[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----LA., IDAHO, FLA., ARIZ., NEV.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Jan 22 04:09:53 UTC 2007
Life, murder and the death penalty
I am writing in response to Arthur Tolars letter to the editor in which
Mr. Tolar says that to kill is easy. Its hard to disagree that it
certainly is for some people people such as Derrick Lee, the serial
killer who murdered my daughter. Certainly, as Tolar also says, "to unkill
As our family went through another Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas Day
with only emptiness in the place where Murray should have been, I think I
understand as well as anyone the irreversibility of death. Tolar further
argues that the finality of the death penalty is a problem. One might also
argue that the finality of the death penalty is a good thing when it
permanently removes lethal predators from the threat they are to us for as
long as they live.
The advances in forensic science have brought us to a place where
certainty is possible in many cases. Those same advances in science,
particularly DNA, are responsible for many exonerations. We allow science
to free people without question, but seem very reluctant to allow that
very same science to convict with the same certainty.
Death steals life and hope and possibility from the victims. It steals
their presence from us all, yet in an irony that has robbed me of belief
in many things even the possibility of death for a killer seems to bring
attention, even celebrity, and an army of aid. These are times when life
can seem an ironic and painful enterprise.
Ann Pace ---- project administrator---- Jackson, Miss.
(source: Letter to the Editor, The Advocate)
Idaho indictment in killing lets feds seek death penalty
A man convicted in the 2005 slayings of three members of an Idaho family
was charged Thursday in U.S. District Court with kidnapping the family's 2
youngest children and killing one of them.
The indictment against Joseph Edward Duncan III, issued by a federal grand
jury in Coeur d'Alene, will allow the government to seek the death
penalty, U.S. Attorney Tom Moss said.
The indictment accuses Duncan, 43, of kidnapping Dylan Groene, 9, and his
sister Shasta, then 8 years old, sexually abusing them both and later
killing Dylan in Montana.
Shasta was rescued as she and Duncan ate at a Coeur d'Alene restaurant in
July 2005, about 7 weeks after the abduction.
News of the indictment came hours after authorities in California said
they were planning to charge Duncan with the 1997 kidnapping and murder of
a 10- year-old boy whose bound, nude body was buried under a rock pile in
Duncan also is considered the prime suspect in the slayings of 2 children
(source: Associated Press)
Attorney says he told Jimmy Ryce's killer to lie----Jimmy Ryce's killer is
trying to get a new trial, arguing that his previous attorney told him to
purjure himself. The attorney said Juan Carlos Chavez is right.
The attorney for the man sent to death row for raping and killing
9-year-old Jimmy Ryce more than a decade ago is expected to testify next
week that he told his client to lie on the stand because he was on
medication and ''disoriented'' during the trial.
Juan Carlos Chavez is trying to get a new trial, arguing that his defense
attorney didn't adequately represent him.
Former Assistant Public Defender Art Koch was on several medications when
he represented Chavez, according to Chavez's current attorney, Bob
Norgard. Koch has admitted that he told Chavez to testify about an
incident that never happened during his interrogation by police, Norgard
Chavez testified that police took his watch and told him they wouldn't
give it back until he told them what they wanted to hear. He made the
claim to bolster his contention that his confession was coerced. Chavez
testified during the 1998 trial that a man who lived near him had
kidnapped, raped and killed the boy.
'DESTROYED' ON STAND
''Koch claims he's going to come into court and say that he was
disoriented that day and he got Mr. Chavez to say those things,'' Norgard
The watch became a peripheral but potent bit of state's evidence when
prosecutors showed pictures of Chavez wearing it while showing detectives
where he had buried Jimmy's body. Prosecutors ''destroyed'' Chavez on the
stand, ruining his credibility, Norgard said.
Norgard had initially dropped the claim that Koch got Chavez to lie, one
of several that Chavez has made in an effort to get a new trial, or at
least get off death row.
Now he is re-raising it and plans to put Koch on the stand on Tuesday.
''The state caught [Chavez] in a flat-out lie,'' Norgard says. 'Now Koch's
coming in and saying, `I put him up to it.' ''
It's not clear what effect Koch's new testimony might have on Chavez's
chances for a new trial, but death-penalty experts say it's significant.
