[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----KY., ARK., FLA., COLO.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Feb 24 12:28:01 CST 2006
House gets tougher bill on sex offenders----CENTERPIECE OF PENCE'S AGENDA
In Frankfort, a broad bill aimed at tightening Kentucky's laws against sex
offenders and increasing penalties for those convicted of such acts
cleared its 1st hurdle in the General Assembly yesterday.
The House Judiciary Committee, which has taken detailed testimony on the
issue in recent weeks, unanimously approved a revised 101-page version
that removed from the original draft some provisions related to young
But, overall, a representative for Lt. Gov. Steve Pence, who also serves
as Justice cabinet secretary, praised the committee's work. The sex
offender legislation is the centerpiece of Pence's legislative agenda.
"This is a significant step forward," said Luke Morgan, general counsel
for the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. "We're very pleased with their
In general, the edited legislation that now moves to the House floor
streamlines the current statutes regarding sexual offenders to make it
easier for prosecutors.
Among its most substantive changes to the laws are:
. Increasing penalties for those convicted of a sex crime. For instance,
people who commit offenses against more than one victim would have to
serve sentences consecutively.
. Raising charges of possessing, distributing and advertising child
pornography from misdemeanors to felonies.
. Requiring the names of those who plead guilty or are convicted of a sex
offense to remain on a public registry for 20 years. Repeat offenders must
remain on that online registry for life. Each offender must re-register
every two years. And local law enforcement agencies can publicize that
information beyond the Web site.
. Requiring the notification of foster parents if a foster child has a
record of sexual offenses. Also, a minor convicted of a sex offense
couldn't be placed in a home with other children.
The committee did remove a provision from the original draft that would
have required that any minor charged with a sex crime be tried in an adult
court. And the current version of the legislation
doesn't call for the death penalty for people convicted of their second
sex crime or for those who committed an offense against a child under the
age of 12. The original draft included that.
Many of the provisions of that first draft stemmed from a statewide sex
offender task force that Pence's office spearheaded.
"It's not exactly what the (task force) recommended, but it's almost
there," Morgan said.
But Rep. Kathy Stein, a Lexington Democrat, said the removal of the death
penalty and the automatic placement of young offenders in adult courts
makes the bill better and more palatable to a broad swath of lawmakers.
For one thing, county and commonwealth's attorneys already have the option
of charging a minor as an adult for a sex crime, noted Rep. Gross Lindsay,
a Henderson Democrat who chairs the committee.
But Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, said, "There are a lot of people who
believe that we have a lot of, quote, youthful offenders who are doing
heinous acts, and we can't count on the courts to waive them up to circuit
court and try them as adults." Lee said removing that provision weakens
the bill, "but maybe it's the political reality."
He said the legislation still accomplishes many goals.
Before the vote, Lindsay praised his committee members for their work
while admonishing the justice cabinet for waiting until mid-January to
file the bill.
"I am very, very, very disappointed that this bill was not presented
earlier during the interim so we could have had a more thorough
investigation," he said.
Pence, before the hearing, said in an interview that it was important to
get input from different constituents and groups as part of the task force
He said he hopes the bill strikes a better balance between the rights of
victims and those of offenders. Some of the provisions removed by the
House committee could be tacked back on in the Senate, Pence said.
"We'll look at all of our options," he said.
Both sides rest in death penalty case; closing arguments set for today
In a videotaped police interview jurors viewed Thursday, Fernando Navarro
at times seemed evasive and other times willing to take responsibility for
the death of David Edwards, but he refused to implicate anybody else in
the slaying of the 41-year-old Springdale musician.
It was the 3rd day of Navarros death penalty trial in Washington County
Navarro, 24, of Springdale, is charged with capital murder, as well as
accomplice to aggravated robbery, residential burglary and theft of
property in the death of Edwards, who was stabbed, severely beaten and
suffered multiple skull fractures from strikes to the head by a dumbbell
during the late hours of Thanksgiving Day 2004. "Its my fault," he said in
the videotaped interview, adding repeatedly under questioning that he did
He admitted to beating and stabbing Edwards, but did not mention the
dumbbell. Detective Bryan Johnson, who interrogated him, had not yet
learned of the dumbbell and did not ask about it. The interview took place
at about 10:30 p.m. at the Springdale Police Depart- ment on the night
after Edwards death. Navarro had called the station because he was told
police were seeking him, and he then met Johnson for the interview.
