[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----VA., N.C., PENN., MINN., S.C.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Aug 24 02:27:26 UTC 2006
Washington plans to seek declaration of innocence
Earl Washington Jr. plans to petition Gov. Timothy M. Kaine for a complete
exoneration of the 1982 rape and killing of a Culpeper mother of 3 that
nearly led to Washington's execution, his attorney said.
The announcement Tuesday comes on the heels of an indictment filed against
a new suspect in the case, convicted rapist Kenneth Maurice Tinsley. The
61-year-old Tinsley is serving life in prison for an unrelated rape
Special Prosecutor Richard E. Moore announced from Culpeper on Monday that
he had obtained an indictment against Tinsley charging capital murder,
rape and sodomy. Tinsley could face the death penalty if convicted. His
1st court appearance will be Sept. 6.
Washington, who is now married and living in Virginia Beach, was pardoned
by Gov. Jim Gilmore in 2000 after testing showed that DNA at the crime
scene belonged to Tinsley. Gilmore, though, stopped short of declaring
Further tests 2 years ago showed that semen in the victim and on a blanket
at the scene matched Tinsley's DNA.
It remains unclear why it took more than 2 years since the last DNA
testing to obtain an indictment. Moore declined to respond to questions
Monday and did not return phone calls Tuesday.
"Gov. Kaine should amend Earl Washington's pardon and make it on the
grounds that he is actually innocent," said Peter Neufeld, a New York
attorney who represents Washington.
"We will be very quickly submitting a new application to Gov. Kaine to
amend the pardon on the grounds of actual innocence," Neufeld said.
A spokesman for the governor indicated Tuesday that a new innocence
application may be premature.
"Advocates for Mr. Washington are certainly welcome to renew any request
they may have filed with a previous administration," Kaine spokesman Kevin
"We also would point out that the indictment of a suspect, while an
important step, is not a final determination of guilt," he added.
Neufeld is one of a group of attorneys handling Washington's federal civil
lawsuit, initially filed against the state.
A jury in Charlottesville earlier this year awarded Washington $2.25
million in damages, ruling that a state police investigator violated
Washington's civil rights by feeding him details of the crime that led to
An attorney for the now-deceased investigator is fighting that jury
Neufeld said he also plans to ask Kaine to honor the jury's verdict and
pay the damages award, which fell solely to the investigator's estate.
The General Assembly in 2003 failed to approve a bill that would have paid
Washington $1 million in compensation for his time spent on death row.
Washington had been 9 days from execution before receiving a stay, which
later led to the pardon. There was some objection to the bill because of
Washington's prior criminal record, which included beating an elderly
Death penalty moratorium----Despite more use of DNA evidence, odds don't
favor N.C. defendants
One year ago in June, North Carolina nearly passed a 2-year moratorium on
executions in the state, falling a handful of votes short of a majority in
the 120-member House (the state Senate having passed a similar bill a year
earlier, 29 to 21). The purpose was to set up a commission that could
study possible flaws in the system, especially the lack of adequate
defense for the over 90 % on death row who could not afford their own
Also of particular interest to the commission would be evidence of racial
or other forms of discrimination and possible prosecutorial misconduct or
other forms of trial error in death penalty cases.
Instead of a moratorium last year, North Carolina ended up in December
with the dubious distinction of executing the 1,000th person in the
country since resumption of executions in 1976. After 20 years on death
row, Kenneth Boyd was executed at that time. He was typical of death row
inmates: unable to afford his own counsel; victimized by an inadequate
defense and prosecutorial misconduct.
Public polls show that two-thirds of North Carolinians favor a suspension
of executions while the death penalty is examined for flaws or errors that
could result in the execution of an innocent person. Already, 12 states
have eliminated the death penalty entirely, an additional four have not
chosen to use it, and the Supreme Courts of 2 states -- Kansas and New
York -- have declared it unconstitutional.
In North Carolina, 38 men and 4 women have been executed since 1976. In
that same period, five on death row have been exonerated. The increasing
use of DNA evidence to either confirm a conviction or exonerate a person
awaiting execution has helped to build justice into the system. Still, in
our state, the odds are stacked against a person being acquitted if the
crime was committed in a rural county, if the victim was white (whether
the accused is African American or white), or if the person is unable to
afford his or her own defense attorney.
