[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----N.C., VA., MO., CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Oct 17 14:38:59 UTC 2006
NORTH CAROLINA----new execution date
N.C. man to be executed Dec. 1 for 1996 killing in Stanly County
The state has announced that a man sentenced to death for a 1996 murder
will be executed on December 1st.
Guy LeGrande was convicted in the shooting death of Ellen Munford in
Stanly County, east of Charlotte. A spokesman for the state Department of
Corrections says LeGrande was told today of his pending execution date.
In a statement to media today, death penalty opponents noted that the
North Carolina State Bar has filed claims with the state Court of Appeals
seeking to reinstate a misconduct case against Ken Honeycutt, the
prosecutor in LeGrande's case.
In August 2005, the bar accused Honeycutt and another attorney of hiding
deals that a witness received in a separate 1996 murder case. They've
denied the allegations.
(source: Associated Press)
Rally against death penalty held
Terri Steinberg stood in the middle of a circle of people gathered at the
the corner of Grant and Lee avenues in Manassas on Saturday and tearfully
begged for mercy for her son, Justin Michael Wolfe. "Please Virginia,
don't take the life of my son," Steinberg said. "We don't need to take
another life. We don't need another senseless killing in order to prove
that killing is wrong."
Wolfe, 25, of Centreville, received the death penalty in 2001 for hiring
Owen Merton Barber to kill 21-year-old Daniel Petrole Jr. of Braemar. The
3 had been members of a marijuana ring that operated throughout Northern
Steinberg and the 40 or so people in the circle were at the corner to
demonstrate against the death penalty, hold hands and sing protest songs.
The event was part of the "2006 Virginia Journey of Hope ... From Violence
to Healing," a statewide, 17-day event where family members of murder
victims, exonerated death row inmates and anti-death penalty activists
visit high schools, churches and colleges across the state to hold rallies
and tell stories of how the death penalty has affected their lives.
People from across the country came to march from All Saints Catholic
Church to the corner where abolitionists gather to demonstrate and plant
flowers for those being put to death on nights when there is an execution
Bill Pelke's grandmother was murdered in 1985 by four ninth-grade girls.
One of the girls received the death penalty for the murder, said Pelke,
the co-founder of the "Journey of Hope" a national movement to raise
awareness about the death penalty.
"The girl that was deemed to be the ring leader was sentenced to death by
the state of Indiana," Pelke said. "She was 15 years old."
Pelke came from Anchorage, Alaska, to participate in the Virginia event
and said he once supported the death penalty but became convinced that his
grandmother would have been "appalled" that a 15-year-old girl was on
"I realized I didn't have to see someone else die in order to bring
healing," Pelke said.
Pelke's efforts through the Journey of Hope, helped release the girl from
death row in 1989, he said.
"She's still in prison, where she belongs," he said.
Jeff Haydon, 49, of Manassas said he marched and carried signs with the
abolitionists to try and make people think about the death penalty. He
said he didn't believe in the death penalty as a deterrent.
"I know there's some heinous crimes out there, but 'an eye-for-an-eye
makes the whole world blind,' " Haydon said quoting one of the death
penalty abolitionists' mottos.
Robert Hoelscher came from Austin, Texas, to march in Manassas. His father
was murdered in Houston in 1969.
"I don't think the death penalty serves victims," the 53-year-old
Abe Bonowitz, an organizer for New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death
Penalty, once supported the death penalty, but changed his mind after
hearing a speaker at the University of Ohio.
The speaker didn't change his mind. His epiphany came later.
"I set out to prove the anti-death penalty people wrong and I found out
that everything I believed about the death penalty -- the truth was the
opposite," the 39-year-old Bonowitz said.
Race, politics and geography determine who gets the death penalty more
than anything else, Bonowitz said.
"What changed my mind was learning about the unfairness of the application
of the death penalty," Bonowitz said.
Events such as the Journey of Hope might make people think about the death
penalty. Thinking about it might lead to opposing it, Bonowitz said.
