[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----VA., USA, ALA., OHIO
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Aug 24 20:11:43 UTC 2006
Odds poor Gray avoids execution----Once death penalty is imposed, Virginia
apt to follow through
Ricky Javon Gray has years of appeals available to him, but if history is
any indication, odds are good that he will be executed.
Of the 38 states with capital punishment, none comes close to Virginia in
carrying out the death penalty once it is imposed.
The most recent federal figures show that through the end of 2004,
Virginia had executed 65 percent of the 144 people sentenced to death. The
next closest state, Missouri, executed 35 percent. The national average is
A jury recommended Tuesday that Gray should be executed for the slayings
of Stella and Ruby Harvey, 9 and 4 respectively. He also killed their
parents, Bryan and Kathryn Harvey, in the family's home on New Year's Day.
Gray is entitled to appeal, a process aimed at protecting his rights and
correcting any errors, but a process that has also taken many condemned
killers and their victims' loved ones on long, emotional rides.
Nationally, the average time from death sentence to execution is a little
more than 10 years, according to federal statistics.
According to the Virginia Department of Corrections, since 1991, the
average length of time spent on death row prior to execution is 7.1 years.
However, according to the Virginia attorney general's office, the average
is now 4 to 5 years.
Virginia has 20 death-row inmates, not counting Gray who will be formally
sentenced Oct. 23.
19 men are on death row at Sussex I State Prison. One female death-row
inmate is being held at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women. The 20
have been on death row an average of 4.6 years.
The state once had roughly 60 death-row inmates, most of them since
executed. The state has executed 97 men since the U.S. Supreme Court
allowed executions to resume in 1976. Only Texas, with 373, has executed
The appeals process would start if, as expected, Richmond Circuit Judge
Beverly W. Snukals, who presided at Gray's trial, enters a final sentence
order and sets an execution date.
Gray's execution will be stayed by an automatic appeal to the Virginia
Supreme Court. His lawyers will file a brief arguing that errors occurred
in the trial and that the conviction and/or death sentence should be
Gray's lawyers said Tuesday that they had not decided whether to appeal.
They could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The state is represented during the appeals process by the Virginia
attorney general's office, not the Richmond commonwealth's attorney's
office, which prosecuted the case. The state will file a brief defending
the conviction and death sentence and arguing why there was no error.
Arguments will be held in front of the justices, with each side limited to
30 minutes to make its case. No new evidence or facts that were not in the
trial record can be presented. A written decision is usually made seven
weeks after arguments.
If the justices reverse the conviction and/or sentence, which rarely
happens, then Gray's case would be sent back to Richmond Circuit Court,
where decisions will be made on whether to retry or resentence him.
If the Virginia Supreme Court rejects the appeal and affirms the
conviction and death sentence, Gray's lawyers can ask the U.S. Supreme
Court to review the case, arguing that Gray's constitutional rights were
violated during his trial or by the Virginia Supreme Court.
Such petitions are almost always rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. A
rejection would end Gray's "direct appeal."
Habeas corpus petition
Gray would then have the right to file a habeas corpus petition with the
Virginia Supreme Court within 60 days of the U.S. Supreme Court decision.
A habeas petition is a civil action in which Gray can again claim his
constitutional rights were violated.
If he loses, Gray could then go to the U.S. Supreme Court again for a
review of the Virginia Supreme Court's ruling. If he loses there, Snukals
would set another execution date at the request of the Virginia attorney
That date would be stayed if Gray seeks a federal habeas corpus review of
Federal habeas corpus review
The U.S. District Court would appoint lawyers for Gray to file his
petition. Gray could argue his conviction and/or sentence should be
overturned because of a violation of his federal constitutional rights.
The losing side could then appeal the District Court judge's ruling to the
4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The 4th Circuit rarely rules in favor
of the death-row inmate in Virginia cases. Gray may not attend arguments
before the 4th Circuit.
If Gray loses there, he could again appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the attorney general's office will request yet another
execution date. It is this date when the execution would likely occur,
barring action by the U.S. Supreme Court or clemency from the governor.
(source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)
WHAT: Brookings Judicial Issues Forum: 'What Should Be the Future of the
WHEN: Tuesday, Sept. 5 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
WHERE: The Brookings Institution, Falk Auditorium, 1775 Massachusetts Ave.