''If a defense lawyer in a death-penalty prosecution is taking certain
medications that would affect him physically or mentally, then that is a
serious issue,'' Miami attorney Bruce Fleisher said. "He may not be
effective as counsel if he is taking these medications.''
Koch has already played an explosive role in the post-conviction hearings.
He testified last week that his boss, Public Defender Bennett Brummer,
told him not to vigorously defend Chavez because Brummer was concerned
about political fallout due to his office being tied to such a notorious
Brummer has repeatedly denied that claim.
Jimmy's 1995 disappearance in the Redland and the discovery of his
dismembered body three months later set South Florida on edge. The child
was on his way home from a school bus when he was snatched.
The case attracted so much publicity that the trial had to be moved to
On Thursday, Brummer said he had no idea Koch was medicated during the
''I had no knowledge and saw no evidence of Art Koch's alleged impairment
during his representation of Juan Carlos Chavez,'' Brummer said in a
prepared statement. "Mr. Koch's latest allegation is one in a series of
shifting and baseless allegations he has made since he was placed on
probation for abusive behavior in 2003 by me, five years after the Chavez
Koch also accused 2 other assistant public defenders who worked with him
on the case of trying to persuade Chavez to lie.
Norgard said he didn't know why Koch was only now making the claim that he
was on medication and got Chavez to lie.
''I don't know whether he was just trying to drop a bomb or what,''
'OUT OF WHACK'
Koch blames his own role in Chavez lying on four medications he was taking
together that sometimes left him disoriented, Norgard said.
Koch's doctors thought he might have had a stroke and put him on the drugs
to control his blood pressure, Norgard said.
''You can really get out of whack with those,'' he said.
Koch has declined to speak to The Miami Herald about the trial or his
medical history, but Norgard said Koch plans to submit his medical records
to Circuit Judge Marc Schumacher, who is hearing the case.
''I may need to bring in his doctors to talk about the interactions of the
medications,'' Norgard said.
Even if Chavez wins a new trial, prosecutors have a mountain of evidence
against him, including his confession and the fact that the boy's backpack
was found in a trailer where Chavez was living.
(source: Miami Herald)
Deal reached in Fla. prison death case
Relatives for a death row inmate who died after a confrontation with
guards have reached a tentative settlement in their lawsuit against
corrections officers and the former head of Florida prisons.
Inmate Frank Valdes died in 1999 at the Florida State Prison near
Jacksonville. An autopsy showed he had 22 broken ribs; fractures in his
sternum, spine, nose and jaw; and internal injuries.
His father, Mario Valdes, sued several guards and a corrections official
in 2002, alleging wrongful death.
The state agreed to pay the $737,500 settlement, plus attorneys' fees and
costs for a total of $1,169,923, said Nina Banister, spokeswoman for the
Florida Division of Risk Management.
Valdes, 36, was sentenced to death for the 1987 murder of a corrections
officer at Glades Correctional Institution. The man was shot when Valdes
and another man attempted to free an inmate in a prison van outside a
doctor's office in West Palm Beach.
The settlement, filed Wednesday, still requires the signatures of a
federal judge and a probate judge. A spokeswoman for the Valdes family's
attorney said they would not comment until the settlement is final.
Martin Fitzpatrick, attorney for 6 of the former guards, said he was not
aware of the terms of the deal but that none of his clients had to pay.
"It's been a long process," he said. "My clients are happy to see this
matter behind them."
A message left for Ronald Wasilenko, attorney for former Corrections
Secretary James Crosby, was not immediately returned. At the time of the
slaying, Crosby was warden at the Florida State Prison.
3 former guards were acquitted in 2002 of 2nd-degree murder, and charges
were dropped against 5 other corrections officers after prosecutors
determined they could not win a conviction. Most residents in the area
work for prisons or are related to someone who does.
(source: Associated Press)
County faces 'avalanche' of capital cases
The number of criminal defendants sentenced to death in murder cases in
the United States dropped to an all-time low in 2006.
But the number of death-penalty cases now in Maricopa County Superior
Court, 130 to 140, has risen so high that it has outstripped the number of
defense attorneys qualified to handle those cases.
