[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----CALIF., MISS,, FLA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Jul 13 19:15:39 CDT 2007
State must defend execution protocol
5 weeks ago, we learned federal District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel had
delayed the execution of convicted killer-rapist Michael Morales of
Stockton at least until October after he scheduled even more hearings on
challenges to the lethal injection procedure.
However, after an amended complaint by Morales' attorneys was filed last
week, who knows when, or if, the killer of Lodi teenager Terri Lynn
Winchell will ever be put to death. Morales has been on death row at San
Quentin State Prison for 25 years since being tried, convicted and
sentenced for the 1981 vineyard murder.
Morales' defense lawyers have given Fogel another reason to remain
unsatisfied with the state's lethal injection procedure or the death
chamber, even though the procedure has been strengthened and the enclosed
execution room is being modernized. In the amended complaint, the defense
lawyers claim the new lethal injection procedures are "even more
ill-conceived and deficient than the older versions," because the protocol
for administering a 3-drug execution cocktail "lacks medical necessary
safeguards" to prevent Morales from suffering excruciating pain from the
execution. Inmates may not be fully anesthetized before the heart-stopping
drug kicks in and cannot express their pain because they have been
paralyzed, the defense attorneys conclude.
Last December, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took the lead in tweaking the
lethal injection policy and procedure so they don't constitute cruel and
inhuman punishment while allowing for the will of Californians to be
followed and the death penalty maintained. Schwarzenegger found a
compromise between the pain and trauma that Winchell suffered the night of
her murder and a maturing society's standard of decency not to inflect the
same on her killer.
It is crucial that lawyers for the governor and the state attorney
general's office present a sound rebuttal to this amended complaint and
provide satisfactory reassurances to Fogel that this revised protocol will
result in a dignified end of life. Not that Morales was particularly
worried about this when he took Winchell's life.
Whatever Fogel's ruling is, it will be appealed, first to the infamous 9th
Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco and then probably to the U.S.
Supreme Court. It's imperative that the legal groundwork is properly
established for what we see as the next major challenge to the
constitutionality of the death penalty and the way it is carried out by
(source: Editorial, Tracy Press)
Mariposa Co. to pay state $275k for Stayner trial costs
Mariposa County supervisors this week agreed to repay more than $275,000
to the state, a move that will likely end a long and often contentious
feud over costs associated with the Cary Stayner murder trial.
County officials aren't happy with the decision, which includes repaying
the state for a bigger portion of the $4.8 million that the county
originally received as advance money to prosecute Stayner as well as
interest that the money had earned.
But the state held a trump card, officials said. If the county didn't
repay the money, the state Controller's Office said it would simply stop
reimbursing any local costs for meeting state mandates.
"That was just a bitter pill," Supervisor Bob Pickard said of the decision
to pay the money.
Already, officials in the tiny county have been facing significant fiscal
Last year, for instance, departments faced a mandatory 2% budget reduction
to deal with unexpected expenditures such as costs from the rockslide on
Highway 140 near Yosemite National Park.
This week's budget hit, however, looked unavoidable -- and the county had
already taken steps to prepare for it.
Earlier this year, supervisors braced for the worst in the showdown by
voting to set aside $159,000 to help repay the state for the Stayner
costs, even as it awaited results from a final audit that came in late
Still, that didn't make this week's final decision any easier.
The county had $120,000 still in an account designated to hold the state's
advance money. County officials had hoped to use the cash to help pay for
fighting Stayner's appeal and other lingering trial costs.
Instead, it combined that with most of the $159,000 to pay $276,444.27 to
Stayner was accused in 1999 of killing Yosemite tourists Carole Sund, 42;
her daughter Juli, 15; and Argentine family friend Silvina Pelosso, 16.
After a lengthy trial, which was moved to Santa Clara County in search of
an untainted jury, he was found guilty and given the death penalty in
Mariposa County had received $4.8 million from the state to cover trial
costs. The county used less than half that sum and returned the unused
balance to the state.
The county then submitted a list of expenses to justify what it had spent
-- costs it felt should be covered by the state money. A state audit
completed last year, however, found the county owed an additional $285,000
in reimbursement to the state.
The state later amended the total after approving some claims that were
Besides haggling over what the state considered a reimbursable expense, a
major part of the dispute involved more than $130,000 in interest Mariposa
County earned while it held the Stayner money.
"We've determined that interest earned on advance homicide trial payments
needs to be paid back to the state," said Hallye Jordan, spokeswoman for
state Controller John Chiang.
