[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----FLA., VA., PENN., USA, ALA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Jul 31 10:37:55 CDT 2007
BROWARD COURTS----New jury to weigh death penalty for child killer; Jury
selection started Monday for a new penalty phase for Howard Steven Ault,
convicted in 1999 of murdering 2 sisters.
After years of legal wrangling, jury selection began Monday for the second
sentencing hearing for Howard Steven Ault -- convicted almost a decade ago
of killing 2 young girls and hiding their bodies in his Fort Lauderdale
Ault, who was originally sentenced to die for the crime, appealed, and in
2003, the Florida Supreme Court vacated his sentence because of a mistake
during the original jury selection.
Now a new jury will be asked to decide whether to sentence Ault to life in
prison or death by lethal injection.
Broward Judge Marc Gold -- who presided over the trial in 1999 -- told
prospective jurors that Ault, now 41, had been convicted of 2 counts of
1st-degree murder, and other charges including sexual battery and
aggravated child abuse.
Gold explained that the mission of the jury is not to review whether Ault
is guilty of the crime -- but rather, how he should be punished.
''The punishment for this crime is either death or life imprisonment
without the possibility of parole,'' Gold told a pool of about 50
Gold said he planned to complete the jury selection this week. The trial
is scheduled to start Aug. 13.
On Monday, prospective jurors were asked if they had heard about the case
and their views on the death penalty.
Ault, dressed a button-down shirt in front of prospective jurors, stared
blankly through much of the proceedings. Before anyone from the jury pool
had entered the courtroom, Ault's attorney, Mitchell Polay, told the judge
that his client was on suicide watch at the Broward jail.
The murders of the two girls -- straight-A students who had been homeless,
living with their mother at a campsite in Oakland Park -- made national
headlines, raising fears about child safety and questions about how Ault,
a convicted sexual predator, was able to continue assault young victims.
On Nov. 4, 1996, Ault lured DeAnn Mu'min, 11, and her 7-year-old sister,
Alicia Jones, into his truck, offering them a ride home from school.
Instead, he took them to his apartment, where he raped DeAnn while Alicia
watched helplessly, then strangled them both.
In vacating the death sentence, the Supreme Court ruled that a prospective
juror who stated she was opposed to the death penalty should not have been
dismissed. The woman said she would be able to sentence someone to death
if the law required it.
The death penalty has been in limbo in Florida, however, since a botched
lethal injection in December.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush impaneled a committee to investigate the execution of
Angel Nieves Diaz, who took 34 minutes to die after the injection.
State prison officials have since revamped execution procedures and say
they are ready to resume executions.
Gov. Charlie Crist signed a death warrant for Mark Dean Schwab -- his 1st
death warrant since the state halted the procedure.
Despite Crist's death warrant, there is an ongoing legal challenge on
behalf of death row inmates that could halt Schwab's execution.
Neal Dupree, the attorney who heads the South Florida state office that
handles appeals for death row inmates, said that even if a jury decides
Ault should be executed, his case will not be immediately impacted by
current attempts to fix the lethal injection process.
''They've got the direct appeal process,'' Dupree said. "The
post-conviction process, the federal appeals. Hopefully by then, the
department will have fixed it's protocols.
"The process before a governor would sign a warrant will take several
(source: Miami Herald)
Judge orders execution delayed
A Springfield man's execution for the 2002 murder of a Lynchburg couple is
on hold after a hearing in federal court in Roanoke.
U.S. District Court Judge Samuel Wilson yesterday issued a stay of
execution for Leon Jermain Winston and ordered him to appeal to the U.S.
Supreme Court within 90 days to challenge the conviction as
Winston had been scheduled for execution tomorrow at Greensville
Correctional Center for the capital murder of Anthony and Ronda Robinson.
Winston was 22 when police found the Robinsons shot to death at their
Sussex Street home.
They were killed April 19, 2002; police arrested Winston and Lynchburg
resident Kevin Eugene Brown, 22, less than a week later.
Ronda Robinson was 6 months pregnant when she was killed. The couple's 2
daughters -- ages 4 and 8 at the time -- were in the house when their
parents were murdered.
Virginia law says a person can be charged with capital murder if more than
1 person is killed during the same act, or if a murder is committed during
Brown was convicted of the 2nd-degree murder in the Robinsons' deaths and
sentenced to 43 years in prison.
(source: Richmond Times-DIspatch)
Convicted child killer bound for death row
Convicted child killer Brentt Sherwood expressed no remorse Monday morning
in Northumberland County Court in Sunbury, Pa., as he was sentenced to die
for beating his 4-year-old stepdaughter to death in December 2004.
