[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----WASH., GA., MO, IND.

Rick Halperin rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Apr 18 06:05:30 UTC 2007

April 17


Judge regrets inability to impose death penalty in murder case

A man whose home invasion robbery resulted in the beating deaths of an
elderly Hoquiam couple was sentenced Monday to 72 years in prison.

David Gannon, 39, was sentenced in Grays Harbor County Superior Court in
the slayings of Vernon and Maxine Bishop.

Gannon killed the couple last May in a home invasion robbery when he and
his then girlfriend, April Hensley, went to the home apparently looking
for money to buy drugs.

Prosecutors said Hensley had her pockets stuffed with jewelry and items
taken from the house when she was arrested. Charging documents said that
she admitted to police that the jewelry was her share of the items that
she and Gannon stole during the robbery.

The 72-year sentence was the most allowed by the law after Gannon plead
guilty to 2 counts of 1st-degree murder.

However, Judge Gordon Godfrey expressed regret at the legal limit, calling
Gannon a "walking advertisement for the death penalty."

It is believed 75-year-old Vernon Bishop died shortly after the attack,
while 80-year-old Maxine Bishop lay badly injured for 5 days until she was
discovered by a family member. She died 4 days later at a hospital.

(source: KOMO News)


Gannon called walking excuse for death penalty'

It didn't take long for Judge Gordon Godfrey to decide on a prison
sentence for David Gannon, a man the prosecutor describes as a sociopathic
career criminal and drug abuser. Gannon administered fatal beatings to
Vernon and Maxine Bishop in their Hoquiam home last May.

'As far as I'm concerned, you're a walking advertisement for the death
penalty," Godfrey told Gannon in Superior Court Monday before announcing
he would impose the maximum sentence possible for the 2 1st-degree murder
counts to which Gannon had pleaded guilty  868 months, which translates to
72 years and 4 months.

Gannon, 39, had attempted to withdraw his guilty pleas after being allowed
to get married in jail  part of a plea agreement. But on April 4 Godfrey
flatly rejected that move.

Although Vernon Bishop, 75, died soon after the attack, his 80-year-old
wife clung to life for three or four days until she was found and an
additional four days in the hospital.

Gannon was looking for money, jewelry and coins to trade for drugs,
according to prosecutors.

Because of the plea agreement, Gannon did not have to answer to theft and
drug charges he would have faced in a jury trial. He was also protected
from an "exceptional sentence" a jury could have asked a judge to impose.

Bishop family members wept openly as the sentence was read. They declined
to speak to the court, Menefee said, because they felt their victim
statements sufficed in relating their grief.

Menefee did, though, relate the story of a woman who contacted him from
England. A daughter of Vernon Bishop, she said she had never met her
father and was "very upset" when his death denied her the opportunity to
get to know him.

Started at 9

The sentencing outlined Gannons long history of criminal activity. He was
an alcohol and drug user when he was just 9 years old, Menefee said, and,
starting at the age of 13, was convicted of a string of burglaries, thefts
and an attempted burglary.

Almost as soon as he was out of juvenile rehabilitation facilities,
Menefee said, Gannon was back in court, charged with 8 counts of burglary,
for which he was sentenced to almost 5 years in prison. In the years to
come, Menefee said, Gannon was convicted of charges running the gamut
theft, obstruction, felony escape, felony meth possession and cocaine

Gannons drug-fueled recklessness, Menefee said, culminated in the murder
of the Bishops.

"It was a vicious and brutal murder," Menefee said. "In my 28 years as a
prosecutor, this was one of the worst beatings I've ever witnessed."

What made it worse, Menefee said, was the fact that doctors at Harborview
Medical Center, where Maxine Bishop was taken, agreed that she might have
lived had someone gotten her help earlier.

Menefee asked for the maximum sentence, along with restitution for the
victims and court costs.

"He deserves to serve every day of it, and I don't believe this community
or our state would be safer if he did not serve it," the prosecutor said.
"... David's problem is a sociopathic personality and drug use."

