[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----TEXAS
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Jan 14 17:26:33 CST 2008
Texas executions must limit suffering
Because Texas carries out more executions than all other states combined,
it is especially incumbent on officials to ensure that the executions are
carried out in a humane meaning legal method.
The U.S. Supreme Court is now considering a case in which two Kentucky
death row inmates have filed a lawsuit that claims Kentucky's lethal
injections violate the Eighth Amendments protection against cruel and
The case before the Supreme Court is not a challenge to the death penalty.
It only challenges the method Kentucky chose to carry out executions.
The Kentucky case is being closely watched in Texas and the other 37
states that have the death penalty.
The same chemical combination used in Kentucky for lethal injections is
also used by all but one of the 38 states that have the death penalty.
The Kentucky case has resulted in an effective moratorium on use of the
death penalty. The court has granted two stays of execution and left
another in place. States have wisely waited until the court settles the
issue before they decide when and how to resume executions.
Since the death penalty was resumed in 1982, Texas has executed 379
inmates. In 1977, Texas adopted lethal injections as a more humane method
to execute inmates.
Kentucky uses the same mix of 3 chemicals that is used in Texas. The 1st
chemical, sodium thiopental, induces coma. The 2nd, pancuronium bromide,
paralyzes the muscles. The 3rd, potassium chloride, triggers cardiac
arrest and death.
Texas lawmakers outlawed the use of the 2nd chemical to euthanize animals
in 2003 because it was believed to cause severe pain and suffering.
The same argument is being made before the Supreme Court. Critics say the
injected inmates can remain conscious but unable to move or speak when
they experience intense pain and suffering.
Regardless of what the Supreme Court decides, Texas officials should make
the necessary changes to ensure that executions are carried out as
humanely as possible.
(source: Opinion, Waco Tribune Herald)
Man whose wife, son were murdered to speak on forgiveness
A Sugar Land man who watched his wife and younger son die in a fake
robbery planned by his oldest son hopes others will learn to forgive after
hearing his story.
Kent Whitaker will give his testimony about forgiveness at 7 p.m. Sunday
at WoodsEdge Community Church, located at 3333 S. Panther Creek Drive in
The Woodlands. WoodsEdge and Hope Pointe Church will co-host the event.
"Everyone has bad things happen to them," Whitaker said. "Revenge is
natural for us to want when something happens and that's the problem. It's
not what God wants.
"God calls us to forgive and that's so hard."
Thomas "Bart" Whitaker conspired with his former Bentwater co-workers,
Chris Allen Brashear and Steven Champagne, to kill his family because he
stood to inherit more than $1 million in assets, according to court
Bart Whitaker's mother, Patricia Whitaker, 51, and brother, Kevin
Whitaker, 19, were gunned down in the family's Sugar Land home Dec. 10,
2003. Bart and his father, Kent Whitaker, were also shot. Champagne
testified Brashear was the gunman and Bart was shot so the incident looked
like a burglary. Police records show that Bart allegedly plotted to kill
his family several times.
"I don't think I've ever heard a more dramatic example of forgiveness than
your wife is killed, your son is killed and your other son is behind it
and you have such a heart of forgiveness and strength for both the shooter
and your son," Senior Pastor Jeff Wells said. "It's a choice and a
decision. Forgiveness is hard for all of us. To have such an overwhelming
example is powerful."
Bart Whitaker was sentenced to the death penalty. Brashear accepted a
sentence of life in prison. Champagne made an agreement with the state to
testify at Brashear's and Whitaker's trials in exchange for a reduced
murder charge. He is expected to serve 15 years in prison.
"God worked in me the night of the shooting," said Kent Whitaker, who
forgave all 3 men involved in the deadly shooting. "What happened to me
should give encouragement to others. It's my hope in talking about the
tragedy that others will find a way to forgive others. God calls us to do
these things, so we have to rely on him to help us."
(source: The Courier )
Church Members Disappointed, Not Angry Over Prosecutor's Remark
Lakewood Church's congregation came together Sunday for the first time
since Harris County Prosecutor Kelly Siegler's comments about their church
were made public, KPRC Local 2 reported.