"For me it's about giving the people the opportunity to think about it.
That's why I'm out here today holding this sign to the traffic," Bonowitz
Of the 23 people in Virginia who are on death row in Sussex I Sate Prison
in Waverly, four received their death sentences in Prince William County.
Larry "Bill" Elliott, 56, of Hanover, Md., was convicted in 2001 of
killing Robert Finch, 30 and Dana Thrall, 25, a Woodbridge couple.
John Allen Muhammad, 42, the D.C.-area sniper entered death row in March
Paul Warner Powell, 26, was convicted in 1999 of the murder of 2 teenage
sisters in their Yorkshire home.
The Virginia Supreme Court overturned Powell's capital conviction of
murdering 16-year-old Stacie Reed and raping and stabbing 14-year-old
Kristie Reed . The justices decided that Powell's actions were two
separate crimes making Powell ineligible for the death penalty.
Powell later sent Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert a letter that
contained information Ebert used to convict him.
Powell was sentenced to death in 2003.
Wolfe received a stay of execution in July 2005.
(source: Potomac News)
Capital justice fails in Virginia----The ultimate punishment warrants the
utmost care. The commonwealth should take steps to protect against
Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty doesn't exactly conceal
its agenda; it's right there in the name.
Last week, the group issued a report card of sorts on the state of capital
justice in the commonwealth, and Virginia has problems. Unfortunately,
some would ignore the recommendations to satisfy personal convictions,
political goals or both.
The report based its analysis on recommendations in Illinois to enhance
justice and accuracy in capital punishment. That state's governor
suspended executions in 2000 over concerns about improperly convicted and
sentenced individuals. A crime commission subsequently developed 85
suggestions to improve the system.
Virginia, according to last week's report, fully satisfies only 12 of
those recommendations and completely fails on more than half of them.
If Virginians insist on clinging to the barbaric practice of executing
prisoners, the least they can do is ensure that the condemned truly
deserve their sentence.
The Illinois recommendations include common sense ideas to uphold fairness
and justice such as:
--Require police to pursue all reasonable lines of inquiry during an
investigation, no matter where they lead.
--Videotape interrogations in homicide cases.
--Create a certification process for judges who hear capital cases.
--Give defendants access to evidence that might be presented against them
during the sentencing phase of capital trials.
Virginia does none of those, even though their only goal is justice, not
undermining the death penalty.
Attorney General Bob McDonnell's office dismissed the report out of hand.
A spokesman told The Virginian-Pilot in Hampton Roads that the
recommendations "do not outweigh the legal and public support for
Virginia's constitutionally correct death penalty statute."
Of course they don't. They are about erecting a bulwark against executing
the wrong person. Surely the state constitution and Virginians support
It is possible for a group with an agenda to offer good suggestions apart
from its views on the death penalty. Virginia should consider these
suggestions on their own merits as a means to improve the justice system,
not through the filter of state-sponsored death.
(source: Editorial, ROanoke Times)
Death penalty to be sought for 2
Jackson County prosecutors will seek the death penalty against 2 people
charged in the videotaped killing of Marsha Spicer in Independence.
Prosecutor Mike Sanders, flanked by family members of the victim,
announced at a Monday news conference that his office will ask jurors to
convict and recommend execution for Richard D. Davis and Dena D. Riley.
They are charged with 1st-degree murder, kidnapping, sodomy, rape and
assault in Spicers death in May.
Earlier this month, Clay County prosecutors announced they also were
seeking the death penalty against the couple for the murder of Michelle
Ricci, whom the couple allegedly killed in Clay County several weeks
before they killed Spicer.
Sanders said seeking the death penalty was appropriate for both counties
because of the heinous nature of the crimes.
The defendants also face federal charges for the kidnapping and sexual
assault of a 5-year-old Kansas girl.
