[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----OHIO, ORE., FLA., CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Mar 4 13:21:29 CST 2006
3-judge panel convicts man in double-murder Death penalty a possibility in
Family members of 2 Fremont residents murdered in 2004 shed tears and
hugged each other yesterday after Jeffrey Zenowicz was pronounced guilty
in the slayings.
"We're happy with it. We had some hard times hearing the evidence and
seeing the pictures, but for the most part we're happy with what
happened," said Gil Fonseca, father of Claudia Fonseca, 40, who Zenowicz
Zenowicz, 35, of Marblehead, Ohio, also slashed the throat of Rita Slone's
son, Leslie Slone, 30, a friend of Ms. Fonseca's. Mrs. Slone of Topmost,
Ky., said she was pleased with the verdict, "but it just don't bring my
A 3-judge panel hearing the case in Sandusky County Common Pleas Court
deliberated less than 3 hours before returning its verdict. Judge Harry
Sargeant, Jr., announced the verdicts just after 2 p.m. - guilty on four
counts of aggravated murder and 5 other felonies and guilty on all but 4
of the 14 specifications.
Zenowicz could be sentenced to death when the panel reconvenes April
24 for the penalty phase of his trial. Other sentencing options include
life in prison without the possibility of parole or life with the
possibility of parole after 25 or 30 years.
Zenowicz did not take the stand during the 4-day trial, but it was his own
words that weighed heaviest against him.
In a videotaped, five-hour interview with detectives July 5, 2004,
Zenowicz initially denied any part in the slayings but ultimately told
detectives how he had gone to Ms. Fonseca's house the night of July 3,
killed Mr. Slone, who he did not know, and later drowned his former
girlfriend in the bathtub.
He had lived with Ms. Fonseca earlier that year, but moved out after he
was arrested for domestic violence May 14.
While he told detectives the two continued to see each other after his
arrest and talked of marriage, Fonseca family members doubted his story.
Cathy Fonseca said her sister was "terrified" of Zenowicz.
"She was scared. There was no way she would call him," she said. "She
wouldn't have wanted to marry him."
Sandusky County Prosecutor Tom Stierwalt credited Detective Capt. James
Consolo with obtaining the confession that sealed Zenowicz's fate.
"I think Detective Consolo did a wonderful job, and without that statement
this case would've had a way different outcome," Mr. Stierwalt said.
Defense attorney Adrian Cimerman said the interview was clearly damaging.
"It was 95 % of their case," he said.
Mr. Cimerman and co-counsel Jeff Helmick said their focus would now be on
saving Zenowicz's life.
"We are going to aggressively pursue any avenue of mitigation to prevent
him from getting the death penalty," Mr. Cimerman said.
Cathy Fonseca said that for the sake of Zenowicz's 2 young sons, she did
not want him to receive the death penalty. Her father said he would leave
it to the court to decide.
Mr. Fonseca said his eldest daughter was an easygoing person who had lots
"She loved and trusted everyone," he said. "I think because of her trust
and love for everyone and her good heart I think it caused her some of her
Jerry Fick, a roommate of Mr. Slone, said his friend was always there for
his family and friends, including Ms. Fonseca. He had been going to her
house to ease her fears for a couple weeks before the 2 were killed.
"That's the kind of guy he was - just throw himself in front of someone if
he had to, and he did," Mr. Fick said.
(source: Toledo Blade)
Send serial killer back to death row, jury says
In Portland, a jury recommended Friday that Oregon's most prolific serial
killer be sent back to death row for a 3rd time.
Dayton Leroy Rogers tortured and killed 8 women in 1987, binding them with
dog collars and coat hangers, stabbing them repeatedly and mutilating them
- possibly while some were still alive.
The Clackamas County jury was unanimous in its death sentences for 6 of
Judge Ronald Thom will decide later whether to accept the recommendation,
after hearing from families of the victims.
2 previous juries had sentenced Rogers to death, but the Oregon Supreme
Court overturned the sentences, in one case ruling that the jury must be
given the option of sentencing Rogers to life in prison without the
possibility of parole.
Thom overruled an objection by defense attorney Linda Ludwig, who asked
the judge to interview a juror she said was crying and "visibly upset"
during the reading of the verdict.
