[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., CONN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Jan 5 22:34:38 UTC 2007
Alleged shooter to stand trial in Hidalgo County
A man accused of participating in a 2003 Edinburg drug raid that ended in
6 deaths will stand trial in Hidalgo County, a district court judge ruled
Judge Bobby Flores dismissed Marcial Mata Bocanegra's request for a change
of venue, explaining that his motion was improperly filed with the court.
Flores also denied Bocanegra's separate request for a new defense
Bocanegra told the judge he d d not believe he could receive a fair trial
because of extensive media coverage of the case.
Although the motion's dismissal was based on a technicality, lead
prosecutor Judith Cantu believes the trial should stay in Hidalgo County.
"The crime was committed in the area," she said. "The community of his
peers should be able to decide his fate."
In 2003, Bocanegra and a group of other men associated with the Tri-City
Bombers gang allegedly planned and executed a raid on 2 homes on a Monte
Cristo Road property. The group hoped to steal hundreds of pounds of
marijuana, investigators said.
The assailants found no drugs but used AK-47s and SKS assault weapons to
kill 6 men, including two members of the rival Texas Chicano Brotherhood
gang, according to police reports.
13 men were charged in the case. So far, Juan Raul Navarro Ramirez,
Humberto Garza and Rodolfo Alvarez Medrano have faced a jury, been
convicted and been sentenced to death.
The case against Jeffrey Alan Juarez, who police believe ordered the
attack from his home in Sugar Land, has been dropped. The district
attorney's office has also declined to indict suspected shooters Reymundo
Sauceda and Salvador Solis.
"That's not to say that they cannot be indicted later on," Cantu said.
"But for now, we determined that it did not serve the public interest to
go forward with these cases."
The trial of Roberto Rodriguez Cantu, accused of driving gang members to
the property, is scheduled for February.
All other defendants have pleaded guilty to their charges and are already
serving time, Cantu said.
"Everything that we've expected to happen in these cases has happened so
far," she said.
Prosecutors have decided not to seek the death penalty in Bocanegra's
case, but Judith Cantu would not explain the factors that played into that
Bocanegra faces life in prison if convicted.
His attorneys could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Suspected murderer appears defiant in court
Mario Quintanilla held his head high as he stood before a municipal court
judge Thursday, charged in the 2005 murder of 23-year-old Larissa Cavasos.
And although he passed a few feet in front of the victims father, he never
once glanced in Sergio Cavasos direction.
Quintanilla, 25, of McAllen, stands accused of murdering Larissa Cavasos
on Dec. 21, 2005, in what police describe as a mistaken attempt to steal
drugs from her Edinburg apartment just blocks from the University of
Texas-Pan American campus.
Municipal Court Judge Terry Palacios charged Quintanilla with capital
murder and set bond at $1 million. If convicted, Quintanilla could face a
sentence of life imprisonment or the death penalty.
"He never turned his head and looked over at us," Sergio Cavasos said. "I
wanted to make eye contact with the man."
2 other men charged in the case 30-year-old Jesus Oscar Arcos and
28-year-old Gilberto "Toto" Martinez await extradition from LeSeur
County, Minn., where they were arrested last week.
A 4th suspect, Alfredo "Fro" Valdez, 32, of Pharr, remains at large.
Police believe Quintanilla, Valdez and Martinez all belong to the
Hermandad de Pistoleros Latinos gang, but have said that Cavasos death was
And while investigators continue to question why the men allegedly broke
into the UTPA graduate's apartment, the probable cause affidavit in the
case indicates they may have had reason to believe they would find drugs
According to the document, Quintanilla and a fellow gang member bought
drugs at the apartment two days before Cavasos' murder.
But Edinburg Police Chief Quirino Muoz insisted the 23-year-old was not
involved in drug activity. Instead, the document describes a "frequent
visitor" to her apartment as the person who allegedly sold Quintanilla
"The girl was not involved in any sort of drugs," he said. "You don't
always know what people you have over to your house are involved in."
