[Deathpenalty]death penalty news------TEXAS
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Jan 5 15:26:05 CST 2006
TDCJ: Escapee didn't carry key from death row----X-rays would've detected
anything killer Thompson smuggled, prison officials say
Citing X-rays conducted before Charles Victor Thompson left their custody,
state prison authorities have concluded that the handcuff key Thompson
used when he slipped out of the Harris County Jail did not come from death
row as Sheriff Tommy Thomas and other county officials claimed.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice launched an investigation after
Thomas said publicly that the key was smuggled from death row in
Livingston during Thompson's transfer to the local jail to await court
hearings. The investigation concluded X-rays would have detected any
hidden contraband on Thompson or in his personal property.
"Our investigation did not determine the key came from Polunsky or any
another TDCJ unit," said prison system spokeswoman Michelle Lyons.
"Thompson has been adamant with prison investigators he obtained the key
from Harris County. He said he simply told Harris County he got it from
death row to expedite his transfer."
Based on Thompson's statements to them, sheriff's officials maintain that
the key was hidden in the inmate's toothpaste tube among the personal
items he brought with him from the Polunsky Unit, where Thompson awaits
execution for the 1998 slaying of his former girlfriend, Dennise Hayslip,
39, and her new boyfriend, Darren Keith Cain, 30. Thompson had been in
Houston for resentencing - a Harris County jury affirmed the death penalty
Oct. 28 and was waiting to be returned to Livingston.
"At this point, the only person who knows for sure is Mr. Thompson," Lyons
said. "And he has told us he did not get the key from TDCJ."
Along with the handcuff key, Thompson smuggled in his prison ID card and
civilian clothes, which he used for his Nov. 3 dash to freedom. He was
captured almost four days later in Shreveport, La.
Recently released county documents indicate jail officials learned that
Thompson had the items in his cell 2 weeks before his escape, but a search
Oct. 20 uncovered only the clothing.
Thompson said during an interview from death row last month that he used
his legal binder to hide the items. He did not mention who gave him the
handcuff key, saying he would take that secret to his grave. Chief Deputy
Mike Smith, who oversees the jail, said that as a result of Thompson's
escape he is considering changing the policy that allows inmates to keep
their legal papers inside their cells.
Smith said all policies were reviewed, but county officials determined
that the legal binders would likely be the only adjustment.
"We have policies; they were just not followed," Smith said.
No memo or other notice was circulated to jail employees about the
discovery of the clothes so that guards could be more alert, which allowed
Thompson to smuggle in civilian clothes again, said Richard Cobb, an
attorney who represents former Deputy John Thurmon in his appeal before
the county's Civil Service Commission.
8 days after the Oct. 20 clothing discovery, Thompson again was able to
sneak back to his cell the shirt and pants he wore during his final court
A week later, Thompson escaped, using the state prison ID as a prop to
support his claim that he was a state investigator.
"It seems aggravating to me to hold the person at the bottom of the rung
responsible when clearly it should've been something that management
should've taken care of," Cobb said. "It's absurd they didn't. They
could've put him in lockdown mode or in a number of other different
Sheriff's spokesman Lt. John Martin said the discovery of the clothes
should have been widely known at the jail and that oversight led to the
disciplinary action against Lt. Robert Henry, the highest-ranking employee
to be disciplined. Henry acknowledged the error in his sworn statement.
Henry declined to comment for this article.
7 county employees received unpaid leaves of absence and one a letter of
reprimand, while another opted to retire rather than face discipline. 2
deputies and Thurmon are appealing to the Civil Service Commission.
All of the disciplined employees also must serve 180 days of probation,
during which they cannot work any off-duty security job, their
disciplinary letters state.
Deputy Michael Collins is appealing his weeklong suspension for, according
to records, failing to verify that Thompson's prison badge was indeed
among other personal items collected from Thompson. In his sworn
statement, Collins acknowledged that he did not know whether the badge was
inside the property bag before he sealed it, his disciplinary letter
Sgt. Sean Conrad was cited for failing to provide reports to the
appropriate chain of command after the Oct. 20 discovery of the smuggled
clothes. Conrad, according to his disciplinary letter, was said to have
told another deputy that the discovery of the clothes "was not a big deal
because 'we have found him with court clothes before.'"
Harris County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Danny Billingsley said he
knows of no other instance in which clothes were found in Thompson's cell.
