[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----COLO., ALA., GA., ILL., NEV.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Jul 25 23:06:34 CDT 2007
Facts were forced to fit preconception----Without evidence or a
confession, Timothy Masters was convicted for a 1987 murder. A
re-examination of the case is urgently needed.
The flawed prosecution of Timothy Lee Masters should anger all of us - not
just because a potentially innocent man is serving a life sentence, but
because investigators pursued him with a disturbing single-mindedness.
At issue is the conviction of Masters for the 1987 stabbing death of Peggy
Hettrick, a shocking crime that rattled the city of Fort Collins.
Masters was 15 at the time, and investigators focused on him immediately,
and with good reason, it would seem. He lived in a mobile home just steps
away from the murder scene and had walked within feet of Hettrick's body
on his way to school and did not report it to police.
Furthermore, Masters was a creepy guy. He owned knives similar to what may
have been used in her killing, penned violent drawings and seemed oddly
emotionless when he was first questioned.
Despite searching Masters' home and repeatedly interrogating him, the
prosecution never came up with a shred of physical evidence or anything
approaching a confession. They managed to get a conviction, however, by
spending more than a decade collecting evidence that he was a disturbed
Also, investigators had a potentially serious suspect in a prominent eye
surgeon who lived about 100 yards from where Hettrick's body was found.
Dr. Richard Hammond had a secret life that involved covertly filming
women's genitals and breasts. Those perversions, and Hammond's well- known
abilities with a scalpel, are relevant because of the sexual mutilation
that Hettrick suffered and the skill employed to cut her.
Those trying to get Masters a new trial - a team that includes one of the
officers who helped put Masters in prison - contend that police did not
seriously consider Hammond a suspect in Hettrick's killing, information
about him was withheld from the defense, and mountains of evidence seized
from Hammond's home and a storage unit were purposely destroyed to hinder
efforts to exonerate Masters.
These grave allegations, part of a Sunday Denver Post story by Miles
Moffeit, deserve further attention and investigation.
Furthermore, Masters' lawyers have accused prosecutors and police of
losing evidence in the case that could provide DNA evidence pointing to
another suspect. The lost material includes two hairs found in Hettrick's
footwear, photos of 13 fingerprints from her purse, and a bracelet she was
wearing when she was killed.
In asking the courts for a new trial for Masters, his team came up with an
important finding: Recently analyzed DNA evidence from the victim's
underwear that provided a full genetic profile of an unknown man.
This is a case that cries out for attention, and we hope authorities will
move on several different fronts.
The actions of the prosecutors and police in the case deserve further
scrutiny from either their bosses or the Colorado attorney regulation
counsel. The court hearing Masters' request for a new trial should
carefully consider allegations of misconduct that could have wrongfully
convicted him. And we hope Colorado legislators take seriously efforts to
create state law requiring the preservation of DNA evidence. Why not
preserve DNA evidence for at least the life of the suspect?
The power to prosecute comes with an equally profound responsibility to
seek justice. Unfortunately, this case raises questions about
investigators' performance on both counts.
(source: Editorial, Denver Post)
Ala. attorney general urges courts to keep execution on schedule
In Montgomery, the state attorney general is asking the Alabama and U.S.
Supreme Courts not to delay the execution Thursday of one of the longest
serving men on Alabama's death row.
Darrell Grayson, 46, is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m.
Thursday at Holman Prison at Atmore. He was convicted of capital murder
and sentenced to die for the 1980 slaying of an 86-year-old widow, Annie
Laura Orr of Montevallo.
Grayson has been on death row since his conviction in 1982. Of the 195 men
on death row in Alabama, only five have been there longer than Grayson,
according to the state Department of Corrections.
"In my opinion, justice has been delayed too long," Attorney General Troy
King said Tuesday.
King responded after Grayson's attorneys asked the Alabama and U.S.
Supreme Courts to delay the execution. They argued that Grayson shouldn't
be put to death before a federal judge can hold a trial in October on
claims by 2 other death row inmates that Alabama's lethal injection
procedures are unconstitutionally cruel.
In court filings, Assistant Attorney General Clay Crenshaw argued that
there is no guarantee the trial will be held in October, and even if it
is, a ruling and an appeal of that ruling could take years.
