[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, CALIF., VA., PENN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Jan 31 09:44:17 CST 2006
Condemned man claims mental retardation----Attorneys for Jaime Elizalde
Jr., set to die today, are seeking a delay
Attorneys for death row inmate Jaime Elizalde Jr. are asking that his
execution, set for today, be postponed so they can pursue claims of mental
Elizalde is to be executed for fatally shooting two men, Juan Saenz
Guajardo and Marcos Sanchez Vasquez, outside an eastside cantina in 1994.
The two men killed outside the El Lugar Drive Inn had quarreled a few days
before the shooting with Elizalde's father over a pool game. On the night
of the murders, both Elizalde and his father were at the cantina. Jaime
Elizalde Sr. was outside using a pay phone when the victims also went
outside and were shot, reportedly by the younger Elizalde.
Elizalde, 34, claims he did not kill the men. But in October he confessed
to shooting another man, Albert Guajardo, who he says was the actual
killer in the cantina murders. It is unclear whether the 2 Guajardos are
In an October interview with the Chronicle on death row, Elizalde said he
felt sorry for the victims' families but repeated that he was not
responsible for their deaths.
"Are they going to find closure in seeing me die?" he asked. "If so, I
wish them the best of luck. I think only time can heal the pain."
Elizalde was on parole at the time of the murders. He had previously been
imprisoned for four years, during which he was a leader of the dangerous
Mexican Mafia prison gang. He reportedly stabbed someone in prison and
assaulted guards during that time.
Claim based on test
Elizalde's mental retardation claim is largely based on an IQ test
administered in 1990, when he first entered the Texas Department of
Criminal Justice system for a drug-related offense. Elizalde scored a 60,
which is below the standard used for mental retardation.
The Supreme Court exempted mentally retarded inmates from execution in
2002, five years after Elizalde was convicted of capital murder.
The Harris County District Attorney's Office filed a motion last week to
dismiss Elizalde's application for writ of habeas corpus and to deny his
application for a stay of execution, arguing that the filings are
"deliberate and manipulative efforts to avoid justice" and are
"substantively without merit."
Prosecutors claim that Elizalde fails to meet the three-prong test to show
mental retardation, citing a higher score on a subsequent IQ test and
stating that he never was diagnosed, considered or even treated as
Elizalde, who dropped out of school in the 9th grade, married at 16, had
two children and had various jobs.
On Monday the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied the mental
retardation claim, but lawyers are pursuing that claim in federal court.
On Friday, a federal district court denied a separate appeal challenging
lethal injection as unconstitutional.
A previous clemency petition was reactivated and is before the governor
and the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole.
Separate petition filed
Aside from his defense attorneys, Karen Parker, a San Francisco lawyer
with the Association of Humanitarian Lawyers, has filed an emergency
petition on behalf of Elizalde with the Organization of American States'
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The OAS has asked U.S. and
Texas authorities to postpone the execution to further review whether
there were any human rights violations in the case but are still waiting
for a response, Parker said.
"If you carry out an execution under these circumstances it represents a
deliberate and egregious violation to the right to life," Parker said.
Elizalde had been scheduled for execution on Nov. 2, but a state district
judge issued a delay so that prosecutors and defense attorneys could
investigate a written statement allegedly signed by Elizalde in which he
claimed responsibility for the 1995 murder of Albert Guajardo, who was
strangled, bludgeoned and had his throat cut before being dumped in
northeast Harris County.
Another man, Hermilio Herrero Jr. was sentenced to life in prison for that
But during a videoconference in a Harris County court on Jan. 19, Elizalde
refused to answer any questions about the case and, acting on his lawyer's
advice, asserted his Fifth Amendment rights.
The videoconference was closed to the media at the attorneys' request, but
Herrero, a former resident of Houston's East End, was allowed to attend.
Herrero and his attorney were eager to hear Elizalde elaborate on his
confession but were disappointed by his lack of response. Even so, Herrero
remains hopeful that Elizalde's affidavit will exonerate him, said
Herrero's attorney, Norm Silverman.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Death Penalty Sought in Murder Case -- Man suspected of slaying Cal Poly
student in 2001 may face execution
The Los Angeles District Attorney will seek the death penalty for James
Winslow Dixon, 32, the accused killer of Cal Poly Pomona student Christina
Jane Robison, the news secretary at the Los Angeles District Attorney's
Office, said, "After reviewing the case we felt it was necessary to seek
the death penalty."
