[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----WASH., UTAH, WYO., FLA., CALIF., N.Y.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Feb 16 02:05:48 CST 2008
Pierce County prosecutor: No death penalty in Graham double slaying case
Pierce County Prosecutor Gerald Horne says he will not seek the death
penalty against ex-convict Daniel Tavares Jr., who is charged with two
counts of aggravated murder for the November slayings of a young Graham
Horne said during a news conference in Tacoma this afternoon that Tavares
has agreed to plead guilty to the charges, which means he faces life in
prison without possibility of release for the slaying of Brian and Beverly
Mauck. Tavares also has agreed to waive all appeals, Horne said.
Relatives of the couple said they were relieved with Horne's decision,
despite some dissension among family members. The decision means they
won't have to look at Tavares nor hear his name again and can go on to
remembering their loved ones, they said.
"They will never be forgotten," said Jennifer Heilbrun, Brian Mauck's
sister. "This will give us the chance to live the way they would've wanted
us to: In the moment and happy."
Although Pierce County prosecutors have convicted two of the eight people
currently on Washington state's death row, Horne said it would've been
unlikely that Tavares would've faced execution if he had been convicted of
In Washington state, a conviction for aggravated murder is punishable only
by death or life in prison without release.
Tavares, 41, was charged with 2 counts of aggravated first-degree murder
and 1 count of being a felon in possession of a firearm in connection with
the Nov. 17 slayings of the Maucks, who lived a few houses down from him.
Tavares had been erroneously released one year early from a maximum
security Massachusetts prison about five months before the Maucks' murder
where he had been serving a 16-year term for a manslaughter conviction in
the 1991 stabbing death of his mother. He was supposed to be released to
the Florida Department of Corrections for an outstanding charge, but
instead he wound up living in a trailer in Graham with a new wife whom he
met through a prison pen-pals Web site.
On the morning of Nov. 17, Tavares allegedly went to the Maucks' home
around 7 a.m. to collect $50 he believed was owed him for a tattoo he was
putting on Mauck's back, according to relatives of the victims. Police
said they believe Tavares could have killed the couple because he was
insulted that Mauck didn't like the tattoo and didn't want to pay for it.
Charging papers say Tavares pulled out a. .22-caliber handgun and shot
Mauck in the face, using a hand towel to muffle the sound. He then
allegedly also shot Mauck in the back of the head, according to charging
Prosecutors said Beverly Mauck, 28, witnessed her husband's death and was
shot when she tried to flee.
Investigators found bloody shoe prints on the floor and a bloody palm
print on a doorjamb. Detectives seized a pair of shoes from Tavares with
treads that matched those that left the bloody impressions, charging
Tavares' wife, Jennifer Tavares, 37, was charged with one misdemeanor
count of rendering criminal assistance for lying to authorities to protect
her husband, prosecutors said.
Last year, Horne agreed to take the death penalty off the table for
Terapon Dang Adhahn in exchange for information that led investigators to
the body of 12-year-old Zina Linnik, who was abducted from her Tacoma home
on July 4.
(source: Seattle Times)
Life without parole vs. unlikely execution
No doubt about it, Daniel Thomas Tavares Jr. is a monstrous killer. But
Pierce County Prosecutor Gerald Horne played the odds right this week when
he traded a possible death sentence for Tavares guilty plea.
The plea will send Tavares to prison for life without a chance of parole.
That's arguably better than he deserves. This is a man who stabbed his own
mother to death and after his release from a Massachusetts prison shot
Brian and Beverly Mauck to death in Graham last November.
But death sentences are usually illusory, feel-good verdicts. Horne cited
a study that found that only three such sentences in 100 are actually
carried out. Washingtons supreme court rarely fails to find some fatal
flaw in a death sentence, and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals the
other legal backstop is even more allergic to execution.
Prosecutors might be able to drag cold-blooded, atrocity-hungry serial
killers the likes of Gary Ridgway or Robert Lee Yates Jr. through the
appeals and into the death chamber. But Tavares is much more likely to
wind up as one of the 97 than as 1 of the 3.
There's little question hes mentally ill not ill enough to escape
conviction, but very possibly ill enough to dissuade a jury from
unanimously ordering his death.
If the jury weren't dissuaded, the state Supreme Court or Ninth Circuit
might well be, assuming they hadn't found some other defect in the
sentence. Pierce County would have spent a fortune in the process death
sentences are more expensive than life in prison.
Then there's the fact that the Maucks' relatives seem satisfied with the
plea deal. If they aren't demanding Tavares' execution, after suffering
such a personal loss, why should anyone else be baying for his blood?
