[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----CALIF., FLA., GA., N.Y.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Feb 14 20:08:08 UTC 2007
DA's role in death penalty increases
Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco has been named chairman of
a committee overseeing capital punishment issues for a statewide
Pacheco began his duties at the head of the California District Attorneys
Association Capital Litigation Committee during the association's recent
The organization has 2,500 members and plays an influential role in state
policy and legislation affecting prosecutors statewide.
The committee Pacheco leads will define capital punishment issues and
create policies and strategies, as well as draft and advocate legislation
on the subject.
The death penalty in California is currently on hold after a federal judge
ruled the state's protocol for administering lethal injections was
unconstitutional and needed to be fixed. Gov. Schwarzenegger has ordered a
review of the process.
During his career as a prosecutor, Pacheco specialized in capital cases
and sent five defendants to death row.
District Attorney appointed to chairman of state attorneys organization
Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco was appointed chairman of
the California District Attorneys Association Capital Litigation
Committee, his office announced today.
In his new position, Pacheco will focus on capital punishment issues,
policies and strategies on death penalty. He will also work on drafting
and advocating legislation that affect California prosecutors.
"I'm honored to be serving on this committee focusing on the very
important issue of capital punishment in California," Pacheco said in a
news release. "Our goal is to expedite the process. the families of these
homicide victims have waited long enough for justice to be served."
As a deputy district attorney, Pacheco specialized in homicide and death
penalty cases, according to the news release.
He was sworn in as Riverside County District Attorney on Jan. 2.
He leads the 3rd largest district attorney's office in California and the
13th largest office in the United States. His office has a staff of almost
800 employees, including 256 prosecutors.
(source: The Desert Sun)
Executioners Ill-Prepared, Some Say
The executioners who inject chemicals into a condemned inmate's arm aren't
required to have training, certification or any qualifications other than
being at least 18 years old, according to Florida's interpretation of
lethal injection guidelines.
Yet true medical training to administer chemicals intravenously takes many
years, said David Varlotta, a Tampa anesthesiologist who is on the
committee reviewing the botched execution of Angel Diaz in December.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush put the death penalty on hold in December after Diaz
took 34 minutes to die because the lethal chemicals missed his veins.
The Tampa Tribune obtained a copy of the state's nine-page execution
guideline, signed by Corrections Secretary James McDonough on Aug. 16,
under public records laws. It makes a distinction between members of the
"execution team" who first insert IV lines and the actual executioners.
The guidelines call for the warden to ensure that "all members of the
execution team and other involved staff have been adequately trained to
perform their requisite functions in the execution process" and for the
team to "conduct simulations of the execution process on a quarterly
But that doesn't include the actual executioners, whose participation in
previous executions qualifies as training, corrections officials say.
Last week, Diaz's main executioner told a review committee that he had "no
medical training and no qualifications" and that he last received lethal
injection training about seven years ago. The executioner testified by
phone in what sounded like a muffled male voice to guard his identity.
Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said the
executioner was "current in his skills." The prison had done three
executions in the previous three months. Florida State Prison Warden
Randall Bryant is confident the executioner had adequate training,
Florida Isn't Alone
Questions are being raised across the nation about the training and
guidelines that govern executions.
Last week, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen suspended four executions, calling
the state's guidelines a "cut-and-paste job" that needs significant
revision. Executions also are on hold in Missouri, California and North
Carolina because of lethal injection concerns.
North Carolina officials approved changes to that state's execution
protocol last week, suggesting that a physician monitor "the essential
body functions of the condemned inmate" and notify the warden if the
inmate shows signs of "undue pain and suffering."
But the state medical board has threatened to punish any doctor who takes
an active role in an execution.
After the Diaz execution, Florida corrections officials said he suffered
from liver disease and was unable to quickly metabolize the drugs.
It's not clear how officials made that determination. Execution guidelines
don't call for the inmate to be given a full medical exam before being put
Members of the execution team - not doctors - make "a limited physical
examination of the inmate" to see whether any medical issues might
interfere with the lethal injection process, the procedures state. Then
they make an oral report to the warden.
Corrections officials said that process is adequate because the exam
basically is to ensure that they will have access to veins.
