[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, USA, N.C., ARK.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Sep 2 10:39:55 CDT 2005
TEXAS----new death sentence
Lovers lane killer sentenced to die
It took less than 20 minutes Thursday for a jury to sentence convicted
lovers lane murderer Juan Edwardo Castillo to death for the Dec. 3, 2003
robbery and shooting of Tommy Garcia Jr.
"May God have mercy on your soul," said 186th District Judge Maria Teresa
Herr, after she issued the sentence.
Castillo, 24, showed no reaction when Herr read the verdict and he
remained equally impassive during the trial's victim impact phase.
The sentence will be the subject of an automatic appeal by the state Court
of Criminal Appeals.
Relatives of Garcia broke down into tears, and when given the chance,
vented their anger at Castillo.
"He was my angel. He was my son," said Garcia's mother, Joyce Garza. "He
was a brother; he was a grandson; he was a nephew; and you took that away
from us. I hope you rot. I hope you rot for what you did to my son."
The victim's father, Tommy Garcia Sr., said: "You think you're a man,
you're not a man, you are a coward.
"Would you like for this to happen to your son? You don't have a heart.
That's what it is! You don't have a heart!" Garcia added.
"You are a cold-blooded killer. That's what you are," Garza said,
collapsing on a courtroom bench into the arms of relatives.
In the final 2 days of his trial - during the punishment phase - Castillo
defended himself after firing both of his court-appointed attorneys on
He declined to cross-examine any prosecution witnesses, who testified in
detail about Castillo's life of crime since age 16, and he gave no
summation to jurors after lead prosecutor David Lunan argued that the
defendant represents a continuing threat to society.
Defense attorney Bill Harris said it was difficult to sit next to Castillo
and offer no objections and arguments. Harris and co-counsel Denny
Callahan remained at the defense table at the judge's direction to offer
assistance to Castillo as the trial wound down.
"It was very difficult to sit there and do nothing, but that was his
choice," Harris said.
When asked if Castillo may have been seeking the death penalty to avoid a
life sentence, Harris said, "I think he was tired of fighting. He told us
he didn't want to spend the rest of his life in jail."
It was the 2nd death sentence imposed by a Bexar County jury in 2 weeks.
On Aug. 17, Noah Espada, 21, was sentenced to die for the 2004 murders of
Sandra Ramos, 29, and Luther "Luke" Scott, 30.
Espada and Castillo represent the 37th and 38th defendants from Bexar
County sent to death row, according to the Texas Department of Criminal
Garcia was 19 when he was shot seven times by Castillo during a robbery
that started when the victim was lured by Castillo's girlfriend to a South
Side lovers lane to do drugs and have sex.
(source : San Antonio Express-News)
Castillo Sentenced To Death
It took just 15 minutes for a jury to sentence a convicted killer to death
in a capital murder trial that ended with an emotionally charged outburst.
Just moments after Juan Castillo was sentenced to death, the family of his
victim released 20 months of suppressed anger.
"I hope you rot for what you've done to us," said one family member of
murder victim Tommy Garcia. "You don't have a heart. That's what you don't
have: a heart. You're a cold-blooded killer. That's what you are."
On a dark street known as Lover's Lane, 19-year old Tommy Garcia was shot
to death in a botched robbery.
Castillo's girlfriend had lured Garcia there for sex, which was part of a
plan to rob him.
Following his conviction Tuesday, Castillo asked for and was granted
permission to represent himself.
Castillo's decision to move from his chair to his lawyer's chair at the
defense table presented an unexpected challenge to everyone, especially
his lawyers who tried to advise him against it.
"He told us that he - basically - didn't want to spend the rest of his
life in jail," said defense attorney Bill Harris. "He'd rather have the
(source: KSAT News)
Officers learn about mental illness
Convincing law enforcement officers that they need to learn best practices
for dealing with the mentally ill is often a tough sell, said Frank Webb
of the Houston Police Department.
After all, police don't encounter people in psychiatric crisis every day.
Plus, a lot of officers think they already have enough skills to deal with
most situations and don't relish the idea of sitting through another
But the way Webb looks at it, the best officers are well-rounded ones. If
police think nothing of sitting through the 40 hours of firearm training
or 32 hours of driving instruction required in basic training, they should
be willing to learn a set of skills to improve their interactions with the
quarter of the population diagnosed with a mental illness.
"The average officers will never use his firearm during his whole career,"
Webb said. "The average officer does not get into high-speed pursuits all
that often. But the average officer will encounter someone who is mentally
ill. The problem is that the average officer has never been taught what is
schizophrenia, what is psychosis, what's going on with these people."
