[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----FLA., ORE. CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Apr 19 00:27:06 UTC 2007
Lawyer argues for death-row inmate----He says DNA tests raise doubts in
the contentious Zeigler case from the '70s.
An attorney for death-row inmate William "Tommy" Zeigler asked the Florida
Supreme Court to overturn his murder conviction, arguing that DNA tests
conducted in 2002 raise doubt that Zeigler killed his wife and 3 others on
Christmas Eve 1975.
New York attorney John Houston Pope argued Tuesday that blood found on
Zeigler's clothing came from a different victim than prosecutors alleged
during his 1976 trial. That bolstered Zeigler's claim that other
assailants committed the slayings, Pope said. "It weakens the case against
the defendant," he said.
Pope asked the high court to reverse Zeigler's conviction in the Orange
County case on grounds that Judge Reginald Whitehead denied a motion for a
new trial based on the DNA evidence. Alternatively, Pope requested an
"expansive hearing" to reopen the case.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Ken Nunnelley said the evidence does
little to refute the case against Zeigler -- whom he said couldn't explain
why he was covered in blood -- or witness testimony.
Justices seemed confused at times by the long, complicated accounts of the
killings presented by lawyers. Ultimately, the court -- which is reviewing
Zeigler's case for the 8th time -- said it will rule at a later date.
Zeigler, 61, was convicted by an Orange Circuit Court jury in 1976 of
killing his wife, Eunice; her parents, Virginia and Perry Edwards; and
store customer Charlie Mays. The jury recommended life in prison, but the
trial judge, Maurice Paul, instead imposed death.
Prosecutors charged Zeigler schemed to collect money on his wife's
$500,000 insurance policy. They contended Zeigler killed Mays and then
wounded himself in an effort to make it look as though the murders in his
Winter Garden furniture store were committed by a masked gang of robbers
terrorizing Central Florida.
The case would become one of the most controversial murder cases in the
region's history. It has been the subject of books, television shows and
appeals from anti-death-penalty groups.
In 1986, Zeigler came within 2 days of execution. 2 years later, the
Supreme Court ordered a new sentencing, but he was again sentenced to
death in 1989 by another Orange Circuit judge. After 2 days of hearings in
December 2004, Whitehead later ruled that the DNA tests conducted on
blood-stained evidence nearly 30 years old had "no reasonable probability"
of convincing the jury of Zeigler's innocence.
(source: Orlando Sentinel)
Jurors reject death penalty for killer of Oregon woman
The family of Jessie Mary Valero says death is the proper punishment for
one of the men responsible for stabbing her to death with a sharpened
But despite those wishes, Washington County jurors sentenced Jose
Guadalupe Cazares Mendez, 29, to life in prison without the chance for
"No matter what sentence he gets, no matter how much time he stays alive
in prison, it's still longer than my mother she's dead," Ray Valero, the
victim's son, said after Tuesday's announcement.
Valero found his 48-year-old mother dead on the living room floor of her
Hillsboro apartment on March 17, 2005.
Cazares, who showed no emotion during the announcement, was found guilty
of murder, robbery and burglary. A co-defendant, Jorge Reyes Sanchez, 23,
was convicted of the same charges in February and also was sentenced to
life in prison without parole.
Jose Luis Lugardo Madero, 27, is scheduled for trial May 22 on murder
charges. He testified at the two trials that he, Reyes and Cazares often
broke into cars to steal property to trade for methamphetamine.
Lugardo said the 3 went to Valero's apartment but that he stayed outside
when Reyes and Cazares broke in. Lugardo testified that he ran when he
heard the sounds of a struggle inside.
Moreover, Lugardo testified that Cazares threatened to kill him if he told
anyone about the Valero murder.
Prosecutors also tied Cazares and Reyes to the crime through the woman's
stolen jewelry. Reyes traded a gold Virgin Mary pendant for meth, his drug
supplier testified. In a photo of Valero holding 1 of her 8 grandchildren,
she is shown wearing the religious pendant.
To find in favor of the death penalty, all 12 jurors would have to answer
that the defendant would probably commit violent crimes in the future.
They did not.
