[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----ARIZ., USA, NEB., OKLA., GA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Feb 14 22:03:21 CST 2008
Cop killer's lawyer appeals sentence to state's top court
The defense attorney for a man sentenced to death for the 2003 murder of a
Tucson police officer argued to the Arizona Supreme Court on Thursday that
jurors considering the sentence didn't sufficiently take into account
David Darby, an appellate attorney representing John Montenegro Cruz, said
Cruz's attorney presented 17 mitigating factors that could have spared
Cruz the death sentence while the prosecution offered one aggravating
"It is our position that the jury abused its discretion in finding that
the mitigating factors were not sufficiently substantial to call for
leniency," Darby said.
After a 6-week trial, a Pima County Superior Court jury convicted Cruz in
2005 of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Officer Patrick K.
Hardesty. Authorities said Cruz, now 38, was fleeing the scene of a
hit-and-run accident when Hardesty began chasing him on foot.
Hardesty was the 1st Tucson police officer killed in the line of duty in
more than 2 decades.
Darby asked the justices to consider 22 issues ranging from jury selection
to the fact that Cruz was forced during the trial to wear a belt capable
of delivering an electric shock.
The justices appeared particularly interested in the issue of residual
doubt, the idea that even though a defendant has been convicted beyond a
reasonable doubt there still is enough doubt to cause a jury to refrain
from imposing a death sentence.
Darby noted that there were no eyewitnesses to the killing.
Darby argued that Judge Ted Borek should have allowed Cruz's attorney to
present evidence to support the notion of residual doubt as a mitigating
factor and should have instructed jurors on how to consider residual doubt
in deciding the sentence. Instead, the defense was allowed only to mention
Chief Justice Ruth McGregor said it is impossible to know what evidence
influenced which jurors. She said the real question is whether the jury
was reasonable in reaching its decision to sentence Cruz to death.
"Is there enough there that a reasonable jury could've reached this
result?" she asked. "Why is there something wrong with doing it in this
"Because life is different," Darby responded. "You're deciding whether or
not a human being is going to live or die."
Darby also argued that Cruz couldn't communicate with his attorney
adequately during the trial because he was forced to wear a stun belt, a
device that subdues with a strong electric shock.
Kent Cattani, chief counsel of the state Attorney General Office's Capital
Litigation Section, said Cruz's attorney had an opportunity to call for a
hearing after Cruz complained about the belt but never did so.
"I think you would have to defer to the judges who are looking at the
defendant and reading the reports and hearing from the correctional
officers explaining why it's necessary in this case," Cattani said.
In his appeal to the Supreme Court, Darby questioned whether it was
acceptable to allow one of the state's witnesses to testify while
intoxicated and whether the trial judge should have granted a mistrial
over possible changes to the testimony of the state's DNA expert.
The justices were to rule at a later date on whether Cruz is entitled to a
new trial or resentencing.
(source: Tucson Citizen)
Supreme Court Upholds 2 Death Sentences
The Arizona Supreme Court has upheld death sentences for a man convicted
thanks to DNA in a cold-case investigation and another convicted in the
contract killing of a Paradise Valley socialite.
James Cornell Harrod was sentenced to death for the 1988 murder of Jeanne
Tovrea. The widow of a cattle baron was shot to death at her home.
Authorities alleged Tovrea's stepson was implicated but he was not charged
in the case.
Frank Dale McCray was sentenced to death for the 1987 murder of Chestene
Cummins. McCray was charged while in prison on a sex crime after his DNA
was found to match evidence in the Cummins murder 13 years earlier.
Both men were resentenced in recent years as a result of a U.S. Supreme
Court ruling in an unrelated Arizona case.
(source: KPHO News)
9/11 Justice: Executing terrorists not in nation's best interest
The U.S. government's plan to seek the death penalty against 6 Guantnamo
Bay detainees in the Sept. 11 attacks is bound to have enthusiastic public
appeal. It might seem fitting punishment for anyone found responsible for
nearly 3,000 deaths, 600 more than in the Japanese ambush at Pearl Harbor.
Yet the effort to assign guilt for the barbaric Sept. 11 raids this
generation's own "day of infamy" should not end in an execution chamber.
That would not be in this nation's best interest.
Carrying out the death penalty would put the government's questionable and
untested military tribunal system on trial simultaneously. It's a test the
nation could not afford to fail as it tries to assert moral authority in
the war on terror.
Justice could not be served in a trial stemming from coerced confessions.
One of the six suspects, alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh
Mohammed, has undergone CIA interrogation that included waterboarding, a
practice widely considered torture and prone to produce unreliable
information. American and international legal traditions demand better.
And make no mistake: Trying these suspects will have global implications.
