[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, USA, MD., VA., IOWA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Mar 3 11:01:01 CST 2006
2nd woman found guilty in deadly kidnapping
Jurors took 2 hours Thursday to reach a guilty verdict in the trial of a
2nd woman accused in the 2004 kidnapping and strangulation of Robert
Cassandra Leffew, 36, was convicted of aggravated kidnapping and faces 5
to 99 years or life in prison, plus a $10,000 fine.
Jurors deliberated her punishment for 4 1/2 hours before being sent home
Last Sept. 2, a jury found Leffew's co-defendant Maria del Carmen
Hernandez, 27, guilty of capital murder in the death of Fernandez, 32. She
was sentenced to life in prison.
During Leffew's trial, defense attorney Terry McDonald was able to block
all testimony that Fernandez was murdered.
A third defendant, Dolores Rodriguez, 56, is facing a capital murder
charge and is scheduled for trial later this year.
Fernandez was accused of molesting one of Leffew's daughters in 2004. A
police investigation later cleared him.
Prosecutors maintained that, 2 nights after Fernandez was accused of
molestation, the 3 women drugged him, tied him up and put him in the trunk
of Leffew's car.
Prosecutors said Hernandez and Rodriguez drove around for about 2 hours
before strangling him with a hose and dumping his body in the 19000 block
of McConnell Road.
After the verdict, the victim's mother expressed relief.
"I'm glad it came out," said Peggy Fernandez. "We all knew she was guilty.
I think she is. I think all 3 of them were involved. I'm glad for my son.
Now, he is resting in peace. It's not over for us, but we'll all be at
(source: San Antonio Express-News)
Sex allegations fly in Parker County primary race
An already acrimonious Republican primary race in Parker County has gotten
worse, with the incumbent of a court at law post accusing her opponent of
propositioning a teenage girl more than 20 years ago.
In a mailer sent to about 7,500 residents last week, Judge Debra Duponts
campaign contends that sworn testimony shows Jerry Buckner, a criminal
defense attorney, "drank heavily and solicited a 15-year-old girl for sex"
during a 1984 capital murder trial.
The allegation, which Buckner denies, marks the latest attack in a bitter
campaign thats reached a personal level.
Early voting ends Friday for the Tuesday primaries. The winner will take
the job, as no Democrats filed for the post.
Both Dupont and his accuser, Loren Halifax, now a 37-year-old Kansas City,
Mo., anchorwoman, said they stand by the statements in the mailer.
"My opponent has run an entirely negative campaign, and I think it's
important that the voters understand who he really is," said Dupont, a
former Tarrant County assistant district attorney.
Buckner says hes glad Dupont sent the mailer.
"I love it, it's so sleazy," he said. "This is about something that didn't
happen 23 years ago. Its not true. Desperate people say and do desperate
things, especially when theyre losing."
In 1984, Buckner represented Lester Leroy Bower of Arlington, who was
charged with the slayings of four men near Sherman during the robbery of
an ultralight airplane hangar. Bower was convicted and sentenced to death.
He is on death row.
In 2000, Bower had an appeal hearing in U.S. District Court. At that
hearing, the flier states, Halifax, a family friend of Bower, testified
that during the murder trial she had a private conversation with Buckner
about Bowers acquittal chances.
The mailer quotes her testimony: "Then again he turned the conversation
towards a sexual nature and said that he was still having sexual dreams
about me and wanted to know if I was having the same dreams, and I said
no. He asked if I would like having sex with him."
The mailer then describes how lawyers asked Buckner if he sexually
propositioned Bowers family or friends.
"I think not," the mailer quotes Buckner as saying. "First of all, I don't
remember there being any unattached females floating around ... whenever
we met, we were in a group. But my answer is no."
The statements are supported in a transcript of testimony provided by
Contacted by phone in Kansas City, Halifax, a news anchorwoman for
WDAF-TV, a Fox affiliate, said she does not know Dupont and was not
consulted about the flier before it was mailed.
However, Halifax said she remembered Buckner, describing his actions as
"His behavior embarrassed me," she said. "He made sexual comments to me
twice when no one else was around. ... I wish I could take a lie detector
test with him in the room, across the table from me, looking me square in
the eye, because it absolutely happened."
