death penalty news-----TEXAS, FLA., MISS., CALIF., WIS.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Mar 19 21:54:02 CST 2006
Lubbock Death Row Inmate Gets Second Chance at Life
A Lubbock man who has been on death row for 6 years returned to a Lubbock
courtroom Thursday. Joe Franco Garza, Jr. appealed his 2000 death sentence
which was recently reversed by a federal judge. Garza claims he was a
troubled teen and that his legal team at the time did not do a good enough
job using that evidence in his defense.
Garza's capital murder conviction is not at issue.What he is challenging
is his death sentence. Prosecutors were busy selecting a jury pool of 125
people. In 11 days, a jury will be carefully selected because death is
being considered in this case. The entire process could take up to four
Garza was found guilty for the 1998 strangling death of 71-year-old
Silbiano Rangel. Garza also stole Rangel's truck, and then forged checks
in his account. Rangel's body was found in a field in the 7300 block of
King Avenue. Garza was arrested less than a month later for the murder.
Garza will be spending the next several weeks away from death row and
inside a cell at the Lubbock County jail. District Attorney Matt Powell,
who also was the lead prosecutor 6 years ago, says he will seek the death
Powell says Garza can either get life or death in this case.
(source: KCBD News)
Renewed Patriot Act could limit federal appeals for death row
inmates---Provision allows U.S. attorney general, not federal appeals
courts, to decide if states qualify for 'fast-track' review of death
For the 406 inmates on Texas' death row, the Patriot Act's wiretapping
provision isn't the most worrisome thing in the bill. It's a change to
federal habeas corpus procedure that could make it easier for Texas to
Under the new Patriot Act that President Bush signed into law Thursday,
all states can now ask the U.S. attorney general to decide whether they
qualify for a "fast-track" review.
Getting fast track is based on whether a state's court-appointed defense
attorneys meet a minimum competency standard. If a state qualifies, its
prisoners have less time to file federal habeas petitions, and the federal
judges reviewing state prisoner appeals are more limited in what they can
State inmates file federal habeas corpus appeals - the ability to
question, post-conviction, whether their state representation, trial or
sentence violated their constitutional rights - as a last resort to fight
The federal circuit courts previously decided whether a state qualifies
for fast track, but to date, no state has met the standards. In 1996,
Texas was denied fast track because the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
said the state failed to meet competency standards.
Under the new Patriot Act, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would decide
if Texas is qualified. If he did, the ruling would apply retroactively to
prisoners currently on death row.
Critics said that without a circuit court review, safeguards fall to the
wayside and prisoners get fast tracked to execution.
"My worry is this: It's the fox guarding the henhouse," said David Elliot,
a spokesman for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
"Objective, impartial parties should be making these decisions. Not a
pro-death penalty U.S. attorney general."
The change also concerns some Texas lawyers who have seen first-hand some
of the defenses indigent defendants receive. They worry that the attorney
general will qualify the state, when death row defense is still riddled
"We did not qualify in 1996, and the system has not changed at all since
then," said Jim Marcus, an attorney with the Texas Defender Service, a
nonprofit law firm that represents indigent death row inmates. "So the
only thing that would be changing is the decision-maker."
Critics of habeas corpus appeals contend that many ofthem are frivolous
and clog the system. Supporters say it's the only way that inmates who
might have been cheated by poor state representation can get a federal
judge to look at their case.
Federal habeas review has served as a needed last resort for past Texas
inmates. Delma Banks Jr. was 20 minutes away from execution in 2003 when
the U.S. Supreme Court intervened and later ruled he had been denied the
right to a fair trial. Anthony Graves, who is on death row for the 1992
killings of a family in Somerville, was granted a new trial last week by
the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In their opinion, the appeals court found that "the defense's approach
could have been much different and probably highly effective" had Graves'
appointed attorney presented evidence that another inmate had confessed to
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, supports the expedited review and is a
co-sponsor of more expansive habeas reform legislation.
"We've substantially reformed the habeas counsel provisions in Texas . . .
and I think that is in a response to some of the concerns that have been
raised in the past about the competency of those counsel," Cornyn said.
"But to my knowledge we're still in pretty good shape down there."
Texas would have to apply to the U.S. attorney general's office to be
considered for the fast-track "opt in." It's not clear whether the state
"For now we're going to withhold comment, until we can evaluate it
further," said Tom Kelley, a spokesman for Texas Attorney General Greg
U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said department
attorneys familiar with the program were not available to talk about the
Last year, the Texas Legislature defeated a measure by Rep. Terry Keel,
R-Austin, that expanded how attorneys could qualify as competent counsel
for death row inmates. Critics saw the legislation as an attempt to ready
the state for fast-track review.
