[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----VA., CALIF., WASH., N.C., DEL.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Sep 27 20:28:27 CDT 2007
Va. Execution Is Likely to Be Delayed----State Has Used Lethal Injection
The Supreme Court's decision to consider whether lethal injection is cruel
and unusual punishment is likely to delay at least one Virginia execution
scheduled for next month, and could have a wide-ranging effect in the
state, depending on what the justices decide, lawyers said yesterday.
The court announced Tuesday that it would use a Kentucky case to examine
the constitutionality of the widely used method of execution, the 1st time
it has considered a specific method of executing prisoners in more than a
century. There have been 70 executions by lethal injection in Virginia
since the mid-1990s.
If the court rules that lethal injection is unconstitutional, it would
have a dramatic effect on capital punishment in Virginia and across the
nation, experts said. But the ruling won't come until next year, possibly
as late as June. Although Virginia has 20 inmates on death row, only one
has an officially scheduled execution date -- Christopher Scott Emmett, on
Attorneys for Emmett, who beat a man to death with a brass lamp during a
robbery in Danville, said yesterday that they will ask Virginia Gov.
Timothy M. Kaine (D) to delay the execution in light of the high court's
"I certainly think Mr. Emmett's execution should not go forward before the
Supreme Court has had a chance to rule," said Matthew Engle, one of
Kevin Hall, a spokesman for Kaine, said the governor believes that
Virginia's method of capital punishment "is constitutional until a court
tells us it's not." But he is anticipating that Emmett's lawyers will
renew their request for clemency. "The governor will give it the serious
consideration it deserves," Hall said.
In June, Kaine delayed Emmett's execution until next month because the
Supreme Court had not decided whether to hear his appeal. 5 other death
row inmates have petitioned Kaine, a Catholic who has said he personally
opposes the death penalty, for clemency. He has delayed one other
execution, but not granted clemency.
"The governor made a commitment to Virginia voters and took an oath to
uphold Virginia law," Hall said. "Capital punishment is Virginia law, and
he has proven that he has kept his word to Virginians."
Death penalty experts said they doubted that Emmett would be put to death
before the Supreme Court issues its ruling, predicting that either Kaine
or the courts would postpone the execution.
"I don't know where the delay will come from, but it's unimaginable that
the execution will be carried out while the lethal injection case is
pending before the Supreme Court," said Barry Boss, a Washington lawyer
who has been involved in numerous death penalty cases.
The effect of the Supreme Court announcement will probably be limited to
Emmett because other Virginia inmates are not far enough along in the
appeals process to be executed before the high court issues its decision,
said Robert Lee, executive director of the Virginia Capital Representation
Resource Center, which is defending Emmett.
Emmett killed co-worker John F. Langley with the lamp after Langley
refused to lend him $100 to buy crack cocaine. He confessed to repeatedly
hitting Langley on the head in a motel room the 2 were sharing in April
2001, while they did a roofing job. Emmett was sentenced to death by a
jury in October 2001.
2 hours before Emmett's scheduled execution by lethal injection in June,
Kaine delayed the execution because the Supreme Court had not yet
considered the merits of his appeal. "Basic fairness demands that
condemned inmates be allowed the opportunity to complete legal appeals
prior to execution," the governor said then.
The high court is expected to decide soon whether to hear Emmett's appeal,
which contends that his former attorney did not provide him with adequate
counsel. Emmett has filed a separate challenge to Virginia's proposed
method of execution. A federal judge in Richmond said last week that those
methods did not constitute cruel or unusual punishment.
Virginia inmates can choose to be executed by lethal injection or the
electric chair. The last inmate executed in the state was John Yancey
Schmitt by lethal injection in November 2006. Emmett has not chosen a
method of execution, but under state law inmates who make no choice
automatically die by lethal injection.
States began using lethal injection in 1978 on the grounds that it was
more humane than electrocution or the gas chamber. More than 35 states now
use it, but some studies have shown the combination of 3 toxic chemicals
can be unreliable, causing inmates to suffer excruciating pain before they
(source: Washington Post)
Morales case most likely to be delayed
The case of Michael Morales, who raped and killed a Tokay High School
student more than 26 years ago, will likely drag on even longer now that
the U.S. Supreme Court has taken up a similar case.
