[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----TEXAS
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Oct 6 22:39:18 CDT 2007
Death House Chaplain on the Pain of Executions - Should That Stop the
It looks like executions in this country may be on hold for now, as the US
Supreme Court takes up a new challenge to the death penalty.
2 Kentucky inmates claim the way the drugs are administered in lethal
injections could cause excruciating pain that is cruel, and so,
Our Randy Beamer found a man right here in South Texas who has special
insight on this because of what he's done 43 times.
At the Methodist Church in Karnes City, Reverend Ken Houston typically
offers the Sunday sermon.
Houston has really enjoyed the last several years here, especially because
his last job was more challenging and stressful.
"Over the 3 year period I was in the execution chamber for 43 executions,"
Houston was a prison chaplain in Huntsville at what is called the death
"I didn't meet the inmate til the day before the execution," describes
Houston. "One of the things I would do is tell them exactly what's going
to happen to them and what their family is gonna see."
He also spent the hours before the execution with the inmate, talking and
ministering to them if they wanted.
"You would have the opportunity to be actually the last person that really
got to talk to that person before they died," adds Houston. "There's a few
of them that accepted Christ at the last minute and I baptized em out of a
Then, after the inmate was strapped onto the gurney and IV lines put in
place, Chaplain Houston and the warden were the only others actually in
the death chamber, as family members and reporters watched through the
"The warden would stand at the inmate's head and I would stand at their
foot with my hand on their leg," he says.
After their final statement, the drugs start flowing through those IV
lines coming out of the wall.
"And from the time the warden gave the signal until the time you saw a
response from the inmate it was about 10 seconds," says Houston.
The Supreme Court is looking into exactly what happens next, when the 3
separate drugs start flowing. But Houston believes, "They just go to sleep
basically. You can see them relax. You can hear them exhale the breath
that's in their lungs."
Some inmate's lawyers claim the 1st drug - a sedative - may only
immobilize the inmate, so they can be in excruciating pain before they
die. They just can't show it.
"Hey, that's not true from what I had seen. That doesn't happen," says
Houston. "And I've never seen or heard any of the other chaplains or
wardens say anything that would indicate they were in any kind of pain,
that it's just like going to sleep for surgery."
"I don't think they should stop it because it's painful, if they decide to
stop it for some other reason, that's up to them, but I don't think they
should stop it just because they think it's painful," he adds.
That brings up the question anyone who's witnessed an execution gets all
the time. "People ask me what I thought about exectutions and my answer
is, I'm not real sure. I was back there to minister. They had been
convicted by a court of law and the state of Texas was carrying out what
the court said."
But the preacher who ministered to the condemned and their families, also
says society sometimes forgets about the rights of the victims and their
families and the consequences of our actions.
"There will be consequences, for those sins and I think an execution is
consequences for that crime," says Houston. "Are they forgiven?
Absolutely, but do they have to suffer the consequences of their sins."
It could be next summer before the Supreme Court rules on this case.
Experts believe they may force changes in the drugs used in executions or
how they're used. But they will not overturn the death penalty. In the
meantime, some states' executions are on hold.
(source: WOAI News)
In Texas, they wouldn't kill a dog like that
A new Amnesty International report on death by lethal injection urges
doctors and nurses not to participate in state-ordered executions in
breach of their ethical oath to do no harm. It also examines the legal and
ethical implications of lethal injection.
The technique involves injecting prisoners with massive doses of 3
chemicals: sodium thiopental to induce unconsciousness, pancuronium
bromide to paralyze muscles, and potassium chloride to stop the heart. But
medical experts have raised concerns that if inadequate levels of sodium
thiopental are administered, the anesthetic effect can wear off before the
prisoner's heart stops, putting him at risk of excruciating pain as the
chemicals enter the veins producing cardiac arrest. And due to the
paralysis caused by pancuronium bromide, he would be unable to communicate
For these reasons, the American Veterinary Medical Association has decided
that the chemical cocktail used for euthanizing dogs and cats should not
include a paralyzing agent. Texas, which leads the nation in executions,
has outlawed pancuronium bromide in the euthanasia of cats and dogs
because of the potential for pain -- but it's still using the chemical to
kill human beings.
