[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----FLA., PENN., MO., GA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Mar 31 11:26:40 CST 2005
Judge orders new penalty phase for convicted killer
If jurors were told about Virginia Larzelere's abusive childhood, they may
have recommended a life sentence instead of the death penalty for killing
her dentist husband, according to the judge who threw out her sentence
In a 40-page ruling, Circuit Judge John W. Watson III said her attorneys
were ineffective because they did not investigate and present evidence at
her 1992 trial about her claims of being sexually abused and having an
Now Larzelere, 52, the lone woman on Florida's death row, will get a new
penalty phase in which jurors recommend life or death.
"This particular case is an issue about justice, injustice and the fallacy
of the system," said Gary McDaniel, a Fort Lauderdale private detective
and witness in Larzelere's latest appeal.
Larzelere was tried for the 1991 slaying of her husband Norman at his
Edgewater office and convicted of 1st-degree murder in 1992. The jury
recommended death 7 to 5.
In a lengthy appeal that started in the local circuit court nearly three
years ago, Larzelere sought a new trial and sentencing because of
ineffective counsel and a violation of her civil rights during her trial.
Judge Watson's ruling, which was made public on Monday, ordered a new
penalty phase for Larzelere but denied a new trial.
"Based on the totality of this evidence, this court finds that counsel's
performance was deficient because counsel did not spend sufficient time
preparing for the penalty phase," Watson wrote in his order signed March
Her attorneys "never sought out the defendant's background, never
sufficiently followed up on the investigator's report outlining the abuse
and family history and never interviewed the defendant's family members,"
the judge wrote.
Her lead lawyer at the time of the trial, Jack Wilkins, was later
disbarred and convicted of perjury and other federal crimes, according to
"He really didn't serve her well," David Hendry, one of the attorneys who
handled her appeal, said Wednesday.
Considering the close verdict, something that happened in Larzelere's
childhood "may have shown her to be a more sympathetic figure to the jury
as they deliberated her fate," Hendry said.
Hendry expects appeals to be filed from all sides in state Supreme Court.
Prosecutors may appeal to keep her death sentence and her attorneys may
ask for a new trial.
"Ms. Larzelere still maintains her innocence," Hendry said.
Reversals in death penalty cases don't happen often, Hendry said. In 1996,
the state Supreme Court affirmed Larzelere's conviction and sentencing. A
status conference is to be set within 2 months to determine when a new
penalty phase will be scheduled.
John Howes, one of Larzelere's attorneys who mainly cross-examined
witnesses said her background was not part of his role in the trial. "If
she gets a new sentencing hearing, good for her," he said. "The last thing
in the world I want at the end of the day is to have one of my clients on
McDaniel, the private investigator who worked to find evidence that helped
clear Larzelere's son in the murder in 1992, said he hopes Larzelere's
innocence will be proven. McDaniel said the original grand jury, of which
he has been unable to find any record of proceedings, might have
information that could free Larzelere.
"I have only one hope," he said. "That one of the original grand jurors
will come forward."
(source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
For 22 years in jail, panel offers $200,000----The House committee's offer
to exonerated prisoner Wilton Dedge was rejected and called "shameful."
A Brevard County man who spent 22 years in prison for a rape he did not
commit could get no more than $200,000 in compensation under a proposal
approved by a House committee Wednesday.
For Wilton Dedge, that works out to about $9,000 for each year served.
The 43-year-old contractor spent more than 1/2 his life in prison before
DNA evidence proved his innocence last year.
Legislators who voted for the proposal called it "a first step."
Critics assailed it as "shameful" and "woefully inadequate." Dedge's
lawyer rejected it out of hand.
The Senate wasn't impressed, either.
Senate President Tom Lee, R-Brandon, said a $200,000 cap in such cases was
"probably not" enough money.
Dedge was sentenced to 2 consecutive life terms in 1982 after being
convicted of sexual battery, aggravated battery and burglary.
Under Florida's doctrine of sovereign immunity, Dedge could receive no
more than $200,000 unless he filed a claims bill in the Legislature - a
costly and cumbersome process that can take years to resolve.
