death penalty news----TEXAS, NEV., N.C., FLA., MASS., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Nov 15 16:22:51 CST 2005
TEXAS----new execution date
Robert Salazar Jr. has been given an execution date of March 22, 2006; the
date should be considered serious.
(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)
Photos of suspect in officer's death released
Houston police investigators have released photos of the 2 suspects
charged in the Oct. 26 slaying of Houston Police Officer Reuben De Leon
and are urging anyone with information relating to any other possible
crimes committed by either suspect to come forward.
Brandon Reshaud Zachary and Antoin D. Marshal, both 19, have been charged
with capital murder in the 337th State District Court. Zachary turned
himself in to police in Beaumont Oct. 31. Marshal was arrested in Wichita
Falls Nov. 1.
De Leon was shot to death in the security office at the Woodscape
Apartments in southwest Houston when he answered a knock at the door.
Witnesses said they heard multiple gunshots and saw 2 men flee the scene.
Investigators believe the incident may have started as a robbery and that
one or both suspects may be responsible for other crimes in the Houston
Anyone with any information regarding Zachary's and Marshal's possible
criminal activities is urged to contact the Houston Police Department
homidide division at (713) 308-3600.
De Leon, who was off-duty at the time of the shooting, was a six-year
veteran of the department and worked at the Fondren Patrol Division in
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Can Texas law be crazy? It will be retried with Yates State more concerned
with popular justice than insanity
It was a crime that still haunts the nation. On the morning of June 20,
2001, Andrea Yates, a suburban Houston housewife, made breakfast for her
five children and then methodically drowned each one - Noah, 7; John, 5;
Paul 3; Luke, 2; and Mary, 6 months - in the family's guest bathroom. She
then spread four of the bodies out on her bed, leaving Noah floating in
the tub. After that, she called the police and her husband to disclose the
crime amid a rambling account of being possessed by Satan.
Yates should have been an easy case for the insanity defense. She had a
long, documented history of schizophrenia and postpartum depression. She
had attempted suicide twice, and only weeks before she had been held in a
mental hospital. Shortly before the murders, her doctor had taken her off
her medication. She soon began to experience delusional communications
from God telling her to kill the children to protect them. Her treating
doctor at the time described her as "one of the sickest patients I've ever
The senseless horror of the killings strongly supported a claim of
insanity. Even in our collective anger following the murders, many people
knew instinctively that this mother was seriously ill. But Texas has an
insanity standard shaped more by political than clinical realities. Under
that standard, even Yates was found to be sane, convicted and sentenced to
life in prison.
Now, however, she's getting another chance. On Wednesday, the state's
highest court threw out her conviction and sent the case back for a new
trial because of overzealous prosecutors and false testimony by the
prosecution's key expert witness, Newport Beach, Calif., psychiatrist Dr.
Park Dietz. This time, it is to be hoped that the trial will focus the
nation's attention on the insanity defense and how states such as Texas
routinely ignore clear mental illness in their eagerness to extract
In recent years, states have made it more and more difficult to claim
insanity. After John Hinckley Jr. was found insane in the shooting of
President Reagan, many states adopted new, stricter standards. For
example, Texas used to accept that a person was insane even if he knew
that he was committing a crime, as long as he could convince a jury that
he could not stop himself because of mental illness. Yates would have
easily satisfied that standard.
However, Texas changed the rule in 1983 to require a showing that a
defendant could not distinguish right from wrong. Thus, even if Yates was
obeying Satan, she was still sane if she knew it was wrong on some level.
Of course, the government can always find someone such as Dietz, who makes
a substantial living finding lunatics sane. The Texas standard also
ignores the psychiatric literature questioning the significance of the
In most states, the insanity rule is now a legal version of a Rorschach
test: Juries come away with radically different impressions of sanity and
insanity. Fewer than 1 % of criminal cases raise this defense, but the
inconsistency among the cases is shocking.
For instance, in Colorado this year, Rebekah Amaya was found insane in the
drowning of her 2 children because she said she was told to do so by a
spider crawling over her hand. Like Yates, the standard was the ability to
distinguish right from wrong. Both women had previous mental illness
aggravated by postpartum depression. Both claimed that the killings were
meant to rid their children and themselves of evil spirits. Yates,
however, was found sane, while Amaya was found insane.
Perhaps Yates should have said her orders came from a spider. Or maybe she
should have said she did it to impress actress Jodie Foster, as did
Hinckley. Frankly, there are plenty of sane motivations for assassinating
a president, but there are few for a mother to kill her children. Yet
Hinckley was found insane while Yates was found perfectly sane.
Even within Texas, similar cases result in radically different results.
