[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, OHIO, PENN., N.C., CAL., FLA., VA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Feb 7 10:37:46 CST 2008
Just-the-facts index of executions offers disturbing view of death penalty
"Texas Death Row: Executions in the Modern Era"
In the state where everything is bigger, the death penalty is practically
Four of every 10 people executed in the United States since 1976 have been
put to death in Texas.
More people - 102 - have been executed for crimes committed in a single
Texas county - Harris, the home of Houston - than any other state during
The last execution in the United States before the nation's current de
facto moratorium was in Texas on Sept. 25, 2007, when a judge refused to
keep her court open to hear a late appeal.
Total Texas executions to date: 405. Total across the country: 1,099.
Crawford, an Austin, Texas-based writer, set out to document the state's
prodigious death penalty data in book form. Tapping state records and
working with officials at the prison system's Huntsville unit, he's
compiled a 400-page plus volume that gives one page to every inmate
executed since the state resumed executions in 1982.
The result is a cross between the neutral facts of an encyclopedia and the
compelling tidbits of a true crime expose.
"Convicted of capital murder in connection with the stabbing-bludgeoning
slayings of three people in a Houston townhome in November 1985," reads
the beginning of the entry for Richard Drinkard, executed May 19, 1997.
"The victim's daughter confronted Hernandez as he attempted to flee the
scene and managed to wrestle the bat from him and strike him with it,"
reads the entry for Adolph Gil Hernandez, executed Feb. 8, 2001.
On page after page, we encounter coldly documented details.
Many inmates order T-bone steak for their last meal. Many ask for
cigarettes, which are denied because of prison policy. A few fast before
Several, like Charles Bass, executed March 12, 1986, apologize for their
"I deserve this," Bass said as he prepared to die for killing a Houston
city marshal in 1979. "Tell everyone I said goodbye."
Several others, like Leonel Torres Herrera, executed May 12, 1993, say the
state has made a mistake.
"I am innocent, innocent, innocent," Herrera said before dying for the
1981 shooting death of a Los Fresnos, Texas, police officer. "Make no
mistake about this, I owe society nothing."
It's hard to figure out who the book's audience will be. At first glance,
it appears to be a gold mine for those who oppose capital punishment. What
better argument against the death penalty than a chilling compilation of
the victims of state-sponsored killing?
Not very many pages into the book, however, the details of horrible crime
after horrible crime start to take their toll. Sympathy for the condemned
killers fades as their body count grows.
Crawford's accomplishment is remarkable, yet substantially flawed in at
least one way: The book lacks any context for the information it contains.
Such a collection cries out for an essay of some sort that would explain
the history of capital punishment in Texas, however briefly, and how the
state came to lead the country in executions.
That kind of information would be useful whether you support or oppose
capital punishment. Yet all we get is this single paragraph of explanation
in a one-page introduction:
"In the past few years the debate over the death penalty has increased in
volume and vehemence. It is our hope that the information presented in
this book will assist readers in framing informed opinions about the
It's clear Crawford tried to be neutral. But a little extra information
would have made an important if disturbing book all the more relevant.
(source: Associated Press)
Death penalty lectures at Ashland University meant to spark dialogue
Ashland University will host lectures by Melinda Elkins, executive
assistant at the Ohio Innocence Project at The University of Cincinnati,
and Robert DeSanto, former Ashland County prosecuting attorney, as part of
the of the Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project.
The project's purpose is to create dialogue on the controversial issue of
the death penalty.
At 7:30 p.m. Monday in the Hawkins-Conard Student Center Auditorium,
Elkins will discuss the Ohio Innocence Project and its campaign for better
laws regarding DNA evidence and eyewitness testimony.
After serving seven years in prison for the murder of Elkins' mother and
niece, her husband, Clarence, was released when a young eyewitness
recanted her testimony and DNA tests could not place him at the crime
Elkins' mother's neighbor, a previously convicted rapist, is on trial in
Summit County for the killings.
