[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----CONN., S.C., WASH., PENN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Mar 7 14:03:30 CST 2006
DiMeo may face death penalty----DiMeo to face Conn. trial Judge orders
extradition in murders of Fairfield jewelers
Christopher DiMeo, accused of gunning down Tim and Kim Donnelly in their
Fairfield jewelry store last year, will face charges for the crime here on
Thursday, in a case that could lead to a death penalty trial.
"We are making arrangements to pick him up Wednesday morning at the
Clinton Correctional facility in Dannemora, N.Y.," State's Attorney
Jonathan Benedict confirmed Monday.
He said DiMeo will be brought before a Superior Court judge at the Golden
Hill Street courthouse. Benedict said he will ask that DiMeo be held
without bond, pending a probable cause hearing at the Main Street
courthouse at a later date.
Although Benedict would not comment, he is expected to formally file at
that time his intention to seek the death penalty for DiMeo.
Public Defender Joseph Bruckmann, who is expected to represent DiMeo here,
declined to comment on the case.
Late Friday, New York Supreme Court Judge Patrick McGill ordered the
23-year-old DiMeo's extradition, denying a last-ditch effort by DiMeo's
lawyers to keep him out of Connecticut.
They claimed DiMeo could not be returned to Connecticut as a fugitive from
justice because at the time of his arrest he was a fugitive in New Jersey
before being extradited to New York.
DiMeo was captured Feb. 4 at an Atlantic City, N.J., motel. He was
extradited to New York where he later pleaded guilty and received a life
sentence for the December 2004 murder of a Nassau County jeweler. In the
Fairfield case, DiMeo is charged with capital felony, 2 counts of felony
murder, 2 counts of murder and single counts of 1st-degree robbery and
criminal possession of a firearm. Police said the Donnellys were shot
multiple times with a semiautomatic handgun. They said 9 bullet casings
were found on the floor of the jewelry store. The gun DiMeo used to kill
the Donnellys was the same one used to kill Glen Head, N.Y., jeweler
Thomas Renison at his store on Dec. 21, police said, adding the gun was
later found in DiMeo's car. Police said they believe DiMeo entered the
jewelry stores and engaged employees in friendly conversation, saying he
was looking for an engagement ring. When he had gained their confidence he
pulled out a gun and robbed the stores, police said.
(source: Connecticut Post)
High court overturns killer's death sentence
The state Supreme Court has overturned the death sentence of a man
convicted of killing two elderly women in Greenville, saying the judge
failed to tell jurors that a life sentence meant the man was ineligible
Michael James Laney, 37, was sentenced to death in 2001 after being
convicted of killing 86-year-old Dorothy Hancock and her 82-year-old
neighbor Thelma Godfrey in September 2000. Hancock had been beaten to
death and Godfrey's throat was slit.
After the slayings, investigators said, Laney set the house on fire, then
drove Hancock's car through the closed garage door. He was arrested a day
later in North Carolina driving the car.
In his appeal, Laney's attorneys argued that the trial judge should have
told jurors that a life sentence in the case would mean that Laney would
not be eligible for parole. The Supreme Court agreed, saying the
instructions were necessary because prosecutors raised the issue of
Laney's future danger to society should he be released.
The case will go back to Circuit Court for resentencing.
(source: Associated Press)
State might take a new look at lethal injection----Execution method being
challenged across nation
A decade ago, when Washington lawmakers made lethal injection the primary
way to execute convicted killers, it was considered less barbaric than
hanging and less likely to bring long, costly appeals.
The state Supreme Court has called lethal injection "undoubtedly
constitutional" and said that ruling otherwise would be "tantamount to
forbidding the death penalty altogether."
But now, as death row inmates in other states claim it's cruel punishment
because it may not bring a peaceful death as once believed, some attorneys
say Washington courts will likely have to take another look at the method.
"There's no doubt it will come up here," said Tim Ford, a Seattle defense
attorney who is nationally recognized for his work in death penalty cases.
"It's pretty clear that this method of execution has the potential to
cause a great deal of pain -- and maybe even more pain than some of the
methods we've discarded."
Ford expects that the legal challenges across the country are "going to
result in at least a temporary suspension of executions for a while."