Thurmon has declined to comment through his attorney. Collins and Conrad
could not be reached for comment.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Lawless Disorder----Top 10 crime and justice stories
1) Burn Baby, Burn: 6 Austin police officers and 4 dispatchers were
punished for a stream of inappropriate, insensitive, and callous comments
- beginning with the now infamous "burn baby, burn" - delivered via
patrol-car data terminals during the Feb. 18 fire at the Midtown Live!
nightclub. The upside of the incident, if there was one, was the city's
subsequent public airing of the lack of a social infrastructure for
Austin's African-American community. The city's nascent plans to remedy
the disparity is a question for 2006.
2) Get Thee Behind Me, Reaper: On March 3, federal District Judge Royal
Fergeson overturned the death sentence for Kenneth Foster, sentenced to
die for being a getaway driver in the 1996 murder of Michael LaHood in San
Antonio. Although Foster played no direct part in the murder, the state
sought his death under the law of parties, arguing that Foster should've
foreseen LaHood's actions. Fergeson opined that killing Foster would be
cruel and unusual punishment; the state's appeal is pending. And in
October, nearly seven-and-a-half years after he was convicted and
sentenced to die, Rodney Reed got word that the Court of Criminal Appeals
is sending his case back to Bastrop Co. district court for a hearing on
Reed's claims that prosecutors hid evidence supporting his claims of
innocence in the murder of 20-year-old Stacey Stites.
3) Prosecuting the Prophet: Warren Jeffs, self-proclaimed "prophet" of the
polygamous breakaway sect of Mormons known as the Fundamentalist Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was indicted in June on 2 Arizona state
felony counts related to his arranging a marriage between a 16-year-old
girl and an older, married man. Shortly after the charges were announced
and a $10K reward posted on Jeffs' head, the feds added a count of
unlawful flight to avoid prosecution and dubbed Jeffs 1 of their 10 Most
Wanted. So far Jeffs has avoided arrest, even as prophet sightings persist
- including hints that he may be traveling in and out of the FLDS's
private Yearning for Zion ranch in Eldorado, Texas.
4) Knee Stiffens: The June shooting death of 18-year-old Daniel Rocha by
APD Officer Julie Schroeder renewed allegations of excessive use of force
by APD officers against minority residents. Unlike previous police
shootings, the Rocha case ended in Chief Stan Knee firing Schroeder and
sparked police union allegations of interference on the part of the
Citizen Review Panel and the Office of the Police Monitor. At press time,
an official "fact-finding" inquiry into the leak is ongoing. Schroeder is
appealing her termination, and her arbitration, scheduled for March, will
be a story to watch in 2006.
5) Perry Rues Kid Commutations: In a 5-4 ruling in March, the U.S. Supreme
Court ruled that executing juvenile offenders violates the constitutional
ban on cruel and unusual punishment. In the opinion written by Justice
Anthony Kennedy, the court said that the differences between juvenile and
adult offenders "are too marked and well understood" - like the fact that
children lack the emotional and intellectual development of adults - "to
risk allowing a youthful person to receive the death penalty despite
insufficient culpability." The ruling handed 28 youthful offenders a
ticket off Texas' death row - though Gov. Rick Perry made it clear that
were it not for the Supremes he'd have no moral qualms about sticking the
needle in their arms. "I have no choice but to commute these sentences to
life in prison," Perry said.
6) Electric Peacemaker?: In July, the APD reported a significant decrease
in the total number of use-of-force reports, and an equally impressive
decrease in both officer and suspect injuries since cops were equipped
with less-than-lethal Taser electro-shock guns. Indeed, serious injuries
to suspects declined a whopping 82.4% in 2004, and serious injuries to
officers dropped by 50%. Yet whether the Taser is a wonder weapon remains
uncertain. In September, 33-year-old Michael Clark died in police custody
after he was Tasered three times. At press time, an independent review of
Clark's death by a panel of local medical experts was still pending.
7) Settling for Secrets: After three long years, the city of Austin and
APD Officer Jeff White reached a settlement that closed White's
whistle-blower lawsuit. White sued the city in 2002, claiming he was
retaliated against by former Assistant Chief Jimmy Chapman after White
said investigators should focus on Chapman if they actually wanted to
pursue allegations of criminal activity by high-ranking members of the APD
in connection with the defunct drug-trafficking investigation known as
Mala Sangre. White pushed the envelope further than any Mala Sangre
investigator before him, but the city remains uninterested in airing any
of its Bad Blood laundry.