The big injustice here isnt the plea bargain but the jurisdiction.
The Maucks would be alive today had the Commonwealth of Massachusetts not
blundered repeatedly in its handling of the violent crime wave known as
He had assaulted guards months before hed done his time in prison but
wasn't prosecuted until it was too late to prevent his release. At his
bail hearing, the prosecution failed to inform the judge of his scary
history. When he jumped bail, flew to Washington and settled in Graham,
Massachusetts authorities seemed almost indifferent; they did issue an
arrest warrant but it was good only in New England.
Despite all the fumbling a continent away, Washingtonians will be stuck
paying Tavares' room and board for the rest of his life. We suggest the
bills be sent to Massachusetts.
(source: Opinion, The News-Tribune)
'80s death-row case back in Provo court
23 years ago, Douglas Stewart Carter confessed to police and friends that
he murdered a 57-year-old Provo woman.
He's been convicted of the crime and sentenced to die twice by juries.
He's also already lost his 1st post-conviction appeal hearing, asking that
he be spared the death penalty.
And just when prosecutors thought they were getting close to moving
forward on the decades-old case, Carter threw them another curveball.
"Every time we're close to a ruling ... Carter files something that
derails that," said Utah's deputy attorney general Thomas Brunker after a
hearing Thursday in 4th District Court.
Most recently, that pitch was 400 pages of argument and supporting
evidence from Carter's attorney, Mark Moffat, who told Judge Lynn Davis he
filed the papers to update the court on what he felt were correlated
issues from another Utah death-row case.
But that hefty supplemental argument, which followed an Oct. 2, 2007,
hearing, has 2 problems, Brunker argued Thursday.
First, it's too long. Second, it wasn't requested by the court and as
such, shouldn't be considered.
When the Attorney General's Office first learned of the monumental filing,
it responded with a motion asking the court to strike it meaning the
judge wouldn't consider it.
Because Moffat never filed anything opposing that motion, Brunker argued
that failure to reply should mean Davis should grant their motion a move
Moffat vehemently opposes.
One issue is money, as Moffat's client has been in prison since 1985 and
can't pay him.
Moffat can get funds from the state, but it's far below what he says he
needs or deserves.
His motion outlined details from another death-row case where the
defendant's attorneys have also questioned the funding for post-conviction
attorneys in Utah.
He didn't bring this point up at the oral argument hearing in October
because he discovered it after the hearing, Moffat said.
"I called and requested copies of the brief, and ... here's a brief that
talks about the adequacy of the funding claim," he said. "I wanted the
court to have this information. I thought it was important. The adequacy
of the funding scheme features front and center in this case. It's an
issue this court is going to have to address."
While the payment for post-conviction attorneys is low, agrees Brunker,
the 2 death-row cases are different enough the argument is almost
tangential, a fact Davis also pointed out.
In court, Brunker asked the judge to strike everything Moffat had just
argued, stating that his comments should have been in motion form and
filed in response when Brunker asked the court to not accept the
He argued that if Davis didn't throw out the hefty pile of additional
argument, they would need additional time to respond and perhaps even
gather additional evidence.
Further complicating the case, Moffat is trying to withdraw as counsel,
citing concern about his abilities as a post-conviction, death-row
"When you have lawyers taking on representation of death-row inmates,
there's no more important work out there," he said. "It is unbelievably
stressful. You carry these cases with you all the time, every waking hour.
I'm so worried about what's going to happen ... because I'm not qualified.
That's why I moved to withdraw."
State prosecutors believe Carter has been adequately represented and that
changing attorneys would only delay the case more.
Davis said he will rule in writing on the 1st issue whether the extra
arguments should be considered within 30 days.
(source: Deseret News)
Blonigen made right decision
The death penalty in Wyoming should be used sparingly, for only the most
brutal crimes. Capital punishment is costly, time-consuming and traumatic
for all participants in the justice system. Most importantly, it is
So a district attorney considering a death penalty prosecution must weigh
many factors, including the nature of the crime, how it was carried out,
the victim's suffering, and whether the defendant is likely to repeat the
crime. Any mitigating evidence must also be considered.
Given the facts known about Jennifer Randel's death, Natrona County
District Attorney Mike Blonigen made the right decision in seeking the
death penalty for the man accused of her murder and kidnapping.
Of course, Donald Rolle is innocent until proven guilty. We would be
premature as well as presumptuous to pass judgment at this point.