An emerging issue in the courts and in the ethical standards of the
medical profession is the possible violation of the 8th Amendment's
prohibition of "cruel or unusual punishment" in the lethal injection
37 states and the federal government use this procedure.
A promising development in our state was the state "Innocence Inquiry
Commission", created by the N.C. legislature and recently signed into law
by the governor. This panel will afford a new avenue for inmates who claim
to be wrongly convicted. The final decision will be up to a panel of 3
Superior Court judges, voting unanimously.
For a periodic update, state-by-state, of capital punishment statistics in
our country, see: Death Penalty Information Center, 1320 18th St., NW,
Washington, D.C. 20036, (202) 293-6970, e-mail: dpic at deathpenaltyinfo.org.
(source: News & Observer (Bernard J. Offerman, PhD, retired Duke professor
at Johnson C. Smith University)
Court uncertain of inmate's plea to be executed---Hubert Michael wants an
end to a string of appeals. A court wants another competency hearing.
For years, Pennsylvania death-row inmate Hubert L. Michael Jr. has
demanded an end to his appeals. He's fired lawyers who have sought to save
his life, and called for a stop in the "legal merry-go-round."
But Michael, now 50 and awaiting execution since 1995, has wavered - and
that led to questions about his mental state, even as he sent a string of
letters assuring judges he was fine.
"One would have to be mentally incompetent himself to believe that I am
mentally incompetent," Michael wrote to one judge in 2004.
But a federal appeals court remains unsure.
After wrestling with the case for more than a year, the U.S. Court of
Appeals for the Third Circuit has ordered a hearing to determine if
Michael is mentally competent to decide whether to abandon all appeals - a
decision that, in effect, would end his life.
Michael confessed to the July 1993 kidnapping and murder of 16-year-old
Trista Eng of York County. He pleaded guilty and asked for the death
Michael spent most of his years on death row seeking to be executed. But
then, just weeks before he was scheduled to die in 2004, he threw the case
into uncertain legal territory when he decided for the first time to press
forward with a federal appeal.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Jonelle H. Eshbach said yesterday the state
may ask the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case. "That is a
possibility at this point," said Eshbach, who said that Eng's mother was
"discouraged" by the court's ruling.
If the state does not appeal to the high court, Eshbach said a competency
hearing probably could be scheduled by early next year. Michael's current
lawyer, Joseph M. Cosgrove, declined to comment on the ruling.
In ordering the hearing, Judges Thomas L. Ambro, Morton I. Greenberg and
Richard Nygaard cited concerns raised by a psychiatrist who had previously
examined Michael that a new evaluation should be done because of his
"An appeal may not be withdrawn if the prisoner is incompetent," wrote
Ambro in a 25-page opinion filed late last week.
Greenberg, who had earlier favored allowing Michael to drop his appeal,
decided to go along with the competency hearing. Still, he said, he does
not believe that Michael's "hesitation" reflected on his competency.
The case, Greenberg said, "involves the ultimate question of life or
death. If faced with his choice, the most competent and stable person
might hesitate or vacillate before dismissing an appeal in an action that,
if continued, surely would delay the execution of a death sentence."
Greenberg wondered whether Michael, by seeking to end his appeals, was
trying to "make amends so far as he now can do" for murdering Eng.
Greenberg anguished about Eng's family.
"Does not the court system owe anything to Trista Eng and her family
and...should it not bring her family's torture to an end, particularly
when the person responsible for her murder wants it ended?" the judge
Acknowledging that "death is different" in the criminal justice system, he
went on: "But cannot the same thing be said with respect to the effect of
the crime of murder on the victim and her family as compared to all other
crimes? Is our law so one-sided that at a trial and on appeals, only the
defendant is of any importance?"
To read the Third Circuit court opinions in the case of Hubert Michael:
(source: Philadelphia Inquirer)
Attorney tossed from murder case
A Lebanon County judge yesterday appointed a Berks County law firm to
represent a city man in a death-penalty case.
President Judge Robert J. Eby named the law firm of Allan Sodomsky and Jay
Nigrini of Reading to represent Roberto Laboy.
Laboy, 22, of 228 Lehman St. and James Hower, 22, of 225 S. 11th St.,
Lebanon, are facing trial on charges stemming from the death of
47-year-old David Kern, who was beaten and stabbed Jan. 21 in a northside
alley. In addition to homicide, Laboy and Hower are charged with
aggravated assault, robbery and conspiracy, according to police.
