[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----MO., ALA., FLA., TENN., CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Oct 24 23:57:57 CDT 2007
MISSOURI----federal death penalty trial
Penalty Phase Starts in Stolen-Baby Case
Jurors deciding whether to recommend the death penalty for a woman
convicted of killing an expectant mother and cutting the baby from her
womb listened Wednesday to a 911 call in which the victim's mother
described the gruesome crime scene.
"It's like she exploded or something,'' a sobbing Becky Harper told the
dispatcher in the recording. "There's blood everywhere.''
The federal jury convicted Lisa Montgomery on Monday of killing Bobbie Jo
Stinnett on Dec. 16, 2004, in the pregnant woman's home in the northwest
Missouri town of Skidmore. The baby survived, and Montgomery was arrested
the next day after showing the infant off as her own in her hometown of
The penalty phase of the trial began Wednesday. Prosecutors say
Montgomery, 39, deserves a death sentence for the kidnapping resulting in
death conviction. Her attorneys argue that she should get life in prison
without parole - the only other punishment the jury can choose - because
physical and sexual abuse she suffered as a child left her mentally ill.
During opening statements for the penalty phase of the trial, one of her
attorneys, Fred Duchardt, said the defense would call 2 mental health
experts and two of Montgomery's daughters to testify.
"It's obvious that Lisa has mental illness,'' he said.
On the stand Wednesday, Harper described her daughter, Bobbie Jo Stinnett,
as intelligent and fun-loving.
"She never knew a stranger,'' Harper said.
Stinnett's husband, Zeb, said her death "devastated my life.''
He described his wife preparing for the baby's birth. Prosecutors showed
photos of the plastic tubs she had filled with baby clothes and blankets.
Prosecutors also showed a photo of a baby monitor the couple used to
listen to the baby's heartbeat.
"It was very exciting,'' Zeb Stinnett testified.
Prosecutors say Montgomery had a history of pretending to be pregnant to
get attention and avoid work. Her ex-husband, Carl Boman, had told
Montgomery he would use the fake pregnancy against her to obtain custody
of 2 of the couple's 4 children. A custody hearing had been set for
The defense said Montgomery suffered from pseudocyesis, a mental condition
that causes a woman to falsely believe she is pregnant and exhibit outward
signs of pregnancy. They said her delusion of being pregnant was being
threatened, causing her to enter a dreamlike, dissociative state when the
(source: Associated Press)
In penalty phase of Lisa Montgomery trial, 911 tapes played
In between gruesome details barked out to an emergency dispatcher, Becky
Harper stopped to plead with the cold and lifeless body of her daughter,
Bobbie Jo Stinnett.
"Bobbie Jo, please," she said, her voice captured on tape by the Nodaway
County Sheriff's Department. "C'mon baby, please c'mon baby, wake up."
Jurors heard the 9-1-1 tapes Wednesday as the penalty phase of Lisa
Montgomery's federal death penalty trial opened in downtown Kansas City.
The penalty phase's closing arguments are slated for this morning, after
which the case and Montgomery's fate will be turned back over to the
Earlier in the week, the same jurors convicted Montgomery of strangling
Stinnett in December 2004 and cutting Stinnett's unborn daughter from her
Montgomery's defense had argued that the Melvern, Kan., woman suffered
from mental diseases that left her unable to determine that what she was
doing was wrong. The insanity defense failed at trial, but Montgomery's
defense team began waging much the same battle during Wednesday's hearing
to save the defendant from a lethal injection.
The defense also keyed in on Montgomery's reportedly rough upbringing,
noting that she was abandoned by her biological father and purportedly
sexually abused by a stepfather.
If the jury fails to unanimously opt for the death penalty, Montgomery
will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The prosecution cited potential aggravating factors that the government
maintains makes the crime eligible for the death penalty, including the
brutal nature of the murder and the fact that Stinnett died during the act
The government's case on Wednesday otherwise focused on the impact of
Stinnett's slaying on her family members.
