[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, OKLA., ALA., S. DAK., US MIL.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Aug 31 22:05:52 UTC 2006
Court OKs probe in Cantu case----Bexar DA stays on the case after judges
reject conflict appeal
The state's highest criminal court refused Wednesday to halt the ongoing
investigation of a possible wrongful execution, leaving Bexar County's
district attorney in charge of the inquiry.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals offered no explanation for its
decision to stay out of the Ruben Cantu case, but its effect was clear:
Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed can continue her examination of
Cantu's conviction for a 1984 robbery, which left one victim dead and
another severely wounded.
Cantu, executed in 1993, has attracted intense scrutiny since last year
when three witnesses, including the shooting victim who survived the
robbery, publicly claimed he was executed for a crime he didn't commit.
Reed reopened the case, but in her previous job as a judge she had
reviewed one of Cantu's appeals and set his execution date. This history
quickly became the focus of a courtroom fight between the district
attorney and Cantu's convicted co-defendant David Garza.
Garza, who claims Cantu was innocent, initially gave investigators a sworn
statement, but was held in contempt of court and threatened with jail
earlier this month after he refused to answer additional questions in
front of a grand jury.
Garza believed the district attorney had a conflict of interest. His
distrust only intensified after two of her top investigators were recorded
on a public police phone line calling Garza a bastard and declaring that
all the witnesses were lying.
As a result, Garza's attorney Keith Hampton asked the Court of Criminal
Appeals to take the investigation from Reed. He wanted the judges to
replace her with a specially appointed prosecutor with no prior ties to
The appeals court refused without issuing a written opinion. Its ruling
left the case with Reed, who has insisted her role as a judge was too
minor to influence the investigation.
"To me, it says our position is vindicated,'' Reed's top deputy, First
Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg said of the court's decision.
Garza's sister, Estella Garza, said she believes prosecutors are unfairly
pressuring her brother. He's already given them a statement and answered
some of their questions in front of the grand jury.
"What more does Susan Reed want?'' she asked. ``They want to see him back
Hampton said the court's decision left Garza with no viable choice except
to answer the district attorney's questions and possibly submit to a
polygraph. In doing so, Garza would re-join a growing list of witnesses.
Prosecutors and investigators have visited in recent weeks with a wide
variety of figures, from the former judge who presided over Cantu's trial
to Garza's older sister who said she barely knew Cantu.
Cantu's father met with investigators on Aug. 24, the 13th anniversary of
his son's execution.
Authorities investigate New Caney toddler's death as capital murder
A 2-year-old girl's death has been declared a capital murder
investigation, police said.
Montgomery County Sheriff's officials began investigating Madisyn
Farrington's death last week after her mother, 27, found her dead in a
bedroom of their apartment on Aug. 20.
Police received the emergency call shortly after 8 a.m., said sheriff's
spokesman Lt. Dan Norris. Autopsy results show the girl died from blunt
force trauma to the torso, Norris said.
Investigators have strong evidence that indicates the girl was killed, he
said. No charges have been filed in the case.
Under state law, the homicide is considered a capital offense, which can
carry the death penalty, because the girl is under age 6.
The toddler's sibling, 8, and her mother's boyfriend, 32, also live in the
apartment, police said.
(source for both: Houston Chronicle)
Hasan Shakur: A Maroon on Death Row
"Whether they murder me or not on Friday, I'm telling you, watch what Ima
do, the ancestors are gonna be proud." Hasan Shakur uttered these powerful
words a few days before he is scheduled to be executed in Texas, Thursday
I am sitting in my rented Chevy Equinox outside of the Polunsky Unit, in
Livingston, Texas. The middle of farm country, there are stables right
next door to the prison, within pissing distance of the electrified fence
and concertina wire. I wonder if they belong to the prison. How much of
this farmland is the prisons? The inmates wear all white here. It is
ghostly figures I see pushing wheelbarrows, carrying rakes through a
manicured lawn with flower boxes shaped like the star of Texas. This place
reminds me so much of the California state prison my adopted brother
Kakamia is in, the town, the hotel I'm staying at, the prison itself, that
I walked into the visiting room expected to see my afro-haloed hermano.
But I guess maybe all prison towns start to look the same.
The processing is the fastest I've ever been through going to a prison. I
have had to wait hours before to be cleared. I do not know if it is this
prison, or the fact that I'm visiting at off times, or the fact that I am
visiting someone who has an execution date set. Set for Thursday. Days are
bleeding away, the 29th is just a breath away from the 31st.
