[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----COLO., S.C., KAN., VA., N.Y.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Feb 23 18:58:43 UTC 2007
Death penalty sought
Prosecutors said Wednesday they will seek the death penalty against two
men accused of killing a witness in a murder case and his fiancee.
Sir Mario Owens and Robert Ray face 1st-degree murder charges in the June
2005 shooting deaths of Javad Marshall-Fields and Vivian Wolfe, both 22.
Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers said she decided to seek
the death penalty after discussing the case with her staff and talking to
the victims families. She said the families support pursuing the death
Chambers declined to discuss the specifics that led to her decision.
The bottom line for us has to be that we provide a fair trial when seeking
such a profound result, she said.
Prosecutors said Marshall-Fields was a witness in the shooting death of
Gregory Vann at an Aurora park on July 4, 2004, and was scheduled to
testify against Owens and Ray.
Ray was convicted of being an accessory to murder in Vanns death and was
sentenced to 108 years in prison. Owens was convicted of 1st-degree murder
in Vanns death and faces life in prison without parole when he is
sentenced April 3.
Jury must convict
If a jury convicts Owens and Ray of 1st-degree murder in Marshall-Fields
and Wolfes deaths, it would then decide whether the death penalty should
No trial dates have been set. Chambers said several hundred motions likely
will be filed in the case.
Shot several times
Wolfe and Marshall-Fields were shot several times while they sat in a car
at an Aurora intersection. They died later from their wounds.
They were recently engaged and had planned to move to Virginia, where
Marshall-Fields had a job lined up.
(source: Denver Daily News)
Beaufort suspect found mentally fit for death penalty trial
A judge has ruled a suspect in the beating death of a Beaufort County man
three years ago is mentally competent for his death penalty trial.
In a hearing Thursday, Circuit Judge John Milling also ruled that
statements John Dykeman Jr. gave police could be used at his trial, which
is scheduled to start in mid-April.
Dykeman is charged with murder in the death of Brett Kinney in 2004.
Prosecutors sought the death penalty against Dykeman's former girlfriend,
Samantha Morgan-Major after she pleaded guilty, but a judge last July
sentenced her to life in prison instead.
Morgan-Major admitted to the crime and in a confession played during her
sentencing, said Dykeman helped her as they spent around 40 hours
torturing Kinney, including beating him, stabbing him, injecting an air
bubble into a vein on his neck, choking him and trying to suffocate him in
an empty freezer.
Kinney, who was brain-damaged and physically disabled, was finally beaten
to death with sticks, shovels and rocks, prosecutors said.
After he was arrested, Dykeman told investigators Morgan-Major went crazy
and attacked the victim while he drove around, Beaufort County Sheriff's
Staff Sgt. Brian Baird said.
"He said the only thing he's guilty of is not helping the man," Baird said
at the hearing.
(source: Associated Press)
State to seek death penalty against suspect in sheriff's death
The man suspected of killing a southeast Kansas sheriff received official
notice Thursday that the state plans to seek the death penalty if he's
convicted by a jury.
Scott Cheever, 23, is charged with capital murder in the January 2005
shooting death of Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels. Authorities say
the sheriff was gunned down while trying to serve warrants on Cheever at a
rural home with a working meth lab.
Greenwood County Attorney Ross McIlvain served the legal notice of the
intent to seek the death penalty after Cheever's arraignment Thursday in
Butler County District Court.
Earlier, Cheever remained silent during his arraignment as Butler County
District Judge Mike Ward entered a not-guilty plea and set trial for Oct.
Still to be decided is where the trial would be held. Because all judges
in Greenwood County were acquainted with Samuels, the case is being
handled in Butler County.
However, Ward said Thursday he expects that a change of venue will be
requested to still another county.
Besides capital murder, Cheever also is charged with four counts of
attempted capital murder and 1 count each of manufacturing methamphetamine
and criminal possession of a firearm.
Cheever's next court date is May 14, when the judge expects to hear the
1st round of pretrial motions. Capital murder cases involving the death
penalty usually include numerous motions prior to trial.
During a preliminary hearing last month, witnesses testified that Samuels
had gone with 2 deputies to the home to serve warrants on Cheever for
absconding from parole and for suspected theft of handguns from his
Former Greenwood County deputy Mike Mullins testified that Samuels entered
the house first. Mullins said he heard two gunshots almost immediately and
went into the house, where he found the sheriff alive but badly wounded at
the bottom of a staircase.
Mullins said he knelt to try to help Samuels.
