[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., ALA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Sep 15 11:06:52 CDT 2007
Struggling with justice
I once felt gleeful that one of the animals who killed these boys ended up
on death row, says RODGER JONES. Now comes the doubt.
Dallas Morning News editorial writer Rodger Jones was scheduled as a media
witness for the execution of Joseph Lave. He interviewed the condemned man
on death row Wednesday, the day before the sentence was to be carried out.
Mr. Jones wrote two entries from Huntsville on Thursday for the editorial
page blog, DallasMorningViews (dallasnews.com/opinion/blog). One was
posted at daybreak, the other after it was announced that Dallas County
District Attorney Craig Watkins asked that the execution be held up
because of concerns that the prosecution withheld evidence.
Here are those posts in their entirety:
Today is the last day on earth for Joseph Lave, 42, a one-time Dallas UPS
driver. His life will end in the state's death chamber sometime after 6
I'll be there, as a witness to his execution in Huntsville (where I'm
So will the families of Fred Banzhaf and Justin Marquart, 2 18-year-old
high school seniors whose lives ended grotesquely on Thanksgiving Eve,
1992. Their throats were slashed from ear to ear, their skulls smashed
from blows with a hammer.
It was a robbery gone savagely wrong at the Herman's Sporting Goods store
in Richardson, at closing time.
One attack victim survived: a young woman, the assistant manager, who was
able to call 911 despite a gaping cut across her throat.
Her testimony was key to the case. She had seen 2 men enter the store.
They bound the hands and faces of all 3 employees with duct tape and had
them lie down in back rooms.
She never saw Lave but testified to a 3rd voice that spoke up later,
taunting the 3 victims.
Prosecutors didn't argue that Lave was the one who wielded a murder
weapon. He was there, they said, and needs to pay with his life.
The jury agreed.
They never heard Lave give his account that he showed up late at what he
thought was a burglary and sat outside in a car, waiting for the loot but
not knowing of the bloody horror inside.
Lave didn't testify. Neither did an accomplice, Timothy Bates, who got a
life sentence in a deal that kept him off the stand in the Lave case.
Bates also claimed he was a mere getaway driver, but cops tripped him up
in interrogation and put him inside the store. He also failed a polygraph
test when asked if he cut anyone.
Lave said he didn't take a plea deal because it made no sense to bargain
his freedom away for something he didn't do.
So here's a case of 2 guys both claiming to be mere getaway drivers who
point the finger at each other. (The 3rd robber, the probable killer, was
shot dead by cops.)
In separate trials, Bates gets life, Lave gets death.
Jurors heard from neither. They heard investigators testify about what the
suspects told police.
Lave and I discussed his case in an interview on death row yesterday. I
had gone over trial transcripts and case records to get grounded in the
facts. I talked briefly with the surviving victim but have been unable to
interview the boys' families so far.
I know just enough to wonder why Lave's lawyers weren't able to instill
reasonable doubt in jurors' minds. I'm not convinced of anything, just
Lave told me that he wasn't scared because God was calling him home and
would be there with him. He said God helped him get over bitterness years
ago and that he has found something to be thankful for each day.
Lave told me he felt sorrowful for the Marquart and Banzhaf families and
meant to address them in the death chamber, though he wasn't sure of his
I'll be in a witness room with those poor, grieving families. I suppose
most every one in that room regardless of their feelings about the death
penalty assumes the state is executing a savage killer.
I have doubts. Not about where he was that night but about what he knew
and what he did. And about who must pay for this awful crime, and how.
Maybe the doubts will fade after I talk more to police and prosecutors.
But as of right now, anticipating the execution that will be carried out
in the middle of Huntsville, I have these doubts.
But this is not about me.
A life will end on a gurney, justice or not. I suspect 3 families will be
traumatized, in different ways.
Our prayers need to be with all of these people, especially those who lost
their sons and brothers 14 years ago.
I'm heading back to Dallas from Huntsville, now that the execution for
Joseph Lave has been placed on hold. Having interviewed him yesterday at
death row, I wasn't looking forward to watching him strapped to the gurney
I am sure many people will read this and condemn me for being weak-kneed
when it comes to the sober business of justice. I would say this: Read the
case file. Tell me you're sure Lave was there, in the store, and knew what
was happening. Tell me why a jury shouldn't have known all about Lave's
accuser and how he couldn't get his story straight. Tell me why
prosecutors made a deal that spared the life of that accuser while knowing
he and not Lave was one of the throat-slashers. Tell me if it was fair
that the deal kept the accuser off the stand at Lave's trial.
How do you defend one of these guys living and the other dying?
If the answer is "somebody has to pay," then you stand for vengeance, not
I have taken a deep interest in this case, since the crime happened close
to my home and took the lives of boys in my community. I remember saying
early on that no punishment would be too severe for the animals who did
this. I was gleeful that one of them ended up on death row.
Little did I know I would end up there with him. Little did I know that
the struggle for a just punishment would have to contend with so many
I feel sorry for the families of Fred Banzhaf and Justin Marquart and the
many other people who were hurt by this evil.
(source: Rodger Jones, Opinion, Dallas Morning News)
County seeks death penalty in July killing
The Lubbock County Criminal District Attorney's Office will seek the death
penalty in the capital murder case against Alonzo Lewis.
