[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----TEXAS
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Sep 30 17:34:42 CDT 2007
TEXAS----impending execution//foreign national/Vienna Convention issues
Honduran ambassador seeks reprieve for killer
The Honduran citizen who is set to die Wednesday for killing an Arlington
store manager should be spared from execution until the U.S. Supreme Court
decides whether lethal injection inflicts undue suffering, Honduras'
ambassador said Friday.
Ambassador Roberto Flores visited Austin on behalf of Heliberto Chi a day
after the high court halted the execution of Carlton Turner Jr. Turner's
attorneys argued that he shouldn't be put to death before the high court
rules on lethal injections.
Flores said it makes no sense to spare one inmate but not another.
"This execution should be stopped," he said. "We are requesting justice
for Honduras and mercy for Mr. Chi."
Houston attorney Terry O'Rourke, who is representing the Honduran
government, said he plans to be in court Monday on Chi's behalf to seek a
stay on the same grounds that Turner used.
Chi, 28, was convicted of fatally shooting 56-year-old Armand Paliotta on
March 24, 2001, after entering the K&G Men's Superstore in southwest
Arlington, intending to rob the place where he had worked.
A clerk was wounded but survived.
Chi was arrested in Los Angeles after eluding police for 6 weeks.
Flores said Chi was never told of his right under an international treaty
to speak with a representative of his home country before being questioned
by Arlington police.
The Supreme Court declined Tuesday to hear Chi's appeal on that point.
Flores and O'Rourke said authorities had ample opportunity to advise Chi
of his right to confer with the Honduran government.
If an American traveling abroad was about to be executed without being
allowed to speak with U.S. officials, O'Rourke said, "We'd be ready to
send in the Marines."
On Oct. 10, the court is scheduled to hear arguments in another Texas case
on whether states are bound to follow the procedures in the so-called
Vienna Treaty, which was signed by the United States, requiring that
foreign nationals accused of crimes outside of their countries be allowed
to solicit advice from their embassies or consulates.
Chi's attorneys are also asking the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and
Gov. Rick Perry to intervene. By law, Perry may issue clemency or commute
a sentence only if the parole board recommends it.
He can however, issue a 1-time 30-day reprieve to allow an inmate to
pursue further appeals.
"The governor will review this case, as he does all death penalty cases,
and he'll make his decision after the board has weighed in," spokeswoman
Krista Moody said.
(source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
Texas Planning New Execution Despite Ruling
A day after the United States Supreme Court halted an execution in Texas
at the last minute, Texas officials made clear on Friday that they would
nonetheless proceed with more executions in coming months, including 1
Though several other states are halting lethal injections until it is
clear whether they are constitutional, Texas is taking a different course,
risking a confrontation with the court.
"The Supreme Court's decision to stay convicted murderer Carlton Turner's
execution will not necessarily result in an abrupt halt to Texas
executions," said Jerry Strickland, a spokesman for Attorney General Greg
Abbott of Texas. "State and federal courts will continue to address each
scheduled execution on a case-by-case basis."
Shortly before midnight on Thursday, the Supreme Court stayed the
execution of Mr. Turner, who had been scheduled to become the 27th Texas
inmate executed this year by lethal injection in Huntsville.
Although the court gave no reason for its order, Mr. Turner, convicted of
murdering his adoptive parents in 1998, had appealed to the court after it
agreed Tuesday to consider the constitutionality of lethal injection, the
most commonly used method of execution in the United States.
Several legal experts said the Supreme Court reprieve would be seen by
most states as a signal to halt all executions until the court determined,
probably some time next year, whether the current chemical formulation
used for lethal injections amounts to cruel and unusual punishment barred
by the Eighth Amendment.
11 states had halted executions for that reason. On Thursday, Alabama
stayed an execution for 45 days to come up with a new formula.
"There is a momentum quality to this," said Douglas A. Berman, a law
professor at Ohio State University who has a blog, Sentencing Law and
Policy. "Not only the Supreme Court granting the stay, but also the
Alabama governor doing a reprieve that is likely to lead to other states
with executions on the horizon waiting to see what the Supreme Court does.
I'll be surprised if many, and arguably if any states other than Texas, go
through with executions this year."
On his blog on Friday, Professor Berman predicted that there would be few
if any executions in the country for the next 9 to 18 months, while the
court deliberates and, later, as lower courts parse the meaning of its
Texas, which has a history of confrontations with the Supreme Court over
its prerogatives in criminal justice, does not appear interested in
That forces lawyers for condemned prisoners to appeal each case as high as
the Supreme Court.