On Mar. 24, Dixon will appear at the preliminary hearing, where evidence
will be reviewed and turned over to ensure that there is enough proof to
proceed with the trial.
Dixon is being charged with murder, kidnapping, use of a deadly weapon and
use of a firearm.
He is also being charged with two counts of rape in an unrelated case
involving 2 Cal Poly students that were sexually assaulted in 1996.
2 other suspects have been charged in connection to the Burmeister case,
Markeisha Cummings, 24, and Henry Singer, 27. Both pled not guilty at
their arraignment on Jan. 20.
Burmeister was abducted on Aug. 20, 2001 on her way to a fraternity party.
Police believe that she was kidnapped during her commute from Cerritos to
That night, surveillance cameras recorded a person wearing a hooded
sweatshirt using her ATM card to withdraw $400 at a Montclair Washington
The 4th-year apparel and merchandising management student was found the
next morning stabbed to death in her truck beside highway 39 near Azusa.
Californias Proposition 69, which requires felons to submit DNA samples to
a crime database, led police to Dixon.
DNA found on a cigar butt near Burmeisters truck matched a sample taken
from Dixon after he was released from prison in 1993.
He was arrested on Jan.14 at his home in Pomona. Dixon pled not guilty
during his arraignment on Feb. 3, 2005.
Burmeister was known for her spirited personality and her devotion to Chi
Omega Sorority and Panhellenic Council.
(source: Poly Post)
House panel rates the death penalty for adults only
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last March that putting juveniles to death is
unconstitutional. If a House of Delegates committee has its way, Virginia
law will be changed to conform to that ruling.
The House Courts of Justice Committee voted 11-9 Monday to approve HB45,
which would restrict the death penalty to those 18 years or older at the
time of the offense. The current cutoff is 16.
Del. Vincent F. Callahan Jr., R-Fairfax, said he did not sponsor the bill
simply because of the Supreme Court ruling. "I don't think the state
should be in the business of killing children regardless of what they have
done," he said.
Several committee members noted that a more conservative Supreme Court
could reverse the ban.
"It was a 5-4 decision," William H. Fralin, Jr., R-Roanoke, said of the
Supreme Court ruling. "If there is a decision that reverses this decision,
we won't be able to enforce the law as we think it ought to be.
"We would not be able to retroactively apply this law."
Opponents of the bill argued emotionally against it.
Del. Rob B. Bell III, R-Albemarle, read to the committee testimony from
the trial of Lee Boyd Malvo, one of the Beltway Snipers. Malvo was 17 when
he and John Allen Mohammed killed 10 people in the Washington, Baltimore
and Richmond areas.
Malvo was convicted by a Chesapeake jury in 2003, but spared the death
"If you don't think Malvo committed acts worthy of receiving the death
penalty, then vote for this bill," Bell said.
Bill proponents argued that the Virginia criminal code, should match the
Countered Bell: "We have numerous statutes that are unconstitutional."
Callahan agreed and said that the Virginia criminal code needs a major
"This is a good start," he added.
Death penalty sought for 3 friends in Butler torture, slaying
Butler County prosecutors will seek the death penalty for 3 people charged
with torturing and killing a developmentally delayed man.
The badly burned body of Jason Ritzert, 30, was found in a Summit Township
dumpster on Nov. 11.
Mr. Ritzert's roommate, Timothy James Caldwell, later told police that he
had "punished" Mr. Ritzert for weeks by hitting him and burning him
because he believed that he was stealing money.
At a preliminary hearing in December, a state police trooper testified
that the other 2 defendants, Melissa Ann Adams and Russell Lee Hilliard,
also participated in the burnings. Ms. Adams is the cousin of Mr.
Caldwell, and Mr. Hilliard is a friend of Ms. Adams.
The 3 were formally arraigned today at the Butler County Courthouse, with
torture given as the aggravating circumstance required to seek the death
After a particularly bad burning in early November, in which Mr. Hilliard
told police that Mr. Ritzert was lit on fire while wearing a T-shirt
soaked in lighter fluid, the defendants allegedly left him on a mattress
for days while his health declined.
Mr. Caldwell told police that on Nov. 10, he stood on Mr. Ritzert's throat
for a few minutes and then kicked him until it was clear that he was dead.
The defendants then took Mr. Ritzert's body to the dumpster, where it was
David DeFazio, Mr. Caldwell's attorney, said that he will be filing
motions to appoint a psychiatrist to examine his client for a possible
insanity plea, and to change the venue for the trial away from the Butler
(source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
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