[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----IDAHO, KAN., ILL., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Jul 12 23:49:22 CDT 2007
Prosecutors to Seek Death Penalty for Hagnas
Ada County prosecutors have decided to seek the death penalty against a
Boise man accused of murdering his roommates and setting their home on
Todd Hagnas, 38, has been charged with 2 counts of 1st degree murder in
the deaths of Jeffrey Willett, 48, and Jody Collingsworth, 36.
In April, police discovered their bodies at the home on Hisel Street in
Boise. Willett was buried in the backyard and Collingsworth was found in
the crawl space.
Thursday, the Ada County prosecutor filed a notice of intent to seek the
death penalty against Hagnas, if he is convicted on the murder charges.
Prosecutors believe they can prove that Hagnas committed a heinous crime,
showed utter disregard for human life, committed murder against a witness
or potential witness, and poses a continuing threat to society.
"The evidence we have at this point and what we know, we think we have the
basis to establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, to a jury of 12 people, the
existence of four of the statutory aggravators that would warrant the
death penalty in a 1st degree murder case," said George Gunn with the Ada
County Prosecutor's Office.
In June, Hagnas pleaded not guilty to the murder charges. He remains in
the Ada County jail on a $1 million bond.
The prosecution and defense will meet next Wednesday to determine when his
jury trial will begin.
(source: Fox News)
ID woman accused of shooting sister won't face death penalty
An eastern Idaho woman accused of fatally shooting her sister after an
argument over caring for their mother won't face the death penalty,
Bingham County Prosecutor J. Scott Andrew said.
Police say Chitta Lynch, 43, shot her 44-year-old sister in the neck on
June 28 after the two argued over who would take care of their 71-year-old
mother, released earlier that day from a hospital.
Lynch was initially charged with 1st-degree attempted murder and
aggravated battery with a firearm enhancement but her sister, Diane
Khamone, died on July 1. Andrew said he has filed a motion to amend the
charge to 1st-degree murder, but will not seek the death penalty.
"This is clearly not a death-penalty case," Andrew told the Idaho State
He said the case is being delayed by a language barrier, with Lynch's
preliminary hearing moved to July 26 because that was the earliest
available date for a Laotian interpreter. Andrew said a court-certified
interpreter is being brought in from Washington state.
He said Lynch's mother and another sister, who are not fluent in English,
witnessed the shooting.
Lynch was being held in the Bingham County Jail on $500,000 bond.
(source: Associated Press)
Death on table for Hall
Edwin "Jack" Hall, 26, Olathe, allegedly raped and sodomized Kelsey Smith,
18, Overland Park.
The state filed the new charges Tuesday. The state on June 6 also charged
Hall with kidnapping and murdering Smith on June 2.
District Attorney Phill Kline would not say whether the crimes took place
in Johnson County or in neighboring Jackson County, Mo. He called the
location irrelevant to prosecuting the case.
"And I want to mention that I've been in consultation throughout (the
case) with the United States Attorney's Office," Kline said.
Jackson County could prosecute Hall, Dawn Parsons, Missouri Bar
Association Criminal Law Committee chairwoman, said Tuesday.
"If there is evidence to prove that one or more of the elements (of the
crime) occurred in Jackson County under a technical reading, yes, we
could ask for the case to be presented and then we could file," Parsons,
Kansas City, said.
But Parsons said Jackson County may not want to pay the cost and do the
work to prosecute a case that Johnson County plans to handle.
Parsons said the issue reminded her of what occurred in the John Edward
Robinson case. Kansas and Missouri officials filed separate murder charges
in 2000 against Robinson. Taking 6 women's lives made Robinson the
nation's 1st cybercrime serial murderer.
A Johnson County jury convicted Robinson of murder in 2002. He pleaded
guilty to murder in Cass County, Mo., in 2003.
This week's charges in the Smith case could be sufficient to meet the
death penalty standard.
"Premeditated murder does not qualify for the death penalty alone in
Kansas," Kline said. "The Kansas death penalty is very, very narrow and
certain actions have to take place within the context of the murder."