Morales, 47, remains on death row for the January 1981 death of Terri Lynn
Winchell, 17. He was about to be executed in February 2006, when a federal
judge decided to review California's lethal injection process and
determine if it violates the 8th Amendment of the Constitution, which bars
cruel and unusual punishment.
On Tuesday, the nation's highest court decided to take up that issue in a
Kentucky case, and the ruling could come as late as June.
Winchell's mother expects to attend a round of court hearings in December
regarding the Morales case, but it was not immediately clear whether the
Supreme Court's decision would change that timeline. Barbara Christian
continues to wait and said Monday that prolonging executions for years
causes more pain for the victims' families.
"There is a debt that must be paid. I suggest letting the inmates choose
the form of execution they wish to pay this debt," Christian said by
e-mail. "None of their victims were able to choose their demise which was
very 'cruel and inhuman,' and so is the pain that their families live
In the meantime, more than 600 inmates await the death penalty in
California, home of the nation's largest death row. Despite the halt in
executions, San Joaquin County District Attorney Jim Willett said it won't
change his office's stance on the death penalty.
"There's still a statue in California that allows the death penalty, and
we will continue to seek it for the worst of the worst," Willett said.
In taking up the lethal injection issue, the Supreme Court could clear up
one of the battles involving the death penalty.
Defense attorneys wrote in the Kentucky case that almost half of the 76
people who were involuntarily executed in the U.S. between 2006 and 2007
raised the same argument about lethal injection. Each case raised the same
question, meaning that judges were basically reinventing the proverbial
Morales' case, for instance, was the 3rd such case U.S. District Judge
Jeremy Fogel had heard. So with Morales, the judge held a full-blown
hearing on the lethal injection process, saying he hoped to resolve the
Like California, Kentucky uses 3 chemicals in its lethal injection
process: sodium thiopental, which makes the inmate unconscious;
pancuronium bromide, a paralyzer that stops breathing; and potassium
chloride, which causes cardiac arrest.
That combination has been challenged in a number of states by inmates who
argue there is no way to make sure the sodium thiopental has actually
worked before the other, painful drugs start flowing.
(source: Lodi News)
Death penalty sought in Temecula murder -- 2 men charged with 2005 slaying
during liquor store robbery
Prosecutors will seek the death penalty for 2 men charged with the murder
of a clerk during an Old Town Temecula liquor store robbery 2 1/2 years
Dale Dante Thomas of Temecula and Marcus Fletcher of San Diego, both 23,
are charged with the April 1, 2005, murder of Rafi Ibrahim inside Rancho
Liquor on Old Town Front Street. Ibrahim, 34, was shot three times in the
The 2 men also face an attempted murder charge as a customer inside the
business was shot at, but not hit, prosecutors say.
Fletcher is also charged with the Jan. 26, 2005, murder of Kedran Howard
in San Diego. Authorities have previously said Howard may have been a
rival gang member and that the same gun is believed to have been used in
The decision to seek the death penalty was announced Wednesday and
followed a meeting Friday by a panel of more than a dozen experienced
prosecutors and District Attorney Rod Pacheco to discuss the details of
the two crimes.
"To me, personally, the most important thing is that Fletcher killed two
people -- both unarmed," Deputy District Attorney John Davis, who is
prosecuting the two men, said Wednesday.
As for Thomas, Davis said, "he was the mastermind behind the whole
Prosecutors have previously said they believe Fletcher fired the shots
that killed Ibrahim, as well as those that killed Howard in San Diego.
In an agreement reached with San Diego County prosecutors, the case
involving the murder in that county will be tried by prosecutors in
When seeking death in a murder case, the prosecution must file what are
called special circumstances. In the case of Fletcher and Thomas, there
For both men, there is the allegation that Ibrahim's murder happened
during the commission of a robbery as well as an allegation that each of
them have committed five prior robberies, according to court documents.
And Fletcher alone has another special allegation that he committed
multiple murders -- Ibrahim and Howard.
A new policy instituted recently by Pacheco came into play before the
district attorney concluded he would seek death in this case.
Not only did the panel of prosecutors meet as they always have, but this
time family members of both homicide victims were invited to the meeting,
speaking face to face with Pacheco about how the deaths affected them.
Davis, a veteran prosecutor who has tried several death penalty cases,
said he welcomes the new policy.