The military tribunal also could very well curtail traditional rights of
defendants, such as open-court proceedings and challenging government
evidence. While some deviation from standard court procedures might be
tolerable for security reasons, a high-stakes capital punishment trial is
not the time to grope for a balance.
There is a better option for the American people, although it's admittedly
a hard case to make in light of emotions that will remain forever raw on
the subject: Terrorists who bring savagery to our shores should spend the
rest of their lives isolated in secure prison cells.
Advantages are many. For one, the government could gain truly useful
information through methodical interviews. Second, unending solitary
confinement could lead a terrorist to reflect on and renounce fanaticism,
which would pay rich propaganda dividends. Third, imprisonment would have
deterrent value by denying Islamo-terrorists a reward they crave the
glory of martyrdom for their twisted cause.
Finally, no one should underestimate the punitive value of condemning
someone to look at four bare concrete walls for the rest of his life.
In the words of the judge who pronounced a life sentence on terrorist
Zacarias Moussaoui two years ago: "You will die with a whimper."
(source: Editorial, Dallas Morning News)
Execution in the USA suspended pending Supreme Court review
Lethal injection has been the legal method of executing convicted
criminals in this country in most states that still permit capital
punishment. The Supreme Court, however, suspended all lethal injections
until a hearing can be held on this method of putting people to death. The
question is not whether or not capital punishment is permissible, but
whether or not lethal injection is "cruel or unusual punishment" which is
prohibited by the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. One should note
that nothing is said in the Constitution about prohibiting pain when
punishing a person. Inasmuch as the writer regards getting a needle or
small tube jammed into a vein as painful, that aspect of "lethal
injection" is not in question.
At this time lethal injection consists of injecting into a vein three
drugs in sequence, which if given in the amounts and sequence prescribed
results in a person ending their life with no external evidence of
discomfort or stress. This is the reason the traditional methods of
execution have been abandoned for the most part in this part of the world.
Any evidence of jerking, grimace, or outcry of any sort, even if very
brief, was suspected of being evidence of pain and anguish which often
bothered those who witnessed the execution. Even the gas chamber was
associated with spasms and convulsions that bothered people. The standard
lethal injection consists of pentothal to put the person to sleep followed
by one of the curare type drugs which paralyzes, making it impossible to
jerk or twist or grimace. This is followed by potassium chloride, which
stops the heart. Given properly it works very well.
What exactly happens is not always as planned. There is no oversight of
executions, and good records are hard to obtain. A few facts are worth
considering, however. The state of Kentucky has executed some 900 wrong
doers (there must be significantly more very bad people in Kentucky, or
the judges must be more severe, or both as compared to Montana where we
have executed fewer than 10 people in the same period of time) using
lethal injection. In the process of carrying out these sentences some 40
were botched in one way or another. As examples of what went wrong the
following are cited: In order to start the I.V. injection a tourniquet is
applied to the upper arm and the person giving the lethal injection forgot
to remove the tourniquet. The lethal injection technique used requires the
use of much longer tubing than is usually used in the operating room
enabling the person injecting the drugs to sit behind a screen out of
sight of the victim. Another incident was caused by injecting the curare
(muscle relaxing agent) directly after the pentothal resulting in a
chemical reaction in the tubing that plugged the tube. Finally, there was
the usual problem of not being able to get into a vein properly, all of
which is cited by the plaintiff's attorneys as being evidence of cruel and
unusual treatment of the convict.
A significant part of the problem lies in the fact that physicians have a
code of ethics that prohibits doing harm to a patient or assisting those
that do. Consequently, it is almost impossible to get a trained
anesthetist or anesthesiologist to conduct a lethal injection. State
correction institutions have utilized phlebotomists (people who draw
blood). A solution that has never been suggested in the literature
reviewed by the undersigned is that felons sentenced to die would be given
the option of organ donation. Most of them are as healthy as motorcycle
riders who provide a significant number of organs for transplant. Think
how many people could have been helped with 900 hearts and 1800 kidneys
from Kentucky alone, not to mention pancreas, liver, and lungs plus other
needed tissue. Those who agreed to this method of leaving life could have
the service of an expert anesthesiologist who rarely botches things when
he (or she) puts people to sleep.
The decision the Supreme Court is going to have to make in this case is of
great interest to the writer and will be difficult. It is wonderful that
someone else has to make the decision.
Richard S. Buker, Jr., M.D.----County Health Officer
(source: Libert County Times (Mont.) News)
The death penalty: So long to Old Sparky----An unlamented end to the
In 1999 Raymond Mata junior killed his ex-girlfriend's three-year-old son.
He dismembered the body and fed part of the remains to his dog. But when
sentenced to death he appealed. His state, Nebraska, planned to send him
to the electric chair. He considered that a cruel and unusual way to go.
