[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----VA., LA., KY., CALIF., MISS.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Mar 22 08:52:43 CST 2005
9-11 Suspect May Face Death Penalty, Despite Restricted Defense
The United States Supreme Court declined without comment yesterday to hear
arguments from suspected terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui. A French citizen,
Moussaoui has been jailed by the US government since before the September
11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and the Justice Department is trying him for
involvement in the attacks. If convicted, he may face the death penalty.
Moussaoui had requested access to some suspected Al-Qaeda members held in
US custody, who he says could testify to his innocence. But the Justice
Department opposed allowing Moussaoui and his lawyers to interview the
suspects, citing ongoing interrogations and potential national security
A lower court ruled that if the government refused to grant Moussaoui
access to the suspects, it must take the death penalty off the table. An
appeals court later restored the specter of capital punishment, ruling
that the government could provide Moussaoui written summaries of the
suspects statements under interrogation in lieu of allowing him to conduct
By refusing the hear Moussaouis case, the High Court effectively upheld
that latest ruling and opened the way for the Justice Department to
precede with its case.
(source: The New Standard)
Convict's death sentence commuted----Mental state prevents execution,
A New Orleans convict sentenced to die for the 1984 murders of 2 children
will instead serve life in prison, a judge ruled Monday.
Thomas Deboue, 55, is mentally retarded and cannot legally be executed, a
federal judge said this month, throwing out the death sentence and sending
his case back to state court.
Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Lynda Van Davis on Monday
gave Deboue a life sentence, without benefit of parole or probation.
Deboue's fate hinged on the 2002 United States Supreme Court decision that
executing mentally retarded killers is unconstitutionally cruel.
Deboue had spent almost 20 years on death row at the state prison at
Angola when on March 10 his death sentence was "permanently vacated" by
U.S. District Court Judge Ginger Berrigan.
Berrigan determined that Deboue is legally retarded and ineligible for the
death penalty. Deboue is the 7th Louisiana convict to leave death row in
light of the landmark ruling, his attorney Nick Trenticosta said.
But Deboue's case is still alive in the federal court system, Trenticosta
said, and Berrigan has yet to rule on other matters concerning the 1984
The change in his sentence means Deboue will be moved from death row,
where inmates are locked in single cells for 23 hours a day, to the less
constrained world of the prison's general population, where inmates eat
together and are eligible for jobs and more recreation opportunities.
"Today is an amazing day," Trenticosta said Monday after the hearings.
"Had he been executed, who would have gained anything from it? His life
has a lot of meaning, no matter what he is accused of or convicted of."
Deboue and his brother Edward James Deboue were convicted in the Uptown
murders of Niquika Miller, 6, and Jamal Moore, 12.
The children's throats were slashed with razor blades during a burglary of
their home at 1803 St. Thomas St. early March 30, 1984. The boy was cut
seven times and left in a bathtub while the girl suffered 2 wounds and was
found on a blood-soaked bed.
Each child died slowly, a pathologist testified.
Prosecutors at the trial said the brothers reverted to the "lowest
possible form of criminal behavior, the bottom denominator," in killing
the children to eliminate witnesses to the apartment burglary.
The brothers hit the apartment in search of cash, after having lost badly
in a dice game, according to court records.
The children were the niece and brother of Thomas' former girlfriend
Angela Miller and were staying with her sister, Bettina.
Thomas Deboue's sister testified that he told her he killed the children
because "he did not want to do 40 years" and that he "owed the girl," an
apparent reference to Niquika's mother.
Efforts to contact survivors of the murdered children were unsuccessful.
None attended court Monday, defense lawyers said.
The Deboue brothers fled New Orleans after the crime but were arrested
once they arrived in New York by bus.
Attorneys Lawrence Ernst and Trenticosta argued that Deboue didn't receive
a fair trial. He called no witnesses before resting his case, and no one
testified on his behalf during the death penalty hearing, Trenticosta
The court hearing Monday marked the first time Deboue's grown daughter has
seen him since his arrest in 1984, Trenticosta said.
