[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, MD., N. DAK., OHIO
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Jan 26 17:30:42 UTC 2007
Court upholds capital murder conviction of Lufkin man----Ninth Court of
Appeals denies man's claim that law protecting unborn babies from the
moment of conception is unconstitutional
In what may be the 1st decision of its kind, a Beaumont appeals court
Wednesday upheld the 2005 double capital murder conviction of a former
Lufkin High School student who killed his unborn twin sons.
The Ninth Court of Appeals denied 21-year-old Gerardo Flores' claim that
the law protecting unborn babies from the moment of conception is
The case tested a Texas law that makes it a capital offense to kill an
unborn child. The law redefined a person as having full rights to legal
protection from the moment of conception.
The ruling was handed down the same day Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott
issued an opinion supporting a state law barring doctors from performing
3rd-trimester abortions, or abortions on minors without a parent's written
Abbott said doctors breaking the law should be given jail time and lose
their licenses, rather than being prosecuted for capital murder.
The pro-life group Texas Alliance for Life filed a brief with the appeals
court in the Flores ruling, defending the capital murder conviction.
"Clearly, the Constitution allows Texas to recognize unborn children as
persons and protect them from murderers, exactly as the Legislature
intended," executive director Dr. Joe Pojman stated in an alliance press
release issued Thursday.
Calls to a Texas pro-choice group were not immediately returned Thursday
Flores, then 19, was convicted for stomping on the stomach of his pregnant
16-year-old girlfriend, who was 5 months pregnant, causing the boys'
premature home stillbirth in a toilet 2 days later on May 7, 2004.
Defense attorney Ryan Deaton of Lufkin, who argued the case before the
appeals court in October, was not available for comment Thursday.
Deaton earlier called the case "tragic," but said the couple were "kids in
love making mistakes." Deaton blamed the girlfriend for egging Flores on.
"She invited violence into the relationship," he told jurors at trial.
Angelina County Assistant District Attorney Art Bauereiss, who prosecuted
the case, said Thursday he was pleased with the appellate decision.
Evidence presented at trial in 2005 confirmed the babies had been dead in
the womb for 24 to 48 hours before birth. Photos given to the jury showed
extensive beating and bruising marks across the pregnant girl's abdomen,
arms and legs from attacks by Flores in the days before the deaths.
The girlfriend, living with her boyfriend's family at the time, defended
Flores in court. Although she tearfully described earlier naming her
twins, she said she asked Flores to step on her stomach.
The law protects women from being charged for ending their own
pregnancies, in any manner.
Flores' letters to her from jail, read by the prosecution for jurors in
the punishment phase of his trial, included demeaning, abusive and
controlling language evidence, Bauereiss said at trial, of his domination
over the young mother-to-be.
Flores is serving 2 concurrent life sentences and will be eligible for
parole in 40 years, at age 59.
(source: Lufkin Daily Sun)
Motion to remove death penalty denied
Judge Martha Trudo of the 264th District Court denied the defense
attorneys' motion to remove the death penalty as a punishment option in
the upcoming murder trial of their client, a 27-year-old Killeen man who
is charged with 4 counts of capital murder.
Defense attorneys for Richard Tabler filed a motion to spare their client
the death penalty should a jury find him guilty, citing the guidelines
established in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that mentally retarded people
could not be executed.
Attorneys argued that, although the defendant is not mentally retarded, he
is mentally ill and that like mentally challenged people, Tabler did not
understand the gravity of his actions; therefore, the same guidelines
should be applied.
"Our attempt is to correlate that the condition that affects our client is
the same, although it has a different name," said Killeen defense attorney
The defense submitted medical reports from 2 doctors and scans that showed
a physical defect in the defendant's frontal lobe the front part of the
brain that is involved in emotional control, inhibition of impulses,
motivation and social abilities.
Harris offered a 4-page medical report to the court that included a
timeline summary of the events of Tabler's life, calling it a roadmap.
"The timeline represents all the prominent events that give rise to our
position that he qualifies for the Atkins decision," Harris said,
referring to the Supreme Court case.
Harris stated that at some point during Tabler's life he suffered an
injury that caused lesions on his brain that were not there at his birth.
