[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., W. VA., N.C., TENN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Nov 28 01:05:15 CST 2007
Testimony in death penalty case begins
Jurors on Tuesday began hearing testimony in the death penalty case
against Antonio Lee Williams, accused in a killing spree in northwest
Houston last year.
Assistant District Attorney Lance Long opened the capital murder case
telling jurors that Williams fired about 30 rounds from a high-powered
assault rifle on Aug. 5, 2006, at Vincent Williams, 18, and his cousin,
Yolanda Styles, 22, killing both Katrina evacuees who had settled in
The 2 were in Houston to visit Styles' mother. She was in the courtroom
Williams also is implicated in the shootings of former New Orleans
residents Dion Barnes, 33, and Christopher Harris, 15.
In addition, police have said Williams is connected to the shooting death
of his friend, Terrell "T-Rock" Ball, 26, who was found Sept. 1, 2006, in
an apartment complex parking lot.
Williams' defense team reserved the right to opening statements until
after prosecutors close.
The trial, in state District Judge Caprice Cosper's court, is expected to
last about 2 weeks.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Suspect faces possible death penalty in deputy shooting
A man suspected of fatally shooting a Broward County sheriff's deputy who
was transporting him to a court appearance was indicted Tuesday on charges
that could bring the death penalty.
Michael Mazza, 40, was charged in the grand jury indictment with
first-degree murder, robbery, carjacking and escape, the latter three
charges enhanced because a firearm was involved. Mazza is being held
without bail and will likely be arraigned on the charges next month,
according to State Attorney Michael J. Satz.
Mazza is charged with killing Deputy Paul Rein, 76, with the officer's own
firearm on Nov. 7. Investigators say Mazza - already serving one life
prison term for a robbery conviction - overpowered Rein while being
transported to court for an appearance on another robbery charge.
Mazza had complained of a back problem, was in a wheelchair and was being
driven by Rein in a medical van. Investigators have said the medical issue
may have been a ruse Mazza attempted to use to escape.
Mazza was captured a few hours after the shooting at a pawn shop in
Hollywood with Rein's weapon in his possession.
Mazza's public defender, Bruce Raticoff, told the South Florida
Sun-Sentinel the indictment was expected.
Raticoff did not return a message left by The Associated Press.
(source: Associated Press)
WEST VIRGINIA----federal death penalty
Sentencing in Death Penalty Case Delayed
2 people facing the death penalty will have to wait to learn their fate.
George "Porgy" Lecco and Valerie Friend were convicted earlier this year
of killing drug informant Carla Collins.
Their sentencing is set for Wednesday, but Prosecutors asked the judge to
postpone it until they determine where the 2 will serve time.
The judge granted the delay, but both sides will be in court Wednesday to
argue the decision.
(source::WSAZ TV News)
Ex-Death Row Inmate Sentenced on Sex Charges
Alan Gell, the former death row inmate exonerated after prosecutors
withheld evidence in his trial, was sentenced Tuesday to five years in
prison on sex charges.
Gell, 33, pleaded guilty to 5 counts of indecent liberties with a child
and 1 count of sexual exploitation of a minor in connection with his
relationship with a 15-year-old girl. Gell and the girl are the parents of
a 16-month-old boy.
He spent 5 years on death row for the April 1995 slaying of retired truck
driver Allen Ray Jenkins. He was awarded a new trial in 2002 after it was
determined that prosecutors withheld evidence of his possible innocence
from defense attorneys during his trial. A jury acquitted him in 2004.
After he was freed, Gell became an outspoken supporter of a death penalty
moratorium and the need for justice system reform.
(source: WRAL News)
New Trial Begins For Former Death Row Inmate
Did Michael McCormick get a lucky break or is he a victim of a sloppy
His new trial on the charge of first degree premeditated murder began
Tuesday in Hamilton County Criminal Court with laywers from both sides
laying the foundation of their cases.
