[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----COLO., CALIF., VA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Apr 5 05:30:14 UTC 2007
Jurors weigh death penalty in prison slaying
Federal jurors began deliberating Tuesday whether to execute William
Sablan for killing and disemboweling a fellow prisoner in the U.S.
Penitentiary at Florence.
A decision to execute Sablan, 43, would mark the first death sentence for
a federal defendant in Colorado since a jury in 1997 ordered Oklahoma City
bomber Timothy McVeigh put to death.
In closing arguments, court-appointed defense attorneys cast Sablan as a
mentally impaired child-abuse victim, controllable if medicated.
Prosecutors focused on Sab lan's actions, referring to his plunging a
blade through a tattooed Virgin Mary on the belly of slain inmate Joey
Estrella on Oct. 10, 1999.
This crime "is the very definition of 'heinous or depraved,"' Assistant
U.S. Attorney Brenda Taylor said.
The jury of 7 women and 5 men found Sablan guilty of first-degree murder
on March 15.
Jurors were told that Sablan and his cousin, Rudy Sablan, shared a special
cell designed for 2 with Estrella at the high-security penitentiary. They
had homemade wine. A fight broke out. Guards failed to respond.
After choking and then killing Estrella, court records show, William
Sablan eviscerated him, then sat on Estrella's bloody body taunting
Uncuffed in the courtroom Tuesday, Sablan talked with tearful relatives
who traveled from Saipan, his former home, and part of the U.S. Northern
Mariana Islands territory in the North Pacific.
Sablan's children left the courtroom after prosecutors showed photos of
the gutted body.
The killing in Colorado followed multiple armed robberies in Saipan and
bad behavior in U.S. prisons.
Sablan was serving time for crimes involving firearms during a March 1999
riot and hostage-taking in a prison in the Northern Mariana Islands.
Jurors must decide unanimously in favor of death for Sab lan to be
executed or he'll serve life in prison with no possibility of release.
"Your role," U.S. District Judge Wiley Daniel told them, "is to be the
conscience of the community."
(source: Denver Post)
Ex-officer formally charged in crash deaths----Judge rebuffs try for
hearing delay until end of July
Liane VanFeldt clutched the piece of paper charging Patrick Strawmatt with
the murder of her daughter as the shackled and handcuffed former cop was
led into a courtroom here Tuesday. Sitting next to her husband, Peter
VanFeldt, and her daughter, Jamie Kois, she put her hand to her mouth when
she saw him for the first time.
Strawmatt, 42, of Westminster, was formally charged with 2 counts of
1st-degree murder in a 22-page complaint filed in Mesa County District
He also was charged with vehicular homicide, assault, DUI and other
crimes, according to the complaint.
Strawmatt's sport utility vehicle reached speeds of 120 mph on March 22 as
he tried to outrun state troopers along Interstate 70.
He slammed into the rear of the car carrying college sweethearts Jennifer
Kois, of Brighton, and Jake Brock, of Eagle.
Both 19-year-olds were students at Mesa State College, in Grand Junction.
Authorities said Strawmatt was drunk at the time.
Strawmatt would face life in prison or possibly the death penalty if
The former Lafayette police officer displayed "an attitude of universal
malice manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life," the
District Judge Brian Flynn set a preliminary hearing for June 11,
overriding defense suggestions that the probable-cause hearing be delayed
until the end of July.
"I've talked at length with the families, and they have a desire to move
relatively quickly," District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said.
Flynn agreed, saying that scheduling the preliminary hearing at the end of
July "would be an unreasonable delay."
Strawmatt, who is jailed on $1 million bail in Mesa County, had been free
on $15,000 bail from Park County the night of the fatal crash near
He allegedly eluded Park County law enforcement officers in a chase Feb.
15 that ended with Strawmatt ramming the patrol car of Sheriff Fred
Wegener and punching him in the jaw.
(source: Rocky Mountain News)
Orozco receives death penalty ---- Gang member killed sheriff's deputy in
A convicted cop killer laughed Tuesday after hearing a jury's ruling that
he be put to death.
Jose Luis Orozco showed almost no emotion throughout the three-week trial
in which he was convicted for the 2005 murder of Los Angeles County
sheriff's Deputy Jerry Ortiz of Diamond Bar.
A rare exception for the 29-year-old Hawaiian Gardens gang member was an
occasional smile for his mother when he turned in his chair to glance back
at her from time to time.
He will be sentenced May 3.
When the jury convicted him last month of the deputy's slaying, as well as
the attempted murder of another man just a few days prior to the ambush
killing of Ortiz, Orozco sat staring straight ahead, unflinching.
As Court Clerk Dan Fallon read the jury's sentence shortly before noon
Tuesday, several members of the slain lawman's family gasped, clutching
one another's hands.
