[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, LA., CALIF., FLA. USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Jan 19 10:24:44 CST 2006
TEXAS----2 new execution dates set:
Execution date set for 2 killers
A Refugio District Judge has set the execution dates for Derrick Frazier
and Jermaine Herron. The men shot 41-year-old Betsy Nutt and her
15-year-old son Cody Nutt at their ranch in Refugio County in 1997.
Both victims were shot in the head several times. Frazier and Herron were
later tried and found guilty of committing capital murder. A jury
sentenced both men to death. Wednesday, Derrick Frazier and Jermaine
Herron found out when they will face the death penalty.
One by one the convicted murderers entered the court room. First,
27-year-old Jermaine Herron then deputies brought in 28-year-old Derrick
Frazier on a wheel chair. Officials said he injured his knee inside the
jail. District Judge Stephen Williams called for Frazier after reviewing
the facts of the case, the he set the execution date for April 27, 2006.
Unmoved by the announcement, Fraizer quietly left the court room.
Next to see the judge was Jermaine Herron. He too received a quick review
of the case then found out his execution will be carried out a little less
than a month after Frazier's, May 17 2006. Herron left the court room and
mumbled to a nearby family member.
District Attorney Michael Sheppard tried the case. He said there are only
2 ways the upcoming execution could be stopped.
"The governor of course always has the right to pardon or commute a
sentence. The Governor of Texas," Sheppard said. "The federal recourse
would be if the United States Supreme Court intervened." Derrick Frazier
and Jermaine Herron will die by lethal injection in Huntsville.
Jerry Nutt, the husband and father of the victims, has been waiting 7
years for Wednesday's ruling. As the 2 men's execution dates were
announced, Jerry expressed no compassion for the killers.
"This is one of the happiest days of my life in the past 8 1/2 years. Only
2 days are going to be better and you know which 2 days those are going to
be," Nutt said. He's referring to the days Frazier and Herron will be
executed by lethal injection. Jerry plans to be there as the 2 take their
final breaths in Huntsville.
"Well the 1st 3 years after it happened, until I met my wife...I was going
down hill. I'm not going to kid you. I didn't do anything," he said. But
Jerry met Jane. They've been married for 5 years. Both said Betsy and Cody
remain a big part of their lives.
"We still have a shrine for Betsy and Cody up in the house. I told her,
'you can take that down we're starting a new life'. She said, 'Cody and
Betsy made you who you are...so they are always going to be part of our
"Betsy and I have actually become quite good friends. When he does
something that is frustrating, I talk to Betsy's picture...I say, 'okay
Betsy you should have straighten him out on this'," Jane said.
Jerry and Jane walked away from the court room a stronger, happier couple,
because the 2 men who changed their lives are scheduled to die in just a
There are now 14 executions set in Texas between Jan. 25-May 17.
(sources: KRIS TV News & Rick Halperin)
Prosecutors plan to seek death penalty for Sinegal
The Jefferson County District Attorney's Office will seek the death
penalty against a Port Arthur man accused of serial capital murder, Ed
Shettle, lead prosecutor on the case said after a hearing Wednesday in
Criminal District Court.
Gary Sinegal, 41, was indicted in November on charges that he killed two
elderly Port Arthur women in April 2005.
Louise Tamplin, 81, and Margie Gafford, 86, both were found dead April 21,
stuffed in closets at their homes.
A trial date of July 31 was set at the hearing.
Defense attorney James Makin and Shettle said Wednesday's hearing was
"There are quite a few pretrial requirements from the law," Shettle said.
"We received clear instructions about what we need to do to comply with
Shettle said although results are back on some of the DNA tests, others
still are pending.
Makin said Sinegal will be tried under the new law that offers the options
of death or life without possibility of parole.
Previously, jurors only had the option of death or a sentence carrying the
possibility that the offender could someday be paroled.
Sinegal's attorneys still are considering whether they will ask for a
change of venue.
The trial should take 5 to 6 weeks, including a lengthy jury selection,
(source: The Beaumont Enterprise)
State should place executions on hold
This month, New Jersey lawmakers voted to halt executions while a task
force reviews the fairness and costs of imposing the death penalty.
Texas should consider doing the same but for slightly different reasons.
