death penalty news----TEXAS, N.C., MD., CALIF., PENN., OHIO
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Jan 27 16:57:48 CST 2006
Judge appoints lawyer to man accused of killing 2
Preliminary autopsy reports on alleged Jan. 16 murder victims Barbara
Pacheco and Eric Wiggs were released Thursday as a Midland attorney was
named to represent the 36-year-old Odessan accused in their deaths.
Set to hold the 238th District Court trial of Aldo Pacheco this summer or
fall, District Judge John Hyde announced the appointment of Ray Fivecoat
to defend him.
Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace David Cobos set Pacheco's bond at $1
million Wednesday at Midland Memorial Hospital, where he has been
hospitalized with severe facial injuries since being arrested in his
former wife's home.
Pacheco is believed to have attempted suicide with a sawed off shotgun
after Barbara Pacheco, 36, and the 39-year-old Wiggs were slain.
Releasing reports from the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in
Dallas, Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace George Zimmerman said the woman
was found lying face up and fully clothed across a bed at her home in the
700 block of West Pine Avenue.
Dr. Lisa Funte wrote that she suffered 2 point blank shotgun wounds in her
chest and lower abdomen and died at the scene while Dr. Darshan Phatak
said Wiggs died at Midland Memorial from buckshot in his right arm and
Barbara Pacheco wore blue jeans and a shirt, Zimmerman said, adding, "The
police think he shot her right after Wiggs."
The woman and man were 3rd-grade and special education teachers,
respectively, at Cavazos Elementary School in Odessa. The defendant
eventually released his 2-year-son through a garage door after neighbors
had reported Wiggs lying in the driveway at 2:15 p.m.
SWAT team officers entered the house and arrested Pacheco after hearing a
shot at 6 p.m.
Fivecoat, a Gillette, Wyo., native who came to Midland after graduating
from the University of Tulsa Law School in 1997, said late Thursday
afternoon he had just come from accepting the appointment and had little
"We haven't had a chance to meet with Mr. Pacheco, but we'll follow up as
quickly as we can," Fivecoat said. "All we can do is presume it will go to
Hyde said a 2nd attorney will be named to work with Fivecoat while
Assistant District Attorney Tim Flathers also may be expected to have a
"2nd chair" prosecutor.
Though Midland police initially charged Pacheco with capital murder,
Flathers said final determinations of what type of indictment and
punishment will be sought have not been made.
Referring to reports that part of Pacheco's jaw was shot away, the
prosecutor said, "It's going to depend a lot on what his medical progress
is. For fairness' sake, he has to be able to take part in his defense, and
from what I gather he is not breathing that well and is not capable of
eating on his own.
"We have not necessarily decided which way to go. If he ends up being
indicted for a capital offense, there are only two options if he's found
guilty: a life sentence or the death penalty. We hope to get something
going pretty quickly."
District Attorney Al Schorre said Thursday that Pacheco would have to be
proven a probable future danger to the general public to justify a capital
murder indictment. If he's tried on 2 counts of 1st-degree felony murder,
he could get 2 terms of 5 to 99 years or life in state prison.
Det. Kay Therwanger declined comment on what make or gauge of shotgun
officers confiscated as the suspected murder weapon. "We're still working
on it and will get it to the DA's office as soon as we can because it's a
priority case," she said Thursday.
"Even though it's been a week and a half, we're still contacting witnesses
and are still in the 1st part of the investigation."
When asked if the case is fairly uncomplicated, Therwanger said, "It seems
that way. We don't have a whole lot of murders in Midland and we're
investigating this one like any other."
She didn't know if Wiggs had been lured outside when he was shot or if he
just happened to be there when the alleged killer drove up.
(source: Midland Reporter-Telegram)
Police arrest 8 in connection with 11 Houston-area homicides
Houston police have arrested eight of 11 people believed to be involved in
9 homicides in the city's southwest side and two others in Pasadena since
The arrests come just a few weeks after HPD acknowledged the surge in
violent crime last year was linked to evacuees relocating here after
Police said the arrests were part of an initiative recently launched to
investigate homicides believed related to gang activity.
