[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Dec 5 17:08:02 UTC 2006
Human smuggler could get death----Convicted in his 2nd trial over Victoria
deaths, he may be 1st to die under '94 law
Tyrone Williams listened stoically in a Houston courtroom Monday as a jury
brought him one step closer to a possible death sentence for a failed
smuggling attempt that cost 19 illegal immigrants their lives.
In their 5th day of deliberation, jurors found Williams guilty on all 58
federal smuggling counts he faced, including 20 that carry a possible
They will begin hearing testimony Wednesday in a sentencing phase that
will decide whether he becomes the 1st person condemned under a 1994
smuggling law that allows execution even if a defendant intended no harm.
"The jury has to decide whether to save a human being's life, so
everything is on the table," said defense attorney Craig Washington, who
acknowledged that he didn't take the verdict as well as his client did.
Besides the death penalty, jurors can recommend that Williams, 35, be
sentenced to life or that U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal decide his
Williams, a legal Jamaican immigrant from Schenectady, N.Y., was convicted
for his role in a smuggling attempt that led to horrific suffering for
scores of illegal immigrants who had been sealed into his truck's
He abandoned the trailer at a Victoria truck stop after discovering that
some of his passengers had died. Sheriff's deputies found 17 bodies there,
and 2 more riders died at a hospital.
Monday's verdict came in Williams' 2nd trial, which became necessary after
a jury in March 2005 failed to reach a decision. Williams is the 1st
person federal prosecutors have targeted for the death penalty since the
1994 smuggling law was enacted.
In reaching their decision, jurors had only to find that a death resulted
during the violation of the law, not that Williams caused the death. The
counts that could send him to death row include 19 smuggling
transportation counts and 1 smuggling conspiracy count.
Jurors affirmed verdict
After hearing Rosenthal read the verdict, Williams and Washington embraced
for a long moment, as they have several times during the trial. Williams
remained calm and expressionless.
Each juror affirmed the verdict when asked if he or she agreed with the
Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Rodriguez declined to comment afterward.
Washington said outside the courtroom, "I'm deeply disappointed."
He said his client took the verdict better than he did, noting that
Williams has gained a reputation for calmness among deputy marshals and
The defendant may have damaged his own case, however, when he insisted
last month that relatives of the victims who died in his trailer identify
their loved ones in court from gruesome photographs.
His attorney and prosecutors had been willing to agree to the victims'
identities, but Williams insisted on having the relatives flown in from
Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic to make the
identifications. Washington counseled Williams, and Rosenthal warned him,
that the emotions shown by relatives could bias the jury against him.
As predicted, relatives became emotional during their testimony, 1 woman
still sobbing as she left the witness stand and walked out of the
On Monday, Washington rejected a suggestion that the testimony hurt his
Williams also insisted on testifying, against Washington's advice, but
relented at the last minute. Defense attorneys rarely advise clients to
testify because it makes them vulnerable to adroit questioning by
"I don't think anything would have made any difference," Washington said.
Prosecutors have accounted for only 74 passengers who were sealed in
Williams' refrigeration trailer, but defense attorneys estimate that about
100 illegal immigrants were loaded into it on May 13, 2003, in a darkened
field in Harlingen.
Williams was paid $7,500 to smuggle them past the U.S. Border Patrol's
Sarita checkpoint on Texas 77 to Robstown, near Corpus Christi, according
to testimony. From there they were to be taken to Houston in smaller
Desperate attempts to exit
Experts testified that the humidity in the trailer quickly rose to 100
percent, a level at which sweating no longer cools the body. Within the
first hour of the trip, the riders clawed away insulation with bloody
fingers and punched out tail lights in a desperate attempt to get air.
Williams was ordered to take his passengers all the way to Houston after
the drivers of 2 vehicles that were to take them on the final leg of the
trip were detained at the Sarita checkpoint, according to testimony that
After opening the trailer doors in Victoria and seeing the dead including
a 5-year-old boy and his father Williams disconnected the trailer and
fled to Houston. He was arrested several hours later after admitting
himself to Houston hospital, complaining of anxiety.
Autopsies showed the victims died of suffocation, dehydration and
Prosecutors are arguing that Williams should be executed because he
ignored his passengers' frantic pleas for help and banging on the trailer
walls during the 3 1/2 -hour journey.
The defense argues that Williams was unaware that the riders were dying
until he stopped at the truck stop to buy water for them and heard someone
plead for help.
Washington admitted to the jury that his client was guilty of transporting
illegal immigrants, but denied that he knew his passengers were suffering.
He blamed the deaths on a key prosecution witness, co-defendant Abelardo
Flores. Washington said Williams had hauled 17 illegal immigrants on his
only other foray into smuggling, but didn't know how many he was hauling
on his 2nd trip.