But the killing definitely was "especially atrocious or cruel," as
Blonigen said, as well as "unnecessarily torturous." What Blonigen alleges
Rolle did, as well as his past criminal history, is enough to conclude
that he poses a substantial and continuing threat to society.
Such a decision can weigh heavily upon the person with the responsibility
to make it. In this case, Blonigen appropriately followed all of the legal
guidelines to reach his conclusion.
(source: Editorial, Casper Star-Tribune)
Crime was 'unnecessarily torturous'
The Natrona County District Attorney's office will seek the death penalty
against a man accused of brutally killing a Casper woman, according to
papers filed on Monday.
Donald Lee Rolle, 47, is charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping
in the death of Casper mother-of-two Jennifer Randel, 40. The Natrona
County man was arrested in November after police found Randel's body in
his truck in the area of Poison Spider and Robertson roads.
The killing is described as "especially atrocious or cruel" and
"unnecessarily torturous," in the death penalty filing. It also states
that Rolle "poses a substantial and continuing threat of future
dangerousness or is likely to commit continued acts of criminal violence."
District Attorney Michael Blonigen said the decision, like in all death
penalty cases, was a difficult one. There are many factors that need to be
considered, he said, including the nature and events surrounding the
crime, the individual, any past history and any mitigating evidence.
Ultimately, Blonigen said it's up to a jury to determine guilt or
innocence and to give a death sentence.
Blonigen said in his more than 20 years in the district attorney's office,
this is the fourth death penalty case sought by the office.
"The death penalty is used relatively infrequently in the state of
Wyoming," Blonigen said.
Rolle's attorney, public defender Vaughn Neubauer, said he does not
comment on ongoing cases.
During Rolle's preliminary hearing in November, Natrona County Sheriff's
Investigator Michael Steinberg said 911 dispatchers received a call from a
woman who identified herself as Jennifer Randel. During the
eight-to-10-minute call which happened the night before her body was
found, Randel said that she was on the floor of Rolle's truck and could
not get away from him.
Dispatchers said they could also hear yelling and what sounded like an
After receiving a tip, officers found Rolle's truck the day after Randel's
call. The red Ford pickup was stuck in a ditch along Canal Road, in a
barren, hilly area roughly four miles west of Poison Spider School.
When Rolle was arrested, there was a filet knife wired to his hand,
Steinberg said in his testimony.
Randel's body was found inside the truck, and an autopsy concluded she
died in the early hours of Nov. 4 when trauma caused her brain to swell.
Randel and Rolle had dated in the past, and according to a sheriff's
affidavit, he'd been convicted of assaulting her 3 times. Court records
show that 4 days before Randel was found dead, Rolle was sentenced for
Rolle has been held without bond at the Natrona County Detention Center
since his arrest.
A trial date has not yet been determined.
The death penalty in Wyoming
There are currently 2 convicted murderers on death row in the state of
Wyoming, said Melinda Brazzale, a spokeswoman for the Department of
The most recent death sentence was for Dale Wayne Eaton, for the 1988
murder of 18-year-old Lisa Marie Kimmell. Eaton was sentenced in 2004 by a
Natrona County judge.
James Martin Harlow is serving the death penalty for the 1997 murder of
Cpl. Wayne Martinez, a guard in the Wyoming State Penitentiary in Rawlins.
A Sweetwater County judge gave Harlow the death sentence in 1998.
The last execution in Wyoming, and the only one since the U.S. Supreme
Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, was Mark Hopkinson in 1992. He
spent 13 years on death row while appealing his sentence, and died from
lethal injection. Hopkinson was sentenced to death for arranging the
killing of Bridger Valley carpenter Jeff Green in May 1979. Green's body
was found at a rest stop near Fort Bridger near Interstate 80.
Prior to Hopkinson, Andrew Pixley was executed on Dec. 10, 1965 for the
rape and slaying of a 12-year-old girl at a Jackson hotel.
Notable Natrona County death sentences sought
* In 1982, Roy Lee Engberg was sentenced to death after he robbed and
killed a Wells Fargo guard in a Casper supermarket parking lot in 1981. He
was serving life for killing a security guard in Missouri when he escaped
from a work-release program and came to Wyoming.
The Wyoming Supreme Court later overturned his death sentence.
* In 1999, Justin Sincock was convicted of killing his benefactor, Becky
Horkan, while he was a transitional resident inmate at Community
Alternatives of Casper (CAC). He was not given the death penalty because
one member of the 12-person jury voted against the sentence.
Last we knew: A District Court judge ruled in November that there was
enough evidence to try Donald Lee Rolle, 47, in the death of Jennifer
The latest: District Attorney Michael Blonigen filed a notice stating his
intent to seek the death penalty for Rolle.
