[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----N.Y., VA., OHIO, OKLA., WASH.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Nov 7 23:44:48 CST 2008
NEW YORK----federal death penalty trial
Drug dealer spared death penalty
A Brooklyn federal jury spared the life Friday of a convicted drug dealer
and killer when panel members couldn't unanimously agree that he deserved
the death penalty.
One of the jurors in the case of Humberto Pepin Taveras said as many as
five of the 12 panel members favored a life sentence for the defendant.
Since the panel wasn't unanimous on capital punishment for Pepin Taveras,
by default he was given a life sentence without parole by Judge Jack
Weinstein immediately after the jury announced its decision.
"Today is my birthday," Pepin Taveras told the court and jurors moments
before Weinstein pronounced sentence.
"I would like to thank the jury for giving me a life," he said, with the
jury still present in the courtroom.
Pepin Taveras was convicted last month of carrying out the murders of drug
dealers Jose Rosario in 1992 and Carlos Madrid in 1995. Evidence
established that Pepin-Taveras had the bodies dismembered.
Juror Dominick Brunone, 51, said he favored the death penalty because he
didn't think Pepin Taveras could be rehabilitated in prison. Brunone said
that 8 jurors favored the death penalty in one of the murders but that the
number dropped to 7 on the other. He didn't specify which of the murders
held a higher percentage of jurors voting for death.
Weinstein ordered Pepin Taveras taken away to begin his sentence.
Imperfections abound with death penalty
The legal decision facing Harvey Bryant - and every other chief prosecutor
weighing whether to pursue the death penalty in a murder case - cannot be
made in a vacuum when the choice is fraught with moral, political and
In the 2006 murder at Hilltop Shopping Center, for example, Bryant,
Virginia Beach's commonwealth's attorney, had to consider not just whether
the crime met the 15 legal criteria for a death case. He also looked at
the strength of the case (no eyewitness, but strong circumstantial
evidence). He considered the heinousness (the killer had shot his victim
in the back as she tried to escape) and the number of victims (one). He
listened to the wishes of the victim's family (one wanted death).
Bryant's decision to forgo the death penalty against Christopher Hagans -
guaranteeing with Hagans' guilty plea that he spends the rest of his life
in prison without possibility of parole - was the right call. He told The
Pilot's Duane Bourne that last month's plea agreement brought some
finality to Elisabeth Kelly Reilly's family. And it greatly lessens the
chance of extensive, costly, time-consuming appeals.
These are gut-wrenching decisions. Bryant acknowledges that. But they're
also arbitrary. In another case recently in court - Marcus Garrett,
convicted of killing three people at an Oceanfront condominium in 2005 -
Bryant sought the death penalty.
That choice was much easier, he said. Three murder victims, not one.
Garrett methodically shot five people, 2 of them mothers. A judge
ultimately sentenced Garrett last month to life in prison, but the
Is it fair to weigh how many people died? Is it right to look at who the
victims were? Is it fair to consider the strength of the evidence and the
time and resources required to pursue the death penalty, a costly process?
Does it make a crime less important, a victim's life less memorable, if
prosecutors decide that life in a tiny prison cell is punishment enough
for the killer?
The shortcomings of this justice system are numerous and obvious. Even if
we assumed that all those convicted are guilty - and in many states,
including Virginia, that hasn't been the case - deciding whether to pursue
an execution is a judgment call. Sometimes, whether a defendant is
sentenced to die depends on how well his attorney represented him.
Sometimes, it depends on how much publicity the crime received. Sometimes,
it depends on race.
As Elisabeth Reilly's mother wisely pointed out, killing Hagans can't
change what happened, and it wouldn't make it right. Only 2 things might
have helped her feel better: erasing her daughter's agony and that of her
family - which no punishment can do - and knowing the state would never
give the man a chance to hurt anyone again.
Virginia has that option. Bryant exercised it in accepting Hagans' guilty
plea. He's going to prison for the rest of his life. That's enough for
Reilly's mother. It should be enough for the rest of us, too.
(source: Editorial, The Virginian-Pilot)
OHIO----new death sentence
Death Sentence for Findlay man
Neyland's attorneys had argued Neyland was mentally ill, but prosecutors
told the jury he had been judged competent to stand trial.A Findlay truck
driver has been given the death sentence in the killing of two men at a
Perrysburg trucking company.
44-year-old Calvin Neyland, Junior was convicted last week of the murders
of Douglas Smith and Thomas Lazar, who were in the process of firing him
from Liberty Transportation when the shootings occurred in August of last
It's the 1st death sentence recommendation in Wood County in two decades,
and came after 2 1/2 days of deliberations.
Neyland's attorneys had argued Neyland was mentally ill, but prosecutors
told the jury he had been judged competent to stand trial.
(source: WFIN News)
Guilty plea allows killer to avoid death sentence
Dodging a potential death penalty, a Talala man accepted a no-parole life
sentence Thursday in exchange for pleading guilty to the August 2006
killing of his ex-girlfriend's husband.
