death penalty news----FLA., N.MEX., IND., CALIF., N.Y.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Mar 8 17:19:10 CST 2006
Man gets death in torture killings----Welch slashed, tortured couple until
On death row
A dozen Brevard County residents now await execution for murder on
Florida's death row, according to the Department of Corrections Web site.
Bryan Jennings, 47, sentenced 1980
George Porter, 74, sentenced 1988
William Cruse, 78, sentenced 1989
Crosley Green, 48, sentenced 1991
Chadwick Willacy, 38, sentenced 1991
Mark Schwab, 37, sentenced 1992
Johnny Hoskins, 42, sentenced 1994
Wydell Evans, 35, sentenced 2000
Randy Schoenwetter, 24, sentenced 2003
Robert Walker, 34, sentenced 2004
Willie Nowell, 30, sentenced 2006
Anthony Welch, 27, sentenced 2006
After the man who brutally bludgeoned his parents and slit their throats
was sentenced to die, Cleveland Johnson volunteered to serve as
"If I could pull the switch on the electric chair, or inject the chemicals
or however they're going to put him to death, I'd do it," said Johnson,
the victims' oldest son.
Anthony Wayne Welch, 27, received the death penalty Tuesday for the
gruesome December 2000 slayings of Rufus Johnson, 69, a retired Air Force
master sergeant, and Kyoko Johnson, 66, who taught traditional Japanese
dance. Their children found their bound bodies 4 days after the murders
inside their Pineda Crossings home near Suntree.
Welch tied up, beat, strangled, stabbed and slashed the Johnsons -- his
former next-door neighbors -- perhaps with one of the four samurai swords
he stole from their home. Then he cleaned up in a bathroom, stole numerous
items and drove Rufus Johnson's truck to Wal-Mart to meet a female friend,
court records show.
In November, Welch pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree
premeditated murder. Tuesday, Brevard Circuit Judge Tonya Rainwater
sentenced Welch before about 30 relatives and friends of both families.
Rainwater noted Welch slapped tape over Kyoto Johnson's mouth because she
was praying before she died, and that both victims suffered "an extremely
painful and torturous death" after enduring 15 to 30 minutes of agony.
Welch showed no emotion during Tuesday's court hearing. Handcuffed and
shackled, wearing a red jail jumpsuit, he leaned back in his chair and
listened to Rainwater, flanked by a semicircle of 6 sheriff's deputies.
Family members seated behind him cried softly when he was sentenced.
"We feel very good about the sentence that was handed down," Assistant
State Attorney Rob Parker said. "We feel like, if the facts in any case
called for imposition of the death penalty, this particular case did.
"The families will be left with this until they die. The actions of
Anthony Welch have devastated two families. There's no repair for that."
After Welch was escorted from the courtroom, his uncle, Joseph Welch, said
he wished things were different.
"It's very sad for both sides. I felt that he didn't get the help he
needed when his brother committed suicide. His total outlook on life
changed at that time," Joseph Welch said.
Anthony Welch enlisted in the Navy in May 2000, but was administratively
discharged the following month. Witnesses testified he was emotionally
disturbed and abused alcohol and drugs. A CAT scan performed after his
arrest revealed brain damage to his frontal lobe, a psychiatrist
Anthony Welch's sister, Sandra, brought a handwritten note to court in
case she got the chance to publicly speak. She never did.
"We would never be able to find the right words to express how sorry we
are that (the Johnsons) are no longer with us," she wrote. "Our hearts go
out to their family and (I) can only hope we can all now move on and have
some sort of closure."
(source: Florida Today)
Man sentenced to death for killing former neighbors
A judge has sentenced a man to die for beating, stabbing and strangling
his former neighbors.
Brevard Circuit Judge Tonya Rainwater sentenced Anthony Wayne Welch, 27,
of Melbourne, on Tuesday. Welch pleaded guilty in November to 2 counts of
1st-degree premeditated murder.
Investigators said Welch went to the home of Rufus Johnson, 69, and Kyoko
Johnson, 66, on Dec. 14, 2000 claiming that an unidentified person had
sent him to get money from them.
