[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----S.C., OHIO, CALIF., FLA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Jan 25 05:32:44 UTC 2007
Son's appeal renews agony over parents' 'horrific' deaths
Kathy Wood remembers how her parents told her about sitting at the kitchen
table more than 10 years ago, listening to the neighbor couple's apology.
That's what neighbors who have kids do. They try and settle problems over
coffee at the kitchen table.
The neighbors' son had broken into the house of William and Alma Wood,
then stolen their car and credit cards. He would soon serve months in
prison as a youthful offender.
"They tried to be good parents," Kathy Wood said of the neighbors on Rock
Hill's Westminster Drive. "When they sat at that table, they had courage.
That took guts."
Not too long afterward, in November 1997, the couple that came to the
kitchen table to apologize for their son were brutally killed in their
home. Their names were Earl and Terry Robertson.
The same son, James "Jimmy" Robertson, was sentenced to die after he was
convicted of killing his parents. He's been on death row ever since,
making news along the way as he changes his mind about whether to fight
Jimmy will be in court again next week. He filed a lawsuit claiming his
trial lawyers were ineffective.
"I wish you wouldn't do another story on him," Kathy Wood said Tuesday.
She was on the phone in her family house on Westminster Drive, so close to
where Earl and Terry Robertson were beaten to death that she can see where
the cops hovered after the bodies were found.
She remembers "the gawkers" who drove by and stopped to look after the
media kept reporting more and more on the story of the slain Springs
executive and his wife, and the son who did it.
Wood said she has no problem with the death penalty for Jimmy Robertson.
She said Terry and Earl Robertson in death were "dragged through the mud"
in an attempt to save Jimmy Robertson's life during the trial.
Since conviction, Jimmy Robertson has dropped his appeal and then filed
the lawsuit. Nobody knows what Jimmy's motives are but Jimmy.
"He just wants publicity," Kathy Wood said. "If nobody gave him attention,
he'd just shut up and die."
Some don't want coverage of what is going on with Jimmy Robertson. Too
painful for Rock Hill, many say. It is painful.
But that doesn't change that Jimmy Robertson, from a well-off family,
after the private schools and all the rest, was convicted of killing his
parents because he wanted their money.
And now he's going to court again with a chance, albeit slim, to get a new
A neighbor from around the corner, Linder Tucker, called Terry Robertson
"warm, loving, giving."
"We were like sisters," Tucker said. Tucker remembers what she described
as the "All-American family."
Then she remembers the trial testimony of another neighbor who told the
jury Jimmy talked before the killings about murdering his parents.
"Then he did it," Tucker said.
Tucker went to part of the trial, watched Jimmy Robertson cry. She didn't
buy Jimmy Robertson's tears for one second.
Tucker wants the story to be followed, closely. So that people remember
Earl and Terry. "Not just him," Tucker said of Jimmy.
A pastor's call
Yet, Tucker, like the Rev. William Pender from Oakland Avenue Presbyterian
Church, said Terry Robertson would be first in line Monday pleading for
her son's life.
Pender seems to be a standup guy. He does what preachers are supposed to
do. He helps someone in his fold look at death.
Even if the person killed the parents that Pender knew so well.
Jimmy Robertson is still a member of the church, Pender said. He still
gives Robertson "pastoral care," and it has "never been an issue to take
him off the rolls."
Pender hopes to see Robertson at the York County jail, where Robertson
arrived earlier this week, before Monday's hearings. Pender equated
Robertson facing death to a terminally ill church member facing death.
Pastoral care doesn't mean making excuses, Pender said. Not a whitewash.
Not that Earl and Terry's death wasn't "horrific." He has to balance
honoring the memory of Earl and Terry Robertson with the needs of the son
convicted of slaughtering them.
I asked Pender if the Robertsons' death 10 years ago, and all that has
happened since, affected people in York County.
"Absolutely," Pender said.
So Monday, in court, the wounds of patricide open again.
(source: The Herald)
Kenny Richey faces make-or-break court hearing as he nears 20 years on
LAWYERS head to court in Ohio today for a make-or-break hearing into the
fate of Kenny Richey, the Scot who will mark his 20th anniversary on death
row this weekend.
The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit will consider whether the
42-year-old, who was imprisoned in 1987 for murder and arson, should be
granted a new trial on the basis that he received inadequate legal
representation at his original hearing and an unsafe conviction.
