[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----OHIO, WYO., LA., S.DAK., PENN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Apr 23 06:13:27 UTC 2007
Filiaggi seeks to halt his execution--State Supreme Court will consider
request for stay
James Filiaggi has said for months he's prepared to die and wouldn't try
to stop his execution slated for Tuesday. Apparently, he's changed his
On Friday, Filiaggi's attorneys filed requests with the Ohio Supreme Court
and the U.S. District Court in Southern Ohio seeking to stop the
execution, saying that "after a period of indecision'' Fliaggi now wants
to join a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Ohio's
execution methods on the grounds it's cruel and unusual.
In his motion, Jeffrey Gamso, one of Filiaggi's attorneys, said that the
lethal injection method used by the state would "cause him to be tortured
to death." The drugs used in the procedure will leave the 41-year-old
"conscious, but trapped in a paralyzed body wracked with the pain of
suffocation and a heart attack," Gamso wrote.
The turnabout was surprising in that it came after Filiaggi steadfastly
refused to ask either the Ohio Parole Board or Gov. Ted Strickland to
spare him of the sentence that was handed down after being convicted of
the 1994 shooting death of his former wife, Lisa Filiaggi.
The Parole Board recommended earlier this year that Filiaggi, who told
them he was ready to die and wouldn't beg for his life, not be granted
clemency. And Thursday, Strickland announced that he agreed with the
Parole Board and would allow Filiaggi's sentence to be carried out.
The filing throws into question whether the execution will take place
Tuesday. Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections spokeswoman
Andrea Dean said the prison system will move forward with the execution
process until told to stop.
Ohio Supreme Court spokesman Chris Davey said the court is considering
Filiaggi's request for an emergency stay of execution. Meanwhile, the
federal court is expected to rule Monday whether Filiaggi should be
allowed to join the 2004 lawsuit filed by death row inmate Richard Cooey,
who was sentenced to death for the 1986 rape and murder of 2 women,
including one from North Ridgeville.
Deputy First Attorney General Brian Laliberte said Friday that the federal
court will consider arguments from both sides that must be filed over the
weekend. He said if Filiaggi is granted a reprieve by the U.S. District
Court, the state will appeal to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
If it loses there, it will appeal again to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Filiaggi's attorneys did not return calls seeking comment Friday, but
Laliberte said he assumes they will similarly appeal if the decision
doesn't go their way. He said he didn't know if that complicated legal
process can be completed by the scheduled 10 a.m. execution time on
"If past experience teaches us anything, it's that a delay on Tuesday
could happen," he said.
Kenneth Lieux, one of Filiaggi's trial attorneys, expressed relief that
his former client had renewed his efforts to avoid execution. Lieux said
the death penalty has no place in a civilized society. "The eye-for-an-eye
stuff doesn't serve any societal purpose," he said.
During the original trial, Lieux said, he and now county Common Pleas
Judge James Burge argued that Filiaggi suffered from a serotonin
imbalance. Without that "filter" on his emotions, Lieux said, Filiaggi was
incapable of telling right from wrong. While it wasn't exactly an insanity
defense, it raised questions about Filiaggi's mental health that could
have prevailed during the appeals process, Lieux said.
Jackie Rentas, Burge's longtime secretary and one of those Filiaggi is
scheduled to visit with this weekend, said she was surprised Filiaggi had
decided to renew his efforts to stay alive. He has repeatedly told her
during phone calls and letters from the Mansfield Correctional Institution
cell where he spends 23 hours a day that he was ready to die.
"I don't want him to go because he's my friend, but I wouldn't want to
live like that," she said.
Rentas said Filiaggi committed a crime, but it's not up to the state to
execute him. "I truly love Jim Filiaggi," she said. "It's wrong what he
did; I can't condone what he did, but he's still a human being."
Georgette Huff, Lisa Filiaggi's stepmother and the widow of her father,
Richard Huff, said Thursday that her husband wanted Filiaggi to die for
killing his daughter. Richard Huff never liked Filiaggi, she said. "The
moment Rick laid eyes on him, the hairs on the back of his neck stood up,"
Huff said James Filiaggi's killing of Lisa left wounds in the family that
will never heal. "She was just so enthusiastic," she said. "She just
always had a sense of possibility."
Killer now seeks to stop execution
James Filiaggi in January said he was ready to die and instructed his
attorneys to remain silent during a parole hearing when it was their
chance to fight to have his death sentence overturned.
Filiaggi, of Lorain County, was already frustrated that Gov. Ted
Strickland had pushed his execution date back 2 months from February to
have more time to review death-penalty cases.