Zeb Stinnett, the husband of Bobbie Jo Stinnett, told the jury that
Stinnetts killing in their Skidmore, Mo., home devastated his life.
"My world just crashed," he said.
In addition to talking to family members, prosecutors showed photos of
Bobbie Jo Stinnett from her childhood through the few years of her
marriage. They also showed pictures of the stacks of baby clothing she had
accrued, sorted by age and stored in plastic containers in anticipation of
the birth of her 1st child.
Zeb Stinnett said he still hasnt told Victoria Jo, now almost 3, what
happened to her mother.
"Victoria reminds me a lot of Bobbie, and I wish she could have seen what
her mom was like," said friend and cousin Mindy Winger.
Montgomery's family also took the stand Wednesday, with her husband, a
sister and two of her daughters all pledging that they would maintain
close ties with her if she receives a life sentence.
"I'm trying to support her, to make it easier for her," husband Kevin
Montgomery testified. "She calls and I just like to hear her voice. I
Dianne Hedberg, one of Montgomery's sisters, alleged that their mother was
abusive and neglectful of her and her younger sisters, and eventually had
Hedberg removed from her home.
"This is the 1st time I've seen her (Lisa) in over 35 years," Hedberg
said. "My whole life, there's been a hole. And now I have my sister back
and I want that to stay."
(source: Kansas City Star)
ALABAMA----stay of impending execution
11th Circuit blocks Siebert execution
A federal appeals court Wednesday granted a stay of execution for Daniel
Lee Siebert, a terminally ill killer who claimed that his cancer
medication would counteract with a lethal injection, inflicting
In granting the stay, a 3-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals in Atlanta reversed an order by U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller in
Attorneys on both sides were not immediately available for comment on the
Siebert, 53, who has been on Alabama's death row for more than 20 years
and has terminal pancreatic cancer, was facing lethal injection Thursday
at Holman prison near Atmore.
Siebert was condemned for the Feb. 19, 1986 strangulation deaths of Sherri
Weathers, 24, and her two sons, 5-year-old Chad and 4-year-old Joey at
their Talladega apartment. He was also convicted separately of capital
murder and sentenced to death for the slaying of Linda Jarman, a neighbor
of Weathers, who was killed the same night.
Siebert's case appeared headed for the U.S. Supreme Court, which already
has agreed to hear a lethal injection challenge from Kentucky. Siebert's
attorney, Thomas M. Goggans of Montgomery, also sought a delay until
there's a ruling in the Kentucky case - a request opposed by the Alabama
attorney general's office.
Assistant Attorney General Clay Crenshaw, the state's capital punishment
chief, told the 11th Circuit in a filing Wednesday that Siebert's claim
about his cancer medication possibly counteracting with a 3-drug cocktail
used in the execution was never supported by evidence.
Alabama ensures that the inmate is unconscious by administering a lethal
dose of sodium thiopental, according to the court filing, and potassium
chloride stops the heart.
Siebert argues the mix of drugs would likely result in an unacceptable
risk of unnecessary pain in violation of the protections against cruel and
unusual punishment found in the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
"Siebert's speculative Eighth Amendment claim pales in comparison to the
interest the general public has in the orderly administration of justice,"
Crenshaw told the 11th Circuit. "Put simply, the public has an interest in
seeing Siebert held accountable for his horrific crime."
Siebert's attorney submitted a letter from an oncologist, Dr. Jimmie
Harvey of Birmingham, that says "complications could arise" from the drug
combinations. Harvey speculates that Siebert could regurgitate his stomach
contents during an execution and that he might have compromised veins.
Crenshaw said Harvey's opinion should not be considered. There is no
indication that he examined Siebert or that any of Siebert's extensive
medical records support that conclusion, Crenshaw wrote.
Siebert's attorney also has challenged lethal injection as a form of
punishment. The state contends Siebert exhausted his state and federal
appeals on March 19 when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his case.
