[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, TENN., CALIF., VA., ARK.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Jun 13 14:50:52 UTC 2006
Prisoners Gain in Suit Attacking Lethal Injection
The Supreme Court opened the door Monday for death-row inmates to
challenge the way most states carry out executions by lethal injection.
In its unanimous opinion, the court expressed no view on the
constitutionality either of lethal injection in general or of the specific
procedures and combination of chemicals that a Florida inmate, Clarence E.
Hill, and numerous others around the country have recently challenged in
The justices addressed themselves solely to the procedural route that such
lawsuits must take, and chose the route that is by far the more
inmate-friendly from the two options that the case presented.
Nonetheless, it was the tight focus of the case, an appeal by Mr. Hill of
a ruling by the federal appeals court in Atlanta, that probably enabled
the justices to maintain their unanimity. It remains to be seen how they
would rule on the underlying constitutional question of whether the
disputed lethal injection method violates the Eighth Amendment's
prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
Just three weeks ago the court turned down, without comment, a case from
Tennessee, Abdur'Rahman v. Bredesen, that presented that issue directly.
The justices have also permitted several executions to be carried out by
lethal injection, without intervening, while the Florida case was pending.
Federal courts around the country have begun wrestling with the issue,
which opponents of the death penalty have brought to the fore in recent
months on the basis of a report last year in a British medical journal,
The focus of concern is 2 of the 3 chemicals that make up the lethal
cocktail used by most states. One is sodium pentothal, an anesthetic,
which Mr. Hill argues in his lawsuit is insufficient to make the procedure
The 2nd is pancuronium bromide, which causes muscle paralysis but does
not block pain or interfere with consciousness. Studies indicate that
while inmates who receive this drug look calm and peaceful as the third
chemical, potassium chloride, is administered to stop the heart, they can
actually feel intense pain without being able to express themselves.
Mr. Hill's suit maintains that Florida's procedure for administering these
3 drugs presents a "foreseeable risk of gratuitous and unnecessary pain."
Having been convicted in 1983 of killing a police officer, Mr. Hill had
long since run through the ordinary appeals process by the time he filed
his suit in state court last December, with his execution set for Jan. 24.
After the Florida courts threw the case out, and with the clock running,
he turned to federal court with an equally poor result. He was strapped to
a gurney, intravenous lines to administer the chemicals already inserted,
when Justice Anthony M. Kennedy issued a stay nearly 5 months ago.
The case was filed under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, a Reconstruction-era
law usually referred to as Section 1983, for its placement in the
compilation of federal statutes. Section 1983 permits suits against
government officials for violation of rights guaranteed by the
Constitution or federal laws.
The lower federal courts dismissed the suit, however, on the ground that
the only way for an inmate to challenge the method by which he is to be
executed is through a petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
While such a petition, like a Section 1983 case, can raise constitutional
issues, there is a major problem: both Congress and the Supreme Court have
placed high hurdles in the path of inmates seeking habeas corpus. For
example, it is almost impossible for an inmate who has filed an initial
habeas corpus petition to receive permission to file another one, and Mr.
Hill had filed one years earlier. Declaring that his Section 1983 suit was
the equivalent of a new habeas corpus petition, the lower courts declared
that it was barred.
In his opinion for the Supreme Court on Monday, Justice Kennedy said this
analysis was mistaken. He said that while a habeas corpus petition was the
only way to challenge the constitutionality of a sentence, Mr. Hill was
challenging not his "lethal injection sentence as a general matter," but
only the way in which the sentence was to be carried out.
Justice Kennedy noted that if Mr. Hill eventually won his case, Florida
would not be barred from executing him by lethal injection but would
simply have to use a different protocol.
Mr. Hill is now entitled to pursue his Section 1983 suit in the Federal
District Court in Tallahassee, where he filed it in January.