Dan Hesson, Washington County deputy district attorney, tried to convince
jurors in his closing argument that Cazares would be a danger to fellow
prisoners because so much meth is available at the Oregon State
Before jurors began deliberating on the penalty, Cazares said he got down
on his knees and prayed every night to "ask for forgiveness if at any time
in my drug addiction I cause pain or harm to another person."
(source: Associated Press)
Don't kill prison reform
IT SEEMS bizarre that the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
would construct a new execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison
without telling the Legislature about it.
Prison officials tell us that they were only trying to meet the concerns
expressed by U.S. District Judge Jeremy Vogel last December about the
cramped conditions and poor lighting of an antiquated gas chamber built in
1938 and recently used for lethal injection. Until those concerns are met,
no one can be executed in California.
Officials say they are also under pressure from the governor's office to
meet the judge's concerns so implementation of the state's death penalty
law could begin by May 15.
Whatever the justification, on a matter of great sensitivity such as the
death penalty, even appearing to do an end-run around the Legislature is
something that should not have occurred -- and should not occur again.
That said, the execution-chamber flap should not be used by Democratic
legislators as an excuse to scuttle essential reforms that must be
implemented -- not only to relieve overcrowding in California's prisons,
but in the entire corrections system.
These reforms are too important to be jeopardized by a remodeling project,
even one as sensitive as the state's execution chamber.
(source: San Francisco Chronicle)
Killer granted wish to die----Jurors quickly decide Karis' fate for 1981
James Leslie Karis Jr., convicted of a terrifying murder and rape in
Placerville 25 years ago, asked Sacramento County jurors in his closing
argument Tuesday to send him back to death row.
"I urge you to return with the decision that death is the appropriate
punishment," Karis told them.
Within hours, they gave him what he wanted and sentenced him to death.
It was the first time Karis, who represented himself, directly told the
jurors he should face lethal injection for the murder of 34-year-old Peggy
Pennington in 1981.
The facts of her murder were "terrible enough" to warrant the death
penalty, he said.
Earlier, outside the presence of the jury, Karis had made it clear to
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Trena Burger-Plavan that he wanted to
return to death row as quickly as possible.
Unless Burger-Plavan intervenes, the 55-year-old Karis will return to San
Quentin State Prison, where he spent the past quarter century for the July
8, 1981, murder of Pennington and the rape of her 27-year-old friend.
The El Dorado County welfare workers were taking a walk on their morning
break when Karis abducted them at gunpoint, drove them to a remote area
and raped the younger woman.
Then, as they begged for their lives and prayed aloud, he shot both in the
back and neck and slammed rocks down on them, leaving them for dead.
The younger woman survived and testified against Karis.
He was convicted of murder, rape and kidnapping and sentenced to death in
1982, but a federal judge overturned his death sentence in 1998, saying
his defense lawyers should have presented evidence of his horror-filled
childhood as mitigating evidence during the penalty phase of his trial.
In response, El Dorado County prosecutors opted to pursue a new penalty
On the trial's 1st morning 2 weeks ago, Karis dismissed his lawyers and
chose to represent himself.
He said he didn't want evidence of his violent upbringing dredged up in
front of jurors.
Later, his voice choked with tears, Karis told the judge he didn't want to
"cheapen the emotions" of his victims by offering evidence of childhood
On Tuesday, he told jurors he hadn't presented mitigating evidence for a
"I don't want you to feel sorry for me," Karis said. "If you want to feel
sorry for anyone, feel sorry for (the victims in this case)."
El Dorado County Deputy District Attorney Joseph Alexander also argued for
the death penalty, citing Karis' two rape convictions in the 1970s and a
kidnapping and attempted rape after the Placerville crimes.
"He takes women, he terrorizes them and he rapes them," Alexander said.
After their verdict, jurors said they were stunned when Karis chose to
"It was shocking," said jury forewoman Stefanie Martinez, 25. "You didn't
Other jurors said they were afraid to look at Karis as he spoke to them.
"You didn't want to look in his face," Doris VanHook, 65, said.
"You didn't want to show any reaction to him."
In the end, jurors said, it took only a short time to vote unanimously for
the death penalty.
"It was pretty straightforward," said Martinez.
Alexander said he thinks Karis wanted to return to death row, where each
inmate gets a single cell, because he is safer there.