The report stated that on Dec. 7, 1995, a pattern began of Tabler moving
in and out of mental hospitals and of self-mutilation.
"It is our position that according to the Eighth Amendment that the judge
can determine whether it is unconstitutional or constitutional to impose
the death penalty," argued lead defense counsel John Donohue of Waco.
The Supreme Court case, Donohue argued, "talks about an evolving sense of
decency that is consistent with the direction of change."
Prosecutor Paul McWilliams disagreed, saying that the judge does not have
the authority under the law to determine whether the death penalty should
not be an option because of mental illness.
"Whether or not Richard Tabler is mentally ill is a question of fact that
is to be determined by a jury," he said, arguing that mental illness is a
mitigating factor that the defense can ask the jury to consider during the
sentencing phase if the defendant is found guilty.
Donohue stated that in the evolution of change, states can no longer
execute juveniles or the mentally retarded.
"The next logical step (in the evolution) is if someone has an actual
brain defect that results in the same (problems) of a mentally retarded
person," he argued. "We believe you have the authority to determine that
it's unconstitutional to apply this (punishment) in this situation."
McWilliams stated that the bottom line was that wasn't the law, saying
that no one can make a decision about mental illness until all the
evidence was in.
"The jury has the right to hear every bit of mitigating evidence," he
Trudo told the defense she was not inclined to make a pretrial decision
without having the state give their expert witnesses the opportunity to
look at the medical reports the defense provided.
Jury selection is set to begin Feb. 12, and Harris stated that he didn't
believe that was a workable date, calling the question of Tabler's mental
illness the threshold issue.
"We ask the court not to dismiss (the motion) without a hearing," he said.
"Our client's life is on the line."
McWilliams vehemently disagreed, saying that a ruling needed to be done
now and that the defense has until March 26 (the sentencing date if Tabler
is found guilty) to get their mitigating evidence.
"We've had this man in jail for two years and it's time to get this man to
trial," he declared.
Tabler is charged in the Nov. 26, 2004, deaths of Haitham Zayed, 28, and
Mohamid-Amine Rahmouni, 25, and in the Nov. 28, 2004, deaths of Tiffany
Lorraine Dotson, 18, and Amanda Benefield, 16.
Also charged in the deaths of the 2 women is Timothy Doan Payne, a former
4th Infantry Division soldier.
The slayings of the four individuals took place over the 2004 Thanksgiving
Tabler's trial will begin with jury selection on Feb. 12 and opening
statements on March 19. Payne will go to trial after Tabler's case is
(source: Killeen Daily Herald)
Jury selection begins in Del Palacio murder case
1 of 2 El Paso men jailed a couple years ago in connection with the
slaying of local civic leader Gary Del Palacio is getting closer to having
his day in court.
The jury selection process in the capital murder trial of Montana Vista
resident Jonathan Ruiz, 23, began today. If convicted, Ruiz could be face
the death penalty or life imprisonment.
Del Palacio, a 42-year-old Hispanic Chamber of Commerce board member, was
kidnapped from an East El Paso County strip club, robbed and slain,
according to court records. His body was found in the far East El Paso
desert on March 12, 2005.
The jury for Ruiz's trial is expected to be selected from a pool of 400
potential jurors summoned today to jury hall in Downtown across from the
County Courthouse. The potential jurors were asked to fill out a lengthy
questionnaire, which prosecutors and defense lawyers will use to pick the
Jury selection is expected to take more than month. It should continue
Feb. 23, when lawyers will start interviewing potential jurors. Opening
statements in the trial pending in the 210th District Court will be
scheduled once a jury is seated, a court official said.
Joe Spencer, Ruizs lawyer, was in court today and could not be reached for
Ruiz has been held at the El Paso County Jail in lieu of a $1 million bond
since March 2005, when an El Paso County Sheriffs investigation linked him
to Del Palacio's death.
District Attorney Jaime Esparza said the jury process will take longer
than usual because it is a death penalty case.
In June 2005, Esparza said he was considering seeking the death penalty
against Ruiz because of the facts surrounding the case.
