death penalty news----PENN., ILL./TEX., USA, TENN., ALA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Sep 10 12:22:56 CDT 2005
Pa. trial program: Jurors take notes in criminal cases----Before the
two-year test began, the state was one of a handful prohibiting the
practice. The notepads will be confidential.
As jurors watched testimony and studied evidence during the recent murder
trial of Ronald Burris, some appeared to be taking voluminous notes in
court-issued notebooks. Others seemed to jot only a few things down.
To see jurors with pen and paper in hand is a big change for
Pennsylvania's criminal-justice system, which until Aug. 1 prohibited jury
note-taking during trials.
Now, the state Supreme Court is conducting a two-year test program,
allowing jurors to take notes in all criminal cases lasting at least 3
days. In shorter trials, jurors may take notes at the judge's discretion.
Shira Goodman, associate director of the group Pennsylvanians for Modern
Courts, said the change gave jurors an important tool.
Jurors in federal courts are routinely allowed to take notes, and
Pennsylvania has permitted the practice since 2003 in state civil trials
lasting 3 or more days.
"Jurors in all cases have the same task facing them - they get a lot of
information, and they have to organize it," Goodman said. "People remember
things better if they can write it down."
Pennsylvania was one of only a handful of states explicitly prohibiting
jurors from taking notes in criminal trials, Goodman said.
Rudy Garcia, the Philadelphia Bar Association's delegate to the American
Bar Association, supports the change. The ABA has favored juror
note-taking for about a decade, he said.
"It's a lot to expect people to remember everything that happens in 2-week
or monthlong trials," Garcia said.
"I think it's been going very smoothly on the civil side, and I would
expect the same thing on the criminal side," Garcia said.
Common Pleas Court Judge D. Webster Keogh, who supervises the criminal
court section, said no problems had been reported with the new procedures.
"The judges just have to educate the jurors not to be overwhelmed with
taking notes and focus on what their job is - watching witnesses and
judging credibility," Keogh said.
Judith Frankel Rubino, chairwoman of the Philadelphia Bar Association's
Criminal Justice Section, said she had some misgivings about the new
"My fear is that jurors will spend more time worrying about their notes
than paying attention" to witnesses' credibility and facial expressions,
said Rubino, a former homicide prosecutor who now does death-penalty
"I'm also concerned about the accuracy of the note-taking," she said. "And
just as [jurors] get into arguments about whose memory is better, my fear
is now that jurors will get into arguments about whose notes are better.
Only time will tell."
In the Burris case, the 31-year-old South Philadelphia man was charged
with 1st-degree murder in the 2003 shooting of an 8-year-old boy.
Common Pleas Court Judge Jane Cutler Greenspan, who presided over the
8-day trial last month, said she and her court staff had encountered no
problems with the new procedures.
Each juror was given a steno pad with the juror number on the cover. The
pads and pens were passed out at the beginning of each day, then collected
at the end of the day and locked away for the night.
Greenspan told the jurors that their notes were private, that no one else
would read them, and that they would be destroyed after the jury reached
"At first, the jurors seemed to want to ask more questions, because they
wanted to write it down correctly. But that stopped, and then... it seemed
they realized it was more important to pay close attention to the
witnesses rather than to take notes," Greenspan said.
"Until I'm convinced that it's worthwhile, I'm very neutral about it,"
"However, I think some jurors will be very happy that they can take notes
- sometimes they don't understand why they can't," she added.
After about 7 1/2 hours of deliberation over 2 days, the jury turned aside
a murder charge and convicted Burris of voluntary manslaughter. If he had
been convicted of 1st-degree murder, he could have faced the death
penalty. Instead, he will face a maximum of 15 to 30 years in prison when
he is sentenced Oct. 26.
His lawyer, Stephen Patrizio, said he could not tell whether the jury's
notes helped his client get a more favorable outcome.
