[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----CALIF., COLO., ALA., MISS.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Jul 27 20:36:17 CDT 2007
Court Tosses Death Penalty Due to Ineffective Defense Counsel
A man convicted in the 1983 murders of a Van Nuys woman and her young son,
allegedly committed at the behest of the womans husband so that he could
collect life insurance proceeds, is entitled to a new penalty trial, the
state Supreme Court unanimously ruled yesterday.
In an opinion by Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar, the high court said James
Edward Hardys trial attorney, Michael Demby, failed to present mitigating
evidence that might have resulted in a lesser sentence, including evidence
that another man may have committed the acts attributed to Hardy.
The high court, however, rejected Hardys bid for a new trial as to his
guilt. Werdegar said that at the very least, a reasonable jury would have
found Hardy guilty of special-circumstances murder as a co-conspirator,
even if Demby, a Los Angeles deputy public defender, had presented
evidence of 3rd party culpability.
Nancy Morgan, 44, and her 8-year-old son Mitchell were stabbed to death in
their Saticoy Street home in May 1981. Hardy was arrested along with
Clifford Morgan and Mark Reilly.
Prosecutors charged that Morgan, who stood to collect nearly $1 million in
insurance benefits, hired Reilly, who in turn hired Hardy, and that the
pair committed the murders after Morgan took a job in Nevada.
One of the prosecution witnesses, Calvin Boyd, testifying under a grant of
immunity, claimed that Reilly tried to recruit him into the scheme. While
he was interested and involved in the planning of the murders, Boyd
testified, he dropped out of the plot because Reilly would not pay him in
Boyd further testified that after the murders were committed, Reilly
admitted that he and Hardy were the perpetrators.
All 3 defendants were convicted of 1st degree murder with special
circumstances of multiple murder, murder for financial gain, and lying in
wait. Reilly and Hardy were sentenced to death; Morgan was granted a
separate penalty trial due to ill health but died of bone cancer before it
could take place.
Hardy was also linked to the murders by witnesses who said he made
statements suggesting his involvement, although he did not directly admit
being involved in the actual killings.
Ineffectiveness as Charged
After his sentence was affirmed, Hardy filed a habeas corpus petition in
which he accused Demby of failing to call character witnesses in the
penalty phase, failing to conduct an adequate penalty-phase investigation,
and making an unreasonable tactical decision to limit the penalty-phase
defense to a lingering doubt argument.
Hardy subsequently filed a 2nd petition, arguingbased on evidence
presented at the hearing on the first petitionthat a reasonable
investigation would have produced evidence that it was Boyd, not Hardy,
who was with Reilly on the night of the murders.
Witnesses said that Boyd had cuts on his hand immediately after the
stabbings and told acquaintances he was the one who stabbed the child.
Werdegar, writing yesterday for the high court, said that Demby should
have discovered seven witnesses whose testimony was "reasonably available"
at the time of trial and who would have implicated Boyd. Those witnesses
were not called, the justice explained, "[b]ecause Demby failed to ensure
the investigation was reasonably thorough."
The case was argued in the high court by Deputy State Public Defender and
Deputy Attorney General Roy Preminger.
In an unrelated capital case, the justices yesterday unanimously upheld
the death penalty for Lamar Barnwell for shooting 3 people to death. A
police officer testified that after hearing shots, he raced to the crime
scene and saw Barnwell standing over two of the victims and watched him
fire the fatal shots before fleeing the scene.
Justice Carol Corrigan, writing for the high court, said that Los Angeles
Superior Court Judge Morris B. Jonessince retirederred in admitting
evidence that Barnwell was seen, about a year before the murders, in
possession of a gun of the same type as the murder weapon. Since there was
no claim that the gun was the murder weapon, the testimony that Barnwell
possessed it was irrelevant and potentially prejudicial, Corrigan wrote.
Its admission, however, was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, the
justice said, given that the murder weapon was described by the police
eyewitness, recovered at the scene, and admitted into evidence.
The cases are In re Hardy, 07 S.O.S. 4602, and People v. Barnwell, 07
(source: Metropolitan News Company)
State high court withdraws inmate from death row----The ruling says a new
penalty phase is needed for convicted killer James Edward Hardy because
there is now 'substantial doubt' that he actually committed the crime.
