[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----ORE., CALIF., N.Y., ARIZ., N.C.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Nov 17 23:04:42 UTC 2006
Everyone loses when death penalty is used
I must disagree with your Nov. 10 "thumbs up" for the death penalty
("Oregon Supreme Court. Justices upheld the death sentence of Christian
"Thumbs up" generally means somebody wins. No one wins with the death
penalty. The space to respond quickly to your quick "thumbs up" is
insufficient. Let's have a full debate of the issues surrounding the death
penalty in Oregon and your readers will be astonished by all the ways that
we all lose by having this law.
The Supreme Court decision should not be considered affirmation that the
death penalty law is fair, appropriate or just. Their decision relates to
the circumstances of the convicted man's return to Oregon. Nothing this
complex should be expressed in such a simplistic thumb pointing.
Ronald Steiner, Salem
(source: Letter to the Editor, Statesman Journal)
D.A. will seek death penalty in murder case
The Ventura County district attorney's office will seek the death penalty
against Randolph Clifton Kling, 50, for the murders of Michael and William
Budfuloski of Simi Valley.
Kling was indicted by the Ventura County Grand Jury in December 2005 on
charges of the murders of Michael Budfuloski in Simi Valley on Feb. 24,
2004, and William Budfuloski in Lancaster on Aug. 9, 2003.
The defendant also faces special circumstances for multiple murders and
for allegedly committing both murders by means of lying in wait and for
financial gain. <>P> Kling is also charged with animal cruelty for killing
William Budfuloski's dog, Moo, and for the unlawful possession of
firearms, ammunition, a firearms suppressor and a forged driver's license.
Kling is pleading not guilty to all charges. The case is scheduled for
motions and a jury trial on Tuesday, Nov. 28.
(source: Simi Valley Acorn)
Supreme Court inaugurates new term with reactionary death penalty ruling
On November 13, the Supreme Court in the case of Ayers v. Belmontes
reinstated a death sentence imposed on a man in the state of California
despite evidence that the sentencing verdict resulted from confusion over
The decision, which overturned a ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court of
Appeals, was split 5-4. Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices
Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Anthony Kennedy ruled
in favor of the death penalty. This was the first decision of the Court in
its current term.
The majority opinion, authored by the so-called "swing" Justice Kennedy,
is a thoroughly reactionary assault on fundamental due process rights
guaranteed under the Constitution. The decision represents a conscious
effort on the part of most extreme-right justices on the Court to loosen
any restraint on the state's ability to carry out executions.
Fernando Belmontes was convicted of murder in 1982 for the killing of a
woman during a burglary attempt. During the penalty phase of the trial,
the jury was tasked with deciding whether Belmontes would receive life in
prison without the possibility of parole, or the death penalty. The
prosecution and the defense were able to present evidence in aggravation
and mitigation, respectively.
In addition to the well established precedent guaranteeing the right to a
fair trial under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process clause, the
Supreme Court has made the cornerstone of its capital punishment
jurisprudence the Eighth Amendment (which prohibits cruel and unusual
punishment) and has imposed as an interpretation of this amendment the
right of defendants to present any mitigating evidence to the jury that
might warrant a penalty less than death. Because of confusing jury
instructions, however, Belmontes' lawyers argued that the jury did not
consider all mitigating factors.
The defense introduced into evidence, among other things, the testimony of
Belmontes mother and grandfather who testified about Belmontes difficult
childhood, particularly his abuse at the hands of his alcoholic father.
The primary component of the defense's evidence in mitigation, however,
was the prior experience of Belmontes when he was committed to a juvenile
correctional program called the California Youth Authority. The defendant
testified that during his time with the Youth Authority he underwent a
religious conversion to Christianity and achieved a number of positive
accomplishments. The defense presented testimony from the Youth Authority
chaplain explaining Belmontes positive influence on other youths during
the course of his commitment.