4 more executions are scheduled in Texas over the next five months. The
next inmate, who is to be executed, on Oct. 3, is Heliberto Chi, 28, a
Honduran convicted of murdering the manager of a men's clothing store in a
Dallas suburb, Arlington, in a robbery in 2001.
A lawyer here who represents Hondurans in the United States, Terence
O'Rourke, has said Mr. Chi's execution would violate international law.
Mr. Chi's lawyers are almost certain to appeal to the Supreme Court on the
same grounds as Mr. Turner, also 28, used in his successful appeal. The
court said this week that it would consider the legality of the injection
formula used in Kentucky. Texas uses a virtually identical formula.
Andrea Keilen, executive director of the Texas Defender Service, a law
firm that represents prisoners, said the message of the reprieve on
Thursday was clear. "In the coming months," Ms. Keilen said, "lethal
injection could be found to be cruel and unusual punishment, and Texas
should wait for that decision instead of proceeding with potentially
David R. Dow, a law professor at the University of Houston who handled Mr.
Turner's appeal, said it was still too early to proclaim that a de facto
national moratorium was in place. If Mr. Chi's case goes to the high court
and it issues a stay, Professor Dow said, that would clearly indicate that
the justices will grant such appeals until a final decision is made.
He said he expected the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to agree
eventually and begin granting the stays itself, removing the need to go to
the Supreme Court. The Texas court split, 5 to 4, on Thursday in denying
Mr. Turner's appeal.
A similar de facto moratorium on executions was in place for several years
in the late 1960s and early '70s, as it became apparent that the Supreme
Court was preparing to rule on the constitutionality of the death penalty.
There was nothing official, but lower courts routinely delayed their cases
or granted stays of execution.
The court's eventual ruling, in Furman v. Georgia in 1972, did end capital
punishment in the United States for 4 years, until the court approved new
state death penalty laws in a series of cases in 1976.
The current challenge to the death penalty is on a much less fundamental
level. Even if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the 2 Kentucky inmates
who brought the challenge to lethal injection, the result will not be to
overturn any death sentences, but rather, at the most, to require a
different method to carry them out.
The stay for the Texas execution was issued 2 days after the court did not
stop Texas from executing another inmate, Michael Richard, leading to some
confusion about its intentions.
Lawyers in the case on Tuesday said their appeal had been turned down
because of an unusual series of procedural problems.
Professor Dow said the computers crashed at the Texas Defender Service in
Houston while lawyers were rewriting his appeal to take advantage of the
high court's unexpected interest in lethal injection.
Because of the resulting delay, the lawyers missed by 20 minutes the 5
p.m. filing deadline at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin,
where the appeal had to go first before moving to the Supreme Court.
The Texas court refused their pleas to remain open for the extra minutes.
Because the lawyers missed that crucial step, Professor Dow said, the
Supreme Court had to turn down the appeal, and Mr. Richard was executed.
But on Thursday, with a more carefully crafted appeal for Mr. Turner, and
the Texas court's closely split rejection, the Supreme Court called a halt
to another lethal injection.
(source : New York Times)
Texas will not halt executions----Other states are halting lethal
injections until the Supreme Court rules on a Kentucky case.
Other states are putting a halt to executions until the Supreme Court
decides a Kentucky case challenging the constitutionality of lethal
In the state where 405 inmates have been put to the death using a
combination of 3 drugs, there will not be "an abrupt halt to the Texas
executions," a spokesman for Attorney General Greg Abbott said Friday.
Thursday night, the high court stopped the execution of a death row inmate
from Irving whose appeal was based on the lethal-injection issue.
(source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
Irving killer's reprieve may slow executions nationwide----But legal
experts don't expect moratorium as lethal injection reviewed
The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to stop a Texas execution Thursday
night, following this week's announcement that it would review lethal
injection, could significantly slow use of the death penalty across the
Carlton Turner But capital punishment experts are hesitant to predict a
The reprieve in the case of Carlton Akee Turner, who confessed to killing
his adoptive parents in Irving in 1998, was the high court's first since
agreeing to take a Kentucky case questioning whether the 3-drug cocktail
used in most lethal injections violates the constitutional ban on cruel
and unusual punishment.
But the court's 77-word order Thursday gave no indication of the court's
thinking and came two days after it denied another Texas appeal on similar
grounds, leading to the execution of death row inmate Michael Richard, who
raped and killed a nurse in 1986.
"I would absolutely not use the term moratorium to characterize where we
are right now," said David Dow, an attorney in both cases. Mr. Turner's
appeal "was the first case to go along following the Kentucky case that
raised the same question and that was clean procedurally."