Thom responded that "it's not within my province to go into the manner in
which the jury deliberated."
He noted that Ludwig, prosecutor John Wentworth and Rogers all cried at
some point in the sentencing trial.
"You yourself were crying during your closing argument, the defendant
[Rogers] was crying during his allocution and Mr. Wentworth had many tears
in his eyes and had to stop," Thom said. "This has been an emotional trial
and I find that not unusual at all."
The jury ignored Rogers' claim that he was a changed man after 18 years in
The former lawn-mower repairman on Thursday delivered an allocution - a
formal statement by a defendant to the court, often to admit guilt and
take responsibility for a crime in hopes of more lenient sentencing.
"There is never a day that I don't struggle from the very core of my heart
and soul over the despicable acts I've committed," Rogers said.
In finding that Rogers deserved the death penalty, the jury had to rule in
each murder that it was done deliberately and there was a probability
Rogers could still commit violent criminal acts that "constitute a
continuing threat to society."
The jury heard testimony from a psychologist who said Rogers, now 52, did
not pose a danger to other prisoners because he is aging and wants to
spend his time helping inmates, including working as a hospice volunteer
to comfort the terminally ill.
Another psychologist for the defense said many of Rogers' relatives -
including his grandparents, parents and cousins - had mental illnesses or
problems with alcohol.
Defense attorneys capped the 3-week trial in Oregon City on Thursday by
asking jurors to take his childhood into account, saying Rogers was beaten
by a father who also killed family pets by gassing them or running them
over with a car.
But the jury also heard a psychiatrist testify on behalf of the
prosecution that Rogers would pose a danger if he were ever released, and
still suffers from a serious anti-social disorder.
Prosecutors argued that Rogers is a manipulator, not the remorseful man
depicted by the defense.
One of his victims was never identified after seven bodies were found in
the forest near the town of Molalla. Rogers was sentenced to life in
prison for the stabbing death of another victim, Jennifer Lisa Smith,
outside a Portland restaurant in 1987.
If Thom accepts the jury recommendation and formally sentences Rogers to
death, his case automatically will move to the 2st step in a 10-step
appeals process that could take another 10 or 15 years.
(source: Associated Press)
Suspected Ringleader In Deltona Mass Murder Claims Alibi
The man believed to be the ringleader in the Deltona mass murder claims he
has an alibi and people to vouch for him, according to Local 6 News.
Defense attorneys filed paperwork this week claiming 13 people can verify
Troy Victorino, 29, was drinking at a bar and then at home before passing
out on the night 6 people were beaten to death with baseball bats.
Victorino; Michael Salas, 20; and Jerone Hunter, 19, could face the death
penalty if convicted on 14 felony charges for the 2004 beating deaths.
Investigators said Victorino organized the attack to retrieve an Xbox
video game system he lost when he was kicked out of a house where he was
The 4 allegedly barged into the Deltona home with baseball bats and
bludgeoned the 6 victims, who ranged in age from 17 to 34, and a small
Robert Cannon has already pleaded guilty in the case and accepted a plea
deal to avoid the death penalty.
The trail is set to begin April 12.
(source: Internet Broadcast Systems)
The debate lives
Challenges to the use of lethal injection have brought the issue of
capital punishment back into national focus, at least indirectly. And
among the most persistent participants in the conversation are members of
On Feb. 21 California postponed the execution of Michael A. Mores to
examine the state's lethal-injection procedures. Similar execution
procedures are followed in 35 of the 36 states that allow the death
penalty. California acted after determining that it could not comply with
a federal judge's order to alter its methods.
Most of the states use three chemicals administered intravenously and in
sequence by machines. Typically penitentiary personnel insert the 3 lines
into the prisoner.
The broad question that has emerged is whether the procedure might cause
enough pain to violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel
and unusual punishment. The federal judge, Jeremy Fogel, was concerned
with specific evidence that California's procedure was frequently poorly
administered and extremely painful.
Lawyers in several states are bringing legal challenges to the procedure.
Look for many more in the wake of the California action. One from Florida,
Hill v. Crosby, apparently is scheduled to be argued before the U.S.
