[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, USA, DEL., GA., S.C.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Jan 11 10:15:30 CST 2006
TEXAS----female to face death penalty
Florida woman's trial set in South Texas capital murder case
In Wharton, a Florida woman who is 1 of 5 suspects in the slaying of a
Maine man found dead along a rural South Texas road was scheduled to go on
trial next month on a capital murder charge.
Athena Gandy, 23, of Lakeland, Fla., was arrested in June and is being
held in the Wharton County Jail on $500,000 bond.
She's set to go on trial Feb. 27 in the death of 21-year-old James
Junkins, of Biddeford, Maine.
His body was found in a roadside ditch in Wharton County, about 55 miles
southwest of Houston, in February.
Junkins went unidentified for several months until a homeless man,
22-year-old Edward Bachelder, turned himself in to in Portland, Maine,
authorities and said he had witnessed the murder of his traveling
Gandy's trial is 1 of a possible 3 trials still pending in Junkin's death,
Wharton County District Attorney Josh McCown told the Victoria Advocate
for its Wednesday edition.
Bachelder was charged with capital murder and is awaiting trial. Also
awaiting trial for capital murder is Sean Flanders, 22, of Lakeland, Fla.
They are each being held in Wharton County Jail on $1 million bond.
2 other suspects, 22-year-old Tasha Kersey, of Lakeland, Fla., and
27-year-old David Anthony Theriot, of Lexington, Ky., both pleaded guilty
to murder in December as part of plea bargains that resulted in 40-year
sentences for each.
McCown would not comment on whether the 2 convicted suspects will testify
in the pending trials.
(source: Associated Press)
USA----re: federal death sentences
2 Iowans on federal death row appeal convictions
2 Iowans sentenced to death for the drug-related slayings of 3 adults and
two children have appealed their convictions to the Eighth U-S Circuit
Court of Appeals.
Dustin Honken and Angela Johnson were each convicted of planning and
carrying out the slayings near Mason City in 1993. Both were sentenced to
death last year and became the 1st Iowans to receive the death penalty in
more than 40 years.
Besides filing his appeal, Honken was appointed 3 new attorneys to handle
his case. He is currently incarcerated at the federal death row in
Johnson was sentenced last month and her notice of appeal was received
Federal prosecutors say the average length of appeals for federal death
penalty cases is 7 years.
Honken and Johnson were convicted in the murders of 2 federal drug
informants who once peddled methamphetamine produced by Honken. Their
bodies were discovered in 2 graves outside of Mason City in 2000 after
Johnson gave information about the locations of the graves to a jailhouse
(source: Associated Press)
FBI checking prints in death row cases
The FBI is reviewing the cases of all state and federal prisoners
scheduled for execution to determine whether bureau fingerprint examiners
made errors that led to death sentences.
The monthly reviews were first disclosed in a Justice Department report
released Friday. They began 18 months ago, after FBI examiners mistakenly
matched a print found near the site of terrorist bombings in Madrid to a
lawyer in Portland, Ore., said Joseph DiZinno, the FBI's deputy assistant
director for forensic analysis.
The lawyer, Muslim convert Brandon Mayfield, was held as a material
witness in the bombings for 2 weeks. He was released after Spanish police
matched the print in Madrid to an Algerian linked to Muslim terrorists.
The bombings killed 191 people, most of them on commuter trains.
The episode embarrassed the FBI. It prompted the bureau to focus on
fingerprint analyses it had done in death penalty cases, out of concern
that an error could lead a wrongful execution. Since the reviews began,
the FBI has examined at least 92 death penalty cases and found 10 in which
it had analyzed fingerprints, DiZinno said. No error has been found, he
The FBI is continuing to examine death row inmates' convictions at least a
month before their scheduled executions, DiZinno said. 9 inmates across
the USA are scheduled for execution later this month, according to the
Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington, D.C., group that opposes
capital punishment. There are more than 3,000 death-row inmates across the
nation, but it's unclear how many of their cases involved fingerprint
"There is no doubt in our minds about the scientific basis or validity of
fingerprint identification," DiZinno said. "We wanted to ensure we didn't
make a mistake."
