[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TENN., ARIZ., CALIF., ALA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Mar 19 15:12:26 CST 2005
Accused Murderer Howard Willis Won't Face Jury Soon
The Georgia truck driver accused of murder and mutilation in the
Tri-Cities may not face a jury for another year.
Howard Willis is accused of killing Adam Chrismer and Samantha Leming
before stuffing their bodies in a Johnson City storage building.
Today exhausted defense attorneys ask a judge to remove them from the
Defense Attorney Jim Bowman tells Judge Lynn Brown, "We've gone as far as
we can go."
Both defense attorneys Bowman and Stacy Street tell Judge Brown they can
no longer effectively defend Howard Willis against the death penalty.
Street says, "It leaves an empty feeling in my gut to start something like
this and not be able to finish it."
The attorneys say talks have broken down. In the tense courtroom Judge
Brown called Willis un-cooperative and manipulative.
Brown adds, "the word I think of is not particularly complimentary, pig
Judge Brown added that Willis refuses to acknowledge the law, answer his
lawyers' questions and look at evidence which is wasting taxpayers' money.
Washington County, Tennessee resident Ruth Verhegge says, "I'm appalled. I
think the judge is correct that this is an attempt to manipulate our
The defense team made their last argument on Willis' behalf Friday. Street
explains, "He's going to be fighting the state of Tennessee for his life,
the last thing he needs to be doing is fighting his own lawyers."
Bowman adds, "I just think the court has to go the extra mile for a
defendant in this situation."
Judge Brown appointed Carter County attorney Robert Oaks to defend Willis.
The defendant's mother isn't sure her son made the right decision. Betty
Willis says, "I've tried to talk to him. I think it's too late to do it,
but Howard is 54 years old yesterday and I can't force him to do anything
Taxpayers are footing the bill. Washington County resident Steve Cook
says, "It will be expensive and I would kind of like to see it come to
Ruth Verhegge adds, "No matter what happens it's going to be a burden on
the taxpayers for the rest of his life."
Finally the judge warned Willis, in no uncertain terms, if he refuses to
cooperate with his new attorney he could end up representing himself.
Brown says, "I won't waste the state's money on frivolous appeals or
The bill to defend Willis' case this far has run up a price tag of nearly
$30,000. His trial was supposed to begin next month. Another trial date
has not been set.
(source: News Channel 11)
Killer in '98 SW Side robbery is resentenced to life in prison Finch
killed a disabled man in a bar robbery.
A convicted killer originally sentenced to death in the 1998 shooting of a
disabled man at a Southwest Side bar will spend the rest of his life in
prison, a judge ordered Friday.
Based on an agreement entered between prosecutors and the defense, Pima
County Superior Court Judge Howard Fell gave Marcus LaSalle Finch, 34, a
natural-life sentence to be served after his other sentences.
Finch, along with Keith Royal Phillips, was previously sentenced to death
for the murder of Kevin Hendricks.
Hendricks was a double amputee whom Finch shot in the back as Hendricks
tried to escape a robbery at the Famous Sam's at 3010 W. Valencia Road on
April 28, 1998.
It was the last in a string of 3 robberies in which several people were
When given the death sentence in 1999, Finch was also sentenced to a total
of 57 years in prison for 45 other counts that included attempted
1st-degree murder and 27 counts of armed robbery and aggravated assault.
The death sentence, but not his conviction, was overturned after the U.S.
Supreme Court ruled that being sentenced to death by a judge, instead of a
jury, violates a defendant's constitutional right to be judged by peers.
Deputy County Attorney Teresa Godoy said prosecutors made the decision not
to pursue the death penalty again because of input from the victim's
family and other circumstances, such as a jury's refusal to resentence
Phillips to death in September. Phillips was given a natural-life
Addressing Finch, who has two young children, Monique Pablo, the mother of
Hendricks' son, spoke of a daily battle she has to fight to keep her son
"He is in and out of jail, and I don't know how many times he's tried to
commit suicide -just to see his dad," she said.
"You wake up every day and you know your children are alive," she told
Pablo also told Finch that when she forgave him previously, she meant it.
"But I didn't know how hard it's going to be," she said. "Why did you have
to do that to him? Where could he go? He couldn't run far."
Finch in return stood up to address the victim's family. Finch's attorney,
Ralph Ellinwood, said his client is "very relieved" not to be facing
death. "That's all he's ever wanted since I've been on the case," he said.
"He's very contrite and acknowledges he committed a very serious crime."