Keel is in a runoff now for a seat on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals,
which decides all direct appeals in capital murder cases and the inmate's
state habeas claim.
Keel said his bill was written not to opt in to a fast-track system, but
to raise the standards of counsel on capital cases. He said the bill
sought to widen the pool of available court-appointed defense attorneys by
counting experience as a prosecutor and was blocked only because the small
pool of attorneys currently representing indigent death row inmates were
protecting their jobs.
Texas has executed 359 inmates since the death penalty was reinstated by
the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976. 4 men have been executed this year, and 15
have execution dates set in the next 4 months. Tony Ford is scheduled to
be executed Tuesday.
Whether or not new standards for court-appointed attorneys are passed in
Texas, shifting the power from the courts to the attorney general to
decide whether inmates had competent counsel is wrong, Marcus said.
"From what we've seen in Texas, it is so important that the door be open
to meaningful federal habeas review," Marcus said. "We're not talking
about technicalities, but people whose sentence was seriously flawed, who
now may lose the ability to appeal."
(source: Austin American-Statesman)
Jury votes for death penalty in double murder
In Sanford, a jury today handed back 3 recommendations for the death
penalty in the sentencing phase of Clemente Javier "Shorty" Aguirre, who
was convicted on 2 murder charges for a fatal knife attack on 2 women in
their mobile home 2 years ago.
Jurors last week convicted Aguirre, 25, in the slayings of
wheelchair-bound Carol Bareis, 68, and her daughter, Cheryl A. Williams,
47, who lived near Longwood.
The jury deliberated less than 45 minutes and came back with a 7-5 vote
recommending the death penalty in the death of Williams, and a 9-3 vote
recommending the death penalty for the death of Bareis.
Circuit Judge O.H. Eaton Jr. will sentence Aguirre on May 2.
(source: Orlando Sentinel)
Miss. high court orders competency hearing for death row inmate
The Mississippi Supreme Court has ordered a competency hearing for a death
row inmate who claims he cannot continue with further appeals because of a
chronic mental illness.
Derrick Walker was convicted and sentenced to death for the 2001 killing
of a Tupelo man. The Supreme Court upheld his conviction in 2005.
Walker's post-conviction claim is pending with the state Supreme Court.
Inmates use post-conviction petitions to contend they have found some new
evidence that could result in a new trial.
Walker asked the Supreme Court to postpone those proceedings because he
"suffers from severe and chronic mental illness" and resume them once he
regains his competence. In the alternative, Walker asked for a competency
Justice Mike Randolph, in a 7-1 order made public Thursday, directed the
Lee County Circuit Court to conduct a hearing into Walker's competency to
pursue a post-conviction claim.
In a 2002 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court declared executing the mentally
retarded to be unconstitutional. The nation's high court left it up to
states to determine whether inmates are retarded.
Since that time, Mississippi death row inmates found to be mentally
retarded have been re-sentenced to life in prison without parole.
In its March 2005 decision that upheld Walker's conviction, the state
Supreme Court noted that Walker had undergone at least 3 psychiatric
examinations before his trial. The results of 2 of the examination were
not included in the decision.
One examination performed at the Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield
found that Walker was not "under the influence of any extreme mental or
emotional disturbance" during the commission of the crimes, according to
the court record.
During a pretrial hearing, Walker's lawyers told the circuit judge that
Walker had refused to cooperate with them. They claimed Walker wanted to
fire counsel and asked the trial court to release him so he could get his
"own bought lawyer," according to the court record.
The trial judge approved funds for additional psychiatric testing, which
was done. The Supreme Court opinion did not include the results of the
Walker also did not raise the issue of mental incompetence in the appeal
of his conviction, according to court documents.
Walker was convicted in Lee County in 2003 for the stabbing death of
former Tupelo personnel director Charles Richardson.
Police said Richardson's body was found by firefighters answering a report
of smoke coming from his house on July 17, 2001. Authorities said
Richardson had been repeatedly stabbed and slashed.
Walker was arrested in Arkansas. He was driving Richardson's car,
Walker did not deny the crime. However, Walker argued he never intended to
steal the man's car and without such intent, robbery could not be used to
support a conviction of capital murder.
The Mississippi high court said Walker's argument failed because he
confessed to investigators that he planned to kill Richardson, take his
car and go to Chicago.
(source: Associated Press)
An open letter to the state of Mississippi.
I stand with you, my fellow Mississippians, in your latest attempt to
outlaw abortion. Abortion is a crime. It's a sin. It's murder and, as
such, should be punished with a sentence of death.