Supreme Court in April, but it isn't really a challenge to the merits of
Don't look for a ruling that lethal injection is unconstitutional. And
don't look for this particular discussion to change minds about the use of
the death penalty itself.
Still, American public opinion apparently is shifting. Support for the
death penalty is declining. A majority, 64 %, still favor it if the
question is simply whether they support the death penalty. Fewer than a
majority favor it, however, if the question is a choice between the death
penalty and life imprisonment without parole.
Last year U.S. Catholic bishops, active opponents of capital punishment
for more than 25 years, launched a new campaign to end the practice.
Evangelicals such as Jimmy Carter and Jim Wallis, a leader whose positions
on social ethics tend to be progressive, agree with the bishops. Most
mainline denominations have adopted statements opposing the death penalty.
To be sure, faith communities are not of one mind, and many of those who
are in the pews do not follow their denominational leaders. The Southern
Baptist Convention, the largest U.S. Protestant denomination, supports
capital punishment. And there is a gap between Catholic and mainline
Protestant leaders and many in their membership.
Most all of Florida's modern governors, for instance, have been
religiously affiliated, but only the late LeRoy Collins opposed capital
punishment. Most members of the Florida Legislature are members of faith
communities, but you couldn't muster a dozen legislators' votes against
the death penalty (unless, perhaps, it was a secret ballot).
Yet the majority participating in the candle-lighting vigil in front of
the Governor's Mansion at precisely the time death row inmates are
executed are active members of faith communities and are religiously
motivated. And most (but not all) of those who meet to witness in the
Capitol rotunda at high noon on the first workday after each execution are
there out of religious commitment, be they Quakers, Catholics, Jews or
They show up because they agree with St. Augustine that the state should
be in the justice business, not the vengeance business.
(source: Tallahassee Democrat - Leo Sandon is professor emeritus of
religion and American studies at Florida State)
Florida Attorney John Contini Demonstrates Power of Forgiveness in New
Book: 'Danger Road: A True Crime Story of Murder and Redemption'
In Fort Lauderdale, in his 23 years as a defense attorney John Contini has
learned 2 important things that make him quite good at representing his
clients. Early on he learned how to win cases - many that other attorneys
wouldn't take. In fact, Contini worked diligently as a young lawyer to
build a reputation as a tough and aggressive advocate for those he
represented, and it paid off in an impressive array of victories for his
clients -- and abundant press coverage for himself. (To view past press
coverage on attorney John Contini, visit www.jpcontini.com/press.htm.)
It wasn't until later that Contini learned an important and lifelong
lesson about the importance of blending justice with mercy and
forgiveness. And that, says Contini, has made him a far better lawyer -
and a far better human being.
"You've got to do certain things to win in trial, and represent your
client to the very best of your ability - legal practices that are
ethically permitted by the rules of evidence and actually ethically
required by the Code of Professional Responsibility - but behavior that
can occasionally run afoul of the scriptures," explained the high-profile
criminal defense and personal injury lawyer. "It's like tip-toeing through
an ethical and scriptural minefield."
Though most of Contini's cases are in South Florida, he has handled
federal cases involving corporate espionage, organized crime and
racketeering, smuggling, and drug trafficking - and other crimes - in
various U.S. locales like Pittsburgh, Boston, Cleveland, Ohio and Orlando,
Florida. Contini, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, has a reputation as one of
the most capable and successful defense attorneys in America.
His personal and professional journey has taken him from the depths of
emotional despair over the state of an unforgiving world, and the weakness
and hypocrisy inherent in human nature, to the pinnacle of spiritual joy
and fulfillment. The challenges he has faced, and their resolutions - from
both a legal and spiritual position - have enabled him to grow and
flourish as a lawyer, and as a man. Working side by side with those who
have been truly repentant, Contini has had to struggle with his own ego
and personal demons, witnessing the astonishing duality that lies within
the hearts of his dear friends, respected peers, and those he has
While most people may be totally comfortable with the meting out of
punishment to any and all members of society (as long as it's not someone
they love), Contini is more interested in finding ways to be compassionate
in his practice.
"Consider the James Gould case and the public outrage it incited," said
Contini, who once served as a Broward County, Florida prosecutor.