Hasan Shakur, aka Derrick Frazier, aka #999284, is dressed all in white as
well. Visiting is only through glass, and Hasan sits in a cage, the
telephone pressed to his ear. He is as big as I figured he would be. He
stands up to go to the bathroom, sticking his hands through the slot so
they can put the handcuffs on him and he towers over the 3 guards around
But what doesn't come through in the photos on his website is his baby
face. 29 years old now, with a face of a 15 year old. He barely made it to
29, wasn't supposed to make it. His life reads like a text book case of
black ghetto life ("I always felt more comfortable in the ghetto, you
know?" he says, eyes clear as spring water): dad gone, addicted beloved
mother gone, didn't graduate high school, slanging and banging and
hardening his face to survive, and here he sits, for 9 years, on Texas'
death row, dressed in baptismal white. He was reborn here, held not by
heavenly loving hands but by night sticks and pepper spray. Not gently
laid back to be quietly submerged, but head pushed into toilets, and balls
crushed under boots.
Hasan Shakur born out of Derrick Frazier, not through water but a hail of
bullets and billy clubs, child of George Jackson and Angela Davis, Mumia
and Sundiata and all the political prisoners. Grandchild of Nat Turner and
great great grandson of Seminoles and maroon colonies and quilombos. He
takes his heritage serious as a heart attack, induced by a pound of poison
shoved into your veins by the state.
The visiting room is busy today. Yesterday was family day, with his aunt
and grandmother coming in to see him, making a 3 hour drive both ways.
Today is supporter day. Hasan's wife and support coordinator Debbie came
from Canada a few days ago. Ray from the New York-based group the Welfare
Poets came, and me from Philly. Only two people are allowed in the
visiting room for him at one time, so we keep trading off, 2 hours in, 2
hours out, a game of death room musical chairs.
I met Hasan 6 years ago when I helped to found the Human Rights Coalition,
a prisoner family organizing group. It was the brainchild and heartchild
of Russell "Maroon" Shoats, a Pennsylvania political prisoner, former
Black Panther/Black Liberation Army who has served almost 20 years
straight in solitary confinement, never touching another human being
except for his captors. Hasan is also Maroon's heartchild, his adopted
son. "This," Maroon wrote, "this brotha is our future, with his lion's
strength and determination." Hasan wears a bracelet embroidered "MAROON"
around his wrist that twists and turns as he writes and organizes groups
and organizations, concerts and newsletters, campaigns and strategy
planning from a cell the size of a bathroom that has the held breath of
murder in it. Hasan started a chapter of HRC in Texas and serves on our
advisory council. He has given invaluable insight to our planning and
visioning for the organization, and he keeps us grounded. "Wa Wa, I'm a
workhorse," he says with a half smile, "and I'm going to push everyone
around me, if I see someone leaning back, Ima crack that whip." He says I
should be proud of him, because he got 6 hours of sleep the night before,
double his usual dose, which I often nag him about. "Yeah but how many did
you get the night before?" I ask, laughing.
Debbie comes back in and says the affidavits will be filed in court today.
The hope is that these affidavits will win a stay of execution for Hasan.
There is also hope of perhaps getting a stay of execution from the
governor, and an international letter writing campaign has been in effect
since the date was handed down several weeks ago. Hasan was convicted of
killing a white woman and her son in Refugio, Texas. There is a lack of
physical evidence to tie Hasan to the scene. In fact, the main piece of
evidence against him is a forced confession the police illicited from him,
a 19 year old black young man, while in their custody, after a promise
that he would only get 30 years for it. He was found guilty by an almost
all white jury, some of whom had contact with the victim's family during
the trial. He had an incompetent lawyer who was later suspended, and a
questionable indictment that outlined several different theories about the
murders. I said to Hasan that some people, even black folks, still believe
in the inherent goodness of they system, that there are some glitches but
once those get cleared up, it will be back on track. He snorted and said,
"That's where we go wrong, believing that simple shit. The system is on
track. it's on track to ride over us."
But there is still reason for hope. Hasan had an execution date scheduled
for April 27, the day before his 29th birthday. Three days before, the
courts gave him a stay. The prison shut down his visiting the minute the
paperwork was filed, so I didn't get to see him on that trip. This is our
1st time meeting face to face, even though we have organized and worked
together for years. Also, another brotha was released from death row last
week, a new trial won him a different sentence, and since he'd already
spent 20 years on the row, they let him go. Debbie said, "Of course they
got tight restrictions on him, he can do nothing, can't use the computer,
can't leave the house, can't drink. but shit, at least he's home."