Ruiz's co-defendant, Jesus Soltero Jr., 22, also a Montana Vista resident,
is charged with murder. The offense is a first-degree felony punishable by
up to life in prison. Solteros case is also pending in the 210th District
Del Palacio was chairman of the board of the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of
Commerce Education Foundation. He also served on the boards of directors
of the Sun Bowl Association and the Hispanic Chamber, and was a volunteer
with the American Heart Association.
(source: El Paso Times, Jan. 25)
Supremes Hear Texas Death Penalty Cases
Last Wednesday in 3 capital cases, the U.S. Supreme Court again grappled
with the complicated issue of whether the Texas death penalty scheme and
the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' interpretation of its role in
deciding these cases meets constitutional requirements.
The 1st case Smith v. Texas focused on the Court of Criminal Appeals'
rejection of the Supreme Court's decision to summarily reverse the CCA's
earlier decision in the case. But the state's attempt to hijack the real
issue whether the CCA can ignore clear direction from the Supreme Court
by couching the issue as one of "state's rights" seemed to garner some
ground with the 2 newest members of the high court who were not involved
in the 2004 decision.
LaRoyce Smith was convicted and sentenced to death in 1991 for the murder
of a former Taco Bell co-worker in Dallas County. At the time of his
trial, the Texas death penalty statute focused solely on whether the
murder was deliberate and whether the defendant would be a future danger.
The Supreme Court had already ruled (in Penry v. Lynaugh) that these 2
questions were insufficient to allow jurors to consider certain mitigating
evidence, so Smith's trial judge tried to fix the problem and told the
jury that if they found that the murder was deliberate, and that Smith
would be a danger in the future, but still believed that he should not
receive a death sentence, they could impose that result by responding "no"
to one of the questions on the verdict form. This so-called "nullification
instruction" was later found by the Supreme Court to be unconstitutional.
So when the court summarily reversed Smith's conviction in 2004 and sent
the case back to the CCA "for further proceedings not inconsistent with
this opinion" it seemed clear that Smith would receive a new sentencing
Not so, said the CCA. Instead, in a transparent effort to circumvent the
Supreme Court's ruling, the CCA found a purported procedural error that
had never been relied upon before to create a ground for rejecting Smith's
claims. It was this new procedural finding by the CCA that the Texas
attorney general joined by 21 other states championed as the real issue
in the case. And, instead of the hostility one would expect from the
Supreme Court toward a lower court's decision ignoring its holding, Chief
Justice John Roberts seemed open to allowing state courts the discretion
to reinvent reasons for rejecting death penalty decisions by his court.
"What was regrettable," remarked professor Jordan Steiker, co-director of
UT's Capital Punishment Center and counsel for Smith, "was how the new
members of the court didn't protect prior precedent."
In perhaps the most biting comment from the bench during the argument,
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg observed that if the CCA's actions are
allowed, "you have a Supreme Court decision that the state court can say,
thanks, thanks, that's very interesting advice" and rule inconsistently
based on a newly formulated "harmless error" standard.
It's clear that the decision in the case will rest with Justice Anthony
Kennedy, who voted with the majority the first time around. His skepticism
about the way that the CCA rejected the merits of Smith's claims was
apparent in his questions, but how far he and other members of the court
will go in dealing with the Texas court's weaseling around their decision
is a tough call.
Justice Kennedy will also likely be the key vote in the other two cases
argued on Wednesday. Robert Owen, also co-director of UT's Capital
Punishment Center, argued on behalf of Jalil Abdul-Kabir and Brent Brewer,
whose cases were joined because they raised similar claims about how the
previous Texas statute dealt with mitigating evidence. Owen argued that
under Supreme Court precedent, evidence presented in each of his clients'
trials could not be properly considered by the jurors, and therefore they
should have received a new sentencing hearing. The state countered that
the evidence was relevant to one of the special issues and therefore could
indeed be considered.
Owen explained, however, that "the prosecutors in both cases made very
clear to the jurors that in answering the future dangerousness question
you must put to one side your opinion about whether the defendant's
background, for example, calls for a particular sentence and answer the
question solely on, as the prosecutor put it, the basis of the facts."
