[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., N.C., OHIO
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Oct 20 15:11:30 UTC 2006
Man cheats execution with suicide -- With 15 hours to go, inmate from
Dallas slashes his throat, arm
Condemned Texas prisoner Michael Dewayne Johnson fatally slashed his
throat and arm in his death row cell Thursday, a little more than 15 hours
before he was scheduled to receive a lethal injection.
Mr. Johnson, 29, was found in a pool of blood and unresponsive at 2:45
a.m. by officers making routine checks on him every 15 minutes at the
Polunsky Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. 15 minutes
earlier, he was talking to prison staff and awaiting breakfast. He was
pronounced dead at a hospital in Livingston, a few miles away, about an
hour after he was found.
"He had used some sort of metal blade or razor to cut his right jugular
vein and an artery inside his right elbow," prison system spokeswoman
Michelle Lyons said. "He had made no indications that he was contemplating
Words written in blood were on the wall of his cell, but prison officials
declined to disclose the nature of the writing because Mr. Johnson's death
remained under investigation, Ms. Lyons said.
Authorities were not immediately certain where Mr. Johnson obtained the
piece of metal that had been attached to a small wooden stick, which Ms.
Lyons described as resembling a Popsicle stick. It also was unclear
whether the tip was a razor blade or a piece of metal that had been
sharpened. Some inmates are allowed to shave but must check out a razor
and return it to a corrections officer when finished, Ms. Lyons said.
Mr. Johnson, of Dallas, had been set to die after 6 p.m. Thursday for the
1995 slaying of Jeff Wetterman, 27, gunned down at his family-run gasoline
station and convenience store in Lorena, just south of Waco.
He is at least the 7th condemned man in Texas to take his own life since
death row reopened in 1974, but no other prisoner has killed himself so
close to his scheduled execution time.
Besides the routine 15-minute checks that begin for inmates 36 hours
before their scheduled execution, officers on death row also routinely
search the inmate's cell every 72 hours for contraband.
An appeal to block Mr. Johnson's execution was in the U.S. Supreme Court
this week. His lawyer, Greg White, was asking justices to reconsider their
rejection last week of an earlier appeal. Mr. White also said he had
notified state and federal courts that he would file another round of
last-day appeals early Thursday.
Mr. White said he had no indication that Mr. Johnson was despondent.
"I've never seen him not in good spirits," the lawyer said. "I'm not
trained in those things, but just from a common person's standpoint, we
just never had conversation that he was near the end and 'I'm doomed' and
any of that kind of stuff."
In an interview with The Associated Press 2 weeks ago, Mr. Johnson said he
"You never know what the courts are going to do," he said.
Mr. Johnson, who was 18 in September 1995, insisted it was a companion,
David Vest, who gunned down Mr. Wetterman after the pair, in a stolen car,
fled the store on Interstate 35 about 12 miles south of Waco because they
didn't have the $24 to pay for their gas.
"I never even saw the dude," Mr. Johnson said. He said Mr. Vest had been
outside the car getting gas and "jumped back into the car and we took off.
He hollered: 'Go! Go! Go!' "
Mr. Vest blamed the shooting on Mr. Johnson, took an 8-year prison term in
a plea bargain and testified against his friend. Mr. Vest is now free.
Mr. Johnson was involved with other teenagers in what authorities said was
a stolen car ring in Balch Springs when he was arrested for the slaying.
Mr. Johnson and Mr. Vest were heading to Corpus Christi for a day at the
beach to celebrate Mr. Vest's 17th birthday.
"He unquestionably was guilty," said Crawford Long, an assistant district
attorney in McLennan County. "He had made admissions to a number of
Trucker's retrial gets jury----Man could receive death penalty in fatal
human smuggling in '03
In Houston, a jury was chosen Thursday in the retrial of Tyrone Williams,
a truck driver who faces a possible death sentence for his suspected role
in a deadly human-smuggling attempt.
Jury selection took more than 2 weeks because potential jurors were
questioned individually since Mr. Williams faces the death penalty.
U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal said opening statements will be made
Monday. The retrial could take up to 4 weeks.
The jury panel consists of 6 men and 6 women. 7 of the jurors are white,
t3 are black, 1 is Hispanic and 1 is Asian. There are 4 alternate jurors.