There are 13 death-penalty defendants with cases now before the court for
whom the county cannot find attorneys who meet the higher qualifications
required in a capital case.
"In 6 1/2 years, there have been delays of a couple of weeks in getting a
case placed but nothing even close to this avalanche of cases," said Mark
Kennedy, head of the county's Office of Contract Counsel, which appoints
attorneys in cases that the county's public defenders cannot handle.
Defense attorneys blame County Attorney Andrew Thomas' aggressive stance
on murder cases and his unwillingness to offer plea deals.
Thomas counters that the crisis is "manufactured" by a defense Bar that
doesn't like the death penalty. He accuses the defense attorneys of having
a "leisurely workload."
On Tuesday, one criminal-defense attorney asked to postpone, until a
qualified lead attorney can be found, the trial of a man accused of
murdering his infant daughter. And last Friday, another defense attorney
asked the same of a trial judge who referred the matter to Presiding
Criminal Judge James Keppel. Others are expected to follow.
"This is the most serious situation that I've seen since I was made
presiding judge," Keppel said.
And on Thursday, Chief Justice Ruth McGregor of the Arizona Supreme Court
told the state Legislature that she was appointing a task force to explore
how to manage the "significant backlog of capital cases" to make sure that
their verdicts stand up under appeal.
Case numbers growing
To put the numbers in perspective: Only 86 people have been executed in
Arizona since 1910, according to the Arizona Department of Corrections.
And there are 110 people now on death row awaiting execution.
In 2006, 114 or fewer death sentences were imposed in the United States as
a whole, a 30-year low, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Death
Penalty Information Center.
But Arizona court officials said there are 130 to 140 pending capital
cases in Maricopa County alone. By comparison, there are four pending
capital cases in Pima County.
Kennedy said the number of cases has doubled in 2 years.
In November, Thomas said a review by his office found that delays in
death-penalty cases were mostly the result of stalling tactics by defense
lawyers and judges' failures to enforce rules and deadlines.
Veteran capital-case defense attorney Robert Storrs said that the County
Attorney's Office is seeking the death penalty in cases it would not have
in the past. Storrs, who has handled nearly 50 capital cases in 30 years
and is currently representing defendants in six such cases, also said that
Thomas' reluctance to plead murder suspects to lower charges adds to the
Because it can cost $200,000 to $400,000 to defend a suspect in a capital
case, few defendants can pay their own legal tabs. They are first referred
to an attorney at the county's Office of the Legal Advocate, which then
tries to match defendants with attorneys at the county's three
public-defender agencies. If none is available, the cases go to Kennedy at
the Office of Contract Counsel, who appoints a qualified attorney.
Providing a defense
Because the death penalty is the ultimate sentence that can be imposed,
the state requires defense attorneys to have higher levels of competence
and experience than those involved in other cases.
Each defendant gets a lead attorney and a co-counsel, referred to as first
and second chair.
To qualify as a first-chair attorney, a lawyer must have handled at least
nine felony jury trials and been co-counsel in at least one capital case.
Marci Kratter, for example, who filed Tuesday's stay, is qualified as
second chair. But she is now the only attorney assigned in that capital
"I have an obligation to my client," she said. "My client deserves
adequate representation and effective representation, and I am not
qualified to give it to him in this arena. If it were another kind of case
- a drug case, an armed robbery - something where I have experience, then
I'd be comfortable doing that. My client deserves to have his rights
protected, and I am not in a position to protect his rights."
Of the 13 capital cases without attorneys, eight lack a first chair, two
need a second chair, and three have no attorney at all.
Kennedy said that he has 20 1st-chair and 25 2nd-chair attorneys in his
stable and is scrambling to qualify more. He also is reaching out to
public-defender offices and contract attorneys in other counties to find
The lack of lawyers has a tremendous impact on the system, especially in
delaying trials, which hurts both victims and the defendants, as Keppel
"Under the state and federal Constitutions, defendants in criminal cases
have a right to effective representation by counsel," he said "In these
cases, obviously it's important because the state is seeking the ultimate
The county's judges are in talks with the state Supreme Court, Maricopa
County leaders and other stakeholders to address the problems.
