[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----TEXAS, FLA., PENN. MONT., NEB.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Apr 13 19:36:47 UTC 2007
Katrina evacuee's killer weeps as death sentence is returned----Jurors are
also overcome after 'emotional' choice
Christopher Devon Jackson heard his death sentence Thursday, and wept.
Several of the jurors who decided he should forfeit his life for the 2005
murder of a New Orleans evacuee wept as well.
"It's always an emotional decision," prosecutor Maria McAnulty said after
jurors concluded eight hours of deliberations over 2 days.
Jackson, 22, was convicted of capital murder two weeks ago for carjacking
Eric James Smith and killing him with a sawed-off shotgun as Smith talked
on the phone with a 911 operator.
The jurors, who were sequestered in a downtown hotel Wednesday night,
declined to comment after reaching their decision. Defense attorney Hattie
Shannon said she and lead counsel Skip Cornelius had expected a sentence
of life in prison.
"It was a long road and we're very disappointed," she said. "It's truly an
Smith, 34, had come to Houston after Hurricane Katrina devastated New
Orleans in late August 2005. He was refueling his rented sport utility
vehicle at a gas station in the 6700 block of West Airport when Jackson
took it at gunpoint before dawn on Dec. 5.
Jackson circled the block and tried to rob Smith, who was walking home
while talking with a 911 operator, prosecutors said. A recording of
Smith's last words and the fatal blast played a major role in the trial.
Jackson shot Smith in the back of the head with a shotgun he had cut down
to the size of a large pistol, prosecutors said.
Among Jackson's "prior bad acts" that prosecutors detailed in the trial's
sentencing phase were several assaults, including a shooting.
In the week before Smith's murder, McAnulty said, Jackson used the same
gun to shoot a stranger in the face at a convenience store across the
street from where Smith was carjacked.
The victim in that case went into hiding and moved from Houston after the
shooting. He testified that he didn't know Jackson or why he was shot.
No charges were filed in that case, and Jackson's attorneys asked the jury
not to believe prosecutors' account of the shooting because the
allegations were never proven.
In urging jurors to spare Jackson's life, his attorneys worked to show
that he had many problems that led him to pull the trigger that day. They
said he grew up without his father, was unwanted by his mother and has
been in and out of institutions for psychiatric problems for several
He spent the trial on daily medications of three psychotropic drugs for
schizophrenia, Shannon said. She added that he slit his wrists while in
jail and tried to hang himself.
Although Cornelius said Jackson shot Smith accidentally while the 2
planned a drug deal, prosecutor Caroline Dozier said that claim was found
to be untrue.
"We could find absolutely no connection between those 2 (men)," Dozier
said. "It just didn't make sense."
(source: Houston Chronicle)
FLORIDA----foreign national death sentence upheld
German's death sentence stands
The state high court ratifies the conviction of a visitor who killed his
girlfriend in 1987.
The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously ratified the conviction
and death sentence of a German man convicted of killing his girlfriend
nearly 20 years ago in Miami.
Dieter Riechmann was convicted in 1988 of killing Kersten Kischnick while
they were visiting from Rheinfelden, Germany, in October 1987.
Kischnick, 31, was shot while in the passenger seat of an automobile
driven by Riechmann, who said that a stranger they asked for directions
killed the woman.
In his latest appeal, Riechmann claimed he was a victim of improper
judicial communications and prosecutors who urged witnesses to lie.
However, all seven Supreme Court justices concurred in Thursday's unsigned
opinion, rejecting Riechmann's claims to vacate his conviction and
"There's nothing out there that gives the court pause with regard to the
validity of the conviction," assistant deputy attorney general Carolyn
Snurkowski said Thursday.
The lead attorney for Riechmann at last year's arguments at the high
court, Martin McLain, did not return a telephone call Thursday for
A copy of the court's decision also was sent to Michael Tarre, a Miami
representative for the Federal Republic of Germany. A representative of
the German consulate attended the 2006 oral arguments at the court but did
Prosecutors said Riechmann, who is from Hamburg, Germany, had benefited
financially from Kischnick working as a prostitute. However, a health
problem threatened her ability to work and she was killed in order for
Riechmann to collect a $1 million life-insurance payment.
Authorities also said a .38-caliber weapon similar to the one used in the
killing was found in Riechmann's luggage.
Riechmann, 62, had earlier appealed his death sentence, saying his lawyer
did not do his job during the sentencing part of the trial and failed to
put witnesses on the stand who would testify about his character in an
effort to keep him off death row.
Riechmann's lawyers argued that a key witness in the trial subsequently
changed his story and said prosecutors encouraged him to lie when he
testified. They also said a former police officer said prosecutors also
encouraged him to lie, resulting in a pattern of misconduct.