For example, Deanna Laney was recently found insane for stoning her
children on orders from God.
It seems that some homicidal messages from God are more believable than
Our insanity laws are now as incomprehensible as their subjects. Unhinged
individuals such as Colin Ferguson (the Long Island Rail Road killer) and
Zacarias Moussaoui (the 9/11 co-conspirator) have not only been found
competent but allowed to represent themselves.
We sat and watched as these barking lunatics pretended to be lawyers while
the judges and prosecutors desperately pretended that they were sane.
The new trial is unlikely to shed new light on the dark delusions of
Andrea Yates. It was never a question of whether Yates was insane. It was
only a question of whether Texas was willing to recognize that fact in its
own mad fit of retributive justice.
(source: Viewpoints, Houston Chronicle -- Jonathan Turley is a law
professor at George Washington University and a practicing criminal
NEVADA----new execution date set
Nevada inmate's execution set for Dec. 1
A Nevada prison official on Tuesday scheduled a Dec. 1 execution for a
death row inmate who maintains his innocence in the 1988 killing of a Reno
woman but has waived his appeal rights.
State Prisons Director Glen Whorton scheduled the 9 p.m. execution by
injection for Daryl Mack, 47, following the issuance of an execution order
last week by Washoe County District Judge Robert Perry.
Marc Picker, Mack's lawyer, has said the execution at Nevada State Prison
in Carson City would amount to "state-assisted suicide." He said Mack
isn't admitting to the murder of Betty May, who was sexually assaulted and
strangled in her Reno home, but won't challenge a finding that he's guilty
of the crime.
Mack was serving a no-parole life term in prison for murdering Kim Parks
in 1994 in a Reno motel when he was linked through DNA evidence to May's
murder and convicted. A 3-judge panel sentenced him to death in 2002.
Picker said Mack has been in prison for years and "does not want to be on
death row anymore. He said he's made peace and he's ready to move on."
Mack still could make a last-minute bid for an appeal, but Picker said
that was unlikely because he's already undergone 3 psychiatric
examinations and 4 or 5 court hearings.
11 men have been executed in Nevada following the U.S. Supreme Court's
ruling in the 1970s that cleared the way for capital punishment to resume
in this country. 10 of those who died in Nevada were inmates who declined
to file appeals that would have kept them alive.
The last execution in Nevada was that of Terry Jess Dennis, who died in
August 2004 for strangling a woman in a Reno motel in 1999. Also in 2004,
Lawrence Colwell Jr. was executed for strangling of an elderly tourist in
Death row inmate Robert Lee McConnell was scheduled for execution last
June, but with only 34 minutes to live he filed an appeal and won an
immediate stay. Officials said they had expected McConnell, 33, to file
his petition, even though he had declared that he was ready to die.
(source: Assoicated Press)
Easley hears clemency pleas for Boyd
Defense lawyers and prosecutors are meeting with Gov. Easley today to
discuss clemency for a man scheduled to die next month for the 1998
slayings of his estranged wife and her father. Defense attorney Tom Maher
says Kenneth Lee Boyd was fueled by alcohol, frustration and Vietnam War
flashbacks when he committed the crimes in Rickingham County. Maher also
contends that 2 jurors say they weren't aware they could recommend a life
sentence for Boyd.
Rockingham County prosecutor Belinda Foster says Boyd deserves to die
because of the heinous crimes. They also say that jurors were told several
times that they could choose between the death penalty and life in prison.
(source: Associated Press)
Smith's defense raises questions about reliability of FBI lab
A defense attorney for the man accused of abducting and strangling Carlie
Brucia challenged the reliability of an FBI lab that linked his client
through DNA tests to a semen stain found on the 11-year-old girl's shirt.
Adam Tebrugge used a report faulting the FBI lab in Quantico, Va. for
employing methods that were "vulnerable" to mistakes as the framework of
his cross examination Tuesday of FBI examiner Jennifer Luttman, who
testified the previous day that the semen stain matched DNA in an oral
swab taken from Tebrugge's client, Joseph Smith.
The report by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector
General was released in May 2004 in response to an investigation of
misconduct by an FBI staff biologist. The biologist was found two years
earlier to have falsified lab documents to cover up the fact that she
failed to complete tests showing whether contamination had been introduced
into the DNA testing process.
"Methods have been put into place to prevent this from happening again,"
Luttman said during questioning from the defense attorney.
Although the biologist didn't work on Smith's case, and Luttman testified
that there had been no contamination of Smith's sample, Tebrugge has
challenged the FBI lab's reliability as a major part of the defense.
