[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, N. MEX., GA., MO., USA, FLA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Jun 6 22:14:45 CDT 2007
Ex-Harris deputy executed for killing woman
As members of his victim's family watched dry-eyed, former Harris County
Sheriff's deputy Mike Griffith was executed today, breathing a barely
audible final plea: "Please take my spirit to the lord."
Griffith, condemned for the 1994 rape-robbery-murder of Houston flower
shop owner Deborah McCormick, issued no formal final statement.
As he waited for the deadly drugs to flow, he twice turned his head to the
room occupied by his selected witnesses, his daughter, his ex-wife and
spiritual adviser and smiled faintly.
The drugs were administered at 6:09 p.m. Griffith, 56, was declared dead 9
As Griffith lay unconscious on the death chamber gurney, his spiritual
adviser Ron Cloutier assured his daughter, Michelle Clark, and his
ex-wife, Cheryl Stanley, that their presence had meant a lot to the
After the execution, McCormick's daughter, Dawn Kirkland, issued a
prepared statement on behalf of her family.
"Our family lost much more than a beautiful daughter, mother, sister and
friend on Oct. 10, 1994," she wrote. "We lost the glue that held our
family together. In the many years since, our family has renewed itself
with new grandchildren and new family and friends. However, we will never
be the same.
"The heavenly light that was our Debbie was taken from this earth way too
Kirkland said her family will pray for Griffith's relatives. "May God
bless and comfort you," she wrote. "As hard as this is for our family to
live through, we can only imagine the heartache this causes them as well."
For the killer, though, she had harsher words: "Michael Griffith will meet
his judgment today and not only here on earth."
Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said
authorities believe but could not confirm that Griffith was the only
former law enforcement officer executed in the state.
As Griffith, his appeals exhausted, awaited execution, law enforcement
officers in two states lamented his slide into deadly violence. Griffith,
a Los Angeles native, had served as a Harris County deputy sheriff more
than a decade before he lost his job because of violence to women in 1993.
Bay County, Fla., Sheriff Frank McKeithen worked with Griffith in the
1970s and remembered him as "a good officer."
"Everybody liked him," McKeithen said, adding that Griffith on one
occasion was named the department's officer of the year. "It just came as
a total shock when I read what had happened.
Griffith joined the Harris County Sheriff's Department in 1981, and rose
to the rank of sergeant. Several of his former colleagues testified on his
behalf during the punishment phase of his trial, telling jurors that
Griffith had been a dedicated, compassionate officer.
Female witnesses, including 2 ex-wives, testified of frequent rages in
which he beat them, pointed pistols at their heads and threatened to kill
Griffith's violent behavior reached its nadir on Columbus Day 1994 when,
strung out on alcohol and Demerol, he robbed the Always and Forever Flower
Shop and Wedding Chapel at 3500 Mangum.
Griffith forced McCormick into a back room where he sexually assaulted her
and stabbed her 8 times. Griffith, testimony at his trial revealed, had
previously purchased flowers at McCormick's shop.
Days later, Griffith robbed a savings and loan, shooting a teller twice in
the head, and robbed a 2nd flower shop, where he again sexually assaulted
Griffith becomes the 15th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
the state and the 394th overall since Texas resumed capital punishment on
Dece,ber 7, 1982. Griffith becomes the 155th condemned inmate to be put to
death since Rick Perry became Governor of Texas in 2001.
Griffith becomes the 22nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
the USA and the 1079th overall since the nation resumed executions on
January 17, 1977.
(sources: Houston Chronicle & Rick Halperin)
Death penalty sought over Dallas killing/surveillance video
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against a man charged in a
Dallas slaying in which security video helped lead to his arrest.
25-year-old Jose Heriberto Castro was indicted February 9th on a capital
Castro remains in custody over the December attack that killed a
51-year-old Garland woman.
Police say Karen Lafon was shot while leaving her office building.
Security video showed a man -- believed to be the suspect -- had spent
several minutes in the high-rise building riding different elevators.
Police believe the gunman was looking for someone to rob and targeted
Lafon as she left the building.