He filed the lethal injection challenge after that date, and the state
claims he waited too late to file it.
Death penalty opponents had urged Gov. Bob Riley to delay the execution
because Siebert has cancer and is only expected to live a few months, but
Riley declined Monday. The governor said the state should carry out the
jury's wishes that Siebert die for murders that "were monstrous, brutal
Weathers was a student at the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind in
Talladega. Siebert had started dating her after he was offered a job in
the institute's theater program as a set designer, according to court
Siebert also was linked to other crimes inside and outside Alabama.
Alabama has revised its lethal injection protocol slightly since the U.S.
Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to lethal injection in Kentucky -
a ruling that could come next year and have nationwide impact.
Siebert's attorney contends Siebert should be granted a stay until the
Kentucky case is heard. But Siebert doesn't qualify for a delay based on
issues in the Kentucky challenge, Crenshaw told the 11th Circuit in his
"Indeed, it is no different from any other eleventh-hour challenge to an
execution. It is dilatory and it does not justify the granting of a stay
of execution," the filing says.
(source: Associated Press)
Live and let die
THE ISSUE: Gov. Bob Riley refused to block the execution of Daniel Lee
Siebert, despite pending legal challenges to lethal injection.
Gov. Bob Riley is right on at least one point: Daniel Lee Siebert was
sentenced to die for crimes that were "monstrous, brutal and ghastly."
Siebert was convicted in the 1986 strangling death of his girlfriend,
Sherri Weathers, a 24-year-old student at the Alabama School for the Deaf
in Talladega. Also killed were Weathers' 5-year-old son, Chad; her
4-year-old son, Joey; and their neighbor, Linda Jarman. Far from declaring
his innocence, Siebert has claimed he committed a number of other murders
Monstrous? Brutal? Without question.
And, yet ... Riley's refusal Monday to postpone Siebert's execution was
disappointing. Riley said delaying Siebert's execution, which is scheduled
for Thursday, would be tantamount to "commuting his sentence to life in
prison, and that is not the sentence he was given by a jury."
Riley saw no need to put off the execution while a challenge to lethal
injection is pending in the U.S. Supreme Court. Last month, Riley granted
a 45-day reprieve to Death Row inmate Tommy Arthur to give the state time
to tweak its lethal injection procedures. Now, he said, the state is
prepared to provide extra safeguards to make sure inmates really are
unconscious when they are put to death - one of the chief issues involved
in the ongoing lawsuits over lethal injection. That's good enough for
Yes, making sure condemned inmates are unconscious is a good thing. But
isn't making sure Alabama's death penalty procedures fall within the
parameters of the U.S. Constitution an even better thing?
Complicating Siebert's case is the fact he is terminally ill. He is
expected to die in a matter of months, if not weeks, from pancreatic
cancer. If he is not put to death this week, he may not live to see the
Supreme Court resolve the questions about lethal injection. He may die
before the state of Alabama can kill him.
That's a "risk" Riley should be willing to accept. Until federal courts
have ruled on lethal injection, Alabama simply has no business putting
people to death.
The same day Riley refused to call off Siebert's execution, the Georgia
Supreme Court granted a reprieve to a Death Row inmate there because of
the ongoing litigation over lethal injection. The Alabama Supreme Court
should do likewise.
Not because Siebert doesn't deserve to be punished - or, for that matter,
to die - for his crimes. But the state must dole out its punishments in a
morally and legally acceptable way, even for people who've done things as
monstrous as Siebert.
(source: Opinion, The Birmingham News)
Alabama pushes to kill inmate before cancer does
Even though most US executions have been postponed due to a debate about
lethal injection, the state of Alabama intends to execute Daniel Siebert
on Thursday because of concerns that pancreatic cancer might kill him
Siebert, 53, was put on death row for the 1986 murder of 2 young women and
2 children aged 4 and 5.
A 5th murder conviction was added later, a Siebert has admitted that he
has killed before, according to Alabama Governor Rob Riley.
