[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Mar 25 02:25:39 EST 2006
TEXAS----new execution date
Execution date set in '96 murder case
An execution date has been set for 1 of 2 men convicted of capital murder
in the Aug. 15, 1996, slaying and robbery of 25-year-old Michael T. La
Mauriceo Mashawn Brown, 30, is set to die by injection July 19, according
to a death warrant signed Monday by 186th District Judge Maria Teresa
Described as "your worst nightmare" by prosecutors, Brown and Kenneth
Foster, 29, went on trial together and were convicted of capital murder on
May 1, 1997. Both men were sentenced to death.
La Hood, the son of a local attorney, was shot in the head at
near-point-blank range outside his North Side home after returning with a
female friend from a late-night dinner around 2 a.m.
The friend said she heard the single gunshot after 4 men in a car demanded
La Hood's wallet, money and car keys.
Foster's appeal is pending. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider
Brown's appeal Feb. 27.
(source: San Antonio Express-News)
Young recuses himself from Cobb trial
Lamar County District Attorney Gary Young on Tuesday removed himself and
his office from prosecuting the Chris Cobb capital murder trial, which was
on hold while a court considered whether he had a conflict of interest
because while in private practice he had twice been the youth's attorney.
Young said Tuesday that he approached defense attorney Steven Miears on
Monday after it became obvious that the issue could tie up the trial for
months and would be a continuing issue for years even after a conviction.
"We're not conceding anything. In fact, I think the court of appeals would
render in our favor. But what we've done, Steve and I jointly, we]ve
notified the court that I'm going to voluntarily recuse myself and my
office, and I've already contacted the attorney general's office, formally
requesting that they appoint a special prosecutor," Young said.
That makes moot the appellate court's deliberations on whether Young's
participation in the prosecution was a conflict that should require state
District Judge Jim Dick Lovett to order Young and his staff off the case.
Miears argued that because Young represented Cobb in a divorce case and in
a felony forgery case, he had information he shouldnt be entitled to in
arguing for the death penalty.
"The longer we looked at it, it became apparent that the issue the defense
was presenting was about me, and trying to get me off," Young said. "The
case was becoming about whether I'm doing right or wrong. That's not fair
to the family, or to the victim.
"That issue was going to follow this case forever, so we made the decision
to ask for a special prosecutor so this case can get tried timely and
The Paris News was unable to reach Miears for comment by telephone or
e-mail. A member of his staff said Tuesday afternoon that he was out of
the office. He had said Tuesday morning in Paris, where he was in court on
another capital murder case, that he expected a development soon on the
Cobb, 23, is accused of killing his great-grandparents, Charley Smith, 89,
and Ruth Smith, 88, on Aug. 29, 2004, in their residence next door to
where Cobb lived with his parents on Smallwood Road, in the Reno city
limits, north of Elk Hollow Golf Club.
Paris Police Chief Karl Louis said when he questioned Cobb about the
killings, Cobb at first denied knowing what happened, but later confessed
in detail to both murders - stabbing his great-grandfather and then
shooting his great-grandmother. It's alleged Cobb killed them for money to
The case was scheduled for jury selection on Feb. 21, but the 6th Court of
Appeals halted proceedings with a Feb. 15 announcement that it would hear
Miears' request for a writ of mandamus seeking Youngs removal as the
prosecutor. The Texarkana court heard oral arguments on March 1, when two
Austin attorneys representing an anti-death penalty group argued for
"A group that opposes capital punishment has gotten involved, latching
onto this. We've removed all that. If the goal is to get Mr. Cobb
executed, this will make it happen the fastest way," Young said.
The district attorney said neither he nor any of his staff will be
involved in prosecuting the case.
"The attorney generals office has a division for criminal law enforcement,
and within that division is a capital murder prosecution group, for this
specific reason," Young said.
He said he expects two prosecutors and perhaps an investigator to try the
case, which still will be scheduled for Lovetts courtroom in Paris.
"They basically will come in, and we'll hand them our stuff. It will then
basically be their case to do with as they see fit," Young said. He said
he will not discuss either Cobb's divorce case or a charge in which Cobb
was accused of forging his mother's check - 2 cases in which Young served
as Cobb's attorney.
"If he gets the death penalty, it's not going to be because he forged his
mom's check or for being a horses rear while being married. He is going to
get the death penalty, if he gets it, by what he did and what hes done in
the past violently and by what hes done since he's been arrested," Young
The district attorney said he expects the Cobb case to be tried in the
next 3 to 9 months.
(source: Paris News)
Witness says he was forced into death scene----Tedesco says he heard shots
that killed friend
A witness in the capital murder trial of Darrell Lee Swearingen testified
Wednesday he was forced into an 18-year-old man's home and heard the
gunshots that killed him.
Anthony Tedesco identified himself as a friend of Isaac Ely Maldonado and
of 2 of the men accused of killing Maldonado and his 19-year-old
girlfriend, Jenna Kay Petak, on Jan. 13, 2004.