At the same time, a small smile spread across Orozco's face and he
"We understand and we appreciate the gravity of the decision that the jury
had to make ... and that it took a lot for them to \," Chela Ortiz, the
deputy's wife, said afterward.
The widow - who was married three weeks before her husband was killed -
sat with her mother-in-law, Rosa Ortiz, and the rest of the family every
day of the trial.
They were accompanied by dozens of sheriff's deputies and other family
friends, including the family's priest.
"I think, for all of us, it was kind of reliving the nightmare all over,"
Chela Ortiz said.
Family members listed to testimony that included the defendant's violent
past and the many times he escaped prosecution by using his gang's
influence and power to intimidate victims.
Orozco's friends and fellow gang members also recalled his boasting about
killing a police officer one day.
"I just say thank God it is over," Rosa Ortiz said. "It was too much some
days. ... To me it was too hard."
It took the jury of 6 men and 6 women a little more than 4 hours, spread
over 2 days, to choose death over life in prison without the possibility
of parole. It was almost the same amount of time used to come to the
guilty verdict March 20.
According to three jurors who spoke briefly outside the courtroom, the
decision was a difficult one made slightly easier by the thorough job of
the prosecutors and investigators.
Equally as damning, jurors said, was the complete lack of remorse shown by
It looked to them as though he preferred the life of a criminal and
reveled in the notoriety he earned in the deputy's death.
Ortiz was assigned to track Orozco down the day before his June 24, 2005,
killing. That task stemmed from the June 20, 2005, shooting of an African-
American man who - according to prosecutors - Orozco tried to kill simply
because of his race.
The 15-year police veteran, who learned the day before that he had made
the rank of detective, was patrolling in Hawaiian Gardens when he spotted
Orozco and tried to stop him.
The gang member took off running with Ortiz behind him, according to court
Ortiz followed Orozco to an apartment complex on East 223rd Street, to the
home of one of Orozco's friends whom the deputy knew from previous
What Ortiz didn't know was that Orozco was lurking behind the woman's
As Ortiz spoke to her and reholstered his weapon, Orozco steadied his hand
while 2 of the woman's children - girls ages 6 and 8 - and several of her
friends looked on. He fired 1 shot from his .38-caliber revolver, with the
slug passing through a crack in the door and hitting the deputy in the
side of the head.
The 35-year-old father to 2 boys died almost immediately.
Stan Perlo, one of 2 court-appointed defense attorneys, said the
defendant's lack of support by his family dealt a massive blow to their
Originally, Orozco's mother was to take the stand to tell her son's story
and talk about the many problems he faced growing up, Perlo said.
But she became nervous, telling her son the night before she was to
testify that she did not want to go through with it, Perlo said.
Perlo and his co-counsel, Robin Yanes, had approached Orozco's case from a
somewhat unorthodox position. Rather than argue their client's innocence,
they repeatedly referred to their client as the gunman in the presence of
the jury and focused on a number of other people they claimed were equally
responsible in the crime.
"We made a lot of decisions that some lawyers would disagree with," Perlo
said. "I would add, personally, a lot of lawyers with a lot less
When Orozco returns to court May 3, Perlo and Yanes will argue for a
mistrial and, if that is rejected, will ask Judge Philip Hickok to modify
the jury's verdict and consider life without parole.
The chance either argument will be successful is slight, Perlo said.
But that then sets into motion the automatic appeals process, something
that will be handled by a different set of attorneys.
At the very least, Perlo estimated the appeals process will last five
years. It could run into 20 years because there are both state and federal
requirements that must be met, he added.
"The decision today made the family happy, but unfortunately it's a false
happiness," Perlo said after court Tuesday. "The death penalty rarely
offers ... closure."
The Ortiz family, however, disagreed.
"I'm kind of relieved that it's over," said 17-year-old Jeremy Ortiz, one
of the deputy's sons from a previous marriage. "I'm happy with the
verdict, we just have to wait it out now."
(source: Whittier Daily News)
Accused man may be L.A.'s 'most prolific' killer ---- Chester Dewayne
Turner sat quietly in court Tuesday. He is facing charges in the deaths of
10 women found strangled on L.A.'s downtown streets.
The partially nude bodies of 10 women -- most believed to be prostitutes
-- are strong evidence against Chester Dewayne Turner, prosecutors said
Tuesday during opening arguments in his death-penalty case.
The 6-foot-2, 260 pound Turner is on trial in the deaths of the women
found strangled on downtown Los Angeles' back streets from 1987 to 1998.
