[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----USA----April Execution Alert
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Mar 30 18:53:48 CST 2005
April 5: Glen Ocha (FL):
April 15: Richard Longworth (SC)
April 20: Milton Mathis (TX):
April 20: Douglas Alan Roberts (TX):
April 21: Bill J. Benefiel (IN):
April 28 : Mario Centobie (AL):
*April 27: Donald Jones (MO): (Alert not posted)
April 5, 2005
6:00 PM EST
The state of Florida is scheduled to execute Glen Ocha, who has legally
changed his name to Raven Raven, April 5, 2005 for the 1999 murder of Carol
Skjerva in Osceola County.
Ocha met Skjerva at a bar while under the influence of alcohol and ecstasy.
She drove him home and the two had consensual sex. Afterwards she made a
disparaging comment which enraged him. He then strangled her and placed her
detached head in his lap and began talking to her. He was arrested the
following day for disorderly intoxication while in the possession of
Skherva's car. He confessed to the murder and told authorities where her
body could be located.
Ocha plead guilty and waived his right to a trial by jury, as well as to the
presentation of mitigating evidence. At the trial he refused to let a
public defender present evidence to try and avoid an execution.
Furthermore, he asked the trial judge to sentence him to death. He later
wrote in a letter, "Sir, I wish for my execution to come swift and
unhampered. Please understand my sincerest request! Its better for me, and
everyone for me to face my punishment sooner than later." He then fired an
attorney who tried to help him appeal his death sentence.
At trial, two psychological experts stated they believed further testing on
Ocha was necessary. One psychologist went so far as to suggest he undergo a
neuro-psychiatric evaluation to rule out the possibility of a brain tumor
which may have affected his behavior and thinking. Ocha did not receive any
of the additional testing suggested by the mental health experts. If these
tests had taken place they may have provided valuable information at the
trial concerning his mental health and competency to stand trial.
Ocha had a history of suicidal thoughts and drug and alcohol abuse. He had
previously suffered two severe head injuries which are often linked to
violent disturbing behaviors. Ocha also suffers from post-traumatic stress
disorder and a learning disability. Ocha suffered from a chaotic and
violent childhood. He had a history of psychiatric disturbances and mental
illness and may possibly have a bipolar disorder. It is apparent that Ocha
is not sane and needs medical help, a point that is further supported by his
legal name change from Glen Ocha to Raven Raven.
The history of Ocha's suicidal tendencies are clearly documented. When
previously arrested for an unrelated crime he asked the arresting officers
to shoot him. In 1999, while incarcerated in Volusia County, he was placed
on suicide watch.
Five of the last eight executions in Florida have been of prisoners who have
waived their appeals and volunteered to be put to death.
During Governor Bush's tenure, 16 persons on death row have been executed,
seven of whom have dropped their appeals in order to expedite their own
The execution of those with mental illness is prohibited by international
law as well as by most countries in the world. In April of 2000, The UN
Commission on Human Rights urged that all states that do maintain the death
penalty do not impose it on those who are suffering from any form of mental
disorder. However, it is a common occurrence in the United States. There
is clear evidence that Ocha is mentally ill and suicidal. By signing his
death warrant Governor Jeb Bush is merely assisting in the suicide of a sick
man and continuing the unjust practice of executing the mentally ill.
Please take a moment to urge Governor Bush to stop the suicide of Glen Ocha!
April 15, 2005
6:00 PM EST
The state of South Carolina is set to execute Richard Longworth, 37, on
April 15, 2005 for the 1991 murders of Alex Hopps and James Greene in
On January 7, 1991, Longworth and accomplice David Rocheville robbed a
Spartanburg movie theatre, shooting and killing employees Hopps and Greene.
Police arrested both men, who later confessed to the crimes. Longworth and
Rocheville were both convicted of armed robbery, kidnapping, and two counts
of murder in separate trials. Rocheville was executed in December of 1999.