8) Legal Lynching: Although there was no incontrovertible evidence against
her, on Sept. 14, 40-year-old Frances Newton became the 3rd woman executed
by the state during the modern era of the death penalty, and the 1st black
woman executed in Texas since the Civil War. Lingering questions about the
evidence against Newton had prompted the Texas Board of Pardons and
Paroles to recommend and Gov. Rick Perry to grant a 120-day reprieve in
2004. At least one critical piece of evidence had been contaminated, but
additional evidence favorable to Newton failed to persuade either the BPP
or Perry to again delay her death.
9) Coffey Finally Cleared: In August, APD announced that the U.S.
Department of Justice had, after two years, finally cleared Officer John
Coffey of any criminal wrongdoing in connection with the 2002 shooting
death of Sophia King, a 23-year-old woman with a history of schizophrenia.
The 19-year department veteran will not face federal prosecution for any
violation of King's civil rights; the DOJ concluded there was
"insufficient evidence" to support any charges.
10) Not Exactly CSI: It was an embarrassing year for the Travis Co.
Medical Examiner's Office. An unflattering audit chastised the county for
making the ME do far too much with too few resources. The office fumbled
toxicology results in the police shooting death of Daniel Rocha - finding
first that there were no drugs in Rocha's system, later that there was a
trace amount of marijuana. In August, they misreported that cirrhosis of
the liver caused by alcoholism killed musician Randy "Biscuit" Turner -
until informed that Turner wasn't a drinker, and further testing showed
that the cirrhosis was actually caused by hepatitis C. In August, Burnet
Co. officials asked for a refund of the $1,800 they paid the ME's office
for a June 2004 autopsy that the office botched by misidentifying the
burned remains of an 81-year-old woman as those of a 23-year-old man.
(source: Austin Chronicle)
Jailed Round Rock killer again a suspect -- Fain, convicted of 1994
killing of Austin woman, is linked by DNA to Arlington slaying, police
A Round Rock man sentenced to life in prison in 1995 for murdering Austin
advertising executive Sandra Dumont and dumping her body in a cow pasture
has been linked through DNA evidence to the unsolved 1987 death of a North
Roger Fain, 51, who remains locked up, was charged Tuesday with capital
murder in the death of 41-year-old Linda Sue Donahew, who was found naked,
stabbed and strangled in her Arlington home on June 1, 1987.
She had been sexually assaulted, and investigators took a swab of semen
from her body after the slaying but could not develop a DNA profile from
it, Arlington police said. Cold case detectives reopened the case in
August and used advanced technology to obtain a DNA profile, which they
ran against a database of known offenders and linked to Fain.
They learned that Fain lived in Dallas at the time, that he drove a white
1976 Ford pickup that matched one seen near Donahew's house when she was
killed and that he resembled a composite sketch of a person seen with
Donahew before she was killed, according to Arlington police.
Arlington detectives spoke with Round Rock investigators and found
similarities among the deaths of Dumont, 39, Donahew and Darlene Anderson,
38, of Round Rock.
Fain was never charged with Anderson's death because there wasn't enough
evidence, but prosecutors have said that he remains the prime suspect.
Anderson disappeared around the same time Dumont did, and her body was
found in the same pasture off Louis Henna Boulevard.
The women were all attractive, all knew Fain and each had part or all of
their clothing cut from their bodies, said Arlington police spokeswoman
The June 1994 disappearance of Anderson, a mother of two, touched off a
wave of fear in Round Rock. Her car was found in her driveway and her
purse and credit cards were inside her home.
Friends, relatives and neighbors organized mass searches of open fields
nearby. Fain, a handyman who at one time had dated Dumont, joined in a
search and touched off police suspicions with his inquisitiveness.
"Darlene Anderson's disappearance had a profound impact (on the
community). She's the kind of person you live next door to and I live next
door to," said state District Judge Mike Jergins, who as an assistant
district attorney in Williamson County won the conviction against Fain in
Dumont, who was last seen leaving a part-time job as a card dealer at a
Sixth Street nightclub, was reported missing in August 1994. The bodies
were found days later.
"When they arrested him they pre-empted Oprah and went live with the
arrest story," Jergins said. "It was a big deal."
The trial was moved to Tyler because of publicity about Fain, who had a
history of crimes against women dating to age 16.