In accordance with the agreement, first reported on tulsaworld.com, David
Jude Leaverton pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the Aug. 2, 2006,
slaying of Christopher Craig Puckett.
Leaverton, 51, who was on parole on murder and kidnapping convictions in
Kansas at the time, kicked in the door of a trailer in Sequoyah and shot
Puckett, 57, who was the husband of Leaverton's former girlfriend, Pauline
Leaverton also pleaded guilty to shooting with an intent to kill and
possessing a firearm after a former felony conviction. The 30-year
sentences on each of those two counts will run concurrently with each
other and consecutively with the no-parole life term.
Prosecutors were planning to seek the death penalty at trial next year.
But they found the plea agreement acceptable to the victim's family and in
the best interest of justice, Assistant District Attorney Ray Hasselman
In reviewing the evidence, "we believed that there was a chance during the
first stage of the trial that there could be some potential problems," he
said. "Rather than go for the death penalty, I decided in conjunction with
the family and our office that we wanted to make sure that there was
absolutely no possibility that he got anything less than life without
The Pucketts had separated in January 2006 after being married for about 5
years, court records show. Pauline Puckett met Leaverton a few months
after the separation, but she and Leaverton reportedly parted ways in July
of that year.
On July 30, 2006, at a Wal-Mart in Rogers County, Leaverton threatened to
kill Pauline and Chris Puckett, records indicate.
On Thursday, several of the victim's relatives read impact statements,
including Becky Gregory, one of the victim's daughters.
Gregory said her father's death left her despondent and unable to nurture
properly her toddler son, who is being treated for post- traumatic stress
Patricia Hake, Puckett's former wife and the mother of his 4 children,
told the court that her children are "forever cheated of someone they
loved and held dear to their hearts."
Leaverton was paroled from Kansas in January 2006. He was convicted of 6
state and federal crimes there, including 2nd-degree murder, kidnapping
and aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, records show.
He took inmates hostage, killed an inmate and beat a guard during his
Kansas prison stay, which dates to 1980, according to the Kansas
Department of Corrections.
(source: Tulsa World)
Execution date opens wounds for victim's widow: 'Is this it?"
Denise Hoerner has been dealing with powerful emotions for the past few
Shock. Numbness. Anxiety. Emptiness.
Hoerner, 42, recently learned that her husband's killer, Darold Ray "D.J."
Stenson will be executed by lethal injection on Dec. 3 by the state
Department of Corrections at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla
"I never thought it would happen, to tell you the truth," Hoerner said.
"For them to call and tell you it's all over and done with, it's shock."
During a Thursday interview at her home near Sequim, Hoerner was both
shaken by the news of the execution date and skeptical about whether or
not it will happen.
"Is this it?" she wondered, amid tears.
"You never know. It's never the last one."
Stenson was convicted on two counts of 1st degree aggravated murder in the
shooting deaths of Frank Hoerner, Denise's husband, and Stenson's wife,
also named Denise, on March 25, 1993.
Denise Hoerner and Denise Stenson were close friends.
Through a series of lengthy appeals, Stenson has been on death row since
he was convicted and sentenced in 1994.
But on Friday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco
terminated a stay of execution and set the date for Dec. 3.
Hoerner supports the court's decision.
"I feel he should be put to death for what he did," she said.
May not attend
While she hasn't completely made up her mind, Hoerner doesn't think she'll
attend the execution.
In 2001, after being told that Stenson had lost his final appeal, she made
plans for her and her son to view the execution.
But it's different this time.
Her son, Michael, is living in the upper Midwest and won't be able to
"My son has been my life," Hoerner said.
"He's been my trooper and sidekick. Without my son there, I don't want to
Hoerner has lived with the pain of Darold Stenson's crimes for more than
"For years and years, when I've gone to bed, I can't sleep," she said. "I
feel empty and lonely."
Unable to understand her own feelings about the execution, she just wants
it to be over.
"It's not going to be 'Denise Hoerner the widow,'" she said. "It's going
to be Denise Hoerner. I think that's one gift I'll get."
Hoerner also expressed deep empathy for Stenson's children.
"It was D.J. that took D.J. away as a father," said Marilou Pierce,
Hoerner's close friend who accompanied Hoerner during a Thursday interview
at Hoerner's home near Sequim.
Hoerner doesn't know how she would have made it through the pain of the
last 15 years without the strong support of people like Pierce and a
network of her late husband's friends.
"I pretty much feel like she does," said Pierce, also of Sequim.
"I think after so many years, you do become numb."
Hoerner has also relied on the unwavering support of such people as Monte
Martin, the head detective on the case, and Teresa Miller, a victim crimes
specialist who checks in often with Hoerner and calls on Christmas and
Martin and Miller have made life "livable" for Hoerner, she said.
2 more loyal buddies, High Speed and Patches, are Hoerner's long-haired
"When you are down, they know," Hoerner said while Patches took a drink of
her coffee and eggnog.
"They are the best medicine a lady can have.
"They've been more protective in the last few days."
(source: Peninsula Daily News)
More information about the DeathPenalty