[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----ILL., USA, ALA., ARK., N.Y.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Sep 7 19:11:46 CDT 2007
Inmate convicted in 1986 Paris killing gets new trial
An Illinois appeals court has granted a new trial for a 61-year-old man
serving a life sentence in the 1986 stabbing death of a woman in the
eastern Illinois community of Paris.
Herb Whitlock was convicted of murdering Karen Rhoads, who died along with
her new husband, Dyke, in a rampage in their home. Another man convicted
in both killings, Gordon "Randy" Steidl, was freed in 2004 after a federal
judge ordered the state to release or retry him.
Defense attorney Richard Kling says the 4th District Illinois Appellate
Court in Springfield issued a 53-page decision in Whitlock's case.
Kling said Friday morning that he hadn't yet seen the decision, but
planned to travel to the Lawrence Correctional Center later in the day to
see Whitlock. The prison is near Sumner, Ill., about 150 miles east of St.
Louis and 75 miles south of Paris.
In the meantime, Kling said, he was trying to set up a phone call to let
his client know about the decision.
A call to the Illinois Appellate Prosecutors Office was not immediately
Kling, who practices in Chicago, has long sought a new trial for Whitlock.
In 1987, separate juries convicted Steidl in both murders and Whitlock in
Karen Rhoads' death. The 2 men were friends and prosecutors said they
killed the newlywed couple during a drug deal. Steidl was sentenced to
death and Whitlock to life in prison.
Steidl spent a dozen years on death row before his 2004 release. A judge
said it was "reasonably probable" a jury would have acquitted Steidl if
his defense had done more to challenge the state's case.
Whitlock, convicted on much of the same evidence as Steidl, has maintained
Whitlock was denied a bid for a new trial by now-retired Edgar County
Judge H. Dean Andrews. Whitlock appealed that decision, leading to this
At a hearing in Edgar County, Kling presented evidence that a friend of a
key witness said the witness lied about being at the scene of the murders.
A former State Police lieutenant, Michael Callahan, also has said his
superiors stopped him from fully reinvestigating the case. He won a
federal civil rights lawsuit based on that accusation.
And Dyke Rhoads' siblings have long said they believed someone else killed
(source: Associated Press)
Who's Got God? Survey Ranks '08 Candidates----Republicans Edgy About
Voting For Mormon Romney
Which candidate running for the White House is the most religious? Mormom
Mitt Romney, according to a new Pew Research Center poll.
46 % said they consider Romney, a Republican contender, to be very
religious, far more than any other candidate.
The survey also found that a broad cross-section of Republicans and
Democrats say religious faith is of great importance to them when choosing
a president. And 1/2 in the poll said the GOP is friendly toward religion
while 30 % said the same about the Democrats.
Even so, Romney's faith may not help him: A quarter of all Republicans --
including 36 % of white evangelical Protestants -- told Pew they'd be less
likely to vote for a Mormon.
Republican Rudy Giuliani and Democrat Hillary Clinton, who lead the most
recent national polls, are seen as the least religious of the major
presidential candidates, Pew said. Giuliani was considered very religious
by 14 %, while 16 % said the same of Clinton.
Those findings come despite the fact that Clinton, a Methodist, and
Giuliani, a Catholic, both cite their faith as central to their life and
Giuliani's pro-choice position does not appear to harm him among his
party's conservative base, Pew found.
His 76 % favorability rating among social-issue Republican and
Republican-leaning voters who know he supports abortion rights is not much
lower than the 80 % of those who don't know his position on the matter.
Clinton benefits among both Democrats and Republicans who see her as at
least somewhat religious. 4 in 10 Republicans and Republican leaners who
said she is very or somewhat religious had a favorable view of her in the
study, compared with 8 % of Republicans who saw her as not very religious.
Clinton's 90 % favorability rating is 28 points higher among Democrats and
Democratic leaners who said she is religious than among those who say she
is not religious.
Pew found that, in general, Americans believe abortion and gay marriage
are not as important as the war in Iraq and other domestic issues --
findings consistent with a June survey, which found abortion rated as the
least important issue of the nine tested in the survey.
