[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, ILL., N.Y., PENN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Jul 17 16:09:37 CDT 2007
Mother declared unfit to stand trial in baby's death
A woman accused of leading authorities on a high-speed chase that ended
with her infant daughter's death has been found incompetent to stand trial
A psychologist who examined Aimee Andrea Fisher-Riza this month found she
was agitated, has impaired judgment, illogical thought processes and was
uncooperative and hostile. Fisher-Riza suffers from bipolar disorder and
has psychotic features, according to a report by forensic psychologist J.
Fisher-Riza led authorities from Somervell and Johnson counties on a
high-speed chase in April that ended when the sport utility vehicle she
was driving crashed into a concrete median and rolled several times in
Alvarado. Her daughter, Alexxus Andrea Riza, had been in the SUV
unrestrained and died after being ejected from the vehicle.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Texas signs off on strict child predation bill
Gov. Rick Perry and others appeared Monday at the Capitol to sign a bill
to increase punishment for sexual predators whose victims are under the
age of 14. Texas House Bill 8, also known as Jessica's Law, makes repeat
offenders eligible for the death penalty and tracks sexual predators using
global positioning devices, among other provisions.
"The purpose of House Bill 8, as I said on the floor of the House, was to
make Texas safer for our children and more dangerous for their predators,"
said State Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Houston.
Jessica's Law is named after Jessica Lunsford, a nine-year-old Florida
girl who was kidnapped, raped and killed by a convicted sex offender in
February 2005. Her father, Mark Lunsford, has been touring the country to
promote similar laws.
"I want to see all 50 states make tougher changes," said Lunsford, who
attended the ceremony. "Not changes like some states try to do things to
make people feel good. That's kind of worthless."
For Lunsford, the most important provisions of the bill were those calling
for GPS tracking and a minimum punishment of 25 years to life in prison
without parole for aggravated sexual assault of a child under the age of 6
for continuous sexual abuse of any young child.
The tracking process takes time, Lunsford said. Florida, where the 1st
Jessica's Law passed, is still working on finding all registered sex
offenders two years after the law took effect, he said.
The most controversial aspect of the bill is the possibility that 2-time
offenders could be sentenced to death, said John English, chief of staff
for Rep. Riddle.
"There are people who are not deterred by any level of penalty," English
said. "Those are people that the death penalty is for. If you're not going
to be deterred by anything and if the penalty won't keep you from
committing the crime in the first place, then we want you to be removed
from society permanently, either through life without parole or
Several organizations in opposition to the bill support harsher punishment
of sex offenders and greater child-protection measures, but many of them
are fundamentally opposed to the death penalty.
"In these cases, the use of the death penalty is disproportionate for the
crime," said Bob Van Steenburg, vice president of the Texas Coalition to
Abolish the Death Penalty, said in an e-mail. "No murder has been
Life without parole can both protect society from offenders as well as
provide a severe punishment. The state does not need to take a life to
accomplish its goals of punishment and protection."
House Bill 8 becomes effective Sept. 1 and applies only to crimes
committed on or after that date, according to Texas Legislature's Web
"It's time to turn the tables, and instead of them stalking our kids, we
will stalk them," Lunsford said. "Instead of them being our worst
nightmare, we become theirs."
Lunsford said he would like to make a difference at the national level and
has formed a coalition of parents lobbying for the Adam Walsh Child
Protection and Safety Act. The federal act, signed in July 2006, mandates
that a national sex offender registry be created and that the most severe
offenders update authorities of their whereabouts every three months.
"It takes money," Lunsford said. "Unfortunately, the federal government
will sometimes pass bills without funding them, and then after 3 years,
(source: The Daily Texan)
Death penalty sought in slaying----Woman was raped, beaten on Christmas
DuPage prosecutors announced Monday that they will seek the death penalty
for Robert Rejda, 25, the Oakbrook Terrace man accused of the 2006
Christmas rape and murder of Lauren Kiefer, a former classmate and
DuPage County State's Atty. Joseph Birkett told Judge Michael Burke that
prosecutors think the death penalty would be appropriate if Rejda is
convicted because the crime was committed during the course of felonies:
aggravated criminal sexual assault, home invasion and residential
Rejda, in court in an orange jail jumpsuit and wearing ankle, waist and
wrist restraints, showed no emotion or expression as Birkett officially
declared his intentions. Rejda is being represented by the DuPage County
public defender's office.
