[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----TEXAS, CONN., TENN., FLA., KAN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Aug 18 10:13:43 CDT 2007
Longtime death row inmate loses appeal in federal court----Lester Bower of
Arlington has maintained his innocence in 4 shooting deaths. He has been
on death row for 23 years.
An Arlington man who has spent 23 years on death row lost a federal court
appeal this week, opening the way for a judge to set an execution date.
Lester Bower, 59, has been on death row since 1984 for killing 4 men the
previous year in an airplane hangar near Sherman.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a ruling posted Friday on an
appeal filed by Bower's lawyers, affirmed his conviction. A federal
district judge earlier had allowed Bower to pursue claims that his trial
lawyer, Jerry Buckner of Weatherford, was ineffective.
Bower, one of the most senior Texas inmates, has maintained his innocence
in the shooting deaths.
Killed were Bob Tate, 51, a Denison building contractor; Ronald Mayes, 39,
a former Sherman police officer; Philip Good, 29, a Grayson County
sheriff's deputy; and Jerry Mac Brown, 52, a Sherman interior designer.
The 4 men were found shot execution-style in a hangar at Tate's ranch
northeast of Sherman.
Evidence showed that parts of an ultralight plane missing from the hangar
later were found in Bower's garage in Arlington.
Prosecutors said Bower, a college graduate who worked as a chemical
salesman, killed Tate to steal an ultralight plane that was for sale for
Authorities said that the other 3 were gunned down when they unexpectedly
showed up at the hangar.
Tate's wife and stepson went to the hangar when he did not arrive at home
and found Mayes' body in a pool of blood. Police found Good, Tate and
Brown rolled in a blue carpet in the hangar. Each had been shot twice in
the head. Mayes had been shot once in the head and repeatedly in the
No murder weapon was recovered but investigators found 11 spent .22
casings in the hangar. Tate's ultralight plane also was missing.
Investigators looking at phone records determined that Bower had responded
to an advertisement placed by Good, who was helping Tate find a buyer for
the aircraft. Questioned by the FBI, Bower denied meeting Good or Tate and
denied buying the plane, according to court documents.
But detectives searching Bower's home found pieces of the plane and
arrested him in January 1984.
Bower has been locked up since then.
In his appeal, Bower argued that his lawyer, a neighbor of his
father-in-law's, did a poor job defending him by not investigating
properly and by not calling Bower to testify. The appeals court said its
review of the trial record shows the lawyer "interviewed all the relevant
witnesses as well as investigated potential leads and attempted to place
this information before the jury through vigorous cross-examination."
The appeal also said that the victims were killed in a drug deal that went
wrong. Buckner testified at an evidentiary hearing that he checked out the
rumors of a drug deal but couldn't find anyone to corroborate them and
that police found no plausible evidence of other suspects. He testified
that Bower himself had made the decision not to testify.
"Taking all the evidence together, the record does not indicate that
Buckner failed to investigate or prepare for trial, and we find that his
performance was not deficient," the court ruled.
Bower testified at an evidentiary hearing in 2000 that he did meet with
Good, Brown and Tate and had purchased the plane. He also said he read
about the slayings in a newspaper but decided to not say anything because
he didn't want to become a suspect.
He had no previous prison record.
Bower had been under a court-ordered reprieve since 1992. His attorneys
filed a motion for a new trial, but it took 8 years for that request to be
heard by a judge. It was another 2 years before it was turned down,
although the judge allowed him to pursue the appeal that finally was acted
on by the New Orleans-based appeals court panel.
(source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
Appeal Of Death Sentence Planned----Lawyers For Jessie Campbell III Have
20 Days To Appoint Representation For Challenge
One day after convicted double-murderer Jessie Campbell III became the 8th
member of Connecticut's death row, his lawyers said his sentence will be
Campbell, 27, of Bloomfield, was convicted in May 2004 of capital felony,
2 counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, first-degree assault
and criminal possession of a pistol or revolver. The murder and assault
charges stemmed from an ongoing domestic dispute that Campbell had with
La-Taysha Logan, 20, the mother of his son, Jessie IV.
