[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----TEXAS, OHIO, KY., N.C.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Nov 19 12:59:05 CST 2008
Judge grants additional forensic testing for mom convicted of killing kids
For the 2nd time in five months, convicted child killer Darlie Lynn
Routier has been granted the right to more forensic testing of evidence in
her effort to prove that an intruder killed her 2 sons in 1996.
This month, a federal judge granted additional testing of a bloody sock;
new forensic testing of a butcher knife presented in the original trial as
the murder weapon, as well as new testing of fibers from another knife;
and permission to run four fingerprints through a national database.
His decision, which was signed Nov. 5, piggybacks a state appeals court
decision in June to allow her defense team to test some pubic and facial
"To have two separate courts say, 'Yes, you have valid claims,' obviously
it's a big deal, especially for the fingerprints," said Stephen Cooper,
one of Mrs. Routier's attorneys. "Everyone has said no [to checking the
fingerprints]. We've been trying to get the fingerprints in the FBI
database for comparison for 10 years now."
Mrs. Routier, 38, was sentenced to death for the stabbing death of her
5-year-old son, Damon. She also was charged with killing his older
brother, Devon, who was 6, but she was not tried in that case. She has
long contended that an unidentified intruder killed her boys and then
stabbed her in the June 6, 1996, attack in Rowlett.
Dallas County First Assistant District Attorney Terri Moore said
prosecutors are confident that Mrs. Routier's conviction and death
sentence will stand.
"I'm not afraid of the testing," Ms. Moore said, adding that the defense
has to prove there is consistent evidence of an unidentified person who
might have been an intruder.
Mrs. Routier's appellate attorneys have been filing requests in both state
and federal courts. In state courts, they have asked for post-conviction
DNA testing, which was first allowed for Texas prisoners in 2001. On the
federal side, her attorneys have asked for a writ of habeas corpus to
fight her death penalty conviction.
Even while granting the most recent round of testing, U.S. District Judge
Royal Furgeson questioned how some of the items might prove Mrs. Routier's
theory of an intruder attack, according to court records.
Even if another person's DNA is found on the bloody sock, that won't
necessarily prove that there was an intruder who killed the children,
Judge Furgeson wrote in his 18-page ruling.
Judge Furgeson also denied some requests, including testing on a
blood-soaked night shirt that Mrs. Routier was wearing that night and a
review of previous DNA tests.
(source: KHOU News)
2 more cell phones found on death row----Last month's discovery of a
mobile phone prompted statewide lockdown
2 more cell phones were found during regular death row inmate checks and
cell searches on Tuesday, officials said.
The first phone was located about midday when officers spotted it in the
trash. Officials believe an inmate tried to discard it for fear of being
caught, said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle
The second phone was found at 2:30 p.m. inside the cell of death row
inmate Raphael Holiday as he attempted to flush it down the toilet, Lyons
The 29-year-old was convicted of murder in 2000 after he set fire to a
Madison County home, killing his daughter and 2 stepdaughters who ranged
in age from 1 to 7 years old, department records show.
Both phones were turned over to the Office of the Inspector General, which
will investigate how they were smuggled into the prison, Lyons said. The
OIG will also attempt to determine the owner of the phone found in the
trash, she added.
Holiday and the unidentified owner of the 2nd cell phone face disciplinary
action and could be classified in a more restrictive manner including a
loss of visitation, commissary privileges and less recreational time,
''We are dedicated to ridding our units of cell phones and are continuing
to search for them wherever they may be hidden,'' she said.
A statewide lockdown of the prison system began last month after a death
row inmate allegedly made threatening calls to Senate Criminal Justice
Committee chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, and shared his illegal cell
phone with at least nine of his fellow inmates.
Investigators determined some 2,800 calls were made from the phone from
inside the Polunsky Unit near Livingston. Since the lockdown was lifted
last week, officials have found a cell phone and other contraband in the
possession of death row inmate Mark Stroman and a cell phone hidden in the
rectum of convicted murderer Henry Skinner.