"I couldn't really tell you that - it's hard to say," Patrizio said,
adding that he favors note-taking.
"Overall, I think it's a wonderful idea, because people learn differently,
and some people are helped in remembering things by taking notes," he
(source: Philadelphia Inquirer)
DA to seek death penalty for man accused of killing girlfriends baby
A man accused of fatally injuring his girlfriends 14-month-old son in May
at their Throop apartment will face the death penalty, the district
attorneys office said Friday.
Justin C. Kinne, 23, allegedly admitted that he punched Zachary Scott so
hard in the apartment at 146 Harriet St. that the child flew into a coffee
table and struck his head.
Zachary died within a week of the May 24 incident from bleeding in his
brain and abdomen. Mr. Kinne is charged with 1st- and 3rd-degree murder,
according to court papers. District Attorney Andy Jarbola wrote that he is
seeking the death penalty because of the victims age.
Mr. Kinne was arraigned Friday by Judge Vito P. Geroulo. He is being held
at the Lackawanna County Prison without bail and is represented by
attorneys Jamie A. Dench and Frank J. Ruggiero. Mr. Kinnes former lawyer,
Richard Wilson of Wyalusing, argued at a July preliminary hearing that the
death was an unintended tragedy and only merits a trial on 3rd-degree
murder, which carries a minimum sentence of 7 1/2 years in prison. First
Assistant District Attorney Gene Talerico argued then that Mr. Kinne could
have saved the boy by getting him help, but initially remained silent
about the injuries. Mr. Talerico said that choice equaled premeditation
and warranted a charge of 1st-degree murder, which carries a sentence of
life in prison or the death penalty.
(source: The Times-Tribune)
Mother's retrial in son's death to move
A judge on Friday granted Julie Rea Harper's request to have her retrial
in the stabbing death of her 10-year-old son moved out of Lawrence County,
Ill., where the boy was killed in 1997.
Special Judge Barry Vaughan granted the change-of-venue request without
objection by Ed Parkinson of the Illinois appellate prosecutor's office,
leaving it to George Timberlake - chief judge of Illinois' Second Judicial
Circuit - to decide where Harper's trial should take place.
Vaughan said a new date for the trial, originally to begin Dec. 5, would
be set after the new trial location is chosen. The defense has urged that
the trial be scheduled after March 2006.
Prosecutors maintain that Harper stabbed her only child, Joel Kirkpatrick,
as he slept at her rural Lawrenceville home after she lost custody of him
to her former husband. She was convicted in 2002 and was serving a 65-year
sentence when her conviction was reversed on appeal and a new trial was
ordered a year ago.
Texas death row inmate Tommy Lynn Sells has confessed to an author and to
Illinois officials that he, not Harper, killed the woman's son, though an
Illinois appellate court did not consider that when it vacated Harper's
conviction. Vaughan has ruled that Sells' statements may be presented at
Harper's next trial.
Sells is awaiting execution for the fatal stabbing of a 13-year-old Texas
girl in 1999. Defense attorneys argued that Sells' statements corroborate
what Harper told police after the killing.
Harper told police after her arrest that she wrestled with a masked
intruder who attacked her son and got away. But prosecutors told jurors in
her 1st trial there were no signs of a struggle, and no signs someone had
entered the house.
Prosecutors have called Sells' confession bogus, arguing that he merely
was trying to become part of a pending case to postpone his execution. "We
are prosecuting the person we believe committed the murder of Joel
Kirkpatrick," Parkinson said of the charge filed against Harper.
On Friday, Vaughan denied a request by Harper's attorneys to subpoena
investigative reports in the unsolved 1987 killings of the Dardeen family
of Jefferson County, Ill. Though Sells has confessed to those killings,
Jefferson County State's Attorney Gary Duncan successfully argued to
Vaughan that the case files were irrelevant and the investigation is
But the judge granted the defense's request to subpoena videotape from
interviews Sells gave to "The Montel Williams Show" and to ABC's "20/20,"
in which he reportedly admitted to the slaying. The "20/20" interview
Because of pre-trial publicity in and near Lawrence County, Harper's
attorneys suggested that the trial be moved to Sangamon County or
Champaign County, Ill. Timberlake could pick one of those locations or
choose a different one altogether.