Buckner said that he has not seen the transcript but that his testimony is
true, including his denial.
"I don't remember there being any eligible women," he said. "I wasn't out
there hustling chicks. This is something that a now-37-year-old woman
testified to when she was 15 years old. No. It did not happen.
"I do not remember seeing her," he added, referring to Halifax. "It's
still part of the Bower clan. They're trying to do anything they can. It's
such a sad, sad case. ... Our system works most of the time, but I had to
tell the family that [Bower] might be guilty."
The mailer was sent to voters who cast a ballot in a Republican primary
the last 2 years and cost about $4,000, Dupont said. It uses Halifax's
name and photograph, as well as the TV stations name and logo.
Halifax said the campaign took the images from the Internet, and it's
considered public domain.
George Mills, assistant news director of WDAF, said he was not aware of
the station giving permission to use the logo. He said the station would
not comment further.
In the weeks leading up to the election, Buckner and Dupont traded barbs
and accusations that each has misrepresented the other. They've also
sparred over signs that were taken down, campaign literature and Dupont's
actions off the bench.
But the latest allegations have become the talk of the county of 107,000
west of Fort Worth. County Judge Mark Riley said he's received calls,
mostly at home, from residents seeking information.
"It hasn't interfered with my duties," he said. "Most of my calls were
from politicos who wanted to know if I knew what was going on."
Voter reaction has been mixed.
Lawrence Bierschenk, who lives in eastern Parker County, said that the
campaign has been shocking but that it hasn't changed his mind.
"I'm still voting for Debra Dupont because I know her family and I think
she is a good person," Bierschenk said.
Carolyn Estes, who lives in the western part of the county, said she'd
stand by Buckner.
"He's the most eminently qualified for the job. The last 15 months have
shown we need a change," Estes said.
Halifax said she doesn't lend her support to either candidate. Dupont "may
be lousy, but this man is not necessarily a better candidate," she said.
(source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
SOFFAR SENTENCING; Jury sends killer back to death row----Relief washes
over the families of those killed in 1980 shootings
More than a quarter-century after a horrifying attack left 3 young people
dead and a fourth gravely wounded, the victims' family members felt some
relief Thursday as a jury handed Max Alexander Soffar his 2nd death
"Thank God, my family is safe," said Margaret Johnson, whose teenage son
Tommy Lee Temple was among those killed in the 1980 bloodbath. "I was so
afraid he was going to get out."
Soffar, who spent 23 years on death row before his conviction was
overturned in 2004, will return there.
An appeal is automatic, however, and his wife expressed confidence that he
someday will go free. Defense attorneys, who had argued that he was the
victim of childhood neglect and mental illness, also maintained that his
confession to the shootings was false.
Some of the victims' relatives said they still worry that Soffar, 50,
might find a way to evade the death chamber.
"I can breathe a little easier until the next time," said Brenda Moebius,
widow of Stephen Allen Sims. "I'd feel better if he was executed."
Sims, 25, was killed along with Temple, 17, and his girlfriend, Arden
Alane Felsher, 17, during a robbery at the Fair Lanes Windfern Bowling
Center on U.S. 290 on July 13, 1980.
The jury convicted Soffar last week of killing Felsher during the robbery
of about $1,000. A 4th victim, Gregory George Garner, 18, survived despite
being shot in the head and losing his left eye.
Thursday in court
Soffar, who sank into his chair and sobbed after receiving his 1st death
sentence in 1981, stood grim-faced Thursday and shook his head slowly
after state District Judge Mary Lou Keel imposed the new sentence.
His wife, Sandi Soffar, said she spoke with him by telephone after he was
returned to the Harris County Jail. She said he was shocked, but certain
he will get yet another trial and prove his innocence.
"He knows he will be free," she said. "He knows he has people fighting
harder than ever to bring out the truth."
A 3-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned
Soffar's 1st conviction in 2004, ruling that he had ineffective legal
representation. Defense attorneys in the new trial urged jurors to choose
a life sentence.
"I don't think anybody who leaves a courtroom after a death verdict is
happy," said defense attorney Kathryn Kase.
Like the victims' relatives, prosecutors were relieved.
