legal authority of the VCCR is
a step towards danger for all detained foreigners everywhere, including US
For more on the ICJ Avena judgment, see
View all AI documents on USA:
Current and background information on the death penalty:
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(source: Amnesty International)
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