However, white evangelical Protestants were the only major political or
religious group in which a majority said that social issues like abortion
and gay marriage would be very important in their presidential voting
decisions. Even so, the social issues trail domestic matters and the war
in Iraq in importance among those voters.
36 % of Americans favor gay marriage, while 55 % oppose it, Pew said. That
finding is almost the same as in June. And in both cases, opinions about
are closely linked with partisanship, ideology, and religion. 71 % of
liberal Democrats support gay marriage, while 11 % of conservative
Republicans oppose it, Pew said.
While 62 % of Americans favor the death penalty for people convicted of
murder, down from 78 % in 1996, support for the death penalty is
particularly high among Republicans (80 %). 60 % of independents and 52 %
of Democrats support capital punishment in murder cases, Pew said.
74 % of white evangelical Protestants support the death penalty, compared
to 68 percent of white mainline Protestants. About 1/2 of black
Protestants oppose it and 2/3 of non-Hispanic Catholics support it, but
support is significantly lower -- 55 % -- among weekly-churchgoing white
Catholics than among those who attend church less often.
(source: WMUR News)
FBI fighting rise here in bank heists----The agency uses nicknames to help
publicize suspects and bring them in
The FBI credits the colorful, tabloid-style nicknames they have given bank
robbery suspects in Houston "The Flasher," "Desperate Dad," "The Count"
with helping put some of them behind bars
This year, agents need all the help they can get in Harris County, which
is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of bank robberies. Already,
there have been 80 robberies in the county, up nearly 50 % over the total
for of 2006.
"The names increase the number of media outlets that pick up on the
story," said Houston FBI Special Agent Patricia Villafranca. "The more
coverage there is, the more readers and viewers are exposed and the more
likely we are to get tips."
So far this year, there have been 59 bank robberies in Houston and 21 in
the county, according to the FBI. Last year, robbers hit Houston banks 39
times and banks in other parts of the county 15 times. Texas was 2nd in
bank robberies last year with 394. Only California, with 915, had more.
The increase can be explained in part to the opening of more
"robber-friendly" banks, said Robert McCrie, a professor of security
management at New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice who has
studied bank robbery for 30 years.
Chain banks have more branches with fewer or no human security personnel
at all, McCrie said. Robbers know that bank officials instruct tellers "to
simply pass over the money to someone who gives them a note, to cooperate
and get the robber out quickly," McCrie said.
The FBI's latest nickname is "Cell Phone Bandit," given to a woman who
talked on her cellular phone while robbing the Wells Fargo at 17317 North
Freeway, on June 15, and the Washington Mutual at 8014 West FM 1960, on
June 29. The phone-wielding bandit is black, about 5 feet 4, and wore a
dark red wig, blue jeans, flannel shirt and reading glasses.
The game of the names
As evidence that the FBI's nickname scheme seems to be working, agents
note that "The Flasher," "'Desperate Dad" and "The Count" have been
James Edward Crooks Jr. was arrested Aug. 27 for allegedly robbing a
Capitol One bank on Kirby. He was dubbed "The Flasher" because he lifted
his shirt and showed the teller the pistol in his belt during the Aug. 20
Edward James Lyons was dubbed "Desperate Dad" after he allegedly robbed a
Wachovia bank on San Felipe, on March 6, giving the teller a note that
explained his family's financial woes. Lyons turned himself in on Aug. 31
after learning he'd been identified through a phone tip and that a warrant
for his arrest had been issued.
Terrance Andrew Manuel was named "The Count" after he allegedly threatened
a teller and started counting backward from 10 during an Aug. 21 Compass
Bank robbery on West 19th Street. A tip led to his arrest Aug. 24.
How does a bank robber get a nickname?
If surveillance cameras produce a picture of the robber clear enough to
put in newspapers, on television and Internet sites, Villafranca and
others in the Houston FBI office devise names to go with the photos.
An FBI college intern earlier this year dubbed one robber who gave tellers
at two banks several verbal commands "The Bossy Bandit," Villafranca said.
That nickname, and a photo, grabbed enough media attention to lead to the
July 22 arrest of Michael Presson, 47, by the Harris County Sheriff's
Security just one factor
Villafranca said she talked to one Houston FBI bank robbery investigator
who agreed more banks and less security make bank heists easier and more
tempting. Tellers are told to cooperate with robbers because their bosses
"do not want to create a panic in the bank," Villafranca said.