But women are not alone in the slaughter of the innocent. Men are also
guilty of a crime just as great: masturbation. Some say that the loss of
one spermatozoan here or there is the loss of but half a life; still, it
is a life "half lost," a prenascent individual half-murdered.
And so I propose a stiff sentence: life imprisonment, without the hope of
parole -- or even the comfort of solitary confinement -- for any such
hardened criminal whose turgid mind leads him to commit this disgusting,
lethal, and entirely antisocial act. No holds barred.
I realize the math here is a sticky subject, because, in fact, millions of
microscopic half-lives are contained in every expulsion of the male seed
-- so, at first, I had thought the penalty for males should be, say, 500
to a million or so times more severe than that deserved by women who
resort to abortion. Ultimately, however, the arithmetic was just too
daunting and too complicated and might, in a trial, hamper the efforts of
the prosecution. Thus, I decided to proceed as I have.
History tells us the world has suffered more from the effects of male
masturbation than it has through the carnage of abortion. Indeed,
Nebuchadnezzar, Caligula, Oliver Cromwell, Napoleon, Hitler -- and
possibly some of our presidents, congressmen, and senators, from time to
time -- have been upstanding examples of the intellectual waste and moral
devastation that result from the terrible habit of male masturbation.
Studies conducted by the Center for the Understanding of Our National
Tragedy have shown that 98.5 percent of all males under the age of 110
indulge in this primitive behavior -- a practice that has reared its ugly
head even at the highest levels of the corporate world. (How many times
have people been told they could not talk with a CEO because the executive
was "in a meeting"?)
We are faced with a huge and growing problem that needs to be taken in
hand immediately before it overcomes us as a Christian nation. From the
statistics cited above, we know that 1.5 percent of the male population
has not become a slave to the Sin of Onan. But statistics, like so many
things, can be manipulated. For instance, among this 1.5 percent, how many
use -- or have used -- condoms? That's just as horrible, perhaps more so,
than male masturbation: the idea that any decent citizen -- male or
otherwise -- could consign multitudes of tiny half-lives to the torture of
a slow death in a rubbery tomb tossed to the side of a lonely road.
As a civilized society -- and particularly as males -- we owe it to
ourselves to get a grip on the problem before it becomes too big to
Statistics provided by the Coalition of Concerned Kick-boxers, a respected
organization of internationally recognized athletic supporters, reveal
that, though the incidence of sexually transmitted disease is lower in
areas where the incidence of male masturbation is highest, that benefit
alone is not a reason to exempt males from responsibility for at least
half "the crime" now being committed by women through abortion.
And so, I call on Governor Haley Barbour -- who, more than anyone else,
has his hand on the pulse of this throbbing issue -- to, please, before he
makes that final stroke with his pen, consider, in the name of all that is
fair and just, writing into law the criminalization of male masturbation
as a vital part of this important, timely anti-abortion bill soon to be
presented to him for his signature -- before the opposition can blow it
all out of proportion. Sincerely,
John Pritchard Sr.
(source: The Memphis Flyer)
Calif. Supreme Court Justices Question Former Prosecutor's Motives
John "Jack" Quatman is either a man who had "an ax to grind" or a guy who
never got to tell his side of the story when the chips were stacked
That's what the California Supreme Court heard Wednesday when the former
prosecutor was once again the focus of discussion during oral arguments
over allegations that Jews were customarily kicked off capital case juries
in Alameda County, Calif.
A couple of justices openly questioned Quatman's veracity and motives for
making such allegations long after leaving the Alameda County district
attorney's office, while others didn't seem ready to dismiss all of his
In particular, there seemed to be some concern about the possibility of
there being a grain of truth in the allegation that former Alameda County
Superior Court Judge Stanley Golde told prosecutors -- even if informally
-- to keep Jews off death penalty cases.
"At what point does the conduct get to misconduct?" Justice Joyce Kennard
Oral arguments in the case had been eagerly anticipated since April, when
Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Kevin Murphy -- acting as a
referee in an evidentiary hearing -- ridiculed Quatman's allegations while
dubbing him a "dishonest and unethical" man.
He accused Quatman, now in private practice in Whitefish, Mont., of
fabricating lies to embarrass Alameda County DA Tom Orloff, who took
Quatman off capital cases in 1993, 5 years before he left the office.
San Francisco Deputy Attorney General Geoffrey Lauter pounded on that
theme Wednesday, arguing that Quatman made false allegations because he's
still angry about his demotion 13 years later.
"He could no longer be a capital prosecutor," Lauter argued. "His transfer
to the consumer protection unit gave him such an ax to grind."
Earlier, Chief Justice Ronald George had raised questions about Quatman's
character by asking Gary Sowards, an attorney at San Francisco's Habeas
Corpus Resource Center, how much deference the court should give to the
referee's damning report.