The difference between Tuesday's execution and Thursday's stay of
execution was that on Tuesday, Mr. Richard's attorneys weren't able to
file the paperwork on time with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
because of a computer crash, he said.
Mr. Dow said the attorneys notified the court of the computer problems.
But the court would not stay open past 5 p.m. to accommodate them, and
attorneys instead had to file the appeal in a district court.
They then asked the Supreme Court to hear an appeal on the lethal
injection issue, but the high court had no jurisdiction to hear it without
the lower Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruling.
"I think that Michael Richard got executed because the Court of Criminal
Appeals couldn't be bothered to stay open 20 minutes late so we could get
all our briefs in," Mr. Dow said.
Abel Acosta, chief deputy clerk for the court, declined to comment on
whether the court should have stayed open in a life-or-death situation.
"I'm not going to have a response to that," he said. "I advised the
parties that called that we closed at 5."
Like most states, Texas uses three drugs administered sequentially -
sodium thiopental, which knocks the person unconscious; pancuronium
bromide, which shuts down breathing; and potassium chloride, which stops
Defense lawyers for death row inmates contend that sodium thiopental could
wear off or be administered ineffectively, causing inmates to suffer
several minutes of pain before dying.
With more time Thursday, Mr. Dow and the other lawyers went back to the
Court of Criminal Appeals, and the court voted 5-4 to reject Mr. Turner's
appeal. The state court ruled that it had already determined that lethal
injection did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment in a 2006 case.
The attorneys then appealed to the Supreme Court.
"The inmate will be forced into a chemical straitjacket, unable to express
the fact of his suffocation while he consciously experiences the third
chemical ravaging his internal organs," they argued in the appeal.
The high court's order stopping the execution does not indicate how the 9
justices voted. But at least five votes are needed for a stay, Mr. Dow
Mr. Turner's stay will remain in effect until the high court can consider
further arguments and decide whether to review the case along with the one
Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information
Center, said court watchers have been whipsawed by the Supreme Court's
capital punishment rulings in recent days and won't fully measure their
impact until some explanation is forthcoming.
But the stay of execution in the Turner case is a huge, though temporary,
development - one that hasn't been matched since capital punishment was
suspended in the 1970s, Mr. Dieter said. Previous capital punishment
rulings affected only certain groups of death row inmates, such as
juveniles or the mentally retarded. But these actions may affect most of
the country's more than 3,300 death row inmates.
"The fact that the U.S. Supreme Court granted this stay may be a strong
signal that this is a much broader issue than Kentucky," Mr. Dieter said.
"It's of national importance."
Douglas Berman, a sentencing expert at Ohio State University's law school,
called it a "molasses moment in the overall operation of the death
penalty" because it will slow, but not stop, the death machinery.
Some cases could face problems with legal procedures. And the Supreme
Court's review of the three-drug cocktail probably won't affect Nebraska,
which uses only the electric chair, and New Jersey, which uses a different
mix of chemicals.
In another case, a Nevada inmate is set to die Oct. 15 because he has
given up his appeals. He was sentenced for beating a teacher to death with
a tire iron.
In Texas, officials have repeatedly said that executions will proceed as
usual until the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of lethal
Gov. Rick Perry does not have the authority to call a moratorium on
executions, said spokesman Krista Moody, but even if he could, "he doesn't
believe there's a need for one."
After the high court accepted the Kentucky case, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley
granted a stay of execution to an inmate to give officials time to change
the lethal injection protocol. Several other states have placed a
moratorium on executions out of concern about the administration of the
Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins said in a prepared statement
that "we do not intend to change any of the policies or procedures
currently in place."
But Kim Schaefer, who handles death penalty appeals for the DA's office,
said the lack of explanation in the Turner case has left many prosecutors
"It feels like we're banging our head against the wall," she said. "Many
DAs may feel it's pointless to go forward with executions at this point -
because you know the litigation is going to happen, it may likely get
stayed, and we don't know the reason why."
Another test of the Supreme Court's intent will probably come Wednesday,
when defense attorneys are expected to appeal the execution of Heliberto
Chi on similar grounds.
Mr. Chi was convicted in the 2001 murder of 56-year-old Armand Paliotta
during the robbery of an Arlington men's clothing store.
One of his victims, who was shot but survived, said he hopes that Mr. Chi
will use the coming execution date as an opportunity to "get right with
"I've gone back and forth on this, emotionally, internally," said Adrian
Riojas, an employee of the store when it was robbed. "I don't think we can
justify murder with murder."
