[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., UTAH, N.C., US MIL., ARIZ.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Jan 22 04:00:16 UTC 2007
DA backs death penalty for violent criminals ---- Dallas: Watkins says
he'll push for it in new Miller-El trial
Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins vowed Friday that he will be
tough on violent criminals and said he will not shy away from employing
the death penalty.
The newly elected Mr. Watkins said he plans to seek a new trial and the
death penalty for Thomas Miller-El, whose 1986 death penalty conviction
was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court over concerns that prosecutors
had intentionally excluded minorities from his jury.
"He [Miller-El] needs to be on death row. He should have been dead a long
time ago," Mr. Watkins said in a wide-ranging interview before The Dallas
Morning News editorial board.
Mr. Watkins, who played a role in freeing 2 wrongly convicted men in his
first 3 weeks as district attorney, acknowledged that some critics have
questioned whether he would be tough on crime. His comments Friday
suggested he plans to take a tough stance against violent and career
criminals, and a more measured approach when dealing with defendants who
can be rehabilitated.
The 39-year-old former defense attorney, Texas' 1st black district
attorney, was critical of past practices in the district attorney's
office, which he said included routinely excluding minorities from jury
panels. Work may still be needed, he said, to make juries more diverse.
He also said his administration will not rate prosecutors based on trial
"In the past, it hasn't been about justice," he said. "Now it is."
In 2005, the U.S. Supreme court ruled that prosecutors in the Miller-El
trial had used a variety of techniques to keep minorities from serving on
his jury. Mr. Miller-el was convicted of killing Douglas Walker, a night
clerk at an Irving Holiday Inn, during a November 1985 robbery. Mr. Walker
and co-worker Donald Ray Hall were bound, gagged and shot during the
robbery. During the trial, Mr. Hall, who was paralyzed in the shooting,
and Mr. Miller-El's accomplice, identified Mr. Miller-El as the triggerman
in the shooting.
"If they had done it right, we wouldn't be going through all these
appeals," Mr. Watkins said, referring to the first Miller-El trial. "My
thing is, let's just do it right. Let's be fair."
Mr. Watkins said he also has decided to seek the death penalty for the
December slaying of a 51-year-old Dallas office worker that was caught on
a surveillance videotape. The man arrested in the slaying, 24-year-old
Jose Heriberto Castro, also was wanted by police for probation violations
for an earlier violent robbery.
"He needs the death penalty," Mr. Watkins said.
Mr. Watkins also pledged to focus on progressive programs to rehabilitate
young, first-time offenders who've committed relatively minor crimes and
to help convicts re-enter society after serving their sentences. He plans
to have those programs in place by next January and hopes they will reduce
the crime rate.
"I don't think of myself as just being a prosecutor," he said. "As a
district attorney, I think my role is larger."
Mr. Watkins said he also hopes to address social ills that have an
indirect influence on crime. He plans to lobby state lawmakers to spend
more on education and to encourage southern Dallas County's economic
"I'm the DA," he said. "Conceivably, I'm the most powerful person in
(source: Dallas Morning News)
Police say boy beaten to death
The injuries that killed 4-year-old Jeremiah Campos were not the first the
boy had suffered while living with his grandmother, who police say beat
him to death Friday.
Jeremiah might have been the victim of "scapegoating" a pattern in which
one child in a household is singled out by a caregiver for abuse, said
Mary Walker, a spokeswoman for Child Protective Services. The grandmother,
Santa Magdalena Campos, had been caring for Jeremiah and his 5 siblings
since March because their mother Campos' daughter is incarcerated,
Campos, 44, was charged with capital murder in her grandson's death. She
remained in Bexar County Jail on Saturday in lieu of $500,000 bond.
Jeremiah's death is the 2nd time this year that a child has been slain. A
2-year-old boy suffered fatal head injuries 2 weeks ago; the boyfriend of
that toddler's mother was charged in the death.
Jeremiah's left elbow was fractured in August, and Campos claimed it
occurred when Jeremiah fell off a chair. Doctors did not notify CPS of
that fracture, Walker said.
2 months later, the same elbow was fractured again. Campos could not
explain that fracture, so doctors notified CPS. A doctor later deemed that
it likely was accidental, Walker said.
"They thought that it was consistent with child play," she said.
