[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Jul 25 22:57:04 CDT 2007
TEXAS----new execution date
Denard Manns has been given an execution date for January 24, 2008; the
date should be considered serious.
(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)
Killer isn't mentally retarded, court rules----Man convicted in girl's '97
Granbury slaying a step closer to execution
In Houston, a federal appeals court has rejected arguments that a North
Texas man condemned for killing the 11-year-old daughter of his
ex-girlfriend is mentally retarded, moving him a step closer to execution.
Bobby Wayne Woods of Granbury was convicted and sentenced to die for the
April 1997 slaying of Sarah Patterson.
The girl and her 9-year-old brother were abducted from their home in
Granbury, about 25 miles southwest of Fort Worth. Her throat was slashed,
and her brother, Cody, was choked into unconsciousness but survived.
Mr. Woods argued that he was mentally retarded and ineligible for
execution under U.S. Supreme Court standards. The claims, however, were
rejected by a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New
Orleans in a ruling released late Monday.
During his trial, Mr. Woods acknowledged taking the children from their
mother's home in Granbury in Hood County and choking Cody.
But he contended Sarah Patterson was killed by his cousin, who committed
suicide by hanging himself shortly after the slaying.
Mr. Woods had been kicked out of the Patterson home days before the attack
by his former girlfriend and the children's mother, Schwana Patterson.
Prosecutors said she heard the children screaming but didn't help.
She denied the accusations and said she didn't hear the screams but was
convicted in 1998 of injury to a child by omission and received 23 years
in prison. That sentence later was reduced to 8 years.
Mr. Woods also received a 40-year prison term for the attack on Cody
Patterson. The boy testified he was awakened by his sister's screams as he
beat her in the bed the children shared.
Evidence later would show the girl had been molested, and both Mr. Woods
and the girl had a sexually transmitted disease.
(source: Associated Press)
MR. LAW & ORDER-----Former DA ran powerful death-penalty machine; Johnny
Holmes says he's proud of his record
When it came to law and order, there never was time to spare. And when
Johnny Holmes, Harris County's straight-arrow prosecutor, bolted from his
bed well before dawn to battle crime, he never harbored doubts about what
should be done to miscreants who preyed on society or where they should
Holmes spent 10 years rising through the ranks. After he became district
attorney in September 1979, he created one of the biggest, most powerful
prosecutorial machines in the nation. By his retirement 21 years later,
Holmes' staff had almost doubled to 230 lawyers and his budget had swelled
to more than $32 million. Juries, moved by skillful, hard-nosed
prosecution, sent thousands of criminals to Texas prisons, more than 200
of them to death row. And the vast majority of the 100 killers who have
visited the death chamber courtesy of Harris County juries, including
Lonnie Johnson who was put to death Tuesday, were prosecuted by Holmes or
Holmes is proud of that record and bluntly rebuffs critics who charge that
his prosecutors were overzealous, especially in seeking the death penalty.
"That is what they are supposed to be zealous in seeking justice," he
Holmes has lost little of his feisty self-confidence in the almost seven
years he's been out of office.
Still rising daily at 4 a.m., he habitually monitors his police band radio
even though his retirement ranch home in Austin County normally is far
from the scene of crimes. His e-mail address bears the moniker
But at 67, Holmes admits he now is more concerned with fixing fences,
reading clouds for signs of rain and helping his wife, Diane, bottle-feed
To Kenney residents, Harris County's rigidly righteous former district
attorney simply is the genial gentleman rancher with the outrageous
mustache, Texas flag-patterned shirt and knack for telling stories.
When he's in an expansive mood, Holmes can regale locals at the country
store with yarns from his days as a commercial pilot he got his license
at 14 and the pride he took in receiving a prize for becoming the "most
improved" student in law school. He credits his late father, John B.
Holmes Sr., a Houston drilling contractor, with instilling in him a
profound respect for the law.
"I never wanted be a lawyer," Holmes, who holds a law degree from the
University of Houston, tells them. "I wanted to be a prosecutor."
In Houston, Holmes' career has grown to mythic proportions. Lawyers swap
tales of his prodigious capacity for work and his single-mindedness in
prosecuting criminals. His tough-on-crime legacy remains a controversial
touchstone in debates of criminal justice policy.