"At one point I felt a gunshot go by my ear," Mullins testified. "I yelled
up to Scott to stop shooting and let me help Matt."
Mullins said he and another deputy pulled Samuels onto the porch. Cheever
was arrested about 7 hours later when members of the Kansas Highway
Patrol's Special Response Team entered the house, protected by a
(source: Associated Press)
Reserve executions for worst of the worst
2nd place not being good enough, the General Assembly seeks to expand the
categories of crimes eligible for the death penalty.
Only 1 state - Texas - has executed more people in the 30 years since the
Supreme Court re-established capital punishment in 1976. A good way to
burnish that gruesome credential is to expand exponentially the number of
candidates eligible for the death penalty. The Assembly is on track to do
just that by dropping the rule that only actual killers can be killed.
Now, pending gubernatorial signature, accessories in murders for hire and
murders involving terrorism or a continuing criminal enterprise may also
be executed. In all other murders, anyone who shares the same "intent" as
the actual killer, or anyone who ordered or directed a willful,
premeditated killing, can join the list.
A bill by Sen. Nick Rerras, R-Norfolk, making anyone convicted of killing
a judge or a witness eligible for death, also passed the legislature.
At a time when much of the nation appears deeply conflicted about the
practice of capital punishment, eliminating the so-called "triggerman"
rule, in particular, defiantly drives Virginia in the opposite direction.
The proposed change invites prosecutors to bring capital charges against
scores of individuals who heretofore would be punished by life in prison.
Resisting that development does not condone coddling those who commit evil
acts. For the convicted, life in prison can be a fate worse than death.
But for society, life sentences are not irreversible judgments. That's a
plus given the proven fallibility of the criminal justice system. Nor are
people stained by the moral incongruity of duplicating, albeit in
sanitized form, the very acts we claim to abhor.
For many years, Virginia has recognized that even blood thirst does not
require executing everyone intimately connected to a murder. By narrowing
the field to those who literally "pull the trigger," we maintain the
decorum of claiming to kill only the worst of the worst.
Are there instances in which someone other than a triggerman bears greater
culpability for a murder? Yes, but rarely. Broadening the dragnet to
capture those few, we instead widen the risk of injustice, while burdening
citizens with the actual and psychic costs of spiraling executions.
As a death penalty opponent, Gov. Tim Kaine might veto such legislation.
In fact, in an election year, that may be what some of those pushing the
expansion have in mind. Based on House and Senate tallies to date,
however, it's far from certain a veto could be sustained.
After several grisly years, executions have tapered off in Virginia
lately. This legislation could spur a resurgence. That's not a distinction
of which anyone should be proud.
(source: Editorial, Virginian-Pilot)
A second chance for a death sentence----Gray appeals his conviction in
Harvey case; now he faces upgraded charge in Culpeper
If Ricky Javon Gray successfully appeals his death sentence for killing
the Harvey children in Richmond, he still faces possible execution if
convicted of killing a Culpeper County woman.
This month, Gray's appealed his conviction in the Harvey case on
constitutional grounds. Culpeper Commonwealth's Attorney Gary L. Close
would not say yesterday whether that influenced his decision to withdraw a
first-degree murder charge in Culpeper and proceed with a capital murder
case, which carries a potential death sentence.
"I'm not discussing charging decisions," he said.
A Culpeper grand jury indicted Gray this week on a charge of capital
murder in the Dec. 18, 2005, slaying of Sheryl Warner, whose body was
found hanging by an electrical cord in the burning basement of her
Culpeper home. Her killing occurred 2 weeks before Bryan and Kathryn
Harvey and their two young daughters were bound and killed and their
basement set afire in South Richmond on Jan. 1, 2006.
Defense attorney Ted Bruns, who represented Gray in the Harvey slayings
and this week was appointed in the Culpeper case, said prosecutors may
want to have another death sentence in place, should the Richmond sentence
"From a prosecutor's standpoint, that could be a justification. I don't
know that it was" in this case, Bruns said.
Kevin Smith, who represented Gray on the first-degree murder charge in
Culpeper, would not speculate on the prosecutor's rationale except to say,
"All I know is Ricky did not want to plead" guilty to 1st-degree murder.
Gray is challenging the constitutionality of the capital murder provision
by which he received his Richmond death sentence. He was sentenced to die
for killing the Harvey children -- Ruby, 4, and Stella, 9 -- under a
provision that makes it a capital offense for someone 21 or older to kill
someone under 14.
