[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----ILL., CALIF., ARK., MO.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Nov 18 19:45:12 UTC 2006
Convicted former Gov. Ryan talks at anti-death penalty event
More than 2 months after being sentenced to federal prison for a
racketeering and fraud conviction, former Gov. George Ryan made one of his
first public appearances at DePaul University Friday night to talk about
the death penalty.
Ryan, who gained national attention for halting Illinois executions in
2000 and using his pardon and commutation powers to empty death row before
he left office in 2003, remains a hero to many death penalty opponents
despite being set to begin a 6 1/2 year prison term Jan. 4.
"No matter where he'll be, we'll still look up to him," said Elliot
Slosar, a senior at DePaul, who started a chapter of the Campaign to End
the Death Penalty at the school and organized Friday's event. "He hasn't
lost credibility in my eyes."
Ryan did not mention his own legal woes during a 45-minute speech in which
he described his journey from a death penalty supporter to opponent and
repeatedly called for a worldwide moratorium like that which remains in
effect in Illinois.
"Capital punishment laws are fraught with error," he said. "The
administration of the death penalty is not and has not been fair."
Ryan attended the event with his wife, Lura Lynn, and did not comment to
It was at DePaul University's law school on Jan. 10, 2003, that Ryan said
he would pardon death row inmates Madison Hobley, Stanley Howard, Aaron
Patterson and Leroy Orange, saying Chicago police tortured them into
confessing to murders they had not committed.
The next day, speaking at Northwestern University's law school, the
Republican commuted the sentences of everyone on Illinois' death row.
Hobley, now a national board member of the Campaign to End the Death
Penalty, also spoke briefly Friday night and made what may have been the
only hint at Ryan's impending imprisonment.
"If there's a God that can touch a Republican governor that once believed
in the death penalty and touch his heart to free a person like me, then
there's a God that will see that he's gonna be all right," Hobley said
while gesturing toward Ryan.
Friday's event was geared toward students and featured a screening of a
documentary produced by the sister of Andrea Lyon, a DePaul professor,
attorney for Hobley and an attorney for Ryan in years past. "Race to
Execution" examines race and the death penalty system and will debut on
PBS in March.
Andrea Lyon declined to discuss whether there were any concerns about
Ryan, now a convicted criminal, being a spokesman for the anti-death
"The point is to first of all remind people we still have a death penalty
in the state of Illinois and there's still work to be done," she said.
"There have not been as many changes as have been hoped by the authors of
the reforms in terms of what happens in court."
Forum attendee Kat Garbis, a 20-year-old DePaul junior studying political
science who described herself as pro-death penalty, indicated she thought
Ryan's image had been tarnished.
"I can respect the fact that George Ryan helped innocent people," she
said, "but can't respect him for betraying the people of Chicago."
But Garbris' 19-year-old sorority sister Emily Szo, a sophomore studying
elementary education, disagreed. She said Ryan remains credible on the
death penalty issue, though "it seems kind of contradictory."
Ryan was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison Sept. 6 for mail fraud, money
laundering, extortion, obstruction of justice and bribery during his time
as secretary of state and governor, from 1991 to 2003. He is appealing the
Since Ryan halted Illinois executions, the state has given the Supreme
Court greater power to throw out unjust verdicts, offered defendants more
access to evidence and barred the death penalty in cases that depend on a
single witness. But Gov. Rod Blagojevich has kept the moratorium in place,
saying he wants to see how the changes work before allowing executions to
(source: Associated Press)
Ryan's last words, with applause ---- Ex-governor talks about, lauded for
his anti-death penalty work
There was talk of prison, but not of the one in Oxford, Wis., where former
Gov. George Ryan will report Jan. 4.
There was talk of the death penalty, but not of the deaths of six
children, killed in a crash involving a trucker who obtained his license
with a bribe when Ryan was secretary of state.
Friday night was not a night to talk about the bad done by former Gov.
George Ryan - convicted of corruption charges that alleged he traded
governmental favors for personal benefits - but about the good that at
least some people believe he has done.
Ryan was feted at an anti-death penalty program Friday night and there was
a decidedly concerted effort not to mention his recent conviction.
