[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----N.J., N.C., ORE.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Jul 9 16:35:44 CDT 2007
All charges dropped against N.J. man
Prosecutors on Monday said they would not retry a man who spent 22 years
in prison for the murder and rape of two children and was recently freed
after DNA testing exonerated him.
In a statement released before a court hearing Monday, Prosecutor Theodore
J. Romankow said he decided not to pursue the charges following "careful
re-evaluation of the case" against Byron Halsey.
Halsey, 46, was released from prison on May 15 after prosecutors threw out
his convictions. New DNA testing, not available when he was convicted,
linked a neighbor to the crime.
However, until Monday, Halsey could have been retried on charges of
aggravated sexual assault, aggravated manslaughter, felony murder, child
abuse and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.
Instead, on the prosecutor's recommendation, a judge dropped all charges.
Halsey had been convicted in 1988 of murdering and sexually assaulting
Tyrone and Tina Urquhart, the children of his girlfriend, with whom he
lived at a Plainfield rooming house.
For the last month and a half, he has been trying to piece his life back
together without knowing if he would still face charges. He moved to
Newark and found a job with a sign company, established himself with a
church and met with social workers to help him adjust to his new life
since the dramatic day in May when he walked out of prison.
"He wants his freedom back," said Vanessa Potkin, a lawyer with the
Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law at
"He's pretty much jumped back into things and immediately started working
and piece by piece rebuilding his life," she said. "The process is
Superior Court Judge Stuart L. Peim vacated Halsey's conviction on May 15
and granted a new trial because the new evidence "would probably change
The bodies of Tyrone, 8, and Tina, 7, were found in the home's basement in
Halsey had made a confession before trial, but Innocence Project
co-director Barry Scheck said the statement followed 30 hours of
interrogation over a 40-hour period.
At trial, the jury opted for life in prison rather than the death
sentence, prompting jeering in the courtroom, said Eric Ferrero, a
spokesman for the Innocence Project, which is representing Halsey. Halsey
was sentenced to 2 life terms, plus 20 years.
The new DNA test showed that a neighbor in the rooming house, Clifton
Hall, was the source of semen recovered at the scene and may have been
responsible for the crimes, Ferrero said.
Hall, 49, has now been charged with 2 counts of murder and 1 count of
aggravated sexual assault, Walsh said. He is being held at a prison for
sex offenders because of 3 sex crimes convictions in the 1990s.
(source: Tri-City Herald)
Accused murderer goes free
A Shannon man who spent 5 years in prison won his freedom on Thursday when
a jury found him not guilty of a 1998 murder.
David Lowery, 34, was charged with the 1st-degree murder of 28-year-old
Teddy Emanuel, who was shot to death at a party on Dec. 12, 1998. At one
time Lowery faced the possibility of a death penalty, and he was
incarcerated from December 1998 until 2003, when he posted bail.
The prosecution argued Lowery walked up behind Emanuel, put his left arm
around him and fatally shot him in the right side. Emanuel lived on Snipes
Road in Shannon.
The jury deliberated about 30 minutes before returning its verdict.
District Attorney Johnson Britt said that no one could place the gun in
Lowery's hand made prosecuting the case difficult.
"This was a party where there were between 100 and 200 people," Britt
said. "... Nobody would come forward for some reason. This case came down
to whether the jury believed one set of witnesses who testified it was the
Britt said evidence showed that at the same time Lowery approached
Emanuel, witnesses heard a loud popping sound. Emanuel ran 100 to 200 feet
"Talking to jurors ... they believe someone shot him, but they did not
believe the defendant was that person," Britt said. "Ultimately evidence
fell short on identifying the defendant as the perpetrator."
Sue Berry, Lowery's defense attorney, could not be reached to comment.
Teddy Emanuel's older brother, Junior, said jurors appeared to be in a
hurry to finish the case.
"I feel like they didn't do it fair," Emanuel said. "They were just in a
rush to get out of there. It's been 8 1/2 years and we still didn't get no
justice or any closure."
Emanuel said he honored his brother's memory by naming his son, who is now
8 months old, Teddy Junior Emanuel.
"What they done today is they just let a murderer go free, and they are
going to have to live with that the rest of their life," Emanuel said.
It was 3rd time the case went to trial. A judge declared a mistrial in the
case in 2003 after a jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict in the case.
A year later, a judge declared a mistrial again before the selection of a
2nd jury was completed.
(source: The Robesonian)
'Super max' suicides put vigilance at issue----An Oregon State Police
investigation into one inmate's death uncovered lax supervision of inmates
and falsified cell check logs by officers
Oregon State Penitentiary's Intensive Management Unit, designed to tame
the state's toughest convicts, has been rocked by a rash of suicidal acts
by inmates in the past 2 1/2 years.
