[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----N.C., ALA., GA., USA, PENN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Mar 19 21:32:16 CST 2006
Capital option is kept open in tot's death----DA seeks hearing on death
Orange County's district attorney has taken a step toward seeking the
death penalty against a woman accused of killing a 2-year-old girl by
holding her in a bathtub of scalding water.
Orange-Chatham District Attorney Jim Woodall has requested what's known as
a Rule 24 hearing in the case against Jamie Lee Wilson. The hearing, in
which a prosecutor asks for permission to seek the death penalty, and lays
out reasons for doing so, is a required step in capital cases.
However, Woodall emphasized Monday that the move is designed to keep his
options open at this point and does not signify a definite decision to
seek the death penalty.
Wilson, 21, is charged with 1st-degree murder in the death of Briana
Faucette, whom she was baby-sitting. According to an autopsy, Faucette
died of complications from severe burns. She also had bruises on her arms,
and burn patterns consistent with being held in a tub of scalding water.
The hearing, scheduled for April 25, would be the first in Orange County
since 2002. In July 2002, a judge ruled that then-district attorney Carl
Fox, now a superior court judge, could seek the death penalty in separate
cases against Alan Douglas Gates and Robert "Peanut" Gattis Jr.
Gates ended up pleading guilty to the murder of his daughter, her friend
and the friend's 2-year-old son, and received three consecutive life
sentences. Fox later decided not to seek the death penalty against Gattis,
who was accused of killing two men while robbing a poker game. Gattis
eventually was acquitted of the charges.
If Woodall decides to pursue the death penalty, it could be difficult to
find a jury willing to impose it. According to Department of Correction
records, the last person executed on a conviction from Orange County was
John H. Breeze on Jan. 16, 1948.
Keith Acree, a spokesman for the Department of Correction, said the last
time an Orange County defendant received a death sentence was in 1973.
Tommy Noell was convicted of 1st-degree rape, which at the time carried a
mandatory death sentence. He was later resentenced to 20 to 30 years in
The Orange County Board of Commissioners, the Chapel Hill Town Council and
the Carrboro Board of Aldermen have all passed resolutions supporting a
moratorium on executions in the state.
Woodall also may have a difficult time winning a death sentence against a
According to figures compiled by Victor Streib, a law professor at Ohio
Northern University, women account for about one in 10 murder arrests, and
only one in 50 death sentences imposed at the trial level. Of those
executed from 1973 to 2005, 1 in 90 was a woman.
4 of the 173 inmates on North Carolina's death row are women.
Streib, who also represents women on death row, said that the disparity is
in part because women are less likely to commit the types of crimes that
most often result in death sentences. But he also said that jurors are
less willing to sentence women to death, especially those that fit
traditional molds of femininity.
He said the reluctance to sentence women to death coincides with other
societal conventions that place special value on women's lives, such as
letting women and children into lifeboats first.
"There's a whole series of things where we protect the life of a woman
over a man," Streib said.
(source : The News & Observer)
New Information May Be Clear Death Row Inmate
Christopher Floyd convicted of a murder that took place 14 years ago and
sits on death row.
Few months after his sentencing, Floyd lawyers say new information may be
able to clear him of the crime.
Floyds attorney's say the testimony of 68 years old Dorothy Dyson may help
clear their client of a murder conviction that put him on death row.
"In my heart, I do not believe Chris shot that man. And I go to my grave,
not believing he done it," said Dyson.
Floyd was convicted of killing Archie Crawford during a robbery at
Waller's Grocery Store in February of 1992.
Dyson says she remembers talking to another man that same night, just one
mile away from the scene of the crime, who was wearing a bloody shirt.
Paul Wayne Johnson was considered at one point to be a primary suspect in
the case and Floyds attorneys say that the new information merits a
"That is evidence that if a jury had heard that evidence and believed it,
it would have made a difference in the outcome of the trial," said Floyds
attorney Tom Brantley.
Dyson is a distant relative of Floyd, and the judge overseeing the case,
Judge Larry Anderson says that coupled with all the media coverage
surrounding the case, makes her testimony quote "fortuitous" considering
the fact that now is when she is coming forward with information relating
to the night in question.
Floyd's attorney's say that Dyson never knew Johnson to be a suspect, and
that due to poor health she was unable to remember her experience the
night of the murder, until now.
Whether Floyd will be granted a retrial has yet to be determined.
Alabama law requires that a motion for retrial be ruled on by a judge, on
or before the 60 days following a persons sentencing.
Monday was that day for Floyd, and a ruling was not handed down. Means,
the motion will now be automatically denied, by operation of law, Tuesday.