Since then, the governor's office and prison officials have begun to refer
to Filiaggi, 41, as a "volunteer" because of his willingness to forgo
last-ditch court appeals and be executed Tuesday for fatally shooting his
ex-wife 13 years ago.
But on Friday, with less than 100 hours remaining in his life -- Filiaggi
changed his mind and asked to be spared.
"After a period of indecision," Filiaggi's attorney Jeffrey Gamso wrote in
a filing to the Ohio Supreme Court requesting a stay, "Mr. Filiaggi
determined on April 19, 2007, that he wished to participate in the case
challenging Ohio's lethal injection procedures and protocols."
At least nine death-row inmates are challenging Ohio's lethal-injection
They are calling it a violation of their constitutional rights against
cruel and unusual punishment. Similar court action is under way in at
least a dozen other states.
In Ohio, several inmates have joined the lawsuit and staved off imminent
execution, including Kenneth Biros, who had already been moved to the
death house on March 20 when he learned a court had upheld a ruling that
allowed him to join the lawsuit and delay his execution.
But Filiaggi had expressed no desire to join the lawsuit - until now.
Then on Friday they asked the Supreme Court to halt Tuesday's execution so
that Filiaggi can live long enough to learn if he can participate in the
"If it is determined that lethal injection as practiced in Ohio violates
the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, and
if Mr. Filiaggi is denied a stay," Gamso wrote, "his execution will have
"And there will, of course, be no remedy."
His attorneys on Thursday asked a federal court to allow him to join the
It is unclear when either court will rule on the separate requests.
The attorney general's office will fight the requests.
"The inmate has a right to file anything he wants to file, and we are
going to fight vigorously for the execution to happen on Tuesday," said
Leo Jennings, spokesman for the attorney general's office.
"He is definitely a latecomer, and we are going to note that in our brief.
He has said repeatedly that he wanted to be executed, that he wanted to go
In a rage, Filiaggi chased his unarmed ex-wife, Lisa, from her home and
into a neighbor's house, where he shot her point-blank, in 1994.
Strickland on Thursday denied clemency for Filiaggi, even though he hadn't
asked for it.
(source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Cooey Filed Suit to Challenge Legality of Lethal Injection
2 decades ago, Richard Cooey and Clint Dickens were convicted of the Sept.
1, 1986, murder of 2 young women.
Dickens, who was 17 at the time, is serving a life sentence. Cooey was
sentenced to death, and he is now the lead plaintiff in a fight against
the death penalty leveled against him - arguing in the federal court
system that Ohio's lethal injection methods are cruel and unusual
The pair dropped a chunk of concrete on the car of Dawn McCreery, 22, of
North Ridgeville, and Wendy Offredo, 21, a fellow sorority sister from the
University of Akron, from an overpass and then approached them after they
stopped. Cooey and Dickens forced the women into nearby woods where they
raped, robbed, beat and strangled them with shoelaces.
Since Cooey began arguing against the way Ohio executes prisoners in 2004,
several of Ohio's other death row inmates have joined the lawsuit. On
Friday, James Filiaggi, who is scheduled to be executed Tuesday for the
1994 murder of his ex-wife, asked to join the case in an 11th hour effort
to save his own life.
Filiaggi's attorneys argued in their request to join the Cooey case that
the drugs used for the lethal injections in Ohio conceal the "excruciating
pain" of the process by paralyzing the inmate. The process isn't even
compliant with the methods recommended by the American Veterinary Medical
Association for euthanizing animals, the attorneys wrote.
A similar last-minute effort spared Kenneth Biros the death penalty
earlier this year when he was allowed to join the lawsuit. Biros was
sentenced to death for beating, stabbing and strangling 22-year-old Tami
Engstrom in 1991.
Among the other death row inmates who have joined Cooey's lawsuit is
Nicole Diar, who was convicted in 2005 of killing her 4-year-old son,
Jacob Diar, and setting her West 10th Street home in Lorain ablaze to
cover up the crime in 2003. Diar, who has maintained her innocence, has
numerous appeals pending and joined the Cooey lawsuit in January.
State says inmate got fair trial
Wyoming death row inmate James Harlow received a fair trial when a jury
sentenced him to death for the 1997 killing of a guard at the state
penitentiary at Rawlins, lawyers for the state say in court papers filed
Harlow has asked U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer to grant him a new
trial in connection with the stabbing death of Cpl. Wayne Martinez. 2
other inmates convicted in the attack received life sentences in separate
Harlow told investigators at the time that he had participated with the
other inmates in the escape attempt during which Martinez was stabbed. But
Harlow has said he didn't intend to do more than strike Martinez and knock
Brimmer held a hearing in December on Harlow's claims that he didn't
receive a fair trial, sentencing hearing or appellate review in the case.