(source: Kansas City Star)
Execution procedure nixed again----A judge reaffirms that Missouris new
protocol is unconstitutional
A federal judge ruled again Monday that Missouris revised death-penalty
protocol was unconstitutional.
The order by U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. restated his
September ruling that found Missouri inmates could be subjected to an
"unreasonable risk of cruel and unusual punishment" if improvements were
not made in how the state executes its prisoners.
In his September order, Gaitan gave the state until Oct. 27 to address his
concerns and provide a revised protocol. However, the state resubmitted
the same proposal Oct. 6, arguing that it was constitutional and asking
the judge to reconsider his decision.
Attorneys for the state asked the judge to rule quickly so they could file
an appeal with the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals if he ruled against them.
Gaitan complied Monday, denying the motion to reconsider.
"The state's response does nothing to address these concerns and indicates
its lack of willingness to even attempt to comply with the courts order,"
Gaitan wrote Monday.
Gaitan's ruling comes in the case of Michael A. Taylor, 1 of 2 men
convicted of raping and killing a Kansas City teenager, Ann Harrison, in
Taylors attorneys have alleged that the lethal injection method employed
by Missouri can lead to prisoners suffering excruciating pain.
Gaitan ordered the state to improve methods of monitoring inmates to
ensure they are adequately anesthetized during the execution process. He
also ordered that a doctor trained in administering anesthesia either mix
the chemicals or oversee the mixing of chemicals for executions.
The judge's order halted all executions in the state. Taylor came within
hours of being put to death earlier this year before the legal challenge
halted the execution.
(source: Kansas City Star)
Victims' Families Sentenced to Silence ---- Judge allows relatives of five
who were killed to attend the trial only if they remain composed.
Day after day, the aging Ukrainian couple has stepped into a federal
courtroom in downtown Los Angeles to endure a severe test of wills:
listening to the details of their son Alexander's killing while containing
They sit stoically in the front, Elisabeth Umansky with her jaw set and
hands clasped, her husband Ruven with his head back, peering through his
bifocals. When a key witness tells of pulling a rope tight around
Alexander's neck and of a plastic bag being sucked into his nostrils,
Elisabeth lets out a deep sigh, closes her eyes and folds forward. Ruven
squeezes her shoulder.
But they stay put, taking in every detail as if to recover lost moments
with their son.
The couple and 5 other relatives of the victims had to fight to win the
right to attend the trial of the 2 men accused of kidnapping and murdering
their son and 4 other Los Angeles business people.
Iouri Mikhel and Jurijus Kadamovas are accused of luring the five victims
to their upscale San Fernando Valley homes in 2001 and 2002, holding them
for ransom, killing them and dumping their bodies in a reservoir in the
Sierra foothills. Prosecutors say the conspiracy was, in part, directed by
organized crime figures in Russia. The defendants face the death penalty.
Before the trial began Sept. 6, U.S. District Judge Dickran Tevrizian
banned the victims' relatives from court, both because they might be
called as witnesses later and because the presence of tearful and
emotional relatives could prejudice the jury against the defendant.
The Umanskys and other relatives begged Tevrizian to reconsider. "We have
been patient and cooperative, and the possibility of not attending this
trial brings us inexplicable pain," they wrote in a letter. "Please allow
us to ease a bit of suffering and have questions looming over us
Prosecutors appealed the ruling and won, arguing that a 2004 congressional
act gave victims and family members explicit rights to attend trials.
The issue is particularly relevant because last week, the U.S. Supreme
Court took up a case that also involves courtroom expressions by a
victim's relatives. The case stems from a 1995 murder conviction in San
Jose, which was overturned by an appeals court because three relatives of
the victim wore buttons with small photos of him in court.
In the Los Angeles case, Tevrizian has admonished family members to remain
That became a particularly wrenching test in recent days as Ainar Altmanis
took the stand and laid out a step-by-step account of the abductions and
deaths. His testimony is expected to continue today.
