[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, DEL., OHIO, N.Y.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Mar 26 20:29:10 CST 2005
After a state error ruins someone's life----Wrongly convicted deserve
4 years ago, Josiah Sutton would have handily collected $100,000 from the
state for spending 4 1/2 years in a Texas prison for a crime that DNA
evidence shows he didn't commit.
To right wrongful convictions, the Legislature passed a law in 2001
requiring that the state award up to $25,000 for each year that person is
imprisoned. Obviously, the amount of money is not enough to make up for a
person's loss of liberty and income. It is a gesture, however, that helps
people repair lives trashed by a state error.
Most everyone who views the Sutton case comes to the same conclusion about
Sutton's innocence. DNA testing excluded the 23-year-old Houston man as
the perpetrator in a 1998 rape. The Houston crime lab that processed the
evidence that sent Sutton to prison has since been discredited amid
investigations that showed its testing practices were flawed. Gov. Rick
Perry rightly granted Sutton a pardon based on innocence.
Science hasn't convinced Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal,
He is blocking Sutton from the compensation Sutton is certainly owed.
Rosenthal can do that because of a provision that was quietly inserted
into the law in 2003. The provision requires people who were wrongfully
imprisoned to obtain letters, from the district attorneys who prosecuted
them, admitting that the convictions were a mistake. In other words, it
requires prosecutors to admit that they botched the cases.
That is not about to happen in Harris County, where prosecutors relish
putting the "hard" in hard-nosed. Rosenthal is not likely to change his
position in the Sutton case, despite the DNA evidence. This is a
prosecutor who has vehemently opposed any pause in executions of Harris
County death-row inmates whose convictions were based on evidence from the
discredited lab. Even Houston's police chief has called for a pause to
We urge the Legislature to pass Senate Bill 87 by Sen. Rodney Ellis,
D-Houston. The bill would delete the provision that requires people who
apply for compensation to provide "certification" of their innocence from
the prosecutor who convicted them. That would return the law to the 2001
version and its original intent to help Sutton and others in similar
circumstances get on with their lives.
(source: Editorial, Austin American-Statesman, March 25)
Victoria County DA waits his turn----He's pondering murder charges against
the 14 in smuggling case
The Victoria County district attorney says he is considering murder
charges against all 14 people accused of being members of a human
smuggling operation blamed for the deaths of 19 illegal immigrants.
"I want people to know it's not finished," District Attorney Dexter Eaves
said. "When they finish with the federal system, they are going to deal
with Victoria, Texas."
Asked if that meant filing murder charges, Eaves said, "You're darn
A federal grand jury in Houston indicted the 14 after the May 14, 2003,
discovery of 17 bodies in and near an abandoned trailer at a truck stop
Two more immigrants died in a hospital.
Eaves said he can't forget that awful scene.
"Out of the 17 or 18 bodies that were there, I can't even remember but one
body in my mind and that was the 5-year-old boy," he said.
Wednesday, a Houston federal jury convicted Tyrone Williams, the driver of
the truck who abandoned the trailer, on charges of transporting at least
74 illegal immigrants.
The jury spared him the death penalty but failed to reach a verdict on
several charges. U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore declared a mistrial
on those charges.
No hugs in Victoria
Referring to Williams' attorney, Craig Washington, Eaves said, "I don't
think Mr. Washington is going to be happy with my decision.
"I won't see any hugging going on," he said, referring to the hugs
Williams gave after he was spared the death penalty.
Under U.S. law, both state and federal officials can prosecute someone for
the same crime.
He said he also would consult with the sheriff, county judge and the
families of the 19 victims before deciding. A meeting is scheduled for
today with local law enforcement officials to discuss the case.
Eaves said he refused requests by the U.S. Attorney's Office to yield
jurisdiction, which would have made it easier for federal prosecutors to
bargain for guilty pleas by assuring defendants that they would not be
prosecuted on state charges.
Officials at the U.S. Attorney's Office could not be reached for comment
Eaves declined to criticize Gilmore, but said, "My state judges are
elected. They don't have lifetime appointments. They follow the law and
they don't legislate the law."
"We're not talking about tonnage here, we're talking about human life,"
Eaves said. "People forget that, but here in Victoria County we haven't
Stiffer punishments sought for child deaths -- Bill would close a
'loophole' and allow murder charge in some abuse cases
When 9-month-old Lamya Smith died recently from injuries consistent with
shaken baby syndrome, police charged her father with the crime.
