[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, N. MEX., FLA., ILL.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Aug 30 16:12:57 UTC 2006
Frazier's Last Stand----Letter Calls on "Star Power"; Offers Insight into
Last Days on Death Row
As Derrick Frazier prepares for his last days on earth, he remains a
fighter focused on justice.
However, the lack of response after making a public appeals for help
demonstrates the cold heartedness of a blood thirsty justice system and
the callous indifference that many African-Americans have towards those
fellow sons, daughters, brothers and sisters waiting for the grim reaper
to harvest their souls.
Frazier is a 29-year old Black male incarcerated on death row for a crime
facing execution August 31. He is simply asking for protests in major
cities and worldwide against the death penalty and for someone to step
forward and intervene in his case to call for a total review.
"I come to you in hopes that you can help incite the community at large to
get involved and to support true justice," Frazier said in his letter from
death row. "The purpose is to bring total and complete awareness to my
situation in hopes that this will get the government to do the right thing
and that is to review the issue. and retry the case so that a fair trial
can be awarded."
In what perhaps could be his final outreach, he appealed to Black star
power of Oprah Winfrey, Dick Gregory and the prominent activist Martin
Luther King III to step up and help demand the state reexamine the facts
in the case or provide a venue of a fair trial.
"I am asking for your involvement. simply asking for your help," he said.
His hope is that prominent Blacks who have stood up against the death
penalty would once again take to the world stages and clamor for justice.
In that letter to Winfrey, Gregory and King III, he shared information
about his pending execution date and encouraged them and others to review
all information, state's evidence and other comments about the case on his
website at www.hasanshakur.com.
"I have legal proceedings just sitting in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal
Court and a Certificate of Appeal (COA), just sitting in the Supreme
Court," he wrote in his letter from death row. "How do we expect the
Supreme Court to look at my case when they won't even return to the bench
until September? My concern is that I will get a rubber stamp from a clerk
and my case will be swept under the rug."
On June 28, 2006, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused to hear his
case with information that could be the difference between life and death.
Also, other facts and the claims not presented in TDCJ accounts raise
questions in this case, since the conviction is that he was tried by an
all-White jury in Refugio County, the use of a police coerced forced
confession, no physical evidence or DNA was provided in the case directing
linking Frazier to the shooting of the White female and male victim. There
are also questions about the indictment, the lack of mitigation evidence
presented in the punishment phase of the trial and the connection of
jurors and victim family contact during the trial.
Frazier's defense team was also allegedly inadequate because his public
defender not only had mental and psychological problems during the trial,
but also allegedly refused any treatment and later was reprimanded after
the trial. Reports are he is currently on suspension by the Texas Bar
Association for questions regarding his law practice.
Words in his appeal to the public are similar to the words of the late
Gary Graham, who was executed by "Texacutioners" in 2000.
In his last days, Graham was strong and adamant in his appeals for Texas
to end the death penalty.
"This is nothing more that pure and simple murder," Graham said when
making his final statement. "Nothing more than state sanctioned murders,
state sanctioned lynching, right here in America."
Nothing is more important than to "Preach the moratorium for all
executions", he argued.
According to Graham, "We must continue to move forward and do everything
we can to outlaw legal lynching in America. We must continue to stay
strong all around the world, and people must come together to stop the
systematic killing of poor and innocent black people. We must continue to
stand together in unity and to demand a moratorium on all executions."
Frazier continued that same basic argument to the stars and Black
community calling for an end to the Texas death penalty and an end to what
he and others on death row call genocide.
"I am aware that you stand for what is right and understand that you will
not sell your soul for what is not right," he petitioned. "I am asking for
you to help stop the people from just going along with something so wrong
as justice is never served when innocent lives suffer and are taken."
Frazier is making no references to personal fear or talking of last meals,
just thoughts of what could be, should be and what might have been.
He remains strong realizing that the end may be near and hopeful in faith
that someone will step forward and be his true voice. He remains strong
for those fellow inmates that he offers hope and comfort to through his
website and limited contacts.
The question now is what will Black leaders, pastors, advocates and death
penalty protesters do to stop the death of another Black man who is doing
things behind prison walls to demonstrate he is not the man that the
prosecution and TCDJ has described on its website.