A tip to police -- after the building security video was released -- led
to the arrest of Castro.
(source: Associated Press)
NEW MEXICO----federal death penalty to be sought
Prosecutors seek death penalty in case of Texas teen death
Federal prosecutors announced Wednesday they intend to seek the death
penalty against one of three men charged in the kidnapping of a San
Antonio, Texas teen who was later stabbed to death in Doa Ana County.
"The government is going to seek the death penalty against Larry Lujan
only," Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Armijo told U.S. District Judge
Robert Brack during a hearing in federal court.
Lujan, 28, is under indictment for the March 2005 death of Dana Joseph
Grauke, who was abducted in San Antonio and transported to Anthony, N.M.
where his body was found in an irrigation canal.
Lujan also has pending charges in New Mexico for a double murder in
Chamberino in 1998.
Lujan's alleged conspirators in the Grauke case, Kacey Lamunyon and
Eugenio Medina, both 21, could have also faced the death penalty.
Lamunyon and Medina face kidnapping and other charges, but have not been
charged with murder. They could have faced the death penalty because they
allegedly took part in the kidnapping knowing that Lujan would likely kill
No trial date has been set.
All 3 defendants have pleaded not guilty and were present for the hearing.
None, including Lujan wearing shackles and a green prisoner's jumpsuit
from the Doa Ana County Detention Center had a noticeable reaction to the
"I think it's a mistake," said Federal Public Defender Marc Robert, an
attorney for Lujan. "It's unfortunate, but it's the Department of
Justice's decision to make."
In federal cases, a potential death penalty case goes through several
channels in the U.S. Department of Justice before the U.S. Attorney
General signs off on seeking the penalty.
If convicted, Lujan could be sentenced to die by lethal injection. There
are 49 federal prisoners on death row, according to the latest figures
from the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Armijo could not speak to why Lamunyon and Medina were spared the
possibility of the death penalty. She also declined to say if Grauke's
family favored the punishment.
"I can't really speak on their behalf," Armijo said.
A telephone listing for Grauke's mother in the San Antonio area could not
Grauke, 16, was last seen in San Antonio by his mother on March 7, 2005.
According to court records, Lujan along with Lamunyon and Medina abducted
Grauke and transported him to New Mexico during which time Grauke made
repeated, increasingly nervous phone calls to his mother asking for money
if she wished to see him again.
Once in New Mexico, Lujan, Lamunyon and Medina attended a party in Anthony
while Grauke lay bound and gagged in the back of their vehicle. At one
point, Lujan allegedly told others at the party that he "was going to take
care of the problem," and left, taking with him a meat cleaver.
Grauke was found on March 20, 2005. He had been beaten and his throat was
slashed to the point where he was almost decapitated.
According to the federal indictment against Lujan, Lamunyon and Medina,
Grauke was abducted because he allegedly failed to pay a $600 as a fee for
dealing drugs in an area of San Antonio claimed by Lujan.
Lujan is also under indictment in New Mexico on state chargers of
1st-degree murder for the Dec. 9, 1998 deaths of Juana Olmeda, 45, and
Alfredo Gonzalez, 47, both of Chamberino.
The couple was found dead in their home with their bodies repeatedly
slashed and lying in a pool of blood. The home had also been set on fire.
Lujan's alleged conspirator in the slayings, 29-year-old Pablo Renteria of
El Paso, is charged with arson, conspiracy, bribery or intimidation of a
witness and 2 counts of tampering with evidence.
It was during the probe into Grauke's murder that Doa Ana Sheriff's
investigators learned of new information that they say linked Lujan and
Renteria to the slayings. The 2 were indicted by a Doa Ana County grand
jury in Oct. 2006.
Doa Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez said the federal
government's decision would have no bearing on the state's case, which is
scheduled for trial Aug. 9.
Martinez said a death penalty in the Chamberino case is not an option.
"In the state of New Mexico, it's a life sentence that is the maximum
sentence that he can be sentenced for," she said.