Harlow's lawyers last month filed their suggestions that the judge should
overturn the conviction or grant him a new sentencing hearing.
Conviction, sentence OK
But lawyers with the Wyoming Attorney General's office on Friday filed
their suggestions for how the judge should rule, stating that Harlow's
conviction and death sentence were proper.
In the opening lines of a proposal of how Brimmer should rule in the case,
the state says Martinez was "savagely murdered" by Harlow and s other
And the state lawyers write that Harlow was in prison in the first place
serving three consecutive life sentences on his conviction of murdering a
teenage girl and a separate incident in which he was convicted of
attempted murder in stabbing 2 other teenagers while sexually assaulting
one of them.
Brimmer has scheduled another hearing for next month.
Among other claims, Harlow's lawyers point out that the state Department
of Corrections and original prosecutor in Harlow's case failed to turn
over records that Harlow's team says would have raised concerns about the
credibility of inmate witnesses who testified against him. No other guards
were present when Martinez was killed.
Included among the records that were withheld from Harlow's original
defense team were prison psychiatric records of one of the inmates who
testified against him. A doctor who examined the inmate witness had
concluded he suffered from a "grave mental illness."
Records also show that two other inmate witnesses against Harlow were
later released from prison despite earlier written statements from prison
officials that one was a poor candidate for release and that the other had
a history of threatening guards.
"I'm really disturbed about this, more so than in any other case," Brimmer
said in December about the state's failure to give Harlow's defense team
But in their filing Friday, lawyers with the state said that any
exculpatory evidence pertaining to inmate witnesses that wasn't turned
over to Harlow's original defense team was not material to the case and
didn't violate his right to a fair trial.
In addition to claiming that the state's failure to turn over the
documents should prompt Brimmer to grant a new trial, Harlow's current
legal team also alleges that Harlow received inadequate legal
representation at his original trial and in his state appeal.
Attempts to reach Harlow's lawyers and Attorney General Pat Crank for
comment late Friday were unsuccessful. Late last year, Crank said his
office is confident that Harlow received an effective defense in state
court and that the death penalty was appropriate.
(sources: Assopciated Press & Billings Gazette)
Charge upgraded in negligent homicide case: Cooksey faces the death
penalty or life in prison if convicted as charged.
The Shreveport man arrested Thursday on a negligent homicide charge for
leaving his grandfather lying on the floor for 5 days is now charged with
The charge against Terry Cooksey was upgraded Friday after detectives
learned the 22-year-old physically abused the 76-year-old.
"The hospital informed us that the elderly man had some unexplained
injuries," Detective Rod Demery said. "I wasn't confident with the story
that Cooksey gave me, so through my investigation I learned there was a
dispute between the 2 because the grandson wanted to buy video games and
the grandfather wouldn't let him.
"The boy never had a job and his grandfather was constantly on him about
Arthur Busby was pronounced dead just before 5 p.m. Thursday at
Willis-Kighton Medical Center on Greenwood Road. Cooksey told police the
elderly man fell in his home about 10:30 p.m. Saturday but he didn't call
911 until Thursday.
Demery said it's unknown if Busby had actually been on the floor since
"He's sticking to the story that Mr. Busby was there 5 days, but we'll
probably have to wait on the autopsy to know the truth," Demery said.
The grandson told police he tried to feed his grandfather but he wouldn't
eat. He also told police Busby wouldn't drink water or take his heart
The two lived together in the 3500 block of Darien Street. Busby and his
wife, who died a year or two ago, raised Cooksey since he was a baby,
according to neighbors.
Ron Ford knows the family well and has been a neighbor for more than 20
years. Of Cooksey he said: "I don't think he knew any better. The way they
raised that boy, he didn't know anybody. I hate to say it, but he didn't
have common sense. The boy never came outside unless he was coming or
going and he never had any friends. They literally sheltered him, and they
did it because they loved him so much. But all of that has backfired on
Cooksey faces the death penalty or mandatory life in prison if convicted
as charged. He remains in City Jail without bond but eventually will be
transferred to Caddo Correctional Center.
"Maybe both of them are in better places now," Ford said. "I feel sorry
for both of them, but whatever they do to the boy, maybe he deserves it."
