[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----S.C., US MIL., WASH., IDAHO, USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Jul 28 23:59:44 CDT 2007
Twice-Convicted Triple-Murderer Sentenced----Killer Gets 3 Consecutive
A man twice convicted and sentenced to death in a triple homicide 10 years
ago was back in court on Friday.
Friday morning, Troy Burkhart appeared before Judge J.C. Nicholson in
Anderson County where he was resentenced for his prior conviction.
Burkhart is accused in the November 1997 deaths of Sonya Cann, of
Anderson, and brothers Shane Walters, 27, and Stacy Walters, 21, both of
Investigators found them shot to death in a kudzu field off Pearman Dairy
Investigators said that Burkhart, Cann and the Walters brothers were out
4-wheeling in Shane Walters' truck when Burkhart shot his companions to
death. Investigators said that he then went to his father's house in
Seneca before turning himself in to police.
Burkhart claimed he shot them in self-defense after he was threatened with
homosexual rape. Shane Walters was shot six times, Stacy Walters was shot
twice and Cann was shot 3 times.
He was first convicted and sentenced to death in March 2000, but the state
Supreme Court overturned the conviction saying that the judge gave the
jury improper instructions.
Burkhart was tried again for the crime in 2004. A jury found him guilty
and sentenced him to death. The conviction was upheld, but the sentencing
phase was thrown out because the judge said it was flawed.
During the hearing on Friday, Burkhart said to the judge, "I would ask
that you take into account I can prove that I didn't murder these people.
I can prove I am not guilty of murder."
Nicholson sentenced Burkhart to 3 consecutive life sentences with no
chance of parole -- the maximum sentence he could give.
Shane Walters sister, Dana Albertson, said, "I feel in my heart Troy
deserves the death penalty. I also feel he deserves to sit in a small cell
and think about what he did. I hope he sees their faces every single day
Tenth Circuit Solicitor Chrissy Adams said, "I think this really gives
them (the family members) the closure they've been waiting for. They went
through 2 death penalty trials. They had to relive horrific details of
their loved ones deaths and they couldn't do it a 3rd time."
2 isle soldiers could face death penalty in Iraq killing
A Schofield Barracks sergeant shot an Iraqi civilian whom he had detained
and then ordered another soldier to join in the killing, an Army document
Spc. Christopher P. Shore of Winder, Ga., and Sgt. 1st Class Trey A.
Corrales of San Antonio have been charged with murder in the June 23
slaying of an unidentified man near the city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq.
An Army charge sheet says Corrales shot the Iraqi civilian several times
and then ordered Shore to do the same.
If convicted by a court-martial of murder, the two 25th Division soldiers
could receive the death penalty.
(source: Honolulu Star-Bulletin)
Is seldom-used death penalty becoming a bargaining chip in Wash.?
In an interview early this year, Pierce County Prosecutor Gerry Horne
called Washington state's death penalty law a "farce" and suggested it is
so ineffective that the Legislature should consider getting rid of it.
When time came to find an abducted 12-year-old Tacoma girl, though, he was
glad to have it. Four days after Zina Linnik disappeared, Horne -
believing time was running out to find her alive - promised not to seek
the death penalty against the suspect, Terapon Adhahn, if he would tell
detectives where she was. Adhahn agreed, leading them to her body in rural
Without the death penalty, "we would have no leverage in some instances,"
Horne said this week. "It's nice to have that tool in your kit."
Horne's attitude reflects the evolving considerations prosecutors in
Washington weigh when dealing with potential capital cases. For
generations, prosecutors here refused to use the death penalty as a
"bargaining chip" in obtaining guilty pleas.
Agreements to spare serial killers Robert Yates in Spokane County and Gary
Ridgway in King County in exchange for confessions or help finding remains
- though both unique cases - opened the door to some extent.
Prosecutors also know it's extraordinarily expensive to seek the death
penalty, capital sentences are likely to be overturned on appeal, and
virtually no one gets it against their will. The state has pursued death
in 79 cases over the last 25 years; of the four people executed, three
waived their appeals and volunteered to be killed. That raises an implicit
question: In the face of such odds and expense, why not bargain away the
death penalty if there's something to gain?