During the interview, Johnson brought up the subject of Michael Chavez
Jr., 19, also of Springdale, who has pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder
for the part he says he played in Edwards death. The police interview with
Navarro was conducted before Chavez was arrested, and Navarro would not
implicate Chavez, but he eventually admitted to getting a ride from Chavez
after the incident at the apartment where Edwards was killed.
While Johnson commended Navarro for taking responsibility, he also tried
to get more details about what happened and who else might be involved.
While being interviewed, Navarro seemed subdued at some points and other
times spouted profanities as Johnson questioned him. Initially, Navarro
told Johnson that he and Edwards had been jumped by four Caucasian men and
Navarro was able to get away. He at first said he "borrowed" some items
from Edwards house after the incident, and then he admitted to stealing a
couple of things.
Navarro did not give anybody else up and said he committed the crime
because Edwards had called him racial slurs and owed him money.
Upon questioning by defense attorney Ashley Vailes, Johnson said he did
not believe Navarro was intoxicated at the time of the interview.
The prosecution rested Thursday and the defense put on its defense to find
Navarro not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. Their key
witness was Fayetteville psychologist Ronald E. McInroe, who conducted a
battery of tests, including an IQ test, on Navarro. He testified that he
also reviewed Navarros medical and school records and talked with him.
He said Navarro had significant limitations in English and Spanish, and he
saw that he had been prescribed medication for concentration after being
diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder in California before the family
moved to Springdale.
He also talked about a medical record pertaining to Navarro falling out of
a moving vehicle and injuring his head in California. The CT scan done at
the time did not show a brain injury, but McInroe said that did not
necessarily mean Navarro did not suffer one.
He discussed the IQ test he gave Navarro, which showed he has a 69 verbal
and 78 fullscale IQ. The verbal figure falls within the mild retardation
range, though it was pointed out under cross-examination that, accounting
for allowance for error, it could be as high as 74, which is in the
borderline range between mild mental retardation and low average ranges.
It could also be as low as 65.
He said there was such a discrepancy in the full-scale figure and his
non-verbal IQ of 92 that it seemed to indicate a brain injury or problem
at birth caused brain dysfunction.
At the time of the alleged crime, he said, Navarro lacked the capacity to
appreciate the criminality of his conduct.
He also said he believed Navarro was paranoid and suffered from depression
and anxiety. In his cross examination, Prosecutor John Threet asked if
these things could be due to being charged with capital murder. McInroe
conceded that they could.
McInroe added that Navarro was not "anti-social," but does not necessarily
want to be close to people. He also said he was shy, timid and easily
manipulated, more submissive than dominant.
Threet pointed out the positive things written about Navarro as a student
in terms of his behavior and grades, but McInroe said he made those grades
in special education courses.
Linda Daves, his special education teacher at Springdale High School, from
which he graduated, said Navarro had a learning disability. "I had no
behavior problems with him at all," she said.
After final testimony from Daves, the defense rested. The prosecution did
not offer rebuttal testimony. Closing arguments are set for today.
(source: Northwest Arkansas Timse)
Supreme Court acquits 3-year death row inmate; The Florida Supreme Court
on Thursday acquitted a Collier County death row inmate convicted of
murder on the weight of one fingerprint and one hair, saying the evidence
33 months ago, 12 Collier County jurors unanimously decided the evidence
against John Robert Ballard proved he was guilty of a gruesome 1999 double
On Thursday, the 7 members of the Florida Supreme Court also issued a
unanimous verdict: It acquitted Ballard, concluding the state's case
against him was so weak the trial judge should have dismissed it on the
spot. The sum total of the evidence against Ballard: a hair and a
"We find that the evidence presented is insufficient to support Ballard's
conviction," the Supreme Court wrote.
The state Attorney General's office said Thursday it would not seek a
rehearing in the case.
Ballard, 37, has served nearly 3 years on death row for the murders of his
neighbors, William Ray "Bubba" Patin, 22, and Jennifer Jones, 17. Since
the attorney general won't pursue the case further, Ballard can be
released as soon as the trial judge receives and signs the Supreme Court
Ballard "was very pleased with the ruling today, as was I," attorney Paul
Helm, who handled his appeal, told The Associated Press. "Mr. Ballard has
always said he was innocent of the murders of his 2 neighbors." Chere
Avery, a spokeswoman for the Collier County state attorney's office, said
prosecutors were "disappointed."
