[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, TENN., VA., WYO., IDAHO, FLA., N.M.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Feb 4 22:50:31 CST 2008
TEXAS----another death row inmate commits suicide
Mentally ill killer found hanging in cell
A psychologically troubled inmate sentenced to die for a 1985 Houston
robbery-murder has become the second Harris County killer to commit
suicide in state prison in a four day period, Texas prison officials said
William Robinson, 49, condemned for his role in the June 11, 1985 murder
of Steve Creasey, 26, at a Montrose apartment complex, was found hanging
from a bed sheet in his Jester 4 Unit cell at 5 a.m. Friday.
A prison spokeswoman said Robinson had been transferred from death row to
the Fort Bend County prison, reserved for psychiatric care, in September.
Just 3 days earlier, Jesus Flores, sentenced to die for the May 22, 2001
murder of Harris County sheriff's Deputy Joseph Dennis, bled to death in
his death row cell after cutting his throat with a razor blade. Robinson's
death brings to nine the number of condemned killers who have taken their
own lives since the Texas death penalty was reinstated in 1974.
Lyons said psychiatric patients are checked by guards at 15-minute
intervals; death row prisoners are checked every 30 minutes. Robinson was
alive but unresponsive when found in his single-occupancy cell, Lyons
said. He was taken to a Richmond hospital, where doctors determined he was
brain dead. Life support was discontinued at the request of his family. He
died at 6:19 p.m. Lyons said privacy regulations precluded her from
revealing Robinson's psychiatric diagnosis, but noted that he had been
treated at the mental health facility on several occasions.
Prisons inspector general John Moriarty, who investigates such deaths,
could not immediately be reached for comment.
Robinson was 1 of 3 men who robbed Creasey, a waiter, and a 30-year-old
woman as they walked through a Montrose apartment complex. After the
robbery, the men forced the woman into their car. Creasey tried to thwart
their escape and was shot in the head.
The woman later testified the 3 men raped her for several hours.
One of Robinson's accomplices, Jesse Oliver, 30, was murdered 2 days after
the Creasey killing. Prosecutors contended Robinson and his 2nd
accomplice, Michael Dennard, killed Oliver to keep him from going to
Dennard is serving a 38-year sentence after pleading guilty to 3 robberies
and sex abuse.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Man Accused in Vidulich's Murder Could Face Death Penalty
The teenager accused of murdering Memphis police Lt. Ed Vidulich went to
court without an attorney Monday and was charged with first degree murder.
Dexter Cox, the 18-year-old police say confessed to shooting and killing
Vidulich, stood before a judge and showed no emotion Monday. However, that
may change if prosecutors decide to pursue the death penalty.
It was a quick court hearing as Cox was charged with first degree murder
in the death of Vidulich. With no attorney to represent him and no family
there to support him, a new hearing was set.
Police said Cox admitted to shooting the Memphis police lieutenant twice
in the head. They said the lieutenant wasn't his only victim. Cox is also
suspected of shooting and killing 76-year-old Herbert Wooten and
45-year-old Gwendolyn Smith in October.
Detectives said the same weapon was used in all 3 shootings.
Police arrested Cox Thursday after catching him shooting a gun off outside
Frayser High School.
They said that's when he confessed to shooting Vidulich.
Cox told investigators he went to Vidulich's home Sunday claiming he had
information about guns stolen from the lieutenant's house in July.
When Vidulich let him inside, he shot the police officer.
"Ed was happy he stepped-up and gave information about the burglary... big
heartCox just gained his trust and befriended him," said Vidulich's widow
District Attorney General Bill Gibbon's spokesperson said Cox could face
the death penalty, but prosecutors haven't decided if they're going to
pursue that yet.
Cox is being held without bond and he'll back in court February 18.
House committee votes to expand death penalty
A bill to expand who could be sentenced to death under state law passed a
House committee Monday.