CPS officials did not intervene at that time because of the medical
On Friday, Campos' husband called emergency medical technicians when he
returned from work and found Jeremiah not moving around 6 p.m. Police
arrived at the home in the 600 block of West Summit Avenue on the near
Northwest Side and noticed several bruises on the boy's head and chest, a
police report stated.
Campos told police at the time that the child had been sick all day, so
she gave him medicine and put him to sleep. When asked about the bruises,
Campos told an officer that the boy "bruises easily" and had been playing
with his brothers and sisters, the report stated.
Taken to University Hospital, Jeremiah was pronounced dead. He had
suffered cardiac arrest, and police noticed the boy had bruises on his
feet, legs, knees, arms, head and back and severe bruising on his
forehead, according to an affidavit for an arrest warrant. He also had a
cut to the back of his neck, Walker said.
A doctor there told police that some of the boy's injuries were old, and
the injuries were consistent with severe child abuse, according to police
and the affidavit.
Police interviewed Campos again.
"That's when she broke down and told us what happened," said police
spokesman Joe Rios.
Campos admitted she became upset when she found that Jeremiah had
defecated in his underwear. She told police she took the child into a
washroom at the back of the house, removed his clothes and punched him
with a closed fist across the buttocks and in the back, the affidavit
She said she pushed the boy against a door, causing his back and head to
strike the door's edge, according to the document.
CPS has removed Jeremiah's siblings a 1-year-old boy, a 5-year-old girl,
a 6-year-old girl, a 7-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl from the home
on West Summit Avenue and placed them with relatives under a safety plan,
She added the children likely would be taken to the Center for Miracles, a
local child abuse and neglect assessment center. Should these children
show no signs of abuse, scapegoating likely occurred in the death of
Jeremiah, Walker said.
"In some cases (of scapegoating), (caregivers) allow the other children in
the home to abuse (the child) as well," she said.
Fernando Cortinas, Campos' husband, declined to comment on Saturday. But
his brother, Robert Cortinas, said the boy's death and Campos' arrest were
"It's like a nightmare," he said, "like it didn't happen."
Walker said it remains unclear whether the 2 fractures the boy suffered
last year were the result of child abuse. But she stressed that doctors
said at the time the 2nd fracture likely was accidental.
"We rely heavily on those folks," Walker said.
Rios said police also rely heavily on medical assessments of children's
injuries. He said it's possible that Jeremiah's earlier fractures actually
"Or it could have been an injury that was explainable that way," Rios
said. "Now we'll never know."
(source: San Antonio Express-News)
MURDER CASE----Motion: Disqualify Judge In Trial; The State Attorney's
Office says it thinks the judge is biased against using the death penalty.
The State Attorney's Office has filed a motion to disqualify Judge Susan
Roberts from presiding over the 1st-degree murder trial of Roy Ballard,
saying that she was biased against using the death penalty against Ballard
because of his age.
Ballard, 65, has been charged with murder in the death of his
stepdaughter, Autumn Traub, whose body has never been found.
The case is set to go to trial March 19.
At a status conference Wednesday, Assistant State Attorney Victoria Avalon
and defense lawyer Byron Hileman appeared before Roberts.
Hileman told Roberts the state is seeking the death penalty, and if the
state persists in seeking the death penalty, he would not be prepared for
the penalty phase of the trial if it proceeds as scheduled.
According to the motion filed by the State Attorney's Office, Roberts
asked Ballard how old he was, and he told her he was 65 and would turn 66
Roberts said to Hileman, "Well, you can imagine what I might be thinking,"
according to the motion. Then she turned to Avalon and said, "That might
be a waste of the state's resources. You might want to re-evaluate given
his advanced age."
According to the motion, Hileman stated again that if the state were to
persist in seeking death in the Ballard case, he would not be prepared for
Roberts said she wanted another status conference on the issue, and asked
Avalon, "What would be a reasonable time for it (the issue of the death
penalty) to go get it re-evaluated?"
In its motion, the State Attorney's Office pointed out that the trial
judge is the one who imposes sentence in a capital case, although the jury
makes a nonbinding recommendation.
"Here, the court's comments regarding the suitability of the death penalty
in the defendant's case show that the court has prejudged the decision
regarding the death penalty in this matter. The court's comments to ASA
Avalon, particularly its instruction to ASA Avalon to have the state's
intent to seek the death penalty re-evaluated, create an appearance that
the court would disregard a death recommendation."