"He ran the DA's office like Patton ran the Third Army," said U.S. Rep.
Ted Poe, who worked with, then for, Holmes as a prosecutor before becoming
a state district judge. "They were efficient and they were always moving
Poe said Holmes could and did outwork anybody on the district attorney's
The early years
Appointed to fill the unexpired term of former District Attorney Carol
Vance, Holmes lost no time in setting the tone of his administration.
Within months of taking office, he fired a young prosecutor accused of
stealing a $12 gas cap for his car. Holmes called the episode
"regrettable." Later, when a relative was arrested for DWI, Holmes
steadfastly declined to intervene. Holmes himself religiously kept his
speedometer at 55 mph.
Holmes boasts that he tried 44 felonies in the 182nd District court in one
year more than any prosecutor in any court in a 12-month period.
As district attorney, a largely administrative position, Holmes continued
to argue capital cases. He handled almost every case in which law
enforcement officers were the victims, not to mention high-profile cases
such as that of Angel Maturino Resendiz, the rail-riding serial killer
thought to have slaughtered as many as 13 people. Resendiz was executed in
"Houston went through a period of time when there were violent armed
robberies," Poe said, alluding to Holmes' early years in office. "He had a
police scanner and, in the middle of the night, he would go to the scene
of the crime."
Former assistant district attorney George Secrest called Holmes "the
antithesis of the typical district attorney."
"He was a man of immense integrity," said Secrest, now a criminal defense
lawyer. Though a Republican, Holmes was fiercely independent, Secrest
said. "Never before or since have we seen such independence," he said. "He
would pretty well told you to go to hell if you deserved it."
Secrest, though, took sharp exception to the fervor with which Holmes-era
prosecutors pushed for the death penalty in capital cases.
"For him it was just a good way to get the SOBs off the street," Secrest
said. "It's a horrible failed policy. ... For prosecutors, those cases are
usually easy. Usually they have confessions. By and large, they're playing
to a sympathetic jury population. His legacy will be shackled to that for
a long time."
'One of the toughest'
David Berg, a veteran civil and criminal defense lawyer, called Holmes
"one of the toughest I ever dealt with."
"Even before crime escalated in the '80s, Johnny was very hard-line as a
prosecutor," Berg said. "He had very little give. In his view, bad guys
should go to jail."
Holmes defended his department's handling of capital cases, noting that
the final decision to seek the death penalty in such instances was his.
Critics, Holmes said, might legitimately argue prosecutors were
overzealous if, after they consistently pushed for death sentences, juries
merely meted out prison time.
Bert Graham, who served as Holmes' first assistant district attorney and
now fills the same position for District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal, said
prosecutors seek the death penalty in about 20 percent of capital cases.
"We go after only the worst of the worst," he said, "the ones we believe
will kill someone else."
When prosecutors seek the death penalty, juries respond by ordering
execution about 80 % of the time, Graham said.
Clash with critics
As long as Texas law provides for a death penalty, Holmes said,
prosecutors have the obligation to carry it out.
Holmes was destined to clash with outside critics of the state's death
"I haven't much patience with people who say our laws are barbaric," he
said. Within the parameters of the Constitution, he noted, state lawmakers
can make laws as they think best.
Holmes rarely seeks to participate in debates on the death penalty,
regarding beliefs on the matter as part of an individual's private system
of moral values.
Still, he personally believes there are "proper cases" where the death
penalty is an appropriate sentence.
"Obviously," he added, "what is a proper case is not ultimately up to the
prosecutor, but to the fact-finders."
Capital punishment on decline in county
Protest mild as Johnson executed for Magnolia murders Former DA Holmes ran
powerful death-penalty machine Capital punishment on decline in Harris
County For more than two decades Harris County has been to the death
penalty what Saudi Arabia is to oil.
Save for a couple of lean years, when prosecutions were stalled for legal
reasons, it has done more than its share to keep the Texas death row full
and the execution chamber busy.
On Tuesday night Harris County hit the century mark in executions, which
places it ahead of any other state not county, but state in the nation.