The charge, though, wasn't murder. It was injury to a child, which
prosecutors say is common in cases where it's hard to prove the child was
State Rep. Bill Zedler wants to change that. The Arlington Republican has
filed a bill that would allow prosecutors to charge people with murder of
a child if their abusive actions result in death. And the law would not
allow probation, which is possible under the charge of injury to a child.
"This is one of those technicalities in the law that very often gives
people a loophole," said Zedler. "As I understand it, what this is doing
is that it closes that loophole."
Jay Lapham, former chief of the Crimes Against Children unit in Tarrant
Country's District Attorney's Office, was a driving force behind the bill.
Lapham said people who lose their temper and shake a child to death are
often charged with injury to a child because it is a 1st-degree felony,
with the punishment ranging from five to 99 years.
However, Lapham said, mourning families often take issue with an injury
charge, saying it doesn't fit the crime.
"I've dealt with many families that are really offended by the idea that
they have a child that is deceased, and I am charging injury to a child,"
he said. "They don't like that."
Mark Dittman of Harlingen is one such family member. His 2-year-old
daughter, Maggie, was shaken to death by a baby sitter in 1998.
The baby sitter, charged with injury to a child, was given a 10-year
"The thing with injury to a child, it equates a broken bone with a fatal
attack," said Dittman. "It distinguishes nothing between the 2."
Under the bill, deliberate child abuse that results in the death of a
child could lead to a charge of murder of a child.
The penalty would be 15 to 99 years or life in prison, and probation would
not be an option.
Prosecutors with the Harris County District Attorney's Office said they
could not comment on the bill because they were not familiar with it.
Under state law, the intentional murder of a child younger than 6 can
result in a capital murder charge, punishable by life in prison or death.
(source for both: Houston Chronicle)
Judge: Capano in court for hearing
Superior Court judge has denied convicted killer Thomas J. Capano's
request not to be present in the courtroom Thursday when his new execution
date is set.
Earlier this month, Resident Judge T. Henley Graves denied Capano's
motions for post-conviction relief, rejecting arguments that Capano had
ineffective legal counsel at trial and that his death sentence should be
set aside because of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
Capano had argued that the Supreme Court's ruling in Ring v. Arizona
required juries to unanimously recommend the death sentence. The jury in
Capano's case did not.
Graves will now set a new execution date for Capano, a former state
prosecutor and political insider, who was convicted of the 1996 murder of
Anne Marie Fahey, 30, the scheduling secretary for then-Gov. Tom Carper,
now a U.S. senator.
On Tuesday, Capano wrote a letter to Graves requesting that the hearing go
on without him.
"I have been informed that the sole purpose of this hearing is for the
Court to reimpose the death sentence previously imposed," Capano said.
"However, I wish to voluntarily waive my right to be present and request
that the court conduct the resentencing proceeding in my absence."
The following day, Graves sent a letter to Capano's attorney, Joseph M.
Bernstein, denying the request. In his letter, Graves said he did not
think Capano's sworn deposition was enough for the waiver.
"While I appreciate your client's desire to not be present, I am not going
to impose sentence without the defendant being there," Graves said. "Your
application to proceed without Mr. Capano being present is denied."
(source: The News Journal)
New Accusations In Murder For Hire Case
A new accusation surfaced Friday about who may have made the call to kill
a Hilliard man. And it comes out of a move to get a convicted man, a new
The case goes back to the fall of 2001 when a Hilliard man Andrew Dotson
was found stabbed to death and left in a cornfield.
James Conway III was later convicted of killing Dotson.
It was part of a murder for hire plot involving a gang with it's own "hit
The theory according to prosecutors is that Dotson witnessed a shooting
and that's what made him a target.
Now, Conway's attorneys want a new trial, but in a strange twist this
"convicted murderer" on death row, is accusing his own former defense
attorney of ordering the hit on Dotson.
On the stand Friday, one of Conway's co-conspirators -- Shawn Nightingale
testified that he heard attorney Chris Cicero talking about Andrew Dotson.
"From what I remember, everyone was kind of paranoid about a shooting that
happened before that...and they were actually told that he (Dotson) needed
to disappear more or less," Nightingale said.
Nightingale testified that to him that meant "to kill the guy."
And when asked who said it, Nightingale made it all clear, "It was the
attorney who said that. Chris was his name. Not directly to me, but you
know, it was said in the room."
10-TV tried to track down Cicero for his response to the statements
revealed in court. When we went to his office, he wasn't there, and he
didn't return our phone calls.
