[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----TEXAS, OHIO, LA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Feb 13 19:42:19 UTC 2007
17 suspected of gang membership indicted on murder charges
17 Houston-area men accused of being members of a prison-based gang have
been indicted on charges of murder, robbery and drug trafficking, federal
authorities said Monday.
The men, 9 of whom are in prison, were indicted on charges related to 3
killings, 2 attempted killings, conspiracy to commit murder, 5 aggravated
robberies, trafficking in cocaine and marijuana and racketeering from
August 1999 through February 2006 as members of the Texas Syndicate.
FBI agents as well as police officers from several Houston agencies,
including the Houston Police Department, Monday arrested the 8 defendants
who are not in prison Monday:
Francisco Nuncio Jr., 34, aka "Frank" or "Butcher" of Houston; Robbie Lee
Danas, 35, aka "Sleepy" of Rosenberg; George Duran, 39, aka "Porkchop" of
Baytown; Jesus Galvan Jr., 40, aka "Jesse" or "Peanut" of Houston; Roberto
Garza, 33, aka "Flaco" of Needville; Johnny Perez Jr., 35, aka "Payaso" or
"Ki Ki" of Houston; Michael Thaman, 28, aka "Mikeo" of Pasadena; and Jerry
Villarreal Jr., 36, aka "Craps" of Houston.
The 9 men in prisons, who will be transferred to Houston jails, are
Michael Almaraz, aka "Little Mike," 27; Frank Cano, aka "Slim," 28; Rene
Gonzales Jr., aka "Slick" or "Amor Slick," 33; Juan Matamoros, aka "Pudd,"
32; Mike Mendoza, aka "Barney," 28; Albert Ortiz, aka "Borrado," 53;
Evaristo Torres, aka "Red Dog"; Willie Valdez, aka "Canoso," 43; and
Roberto Ybarra, aka "Little Rob," 27.
(source: Associated Press)
Mom charged after toddler drowned in tub
A 29-year-old Charlotte woman was charged with capital murder Monday after
she told authorities she drowned her 3-year-old daughter in the bathtub,
said David Soward, chief deputy of the Atascosa County Sheriff's
Laura Ann Garza remained in the Atascosa County Jail late Monday in lieu
of $1 million bond.
Soward said the toddler, Mina Renee Garza, was unresponsive when emergency
medical technicians arrived at the family's doublewide mobile home on
McKinnon Street. The girl was later pronounced dead at South Texas
Regional Medical Center in Jourdanton.
Mina's grandfather called 911 at about 9:25 a.m. Monday after finding the
girl in the bathtub, Soward said. The grandfather was the only other
person inside the home, according to authorities.
Soward said Garza confessed to deputies at the scene and later provided a
written statement to investigators, detailing what had occurred.
"She has shown some remorse," he said. "She broke down crying during the
interview multiple times."
The chief deputy said Garza, a former San Antonio resident, provided a
motive for the drowning, but he declined to release it.
"We're investigating it," said Mary Walker, a spokeswoman for the Texas
Department of Family and Protective Services. A search of the agency's
database didn't show that the family had been investigated before, she
Gloria Day, executive director of the Atascosa Family Crisis Center, said
Monday's incident should raise awareness of the need for more resources in
rural areas to help troubled families.
"Everyone is overwhelmed," Day said of authorities, adding there are not
enough trained professionals to provide the help needed in smaller
communities. "A lot of (families) fall through the cracks."
Last year, Gilda Casarez, a 31-year-old Lytle woman, was charged with
capital murder after she reportedly admitted to investigators that in 2004
she fed her daughter, Ariella Perez, also 3, a bottle of baby formula
spiked with methamphetamine.
Garza moved to her father's mobile home in Charlotte last year after
separating from her husband, Armando Garza.
The couple filed for divorce on June 28 in Bexar County. The case is
pending. Mina was their only child.
On Monday night, Armando Garza's house near Woodlawn Lake had a
handwritten sign posted on the front door, asking for the public to
respect family members' grief and that they had no comment.
Soward said the father had retained custody of the child and that Mina was
visiting the mother at the time of her death.
The mother, a graduate of the University of Texas at San Antonio, had no
prior criminal history, according to Soward.
(source : San Antonio Express-News)
Court plans review of death sentence----Killer awaits hearing in '85
A hearing will be held to determine whether a Toledo man will remain on
death row for the shooting deaths of 2 people in 1985.
Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Richard Knepper scheduled a hearing for
Feb. 20 in the death-penalty case of Frederick Dickerson, 51, complying
with orders of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
Dickerson recently was transferred from a state prison in Youngstown to
the county jail. He appeared in court yesterday. Toledo attorney Jeff
Helmick, who handled Dickerson's appeal, was appointed to the case by
Mr. Helmick said a motion would be filed in the coming days to have the
death penalty hearing continued to a later date so he would have time to
prepare his defense
Dickerson's convictions for aggravated murder in the May 27, 1985,
shooting deaths of Nichole McClain, 15, and Kevin McCoy, 31, in a Pinewood
Avenue apartment were upheld by the federal appellate court. But the
appellate court said the 3 judges who presided over Dickerson's trial in
Lucas County Common Pleas Court weren't given mitigating evidence about
the defendant's family, educational, social, and medical history.
The case was remanded to Lucas County to conduct a hearing only on the
penalty phase of the trial.
The court said the hearing should be conducted by Judge Knepper, who was
the presiding judge in the trial, and Judges Charles Doneghy and George
Glasser, if they are available. Judge Knepper stepped down from the Ohio
6th District Court of Appeals in 2004. Judge Glasser, also retired, and
Judge Doneghy would be available.
(source: Toledo Blade)
New Orleans' Legal System Still Feeling Pain of Hurricane Katrina
As chairwoman of the board overseeing New Orleans' public defender office,
Denise "Denny" LeBoeuf knows the city's legal system is struggling, but
talks about it as if it were a miracle waiting to happen.
"I think this is going to be a destination office for young lawyers who
want to do public defense in the years to come," said LeBoeuf, a veteran
criminal defense attorney. "And no one would have said that before
But New Orleans has a way to go before LeBoeuf's "miracle" sees the light
Only about half of the needed 70 public defenders have been hired. Judges'
patience sometimes wears thin, leading one to recently jail a public
defender because no one from his office showed up in court. And Hurricane
Katrina's impact lingers everywhere, whether it's residents' stress
levels, businesses' limited hours or the city's damaged roads.
A year and a half after Katrina flooded New Orleans, the city's legal
system continues to limp along with understaffed courts, a poorly funded
public defense system and temporary prison accommodations.
While lawyers said civil courts are functioning more or less the way they
were before Katrina, they used words such as "mess" and "nightmare" to
describe the post-Katrina criminal justice system. But many New Orleans
lawyers note that Katrina damaged an already ailing system -- creating a
once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rebuild it from scratch.
"We're in the midst of a revolutionary process," said Pamela Metzger,
associate professor of law and director of the criminal law clinic at
Tulane University Law School, one of nine board members appointed in April
to oversee Orleans Public Defenders.
"I do believe that at the end of the day -- 10, 20 years down the line --
at least in the area of public defense we're creating a model for what
public defense can become," Metzger said.
PROGRESS AND PITFALLS
In Orleans Parish, where about 85 % of defendants are indigent, the public
defense system employed 42 lawyers before Katrina, most of whom were
part-time employees earning a starting annual salary of $29,000, LeBoeuf
said. Because Louisiana's public defense system primarily runs on revenues
from traffic tickets and other fines -- the only such system in the
country -- most of them were laid off when the office went broke after
While some lawyers never left, more than 30 lawyers have been hired since
April and their jobs are now full time, with a starting annual salary of
$40,000, LeBoeuf said. Only six lawyers have not returned because they
wanted to keep their private practices, said Phil Wittmann, the board's
Public defenders now have offices across from the courthouse for the first
time. Also for the first time, a computerized organizational system has
been implemented, LeBoeuf said. In order to improve attorney-client
relationships, the system has moved toward "vertical representation,"
meaning lawyers are assigned to clients, not courtrooms.
Some judges have criticized the new public defense system, saying there is
no money to keep it going. Judges also question the new vertical
representation method because it leads to less familiarity with lawyers
who show up in their courtrooms, the lawyers said.
"A part of the criticism we're seeing from the judges that are speaking
publicly about this is, 'What you guys are doing is not going to be
sustainable in the long haul because you don't have a sustainable pipeline
of funding,'" said Carmelite Bertaut, past president of the New Orleans
Bar Association who works at New Orleans' Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann.
Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Chief Judge Raymond Bigelow did not
return calls seeking comment.
'PROCESSED' NOT REPRESENTED
Many lawyers said the changes are for the better -- but not nearly enough.
"Money is the hugest obstacle," said Stephen Singer, professor at Loyola
University New Orleans School of Law, who is chief of trials for the
public defender's office.
"We simply have insufficient funds to hire the people we need, not just
lawyers, but also support personnel," Singer said. "The lawyers don't have
the time to do the work they need to do on their cases and the court is
currently like a meat-processing plant -- cases get processed, but they
don't get represented."
The budget for the Orleans Parish public defender system is seriously
underfunded at only about $2.5 million, so the system continues to
struggle, Singer said. In an incident that several lawyers said
exemplified the level of frustration, Singer was jailed by a judge for
several hours in January after a public defender did not show up for a
hearing, something Singer said was the result of a staffing shortage due
to a lawyer's honeymoon.