But Mr. Riojas, now 25, said that an execution would bring some closure
for him and that he felt for the Paliotta family.
"I completely understand [the defense attorneys'] reasoning behind it -
they're trying to save their lives," he said. "But they didn't give their
victims a chance or a stay."
"You weren't concerned about pain or feelings when you committed the
crimes," he continued. "So I don't know why we have to be concerned for
Mr. Dow said he hopes the Court of Criminal Appeals will stay Mr. Chi's
"I hope that they look at what happened in the Turner case and come to the
conclusion that we're going to go up to the Supreme Court and the Supreme
Court is going to grant it."
(source: Dallas Morning News)
Death penalty on hold in Texas
Could big changes be coming in how the death penalty is handled in Texas?
Thursday night, it was breaking news. But, it could change the scope of
executions in Texas for a long time.
The U.S. Supreme Court stopped the execution of a Dallas man who killed
Now, it's possible all Texas executions could be suspended.
"I was ecstatic about it. Whenever an execution is called off even if it
is at midnight we are happy about it," said death penalty opponent David
Nearly every condemned inmate, for the last several years, has included in
his or her final appeal an argument that the method of lethal injection is
cruel and unusual punishment.
Only Carlton Turner's resulted in a stay.
That, only because the Supreme Court decided this week to hear the appeal
of a Kentucky case challenging lethal injection.
This is the 1st time that the Supreme Court has taken up a full review of
that process. It could have far-reaching impacts.
"Many of us believe that is why Texas and the other 35 states that do
lethal injection should probably shut it down and wait to see what the
court says," said 11 News legal expert Gerald Treece.
That would be a significant victory where there have been precious few for
those who want to abolish the death penalty.
A real moratorium exactly what some think the governor should do.
But it may not lead to an unconstitutional finding for lethal injection.
"You have a conservative block on that court that may have granted review
just to say, 'No it is not,'" said Treece. Or to expand (it) even further,
in this professor's opinion when the death penalty is appropriate."
Still anytime the death chamber stays vacant, some think is a win.
"Here in Texas where we have all these executions. Anything that will stop
an execution or a series of executions is like a breath of fresh air,"
(source: KHOU News)
Are executions on hold nationwide?----Experts weigh implications of
Supreme Court's intervention in Texas.
By sparing the life of a Texas death row inmate late Thursday, the U.S.
Supreme Court elevated what had been a relatively minor constitutional
challenge into a milestone event that could halt most executions through
next summer, lawyers said Friday.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers spent Friday parsing the court's dramatic
if enigmatic ruling, a one-paragraph order staying the execution of
Carlton Turner Jr. but offering no explanation for the move.
Defense lawyers believe the stay of execution signals the court's
willingness to halt executions while justices review a Kentucky case that
questions whether drugs used in lethal injections can subject inmates to
extreme pain while leaving them paralyzed and unable to cry out.
"I think it signals that we are likely to have a moratorium on executions
until the court resolves the (lethal injection) litigation," said Jordan
Steiker, co-director of the Capital Punishment Center, a research-oriented
program at the University of Texas School of Law. "That is a most
Texas prosecutors vowed to continue pressing forward on the state's 4
"The Supreme Court's decision to stay convicted murderer Carlton Turner's
execution will not necessarily result in an abrupt halt to Texas
State and federal courts will continue to address each scheduled execution
on a case-by-case basis," said Jerry Strickland, spokesman for Texas
Attorney General Greg Abbott.
A better sense of the court's intentions could come Wednesday, when Texas
is scheduled to execute Heliberto Chi, a Honduran citizen convicted of
killing a Tarrant County store manager during a 2001 robbery. Chi's
lawyers said Friday they will seek a stay of execution based on the same
challenge to lethal injections that succeeded for Turner.
If the court continues to delay future executions, the nation's death
chambers could fall silent for the first time since the mid-1970s, when
the Supreme Court ruled that states were applying the death penalty in an
arbitrary and capricious manner in violation of the Constitution.
And because the court may not decide the Kentucky case until summer, the
potential to disrupt capital punishment could extend into fall 2008,
If the court requires changes in the way drugs are administered, states
may face additional legal challenges to the new protocols, causing further
delays, he said. But even if the justices find no problem with the current
regimen of drugs, it will take states awhile to renew execution programs,
The challenge by 2 Kentucky inmates is an unlikely vehicle for such a
significant impact, Steiker said.
"The litigation itself isn't taking on lethal injection. It doesn't claim
that there is no humane way to carry out executions," he said.
The Kentucky defendants are merely seeking enhanced safeguards to make
sure lethal injection drugs perform as intended: by sedating, relaxing and
killing without undue pain.