Whitmire said he was told one of the cell phones found Tuesday had a price
tag on it, prompting concern it may be new.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry, who appoints board members to oversee
the prison system, called the discoveries proof that the system is
effective. Whitmire called the comment '' nice spin.''
''The question is, why did it ever get to this?'' he said. ''Apparently it
was a larger problem than anyone ever imagined.''
(source: Associated Press)
Killer clutches rosary, says he was framed at execution
Double-murderer Gregory Bryant-Bey of Toledo was executed this morning for
a crime he committed 16 years ago.
Bryant-Bey, 53, of Toledo, was lethally injected at the Southern Ohio
Correctional Facility near Lucasville, drawing his last shallow breath
just before 10:41 a.m. He was the 2nd Ohioan put to death this year and
the 28th since the state resumed capital punishment in 1999.
"My heart was seeking a sense of fairness and a dose of justice, but it
was not to be," Bryant-Bey said, his last words as he lie on the lethal
injection table, clutching a rosary.
He also made an extensive statement claiming he was framed "based on false
evidence" by Lucas County law enforcement officials. He read his final
words from a hand-written 2 page statement.
Bryant-Bey was convicted for the stabbing deaths of Dale "Pinky"
Pinkelman, 47, and Pete Mihas, 61, during a 3-month span in 1992. He was
sentenced to death for Pinkelman's murder, but got life in prison for the
His guilt was easily established in both cases. Still, Bryant-Bey's
attorneys had urged Strickland to spare his life, arguing he was twice
abandoned as a child by his birth mother, was neglected and beaten by his
adoptive mother, and never met his real father. As a child, he had just 2
emotions, "fear and anger," they said.
Strickland rejected clemency yesterday afternoon and the U.S. Supreme
Court turned down his appeal late last night.
Pinkelman, a father of 6, was found stabbed in the chest in his Toledo
collectibles shop on Aug. 9, 1992. Mihas, a Greek immigrant who owned the
Board Room restaurant in Toledo, was murdered, also with a knife, in the
parking lot of his business about three months later.
In both cases, Bryant-Bey robbed the businesses, but did not take the
men's personal jewelry. However, he removed the victim's pants and left
their shoes neatly arranged beside the bodies.
Bryant-Bey becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year
in Ohio and the 28th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in
Bryant-Bey becomes the 34th condemned inmate to be put to death this year
in the USA and the 1133rd overall since the nation resumed executions on
January 17, 1977.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
Ohio executes man for killing store owner in 1992
Ohio has executed a man for the 1992 stabbing death of a collectibles
store owner in Toledo.
Gregory Bryant-Bey was pronounced dead at 10:41 a.m. Wednesday at the
Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.
It was Ohio's 2nd execution in as many months following the end of an
unofficial national moratorium on executions that began last year while
the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed Kentucky's lethal injection procedure.
Bryant-Bey's execution proceeded after the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday
denied his request for a 60-day reprieve.
Bryant-Bey wanted more time to present additional information about his
case to Gov. Ted Strickland, who denied a clemency.
(source: Ohio News)
KENTUCKY----impending volunteer execution
Franklin judge won't stop execution----Marco Chapman set to die Friday
Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd yesterday declined to halt
Friday's execution of Marco Allen Chapman.
Shepherd denied a request by 5 private Kentucky citizens who filed suit to
stop the state from administering lethal injection to Chapman, 36, at the
Kentucky State Penitentiary near Eddyville.
They had asked that the execution of Chapman and any other death row
inmates be postponed until the state Supreme Court decides whether the
Department of Corrections properly established the procedure for
administering lethal injection.
Louisville attorney Phillip Longmeyer, who represented the five in a
hearing Monday, said his clients are considering whether to appeal.
"Obviously we respect the court's ruling, but we disagree with it and are
considering our options as to what to do from here," he said.
Chapman was convicted of killing 2 children, attacking their sister and
sexually assaulting their mother, Carolyn Marksberry, in the Northern
Kentucky town of Warsaw in 2002.
Another Franklin circuit judge ruled last week that Chapman is competent
and could dismiss the public defenders who have been trying to stop his
Chapman has said he wants the execution to be carried out.