If Karis were sentenced to life in prison without parole and housed with a
general prison population, he would have a cellmate and face risk of
attacks by other inmates, Alexander said.
The prosecutor said Karis probably doesn't think he will ever be executed,
given how long it takes to execute death-row inmates in California.
Karis, however, told the judge he expects to be executed in less than a
Despite Karis' tears, Alexander said, he does not believe Karis was
motivated by pity or remorse.
"He's had the opportunity to apologize for decades, and he hasn't done
it," the prosecutor said.
A hearing for the judge to consider his sentence is scheduled for Tuesday.
(source: Sacramento Bee)
Laying down the law----The US death penalty is illegal. When a British
citizen faces this form of punishment it is our responsibility to protect
The Observer recently published an article highlighting the plight of Neil
Revill, an Englishman accused of double murder in LA and potentially
facing the death penalty. The case against him appears fairly weak - there
were no eyewitnesses, no confession and no murder weapon was found. He has
no previous convictions, and one of the murder victims has been shown to
be a police informant responsible for the arrest of mafia figures in LA.
Yet despite all this, Revill faces the likelihood of conviction and the
The manner in which the death penalty is carried out in America has
changed over the years with more "humane" methods available for taking
human life. There has been much debate as to whether the American
constitution allows for such punishment to be given in the first place.
The eighth amendment sets out that "cruel and unusual punishment" may not
be inflicted. This has been held to protect people from removal of limbs
and beatings with chains, amongst other things. These forms of punishment,
though horrific in the eyes of modern western culture, do not deprive a
person of his life. Regardless of how cruel they may be, a person will
survive such treatment and be able to continue to live.
In 1958 the supreme court ruled in the case of Trop v Dulles that
deprivation of citizenship for an army deserter violated the eighth
amendment, but clarified this by saying that the death penalty did not do
so because it has been used so widely throughout history that it cannot be
classified as being unusual nor cruel. This again shows the ironic notion
put forward by pro-death penalty advocates that a punishment will only be
cruel if a person is alive after such treatment and has to deal with its
The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP)
brought a number of cases against the death penalty in the 1960s. In one
case, Furman v Georgia, Brennan J held that the eighth amendment protects
against degradation of dignity, arbitrariness and unacceptable and
excessive punishments. It seems obvious, to this writer as well as various
supreme court justices, that the death penalty violates all of these
Aside from the legal arguments, there have been a number of studies
showing the discriminatory manner in which the death penalty is applied in
various states. The probability of being sentenced to death increases
where the victim was white, and increases further if the accused is
non-white. This arbitrariness can be used to show that the death penalty
is indeed an unusual punishment. The only way to rebut this argument would
be to make this sentence mandatory for certain offences; a method which
has been tried and which subsequently failed because it did not allow for
Even if all these arguments were not sufficient to overturn the use of the
death penalty by certain American States, an argument using the 14th
amendment, the right to liberty, could be put forward. If a country is
constitutionally bound to protect the liberty of all persons, surely this
would require their lives to be protected from removal by the hands of the
I do not believe that I can overturn decades of death penalty
jurisprudence through one article alone. However, when a British citizen
is being threatened with such punishment and taking Neil Revill
circumstances into account, the flaws of the legality of such a sentence
must be understood.
It is a basic legal concept that if a person commits a crime abroad they
may be prosecuted and extradited to serve their sentence in their home
country, or they may serve out their incarceration in the place where they
were convicted. However, the fact that a country imposes a punishment
which goes against its own constitution, and is therefore illegal, is
something which should be addressed when a foreign national faces such a
sentence. If a British woman were to accuse a man of rape in Pakistan, and
the traditional punishment of rape by elders of the community were to be
imposed against her, there would be public outcry. Just because America is
a western country does not mean we must blindly accept the punishments
that they mete out to British citizens, especially when such sentences are
in excess of their powers under their own legal system.
The organisation Reprieve is fighting to have the death penalty removed as
an option in the case against Neil Revill. Tony Blair has been petitioned
to put diplomatic pressure on the LA prosecutors to comply with this
request. It is our responsibility to ensure that the rule of law is upheld
and that Britons are protected from illegal punishments within
jurisdictions where they are accused of committing a crime.
(source: The Guardian)
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