[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----ILL., GA., LA., CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Aug 22 17:31:20 CDT 2007
Ryan: 'I still believe'
'We are staying strong," former Gov. George Ryan told Sneed shortly after
learning his conviction on corruption charges had been upheld by a 3-judge
panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit.
"We have a large and strong family, and we all understand what is
happening," Ryan added. "Faith is a big part of our life and it continues
to be now. And I also have a lot of faith in my counsel."
Ryan and his extended family stayed behind closed doors Tuesday at his
home in Kankakee, which was surrounded by the news media, as they wondered
whether the ex-Illinois governor would have to report to federal prison by
"We're fine, Mike. Really we are," said Ryan's wife, Lura Lynn, who met
Ryan in high school and married him in 1956.
Later in the day, the 73-year-old Ryan was informed that the appellate
court had allowed him to stay out of prison pending further appeal.
"I just got the good news," he told Sneed. "I always felt and hoped that
there would be justice -- and I felt it today with the judges' ruling. I
still believe in the system. ...
"Yes, I do feel some relief, and I guess we'll know what happens during
the next 2 weeks."
Autographing books about mansion
For the most part, this summer has been a quiet and busy one for the
Ryans, who have been staying active while awaiting word on Ryan's appeal
since his conviction on fraud and corruption charges in April 2006.
This summer, Ryan weeded the garden at his modest home, planted hostas in
the yard, took small Illinois road trips with Lura Lynn, hung out with his
children and his grandkids and kept a close ear on his squeaky porch
He and Lura Lynn also traveled to the Chicago Book Fair and hit the
Kankakee Library to autograph books on the Springfield executive mansion,
which were co-written by Lura Lynn to raise funds for the mansion's
The books, 10,000 in all, vanished after Gov. Blagojevich was elected and
were later resurrected by Lura Lynn from an Ohio warehouse.
Speaking against capital punishment
But it is Ryan's anti-death-penalty crusade that has been his constant
"Gov. Ryan, who placed a moratorium on the death penalty heard around the
world, has kept up his crusade to abolish the death penalty and spoken to
countless groups which found him profoundly inspirational," said Rob
Warden, executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at
"He has also been helping a prominent Italian photographer, Nicola
Majocchi, put together a documentary, book and photo exhibition on the
American death penalty," said Warden.
It highlights the lost years of exonerated prisoners. The project
reportedly will debut this fall in New York City.
"Remember," said Warden, "he was the 1st governor in the nation to declare
a moratorium on executions. And before leaving office in 2003, he granted
blanket clemency and cleared out Illinois' death row."
(source: Chicago Sun-Times)
GEORGIA----death row inmate dies in prison
Killer turned Limerick fan dies in prison
A CONVICTED murderer who became a staunch Limerick hurling fan for nearly
20 years has died of cancer on death row in the US state of Georgia.
Jack Potts was sentenced to death in 1973 for kidnapping auto mechanic
Michael Douglas Priest and killing him in a remote field. Potts had his
head shaved no fewer than 3 times in preparation for the electric chair
but each time his sentence was commuted.
Potts had followed the fortunes of the Limerick hurlers from his cell in
Jackson for nearly 20 years.
He developed a love of hurling through correspondence with the family of
current Limerick hurling manager Richie Bennis.
The Limerick boss' niece Grinne Bennis was studying in the US when she
visited Jack in Georgia and gave him a Limerick jersey which he often wore
He had been on death row since 1973 ironically the last time Limerick won
Nora Bennis who is married to Richie Bennis' brother Gerry kept Jack
fully informed of the fortunes of the Limerick hurlers down the years with
newspaper cuttings of all their games in the National League and
Nora said: "We learned in the past few days that Jack passed away in
prison. His cell was decorated with photos of Limerick hurlers. His
knowledge of individual players down the years such as Gary Kirby, Mike
Houlihan and members of the current team was astonishing. It's sad he
hasnt lived to follow the team to Croke Park."
Jack Potts' love of hurling resulted from a chance read of an Irish
newspaper. Nora Bennis said: "In the 1990s I was to the fore in a campaign
for the rights of women in the home.
"There was coverage in the newspaper Jack got and it connected with him as
he came from a terribly sad family background.
"He was left at home all day alone as his mother had to go out to work. He
sent a letter addressed to 'Nora Bennis, Limerick, Republic of Ireland'
and it got to me in Limerick.
"From there I began corresponding with Jack. I told him about our great
game of hurling, of my family's contact with Limerick hurling.
"He never protested at the sentence and admitted he had done wrong. He
converted to Catholicism while in jail."
Jack also began to learn to speak Irish with the help of tapes sent to
(source: Irish Post)
Jury selection slow in death penalty trial
Jury selection for the city's 1st death penalty trial since Hurricane
Katrina struck 2 years ago crawled along Wednesday at Orleans Parish
Criminal District Court, where prosecutors and the defense team must
interview prospective jurors one-by-one in order to choose a panel that
can objectively consider sending a convict to die by lethal injection.
Tyrone Wells, 36, is about to stand trial for the 1st-degree murder of a
popular Gentilly restaurant owner 4 years ago.
Jose Vazquez, 37, was found stabbed to death at his Vazquez Seafood
Restaurant the morning of July 11, 2003, after a bloody struggle with an
attacker, police said. Both Wells and Vazquez were found on the dining
room floor that morning.
Wells jumped Vazquez with a gun, police said, but the business owner
fought back, grabbing a knife and stabbing his assailant. But his attacker
got the best of him with the knife, after the gun he brought to the
business jammed, police reports say.