"Basically, you are faced with the obstacle that Mr. Quatman's claims were
found not credible," George said. "Isn't that," he asked later, "a major
obstacle to you?"
Justice Marvin Baxter piled on by pointing out that the referee's report
contained "substantial evidence" from Quatman's co-workers in Alameda
County and Montana that he couldn't be believed.
Sowards obtained Quatman's declaration in the hope of winning a new trial
for Fred Freeman, who's on death row for murdering a man during a 1987
robbery of a Berkeley bar. Quatman prosecuted that case and reportedly
excused 2 men and 1 woman from the jury for being Jewish.
On Wednesday, Sowards argued vehemently that Quatman got a bum rap during
last year's evidentiary hearing. He claimed Murphy refused to admit
evidence or testimony that would have supported Quatman's allegations or
shown he was a respected attorney.
"None of that got in," he said.
Sowards said he couldn't imagine any ill-willed motive that could be
"rationally related" to Quatman's comments about the DA's office or Golde,
"whom he dearly loved."
George jumped in to say one possibility is that his allegations could
"call into question or impugn" several of Orloff's convictions.
Justice Paul Boland, a justice on Los Angeles' 2nd District Court of
Appeal sitting pro tem in place of Justice Carol Corrigan, joined in by
noting that even a reversal in this one case could be embarrassing.
Corrigan, a former Alameda County prosecutor who was a witness at the
underlying evidentiary hearing, recused herself.
Kennard alluded to reports that said Golde may have actually told
attorneys at times during off-the-cuff comments outside of trial that it
could be wise in some instances to exclude people, including Jews, blacks
and Asians, from certain criminal cases. She asked whether that could be
"It does get close," Lauter responded. "But it's not a judge talking ex
parte about kicking someone off the jury."
Baxter then asked parenthetically whether a judge taking part on an
"educational panel" could advise lawyers of all stripes to exclude
minority jurors from death penalty juries and then 6 months later take on
a capital case himself.
"Can that be swept under the rug?" he asked. "It seems that judge has gone
on the record as a biased judge."
Lauter said that "would be something to be explored," but quickly pointed
out that Murphy ruled that hadn't happened in this case.
In rebuttal, Sowards said the scenario laid out by Baxter would constitute
"That is discrimination," he said, "and it's urging discrimination."
Lauter also fielded several questions about whether it matters that there
is no evidence in the record that the three excused jurors in question in
Freeman's case were actually Jewish or not.
He said it mattered greatly because Quatman could be discriminating only
if he knew he was excusing Jews. That didn't happen in this case, he said,
because Quatman hadn't inquired about religion: As it turned out, one of
the jurors wasn't Jewish at all, another was Catholic and the last one's
religion wasn't known.
Lauter argued that all 3 were released for valid reasons: One was a member
of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, known for its work with the poor;
another was a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes
the death penalty; and the last said she could vote to execute someone
only if they were as heinous as Charles Manson.
"They were excused," Lauter argued, "because they made poor capital
jurors, in Mr. Quatman's mind."
Justice Judith Haller, of San Diego's 4th District, sat pro tem in place
of Justice Ming Chin. It wasn't clear why Chin -- who recently had surgery
and is hearing cases by tape -- didn't sit on the Freeman case, but it's
probably because he was a prosecutor in Alameda County from 1970 to 1972.
The case is In re Freeman, S122590.
(source: The Recorder)
Voters may get say on death penalty -- If Assembly follows Senate lead,
issue goes on ballot
Wisconsin voters would be asked in September whether the state should
bring back the death penalty after a 153-year hiatus under a measure
approved by the state Senate 20-13 on Tuesday.
The referendum results would be advisory, but Senate President Alan Lasee,
R-Rockland, said he hoped they would spur the state Legislature to join 38
states that have the death penalty.
Voters would be asked whether Wisconsin should have capital punishment in
"vicious" 1st-degree murder cases in which killers are convicted using DNA
The Assembly needs to approve the resolution before the referendum can
appear on the ballot. Gov. Jim Doyle does not have to sign off on the
"I think it's important for the people to speak out and for legislators to
pay attention," said Lasee.
The referendum would be held at the same time Republicans choose their
candidate for governor. Democrats said Lasee was trying to skew the
results by picking an election when conservatives would dominate the
Democrats also have a contested primary in the attorney general's race
slated for the Sept. 12 primary.
Sen. Jeffrey Plale, D-South Milwaukee, said the measure was a knee-jerk
reaction to the graphic details released by prosecutors last week in the
murder of 25-year-old Teresa Halbach in Manitowoc County.
"We have a calling to rise above that intense need for revenge," he said.
(source: Associated Press)
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