[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----GA., TEXAS, OHIO, UTAH
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Oct 15 15:10:24 CDT 2008
GEORGIA----execution date set for Troy Davis
Execution date set for Troy Davis----Parole board says it won't reconsider
Troy Anthony Davis, convicted of killing an off-duty police officer in
1989, is to be executed Oct. 27. The date was set after a Chatham County
judge signed a warrant Wednesday afternoon setting the time frame from
Oct. 27 through Nov. 3 for the execution.
This is Davis 3rd execution date in little more than a year.
Last month, just 2 hours before he was to die by lethal injection, the
U.S. Supreme Court stopped his execution so it could decide if it would
hear Davis challenge based on the recantations of seven of the nine
witnesses who testified against him.
On Tuesday, the court without explanation refused to hear the appeal.
Davis was condemned to die for the Aug. 19, 1989 killing of Savannah
police officer Mark Allen MacPhail. The 27-year-old father of 2 was
working off duty when he was shot in the parking lot of a Burger King
(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Ga. Inmate's Death Sentence Questions Justice
A Georgia man on death row in a Georgia prison for killing a police
officer lost his final appeal yesterday after the U.S. Supreme Court
declined to hear the matter.
Troy Davis, a 39-year-old African-American, was sentenced to death for the
1989 murder of Mark McPhail, a 27-year-old Savannah police officer who was
working off duty as a security guard at a bus station. According to
reports, McPhail rushed to help a homeless man who had been pistol-whipped
at a nearby parking lot. He and was shot twice when he approached Davis
and 2 other men.
Though witnesses identified Davis as the shooter, 7 of 9 key witnesses
against him later recanted their testimony.
Davis' lawyers say their client was a victim of mistaken identity; and
Davis maintains his innocence.
His supporters including former President Jimmy Carter and Archbishop
Desmond Tutu had called for the case to be reconsidered.
The U.S. Supreme Court did grant Davis a reprieve on Sept. 23, hours
before he was set to die by lethal injection. And Georgia's high court
turned down bids for a new trial.
The U.S. Supreme Court's decision yesterday not to convene a full hearing
clears the way for Georgia to set a new date for Davis' execution.
Virginia Sloan, founder and president of the Constitution Project,
discusses the issue. The Constitution Project, based in Washington, D.C.,
is a bipartisan organization that seeks a consensus on legal and
(source: National Public Radio)
Supreme Court allows Troy Davis execution
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for Troy Anthony Davis'
execution, declining to enter a contentious debate as to whether the
condemned inmate was the real killer of a Savannah police officer in 1989.
The court, without explanation, refused to hear his appeal even though 7
of 9 key prosecution witnesses have recanted their testimony since the
1991 trial. Just 3 weeks ago, the high court had halted Davis' execution
with less than 2 hours to spare.
Aug. 30, 1991: Troy Davis is sentenced to death by a Chatham County jury
for the 1989 murder of Savannah Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail.
July 16, 2007: After a 10-hour hearing, the state Board of Pardons and
Paroles stays Davis' execution, set for the next day.
March 17, 2008: By a 4-3 vote, the Georgia Supreme Court upholds Davis'
death sentence, rejecting his request for a hearing that recantation
testimony be presented in court.
Sept. 3, 2008: Davis' execution is set for Sept. 23 at 7 p.m.
Sept. 12, 2008: The state parole board, after hearing more testimony,
declines to grant clemency to Davis.
Sept. 22, 2008: The Georgia Supreme Court rejects Davis' bid for a stay of
Sept. 23, 2008: The U.S. Supreme Court issues a stay of execution for
Davis less than two hours before he was to die by lethal injection. Davis
is asking the court to order a judge to grant him a hearing.
Oct. 14, 2008: The U.S. Supreme Court says in an order that it will not
consider Davis's appeal. Compiled by News Researcher Joni Zeccola
Davis should find out soon when he will be put to death. It is the 3rd
time he's faced the prospect of execution in little more than a year.
The next step is for a Chatham County judge to set a time frame during
which Davis' execution can be scheduled by the Department of Corrections.
Davis' innocence claims attracted international attention, with Pope
Benedict XVI and former President Jimmy Carter among those challenging the
fairness of his execution.
Davis was condemned to die for the Aug. 19, 1989, killing of Savannah
Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail. The 27-year-old father of 2, working
off duty, was shot dead after he responded to the cries of a homeless man
being pistol whipped in a Burger King parking lot.
The officer's mother, Anneliese MacPhail, expressed relief at the high
"Especially for my grandson and my granddaughter," she said, referring to
the slain officer's 2 children, now adults. "We can now settle down."
MacPhail, 75, does not expect "closure" if Davis is executed.
