[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----ALA., TENN., CONN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Jan 31 17:07:07 UTC 2007
Alabama death row inmate offering macabre drawings for auction
The family of 21-year-old Stephanie Gach, who was abducted and murdered in
1992, thought they had stopped her killer from continuing to hurt the
family when they filed a lawsuit in 2004 over essays about the crime that
convicted murderer Jack Trawick had posted on the Internet.
But Trawick, on death row at Holman Prison in Atmore, is back on the
Internet - this time offering for sale sketches of the mutilated corpse of
a young woman on an Internet auction site.
"Just the thought of it makes me sick," victims' rights advocate Carol
Melon told The Birmingham News. She was speaking on behalf of Stephanie
Gach's mother, Mary Kate Gach, who was too upset to comment.
Attorney General Troy King said Tuesday his investigators are looking for
ways to force Web Site operators to remove sketches by Trawick.
King said he believes the Internet postings may be a violation of a state
law that prohibits convicted criminals from profiting from their crimes.
"We expect to send a letter to operators demanding they stop providing a
forum for this art work," said King, who called the postings "atrocious."
Stephanie Gach was abducted Oct. 9, 1992 from the parking lot of her
apartment complex after being followed by Trawick from a Birmingham
shopping mall. Gach was strangled, stabbed through the heart and her body
was thrown from an embankment. Trawick was also convicted of killing
Aileen Pruitt, 27, about 4 months before Gach's murder.
Mary Kate Gach filed a lawsuit in Montgomery in 2004 seeking to force the
Alabama Department of Corrections to stop Trawick from sending material to
the Web sites. Her attorney, George Jones of Selma, said Tuesday that
lawsuit is still pending, but that the postings appeared to stop after the
suit was filed.
"We may have to file something new," Jones said.
Brian Corbett, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Corrections, said
prison officials are powerless to stop inmates from having their paintings
and sketches sold on the Web sites.
"They're horrific," Corbett said of the images. "We don't condone them.
But the DOC does not control the Internet."
Corbett said the material likely got to the Internet auction sites by
being sent by traditional mail from Holman. Prisoners' outgoing mail is
not inspected, except in special cases, because the volume of mail makes
such screening impractical, Corbett said. The prisoners presumably mail
their work to friends or acquaintances on the outside, who in turn get it
to the Internet auction sites.
Trawick had his outgoing mail screened for a time after essays he wrote
about Stephanie Gach were posted on a Web site in 2002.
Miriam Shehane, executive director of Victims of Crime and Leniency, said
action needs to be taken to stop criminals from using the Internet to
profit from their crimes or to further hurt their victims or their
"It's bad enough for a loved one to be killed. Then the killer starts
going on the Internet with this garbage," Shehane said.
In addition to the artwork, 6 letters attributed to Trawick also have
appeared recently on one of the auction Web sites. In one letter,
addressed to pop star Britney Spears, Trawick explains in detail how he
would torture and kill the singer. He signs the letter to Spears, "Looking
forward to our first meeting."
Judy Yates, victims' services officer for the Jefferson County district
attorney's office, which prosecuted Trawick for Gach's murder, said the
DA's office is investigating its options and may get involved.
"I know they think it's their right, but at what cost?" she said. "It's
(source: Associated Press)
Holton execution set for Feb. 28
A new execution date has been set for death row inmate Daryl Holton after
he was spared from the electric chair last September.
In an opinion filed Tuesday, the Tennessee Supreme Court approved the
state's motion to reset the execution to Feb. 28.
Holton, who confessed to killing his 3 young sons and their half-sister
with an assault rifle at a Shelbyville auto repair shop over Thanksgiving
weekend 1997, was granted a stay by a federal appeals court the night
before he was to be electrocuted.
He chose to be put to death in the electric chair rather than by the
state's preferred method of lethal injection. Tennessee allows death row
inmates to choose between the two execution methods if their crimes were
committed before 1999.
In a handwritten letter to the court, Holton said he is not opposed to the
state setting a new execution date, but quibbled with the state's
contention that he had given up all his appeals, insisting that his
position was not a "wholesale waiver."
