[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, NEB., IDAHO, N.C., FLA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Aug 16 22:05:02 UTC 2006
San Antonio man set to die Thursday for woman's 1997 abduction-slaying
A San Antonio man is scheduled to die tomorrow night in the state death
chamber in Huntsville.
Richard Hinojosa is to die for the 1994 abduction, rape and fatal stabbing
of a 29-year-old female neighbor, Terry Wright. He denies killing the
woman, and contends that telling a Bexar County jury of a previous
manslaughter conviction turned jurors against him.
The 44-year-old former Brooks Air Force Base custodian would be the 18th
Texas prisoner executed this year. That's 1 short of the total executions
carried out in the state all of last year. He'd also be the 2nd of 4
scheduled to die this month.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice Death Row:
(source: Associated Press)
Evidence in double jeopardy at warehouse----Police officials fear both
fire and rain; facility won't be replaced soon
The aging brick warehouse where Dallas police store evidence is in such
poor shape that staffers fear it could burn down, destroying evidence and
threatening the outcome of thousands of cases.
With every downpour, rain streams through a leaky roof onto drugs, guns
and other evidence. An "unsound electrical infrastructure" plagues the
building, wreaking havoc and frying computers, according to a document
presented to the City Council.
The problems bedeviling the 50-year-old building have already destroyed or
damaged some evidence, including 2 vials of frozen blood from a rape
victim that thawed after a power outage 2 years ago. The DNA evidence was
ruined, but investigators were lucky: The rape case wasn't affected.
The incident portends disaster.
"We would lose everything we have accumulated over the years that could be
useful in criminal investigations," said Assistant Chief Ron Waldrop, who
heads the criminal investigations bureau. "It would have a major impact on
our ability to do things with criminal cases."
The overcrowded building - used as the property room since the early 1980s
- won't be replaced anytime soon.
Police say repairing all of the building's deficiencies would cost more
than the Fair Park-area facility is worth. It is appraised at about $1
A $32 million proposal to build a combined police property room and
quartermaster facility didn't make the final cut for a bond package headed
to voters in November.
The city already has spent about $300,000 to replace the heating,
ventilation and cooling system. And officials are moving forward with
efforts to spend about $473,000 on a new roof. That project, which
includes asbestos abatement, is expected to start this week and should be
completed in February.
"They need a new roof right now," City Manager Mary Suhm said. "That's the
immediate need. Maybe, over time, we do need a new building. The Police
Department has lots of needs, and we're trying to address them."
When Dallas police seize evidence, it winds up at the 53,689-square-foot
facility. It's a 24-hour operation that employs 40 people.
Walk into the air-conditioned front room, and you're assaulted by the
nausea-inducing odor of boxes of marijuana stored in a cage. Water-stained
ceiling tiles are reminders of previous leaks. Blue tarps protect evidence
in the drug vault from leaks.
In the cavernous, airless warehouse beyond the front room, about 1 million
items are stored. It smells like death.
Boxes fill row after row of seemingly endless metal racks. Stacks of boxes
of seized ammunition crowd one corner. Chemicals fill fire-safe cabinets.
Boxes stamped "biohazard" - and there are thousands of them - contain DNA
evidence that could one day prove useful.
"We have stuff in here that we have to keep for 30 and 40 years," said
Sgt. Judy Katz, a property room supervisor.
It is here that minor investigative documents connected to the Kennedy
In boxes on just one shelf: Hair, fingernail clippings and clothing from a
June slaying. Clothing connected to another June slaying. A ball cap and
cartridges from an August 2005 killing.
"If something sparks in here, we have such a wide variety of stuff, it'll
all go up," said Cindy Schoelen, a civilian supervisor.
Go through a trap-door and up the stairs to the building's roof, and you
quickly get a bird's-eye view of the biggest problem: Cracks snake across
the dry, tarred surface. Patches dot the expanse, evidence of previous
Puddles are everywhere. Tread carefully over the mushy spots; they could
send a person crashing below.
