[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----ALA., OKLA., IND., N.Y., N.C.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Jan 17 05:31:03 UTC 2007
Guilty verdict set aside
In one of his last acts before leaving office, Circuit Judge David Evans
overturned the capital murder conviction of Larry Reynold Smith.
Smith, 36, was convicted of murder in Marshall County in 1995. He had been
charged with the robbery and murder of Dennis Harris in 1994.
A jury in Albertville deliberated less than 30 minutes on Aug. 12, 1995,
before convicting Smith. He has been on death row in Holman Correctional
Facility in Atmore since later that month.
Smith filed a Rule 32 motion after all other appeals had been exhausted.
Evans conducted a hearing on the matter last year.
"What they set it aside on was having an ineffective lawyer at trial,"
District Attorney Steve Marshall said.
Marshall said the state attorney general's office will handle an appeal.
If Evans' ruling is upheld, Marshalls office will prosecute on the new
Evans' ruling says Smith's attorney, Jack Daniel, provided "woefully
inadequate" counsel and failed to take several steps that might have
Harris' mother reported the 20-year-old Guntersville man missing on Sept.
28, 1994. A hunter found his body on Oct. 3 in a wooded area in the
Pleasant Grove community.
Smith was arrested on Oct. 11 and charged with first-degree murder during
A friend of Smith was the lead witness for the state. The friend, Carl
Cooper, supposedly told investigator Mike Whitten he and Smith discussed
Daniel argued Smith and Harris were friends and that Smith had no reason
to kill Harris.
Including Smith, 5 people from Marshall County are among the 196 inmates
on Alabama's death row.
(source: The Sand Mountain Reporter)
Oklahoma Prison Uses Generator
The Oklahoma State Penitentiary is working on generator power after this
weekends ice storm.
The storm left the prison and more than 14,000 customers in the McAlester
area without power.
Prison officials say maintenance crews have been thawing out frozen locks
outside their facility. But say there is no problem with prisons security
locking system and plan to continue using the generators until electricity
can be restored.
The McAlester maximum-security prison holds 1,370 inmates and houses the
states death row.
(source: Associated Press)
Slain trooper's family pushes for execution
Family members and law enforcement comrades of a fallen state trooper
urged the Parole Board today to deny Norman Timberlake clemency.
"Mr. Timberlake chose his fate that day," said Michael Greene, 32, whose
father, Master Trooper Michael E. Greene, was killed during a 1993 traffic
stop on I-65 in Indianapolis.
The board adjourned this afternoon, but will return at 2:30 p.m. to decide
whether to recommend clemency for Timberlake, 59. The recommendation then
will be sent to Gov. Mitch Daniels, who will have the final say before
Timberlakes scheduled lethal injection on Friday at the Indiana State
Prison in Michigan City.
Earlier, two of Timberlake's younger brothers told the Parole Board that
he had been mentally unstable for much of his life.
But Stephen Creason, representing the Indiana Attorney General's office,
said Timberlake's illness doesn't disqualify him for the death penalty
because he understands why he's being put to death. A court-ordered
evaluation last year said Timberlake likely has paranoid schizophrenia,
and he has complained for several years of a machine that inserts voices
into his head.
"There's no evidence that Norman Timberlake was mentally ill at the time
he killed Trooper Greene," Creason said.
The board also heard from several Indiana State Police troopers who
remembered their friend and what it was like to respond to his shooting. A
passerby, John Chester, Cincinnati, said he was 30 and driving to Chicago
when he stopped on I-65 to help Greene. He attempted CPR.
"Having a cop die in front of you is not something you expect to see in
your life," he said today.
Timberlake's brothers said they still weren't sure if he killed the state
trooper, since he has never admitted it to them.
"Even though it may be true, you don't want to believe it," said Larry
Timberlake, 38, New Albany. "Your mind just switches back and forth."
Timberlake testified before the board last week and did not attend today's
hearing. He maintained his innocence, saying his traveling companion who
has since died shot Greene as he was being handcuffed.
More recently, both brothers said they have limited their contacts with
Timberlake because of his ramblings about the machine.
"I'm very sorry," said Nathan Timberlake, 49, to members of Greenes
family. "My mom's very sorry. We do apologize."