But this is Texas, after all, and hope does not grow well in this soil.
When it manages to take root, it is promptly stomped back down. "Our
people don't prepare for the future, you know?" Hasan says, scowling. The
shatterproof glass between us reflects the light from the vending machines
behind the cages, and it looks like Pepsi is written sliding down Hasan's
face like tears, cracked right down the middle. "It took us damn near 30
years to recover after we lost Malcolm. We have to set it up so that
things will continue even if they take us out, cause you know that's what
they're going to do. Wa Wa, just wait, just wait until you see some of the
things I'm going to do. Watch what I'm going to do," he says, smile
showing the 9-year-old face I saw on the internet, little 80s afro and
solemn eyes. "Whether they murder me or not on Friday, I'm telling you,
watch what Ima do, the ancestors are gonna be proud."
Call and fax to Governor Perry and ask for a stay of execution: phone:
fax: (512) 463-1849
2nd Execution Of The Week Scheduled For Thursday
The state is preparing for its 2nd execution in 3 days.
Condemned killer James Patrick Malicoat is to be put to death Thursday
evening at the State Penitentiary in McAlester for the 1997 beating death
of his 13-month-old daughter.
The execution would come after Tuesday night's execution of Eric Patton
for the 1994 murder of an Oklahoma City woman.
Malicoat was scheduled to die last Tuesday but the execution was delayed
by the state Court of Criminal Appeals so he could give a deposition for
the competency hearing of another death row inmate. (source: KOTV News)
Madison jury recommends death penalty for area man
A Madison County jury has recommended that a Huntsville man die by lethal
injection for fatally stabbing a woman with a screwdriver in her home.
Jurors voted unanimously Monday to convict Jason Michael Sharp, 29, who
was on trial for the Jan. 2, 1999, stabbing death of Tracy Morris, 33.
They recommended the death penalty Tuesday.
Circuit Judge Laura Hamilton can accept or override the jury's
recommendation. Hamilton did not immediately set a sentencing date and
ordered a presentencing report, which could be ready in about 2 weeks.
Sharp, who was arrested 13 days after the killing, had been held in the
county jail awaiting trial for 7 years and 8 months.
During the trial, prosecutors told the jury that Sharp raped, beat and
fatally stabbed Morris. Semen stains found on her thigh and on the carpet
in her bedroom contained his DNA, according to the prosecution.
(source: Associated Press)
Page case 'a farce'
A Page family friend, Suzanne Sanduh of Kansas City, perhaps best summed
up Tuesday evening's 11th-hour halt of convicted killer Elijah Page's
execution: "It's a farce."
Gov. Mike Rounds granted Page the reprieve he didn't want when he stopped
his scheduled 10 p.m. MDT execution at 4:45 p.m. because state law
specifies the use of 2 drugs in lethal injection when the state had
planned to use three drugs as is currently practiced nationwide. Rounds
and Attorney General Larry Long said using three drugs violated the law.
We still think Rounds could have allowed the execution to proceed since
the intent of the law is to provide a humane method of execution and the
presence of the 3rd drug is intended to ensure a more humane method than
specified by law. The execution also could have been carried out with just
the two drugs as specified by law.
But Rounds chose to apply the letter of the law and a strict
interpretation of the statute - something that should have been done weeks
ago. If you're going to strictly apply the state's death penalty law to
the letter, shouldn't Long or someone in the Rounds administration have
read the statute and alerted Rounds long ago to the glaring discrepancy
that the governor said forced his hand just hours before the execution?
Even if no one in the administration thought to check the statute earlier,
when the lawyer for death-row inmate Donald Moeller filed an appeal last
week challenging the method of lethal injection, shouldn't someone have
looked it up and immediately advised Rounds?
Someone in Rounds' administration failed to do their job in researching
the death penalty statute. At best, Rounds has been ill-informed and
advised; at worst, he was looking for an out and only decided at the last
minute to take it.
We expect our governor to make tough decisions, and Gov. Rounds has pushed
making this one off to the state Legislature and next year.
The unexpected halt to Page's execution for the 2000 murder of Chester
Allan Poage has upset family members, put Department of Corrections
employees through a pointless exercise and cost state taxpayers thousands
of dollars. Unfortunately, the needlessly chaotic finish to Page's
execution request has shaken public confidence in the state's ability to
carry out the death penalty.
(source: Editorial, Rapid City Journal)
Sister: Delay excruciating, but Page plans no appeals
Elijah Page, the convicted murderer who received a stay of execution that
he didn't want, now faces a mentally "excruciating" stay on South Dakota's
death row, one that he had desperately sought to avoid, his sister says.
