[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----S.C., WASH., ILL., FLA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Aug 12 15:20:44 UTC 2006
Man sentenced to death for Ft. Jackson soldier's murder asks for new trial
A man sentenced to death for killing a Fort Jackson soldier has asked for
a new trial. In April, a jury gave the death penalty to 29-year-old Kevin
Mercer was convicted for the May 2002 shooting of 35-year-old Army
Sergeant Tracy Davis. Davis was gunned down outside his Lexington County
Davis' roommate, Clifton Magwood, was inside when it happened. Magwood
said, "I heard what appeared to be a commotion. Then I heard somebody say,
'All right, I'll give it to you.' It sounded like my roommate Traci."
Magwood remembers, "When I peeked out, it looked like he was being held up
at gunpoint going toward the back of the car."
Magwood says he then heard a shot and called 911.
Magwood: He was shot in the head, ma'am!
Dispatcher: Shot in the head?
Magwood: Oh God, come on, Traci. Hold in there with me, baby. Hold on.
The shooter left, according to Magwood, in the white Navigator.
Investigators say they found Kevin Mercer in that Navigator with the gun.
The judge has 30 days to make a decision about the new trial.
(source: WIS TV, Charleston)
Atty: Shooting suspect wants to plead
A Muslim man accused of killing a woman and wounding 5 other people in a
shooting rampage at Seattle's Jewish Federation offices wants to plead
guilty, his attorney told a judge Thursday.
The judge put off the arraignment of Naveed Afzal Haq until Tuesday so
Haq's lawyer could determine whether his client is competent to enter the
Haq, 30, "is indicating that it is his desire to enter guilty pleas,"
defense attorney C. Wesley Richards said.
Haq, an American-born son of Pakistani immigrants, is accused of forcing
his way into the charity's offices and opening fire July 28 out of anger
over the war in Iraq and U.S. support of Israel. Pamela Waechter, director
of the Jewish charity's annual fundraising campaign, was killed.
Haq is jailed without bail on charges including murder and attempted
murder. Prosecutors have not decided whether to seek the death penalty.
Volunteers from the Jewish Federation quietly watched the proceedings in
the heavily guarded courtroom. The courthouse has metal detectors at its
entrance, but spectators at Haq's hearing had to pass through another
metal detector outside the courtroom.
(source: Associated Press)
More pay sought in wrongful jailings----Lawmakers want state law changed
One day after a jury rejected a Chicago man's civil rights lawsuit over
his wrongful imprisonment, lawmakers and advocates said state law should
be amended to ensure fair compensation for future victims.
Jurors rebuffed Michael Evans' lawsuit against 10 former Chicago police
officers on Tuesday, leaving Evans with the $160,000 award he received
from the state as compensation for his 27 years of false imprisonment.
The state compensation for Evans, who received a pardon last year from
Gov. Rod Blagojevich based on innocence, was the maximum amount allowed
under Illinois law, yet it amounted to only about $6,000 for each year
that Evans spent behind bars.
That's not enough, according to advocates for the wrongfully convicted and
at least two state lawmakers.
"I wouldn't say $160,000 is adequate for the amount of years the gentleman
has been in jail," said House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, who
helped push through the state's current compensation law in the mid-1990s.
"I would hope the legislature would go back and re-address the whole
issue.... Maybe this is the kind of jump-start we need."
State Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago) said Wednesday that this fall she
would reintroduce a bill, proposed twice before, that would boost the
state's compensation for wrongfully imprisoned inmates.
Evans and Paul Terry were convicted at age 17 of the 1976 abduction, rape
and murder of 9-year-old Lisa Cabassa on the South Side. Both were
sentenced to serve 200 to 400 years in prison and later exonerated by DNA
In his civil lawsuit against the former police officers, Evans had sought
$2 million for each year he spent in prison plus other damages.
Settlement offered, sources say
Sources said the city of Chicago had offered Evans a settlement of
$100,000 for every year he was imprisoned. Lawyers for the city had asked
the jury to award that same amount if they found for Evans.