Riechmann is imprisoned at Union Correctional Institution near Starke.
Florida has executed 64 inmates since the death penalty was reinstated in
1979 after a 15-year hiatus.
However, executions were suspended in December after the state botched the
lethal injection of a 55-year-old career criminal, Angel Nieves Diaz, who
took 34 minutes to die after being injected a second time.
(source: Orlando Sentinel)
Ex-prosecutor, freed inmates call for end to Pa. death penalty
20 people who have been exonerated after being sent to death row are
planning to be at the Liberty Bell tomorrow. They're calling for a
moratorium on capital punishment in Pennsylvania.
One is Ray Krone, a 50-year-old York County man who spent ten years in an
Arizona prison, including 3 on death row. Eventually, D-N-A evidence
showed that the wasn't the one who killed a bartender at a tavern where he
often played darts back when he was a Phoenix postal worker. Only 3
inmates have been executed in Pennsylvania since the U-S Supreme Court
reinstated capital punishment in 1976.
(source: Associated Press)
Efforts to revive bill to abolish death penalty unsuccessful
2 efforts to revive a bill to abolish the death penalty failed Thursday,
effectively ending hope supporters had that this Legislature might scrap
"I think we've exhausted our options this session," said Scott Crichton,
executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana.
Earlier in the day, the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee
voted 9-8 not to overturn an earlier vote and send the bill, sponsored by
Sen. Dan Harrington, D-Butte, to the House floor.
Democrats told Republicans on the committee that the bill, which has
already been approved by the Democrat-controlled Senate, was so important
that it needed a full debate.
Most Republicans brushed off the notion, saying it was the committee's job
to decide which bills were worth moving forward.
Undeterred Democrats tried again later in the day with a motion to have
the bill debated by the full House without the committee's blessing.
"I ask you, please don't be afraid of the dialogue," Rep. Julie French,
D-Scobey, said on the floor.
The effort fell 9 votes short of the 60 needed, with almost every
Republican voting against it.
Bills to abolish the death penalty have failed in each of the past 3
A bill by Rep. Joey Jayne, D-Arlee, to form a commission to study the cost
and effectiveness of the death penalty was also tabled by a
Crichton said the failure of the 2 bills shows that the Republican
leadership in the House had no interest in properly considering the death
House Speaker Scott Sales, R-Bozeman, has said he thinks the death penalty
has been properly used in Montana and most people in the state support it.
There currently are 2 prisoners on death row in Montana, and the state has
executed three people since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970s.
The most recent execution, of convicted murderer David Dawson, occurred
Crichton said the issue is far from over and efforts to abolish the death
penalty will continue in future sessions.
"Every time there is a hearing on this issue, hearts and minds change,"
Crichton said. "We will prevail."
The bill is Senate bill 306.
(source: Associated Press)
Nebraska lawmakers reject proposal to limit use of death penalty
The Legislature's death penalty critics failed by two votes Thursday to
advance a bill that would have restricted the use of capital punishment in
The vote came about three weeks after a failed attempt to repeal the death
Within days of the repeal vote - and with the scheduled May 8 execution of
Carey Dean Moore looming - the Judiciary Committee had advanced a new
bill, one intended to limit death sentences only to the most dangerous of
State Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha and other proponents of the bill said it
would not have affected the Moore case or those of other death row
inmates, but opponents disputed that.
Lawmakers scrambled to counter arguments that the new proposal amounted to
a "backdoor repeal" of capital punishment, as Gov. Dave Heineman called it
when he promised a veto if the measure landed on his desk.
"Folks, this does not repeal the death penalty," Ashford said just before
the controversial bill went to a vote.
The final tally: 25 against, 23 in support.
Death penalty critics had gained 2 supporters - Sens. Tom White of Omaha
and Tony Fulton of Lincoln - but three lawmakers had fallen away: Sens.
Greg Adams of York, Abbie Cornett of Bellevue and Vickie McDonald of St.
The latest bill was developed with help from Fulton and White, who had
said they could not support full repeal of capital punishment because
there were instances when a death sentence would be necessary to protect
White likened it to a police officer's ability to shoot someone who is
threatening a hostage's life.
"We are morally entitled to do that, only on condition that it's necessary
to protect innocent human lives," he said.
Fulton did raise concerns Thursday that the bill could make it impossible
for prosecutors to obtain a death sentence.
He proposed allowing a jury to decide whether a convicted murderer is
dangerous, but assigning a judge to decide whether he can be imprisoned
Ashford and Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha negotiated with Fulton and
promised that if the bill was given first-round approval, they would offer
an amendment on second round debate.
(source: Associated Press)
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