"I believe Max Soffar is an evil person," Harris County Assistant District
Attorney Lyn McClellan said after the sentencing. "I hope Max Soffar makes
his peace with God."
Soffar confessed to the shootings, but his attorneys said his statements
did not match evidence at the crime scene or Garner's version of events.
Soffar later recanted.
Defense attorney Stanley Schneider said Paul Dennis Reid, 48, probably is
Reid is on Tennessee's death row for unrelated murders, but lived in
Houston at the time of the bowling alley shootings. Soffar's lawyers
contended that Reid told a friend that he had shot 4 people while robbing
a bowling alley on the Northwest Freeway.
But McClellan said Reid had nothing to do with the crime.
"That's the biggest straw man that I've ever seen," he said. "There is no
mystery person, Paul Reid, who committed this crime."
In the trial's punishment phase, Soffar's attorneys attempted to convince
jurors that he deserved a life sentence because he had been a troubled
child with behavioral and mental health problems, such as attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder, and was failed by his parents and the
But prosecutors said Soffar made his own problems, sniffing glue and
gasoline and flouting the rules at school and mental health hospitals.
"He is a sociopath, a criminal," Assistant District Attorney Denise Nassar
told jurors Wednesday in closing statements.
Jurors decided that Soffar posed a continuing danger to society and that
no mitigating circumstances could relieve him of responsibility for the
If they had opted for a life sentence, Soffar could have become eligible
for parole immediately because he has served more than 20 years, which was
all that was required at the time of his 1st conviction. The jurors could
not be told that, however.
But prosecutors said parole would have been unlikely. They also suggested
that, if it appeared that he might be released, they could try him for the
slayings of Sims and Temple.
Victims' family thankful
As the sentence was read Thursday, Margaret Johnson, Tommy Temple's
mother, sat with her surviving son Robert and listened.
Outside the courtroom, she wept on his shoulder. Later, she said, they
hugged and thanked the jurors, who cried with them.
"I just hope this is over," said Johnson, 62. "I don't want to live
through this again."
Her 42-year-old son said he, too, is concerned that Soffar might somehow
win a new trial on appeal.
"We'll have some closure," he said, "when they execute him."
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Are wrongful convictions a problem for courts? ---- ABC show 'In Justice'
focuses on lawyers who prove the guilty innocent
A new crime drama called "In Justice" on ABC is looking at the other side
of the criminal justice system, focusing not on the cops making the case
and putting people behind bars, but instead on lawyers finding cases of
injustice and trying to correct them. The leaders, David Swain, a
charismatic talented attorney with questionable ethics and his chief
investigator Charles Conti, a former cop, who is set on seeing justice
Kyle Maclachlan who plays the charismatic attorney David Swain; Robert
King the executive producer and co-creator of "In Justice;" Joshua
Marquis, district attorney for Clatsop County, Oregon and vice president
of the National District Attorneys Association and Steve Drizin clinical
law professor and legal director for Northwestern's Center on Wrongful
Convictions joined 'The Abrams Report' to speak about the 'injustice' of
the legal system.
To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To
watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.
DAN ABRAMS, HOST, THE ABRAMS REPORT: Kyle, let me start with you. Tell me
about your character and then I want to ask Robert King about how he
decided to create this program, but your character is what?
KYLE MACLACHLAN, PLAYS DAVID SWAIN ON "IN JUSTICE": David Swain, a lawyer
of questionable ethics. He is a wonderful character. He's the creator,
founder of our particular justice project. He is a man who has
rediscovered a passion for the law with this new organization, formerly a
corporate lawyer. He is brash. He's over the top. He's a bit of a peacock
but ultimately he is about righting the wrongs of the justice system.
ABRAMS: And it's not just about finding cases where DNA will help
exonerate someone, right? It's actually about going and finding the bad
MACLACHLAN: Yes, it's a 2-pronged approach so we spend a little time in
the court and a lot of time out in the field, which is where my co-star
Jason O'Mara spends a majority of his time in doing the investigative
ABRAMS: Do you now personally have people saying to you, you know, there's
a great story you guys should do. I know this person who was actually
innocent or a friend of a friend says there's this great story you guys
MACLACHLAN: Some of these things are beginning to filter in from what I
hear back from ABC, some of the e-mail contacts they have and the blogs
that they have, people are saying hey I need to get in contact with you
because I've got a case.