Other strategies include disputing that Smith is in a security-camera
recording that shows a man abducting Carlie from a car wash parking lot,
raising questions about evidence contamination and asking why
investigators didn't pursue other men as suspects, such as Smith's
John Smith testified last week that his brother made a jailhouse
confession to him about raping and killing Carlie and told him where her
body was. On Tuesday, Tebrugge asked the FBI examiner if she had gotten a
DNA sample from John Smith. She said no, and later added it was extremely
unlikely Joseph and John Smith would have the same DNA unless they were
identical twins, which they aren't.
When asked if FBI lab biologists could make errors in handling, testing
and recording DNA data or have a bias in a case, Luttman said: "That's a
Joseph Smith, a 39-year-old former auto mechanic and father of three
daughters, is charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and capital
sexual battery in the death of Carlie Brucia, whose abduction February, 1,
2004 attracted worldwide attention since it was captured by the security
camera. Smith pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he may face the death
Prosecutors were expected to rest their case Tuesday, the 6th day of the
Expert: Semen on Carlie's shirt matches DNA of Joseph Smith
A semen stain taken from a shirt Carlie Brucia wore the day she was
abducted matched the DNA of defendant Joseph Smith, an FBI forensic DNA
examiner testified Monday on the fifth day of the suspect's murder trial.
The sample from the back of the 11-year-old girl's red shirt had a mixture
of DNA from a male and a female, said Jennifer Luttman, the FBI examiner
from Quantico, Va. While the female DNA was inconclusive, although Carlie
couldn't be ruled out as a source, the male sample matched DNA from Smith,
"I'm able to say Joseph Smith was the source of the male DNA to a
reasonable degree of scientific certainty," Luttman said.
Before Luttman testified, defense attorney Adam Tebrugge unsuccessfully
tried to have her disqualified as a witness since she hadn't performed the
DNA tests herself. Tebrugge has contended that the semen stain was found
only after it was taken to the FBI lab and that local authorities never
found it. One of the defense strategies during the trial has been to raise
questions about the reliability of the FBI lab by citing a 2002 case in
which an FBI biologist was prosecuted for falsifying tests.
Prosecutors tried to blunt that line of attack by questioning Luttman in
front of jurors about the case. Luttman testified that new safeguards had
been implemented at the FBI lab to make sure that evidence can't be
The testimony on the DNA evidence came as prosecutors entered the second
week of the trial by focusing on scientific evidence. A medical examiner
testified that scrapes, marks and bruises on Carlie's body indicate she
was bound, dragged on her side and strangled from behind with a cord or
Carlie also appeared to be have been sexually assaulted, Dr. Russell Vega
said as jurors were shown almost two dozen graphic images on a television
screen of Carlie's badly decomposed body.
"My opinion remains that strangulation was the cause of death," said Vega,
medical director for Florida's 12th district.
Smith, a 39-year-old former auto mechanic and father of 3 daughters, is
charged with 1st-degree murder, kidnapping and capital sexual battery in
the death of Carlie Brucia. He pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he may
face the death penalty.
Carlie's disappearance February 1, 2004 was captured by a car wash
security camera and broadcast worldwide. Her decomposed body was found
under brush at a church property more than 4 days later.
The television screen was positioned at jurors so that most of the
audience in the courtroom were unable to see the autopsy images, although
Carlie's father, Joe Brucia, changed seats so he could get a partially
Carlie had a mark around her neck less than 1/4 of an inch-wide that went
over her Adam's apple, Vega testified. There was no knot impression, and
marks on the back of the neck were higher than those in the front,
indicating someone taller than Carlie held the cord continuously from
behind her, he added.
Although no ties or cords were found at the crime scene, marks on Carlie's
wrists are consistent with her hands being tied while she was still alive.
Yellow abrasions on her right side suggest she was dragged over a surface
like concrete, and scratches on her left hip point to her being dragged
over branches, while her hands were bound, Vega said.
Other contusions on Carlie's shin and thigh suggest she may have struggled
with her attacker, he said.
The medical examiner said Carlie was dragged either right before or just
after she died.
Although her body was so badly decomposed that it was difficult to find
physical evidence that she was sexually assaulted, the fact that Carlie's
red shirt was partially over her right shoulder, her bra unclasped and
partially pulled down and that she was unclothed below the waist suggest
that she was, Vega said.
But during cross-examination by defense attorney Adam Tebrugge, Vega
conceded that no semen was found on Carlie's body or her clothing when
local officials performed an examination.
Vega also testified under cross examination that Carlie had no "classic"
signs of injuries made when someone is defending himself or herself.
(source for both: Associated Press)
House begins debating Romney death penalty bill
The Massachusetts House began debating Gov. Mitt Romney's death penalty
bill on Tuesday, taking up an issue that has steadily lost momentum on
Beacon Hill since losing by a single vote in 1997.