He said he was taken to Maldonado's house and Swearingen pulled him from
the car they arrived in, then forced him at gunpoint into the Maldonado
home in the 4900 block of Curtis Clark Drive and to Maldonado's upstairs
bedroom where Maldonado and Patek were sleeping.
Elijah Dupree Huff has also been charged with capital murder, but his case
is currently on hold pending the decision of a double jeopardy motion by
his attorney. Huff's trial has twice ended in mistrial because of juror
Tedesco said he saw Huff take something from a dresser and walk to the
left side of the bed where Maldonado and Patek were sleeping while
Swearingen walked to the right side of the bed.
"I was running down the stairs when I heard gunshots," Tedesco said.
He said Swearingen began screaming at him before they arrived at
"D.J. starts yelling that he's going to show me who's boss and how could I
pick Isaac over him," he said.
After the shootings, Tedesco said Swearingen caught up with him at the
front door and forced him into the car at gunpoint.
"(Swearingen) was telling Dupree he should have killed me inside the
room," Tedesco said. "He said he would kill me or my family if I told
He said he hasn't been able to face the Maldonado family and that he moved
a few days after the homicides. He also said things would have turned out
differently if he had been armed.
"I would have just killed (Swearingen) and Dupree myself," he said.
Lisa Harris, one of Swearingen's attorneys, cross-examined Tedesco,
repeatedly questioning him about a deal made with prosecutor James Sales,
and asking him if Sales had ever told him that an indictment had already
been written out and that he would face the death penalty if he didn't
testify for the prosecution.
Tedesco said he did know that he could be indicted but was never told he
could face the death penalty.
The district attorney's office made a deal with Tedesco that he could not
be prosecuted for anything he said in court.
Closing arguments are expected to begin today. If convicted, Swearingen
could face the death penalty.
(source: Corpus Christi Caller-Times)
Guest Column: Criminal justice system protects 2 innocents
In his March 18 column concerning Greg Wilhoit, James Hallmark makes a
fundamental error in reasoning. He assumes that 1 example proves the
conclusion he supports.
Hallmark argues that Wilhoit was falsely convicted of capital murder and
that the "system" failed to work for him. Hallmark then claims that 117
death row inmates have been exonerated and that the number of innocents
executed is unknown.
The truth is that most of the 117 examples offered in Hallmark's polemic
were not exonerated. Most of them were given a new trial, and when the
state declined to pursue prosecution a second (or third or fourth) time,
death penalty opponents announced that they had been exonerated. Never
mind that the original crimes occurred as long as 20 or 30 years earlier
and that most of the evidence and witnesses were no longer available.
In truth, there has been no confirmed execution of an innocent person in
the United States since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.
I am unfamiliar with Mr. Wilhoit's case. He may or may not have been
falsely convicted. But let us assume that he was. Does one example prove
that we as a society should abandon the death penalty? Does one example
prove the system failed? Does one example prove that abandoning the death
penalty will protect innocent lives? The answer is an emphatic no.
Let's look at another example of an individual convicted and sentenced to
death. In June 1992, Robert J. Anderson snatched a 4-year-old child from a
sidewalk near the 3300 block of West Second Avenue in Amarillo. After the
child's body was discovered in a Styrofoam ice chest at the bottom of a
Dumpster, Anderson confessed to investigating officers.
He explained in graphic detail how he raped, tortured, butchered and
eventually drowned the innocent little girl. Anderson even informed the
officers that "little kids are hard to kill. I broke a Ginsu knife off in
Multiple witnesses observed Anderson in possession of the Styrofoam ice
chest before it was deposited in the Dumpster. The physical evidence which
corroborated the witnesses' testimony and his confession was overwhelming.
Does Hallmark or anyone else believe there is any real chance that
Anderson was innocent? Does this example prove the death penalty is
appropriate in every case? Does this example prove that an innocent person
never can be convicted of capital murder? Does this example prove that the
"system" works? The answer is an emphatic no.
Capital murder cases are part of a man-made system that is imperfect.
Nothing man can create is perfect. Only God can produce perfection.
However, our criminal justice system is a very good one. It includes
multiple protections, fail safes, appeals, reviews and safeguards in
recognition of man's fallibility.
The system did work in Greg Wilhoit's case. He is free today because of
the criminal justice system, not because he broke out of prison and
escaped. The system also worked in the case of Robert J. Anderson. He was
justly executed for the horrendous crime he committed.
In both cases, innocent people were protected. Wilhoit was exonerated, and
Anderson will never butcher another innocent child.
(source: The Amarillo Globe-News - James A. Farren is criminal district
attorney for Randall County)
Capital Judicial Pinball
At press time, lawyers for convicted death row inmate Rodney Reed were
preparing for a hearing in Bastrop Co. district court, where Reed's case
was remanded for a hearing based on his contention that prosecutors
stifled exculpatory evidence during his original trial. Reed was convicted
in May 1998 for the rape and murder of 20-year-old Stacey Stites.