Welch reportedly claimed that this person would kill him if the Johnsons
did not give him the money he demanded. When they refused, he became
enraged and killed the couple, investigators said.
After the killings, authorities say Welch cleaned up in a bathroom, stole
the couple's car and met a friend at a local store.
Their bodies were found 4 days later by the couple's children.
"We feel very good about the sentence that was handed down," Assistant
State Attorney Rob Parker said. "We feel like, if the facts in any case
called for imposition of the death penalty, this particular case did.
Welch had lived with his parents next door to the Johnsons until his
family moved in 1995.
His family members expressed remorse for the Johnson family.
"It's very sad for both sides," said Joseph Welch, Anthony Welch's uncle.
(source: Associated Press)
Robert Meeropol, son of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, In New Mexico to
Discuss McCARTHY ERA LESSONS FOR BUSHS AMERICA
Robert Meeropol was 6 years old when his parents, Ethel and Julius
Rosenberg, were sent to the electric chair in 1953, executed by the U.S.
government after being convicted of "Conspiracy to Commit Espionage" in
one of the most hotly debated trials in American history. From April 1-3,
2006, Meeropol - now an attorney, activist, and leader of a public
foundation - will return to New Mexico, the place where the events at the
heart of the Rosenberg case are alleged to have begun. At programs in
Albuquerque and Santa Fe, Meeropol will discuss the dangers of the current
political climate and the alarming relevance of his parents case today.
On Monday, April 3rd, at 7:00 pm, in The Forum at the College of Santa Fe,
Meeropol will give an address entitled, McCARTHY ERA LESSONS FOR BUSHS
AMERICA. The event will be sponsored by the Department of Creative
Writing, Humanities & Interdisciplinary Studies and the Associated Student
In the wake of 9/11 and the war with Iraq, the Homeland Security Act and
the USA PATRIOT Act have given the government unprecedented new powers to
investigate citizens lives in the name of preventing terrorism. These
recent responses to the threat of terrorism share many chilling
similarities with the McCarthy era that was symbolized by the trial of the
The April 3rd presentation will warn that similarities between the
anti-communist fervor of the 1950s, and todays crackdown on civil
liberties amidst the war on terrorism, could spawn more miscarriages of
justice. "In my parents case, tried during the Korean War, prosecutors
linked the thing the public feared most (the Atomic Bomb), with the people
the public feared most (communists), to justify the death penalty,"
observes Meeropol. "Now we're at war again, and the government is linking
the thing the public fears most (terrorism) with the people the public
fears most, (Islamic fundamentalists), to obtain a similar outcome for
those caught up in the anti-terrorist dragnet."
Meeropol, an attorney who also leads a public foundation he started to
honor his parents legacy, the Rosenberg Fund for Children (RFC) in
Easthampton, MA, is the author of AN EXECUTION IN THE FAMILY (St. Martins
Press). This memoir describes his personal and political odyssey from
Rosenberg son to activist and Executive Director of the RFC. Following
the event, Meeropol will be available to sign copies of his book.
For more information about the College of Santa Fe event April 3rd or the
private fundraising event for the Rosenberg Fund for Children (www.rfc.org
) in Santa Fe on the evening of Saturday, April 1st, contact Mark Behr at
505-310 0769. For more information on the Albuquerque event April 2nd
contact Amber Black at the Rosenberg Fund for Children, (413) 529-0063 or
amber at rfc.org.
For a review copy of AN EXECUTION IN THE FAMILY or to arrange an interview
with Robert Meeropol, contact Amber Black at the Rosenberg Fund for
Children, 413-529-0063 or amber at rfc.org.
(source: Sante Fe News)
Death sentence revisited
On death row for killing his wife and 2 children, Paul McManus returned
this week to the Evansville courtroom where he was convicted 4 years ago,
for the latest round in his appeal.
McManus, 33, was sentenced to death for the Feb. 26, 2001, slayings of his
estranged wife, Melissa McManus, 29, and daughters, Lindsey McManus, 8,
and Shelby McManus, almost 2.