When the case, Hill v. McDonough, No. 05-8794, was argued in April, there
was considerable debate over whether Mr. Hill should be required to
demonstrate his sincerity by specifying a method acceptable to him. Chief
Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was among the justices who appeared to endorse
such a requirement. But the justices evidently decided to set that
argument aside for now, for the sake of unanimity.
The precedent for the ruling on Monday was a 2004 decision in which the
court permitted an inmate to use Section 1983 to challenge a surgical
procedure that Alabama proposed to use to gain access to his collapsed
veins for the purpose of administering a lethal injection.
(source: New York Times)
High Court Scrutinizing Capital Cases
The Supreme Court opened the door Monday for 2 new challenges to the
death penalty, allowing the use of new DNA evidence to contest an old
murder conviction and allowing an appeal based on the practice of lethal
In House vs. Bell, the court held for the first time that DNA evidence that
undercuts a defendant's guilt is reason enough for a federal judge to reopen
The 2nd case acknowledges the new research that suggests lethal injections
could cause intense pain. The court unanimously agreed that a federal
judge should hear a Florida inmate's claim that the lethal injection
procedure the state intended to use was unconstitutional cruel and
The medical research on lethal injections has triggered appeals that
challenge the procedure in many states, including California. Earlier this
year, a federal judge in San Jose ordered a hearing into California's
lethal injection procedure, set for Sept. 19.
In the pair of decisions, the high court made clear that it views the death
penalty as subject to especially close scrutiny.
Support for the death penalty has been shaken by a number of revelations
over the last decade that people condemned to death had been wrongly
At the same time, the high court and Congress have made it harder for
federal judges to reopen capital cases, responding to complaints over
seemingly endless hearings.
But on Monday, the court shifted course slightly and announced two
exceptions to the rules against reopening death penalty cases in federal
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy delivered both decisions for the court. With the
retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, he has assumed the center spot
when the court is closely split along ideological lines.
Twenty years ago, Paul House, a paroled rapist and a newcomer to a rural
east Tennessee town, was found guilty of murdering a woman who lived 2
Prosecutors theorized he had tried to rape the victim. A decade later,
lawyers learned that a semen stain on her nightgown had come from the
victim's husband, not House.
In a 5-3 decision, the court said such "reliable new evidence" was reason
enough for a federal judge to reopen his case.
DNA evidence has freed scores of prisoners, including some who were on death
row. Lawyers for the Innocence Project based in New York predicted Monday's
ruling would have a broad effect because it removed a barrier to having some
of these cases heard in federal court.
In the second case, Hill vs. McDonough, the court put states on notice that
they would have to defend the mix of drugs that are used for lethal
In recent decades, the use of lethal drugs has taken the place of the
electric chair as the standard means of carrying out executions. All states
with capital punishment except Nebraska call for lethal injection as the
primary execution method.
Typically, 3 drugs are administered during an execution. The first is the
anesthetic, sodium pentothal. Next comes pancuronium bromide, which
paralyzes the muscles, including the lungs. Finally, a dose of potassium
chloride stops the heart.
Last year, the British medical journal, the Lancet, published a study that
concluded some executed men may have suffered intense, burning pain as they
died. The study said that could happen because they were not given enough
Because potassium chloride causes intense pain, veterinarians have been
cautioned about its use in ending the lives of dogs and cats.
Lawyers for inmates facing execution cited the Lancet study in last-minute
appeals in federal courts and urged judges to act. They argued that these
lethal injections, as currently practiced, amounted to cruel and unusual
punishment, a violation of the 8th Amendment.
Some judges took up this complaint. In February, U.S. District Judge Jeremy
Fogel in San Jose stopped the execution of Michael A. Morales, who was
convicted of the 1981 murder of a Lodi teenager. He scheduled a hearing for
the fall to review California's method of carrying out executions.
Other federal judges said they were barred from reopening these state cases
on the eve of an execution.
In January, the Supreme Court halted the execution of Clarence Hill, the
murderer of a Florida police officer, and agreed to hear his claim that the
lethal injection procedure the state intended to use was unconstitutional.