"In many respects, their challenge is quite modest," Steiker said.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers said they did not expect the Supreme Court
to issue a blanket stay on all executions, choosing instead to handle
executions case by case.
Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information
Center, said he expects the Supreme Court to provide further explanation
after its 2007-08 session begins Monday.
"They certainly are cognizant of the confusion that exists now among the
states and lawyers about what to do," Dieter said. "I think it will become
clearer as more inmates file directly with the Supreme Court. So it's
going to take some time, but I think the stay in the Texas case is a
strong message that this is a broader case and most people will be given
stays of execution."
Alabama Gov. Bob Riley issued a 45-day moratorium Thursday to allow time
to create new lethal-injection procedures designed to make sure the inmate
is unconscious when given drugs to stop the heart and lungs.
In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry sees no need for a death penalty moratorium,
spokeswoman Krista Moody said.
"Like most Texans, the governor supports the death penalty as an
appropriate response for the most violent crimes against our fellow man,"
Moody said. Texas has 4 executions scheduled through February.
(source: Austin American-Statesman)
Texas executions probably on hold until next year----State awaits High
Court ruling on lethal injection
Despite objections from state officials, executions in Texas are likely to
come to a halt until sometime next year when the U.S. Supreme Court
decides whether certain methods of lethal injection are inhumane, several
death penalty experts said Friday.
The high court granted a stay late Thursday for Carlton Turner Jr., of
Irving, based on its decision to hear a Kentucky case that argues the
chemicals used in lethal injections there risk cruelly subjecting inmates
to undue pain or even torture. Texas uses the same chemical cocktail as
4 Texas men, with execution dates already set in the most active death
chamber in the nation, are expected to seek stays based on Turner's
ruling, defense lawyers said.
Turner's narrow escape from the gurney contrasts with the fate of fellow
Texan Michael Richard, whose appeal for a Supreme Court stay was rejected
Tuesday just hours after it agreed to hear the Kentucky case.
Lawyers said Richard's fate was sealed by appellate procedures and timing
that worked against him.
Turner was granted a stay so the Supreme Court could hear his argument
that the lethal injection question in Kentucky also applies to Texas.
Lawyers for Honduran Heliberto Chi, who is scheduled to die Wednesday,
plan to ask the Supreme Court for a similar stay by Monday.
Call for moratorium
While several death penalty experts and one prominent district attorney
predicted a lull in executions in Texas and elsewhere, Texas Attorney
General Greg Abbott and Gov. Rick Perry said efforts to carry out
executions will move forward.
"The Supreme Court's decision to stay convicted murderer Carlton Turner's
execution will not necessarily result in an abrupt halt to Texas
executions," said Abbott spokesman Jerry Strickland.
"State and federal courts will continue to address each scheduled
execution on a case-by-case basis."
Perry believes the fate of death row inmates lies with the courts, said
spokeswoman Krista Moody.
"The governor does not have the authority to issue a moratorium nor does
he believe there's a reason for one," she said.
Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, said
Perry should issue a moratorium because the Supreme Court likely will
grant a stay in every Texas execution until the Kentucky case is decided.
Whitmire noted that Perry, until overturned by the Legislature, attempted
to use his executive order power to require teenage girls to be vaccinated
against a sexually transmitted disease.
"If he can tell a state agency to vaccinate people, I think he can tell a
state agency not to execute people," Whitmire said.
District trial courts could withdraw existing execution dates or chose not
to set new ones, said David Dow, a University of Houston Law Center
professor who filed the motions for stays for Turner and Richard.
"If trial courts don't act, all of these inmates will file challenges
probably in state court the way Carlton Turner did," he said.
"I would predict in the next case at least one of the (Texas Court of
Criminal Appeals) judges would change their mind. I just can't help but
think that will happen."
Dow said he believes the Supreme Court might have been swayed by the Texas
court's narrow 5-4 decision not to grant Turner's stay.
"It's always better if you're going to have to go from the state to
federal court that the (vote) is 5-4 compared to 9-0," he said. "I think
that was a helpful fact."
Tough on crime
Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley, who frequently lobbies
the Legislature to get tough on crime, said there likely will be an "ad
hoc moratorium" as courts stay death sentences pending the high court's
decision, but "I don't think it ultimately will have any effect at all."
Bradley said because lower courts had approved the Kentucky execution
procedure, he believes the Supreme Court took the case up in order to
affirm the state's method of lethal injection as constitutional.
Other legal experts noted that Supreme Court decisions in recent years
have been to bar the death penalty for the mentally retarded and those who
committed crimes as minors.
