[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----TEXAS
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Oct 19 00:54:26 CDT 2007
Sherman judge halts execution
A federal judge in Sherman has stopped the November 6th execution of a man
set to die for killing a Tyler woman and stealing her purse and car in
It's the 3rd reprieve for Allen Bridgers, whose attorneys say he's
The victim was Mary Amie.
The inmate's 2006 scheduled execution was stopped after the Texas Court of
Criminal Appeals ordered his case back to Smith County, for the trial
court to consider whether he's retarded.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that mentally retarded people can't be
A judge in Fort Worth has halted an execution on the heels of a U.S.
Supreme Court decision to consider whether lethal injection is legal.
Dale Devon Scheanette was scheduled to die for killing a teacher's aide in
her Arlington apartment bathtub. The December 1996 rape and beating victim
was Wendie Prescott.
A judge withdrew the execution date, citing other cases that were halted.
Last month the Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to lethal
injection from inmates in Kentucky.
(source: The Associated Press)
On death row, life cruelly, unusually goes on
There are all sorts of things that qualify as "cruel and unusual
Watching "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."
Waiting in line at the convenience store behind a gambling degenerate
trying to conduct a business transaction with $2 lottery winnings, a
time-consuming act that flies in the face of the "convenience" store
Speaking from personal experience and the disciplinary methods of a
grandmother with little patience for foul-mouthed children, Irish Spring
does have a rather lively spearmint-like taste once you get used to it.
As horrible as these things are, none of them fits the constitutional
definition of "cruel and unusual punishment." By reasonable standards - in
other words, standards that do not meet the agenda of capital punishment
opponents - neither does lethal injection.
Lethal injection is the method by which the state of Texas executes its
most heinous criminals, a method identical to that of Kentucky.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review whether Kentucky's
lethal injection method constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment," that
has also put Texas on hold.
According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Potter County has 5
convicted offenders on death row, while Randall County has 2. None of
these unmagnificent seven has a scheduled execution date before February
However, now that the Supremes will comb the U.S. Constitution trying to
determine whether a convicted criminal can feel pain from a lethal dose of
chemicals while being rendered unconscious from another dose of chemicals
10 times the amount used in surgical procedures, several convicted
murderers/rapists have a new lease on life.
Randall Sims, 47th district attorney, said the fate of one death row
offender out of Potter County has been affected.
Larry Donell Davis is on death row for a 1995 Amarillo murder. Davis, in
order to help a friend earn a "tear drop" from the Crips, participated in
a fatal stabbing - with knives and an ice pick. The victim was also beaten
with a pipe and numerous items were stolen from the residence, including a
camcorder and a stereo.
"Austin asked us to hold off on setting any death dates until the
(Kentucky) case is decided," Sims said. "As far as our day-to-day
business, we're not changing anything."
Randall County has two on death row: Brent Ray Brewer, who was convicted
of stabbing an Amarillo business owner to death in 1990 after the man
offered him a ride to the Salvation Army; and Brittany Holberg, who was
convicted of fatally stabbing an 80-year-old Amarillo man in 1996. The
victim was stabbed nearly 60 times and had a lamp pole shoved down his
"I will be amazed if they can find some voodoo expert who can convince the
United States Supreme Court that this is grounds to do away with the
current combination of drugs that is being used," said Randall County
District Attorney James Farren.
The over/under on the Supreme decision is one. That means the ruling,
whenever it comes down, will be 5-4, probably in favor of the current form
of lethal injection.
Death penalty opponents will have to conjure up some other moronic
loophole to do away with capital punishment, which is the real goal.
You don't say
Opinions others won't give: Guymon, Okla., Police Chief Michael Bab said
this week that about half of the city's population consists of illegal
immigrants. That's an astounding number, and one that shows the many
problems with illegal immigration. Guymon's population in 2000 was 10,472.
Its estimated population in July 2006 was 10,696. That means there are an
estimated 5,348 illegal immigrants in Guymon. That is amazing. When
immigration laws are routinely ignored, which has been the case for years,
this is what you get.
A pat on the back ....