The church members who Local 2 spoke with said there is a difference
between being able to forgive her and being able to vote for her.
"I think it's completely unnecessary to be perfectly honest," churchgoer
Ashley Rookus said.
"This is a world-class church. It's an eclectic mix of people here," said
church member Don Val.
As parishioners filed out of Lakewood Church there was a current of
disappointment rather than anger toward Siegler.
"People say things they don't mean all the time," said parishioner John
Beadle. "I mean I'm not offended. I know where my heart's at so who
While picking a jury for a death penalty case last February, Siegler said
she routinely excludes members of Lakewood Church because they are all
"screwballs and nuts." Siegler has since apologized for the comment and
Friday explained to Local 2 the context in which it was said.
"I was doing my job, and my job is, when I'm picking a jury on a death
penalty trial, to put jurors in the box that will give the death penalty,"
Siegler explained. "And I was dealing with a juror, in my opinion, who did
not believe that way. He happened to be a member of Lakewood Church."
"Just because you're from Lakewood doesn't mean you have a different side
of view because of the death penalty," said church member Ana
"If she gets the impression from one person that goes to Lakewood, maybe
she knows them or something, and that one person isn't a good person, that
doesn't mean the whole congregation is going to be the same way," added
parishioner David Eppley.
The tens of thousands of people who make up Lakewood's congregation also
make up large voting bloc, and while they're more than willing to give
Siegler their forgiveness, one thing some are not so willing to do is give
her their vote.
"There's enough people here in the city, especially that go to Lakewood,
that won't appreciate being called that and I think that will hurt her
chances greatly," Rookus said.
"There's a lot of people that vote and yeah, that's going to hurt her
definitely," said Molina.
"I accept anybody's apology but the actions speak louder than words," Val
Earlier in the week, Lakewood Church spokesman Don Iloff Jr. sent Local 2
this statement: "For 49 years Lakewood's members have been pillars of this
great city. A multicultural blend of doctors, plumbers, teachers,
firefighters, entrepreneurs and homemakers. Lakewood reflects the best
that is Houston. Lakewood's members are very forgiving. I rather doubt
they'll vote for Ms. Siegler, but they will forgive her."
Siegler told Local 2 that she wants to visit Lakewood Church to personally
apologize to the congregation. Meantime, Siegler has taken a leave of
office as she campaigns for the position of District Attorney.
Cameras out of order in Collin courts----Even in media-friendly new
courthouse, judges' objection to cameras remains precedent
Courtroom cameras are routine in many North Texas courthouses. But it
appears the only way Collin County residents will get to see a trial in
their new $54 million courthouse designed in part to accommodate the
media is to walk through a courtroom door and have a seat.
Those in and out of the McKinney courthouse are hard-pressed to recall
ever seeing a television camera at a Collin County trial.
"Collin County does not have a history of freely letting cameras into the
courtrooms," said state District Judge Chris Oldner, also the
administrative judge for the county's eight state district judges. "It is
an individualized decision made by each judge. Our No. 1 concern is that
we maintain the integrity of the" justice system.
Judge Oldner said that for him, that involves weighing the benefit to the
public against the possible disruption the camera might cause court
proceedings. He said he's never been asked to allow cameras at one of his
The new courthouse opened nearly 6 months ago and has a large courtroom
that could be used to televise trials or other court proceedings, along
with a policy outlining how such requests should be handled.
State District Judge Greg Brewer, one of the newer judges at the
courthouse, came close to being perhaps the first to open his courtroom to
a news camera for a trial.
Last year, he agreed to allow a news station to record some proceedings.
But when he tried to use the "ceremonial courtroom," the large room on the
first floor with more seats and space for high-profile trials, there were
problems with the audio. So he had the trial in his courtroom, which is
not approved for cameras under the courthouse media policy.