The thrust of the defense argument was that Belmontes had demonstrated
that while he was incarcerated he was able to reform himself, and
therefore if given a life sentence he could benefit society while
After the penalty evidence was presented, counsel and the court discussed
the proposed jury instructions. The defense counsel submitted a request
that the jury instructions include a list of the special aggravating
factors and a list of the special mitigating factors that were raised by
the evidence. Under the requested list of special mitigating factors, the
defense sought to include the factors relevant to the evidence of his
behavior during previous incarceration.
The trial judge refused defense counsel's request to give the jury a
separate list of potential mitigating factors and instead used a list of 7
standard sentencing factors that are commonly used, including oneknown as
factor (k)that instructed the jury that they could consider "any other
circumstance which extenuates the gravity of the crime even though it is
not a legal excuse for the crime." While this factor is worded as if it is
a catchall provision that would include almost anything that is not
enumerated in the 6 other factors, it is in fact nothing of the sort and
served to exclude the defense's primary mitigating evidence.
All the factors listed by the judge related to the severity of the crime
and would not logically include consideration of the defendant's future
behavior. Though the mitigating factors were referred to as examples, the
judge declined to inform the jury that they were not limited to
consideration of the specific enumerated factors.
The confusion among the jury quickly became evident. After deliberating
for a few hours, the jury foreman submitted 2 written questions to the
court: "What happens if we cannot reach a verdict?" and "Can the majority
rule on life imprisonment?" These questions clearly reveal that, at this
point, a majority of jurors favored a life sentence with a minority
faction to the contrary.
The judge responded to the questions with the jury in open court. After
informing the jury that their verdict must be unanimous, one of the
jurors, Mrs. Hern, asked the judge the following question: "The statement
about the aggravation and mitigation of the circumstances, now, that was
the listing?" The judge responded saying, "That was the listing, yes,
ma'am." Mrs. Hern followed up by asking, "Of those certain factors, we
were to decide one or the other and then balance the sheet?" To which the
court replied, "That is right. It is a balancing process."
The appellate brief for Belmontes aptly explains the significance of the
jurys colloquy with the judge.
The clear import is that Juror Hern wanted confirmation that the list of
factors the jury had heard was complete and exhaustive. The trial court
gave her and the entire jury exactly that confirmation without any
countervailing direction that all the evidence presented was proper for
consideration, and that the list of factors was supplied only to help the
jury consider the evidence, not to limit the jury's consideration.
As a result of the court's instruction, within 24 hours the majority
contingent of the jury that was leaning toward a life sentence changed
their position and the jury delivered a unanimous verdict of death.
Belmontes' Post-Conviction Remedies
It is significant that just one year after Belmontes' trial, the
California Supreme Court recognized the problematic nature of the standard
jury instructions and amended them to make clear that the jury could
consider any evidence that was presented in court. Despite this fact, the
California courts upheld the death sentence of Belmontes.
After exhausting his state court remedies, Belmontes filed a petition for
federal habeas corpus relief in 1994. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
ruled to vacate Belmontes' death sentence, pointing out that "the Eighth
Amendment requires a capital jury to consider all relevant mitigating
evidence offered by the defendant . . . this broad mandate includes the
duty to consider mitigating evidence that relates to a defendant's
probable future behavior, especially the likelihood that he would not pose
a future danger if spared but incarcerated." The court then cited the
trial judge's failure to instruct the jury that it was obligated to
consider Belmontes' principal mitigation evidence.
The Supreme Court decision issued on Monday overturns the ruling by the
Ninth Circuit. The majority opinion is largely unresponsive to the issues
raised on appeal by Belmontes. The majority primarily relied on the case
of Boyde v. California which previously examined the language of the
factor (k) instruction and found that, standing alone, it does not
unconstitutionally preclude jurors from considering mitigating evidence
unrelated to the crime.