HB933 would eliminate the so-called "triggerman rule," which says that
only the actual perpetrator of a capital murder can receive the death
penalty. Instead, others involved in a murder could also be sentenced to
The House Courts of Justice Committee approved the bill 18-4. It now goes
to the full House of Delegates.
(source: The Virginian-Pilot)
Death penalty decision expected this week
Prosecutors are expected to announce this week whether they will seek the
death penalty against Donald Rolle, the Casper man accused of killing a
woman he'd dated in the past.
Rolle is charged with 1st-degree murder in connection with the death of
Jennifer Randel. Investigators say Randel's body was found inside Rolle's
pickup in November. She had been beaten and stabbed.
New trial begins for Idaho man after two decades on death row
The evidence against former death row inmate Mark Henry Lankford is
overwhelming, and he will be convicted again, Idaho County Prosecutor Kirk
MacGregor predicted in an opening statement Monday in Lankford's retrial.
But defense attorney Charles Kovis said his client was convicted because
of false testimony provided by his accomplice and brother, Bryan.
"Mark Lankford has maintained his innocence from day one," Kovis said.
Lankford, 51, spent more than two decades on death row for the 1983
slayings of a young Texas couple camped in the Idaho wilderness. He was
granted a new trial in 2006 when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
ruled he must either be retried or released because of an error in jury
instructions during his 1984 trial, and because of ineffective assistance
from his attorney. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case.
Lankford was sentenced to death for the 1983 bludgeoning slayings of U.S.
Marine Capt. Robert Bravence, 27, and his wife, Cheryl, 25.
Lankford's new trial is being held in northern Idaho's Shoshone County
after a judge concluded the case had too much publicity in Idaho County,
in central Idaho.
"This case is about a brutal double murder and about the victims,"
MacGregor said. "The evidence is overwhelming."
Kovis contended the conviction was based on testimony from Bryan Lankford,
who testified against his older brother in exchange for avoiding the death
penalty. Bryan Lankford is serving life in prison.
"He's a liar and when he testifies you will see that," Kovis said of Bryan
The trial before 2nd District Judge John Bradbury is expected to last 3
The 12-member jury and 4 alternate jurors were seated from a pool of more
than 40 Shoshone County residents.
Lankford was released from death row in October and has been held in the
Idaho County Jail on $5 million bond since then. He was transferred to the
Shoshone County Jail for the new trial.
MacGregor has refused to accept a plea agreement that would save the
county the cost of a new trial.
Lankford's 1st trial and post-conviction appeal cost Idaho County about
$322,000, but county officials say the cost of a new trial and appeals
could reach $1 million. That expense is not included in the county's $12
million budget for 2008.
Idaho County commissioners have said department budgets may be trimmed and
other cost savings explored to pay for the trial.
Since their convictions, Bryan Lankford has filed court documents and
written letters with his confession, claiming to have committed the
murders alone, even though he told a different story when he testified
against his brother at trial.
The Bravences were reported overdue from an extended camping trip in
north-central Idaho. A week later, investigators found their abandoned van
at a Los Angeles bus terminal, and that September hunters discovered their
remains hidden at a remote campground.
The Lankfords each blamed the other for the crime after their arrests.
Prosecutors offered Bryan Lankford life in prison in exchange for his
testimony against his brother.
Bryan Lankford testified that he engaged the campers in conversation while
his older brother sneaked up on them from behind. Mark Lankford ordered
the two to the ground, then beat them with a club, his brother said.
Mark Lankford didn't testify at his trial or his brother's.
But he told investigators Bryan Lankford showed up in the Bravences'
stolen van, later saying he had bashed their heads with a large rock.
After Mark Lankford's trial, his younger brother changed his story several
(source: Associated Press)
Death penalty on table in slaying case
A 21-year-old man indicted on murder charges last week for his role in the
fatal shooting of a convenience store owner is facing the possibility of a
death penalty trial, officials said. Hassan Scott, along with 18-year-old
Anthony Horsley and 17-year-old Dwan Smith have been charged with the June
11, 2006, shooting death of Kiran "Ken" Patel at the Beverage Store in
Palm Bay. A grand jury indicted the 3 on charges of 1st-degree murder,
robbery with a firearm and aggravated assault with a firearm last week.