"Indignation and righteous anger, including my own, is the typical
response when you describe a man who admits to taking a shower with an
8-year-old boy, and possibly doing some inappropriate things. Yes, there
are legal consequences for this outrageous crime and yet, as an evolved
society with respect for treatment and rehabilitation, are we not required
to have some compassion toward even folks like Gould who themselves were
once victimized as children? Wheres the empathy for the child inside this
man, before his own innocence was destroyed by the sexual abuse
perpetrated on him?"
Contini is quick to point out that being compassionate does not mean
setting a convicted killer or pedophile free. He believes that criminals
can be forgiven, and still go to prison where, he says, most deserve to
"Many of the angry, self-righteous folks who clamored for Gould to be put
to death, castrated, or sent to prison for life, are the very same people
who would ask for mercy if it were their father, mother, big brother,
elder sister, prodigal son, or wayward daughter who had done the deed,"
noted Contini. "People want justice when someone else is accused. They
want anything but justice when a loved one is on trial. Then they demand
mercy, and suddenly want to be assured that their loved one will get the
help they so desperately need. They talk out of both corners of their
mouth. We simply need to acknowledge theres value in trying to avoid this
kind of double-mindedness."
Ironically, much of what Contini has learned about life, his own failings
and weaknesses, and his blossoming spirituality, was gleaned from
relationships with some of his most infamous and notorious clients. His
close contact with Gil Fernandez, the former Miami police officer and
champion bodybuilder who was convicted of the triple gangland-style murder
of 3 alleged drug dealers in 1991, helped to change Continis life.
"I got too close to Gil, and probably should have tried harder to maintain
appropriate boundaries, and put a healthy distance between myself and my
client," he said. "But I dont regret a thing. Now after 20 years as a
criminal defense lawyer, I only take clients who I believe are truly
repentant -- those who show remorse for their crime, and empathy for the
victim and the victim's family. As a man of faith, my relationship with
Gil helped me to practice what I used to just preach."
In his soon-to-be-released book on the case, Danger Road: A True Crime
Story of Murder and Redemption, Contini recounts the incredible story of
his complicated relationship with Fernandez. Now a lifelong bond, their
relationship developed around the 9-week trial in which Contini defended
Fernandez, and culminated in a spiritual awakening for both the attorney
and the convicted man.
"The biggest challenge I face as a lawyer, and a man of faith in this
secular arena, is simply acting in a way that is consistent with all of
who I am," said Contini. "It can be very difficult when you want to tell a
pompous and uncaring prosecutor to 'put it where the sun don't shine!
Instead, I try to get people to realize that we all have something to
learn from each other - even a person who is a convicted murderer has some
kind of wisdom to share. There but for the grace of God go I."
Regardless of a person's guilt, whether in reference to James Gould, Gil
Fernandez, or any other person who has been accused of a heinous crime,
Contini believes that if you know the defendant is guilty, its crucial to
"condemn the act, not the person."
"The criminally accused is treated as our modern-day leper," explained
Contini. "Its not the healthy who need a physician. It's the person who is
shunned and ostracized by society who we ought to help, and treat with
compassion and mercy. After all, we must demonstrate forgiveness if we
want to be forgiven for the mistakes we have made in this life."
About John Patrick Contini
John Patrick Contini is a former prosecutor and veteran criminal defense
attorney since 1983. With over 20 years experience as a trial attorney,
John has appeared in 11 Federal Courts throughout the nation and Florida.
John received his B.A. in 1979 from the University of MA and his Juris
Doctor in 1982 from the New England School of Law. John has been written
up by numerous publications and featured on national and local television
and radio news outlets. His law firm, John P. Contini and Assoicates,
specializes in the areas of family law/marital issues, commercial
litigation, bankruptcy law, workers compensation and employment law, civil
rights litigation, personal injury, and wrongful death cases.
Calif. proposes altering lethal injection
The state of California has proposed altering the amount of life-ending
drugs to be used in executions and would continually drip a sedative into
prisoners to make sure they don't become conscious during the process,
prosecutors said Friday.
California's chief death penalty prosecutor, Dane Gillette, said at a
hearing that the changes would ensure that a prisoner "would not
experience wanton or unnecessary pain."