On Wednesday, a federal judge will hear arguments in a lawsuit in which
Timberlakes attorneys argue the state's lethal injection procedures create
a risk he will feel unnecessary pain.
(source: Indianapolis Star)
Death Penalty Deliberation Starts in Killing of Officers
A jury will return to the U.S. Courthouse in Brooklyn early today to begin
considering whether to sentence to death a man who murdered two police
In the month since the jury convicted Ronell Wilson, 24, and then broke
for the holidays, death penalty deliberations have been on full display
here in federal district court at Cadman Plaza. Just last Friday evening,
as the courthouse emptied of lawyers and judges, a different jury voted
102 to spare the life of a different defendant. That defendant, Martin
Aguilar, will spend his life in federal prison for the crime of
Now as the courthouse opens again after the long weekend, Wilson's jury
will take up the question of life or death. The jury's decision will be
closely watched: Not since the capital cases of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg
and bank robber Gerhard Puff in the early 1950s has a death sentence been
issued from federal court in this state.
The prosecution's argument for Wilson's death is likely to sound clinical
at times as the three assistant U.S. attorneys on the case go through
their list of "aggravating factors." The defense will seek to counter
these with their list of "mitigating factors."
As prosecutors seek to convince the jury of one of those factors the
future dangerousness Wilson poses in federal prison the focus of the
proceedings will veer away from the murders of the two undercover officers
and turn instead to comparatively petty crimes.
To show that Wilson remains dangerous, prosecutors are likely to focus on
the defendant's alleged membership in the Bloods gang and discuss a long
list of instances in which Wilson assaulted other inmates and guards while
at Rikers Island. Wilson is now in federal jail in Brooklyn. He was moved
because the district attorney in Staten Island gave the case to the U.S.
attorney's office following a 2004 court ruling by the state's Court of
Appeals that halted death penalty prosecutions in state courts.
On March 10, 2002, Wilson killed undercover detectives Rodney Andrews and
James Nemorin by shooting both men in the head. The two detectives,
members of the NYPD's elite Firearms Investigation Unit, had come to
northeastern Staten Island to purchase a gun from a small gang of which
Wilson was a member. The murders occurred in Nemorin's car, as it sat
parked on an empty street, unseen by the hefty police backup that was
The crime was among the most notorious ever perpetrated against New York
City police officers. The 3-week trial was attended by dozens of officers,
some of whom watched the proceedings from a television in the courthouse
cafeteria when the courtroom benches were full.
Prosecutors had planned to argue during the death penalty phase that the
murders of Nemorin and Andrews have had a chilling effect on undercover
police work across the city. But in a letter submitted to the court 3
weeks ago, assistant U.S. attorney Colleen Kavanagh wrote that the
prosecution "no longer intends to offer such evidence." No reason is given
in the letter.
Still, the prosecutors have indicated they will call forward colleagues of
Nemorin and Andrews to testify in the penalty phase.
During the trial, the jury grew acquainted with the voices of the two
slain detectives from a recording that captured much of the conversation
from their final hour. The jurors will hear again from Nemorin. A recent
order by the judge overseeing the case, Nicholas Garaufis, indicates that
prosecutors intend to play a videotape in which Nemorin speaks of the
dangers of undercover police work. According to the judge's order, The
videotape is 20 minutes long and was shot by a documentary film crew from
The prosecution and defense are likely to present differing accounts of
whether Wilson knew his two victims were police officers, according to
court documents. The extent of Wilson's knowledge of the identities of
Nemorin and Andrews was never settled during the trial, although
prosecutors suggested that Wilson knew he was dealing with police. That
question, although of no legal significance, could loom large in the minds
of jurors as they decide Wilson's fate.
The defense will get to call forward an expert witness on hip-hop culture
who is expected to tell a jury that it should not give much weight to
handwritten rap lyrics found in Wilson's pocket during his arrest. At
trial, prosecutors had argued that those violent lyrics amounted to a
confession of guilt. In them, Wilson speaks of leaving "45 slogs in da
back of ya head." Until now, Judge Garaufis had refused to allow the
defense to call forward the expert, Yasser Arafat Payne, who is an
assistant professor of Black American Studies at the University of
(source: New York Sun)
NORTH CAROLINA----impending execution
Defense asks court to stop Jan. 26 execution
Lawyers for a death row inmate asked a Superior Court judge Tuesday to
stop his execution, saying their client has a brain defect and questioning
whether the method of execution in North Carolina is cruel.