Having just been served with divorce papers, Paul McManus, armed with a
.38-caliber gun, took a taxicab to his wife's duplex and fatally shot her
and the children. Later he climbed the 11 stories to the top of the
Evansville-Henderson bridge and attempted suicide by plunging into the
Ohio River. He was fished out alive by rescuers.
At his trial in 2002, McManus did not dispute the shooting allegations but
pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. A jury in Vanderburgh Circuit
Court found McManus guilty of 3 counts of murder and recommended the death
penalty - a sentence that Judge Carl Heldt ordered.
The Indiana Supreme Court denied McManus' appeal in 2004. The next stage
of his appeal is playing out this week in Circuit Court: McManus' petition
for post-conviction relief. That's a request to the trial court to allow a
new trial or new sentencing because of errors in the 1st trial.
Contending McManus was not competent to stand trial the 1st time, McManus'
defenders also cite ineffective assistance of counsel by his original
Because Heldt and other judges recused themselves from hearing the
petition, Senior Judge William Brune is hearing the request. Much of
Tuesday's court testimony focused on a mental-health analysis of McManus'
childhood and adolescence: his low IQ (measured at 78), his learning
disabilities and his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Asked if those maladies caused McManus' crime, clinical neuropsychologist
Dr. Edmund Haskins testified, "I don't have any doubt at all that these
impairments and deficits contributed significantly."
In his appeal, McManus is represented by attorneys Steven Schutte and
Joanna McFadden from the Indiana Public Defender's Office. Handling the
prosecution are three Indiana deputy attorneys general: Andrew Kobe, James
Martin and Kelly Miklos. The hearing could last all week and Brune will
likely rule at a later date.
If McManus loses this round, his appeal would go back to the Indiana
Supreme Court, and then be transferred to federal courts. Exhausting all
appeals can take years before an execution is carried out.
(source: Courier Press)
C'Mon Doc, Back Me Up
In what must be the shortest and most unscientific poll ever: I called 3
local physicians asking if they would assist in carrying out the death
penalty. I was absolutely certain I'd chosen 3 who would validate my own
aversion to our being one of the few remaining civilized countries to
continue this barbaric custom. Was I in for a surprise!
The 1st is both a scientist and a medical doctor. His listing in "Who's
Who" takes up about as much space as some of our more recent presidents,
virtually all about his scientific affiliations and kudos. He answered my
question from the perspective of both a scientist and a physician,
"Absolutely not. It would violate the Hippocratic Oath."
I asked, Dr. John McClusky, the Chula Vista doctor who keeps me ticking.
He said, "Never! It goes against the Hippocratic Oath and the idea that we
should 'do no harm.' We're supposed to be healers." Then Doc McClusky,
perhaps thinking of someone specific, did concede, "If I didn't have a
license, I'd kill the son of a bitch in a second."
Dr. Jack Hardebeck is a retired San Diego physician and once chief of
staff of Grossmont Hospital. I've known him for several years. He told me,
"It would depend on several things, the crime, degree of proof, if the
crime was something horrendous." Jack added the question caught him off
guard and he hadn't really thought about it.
And I assumed all three would agree with me without reservation. Once
again I was reminded that "assume" means to make an ass of you and me. I
was figuring that the disapproval of state-sponsored killing was universal
among the folks who keep us alive. It looked universal when I read that
the anesthesiologists are balking at helping carry out the death penalty.
Further, they were backed by the American Medical Association, the
American Society of Anesthesiologists and the California Medical
This all came about because of an appeal of Michael Morales who was
scheduled to be killed on Feb. 21. His lawyers successfully appealed that
the current method is painful, thus cruel and unusual. His own execution
is now on hold until the state can guarantee a painless death. I suppose
the idea of painless ignores the feeling of terror one would have knowing
that one more breath will be the last. I wonder if they have a pill for
But isn't trying to make killing nice and cozy kind of silly? Probably,
but not more so than the inane idea that the death penalty solves
anything. Many reasons are given to oppose it, and I agree with
practically every one. It surely doesn't save money. It costs more to kill
a person than it does to keep him in jail for the rest his life. It stops
what should be the basic idea of our justice system, rehabilitation. It
does not deter folks from crime.