That was part of an introduction Webb gave Thursday to more than 100 local
law enforcement officers who attended a training session he led in Waco.
It was the 1st of 5 sessions this month in which 700 to 800 Central Texas
officers will learn about how to better deal with the mentally ill.
Known as Crisis Intervention Training, or CIT, the sessions are designed
to give officers a basic overview of mental illness and intervention
techniques. Departments across the state have begun to send their officers
to such classes because they are increasingly coming into contact with the
mentally ill as a result of cuts in mental health-care spending.
"Some people think it's warm and fuzzy social work training or sensitivity
training," said Webb, who coordinates Houston's CIT program, which is the
largest in the country. "It isn't. It's officer safety training."
CIT involves two main parts. One is educating officers about different
types of mental illnesses. For example, they learned about schizophrenia,
bipolar disorder, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder at
Thursday's session. That component is necessary, Webb said, so officers
can recognize when someone is mentally ill.
The 2nd part of the training focuses on the best way to approach a person
who is mentally ill. Police are generally taught to be authoritative,
commanding and even physical when controlling situations.
But those traditional tactics often backfire when dealing with the
mentally ill, Webb said.
"Actually less is more in many incidents dealing with the mentally ill,"
The 8-hour training is being paid for by the Heart of Texas Region Mental
Health Mental Retardation Center, which delivers public mental health
services locally. The sessions had been planned since May, but as it turns
out, they will fit perfectly into a new law that took effect Thursday.
The law requires all veteran officers to go through 16 hours of CIT.
Although they have until Sept. 2009 to do so, most local officers should
have the requirement satisfied by the end of the year.
At some point later this fall, Webb is going to come back to do a second
round of CIT. It will last an additional 8 hours and cover topics such as
active listening and common drugs used to treat mental illness.
Barbara Tate, executive director of the local MHMR, said mental health
officials are thrilled so many area officers are participating in the
"I think everyone realizes this is a very important area of training, and
as (Webb) said, it's not only to help improve the safety of clients out in
the community, but ... also to improve the safety of law enforcement
Officers who attended the training also said it's positive.
"Since there has always been so little training (about mental illness), we
haven't been able to recognize (people with mental illness)," said Cody
Myers, a Bellmead police officer assigned to the Agriplex Drug Task Force.
Sgt. Steve Graeter of the Waco Police Department said many of the
techniques Webb taught about are things his department has been doing for
several years. But the session was still helpful, he said.
"You can never have enough training," he said.
(source: Waco Tribune-Herald)
Accused Plano mom won't face death----Plano: Schlosser's attorney planning
A Plano mother accused of severing her 10-month-old daughter's arms will
not face the death penalty when tried next year, according to Collin
County district attorney's office officials.
Dena Schlosser, 36, remains in the Collin County jail facing a capital
murder charge in Margaret Schlosser's death.
"Based on everything we know about this case, we just don't think this is
a case for the death penalty," said Collin County Assistant District
Attorney Curtis Howard.
Ms. Schlosser's attorney, David Haynes, said he was happy with the
"Any time you have a client that was about to be put on trial for her life
and isn't, that's a good development."
In November, police responding to a 911 call arrived at the Plano
apartment Ms. Schlosser shared with her husband, John, and their 3
children. She held a knife and told police that she had cut off Margaret's
arms. The child was found in a bedroom and whisked to a hospital, where
she was pronounced dead.
Ms. Schlosser had been diagnosed with postpartum psychosis. She was found
incompetent to stand trial in February after a jury determined she was
unable to assist with her own defense.
Then Ms. Schlosser was treated at North Texas State Hospital in Vernon
until her competency was declared restored in late May. Not long
afterward, she was returned to the Collin County Jail.
Mr. Haynes said that he last saw Ms. Schlosser on Monday and that she
continues to improve.
This week, Mr. Haynes filed paperwork declaring his intent to raise an
"We believe that we have strong evidence to indicate that she was insane
at the time of the offense," Mr. Haynes said.
The day before Margaret's death, Ms. Schlosser reportedly told her husband
that she wanted to give her daughter "to God." Ms. Schlosser's stepfather
and mother, Mick and Connie Macaulay, have said Ms. Schlosser's mental
state combined with her fervent religious beliefs and obsession with her
church's charismatic leader led her to harm her youngest daughter.
Doyle Davidson, leader of Water of Life Church in Plano, is a
self-proclaimed prophet who preaches that women have a "Jezebel spirit"
and must submit to their husbands. He has said he has been blamed unfairly
and does not manipulate people.