In analyzing some recent cases in the southwest Houston area, police said
today that several involved Louisiana suspects who relocated to Houston
following Hurricane Katrina.
Police today said those suspects arrested were associated with 2 different
gangs in New Orleans and continued their rivalry here.
Those in custody are:
- Kalvin Forcell, 21, charged with murder in a fatal shooting at 9373
Richmond e on Nov. 20;
- Alvin Sims, 20,charged with capital murder in a fatal shooting of two
Louisiana men at 8901 Bissonnet on Dec. 31;
- Jason McMaster, 24, charged with aggravated robbery and aggravated
- Cornelius Gordon, 21, charged with engaging in organized crime and
possession of a weapon;
- Daryl Robinson, 27, charged with murder in a fatal shooting at 11555
Bissonnet on Dec. 25;
- Tyler Mackyeon, 23, charged with deadly conduct and aggravated robbery;
- James Taylor, 24, charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle;
- Keith Ron Williams, 20, charged with assault-family violence.
Investigators are also asking for help in locating the 3 suspects not
already in custody. They are:
- Ivroy Harris, 20;
- Travis Jordan, 21;
-and Terrence Richards, 20.
Harris is charged with aggravated robbery and aggravated kidnapping in the
339th State District Court. Jordan is charged with aggravated robbery and
Richards is charged with evading detention in a Webster Police Department
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of the three wanted suspects is
being asked to contact HPD at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stoppers at
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Elderly woman murdered -- Victim was known for her acts of kindness
In Brownsville, neighbors say 76-year-old Carmen Jacobson was well-known
in her downtown neighborhood for her acts of kindness. Police say her
caring personality led to her death.
Police believe Alfonso Lucas murdered Jacobson in her home. Her death
shocked folks living in the area.
Neighbor Gloria Lopez said, "She was such a nice lady and I don't know
anybody who would want to do that to her. She always was willing to help
me and my family out."
Police say Jacobson let Lucas borrow $10 last month so he could buy
diapers and food for his family. On Tuesday morning, he knocked on her
door again. This time, letting him in was a fatal mistake.
Brownsville Police Sgt. Jimmy Manrrique tells NEWSCHANNEL 5, "She thought
he was there to bring back the money. That's (why) she probably opened the
door for him."
Police say Lucas confessed to strangling Jacobson to death once inside the
home. Then, he robbed the house. Manrrique said, "They were having a lot
of financial problems. They had no money. They had no food at home for the
kids and themselves. I guess this was his last ditch effort to go rob the
Neighbor Myriam Lopez tells us, "Yes, it's very sad she died like that
because she would never shut door on anyone who needed help."
Police cleared out Lucas' home to search for items taken from the womans
house. His crimes of murder and robbery could eventually lead the district
attorney to seek the death penalty.
(source: KRGV News)
Berkley may face death penalty----Prosecutors seek the punishment for the
widow facing a murder charge
Wake County Assistant District Attorney Susan Spurlin said Thursday
prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty in the murder trial of a
Clayton woman accused of plotting with her teen lover to execute her
husband in a North Raleigh park.
Police arrested Monique Berkley, 26, in late December and charged her with
the murder of her husband, Paul Berkley, 46, a Navy reservist who had
returned from Iraq less than a week before his slaying.
Also charged in Paul Berkley's death were Monique Berkley's lover, Andrew
Canty, 18, and Canty's friend, Latwon Johnson, 18. Spurlin said that the
state would seek the death penalty for Canty and Johnson as well.
Hearings on the cases were delayed Thursday after Wake Senior Resident
Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens adjourned court early. The cases will
be discussed when court reconvenes Monday.
Paul and Monique Berkley ended up at Millbrook Exchange Park off Spring
Forest Road on a rainy December night when temperatures dipped into the
30s. Monique Berkley told police the couple had seen "King Kong" at a
nearby theater before heading to the park for a romantic evening.
Monique Berkley told 911 dispatchers that two men approached them. Paul
Berkley was shot in the head and died 14 hours later at WakeMed Raleigh
Campus. Monique Berkley took a bullet in the shoulder.