Holton's relatives and attorneys have been trying to get a court to rule
that he was mentally incompetent to decide to stop appealing his sentence.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued the stay last year to take
time to review a lower court's ruling that Holton didn't need a competency
hearing. In January, the Cincinnati-based court affirmed the lower court's
(source: Associated Press)
Death Row inmate Christa Pike resumes appeals
A hearing for death row inmate Christa Gail Pike began Monday and
continues Tuesday as she again appeals her sentence.
Pike is in the 2nd round of appeals. But 4 years ago, she attempted to
stop her appeals, before later changing her mind.
Knox County Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz ruled Pike's change of mind was too
late. However, the state Supreme Court overturned that decision in 2006.
Pike was sentenced to die for killing 19-year-old Colleen Slemmer while
both were enrolled in the federal Job Corps program in Knoxville in 1995.
Slemmer was tortured for half an hour, a pentagram carved into her chest,
her head bashed in with a rock and left to die on the University of
Tennessee Agriculture campus.
In 2004, Pike was given an additional 25 year sentence for trying to kill
another inmate during a prison fight.
(source: WATE News)
Death Sentence Unlikely----Judge Announces Jury Instruction Plans In
Convicted murderer Michael Kendall is unlikely to get the death penalty.
Judge Joseph Q. Koletsky on Tuesday said that for the jury to come back
with a death verdict, it must find that the triple homicide was not yet
complete when Kendall set fires in his family's East Hartford apartment in
2003, risking the lives of people other than his intended victims.
The jury had left the courtroom at Superior Court in Hartford for the day
when the judge announced how he intended to instruct them.
The jury found on Jan. 18 that Kendall is guilty of fatally shooting his
wife, Ramona, and daughters, Kayla, 16, and Alexis, 12, and setting fires
that severely burned them. The same jury is about to start deliberating
whether Kendall, 46, should be sentenced to death or to life in prison.
The shootings and fires were separate, but closely timed events, according
to most of the evidence presented in the trial. All three of Kendall's
family members died almost as soon as they were shot, medical examiners
testified, and none breathed in smoke.
The first hurdle the jury has to clear before sentencing Kendall to death
is to determine that the state has proved an aggravating factor in the
triple homicide. The factor prosecutors sought to prove is that Kendall
risked the lives of others when he set two fires at 42 Great Hill Road the
morning of the homicides.
As the statute states, they have to prove that "the defendant committed
the offense and in such commission knowingly created a grave risk of death
to another person in addition to the victim of the offense."
The key words in this case are "in such commission."
Koletsky determined that they mean that the crime had "not yet been
In other words, he said, the "fires have to have been set with intent to
kill the victims," and that "in the setting of the fires, other people
were at grave risk of death."
There was no evidence presented in the trial that Kendall intended to kill
his wife and daughters with fire.
Asked for a comment on Koletsky's interpretation, Donna Mambrino,
assistant state's attorney, said prosecutors will have to "deal with the
Defense attorneys Bruce Lorenzen and Patrick Culligan, chief of the
capital defense trial services unit, declined to comment until the jury
makes its decision.
Earlier Tuesday, the prosecution wrapped up its rebuttal of defense
testimony in the penalty phase of the trial.
Linda Seabrook-Scott, a close friend of Ramona Kendall's, testified that
Kendall had sexually assaulted, threatened with a gun, stalked and even
kidnapped Ramona in separate incidents in the years before he killed her.
"She said Michael held a gun to her head on two occasions," Seabrook-Scott
In a3ird episode, when Ramona got behind the wheel of the car to leave, he
pushed her to the passenger side and drove her to Springfield,
Seabrook-Scott testified. He took her to a park, she said, and, "That's
the only reason she thinks he didn't kill her, because there were people
in the park."
Seabrook-Scott also referred to a tape Michael Kendall made of his wife
hurling profanities at him. The jury heard the tape last week when the
defense played a recording of a March 27, 2001, divorce proceeding during
which Kendall played the tape for a judge.
Seabrook-Scott testified that Kendall would incite his wife. "He'd start
doing things to make an argument," she said.
Closing arguments are scheduled for today, after which the jury is
expected to receive its instructions and begin deliberating.
(source: Hartford Courant)
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