(source: Arizona Daily Star)
Surprise allegation revives old case----EX-PROSECUTOR SAYS HE, JUDGE
COLLUDED TO KEEP JEWS OFF JURY IN KILLING
A jury sentenced Fred Freeman to death in 1987 for killing a bar patron
during a holdup in Berkeley. Newspapers recorded the verdict, and then
forgot all about it.
Nearly two decades later, a shocking allegation about that trial has
created a buzz in legal circles.
On Tuesday, a hearing ordered by the State Supreme Court will begin in San
Jose, the result of an accusation that the prosecutor and a now deceased
Alameda County Court judge in the Freeman trial colluded to secure a
conviction and death sentence by keeping Jewish people off the jury. No
Jew would vote to send a defendant to the gas chamber," the judge, the
late Stanley Golde, allegedly told the prosecutor, John Quatman.
Even more startling: The allegation was made by Quatman himself, who also
claims such tactics were standard practice in Alameda County.
While the case has cast a shadow over the Alameda County District
Attorney's Office, it also reveals that when trying to put together a
jury, lawyers sometimes walk a fine line between smart legal strategy and
overstepping the law.
It is against the law under federal and state statutes to reject jurors on
the basis of race, religion and ethnicity.
Lawyers often hire consultants to help them pick jurors. Together, they
calibrate their odds of winning by selecting jurors whom they think will
be sympathetic to their case.
And many times, Peter Keane, former dean of the Golden Gate University
School of Law, said, attorneys' biases are in play as they select a jury.
"I think any lawyer who picks a jury who says, 'No, it never crosses my
mind,' isn't honest," said Keane, who spent 20 years in the San Francisco
public defender's office.
It was only a few generations ago, Keane said, that "widely overdone
stereotypes" of potential jurors based on race, gender and ethnicity were
openly discussed in law classrooms, textbooks and legal seminars.
"When I came out of law school in the '60s," Keane said, "there were
certain stereotypes of people you wanted on juries." Jewish people were
thought to have an affinity for the underdog, he said. Irish people didn't
like authority. White Anglo-Saxon Protestants had a puritanical judgmental
streak and shouldn't be counted on to give defendants a break.
Political correctness, Keane said, has put an end to such overt
"But when you have a group of lawyers sitting around the table having
coffee or in social events," he said, "you hear this stuff."
Natasha Minsker, director of the American Civil Liberties Union death
penalty policy, agreed. "Learning to set those beliefs aside is a
challenge that attorneys have to step up to," she said.
Allegations of improper juror exclusion have emerged as a major argument
in death penalty appeals cases across the country in the past decade. Most
of the cases have involved allegations that jurors of a particular race
were improperly excluded. But the allegation that surfaced in Alameda
County regarding Jewish people is rare, legal experts say. It is also
unusual that the prosecutor made the claim, they said.
Quatman, who served 26 years in the Alameda County DA's office and now has
a private practice in Montana, made the claim in a sworn statement
included in an appeals petition put forward by Freeman's attorneys. They
are arguing that the San Quentin inmate did not receive a fair trial and
should be granted a new one.
Freeman's attorneys contacted Quatman after another lawyer unrelated to
the case called them and said Quatman might be willing to share an
interesting story about Freeman's prosecution.
In his declaration, Quatman stated that Golde, who died in 1998 and was
Jewish himself, advised Quatman that he "could not have a Jew on the jury"
if he wanted to secure a death sentence. Quatman said he then went on to
excuse any prospective juror who was Jewish.
"Actually," Quatman stated, "Judge Golde was only telling me what I
already should have known to do. It was standard practice to exclude
Jewish jurors in death cases."
Quatman added that excluding African-American women from capital juries
was also a common practice, implying that they were also considered to be
too sympathetic to defendants.
Quatman could not be reached for comment. The Alameda County District
Attorney's Office, which will be represented by the state attorney
general's office at the hearing, has vehemently denied that such a
Golde, a well-regarded, outspoken throwback to another era, who held
coffee klatches in his chambers on Friday afternoons, presided over dozens
of death row cases. If the allegation is proven true, other cases he
presided over could come under scrutiny as defense attorneys seek to have
their clients' convictions overturned on account of juror bias.
But Michael Rushford, president of the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice
Legal Foundation, a pro-death penalty legal organization, said it will be
tough for Freeman's attorneys to prove that Jewish jurors were kicked off
solely because of their religious background.
"There are a hundred other reasons why you would strike a juror," he said.
"They may have stated forthright that they are against the death penalty.
"Judges and attorneys on both sides have been given wide leeway to go with
their gut so that both sides can seat a jury that they feel is at least
(source: The Mercury News)
Police Don't Expect to Learn How Laci Peterson Died
Prosecutors and detectives in the Scott Peterson double murder case
believe Peterson will never tell them how he killed his wife, although
they would very much like to hear the story.