Flores testified that he didn't want the riders to see Williams, so he had
him remain in the truck cab with the lights off. Only Flores, who has
pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the government in hopes of a
lighter sentence, knew that there were too many riders, Washington said.
'Vile and heartless'
But Rodriguez, the prosecutor, called Williams "a vile and heartless truck
driver who has no regard for human life." He said Williams could have
saved 19 lives by turning on the trailer's cooling unit, but never did.
Washington, however, called witnesses who said the cooler was turned on
for a short time.
Williams was 1 of 14 people indicted in connection with the bungled
smuggling attempt. Of his co-defendants, 1 was acquitted, charges were
dropped for 1, 1 is in custody in Mexico City awaiting extradition, and
the remainder pleaded guilty or were convicted.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Trucker Convicted in Deaths of 19 Illegal Immigrants
A truck driver was found guilty of all charges Monday and faces possible
execution in the deaths of 19 illegal immigrants who suffocated in his
airless trailer in South Texas in 2003.
Tyrone M. Williams was convicted on all 58 counts Monday in a Houston
courtroom. In a retrial of the nations deadliest human trafficking case,
the federal jury that convicted the driver, Tyrone M. Williams, 35, of
Schenectady, N.Y., begins hearing testimony Wednesday on whether to give
Mr. Williams the 1st death sentence under a 12-year-old "alien smuggling"
statute or a lesser term of up to life in prison.
The milk trailer, piled with bodies and 55 survivors, was found abandoned
at a truck stop near Victoria, Tex., in the early hours of May 14, 2003.
Mr. Williams, a legal immigrant from Jamaica, sat impassively through 58
recitations of "guilty" as the verdict form was read, then embraced his
lawyer, Craig A. Washington. Asked afterward how his client had taken the
news, Mr. Washington, a former Texas congressman, said, "Better than me."
Mr. Washington, whose trial defense conceded Mr. Williamss role as a
smuggler but challenged his awareness of the victims' suffering, said he
planned to put on about 20 witnesses to testify about mitigating factors
in Mr. Williams's history.
The lead prosecutor, Daniel C. Rodriguez, an assistant United States
attorney who had painted Mr. Williams as "vile and heartless," declined to
comment until the punishment phase was concluded. Mr. Williams's 1st trial
ended in March 2005 with an incomplete verdict later thrown out by the
United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Jurors had found Mr.
Williams guilty on 38 of the 58 counts but deadlocked on the others,
including conspiracy resulting in death, a charge carrying possible
capital punishment. Jurors also could not agree on how to answer questions
assessing Mr. Williamss degree of culpability.
Monday's verdict, on the 5th day of deliberations, found him guilty of all
58 counts: conspiracy plus counts of harboring, transporting and
transporting resulting in death for each of the 19 victims. The jurors
also found him culpable as a principal offender, out for "private
Evidence in the trials portrayed Mr. Williams as a milk trucker and
sometime drug courier who had been recruited by a smuggling ring to
transport 60 illegal immigrants on a similar run from the border about a
week earlier and who then took $7,500 to carry a group from Harlingen,
Tex., past a Border Patrol checkpoint in Sarita to a waiting van and
But the relief vehicles became stuck at the checkpoint, and Mr. Williams,
with the trucks refrigeration turned off, was directed by the smugglers to
continue toward Houston.
A companion in the cab, Fatima Holloway, who was traveling along for a
drug deal, testified for the government that Mr. Williams ignored the
banging of his passengers as they succumbed to airlessness, dehydration
and temperatures as high as 173 degrees, finally clawing out a taillight
in a desperate bid to breathe.
The first to die, a survivor testified in English, was a 5-year-old
Mexican boy who expired in his father's arms, crying, "Daddy, Daddy, I'm
dying." 16 more people suffocated before Mr. Williams finally halted the
truck in Victoria, about 100 miles southwest of Houston, and 2 more died
later in the hospital.
How many were crammed into the 18-wheeler remains unclear. The dead and
survivors total 74, but some riders may have escaped when Mr. Williams
unlocked the doors.
The jurors asked to review a particularly graphic piece of evidence: a
videotape from the Victoria truck stop in which Mr. Williams and Ms.
Holloway seem composed while buying 55 bottles of water just as one of
the survivors staggers in pleading for help.
Mr. Williams and Ms. Holloway fled in the cab, and Mr. Williams was
arrested later in a Houston medical center where he had sought treatment
Of 14 defendants charged in the case, Mr. Williams is the 11th to be
convicted and the only 1 to face the death penalty. 7, including
ringleaders of the scheme, have been sentenced to long prison terms, and 3
are awaiting sentencing. 2 had their charges dismissed, and 1 man is a
In the 1st trial, Mr. Washington raised a defense of racial
discrimination, arguing that Mr. Williams, who is black, had been singled
out for execution because of his race. Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore pressed
prosecutors to explain their reasoning and, when they refused, said she
intended to inform the jury.
