death penalty news----TEXAS, TENN., USA, OHIO, MICH., MO.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Jan 9 15:02:15 CST 2006
Death penalty sought for officer shooting suspect
State prosecutors said they would announce Monday afternoon they plan to
seek the death penalty for the man accused of killing a Dallas police
officer in November.
Juan Lizcano, 29, was charged in the fatal shooting of Officer Brian
Jackson during a Nov. 13 gunfight in Old East Dallas.
Officer Jackson was shot under the arm after he responded with other
officers to complaints from Mr. Lizcano's ex-girlfriend that he had
threatened her repeatedly.
Dallas County Assistant District Attorney Toby Shook said prosecutors made
their decision partly due to information uncovered during an investigation
into the murder.
"The state is determined to seek the death penalty in the capital murder
trial of Officer Jackson based on specific facts in the case and the
violent nature of the defendant," Mr. Shook said.
(source: Dallas Morning News)
Yates: Not guilty by reason of insanity----Retrial set for March 20
Andrea Yates pleaded innocent by reason of insanity in the drowning deaths
of her children Monday as she made her 1st court appearance since her 2002
capital murder convictions were overturned.
State District Judge Belinda Hill set a March 20 trial date.
Yates, 41, will remain in the custody of the Harris County Sheriff's
Department until she is retried for the deaths of 3 of her 5 children. Her
attorney, George Parnham, had asked that Yates be sent to Rusk State
Hospital until the new trial.
During her original trial, jurors rejected Yates' insanity defense and
found her guilty for the 2001 deaths of three of the children drowned in
the family bathtub: 7-year-old Noah, 5-year-old John and the youngest,
Evidence was presented about the drownings of the other 2 children --
Paul, 3, and Luke, 2 -- but Yates was not charged in their deaths.
Yates was sentenced to life in prison.
Her convictions were overturned last January by a state appeals court
because of testimony by the state's expert witness, forensic psychiatrist
Park Dietz. He testified that, shortly before Yates killed her 5 children,
television's "Law and Order" series broadcast an episode about a woman
with postpartum depression who drowned her children. No such episode ever
(source: Associated Press)
TENNESSEE----stay of impending execution
Federal judge grants stay of execution to Tennessee inmate
A federal judge has granted a stay of execution for convicted killer
Gregory Thompson as his case is appealed.
Thompson had been scheduled for execution on February 7th. He was
convicted of killing Brenda Blanton Lane, a 28-year-old former newspaper
reporter, with a rusty knife after abducting her from a Shelbyville
Wal-Mart parking lot in 1985.
Thompson's lawyers claim he is mentally incompetent and therefore should
not be executed.
(source: WBIR News)
High court considers when to allow claims of innocence
The U.S. Supreme Court this week will take a fresh look through the eyes
of a condemned Tennessee man at a decade-old gate that stands between an
inmate's claim of innocence and federal court relief.
The question for the nation's most powerful court: Is the gate too high
for an innocent person seeking to escape execution or too low to silence
the guilty who would cry wolf?
The court will examine the issue using the case of Paul Gregory House, on
Tennessee's death row for the July 1985 murder of 29-year-old Carolyn
Muncey in Union County.
House is hoping to convince the Supreme Court that proof, discovered years
later, of his innocence is strong enough to merit federal court relief
despite the fact that he has largely exhausted his appeals.
His case has drawn national media attention and an ally in the renowned
Innocence Project Inc., a nonprofit legal clinic founded by Barry Scheck
and Peter Neufeld that has used DNA testing to exonerate more than 150
The Innocence Project is not directly involved in the House case. Instead,
the group has filed what's known as a "friend of the court" brief, arguing
that the outcome in the House case has far-reaching implications for
What sets House's case apart from those successfully handled by the
Innocence Project is that DNA testing conducted more than a decade after
House was convicted does not clear him of Muncey's murder.
Instead, it undermines - or, as his attorneys argue, annihilates - the
motive for his alleged crime.
Prosecutors had argued that House lured Muncey from her home to rape her
and then killed her after she tried to fend him off. They pointed to semen
stains on her underwear and nightgown as proof.
But Assistant Federal Defenders Steve Kissinger and Dana Hansen later
discovered through DNA testing that the semen came not from House but
Muncey's own husband.
By then, however, House had run out of appeals.
A decade ago, the U.S. Supreme Court erected in a then-landmark case a
"gateway" that would allow a convict claiming innocence but with no
appeals left to get a shot at a federal court review.
House, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a narrow opinion
divided along political lines, had failed to muster enough proof of
innocence to pass through that gateway.