Edward Deboue remains in prison, serving life without possibility of
(source: The Times-Picayune)
U.S. Supreme Court declines Death Row appeal----CONVICTED MURDERER HAS
CHALLENGED LETHAL INJECTION AS INHUMANE
The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday declined to hear the final appeal of a
man convicted of killing a Powell County sheriff and a deputy, clearing
the way for state authorities to set Ralph Baze's execution date.
But it is unlikely that Baze, who was convicted of killing Powell County
Sheriff Steve Bennett and his brother-in-law, Deputy Arthur Briscoe, will
be executed any time soon. Baze and another inmate are challenging the
state's method of executing prisoners in Franklin Circuit Court.
A bench trial in that case is scheduled to begin April 18.
Attorney General Greg Stumbo has not decided when he will ask Gov. Ernie
Fletcher to issue a death warrant for Baze. Vicki Glass, a spokeswoman for
Stumbo's office, said the office is reviewing its options.
Baze's lawyers said yesterday they also plan to mount other legal
challenges to halt his execution.
But Bennett's widow hopes the execution will come soon.
Rose Bennett, also Briscoe's sister, said yesterday from her Powell County
home that after 13 years of appeals, she is ready for Baze to die. She has
a folder with newspaper clippings and other documents related to Baze.
It's a file she would like to shove into a drawer and never see again.
"I will never have closure until he's put to death," she said.
Rose and Steve Bennett's son Steven was only 4 years old when his father
Now 17 and a junior at Powell County High School, Steven Bennett said he,
too, is ready for Baze's execution. "He said he was saved," Steven Bennett
said of Baze. "He better be. I guess it's in God's hands now."
Baze and Thomas Clyde Bowling, another Death Row inmate, filed a lawsuit
in Franklin Circuit Court in August, arguing that the state's method of
lethal injection is inhumane. The two men say that the manner,
particularly the type of chemicals Kentucky uses in its lethal injection,
could violate a prisoner's Eighth Amendment right not to suffer cruel and
If their appeals are denied, it is likely that both Baze and Bowling will
be executed before the end of the year.
Since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1976, only two men have
been executed in Kentucky.
The last time the state executed more than 1 person in the same year was
in 1956, when 3 Jefferson County men were executed, one for rape.
Bowling, whose Nov. 30 execution was stayed by two courts a week before
his execution, was convicted of kil-ling Edward and Tina Earley and
shooting their 2-year-old son outside the couple's Lexington dry-cleaning
business in 1990.
Baze, 49, told the Herald-Leader in November in a telephone interview that
he knew there was a less than a 1 % chance the U.S. Supreme Court would
hear his appeal.
"It could be as early as June," Baze said of his execution date.
Baze has never denied that he shot Bennett and Briscoe when they went to
his cabin and tried to arrest him on Ohio warrants in January 1992. Baze
has argued in the past that he was acting in self-defense and was under
Susan Balliet of the Department of Public Advocacy said that, besides the
lethal injection claim, Baze also has a pending appeal before the state
Baze's lawyers are arguing that a 20-year sentence for a federal firearms
charge stemming from the murder should have been presented to the jury
during the sentencing phase of Baze's trial.
Balliet said that, if the jurors had known that Baze was going to serve an
additional 20 years on the gun charge on top of the murder sentence, they
might not have sentenced Baze to death.
Balliet said the jury never heard other information about Baze's
background and childhood.
"There is a lot of information that no court has ever heard," Balliet
said. "The full story of Ralph Baze has not been told."
(source: The Herald-Leader)
Verdict ends trial in WKU murder
In Owensboro, after deliberating for just over 3 hours, a jury yesterday
found Lucas Goodrum not guilty of the 2003 rape, sodomy and murder of
Melissa "Katie" Autry.
Goodrum, 23, who could have faced the death penalty in the slaying of the
Western Kentucky University student, broke into tears and embraced one of
his lawyers after Special Judge Thomas O. Castlen read the verdicts.