Elkins has appeared on "48 Hours," "Larry King Live," "Geraldo," "Good
Morning, America," "Dateline," "American Justice," "Montel" and "Catherine
Crier." She speaks across the country with the Innocence Project, lobbying
the government for changes in DNA collection, investigation and eyewitness
DeSanto will speak on "Prosecutorial Perspective on the Penalty of Death"
at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Hawkins-Conard Student Center Auditorium.
Having prosecuted three death penalty cases in Ashland County, DeSanto
will provide the prosecutor's viewpoint on murder cases and capital
A graduate of Ohio University, DeSanto received his J.D. degree from
Cleveland State University Marshall Law School. He was assistant
prosecutor for Ashland County from 1977 to 1984 and prosecutor from 1984
For a complete schedule of events or details about the Dead Man Walking
School Theatre Project, go to ashland.edu/deadmanwalking or call
The exhibition "Prognosis of Death," by photographer Lou Jones, author of
"Final Exposure: Portraits from Death Row," will open Feb. 21 in AU's
Coburn Gallery. Read more in next week's Ticket.
(source: Mansfield News Journal)
Montco to seek death penalty for rape, killing of teen girl
Montgomery County prosecutors will seek the death penalty for the man
accused of raping and murdering his girlfriend's 14-year-old daughter,
officials said yesterday.
District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said her office filed a notice of
intent on Tuesday, stating that Mark Patrick O'Donnell, 48, of Plymouth
Township, met the criteria for seeking a death sentence.
Police said O'Donnell killed Ebony Nicole Dorsey, a popular freshman at
Wissahickon High School, the morning of Dec. 7 after he returned to his
Plymouth Township home, where the teen had been baby-sitting his
The teen's mother, Danielle Cattie, 34, of Whitpain Township, reported her
daughter missing later that day when she did not come home after school.
She told police that O'Donnell had spent the previous night with her and
smoked a "significant amount of crack cocaine," a drug that makes him
O'Donnell said he had driven the girl home, but police found a small
plastic storage bin containing Ebony's body two days later. They said
O'Donnell killed her, stuffed her into the container, and concealed it
outside a Blue Bell residence.
O'Donnell, who is represented by Thomas C. Egan 3d, has admitted the
slaying but offered different scenarios for the rage that he says provoked
it. In one explanation, he said he caught the teen molesting his daughter,
an accusation police called baseless.
Ferman said her office can seek the death penalty if a 1st-degree murder
occurs during the commission of a felony. In this case, Ferman said
O'Donnell committed 2: involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and rape.
(source: Philadelphia Inquirer)
UNC visitors to talk about death penalty
A dramatic performance, a photography exhibit and a lecture by Sister
Helen Prejean, author of "Dead Man Walking," will highlight events in
February for UNC-Chapel Hill's yearlong discussion of the death penalty.
"Doin' Time: Through the Visiting Glass," by Ashley Lucas, will be free to
the public at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8, in Gerrard Hall, off Cameron Avenue.
Independent photojournalist Scott Langley will speak at 4 p.m. Feb. 11 in
the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation Auditorium of
the School of Public Health's Michael Hooker Research Center, located at
Pittsboro and South Columbia streets. Langley's photographs will be
displayed through March 7 in the Hooker Center and the Health Sciences
Library on South Columbia Street.
Prejean will deliver this year's Hillard Gold '39 Lecture at UNC at 7:30
p.m. Feb. 25 in Memorial Hall. Tickets to the free lecture are available
at the Memorial Hall Box Office on Cameron Avenue, open from 10 a.m. to 6
p.m. weekdays. Interested parties may reserve tickets by calling the box
office at 843-3333.
(source: News & Observer)
Death penalty urged for 'sadistic' killer of 2 women
A prosecutor said Wednesday that a convicted double murderer enjoyed
brutalizing defenseless women and deserved to be put to death, but the
31-year-old defendant's attorney argued that life in prison would be a
more fitting punishment.
"He is a predator who waits and cowers and bides his time ... for an
opportunity to strike, Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Mike
Hestrin said of Javier William Victorianne. He chose to violate and
degrade defenseless women. Why? Because he likes it."