McCormick was orginally convicted on the murder charge back in 1987 and
sentenced to die for killing 23-year-old Donna Jean "Jeannie" Nichols.
But former Criminal Court Judge Doug Meyer threw out the conviction first
in 1999 saying McCormick's lawyers did a poor job, and that a taped
confession by an undercover officer was illegally obtained.
The Court of Appeals upheld the decision to throw out the conviction, but
in 2003 ruled the confession can be used again in another trial.
"Michael McCormick lost 20 years of his life, 20-plus years, for a crime
he did not commit," according to Karla Gothard of the Public Defender's
office who is one of several lawyers on McCormick's defense team.
"The police built a case based on lies, mistakes and deception," Gothard
argued during opening statements to the jury.
Gothard said investigators never followed leads or pursued interrogations
of several people who she said could have murdered Nichols. She also said
Chattanooga Police did not process several key pieces of evidence that
could have pointed to the killer.
But the special prosecutor, District Attorney General Mike Taylor from
Rhea County, said in opening statements "there won't be any fancy CSI
stuff, fingerprints, nothing connecting McCormick to the crime, and no
"What connects Micheal McCormick is so simple, it came out of his own
mouth," Taylor said.
Taylor said two years after the crime undercover officer Eddie Coooper
wore a wire on several occasions to try and get a confession from
McCormick. Testimony shows Cooper posed as a car thief and rented an
apartment with McCormick, and the 2 spent time together drinking and
bragging about crimes.
Testimony shows that on two occasions when Cooper tried to get McCormick
to confess, McCormick denied killing Nichols. But McCormick eventually
bragged about killing Nichols, and that was the key piece of evidence that
led to an origional conviction.
Taylor said the recording will show McCormick said "yes, I killed the
b----," and explained how he did it.
Testimony shows Jeannie Nichols was a recent graduate from the University
of Georgia in the school of pharmacology and began a career as a
pharmacist at 2 Chattanooga area K-Mart stores back in 1984.
On the night of February 13, 1985, she went out partying at nightclubs in
what was then known as the "Brainerd Strip," and was last seen by a
bouncer leaving the Brainerd Beach Club about 2:00 a.m. February 14 with a
well-dressed man who had a mustache and dark hair parted to the right
A person who lived nearby told police he heard two gunshots just after
2:00 a.m. that Valentines Day.
Shortly after that, Arlinza Mobley went to a pay phone to call Chattanooga
Police after he found the body of a young woman laying in a pool of blood
behind a Brainerd business. That turned out to the the body of Nichols,
who was shot in the head.
Testimony shows she was shot while inside her blue Plymouth Horizon and
her body dragged out of the passenger side of the car. Police found
several 9-millimeter shell casings and bullets nearby.
It took 2 years for detective Charles Dudley to make an arrest.
The only piece of evidence from the crime scene originally linked to
McCormick was a small piece of a hair, that an FBI expert then-testified
could belong to McCormick based on what he saw under a microscope.
But DNA testing of that hair fragment after McCormick was convicted, and
of debris under Nichols' fingernails that could have come from scratching
during a struggle with her killer, showed it was not McCormick's.
McCormick's defense team suggested that several other men could have been
the killer, including an ex-fiance and 2 other men who were seeing Nichols
in the weeks before her death. They also suggested Nichols could have been
with a man she met at the nightclub and tried to prevent a sexual attack
in her car before being shot.
Nichols knew of McCormick after he developed a friendship with her brother
Donald "Happy" Nichols. Testimony shows the 2 men liked to hang out and
smoke pot during a time Nichols worked at the Dalton State College
library. The 2 broke into the library during off-hours and took camera and
Prosector Taylor said McCormick's motive for killing Nichols was that he
feared she would tell police about the burglary.
Testimony resumes Wednesday in what could be a 2-week long trial.
Despite being released from death row, McCormick has been in jail because
he was arrested on a marijuana charge. That violated the terms of his
The jury, which was selected from a pool of 600 people in October, is
(source: WTVC News)
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