County officials say they still are waiting for the state to specify which
law justified the conclusion that it was owed the interest money.
"Their counsel never provided any legal basis for demanding interest on
the money," county counsel Thomas Guarino said.
Guarino added that the statute governing the state money was designed to
alleviate burdens on counties that must prosecute large and complex
trials. It wasn't designed, he said, "to be an investment for the state of
(source: Fresno Bee)
Anti-death penalty signs upset mother ---- Family of murdered Tokay High
student say signs should not be posted on county property
The signs had been in a window near the entrance to the San Joaquin County
Juvenile Justice Center for months.
"Save Mike Morales," reads one. "The death penalty is dead wrong," reads
Then family members of Morales' murder victim heard about the signs and
were outraged to learn that the signs were posted on county property.
"It's one thing for people to get out there with posters and parade
around, but to put it in a public building like that is another. It's as
if that's everyone's view," said Barbara Christian, mother of Terri Lynn
Winchell, who was a 17-year-old Tokay High School student when she was
raped and murdered in January 1981.
Every person who uses public parking and the public entrance of the
Juvenile Justice Center in French Camp walks past the signs. They hang in
the office of Deputy Public Defender Jeff Wellerstein, who represented
County officials heard of the signs and saw photos of them Thursday and
said they violate employee work rules.
"This will need to be addressed," said Sunny Acevedo, a management analyst
in the county administrator's office.
County work rules, which were established in January 1988 and most
recently updated in February, state that employees may not engage in
political activities on county time.
Wellerstein, who has practiced law in California for 31 years, is on
vacation out of state this week. Public Defender Jim Larsen was not
available for comment, a secretary said.
Trish Costa, a longtime family friend of the Winchells, and who identified
Terri Winchell's body, saw the photos Thursday morning and was incensed.
Morales case at a glance
Michael Morales was half an hour from execution in February 2006 when the
proceeding was halted over concerns that he could feel pain, thus
violating the Constitutional right barring cruel and unusual punishment.
The state is now revamping its lethal injection protocol, and a federal
judge will review the new plan in October.
"If he has a bumper sticker on his car and it's in the parking lot, that's
OK. But in his office window, that just crosses the line," Costa said. "It
would be just as bad if he was a Bush supporter or a Clinton supporter."
At the justice center on West Matthews Road, several people passed the
signs without noticing them.
Rodney Pearce and his wife were making their second trip there Thursday
for a court case and said they were so focused on the proceedings ahead
that they didn't look at their surroundings. When they looked at the
signs, they didn't like the idea.
"That's not fair," Pearce said. "If they want to get out in the street
with signs, that's OK, but not on county property."
His wife, Regina Pearce, said she would be offended if she were the
victim's family member.
Ed James, who was at the center accompanying a minor to pay a ticket,
wasn't sure about the issue of county property.
"I wouldn't put myself out there like that," he said of Wellerstein's
decision to post signs in public view.
The Morales case sounded familiar to the Pearces as well as James, though
they didn't know the details.
Morales, now 47, was convicted of strangling Winchell, beating her with a
hammer, raping her and stabbing her, then leaving her in a vineyard north
of Lodi. Winchell's boyfriend had previously been involved in a
relationship with Morales' cousin, who was upset over being rejected for
Morales was sentenced to death and his cousin, Ricky Ortega, was sentenced
to life in prison. Wellerstein represented Ortega during his 1983 trial.
Brad Winchell, one of Terri Winchell's brothers, said the signs are the
latest thing to upset his mother, who still grieves for her only daughter.
Winchell doesn't want to see Wellerstein fired but said he thought a
reprimand and maybe some sensitivity training would be appropriate.
(source: Lodi News)
Moore admits altering report----Plea bargain struck with feds
In Gulfport, a former booking officer at the Harrison County Jail on
Thursday admitted he followed 2 supervisors' instructions to change a
report to cover up excessive, unnecessary force against an inmate the
night of Oct. 4, 2005.
Timothy Brandon Moore, 25, entered a plea agreement with the federal
government, admitting he falsified a report to impede or obstruct an
investigation. His plea bargain identified former Sheriff's Capt. Rick
Gaston - a co-defendant in a companion case - and an unidentified
co-conspirator as those who insisted Moore write another report to match
one filed by a different officer.
Federal trial attorney John Richmond, in a partial reading of the
agreement in U.S. District Court, said Moore gave "a truthful response" to
Gaston about the incident, but complied with instructions. Gaston, who was
in charge of the jail booking room but has been fired, is among four
former jail employees who await trial Aug. 6 on charges that include
conspiring to deprive civil rights under color of law.