"You don't have a hammer if you're offering someone the choice of life in
jail, or life in jail," said state Rep. Chris Strow, R-Clinton, who
supports using the death penalty as a bargaining chip when necessary. "In
this case, there was a hammer that could be used, and it was appropriately
used to resolve a very unfortunate situation."
Tom McBride, head of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys,
noted that because of the urgency of Zina's disappearance and the hope of
finding her alive, Horne's decision can't be directly compared to typical
cases of bargaining with the death penalty. There are good reasons
prosecutors across the state have almost always avoided that practice, he
For one, even a remote threat of execution is powerful enough that it
could coax false confessions from suspects. Secondly, whether the death
penalty is imposed should be based on the facts of a crime, including
aggravating and mitigating factors - not on the defendant's cooperation or
plea afterward, McBride said.
In typical sentencing proceedings, judges do consider whether a convict
has accepted responsibilty. That partly helps determine the extent to
which the person poses a future risk to society, and thus, when the person
should be released. In aggravated murder convictions, there is no
potential release - only life in prison or execution - so whether the
defendant cooperates after the crime is less relevant, McBride said.
"This argues for a just-desserts analysis that should focus more on the
facts of the crime," he wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
Horne said many of those factors were in his mind July 12 when he took the
death penalty off the table in the Adhahn case. But his overriding concern
was that Zina might still be alive, bound and gagged somewhere, dying of
thirst. Another girl Adhahn is accused of abducting and brutally raping
survived after being left in a remote part of Fort Lewis in 2000.
If promising that Adhahn would not face the death penalty is what prompted
him to lead detectives to the girl's body, "I'm absolutely thrilled this
information was obtained and I hope it provides some solace to the
victims," said Seattle defense attorney Jeff Ellis, president of the
Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
But he added that he believes people are too quick to assume that without
the threat of execution it would be impossible to obtain such information
from murder suspects.
And using the death penalty as a bargaining chip presents other problems,
such as compounding the randomness of who is sentenced to die, Ellis said.
He compared Adhahn's case to that of Clark Elmore, who is on Washington's
death row for killing his girlfriend's 14-year-old daughter in Whatcom
County in 1995. Adhahn's cooperation after Zina's death will help him
avoid the death penalty if he's convicted, but Elmore's confession and
guilty plea didn't help him.
"For years and years, the line from prosecutors across the state was, 'We
will not use the death penalty as a bargaining chip," Ellis said. "If you
ask prosecutors today, the reason they say they need it is to use it as a
bargaining chip. ... Go explain to Clark Elmore why he remains on death
The state Supreme Court upheld Washington's capital punishment law 5-4
last year but invited lawmakers to reconsider the death penalty's fairness
in light of late King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng's decision in 2003 to
spare the life of Ridgway, the Green River Killer. Ridgway pleaded guilty
to killing 48 women, and helped authorities find remains, in exchange for
life in prison without release.
The court is again considering the state's death penalty law in the case
of Yates. He pleaded guilty in Spokane County Superior Court to 13 murders
after the prosecutor agreed not to seek the death penalty, but Pierce
County refused to bargain, and he was sentenced to death for 2 murders
there. His appeal was argued late last year.
(source: Bellingham Herald)
Attorney General asks Supreme Court to intervene in murder case
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden disagrees with a Ninth Circuit
Court order to either release convicted murderer Maxwell Hoffman or offer
him the plea agreement that Hoffman rejected nearly 20 years ago. Wasden
said the state will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn that ruling.
"We are asking the Supreme Court to reverse this decision because the
Ninth Circuit adopted a standard of law that is not supported by United
States Supreme Court precedent or the court of any other jurisdiction in
the country," Wasden said.
Hoffman was found guilty of 1st-degree murder by a Canyon County jury in
1989 and sentenced to death by lethal injection in connection with the
1987 murder of Denise Williams in Owyhee County. Prosecutors said Hoffman
and his accomplices attacked Williams with knives and crushed her to death
under a pile of rocks. Williams was cooperating in a police investigation
of the drug trafficking activities of Hoffman's accomplices.
Hoffman sought to challenge the legality of his imprisonment, but U.S.
District Judge B. Lynn Winmill denied Hoffman's petition for a writ of
habeas corpus. Hoffman appealed Winmill's decision and in 2006 the Ninth
Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Winmill's ruling.