(source: The Shreveport Times)
Juror: Wright was shown mercy
2 members of a jury that convicted a deaf woman from Sioux Falls of murder
this week say it didn't take long to decide Daphne Wright should not get
the death penalty.
The initial tally on the question of life in prison or lethal injection
was 7 in favor of life and at least 4 jurors undecided, the Argus Leader
reported Friday in a copyright story.
One juror says none of them favored the death penalty, but another juror
says one member of the jury initially felt Wright should be executed.
Jurors agree, however, that they showed Wright more mercy than she showed
her victim, Darlene VanderGiesen.
"I felt like it was all 12 of us saying, 'We grant you mercy,"' said the
jury foreperson, Frost-Elshami, a 38-year-old housewife and mother of 2.
"We wanted her to know that we were more merciful to her than she was to
Darlene," said Lisa Wise, 42, a John Morrell employee who also sat on the
VanderGiesen was either suffocated or died from a blow on the head early
in February 2006. Her body was chopped up with a chain saw and dumped in 2
Wright will spend the rest of her life at the women's prison in Pierre.
The jury found her guilty of premeditated murder, kidnapping and murder
while committing kidnapping.
In the death penalty phase, the jury's decision had to be unanimous only
if the verdict was death.
"We weren't trying to convince anyone or change anyone's mind. That's
really a moral decision," Frost-Elshami said.
Wright is black and homosexual, but those factors were not part of the
jury's deliberations, the two jurors said.
"I didn't look at what color she was, whether she was a lesbian, but the
deafness played a role," Wise said.
The jury's sentence might have been death had the defendant been a man,
"It was really serious," she said. "It's something I don't want to do
again, but I really think it was the 12 best people who could have been
Frost-Elshami said she was "amazed" at her jury peers. She said they
focused on the evidence and not Wright's race or sexual preference.
Frost-Elshami said evidence presented during the trial showed that
Wright's parents were not involved in her schooling.
"I think Daphne was on her own from a very young age," she said.
Wise said she strongly considered the death penalty as graphic photos of
VanderGiesen's body ran through her mind. She said the religious
convictions and sense of forgiveness in VanderGiesen's parents helped her
agree on the life sentence.
"I can live with her never being able to get out of prison again. I can
live with that."
(source: Sioux City Journal)
Third Circuit keeps Abu-Jamal case: Prosecutors had sought different
judges. A ruling for a new death-penalty hearing is under review.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled yesterday that it
will retain jurisdiction over the appeal of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was
sentenced to death for the December 1981 murder of Philadelphia Police
Officer Daniel Faulkner.
The case has attracted international attention and triggered intense
debate among proponents and opponents of capital punishment as Abu-Jamal
and his attorneys have fought to overturn the conviction.
A 3-judge panel of the appeals court is scheduled to hear much-anticipated
oral arguments in the case May 17.
Abu-Jamal, who will turn 53 next week, has been on death row since his
1982 conviction. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld his conviction and
sentence in 1989.
In 2001, U.S. District Judge William H. Yohn Jr. upheld Abu-Jamal's
conviction, but said he should get a new death-penalty hearing. Yohn ruled
on narrow legal ground, saying the jury might have misunderstood how to
consider "mitigating circumstances" raised by the defense during the
penalty phase of the trial.
That ruling is now being reviewed by the Third Circuit, and Abu-Jamal is
nearing the end of the long review of his case.
The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office had asked the Third Circuit to
recuse itself because Abu-Jamal contends that city prosecutors routinely
engaged in racial discrimination during jury selection at the time of the
At the time, Gov. Rendell was district attorney; his wife, Judge Marjorie
O. Rendell, is now on the federal appeals court.
The Third Circuit has agreed to consider whether there was racial bias
during jury selection, and whether Abu-Jamal's constitutional rights were
violated by the trial judge's alleged bias during postconviction review
and by the prosecutor's closing argument.
Cathie Abookire, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney's Office, said
prosecutors hadn't yet seen yesterday's order, "so we'll decline comment."
Abu-Jamal's attorney, Robert R. Bryan of San Francisco, said he was
pleased that the Third Circuit, which is known for giving careful scrutiny
to death-penalty cases, would continue to handle the appeal.
In a brief order yesterday, the Third Circuit said that Judge Rendell and
3 other judges - Theodore A. McKee, D. Michael Fisher, and Richard L.
Nygaard - are recused from the case - but not because of the district
The court did not give a reason for the recusals. The order said there
were still enough judges left to provide a pool for a 3-judge panel so
there was no need to consider sending the case to judges outside the Third
A total of 21 judges sit on the Third Circuit, which handles federal
appeals from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and the Virgin Islands.
