[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----OHIO, FLA., UTAH
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Oct 4 21:20:32 CDT 2007
Suspend executions until we reform Ohio's flawed death penalty system
Few better arguments exist for a temporary suspension of executions in
Ohio than the cases of Timothy Howard and Gary Lamar James.
They were co-defendants in the 1976 killing of a 74-year-old security
guard. Despite the weak case against them, Howard and James were sentenced
to death, a sentence that was commuted to life in 1978 when the courts
declared Ohio's then capital punishment law unconstitutional.
Had their sentences not been commuted, they likely would have been
executed before they could clear their names. Exoneration only came in
2003 when they were released from prison. They subsequently filed, and
won, wrongful incarceration suits which required them to prove their
innocence - a stronger test than simply proving there was no basis for
While James and Howard are two of the best known victims of wrongful
conviction, they are by no means alone. Since 1973, the State of Ohio has
exonerated five death-row inmates; and others with strong claims of
innocence remain on death row. Despite its errors, the State of Ohio has
failed to implement reforms that would make the conviction and death
sentence of an innocent person far less likely. Until that happens, Gov.
Strickland should halt any further executions.
This week, after a 30-month review, a team of Ohio legal experts, working
under the auspices of the American Bar Association (ABA) issued a report
showing Ohio's system is deeply flawed.
Our study found Ohio's death-penalty system is inadequate to protect
innocent and undeserving defendants from wrongful convictions and
sentences, or to provide adequate legal services to all capital defendants
and death-row inmates.
Additionally, Ohio's capital sentencing system appears to be rife with
racial and geographic disparities. For example, those who kill whites are
nearly four times more likely to receive a death sentence than those who
kill blacks, and a person charged with a capital crime in Hamilton County
(Cincinnati) is five times more likely to receive the death penalty than
someone convicted in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland).
The ABA neither supports nor opposes the death penalty. But we are asking
Gov. Strickland to temporarily suspend executions until fairness and due
process are assured in death-penalty cases.
Our report identifies needed protections.
Ohio should require all biological evidence be preserved in all
potentially capital cases for as long as the defendant remains
In all homicide cases, law enforcement agencies should be required to
videotape in-custody interrogations, or, where videotaping is impractical,
to audiotape the interrogation. Ohio should also adopt lineup procedures,
using national best practices, to protect against inaccurate eyewitness
We suggest Ohio create a new commission with the power to conduct
investigations, hold hearings, and test evidence, to review claims of
factual innocence in capital cases.
We suggest a state-sponsored comprehensive study to determine the
existence or non-existence of unacceptable disparities in the Ohio
death-penalty system and provide for ongoing study of these factors. Where
racial, geographic and other disparities exist, we must develop laws and
procedures to eliminate them.
These are only a few of the recommendations made in the ABA report. With
others, they represent substantial reform that may take time to debate,
design and implement. In the meantime, suspending executions in Ohio is
the right thing to do.
Some may be impatient with a suspension as it could delay punishment for
guilty individuals. That overlooks the ultimate question of which is more
important: swift justice for the guilty, or assurance that no innocent
person pays the ultimate price.
(source: Chillicothe Gazette; Phyllis Crocker is Professor of Law and
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law,
Cleveland State University and chairwoman of the American Bar Association
Ohio Death Penalty Assessment Team
'I'd rather be back on Death Row' says Richey
KENNY RICHEY has attacked the $10 million bail set for his release as
"ridiculous" and said he would rather be back on death row.
The 43-year-old, from Edinburgh, said he missed his friends on death row
and instead faced daily abuse from prisoners in the county jail in Ohio
where he is now being held.
He spoke out after a judge set his bail at $10 million (5 million) and
said he must be placed under 24-hour house arrest if he is released.
Richey faces a new trial over the death of Cynthia Collins, who died in
the 1986 apartment fire.
He needs to come up with 10 % of the bail amount, 1 million dollars
(500,000), in order to be freed.
In a phone call from Putnam County Jail, Richey told The Columbus
Dispatch: "I'd rather be back on death row now."