ABRAMS: Robert King, how did you decide to start the show? I mean as you
know, some people are going to say that there is a political statement
effectively being made by this program, that there are just tons of people
being wrongly convicted.
ROBERT KING, "IN JUSTICE" EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: We didn't start that. We
just saw that there were so many investigative shows on the air that were
just kind of taking it from one side and it just started with the thought
that we just wanted to do something different. We wanted to see the case
from the other side.
ABRAMS: I read in one of the articles that you said you described your
wife as liberal and you as conservative?
KING: Yes. We wanted to see the dynamic played out between Kyle's
character, which was much more from the Clinton side of the universe and
Jason's character, Conti, which has a little more of a conservative bent.
He's a policeman, an ex-policeman, who had a bad experience and now is
working with someone that he can kind of appreciate, tolerate at the same
time, and we find that same dynamic played out between my wife and me in
writing these shows.
ABRAMS: So is this ripped from the headlines... as the "Law and Orders"
KING: Not the same way. Stu Bloomberg, our other executive producer,
called it ripped from the heart and in many ways we always find situations
in stories that we find the core of anger, the thing that makes our
characters angry and makes us angry and then we make up a story based on
it and also, we play off what's going on currently in some of the junk
science that is being debunked. We always have some element of something
that is happening today, but the stories themselves are fictional.
ABRAMS: Is it different as an actor to be involved in a program that does
reflect a national debate?
MACLACHLAN: You feel tremendous responsibility. And my research, I take my
research much more to heart.
ABRAMS: You're going and talking to lawyers?
MACLACHLAN: Yes. But most recently I was up at Santa Clara University
talking with the organization up there, really getting a feel for what
they do. I mean these are people that are actually doing this, so I'm
there to absorb their energy, their passion, their commitment. And it was
very helpful to be a part of something, because I took it back to my other
cast members and we talked about it and realized that what we've created,
what Robert's created, all of us have created is not so far from the real
ABRAMS: Now there are legitimate cases in real life of innocent men and
women who have served hard time, some on death row, only to be cleared
later by DNA evidence or other circumstances, which show the person
couldn't have possibly committed the crime.
But is the problem really that pervasive? Are there really thousands and
thousands of men and women behind bar who should not be?
Professor Drizin, let me start with you, how pervasive a problem is it?
STEVE DRIZIN, CENTER ON WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS: The truth is, is we don't
know how pervasive a problem it is. What we know is that it's far more
frequent than we had ever imagined before DNA evidence.
There have been 174 DNA exonerations and we know in every one of those
cases, the person who was wrongfully convicted was actually innocent and
we know that those cases make up only a fraction of the wrongful
conviction pie, because in most cases, there are not - there's not DNA
evidence and in many of the typical kinds of crime, burglaries, robberies,
there is no DNA evidence and in many of the murders and rapes where there
may be DNA evidence, the evidence has been destroyed or degraded, so that
gives us a sense of the problem but no one can say with certainty how big
ABRAMS: Joshua Marquis, if you listen to that and you watch the program
"In Justice", you sure start to feel like there are thousands of people
who are being wrongly convicted.
JOSHUA MARQUIS, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, CLATSOP, OR: If you watch this program,
their original promo was that every year thousands of innocent Americans
are wrongfully convicted, based on true stories. Now they've apparently
backed off that, because this is largely fiction, and there are, as you
say, people who have not done it, people who are innocent.
The question is, there are about, I'd agree, about 170 people who have
been exonerated by DNA. The question we have to ask is out of what
universe. And the answer is aboutout of about 20 million convictions.
There was a study done by a professor named Samuel Gross presented at a
symposium at Northwestern University in which I participated last year, in
which they said that they studied from 1989 to 2003, not just DNA cases.
They were able to identify 380, 400 roundup cases where people and they
thought there were more. Let's assume that they were wrong by a factor of
100, that there were 100 times more people wrongfully convicted than they
say. That means that if that were true and there were 40,000 in that
period of time, we'd be talking about a rightful conviction rate of 99.997
percent. Now, admittedly, and I'm sure Steve will say well, if you're one
of those wrongfully convicted people, that's one too many. That's true.