Worried Dallas Fire-Rescue marshals keep close tabs on the facility. They
briefly put the facility on "fire watch" in October 2005 - meaning that a
fire official had to be on site while an immediate danger was addressed.
Fire officials ordered an overhaul of the sprinkler system.
This month, they threatened to put the building on a fire watch again
because of problems with the burglar and fire alarm system.
The Police Department's own alarm enforcement unit has threatened to cite
property room officials because the burglar alarm has sounded repeatedly
when there was no emergency.
Lt. Roseanna Renaud, the property unit's commander, said her employees
also fear rain while the rest of North Texas prays for it.
Consider what's happened in the last 10 months:
On Nov. 1, building services officials told the property unit that its
roof ranked 12th on their list for priority replacement.
About a month later, trouble hit.
"Water poured through the roof area and into the drug vault where drug
evidence is stored," Deputy Chief Zackary Belton wrote to the city's
building services officials. "This necessitated placing tarps over drug
evidence and mobilization of the entire property unit for a substantial
"It is critical that we protect our employees and preserve drug, gun and
monetary evidence," he wrote.
Then, on March 31, the air conditioning in the entry area broke and was
out for days. The electricity went out the next day.
2 days later, another power outage permanently wiped out about 10 years of
the property unit's computer files.
Officials were relieved that the surge didn't destroy the facility's
computerized inventory management system - called PRIMS - which tracks the
building's roughly 800,000 pieces of evidence. "That would have been a
nightmare," Lt. Renaud said.
In late June, a storm-induced power surge knocked out the electricity, the
telephones and the drug vault's air conditioning. Wet tiles fell down from
the ceiling, narrowly missing an employee.
Despite frantic requests, a city electrician didn't arrive until two days
"Employees smelled something burning" in the drug vault, Lt. Renaud wrote
in an e-mail to Jack Ireland, head of building services, in which she
begged his employees to respond in a more timely manner. "As you know,
temperature must be maintained in the drug vault to maintain the integrity
of the evidence."
Mr. Ireland wrote back, promising his employees would do better. "I know
that the circumstances at your facility are problematic," he wrote.
On Tuesday, the air-conditioning was out again.
(source: Dallas Morning News)
Killer Dies ---- Convicted of coin dealer's murder
Nebraska death row inmate Charles Jess Palmer died Wednesday at a Johnson
Palmer, a prisoner at the state prison in Tecumseh, was convicted in the
1979 murder of a coin dealer.
The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services said the exact cause of
death was not yet known but that Palmer had "suffered a massive
Palmer, inmate No. 33045, was 68 years old.
Under state law, whenever an inmate dies in custody, a grand jury conducts
Palmer had been fighting execution since joining death row in 1980. His
most recent challenges claimed that electrocution was a cruel and unusual
He has been tried and convicted 3 times for killing Eugene Zimmerman, a
Grand Island coin dealer, in a robbery.
Nebraska is the only state that uses electrocution as its sole means of
carrying out the death penalty.
Last month the state Supreme Court rejected an appeal by death row inmate
Carey Dean Moore, who also had argued that Nebraska's use of the electric
chair amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
Palmer's newest motion cited numerous cases nationwide and in Nebraska
where inmates died by electrocution. The deaths are outlined in detail and
described as "needless agony, physical suffering, torture, mutilation,
disfigurement and degradation," in violation of the prohibition of cruel
and unusual punishment.
The motion also included a brief history of "botched" electrocutions and
refers to death by electrocution as being "so rarely imposed as to be
freakish and unusual."
Palmer also argued that the death sentence is arbitrary, because others
convicted of similar crimes received life sentences instead of death.
In 1996, Palmer's attorneys argued that he should be a free man because
his previous lawyers were ineffective during his 1st 3 trials.
Zimmerman was strangled in an upstairs bedroom of the home where his
business also was situated.
After each trial, Palmer unsuccessfully appealed to the state Supreme
Court. His 1996 appeal was filed after a Hall County judge refused to
overturn his death sentence in November 1995.
The state Supreme Court in 1982 overturned Palmer's 1st murder conviction
because investigators had hypnotized 3 witnesses who testified. His 2nd
trial was tossed out a year later because his former wife had testified
while Palmer was still fighting the divorce in Texas courts.