NW, Washington, D.C.
DETAILS: Thirty years after the Supreme Court decision Gregg v. Georgia
effectively reinstated capital punishment in the United States, the
national debate of whether to abolish, reform, maintain or expand use of
the death penalty continues to divide justices and judges, legislators and
citizens. Kansas v. Marsh, the recent, bitterly divided, 5 - 4 Supreme
Court decision upholding Kansas' death penalty law, is but the latest
example of these divisions.
On Sept. 5, The Brookings Institution continues its Judicial Issues Forum
series with a discussion on whether the death penalty deters crime,
whether it is administered fairly, whether death row exonerations prove
the system a failure, whether federal courts should provide more -- or
less -- supervision of state death sentences and whether the abhorrence of
our death penalty regime overseas should tip Americans of mixed views
toward the abolitionist position.
Panelists will include: Congressman and former California Attorney General
1991 - 1999 Dan Lungren (R-Calif.); Ruth Friedman, director of the Federal
Capital Habeas Project; Kent Scheidegger, legal director and general
counsel at the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation; and Ginny Sloan,
president and founder of the Constitution Project. Stuart Taylor Jr., a
nonresident senior fellow at Brookings and a writer for National Journal
and Newsweek, will moderate the panel.
After the program, panelists will take audience questions.
Moderator: Stuart Taylor Jr., nonresident senior fellow, The Brookings
Institution; columnist, National Journal; contributor, Newsweek
-- The Honorable Dan Lungren, U.S. Representative (R-Calif.)
-- Ruth Friedman, director of the Federal Capital Habeas Project
-- Kent Scheidegger, legal director and general counsel, Criminal Justice
-- Virginia E. Sloan, president and founder, Constitution Project
R.S.V.P.: Please call the Brookings Office of Communications,
202-797-6105, or visit http://onlinepressroom.net/brookings/.
(source: US Newswire)
No Pain in Lethal Injection
The evidence, including the immediate autopsy of executed serial
murderer/rapist Michael Ross supports that there is no pain within the
lethal injection process.
The alleged concern is that some inmates may have been conscious, but
paralyzed, during execution, because one of the three drugs used may have
worn off, prior to death.
An Associated Press reporter correctly stated that "there is little to
support those claims except a few anecdotes of inmates gasping and
convulsing and an article in the British medical journal Lancet." (AP,
"Death penalty foes attack lethal-injection drug", 7/5/05)
The British Medical Journal, The Lancet, published an article critical of
lethal injection. The article did not/could not identify one case where
evidence existed than an inmate was conscious during execution.
The Lancet article identified 21 cases of execution where the level of
"post mortem" (after death) sodium thiopental was below that used in
surgery and, therefore, may suggest consciousness was possible.
A more accurate description would be all but impossible.
A "long after execution" post mortem measurement of sodium thiopental is
very different from a moment of death measurement.
Dr. Lydia Conlay, chair of the department of anesthesiology, Baylor
College of Medicine (Texas Medical Center, Houston) said the extrapolation
of postmortem sodium thiopental levels in the blood to those at the time
of execution is by no means a proven method. "I just don't think we can
draw any conclusions from (the Lancet study) , one way or the other."
Actually, we can. The science is well known. Sodium thiopental is absorbed
rapidly into the body. Long after execution blood testing of those levels
means absolutely nothing with regard to the levels at the time of
The Lancet article did not dispute the obvious -- for executions, the
sodium thiopental is administered in dosages roughly 10-20 times the
amount necessary for sedation unconsciousness during surgical procedures.
Unconsciousness occurs within the first 30 seconds of the
injection/execution process. The injection of the 3 drugs takes from 4-5
minutes. Death usually occurs within 6-7 minutes and is pronounced within
The researchers also failed to note the much lower probability
(impossibility?) that the murderer could be conscious, while all 3 drugs
are coursing through the veins, concurrently.
Despite the Lancet article's presumptions and omissions, there is no
scientific evidence that consciousness could occur with the amounts and
methods of injecting those three drugs within the execution period.