"I think he'll go to his grave with his mouth tightly sealed like he has
all along," said Stanislaus County District Attorney Jim Brazelton. The
comments came during a press conference held in Modesto on Thursday.
Modesto Police Chief Roy Wasden said he knew his detectives would
interview Peterson on their own time just to hear the truth, but he didn't
expect Peterson to talk.
For the first time since the trial started, police and prosecutors were
able to speak freely with reporters about the investigation and trial,
although they did not reveal any new information about the case.
Wasden and Brazelton took the opportunity to praise detectives and
prosecutors for the job they did. "There's not really a sense of joy or
jubilation," said Wasden. "A job that needed to be done has been done."
The investigation into the disappearance of Laci Peterson began when she
was first reported missing December 24, 2002. Since then, police and
prosecutors have devoted countless hours to finding out what happened to
her and to prosecuting her husband for her murder, Wasden and Brazelton
Peterson was sentenced to death Wednesday after a jury convicted him in
November for killing his pregnant wife and unborn son.
Among all the evidence presented by prosecutors in the largely
circumstantial case against Peterson, prosecutors said the tapes of
Peterson's conversations with his girlfriend Amber Frey were among the
most vital. "The jury got to hear that he wasn't what anybody saw, what we
argued throughout the case, which was the two sides of Scott Peterson,"
said prosecutor Dave Harris.
They also said the victim impact statements the Rocha family made during
the sentencing phase were important to securing the death penalty for
In the end, Wasden said the case holds a lesson. "If there's any message
that I would like to see go out, it is this: if you're in a relationship,
and it's not working, use resources, don't use violence," said Modesto
Police Chief Roy Wasden.
Centobie set to die by lethal injection April 28
If nothing else changes, on April 28, Mario Centobie will die by lethal
injection, ending a violent criminal career that began about eight years
St. Clair County District Attorney Richard Minor helped prosecute Centobie
in the capital case that will most likely lead him to the lethal injection
chamber. "He still has the right to file a last minute appeal in federal
court," Minor said, "but if the execution date goes forward, this will be
the culmination of a series of tragic events for everyone involved.
Centobie will be getting the just punishment that he deserves."
Former District Attorney Van Davis agreed. "Executing him wont deter
anybody but him, but in the 18 years I served as St. Clair County DA, I
cant think of anyone who is more deserving of execution. He is an
extremely dangerous person."
Davis added, "Ive been told that he has withdrawn all of his appeals. Ill
just be glad when this is over. It will give us all a sense of closure."
Both Minor and Davis have petitioned the state Department of Corrections
to attend Centobies execution.
In the summer of 1998, Centobie was serving 40 years at Parchman Farm in
Mississippi for burglary, kidnapping and aggravated assault against his
estranged wife. Prior to that incident, he had been a decorated
On June 25, 1998, while Centobie and 19-year-old Jeremy Granberry were
being transported to a court appearance, they overpowered two deputies and
stole a gun and the patrol car.
They were pulled over in Tuscaloosa, where Centobie shot a police officer,
but not fatally. They then stole another car, and ended up in Moody, where
they shot and killed Officer Keith Turner.
Granberry was captured the next day, and is serving life in prison without
possibility of parole. Centobie, however, eluded capture in spite of one
of the largest manhunts in the history of Alabama. He eventually made his
move on July 4, abducting a motorist. He was captured the following day in
Moody Police Chief John Kile was the shift supervisor the night Turner was
murdered. Officer Chris Long, now a St. Clair County Sheriffs deputy, was
the first officer on the scene that night. Kile was the second. "Its been
seven years now, and its time for him to pay for what hes done," Kile
said. "Im glad to have a date, although right now a date is all it is."
Kile added that he is probably the only person in the Moody Police
Department who knew Turner. "In the last seven years, just about everybody
has changed over, either retired or gone elsewhere. The officers we have
here today, Turner is just a name on the wall, a memorial. They never had
a chance to know the man."
Centobie was eventually moved from the St. Clair County Jail to a more
secure facility in Gadsden, where he was nonetheless able to escape a
second time, this time heading into Georgia. He was again recaptured, and
admitted during his capital murder trial that he had killed Turner. The
jury recommended death over life without parole by a vote of 10 to 2.
While being tried for attempted murder in Tuscaloosa County, Centobie
attempted a 3rd escape, but was thwarted when deputies there discovered a
key he had hidden on his person.
(source: The Daily Home)
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