[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, WASH., GA., N.H.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Nov 5 15:13:26 CST 2008
Parolee set for execution for 1993 FW slaying
Convicted burglar Elkie Lee Taylor already was a known troublemaker in his
neighborhood near downtown Fort Worth when he and a partner were seen
leaving the home of Otis Flake, a 65-year-old mentally ill man.
A woman who knew Flake showed up later and found the front door open and
the house ransacked.
She also found Flake dead, sitting against his bed. His hands were tied
behind his back with plastic tubing. His feet were tied together with a
coat hanger and a T-shirt and two more coat hangers were wrapped around
On Thursday, the 46-year-old Taylor was set to die for Flake's April 1993
He would be the 15th Texas inmate executed this year and the 1st of 6
scheduled for lethal injection this month in the nation's most active
capital punishment state.
Taylor, originally from Milwaukee, had been on parole for about 3 months
at the time of the slaying. He was freed after serving less than 9 months
of an 8-year sentence for burglary.
Taylor's lawyers filed appeals challenging the validity of instructions
given to jurors at his 1994 trial. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and
then the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday rejected the attempt
to stop the execution.
Attorney James Rasmussen said Wednesday he was taking the appeal to the
U.S. Supreme Court. He did not file a clemency petition with the Texas
Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Taylor, who declined to speak with reporters in the weeks preceding his
scheduled punishment, had been set to die in 2003. However, 2 days before
that execution date, he won a reprieve from the Texas Court of Criminal
Appeals after state prison records showed he may be mentally retarded and
ineligible for execution under U.S. Supreme Court guidelines.
The reprieve later was lifted and federal appeals courts upheld lower
court rulings that Taylor was not mentally retarded.
"One of the defenses at his trial and then talked about for years now was
he's slow, ain't too smart, not the sharpest knife in the drawer," Terri
Moore, the former Tarrant County district attorney who prosecuted Taylor,
recalled this week. "But Elkie had some pretty good little skills,
scheming and conniving skills."
Authorities contended Taylor and an accomplice took jewelry, cash, a
television and other items in the robbery at Flake's house so they could
be sold to buy crack cocaine. Prison records showed they got $16 for the
Taylor admitted to his involvement in a similar slaying of an 87-year-old
Fort Worth man seven blocks from Flake's home and 11 days before his
murder. But Taylor, like in Flake's killing, blamed the murder on a
His accomplice, Darryl Birdow, was sentenced in 1994 to life in prison for
Flake's death. Taylor told police he bound and gagged Flake but insisted
Birdow strangled the man.
"He was an animal who preyed on the weakest of people," Renee Harris
Toliver, Flake's niece, said Tuesday. "The only thing that stopped him was
that he got caught."
Taylor was arrested after steering a stolen 18-wheeler cab for over 150
miles, leading police on a chase from Fort Worth to Waco that ended when a
state trooper shot out the truck's tires. In the chase, he tried to ram
police cars and run over 2 troopers standing on the side of a road.
2 more executions are scheduled for next week.
George Whitaker III, 36, was to die Nov. 12 for the shooting death of Kiki
Carrier, the sister of his ex-girlfriend, at her home outside Crosby in
Harris County, east of Houston. Two others, including a 5-year-old girl,
were wounded in the attack.
Then the following day, Nov. 13, Denard Manns, 42, faced execution for the
1998 fatal shooting of Christine Robson, 26, at her apartment in Killeen.
Robson was in the Army and based at nearby Fort Hood.
Condemned Texas killers lose appeals
2 condemned killers 1 a Mexican national convicted of a suburban Dallas
slaying and the other a San Antonio man convicted of killing his former
employer had their death sentences upheld Wednesday by the Texas Court of
Moises Sandoval Mendoza, from Mexico, had raised 81 points of error from
his 2005 trial in Collin County where he was sentenced to die for the
strangling and stabbing of 20-year-old Rachelle O'Neil Tolleson. Evidence
showed he also burned her body to hide his fingerprints.
Before killing her in 2004, he took the woman from her home in
Farmersville, leaving his victim's 6-month-old daughter alone. Tolleson's
mother found the baby cold and wet the next morning. Tolleson's bedroom
had been ransacked.
6 days later, a man walking along a creek found her remains. Dental
records were used to identify her.
Evidence showed Mendoza, 24, had attended a party at Tolleson's home the
day before she disappeared. On the day her body was found, Mendoza told a
friend about the slaying. The friend called police and Mendoza was
arrested. He confessed to police but couldn't give detectives a reason for
Lawyers contended among their appeals claims that there was insufficient
evidence to show the woman was abducted or sexually assaulted and support
the capital murder conviction.They also raised questions about jury
selection and the propriety of prosecutors using gruesome close-up crime
scene and autopsy photos.