I didn't run out of "its." I just got tired of repeating the same old
My reasons reflect my being a secular humanist. Thus they are my own and
not an iteration of what someone says is divine law.
I just wish more humans would be humane. I realize how far we are from
that when I see so many of them celebrating the execution of a fellow
Not that this is just a thing for hoi polloi. A governor who was to become
president openly mocked a woman whose execution he approved. His home
state, Texas, leads the union in executions. A San Diego radio talk show
host, who doesn't even need identifying, read a poem which ended "Tookie
squealed like a pig as they gave him the needle." By far the worst thing
about the death penalty is what it does to us.
I fear making killing "painless" will do little except make us even more
eager to do it. Even though we are trying to assuage our consciences by
making it look easy, America is going against the trend. Worldwide, the
number of countries with the death penalty is down.
If it's any consolation, we aren't the silliest. According to Amnesty
International, China's Guangdong province recently elevated the maximum
punishment for purse snatching to death.
Even Texas hasn't gone that far yet.
(source: Voice of San Diego - Keith Taylor is a retired navy officer
living in Chula Vista)
Judge's Conduct Overturns Death Sentence
During the penalty phase of a 1992 triple-murder trial, Orange County
Superior Court Judge Donald McCartin repeatedly disparaged the defense
lawyer, berated 2 defense witnesses and even made objections on behalf of
He also led jurors to believe incorrectly that the defendant had been
convicted of premeditated murder.
On Monday, the California Supreme Court rewarded McCartin's performance by
reversing Gregory Sturm's death sentence. The judge, they held, had
crossed the line to the point of committing misconduct and prejudicing the
outcome of the trial.
"While some of the judge's remarks were innocuous and while we disagree
with certain of defendant's challenges to evidentiary hearings, the trial
judge made comments in front of the jury that constituted misconduct at
several crucial instances," Justice Carlos Moreno wrote for a 5-2 court.
"These errors were sufficiently severe and pervasive that it was
reasonably probable that the errors affected the jury's deliberations to
The ruling upheld Sturm's convictions, but requires a new penalty trial --
the third in the case because of a mistrial in the 1st penalty phase.
Justice Marvin Baxter, joined by Justice Ming Chin, dissented, saying the
majority "places exaggerated reliance on petty matters" and "ignores the
cold-blooded nature of this triple slaying."
McCartin, who retired from the bench in 1993 and now lives in Bass Lake
about 55 miles north of Fresno, didn't want to comment on Monday because
he hadn't seen -- or heard about -- the ruling. But when read some of the
court's objections over the telephone, the 80-year-old said it "sounds
like me" and stated that it was the 1st time he'd been reversed by the
state Supreme Court on a death case.
McCartin's 56-year-old son, Michael, currently sits on the Orange County
Superior Court bench.
Sturm, a former high school cheerleader who was well-liked by friends,
neighbors and teachers, was convicted in May 1992 of the 1990 murders of
Darrell Esgar, Chad Chadwick and Russell Williams -- friends and former
co-workers at the Super Shops automotive store in Tustin.
All three were bound with tape and shot execution style. Slightly more
than $1,100 was stolen.
At trial, Sturm, a cocaine addict, conceded that he killed the men, but
claimed he was only guilty of 1st-degree felony murder, not premeditation.
Witnesses testified that Sturm had repeatedly expressed deep remorse over
the killings, and even cried when talking about them.
Jurors found Sturm guilty of felony murder. At the 1992 penalty phase,
however, they deadlocked 10-2, with the majority favoring a sentence of
life without possibility of parole.
A second penalty phase trial with a different panel of jurors sentenced
Sturm to death five months later.