Members of Autry's family and Goodrum's family also cried.
"I'm happy to be out and be a free man and to be with my family," Goodrum,
surrounded by relatives, said at a news conference less than 2 hours after
the verdict was read.
Autry's family was devastated. "I felt like he was guilty. I still feel
like he was guilty, and like I said, God help us all," said Virginia
White, Autry's aunt.
Warren County Commonwealth's Attorney Chris Cohron said there would be no
further investigation into Autry's murder, and that all the investigating
agencies "did the best that they could."
"We've never wavered whatsoever in our belief that Lucas Goodrum was
guilty, but we respect the jury's verdict," Cohron said.
Some members of the 9-man, 3-woman jury said the prosecution didn't
present enough evidence against Goodrum, of Scottsville.
"A lot of us felt in our hearts that maybe he was guilty, but there was no
physical evidence to prove it," said David Austin, 57, an Owensboro bar
'Justice was done'
Before his release yesterday, Goodrum had been jailed since his arrest on
May 11, 2003, one week after Autry, 18, was raped, sodomized and set on
fire in her dorm room on Western Kentucky University's Bowling Green
Autry suffered third-degree burns and died three days after the attack.
"It's kind of frustrating to spend two years in jail for nothing, for
being falsely accused of something," Goodrum said. "But justice was done
today and I've got the rest of my life to move on."
Goodrum faced charges of rape, sodomy, arson, murder, complicity to commit
rape and complicity to commit sodomy. The trial was moved from Bowling
Green to Owensboro at his request.
Goodrum testified in his own defense. He told jurors what he had said to
police, that he was at the Scottsville home of his father and stepmother
about the time Autry was attacked, and Mike and Judy Goodrum supported
Another Scottsville man, Stephen Soules, 22, pleaded guilty last year to
crimes related to Autry's murder. In exchange for testifying against
Goodrum, prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence of life without parole
Cohron said that Soules will be sentenced next month and that his plea
deal will stand. "We believe Mr. Soules upheld his end of the bargain,"
Soules told the jury that he watched Goodrum rape and sodomize Autry and
then did the same thing on orders from Goodrum, who Soules said threatened
him and his family.
Soules said Goodrum then forced him to douse Autry with hairspray before
Goodrum lit a handful of papers and held them over Autry. Soules said he
didn't actually see Goodrum set Autry on fire.
'A poor case'
"All along when we started this case the key question was would (the jury)
believe Stephen Soules or would they believe Mr. Goodrum and his family,"
Cohron said. "I think the jury answered that to their own judgment."
John Fentress, 23, an Owensboro factory worker and the jury foreman, said
prosecutors presented "a poor case" hallmarked by a lack of physical
evidence and incomplete police work.
"There was reasonable doubt," he said. "You have to prove it to me 100 %,
and they came nowhere close to doing that job."
Fentress said the deliberations were difficult because the jurors had
different feelings about the case. He said they "seriously discussed every
little factor" and that a little more than 3 hours was enough time.
But White said she was surprised that the jury returned the verdict so
quickly. "You had to put some faith in Stephen Soules' testimony," she
Goodrum said he would hold no hard feelings even though he believes he was
treated as "guilty until proven innocent."
He and his mother, Donna Dugas, and stepfather, Bruce Dugas, planned to
leave immediately for the Dugases' horse ranch in Texas, Goodrum said
Bruce Dugas said Goodrum would begin riding cutting horses for the family.
Jurors listened to about 50 witnesses over 8 days.
During closing arguments, David Broderick, Goodrum's lawyer, told the jury
that the lack of physical evidence against Goodrum provided "reasonable
doubt" that his client committed the crimes.
He also sought to discredit Soules and 3 jail informants who testified
that Goodrum told them that he participated in the attack.
Too many details of Soules' story didn't make sense, Broderick said.
And he said WKU police, who investigated the murder, should have checked
Goodrum's alibi and interviewed other potential suspects.
