[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Oct 4 22:42:27 UTC 2006
TEXAS----plan to expand state death penalty law
Plan targets child rapists
Repeat sex offenders who prey on young children would face the ultimate
wrath of the state -- death by lethal injection -- under a proposal
unveiled Tuesday by Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. The proposal is
aimed at combating what Dewhurst, leader of the state Senate, calls an
"epidemic" of sex crimes targeting children.
Under the plan, those who sexually prey on children under 14 would receive
no less than 25 years in prison for a first conviction. "And heaven forbid
you should ever do it a 2nd time," Dewhurst said. "It's the death
Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has made cracking down on sex
offenders a major plank of his re-election campaign, also favors the death
penalty for repeat child sex offenders, aides said.
Diane Clements, director of Justice for All, a Houston-based group that
favors use of the death penalty, questioned whether its expanded use was
politically "doable" but said her organization was "on board" with it.
Critics said such a law would likely be overturned by the U.S. Supreme
Court and could actually have the unintended consequence of fueling more
child murders: If perpetrators face no greater penalty for killing a sex
victim, they might choose to eliminate the only witness, some contend.
"You create a very powerful incentive to kill the child," said David
Bruck, law professor at Washington and Lee University. "You want the
calculation to be, 'Oh, I'm in a lot of trouble, but I'll be in a lot more
trouble if I kill the kid.' This takes deterrence and stands it on its
head in a very dangerous way."
Death penalties for crimes that do not result in a victim's death, such as
treason and espionage, have been on the books for years. But nobody has
been executed for any crime that did not involve murder since the
reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled
in 1977 that the death penalty constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment"
in cases involving adult rape. 5 states have laws allowing the death
penalty in child rape cases, but none have resulted in executions or
reached the Supreme Court on appeal, according to the Washington,
D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital
A Louisiana man was sentenced to death in 2003 for raping an 8-year-old
girl, but the case is still working its way through that state's legal
Richard Dieter, director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said
applying capital punishment to sex crimes is one of the latest criminal
justice "fads." But he predicted that it would not survive legal
"It seems like it's catching on ... it is hard to resist in the political
forum," Dieter said. "But there are hurdles ahead."
Dewhurst, who is running for re-election, proposed the expansion of the
death penalty in a package of criminal justice reforms he wants the
Legislature to pursue early next year. The proposals are inspired in part
by the brutal rape and murder of Jessica Lunsford, a 9-year-old Florida
girl whose death has sparked tougher sex-crime penalties around the
The lieutenant governor highlighted the emergence of Internet sex crimes,
the focus of the Cyber Crimes Unit in the attorney general's office.
Dewhurst vowed to increase funding for the unit to increase the
prosecution of Internet sex crimes in Texas. "People in even the most
respected professions, we see from time to time, are involved in sexually
targeting our children through the Internet," he said. "They've got access
into our children's bedrooms through their computers."
Along those lines, both Dewhurst and Abbott condemned former Rep. Mark
Foley, a Florida Republican, for allegedly sending sex-laced messages to
young legislative pages he worked with in Washington. The FBI is
investigating whether Foley violated any laws.
Dewhurst said the "full weight of our criminal justice system" should come
down on anyone who commits a sex crime.
Abbott said Foley's salacious e-mails and messages, described in lurid
detail by ABC News, were "symptomatic of the kinds of problems we're
seeing on the Internet."
But both men stopped short of calling for House Speaker Dennis Hastert,
R-Ill., to resign over his handling of the controversy. The Washington
Times and a handful of conservative activists, have called for Hastert to
go, saying he should have done more to stop Foley. Dewhurst and Abbott
said they didn't have enough details about that to weigh in.
(source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
Death Sentence For David Renteria Overturned By Court
The death sentence for David Renteria has been overturned by the Court of
Criminal Appeals. He was convicted of capital murder for kidnapping and
killing 5 year-old Alexandra Flores in 2001. The District Attorney's
Office says this means Renteria will get a new punishment phase.