Altmanis is the U.S. attorney's key witness in the trial, having admitted
to taking part in the murder conspiracy. He entered into a plea agreement
in 2002 to avoid the death sentence in exchange for life in prison. The
defense is expected to attack his credibility and attempt to pin the
murders on him alone.
As he spoke last week, the victims' families took in every word they could
endure. They convulsed and squinted hard to hold back the tears. When it
was too much to bear, they left the room and shuffled back in later. And
they watched the man accused of masterminding all of this, Mikhel, 41,
gaze around, sometimes at them, with arched eyebrows and an unreadable
The Umanskys sat stone-faced through most of the testimony. Their son
Alexander, 35, owned a car electronics business and, according to
prosecutors, was lured to Kadamovas' home in Sherman Oaks in December 2001
with the prospect of installing high-end electronic equipment in Mikhel's
Holding a pistol with a silencer and a stun gun, they seized him the
moment he came through the door, handcuffed him and tied his legs to a
chair with flex ties, Altmanis testified. Eventually he was told to
contact his family to get a ransom of $234,000. Over four days, Ruven and
Elisabeth and their other son, Michael, collected money from relatives and
managed to transfer it to an account in the United Arab Emirates. Then the
calls just stopped.
They called the FBI, which eventually traced the money to the defendants,
prosecutors alleged. But the Umanskys did not learn of Alexander's fate
until his body was dredged from the frigid depths of the New Melones
Reservoir 3 months later.
Now in court, they heard Altmanis' account of what happened: How terrified
and pale Alexander was, and how he was killed even as the defendants
promised to keep him alive to get the last payments.
"There was this voice of Mikhel so sharp and so fast like a thundercloud,
telling Umansky to open his mouth," Altmanis said.
The Umanskys' faces tightened in agony, and Ruven put his arm around his
wife. Mikhel's jaw muscles flexed as he stared at his onetime friend.
Altmanis continued: Mikhel shoved plastic bags in his mouth and pulled
another bag tight over his head, as Kadamovas held his nostrils shut. When
that didn't work, he said, Mikhel and Altmanis wrapped a rope around his
neck and pulled with all their might.
Even after all that, it looked as though Alexander was still breathing,
"Mikhel said, 'No, it happens sometimes. He still has air in his body.' So
he kicked him and the air went out and the motion stopped."
Nancy Muscatel's husband met a similar fate in October 2001. Meyer
Muscatel, a Sherman Oaks real estate developer, didn't come home from work
one night, and for five months his wife had no idea what happened. Now,
she said, she needed to hear the details of his final days.
"It's like needing to go through it with him," she said. "And be there in
a way . so he wouldn't be alone."
According to prosecutors, he had been lured into captivity by the prospect
of a real estate deal and spent 2 days tied to a chair at Mikhel's Encino
Altmanis said he often guarded Muscatel and at one point made himself a
ham sandwich and offered one to his captive.
"He smelled it and asked what it was," Altmanis testified. "He said he
didn't eat it because he ate only kosher."
In the 2nd row, Nancy Muscatel's eyes welled up - with mingled pride and
longing, she would say later - and she squeezed them closed.
Altmanis testified that Mikhel realized Muscatel didn't have much money,
and they couldn't get to the money he did have. He was of no use anymore.
When Altmanis went back to the house the next morning, he testified, the
defendants were strangling Muscatel.
As he described the killing, Nancy Muscatel began to shake. Her 2 adult
daughters bent over and wept in silence.
"Mikhel was pressing with knees on Muscatel's shoulders," Altmanis
continued. "The bag was over Muscatel's head. He was clogging the ends of
the bag so the air would not get inside."
Nancy Muscatel stood quietly, walked out of the courtroom and returned
several minutes later to hear of her husband's body being thrown off the
Parrotts Ferry Bridge.
But at the end of the day, Nancy Muscatel clung to the image of her
husband refusing to eat the ham sandwich. "He wasn't going to give in,"
she said. "He wasn't going to compromise his values. That was Meyer."
(source: Los Angeles Times)
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