Prosecutors argued that Reed overcame Stites in the predawn hours of April
23, 1996, as she drove from Giddings to Bastrop to work a shift at the
HEB. The state's theory was based solely on DNA that matched Reed - no
other physical evidence tied him to the crime. Reed has maintained his
innocence, explaining that his DNA was found on Stites because the 2 had
been having an affair, while Stites was engaged to former Giddings police
officer Jimmy Fennell. (Reed's supporters contend that Fennell is a far
more likely suspect in the murder - he knew of the affair, they maintain,
and was not at all happy about it. For more on the case, see "Who Killed
According to appeals filed by lawyers with the Texas Defender Service,
Reed's attorneys have uncovered evidence supporting his innocence that was
never made available to the defense. Among the allegedly withheld
information is the testimony of Martha Barnett, who said she saw Stites
and Fennell together around 5am on the morning she was killed. Barnett's
attorney, former Lee Co. Attorney Steven Keng, said in an affidavit that
he passed Barnett's information to Bastrop Co. District Attorney Charles
Pennick, who prosecuted Reed, but Pennick laughed at the story, saying
only that he "did not want to hear any more about the case."
The potentially explosive evidence prompted the Texas Court of Criminal
Appeals in October to send Reed's case back to Bastrop Co., where a
district judge will consider its validity, and potential impact on Reed's
conviction, during a 2-day hearing starting today, March 23.
(source: Austin Chronicle)
Death row inmate gets chance to argue innocence---- Secret evidence to be
unveiled in hearing on 1996 Bastrop murder
Death row inmate Rodney Reed returns to court today to argue that
prosecutors withheld evidence - including secret information to be
unveiled in court - that pointed to another suspect in the 1996 murder of
H-E-B clerk Stacey Stites near Bastrop.
The evidence would have been so crucial to Reed's defense that the courts
must toss out his conviction and order a new trial, his appellate lawyers
"Had this evidence been made available to the defense, it would have
destroyed the state's theory of how Stacey Stites' murder occurred,"
according to court documents filed on Reed's behalf.
Today's hearing, ordered by the state's highest criminal court, culminates
a 10-year crusade by attorneys and Reed supporters who think that Stites
was killed by someone else, possibly her former fianc, and that Reed was
victimized by an inadequate, if not inept, investigation.
Reed was convicted of sexual assault and murder 8 years ago based largely
on DNA-matched semen recovered from Stites, 19, who had been strangled
with her own belt and left near a dirt road north of Bastrop. Reed claims
he and Stites were having an affair, explaining the presence of his semen
in her body, but that he had nothing to do with her murder.
Prosecutors are required to turn over all investigative information that
could be favorable to the defense. Today's hearing in a state district
court in Bastrop will examine claims that former Bastrop County District
Attorney Charles Penick did not disclose knowledge of a witness who said
Stites was with her fianc, Giddings police officer Jimmy Fennell Jr.,
about two hours after Reed was said to have killed her.
Witness Martha Barnett recalled seeing Stites and Fennell standing in
front of a red pickup in a Bastrop County store's parking lot between 5
and 5:30 a.m. April 23, 1996.
"I recognized Stacey because I always went through her line at H-E-B,"
Barnett said in a court affidavit.
Barnett added that she recognized Fennell when a newspaper ran his picture
two weeks later.
Barnett's claim not only raises doubt about Reed's involvement in the
murder, it points a finger at Fennell, who police originally suspected in
the crime, Reed's lawyers said in court documents.
According to prosecutors, on the day she was killed, Stites left the
Giddings apartment she shared with Fennell about 3 a.m. She drove
Fennell's red pickup, which would later be found in a Bastrop High School
parking lot, about 7 miles from where Stites' body was found.
Investigators eventually concluded that Fennell, without a vehicle, could
not have killed Stites and returned 30 miles to Giddings in time to
receive a 6 a.m. phone call from Stites' mother, who was frantic after
learning that Stites had not shown up for work. Police also checked taxi
fares and mileage logs from Giddings police vehicles to rule out
Reed's lawyers, however, suggest that Fennell could have had help which
is where the secret information comes in.
Today's hearing, for the 1st time, will publicly examine information,
submitted to the courts under seal by Reed's lawyers "due to concern for
the witnesses," that will suggest ways Fennell could have had help from an
accomplice, Reed's appeal states.
The appeal reveals nothing more about the sealed information.
Bastrop County District Attorney Bryan Goertz did not return a call
seeking comment about Reed's claims. However, Penick, the former district
attorney who prosecuted Reed, has criticized the inmate's lawyers for
pursuing frivolous claims. "I think there are a lot of rabbit trails
you're trying to lay that have no relevance to this case," he told Reed's
lawyers in a deposition.
The latest hearing, likely to end Friday, will examine whether the new
information could have affected the outcome of Reed's trial. District
Judge Reva Towslee Corbett will send a recommendation to the Court of
Criminal Appeals, which could order a new trial or accept the previous
(source: Austin American-Statesman)
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