"We do see the carnage and devastation at crime scenes," Davis said. "But
we frequently are not in a position to talk to loved ones, like parents or
For the most part, Davis said, relatives are not witnesses and aren't
heard from until a defendant is about to be sentenced.
"It's different to have them sitting with the DA, pouring their hearts
out," Davis said.
The prosecutor said he was touched by the plight of Ibrahim's parents in
"He was their whole support system, from interpreter for them to
supporting them financially," Davis said, adding that Ibrahim's parents
came to the United States from Iraq and don't speak English.
Another relative served as a translator for the couple at the meeting with
prosecutors, he said.
Not long after Ibrahim was killed, relatives interviewed by The
Californian spoke about how he came to America from Iraq less than a year
earlier to avoid death, but was killed here.
Fletcher and Thomas have their next court appearance early next month.
The process of beginning their trial is expected to slow, now that the
death penalty paperwork has been filed with the court. Typically when a
trial becomes a death-penalty case, new defense attorneys are added, which
means they will now have to review all the evidence.
Both men have pleaded not guilty to all counts against them and are being
held without the possibility of bail.
(source: North County Times)
Spokane Serial Killer's death penalty appeal Thursday
Spokane Serial Killer Robert Yates will be learning Thursday whether or
not his death penalty conviction for the murders of 2 women near Tacoma
will be overturned by the Washington State Supreme Court.
Yates, a former Army helicopter pilot who served on active duty and in the
National Guard, was convicted in Spokane for the murders of 11 women and
sentenced to more than 400 years in prison.
After his sentencing in Spokane he faced a second trial in Pierce County
and was later convicted for the murders of 2 more women Yates killed near
the Army National Guard post at Camp Murray near Fort Lewis. For those
murders Yates received the death penalty.
Yates was sent to the states death row at Walla Walla State Penitentiary,
but appealed his death penalty, claiming the court made 21 different
mistakes during his double murder trial in Tacoma. In his 270-page appeal
Yates is using a shotgun approach hoping to give the Supreme Court at
least one reason to overturn his death sentence.
One appeal Yates is making is that he agreed to plead guilty to murders in
both Spokane and Tacoma but having made those confessions when he made a
plea deal with Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker which took the death
penalty off the table.
However after he was sentenced in Spokane County he claims that Pierce
County prosecutors pulled out of the deal and double-crossed him. Yates
was sentenced to death on October 4, 2002 for the 1997 murder of Melinda
Mercer and the 1998 murder of Connie LaFontaine Ellis.
During the trial in Pierce County his jury was allowed to hear testimony
about Yates' role in the deaths of more than a dozen victims in Spokane
and Walla Walla Counties which spanned more than 2 decades, and those
prior bad acts are typically not admissible.
The appeal also challenges the use of an FBI profiler, the qualifications
of the jury and whether the murders were part of a common scheme or plan.
(source: KXLY News)
High court affirms death sentence for Spokane serial killer
The state Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence of convicted serial
killer Robert Yates Jr.
Yates had asked the high court to throw out his death sentence and take a
fresh look at how capital punishment is applied in Washington.
In an 8-1 ruling, the high court ruled that his conviction and sentence
should stand, rejecting his arguments that Pierce County should not have
been able to seek the death penalty after a plea agreement was made with
Spokane, and also rejecting his argument that the death penalty is applied
in a disproportionate way.
A central question was how the so-called Green River killer, Gary Ridgway,
could escape the death penalty after pleading guilty to killing 48 women,
while less-prolific killers are sentenced to death.
Yates was sentenced to 408 years in prison in 2000 after confessing to 13
killings in a plea deal with Spokane County prosecutors that included
information on the Pierce County deaths.
Pierce County moved separately to charge Yates. He was convicted of
killing 2 women in that county and sentenced to death in 2002.
In seeking to overturn his Pierce County sentence, Yates' lawyers said he
was misled by Spokane County prosecutor Steve Tucker into believing that
the two Tacoma-area slayings were part of his Spokane plea agreement.
They weren't, Pierce County said.
A key part of his appeal is that Yates didn't get the death penalty in
Spokane, despite a larger number of victims.
"Mr. Yates' [death] sentence is arbitrary, wanton ... freakish and random
in light of his Spokane County sentence," his lawyers argued in court
The court in April narrowly upheld the death sentence of a man who fatally
stabbed his wife and two children. That case also pointed to the disparity
with Ridgway's sentence.