On Monday, the court ruled unanimously for Hill, but said only that a
federal judge should hear Hill's claim. The justices emphasized that Hill
was not contesting his guilt, his death sentence or the state's plan to
execute him by lethal injection, only the particular method of doing so.
Legal experts said the decision would have an important, but temporary,
"This will be a speed bump," said Eric M. Freedman, a law professor at
Hofstra University. "It means each state will have to defend its drug
protocol. It may take a year, or a couple of years, to straighten this out,
depending on how fast they move."
Kent Scheidegger, a lawyer for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in
Sacramento, said the decision had no impact in California because a hearing
was already scheduled on the issue. "It is extremely unlikely this will
prevent executions," he said. "We may see some adjustment to the drug
The DNA case split the court along ideological lines. Chief Justice John G.
Roberts Jr. dissented, as did Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. did not take part in the decision because the
case was heard before he joined the court.
The case of Paul House was described by one judge as a whodunit murder
Kennedy said the new evidence did not prove House was not guilty. He had
lied about his whereabouts on the night of the murder, and bloodstains from
the victim were found on his jeans.
Still, the DNA evidence undercut the prosecution's claim that House had
sexually assaulted the victim, he said. "We conclude that this is the rare
case where - had the jury heard all the conflicting testimony - it is more
likely than not that no reasonable juror" would have voted to convict House,
Roberts said the new DNA evidence did not shake the prosecution's case that
House was the murderer.
The ruling does not overturn House's conviction. However, it gives his
lawyers a new chance to argue in federal court that his conviction was
unconstitutional because the jury did not hear evidence that would have
implicated the husband in his wife's murder.
(source: Los Angeles Times)
Supreme Court is right to allow death row inmates to use DNA evidence.
EVEN MANY SUPPORTERS OF capital punishment probably assume that a death
row inmate is guaranteed another day in court if new evidence, especially
DNA evidence, emerges that undermines the original case against him. Until
Monday, they would have been wrong.
That was when the Supreme Court, by a 5-3 vote, ordered a federal district
judge to provide a new habeas corpus hearing for Paul G. House, a
Tennessee man who was sentenced to death in the 1985 kidnapping and
murder of a young mother. Unlike some of the court's fact-specific death
penalty decisions, this one could have wide application as more convicted
defendants seek exoneration through DNA evidence. That's because the
decision requires a judge considering a convicted defendant's habeas
corpus petition to view the jury deliberations at his trial as part of a
"holistic" process - one in which one sort of evidence affects how a jury
views other evidence.
In asking jurors to sentence House to death, prosecutors suggested that he
had sexually assaulted Carolyn Muncey and then killed her because she
resisted or because he wanted to cover up his deed. But later, DNA testing
indicated that semen found on Muncey's nightgown did not come from House.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy's majority opinion calls the belated DNA
evidence a "new disclosure of central importance" in the way jurors would
look at the case. In a 1995 case, the high court ruled that prisoners who
otherwise had exhausted their appeals could pursue a writ of habeas
corpus if, in light of new evidence, it was more probable than not that
"no juror, acting reasonably, would have voted to find him guilty beyond a
House met that test, Kennedy concluded.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., joined in dissent by justices Antonin
Scalia and Clarence Thomas, disagreed. "The question," Roberts wrote, "is
not whether House was prejudiced at his trial because the jurors were not
aware of the new evidence but whether all the evidence, considered
together, proves that House was actually innocent, so that no reasonable
juror would vote to convict him."
At first glance, the outcome of this case - while obviously good news for
House - might seem to offer little encouragement to other death row
inmates seeking to challenge their convictions. After all, both Kennedy and
Roberts purported to be applying the same legal standard to a specific
set of facts.
But Kennedy's "holistic" approach sends a clear signal to lower-court
judges: Henceforth, they must take a generous view of the way new
evidence, scientific and otherwise, might undermine convictions.