Even if the Supreme Court throws out the Kentucky procedure, Bradley said
all Texas will have to do is change its mixture of chemicals to match the
Supreme Court ruling before executions begin again.
"You would have some high-profile public hearings (on TDCJ rules),"
Bradley said. "They would simply change the procedure and carry on."
Texas prison system spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said currently there are no
plans to change the chemicals used in the Texas lethal injection
Jordan Steiker, a University of Texas law professor and co-director of the
Capital Punishment Center, said the Kentucky case is "modest in its own
It is not trying to throw out the death penalty or even lethal injection,
he said. It only wants a method of lethal injection that is more humane.
"We're not likely to see a pathbreaking decision, even if the court were
to strike down the existing protocol," Steiker said.
He said the most important aspect of the case is that it will cause a "de
facto moratorium" of up to a year on executions in states with lethal
injection. Steiker said that may create a time of reflection on whether
the nation wants to continue with capital punishment.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Governor Perry Says Death Penalty Moratorium Not Needed
Late Friday Governor Rick Perry's office said the governor has no
authority to issue a death penalty moratorium nor does he see a need for
one, even though the US Supreme Court may halt additional executions as it
considers whether lethal injection is cruel and unconstitutional.
Thursday the high court spared the life of Carlton Turner Junior of Irving
several hours before his execution for killing his adoptive parents.
Turner's attorneys had appealed to the US Supreme court after the justices
decided to consider lethal injection procedures.
Texas is scheduled to execute another death row inmate Wednesday, but
Steve Hall of the anti-death penalty group Stand Down , says there's a
good chance justices will stop that execution as well.
(Hall says Supreme Court Justices will probably treat other lethal
injection executions as they did Turner's, and decline to carry out the
death sentences until they have reviewed the Constituional issues raised
by the Kentucky case. That could take months.)
The Governor's office says it has received a request for clemency from
attorneys representing the inmate scheduled for execution Wednesday. The
Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles will review the request.
(source: KERA News)
Will Texas see death penalty moratorium?
The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to give a Texas death row inmate a
reprieve after it agreed to consider the legality of lethal injections
could mean a hiatus for the nation's busiest death chamber.
The court spared Carlton Turner Jr., 28, late Thursday after his lawyers
raised arguments that mirrored a Kentucky case, in which 2 condemned
inmates contended lethal injection was unconstitutionally cruel.
''I think we're headed toward a moratorium, at least until the Supreme
Court resolves the Kentucky case,'' University of Texas law professor
Jordan Steiker said Friday.
Krista Moody, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry, said Friday Perry still
viewed executions as acceptable under Texas law. But she referred legal
questions to the Texas attorney general's office, which had no comment.
At least 4 other Texas inmates are to die in coming months, including 1
next week. Heliberto Chi is set for injection Wednesday.
Neighbor charged in Corsicana-area girl's assault, hanging death
Neighbors and family of a 6-year-old girl found hanged in her garage
appeared stunned Friday after police charged a man who lived nearby with
killing the 1st-grader.
"As far as we know, this was random," said Sandy Runion, the grandmother
of Hanna Mack.
Shaun Earl Arender, 19, is charged with capital murder in the death of
Hanna. Her mother found the child's half-nude body hanging from the garage
rafters before sunrise Sept. 10. Police said Arender lived less than a
mile from the Mack's rural home, which is hidden among a web of dirt
backroads about 65 miles south of Dallas.
According to an arrest affidavit, "the defendant was then and there in the
course of committing or attempting to commit the offense of aggravated
sexual assault against Hanna Mack."
Bobby Redmon, Arender's uncle, said the family wasn't ready to talk about
"We're just still trying to process everything," he said after answering
the door at a home around the corner from Hanna's house.
Arender was already in jail on unrelated burglary and drug possession
charges. A DNA sample taken from the shirt Hanna was wearing was entered
into a Texas Department of Public Safety database Wednesday, and it
indicated Arender was a possible match, according to the affidavit.
Arender was questioned Wednesday, and, according to the affidavit "would
not give a statement, but put his head on the table and cried." 2 days
earlier, he cut himself with a piece of glass while in custody on the
burglary charge and was taken to a hospital "because he was depressed,"
according to the affidavit.
Arender's bond is set at $2.5 million.
The arrest stunned many because before Friday police had maintained that
the boyfriend of Hanna's mother was a primary suspect. Asked if Arender's
arrest cleared the boyfriend, Navarro County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Mike
Cox said "the investigation is still ongoing."