Roberts could not be reached for comment Friday.
She must consider the motion and decide if she wants to withdraw from the
case. If she decides not to, the State Attorney's Office can appeal to the
Second District Court of Appeals.
(source: The Lakeland Ledger)
Ecuador man hopes to avoid death penalty in Florida quadruple murder
Attorneys of an Ecuadorean businessman convicted of quadruple murder were
in Ecuador Saturday to collect testimony from his friends and relatives
with the hope it will persuade a Florida judge to spare his life.
Lawyers of 68-year-old Nelson Serrano, convicted in October of 4 counts of
murder in the 1997 shooting of 4 people in a central Florida factory,
videotaped testimony from at least 21 people in the Ecuadorean capital,
The victims in the shooting were a former business partner and 3
bystanders at a factory that makes garment conveyor systems in the city of
Bartow. Prosecutors said it was Serrano's ouster as president of the
company that led him to kill.
The jury voted 9-3 to recommend Serrano, who denies any involvement in the
killings, be sentenced to death, but Florida law leaves the final decision
with the judge.
Lawyers were searching for statements to show Serrano is not a violent
person, his nephew, Alfredo Luna, told The Associated Press by telephone.
"They're looking to demonstrate that (Serrano) is not and hasn't been a
violent person ... so he could not have committed the acts that he's been
found guilty of," Luna said.
Circuit Court Judge Susan Roberts agreed to consider the testimony of Luna
and other Ecuadorean witnesses, but limited future witness discussions to
personal opinions about Serrano.
"We hope that these people create a strong, strong impression," one of
Serrano's lawyers, J. Cheney Mason, told reporters in Quito Friday. The
testimonies will be videotaped so the judge can see "the people and their
emotions," he added.
Serrano, who has dual citizenship in America and Ecuador, was arrested in
Ecuador and charged with the slayings in September 2002.
George Gonsalves, 69; Frank Dosso, 35; Diane Patisso, 28; and George
Patisso, Jr., 26, were all shot multiple times at the factory on Dec. 3,
(source: Associated Press)
Opponents of Death Penalty Gather on Anniversary of Gilmore's Execution
A historic anniversary and a protest to go with it. 30 years ago, Utah had
the country's 1st execution since the death penalty was reinstated.
Today people gathered outside the Utah State Prison in Draper, urging the
state to abolish capital punishment.
The debate and conversation surrounding the death penalty has been
overshadowed recently by other hot button issues. But with the execution
of Saddam Hussein, and today's historic anniversary, people are discussing
it once again.
Their goal is to abolish capital punishment... the death penalty.
Lindsey Neilsen/High School Student: "I personally think that no one
should be able to decide if a person should live or die. It's not in our
They made their voices heard outside the Utah State Prison in Draper, and
on the heals of history.
1977: "The order of the fourth judicial court of the state of Utah has
been carried out."
On January 17, 1977 convicted killer Gary Gilmore was the 1st person to be
executed in the United States since the death penalty was reinstated.
Gary Gilmore/1977: "The people of Utah, they want the death penalty but
they don't want executions."
More than 45 people have been executed in Utah. Currently, 9 inmates are
sitting on death row.
Protesters say public opinion is shifting.
Terry McCaffrey/Anti Death Penalty: "We also see a change world wide. The
European countries have all abolished the death penalty."
But for some, death means closure.
Matt Hunsaker/Victim's Son/2003: "I firmly feel that the final chapter is
when I watch him be executed."
In a previous interview with Matt Hunsaker, who's mother Maurine was
murdered in the 1980's, he said he lives with anger towards her convicted
killer Ralph Menzies, and is still waiting for the state to carry out its
The crowd here today was made up of students and other death penalty
opponents. They're taking their views to the next level by generating
petitions that will be sent to state leaders.
(source: KSL News)
Utah mulls expansion of death-penalty crimes
Death penalty opponents are using a recent botched lethal injection in
Florida, the controversy over the hangings in Iraq and the 30th
anniversary of the firing squad execution of Gary Gilmore in Utah to call
for a moratorium on state-sponsored executions.
It's wishful thinking.
While New Jersey and Maryland are considering joining a growing list of
states looking to abolish the death penalty, Utah's lawmakers are
considering expanding its use.
Nationally, "there is a kind of a movement to remove capital punishment,
which I think is a scary and dangerous thing. Removing the capital
punishment offense is one of the worst things we can do for public
safety," said Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman.