On February 8th the state's highest court agreed. It declared the electric
The decision marks the end ofto non-Americansone of the country's iconic
objects. Nebraska was the only state still using electrocution as its sole
means of execution. Other states with capital punishment prefer lethal
injections. A few allow hangings and firing squads, and nine let inmates
choose electrocution in some cases, but these options are seldom used.
When a Tennessee man chose the chair in 2007, it was the state's first
electrocution in almost half a century.
When the electric chair was first used, in 1890, it was considered a
humane alternative to hanging. Compared with other options, such as
suffocation, perhaps it was. But there have been many botched
electrocutions, starting with the first; the inmate appeared to sweat
blood when the capillaries in his face burst. Others have broken bones
while convulsing. Some have caught fire.
Even a successful electrocution is macabre. Officials in Nebraska had to
keep a fire extinguisher ready and an eye out for smoke coming from the
prisoner's head. A smell of burnt flesh was to be expected. People being
electrocuted appear to experience pain. Nebraska's state government was
fine with this, partly because the process typically takes less than 30
seconds. But the state's highest court disagreed. We reject the State's
argument that this is a permissible length of time to inflict gruesome
pain, wrote Justice William Connolly for the majority opinion.
In practical terms, the Nebraska decision amounts to a moratorium on the
death penalty in the state, not just a ban on a method. The legislature
may balk at authorising lethal injections; last year a bill to repeal the
death penalty itself failed by one vote. In any event, lethal injections
are under federal scrutiny. The Supreme Court is currently mulling a case
from Kentucky about whether the current method, which uses three separate
injections, is also cruel and unusual.
(source: The Economist)
Underwood defense asks to strike death penalty option
The defense attorney for Kevin Ray Underwood complained about a press leak
and asked that the death penalty not be considered at a hearing Wednesday.
Underwood, of Purcell, is charged with first-degree murder for the April
2006 death of 10-year-old Jamie Rose Bolin. The state is asking for the
death penalty. A gag order was established in the case after the
then-district attorney held a press conference giving out grisly details
of the investigation, including that there was evidence Underwood intended
to eat Bolin.
Underwood's defense attorney, L. Wayne Woodyard, appearing in Cleveland
County District Court, argued Wednesday that too much information about
the case has been leaked to the public that the case no longer represents
"due process." He asked that the bill of particulars be struck and the
death penalty be taken out of consideration for sentencing.
The defense pointed out the latest instance of "leaks" to the media. A TV
news station ran a story Feb. 11 that unnamed sources revealed a sealed
judgment of District Judge Candace Blalock. Only about an hour after the
lawyers received the judgment via e-mail, it was posted online that
Blalock decided to let incriminating evidence into the trial, the defense
The defense blamed the District Attorney's office for the leak.
District Attorney Greg Mashburn said the defense was trying to attack him
because they have basically nothing else to go on.
At that point, the defense asked for a closed hearing and the judge
granted the request. The hearing lasted a while longer, then continued in
closed court. After the hearing, the attorneys said they could not say
what the results were.
The final pre-trial hearing will be 9 a.m. Friday in Cleveland County
District Court. Jury selection starts Tuesday.
(source: The Norman Transcript)
DA seeks death penalty in death of Pat Murphy
Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against a man accused of killing
retired realtor Pat Murphy.
The District Attorney says, Murphy was tortured before being stabbed to
death and that's grounds for capital punishment for Corrie Denby.
Denby was scheduled to be in court Thursday morning for an arraignment,
but was kept at the Lee County Jail while the paperwork was filed. He's
charged with cutting the throat of 79 year old Pat Murphy inside Murphy's
Lee County home November 30th, 2006. Murphy's body wasn't found for 6
days. Thursday, District Attorney Cecilia Cooper said it was the brutality
of the crime, that Murphy was sexually battered and stabbed in the throat
4 times that she decided to seek the death penalty. There will be more
hearings because it's become a death penalty case.
"There's a first proceeding that's got to be held before we can arraign
him so that's going to be done at a later date and then the arraignment
will be held. There are a series of hearings before we get to the trial,"
said Cecilia Cooper, Southwest Circuit District Attorney.
There's been no future date set for Denby first proceeding. Denby remains
in the Lee County Jail without bond.
Corrie Denby has been in trouble with the law much of his life.
The night of Murphy's murder, Denby told investigators he smoked crack at
the Fairfax Motel and had walked to Murphy's to ask for more money for
drugs. In August of 1999, Denby was arrested for sexual battery after
inappropriately touching a woman.
4 months later warrants were issued against him for robbery and assault.
Days after that Denby was arrested for kidnapping after he attacked a 70
year old man and left him for dead. Denby served 3 years in prison.
(source: WALB News)
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