Judge in favor
Judge Brewer said his experience as a prosecutor in Dallas County, where
cameras are regularly allowed, has shown him that they cause no
"It's just my belief that ... the courthouse and everything in it is a
matter that is open to the public," Judge Brewer said. "We use the media
when it comes time for us to be up for elections. Why shouldn't we allow
the media into the courtroom on a case-by-case basis?"
The Collin County courthouse media policy requires that all requests for
use of cameras or other recording equipment go through the public
information officer. Each judge makes the final decision. Unless the judge
approves, no electronic recording devices video or audio are allowed
beyond the metal detectors in the foyer, according to the guidelines.
County spokesman Tim Wyatt said he generally receives only 3 or 4 requests
for cameras in the courtroom each year. The last was for the death penalty
trial of a man who stabbed to death a real estate professional in a
McKinney model home. The case against Kosoul Chanthakoummane gained
national media attention. He was sentenced to death in October.
State District Judge Charles Sandoval did not allow cameras for that
Judge Brewer said he's wondered why more media outlets haven't requested
the OK to put cameras in the courtroom, or at least challenged the Collin
County rule prohibiting hallway access for electronic devices.
"It's interesting, because ... it's a public courthouse with public
hallways. I don't see how we, as judges, can limit the media from being in
the hallway with a camera," Judge Brewer said.
Different in Dallas
The Collin County attitude stands in stark contrast to the one at Dallas
County's criminal courthouse, where camera equipment is allowed in the
halls, and judges have approved cameras in their courtrooms or at least
recording through the glass window of the doorway.
State District Judge John Creuzot has done so since the early '90s and
said he's never had a problem. Earlier this month, he allowed cameras to
record the release of Charles Chatman from prison after 27 years of
wrongful incarceration. A news conference occurred in the courtroom
doorway as soon as the hearing ended.
"I feel it's the public's right to know. [Media] have never been a
disruption. They've never caused a problem," Judge Creuzot said. "As long
as it's nothing that's detrimental to the administration of justice, then
I don't have a problem with it."
A handful of Collin County judges have permitted cameras at hearings.
Collin County District Attorney John Roach said that when he was a state
district judge in the mid-'80s, he had one bad experience with cameras at
a hearing that soured his opinion on them.
Mr. Roach said he allowed television cameras into his courtroom for a
contempt motion involving a minister. During the hearing, reporters and
people with cameras rushed to the front of the courtroom, causing chaos,
"I did it against my better judgment. So far as I'm concerned, it just
vindicated that judgment," Mr. Roach said.
"If you want to see it, you should come down to the courthouse and sit in
Charlotte McKee did just that for the Chanthakoummane trial, which
attracted so much public and media attention. Ms. McKee, a retired federal
employee from Plano, was part of the jury pool. She was not selected for
the trial, but she decided to stay and watch.
She said she has mixed feelings about whether cameras should have been
allowed in the courtroom.
"The curiosity factor is definitely there, and I think it's important for
people to know what goes on in a courtroom ... as long as it does not turn
into a" circus, she said.
(source: TXCN News)
2 more arrested in gang probe
In El Paso, 2 more men were arrested Friday in a 4-year investigation of a
violent Texas gang, giving federal prosecutors now seven indicted suspects
in their case that allegedly links the Barrio Azteca to a powerful Mexican
Eric "Flaco" Saucedo, 28, and Arturo Enriquez, 30, face various
racketeering charges in an 11-count indictment partially unsealed this
week. Saucedo is also charged with 1 count of murder, and he gently wept
as he was read the charges against him in court Friday.
According to the heavily redacted, 63-page indictment, Saucedo worked with
the Barrio Azteca gang since at least January 2003. He is accused of being
the hit man in a December 2006 killing.
According to the indictment, Saucedo participated in the killing for the
"purpose of gaining entrance to and maintaining and increasing position in
the Barrio Azteca" gang.
Federal investigators said Thursday that Barrio Azteca, a violent street
gang that started in Texas prisons, has partnered with Vicente Carrillo
Fuentes drug cartel in Ciudad Juarez, across the Rio Grande from El Paso.