Family members of the 2 victims were stunned by the ruling.
"It's like a nightmare," said Hazel Patin of Orange. "12 people found him
guilty. 9 out of 12 gave him the death penalty. The trial judge ruled him
guilty. I cannot understand how the Supreme Court can overturn their
"There is never really any closure when your loved ones have been brutally
murdered, but at least we had peace of mind that their killer had been
convicted and sentenced to death," said Jones' mother, Kami Jones. "I
could understand if he was given a new trial or if they reduced his
sentence, but to just let him just walk free -- I can't even believe
AN EMOTIONAL ORDEAL
Ballard's trial was an emotional, 3-week-long ordeal for Collier County.
The medical examiner observed the couples' skulls had been "crushed like
eggshells" with a heavy, blunt object.
At Ballard's sentencing, according to the Fort Myers News Press, Circuit
Judge Lauren Miller stared directly at the defendant and said, "You have
not only forfeited your right to live among us, but under the laws of the
state of Florida, you have forfeited your right to live at all."
A witness, Ariana Harralambus, testified in the 2003 trial she was with
Patin, Jones, Ballard and 3 other men in their apartment the Saturday
before the murders. Jones, a known marijuana dealer who typically did her
transactions in the bedroom, had more than $1,000 cash at the time,
The following Monday, Jones' car was found in a vacant lot, with blood
traces, hair samples and fingerprints -- none of them Ballard's. The
couples' bodies were found in their apartment, where bloody fingerprints
-- none belonging to Ballard -- were found on numerous surfaces. Ballard's
lone fingerprint was not bloody.
In addition, more than 100 hair samples were taken from the crime scene.
Only one, found in Jones' hand, was linked to Ballard.
The Supreme Court on Thursday declared the state never proved that
evidence couldn't have been left in the apartment during a visit preceding
Abraham Bonowitz of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty said
Ballard will be the 26th inmate released from Florida death row.
"Florida leads the nation in wrongful convictions," Bonowitz said. "This
is one of those cases where Supreme Court scrutiny on the first appeal has
(source: Miami Herald)
DNA confirms victims' blood on Eaglin's pants
In Punta Gorda, prosecutors rested their case Thursday after a day filled
with some of their most compelling evidence against Dwight T. Eaglin, on
trial for the murders of Charlotte Correctional Institution officer Darla
Lathrem, 38, and inmate Charles Fuston, 36.
District Medical Examiner Riazul Imami took the stand at 9 a.m. and
testified that both Lathrem and Fuston died from severe head trauma. As
the grisly autopsy photos were shown to the jury, family members lowered
their heads -- and Eaglin yawned.
Imami said the types of injuries to both victims were comparable with the
damage a sledgehammer -- like the one found under Lathrem's body -- would
Another blow to Eaglin's defense was the testimony of Florida Department
of Law Enforcement Crime Laboratory Analyst Roshale Gaytmenn, who reported
that Lathrem's and Fuston's blood was found on Eaglin's pants. Lathrem's
blood was also found on Eaglin's boots.
Defense attorney Neil McLoughlin asked Gaytmenn if the blood on Eaglin's
pants and boots could have been transferred there from someone else who
may have had contact with Lathrem and Fuston.
"Yes, it's possible if the blood was still wet," Gaytmenn said.
While the blood on Eaglin's pants matched the victims' DNA, Gaytmenn said
the size of the bloodstain where Lathrem's blood was found was small and
mixed with Eaglin's blood.
Lathrem's DNA was also found on the sledgehammer and Fuston's was found on
a shower wall inside of the prison.
Gaytmenn said some of the blood samples found on Eaglin's pants were from
an unknown source.
While McLoughlin tried to dismiss the DNA results, Janet Best, Lathrem's
sister, said she wasn't concerned it would hurt the state's case against
"It's a slam-dunk," she said outside the courtroom.
Eaglin's co-defendants, Michael Jones, 49, and Stephen Smith, 45, also
face two counts of premeditated murder for their alleged roles in the
deaths. The three are accused of beating Lathrem to death with a
sledgehammer and leaving her body in a broom closet, according to court
documents. Fuston was also attacked and died several days later from
severe head trauma.
