[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----IND., TENN., NEV., VA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Nov 18 19:48:40 UTC 2006
Schiro tells his story
Adopted 5 days after birth and raised an only child, Thomas Schiro didn't
fit in with other kids.
But no one guessed the lonely boy might grow up to be a danger to society.
Schiro's parents, Thomas Sr. and Anne, overlooked his peculiarities and
were protective of the son they called "Tommy Boy."
He was raised in New York, then Florida, then Bicknell, Ind.
By the time he'd finished elementary school, he was watching his father's
pornographic movies and had a "peeping route" - repeatedly visiting
specific houses, watching female residents undress.
At 16, he cruised at night, exposing himself to women. By 20, he had a
girlfriend who would testify of his abuse toward her and his lust for a
But all of his anger, fetishes and impulses spiraled together in a violent
peak on Feb. 5, 1981.
That night, Schiro knocked on the door of 28-year-old Laura Luebbehusen
and said he was having car trouble. He then brutally raped, beat and
bludgeoned her to death.
At the time Schiro lived in a halfway house, on work release after being
convicted of robbery. He confessed to killing her 4 days later.
For his trial, he wrote a 39-page sexual memoir describing assaults
throughout the region.
Vanderburgh County Coroner Don Erk was a detective on the Luebbehusen
case, and says at the time, Schiro was a suspect in rapes in Vincennes,
Princeton, Evansville, Carmi, Ill., Florida and Atlanta.
The trial was moved to Brown County because of publicity.
"He would sit and rock when the jury was there," Erk said of Schiro's
conduct. "Even the judge later said his behavior was completely different
in chambers than the courtroom."
Attorney Michael Keating was just out of law school and Schiro - a thin,
acne-faced, shaggy-haired youth - was his biggest case yet.
During opening arguments, Keating warned the jury the evidence might be
among the "most bizarre" they'd hear in their lives.
"Tom had some really strange quirks," Keating said. "I knew no one on the
jury was going to be able to identify with him. He was obviously suffering
from some mental illnesses, so I think in the end that helped the jury
think he was more mentally ill than evil."
Ultimately the jury found Schiro guilty but recommended he not be
sentenced to death. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Samuel Rosen
disagreed and sentenced Schiro to the electric chair.
Rosen later told the Indiana Supreme Court he sentenced Schiro to death
because of his history and because he was legally sane at the time of the
But the judge's decision opened the door to years of appeals that resulted
in Schiro's death sentence being overturned to straight prison time.
During his death penalty hearing, Schiro told the judge all his life he
had been reaching out for help.
Thomas Schiro Sr. turned 61 the day his son was convicted. The elder
Schiro blamed doctors he said refused to help his son after he was
arrested on a separate rape charge.
"I felt really sorry for both of them," Keating said of Schiro's parents.
"Particularly his mother. She was overly protective of (Schiro), so to
have it turn out like it did. ... They were very nice people."
Since his death sentence was overturned, Schiro, now 45, kept busy in
prison. He continued his education and says he found God. He married a
He was scheduled for release in February 2007 and was ready to build a
life outside prison walls, but here in Evansville some folks couldn't
shake the memory of his crimes.
In an effort to keep Schiro behind bars, Vanderburgh County Prosecutor
Stan Levco decided to reopen old cases.
In September, Schiro called Levco an "overzealous prosecutor" as he went
on trial for raping 2 women in the same home in separate attacks in 1980.
The lengthy document Schiro now says he wrote in an attempt to avoid the
death penalty came back to haunt him as a Clark County jury heard
prosecutors recite excerpts from the sexual memoir.
Jurors convicted Schiro in the 2nd rape and acquitted him of the 1st.
This week Schiro will be sentenced for that crime. He faces another
possible 70 years in prison.
Erk is one of several community members who plans to be there.
"I think he's a very dangerous individual," Erk said. "I would be very
upset if he is turned loose in society."
Killer loses appeal to avoid death sentence
Deciding when a death-row inmate must be spared execution because of
mental retardation cannot be based solely on the testimony of psychiatric
experts, a state appeals court says.
