[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----MO., MISS., ILL.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Feb 16 16:44:05 UTC 2007
MISSOURI----federal death penalty rejected
Gang leader spared death penalty by jury in Joplin killings
A reputed gang leader from Oklahoma convicted in the killings of 2 Joplin
residents faces 3 life sentences after a federal jury could not
unanimously agree to give him the death penalty.
Federal statutes require the life sentence for each killing because the
jury could not reach a decision after deliberating six hours yesterday and
part of today.
33-year-old Thomas "Mad Dog" Smith faces a 3rd life sentence after he
pleaded guilty to a related drug trafficking charge.
Smith was found guilty last week of conspiracy to commit murder.
A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after an investigation by the US
Prosecutors say Smith led a cell of Bloods gang members from Tulsa. He was
charged in the 1999 execution-style slayings of Paris Harbin and Chandy
Plumb in a Joplin apartment house.
(source: Associated Press)
Death row inmate to get mental retardation hearing
The Mississippi Supreme Court has ordered a mental retardation hearing for
death row inmate Leroy Lynch.
Lynch was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 1998 for
his role in the shooting death of 74-year-old Richard Lee outside Lees
home in Boyle.
The Supreme Court upheld the conviction in 2004.
Lynch returned to the court with a post-conviction petition, in which he
claimed new evidence was found that might win him a new trial.
The 2 main issues raised by Lynch were that he is mentally retarded and
that his attorney should have done a better job. The Supreme Court sent
the case back to Bolivar County Circuit Court for hearings on both claims.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 in a Virginia case that its illegal
to execute people who are mentally retarded.
The court said it would be a violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition
of cruel and unusual punishment to execute anyone with a combined IQ of 75
In dispensing with dozens of mental retardation claims from Mississippis
death row, the Mississippi Supreme Court has required the inmates to
produce an expert opinion that the defendant possessed an IQ of 75 or
below and that further testing showed the inmate was not malingering.
Chief Justice Jim Smith, writing in Thursdays decision, said prosecutors
did not concede that Lynch is mentally retarded but they agreed Lynch is
entitled to a hearing.
(source: Associated Press)
ILLINOIS----new death sentence
Stepdad gets death penalty in slaying----16-year-old girl had accused him
Laurence Lovejoy was sentenced to death Thursday night for the brutal
murder of his stepdaughter in 2004, becoming the 1st person sent to death
row in DuPage County since then-Gov. George Ryan offered mass commutations
to 167 condemned state prisoners in 2003.
Lovejoy, 40, showed no reaction as the DuPage jury handed down its verdict
about 7 p.m.
Lovejoy was convicted Feb. 6 of killing Erin Justice, his 16-year-old
stepdaughter, on March 27, 2004, in order to keep her from pursuing a rape
case against him.
After listening to 4 days of evidence specifically on the death sentence,
the jury deliberated for almost 4 hours Thursday.
"The evidence was overwhelming, very emotional, very difficult for us,"
said the 44-year old jury foreman from Downers Grove who asked not to be
identified. "We wanted to find a way to help both families through this,
but the decision was very clear."
The victim's mother, Valerie Lovejoy, said: "I've been waiting a long
time, but we got justice. It doesn't bring my daughter back. She didn't
deserve this; she was a good person."
Erin Justice, a Waubonsie Valley High School sophomore, was killed in her
mother's Aurora town home.
"Lovejoy deserves the ultimate sanction," said State's Atty. Joseph
Birkett. "The evidence was crystal-clear, and the jury reached a true and
"Lovejoy was the judge, jury and executioner of a young girl, and this
would be the proper decision anywhere in this country."
DuPage County Public Defender Robert Miller said: "We were hopeful for a
verdict other than death, but I applaud the jury for their attentiveness
for 6 weeks."
Miller said defense attorneys will prepare post-trial motions, including
those asking for a new trial.
Birkett also took the occasion of Thursday's decision to press Gov. Rod
Blagojevich "to lift the shallow veil of [Illinois'] moratorium on
death-penalty sentences," which was imposed by Ryan in 2000.
"I call upon him to lift his head out of the sand," said Birkett, who lost
his race for lieutenant governor on a ticket with running mate Judy Baar
Topinka, who lost to Blagojevich in November. "This is a message from the
community that the moratorium is a huge mistake. It should never be easy
for the death penalty to be imposed, but this jury helped us to prove
Blagojevich has said that although he opposes the abolition of the death
penalty, he would not lift the moratorium anytime soon.
He said he would need evidence to show that reforms enacted by the state
If the jury had decided against the death penalty for Lovejoy, Judge
Kathryn Creswell would have had the option of sentencing him to life in
"I am proudly begging for mercy," Stephen Richards, a defense attorney for
Lovejoy, said to the jury in closing arguments Thursday. "Saving a life is
a great thing to do. You have already rendered justice for the crime with
the conviction; you are now allowed to consider mercy."
But Birkett, his voice rising, told the jury in closing: "Show mercy to
him who shows it and deserves it. Hold him responsible to the fullest
extent of the law. You have seen no evidence of mercy in his life."
After a 2-week criminal trial, the jury found Lovejoy guilty of beating,
poisoning, stabbing and drowning his stepdaughter.
Prosecutors alleged that the defendant wanted to prevent the teenager from
pursuing her claim that he raped her March 3, 2004, 2 days after her 16th
birthday. They said he had a history of violence against women and served
2 previous prison sentences for residential burglary.
Defense attorneys contended that Lovejoy had a dysfunctional childhood.
This argument was supported by mental health experts' claims that the man
remained immature and antisocial, even at age 40.
Richards reiterated to jurors "only one person has to say no to avoid the
death penalty. If you feel death isn't appropriate, you have an obligation
to vote no."
Assistant State's Atty. Robert Berlin told the jury: "You have the power
to be a just voice for society, a society that cares about children. No
human being should have to suffer the kind of death that Erin did. Don't
forget what she had to go through and what the defendant did."
Edreick Justice, the victim's father, held back tears after the verdict.
"Now we can put this behind us. Laurence Lovejoy has his own hell to deal
with," he said. "I was sitting in my car just before this decision,
praying for the right thing to happen."
(source: Chicago Tribune)
Supreme Court upholds serial killer's death sentence
A confessed serial killer is headed back to Illinois' death row.
The Illinois Supreme Court today upheld the conviction of 42-year-old
Andrew Urdiales and reinstated his death sentence.
The court also set a date for his execution but Governor Rod Blagojevich
is continuing a moratorium on Illinois' death penalty.
Urdiales was convicted and sentenced to die in 2004 for the 1996 shooting
and stabbing of an Indiana woman.
He also has confessed to killing 7 other women in Illinois and California
between 1988 and 1996.
He was sentenced to die for killing 2 Chicago-area women, but that
sentence was commuted when former Governor George Ryan cleared Illinois'
death row in 2003.
Urdiales argued he should have been allowed to plead guilty but mentally
ill. The court found he had suffered no fundamental injustice.
(source: Associated Press)
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