[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----TEXAS, GA., FLA., COLO.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Jul 27 20:15:11 CDT 2007
High court raps judge in murder reversal
In a stinging opinion, the 4th Court of Appeals on Wednesday reversed the
capital murder conviction of a woman they found did not get a fair trial
in the court of 175th District Judge Mary Roman.
Asel Abdygapparova was 30 in 2005 when she was found guilty and sentenced
to life in prison for participating in the 2001 kidnap, rape and murder of
Rosa Maria Rosado.
But the appeals court found Roman was too cozy with lead prosecutor Robert
McClure, exchanging notes with him during jury selection and allowing him
to bring out the defendant's statements during plea bargain negotiations,
which the appeals court said are protected.
"This is clearly a case in which the absence of an impartial trial judge
on the bench infected the entire trial process, robbing Abdygapparova of
her basic protections and undermining the ability of the criminal trial to
reliably serve its function as a vehicle for the determination of guilt or
innocence," stated Justice Rebecca Simmons, writing the opinion for a
The appellate court ordered that Abdygapparova get a new trial.
Chief Appellate Public Defender Angela Moore called the decision
courageous, praising the appellate judges for not avoiding the sticky
political business of criticizing another judge.
Neither Roman nor McClure, who has left the District Attorney's office,
could be reached for comment late Thursday.
Abdygapparova, a UTSA student from Kazakhstan, said she feared for her
life when her then-boyfriend, Ramon Hernandez, and Santos Minjares pulled
Rosado into the car the 3 were riding in and took her to a motel room,
where Rosado was raped repeatedly and strangled.
Abdygapparova told officials that she witnessed the abduction and sexual
assault of Rosado, but was too afraid of Hernandez and Minjares to seek
help. She also paid for the room with Rosado's money and later bought a
shovel and bleach used to clean up the crime scene.
Abdygapparova contacted authorities after the murder and cooperated with
them, noted assistant public defender Lori Rodriguez, who handled the
"Essentially all of the safeguards that are in place to ensure a fair
trial failed her," Rodriguez said.
Hernandez and Minjares were sentenced to death.
It's a big win for the relatively young appellate public defender's
office, but the state could still ask the Court of Criminal Appeals to
review the decision. Prosecutors with that office could not be reached
The opinion calls the trial "an unfortunate case in which the trial judge
failed to exercise appropriate caution and failed to maintain an attitude
of impartiality throughout the trial. The trial judge's ex parte
communications with the prosecutor suggest there was, at minimum, a
'chumminess' between the prosecutor and the trial court from which the
jury could interpret that the trial court was 'taking sides.'"
(source: San Antonio Express-News)
Capital murder charges filed in death
The filing of capital murder charges Wednesday against a Lakehills couple
hasn't ended the hunt for possible accomplices in the robbery and fatal
stabbing Friday of pizza deliveryman Leon Poe.
"The investigation is ongoing," Kendall County sheriff's Lt. Louis
Jenilee A. Sheppard, 22, and Karl A. Hodson, 20, were arrested after
Sheppard told authorities that Hodson stabbed Poe during a robbery along
Old San Antonio Road near Boerne, records show.
As she was implicating Hodson in an interview Tuesday night with Texas
Ranger Kyle Dean, Hodson bolted through a window of a nearby room in the
Lakehills building and ran off, authorities said.
Sheppard was arrested that evening on a murder charge, which was upgraded
to capital murder Wednesday.
Hodson was apprehended early Wednesday at gunpoint by Bandera County
deputies while walking in a field off FM 1283.
Bonds for Hodson and Sheppard were set at $750,000 each. Both are being
held in Kendall County Jail.
When initially questioned by Dean, records show, Hodson claimed that he
was forced by another man to help kill Poe.
However, Martinez said, Hodson later admitted to killing Poe, 27, when the
driver refused to give up his cash in the robbery at 10:30 p.m. Friday.