Kissinger contends that the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, got it wrong,
setting the bar too high.
Tennessee Attorney General Paul Summers counters that if the 6th Circuit
erred, it was in setting the bar too low.
Innocence Project attorney David Goldberg argues that the bar itself needs
re-examining in the wake of the widespread acceptability of DNA testing
and its use to exonerate the condemned, some of whom were hours away from
"The time has come for this court to squarely address its significance,"
Goldberg wrote in his brief to the Supreme Court in House's case.
Goldberg is urging the court to set a new standard, one that recognizes
that forensics used before DNA testing was available too often got it
That was certainly true in House's case.
At House's trial, an FBI serologist linked the semen stains to House using
the principles of secretion and blood-typing. Those principles were widely
accepted at the time but have been all but abandoned in the wake of the
pinpoint accuracy of DNA testing.
House's case for innocence does not rest on the semen stains alone.
Kissinger has attacked the other key piece of forensic evidence against
House - Muncey's blood on his jeans.
Kissinger has offered testimony from a forensic expert that the blood came
not from Muncey's body at the time of the murder but from vials of blood
drawn from her body at the time of the autopsy.
He also has produced witnesses who claim Muncey's husband, who has
admitted being an abusive alcoholic at the time of the slaying, confessed
to the killing.
Summers, in his brief to the Supreme Court on behalf of Union County
prosecutor Paul Phillips, calls House's case for innocence smoke and
He concedes what the DNA results show about the semen but contends that
does nothing more than show House failed to carry out a sexual assault.
He labels as flat-out wrong Kissinger's claims that the blood on House's
jeans was either accidentally spilled there or intentionally planted.
Phillips himself has disputed the allegation that Muncey's husband was her
killer, arguing that Hubert "Little Hube" Muncey was investigated and
cleared. Hubert Muncey has repeatedly denied killing his wife.
Wednesday's arguments before the Supreme Court in the House case will mark
the first death penalty issue handled by the court since Chief Justice
John G. Roberts Jr., a Bush-appointee, took the reins.
(source: Scripps Howard News Service)
No justice for the exonerated
You're walking down the street, minding your own business. Suddenly, a
stranger points to you and says, "He did it." Police officers frisk you,
knock you around a bit, handcuff you, and throw you in jail. They tell you
that an eyewitness has identified you as the perpetrator of a rape. Or
maybe a murder.
You're innocent, so you look forward to the opportunity to clear your name
in a court of law. But you can't afford a top-notch defense attorney, so
the court assigns an overworked novice public defender. He drops the ball.
You're found guilty and spend several years in one of the most horrible
settings on this planet.
If you're lucky, maybe DNA or other evidence will eventually surface to
prove your innocence. And maybe the court will agree to admit that
evidence and give you a new trial. And maybe your conviction will be
overturned, and you'll be exonerated.
But there's a good chance that this is where your luck will end. The
nightmare of your wrongful conviction is far from over.
As compensation for the years behind bars for a crime you didn't commit,
the state might give you $10 and a bus ticket. And that $10 might well be
all you own. Studies show that more than 90 % of those exonerated have
lost all of their assets, including savings, cars and homes, while in
Newly free, you try to rebuild your life. But prospective employers often
do a background check, and learn of that conviction on your record. The
state does not automatically expunge the records of those exonerated, and
expungement is an expensive undertaking that isn't always successful. So
you get work where you can, most likely in a low-paying job like
taxi-driving or janitorial work.
Sound far-fetched? Think it could never happen to you? Guess again. I
recently met two men who learned these things the hard way right here in
Pennsylvania. And they are just the tip of the iceberg.
IN THIS country, more than 200 wrongfully convicted individuals have been
exonerated after conclusively proving their innocence. Some were on death
row, and lucky to have had the chance to prove their innocence before
their execution dates.
The system must change. The state must not continue to punish the innocent
after their names have been cleared.
For starters, all states should implement 3 measures:
Expungement: A criminal conviction must not mar the permanent record of an
innocent person. The criminal record should be automatically cleared when
a conviction is overturned. Any records of these cases should be sealed,
and should not be available to potential employers, credit agencies, or
other parties who might do a background check.
Compensation: Currently, only 17 jurisdictions provide those exonerated
with financial compensation. When they do, it is often woefully
While no amount of money could ever make up for the lost years and
suffering of the wrongfully convicted, states should provide those freed
with adequate funds to build a new life.
Social services: Most states do not have social programs in place for
those exonerated, as they do for parolees. If you're innocent, there's
less help for you on the outside than there would be if you were actually
Returning to life on the outside is hard. You often require assistance
with housing, finding employment, and obtaining medical, dental and
These services should be provided by the state, since the state's own
misjudgments were responsible for creating the need.