Virginia is close with 98, but the gap will only widen.
Of the 380 Texas inmates awaiting execution, Harris County can claim
almost 1/3 of them.
But a strange thing has happened in the numbers game. In the last 2 1/2
years, the deadliest county in America has apparently lost some of its
taste for what former District Attorney Johnny Holmes used to call the
"silver needle society." In that time it has condemned only 6 defendants
to death, 2 fewer than Bexar County, which historically has ranked a
distant third in capital contributions.
Defense attorneys have noticed a change.
"I don't think they are seeking death as actively as they were," said
Terry Gaiser, a Houston defense lawyer who does capital cases. "I don't
have any real statistics to back it up it's just a sense that I have. My
trial schedule for those types of cases has certainly decreased. I don't
see the courts all tied up with death penalty cases like they used to be."
Stanley Schneider, who has been involved in death penalty cases for 3
decades, pinned the low number on changing laws. First came Supreme Court
decisions that said defendants have a right to present mitigating
evidence. Then the court exempted the mentally retarded and anyone under
18 at the time of the crime. Finally, the state of Texas gave jurors the
right to sentence murderers to life without the possibility of parole.
"Life without parole has changed the public's perception," Schneider said.
"If you have the idea that you are safe from somebody who will never get
out of prison, some juries are satisfied with that. And for prosecutors,
it's easy for them to try a non-death capital, get life without parole,
and do it in a week. Time is saved and public resources are saved."
The trend is national
In its declining death sentences, Harris County is mirroring a strong
national trend. They have dropped by more than 50 % nationally over the
last 6 years. Some say the public is losing its zeal for the death penalty
in the wake of publicized exonerations and botched cases.
"We have the culmination of all these cases where DNA evidence was able to
confirm claims of innocence the weight of that says we have to be more
careful in using the death penalty," said Richard Dieter, executive
director of the Death Penalty Information Center, an organization opposed
to capital punishment. "That has had a broad effect everywhere: on
sentences, new laws, moratoriums and appeals court decisions. Everyone has
taken a different view of the death penalty in recent years, and it's not
surprising that it has had some effect in Texas and even Harris County."
Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal insists the decline in the
number of death sentences has nothing to do with limited resources or a
log-jammed court system Harris County commissioners have always made sure
the office is amply funded and everything to do with the particulars of
the crimes being committed.
"Everything is based on evidence of what we had," Rosenthal said. "If I
don't think we had the evidence and I'm not comfortable we can secure
death or ask a jury for death. In a number of cases, capital life is
Harris County residents' support for capital punishment had been on the
decline since 1993, as it has everywhere, but has held steady for the past
couple of years. Seventy-nine percent of those surveyed in 1993 were in
favor of the death penalty for convicted murderers. This year, 61 % of the
more than 600 residents responding to the Greater Houston Survey were in
favor of death as punishment.
Greater concern about crime and terrorism may explain why capital cases
have lost momentum, explained Stephen Klineberg, a Rice University
sociology professor behind the survey. "Harris County attitudes toward the
death penalty are no different than attitudes of Americans across the
country, yet Harris County remains the death penalty capital of the
world," Klineberg said. "I think the most interesting phenomenon in Harris
County is the difference between public opinion and public policy."
If the last few years are a fair indication, policy and opinion may be
moving into closer alignment.
Prosecutor Roe Wilson, who handles death penalty appeals, acknowledged the
life without parole provision signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry in 2005
has taken some of the steam out of capital prosecutions. Even though a
standard life sentence guarantees 40 years served before parole
consideration, it still leaves open a door of possibility.
200 mark foreseen
None of which makes much difference to those already on death row, of
course. The pipeline may have slowed to a trickle, a marked change from
the first half of the 1990s when 10 to 15 a year were sent to Livingston,
but even if it stopped altogether, Harris County eventually will pass 200.
As for the 100th execution, Rosenthal gave it little notice.
"It's a non-event," he said. "It's not the 100th and even if it were it
still would not be significant."
Rosenthal said he considers next month's scheduled execution of Johnny Ray
Conner as the true centennial execution. His office, unlike the Texas
Department of Criminal Justice, does not include Kenneth Allen McDuff in
its official count of those sentenced to death in Harris County. McDuff
was to be tried in McClennan County, but was moved here through a change
of venue request.