On the night of the murder, all four men left a party together around
midnight and did not return until dawn the next day, according to witness
statements cited in the affidavit.
After their return, Quintanilla and Valdez were allegedly overheard
discussing "the murder of a girl in Edinburg." Quintanilla and Arcos were
arguing about her death, the document says.
Investigators eventually identified the 4 men after tracking the signal
from Cavasos' cell phone to McAllens southside La Balboa neighborhood.
After finding the phone at a house in the 2500 block of Elmira Street,
detectives learned the 4 suspects had used the residence for a party days
after Cavasos murder.
Despite discovering these leads early on in the investigation, police did
not make any arrests until late last week. But investigators continued to
work every day and kept tabs on the men they had identified as suspects,
"It has truly been a yearlong investigation," he said. "We were dealing
with very difficult individuals that werent inclined to speak to
Thursday, Quintanilla entered the makeshift court at the Edinburg Police
Department under heavy guard and wearing a bulletproof vest.
Standing off to the side, Sergio Cavasos watched the proceedings
"What was going through my mind the whole time was what my daughter must
have thought," he said. "Why couldnt they have just taken everything? Why
did they have to kill her?"
Cavasos later told reporters he plans to attend every court function for
all the suspects in his daughters murder.
"If this guy goes to the restroom," Cavasos said, "Im going to be there."
(source for both: The Monitor)
Judge calls bond for former death-row inmate 'excessive'
Calling a $1 million state bond "excessive and oppressive,'' a federal
judge here today nevertheless said he was powerless to interfere with the
way a state court handles the retrial of former death-row inmate Anthony
"I can agree with you that it sounds pretty excessive and pretty
oppressive, but that's the business of the state court,'' U.S. Magistrate
Judge John Froeschner said.
Froeschner allowed Graves to post $5,000 in cash as security for a $50,000
bond, but said he could not order deputy U.S. marshals to release him
until he had satisfied the $1 million state bond.
Jeff Blackburn of Amarillo, one of three Graves attorneys working for free
because they believe he is innocent, said the $1 million bond set Dec. 20
by Burleson County District Judge Reva Towslee-Corbett was "a ridiculous
amount designed to do nothing but keep him locked up.''
Blackburn said Towslee-Corbett set the bond on her own initiative without
holding a hearing.
Froeschner said that although the $1 million bond might be excessive and
there probably should have been a hearing before bail was set,
Towslee-Corbett had broken no law.
Towslee-Corbett on Thursday appointed Assistant Attorney General Julie Ann
Stone to as interim special prosecutor to retry Graves, whose capital
murder conviction was overturned last year after a federal appeals court
found that prosecutors withheld evidence and elicited false testimony.
The Texas Innocence Network believes Graves is innocent of charges that he
participated in the slaying of a grandmother and 5 children in 1992. They
were bludgeoned, stabbed and shot.The house was torched to cover the
The case has gone without a prosecutor for more than two weeks following
the request by Renee Mueller, district attorney for Burleson and
Washington counties, to recuse her entire office.
Mueller recused her office after Towslee-Corbett ruled that Assistant
District Attorney Joan Scroggins, part of the team that prosecuted Graves
in 1994, could not participate in the prosecution.
The case was awaiting assignment of a prosecutor when Towslee-Corbett set
Graves' bail at $1 million without a hearing.
In October, Froeschner recommended the $50,000 bond, with a $5,000 cash
payment, because prosecutors had failed to retry graves within 120 days
and had not sought a bond hearing. U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent ordered
the bond, which Graves' attorneys promptly paid.
The Texas Attorney General's Office appealed and 5th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals upheld Kent's authority to set the bond, but stayed Graves release
until Jan. 4 to give prosecutors a chance to request a bond hearing in
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Truck driver's family says execution would be devastating----Jury deciding
man's fate in immigrant deaths.
A cousin of the truck driver convicted for his role in the nation's
deadliest human smuggling attempt tried Thursday to persuade a jury to
spare his life, saying he is a "good person" with a "good heart."
