[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TENN., MISS., MONT., ILL., OHIO
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu May 1 17:17:09 CDT 2008
Prosecutors to seek death penalty in trucker slayings case
The state of Tennessee plans to seek the death penalty if a jury convicts
a southern Illinois truck driver in the killing of a woman in Nashville.
A spokeswoman for prosecutors in Davidson County, Tennessee, says they
made their intent known Thursday at a court hearing for Bruce Mendenhall
in Nashville, where he's being held in jail.
Mendenhall is from Albion, Illinois, and he's accused in the shooting
death of Sara Nicole Hulbert, whose body was found at a Nashville truck
stop in June 2007.
Mendenhall also is charged with murder in connection with the deaths of
women whose bodies were found in Lebanon, Tennessee, Birmingham, Alabama,
Jury selection for Mendenhall's trial in Hulbert's death is set to begin
(source: Associated Press)
State argues lethal injection method is constitutional
Mississippi's method of lethal injection is "substantially similar" to a
protocol affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court and the state should move
forward with an execution, the attorney general's office argued Thursday
in court papers.
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has requested that Earl Wesley Berry
be executed Monday for the 1987 murder of Mary Bounds. If that date is
approved, Berry would be the first condemned prisoner in the United States
to die by lethal injection since September. That's when the U.S. Supreme
Court agreed to consider arguments by two Kentucky inmates that the
three-drug procedure is unconstitutional.
The Kentucky inmates argued that if the 1st drug, which renders the person
unconscious, doesn't take effect, the other 2 drugs will cause pain but
the paralyzed prisoner won't be able to express discomfort. The court
rejected the argument April 16 and said the method is acceptable.
Berry's attorneys have asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to block the
execution, saying the state's method is different.
"Mississippi's lethal injection creates a substantial risk of serious harm
in violation of the Eighth Amendment because there are no safeguards such
as those that Kentucky has in place," Berry's attorneys argued in court
papers filed Wednesday.
The attorney general's office on Thursday filed a 105-page response.
"The state would assert that the protocol and practice and procedures used
in conducting an execution in Mississippi are substantially similar to
those found in Kentucky," Hood's office argued.
The Mississippi court has not ruled on the motions.
Hood's argument tracked a ruling by a federal judge who found Georgia's
method of execution substantially similar to Kentucky's. Georgia is set to
execute a man on Tuesday.
Hood said also submitted an affidavit by Lawrence Kelly, superintendent of
the State Penitentiary at Parchman, the prison where executions take
place. Kelly said he has overseen 2 executions by lethal injection in
"During those executions I witnessed no movement from either individual
following the administration of the sodium pentothal," he said in the
Hood said if the state Supreme Court feels that three grams of the drug is
more appropriate than 2 grams, the court can order the dosage increased
when it sets the execution date.
Hood also rejected arguments that those administering the drugs in
Mississippi aren't qualified to do so. He said there are primary and
alternate "certified" paramedics who prepare the drugs.
Hood challenged Berry's attorneys' claims that the death row inmate is
"Testifying during the sentencing phase of the original trial, Dr.
Charlton Stanley, a forensic psychologist, testified that Berry had an IQ
of 83, which classified him in the dull normal range of intellectual
function," Hood said.
"Though Dr. Stanley testified that he suffered from organic brain damage,
he testified that Berry was not mentally retarded."
Jim Craig, Berry's attorney, has said Berry has "had test scores both
above and below the cut-off line for mental retardation."
"We have a very reputable psychiatrist ... who says he should be
considered to be mentally retarded," Craig said.
Berry was convicted of kidnapping Bounds outside the First Baptist Church
in the north Mississippi town of Houston after she attended choir practice
on Nov. 29, 1987. He beat her to death before dumping her body in the
woods. His confession was used against him at trial.
(source: Fort Mill Times)
Death row survivor speaks in Billings
A former death row inmate who was exonerated, and a woman who's daughter
was murdered, were in Billings this week for the "Justice and the Death
Penalty" tour hosted by the Montana Abolition Coalition.