Justice Kennedy seemed troubled by this discord between what the state has
said can and should happen with mitigating evidence that the jury can use
evidence of childhood abuse or mental illness to impose a sentence less
than death by finding that such evidence reduced the chance that the
defendant would be a danger in the future and the reality of what
prosecutors are arguing at trials. That may be the key to the decision in
the 2 cases. Decisions are expected before the end of June.
(source: Austin Chronicle)
Death penalty repeal sought----O'Malley backs bills to replace executions
with life without parole
Gov. Martin O'Malley said yesterday that he would sign a repeal of the
death penalty if a bill reaches his desk, weighing in on the contentious
issue hours after a coalition of legislators and activists renewed their
push to strike Maryland's execution law from the books.
"Now that it's salient, and we have to deal with it, I'm certainly not
going to try to duck or hide. I would like to see us repeal the death
penalty," O'Malley said during an interview in his State House office. "I
think the dollars could go to better use and could be invested in things
that actually save lives. I don't believe the death penalty saves lives."
Democratic lawmakers introduced a new legislative proposal yesterday that
would replace the death penalty with life without the possibility of
parole for the most violent criminals. Sponsored by Sen. Lisa A. Gladden
and Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg, both Baltimore Democrats, the bills come on
the heels of a Maryland Court of Appeals ruling in December that halted
executions until lawmakers develop appropriate oversight for the
administration of lethal injections.
5 convicted murderers have been executed in Maryland since 1978, including
two under warrants signed by former Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.,
a death penalty supporter who left office this month.
But with a new Democratic governor and growing national worry about how
the punishment is administered and whether race is a factor, the sponsors
said the time is right to rekindle a serious debate in Annapolis.
Joined yesterday by activists, including Kirk Bloodsworth, who in 1993
became the first death-row inmate in the country to be exonerated through
the use of DNA evidence, they said they are working on the votes needed to
get the bills out of committee.
Gladden said the bills present an opportunity for Maryland to make a
statement "to our nation of who we are as a people."
"I felt that we are now at a sea change and that our communities are now
speaking loudly and clearly about making sure that innocent people,
perhaps, are not put to death," said Gladden, a public defender in
Baltimore. "One mistake is too much."
O'Malley said he would lobby for the repeal bills, although he did not
include such a measure in the legislative agenda he released this week.
"There are good people who have strong feelings on both sides of that
issue," he said.
Still, he expressed skepticism that a majority of the House of Delegates
or the Senate will support the bills.
"I'm not overly optimistic that they will, but there's a lot of new
members, and perhaps given the problems, what went on in Florida, given
all of the other issues having to do with the way that it's applied, maybe
there is the will to do it," the governor said. Executions in Florida were
halted last month amid concerns over the way lethal injections were
The December Court of Appeals ruling imposed a de facto moratorium on
executions in Maryland.
Ruling unanimously in an appeal by death-row inmate Vernon L. Evans, the
court determined that procedures for administering lethal injections
should be considered regulations and therefore reviewed by a committee of
state senators and delegates. The moratorium will stand until legislators
pass a law that either exempts the procedures from review or addresses the
court's regulatory concerns. Or, lawmakers could do nothing, leaving the
moratorium in place.
Former Gov. Parris N. Glendening imposed a moratorium in 2002 so racial
disparity and other issues could be studied, but that ban was lifted under
Ehrlich, his successor. 6 people sit on the state's death row; 4 are
black, 2 are white.
Nationally, 38 states have the death penalty, while 12 do not, according
to the Death Penalty Information Center. But 5 of the 38 states - Kansas,
New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and South Dakota - have not executed
an inmate since 1976.
Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger said the death
penalty plays a vital role in Maryland's criminal justice system.
"Maryland already has life without parole, and we've also had the death
penalty, and I'm still very much in favor of the death penalty," he said.
"I still think it acts as a deterrent. Certainly a deterrent of one
[person], and that is the person that receives the death penalty [and]
will never kill again."
Sen. Nancy Jacobs, a Harford County Republican and death penalty
supporter, said victims of violent crime and their families deserve
"I have more sympathy for the victims of crimes than I do for the
perpetrators," Jacobs said. "I think people on both sides of the issue
need to go to a family whose loved ones were tortured and killed and tell
them the criminal deserves to live."
