[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----ORE., OHIO, FLA., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Oct 4 22:48:30 UTC 2006
Banks man, convicted of murder; now may face death sentence----A
Washington County jury will decide this week whether Petronilo Lopez
Minjarez receives the death penalty or life in prison
A Banks mans life is in the hands of his peers this week as a Washington
County jury deliberates whether to hand out the death penalty for his role
in a murder.
Petronilo Lopez Minjarez, 27, was convicted Friday on 12 charges related
to the 2004 death of Darvin Lopez Jovel. Among the charges: six counts of
aggravated murder, two counts of felony murder, two counts of first degree
burglary and one count each of 1st degree kidnapping and second degree
On Tuesday, prosecutors began their case to have Lopez Minjarez put to
death. Public defenders will lobby for either life in prison or a life
sentence with parole eligibility in 30 years.
According to testimony during the week-long trial, Lopez Jovels father was
allegedly having an affair with Lopez Minjarezs mother. On the night of
Nov. 20, 2004, Lopez Minjarez and his father, Petronilo Lopez Lopez, drove
to the Lopez Jovel home in Aloha, ostensibly to confront the victims
father about the affair. Instead, they found Lopez Jovel, 18, home alone.
Investigators from the Washington County Sheriffs Department testified
that it was Lopez Lopez who shot the victim in his house after finding
that the youths father wasnt home. An arrest warrant has been issued for
Lopez Lopez, who fled to Mexico after the murder.
Evidence showed that after being shot, Lopez Jovel walked outside to Lopez
Minjarezs truck. His remains were found scattered off a logging road near
Banks almost a year after the murder.
Lopez Minjarez maintains that he was hiding in the restroom of the North
Plains McDonalds when his father drove away with Lopez Jovel and returned
40 minutes later by himself.
A witness, however, testified that he saw 2 men forcing Lopez Jovel into a
truck on the night in question. He called 9-1-1 with the trucks license
plate number, and sheriffs deputies arrived at Lopez Minjarezs house
around midnight to find the defendant intoxicated and aggravated.
Investigators later found the victims blood on Lopez Minjarezs shirt,
pants and throughout his truck.
Suspect In Covington Murder May Face Death Penalty
A Covington man accused of stabbing a gas station clerk to death could
face the death penalty.
Dominic Raifsnider, 28, appeared in court Wednesday on charges of robbery
and murder, after police said he killed David Joseph with a knife during a
hold-up at the Marathon station at 12th and Holman Tuesday.
Raifsnider confessed to the crime, and is being held without bond.
The possibility of this becoming a death penalty case was discussed due to
Raifsnider's violent criminal past.
(source: WCPO News)
Supreme Court upholds death penalty in double slaying
In Columbus, a unanimous Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the death
sentence for a gang member convicted of killing 2 people in Columbus in
The court said none of the arguments made by Crips member Robert Bethel in
his appeal had any merit.
Bethel, 36, of Columbus, initially pleaded guilty to the murders of James
Reynolds and Shannon Hawks to avoid the death penalty, promising to help
prosecutors in their case against his co-defendant.
The 2 were killed because Bethel was worried that Reynolds might be a
witness in an unrelated slaying committed by another Crips member,
according to Wednesday's court decision. The ruling said Hawks was killed
to eliminate her as a witness of Reynolds' murder.
The plea agreement was nullified after Bethel refused to testify against
co-defendant Jeremy Chavis. Bethel was sentenced to death after a jury
convicted him following a 2003 trial.
Bethel argued that a description he gave of the murders to prosecutors in
exchange for pleading guilty should not have been used against him at
However, the court said the plea agreement was clear that such evidence
could be used against him if the terms of the plea deal were violated.
Chavis, 25, was convicted of aggravated murder and is serving life in
prison. He was not eligible for the death sentence because he was 17 when
the killings occurred.
(source: Associated Press)
Colvin tied to 6th murder----Serial killer details drug death,
Dellmus Colvin, the Toledo long-haul trucker and convicted serial killer,
has admitted "his involvement" in the death of a sixth prostitute,
investigators said yesterday.
"He told us the method of her death," Toledo police Sgt. Steve Forrester
said. "It was an intended overdose."