He went on: "In Mansfield [Correctional Institution], I had my friends.
Here, all I get is bloody threats from other inmates."
Richey told the newspaper the bail amount was "ridiculous".
He said: "Who did they think I was, Osama bin Laden?
"I've got a lot of supporters, but none that can come up with 10 million
Richey said he was determined to clear his name of the murder charge, no
matter how long it takes.
"This is a matter of honour," he said.
"I did not start that fire, and I'm going to prove that. I want my name
cleared. I won't settle for anything else."
He said he had turned down 2 deals offered in past years by prosecutors, 1
for a 10-year sentence and the 2nd for a transfer to a Scottish prison.
Richey said he has not seen his mother Eileen, who lives in Dalry,
Edinburgh, for many years.
"I talk to her weekly," he told the newspaper. "She wants her laddie
Richey came within an hour of being executed 13 years ago.
He was convicted of starting an apartment fire in 1986 which killedv
2-year-old Cynthia in Columbus Grove in north-west Ohio.
He was sentenced to execution, but after a long legal fight, a federal
appeals court threw out his conviction and death sentence in August.
Prosecutors plan to try Richey again on aggravated murder, aggravated
arson and child endangering charges.
No trial date has been set, but it is expected to take place early next
During the last trial, prosecutors said Richey started the blaze to get
even with his former girlfriend, who lived in the same apartment building
as the girl who died.
He was convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to die for allegedly
starting the fire that killed the toddler.
Richey's case has drawn support from MPs and the late Pope John Paul II.
(source: Edinburgh Evening News)
World's eyes on Ohio justice
KENNETH Richey may not get out of jail pending retrial on a murder charge
in Putnam County but coming up with $1 million cash for bail is not really
a major issue in a death-penalty case with international implications that
has dragged on without final resolution for 20 long years.
The key issue is, and always has been, whether a jealous Richey
intentionally set a 1986 fire that killed a 2-year-old girl named Cynthia
Collins, who happened to be in a Columbus Grove apartment upstairs from
one occupied by his alleged targets, Richey's ex-girl friend and her new
A local jury decided after a trial in 1987 that Richey, a native of
Scotland with a record abroad and in this country as a hooligan and
small-time burglar, was guilty as charged. He was sentenced to death, but
shaky evidence and the fact that it was a capital case made Richey an
international cause celebre on Death Row. Members of the British and
European parliaments and even the Pope weighed in on his side.
Now, with Richey about to get a new trial, the eyes of the world are again
on Ohio and, specifically, a small courthouse in the Putnam County seat,
Ottawa. Reporters for at least two British news publications covered his
bail hearing Tuesday and more are expected when the retrial gets under
way, probably after the first of the year.
The 2nd trial will be as much about the American judicial system and its
ability to dispense even-handed justice as it is about Richey's guilt and
The Blade investigated the case exhaustively in 1998 and came to the
conclusion that several crucial errors had been made during its course.
These included lack of testimony that the fire was arson and reliance by
the state appeals court that affirmed the death sentence on so-called
"unrefuted evidence" that Richey had disconnected a fire alarm in the
In fact, no evidence was presented at trial to show that Richey
disconnected the alarm, only that it had been disconnected. In August, a
federal appeals court ordered a new trial or Richey's release. The state
decided to retry him, which was warranted because a death occurred and
because a jury pronounced his guilt.
After so many years, the prosecution could have a tough time in overcoming
the errors and evidence obstacles, but the course of justice must be
played out. That Richey, now 43, is no choir boy does not obviate the
requirement for a fair trial, however belated.
In one sense, the legal system has already demonstrated that it bends over
backward to avoid mistakes like executing an innocent defendant. In a
system with fewer fail-safe measures, Kenneth Richey might well be
long-since dead and gone.
(source: Toledo Blade)
Lawyers Don't Think Client Can Get Fair Retrial in Ohio
The courtroom where Kenneth Richey sat in handcuffs this week looks just
the same as it did when he was sentenced to death 20 years ago except for
a couple new coats of paint.