Wimmer, a West Valley City police officer, wants some twice-convicted sex
offenders eligible for the death penalty as well as anyone who murders a
child younger than 14.
"This is the year that we stand up as a state and take our children back.
This is the year when we say 'You keep your hands off our kids and if you
don't, you're going to pay a consequence, you're going to pay a penalty.
You're going to face the music for your evil deeds,"' Wimmer said.
Wimmer's ideas make for great rhetoric but could do more harm than good,
said Dave Elliott, communications director for the National Coalition to
Abolish the Death Penalty.
"It's a feel good measure that not only won't make our kids any safer, but
actually could lead to more danger because what incentive would there be
for a child molester not to go ahead and kill his victim, so the victim
couldn't testify against him?" he said.
Utah would become the 6th state to make the death penalty an option for
certain sex offenses against children if the measure is approved by the
No one convicted of a sex offense has been executed since the U.S. Supreme
Court allowed states to reinstate capital punishment 30 years ago. One
inmate is on death row in Louisiana following his 2003 conviction for
raping an 8-year-old girl.
But legal scholars have questioned the constitutionality of the death
penalty for a crime not involving murder.
In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the death penalty for a Georgia
man convicted of raping an adult woman, describing it as "an excessive
penalty for the rapist who, as such, does not take human life."
"It's really questionable. We reserve the death penalty in this country
for the worst of the worst. We reserve it for people in the context of
murder," said Kathryn Kase, a capital defense attorney in Houston who
provides legal assistance to those unable to afford a lawyer.
It's Wimmer's contention that the sexual assault of a child is just as bad
as taking someone's life.
Lydia Kalish, Utah's coordinator for Amnesty International, said her jaw
dropped when she learned Utah was considering expanding the list of death
In addition to Wimmer's bills, Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, is also
looking to expand the death penalty's use. His bill would make it a
capitol offense if a child died during an aggravated sexual assault or
during aggravated child abuse.
"Why don't they just put them in prison for life?" asked Kalish.
The response from Wimmer and Ray: The death penalty is a deterrent.
"If we save a few lives a year because somebody is afraid of losing their
life -- great. If you take a life there's a price," Ray said.
But a New Jersey report suggests otherwise. Written by a 13-member
commission formed in late 2005 by the legislature, the report concluded
that New Jersey's death penalty, which has not been used in more than 4
decades, neither deters crime nor helps victims' families because such
cases drag on for years.
"The alternative of life imprisonment in a maximum security institution
without the possibility of parole would sufficiently ensure public safety
and address other legitimate social and penological interests, including
the interests of the families of murder victims," the report said.
However, Wimmer says he has no doubt the death penalty is a deterrent.
"Absolutely. ... The violator is no longer around to commit the crime
again. That's an obvious deterrent," he said.
Utah has seldom imposed the death penalty.
With last words "Let's do it," Gary Gilmore was shot by a firing squad on
Jan. 17, 1977, for killing a motel clerk 6 months earlier. The execution
made Utah the first state in the country to put someone to death after a
1976 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that let states bring back the death
penalty after a 10-year moratorium.
Since Gilmore, the state has executed 5 others. 9 more people are on death
row, including 4 who have chosen to die by firing squad, said Department
of Corrections spokesman Jack Ford.
This weekend, death penalty opponents scheduled a vigil at the Utah State
Prison, where Gilmore was executed.
Members of the group also hope video showing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein
being taunted before his execution Dec. 30 and subsequent images of his
half-brother being decapitated during hanging will help turn the public
against capital punishment.
Kalish said she's ashamed executions are still allowed in the U.S. She
notes the Dec. 13 execution of career criminal Angel Nieves Diaz, 55, in
Florida. He was condemned for fatally shooting a Miami topless bar manager
27 years ago. It took 34 minutes and required 2 doses of drugs to kill
Diaz by lethal injection.
A medical examiner determined that prison officials botched the insertion
of the needles at the execution, leading Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to suspend
all executions in the state.
Kalish uses that execution as a prime reason why capital punishment should
be abandoned. But Ray said he wouldn't mind if more of them turned out
"So it took a little longer for the guy to die. It doesn't weigh on my
mind at all," Ray said. "I don't really care if they feel pain when
they're executed. I hope they do. I hope they suffer a lot."