But death penalty opponents, gathered in Annapolis for a news conference
yesterday, said the punishment disproportionately affects
African-Americans. Rosenberg argued that the death penalty is not a proven
deterrent to crime and that "there are compelling moral reasons to abandon
it." He said the state-sanctioned killing of an innocent person is
"The death penalty is broken beyond repair in Maryland, and across the
country we cannot fix it in a way that is equitable," he said.
Lawmakers were joined by longtime activists and members of the clergy who
are backing their cause. Rosenberg noted that several religious
institutions support repeal, including Associated Catholic Charities; the
Episcopal Diocese of Maryland; the Jewish Community Relations Council of
Greater Washington; and the United Methodist Church and the Presbytery of
2 former death-row inmates - both wrongfully convicted - told their
stories yesterday. One was Bloodsworth, a former Marine with no criminal
record who served nine years in prison for the murder and rape of a
9-year-old girl. He spent two of those years on death row, but was serving
a life sentence when DNA evidence cleared him. Bloodsworth's death
sentence was overturned by the Court of Appeals.
"I am living proof that the criminal justice system makes serious
mistakes," said Bloodsworth, who has become a national advocate for
abolishing the death penalty and an author. " ... I was wrongly convicted
and sentenced to death, and I've got one thing to say on that issue, that
if it can happen to me it can happen to anybody in this room and anybody
in the state of Maryland."
Key death penalty dates
1972: The U.S. Supreme Court invalidates death penalty statutes across the
1976: U.S. Supreme Court rules that the death penalty is legal.
1978: General Assembly reinstates death penalty laws in Maryland.
1987: General Assembly adds life without the possibility of parole to the
books as a sentencing option.
1994: General Assembly authorizes injection as the state's method of
May 17, 1994, at 1:10 a.m.: John Frederick Thanos is executed for killing
3 teenagers during a weeklong crime spree in 1990.
July 2, 1997, at 12:27 a.m.: Flint Gregory Hunt is executed for gunning
down a Baltimore policeman in 1985.
Nov. 16, 1998, at 10:27 p.m.: Tyrone X. Gilliam is executed for kidnapping
and killing a Baltimore accountant in 1988.
May 9, 2002: Gov. Parris N. Glendening imposes a moratorium on the death
penalty while a state-ordered University of Maryland study of capital
punishment is conducted. The study would conclude there are racial and
geographic disparities in the application of the death penalty in the
Jan. 15, 2003: The execution moratorium is effectively lifted when Robert
L. Ehrlich Jr. is sworn in as governor.
June 17, 2004, at 9:18 p.m.: Steven Howard Oken is executed for the rape
and murder of a White Marsh newlywed at the start of a crime spree in 1987
that included the killings of 2 other women.
Dec. 5, 2005 at 9:18 p.m.: Wesley Eugene Baker is executed for killing a
Baltimore County elementary school teacher's aide in front of her
grandchildren in a 1991 robbery.
Dec. 19, 2006: Maryland Court of Appeals rules that executions cannot
continue in Maryland until the legislature approves regulations for lethal
injection procedures, or passes a law saying that such rules are not
Jan. 17, 2007: Gov. Martin O'Malley, a death penalty opponent, succeeds
Ehrlich in office.
(source for both: Baltimore Sun)
NORTH DAKOTA----re: federal death penalty
Prosecutors consider death penalty
Federal prosecutors plan to submit recommendations next month on whether
to pursue the death penalty against 3 drug-trafficking defendants.
Officials wont say what their intentions are in seeking capital punishment
against Jorge "Sneaky" Arandas, Gabriel Martinez and Alan Wessels for a
2005 murder in East Grand Forks, Minn.
However, court documents offer special findings against Arandas, accused
of ordering Lee Avila's death for a drug debt, and Martinez, blamed with
intentionally killing him.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett Shasky said prosecutors will submit
recommendations for Arandas and Martinez to Attorney General Alberto
Gonzalez who makes the final decision by Feb. 1. He said the
recommendation for Wessels will be submitted by Feb. 16.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers plan to meet March 12 in Washington D.C.,
to offer arguments on the defendants, who are scheduled for trial Sept.
Those details emerged from a hearing Thursday for co-defendants in an
international trafficking ring that sold meth, cocaine and marijuana in
the Red River Valley.