Harper is free on $75,000 cash bond. The next court date, for the judge
and attorneys only, is Dec. 2.
(source: Courier & Press)
A model of judicial restraint
It may not mollify the critics of 2 of the Supreme Court's more unpopular
recent decisions, but the justice who wrote the majority opinions concedes
that the outcomes were "unwise." In a recent speech, Justice John Paul
Stevens said he personally agreed with California's medical marijuana
initiative and disapproved of a government taking private property for
commercial development. But as a judge, he said, he was obliged to rule as
he believed the Constitution required.
Speaking of the New London condemnation case, which set off a national
uproar over the vulnerability of people's homes, Stevens expressed a
belief that "the free play of market forces is more likely to produce
acceptable results in the long run than the best-intentioned plans of
public officials." But he thought the Constitution gave the officials, not
the court, the power to decide. Similarly, though "I have no hesitation in
telling you that I agree with the policy choice made by the millions of
California voters," he believed that Congress' constitutional power over
interstate commerce allows the federal government to enforce its narcotics
laws despite the initiative. The court's duty to uphold the federal law,
he said, was "pellucidly clear."
Though his audience comprised mostly lawyers, even they may have needed a
dictionary to know that "pellucidly" means the same as "transparently."
But nobody could have missed the point he was making or the probability
that it was addressed to one who wasn't there: Judge John G. Roberts,
whose Supreme Court confirmation hearings will begin soon.
The documentary disclosures so far make it pellucidly clear that Roberts
is a solid conservative. What remains to be established during his Senate
hearing is whether he can sublimate his personal beliefs to the
Constitution in the manner that Stevens did. That is the true meaning of
It is the policy that the late Justice Harry Blackmun applied over the
course of many years to uphold the death penalty despite his private
doubts. It took dozens of cases and long experience to persuade Blackmun
that capital punishment could not be carried out in conformity with the
Constitution. In another recent speech, to the American Bar Association,
Stevens seemed to be coming to that view, too.
(source: Opinion, St. Petersburg Times)
Amnesty International Magazine Examines Execution of the Mentally Ill
An article in the Fall 2005 edition of the magazine Amnesty International
examines whether mentally ill defendants should be exempted from the death
penalty, especially in light of the Supreme Court's rulings exempting
juvenile and mentally retarded offenders. The article quotes Ohio Northern
University law professor Victor Streib: "The general public too often
assumes that only the seriousness of the crime is relevant to the
punishment, but the (Supreme) Court has repeatedly held that both the
serious(ness) of the crime and the character and background of the
defendant must be considered in the sentencing decision. If certain
mentally ill defendants think and act like juveniles or the mentally
retarded, then they should be excluded from death row."
Estimates of the percentage of people on death row with mental illness
vary widely, and various illnesses ranging from paranoid schizophrenia and
post-traumatic stress syndrome to bi-polar disorder and depression could
be included in the definition of mental illness. Joshua Marquis, an Oregon
district attorney and strong supporter of the death penalty, acknowledged
the close tie between mental illness and the death penalty: "The vast
majority of people on death row suffer from a mental disorder of some
kind," though he would not favor a broad exemption.
The American Bar Association's Section of Individual Rights and
Responsibilities has established a task force examining the issue. The
proposals developed by this task force have won endorsements from
organizations such as the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, the
American Psychological Association, and the American Psychiatric
Association. In discussing the ABA's work on this issue, New York attorney
and task force member Ronald Tabak stated, "We are not trying to excuse
the misconduct of these people. If we were trying to do that, we wouldn't
allow them to be punished at all. (But) the extent of blameworthiness, the
extent to which they can be held among what's sometimes called 'the worst
of the worst,' is diminished by their mental illness."