The question is do we have a problem that's episodic or epidemic?
DRIZIN: Well no one is claiming that it's epidemic. What we're claiming
is, is that the problem is substantial and that focusing on the numbers
really minimizes the scope of the problem incorrectly. When we have a
plane crash or a train wreck or a coal mining disaster, we're not asking
about the safety record of the airlines. That's not the first thing you
ask. You ask what went wrong and what can we do to prevent this from
And too much focus on whether this is episodic or epidemic minimizes the
fact that lives are involved here. Human tragedies. People's lives are
destroyed and we should be trying to minimize that in whatever way we can.
MARQUIS: Peoples lives are destroyed daily. I'm in court every day. We
have millions of Americans who are the victims of violent crime. Our legal
system is intended to err on behalf of the defendant and if we were to be
really worried about the injustices that are occurring every day in the
United States, it's probably going to be about wrongful acquittals, not
wrongful convictions. That doesn't mean that we don't try to do better.
And the American justice system has evolved enormously in the last 20
ABRAMS: What do you make of this program, Josh? When you heard about them
making this program, did you get up in arms? I saw you wrote an op-ed
piece where it's the first line of your piece?
MARQUIS: I got pretty fired up because prosecutors from around the country
wrote me because this show was being promoted during bowl season and you
had Brent Mussburger and all these big time people intoning these very
words, every year, thousands of Americans wrongfully convicted, so you're
right, I did get fired up and "The New York Times" printed an op-ed about
a month ago in which I said look, this is largely drama and fantasy.
That's fine if you take it for that, but let's not try to believe that
what's happening on Kyle's show is that much different than some of the
characters he played when he worked for David Lynch.
ABRAMS: Steve, do you believe that thousands of people are wrongly
convicted every year?
DRIZIN: I have no doubt about it. I can't give you an exact number, but if
you just were to take the fraction of cases involving non-DNA cases and
you were to sort of extrapolate what we know about the DNA exonerations,
there would be thousands. We get between 50 and 75 letters a week from
people in Illinois and around the country claiming that they're innocent
and we can only look at a small fraction of those cases, and when we look
at that small fraction, there are very serious claims of actual innocents
in those cases.
(source: The 'Abrams Report', MSNBC News)
Tale of an innocent man on death row
One of the finest moments for me last fall was when I was invited by our
Catholic bishops to participate in the blessed work they called the
"Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty."
At their meeting in Washington, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn
asked, "What does the death penalty do to us? What kind of society do we
want to be?" He noted that this is "not a liberal issue, but a life
issue." And he underscored, "In the matter of life and death, no mistake
is acceptable. Death is irreversible."
Another person invited to participate in this historic session was Kirk
Bloodsworth, an innocent man who might have been unjustly executed. He had
been wrongly convicted for the rape and murder of a 9-year old girl in
1984. He had spent nearly 9 years on death row before DNA proved him
innocent. He said, "The Catholic Church provided me with essential support
in my time of need, and I converted to Catholicism in 1989 while I was
serving time behind bars."
His story was a striking example of the flaws in the criminal justice
In a study of 86 criminal cases in which DNA evidence later exonerated the
person convicted, it was found there were forensic errors in 63 % of them,
and that in 19 % of the cases the defense attorney was incompetent.
The most common cause of erroneous conviction, however, was eyewitness
misidentification, and this is what happened in Bloodsworth's case.
To meet this soft-spoken and gentle man and his wife was truly a privilege
for me. Bloodsworth expressed his sorrow that my son and his wife had been
murdered, but also his respect that I still would eliminate the death
I also learned that attorney-writer Tim Junkin had told Bloodsworth's
agonizing story in "Bloodsworth: The True Story of the First Death Row
Inmate Exonerated by DNA" (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, N.C.). He tells
how Bloodsworth used to bring library books to another prisoner, Kimberley
Shay Ruffner, arrested for the attempted rape and stabbing of a Baltimore
woman. When Bloodsworth was exonerated by DNA, Ruffner was among the
fellow inmates who congratulated him.
10 years later, Bloodsworth was told by Ann Brobst of the state's
attorney's office that Ruffner was the one who murdered the child
Bloodsworth was accused of killing. Bloodsworth shouted at Brobst that he
had hated her for 20 years for calling him a child killer and a monster.