He declined to elaborate on Colvin's role in the murder of 40-year-old
Dorothea Wetzel of Toledo, citing the ongoing investigation, but said
others may be involved in her death.
Ms. Wetzel's skeletal remains were found Aug. 5, 2000, by a man walking
his dog near the Maumee River in South Toledo.
Like Colvin's other victims, Ms. Wetzel - who also went by the last name
Oviedo and was nicknamed "Angel" - was a known prostitute, according to
police and court records. And like several of Colvin's other victims, her
body had been wrapped in a blanket and discarded in a desolate area.
Yesterday, police again spoke to Colvin, whom they said may have carried
the bodies of 1 or 2 of his victims with him until they were mummified.
Calling the 47-year-old Colvin "twisted," assistant prosecutor Tim Braun
compared him to Jack the Ripper, the notorious killer of at least 5
prostitutes in the Whitechapel section of London in 1888.
"It's the same motivation. This is having sex with women you hate. He
blames them for having sex for money, but he's paying for them. Then, to
feel superior, he kills them," Mr. Braun said, noting letters that Colvin
sent to another prostitute while he was in custody.
They are vitriolic and laced with profanity, telling her she is worth
nothing, Mr. Braun said.
Investigator Tom Ross, who spent several hours interviewing Colvin late
Sunday evening and into Monday morning, agreed: "I think it's a control
thing. It's 'I kill because I can.'"
The cases against Colvin abruptly unfolded Monday during the 3rd day of
his trial for the murders of Jackie Simpson, 33, whose body was found
April 23, 2003, and Melissa Weber, 37, whose body was found May 9, 2005.
Called to their seats just after lunch, the jury was dismissed as
attorneys finalized the deal.
Finally, Colvin stood, admitting one by one to killing Ms. Weber and Ms.
Simpson, as well as Lily Summers, 43, whose body was found April 8, 2002;
Jacquelynn Thomas, 42, whose body was found Sept. 2, 2000; and Valerie
Jones, 38, whose body was found Jan. 6, 2000.
All five Toledo area women had been strangled or smothered - their bodies
wrapped in sheets and blankets, and dumped. Several were badly decomposed.
Mr. Braun and another assistant prosecutor, J. Christopher Anderson,
yesterday said forensics revealed that at least two of the women were dead
long before their bodies were discarded.
Lucas County Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas Osowik gave Colvin five
consecutive life sentences, but Colvin's confession allowed him to avoid
the death penalty under a plea agreement reached with prosecutors.
Colvin declined to be interviewed by media yesterday unless he was paid,
jail personnel said. The Blade does not pay for interviews.
Police had begun to suspect Colvin of a series of murders more than a year
ago after one prostitute told police critical details following an attack
by Colvin. During the assault, she urinated on the sheets in his cab in
order to leave her DNA, the assistant prosecutors said.
"She thought he was going to kill her," Mr. Braun said. "She was going to
do everything she could so that if they came looking for her, they'd find
Additionally, she memorized details of the truck Colvin drove at the time.
Investigators eventually matched her assailant's DNA with evidence in a
string of rapes of local prostitutes and to the murder of Ms. Weber,
A separate trial against Colvin on two rape charges ended in a mistrial in
November. In the meantime, police continued to build their murder cases
against him. On the 2nd day of the trial Friday, a man described as
Colvin's best friend testified that Colvin had asked for cleaning supplies
and was in a hotel room where he saw what appeared to be a body covered
with a sheet.
"He saw the writing on the wall," said investigator Tom Ross of the
prosecutor's office. Colvin was "freaked out" by the prospect of the death
penalty, Mr. Ross said.
Family members of the victims have come to terms with Colvin's sentence of
life in prison. Judy Simpson, who testified during the first day of his
trial, said she was surprised by the plea that saved her daughter's killer
from the death penalty.
"I feel that my daughter is gone forever and he'll still be alive," she
said, adding that her daughter was not only a good mother to her 2
children but someone who took care of everyone in her family.
"Maybe [investigators] will be able to find more [victims] and other
families will have some closure," she added. "In that case, it's a good
Others could not accept Colvin's negotiated life sentence, including the
former prostitute who provided the critical details in her rape. The Blade
does not identify the victims of sex crimes.