The Macaulays, who live in Canada, could not be reached for comment
Mr. Schlosser has custody of the couple's two older daughters and has
filed for divorce. Mr. Schlosser could not be reached for comment
But his attorney, Howard Shapiro, said his client is pleased Ms. Schlosser
won't face the death penalty. But Mr. Schlosser does not want her to have
access to their daughters, Mr. Shapiro said.
"We don't have any desire that she be put to death," Mr. Shapiro said.
"That wasn't the real Dena Schlosser that did what she did that day.
Putting her to death won't solve any of the issues of that day ...
probably harm them [their daughters] more than anything else."
A trial date is expected to be scheduled for February, said Mr. Howard,
(source: Dallas Morning News)
Mexican nationals want new trials
An investigator's description of 2 suspects in the 1996 armed robbery and
murder of a convenience store clerk differed in several ways from that
provided by the officer who interviewed the dying victim, according to
court testimony Thursday.
"If the investigators do not give you useful information, wrong decisions
could be made, innocent people could be arrested," defense attorney Barry
McNeil said while questioning the district attorney who received the
report from the investigator, a Texas Ranger.
"Could it happen?" District Attorney Mark Yarbrough asked McNeil. "Sure."
The hearing for Jesus Ramirez, 56, and Alberto Sifuentes, 32, both Mexican
nationals, is a challenge to their 1998 convictions in the death of
Evangelina Cruz, a mother of 4, in nearby Littlefield. Their convictions
were upheld on appeal.
The defense is trying to have the convictions thrown out and new trials
ordered. The hearing must provide evidence of the men's innocence and
cannot just attack the credibility of prosecutors' cases at trial.
In the Littlefield police officer's report and in testimony he gave at
each man's trial, the suspects were described as 18-20 years old, one with
long hair and the other with short hair. The officer also included that
Cruz described the suspects' car as gold-colored.
In the report by Texas Ranger Sal Abreo, the suspects' age range was left
out, one suspect was described as having a light complexion and the car
used by the suspects could also have been yellow.
"Did you talk to Sal Abreo about the differences?" McNeil asked Yarbrough.
"If I did, I don't recall doing that," Yarbrough answered.
The defense has attempted to discredit Abreo's work on the cases.
Yarbrough prosecuted only the Ramirez case. A special prosecutor was
appointed to handle Sifuentes' case.
In evidence presented earlier this week, Abreo is described as less than
honest in a document about witnesses that Yarbrough created for the
"He lied to me to get me to file this case," the document from Yarbrough
Abreo was subpoenaed to testify but couldn't be in Lubbock this week for
(source: Associated Press)
FBI Abandons Controversial Bullet-Matching Technique
The FBI said Thursday that it had discontinued the use of bullet-lead
matching, a forensic technique used for at least 25 years that had been
heavily criticized as inaccurate and misleading.
The bureau suspended its use in 2004 after a report by the National
Research Council found the technique could be "seriously misleading" and
The council's finding called into question FBI testimony in hundreds of
cases involving murder and other serious crimes.
"It's a victory for good sense and good science over the kind of nonsense
the FBI was representing in court," said William C. Thompson, a professor
of law and criminology at UC Irvine.
The FBI said it would alert about 300 courts and prosecutors that since
1996 had received bullet-lead laboratory reports indicating positive
"These agencies may take whatever steps they deem appropriate, if any,
given the facts of their particular case," said an FBI statement released
Overall, the bureau estimated it had conducted 2,500 bullet-lead
examinations for federal, state, local and foreign cases since the early
In bullet-lead analysis, crime-scene bullets are tested for trace
elements, such as antimony, silver and tin. Examiners then compared those
elements to levels found in bullets in a suspect's possession.
FBI examiners had testified that crime-scene bullets could be linked to
bullets found in a box owned by a suspect. The method was often used when
no gun was found, making it impossible to identify a bullet by matching
rifling marks left by a gun's barrel.
FBI Laboratory Director Dwight E. Adams said the agency, after conducting
its own evaluation over the last 14 months, concluded that the
manufacturing and distribution of bullets was too variable to make the
"It wasn't possible to obtain accurate, easily understandable probability
estimates like it is with other methods, such as DNA," Adams said.
Nonetheless, he said, "we stand by the results of the reports we have
FBI testimony had sometimes gone beyond the lab reports, and juries had
often accepted such testimony as important in criminal cases.
A Times investigation published in 2003 suggested the FBI might have
exaggerated the scientific validity of bullet-lead matching.