The execution is scheduled for late Thursday, but lawyers for the inmate
have asked for a stay until the Supreme Court rules on lethal injection,
which the court agreed to consider last month.
Meanwhile, Governor Riley has already said he will do nothing to stop the
"I would in essence be commuting his sentence to life in prison and that
is not the sentence he was given by a jury," Riley said. "His crimes were
monstrous, brutal and ghastly."
(source: Agence France Presse)
Cops hope new DNA lab helps solve cases
A new lab designed to examine people's genetic makeup is the latest tool
law enforcement agencies in Southwest Florida can use to solve crimes.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcements DNA lab, which opened Tuesday
with a tour by FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey, also should help ease a
backlog of cases.
Right now, the closest FDLE laboratory that can handle DNA cases is in
Tampa. That lab had a backlog of 900 cases in December, part of about
4,400 cases that were holding statewide, officials said.
"DNA is becoming a bigger part of our cases," said Fort Myers police Capt.
Delbert Fair. "We welcome anything that can give us faster results."
The FDLE hopes the Fort Myers lab can help accomplish that, Special Agent
in Charge E.J. Picolo said this summer when the plans to open the section
in Fort Myers were first announced.
A little more fine tuning still is needed, but by winter, the addition to
the existing crime laboratory on Terminal Drive near Page Field should be
Law enforcement demand for DNA analysis has grown exponentially since the
evidence was first used to secure a rape conviction in Florida in 1993,
said David Lounsbury, an associate professor of criminal justice at
Florida Gulf Coast University and an expert in forensic science.
DNA analysis has provided detectives with a tool to find or to eliminate
suspects, while giving prosecutors the edge needed to persuade reluctant
Nationwide, it has also exonerated many convicted on circumstantial or
even eyewitness evidence.
Prisoners who had been incarcerated for decades, some on death row, were
cleared when an analysis of biological evidence from their cases said they
couldnt have committed the crimes.
That potential for success has also brought an ever increasing demand for
service, the FDLE said.
In 2006 the FDLE handled 80,457 requests for DNA analysis and examined
some 300,000 pieces of evidence, Heather Smith, an agency spokeswoman, has
Some high profile cases such as the murder of 6-year-old Coralrose
Fullwood in North Port on Sept. 17, 2006 may have to depend on DNA
analysis for their solution.
The little girls killer left his DNA on her body, said North Port police
Chief Terry Lewis. Detectives continue to have that sample compared to
potential suspects and others whose DNA profiles are carried in a
computerized database maintained by state and federal authorities.
"The case we really hope to solve with DNA is the Coralrose homicide
because we have a DNA profile," said FDLE spokesman Larry Long. "When we
get this match, we'll be thrilled."
While the lab coat hasn't replaced the trench coat in criminal
investigations, its catching up, Lounsbury said.
DNA is the best way to conclusively identify a suspect since fingerprints
came on the scene more than a century ago, Lounsbury said.
Some types of DNA cant be analyzed by the FDLE laboratories, officials
Those will still have to go to private laboratories for analysis.
Mitochondrial DNA, which can trace a person's maternal lineage isn't
analyzed by the FDLE, Lounsbury said. But it can be found long after
nuclear DNA has decomposed, he said.
That makes it the test of choice in investigations where remains may have
decomposed or seriously deteriorated, Lounsbury said.
"If you had 2 brothers, it wouldn't differentiate between them," he said,
"but if you have only one person with that maternal lineage missing, it
will identify him."
Fort Myers police are waiting for those type of results in their quest to
identify the 8 skeletons found earlier this year on an unpaved portion of
Arcadia Street, Fair said.
Hendry County Sheriff Ronald E. Lee hopes the lab can find a DNA match
from the evidence found on Alexandra Hernandez.
Alexandra was a 12-year-old girl found buried in 1988 in a south Hendry
County orange grove where her parents picked fruit. She was sexually
molested, Lee said.