"There is no chance this case will be ready to try in September," U.S.
District Judge Ralph Erickson said.
One man, Martin Carrillo, also faces possible death penalty charges and
remains on the lam. Federal agents offered a $5,000 reward earlier this
week in hopes of finding him.
The judge moved the trial for 3 men, all facing non-capital drug
conspiracy charges, from March to May 7. Fifteen other defendants have
Prosecutors typically want cooperating defendants to testify at trial
before they are sentenced. Erickson wants to expedite the hearings so
defendants can be moved from area jails to federal prisons.
Lawyers said prosecutors turned over evidence thousands of pages of
police reports burned onto more than 50 compact discs that can't be
"Our office has had a hard time getting our arms around it," said Thomas
Dickson, an attorney for Martinez. He said the documents are not organized
in any useful way.
Shasky said he can sort and search through the documents without problem,
prompting the judge to ask prosecutors to find a better format or system
for sharing information.
Erickson also delayed imposing a gag order on witnesses and lawyers.
Killer says he's ready for execution ----Filiaggi discusses shooting
ex-wife Friday, January 26, 2007Reginald Fields and Mark PuentePlain
James Filiaggi says he is ready to die. And his youngest daughter wants
him dead, too, for executing her mother 13 years ago.
14-year-old Jasmin Filiaggi expressed her wish in a handwritten letter to
the Ohio Parole Board, which met Thursday to consider whether James
Filiaggi's death sentence should be commuted to life in prison. He is
scheduled to be lethally injected April 24.
"My opinion to death is whatever the killer or person did wrong to another
person should be done to them. Take my dad, he shot my mom. So I think he
should be shot," Jasmin wrote.
"I have no sympathy for him, and what needs to be done is accepted by me.
I agree with everything."
The letter was news to Filiaggi, who sat down with The Plain Dealer on
Thursday for a 1-hour interview at the Mansfield Correctional Facility.
Filiaggi intended to make calls Thursday night to find out what Jasmin
Filiaggi, a college graduate with an accounting degree, shot ex-wife Lisa
point-blank in 1994. It was a crime that gripped Lorain County for years.
Women's advocates still use the case to illustrate that anyone, regardless
of pedigree, can become an abuser.
In the days leading to Jan. 24, 1994, Lisa Filiaggi caught her ex-husband
on videotape creeping up to her house in the dark. She had suspected him
of vandalism, and now police had the evidence to arrest him.
Before they could find him, Filiaggi got to his wife on that January
night, bursting through a back door in Lorain with a gun as she made a
desperate 9-1-1 call. The children were also home.
Lisa Filiaggi ran out a front door and into a neighbor's house. He forced
his way into that house, told the neighbor to hide in a bedroom and then
shot his ex-wife in the head as she cowered on a bedroom floor. Witnesses
said he told her, "This will teach you to [expletive] with me."
The parole board was Filiaggi's last chance to plead for his life. But he
has told anyone who will listen - including a parole board official and a
Plain Dealer reporter last week - that he wants to die.
His attorneys, Jeffrey Gamso and Spiros Cocoves, were given an hour to
make a case for clemency. Cocoves took all of about 5 seconds to tell the
board, "We have nothing to say."
In his interview with The Plain Dealer, Filiaggi spoke in a slow, quiet
drawl and said:
He knows he is going to heaven and can't wait to get there.
He wishes his life were not defined by "one misdeed." He would like to be
remembered for accomplishments such as achieving the rank of sergeant in
the Army and graduating from Ohio University with honors and a triple
He was a death penalty supporter until he went to prison. Now, he thinks
it is appropriate for him but not for others.
He will not speak ill of Lisa Filiaggi. He described her as a good person
who didn't deserve to die, but he referred several times to "things that
went on" in their soured relationship.
"I can never apologize enough, especially to my girls," he said.
Jasmin and her older sister, Alexis, 15, are being raised by an uncle and
aunt. Filiaggi would not discuss how much contact he has with them or how
their mother's murder affects them.
"My girls are my world," Filiaggi said, smiling.
Filiaggi had been scheduled to be executed Feb. 13. But last week, Gov.