A judge did decide that Conway will not get a new trial, saying that there
is no merit to the argument that the claims about Cicero should void
Court documents also show a special prosecutor is working on this case and
spoke with Nightingale specifically about what he heard Cicero say about
Prosecutor Ron O'Brien says he's heard these statements before, but won't
comment about an investigation into Cicero.
(source: WBNS News)
Hill upset in court; has to be removed
Death row inmate Danny Lee Hill was removed to a jury room Thursday after
an outbrust in court that was touched off when a judge refused to allow
him to leave the proceeding.
"Send me back to death row. Y'all keep bringing me back here. I don't want
to be here," said a sobbing Hill, 38, who bounced in his chair as 3 guards
tried to control the shackled, convicted killer.
Thursday was the 2nd day of the final phase of a hearing to determine
whether Hill is mentally retarded and therefore able to escape execution
under a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that executing the mentally
retarded is cruel and unusual punishment. Hill's Atkins hearing, which has
been ongoing for more than a year, focuses on psychological experts and
their assessment of Hill's mental condition.
The hearing concluded just before 5 p.m., and attorneys on both sides will
await transcripts before drafting final findings of fact and conclusions
of law in advance of final oral arguments in June.
Hill started the hearing Thursday by telling Visiting Judge Thomas Patrick
Curran he expected local defense attorney Maridee Costanzo to show up at
some point and serve as a witness in his behalf.
Costanzo, who briefly represented Hill until Curran removed her from the
case, didn't show up. Hill said Costanzo was to testify about his claim
that Prosecutor Dennis Watkins attempted to withhold evidence in cases,
Hill also asked Curran to recuse himself, which the judge denied. He also
asked that his attorney be removed, which the judge also denied.
Then Hill asked to be excused from the hearing. The judge tried to explain
that it was in his best interest to try and assist his attorney, Gregory
Meyers of the Ohio Public Defender's Office.
Following the outburst and a brief recess, Meyers asked to put an
explanation on the record, and he blasted Costanzo with interfering in
Hill's case from early on.
"In my opinion, Maridee has contributed to Mr. Hill's conduct. She has
done everything she can to fan the flame. She has manipulated him and he
is a man of diminished capacity," Meyers said.
When contacted by the Tribune Chronicle Thursday night, Costanzo said,
"Greg Meyers doesn't have Danny Lee Hill's best interest at heart. I do."
She said she "absolutely" would have testified on Hill's behalf had she
"I would be more than happy to testify on Danny's behalf. My heart goes
out to the men on death row this Easter season," she said.
In the decision to remove Costanzo from the case, Curran used as an
exhibit a letter the lawyer had written to another death row inmate whom
she had given material on World War II and Nazism. She said it was a book
on the Nuremberg Trials. In the letter, Costanzo had asked the inmate to
persuade Hill to have her and her husband, Roger Bauer, assigned to Hill's
In taking her off the case, Curran ruled Costanzo's action was "baseless
and officious intermeddling."
An expert for Hill, meanwhile, never strayed from her opinion that Hill is
mildly mentally retarded.
Dr. Sara Sparrow, a professor at Yale University, admitted it was the
first time she has ever testified in court as an expert. But she is the
first and foremost expert on tests that measure adaptive skills.
The adaptive skills, coupled with IQ scores, are the focal point of the
legal definition of mental retardation.
Sparrow stuck to her opinion after listening to excerpts of a taped
interview with Hill by Tribune Chronicle reporter Andy Gray.
The doctor said conversational skills and vocabulary aren't measuring
sticks when considering mental retardation.
"The mildly mentally retarded can learn. But they learn slowly. He has had
time to learn," she said.
And Sparrow insisted that if someone is "street smart," it doesn't mean he
has good adaptive behavior.
Prosecution witness Dr. Timothy Hancock, however, said Sparrow's opinion
has no scientific basis.
Hancock testified that old adaptive behavior test scores can't be compared
with newer scores. And he said Sparrow's attempts at modernizing Hill's
old test scores when he was a young student have a 75 % possibility of
The prosecution recalled expert Dr. Greg Olley, who also listened to
excerpts of the taped interview. The doctor said Hill's comments on tape
were not consistent with someone who is mentally retarded.
Hill, one of 10 Trumbull County convicts facing execution, was found
guilty for the Sept. 10, 1985, murder of Raymond Fife. The 12-year-old was
riding his bike to a Boy Scout meeting when he was attacked by Hill and
then-17-year-old Timothy Combs. Raymond was beaten, sexually tortured,
strangled, set afire and left for dead. He lived for a short time and
never regained consciousness before he died.
Also held Thursday were appellate arguments before the 11th District Court
of Appeals on another death row inmate, Charles Lorraine.
