[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----VA., N.C., NEV., N.J.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Nov 29 16:22:15 CST 2005
VIRGINIA----stay of execution
Governor spares convicted murderer----Killer would have been 1,000th
execution since 1976
In Richmond, Gov. Mark R. Warner granted clemency Tuesday to a convicted
killer who would have been the 1,000th person executed in the United
States since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.
Robin Lovitt's sentence was commuted to life in prison.
Lovitt, 42, was set to be executed by injection Wednesday night for
stabbing a man to death with a pair of scissors during a pool-hall robbery
He became the 1,000th person in line on Tuesday, after Ohio executed John
Hicks, who strangled his mother-in-law and suffocated his 5-year-old
stepdaughter in an attempt to cover up the crime.
The 1,000th execution is now scheduled for Friday in North Carolina, where
Kenneth Lee Boyd is to die for killing his estranged wife and her father.
DNA evidence destroyed
Gov. Mark R. Warner had said he was agonizing over whether to grant Lovitt
clemency on the grounds that a court clerk illegally destroyed much of the
evidence in the case, preventing DNA testing that Lovitt's lawyers say
could exonerate him.
"No case has been more troubling," Warner said Tuesday on WTOP radio in
Washington. "There's no case I've spent more time thinking about, praying
Warner, a Democrat, has never granted clemency in the nearly four years he
has been governor. During that time 11 men have been executed.
Lovitt was convicted of stabbing Clayton Dicks in Arlington, a Washington
suburb, during a robbery at a pool hall. A pair of bloody scissors was
found in the woods between the pool hall and the home of Lovitt's cousin,
a few blocks away.
Lovitt admitted grabbing the cash box and running to his cousin's house
but insisted someone else killed Dicks. Initial DNA tests on the scissors
In 2001 a court clerk destroyed much of the evidence in the case,
including the scissors, supposedly to free up space in the evidence room.
A state law requiring preservation of DNA evidence had taken effect a few
Prosecutors contend that DNA evidence played a minimal role in the case
and that Lovitt was convicted on other strong evidence, including
eyewitness testimony. At the trial, a witness testified he was "80 %"
certain the killer was Lovitt.
"He continues to remain sort of hopeful and confident of his position,"
said Ashley Parrish, one of Lovitt's lawyers. "He recognizes that it's
getting close to the end of the line here, but he also thinks that justice
will come out."
Eric Nance's execution in Arkansas on Monday was the 998th in the U.S.
since the death penalty was reinstated.
In Ohio, Hicks, 49, claimed that cocaine use had made him desperate and
paranoid. According to court records, Hicks traded his VCR for about $50
worth of cocaine, then realized his wife would wonder where the video
recorder was. To get the machine back, he killed his mother-in-law and
stole about $300 and some credit cards from her.
Afraid that his stepdaughter could identify him, he covered her mouth and
nose with duct tape.
(source: Associated Press)
NORTH CAROLINA-----impending 1000th execution
2 Courts Deny Condemned Man's Petition To Stop Execution
North Carolina death row inmate Kenneth Lee Boyd is set to become the
1,000th person executed since capital punishment was reinstated in the
United States in 1976.
Boyd, 57, moved into the macabre spotlight Tuesday when Virginia Gov. Mark
Warner granted clemency to Robin Lovitt, who was scheduled to die
Wednesday for a 1999 murder. Lovitt, 42, was convicted in the scissor
stabbing death of a man in an Arlington, Va., pool hall robbery.
Prison officials moved Boyd to the death watch area, a small cell block
across the hall from the death chamber, on Tuesday afternoon. He was
scheduled to begin contact visits Wednesday afternoon with relatives,
Boyd was convicted of killing his estranged wife and her father in 1988.
(source: Associated Press)
Nevada high court orders mental hearing in death row case
The Nevada Supreme Court has ordered a mental competency hearing for
Robert Ybarra, sentenced to die for the 1979 rape, beating and torch
murder of a 16-year-old Ely girl.
Ybarra faces execution for the rape and murder of Nancy Griffin, who was
found naked and wandering on a road near Ely. She identified her assailant
before dying a day after the attack.
Ybarra's petition to the high court, which issued its ruling Monday, was
his fifth appeal to the court seeking to overturn convictions for murder,
kidnapping, battery and sexual assault. It's the 1st time the issue of
mental competence has been raised in his case.
Griffin was set afire with gasoline after she was assaulted and beaten.
Ybarra's fingerprints were found on a gasoline can at the scene, and
bootprints and tire tracks there matched his boots and his truck tires. A
Sacramento native, he had just taken a job on an oil rig in Ely when the
Since his 1981 conviction, Ybarra has filed appeals and petitions in
district courts, the state Supreme Court, federal district courts and the
U.S. Supreme Court.
(source: Associated Press)
Lawyers tell high court new death penalty rules should be axed
A recent state appeals panel ruling that requires prosecutors seeking the
death penalty to prove defendants are not mentally retarded is cumbersome
and out of step with the rest of the country, lawyers told the state
Supreme Court on Tuesday.
State and county prosecutors argued against the unusual August decision by
a lower court that made New Jersey the only state where prosecutors must
prove to a jury that defendants are not mentally retarded so they can be
26 other states require the opposite: Defendants have to prove they are
retarded and therefore unfit for the death penalty.
Paul Heinzel, state deputy attorney general, told the high court that
defense lawyers, not prosecutors, are in the best position to gather such
evidence about a defendant.
"They could have as complete a record as possible" through school records
and employer and family information, Heinzel said. "It ensures the best
The arguments stem from the case of Porfirio Jimenez, a Honduran day
laborer in prison on charges he sexually assaulted a 10-year-old
Morristown boy before murdering him in 2001. Jimenez's lawyers claimed he
was mentally retarded, with an IQ of 68, when prosecutors said they would
seek the death penalty.
It was not clear when the court will rule on the case.
A 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling - called the "Atkins Ruling" - not only
declared that executing mentally retarded criminals violates the
Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment, but left it to states
to decide whether the burden of proof about a defendant's mental status
lay with the prosecution or defense. Courts in 11 other states are still
trying to determine how to deal with the federal ruling. Twelve states do
not have death penalties.
Prosecutors should bear the burden, because they have more resources and
authority to seek information, said Jeffrey S. Mandel, a Morristown
attorney who argued on behalf of the Association of Criminal Defense
Lawyers of New Jersey.
"(State and county prosecutors) have the power of the badge to obtain
greater access than the average defense attorney," Mandel said.
The August appeals court ruling also said that juries, as opposed to
judges, should determine whether a defendant is mentally retarded.
Joseph Krakora, Jimenez's public defender, argued a mentally retarded
defendant should be able to have a jury decide.
To prove someone is mentally retarded in a court in New Jersey, a
defendant must have an IQ below 70 and cannot be able to function alone in
society. Also, the retardation must have started before they turned 18.
Prosecutors allege that Jimenez, of Morristown, is not mentally retarded
but falls within the area of "borderline intellectual functioning,"
according to court papers.
(source: Associated Press)
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