Desiree Page says she spoke with her brother just minutes after Gov. Mike
Rounds postponed his execution late Tuesday. She said Elijah Page was
shocked and depressed that he wouldn't be allowed to die.
He had eaten his final meal, his sister said - and prepared for the lethal
injection that was scheduled for 10 p.m. at the state prison in Sioux
Page, 24, was convicted for his role in the murder of 19-year-old Chester
Allan Poage. On March 13, 2000, Page and 2 others stabbed and brutally
beat Poage, who died after hours of torture in Higgins Gulch, about 3
miles west of Spearfish.
Desiree Page said in an interview Wednesday her brother had accepted his
punishment and wanted to forgo years of court appeals and the torment of
living with the memories of killing Poage. She said her brother knew death
by lethal injection could be extraordinarily painful, but he was ready for
"He felt he had nothing in his control. The one time he does, the state
steps in and takes that away from him," Desiree Page, 27, said of her
younger brother. "He was scared, but he had accepted it."
Desiree Page said she learned of Rounds' decision about 6 p.m. Tuesday,
and within minutes her brother called her. She said he vowed to her that
he would not pursue any legal appeals and still wants to die as soon as
the state will carry out the execution.
"He has not changed his mind," Desiree Page said of her brother. "He won't
Citing a discrepancy between state law and the way Page was about to be
executed, Rounds postponed the execution until some time after July 1,
2007, to give the Legislature time to amend the law to match the method
the state Department of Corrections had prepared to use.
South Dakota law calls for a 2-drug method for executions, but Page was
about to be killed using a 3-drug combination, the most common method used
Poage's mother, who planned to attend the execution as a show of support
for capital punishment, did not speak out on the governor's decision, and
she couldn't be reached at her home Wednesday. But in a recent interview,
she said she was prepared for a delay.
Dottie Poage, 51, said if it were postponed, "I'll wait for information on
when it is scheduled again, and I'll go back a 2nd time."
A friend of Page's, the mother of his ex-girlfriend, Pam Guettler, 50, is
upset by the governor's decision and its effects on Page.
"He's in a no-win situation," she said. "The governor did not show any
compassion when he gave this reprieve; it was only because he was worried
the state would be sued."
She said she didn't think Rounds knew how hard it was for Page to be
prepared for his execution.
"I am angry at the governor," Guettler said. "He knew about the law ahead
of time. We were ready for it. We said our good-byes, and he (Elijah) is
ready. I don't believe in the death penalty, but I do believe in freedom
of choice, and the governor screwed him.
"We're keeping him alive for a year just to change a law, and then we'll
have to go through it again."
Others, who support capital punishment, said they were simply
Sitting outside his home near the state penitentiary Wednesday, Jim Selwyn
said he thought the execution should have gone ahead.
"He committed a terrible crime," Selwyn said of Page. "It's a cruel way to
die, but he wanted it."
Selwyn has benches on his lawn, and friends and neighbors often sit in the
shade and debate such topics. On Wednesday, he said, almost every neighbor
who came by said Page deserved to die, regardless of any technicalities.
But those technicalities will nevertheless keep Page alive for months.
Death row inmates are allowed 30 minutes to exercise and 15 minutes to
shower daily. The rest of the day they must spend in their cells.
Desiree Page, who lives in suburban Kansas City, Mo., said her brother had
already parted with the few items he owned: letters from her and other
supporters, legal papers, a shampoo bottle and other hygiene products.
She said her brother reads, watches television and thinks, over and over,
about his execution.
For her, she said, the governor's decision was bittersweet. She wants her
brother to live, but she also does not want him to linger on death row for
"Now he goes back to 23 hours and 15 minutes a day in a cell, all alone to
himself," she said. "Mentally, he's been through a lot in his life, but I
can't imagine how that would be to accept your own death and then have
that taken away."
(source: Sioux Falls Argus Leader)
Death penalty option dropped in U.S. Iraq killing
U.S. military prosecutors said on Wednesday they would not seek the death
penalty for one of eight U.S. serviceman accused of murdering an Iraqi
civilian in April.
Prosecutor Lt. Col. John Baker spoke at a hearing seeking to establish
whether there was enough evidence to warrant a trial against Pfc. John
Jodka, 20, an infantryman who had been in Iraq just three months when the
"It is our position that a capital referral in this case is not
appropriate," Baker said at Camp Pendleton north of San Diego, California.
In that hearing and a simultaneous proceeding against Cpl. Marshall
Magincalda, defense lawyers expressed concern over their clients' ability
to get a fair trial amid wide publicity.