Frazier is hoping that people will send strong appeals to Gov. Rick Perry
asking for a stay of execution and to demonstrate the growing number of
people fed up with the killing of African-Americans at the hands of the
(source : African American News & Issues)
Lawyers trying to save life of killer
Ramiro Gonzales' quick conviction for capital murder has his attorneys
angling to persuade jurors to spare his life by accenting the lowlights of
his childhood and the high costs of getting death row inmates to the
Evidence of his dysfunctional family is available within the same law
enforcement building where jurors deliberated less than an hour Friday
before convicting Gonzales, 23.
Among the inmates at the attached jail is Gonzales' father, Jacinto
"Slinky" Sanchez Jr., 44, who's awaiting transfer to prison on a 4-year
sentence for possession of narcotics with intent to distribute, records
Raised by his grandparents, Gonzales reportedly hadn't seen Sanchez for
about a decade before they were reunited behind bars.
His hard luck story hasn't swayed Assistant Attorney General Laura
Baymouth Popps from seeking the death penalty against Gonzales for the
Jan. 15, 2001, kidnap, rape, robbery and murder of Bridget Townsend of
"We're very pleased with the result," Popps said of the guilty verdict.
The sentencing hearing began Tuesday and is expected to go into next week.
Court-appointed defense attorneys Emmett Harris and Lisa Jarrett hope to
show Gonzales isn't a threat to society and deserves mercy because of
mitigating circumstances stemming from his troubled upbringing.
"Ramiro was a throwaway kid," Harris said during a trial break Tuesday.
"It serves no purpose to kill this boy."
They also want Judge Antonio Cantu to let jurors hear evidence about the
cost of future appeals on a death sentence, and how long their client
would spend in jail if they punished him with a life term rather than the
If given life, Gonzales must serve 40 years to become eligible for parole,
Jarrett said, while the total cost of a death penalty case would top $1.5
"Why waste all this county's money on a guy who's not going to get out of
prison anyway?" she said, noting Gonzales is now serving life for the
kidnapping and rape of another Bandera woman in 2001.
Linda Mockeridge, a social worker on the defense team, said Sanchez, who
may testify, told her he didn't know he had a son until Gonzales was about
Gonzales' mother, Julia Saldaa, refused to talk with Mockeridge about
issues that could help mitigate her son's sentence.
Instead, Mockeridge said, Saldaa filed harassment complaints against her
with state licensing agencies.
Kids abandoned by their parents can suffer psychological damage, said
Mockeridge, whose investigation indicated that Saldaa didn't acknowledge
her young son during visits to her parents' home in Bandera County, where
Townsend was killed years later.
The ranch off FM 1077 is also where Gonzales took his second victim, whom
he abducted at knifepoint in September 2001 from her real estate office
and raped. She is expected to testify for the state about her escape from
a cabin on the south end of the ranch in Medina County.
Witnesses on Tuesday included jail guards who described Gonzales as
Former Bandera jailer Cassidy Johnson said Gonzales set fire to a mattress
in his cell in October 2002, days after pleading guilty to kidnap and
assault, and just before he confessed to killing Townsend.
Johnson said Gonzales once told her "he was going to take care of me when
he got out of jail."
Medina County jailer Bobby Ray Evans testified that Gonzales was a bully
who often clashed with female guards.
Jarrett said her client is remorseful for his crimes and has found
religion behind bars.
In a letter sent Saturday to his paternal grandmother, Elena Sanchez of
Hondo, Gonzales sounded oddly upbeat.
"I spoke with Slinky the other day and he's all right," he said of his
father. "As for me, things are good."
The preceding day, Gonzales wrote in attractive flowing cursive script,
"they found me guilty of capital murder. The state is seeking the death
penalty, and the less I can get is life."
(source: San Antonio Express-News)
Play asks: Why can't we stop executing people?
Sometimes when I'm acting, which I do now and again, there's a role that
fits me better than the costuming ever could. Occasionally, if the fates
shine on you, an actor can find him or herself in an ensemble piece that
speaks so deeply that by the end of it all there's not much of you
Such was the blessing of my role in "The Exonerated," which wrapped this
past weekend at the Adobe. Many blessings later, I'm still sorting through
what we accomplished with this piece.