He said the FBI also reviewed analysts' work in about 100 convictions for
various crimes in which fingerprints were matched through IAFIS, a
computer system that compares prints of potential suspects to crime scene
evidence. IAFIS, which the FBI says is the world's largest biometric
database, contains prints from 47 million criminals and suspects, plus
millions more people, including former military personnel. No errors were
found in that review, which dated to the system's launch in 1999, DiZinno
Mayfield's prints, held in IAFIS because he had been in the Army, were
among 20 sets of prints the system flagged as possible matches to the
Madrid site, according to the Justice Department report released Friday.
An FBI examiner compared a Mayfield print to one from the bomb site and
declared a match. His erroneous conclusion was confirmed by 2 other FBI
examiners and a consultant. The FBI did not back away from its stance
until Spanish police matched the print to the correct suspect, the report
The FBI review comes as the death penalty is under increased scrutiny.
Virginia Gov. Mark Warner has ordered DNA tests to check whether coal
miner Roger Coleman was innocent of the murder for which he was executed
It also comes amid increased attention to fingerprint analysis.
Fingerprints, long thought to be unique to individuals, have been used in
U.S. courts since the early 1900s. But critics such as Simon Cole, a
professor of criminology at the University of California-Irvine, say
fingerprinting is not backed by sufficient scientific research.
This month, Bruce Budowle, the FBI's chief scientist, called for more
scientific "validation" to improve fingerprint ID techniques. He wrote in
Forensic Science Communications, the bureau's online journal, that there
is "overwhelming evidence" fingerprints can be used to make "reliable
(source: USA Today)
Capano death sentence overturned
Tom Capano's death sentence has been thrown out by the Delaware Supreme
Court, which ordered a new penalty hearing and a resentencing for Capano.
A former state deputy attorney general, Capano was convicted and initially
sentenced to death for the 1996 murder of Anne Marie Fahey.
The justices overturned the death sentence based on new legal
considerations of whether death sentences must be voted on unanimously. In
Capano's case, the jury's 11-1 vote that the murder was premeditated meant
it failed to find Capano eligible for the death penalty "beyond a
reasonable doubt" - just as an 11-1 vote in a criminal trial fails to
result in a conviction, Capano's attorney Joseph Bernstein argued before
the Delaware Supreme Court last October.
The court, however, split on the question of changing Capano's death
sentence to life in prison or picking a new jury, ordering a 2nd, and
costly, penalty hearing and resentencing. 2 of the 5 justices, including
Chief Justice Myron T. Steele, said altering the sentence to life was
appropriate, but the majority ruled in favor of new proceedings.
The court ruled Tuesday, but as is its practice, waited a day to release
"I'm a little disappointed about the new penalty phase issue, but I can't
say I'm surprised," Bernstein said today. Bernstein, who received the
opinion Tuesday evening, said he has contacted Capano, but he would not
say how the former prosecutor took the news.
At trial, prosecutors said Capano killed Fahey, the scheduling secretary
to then-Gov. Tom Carper, in 1996 because she was about to break off their
Although the state Supreme Court turned down a previous appeal by Capano,
Bernstein said the U.S. Supreme Courts 2002 decision in the Ring v.
Arizona case has changed the law. In the Ring decision, the justices ruled
that a jury, not a judge, had to determine whether a case merited the
Bernstein said Capano's case is unique among the death-penalty cases
reconsidered in Delaware since the Ring decision because of the 11-1 vote.
In the other cases, juries were unanimous in their findings about
death-penalty eligibility, he said.
(source: News Journal)
GEORGIA----(death penalty-related issues)
Debutante's slaying splits Savannah----Downtown crime: Response to tragedy
may bring change, but highlights racial, economic divide.
They started coming to St. John's Episcopal Church off Madison Square by 9
a.m. Thursday. By 11 a.m., an hour before the funeral started, mourners
packed the pews and lined the walls. Others spilled onto the street. By
noon, when weeping pallbearers carried Jennifer Ross' casket up the steps,
more than 500 people sat or stood inside and 500 more had gathered quietly
on the sidewalk.