(source: Philadelphia Inquirer)
Pa. man convicted of killing witness, could face death penalty
A York man convicted of killing a co-worker who was to testify against him
in a drug case faces either the death penalty or life in prison.
Testimony resumes Monday in the penalty phase of the trial of Thomas Lee
Brown Jr., 32, who was convicted Friday of 1st-degree murder and
retaliation against a witness in the shooting of Lamont Nelson, 32, on
April 7, 2006.
Authorities said last week that Brown owed money to a woman who also
worked at the same restaurant on Route 30, and she went to court to get
the money back. Brown then tried to set the woman up on marijuana and gun
charges and tried to enlist Nelson to help him, authorities said.
Brown was arrested in February on charges of planting a gun and drugs in
the woman's car. After Nelson was shot, officers found copies of the
arrest documents in Brown's home that named Nelson as the sole witness
against him, authorities said.
The guilty verdict drew silence Friday in the courtroom, broken only by
sobs from Brown's wife, Doris, as her husband was led away.
First District Attorney Bill Graff said Brown ruined the lives of two
families, those of the victim's and his own. He called Brown a murderer
who is the "pebble in the puddle" of their lives.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Marshall, who specializes in death penalty cases,
told jurors he would present mitigating circumstances, including Brown's
age, education, socioeconomic background, and ties with his children and
family. 2 witnesses took the stand to call Brown a good father.
(source: Associated Press)
Jury 'posse' rides: Murder trial pool dries up
Northumberland County Sheriff Chad Reiner and 2 deputies fanned out across
the county Friday night and ordered 25 residents they encountered on the
streets to report to the courthouse.
The residents were summoned for possible jury duty in Brentt Sherwood's
homicide trial, set to begin Monday.
By 9:45 p.m. Friday, 12 jurors and one alternate were chosen for the
panel. Plans called for the selection of the remaining 3 alternates today.
President Judge Robert B. Sacavage issued the court order Friday afternoon
after only 11 of the required 16 jury members needed to serve on Mr.
Sherwood's capital murder trial were selected from a pool of 146 people.
A jury must be selected today so the trial can start at 9:15 a.m. Monday
in Sunbury, presiding Judge William H. Wiest said.
Mr. Sherwood, 27, is charged with an open count of homicide for allegedly
beating to death his 4-year-old stepdaughter, Marlee Rose Reed, at their
Northumberland apartment in Dec. 2004.
District Attorney Anthony Rosini is seeking the death penalty if Mr.
Sherwood is convicted of 1st-degree murder.
The combination of a death penalty case involving a child has made
selecting a panel especially difficult, Court Administrator Brandy
The county initially summoned 175 residents to appear for jury duty,
beginning April 16. However, 29 were excused by the court or failed to
show up, she said.
Throughout the past week, Mr. Rosini and defense attorney R. Bruce
Manchester, of Bellefonte, painstakingly interviewed potential jurors
individually and slowly selected a jury panel.
When only 11 of the 16-member panel had been selected by Friday afternoon
and the jury pool was depleted, Judge Wiest decided court orders had to be
issued to get more candidates.
The 1st court order directed Sheriff Reiner to find 5 county residents at
least 18 years of age and subpoena them to appear at the Sunbury
courthouse by 5 p.m. Friday. A 2nd order called for an additional 20
qualified residents be tapped to appear at the courthouse at 9 a.m. today.
>From the additional pool of 25 people, the prosecutor and defense attorney
will have to select five jurors who will sit through what is expected to
be a 5-day trial.
Not only will the jurors have to decide Mr. Sherwood's fate, they'll have
to listen to some disturbing evidence involving the fatal beating of young
Part of Mr. Sherwood's defense, according to Mr. Manchester, will be
diminished capacity due to substance abuse.
Mr. Rosini, who will prosecute the case along with Assistant District
Attorney John Muncer, is expected to present evidence that Marlee was
abused on several occasions by Mr. Sherwood in the nine months prior to
One of the anticipated witnesses will be Marlee's mother and Mr.
Sherwood's former wife, Heather, who still faces child endangerment
charges in connection with her daughter's death.
The former Mrs. Sherwood left Marlee alone in the care of Mr. Sherwood at
their Northumberland apartment on Dec. 7, 2004, when she went to work.
Later that day, Mr. Sherwood allegedly severely beat the young girl, who
died the next day at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville.
(source: Sunbury Daily Item)
More information about the DeathPenalty