A U.S. Department of Justice report recently found the public defender's
office needs 70 full-time lawyers and additional support staff. The report
estimated that with salary, equipment, furniture and other costs, it will
cost $10.7 million to operate the office in its first year and $8.2
million annually after that.
The federal government has delivered some relief. The Justice Department
has made nearly $30 million in grants available to New Orleans and Orleans
Parish to help rebuild the state and city criminal justice systems.
In total, the Justice Department gave Louisiana more than $61 million in
justice-assistance grants and Katrina-related law enforcement
infrastructure funds. The department also said it was providing assistance
in other areas, such as hiring additional Assistant U.S. Attorneys.
A Justice Department official said the department does not release how
many Assistant U.S. Attorneys it has in various offices around the
country. But in New Orleans, the office now has two more full-time U.S.
Attorneys than it did pre-Katrina, as well as 10 "detailees," who will
work in the office until they are no longer needed.
The federal courts in and around New Orleans have fared better, but are
also having problems.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily moved to Houston and
reopened in January 2006. But the 5th Circuit clerk's office in New
Orleans was reduced from 93 employees before Katrina to 83 after, and more
employees may leave, said Michelle Meyers, the personnel specialist.
"We're still in post-Katrina mode," she said. "We just got notification
from one of our employees who's been out a lot that she's taking an
extended medical leave because of post-traumatic stress. ... We have many
employees that are not in their homes; many employees that don't know what
they are doing yet, waiting to see if they can rebuild."
After Katrina, employees of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern
District of Louisiana in New Orleans were divided between Lafayette and
Baton Rouge until the office officially reopened in November 2005.
Only one of about 200 employees of the U.S. district court in New Orleans
has not returned to work since Katrina, said Julie Harrison, the docket
BEYOND CRIMINAL DEFENSE
Such issues and frustrations stretch well beyond the Big Easy's criminal
The police department's crime lab is not functioning yet, leaving some
prosecutors worried about an overload of cases they will get once it
becomes fully operational.
Only about 2,000 of the 6,000 prisoners have been able to return to the
parish prison and the rest are scattered throughout the state, said
Wittmann, a partner at Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann.
The tunnel that was used before Katrina to get the parish prison's inmates
to court is still closed, adding to the logistical difficulties, said
Brian Privor, who is mostly handling adult felonies while his Washington
office of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius is lending him to the New Orleans'
public defender's office for 6 months.
"Because of the logistical realities of the post-Katrina world, it's
certainly more difficult for both the prosecution and the defense to work
their way through the court system," Privor said. "It's slower, there are
fewer personnel and sheriffs to oversee the inmates, fewer lawyers to go
around and talk to them, the accommodations are not as accommodating,
copies of police reports don't show up like they used to -- everything is
just more challenging with the very first appearance in the court system."
The Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office relocated to a former
nightclub after Katrina and has been temporarily housed in an office
building for the last six months, said Gaynell Williams, first assistant
It was not until about a month ago that all of the 88 lawyers returned to
work, Williams said. And with many people gone from the state, cases now
take longer to prosecute, she said.
"We are still encountering problems dealing with witnesses," she said. "We
are unable to locate them and evidence has been destroyed."
THE CIVIL SIDE
New Orleans native William Rittenberg has been practicing law in Louisiana
for more than 30 years, but he is suddenly doing administrative work that
his assistants used to handle.
With only about 40 percent of New Orleans' pre-Katrina population of
455,000 back in the city, business has declined and some employees have
not returned, Rittenberg said. His practice area used to have 3 support
staff for 7 attorneys, and now has only one secretary, whom they share
with another division.
"I'm doing things that I haven't done in over 20 years -- writing checks
and dealing with bookkeeping and stuffing envelopes," said Rittenberg, a
partner at New Orleans' Rittenberg, Samuel & Phillips.
Rittenberg said a court clerk recently told him to search for a document
in a large pile because the staff was down to the minimum and did not have
time to retrieve paperwork.
Gary Bezet, managing partner in the Baton Rouge office of the 120-attorney
Kean Miller Hawthorne D'Armond McCowan & Jarman, said that in 1 pending
case involving an oil company, it took him several months to track down a
witness because he had left Louisiana after Katrina.
Meanwhile, Katrina-related lawsuits, mostly claims against insurance
companies, have piled up in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Louisiana
in New Orleans. Nearly 12,000 cases were filed in 2006, about three times
the number in a typical year, Harrison said.
"We have other courts in other parts of the country helping us because we
can't keep up," she said, explaining that they have been assisting with
electronic filing of paperwork into the court system.
Brent Barriere, a partner with Phelps Dunbar, a 260-lawyer firm based in
New Orleans, said the civil courts are dealing with an avalanche of
paperwork just as things are starting to get back to normal.
"I think it's going to take years for the system to fully flush out all
these cases," he said.
(source: National Law Journal)
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