The AP article also stated that "They (death penalty opponents) also
attack lethal injection by saying that the steps to complete it haven't
been reviewed by medical professionals."
Intravenous application of medication has been successfully used for many,
The chemicals used in lethal injection, as well as their individual and
collective results, at the dosages used, are also well known.
Furthermore, lethal injection is not a medical procedure. It is the
culmination of a judicial sentence carried out by criminal justice
professionals, the result of which is intended as death, the outcome of
Opponents of the death penalty, as well as other uninformed sources, have
been stating that even vets do not use the paralytic agent in the
euthanasia of animals -- as if this has some relevance to the executions
of humans. Some fact checking is in order --
Some Additional Reality
>From Harford Courant, "Ross Autopsy Stirs Execution Debate----Results
Cited To Counter Talk Of Pre-Death Pain", August 11, 2005
The below is a paraphase of parts of that article, including some exact
Results of the autopsy done on serial killer Michael Ross are being cited
by several prominent doctors to refute a highly publicized article that
appeared in The Lancet, the British medical journal, in April, 2005.
Critics of the Lancet article say it does not account for postmortem
redistribution of the anesthetic - thiopental. The redistribution, the
critics say, accounts for the lower levels of thiopental on which Dr.
Koniaris based his Lancet article conclusions that the levels of
anesthetic were inadequate. The Ross autopsy results document this
redistribution, bolstering the critics' assertions.
Dr. H. Wayne Carver II, Connecticut's chief medical examiner, was aware of
the controversial Lancet article before performing the Ross autopsy. As a
result, he took the additional step of drawing a sample of Ross's blood 20
minutes after he was pronounced dead at 2:25 a.m. May 13. Carver took a
subsequent sample during the autopsy, which began about 7 hours later, at
The 1st sample showed a concentration of 29.6 milligrams per liter of
thiopental; the second sample showed a concentration of 9.4 milligrams per
liter. The 1st sample was drawn from Ross' right femoral artery, and the
2nd from his heart, which can account for some of the discrepancy. But Dr.
Mark Heath, a New York anesthesiologist and one of the numerous doctors
who have signed letters to The Lancet challenging the Koniaris article,
said it clearly substantiates the postmortem redistribution of the
Dr. Jonathan Groner, a pediatric surgeon from Ohio said he interviewed a
number of forensic toxicologists before adopting the view that thiopental
in a corpse leaves the blood and is absorbed by the fat, causing blood
samples taken hours after death to be an unreliable marker of the levels
of thiopental in the body at the time of death.
Groner described the Ross autopsy results as "a powerful refutation" of
the Lancet-Koniaris study.
Dr. Ashraf Mozayani, a forensic toxicologist with the Harris County
Medical Examiner's Office in Texas, said the level of thiopental "drops
quite a bit" after death. Even in the living, Mozayani said, thiopental
levels decline rapidly after administration of the drug. She cited one
study in which a patient was administered 400 milligrams of thiopental
intravenously. After 2 minutes the concentration in the blood was measured
at 28 milligrams, but dropped to 3 milligrams concentration 19 minutes
after the anesthetic was injected.
Mozayani said the declining concentration of thiopental cited in the Ross
autopsy report "make sense."
On The Lancet article, she said, "I don't think they have the whole story
- the postmortem redistribution and all the other things they have to
consider for postmortem testing."
Dudley Sharp----Justice Matters ---- Houston, Texas
(source: Dakota Voice)
Witnesses give graphic testimony in Sharp trial----ER nurse tells jury she
was barely able to recognize Morris
Tracy Lynn Morris' schedule was running smoothly Jan. 2, 1999, but that
afternoon, between 3:30 and 5 p.m., an act of violence interrupted her
routine and ended her life.
An investigation into the rape and murder of Tracy Morris led police to
question Jason Sharp three days later. Suspicious of Sharp's shaky story
and his apparent attempts to avoid a second interview with them, the
officers arrested him on a charge of capital murder on Jan. 15, 1999.
Sharp's trial started Monday before Circuit Judge Laura W. Hamilton. A
jury panel of nine men and five women was selected Wednesday to hear the
evidence. The prosecutors, Robert Broussard and Randy Dill, are seeking
the death penalty.