Yet Assistant Attorney General John Samson, who handles many of
Washington's death penalty cases, said it's difficult to predict how and
when such challenges would come up -- and there's no reason to believe
"It's the state's position that lethal injection is a valid method of
execution, and it complies with the Eighth Amendment," Samson said. "It is
not cruel and unusual punishment."
Such legal challenges, raised in various states, led to an 11th-hour
reprieve last month for Michael Morales in California, igniting nationwide
debate and new scrutiny of what was once supposed to be a humane and
clinical way to put condemned prisoners to death.
The issue has to do with the series of drugs administered.
The 1st chemical induces sleep but wears off quickly, Ford said, raising
the possibility that the prisoner feels excruciating pain -- yet is unable
to say anything or move -- when given 2 subsequent drugs, including
heart-stopping potassium chloride.
Bolstering the argument this past year was an article in Lancet, a British
medical journal. It said testing in 49 executions showed most prisoners
had inadequate levels of anesthesia and nearly 1/2 may have been aware and
"Lethal injection is no less cruel than any other form of execution, and I
think the issues that have been raised in California and other states
prove that," said state Rep. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, a death penalty
opponent and one of just a few lawmakers who opposed making lethal
injection the state's primary execution method.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider whether the drug
combination used in executions across the country amounts to cruel and
unusual punishment, though justices have agreed to hear a case next month
that involves how and when prisoners can challenge the method.
Samson said there's no indication that there have been any problems with
the method in Washington, where two convicted killers, James Elledge and
Jeremy Sagastegui, have been given lethal injection.
State Toxicologist Barry Logan tested Sagastegui's body for the level of
the first drug given, sodium thiopental, and said there was "no suggestion
that there was any meaningful level of consciousness."
Logan wasn't aware of any similar testing done for Elledge.
Pam Loginsky, staff attorney for the Washington Association of Prosecuting
Attorneys, said any death row inmate who contends lethal injection is
cruel can opt for the gallows under state law. The state Supreme Court has
held that hanging is constitutional, and the U.S. Supreme Court hasn't
"Any method of execution is going to inflict pain," she said. "You don't
extinguish a life without some discomfort."
Ripples from California case
Washington lawmakers replaced hanging with lethal injection as the primary
method of execution in 1996, leaving hanging as a secondary option.
Gov. Christine Gregoire, then the state attorney general, pushed for the
change to head off repeated arguments that hanging was cruel and unusual
The new law came 2 years after a federal judge ruled that death row inmate
Mitchell Rupe could not be hanged because he was too heavy -- topping 400
pounds -- and would likely be decapitated in the process. Rupe eventually
won a reprieve for other reasons.
Several years later, one of Rupe's attorneys, Todd Maybrown, raised the
current issue about lethal injection in the case of Blake Pirtle, a
Spokane man who stabbed to death two Burger King employees.
The argument failed, Maybrown said, "but we never had a hearing, and no
one ever presented evidence in a courtroom about how the execution was
going to go forward."
The Seattle attorney contends there is much more information available now
showing that lethal injection is far from humane.
If the method is someday found unconstitutional, death penalty opponents
acknowledge that another combination of chemicals could probably be
developed and written into law.
That could raise the question, however, of whether a new law about the
method could be applied to people already sitting on death row, Maybrown
In Washington, 4 men have been executed in the past 25 years. The next
execution is likely at least 2 years away.
As in the recent California case of Morales, a key issue in the debate is
whether someone with medical training will be involved in executions.
Members of the medical profession generally refuse to take part.
For Morales, a judge ordered that a medical professional be there to make
sure he was unconscious when the lethal drugs were injected. His execution
was postponed because prison officials weren't able to make that happen.
A hearing in his case to determine whether lethal injection is cruel
punishment is now set for May. Later appeals of the California case could
affect Washington, which also falls under the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of
For now, the U.S. Supreme Court has stayed two Florida executions while it
considers whether a prisoner can challenge lethal injection in a civil
rights lawsuit, and executions in Missouri have been at least temporarily
In Louisiana, no inmates have been executed since 2002 as the state fights
a lawsuit over the training of its executioners and the mix of drugs used.