Longworth's attorneys have raised several issues in his appeals, including
evidence supporting claims of ineffective assistance of counsel.
Longworth's trial attorney represented both Longworth and his parents,
resulting in a conflict of interest that allowed for the suppression of
potentially important mitigating evidence. In interviews with her son's
attorney, Longworth's mother mentioned a history of domestic violence and
alcohol abuse while he was growing up. However, in the interest of saving
the family from publicly admitting their problems, which may have resulted
in the loss of her husband's job or her position as a foster parent, Mrs.
Longworth requested that the information remain private. Longworth's
attorney agreed, and this information was not brought up at trial in an
effort to spare her son's life.
The ineffective assistance of counsel claim was expanded in Longworth's
appeals to include his attorney's incompetence and inexperience through his
failure to disclose Longworth's use of cocaine at the time of the crime and
his full family and childhood background. Although the Fourth Circuit U.S.
Court of Appeals maintained that these claims have no merit, they refused to
review them due to a procedural matter. Longworth's attorneys failed to
raise these issues in his petition for certiorari to the South Carolina
Supreme Court. Because the claims were not made at the state level before
turning to the federal court system, the judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals
found them to be procedurally barred from their review.
Longworth's case magnifies the problems with the United States criminal
justice system, especially an outdated appeals process that places more
emphasis on an abstract set of rules than to the idea of justice outlined in
the Constitution. Longworth's arguments regarding ineffective assistance of
counsel as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment may have fallen on deaf ears in
the U.S. Courts, but it is not too late to spare his life. Please contact
Gov. Sanford of South Carolina and request that he stop the execution of
6:00 PM CST
The state of Texas is scheduled to execute Milton Mathis April 20 for the
Fort. Bend County murders of Travis Brown and Daniel Hibbard on Dec. 15,
1998. Mathis, a black man, was 19 years old at the time of the crime. He
shot the victims and a 15 -year- old girl who was subsequently paralyzed.
Mathis made several claims on appeals including ineffective assistance of
counsel. His defense attorney at trial did not object when the prosecutor,
while speaking to the jury, called the defendant a "despicable piece of
human trash" during closing statements.
Also, Mathis has some serious mental impairments that may not have been
adequately developed and presented to the court. After performing tests on
Mathis, Dr. Stephen Martin, a neurological expert, was prepared to testify
that Mathis had frontal lobe damage and that brain damage impaired Mathis'
ability to think and function normally, particularly when under stress.
Pheobe Smith, one of Mathis' lead attorneys at trial presented an affidavit
during appeals stating that she had given this information to the lead
counsel at trial. Smith stated that she did not know why the lead counsel
chose not to present this potentially mitigating evidence to the trial.
The state of Texas has executed more people than the next five highest
states combined. Thus far, in 2005 Texas has carried out one third of all
executions with six more scheduled in April and May.
Please write the state of Texas protesting the execution of Milton Mathis.
Douglas Alan Roberts
April 20, 2005
6:00 PM CST
The state of Texas is scheduled to execute Douglas Alan Roberts, a white
man, April 20 for the 1996 murder of Jerry Velez in Kendall County. Roberts
stabbed Velez during a confrontation after he had stolen Velez's car.
Roberts committed the crime while using crack cocaine. After the effects of
the cocaine wore off, he dialed 911 from a pay phone reporting what he had
done and disclosing his location. He waited to be arrested by a responding
Roberts told his attorney that he wanted to be executed, rather than spend
the rest of his life in prison. The trial that followed was one of the
shortest death penalty trials in the modern era lasting two to three days
including jury selection. He has a strong ineffective assistance of counsel
claim. His trial attorney presented no mitigating arguments and no
competency hearing was held. Roberts and his attorney deliberately sought
out pro-death penalty jurors in an effort to assure his death sentence.