Vazquez had managed the restaurant with his father, Jose Vazquez Sr., who
was present at the courthouse Wednesday awaiting word of when a jury will
Judge Arthur Hunter is having the jury selection done 1-by-1 due to the
high-profile of the murder case, one in which the victim's family is
adamantly in favor of the death penalty. As of midday Wednesday, the court
had interviewed about 34 jurors, all inside Hunter's chambers on the
courthouse's 2nd floor.
Other judges were visibly frustrated that the death penalty case was
taking up most of the 300 available jurors summoned to jury duty this
week. At least 2 scheduled trials in other sections of court were
postponed because of the drain on the jury pool by Hunter's Section K.
Hunter has placed a gag order on all involved in the Vazquez murder case.
Court officials, though, said that jury selection will likely continue
Once this round of interviews is complete, prosecutors and the defense
will then start selecting jurors to hear the murder case. Because this is
a capital case, the process if two-fold. First, the lawyers must winnow
the pool, sending home anyone who cannot objectively weigh a death
Once the pool is comprised of only "death qualified" jurors, then the
lawyers will start over, selecting people who aren't tainted by having
known the victim or too-familiar with the case.
1st-degree murder carries either life in prison or the death penalty upon
conviction, with the jury making the decision. Juries here, however, have
been reluctant historically in handing down capital punishment.
Orleans Parish hasn't sent a convicted killer to Louisiana's death row
Life or death for cop killer at issue in Martinez courtroom
A Contra Costa County jury heard conflicting accounts today on whether an
Antioch man convicted of murdering a Pittsburg police officer should be
put to death.
Alexander Hamilton, 20, faces either the death penalty or life in prison
without parole for fatally shooting Officer Larry Lasater after Hamilton
and Andrew Moffett robbed a bank in a supermarket April 23, 2005.
Prosecutor Harold Jewett told a Martinez jury that the only just sentence
would be the death penalty, because of the "size of the rip in the social
fabric occasioned by the crimes of Alexander Hamilton."
In his opening statement in the penalty phase of Hamilton's trial, Jewett
said the jury would hear from the slain officer's widow, mother,
colleagues and others who will describe how his death has affected them.
As a picture of a smiling, uniformed Lasater hung on an easel, Jewett
showed the jury a piece of artwork that Lasater drew when he was 10. "
'When I grow up, I'd like to be a policeman,' " Jewett read as several
relative and friends of the officer dabbed at their eyes with tissues.
Lasater, 35, had been with the Pittsburg Police Department for three
years. He was shot to death as he chased Hamilton and Moffett after they
robbed a Wells Fargo branch in a Raley's supermarket in Pittsburg.
Jewett told jurors that the defense will probably present numerous
witnesses in hopes of convincing the panel that "Al," as his attorneys
call him, should not be sentenced to death. "Let's not forget -- (the
defense witnesses) are victims," Jewett said. "Every witness they call,
the reason why they're here is of what Al did on April 23."
In her opening statement, one of Hamilton's attorneys, Robin Lipetzky of
the public defender's office, stressed that the defense wasn't excusing
the fact that Hamilton killed the officer.
But she said jurors will hear about her client's troubled childhood,
marked by sexual molestation, his parents' use of drugs and alcohol and a
violent upbringing in which he was already handling a gun at age 5.
"There was constant strife, violence, arguing and conflict" in Hamilton's
home, Lipetzky said.
Hamilton was diagnosed in 1998 with post-traumatic stress disorder and
depression, she said.
Lipetzky said Hamilton had not chosen to have his "developing brain
pickled by alcohol and crack cocaine," and that it would be up to jurors
to decide "whether his life will end sooner in prison or later in prison."
She displayed for jurors pictures of a smiling Hamilton as a child.
A jury convicted Hamilton on Aug. 13 of first-degree murder, several
counts of robbery, enhancements for firing a weapon and special
circumstances for murdering a police officer, murder during the commission
of a robbery and lying in wait. He was also convicted of 2 counts of
attempted murder for shooting at two other police officers.
Moffett, 20, was convicted of similar crimes but is not eligible for the
death penalty because he was 17 at the time. He is scheduled to be
sentenced Oct. 12 and faces life in prison.
(source: San Francisco Chronicle)
San Diego prosecutors will seek death penalty in Murrieta teen's killing
San Diego County prosecutors will seek the death penalty for 2 men charged
with gunning down a Murrieta teenager and a San Diego-area 7-Eleven clerk,
authorities said today.
Defendants Franco Bernal , 20, of El Cajon, and Samuel Thomas McCauley
Jr., 23, of La Mesa, now face the possibility of execution if convicted of
committed crimes in connection with the November deaths of Murrieta
teenager Daunte Mercado-Bates and a San Diego area 7-Eleven clerk.
"The cold-blooded nature" of the crimes was certainly a factor in the
decision to seek the death penalty, prosecutor James Romo said this
morning by phone.
On Nov. 24, Mercado-Bates was shot and killed in Murrieta while walking
along Whitewood Road after midnight, Murrieta police have said.
Riverside County prosecutors agreed several months ago to let San Diego
County prosecute the Murrieta slaying case.
Witnesses testified earlier this year that McCauley bragged about the
Murrieta shooting during a party and appeared to have gotten a thrill out
of it. Co-defendant Bernal was laughing while McCauley talked about the
shooting, witness Krysta Martin testified.
Defense lawyers for both men could not be immediately reached for comment.
The next hearing date is set for Oct. 23.
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