"I wanted him to get the death penalty," she said Monday after Colvin was
led from court in chains. "I didn't get a choice. Those other girls didn't
get a choice on whether they lived. Why should he get a choice?"
Defense attorneys and prosecutors negotiated throughout the weekend. Late
Sunday, Mr. Ross and Sergeant Forrester met with Colvin and his attorneys.
He began talking about cases in which investigators acknowledged they
otherwise had little or no evidence against him.
Ultimately, Colvin gave them the names of the six prostitutes he said he
killed, but investigators didn't have enough time to verify his account on
Ms. Wetzel's death until yesterday, Sergeant Forrester said.
(source: Toledo Blade)
No Defense Planned in Trial
Lawyers representing mass murder defendant Nelson Serrano said Tuesday
they don't plan to present a defense in his trial and don't intend to call
Serrano to the stand.
Bartow lawyer Bob Norgard, representing Serrano with Orlando lawyer J.
Cheney Mason, said in court that testimony in the trial could end by
Friday, after the state presents its final witnesses. He offered no
explanations for the defense team's strategy.
Closing arguments in the case could take place Monday as the trial moves
into its sixth week of testimony.
Serrano, 68, stands accused in the December 1997 slayings of four people
at Erie Manufacturing offices in Bartow. Prosecutors allege that Serrano,
who had been ousted as a partner in Erie several months earlier, murdered
his former partner and the son, daughter and son-in-law of a third partner
out of revenge.
It remains the worst mass murder in Polk County history. If convicted,
Serrano could face the death penalty.
In testimony Tuesday, a Polk County Jail informant told jurors that
Serrano asked him for assistance with his case.
"He never admitted killing anybody," said Leslie Todd Jones, 43, who met
Serrano in jail last November -- nearly 8 years after the killings and
more than three years after Serrano was arrested.
But Jones said Serrano did tell him about a failed plan to commit the
murders five weeks before the crime occurred.
When the execution-style slayings took place, Serrano said he was in
Atlanta on business. He told authorities he'd been in his hotel room
nursing a migraine headache at the time the four people were shot.
But he remained a strong suspect because he had motive, investigators
said. Eventually, they discovered he secretly returned to Florida that
day, using assumed names to book flights and rental cars, according to
In March 2006, Jones told authorities about a similar plan on Oct. 31,
Halloween night 1997, when Serrano had traveled to Charlotte, N.C., on a
Investigators have said they think Serrano flew from Charlotte to Orlando
that day using the same assumed name that he used five weeks later when he
flew from Atlanta to Orlando.
Jones testified Tuesday that Serrano told him it was a hit man known to
him only as "John" who arranged to fly to Florida. The hit man was to
collect a $1 million debt from Frank Dosso, a manager at Erie whose
father, Phil, was a partner in the business. According to Jones, Serrano
said the younger Dosso owed the Mafia $1 million in drug money.
Jones in the past has told authorities that Serrano had confided to him
that the reason he was contacted by "John" was that Serrano was also owed
money by Dosso and the hit man had approached Serrano about collecting
Investigators said they verified the information Jones told them through
flight records, rental car reports and Serrano's telephone records.
Jones said Serrano told him that "John" used aliases that would link the
travel to Serrano, thereby implicating him.
Jones also testified that Serrano later gave him a different version of
why the murders were committed -- that Frank Dosso wanted to kill his
father and Erie partner George Gonsalves so he could take full control of
"That was the way he was leaning toward going," Jones said, "using that as
He said Serrano also offered explanations for physical evidence connected
with his case.
In March 2001, authorities uncovered a parking garage receipt at Orlando
International Airport dated 3:49 p.m. the day of the murders. The license
tag on the receipt matched the tag on the car Serrano's nephew had rented
that day, according to investigators.
Then crime scene analysts found Serrano's fingerprint on the back side of
the card, prosecutors said.
On Tuesday, Jones told the jury that Serrano said Tommy Ray, a special
agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, had planted his
fingerprint on the parking receipt to implicate him in the murders.
