[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----OKLA., IND., USA, TENN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Sep 3 13:54:53 CDT 2007
Sheriff reacts to murderer's overturned death penalty
Justice was served. That's what many people say about a 2005 Comanche
County jury's decision to sentence a man to death for killing an Oklahoma
Highway Patrol Trooper in cold blood. But the Oklahoma Court of Criminal
Appeals has overturned Ricky Ray Malone's sentence and ordered a new
He gunned down Trooper Nik Green the day after Christmas in 2003 after
Green confronted Malone while he was cooking meth on a Cotton County road.
After a struggle, Malone got a hold of Green's own weapon and shot him
twice in the back of the head. Green's patrol car dash cam caught the
whole thing on tape -- including him praying for his life.
Comanche County Sheriff Kenny Stradley says he just can't believe this is
happening. He was in the courtroom every day and he absolutely believes
Malone received a fair trial and an appropriate sentence for his crime.
The court made their decision to overturn the death sentence on the basis
that the District Attorney went over the line in his closing statement to
the jury. But many people who were there in the courtroom disagree.
"Robert Schulte's probably the best DA I've ever worked with and I didn't
see a problem at all," Stradley said. "I've been at this close to 30 years
and I didn't see a problem."
The court's opinion says DA Schulte's closing arguments included the
phrase: "What kind of person can put a high velocity weapon to a man's
head while he's praying and pull the trigger? A lot of people can't put a
stray dog down that way, this man put a human being down that way."
While the court's opinion says this was just one of the lines that went
too far -- Stradley disagrees... "I've seen a lot of jobs where the
defense lawyers have done a lot of things and you wonder why that wasn't
called," Stradley said. He says the DA presented this case fairly the
first time -- and this re-trial is unjustified. "What's sort of sad is
sometimes the bad people sometimes have more rights than the good people,"
Now a Comanche County court must retry the second phase of the trial, and
a new judge and jury will hand down the next sentence. "I hate to see the
green family go through this again," Stradley said. "This is a sad
situation. It's like having a wound and tearing the scab back off of it."
You may remember security for Malone's trial was very tight -- Sheriff
Stradley says it will be the same when he comes back to court this time.
And he says he will be there for every minute of this retrial as well.
And we did speak to DA Schulte on the phone. He says he still has not
received a copy of the court's opinion, so he cannot comment right now. He
says he'll be able to provide more information on Tuesday. You can count
us to let you know what we find out.
(source: KSWO News)
Family in shock after killer freed
Friday is a day a Pike County woman thought she'd never see, her
grandmother's killer is out of prison. 44-year old, Richard Dillon, is 1
of 2 men convicted in the 1981 deaths of, 72-year old, William Hilborn and
his 65-year old wife, Mary.
Police say Dillon was 1 of 2 teenagers who were in the process of robbing
the Hilborn's home when the couple returned from church.
For years Sharron Cannon has followed her grandmothers case down to the
last detail. From the night of the murders, to the trial and conviction of
those responsible for the crime. She's also seen the toll this case is
taking on her own mother.
Sharon Cannon, says, "She's had so much trouble over the years emotional
problems and stuff because her and my grandma were really close, she's
William Hilborn and his wife Mary were stabbed to death in their own home
in march of 1981. One of their killers Richard Dillon, initially received
the death penalty but later had the sentence reduced to 60 years.
Cannon says, "We were told he would never get out."
That was until Sharon received a letter from the Indiana Department of
Corrections notifying her Dillon would soon be released.
Cannon says, "I was more shocked than anything."
Having accepted the fact that Dillon is out of prison, Sharon says she
finds a peaceful sense of closure through forgiveness.
Sharon says, "We have to forgive in order to recover from what ever it is,
in this case from my grandma's death, I have to forgive him in order to
recover and I feel like I have forgiven him."
Sharon lives just a short distance from where her grandmother was
murdered, and every time she drives by this house she's reminded of how
everyone loved Mary Hilborn."
Cannon says, "No one had a bad thing to say about her, she was a baker in
town, everyone knew her, and everyone loved her, just knowing that gives
me some peace knowing that she was a loved person."
14 News spoke with Richard Dillon this afternoon, he declined an interview
but did say, "I want to move on with my life."
The other man who was convicted, 43-year old, Jay Thompson was also
initially sentenced to death, but his sentence was also overturned after
the Indiana Supreme Court ruled the judge had given the jury the wrong
Thompson is now scheduled to be released from prison in about 30 years.