What's next: There will be a series of scheduling conferences to determine
the date of the trial.
(source: Casper Star-Tribune)
Murderer loses court bid to get off death row
The mastermind behind one of Central Florida's most bizarre and
sensational murder plots has lost a bid to get off death row.
On Thursday, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturned
the ruling of an Orlando federal judge who offered Konstantinos "Kosta"
Fotopoulos a chance to be resentenced for the 1989 scheme to kill his
Fotopoulos, former owner of a Daytona Beach pool hall, whose plot left two
teenagers dead, has few remaining avenues to get his death sentence
overturned, said State Attorney John Tanner, who prosecuted the original
"Bottom line: He's still on death row and this eliminates one more legal
hurdle to his execution," Tanner said. "We're certainly pleased with the
James L. Driscoll Jr., Fotopoulos' attorney, said he was disappointed and
that he may ask the appeals court to rehear the case or petition the U.S.
Supreme Court to review it.
"We'll consider all our options," said Driscoll, of Capital Collateral
Regional Counsel, the state-funded office that handles death-penalty
In 1989, Fotopoulos orchestrated an elaborate plan to kill his then-wife,
Lisa, for $700,000 in life insurance, according to court evidence.
First, he videotaped his former lover, Deidre Hunt, as she tied
19-year-old Kevin Ramsey to a tree and shot him to death. That tape became
his leverage to convince Hunt to hire 18-year-old Bryan Chase to kill Lisa
Fotopoulos during a staged burglary at her home. Chase shot the wife in
the head as she lay in bed. Kosta Fotopoulos then shot and killed Chase.
The wife, who has since remarried, survived but still has a bullet in her
Last year, U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell ruled in Orlando that the
death sentence against Kosta Fotopoulos was unfair because prosecutors had
presented two starkly different versions of Hunt's role in the plot.
The appeals court ruled that presenting the different theories at
Fotopoulos' trial could have detracted from Fotopoulos' defense. The
judges determined that the former defense attorney had made a strategic
decision, rather than performed incompetently, when he did not dwell on
the different theories. The Florida Supreme Court had come to the same
conclusion in its opinion on the case.
(source: Orlando Sentinel)
Fast won't face death penalty
Prosecutors will not seek the death penalty for Thomas Fast on a charge of
killing his stepmother last year.
Assistant State Attorney Art Brown sent notice to Fast's public defender
Friday that he would not seek the death penalty in the death 60-year-old
Susan Fast, a resident of Tara.
Brown wrote that after reviewing the potential aggravating and mitigating
factors, "the state will not be seeking the death penalty in Mr. Fast's
He declined to comment further on why he will not seek the death penalty.
Authorities charged Fast with his stepmother's death, after finding her
dismembered body July 25 in a storm-water drain and retention pond behind
a Lakewood Ranch shopping plaza.
Susan Fast's husband, Bruce, reported his wife missing on June 30 after
returning home from a business trip to the Bahamas.
In August, a grand jury indicted Fast on charges of 1st-degree murder and
Currently, Brown is awaiting a doctor's report on Fast's mental health for
a judge to rule on whether he is competent to stand trial.
(source: Bradenton Herald)
Juror tells how death penalty recommended for Lake Elsinore man
A juror said she recommended the death penalty for a Lake Elsinore Gypsy
after seeing no signs of regret or remorse from the man convicted of the
2002 bludgeoning death of a father.
"I kept looking for remorse. I didn't see remorse and I needed to," said a
juror who insisted on remaining anonymous because she fears retaliation.
"You have to have evil in you to do this," she said of the slaying.
Jurors voted 3 times on their 3rd day of deliberations before all 12
agreed on Feb. 1 that Tony Ricky Yonko, 45, should get the death penalty,
the juror said.
The 1st vote was 9-3 for the death penalty, the juror said.
"The 9-3 vote means you can predict the outcome," said Kathy Kellermann,
president of a trial consulting firm based in Marina Del Rey. "The
research shows 95 % of the time the final verdict is what the majority
The juror said she found Paul Ngo's Oct. 22, 2002, slaying especially
horrifying because Yonko stole a safe from Ngo's house after hitting the
41-year-old in the head with a ball-peen hammer. Ngo's bloodied body was
discovered that afternoon by his young sons when they came home from
"Part of my reasoning was the heinousness of the crime," she said. "He
didn't stop after he killed Mr. Ngo. He completed the robbery, like he
didn't even care," the juror said.