Watkins' appellate assistant, LuWayne Annos, briefly left the Hill hearing
to argue before a three-judge panel why a common pleas decision to not
consider a hearing for Lorraine's mental retardation claim was just.
Lorraine was sentenced to death for the 1986 stabbing deaths of
80-year-old Doris and Raymond Montgomery, 77, of Haymaker Avenue N.W.,
Lorraine's attorney argued his client was denied a hearing and an expert
to determine if there was any mental retardation. Annos, however, argued
that Lorraine had five IQ tests that averaged a score of 80, well above
the 70 cutoff established by the Supreme Court.
"There is nothing in the petition that indicates any retardation and in
fact, Lorraine's own experts said he wasn't mentally retarded at trial,"
(source: Tribune Chronicle)
Will Voters "86" Octogenarian Manhattan DA?
Robert Morgenthau was first elected district attorney a municipal lifetime
ago, when New York was sliding toward bankruptcy, when crime and the mob
were endemic, when the gay rights and feminist movements were in their
31 years later, the city has changed immensely. The chief prosecutor in
Manhattan remains the same.
After winning re-election 7 times, Morgenthau -- who turns 86 in July --
faces perhaps his toughest challenge yet this September, from a candidate
who worked for the district attorney during his first days in office.
Leslie Crocker Snyder hasn't made an official announcement yet. But the
former Manhattan judge, dubbed the "Dragon Lady" for her no-nonsense
attitude from the bench, already boasts $890,000 in campaign funds and
endorsements from 10 law enforcement unions -- likely fallout from
Morgenthau's long opposition to the death penalty.
"This is the most serious potential race that Morgenthau's faced since he
was elected," said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic political consultant.
"This is a job she wants."
Both candidates are veterans of law and order, as well as "Law & Order."
Snyder, 62, did an art-imitates-life cameo portraying a judge on the NBC
television series, while Morgenthau was the inspiration for the show's
original district attorney, Adam Schiff.
In his own longtime role, Morgenthau oversees more than 550 assistant
district attorneys, along with a support staff of another 700, and the
office prosecutes more than 130,000 criminal cases annually.
"He is universally recognized as the nation's top prosecutor," says
ex-mayor Ed Koch. "One thing, above all, that you know with Bob
Morgenthau: he has only one client, the public."
Before he was first elected in 1974, the lean, bespectacled Morgenthau had
already enjoyed a remarkable life.
His grandfather was U.S. ambassador to Turkey, and his father served as
treasury secretary under family friend Franklin D. Roosevelt. The
youngster grew up cooking hot dogs with Eleanor Roosevelt and mixing mint
juleps for Winston Churchill.
He spent 41/2 years in the Navy during World War II, earning a Bronze Star
and a Gold Star. Morgenthau, with a degree from Yale, launched his legal
career with a firm headed by ex-Secretary of War Robert F. Patterson.
Public service and politics loomed in his future; in 1961, boyhood friend
President John F. Kennedy appointed him federal prosecutor in Manhattan.
Morgenthau, with only a brief break to run for governor, stayed in the
high-profile prosecutor's job through 1970.
Another fruitless gubernatorial run followed, and then Morgenthau found
his ultimate job: Manhattan district attorney.
The Morgenthau regime prosecuted "Tony Ducks" Corallo, the mobster, and
Tupac Shakur, the rapper. His office put subway gunman Bernie Goetz behind
bars, and earned a reputation for prosecuting white-collar criminals.
Morgenthau wasn't infallible. His office convicted the alleged attackers
in the Central Park jogger case in 1989. Thirteen years later, he backed
throwing the convictions out when another man claimed sole responsibility
for the rape and beating.
That's all in his storied past. The future holds a showdown with Snyder,
who once worked for Morgenthau as a sex crimes prosecutor.
Morgenthau, who declined interview requests for this story, is ready. His
campaign war chest has already cracked the $1 million mark. His age may be
an issue, but it's not a concern for Morgenthau. He wears a hearing aid,
but still rides a bicycle and works out on a treadmill.
The simple appearance of a threat to Morgenthau's reign is enough to spur
interest in the race. Morgenthau hasn't faced a Democratic primary
challenge since 1985, when he easily dispatched now-disbarred attorney C.
A win in the September primary virtually guarantees a November general
election triumph, and a Morgenthau victory could keep him in office until
he turns 90.
"He is an icon, he is well known to voters, he has low negatives," said
Sheinkopf. "He's very tough to beat."
(source: 1010 WINS News)
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