Prosecutors noted that Zimmerman was "attacked, bound hand and foot and
removed from the shop before Palmer robbed the place. He was then
strangled with an electrical chord to conceal the crime."
(source: WOWT News)
Former inmate to receive $900,000----Donald Paradis spent 2 decades in
prison for 1981 death of Kimberly Palmer
A former death row inmate will receive nearly a million dollars for his
claim of wrongful imprisonment. Kootenai County's insurance provider and
attorneys for Donald Paradis have agreed on a $900,000 settlement for a
2003 federal civil rights lawsuit that alleged former Kootenai County
prosecutors withheld evidence during Paradis' 1981 murder trial.
"We believe this settlement amount to be not only reasonable and
appropriate, but in the best interests of Kootenai County," said Erika
Grubbs, general counsel for the county.
"If the county was ordered to pay a judgment and attorneys fees beyond its
insurance coverage, there could have been a special levy to Kootenai
County, causing them (taxpayers) to bear any uncovered portion of that
judgment directly. We could not take this risk."
Paradis, 57, was released in 2001 after two decades in prison, including
14 years on death row. Later, he filed a $20 million lawsuit against the
county and the people who put him behind bars, including several former
Paradis couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday. He's believed to be
living in Massachusetts, but didn't have a listed phone number. His
attorneys in Boise and Boston didn't return phone calls.
Under the terms of the structured settlement, Idaho Counties Risk
Management Program agrees to pay Paradis $50,000 immediately and then he
will receive guaranteed monthly payments of $3,541 for the next 11 years.
About half of the settlement will be awarded to Paradis' attorneys.
Lynnette McHenry, ICRMP claims manager, said if the case had gone to trial
the potential for damages was far greater.
"It's the nightmare claim," McHenry said. "Even if a jury awarded Mr.
Paradis only $1, the 1983 civil rights laws means the attorney fees would
have to be covered and that would have been at least $5 million."
ICRMP wasn't the county's insurance provider at the time of the trial and
could have opted to not cover the damages, county officials say.
"The county was not able to locate all of its preceding insurance
carriers," Grubb said. "Further, one which was located is long since
McHenry said the county's insurance premiums are not expected to go up
because of the settlement.
"Historically, the county has been a good performer," she said. "We
typically throw out the highest claim and this one was unusual."
County commissioners signed an agreement Tuesday that releases the county
from any future liability regarding the federal lawsuit.
In 1981, Paradis, a former biker, was convicted for the murder of
19-year-old Kimberly Palmer, who was found strangled in a creek near Post
Falls in June 1980.
Paradis was freed, largely due to exculpatory prosecution notes turned
over to the defense in 1996 -- 15 years after he was convicted of
1st-degree murder and sentenced to die. The notes were subpoenaed but not
produced for appeal lawyers in 1987.
Kootenai County Prosecutor Bill Douglas, who took office in 1989, found
the notes when they were subpoenaed a 2nd time.
Defense attorney Bill Mauk of Boise previously said, "Notes indicated in
1980 that (deputy prosecutor Marc) Haws was aware that his chief witness
had made statements contradictory to the statements that he gave helping
to convict Don Paradis."
Haws, a U.S. Attorney in Idaho, didn't immediately return phone calls
At the time of Paradis' release, Mauk said the notes reflect that it was
improbable that Kimberly Palmer died in Idaho.
"For years those notes had been hidden from the defense team, despite the
Constitution of the United States which requires disclosure of exculpatory
evidence," he said.
They were also consistent with a confession by Thomas Gibson who admitted
killing Palmer at Paradis' home in Spokane on June 12, 1980. Gibson said
Paradis wasn't home at the time and had no knowledge of the murder,
although he helped dispose of the bodies afterward.
In separate trials in Kootenai County, Paradis and Gibson were convicted
in 1981 of killing Palmer. The year prior, they were acquitted of
murdering Palmer's boyfriend, Scott Currier, in a joint trial in Spokane.