Keppel said that many proposals could come out of the talks but declined
to give specifics or a timeline.
In her Thursday State of the Judiciary address, Chief Justice McGregor
announced that she would create the task force to examine the death
"We must develop a comprehensive plan to address death-penalty cases so
that cases are not overturned on appeal because of incorrect handling,"
she said. "By doing the job right in the first place, we avoid delay and
also avoid wasting precious taxpayer resources."
Thomas said Thursday that he welcomes McGregor's creation of the task
force. But he minimized the complaints, noting that capital prosecutors in
his office routinely manage 12 cases at a time, instead of the 3 to 6 that
defense attorneys handle.
"They have very small caseloads and apparently a very leisurely workload,"
he said. "If they were simply to have caseloads that were equitable to the
prosecutors in this office, it would eliminate the deficit of capital
"This is a manufactured crisis generated by a criminal-defense Bar that
does not like the death penalty and is trying to subvert it. And the
excuses are not credible."
(source: Arizona Republic)
Ariz. chief justice targets handling of death penalty cases
According to the state's top judge, a big backlog of death penalty cases
in Maricopa County represents trouble rolling uphill toward the Arizona
The 5-member state high court "is not currently equipped to handle a large
number of additional death penalty appeals," Supreme Court Chief Justice
Ruth V. McGregor said Thursday in her annual state of the judiciary
address to a joint session of the Legislature.
Appeals of 1st-degree murder convictions that result in death sentences
and appeals of the death sentences themselves automatically go from state
trial courts to the Supreme Court, skipping the midlevel Court of Appeals
where most other criminal cases get their last appellate review.
McGregor said the nearly 140 capital cases pending in Maricopa County
Superior Court, compared with only 4 in Pima County, represent a
significant backlog that will require "ongoing commitment and effort" to
She said the state must develop a comprehensive plan on handling death
penalty cases so that cases are not overturned on appeal because of
incorrect handling. Otherwise, the results are delays and other problems
for defendants, victims' survivors and taxpayers, she said.
McGregor said she was appointing a task force chaired by Justice Michael
Ryan, a former felony prosecutor and trial judge, to make recommendations
on how to improve handling of death penalty cases.
Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas in November said a review by his
prosecution office found that delays in death penalty were due mostly to
stalling tactics by defense lawyers along with judges' failures to enforce
rules and deadlines.
Thomas said Thursday he welcomed McGregor's creation of the task force but
that he also planned to proceed with seeking enactment of speedy trial
provisions as part of planned legislation on victims' rights. Thomas said
he'd made commitments to back that legislation.
"But we certainly will look forward to working with the court," he added.
Officials of several defense-oriented groups were not immediately
available to comment Thursday but have said previously that a number of
factors were in play, including a lack of death-penalty experts and
qualified defense attorneys.
On another topic of particular interest to Maricopa County, McGregor said
the court was proposing legislation that would allow counties with
multiple court locations to minimize travel for jurors.
As it is now, a juror living in Surprise in the northwestern quadrant of
the Phoenix area could be summoned to jury duty for a Superior Court trial
in Mesa in the southeastern quadrant.
On the Net: Arizona Supreme Court: http://www.supreme.state.az.us
(source: Associated Press)
NEVADA----re: foreign national faces death penalty
Malawian Boy Charged for murder in USA
A Malawian immigrant to the United States of America has is facing murder
charges for killing a roomate with an axe and stuffed his body in a
Pachalo Chipeta , 21, who migrated to the USA aged 12, with his parents to
have better life, now faces doom. He will face the death penalty if found
"We felt we could give him a better future," said Fay Chipeta, Pachalo's
stepmother. "Anyone in Africa would love to come to the land of
The parents say their son lost his way in America such that by the time he
was in his late teens, he was smoking marijuana. He was bouncing from job
to job with dreams of becoming a rap music producer.
The Metropolitan Police Department in Las Vegas has accused Chipeta of
killing his roommate, Sanjay Makhijani, with an axe, stuffing the body in
a suitcase he bought on the Strip and dumping it in a desert area near
Tropicana Avenue and Boulder Highway in early January.