But the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals rejected a Texas prisoner's claim last
month that lethal injection was unnecessarily cruel. It found that the
claim -- made five days before his execution date -- came too late. Clyde
Smith Jr., convicted of killing a Houston cabdriver, was put to death.
California's case will likely be closely watched around the country
because all 38 states that have the death penalty use similar
lethal-injection procedures, except Nebraska, which uses the electric
In Washington, executions are done by an "injection team." The undisclosed
number of people are trained, but the Department of Corrections' protocol
has no requirement that any are medical professionals.
Corrections Secretary Eldon Vail said department officials keep an eye on
legal issues, such as the current lethal-injection challenges, that arise
in other states.
"We certainly pay attention," he said. "Management of the process is
cumbersome and difficult. It's not an easy thing to do for the people
involved, nor should it be."
DEATH ROW INMATES IN WASHINGTON
4 condemned killers have been executed in Washington in the past 25 years.
Charles Campbell was hanged in 1994, after appealing his sentence for 12
years, for slashing the throats of two Snohomish County women and an
The other 3 "volunteered" for execution, choosing not to challenge their
sentence: Westley Allan Dodd hanged in 1993 for killing three young boys
in the Vancouver area; Jeremy Sagastegui was executed by lethal injection
in 1998 for killing a toddler and two women near Kennewick; and lethal
injection was also used on James Elledge in 2001 for murdering a woman in
a Lynnwood church.
There are currently seven men on death row in this state:
Crime: Killed his new wife and 2 of her teenage daughters.
Sentenced: 2001; King County.
Crime: Killed girlfriend's 14-year-old daughter after she threatened to
turn him in for earlier molestation.
Sentenced: 1996; Whatcom County.
Crime: Beat 12-year-old girl to death. Sentenced: 1991; Kitsap County.
Crime: Raped and stabbed 43-year-old woman in her home during robbery.
Sentenced: 2001; Pierce County.
Crime: Killed his wife and business partner in attempted insurance scam.
Sentenced: 1994; Clallam County.
Crime: Tortured, stabbed and beat 2 women to death, raping one of them.
Sentenced: 1997; Spokane County.
Robert Yates Jr.
Crime: Preyed on women on both sides of the state, many of them
prostitutes. Plea bargain spared serial killer's life in Spokane. Received
death sentence for 2 murders in Pierce County. Sentenced: 2002.
(source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer) ******************
Death row inmate seeks new trial, citing deals
The 1st person convicted in Washington using PCR analysis of DNA -
technology that allowed tests on tiny biological samples - is seeking a
new trial, saying the state made secret deals with jailhouse informants in
exchange for their testimony.
Jonathan Lee Gentry has been on Washingtons death row longer than any of
its other seven residents. He was convicted in 1991 of bludgeoning
12-year-old Cassie Holden near Bremerton as she went outside to pick
flowers before dinner.
During his trial, Kitsap County prosecutors presented testimony from three
jailhouse informants who said Gentry had incriminated himself. One said
Gentry told fellow prisoners during a card game that the girl had led him
A weeklong hearing began in federal court Monday on Gentry's claim that
the state failed to disclose payments and other promises it made to the
informants. One informant received thousands of dollars from the state and
45 days off his sentence, Gentrys lawyers said.
The state not only failed to disclose those deals, but also destroyed
records concerning the payments, wrote lawyer Scott Engelhard. Gentry's
trial attorneys could have used such information to cast doubt on the
testimony, he said.
U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik will decide whether the allegations are
true and, if so, whether they would have affected the trial.
Pam Loginsky, an attorney representing the state in the appeal, said
Monday "there were no deals" and that the most damning evidence was DNA.
Tiny drops of Cassies blood were found on Gentrys shoelaces - spots Gentry
missed when he cleaned his shoes after the killing in June 1988, she said.
The state also found a hair on Cassie's body. The hair belonged to
Gentry's brother, who was in the Navy and out to sea at the time of the
murder; Gentry had been borrowing his clothes, Loginsky said.