Gibson's conviction was overturned and he later pleaded guilty to
2nd-degree murder. He was released several years ago.
Douglas was faced with the choice of retrying Paradis or releasing him. In
a plea bargain, Paradis admitted to being an accessory to a felony by
helping to dispose of the bodies in a creekbed south of Post Falls. That
charge is punishable by a maximum of 5 years in prison, a term Paradis
served 4 times over.
In exchange for the plea bargain, the murder charge was dropped.
The county said it did nothing wrong and that none of the defendants in
the case admit liability.
"The individuals named in this lawsuit have gone on, since 1980 to
distinguish themselves with honorable careers in public service," Grubb
said. "While Kootenai County may not agree with all of the legal decisions
by the courts involving Mr. Paradis for the past quarter of a century, the
county is bound by those rulings."
(source: Coeur d'Alene Press)
Most folks would, quite understandably, have a hard time feeling sorry for
Samuel Flippen, who's set to die by lethal injection early Friday for the
1994 murder of his 2-year-old stepdaughter. His case does, however,
underscore the arbitrary nature by which prosecutors choose which cases
are to be death-penalty ones. This state should enact a moratorium on the
death penalty until that problem and others are resolved.
Flippen was convicted in Forsyth Superior Court of hitting Britnie Nichol
Hutton so hard that her liver and pancreas were torn. It was a horrible
crime, no doubt about it.
But what's frustrating in North Carolina is that people who commit even
worse crimes aren't subjected to the death penalty. For example, in Orange
County, Jamie Lee Wilson is charged with killing her best friend's
daughter by placing her in scalding water. Orange-Chatham District
Attorney Jim Woodall said recently he won't be seeking the death penalty
in the case, according to the News & Observer of Raleigh.
Orange County, which takes in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, hasn't had a
death-penalty case in years. It's a liberal county, one where many of its
elected leaders are on record as being opposed to the death penalty.
It's not fair or just that Flippen got the death penalty in Forsyth and
Wilson won't face the same penalty a few counties over. That, however, is
the way it is. Sometimes, geography decides who faces the death penalty
and who doesn't. Gender plays a huge role as well, with women only
occasionally facing the death penalty in this state. Too often in this
state, at least in the past, race and money have been deciding factors on
who gets the ultimate punishment and who doesn't.
Politics often enters the picture as well.
There are numerous other problems with the administration of the death
penalty in this state, including mistakes made by police, prosecutors and
defense lawyers. Those problems don't apply in the Flippen case.
Flippen's supporters, including ones from Gospel Light Baptist Church in
Walkertown, hope that Gov. Mike Easley will grant him clemency. That's not
likely to happen.
This case, however, is one more that legislators should take into account
when they return to Raleigh next winter. The state legislature has
appointed a committee to study the administration of the death penalty in
North Carolina, but it should vote for a moratorium on the penalty until
that committee's work is done.
The death penalty, carried out in the name of the people, shouldn't be a
crap shoot as to who faces it and who doesn't.
(source: Editorial, Winston-Salem Journal)
Predicting execution date difficult after sentencing, experts
say----Several variables affect death-row stay, they say
87 other inmates have been on death row in North Carolina longer than
Samuel Flippen. But Flippen is the next scheduled to die.
Officials and experts in North Carolina's criminal-justice system say that
predicting an execution date can be difficult after a death sentence is
handed down. Many variables can affect the length of a prisoner's stay on
death row, including the zeal of pro-secutors after the sentencing or even
the level of community outrage at the crime.
Flippen is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Friday for killing
Britnie Nichol Hutton, his 2-year-old step-daughter. He was first
sentenced to death in Forsyth Superior Court in 1995, then resentenced to
death in 1997.
6 inmates sentenced to death in Forsyth before Flippen do not have an
execution date. The oldest case is that of Blanche Taylor Moore, who was
sentenced to death in 1990 for the arsenic death of her boy-friend.