Back in 1975, Ron Keine was traveling through Albuquerque, New Mexico. A
week before he got to the state, a male college student was raped and
murdered. Keine and three of his friends were convicted by false testimony
and no physical evidence. They were sent to death row
"So finally this guy did confess to it. He later said four bikers in
prison was no problem if they served the rest of their lives for that
murder. But he said he got to thinking when I was 10 days from execution
and he read that somewhere...and he said all of a sudden he found Jesus
and walked into a church and confessed to the preacher."
The 4 were released from death row, but that was not the end of their
trouble. Keine's best friend committed suicide. Keine could not get a job
or a place to live because everyone knew him as "that guy who was involved
in some murder out west".
Years later, while he was raising four girls, the past continued to haunt
"School kids can be cruel. Your daddy was a murderer, he was on death row.
When you say that to a 2nd or 4th grader, I've had a few times to go get a
daughter who's crying...gotta go get her at school and explain it to her."
In 1998, Northwestern University's center for wrongful convictions got a
group of 128 exonorees together and they decided to fight the death
penalty. But, none of them looked forward to the idea of public speaking.
"It's not about me anymore it doesn't matter what I feel like, or what I
think, or if I can handle this or not because it's not about me
anymore...it's about the guys who are left behind, it's about the guys who
are on death row, it's about the innocent people that are gonna die that
are innocent" explains Keine. "It's about the new people that are gonna be
filling up the death rows."
Keine wants people to know that wrongful convictions can happen to anyone,
and when the death penalty is involved there's no taking it back.
"You can find mistakes if somebody's sentenced to life. They can walk out
of prison if they're found to be innocent. You can't walk out of the
Since 1976 Montana has executed 3 people and there are currently 2 people
awaiting execution in the state. Both cases are under appeal.
A poll conducted by MSU-Billings last November found that an overwhelming
majority of Montanans, 81%, do not think lethal injection constitutes
cruel and unusual punishment.
(source: Montana's News Station)
Naperville man's death sentence affirmed by judge----But appeal,
moratorium delay Eric Hanson's execution indefinitely
Eric Hanson was sentenced Thursday to be executed July 14 for murdering 4
members of his family, but an automatic appeal with the Illinois Supreme
Court and the state moratorium on executions could delay the punishment
Hanson, 31, appeared calm when DuPage Judge Robert Anderson announced the
sentence unanimously approved earlier this year by the jury that convicted
the Naperville man of killing his parents, Terrance and Mary Hanson; his
sister, Kate Hanson-Tsao; and her husband, Jimmy Tsao on Sept. 28, 2005.
No other members of Hanson's family, including his surviving sister,
Jennifer Williams, were in the Wheaton courtroom.
"Death is the appropriate sentence," Anderson told Hanson. "You are
bright, intelligent and articulate, but you used your intelligence for
When asked by Anderson if he had any comments, Hanson shrugged, saying
that if it weren't for the murder convictions, he probably would not get
the maximum sentence for identity theft because it was his 1st conviction.
In addition to the death sentence, Anderson gave Hanson 15 years for
identity theft, for using his parents' identity to illegally obtain credit
cards in their name. That term is to run concurrently with time served
awaiting the death sentence.
The judge entered convictions for home invasion and armed robbery, but set
no specific punishment, ruling that those convictions merge into the
murder conviction. After the hearing, Hanson was transferred to Stateville
Correctional Center near Joliet.
DuPage County Public Defender Robert Miller made a last-ditch effort to
secure a new trial for Hanson. Miller argued that Eric's comment to his
sister, Kate Hanson-Tsao, "If you tell dad, I will kill you," didn't
appear to have been taken seriously by her and shouldn't have been allowed
Miller also said the statement was too prejudicial and carried excessive
weight for the jury.
Assistant State's Atty. Robert Berlin countered that it had been taken
seriously because Kate Hanson-Tsao called Williams within two days and
told her about the comment.
Anderson said he had approved the introduction of that comment during a
pretrial hearing and "carefully considered and allowed it."
Miller also gave a 10-minute endorsement of his client's attitude toward
him and his legal defense team before and during the trial. However, he
noted that "during the sentencing phase we were desperate for family
members or someone to give positive statements, but at the end of the day
we had an empty basket."