Floyd's attorneys say they will now use the appeals process to try and get
their client a new trial.
(source: WTVY News)
Complaint filed over Justice Parker's newspaper writing
A Tuscaloosa attorney has filed a complaint with a judicial panel accusing
state Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker of violating the standards of
conduct for Alabama judges by writing a critical article for a newspaper.
Joel Sogol said Monday he filed the complaint with the state Judicial
Inquiry Commission over an op-ed page article by Parker that was published
in The Birmingham News on Jan. 1.
The complaint comes as Parker considers a possible run for chief justice.
Parker said he looks forward "to addressing this frivolous complaint."
Parker's article criticized a U.S. Supreme Court decision that banned
executions for killers who were under 18 when they committed their crimes.
Parker also faulted his fellow justices on the Alabama Supreme Court for
following that decision when they lifted the death sentence of a
Montgomery man who was 17 when he raped and killed a pregnant woman.
Parker called the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision "the unconstitutional
opinion of five liberal justices on the U.S. Supreme Court," and he said
that "state supreme court judges should not follow obviously wrong
decisions simply because they are 'precedents.'"
He said the Alabama Supreme Court should have kept the killer on death row
and used the case to get the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider its decision
with 2 new justices appointed by President Bush.
Sogol said the criticism amounted "to a call for judicial tyranny."
"Such a view of the role of state supreme courts undermines the judiciary,
public respect for it, and undermines the administration of justice, and
breeds contempt for the law," Sogol said.
Sogol's complaint went to the Judicial Inquiry Commission, which acts like
a grand jury to review complaints against judges. It can forward
complaints to the state Court of the Judiciary for trial. If the court
finds the complaint is justified, its punishment can range from a
reprimand to removal from office.
"At a minimum, he ought to apologize to all involved," Sogol said.
In responding to Sogol's complaint, Parker said, "It's nothing more than a
transparent effort by a liberal ACLU attorney to stifle a conservative
voice on the Alabama Supreme Court and overturn the vote of the people in
the last election."
A trial before the Court of Judiciary resulted in former Chief Justice Roy
Moore being ousted from office in 2003 for refusing to follow a court
order to remove his Ten Commandments monument from display in the state
Sogol, a former attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, was not
involved in that case, but he did bring a suit in 1995 that challenged
Moore's display of a Ten Commandments plaque when he was a county circuit
judge in Gadsden.
Parker, a former aide to Moore, was elected to the Alabama Supreme Court
in 2004 with strong support from Moore.
Joe Van Heest, president of the Alabama Criminal Defense Lawyers
Association, was not surprised a complaint got filed.
"It's pretty troubling for a sitting Supreme Court justice to ask other
Supreme Court justices to blatantly ignore U.S. Supreme Court precedent,"
Van Heest said.
John Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University in Orange, Calif.,
said Parker simply voiced his opinion in a long-running constitutional
debate about the impact of court decisions, and he should have no problem
because he waited until after the case was decided to make his remarks.
"All he has done is criticize a decision of the Supreme Court," Eastman
(source: Associated Press)
Senate rejects death penalty study
In Atlanta, the Senate on Monday defeated a proposal to study the use of
the death penalty in Georgia at a time when other states are considering
moratoriums on capital punishment.
Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, appealed to his conservative colleagues by
taking language out of his resolution that could have allowed a moratorium
In the well of the Senate, Fort described 3 Georgia cases where men were
sentenced to die before the charges against them were thrown out when it
was found that evidence had been tampered with or witnesses had lied.
While the Democrat said he is against capital punishment, he argued that
those in favor of the death penalty could still vote on his bill "with a
clear conscience" because it simply would work to ensure that the right
people are convicted of crimes.
"Making a mistake is an irreversible error," Fort said.
In Illinois, former Republican Gov. George Ryan declared a moratorium on
capital punishment several years ago after discovering that more people on
death row had been exonerated of their crimes than had been executed since
the state reinstated the death penalty in 1977.
While no one debated Fort, his measure failed by a vote of 17 to 33. After
the vote, Sen. Don Balfour, chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus, said
Georgia's criminal justice system already ensures that defendants
sentenced to death are guilty.
"I'm obviously for the death penalty. I think it's used appropriately,"
said Balfour, R-Snellville. "We do quite a bit right now to make sure we
are following up with people in the right manner."
(source: Gwinnett Daily Post)
Millionaire who had wife killed is spared death penalty
A millionaire who had his socialite wife killed by a hit man posing as a
flower deliveryman 19 years ago was spared the death penalty Tuesday by a
jury that decided he should get life in prison without parole.