"They were rushing to justice," he said. "They wanted to solve this crime.
They didn't follow good police practices."
Cohron told jurors in his closing argument that Broderick was using "smoke
and mirrors" to raise questions about Goodrum's involvement.
Soules' story evolved over several discussions with investigators, Cohron
said, but that shouldn't prevent jurors from seeing the big picture.
He said Goodrum initially failed to tell investigators about key elements
of his whereabouts on the morning of the attack and that Mike and Judy
Goodrum lied to protect Lucas Goodrum.
"My dad would do it for me," Cohron said. "He'd do it in a heartbeat.
That's what parents are for."
(source: The Courier-Journal)
Scott Peterson's First Day on Death Row is One to Forget
Scott Peterson's 1st full day on "Death Row" in San Quentin's
maximum-security prison is one he'd soon rather forget.
Peterson's day started off well. After being processed, Peterson was
introduced to his new cellmate, Earl Goings. Goings, on death row for 1984
murder of Sam the Eagle, the mascot of the Los Angeles Summer Olympics, is
seen in the prison as a preferred partner. Every cellmate of Goings' since
his 1986 incarceration in San Quentin has had their death sentence delayed
However, Peterson's good fortune would soon fade. Before lunch, Peterson
was invited to participate in the prison March Madness pool. "The winner
of the pool usually gets some extra goodies," said prison guard Mo Blacka.
Blacka cited money in the canteen and extra phone time as "official"
prizes offered by the prison. "I'm not sure he knew about the unofficial
prizes, though," said Blacka.
"It's widely known that the winner of each round of the pool is allowed to
select one inmate as his 'helper' for the week. Although we have no
concrete knowledge of this, I'm pretty sure it happens every year,"
confessed Blacka. "I didn't want to say too much to him about it, but I
kind of had to chuckle when he picked Winthrop and Delaware State to make
it to the Final Four."
By Thursday night, Peterson had been informed by Goings that he would most
likely be the loser in the pool. Guards heard Goings laughing at Peterson
before bed on Thursday: "Who only gets one game right?"
Benjamin Dover, incarcerated in San Quentin since 1995 for the murder of
his family at Disneyland, correctly picked all 16 games on the 1st day and
appears to be in the best position to win first round of the tournament.
Goings confirmed to Peterson Friday morning that Dover had inquired about
Peterson. Said Goings, "Ben just wanted to know how such a handsome, young
man could be accused of committing such a horrific crime. He definitely
wants to get inside of Scott to understand him better."
U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear Miss. death row case
The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of Mississippi death
row inmate Larry Matthew Puckett, convicted in 1996 for the sexual assault
and beating death of a woman in her Forrest County home.
Last week, the Mississippi Supreme had said it would not allow Puckett's
post-conviction appeal because no new issues were presented that might
lead to a new trial.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case without comment. Puckett
can still appeal through the federal courts.
However, any additional legal steps planned by the Mississippi Office of
Capital Post-Conviction Council were uncertain. A spokeswoman said Monday
that the council attorney handling the case, Robert M. Ryan, does not talk
with the media.
Puckett was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to die for the 1995
death of Rhonda Griffis, 28, of the Sunrise community. Griffis died from
blows to the head.
Griffis' mother, who lived next door, testified during the trial that she
heard her daughter screaming during the attack. She testified that she ran
over and saw Puckett in the kitchen with a club that resembled an ax
The Supreme Court upheld Puckett's conviction in 2000.
Last Thursday, the Mississippi justices rejected Puckett's claim that a
member of the jury could not comprehend English.
Chief Justice Jim Smith, writing for the court, said prosecutors,
Puckett's lawyer and the trial judge closely questioned the juror about
her ability to read and write English and understand it.
Smith said the court record showed the prosecutor was ready to dismiss the
juror but Puckett's lawyer was not. He said Puckett did not object when
the juror was seated for the trial.
(source: Associated Press)
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