[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----TEXAS, CONN., TENN., S.C., VA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Nov 8 21:29:14 CST 2007
Death penalty widow sues judge-----Lawsuit claims appeals court's Keller
violated rights with 5 p.m. closing time.
The widow of Michael Richard, a convicted murderer executed by Texas 6
weeks ago, has sued the Texas judge who prevented his appeal from being
considered in state court.
The lawsuit by Marsha Richard, filed Wednesday in Houston federal court,
claims Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller exceeded
her authority when she refused to accept the appeal after the court's
normal closing time of 5 p.m. Michael Richard's lawyers had asked for
Keller's decision violated Richard's right to court access and led to his
unlawful execution that night, said Randall Kallinen, Marsha Richard's
Keller had no comment on the lawsuit, her office said.
To succeed, Marsha Richard's lawsuit will have to overcome the presumption
that judges may not be sued for actions related to their duties.
"This one's simple," said Scot Powe Jr., a leading constitutional scholar
and professor at the University of Texas School of Law. "This suit will be
dismissed on immunity grounds."
But James Alfini, president and dean of the South Texas College of Law in
Houston, said the lawsuit raises interesting questions about the limits of
immunity afforded to Keller.
Judicial immunity does not normally apply when a judge is performing
administrative functions, said Alfini, co-author of "Judicial Conduct and
"So the question becomes, when she performed that act, was she performing
it in her judicial capacity or in her administrative capacity as chief
judge?" Alfini said.
"I can see arguments on both sides that she was acting in her judicial
capacity, because apparently what she did, did affect the outcome of a
case," Alfini said. "On the other hand, it was not an adjudicative
function in the normal sense of the word. She was not making a judicial
decision ... on the merits of the case."
(source: Austin American-Statesman)
Prosecutors seek death for man charged with killing former Danbury couple
Florida prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for a man accused of
killing 2 former Danbury residents in 1991.
Paul and Rita Stasny were murdered in their Port Charlotte, Fla., home
just before Christmas.
The homicides went unsolved until March, when a Florida law enforcement
task force announced an indictment charging Jeremy Sly, 37, with the
Florida prosecutors filed notice Tuesday saying the death penalty would be
"I would like to see the case move forward. He admitted to being involved
in that crime," said Melanie Bonjour, the Stasny's daughter. "First and
foremost, I want to see that there is a conviction."
Sly's trial is scheduled to start in December.
(source: The News-Times)
Insanity Issue Eyed In First Local Federal Death Penalty Case
The defense in the first local federal death penalty case may bring up
Attorneys for Rejon Taylor filed a motion "that defendant may introduce
evidence respecting his mental health."
It says the defense may introduce evidence that Taylor, an Atlanta youth
charged in the murder of Atlanta restaurant operator Guy Luck at
Collegedale, suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.
The defense "may also produce evidence concerning frontal lobe development
and its impact upon the defendant."
Defense attorneys said an expert witness will testify about Taylor's
"psychological status relative of the commission of the alleged offense."
In response, federal prosecutors said they want their own court-ordered
psychiatric examination of Taylor "to determine whether or not he was
insane at the time of the alleged offenses."
Defense attorneys said their expert "will not testify that Mr. Taylor is
incompetent to stand trial, is mentally retarded or meets the legal test
of insanity," but he will testify "regarding Mr. Taylor's school records,
medical records, criminal history and the charges presently pending
against him, as well as other records."
Taylor is set to go to trial next year.
2 co-defendants, Sir Jack Matthews and Joey Marshall, have entered guilty
pleas and may testify against him.
Defense attorneys are Bill Ortwein, Lee Ortwein, Howell Clements and
Prosecutors are Chris Poole and Steve Neff.
(source: The Chattanoogan)
Defendant acts as own attorney in death penalty trial
A Lexington County man on trial for killing 2 people is acting as his own
attorney as he tries to avoid going to death row for a 2nd time.
Norman Starnes said he decided to represent himself after the state
Supreme Court 7 years ago overturned his murder convictions and death
sentence for the shootings of 2 men in his Pelion home in January 1996.
"I believe that I know this case better than any lawyer can present,"
Starnes told jurors during his opening statement Wednesday afternoon.
Starnes said he killed Bill Welborn and Jarrod Champlin in self-defense.
He has 2 experienced death penalty defense attorneys in the courtroom with
him, along with his own paralegal, private investigator, and secure phone
line at the county jail.
Prosecutors said Starnes planned the killings, burying the victims under
concrete on his uncle's farm. While the men were missing for 5 months,
Starnes hung posters with their pictures in his Pelion restaurant,
At his 1st trial, Starnes' girlfriend testified he beat the bodies with a
pistol and urinated on them after they died. She is expected to testify
(source: Associated Press)
Virginia's lone condemned woman can pursue federal appeal
The only woman on Virginia's death row has been granted a stay of
execution to allow time for her lawyers to pursue federal appeals.
Today's ruling in the case of Teresa Lewis was expected after a circuit
court on Monday scheduled her execution for November 15th.
Lewis pleaded guilty in 2002 to hiring 2 men to kill her husband and
stepson in Pittsylvania County. She became the 1st woman on Virginia's
death row since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. No woman has
been executed in Virginia since 1912.
James Rocap the Third of Washington is Lewis' attorney. He says he's
pleased by the ruling and looks forward to arguing in federal court that
"what happened to her was wrong and unfair and should not be subjected to
the death penalty."
He said he will file a petition in federal court on February 5th.
(source: Associated Press)
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