(source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Death row inmate dies in cell
Georgia death row inmate Johnny Lamar Wade died in his cell Tuesday
morning, state prison officials said.
Wade, 51, was sentenced to death in 1987 for beating and strangling to
death a 13-year-old boy in Newton County.
Wade was on parole at the time of the murder.
Wade had throat cancer and died of natural causes, according to Georgia
Department of Corrections spokesman Paul Czachowski.
Georgia now has 104 men on death row at the state prison in Jackson and
one woman on death row at the state prison in southeast Atlanta.
(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
New death row ruling falls short of killing debate ---- Appeal likely as
state plans for executions.
For nearly 2 years, Missouri's execution chamber at Bonne Terre has sat
quiet. Now that a federal appeals court has lifted a moratorium on
executions in the state, that might soon change.
Longtime residents-----Here are the 10 Missouri inmates who have been
awaiting execution the longest:
Elroy Preston, 52, on death row since July 2, 1982, for killing a St.
William Boliek, 51, on death row since Dec. 12, 1984, for killing a woman
in Oregon County.
Charles Mathenia, 48, on death row since Jan. 9, 1985, for killing 2
Roosevelt Pollard, 43, on death row since Jan. 27, 1986, for killing a
man at a highway rest area near Steele.
Steven Parkus, 46, on death row since March 20, 1987, for killing a
Roderick Nunley, 42, on death row since May 14, 1991, for killing a
15-year-old Kansas City girl.
Michael Taylor, 40, on death row since May 14, 1991, and convicted and
sentenced in the same case as Nunley.
Walter Storey, 40, on death row since Nov. 26, 1991, for killing a woman
in a neighboring apartment.
Brian Kinder, 47, on death row since July 17, 1992, for beating a woman
to death in her home.
Jeffrey Ferguson, 52, on death row since Dec. 8, 1995, for killing a
female service station attendant in St. Charles.
What was less certain yesterday was how the decision will affect the 36
other states that use lethal injection. Those who follow the death penalty
offered mixed assessments on the effect of the Missouri ruling.
Missouri officials appear eager to restart the execution process in the
wake of Monday's ruling by a 3-judge panel of the Eighth U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals that the state's 3-drug procedure is not cruel and
Gov. Matt Blunt said he was directing the Department of Corrections "to
prepare execution procedures in compliance with the ruling." Meanwhile,
Attorney General Jay Nixon, responsible for asking the state Supreme Court
to set execution dates, was moving quickly.
"This office will be moving forward to facilitate the process in a timely
manner now that this legal roadblock has been cleared and will be
determining which inmates' cases have progressed to the point where an
execution date can be requested," said John Fougere, a spokesman for
High on that list will likely be Michael Taylor, who kidnapped a teenage
girl from a Kansas City school bus stop in 1989 and killed her. His case
prompted U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. last year to place a
moratorium on Missouri executions, citing concerns the procedure could
cause undue suffering for the inmate.
The Eighth Circuit reversed Gaitans ruling. Judge David Hansen wrote there
was not "one scintilla of evidence" of suffering among any of Missouri's 6
most recently executed inmates.
Taylor's attorney, Ginger Anders, said she will ask the full Eighth
Circuit to review the case and go to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.
The appeals panel's ruling focused solely on the protocol, not the
performance of duties in executing inmates, Anders noted.
Injection has been the preferred method since the death penalty was
renewed in the United States in the 1970s and has been used in more than
900 executions nationwide. Of the 38 states that have the death penalty,
only Nebraska uses another method - electrocution.
The lethal injection debate centers on how three drugs are administered in
succession. If the initial anesthetic does not take hold, a 3rd drug that
stops a condemned prisoners heart can cause excruciating pain, it has been
argued. But the inmate would not be able to communicate the pain because
of a second drug that paralyzes him.
Missouri was 1 of 9 states that had placed executions on hold while courts
weighed the merits of the 3-drug protocol.
In California, a federal judge ruled in December that the states lethal
injection procedures were cruel and unusual punishment. A moratorium began
there in February 2006, with more than 650 people awaiting execution.