We nailed some folks. Not as actors, mind you. Not even close. This show
was about so much more than performance.
Written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, the play features the real-word
stories of six former death-row inmates who received their freedom after
discoveries of various problems with their case, many times prosecutorial
misconduct. Jensen and Blank interviewed more than 70 exonerees, as they
are known in justice parlance, and basically uncorked a genie from a giant
and ugly bottle.
The long-running joke that all inmates are "innocent," at least according
to themselves, just isn't funny any more.
Fundamentally, the play asks a very compelling question: Why are we
comfortable with the possibility of putting to death people who just may
in fact have been telling the truth the whole time? How is it that the
seemingly insignificant mathematical aberrations don't make us flinch.
Better yet, why do we not scream from the hilltops over it?
Of all the many highlights from the run, I must say the bravery shown by a
woman who attended our last performance this past Sunday will stay with me
forever. During the post-performance group discussion, with 22-year
death-row exoneree Kerry Max Cook joining the cast, she related how she
had always just assumed that if someone ended up on death row, they surely
must have been guilty of something.
Now after seeing it, she isn't so sure.
The play, in essence, had shaken her soul. She wasn't alone.
The death penalty is a tricky deal. As our director, Tish Miller, pointed
out often, there are so many shades of gray on this issue, but one thing
is clear: The system is fundamentally busted. There's no other way to cut
it. People have been killed who were absolutely innocent, but the deck is
so stacked, so impossible to overcome that once the first domino falls,
it's easy to turn our collective heads and hope for the best.
That woman's words echoed with me well after we struck the playhouse, even
up to the point of one of the most bizarre coincidences I've ever
If you caught Sunday night's edition of "Cold Case," a show I've never
seen before, the story line revolved around a working-class black man
accused of raping and murdering a white teenage girl, a zealous district
attorney, and of course, the cold-case crew stitching together the pieces
of an old crime that didn't make sense.
Even without being a TV cop show fan, the episode was riveting. It was
superb drama, punctuated by a sparkling exchange between the accused, who
faced execution in a matter of hours, and a black cop played by Thom
Barry, one of the finest actors working.
With the cell bars between them, the accused says, "We're not so
different. We're both black men and you could be here." The cop replies,
"But I haven't raped and killed anyone," to which the accused replied,
"Neither have I."
Here came the rain and the screen was fairly blurry from that point on.
It's all so primal for me. A deep fear of receiving the same fate as any
other black man in jail, wrongly accused. His death by injection a scene
later, and the revelation of his innocence in the climax sealed the play's
experience for me.
Why do we execute people? Better asked, why can't we stop? I just don't
(source: Gene Grant, The Albuquerque Tribune)
Report criticizes death row lawyer's handling of state office, taxpayer
In Tallahassee, state investigators late Tuesday issued a scathing report
on how South Florida's top appellate lawyer for death row inmates handles
his state office and taxpayer dollars.
A report by the Florida Department of Financial Services and the Florida
Commission on Ethics concluded that Neal Dupree, head of the
Fort-Lauderdale based office of the Capital Collateral Regional
Counsel-South, improperly used more than $100,000 to hire lobbyists,
including one hired as a part-time attorney who never showed up.
The 2 agencies conducted the investigation after several whistleblowers
filed complaints against Dupree, who was appointed by the late Gov. Lawton
Chiles in 1998.
Their investigation delved into trips to Cuba by office attorneys, and
whether the office put an attorney on the payroll weeks before she started
work. Investigators also sought to determine whether Dupree used a
computer purchased with state money and hired 2 Tallahassee lobbyists in
violation of state rules.
According to the report, "management concerns were noted including an
apparent lack of supervisory oversight." State Chief Financial Officer Tom
Gallagher, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, must
decide whether to go after Dupree for the money. If he does and Dupree
doesn't pay, his wages could be garnered by the state.
Dupree, who would only talk with state investigators after being
subpoenaed, could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. His attorney,
Dave Bogenschutz, said they will decide soon whether to appeal to an
administrative law judge or take any other kind of action.