Campbell's defense team of public defenders has 20 days to appoint a
lawyer to handle the appeal, according to state law.
"There's definitely going to be an appeal," attorney Ronald Gold said
Friday. Gold is 1 of 2 public defenders who represented Campbell for
nearly 7 years.
After Campbell's conviction, the jury could not come to a unanimous
decision about whether to recommend life or death for Campbell. A 2nd
penalty hearing was held and a new jury recommended that Campbell receive
Gold, who played a central role in filing and arguing post-trial motions
after the jury in October 2006 recommended that Campbell receive the death
penalty, is awaiting a written decision by Judge Edward J. Mullarkey
explaining why he ruled Thursday against a defense motion that questioned
the constitutional merits of how state prosecutors charge a defendant with
capital felony, which carries the death penalty.
On Aug. 26, 2000, Campbell was talking with Logan outside of the home of
her 18-year-old friend Desiree Privette, when witnesses said Campbell put
a hood over his head and shot Logan. Then, he shot Desiree Privette, who
died instantly, and her aunt Carolyn Privette, who was also in the yard at
131 Sargeant St. All 3 women were shot at least once in the head. Carolyn
Privette lived to testify against Campbell.
During the sentencing Thursday, nearly 7 years after the crime, Mullarkey
called the murders executions. Campbell targeted Logan, whom he had
assaulted in the past, and he tried to kill her friends who witnessed the
Gold subpoenaed all of the state's attorneys in Connecticut, but former
Hartford State's Attorney James Thomas did not have to appear at the
hearing. Gold argued earlier this year that there is no uniform standard
for deciding on charges used by prosecutors from one judicial district to
another when presented with the same set of circumstances in a murder
case. Some charge defendants with capital felony and others do not, Gold
Prosecutor Vicki Mechiorre and Dennis O'Connor argued, however, that the
prosecutors use the law and the code of ethics when applying the capital
Gold said the defense team also plans to re-file a motion that challenges
the use of lethal injection in death penalty cases.
It's hard to say how long Campbell will remain on death row if his appeals
are not granted, Gold said. "He could change his mind and decide that he
wants to die like Michael Ross," Gold said.
In May 2005, serial killer Michael Ross was the 1st person to be executed
in New England in 45 years. Ross volunteered to be executed after more
than 21 years of appeals.
(source: Hartford Courant)
Other remedies exist to move cases along
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced this week that the Justice
Department will "help" the various states speed up their execution
process. I suggest that there are better ways to achieve some finality in
In the abstract, most folks would agree that the pace of death-penalty
cases is intolerably slow. "Endless" appeals take decades to resolve. Far
more death-row prisoners in Tennessee pass away from natural causes than
the judicially decreed, unnatural exit from this world. It is the same in
California, where suicides exceed executions.
Once we make the political decision to have the death penalty, we should
not permit unreasonable delay to impede the judgment of the court. If the
death penalty is designed to promote law and order, decades of appeals do
nothing but foster public discontent with the entire judicial system.
The question of delay is different, however, than whether we should permit
Tennessee to execute the worst of the worst. So my position is clear: I
believe the Constitution does not prohibit the death penalty. Each state
is free to choose whether to impose capital punishment. Having said that,
I also believe each state should have the freedom to administer the death
penalty without federal meddling.
The new proposal mandates a strict timetable of federal appeals that are
available to state death-row prisoners after they exhaust their state
judicial remedies. The "catch" is that the states must implement certain
protocols involving the way death-penalty cases are handled at the local
I see no benefit in the Justice Department "streamlining" our capital
punishment process if we do this or that. What works in one jurisdiction
does not necessarily work in another.
Better use of resources
Having been involved in these cases on both sides, I believe that if we
need "help," the federal government can fund more prosecutors and public
defenders. Giving the major metropolitan areas their own crime labs could
shave a significant amount of time in all homicide cases. More hands on
the case will move things along far faster than some rigid timetable
dictated in Washington.
We now learn that Attorney General Gonzales' capital-punishment proposal
stems from an obscure provision of the Patriot Act. I thought that law was
designed to deter terrorists, who will invariably be prosecuted by the
federal government as a matter of first priority. You will never see a
foreign hijacker tried in the Ducktown Law and Equity Court. This federal
provision, designed to impact state cases, has no business being part of
the Patriot Act.