Then-Gov. George Ryan issued a death-penalty moratorium in 2000 and, in
2003, commuted the death sentences of about 160 prisoners, citing a flawed
system in which more than a dozen people were improperly put on death row.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich has continued the moratorium, but state Rep. Dennis
Reboletti (R-Elmhurst) has introduced a House resolution asking
Blagojevich to resume executions.
A state committee reviewing the impact of death-penalty reforms will
report its findings this year.
Hanson is the 15th manand the second from DuPage Countyto be sentenced to
death since 2003.
(source: Chicago Tribune)
July 14 execution date set for Hanson
An execution date has been set for Eric Hanson July 14. The convicted
killer offered no remorse before DuPage County Circuit Court Judge Robert
Anderson, who set the date Thursday and ordered Hanson be turned over to
the Illinois Department of Corrections.
Instead, Hanson, 31, shrugged his shoulders and said had he not been
convicted of killing his four family members, Anderson would not have
imposed the maximum sentence, 15 years, on the two counts of identity
theft that the same jury also found him guilty of the motive in the 2005
slayings of his parents, sister and brother-in-law.
Hanson shot his parents, Mary and Terrance Hanson, while they slept in
their Naperville home. In an attempt to conceal the crime at the home he
had shared with his parents, Hanson moved their bodies to his sisters
upscale Aurora home after bludgeoning Kate and Jimmy Tsao earlier that
After six weeks of testimony from 50 witnesses and more than 400 pieces of
evidence, it took a jury less than three hours to find Hanson guilty of
the Sept. 28, 2005 murders.
In addition, the same jury convicted Hanson of aggravated kidnapping for
moving his parents bodies; aggravated robbery for the theft of Kates
wedding ring and Jimmys Rolex watch, which were found in Hanson's car when
arrested; and identity theft for the elaborate credit card scheme in which
he stole more than $100,000 from his parents.
Although his defense attorneys motion for a new trial was denied, Bob
Miller successfully argued that Hanson be sentenced separately on the
charges of identity theft, while the remaining kidnapping and robbery
convictions be merged with the murders for which Hanson has been
sentenced to death.
Hanson became the 14th man sent to death row since former Gov. George Ryan
declared a moratorium on state-sanctioned executions in 2000 citing
concern that innocent men had been placed there. 2 years later he commuted
the sentences of about 160 death row inmates to life in prison.
That is the sentence Hanson will serve unless the moratorium from carrying
out the death penalty is lifted, something that can only be done via
(source: Suburban Chicago News)
Death penalty defendant 'strangled the life' out of girlfriend
Closing arguments have ended in the death penalty trial of accused killer
Harvey "Shawn" Johnson Jr., and the jury is expected to soon begin
deliberations in the guilt phase.
Because it is a capital case jurors must be sequestered during
deliberations. If they do not have a verdict by tonight, May 1, they will
be spending the night in an area hotel.
Johnson faces several charges including aggravated murder, kidnapping and
rape for last year's slaying of his longtime Liberty Twp. girlfriend.
He is accused of strangling to death Kiva Gazaway, a 38-year-old Liberty
Twp. mother of teenage daughters who went missing in April 2007. Her nude,
decomposed body was found in a Blue Ash ravine May 12 by detectives, who
said Johnson led them to the corpse.
During closing arguments for the prosecution, which was shared by Butler
County Prosecutor Robin Piper and Assistant Prosecutor Lance Salyers,
portions of Johnson's taped confession was played for the jury.
Salyers said Johnson "strangled the life out of Kiva Gazaway" because he
is very capable of taking violent action if he knows punishment is coming.
He said Johnson tried to "soften" his story for detectives by saying the
sex between the couple on the night of April 14, 2007, was consensual and
by insinuating Gazaway did not resist when Johnson duct taped her hands
"There was nothing consensual about that night," Salyers told the jury.
Piper, who addressed the jury last, said Gazaway's statement that she was
going to call the police on Johnson because she wanted him out of her life
was what got her killed.
Defense attorney Melynda Cook-Reich told the jury that her client did kill
Gazaway and he is guilty of having weapons under disability, abuse of a
corpse, tampering with evidence and theft of Gazaway's car. But she said
he is not guilty of aggravated murder with specifications that raised it
to a death penalty offense.
(source: Oxford Press)
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