Kellermann said it is common for jurors to factor this into their
"I would say the heinousness of the crime matters," Kellermann said. "It
will always have an effect on the jury. Its hard for it not to."
The jurors' death-penalty recommendation came six weeks after they
convicted Yonko of first-degree murder, robbery and burglary. 2 days of
talking about the case resulted in the jury's first vote in the penalty
phase of the trial.
Jurors politely and intelligently discussed the merits of life in prison
and the death penalty, the juror said. There was talk about how many
people on California's death row die while awaiting execution, she said.
The jury also talked about whether Yonko or the Ngo family would be better
off if the sentence was life instead of death.
The jury's second vote was 11-1 in favor of death for Yonko, the juror
In situations where there is 1 juror opposing the majority, Kellermann
said, it is unlikely the result will be a hung jury.
Most juries want to reach a unanimous verdict. They see it as a failure if
they do not, Kellermann said.
One male juror who voted against death for Yonko changed his mind, the
female juror said, after thinking about what it would be like if his
family had been victimized by Yonko and about the kind of life Yonko would
have in prison.
During the trial, jurors learned Yonko was convicted of 3 residential
burglaries and the victims were elderly.
"It just breaks my heart," the juror said. "My dad is going to be 95; that
could be my dad."
Kellermann said the death penalty results more often when the victim is
elderly, disabled or very young. People question whether a defendant who
picks on the elderly can be remorseful, Kellermann said.
The 3rd vote of the jury was 12-0 for death.
After hearing all the evidence and watching Yonko in court, the juror said
she believed Yonko was not capable of being rehabilitated and would likely
reoffend if given the chance.
"We made out a timeline of his crimes and you could see that it was never
going to end," the juror said.
The juror said the jury did not believe Yonko was mentally disabled or
that his Gypsy culture played a role in his decision to commit crimes.
"He was trying to make us feel sorry for him," the juror said. "Maybe we
did a little bit because he didn't have a chance because of the way he was
Kellermann said Yonko's culture likely made him seem less sympathetic to a
jury composed mostly of white people who are not from his ethnic group.
"Being a Gypsy matters," Kellermann said. "People have a negative view of
Gypsies. It makes them less sympathetic."
The research shows that overall minority groups get the death penalty more
often than white people, Kellermann said.
The jury also talked about how Yonko's actions have affected Ngo's wife
and 3 sons.
"Destroyed, he destroyed their family," the juror said. "Those poor boys.
... All that for a stupid safe."
While the jurors all favored the death penalty, she said it was a
difficult decision that she frequently thinks about.
"This is taking someone's life in your hands," the juror said. "I still
think about it a lot."
She wonders if jurors covered everything during deliberations, if they
talked long enough and if someone will seek revenge.
The juror said she did not learn until after the trial ended that another
jury will be selected to determine if Yonko is mentally disabled or not.
The issue of mental ability was officially raised with the court during
the guilt phase .
If another jury finds Yonko mentally disabled, it would be
unconstitutional to execute him.
"We deliberated on whether or not he was mentally retarded and the answer
was no," the juror said. "We believed he was exaggerating. We decided that
didn't justify the violence either."
Death sentence call after crash ---- The couple were on holiday in New
The family of a woman killed when she was hit by a bin lorry in New York
has said the lorry driver should face the death penalty.
Somerset-based Jacqueline Timmins, 47, died along with her partner Andrew
Hardie, 48, near Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.
Ex-husband Robin Timmins said: "They've got the death penalty in America."
< New York Police have charged the driver with manslaughter and criminally
Mr Timmins said: "I personally think the death penalty should be a life
for a life."
"We've got three lovely kids and it's a pity that at 47... it's no life."
Mr Hardie and Mrs Timmins, who lived together in Yeovil, went to America
to celebrate Valentine's Day and Mr Hardie's birthday.
They were returning to their hotel when they were struck by the lorry.
The bin lorry driver has been charged
Ms Timmins leaves behind three sons and a 12-year-old daughter.
Mr Hardie, a refrigerator repairman originally from Plymouth, worked at
Asda in Yeovil alongside Ms Timmins, a canteen assistant, who had been
there 12 years.
In a statement, Asda said: "They were both very popular with store
colleagues, and this has come as a great shock.
"Our thoughts are obviously with their families at this tragic time."
The lorry driver was arrested on Wednesday and admitted to hospital for
injuries sustained during the crash.
He was later charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
New York State has the death penalty, but has not executed anyone since
A state court ruling in 2004 effectively suspended the death penalty
there, as it was ruled unconstitutional.
(source: BBC News)
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