"Medical professionals are trained to work for patients' well-being, not
to participate in executions ordered by the state," said Jim Welsh,
Amnesty's health and human rights coordinator. "The simplest way of
resolving the ethical dilemmas posed by using doctors and nurses to kill
is by abolishing the death penalty."
Since 1982, at least 1,000 people have been executed by lethal injection
around the world: 3 in Guatemala, 4 in Thailand, 7 in the Philippines,
more than 900 in the United States (including about 400 in Texas alone),
and up to several thousand in China, where executions remain a state
secret. The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to review the
constitutionality of lethal injections.
(source: Facing South)
Walker trial arguments begin Monday
A jury will hear preliminary arguments Monday in the capital murder trial
of Kosoul Chanthakoummane, 26, of Dallas, who is charged with killing real
estate agent Sarah Anne Walker.
The Collin County District Attorney's Office has filed a motion to seek
the death penalty for Chanthakoummane, who is accused of stabbing and
beating Walker to death on July 8, 2006, in a D.R. Horton model home at
Craig Ranch in McKinney.
Walker's body was found in the kitchen of the home in the 5700 block of
Conch Train Road in the Hemingway addition of the Craig Ranch development.
She had 27 stab wounds on her upper body made by a sharp-bladed instrument
and some blunt-force trauma, according to Collin County Medical Examiner
Dr. William Rohr's preliminary report.
Walker, 40, was the mother of 2 boys younger than 18, worked for D.R.
Horton and lived in Frisco. Her mother, Carol Ann Walker, of Greenville,
said Friday the only thing she wants to know from the trial is why her
daughter was killed.
Walker grew up in El Paso and Richardson, and graduated from a Richardson
ISD high school, her mother said.
Walker's body was discovered by Plano couple Andy and Jane Lilliston. Andy
Lilliston previously told the McKinney Courier-Gazette that he and his
wife continually think about Walker.
"There isn't a day that goes by that we don't think of her, that we don't
think of her body," Mr. Lilliston said. "No one should have their life
ended that way."
Officers arrested Chanthakoummane on Sept. 5, 2006, at his Dallas home and
"unequivocally" believe he killed Walker, Capt. Randy Roland, of the
McKinney Police Department, previously told the McKinney Courier-Gazette.
Chanthakoummane was still in Collin County Jail on Friday afternoon. His
bond is set at $1 million and he also has a hold placed on him by the
Texas Department of Criminal Justice for a parole violation, said Lt. John
Norton, of the Collin County Sheriff's Office.
Roland said investigators found 2 sets of blood prints from the murder
scene because of the angle of the blood drops. The McKinney PD filed a
capital murder charge against Chanthakoummane.
Chanthakoummane's trial will begin at 9 a.m. Monday in 380th District
Court in the new Collin County Courts Building on Bloomdale Road, north of
Wilmeth Road and west of U.S. 75. Judge Charles Sandoval will preside over
the trial. Jury selection for the trial concluded Tuesday afternoon.
Prosecutor Greg Davis declined to comment about the trial Friday
Steven Miears, who is Chanthakoummane's defense attorney, could not be
reached at his office in Bonham on Friday afternoon for comment about the
jury selection and trial.
(source: McKinney Courier-Gazette)
Blood at found house was alleged killer's ---- Dallas: Defense says man
was assaulted before arrest in officer's death
Blood that belongs to the man accused of killing a Dallas police officer
was found outside the home where the man was arrested, defense attorney
Brook Busbee said Friday during a hearing in the capital murder trial of
The blood stain - about 2 inches long - was found below a window on the
house. Mr. Lizcano was found at the corner of the home and arrested.
The defense believes arresting officers assaulted Mr. Lizcano after
Officer Brian Jackson was mortally wounded in November 2005. In
cross-examination, officers denied that Mr. Lizcano was assaulted the day
Officer Jackson was killed.
