[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----FLA., CONN., MD., MISS.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Mar 31 17:39:26 CST 2005
Killer of Miami-Dade anti-drug crusader loses death row appeal
In Tallahassee, a death row inmate condemned for gunning down a Miami-Dade
County grocer who waged a war against drugs in his neighborhood lost
appeals Thursday in the state Supreme Court.
Ronnie Johnson was sentenced to death for the 1989 murder of Lee Arthur
Lawrence, who was killed in a fusillade of up to 30 bullets fired from a
semiautomatic weapon when he went out to pick up garbage from his parking
Johnson, 44, was also condemned for the fatal shooting of Tequila Larkins,
who was fatally shot in her laundromat a week before Lawrence was killed.
Police said that Larkins was a reputed drug dealer.
Florida's high court rejected appeals from Johnson in both cases Thursday.
The unsigned opinions were unanimous with the exception of Justice R. Fred
Lewis who concurred in the result only.
Lawrence's parking lot was the scene of frequent drug transactions and the
market was the target of a failed firebombing attempt in 1987.
Lawrence, 51, was widely known in his community for his anti-drug stance,
visiting schools and organizing residents to fight against dealers. Three
days before he was fatally shot, Miami-Dade County's top law enforcement
official met with Lawrence, ministers and concerned people about how to
Several hundred people attended Lawrence's funeral, including Jeb Bush,
who was a private citizen running for governor at the time.
(source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel)
House keeps death penalty on books
The state House of Representatives upheld Connecticut's death-penalty
statute Wednesday, rejecting a measure that would have replaced capital
punishment with life imprisonment without parole.
In an 89-60 vote following more than 5 hours of debate, the House also
effectively ended any chance of legislative intervention before the
scheduled May 11 execution of serial killer and rapist Michael Ross.
Advocates of capital punishment argued the ultimate penalty is necessary
to provide justice for those who have lost loved ones in the most heinous
of crimes. But opponents countered that state-sanctioned executions debase
society as a whole and that killing anyone cannot provide true healing.
"Government must be just. It must exact justice," Deputy House Minority
Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, said. "I believe it is society's
"Only the worst of the worst get the death penalty," said Rep. Steven
Mikutel, D-Griswold, whose constituents include families of some of Ross'
Ross, 45, a Brooklyn native, has admitted to killing eight teenage girls
and young women in eastern Connecticut and New York in the 1980s, most of
whom he also raped. He is one of just seven people on death row in this
state. Connecticut has not executed an inmate since 1960.
The Cornell University graduate came within hours of being put to death by
lethal injection on Jan. 29. But the execution was postponed so his mental
competency could be examined.
Mikutel and Cafero argued that capital punishment here is unlike the
systems in most other states, demanding an extremely high level of proof
and limited to a small category of murders. Such crimes include killing a
victim who first was raped or kidnapped, multiple slayings in the same
incident, murder for hire, or the murder of a police officer.
"I do believe there are some people in this world that we can truly say
are evil," added Rep. Pamela Z. Sawyer, R-Bolton.
But Rep. John C. Geragosian, D-New Britain, said that while government
should do all it can to comfort those who have lost loved ones to heinous
acts, killing the guilty won't provide real peace.
"It's about what we value as a society," he said, adding that "Connecticut
can do better than that."
Rep. William Dyson, D-New Haven, who has regularly worn a placard
protesting the death penalty at the state Legislative Office Building for
months, said he can empathize with victims' families who want to see their
loved ones' murderers executed. However, he said the state sends the wrong
message when it kills the killers.
"If it's symbolic, so be it," Dyson said of Wednesday's debate. "Give it
your vote. Give it your vote. It says something about who we are and who
we want to be."
Rep. Michael Lawlor, D-East Haven, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee,
argued that the years of appeals associated with such cases simply give
the condemned killers huge amounts of media attention and force victims'
families to relive the pain again and again.
Lawlor, a former prosecutor, also argued that an inordinate number of
Connecticut's death-penalty cases were tried in the Waterbury judicial
district, adding that the system is flawed because it gives state's
attorneys great discretion in whether to pursue the death sentence in any
Death-penalty opponents have conceded for weeks that their chances of
overturning the statute this spring were slim.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell declared in December that she would veto any effort to
repeal or weaken the capital punishment system, adding she also believes
the death penalty is appropriate for the most heinous of crimes.
That meant any repeal bill would need 2/3 approval in both the House and
Senate to overcome a gubernatorial veto.
Still, Rell said Wednesday that given the importance of this issue, she
understood the legislature's need to debate the bill.
Robert Nave, executive director of the Connecticut Network to Abolish the
Death Penalty, said regardless of the House vote and Rell's support of
capital punishment, the debate over the death penalty in Connecticut is
"It is clear to see that the death penalty will be a thing of the past
before long, and we are excited that today we had the first of many real
debates on the death penalty," he said.