In one case, that of Michael Behn, a New Jersey man convicted of murder in
1997, an FBI examiner testified that bullets collected from the victim's
body matched those in Behn's home. In Behn's case, Adams blamed the
prosecutor, who "overstated the evidence," he said.
Behn challenged the bullet-lead evidence on appeal. His conviction was
overturned in March, and he was granted a new trial. His case is pending.
Thompson said the FBI should be more aggressive in making sure wrongful
convictions due to faulty bullet-lead evidence were overturned.
"If the FBI is serious about correcting the problems, they should make the
list of cases known to organizations such as the National Assn. of
Criminal Defense Lawyers that might be able to provide assistance to
incarcerated individuals," he said.
(source: Los Angeles Times)
Woman Charged In Norlina Slaying Could Receive Death Penalty
A woman accused of killing a traveling salesman from Warren County could
face the death penalty if convicted.
Theresa Jones is charged with murder in the death of Donald Wimbrow in
Norlina last March.
Wimbrow's body was found stuffed under the mobile home where Jones lived.
The district attorney's office says Jones hit Wimbrow over the head with a
rock, then strangled him.
(source: WRAL News)
Man's fate in jury's hands
A Miller County jury doesn't have to worry about finding 24-year-old
Justin Anderson guilty or innocent. They just have to consider sentencing
him to death or to life in prison.
Anderson was originally convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death
on Jan. 22, 2002, by a Lafayette County jury for the robbery and shooting
of Clara Creech, 87, of Lewisville, Ark.
Mrs. Creech, who had been working in her flower garden, was shot once in
the head above her ear with a .38-caliber pistol on Oct. 12, 2000.
A Miller County jury was selected to sentence Anderson because the
Arkansas Supreme Court, in May 2004, set aside the original sentence
because Lafayette County jurors did not understand or properly fill out
the jury forms.
The guilty conviction remains. The lawyers for the Arkansas Public
Defender's Commission will argue to sentence Anderson to life in prison
instead of death. Anderson was 19 years old when the murder occurred.
Prosecuting Attorney Brent Haltom and Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John
Griffin are seeking the death penalty.
Circuit Judge Jim Hudson agreed to move the case to Miller County because
Anderson's lawyers argued the jury pool in Lafayette County would be
prejudiced by the notoriety of the case. Mrs. Creech was the mother-in-law
of former state Rep. Russ Bennett, R-Lewisville.
The 7-woman, 5-man jury was selected by noon Wednesday and testimony
started about 1:30 p.m. in the Miller County Circuit Court in Texarkana.
"It's a senseless crime and it shouldn't have happened. The pain to the
family is unimaginable. Our hearts go out to them. They're pain is real,"
said Robby Golden, one of three lawyers representing Anderson through the
public defender's commission during the opening statement.
"Justin has already been found guilty of capital murder. We're not here to
debate that. We're here to decide the punishment," said Golden. "Before
you make a decision to kill my client, consider his past."
Golden outlined a childhood of abuse and neglect for Anderson. His
mother's boyfriends had beaten him while Justin's mother was too mentally
retarded to defend him.
Golden said Anderson was placed in foster care homes and enjoyed it. But
his father discovered he was in foster care and eventually regained
custody of his son.
Golden said Justin and his brother Maurice were disciplined by their
father who would "strip them naked and use an electrical cord wrapped in
duct tape to whip them."
He said the brothers were verbally abused and went at times without food.
"He lived from family to family. If he was not at rock bottom, he was
getting pretty close," said Golden.
He said following a search for Creech's killer, Anderson waited "for the
cops to come and pick him up and didn't resist."
Haltom urged the jury to consider the death penalty.
"Justin didn't show Mrs. Creech any mercy. Don't show him any mercy," said
Wednesday's testimony started with Lewisville Police Chief Jason Tomlin
saying he was the 1st law enforcement to arrive at the woman's house after
neighbors called 911 when they spotted her body partially laying in a
Arkansas State Police Special Agent Hays McWhirter testified Mrs. Creech
was shot once in the right side of her head above her ear. He said next to
her body were flower clippings in a box and a bucket of water. She
appeared to have been working in her flower garden when the shooting
A transcript was read from the original trial made by Anderson's family
members saying the pistol was found in a vacuum cleaner in the house where
Anderson was staying.
The testimony ended about 5 p.m. and Judge Hudson said the sentencing
trial will reconvene at 1 p.m. Thursday. Hudson told the jury an
unexpected death occurred and courthouse officials will be attending the
funeral Thursday morning.
(source: Texarkana Gazette)
More information about the DeathPenalty