Jurors heard Friday only that there was a stain below the window. They
were not present when Ms. Busbee told the court that it was Mr. Lizcano's
blood. They will probably hear testimony about the blood when the trial
Officer Jackson was shot and killed in the front yard of that Old East
Dallas home while responding to a domestic violence call at the home of
Mr. Lizcano's former girlfriend.
2 brothers who live at the house, Edward and Jesus Vega, testified Friday
for the defense that they were looking out their front door early that
morning and saw officers surround Mr. Lizcano. But they said that they
could not see what happened next.
"I couldn't really tell what they were doing," Edward Vega said, adding
that there appeared to be "a little scuffle."
He said he assumed Mr. Lizcano resisted arrest but was not certain.
Mr. Lizcano had cuts on his head and face, Ms. Busbee said after the
hearing. She also said that about a year after Officer Jackson's death, an
X-ray showed Mr. Lizcano had a broken rib that had healed. But it is
impossible to determine when the break occurred, she said.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty if Mr. Lizcano is convicted.
Judge bars mental capacity testimony in Lizcano trial
Testimony about Juan Lizcano's mental capacity won't factor in determining
his innnocence or guilt in the 2005 shooting death of Dallas police
Officer Brian Jackson.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty if Mr. Lizcano is convicted.
State District Judge Andy Chatham ruled out mental capacity testimony for
the guilt/innocence phase of the trial at a hearing Friday. The defense
had begun presenting its case Friday morning, including calling 2
witnesses, before the judge sent the jury out so that hearings could be
The prosecution rested Thursday.
Officer Jackson was killed in November 2005 while responding to a domestic
disturbance call at the home of home of Mr. Lizcano's former girlfriend.
(source for both: Dallas Morning News)
Death row inmate unable to appeal, computer troubles blamed
In a very bizarre case, a death row inmate was unable to file for appeal
after his lawyer's computer began acting up. On the day in which he was to
be executed, Presiding Judge Sharon Keller decided to not accept a filing
for appeal after 5:00PM, even though a number of personnel stayed after.
Turns out, a "severe computer problem" hindered Mr. Michael Richard's
lawyers from being able to print and deliver the paperwork before the
Judge-established deadline, thus eliminating his ability to receive a stay
of execution. Of note, the legal team stated that they could have still
had the documentation sent in before 5:00PM if e-mailed filings were
As expected, the director of the Texas Civil Rights Project is already
thinking about "filing a complaint with the Texas State Commission on
Judicial Conduct about Keller."
Criticizing criminal justice
Numbers aren't it
While it is disturbing that Ronald Gene Taylor spent 14 years in prison
for a sexual assault he did not commit, the Chronicle's Oct. 4 article
("Mix-up on DNA deals HPD lab another blow") didn't say that the real
rapist (Roosevelt Carroll) had been previously convicted of a sexual
assault in 1989, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Unfortunately for all concerned (but especially the rape victim), Carroll
was released on mandatory supervision in 1993 after serving less than 40 %
of his sentence.
Obviously, it doesn't take a doctoral degree to see that if he had served
a minimum of half of his sentence, both Taylor's and the victim's lives
would have been dramatically different.
Our criminal justice system should be more concerned with public safety
than with numbers.
ANDY KAHAN ----director, mayor's Crime Victims Office, Houston
Whose child next?
As a mom and a lawyer, I am concerned that another innocent man was held
behind bars for 14 years. Could that kind of injustice happen to one of my
We can rationalize until we are blue in the face how innocent people can
be wrongly convicted: They shouldn't have been in that place at that time,
they were hanging out with a wrong crowd, they probably had been in
trouble before, etc.
But we only say these things to make ourselves feel better because we
can't believe that a totally innocent person could spend years behind bars
for a crime he did not commit. If that reality sinks in, we might feel
compelled to demand a full review of all questionable cases. It is so much
easier to avert our eyes from this harsh reality. But we must face this
injustice. One citizen wrongly convicted is too many.