Crenshaw wrote that Grayson had lost every normal appeal of his capital
murder conviction and now he is looking for any method to delay his
Grayson had filed his own lawsuit challenging Alabama's execution
procedures. A federal district judge in Montgomery and the 11th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that Grayson waited too long to
file the suit because Alabama changed its execution from electrocution to
lethal injection 4 years before the inmate brought the suit.
On Monday Grayson's attorneys urged the U.S. Supreme Court to review that
decision. The attorney general's office responded Tuesday by arguing that
Grayson was responsible for the "unjustifiable delay" in filing the suit,
and his execution should proceed on schedule.
(source: Associated Press)
Death penalty needs study, law school dean says
Alabama's death penalty law has flaws that should be addressed, says John
Carroll, dean of the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University.
Open dialogue with state officials about some suggested reforms is needed,
Carroll said during Tuesday's Kiwanis Club of Birmingham luncheon at The
"It's a difficult topic because it involves huge emotions," said Carroll,
who has defended people in and presided over death penalty cases in the
past. In some instances, such cases involve politics, he said.
Carroll said 195 people in Alabama have been sentenced to death. In 2005,
Alabama sentenced more people to death than Georgia, Mississippi,
Louisiana and Tennessee combined, he said. Since 1976, seven people sent
to death row in Alabama and 120 elsewhere in the country have been
exonerated, he said.
Carroll was a member of the American Bar Association's death penalty
assessment team for Alabama from 2005 to 2006. Some reforms the team
Revamping indigent defense services at trial and on direct appeal.
Problems include the lack of training for lawyers on death penalty case
procedures and caps on fees for appeal ($2,000) and post-conviction
Providing defense counsel in state post-conviction proceedings. Alabama is
the only state that does not provide legal assistance for defendants in
Providing standards for the judges to follow in overriding jury
recommendations on death penalty sentencing. Ninety percent of overrides
in Alabama are used to impose death sentences.
Enacting a post-conviction DNA law. The state allows defendants to have
physical evidence for DNA testing during pretrial proceedings, but it has
not passed legislation that allows convicted offenders a clear method for
getting post-conviction DNA testing.
"The purpose of the study is to engage in a dialogue," Carroll said.
Lawmakers may not agree with the study, but it asks whether there are
problems with the way the law is implemented, he said.
Carroll's experience includes serving as legal director for the Southern
Poverty Law Center, a professor at Mercer University School of Law and
U.S. magistrate judge in the Middle District of Alabama for more than 14
"There are so many positive things happening in this state," he said,
referring to economic development projects such as the planned
ThyssenKrupp steel mill near Mount Vernon. "We may have a 1st-class state,
but according to this report, we have a 2nd-class way of deciding who
lives and who dies."
Carroll said attempts have been made to talk to state officials about the
study's findings with no success.
"We may make a renewed effort to engage some discussion again," he said.
(source: (source: The Birmingham News)
Testing the limits
THE ISSUE: The Innocence Project makes a good case for why Gov. Bob Riley
should delay this week's execution of Darrell Grayson and order a DNA
Christopher Ochoa confessed and pleaded guilty to the 1988 rape-murder of
Nancy DePriest in Austin, Texas. Jeffrey Deskovic confessed and was
convicted in 1990 of raping and killing a high school classmate in
Yet neither man had committed the crime. DNA testing later proved they
were innocent despite their confessions.
The Innocence Project uses these cases to make a compelling case for Gov.
Bob Riley to call off Darrell Grayson's Thursday execution and order DNA
The New York organization, whose work with DNA testing has cleared more
than 200 people convicted of crimes, points out that neither Grayson's
confession nor other apparent evidence against him is beyond being
disproved by genetic science.
At the very least, DNA tests could confirm whether Grayson raped
86-year-old Annie Laura Orr - a factor the Innocence Project said helped
secure a guilty verdict and a death sentence against him.
It's possible DNA could even call into question whether Grayson was
involved in the crime at all, especially if the test implicated a
previously unidentified suspect - that is, not Grayson and not
co-defendant Victor Kennedy, who already has been executed.
In both cases cited above, not only were innocent people cleared, the
guilty parties were revealed.
The other real possibility is the test would confirm Grayson is guilty.
Even Grayson concedes that's a possibility. He says he was so drunk he
can't remember what happened that night.
