[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., TENN., OHIO
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Sep 11 09:42:00 CDT 2007
Lawyer wants DA's office off death row case
It's a rare and bold move. Bob Ford, the appellate attorney for death row
inmate Chelsea Richardson, is trying to get the Tarrant County district
attorney's office thrown off Richardson's appeal. In a hearing last week,
he squared off with the chief prosecutor of the office's appellate
division. It could happen again Thursday.
Richardson is on Death Row for the slayings of Rick and Suzanna Wamsley.
Police have said that Richardson, her boyfriend, Andrew Wamsley, and
friend Susana Toledano killed the couple so Wamsley could inherit his
parents' estate. Wamsley and Toledano are serving life sentences.
Richardson was sentenced to die.
During the two-hour hearing Thursday, Ford cited two reasons why the
district attorney's office should be taken off the case and why a special
prosecutor should be appointed to handle Richardson's writ of habeas
corpus, which alleges that Richardson was illegally convicted because of
fundamental legal errors and misconduct.
Only one of the issues was addressed, and that discussion took an
The hearing last week
Ford alleges that 2 chief appellate prosecutors and state District Judge
Everett Young acted improperly 2 months ago when the prosecutors asked
Young to sign an order while Ford was on vacation.
Ford had been seeking a subpoena so he could obtain Toledano's
psychological records. Young signed an order that quashed the subpoena
while Ford was away, an action that angered Ford, who contends that he
should have been present when the subpoena was quashed.
Assistant district attorneys Chuck Mallin and Steven Conder, of the
appellate division, maintain that they were also not present when the
judge signed the order and that it is common practice for Tarrant County
judges to sign orders without the parties present.
Mallin took the witness stand Thursday and testified that he learned about
Ford's subpoena June 18. Believing he needed to respond immediately,
Mallin's office filed a motion asking the judge to deny Ford's request,
arguing that no such report exists and that Ford was on a "fishing
expedition," among other things, according to court documents.
On June 25, Patricia Hatley, a legal secretary for Mallin and Conder,
dropped off the motion and an unsigned order form in Young's courtroom.
She received a call later saying the order had been signed.
Mallin testified that at some point before the order was signed, he had
called Ford's office to tell him of his intentions and that Ford's
secretary told him Ford was on vacation and would not be back until the
end of July.
At that point, Ford jumped up and asked to approach the bench. Ford then
suggested to state District Judge Steven Herod, an Eastland County judge
who has been appointed to hear the issues, take a break so Mallin and
Conder could talk because "I don't have a secretary. I've never had a
secretary in 16 years."
>From that point forward, Ford attempted to attack Mallin's credibility,
repeatedly pointing out that he has never had a secretary or an employee
and runs his law office alone.
"Who did she identify herself as?" Ford asked Mallin about the woman who
answered his phone.
"I don't know," Mallin replied.
"What date did you call?" Ford asked.
"I don't know," Mallin said.
"How long was the conversation?" Ford asked.
"A few seconds," Mallin said. "She said you would be on vacation until the
end of July."
At one point, when Mallin and Ford talked in raised voices, Herod called
them down: "I'm the judge in the case and I don't need all the drama," he
Later, Ford called a court coordinator and defense attorney, both of whom
testified that Ford works alone.
"During 15 years, I have never had an employee for any purpose," Ford
said. "No one. I have never had an answering service."
Afterward, Mallin shot back: "Your honor, since I'm being called a liar, I
think I'll put Mr. Conder on the stand."
Conder testified that Mallin told him in July that a woman from Ford's
office had informed him that Ford was on vacation.
Shortly after Conder's testimony, the hearing was recessed until 9 a.m.
Thursday. Ford wants to put Young on the stand, but the judge, who has
recused himself from the case, may have judicial immunity. He is being
represented by the attorney general's office.
The hearing this week
During the hearing Thursday, Herod is also expected to decide whether Ford
can proceed on his second issue, which deals with a conflict of interest
and prosecutorial misconduct.
(source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
180 people show up for 2nd jury pool in KFC murder trial
Almost 180 people crammed into the Bowie County Courthouse on Monday to
continue the juror selection process for the 1st trial in what has come to
be known as the Kentucky Fried Chicken murders.
Rusk County District Judge J. Clay Gossett summoned 350 possible jurors in
August for the capital murder trial of Romeo Pinkerton, one of two men
accused of killing five people after kidnapping them from a Kilgore
Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in 1983. Of those 350 people, 32 were
selected as juror candidates.