Mr. Williams is accused of being part of a smuggling ring that tried to
transport more than 70 illegal immigrants in his hot, airless
tractor-trailer from South Texas to Houston in May 2003.
Prosecutors say he failed to help the immigrants after they began
succumbing to the heat. Nineteen died from the heat.
Mr. Williams, who abandoned the trailer at a truck stop about 100 miles
southwest of Houston, was convicted last year on 38 transporting counts.
He avoided a death sentence because the jury couldn't agree on his role in
the crime. The jury deadlocked on 20 other counts.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the decision, saying the
verdict didn't count because the jury failed to specify his role.
(source for both: Associated Press)
Fla. Supreme Court Denies Rolling Appeal
In Tallahassee, the Florida Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by
convicted serial killer Danny Rolling that claimed the state's death
penalty is flawed.
The justices ruled Wednesday that Rolling, 52, could not use an American
Bar Association report as newly discovered evidence because it "is a
compilation of previously available information" and includes nothing that
would cause them to strike down the death penalty.
Rolling's lawyer, Baya Harrison III, said he plans further appeals.
Rolling is scheduled to be executed Oct. 25.
Harrison also filed papers that claim Florida's lethal injection procedure
is unconstitutional because it causes extreme pain. The same argument was
previously made by convicted killers Arthur Rutherford and Clarence Hill.
Rutherford was executed hours before Wednesday's ruling for the 1985
murder of a woman in her Santa Rosa County home. Hill was put to death
Sept. 20 for killing a Pensacola police officer.
Rolling terrorized Gainesville in late August and early September 1990,
killing 5 college students in their off-campus apartments. He pleaded
guilty in 1994.
(source: Associated Press)
Suspect In Wake Woman's Homicide May Face Death Penalty
A suspect in the death of a Wake County woman could face the death penalty
if convicted of murder.
Antonio Chance is charged in the abduction and murder of Progress Energy
employee Cynthia Moreland. On Thursday, a judge ruled that Chance's case
would be a capital case when he goes to trial.
Moreland was abducted from a downtown Raleigh parking garage in August.
Her body was found behind an abandoned home in Harnett County a week
Chance was arrested shortly after Moreland's disappearance when he was
identified in surveillance video using Moreland's debit card in a Raleigh
store shortly after her disappearance.
(source: WRAL News)
Ohio Execution of Cult Leader Delayed
In Columbus, a federal judge has delayed a religious cult leader's
execution to allow him to join a lawsuit challenging Ohio's use of lethal
Jeffrey Lundgren, 56, was scheduled to die on Oct. 24 for killing a family
of five in 1989.
He asked for a postponement to join the lawsuit, saying he is at even
greater risk of experiencing pain and suffering during injection than
other inmates because he is overweight and diabetic.
5 death row inmates argue in a lawsuit filed in 2004 that the way the
chemicals are administered makes the process painful enough to amount to
cruel and unusual punishment, a violation of the U.S. Constitution.
In granting Lundgren's request on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Gregory
Frost said there was no need for a long delay. He said it appears that
potential flaws with Ohio's execution process could be fixed easily.
"Thus, any delay in carrying out Lundgren's execution should and can be
minimal," Frost said.
Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro will appeal Frost's ruling, said spokesman
Lundgren was convicted of shooting Dennis and Cheryl Avery and their 3
daughters while they stood in a pit dug inside his barn in northeast Ohio.
Lundgren formed a cult after he was dismissed in 1987 as a lay minister of
the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, now known as
the Community of Christ. Several people had moved with him to a rented
farm house 23 miles east of Cleveland, where they called him "Dad" and
contributed money for group expenses.
The Averys had moved from Missouri in 1987 to follow Lundgren's teachings.
Lundgren said passages in the Bible told him to kill the family.
Ohio's method of lethal injection came under national scrutiny by death
penalty opponents in May after problems slowed the execution of Joseph
Clark. The execution team had trouble finding a suitable vein in the arms
of Clark, a former intravenous drug user, and the vein they chose
collapsed as the chemicals started flowing.
(source: Associated Press)
More information about the DeathPenalty