Why not find out for sure before the state puts Grayson to death?
Some have said it's too late to talk of DNA testing. This is a crime that
occurred in 1980, after all; why test now? But the tests were not
available 27 years ago. And Grayson has been asking courts for DNA tests
since 2002, to no avail.
That's unfortunate. But courts are bound to follow rules about new
evidence and timelines with regard to death penalty appeals. Riley is not
bound by such rules.
Many states specifically give defendants who have been convicted of crimes
involving biological evidence access to DNA testing. But while Alabama law
makes no such provision, it grants the governor broad authority to stand
in the way of a death sentence.
Governors in other states have blocked executions for DNA testing -
including Jeb Bush in Florida and George W. Bush in Texas.
In our view, it's the right thing to do in this case. It's never too late
to check all the evidence as long as a condemned inmate remains alive. For
Grayson, it's not too late yet; Riley should act before it is.
(source: Opinion, The Birmingham News)
Trashing the truth----Key evidence goes missing in Georgia church murders
Sheriff's deputies were so eager to solve the murders of a southern
Georgia church deacon and his wife that they sent a key piece of evidence
- a pair of eyeglasses - to "Unsolved Mysteries" to film on TV.
As the state's lead investigator on the case tells it, the glasses were
"They're still laying out there in a studio somewhere in TV-land," said
former Georgia Bureau of Investigation special agent Joe Gregory.
Without the glasses or most physical evidence from the crime scene, Camden
County officials still convicted Dennis Perry, who enjoyed 20/20 vision
and had no need for a prescription to correct extreme far-sightedness.
22 years after the murders, it remains itself an unsolved mystery whose
In the absence of governmental statistics on evidence destruction and loss
nationwide, The Denver Post tallied cases from public documents, estimates
of law enforcement officials, and data from DNA grant correspondence
between states and the federal government. Also figuring into our totals
is information from lawyers handling innocence claims and other legal
actions across the country. face the glasses fell off and whether Perry -
now serving two life sentences - really killed Harold and Thelma Swain.
One evening in March 1985, a stranger interrupted bible study at Rising
Daughter Baptist Church in Spring Bluff, Georgia, and asked to speak with
Harold Swain, a leader in the local African-American community.
The white young man with shoulder-length hair scuffled with Swain, then
shot him fatally in the chest and head, witnesses said. Thelma Swain ran
to help her husband and also was shot dead.
In the bloody vestibule sheriff's deputies found the pair of metal
glasses, its right ear piece wrapped in tape, its frame pocked with what
appeared to be welding spatter and its hinges holding 2 Caucasian hairs.
Because it didn't belong to either victim, investigators concluded it must
have been the shooter's.
The case remained cold when "Unsolved Mysteries" filmed a segment about it
in 1988. As Gregory tells it, producers "contacted Sheriff Bill Smith and
wanted those glasses" for the show.
"Without asking anybody, he just up and sent them out there which totally
broke the chain of custody in this case," Gregory said.
Smith, who is still sheriff, did not respond to repeated requests for
Gregory said he never saw the glasses after host Robert Stack appeared on
camera holding them in his bare hands.
"These are the glasses found on that night . Were they dropped by the
killer?" said Stack, his voice gravelly and grave.
The show triggered hundreds of tips.
One came from Camden County resident Jane Beaver who said a composite
sketch of the shooter looked like Dennis Perry, a boy her daughter used to
date. Beaver said that Perry had phoned her daughter the weekend before
the murder to say he was visiting his grandparents' home in the Swains'
Investigators initially cleared Perry as a suspect after establishing that
he was at work hours away near Atlanta the day of the killings. Also,
Vanzola Williams - the witness who got the best look at the shooter - did
not pick him out of a photo line-up.
Instead, she pointed to another suspect, Donnie Barrentine.
Perry "didn't do it, plain and simple, and that's why we cleared him,"
"Unsolved Mysteries" went into re-runs and Beaver continued through the
1990s calling the show's phone center pointing at Perry. She also went
further, showing his picture to the church ladies who were the main
witnesses to the murders.
Thirteen years after the killings, Sheriff Smith hired a special
investigator to work exclusively on solving the cold case.
Following Beaver's lead, investigator Dale Bundy pursued Perry as a
suspect. Bundy said Perry admitted to the murders the day of his arrest.
