[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----GA., ORE., CONN., PENN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Oct 5 21:13:26 UTC 2006
Subject of historic death penalty case pleads guilty
A Macon man whose 1967 murder conviction led to a landmark U.S. Supreme
Court ruling was sentenced to 20 years in prison Wednesday.
William Henry Furman, 64, pleaded guilty to a 2004 burglary charge in Bibb
County Superior Court, said Jimmy Daniels, a Bibb County assistant
Furman is well-known among death penalty lawyers, professors and students
because of a 1972 case, Furman v. Georgia.
His death sentence and hundreds of others were overturned on the grounds
that the death penalty in the United States up to that time had been
imposed arbitrarily. The decision required states to create a new system
for imposing the death penalty.
In the Macon case, prosecutors said Furman broke into an Adams Street home
occupied by a mother and her 10-year-old daughter in August 2004. The
mother called 911 while Furman was in the house, Daniels said, and she
spoke to operators as if she were talking to a friend to conceal from
Furman whom she was calling.
When police arrived, they arrested Furman and found a pair of the girl's
panties in his pocket.
Daniels said the case caused him to reflect on the magnitude of the 1972
Supreme Court decision. But what motivated him to spend so much time on
the case was Furman's past and current crimes, he said.
In the 1967 case, Furman claimed he tripped and fired through a door
accidentally, killing his victim in that burglary, Daniels said.
"He got a 2nd chance after killing a husband and father of 5," Daniels
Furman accepted responsibility for what he did and he appeared humble in
court Wednesday afternoon, the prosecutor said.
(source: Macon Telegraph)
Judge pulls death penalty option ----Court - Gayle A. Nachtigal rules
there is insufficient evidence that a Banks man would be a future threat
In what legal experts think is a 1st for Oregon, a Washington County judge
on Wednesday ruled that jurors cannot consider the death penalty for a
27-year-old Banks man they found guilty of 6 counts of aggravated murder.
On the 10th day of trial, in the middle of the penalty phase, Circuit
Judge Gayle A. Nachtigal stunned prosecutors by saying they hadn't
presented enough evidence to show Petronilo Lopez Minjarez is a continuing
threat to society.
Nachtigal's decision raises concerns about the roles of judges and juries,
say prosecutors and victim's advocates. The action could be seen as taking
away the right to decide from 12 citizens chosen by defense lawyers and
Defendants can -- and often do -- ask for trials before a judge without a
jury. But a jury is required in aggravated murder cases because those
carry the death penalty.
When told of Nachtigal's ruling, Josh Marquis, Clatsop County district
attorney and the author of a book on the death penalty, said the U.S.
court system works because it "merges justice and democracy."
"We think the wisdom of 12 is greater than the wisdom of one," Marquis
He called Nachtigal's action "a very dramatic step" and said he was
concerned defense attorneys in every Oregon death penalty case will argue
for the same ruling.
Jurors are charged with making "a moral or reasoned decision," Marquis
said, "and the judge has basically pulled the rug out from under them."
Jurors found Lopez Minjarez guilty Friday in the November 2004 kidnapping
and killing of Darvin Lopez Jovel, 18, of Aloha. His bones were found
nearly a year later off a remote logging road northwest of Banks.
The victim was the son of a man having an affair with Lopez Minjarez's
mother. He was the only one home when Lopez Minjarez and his father, both
drunk, came looking for a fight.
Before Lopez Minjarez could be sentenced to death, the same jurors would
have to unanimously answer yes to 3 questions: Was the killing deliberate,
is the defendant likely to commit future acts of violence and should he be
put to death because nothing mitigates against it?
During Wednesday's contentious hearing, Roger Hanlon, Washington County
chief deputy district attorney, pointed out that Oregon statute says the
judge "shall submit" the death penalty questions to the jury and "shall
instruct" the jury to decide "if the defendant should receive a death
"All of it is mandatory language," Hanlon argued.
Nachtigal countered that "the court is the gatekeeper of the evidence that
comes in, the court is the gatekeeper of the instructions."
Nachtigal said she didn't want to make the 12 jurors go through "this
gut-wrenching decision" about the death penalty because she was going to
throw it out in the end anyway.
So instead of considering if Lopez Minjarez should be put to death,
Nachtigal is expected to tell jurors today to consider if he should be
sentenced to life in prison without parole or life in prison with parole
possible after 30 years.
"I can't disagree with the court more," Hanlon told Nachtigal.
Robert Heard, one of Lopez Minjarez's 2 court-appointed attorneys, brought
up the issue by asking the judge to throw out the questions of
deliberateness and future danger. Heard argued that one conviction for
carrying a concealed weapon, comments to a co-worker about killing anyone
who had an extramarital affair with his wife and cursing at deputies who
arrested him after the murder did not make his client a future danger.
Nachtigal said the killing was deliberate and derided the defendant for
blaming everything on his father, who is thought to be hiding in Mexico.
She said Lopez Minjarez was more involved than he admits because the
defense "timeline just couldn't have happened."
However, the judge agreed with the defense that Lopez Minjarez did not
have enough previous bad acts to warrant letting jurors decide on the
question of future dangerousness.