McCrie said less security is only one explanation.
"It's not the housing market or immigration or the time of year or the day
of the week," McCrie said. "It's not that simple."
Some bank robbers are smart enough to know that the biggest risk during a
robbery might be a "dye pack" of money blowing up in their faces, making
them easy to spot. But they risk detection by cameras and other means, he
"Some of them are a bit dull as individuals and they see this as a sure
thing for them," he said. "They don't spend a lot of time scouting out
Bankers believe handing over money is the safest course for customers and
employees alike, said Margot Mohsberg, spokeswoman for the American
Bankers Association. They also believe, and studies have shown, that the
use of armed guards greatly increases the risk of injury or death to those
in banks during robberies.
"We do just want to get that robber out of the building as quickly as
possible," Mohsberg said.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Man no longer faces death in killings
LaSamuel Gamble, 29, no longer faces the death penalty for his role in the
killing of two people at John's 280 Pawn on July 25, 1996.
Shelby County Circuit Judge J. Michael Joiner ruled Wednesday that Gamble
will have a new sentencing hearing for "a sentence other than death."
Joiner's 131-page ruling addressed two issues:
Ineffective assistance of counsel because his defense lawyers failed to
fully explore Gamble's background for mitigating circumstances in the
The greater culpability of Gamble's co-defendant, Marcus Presley, who was
sentenced to death in the case but barred from the death penalty by a 2005
Supreme Court ruling.
Gamble and Presley, both of Birmingham, were sentenced to death for the
execution-style shootings of John Burleson and Janice Littleton.
The crime was caught almost entirely on the store's security videotape.
Presley was 16 and Gamble 19. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that no
one under 18 who commits a crime is eligible for the death penalty,
Presley, who shot both victims, was removed from Alabama's death row.
Joiner noted that evidence presented by Gamble's appeals lawyers, Vanessa
Buch and William Montross Jr., painted a lurid picture of a childhood of
neglect, parental violence and drug abuse, filth and hunger backed up by
medical, social welfare and school records. That material should have been
presented in the penalty phase, according to Joiner, but the defense put
on no witnesses during that part of the trial.
Harry Lyon and Joe Morgan Jr. represented Gamble at trial. Lyon, reached
by telephone Thursday, said, "It doesn't matter how a judge gets to the
decision to spare someone the death penalty. The net result is all that
Efforts to reach Morgan were unsuccessful.
Joiner's order relating to Presley's escaping the death penalty, while the
less culpable Gamble remained on Death Row, quoted the
"friend-of-the-court" brief filed by Alabama Attorney General Troy King in
Roper vs. Simmons, the Supreme Court case that resulted in barring
juveniles from the death penalty.
King's brief, which argued that juveniles should be put to death,
specifically used Gamble and Presley as an example of how the law would be
unfair if juveniles could not be sentenced to death. King described how
Presley shot Burleson, cleared his jammed weapon and shot him again. Then
King described the way Presley fired into the back of Littleton's head.
King concluded that the argument in Roper vs. Simmons against executing
juveniles "would defy common sense. Under that line, Gamble - who was 18
at the time but did not actually kill anyone - would face the death
penalty, but Presley - who at 16 executed 2 people with startling coolness
- would get a free pass. Surely the Eighth Amendment does not, as a matter
of constitutional principle, mandate such a bizarre result."
Since the Supreme Court ruled opposite King's argument, his words wound up
being used to support Gamble's effort to avoid the death penalty.
"It is the re-sentencing of Presley to a non-death sentence that makes
Gamble's sentence of death constitutionally unfair," Joiner wrote.
(source: Birmingham News)
Supreme Court denies condemned killer's request for stay of execution
The state Supreme Court on Thursday denied death row inmate Terrick
Nooner's request for a stay of his scheduled Sept. 18 execution.
The high court, without elaboration also denied Nooner's request to hold
an emergency hearing on his motion to disqualify the seven justices from
proceedings in his case.