Authorities said there's no sign the suspects knew Poe, a San Antonio
resident who was among four delivery drivers working Friday night at the
Hodson's cell phone had been used to place a $75.11 order that lured Poe,
authorities said. According to arrest affidavits, Sheppard said Hodson
initially paid the bill by check, then demanded Poe turn over all his
"Sheppard states that Hodson then took duct tape from inside of Sheppard's
purse and attempted to bind (Poe's) hands and feet," Dean's affidavit
said. "Sheppard states (Poe) worked his hands loose and the defendant
stabbed (Poe) in the stomach or abdomen area."
The affidavits say the suspects put Poe's body in the rear seat of his car
and hid the vehicle behind bushes on Herff Road, where it was found at 3
The robbery netted $30 in cash, as well as pizzas, drinks and snacks that
Poe had brought, which the suspects ate upon returning to their home in
Lakehills, according to Kendall County Chief Deputy Matt King.
Bandera County Sheriff Weldon Tucker counted himself lucky that the crime
didn't occur in his county.
The suspects initially tried to have the pizza delivered to an address in
Bandera County, he said, but were told it was outside the Boerne store's
service area, so they drove to Kendall County to place the order and
"I don't think they had any idea what they really had done," Tucker said,
noting that Sheppard admitted to helping Hodson bind Poe's hands and feet
with duct tape, but protested to the magistrate that "I was framed."
(source: San Antonio Express-News)
'It Came From Austin!!!!' - A Benefit for the Texas Moratorium Network
XL Recommended - It Came From Austin: This variety show is a benefit for
the anti-death penalty Texas Moratorium Network. Performing acts include
Texas Sapphires, Diasporic, Hello Lovers, Damp Heat, the Roller, Laura
Scarbrough and the Invincible Czars. Admission is $5 to $15 on a sliding
scale at the the Scoot Inn, 1308 E. Fourth St. 478-6200.
- Joe Gross -- From the promoter:
The Texas Moratorium Network (TMN) has organized a benefit show to help
raise awareness of current death penalty issues in Texas, raise money and
gain new members.
Several local performers will participate, including the Austin
Chronicle's winner of 2006 BEST NEW BAND, the Texas Sapphires. There will
also be clowns, acrobats, dancers, and various other performances.
The show's sponsors have donated various products and services which will
be raffled to attendees. Diablo Rojo, The Boiling Pot, Antone's Records
and Epoch Coffee will be donating gift certificates. EastSide Pies will
also donate pizza for the occasion.
The TMN's primary goal is to convince the Texas Legislature to enact a
moratorium on executions and create a non partisan commission to study the
administration of capital punishment and correct all injustices found
A few disturbing facts about the administration of the death penalty in
- More than 40 % of people on death row are African American , although
African Americans are only about 12 % of the population in Texas.
- The Dallas Morning News, one of the nation's most conservative
newspapers, has called for a moratorium on the death penalty.
- The Houston Chronicle reported on Nov. 19, 2005 that Ruben Cantu, who
was executed in Texas in 1993, was probably innocent.
- The average Texas capital case costs $2.3 million - about three times
what we spend to keep someone locked up for 40 years in highest security.
- The death penalty is a punishment, in practice, reserved for the poor
and/or incompetent. We have even executed a mentally retarded person in
the state of Texas.
Aug. 9 Hearing Set for Death Row Inmate
A man who is facing the death penalty in the killing of a police officer
will be able to make another bid for clemency next month.
The state Board of Pardons and Paroles will hold a hearing August 9 in the
case of Troy Anthony Davis, who was convicted of killing a Savannah police
During the hearing, the board will hear from witnesses in the case --
including some who have recanted testimony used to convict Davis. Others
have come forward with information about another possible shooter.
One of Davis' lawyers -- Jason Ewart -- said the August 9 date is "a
little quick." But he said his legal team is trying to get as many
witnesses as it can.
Davis,38, was convicted of killing Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail,
who was shot twice after he rushed to help a homeless man who had been
assaulted. The 1989 shooting happened in a Burger King parking lot next to
a bus station where the MacPhail, 27, worked off-duty as a security guard.
Davis' lawyers said seven witnesses have recanted or contradicted their
testimony that they saw Davis shoot the officer, saw him assault the
homeless man or heard Davis confess to the killing.
Davis was scheduled to be executed last week. But the day before the
scheduled execution, he was granted a stay of execution of up to 90 days.