Perry tells it differently.
"Dale Bundy started elaborating the story, with me saying 'I don't know.'
He was trying to put words in my mouth," he said.
Bundy declined comment.
Sheriff's deputies have no tapes showing Perry confessed, according
And by the time of his trial, they could not account for the missing
"They remain, as of this moment, not any longer in existence," Chief
Assistant District Attorney John Johnson wrote in 2001.
Robert Stack died in 2003. An "Unsolved Mysteries" producer told The Post
she doesn't know what happened to the glasses or whether the pair on TV
were actual evidence or a prop.
Had the glasses been preserved, they likely would have pointed to the
Swains' killer, Gregory and others say.
Johnson, the prosecutor, downplays the importance of the glasses, saying,
"They might, they might not have had anything to do with the case."
Also missing were a metal phone box with visible fingerprints
investigators believe the shooter left when he cut the phone lines outside
the church; a mirror from the church vestibule; tapes of witness
interviews; photos of the crime scene; photos of police line-ups; and
investigators' notes documenting that Perry had been at work six hours
away the day of the murders.
"It's physically impossible to be at 2 places at one time. Even if he had
a jet plane at his disposal he couldn't have done it," Gregory said.
At trial, Jane Beaver's daughter, Carol Ann, poked holes in her mother's
testimony by saying she didn't know whether Perry was in Camden County the
week of the murders, 13 years earlier. She testified that Bundy "was
insinuating I knew more than I did and I didn't know anything."
The jury never heard the evidence that may have helped Perry most.
The hairs caught in the mysterious glasses had been preserved and tested
for DNA before trial. Results showed no match to Perry. His lawyers didn't
enter them into evidence because they also didn't match Barrentine, the
alternate suspect on whom they based their defense strategy.
Vanzola Williams identified the North Florida man out of a lineup shortly
after the murders. And 3 witnesses testified that, shortly after the
shootings, Barrentine bragged at a party about having killed a black
couple in a South Georgia church.
Though Barrentine was the prime suspect the year of the murders, District
Attorney Glenn Thomas wouldn't grant a warrant for his arrest because he
deemed the witnesses at the party to be "dope-heads and prostitutes."
Before Perry's trial, prosecutors gave Barrentine immunity in exchange for
his testimony, in which he said he didn't kill the Swains.
Five years later, Johnson said he "can't remember" why he wrote in the
immunity grant that "Donnie Barrentine was a witness to the death of
Harold and Thelma Swain" and that Barrentine "was present at the scene."
"At this point, I can't answer that question," he said. "We wrote it that
way and we went forward with it. That's all I can tell you at this point."
Before trial, Perry refused a plea deal offering him reduced charges of
voluntary manslaughter and 12 years in prison. Then he was convicted,
facing execution until he agreed to two life sentences in exchange for
waiving his rights to all appeals.
"Everything was snatched out from under me," said Perry, who lost his
construction business, his double-wide mobile home and his wife.
Now serving his 7th year behind bars, Perry, 45, is unable to stem the
flow of his tears.
"I can't believe I'm sitting here getting choked up about...glasses," he
said, sobbing in his prison whites. "But how do they lose evidence in a
capital case? How do whole boxes of evidence slip through their fingers?"
(source: Denver Post)
Death? Avoid two wrongs----In 1989 case, questions can't go unanswered
The family of Mark Allen MacPhail, a Savannah police officer murdered 18
years ago, wants justice. Family members want the state of Georgia to
carry out the execution of the man convicted of the crime, Troy Anthony
Davis. MacPhail's mother, Anneliese, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
that she is "worn out" by Davis' appeals.
Disappointed that the state Board of Pardons and Paroles granted Davis a
90-day stay of execution earlier this month, MacPhail's widow, Joan, told
The Associated Press: "I believe they are setting a precedent for all
criminals that it is perfectly fine to kill a cop and get away with it."
But what if Davis didn't do it? What kind of precedent would it set to put
an innocent man to death? (Actually, it may not be any precedent. The odds
are that somewhere in this country's long history of capital punishment,
innocent men have already been executed.) What would the state of Georgia
have accomplished if MacPhail's real killer escapes justice?