(source: Journal Inquirer)
Prosecutors to seek death penalty in rape, slaying
County prosecutors said yesterday they will seek the death penalty for a
man charged last year in the long-unsolved slayings of 2 women in 1986 and
1988 and a 14-year-old girl in 1993.
State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee said his office will seek to execute
Alexander Wayne Watson Jr., 35, for the May 23, 1988, rape and murder of
Elaine Buchanan Shereika.
Ms. Shereika, 37, was stabbed, sexually assaulted and strangled while out
for a morning jog near her Gambrills home. Two miles away from the body,
county police found a bread knife with a 9-inch blade and a towel
detectives believe the killer used to wipe blood off himself.
Ms. Shereika's daughter, Jennifer Shereika, said last night she's
generally against the death penalty but thinks Watson deserves it.
She said she was on the fence until talking to her mother's oldest friend,
who reminded her that Watson can work and receive visitors in prison and
could one day get to see his grandchildren.
"These are things my mother didn't get a chance to do," said Jennifer
Shereika, who was 16 when her mother was killed. "She never got a chance
to meet her grandkids. I can't wrap my head around that being
Mr. Weathersbee said the family's wishes were a key factor in his decision
to seek the death penalty. He also noted that Watson was sentenced to life
without parole in 1994 for murdering a woman in Prince George's County.
"What more can you do to him?" Jennifer Shereika said. "There's nothing
else you can do to him except the death penalty."
A trial could be late this year or early next year.
Watson is eligible for the death penalty in Ms. Shereika's slaying because
she also was sexually assaulted, one of the aggravating factors required
When Boontem Anderson, 33, of Gambrills was killed in Oct. 8, 1986, Watson
was only 17. And there was no aggravating factor in the Jan. 15, 1993,
death of Lisa Haenel.
Ms. Anderson, who died of a stab wound to the neck, was found partially
clothed in her fiance's home. Her body, with her hands tied behind her
back, was found by the fiance's teenage son.
Lisa, an Old Mill High School freshman, was walking to school when she was
attacked. She died of a stab wound to the chest. Her stepfather found her
nude body near a wooded path the next morning while out jogging and
looking for her.
Police said Watson knew the family with whom Ms. Anderson was staying, but
the killings of Ms. Shereika and Lisa were apparently random.
Detectives long suspected the killings were linked, but they had few hard
leads. The break in the case came in October 2003, when DNA from 2 of the
crime scenes matched Watson's profile in a state database.
Detectives said they reinvestigated the case to tie up every possible
loose end before charging Watson last July.
When prosecutors asked Jennifer Shereika what she thought of the death
penalty, she agonized - unlike her younger brother, who supported it from
In the end, despite her misgivings, she came down in favor of it, mainly
because of Watson's character.
"The reason that Maryland has this law on the books is to deal with people
like him," she said. "This is a man who has killed four women. If the law
is there, it needs to be put to use."
(source: The Capital News)
Miss. Supreme Court upholds death sentence in Lee County case
The Mississippi Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence given Derrick
Walker for the 2001 killing of a Tupelo man, rejecting his claims that the
incident did not rise to the level of a capital crime.
Walker was sentenced to death in Lee County in 2003 for the stabbing death
of former Tupelo personnel director Charles Richardson. Walker was
convicted of capital murder and arson.
Police said Richardson's body was found by firefighters answering a report
of smoke coming from his house on July 17, 2001. Authorities said
Richardson had been repeatedly stabbed and slashed.
Walker was arrested in Arkansas. He was driving Richardson's car,
Walker did not deny the crime. During arguments before the Supreme Court
in February, Walker's attorney said Walker killed Richardson but never
intended to steal the man's car and without such intent, robbery could not
be used to support a conviction of capital murder.
Justice Mike Randolph, writing Thursday for the court, said Walker's
argument failed because he confessed to investigators that he planned to
kill Richardson, take his car and go to Chicago.
"Aside from Walker's confession of intent, the element of intent is
clearly evidenced through the actions of Walker prior to Richardson's
murder," Randolph said. "Walker packed his belongings and hid them outside
his house; by doing so, Walker would have easy access to retrieve them and
place them in Richardson's car, to escape town following the murder of
The Supreme Court also rejected Walker's claim that the traffic stop in
Forrest City, Ark., was illegal because he was never issued a ticket.
Walker said any statements he then gave lawmen should have not have been
used against him at trial.
Prosecutors said Walker was stopped for speeding in a construction zone.
They said Walker admitted the car was not his and was found to be driving
with a suspended license, for which he could be arrested in Arkansas.
Prosecutors said Arkansas officers became suspicious when Walker changed
his story, saying that he had bought the car from somebody.
Randolph said the trial judge conducted a thorough hearing and ruled the
confession was voluntarily given and that there was nothing wrong with the
Randolph said other courts have ruled that there is no requirement that an
officer issue a citation for a traffic violation to have a valid to stop
He said Walker could not claim a constitutional protection from a search
"because he has no reasonable expectation of privacy in a car he stole and
did not own."
(source: Associated Press)
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