However, as Eric Multhaup, counsel for Belmontes, made clear in his brief
and during oral argument, it was not the language of factor (k) alone that
violated Belmontes' Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, but rather the
"unusual combination of respondent's particular mitigating evidence, a
mixture of standard and case specific jury instructions, and a number of
mid deliberation juror questions coupled with the trial courts improvised
answers" that, taken in combination, deterred the jury "from considering
and giving effect to some of the most compelling of respondents evidence
In fact, Boyde serves to bolster the defendant's argument because it holds
that the standard for relief in such a case is whether there is "a
reasonable probability that the jury has applied the challenged
instruction in a way that prevents the consideration of constitutionally
relevant evidence." In other words, even if the jurors were properly
instructed, one only has to show that there is a "reasonable probability"
that the instruction was misapplied and constitutionally relevant evidence
was not considered. Aware of this, the majority of the Supreme Court tried
to reason that the jurors "could have disregarded respondents future
potential only if they drew the unlikely inference that the courts
instructions transformed all of this favorable testimony into a virtual
charade." In other words, there was no reasonable probability that the
jury did not consider the mitigating evidence because if the presentation
by the defense conflicted with the instruction from the judge, the jurors
would certainly ignore the latter!
At best, the majority opinion evidences a complete indifference to the
constitutionally guaranteed rights of defendants. As the dissenting
opinion pointed out, "the incremental value to California of carrying out
a death sentence at this late date is far outweighed by the interest in
maintaining confidence in the fairness of any proceeding that results in a
States decision to take the life of one of its citizens."
The WSWS unequivocally opposes the death penalty regardless of the nature
of the proceedings. The dissenting opinion, which does not explicitly
oppose the death penalty, does however highlight the fact that in this
ruling the Supreme Court has moved to eliminate existing constitutional
safeguards that restrict the application of the penalty by requiring that
any doubt be resolved in favor of the defendant. Clearly in this case
there is substantial doubt that the jury properly considered all factors
in deciding whether or not to give Belmontes a death sentence.
There is more involved here than mere indifference to such considerations
or the fate of one individual. The justices that voted to reinstate
Belmontes' death sentence are actively seeking to remove any legal
restrictions on the state's ability to incarcerate and execute its
citizens. This is demonstrated by the concurring opinion authored by
Justices Scalia and Thomas, which went beyond Kennedy's opinion to attack
the premise that the defense should be able to present any mitigating
evidence it considers relevant. "I adhere to my view that limiting a
jury's discretion to consider all mitigating evidence does not violate the
Eighth Amendment," the Justices wrote. From the perspective of these
reactionary justices, constitutional safeguards merely stand in the way of
maintaining social order.
The intention and effect of this legal perspective is to strengthen the
more repressive elements of the state apparatus, including the police, the
military, and the executioner. In the case of Hudson v. Michigan, decided
in June, these same 5 justices abolished the long standing rule that the
police had to knock and announce their presence before entering someones
home, and in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld formed a minority bloc (minus Kennedy)
that sanctioned unfettered executive power in the use of military
commissions and the detention of "unlawful enemy combatants."
These judges, who hold nothing but contempt for basic democratic rights,
do not emerge out of nowhere; rather, they have been intentionally
fostered and promoted by the most right-wing elements of the ruling
There is a certain social-psychological component to the ruling, with the
justices betraying a vindictiveness and enthusiasm at sending Belmontes to
his death. The use of the death penalty is itself a barbaric institution,
and the zeal with which it is promoted by the highest court in the landnot
to mention President Bush himself, who notoriously oversaw the execution
of over 150 prisoners while governor of Texasis an expression of the
profound decay of democratic conceptions within the American ruling elite.
(source: World Socialist Web)
Death Penalty May Be Revived By High Court
When New York's highest court decides an appeal of the state's remaining
death sentence case next year, the judges may show little allegiance to
the court's landmark 2004 decision striking down the death penalty, legal
John Taylor, 42, is the lone convict on New York's death row, but for a
condemned man his future is uncertain. His appeal will come before a court
expected to be more sympathetic to capital punishment and, some attorneys
speculate, less willing to be fettered by precedent.
