[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----FLA., CONN., PENN., OHIO
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Aug 23 10:44:46 CDT 2007
Resigned to die either way----John Couey tells his aunt he expects to get
In Inverness, a Citrus County judge will have 2 options Friday when he
sentences John Couey for the kidnapping, rape and murder of 9-year-old
Jessica Lunsford: death by lethal injection or life in prison without
In a jailhouse conversation with his aunt, Couey said Judge Ric Howard's
decision is a foregone conclusion.
"We all know what he's going to do," Couey told Virginia Kloetzer in a
recorded chat on Aug. 3.
"Well, me too," his aunt replied. "But you know God's in control of
"At this point," Couey said, "I don't worry about it because it's in his
hands. ... I don't let it bother me. ... You've got to go some way."
It's unclear whether Couey was referring to the judge or God when he said
"it's in his hands." But to him, the end is inevitable. He wants to be
cremated "when they finally do my execution."
The hour and 13-minute conversation, taped by Citrus County jail
officials, offered insight into Couey's thinking as he faces his most
important court appearance. The St. Petersburg Times obtained a copy of
the recording after a public records request.
In March, a Miami jury found Couey guilty in the February 2005 killing of
Jessica, a third-grader at Homosassa Elementary School. Couey kidnapped
her from the mobile home where she lived with her father and grandparents,
sexually assaulted her and buried her alive in black trash bags.
It's clear from the Aug. 3 jail recording that Couey was excited to see
his elderly aunt, who cared for him and his sister when they were young.
They talked about everything from family members to his case. The tone of
his rough voice is calm, like a man resigned to the state of things,
though he allows himself a laugh at times.
'It was stupid of me'
When his aunt talked about the impact of the case on the family, Couey
expressed regret. "It was stupid of me," he said.
"Well it was," his aunt replied. "But one person doing something they
shouldn't do doesn't mean the whole family's that way."
Earlier this year, Couey made veiled expressions of remorse to jail
guards. His statements were key to his conviction.
During the jailhouse conversation, Couey's aunt told him his
court-appointed attorneys "did the best they could with nothing to work
But Couey was upset and felt "they could do a little better." Then he
allowed, "I didn't help them out much by running my mouth." They both
"But you know me, I couldn't keep quiet," he said.
Kloetzer, a Sumter County resident, could not be reached for comment
Couey's statements in the recording might be his last before sentencing.
Howard typically gives defendants an opportunity to speak before he rules,
but defense attorneys could advise Couey to stay quiet to prevent any
If Couey receives the death penalty, the execution won't happen soon.
Years -- decades even -- of legal appeals stand between Friday and
execution day. The first is an automatic appeal to the Florida Supreme
The average stay on death row is 12 years, according to the state
Department of Corrections. Infamous serial killer Ted Bundy spent only
9-1/2 years on death row. Escaped mental patient Gary Alvord just passed
33 years in his 6-foot-by-9-foot cell.
Legal experts say Couey's case likely will take longer than the average,
pegging it in the 15-to-20-year range because of the appeals. Couey could
waive his appeals, but that is improbable and he made no mention of doing
so when talking to his aunt.
The longer Couey spends in jail the greater the chance he won't get the
lethal injection, legal experts say.
The first reason is his health. He turned 49 on Sunday, but years of hard
living, drugs and alcohol abuse make him look much older.
Then there is serious danger presented by his fellow inmates.
"It's a real issue because the crime he's convicted of and the coverage
he's received," said Charlie Rose, a Stetson law professor. "He's in true
danger much like Jeffrey Dahmer. I wouldn't be surprised" if he dies in
Couey and his aunt agree. During their conversation, she said she
appreciated the special protection her nephew has received in jail so far.
She doesn't want to see him with the general population.
"It's probably going to happen when I get up there anyways," Couey said.
"It depends which (sentence) I get."
Death row inmates are isolated for 23 hours a day, prison officials said,
in part to protect them. They are kept in a separate wing and mix with
fellow death row inmates only during recreation time.
Prison officials said they don't know yet where Couey will be placed if he
gets the death penalty. Two adjacent facilities in Raiford house the 381
men currently on death row.
That's where Mark Lunsford, Jessica's father, wants to see Couey go. Like
many family members of victims, he wants the ultimate punishment -- an end
to the emotional turmoil since Jessica disappeared Feb. 24, 2005.
"I don't think there will be any end to it until he's dead," Lunsford
said. "I don't know if I'll call that closure."
Laurie Lahey will tell you it doesn't come easy.
Her sister, Tracy Paules, was killed in her Gainesville apartment in
August 1990 by serial killer Danny Rolling, convicted in 1994 and executed
"For 13 years, I ached for her, day after day after day," Lahey said this
She handled it better than most because she imagined he suffered while
sitting on death row. "But I'll tell you what," Lahey added. "I have found
some kind of closure because he is gone."
Life sentence better?