(source: WFIE New)
Patriot Act Revision Gives A-G Power on Death Row
USA Patriot Act Revision Gives U.S. Attorney General New Power on Death
Row Federal Appeals Interview with Richard Dieter, executive director, The
Death Penalty Information Center, conducted by Melinda Tuhus
Editor's note: This interview was recorded before Attorney General Alberto
One of the revisions in the USA Patriot Act reauthorized by Congress in
2006 moves the decision-making power about whether a death row inmate has
received adequate legal representation for a federal appeal from the
courts to the U.S. attorney general. It also reduces the time allotted for
appeals, effectively increasing the chances of innocent people being
The legislation was passed and signed into law by President Bush, and
implementation regulations are now being written. There is a public
comment period, in which some of the regulations could be modified, but
the role of the U.S. attorney general can only be changed by another act
of Congress. The number of people executed annually has dropped about 40 %
-- from 99 in 1998 to 53 last year. The number of people sentenced to
death by states has also declined. But, under the Bush administration the
number of federal death row inmates has increased. Overall, 3,300 people
are now sitting on death row. Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus spoke with
Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center
in Washington, D.C. He explains how the law will work and what the impact
is likely to be on prisoners facing execution.
RICHARD DIETER: The part of the appeals that will be speeded up are the
federal appeals of your state case. You usually have a state appeal and
then you can check the federal courts to look over the constitutional
issues and it's the federal part that is going to be speeded up by this.
Its giving the fox control over the chicken coop.
BETWEEN THE LINES: So what do you think the impact will be?
RICHARD DIETER: Just to give you an idea, the anti-terrorism law I
mentioned earlier has been in effect for ten years, and no state has
completely satisfied the "good lawyer" requirements, as determined by the
courts, so clearly the states arent providing good representation. Now the
attorney general is going to decide whether those states are doing okay;
we expect that a lot of those states could be approved very quickly and
executions would speed up.
BETWEEN THE LINES: I read that one reason Congress wanted to pass this law
was to equalize the treatment of death penalty appeals across the
different appeals courts around the country, because right now the
outcomes are vastly different, ranging from about 2 % to about 1/3 of
appeals being accepted. Do you accept that rationale?
RICHARD DIETER: That may be part of the goal, although the attorney
general only has so much power. But it does put restrictions on all the
courts -- all the federal courts, the district courts and the circuit
courts -- all have to act within a much shorter period of time. Its not
just that the lawyers will have to file things more quickly -- which they
will, if this is approved -- but the judges will have to decide the
federal appeals, so you can't take as much time to review them or maybe
have as many hearings. You're not required to decide a certain % one way
or the other, but with less time, I think the pressure is to move these
cases along, to confirm what the states did in approving the death penalty
and the conviction, and the judge will have only a limited amount of time.
So I think it will result in fewer reversals by the federal courts just
because theyll have less time to review these cases.
BETWEEN THE LINES: I noticed that the American Bar Association spoke out
against this provision when it was moving through Congress. Ive never
thought of the ABA as a particularly radical group
RICHARD DIETER: Right. I mean, the American Bar Association's main concern
is with due process, certainly the quality of representation provided by
lawyers. They've insisted you have to have good lawyers for trial, and
good lawyers for the appeals. And there was at least some protection in
the old law that there would be good lawyers for the appeals if you want
these appeals to go fast, and the courts would judge whether you've got
good lawyers. And these are all neutral observers in the system. But now
to say that the prosecutor will decide whether you've got good lawyers is
a strange step indeed a conflict of interest, to begin with. Prosecutors
want the death penalty. Alberto Gonzales to be in the hands of just one
person, who happens to have been Gov. Bush's legal counsel on death
penalty matters in Texas, where they had so many executions. So, clearly,
this is a pro-death penalty, not a neutral observer that the courts were
supposed to be.
BETWEEN THE LINES: I suppose it's possible with a different
administration, that there might be an attorney general whos not in favor
of the death penalty.
RICHARD DIETER: That's correct. That's exactly right, but I think that
just underscores the fact that this is the wrong place for the decision to
be made, because sometimes you'll have a pro-death penalty attorney
general, sometimes anti. You know, thats not what should determine whether
a state has good lawyers defending death penalty clients. That's an
objective determination, not a political determination. The attorney
general's office is clearly a political office, which will rise and fall
or sway back and forth with elections. And this is why we have our courts
and our independent federal judiciary and lifetime appointments, etc., so
people can make decisions based on the facts and not on their particular
persuasion on the death penalty.
BETWEEN THE LINES: And with DNA testing now available, it seems like the
chances of someone being proven not guilty in a death penalty case if
there was time to go through that process might be short-circuited.