Neighbors and family members, who had complained that police were taking
too long in charging a suspect, said the arrest brought a degree of
comfort but also new concerns.
"It's a new face, so it's opened the wound wide open," Runion said. She
added that as far as the family knows, Arender had no connection to Hanna.
Pam Gray, who lives behind the Macks' home, said she had seen Arender
walking around the neighborhood after Hanna was found. She said she
"nearly fainted" when police announced the arrest Friday.
"We'll never be the same here again," said Gray, who has 2 children, ages
7 and 8. "It could have been our girl. I don't trust anyone now."
Harold Hocutt, 75, said he'll watch his grandchildren closer now.
"When it's all done," Hocutt said, "That's when I'll feel better."
According to the affidavit, Hanna's body was nude from the waist down when
police arrived at the family's home. A brown purse and a camera memory
stick were also missing from the residence.
Hanna died "by asphyxiation by a manner and means unknown," the affidavit
states. A pendant necklace that Dana Mack said Hanna always wore was also
Family members have said Dana Mack last saw the youngest of her 3
daughters sleeping on the couch about 1 a.m. When she discovered Hanna's
body hours later, when she would have otherwise been getting ready for
school, neighbors said Dana drove to a nearby store where she worked and
pleaded for help.
(source: Associated Press)
5 p.m. closing time at Texas court a factor in execution----Lawyer blames
office hours on failure of appeal similar to one that suceeded 2 days
Why did the U.S. Supreme Court halt the execution of one Texas inmate
Thursday while allowing another prisoner, who presented the same arguments
against lethal injection, to die two days earlier? Defense lawyers blamed
the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which refused requests to stay open
after 5 p.m. Tuesday, stopping a key appeal from being filed on behalf of
Michael Richard. Richard, convicted of raping and killing a Harris County
mother of seven in 1986, was executed later that night.
"It's an inexcusable failure," said Andrea Keilen, executive director of
the Texas Defender Service, which represented Richard. "To close at 5 when
the execution is scheduled for 6 p.m.? We need to have access to the
Abel Acosta, chief deputy clerk for the court, said it is longstanding
policy for the court to close on time. "The clerk's office consulted with
the court, and we were advised that our hours are 8 to 5," he said.
Keilen said the extra time was needed to respond to Tuesday morning's news
that the Supreme Court accepted a Kentucky case challenging lethal
injections as cruel and unusual punishment.
When the Texas court declined requests to stay open late, Richard's
lawyers turned to a Houston district judge to halt the execution.
Had the Court of Criminal Appeals denied the request, the next step would
have been an appeal to the Supreme Court, which is what happened in
But the denial from the Houston judge put Richard's motion on a different
procedural path to the high court, eventually dooming the attempt, Keilen
"Basically, it came down to a procedural technicality that Richard was
executed Tuesday night and Turner was stayed Thursday," she said.
Jordan Steiker, co-director of the Capital Punishment Center at the
University of Texas, said he expects the Supreme Court to be more
receptive to future requests for stays of execution because defense
lawyers will have time to follow typical procedures.
"I think it was troublesome for the Supreme Court that the highest state
court hadn't had the opportunity to rule on (Richard's) claim," he said.
(source: Austin American-Statesman)
Change of venue expected for trial in cops' slayings ---- Defendant White
may die from stomach cancer within 6 months
If you plan to attend the capital murder trial of Larry Neil White,
accused of murdering three Odessa policemen on Sept. 8, keep your bags
Permian Basin lawyers say the explosive publicity and public outrage about
the case have made a change of venue to a distant city a virtual
Lubbock, Abilene or San Angelo wouldn't be far enough to get an unbiased
jury to consider the death penalty Ector County District Attorney Bobby
Bland is bound to seek, the lawyers say.
Amarillo, Dallas or El Paso are more likely and no Basin judge will
preside because a trial of a month or longer would take him away from his
regular duties for too long, they say.
A visiting judge from where the trial is located will be assigned so he or
she is able to concentrate on nothing else until it is concluded, the
attorneys said. That's a key because things must be done right to avoid a
reversal on appeal.
And to gnarl the conundrum further, White has stomach cancer and may not
live long enough to be tried in 12 to 18 months, notwithstanding the years
it will take to execute him by lethal injection if he is convicted, the
Phillip Godwin and Tom Hirsch of Odessa and Edward Garza of Midland all
would seek a change of venue and State Bar of Texas President-elect Harper
Estes of Midland said the justice system is never more valuable than in a
situation like this.
"I would absolutely file the motion because the publicity around Odessa
and Midland has been enormous and it would be very difficult to get an
impartial jury panel as required by law," Godwin said on Thursday.