The governor took no questions from the media entering the DePaul
University student center, and answered just one on his way out, a
question about the death penalty posed by a TV journalist before several
burly guards could get between television's Jay Levine and the governor.
Participants were warned ahead of time by DePaul student Elliot Slosar
that any shouted remarks or outbursts would meet with immediate ejection
from the auditorium. About 10 guards ringed the auditorium, standing at
Instead, this was Ryan's night to remind people of his historic decision
to clear death row in 2004, commuting all death sentences to life in
prison, and how he arrived at that decision. It was also his night for
adulation, as he received 2 standing ovations of the crowd of several
In his speech, the powerful orator's remarks reminded one of how he became
governor in the first place, his commanding baritone ringing out over the
audience, in clear, confident tones.
He recalled how he presided over one execution in Illinois before
declaring a moratorium as prisoner after prisoner was set free, either by
exoneration or legal defect.
"In March of 1999, I allowed that execution to proceed ... I've regretted
it every day since then," Ryan said.
He spoke of the racial disparities rampant in the death penalty, and how
33 of the inmates whose sentences he commuted had been represented by
lawyers disciplined at one time or another by the Illinois Attorney and
Registration Disciplinary Commission. He spoke of how 46 of them were
convicted solely on the word of jailhouse informants, "probably the most
unreliable testimony that you can have."
The more he studied, he said, the more he became convinced the system was
broken. The panel he had study the issue favored the death penalty by a
majority when they started in 2000, but by 2002, after studying the flaws
in Illinois' system, were against it by a majority. Despite their
findings, Ryan said, the legislature refused to enact death penalty
"I emptied death row because the system that put them there was just
unjust and just unfair," Ryan said. "I did a 360 on that (my previous
support of the death penalty) and I've done it with a clear conscience."
Although it was never mentioned outright, some did allude to Ryan's
impending 6 1/2 year prison sentence.
"If there's a God that can touch a Republican governor who once believed
in the death penalty ... then there's a God that's going to see that
you're gonna be all right," said the other featured speaker of the night,
Madison Hobley, whom Ryan pardoned and released from prison.
(source: Daily Herald)
P.I. in Morales case target of search
Focus on the death penalty case of Stockton's Michael Angelo Morales
shifted this week to a private investigator accused of faking jurors'
statements sent to the governor in what was ultimately a failed bid for
State Department of Justice agents on Thursday went to the San Francisco
apartment of private investigator Kathleen Culhane armed with a search
warrant and looking for any work she did on the case of the 47-year-old
Morales and three other condemned men.
The latest twist in the case likely will have little effect on Morales'
future, since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has already denied him clemency.
Culhane, 39, is under investigation for possibly forging letters from five
jurors who sentenced Morales to death for the 1981 rape and murder of
Stockton teen Terri Lynn Winchell.
In the letters, jurors said they changed their minds about wanting to send
Morales to die. But an investigator for the San Joaquin County District
Attorney's Office subsequently contacted those jurors, and they said they
never talked to Culhane, the search warrant said.
"I believe that Culhane falsely created the declarations, signed and dated
them, and subsequently submitted them to be used as evidence," said John
Porbanic, the California Department of Justice agent who wrote the search
"Culhane has engaged in a continuing enterprise of defrauding her
employers and the courts when employed to obtain declarations," Porbanic
Suspicion of Culhane surfaced just days before Morales' scheduled
execution, originally set for Feb. 21 at San Quentin State Prison. Other
legal challenges delayed the execution.
Morales' attorneys - including President Clinton prosecutor Kenneth Starr,
who headed the clemency bid - withdrew the letters, and Schwarzenegger
later denied any reprieve, citing the "brutal murder" Morales committed.
Morales today remains on death row awaiting the outcome of challenges he
made claiming the state's method of lethal injection amounts to cruel and
unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S.
Morales' lead attorney, David Senior of Los Angeles, and a spokesman for
the San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office declined to comment for
A spokesman for the attorney general's office said only that Culhane
remains under investigation.
Culhane, who also could not be reached, had worked from 2001 to 2005 as an
investigator for the Habeas Corpus Resource Center in San Francisco, the
state agency that provides representation for indigent inmates condemned
to die in California.
