[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----TEXAS, CONN., ALA., OHIO
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Jan 25 18:51:43 CST 2006
1st Texas inmate put to death this year
An Alabama man who was part of a ring that shuttled drugs from Texas to
his home state was executed today for the slayings of four people in
Houston nearly 14 years ago.
When asked by a warden if he had any final statement, Marion Dudley did
not respond, kept his eyes closed and never turned his head toward
witnesses in the chamber, which included one of his survivors and
relatives of one of the people killed.
8 minutes later at 6:16 p.m. CST, he was pronounced dead.
Dudley, 33, of Tuscaloosa, Ala., had said he wasn't at the house the night
of June 20, 1992, where 6 people were shot, 4 of them fatally, in what
authorities said was a drug dealer ripoff.
Dudley, who had record in his home state for burglary, assault, receiving
stolen property and violating probation, was the 1st Texas inmate put to
death this year.
19 convicted killers were executed in 2005 as Texas maintained its
notoriety as the nation's most active capital punishment state. Another
inmate is set for lethal injection next week and three more next month.
They are among more than a dozen Texas prisoners with execution dates in
the 1st 5 months of this year.
Dudley's lawyer had hoped the U.S. Supreme Court would stop his
punishment, arguing prosecutors improperly withheld from defense attorneys
at his capital murder trial a letter to Alabama parole officials regarding
an inmate from that state who testified against Dudley.
Attorney Ken McLean, however, said he wasn't optimistic.
"Absolutely, it's a reach," he said. "But if it's the only thing you've
A few hours before his scheduled execution time, the high court rejected
The 2 survivors identified the then 20-year-old Dudley as 1 of the 3
gunmen who barged into the home of Jose Tovar, 32, and his wife, Rachel,
In a recent interview on death row, Dudley said they were wrong.
"I was not," he said.
Jose Tovar was fatally shot in the head, as were his wife's son, Frank
Farias, 17; Farias' girlfriend, Jessica Quinones, 19, who was 7 months
pregnant; and a neighbor Audrey Brown, 21, who had just stopped by to
visit. Rachel Tovar and another friend, Nicholas Cortez, 22 at the time,
All the victims were bound with towels or strips of sheets, hands tied
behind their backs and nooses around their necks. Rachel Tovar managed to
crawl to a neighbor's house for help.
Besides Dudley, Arthur "Squirt" Brown, of Tuscaloosa, was convicted of
capital murder and sentenced to death. Now 35, he remains on death row. A
3rd man, Tony Dunson, also from Alabama and 19 at the time of the
shootings, received a life sentence.
Police said the 3 previously had been at the Tovar house to buy drugs and
knew drugs and money were there. Brown ran the ring that for nine months
had been moving marijuana and cocaine from Houston to Tuscaloosa,
A mini-van used as the getaway vehicle was recovered in the Alabama city,
where evidence showed they bought a new Jeep SUV with cash, eventually
traveling to Louisville, Ky., and Columbus, Ohio. About 2 1/2 weeks after
the shootings, Dudley and Dunson were arrested in Fayetteville, N.C.
"My number one problem was women," Dudley said from death row. "I was
running around. Everything went downhill from there... I just wanted to
get money, easy money. And once you start getting easy money, it's so hard
to slow down."
Dudley becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
Texas and the356th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on
December 7, 1972.
Dudley becomes the 117th condemned inmate to be put to death since Rick
Perry became governor in 2001. Dudley becomes the 86th condemned inmate to
be put to death from Harris County. That represents the 2nd highest total
of executions from any single jurisdiction in the country, as only the
entire state of Virginia has more (94.)
Dudley becomes the 3rd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
the USA and the 1007th overall since the nation resumed executions on
January 17, 1977.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
State death penalty opponents watching Florida case
Serial killer Michael Ross worried he might feel pain while being executed
last year, reading numerous studies about lethal injection and haggling
with state officials about the amount of sedative he would receive.
In the end, his attorney said Wednesday, Ross was convinced that the
sedative would be strong enough and he went willingly to his execution -
even as Connecticut death penalty opponents raised similar concerns in an
attempt to save his life.
Now, concerns about potential pain caused by lethal injection are part of
a Florida death row inmate's case headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The court agreed Wednesday to hear the case of 48-year-old convicted
murderer Clarence Hill, who argues that an appeals court improperly denied
him the chance to fight the lethal injection process.