BETWEEN THE LINES: Absolutely. We've kept track of the people who've had
their convictions reversed and been freed from death row. There's 124 such
people. Those cases took an average of 9 years, so if you cut the appeals
process down to, say, 5 years, a lot of those cases would have been
missed. They simply would have been executed before new facts had time to
ripen, before courts had a chance to do all the testing or new witnesses
to come forward. Faster appeals means more mistakes I think that's a high
probability. And that's what this is all about; it's not just about who
makes decisions, but how fast a person has to raise any issues and perhaps
show that they were mistakenly convicted. We know that can happen; DNA has
shown it in the cases that DNA is available, but there are a lot of cases
where DNA is not available, and those are just as likely to have a
(source: Scoop (NZ) News)
Putting bite on crime----Forenic study could bolster use of bite marks as
Dr. Thomas Johnson points to a photo of serial killer Ted Bundy's teeth,
indicating characteristics that might make his bite marks unique.
It's commonly believed that no two sets of human teeth are alike. Chips,
jagged edges, crooked teeth and gaps all contribute to a persons unique
smile. It seems reasonable, then, that bite patterns made by those teeth
should be as unique as the teeth themselves, though this has not been
Now, a team of researchers at Marquette University has gotten one step
By measuring the position and rotation of individual teeth from hundreds
of bite samples collected from volunteers, the researchers can
statistically estimate how often the characteristics of a particular bite
pattern occur in the population and determine the probability of someone
else having the same characteristics.
The researchers ultimately hope that the scientific analysis of the
patterns will provide a more objective basis for analysis and comparison
of bite-mark evidence in criminal trials.
This project will put science behind the impression that a persons pattern
of bites is unique," said Thomas Radmer, assistant professor and director
of oral and maxillofacial surgery at Marquette.
L. Thomas Johnson, adjunct professor at Marquette Universitys School of
Dentistry, explained that while intuition may say that each set of teeth
would make a distinct bite pattern, there is no scientific database
So Johnson and Radmer decided to create one. During a two-year period they
collected more than 400 bite patterns from male volunteers ages 18 to 44,
the demographic most likely to be the aggressors in violent crimes
Each subject bit down on a copper- coated wax wafer, simultaneously
capturing the indentations of his top and bottom teeth. The copper coating
on the wafer ensured that the bite marks would show up clearly when
scanned into a computer.
For each sample they measured 6 characteristics: tooth width; degree of
rotation of a tooth; inward or outward displacement; arch width; spaces
between teeth; and any missing or extra teeth.
Measurements of each bite mark pattern initially were taken by hand and
had to be checked for consistency. "This is not an exact science; it's a
bit subjective," Johnson said. "There has to be a human mind and eye to
Now, a computer can do all the hard work and get it right every time.
Thomas Wirtz, director of the dental informatics program at Marquette,
developed a computer program to measure the bite pattern characteristics
automatically, eliminating any errors in measurement. His program looks at
every pixel in the image to locate the positions of all the teeth, and
then uses formulas to calculate distances and angles.
It takes 15 to 20 minutes to measure a sample by hand, but Wirtz's
computer program can do it in about 10 seconds, a huge improvement
considering the researchers ultimately would like to build a database of
tens of thousands of samples.
"Without the automated program it would be a monumental task," Radmer
Bite marks have a controversial history as evidence in criminal trials.
First brought up as forensic evidence in 1870, bite marks did not formally
gain legal credibility in the U.S. courts until 1954. Since then,
bite-mark evidence has been used in a number of cases, most famously to
convict serial killer Ted Bundy.
But occasionally forensic dentists have been known to make some costly
In April 2002, DNA evidence freed Ray Krone, dubbed the "snaggletooth
killer," who spent 10 years in an Arizona prison, including 2 on death
row, based solely on incorrectly analyzed bite marks.
Bite-mark patterns can vary wildly in clarity, and like a bruise, they can
change over time. The quality of a bite mark also depends on the substance
a person has bitten, as bite marks on gum or Styrofoam cups can be more
defined than bite marks on skin. The force of the bite, the angle of the
bite and the area bitten can all affect the appearance of a bite mark.
Forensic dentists apply their expertise to formulate an opinion on whether
the accused could have made the particular bite mark patterns.
But the subjective nature of bitemark analysis and interpretation has been
the focus of harsh criticism, and forensic dentistry has been called a
"False convictions leave bite marks with a black eye," said Donald Simley,
a certified forensic dentist based in Madison, Wis. The study "should help
the whole science of bite-mark evidence."