The inmate with the longest stint on death row is Larry D. Williams, who
was convicted in Cabarrus County and has been awaiting execution for 26
When a defendant is sentenced to death for first-degree murder, there are
standard procedures that defense attorneys follow to challenge the
conviction. An appeal is filed with the N.C. Supreme Court. That appeal
begins a complicated appellate process in which the case works its way
through state and federal courts.
An execution date is set after one of several conditions has been met: if
the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the death sentence or if the defendant
misses filing deadlines for specific legal challenges. By state law, the
N.C. secretary of correction schedules an execution within 30 to 60 days
after receiving notice of the condition from the attorney general or the
district attorney who prosecuted the capital case. Even then, as in
Flippen's case, additional last-minute court challenges can be mounted.
The scheduling of post-conviction proceedings and the issues raised in
post-conviction appeals can influence how fast a case moves through the
system, which in turn affects when an execution date is scheduled. When a
life is at stake, the appeals process becomes more complex and technical,
which increases the usual delays of an overburdened court system in North
The deputy attorney general handling the post-conviction proceedings can
help dictate case movement. An aggressive attorney handling a capital case
can be the difference between it staying active in the courts or becoming
dormant, legal officials said.
Charles Harp II, one of Flippen's former attorneys, said that prosecutors
in post-conviction sometimes push for cases that they feel deserve to be
"There are some people in the attorney general's office who take a case
that they think merits that extreme form of punishment, and in this case,
it had to do with the fact that a child was killed," Harp said. "Normally
(cases) just drag on for years and years, but I felt they were going to
get this one done as quickly as they could. They pick and choose the cases
they wish to pursue vigorously and the ones they don't."
Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman at the attorney general's office, responded
by saying that different cases take different amounts of time to work
through the legal system. She would not comment about Flippen's case
because it is pending. Gerda Stein, a staff member at the Center for Death
Penalty Litigation in Durham, agreed with Harp that prosecutors can
control whether a case "falls asleep" or whether it gets moved through the
"Sometimes prosecutors really want to push a certain case," Stein said.
"It can be a case they feel strongly about, the community felt strongly
about or family members." Stein said that it is "up to the attorney
general's office to wake a case up, not the defense."
"If the victim's family calls, that can wake up the case," Stein said.
"Every case has its own individual issues, and it also depends on the
judges, defense attorneys and prosecutors. There is no standard to
determine when a date is set."
(source : Winston-Salem Journal)
Judge might grant killer's death wish----Tucker learns his fate today
Defense attorneys Kepler Funk and Keith Szachacz offered no arguments to
Judge Lisa Davidson to spare their client's life -- and that's just the
way convicted murderer Jason Tucker wanted it.
Today, Davidson is scheduled to issue a sentence at 3:30 p.m. in Viera.
Earlier this year a jury recommended 8-4 that Tucker be executed. If the
judge goes along with that recommendation, Tucker would become the 13th
Brevard County resident on death row.
"He told Keith and I not to say anything," Funk said.
Offering mitigating evidence might have resulted in a life sentence,
especially since the jury was not unanimous in its death penalty
"It was horrible," Funk said. "We just sat there and did nothing."
Tucker had just turned 18 at the time of the crime -- the 1993 murder and
rape of 50-year-old Joan Dunbar in Indian Harbour Beach. He was convicted
Sept. 13 of first-degree murder and sexual battery.
Dunbar was raped, beaten, stabbed and strangled in a sauna at her
apartment complex. Tucker was linked to the crime scene through
fingerprints and DNA evidence after he was arrested 6 years later on
Funk said he would have told the judge about Tucker's childhood as well as
his young age at the time of the crime had his client allowed it.
Davidson assigned a Sanford attorney, Steven Laurence, to investigate
mitigating factors on Tucker's behalf and without Tucker's cooperation.
During the trial there were several claims of juror misconduct by the
defense and Davidson even called a juror in and allowed attorneys to
question her. She denied motions for a new trial.
"Not mitigating is by far the toughest thing we've ever had to do as
lawyers," Funk said. "Our beliefs are that we should always fight for life
as lawyers. But we have to advocate on behalf of our clients. It's the
ethical thing to do. This is his ship. It's his life."
(source: Florida Today)
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