Because 46 people are needed for the jury panel, Gossett summoned 550 more
Bowie County residents for a 2nd juror pool. More than 200 of those
summoned contacted the court to claim legal exemptions from jury duty,
including being older than 70 or being a full-time student at a public
university. About 150 people neither contacted the court nor appeared for
Gossett has said many jurors in the first pool were dismissed because of
their views on the death penalty. Once 46 potential jurors have been
qualified, attorneys will question them again to narrow the pool to the
final jury panel of 12 jurors and 2 alternates.
Gossett issued 150 writs of attachment for those absent on Monday,
requiring them to come to the courthouse Wednesday morning or face
possible contempt of court charges.
Gossett said the trial was expected to be three to 6 weeks long and would
likely begin in early October. The jury is not expected to be sequestered,
The court dismissed about 50 of the 177 jurors who arrived at the court
for jury duty Monday, according to Bowie County District Clerk Billy Fox's
The remaining possible jurors completed a 120-item questionnaire, which
will be copied and examined today by the attorneys. The possible jurors
will return to the courthouse Wednesday for an introduction to the trial.
Individual questioning of the possible jurors will resume next week and
end once 46 jurors have been qualified for the final juror panel.
Pinkerton, 49, and his cousin Darnell Hartsfield, 47, are charged with
kidnapping and killing Mary Tyler, 37; Opie Ann Hughes, 39; Joey Johnson,
20; David Maxwell, 20; and Monte Landers, 19.
District attorney: 'There's a reason death penalty exists' ---- Ector's
top prosecutor vows to seek justice for man charged with officer murders
Ector County District Attorney Bobby Bland said Monday he would seek
"appropriate justice" for the man accused of killing 2 officers in the
line of duty and critically injuring a 3rd.
"There's a reason the death penalty exists," Bland told the
But Bland stopped short of committing to seeking capital punishment for
Larry White, the 58-year-old man accused of ambushing three Odessa Police
"Although there's no formal decision that's been made yet since we haven't
seen the evidence and it is still under investigation, I can tell you
again there is a reason for the death penalty and I can assure you we will
seek the appropriate justice."
Cpl. John "Scott" Gardner, 30, Cpl. Arlie Jones, 48 and Cpl. Abel Marquez,
32 were gunned down while responding to a domestic call at White's
residence Sept. 8. Gardner and Jones were fatally wounded while Marquez
was critically injured.
Authorities said Monday that Marquez was fighting for his life at a
Lubbock hospital, where he had been transported by air.
Bland filed a motion Monday morning requesting bond be denied for White,
who was charged with 2 counts of capital murder and 3 counts of attempted
District Judge Stacy Trotter signed an order denying bond on the capital
murder charges and set bond at $250,000 for the attempted capital murder
charges, officials said.
Meanwhile, members of the district attorney's office were coping with
their own grief as an entire community and beyond mourned the loss.
"The DA's office and staff were devastated by these losses and our hearts
and our prayers go out to these men and their families, as well as the
rest of the law enforcement community," Bland said.
"We're going to let the (Texas) Rangers complete their investigation and
we'll present it to a grand jury as soon as possible.
Bland said late Monday he had not yet heard of a court-appointed defense
attorney being assigned to the case.
(source: Midland Reporter-Telegram)
Death penalty for Foster was unfair considering other sentences
I am flabbergasted by Travis Holland's overly simplistic opinion of the
death penalty. Kenneth Foster was sentenced to death row under the
controversial Section 7.02 Texas Penal Code Law of Parties act allowing
people to be sentenced to death for their indirect actions in a murder.
Mr. Foster was driving the car in which one of his passenger's exited the
car, got into an altercation with Michael LaHood and shot him dead. The
D.A. stated Kenneth Foster should have anticipated his passenger's
murderous actions. Gov. Perry reduced his sentence to life in prison.
Compare this with Colton Pitonyak, a UT student, who confessed to fatally
shooting his friend Jennifer Cave, yet was only convicted for 55 years in
prison. Pitonyak's accomplice, Laura Hall, aided Pitonyak in dismembering
Cave's body and driving him to Mexico to evade prosecution only received
10 years probation for her role.