Unlike many people who seek claims, Dedge does not have a jury damage
award to bolster his request for money. That's because he has not sued for
damages, but he does have a court order absolving him of any wrongdoing.
At least 19 states have laws to compensate people who are falsely
imprisoned but Florida does not.
The Dedge case has prompted the Legislature to explore how to handle all
future false imprisonment cases.
The House proposal would offer victims of false imprisonment a choice:
$200,000 or a package of nonmonetary services, including health care, free
tuition at a state college or university and preference in state
"This is a 1st step," said Rep. John Quinones, R-Kissimmee, the committee
chairman. "There's no way we're going to make someone whole for the time
they were incarcerated."
The House Claims Committee approved the proposal 4-0. Rep. Charlie Dean,
R-Inverness, was among the House members who voted for it.
"You don't have very much and what you have is not very good," Dedge's
lawyer, Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte, told House members.
"I'm not sure that $200,000 would compensate the parents themselves, much
less Wilton Dedge."
D'Alemberte, former American Bar Association president, said the parents
sacrificed their savings and took a second mortgage on their home to help
free their son.
Lawyers have filed a claims bill seeking nearly $5-million from the state
treasury as compensation for his 22 lost years, but the bill was filed
after a deadline, and neither the House nor Senate has shown much interest
in hearing it.
D'Alemberte reminded lawmakers that the Florida Constitution includes a
basic rights provision, modeled after the U.S. Constitution: "All natural
persons are equal before the law and have inalienable rights, among which
are the right to enjoy and defend life and liberty ... "
Jennifer Greenberg of the Florida Innocence Initiative faulted lawmakers
for excluding anyone who pleaded guilty. "The system lives on pleas" and
some are coerced into confessing, Greenberg told House members.
"What you've come up with so far seems woefully inadequate, all the way
around. It's hard to see that this is the best Florida can do."
Lee said he favors a solution that did not involve "a protracted and
cumbersome process of litigation."
Lee said he met with Dedge's parents, Gary and Mary, and found them "some
of the classiest people I have had to confront in this process."
"I was so impressed with the way they conducted themselves - their lack of
anger and frustration and respect for the fact that their son is not the
only one who has or will find themselves in this situation," Lee said.
(source: St. Petersburg Times)
Wilton Dedge spent 22 years in prison because a rape victim identified the
wrong man and prosecutors, in their zeal to convict him, relied on junk
science and a loathsome jailhouse snitch. Still, it was essentially an
accident. No such excuse applies to the disgustingly cheap compensation
scheme that the House Claims Committee approved Wednesday. This injustice
Though everyone knows that DNA proved Dedge innocent, the committee would
force him - or any other prisoner similarly wronged - to choose between
settling for no more than $200,000 in cash or a basket of benefits
including health care, free education and state employment preference. The
money would not reimburse even what his parents spent, emptying their
retirement funds and remortgaging their home, to defend him.
That aside, would any legislator volunteer to serve at slave labor in the
brutal environment of a prison - or to work anywhere - for barely $9,000 a
House Claims Committee Chairman John Quinones, R-Kissimmee, rationalized
that "there's no way you can put a price tag on liberty." But he
effectively set the price at zero. His bill is a disgrace to the state and
to any legislator who considers it adequate.
Senate President Tom Lee promptly and properly made it clear that his
chamber will do better and that $200,000 is "probably not" enough. After
what Florida has already done to Dedge, however, it compounds injustice
with cruelty for him now to become the pawn in yet another of
Tallahassee's low-ball, high-ball games. House Speaker Allan Bense, who is
better than this, should send the bill back to the committee with
instructions to do it right.
(source: Editorial, St. Petersburg Times)
Man awaiting execution in Arkansas charged in Florida slaying
A man awaiting execution in Arkansas for a 1995 killing is expected to
plead guilty Friday to another first-degree murder charge in the 1991
slaying of a Pennsylvania woman vacationing in Florida, a detective said.