The disturbing facts coming out of an independent investigation into cases
handled by the Houston Police Department lab beg for a temporary
suspension of executions, at least until all cases the lab handled are
In a report issued this month, an independent investigator stated the
Houston Police Department crime lab failed to report evidence that might
have helped criminal defendants and found errors in almost 1/3 of the
cases reviewed, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Among the cases in which the investigator found problems are three
involving death row inmates. That is deeply disturbing.
Texas is one of 38 states with a death penalty. At least 13 states have
appointed study commissions.
Texas should do the same.
New Jersey is the 3rd state to move to suspend executions. Illinois and
Maryland have suspended executions on executive orders.
A group of current and former prosecutors is asking the California state
assembly to consider a moratorium.
Texas needs to halt further use of the execution chamber until all the
evidence used to condemn defendants, especially those from Harris County,
is scientifically validated.
There are 410 prisoners on Texas' death row, 143 of them from Harris
County. Some of those cases go back to 1976 and were not part of the
initial review by the independent investigator, which looked only at cases
between 1987 and 2002.
The investigator has now extended his review to include cases going back
The state has good reason to delay the 11 executions scheduled through
April, including 1 set for today.
The integrity of the Texas criminal justice system, which is responsible
for 1/3 of the executions in this country, is at stake. We are not against
the death penalty, but the state must be certain that innocent people are
(source: Editorial, San Antonio News-Express)
Accused killer backs out of plea in Neal murder
Family members of slain blues singer Jackie Neal gathered in court
Wednesday expecting to hear her former boyfriend plead guilty to murder
and accept a life prison sentence.
But at the last minute, after people in the packed Baton Rouge courtroom
had waited almost an hour, James White changed his mind. He turned down a
plea deal approved by Neal's family, choosing instead to go to trial and
face the possibility of execution.
Defense attorney Nelvil Hollingsworth said after court that he does not
know why White chose to go to trial for 1st-degree murder and attempted
"Accepting a life sentence is a difficult thing for anyone," Hollingsworth
Hollingsworth said he gave White advice about the prospect of being
convicted, but said it is ultimately up to a defendant to decide whether
to accept a plea deal.
"We were hopeful to avoid a death-penalty trial," Hollingsworth said.
During a brief hearing, prosecutor Tracey Barbera told state District
Judge Richard Anderson that she would retract the plea deal offer and seek
the death penalty.
"When he walks out of this courtroom, the offer is withdrawn," Barbera
said. "This is not an offer that is going to stay open. From today
forward, we are going forward seeking the death penalty."
Anderson set trial for May 2.
Neal was shot 3 times inside the crowded T'Nails and Hair Salon, 4369
Florida Blvd. on March 10. White, 39, was charged with killing Neal and
wounding her friend Angela Myers.
Authorities have said that after White killed Neal and wounded Myers, he
lay down on top of Neal and shot himself in the chest, but survived.
Neal was the daughter of Baton Rouge blues man Raful Neal and the sister
of musician Kenny Neal. She released 4 of her own CDs.
After the hearing Wednesday, many of Neal's family, some with tears
streaming down their faces, said they are sad that the case will go on but
are resolved to see the legal process through its conclusion.
"We gave him a chance to live out his life," Kenny Neal said after court.
"I don't know that he knows that he hurt all of Baton Rouge, and not just
the Neal family. I wouldn't want to be in his shoes."
Neal's mother, Shirley Neal, said she cant believe White has put her
family through another ordeal.
"I wanted this to be over with," she said. Several members of Whites
family were in the courtroom Wednesday but left without commenting.
Authorities have said White confessed to shooting Neal. Anderson has
already ruled that White's confession can be presented to jurors during
Barbera has said the case is 1st-degree murder because there was a
specific intent to kill or harm more than one person. Authorities said
Myers was shot as she tried to run out of the hair salon.
1st-degree murder carries a penalty of life in prison or death by lethal
(source: The Advocate)
Teen's killer slated to be executed Feb. 21 ---- Michael Morales set to be
3rd in state put to death in 3 months
A judge set a Feb. 21 execution date Wednesday for a Stockton man
convicted of murdering a 17-year-old girl in 1981. It would be
California's third execution in three months.
Michael Morales lost his final court appeal in October when the U.S.
Supreme Court refused to review his case. He can still seek clemency from
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Morales, now 56, was convicted of choking, beating and stabbing Terri
Winchell to death in a remote area of San Joaquin County in January 1981.