The vaulted ceilings, the wood benches, the inscription above the judge
that reads "Justice to All" -- they're all still there.
But Richey's lawyers say he shouldn't be there. They think it would be
unfair to retry him in the Putnam County courtroom where he was convicted
of starting a fire that killed a toddler and was sentenced to death in
They plan on asking the visiting judge presiding over the case to move
Richey's new trial in the case.
A federal appeals court ordered Richey's release or retrial after finding
that his original lawyers mishandled the case and may have been able to
dispute evidence that Richey started the fire.
The main argument for moving the new trial is that most people in the
rural northwest Ohio county already know Richey was convicted once before.
"This is the most prominent case that has happened here in the last 25
years," said defense attorney Ken Parsigian.
He wants to make sure the jury only listens to the facts the second time
around and doesn't take into consideration the original conviction.
County prosecutor Gary Lammers said there's no reason to think an
impartial jury can't be found locally. "A lot of people don't remember
this," he said.
Richey, 43, is a U.S.-British citizen who came to stay with his
American-born father in the early 1980s.
Richey was living in a Columbus Grove apartment complex when a fire broke
out there, killing 2-year-old Cynthia Collins.
Prosecutors say he threatened to burn the place down hours before the fire
and set it to get even with a former girlfriend who lived in the building.
Richey's defense team contends there were several problems with his
conviction, saying investigators mishandled evidence and experts used
faulty science to determine that gas or paint thinner started the blaze.
But, despite the new lawyers and new evidence, Richey has said he doesn't
think he could get a fair trial again in the same courthouse.
"Too many people know about it," said his brother, Steve Richey, who still
lives nearby. "Can he get a fair shake? I don't know."
It shouldn't be hard to seat a jury in another Ohio court if the trial is
The case has generated limited interest within the state even though
Richey became a familiar name in Britain while he was in prison.
Thousands from overseas have written letters in his support.
Convincing a judge to move a trial before jury selection begins is
difficult, said Alan Konop, a Toledo defense attorney who has handled
several high-profile trials.
The argument for moving Richey's trial is stronger than usual because he
was already convicted in the same small town, Konop said.
"Could a juror truly put that out of his or her mind?" he asked.
(source: Associated Press)
Prosecutor: One-Judge System Not Working----Chief judge wants to give the
scheme 6 to 9 months to prove itself.
Citing a growing backlog of cases, State Attorney Jerry Hill says the
current system of assigning 1 judge to handle all 1st-degree murder trials
in the 10th Judicial Circuit isn't working.
Now, 40 1st-degree murder cases are pending in Polk County, and 7 in
Highlands County, all assigned to Judge J. Michael Hunter.
Hill, in an Oct. 1 letter to Chief Judge J. David Langford, wrote: "Judge
Hunter . . . as the only judge to handle and try 1st-degree murder cases
is working as diligently as humanly possible to manage this docket. I made
you aware when you became Chief Judge, in January 2007, that it was my
belief that we were continuing to create problems in our murder cases by
trying to assign all of them to 1 judge."
The 10th Judicial Circuit, made up of Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties,
appears to be the only one of Florida's 20 circuits with a capital murder
division, in which all 1st-degree murder trials go before 1 judge, Hill
Chief Judge Ron Herring, who is now retired, created the capital murder
division with a single judge. Hill, in his letter to Langford, said, "I am
on the record from the beginning of this experiment, in January 2006,
advising your predecessor as Chief Judge that I felt this idea would not
result in the efficient handling of capital cases. It seems more apparent
to me every day that this system is not working."
Judge Langford said Wednesday that he and Hunter are looking into the
situation and preparing a letter to reply to Hill.
Langford said there have been an unusually high number of first-degree
murder cases this year. According to Hunter, there are 28 new 1st-degree
murder defendants since Jan. 1.
Since Hunter only took over the 1st-degree murder division in June,
Langford said that it would be more fair to evaluate how the system is
working after 6 to 9 months.