Police say that shortly before the shooting, Paul Berkley's 16-year-old
daughter, Becky Berkley, told her stepmother and Canty that Paul Berkley
wanted to divorce her. Investigators say they think that the trio killed
Paul Berkley for insurance money.
(source: News & Observer)
Answers sent from death row----Evans' blog gives a glimpse of his life
He has answered questions about prison conditions in the United States. He
responded to a man who asked why he wouldn't "stand up and take your
punishment like a man." And he has written of life on Maryland's death row
- its food, the daily routines and how he has filled the hours during
nearly 23 years behind bars.
Vernon Lee Evans Jr., 56, a convicted killer scheduled to be executed next
month, has a blog.
"When I first read your sentence, the 1st thing that came to mind was how
Jesus was tested by Satan in the wilderness," Evans wrote in April, under
a posting titled "Whining," to the man who asked whether he would accept
his fate. "I pass your statement. I could not get angry. When I was in
society, I did used to whine. ... But now that I've been living with a
death sentence for 22 years, I have had an education on how meaningful
Neither Evans nor any inmate in any Maryland prison has Internet access,
state prison officials say.
Instead, people send questions for Evans to an e-mail address maintained
by an anti-death penalty activist, who mails the inquiries to him at
Baltimore's Supermax prison. He responds, either with pen and paper or on
a typewriter, and mails them back. She then posts them on the Web log
called meet vernon - "the first ever death row blogger."
Blogging about the death penalty - or even individual death row inmates -
is not entirely unheard of.
David Elliot, a spokesman for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death
Penalty, has maintained its blog since June 2004. He said there are about
a half-dozen online journals dedicated to telling the stories of
individual death row inmates. Most, he said, are maintained by people
working with innocence projects around the country to overturn the
sentences of inmates who they believe were wrongly convicted.
Various death penalty opponents and anti-death penalty organizations use
blogs to post and comment upon capital punishment news.
A Florida death row inmate calling himself Average Joe posts diarylike
entries on a blog called Against Death Rows, apparently with the help of a
woman in Germany. But Elliot and others said that Evans' blog - with its
Q&A format with a condemned man - appears to be unique.
The blog was launched last winter, shortly after a Baltimore County judge
signed the 1st death warrant in Evans' case. The execution was stayed in
April by Maryland's highest court, giving Evans' lawyers a chance to argue
that his sentence should be overturned based on a University of Maryland
death penalty study. That appeal was later denied by the state Court of
Appeals on procedural grounds.
Currently scheduled to be put to death during the week of Feb. 6, Evans is
fighting the execution on multiple fronts. His attorneys will be in state
and federal court today challenging Maryland's lethal injection
procedures, and they have several legal motions pending before the Court
of Appeals and a petition pending with the U.S. Supreme Court.
After eight months without any new postings, the meet vernon blog
sputtered back to life this week with news of the new death warrant - and
a suggestion that fresh postings from Evans might be forthcoming.
"What's really exciting about the blog is that it allows for interaction
with people who wouldn't normally interact with a death row inmate," said
Ginny Simmons, 25, the creator and site administrator of the blog.
Simmons has organized several "Live from Death Row" events - gatherings
planned by death penalty opponents that feature a question-and-answer
session with a death row inmate who calls in on a speaker phone.
"It humanizes the death row inmates, and the idea of the blog was to try
to use a new tool, the Internet, to reach out to a broader audience," said
Simmons, who earns a living doing e-mail and Internet outreach with a
Washington company and volunteers with Amnesty International's national
steering committee to abolish the death penalty.
She wrote to Evans in prison with the idea of the blog. Aware that he is a
man in his 50s without Internet access who has been locked up since his
arrest in 1983 for the contract killings of 2 Pikesville motel clerks,
Simmons was not sure that Evans would even know what she was talking
"My mom sure doesn't know what a blog is," Simmons said. "But he totally
understood it, he was totally down and he totally wanted to do it."
