[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----OHIO, N.C., KY
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Sep 7 08:58:30 CDT 2005
U.S. judge rejects death-row appeal -- Spirko's execution scheduled in 2
A federal judge in Toledo has refused to reopen the case of death-row
inmate John Spirko, who is now just 2 weeks from execution for a murder
that some legal experts believe he may not have committed.
U.S. District Judge James Carr rejected Spirko's arguments that the state
used fraud to thwart an earlier appeal and he declined to stop the
Carr found no misconduct by the state and said that issues raised by
Spirko's lawyers would not have led him to a different decision in 2000
when he first rejected a Spirko appeal.
Spirko's options are dwindling as he faces a Sept. 20 execution for the
1982 slaying of Betty Jane Mottinger, a postmaster in the tiny Ohio town
His fate now rests in the hands of Gov. Bob Taft.
Taft is reviewing a recommendation from the Ohio Parole Board that he deny
Spirko's lawyers said they were disappointed by Carr's ruling. They can
appeal to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but that's one of several
appeals courts that have rejected Spirko's claims over the past 20 years.
Meanwhile, Spirko's lawyers continued their fight at the state level. On
Tuesday they asked the Ohio Supreme Court to delay the execution to allow
the Parole Board to reconsider its recommendation because of misstatements
about the evidence by a senior deputy Ohio attorney general during a
clemency hearing last month.
In a letter to the board on Friday Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro said he
did not believe there was any attempt to deceive. While saying he stood by
his lawyers' presentation, Petro offered to revisit the case and have his
lawyers participate in a full rehearing if necessary.
Spirko's lawyers have asked the board to accept Petro's offer and hear the
case again. A spokesman said Tuesday the board is exploring its options.
In a written statement Tuesday, Petro said Carr's ruling capped another
opportunity for Spirko to air his latest claims. "And, once again, the
court reaffirmed that he was justly convicted and sentenced."
Concerns about the quality of the evidence have been raised by a former
FBI director, former judges and a national expert on wrongful convictions.
But Carr agreed with the state that Spirko provided details about the
crime that had not been publicly reported. And he said recent questions
about the credibility of the lead investigator cannot be used now to cast
doubt on previous court proceedings.
(source: Plain Dealer)
N.C. State Bar charges former prosecutors in death row case
In an unusual move by the N.C. State Bar, the regulatory group has charged
a former district attorney and his assistant with prosecutorial misconduct
in a 1996 murder case that ended in a death sentence.
That defendant, Jonathan Hoffman, remains in Central Prison awaiting a
court-ordered retrial after spending seven years on death row.
Last week, the bar filed the charges of prosecutorial misconduct against
Kenneth Honeycutt, the former district attorney of Union County, and his
assistant, Scott Brewer. The bar charged that Honeycutt and Brewer each
committed 23 violations of the rules that govern lawyers.
In the past decade, the bar has only disciplined 4 prosecutors for
Honeycutt and Brewer lied to the trial judge, the jury and the defense
lawyers and knowingly used false evidence at the trial, the bar charged.
If they are found guilty in a hearing before the bar, punishment could
range from a written reprimand to the loss of their law licenses.
Honeycutt is a former president of the N.C. Conference of District
Attorneys who retired as district attorney in October after an
unsuccessful run for the state House of Representatives. Brewer is a
District Court judge based in Rockingham.
Both Honeycutt and Brewer declined comment late Tuesday, referring
questions to their attorneys, who also declined comment.
Hoffman was sentenced to death for the robbery and murder of Danny Cook, a
jewelry store owner in Marshville, located southeast of Charlotte. His
case was the subject of a November 2003 article in The News & Observer of
Raleigh, and he won a new trial in April 2004.
The main witness against Hoffman was a cousin, Johnell Porter, who faced
long prison terms in South Carolina and in federal prison.
According to the court papers and the bar's complaint: Porter's prison
sentences were reduced by at least 15 years; he was not prosecuted for at
least a dozen serious crimes in Charlotte; and he got several thousand
dollars in reward money.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that prosecutors must disclose any
concessions or immunity they give to witnesses so jurors can consider that
information in weighing a witness's truthfulness. But the bar said that
Honeycutt removed references to the deal from a document he gave the judge
before trial even though the judge had ordered Honeycutt and Brewer to
disclose any and all deals with Porter.
"Honeycutt falsely advised Judge Helms, in Brewer's presence, that the
State had revealed all concessions and immunity deals," the complaint
said. "Brewer did not correct Honeycutt's false statements."
At a hearing in April 2004, Honeycutt said Hoffman and his trial lawyers
should have been informed about a federal immunity deal struck with
Honeycutt said then that neither he nor Brewer knew of the immunity deal
that Porter struck with a federal prosecutor on the opening day of
Hoffman's trial. He said he learned about the immunity deal 2 years after
Hoffman was put on death row.
Rob Hale, one of Hoffman's former lawyers, commended the bar for a
thorough investigation in the Hoffman case. "The State Bar hasn't left out
any of the wrongdoing we found in our investigation of the case," Hale
No date has been set for the bar's hearing on the charges against
Honeycutt and Brewer.
(source: Associated Press)
Convicted Killer Gets Death Sentence ... Again----Man Gets Same Penalty In
The resentencing of a convicted killer ended with the same sentence a jury
decided on 7 years ago.
In 1998, Michael St. Clair was sentenced to death in Bullitt County for
killing Frank Brady in 1991.
But the state Supreme Court ruled that the jury was not given the proper
sentencing instructions before recommending the death penalty.
On Friday, the new jury recommended the same sentence, WLKY NewsChannel 32
Formal sentencing is set for this month.
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