Judge John Goger immediately followed the jury's recommendation and also
sentenced Sullivan to 20 years in prison for aggravated assault and 20
years for burglary, both sentences to be served consecutively.
The jury decided at the start of its deliberations Tuesday that Sullivan
wouldn't be sentenced to death, said juror Debra Klayman of Roswell. She
said the jury instead spent more than 5 hours arguing over whether
Sullivan should ever be eligible for parole.
"We thought that life imprisonment without the possibility of parole was
enough," said juror Debra Klayman of Roswell. "We didn't want to be the
judge about somebody else's life. We wanted God to be the judge."
Both prosecution and defense claimed a measure of victory.
"We are elated," District Attorney Paul Howard said. "We're excited about
the sentence - we hope it brings a measure of justice to the McClintons
and the community."
Lita Sullivan's mother, state Rep. Jo Ann McClinton, said, "We still don't
have our daughter. At least we were waiting on our judicial system. We
waited a long time but it happened and we're happy."
Defense attorney Don Samuel said he was pleased with the decision to spare
James Sullivan's life. He plans to appeal Sullivan's conviction in 30
days. If Sullivan wins a retrial and is convicted again, he cannot be
sentenced to death.
Sullivan was convicted Friday of murder in the 1987 slaying of 35-year-old
Lita Sullivan. She was gunned down on the doorstep of her Atlanta town
house by a man carrying a dozen long-stemmed pink roses.
The jury had the option of the death penalty, life in prison without
parole or life with parole.
Mrs. Sullivan's parents embraced after the judge imposed the sentence.
"For 19 years he has lived without facing any consequence, any punishment
at all," prosecutor Anna Green told the jury in asking for the death
penalty during a sentencing hearing Monday. "19 years is too long for
there to be no consequence for a crime as heinous as this."
During the sentencing phase, relatives, some weeping, testified that Mrs.
Sullivan's slaying has caused them pain for nearly 2 decades.
Sullivan's lawyers asked for mercy, telling jurors their guilty verdict
would ensure the 64-year-old would die in prison.
Once one of the FBI's most-wanted fugitives, Sullivan was captured in
Thailand in 2002, four years after he was indicted on murder charges.
The murder occurred the same day that a hearing was scheduled to discuss
property distribution in the couple's divorce.
Prosecutors said Sullivan paid $25,000 to Phillip Harwood, a trucker who
once moved some furniture for him, to kill his wife.
Harwood, 55, is serving a 20-year sentence for manslaughter after pleading
guilty and admitting he killed Mrs. Sullivan. On the stand last week,
however, he denied being the triggerman.
(source: Associated Press)
Executions unlikely for racist jail gang -- Many 'Aryans' are already in
prison for life
Federal prosecutors could be hard-pressed to win death sentences when one
of the biggest capital cases in U.S. history -- an attempt by the
government to take down the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang -- gets under
way this week.
20 members of the white supremacist gang will be brought to trial in
groups in the coming months, beginning with four defendants today.
Altogether, the case involves 32 murders and attempted murders allegedly
orchestrated by the gang's leaders.
However, many of the 16 defendants who could face the death penalty are
already serving long prison terms. Nearly all of the victims were
themselves dangerous thugs. And the prosecution's witnesses are likely to
be jailhouse informants who could be despicable characters themselves.
Given the circumstances, jurors could be satisfied with a sentence of life
without parole if the men are convicted, said William McGuigan, a defense
attorney who has worked on cases targeting members of the Mexican Mafia,
another prison gang.
"The dynamics could not be as good for prosecutors as they think they
are," he said.
Authorities arrested 40 Aryan Brotherhood members in 2002 after a six-year
investigation intended to dismantle the gang's leadership under a federal
racketeering law originally aimed at the Mafia. Crimes detailed in the
indictment span 30 years and occurred in prisons around the nation.
19 defendants struck plea bargains and one has died.
Prosecutors declined to be interviewed.
Michael Radelet, a sociology professor and death penalty expert at the
University of Colorado at Boulder, said juries are less likely to vote for
death if they know a defendant is already serving a life sentence.
That is the case with many of the Aryan Brotherhood defendants. Barry "The
Baron" Mills is serving two life terms for murder after nearly
decapitating an inmate in 1979. In the upcoming trial, he faces a possible
death sentence for allegedly orchestrating the 1997 killings of 2 black
inmates serving time for rape at a prison in Lewisburg, Pa.
"If the person is already doing a life term and is having problems in
prison, that in some ways shows a failure of the criminal justice system,"
Radelet said. "The fact that justice systems are imperfect is an
anti-death penalty argument. It's not a pro-death penalty argument."