Sharp's semen was found on Morris and forensic tests eliminated everybody
else but him, Dill told the jury Wednesday, during his opening statements.
"He is a rapist and he's a killer!" he said.
Sharp's lawyers, Alan Mann and Barry Abston, said in their opening
statement that the prosecutors have left out an amazing amount of
Abston said police interviewed 13 people Morris either knew or dated.
Sharp gave police permission to search his car and his home, he said.
"It was a very bloody crime scene, yet police found no blood in his house
or in his car," he said. "Mr. Dill didn't tell you that in 1999 the state
forensic lab reportedly had lost its accreditation and was having some
trouble being reinstated."
Evidence of sex is not evidence of rape and murder, Abston said.
"This is a case of jumping to conclusions that are not supported by the
evidence," he said.
Lynn Morris, Tracy's mother, testified Wednesday that she last talked to
her daughter between 3:35 and 3:45 p.m. Tracy was supposed to drop by her
parents' house for dinner, leave her dog with them as usual and head to
work at Dunlop Tire Co. She was a nurse in the clinic at the factory.
"She said she was on her way out the door, but she never showed up," her
At 5 p.m. Tracy had not shown up and Lynn Morris said she had visions of
her daughter mangled in a car wreck. As she drove to her daughter's Sheri
Drive home, Lynn Morris scanned the sides of the streets expecting to see
But Morris found her daughter's green Jeep Grand Cherokee still parked in
the carport at her home.
Inside the kitchen, Lynn Morris found Tracy's usual traveling items on the
floor: her Winnie the Pooh bag, her portable radio with the batteries
scattered around the kitchen and car keys.
She was then startled by a sound from the bedroom down the hall.
"I could hear her breathing very loud," she said.
In the bedroom, Lynn Morris found a mother's worst nightmare. Tracy was
lying on the floor, her pants and panties pulled down to her ankles, her
bra and shirt were pushed up over her blood-smeared chest and silver duct
tape was on her wrists.
"I was screaming, 'What is the matter, baby?' " she said. "She didn't
answer; her eyes were glazed and she was gurgling."
Lynn Morris called 911.
Lt. Jim Wynn, a sergeant at the time, was first to arrive. The daughter
had apparently been beaten up and sexually assaulted, Wynn said. The
scene, though not as bloody as some as he'd seen, left a lasting
"It was one of the most cruel things I'd ever seen," he said.
Kim Hellums, a registered nurse in the emergency room at Huntsville
Hospital, was on duty when the ambulance brought Morris in for treatment.
She had worked with Morris several years earlier.
"I didn't recognize her, at first," she said. "Tracy had a beautiful,
gorgeous head of hair. When they (the paramedics) called her name, I
recognized her by her hair."
Hellums said she collected a sample of semen that was drying on Tracy
Morris' inner thigh and gave it to a police investigator.
James Williams, a retired police crime scene investigator, testified that
he collected samples of blood and semen on the carpet at Tracy Morris'
home. He turned the samples over to the Alabama Department of Forensic
Huntsville police investigator Kathy Pierce testified that she and a team
of investigators targeted males that had been in contact with Tracy Morris
in the months leading up to her death. Pierce said she took DNA samples
from 3 other suspects.
Sharp was on the list of people Pierce was to contact. He had been washing
the Morris family's vehicles, including Tracy's, once a month for about a
year, Pierce said.
During the initial interview with Pierce, at his home on James Madison
Road, Sharp said he had sex with Morris about 4 months before her death,
Pierce testified. Sharp said on the day she died, he had followed a police
car into the neighborhood wondering if something had happened to Morris.
"He said he was intrigued by police work," she said.
Pierce said she and the other investigators thought that was a strange
coincidence. Then Sharp canceled a 2nd interview scheduled for Jan. 12,
she said. He couldn't be found at home or at his usual haunts.
But Jan. 15, Pierce and former police investigator, Bill Payne, found
Sharp hiding under the covers in a bedroom at his father's house. He was
arrested on a charge of capital murder, she said.
(source: The Huntsville Times)
More than 20 capital murder trials on docket
The staggering number of pending capital murder cases in Houston County -
20 - should remind the community that their "hometown innocence is lost
and gone," District Attorney Doug Valeska said.