The victim's parents, Nick and Janice Kiefer, were present, but they
declined to comment Monday.
Lauren Kiefer, 24, celebrated Christmas with her family at a sister's home
in Lombard, then returned home alone at 6:20 p.m. A window in the home
near Oakbrook Terrace where Kiefer lived with her mother was broken,
indicating that Rejda may have broken in before Kiefer's arrival,
authorities said. Janice Kiefer returned home and discovered her
daughter's battered body in the entryway.
Rejda has a record of arrests and convictions dating to 1999. He has been
in custody since Jan. 1, when he was arrested on traffic and drug charges,
Birkett said. Rejda was charged Feb. 1 with the sexual assault of an
Aurora woman in her home in October, prosecutors said. His DNA matched
evidence gathered at the scene, according to law-enforcement sources.
Birkett said Monday that he intends to ask Burke to use evidence from the
Aurora case to bolster his request for the death penalty in the Kiefer
Kiefer was a 2005 graduate of Columbia College in Chicago and had worked
as a model in clothing ads.
Rejda had known Kiefer since childhood and the 2 attended grade school
together, but Birkett said there was no romantic link.
The trial is not expected to start for at least a year.
Cop-killing suspects not eligible for death - yet
Police Officer Russel Timoshenko's killers can't face the death penalty -
for now. But if federal prosecutors do what police union officials want
and take over the case, that could change.
Because of a state appellate court ruling, New York's death penalty law no
longer exists, but federal prosecutors have and will continue to bring
Yesterday, Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch
called on federal prosecutors in Brooklyn to take over the case of the
killing of Timoshenko.
It was the office of U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf that earlier this year
got the death penalty against cop killer Ronell Wilson and has several
other cases pending.
But, for the moment, the staff of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles
Hynes' office bristled at that suggestion.
"This is a Brooklyn district attorney's office [case]," said Jerry
Schmetterer, a spokesman for Hynes. "We will present to a grand jury and
we will prosecute this case."
Privately, a number of law enforcement sources said state and federal
prosecutors are unlikely to be stampeded into shoehorning the Timoshenko
case into a federal matter. But the sources concede that could change if
evidence develops that suspects Dexter Bostic, Lee Woods and Robert Ellis
were part of a gun trafficking, stolen car or prostitution ring, crimes
that could give federal officials jurisdiction - at least on paper.
"This case will be prosecuted by the Brooklyn district attorney's office,"
was all Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for Mauskopf, would say in response to
Ephraim Savitt is a Manhattan defense attorney who has been a special
court-appointed counsel in federal capital punishment cases in Brooklyn,
including the Wilson case. He believes U.S. prosecutors have a number of
laws they could use to mount a death penalty prosecution against the
suspected killers of Timoshenko.
"It doesn't take much," Savitt said yesterday.
A key statute is the federal racketeering law, which provides for the
death penalty if a murder is committed in aid of racketeering, Savitt
"If they have committed 2 crimes together and are out together, you can
call it an enterprise," Savitt said.
A federal obstruction of justice law also is so elastic that it could be
stretched without much trouble to cover a cop killing like Timoshenko's,
Frustrated by the lack of capital punishment in New York State, even for a
police killing, Lynch implored federal prosecutors to take over the case.
Tatyana and Leonid Timoshenko, the slain officer's parents, again
applauded as Lynch called for federal intervention during a news
conference outside the courtroom.
"He's not facing that penalty at this time," said Patrick Megaro of
Uniondale, attorney for Woods. "If the federal government picks it up,
it's a different story. ... I wouldn't want the federal government to take
Timoshenko's parents didn't comment during Lynch's news conference, but
stood, teary-eyed and clutching each other's hands, with Tatyana
Timoshenko taking deep breaths. The parents left by a side door to the
courthouse for a waiting police car that took them away.
Robert Ellis, 34, and Lee Woods, 29, continued to point the finger at
their co-defendant as the shooter.