Minimum sought

Gannons lawyer, Scott Campbell, asked Godfrey to consider the minimum
sentence  54 years and three months  on the grounds that it, too, was
tantamount to a life sentence for the 39-year-old killer. Campbell also
argued that in pleading guilty, Gannon had saved the court a lot of time
and resources.

But the judge was having none of that. In his view, Gannon did not help
the court. Rather, he used his guilty plea to get married to his new
girlfriend and then swiftly turned around to withdraw his plea and request
a new attorney.

"You tried to play a game," Godfrey told Gannon. Godfrey said the evidence
of Gannons guilt was overwhelming: Bloody shoeprints in the Bishop house
matched Gannons shoes, and Gannons former girlfriend April Hensley, gave
evidence against him.

Moreover, Godfrey noted, Gannon had twice had drug rehabilitation through
the court system, which he "willfully failed."

Gannon"s new wife, Barbara Gannon, upset at Godfrey's harsh words, shook
her head so vigorously that her dangly earrings wagged.

After the sentencing, she walked out to the stairwell to watch her
husband, who was being escorted to the Washington Corrections Center at
Shelton for processing.

"I stand by my husband," was all she would say to The Daily World. To
Gannon, she called out her undying support.

"I love you!" she repeated.

Although David Gannon signed off on his sentence, he still has a chance to
appeal Judge Godfrey's motion to deny his attempt to withdraw his guilty
plea. How that might affect his sentencing, and whether it would lead to a
trial, would be up to a future court.

(source: Grays Harbor Daily World)


Bill to let 10 jurors OK death penalty fails 1st vote

A bill that would allow juries to recommend a death sentence without a
unanimous vote failed to pass a Senate committee on Monday, stunning
prosecutors who aggressively pushed it.

But even opponents of House Bill 185 don't believe they've seen the last
of it.

HB 185 would allow 10 of 12 jurors to recommend a death sentence in
capital cases. A unanimous verdict is presently required to impose the
death penalty and would still be required for the guilt or innocence phase
of the trial even if the bill passed.

Prosecutors sought the bill because they claimed lone holdouts were
deliberately sabotaging death penalty cases for a variety of reasons. They
claimed some jurors are deceptive during the jury selection process as to
whether or not they can impose the death penalty.

Opponents of the bill, led by criminal defense attorneys, argued that the
imposition of the state's harshest punishment should be done so by
unanimous agreement. They argued changing unanimous verdicts would
constitute a reversal of hundreds of year of established law and that
jurors have many legitimate reasons for not voting for the death penalty.

The bill came before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday morning.
Several prosecutors, including David McDade of Douglas County, Danny
Porter of Gwinnett, Danny Craig of Richmond and Tommy Floyd of Henry were
in the audience. Also ready to oppose the bill were Atlanta defense lawyer
Jack Martin and representatives from the Georgia Association of Criminal
Defense Lawyers, the Catholic Church, Amnesty International, the ACLU of
Georgia and the Southern Center for Human Rights.

But the bill's House sponsor, Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem), did not show
up to present the bill to the committee. Fleming could not attend because
the House was in session Monday morning during the committee meeting.

Judiciary Chairman Sen. Preston Smith (R-Rome), upset that prosecutors had
pressed him for a quick vote, asked them if they wanted to present the
bill on Fleming's behalf. After several prosecutors declined, Smith gave
them about 15 to 20 minutes to track down Fleming.

Smith said he wanted the committee to consider the bill carefully and that
it needed time to do so. But after Fleming still didn't show, Smith said
he would give prosecutors the swift vote on the bill they had demanded  so
he made a motion for the bill to pass. Sen. Joseph Carter (R-Tifton)
seconded the motion so a vote could be taken.

The bill failed unanimously. Democratic Sens. Robert Brown (D-Macon),
Kasim Reed (D-Atlanta), Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), and Michael Meyer von
Bremen (D-Albany) joined Carter in voting against it. Smith did not vote,
since committee chairmen generally only vote to make or break ties.