The court said Nooner's "somewhat unclear" motion for a stay failed to
substantiate grounds on which the court could find good cause to order a
However, the opinion does not end Nooner's effort to avoid execution in
the 1993 slaying of a college student in Little Rock. He currently has 2
stay of execution requests pending in federal court, said state Assistant
Attorney General Joe Svoboda.
Nooner was convicted of capital murder and aggravated robbery in Pulaski
County Circuit Court and sentenced to die in the death of Scott Stobaugh,
a 22-year-old University of Arkansas at Little Rock student who was killed
while washing his clothes at a coin-operated laundry.
Gov. Mike Beebe set Nooner's execution date in July.
In August, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis ordered a
new hearing for Nooner, who claimed in a lawsuit that the state Department
of Correction prevented mental health experts from conducting an
evaluation of him.
On Aug. 31, Nooner's federal court-appointed attorney Julie Brain filed a
motion with U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes to grant a stay of execution
until the hearing on his mental evaluation is heard. No hearing date has
The state attorney general's office Wednesday asked Holmes to deny the
request, Svoboda said, arguing that Nooner did meet with mental health
experts. Holmes was provided with visitations logs to show the meetings
occurred, Svoboda said.
The attorney general's filing also asked that the case be moved to U.S.
District Judge Susan Webber Wright's court because Wright is currently
considering Nooner's lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of lethal
injection. 2 other death row inmates have intervened in the lawsuit.
Nooner has also asked Wright for a stay of the Sept. 18 execution until
that lawsuit is addressed. No hearing date has been set.
The state Parole Board has recommended that Beebe deny Nooner's request
for executive clemency.
Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said Thursday the governor has not made a
decision on Nooner's clemency request.
(source: Arkansas News Bureau)
AR Death-Row Inmate Accepts Responsibility For 1995 Slaying
An Arkansas death-row inmate convicted of raping and killing a Bald Knob
bookkeeper and beating the woman's young daughter accepted his
responsibility for the 1995 crimes in a clemency hearing today. Jack
Harold Jones Junior asked the state Parole Board to recommend that his
life be spared. Jones says he doesn't blame his upbringing for his
violence and told the panel -- quote -- "I own it." This morning's hearing
was at the Varner Unit at Grady.
The hearing will continue this afternoon in Little Rock when victims and
other affected by the crime are to address the board. The 43-year-old
Jones was convicted of capital murder and rape in the death of Mary
Phillips, who was at her office planning to take her daughter to a
dentist's appointment when the 2 were attacked. He was convicted of
criminal attempt to commit capital murder for the strangulation and
beating of Phillip's daughter, Lacey.
The girl was 11 at the time. The board will make a recommendation to
Governor Beebe on whether or not Jones should receive clemency. Jones is
set for an October 18th execution.
(source: KAIT news)
Justices reject stay of execution for slaying at laundry
The state Supreme Court on Thursday denied inmate Terrick Nooner's request
for a stay of execution, finding he presented no factual basis for
granting a delay.
Nooner, who was sentenced in the March 1993 murder of a 22-year-old
college student, is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Sept. 18.
The court's denial comes 5 months after it refused Nooners request to be
killed immediately. In the April 5 ruling, the court noted no execution
date had been set and he still had a case pending in federal court.
In an unsigned opinion Thursday, the states high court also denied
Nooner's request that the judges step down from hearing his case and
rejected other requests he made.
Nooner "appears to base his desire that the members of this court not
participate in his case on claims that this courts rulings on certain
matters raised by him in the past were incorrect," the court wrote.
Nooner filed the motions himself.
The 36-year-old inmate was convicted of killing Scot Stobaugh, who was
shot seven times in the back and robbed of $ 20 and a checkbook. Stobaugh,
a student at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, was doing his
laundry at the Funwash on West Markham Street in Little Rock.
Nooners co-defendant Robert Rockett, 33, pleaded guilty to first-degree
murder in the slaying and was sentenced to 65 years in prison. Hes also
serving a sentence of life in prison without parole for a separate murder
The state Parole Board last month rejected Nooners request for clemency.
If his execution occurs this month, it will be the first of Gov. Mike
Beebes administration. Beebe set the execution date.
The high court's move doesnt necessarily clear the way for Nooner's
execution. The U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas
is weighing whether to allow Nooners defense team to evaluate his mental
health. Nooner's attorney, Julie Brain, maintains he's schizophrenic and
shouldn't be executed. Brain has asked that court to stay his execution so
he can be thoroughly examined by doctors.