The ruling by the state Court of Criminal Appeals came on a petition from
convicted killer Heck Van Tran, who was at the center of a Tennessee
Supreme Court ruling five years ago banning execution of mentally retarded
In his continuing fight to avoid execution, Van Tran failed to convince a
Memphis court and the Court of Criminal Appeals that he meets the legal
definition of mentally retarded.
"What constitutes mental retardation ... varies sharply upon who performs
the analysis. ... The court must not become so entangled with the opinions
of psychiatric experts that we lose sight of the nature of the criminal
offense itself," the appeals court said. "The more complex the crime ...
the less likely that the person is mentally retarded."
The ruling, filed Nov. 9, upheld the decision of a Memphis court that
denied Van Tran's request to reopen a petition for post-conviction relief
on a claim he is ineligible for the death penalty because of mental
Van Tran was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in a triple
slaying during a restaurant robbery in Memphis in 1987. After the robbery,
Van Tran fled to Texas, where he was arrested about 6 months later.
He remains on death row. No date has been set for his execution.
The state Supreme Court, on an appeal from Van Tran, ruled in 2001 that
executing the mentally retarded is impermissibly cruel punishment under
the state and federal constitutions.
That ruling required the Memphis court to conduct a hearing on Van Tran's
Van Tran and three associates were convicted of killing manager Arthur
Lee, 24; his grandmother, Kai Ying Chuey, 70; and Lee's sister-in-law, Man
Yin Huang "Amy" Lee, 23, during a robbery of the Jade East Restaurant.
(source: Associated Press)
Nevada high court applies limit to Nevada death sentences
About 1/2 of Nevada's 83 death row inmates could get new sentencing
hearings following Nevada Supreme Court rulings limiting the criteria that
prosecutors can use to seek the death penalty, a prosecutor said.
The state high court, in rulings handed down Thursday, applied the
standard retroactively, which a prosecutor said could affect as many as 40
southern Nevada death penalty cases and several others elsewhere in the
Some death sentences might be overturned, Steve Owens, Clark County chief
deputy district attorney, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal for a Friday
"I've got to think I'm going to lose some," Owens said. "This will drag on
The cases before the court involved death row inmates Michael Rippo of Las
Vegas and John Bejarano of Reno. Their sentences were upheld.
But the court applied standards from a 2004 case, McConnell v. State, to
say that a person convicted of 1st-degree murder based on a particular
special circumstance cannot then be sentenced based on the same special
circumstance as an aggravating factor.
"This court has concluded that the new rule set forth in McConnell is
substantive and retroactive," the court said in the Rippo case.
Christopher Oram, a Las Vegas lawyer who represented Rippo, said he was
disappointed his client was denied a new penalty hearing. But he said he
was pleased the McConnell case was being applied retroactively.
Assistant Federal Public Defender David Anthony, who represented Bejarano,
said that while the application of the McConnell standard did not change
his client's sentence, "it should have a positive impact on some of the
other persons on death row currently."
Prosecutors had warned the court that applying the McConnell standard
could result in some of the most notorious criminals in the state having
their sentences eased to life in prison.
State law requires at least one aggravating circumstance before the death
penalty can be considered in a murder case.
The court, applying the McConnell standard in the Rippo case, invalidated
three of 6 aggravating circumstances a jury used to sentence Rippo to
death in 1996 for the robbery and murder of Denise Lizzi and Lauri
Jacobson in 1992. Both women were bound, gagged and strangled.
The jury originally found 6 circumstances aggravated the murders. In the
penalty phase, the jury found three felony aggravators: robbery,
kidnapping, and burglary.
Justice James Hardesty, who wrote the opinion in Rippo, said that because
those three aggravating factors were the same ones underlying the
conviction, they were invalid for consideration in the penalty phase.
However, the justices also reweighed the aggravating and mitigating
circumstances in Rippo's case and found that the jury would have returned
a sentence of death without them.