In the case before the Supreme Court, the Department of Public Advocacy,
on behalf of another death row inmate, is arguing that state law requires
the Corrections Department to set forth the protocol for lethal injection
by administrative regulations.
Among other things, that would subject it to public comment. The
department instead outlined the protocol in an internal document.
In his ruling yesterday, Shepherd said that the citizens might have the
right to challenge the department's protocol. But injunctive relief, he
said, would affect only Chapman.
Shepherd also noted that the Supreme Court declined to halt Chapman's
execution until they reach a decision on the protocol issue.
"We do believe that Judge Shepherd's ruling will help bring this case to
its ultimate conclusion, which is justice for the Marksberry family and
carrying out the sentence that was imposed by the Boone Circuit Court
jury," said Allison Gardner Martin, spokeswoman for Attorney General Jack
The attorney general's office serves as an advocate for Marksberry and
also defended the lawsuit in Franklin Circuit Court on Monday.
Gov. Steve Beshear yesterday reaffirmed his decision not to intervene in
"I've given that issue a lot of thought, quite honestly, a lot of
prayerful thought," he said. "It's a part of the job of being governor I
don't think anybody would relish."
Should doctors monitor execution?----High court wants clarification on law
The N.C. Supreme Court dove into the 2-year stalemate on executions
Tuesday by asking attorneys to define what legislators meant by requiring
a doctor to be present when convicted murderers are put to death.
The debate over the word "present" has created a de facto moratorium on
executions in North Carolina.
The legal battle pits the N.C. Medical Board against the Department of
Correction, which wants a doctor to make sure lethal injections are
properly administered. That, the department says, guards against a
violation of the constitutional law against cruel and unusual punishment.
But the medical board contends that lawmakers, in requiring a doctor's
presence, only meant that the doctor should certify that an inmate was
executed. Taking part in the execution by monitoring an inmate's vital
signs would violate a doctor's basic mission to preserve life, the board
That has prevented the Department of Correction from finding doctors to
Several justices peppered the attorneys with questions during an hourlong
hearing. Associate Justice Edward Thomas Brady quickly challenged Todd
Brosius, a lawyer for the medical board, on the legislature's intent in
having a doctor present.
"The physicians are trained to save people," Brosius said. "They are not
trained to kill people."
"Aren't they trained to detect pain and suffering?" Brady asked.
Brady and other justices also challenged state Assistant Attorney General
Joseph Finarelli, who argued that lawmakers meant for doctors to do more
than attend and certify death.
The justices noted that state lawmakers had an opportunity to clarify the
law with 2 bills filed last year. But the General Assembly did not take up
the legislation. Some justices suggested that the legislature, not the
courts, should resolve the stalemate. "Why don't we send this right over
where it belongs?" Associate Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson asked.
Finarelli said the court had that option, but he contended the current law
supported his position.
The debate swirling around lethal injections helped prompt the stalemate.
It is the only method of execution used in North Carolina. Death row
defendants have challenged it, saying the three drugs used to sedate,
paralyze and kill do not guarantee that those injected do not suffer
The U.S. Supreme Court in April upheld Kentucky's lethal injection law.
Brosius said that state's law does not require a doctor to be present.
Finarelli said a doctor had been present and had monitored inmates in the
previous 20 North Carolina executions. But evidence at a state
administrative hearing last year suggested the doctor was not in a
position to determine how the inmate was reacting to the injection.
That hearing is part of another attack on the state's execution method.
Attorneys representing death row inmates say they were improperly refused
an opportunity to address the Council of State before it approved the
execution protocol. That suit is before Wake County Superior Court Judge
At Tuesday's Supreme Court hearing, Brady suggested bringing in a doctor
from out of state.
"Texas doesn't seem to have this problem, does it?" Brady asked, prompting
The last inmate to be executed was 36-year-old Samuel Flippin on Aug. 18,
2006. He had been convicted of killing his 2-year-old stepdaughter. There
are 163 inmates on death row.
The court did not indicate when it would rule on the issue.
