[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----ILL., CALIF., OKLA., FLA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Sep 17 13:32:17 CDT 2005
Accused serial killer to fight against death penalty
An accused serial killer who tried twice to plead guilty earlier this year
will fight to avoid the death penalty in a string of 8 Peoria killings,
his attorney said Friday.
Larry Bright's family convinced him to fight for his life, said James
Elmore, one of Bright's court-appointed attorneys.
"He's especially close to his mother, and it's important for her," Elmore
Prosecutors say Bright, 39, has confessed in the deaths of eight Peoria
women, dumping half of the bodies along country roads and burning the
others to ash and bone in backyard pits. Prosecutors say they will seek
the death penalty if the former concrete worker is convicted.
Judges rejected Bright's earlier attempts to plead guilty, saying they
needed to protect his rights.
A court hearing scheduled for Friday was continued to give attorneys more
time to prepare motions in the case.
Elmore said he will file a motion within 2 weeks seeking a psychiatric
evaluation to determine whether Bright was insane or mentally ill at the
time of the killings.
Another motion will be filed within a month seeking to move Bright's trial
out of Peoria County because of pretrial publicity, Elmore said.
(source: Associated Press)
A death row inmate convicted of ordering the deaths of 3 people in 1980
had a heart attack and will undergo bypass surgery, his lawyer said.
Clarence Ray Allen, 75, had a heart attack at San Quentin last week.
Attorney Michael Satris said Allen' will have bypass surgery when he is
fit enough for the procedure.
Allen, the leader of a Fresno crime ring, had his victims killed because
he feared they would implicate him in an earlier killing.
Prison spokesman Sgt. Eric Messick confirmed Thursday that Allen was taken
to a private hospital, but would not release his condition.
(source: Associated Press)
Prison ministry serves to change lives
The Rev. Vernon Burris walks through the illicit drug-infested streets on
the outskirts of downtown Oklahoma City, passing out pamphlets of
Christian hope where crime chews away at families and neighborhoods.
"Police can't stop it," said Burris, an ordained Baptist minister.
"There's no way to change people's lives unless we change them from the
inside and change their perspective, and also motivate them that they are
somebody and that they can become a productive person."
Burris was reared in the projects of Los Angeles. But he made up his mind
early he wasn't going to live on the mean streets all his life.
The seeds of his ministry flourished while helping the downtrodden with
their lives on the gray streets of Los Angeles in 1985. In L.A., he
delivered food to homeless men and women.
5 years later, Burris and his wife, Sharon, moved to Edmond, Okla. He
visited the Lexington Correctional Center with another minister and was
inspired to start his Jesus is the Answer Ministry.
The nonprofit organization is solely supported by Burris. It's a hard job.
At times, it seems to Burris like a job thats useless and impossible.
Burris makes a living as an automobile sales representative.
"I'm 70 years old," Burris said. "I've had everything a man could want in
life. So I really don't want materialistic things but just to maybe (help
people) get their life together."
Most people think felons have done such terrible crimes against humanity
that they are just doomed for life, Burris said.
"Seems like nobody really cares about them." Few people have faith inmates
can be reformed so prisoners are basically housed until they are released,
"I feel by changing them through the gospel that they can be changed
inside and out," Burris said.
Some inmates have received college degrees during their imprisonment
because Burris has motivated them to take advantage of otherwise wasted
time. Vocational license training for electronics, air-conditioning and
heating work and other training opportunities are available.
Most ex-cons tell Burris the scariest part of getting out of prison is
getting off the bus.
"They're lost," Burris said. "They don't know anybody. The city changed.
People have changed. They got $50 that lasts until they find a job and
that's almost impossible."
80 % of released felons will end up going back to jail, Burris said.
Nobody will hire them or they can't find a place to stay. But he said he
doesn't "sugar-coat" or excuse the crime committed.
"What you did was wrong and you've got to pay the price," he said he tells
inmates. "But that's not the end of life. While you're in the
penitentiary, take advantage for what the state is doing for you."
Burris leads a self-help motivation group of five former prisoners on
Monday nights in Edmond, trying to teach them a moral system of survival.
Prisoners must have something to offer society in order to reintegrate, he
said. It's difficult for convicted felons to find employment or a place to
live after serving prison time, Burris said. Yet, Burris knows of
prisoners who have established reputable careers after receiving a
master's degree in prison.
"I've motivated a guy who was illiterate and now he's going to Rose State
College," Burris said.
Car detailing and landscaping are a couple self-employment options adopted
by the former inmates.
"What we're trying to do now is build up a system to try to teach them how
to motivate and stimulate themselves, and create their own jobs," he said.