Capital punishment opponents often mention the years of delays as a reason
why a life sentence is better. It "is carried out immediately and the
murder victims don't have this tortuous wait for what they have been
promised is justice," said Mark Elliott, spokesman for Floridians for
Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
Couey's aunt wishes more had been done to help him earlier. Without saying
who she was referring to, she told him, "If they'd listened to me when
(you were) little, you wouldn't be here. And that little girl would still
In the end, Couey said he is comforted by the case's outcome.
"There's a lot of good that came out of this, too," he told his aunt. "A
lot of laws got changed. ... I'm glad it came out the way it did. ... If
you can change one, you're doing a good job."
None of that sits well with Mark Lunsford.
"There was no good that came from it," he said. "There is no good that
came from her death."
What's next : John Couey's fate
In court Friday, a Citrus judge will decide between life and death after
weighing the "aggravating factors" presented by the prosecution with the
"mitigating factors" listed by the defense.
Prosecutors listed five factors for the death penalty:
Committed while engaged in a sexual battery or kidnapping
Committed for purpose of avoiding arrest
Especially heinous, atrocious or cruel
Victim was less than 12 years old
Cold, calculated and premeditated killing
Defense attorneys countered with 22 reasons for life in prison, including:
Mental illness and limited intellectual ability
Mental, physical and emotional abuse as a child - Chronic alcohol and
Never received appropriate mental health treatment
Cooperated with law enforcement and led them to victim's location
The appeals process How it works
After the judge makes a decision, the case begins a lengthy appeals
process starting with an automatic appeal to the Florida Supreme Court.
These courts review the case next in the following order, according to
Circuit Judge H.O. Eaton, an expert who trains fellow justices in death
Florida Supreme Court
U.S. Supreme Court
Trial court (for post-conviction review)
Florida Supreme Court
U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. District Court - Federal Circuit Court of Appeals
U.S. Supreme Court
(source: St. Petersburg Times)
Jury chosen to weigh death penalty in 1999 Bridgeport shootings
Prosecutors and attorneys for convicted murderer Russell Peeler Jr. have
completed jury selection for a panel that is scheduled to begin hearing
evidence next month before deciding if Peeler will receive the death
Lawyers in Bridgeport Superior Court chose 18 jurors. Twelve jurors and
four alternates are scheduled to begin hearing evidence Sept. 10, while
two more potential jurors will be held in reserve.
The jury will decide if Peeler will receive the death penalty or life in
prison without the possibility of parole for the 1999 shooting deaths of
Karen Clarke, 29, and her 8-year-old son Leroy "B.J." Brown Jr.
The boy was expected to be a key witness against Peeler in the murder of
Clarke's boyfriend. The 2 were gunned down in Clarke's home.
Peeler has been in prison since his arrest a few weeks after the murders
and was convicted in 2000. A previous jury had deadlocked on whether
Peeler should receive the death penalty.
Police claim Peeler ordered his younger brother, Adrian Peeler, to kill
the boy and his mother.
Adrian Peeler, however, was convicted only of conspiracy to commit murder
and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He is also serving a consecutive
35-year term on federal drug charges.
(source: Associated Press)
Pa. man asks death penalty in wounding of wife, death of children
A man accused of killing his 4-year-old and 18-month-old children and
wounding his wife at a Montour Township motel says he wants the death
penalty rather than life in prison.
43-year-old Anthony Dick pleaded guilty yesterday to murder and attempted
Judge Thomas James said he was satisfied that Dick was mentally sound. The
judge accepted the pleas, and moved into a penalty phase that is expected
to wrap up today.
Dick told his lawyers he didn't want to offer testimony that could cause
him to get life in prison.
State Police Corporal Shawn Williams testified that Dick told police he
had argued with his wife over something he couldn't recall and had thought
about killing his wife for months.
The shootings occurred as the boys were sleeping on January 24th, 2006.
(source: Associated Press)
Prosecutors plan to seek death penalty in case against Bobby Cutts Jr.
A grand jury has indicted former Canton police officer Bobby Cutts Junior
on aggravated murder charges in the deaths of Jessie Davis and her unborn
Prosecutors say they plan to seek the death penalty.
In addition to the 3 counts of aggravated murder, the grand jury indicted
Cutts on 1 count of aggravated burglary, 2 counts of abuse of a corpse and
1 count of child endangering. The child endangering count connected to
Blake Davis, who was left home alone after Davis' disappearance from her
North Canton home.
30-year-old Cutts will be arraigned tomorrow. He's the father of Davis' 2
1/2-year-old son and her family says he was the father of the baby girl
who was due to be delivered July 3rd.
Cutts is being held on $5 million bond.
The grand jury also indicted Myisha Ferrell, the woman prosecutors allege
helped Cutts dispose of Davis' body. Farrell was indicted on 1 count of
obstruction of justice and 1 count of complicity to abuse of a corpose.
Davis's disappearance drew national attention in mid-June and sparked a
massive search. After several days, her body was found in a park about 25
miles from her home.
(source: WKYC News)
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