[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., OHIO, UTAH
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Feb 6 16:30:22 CST 2008
Court grants new punishment hearing for death row inmate
Convicted killer Jose Angel Moreno, who won a reprieve just hours before
his scheduled execution last May, has now been granted a chance to get off
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday ordered a new punishment
phase of his trial, allowing Moreno to present evidence of a troubled
childhood and other mitigating issues that might have influenced a jury to
give him a life sentence.
The appeals court also ordered further consideration of a similar appeal
from death row inmate Ricky Eugene Kerr, who, like Moreno, claimed he was
unfairly denied the chance to present evidence that might have spared his
The Moreno ruling was the latest reversal for a court that initially
upheld his conviction and death sentence throughout several appeals, then
stayed the execution, then agreed that U.S. Supreme Court rulings should
give him another chance.
"One thing this case has taught me, strange things can happen," said
Moreno's attorney, Scott Sullivan. "It's a thoughtful decision. They took
the time to recognize a wrong and correct it."
The ruling does not overturn Moreno's conviction in the 1986 abduction and
slaying of 18-year-old John Cruz, a student at the University of Texas at
Evidence showed Cruz was handcuffed and blindfolded and then shot in the
head. Moreno then made ransom calls demanding $30,000 from Cruz's family.
A Supreme Court decision last year found that jury instructions about
mitigating evidence in three other Texas cases were improper. Those cases
were tried about the same time as Moreno's and the jury instructions were
similar. Those instructions have since been changed.
The Texas court voted 5-3 last year to reconsider his case, stopping a
lethal injection by just a few hours.
Wednesday's ruling could open the door for Moreno to avoid execution,
"Anytime you can go back to a jury, it opens up a lot of things," Sullivan
According to court records, Moreno was born with a deformed left ear,
which required many surgeries to correct and prompted taunting by other
children. His adoptive mother died when he was 15 and he was shuffled to
other family members and in and out of different schools before he dropped
out after the 8th grade.
Investigators also determined Moreno had a history of drug and alcohol use
and tried at least 9 times to abduct Cruz. He finally succeeded the night
of Jan. 21, 1986, by luring Cruz from his car by blocking the road to
Cruz's home with large rocks. When Cruz got out to move them, Moreno ran
up and pulled a gun on him.
Prosecutors said Moreno saw Cruz's family as a cash source after he
learned they'd won a multimillion-dollar settlement of a lawsuit against a
tire manufacturer stemming from the death of a relative in a traffic
Evidence showed while Moreno was awaiting trial, weapons were found in his
jail cell, he tried to escape and he was adept at using paper clips to
free himself and other inmates from handcuffs.
Kerr was sentenced to death in 1995 for the murder of his landlady and her
42-year-old son in San Antonio after the moved to evict him.
(soruce: Associated Press)
Death Penalty Sought Against Man Charged With Teen's Rape, Murder
Police say 48-year-old Mark ODonnell admitted killing 14-year-old Ebony
Dorsey in December.
Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against a Montgomery County man
charged with raping and killing a teen.
Police say 48-year-old Mark ODonnell admitted killing 14-year-old Ebony
Dorsey in December. <>P> She was his girlfriend's daughter and baby-sat
for him at the time. Police say ODonnell smoked crack before the murder.
Dorsey was a 9th grade honors student at Wissahickon High School.
Warren man spared death penalty
A 25-year-old Warren man was spared a possible death sentence for the
beating death of a 2-year-old boy.
Randall Marc Thomas pleaded guilty Tuesday before Judge W. Wyatt McKay of
Trumbull County Common Pleas Court to aggravated murder.
There was conflicting opinions from experts on whether the toddler,
Freddie Miller, was raped while being beaten by Thomas. This resulted in
the prosecution dropping the death penalty specification.
The child died March 1 in Children's Hospital Medical Center of Akron
after receiving initial treatment at Forum Health Trumbull Memorial
Police were called by paramedics, who were summoned to a Fifth Street
apartment and noticed the boy's injuries.
Police said that Randall Thomas is the stepbrother of Zachery Thomas, who
is the live-in boyfriend of the child's mother, Deborah Miller.
They said Randall Thomas was left alone with the boy on occasions. An
ambulance was called to the apartment while the toddler and Randall Thomas
were alone at the residence.
(source: Youngstown Vindicator)
Federal judge putting brakes on inmate's death sentence----State courts
need to comb through new appeals issues
A federal judge has agreed to put the brakes on Utah death-row inmate Von
Lester Taylor's federal appeal to give the state courts time to rule on a
new list of issues Taylor has raised.
During a hearing Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell granted
Taylor's request to have his motion to stay execution held until state
courts can comb through a roughly 400-page petition filed in November,
which raises a list of new appeals issues. Among those issues are claims
that prosecutors did not hand over certain items of evidence to his
defense and that certain members of the jury were biased because they had
connections to the county attorney's office, some even being distant
relatives of the county attorney at the time.
Campbell said she felt the best course of action was to hold the federal
review until Taylor's new claims have a chance to wind their way through
the state trial court and then on to the Utah Supreme Court, before
reaching the federal court.
State prosecutors argued that the federal petition could still move
forward without hearing Taylor's new claims; however, Taylor's defense
said that could cause legal problems.
The Utah Supreme Court has already unanimously rejected Taylor's claim
that he did not receive a fair sentencing. In his original claim, Taylor
said that the jury should have heard evidence that he may be
brain-damaged; however, prosecutors said that evidence was voluntarily
suppressed by the defense in a deal in which prosecutors agreed not to
show evidence of Taylor's alleged satanic worship and drinking of animal
blood. The high court determined that even had the jury heard evidence of
brain damage, they would have sentenced him to death given the horror of
Taylor, along with Edward Steven Deli, broke into an Oakley, Summit
County, cabin belonging to the Tiede family in 1990 after having run from
a halfway house. Police say Taylor emptied his gun into the backs of Beth
Potts, 70, and her daughter, Kaye Tiede, 49. The 2 then shot Rolf Tiede,
51, and kidnapped 2 of his daughters, fleeing in a vehicle and setting the
cabin on fire.
Court documents show that Taylor ordered Rolf Tiede to remove his clothes,
took $150 from his wallet, and then shot him. For a while, Tiede played
dead, but Taylor returned and shot him point blank in the head, doused him
with gasoline and set him and the cabin on fire. Rolf Tiede survived the
Deli was given a life sentence in prison. A jury sentenced Taylor to death
(source: Deseret Morning News)
More information about the DeathPenalty