Prosecutors have signaled they will ask the court to overturn the 2004
decision, which ruled a key component of the state's death penalty to be
unconstitutional. That decision, in which the court threw out the death
sentence of Stephen LaValle, divided the seven judges, 43.
Because of retirements in the court, the judges who hear Taylor's appeal
will likely include 2 newcomers who did not take part in the LaValle case.
One judge who voted against capital punishment, Albert Rosenblatt,
yesterday heard his final day of arguments before his December retirement.
Choosing a replacement for Judge Rosenblatt, considered a swing vote on
capital punishment, will be one of Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer's 1st
The judge who wrote for the majority in LaValle, George Bundy Smith, has
already left the court, retiring this year after Governor Pataki replaced
him with a far more conservative jurist, Eugene Pigott Jr., for his spot.
Judge Pigott is a "wild card" on the death penalty who could show little
support for the LaValle decision, which he did take part in, a professor
at Albany Law School who closely follows the Court of Appeals, Vincent
Bonventre, said. "It is absolutely true that the question about the New
York death penalty statute is unsettled."
Other legal observers say that even if the individual justices disagreed
with the LaValle decision, they could be unwilling to overturn one of the
court's most significant rulings.
"If you are a member of the court who thought LaValle was wrongly decided,
would you nonetheless want to make it appear that one or two changes in
membership in the state's highest court can change a holding so
fundamental as one about the death penalty?" the president of New York
Lawyers Against the Death Penalty, Ronald Tabak, said. "And what does
stare decisis mean were they to that?" Mr. Tabak asked, referring to the
practice of upholding legal precedent.
The question of how much weight the Court of Appeals gives to its own
precedent could prove just as important to the court's final decision as
its constitutional analysis. Fueling speculation on how the court will
rule is a recent speech by the judge who wrote the dissent in LaValle,
Judge Robert Smith.
In his dissent, Judge Smith wrote that the majority had issued "an
astonishing holding" that meddled with the role of the Legislature. The
Legislature has since declined to approve a new death penalty statute,
which Judge Smith could interpret as signaling the Legislature's
acceptance of LaValle, legal observers say.
On November 1, Judge Robert Smith gave a speech on what it means to be a
conservative jurist that has become a topic of discussion among attorneys
following the Taylor case.
Answering a question from the audience, Judge Smith compared himself to
the chief judge on the court, Judith Kaye, saying, "You would find her
more respectful than I of precedent."
Chief Judge Kaye, who voted with the majority of LaValle, is up soon for
reappointment, which legal observers expect Mr. Spitzer to do.
According to a recording of the speech, Judge Smith continued later: "I am
more inclined that a lot of judges to say, If we got it wrong, lets say
that we got it wrong and get it right.'"
News of Judge Smith's speech has traveled beyond those present at the
audience at the Federalist Society event, held at Pace University Law
Earlier in the talk, Judge Smith offered his views on capital punishment,
telling the audience that he used to represent defendants facing
"I am no longer but was a committed opponent to capital punishment,"
Judge Smith said. "I never became a committed supporter of capital
punishment. I'm quite ambivalent about it personally."
Taylor was convicted for his role in the execution of five employees at a
Wendy's restaurant he robbed. Taylor, along with a mildly retarded
accomplice, bound, blindfolded, gagged, and shot 7 employees. 2 survived.
The Office of the Queens district attorney, who is prosecuting Taylor, has
said it will challenge the "validity" of the LaValle decision, according
to a letter to the court earlier this year.
In addition to saying the court was wrong in the LaValle decision,
prosecutors are expected to say that the decision does not apply to
Taylor. In LaValle, the court said the death penalty law is faulty because
it coerces jurors to vote for death. Jurors, when considering imposing
death, are told that a deadlock could mean the defendant receives a
sentence with the possibility of parole. Aware of the problem with the
law, the judge in Taylor's case told the jurors that if they deadlocked,
Taylor would be eligible for parole only after 175 years in prison.