The last person executed in Arkansas was Eric Nance, convicted of
murdering Julie Heath, an 18-year-old Malvern woman, in 1993. Nance was
executed in November 2005.
38 inmates are under death sentence in Arkansas, said Department of
Correction spokesman Dina Tyler. Executions take place at the Cummins Unit
of the prison system.
(source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)
Trials and Tribulations: Murder case targets death penalty flaws
A court case on Monday could have a big impact on the future of New York's
The case involves a 2004 massacre at a Wendy's restaurant in Queens, but
it's certain to resonate in all parts of the state. Especially in the
mid-Hudson, where the past year has seen 2 men convicted of carrying out
the contract murder of Middletown salon owner Fermina Nunez and the
killing of New York state Trooper David Brinckerhoff during a shootout
with a fugitive on the Delaware-Ulster county line.
John Taylor, who was convicted of five murders in the Wendy's case, is the
last man with a death-penalty appeal pending in the courts. His appeal
will be argued Monday in the Court of Appeals, New York's highest. He's
represented by the state Capital Defender Office, which is arguing that
the Court of Appeals already ruled in 2004 that the death penalty is
flawed beyond repair, leaving it to the state Legislature to pass a new
law that meets constitutional scrutiny.
The Capital Defender Office is focusing on instructions that judges are
supposed to give to juries during the penalty phase of a murder trial. If
a jury delivered a guilty verdict on a 1st-degree murder charge, the next
step was the penalty phase, in which the jurors decided whether to apply
the death penalty or life without parole. Judges were supposed to tell
jurors that if they couldn't come to a unanimous agreement on either
sentence, the judge would impose a maximum of 25 years to life, meaning
that the killer would be eligible for parole after 25 years.
In 2004, overturning a death sentence on Long Island, the Court of Appeals
wrote that "Whether a juror chooses death or life without the possibility
of parole, the choice is driven by the fear that a deadlock may result in
the eventual release of the defendant," instead of arriving at a "reasoned
understanding" that a death sentence is a punishment that fits a
But Queens prosecutors will argue that in the Wendy's case the judge gave
the jury instructions that weren't coercive. They'll also argue that the
death penalty, as it stands, is constitutional and that in Taylor's case,
it's a punishment that fits his crime.
A prison date, postponed
Francisco Velez Jr.'s lawyer is pulling out all the stops in an effort to
minimize the amount of federal prison time that the Middletown cigar-shop
owner faces for transporting stolen medical supplies across state lines.
Velez was due to be sentenced yesterday in U.S. District Court in
Manhattan, but Judge Loretta Preska and Assistant U.S. Attorney Parvin
Moyne agreed to a postponement at the request of Fiona Doherty, Velez's
lawyer. In a letter to the judge, she wrote that "the defense needs
additional time to gather materials from Mr. Velez's family and friends in
support of our sentencing submission." Velez is due back in court on Oct.
1 for sentencing. In an interview after he pleaded guilty on May 29, Velez
said that authorities told him he could face two and a half years in
prison. The maximum is 10 years.
Showdown in Brooklyn
Today's the day that lawyers will argue the appeal of the 2005 conviction
of ex-Middletown Mayor Joe DeStefano. The appeal's being heard in
Brooklyn, by a panel of judges sitting in the Appellate Division of state
The Middletown native resigned in April 2005, after a nonjury trial in
Orange County Court. Judge Stewart Rosenwasser convicted DeStefano of two
misdemeanor counts of putting false information on city ethics forms;
essentially, DeStefano answered "No" to 2 questions that should've been
answered "Yes." The 2 misdemeanor counts were the only charges that held
up after the trial, out of 52 charges in DeStefano's 2004 indictment.
DeStefano's appeals lawyer, Robert Isseks, will argue that the evidence in
the trial didn't support the conviction. Assistant District Attorney
Andrew Kass will argue that the evidence was clear and convincing. The
Appellate Division will consider the arguments, consider more arguments
contained in tall piles of appeal papers and render a decision in 6 to 8
(source: Times Herald-Record)
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