[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----TENN., CALIF., ARIZ., KY.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Nov 30 00:27:17 CST 2007
Jury at death row retrial weigh missing records vs. confession"
Jurors at the retrial of a man who spent 15 years on death row for fatally
shooting a pharmacist in 1985 have to weigh fading memories and missing
police records against a recording of him saying he blew her brains out.
Michael Lee McCormick, 55, was awarded a new trial, based on inadequate
defense, after he spent 15 years on Tennessee's death row for the
Valentine's Day shooting death of an acquaintance, Donna Jean Nichols, 23.
The retrial is expected to continue into next week.
McCormick's attorneys Thursday questioned Charles Dudley, a
now-retired...... investigator, about the decision to charge McCormick
instead of other suspects.
Responding to Karla Gothard, a public defender, Dudley repeatedly said he
could not recall specifics about the investigation, which he said involved
several men who were considered suspects. Dudley also said he could no
longer locate the original investigation report tapes.
"I lost control of them after the trial," Dudley said. "It's my fault."
Prosecutors have said the slaying was intended to keep the Revco Drugs
pharmacist from going to police about McCormick committing a robbery with
her brother and having stolen property at her grandmother's house.
Nichols' body was found about 2 a.m. in a parking lot at a shopping mall.
She had been shot in the head and in the hand. Blood and hair were found
in her car parked near a nightclub.
An investigation report show Nichols was fully clothed. An inventory of
her belongings shows she was wearing panties, which Dudley said could not
be accounted for later. Dudley also said that because Nichols was fully
clothed there was never a rape examination.
"A lot of stuff in their case is missing," defense attorney Mike
Richardson said during a break in the second day of testimony. "It just
complicates the retrial."
McCormick, who worked as an audio technician at a Dalton, Ga., college,
contends he was at home when the murder took place. He was questioned and
released, but investigators continued to consider him a suspect. 2 years
later, an undercover police officer secretly recorded McCormick saying he
had murdered Nichols.
The government has a tape of McCormick telling an investigator he "blew
her brains out," Richardson said. Richardson described McCormick as a
braggart and said he lied about his bravado, including service in the
"We say he was a habitual liar," Richardson said.
A jury sentenced McCormick to death in 1988. The state Court of Criminal
Appeals granted him a new trial in 1997 based on ineffective assistance of
counsel. DNA test results in 2001 showed that a hair used to place him at
the scene of the killing could not be his.
Because McCormick's former attorney, Rodney Strong, now works as a
Hamilton County prosecutor, J. Michael Taylor, the district attorney for
the 12th Judicial District, is handling the state's case at the retrial.
Special Judge Jon K. Blackwood is presiding.
Taylor said not having some of the original investigative records was not
a problem for him.
The appeals court questioned the "casual, perhaps manipulative" nature of
the confession and noted McCormick's well-documented propensity to lie.
To gain McCormick's confidence, an undercover officer, Eddie Cooper, set
up several phony car thefts and then proposed they work together on a fake
murder contract in Knoxville.
Cooper pressed McCormick on the Nichols murder, saying as a matter of
trust he had to know the truth. McCormick initially denied any involvement
in the murder but eventually said he knew who the killer was. Then,
suddenly he blurted out his confession.
A forensic psychiatrist previously testified that McCormick suffered from
a dependence on alcohol and records show the undercover officer posed as
another parolee, bought McCormick meals and alcohol, paid him for
purported stolen car transactions and discussed splitting $20,000 for a
possible contract killing.
Appeals Judge David Welles wrote in the decision that "deceit and
manipulation are, however, the hallmarks of an undercover operation. While
perhaps distasteful, we do not agree with the trial court that the police
conduct in this case amounted to coercion sufficient to overbear the
(source: Associated Press)
High court: Death sentence for triple murderer upheld
The California Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the death sentence for a
San Bernardino man convicted of killing 3 children in 1996.
Martin Mendoza was sentenced to death for the murders of the children,
which included 2 of his stepchildren, and attempted murders of 4 other
people, including 2 sheriff's deputies.
His automatic appeal to the state Supreme Court was affirmed unanimously.
(source: Associated Press)
Judge won't overturn 1994 death sentence
A federal judge has refused to overturn the convictions and death sentence
of a Benson man who was sentenced to death twice for the brutal 1989
slaying of a Tucson woman.
U.S. District Judge David C. Bury ruled earlier this month that while the
attorney for David Scott Detrich, 48, could have done a better job of
presenting evidence supporting a life sentence, the trial judge wasn't
unduly influenced in sentencing him to death.
Detrich's appellate attorney, Greg Kuykendall, said that after he asks
Bury to reconsider his decision, the case will likely go to the 9th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals.
Detrich was first sentenced to death in 1990 for the Nov. 4, 1989, death
of Elizabeth Souter, 38, whose body was found in the desert west of
Tucson. A new trial was ordered on appeal and Detrich was again sentenced
to death in 1994.
At the second sentencing, Detrich's attorney presented a report that
touched on Detrich's dysfunctional childhood, including being raised by an
alcoholic father, Kuykendall said.
Kuykendall said he was surprised by Bury's ruling.
"I have confidence that David's rights will be vindicated on appeal and
ultimately prevail," Kuykendall said.
Detrich and a friend, Alan Charlton, had been drinking beer in Benson when
they decided to drive to Tucson, court records show. They picked up
Souter, who was hitchhiking, and went to her house to use cocaine.
Detrich accused Souter, who worked as a hotel housekeeper, of supplying
"bad drugs" and threatened to force her to have sex and kill her, court
Souter was forced at knifepoint to get back into Charlton's car, court
records show. Charlton testified he saw Detrich raping Souter, only later
noticing that Souter's throat was slit and her head nearly decapitated.
Souter was stabbed more than 40 times and her body dumped in the desert.
Charlton pleaded guilty to kidnapping and agreed to testify against
Detrich in exchange for a 1st-degree murder charge to be dropped.
Charlton, 50, was paroled in 1997.
(source: Tucson Citizen)
Death penalty being sought in murder case
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against 2 men charged in the May
18, 2006, shooting death of Earon Harper and wounding of her 2-year-old
daughter, Erica Hughes, at Harpers west Louisville home.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Jon Heck filed the death penalty notice
in Jefferson Circuit Court today against James Quisenberry and Kenneth
The decision to seek the death penalty was based on aggravating factors in
the killing, including robbery, according to court records.
Quisenberry and Williams both have pleaded not guilty to charges of
murder, attempted murder, robbery, tampering with physical evidence and
possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. They are scheduled to return
to court on January 30.
Judith Harper, Earon Harper's mother, said she supports the prosecutions
decision to seek the death penalty.
"Erica will have to pay for the rest of her life," Harper said. "So the
city needs to do what they need to do to make sure this doesnt happen to
any other children."
Quisenberry and Williams have admitted they went to Harper's home to get
drugs from her when she and her 2-year-old daughter were shot.
But both men blamed the other for the shootings.
Both Quisenberry and Williams are in Metro Corrections on $1 million cash
Erica, now 4, was shot in the head, with the bullet exiting through her
cheek, damaging her teeth and blinding her in her right eye. She also had
gunshot wounds in her shoulder and leg.
Police officers and firefighters, afraid to wait for an ambulance, scooped
the child up and raced her to the hospital in a cruiser a move credited
with saving her life.
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