>From now on, a defendant need not offer evidence disputing each piece of
evidence offered against him. It will be enough to cast doubt on
information that affected how jurors weighed the credibility of
For example, if a juror believes that flawed DNA evidence establishes a
defendant's presence at a murder scene, she is more likely to credit an
Welcome as this decision is, the best way to prevent unjust impositions of
the death penalty is to do away with capital punishment altogether, as
other civilized societies have done. Unfortunately, as the Supreme Court
grows ever more uneasy with the death penalty, elected officials agitate
ever more aggressively for it.
(source: Editorial, Los Angeles Times)
Supreme Court sides with inmates on 2 death penalty issues----Rulings
involve last-ditch appeals over injections, and DNA testing of old
The U.S. Supreme Court sided with death row inmates Monday, allowing
last-minute challenges to lethal injection and new hearings for convicts
who show that DNA testing of old evidence indicates they might be innocent.
The 2 cases have been closely watched as a barometer of where the high
court is moving on death penalty issues with two new members, Chief
Justice John Roberts and Samuel Alito.
In the lethal-injection case from Florida, the justices unanimously ruled
that last-ditch constitutional appeals can be used to challenge as
unconstitutionally "cruel and unusual punishment" the execution method
used by most states and the federal government.
In the DNA case, the justices ruled 5-3 that Tennessee inmate Paul Gregory
House has presented enough evidence "pointing to a different suspect" to
warrant a new trial.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court's most influential swing voter since
the retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor, wrote the opinions in both cases.
In the DNA case, he was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David
Souter, Stephen Breyer and John Paul Stevens. Roberts and justices Antonin
Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented, saying that the evidence essentially
had been considered by the jury and that the high court should defer to a
lower court's ruling.
Alito did not participate because the case was argued before he joined the
Steven Shapiro, national legal director of the American Civil Liberties
Union, said the rulings show increasing discomfort in the court with the
death penalty and the "growing national concern about executing innocent
people by mistake."
Texas' appeal refused
On Monday, the justices also refused to hear Texas' appeal in the death
sentence case of inmate Johnny Paul Penry, whose issues before the high
court for the past 20 years have spurred a national fight about whether
mentally retarded inmates should be executed.
The high court in 2002 used another case to ban such executions but left
it up to individual states to determine what constitutes mental
In October, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered a new punishment
hearing for Penry, saying improper instructions prevented a jury from
weighing all of Penry's retardation claims. Texas has repeatedly sought
the death penalty against Penry and is expected to do so again in what
would be his 4th sentencing trial.
Kennedy acknowledged that the ruling in the lethal injection case is
likely to spawn more last-minute appeals as inmates increasingly argue
that the three-drug cocktail used in the executions causes an
unnecessarily painful death.
But Kennedy said executions should not be delayed needlessly, and he
emphasized that the mere act of filing an appeal does not mean the inmates
are automatically entitled to a stay of their executions.
DNA testing reviewed
In the DNA case, the justices weighed in on a nationwide debate on how
courts should deal with technological advances in testing crime-scene
Kennedy said that House, the Tennessee inmate, had raised three pieces of
mitigating evidence: DNA testing on 20-year-old murder-scene evidence
showed that semen on the victim belonged to the victim's husband, not
House. Drops of the victim's blood on House's jeans could have been the
result of the spilling of a blood sample during the victim's autopsy.
"This is the rare case where had the jury heard all the conflicting
testimony it is more likely than not" that they would have had doubts
about House's guilt, Kennedy wrote.
David Dow, a death penalty expert at the University of Houston Law Center,
said neither of the cases would have a significant impact in Texas.
The lethal injection decision was expected, Dow said, because the court
decided in 2004 that an Alabama inmate could file a last-minute claim that
his execution by injection would be unconstitutionally cruel because he
had damaged veins.