Connecticut death penalty opponents are closely watching the case because
it could have ramifications here.
"Of course there are implications, for the death penalty and death row
inmates in all states, when the Supreme Court of the land hears such a
case," said Jim Morgan, a spokesman for the Connecticut Conference of the
United Church of Christ.
The Supreme Court has never found a specific form of execution to be cruel
and unusual punishment, and the Florida case does not give court members
that opportunity. The justices could, however, spell out what options are
available to inmates with last-minute challenges to the way they will be
put to death.
Ross, who admitted killing eight women in Connecticut and New York in the
1980s, was less concerned about the legal aspects of his execution than
whether he would be adequately sedated, attorney T.R. Paulding said
"The issue was private at the time, but we went back and forth with the
Department of Corrections about the dosage of that first injection,"
Paulding said. "He felt based on everything that he'd read that he was
going to be OK.
"He didn't want to make it a legal issue, but he certainly did want me to
raise it with DOC," Paulding said.
Ross was fatally injected on May 13, 2005, with a sedative called
thiopental sodium, a paralyzing agent called pancuronium bromide to stop
his breathing and a dose of potassium chloride to stop his heart.
Ross was the 1st person executed in New England in 45 years, even as death
penalty opponents fought to block the execution. Some of those opponents
said Wednesday that they are keeping an eye on the Florida case.
"What impact a decision would have in Connecticut is really unclear, but
we're always looking for good case law," said Roger C. Vann, executive
director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, which
advocates for a repeal of the state's death penalty law.
"Any way we can chip away at the issue is a good thing," Vann said.
The legal arm of the Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ
also remains in a legal fight with state officials over the death penalty,
specifically whether the Board of Pardons and Paroles has an adequate
appeals process for death row inmates.
Morgan said the conference's legal arm, the Missionary Society of
Connecticut, argued its case on Jan. 11 before the state Supreme Court,
although questions over lethal injection are not part of their challenge.
A ruling is pending.
On the Net: U.S. Supreme Court: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/
(source: Associated Press)
Death penalty bills spark debate between senators, activists
A series of bills to apply new safeguards in capital punishment cases
sparked a heated debate Wednesday among pro-death penalty activists and
state senators backing the measures, with one lawmaker accusing a state
prosecutor of sounding "heartless."
The bills, sponsored by Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, would prevent judges
from overriding jury recommendations on death penalty cases, authorize DNA
testing for death row inmates, ensure that mentally retarded inmates are
not executed and impose a 3-year moratorium on executions while a special
committee examines Alabama's capital punishment system.
Assistant Attorney General Clay Crenshaw, the head of the state's death
penalty appeals office, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Alabama's
capital punishment laws are sound.
"No innocent people have been executed in Alabama," he said at the
committee's public hearing.
In a heated exchange, Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, said Crenshaw
couldn't possibly know for sure whether innocent people were executed. The
prosecutor stood by his statement with an "I do know that."
"You're just so adamant," Figures told Crenshaw. "You sound so heartless
and so close-minded."
Sanders and Figures both stressed that capital punishment
disproportionately hurts blacks, pointing out that half of the inmates on
Alabama's death row are black, while blacks only make up about 25 % of the
overall state population. They said a moratorium would allow time to
investigate such disparities.
"If you're poor, your chances of ending up on death row increase
dramatically," Sanders said. "If you're black, your chances of ending up
on death row increase dramatically."
Both victim's rights advocates and supporters of the 4 bills also made
impassioned pleas to the committee, which will vote on the package at a
"This is not a black-white issue - this is about wrong versus right," said
Shelley Linderman, a member of Victims of Crime And Leniency. "The only
person who does not have a choice is the victim."
Linderman said judges should have a right to override jurors who recommend
life sentences if they believe the case warrants the death penalty. While
she and death penalty supporters said they wouldn't staunchly oppose DNA
tests, they did stand against a moratorium, saying it would prolong the
"When are we going to have closure for our victims?" said Miriam Shehane,
executive director of VOCAL.
Crenshaw agreed, saying, "We have a moratorium in this state - it's called
a 10-step appeals process." He added that in his experience, death row
inmates waited until after their execution dates are set before asking for
Esther Brown, who works with an anti-death penalty group, said the
proposed moratorium is gaining support around the state. Her group has
persuaded 37 local governments, largely in rural areas with mostly black
and poor residents, and about 550 businesses, churches and other
organizations, to call for a moratorium, she said.