All the claims were rejected by the court.
In the San Antonio case, Noah Espada was convicted of killing Luke Scott,
30, his former boss at a San Antonio Riverwalk nightclub.
2 weeks after he was fired, he followed Scott home from work to so he
could see where Scott lived. Evidence showed he climbed an apartment
balcony where a light went on and near where Scott had parked his car, but
picked the wrong place and confronted a woman there. Sandra Ramos, 29, was
A few days later, Espada returned, confronted Scott in a hallway and
fatally shot him. He stole some items, including Scott's wallet, and drove
off in Scott's car.
Evidence showed that before he was fired, Espada had told fellow workers
that if they'd heard Scott was dead, "you know who did it."
At his Bexar County trial, Espada, now 24 and the son of Christian
missionaries, apologized to the families of his victims after he was
sentenced to death.
In an appeal that raised more than 2 dozen claims, Espada's lawyers
challenged the admissibility of his confession to Ramos' death, questioned
jury selection, the use of crime scene photos shown to jurors, the use of
expert testimony from a psychiatrist at the punishment phase of the trial
and the jury charge from the judge.
Judge Paul Womack, joined by Judge Cheryl Johnson, dissented from the
majority on Espada's claim regarding a psychiatrist predicting future
danger, one of the questions jurors must answer in deciding on a death
"Before we accept an opinion that a capital murderer will be dangerous
even in prison, there should be some research to show that this behavior
can be predicted," Womack wrote.
Neither Espada nor Mendoza has an execution date and they could still take
their appeals to the federal courts. Coincidentally, the slayings of Scott
in San Antonio and Tolleson in Collin County both occurred on the same day
in March 2004.
(source for both: Associated Press)
Woman, Son Charged In 1992 Slaying Of Store Clerk----Carmen Hinojosa
Najera, Gregory Najera Charged In Slaying Of Darren Holden
In San Antonio, a 50-year-old woman and her son were charged with capital
murder in connection with the slaying of a 24-year-old convenience store
manager in 1992.
Carmen Hinojosa Najera was arrested Tuesday after she told police in early
October that she and her son, Gregory Najera, killed Darren Holden during
a robbery at a convenience store in the 1900 block of North St. Mary's
According to Officer Joe Rios, a spokesman for the San Antonio Police
Department, Carmen Hinojosa Najera admitted to detectives that the robbery
occurred several days after she was fired.
Carmen Hinojosa Najera told police that she shot Holden, who was
celebrating his birthday, twice after he kicked the safe closed, Rios
Gregory Najera then told his mother, "'If you're going to do it, finish
him off,' Rios said. "Then, he went ahead and shot him multiple times."
Rios said detectives don't know why Carmen Hinojosa Najera confessed to
the crime after all these years.
Gregory Najera, who denied involvement in the robbery and shooting, was
being held in prison on an unrelated crime.
(source: KSAT news)
WASHINGTON (state)----impending execution (possibly by hanging)
State Set to Execute Clallam County Man in December
For the 1st time since 2001, the state Department of Corrections will
execute a Clallam County man Dec. 3 at the Washington State Penitentiary
in Walla Walla, according to corrections officials.
Darold Ray Stenson, 55, convicted of 2 counts of aggravated 1st-degree
murder in 1994 for the shooting deaths of his wife, Denise Ann Stenson,
and business partner, Frank Clement Hoerner, lost what looks to be his
final stay of execution from the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals,
corrections officials said.
Stenson had planned the murders and attempted to conceal his involvement
in them, which led to the death sentence, according to the state Attorney
Under Washington law, Stenson will be executed by lethal injection, unless
he chooses to be hanged, according to corrections officials.
Since 1904, 77 men have been executed in the state, the last of whom was
James Elledge in 2001.
Including Stenson, there are currently 8 men on death row in Washington.
The longest serving member of Washington's death row is Jonathan Lee
Gentry, convicted in 1991 of fatally bludgeoning 12-year-old Cassie Holden
near Gold Mountain Golf Course. Gentry, who recently lost an appeal , is
now appealing to the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
(source: Seattle Times)
BRIAN NICHOLS TRIAL----Prosecutors closing words: 'Man he was angry';
Brian Nichols not delusional, district attorney says
Brian Nichols committed crazy crimes, but he is not crazy.
That summarized prosecutor Clint Rucker's closing argument Wednesday about
why the jury has to reject Nichols' plea of not guilty by reason of
insanity to 4 murders and other crimes.
Benches in the Atlanta Municipal Court room were packed Wednesday as
closing arguments were presented in the Brian Nichols trial.