He has also ministered to death row inmates in Oklahoma. Among those was
Wanda Jean Allen, the 1st woman executed in Oklahoma since 1903 and the
1st black woman to be executed in the United States since 1954. Allen was
executed in 2001 by drug injection at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in
She had been sentenced to death for the 1988 shooting death of Gloria Jean
Leathers. Allen had met Leathers in prison while serving 2 years of a
4-year manslaughter conviction.
In 1999, Allen contacted Burris to visit her at Mabel Bassett Correctional
Center in Oklahoma City.
"At first I was reluctant to do it because I didn't know what I could say
to a person who was condemned to die," Burris said.
Norman attorney Steven Presson had represented Allen in the appeals
process and said Allen's IQ was in the area of 65.
She received no psychological, medical or psychiatric exams to determine
what could possibly be wrong with her during her 1st trial, he said last
"I started ministering to her and I just assumed she had already been
saved," Burris said. "And after maybe 3 or 4 visits with her, I asked her
if she'd been saved, and she said, 'No.'"
Allen accepted Christ and began sharing her faith with others, Burris
said. He baptized Allen along with 2 other women on death row - Marilyn
Plantz and Lois Nadean Smith.
Allen was able to minister to other people, Burris said.
Prison chains were removed from Allen as Burris prepared to baptize her on
what he described as a table filled with water.
"I was able to lean her back and emerge her completely," Burris said. "And
then after that we went to the governor to try to get a stay. We did
everything we could to save her. About 10 days into the execution, she
actually asked if I would witness her execution. I said, 'Wanda, I can't
do that.' And she said, 'Yes, you can.'"
Burris watched Allen die and said during the time he knew her, she did a
lot of repenting and never showed any fear of dying.
Allen, 41, called the mothers of the two women she had killed.
"She said, 'Vernon, can you contact the mothers and get them in because I
want to ask them to forgive me for killing their daughters,'" Burris said.
Burris has a non-denominational approach in his ministry.
"If I did I wouldn't be as successful as I am because many churches - I
hate to say that - not many really care about people in prison," he said.
"In fact, a lot of (church members) don't want them in their churches."
People sometimes forget that the Apostle Paul was in prison when he wrote
most of his epistles, Burris said. He ministers from compassion because
Jesus had compassion for people who were not accepted by society.
According to the New Testament, Jesus ministered to thieves who died
nearby him when also nailed to a cross.
"He gave me a 2nd chance," Burris said. "He gave the thieves on the cross
a 2nd chance."
(source: The Cushing Daily Citizen)
Death recommended for ex-con who killed Panhandle activist
A jury has recommended that an ex-convict be executed for killing a
community and political activist who had tried to help him get back on his
feet after his parole.
The unanimous recommendation came Thursday, 2 days after the 1st
anniversary of 75-year-old Jackie T. Malone's death on Sept. 13, 2004. She
was repeatedly stabbed and beaten with a steel rod at her home in the
rural Alaqua community near this Florida Panhandle city.
Jessie Guardado, 43, confessed and pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder
last October. Assistant State Attorney Bobby Elmore said he planned to
kill and rob Malone for money to buy crack cocaine.
The only alternative to the death penalty is life in prison without
parole. Circuit Judge Kelvin Wells set sentencing for Sept. 30. The jury's
recommendation is not binding, but Wells must give it great weight.
Malone, a real estate broker-contractor, befriended Guardado when he came
to Walton County upon being paroled in January 2003 after serving time for
4 armed robberies in Orange County. She rented a house to him and lent him
Guardado cashed Malone's checks and used her cell phone, which led police
to him after the killing.
Malone did volunteer work with several organizations, was a guardian ad
litem for abused and neglected children and a member of the Walton County
Democratic Executive Committee. She once told her sister, Ann Black, that
she had always wanted to serve on a jury but never had the chance.
"I think her body was not there but she was there in the minds and hearts
of the jurors," Black said. "Maybe we can get on with proper grieving
Black said that she thought the death penalty was fitting.
Defense lawyer John Jay Gontarek argued for mercy because Guardado had
acted irrationally due to drug use, was remorseful and had accepted
responsibility for the murder.
(source: Northwest Florida Daily News)
Investigation Puts Spotlight On DOC's Crosby -- State query raises
questions about the secretary's actions and his future.
The state investigation into the highest levels of the Florida Department
of Corrections is raising questions about the future of DOC secretary
Investigating a brawl instigated by DOC regional director Allen Clark in
April, Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigators told the victim
that Clark and his superiors were part of a much larger probe being led by
a statewide prosecutor.