The hair and blood samples would be more than sufficient for DNA testing
using todays technology, but at the time, the most common testing was
RFLP, which was developed in the 1980s and required much more substantial
Gentry's case was the 1st time Washington prosecutors used PCR testing,
which could be performed on tiny biological samples but which was also
less precise. For example, where RFLP might identify a samples owner with
1-in-2 million certainty, PCR might only give a result of 1 in 20,000.
Cassie's father, Frank Holden of Pocatello, Idaho, said he has no doubt
that Gentry, who also did time for manslaughter in Florida and who was
sentenced to 20 years for raping a Washington state girl, killed his
daughter. He said he had just dropped Cassie off in Bremerton for a visit
with his ex-wife - her mother - when she was killed.
He called the hearing a waste of time.
"They're just grasping at straws," Holden said. "This guy's been on death
row longer than she was alive. We need to get it done and move on."
(source: Associated Press)
Girl's killer says rights violated during trial
A convicted killer who has been on Washington state's death row since 1991
is asking a Seattle federal court to overturn his conviction - or at least
his death sentence - based on alleged prosecutorial and police misconduct.
Jonathan Lee Gentry, 48, who has been on death row longer than any inmate
now in the state's prison system, was convicted of the June 13, 1988,
slaying of 12-year-old Cassie Holden of Pocatello, Idaho, while she was
visiting her mother in Bremerton.
Gentry death-penalty case
June 13, 1988: Just 2 days after arriving in Bremerton to spend the summer
with her mother, 12-year-old Cassie Holden of Pocatello, Idaho, is slain
near Rolling Hills Golf Course. Her body is found 2 days later.
Aug. 16, 1988: Kitsap County Sheriff's Office says a man being held in
jail for rape matches the description of the person detectives are seeking
in the slaying of Holden.
Feb. 26, 1990: Jonathan Lee Gentry, 32, is charged with Holden's slaying.
At the time, Gentry is serving a 20-year prison sentence for the
knifepoint rape of another girl.
June 26, 1991: Gentry is convicted of aggravated 1st-degree murder and is
later sentenced to death.
Jan. 6, 1995: Gentry's death sentence is upheld by the state Supreme Court
in a 6-3 decision.
Oct. 2, 1995: The U.S. Supreme Court denies a request by Gentry for a
hearing on his appeal to overturn his conviction.
Feb. 17, 1999: The state Supreme Court again upholds Gentry's death
sentence. In a 7-2 decision, the court said, "Gentry has not provided us
any reasons to re-examine issues we previously resolved in direct review.
Moreover, he has not demonstrated the existence of new issues" to examine.
March 6, 2006: A weeklong evidentiary hearing into Gentry's claims that
his rights were violated during his prosecution opens in U.S. District
Court in Seattle.
Since he was sentenced to death in 1991, Gentry's case has been before the
state Supreme Court twice and the U.S. Supreme Court once. Gentry is now
appealing his case in U.S. District Court in Seattle, claiming his rights
were violated during his prosecution in Kitsap County Superior Court. In a
weeklong evidentiary hearing that got under way Monday, Gentry's lawyers
introduced evidence they contend undermines the legitimacy of his
conviction and the death sentence.
The state counters that even if those issues have merit, they are
insufficient to overturn the conviction and punishment given all the
evidence against Gentry.
Among those present Monday were Cassie's father and stepmother, Frank and
Diane Holden of Pocatello, Idaho. The Holdens say they believe Gentry is
"nitpicking" and searching for "technicalities" to avoid his punishment,
and besmirching the integrity of the prosecutors and police officers who
brought him to justice.
"The fact is the guy is guilty," Frank Holden said. "For us the only 2
things they should be discussing is one, set the [execution] date, and 2,
what kind of execution he's going to take [lethal injection or hanging]?"
In opening statements, Scott Engelhard, one of Gentry's lawyers,
identified a series of issues he contended denied his client a fair trial.
Among them: alleged undisclosed payments to jailhouse informants who
testified against Gentry; unexplored questions of whether the crime was
premeditated; and the state's "emotionally explosive" racial references to
Engelhard noted that the victim was white, as were all the jurors, and
Gentry is black. During the trial's closing arguments, a Kitsap County
deputy prosecutor repeatedly told jurors that Gentry referred to the
victim as a "bitch," Engelhard told U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik.