District Attorney David Arnold filed a notice earlier this year of his
intention to seek the death penalty in the case.
Lebanon attorney John Kelsey had been appointed by the court in June to
But earlier this month, Chief Public Defender Charles Jones Jr. filed a
petition asking the court to appoint another defense attorney because
Kelsey did not have the required number of hours of training to handle
death-penalty cases. As of May 1, defense attorneys were required to have
18 hours of training to handle death-penalty cases.
Jones said he and Brian Deiderick, an assistant public defender and
co-counsel in the Hower case, are the only Lebanon County attorneys
qualified to handle death-penalty cases.
In his order, Eby said he had been told Kelsey had been certified to serve
as a defense attorney in death-penalty cases before he appointed him to
In his petition, Jones also asked that Kelsey be replaced as Laboy's
attorney because Kelsey had represented Hower in a sexual-assault case
earlier this year. Hower was convicted in February of having inappropriate
sexual contact with a then-13-year-old girl at a city home on May 8 last
year. He was sentenced June 21 to state prison for 2 1/2 to 5 years on
charges of aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault and corruption of
As a result, Jones' motion states that Kelsey "is intimately familiar with
defendant Hower, his background and his prior record."
Kelsey's knowledge of Hower would prejudice Hower through Kelsey's
representation of Laboy, according to Jones' petition.
In his ruling, Eby said Hower had given his consent for Kelsey to
(source: Lebanon Daily News)
Diocese cancels nun's Duluth talk because of anti-Bush newspaper ad
RELIGION: The author of "Dead Man Walking" was scheduled to speak at an
October Catholic fundraiser, which is now canceled.
Catholic Sister Helen Prejean, author of "Dead Man Walking" and a longtime
social activist, has been uninvited as the keynote speaker at the Diocese
of Duluth education dinner in October.
In a letter to some diocese residents sent Monday, Duluth Bishop Dennis
Schnurr said the decision to cancel the event and Prejean's address was
based on her name appearing on an Aug. 3 New York Times advertisement
calling for President Bush to be removed from office.
Schnurr said the ad was brought to his attention by lay people in the
"Upon reviewing the advertisement, I find that I share their concerns,"
Schnurr said in the letter. "Therefore we have made the difficult decision
to cancel her appearance."
The event, which had been set for Oct. 1 at the Duluth Entertainment
Convention Center, was a joint fundraiser for Duluth and Iron Range
The same dinner last year raised more than $30,000, with a Green Bay
auxiliary bishop as the keynote speaker. The event was scheduled for the
DECC this year because such a large crowd was expected, said Kyle Eller,
communications director for the diocese.
"It's very disappointing. This is a very big event and we couldn't get
another speaker in time," Eller said.
The problem wasn't the political nature of the issues raised in the ad,
Eller said, noting that the church and Prejean often take stands on
political issues. But the ad's partisan attack of Bush crossed the line,
"When it gets into attacking (a political figure), that becomes partisan,"
Eller said, noting the church has both moral and legal obligations to
During the last national election, several churches were criticized, and
some investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, because they were
alleged to have endorsed specific candidates or political parties, a
violation of their nonprofit status.
The ad in question, titled "The World Can't Wait! Drive Out the Bush
Regime!" carried the endorsement of 90 individuals, including Prejean, a
member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille in New Orleans.
The World Can't Wait organizers are sponsoring a mass day of protest
against the Bush administration on Oct. 5.
Prejean, 67, is on a 3-month sabbatical for renewal and writing, her
office said Tuesday, and is unavailable until Sept. 1. But in a letter on
her Web site, Prejean said the ad properly criticizes Bush's "reckless
pursuit of war in Iraq, which has helped to destabilize the entire middle
East; his approval of torture; his zealous promotion of imprisonment and
executions; his fiscal policies which make the wealthy people more wealthy
and poor people poorer."
The ad also criticized Bush's stand against abortion and contraception,
and Prejean has since asked to be removed from the ad because she did not
agree with its stand on abortion.
On her Web site, she said, "There is... one issue addressed in the ad that
I cannot endorse, which if I had seen the final version of the ad would
have led me to withhold my signature. My stance on abortion is a matter of
public record. I stand morally opposed to killing: war, executions,
killing of the old and demented, the killing of children, unborn and
But Prejean offered no apologies for her direct criticism of the Bush
administration, saying her faith demands action against Bush.