Prosecution witnesses said a cousin of Morales, Ricky Ortega, had learned
Winchell was having an affair with Ortega's male lover and asked Morales
to kill her. Ortega was sentenced to life in prison.
Morales' lawyer, David Senior, has said his client is remorseful for the
crime. But he also says Morales was sentenced to death largely because of
a jailhouse informant's testimony that Morales had bragged about the
murder, which Senior says is false.
The federal appeals court that upheld his death sentence in a 2-1 ruling
in October 2004 refused to order a hearing on that claim. They said there
was no evidence to support Morales' argument that authorities had planted
the informant in a nearby cell to extract a confession from him.
Clarence Ray Allen, 76, was executed by lethal injection early Tuesday for
ordering three murders from his prison cell in 1980. Stanley Tookie
Williams, a onetime gang leader who became an anti-gang advocate in
prison, was executed Dec. 13 for 4 1979 murders in Los Angeles County.
Morales' execution date was scheduled by a judge in Ventura County, where
the case was transferred for trial because of extensive news coverage in
San Joaquin County.
(source: San Francisco Chronicle)
Age limit on death row?
Yesterday, California executed Clarence Ray Allen. He had masterminded the
deaths of 3 people from behind bars in 1980. He was 50 when he committed
the crime. He was already serving a life sentence for committing another
Since then, he sat on death row, growing older and feebler. He went blind
and deaf. He ended up in a wheelchair. In September, he suffered a heart
attack and was resuscitated only to go back onto death row. He also had
diabetes. When it came time to face his sentence for his crime, his
lawyers scrambled to claim that he was in no condition to be executed and
that this act would be a cruel and unusual punishment. They also contended
that the years he had served in prison were cruel and unusual. Given the
nature of his crimes, I find that this was neither cruel nor unusual.
Allen had conspired with co-workers in his security business to burglarize
a grocery store owned by a friend, who he had known for years. Allens son
Roger, stole keys from the owner's son, Bryon Schletewitz, as he was out
on a date with Rogers girlfriend. Allen also arranged this. The burglary
was pulled off in 1976, netting $10,500.
Roger's girlfriend told the owners about Allens guilt in the matter. At
that point, Allen had her strangled. After being convicted for burglary,
conspiracy to murder and murder, Allen found himself in prison. This didnt
stop the crime though.
Once in prison, Allen arranged for the murders of 3 of those people who
had testified against him. They were subsequently shot on his order. At
that point, Allen was convicted and sentenced to death.
The lawyers had argued that he constitutes no danger in his current
condition. However, from the previous crime, one could contend that Allen
did not even need to be reintroduced to society to choose the path of
crime. His last crime was committed from behind bars.
To say that his served sentence had been cruel and unusual seems to be
stretching the issue. There are inmates serving much longer sentences - do
they fit under the cruel and unusual clause? What about disabled inmates
that have a longer sentence?
Allen was connected to the deaths of 4 people. The crimes he planned also
wounded 2 more. The death they faced was cruel and unusual. The justice
this act served was not. No matter his age or condition, the fact that 26
years ago he committed these atrocious crimes remains unchanged.
(source: Peter van der Hagen Assistant New Editor, Michigan Technological
Clarence Hill to take appeal to U.S. Supreme Court
Death row inmate Clarence Hill will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to halt his
execution scheduled for Jan. 24, his lawyer said Wednesday.
D. Todd Doss said he would file the appeal Thursday, arguing it would be
cruel and unusual punishment to execute Hill because he has a mental age
of under 18 and Florida's lethal injection procedure can cause pain.
The Florida Supreme Court rejected both claims Tuesday. The state justices
voted 6-1 to deny Hill's request for an evidentiary hearing on the lethal
injection issue and unanimously turned aside the mental age argument.
Hill, 47, of Mobile, Ala., fatally shot Pensacola police officer Stephen
Taylor during a 1982 bank robbery.
He is 1 of 2 Florida inmates under active death warrants. Arthur D.
Rutherford, 56, is scheduled for execution Jan. 31. He killed Stella
Salamon, who was drowned or asphyxiated in the bathtub at her Santa Rosa
County home, where Rutherford had done repair work, in 1985.
The Florida Supreme Court is scheduled to hear an appeal from Rutherford
Doss also plans to ask the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta
for permission to launch a separate appeal in a federal trial court.