To Hardee's: The fast food restaurant unveiled its "Country Breakfast
Burrito" this week, a 920-calorie, 60-fat gram belt-buster. The morning
news shows gorged themselves on the story Wednesday, with one early
morning talking head saying: "This is serious stuff." No more serious than
going to the grocery store, buying five boxes of cookies and eating them
for breakfast, which consumers can do just as easily as wolfing down a big
butt burrito. The fat-wallet lawsuits are probably coming, but at least 1
business is willing to stick out its tongue - if it has room to do so
while gnawing on this titanic tortilla - at overweight political
and a kick in the pants.
To those who want a vote on the TIRZ in Potter County: Assistant County
Attorney Dave Kemp said Wednesday that the county cannot "under any
circumstances" put the TIRZ proposal on the county ballot. "In my opinion,
we can't do an election on this at all," Kemp said. At least 2
commissioners favor letting voters determine whether the county will
participate in the TIRZ, which is the best idea to redevelop downtown
Amarillo in years. Even if the county could legally put the issue on the
ballot, didn't the public hearings on the TIRZ - held in each precinct -
give commissioners some idea of public support?
(source: The Amarillo Globe-News (Dave Henry is an editorial writer for
the Amarillo Globe-News)
Public affairs forum - 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
Jordan Steikler discusses 'The American Death Penalty: Past, Present &
Future, with Special Attention to Texas.'
First Unitarian Universalist Church, 4700 Grover Ave. Free. 452-6168,
(source: Austin American-Statesman)
Closing Time? Attorneys Call for Justice's Head
19 attorneys from across Texas have signed on to a formal complaint with
the state's Commission on Judicial Conduct, seeking the reprimand or
ouster of Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller, who
they argue violated not only the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct but also
the Constitution's Due Process Clause by refusing to accept an appeal for
an emergency stay filed Sept. 25 on behalf of condemned inmate Michael
Richard. Keller's decision to close the courthouse doors before Richard's
attorneys could file the 11th-hour appeal meant Richard was blocked from
appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. Instead, he was executed. "Judge
Keller's actions denied Michael Richard two constitutional rights, access
to the courts and due process, which led to his execution," Texas Civil
Rights Project Director Jim Harrington wrote in the complaint, filed with
the commission on Oct. 10. "Her actions also brought the integrity of the
Texas judiciary and of her court into disrepute and was a source of
scandal to the citizens of Texas."
Richard's lawyer David Dow, of the Texas Innocence Network at the
University of Houston Law Center, was seeking a stay of execution for
Richard based on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that morning to hear an
appeal filed by two Kentucky death row inmates challenging the
constitutionality of the tri-chemical lethal-injection execution method
currently used by 37 states. Richard was slated to be executed that night
at 6pm, meaning Dow had less than a day to compose and file the appeal
with the CCA Texas' highest criminal appeals court. The court would then
have the choice of either granting Richard a stay or denying it, which
would allow Dow to appeal to the Supremes. But Keller refused to accept
the appeal at all, meaning that Dow was, in effect, blocked from seeking
high court intervention.
Keller told the San Antonio Express-News she refused the appeal because it
wasn't filed with the court by 5pm allegedly, the court's standard
deadline. Dow told the daily that he'd had computer problems, which
delayed the filing. Amazingly, the court, which has statewide
jurisdiction, does not accept any e-filing even in life-and-death cases.
Dow said he called the court to explain his situation; in all, he said he
would have needed just 20 additional minutes to get the appeal filed. On
Oct. 4, the Express-News reported that Keller "voiced no second thoughts"
about her decision to slam the door on Richard: "You're asking me whether
something different would have happened if we had stayed open ... and I
think the question ought to be why didn't they file something on time,"
Practically speaking, it is almost certain that "something different"
would have happened had Keller decided to wait the extra half-hour:
Richard likely would have been granted a stay by the Supremes, who likely
would have understood the significance of continuing to execute inmates
while the legality of the execution method was in question. In fact, not
24 hours later, on Sept. 26, the high court granted a stay for condemned
Texas inmate Carlton Turner Jr. after the CCA denied his appeal. "Justice
should be both fair and competent, and here it was not," Austin attorney
and legal ethics expert Chuck Herring told reporters last week. "And the
result was that a man was killed on a day that he should've lived."