Presenting a fresh trial more than 2 decades after the crime would be a
major challenge to prosecutors, whose efforts to get Richey into the death
chamber have been thwarted over the years by 13 court-ordered stays of
"Kenny's morale is like a rollercoaster at times," said his American
father, James Richey, 69, who lives in Washington state.
He added: "I have great faith in our justice system, but I have also had
my faith dashed so many times. Everything I live for is to see Kenny walk
free and this decision coming up is a big one. If they rule against him,
there's no place else he can go."
Richey, who was brought up in Edinburgh and moved to America at the age of
18, denies that he was behind the blaze that swept through a neighbour's
flat in Ohio in June 1986, killing her two-year-old daughter.
Amnesty International has described the case as "one of the most
compelling cases of apparent innocence that human rights campaigners have
Richey, who will not be present at today's hearing in Cincinnati, has
always protested his innocence.
(source: The Scotsman)
Supreme Court Rejects California Sentencing Law
The Supreme Court on Monday struck down California's sentencing law
because it gives judges too much power to increase sentences based on
facts not found by the jury.
The 6-3 ruling in California v. Cunningham may throw into uncertainty a
segment of recent sentences imposed in California under the state's 1977
"California has some work to do, but it should not cause havoc in the
courts," says Stanford Law School professor Jeffrey Fisher, who wrote a
brief in the case for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
and is a key strategist in challenges to sentencing laws. Fisher said
defendants on direct review should get a "fresh look" at their sentences
as a result of the ruling Monday.
The decision also signals that the newly constituted Roberts Court is
committed to the Apprendi line of cases, which, since 2000, have
recalibrated the balance between judges and juries in the sentencing
process and upended both state and federal sentencing laws. In Apprendi v.
New Jersey, the Court held that any fact that increases a sentence beyond
certain parameters set forth in the sentencing statute must be determined
by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.
"Because the [California law] authorizes the judge, not the jury, to find
the facts permitting an upper-term sentence, the system cannot withstand
measurement against our Sixth Amendment precedents," Justice Ruth Bader
Ginsburg wrote for the majority.
Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. voted with the majority upholding the
Apprendi precedents, whereas his predecessor William Rehnquist opposed the
recent sentencing decisions. Justice Samuel Alito Jr. dissented Monday, as
his predecessor Sandra Day O'Connor probably would have. Justice Anthony
Kennedy, joined by Justice Stephen Breyer, also dissented, asserting, "In
my view, the Apprendi line of cases remains incorrect."
At issue Monday was the case of John Cunningham, convicted in 2003 of
repeatedly molesting his son. Under the law, his offense carried a prison
term of 6, 12 or 16 years. The judge is obliged to pick the middle
sentence unless he can find aggravating circumstances justifying the upper
level. In Cunningham's case, the judge found 6 aggravating circumstances
and gave Cunningham the higher sentence. California appeals courts upheld
the higher sentence, setting the stage for Supreme Court review.
Ginsburg's ruling did not specify how California should repair its
sentencing law, but it pointed to a dozen other states that have modified
their sentencing laws to respond to the Apprendi precedents. Some have
placed more of the fact-finding with the jury, while others have given
judges discretion within a statutory range.
"California may follow the paths taken by its sister states or otherwise
alter its system, so long as the state observes Sixth Amendment
limitations declared in this Court's decisions," Ginsburg wrote.
Former California Attorney General John Van de Kamp, of counsel at Dewey
Ballantine, says the ruling "will certainly spark a lot of debate on
overall sentencing policies in California." But he says the ruling will
actually affect only a small number of criminal cases in the state.
(source: Legal Times)
Calif. jury recommends death penalty for inmate who murdered witness
Jurors recommended the death penalty for a man who strangled a fellow jail
inmate who had testified against him in a murder case.
The Los Angeles Superior Court panel deliberated nearly 5 days before
deciding Tuesday that Santiago Pineda, 25, should be put to death. The
sentence must be confirmed by the judge.
Pineda was convicted last month of killing 20-year-old Raul Tinajero, who
had testified two weeks earlier that he saw Pineda kill another man with
Tinajero's April 2004 slaying was 1 of 14 jail killings in Los Angeles
County since 2000.
The county paid $1.25 million to settle a lawsuit by Tinajero's relatives,
the 2nd-largest payout for an inmate death in county history.
Pineda still faces sentencing in the car murder, for which he was
convicted last month.