Marcus Reymond Robinson, 33, was sentenced to death in Cumberland County
Superior Court for the June 1991 death of Erik Tornblom.
His lawyers said the state's lethal injection form of execution is
possibly painful and should be stopped. They cited cases in Florida and
other states where executions using similar methods have recently been
The attorneys also contended that Robinson has a brain injury - the result
of a beating by an abusive father when he was 3 years old - and it affects
impulse control. The doctor who examined Robinson near the time of his
trial didn't have the scientific knowledge available today to uncover such
an injury, lawyers said.
Tornblom, 17 at the time, gave Robinson and Roderick Sylvester Williams
Jr. a ride from a Fayetteville convenience store. Tornblom was forced to
drive to a field where he was shot in the face with a sawed-off shotgun.
Tornblom's wallet and car were taken.
Williams, 32, was sentenced to life in prison in 1995. He was a schoolmate
of Tornblom's. Robinson and Williams also were 17 at the time Tornblom was
Robinson is the 1st North Carolina death row inmate scheduled for
execution this year. Two other executions are scheduled to follow in the
next 2 weeks.
James Edward Thomas, 51, is scheduled to be executed Feb. 2 for the 1987
killing of Teresa Ann West and James Adolph Campbell, 45, is scheduled to
be put to death Feb. 9. Campbell was sentenced to death for the slaying of
Katherine Price in 1993.
A clemency meeting for Robinson between attorneys and Gov. Mike Easley is
scheduled for Wednesday in Raleigh.
(source: Associated Press)
Killer watches suspect escape death penalty
While Marcus Reymond Robinson is scheduled to be executed next week for
murder, a man accused of killing Robinsons older brother at most will get
life in prison if convicted.
On Thursday, Assistant District Cal Colyer announced that the state will
not seek the death penalty for Brant Sherwood Hunter.
Hunter is charged with 1st-degree murder in the beating death of Curtis
Lamar Green, Robinson's brother, in April. There are no aggravating
factors in the case that would allow the state to seek the death penalty
for Hunter, Colyer said.
The law sets out 11 aggravating factors, such as: the killing was
especially cruel or heinous, was done to get money or the defendant
previously was convicted of a violent crime.
Robinson and Green's mother, Shirley Burns of Hope Mills, could not be
reached for comment on Thursday or Friday.
According to news accounts, Burns recently spoke against the death penalty
at a state legislative hearing on the issue.
Green's body was found April 26 in a ditch along the Cypress Lakes Golf
Course area. He had been beaten to death, according to an autopsy report.
2 other men face charges for Green's death.
Bakhiyia Alvin Douglas, of the 6300 block of Vanilla Bar Drive, is charged
with 2nd-degree murder. Nathaniel Leroy Solomon, who lived with Douglas,
is charged with being an accessory after the fact to murder.
Botched execution offers hope for condemned man
With the execution of Marcus Reymond Robinson less than 2 weeks away, his
lawyers hope to use legal issues surrounding the death penalty and
questions about his mental development to postpone his death.
Similar efforts by other condemned inmates have failed. But last month,
death penalty opponents gained momentum: Florida temporarily banned
executions after one went badly and a federal judge in California ruled
that Californias lethal injection practices are "broken."
Although 38 states have capital punishment, the Death Penalty Information
Center says 10 of those states have stopped nearly all their executions
while they re-examine capital punishment and lethal injection.
Robinsons is the 1st of 3 North Carolina executions scheduled to be
conducted from Jan. 26 to Feb. 9.
Robinson, 33, was sentenced to death in 1994 for shooting to death
17-year-old Erik Tornblom and taking his money ($27) and his car (an
11-year-old Honda) in June 1991 in Fayetteville.
Robinsons co-defendant in the murder and robbery, Roderick Sylvester
Williams Jr., is serving a life sentence.
A federal lawsuit in North Carolina, similar to the one that stopped
executions in California, claims that lethal injection poses a risk of
causing severe pain in violation of the Eighth Amendments prohibition
against cruel and unusual punishment.