But then he said, remarkably, following the teaching of the Lord Jesus, "I
Junkin's book tells of Bloodsworth being taken back to the holding cell
while the jury deliberated his fate. There he met another prisoner, a
muscular black man with scars and tattoos, who said to him: "I've heard
about your case from the guards. Don't worry, I know you are going to be
At that moment the guards came to take him back to the courtroom. When the
crowd in the courtroom heard the guilty verdict, the place erupted with
cheering. As the guards brought Bloodsworth back to the holding cell, he
asked where the other prisoner was. The guard said, "You crazy, man.
There's been no one here all day but you."
Later, Bloodsworth was convinced that at his lowest moment, paralyzed with
fear and dread, he'd been visited by an angel.
Today, Bloodsworth works with the Justice Project, a nationwide effort for
To date, 124 death row prisoners have been found innocent and released.
(source: The Tidings - Antoinette Bosco is a columnist with Catholic News
Service and an award-winning author)
Maryland Not Seeking Death Penalty In Sniper Trial
Maryland prosecutors will not seek the death penalty for sniper John Allen
Muhammad when he goes on trial in May, Montgomery County State's Attorney
Douglas F. Gansler said yesterday.
Muhammad, 45, was sentenced to death in Virginia in March 2004 after being
convicted of killing one of the 10 people slain during the October 2002
sniper shootings that terrified the Washington area for 3 weeks.
Gansler said he decided to seek life without the possibility of parole for
Muhammad -- who is charged with randomly killing six people in Maryland
with a teenage accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo -- because under Maryland law,
prosecutors would have had a hard time obtaining the death penalty in the
Gansler said his office consulted with relatives of the victims and was
satisfied that seeking life in prison would satisfy all the interests in
"We wanted to make sure the person who allegedly committed these crimes
never roams our streets again," Gansler said. "Secondly, we wanted to
provide an opportunity for the victims in this case to have their day in
Nelson Rivera, the husband of sniper victim Lori Lewis Rivera, said he
understood the state's rationale for not seeking the death sentence and
looks forward to the trial.
"It's something that won't return anything to us, but justice is going to
be served," he said. "I'm satisfied by the way the state of Maryland has
Rivera's wife was shot at a Kensington gas station Oct. 3, 2002, as she
was getting ready to vacuum her van. Rivera now lives in California.
Muhammad's attorney, Montgomery County Public Defender Paul DeWolfe, said
he was pleased with Gansler's decision. "It saves the Montgomery County
community considerable expense,'' he said.
The trial, originally expected to last as long as 8 weeks, is likely to
last no more than a month because about half the original estimated length
would have been spent on the death-penalty phase, Gansler and DeWolfe
To obtain a death sentence for Muhammad in Maryland, prosecutors would
have had to convince a jury that he was responsible for 2 or more
premeditated murders that arose from the same incident.
This would have been difficult to prove in court because of the time and
distance between the slayings, DeWolfe said.
Additionally, prosecutors would have had to demonstrate that Muhammad was
the shooter in the Maryland killings, rather than just a participant in
the crimes with Malvo.
After Muhammad and Malvo were arrested, Maryland and Virginia prosecutors
competed to prosecute them first. Virginia prevailed, primarily because
its prosecutors have more legal tools to obtain the death penalty and
because death row inmates in Virginia are executed more regularly than
those in Maryland.
If the Virginia conviction were to be overturned on appeal, prosecutors in
other jurisdictions where Muhammad allegedly killed people -- including
Alabama and Louisiana -- could seek the death penalty.
Malvo, who was 17 at the time of the shootings, is ineligible for the
death penalty because he was a juvenile.
The prospect of a shorter trial was welcomed by Montgomery County Sheriff
Raymond M. Kight, who is responsible for transporting Muhammad to and from
the courtroom and for security in the building.
"I'm pleased it's going to be a shorter period of time, for security
reasons," Kight said. "A case with this notoriety draws all kinds of
Kight said his office recently bought new security cameras and screening
devices in preparation for the trial.
On the basis of the earlier length projection, Kight had estimated that
his office would need as much as $500,000. He said the cost certainly
would decrease but could not provide an updated figure yesterday.