"I think we're no longer that safe, small town," he said. "We're not that
town where everyone knows everyone and you can just leave your door open."
Valeska, who has been with the district attorney's office since 1981, said
he's never seen this many capital cases pending at the same time. There
are 20 defendants and 22 capital charges pending.
The "overwhelming" number of capital cases coming in doesn't seem the be
slowing down - 3 people were just arrested and charged with capital murder
Saturday and Ray Grace Jr. was convicted of capital murder on Monday.
Circuit Judge Lawson Little said he sees no particular reason why there
are so many capital cases pending but that they seem to come in cycles. He
pointed out that part of the reason those cases come to trial so long
after the arrest is made is that capital cases require more time, and the
defense needs to have adequate time to prepare for the case.
Defense attorney Thomas Brantley, who has 5 capital murder defendants
right now and has defended around 25 in his career, said the court system
is doing a great job dealing with the large number of capital murder
cases. He also stressed the importance of time to prepare for capital
"What people have to consider about capital murder cases is that the
punishment is so extreme and final," Brantley said. "And the law says
there has to be heightened due process in capital cases which takes more
He described Valeska as a "dynamic, excellent and aggressive" district
attorney "which is a credit to the taxpayers and citizens of this county."
That aggressiveness, Brantley said, may be part of the reason for the high
number of capital cases.
"That is something you have to live with down here," he said of death
Little pointed out that the district attorney doesn't determine if someone
is charged with capital murder - statutes do.
And the idea of striking a deal with a capital murder defendant isn't
off-limits, Valeska said, but he said he looks at each case individually
and before he even considers settling a case he first gets the approval of
the victim's family and the law enforcement involved in the case.
Most of the capital cases are "fairly current" and the judges are working
extremely hard to try these cases in a timely manner, Valeska said.
"You can't ram a case through before the defense can properly prepare the
case," Valeska said. "If you do that it can get overturned. And sure, a
lot of time, effort and expense is made to try these capital cases. But I
ask you, 'What's your life worth?'"
The number of pending capital cases would be even higher if the circuit
didn't have the assistance of supernumerary Judge Jerry White, Valeska
said. 3 of the capital defendants are currently on his docket.
"We have a retired judge who works 40 hours a week to help us out because
he cares about the community and about justice," Valeska said. "We are
very lucky to have him."
The addition of one judge within the next 2 years will help with the case
load, Little said.
5 of those 20 capital cases could be cleared up by the end of the year as
they all have scheduled trial dates within the next few months. The next
scheduled capital murder trial is for Antoine Washington on Sept. 11 in
Judge Denny Holloway's courtroom.
(source: Dothan Eagle)
Prosecutor wants Tipton judge out
A state prosecutor, who tried Daniel Wade Moore for the death of Karen
Tipton, is asking the presiding judge in the case to step down when the
defendant is retried.
Assistant Attorney General Don Valeska said the state cannot get a fair
trial under Circuit Judge Glenn Thompson.
Valeska filed a motion in Morgan County Circuit Court asking Thompson to
recuse himself from Moore's capital murder case, which is to be tried a
Moore's attorney, Sherman Powell Jr., said he can't believe Valeska, whom
the judge reprimanded for misconduct, is alleging unfairness.
"How dare him say that he can't get a fair trial when he did not give
Daniel one," Powell said. "That's all we've ever wanted was a fair trial."
Powell received a 245-page FBI report from Valeska 7 months after Moore's
2002 trial and after Valeska told Thompson the FBI didn't assist local
police in the investigation.
Valeska accuses Thompson of being biased and of distrusting him and the
A jury tried and convicted Moore in November 2002 for the stabbing death
of the 39-year-old housewife. Thompson set aside the jury's punishment
recommendation of life without parole and imposed the death sentence.
Later, he granted a defense motion to give Moore a new trial. Then, after
months of reviewing evidence, he granted a defense motion to dismiss the
charges in February 2005.
Thompson cited prosecutorial misconduct as one of the reasons for his
Moore was free 4 days, but the state appellate court ordered him back to
jail. He turned himself in after learning of the order.