3 drugs are used in lethal injection: the 1st to put the inmate to sleep,
the 2nd to paralyze him, and the 3rd to stop his heart. The lawsuit claims
that the inmate could wake up during the process by which point the
heart-stopping drug has been administered. Even in nonfatal doses, the
heart-stopping drug, potassium chloride, is reported to be extremely
The inmate would not show the pain; because he is completely paralyzed by
the 2nd drug, he would appear to be asleep even though he is conscious.
In the California lawsuit, the state agreed that the pain from the
potassium chloride would be considered cruel and unusual and it would
never use the drug on a conscious inmate.
There, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel visited the execution facilities
at San Quentin State Prison, talked to the execution team, reviewed their
paperwork and studied their training methods. In a ruling issued Dec. 15,
he found that lethal injection is theoretically constitutional but
California practiced it poorly.
California's "implementation of lethal injection is broken, but it can be
fixed," Fogel said.
His findings included:
The execution staff was poorly trained for basics such as handling the
drugs, inserting the intravenous lines and ensuring that the minimum
required doses of the drugs were actually administered.
The staff lacked training on how to respond when things go wrong.
The executioners weren't properly screened one executioner had previously
been disciplined for smuggling drugs into the prison.
The execution facility lacked lighting, space and proper equipment for the
staff to adequately monitor the process and respond if there are problems.
A few days before Fogel's ruling, Florida botched the execution of Angel
It was reported that a needle used to administer the drugs was inserted
incorrectly. Instead of injecting the drugs into 1 of Diaz's veins, it
injected them into a muscle. This inhibited the spread of the drugs
through his body. It took 2 doses to kill him.
Associated Press reporter Ron Word, who witnessed the execution, said, "he
began grimacing, later licking his lips and blowing. He appeared to move
for 24 minutes after the 1st injection."
Normally, the inmate falls unconscious within 3 to 5 minutes and is dead
in 10 to 15 minutes, said Word, who has watched 20 executions. This
execution took 34 minutes.
On Dec. 15, outgoing Florida Gov. Jeb Bush stopped executions pending a
study of the process.
The North Carolina federal case claims the N.C. Department of Correction
does not ensure its execution staff is properly trained and the execution
chamber is poorly designed for administering lethal injections. Like
California's, North Carolina's death chamber originally was a gas chamber,
a small metal room.
The state says in court papers that the claims are false and the staff is
The California and Florida situations don't require North Carolina to halt
its executions; but Geoffrey W. Hosford, one of Robinson's lawyers, hopes
their situations will help persuade a judge to order a halt here for
Hosford plans to file court papers today in Fayetteville to ask a state
Superior Court judge to postpone Robinson's execution while the federal
case is pending.
However, when another inmate, Willie Brown Jr., tried in 2006 in federal
court to claim the risk of waking up in the middle of the execution, the
state Department of Correction responded by purchasing a brain-wave
monitor for its executions.
The monitor is supposed to show if the inmate is unconscious; he doesnt
receive the potassium chloride until then.
The manufacturer of the machine, Aspect Medical Systems, protested that
the machine was not designed for executions. By itself, the machine isnt
enough to reliably show if someone is unconscious, an Aspect official
Nonetheless, the judge ruled against Brown.
Brown was executed on April 21 with the machine's sensor on his forehead.
Regardless of the constitutionality of the lethal injection practices,
Hosford says he has new evidence he hopes will convince a judge that
Robinson doesn't deserve death.
At Robinson's trial, there was testimony that Robinson's father beat him
in the head when he was young. Throughout his life, his mother said, she
tried in vain to discipline him and get him help.
Robinson, who was 18 when he killed Tornblom, might have suffered a brain
injury from the abuse that limited his ability to use good judgment,
"He was definitely operating as a normal 14-year-old, but he certainly
wasn't operating like an 18-year-old at the time," Hosford said.
State prison spokesman Keith Acree said Robinson has spent most of his
time in prison being punished for various infractions weapons possession,
drug possession, refusing to take drug tests, disobeying orders, etc. He
currently is in disciplinary segregation, confined to a cell for 23 hours
a day, for cursing, and isnt scheduled to come off until Jan. 29, 3 days
after the execution.
Hosford plans to meet with Gov. Mike Easley on Wednesday morning for a
In December, Hosford asked Easley for a moratorium on executions in light
of the Florida and California situations. Governors spokeswoman Renee
Hoffman said on Friday no decision has been announced.
(source for both: Fayetteville Observer)
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