Diaz's liver function was not a factor in the botched execution,
anesthesiologist Nicholas Gravenstein testified Friday to the committee
reviewing his death.
The initial Department of Corrections investigation of the Diaz case found
that the 2 executioners present didn't follow guidelines when there were
signs of trouble.
Because the veins were missed, at one point the lead executioner met so
much resistance that he no longer could push chemicals through the
syringe. The secondary executioner joined in the process without anyone
stopping to make an assessment of the problem, as required.
Diaz, 55, was sentenced to death for killing a Miami topless-bar manager
27 years ago. He proclaimed his innocence to the end.
They Must Be At Least 18, 'Fully Capable'
Varlotta questioned how executioners can get proper training. Major
medical organizations have ruled that it violates ethics guidelines for a
doctor to assist, he said.
"How are they going to get that training?" Varlotta asked. "You would have
to get that advice from somebody who's willing to step outside of whatever
medical organization they're affiliated with."
In Florida's guidelines, the only standards for the two executioners are
that they be 18 or older and deemed by the warden "fully capable of
performing the designated functions."
"Nobody really knows who writes these protocols," Varlotta said.
Mark Heath, an anesthesiologist at Columbia University Medical Center, on
Monday told the review committee that "lethal injection is a very
complicated way of killing people. These drugs should only be administered
by trained and experienced medical specialists."
"Mr. Diaz, in my opinion, was not properly anesthetized when the
pancuronium and potassium were delivered to his system," said Heath, who
has studied lethal injection cases across the nation.
LETHAL INJECTIONS IN FLORIDA
State procedures explain the roles and qualifications needed for people
involved in lethal injection executions:
Execution team: Consists of corrections officers and others who are
trained and possess proper certification to "assist in the administration
of an execution"
Executioners: Must be at least 18 years old; administer the lethal
(source: Tampa Tribune)
Insanity led man to kill his family, defense says----Friends said Franklyn
Duzant loved his family but unraveled before the slayings.
Franklyn "Frankie" Duzant, the doting father charged with beheading his
wife and chasing down and slashing to death his 11-year-old son, sits in
the Seminole County Jail, draped in only a blanket.
Jailers won't let him have clothes. They fear he might use them to hang
himself. And they won't give him a fork or spoon, not even plastic. He
might try to slash his wrists.
Duzant, 41, of Lake Mary is seriously mentally ill, says his attorney,
Diana Tennis. He was legally insane the day he killed his wife and only
child, according to defense pleadings.
That explanation -- insanity -- is the 1st official word from Duzant about
why he killed his family June 16.
"Only insanity makes loving, caring husbands and fathers do that sort of
thing," Tennis said.
At a hearing Monday, Circuit Judge Donna McIntosh must decide whether to
allow Duzant, a disabled Army cook with a long history of mental illness,
to plead insanity.
He is charged with two counts of 1st-degree murder.
2 mental-health experts have concluded that Duzant was so delusional the
day of the slayings, he did not know right from wrong, according to
Although prosecutors are currently seeking the death penalty, Assistant
State Attorney Tom Hastings said he would not oppose an insanity plea at
Monday's hearing. The case, though, is a long way from being resolved.
Hastings said he will ask the judge to appoint mental-health experts to
evaluate Duzant, who has been in custody since the day of the slayings,
when he surrendered at his front door to Seminole County deputies.
A few days later, during interviews with a sheriff's detective at an
Orlando hospital, Duzant confessed, according to investigative records.
Duzant is lucid and can carry on a conversation, Tennis said, but he
appears to suffer from paranoid schizophrenia. Still, his mental condition
has stabilized since his arrest, according to paperwork filed with the
He has been evaluated by a psychiatrist and psychologist, hired by his
lawyer. Each will testify Duzant was psychotic at the time of the
slayings, according to defense pleadings.
The psychiatrist, Dr. Malcolm Roberts, would not comment Tuesday. The
psychologist, Dr. Deborah Day, was not available for comment.
But investigative records make clear that Duzant has a long history of
mental illness. At the time of the slayings, he was being treated for
depression, according to prosecution records. Over the years, he had told
friends he suffered flashbacks from his 4-month stint in the Gulf War in
In 2003, he suffered a mental breakdown. His wife called authorities,
saying he had been having flashbacks, had disappeared and she was afraid
he might hurt himself. When deputies found him, he begged them to shoot
him. They took him to a mental ward.