Bejarano was convicted of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to death for the
March 1987 robbery slaying of Reno taxi driver Roland Wright.
In the opinion written by Chief Justice Bob Rose, the court concluded that
the jury should not have used robbery and receiving money as felony
But four other aggravating circumstances were determined to have been
valid, allowing Bejarano's death penalty sentence to stand.
(source: Associated Press)
Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has authorized a new round of mental health
evaluations for a triple killer scheduled to be executed next month, amid
claims the condemned man is mentally retarded and insane.
Percy Walton, 28, is slated for execution Dec. 8 for the 1996 slayings of
3 people, who were robbed and shot in the head.
Just over an hour before Walton was scheduled to die by injection on June
8, Kaine delayed the execution to allow for an independent evaluation of
Walton's mental condition and competence.
3 mental health professionals who evaluated Walton after his conviction
will conduct the latest evaluations, which are currently being scheduled,
said Kaine's spokesman, Kevin Hall. They include an expert approved by the
defense, one selected by the prosecution and a third chosen by a federal
Walton's bizarre behavior over the past decade has sparked intense debate
over his mental state. His attorneys say he suffers from schizophrenia and
does not understand that his execution would mean the physical end of his
life. At one point, when asked what he believed would happen to him after
he was executed, Walton replied that he'd go to Burger King.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional to execute the insane
and mentally retarded. Intelligence scores taken when Walton was 17 and 18
placed him above the accepted range in Virginia for mental retardation,
though other evaluations were conflicting.
The Virginia attorney general's office argues the courts have repeatedly
found that Walton is competent, is not mentally retarded and his execution
Walton pleaded guilty in 1997 to the murders of Jessie and Elizabeth
Kendrick, a couple in their 80s, and 33-year-old Archie Moore. The victims
were robbed and shot in the head; Moore's body was found stuffed in a
closet, his corpse doused in cologne.
Walton was three days from execution in 2003 when U.S. District Judge
Samuel Wilson granted a temporary stay so experts could explore his mental
state. In the hearings that followed, a prison guard testified that Walton
refused to shower, complaining about a man in a white suit sitting on a
gray box in his cell. One prison psychiatrist testified that Walton was
No competency hearing was held before Walton was sentenced to death, and
various mental evaluations have yielded conflicting results. The three
experts conducting the latest round of evaluations also have given
differing opinions on Walton's mental condition.
The psychiatrist approved by the prosecution, Alan Arikian, testified that
he did not believe Walton was schizophrenic, adding that Walton "plays
with each of us as the spirit moves him."
Psychiatrist Anand Pandurangi, approved by the defense, said that although
he doesn't think Walton is overtly mentally retarded, he believes Walton
thinks on the level of a child. Pandurangi also testified he believed
Walton suffers from schizophrenia, and said Walton does not understand
that execution means death.
Mark Mills, the expert appointed by the district court, testified that he
found Walton to be "odd," of low intelligence - but not mentally retarded,
and probably suffering from a significant psychiatric disorder, quite
Nevertheless, Mills said that a person with schizophrenia can be competent
to be executed. He also testified that Walton indicated he understood
execution to be "an end" or "the end."
After meeting with Walton, the 3 experts will submit their updated
analyses to Kaine, who continues to consider Walton's request for
Mental health of inmate set for execution to be re-evaluated
Governor Tim Kaine is authorizing a new round of mental health evaluations
for a triple killer scheduled to be executed next month.
28 year-old Percy Walton is slated for execution December eighth for the
1996 slayings of 3 people.
The U-S Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional to execute the insane
and mentally retarded.
Walton's bizarre behavior over the past decade has sparked debate over his
His attorneys say he suffers from schizophrenia and does not understand
that his execution would mean the end of his life.
Kaine also delayed a previously scheduled execution -- just an hour before
Walton was to die by injection on June 8th.
Kaine spokesman Kevin Hall says three mental health professionals who
evaluated Walton after his conviction will conduct this latest round of
(source: Associated Press)
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