Eaglin was already serving a life sentence for stabbing a man to death in
1998 outside a topless bar in Pinellas County. All 3 men face the death
penalty if found guilty.
According to court records, Eaglin, Smith and Jones had planned to escape
on the night of June 11, 2003, while they were working a construction
detail at the prison. Lathrem, armed with only pepper spray, was the only
officer assigned to guard the men as they worked with sledgehammers and
The escape attempt failed, and all three men were captured on prison
Perhaps the most damaging evidence of the day Thursday came from Eaglin
FDLE Special Agent Steve Uebelacker testified that on June 12, Eaglin was
brought into a room for questioning and said, "I tried to get the electric
chair before ... I'll make it easy on you ... I tried to kill those three
Eaglin's attorneys tried to get the comment suppressed Monday but Circuit
Judge William Blackwell allowed the statement in his ruling Tuesday.
State Attorney Steve Russell played an audiotape of a conversation between
Uebelacker, agent Andrew Rose and Eaglin following Eaglin's outburst after
entering the room. Uebelacker testified that he read Eaglin his Miranda
rights before turning on the tape and then again while being recorded --
until Eaglin interrupted him and recited the Miranda rights himself.
The tape included the following comments:
"What happened last night?" Uebelacker asks Eaglin.
"I decided to jump the fence," Eaglin replies.
"What about the corrections officer?" the agent asks.
"Come on man ... I'm not gonna talk about that right now," Eaglin says.
On the recording, Uebelacker asks why he made the comments about the
incident before the tape was on, but didn't want to talk about it
"That was before we were on tape," Eaglin says. " ... I don't mind getting
the chair ..."
Uebelacker also testified that he overheard a conversation between Eaglin
and co-defendant Smith while the two were being held in adjacent cells,
via recording equipment.
"Eaglin said, 'Well I'm trying to get the chair, dog,' and Smith said, 'At
least you get a TV,' and then Eaglin replied, 'Yeah, that's what I'm
saying,'" Uebelacker reiterated.
Eaglin's attorneys will present their case today, although they are not
expected to call witnesses. Whether Eaglin will take the stand in his
defense was still unknown Thursday afternoon. Blackwell said he would hold
off on approving jury instructions that include information on a defendant
testifying on his own behalf until the defense says "what they are going
to do" today.
The trial continues at 9 a.m. today at the Charlotte County Justice Center
in Punta Gorda.
Sister says suspect in officer death should face death penalty
The sister of a man accused of fatally shooting an Iowa-born police
officer said her brother should be executed.
"I told my mom, 'I will fight to get him the death penalty,"' Melanie
Schweinhardt told The Gazette newspaper for Thursday's editions.
Police accused her brother, Jereme Alexander Lamberth, of killing officer
Jared Jensen, 30, apparently when Jensen tried to arrest him Wednesday in
connection with a Feb. 2 knife attack on Schweinhardt.
Lamberth was arrested about 90 minutes later after a massive search that
shut down much of central Colorado Springs.
Lamberth, who is on suicide watch, made a brief court appearance Thursday
from jail via a video camera. His next appearance was set for March 6.
Jensen, a native of Davenport, Iowa, was married. He joined the department
in July 2002 and graduated from the academy five months later. Away from
work, police Lt. Tish Olszewski said Jensen loved the stage and started
acting at age 8.
"His degree was in acting, his heart was in acting," Olszewski said. "But
he wanted to make a difference, so he became an officer."
His wife, Natalie, performs at the Country Dinner Playhouse in Denver,
executive producer Paul Dwyer said.
A wake was planned Sunday and a funeral service was planned Monday.
Lamberth, 30, had been paroled from state prison in 2004 after serving
about six years on a robbery charge, court records show.
He seemed quiet and sad when he was released and vowed never to go back to
prison, Schweinhardt said. He got jobs but was frustrated because most of
his pay went toward restitution and random drug tests, she said.
Schweinhardt said the knife attack came after an argument about who was
going to give their mother a ride.
"He started to throw my stuff in the hall, and I told him I was going to
call the police. That made him snap," she said.
Schweinhardt was stabbed 14 times and her brother disappeared.
She said her brother had opened up to her about a week before the
"He told me his worst enemy -- word for word -- is his own self. He was
afraid of himself. He really didn't care about life," she said.
(source: Associated Press)
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