Serrano has maintained Jones is lying. He took the stand briefly on Monday
and testified that he had never confided any information about his case to
In cross-examination, Norgard, the defense lawyer, attacked Jones'
motivation for bringing the information to law enforcement. Jones, who has
been convicted of five felonies and a misdemeanor, was in jail on several
charges related to a burglary and police chase in Lakeland and faced more
than 20 years in prison if convicted.
Prosecutors had offered him a plea agreement calling for a 3-year prison
term, Norgard said, but that was reduced to 22 months once he came forward
with the Serrano information.
At sentencing in June, Jones was given credit for the 16 months he'd
already served in jail and was released with 3 years' probation. He
violated that probation last month when he was arrested on a new burglary
charge and is currently in the Polk County Jail awaiting trial.
Norgard suggested that Jones never would have gotten such a light sentence
had he not come forward with the Serrano information, giving him a motive
to lie about it.
(source: The Ledger)
Candidate lobbied improperly
Between 2002 and 2005, Hillsborough County Commission candidate Al
Higginbotham collected nearly $200,000 in lobbying fees from the state
agency that represents death row inmates.
Most of that money came while Higginbotham served as chairman of the
Hillsborough County Republican Party, raising questions about whether
someone in control of party purse strings should be lobbying legislators
who depend on his help.
Now, a state investigation has concluded that the payments made to
Higginbotham violated Florida statutes that prohibit certain agencies from
using public funds to lobby the Legislature.
The investigation also revealed that at one point the agency changed
Higginbotham's contract from a 3-page document outlining his lobbying
duties to a half-page contract describing him as a consultant. His job,
however, remained the same.
Higginbotham makes no mention of his lobbying work in campaign literature,
on his Web site, on the biography he recently submitted to the St.
Petersburg Times or on his financial disclosure forms.
"I never considered myself a lobbyist," he said Tuesday, even though he
registered with the state as a lobbyist from 2001 to 2005.
In fact, records show Higginbotham spent years fighting to keep state
funding for the Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, which defends death
"I remember the situation vividly," Senate President Tom Lee recalled. "He
was there quite a bit. He was pretty hard to miss."
Lee declined to elaborate on what he thought of Higginbotham's dual roles
of party leader and lobbyist.
Findings released recently by the Florida Department of Financial
Service's Office of Fiscal Integrity claim that CCRC violated state laws
that forbid any agency under the executive or judicial branches from using
public funds to pay lobbying fees to anyone not a state employee.
Investigators want lawyers for the state to try to recoup the money paid
to Higginbotham, and a spokeswoman said the report has been sent to the
governor's office and the Florida Commission on Ethics.
Meanwhile, CCRC officials have argued that the agency does not fall under
the executive branch, even though its leaders are appointed by the
governor, and they have asked for an administrative hearing to determine
the agency's status.
Higginbotham said Tuesday he had not read the investigation's findings.
But he said he saw no problems either with CCRC's payments to him or with
his simultaneous work lobbying and running the county Republican Party.
Higginbotham has faced other questions about conflicts of interest during
The St. Petersburg Times reported Sunday that a company owned by
Higginbotham and his wife built the Plant City home of Hillsborough
Elections Supervisor Buddy Johnson last year. Higginbotham worked in
Johnson's race for the state House in 1991 and later wrote a letter urging
the appointment in 2003 of Johnson to elections chief by Gov. Jeb Bush.
The couple's company, Archive Properties, also completed a room addition
last year for Plant City restaurant owner Fred Johnson, the brother and
former business partner of Buddy Johnson, who catered Higginbothams'
(source: St. Petersburg Times)
Death penalty being invoked against child molesters
Politicians in primarily southern U.S. states have passed laws that expand
the use of the death penalty to include repeat child sex offenders- a move
mental health professionals say is ineffective in stopping molestation and
abolitionists believe ultimately will be ruled unconstitutional.
Despite the warnings, two states-South Carolina and Oklahoma-this summer
enacted laws that allow repeat child sex offenders to be put to death.
They join Louisiana, Florida, and Montana, which already have similar laws
on their books.
The governors of both Oklahoma and South Carolina argued that the sexual
abuse of children is as bad as murder because molestation causes permanent
damage to the life of the child.