Culhane is also under investigation for possibly providing phony
declarations in the capital cases of Vincente Benevides Figueroa,
Christian Monterrosso and Jose Guerra, according to the search warrant,
which lists suspicious declarations of 23 witnesses and jurors. None of
the other cases are from San Joaquin County.
Culhane's case could ripple beyond Morales or the other three defendants,
said a Stockton attorney asked to comment on the case.
"This is obviously devastating from many angles," said Patrick Piggott,
dean of the Humphreys College Laurence Drivon School of Law. "People who
really are against the death penalty are going to have an even bigger
Piggott said he could not speculate about punishment Culhane could face
without knowing more details.
"Whenever you insult the integrity of the justice system, there has to be
strong punishment," he said. "It's too important."
Kenneth McGuire, a seasoned private investigator and owner of Stockton's
Kenny Mac Investigations, said he was not immediately familiar with
details of the case, but he added that private investigators live and die
by their good word.
"I don't think it will attack my credibility or my honesty," said McGuire,
when asked if allegations against Culhane could damage the public image of
"It's like any other business," McGuire said. "I'd hope they'd look at it
as an individual case."
(source: Stockton Recorder)
Hospitals accused of dumping mentally ill
In an unprecedented crackdown on a practice experts say is shamefully
common around the country, a major hospital chain was accused by
prosecutors Thursday of ridding itself of a homeless patient by dumping
her on crime-plagued Skid Row.
A surveillance camera at a rescue mission recorded the demented
63-year-old woman wandering around the streets in a hospital gown and
slippers in March.
In announcing the criminal and civil charges, City Attorney Rocky
Delgadillo said a Kaiser Permanente hospital put the woman in a taxi and
sent her to the neighborhood even though she had serious, untreated health
"Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, part of Kaiser Permanente, the largest HMO
in the nation, will be held accountable for violating state law, its
commitment to its patients, its obligations under the Hippocratic oath,
and perhaps most importantly, principles of common decency," Delgadillo
No U.S. hospital has ever been prosecuted on criminal charges of
patient-dumping, said President Bush's homelessness czar, Philip F.
Mangano, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on
Homelessness, said patient dumping is a widespread practice. "We need to
hold hospitals accountable, but also work with them to resolve these
issues," he said.
Kaiser's Bellflower hospital, which discharged the woman, is among 10 Los
Angeles-area hospitals under investigation on suspicion of discharging
homeless patients onto the streets instead of into the custody of a
relative or shelter.
The legal actions filed against Kaiser late Wednesday included criminal
charges of false imprisonment and dependent adult endangerment, and civil
claims involving the treatment of patients and laws on discharging them.
"They have violated every ethical obligation under which they operate and
they have also broken the law," Delgadillo said.
Diana Bonta, vice president of public affairs for Kaiser Southern
California, said the legal action unfairly demonizes Kaiser, which she
said has taken steps to see that no more of its patients are left on Skid
"It's a big disappointment," she said. "They're taking one isolated case
and saying, 'This is what hospitals do.' In reality, hospitals are trying
our best to take care of all people, including and especially the most
Bonta acknowledged that hospital officials had called a taxi to take the
woman to Skid Row, but added that they had called ahead to a shelter there
to let workers know she was coming.P> Kaiser could be fined in the civil
case and see penalties including restrictions on its practices if
convicted of the criminal charges.
State widens probe of investigator who offered fake statements
An investigator who allegedly fabricated juror statements to win clemency
for a death row inmate earlier this year is now suspected of submitting
forged documents in at least 3 other cases involving condemned prisoners,
the California Attorney General's office said Friday.
Agents with the state Department of Justice searched Kathleen Culhane's
San Francisco apartment on Thursday seeking evidence that could be used to
charge her with felony perjury, forgery and submitting false documents,
according to court records.
An affidavit filed in support of the search warrant said officials doubt
the authenticity of at least 23 declarations Culhane filed from jurors and
witnesses in the 4 capital cases and think the deception may be even more
"I believe that Culhane falsely created the declarations, signed and dated
them, and subsequently submitted them as evidence," John Porbanic, a state
peace officer, wrote in the warrant application. "In that Culhane's
activity preparing declarations during the period outlined is permeated
with fraud, it appears there is probable cause to examine all declarations
and related evidence that were prepared by Culhane."