Protest mild as Lonnie Johnson is put to death for murdering 2 Magnolia
teens----Few protest execution of Magnolia teens' killer
Lonnie Earl Johnson, convicted of the 1990 robbery-murder of two Magnolia
teenagers, became the 100th killer sent to Texas' death house by a Harris
County jury on Tuesday.
The execution took place without the street theater and bullhorn-amplified
protests that normally mark such events.
No television cameramen jockeyed for position as witnesses marched into
the Huntsville Unit.
7 death penalty opponents watched wordlessly from a distance.
Little emotion was displayed, either by Johnson's sole witness or by
relatives of the victims, who declined comment Tuesday.
Johnson's execution was delayed about 30 minutes as the Supreme Court
considered his final appeal.
Lethal drugs were administered at 6:30 p.m. Johnson was declared dead 14
Before the drugs began to flow, Johnson looked toward the witness room
occupied by his friend Carrie Christensen and said, "Carrie, it's been a
joy and a blessing. Take care, give everybody my regards. I love you, and
I'll see you in eternity. Father take me home. I'm gone, baby, I'm ready
Johnson did not acknowledge the presence of his victim's relatives in an
adjacent witness room.
Johnson, 44, was convicted of killing Leroy "Punkin" McCaffrey and his
friend, Gunar "Bubba" Fulk, after the teens offered him an early morning
ride from a Tomball convenience store on Aug. 15, 1990. They told the
store clerk they were assisting a stranded motorist. Their bodies were
found beside a remote farm to market road hours later.
Johnson consistently maintained he had killed the youths in self-defense.
"A beautiful soul was killed today," Christensen said after the execution.
"His only crime was to defend himself against racist aggressors."
Death penalty opponents Tuesday blasted Johnson's execution as emblematic
of a system of justice that is too prone to kill.
"Excessive blood lust" characterizes Harris County prosecutors "who seem
to go for the death penalty at every opportunity," charged David Atwood,
president of the Houston-based Coalition To Abolish The Death Penalty.
"The love affair they have with the death penalty exceeds by far what you
see in district attorneys around the country."
Little stir at DA's office
The next Harris County execution, that of Johnny Conner condemned for a
1998 convenience store robbery-murder is scheduled for late August.
Johnson's status as the 100th killer executed at the behest of Harris
County juries caused little stir at the district attorney's office.
District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal dismissed it as "insignificant."
About a dozen anti-death penalty advocates stood on the sidewalk outside
Rosenthal's southwest Houston home for about an hour Tuesday evening. They
called for a moratorium on the death penalty in Texas, saying it was
racist and anti-poor.
The protesters said they were astounded that so many people from Harris
County had been executed.
Dianne Clements, president of Justice for All, a pro-death penalty group,
upbraided anti-death penalty advocates.
"Where were these people when the 100th murder happened? Nowhere." she
said. "Those are the numbers that should be considered, not the executions
of murderers. It goes without saying that murder victims are tenfold the
number of executed killers and that's pretty much it."
In a prison interview, Johnson insisted that he had been railroaded to
death row on what he called the prosecution's erroneous analysis of the
"I am innocent by reason of self-defense," he said. "The only difference
between me and James Byrd Jr. is that I lived," he said, alluding to the
1998 racially motivated dragging murder of a Jasper County black man.
He said the youths offered to drive him to his Tomball home, then took him
to a remote location, where they forced him from the truck at gunpoint,
urinated on him and threatened to kill him. When the teens relaxed their
guard, Johnson said, he grabbed the pistol and shot them.
Fulk was shot 3 times in the head and once in the chest. McCaffrey was
found entangled in a fence about 350 feet away. A bullet severed his
spinal cord, killing him instantly. Investigators found a knife in his
(source for all: Houston Chronicle)
Jail costs could boost tax rate----6% rise sought as county tries to
offset $30 million shortfall
Dallas County taxpayers could face a tax rate increase this fall in part
to pay for costly jail improvements that were required by state and
The extra cost has left the county trying to offset an estimated $30
million shortfall in next fiscal year's budget, officials said Tuesday.