U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel didn't say whether he would approve of
the new method.
The proposal responds to a lawsuit brought by Michael Morales, who was
scheduled to be executed Feb. 21. The injection was canceled and the
state's capital punishment system left in legal limbo after San Quentin
State Prison could not comply with Fogel's order for changes to ensure
Morales would not feel too much pain.
Hearings had been set for May 2 to determine whether the state's current
method amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Those hearings will now
focus on the new procedure.
A week before Morales' scheduled execution, Fogel recommended that
California employ two anesthesiologists to ensure Morales'
The anesthesiologists, citing ethical concerns, bowed out at the 11th
hour. So Fogel ordered a licensed medical professional, instead of a
prison staffer, to administer the injection. No specialist stepped
forward, and Morales' death warrant expired.
That essentially created a moratorium on capital punishment in California,
home to the nation's largest death row.
Morales attorney Richard Steinken said the new method might still amount
to cruel and unusual punishment.
"This tinkering hardly resolves all of our concerns," he said.
Among them was that the new protocol - like the old one - doesn't require
licensed medical professionals to ensure no mistakes in the injection
procedure, he said.
Fogel ordered the changes in Morales' execution after studying the medical
logs of executed inmates and finding that there were "substantial
questions" about whether prisoners were conscious and feeling unacceptable
levels of pain once a paralyzing agent was administered.
"It seems like they're experimenting at this point," said John Grele,
another attorney for Morales, who is on death row for torturing, raping
and murdering a 17-year-old girl 25 years ago.
37 of 38 states with capital punishment use lethal injection.
While doctors participate in them to some degree, none kill the patient.
The U.S. Supreme Court has never addressed whether lethal injection
amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
(source: Associated Press)
As death penalty fades, U.S. should follow suit
It seems that capital punishment stands on death row, and rightfully so.
Developments within the case of convicted murderer and rapist Michael
Morales are convincing enough to illustrate capital punishment's
termination in the United States. Morales' execution by lethal injection
was postponed when the anesthesiologists assisting with the execution
refused to participate, stating that the act would violate their medical
According to the Los Angeles Times, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel
proposed modification of the lethal injection process because executions
in the past have not resulted in completely pain-free deaths.
The case illuminated the fact that even lethal injection - the most
frequently practiced method of execution due to its more "humane" nature
compared to other forms - still exists amid procedural complications.
Execution is synonymous with murder, and the U.S. seems to be one of the
last to realize this.
The U.S. remains one of the few countries (including South Korea and
Japan) out of the world's developed democracies that still retains capital
punishment as an institution for justice.
It is quite ironic that this is the same country proclaiming and fighting
for just government systems overseas. How potent can the moral authority
be if it stands on the same side of human rights-violating countries
regarding capital punishment?
Even South Korea is now jumping on the bandwagon toward eliminating
capital punishment. According to The Korea Times, the South Korean
Ministry of Justice recently declared plans to review execution procedures
and possibly implement life imprisonment instead.
A similar moratorium in California was proposed in February 2005. Although
it is currently inactive, the capital punishment debate stirred by the
Morales case shifted attention to the bill.
The moratorium would review the effectiveness and procedural integrity of
the death penalty, stalling executions in California until January 2009,
according to the Web site for California legislative information.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, no real difference
exists in the crime rates between states where the death penalty has been
abolished and where it's in effect. Permanent removal of criminals does
not encourage a safer society, nor does it deter future crimes.
Additionally, while great pain is inflicted upon victims and their
acquaintances and they deserve great empathy, execution is still literally
killing and thus is an illogical and contradictory method of vindication.
Recent trends have witnessed moratoriums in states such as Illinois and
Maryland (though both have been reversed) and New Jersey most recently,
according to National Public Radio.
Continuing studies by Amnesty International have indicated bias between
race and socioeconomic status in the placing of prisoners on death row,
and DNA testing proved innocent in 2002 the 100th person on death row.
With these findings, capital punishment continually seems to be an
antiquated method of justice in danger of elimination.
And with the recent failure to improve the system in the Morales case,
only time and history can prove whether someday the U.S.'s archaic form of
justice will expire.
(source: Lana Yoo, The (University of California) Daily Bruin)
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