[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----TEXAS, VA., CALIF., USA, CONN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Jan 29 07:19:23 UTC 2007
Prosecution's Decision Means Pitonyak Not Eligible For Death Penalty
Colton Pitonyak is not eligible for the death penalty, even if he's found
guilty. Many people have asked why that would be.
According to Texas law, for a defendant to be eligible for the death
penalty, he or she must commit the crime they're charged with while in the
process of committing another crime.
Pitonyak only faces one charge, the murder charge.
It could be part of the state's strategy: give an all-or-nothing
proposition to the jury and leave no room for compromise.
On the other hand, it could backfire. Should the jury come back with a
not-guilty verdict on the only charge of murder. Pitonyak walks.
Thus the next step in the trial is crucial because the judge will decide
if the jury can also consider lesser charges, like manslaughter or
criminally negligent homicide.
Both sides will discuss that with presiding Judge Will Flowers. He'll make
the final decision. After that, the judge has another crucial choice to
make because Pitonyak testified he was doing cocaine and Xanax and
drinking up to a six-pack of beer a day leading up to Cave's death.
One law expert following the case says the judge will have to decide what
the jury can consider because Texas law is clear when it comes to
intoxication as a defense.
UT law professor George Dix said, "That's what is so incredible. We are in
a jurisdiction where, in theory, intoxication is irrelevant to guilt or
innocence. But we are seeing a trial where that is clearly a part of both
sides' evidence." KXAN's Sally Hernandez said, "So a reasonable person
can't go back and say, 'I was drunk. That's why I shot somebody.' That's
not a defense in Texas?
Dix said, "Certainly, it is not, and they can't go back to say, 'I didn't
intend to kill because I was drunk.'"
So the judge's instructions to the jury are key. But Dix also says judges
usually don't like to give too many instructions because they don't want
to restrict the jury.
(source: KXAN News)
Va. Death Penalty Expansion Approved----Bills Likely to Go To Kaine, a Foe
of Capital Punishment
The House of Delegates voted Friday to expand the use of the death penalty
in Virginia by making accomplices and judge killers eligible for
execution, virtually assuring that the measures will go to Gov. Timothy M.
Kaine (D), who personally opposes capital punishment.
The legislation to increase the use of capital punishment, which comes at
a time when other states are considering repealing the death penalty,
would make accomplices to a murder and anyone who kills a judge or a court
witness eligible for the death penalty. The Senate passed nearly identical
versions of the bills earlier in the week.
Kaine, a Catholic, will now face his 1st decision on whether to expand
capital punishment. He has said he will uphold the death penalty despite
his personal opposition. Since taking office, he has signed 4 death
warrants but twice delayed the execution of a murderer suspected of being
mentally ill. A spokesman said Friday that Kaine has not taken a position
on the bills.
Under the state's triggerman rule, enacted three decades ago, only the
person who carries out a killing can be executed. Exceptions have been
made over time -- such as for crimes of terrorism, murder for hire or drug
conspiracy -- but the rule complicated the state's efforts to try
Washington area sniper John Allen Muhammad.
Because there was disagreement about whether Muhammad or Lee Boyd Malvo
fired the rifle during the 2002 spree that killed 10 people in the
Washington area, prosecutors could try Muhammad on a capital offense only
after they built a case using the terrorism exception. Muhammad was
convicted and sentenced to death in 2003.
The revision of the triggerman law, approved 83 to 11, allows for the
death penalty to be imposed if the accomplice has the same intent as the
"I think it is an important step to make sure that people who participate
in a capital crime will understand they will all share the ultimate
punishment," said Del. C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), sponsor of the
All 3 death penalty bills were endorsed by the Virginia Crime Commission,
a panel that advises the legislature on crime issues. Opponents of capital
punishment argue that Virginia should not be expanding its death penalty
when courts and lawmakers in some states, including Maryland, are
considering moratoriums out of concern that it is unfairly applied.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) said Thursday that he would work to
repeal the death penalty.
"In Virginia, we seem to have an insatiable desire to expand the death
penalty," said Del. Kenneth R. Plum (D-Fairfax), who voted against the
bills. "It's too bad we have not caught on to what other states recognize
and consider a moratorium."
Gilbert countered that the changes would bring Virginia in line with most
other states that allow capital punishment, the majority of which permit
execution of accomplices.
Virginia is 2nd in the nation to Texas in executions, according to the
Death Penalty Information Center. Since 1976, when the Supreme Court
reinstated capital punishment, Virginia has put 98 convicts to death.
(source: Washington Post)
Inmate facing death penalty fires public defender----Suspect allegedly
murdered fellow prisoner
A jail inmate accused of strangling his cellmate at the West Valley
Detention Center fired his public defender Friday so he can represent
himself in what could be a death penalty trial.