Horsley identified by police as the one who allegedly shot Patel with a
9mm handgun and the 17-year-old were juveniles at the time of the slaying
and because of state law will not be considered candidates for the death
"Not all of them would be eligible for the death penalty," Assistant State
Attorney Michael Hunt said.
"But for the one that would be eligible, we have not had any discussions
yet as to whether we would seek the death penalty."
Katherine Howard, the mother of Horsley, said Scott had terrorized her son
and was the leader of the trio.
"My son told me that he did not pull the trigger ... he sat in the car and
said they were calling him a chicken when they did the robbery," Howard
Horsley, along with the other 2, face life in prison if convicted.
"I'm very disappointed for my child and also sad for the victims family,"
Howard said. "Lord Jesus, it hurts to know my child was affiliated with
Horsley, Scott and Smith are being held at the Brevard County Jail in
(source: Florida Today)
Lust, lies and disorder in court----Sworn statements of judges show a
bizarre conflict playing out behind the scenes.
Rarely do outsiders get an inside peek at how judges work together. But
last week, judges on the state's biggest and most powerful appeal court
testified about one another. It was not a pretty sight.
They described a court where judges of the 1st District Court of Appeal
have accused each other of lying, having affairs with court employees,
threats and playing games of "chicken." Former Chief Judge Charles J. Kahn
Jr. was described as "volatile," "duplicitous" and "schizoid." They called
him a liar, given to temper tantrums.
The marshal who has provided court security for more than 25 years
testified that he arranged to have extra law enforcement officers attend a
ceremonial event after they heard that Kahn was getting a concealed
weapons permit and a handgun.
The marshal said 2 other judges decided to get guns at the same time. Kahn
says he never did get a gun permit but did learn how to shoot at a pistol
range in Sopchoppy.
As acrimony between the judges spiraled out of control, the marshal put a
lock on the judge's robing room to keep Kahn from getting in during the
And Kahn is not even the one on trial.
* * *
That honor goes to Judge Michael E. Allen. The Judicial Qualifications
Commission has accused him of conduct unbecoming a judge for acting with
animus and hostility when he made disparaging comments about Kahn in a
Allen's lawyer says it marks the first time in judicial history that a
judge has been charged with wrongdoing for something he wrote in a formal
Allen wrote that Kahn should have disqualified himself from a case because
a close associate of the defendant was Kahn's former law partner. "We
should never perform our responsibilities in a manner that would cause the
public to question the impartiality of our decisions," he wrote.
Allen denies that hostility toward Kahn motivated his opinion. Trial is
scheduled March 10.
Court members were questioned under oath last week by F. Wallace Pope, a
Clearwater lawyer specially appointed as a JQC prosecutor in the case, and
Bruce Rogow, the Fort Lauderdale lawyer who represents Allen.
Allen's written opinion came in the case of former Sen. President W.D.
Childers, a major player on the state's political stage for more than 30
years before term limits chased him out of the Senate in 2000.
Childers loved the behind the scenes intrigue and once conspired with Gov.
Lawton Chiles to secretly pass a law that allowed the state to sue major
tobacco companies. The plot was cooked up by Pensacola lawyer Fred Levin,
a former law partner of Kahn's and longtime friend of Childers.
After leaving the Senate, Childers won a seat on the Escambia County
Commission, where he delivered a cooking pot filled with cash to a fellow
commissioner to buy his vote on a $4.1-million land deal.
When Childers' bribery conviction and 3-1/2-year prison sentence came up
on appeal in 2004, Kahn wrote an opinion in a 2-1 vote overturning the
case. But a majority of the court's 15 judges decided to let the full
court rule. They voted 10-4 to uphold Childers' conviction.