"(It) is about sending a very clear message that there are some lines that
you do not cross, and that if those lines are crossed the penalties will
be severe," said South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford in a statement.
Oklahoma State Sen. Jay Paul Gumm echoed the sentiment.
"We allow the death penalty for someone who has killed a body," Gumm, who
authored the Oklahoma bill, said in a statement. "Why would we allow
someone to escape who has killed a soul?"
Critics dismiss such reasoning as irrational and unconstitutional, even
though they acknowledge that child rape is a serious crime.
"Obviously, it's a very, very serious crime," said John Holdridge,
director of the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) capital punishment
project, in an interview. "But this law is totally disproportionate to the
crime, which does not involve a case of an eye for an eye."
Holdridge's remarks seem to parallel the U.S. Supreme Court's 1977 opinion
on a case involving the rape of an adult woman in Georgia. The ruling
suggests that the death penalty can only be applied in cases of murder,
Deciding the case, the Court observed that execution for rape was
"disproportionate to the crime."
"Rape is without doubt deserving of serious punishment," the ruling said,
"but in terms of moral depravity and of the injury to the person and to
the public, it does not compare with murder, which does involve the
unjustified taking of human life."
Moreover, citing the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the Court
described the death penalty for rape as "a cruel and unusual punishment."
Along with the majority of lawmakers in South Carolina and Oklahoma who
voted in favor of death penalty laws, Gumm reasoned that only an unusual
punishment, such as execution, could deter those who repeatedly use sexual
violence against minors.
One death penalty opponent called it "a very stupid message," and
"This law is terrible for the victim," he said. "It gives no incentive to
the offender not to kill the vic- tim."
Moreover, in most child molestation cases, the victims and offenders know
each other. Holdridge doubts family members would be willing to report the
cases of child rape. Family members would not like to see the offender
executed, they said.
Since the 1977 Supreme Court ruling, no one convicted of child molestation
has been executed in the U.S. One inmate in Louisiana, however, currently
sits on death row for raping a child.
Patrick O. Kennedy was sentenced to die in 2003 for raping an
eight-year-old girl. His case is working through appeals courts in
Louisiana. It is not clear when or if it would come before the U.S.
Since the Supreme Court's previous decision against using the death
penalty in the rape case involved an adult victim, proponents of execution
for child rape are hoping the high court will not take that ruling into
Opponents, however, say despite the fact that the Supreme Court is now
dominated by conservative judges, the possibility that judges may decide
the Louisiana case in the light of its 1977 decision cannot be ruled out.
"When it finally reaches the Supreme Court," Richard Dieter of the Death
Penalty Information Center (DPI), and a longtime observer of capital
punishment cases, said. "It's most likely to be struck down."
Other critics of the death penalty laws say they fear that children could
be forced by malevolent adults to make false statements against the
"There was a flurry of trials during the 1980s and 1990s of adults charged
with sexual crimes against children in daycare centers," according to
Amnesty International, the London-based rights group. "(But) time has
shown that all, or almost all, of the alleged perpetrators were innocent."
Indeed, mental health professionals who work with repeat sex offenders say
they do not believe the death penalty will deter a child molester.
Said Gerald Landsberg, professor of social work at the New York
University: "It's a very simplistic way to deal with the issue of child
(source: Frost Illustrated)
Now That You Could be Labeled an Enemy Combatant
Since Congress recently handed Bush the power to identify American
citizens as "unlawful enemy combatants" and detain them indefinitely
without charge, it's worth examining the administration's record of
prisoner abuse as well as the building of stateside detention centers.
As Texas governor (from 1995-2000) Bush oversaw the executions of 152
prisoners, and thus became the most-killing governor in the history of the
United States. Ethnic minorities, many of whom did not have access to
proper legal representation, comprised a large percentage of those Bush
put to death, and in one particularly egregious example, Bush executed an
immigrant who hadn't even seen a consular official from his own country
(as is required by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, to which
the US was a signatory). Bush's explanation: "Texas did not sign the
Vienna Convention, so why should we be subject to it?"