"Lubbock, Abilene or San Angelo would not be far enough."
Judge Denn Whalen named Midland lawyers Woody Leverett and Ray Fivecoat to
represent White, and an Ector County official said that because Whalen's
70th District grand jury finished its three-month term last week, a 358th
District panel called by Judge Bill McCoy will review evidence to indict
The 58-year-old one-time Marine Corps reservist, who contrary to initial
reports saw no combat in Vietnam, is charged with capital murder in the
deaths of OPD Cpls. Arlie Jones, Abel Marquez and Scott Gardner, who were
slain with a shotgun in White's west Odessa backyard as they answered a
domestic disturbance report.
Hirsch predicted Bland will agree when Leverett and Fivecoat ask to move
the trial. "We had 2 funeral processions, shut down the courthouse and
flew flags at half mast," he said.
"I don't think there is any way that guy can get a fair trial here."
Bland has indicated he will strongly consider the death penalty and Hirsch
said he has no choice. "I don't think it's politically possible to do
anything else," he said.
"The people in Odessa expect Bobby to seek the death penalty and for White
to get it. The bad thing is that he's got cancer and they don't expect him
to live more than 6 months. He can beat the death penalty just by the
cancer getting him."
Garza said El Paso or Dallas is a likely setting in a year to 18 months.
"The court is going to handle this with kid gloves and do everything
possible to assure he obtains a fair and impartial trial because capital
murder cases are automatically appealed," Garza said.
"They'll get a visiting judge to dedicate himself totally because it's
less disruptive to the system. They don't want an appealable point and
cause the trial to be redone as well as the expense re-incurred."
Estes said maintaining balance is vital with a reviled defendant. "It's
important in every case that the constitutional rights of the litigant or
accused are protected," he said.
"Obviously, these issues arise even more in cases that receive a great
deal of attention. The Bar supports and promotes the administration of
justice. We don't have any direct involvement, but we are always
supportive of the judges and procedures to make sure a fair trial can be
"Like most members of the public, I will follow it with interest."
Ector County Attorney Cathy Linch said the case has illuminated more
painfully than ever the seemingly insoluble problem of domestic violence.
"I don't know that you could punish somebody enough for something like
this, at least not in this world," she said.
"These calls are the most frustrating and dangerous for officers because
emotions are high and violence has already occurred. We've yet to solve
the mystery of how to keep it from happening over and over or why the
"Until we do, it's never going to stop."
(source: Midland Reporter-Telegram)
Graves still waiting on retrial date
Exactly when - or even where - the retrial for Anthony Graves will be held
is uncertain, with attorneys awaiting those decisions from the district
judge presiding over the case.
Graves, convicted of capital murder in the 1992 slayings of six Somerville
residents, remains in the Burleson County jail as his case winds its way
through the legal system again.
Graves, from Brenham, gets a 2nd chance after the Fifth Circuit Court of
Appeals in New Orleans ordered a retrial in 2006, 13 years after he was
That court found that prosecutors withheld evidence that could have
affected the outcome of Graves' trial.
"What we're waiting for is that the state asked for DNA testing on certain
pieces of evidence, and we were told that the DPS (Department of Public
Safety) lab would get back by the end of September," said David Mullin, an
Amarillo attorney who is one of several lawyers working on Graves' appeal.
"Well, September is almost over and it doesn't look like that's going to
Mullin said he and the other attorneys representing Graves "are assuming
that (testing) will show nothing."
Graves' lawyers have also discussed seeking their own tests, which will
take additional time, he added.
Meanwhile, Graves remains jailed under $600,000 bail. For him to gain
release, it would take a $60,000 non-refundable "premium," said Mullin.
"I'm very frustrated that my client's still in jail," he said. "I don't
see any way Anthony Graves is gonna come up with $60,000, so he's staying
District Judge Reva Towlsee Corbett, whose father presided over Graves'
1994 trial, must still issue major decisions on when and where a retrial
will be held.
"She's told us she will move the trial, but she never told us where she'll
change it to," said Mullin.
That is expected to be a distance away, because Graves' case has received
extensive publicity, including in the Bryan-College Station and Houston
Graves was initially implicated in the murders by co-defendant Robert Earl
Carter, who was also found guilty of the murders. The victims included
Carter's 4-year-old son.
Later, however, Carter said Graves was not involved, including during a
final statement at his execution in 2000.
"I think the guy (Graves) is innocent," said Mullin. "And I think it's a
travesty that he's still in jail."
(source: Brenham Banner-Press)
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