"There is no bigger word in this case," Engelhard asserted.
Engelhard also alleged that detectives "fed the hunger" of informants
eager to make a deal by giving them money and other favors, including
reduced jail time, in exchange for their damaging testimony against
Assistant State Attorney General Greg Rosen dismissed Engelhard's
allegations as "baseless." Gentry's lawyers, Rosen asserted, were trying
to spin pieces of information in the "most sinister" manner possible to
make it look as if prosecutors and police conspired to secure his
He also urged the court to take into account all of the evidence in the
case - not just on the issues Gentry's lawyers have raised. Rosen said
there was an abundance of physical evidence, which included DNA and blood
evidence, as well as eyewitness testimony that implicated Gentry.
Though Gentry has been on death row longer than anyone at the state
penitentiary in Walla Walla, others have awaited execution longer.
Mitchell Rupe spent 18 years on death row before his aggravated-murder
conviction was finally overturned because a federal court judge decided
that hanging a person of his weight would result in cruel and unusual
punishment. Rupe died in prison Feb. 7 following a lengthy battle with
Assistant Attorney General John Samson said that regardless of how Lasnik
rules, it's likely Gentry's case will be on appeal for at least another 2
years or so.
"It's just bizarre to us that this ... is allowed to go on," Diane Holden
said. "The other thing that is baffling to us is why he's such a coward. I
mean he did it, he needs to own up to it, accept his impending death,
perhaps ask forgiveness. ... He's committed a crime, and he's due to die
(source: The Seattle Times)
Convicted double-murderer receives stay of execution
Convicted double-murderer Michael Singley was granted a stay of execution
Friday by U.S. Middle District Court Judge John E. Jones III.
Singley, who is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection April 6, is
on death row for the Nov. 3, 1998, rape and murder of Christine Rohrer,
23, at her Elder Street home.
"Not only is it not unexpected, it's virtually automatic upon the initial
request for counsel," Franklin County District Attorney John F. Nelson
said of the stay.
The judge's order gives Singley and his legal counsel 180 days to file a
writ of habeas corpus, essentially a petition for the court to hear
evidence in his case. The attorney handling Singley's case was unavailable
Nelson said he had been contacted by an attorney with the Middle
District's Federal Public Defender Office before the stay was granted.
"I did not oppose it, because it would have been fruitless," Nelson said.
When Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell signed Singley's execution warrant
earlier this year, Nelson said the appeals process likely would go on for
According to Jones' court order, Singley filed a motion March 2 for the
appointment of a federal habeas corpus counsel and stay of execution.
"Once a death row defendant files a motion requesting the appointment of
counsel ... he is automatically entitled to the relief requested," Jones
wrote. If the stay had not been granted, an attorney for Singley would
"lack sufficient time to familiarize herself with the voluminous state
court record and other applicable material in order to prepare an
appropriate habeas petition in this action," Jones wrote.
"We are not unmindful that Petitioner's underlying conviction involves the
murder of more than one individual," Jones wrote.
Singley pleaded guilty in 2000 in Franklin County Court to 1st-degree
murder in Rohrer's death. He also pleaded guilty to criminal homicide in
the death of Rohrer's next door neighbor, James Gilliam, 39, and was found
to have committed 1st-degree murder in his death.
Singley also was convicted of the attempted murder of Rohrer's husband,
Travis, and the attempted murder of Gilliam's companion, Deb Hock,
according to court records.
Though he entered plea agreements in the case, a jury sentenced Singley to
death Jan. 31, 2001, following a weeklong penalty phase hearing. Along
with the death sentence for Rohrer's murder, Singley received a life
sentence for the murder of Gilliam and more than 90 years for the other
crimes for which he was convicted.
Chambersburg police arrested Singley at his home the day after the
killings. Police said he went to the Rohrers' home, bound Christine Rohrer
with duct tape and raped and stabbed her.
Singley then shot and stabbed his cousin, Travis Rohrer, when he returned
home, police said. As Singley left the house, Gilliam and Hock were
arriving home and Singley shot Gilliam in the chest and fired at Hock,
(source: The Herald-Mail)
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