[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, OHIO, ILL.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Aug 1 15:19:10 UTC 2006
Panel tosses inmate's double death sentence
A federal appeals court has ruled that the double murder convictions of a
Beaumont penitentiary inmate in the 2001 stabbing of a fellow inmate
constitute double jeopardy; however, the death penalty given him still
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Friday vacated the
convictions against Shannon Wayne Agofsky and remanded the case for the
government to choose which conviction and sentence should stand.
A jury handed down 2 death sentences to Agofsky on July 16, 2004, in the
beating death of 37-year-old Luther Plant.
Witnesses said Agofsky stomped on Plant's head repeatedly in a locked
exercise cage at the U.S. Penitentiary in Beaumont on Jan. 5, 2001.
The government charged Agofsky with premeditated murder by a federal
prisoner and premeditated, first-degree federal murder. Fifth Circuit
Appeals Court judges found the two charges, both stemming from Plant's
death, had only jurisdictional differences between them and therefore
"should not be punished cumulatively," based on precedent.
The issue was whether the 2 charges differed on the elements they
However, the judges qualified their opinion by saying they were obligated
to follow the precedent until the entire panel of Fifth Circuit judges or
the Supreme Court ruled otherwise.
U.S. Attorney Matt Orwig said the differences were more procedural than
practical and the court had not significantly altered the jury's intent in
"We're still digesting the decision ourselves, but it's clear at the end
of the day that Shannon Agofsky's death penalty was upheld and that's his
eventual fate," Orwig said.
Orwig said his office had not yet decided whether to accept the ruling or
seek a rehearing by all of the Fifth Circuit judges.
The opinion also ruled against several points of error raised by Agofsky's
Agofsky's appeal claimed the jury acted under an "arbitrary influence"
when it handed down his sentence, citing a note from the jury asking if
jurors would be polled individually if they imposed a life sentence.
Agofsky claimed the jurors feared "negative public reaction" if they
failed to sentence him to death and this tainted the sentence.
The court did not accept this as proof, noting there could have been a
number of explanations for the jurors' note. Another claim of error was
that evidence was insufficient to support the jurors' finding that the
murder had been committed in a particularly "heinous, cruel or depraved
manner" - an aggravating factor in the crime.
The court's opinion found no merit in this argument, citing the evidence
of Plant's extensive injuries and the fact that Agofsky had continued to
stomp on Plant's head after he lost consciousness to justify the
(source: Beaumont Enterprise)
Death row inmate gets heart surgery
A native of Scotland now on death row in Ohio had heart surgery after
suffering his 3rd heart attack.
Amnesty International told The Scotsman that Kenny Richey`s health
problems may be related to the legal uncertainty of his position. His
conviction was overturned by an appeals court last year and then
reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court, which sent the case back to the
'We are concerned that the uncertainty in which Kenny is being kept is
contributing to his health problems,' said Rosemary Burnett of Amnesty
International Scotland. 'Keeping someone on death row for over 19 years is
tantamount to mental torture.'
Richey, a native of Edinburgh, was sentenced to death for setting a fire
in 1987 that killed a 2-year-old girl. Prosecutors said that he was trying
to kill a former girlfriend and her current boyfriend, who lived in the
(source: United Press International)
Plea spares killer death penalty
Matthew A. Davis may have to serve a life sentence but will escape the
death penalty after pleading guilty Monday to the brutal fatal stabbing of
Rachel L. Hayes, 21, of Wood River.
Davis, 27, of the 3800 block of Horn Street, Alton, pleaded guilty in
exchange for prosecutors' agreement not to seek the death penalty for
stabbing Hayes repeatedly in the chest, neck and back.
One of his attorneys, John O'Gara, acknowledged in court that the state
had enough evidence to prove that Davis murdered Hayes and that it would
qualify for an extended term as "a heinous and brutal" crime.
Davis and Hayes met at a bar in Alton, and Davis showed an interest in
Hayes, the night before she was found dead Feb. 29, 2004, at her home in
the 1300 block of Virginia Avenue.
Assistant State's Attorney Susan Jensen read a statement that said the
evidence at trial would have shown that police took Davis' blood-stained
shirt, jeans and shoes from his home shortly after the killing.
She said DNA evidence would have shown it was Hayes' blood.
She said Dr. Raj Nanduri would have testified to the stabbing injuries,
including fatal wounds to the chest and neck. She would have testified to
"poke hole" injuries, which, in other cases, have been said to indicate
the victim was tortured.
She said a footprint found in the victim's yard matched one of Davis'
shoes taken as evidence.
The statement said the evidence would have shown that Hayes called Davis'
cell phone at 2:22 a.m. March 29, after her girlfriend dropped the victim
off at the Virginia Avenue address.
A cab driver would have testified to picking up Davis in Wood River after
8 a.m. March 29. "He appeared to be in a hurry," the statement said.
Hayes' friend had planned to go shopping with the victim later that day
and tried to call but received no answer.
The friend went to the house and entered an open back door, the statement
said. "There she found the lifeless, bloody body of Rachel Hayes," the
According to the plea deal, Davis will serve at least 40 years in prison
but may get up to life. A date for the sentencing has not been set.
Prosecutors may introduce some of the evidence that was gathered for the
trial in support of a lengthy sentence.
Hayes' family members were extremely upset after the hearing and declined
The case was investigated by Wood River Police and the Metropolitan St.
Louis Major Case Squad.
Capt. John Lakin, speaking for the Major Case Squad, said the officers,
including the Wood River Police, diligently pursued the case.
"Everything we did assured us we had the right person," he said. "This was
one of those unfortunate cases where a young mother was brutally murdered
and taken from her family."
Davis has a criminal history dating to 1998. He has convictions for felony
theft, burglary, probation violation, aggravated domestic battery and
(source: The Telegraph)
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