[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, USA, ARK., GA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Jul 9 16:36:42 CDT 2007
Hitman in San Antonio murder-for-hire plot set to die Tuesday
A hitman who was paid $2,000 to kill a San Antonio woman in 1992 remains
on track for execution tomorrow.
Rolando Ruiz is to die for the fatal shooting of 29-year-old Theresa
Rodriguez as she got out of her car in the garage of her home.
Ruiz would be the 19th prisoner to receive lethal injection this year in
Texas -- which is the nation's busiest death penalty state.
Prosecutors say her husband, Michael Rodriguez, wanted to collect at least
a quarter-million dollars in life insurance coverage.
Michael Rodriguez wound up on death row as 1 of the 7 inmates who killed
an Irving police officer on Christmas Eve 2000 after escaping from a South
Texas prison. He's asked that his appeals be stopped and his execution
move forward, although no date's been set.
The US Supreme Court refused Ruiz's appeal last March. Appeals lawyers
asked the state parole board to recommend that Governor Rick Perry commute
the sentence to life in prison. They contend inept lawyering earlier in
the state appellate process forfeited Ruiz's access to the courts.
A similar argument to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals failed last
On the Net: Texas Department of Criminal Justice execution schedule
(source: The Associated Press)
Mother charged with murder in son's strangling death
An East Texas woman accused of strangling her 2-year-old son was charged
with capital murder Monday.
Tyler police said Catherine Alana Stevens, 39, confessed to strangling her
child. Police responded to a call shortly after 11 p.m. on Sunday that
there was an unconscious child at Stevens' home. The child was taken to
East Texas Medical Center and pronounced dead.
Stevens remains under psychiatric care in the Smith County Jail, where
she's being held on $1 million bond. She requested a court-appointed
attorney, but a lawyer has not been assigned yet.
The child's body was taken to Dallas for an autopsy.
(source: Associated Press)
John Hill, former Texas chief justice and attorney general, dies----A
winner thrice, he became 1st Democratic nominee to lose for governor in
John Hill, a former Texas attorney general, state Supreme Court chief
justice and crackerjack litigator who twice ran for governor, died in
Houston today. He was 83.
Hill was the only person in state history to serve as secretary of state,
attorney general and chief justice. He had a pacemaker installed early
last month and left the hospital, St. Luke's in Houston, but returned to
regain his strength, family friends said.
The native of Breckenridge in North Central Texas served 11 years in state
government, first as secretary of state from 1966 to 1968, at the behest
of Gov. John Connally.
In his first bid for governor, Hill placed a distant sixth in the 1968
Democratic primary. In 1972, he unseated Crawford Martin as attorney
general before winning re-election in 1976.
In 1978, Hill took on Democratic Gov. Dolph Briscoe. The challenger said
in his announcement: "I'm certain I can and will win." He derailed Briscoe
in the primary, but struggled before the general election to overcome what
he called apathy and overconfidence.
Less than a week before the November election, Hill told several hundred
people in the Rio Grande Valley he was winning: "For (Republicans) to win
we would have to have tornadoes in West Texas, rainstorms in East Texas,
hailstorms in North Texas and hurricanes in South Texas. None of that is
going to happen."
Yet he lost to Dallas oilman Bill Clements by 18,000 votes. Clements was
the first Republican elected governor since Reconstruction.
Hill was elected chief justice of the Supreme Court in 1984. He left the
court in 1988 after it had been characterized by CBS-TV's "60 Minutes" as
being for sale to deep-pocketed campaign contributors.
Hill subsequently championed the selection of judges by gubernatorial
appointment rather than partisan election. The plan, which never got
traction, called for appointed judges to be subject to retention elections
at the polls.
Hill told an interviewer for PBS-TV's "Frontline" that if "it were ever
put to the vote of the people of Texas it would pass readily, but we've
been stopped by politics. We've been stopped by the political parties."
After leaving the court, he worked as a senior partner with Locke Liddell
& Sapp LLP, later becoming a senior partner with the Winstead firm, where
he was a shareholder in its litigation and appellate practices, often
advising other lawyers. At both firms, he started a mock-trial program to
train young associates.