The judge allowed prosecutors to take a DNA sample from Woods in court, as
he did last week with Ellis and Dexter Bostic, 34. Investigators think the
DNA will help show who shot Timoshenko.
The judge also ordered the suspects held without bail.
New York Senate passes death penalty legislation
In response to last weeks shooting in Brooklyn that led to the death of
one New York City Police officer and serious injury to another, the State
Senate Monday passed legislation to establish the death penalty for
criminals who kill police officers.
The legislation, which originally passed the Senate in May, would
establish the death penalty for the intentional murder of a police
officer, peace officer or an employee of the Department of Correctional
The legislation also addresses the concerns with respect to the murder of
a police officer, peace officer, or correctional officer by mandating the
sentence of life without parole if the jury is deadlocked and unable to
agree on the death penalty sentence.
The bill was sent to the Assembly.
(source: Empire State News)
News from New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty
For more information contact: Bob Liff at 212-608-0333, George Arzt
Statement by David Kaczynski, Exec Dir. of New Yorkers Against the Death
Calls Repeated State Senate Passage of a Death Penalty Bill an "Empty
Gesture," New Yorkers Support Swift, Sure Punishment for Violent Criminals
- The Death Penalty is Neither
State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno knows that today's passage of a
death penalty bill all but identical to one passed earlier this year is a
cynical and empty gesture that has no chance of becoming law.
It is unconscionable that he has led his chamber in this cynical exercise
without addressing the plague of wrongful convictions that has seen 26 New
Yorkers exonerated and freed after serving long sentences for murders or
rapes they did not commit.
We join all New Yorkers in grieving for the recent loss of Police Officer
Timoshenko, and other officers and troopers who have died in the service
of all of us.
But Senator Bruno knows, as New Yorkers have learned, that the death
penalty does not represent swift or sure punishment. No one has been
executed in New York in 44 years.
The principal effect of the death penalty is to create a lot more work for
lawyers at the taxpayer's expense without any public benefit. A mandatory
sentence of life imprisonment without parole for those who murder police
is a tough sentence fully enforceable in New York State. It protects those
who protect us without wasting untold millions of dollars on a
decades-long appeals process and without risking the execution of an
The death penalty is a system that buries its worst mistakes. Trying to
reinstate the death penalty before tackling the plague of wrongful
convictions is a cynical gesture aimed at diverting attention from other
issues before the legislature.
Senator Bruno knows the measure will not become law, no matter how many
times he gets his conference to pass it..
New Yorkers have learned we can live without the death penalty. It is time
for Senator Bruno to catch up with the people he represents.
!FREE MUMIA! END THE DEATH PENALTY!
Laura Herrera and Jeff Mackler, Co-coordinators; The Mobilization to Free
Mumia Abu-Jamal---- http://freemumia.org
>From the Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
On May 17, 2007, we presented oral argument in the U.S. Court of Appeal of
the Third Circuit, Philadelphia, on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Abu-Jamal
v. Horn, U.S. Court of Appeals Nos. 01-9014, 02-9001 (death penalty). It
was an extraordinary day in my experience of three decades of death
penalty litigation. This was certainly the most promising legal proceeding
since the arrest of my client over 25 years ago. At last there is light at
the end of the tunnel. Even though there is no way to know when or how the
federal court will rule, the 3-judge panel's numerous questions certainly
reflected their concern about what the prosecution had done wrong. A
decision could be forthcoming anytime from mid-July to the fall.
It was encouraging to see the courtroom packed with supporters for my
client. A large crowd also waited outside during the hearing. There were
international observers from various countries including France, and a
prominent human rights lawyer from Berlin who is also a member of the
The focus of the federal court was on issues concerning the death penalty,
misrepresentations by the prosecutor in his argument to the jury, and his
racism in jury selection. The atmosphere was far different than previously
experienced in this case, as reflected by the judges' overriding concern
regarding misconduct by the prosecution. Early on one judge asked opposing
counsel in reference to the prosecutor's misrepresentations to the jury
during the 1982 trial: "Isn't that a denial of one of the rights secured
by the Bill of Rights?" I therefore concluded the hearing by pointing out
that even though it is judicially recognized that the Philadelphia
District Attorney employed racism in cases both before and after that of
Mr. Abu-Jamal, can anyone seriously believe that racism was not at work in
this case involving an outspoken journalist who was a former member of the
Black Panther Party and a supporter of MOVE's right to exist.