We must do all we can to ensure that no other innocents will live out
their lives in prison. Whose innocent child might be next?
STACY W. BEASLEY ---- Sugar Land
A social calamity
Mark A. Stelter's Oct. 2 letter ("Our efficient criminal justice") decried
the Chronicle's smearing of the reputations of those who work in Texas'
criminal justice system. He should be more concerned with the pathetic
road to social calamity that the Texas criminal justice system is.
Most of those entering Texas prisons are serving sentences for nonviolent
offenses - most are low-level crimes. Texas' nonviolent prisoner
population is larger than the entire incarcerated population of the United
Kingdom, a country with 60 million people.
Yet, despite having the most punitive criminal justice system in the
world, Texas' crime rates have not experienced the declines other parts of
the country have seen.
Texans should seriously question the social and financial costs for us to
pay to have one in 20 adults and one in three young black men under
criminal justice control.
(source: Letters to the Editor, Houston Chronicle)
Rubio to return for hearing----Nelson issues oral gag order
Death row inmate John Allen Rubio will return to Cameron County within the
next 10 days where he will make a court appearance relating to his
November 2003 conviction for the murder of his 3 children.
Rubio is scheduled to be present during a hearing in which the
qualifications of his new court-appointed attorney will be addressed,
Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos said on Friday.
A bench warrant requesting Rubio be brought back to the county was issued
Larry Warner is Rubio's court-appointed attorney and in a previous death
penalty case, Warner indicated that he was not qualified to handle death
penalty cases, Villalobos said.
"That's the issue," according to Villalobos.
The district attorney wants Warner's qualifications addressed immediately,
should Rubio be retried for the murders of his 3 children. If Rubio was to
get convicted of their murders, having an attorney not qualified to handle
death penalty cases would give him another chance to appeal the
conviction, Villalobos said.
Warner declined to comment stating he was abiding by a gag order issued on
Friday by 138th state District Judge Arturo Cisneros Nelson, who will hear
Rubio, 27, was found guilty on 3 counts of capital murder in the deaths of
his 3 young children, Julissa Quesada, 3, John E. Rubio, 14 months and
Mary Jane Rubio, 2, months. The children were smothered, stabbed and
mutilated in March 2003, according to investigators.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned his conviction last month
on a 5-4 decision because Rubio's defense team didn't have the chance to
cross-examine co-defendant and common-law wife Maria Angel Camacho during
Camacho gave 3 statements to police, which contradicted one another to
some extent, the court wrote. "The lack of opportunity for the appellant
to cross-examine her, therefore, had a devastating effect on his case."
Rubio pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, claiming he killed the
children because they were possessed by demons. However, in statements
made by Camacho, she said Rubio killed the children because of the
family's financial limitations. The couple and children lived in a small
apartment where the killings took place.
Villalobos is asking the court to reconsider its decision stating although
a "harmless error" was committed it would not have impacted the outcome of
(source: Brownsville Herald)
Houston police say crime lab employees cheated on open book test
Houston police officials are investigating allegations that at least 3
employees of its scandal-plagued crime lab cheated on an open-book
Another worker told Houston Police Department management about the alleged
cheating, triggering an internal affairs investigation, said Executive
Assistant Chief Martha Montalvo.
The proficiency test, given in August, assesses the employees' knowledge
of lab procedures. Employees can take the test home and work on it for two
or three weeks, but are not allowed to discuss the test with anyone. A
manager is accused of talking about the test in a meeting with workers
from the lab's biology section, and telling them how to identify body
fluids, Montalvo said.
Police officials want to know if the employees deliberately disobeyed the
rules for the test or if they simply misunderstood protocol, Montalvo
The crime lab employee who told police officials about the alleged
cheating turned in her resignation on Friday, Montalvo said. Her last day
at the crime lab will be Oct. 18.
The latest allegations of misconduct are "heartbreaking" for Houston
police officials, who are trying to rebuild the reputation of the troubled
crime lab, said Montalvo. "This is a step back."