Unlike in Florida, Dow said, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which
handles Texas death penalty appeals, already allowed such last-minute
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Justices Grant Death Row Inmate a New Hearing in 1985 Tennessee Murder
The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that new evidence about a long-ago
murder in rural Tennessee, including DNA evidence, raised sufficient
doubt about who committed the crime to merit a new hearing in federal
court for a man who has spent 20 years on the state's death row.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the 5-to-3 majority, called it
"the rare case," and it was: the first in which the Supreme Court has
factored the result of modern DNA testing into the equation in re-examining
a death sentence.
Justice Kennedy emphasized that the court's decision did not exonerate the
inmate, Paul G. House, and that the state still had enough evidence
against him to "support an inference of guilt." But he said the state's
case, when examined in light of the new evidence, was now sufficiently
undermined so that "it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror
viewing the record as a whole would lack reasonable doubt."
That awkward phrase, with its multiple negatives and oblique structure, is
the test the court set in a 1995 decision on how a state prisoner who
claimed innocence could receive a federal court hearing that would
otherwise be barred by procedural obstacles.
In applying that test to Mr. House's case, the court did not make new law.
Rather, the majority's goal appeared to be to show the lower federal
courts how to handle such cases in the future, especially when scientific
evidence is available that can undermine the prosecution's case while not
completely destroying it.
"All the evidence, old and new, incriminating and exculpatory," must be
taken into account, Justice Kennedy said. When an inmate comes to federal
court with evidence of innocence, he continued, "the court's function is
not to make an independent factual determination about what likely
occurred, but rather to assess the likely impact of the evidence on
Peter J. Neufeld, a co-director of the Innocence Project, a legal clinic
at the Cardozo School of Law in Manhattan, said on Monday that the broader
significance of the case was to demonstrate the court's increased
sensitivity to the power of scientific evidence to reveal wrongful
convictions. In an interview, Mr. Neufeld said the decision showed how an
entire prosecution could be called into question if one aspect was
The decision was also a reminder that the Rehnquist court's fault lines
have not been erased in the Roberts era, with Justice Kennedy continuing
to play a crucial, central role.
The 3 justices who dissented, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and
Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, did not dispute the
majority's legal conclusions so much as its interpretation of the facts.
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who was not yet on the court when the case
was argued in January, did not vote.
In a dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Roberts reviewed in considerable
detail much of the evidence that Justice Kennedy canvassed in the majority
Chief Justice Roberts said the court should have given more deference to
the conclusions of the Federal District Court in Chattanooga, which held a
hearing in 1996 and rejected Mr. House's claim of innocence after
considering his new evidence.
"By casting aside the district court's factual determinations made after a
comprehensive evidentiary hearing, the majority has done little more than
reiterate the factual disputes presented below," Chief Justice Roberts
said, adding, "Witnesses do not testify in our courtroom, and it is not
our role to make credibility findings and construct theories."
The specific question for the Supreme Court in this case, House v. Bell,
No. 04-8990, was whether the inmate was entitled to an exception to the
general rule that legal issues not properly presented to the state courts
are forfeited and may not be brought to federal court through a petition
for a writ of habeas corpus.
In a 1995 case, Schlup v. Delo, the Supreme Court opened what it called a
"gateway" through this barrier to enable an inmate with a plausible claim
of innocence, based on newly discovered evidence, to get before a federal
judge and thus prevent a "manifest injustice." The gateway, the court said
then, was reserved for the "truly extraordinary" case in which the inmate
could present evidence that undermined confidence in the jury's verdict.
In his opinion on Monday, Justice Kennedy identified three aspects of Mr.
House's case that, taken as a whole, qualified him to pass through the
gateway to a habeas corpus hearing in federal district court.
One was the DNA evidence, which excluded Mr. House as the source of semen
found on the murder victim, Carolyn Muncey. The case against Mr. House,
who was convicted in 1986, a year after Mrs. Muncey was killed in 1985,
was circumstantial. The prosecution's theory was that he killed Mrs.