Taylor's lawyer argues that Taylor cannot be executed without the court
overturning LaValle, according to papers filed by the capital defender,
Kevin Doyle. The LaValle decision "demands precedential respect," Mr.
New constitutional issues are raised when the condemned man "inhabits a
death row of one," Mr. Doyle argues. "Even more freakish, and
unconstitutional would be a "one shot" death penalty, reserved just for
him," Mr. Doyle wrote.
The case is not yet scheduled on the calendar, but the Court of Appeals
will likely hear the case sometime in the spring.
(source: New York Sun)
FIRST DO NO HARM: PLEASE come & tell other people and groups about this
important program. INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW could provide us with
the powerful engine needed to drive the death penalty out of our nation
and to effect other vital reforms. Your help to spread the word is
respectfully requested, needed, and appreciated. Thank you.
INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE DEATH PENALTY: A New Paradigm?
A panel discussion co-sponsored by the New York City Bar Committee on
Capital Punishment and Committee on International Human Rights
The panel will explore the question of whether, and to what extent, Human
Rights norms, laws, treaties and/or claims can or should influence or
impact the use of the death penalty in the United States.
The panel will also examine the issue of American "exceptionalism" and the
application of international law to adjudication in the United States.
Hon. William M. Erlbaum, Justice, New York State Supreme Court
Martin S. Flaherty, Leitner Family Professor of Law at Fordham Law School
Co-Director, Joseph R. Crowley Program in International Human Rights
Franklin E. Zimring, William G. Simon Professor of Law at UC-Berkeley
Boalt Hall School of Law; Wolfen Distinguished Scholar
Moderator Stephen R. Greenwald, President, Metropolitan College of New
December 6, 2006 at 7:00 PM House of the Association, 42 West 44th Street
The program is free and open to the public.
Fast-track executions, Thomas says ---- Critics call plan to clear case
backlog too simplistic
Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas unveiled sweeping proposals that he
says will speed up death penalty cases, which take years to crawl through
the legal system.
Arizona hasn't executed anyone since 2000 and there is a backlog of
roughly 118 capital cases in Maricopa County. That's unacceptable, says
Thomas, who released a 22-page report on Wednesday. The report was
compiled using the office's statistics and by surveying its prosecutors.
"This study found that the delays were generally due to stalling tactics
by defense attorneys coupled with failure by the courts to enforce rules
and deadlines," Thomas said. "The length of time that it takes to carry
out a death penalty sentence is an injustice to the victims and their
In Arizona, Thomas says it takes an average of 19 years from the date of a
homicide for a killer to be executed. Thomas acknowledged his figure
includes the time it takes to arrest and indict a suspect, which are
issues out of the court's control.
Thomas wants to chip away at the backlog by designating a 5-judge panel
that would hear only death penalty cases.
The county attorney also plans to ask for legislation in January that
would require the chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court to review
continuances in death sentence cases.
Thomas wants to rein in defense attorneys' ability to interview witnesses
or probe some issues after the death sentence.
The prosecutor's proposals got an icy reception from defense attorneys and
judges who said that Thomas gave a simplistic view of complex cases. Also,
several said that fast-tracking capital cases could lead to sloppy
mistakes and more reversed death sentences, which also delay cases.
The reason that there is a backlog is because there aren't enough judges,
prosecutors or qualified defense attorneys to handle the cases, said Judge
Jim Keppel, who oversees criminal judges and who has presided over four
death penalty cases.
Also, a U.S. Supreme Court decision in an Arizona case, Ring vs. Arizona,
sent several death penalty cases back to Maricopa County courtrooms. The
death penalty defendants now must be sentenced by juries, not judges.
"I am really disappointed," Keppel said. "I think (Thomas') view on this
topic is myopic."
The proposed 5-judge panel wouldn't be big enough to handle the backlog,
Keppel said. It would take that group more than 5 years to clear the
backlog, not including new death penalty cases, he said.