Richard Andrew Gatica made the move even though he has only an 8th-grade
education and has lost at least 3 prior cases in which he acted as his own
Judge Ingrid Uhler warned Gatica he would almost certainly lose his
current case without an experienced attorney by his side and stressed the
decision could very well land him on death row.
"In all the cases I've done where defendants have represented themselves,
they've never won," Uhler told him.
Gatica was unmoved.
"I feel that I'm going to give it my best shot," he said.
Gatica is charged with murder and assault by a life prisoner in connection
with the March death of 35-year-old Daniel Gallegos.
Gallegos was found strangled in a 2-man cell he shared with Gatica inside
the San Bernardino County jail.
Investigators said Gatica tricked jail officials into believing his
cellmate was alive for a full day after the killing. He later confessed to
the attack, according to court records.
The charges against Gatica carry the potential for the death penalty
because he was serving a life prison sentence at the time of the killing.
Prosecutors have not yet decided whether they will seek death.
Gatica, 38, ended up as his own attorney Friday after a bizarre morning in
West Valley Superior Court.
He started his day in Judge Raymond Youngquist's courtroom, where he was
to be arraigned on the murder charge.
Youngquist wanted to postpone the arraignment, but Gatica refused another
delay after already having his arraignment postponed twice.
Gatica then said he wanted to fire his public defender and represent
This twofold request prompted the judge to throw a tantrum.
Youngquist bitterly complained he didn't have time to deal with Gatica's
potential death penalty case because he was too busy presiding over
The judge then retreated from the bench and arranged to send the case to
Uhler, appearing much more equipped to handle the matter, calmly tried to
dissuade Gatica from acting as his own lawyer. She told him he likely
lacked the necessary skill and legal experience to succeed.
Gatica told the judge he was frustrated with the public defender
representing him. He then said he has represented himself in 3 or 4 prior
"Were you successful in any or all of them?" the judge asked him.
He shook his head no.
"I went to prison," he said.
One of those cases was a 2004 murder in Los Angeles County for which
Gatica was convicted.
The prosecutor in that case, Jay Grobeson, said Friday that Gatica
performed well. He described Gatica as "sophisticated and savvy."
"I certainly say he's more capable than other defendants who have
represented themselves," Grobeson said.
Kent Williams, the San Bernardino County deputy district attorney
prosecuting Gatica in the current case, said Friday he also has been
impressed by Gatica in the courtroom.
He said Gatica has been articulate and polite, and he didn't anticipate
any major problems with the case with Gatica at the helm.
"He appears to be highly intelligent and extremely courteous," Williams
After becoming his own lawyer on Friday, Gatica got his arraignment and
pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.
He will return to court Feb. 8. His preliminary hearing is set for April
(source: Inland Valley Daily Bulletin)
Death penalty unfair, Starr says----Prosecutor famed for Clinton probe
urges uniform rules
The death penalty is a fundamentally flawed system under which two people
can commit identical crimes but only one is sentenced to die, depending
on, among other factors, the county where the case is tried, former
Solicitor General Kenneth Starr said Friday.
Starr, who is best known as the special prosecutor whose investigation of
former President Clinton led to the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky
scandals, made the remarks at a death penalty forum at the First Amendment
Center. The event was co-sponsored by Lipscomb University's Institute for
Starr, now dean of the Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu,
Calif., regularly represents death row inmates.
"In California, there are death counties and non-death counties," he said.
In addition, Starr and others said, the death penalty system is plagued
with defendants who have poor representation. They also said the media
often don't do a good job of explaining capital cases.
Despite those concerns, Starr said he was not an abolitionist and believes
there are cases in which execution is appropriate.
The panel discussion also featured U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge
Gil Merritt; Nashville lawyer Brad MacLean, who represents death row
inmates; and Gene Policinski, vice president of the First Amendment
Merritt, a senior judge on the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, said
prosecutors have fought to avoid having uniform standards to determine who
(source: The Tennessean)
The state of a very different union----Abolition is inevitable
The death penalty offers the false impression that you can defend life, by
taking it away. Proponents of capital punishment claim that it brings
closure to victims families, it is cost effective compared to life without
parole, and that the Bible endorses a vengeful mentality. These myths have
disillusioned the American public for far too long. A veil has been placed
over the eyes of our society for nearly 4 centuries now. Only recently has
this veil been lifted. The Supreme Court is ruling favorably, numerous
governors are acting decisively, and the American public is altering its
perception on the effectiveness of capital punishment. These recent events
have certainly demonstrated that abolition is inevitable.
Undoubtedly, the penalty of death is on the brink of execution. Capital
punishment has been deeply woven into the fabric of our society. Although
crimes punishable by death have changed dramatically, one thing remains
the same. Death sentences were arbitrarily handed out in colonies in the
17th century, as well as states in the 20th century. The year of 1972 was
historical for the movement to abolish the death penalty. Public opinion
towards capital punishment was at an all-time low. The need for vengeance
and retribution had given way to compassion and redemption.