Jack H. Jones Jr., 40, was indicted March 23 by a Broward County, Fla.,
grand jury in the Fort Lauderdale death of Lorraine Barrett, 32, who lived
in the Pittsburgh area.
In Arkansas, Jones awaits execution by injection after being convicted in
April 1996 of the June 6, 1995, rape and murder of Mary Phillips, 34, of
Bradford, at an office in Bald Knob. He also attacked and almost killed
her 11-year-old daughter, Lacey, who was at her mother's office.
Detective John Curcio of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department homicide
unit said Wednesday that Jones has said he will plead guilty to 1st-degree
murder when he is arraigned Friday before Broward County Circuit Judge Ana
"He says he is going to accept responsibility and his big concern ... is
for not only the victim's family out in Arkansas but the victim's family
here in Florida," Curcio said. "And he's not going to prolong anything.
He's fully accepted the fact that he is going to die in Arkansas death row
and he is trying to make everything easier for the victims' families in
Fort Lauderdale authorities obtained permission from Gov. Mike Huckabee's
office to transport Jones to Florida, Curcio said. Authorities picked up
Jones from the Arkansas prison system's Varner Unit on March 1 and flew
him under tight security to Florida, where he is being held at the Broward
Jones' public defender in Fort Lauderdale, William Laswell, didn't return
telephone calls seeking comment.
Curcio said Jones hadn't provided a detailed statement about Barrett's
Authorities said she had been in Fort Lauderdale for less than 12 hours,
on vacation, when she was killed. Jones was linked to Barrett's death
through a match of DNA evidence found at the scene of her slaying.
(source: Associated Press)
Krone comes home----The exonerated death-row inmate shared his experiences
with students at his alma mater.
Ray Krone graduated from Dover Area High School in 1974. And in all of his
years as a district student, he said he never spent 10 minutes in
And yet, he spent 10 years in prison, 2 of which were on death row, for a
murder he didn't commit.
On April 8, 2002, Krone left prison after DNA evidence proved he didn't
kill a Phoenix, Ariz., bartender in 1991. The woman was found dead in a
bar where Krone played darts.
Krone talked about his life in front of an audience of juniors and seniors
at his alma mater Tuesday.
He told them about the day police took him in for questioning. He said
they asked him why he killed his girlfriend, even though he denied having
ever been out with the victim.
Initially, he said, he assisted investigators, but he did so without an
And, Krone said, everything he said and did while cooperating was twisted
and used against him in court.
He said that despite the fact that fingerprints at the scene did not match
his; that there were no hair samples, blood stains or motives to tie him
to the homicide; and that a witness testified that Krone was at another
place at the time of the murder, a jury found him guilty and a judge
sentenced him to death.
He said the prosecution had matched bite marks found on the dead woman's
breast to his own.
Krone said an expert witness for the prosecution was paid more than
$60,000 to testify that the bite marks matched his teeth, and his own
lawyer was given 1 day to refute the evidence.
The students gasped.
Krone's lawyer objected to the lack of time to prepare, and an appeal led
to a retrial a couple years later. This time, his attorney pointed out
that the DNA found in saliva on the woman's breast did not match his.
Krone said the prosecution attributed that to the possibility that the DNA
might have come from a glass she was carrying while cleaning up.
A new jury found Krone guilty, but his death sentence had been reduced to
25 years to life.
A couple of years later, Krone's attorney requested DNA be taken from the
victim's underwear for testing.
The test was done and a match was found, and authorities discovered the
real killer had been out on parole during the time of the crime and was
living behind the bar where the murder took place.
Again, the crowd gasped.
Krone told the students there need to be changes made to the legal system
and that they had the power to make them. The biggest change, Krone said,
needs to be the abolishment of the death penalty.
But making that change will make many people angry, he said.
Some students asked Krone about prison violence, the food and his plans
now that he is a free man.
He said prisoners are often beaten by each other and prison guards, and
the food is served at the prison's convenience and offers little in the
way of taste.
He said he's still undecided about what to do next. More than anything,
Krone said he wants to keep speaking about his experiences.
"I've been talking about this for the past 3 years and people seem to want
to hear what I have to say," he said. "And that is a good 1st step to
making a difference."