Up until recently, judges and prosecutors were cooperating to address the
backlog, Keppel said. The court is testing a system that is designed to
help judges and attorneys avoid scheduling problems that postpone trials.
Judge Roland Steinle III says he is presiding over a death penalty case
that has been repeatedly continued because the prosecutors are too busy
with other cases. The defense attorneys are ready to move forward, he
"The prosecutors indicated that they can't do trial this year," Steinle
Defense attorneys say they need continuances and thorough appeals because
death penalty cases are more complicated.
Defense attorneys must work diligently to make sure the cases are done
right the first time, so that the wrong person isn't convicted and so that
the cases aren't appealed because of poor legal work, lawyers say.
8 people from Arizona's death row have been exonerated since the 1970s,
according to the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center.
"A one-size-fits-all approach is unfair and unworkable," said Dale Baich,
a federal public defender who specializes in death penalty cases.
Thomas said that speeding up cases won't lead to mistakes.
The county attorney's report comes four months after a national lawyers
group pointed to several flaws in the Arizona death penalty system. Among
other things, the 21-month study concluded that prosecutors use
inconsistent standards to seek the death penalty.
The American Bar Association also found that Arizona severely underfunds
attorneys for the poor who represent the vast majority of death penalty
On Wednesday, Thomas said his press conference was not a response to the
Bar Association's report, his study was already under way when the lawyer
group's July report was made public.
(source: Arizona Republic)
Juror dismissed in Allen case-----Superior Court Judge James C. Spencer
Jr. questions Juror No. 6 about her ability to consider the death penalty
during the sentencing phase of the trial of convicted murderer Ezavia
Allen. The juror was dismissed.
In Raleigh, a Superior Court judge dismissed a juror in the death-penalty
case of Ezavia Allen on Thursday after the juror said she regretted the
decision earlier this week to convict Allen of first-degree murder.
The middle-aged woman, whose name was not released, said a handful of
jurors blocked others from considering convicting Allen of 2nd-degree
murder, a lesser offense that does not include the death penalty as a
"Nobody wanted to listen to a different point of view," she told Judge
James C. Spencer Jr. "I don't even agree with my vote."
Her statement was met by gasps and tears from Allen's mother, Shunita
Allen Montgomery, and a family friend sitting in the courtroom at the Wake
County Courthouse in downtown Raleigh.
Allen, 20, was convicted by the jury of 11 women and 1 man Tuesday of
taking part in a 3-week string of robberies that ended with the killing of
Shirley Newkirk, 63.
Newkirk, a retired teacher, was shot in the driveway of her Southeast
Raleigh home April 28, 2005. After finding Allen guilty of 1st-degree
murder and multiple robbery counts, jurors are now deciding whether Allen
will join 167 other convicted murderers on North Carolina's death row.
Spencer appointed an alternate juror, a man, to take the place of Juror
No. 6. Defense attorneys Maitri "Mike" Klinkosum and Barry Winston
objected to the dismissal and asked the judge to declare both phases of
the trial, the guilt-innocence and sentencing phases, mistrials. Spencer
denied the motion for a mistrial.
He asked the female juror to come back to court today so that he,
prosecutors and defense attorneys can explore her accusations of
misconduct in the jury room.
The case took the atypical turn Thursday afternoon moments before
attorneys planned on making closing remarks in the sentencing phase of the
trial. Jurors would have then returned to the jury room to decide Allen's
Spencer received a note from a jury forewoman that read, "Several of the
jurors have concerns about a fellow juror, No. 6."
He then pulled attorneys from both sides, Allen, a court reporter and a
court clerk into another room and individually called in 5 jurors,
including the forewoman but not the dismissed juror, as part of the
"in-camera proceeding" held outside of the public's view.
2 hours later, Spencer took the bench and said in the courtroom filled
with spectators that during deliberations of the guilt-innocence phase,
Juror No. 6 became emotional and asked to be dismissed because she could
not send a man to death.