(source: The Associated Press)
A hood doesn't mask our failures
Given the latest in our off-again on-again death penalty, here's a
question from left field:
Why does the person carrying out the absolute punishment get his identity
hidden by the state?
Historically, executioners have worn hoods. (Ku Klux Klansmen, too, but
that's another story.) Maybe this was symbolic, to show that society, and
not just the hangman who had to do the dirty work, decided the fate of the
Our own Department of Corrections says keeping the executioner's identity
secret - state law, by the way - protects the person from retribution by
extremists or an inmate's friends or family. (Surely there's little fear
about anti-death penalty types, who tend to be against that whole
eye-for-an-eye thing.) The doctor and doctor's assistant present at
executions have worn hoods as well.
Critics have a different view. They say this secrecy is born of shame, or
ambivalence about killing even killers, or because even for true
believers, there are grim realities to actually taking a life.
For now, let's skip the real question of right or wrong and talk process.
We have a history of horror shows: flames erupting from men's heads during
electrocutions, a face dripping blood. "They butchered me back there,"
killer Bennie Demps said just before he was executed in 2000, saying they
cut and injected his groin and leg in search of a vein. We have struggled
to consistently impose death with even the dignity we give to euthanizing
When convicted murderer Angel Diaz took twice as long as normal to die
from lethal injection, with drugs injected into his flesh instead of his
bloodstream, Gov. Jeb Bush rightly halted executions. (Please, hold the
chorus of no-punishment-is-too-cruel-or-unusual. Surely we're better than
An appointed commission looked at what went wrong, the DOC agreed to
recommendations, and the death penalty was back on.
Which brings us to convicted killer Ian Deco Lightbourne. Like others on
death row, he had appealed on cruel-and-unusual grounds. Judge Carven
Angel (what a name in a death case) questioned, among other things, the
experience and competence of the hooded executioner who administers the
lethal dose. (Job requirements: picked by warden. Must be 18. Must get
training. Pay: $150.)
The judge talked about whether any 18-year-old under the gun of a
governor's warrant and a world watching would "have enough experience and
competence to stop an execution when it needs to be stopped." Good
question. Add mine: Why hide his identity? Shouldn't we know his
qualifications, his history?
"When you become a public employee, you should not be able to hide behind
a black hood," said a Florida lawyer who in the 1990s unsuccessfully sued
to unmask executioners.
Truth is, even if we exposed the identity of the man or woman at the
switch, syringe or whatever our current instrument of choice, I doubt we
would lack for applicants.
A DOC spokeswoman confirmed my suspicions. "Any time the death penalty
comes up in court or an execution is looming," said Gretl Plessinger, "we
get a dozen e-mails to this office saying, 'I'm interested in being an
These days, I'm guessing a hood wouldn't make a whole lot of difference.
(source: Column, Sue Carlton; St. Petersburg times)
No charges a year after confessions----Cops across U.S. still try to tie
Browne to murders
In shocking confessions made public one year ago today, Robert Charles
Browne claimed he killed about four dozen people in a spree of shootings,
stabbings, strangulations and poisoning that spanned 3 decades, 9 states
and 2 continents.
But in the year since El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa trumpeted Browne
as possibly one of the nations most prolific serial killers, no new
charges have been brought against him.
Browne, 54, remains in a Colorado prison serving 2 life sentences for his
convictions in the 1991 murder of 13-year-old Heather Dawn Church of Black
Forest and the 1987 strangulation of Rocio Sperry, the 15-year-old wife of
a Fort Carson soldier.
Other potential cases against Browne are stalled or inactive. Authorities
say they dont have the money or staff to investigate and dont see any
urgency in pursuing old crimes when the suspect is in prison for life.
Sheriffs officials said a year ago that many of Browne's claims would be
impossible to verify, but that they had enough information to directly
link him to 6 other killings.
"It's up to the other agencies to make their cases," Maketa said
Wednesday. "I believe there is real strong potential to clear 5 or 6
cases." A Sheriff's Office investigator continues to visit with Browne
every couple of months, Maketa said. He also said one member of the
nowdefunct cold-case team continues to meet with Browne.
But confessions are not enough. Authorities need details and evidence and
In many cases, Browne graphically described killings that didnt match
anything in police files, or bodies were never found. Some purported crime
scenes had changed dramatically over the years.