In Ohio, death penalty opponents last month sought a halt to executions
after prison staff stuck Christopher Newton at least 10 times with needles
to find a suitable vein on the condemned mans arm.
In Florida, Gov. Jeb Bush halted executions in December after the lethal
injection of Angel Nieves Diaz took 34 minutes and required a rare second
dose of chemicals.
Sara Tofte of Human Rights Watch called Mondays ruling "incredibly
"It certainly will send a message to some states that they can go ahead
and execute inmates," Tofte said.
But Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information
Center in Washington, doubted the ruling would open the floodgates in
other states. "In each of these states, there are special things that make
each one a little different," Dieter said. "I think the issue is going to
go up to the Supreme Court."
The last execution in Missouri occurred on Oct. 26, 2005, when convicted
killer Marlin Gray was put to death. He was the 67th man executed since
Missouri renewed the death penalty in 1989.
Both Taylor and his accomplice in the killing of 15-year-old Ann Harrison,
Roderick Nunley, have been on death row 16 years. 5 inmates have been
awaiting execution for more than 20 years. The longest-serving of the 46
prisoners, all men, is Elroy Preston, on death row since 1982 for killing
a St. Louis couple.
Beth Riggert, a spokeswoman for the state Supreme Court, said it was
impossible to predict when the next execution could occur.
Corrections department spokes-man Brian Hauswirth said the execution
procedure has been revised. The biggest change is the removal of Jefferson
City surgeon Alan Doerhoff, the dyslexic doctor who previously oversaw
administration of the lethal chemicals.
The state has been unable to find another doctor willing to participate.
Hauswirth would say only that the corrections department "will have
appropriate medical personnel."
(source: Associated Press)
4 liberal justices often side with condemned but do not seek end of death
penalty in U.S.
No one on the U.S. Supreme Court publicly opposes the death penalty, but 4
justices often side with death row inmates who are fighting to avoid
Although they constitute a minority on the 9-justice court, Justices
Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and John Paul Stevens
win as often as they lose.
Cases involving 8 death row inmates have come before the court this term.
4 prisoners have won and 4 have lost. The most recent case was a 5-4
decision Monday to reinstate the death penalty in a rape and murder near
In that case and the 7 others, Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter and Stevens sided
with the prisoner. In 4 cases, Justice Anthony Kennedy provided a 5th vote
and, thus, a majority. In 1 of those 4, which the court dismissed without
deciding, Chief Justice John Roberts joined as well, leaving in place an
appeals court ruling that set aside a death sentence.
The court has been implacably split on this issue, as on others. Roberts
typically has been aligned with Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and
Clarence Thomas, opting to defer to the state courts that imposed and
upheld death sentences.
According to statistics from Amnesty International, the United States is
alone among Western developed countries that still executes criminals as a
common punishment. It is among 69 countries that do so.
None of the liberals has gone so far as the late Justices Thurgood
Marshall and William Brennan, who called capital punishment
unconstitutional, or Harry Blackmun, who said late in his tenure he never
again would vote for death.
Indeed, Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter and Stevens routinely deny death row
appeals. That includes one on Monday from a prisoner in Kentucky who was
represented by a lawyer who did not know the prisoner's real name.
But the 4 justices, when joined by Kennedy and, on occasion, now-retired
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, have been at the core of important rulings
limiting the application of the death penalty. "In the late '80s and early
'90s, you were a rare defendant who won a death penalty case at the
Supreme Court," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the
anti-capital punishment Death Penalty Information Center. "Now there's a
fair chance that if you can get Justice Kennedy, you'll win." Kent
Scheidegger, legal director of the pro-death penalty Criminal Justice
Legal Foundation, said Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter and Stevens typically
"take an expansive view of the constitutional limitations and are more
prone to accept borderline arguments.
2 years ago, Kennedy wrote the 5-4 decision outlawing the execution of
juveniles. In 2002, Stevens wrote a 6-3 opinion that barred execution of
the mentally retarded. Kennedy and O'Connor joined their 4 liberal
colleagues in that case.