When lawyers for Childers asked the court to send the case to the Florida
Supreme Court, Allen wrote the opinion that said Kahn should have
disqualified himself because of his close ties to Levin.
Levin's son, Martin, filed a JQC complaint against Allen. Thirteen of the
other judges on the appeals court filed a JQC complaint against Kahn over
his affairs with court employees.
* * *
An employee who keeps the court's computer systems running complained to
several court officials that Kahn was having an affair with the same court
clerk he was dating.
The computer specialist "bought her birthday gifts, valentines, sprinkled
her desk with rose petals one morning, all at the same time she was having
an affair with Kahn," according to testimony last week from current Chief
Judge Edwin B. Browning Jr.
Confronted by Browning and others on the court about the affair, Kahn lied
to them, Browning said. When the computer specialist produced photographs
of Kahn and his girlfriend in a South Florida hotel, Browning went back to
He said he took along Judge James R. Wolf. "Kahn has a bad temper and I
didn't want to go in by myself. I was going to step on his toes and wanted
a witness with me," Browning testified.
"Judge Kahn had a trip hair temper and could go off the deep end and be
Kahn helped the woman get a job in the Office of the State Court
Administrator. (The judges say Kahn also had an affair with another state
court administrative employee.)
Browning called the affair with the court clerk a breach of judicial
ethics that "exposes the court to liability" and "dishonor." He said other
problems arose when Kahn surreptitiously distributed pay raises to some
employees using a double set of books.
The judges forced Kahn to resign as chief judge. A majority of the court's
15 judges filed a JQC complaint against him in 2006. The JQC dismissed it.
Browning said that when Kahn was advised that the court was about to
produce public records in response to a request from the St. Petersburg
Times, Kahn "went schizoid -- bouncing off the walls, he was totally
irrational and started screaming and hollering he was going to report me
to the JQC. He threatened to sue me, too."
Don Brannon, marshal at the court for 27 years, described other tantrums
Kahn threw, over a parking place and travel reimbursements.
"He didn't seem to be stable, it was scary," Brannon said as he described
Kahn's request to take a gun course required for a concealed weapons
permit. "More than one person had come to me with concerns."
Judge Brad Thomas had been on the appellate court only about 10 days back
in January 2005 when he asked to speak to Kahn about a draft of the chief
judge's opinion that would have overturned Childers' conviction.
Thomas, a former prosecutor and legislative expert on criminal law who
once worked in Childers' Senate, thought Kahn's opinion was wrongly
Instead of discussing the case, Kahn told Thomas "to get out of my f------
office," and sent him on his way.
Testifying last week, Kahn was asked about his encounter with Thomas. He
admitted losing his temper. "I had been on the court 14 or 15 years and he
had been on the court a week or 2."
He would not answer questions about the affairs.
He accused his fellow judges of acting illegally when they took the
Childers case away from him and has denied any conflict of interest
because of his friendship with Levin.
Kahn testified that he called the elder Levin the day Allen's court
opinion was released. He said Levin brought his son into one telephone
call to discuss the situation. Kahn said he told them he would not file a
complaint against a fellow judge himself, but noted that the JQC was there
for that purpose. Martin Levin subsequently filed a complaint.
Several of the judges testified that they did not believe Allen's opinion
violated any ethical rule and questioned the JQC decision to file charges
"I thought it was outrageous that the JQC proceeded against Judge Allen
and not Judge Kahn," said Judge Peter D. Webster. "What Judge Kahn did
reflected badly on our court as an institution and was the kind of thing
for which judges ought to be disciplined."
Childers remains in prison. Allen and Kahn remain on the court.
(source: St. Petersburg Times)
Color of Death----Death penalty usually sought for people of color
After the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 by the U.S. Supreme Court,
New Mexico Gov. Toney Anaya was the 1st to commute the sentences of all
death row inmates to life in prison, which he did for 5 people in 1986.