Kansas law appeares to allow the death penalty if premeditated murder
occurs in conjunction with rape or sodomy.
The state has 5 days from the date when Hall faces arraignment to decide
whether to seek the death penalty. Arraignment usually follows the
preliminary hearing. The court set an Aug. 15 hearing date.
Kline declined to say why he took a month to file the rape and sodomy
charges. He would not say whether he waited until he could receive DNA
"I'm unable to speak to the specifics," Kline said.
Kline announced the new charges at a press conference in his office.
Smith's parents, Greg and Missey Smith, joined Kline at the conference.
They declined to say whether Hall deserves death.
Kline said he spoke with the Smiths before filing the new charges.
(source: KC Community News)
Man Admits Killing 2 Lovers, Avoids Death Penalty
A man who was once on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list for allegedly killing
2 former girlfriends avoided the death penalty Wednesday by pleading
Michael Alfonso, 38, pleaded guilty to 2 counts of 1st-degree murder for
the slayings of Genoveva Franco Velasquez in 2001 and Sumanear Yang in
1992, according to the DuPage County State's Attorneys office.
Velasquez, of Wheaton, was shot outside the McDonald's restaurant in
Wheaton where she worked on June 6, 2001. Prosecutors said Alfonso shot
Velasquez with a handgun at point blank range, firing several more shots
as she laid on the ground. He then fled the scene in his black Pontiac
Firebird, disposing of the gun in a nearby sewer.
The Firebird was later found at an airport in Indianapolis.
Alfonso also provided a videotaped confession to Yang's murder, admitting
he killed her in a Wheaton parking lot outise the Marion Park complex
where Alfonso lived. He also implicated his cousin, who helped him destroy
evidence by torching Yang's car in Chicago.
Yang was pregnant with Alfonso's child at the time.
Prosecutors said Alfonso killed both women after the victims ended
romantic relationships with him.
Alfonso was arrested in 2004 in Veracruz, Mexico after a man recognized
him from a segment on the television program "Americas Most Wanted." A
registered sex offender in Illinois, Alfonso legally changed his name
after Yang's disappearance, was placed on the FBI's most wanted list in
A man watching a profile of the case on "America's Most Wanted" recognized
Alfonso and went to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. He was arrested and
deported to the United States after Mexican officials determined he
entered the country illegally using a fake, non-U.S. passport.
Alfonso also pleaded guilty to 1 count of aggravated stalking, 1 count of
intentional homicide of an unborn child, 1 count of concealment of a
homicidal death and 1 count of Kidnapping.
"With today's agreement hopefully the family, friends and relatives of
Genoveva Velasquez and Sumanear Yang can finally have closure and a sense
of justice with the knowledge that Michael Alfonso will never be a free
man again, said DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett. "Despite the
fact that Alfonso did not receive the ultimate punishment, the death
penalty, it was the prospect of the death penalty that caused him to
change his pleas to guilty and accept the fate that awaits him."
(source: CBS News)
Voices for Abolition Grow Louder----Interview with Bill Pelke, Anti-Death
Bill Pelke speaks to reporters on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.
In May 1985, Bill Pelke's beloved grandmother was brutally murdered in her
Indiana home by 4 teenage girls. The court found Paula Cooper to be the
leader and she was sentenced to die in the electric chair. Pelke was
pleased with the verdict. But as the date of her execution drew near,
Pelke realised that her death would not heal the pain he felt about losing
In a complete transformation, Pelke decided to lobby against Paula
Cooper's death. Pelke worked tirelessly. His campaign reached Europe, and
soon more than two million Italians signed a petition against Paula's
death. Pope John Paul II called for mercy on her behalf. Finally, in 1999
Paula was taken off death row and given 60 years in prison.
Pelke did not stop there. A retired steelworker, he has devoted himself
full-time to ending the death penalty in the U.S.
Today, he chairs the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, a
leading abolitionist group in the U.S. He is also the founder of Journey
of Hope, an association for families of murder victims, families of those
who have been executed and families of those on death row.