Hill thinks the problem needs to be fixed sooner, said Chip Thullbery of
the State Attorney's Office.
In his letter, Hill noted long delays in trials. "My prosecutors routinely
have to tell victims' families in the days following a homicide, that they
should expect to wait a minimum of 18 months to 2 years before they can
expect a trial."
In Polk, trial dates have been set in only 22 of the 40 cases. Those
defendants with trial dates set were indicted between October 2004 and
Besides being hard on victim's families, Hill said, the longer it takes
for a case to go to trial, the more likely it is that witnesses will leave
the area, or that their memories will fade.
Some defense lawyers, however, say that 1st-degree murder cases simply
take longer to prepare.
"In cases where the state attorney has made the decision to seek the death
penalty, they need to just be prepared for the fact that those cases may
take 18 months to 2 years to properly be prepared for trial," Bartow
lawyer Bob Norgard said. "Death cases are different than cases where
they're not seeking death and that is just the way it is."
Also, Norgard said, "In the abstract, I don't disagree with Jerry's
request for more judges in the homicide division." However, he said, "What
Jerry also needs to understand is that there's a shortage of judges. Our
circuit has consistently asked that they be allocated more judges. There
is a shortage of judicial manpower all around. If you devote more manpower
to murder cases than you take more manpower away from other cases."
In his letter, Hill did not suggest a solution other than to say that more
than 1 judge is needed to handle 1st-degree murder cases.
(source: The Ledger)
Funding complicates killer's appeal ---- No one wants the case, largely
due to the issue of compensation
Killer Ralph Leroy Menzies sat by himself Wednesday at the defense table
as prosecutors and defense attorneys sparred over whether a judge can
order an unwilling lawyer to represent the death-row inmate in an appeal.
The discussion soon boiled down to a narrow legal issue: Can 3rd District
Judge Stephen Roth rule the state's pay for an appeals attorney is
adequate, or must he first wait until the attorney tries to get more money
from the Utah Division of Finance.
Roth ordered more briefing on the state's funding rules and set another
hearing for Nov. 16. The judge said he was reluctant to delay the appeal
further but needs to have more information to know when he can rule on the
adequate pay issue.
For now, Menzies must act as his own attorney.
Michael Zimmerman and Troy Booher - Salt Lake City attorneys who submitted
a brief on the pay issue for the Utah Association of Criminal Defense
Lawyers - declined to accept the judge's invitation to represent Menzies
on a limited basis. Instead, they will present more evidence to the court
on the funding question.
The Division of Finance has capped the pay for attorneys in death-penalty
appeals at $37,500, an amount that the association describes as "grossly
inadequate." Unless the pay fairly compensates lawyers, a judge cannot
force them to take on a case, the association says.
Prosecutors argue that death-row inmates have no constitutional right to a
court-appointed lawyer after an automatic appeal to the Utah Supreme Court
is decided. The matter before Roth is a post-conviction relief petition, a
type of appeal that typically is brought after the high court rules.
Menzies was sentenced to die for the 1986 murder of Maurine Hunsaker. The
Utah Supreme Court upheld his conviction but reopened an appeal on Dec.
15. Menzies now has the opportunity to argue for a new trial or a new
The case stalled, however, after the lawyer who got his appeal reopened
stepped down because of a conflict of interest. A long search, both inside
and outside of Utah, has failed to find a willing attorney to take over
The problem is mostly financial. With the hundreds of hours put into a
case, lawyers are paid between $9 and $20 an hour, below the $30 an hour
required to break even while running a small law firm, according to the
criminal defense lawyers association's brief.
Outside court, the victim's son said he is frustrated by the delays in the
"It's all about dollars," Matt Hunsaker said. "Justice isn't being served
for my mom."
But Zimmerman, a former Utah Supreme Court chief justice, said paying an
adequate amount will give Menzies competent counsel and allow the case to
"This is not us trying to delay Mr. Menzies' execution," Zimmerman said.
"If you're going to have the death penalty, you're going to have to
adequately fund post-conviction counsel."
(source: Salt Lake Tribune)
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