The state Supreme Court took the rare step Thursday of removing an inmate
from death row after concluding that the convicted killer's lawyer failed
to present crucial evidence during trial.
In its unanimous decision, the high court kept intact the 1st-degree
murder conviction of James Edward Hardy, but said a new penalty phase is
needed because there is now "substantial doubt" that he was the killer, as
the prosecution had argued.
The California Supreme Court said it appears the actual killer in the
murder-for-hire plot was another man who was not prosecuted for the
Hardy was convicted in 1983, along with Mark Anthony Reilly, of killing
Reilly's wife and her 8-year-old son in Van Nuys to collect on a life
insurance policy. The mother and son were stabbed to death as they slept.
At trial, the prosecution alleged that Reilly hired Hardy to perform the
killings. But after Hardy's appellate lawyers presented evidence that a
3rd conspirator did the actual killing, the Supreme Court ordered a
hearing into the matter.
The referee presiding over the hearing agreed with Hardy's lawyers, and
the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a new trial to determine if Hardy
should be executed or sentenced to life in prison. The high court said
Hardy was still guilty of murder for his active participation in planning
Witnesses who testified after the trial said that Hardy backed out and
that another man, Calvin Boyd, took his place.
Boyd was seen with cuts on his hand immediately after the stabbings. Other
witnesses testified that Boyd told them of tripping over the boy and
putting a pillow over the boy's head before stabbing him.
The Supreme Court said that Boyd was given immunity from prosecution for
his testimony against Hardy and the other conspirators.
Boyd apparently convinced investigators and prosecutors that he had
nothing to do with the killings, in part because his wife and stepson said
he was passed out drunk at home the night of the murders.
The Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Justice Kathryn Mickle
Werdegar, said Hardy's evidence that he wasn't the actual killer "so
undermines our confidence in the penalty verdict that a different, more
favorable result was reasonably probable had this evidence been presented
to the jury."
Also Thursday, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the death penalty of
Lamar Barnwell for shooting to death 4 people in an unrelated case.
(source: Associated Press)
Prosecutors to seek death penalty in brutal home invasion
case----Additional charges announced against suspects, including murder
Hays and Komisarjevsky reportedly spotted victims in a local
store----Suspects to appear in court August 7
Prosecutors in Connecticut say they will seek the death penalty for two
men charged with killing 3 members of a prominent Cheshire, Connecticut,
doctor's family during a gruesome home invasion.
Accused killer Joshua Komisarjevsky lived less than 2 miles from the
New Haven State's Attorney Michael Dearington announced additional charges
against Steven Hays, 44, and Joshua Komisarjevsky, 26, on Thursday,
including murder -- called capitol felony in Connecticut -- which carries
a sentence of either life without parole or execution by injection.
The suspects were initially charged with aggravated sexual assault,
burglary and arson.
Hays and Komisarjevsky are accused of killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48,
and her daughters Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11. Hawke-Petit's husband, Dr.
William Petit Jr., was assaulted and thrown into the basement of the home
during the attack.
The state's chief medical examiner ruled all 3 deaths were homicides.
The incident began at about 3 a.m. Monday, when, police said, the 2 forced
their way into the Petit home.
About 6 hours later, the intruders drove one of the female family members
-- reportedly Jennifer Hawke-Petit -- to a Bank of America branch to
withdraw money, police said.
The woman was "able to relay to the bank teller that ... the family was
being held captive. The bank teller notified the police department," said
Cheshire police Lt. Jay Markella.
By the time police arrived, the house was on fire. Authorities say it was
an apparent attempt by the suspects to cover their tracks.
William Petit, who sustained serious head injuries, managed to get up the
stairs from the basement and outside the burning home.
Autopsies revealed that Hawke-Petit was strangled and the 2 girls died of
The suspects reportedly noticed Hawke-Petit and one of her daughters
Sunday at a local store and followed them home.
"They were attracted to the car," Glen Petit, the brother of Dr. William
Petit, told The Associated Press. "They liked the car, followed her home,
thought she lived in a nice house."
Hays is charged with 6 counts of capital felony; 6 counts of kidnapping;
and 1 count each of burglary in the 1st degree, robbery in the 1st degree,
larceny in the 1st degree, aggravated sexual assault in the 1st degree,
arson in the 1st degree, conspiracy to commit arson in the 1st degree,
risk of injury to a minor and assault in the 1st degree.