Evans has answered questions from people in Brazil, Massachusetts,
Washington state, New Hampshire and the nation's capital, and his postings
have sparked comments from bloggers as far away as England and Korea. He
signs most of his messages, "Peace."
Asked whether there was anything "useful or productive" that he can do in
prison, Evans responded, "A man must find even in the worst things
something good or positive to focus on. Sometimes if the forces are with
you, blessing will come your way. In my case, I have people who have come
into my life for a purpose. They are people who believe that even men or
women who have done evil should not be executed. So that said, I spend
most of my time giving and receiving knowledge about this punishment they
call legal punishment of death."
Of winning a stay of execution last spring, Evans wrote, "Making new
friends and getting mail are moments that can make a man or woman on death
row emotional, but a stay is right below getting your conviction
Asked whether he had anything to say to the families of David Scott
Piechowicz and Susan Kennedy, the motel clerks he was convicted of gunning
down in a contract killing, Evans responded, "In every human heart there
is a will to forgive. There is an attribute of God in every human to
forgive your enemy. I pray that in losing your family God has not made the
burden too great to stop you from forgiving."
And told that his blog was a "wonderful idea" and educational tool, Evans
wrote, "For too long people have only heard one side of the story
concerning the men and women on death row. The justice system has allowed
the media to paint all prisoners as animals. There is no doubt in my mind
that this site can make a difference."
(source: Baltimore Sun)
SOME SAN QUENTIN INMATES STILL CONFINED TO QUARTERS
Normal operations resumed for most inmates at San Quentin State Prison
today after a guard was slashed on Wednesday.
The prison was locked down after death row inmate Richard Penunuri slashed
a corrections officer in the left forearm with a razor-like weapon in his
cell around 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, officials said.
Sgt. Eric Messick said Penunuri, 27, apparently flushed the weapon down a
toilet after the incident. The corrections officer was slashed while he
was removing Penunuri's handcuffs after a medical appointment. He was
treated at a Marin County hospital and his name is not being released,
"It's a very vulnerable time," Messick said.
Prison officials searched the prison for weapons between 2 p.m. and 10
p.m. Wednesday and recovered a needle-like projectile, Messick said.
Penunuri, who was convicted of 2 murders in Los Angeles County, has been
confined to his quarters as are the rest of the approximately 100 inmates
in the adjustment center that houses the prison's most dangerous and
violent inmates, Messick said.
Inmates in the adjustment center will not have yard exercise and their
movements will be confined to emergency or priority medical or dental
appointments, Messick said. Visiting is also prohibited.
A certain group of inmates in the adjustment center are prohibited from
exercising as a group, Messick said.
"They should thank their lucky stars they are in an American prison,''
There will be an administrative investigation, a rule violation report
will be issued and a hearing will be held regarding the attack, Messick
explained. Penunuri could be assessed an additional 10-day confinement to
quarters and loss of store privileges if it's determined he slashed the
"Since he was the sole person in the cell, there seems to be no question
who did it," Messick said.
Penunuri has the lowest level of privileges already, Messick said.
Penunuri was a member of a Los Angeles County street gang whose "hobby was
murder," Messick said. He was convicted of murders in 1997 and 1998 and
sentenced to death. He has been at San Quentin since Feb. 7, 2001, Messick
Messick said it's not certain why the guard was attacked. There was an
incident involving 5 or 6 Hispanic inmates out of the Los Angeles area in
the prison's east block over the weekend. Penunuri was not involved,
however, Messick said.
The east block is a high-control unit and no guards or inmates were hurt.
There also was a riot in the prison's south dining hall on Jan. 12. That
disturbance involved black, Hispanic and white inmates. Nine stabbing or
slashing weapons were found and 8 inmates and 2 staff members were
injured. The riot started when a group of Hispanic inmates stood up at
once. Messick said it's not believed the attack on the guard is related to
(source: Bay City News)
Tough-on-crime lawmakers also tough on injustice
STATE REP. Michael McGeehan is the last guy you'd call to argue that your
rights were violated by the police or the criminal-court system.