This is just one of many examples that highlight the shortcomings of our
judicial system, and how easily someone can be sentenced to death in
Texas. While I cannot unequivocally state that I am against the death
penalty, I cannot abide by Travis Holland's assertion when clear
disparities exist in our criminal justice system.
Sallie Boulos----Graduate student
(source: Letter, Texas A & M Battalion)
Jury Selection Begins In State Trooper Murder Case
The trial of a convicted drug dealer accused of shooting and killing a
state trooper starts today.
Leslie Mollett, 32, is charged with murdering State Police Corporal Joseph
Pokorny after a traffic stop in Carnegie on December 12, 2005.
Police say Mollett took Pokorny's gun and then shot him to death near the
Extended Stay America hotel.
Mollett has said previously that he was at the scene of the shooting but
there are conflicting stories from witnesses who were there about exactly
The 1st batch of 35 potential jurors are being interviewed today.
Meanwhile, lawyers asked the judge in the case to enforce a gag order but
that request was denied.
Mollett could face the death penalty if convicted of 1st-degree murder.
(source: KDKA News)
Tenn. killer set to die in electric chair
For the 1st time in 47 years, Tennessee correctional officers are
preparing the state's electric chair for an execution.
Daryl Keith Holton, 45, who confessed to fatally shooting his 3 sons, ages
12, 10 and 6, and his ex-wife's 4-year-old daughter in November 1997, is
scheduled to die in the electric chair at 1 a.m. Wednesday.
Holton chose the electric chair instead of lethal injection, as was his
right under state law for inmates whose crimes occurred before 1999.
Holton will be the 1st to die in Tennessee's electric chair since Nov. 7,
1960, when convicted rapist William Tines was executed.
Holton has dropped all appeals. Unless a court intervenes, the Army
veteran will be electrocuted at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution.
Nine other states still use the electric chair: Alabama, Arkansas,
Illinois, Florida, Kentucky, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina and
Virginia. Since 2000, nine inmates have been electrocuted. The last state
to use the chair was Virginia in 2006, according to the Death Penalty
Holton did not comment on his choice. Dixie Gamble, Holton's spiritual
adviser, said Holton chose it because he believes he will die instantly
Fred Leuchter, who built the chair in 1989, asked Tennessee Gov. Phil
Bredesen not to use it, saying it's been modified in such a way that it
will be "tantamount to torture." Leuchter said the voltage specified by
the state 1,750 volts is too low and should be at least 2,000.
The state plans to comply with Holton's request.
"We are prepared to use the chair," Department of Correction spokeswoman
Dorinda Carter said.
The chair is inspected and tested quarterly and was tested last week, she
The chair was modified in the 1990s by Jay Wiechert, an electrical
engineer from Fort Smith, Ark. It will work as intended, said Wiechert,
who modified controls, increased the voltage and changed protective
devices to provide steady, adequate current.
For some residents of Shelbyville, the execution will bring closure.
Shelbyville Police Officer Rod Stacy was on duty when Holton walked into
the police department on the evening of Nov. 30, 1997. "It haunts me to
this day," Stacy said. Holton told police he was angry at his wife for
keeping him away from the kids.
Neither Holton's family members nor Crystle Holton, the mother of the 4
children he killed, plan to attend the execution.
(source: USA Today)
Chair Tested for Planned Tenn. Execution
An electric chair slated to be used in the state's 1st execution by
electrocution since 1960 was tested Monday and is ready to go, prison
The chair, scheduled to be used in the execution of convicted killer Daryl
Holton early Wednesday, was tested by running currents through a "test
load box that is designed to simulate a human body," said state Department
of Correction spokeswoman Dorinda Carter.
The test lasts about 35 seconds "the amount of time we believe it takes
to cause death at 1,750 volts," she said.
Holton, a Gulf War veteran, confessed to killing his three young sons and
their half-sister with an assault rifle on Nov. 30, 1997. He told police
that he killed the children because his ex-wife hadn't let him see them
for several months, and that he had intended to kill his ex-wife and
himself but instead turned himself in.
Holton chose the electric chair over the state's preferred execution
method, lethal injection. Under Tennessee law, death row inmates can
choose between the electric chair and lethal injection if their crimes
were committed before 1999.
Holton, 45, came within a day of being executed a year ago before getting
a stay from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal. He was also among 4
death row inmates whose executions were postponed in February, when Gov.
Phil Bredesen placed a 90-day moratorium on the death penalty.
