[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----KY., S. DAK., VA., TENN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Feb 15 04:15:23 UTC 2007
Judge vacates death sentence in 1983 slaying
A federal judge threw out a Kentucky death row inmate's sentence
Wednesday, saying a doctor unconstitutionally testified about information
the inmate shared with his attorney.
U.S. District Judge Jennifer B. Coffman ruled that Parramore Lee Sanborn,
awaiting execution for the October 1983 kidnapping, rape and murder of
Barbara Heilman in Henry County, should get a new sentencing hearing.
Coffman said Dr. Victoria Skelton violated Sanborn's right to
attorney-client privilege by asking him about confidential conversations,
then telling prosecutors and testifying about what she learned.
Skelton, a psychiatrist, examined Sanborn because he was claiming extreme
emotional distress at the time of the murder.
Because Skelton asked Sanborn about the legal strategy he had discussed
with his attorney and shared the information with prosecutors, it violated
Sanborn's right to have confidential conversations with his attorney,
"In summary, the court finds that Dr. Skelton's interrogation of Sanborn
regarding his meeting with his attorney, combined with her questioning
regarding his defense strategy amounted to an intrustion into the
attorney-client relationship," Coffman wrote in the 79-page opinion.
Sanborn, 62, was originally convicted and sentenced to death in March
1984. The Kentucky Supreme Court reversed that decision in 1988 and
granted Sanborn a new trial. He was convicted and sentenced to death again
Sanborn worked at the Heilman farm at one time. After Heilman's body was
found outside her home, police found Sanborn a few hours later at a nearby
house with blood on his pants and shoes and in his car.
Sanborn's attorney, Armand Judah of Louisville, declined comment Wednesday
afternoon. The Kentucky attorney general's office will appeal the
decision, said Vicki Glass, a spokeswoman for the office.
Sanborn met with Skelton twice and, during the second meeting, Sanborn's
story changed, Coffman wrote. Skelton asked why Sanborn had told a
different version of the events surrounding the murder and whether he met
with anybody since they last met. Sanborn told Skelton he met with his
attorney, Coffman wrote.
Skelton then asked about the defense strategy. Sanborn said he intended to
claim he had committed the murder under extreme emotional distress,
Sanborn claimed those questions and Skelton's testimony could have led
jurors to believe he and the defense fabricated a story to support the
claim of extreme emotional disturbance, Coffman wrote.
Coffman rejected claims by Sanborn that allowing United Methodist minister
Barclay Brown to testify violated his rights to attorney-client privelege
and priest-penitent privilege. But Coffman is allowing Sanborn to appeal
those issues to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati for
Brown was asked to serve as a defense expert regarding a theological
perspective of the death penalty and Sanborn's religious upbringing. Brown
met with Sanborn numerous times before his first trial, even though
Sanborn was not a member of his congregation.
After the Kentucky Supreme Court reversed the conviction, prosecutors
approached Brown and asked him to write down what he remembered of his
meetings with Sanborn. Brown testified about the conversations at the 2nd
trial. Brown acknowledged ministering to and praying with the defense
Sanborn said that the meetings were part of a confidential relationship
with Brown and he should not have been allowed to testify.
But, Coffman wrote, there is not enough evidence to establish a
"The fact that Brown injected prayer and ministering into the relationship
does not mean that Sanborn understood that his statements to Brown were
protected by a 'sacred or moral trust,' and the facts simply do not
support an assertion that Sanborn had such an understanding," Coffman
The Kentucky Supreme Court at one time called the case a "particularly
vicious and shocking premeditated murder." Gov. Paul Patton signed
Sanborn's death warrant in December 1996, which a judge later stopped.
(source: Associated Press)
Death Penalty To Be Factor In Wright Trial
The death penalty will be on the table when the murder trial of Daphne
Wright begins next month. A judge dismissed a motion by Wright's attorneys
to have the death penalty thrown out in the case of the Sioux Falls deaf
Daphne Wright, who's been deaf since early childhood, is accused of
killing another deaf woman, Darlene VanderGiesen, just over a year ago.
Wright's lawyer argued the death penalty should not apply in her case
because of her deafness. But Judge Bradley Zell ruled that the death
penalty would not be cruel and unusual punishment if Wright is found
Experts testified today that Daphne Wright is a bright woman. But that her
deafness makes it difficult for her to understand abstract legal concepts,
even with trained interpreters in the courtroom. Her lawyers said Wright
would not have the same ability to defend herself as a hearing person
could and therefore, the death penalty should not apply in her murder
But prosecutors argued that Wright was able to communicate effectively
with police investigating the murder of Darlene VanderGiesen. She not only
answered questions posed by police, but she also asked questions herself.
The judge ruled that neither the constitution nor state law protects deaf
people from capital punishment, citing 3 cases since 1951 when deaf
defendants across the country were given the death penalty.