Jodka, Magincalda and 6 others have been charged with murder and other
crimes related to the killing in the central Iraq town of Hamdania.
The death penalty remains an option for the seven other suspects, a
military spokesman said.
The 8 men are accused of dragging disabled, 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim
Awad from his home, shooting him and planting an AK-47 assault rifle and a
shovel next to his body to make it appear he was an insurgent placing a
A number of U.S. military personnel face allegations of murder or abuse of
Iraqi civilians. Other Camp Pendleton-based Marines are under
investigation for the November 19, 2005, killing of 24 civilians in
POLLUTING THE JURY POOL?
One of Jodka's attorneys, Jane Siegel, complained that his right to a fair
trial would be jeopardized by the disclosure of details from written and
videotaped statements by witnesses.
"When the cat is out of the bag, and the bell is rung, there is no way to
get evidence out of a juror's head," Siegel said. "To openly discuss the
contents of the statement will completely pollute a local and national
At his pretrial hearing, Magincalda, an infantryman who has a Purple
Heart, gave short responses to procedural questions from the presiding
officer. He looked around the military courtroom nervously.
Magincalda's attorneys had sought to hold the hearing behind closed doors.
Prosecutors submitted 40 items, including statements from three of the
charged Marines, into evidence. Details were not made public.
Prosecutors submitted similar evidence against Jodka.
"At the end of the day, all they have are unreliable, uncorroborated
statements and no physical evidence," defense attorney Joseph Casas said
in court. "We recommend that you dismiss the charges."
He said there was no DNA connecting the accused with the victim: "What the
government said happened didn't happen."
The defendants in the Hamdania case have been charged with premeditated
murder, larceny, conspiracy, housebreaking, assault, kidnapping and
obstruction of justice. 5 also were charged with making false official
Hearings Begin for Marines Accused of Killing Iraqi
Military prosecutors submitted maps, letters from Iraq and incriminating
statements to military courts Wednesday as they argued that 2 Marines
should be tried in the killing of an Iraqi civilian and its alleged
coverup. Defense attorneys said the government's case is thin.
"At the end of the day, all we have are unreliable, uncorroborated
statements and no physical evidence," said Joseph Casas, the civilian
lawyer for Pfc. John J. Jodka, 20. "What the government says happened,
7 Marines and a Navy corpsman are being held in the Camp Pendleton brig on
charges that they bound the hands and feet of Hashim Ibrahim Awad, 52,
then shot him on April 26 in Hamdaniyah. Prosecutors say they planted a
shovel and AK-47 rifle near his body to make him look like an insurgent.
Awad's neighbors told The Washington Post that he was known as "Awad the
Lame," because he had a metal bar implanted in his leg. They said Marines
shot him 4 times in the face.
Wednesday's proceedings were the first of eight Article 32 hearings -- the
military equivalent of a grand jury proceeding -- that will be held as
prosecutors argue each of the defendants should be court-martialed. They
are charged with murder, kidnapping, assault, larceny, conspiracy,
housebreaking and making a false official statement.
None of the evidence prosecutors submitted Wednesday was made public, and
witnesses did not testify in open court.
The defendants are among 17 U.S. troops charged since March with killing
Iraqi civilians. 3 of this group, known locally as the "Pendleton 8," plus
4 others, are charged with assaulting a civilian in Hamdaniyah on April
10. All of the accused are members of a fire team with Kilo Company, 3rd
Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.
Beginning in April, when the killings of 24 civilians in Haditha came to
light, officers in Iraq have been under orders to investigate every
escalation-of-force incident that led to civilian casualties.
Defense attorneys wanted to close Wednesday's proceedings to prevent the
open reading of defendants' statements. "To openly discuss the contents
[of the statements] will completely pollute the local and national jury
pool," Jane Siegel, another of Jodka's civilian attorneys, argued in
court. "Some of it is very inflammatory."
At least 2 statements are confessions, say prosecutors in the case of
another accused, Cpl. Marshall L. Magincalda, 23. Magincalda is accused of
binding Awad's feet and kidnapping him; Jodka is accused of firing on
The other defendants are Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, Cpl. Trent D.
Thomas, Hosp. 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos, Lance Cpl. Tyler A. Jackson,
Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr. and Lance Cpl. Robert B. Pennington.
All 8 defendants had faced the death penalty, but prosecutors decided
Tuesday not to seek capital punishment for Jodka. They called the death
penalty "inappropriate" for him but did not say why.
(source: Washington Post)
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