DNA found on Alexandra can be matched from samples nationwide using the
technology from the Fort Myers lab.
"This is great because one day we're going to get a hit and find who did
this to her."
(source: The News-Press)
Digg it del.icio.us AIM ---- State not seeking death penalty for Lopez
The state announced today it will not seek the death penalty for a man
accused of fatally shooting his longtime girlfriend in early June outside
her North Orange Estate home.
This summer, Felipe C. Lopez was indicted on 1 count of 1st-degree murder
in the June 5 shooting death of 36-year-old Celsa Bautista, who had 4
children with Lopez.
The indictment allowed prosecutors to pursue the death penalty against
Lopez. But today, homicide Prosecutor Art Brown said he will seek a life
prison sentence for Lopez.
The Manatee County Sheriff's Office says Lopez shot and killed Bautista in
the front yard of her home in the 2300 block of 16th Avenue Circle East.
Authorities have said that at least 2 of their children witnessed the
According to a sheriff's report, Bautista and Lopez were heard arguing
before Lopez shot her just after midnight.
Bautista was shot twice in the left side of her head, according to a
search warrant. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Lopez was arrested about 200 yards away from the house. He was taken to
Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, where he was treated for a
Lopez later told detectives he shot his wife after she shot him, according
to the warrant.
The couple, who had a history of domestic violence incidents, had been
separated since December 2006, when Bautista kicked out Lopez because he
had been arrested on traffic offenses.
Bautista attempted to obtain multiple restraining orders against Lopez
since 2004, according to Manatee County court documents.
(source: Bradenton Herald)
Tennessee Death Row Inmate Dies of Natural Causes
State correction officials say death row inmate Ricky Thompson has died of
natural causes at the age of 57.
Department of Correction spokeswoman Dorinda Carter says Thompson died of
apparent natural causes at Centennial Medical Center in Nashville around
He was diagnosed as a schizophrenic and for a time was judged incompetent
to stand trial.
Thompson had been on death row since 1992 after being convicted for
shooting his wife with an assault rifle.
His murder conviction was recently upheld on appeal, but his death
sentence was overturned after the state appellate court ruled that it was
obvious that Thompson suffered from mental illness.
The state was awaiting appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court, keeping
Thompson on death row.
(source: The Associated Press)
California Arsonist Should Get Death Penalty if Convicted
At least in theory, California still has a death penalty. In order for it
to be applied, a defendant would have to be convicted of killing someone.
But seriously, folks: What should we do with an arsonist who is caught
setting fires when a million people have been evacuated, at least 5 people
have died from the fire or the strain of the fire escape, and a billion
dollars has gone up in smoke?
I have worked California wildfires since before Jimmy Carter was
president. I have spent lots of time talking to veteran fire investigators
and the fire service managers. I have heard countless tales of catching
firebugs in the act, and I've heard about the sexual deviancy that is
usually behind these unbelievable arsons.
Why do we give these people meds and a room in a state mental hospital
when San Quentin has space in that dark little corner of the world called
death row? I've been there, too.
I fail to see why my next visit shouldn't include the sight of an arsonist
from this fire waiting his 20 years for California-required appeals to be
rejected before he gets the needle just like any other heartless killer.
Of course, it's possible if a death from a fire like this one can be
directly related to a fire that can be directly related to a particular
act of arson. It doesn't always work like that.
The guy they arrested for arson in Southern California was spotted setting
one fire. Why do we think he didn't set several of the others in the same
1500 people lose homes, 5 people lose their lives, a million Californians
are refugees, a stack of cash a billion high is torched, and we're going
to be nice to this arsonist and make sure he gets the mental health care
he needs? Puhlease.
I don't want to sound heartless, but shouldn't this guy if convicted go
to the head of the line at San Quentin instead of that cushy padded room
at the psych ward? Are all those people in California who are against the
death penalty still against it tonight?
That's My Word.
(source: John Gibson, Fox News)
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