Hill attended public school in Wink in West Texas and Kilgore in East
Texas before attending Kilgore Junior College, where he was a national
debate champion in 1940. He served as a Navy lieutenant in the Pacific
during World War II.
After graduating from the University of Texas School of Law in 1947, he
practiced as a plaintiff's attorney in Houston.
Ernie Stromberger, who helped Hill write a soon-to-be published
autobiography on his tenure as attorney general, said Hill's forte was
selecting juries and persuading them to award damages. Among his clients:
families of some of the 34 people who died in a 1959 Braniff airlines
explosion over Buffalo, between Dallas and Houston. In April 1962, a jury
levied an award of $250,000 to the survivors of one of the passengers in a
suit against Lockheed and General Motors. At the time, it was one of the
nation's largest death awards from a lawsuit. Hill subsequently steered
another lawsuit for families after a Braniff crash in May 1968 near
Dawson, between Houston and Dallas, left 85 dead.
Interested in politics, Hill served as Connally's regional campaign
chairman before Connally tapped him as secretary of state. He held that
job until he resigned to make his first try for governor behind a 17-page
As attorney general, Hill recruited talented young lawyers to overhaul the
agency and opened regional offices in 6 cities.
Hill installed a division devoted to antitrust law and consumer protection
and ushered into place laws affecting utility rates, state royalties on
oil and gas production, consumers, landlords and tenants, and barring
deceptive trade practices. He laid claim to cleaning up political
corruption in South Texas' Duval County via the impeachment of a district
judge and convictions of other officials. Hill also created an Organized
Crime Strike Force, cooperating with local authorities to build cases
against drug smugglers. He saved telephone customers more than $60 million
a year by filing suit to stop an increase in intrastate long-distance
charges. He talked up public access to government records, urging agencies
to divulge more.
Hill also argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court five times, including
a defense of the death penalty.
Austin lawyer Joe Longley, the first chief of the antitrust division,
called Hill the best trial lawyer in Texas of his era. "Usually you don't
find a politician and good lawyer together in the same body, but in this
case it was true," Longley said.
He said Hill imparted a trial lawyer's ethos to his assistant attoneys
general: "We're going to be firm but fair, we're going to be ethical, but
overall we're going to be aggressive. You don't move cases by not setting
them for trial."
As attorney general, Hill also was involved in the state's oversight of
homes for unwed mothers run by South Texas minister Lester Roloff. After a
law was enacted in 1976 requiring children under 18 to be placed in
child-care facilities licensed by the state, Hill advised Roloff to appeal
to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the law. Roloff had his younger
residents transferred to the ministry's homes in other states rather than
allowing them to be taken to state facilities.
As a speaker, Hill had a lilt to his voice sometimes taken as a lisp
touching off caricature. On another front, friends compiled "The Sayings
of Chairman John" in the early 1970s. The title was a play on sayings of
Chairman Mao Zedong, the Chinese leader. John Hill's sayings included :
"We're up to our ass in bass," meaning things were tough, and "Anyone with
a head as big as a grape knows that," meaning obviously.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
(source : Austin American-Statesman)
No Quality of Mercy
Just worth remembering, given the president's recent burst of compassion
for a man facing thirty months in jail:
In the weeks before the execution, Bush says, a number of protesters came
to Austin to demand clemency for Karla Faye Tucker. "Did you meet with any
of them?" I ask. Bush whips around and stares at me. "No, I didn't meet
with any of them", he snaps, as though I've just asked the dumbest, most
offensive question ever posed.
"I didn't meet with Larry King either when he came down for it. I watched
his interview with Tucker, though. He asked her real difficult questions
like, 'What would you say to Governor Bush?'" "What was her answer?" I
wonder. "'Please,'" Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation,
"'don't kill me.'" I must look shocked - ridiculing the pleas of a
condemned prisoner who has since been executed seems odd and cruel -
because he immediately stops smirking.