The Fifth Circuit, in throwing out the partial verdict, ruled racial
questions out of the case and, citing Judge Gilmore's heavy schedule,
reassigned the case to Judge Lee H. Rosenthal.
In what some legal experts saw as a defense misstep this time, Mr.
Williams, apparently against Mr. Washington's advice, declined to concede
the identities of the victims, requiring the government to call relatives
whose grief-stricken testimony clearly anguished the jury.
(source: New York Times)
Texas leads in inmates on federal death row
If the jury that convicted him Monday of smuggling now sentences Tyrone
Williams to death, he would be the 1st person condemned under a 1994
federal smuggling law.
But he would hardly be the 1st federal inmate sentenced to die in Texas.
Since the punishment was reinstated, Texas by far leads the nation in the
number of men and women executed for capital crimes at the state court
level. And 2 of the 3 men executed under federal law committed their
crimes in Texas.
Today, federal death row includes 9 prisoners convicted in Texas the most
of any state, according to the Washington-based Death Penalty Information
Only one of those 9 was convicted in the Southern District of Texas, which
spans the southeastern part of the state from Houston to Brownsville. The
only other person condemned in the Southern District was executed in 2001.
Those are the only 2 other death penalty verdicts sought by prosecutors in
the Southern District since 1993, said Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney
Nancy Herrera, a spokeswoman for the Southern District prosecutor's
office. Both sentences were for men convicted of murder.
The 1st death sentence was handed down against marijuana kingpin Juan Raul
Garza in 1993 for the murders of 3 other drug traffickers in Brownsville.
In 2004, a jury in Corpus Christi returned a death sentence against Alfred
Bourgeois in the shaking death of his 2-year-old daughter.
Washington must approve pursuit of a capital case.
"Before the U.S. attorney may seek the death penalty in any case in which
the death penalty is a possible punishment, the attorney general of the
United States must approved the United States seeking it," Herrera said.
A U.S. Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman said Monday that there are 41 people
in federal custody with death sentences, including 1 woman who is confined
in Fort Worth.
Garza, 44, was executed in 2001, a week after the lethal injection of
Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
Another inmate from Texas, Louis Jones Jr., a 53-year-old Gulf War
veteran, was executed in 2003 for raping and killing a female soldier in
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Killer's appeals run out
Convicted murderer Carlos Granados, 36, has exhausted his appeals and will
probably be executed Jan. 10, Williamson County District Attorney John
Bradley said. The U.S. Supreme Court denied Granados' final appeal Monday
morning, Bradley said.
A Williamson County jury convicted Granados of capital murder and
sentenced him to death for fatally stabbing his girlfriend's son,
3-year-old Anthony O'Brien Jimenez, on Sept. 14, 1998. Granados also
stabbed the boy's mother, Katherine Jimenez, more than 20 times.
(source: Austin American-Statesman)
How minors end up being tried as adults
Area around Ervan Chew Park Ashley Benton was 16 when she stabbed Gabriel
Granillo. But, like many minors, she was quickly certified to stand trial
as an adult. The process raises many questions.
Q: What is "certification"?
A: It's a hearing where the court determines whether a teenager should be
handled in the juvenile or criminal justice system. Certification
guidelines vary from state to state.
Q: Who makes the final decision?
A: The juvenile judge presiding over the hearing.
Q: Who might be certified in Texas?
A: A 14-year-old charged with capital murder or a first-degree felony.
Teens 15 or older who are charged with a 2nd- or 3rd-degree felony or a
state jail felony.
At 17, teens go into the criminal justice system automatically.
Q: How many youths have been certified by Harris County judges in the past
A: Fifty-five were certified in 2004, the same number in 2005. From
January through October of this year, 104 have been certified. The
increase reflects a rise in teen crime.
Q: How does that compare to other places?
A: Judges in Harris and Dallas counties are responsible for roughly half
of all certifications in the state. It's difficult, however, to compare
Texas numbers with other states' because certification policies vary
widely. Certainly Texas is behind Florida. "Your numbers are punk compared
to theirs," says Bart Lubow, with the Annie E. Casey Foundation in
Q: Does certification deter crime?
A: It depends whom you ask.
Yes, according to Bill Hawkins, chief of the juvenile division of the
Harris County District Attorney's Office. "In the mid-'90s, we were
engulfed in a tremendous amount of violent juvenile crime, and the
response was to handle the young criminals in a less kid-glovelike manner.
In the years 1995, 1996 and 1997, we were certifying about 150 kids per
year. Those numbers have dropped."
No, says Lubow. "There's no evidence anywhere that the criminalization of
delinquency has been responsible for a reduction or decrease in juvenile
crime," he says. "This is about vengeance and retribution, not
Q: Is certification good public policy?