"I signed the ad because as a follower of the way of Jesus and a U.S.
citizen, I cannot stand by passively and silently as I witness my
government wage such grievous oppression and violence," Prejean wrote on
her Web site. "For me, personally, it would be sinful not to raise my
voice publicly in opposition to the life-destructive policies and
practices of the Bush administration."
Prejean was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her 1993 book, "Dead Man
Walking," which chronicled her prison ministry work on death row in
Louisiana. The book was made into a 1996 film. Her 2004 book, "The Death
of Innocents," chronicles the executions of 2 men she says were wrongly
(source: Duluth News Tribune )
Judge throws out Woodruff man's death sentence
A Circuit Court judge has thrown out the 1998 death sentence of a Woodruff
man convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend, citing misconduct by both
defense counsel and former Solicitor Holman Gossett.
Judge John C. Few ordered on Tuesday a new sentencing for Jimmy Clifton
Locklair but left the guilty verdict intact. In granting part of a motion
for post-conviction relief, Few criticized defense attorney Andy Johnston
and the former prosecutor for failing to notify the trial judge that a
state witness who testified during the penalty phase was also one of
Johnston also "omitted several key points" as to that witness' motives
during cross-examination, Few wrote, denying Locklair's constitutional
right to effective assistance of counsel. A new penalty phase could have
been avoided, the judge held, if either Johnston or Gossett had informed
trial judge, Circuit Judge Derham Cole, of the conflict of interest "as
the law and common sense required them to do."
"It does not take a legal scholar to know that a criminal defendant is
entitled to a lawyer who does not represent conflicting interests, and
that problems like this should be brought to the attention of the
Presiding Judge," Few wrote.
Locklair was found guilty in September 1998 of murdering his former
girlfriend, 25-year-old Tammy Bridges, in April 1995. At the time of
Bridges' death, Locklair was out of jail on a $50,000 bond in the 1994
shooting death of friend Chris Jones, 21, who also had dated Bridges and
was the father of her child.
A Laurens County jury later convicted Locklair of Jones' murder, issuing a
New sentencing in future
Reached Tuesday, Gossett said that Locklair's "rights will be upheld by
him having a new sentencing hearing in the case."
Asked if he committed any wrongdoing during the trial, the former
solicitor said it was "hard to remember" the particulars of the case. He
declined to comment further.
Johnston declined to comment.
Locklair, now 34, is incarcerated at Lieber Correctional Institution in
Ridgeville, where death row inmates are kept prior to execution. Solicitor
Trey Gowdy, who was not involved in the Locklair trial, said he would
consult with the victim's family before deciding whether to seek the death
"My inclination would be (to seek death), but I don't want to make that
decision until I talk to the family," he said.
Bridges' mother, Betty Williams, said Tuesday she has conflicting feelings
about going back to court.
Williams is raising Bridges' and Jones' daughter, now 14. Her faith in God
has allowed her to forgive Locklair, she said, but she wants to see him
stay on death row.
"I'm just going to leave it in the Lord's hands," she said. "He'll take
care of it.
"I'm not saying he doesn't deserve it, but what I'm saying is it's put
this family and the Jones family through a whole lot. And I know its put
his momma and daddy through a whole lot."
Locklair's mother, Brenda Locklair, said she was excited by the chance her
son will be taken off death row.
"We've been going through a terrible ordeal with this whole thing, but God
does answer prayers," she said.
Conflict of interest
In his order, Few wrote that Johnston had an "actual conflict of interest"
and believed the state witness over Locklair, opting not to challenge his
testimony. More importantly, Few wrote, Johnston failed to cross-examine
the witness on his pending charges or his hope for a favorable plea
bargain from the state in exchange for his testimony.
Locklair's death sentence is the second issued under Gossett to be vacated
this year on grounds including prosecutorial misconduct.
In May, the state Supreme Court granted Ernest Matthew Riddle a new trial
in the 1985 strangling death of 76-year-old Abbie Sue Mullinax of Gaffney.
According to that ruling, prosecutors violated Riddle's right to a fair
trial by withholding information from defense attorneys and failing to
correct statements a key prosecution witness made on the stand that they
knew to be false.
(source: Spartanburg Herald-Journal)
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