Each year, about 60 Journey of Hope members travel to one state and for 2
weeks they speak to churches, schools, lawmakers and others about what
they have learned: that the death penalty causes more pain and suffering
and does nothing to heal the pain of loss.
Adrianne Appel, an IPS correspondent who has reported extensively on the
death penalty debate in the U.S., asks Pelke about his campaigning and why
U.S. citizens are changing their minds about the death penalty.
IPS: In October, Journey of Hope will travel to Texas for two weeks. Why
focus on Texas?
BP: No state needs a Journey of Hope more than Texas. Texas is the state
that has executed more people than any other state. [About half of people
executed in the U.S. each year are killed in Texas, according to the Death
Penalty Information Centre.]
We will travel there and tell our stories, and get out to people and touch
people's hearts. When you touch people's hearts you can get them to
rethink their position on the death penalty.
What we do is we travel with two storytellers to an event. One is a family
member of a murder victim and one is someone with a death penalty
connection, either a person who was exonerated, or a family member of
someone on death row, or a family member of someone who was executed.
We'll talk about the healing that comes with feeling compassion after a
loved one has been killed. We'll talk about how the death penalty creates
more murder victim family members.
IPS: What exactly turned you away from Paula Cooper's execution?
BP: Paula cooper was 15 and was the youngest female on death row in the
U.S. My grandmother would have been appalled that this girl was put on
death row. She would have had compassion for this girl's family. Even
though my Christian faith taught forgiveness, I had no compassion. Every
time I thought of my grandmother I thought of her dead on the dining room
I begged God to please give me compassion for this girl and her family. My
prayer was answered and that brought a tremendous feeling of relief, and I
no longer thought of my grandmother as she died but of the beautiful life
she had lived.
Seeing someone else die is not going to heal you from the pain of having
someone close to you murdered.
IPS: What is happening in the U.S. today with the move toward abolition?
BP: There is a real good possibility that New Jersey will be the first
state to abolish the death penalty and this may happen within a year.
Other states have come close in recent votes, including Nebraska, New
Mexico, Maryland and Montana. There is real movement in those states.
IPS: What is causing the public to turn away from the death penalty?
BP: One thing that impacts people and juries is the possibility of life in
prison and life without parole. The person is put away for the rest of
their life and society can still be safe from violent people. There also
have been highly publicised exonerations. The public is aware that we make
mistakes and that if a person is in prison and you've made a mistake that
person can be released.
And we spend a lot of money on the death penalty. It costs three to four
times more than life in prison.
In New York, the last state to bring in the death penalty, they spent 150
million dollars in putting the death penalty in place. And there have been
no executions in New York.
That money could have been better spent.
If we end the death penalty, that money can be put into preventive crime
programmes, like basketball after school, to keep young people occupied
IPS: The religious community in the U.S. is very politically powerful. How
much has it been involved lately in the effort to end the death penalty?
BP: Very. Unitarians, Methodists and the Catholic church have taken a real
strong stance and are working hard toward abolition. Quakers also. They
are more vocal today and are protesting. In December 1998, Pope John Paul
II called for abolition, and said the death penalty was cruel and
unnecessary. His call for action has finally reached a majority of
Catholic churches. Bishops have also been making statements against the
IPS: Does international pressure against state killings make a difference
or is it viewed as meddling in U.S. affairs?
BP: In Europe it's considered a human rights abuse and human rights have
no borders. They offer support for what the National Coalition to Abolish
the Death Penalty is trying to do. We feel they have a total right to
express their support and we really appreciate it.
I feel the U.S. portrays itself as a great human rights leader in the
world and yet we have this terrible human rights abuse within our borders.
IPS: Many people on death row are there for killing a police officer. Why
is this considered such a serious crime in the U.S.?
BP: It's a terrible thing and they are there for our safety, so people
should be outraged when a police officer is killed. But we should be
outraged when anyone is killed. All victims are of equal value.
(source: IPS News)
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