For over a decade now, the number of executions has decreased
dramatically. This is mainly occurring due to recent findings of innocent
men being sentenced to death. Undoubtedly, the innocence movement has
altered public perception of capital punishment. Barry Scheck, the
legendary attorney who created the Innocence Project at the Cardozo School
of Law, recently stated, "The reverberations from all of these cases, the
causes of wrongful convictions and the remedies to correct them, are the
work of what can now fairly be called an innocence movement." The
innocence movement will surely become the leading tool towards abolition.
To date, 123 men have been exonerated from death row, which is 123
miscarriages of justice, and there are certainly many more innocent men
currently on death row, or in prison for that matter. In the past 4 days,
3 men were exonerated of various crimes.
During the past four weeks, the movement to abolish the death penalty has
had unprecedented success. On Dec. 15, a federal judge in California ruled
that lethal injection procedures, as they were being administered,
amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. On that same day, Floridas
Governor Jeb Bush issued a moratorium on executions. 2 moratoriums on the
same day sent a clear message that there needs to be a revaluation of
capital punishment. The courts are finally coming to the realization that
there is no humane way to take another human beings life. On Dec. 20,
Marylands Supreme Court ruled that procedures for putting prisoners to
death were never submitted for public review required by law. With public
opinion now slightly favoring life without parole over death, this
decision has sweeping consequences nationwide. Lastly, on Jan. 3, a
legislative commission recommended that New Jersey become the first state
to abolish the death penalty since states began reinstating their capital
punishment laws 35 years ago. In America, while the movement to abolish
the death penalty was in full swing, 3 executions in Iraq brought forth
outrage from the entire world.
Saddam Hussein was hung during the holy time of Eid. His trial was a
mockery of justice and his death was reminiscent of lynching that occurred
during slavery. Taunted by spectators, videotaped for the world to see,
Saddam plunged to his death. 2 minutes and 36 seconds depreciated the
meaning of a human life. His neck twisted, then snapped, similar to that
of a branch breaking off a pine tree. All of this captured not only by
professional photographers and videographers, but also by one of the many
witnesses. The video of his execution created outrage worldwide, with
European nations publicly condemning the Iraqi government and their
disregard for human life. George W. Bush, our president and former
governor of Texas, who personally signed 152 death warrants while
governor, issued an apology, "I wish, obviously, that the proceedings had
gone in a more dignified way." However, just a few weeks later, Saddams
half brother was decapited during his hanging. I wonder if this is what
George W. Bush meant by implementing more dignity in the event of carrying
out an execution?
Recent events have clearly altered societys perception of capital
punishment. Not only will the lives of death row inmates be spared, but
they will some day be reintroduced back into society. This is when justice
will finally prevail. In the end, compassion and redemption will prevail
over vengeance and retribution. Abolition of the death penalty is
(source: Opinion, The DePaulia)
Defense rests in death penalty case of East Hartford man
In Hartford, jury deliberations are expected to start this week over
whether an East Hartford man convicted of killing his family should be
sent to Connecticut's death row.
Defense lawyers for 46-year-old Michael Kendall rested their case Friday
after presenting evidence in Hartford Superior Court about the tumultuous
home life between Kendall and his wife, Ramona.
The attorneys argue that the couple's acrimonious relationship should be
considered a mitigating factor to spare him from execution.
Kendall was convicted this month of capital felony, murder and arson for
shooting his estranged wife and their daughters, 16-year-old Kayla and
12-year-old Alexis, on Dec. 13, 2003, and setting the bodies and their
apartment on fire.
Prosecutors Donna Mambrino and Sandra Tullius are seeking the death
penalty, which would make Kendall the ninth man on Connecticut's death
Public defenders Patrick Culligan and R. Bruce Lorenzen presented evidence
Friday about problems in the Kendalls' 19-year marriage, including their
screaming arguments, frequent calls to police and allegations of domestic
Although the law says such factors are not an excuse for capital felony,
they can be presented as mitigating factors to help temper a defendant's
Kendall's defense attorneys say the couple's "toxic" relationship
"emphasized and encouraged the more negative personality traits of both
husband and wife."
To bolster their case, they played an audiotape from a 2001 court hearing
in which Ramona Kendall asked a judge to continue a restraining order
against her husband. During the hearing, Michael Kendall played a tape he
made of his wife yelling profanities at him.
At the same hearing, a subdued Ramona Kendall told the judge that her
husband was "evil and mean." Michael Kendall countered that she often flew
The hearing resumes Tuesday, and jurors are expected to begin deliberating
(source: Associated Press)
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