(source: KTSM News)
Trial to begin for man who says his alter ego killed girl----Dallas:
11-year-old found sexually assaulted, strangled at trailer park
A southeast Dallas man who told police that his alter ego, "Pretty Boy,"
was responsible for the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl could be
the first person to receive a death sentence in Dallas County in nearly 3
Opening statements begin today in the trial of 35-year-old Steven Lynn
Long for the May 2005 sexual assault and strangulation death of Kaitlyn
On the night that she was killed, Kaitlyn and Mr. Long were both living in
the Willow Lake Mobile Home Community in the Rylie area of Dallas. Kaitlyn
disappeared during a sleepover with an 8-year-old friend who lived in a
trailer just across the street from her family's. Mr. Long was a guest in
the same trailer after his mother had kicked him out of her home.
Under questioning by police, Mr. Long did not deny taking part in
Kaitlyn's death but said an alter ego named "Pretty Boy" was the one who
actually did it.
According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Mr. Long said "Pretty Boy"
noticed that Kaitlyn was using the bathroom during the night and called
her over to him. Mr. Long said in his statement that he grabbed the girl
and sexually assaulted her, then strangled her with a black cord. He then
put the girl's body in a trash bag and hid it under a vacant trailer,
according to police reports.
Besides Mr. Long's statement to police, DNA evidence linking Mr. Long to
the girl's death also is expected to be presented during the trial. If
convicted of capital murder, jurors will have to decide whether to
sentence him to life in prison or death.
The trial marks the end of one of the longest stretches without a death
penalty case in Dallas County since capital punishment was reinstated in
Before his arrest, Mr. Long had been an outgoing and trusted neighbor in
the close-knit community. Resident Kelly Gist said Mr. Long befriended her
teenage son and daughter after one of their pets died. Kaitlyn's violent
death and Mr. Long's arrest were shocking for her family, she said.
"It really tore my kids apart. They spent the night under the same roof,
so it was devastating," she said. "You don't want to think that your
neighbor is possibly a murderer."
(source: Dallas Morning News)
Testimony begins in Smith murder trial
Jurors began hearing testimony Tuesday in the capital murder trial of
Elizabeth Smith for the December 2004 shooting deaths of Thomas Henry
(Bubba) Smith, and Toni K. (T.K.) Smith in District Judge Craig
Estlinbaums court in Bay City.
Elizabeth Smith faces life in prison if found guilty for capital murder.
Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty.
She and her husband, Justin Wayne Smith, were arrested in Ruidoso, N.M.
Jan. 6, 2005.
Justin Wayne Smith, pleaded guilty on July 7 to shooting the victims his
parents and was sentenced to life in prison.
Elizabeth Smith is not charged with physically shooting the 2 victims,
Matagorda County District Attorney Steven Reis told jurors.
Under the law of parties, Texas law says a person is guilty of an act if
they aided, assisted or tried to assist in the crime, Reis said.
Defense Attorney Richard Manske of El Campo, said Elizabeth Smith did not
intentionally or knowingly cause the death of Thomas or Toni Smith or
promote or assist in the commission of the offense.
"This is a horrible crime," Manske said. "We've subpoenaed Justin Smith to
testify and he'll say he did this by himself."
Manske added that the prosecutors will say that Elizabeth knew of the plan
to kill Thomas and Toni Smith before it happened and that her fingerprint
was found on a plastic wrapper that contained a plastic drop cloth found
wrapped around the victims' bodies.
"But there's no indication that her fingerprint got on the wrapper at the
victims' home," Manske said.
"There's no evidence that ties her to the murders. She didnt do anything
to aid and assist."
Reis said Elizabeth Smith was aware of Justin Smith's plan to kill his
parents and helped him get some of the items needed to carry out his plan.
She dropped Justin Smith off so he could slaughter his parents on the
morning of Dec. 13, 2004, Reis said. Elizabeth then went to Heather Greens
house in Tres Palacios, where she was when the shooting occurred.
Green used to babysit the couples daughter, Shelly, who was 9 months old
at the time.
Elizabeth waited at that house for a phone call and she returned home and
found Justin had driven himself home in his parents' suburban, Reis said.
Friends of the deceased couple called police after noticing they hadnt
The victims bodies remained in their house for a week wrapped in plastic
wrap and duct tape with the air conditioner running at the lowest possible
temperature, Reis said.
Police questioned Justin and Elizabeth Smith about the missing couple on
Dec. 20 and were told they were on an extended vacation.
Later the same day, Justin and Elizabeth Smith left the county with their
infant daughter in the victims' Suburban and paid for their getaway by
pawning their jewelry, Reis said.