Victorianne was convicted two weeks ago of first-degree murder, along with
special circumstance allegations of rape, in the deaths of 16-year-old
Amanda Hoffman and 37-year-old Maria "Lisa" Boyd. He was also convicted in
the sexual assault of a Cabazon woman around the time of the murders.
During his closing statement in the trial's penalty phase, Hestrin spent
more than 2 hours reminding a six-man, six-woman jury about the nature and
circumstances of each murder.
"Mr. Victorianne is a perverted, sadistic killer who got a thrill from
sexual violence," the prosecutor said. "He wanted to degrade his victims,
take away every ounce of humanity they had."
Boyd was murdered on the morning of July 29, 1999, in a room at the
The 6-foot-4, 240-pound defendant attacked her when she refused his
demands for sex, knocking her unconscious with a lamp, raping her, then
strangling her and hanging her in a closet with intricately knotted
electrical cords, according to testimony.
Hoffman was raped and killed a year later when Victorianne lured her to
Banning's Lions Park with the promise of lining her up with a job
interview, according to Hestrin.
In the pre-dawn hours of July 31, 2000, the defendant sexually assaulted
the girl in the park, then strangled her with her own overalls, using the
garment to hang her from a tree limb, Hestrin said.
DNA evidence linked Victorianne to both murders.
"Look at the circumstances of these crimes, the bone-chilling severity,"
Hestrin told the panel. "Does this defendant deserve anything less than
what he did to Amanda and Lisa?"
He said a death sentence because it is "morally justified."
"By saying these violent acts warrant the highest penalty, you are
affirming life and rejecting and condemning the murder of the innocent
with every fiber of your being," the prosecutor told jurors.
Earlier in the penalty phase, Hestrin accused Victorianne of abducting a
mentally impaired woman from a roadside near Hemet in 2000, and raping and
strangling her in the back of a van, where her decomposing body was
discovered 2 weeks later.
Although he was never charged with that crime, Hestrin reminded jurors
about 32-year-old Kim Bray today, telling the panel that, like Boyd and
Hoffman, she was chosen because she was an easy target.
"He's a bully," Hestrin said of Victorianne. "He murdered Kim Bray the
same way he murdered Lisa and Amanda ... He did not kill out of revenge or
anger. He killed for the most base motives ... He liked it. It was
But Victorianne's attorney, Regina Fillipone, argued there was no direct
evidence linking him to Bray's murder, and said he was only implicated in
the crime because of an alleged jailhouse conversation with a cellmate
Terry Bailey who was known for telling "a great story."
"If they could have proved this murder against Javier, they would have
charged him with it," Fillipone said.
She told the jury in her closing statement that there was nothing "moral
about execution," and she emphasized there were no "benefits to life in
prison without the possibility of parole."
"Javier would be in a level-four prison yard, in a maximum-security
prison," Fillipone said. "He wouldn't be the worst-of-the-worst, but
that's who he would be living with."
The attorney said Victorianne's exhibited few instances of aggressive
behavior in his 7 1/2 years in the Riverside County jail while awaiting
trial, except for episodes of "mouthing off and acting like a jerk."
"He wouldn't get away with that in prison," Fillipone told jurors. "Some
other inmate will make him a victim."
She acknowledged the anguish of the victims' families and told the jury
she and her colleague, attorney John Aquilina, had no intention of begging
for mercy or sympathy on Victorianne's behalf.
"If killing Javier would bring Amanda and Lisa back, I would tell you to
execute him," Fillipone said. "But it's not going to bring them back."
According to Fillipone, Victorianne was left to his own devices during his
formative years, without any real parental supervision.
"He had ADHD, and his mother's answer was to send him out for a run,"
Fillipone said. "His father was a falling-down drunk."
Fillipone said Victorianne took a backseat in terms of importance to his
younger brother, Bernard, who was named after his father.
"It was almost like Javier didn't exist," she said.
Jury deliberations were expected to begin tomorrow morning.
(source: San Diego Union-Tribune)
Villages murder trial enters final stage----The prosecution and the
defense find some common ground on the victim's only daughter.