The court concluded that Hoffman's trial attorney was ineffective when he
recommended that Hoffman reject a plea offer that would have spared him
the death penalty.
The Attorney General's office had requested that the court reconsider its
decision and asked for a rehearing in front of a panel of 11 judges. That
request was denied on March of this year with 7 judges dissenting.
(source: Idaho Press-Tribune)
9th Circuit Judges Still Wary of Splitting Court
While a bill to split the nation's largest federal appeals court lies
dormant in Congress, that didn't prevent grumbling at the opening of the
9th Circuit's annual judicial conference over repeated efforts to divide
Among judges at the conference, one expressed concern that members of the
U.S. Supreme Court may join the split camp, and others criticized a recent
newspaper opinion column that linked circuit size to the likelihood of
The Los Angeles Times op-ed that has some judges grousing was written by
Vanderbilt University Law School professor Brian Fitzpatrick, who was also
a law clerk to 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Diarmuid
O'Scannlain of Portland, Ore., an outspoken supporter of a circuit split.
Fitzpatrick suggested that "it can be shown mathematically that as a court
grows larger, it is increasingly likely to issue extreme decisions."
Fitzpatrick said that on a court of 27 active judges -- the current number
serving on the 9th Circuit appeals court -- it is fairly likely that with
just 6 judges holding "extreme" views, 2 would be randomly selected for a
three-judge panel. But in a split circuit of just 14 judges -- and just 3
"extremists" -- it less likely that 2 extremists would be selected for a
Of the potential for "extremist" decisions in a large circuit, Chief Judge
Mary Schroeder said, "You have got to be kidding. We don't appoint the
judges, the president does. You don't split up a court because you don't
like the decisions it makes."
YEARS OF COMPLAINTS
For years, opponents of the various circuit-split proposals have
complained that the issue intensifies when the circuit issues unpopular
rulings, such as its now-overturned decision barring the use of the phrase
"under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Schroeder noted in the circuit's annual report issued this week that, at
the peak of congressional efforts last year to split the 9th Circuit, 33
of the 47 total active and senior judges signed a statement of opposition
to a split. Added to that was the support of 80 judges from district and
bankruptcy courts in the circuit and 385 law professors nationally.
She reassured the 700 judges and lawyers from around the West who gathered
in Honolulu for the conference: "We have been through many struggles over
the past decade to maintain the geographical integrity of our circuit."
Those struggles have slackened now that Democrats control the Congress.
A SIGNAL FROM JUSTICES?
Yet Terry Hatter, former chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the
Central District of California, based in Los Angeles, expressed concern
that the U.S. Supreme Court's intense attention to 9th Circuit cases and
the 90 % reversal rate in the last session may be an "attempt to signal to
members of Congress who want to split the court that they may support it."
In its past term, the Supreme Court granted review to 21 appeals from the
9th Circuit and reversed 19.
Judge Connie Callahan, a 9th Circuit judge based in Sacramento, Calif.,
appointed by President George W. Bush, opposes any split. She said the
biggest problem of a division is the percentage of cases generated by
California. The state would always dominate any division of the current
nine states in the circuit.
"I have always been of the view that we gain with people from different
states on the court," she said.
Judge Michael Daly Hawkins, a 9th Circuit judge from Phoenix and an
appointee of Bill Clinton, said, "The vast majority of judges, whether
Democrat or Republican appointees, are strongly against the split. Some of
the most vocal are Republican appointees," he said, singling out Judge
Carlos Bea of San Francisco, who was appointed by Bush.
The situation might be different if the judges were equally divided over
the split, or a majority supported it, he said.
While Hawkins acknowledged the court has to deal with caseload increases,
he added that "[t]here is no sensible way to split the circuit that will
deal with the caseload and appease the politicians in Congress."
Judge Richard Tallman of Seattle, a Republican appointed to the 9th
Circuit by Clinton, testified in support of the circuit split last year.
"The root concerns that caused me to testify for the split still exist and
those problems will continue to plague the circuit over time."
He rejected the notion that opposition to liberal decisions has driven the
split support. "It is not a factor. I am interested in the most effective
way to handle cases," he said. "At some point, the court will get too
big," Tallman said.
"I accept the political reality [that the split is dead for now], but I am
confident the problems will continue to plague us and eventually Congress
will step in," he said.
(source: National Law Journal)
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