[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----FLA., ALA., N.C.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Sep 12 00:04:23 CDT 2007
Inside cramped vaults, the evidence mounts----Brevard has no plans to
Not many warehouse managers keep tabs on the type of inventory that
Patrick Grenville and Marie Sarino watch over for the Brevard County court
Lining the shelves of the Moore Justice Center's 2 evidence vaults are
boxes and envelopes dating back to at least 1974 that contain everything
from an 18-pack of Busch beer to a shotgun.
Evidence clerks say items are piling up at a rate that threatens to
overload their confines, and the vaults are nearly at capacity. But court
officials argue that these judicial artifacts, thousands of them, must be
warehoused for legal reasons in case of appeals by convicted felons.
In 2006 alone, local lawyers filed 750 appeals on behalf of defendants
convicted in Brevard County, according to court supervisor Pat Ketter.
The stockpile of preserved evidence includes a hodgepodge of blood
samples, shovels, baseball bats, envelopes holding driver's licenses and
breathalyzer results, an ironing board, a wheelchair from a Social
Security fraud case and that pack of beer from a misdemeanor DUI.
There is also:
- A cane with a sword hidden inside.
- The long-barreled assault rifle death-row inmate William Cruse used to
gun down 6 people and injure a dozen others outside a Palm Bay shopping
plaza in 1987, as well as several scale models of the parking lot where
the shooting spree took place.
- A 5-foot tall wooden box containing 140 pounds of pot.
The evidence can't be arbitrarily discarded: State law requires evidence
from capital cases be stored for 75 years, while evidence from non-capital
crimes and acquittals must be kept for 3 years. DNA evidence must be
stored while the person is in prison.
Brevard County takes it even further: The county stores evidence until a
defendant is released from jail or prison.
"You'd hate to get rid of something and somewhere down the line something
comes up and it could have been useful," said Grenville, 1 of 2 evidence
clerks whose daily job includes logging evidence into the 1st-floor
Clerks say the vaults -- 2 code-locked rooms monitored by an alarm system
and surveillance camera and lined with two four-shelf storage units on
each side -- are about 95 % full.
Clerk of Court Scott Ellis said the architects who expanded the Moore
Justice Center in 2003 initially planned to make the newer vault, located
behind the file room, twice as large, but downgraded the size due to
building code limitations. An even smaller, older vault was built along
with the original courthouse in 1996.
County commissioners recently approved a plan to expand the courthouse,
but Ellis said there are no plans for the costly additions to evidence
To remedy the space crunch, Grenville said he and Sarino destroy evidence
from criminal cases about two or three times a year, after researching
which cases have been resolved and obtaining a motion from the state
attorney and a court order from a judge. About twice a month, the clerks
destroy evidence from civil trials. Evidence from civil cases may be
destroyed 90 days after the case closes if neither party picks up the
items within 30 days of notice.
The paperwork is usually shredded, while other items are dumped. Drugs and
weapons are turned over to the Brevard County Sheriff's Office for
disposal. An outside company picks up bio-hazardous materials, such as DNA
samples or blood-soaked clothing, and incinerates them, Grenville said.
"If I had not been able to get a couple of 'destructs' out of the way by
the state, we'd probably be over full," Grenville said.
Sarino said much of the evidence they deal with is "mundane" income tax
forms and other paperwork, but she and Grenville have encountered some odd
items, including an ironing board used as evidence in a non-capital murder
case and an assortment of colorful whips from a civil domestic dispute.
There are gory autopsy photos and sealed evidence bags, which sometimes
develop an odor from bacteria-ridden body fluids.
"Not everyone can handle the criminal part of this job very well,"
Grenville said. "You have to have a strong stomach."
(source: Florida Today)
Stay on death penalty lifted
A judge who held up a case says concerns he had about lethal injection are
Executions in Florida may be clear to resume after an Ocala judge lifted
his stay on one lethal injection case Monday, declaring he is satisfied
with state procedures he doubted in July.
However, it is unlikely any executions will take place until the state
Supreme Court considers the issue.
In his new ruling, Circuit Judge Carven Angel concludes that the execution
of a death row inmate that took so long it triggered a review of
Department of Corrections procedures was not "botched."
Angel said the inmate died "within a reasonably short time ... in a manner
that the court finds was painless and humane."
"It was never intended that the inmate should wake up and go home," Angel
wrote in a decision that reversed his July critique from the bench on
concerns over the execution of Angel Diaz.
In that earlier order, Judge Angel expressed concerns about the way the
execution procedure is staffed, from the qualifications of the executioner
to the job descriptions for the lethal injection team.
Reached by telephone at his Ocala home Monday night, Angel explained why
his opinion had changed: "The Department of Corrections appeared to me to
be sensitive to those concerns and addressed them."
In December, it took 34 minutes for Diaz to die, more than double the
average time, because the lethal cocktail went into his soft tissue, not
his bloodstream. Witnesses said it appeared Diaz grimaced and clenched in
Shortly after, then-Gov. Jeb Bush suspended executions and asked for a
review of lethal injection procedures in Florida. In July, Gov. Charlie
Crist lifted the moratorium, but Angel stopped executions again,
questioning whether the methods used were "consistent with evolving
notions of the decency of man."