(source: News Observer)
Supreme Court tries to untangle death penalty debate
The role of a physician in North Carolina executions took center stage
Tuesday as the state Supreme Court heard arguments on whether the North
Carolina Medical Board can punish doctors who participate in an execution.
The Medical Board adopted a policy in January 2007 that taking part in an
execution would violate a physician's code of ethics and would subject a
doctor to having his or her medical license revoked.
State law requires a physician's presence at all executions, and the
Medical Board's decree effectively put executions on hold in North
Carolina because the Department of Correction couldn't find a physician
willing to put his or her license on the line and go to a scheduled
The state also faces a lawsuit from death-row inmates over the execution
protocol approved by the Council of State, which also has produced a de
facto moratorium on capital punishment in the state.
The last execution carried out in North Carolina occurred in August 2006.
At least 5 scheduled executions have been put on hold since then.
A Wake County judge ruled last year that the Medical Board's policy
overstepped its authority and that state law takes precedence, and the
board appealed that ruling.
Justices and lawyers debated Tuesday on the proper definition of "present"
as it's used in the law and tried to determine what physicians have been
doing at executions for the past century.
"What does the word 'present' mean? That's really what this case turns
on," said Todd Brosius, an attorney for the Medical Board. "This is a word
we understand as elementary school children. When the teacher calls out
your name at roll and you say, 'Present,' it means that you're there. It
doesn't have any implication as to what you're doing."
Associate Justice Edward Thomas Brady challenged that reasoning, saying
some dictionaries define "present" as being "actively involved."
"A physician has education, training and experience. If he's just standing
there or sitting there like a potted plant, what's the purpose of that?"
Brady asked. "If a condemned inmate is suffering and becomes conscious and
is convulsing ... the doctor should just stand there?"
Brosius said physicians have been present at executions since 1909, when
North Carolina moved all executions to Raleigh, because they could attest
to each county that their death sentences were carried out.
Assistant Attorney General Joe Finarelli said the dispute arose because
the Medical Board patterned its policy after a position statement of the
American Medical Association against capital punishment. Also, the state
had to revise its execution protocol in 2006 because a federal judge said
it didn't go far enough to uphold an inmate's Eighth Amendment protections
against suffering cruel and unusual punishment.
"It's difficult to understand how, other than the 'do no harm' ethic of
the Hippocratic oath, that the Medical Board can state that (participating
in executions) violates the ethics of the profession when they didn't
enunciate the ethics of the profession until 2007," Finarelli said. "There
were executions that were carried out and the physician was involved in
the process well before 2007."
He argued that a physician monitors an execution to ensure the Eighth
Amendment is upheld.
In the end, Associate Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson suggested the court
throw the matter back into the laps of state lawmakers to define more
clearly the role of physicians in executions. 2 bills introduced last year
to end the death penalty stalemate never made it out of committee as
lawmakers waited for the courts to rule on the issue.
"This court and other courts are always taken to task for legislating. Why
shouldn't we just send this right on over (to the General Assembly) where
it belongs?" Timmons-Goodson said.
A ruling is expected in a couple of months.
(source: WRAL News)
Woman wont face death penalty
The case against the Southmont woman charged with killing her roommate
does not qualify for the death penalty, prosecutors said.
Tammy Starlette Miller West, 44, was charged Sept. 1 with 1st-degree
murder. Sheriffs deputies found Samantha Leath Gutierrez dead on the
kitchen floor of their shared residence at 367 Avenue K.
Assistant District Attorney Greg Brown said there are no aggravating
factors in the case that make the crime a capital homicide. North Carolina
law allows the death penalty only if certain circumstances are present.
"There are 11 aggravating factors, and none of the 11 are present," Brown
Those factors include murders that happened during another felony crime
like rape, armed robbery or escaping custody, murders that were cruel or
heinous, threatened large groups of people or were connected to violent
Gutierrez, 36, was shot in the torso 6 times and was pronounced dead on
the scene. Investigators believe the shooting happened after an argument.
West called 911 to report the incident and was in the home when deputies
In a search, a .22-caliber rifle with ammunition and 5 spent casings were
found near the victim.