Muncey, a neighbor, in the course of raping her. An earlier, much cruder
test had identified him as a possible source of the semen. The DNA test
showed the semen to be from Mrs. Muncey's husband.
"When the only direct evidence of sexual assault drops out of the case,"
Justice Kennedy said, "so, too, does a central theme in the state's
narrative linking House to the crime."
Justice Kennedy said that new evidence linking the husband, William Hubert
Muncey Jr., to the crime was another important part of the picture. Mr.
House presented two witnesses who testified that they heard Mr. Muncey
make a drunken confession around the time of Mr. House's trial, along with
another witness who said she saw Mr. Muncey hit his wife on the night of
At the trial, the prosecution told the jury that Mrs. Muncey's blood had
been found on Mr. House's blue jeans. Mr. House's new evidence raised the
prospect that the blood had been spattered from a mishandled vial of Mrs.
Muncey's blood. Justice Kennedy said that the "evidentiary disarray" on
this question would have prevented "reasonable jurors," had they known of
it, "from placing significant reliance on the blood evidence."
(source: New York Times)
Family hatchet murder: Supreme court ruling may/may not help Cooper
death row inmate Kevin Cooper will likely be unaffected by a U.S. Supreme
Court ruling Monday that gives wider latitude to condemned prisoners who
wish to challenge the methods most states use to carry out executions.
Cooper, who is on death row for the 1983 hatchet murders of four people in
Chino Hills, still has no execution date set while he waits for a federal
appeals court to weigh the validity of his conviction.
Meanwhile, all executions have already been on hold in California since
February pending the appeals of another death row inmate who claimed the
state's lethal injection procedures amount to cruel and unusual punishment.
A federal judge has scheduled hearings in the case of Michael Morales, and
no executions are likely to take place in the state until his case is
Cooper has been convicted of the murders of Douglas and Peggy Ryen, their
10-year-old daughter, Jessica, and 11-year-old houseguest Christopher
Hughes. All 4 were attacked in the middle of the night as they slept in
the Ryen family home.
The slayings occurred several days after Cooper escaped from the nearby
California Institution for Men state prison.
Cooper was almost executed 2 years ago, but a federal appeals court
spared him in the final hours and ordered hearings on his claims that
police framed him for the killings. His appeals continue.
A federal judge in San Diego upheld his conviction in April 2005, and his
attorneys appealed that ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Attorneys for both sides have submitted hundreds of pages of briefings to
a 3-judge panel of the appeals court and are now waiting for the court's
The court could do anything from immediately halting Cooper's efforts to
ordering a whole new round of evidentiary hearings.
(source: The Daily Bulletin)
Death Penalty Case Scheduled For Next Week -- 130 Jurors To Be Called For
Pretrial motions continued in Rockingham County Circuit Court on Monday in
preparation for a murder trial next week that could end with the death
Clifford Donald Lamb, 23, is charged with premeditated murder in
connection with the death of Ikarius Layden Chandler Kubin, according to
Police have said that on April 4, 2005, Lamb tore a cord from bedding and
strangled the 17-month-old child who was left in his care while the boys
mother was out running errands.
Commonwealth's Attorney Marsha Garst has said she is seeking the death
penalty for Lamb. Leading up to the trial, she and defense attorneys Chris
Kowalczuk of Roanoke and Bruce Albertson of Harrisonburg have argued a
series of motions in preparation for the trial that begins Monday.
Motions And Trial
Lambs defense team has filed more than 30 pre-trial requests.
According to court records, they've asked for an investigator, a mental
health expert, and that evidence showing how the childs death has affected
his family not be allowed at trial.
Defense attorneys have also asked McGrath to remove the death penalty from
the case, arguing that it is cruel and unusual punishment, according to
That request was denied. On Tuesday, McGrath denied Kowalczuks request to
move the trial to another jurisdiction because of media attention
surrounding the case.