In that 5-4 case, the court acknowledged the extraordinary circumstances
of Ridgway's case but said no matter how unfair it may seem, his plea deal
does not automatically invalidate the state's death penalty for everyone
Yates, an aluminum-smelter worker and Air National Guard helicopter pilot,
was arrested in Spokane in April 2000 after years of unsolved deaths of
local women, many of whom were prostitutes.
Within weeks of his arrest, Yates' public defender was trying for a plea
agreement with Tucker. Through the lawyer, Yates started revealing
information about his victims and his crimes.
Tucker has repeatedly said he thought he had then-Pierce County prosecutor
John Ladenburg's permission to include the 2 Pierce County cases in the
Ladenburg has said he told Tucker in a conference call that a plea deal
was "ill-considered and premature" and to leave the Pierce County cases
out of any deal that didn't include the death penalty. Tucker said he has
no recollection of Ladenburg saying that.
Shortly after Tucker sent the proposed plea deal to Ladenburg, Yates was
charged with the Pierce County homicides.
(source: Associated Press)
Judge: Hayes must remain in state care
Michael Hayes, who killed 4 people and wounded 5 others in a 1988 shooting
spree in southern Forsyth County, must remain in the care of a state
psychiatric hospital, a judge ruled today.
The ruling, which was not immediately available, comes after a 4-day
hearing in Forsyth Superior Court last week in which a team of
psychologists testified that Hayes no longer suffers from the personality
disorder that accounted for his murderous rampage. A jury found him not
guilty by reason of insanity in the killings.
Special Judge Steve A. Balog could have either released Hayes, 43, without
any conditions, or ordered him back to Dorothea Dix Hospital.
Hayes' attorney, Karl Knudsen, had to persuade Balog that Hayes met 1 of 2
conditions for release: That he is not mentally ill, or that he is no
longer dangerous to others. Knudsen said in his closing argument that it's
hard to see how Hayes could do more to satisfy both parts of the law.
"We have a situation where the law compels the court to make a decision
which may be unpopular, which may be difficult, but it's the right thing
to do," Knudsen said.
David Sipprell, an assistant district attorney, told Balog that he should
not believe that Hayes has recovered from the personality disorders and
drug dependencies that led Hayes to kill.
Robert Brown Jr., the only psychiatrist called by the state, testified
that Hayes still has an unspecified personality disorder. He said he
recommended that Hayes be released with conditions, an arrangement that is
not possible under state law.
During the hearing, Hayes apologized for the shootings.
"It was totally me, my life choices, my bad decisions led me to do
something like that to you and your family," he said. "I wish I could
change it, I wish I could take the whole thing back. But there is not a
day that goes by that I do not think about you. You're all in my prayers,
everyone. I mean, I'm very, very sorry.
(source: Winston-Salem Journal)
Delaware death penalty class action trial put on hold
A class action that alleges Delaware's system of capital punishment
constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment" was to go to trial in federal
court, but that trial has been put on hold today because the U.S. Supreme
Court is taking up the issue.
The Supreme Court will consider whether the most common method of lethal
injection -- the use of three drugs to sedate, relax and kill someone --
violates the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
The justices agreed Tuesday to hear a challenge to the practice from two
inmates on death row in Kentucky -- Ralph Baze and Thomas Clyde Bowling
All executions in Delaware have been placed on hold since a federal
lawsuit was filed more than a year ago to stop the execution of Robert W.
Jackson, who was convicted of murdering 47-year-old Elizabeth Girardi with
an ax in 1992 during a robbery in Hockessin.
Earlier this year, District Judge Sue L. Robinson changed the case to a
class action, including everybody on Delaware's death row.
In Jackson's appeal, attorneys argue that the chemicals used by Delaware
and the apparent lack of training for those carrying out the execution
means lethal injection -- as performed by the state -- would violate the
standard of care used by veterinarians to put down animals.
Instead of a quick and humane death, they claim, Jackson could die a slow,
lingering death by suffocation.
The last execution in Delaware was the Nov. 4, 2005, lethal injection of
Brian Steckel, who raped, beat and killed Sandra Lee Long in 1994.
(source: The News Journal)
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