When the jury came back deadlocked, the judge, instead of ordering a
sentence of life imprisonment, instructed the jury to continue deliberating
in accord with Roberts' wishes.
The problem of ineffective assistance of counsel highlights one of the most
common and difficult flaws with the death penalty system. More than 90
percent of persons on death row were not able to hire their own attorney.
Frequently when attorneys are appointed to defendants they are ill-equipped
to give their client quality or even competent legal representation.
Roberts' trial attorney assisting in seeking out a death sentence and the
judge's behavior make a mockery of the justice system.
Please write Governor Perry and the Board of Pardons and Paroles protesting
a death penalty system which would allow such a blatant miscarriage of
justice to take place.
Bill J. Benefiel Jr.
April 21, 2005
The state of Indiana is scheduled to execute Bill J. Benefiel, Jr., a white
man, April 21, 2005 for the Feb. 7, 1987 murder of Delores Wells, 18, of
Vigo County. Wells was kept in Benefiel's home for several days. She was
sexually abused and tortured before Benefiel killed her. Benefiel also kept
another victim in his home who survived and testified against him.
Court-appointed experts testified during the guilt phase of the trial that
Benefiel suffered from schizophrenic personality disorder, and from a mental
disease or defect. As a baby, Benefiel's birth mother gave him to an unfit
mother in exchange for having a place to live. Benefiel endured a traumatic
childhood including abandonment and sexual abuse by his adoptive mother's
boyfriend. During trial, Benefiel was reluctant to disclose the details of
abuse he suffered and also reluctant to discuss the crimes he had committed.
He suffered an emotional breakdown during the trial, refusing to go back
into the courtroom after a recess. The trial court, however, ruled that
Benefiel was not mentally ill due to the fact that he "showed the ability to
monitor police, commit numerous burglaries, conceal and destroy evidence,
and his manner of carrying out various crimes." In 1991, the Supreme Court
of Indiana stated that Benefiel's "impairment suffered as a result of mental
disease is entitled to substantial mitigating weight ." However, the court
maintained that this mental illness issue as mitigation was diminished
because Benefiel exhibited both periods of non-violent behavior and control
and because of the way in which the crimes were carried out.
There is strong evidence to support the argument that Benefiel suffers from
mental illness. The execution of persons with mental illness is a clear
violation of international human rights standards as violating the 1964 and
1989 U.N. Economic and Social Council Resolution and the U.N. Human Rights
Please take a moment to write the state of Indiana protesting the execution
of Bill Benefiel. This cycle of violence must not be further perpetuated by
April 28, 2005
6:00 PM CST
The state of Alabama is scheduled to execute Mario Centobie April 28.
Centobie was sentenced to death for the 1998 fatal shooting of Moody Police
Officer Keith Turner in St. Clair. The police officer was killed after
Centobie and Jeremy Granberry escaped from Missisippi authorities while
being held for another crime.
Centobie was also given three life prison terms for the wounding of
Tuscaloosa police Capt. Cecil Lancaster.
Centobie's trial took place in Elmore County due to the amount of publicity
surrounding the St. Clair County area where the shooting took place.
During his trial, Centobie gave jurors a dramatic, play-by-play account of
his crime including pointing his fingers to represent a gun and shouting
"Bang." During his appeals proceedings, Centobie acted as his own
He claimed he had to shoot Turner but did not intend to kill him.
In 1994, four years before the crime, Centobie was recognized for his
service with fire and rescue workers after an Amtrak train crashed in Mobile
He was abandoned by his father at the age of four after his parents
divorced. His mother sought a divorce on the grounds of habitual cruel and
inhuman treatment by Centobie's father. At the age of 20, Centobie shot
himself in the stomach with a shotgun because he was distraught. He married
but later divorced. His wife requested a restraining order citing habitual
cruel and inhuman treatment.
Centobie has dropped his appeals and is not seeking clemency. Please take
a moment to write Gov. Riley protesting Alabama's collusion in this
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