Sentencing Tyrone Williams to death for his role in a failed smuggling
attempt that left 19 illegal immigrants dead "would devastate the whole
family," a tearful Desiree Blair testified during the sentencing phase of
Williams was convicted last month on 58 counts of conspiracy, harboring
and transporting immigrants in his sweltering trailer, which he abandoned
near Victoria on the way from South Texas to Houston in 2003.
Jurors must decide whether to sentence Williams to death or up to life in
Blair said Williams was like a brother to her as they grew up in Jamaica.
"He's a really good person. He has a good heart," she said.
Earlier Thursday, federal prison officials and guards at the Federal
Detention Center in Houston testified that Williams was a model inmate and
could be rehabilitated.
Williams' attorneys are arguing that his good behavior at the detention
center, where he's been since his arrest, are signs of someone who isn't a
future danger to society and should be spared a death sentence.
Earlier in the week, prosecutors presented tearful testimony from
relatives of the 19 victims.
They described how the loss of their loved ones had affected their lives.
Of the more than 70 immigrants packed in Williams' trailer, 19 died of
dehydration, overheating and suffocation after nearly 4 hours.
The sentencing phase of the trial began Tuesday.
Craig Washington, Williams' lead attorney, has told jurors that his client
never intended for the immigrants to die.
Prosecutors have said Williams deserves a death sentence because by not
freeing the immigrants, he intentionally committed an act of violence that
caused deaths. Williams, 35, is the only one of 14 people charged facing
the death penalty.
(source: Associated Press)
Grand jury declines to indict man accused in Beaumont deaths
A Jefferson County grand jury has declined to indict a Beaumont man who
had been arrested by police on capital murder charges in the November
shooting deaths of 2 teenagers at his home.
Manuel Garcia, 41, had been accused in the deaths of 16-year-old Victor
Garcia, no relation, and 13-year-old Arturo Borrego. Police said the
shooting stemmed from an earlier disagreement between the teens and
Garcia's teenage son. The teens and some of their friends went to Garcia's
house to confront him, police said.
The grand jury returned its decision Thursday and Manuel Garcia, who had
been held in the Jefferson County Correctional Facility since November,
Assistant District Attorney Ramon Rodriguez said he believed the grand
jury felt the shooting was in self-defense.
"They heard all the testimony, and they had all the evidence available to
them," Rodriguez said. "They knew the entire range of potential cases that
could be brought against him, and they opted not to return an indictment
or information (misdemeanor charge) because they could have done that,
Rodriguez said the families of the dead teens were disappointed in the
Bruce Hoffer, Garcia's attorney, said the grand jury made the right
He said Garcia had received death threats and planned to leave the area.
(source: Associated Press)
For Amish, forgiveness flows from faith
Perhaps a Boston Globe columnist expressed the thoughts of many Americans
about how quickly and completely Amish parents and other relatives forgave
Charles Carl Roberts IV for lining up 10 girls, ages 6-13, at a 1-room
school and methodically shooting them, execution style, before killing
Less than a week after the Oct. 2 massacre in West Nichel Mines,
Pennsylvania, Jeff Jacoby wrote that he admired the Amish's steadfast
resolve to obey Jesus' command to turn the other cheek and return good for
evil. Still, he asserted that hatred is not always wrong and forgiveness
is not always deserved.
"How many of us," Jacoby wrote, "would really want to live in a society in
which no one gets angry when children are slaughtered? In which even the
most horrific acts of cruelty were always and instantly forgiven? There is
a time to love and a time to hate, Ecclesiastes teaches. If anything
deserves to be hated, surely it is the pitiless murder of innocents."
Since followers of Jacob Amann broke off from the Mennonite Church around
1690 in Switzerland, they have somehow managed the seemingly impossible
task of separating themselves from society while living in it.