Despite the fact that seven of the nine key prosecution eyewitnesses have
since recanted their testimony, the U.S. Supreme Court refused Davis'
request for an appeal in June. An invidious 1996 law effectively placed a
limit on appeals in capital cases. While there is rightly no statute of
limitations in murder cases, a death penalty defendant has a limited
amount of time to prove his innocence. Even though our criminal justice
system is notoriously flawed, we in our bloodlust tire of those burdensome
But Georgia's parole board can grant Davis clemency if the new evidence
casts strong doubts on his conviction. (His attorneys have asked the
Georgia Supreme Court for a new trial.) The board should use the 90-day
reprieve to conduct a thorough review of the case.
Davis, the son of a sheriff's deputy, has always contended he was trying
to break up a fight in a parking lot on Aug. 19, 1989. So was MacPhail.
After his shift ended, the young officer had headed to his off-duty job,
providing security at a downtown Savannah bus station that included a
Burger King restaurant. When he heard reports that a man was being beaten,
he waded into the melee to try to break it up. He was shot at close range;
within 30 minutes, he was dead.
There was no physical evidence tying Davis to the crime no DNA, no gun.
He was convicted because of testimony by eyewitnesses, including one who
may have been the actual shooter.
"They bought his story and just ran with it," Davis said. "To cover his
crime, he tried to shift the blame on me."
In studying cases of innocent people who have been wrongly convicted,
University of Virginia law professor Brandon L. Garrett has concluded that
erroneous identifications by eyewitnesses are, by far, the leading cause,
occurring 79 % of the time. (Garrett examined 200 cases of people later
exonerated by DNA evidence.) All 6 of the Georgia men who have been
exonerated by DNA evidence were convicted because of faulty eyewitness
But, in Davis' case, there is more than just the 11th-hour remorse of
prosecution witnesses who now say they were pressured by police or
influenced by news reports. There is also the genuine regret of a woman
who saw something important that night but withheld the information from
Tonya Johnson now says she was sitting on the porch when she saw a man
running from the direction of the Burger King. She watched as he hid two
guns behind the screen door of the abandoned apartment next door. She says
he returned later, panicked and sweaty, and asked her: "Is he dead?"
When police questioned her, she never mentioned the man. She was afraid of
him and afraid of the police, as well. "They weren't nice," she told the
AJC. "You did all you could to avoid them." But now she believes her
silence may have helped to send an innocent man to death row.
MacPhail was cut down doing his duty; he left a multitude, including 2
young children, to mourn his loss. But, as deeply as they have been
wounded, it could hardly help them or us for the state to take the life
of another innocent man. If Georgia insists on putting someone to death
for MacPhail's murder, it ought to make sure it has the right man.
(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Death penalty to be sought
Douglas County's chief prosecutor said Tuesday he plans to seek the death
penalty for the 2 Chicago men accused of murdering Tommy Martin.
"The factors fit and it's the murder of a police officer. Everyone has to
understand if you kill a police officer, you're facing the death penalty.
It's almost mandatory," said Douglas County State's Attorney Kevin Nolan.
Nolan's decision means a new set of judicial players will be needed to try
and defend Yusef K. Brown, 23, and William B. Thompson, 26. Financial help
from Illinois' Capital Litigation Trial Fund should be available to
Douglas County for both the prosecution and defense of the men.
Even before Nolan filed his intent to seek the death penalty, Douglas
County Judge Mike Carroll took himself off the case at Brown's request.
Carroll had earlier informed the attorneys representing Brown and Thompson
that he was a personal friend of Mr. Martin, 59, of Tuscola.
As it turns out, Carroll is not qualified to preside, as he has not yet
received death penalty certification by the Illinois Supreme Court.
Carroll has been a judge since last December and hasn't attended the
Mr. Martin was the chief deputy for the Douglas County sheriff's office.
He was shot on the Hayes-Villa Grove Road a few miles south of Pesotum on
June 21 while investigating a home invasion that had occurred in rural
Camargo, just south of Villa Grove. He died on July 17 at Carle Foundation
Hospital in Urbana from complications associated with two gunshot wounds.
Carroll's recusal means that 6th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge John
Shonkwiler will have to reassign the case to another judge in the circuit.
Shonkwiler said he wants to talk to the judge he has in mind before making
any assignments but hopes to get that done soon.
It will be up to that judge to appoint two death-penalty qualified
attorneys each for Brown and Thompson.