It's the least we can do. Until these changes take place, our criminal
justice can't be called just.
(source: Philadelphia Daily News)
OHIO----stay of impending execution
Taft delays Spirko execution for 3rd time
Gov. Bob Taft today delayed for the 3rd time the execution of man who says
he's innocent of a 1982 murder. The delay is to allow more time for DNA
Attorney General Jim Petro last week asked Taft to delay John Spirko's
execution, set for Jan. 19, by 6 months to allow for the testing requested
by Spirko's lawyers. Taft's reprieve sets the new date for July 19.
Spirko, 59, was convicted of killing Betty Jane Mottinger, the
postmistress in Elgin in northwest Ohio. She was abducted and repeatedly
stabbed, then wrapped in a tarp and dumped in a field. Her body was found
3 weeks later.
Petro says his office needs time to test hairs found on duct tape wrapped
around the tarp that contained Mottinger's body.
He says his office also will need time to find other potential suspects --
including some whose names came up earlier in the case -- if the hairs are
found to come from someone other than Spirko or Mottinger. Some of the
previous suspects live out of state and Ohio may need court orders to
In November, Taft granted Spirko a 60-day reprieve at the request of
Petro, who said he needed that long to test several items that Spirko's
attorneys want reviewed.
In September, Taft delayed Spirko's scheduled Sept. 20 execution to look
into whether prosecutors presented inaccurate information at his clemency
hearing in August.
(source: Associated Press)
Group Works for Wrongly Convicted Prisoners
A new show on WZZM13 deals with getting innocent people out of jail.
It's a concept not so foreign in Muskegon, where an organization called
"Innocent!" does the same work.
There are no solid statistics on innocent people in jail.
If the government knew who was innocent, those people wouldn't be there.
But it happens and one local man started his own non-profit to try and
make sure the innocent are redeemed.
Doug Tjapkes runs the organization from his one cubicle office in
"It's just tedious time consuming work," Tjapkes says.
He began when Maurice Carter, a man convicted of shooting a police officer
in West Michigan, elicited his help.
Tjapkes fought for years, raising public awareness, lobbying legislators
and holding rallies for Carter's release.
About a year ago his sentence was commuted, although Carter died just
months later of hepatitis he contracted in prison.
A devastating ending for Tjapkes, but one with lessons learned.
"Now we know what did and didn't work, what can and cannot work," he says.
Tjapkes says Carter's case made him realize his calling - to help those
He runs 2 web sites: aboutinnocent.org and prisonet.com; answers countless
calls from prisoners and their families; and, has just finished a book.
He says in a country with such a good legal system, innocent people should
not be going to jail.
"We should not have this type of thing, compound that with the death
penalty and it is not acceptable."
Tjapkes is not a lawyer, just an ex-journalist with instincts and
He says he does not judge people's guilt, but helps connect them to legal
resources and then publicizes the cases if they have legitimacy.
He also visits a lot of prisoners, in fact he became an ordained minister
so he can legally see more than one person per trip, something not allowed
for a normal citizen.
And he advocates for changes to the system, like more DNA testing, better
procedures for police lineups and interrogations and more accountability
for court appointed lawyers.
"We're hoping that these kinds of things help people realize the system is
good but not perfect," Tjapkes says.
Innocent! is currently handling about 15 to 20 cases in various states.
Doug Tjapkes says he expects 2 of those inmates to be released from prison
sometime this year.
(source: WZZM 13 News)
Prison official stabbed by death-row inmate
A high-ranking official at the Potosi Correctional Center was hospitalized
after being stabbed by a convicted murderer who is on Missouri's death
row, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections said Monday.
Names of the victim and the suspect were not released, but spokeswoman
Wanda Seeney said the victim is a unit manager, the No. 3 person at the
maximum-security prison about 70 miles southwest of St. Louis. He was
stabbed several times.
The condition of the prison official was not released. He was hospitalized
in St. Louis.
The stabbing happened Sunday night. Seeney said the circumstances
surrounding the incident were not immediately clear. Also uncertain was
what weapon the inmate used to commit the crime.
The suspect is awaiting the death penalty following a conviction out of
Jackson County for first-degree murder, rape, kidnapping and armed
criminal action. Since the stabbing, he has been placed in a segregated
confinement unit at the prison.
The inmate apparently acted alone, Seeney said. Still, since the attack,
prison officials are limiting activities, and a lockdown may be
instituted, she said.
(source: Associated Press)
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