Clark is a high school dropout with a GED who Crosby repeatedly promoted
up the ranks.
On Aug. 30, Clark submitted his resignation, effective Oct. 14, with no
He makes more than $94,000 per year. His attorney did not return a call
requesting comment Friday. Both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and
the FDLE are investigating the DOC, but have declined to specify any
The impetus appears to be arrests in March of four current or former
Department of Corrections employees in north Florida on federal charges of
distributing steroids. Other possible subjects of the investigation
include embezzlement of employee funds.
A sense of the ongoing investigation's scope came months ago after a
softball banquet in Tallahassee. According to FDLE and Tallahassee Police
Department records, Clark was involved in an altercation at the April 1
party hosted by the Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency, the sponsor
of a softball tournament. Late in the evening, James Edward O'Bryan, a
former correctional officer, accidentally slipped, fell and knocked down a
woman who worked for Clark.
That led Clark to straddle O'Bryan and punch him. Two other DOC employees
-- James Anthony Bowen and Richard Allen Frye -- also either punched or
O'Bryan was carried out of the Tallahassee National Guard Armory. He did
not request medical attention.
On April 4, FDLE investigators learned about the fight and on April 13,
they interviewed O'Bryan, nearly pleading with him to press charges,
according to a recording of the interview.
O'Bryan declined, saying he was afraid Clark would transfer his wife, who
works for the DOC, far away from their Panhandle home.
O'Bryan told the investigators that Clark was allowed to intimidate people
due to his relationship with Crosby. FDLE investigators inferred they were
aware of that.
"Like I said, things go higher than Clark," said FDLE investigator Tim
Westveer. "We've been working on this for a long time."
The investigators repeatedly told O'Bryan that he needed to press charges
so Clark could be removed from his position. "We know he beats people,"
Westveer said of Clark. "We've got to get him out of the system."
Department of Corrections spokesman Robby Cunningham said Crosby has had
no discussions about leaving his position due to the ongoing
Gov. Jeb Bush's spokeswoman Alia Faraj said she could not comment on any
pending investigations, adding that, "Secretary Crosby has done a very
good job at the Department of Corrections."
Sen. Rod Smith, D-Alachua, said Friday he was surprised by news of the
ongoing investigations, saying he considered both Clark and Crosby
Smith said Clark and Crosby were "very close," adding he would be
"disappointed" if either man had acted illegally.
Clark has been investigated for numerous incidents while working at the
DOC. In 1994, he was suspended for using "inappropriate force" on inmates.
In 1997, he was chastised for discussing union issues while on the job.
In 1999, he was charged with having a kitchen from Florida State Prison
installed in his state-owned home and using inmates to do the work without
approval. He was also charged with using employee funds inappropriately.
No action was taken and in early 2000, Crosby promoted Clark. Three weeks
after Crosby was named DOC commissioner in 2003, he again promoted Clark
to warden at New River Correctional Institute. One year later, Crosby
promoted Clark to regional director, overseeing all of the state's prisons
in the Panhandle.
Crosby was the warden of Florida State Prison in Starke when correctional
officers beat and killed death row inmate Frank Valdes in 1999. He is a
native of Bradford County, the heart of rural north Florida's prison
His rise from the bottom of the DOC organizational chart to its top is
inspiring, Smith said.
"It's a great story. The men and women in the system liked and respected
that," Smith said, adding that the insular nature of the corrections
system "has its benefits, and it has its dangers and everybody knows
Randy Berg is a lawyer with Miami-based Florida Justice Institute, a
non-profit group that represents prisoners in lawsuits against the state.
Berg has been at the institute for 27 years. He said Bush's decision to
put Crosby at the top of the DOC despite his oversight during the Valdes
murder was a sign that malfeasance was acceptable.
"It sent the message to the field as to what is going to be condoned
within the Florida Department of Corrections," Berg said.
Berg said things have gotten "far worse" under Crosby with standards below
well-publicized abuses in two U.S. military-run detainment camps in Iraq
"Florida is perhaps the most punitive corrections system in the country,
and it really far exceeds, in my opinion, anything that is going on at Abu
Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay."
David Murrell is the executive director of the Police Benevolence
Association, the state's largest union of law enforcement and correctional
officers. He said the union has had "probably the best relationship (with
Crosby that) we've had with a secretary."
"He came from the bottom up, so he knows the system, probably as well or
better than anybody," Murrell said. "I'd use the word 'honorable.' When
he's given his word, he's kept it."
Asked if Crosby would lose his job due to the investigation, Murrell said,
"I hope not. I think overall he's done a good job, and I hope he can
overcome any immediate problems that are out there."
(source: The Ledger)
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