Prosecutors presented a circumstantial case with no witnesses or
fingerprints, no murder weapon or confession. Fain maintained his
Among other evidence, jurors learned that Dumont's jaw was broken and that
Fain had surgery for a broken hand around that time. Prosecutors also
presented undeveloped pictures found in Fain's home taken of the field
where the bodies were found.
After what jurors termed 12 stressful hours of deliberations, they
returned a guilty verdict.
Fain is incarcerated at the Eastham Unit in Lovelady, about 175 miles
northeast of Austin. He will not be eligible for parole until 2024.
Arlington police say Tarrant County prosecutors will pursue the capital
charges against Fain, which could lead to a death sentence.
(source: Austin American-Stateman)
Convicted killer wants to pursue insanity plea
He's on death row, convicted of killing a man for car parts. However,
Thursday morning, a murderer is expected to plead for his life.
The victim's mother, Vicki Marin, is outraged because she has learned the
man who shot and burned her son could claim that he is mentally retarded,
and therefore does not deserve to die.
"What about my son? My son was just 20 when I lost him," Marin said.
In 2002, a jury took 20 hours to deliberate before deciding to sentence
24-year-old Geronimo Gutierrez to death for killing 20-year-old Rick Marin
"Its like I have a void in my heart. Yes, he should pay," Marin said.
However, in 2002 the Supreme Court ruled it's unconstitutional to execute
a person with mental retardation, and now Gutierrez's mother is expected
to testify that her son falls into that category.
"So what, now all the murderers are mentally retarded?" Marin said.
Vicki Marin believes in her heart that Gutierrez planned everything from
shooting her son execution style to putting his body in a plastic bag and
burning it, to stealing his car, and torching it after selling the parts
"Why should he go on? Go on living? And a person mentally retarded does
not do what he did," Marin said.
Gutierrez's mother is expected to testify in the hopes of sparing her
(source: KENS 5 Eyewitness News)
Death Row Inmate Claims He's Mentally Retarded; Wants Lighter
Sentence----Gutierrez Was Convicted Of Killing Man During Carjacking
A death row inmate from San Antonio claims he is mentally retarded and
therefore should receive a lighter sentence.
Attorneys for Geronimo Gutierrez argued in court Thursday that their
client scored a 70 in an IQ test, which categorizes him as mildly mentally
But prosecutors argued that the score has a margin of error which could
put Gutierrez out of the mental retardation range.
Gutierrez was convicted of capital murder in April 2002 of killing Rich
Marin during a carjacking in June 1999.
Trial testimony revealed that Gutierrez shot Marin 5 times and then set
his body and his Ford Mustang on fire and dumped the vehicle on a South
Testimony in the hearing was expected to continue Thursday afternoon.
(source: KSAT news)
Victim says DNA issues don't matter in his case
Once again, there are serious questions about DNA evidence from the
Houston police department Crime Laboratory.
Those questions could lead to new trials for some prisoners.
John Priddy will never forget December 17, 1997.
He's tried a few times, but that night just keeps surfacing.
"Every time I see his name or face on TV it makes me really upset. It just
makes my skin crawl that they are trying to work with this man," Priddy
The man he is referring to is Franklin Dewayne Alix.
He is a man police say shot and killed at least 4 people that year, robbed
dozens of others, sexually assaulted women and shot 2 security guards.
One of the guards was Priddy.
Priddy was shot at point-blank range in the face and has been in and out
of hospitals ever since.
"I just had recent surgery on my eye not a month-and-a-half ago. It's
something I have got to live with the rest of my life. I am not ever going
to be the same," Priddy said.
Priddy was one of the key witnesses who sent Alix to death row. But now
Alix has some new hope, now that the crime lab's old cases are being
reviewed. There has been some question about the DNA collected back then.
"As far as I am concerned, I don't care what the DNA testing says. They
proved him guilty. They had all kind of evidence brought against him that
you didn't need DNA testing," Priddy said.
11 News visited with Alix on death row last year.
"I don't think I am going to get out, you know what I am saying? That
ain't what I am looking for. I know that is not possible. I am looking for
the truth to come out," said Alix.
Alix says the truth is that he didn't rape anyone and that he only killed
one person. But many witnesses have different stories to tell, like John
Priddy, who saw him face-to-face.
Alix's attorney, Robert Rosenberg, told 11 News in 2003 that the DNA
evidence swayed jurors to give his client the death penalty and that
because of the discrepancies in the retests, Alix should receive a new
But the Harris County DA's office is confident that won't happen.
(source: KHOU News)
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