"The evidence we will introduce will show that Chester Turner is possibly
the most prolific serial killer in the history of the city of Los
Angeles," Deputy District Attorney Robert L. Grace Jr. told jurors,
equating the defendant to the likes of Freeway Killer William Bonin,
Hillside Stranglers Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono and Night Stalker
Turner, 39, a onetime Domino's Pizza worker and Skid Row mission worker,
sat expressionless during the first day of what's expected to be a
weekslong trial, with prosecutors saying they will introduce evidence
linking him to the murders of 10 women and one unborn child.
That evidence is graphic, as jurors learned Tuesday, watching a grainy
surveillance video of the Feb. 3, 1998, rape and strangulation of Paula
Vance, whose body was found next to an office building at Sixth and Hope
A couple of jurors winced during the video, and three women spectators got
up and left the courtroom. In the front row, Jerri Johnson Tripplett, the
mother of another of Turner's alleged victims, wiped tears from her eyes
with a handkerchief.
"My daughter was killed in 1993, and it was 11 years later that they found
her killer," Johnson Tripplett said in an interview during the lunch
break. "There have been degrees of closure. But when you've lost a child
you've brought into this world, I don't think there can ever be closure."
Andrea Tripplett's body was found April 2, 1993, in the 7800 block of
Figueroa Street -- close to the area where Turner lived and worked during
much of the 1980s and '90s. The other victims also were found in the
so-called Figueroa Corridor -- areas reputed to be linked to prostitution
and drug trafficking.
Most of the slayings went unsolved for years until an unrelated case --
and the work of LAPD's Cold Case Unit and its forensics specialists --
connected the cases, one by one, to Turner.
In the meantime, David Allen Jones confessed under interrogation by police
to three of the slayings and served 11 years in prison before DNA evidence
exonerated him. Jones subsequently received a $720,000 settlement for his
false conviction and imprisonment.
The DNA evidence that freed Jones and pointed suspicion on Turner was
taken from Turner during a 2002 rape investigation. According to
prosecutors, the victim in that case identified Turner by name and by the
Skid Row mission where he was working at the time.
While Turner served an eight-year prison sentence for his conviction of
that rape, investigators used DNA to connect him to each of the victims in
the serial killings -- beginning with a link to Vance and Mildred Beasley,
whose body was found Nov. 6, 1996, in the 9600 block of South Broadway.
"Case after case after case came back to Chester Turner," Grace told
jurors. "Now, amazingly, stunningly, 11 murders have a murderer, and he is
"The knock of justice is now banging loudly on Chester Turner's door."
Turner's defense attorney, John Tyre, deferred his opening statement.
But he has been quoted in news reports as planning an O.J. Simpson-style
defense, attacking the veracity and integrity of the DNA and
evidence-gathering. Turner's defense suffered a setback earlier this year
when a judge ruled that it could not present evidence related to Jones'
confession and conviction in 3 of the killings.
But Turner's lawyer scored a victory when Judge William Pounders approved
a request keeping the trial from being televised.
In an interview outside the courtroom, Grace said his characterization of
Turner as Los Angeles' most prolific identified serial killer stems from
the fact that not all of the other serial killers' victims were killed
within the city limits.
In addition, he said, Turner could be linked to other unsolved murders as
well. Bonin, Bianchi and Buono were convicted of 14 murders each, and
Ramirez was convicted of 13 murders.
Along with several accomplices, Bonin is also believed to have raped and
killed as many as 20 young men and boys.
He was executed in 1996.
Buono was found dead apparently of a heart attack in 2002 at Calipatria
State Prison while serving a life sentence.
Bianchi is serving a prison term in Washington.
Ramirez is currently awaiting execution on California's death row at San
Quentin State Prison.
(source: Daily Breeze)
Senate Upholds Governor Kaine's Veto of the Triggerman Rule Elimination
April 4th, the day of the Veto Session of the Virginia General Assembly,
is also the anniversary of the killing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, who
in addition to being the leading civil rights proponent of the 20th
Century was an outspoken opponent of the death penalty. It is fitting
therefore that the legislature has upheld Gov. Timothy Kaine's veto of the
Triggerman Rule Elimination bill. Virginia is already number two in the
nation in terms of the 98 men who have been executed since 1977. The
limitation of liability for a death sentence to the "triggerman," the
person who actually does the killing has been a hallmark of Virginia's
capital statutes since reinstatement. Former Attorney General Jerry
Kilgore's Death Penalty Enhancement Act of 2005 was an earlier attempt to
eliminate the Triggerman Rule. It failed to pass but has since been
resurrected each succeeding session. Hopefully today's vote to sustain
Gov. Kaine's veto will put to rest these ill fated attempts to expand the
death penalty to accomplices.
Gov. Kaine and those in the Senate and the House of Delegates who voted to
sustain his vetoes of death penalty expansion legislation are to be
congratulated for taking a courageous stand and leading Virginia in a new
The Senate has voted to sustain Gov. Kaine's veto of SB 1288 Triggerman
Rule Elimination bill by a vote of 25 Y to 14 N with 1 Abstention. The
bill has failed to advance to the House and is dead for the session. It is
expected that a similar fate awaits HB 2348 which the Senate will consider
later this evening.