Komisarjevsky faces the same charges with an additional count of risk of
injury to a minor.
Both are being held by the Connecticut Department of Correction on $15
million bail and are next scheduled to appear August 7 in New Haven
District Superior Court.
Ala. Inmate Executed for 1980 Killing
A man who killed an 86-year-old widow in her home on Christmas Eve 27
years ago was executed Thursday.
Darrell Grayson, 46, flashed peace signs at witnesses, smiled and nodded
at those he recognized and said, "Peace." He was pronounced dead at 6:16
p.m. CDT at Holman prison near Atmore.
After midnight on Christmas Eve in 1980, two men entered Annie Laura Orr's
home. They pulled a pillowcase over her head, bound her with masking tape
and raped her, according to the court record. Orr died of suffocation, and
the men robbed her of about $30 and her wedding rings.
Investigators found Grayson's blood-splattered shirt hidden under a rock
near his home. The blood stains matched the victim's blood type, according
to court records.
Grayson and his co-defendant, Victor Kennedy, were convicted of capital
murder. Kennedy was executed in 1999. Grayson lost a federal appeal last
week challenging Alabama's lethal-injection procedures as being
His supporters rallied in Montgomery on Wednesday, urging Gov. Bob Riley
to intervene in order for DNA tests to determine if Grayson raped the
elderly woman. Grayson's conviction did not include the rape accusation,
but his supporters say it was an aggravating factor cited by prosecutors
to get the death sentence.
Riley, in refusing requests to intervene, called Orr's death "horrifying"
and said "the overwhelming physical evidence left a jury no doubt
(Grayson) perpetrated a cruel and monstrous crime upon a helpless elderly
The victim's granddaughter, Lee Rawlings Binion, wiped away tears as she
witnessed the execution. In a statement, she said, "The Orr family has
seen the final chapter of a 27-year struggle.
"We are grateful that justice has finally been served."
(source: Associated Press)
Esther Brown's Tribute to Darrell Grayson. The State of Alabama took his
By Esther Brown with poetry by Darrell Grayson
WINGS OF HOPE
ACCEPTANCE SPEECH OF JUSTICE FIGHTER AWARD FROM ALABAMA NEW SOUTH
COALITION I dedicate this award to my very dear friend, the Chairman of
PHADP, Darrell B. Grayson.
I do not dedicate it to Darrell because he has an execution date; I do not
dedicate it to him because he came from a highly dysfunctional, poor
family and was a high school drop out; I do not dedicate it to him because
he had an all white jury and a divorce attorney at his trial who suggested
he throw himself on the mercy of the court, a court which did not know the
meaning of justice, let alone mercy. I do not dedicate this award to
Darrell because when I found evidence six years ago which could clear him
and the Innocence Project took his case because they too believed in his
innocence, the courts denied him DNA testing, no, not for any of these
reasons, although they would be more than enough.
I dedicate it to Darrell because living in the darkness and the horror of
death row he decided he would leave the world better than he found it. And
if this claim can be made for anyone, I make it for him. Not only did
Darrell obtain a two year associate degree when that was still possible on
death row but he began to write poetry which has been widely published.
The Birmingham Arts Review, Axis of Logic, Right Hand Pointing, The Dead
Mule have to name a few, published Darrell's works. He also became an
associate writer for the East Alabama black newspaper, The People's Voice
and has 3 chapbooks to his credit. But this is not all, most important of
all, for the past 7 years he has been the chairman of our organization and
the editor of On Wings of Hope. In these roles he is the mentor and father
figure for our board and has touched lives, which had never experienced a
caring father, let alone one who challenged them to succeed because he
believed in their god given potential.
Darrell believes in justice without ever having obtained it. He believes
in service to others in a place where many curl up in the fetal position
and think only of themselves. When you give me this award tonight you give
it not just to me but also to my brothers on death row and especially to
Darrell Grayson without whose support you would not be honoring me.