According to friends and neighbors, Duzant was a fun-loving, easygoing man
who was proud of his son, Nico, a baseball standout.
But weeks before the slayings, his temperament changed. His behavior
became erratic, sometimes bizarre, and he lashed out at his family,
investigative records say.
Less than a week before the slayings, one neighbor told authorities that
she heard Duzant inside his house screaming for 5 to 10 minutes.
"He was obviously really angry," Sandra Richardson told investigators.
About that same time, his wife, Evangeline "Gigi" Duzant, 52, called
Duzant's brother, begging him to come to the house. Frankie was in the
backyard, being loud and causing a commotion, and she wanted someone to
calm him down, according to investigative records.
That day or the next, Gigi Duzant told her sister-in-law that Frankie
couldn't sleep and had been having nightmares about his days in the Army.
Frankie, she told her sister the day before the homicides, was "losing his
mind," according to investigative records.
(source: Orlando Sentinel)
Motion in capital case could echo statewide
The trial of two suspects in the 2004 stabbing death of a Snellville widow
could be delayed by a fight over legal fees, and that dispute is
indirectly connected to the Fulton County case against Brian Nichols.
Gwinnett District Attorney Danny Porter said a motion filed in the
Gwinnett murder trial could affect cases all across Georgia.
"If this motion is granted, it will bring every death-penalty case in the
state to a grinding halt," Gwinnett District Attorney Danny Porter said.
Attorney Walt Britt of Buford has asked Superior Court Judge William M.
Ray II to declare unconstitutional the state's program that pays the legal
fees of poor death-penalty defendants, because it is inadequately funded.
The next scheduled hearing in the case is March 5.
Britt represents Donald Steven Sanders, 1 of 2 defendants in the August
2004 stabbing death of Doris Joyner, 68.
Britt said in a court motion filed Friday that he cannot give Sanders
proper representation because Georgia's public defender system is running
out of money. Without adequate funding, his client cannot be guaranteed
the right to adequate representation on the charges, and that, he says,
violates Sanders' constitutional rights.
The Georgia Public Defenders Standards Council, which oversees the system,
recently reduced the hourly fees for death-penalty attorneys to $95 an
hour from $125. The council has cited budget shortages and the cost of
defending Nichols in the Fulton Courthouse shootings case. Nichols'
defense already has cost $1.2 million.
The fight in Britt's case got a little personal earlier this month when
Ray held Britt in contempt of court and ordered him jailed for refusing to
go ahead with pretrial hearings in the Joyner case until the judge dealt
with the funding issue.
The judge fined Britt $500 and ordered him to spend 24 hours in jail,
according to court documents. Britt said he was released on his own
Britt believes the state has two choices - either find more funds for
indigent defense or lose the right to order new executions.
"There are 79 death-penalty cases statewide," Britt said in a recent
interview. "All cases are affected by the funding train wreck. Either we
fund death defense properly or the state should be barred from seeking
Sanders and his sister-in-law, Kayla Sanders, are charged with murder in
the death of Joyner, who was stabbed to death at her home on Egypt Road.
Police believe Joyner may have been killed in a robbery. A month earlier,
her husband, Charles E. Joyner, who ran a tree trimming service, was
killed by a falling tree at a home in Lilburn.
The murder case was expected to go to trial this summer, but now it could
At the center of Britt's motion is what he calls the "inadequate
budgeting, improper administration of funds" by the Office of the Georgia
Capital Defender and the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council. Britt
said the funding issue affects other death-penalty cases being defended
because there may not be enough money to pay experts witnesses needed to
adequately defend clients.
Mike Mears, director of the defense council, has said his group had
assumed the Legislature would approve a midyear budget allocation of $9.5
million, The money has yet to be allocated by the Legislature. And Mears
has said the council will run out of money by the end of month and may
have to cut off funding for hundreds of cases, including the Nichols case.
Mears did not return telephone calls seeking comment for this article.