If county commissioners agree to a 4 % raise for employees, the total
amount needed to balance the 2008 budget could reach $43.1 million, said
Ryan Brown, the county's budget director.
Commissioners are scheduled to adopt the budget in September. The fiscal
year begins Oct. 1
Mr. Brown said he thinks he can find additional revenue for next fiscal
year by, among other things, increasing standard traffic fines by 10 %.
That would shrink the 2008 budget shortfall to $20.3 million, he said.
Based on Mr. Brown's projections, the county tax rate could increase by
1.33 cents per $100 in assessed value to 22.72 cents, a rise of 6 percent.
That increase would cost the owner of a $146,000 home, the average value
in the county last year, an additional $19 each year in property taxes.
County officials blame their predicament on major costs that were imposed
beginning last year by federal and state jail regulators who found serious
problems with health care and sanitation at the jails.
Officials say those costs will total $114 million, which will be paid out
over the coming months and years. Commissioner John Wiley Price said
previous administrations saved money while letting the jail deteriorate.
"We're paying for the sins of the father," he said. "We're playing
The jail system the nation's seventh largest has failed state
inspections 4 years in a row. And in December, the U.S. Justice Department
concluded in its investigation of the county's 5 jails that dangerously
inadequate health care contributed to the death and injury of numerous
Mr. Price said changes already made at the jails have improved it greatly.
But he called a tax rate increase unavoidable. He added that Dallas County
has enjoyed the lowest tax rate in the state and that now it's time to pay
for needed improvements.
"For 19 years, we were saying we're certified," he said about the jail.
"We were sitting around fat and happy, so you don't spend any money. Now
we're having to pay for it."
The county's long-term jail expenses include a $66.9 million new jail
facility, $10.3 million worth of jail guard positions, $2.6 million in
jail sanitation improvements and nearly $9 million for new medical spaces
within the jail.
"We've done so much," Mr. Brown told commissioners during his budget
Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield said avoiding a tax rate increase would be
"We still have a lot of ifs out there," he said. "If we're going to look
at raises for employees, we've got to make a decision of what to do."
But County Judge Jim Foster said he thinks a tax increase can be avoided.
He said he wants to see how the budget hearings play out before talking
about a possible rate increase.
"We're going to have to do some looking in different areas," he said.
"After the hearings, we'll know."
Budget hearings begin next week for the various county departments. Mr.
Brown said his office has received requests for 624 new positions for the
2008 fiscal year, totaling $28 million. He said that total will probably
be whittled to about $1.5 million.
If commissioners vote to increase the tax rate in September, it will be
the second time in three years they've done so. In 2005, they increased
the tax rate 5 %. It is now set at 21.39 cents per $100 in assessed value;
there was no rate increase last year.
Some commissioners expressed concern about the still-rising overtime
figures from the Sheriff's Department.
Mr. Brown said he expects the overtime cost for the current fiscal year to
exceed the $10.5 million paid last year.
Mr. Mayfield said overtime should be dropping now that new jail guards and
transport officers have been hired.
"Once they get people hired and get them to work, that's got to come
down," he said after Tuesday's meeting. "It cannot increase when they're
near full capacity."
But Mr. Price said it takes up to 8 months to train those new employees.
He said it will take a little longer to see the sheriff's overtime numbers
Mr. Brown said the county should cap the number of overtime hours jail
guards are allowed to work.
The current fiscal year's budget is about $12 million in the red, in part
because of increased overtime and the addition of 329 staff positions. Of
those, 283 positions went to the Sheriff's Department.
Mr. Brown projected the shortfall even though county property values
increased more than 9.5 % this year. He called that the largest increase
since at least 1989.
The $162 billion certified tax roll will be released by the Dallas Central
Appraisal District today. Property taxes provide the main source of
revenue for the county general fund.
Mr. Price said Sheriff Lupe Valdez inherited the jail's problems and is
trying to fix them.
"At some point in time, we've got to pay for past indiscretions," he said.
"The chickens have come home to roost."
(source: Dallas Morning News)
More information about the DeathPenalty