Aaron Munoz, 21, hanged himself in his cell in January 2005.
Jeremy Ayala attempted to hang himself in October. He survived, only to
hang himself at a different Salem prison in May. He was 24.
And Randall James, 46, died in November after he was found bleeding in his
cell from self-inflicted wounds.
An Oregon State Police investigation into James' death uncovered lax
supervision of inmates and falsified cell check logs by officers.
Prison officials said recent changes in the IMU -- known as a "super max"
to denote conditions beyond maximum security -- are designed to bolster
inmate supervision and safety in the top-security unit.
But critics adamantly say the IMU isn't safe, especially for depressed or
mentally ill inmates who can't cope with extreme isolation.
"If you didn't have psychiatric problems, it'll probably cause psychiatric
problems," said Steve Gorham, a Salem defense lawyer who has represented
inmates in the IMU. "And if you do have psychiatric problems, it
Gorham said inmates are subjected to sensory deprivation while they are
kept in their cells for more than 23 hours per day. Amplified noise that
seems to bounce off concrete and steel poses a double whammy for inmates,
"It's all metal cells, with metal doors," he said. "There's no insulation
to suck up the noise, so the overload in IMU is just horrendous. The
sensory deprivation comes in not having a lot of contact with people,
being locked in that room for 23 1/2 hours a day and not being able to get
Munoz brooded in his cell, said his aunt, Kelly Ann Mills of Portland.
Isolation fueled his anger, she said, along with shame and depression
caused by sexual abuse inflicted on him as a teenager by a juvenile parole
Munoz, 21, was discovered hanging in the back corner of his "D" unit cell
shortly before 9 p.m. on Jan. 28, 2005.
"When I approached cell D-12 I saw inmate Munoz standing in the back of
his cell," reads a corrections officer's report. "At first I thought he
was just standing there with a sheet around his neck pretending that he
was hanging. I said, 'Munoz, knock it off.' When I realized that he wasn't
faking, I called on the radio that we had a 'man down' and that we needed
a nurse in the unit."
Emergency life-saving efforts failed.
As Mills tells it, Oregon's top-security prison unit let down its guard.
"I would think that the Intensive Management Unit is just that, intensive
management, where you know what your inmates are doing," she said. "I just
don't see how he could have committed suicide in a place where you're
supposed to be watched 24 hours a day."
The state police, as with all prison suicides, investigated Munoz' case.
The agency denied a Statesman Journal public-records request for release
of the report, citing pending litigation.
Early this year, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed against the state in
connection with Munoz' suicide. A mediation process aimed at producing an
out-of-court settlement is close to being resolved, according to a state
Mental health officials now have a say in determining which inmates get
placed in the IMU, prison officials say. They described it as a measure
designed to avert long stints of isolation for severely depressed or
mentally ill inmates.
'Super max' developed
The IMU opened in 1991 as one of the nation's first so-called "super-max"
Costing about $10 million, the 192-bed facility was designed to take the
steam out of rebellious inmates who "compromised the safety of the prison
Tucked away in a two-story building near the pen's northeast wall, the
self-contained facility houses its own clinic, laundry, law library and
Security protocols go to extraordinary lengths in the IMU. When an inmate
leaves his cell, usually to shower or exercise, he is handcuffed, tethered
with a leash and escorted by 2 officers.
Prison officials say the IMU has paid safety dividends by removing
assaultive and disruptive convicts from the general prison population,
thereby helping to keep the peace behind prison walls.
Concurring with that view is Frank Colistro, a psychologist who has worked
for the prison system for almost 30 years as a private contractor and
"It took those people who are responsible for a disproportionately high
level of threat to other inmates out of circulation and put them in an
area where they can be controlled effectively," he said.
Gorham takes a dissenting view. "It certainly doesn't make it safer for
the people who are in it, or those who for whatever reasons want to kill
themselves," he said.
Like the IMU, another mini-prison within the penitentiary, the 90-bed
Disciplinary Segregation Unit, also has been rocked by multiple suicides.
Four inmates have hanged themselves in the DSU in the past 4 years.
Inmates get sent to the DSU, known to them as "the hole" or "the bucket,"
for violating prison rules, incidents such as fighting, dealing drugs or
mouthing off to a corrections officer. They, too, can spend months in
extreme isolation, locked into their cells for more than 23 hours a day.
Historically, prison officials said, monitoring of inmates in the DSU was
hampered by its old-fashioned design. Corrections officers checked cells
every half hour. Otherwise, direct observation into cells was limited
along long tiers.
Late last month, DSU inmates moved into the IMU's high-tech cellblocks.