Those Senators voting to uphold the veto included: Colgan, Cuccinelli,
Devolites Davis, Edwards, Howell, Lambert, Locke, Lucas, Marsh, Miller,
Puller, Saslaw, Ticer & Whipple. Sen. Potts abstained.
According to Jack Payden-Travers, Director of Virginians for Alternatives
to the Death Penalty: "When the people of Virginia voted for Gov. Kaine,
we knew and respected his position as a person of faith, morally opposed
to the death penalty. At a time when our neighboring states of Maryland,
North Carolina and Tennessee all have imposed moratoriums on executions
(West Virginian and the District of Columbia don't have the death penalty)
and when states as diverse as Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Maryland
have seriously considered or as New Jersey are moving towards abolishing
capital punishment during their legislative sessions, it is wise to limit
any attempts to expand the death penalty in Virginia."
"It is unfortunate that the governor's vetoes of other bills which
increase the number of eligibility factors of the commonwealth's capital
punishment statutes from 14 to 16 with the addition of the Killing of a
Judge and the Killing of a Witness were overridden. But their impact on
the number of capital trails and executions will be minimal while the
impact of the elimination of the Triggerman Rule would have been
enormous," continued Payden-Travers. "This bill would have resulted in an
unnecessary and expensive expansion of capital punishment in Virginia."
Capital punishment is supposed to be restricted to the "worst of the
worst" and as Gov. Kaine pointed out in his veto message: "While the
nature of the offenses targeted by this legislation are very serious, I do
not believe that further expansion of the death penalty is necessary to
protect human life or provide for public safety needs."
The House has overridden the Governor's vetoes on the three House Death
Penalty bills and they will now advance to the Senate for consideration:
HB 2347 Capital murder; includes premeditated killing of witness in
criminal case. 04/04/07 House: Governor's veto overridden (83-Y 16-N)
HB 2348 Triggerman rule; redefinition thereof.
04/04/07 House: Governor's veto overridden (79-Y 21-N)
HB 2750 Capital murder; premeditated killing of a judge or justice.
04/04/07 House: Governor's veto overridden (82-Y 18-N)
The Senate voted to override the veto of Gov. Kaine on SB1116 Capital
Murder of a Judge or Justice or Witness by a vote of 30 N to 10 Y. This
bill will now advance to the House for consideration later this evening.
(source: Jack Payden-Travers, Director, Virginians for Alterntives to the
Death Penalty Showdown----Gov. Kaine, not the Virginia legislature, has
chosen the right direction.
VIRGINIA'S LEGISLATURE, in seeking to expand the state death penalty, is
bucking not just global trends but domestic ones. It is increasingly rare
for American judges and juries to impose the death sentence and for states
to carry it out. The number of executions undertaken has fallen steadily
this decade; last year just 53 people were put to death, compared with 98
Despite that clear tilt away from state-sponsored killing, the General
Assembly, voted to broaden the categories of convicts eligible for capital
punishment to include killers of judges and of witnesses to capital
crimes. 2 other bills would eliminate the "triggerman rule," meaning
accomplices in capital murder cases would also be eligible for the death
penalty. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) vetoed the bills. That set up a
showdown today with the Republican-controlled legislature, which will try
to override the vetoes.
Advocates of widening eligibility for capital punishment got a boost from
the trial of John Allen Muhammad, who was convicted along with Lee Boyd
Malvo for the 2002 sniper shootings in Virginia and Maryland. The claim is
that the triggerman rule imperiled Mr. Muhammad's sentence. But the fact
remains that prosecutors were able to secure a death sentence in his case
by using a terrorism-related statute. That leads to the suspicion that
politics, not questions of crime and punishment, is the real driver behind
the legislative initiative.
There is no evidence that more inclusive death penalty laws enhance public
safety. But by widening the field of convicts eligible for execution, the
legislature does enhance the possibilities for mistakes that can lead to
wrongful executions. It is just those sorts of errors that have gradually
undercut public confidence in capital punishment. It is true that a
majority of Americans still support the death penalty; but last year, for
the 1st time in many years, slightly more said they preferred the option
of life without parole.
Mr. Kaine, a lifelong opponent of the death penalty, said during his
campaign for governor that he would nonetheless abide by state law in
regard to capital cases crossing his desk. He has been as good as his
word, allowing 4 scheduled executions to go forward, and delaying just
one, on questions of mental competence. In permitting executions under
existing statute, but declining to expand it, Mr. Kaine is in step with
public opinion as well as with the dictates of his own conscience.
(source: Editorial, Washington Post)
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