The jurors did not hear the legal arguments Wednesday and don't know why
the trial was delayed for several hours while prosecutors decided what to
Hanlon considered filing an appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court immediately
but decided against it when advised it could take more than a year for a
"I'm never surprised to be surprised at something that a judge does," said
Howard Rodstein, a member of the Oregon Crime Victims United board of
directors. "It's like she's saying any power not ascribed to another party
is ascribed to the judge."
(source: The Oregonian)
Jury to decided on death penalty
A Hartford jury is to begin deliberations that could send a convicted
killer to death row.
Closing arguments were held yesterday in the penalty trial of Jessie
Campbell. 6 years ago, he shot and killed 2 women and critically wounded a
3rd on a Hartford street.
The jury is to decide if Campbell should be sent to prison for the rest of
his life without possibility of parole of if he should be put on death
In 2004, a jury convicted Campbell, of shooting and killing his long-time
girlfriend and the mother of his son, as they were talking outside a house
on Sargeant Street. The jury also convicted him of shooting 2 other women
who were sitting on the front stoop.
However, the jury could not reach a unanimous decision on whether Campbell
should be executed for the crimes, prompting a second penalty hearing,
with a new panel of jurors, which began last month.
(source: Associated Press)
Governor signs execution warrant in Bucks County murder
Gov. Ed Rendell signed an execution warrant Wednesday for a Bucks County
man convicted in the 1987 killing of another man.
The execution of Frank Chester by lethal injection was scheduled for Nov.
Chester, 37, an inmate at Graterford state prison, was convicted of the
beating death of 26-year-old Anthony Milano. The state Supreme Court has
upheld Chester's sentence and turned down his appeals, most recently in
Chester and another man, Richard Laird, each testified that the other man
inflicted the fatal wounds after the trio left a Bristol Township bar
together, according to court documents. Laird was also convicted and
sentenced to death.
In nearly 4 years in office, Rendell has signed 60 execution warrants. The
3 people executed in Pennsylvania since the death penalty was reinstated
in 1978 all ended their appeals voluntarily. As of Monday, 222 people were
on the state's death row, according to the state Department of
Court: Former death-row inmate freed by DNA can pursue lawsuit
A former death-row inmate exonerated by DNA after spending 22 years in
prison can sue local officials for allegedly destroying evidence and
ignoring his demands for DNA tests, a federal appeals court ruled.
Nicholas Yarris, 45, became the first person freed from Pennsylvania's
death row by DNA testing when he was released in January 2004. Yarris had
first asked the tests 16 years earlier.
In his suit, he charges that authorities in Delaware County destroyed or
withheld crucial DNA evidence, leading to his long imprisonment in the
1981 murder of Linda Mae Craig.
Police and prosecutors generally have immunity for official acts conducted
in the course of prosecution. But the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
concluded that the acts Yarris is suing over occurred after the trial was
over, or were outside of the prosecutors' duties.
"We believe that destroying exculpatory evidence is not related to a
prosecutor's prosecutorial function," a three-judge panel said in its
ruling Monday. "Accordingly, the ADAs (assistant district attorneys) are
not entitled to absolute immunity from suit for constitutional violations
caused by their alleged deliberate destruction of exculpatory evidence."
According to Yarris' suit, some DNA samples were allowed to rot in a paper
bag under a detective's desk after his trial.
Craig, 32, was found stabbed to death in a car near her suburban
Philadelphia home. Yarris, in jail on another charge, came to the
attention of authorities when he said he knew something about her death.
His suit states that he had read about it in a newspaper and spoke up in
hopes of getting out of jail.
But DNA tests ultimately showed that genetic material found under Craig's
fingernails, on her undergarments and in a pair of gloves worn by the
killer belonged to another man.
Yarris, who married after his release, now lives near London with his wife
and young daughter. He has become a vocal advocate against the death
Lawyer William Conroy, who represents Delaware County authorities, noted
that the ruling only gives Yarris the right to present his case.
"We look forward to the opportunity to present our side of the story,"
Yarris' lawyer, John W. Beavers, did not immediately return a telephone
message left by The Associated Press on Thursday.
ON THE NET----Nicholas Yarris: http://www.nickyarris.com
(source for both above: Associated Press)
Prosecutor seeks death penalty against Bethlehem murder suspect
A Rhode Island native could face the death penalty if he is convicted of
gunning down a Bethlehem drug dealer in April. The Northampton County
District Attorney's Office today filed a notice of aggravating
circumstances against Theodore Reddice, 33. The document is required to
seek the death penalty against Reddice, who is in Northampton County
Prison on a charge of criminal homicide for the April 26 shooting death of
Luis Angel Cruz.
Assistant District Attorney Robert Eyer is seeking the death penalty
against Reddice on several grounds, including that Reddice allegedly
killed Cruz while committing another felony. Reddice also will face the
death penalty because he has a "significant history" of felony convictions
in which he used violence or the threat of violence against others, the
notice says. He also played a role in Cruz's death while violating felony
drug laws, the notice says.
Cruz was shot "execution style" 4 times in the back of the head inside his
apartment in the 400 block of Wyandotte Street. Police believe Reddice and
Cruz had been involved in a drug transaction prior to the shooting.
(source: Penn LIve)
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