For example, Browne told authorities he broke a man's neck in a fight,
killing him, shortly after he enlisted in the Army in 1969 at age 17.
Browne said the killing his 1st occurred in South Korea and the victim
was another soldier. The Army investigated and could not find any record
of such a dead soldier. Browne was dishonorably discharged in 1976 for
Then there is the issue of Browne's cooperativeness.
"In some cases, he has said he's willing to talk only if there is a
guarantee he won't face a death penalty," Maketa said. "And he doesn't
want to be extradited and sit in a small county lockup for 6 to 8 months."
Browne has been ruled out as a suspect in the 1991 killing of Lisa Lowe of
Forrest City, Ark., said Sgt. Barry Roy of the Arkansas State Police.
Authorities also cleared him as a suspect in a 1992 Tulsa, Okla., killing.
New Mexico authorities dropped an investigation into claims he killed a
man in 1993 and threw the victim and his motorcycle over a cliff. A
motorcycle was found, but no body.
Authorities in Washington state have no record of a woman Browne said he
shot to death in 1986 at a highway overlook. Nor could authorities in
Mendocino County, north of San Francisco, find any evidence of a couple
Browne claimed he shot to death on a beach that same year.
Not every agency has given up.
Authorities in Sugar Land, Texas, near Houston, hope sophisticated DNA
testing will determine whether he killed 17-year-old Nidia Mendoza in
"Based on the information we have, his statements and supporting evidence,
he is the likely person responsible," said Capt. Gary Cox of the Sugar
Land Police Department. "We are able to verify everything he said. We can
substantiate his confession. He had a lot of intricate details of things
that went on in our case."
But the case won't be prosecuted unless DNA testing of fluid-stained
clothing found with the victim provides a direct link to Browne.
"An initial DNA analysis was done," Cox said, noting that results were
inconclusive because the sample had deteriorated. "We sent it out for more
testing. A more complicated test that fewer labs are able to do. We're
just waiting for the results."
Cox said he wants to close the case for the benefit of Mendoza's family.
But he's content to wait until the case is solid.
"It's not like he's out walking the streets," Cox said.
Officials in Arkansas, where Browne claimed he carried out five murders,
are taking a similar, methodical approach. Although they've eliminated him
in the Lowe killing, they consider him a suspect in several other cases.
I was able to go out to Colorado and sit down and interview him myself,"
said Roy of the Arkansas State Police. "We had a real good visit. An hour
or 2. He gave specific answers to specific questions."
Roy is convinced Browne killed in Arkansas, though his investigation has
been hampered by destroyed records.
"I've been looking through our murder files, and I want to go back and
talk to him again," Roy said. "We're just at a standstill waiting on the
availability to talk to him."
Law enforcement officials in his home state of Louisiana have interviewed
him about several killings, including in his hometown of Coushatta.
"We came up and talked to him," said Red River Parish Sheriff Johnny Ray
Norman. "He didn't give us a lot more than we already had."
Norman said authorities hoped to get more detail on the killings of three
Red River Parish residents: the 1980 strangulation of 15-year-old
Katherine Jean Hayes; the poisoning in 1983 of Faye Aline Self, 26; and
the 1983 stabbing of Wanda Faye Hudson, 20.
Browne lived in the same apartment complex as Self and Hudson.
"We're still at square one," Norman said. "We haven't gotten anywhere.
It's in the district attorney's hands whether or not he wants to accept
what we've got or go farther."
Not so, said prosecutor William Jones. He said the cases are still being
investigated by the Louisiana State Police.
"They still have an open file on it," Jones said.
The contradiction frustrates Maketa, who said he thinks Jones doesn't want
to prosecute the cases.
"Louisiana State Police do have enough evidence," Maketa said. "I know the
prosecutor would like more evidence. Its disappointing."
Though he's frustrated more hasn't happened, Maketa said he is confident
Browne will face additional charges.
"There are provable cases out there," he said. "It's disappointing so many
agencies don't have the resources to jump on cases and clear some cases
"But it's important to the victims' families. It brings peace of mind and
(source: Colorado Springs Gazette)
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