Keller claimed she was unaware that Dow had encountered computer problems
and would need more time to get the appeal filed but that's either a lie
or it indicates a serious internal communication problem at the court.
Although Keller and CCA general counsel Ed Marty have said that the 5pm
deadline is standard for the court, it doesn't appear that the other CCA
judges knew anything about the supposed rule. Several justices stayed late
at work that evening in anticipation of the last-minute appeal; and Judge
Cheryl Johnson, who was assigned to handle the Richard case, had no idea
that Keller set the clearly arbitrary 5pm deadline. Johnson told the
Austin American-Statesman that she was "dismayed" by Keller's decision.
"And I was angry," she said. "If I'm in charge of the execution, I ought
to have known about those things, and I ought to have been asked whether I
was willing to stay late and accept those filings."
In addition to refusing last-minute appeals, Keller's office told the
Chronicle that the judge is now declining to "accept any calls" regarding
her actions in the Richard case. Similarly, Marty did not return calls
requesting comment, nor did Judge Tom Price to whom the Chronicle was
referred for comment. (Interestingly, Price dissented from the court's
decision last month to deny Turner's stay, opining that he didn't
understand why the court would be willing to allow executions to go
forward when the legality of the method was in question.) As such, at
press time it was unclear whether the 5pm deadline or, perhaps, the
Keller Rule is in fact standard procedure at all; judging by Johnson's
response, it's hard to imagine that it is. Indeed, it is standard practice
for courts to remain ready to accept such last-minute death-penalty
appeals. University of Texas Law professor Jordan Steiker, who teaches
constitutional law and is an expert in death penalty jurisprudence, said
he doesn't know of any other court handling death row appeals that claims
such a deadline. "The decision by the [CCA] to close its doors follows in
a long line of resistance by the court to constitutional norms," he said,
"and what is often said of boxing is certainly true for this court it is
a court without an eye left to blacken."
Harrington has also filed a grievance with the Texas Bar Association,
seeking a revocation of Keller's law license. And on Oct. 15, state Rep.
Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, penned a separate complaint to the commission,
urging the commissioners to take "prompt and appropriate disciplinary
action" against Keller, including "serious consideration" of removing her
from office. "It is simply unconscionable and unacceptable for any officer
of the court to close the doors of the court when a pleading for a man's
life is known to be on the way," Burnam wrote.
(source: Austin Chronicle)
Killer Keller must resign
"We close at 5." It took these 4 words for Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
Presiding Judge Sharon Keller to deny a convicted killer's last appeal. On
September 25, the same day the U.S. Supreme Court granted a writ of
certiorari to a Kansas inmate questioning the constitutionality of lethal
injection, Michael Richard was scheduled to be executed. The attorneys for
the Texas Defenders Service requested that the court clerk's office remain
open 20 minutes after the 5 p.m. closing time because their computers had
crashed. Keller shocked the world by closing the court's office at 5 p.m.
on an execution day without even consulting any of the other judges of the
court. As a result, a man was executed without being able to have the
merits of his last appeal considered by the criminal justice system.
The Court of Criminal Appeals is the highest criminal court in Texas and
must rule on every case before the U.S. Supreme Court can consider an
appeal for a stay of execution. If the CCA had accepted the case and voted
to deny Richard a stay, the U.S. Supreme Court could have issued a stay.
That is exactly what happened in another case two days after Richard's
execution, when the court voted 5-4 to deny a stay to Carlton Turner, but
U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of execution.
According to the Houston Chronicle, several judges were in the court while
Keller turned down the appeal. Judge Paul Womack stayed as late as 7 p.m.
expecting to receive a late filing. Judge Cheryl Johnson, who was the
assigned judge to handle any late appeals, was not even informed, in
Richard's case, of Keller's action until she read the story in the Austin
"And I was angry," she told the Statesman. "If I'm in charge of the
execution, I ought to have known about those things, and I ought to have
been asked whether I was willing to stay late and accept those filings."