Ted Strickland, who took office Jan. 8, said he would need more time to
review Filiaggi's case and that of two other death row inmates. He
postponed their executions.
Filiaggi described his crime as "surreal" and an "out-of-body" experience,
as if he watched someone else do it.
In a steady voice, Filiaggi described following Lisa Filiaggi to the
neighbor's house. They struggled for the gun, he said, and she was shot
accidentally in the shoulder. Then, "I walked up behind her, put it to the
back of her head and pulled the trigger," Filiaggi said. "It had to be a
dream. I can't believe it happened like that."
Lisa and her fianc, Eric Beiswenger, were to marry in September 1994.
Instead, she was buried in her pink wedding dress.
Filiaggi's attorney, James Burge, is now a Lorain County Common Pleas
judge. He raised an insanity defense during the trial, blaming Filiaggi's
behavior on an untreated chemical imbalance in his brain.
Burge also sought a new trial on the grounds that Filiaggi was shocked
during the trial by the electric stun belt he had to wear as security.
Burge claimed unsuccessfully that the shock left Filiaggi mumbling in the
courtroom and unable to participate in his defense.
Judge Edward Zaleski ruled that Filiaggi was faking mental illness during
Today, Filiaggi says medical tests proved he had a disorder, but he
insists that he takes responsibility for his actions.
"I've done the unspeakable," he said. "I flipped a lot of people's worlds
Eric Beiswenger, Lisa Filiaggi's fianc, and his father, Fred, addressed
the parole board on Thursday. Eric showed a 7-minute DVD of home videos
showing Lisa Filiaggi in happy times with her 2 daughters.
"Justice needs to be served. He needs to die. The law needs to be upheld,"
Eric Beiswenger said. "My life has been on hold waiting for him to take
his last breath."
A counselor read a letter from Lisa's Filiaggi's mother, Ellen Jane
Harris, who now lives in Florida. She also wants Filiaggi dead.
The parole board will deliver its clemency report to Strickland on
Meanwhile, Burge plans to attend the execution. "It will be a sad day for
me as his friend," he said.
Cindy Hayes attended Ohio University with Filiaggi and renewed their
friendship about 18 months ago.
During a visit last year, she said, she expected to see a coldblooded
"He is the exact same guy" he was at OU, Hayes said in a telephone
interview from Florida.
Filiaggi called death row an existence rather than a life. Religious faith
has helped him deal with the emotional toll, he said.
"I'm ready," he said of his execution. "Bring it on."
(source: Plain Dealer)
Filiaggis daughter 'OK' with execution----'He shot my mom, so he should be
James Filiaggi's 14-year-old daughter wants him to die for killing her mom
as she hid in a closet during a terror-filled night in 1994.
In the big, bubbly letters usually reserved for notes passed among
teen-agers, Jasmin Filiaggi told the Ohio Adult Parole Authority that her
father's life should not be spared.
Jasmin, whose memories of her mother, Lisa Huff Filiaggi, are limited to
pictures, family recollections and fleeting memories seen through a
toddler's eyes, said she is "OK with the execution."
"Take my dad," she wrote. "He shot my mom, so he should be shot. I have no
sympathy for him."
Jasmins letter was collected Thursday by the parole board during
Filiaggi's clemency hearing. The parole board must recommend to Gov. Ted
Strickland whether Filiaggi's execution should go forward, or whether he
should stay behind bars for the rest of his life.
The board's recommendation is expected to be made by Feb. 1. Filiaggi's
execution date had been set for Feb. 13, but it was delayed so Strickland
could do a review of several capital cases with pending execution dates.
Filiaggi, 41, who is on death row in the Mansfield Correctional
Institution, has said he is ready to die. He has told prosecutors he never
begged for anything, and he would prefer death to begging for his life.
On Thursday, a few of the people Filiaggis actions scarred that fateful
night in 1994 made the two-hour trip from Lorain County in the bitter
weather to share their still-evident grief, including Eric Beiswenger, who
was engaged to Lisa when she was killed.
Others sent letters, including Lisa's mother, Ellen Jane Harris, who now
lives in Florida.