McGeehan has been a knee-jerk supporter of police and criminal courts all
his life and a consistent anti-crime legislator. A McGeehan family reunion
looks like a police picnic; half the males in his family are or have been
McGeehan, a Democrat who represents parts of Northeast Philadelphia, was
the sponsor of a bill to expedite the death penalty in Pennsylvania so it
wouldn't take so long between sentence and execution.
So imagine my surprise yesterday when I got a call from McGeehan
expressing his outrage over the injustice that the police and court system
perpetrated in the case of Alfredo Domenech and Ivan Serrano.
Domenech and Serrano are the victims of a massive injustice that cost them
their youth. They were sentenced to life without parole after being
wrongly convicted of a homicide they didn't commit.
After 18 years of committed and persistent advocacy by 3 lawyers and the
family of the murder victim, they were finally released last November. But
by then, they had lost their most productive years, the period when the
associations they could have made and the skills they may have learned
could have positioned them to be more successful members of society.
It was too much for McGeehan, who has seen so many similar injustices that
he has had an epiphany.
"It seems like more and more of these cases are coming up, almost on a
monthly basis" McGeehan told me yesterday. "I saw your story and I had to
"It's very disturbing that mostly what we do when we find out we convicted
someone wrongly is just let them go and say, 'Oops.' Oops isn't good
You can hear the emotion in McGeehan's voice as he runs through the
entries in the catalog of injustices that he's been compiling.
"Ray Krone" - a Pennsylvanian - "served more than 20 years on death row in
Arizona before DNA evidence freed him," McGeehan said.
"The Vincent Moto case in Philadelphia is one where a guy spent 10 years
in prison for a rape he didn't do. This guy's family spent their life
savings to get him out. They're in their 70s and going back to work again
because their life savings are gone.
"It's not enough to say, 'Now you are free to get on with your life.'
That's why I'm doing this."
What he is doing would be a bold step even for an old-line, bleeding-heart
liberal. He is sponsoring bills that would pay people at least $141 for
every day they spent behind bars unjustly and would immediately expunge
their criminal records.
That $141, by the way, is what legislators get as a per-diem rate,
"That makes it personal for legislators. Or they [the wrongly convicted]
could get what they would make if they hadn't gone to prison. Krone was a
"Moto and Krone still can't get jobs because the record shows they are
still convicted felons. That's just wrong."
McGeehan is not the only state lawmaker moved by these cases. State Sen.
Stewart Greenleaf, a Republican from Montgomery County, has proposed a
bill to create an innocence commission to explore why innocent people are
convicted of crimes in Pennsylvania.
McGeehan supports it and may even support a moratorium on the death
penalty in Pennsylvania until there is a requirement for DNA testing here.
"I led the charge to expedite the signing of death warrants," McGeehan
said. "I wish I could turn back the clock.
So do Alfredo Domenech, Ivan Serrano, Vincent Moto, and Ray Krone.
So do I.
(source: Elmer Smith, Philadelphia Daily News)
High court hears case of convicts----Lawyers say unused evidence points to
innocence in killing
When it was his turn to speak Wednesday morning, Columbus lawyer James D.
Owen told the 7 men and women of the Ohio Supreme Court that "justice was
robbed," in the murder trials of Randy Resh and Bob Gondor because the
jury "was never armed with the truth."
In his 10-minute presentation, Owen said the original Portage County
juries in the 1990 rape and murder trials of Resh and Gondor never heard 4
key pieces of evidence that could have discredited the state's case.
The justices listened to the four-pronged argument, never interrupting
Owen with questions. Afterward in the ornate courtroom lobby, a throng of
Resh and Gondor supporters appeared to be overjoyed at the presentation.
After waiting more than three years for new trials in the 1988 rape and
murder of 38-year-old Connie Nardi of Randolph Township, the men got the
chance to present their case to the state's highest court Wednesday.
The court agreed to hear the case in a 4-3 vote last May, after the 11th
District Court of Appeals in Warren blocked an order for new trials in a
split decision that was years in the making.
The original convictions of Resh and Gondor, lifelong friends, were
overturned in June 2002 by visiting Judge Charles J. Bannon. After hearing
8 days of testimony, Bannon ruled the men were denied their constitutional
right to effective counsel because their original lawyers never used many
pieces of potentially exonerating evidence.