(source: Associated Press)
JIMMY RYCE CASE----Attorney for boy's killer can't explain lieThe
assistant public defender who represented Jimmy Ryce's convicted killer
offered different versions of his actions.
The attorney for the man convicted of killing Jimmy Ryce was expected to
take the stand Tuesday to explain how he got his client to lie on the
stand -- and why.
But instead of clearing up any confusion, former Assistant Public Defender
Art Koch further muddied the record during a hearing Tuesday to determine
if Juan Carlos Chavez should get a new trial because of mistakes made by
Koch maintained he told Chavez to take the witness stand and tell a story
that was not true. But he said he only did so ''inadvertently'' while
preparing Chavez to testify.
The testimony in question: Chavez's claim during his 1998 trial that
police took his watch away and wouldn't give it back to him until he
Koch had spoken with Chavez during a break in the trial to prepare him to
take the stand. He said he briefly summarized each of the issues he
planned to ask questions about, including the watch.
'I said to him, `I'm going to ask you about the watch and you told me that
the police took the watch sometime during the interrogation,' '' Koch
During cross-examination of Chavez, prosecutors showed that he was lying:
Police had taken photos of Chavez, wearing the watch, during his
''Chavez's credibility was destroyed, and for all practical purposes, the
case was over,'' Koch testified Tuesday.
Chavez was convicted of kidnapping, raping and killing 9-year-old Jimmy,
who was riding his bike home from a school bus stop when he was snatched.
Chavez was sentenced to death in the high-profile case.
Koch said Tuesday he never meant to suggest to Chavez that he should lie
on the stand, though he acknowledged that's what he did.
''I was merely reciting to him what I thought he had told me,'' Koch said.
He called what he did "a significant mistake.''
But that was as far as Koch went while being questioned by Chavez's
current attorney, Bob Norgard. He did not bring up a 2-week-old claim that
he was on medication that left him disoriented during trial.
''In an interview with us, he initially attributed it to the medication,
but in a deposition yesterday, he said maybe it was that, maybe it
wasn't,'' Norgard explained during a break in the hearing. "Now Koch is
saying he inadvertently thought that Chavez told him about the watch and
after the fact he realized he was wrong.''
The medication issue was not dead yet, however. Nor was the issue of
whether Chavez had at some point told Koch the bogus story about the
police taking his watch.
Under cross-examination by Assistant State Attorney Gail Levine, Koch
reiterated his claim that Chavez never told him about a watch.
But Levine pointed out that Koch's case file included a list of questions
that Chavez answered in his own handwriting prior to trial. Koch
acknowledged the questions were his. And among them were questions about
'In fact, at some point he did tell me they took the watch away and I
confronted him at that time that he mentioned that. I told him 'this could
not have happened' because there was a photo of Mr. Chavez with the
watch,'' Koch said.
Then he offered an excuse.
''At the time of the trial, as you probably know, I was under a doctor's
suggestion -- an order -- not to try the case,'' he said. "I was on
medication for vertigo and a hearing disorder. There were times that I had
to go to bed early.''
''I, in fact, got that information confused,'' he added.
It wasn't the 1st time Koch's testimony about his role in the case was
challenged. 2 weeks ago he claimed that his boss at the time, Public
Defender Bennett Brummer, told him to moderate his efforts to defend
Chavez because Brummer didn't want his office associated with such a
notorious client during an election year.
Brummer denied the charges, and several other assistant public defenders
testified he never interfered in the case. 2 testified that Koch actually
prevented them from fully investigating a story Chavez told them about
being brutally abused as a child.
The 2 assistant public defenders withdrew from the case after conflicts
2 weeks ago, Koch accused both of them of trying to get Chavez to lie on
the stand. At that point in the days-long hearing, he didn't mention
anything about how he did get Chavez to lie.
Circuit Judge Marc Shumacher is set to rule on the case in mid-March.
To throw out Chavez's conviction, or even his death sentence, Shumacher
will have to conclude that the defense team made serious enough mistakes
to call into question whether a better group of lawyers could have won him
an acquittal, or at least a life sentence instead of the death penalty.
(source: Miami Herald)
Fla. Court Grapples With Security Worries and Media Fights Over Lunsford
Murder Trial----Defense attorneys are seeking to postpone the trial
Court administrators are gearing up for the expected media frenzy in
Miami-Dade criminal court for the high-profile trial of John Couey, who is
accused of kidnapping, raping and killing 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford.