(Dan Malone, "Cruel and Inhumane: Executing the Mentally Ill," Amnesty
International, Fall 2005, p.20-23). See Mental Illness.
(source: Death Penalty Information Center)
Drifter says he tried to outrun need to kill -- Accused of strangling
pair, he says only the death penalty will stop him
Drifter Garland Ray Milam says he feels no remorse about strangling 2
homeless acquaintances in July and has no regrets about the life that led
him to a Nashville jail and the possibility of never being a free man
"I wasn't angry when I killed them," he said in a jailhouse interview last
week. "I just killed them to kill them. I made a game out of it."
Betraying no emotion, Milam painted a picture of a broken childhood in
which he suffered emotional and physical abuse.
For much of his adult life, he says, he traveled from town to town across
America, taking odd jobs and self-medicating with street drugs in an
attempt to outrun his need to kill. But it caught up with him in Nashville
"The desire has always been there, it's just the courage had never been
there," he said. "Maybe when I just was old enough, I finally realized, 'I
really don't have anything to lose, so why not?' "
Prosecutors have not said whether they plan to seek the death penalty, but
Milam said he is ready to plead guilty to the 2 homicide charges that were
bound over to a Davidson County grand jury last month. He said he spoke to
the newspaper against his attorney's advice.
In the interview, Milam said he also killed and dismembered a man in
Tucson, Ariz., using a machete.
"I know that I'm a monster," Milam, 40, said during an appearance in night
court shortly after he turned himself in at an Antioch grocery store. "I
got addicted to sucking the souls out of the people I was killing. And I'm
going to do it again if I don't get the death penalty."
Animals were first victims
At about age 10, Milam started killing animals. He had been taken away
from his mother by the state of California as a toddler.
"While I was living with my aunt, I was taking a lot of the rage and anger
that I had out on small animals, small puppies, kittens.
"The kittens, I would twist their necks until they broke. The puppies I
smothered until they were dead. It was just something I desired to do," he
After striking out on the road as a teenager, Milam worked as a busboy at
a truck stop in Cisco, Texas, and lived with a man who raised goats. "When
I kept myself busy working, I didn't have that urge," he said.
But when word came that he was being laid off, "I kind of went into a
little bit of a rage. There were some baby goats that had just been born.
I killed them with a garbage bag - tied it over their heads and tied a
knot in it so they couldn't get it off."
Still, for years, Milam says he was able to outrun his dark hunger.
"The wandering and the traveling and the hitchhiking - as long as I was
constantly moving, it seemed like I evaded that desire to kill."
Milam said that while living in Tucson, Ariz., he was diagnosed with
post-traumatic stress disorder, which he believes was caused by childhood
Symptoms of the anxiety disorder can include nightmares, flashbacks and
Milam's aunt, Jo Johnston, at whose hands Milam says he suffered emotional
and physical abuse, said last week that she didn't "know how to respond to
"The way I see it, he was just an uncontrollable child," she said. "Now it
sounds like he's blaming everything on everybody but himself."
In an e-mail, Milam's older sister Annette wrote that Milam was not the
only one in the family with a troubled upbringing.
"Where does the violence stem from?" she wrote. "Part heredity, part
childhood experiences. It could be me sitting in prison as well. We all
have the memories. We all have a monster inside of us to some extent. Some
just know how to control it."
Getting 'high' off souls
Milam said he spent much of his life "self-medicating" with street drugs
including crack cocaine and marijuana.
"My own mother, before she died, introduced me to crystal meth and
drinking," he said. "She was a Cherokee woman. She used to be a topless
dancer and she used to be a biker."