Reis began presenting the state's case with testimony from Texas Ranger
Maxwell said he became involved in the case when Bay City Police Captain
Andrew Lewis asked for Maxwells help in finding the missing couple.
Maxwell said he interviewed Elizabeth Smith at about 4:30 p.m. Dec. 20 and
then spoke with Justin Smith.
Elizabeth Smiths answers were very vague, Maxwell said.
She told him that she couldn't give specific travel dates, but said the
victims owned at least one race horse, were interested in race horses and
that was the purpose of their trip.
Maxwell said Elizabeth told him that neither she or Justin were employed
and when the Ranger asked how they paid for rent, food and diapers, she
said "Justin takes care of that."
Maxwell also asked her about a large, expensive-looking ring she wore
during the interview.
"She said Toni Smith gave it to her when she got married and later took it
back when they separated," Maxwell said.
Elizabeth indicated Toni Smith recently gave the ring back to her as an
early Christmas present.
After the interviews with Justin and Elizabeth Smith, Maxwell said he and
Capt. Lewis spoke with friends of the couple.
"The friends' statements led us to believe that foul play had occurred and
the couple was not on vacation," Maxwell said.
The officers went to the missing couple's trailer on Lloyd Street and had
a locksmith remove the lock from the door on the homes east side.
They entered the home and found the victim's bodies at about 3 p.m. Dec.
21, and backed out of the house.
They obtained a search warrant and returned to the house at about 3:50
p.m., Maxwell said.
Testimony is expected to continue through Friday.
(source: Bay City Tribune)
SECURITY TIGHTENED AFTER WILLIAMS' OUTBURST
Security was tightened in the capital murder trial of Clifton Lamar
Williams Tuesday after the defendant's outburst in front of the jury.
Williams, 23, was found guilty of capital murder Monday for beating,
strangling and stabbing to death 93-year-old Cecelia Schneider on July 9,
2005, before setting her body on fire and stealing her car and purse. A
Smith County jury began hearing evidence Tuesday in Will-iams' punishment
trial and will decide whether he is sentenced to life in prison or
receives the death penalty.
After Williams said a "vulgar" word in court during the testimony of a
Smith County detention officer Tuesday morning, 114th District Judge
Cynthia Stevens Kent sent the jury out of the courtroom. She said Williams
seemed agitated during the testimony of 2 jailers and that he said a curse
word loud enough for her to hear it. When she looked at him, he said,
"What?" in front of the jury.
Judge Kent told him he could not make any outbursts in front of the jury.
"This is hard for me you know what I'm saying?" Williams said as he
started to cry. "He's sitting up there lying under oath."
"Well I think we've seen a lot of that over the last two weeks," Judge
Kent said, adding that Williams' lawyers get to ask witnesses questions
and Williams does not get to respond to testimony.
As Judge Kent admonished the defendant, Williams tried to talk over her
She said another outburst in front of the jury would result in serious
consequences. Judge Kent said Williams surely didn't want the jurors
thinking he was an aggressive and violent person. She said he didn't want
the jury to see him in a bad light and binding and gagging him would not
She gave his lawyers time to visit privately with him and advise him of
the consequences. Judge Kent also moved items off the defense table and
other areas close to Williams and brought in more deputies for security.
The victim's family was moved from the first row in the gallery after
Williams glared at the victim's daughter as he was led out of the room.
When Judge Kent asked Williams if there would be any more problems, he
said, "No ma'am, I'm sorry."
6 Smith County jailers testified Tuesday about incidents involving
Williams since his July 15, 2005, arrest.
Smith County Detention Officer Carla Caldwell said Williams was
disrespectful and called her and other jailers bad names on several
occasions when he was first jailed. But in the last 3 months, he has been
better behaved and more cooperative, she said.
She said he was in and out of side cells, which are solitary cells for
defendants who threaten themselves or others or for bad behavior or
Ms. Caldwell said that on Jan. 21, Williams threatened to kill himself
with a razor blade.
Former Smith County Jailer TJ Miles Jr. said he saw the razor in Williams'
hand before other officers took it from him. He said Williams was only
threatening to harm himself and didn't try to hurt anyone else. Miles said
seeing the razor was not in his report but it would have been if he had
recovered it from Williams instead of other officers.
Smith County Detention Officer Josh Black testified that on Nov. 18, 2005,
Williams and another inmate got into a conflict, yelling at each other
that they would fight as soon as they were released from their cells. The
men were moved away from each other, he said.