Darlene VanderGiesen's parents were in the courtroom. They said they did
not contact the judge about their thoughts on the death penalty. And they
wouldn't comment about the ruling. But they did tell me it was difficult
sitting through the motions hearing.
(source: Keloland News)
Bill to expand death penalty clears Senate
The Virginia Senate voted today to eliminate the states "triggerman" rule,
which limits capital charges to the actual killer and not accomplices.
On a 27-13 vote, the Senate approved House Bill 2348, which is identical
to a Senate bill passed earlier this session. If signed by Gov. Tim Kaine,
the bills will expand the range of offenses for which prosecutors can ask
for the death penalty.
Lawmakers have worked for several years on eliminating the triggerman rule
but have failed to achieve consensus to pass such legislation.
HB 2348 now goes to Kaine for his signature. Kaine opposes the death
penalty, but said during his 2005 campaign for governor that he'd enforce
the law. He can veto the bill, sign it or allow it to pass into law
without his signature.
(source: Roanoke Times)
Death penalty to be sought against 2 in triple slaying ---- Twanna Blair
out of jail on $100,000 bond
Today marks the eighth year of a triple homicide investigation. 2 people
have been charged with 1st-degree murder and one is accused of conspiracy
and perjury for the 1999 Valentines Day killings inside a 19th Street
On Monday, District Attorney General Steve Bebb signed paperwork
indicating he would seek the death penalty for the 2 men allegedly
involved in the crime.
Twanna "Tart" Blair, 29 and Mike "Money" Younger, 32, were recenly charged
in the 1999 murders of Cayci Higgins, Dawn Rogers and Blairs cousin,
Orenthal J. "O.J. Blair.
In November, Maurice Johnson of Sweetwater, was charged with 3 counts of
1st-degree murder after a Bradley County Grand Jury handed down an
Johnson and Younger remain in jail under no bond orders. Twanna Blair's
bond was set at $100,000 at a hearing Friday and she bonded out shortly
Paperwork seeking the death penalty prosecution of Johnson and Younger has
been signed, Bebb said during an interview on Tuesday.
Twanna Blair was original listed as a victim. She was charged with 3
counts of conspiracy to commit 1st-degree murder and aggravated perjury,
according to reports.
"Approximately 16 months ago, a 7-member task force comprised of CPD
investigators, TBI agents and Bradley County Sheriffs Office detectives
was formed. The task force collected evidence to support Maurice Johnson
was responsible for the deaths of the 3 victims," according to Cleveland
Police Department officials shortly after indictments were served on
"Twanna Blair was in the apartment at the time of this discovery," said
Cleveland Police detective Duff Brumley in a written release.
Twanna Blair "is the only surviving occupant of the apartment."
Investigators found inconsistencies in statements from Twanna Blair. She
was not very cooperative with the detectives charged with finding the
killers, according to releases from Cleveland Police Department.
She "was believed to have had knowledge" regarding what happened during
the early hours of Valentines Day 1999, according to officials.
Investigators reportedly interviewed hundreds of potential suspects in the
case during the past 8 years, according to CPD Chief Wes Snyder.
"We poured a great amount of resources into the investigation over the
years," he said.
Snyder would not comment on a possible motive for the killings; however,
investigators believe the shootings were prefaced by a shooting incident
that occurred in Sweetwater the previous evening in 1999.
The "Sweetwater Connection" encompasses a shooting at a party attended by
O.J. Blair and Twanna Blair the night before, according to reports from
Sweetwater Police Department.
Kerry Rogers, of Cleveland, was shot in the shoulder. Johnson was a
suspect in the shooting but was never charged, according to a Sweetwater
Investigators said a fight broke out involving the Blairs, then someone
pulled a weapon and began firing randomly. A number of spent shell casings
were recovered from the scene of the shooting , which occurred on Chestnut
Kerry Rogers was struck in the shoulder and was stopped by Sweetwater
Police as he ran away from the scene.
According to previous Cleveland Police reports, "It is believed the
gunfire was actually meant for O.J." Kerry Rogers was treated for his
wound and a bullet was recovered.
Hours later, Twanna Blair said someone approached Dawn Rogers' and
Higgins' apartment and identified themselves as "Sheriff's Department,"
according to reports.
Blair, Higgins and Rogers were all killed and Twanna Blair reportedly left
for dead. Higgins was 19; Rogers, a mother of 2 small children, was 25;
and O.J. Blair was 18 at the time of the shooting.
Roy Higgins who was Cayci's father said, "Finally, they were able to tie
the pieces together."
"If found guilty, they need to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law
whatever that may be ... and anyone else who may be involved in their
deaths," added Higgins. He made the statement prior Johnson's arraignment
That was also the day prosecutors announced they would review information
and file their findings for a death penalty case.
Additional arrests are still possible regarding the triple murders.
(source: Cleveland Daily Banner)
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