The 4 condemned murderers on whose behalf Culhane is alleged to have made
up statements that were used in either appeals or requests for executive
clemency are: Michael Morales, Vicente Benevides Figueroa, Christian
Monterrosso and Jose Guerra, according to the affidavit.
Culhane's lawyer, Stuart Hanlon, could not immediately be reached for
The veracity of Culhane's work first came under scrutiny when she was a
private investigator working on the defense of Morales, a Stockton
resident who was scheduled to be executed at San Quentin State Prison on
Feb. 21 for raping and murdering Terri Winchell, 17, in 1981.
In the weeks leading up to Morales' execution, Culhane, 39, gave Morales'
lawyers signed statements from six former jurors saying they thought
Morales deserved clemency because some of the testimony at his trial may
have been fabricated. The letters were filed as part of Morales' official
appeal for clemency from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But prosecutors in San Joaquin County almost immediately produced a
competing set of documents from five of those jurors swearing they had
never spoken with Culhane and still supported the death sentence for
Morales. The signatures on those declarations were different from the ones
Culhane prepared, they said.
Morales' lawyers, former Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr and
Los Angeles lawyer David Senior, initially stood by the declarations, but
withdrew them as unreliable a week before Morales was scheduled to die.
The execution was postponed indefinitely for unrelated reasons after the
defense team convinced a federal judge the state's lethal injection
methods might be unconstitutionally cruel.
Culhane allegedly prepared most of the suspect statements while a staff
investigator for the Habeas Corpus Resource Center, a state agency based
in San Francisco that represents death row inmates, records show. She
worked for the center from Oct. 2001 to Sept. 2005, and the oldest
document at issue was dated Nov. 11, 2002, the day before the center
petitioned the California Supreme Court to overturn the sentence of
Vicente Benevides Figueroa.
Michael Laurence, executive director of the Habeas Corpus Resource Center,
has since asked the state Supreme Court to withdraw more than 2 dozen the
declarations the agency submitted for condemned men. Center staff members
also have spent months re-interviewing every person from whom Culhane
secured a signature while she worked there, Laurence said.
"I'm quite angry" at Culhane, he said. "I don't know how anyone could have
anticipated an event like this."
While probing Culhane's past work as a defense investigator, state agents
went back to the people with names on the 23 disputed documents to ask if
the signatures matched theirs. None said they did, and at least 2 noted
their 1st names were misspelled, according to the affidavit.
(source for both: Associated Press)
Man is convicted of killing 6
A former forklift operator was convicted Friday of murdering six
prostitutes in a 3-month rampage of strangulation rapes during which he
taunted police and dared them to catch him.
The Los Angeles Superior Court jury that convicted Ivan J. Hill, 45, will
now have to determine if he should receive the death penalty for the
killings, which took place from November 1993 to January 1994.
The penalty phase of the trial will begin Nov. 29. Hill has confessed to
killing the women but asked that he be spared execution.
The crimes occurred along the industrial corridor from the City of
Industry to Ontario, near where Hill worked as a warehouseman. During the
rampage, he telephoned police and said they needed to catch him before he
"I did it again," Hill said in a Jan. 12, 1994, call to Pomona police in
which he reported the location of 1 of his 6 victims. "What's this, No. 5,
No. 6? I forget, but she's there."
Hill was charged with six counts of murder, with special circumstances for
multiple murder and having been convicted in 1979 for being an accomplice
in another slaying.
His lawyer, Jennifer Friedman, tried to argue that Hill was on a downward
spiral of drug addiction at the time of the murders, which she
characterized as compulsive rather than carefully thought out.
Prosecutors said Hill used rags and ropes to tie up and strangle his
victims - clear evidence, they said, of premeditation and deliberation.
Prosecutors also contended that Hill got more skilled with each murder,
another sign that he thought out the killings.
Deputy Dist. Atty. John Monaghan said Hill strangled his first victim,
Betty Sue Harris, with his bare hands Nov. 1, 1993. Four days later,
Roxane Brooks Bates was strangled with a cord or cloth.