The lab's DNA section was shut down in 2002 after an independent audit
found inaccuracies in analysis procedures. Independent investigators have
identified 180 blood-analysis cases from the 1980s and early 1990s which
showed problems with HPD serology work.
This week, 47-year-old inmate Ronald Taylor, who has been in prison for 12
years on a rape charge, was exonerated after DNA retesting showed another
man committed the crime. The Houston crime lab originally reported that it
could not do a DNA analysis because a bed sheet it tested did not contain
2 other men have been released from prison during the review of the crime
The DNA section has since been reopened.
The employees under suspicion of cheating and were hired in the past year
as part of a revamping of the crime lab, said Montalvo.
Although police officials said the alleged cheating did not affect any
evidence, the Harris County District Attorney's Office is sending a letter
to defense attorneys and defendants with pending cases involving work done
by crime lab analysts.
(source: Associated Press)
Some workers accused of cheating on proficiency test; inquiry launched
The Houston Police Department's scandal-plagued crime lab now faces
another allegation that several employees cheated on an open-book
The department's internal affairs division will investigate the
accusations, made by lab workers, according to HPD Executive Assistant
Chief Martha Montalvo.
News of the investigation comes the same week of an announcement that a
man whose wrongful conviction, based on faulty work from the crime lab,
will be freed from prison.
Ronald Gene Taylor is expected to be released from prison next week after
DNA testing showed he did not commit the 1993 rape for which he has been
incarcerated for the past 12 years.
While announcing Taylor's innocence, local authorities have touted that
the crime lab, especially its problematic DNA and serology divisions, are
now nationally accredited, and that safeguards have been taken to ensure
that the errors of the past do not recur.
Since HPD's crime lab problems first came to light in November 2002,
errors have been found in several types of analyses, including DNA,
serology, firearms and of controlled substances, casting doubt on
thousands of convictions.
In August, workers in the lab's biology section which includes DNA and
serology, or blood typing, underwent proficiency tests to determine if the
analysts were able to identify specific body fluids.
Following those tests, allegations surfaced that lab workers discussed the
test among themselves rather than waiting for everyone to finish the test,
per department protocol.
Additionally, the manager of those sections had allegedly "advised
employees as to what they should be looking for," according to Montalvo.
After the cheating allegations surfaced, HPD's internal affairs division
began an investigation.
Montalvo also said that the Harris County District Attorney's Office is in
the process of notifying defense attorneys and defendants who might have
questions as to pending cases.
In an e-mail Friday night, District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said, "We
have the letter. It may not affect any cases, but we have a duty to
disclose that some cases may possibly be involved."
Brett Ligon, an attorney for the Houston Police Officers Union, said
Friday that several crime lab employees approached him last month about
the alleged cheating.
Ligon said he believes the new allegations of problems at the crime lab
represent a more serious problem than the ones that have plagued the lab
for the past 5 years.
"The reason it's worse, in my opinion, is that they have an entire new
generation of bureaucrats who were OK with pointing fingers at the old
crime lab personnel, when they were coming in as the ones to clean it up,"
Ligon said. "But now, if these new analysts commit the same mistakes,
they're no better than their predecessors. So it's just another ongoing
effort to cover their tracks."
HPOU President Hans Marticiuc said he is also troubled about the quality
of work coming out of the revamped lab.
"What concerns me is that you may have analysts continuing to do work, who
don't know how to do the work," Marticiuc said.
Marticiuc added that if the analysts don't know what they're doing on
proficiency tests, they may not know what they're doing on actual cases
where guilt or innocence depends on the outcome of a forensic test.
At a Friday news conference, Montalvo announced that one new lab employee,
Jay Phillips, a trace evidence analyst, had resigned this week. She could
not be reached for comment Friday.
"I think the one thing we ought to recognize today is that the wrong
person resigned," Marticiuc said. "It has to go back to the management
over that DNA lab."
(source: Houston Chronicle)
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