In 1995, Milam's younger brother, Tom Johnston, of Florida, found him a
job there and tried to help him turn his life around. But one day Milam
disappeared, leaving a note that said he had traded his bicycle for a
"I left because I didn't want to kill Tommy," he said. "I started having
feelings like I wanted to kill Tommy. I tried to stop it by way of smoking
crack, keeping my mind numb. It didn't work, it made it worse ... So I
Milam said he wound up in Nashville by accident, getting stuck while
trying to hitchhike from Albuquerque, N.M., to Maine. Since his arrival in
Music City in December, Milam has decorated himself with several new
tattoos, including clusters of eyeballs that appear to be looking out of
windows on either side of his skull.
"These was actually a joke," he said, pointing to them. A friend, who was
a tattoo artist, told Milam that it was too easy to sneak up on him.
"'You need eyes in the back of your head,' he said. So I said, 'What if I
had eyes all around my head?' " he said. "The artist that did it couldn't
quite draw a good eyeball. I'm gong to have them redone once I get into
Unremorseful, Milam seemed completely detached from the consequences of
Asked if he had anything he wanted to say to a grieving friend of Tim
McCoy, whom Milam is accused of strangling with a belt and then setting
ablaze, trying to make it look like an accident, Milam replied:
"Tell her not to worry about his soul, because his soul is safe with me.
"I had my belt, I had it around his neck and I pulled until he quit
moving. Now, he kicked me a good one - almost broke my leg," he said with
a chuckle. "He quit moving and his soul rode the last breath out of his
body and I - fffffppp - inhaled it."
Jane DeLoache said getting over McCoy's loss is still a day-to-day affair.
"That's really gross," she said after hearing Milam's description of
ingesting McCoy's soul. "Tim's soul is with God or with Jesus and with me
and his family - with everyone that knows and loves him. He got the body,
but not the soul."
Milam equated sniffing souls to getting high.
"It's better than crystal meth," he said.
"It's a body rush. You get a tingling sensation along the outside of your
skin down to your toes. The rush can be almost so much that it will make
you lose control of your bowels. Did I? Yeah."
Milam said he thinks he failed to suck up the soul of Johnny Paul Davis,
whom he says he strangled a day after McCoy, because he didn't get the
"I think I missed it," he said.
Now, after years on the road, the thought of a life of confinement
"doesn't bother me," Milam said. "Maybe I'll learn a trade, keep my mind
busy by reading books, do some leather work."
(source: The Tennessean)
Grants to help state crime labs reduce backlog
The head of Alabama's crime laboratories said $2 million in federal grants
awarded this week will help the agency begin reducing a backlog of work
that has plagued prosecutors and victims for years.
After a decade without an increase in funding from the state operating
budget, the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences was awarded four
federal grants this week that should reduce casework backlogs in the
department's DNA and toxicology programs.
"This will allow us to work cases and be able to pay our employees
overtime ... to allow us to more effectively reduce the backlog," said
Taylor Noggle, director of the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences.
The grants will let the department purchase additional computers for its
DNA section and instruments for the DNA and toxicology programs.
Money also will go toward a program to take DNA samples from prisoners and
enter the information into an index. The program has helped solve 40 % of
the state's unsolved cases since it began in 1994.
"That's absolutely phenomenal to me," said Noggle. "That we're able to go
back and solve that many cases."
The department currently has about 16,000 pending cases involving DNA. It
receives an average of 150 new DNA-related cases and 300 toxicology cases
statewide each month, according to Noggle.
The lack of money to conduct tests has resulted in delays in cases getting
to trial, frustrating crime victims anxious to put cases behind them. The
state did not replace a retiring scientist earlier this year because of
budget constraints, meaning the agency was slower to analyze possible
trace evidence left at crime scenes.
Previous federal grants and the outsourcing of non-crime related
toxicology cases to private companies has helped reduce the department's
backlog in the toxicology program by approximately 500 cases since 2004,
"We're making some progress in some of the areas of backlog," Noggle said.
"This is great progress for us in less than a year's time."
(source: Opelika-Auburn News)
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