The 28-year-old smiled at his mother and younger brother as he ambled into
Judge William H. Wiest's courtroom for the formal sentencing dressed in an
orange jail jumpsuit and shackles, but didnt show any other emotion during
the brief court appearance.
A jury imposed the death penalty in May after convicting Sherwood of
1st-degree murder, aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of
children for the brutal Dec. 7, 2004, beating of Marlee Rose Reed in their
Northumberland, Pa. home.
The 4-year-old died of her injuries the next day at Geisinger Medical
Center in Danville, Pa..
Judge Wiest handed down the sentence Monday, saying it was the 1st death
penalty case he's had in 10 years on the bench.
"I thought it would be a very difficult act, however after listening to
the testimony I have no qualms about imposing the jury's sentence," he
In addition to the death penalty, Judge Wiest meted out a 3 1/2- to 7-year
prison term, to be served consecutively, and $2,500 fine for the
endangering the welfare of children conviction.
The additional prison time could come into play if the murder charge or
sentence is overturned on appeal.
Like all death penalty cases, Sherwood's conviction will automatically be
appealed to the state Supreme Court.
"The sentence is preordained by the jury. My client has nothing to say,"
said defense attorney R. Bruce Manchester of Bellefonte as Sherwood stood
quietly at his side.
The convicted killer's silence did not come as a surprise to Marlee's
paternal grandparents, Melvin and Donna Reed, or District Attorney Anthony
"I wouldn't want to hear anything from his mouth," Mrs. Reed said. "You
didn't need words, you saw it on his face. He didn't feel anything at
Sherwood admitted at trial that he punched and kicked Marlee on 3 separate
occasions on Dec. 7, 2004, after she made a comment that hurt his
feelings. He testified in a matter-of-fact tone during the trial and the
penalty phase, claiming he was high on drugs and did not intend to harm
the child he was caring for while her mother, Heather Goodeliunas, was at
"He never shed a tear for this child. I don't think he had any feelings
for this child," Mr. Rosini said. "He never admitted he did anything
wrong. He was very cold in his testimony.
"I think he got what he deserved," he said.
Manchester said he advised Sherwood against speaking out at his sentencing
due to the upcoming appeals.
"This is the beginning of a very long process," he said.
Ms. Goodeliunas, who divorced Sherwood last year, pleaded guilty to
endangering the welfare of children in connection with her daughter's
beating death and was sentenced in July to 7 months probation.
At her former husband's homicide trial, Ms. Goodeliunas testified that
Sherwood had assaulted her daughter several times in the months before her
death but left her in his care because she had to go to work.
Sherwood will soon be moved from Northumberland County Prison in Sunbury
to State Correctional Institute at Camp Hill, Pa., before being sent to
serve out his sentence, most likely at SCI-Green in western Pennsylvania
where death row inmates are held.
(source: The Daily Item)
Prosecutors challenge order releasing inmate from death row
Taped telephone conversations show that Steelton serial killer Joseph D.
Miller has a sophisticated awareness of his case and is not a mentally
retarded inmate ineligible for execution, prosecutors said.
First Assistant District Attorney Fran Chardo produced tapes Monday of
conversations with his daughters in which Miller provided apt legal
analysis and said, in one call, "If they want me to be dumb, I'll be
Chardo and District Attorney Edward M. Marsico Jr. seek to get Dauphin
County Judge Jeannine Turgeon to reverse an order releasing Miller from
death row in July 2003, based on a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that
mentally retarded convicts could not be executed. Miller killed 4 women
before his capture in 1992.
A former neighbor on death row, Mark Spotz, testified that he helped
Miller write letters to his children and helped him with legal
correspondence because he could not understand communications from his
The defense, led by Billy H. Nolas of the Defender Association of
Philadelphia, also presented expert witnesses who said Miller was
presenting a facade of competency, not wanting to seem stupid. The
prosecution is expected to present experts when the hearing resumes
(source: Associated Press)
Death penalty does not deliver justice
About a year ago, I listened to a woman give a speech about how she became
an anti-death penalty activist. Her brother had been placed on death row
in Georgia more than 15 years ago for the death of a white police officer,
Mark MacPhail. During the trial, no physical evidence was presented and
the nine eyewitness accounts were shaky. Her brother, Troy Anthony Davis,
was scheduled to be executed July 17.
In the years since her brother's trial, Martina Correia, along with her
family, has mounted a formidable campaign to prove Troy's innocence. They
have collected letters of support from a number of famous people,
including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Jesse Jackson Jr. They also have
drawn the attention of organizations such as Amnesty International, which
investigated Troy's case thoroughly and issued a 35-page report on it in
However, this is not all. Following the trial, 7 of the nine eyewitnesses
have recanted or contradicted their testimonies in sworn affidavits. Of
the 2 who have not recanted, one is alleged to be the real murderer. Some
of those who recanted have claimed that they were coerced or pressured by
the police into testifying that Troy was the one who committed the murder.