Previously appointed Tuscola attorneys Jeannine Garrett, who was
representing Brown, and Jim Lee for Thompson, are not on the Supreme
Court's list of lawyers qualified for capital litigation.
The only lawyer in Douglas County who meets the Supreme Court requirements
for litigating a death-penalty case is Nolan, who worked in private
practice and as public defender before his election as state's attorney in
The certification of lawyers and judges was implemented by the Illinois
Supreme Court in March 2001. The rule outlines the training and experience
needed to be either a lead or co-counsel in a death-penalty case.
In Champaign County, the only private defense lawyers qualified are Jim
Kuehl, Harvey Welch and Diana Lenik, all Urbana attorneys. 3 members of
the Champaign County state's attorney's staff and 3 members of the
Champaign County public defender's staff are also qualified.
Of the approximately 84,000 licensed attorneys in Illinois, about 800 are
qualified to represent death penalty clients.
Kuehl, 60, said the reason for the low number is simple.
"It's a lot of work and no money," said Kuehl, a defense attorney about 30
Shonkwiler said the current hourly rate for defense counsel in capital
cases is $145.39.
In his career, Kuehl has defended about 25 clients in homicide cases,
about 10 in which the state sought the death penalty. And of that number,
3 or 4 went to trial.
Still, Kuehl, formerly the public defender in Champaign County, said he
can think of no more important work for a lawyer.
"I don't want to denigrate any kind of case because every case is
important to the people in it but a death-penalty case is really important
to that person," he said.
Kuehl said much more attention to detail is required.
"You have to do everything conceivable and you might object to things that
ordinarily you wouldn't because the law is fairly clear. In a death case,
because the Supreme Court may change their minds later on, you've got to
make a record of everything. You end up doing so much more against the
chance that if your client is given the death penalty, he'll have some
basis for an appeal," he said.
He also said such cases are emotionally draining for everyone involved.
"We're talking real-life drama here. The lawyers on both sides are firing
on all 8. They can't let up," Kuehl said. "Obviously in a death-penalty
case, people are tragically and violently murdered and their family is
just destroyed. On the other hand, the defendant's family is there, too.
It's hard on the lawyers. The cases are hard on the judges, too, because
the lawyers are fighting tooth and nail about every little thing."
(source: The News-Gazette)
New strategy on Burge pressed----Aldermen hope to charge ex-cop
At a frustration-filled City Council hearing, an alderman on Tuesday
called for creative new legal strategies to prosecute Jon Burge, the
former Chicago police commander who is accused of torturing scores of
suspects before he was fired in 1993.
Speaker after speaker recounted the abuses alleged to have been committed
by Burge and his underlings over a two-decade span, decrying continuing
pension payments to the officers and the city's defense of them in civil
suits filed by men who say they were victimized.
"I come to this hearing with some personal knowledge, being ... in the
public defender's office from 1976 to 1986," said Ald. Thomas Allen
(38th). "I was in the belly of the beast of Area 2 [Burge's unit] on many
"If we want to do things in this building, in this administration, if we
want it [badly] enough, we can create legal theories to go after these
guys," Allen said. "We would like to get this anvil, Jon Burge, off our
"Where there is a will, there is a way."
A controversial report last year by special Cook County prosecutors Edward
Egan and Robert Boyle concluded that Burge and the detectives who worked
for him could not be prosecuted despite evidence of torture because the
statute of limitations had expired. Egan and Boyle declined to attend
Wisconsin recently found a way to prosecute sexual abuse cases involving
Roman Catholic priests dating back to the 1960s and 1970s, Allen said.
He raised the possibility of hiring "some high-priced lawyers" to devise
new legal arguments here to "go after the guy who ruined the Police
Department for 20 years -- and he is still ruining it today."
Innovative theories might not be necessary, said Locke Bowman, legal
director of Northwestern University's MacArthur Justice Center. As
recently as last November, Burge denied under oath in a federal civil case
that he ever witnessed or participated in torture, a "bald-faced lie,"
"The U.S. attorney needs to be encouraged to pursue prosecution" for
perjury, said Bowman, who asserted that urging by the council would carry
Burge long has denied any wrongdoing, but in a videotaped deposition
recorded in 2004 that was played at the 6-hour-long hearing Tuesday, he
repeatedly invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Attempts to reach Burge's lawyer, Richard Sikes Jr., for comment Tuesday
In videotaped statements, Anthony Holmes, Darrell Cannon and Madison
Hobley detailed electric shocks, beatings and near suffocations during
questioning by members of Burge's unit.