I want to leave you with this challenge. If Darrell can achieve all he
has, be all he is, there is not one of us here tonight who cannot also
fight for justice and change. We owe it to him, we owe it to our children,
we owe it to ourselves. We cannot allow darkness and injustice to win. We
must, each and every one of us embrace Hope and stand up and fight for
Esther Brown----Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty
(source: Axis of Logic)
Cop killer 'deserved death,' but families 'deserve a life'----- Guilty
plea gets Barksdale prison without parole
The families of 2 slain Athens police officers accepted the accused
killer's guilty plea Thursday, but one of their widows and Police Chief
Wayne Harper said the schizophrenic defendant deserves to die.
Farron Barksdale, who shot Sgt. Larry Russell and officer Tony Mims to
death on Jan. 2, 2004, will spend life in prison without the possibility
of parole. A Limestone County jury will validate the evidence against
Barksdale in a trial Aug. 6.
Rather than enduring a lengthy mental competency hearing and trial, the
families asked the Limestone County District Attorney's office not to seek
the death penalty against Barksdale.
"I think a lot of people think Barksdale deserves death and I agree as
well," said Michele Russell Lopez, Russell's widow. "But my children
deserve a life. And they deserve a happy life that is not filled with
courtrooms and appeals."
Barksdale, 32, had faced the possibility of a death sentence, but planned
to plead insanity during his trial, said District Attorney Kristi Valls.
He has a long history of mental illness, she said. His competency hearing
was scheduled for Monday. Circuit Court Judge Robert M. Baker took the
plea Thursday morning.
In a news conference Thursday, Valls said Barksdale's lawyers offered July
17 to plead guilty to capital murder with a maximum penalty of life
Valls said the families accepted the guilty plea.
"They wanted this to be over," she said. "They wanted the defendant to
plea to capital murder."
In 2004, Barksdale called police from inside his mother's home on Horton
Street asking for an officer. The officers arrived separately, and
Barksdale ambushed them both with rifle fire from inside. Mims, 40, and
Russell, 42, died on the scene.
After the shooting, Barksdale laid down in the middle of Horton Street.
Residents held him until other officers arrived.
Barksdale's attorneys never denied he killed the officers. At Thursday's
news conference, defense attorney Robert Tuten said Barksdale is a
paranoid schizophrenic who abused drugs. Tuten said Barksdale has always
regretted the killings.
Mims' widow, Linda, said accepting the plea provides much-needed closure.
"I'm satisfied with it," she said. "The fact that Farron Barksdale will
never be out on the streets again can hopefully give us the peace that we
Executing Barksdale, she added, wouldn't compensate for the crime and loss
of life. "You never get compensation, never," Mims said. "A life can never
be given back."
Police Chief Harper said he and the department were disappointed. "It was
a heinous crime that was a capital offense," Harper said. "It met all the
criteria (for the death penalty), and that's the way we were hoping it
would end up."
He said the plea sends "a bad message" to law enforcement officers.
Mims and Russell were "great guys" who are missed, Harper added. "They
were both experienced, good officers who were liked by everyone and very
well thought of in the community," he said. He expressed support for the
Mims' 19-year-old son, Tony Mims Jr., said he is still reeling. Accepting
Barksdale's guilty plea was "a big relief," he said, but also brought
"It's as close to closure as you can get," Mims said.
(source: The Huntsville Times)
Parchman uprising has jail on alert
Fearing gang tentacles that reach from the state prison to the Harrison
County jail, local officers were on high alert after Wednesday's uprising
and murder at the State Penitentiary at Parchman.
Harrison County Sheriff George Payne said he and jail warden Don Cabana
met with staff on "a contingency plan" in case any problems arise. They
also met with Biloxi and Gulfport police chiefs in case the jail needs
more staffing to deal with an uprising. If any of the inmates involved in
the Parchman disturbance are from the Coast, it could lead to problems
among inmates at the Harrison County jail, Payne said.
"We're dealing with these types of problems just about weekly, just like
any other major correctional institution," Payne said, "and have
identified 4 different gangs in our own jail. We have gang-affiliation
problems and they're bad people."
One inmate died and two others were injured Wednesday in the exercise yard
of Unit 32 - maximum security - at Parchman. Unit 32 houses the state's
most violent prisoners, including those on death row.
The Parchman uprising involved a security breach, said Christopher Epps,
commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Officers failed
to strip-search 17 inmates before taking them, in restraints, to
individual exercise pens.