Some of the witnesses have even apologized personally to Troy for the
false testimony they gave.
This would seem like enough to cast a serious doubt on whether Troy
committed the crime and should, one would think, stop the execution
immediately. However, a law passed after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing
rendered the new testimony inadmissible. The law was supposed to put an
end to "frivolous appeals of death sentences," according to Sen. Orrin
Hatch, R-Utah, one of the bill's sponsors. As a result, Troy has remained
on death row.
On July 16, one day before he was to be executed, the state granted Troy a
90-day stay of execution in a last-minute hearing. A number of leaders
from the black community and the human rights movement turned out to show
support. And, for the time being, Troy is still alive but still on death
I realize that to many people the death penalty does not seem that bad.
People who do bad things are executed, that is it. But, if one actually
follows the executions that happen in this country and in this state, as I
do, one sees a justice system that looks flawed and clumsy and run by
politicians for their own purposes. It should not take Amnesty
International, Jesse Jackson and Desmond Tutu to get someone a fair trial.
Unfortunately, those are the realities of the justice system in this
country, especially if one is poor, black or both.
In Ohio, Christopher Newton was recently executed for killing a cellmate
because of a chess game. He had been in prison for a robbery and committed
the murder with the hope that he would get the death penalty. His
execution took more than 90 minutes as the executioners searched for a
vein in which to place the IV for the lethal injection. They apparently
had to let him up at one point in order to give him a bathroom break. This
is what the death penalty really looks like. It is a barbaric process that
is undergone not to deliver justice but to appease political forces who
from time to time want to see someone die. I challenge anyone to pay
attention to the trials of those killed in the name of justice and be
convinced that that is what we are really doing.
(source: Bo Chamberlin is a senior in economics and math; The (Ohio State
Shelby County's former district attorney has joined a chorus of Alabama
voices calling for at least a temporary halt to the death penalty. Good.
Billy Hill has seen Alabama's criminal justice system from both sides of
the aisle - as a prosecuting attorney and as a defense attorney. So when
he says the state needs to take a breather on the death penalty,
Alabamians and their elected leaders should listen particularly closely.
Not because Hill raises new reasons to object to Alabama's use of the
death penalty. Hill's concerns echo what's been said over and over by
people who oppose capital punishment and especially the way it is imposed
But Hill's reservations about the death penalty - which he expressed
publicly one day after the execution of someone he'd sent to death row -
are grounded in a breadth of experience most of us simply don't have.
Based on his experience, Hill said he would welcome a moratorium on the
death penalty. He also said he questions whether the use of it "is a wise
and humane use of our resources."
For one thing, Alabama allows the death penalty in more circumstances than
most other states, and some of the criteria are based on silly
distinctions that have no apparent basis in justice.
"Do you realize that if 2 people are arguing on a street corner and one of
them pulls a gun and kills the other one, that is simple murder?" Hill
asks. "But, take the same scenario and put one of them in a car, and it
becomes a capital case."
Among Hill's other concerns: So many of those charged with violent
offenses were victims of child abuse, have some kind of neurological
damage or have drug or alcohol problems - factors he said need to be, but
seldom are, fully explored and tested before decisions are made about
imposing a death sentence.
Now the public defender in Shelby County, Hill also has seen problems with
the quality of legal defense afforded to poor people charged with capital
crimes. This is a problem with frightening implications, one that raises
the prospect of innocent people being sent to death row.
(Not that Hill believes Darrell Grayson, who he prosecuted and who was
executed last week, falls into that category. Hill is convinced Grayson
But Hill acknowledges the United States is in mighty sad company in
continuing to embrace capital punishment. And are we safer as a result?
Hill notes the alternative to a death sentence here is not a
"A lot of people do not realize that in Alabama, life without parole means
you are not leaving prison except with your toes turned up," he said.
Important points, all, and hardly revolutionary.
Already, an effort to build support for a moratorium on the death penalty
in Alabama has garnered 826 signatures - from businesses, organizations,
individuals, churches, and 42 cities and counties across the state, said
Esther Brown, the coordinator for Project Hope to Abolish the Death
But so far, the Legislature has refused year after year to call even a
temporary halt to executions so that we can make sure the death penalty is
fair and as foolproof as is humanly possible.
Legislators have listened to no one else. They should listen to Hill.
(source: Opinion, Birmingham News)
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