[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----TEXAS, GA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Nov 28 12:47:26 CST 2008
Lubbock Death Row Inmate Loses Appeal
A Lubbock man lost his death row appeal Wednesday according to the Dallas
Morning News website.
Joe Franco Garza, 37, was convicted of the 1998 robbery and strangling of
Silbiano Rangel, 71. The victim was a retired preacher who agreed to give
Garza a ride. But according to court records he strangled the victim and
took his money.
Garza successfully appealed his death sentence in federal court. During a
re-trial he was sentenced to death a second time. It's the re-trial that
Garza appealed this time to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and lost.
(source: KCBD News)
Nichols trial penalty phase to stretch on
Jurors in the Brian Nichols trial have persevered since Sept. 22, hearing
dozens of witnesses before convicting him of four murders and other
charges in the Fulton County Courthouse shootings.
Now, as the penalty phase of the trial unfolds, they may have at least
another 2 weeks to go.
"All indications are [that] it will be the week beginning Monday, December
8," Judge James Bodiford recently told the 12 men and women.
"It's important that I not rush the lawyers," Bodiford said.
The panel is 10 1/2 working days into hearing testimony on whether they
should impose the death penalty on Nichols or order him to spend the rest
of his life in prison. It took 32 court days for them to convict him of 54
counts in the case, disregarding his plea of not guilty by reason of
"I want you to take whatever time you need [in deliberations on Nichols'
sentence]," said Bodiford, a Superior Court judge in Cobb County since
Bodiford added: "This case is the longest case I've ever presided over."
Since Nichols admitted early on that he committed the crimes, the
sentencing portion of his trial has long been the most anticipated.
"From Day One, the focus [of the trial] was on whether he lived or died,"
said Gary Parker, who resigned for health reasons after being the lead
attorney on the Nichols defense team. "It has to be this long."
Parker has decades of experience in capital defense.
"The things the state offers are things to make a person's life seem of
less value by showing he's bad," said Parker.
Prosecutors called 37 witnesses over 7 days in their effort to portray
Nichols as an evil man who will always be dangerous and should be put to
Their presentation included victims' relatives describing how they have
suffered since the killings of Judge Rowland Barnes, court reporter Julie
Ann Brandau, Fulton Sheriffs Deputy Hoyt Teasley and U.S. Customs agent
The defense argues Nichols should live out his life in prison, rather than
be put to death, because childhood experiences and bad parenting turned
him into a murderer.
"No person's life can be fully assessed by one act or deed, whether it's a
good one or a dastardly one," Parker said. "We are the products of the
influences of our lives. It is important for a jury to know all of those
things about a person's life."
Nichols' lawyers portray him as damaged but not necessarily dangerous now.
They want to show Nichols as a teenager and a young man. They called
witnesses, including his longtime best friend, Zachery Dingle, who broke
down in tears when he recalled learning of the shootings.
Dingle, who runs group homes for troubled teenagers in Baltimore, said
Nichols' positive influence and leadership qualities helped keep Dingle
goal-oriented while they were in school. He said Nichols was dominated by
2 strong professional women his mother, Clarita Nichols, and his former
girlfriend, whom he was on trial for allegedly raping when he escaped and
committed the courthouse shootings.
"The prosecution can put on any evidence that provides reasons for
imposing the death penalty and the defense can put on anything [seeking]
fairness and mercy," said veteran death penalty defense attorney Jack
Despite Nichols' guilt, Martin said, his lawyers have to show Nichols is
"not just evil incarnate, but a flawed human being."
By Georgia standards, Nichols' sentencing trial is running long.
"It sounds mighty long," said retired South Georgia Judge Walter McMillan,
who presided over about 15 death penalty trials. "I guess they figure if
you keep it going, maybe something good will happen."
McMillan noted that it took only 2 weeks to convict and condemn Jerry
Scott Heidler of murdering a married couple and 2 of their 7 children in
their home in the town of Santa Claus, a 1997 case that received heavy
news coverage. Half of that time was spent picking a jury.
An attorney who had a role in the defense of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy
McVeigh agreed the Nichols' sentencing trial is long, even by federal
court standards. The sentencing phase of the McVeigh case lasted less than
three weeks; McVeigh was executed in 2001 for the 1995 murders of 11
people in the truck bomb explosion at the Alfred B. Murrah Federal
Kevin McNally, director of the Federal Death Penalty Resources Council
Project and the attorney for more than 50 death-penalty defendants, said a
lengthy sentencing phase can be justified. "The jury needs to know more
than what they know from the headlines and guilt phase," McNally said.
That means time and looking under "big rocks" for mitigating details of a
defendant's life and looking for "every grit and grain to give them pause
to think and reflect."
"It may just be that small thing that is the basis for them to vote and
say, 'Naw, I can't kill that person.'"
(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
More information about the DeathPenalty