Smith County jailer Joshua Gray said Williams asked to be moved to a side
cell on April 29 after "having words" with another inmate over a cup of
coffee. Gray said that after hearing Williams' side of the story, the
other inmate began to tell him his version when Williams said he was
lying. After the jailer told him to be quiet, Williams told him he would
Gray said that when they went to move Williams into a side cell, he saw a
cardboard box, which was not allowed in an inmate's cell. Inside the box
was a jacket belonging to a trustee - an inmate allowed to work inside and
outside of the jail.
Gray said Williams "may have been attempting to put together a trustee
uniform in an attempt to walk out of the facility (jail) as a trustee." He
said an inmate can't just walk out of the jail if he's wearing a trustee
uniform, but it could make it easier for him to do so.
Gray said the trustee uniforms, which consist of gray pants and shirt with
"jail" written on the back, black boots and a jacket, are kept in a closet
where the trustees are housed, in a separate area from other inmates. He
said Williams is shackled and escorted when moved from his cell and he
didn't know how he got the jacket.
Gray said inmates are very resourceful and are often found with
Officer Roy Daniels testified that he found the box with the trustee
jacket inside. He also said it would make it easier for Williams to slip
out of the jail. He said he has seen inmates use a magic marker and ink to
color their orange jumpsuits in an attempt to make them look like trustee
Sgt. Scott Finlaw, a jail supervisor, said that on May 28 Williams had a
disagreement with another inmate, who had to be taken to the clinic with
injuries. He said Will-iams was not hurt in the physical confrontation and
was put into a side cell. Finlaw said Williams was cooperative but
sometimes didn't follow rules.
Jailer Stephen Welch said that about three weeks ago, Williams was told to
sit on a bench while waiting to go to court. Instead he got up and started
walking to another inmate, with whom he shared "confrontational words," he
said. Because he wouldn't comply with orders, Williams had to be escorted
back and chained to the bench.
Welch said Williams continued to have a "violent demeanor" for about an
hour, until he apologized. He said he didn't know what was said between
the 2 inmates or who started the confrontation.
Tyler Police Sgt. Connie Castle testified that she compared Williams'
fingerprints to court documents, which stated he had pleaded guilty in
2003 to a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass and in 2002 for making a
false statement to police.
Former Jacksonville Police Detective Phillip Grimes said he interviewed
Williams twice in 2002 in an unauthorized use of a motor vehicle
investigation. Williams was found in the stolen car in Jacksonville, he
Jurors watched two interviews. In the first video, Williams denied any
involvement, but in the second recording, he said he took the Mitsubishi
from a pizza man in Tyler. Williams claimed that a shotgun found in the
car was not his and that he did not get into a wreck in the car and leave
the scene. Officers told Williams that a woman identified Williams as the
person who hit her car, but he continually said, "I didn't run into
nothing." He said he would have stopped if he had hit someone. He later
said that the woman could have hit him.
Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham and First Assistant DA April
Sikes are prosecuting the case, while Melvin Thompson and LaJuanda Lacy
are defending Williams. The trial is scheduled to resume Wednesday
(source: Tyler Morning TGelegraph)
Convicted killer denied release -- Man who murdered trio failed to prove
An effort seeking to release a death-row inmate who was convicted of
killing 3 Pampa residents was denied by a federal judge Friday.
Convicted killer Henry W. Skinner, 44, filed a petition for a writ of
habeas corpus - an appeal an inmate can seek for release from unlawful
imprisonment - but U.S. Magistrate Clinton E. Averitte denied the
petition, saying that Skinner failed to make "a substantial showing of the
denial of a federal constitutional right on any of his claims," court
A Gray County jury convicted Skinner of capital murder for the Dec. 31,
1993, slaying of his girlfriend, Twila Busby, 40, and her 2 mentally
retarded sons, Elwin Caler, 22, and Randy Busby, 20.
Police said they found Caler sitting on the porch of a neighbor's home
with a blanket pressed against his side, where the young man had been
stabbed. Caler died a short time later in the hospital, files show.
The body of Randy Busby was found in a bunk bed in a bedroom that he
shared with his brother. He apparently was stabbed in the back 3 times,
Twila Busby was strangled into unconsciousness and struck 14 times about
the face and head with a club, court records show.
Skinner first appealed his case to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals,
which affirmed the conviction and the death sentence in September 1997.