In Ocala, prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed Wednesday that Diana
Miller's death could be traced to her only child -- but they split sharply
on who should pay for the killing regarded as the first-ever murder in The
Jurors are expected to begin deliberating this morning in the potential
death-penalty cases of Jarrord Roberts, 21, and Renaldo McGirth, 19. They
are charged with first-degree murder and other crimes in the 2006 slaying
of Miller, 63.
In final arguments before a Marion County jury, defense lawyers accused
Miller's 40-year-old daughter, Sheila -- who was not charged -- of helping
plan the crimes that left her mother dead and her father wounded.
They pointed out that Sheila Miller was a conniving, drug-abusing felon
who would have inherited $750,000 from her parents, retired corporate
accountants from suburban Detroit, if both had died July 21, 2006.
Miller's father, James, 71, was shot in the head but survived the attack.
Sheila Miller has insisted that she is a victim and was kidnapped and
forced to accompany the men in her parents' van after her mother was shot.
She testified that she thought they would kill her parents if she
3 men involved initially entered the Millers' home on Wesley Street in The
Villages on a ruse.
The youths convinced Diana Miller that they had come to visit her
middle-aged daughter, who was confined to a wheelchair recovering from
injuries that she had suffered in a drunken-driving accident.
Prosecutors acknowledged that Sheila Miller ought to shoulder some blame.
"In the scheme of life, if you have to assign cause or blame, you can
trace it back to Sheila Miller's pot-smoking. That lifestyle led her to
him," State Attorney Brad King said in closing remarks, pointing at
McGirth, who had provided her with marijuana and other drugs. "And their
relationship led him to that home in the Villages."
But she did not kill her mother, shoot her father or plan the crime, King
Sheila Miller "will do and say whatever she needs to do and say to get
what she wants," said Roberts' lawyer, Henry Ferro. "With her cunning, she
certainly could be the mastermind of an operation such as this."
"Sheila Miller is trying to save herself," said McGirth's lawyer, Candace
Citing trial testimony, they pointed out that Sheila Miller did not try to
alert anyone at Kmart, a gas station or a Gainesville mall in the hours
after her mother was shot; that she directed the men to an ATM in The
Villages that was not equipped with a surveillance camera; and that she
had previously stolen her mother's ID to obtain credit.
They also noted that she remains estranged from her father, who obtained a
protection order to bar her from contacting him.
Defense lawyers also assailed a 3rd defendant, Theodore Houston, 18, who
backed out of a plea-agreement that would have spared him life in prison
for his testimony. He had identified McGirth as the shooter.
Houston testified but insisted he wants his own trial to prove his
Defense lawyers reminded jurors that Houston fetched the spent shell
casings, drove a separate vehicle away from the crime scene and had even
held the gun. They also pointed out that he admitted lying 23 times.
Shorn of dreadlocks and clad in dress shirts and ties, the two defendants
looked like meek high-schoolers as they listened attentively to lawyers in
Circuit Judge Brian Lambert's courtroom. Neither testified.
The 2 are charged with 1st-degree murder, attempted 1st-degree murder,
armed robbery and armed kidnapping.
(source: Orlando Sentinel)
Judge Delays Decision to Commute Virginia Death Sentence
A judge stayed his order to commute an inmate's sentence to life in prison
in a case that led to the U.S. Supreme Court banning execution of the
At a hearing Thursday in York County-Poquoson Circuit Court, special
prosecutor Melissa Hoy told Judge Prentis Smiley Jr. that she plans to
appeal his order to the state Supreme Court. Smiley granted the stay,
leaving Daryl Atkins on death row.
Smiley modified the sentence last month after finding that prosecutors had
failed to turn over potentially favorable evidence to defense lawyers
during Atkins' 1998 murder trial.
The high court ruled in 2002 that it was unconstitutional to execute the
mentally retarded, and a new jury decided that Atkins wasn't retarded and
upheld his death sentence. That verdict was overturned because of trial
(source: WJLA News)
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