Investigators said Barrio Azteca provided security for the cartel and in
turn received discounts on drugs including marijuana, cocaine, and heroin.
Saucedo, who was sequestered from the other men during Friday's court
hearing, is also accused of crimes that include dealing marijuana, cocaine
and heroin, as well as extorting money from street dealers and others. He
and the 5 alleged gang members arrested Thursday all made their first
appearance in federal court Friday.
None of the men, who face various charges related to the racketeering
investigation, entered a plea. They were not accompanied by lawyers.
Sib Abraham, a well-known El Paso lawyer hired by Tarin, said before the
brief afternoon hearing that Tarin has no affiliation with the Barrio
Azteca gang. Abraham said his client customizes cars for a living.
"He has never been a member of the Barrio Aztecas, never wanted to be a
member and never will be a member," Abraham said.
Abraham said he did not know enough about the charges to respond to any
All 6 men, who are being held without bail, are scheduled to be arraigned
Wednesday. Saucedo's hearing was scheduled an hour after the other 5 men.
Mona, Herrera, Garcia, Michelletti and Tarin face up to life in prison if
convicted of the most serious charges. Saucedo could face the death
penalty if convicted of the murder charge.
A court date has not been set for Enriquez. Jail records do not show if he
has a lawyer.
(source: Abilene Reporter)
Deadline set for seeking death in Baby Grace case
The Galveston County District Attorney's office has until April 17 to
decide whether the death penalty will be sought against the mother of
Riley Ann Sawyers, a child whose battered body was found in a box in
Galveston Bay and who was named "Baby Grace" until officials identified
State District Judge David Garner this morning set 10 a.m. on April 17 as
the deadline for District Attorney Kurt Sistrunk to advise the court
whether he will seek the death penalty against Kimberly Ann Trenor.
Trenor, 19, and her husband, Royce Clyde Zeigler, 26, both of Spring, are
charged with capital murder and evidence tampering in the death of Riley.
During a brief hearing this morning, Trenor, who was wearing dark green
Galveston County Jail scrubs and a long-sleeved thermal shirt, stood
before Garner and answered, "Yes, sir" when asked if Alvin attorney Tommy
Stickler Jr. represents her.
Trenor filed an affidavit with the court saying she is a pauper with no
checking or savings accounts and no sources of income. The judge agreed to
have Stickler continue as Trenor's defense attorney.
Stickler also asked the court to approve the hiring of expert
investigators and psychologists to help him prepare Trenor's case for
As Trenor stood between Sistrunk and Stickler at Garner's bench, her hands
were cuffed in front of her.
Stickler said after the hearing there is "no chance" of Trenor posting a
$750,000 bond and being released to await trial.
Stickler said Trenor has had no contact with her husband since she was
jailed. Trenor's father and an uncle visited her in jail and Trenor she
also has received numerous letters of support, he said.
Trenor, who is about 4 months pregnant, remains in protective custody,
isolated from other prisoners, confined to her cell 23 hours a day. She is
allowed out for an hour's exercise, Stickler said.
"The stress of that sort of confinement is starting to catch up to her,"
Stickler said the protective custody decree was put into place by the
Galveston County Sheriff's Department for Trenor's "own protection." He
said whenever he visits Trenor at the jail, the other inmates are locked
down while she is escorted to see him.
Trenor and Zeigler are accused of killing 2-year-old Riley on July 25
during a disciplinary session at their Spring home. Trenor has given
investigators a detailed description of what she said happened that day,
including that the pair beat Riley with belts, held her head under bath
water, and that Zeigler hurled her onto a tile floor pushed face into a
pillow and a couch.
Trenor told authorities that Riley's body was kept in a plastic box in a
storage shed for up to two months before the box was tossed into West
Galveston Bay. A fisherman discovered the little girl's body Oct. 29.
Garner has given the district attorney's office until April 16 to
determine whether the death penalty will be sought against Zeigler. He,
too, remains in the county jail under a $750,000 bond.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
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