Epps said the melee began after 2 inmates dislodged a section of security
railing on their doors and broke out. A corrections officer noticed they
each carried a shank - jailhouse slang for a homemade knife. They took a
guard's keys, releasing 5 other inmates from their pens.
The 7 inmates began to assault those who remained in their pens, and
though officers reportedly responded within 4 minutes, it was too late for
Donald Reed Jr. The 26-year-old, serving 2 life sentences for murders in
Scott County, was stabbed more than a dozen times.
"When staff tries to shortcut MDOC policies and procedures, this is what
happens," said Epps, adding steps are being taken to enforce security
measures and eliminate risks.
Reed and the 2 hospitalized inmates were not from the Coast area, MDOC
confirmed Thursday evening.
Epps said 4 shanks were found after the incident. Investigators believe
the shanks were made from the metal coverings of air-circulation vents in
the inmates' cells. Visits with Unit 32 inmates have been canceled until
Just last month an inmate in Unit 32 died after a fellow prisoner stabbed
him in the heart with a spear made from a mop handle and toilet parts.
The latest stabbing comes just about a week after a .380-caliber
semiautomatic pistol and two loaded magazines were discovered in an
inmate's cell in the unit. A shakedown after the gun's discovery turned up
at least 2 shanks, Epps said. The discovery also prompted the transfer of
the unit's warden.
Also on Wednesday, George Farrell, a nurse practitioner who works for
Wexford Health Sources at the prison, was charged with possession of a
firearm on prison grounds, officials said.
Don Cabana, a former state prison commissioner, said the Harrison County
jail has increased the number of shakedowns in recent weeks to find
"You feel good when you find it but only because you know you're able to
keep it from being used to hurt someone," Cabana said.
Payne said the jail has seen more violence among Hispanic detainees since
Hurricane Katrina. Prior to the storm the daily population of Hispanics
averaged three or four, "but now we're averaging 50 to 60 a day. It's not
only the language barrier that's a problem. Some of them seem to be
extremely dangerous and extremely organized."
(source: Sun Herald)
Epps: Changes at Parchman coming to curb violence
Several changes will be made to curb violence in Parchman's notorious Unit
32, where an inmate was stabbed to death Wednesday.
Chris Epps, the Mississippi Department of Corrections commissioner, said
Thursday that gang leaders and the severely mentally ill prisoners will be
transferred to other institutions.
"There are 28 gang leaders that we know at 32," Epps said. "What we are
doing is some bus transit. They won't be staying where they are staying
Epps said would not say where gang leaders would be moved for security
reasons. Mentally ill prisoners in the 32 D Building will be moved to East
Mississippi Correctional Facility and Central Mississippi Correctional
Facility, he said.
There are many complaints about Unit 32, home to death row and many of the
state's most violent offenders.
The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the state on behalf mentally
ill prisoners who are housed there and who the group said are subject to
punishment because of their illnesses.
Epps said Unit 32 remains on indefinite lockdown after Donald Reed Jr.,
26, was stabbed to death and two others were injured. Officials said seven
inmates, including some who had homemade knives, escaped exercise pens and
attacked 10 other inmates.
Epps also has suspended visitation, except for attorney-client
consultations, and exercise periods.
Inmates made the knives out of pieces off metal air grates, which they
sharpened on concrete floors. He has ordered the vents encased so inmates
cannot get at them.
Other changes include the "hardening" of cells by replacing bars with
metal doors to prevent inmates from throwing things at corrections
officers and other inmates. The exercise pens will also be strengthened.
Epps also said in an article at http://www.clarionledger.com that Unit 32
will get a new metal detector and an emphasis will be placed on video
surveillance and intelligence gathering.
Last month an inmate in Unit 32 died after a fellow prisoner stabbed him
in the heart with a spear made from a mop handle and toilet parts.
The latest stabbing comes just about a week since a .380 caliber
semiautomatic pistol and two loaded magazines were discovered in an
inmate's cell in the unit. A shake down after the gun's discovery turned
up at least 2 shanks, Epps said. The discovery also prompted the transfer
of the unit's warden.
Also on Wednesday, a nurse practitioner, George Farrell, who works for
Wexford Health Sources at the prison, was charged with possession of a
firearm on prison grounds, officials said.
(source: Associated Press)
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