Lewis, 25, is accused of stabbing former Air Force Col. Donald McCullough,
73, nearly 30 times after reportedly robbing him in his garage July 9.
Assistant Criminal District Attorney Tray Payne filed the state's intent
to seek the death penalty this week.
"The rules pertinent to capital litigation are activated when we notify
the court and the defendant of our intent to seek the death penalty,"
Payne said. "And that is our intent at this time."
Lewis' attorney did not return phone calls Friday.
A Lubbock County grand jury indicted Lewis on July 24 on a charge of
This is a capital case because prosecutors allege Lewis murdered
McCollough while committing another felony - aggravated robbery. He also
has an unrelated warrant for burglary in Louisiana.
While the death penalty is an option in a capital murder trial, along with
life in prison, the jury is not able to choose a death sentence unless the
prosecution files the proper paperwork placing the death penalty on the
Police said they tied Lewis to the crime after a witness directed them to
his place of employment and after finding items that belonged to
McCullough in his possession.
Lewis is currently being held in the Lubbock County Jail on a $1 million
Appeal begins for death-row inmate---Defenders want ballistics notes in
2001 Valania Park shooting.
Convicted killer Raymond Solano was in Lehigh County Court on Friday as
his new defense team began trying to save him from death row.
Solano, 28, who shot Almondo Rodriguez to death on a basketball court in
Allentown's Valania Park in 2001, was scheduled to die by lethal injection
Oct. 11 under a warrant signed last month by Gov. Ed Rendell. His
execution has been stayed pending appeals.
Friday's hearing before Judge Edward Reibman involved a dispute over the
extent of information that should be available to Solano's pro bono
lawyers from the Defender Association of Philadelphia, a nonprofit group
that aids indigent defendants.
In July, association attorneys Jim Moreno, Keisha Hudson and Angela
Elleman had requested the notes of the state police ballistics examiner in
the case so they could check for discrepancies against the examiner's
report and testimony at Solano's 2003 trial.
Reibman granted the request, but the prosecutor, Lehigh County Senior
Deputy District Attorney Robert Rosner, objected. He said the defense had
acted without the commonwealth's knowledge and had made an ''end run''
around discovery -- the disclosure of pertinent facts and documents --
without showing cause for demanding the notes.
The defense said they had no malicious intent in making the request and
did so in the interest of economy. By checking the notes now, they might
be able to avoid the cost and inconvenience of repeating ballistics
Reibman spoke at length about the importance of open discovery, twice
citing the notorious Duke lacrosse team rape case in which the prosecutor
withheld exculpatory evidence. But he said he had probably erred by
granting the order without the prosecution's knowledge.
''If anyone made a mistake here it was me in signing the order knowing it
was ex parte,'' the judge said in vacating the order. Ex parte refers to
judgments that are made for one party without input from the other.
Solano, formerly of Allentown, is an inmate at the state prison in
Waynesburg, Greene County.
(source: Morning Call)
Prosecutor Who Opposed a Death Sentence Is Rebuked
A prosecutor in Alabama has been criticized by the state attorney general
for arguing that a man who was on death row for a double murder should not
be put to death because the gunman in the killings was spared from
The attorney general, Troy King, included the criticism in a statement on
Wednesday saying he had notified the prosecutor, Robert E. Owens, the
Shelby County district attorney, that he would seek to reinstate the death
penalty in the case of LaSamuel Gamble, 29. Mr. Gamble won an appeal last
week that effectively commuted his death sentence to life in prison.
Mr. King said that his intent was to protect the interests of the victims
in the case and that Mr. Owens had acted on the side of the criminal.
Critics of Mr. King said, however, that his actions were politically
motivated; Mr. Owens supported Mr. King's opponent in the 2004 election
for attorney general.
"To suggest that because the district attorney testified truthfully about
his charging process he took the side of the criminal is the worst kind of
political grandstanding," said Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the
Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama, which represents defendants.
Mr. Owens was the prosecutor in the case that led to death sentences for
Mr. Gamble and his co-defendant, Marcus Presley, who were convicted of the
murders of 2 people during the robbery of a pawn shop in 1996.
A security camera captured Mr. Presley, who was 16 at the time, shooting
the victims, Janice Littleton and John Burleson.
The videotape showed Mr. Gamble, who was 18, picking up the shell casings
and checking the victims' vital signs.
Both men were sentenced to die, but in 2005, the United States Supreme
Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to impose capital punishment on
defendants who were under 18 at the time of their crimes.
As a result, Mr. Presley's sentence was commuted to life without parole.
Mr. Owens later testified at a hearing after the Supreme Court's decision
that because the law had changed it would be unjust to execute Mr. Gamble,
particularly because he had not pulled the trigger.
"It's difficult for me," Mr. Owens said. "I've been a career prosecutor. I
don't like taking a position that's not what my victim would like to take,
but I couldn't lay my head on my pillow at night if I stood by and let a
person who didn't kill somebody be executed when the person who did kill
somebody was not."
Judge J. Michael Joiner of Shelby County Circuit Court ruled on Sept. 5
that Mr. Gamble should be resentenced and that the death penalty was not
Mr. King said he would appeal Judge Joiner's order.
Critics noted that in 2004 Mr. King filed a supporting brief with the
Supreme Court asserting that putting only one defendant, Mr. Gamble, to
death for the pawn shop murders would be a "bizarre result" and that Mr.
Presley should be executed, too.
(source: New York Times)
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