Both decisions focused on a national consensus that the majority said had
formed against those types of executions.
Justice Antonin Scalia disputed the existence of such a consensus in his
dissents in both cases. He noted that fewer than half the states that
allow executions prohibited them for either juveniles or the mentally
retarded. Words have no meaning if the views of less than 50 % of death
penalty states can constitute a national consensus, Scalia said in 2005.
On the other hand, 30 states at the time of those opinions either had no
death penalty or barred the execution of both juveniles and the mentally
The group of 30 states could have satisfied the justices that they were
not getting too far ahead of public opinion in those decisions, Dieter
In 1972, the Supreme Court struck down every state's death penalty law.
Some justices believed then this decision effectively would end capital
Instead, many states wrote new laws and four years later, the court
reinstated the death penalty, a decision in which Stevens joined.
There have been 1,078 executions in the past 30 years, although the 53
carried out last year marked a 10-year low. At the start of 2007, 3,350
prisoners were on death rows across the United States, according to the
NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Polls continue to find that more than two-thirds of people in the U.S.
favor the death penalty for murderers. Yet at the same time, a recent
AP/Ipsos poll that asked what method of punishment people prefer for
murderers found that 52 % said death and 46 % said life in prison or a
long prison sentence.
Questions about the administration of lethal injections, doubts about the
competence of some court-appointed defense lawyers and the rise in the
number of exonerations through DNA evidence of people already convicted of
crimes have contributed to a drop in confidence in the criminal justice
system, said Robert Weisberg, a Stanford University law professor who has
represented death row inmates.
Several cases that have made it to the high court have revolved around the
issue of a defendant's lawyer.
"Even if this foursome is not inclined to say anything categorical about
the constitutionality of the death penalty, they are very dismayed by the
quality of representation in death cases," Weisberg said.
In a dissent from a decision last month denying Jeffrey Landrigan a new
hearing to challenge his death sentence in Arizona, Stevens wrote, No one,
not even this court, seriously contends that counsel's investigation of
possible mitigating evidence was constitutionally sufficient.
The justices also have sparred with state and federal judges in Texas over
what courts must do to be fair to defendants facing death sentences. The
court has overturned three sentences from Texas this term.
Since the death penalty was reinstated, Texas has executed 393 people,
more than 4 times as many as the next state, Virginia.
The court's division over the death penalty is captured by the stark
differences between the capital cases it takes from Texas and from the 9th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which encompasses California and 8 other
states in the West.
3 times this term, a 5-justice majority reversed rulings of the San
Francisco-based appeals court, saying it went too far in favor of people
sentenced to death.
On the Net: Amnesty International Death Penalty site:
Gay Man Faces Florida Death Sentence
A gay Fort Lauderdale man who officials say once had an Internet profile
listing a hobby of "hunting cops" could become the 1st person in Florida
to be handed the death sentence since 1998 when it was reactivated by
Kenneth Wilk, 45, was found guilty of 1st-degree murder in the killing of
a Broward Sheriff's deputy during a search for child pornography at his
home in 2004.
Wilk also was found guilty of attempted murder in the wounding of a 2nd
deputy and of child pornography and obstruction of justice charges.
During his trial prosecutors said that when officers broke down the front
door, Wilk fired a rifle shot at Deputy Todd Fatta that penetrated his
protective vest, and he kept firing at Sgt. Angelo Cedeno through a wall
while the sergeant took cover. Cedeno was wounded in the shoulder and lost
Wilk's attorney, Bill Matthewman, argued that his client was suffering
from AIDS-related dementia at the time of the killing. Matthewman said his
medical condition raised reasonable doubt.
Testifying on his own behalf Wilk told the jury that he thought the
deputies were intruders.
But prosecutor John Kastrenakes pointed to the Web profile Wilk had posted
and said that Wilk shot the deputies for no other reason than they were
law enforcement officers.
Kastrenakes said that Wilk knew his home was likely to be raided for child
pornography and had been stockpiling arms in anticipation of a police
The sentencing phase of the trial will begin Thursday.
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