(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
No law enforcement uniforms allowed in courtroom for death penalty trial
Law enforcement observing the death penalty trial of a man accused of
killing a 72-year-old will not be allowed to wear their uniforms in court,
a judge decided this afternoon.
The decision, which doesn't apply to witnesses or security personnel, was
one of several made in the case of Brandon Parker, 20, who could face the
death penalty if convicted of brutally killing Mary Alice Stefano. Parker
did yard work for Stefano weeks before her December 2005 slaying. A murder
warrant accuses Parker of stabbing Stefano more than 2 dozen times in the
chest and neck at her Clairmont Avenue home.
Bibb County Superior Court Judge Martha Christian also decided to allow
Parker to remain unshackled and in regular clothing during court hearings.
Christian was scheduled Tuesday to hear a motion to suppress statements
Parker made to police in the killing, though that will be delayed until
Police have said Parker confessed to killing Stefano and told detectives
he only intended to rob her.
(source: Macon Telegraph)
Man exonerated in slaying fights to end death penalty----DNA evidence
brought reversal in case; innocence of others touted
Jeffrey Deskovic was hoping for a happy reunion Tuesday night with people
who knew him as an inmate at Elmira State Correctional Facility.
This time, though, they'd see him not as a convicted killer but as a free
Deskovic, now 34, served 16 years -- a portion of his 15-year-to-life
sentence for murder and rape -- at the Elmira prison as a convicted
killer. But DNA testing showed last year that Deskovic wasn't the murderer
of his 15-year-old classmate in 1989 in Westchester County.
Deskovic was exonerated and released from prison in September after the
Innocence Project, a New York City based legal advocacy group, took on his
case. DNA evidence from the 1989 murder was run through a data bank and
matched to another man who lived in the same town as Deskovic and the
victim. That man admitted to the 1989 killing and was convicted of
murdering another person in 1992, Deskovic said.
Deskovic is speaking out to abolish New York's death penalty, stopping
Tuesday in Vestal and Horseheads. The events were put together by a
regional social workers' organization and New Yorkers Against the Death
Penalty, said Les Ulm, an organizer of Tuesday's event.
Deskovic was hoping Tuesday to meet at least one of the civilian employees
at Elmira who'd befriended him in prison, he said. Deskovic said he also
hoped to see corrections officers -- both those who were professional and
others he remembered as cruel.
"A civilian employee treated me like a human being," Deskovic said Tuesday
after speaking to a group of about 20 people at Binghamton University.
Deskovic served time at Elmira from 1991 to 1995, a portion of 1996, and
from late 1997 to 2006, he said.
Deskovic was convicted after offering police a false confession to the
crime as a 16-year-old, he said. He spent years fighting for an appeal,
both on the state and federal levels, and losing those battles. Former
Westchester County District Attorney Jeannine Pirro also fought him on his
appeals every step of the way, he said.
It wasn't until the Innocence Project took on his case and pushed to have
more sophisticated DNA testing done that Deskovic finally believed he'd be
exonerated, he said.
In the meantime, Deskovic urged New York citizens to lobby against
reviving the state's death penalty -- on hold since 2004 when the state
Court of Appeals said some provisions of the 1995 law were
unconstitutional. Deskovic said his own experience was a chilling reminder
that defendants are wrongfully convicted.
"It's not a question of if we execute an innocent person," Deskovic said.
"It's a question of when -- and how many."
(source: Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin)
Horseheads residents speak out against death penalty
Dozens of people gathered in Horseheads Tuesday to speak out against the
The First United Methodist Church hosted New Yorkers Against the Death
Featured at the rally was 33-year-old Jeffery Deskovic. Deskovic served 16
years of a life sentence for a 1989 rape and murder until DNA tests proved
last year he didn't kill a 15-year-old classmate in Peekskill. He says
anybody can be the victim of what he went through.
Members from New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty gathered in Horseheads
on Tuesday to speak out against the death penalty.
"No one is safe. Anybody at any time could be arrested for a crime you
have not committed, been convicted of and serve an extremely long time in
prison and possibly sentenced to death for if the death penalty is brought
back to New York State," Deskovic said.
Marie Verzulli also spoke at the rally. Her sister Cathy was murdered in
Poughkeepsie back in 1997.
(source: News 10 Now)
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