Radelet also questioned whether a death sentence for the gang ringleaders
would serve as a deterrent, as prosecutors hope.
"A fair number of people doing life without parole would prefer death," he
said. "When people get executed, they become heroes" to other inmates.
Laurie Levenson, a law professor at Loyola Marymount University and a
former federal prosecutor, said it is also difficult for prosecutors to
win death sentences when the victims themselves were serving time for
violent crimes. A case built around jailhouse informants can compound the
problem, she said.
"It's a much dirtier case when you have to use informants," Levenson said.
"If the jurors hate the informant, they're not going to vote for the death
(source: Associated Press)
D.A.: He's 'The Great Pretender'
A CONVICTED fraud who passed himself off as a court consultant - and later
pretended to be a psychotherapist - was indicted yesterday on charges of
bilking the Philadelphia court system out of nearly $400,000.
Richard Gottfried, 48, whose resume deceptions were revealed in a 2002
Daily News article, pretended for years to be a court "mitigation expert."
He duped attorneys, judges, defendants and prosecutors. He often was given
such free reign inside the Criminal Justice Center that he could access
official court computers in some courtrooms.
"I supposed if I were in a singing voice I'd sing, 'Oh, yes, I am the
great pretender,'" Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham said
yesterday while announcing the indictment.
Gottfried allegedly used his phony resume, charming personality and forged
or fraudulent invoices to collect court payments for work he never
performed, Abraham said.
Also indicted with Gottfried were licensed private investigator Ronald
Miller; Mary Beth McNichol, described as Gottfried's "paramour"; and
Margaret Porter, a former employee of Gottfried.
The indictments came after a two-year grand jury investigation into
billing irregularities in the courts. The arrests also mark a change in
how the courts do business with specialists, said Philadelphia Court
Administrator Joe Cairone.
The grand jury recommended that regulations be tightened for experts to
qualify and receive payment for work in criminal cases.
"It is embarrassing, to say the least, when an institution such as the
First Judicial District has the wool pulled over its eyes," Abraham said.
It was during a two-year lag - between the publication of the first Daily
News story on Gottfried's fake credentials and the beginning of the grand
jury investigation - that the "consultant" and his cohorts allegedly
bilked the court system out of $373,000.
Abraham said Gottfried worked the scam by forging signatures of nearly 30
criminal defense attorneys, having lawyers sign blank forms and even
asking judges to sign off on invoices.
Abraham said the defense attorneys and judges committed no crime.
Cairone said it was inappropriate for him to comment on why Gottfried had
the run of the CJC for years after his resume fraud and criminal
background were uncovered. He said more details of the investigation would
come out at Gottfried's trial.
Miller, a criminal investigator who has worked for the courts since 1995,
allegedly received about $73,000 for more than 200 fake vouchers he
submitted. The indictment alleges that Miller - a flashy dresser who
frequently took exotic vacations to London and Hawaii - forged attorneys'
signatures to get paid.
About a year ago, Miller told the Daily News he wanted to retire from
criminal work because it posed too many hassles. He admitted that he had
been ensnared in the grand jury investigation, but maintained his
When confronted about his resume deceptions during lengthy - often bizarre
- interviews in 2002, Gottfried told the Daily News that he never meant to
"The work I've done has been honest and forthright," he said at the time.
In fact, Gottfried has testified under oath - twice in death penalty cases
- about work experience and professional qualifications he didn't have.
After the grand jury began its investigation in 2004, Gottfried, of
Havertown, gradually stopped visiting the CJC. In January, the Daily News
uncovered the new career that had been occupying Gottfried's time: passing
himself off as a licensed psychotherapist.
On a new resume, Gottfried replaced his legal consulting experience with
mental health experience and, using a fake license number, obtained
listings as a therapist at the online sites of Psychology Today and the
National Mental Health Association. After learning about the deception,
both organizations immediately removed Gottfried's listing - complete with
office phone number, rates and photo - from their sites.
Abraham said Gottfried also worked his court scam in New York City.
Gottfried began his career as a court mitigation expert using a resume
that listed more than 10 years experience, but overlooked his most
in-depth experience with the criminal justice system: the 20 months he
spent in a federal penitentiary for an elaborate fraud he perpetrated
against a New Jersey mortgage company.
His resume also failed to include other convictions he's had for theft by
deception, making unsworn falsification to authorities and retail theft.
Gottfried, Miller, McNichol and Porter were charged with operating a
corrupt organization, forgery, criminal conspiracy, theft by deception and
tampering with public records. Gottfried and Miller also were charged with
Gottfried did not return a telephone call requesting comment yesterday.
Miller could not be reached for comment.
(source: Philadelphia Daily News)
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