He had a bailiff bring the juror into the courtroom for questioning, and
she said she was ostracized after she told other jurors that she couldn't
make a decision regarding the death penalty. Her son was killed years
earlier, and the trial brought those emotions back, leaving her sleepless
"Morally, I don't think I can do it," she later told the judge.
Her son would have been a few years older than Allen. She said, "I feel
like I'm watching my son."
The woman then told the judge about the deliberations during the
guilt-innocence phase and said other jurors wanted to talk about whether
Allen deserved to be convicted of 2nd-degree murder, which was an option
they were instructed to consider.
1st-degree murder offers punishments including life in prison without
parole or death, and requires that a jury find the person killed someone
with malice and intent or during the commission of another serious crime,
according to North Carolina law.
2nd-degree murder applies in situations where a person kills another with
malice. A person could spend less than 8 years or as much as 32 years in
prison if convicted of 2nd-degree murder.
Allen's trial began Nov. 6, and members of both his family and Newkirk's
have been present each day. On Wednesday, Newkirk's 2 adult daughters
testified about their mother, the hugs she routinely gave, the strong
emphasis she placed on education and the devastation in their own lives
In turn, witnesses including teachers and Allen's sister spoke on his
behalf, describing a teenager who was polite and well-behaved early in
life but dropped out of school.
His attorneys have said he was a victim of the poverty and crime he
encountered growing up in Raleigh's Chavis Heights public housing complex.
Lawyers seek delay in killer's execution----Guy LeGrande scheduled to die
A lawyer for death row inmate Guy LeGrande filed a motion Thursday asking
a judge to delay his Dec. 1 execution, arguing he is psychotic, cannot
help his attorneys and does not understand that his death by lethal
injection is imminent.
LeGrande, 47, of Stanly County, was sentenced to death for the 1993
shooting of Ellen Munford, whose estranged husband recruited him to commit
the killing for $6,500.
One of LeGrande's attorneys, Jay Ferguson of Durham, has asked that the
execution be delayed until either the state proves LeGrande is competent
to proceed or a hearing is held to determine LeGrande's mental capacity.
His motion says LeGrande is convinced he will be pardoned, released and
receive up to $3 billion in a settlement from the state.
A prosecutor and the victim's relatives say LeGrande is not mentally ill.
They point to witnesses who say LeGrande bragged of planning the murder to
avoid leaving evidence behind by wearing oversized shoes with plastic on
them and a stocking hat. (The defense says those witnesses contradict
testimony by the victim's husband who dropped LeGrande off before the
killing.) They also say he spent several hours waiting outside Munford's
house, and had time to think about committing murder.
Judges have refused 2 requests challenging LeGrande's competency, once
before his 1996 trial and once by relatives after his conviction.
LeGrande's attorneys say the judges mistakenly allowed LeGrande, who
insists on acting as his own lawyer, to be heard on the matter. Both
times, LeGrande said he didn't want the judge to consider the requests and
the judge agreed.
LeGrande's attorneys, Ferguson and Duke University law professor Jim
Coleman, are representing him without his permission.
To support their claim that LeGrande is not competent, his attorneys
submitted an affidavit from Dr. George Patrick Corvin, a psychiatrist at
Holly Hill Hospital in Raleigh. LeGrande refused to meet with Corvin last
month, but Corvin reviewed court records, LeGrande's correspondence and
others' descriptions of LeGrande's behavior.
LeGrande has said Oprah Winfrey and Dan Rather speak to him via the
television. He signed letters to the state officials as "Lucifer." He told
jurors during his closing argument to "kiss my natural black [expletive]
in the showroom window of the Heilig-Meyers" and urged them to sentence
him to death.
LeGrande's sister and half-sister suffer from bipolar disorder and chronic
paranoid schizophrenia, respectively, which Corvin said increases the
likelihood that LeGrande suffers from a serious mental illness. His
relatives say LeGrande would rant and rave to himself, pace back and forth
and experience severe mood swings. Corvin concluded that LeGrande was
psychotic and delusional.
(source for both: The News & Observer)
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