30 years ago, I wrote Tennessee's death-penalty statute that is on the
books today. Since that time, our state has executed 2 men. Whether that
is two too many or too few is for our legislators to determine. If it took
decades to execute the 2 criminals, it is for our local courts to fashion
a remedy. This new federal proposal will not do anything but promote more
litigation and more delay. It is a bad idea.
(source: The Tennessean)
FLORIDA----possible federal death penalty case
Attorneys to consider death penalty in turnpike killings
In West Palm Beach, attorneys for 2 men suspected of killing the Escobedo
family will meet with the U.S. Attorney's Office on Monday to persuade
federal prosecutors against pursuing the death penalty, they said Friday.
R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of
Florida, will then make a recommendation about defendants Ricardo Sanchez
Jr., 23, and Daniel Troya, 24, to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales,
who will make the final decision on whether to seek the death penalty.
About 20 % of federal cases in which defendants are charged with crimes
that could qualify for the death penalty are ultimately certified by U.S.
Attorneys as death penalty cases, said U.S. District Judge Daniel Hurley
during the Friday court hearing.
The evaluation process is expected to take between 3 and 6 months but
could potentially push the defendants' tentative February trial date back,
In April, Sanchez and Troya and pleaded not guilty to drug charges and
armed carjacking resulting in death and using a firearm in a crime of
violence resulting in death for the Oct. 13 shooting deaths of Greenacres
residents Jose and Yessica Escobedo and their sons, Luis Damien, 4, and
Luis Julian, 3. The Escobedos' bodies were found on the side of Florida's
Turnpike in Port St. Lucie.
Four other individuals face drug charges and up to life in prison in
connection with Jose Escobedo's alleged drug ring, but as with most of the
prior hearings, none of the 6 defendants appeared in court Friday.
That could change in the future.
With the exception of Liana Lopez who was moved to the St. Lucie County
Jail because deputies say she violated a no-contact order between
co-defendants the defendants are being housed in Miami, and Hurley
questioned whether they should be temporarily transported to the Palm
Beach County Jail for future hearings.
The attorneys plan to meet for another status hearing in October.
(source: Vero Beach Press-Journal)
Prosecutor Will Seek Death Penalty
The prosecution has made a serious decision in the case of accused
murderer and former Hays resident Steven Patrick See.
"We will be seeking the death penalty," said Special Crimes Assistant
District Attorney Lance Long, Harris County District Attorney's Office.
See is accused of slashing the throats of his 19-year-old estranged
girlfriend, Annette Watson, and her son, 22-month-old Austin Timmerman, in
June 1986 at her apartment. He also is accused of sexually assaulting
See was arrested in Hays, where he had been residing, by local law
enforcement and was extradited to Houston in February.
Long did interviews with people who know See, including those in Hays, to
gather more information on his background. The information was used to
decide whether or not to seek the death penalty. Long said the collected
information would help determine whether or not See would be a continuing
threat to society by committing violent criminal acts, and whether he
would instead deserve a life sentence.
The decision was made by Harris County District Attorney Charles A.
A jury will hear the 20-year-old double-homicide case during a trial
sometime next year in the 180th District Court of Harris County. Long
anticipates it will take place sometime between May and August. The exact
date was in the process of being set at some point today.
See has been a suspect since the beginning of the case, according to Sgt.
John W. Belk, Houston Police Department.
Belk said See had scratches on his face and arms while Belk was
interviewing him after the murders. See claimed he had been clearing
underbrush in the country.
Belk said someone saw See's vehicle at the apartment complex around the
time of the murders, but the witness did not see the driver or have the
license plate number. A large knife was found in the trunk of See's
vehicle, which Belk said possibly could be the murder weapon.
No physical evidence from Watson or her son was found on See or on his
property. Muriatic acid was poured on Watson's body, destroying biological
Belk said See admitted to an individual in Kansas he was at the murder
He still is incarcerated in Harris County jail awaiting trial.
(source: Hays Daily News)
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