Romney filed his legislation in April, seeking capital punishment for
"very, very rare circumstances," such as terrorism, serial killing or
murdering police or other public servants.
Romney said his plan would have the nation's highest standard of proof for
ensuring that only the guilty were executed, using scientific evidence
such as DNA and multiple checks and balances, including review by the
Supreme Judicial Court.
He said it will include other safeguards to protect the innocent, such as
a requirement that physical evidence, such as DNA, directly link the
defendant to the crime scene. Only 1 or people a year would face the
penalty in the state under the bill, Romney estimated.
But critics say there's no way to craft a foolproof death penalty bill and
that innocent people could still be put to death.
(source: Associated Press)
NCADP WELCOMES U.S. CONFERENCE OF BISHOPS' EFFORTS TO END USE OF THE DEATH
The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Tuesday welcomed the
statement by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops pledging renewed
efforts to end the use of the death penalty in the United States.
Although U.S. bishops have been on record as opposing the use of the death
penalty for 25 years, the statement approved Tuesday said the U.S.
Conference will seek "to seize a new moment and new momentum" against
capital punishment. The statement is entitled, "A Culture of Life and the
Penalty of Death."
"The new language approved by the bishops reflects a change in dynamics in
the death penalty debate," said Diann Rust-Tierney, NCADP executive
director. "In their statement, the bishops strongly insist that more must
be done to assist victims of violence. They recognize that standing with
victims of violence does not compel us to support the use of the death
penalty. They affirm that the pain and loss of one death cannot be wiped
out by another death."
"The bishops' clarion call is rooted in the best tradition of faith-based
communities speaking out for social justice," Rust-Tierney added. "On
behalf of our approximately 100 local, state, national and international
affiliates, we pledge our continued support and willingness to work with
Catholic leaders and laity around the country to end the death penalty.
With greater understanding and public focus on this issue, we believe the
bishops' goal - an end to use of the death penalty - can be realized."
Judge delays Moussaoui death penalty trial
A federal judge delayed the sentencing trial of September 11 conspirator
Zacarias Moussaoui by 1 month and ordered a 2-stage process to determine
whether he will receive the death penalty.
In rulings issued late on Monday and released by the court on Tuesday,
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said the trial would begin February 6
and be split into 2 parts.
The 1st phase would be to determine whether Moussaoui, 37, intentionally
lied to the FBI about his knowledge of the September 11, 2001, hijacked
If the jury determines that he did lie, resulting in the deaths of nearly
3,000 people, then another phase would be held to see whether or not
Moussaoui should be given the death penalty or life in prison.
In April, Moussaoui -- the only person charged in the United States in
connection with the September 11 attacks -- pleaded guilty and said Osama
bin Laden had picked him to fly a plane into the White House as part of a
Moussaoui pleaded guilty to all 6 counts of an indictment charging him
with conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism, commit aircraft piracy,
destroy aircraft, use weapons of mass destruction, murder U.S. employees
and destroy property.
A jury will now determine his penalty.
Brinkema delayed jury selection by 1 month until February 6 and said
opening statements would begin on March 6. Jury selection was originally
scheduled to begin on January 9.
Brinkema said the request for a delay was made in a classified filing by
"Both parties rely upon the complex nature of the evidence, much of which
is classified, the need to finalize substitutions for certain witnesses'
testimony, and other logistical issues as legitimate bases for the
requested extension," she wrote.
Moussaoui's trial had been delayed repeatedly for appeals over his access
to al Qaeda detainees who he said could prove he was not involved in the
September 11 attacks.
Defense lawyers have said it would be difficult for the government to
prove that Moussaoui -- arrested in August 2001 after raising suspicions
at a flight school in Minnesota -- could have told the FBI anything that
would have prevented the attacks.
"Substantial evidence will be presented at trial that the United States
government knew more about al Qaeda's plans to attack the United States
than did Mr. Moussaoui," his lawyers wrote in a recent court filing.
The filing said "there is no evidence in the record that Mr. Moussaoui
knew any of the actual September 11 hijackers by name, that they were in
the United States or their locations."
Brinkema also ruled that the government may not include victim testimony
and specific evidence concerning the details of the events of September 11
in the first phase of the trial.
Moussaoui's lawyers have argued that the evidence would have an emotional
impact on the jurors. The trial is being held just a few miles from the
Pentagon, which was hit by a hijacked airplane on September 11.
Brinkema laid out an unusually long time to find jurors for the trial,
predicting it would take a month to pick a jury of 12 people with six
alternates from a initial pool of 500.
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