Kalish contends that executions degrade society and do nothing to make
victims' families heal.
Death penalty opponents also contend that the long, required appeals
process makes the death penalty a costly option for government.
But Wimmer and Ray contend any cost increases that occur if the capital
crime list is expanded, it's money well-spent. They say it's time Utah
defines it values.
"Is it worth it? Yeah, it is. There has to be a point in time you draw the
line in the sand and send a strong message that you're not going to touch
our kids," Wimmer said.
(source: Associated Press)
NORTH CAROLINA----impending execution
Robinson death penalty appeal denied
Superior Court Judge E. Lynn Johnson has rejected a request to halt next
weeks scheduled execution of Marcus Reymond Robinson.
Robinson, 33, is to be put to death at 2 a.m. Friday for the June 1991
robbery and murder of 17-year-old Erik Tornblom of Fayetteville.
The state should not execute Robinson, his lawyers said in court papers,
because he had brain damage from childhood beatings. They said there is
new science to show this brain damage and other damage from his alcohol
abuse as a teenager impaired his judgment and ability to control his
Further, they said, the execution should be postponed while two federal
lawsuits proceed over whether North Carolinas execution procedures are
legal under the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.
This amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. North Carolinas
lethal injection practices have the potential to cause intense pain from
one of the drugs, lawyers have argued. They say the pain would constitute
cruel and unusual punishment.
A Cumberland County jury voted in 1994 to sentence Robinson to death.
In siding with the state attorney generals opposition to Robinsons
request, Johnson said that the new evidence that Robinsons lawyers brought
up was unlikely to have changed the jurors minds.
He also said that the questions about North Carolinas lethal injection
practices were settled last year in 2 other federal lawsuits on whether
the inmate feels pain.
In response to the claims, last year North Carolina began using a brain
monitor in an effort to ensure that the inmate remains unconscious and
unable to perceive pain throughout the execution process.
Separate from Robinsons request for a stay of execution from Johnson,
Robinsons lawyers this week used similar arguments when they asked Gov.
Mike Easley to grant him clemency and convert his death sentence to life
in prison. Easley has made no decision on clemency.
(source: Fayetteville Observer)
Sergeant accused in rape of Iraqi girl won't face death penalty
The Associated Press is reporting today that 1 of the 5 soldiers accused
of raping and killing a 14-year-old Iraqi girl has reached a plea
agreement with prosecutors.
Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, 24, of Barstow, Calif., is expected to plead guilty
to premeditated murder and rape during a hearing next month at Fort
Campbell, attorney William Cassara said.
"Sgt. Cortez is going to go in and accept the responsibility for his part
in what occurred," Cassara said. "Our version of events is that he knew
what was going to take place and participated as an observer."
Cassara would not discuss specific details of the agreement but said
Cortez, who was implicated in the rapes by the others who are charged,
will no longer face the death penalty.
(source: Associated Press)
Local killer gets 12 years, not death penalty after all
A 26-year-old Avra Valley man who once faced a potential death sentence in
the slaying of a 34-year-old woman will serve 12 years in prison after
pleading guilty Friday to 2nd-degree murder.
Raymond Scott Deruyter admitted stabbing Maricia Limmer to death Jan. 24,
Neither defense attorney David Darby nor prosecutor Teresa Godoy would
elaborate on the circumstances of Limmer's death after Friday's hearing.
Both attorneys indicated neither side was comfortable with presenting the
case to a jury.
"The state had a few problems with their case and we had a few problems
with ours," Darby said. Godoy acknowledged that "neither side is very
happy" with the end result.
According to the Pima County Sheriff's Department, Limmer's body was found
in a wash near North Sandario and West Orange Grove roads.
Deruyter was arrested in May 2004 and indicted on 1 count of 1st-degree
Prosecutors later announced they would be seeking the death penalty for
Deruyter, saying the slaying was committed in an "especially cruel,
heinous or depraved manner."
Darby said prosecutors decided to drop their efforts to seek the death
penalty in August after hearing evidence from mitigation experts hired by
Had Deruyter gone to trial and been convicted of 1st-degree murder he
would have received a life sentence with or without the possibility of
Deruyter will be sentenced Feb. 20 by Pima County Superior Court Judge
Deborah Bernini. He will have to serve every day of his 12-year sentence.
(source: Arizona Daily Star)
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