The state petitioned the appeals court asking it to order Thompson to
reinstate the charges, and recently the higher court granted the state's
The appeals court ruling stated that "certainly Moore was prejudiced at
this 1st trial, however, we see no indication that the prejudice suffered
by Moore could not be corrected by a new trial."
In Valeska's motion that he filed in Circuit Court, he includes statements
the judge made during Moore's trial and in his ruling that freed Moore.
Valeska states in the motion that Thompson was not neutral and it was
"clearly evidenced by the court's written order granting the motion to
dismiss the indictment."
"In that order, this court specifically and demonstrably articulated its
bias against the state's case," the motion states.
Valeksa states that Thompson tried to dismantle the state's case by
discrediting evidence or deeming it insufficient. Valeska said one example
is the judge discounting the significance and credibility of mitochondria
DNA and "asserted that the state failed to present genomic or nuclear
Valeska quoted from Thompson's ruling that nuclear DNA "would have been
able to identify the perpetrator with a very high degree of scientific
Valeska states in the motion that a state expert witness testified about
nuclear DNA that linked Moore to the murder. He said a hair found on the
victim's bed showed that "Moore is approximately 7.5 million times more
likely to have contributed DNA to the mixture on the hair than unknown
The motion states that the same evidence will be presented during the new
trial, and a trial judge can't be fair when "he has determined that he
disbelieves one party's evidence."
Valeska is asking Thompson to rule on his request for recusal and then
refrain from making other rulings in the case, including a defense motion
requesting him to set a bond for Moore.
He wants another judge appointed to preside over Moore's 2nd trial, which
has not been scheduled.
Powell said Thompson has been fair in the case.
"The judge has followed the law all through the case," Powell said. "He
overrode the jury's recommendation and gave Daniel the death penalty. I
don't know how that could be bias."
A hearing has not been set for Valeska's motion.
(source: The Decatur Daily)
OHIO----new execution date
Cult leader scheduled for execution
Cult leader Jeffrey Lundgren, convicted of killing 5 people in a suburban
Cleveland barn in 1989, is scheduled to be executed on Oct. 10, the Ohio
Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.
Lundgren, 56, was convicted of shooting to death a man, his wife and 3
daughters who had moved from Missouri in 1987 to follow Lundgren's
teachings. He referred to the killings as "pruning the vineyard."
Lundgren had been dismissed in 1987 as a senior temple guide at the
Kirtland Temple managed by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter Day Saints.
He had attracted a following, and several people moved with him to a
rented farm house in Kirtland, 23 miles east of Cleveland, where they
called him "Dad" and contributed money for group expenses.
The victims were Dennis Avery, 49; his wife, Cheryl, 46; and daughters
Trina, 15, Rebecca, 13, and Karen, 7.
On April 17, 1989, the Avery family was invited to dinner, then led to the
barn where they were bound and placed into the pit, where Lundgren shot
each one. The pit was covered with dirt.
Kirtland police found the body of Dennis Avery on Jan. 3, 1990, leading to
the arrest of Lundgren in California on Jan. 7.
A jury found him guilty of 5 counts of aggravated murder with each count
containing 2 death penalty specifications and 5 counts of kidnapping.
Lundgren has exhausted all of his state and federal appeals, said Bob
Beasley, spokesman for Attorney General Jim Petro.
In an unsworn statement at his 1990 trial, Lundgren told the jury that he
and his cult were preparing for the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ, which they
believed would occur at Reorganized Church's temple in Kirtland. He said
the spiritually unclean had to be dealt with.
"I abhorred the sin that was in Mr. Avery," Lundgren told the jury. "I
would say to you that Dennis Avery sought to lead people to false gods. It
has been proven to you that the Averys were found in a pit with stones on
top. The hands of my people cast those stones."
Lundgren said a combination of messages from the Bible told him to kill
the Averys. Cult members had testified that although the Averys were
members of the sect, Lundgren considered them to be less enthusiastic
about the group's beliefs and activities.
Lundgren's wife, Alice, 55, was sentenced to 5 terms of life in prison for
conspiracy, complicity and kidnapping. The Lundgrens were among 13 cult
members arrested in the case. Most lived at the Kirtland farm. Some
pleaded guilty to reduced charges.
(source: Associated Press)
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