In reversing, the Supreme Court focused almost entirely on McCartin's
Things went awry right away, Moreno noted, when McCartin told prospective
jurors during voir dire that premeditation was "a gimme," even though that
"The trial judge's comments regarding premeditation," Moreno wrote, "are
especially troubling, given that a lack of premeditation was a central
theory supporting the defense case in mitigation."
McCartin next stepped out of line, the high court held, by belittling two
key defense witnesses -- one an expert in pharmacology testifying on the
effects of cocaine abuse and the other a clinical psychologist who spoke
about Sturm's troubled childhood.
The judge interrupted the pharmacology expert, identified in the opinion
only as Dr. Stein, to jokingly tell him that his $4 million in federal
grants while at the University of California had "contributed to the
federal deficit." He opined that the government had "spent too much
already" on such research and that testimony about it "would be very
depressing and we will need cocaine."
According to the decision, McCartin reprimanded the psychologist,
identified only as Dr. Fossum, for embellishing answers and even responded
for her to a defense question -- incorrectly at that.
"Such behavior, especially considered in the aggregate," Moreno wrote,
"conveyed to the jury the unfortunate message that the trial judge did not
take seriously the testimony of the defense experts."
The high court also said McCartin had accused the defense lawyer,
identified only as Mr. Kelley, of trying to sneak in evidence and not
understanding the rules of evidence.
"The trial court's duty," Moreno wrote, "is to control the proceedings of
the trial and to act -- as the trial court had earlier characterized his
role -- 'like an umpire,' not as a color commentator on the relative
success of counsel."
Although Sturm's crime was "undeniably heinous," the high court held, it
was reasonably probable that he would have gotten life without parole "had
the trial judge exhibited the patience, dignity and courtesy that is
expected of all judges."
In dissent, Justice Baxter accused the majority of "strained reasoning"
and said the blame for Sturm's death sentence "rests squarely" on him for
committing murders in the first place.
"Even if the court would have been better advised to speak with more
decorum," he wrote, "the comments did not come close to denigrating
defense counsel, undermining defense witnesses or damaging defense
Sturm's lawyer, Sacramento Deputy Public Defender John Fresquez, couldn't
be reached for comment on Monday.
But Nathan Barankin, speaking for the attorney general's office, expressed
disappointment at the decision.
"The court only found one technical error in the jury selection phase," he
said, "yet aggregated a variety of comments made [by] the court to
conclude that there was justification to reverse the death penalty, and
that, we think, was not supported by the full record.
"There isn't any dispute that this was a death penalty-eligible murder
committed under horrendous circumstances," he added. "And what ended up
happening is that a sentence gets overturned based on judicial conduct."
The ruling is People v. Sturm.
(source: The Recorder)
Winner pushes to reinstate death penalty
The state Senate Codes Committee on Tuesday approved legislation
co-sponsored by state Sen. George H. Winner Jr., R-Elmira, to reinstate
New York's death penalty for violent murderers who kill a police officer,
peace officer or employee of the state Department of Correctional
A vote by the full Senate could come soon and Winner, a strong death
penalty advocate, called on state Assembly Democratic leaders to "wake up
to the real world" and also allow a vote on the measure.
"Over the past few years and again last week with the murder of New York
State Trooper Andrew Sperr, the region I represent is well aware that
violent criminals, who have no respect for human life, are real threats to
our safety and security," Winner said in a news release. "If we ask our
state troopers, sheriffs, local police officers and correction officers to
risk their lives day after day, then I believe we have a high
responsibility as a government to back them up with every possible
protection and a strong system of justice. The death penalty must be
restored as a key weapon in our criminal justice arsenal."
The Senate legislation addresses a June 2004 decision by the state's
highest court, the Court of Appeals, that declared New York's death
penalty statute unconstitutional. Gov. George Pataki supports the new
legislation, but some key state Assembly leaders have expressed
reservations about restoring the death penalty.
"If the full Assembly is allowed to vote, I'm certain New York's death
penalty will be reinstated," said Winner, who spent 26 years in the
Assembly before he was elected to the Senate in 2004.
"Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver should allow that vote to take place,
sooner rather than later."
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