According to court testimony, McGrath has allowed Lamb to meet with
psychologists chosen by both the defense and the prosecution.
In court, McGrath said jury selection begins Monday from a pool of 130
(source: The Daily News)
Driver Also To Face Death Penalty----3 Plead Not Guilty in Road Rage
In Bentonville, prosecutors will ask for the death penalty not only for
the man accused of pulling the trigger in a May road rage shooting, but also
for the suspected driver.
Benton County Prosecutor Robin Green said an aggravating circumstance
justifies seeking the death penalty against Manuel Enrique Camacho, 25,
whom police believe was driving the car involved in the road rage incident
in which Daniel Ray Francis, 32, of Little Flock was killed.
Police say Camacho encouraged a passenger, Serafin Sandoval-Vega, 19, to
shoot at the car in which Francis was a passenger as it sat at a stoplight
in Rogers. One bullet struck Francis, who died from his injuries.
After careful study and meeting with investigators and family members of
the victim, we determined its appropriate to seek the death penalty
against both defendants, Green said. Other lives were put in danger by
their actions, an aggravating circumstance that under Arkansas law allows
the death penalty to be sought, she said.
10 of Francis family members watched Monday as Camacho, Sandoval-Vega and
Roxana Hernandez, 21, pleaded not guilty to charges related to the
shooting before Benton County Circuit Judge David Clinger.
Police say Camacho drove the car, Hernandez rode in the front passenger
seat and Sandoval-Vega rode in the back.
Camacho, an illegal alien, is charged with accomplice to capital murder
and accomplice to a terroristic act. He is believed to be active in the
Surenos 13 gang from southern California, court documents state. He has a
tattoo of the number 13 on his right forearm and 831 on his neck.
Serafin Sandoval-Vega, a resident alien, is charged with capital murder
and committing a terroristic act.
Hernandez, 21, also a resident alien, is charged with being an accomplice
to capital murder and accomplice to a terroristic act. Prosecutors could
seek a life sentence in her case.
The 3 defendants are being held in the Benton County jail. Only Hernandez
has been granted a bond, which Clinger set at $250,000.
Hernandez attorney, Marianne Hudson, also told the judge a detective went
to the jail and took a statement from her client without her knowledge.
Hernandez contacted the Arkansas State Police herself, Green said. She
promised to provide a copy of the interview with Hudson when she gets a
An omnibus hearing in the case is set for Aug. 7 and a pretrial hearing
for Oct. 10 before Circuit Judge Tom Keith, who will handle the case from
According to court documents, Francis stopped that Saturday afternoon
after a day of work as a diesel mechanic for J.B. Hunt to buy beer with
his co-worker, Tracy Stith, 37. Stith was driving his red Acura as the
pair pulled out of the parking lot of County Line Liquor in Springdale
about 4:10 p.m., documents say.
A northbound black Honda Civic pulled close to the rear of the Acura, then
passed, pulled in front of the Acura and slowed, according to an interview
Stith gave police. Someone, possibly the driver, stuck his hand out the
sunroof and gave us the bird, Stith told police.
Stith passed the Honda, pulled in front and applied his brakes. The cars
separated, continuing north, until they stopped at a traffic signal at
Pleasant Grove Road.
As the light turned green, the tinted rear window on the drivers side went
down, the back-seat passenger stuck out a gun and fired three shots, one
striking Francis, police reports stated. Stith followed the car long
enough to get a license number from the Honda.
Francis was declared brain dead that evening but was kept on life support
until early Monday morning to allow organ donation.
Bentonville police pulled over the Honda early that evening on Southwest
Regional Airport Road. Camacho was driving, Hernandez rode in the
passenger seat and Sandoval-Vega was in the back seat, reports state.
A box of ammunition with 10 to 12 rounds missing was found under the front
Sandoval-Vega admitted shooting the gun at the Acura under questioning,
police said. He claimed Hernandez handed him the gun and that the others
encouraged him to fire it.
(source: The Morning News)
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