[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----IND., FLA., OHIO
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Sep 19 10:47:50 CDT 2005
Man who killed ex-wife while on furlough seeks clemency----Attorneys for
death row inmate say their client is mentally ill, want the governor to
spare his life.
Alan Matheney, one of the most notorious killers on Indiana's death Row,
will appear before the Indiana Parole Board today seeking mercy for
beating his ex-wife to death with a rifle butt while out of prison on an
Attorneys for Matheney want Gov. Mitch Daniels, who spared the life of
mentally ill killer Arthur P. Baird II, to do the same for their client.
Matheney, 54, was found guilty in 1990 of killing Lisa Marie Bianco,
Mishawaka, while on furlough from the Correctional Industrial Facility
near Pendleton, where he was serving a 7-year sentence for beating her and
trying to abduct their 2 daughters. Bianco, 29, had been program director
for the Elkhart Women's Shelter.
Last month, the Indiana Supreme Court ordered Matheney put to death by
lethal injection Sept. 28 in the Indiana State Prison at Michigan City.
Matheney wasn't supposed to leave the Indianapolis area during the 1989
furlough, but he drove north to Bianco's home in Mishawaka. He burst into
Bianco's home, caught her as she tried to run away and struck her in the
head so hard with a shotgun that the weapon broke.
A Lake County jury convicted him and sentenced him to death.
Matheney's attorneys say he is seriously mentally ill and psychotic, still
harboring the delusion that drove him to kill Bianco.
Matheney told police he was at the center of a conspiracy involving the
CIA and organized crime.
Mental health experts have testified Matheney is delusional, believing
Bianco was having an affair with a local prosecutor and the pair were
conspiring to keep him in prison for life.
(source: Indianapolis Star)
Trial in triple slaying to begin----Odyssey took suspect to Mexico,
Kentucky before his capture
For more than a year, it seemed like Chip Carter -- wanted in a
Jacksonville triple homicide -- would never be caught.
Even when authorities got close, he seemed to elude their grasp. Like the
time he swam across the Rio Grande to escape U.S. Border Patrol agents in
Texas. Or the time Mexican police set him free without telling the
But Carter eventually was captured last year, 1,000 miles from the Mexican
border town where he was last seen. And today he goes on trial in the 2002
shooting deaths of his former girlfriend, Elizabeth Smith Reed, 35; her
16-year-old daughter, Courtney Smith; and Glenn Pafford, 49, a friend of
Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda said he will seek death
sentences for Carter, 51, if he is convicted of 1st-degree murder.
Carter's public defenders had pursued an antidepressant overdose defense
early in the case but appear to have backed off that theory. They wouldn't
discuss the defense strategy.
Reed, Smith and Pafford were gunned down in Reed's Arlington home just
after midnight July 24, 2002. Police said Carter was upset over his
breakup with Reed and shot her twice and Pafford 3 times before turning
his .22-caliber rifle on Smith. She was shot once and died in the hospital
2 days later.
There was another person in the home that night. Reed's 14-year-old son,
Rick, came out of a back bedroom after hearing screams and gunshots, saw
the bodies and dialed 911. But the assailant had disappeared into the
Two weeks later, Border Patrol agents spotted Carter's truck in Escobares,
Texas. Upon seeing them, Carter and a Mexican national dove into the Rio
Grande and swam across.
When they got to the other side, Mexican soldiers were waiting, and
Carter's number appeared to be up. He was arrested near Ciudad Miguel
Aleman after the soldiers found 2 handguns on him, and his Mexican
companion said Carter ditched a rifle in the river. U.S. investigators
retrieved the weapon and matched it to the gun used in the Jacksonville
slayings, police said.
With Carter jailed in Mexico, Jacksonville police thought it would just be
a matter of waiting until Mexican authorities were through with him on the
weapons charges. But in December 2002, he paid $1,000, walked out of jail,
hopped on a motorcycle police said his brother brought him and rode off
into the sunset.
For more than a year, U.S. authorities haggled with Mexican officials for
help in finding Carter. The Mexicans were reluctant to cooperate because
Carter faced a possible death sentence in the United States. In October
2003, State Attorney Harry Shorstein of Jacksonville corresponded with the
Mexican consulate in Orlando and "reluctantly" agreed not to seek the
death penalty if Mexico would help find Carter. Anything to get him back.
But unbeknownst to authorities, Carter was long gone from Mexico. He was
living near Paducah, Ky., and working as a roofer named Rodney Vonthun.
On New Year's Day 2004, he was arrested in a Paducah bar and charged with
public drunkenness and giving false information to police. He was released
from jail the next day, but not before a Kentucky state trooper who had
been at the bar noticed his picture on an FBI most-wanted poster in
Kentucky authorities scrambled to relocate Carter, and this time his luck
ran out. Carter's employer told police where he lived, and they arrested
him in a mobile home park as he got ready for work. His identity was
confirmed through fingerprints.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin this morning. Circuit Judge Lance Day
will allow jurors to hear most of the evidence about Carter's travels
after the slayings, but Public Defender Bill White successfully argued
that the handguns seized from Carter by Mexican soldiers are irrelevant.
"There's no indication in this case that any weapons were used at any
other time," White said.
Carter, who had shoulder-length hair when he was arrested, appeared in
court Friday with a short-cropped haircut in preparation for trial.
The trial is expected to last the rest of this week and part of next.
Because Carter wasn't arrested in Mexico, Shorstein's death penalty deal
with Mexican authorities is off.