The lethal injection argument is based on a study published last year in
The Lancet medical journal. It indicates a painkiller administered before
execution can wear off too early, but inmates cannot express their pain
because they also are injected with a muscle paralyzing drug. The Florida
justices said the study itself acknowledges the results are inconclusive.
(source: Associated Press)
DNA's Weight as Evidence
For years, opponents of capital punishment hopeful about the new tool of
DNA testing focused on the 1992 execution of Roger Coleman, a convicted
rapist and murderer who warned society as he was strapped into Virginia's
electric chair: "An innocent man is going to be murdered tonight." A long
struggle to apply modern DNA testing to evidence unexpectedly preserved in
the Coleman case ended last week with the news that crime-scene DNA had
confirmed the verdict that said Mr. Coleman raped and murdered his
sister-in-law in 1981.
A watershed moment was instantly proclaimed by proponents of capital
punishment, as if the case were the ultimate proof of the universality of
Rather, it was still another proof of the growing reliability of DNA
testing, which has cleared more than 170 wrongly convicted people since
In fact, the Coleman outcome is further evidence that the authorities
should embrace DNA testing as a continuing tool of justice, whatever the
outcome, as Gov. Mark Warner did before he left office in Virginia. Far
too often, state officials wary of soft-on-crime demagoguery fight DNA
testing during postconviction court challenges and tolerate the premature
destruction of evidence in slipshod forensic procedures that undermine
The reassuring value of DNA was demonstrated not only by the Coleman
finding, but also by a largely unnoticed case a few days later in
neighboring Washington. Detectives used Virginia's pioneering DNA archive
to bring charges against the deacon of a storefront church for a rape and
murder that had been unsolved for 22 years. Unpaid interns checking old
cases in a police warehouse found usable DNA in a cardboard box; a match
was found by way of the deacon's 30-year-old robbery conviction in
Virginia, where forensic databases are better preserved than in many other
Sadly, this was far from routine detective work. Washington - called the
nation's murder capital - has no up-to-date crime lab for the
sophisticated testing of DNA. It must rely on F.B.I. specialists and, in
this case, unpaid volunteers studying cold-case files. Many other
jurisdictions are similarly hobbled.
Yet DNA's value as a double-edged sword becomes ever clearer in confirming
innocence or guilt, providing political leaders dare to allow its full
(source: Editorial, New York Times)
Study: men enjoy seeing bad people suffer
Bill Clinton said he felt others' pain. But a new brain-scanning study
suggests that when guys see a cheater get a mild electric shock, they
don't feel his pain much at all. In fact, they rather enjoy it.
In contrast, women's brains showed they do empathize with the cheater's
pain and don't get a kick out it.
It's not clear whether this difference in schadenfreude - enjoyment of
another's misfortune - results from basic biology or sex roles learned
during life, researchers say. But it could help explain why men have
historically taken charge of punishing criminals and others who violate
societal rules, said researcher Dr. Klaas Stephan.
Stephan, a senior research fellow at the University College London, is
co-author of a study led by Tania Singer at the college and published
online Wednesday by the journal Nature.
Singer, in an e-mail message, said the sex difference in results was a
surprise and must be confirmed by larger studies. The researchers said
women might have reacted like men if the cheater suffered psychological or
financial pain instead.
The scientists scanned the brains of 16 men and 16 women after the
volunteers played a game with what they thought were other volunteers, but
who in fact were actors. The actors either played the game fairly or
During the brain scans, each volunteer watched as the hands of a "fair"
player and a cheater received a mild electrical shock. When it came to the
fair-player, both men's and women's brains showed activation in
pain-related areas, indicating that they empathized with that player's
But for the cheater, while the women's brains still showed a response,
men's brains showed virtually no specific reaction. Also, in another brain
area associated with feelings of reward, men's brains showed a greater
average response to the cheater's shock than to the fair player's shock,
while women's brains did not.
A questionnaire revealed that the men expressed a stronger desire than
women did for revenge against the cheater. The more a man said he wanted
revenge, the higher his jump in the brain's reward area when the cheater
got a shock.
No such correlation showed up in women.
Philip Jackson, who studies brain systems responsible for empathy at the
University of Laval in Quebec City in Canada, said he found the sex
differences intriguing and worth following up on.
The overall results elegantly tie together "a lot of things we either knew
or suspected strongly" about how social interaction can affect the brain's
activity, he said.
(source: Associated Press)
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