The number of wealthy, mostly white mourners was a solemn tribute to the
popularity of this 19-year-old debutante killed by a mugger. But the
assembly of Savannah's elite in the heart of the city also served a
political purpose, putting the Coastal Empire's politicians on notice that
they want violent crime in the city's historic downtown to stop.
"Crime in Savannah now has a face, and it is the face of a 19-year-old
girl who is the daughter of a friend to many of us," David Simons, a
Republican political consultant, wrote in an e-mail sent last week to
local politicians and business leaders. "The wake up call has been sounded
and we must respond."
The e-mail was seen by many business leaders as a catalyst leading to the
creation of a new anti-crime citizens group called Save Our Savannah.
But exactly whose Savannah is threatened has become an increasingly bitter
point of dispute, hashed out in public meetings and City Council hearings,
on local radio and in the opinion section of the Savannah Morning News.
Slaying touched a nerve
It all started with tragedy.
At 3 a.m. Christmas Eve, Ross was walking with friends through Orleans
Square after leaving a cotillion. The well-dressed children of Savannah
privilege were approached by three black men demanding money. When they
grabbed for Ross' purse she resisted, and one of the men shot her. The
muggers are still at large.
The shooting - which resulted in the young woman's death New Year's Day -
has sparked a firestorm.
What began as outrage over the death of an innocent has degenerated into
an increasingly bitter exchange among political leaders. Anger and bombast
have obscured a family's deep loss, and reopened old wounds in this port
city that has long struggled with race, class and crime.
Simons says the core issue is simply how to stop criminals in downtown
"It's not about black guys shooting white guys, or white women," Simons
said. "It's about freaking criminals out there robbing and stealing with
no regard for human life."
But racial divisions appeared soon after Ross died.
At a recent public meeting about the shooting, 1 white man suggested
building walls around public housing to keep in criminals and posting
video cameras on all city lampposts. In the Savannah Herald, a black
weekly, columnist Michael Porter wrote last week about the shooting,
arguing that the core issue of crime is this: "The 'system' works for
Whites and does not address the true needs of Blacks. ... Are Savannah's
political and business elite concerned about helping to erase or reduce
Political divisions have become apparent as well.
Simons, as well as Jennifer's father, "Rusty" Ross, vice president and
chief legal counsel to Savannah's largest hospital, both have strong ties
to the Republican Party. Helen Stone, a Republican county commissioner,
was Jennifer Ross' godmother.
Both Savannah Mayor Otis Johnson and Chatham County Board of Commissioners
Chairman Pete Liakakis are Democrats.
Johnson has been singled out for criticism by white leaders who say he has
not done enough to combat crime, a claim Johnson denies. Johnson says he
worries racial divisions will undercut any progress on crime prevention.
"We've got to get past the emotional part first before we have a rational
discussion. We aren't there yet," he said. "I am praying every day that we
get there in a hurry, because we are teetering on a brink of it going in
the wrong direction."
'It's a city. There's crime.'
Savannah has transformed its downtown into a beautiful district of
million-dollar homes, high-end restaurants and antique shops. The center
city area's residents and visitors are mostly white. Yet outside downtown,
much of the city of about 130,000 has remained, for the most part,
squalid, poor, crime-ridden and black. Savannah is about 60 % black and
its median household income is below the national average.
Josh Mauser, 19, a sophomore at the Savannah College of Art and Design,
said students get mugged "all the time."
"People fall into a complacency, I guess," he said. "They think 'it's
historic Savannah, how could anything go on here?' It's a city. There's
While crime in the city as a whole has gone down in recent years,
according to police statistics, violent crime has recently spiked in the
downtown area. Across the city, views of the city's violent crime problem
tend to differ based largely upon race.
Carrie Michlig, 29, a white woman who moved to Savannah from a small town
in Wisconsin about a year ago, said she was surprised at the amount of
crime in the city and moved to Pooler, a suburb, for safety reasons.