Moore is the 6th former jailer to strike a plea agreement with the federal
government in a probe that began after Jessie Lee Williams Jr., an inmate
beaten by jailers, died Feb. 6, 2006. Moore and the others with plea
bargains could be called to testify next month at the trial of Gaston and
former jailers Ryan Teel, Daniel Evans and Karl W. Stolze.
The latest development raises questions on whether Moore's plea
strengthens the government's case and if others will be brought into court
on criminal accusations. Richmond declined comment. Moore's attorney,
Michael Cox, also declined comment.
According to Moore's plea, his falsified report involves an assault on an
inmate identified only by initials as "O.A." Moore admitted the incident
occurred in the shower area of the jail booking room. For privacy, the
shower area has no surveillance cameras.
Jail security reports obtained by the Sun Herald confirm the jail reported
no officer-inmate assaults for October 2005 to the Justice Department. The
reports are required under a 1995 order for improvements at the jail.
Moore pleaded guilty before Judge Louis Guirola Jr., who sealed the plea
agreement. Earlier Thursday, Magistrate Judge Robert H. Walker assigned
Moore an unsecured bond of $25,000.
Moore faces a maximum penalty of 20 years and a $250,000 fine but could
receive less for cooperating.
Moore worked for the Sheriff's Department from February 24, 2003, through
Oct. 11, 2005. He quit his job at the jail a week after the incident
involving the inmate and at least one jailer.
Federal investigators joined a state probe of the jail after the 2006
death of inmate Jessie Lee Williams Jr. Ryan Teel is accused in Williams'
assault. Two ex-jailers have admitted their roles in Williams' beating.
Details from Moore's plea indicates "this is just the tip of the iceberg,"
said Michael W. Crosby, attorney for Williams' estate. "This is exactly
what we were expecting to come out."
(sourc: Sun Herald)
High court orders new trial for accused police officer killer
The state Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a new trial for a man
sentenced to death for the 1991 murder of a Miami Springs police officer.
The court said Merrit A. Sims' lawyers did not do enough to counter the
state's argument that he killed to avoid drugs being detected in his car,
which would have sent him back to prison, and was what the state gave as
his motive for the crime.
The Supreme Court said the evidence supported Sims' conviction for the
murder of Charles Stafford - Sims confessed to the killing, although he
argued it was in self-defense.
But the court, in an unsigned unanimous opinion, said Sims' attorneys at
his trial did not do enough to counter the prosecution's claims about his
motive, namely that a police dog detected that the car in which Sims had
been stopped had drugs in it. No drugs were ever found.
But the testimony about the police dog picking up the scent of drugs laid
the foundation for Sims' parole officer to testify that if Sims was found
in possession of drugs, he would be in violation of his probation, and
could be sent back to prison. During closing arguments, prosecutors
suggested that Sims killed Stafford because he had drugs in the car and
did not want to go back to prison.
The court said it found Sims' attorneys did not sufficiently challenge the
"The state's case was based upon this motive theory," the court said.
"Given the facts of this case, our confidence in the outcome is
undermined. Sims has established that there is a reasonable probability
that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the
proceeding would have been different."
Sims' initial attorneys didn't immediately return a call for comment.
The court ordered his convictions vacated and ordered a new trial.
An attorney currently representing Sims also did not return a call for
Justices also vacated the death sentence of Christopher Jones Jr. in the
2001 Okeechobee County robbery and ensuing murder of Hilario Dominguez.
Jones will instead serve a life sentence without any opportunity for
When Jones received the death penalty, one of the reasons cited for the
sentence was the assertion that he killed Dominguez to eliminate him as a
witness in order not to get caught. Under court precedent, killing a
witness to avoid being prosecuted can bring a harsher penalty than killing
for some other reasons. But, the Supreme Court said there was no evidence
that was Jones' motive.
The court also agreed with Jones' lawyers that when all the circumstances
of the murder were taken into account, it did not fit in with the
circumstances of most cases in which the death penalty is applied.
The court also upheld the death sentence for William Melvin White, who has
been on death row since 1978 and whose qst death warrant was signed more
than 20 years ago by former Gov. Bob Martinez.
White, now 62, was a member of a Kentucky chapter of the Outlaws
motorcycle gang, when he was convicted of the January 1978 beating and
stabbing death of 28-year-old Gracie May Crawford at the gang's Orlando
(source: Associated Press)
More information about the DeathPenalty