Bredesen had cited a number of problems with the state's execution
guidelines, including a jumble of conflicting instructions that mixed
lethal injection instructions with those for the electric chair.
The Correction Department completed the revision of its procedures in
March, the moratorium was allowed to expire and the 4 executions were
Holton has been on death watch since Sunday morning and planned to meet
with a spiritual adviser, Carter said. Holton made no special requests for
his last meal, Carter said.
Holton appears to have few legal options left that could prevent his
execution. He has fought his appointed defense attorneys for several years
and has refused to speak with them or sign petitions to file appeals on
His lawyers have said he has a long history of mental illness and may
suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder from his Army service.
9 states allow some or all condemned inmates to choose between lethal
injection and another execution method, according to the Death Penalty
Information Center, a research group that opposes the death penalty. Ten
states have the electric chair, but only Nebraska uses it exclusively.
The last Tennessee inmate to die by electric chair was convicted rapist
William Tines, who was executed Nov. 7, 1960.
Virginia inmate Brandon Hedrick was the last person executed by electric
chair in the U.S., on July 20, 2006, according to the center.
(source: Associated Press)
Death row killer Romell Broom's lawyers focus on rape victim's character
The Ohio Parole Board will tell Gov. Ted Strickland by Friday whether it
believes Cleveland death row inmate Romell Broom should live.
During a clemency hearing last Friday, Broom's attorneys set out to sully
the reputation of the 14-year-old girl he was convicted of raping and
murdering to make their claim that Broom doesn't deserve to die.
It was a risky move that for different reasons upset the families of Broom
and Trina Middleton, the victim. It also drew pointed questions from
Parole Board members.
Broom, 51, is one of about a dozen condemned prisoners in a lawsuit
challenging Ohio's lethal-injection procedures.
And though his Oct. 18 execution has been delayed during the suit, the
case has unraveled for the inmates and now hinges on an appeal to the U.S.
Supreme Court, which has not decided whether to hear the case. That makes
clemency a crucial backup plan, said Broom's attorney Tim Sweeney.
Middleton was killed Sept. 21, 1984, after she was abducted at knifepoint
about 11:30 p.m. in East Cleveland, where she lived, while two 13-year-old
girls she was walking with ran for help.
Her body was found 3 hours later in a nearby parking lot. She had been
stabbed 7 times and sexually assaulted.
Broom was convicted a year later based largely on the eyewitness accounts
of the two other girls. The crime happened 5 months after he had been
released from a nine-year prison lock-up for raping a 12-year-old girl in
Broom maintains he did not kill Middleton. During Friday's hearing, his
legal team didn't go so far as to say he was innocent of murder, but they
seemed to question whether there really had been an abduction and rape --
criminal circumstances that triggered the death sentence for the slaying.
They introduced dozens of police reports of interviews with other
teenagers who knew Middleton that were not disclosed by police or
prosecutors during Broom's trial.
The reports portrayed Middleton and her two friends that night as being
drunk on beer and high on marijuana. Middleton was also said to be
sexually active and along with her girlfriends was known to accept rides
"Romell Brown did not receive a fair trial," Sweeney, of Cleveland, told
the board. "If all the evidence was known, he may have still been
convicted, but he would have escaped the death sentence."
Sweeney was joined by attorneys Adele Shank and Alan Rossman. Rossman was
one of Broom's original attorneys.
Prosecutors weren't buying it and told the Parole Board that Broom is a
cold-blooded killer who has never expressed remorse.
"Whatever they were doing, experimenting with their sexuality, they were
still innocent of this crime. They were still three little girls," argued
Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Jon Oebker, who was assisted by an
assistant Ohio attorney general.
Oebker blamed the suppression of those reports on East Cleveland police.
But he said the documents probably would not have been admissible anyway
since many of the claims were based on hearsay and didn't factor in
Broom's defense that he wasn't with the girls.
Broom's brother, Ray Broom, addressed the board and took issue with
prosecutors for withholding the evidence. He said it further solidified
his belief that his brother is innocent.
Middleton's mother, Bessye, said that Friday was the first she heard of
the police reports disparaging her daughter and called the claims "lies."
She said Broom's sentence is appropriate.
Several members of the seven-person Parole Board questioned Sweeney for
bringing up the girl's moral character. But others wondered why the
information wasn't available to the defense in 1985 and whether it would
have mattered for Broom.
(source: Plain Dealer)
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