The 3rd victim, Helen Hill, had her hands tied behind her back and her
mouth taped when she was strangled.
During the opening of the trial, the prosecutor showed a photograph of a
patch of duct tape found in a trash bin near the body of Donna Goldsmith,
his 4th victim. The tape was imprinted with a lipstick stain in the shape
of a mouth, which Monaghan said was made by Goldsmith. She was strangled
with rope, shoelaces and a sheet of black fabric, Monaghan said.
Cheryl Sayers was found dead in Ganesha Park in Pomona on Dec. 30, 1993,
with her neck, wrists and ankles bound.
Debora Denise Brown was found Jan. 12, 1994, in San Antonio Park in
Ontario with a piece of blue fabric tied around her neck, after Hill had
called Pomona police.
Hill acknowledged making the phone calls, which Monaghan said were not
immediately traceable because they went through the main Police Department
line, rather than 911.
Friedman said that at the time of the killings Hill had lost 50 pounds and
spent $3,000 on drugs in a few weeks. The killings stopped just before he
was arrested in early 1994 for a series of armed robberies.
Hill was not linked to the murders until 10 years later, when DNA samples
were taken after he had been convicted and sent to prison on the armed
(source: Los Angeles Times)
Death penalty sought for accused NLR mall shooters
In Little Rock, prosecutors have announced their intention to pursue the
death penalty for 3 men accused of the fatal shootings of 2 teenagers at a
mall in North Little Rock.
Deandra Laron Stephenson, 19, of Jacksonville and Little Rock residents
Norman Angelo Dednam, 20, and Rashon McKinney, 19, are charged with
capital murder in the deaths that followed the July 1 shootings at McCain
Lademon F. Taylor, 18, died at the scene and Christopher Dante Taylor, 17,
died a month later in a hospital. The 2 were not related.
Also, Leslie Harper, 18, was wounded in a leg during the gunfire.
Investigators say the daylight shootings erupted from a disagreement
(source: Pine Bluff Commercial)
Death penalty sought in stabbing of young mother
In Hillsboro, Jefferson County prosecutors will seek the death penalty
against a man charged with stabbing a teenage mother to death earlier this
The victim was stabbed more than 80 times and left for dead in the middle
of a gravel road.
Brian Ethridge, 27, of Imperial, is charged with 1st-degree murder and
armed criminal action in the death May 7 of Linda Miller.
Miller, 17, of Fenton, was the mother of an infant daughter. Ethridge, a
prison parolee with a long criminal record, had been dating Miller,
authorities said, but was not the child's father.
Ethridge rejected an offer from prosecutors to plead guilty in exchange
for a sentencing recommendation of life plus 75 years in prison.
Jefferson County assistant prosecutor Sean O'Hagan filed notice with the
court Friday of the county's intent to seek the death penalty. Judge Gary
P. Kramer set a trial date of April 24.
In order to seek the death penalty, under state law, prosecutors will need
to show that Miller's slaying was "outrageously or wantonly file, horrible
or inhuman in that it involved torture or depravity of mind."
Prosecutors say Ethridge stabbed Miller 86 times on May 7 and left her to
die in the middle of Smokey Row Road in Imperial while fleeing in her car
with her 4-month-old daughter.
Authorities said Ethridge left the baby with a friend in St. Louis, then
drove to Dyersburg, Tenn., about 200 miles south of St. Louis, where he
was arrested 2 days later.
Miller's family members said Ethridge had been pursuing Miller for about 2
years and broke her jaw after an argument earlier this year. They said
Miller had been trying to break off the relationship.
"This guy was stalking this woman," O'Hagan said. "She had told him she
wanted nothing more to do with him."
Linda Miller's aunt, Donna Miller, of De Soto, said her family had been
surprised and disappointed when Ethridge rejected the prosecution's plea
"He deserves the death penalty," she said. "He shouldn't have a choice. My
niece didn't have a choice."
(source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Conference focuses on wrongful execution
Has the United States executed an innocent person?
Lawyers, journalists, politicians and academics gathered at Washington
University Friday to debate the question and explore whether it's possible
to implement the death penalty without executing the innocent.