Chipeta is detained at the Clark County Detention Center, where he was
booked on charges of murder with a deadly weapon.
Chipeta's father, Edward Chipeta, said he was shocked to learn his son is
facing murder charges, because he always tried to instill in him strong
Speaking via telephone from South Africa, where he is on business, he said
his son never had any trouble adjusting to life in America and was always
surrounded by friends.
"I came all the way (to America) to get him the benefit of school, and he
was throwing it away," he said.
When Pachalo Chipeta graduated from Clark County High School, his
stepmother saw it as a moment for rejoicing because "he accomplished
But during the following years, Pachalo didn't achieve his dreams of
producing rap music. He worked as a telemarketer and sold insurance door
to door. His parents divorced when he was 19, and Chipeta left his
family's home to live a life of a nomad.
At some point, he began living with the 33-year-old Makhijani at an
apartment on the 4200 block of Viking Road, near Flamingo Road and Decatur
In early January, Chipeta struck Makhijani with an axe while Makhijani sat
on a couch in their apartment, police said. He told police he couldn't
remember how many times he hit Makhijani, according to a police report.
Chipeta then cleaned up the blood, placed Makhijani's body inside a
suitcase and put it inside Makhijani's vehicle, the report stated. He then
drove around for several days with the body in the car before dumping it
in the desert near one of his father's rental homes, close to Sam Boyd
Stadium, the report stated.
The body was found on Jan. 6 by 2 teens who were playing in the area.
Chipeta was already detained at the Clark County Detention Center when
detectives went there to question him about his dead roommate on Tuesday.
Police had arrested Chipeta on Jan. 12 and booked him into the jail for
burglary and attempted theft.
During the interview at the jail, Chipeta told detectives he killed his
roommate because Chipeta had been using cocaine and was scared Makhijani
"would do him bodily harm," the arrest report stated.
Police also said the two had a disagreement over religion, a claim that
confused his stepmother because Chipeta, who was raised Baptist, wasn't
interested in religion.
"If Pachalo did this, then I understand that he has to be held responsible
for his actions because he is an adult," Fay Chipeta said. "But this
offense that he has allegedly done could lead him to get the death
sentence. And I guess this is any parents' worst fear."
(source: Nyasa Times)
Moore avoids death penalty with plea bargain
Valerie Moore pleaded guilty today to arson and f1st-degree murder charges
in connection with the Halloween night fire at the Mizpah Hotel that left
12 people dead and dozens injured. Her plea was part of an agreement that
allows her to avoid the death penalty.
Flanked on both sides by her lawyers, Moore answered "guilty" as Chief
Deputy District Attorney Dave Clifton read each of the 13 charges,
including 1 count of arson and 12 counts of murder, and Washoe District
Judge Brent Adams asked, "what is your plea?" Under the deal, prosecutors
won't seek the death penalty and Moore and her lawyers will not object to
the maximum sentences in each of the 13 charges. They also agreed that
they will not present any mitigating evidence at her sentencing.
Adams set that hearing for March 16. "She did not want to spend the rest
of her life on death row," Moores lawyer, Chief Deputy Public Defender
Jennifer Lunt said after the hearing.
Instead, she faces the maximum of 12 consecutive life sentences without
the possibility of parole on the murder counts, and another 2 to 12 years
on the arson charge.
Joan Flores of Burnsville, Minn., the sister of fire victim William John
Serrao, said the plea agreement that Moore made with prosecutors was for
"My brother and I both feel that he got justice today," Flores said after
the hearing. "As long as she can never again walk the streets, we got
Moore's brother, Richard Moore of Reno, said he supported her plea.
"I told her whatever she decided I was going to stay with her," he said.
"I feel so bad about the people that passed. But she's alive, thats the
"She'll be all right."
According to police and testimony at her preliminary hearing, Moore was
intoxicated and became angry with one of the tenants in the hotel on the
night of Oct. 31. When he refused to open his door, she moved a mattress,
leaning on the wall in the hallway, in front of his door and lighted it.
The fire spread quickly, trapping some residents and forcing some to
escape through windows.
12 people died, more than 30 were injured and dozens were left homeless.
(source: Reno Gazette-Journal)
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