"We take a great deal of issue with all of the findings," Bogenschutz
"We think they have been provided with significant evidence and testimony.
He has given statements. We think he is on firm ground with [lobbyist]
Marty McDonnell. We don't think his office is bound by the [anti-lobbying]
The whistleblower complaints were originally filed with the Commission on
Capital Cases, a branch of the Legislature, which in turn directed them to
the governor's office. According to Derry Harper, Gov. Jeb Bush's chief
inspector general, the issues raised did not fall under the jurisdiction
of his office -- even though Dupree's post is a gubernatorial appointment.
Harper closed the matter and took no further action.
The former employees then brought their concerns to the Department of
Financial Services, the watchdog of state spending, and the Ethics
The state investigation, which began late in 2005, looked into allegations
-- Dupree paid for lobbyists in violation of state regulations. The report
determined that CCRC-South paid $25,847.79 to McDonnell for 9 months work
as a part-time attorney.
"McDonnell never worked as a.attorney and instead successfully lobbied for
CCRC-South to remain open in spite of plans to have the office abolished,"
the investigation concluded.
Dupree also paid $70,500 to lobbyist Allen Higginbotham.
-- Dupree's office inappropriately used taxpayer money for a 1999 trip by
2 CCRC employees who traveled to Cuba through Cancun under the license of
a human rights organization to obtain information on a death penalty case.
Investigators noted that, "management questions remain, including reasons
why Dupree, as head of the office, allegedly did not know his employees
entered Cuba through a third country and why one of his employees was
detained by Cuban officials without him knowing about it until after
investigators asked questions earlier this year."
The investigation also raised concerns that there "may have been" a
violation of state law that prohibits state agencies from traveling to or
doing business with any Western Hemisphere country that lacks diplomatic
relations with the U.S. The employees traveled to Cuba through Cancun.
-- A new attorney began receiving pay six weeks before her first day on
the job. Dupree said it was an oversight and that he recouped the state's
$3,049.83 loss by having the attorney forfeit annual leave. But
investigators said they had no way to verify whether that actually
-- Dupree purchased a computer through his office for personal use and had
the warranty contract transferred to his name at his home.
Dupree told investigators he brought the computer home to do office work
and was told by the agency's technology consultant to transfer the
warranty to where the computer was "domiciled." According to the report,
the hard drive crashed and his wife replaced it. She discarded the state's
original hard drive.
"Without the hard drive, investigators could not determine whether the
computer was used for state business," the report said.
(source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel)
Lake County judge orders third trial in 11-year-old's murder
A Lake County judge on Tuesday cited DNA evidence in ordering a 3rd trial
for a Waukegan man convicted twice in the 1992 rape and slaying of an
11-year-old baby sitter.
Juan Rivera, 33, signed 2 confessions after Holly Staker of Waukegan died,
but his lawyers say new DNA tests exclude him from the crime. Rivera also
has long maintained he was coerced into confessing.
Holly, who had been baby-sitting two children at an apartment near her
Waukegan home, was found dead Aug. 17, 1992 with 27 stab wounds. The 2
younger children were unharmed.
2 months later, Rivera signed two confessions that were used as evidence
in his 1993 trial. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, but
in 1996 an appellate court set aside the conviction and sentence, citing
errors made by the trial judge.
He was convicted at a 2nd trial in 1998 and given a life sentence. State
crime laboratory analysts said at the time that DNA tests on semen found
in Holly's body were inconclusive. But a more recent report showed the
sperm had a genetic profile different from Rivera's.
Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Michael Mermel opposed a retrial,
saying jurors at the 1st trial were told Rivera wasn't the donor of the
semen and still convicted him, the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald
reported on its Web site Tuesday.
Rivera's relatives welcomed the ruling.
"We are very, very happy," said Rivera's half-brother, Miguel Diaz. "We
have a new trial, new hopes and new dreams."
The next hearing in the case is set for Sept. 13.
Illinois' criminal justice system has been haunted by errors and wrongful
convictions. The problems were so widespread that Gov. George Ryan, before
leaving office early in 2003, commuted the sentences of everyone on the
state's death row rather than risk executing innocent people.
(source: Associated Press)
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