Governor Bush also flouted the United Nations Convention on the Rights of
the Child by choosing to execute juvenile offenders, a practice shared at
the time only by Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Significantly, in
1998 a full 92% of the juvenile offenders on Bush's death row were ethnic
Conditions inside Texan prisons during Bush's reign were so notorious that
federal Judge William Wayne Justice wrote, "Many inmates credibly
testified to the existence of violence, rape and extortion in the prison
system and about their own suffering from such abysmal conditions.
In September 1996, for example, a videotaped raid on inmates at a county
jail in Texas showed guards using stun guns and an attack dog on
prisoners, who were later dragged face-down back to their cells.
Funding of mental health programs during Bush's reign was so poor that
Texan prisons had a sizeable number of mentally-impaired inmates; defying
international human rights standards, these inmates ended up on death row.
For instance, a prisoner named Emile Duhamel, with severe psychological
disabilities and an IQ of 56, died in his Texan death-row jail cell in
July 1998. Authorities blamed "natural causes" but a lack of air
conditioning in cells that topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit in a summer heat
wave may have killed Duhamel instead. How many other Texan prisoners died
of such neglect during Bush's governorship is unclear.
As president, Bush presides over a prison population topping 2 million
people, giving America the dubious distinction of having a higher
percentage of its citizens behind bars than any other country. When
considering that (based on 2003 figures) the US has 3 times more prisoners
per capita than Iran and 7 times more than Germany, the nation looks more
like a Gulag than the Land of the Free.
The White House has also stifled investigation into the roughly 760 aliens
(mainly Muslim men) the US government rounded up post-9/11, ostensibly for
immigration violations. Amnesty International reports that 9/11 detainees
have suffered "a pattern of physical and verbal abuse by some corrections
officers" and a denial of "basic human rights.
Then of course, there's Guantanamo, where the US is holding hundreds of
detainees in top secrecy and without access to courts, legal counsel or
family visits. Add to that the thousands of Afghans and Iraqis the US has
imprisoned (including a large percentage of innocent civilians) and
countless US secret prisons across the globe, and it looks as if
incarceration is the nation's best export.
While Abu Ghraib may have left administration officials falling over
themselves with protestations of compassion, it's worth remembering that
the Bush White House has fought hard against the International Convention
Against Torture, especially a proposal to establish voluntary inspections
of prisons and detention centers in signatory countries, such as the
Put it all together, and last week's passage of the Military Commissions
Act is ominous for those in the US. As Bruce Ackerman noted recently in
The Los Angeles Times, the legislation "authorizes the president to seize
American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the
United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a
trial by their peers or any protections of the Bill of Rights. The vague
criteria for being labeled an enemy combatant (taking part in "hostilities
against the United States") don't help either. Would that include anti-war
protestors? People who criticize Bush? Unclear.
In 2002, wacko former Attorney General John Ashcroft called for the
indefinite detainment of US citizens he considered to be "enemy
combatants," and while widely criticized at the time, Congress went ahead
and fulfilled Ashcroft's nefarious vision last week. Ashcroft had also
called for stateside internment camps, and accordingly, in January 2006
the US government awarded a Halliburton subsidiary $385 million to build
detention centers to be used for, "an unexpected influx of immigrants or
to house people after a natural disaster or for new programs that require
additional detention space." New programs that require additional
detention space. Hmm.
The disgraceful Military Commissions Act and the building of domestic
internment camps are yet more examples of blowback from the
administration's so-called war on terror, and we ignore these increasing
assaults on our civil liberties at our own peril.
1. Read the Military Commissions Act of 2006 for yourself here. Find out
how your congressmembers voted on this legislation, and raise the topic
when they ask for your vote this November.
2. For more information on US prisoner abuse, check out BBC's report from
2005 entitled "Torture Inc. Americas Brutal Prisons." Text and video
versions are archived here. You can learn more about US prisoner's rights
from the American Civil Liberties Union.
3. To take action regarding "the plight of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay
and other detainees held as part of the War on Terror," visit
(This is adapted from Heather's 2004 article entitled From Texas to Abu
Ghraib: The Bush Legacy of Prisoner Abuse)
(source: Heather Wokusch is a freelance writer and author of the
two-volume series The Progressives' Handbook: Get the Facts and Make a
Difference Now; Dissent Voice)
More information about the DeathPenalty