(source: Lexington Dispatpch)
Doctors Differ Over Suspect's Mental State
A High Point man who faces a capital murder charge has a long history of
mental problems that are impairing his ability to understand the case
against him. He's also a "malingerer" - a person who pretends to be ill or
incapacitated to get out of a duty - who probably would be found competent
to stand trial.
These are the conflicting opinions of doctors who have examined Terry
Wayne Combs, who is charged with 1st-degree murder in the December 2007
death of William Baker Borton III.
Combs and Borton were neighbors in the 200 block of Druid Street until
Borton, 63, was found dead in his bedroom Dec. 21, having suffered
multiple lacerations and stab wounds in his upper body. Combs, 47, was
charged with stealing a check from Borton 2 months before his death and
the 2 had a history of problems, according to court documents.
Police took a DNA sample from Combs and seized seven knives from his
basement, according to search warrants.
Since his arrest on Christmas Eve, a judge has ruled prosecutors can seek
the death penalty against Combs and has found that he has a history of
A September court order remanding him to a state hospital for treatment
stated that Combs "exhibits signs from his comments and behaviors that his
mental capabilities are further deteriorating" and "currently complains of
both auditory and visual hallucinations."
In an Oct. 30 letter to his attorneys, a psychiatrist who examined Combs
found that his mental status was "severely impairing his decisions in
regards to his current charges."
That followed another hearing last month in which a judge ordered Combs
back to the Guilford County Jail after a doctor determined that Combs "is
a malingerer and that there is a high likelihood (Combs) would be found
capable to proceed should the court order an evaluation for that purpose."
Court records show the case took another turn when a different judge
ordered on Nov. 6 that Combs be taken to Central Prison's psychiatric
facility in Raleigh for treatment. Records indicate this was the most
recent action in the case.
A date for Combs' next court appearance has not been set.
(source: High Point Enterprise)
Amnesty International sponsors photo exhibition addressing the death
Amnesty International is sponsoring a photography exhibition that focuses
on the death penalty, a topic the group considers high on its priority
list. The exhibition features the work of photographer Scott Langley and
runs until Nov. 21 in Belk and Gray Academic Pavilions. Langley is a
photojournalist and grassroots human rights activist based in Boston. He
has served as an Amnesty International USA State Death Penalty Coordinator
since 2004, first in North Carolina and currently in Massachusetts.
He works on a national and international level to end capital punishment
and educate others about its effects.
The documentary project showcased in this exhibition, called The Death
Penalty Photography Documentary Project, consists of more than 1,000
images that were taken over an 8 year period. According to Langley's Web
site, it began as a college art project that required students to
creatively address a human rights issue.
It is the largest known collection of photos about the death penalty in
the United States. A selection of these photos is being shown at Elon,
ranging from photos of the inside of a death chamber to events taking
place on the streets.
"It's not a glamorous issue, because it's full of so many legal matters,
but it's important that people know about it," said Mary Lyons,
coordinator of Elons chapter of Amnesty International.
The exhibition has been shown all over the country, as well as in a few
European countries, before it made its way to Elon. Amnesty International
has exhibited Langley's work at several other universities, including
Harvard and Cornell.
Amnesty International strongly opposes capital punishment. Its Web site
refers to the death penalty as "the ultimate denial of human rights."
"In the course of this project, I have chosen to simply capture what I
have been seeing in my own journey of working against capital punishment,"
Langley said. "With every rally I have been in, with every execution vigil
I have stood with, and with all the incredible people I have met along the
way, I increasingly feel the importance to tell these stories and bring
the images to those who were unable to see what I saw."
Despite the dark nature of the photographs, Langley views his work as
optimistic because he believes they can affect change.
"I just hope it makes people think about it and tests their beliefs on the
issue," Lyons said. "We're not trying to change people's minds, just raise
awareness that it happens."
Langley has actively worked in opposition to the death penalty since 1999.
In 2004, he and his wife co-founded the Raleigh Catholic Worker
Hospitality House, where families of death row prisoners can get free
shelter, food and support.
Langley travels within and outside of the United States to speak about
capital punishment, the work he does to end executions and his photography
(source: The Elon Pendulum)
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