At first, it cost them dearly. The Amish and other Anabaptists were
severely persecuted as heretics by both Protestants --- who drowned them,
mocking their beliefs in adult baptism --- and Catholics --- who preferred
to burn them at the stake. Attracted by religious freedom, the Amish
started coming to the U.S. and Canada in the 18th century, continuing in
ever greater numbers during the 19th century. Most became self-sufficient
farmers because it offered the best opportunity to practice separation and
And even a truly horrific act like the Lancaster County attack on
children, where five girls died violent deaths and the 32-year-old killer
was believed to have plans to rape all ten captured students, was forgiven
literally within minutes after the families found out about the tragedy.
How is that humanly possible?
Why didn't the victims' loved ones at least lash out at the murderer?
Instead, Amish neighbors attended his funeral to comfort his own 3
children and wife. Later they even set up a fund for the non-Amish family
from donations that poured in to Amish families to cover their uninsured
One media commentator noted that the bedrock compassion of the Amish was
as "out of step" with everyday reality as their no-buttons black suits and
horse-drawn buggies. Another pundit observed that such unbridled
forgiveness was almost "beyond comprehension" in a world of terrorism,
where religious-spawned revenge and atrocities are regularly featured on
the nightly news.
"If we don't forgive, we won't be forgiven," said Sam Stoltzfus, an Old
Order Amish member of the community. "We all want to go to heaven, so we
need to forgive. Why not forgive? We forgot forgiveness on our way to
Donald Kraybill, a professor at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, has
written five books on Amish life. He says the group's cornerstone of
forgiveness goes back to the 16th-century martyrs whose courageous stories
are chronicled in the 1,200-page "Martyrs Mirror," which can be found in
most Amish homes today. And the martyrs' testimony springs directly from
the example of Jesus, who forgave his torturers while hanging on the cross
and admonished his disciples to forgive 70 times 7 times.
"Forgiveness is woven into the fabric of Amish life," Kraybill wrote
recently in The Mennonite magazine. "That is why words of forgiveness were
sent to the killer's family before the blood had dried on the schoolhouse
floor. It was just the natural thing to do, the Amish way of doing
David Augsburger, professor of pastoral care and counseling at Fuller
Theological Seminary in Pasadena, was raised as a Mennonite on the border
of Ohio and Indiana, although his grandmother was Amish. His Anabaptist
ancestors go all the way back to the beginning of the Reformation in
The ordained minister of the Mennonite Church was a spokesperson for the
religious community on radio and TV before teaching at different
denominational seminaries, including a Mennonite Seminary for 14 years.
Since 1990, he has worked at Fuller.
"In terms of general practice and discipleship and commitment, both for
Amish and Mennonites there's a clear imitation of Christ focus, which is
closer to Catholic thought than Protestant," the 67-year-old scholar told
"There's also a strong commitment to the practices of your life
demonstrated in the ethics of how you live and work with other people. A
strong commitment to humility in the way you function. A strong commitment
to nonviolence and nonresistance. And a strong commitment to concrete
forms of service."
The main sociological difference between the two groups is the Amish have
withdrawn from intimate contact with a world they think will lead them
away from community solidarity, he points out. So they have rules against
using electricity, owning cars or TVs and having telephones in their homes
largely to maintain community boundaries.
"Enemy love" is another defining characteristic of the Amish, which was
clearly on display at the school shootings. Augsburger says the concept
has roots in the religious community's history of early martyrdom.
"Wrongdoing is not a valid reason for my not loving anybody," he
explained. "So 'enemy love' is the floor on which forgiveness stands. We
act in love toward anyone, no matter what they do towards us,
unconditionally, if we are obeying Jesus' simplest, most basic teachings
about love for other people as he says in the Sermon on the Mount. The
Amish were practicing unconditional love towards the killer of their
children and his family.
"Now when the Amish talk about forgiveness within the community, that's
very different," he added. "That requires accountability, responsibility,
repentance for reconciliation to take place. So for brothers and sisters
in the community where there's something that falls short, they want
accountability, responsible repentance and the work of restoring
This latter kind of deep forgiveness is countercultural in American
Society today, which has become fascinated with retributive justice,
according to Ausburger. He notes that the American criminal justice system
cries out for an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. Criminals must be
brought to justice and punished harshly for their crimes. Even juvenile
offenders are not cut much slack.