Skinner then filed a writ of habeas corpus in Texas in March 1998.
Friday's decision adds another chapter in the lengthy and circuitous legal
wrangling over Skinner's efforts to seek his release.
During the legal proceedings, Skinner was just months away from his
execution. In March 1999, U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson signed an
order for a stay of Skinner's execution, which was set for June 1, 1999.
Robinson's order was in response to Skinner's federal appeal that alleges
flaws in the prosecution of Skinner's case, including the appointment of
Skinner's defense lawyer, Harold Comer.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice records show that an execution date
has not been set.
(source: Amarillo Globe News)
Moises Mendoza to file appeal
The attorney for death row inmate Moises Mendoza, 22, of Farmersville,
said he plans to file an appeal on his client's capital murder conviction.
John Tatum, Mendoza's appellate attorney, said he plans to file the appeal
in the Texas Court of Appeals in November. He said the deadline for
Mendoza to appeal is by the 1st week in November, but he said he will
probably have to ask for an extension in order to prepare Mendoza's brief
for the court.
Tatum said he plans to include several "issues" in Mendoza's appeal in the
hopes it will persuade the court to grant him a new trial. He said he
could not discuss any of those issues until the appeal has been filed.
Mendoza became the 12th person in Collin County sentenced to death since
1976 back in July 2005. A jury in the 401st District Court found him
guilty of capital murder for the death of Rachelle O'Neil Tolleson, 20,
whom he strangled, raped and stabbed in March 2004, and tried to dispose
of the body by burning and dumping it in an eastern Collin County creek
A date for his execution has not been set, according to the Texas
Department of Criminal Justice.
Collin County First Assistant District Attorney Gregory S. Davis said
after the jury gave Mendoza the death penalty that the punishment fits the
"Moises Mendoza is one of the most violent, sadistic men I have ever
encountered, and this death penalty is totally justified," Davis said last
year. "The jury's decision will ensure that no one in society will ever be
victimized by him again."
(source: McKinney Courier-Gazette)
Court refuses to block new trial for Graves----Prosecutors urge judge to
cancel bail hearing today
The U.S. Supreme Court has ended prosecutors' last hope of blocking a new
murder trial for Anthony Graves in the deaths of a woman and five children
in Burleson County.
But the refusal to hear an appeal by prosecutors also gave them new
ammunition in their effort to keep a federal judge from setting bail today
that would allow Graves to walk out of jail for the first time in 14
On Monday, the Supreme Court declined without comment to hear an appeal by
the Texas Attorney General's Office of a decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals.
The 5th Circuit Court ordered a new trial for Graves in March after
finding that Burleson County District Attorney Charles Sebesta withheld 2
key statements from the defense during the 1994 trial that could have
changed the outcome.
"This is actually a very significant victory for Anthony," said Amarillo
attorney Jeff Blackburn, one of several lawyers who will represent Graves
during his retrial. "This decision erases any doubt about whether he is
entitled to a new trial."
Roy Greenwood, the Austin attorney who represented Graves during 10 years
of appeals, said the Supreme Court decision ends his legal but not his
personal involvement in the case.
"As long as Anthony is in jail and facing some (expletive) prosecution ...
it's still not over for me," Greenwood said. "These clowns are still
claiming they are going to retry him."
The Supreme Court ruling ended any chance prosecutors had of preventing
Graves from receiving a new trial, but it allowed state's attorneys to
argue that U.S. Magistrate Judge John Froeschner of Galveston no longer
has authority to set bail for Graves.
State's attorneys asked Froeschner late Monday to cancel today's bail
hearing, arguing that the Supreme Court ruling ends federal jurisdiction
in the case.
They argued that Burleson County Judge Reva Towslee-Corbett, who will
preside over the retrial, is the only judge with authority to set bail.
Blackburn disagreed. "If anything, the Supreme Court's refusal of a writ
underlines how unfair his initial trial was and shows how strongly
entitled to a bond he really is," Blackburn said.
Greenwood said that the situation is so rare that it is difficult to find
similar cases to use as a guide. "There is almost no law on this,"
The Attorney General's Office declined to comment on the bail hearing or
the Supreme Court decision.
Journalism students at the University of St. Thomas in Houston say they
have uncovered evidence over the past 3 years that proves Graves is
No trial date has been set.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
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