Even though Mr. Abu-Jamal began writing me in 1986, it was not until 2003
that I was finally able to agree to take over as lead counsel. Since then
my focus has been on raising his level of credibility, convincing courts
to give serious consideration to the many constitutional violations what
have occurred in this complex case, and overcoming the errors of the past
case lawyers. To date we have been largely successful. Interestingly,
every motion I have filed since briefing was ordered federally has been
Oral argument aimed to calmly and candidly dealing with the questions and
concerns of the judges. It was not a time for political speeches or
emotional-type arguments which I have successfully made before juries in
countless murder cases. All possible arguments with supporting legal
authority were previously made in our extensive written briefs. Supporting
us with excellent briefs and argument was the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund,
and the National Lawyers Guild, both of whom I brought into the case some
People frequently ask what can happen now. The federal court's choices
involve various scenarios. These include remanding the case back to the
U.S. District Court for further hearings, or granting an entirely new
trial, or ordering a new jury trial limited to the penalty issue of life
or death, or denying all relief with the case headed towards an execution.
Our objective is a reversal of the conviction and death sentence, and the
granting of a new trial.
The primary problem we have experienced in Mr. Abu-Jamal's case, in
additional to prosecution misconduct and racism, has been mistakes made by
prior counsel ranging from not pursing an adequate investigation to
failing to raise certain fundamental issues, e.g., judicial bias at trial.
This has been evident in the federal appeal, accentuated by some of the
judges' questions on May 17. We have taken all possible steps to overcome
these shortcomings. The issues in the case of Mr. Abu-Jamal concern the
right to a fair trial, the struggle against the death penalty, and the
political repression of an outspoken journalist. Racism and politics are
threads that have run through this case since his 1981 arrest. The issues
under consideration, all of great constitutional significance, are:
Whether Mr. Abu-Jamal was denied the right to due process of law and a
fair trial under the Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S.
Constitution because of the prosecutor's "appeal-after-appeal" argument
which encouraged the jury to disregard the presumption of innocence and
reasonable doubt, and err on the side of guilt.
Whether the prosecution's use of peremptory challenges to exclude African
Americans from sitting on the jury violated Mr. Abu-Jamal's rights to due
process and equal protection of the law under the Sixth and Fourteenth
Amendments, and contravened Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986).
Whether the jury instructions and verdict form that resulted in the death
penalty deprived Mr. Abu-Jamal of rights guaranteed by the Eight and
Fourteenth Amendments to due process of law, equal protection of the law,
and not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, and violated
Mills v. Maryland, 486 U.S. 367 (1988), since the judge precluded the
jurors from considering any mitigating evidence unless they all agreed on
the existence of a particular circumstance.
Whether Mr. Abu-Jamal was denied due process and equal protection of the
law under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments during post-conviction
hearings as the result of the bias and racism of Judge Albert F. Sabo
which included the comment that he was "going to help'em fry the ni - -
It is a pleasure to announce that we are once more engaged in briefing
before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. On June 1, 2007, we filed on behalf
of Mr. Abu-Jamal the opening Brief for Appellant. Commonwealth v.
Abu-Jamal, Pa. Sup. Ct. No. 485, Capital Appeals Div. (death penalty). The
issues presented include the prosecution falsely manipulating eyewitness
testimony, and its use of fabricated evidence. There are procedural
problems which occurred before I entered the case, these are issues of
such constitutional importance that they must be aggressively pursued. A
copy of our brief is attached.
I am in this case to win a new and fair trial for Mr. Abu-Jamal. That is
his and my wish. The goal is for his freedom following a retrial.
Nevertheless, Mr. Abu-Jamal remains in great danger. If all is lost, he
will be executed.
Your interest in this struggle for human rights and against the death
penalty is appreciated.
Yours very truly,
Robert R. Bryan ---- Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal
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