A: Citizens of Harris County continue to elect judges who ship certain
juveniles to adult court, and there is widespread support for the
But psychiatrist and pediatrician Dr. John Sargent opposes certification.
He ticks off reasons:
The juvenile justice system embraces the notion of rehabilitation while
the adult system focuses on punishment.
Teens incarcerated with adults are at increased risk of victimization.
Teenage judgment, impulse control and ability to withstand social pressure
all factors inherent in criminal behavior greatly improve with age and
Debbie Garza, chief of staff for the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission
in Austin, also opposes certification. "In my opinion," she says, "the
adult prison system does not have the treatment or rehabilitation services
that juvenile offenders need. A 14-year-old has no business in an adult
prison. And I feel the same exact way about 15- and 16-year-olds."
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Man accused of involvement in a '03 killing will go to trial Monday
The capital murder trial of a man accused of involvement in a 2003 killing
in Randall County began Monday.
Francisco "Frank" Chacon, 31, is being tried in the 47th District Court
for the March 2003 slaying of Dustin Pool, said James Farren, Randall
County Criminal District Attorney.
The trial is expected to last two to three weeks, Farren said. Chacon is
currently being held in the Randall County Jail.
Pool's body was found buried under concrete beneath a Randall County grain
elevator in March 2003, after he was kidnapped, beaten and killed.
(source: Amarillo Globe)
State Bar of Texas Adopts Texas-Specific Version of ABA Guidelines for
Death Penalty Cases According to the November 2006 edition of the Texas
Bar Journal published by the State Bar of Texas, the State Bar has adopted
a Texas verion of the American Bar Association's Guidelines for the
Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases. The
introduction to the Guidelines follows:
On April 21, 2006, the Board of Directors of the State Bar of Texas
adopted the Guidelines and Standards for Texas Capital Counsel. These
guidelines and standards articulate the statewide standard of practice for
the defense of capital cases in order to ensure high quality
representation for all persons facing the death penalty in the State of
Texas. The Guidelines and Standards for Texas Capital Counsel are a
Texas-specific version of the American Bar Association's Guidelines for
the Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases,
as drafted by the State Bar of Texas Standing Committee on Legal Services
to the Poor in Criminal Matters. The adoption of these guidelines is an
important accomplishment for the State Bar of Texas and the criminal
justice system of the state.
Through its research in this area, the committee determined that a clear
outline of necessary defense attorney per-formance standards in capital
cases would benefit not only defendants, most of whom are indigent, but
also the legal profession and the justice system as a whole. As the
guidelines point out, successful representation requires conducting a
factual investigation, often involving highly specialized forensic
science, cultivating a range of witnesses, utilizing mitigation
specialists highly trained in mental health and mental retardation issues,
and making use of a team approach that combines members from several
The committee, which includes defense attorneys, judges, prosecutors, and
public members, determined the need for a comprehensive tool to guide
counsel representing defendants in death penalty cases. To this end, the
committee designed the Guidelines and Standards for Texas Capital Counsel,
which provides detailed practice standards for com-petent representation
in these critical cases.
The committee adapted the ABA's guidelines to fit the needs of capital
litigation in Texas. For example, recogniz-ing that some people facing the
death penalty in Texas are citizens of other countries, a section was
added detailing the additional obligations of counsel representing foreign
nationals in capital cases. In addition, the committee included an
expanded section instructing attorneys on how to adequately investigate
and present a writ of habeas corpus in capital cases.
The Guidelines and Standards for Texas Capital Counsel provide guidance on
the necessary qualifications of de-fense counsel and detail who should be
included on a defense team. They warn that the workload of attorneys
repre-senting defendants in death penalty cases must be monitored and that
attorneys should give priority to death penalty clients. The guidelines
detail the types of training defense counsel should obtain and also
instruct attorneys on funding and compensation matters.
The guidelines then detail the steps counsel must take in trial
preparation, the duty to seek an agreed-upon disposi-tion, and the special
issues concerning the penalty stage of capital trials. The duties of
post-trial counsel, including sepa-rate sections for direct appeal,
habeas, and clemency counsel, are also presented. The guidelines
extensively detail each of these duties, in an easy to understand,
The committee appreciates the support of the State Bar of Texas Board of
Directors in adopting the guidelines and standards. The committee is
confident that these guidelines will elevate the quality of representation
of indigent people, and all people, in capital cases in Texas.
(STATE BAR OF TEXAS: GUIDELINES AND STANDARDS FOR TEXAS CAPITAL COUNSEL:
STANDING COMMITTEE ON LEGAL SERVICES TO THE POOR IN CRIMINAL MATTERS
ADOPTED BY THE STATE BAR BOARD OF DIRECTORS APRIL 21, 2006, 69 Tex. B. J.
966 (2006)). See Representation.
(source: Death Penalty Information Center)
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