(source: York Daily Record)
Missouri's future executions will be at Bonne Terre
The state will move all future executions to a prison in the eastern
Missouri town Bonne Terre, starting with the scheduled April 27 execution
of convicted killer Donald Jones, Department of Corrections officials said
Missouri has executed 62 men since the death penalty was reinstated in
1989, most recently putting to death Stanley Hall on March 16 for
abducting a woman and throwing her over a Mississippi River bridge railing
The 1st inmate executed in modern times -- George "Tiny" Mercer -- was put
to death at the prison in Jefferson City. The 61 other executions were
carried out at the Potosi Correctional Center, about 25 miles west of
Bonne Terre. Missouri uses lethal injection.
Corrections director Larry Crawford said the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic
and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre -- about 60 miles southwest of St.
Louis -- was built for handling executions, and the Potosi prison was not.
Like the Potosi prison, the ERDCC is a maximum-security prison. It opened
in 2003 and has a capacity of 2,684 inmates.
Corrections spokesman John Fougere said the Bonne Terre site has a
specially designed holding cell to house the condemned prisoner in his
final hours. The viewing area is bigger, allowing for additional state
witnesses and relatives and friends of both the condemned killer and the
victim of his or her crime.
"It just makes sense for us to move executions to the Bonne Terre
institution," Fougere said.
Another factor in the decision was the emotional toll executions take on
staff at Potosi, which will continue to house condemned prisoners, Fougere
said. Despite the fact that all 54 men on death row are convicted killers,
prison staff tend to develop a relationship with the men, he said.
"That is a consideration," Fougere said. "The average capital punishment
inmate is with us about 11 years. So in that time, our staff is around the
offender, and that certainly is a factor."
Fougere said many other states -- including Texas, far and away the
national leader in executions -- house death row inmates at one prison and
execute them at another. He said the risk of escape is virtually
"We routinely transfer violent offenders to various institutions," Fougere
said. "For example, if one is disruptive and needs to be moved to a
different facility, or if one needs a medical procedure at a hospital. We
take the strictest precautions you can imagine when it comes to moving
Jones, 38, was convicted of 1st-degree murder in the 1993 beating and
stabbing of his grandmother, Dorothy Knuckles, 68.
(source: Associated Press)
DA yet to file death penalty notice---Slain Pendergrass officer
Prosecutors did not file any notices Wednesday that they will seek the
death penalty for a 27-year-old man charged with gunning down a
Pendergrass police officer in December, according to the Jackson County
Clerk of Courts office.
Jackson County District Attorney Tim Madison said Tuesday he planned to
file notices Wednesday. However, he would not specifically say whether the
notice would announce his intent to seek the death penalty against Richard
Whitaker, 27, of Flowery Branch is facing 17 counts, including three
murder charges, in the Dec. 29 shooting death of Pendergrass police
officer Chris Ruse. He remains in the Jackson County Jail without
opportunity for bond.
Madison could not be reached for comment Wednesday at his offices in
Banks, Barrow or Jackson counties. Workers in his 3 offices could not say
how or where to reach Madison for comment.
Although Madison has not said whether he will seek the death penalty
against Whitaker, for more than a week, he has said he would soon file
notices in the case.
Meanwhile, a 2nd suspect in the case - Nolan Leon Chauvin IV, 18, of
Dacula - pleaded guilty Friday to lesser charges of conspiracy to commit a
burglary, possession of tools for the commission of a crime and possession
of a sawed-off shotgun, according to court records. Chauvin, who was
arrested on aggravated assault and felony murder charges in Ruse's death,
will not be sentenced until after he testifies against Whitaker, Madison
According to authorities and court records, Whitaker and Chauvin were
driving to commit a burglary when Ruse tried to stop their 1998 GMC Sierra
pickup truck along U.S. Highway 129. In Talmo, the truck overturned, and
Whitaker shot Ruse as he approached the vehicle, according to authorities
and court records.
Chauvin is facing 20 years in prison for his guilty pleas, Madison said
(source: Athens Banner-Herald)
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