[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----ALA., OHIO
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Aug 19 00:58:14 UTC 2006
Jury deadlocked in case of 2003 murder-for-hire
Who is more believable?
An admitted killer and former strip club bouncer or a state inmate and
former police informant?
A person who worked in cell analysis before becoming a firearms
identification expert with the state's forensic lab? Or a retired state
forensic lab director hired as a consultant by the defense?
A 12-person jury hasn't decided.
After deliberating Thursday for 4 hours and 45 minutes, the jury told
Limestone Circuit Court Judge Bob Baker it was deadlocked in the capital
murder trial of Mark Angus, 38, of Ardmore.
The jury must decide whether Angus is guilty of capital murder for hire,
capital murder committed during a burglary and 1st-degree burglary in the
Nov. 12, 2003, shooting death of Michael Bryant, 21, of Elkmont.
The prosecution contends Angus hired former bouncer James Duncan and
Duncan's friend Joshua Southwick to shoot Bryant because Bryant had stolen
2 of Angus' guns.
3 times the jury sought more details on the case. Baker reread the meaning
of reasonable doubt, but then denied giving jurors testimony of 4
witnesses. He said that would appear to put emphasis on part of the
The jury also asked for a large photograph of the Hays Mill Road mobile
home where Bryant's killing occurred. Because attorneys did not submit
that picture as evidence, Baker denied that request.
Both the defense and prosecution asked the jury in closing statements to
question the credibility of witnesses and whether cartridges from Angus'
home match those at the crime scene.
Tammie Ratcliff with Huntsville's forensic lab said the CBC 9 mm
cartridges from Angus' home and crime scene have the same marks from a
stamping machine the manufacturer uses to brand the cartridges.
Lawdon Yates, a retired state lab director turned consultant, said those
markings have no significance because so many cartridges are in
circulation. CBC made 460 million cartridges this year, he said.
District Attorney Kristi Valls said the Brazilian company shipped only
117,000 of those to the U.S. and changes the stamping tool every 3 to 8
Defense attorneys Marc Sandlin and Bob Massey said Duncan, who is awaiting
trial for capital murder and admitted shooting Bryant twice in the back of
the head, has a reason to lie. Duncan hopes Valls will not seek the death
The attorneys also said the man who let Duncan and Southwick live with
him, Keith George of Ardmore, was connected to the events before and after
the murder and should have been a suspect. The duo called George from
Arkansas after fleeing the area after the shooting, but no phone records
indicate they called Angus.
Valls said George wouldn't have turned the duo in to authorities if he was
involved. George told the Limestone County Sheriff's Department he had
heard Angus, Southwick and Duncan plan the murder.
Valls called defense witness Chet Croxton, a state inmate and former
Athens police informant, a liar. Croxton testified that Duncan and
Southwick told him prior to the murder that they were armed and told him
they were going to Elkmont to collect money for Keith, but he did not know
if that was Keith George.
During his testimony, Croxton made statements that conflicted with
testimony he gave in the case during a 2004 bond hearing.
"As long as he's talking, he's lying," Valls said. "He's the biggest liar
who took the stand."
She said the case boils down to whom the jury believes.
(source: The Decatur Daily)
Killer seeks to fire lawyers
Prosecutors who want Danny Lee Hill executed are questioning the death row
inmates latest legal document filed from his jail cell.
"We're sort of in the dark about it," said appellate assistant LuWayne
Annos, adding that the 2-page document never was officially time-stamped.
"It's not clear whether it's officially filed or not. Nothing is
Annos and Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins say the paperwork made
its way here earlier in the month. In it, Hill still insists he is
innocent of a 20-year-old murder, and he wants to fire his latest
attorneys. He also asks for a competency hearing to determine that he is
mentally fit enough to waive any more appeals regarding his mental
"I guess he's competent to determine whether he's competent or not
competent. It's just another sterling example of a self-directed action by
a non-retarded person," said Watkins, who was given a courtesy copy of
In the meantime, Hill's latest team of lawyers, Henry Joseph Hilow and
James Allen Jenkins of Cleveland, filed paperwork asking that they be
taken off the case.
The appellate attorneys were given extra time to prepare Hill's appeal of
an adverse decision that states Hill is not mentally retarded and eligible
for the death penalty. The long-awaited appeal was filed with a request
that the paperwork remain sealed for judges with the 11th District Court
Arguments in Hill's Atkins claim of mental retardation stretched over
nearly three years until this year's decision that followed testimony by 4
experts, who were flown in for the proceeding.
Amid the retardation issue that was argued, much of the proceeding focused
on Hill's continued firing of attorneys. Ohio Public Defender capital
specialists finally completed the arguments and then got permission to
withdraw before visiting Judge Thomas Patrick Curran appointed the
Cleveland appellate lawyers.
Hill was found guilty of the Sept. 10, 1985, murder of Raymond Fife. The
12-year-old was riding his bike to a Boy Scout meeting when he was
attacked by Hill and then-17-year-old Timothy Combs. Raymond was beaten,
sexually tortured, strangled, set afire and left for dead. He lived for a
short time, but never regained consciousness before he died.
Watkins and Annos wrote, "The delays in (Hills) execution have become
intolerable and public confidence in the death penalty system in
particular, and the justice system in general, does not need to be further
eroded by further delays in this case. It is clear from the record before
this court that justice has bent over backward for Danny Lee Hill, and
justice's back is about to be broken. Wherefore, the state requests (1) an
immediate hearing on the motion to withdraw (by Hilow and Jenkins), (2) an
order from this court unsealing appellants brief, and (3) a clarification
as to the brief schedule."
(source: Tribune Chronicle)
More information about the DeathPenalty