Keller's action denied Michael Richard two constitutional rights, access
to the courts and due process, which led to his execution. Her actions
also brought the integrity of the Texas judiciary system and of her court
into question. But this is not the first time Keller has behaved like a
buffoon. In 2000, she wrote the majority opinion in the case of Roy
Criner, claiming that the new DNA evidence proving his innocence in a rape
and murder case did not warrant a new trial because he could have "failed
According to Tom Price, one of the other conservative judges on the Texas
Court of Criminal Appeals, as far back as 2001 she made Texas' highest
criminal appeals court "a national laughingstock."
To close at 5 p.m. and refuse to accept an appeal by a person about to be
executed is a violation of judicial responsibility. When a person is about
to be executed, our state's highest criminal court needs to remain open
for business. As long as Keller is in office, the people of Texas cannot
be sure that justice is being done with integrity. Judge Sharon Keller
should resign or be removed from office by the State Commission on
Judicial Conduct, which is responsible for investigating allegations of
If you are as shocked as I was by Judge Sharon Keller's refusal to accept
an appeal 20 minutes after 5 p.m. from lawyers representing a man about to
be executed, then sign on to the general public complaint against Judge
Sharon Keller by going to SharonKiller.com. The complaint will be
submitted to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct on Oct. 30.
(source: Daily Texan -- Hooman Hedayati is a government junior, Students
Against the Death Penalty president and a Center for American Progress
advisory board member)
Killer gets reprieve as high court case looms
DALE DEVON SCHEANETTE The man sentenced to death in one of Arlington's
notorious "bathtub slayings" is the latest to get a reprieve from the
death penalty since the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will hear a case
challenging lethal injection, court records show.
Dale Devon Scheanette, 34, was scheduled to die Nov. 27 for the 1996 rape
and killing of Wendie Prescott, a 22-year-old Mansfield teacher's aide
whose body was found in a bathtub in her apartment.
Though the state has not formally ended executions -- a January execution
date was recently set for a Granbury man -- only 1 person has been put to
death since the Supreme Court's September announcement.
The execution of one area man was recently postponed and an execution date
for another has been set as the country awaits a Supreme Court decision on
Supreme Court case
The U.S. Supreme Court said last month that it will review whether lethal
injection violates the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual
punishment. A ruling may not come until June, experts say.
Michael Wayne Richard was executed Sept. 25, the day the Supreme Court
announced it would hear the Kentucky case. Complaints have since been
filed against Judge Sharon Keller, who ordered the Texas Court of Criminal
Appeals to close as usual at 5 p.m. even though Richard's lawyers asked
for 20 extra minutes to file for a stay.
Local death row cases
There are 26 inmates from Tarrant County on death row.
Bobby Wayne Woods, 42: A Jan. 17 execution date was set for Woods, a
Granbury man convicted of the April 1997 slaying of 11-year-old Sarah
Prosecutors say Woods kidnapped Sarah, his ex-girlfriend's daughter, slit
her throat and choked Sarah's 9-year-old brother Cody into
Dale Devon Scheanette, 34: Scheanette was convicted in 2003 of the rape
and killing of Wendie Prescott. Scheanette is also charged in the 1996
rape and slaying of Christine Vu, 25, a Morton Elementary School teacher
in Arlington. She died 3 months before Prescott at the same complex. The
women's bodies were found in their bathtubs.
State District Judge Mike Thomas referred to another recent reprieve that
cited the constitutional question in his decision to withdraw Scheanette's
Carlton Turner, 28: Convicted in the 1998 shooting death of his adoptive
parents in Irving.
Denard Manns, 41: Sexually assaulted a 26-year-old woman in 1998 in
Killeen, then fatally shot her in the head and chest.
Heliberto Chi, 28: Condemned for the 2001 killing of an Arlington clothing
store manager during an after-hours robbery.
Allen Bridgers, 36: Killed a 53-year-old woman he had been living with in
There are no more executions scheduled for this year. Experts say the 4
executions already set for early 2008 are likely to be postponed.
"It was just a matter of time," said Steve Hall of StandDown Texas
Project, a group asking the state to review its executions. "There have
been some disturbing cases in other states over last the 2 years."