The old segregation unit they left behind was refurbished and occupied by
other inmates as part of a sweeping overhaul of the prison's segregation
As part of the makeover, 34 condemned killers on Oregon's death row exited
the IMU building. They moved into the refurbished cellblocks in the old
Generally, death row inmates pose few headaches for prison managers
because they rarely act up.
"Death row actually is a pretty peaceful place," Colistro said. "Those
guys rarely cause any problems because their cases are pending until the
last moment of their lives. They know better than to make problems."
Corrections officials said the massive reshuffling of inmates was intended
to provide better observation of the highest-risk prisoners, most notably
in the IMU.
On a recent day, 114 prisoners were confined in the super-max facility. 4
cellblocks make up its core. Each cellblock is controlled by an officer
who sits in an elevated control station and operates the electronic
switches for all the cell doors and the doors leading to each section.
Officially, it's known as a "programming" unit, where inmates can
participate in anger management classes and behavior-modification
programs. Inmates who conform with the program go back to the general
"It's known to everybody who goes in that the way to get out as quickly as
possible is to keep busy, and most of them do," Colistro said.
But Gorham said some prisoners either refuse to participate or can't.
"Most of it's filling out forms, saying 'I'll be good. This (behavior) is
what got me here,'" he said. "It's cognitive stuff. Some of it can be very
good. But the mentally ill people there can't do it because they're
mentally ill. And the people who may have done some really bad stuff can't
do it because they'd be incriminating themselves."
Inmate's death retraced
Shortly after 11 p.m on Nov. 27, a corrections officer making cell checks
in the IMU made a beeline to James' cell when he heard inmates yelling
about "a man down," investigative reports show.
Peering into James' cell through holes in a mesh screen, the officer saw
that the inmate was covered by a blanket. He observed a pool of blood on
the floor and called for help on his radio.
For security reasons, five staff members entered the cell together, one
brandishing a shield. They saw that James had cuts on his arms and legs.
Blood was spurting out of his right arm. He was moaning and slipping in
and out of consciousness.
James reportedly told a corrections officer that he cut himself because
"he didn't want to live like this and that you wouldn't want to live like
After calling for emergency medical personnel, officers tried to stop the
worst bleeding by tying a towel around James' right arm.
James shouted a profanity and raised his middle finger as he was carried
out of the IMU on a gurney, a corrections officer reported. A search of
his cell did not turn up any weapons.
Taken by ambulance to Salem Hospital, James died at 7:35 a.m. the next
morning. Prison officials initially called it an apparent suicide.
However, an autopsy found that James' self-inflicted wounds were
superficial and did not cause or contribute to his death, said Dr. Karen
Gunson, the state medical examiner. Official cause of death: brady
arrhythmia, a slow heart rate linked to a failure of the heart's normal
"He came into the hospital with that slow heart rate and they never could
get it up," Gunson said.
Had James lived, he would have faced a murder charge, according to a
Marion County prosecutor.
Deputy district attorney Matt Kemmy told the Statesman Journal that strong
evidence linked James to the slaying of his former cell mate, John L.
Richards, 63, was strangled to death in the general-population cell he
shared with James in September 2006. James was moved to the IMU in the
wake of the slaying.
Lax supervision exposed
State detectives turned up no foul play in connection with James' death.
However, they uncovered lax supervision of inmates, along with reports of
corrections officers falsifying records of cell checks.
Corrections officers reportedly skipped 2 rounds of cell checks on the
night James was found in a pool of blood.
They told detectives that they didn't have enough time to conduct the
checks between 7 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. because they were busy with other
duties, including moving inmates into cells. As they explained it, the
missed checks happened several hours before James' attempted suicide.
Investigative reports released to the Statesman Journal through a
public-records request indicate that corrections officers in that part of
the IMU routinely skipped cell checks for dubious reasons.
One corrections officer told detectives that he and his coworkers relaxed
in a training room, socializing and playing paper football games, when
they were supposed to be monitoring inmates, reports show.
The same corrections officer told detectives that IMU staffers routinely
falsified log reports to cover up tardy or skipped cell checks. By his
account, "pretty much everyone" who worked in 'A' unit, one of four cell
blocks in the IMU, falsified log records.
2 other corrections officers provided similar information about logs being
No criminal charges were brought against any officers. However, an
internal Corrections Department investigation delved into the officers
accounts of shirked cell checks and altered logs. Administrative action is
pending in the case, said Perrin Damon, a Corrections Department
To iron out problems with cell checks and record keeping, prison officials
said the IMU now has a card-activated system. Officers insert cards into a
device to electronically record their cell checks.
(source: Statesman Journal)
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