But what about lesser wrongs?
"In our culture, we don't practice forgiveness; we practice memory
fatigue," he said. "When we're too tired to remember it anymore, then we
give up and say, 'Ok, I'll just let the person off the hook.'
"But the Amish lean towards looking at forgiveness as being recognizing
the co-humanity of the other person, entering into the conversation and
process to seek to build relationship and reconnecting as brothers. They
would take Jesus' teaching in Matthew 18 quite seriously, where Jesus
clearly says that the goal is to regain your brother."
When asked why forgiving people is so difficult, the professor sighed,
then smiled. He has written three books on that very subject.
"I think forgiveness is one of the hardest things one does because in true
forgiveness you have to face the injury that was actually done between
yourself and the other - and come to terms with the pain that exists
there," he observed. "And then reach out in love toward the individual
even though he may show no signs of recognition, and then seek to restore
"That's hard work," he stressed. "That's all very difficult work."
State of vulnerability
Sister Darlene Kawulok, chair of religious studies at Mount St. Mary's
College, agrees that forgiving is not for the faint of heart.
"It acknowledges your own vulnerability," she said. "And what you're
basically saying is 'I messed up.' And then you're waiting to see what I
do to you. Forgiveness is a state of vulnerability. Because what you're
doing is putting yourself out there, and you're not sure how it's going to
come back to you."
But for Christians, according to the Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet,
nothing is more important. For Jesus, forgiveness was vital. And today's
theologians spend a lot of time still talking about reconciliation, which
is the idea of making things right again - either with yourself, your
neighbor or with God, she explains.
What do you do, however, if the other party wants no part of it?
"I think what you do is fall back on the modeling of Jesus," she said.
"Jesus only invited. He never forced. And so he was a presence, and
presence invites. Goodness invites people to engage and to communicate and
be connected with. Presence invites people to look at situations in their
lives. Presence poses the question."
As an example, the professor of social ethics gives Sister Helen Prejean,
whose ministry to death row inmates was made into the movie "Dead Man
Walking." By putting herself in situations between killers and their
victims' families, the nun has been able to spark a relationship between
But just as often, her efforts fail, which brings up the other reconciling
"Lots of reconciliation happens, I think, as a result of prayer," Sister
Kawulok said. "So you pray for people who persecute you. It's that enemy
love the Amish practice. You pray for people who are very obviously
alienated or disconnected. And it's through that experience, too, that you
She says it's tied to the Christian notion of "communio," or community,
which Jesus modeled in his understanding of relationships and covenant.
Reconciliation and forgiveness are simply the fruits of community. Because
if people have an ongoing and close relationship, then it's a lot easier
for them to ask for forgiveness when one is wronged.
The problem with the world today is that so many individuals and families
live in isolation, cut off from neighbors, never mind people in other
countries and continents. She believes the more disconnected people
become, the more they rely on technology to communicate, then the less
they realize their own humanity - and the more unforgiving they are.
Which brings us back to the Amish at West Nichol Mines.
"I think the fruit of their community, the fruit of their spirituality,
just came through in their decision to forgive that man who murdered and
maimed their children," said Sister Kawulok. "One of the things I admired
was immediately they showed no animosity to this man's family. In fact,
they reached out to his wife and her grief.
"For me what that says is about their deep understanding of community and
the importance that relationships have in everything that we do. No one
should be isolated. They recognized that she also had a loss, and her
children had a loss similar to theirs.
"So there's this empathy," she added. "And empathy, I think, is a very
integral part of our understanding reconciliation and forgiveness. Not
only compassion, but to basically say, 'We share the same suffering.' That
forgiveness of the Amish was a real modeling for the nation."