William Rusty Hubbarth of Justice for All, a Houston-based national
victims' rights organization in favor of the death penalty, said the
Supreme Court's decision is regrettable, but "we hope to resume business
as usual in Texas as the most competent state in America in the use of
George Bush's role reversal----The pro-death-penalty president wants Texas
to give a death row inmate from Mexico a new hearing.
An oral argument in the U.S. Supreme Court last week featured an
especially dramatic example of role reversal. The administration of George
W. Bush, a former governor of Texas and an enthusiastic supporter of
capital punishment, asked the justices to force the courts of his home
state to grant a new hearing to a death row inmate.
That wasn't the only oddity. The administration asked the Supreme Court to
order a new hearing for Jose Medellin, a convicted rapist and murderer
from Mexico, because Bush -- not usually known for his deference to
international organizations -- promised Mexico he would secure one after
Medellin and 50 other Mexicans on American death rows (including 28 in
California) won a victory in the International Court of Justice in The
The World Court found that the inmates had not been allowed to confer
after their arrests with consular officials from their home country, a
right guaranteed in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which the
United States ratified in 1969. In 2005, the international tribunal said
the inmates deserved "a review and reconsideration of the convictions and
sentences." Bush agreed.
But the Texas courts wouldn't go along. In the Supreme Court last week,
the state's solicitor general rightly called Bush's attempt to obtain a
new hearing order "a very curious assertion of presidential power." In
what was obviously music to the ears of most of the justices, he added:
"The Supreme Court has the final authority to determine what federal law
Indeed it does. In the 1803 case of Marbury vs. Madison, Chief Justice
John Marshall famously wrote that "it is emphatically the province and
duty of the judicial department to say what the law is." That is still
true today. Now that the Texas courts have balked at taking orders from
the president, the Supreme Court should regain control of the case. As the
ultimate arbiter of the meaning of the "law of the land" -- including
treaties -- the justices can and should rule that the violation of
Medellin's rights under the Vienna Convention entitles him to a new
hearing in Texas.
(source: Opinion, Los Angeles Times)
Mendez gets life, forgiveness for murder
Ozell Craft's wife said vengeance belongs to the Lord.
She thanked God after a Lubbock County jury on Wednesday sentenced Saul
Mendez to life in prison for murdering her husband.
The jury gave Mendez, 29, the maximum sentence for stabbing Craft 60 times
in September 2006.
Witnesses described in gruesome detail the scene surrounding the slain
preacher. Craft, 46, was found next to a blood-drenched couch in a room
covered in blood spatter.
Lubbock County Assistant Criminal District Attorney Tray Payne said the
evidence in the case spoke for itself.
"I think it's really hard to get past DNA evidence," he said. "You have a
lot of excuses, but it's real hard to get around DNA."
Investigators testified Tuesday that a sock with Craft's blood on it was
found in a house where Mendez had lived. Also, detectives found a beer can
with Mendez's DNA on it in a trash can in Craft's house.
Mendez's attorney, Luke Jordan, declined comment.
In closing arguments, Jordan urged the jury to acquit Mendez because the
evidence only placed him at the scene and did not prove he stabbed Craft.
The jury found otherwise - convicting Mendez in less than an hour.
It took jurors longer to hand down the steepest sentence available,
sending Mendez to prison for life.
After Judge Brad Underwood read the sentence, Craft's sister and wife gave
Gladys Craft, Ozell Craft's sister, said Mendez took a very important part
out of the family's life, comparing it to a missing piece of a jigsaw
She said she forgives Mendez and that her life must proceed.
Craft's wife, Wanda, said she is pleased with the sentence and is glad the
trial is over.
She added that she doesn't believe in the death penalty - God will judge
her husband's killer and she forgives him.
"I will not allow what you (Mendez) have done and what you put me through
to take my place in heaven," she said. "I have visions of a heavenly home,
so I forgive you."
The family said they all forgive Mendez and that Ozell would have agreed.
They said their Christian upbringing would not allow them to do anything
but forgive the man who took such an important person from them.
Still, Wanda Craft said the trial - which lasted 2 weeks due to a mistrial
- was agonizing.
"It brings closure to know this portion is over," she said. "I can't
remember a night since he was killed that I have slept through the night."
(source: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)
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