After 13 days of hearings, held between May and September, Angel ruled
Monday that because Diaz hadn't "screamed or yelled after the injection
... the inmate did not suffer any pain" and his death did not "result in
any abuse, or any cruel or unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth
Angel's stay was limited to condemned killer Ian Deco Lightbourne, but
Angel was acting as a fact-finder for a larger case before the Florida
Supreme Court. The high court chose Lightbourne -- the first name on the
challenge that was filed by many inmates - to be the case it will use to
weigh in on the use of lethal injection.
Lightbourne is now cleared to be executed, but no death warrant has been
signed for him. It's unlikely any other execution will be scheduled before
the Lightbourne case is resolved.
Still, the Angel ruling has broader implications for the state's death
penalty, alleviating a stumbling block. Crist purposefully scheduled the
execution of Brevard County pedophile and murderer Mark Dean Schwab in
November to give the legal issues being tested in the Lightbourne case
time to be resolved.
Erin Isaac, a spokeswoman for Crist, said she had not seen the order but
said the governor has confidence in the Department of Corrections and is
"confident we'll carry out this process in a humane and dignified way."
Neal Dupree, Lightbourne's attorney, said he was surprised that Judge
Angel changed his ruling but didn't offer details on how the state had
modified its procedures to satisfy him.
"It's almost like the judge never had all those concerns in July," Dupree
said. "He seems to have accepted the state's theory that (Diaz) didn't
leave the chamber alive, so the execution couldn't be botched."
Angel said Monday night that it's worth remembering that the state Supreme
Court has yet to consider these issues. Oral arguments in the Lightbourne
and Schwab cases are scheduled for Oct. 11.
"The concerns I expressed in the July order are real, legitimate concerns
and can't be ignored," said Angel, 64. "The state and the department are
going to have to be sensitive to them. Maybe the Florida Supreme Court
will say something about it but ... I obviously don't feel I have the
authority to change things the Florida Supreme Court changes."
(source: St. Petersburg Times)
Hospitality: funded by community
The Hospitality House Ministry serves as a home away from home for loved
ones of incarcerated individuals.
Carolyn Morris, founder and director of the Hospitality House, discovered
the need for having a place for visitors of inmates at the local prisons
to stay while they are in town. By 1996, Morris had increased awareness of
this need among Atmore residents. A board of directors was established and
the Hospitality House Ministry was created and food, transportation and
lodging needs were met for those who needed it.
In 2002, the Hospitality House located at 1106 E. Church St. opened. It is
an actual home that can house many guests at a time and Morris feels it
shines positive light on Atmore.
"When other people are looking at Atmore and see so many caring
ministries, such as the YMCA, YoungLife, We Care and Sav A Life and even
United Fund, it looks good for the community," Morris said. "When they see
so many people working without time and pay to help so many other people,
it's an asset to the community. When people come here they go back giving
the town a good name."
Morris said everything that went into the house, such as furniture,
dishes, lamps, etc., was furnished by community members.
"The whole house has been funded by the community," she said. "We just
want to give back to the community basically by meeting the needs of other
people that can hardly help themselves."
The Hospitality House has served 596 guests from all across the United
States and even places such as Holland, France, The Netherlands, Canada
and LaReunion Island.
Morris said the most fragile time at the Hospitality House is when a guest
is visiting an inmate on death row.
"A major thing is that we have the death row," she said. "When someone is
executed, they allow the families to come up to 5 days beforehand. We
allow them to stay a couple of days after for grieving."
The Hospitality House is funded through donations, Morris said.
"Most monies come through donations, the community, churches and
foundations," she said. "United Fund helps us because we are not under
The Hospitality House has a mission statement. The mission statement
states that the ministry will meet the basic physical, emotional and
spiritual needs of family members of those incarcerated strengthen and
maintain family bonds throughout incarceration aid in readjustment upon
release of loved ones.
"Our plan, purpose and vision is the reconciliation of husband to wife,
parent to child, sister to brother, offender to community," the mission
Current board members include, Morris, Joyce Bolden, Silverzee Brown,
Linda Bumann, Patty Helton Davis, Letitia Digmon and Eldred Pritchett.
(source: The Atmore Advance)
Former death row inmate gets new sentence
Charles Walker was hours away from being executed by lethal injection in
2004 when he was granted a reprieve.
Today, he is off death row after the attorney who prosecuted him agreed to
downgrade the murder charge that sent him there.
Guilford County Assistant District Attorney Howard Neumann agreed to let
Walker plead to lesser charges, and he was sentenced Monday to 30 years,
according to Paul Green, Walker's attorney.
The plea comes 12 years after Walker was convicted in 1995 for the
shooting death of Elmon Tito Davidson Jr. Davidson's body was never found,
but Walker was convicted on the testimony of witnesses.
In 2004, arrangements were being made for Walker's final visitation with
his family when his scheduled execution was called off.
"You would have to look hard to find someone in North Carolina who has
come that close to being executed only to have the charge dismissed,"
Neumann would not comment on the plea agreement.
In 2006, a Superior Court judge granted Walker a new trial, finding that
one of Walker's co-conspirators lied when he testified against him and
that investigators for the state withheld evidence in the trial.
But Walker decided to enter an Alford plea Monday to the charges of
conspiracy to commit murder and accessory to murder. An Alford plea means
a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges there is enough evidence
for a conviction.
Superior Court Judge L. Todd Burke sentenced Walker, giving him credit for
about 15 years -- the time he has spent in custody, Green said.
"The defendant is satisfied," Green said.
"The prosecutor has taken what we think is a reasonable position. If there
is a larger lesson here, it's that you can't expect a system made up of
human beings to be successful when they decide to play God."
(source: News & Observer)
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