"Since Lisa's death, I have moved, divorced and have had to distance
myself from old friends and relatives," Harris wrote in her letter, which
was read by Lorain County Victims Rights advocate Alice Robertson. "A
mother should not have to bury her daughter in her wedding gown. It is
time that (Filiaggi's) rights and breath be taken from him. It is time
that justice is served."
Filiaggi was a troubled man long before he was convicted of killing his
former wife, according to court records.
He'd been convicted of resisting arrest 3 times, and also of assault and
felonious assault. After the windows in the Lorain home Lisa shared with
Beiswenger were smashed several times, the couple set up surveillance
cameras that captured Filiaggi in the act of breaking them.
And a month before he killed her, Filiaggi was arrested in Elyria after he
was accused of strangling Lisa and punching Beiswenger in the face.
But none of those incidents compared to what happened on Jan. 24, 1994,
when Lorain police received a frantic call from Lisa saying her ex-husband
was pounding on the back door of her home trying to get in.
Beiswenger worked nights, so she was alone in the home with her and
Filiaggi's 2 daughters, Alexis, 3, and Jasmin, 16 months. "Hes got a gun,"
she screamed before the phone went dead.
She ran to the home of the next-door neighbor, Robert Mutnansky, and she
tried to hide in his closet. But Filiaggi kicked in Mutnansky's door and
pointed a gun at him demanding he reveal her whereabouts. When Mutnansky
refused, Filiaggi motioned him to walk to the back of the house, where he
spotted Lisa in a closet that was too full to tightly close the door.
Filiaggi shot her in the head and shoulder before leaving the home and
heading to Lisa's parents home, where her stepfather, Delbert Yepko,
answered the door with pepper spray in his hand because of past problems
Yepko sprayed him in the eyes when he saw the gun. Blinded, Filiaggi shot
at Yepko and missed. Yepko sprayed him a second time, and a second bullet
missed him, as well.
Yepko ran to a neighbor's home for help, and Filiaggi left taking off to
travel through Pennsylvania and New York for about a week before turning
himself in at the Lorain County Jail on Feb. 1, 1994. He pleaded not
guilty by reason of insanity, but was convicted by a 3 judge panel on Aug.
1, 1995. During Thursday's hearing, no one spoke on Filiaggis behalf.
Lisa's sister took custody of Alexis and Jasmin after that night. But in a
matter of months, they were uprooted again when Lisa's sister and only
sibling was killed in a car accident. Filiaggis parents, who live in
Elyria, took over the responsibility of raising the girls.
Also speaking Thursday was Eric Beiswenger, who was engaged to Lisa when
she was shot. He said his life has remained on hold until Filiaggi takes
his last breath. And he also said that he feels the sorriest for Lisa's
"They will never know how much their mother loved them," he said. "As far
as I am concerned, Filiaggi has not been punished. Lisa cannot breathe,
laugh, talk, smile, dream, love or raise her children. She is gone. I know
that she is in Heaven."
He spoke with a chilling calmness, as if all his tears had run dry over
the last 13 years. He and Lisa were engaged for about 18 months. He
planned to help raise her two children, and possibly have some of their
"She made my life complete," he said. "Now she's gone and my life is empty
The nightmare even extended to police who had dealings with Filiaggi.
Elyria police Sgt. Richard Ellis told the parole board about a night in
1992 when Filiaggi was arrested after he was spotted with a gun during a
routine traffic stop.
While Ellis was handcuffing him, Filiaggi reached back and tried to grab
Ellis' gun. Ellis jumped on Filiaggi's back, trying everything he could to
keep from being shot despite being dwarfed by Filiaggi's massive size and
More officers arrived to assist, preventing any serious injuries, but when
they had future run-ins, Filiaggi threatened to hunt down Ellis' family.
"I had to train my wife how to use a shotgun," Ellis said, fighting back
tears while describing how he had his kids take several different ways
home from school to be safe. "Then several years later, he killed Lisa."
Elyria police Capt. Duane Whitely said he also was threatened by Filiaggi,
who made note of the fact that Filiaggis parents were friends with
Whitelys in-laws, Whitely said.
"He told me it wouldn't be very hard to track us down and take care of
business," Whitely said. "One night, I had to sleep at a fellow officer's
home to be safe, just so I could get some sleep."
(source: The Chronicle-Telegram)
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