Evans had hoped to prove in his civil suit that police intentionally
manipulated evidence and coerced a key witness against him in a plot to
send him to prison. But jurors rejected Evans' $60 million lawsuit.
Currie and others contend that even so, the legal system has still failed
when a person is wrongly imprisoned.
"It doesn't matter whether police acted wrongly or a prosecutor acted
wrongly, it's the same damage for the innocent person who went to prison,"
said Karen Daniel, a senior staff attorney at Northwestern University
School of Law's Center on Wrongful Convictions. Daniel represented Evans
when he sought state compensation.
"You're harmed regardless of how you got there," Daniel said. "You're
still losing that part of your life."
Nationwide, a spate of exonerations based on DNA evidence has focused new
attention on states' compensation statutes.
Since 1999, at least eight states have either enacted compensation laws or
boosted the amount that inmates can collect, said Adele Bernhard, a
professor at Pace Law School in White Plains, N. Y.
According to Bernhard, Illinois' system compared favorably to the national
norm in the late 1990s, but has slipped since--in part because no one can
apply for compensation without a pardon based on innocence from the
governor. Some other states allow inmates to apply for compensation if
their convictions were thrown out on grounds consistent with innocence,
In California, for example, an inmate can now collect $100 a day, a
formula that would have entitled Evans to $36,500 a year or almost $1
million in all. Tennessee passed a law with a $1 million cap. New York has
no limit on awards.
Today, 21 states plus the federal government have compensation statutes.
Falsely imprisoned defendants in those states that don't have statutes
sometimes ask the legislature to pass special bills to provide
compensation in their case only.
The compensation statutes are important because most wrongfully convicted
inmates, even those who are later exonerated by DNA, are hard-pressed to
win a civil rights lawsuit, experts said.
To win, the former inmates must prove that police intentionally violated
their constitutional rights by, for example, manipulating witnesses or
withholding or fabricating evidence.
Defendants won't win if they were wrongfully convicted because, say, an
eyewitness misidentified them.
According to Jon Loevy, attorney for Evans, it means showing "that
somebody was actively engaged in framing you."
Some court wins
Some inmates do win in court. James Newsome won a $15 million verdict in
2002 in federal court in Chicago after arguing at trial that police had
rigged the lineup in which he was identified, leading to his wrongful
conviction for murder.
Another federal jury in Chicago awarded more than $6.5 million to Steve
Manning last year, after Manning accused two FBI agents of framing him and
sending him to Illinois' death row.
But more typical, experts say, are the cases of Evans and Anthony Porter,
who was exonerated in 1999 for a double-murder in Chicago but saw his
lawsuit rejected by a Cook County jury last year.
Still waiting to present his case to a jury is Evans' co-defendant in the
Cabassa murder, Paul Terry, who also was released and pardoned after the
Terry's case could be heard by a jury in state court within a year, said
one of this lawyers, Jeffrey Urdangen, of the Bluhm Legal Clinic at
(source: Chicago Tribune)
Convicted Killer Maintains His Innocence
In St. Augustine, as a hearing on whether Justin Barber should be put to
death for killing his wife 2 years ago ended Thursday morning, Judge
Edward Hedstrom asked Barber if he had anything to say.
The shackled convict stood and said, "Other than my innocence, your honor,
Prosecutors had spent the morning restating its arguments as to why
Barber, 34, should be executed following his conviction for first-degree
murder last month.
Barber and his defense team did not present any mitigating evidence.
Following convicting Barber of first-degree murder, the St. Johns County
jury voted 8-4 to recommend that Barber be executed.
Sentencing is up to the judge, who said he should rule within the next 2
Unlike the decision for conviction, the jury's advisory sentence on
whether Barber should be executed did not need to be unanimous.
Throughout his trial, Barber maintained that someone who attacked him and
his wife on Guana River State Park on Aug. 17, 2002, shot his wife, April.
Prosecutors said Barber deliberately killed his wife in order to collect
on a $2 million life insurance policy.
Despite the fact that Justin Barber also had four gunshot wounds, the jury
didn't buy his defense and found him guilty after 33 hours of
deliberations over 4 days.
Under Florida law, all death penalty cases are automatically appealed.
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