(source: The Tidings)
State's attorneys have some explaining to do: Judge
In a repeat of a decision he made last summer, a Hartford Superior Court
judge on Thursday refused to quash subpoenas for the state's top
prosecutors by public defenders who want them to explain how they decide
when to seek the death penalty in capital cases.
However, the state's attorneys won't likely be on a witness stand anytime
soon: Hours after Judge Edward J. Mullarkey's decision, lawyers in the
Appellate Unit of the Chief State's Attorney's office filed an appeal
directly to the state Supreme Court asking it to hear arguments.
Last July, public defenders Ronald Gold and David G.E. Smith of the
Capital Defense Unit first filed their motion asking Mullarkey to impose a
life sentence on convicted double murderer Jessie Campbell III.
In their motion, Gold and Smith claimed that "there are no standards to
guide state's attorneys" when to seek the death penalty, and that "the
lack of standards violates the due process and equal protection clauses
and the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments, in both the
state and federal constitutions."
To bolster that claim, the lawyers convinced Mullarkey to allow them to
subpoena 12 of 13 state's attorneys and the chief state's attorney to try
to compel them to testify about how those decisions are reached.
That decision was appealed to the state Supreme Court, which refused to
While the subpoenas stood, lawyers for both sides agreed to delay any
hearing on the motion to impose a life sentence until after the jury
hearing evidence in a penalty phase made its decision about Campbell's
On Oct. 12, that jury voted to sentence Campbell to death for killing 2
women, Desiree Privette, 18, and LaTaysha Logan, 20, in August 2000.
On Dec. 27, Gold and Smith issued new subpoenas to the prosecutors. That
prompted Thursday's hour-long hearing.
Senior Assistant State's Attorney Vicki Melchiorre convinced Mullarkey to
exempt Hartford State's Attorney James E. Thomas from the subpoenas
because Thomas had direct involvement in the Campbell prosecution.
Melchiorre, arguing on behalf of Co-counsel Dennis J. O'Connor, said the
defense request to force the state's attorneys to testify will require the
prosecutors to reveal their "thought processes" - something she said is
"As a matter of law, they are not entitled to see how they arrive at those
decisions," Melchiorre said.
Putting the state's attorneys under oath to testify how they make such
decisions is equivalent to harassment, she said, because it could force
them to assert prosecutorial privilege and refuse to answer questions.
That's tantamount to the state putting a witness on the stand whom they
know will assert their Fifth Amendment right not to self-incriminate -
simply to show the person doesn't want to answer questions under oath.
Courts have held that's not permissible either, Melchiorre argued.
But Mullarkey said he must allow Gold and Smith to make on the record
their arguments. If the state objects to questions, it too can make those
objections, on the record, and he can rule.
In the prosecutors' appeal to the Supreme Court, the lawyers say the
defense motion seeking a life sentence is flawed. Citing other case law,
the state argues that a prior decision found that, "the decision to
prosecute is particularly ill-suited to judicial review."
"Moreover," the prosecutors wrote, "the Constitution does not distinguish
between a prosecutor's broad discretion in making charging decisions and
the prosecutor's equally broad discretion in deciding whether to seek the
death penalty with respect to each particular capital felony."
One of the defense team's arguments in their motion for life imprisonment
is that in Connecticut, the lack of a set standard gives each state's
attorney "unbridled discretion."
Some prosecutors seek the death penalty more frequently than others - 1/2
of the 8 men on death row were prosecuted by Waterbury State's Attorney
John Connelly - resulting in a system that is "arbitrary and capricious"
and permits individual state's attorneys to "make non-reviewable god-like
Prosecutors, in their appeal of Mullarkey's ruling, reject that argument
and say courts in California and Texas have "refused to allow capital
defendants to engage in the kind of irrelevant purely vexatious discovery
sought by the defendant here."
The appeal was filed under a state law that allows the lawyers to bypass
the state Appellate Court because it "involves a matter of substantial
public interest ..."
The Supreme Court now has 10 days to decide to decide if the justices will
hear arguments, or reject the appeal.
(source: Journal Inquirer)
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