[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, S.C., MD., OHIO
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Jan 30 17:02:47 CST 2006
Death penalty sought in Whitaker slayings----Man is accused of killing
mother, brother at their Sugar Land home
Fort Bend County prosecutors will seek the death penalty against Thomas
"Bart" Whitaker in the slayings of his mother and brother who were gunned
down in their Sugar Land home 2 years ago.
The death penalty case is the 1st in Fort Bend County since 2003 when the
state sought capital punishment for Steve Charles McKinney, who was
convicted of killing 3 people including a 5-year-old girl. McKinney
received a life sentence.
Assistant District Attorney Fred Felcman told state District Court Judge
Clifford Vacek the state will ask for death by lethal injection. No trial
date has been set.
The announcement about seeking the death penalty came during a pre-trial
hearing today in which Whitaker formally entered a not guilty plea at the
Fort Bend County courthouse.
Police have said the motive for the slayings was financial with Bart
Whitaker, 25, hoping to inherit more than $1 million with the deaths of
his parents and brother.
2 other suspects, Steven Champagne, 23, and Chris Brashear, 25, have also
been indicted on a charge of capital murder in connection with the case
which happened in the 1100 block of Heron Way.
Prosecutors have not decided whether to seek the death penalty for
Brashear and Champagne. Today, Whitaker's father questioned why they
decided to pursue it with his son.
"I am so disappointed to hear the district attorney is going to go after
the death penalty. I have begged him not to,'' Whitaker said. "The death
penalty isn't necessary here, isn't wanted here and I don't think it
should be pursued," he said.
District Attorney John Healey defended the move.
"The facts and circumstances surrounding the murder of two members of the
Whitaker family merit the citizenry of Fort Bend County having the
opportunity to consider exacting the most severe penalty,'' Healey said.
"I have to consider the fact that this office repesents, not just the
Whitaker family, but every citizen in Fort Bend County and the state of
Texas when arriving at my decision."
The 3 suspects drove to Sugar Land on the afternoon of Dec. 10. 2003. Bart
and his family went to dinner while Brashear waited inside the Whitaker
house and Champagne was parked a block away.
Police said the when the Whitakers walked into the house Brashear opened
fire on them with a 9 mm pistol. Patricia, 51 and Kevin Whitaker, 19, were
struck in the chest and died. Kent Whitaker was hit in the arm.
Bart Whitaker was also wounded in a ploy to make him appear like a victim,
(source: Houston Chronicle)
South Carolina Supreme Court grants death row inmate new trial
The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled Monday that a death row inmate
should get a new trial because his original attorney failed to provide an
The state's highest court reviewed a previous decision after the U.S.
Supreme Court said that death row inmates should not automatically get new
trials if their lawyers made a strategic decision not to pursue a strong
But the South Carolina court says that was not the case with Robert Lee
Nance's attorney. The court says in some instances Nance actually
bolstered the case against his own client.
Nance was convicted in the 1992 slaying of 73-year-old Violet Fraley of
Florence. Her husband was seriously injured in the attack.
A jury also convicted Nance of rape, attempted murder, burglary and armed
(source: Associated Press)
Attorneys Argue Md. Death-Row Inmate's Case
Attorneys for death row inmate Vernon Evans were in court Monday in
Baltimore, arguing against a motion that would transfer their challenge to
the state's lethal injection process to Baltimore County.
Evans's lawyers claim Maryland's lethal-injection process is illegal under
state law. And they claim Evans will not be sufficiently anesthetized
during the execution, which is scheduled for next week.
Evans was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of 2 motel
clerks in Pikesville in 1983.
Evans attorneys also are delivering a 48-page petition for clemency to
Gov. Robert Ehrlich. It claims that Evans' jury didn't hear compelling
evidence that Evans was not the shooter. It claims also that the case
against him was built on circumstantial evidence and unreliable hearsay.
And it said the jury did not have option of giving Evans a life sentence,
Lastly, the petition says Ehrlich should grant clemency to eliminate any
chance that race was a factor in the death sentence.
(source: Associated Press)
Board suggests no clemency in Benner execution
Glenn L. Benner II doesn't deserve clemency and should be executed next
week as scheduled, the Ohio Parole Board said in a report released this
"Benner committed heinous crimes against innocent female victims," the
board's 13-page report states. "He strangled his victims and performed
deviant sexual acts that bordered on sexual sadism. His main concern was
to prevent apprehension by killing his victims."
Gov. Bob Taft is expected to review the report and decide in the next few
days if Benner should be spared death Feb. 7, when he is scheduled to be
executed by lethal injection.
Benner, 43, who grew up in Springfield Township, was sentenced to death
for the murders of Trina Bowser and Cynthia Sedgwick during a 5-month
period in 1985 and 1986. He was also convicted to attacking 3 other
Northeast Ohio women.
Benner sought to waive his clemency hearing, but the state is required to
conduct one. No one spoke on Benner's behalf during the hearing that was
held last week in Columbus.
6 people, including family members of Bowser and Sedgwick, urged that
Benner's execution go forward.
(source: Associated Press)
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