Willie Mae Whitlow, who said she has a relative on death row, told the
committee that the bills were crucial to prevent the wrongful killing of
"It is better that a guilty person go free or at least get life in prison
than an innocent person to get executed," she said.
Sanders, who has unsuccessfully introduced similar legislation over the
past five years, said he was confident that the bills would gain momentum
during this session. He said he became more hopeful after the state's
largest newspaper, The Birmingham News, recently took a stand against
"I feel like support is growing across the state of Alabama and that
growing support will impact the support in the Alabama Legislature," he
(source: Associated Press)
Ohio's top court hears death penalty case
A woman who once asked for the death penalty as a means of proving racial
injustice now wants her conviction overturned. On Tuesday, her attorney
argued before the Ohio Supreme Court that she was unaware of the
consequences of her actions.
Trumbull County native, Donna Roberts, 61, was convicted of aggravated
murder in early 2003 for killing her ex-husband, Robert Fingerhut.
Nathaniel Jackson, 33, of Youngstown, Ohio, was also convicted of the same
charge. The two were accused of killing Fingerhut in late 2001.
In Roberts' sentencing trial she signed a waiver of mitigation and told
the court she wanted the death penalty because as a white, Jewish woman
she expected the same punishment that her accomplice, Jackson, a black
Roberts is 1 of 2 women currently on Ohio's death row. She is incarcerated
in Marysville, Ohio, and sentenced to die by lethal injection. Nicole
Diar, of Lorain, Ohio, is the other woman on death row.
During Jackson's imprisonment for a previous crime, he had been in contact
with Roberts and police intercepted phone calls between the 2 that
detailed their plans to kill Fingerhut and collect his life insurance.
According to a summary of the case on the Supreme Court's Web site, police
found Fingerhut lying in a pool of blood on the couple's kitchen floor.
There was no forced entry into the home. Police found a total of 288
letters of correspondence between Roberts and Jackson.
Jackson's death penalty sentence was upheld in his appeal before the
Supreme Court earlier this month.
Roberts' lawyer, David Doughten, argued before the court that Roberts was
uninformed of the fact that waiving the mitigation would result in a death
"(Roberts) had this martyr complex at the time," Doughten said before the
Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer said if Roberts would have offered
mitigation she most likely would not have received a death sentence.
"She's not the typical death defendant," he said. "They're not the type of
person to have accomplished what she's accomplished."
Roberts, along with her ex-husband, ran a number of Greyhound bus depots
in Trumbull County. She also participated in a 1967 Israeli conflict where
she bandaged wounds of soldiers.
LuWayne Annos, the attorney for the State of Ohio and the Trumbull County
prosecutor's office, said Roberts was given what she asked for.
"You ask for it, you got it," Annos said, quoting an old Toyota
Annos said Roberts was well informed of the consequences that would be
imposed if she waived mitigation.
"(Roberts) made it clear to her judge, counsel and jury that she wanted
the death penalty," Annos said. "Her statement was an opportunity to take
a soapbox. She wanted to look the jury in the eye and say there was an
Annos said she agreed with Moyer in that Roberts had much to offer in
mitigation for her case.
"There were good things to say about Donna Roberts," Annos said. "Donna
Roberts chose not to say them. This isn't a woman who made a scattering
off-the-wall statement; she got what she requested."
Another argument was that the trial judge only heard an opinion of whether
or not to impose a death sentence from the prosecution during the
According to Doughten, the trial judge gave his notes of the trial to the
prosecutor and from those notes the prosecutor drafted a summary that he
gave to the judge.
Moyer said because the Supreme Court writes laws on every case, the court
should think about drafting a law requiring a trial judge to receive equal
input from both the defense and prosecution when preparing an opinion on a
"It's very easy for the trial judge to say, 'Do my work for me,'" he said.
"We wouldn't want the trial judge to go easy."
Despite pushing for a new sentencing hearing, Doughten said he expects the
Supreme Court to send back the case to the trial judge for him to simply
rewrite the opinion.
"I think this should be minimally what the court should do," he said.
(source: The (Ohio State University) Lantern)
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