The city is required to pay Burge's legal expenses under a federal
appellate court ruling that concluded his alleged wrongdoing was committed
while he was acting in an official capacity. The pension payments to Burge
and his former associates continue because none has been convicted of a
Attorney Flint Taylor told aldermen that the pension payments to the
retired officers total more than $2 million a year.
Taylor and Bowman, both of whom represent plaintiffs in cases against the
city and Burge, said that City Hall should settle suits filed by alleged
torture victims in five pending cases.
Taylor criticized the Daley administration for what he said was its
decision to back out of a proposed $14.8 million settlement agreement with
three men pardoned of murder and released from Death Row after allegedly
being tortured into confessing by Burge and officers under his command.
But Ald. Isaac Carothers (29th), chairman of the council's Police and Fire
Committee, which conducted the hearing, said that suggestions the council
become involved in settlement negotiations are off base.
"Meanwhile, a Cook County Board subcommittee voted Tuesday to cut off
further funding to Egan and Boyle.
While the 2 special prosecutors delivered their report last summer, they
had told commissioners their office was working on a response to a recent
study condemning their report, as well as following up on new claims and
"How much longer can we pay?" asked committee chairman Peter Silvestri
(R-Elmwood Park). "There has to be an end to this particular chapter in
the history of this issue."
Silvestri conceded there could be a legal issue because the special
prosecutors were appointed by a judge, who orders the payments. A total of
$6.6 million has been spent so far.
(source: Chicago Tribune)
Reform panel proposes capping Nevada public defender caseloads
A Nevada court reform panel has endorsed capping the number of criminal
cases assigned to overburdened county public defenders.
The panel, established by the Nevada Supreme Court, also recommended
performance standards for defense lawyers representing indigent clients
and help for struggling public defender offices in rural counties.
The caseload proposals could have far-reaching effects on Nevada courts,
and were the subject of heated debate at the commission's Tuesday meeting
by teleconference in Las Vegas and Carson City.
A majority of the panelist judges, lawyers, county officials and legal
advocates voted to limit public defenders across the state to a maximum of
192 felony cases per year. Caps would also be put on the number of death
penalty and life sentence cases a lawyer could take.
Attorneys with the Clark County public defender's office currently have
felony caseloads approaching 400, officials said.
"My office has historically been seen as a MASH unit to get people through
the process as quickly and efficiently as possible," Clark County Public
Defender Phil Kohn said. "I think this commission recognizes that is no
The caseload standards were proposed to help bring indigent defense
statewide in compliance with American Bar Association standards. The
American Civil Liberties Union also has threatened to sue Clark County if
caseloads aren't cut.
"This isn't a discretionary fiscal matter or a political matter," said
Gary Peck, executive director for the ACLU of Nevada. "It's about how can
we meet our obligations pursuant to the Constitution."
Clark and Washoe county public defenders told a commission survey they
could not guarantee "adequate, appropriate and competent" representation.
The advisory commission is expected to meet again this summer to finalize
recommendations to the full Supreme Court and state and local lawmakers.
The Supreme Court formed the panel after a Las Vegas Review-Journal series
in March detailed problems with Clark County's system of assigning private
lawyers to defendants who cannot be represented public defenders because
of a conflict of interest.
The so-called contract attorney system was overhauled last month.
Commission members on Tuesday traced shortcomings with indigent defense in
rural Nevada to an ineffective state public defender's office now used by
four counties and Carson City.
"The current system is busted," said Deputy Federal Public Defender John
Lambrose. "It can't go on."
Nye and other counties have cited cost, quality of representation and
other issues in opting out of the state system.
The state has cut funding for the services from nearly 100 % 3 decades ago
to about 20 % today, officials said.
That leaves rural areas dependent on flat-fee contracts with law firms
and, in cases with conflicts of interest, any attorney willing to
regularly take cases.
"The obvious answer is we need a state public defender's office that
properly functions and is properly funded," said Supreme Court Justice
Michael Cherry, who heads the panel's indigent defense committee.
(source: Associated Press)
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