Thanks, Tucker. Odd and cruel. Sister Helen Prejean wrote a good essay on
Bush's record in Texas here. Money quote:
As governor, Bush certainly did not stand apart in his routine refusal to
deny clemency to death row petitioners, but what does set him apart is the
sheer number of executions over which he has presided. Callous
indifference to human suffering may also set Bush apart. He may be the
only government official to mock a condemned person's plea for mercy, then
lie about it afterward, claiming humane feelings he never felt. On the
contrary, it seems that Bush is comfortable with using violent solutions
to solve troublesome social and political realities...
At the time of the 13 death row exonerations in Illinois, Bush stated
publicly that although states such as Illinois might have problems with a
faulty death penalty system, he was certain that in Texas no innocent
person had ever been sent to death row, much less executed. That remains
to be seen. What is clear is that he had, as governor, no quality of
(source: The Atlantic Online)
8th Circuit vacates stay in Don Davis execution
A federal appeals court vacated a stay of execution for Don Davis, who was
to have been executed 2 years ago but won a temporary reprieve to allow
him to challenge the constitutionality of the state's lethal injection of
death row inmates.
Davis received a death sentence for the 1990 killing of Jane Daniels of
Rogers. He had joined a lawsuit filed by another death row inmate. The
suit claimed that Arkansas' lethal injection protocol may put a condemned
inmate at risk for cruel and unusual punishment.
In its ruling, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the stay for
Davis that U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright had granted. The
appeals court found that Davis hadn't raised the arguments about lethal
injection in a timely fashion.
(source: The Associated Press)
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, REV. DR. JOSEPH LOWERY, INFORMANTS WHO HAVE
RECANTED TESTIMONY CALL FOR CLEMENCY FOR TROY ANTHONY DAVIS
The Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery and other local religious and civil rights
leaders, as well as key witnesses in the case of Troy Anthony Davis, will
join Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) and Davis' attorney and family
members for a press conference in front of the "Sloppy" Floyd
Administrative Building, which houses the State Board of Pardons and
Paroles, on Tuesday, July 10 at 10:00 a.m. Davis is scheduled to be
executed July 17, despite evidence in his favor never having been heard in
Following the event, the group will deliver to the Parole Board
approximately 3,500 letters and postcards in support of clemency for
Davis. These are in addition to thousands of letters already sent to the
Board, including ones from Nobel-prize winner Rev. Desmond Tutu, singer
Harry Belafonte, actor Mike Farrell, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL), Rep.
Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Sister Helen Prejean and Murder Victims
Families for Reconciliation.
"Certain cases are emblematic of the dysfunctional application of justice
in this country; the case of Troy Davis is one of them," said Larry Cox,
executive director of AIUSA. "There is ample evidence to show that Davis
may not have perpetrated the crimes for which he may lose his life.
Georgia's Parole Board needs to give this serious consideration and decide
whether it is worth even the possibility of killing an innocent man."
Troy Anthony Davis, who is African American, was convicted in 1991 of
murdering Mark McPhail, a white police officer. Davis' conviction was not
based on any physical evidence, and the murder weapon was never found. The
prosecution based its case on the testimony of purported "witnesses," many
of whom allege police coercion. 7 of the 9 non-police witnesses for the
prosecution have recanted or contradicted their testimony in sworn
affidavits; 9 witnesses have implicated another man in the murder.
Despite this, Davis' habeas corpus petition was denied by the state court
on a technicality -- evidence of police coercion was "procedurally
defaulted," so the court refused to hear it. Davis is now out of legal
WHO: Larry Cox, executive director, Amnesty International USA
Jason Ewart, attorney for Troy Davis
The Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery
Witnesses: Jeffrey Sapp, police informant who later recanted his
testimony; Tonya Johnson, who implicates another man for the murder
WHAT: Press conference to urge clemency for Troy Anthony Davis
WHERE: Front of the "Sloppy" Floyd Administrative Building -- war memorial
2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, SE, Atlanta, GA
WHEN: Tuesday, July 10, 2007 at 10:00 a.m. ET
(source: Amnesty International USA)
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