Bruns said he is puzzled by the provision, noting that a 20-year-old
defendant who kills a young child would be exempt from that death-penalty
clause. "We don't see a meaningful distinction," he said.
The new capital murder charge in Culpeper alleges the killing of more than
one person in a 3-year period. He is also charged with attempted arson,
abduction, using a firearm and possessing a firearm as a convicted felon.
Gray is scheduled to appear March 14 in Culpeper Circuit Court. Bruns said
he is unsure whether he and attorney Jeffrey Everhart will be allowed to
represent Gray because the condemned killer told a judge Tuesday that he
was not satisfied with those lawyers' services in the Harvey case.
"He's on death row, so I can't begrudge him that," Bruns said.
Gray's 1st-degree murder trial in Culpeper was set for July 30 through
Aug. 2, but that date could change.
In the 2005 slaying, Warner was on the telephone with her father when she
answered the door of her home along a sparsely populated stretch on U.S.
29 about 7 p.m., according to relatives. She told her father that a man
needed to use the phone because he was having car trouble. The family
called police when Warner failed to call her father back.
Close has said he is fairly confident Gray killed Warner without the help
of nephew Ray Joseph Dandridge, his accomplice in the murders of the
Harveys and the three members of the Tucker-Baskerville family of Richmond
on Jan. 6, 2006.
Dandridge, 29, pleaded guilty during his September trial to 3 counts of
capital murder in the Tucker-Baskerville case and received 3 life
The 2 defendants also pleaded guilty to aggravated malicious wounding and
robbery in a 2005 New Year's Eve attack on a man in Arlington County, and
Gray also confessed to fatally beating his wife in November 2005 in
Pennsylvania while Dandridge held her down. Gray has not been prosecuted
in his wife's death.
(source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)
"Respect Life": Freed Prisoners Rap Death Penalty
On Jan. 30, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis condemned Ronell Wilson
to die for killing 2 undercover New York police officers in Staten Island
during a 2003 sting operation. It was New York's 1st death sentence in
more than 50 years administered in a state in which less than 1/3 of the
population supports the death penalty, according to a Sept. 2006 New York
The impact of Wilsons sentencing reverberated a week later at the National
Black Theater in Harlem as 4 wrongfully convicted men spoke about their
ordeals at a panel hosted by the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and New
Yorkers against the Death Penalty. Jeffrey Deskovic, Lawrence Hayes, Alan
Newton and Yusef Salaam were all exonerated of crimes ranging from
robbery, to rape and murder. They spent between 6 and 21 years in prison,
and Hayes passed 2 years of his life on death row.
"It's important for us to talk about the people that are innocent and
wrongfully convicted, but it's also important for us to talk about the
ones that are guilty," said Lee Wengraf, a board member of the Campaign to
End the Death Penalty.
Wengraf excoriated the government for "making an example" of Wilson. The
intervention of U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez was instrumental in
moving Wilson's case from state to federal court in order to obtain a
death sentence. (The New York Court of Appeals ruled that the death
penalty violates the states constitution.)
"Ronell is one of the many thousands of people who the government
disinvested itself from they said it was okay to strip the social
investment from communities [like the Stapleton Houses, a Staten Island
housing project where Wilson grew up], which creates conditions that
foster crime," said Wengraf. "They want the Ronell Wilsons on death row so
they can say, 'They're the worst of the worst, they're the ones causing
Lawrence Hayes, a former Black Panther who was wrongfully convicted of
killing a police officer in 1970, spent 2 years on death row in New York.
Paroled in 1991, Hayes spoke passionately about the harm America's
fixation with the death penalty wreaks at home and abroad.
"This country is holding humanity back from that next step, which is to
appreciate, value and respect life. And we right here have an opportunity
to change that."
Yusef Salaam is living proof of how public hysteria and overzealous
authorities pervert the U.S.'s criminal justice system. Convicted at the
age of 15 of rape and assault in the infamous Central Park jogger case,
Salaam was exonerated in 2002 when a serial rapist already behind bars
confessed to the crime. Throughout the trial, real estate tycoon Donald
Trump took out advertisements in the major New York papers advocating the
death penalty for Salaam and his co-defendants.
In the last 2 1/2 years, 10 prisoners sentenced to lengthy prison terms in
New York state have been found innocent after reviews of evidence in their
cases. Jeffrey Deskovic and Alan Newton were both released last year after
the DNA evidence in their case was re-examined at the insistence of the
Innocence Project, a litigation organization dedicated to reforming the
criminal justice system.
(source: The Indypendent)
More information about the DeathPenalty