Gansler said the state has spent a "minimal" amount of money preparing for
the trial. Deputy State's Attorney Katherine Winfree will be the lead
Malvo, who also was convicted of one killing in Virginia, is scheduled to
go on trial in Montgomery County in October.
(source: Washington Post)
Implications of a lie could mean life or death for Moussaoui
A dispute arises over what to tell the jury about Zacarias Moussaoui's
obligation to tell the truth.
Upon his Eagan arrest in August 2001, Zacarias Moussaoui told federal
agents he was taking lessons in flying a 747 jumbo jet for enjoyment and
had worked in marketing research in London for a company called NOP,
though he didn't know its full name.
An FBI agent wrote that Moussaoui offered no satisfactory explanation for
the source of $32,000 that he deposited in an Oklahoma bank, saying that
he had been saving since age 14.
Those statements by the now-confessed Al-Qaida conspirator -- prosecutors
say they were lies -- will be at the fulcrum of a legal battle in the
sentencing trial that starts Monday to determine whether he should live or
Issue of omission
Prosecutors want the jury to be told that Moussaoui should be sentenced to
death if he intentionally concealed his involvement in a plot to hijack
and crash U.S. jetliners. They argue that such disclosure would have
enabled the government to diminish the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Defense lawyers dispute that. "It equates 'not lying' with telling the
truth," they wrote. "It thereby suggests that the defendant had an
affirmative obligation to divulge information and that the jury can
[impose a death penalty] ... based upon the defendant's withholding
information which was not responsive to any agent's questions."
Michael Mello, a University of Vermont law professor who specializes in
capital cases, said he knew of no instance in the modern era of capital
punishment where a defendant has been executed for failing to take an act.
"As a general rule, the law doesn't punish omissions, in the United States
at least," he said.
The outcome of the dispute over jury instructions could set legal
precedents in a case that is also charting new waters for the handling of
national security information in criminal trials.
Jurors to see classified data
In the latest twist, a senior Justice Department official disclosed
Thursday that jurors will be allowed to see classified information that
will not be made public. Presumably, the 500 prospective jurors underwent
some sort of background check to ensure they could be trusted.
Moussaoui pleaded guilty in April to joining Sept. 11 hijackers in a broad
plot to seize U.S. jetliners and crash them into buildings, but denied
knowing anything about the deadliest terror attack in U.S. history.
Mello said the disclosure that prosecutors would let jurors see classified
information, under what a Justice Department official referred to as a
"silent witness" procedure, only raises more questions.
First, Mello said, if jurors were required to clear national security
background checks, the pool of candidates will be even less "defendant
friendly" than the usual pool in conservative northern Virginia.
And 2nd, he said, it raises questions about the defense's right to subject
any evidence submitted by prosecutors to cross-examination.
(source: Minneapolis Star Tribune)
Death penalty proposal is dead, again
A week after the death penalty was shown to be dead in the Senate, the
House speaker said he is ending the House's attempt to pass the measure.
House Speaker Christopher Rants, R-Sioux City, said he will not schedule
debate on the death penalty because he doesnt think it has enough support
"I don't think so," he said, when asked if there will be a vote on the
Rants said he made the decision because Democrats appear to be unified in
opposition to the death penalty, which means every Republican would need
to support it for it to pass. Republicans hold a 51-49 majority.
But Republicans are not unified. A small number in both houses say they
will not support the death penalty because it would go against their
House Majority Leader Chuck Gipp, R-Decorah, said another factor is the
apparent opposition to the death penalty in the Senate.
Last week, a survey by the Quad-City Times and Radio Iowa showed that 29
out of 50 senators would vote against the current death penalty proposal.
That proposal, which has 17 Senate Republican co-sponsors, would allow the
death sentence for offenders who kidnap, rape and murder a child.
The House Judiciary Committee last week passed a similar bill in a 12-8
vote. All of the Democrats present that day voted against it.
Rep. Kurt Swaim, D-Bloomfield, the top Democrat on the committee, said
Thursday that he is happy to hear the death penalty is dead.
"I think we have a lot of important issues to face this session and I'm
glad we're going to be dedicating our time to those," he said.
(source: Quad-City Times)
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