Officials are anticipating a crush of TV and print reporters to cover the
The horrifying details of the kidnapping and killing of Jessica Lunsford,
who investigators say was buried alive, garnered international media
attention. The case also spurred the Florida Legislature to pass a new sex
offender law named for the girl.
Print and TV reporters already are fighting over the limited number of
seats in Courtroom 4-1 of the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building.
Citrus Circuit Judge Ric Howard will preside at the trial, which is
scheduled to begin Feb. 12. The trial was moved to Miami last July after
Howard ruled that widespread publicity about the case had ruined Couey's
chance of getting a fair jury trial in Citrus County.
At a recent standing-room-only meeting organized by Miami-Dade court
officials, media representatives twice threatened each other with
lawsuits. One threat was over courtroom seating space. Some reporters
argued that their publications deserved more seats in the "media section"
than other publications.
Another lawsuit threat came over the arrangement to have one photographer
in the courtroom, whose photos would be shared by all the media entities
covering the trial. When a reporter objected to the Miami Herald's
stipulation that the pool photos not be resold by other news outlets, a
smiling Herald photo editor replied: "Welcome to Miami."
The Lunsford case drew intense media attention when the girl disappeared
from her home in Homosassa in February 2005. Investigators found
Lunsford's remains March 19, 2005, buried in a shallow grave near her
home. Couey lived with relatives in a home on the property where
Lunsford's body was found.
The Lunsford case is just the kind of horrific true crime story the public
eats up. Consequently, about 10 satellite trucks and 40 reporters and TV
crews -- ranging from CourtTV to the Associated Press -- are expected to
descend on the Gerstein building for the trial.
The case has all the morbid makings of a major court spectacle -- a young
victim, grieving relatives, the alleged predator next door slipping into
the girl's room in the dead of night.
There was even a confession thrown out by a judge because investigators
allegedly failed to provide Couey with an attorney when he asked.
"This story is a nightmare, and that makes it inherently sort of
dramatic," said Miami Herald metro editor Manny Garcia. "It's every
parent's nightmare to go to sleep thinking your kids are OK, and wake up
to find them gone. People all over the country are horrified by this, and
I think that's why it's getting so much attention."
Eunice Sigler, a spokeswoman for the Miami-Dade Circuit Court, heads the
effort to work with the media to make sure that the half-century-old
building accommodates the media. She must balance open access to the
proceedings, the defendant's right to a fair trial and security.
Sigler spends a fair amount of her time conferencing with Howard,
prosecutors, public defenders and the Citrus County clerk of courts, while
coordinating with their Miami-Dade counterparts. She also must work
closely with the news reporters, producers and editors who will be
covering the trial.
At the recent meeting with reporters, it was decided that print reporters
will sit in the courtroom, while their TV counterparts will monitor a live
feed from a cramped room on the eighth floor. Sigler, at the behest of
Chief Judge Joseph P. Farina Jr., asked reporters to form a committee to
discuss seating, parking and wiring arrangements.
"Both our own existing media orders, plus Citrus County's media protocols
call for the establishment of a committee," Sigler said in an e-mail. "It
seemed like a fair way to iron out all the details."
Besides logistics, there also are security issues to worry about. "This is
the type of trial that can attract, well, all types of people, so we're
being pretty careful about security," Sigler said. Anyone attending the
trial will go through two layers of security before entering the
Veteran criminal defense attorney Richard Sharpstein, a partner at Jorden
Burt in Miami who is not involved in the case, fretted that the intense
media attention could affect the defendant's right to a fair trial.
"Anytime you have a lot of media attention, it affects the trial," he
said. "A single camera in the courtroom affects how everyone acts, right
down to the judge. In our current age you can't stop it, so you have to
deal with it."
Judges have a range of methods to deal with the media to ensure a fair
trial, Sharpstein said. "They can make requirements having to do with
media placement in the courtroom, or they can go to the other end of the
spectrum and gag lawyers and take extreme measures like that."
But there are limits to a judge's discretion. The media are considered an
extension of the public in the courtroom, said Thomas R. Julin, a media
lawyer and partner at Hunton & Williams in Miami. "In Florida, in almost
every instance since 1980, the courts have concluded that the right of
access will outweigh the fair trial rights, provided there is no really
The Couey trial could be delayed. Howard will hold a hearing today on
defense attorneys' motion to postpone the trial so they can question seven
new witnesses introduced by the prosecution this month.
(source: Daily Businss Review)
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