If Carter is convicted of 1st-degree murder, jurors would return later in
the month to recommend to Day whether Carter should live or die.
(source: The Times-Union)
Trimble case's size poses risk, say law experts----Task of weighing 21
counts against suspect may frustrate jury, they say
The trial of Brimfield Township triple murder defendant James E. Trimble
begins Monday with prosecutors seemingly in the strongest position
possible in a death penalty case.
They have Trimble exactly where they want him: in custody at the Portage
County Jail, where he has remained since his alleged shooting rampage on
that night in January.
And they have so much ballistic and forensic evidence to use against him
that they offered only token resistance to a defense motion for a 2nd
trial -- a case charging the 45-year-old with illegal possession of a
small arsenal of firearms.
Yet leading criminal justice experts say there are significant risks to
Portage County Prosecutor Victor V. Vigluicci's trial strategy. He has
chosen to present evidence and witness testimony to prove 21 counts of a
22-count indictment, the sheer magnitude of which could extend the trial
well into November.
The task of absorbing that much evidence from so many witnesses, according
to the experts, could alienate the jury in the face of what this case is
all about: 3 death penalty specifications.
Dangers of strategy
Geoffrey S. Mearns, the new dean of Cleveland-Marshall College of Law --
and a former federal prosecutor for the U.S. Department of Justice in the
Oklahoma City bombing case -- said there are dangers with such a strategy.
"You prolong the trial, and from a tactical standpoint you run the risk
that the jury becomes impatient, becomes frustrated," Mearns said.
"Any time you introduce a new episode or a new charge, it can present an
opportunity for the defense to demonstrate that a particular witness is
"Sometimes -- but not often -- a defense counsel can exploit one of those
opportunities and then be able to argue to the jury that the whole case is
lacking in credibility."
Mearns likened the scenario to cooking a stew.
"They can say: 'Ladies and gentlemen, a trial is like a soup or a stew. If
one ingredient in that stew is sausage and that sausage is rotten, even
though that was the only ingredient that was rotten, you sure as hell
don't want to eat any of the stew,'" he said.
Trimble has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the alleged
shooting deaths of his girlfriend, Renee L. Bauer, 42, and her 7-year-old
son, Dakota, on the night of Jan. 21 at his home on Sandy Lake Road; and
the death of Sarah A. Positano, 22, whom he had allegedly taken hostage
later in a nightlong episode as dozens of state and local law enforcement
officers converged at her Ranfield Road apartment in a heavily wooded area
of Brimfield Township.
For those alleged offenses, Trimble was charged with three counts of
aggravated murder. If convicted of any one, he could be sentenced to
But the prosecution also chose to proceed at this trial with 12 counts of
attempted murder in connection with allegations Trimble fired at officers
pursuing him after the Sandy Lake Road shootings; 3 counts of kidnapping;
2 counts of felonious assault; and 1 count of aggravated burglary for the
alleged break-in at Positano's apartment.
2 of the 3 kidnapping charges and both felonious assault charges pertain
to a woman and her son who allegedly were threatened by Trimble at their
home in the woods between the 2 shooting incidents. The other kidnapping
charge pertains to the hours Positano was held hostage before Trimble
allegedly shot her.
Trimble's chief defense lawyer, Portage County Public Defender Dennis Day
Lager, succeeded in getting the firearms charges -- investigators reported
finding 21 firearms -- set aside for a separate trial.
Noted Akron defense lawyer Tom Adgate said the best thing Lager has going
for him is "the prosecutor filing all these superfluous charges. The only
reason they can keep this guy alive is if the jury's mad at the
prosecutor," Adgate said. "How else would you offend the jury?"
According to Adgate, jurors could become offended if they feel the state
is wasting their time on additional charges.
"And there's only one person to take it out on -- the state," Adgate said.
"Most good prosecutors, I think, stick to just the essentials -- what the
case is really about."
More not always good
Mearns said he learned invaluable lessons as a federal prosecutor in New
York from the so-called "Pizza Connection" mobster cases of the 1980s.
In those trials -- based on a $1.65 billion heroin and cocaine ring with
mob connections stretching from Sicily to Brooklyn to Brazil and
eventually a chain of pizza parlors -- nearly 2 dozen mobsters were
accused. The trials took 17 months to present, which at the time was
termed the longest such episode in U.S. history.
"The 'Pizza Connection' trials," Mearns said, "were really these huge
circuses where they'd have 20 defendants. It was always the standard view
to bring them all in together, throw everything in, and there were a
couple of major, stunning acquittals in those situations."
An emerging view among some prosecutors is that more charges are not
necessarily better, he said, "because of the risk that a particular
witness could screw up and compromise the whole case and that the jury
will become frustrated with the prosecution."
"When I was a prosecutor," Mearns said, "instead of the scattershot
(strategy) of throwing everything up at the wall, we would try to do rifle
shots. We'd do trials of 2 or 3 people, with 4 charges, and those trials
would take 2 weeks instead of one big mega-trial."
Adgate said there is another factor worthy of consideration in Vigluicci's
decision to try so many charges.
"He's still a politician, and every day this trial goes on, his name is in
the paper. People don't always get that," Adgate said, "but that's
oftentimes the motivating factor for prosecutors. He gets to dance longer
in the sun. All you have to do is try this case on the three murders and
be done with it."
Judge John A. Enlow granted a motion by Vigluicci on Feb. 3, 10 days after
Trimble's arrest, which prohibited both sides from commenting on the case
outside of court.
(source: Beacon Journal)
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