"It didn't have anything to do with insanity or delusion," Rucker said.
"The defendant was angry and he was frustrated.
"He is cold-blooded. He is vicious. He is remorseless. And he is
extremely, extremely dangerous."
Nichols, 36, contends a delusion that he was leading a "slave revolt"
against an unjust justice system prompted him to escape from custody at
the Fulton County Courthouse on March 11, 2005, by viciously beating a
guard, taking her gun and then killing the judge presiding over his rape
trial, along with his court reporter.
Nichols contends he was still leading the revolt when he shot to death a
pursuing deputy as he fled the courthouse, carjacked and assaulted several
people and, that night, killed an off-duty federal agent and robbed him at
his Buckhead home.
Rucker told jurors they may wonder why District Attorney Paul Howard
sought a massive 54-count indictment against Nichols instead of keeping
the death-penalty case streamlined by focusing only on the most violent
crimes. Justice demanded Nichols' answer for each of the crimes even
though it would be more "convenient" for the case to go faster, Rucker
"If you're thinking we threw the book at him, we did," Rucker said.
"It's what he deserves."
Defense Attorney Josh Moore objected when Rucker told jurors how "some
defense lawyers" would use the legal standard of reasonable doubt to
Superior Court Judge James Bodiford overruled Moore, who was expected to
make his argument to jurors after lunch.
Before closing arguments began, Bodiford warned spectators mostly family
and friends of the victims and Nichols to control their emotions or risk
the wrath of the court.
"It will be harsh," he said of the sanctions he would impose for outbursts
or scowls during the arguments.
Rucker reminded jurors that Nichols shot Superior Court Judge Rowland
Barnes and Julie Brandau, the court reporter, at point-blank range after
bursting into a hearing unrelated to his rape trial.
The prosecutor focused on the killing of Brandau to attack Nichols' claim
that delusions were to blame. Rucker noted that Nichols initially claimed
to police that he killed Brandau as a "secondary target" in his revolt,
but later in the police interview claimed he didnt remember shooting
Brandau at all.
"When you ask this defendant, 'Why did you shoot the court reporter? She
wasn't a slave master,' he really doesn't have any answer," Rucker said.
"This delusional compulsion story has so many holes, it looks like a piece
Nichols claims he shot sheriff's deputy Sgt. Hoyt Teasley, who was
African-American, because the deputy was "a henchman an assistant to the
slave master," Rucker said.
"That is a bunch of bull," Rucker said. "Teasley was a law-enforcement
officer trying to take this man into custody."
Nichols confessed to beating Deputy Cynthia Hall, also African-American,
so brutally that she is brain damaged. He also confessed killing David
Wilhelm, a U.S. Customs agent, at a house the agent was building in
Buckhead. Nichols said he shot Wilhelm in self-defense.
Rucker contended the psychologist who testified for the defense, Mark
Cunningham, was an advocate who tried to force the facts to fit his
testimony that Nichols suffered from a delusional compulsion.
The psychiatrist who testified for the prosecution, Dr. Robert Phillips,
contended Nichols was an angry man who blamed other people for his
problems including his longtime former girlfriend. She accused Nichols of
raping her in revenge for her dumping him after he impregnated another
Rucker said Nichols has extreme beliefs about the criminal justice system,
not delusional ones. Nichols' jailhouse buddy, Willie Tiller, testified
that Nichols had plotted to kill Barnes because he thought the judge wasnt
giving him a fair shake and he feared going to prison as a sex offender.
Tiller said Nichols never referred to Barnes as a "slave master." After
his testimony last week, a gang of inmates brutally beat Tiller at the
Fulton County jail for testifying for the prosecution.
"We probably could have saved a whole lot of money if we had Willie Tiller
testify about his (Nichols) mental state," said Rucker, alluding to the
$575 an hour the state paid Phillips. "Remember what he said? 'Man he was
angry he was angry at the judge.'"
(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Jury deliberates death penalty in NH murder trial
The decision of whether convicted murderer John Brooks should be sentenced
to death or life in prison is now in the hands of a jury.
In closing arguments Wednesday, the prosecution said the death penalty was
warranted because of the violent nature of the crime, the efforts made to
cover it up and Brooks' lack of remorse.
The defense asked the jury to spare Brooks' life because he had done some
good, like protecting his family from his violent, alcoholic father as a
child. They also pointed to Brooks' musical talent and his invention of a
patented surgical tray as reasons for mercy.
The prosecution said these factors are not enough to outweigh the heinous
nature of Brooks' crime.
Brooks was found guilty last month for hiring 3 men to kidnap and kill
Derry trash hauler Jack Reid.
Brooks could become the 1st person executed in the state since 1939.
(source: Associated Press)
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