(source: The Buffalo News)
Hamilton County death row inmate challenges execution
A Chattanooga man scheduled to be executed by lethal injection this month
is to appear Tuesday in a federal courtroom in Nashville for a trial to
challenge the state's execution protocols.
Edward Jerome Harbison, 52, is housed on Tennessee's death row at the
Riverbend Maximum Security Institution for the 1982 bludgeoning death of
62-year-old Edith Russell.
Mr. Harbison is scheduled to die Sept. 26 at 1 a.m., but he is seeking to
delay his execution based on what he claims are insufficient research into
the method of death and inadequate training of execution personnel.
Sharon Curtis-Flair, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Attorney General's
office, said the federal trial is expected to last about 4 days.
Mr. Harbison is challenging the method of execution and the training of
those who will administer the lethal cocktail of drugs designed to kill
him, according to a complaint filed with the U.S. District Court in
"The protocol was adopted without any research or review to determine that
a prisoner would not suffer pain beyond that attendant to the
extinguishment of life," the complaint states.
(source: Chattanooga Times Free Press)
Court rejects appeal by death row inmate ---- Man found guilty of 1992
murder claims conviction flawed on 12 separate points
In a 47-page opinion, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals has turned
down a death row inmate's claim that his 1st-degree murder conviction was
flawed on 12 separate points.
James A. Dellinger was convicted in 1992 in the shooting death of Tommy
Griffin, whose body was found Feb. 24, 1992, at a spot on the Little River
known as the Blue Hole.
Griffin's sister, Connie Branam, who had accompanied Dellinger and his
co-defendant in Griffin's killing in a search for her missing brother, was
found dead 4 days after Griffin in her burned-out vehicle in Sevier
The case was a high-profile one in Blount County. Dellinger and Gary Wayne
Sutton were found guilty and sentenced to death.
More than 15 years after the conviction, the Court of Criminal Appeals
turned down Dellinger's appeal point by point. Dellinger had claimed a
dozen issues on which he said the conviction and sentence should be
reversed, including ineffective counsel, challenges to the states death
penalty law and how that penalty is imposed, and a violation of
The court found no merit in any of Dellinger's claims.
The opinion's narrative of the circumstances of the Griffin killing shows
that Dellinger, Sutton and Griffin went out for an afternoon of drinking
at a Maryville bar on Feb. 21, 1992, and left the bar at about 7 p.m. in a
Shortly thereafter, witnesses reported seeing 3 men involved in an
altercation in a dark Camaro on Alcoa Highway near Hunt Road. An
investigating officer found Griffin with 2 men not Sutton and Dellinger
on the side of the road. Griffin told the officer that friends he would
not identify had put him out of their car. Griffin was arrested for public
About 9 p.m., Dellinger's white truck was seen near Griffin's trailer,
which caught on fire minutes later, court documents state. Dellinger also
was seen in possession of what appeared to be a shotgun wrapped in a
sheet, according to the opinion's narrative.
Around 11:25 p.m., Dellinger and Sutton went to the Blount County Jail and
posted a cash bond for Griffin. A half-hour later, gunshots were heard in
the vicinity of the Blue Hole.
The next day, Connie Branam went with Sutton and Dellinger back to the bar
the trio had been at the previous evening and questioned waitresses about
whom Griffin left with.
Dellinger told one of them that Griffin had left with "a short,
dark-haired, ugly woman." But one of the waitresses remembered Griffin
leaving with Dellinger and Sutton.
About 8 p.m. that night, a couple who lived near the Clear Fork area in
Sevier County noticed a fire in the woods, and 2 men in a white truck were
seen rapidly leaving the fire scene the next morning, the opinion's
At 3:30 p.m. Feb. 24, Griffin's body was found with a shotgun wound to the
base of the skull near the Blue Hole. Shells found at the scene were later
determined to have been fired from a shotgun that also had fired shells
found in Dellingers yard, according to court documents.
On Feb. 28, Connie Branam's body was found in her burned vehicle near the
wooded spot in Sevier County where the fire had earlier been seen. Her
body was so badly burned that a time or cause of death could not be
A specialist ruled the fire arson, and a bullet casing found in the
vehicle was matched to a rifle later found in Dellingers home, according
to court documents.
Dellinger and Sutton were charged with 1st-degree murder in Griffin's
death and sentenced to death. Both also were convicted in February 1993 of
Branam's death in Sevier County, and each received life sentences plus 2
years for arson.
(source: Knoxville News Sentinel)
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