After the vote, prosecutors gathered outside the committee room, stunned
and speechless that one of their signature bills went down. None of them
would comment, and they directed questions to Fleming.

Fleming said later in the day that he was told by Smith on Friday the bill
wouldn't be debated on Monday due to time constraints. Fleming said he was
"befuddled" as to why he wasn't told the bill was coming up. He
acknowledged the bill now has a more difficult chance of passing.

Inside the room, opponents of the bill buzzed happily among themselves.

"I do think the Senate expected to be able to give the bill the careful
consideration it was due," Martin said. "They did not want to rubber-stamp
such an important change in law."

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)


Missouri Supreme Court spares convicted murderer from death sentence,
deciding he is mentally retarded

The Missouri Supreme Court spared a convicted murderer from execution
Tuesday by upholding a lower court decision that he is mentally retarded.

As a result of the unanimous ruling, Steven Parkus, 46, will instead serve
a life prison sentence. State attorneys had argued that Parkus was not
actually retarded and should have remained on death row.

Parkus originally was sent to prison in 1977 after being convicted of
assault with the intent to rape and rob. While in prison, he was convicted
of rape and sodomy for a 1980 offense and received a 30-year sentence. He
was later convicted of strangling inmate Mark Steffenhagen, who was
serving time for robbery, in 1985 and sentenced to death.

But in 2001, Gov. Bob Holden signed a law making Missouri the 16th state
to bar the execution of the mentally retarded. The following year, the
U.S. Supreme Court declared the execution of the mentally retarded was
unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.

Citing the new law and court precedent, Parkus asked the Missouri Supreme
Court to rescind his death sentence. Supreme Court judges ordered a lower
court to determine the matter. Washington County Circuit Judge Robert
Stillwell ruled in September 2005 that Parkus was mentally retarded and
should be sentenced to life in prison, instead of death.

On appeal, the Supreme Court determined there was significant evidence for
Stillwell to declare Parkus mentally retarded.

The court noted that Parkus had numerous mental examinations from ages 8
to 17, 7 of which determined he was mentally retarded.

(source: Associated Press)


State will fight to keep Corcoran on death row

Convicted killer Joseph Edward Corcoran of Fort Wayne will not get off
death row without a fight from the state.

Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter intends to appeal a federal district
court judge's order to re-sentence Corcoran to a penalty less than death,
said his Press Secretary Staci Schneider.

The documents have not yet been filed, but the state has until May 9 to
appeal to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Any further appeal would
be made to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Schneider declined any further comment.

In an April 9 opinion, U.S. District Court Judge Allen Sharp said a
prosecutor's offer 9 years ago not to seek the death penalty if Corcoran
agreed to waive his right to a jury trial violated his constitutional
rights. He ordered Corcoran to be re-sentenced, and stipulated it happen
within four months.

In July 1997, the then 22-year-old Corcoran became upset because he
thought he overheard his brother and 3 others talking about him at his
home on Bayer Avenue. He confronted the men with a semi-automatic rifle,
and shot 3 of them and then a 4th man attempting to escape.

In May 1999, a jury found Corcoran guilty on 4 counts of murder and
recommended death on all 4 counts.

But during plea negotiations in the months leading up to the trial,
prosecutors made 2 offers to Corcoran, according to court documents.

First, if he pleaded guilty, prosecutors would not seek the death penalty.

Second, if Corcoran waived his right to a jury trial and proceeded with a
trial by judge, the prosecutors would not seek the death penalty.

Sharp wrote that using the death penalty as a bargaining chip in exchange
for a guilty plea was acceptable, but that the death penalty cant be
bargained in exchange for waiving constitutional rights.

Corcoran deserved a re-sentencing, not a new trial, because the trial was
fair, Sharp wrote.

(source: Fort Wayne News-Sentinel)

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