Today there are 2 men who are on death row in the state a small number
out of the nationwide figure of 3,350. One is serial-killer Bobby Fry of
Farmington, who was sentence to death for the murder of Betty Lee, a
Navajo woman who lived in Shiprock. Fry was also convicted in three other
Farmington-area murders, including the infamous Eclectic double homicide.
"The people of New Mexico have never favored the death penalty," Gary
Mitchell, a defense attorney known for his work on death penalty cases,
Mitchell joined in a discussion with Gallup community members during a
presentation on the death penalty on Sunday at the First United Methodist
Church. The presentation, called "Deadly Injustice: A Discussion on Race
and Punishment," included a screening of Rachel Lyons documentary "Race to
Execution" and a panel discussion with Mitchell, Gallup Chapter of the
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Chairwoman Mona
Frazier and Kimberly Ross-Toledo, director of Coalition for Healthy and
As revealed by the documentary, the face of the person on death row is
most often a dark one. Statistics indicate that the death penalty is more
often sought when the victim is white and the defendant is a person of
color than in other situations.
Even though national statistics show that race plays a factor in death
penalty cases, Mitchell said that New Mexico has always been different.
"It is truly, when it comes to talk about death penalty work, the land of
enchantment," he said.
Mitchell added, "It is extremely difficult to get 12 people to agree on
the death penalty in this state."
However, he said that the issues in the documentary are also issues that
have been dealt with in New Mexico.
Mitchell told about a recent case in Portales, where prosecutors chose not
to seek the death penalty for the white defendant, Jerry Fuller, in the
case of the 2005 killing of an elderly couple, but decided to seek the
death penalty for the black defendant, Stanley Bedford.
"That case more than any in a number of years brought to the forefront
that there are still people in New Mexico, particularly prosecutors, that
will elect to do something from a very racist point of view," Mitchell
The documentary explored two cases that sought the death penalty those of
Robert Tarver in Alabama and Madison Hobley in Chicago, Ill. Both were
black men who were accused of murder based on questionable evidence.
What surprised a few people in the audience about the Tarver case was the
fact that Tarver's defense attorney was a friend of the victim. Even
though the jury recommended a life sentence without the possibility of
parole, Tarver was eventually put to death for the murder of Hugh Kite, a
well-known white store owner.
In Hobley's case, he was exonerated following many appeals and years on
death row after the Chicago Tribune exposed racism in the police
department and then-Governor of Illinois George Ryan commuted the
sentences of 13 people on death row and issued a moratorium on the state's
death penalty. Hobley had been charged with arson and the murder of 7
people including his wife and child when he was able to escape from the
burning building where they had lived.
One of the problems illustrated by the documentary was in the composition
of juries, which is often made of white people. In both the Tarver and
Hobley cases, the respective juries that found them guilty were composed
of 11 whites and one African American.
The same problem was expounded on by Mitchell who noted that those who are
against the death penalty or those who do not believe the death penalty
should apply in the specific case are immediately eliminated from the jury
pool. Minorities are also eliminated by prosecutors because they are often
more distrustful of law enforcement and the court systems than white
people, and thus are less likely to issue a death sentence.
"In fact, I cannot think of a single death penalty case in which a single
African American in the state of New Mexico sat on that death penalty
jury," Mitchell said.
The documentary said that when the majority of jurors are white males, a
death sentence is far more likely.
Andrea Lyon was one of the attorneys working on the Tarver case. In the
documentary she said, "We execute the poorest of the poor ... people who
have bad lawyers, the people least able to defend themselves."
While New Mexico is known for being a state of diverse peoples, it is not
exempt from modern problems of racism, the panelists said.
"Were still fighting racism," Frazier said.
Both Frazier and Ross-Toledo said that the information presented in the
documentary was not surprising.
Ross-Toledo spoke about how people of color expect unfairness from the
court system and law enforcement from cases as small as a traffic stop all
the way up to death penalty cases.
She added that the racism in New Mexico is more subtle than in other
states and that it is perpetuated in many ways.
(source: Gallup Independent)
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