"You can't take a life back," said U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis. "The
state can't afford to have the mistake of wrongful execution."
Clay and others explored past executions in Missouri, Texas and elsewhere
that have been reopened for investigation after new evidence came to
Most cases presented by lawyers and journalists throughout the day
followed a similar story line. A suspect was put behind bars and executed
based on witness testimony that later proved to be questionable. Only
years after the execution did the contrary evidence become known.
Such cases are all too common and raise doubts about the feasibility of
having a death penalty at all, said speaker Barry Scheck, co-director of
the Innocence Project group that examines past cases for wrongful
"Common sense tells you that innocents have been executed," Scheck said.
Proving that a wrongful execution has occurred could spur politicians to
ban the death penalty, he said.
"It changes people's perspective," Scheck said. "It's no longer the third
rail of American politics to say, 'I'm against capital punishment.'"
Former U.S. Attorney Roscoe Howard disagreed. He recommended more legal
checks and balances to safeguard use of the death penalty.
"There has to be a system because I don't believe the death penalty is
going anywhere," he said.
Friday's conference was meant to spur debate in the legal community and
elsewhere so new solutions to the problem could be found, said organizer
Karen Tokarz, a law professor at Washington University.
"It's rare for prosecutors and defense attorneys to come to the same
conference. It provides an environment for them to have a conversation in
an informal setting," Tokarz said. Roughly 200 people attended, she said.
The day's presentations seemed to raise more questions than they provided
Typical was the presentation given by Samuel Gross, a law professor at the
University of Michigan. He detailed the case of Larry Griffin, a St. Louis
resident put to death in 1995 for the murder of a drug dealer in 1980.
Gross said it was only years after the execution that investigators began
to question the testimony of Robert Fitzgerald, a career criminal who was
the only witness to testify against Griffin.
Interviews conducted over the last few years seriously undercut
Fitzgerald's claims and raised the possibility that Griffin was innocent,
Prosecutors have reopened the investigation into the 1980 murder.
"We will never know" if Griffin is innocent, Gross said. "What we do know,
however, is very disturbing. No one should ever be put to death based on
the kind of evidence used in these cases."
ON THE NET----Washington University in St. Louis: http://www.wustl.edu/
The Innocence Project: http://www.innocenceproject.org
(source: Associated Press)
Legal Experts Fear Wrongful Executions
Legal experts from around the country gathered Friday at Washington
University's Law School to examine the risks of wrongful executions. The
seminar sponsored by Washington University offered a rare opportunity for
prosecutors and defense attorneys to discuss access to justice issues.
The co-founder of the Innocence Project at Yeshiva University, Barry
Scheck told the audience of about 200,"I'm extremely concerned about the
risk of executing the innocent. These DNA exonerations show me that even
in non death cases, non-homicide cases ...that there are more innocents
than we ever thought." The Innocence Project is a non-profit legal clinic
that has used DNA evidence to show more than a dozen inmates were
Panelist and St. Louis City Assistant Circuit Attorney Rachel Smith urged
lawyers on both sides of a criminal trial to avoid tunnel vision. She
warned a narrow focus would keep lawyers from looking at all sides of a
case and listening to a broad range of witnesses. She said prosecutors are
responsible for achieving justice not just a conviction.
Experts including journalists examined 4 criminal cases which may have
resulted in the executions of innocent men. One involved St. Louisan Larry
Griffin who was convicted in 1980 of murdering a teenage drug dealer.
Griffin was executed in 1995. St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Jennifer
Joyce has been re-investigating the case for more than a year.
Washington University Professor of Law Karen Tokarz said, "These 4 cases
underscore serious weaknesses in our criminal justice system that cannot
be ignored." This is the university's sixth annual Access to Equal Justice
conference. It was free and open to the public. St. Louis University Law
School was also a sponsor.
Also in the audience was recently exonerated 52-year old St. Louisan
Johnny Briscoe. Briscoe spent 23 1/2 years behind bars after he was
convicted of rape and burglary. This summer, misplaced evidence turned up
enabling St. Louis County to test it for signs of Briscoe's DNA. His DNA
was not found and he was released.
(source: MyFox Saint Louis)
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