A few weeks later, however, Bannon's decision was put on hold when Portage
County Prosecutor Victor V. Vigluicci filed an appeal in the 11th
But Wednesday there was renewed hope that new trials will take place.
Resh's brother, Mike Resh, was in court with about 25 family members and
"I don't want to be overconfident," he said, "but I think it went well."
He said he didn't know how many people usually attend Supreme Court
arguments, "but there weren't any left inside there after we came out."
Gondor's 69-year-old mother Julia Farago of Barberton said everything that
has happened in the bizarre case was like "a broken record."
"It just keeps going and going and going," she said. "Like in 2002, after
the 7 1/2-day hearing, it's the same things now from the prosecutor -- the
same old things.
"The way I see it, they have to give them a chance and look through all
the evidence that wasn't available before. They just have to, because
these 2 boys, who are young men now, have lost almost 16 years (of their
Resh, 42, and Gondor, 41, have been behind bars in various state prisons
since their convictions, but now share the same pod at Grafton
Correctional Institution in Lorain County.
Before Owen spoke on Resh's behalf, Cleveland lawyer Steven L. Bradley
spoke for Gondor, arguing the legal implications of the 11th District's
reversal and saying "it's been a long road."
The Warren court simply was wrong to block the new trials, he said,
because it substituted its own judgment for Bannon's.
"The 11th District didn't have the benefit of sitting through 8 days of
hearings," Bradley told the justices.
There were hours of testimony and more than 100 exhibits were shown to
Bannon before he issued his 11-page order, which overturned the
Vigluicci, who was not involved in the original trials, has repeatedly
declined to say whether he would retry the cases.
Arguing Portage County's case before the high court was Assistant
Prosecutor Pamela J. Holder, who said the 11th District was correct to use
an independent review in its reversal.
An independent view was exactly what was needed, Holder said, because the
case was so complex and drawn out.
Holder, however, was repeatedly interrupted with questions by the
justices, one of whom told her that her argument on a key piece of blood
evidence from Bannon's decision was not only inconsistent, but also
One by one, defense counsel Owen went through the 4 pieces of evidence not
heard by the juries.
The 1st was their alibi, which the state said was concocted. Resh and
Gondor, according to the state's original case, went to a pizza shop on
the Tuesday after the 1988 murder -- before they had been singled out by
police as suspects --to ask whether workers remembered they had ordered a
pizza on Sunday night, only hours after the murder.
But Owen said the work records of the two pizza shop workers who talked to
Resh and Gondor showed the only day they worked together was the next
Friday, after the 2 men knew they were suspects.
"It's what any reasonable person would have done," Owen told the court.
His second point was a 50-page tape-recorded interview of the 1st man
convicted in the murder, Troy Busta, by his 2 defense lawyers and their
private investigator. Owen called it a "stirring piece of evidence"
because it showed Busta was willing to say anything to avoid the death
Deal for testimony
Records show Busta avoided death row by pleading to the lesser charge of
murder, then providing the eyewitness testimony that eventually convicted
Resh and Gondor.
Owen called it "a deal with the devil."
His third point was the alleged blood stain found by a state investigator
in the bed liner of Gondor's truck, which the state said was used to
dispose of the victim's body. In the evidence presented before Bannon,
Owen said, the stain proved to be nothing more than a drop of
Yet, Owen told the justices, it was the only piece of scientific evidence
the state had to corroborate Busta's testimony that the truck was used.
His final point was the testimony of a woman who lived near where the body
was found. She testified that she saw other people who were there with
Busta on 2 occasions only hours apart -- but they were not Resh and
"How can you look at all of this evidence and have confidence in the
outcome (of the original trials)?" Owen asked, then answered: "You can't."
The victim, Connie Nardi, was a divorced mother of 2 who was last seen at
a Portage County bar, dancing with Busta on top of the bar. Resh and
Gondor were present that night after attending a Cleveland Indians game.
(source: Akron Beacon Journal)
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