[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----CONN., TENN., ARIZ.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Jan 3 07:16:34 UTC 2007
Trial begins for man accused killing of wife, daughters
A 47-year-old East Hartford man accused of shooting his wife and 2
daughters before setting them on fire more than 3 years ago went on trial
Tuesday, facing the possibility of lethal injection if convicted.
A Hartford Superior Court jury began hearing evidence in the murder trial
of Michael Kendall. Prosecutors Donna Mambrino and Sandra Tullius are
seeking the death penalty.
Kendall has been held in lieu of $5.3 million in bonds since his arrest
for the Dec. 13, 2003, slaying of his family.
Police say Kendall shot Ramona Kendall, 45, Kayla, 16, and 12-year-old
Alexis just hours before a court order would have forced him to leave the
family's town house.
Prosecutors contend that after Kendall shot his wife and daughters, one
time each in the head, he poured gasoline on their bodies and set them on
Police say Kendall then fled the house, leaving behind Ramona Kendall's
elderly father, Adam Alston.
Alston, 71, later told police that he'd gotten up to use the bathroom when
he heard "loud popping." He told police that one of his granddaughters
cried out, "Oh, Daddy!"
Kendall is charged with two counts of capital felony, 3 counts of murder
and 1 count of arson. Capital felony was charged because Alexis was under
the age of 16, and because more than 1 person was killed at the same time.
Under state law, a capital conviction carries only 1 of 2 penalties:
execution or life in prison without release. There are currently 8 people
on Connecticut's death row.
Michael and Ramona Kendall had been together for 18 years, but she filed
According to court records, Ramona Kendall had been granted "exclusive
use" of the town house, and Michael Kendall was to vacate the premises by
10 a.m. on Dec. 13, 2003. However, prosecutors say, none of Michael
Kendall's things was packed to move.
(sources: Stamford Advocate/Associated Press)
No death penalty in New London double murder trial
Prosecutors say they will not seek the death penalty in a New London
double murder case.
The trial of 34-year-old Brady Guilbert is to begin tomorrow in New London
Superior Court. Guilbert's criminal record includes time spent in prison
16 years ago for shooting another man.
Prosecutors says they have decided not to seek the death penalty. The
34-year-old Guilbert of New London is being tried on capital felony
charges of murder.
He's accused of fatally shooting 23-year-old Cedric Williams and
21-year-old Terry Ross, both of New London.
The 2 men were shot execution-style inside a car parked at Hope and
Hempstead streets on October 9th of 2004.
Guilbert is also a suspect in a shooting that occurred shortly before the
(source: WTNH News)
Staying alive on death row since 1978----Latest appeal rejected, but
Austin planning another
The oldest man on death row in Tennessee will stay there a while longer.
An appeals court 2 weeks ago turned down the latest bid of Richard Hale
Austin to have his conviction and sentence set aside.
The former Memphis pool hall operator was convicted of arranging the
murder of a police informant who helped link him to an illegal gambling
Austin, now 67, has been on death row since Jan. 27, 1978, longer than any
of the state's other 101 condemned inmates.
He was the 1st person sentenced under Tennessee's 1977 death penalty law.
Since then, he has filed numerous appeals, and the case has taken some
In 1998, he was awarded a new sentencing trial, but the new jury returned
him to death row.
In that sentencing, triggerman Jack Charles Blankenship shocked Austin's
Blankenship told the jury Austin was the man who hired him to kill Julian
Watkins, an unpaid commissioned officer whose undercover work for police
led to gambling indictments of Austin and 16 other people.
For 22 years before that, Blankenship, who is serving a life sentence for
murder, said in sworn statements that someone else had hired him for the
killing and that Austin was innocent.
Blankenship now said Austin paid him $980 after deducting $20 for the case
of beer Austin had bought for him the night before.
"I needed to make some money and I didn't care how I did it," said
Blankenship, adding that he had made himself "right with God" and could no
longer lie. "He (Austin) said he had a stool pigeon out there he needed to
get killed. I told him I'd do it."
Blankenship's account was supported by another witness, Terry Lee Casteel,
who testified -- as he had before -- that he was Blankenship's getaway
driver when Watkins was gunned down May 23, 1977, at his body shop at 5444
Lamar. Casteel served 7 years of a 20-year sentence for 2nd-degree murder.
But then Blankenship changed his account again.
In 2004, one of Austin's attorneys received a call from Blankenship's
wife, who said her husband had lied about Austin's involvement because his
lawyer said the state might help him get early release from prison for
A private investigator went to visit Blankenship in prison and confirmed
from him what the wife said.
He said he did not know why his lawyer advised him to provide false
testimony and added that he has received no special consideration in his
This month a 3-judge panel of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals was
not swayed by Austin's argument for a new trial and essentially said
Blankenship's changed testimony made no difference in the jury's decision.
"The resentencing jury fully heard about Mr. Blankenship's prior sworn
claim that (Austin) was not involved," the appeals court said.
"We believe the impeachment rendered Mr. Blankenship's testimony
ineffectual, that the jury would have found Mr. Casteel's testimony more
appealing, and moreover that the result would not have changed had Mr.
Blankenship testified differently."
Austin will appeal.
(source: Memphis Commercial Appeal)
Inmate charged with killing cellmate could face death penalty
A state prison inmate already serving a life term has been formally
accused of killing his cellmate, a nonviolent drug offender who was placed
with the convicted murderer only a few hours before he was stabbed and
beaten to death.
Inmate Michael Gaston could face the death penalty if convicted of the
charges, filed more than three months after the Sept. 7 death of
45-year-old William Harris in the state prison in Florence. Prosecutors
have yet to decide if they'll seek the death penalty.
Gaston made his first appearance in Pinal County Superior Court on Dec.
21, but did not enter a plea, according to court records.
The incident raised questions about the state prison system's inmate
classification system, which is designed to prevent non-violent prisoners
from being housed with those known to be violent. The system became a hot
topic nearly 3 years ago following a 3-week standoff at Lewis Prison in
Buckeye, one of the longest prisoner revolts in the nation's history.
Harris was serving a 3-year sentence for drug charges. Gaston arrived at
the prison in April after he was convicted of killing a friend in the
desert near Wickenburg over a disputed car loan.
A legislative committee questioned Department of Corrections Director Dora
Schriro about the incident last month, and Gov. Janet Napolitano asked her
for a report on the incident that was due Monday at the latest.
Schriro defended the inmate classification system and told the committee
it was not responsible for Harris' death.
(source: Associated Press)
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