Standing outside a parking lot only a block from where Ross was shot,
Michlig said black leaders in the city bring up race when they talk about
"When there is a crime, the racism card comes out," she said. "It's
Inga Kahn, a historic district resident who gave her age as "middle," said
she felt safer when she traveled to New York on business than she did in
her home, where she has twice had young men try to break in. "The crime is
just too much for a small, little town," she said.
But violence in the poor sections of town doesn't engender the same
outrage among whites who live in the suburbs or downtown.
Simons said many murders in the poor areas are of little concern to
"We don't really care if a couple of crackheads want to shoot each other,"
Mayor Johnson calls that remark racist. And in the poor sections of the
city, people echoed Johnson's view. Blacks in a run-down section of East
Savannah said crime in their neighborhood does not spark concern from
"When a black person gets killed, it will be on the news, but when a white
person gets killed, they launch special committees to look into the
problem. It makes you wonder," said Vivian Cooper, 55, standing on her
stoop across from what used to be a drug house.
Angel Young, 24, walking down Waters Avenue past empty lots, said her
cousin was killed nearby and police never charged anyone with the crime.
"It's more of an issue when a white person dies," she said.
The differing views among some whites and blacks have political leaders
County Commission Chairman Liakakis said the board was working to keep the
issue of downtown crime from becoming partisan.
"Accusations are not going to solve the situation we have," he said.
No memorial to Ross
So far the board has set about putting county deputies on city streets on
overtime pay to supplement city patrols and fill vacant police posts.
The city is planning to implement more crime prevention plans in coming
months, Johnson said. Since he took office, the council has been working
on a crime prevention strategy paper. Save Our Savannah, the fledgling
group backed by the Ross family and leading members of the city's business
community, last week released its own plan. It has as its first item to
simply "admit we have a crime problem in Savannah," implying city leaders
have not publicly acknowledged the downtown crime.
Other proposals call for the group to monitor crime and raise money to
combat it. The plan also calls for legislative changes to increase funding
for crime prevention downtown.
In a public meeting last week, Johnson and City Council members painted
the group as a Johnny-come-lately on the issue, complaining that most of
the proposals already were part of the City Council's plans.
Such open bickering has sparked divisions in the city that are only
expected to widen as Savannah and the county head toward their next
elections. No one is sure - only a week after she died - how Ross' death
will affect the city's future.
In Orleans Square, where Ross was fatally shot, not even a simple bouquet
of flowers memorializes what happened there. For a city that habitually
marks every tragic event that occurred within its boundaries, from duels
to epidemics, the lack of any marker speaks to the political and racial
sensitivities surrounding Ross' death.
The modest park, blocks from River Street, poorly lit and less ornate than
the popular Forsyth or Johnson squares, has never been a tourist
destination. Yet now Orleans Square - its trees draped in Spanish moss
that waves in the wind like spectral hair - adds its own tragic story to
this haunted city.
(source: Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Defendants in death penalty trial to be tried together
The 2 people facing a death penalty trial in the killing of a Greenville
executive more than a year ago will be tried together, a judge has ruled.
Circuit Judge John C. Hayes III also has ruled the trial for David Wendell
Edens, 35, and Jennifer Annette Holloway, 28, will stay in Greenville
The 2 have been charged with murder in the death of 71-year-old Jim
Cockman. Defense attorneys wanted the trial moved because they said
Cockman, the former chief executive of Sara Lee's PYA/Monarch division,
was too well-known in Greenville County for the defendants to get a fair
Holloway's lawyer wanted a separate trial because her defense might put
her at odds with Edens.
Edens' lawyer wanted the 2 tried together so the prosecution couldn't
emphasize 1 defendant's role at 1 trial, then go after the other defendant
at the 2nd trial.
Prosecutor Bob Ariail wanted to keep the trial in Greenville County and
try both defendants at the same time to not add any more delays to the
The judge has already ruled the trial won't start until at least
mid-April. Cockman disappeared after he was supposed to meet a couple who
said they were interested in buying a car from him.
His body was found 9 days later in a freezer in Sevierville, Tenn., where
Edens and Holloway lived.
(source: Associated Press)
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