"There is no such thing," she said. "We will always be thinking about
Mark. At least we won't have to go to court. We will have some peace."
She does not plan to attend the execution, although 2 of her 4 remaining
children want to witness it.
"It doesn't give me any satisfaction to watch that," she said. "I still
have anger in me and I'm afraid I would say something."
Davis' sister, Martina Correia, was furious .
"I'm truly disgusted by these people," Correia said. "I don't even know
what to say. I wonder why I'm still a U.S. citizen sometimes."
Correia told her brother of the high court's decision.
"He said, 'It doesn't make any sense. What do I have to do?' to convince a
court that he is innocent," Correia said.
"I haven't given up hope," Correia said. "We're going to fight until we
can't fight any more."
Davis' mother, Virginia Davis, 63, said police charged the wrong man.
"The real killer is walking around Savannah, bragging about what he's
done," she said. "If they kill Troy, they have God to answer to. They
don't have the Davis family to answer to."
Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International, which has
supported Davis" appeals, condemned the high decision.
"It is disgraceful that the highest court in the land could sink so low
when doubts surrounding Davis' guilt are so high," Cox said. "Faulty
eyewitness identification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions and
the hallmark of Davis' case."
Stephen Bright of the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta said the
case was riddled with errors.
"The trial of this case has all the integrity of a professional wrestling
match," he said. "It was deeply flawed, yet there's no way to correct it."
Since Davis' trial, 7 key witnesses recanted their testimony. Others also
have come forward implicating another man who was with Davis at the scene.
Eyewitness testimony formed the backbone of the prosecution's case. The
murder weapon was never found and there was no DNA evidence or a
But Chatham County prosecutors have long expressed confidence that Davis
is a cop killer.
On Tuesday, District Attorney Spencer Lawton accused Davis' supporters of
manipulating the legal process, using the news media and waging a public
relations campaign to undermine confidence in the court system, all at the
expense of MacPhails family.
"While an 80 % recantation ratemay seem to some as overwhelmingly
persuasive, to others of us it invites a suggestion of manipulation,
making it very difficult to believe," Lawton said in a lengthy statement.
He noted that each of the recanting witnesses was vigorously
cross-examined at trial as to whether they were pressured by police to
point the finger at Davis. "All denied it," Lawton said.
The justice system, Lawton added, has been "painstakingly indulgent" of
Davis' claims, not dismissive as his advocates contend.
In the meantime, MacPhail's family has endured "a seemingly endless
succession of new technical and substantive legal threats to their faith
and hope," he said. "It should be obvious that the PR campaign intensifies
the agony of the victim's family."
Davis' lawyers had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to declare that the Eighth
Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment bars the execution of the
innocent and requires at least a court hearing to assess the recantation
The Rev. Al Sharpton announced the court's decision at a get-out-the-vote
rally Tuesday at Morris Brown College. The crowd let out a collective
Sharpton contended Davis' case is another example of the of the unfair
treatment that African-Americans experience. "You don't have to go back in
the day," he said. "We're still in the day."
Davis had been scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection on Sept.
23. But, with less than 2 hours to spare, the high court halted the
execution to give the justices time to consider whether to hear his
In July 2007, the state Board of Pardons and Paroles had halted Davis'
execution less than 24 hours before it was to be carried out. Last month,
after meeting again, the parole board denied Davis request for clemency.
(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
High court clears way for execution----7 witnesses who identified Troy
Davis as the killer of a police officer in Georgia almost 20 years ago
have recanted their testimony, but his final appeal is turned down without
The Supreme Court cleared the way Tuesday for the execution of a Georgia
man who claims he was wrongly convicted of shooting a police officer in a
dark parking lot in Savannah nearly 20 years ago.
In recent years, seven of the nine witnesses who pointed to Troy Davis at
his trial have recanted their testimony. His lawyers appealed to the
Supreme Court and argued that the Constitution prohibited an execution
"when substantial evidence of innocence is discovered."
On Sept. 23, hours before Davis was set to die, the high court granted a
stay so the justices could review his case.
But on Tuesday, they turned down his final appeal in a one-line order
without a comment or a recorded dissent.
Davis' case had been reviewed extensively. A state appeals judge, the
Georgia Supreme Court, a federal district judge, the U.S. Court of Appeals
in Atlanta and the Georgia Board of Paroles and Pardons had re-examined
Davis' case -- including the recanted statement from the witnesses -- and
ultimately upheld his guilt.
But the Georgia Supreme Court divided 4-3 on the question. The majority
said it put greater faith in the trial testimony of the witnesses than in
the later recantations. The dissenters said Davis should have a new trial.
Amnesty International USA on Tuesday denounced the court's refusal to give
Davis a new hearing.
"The Supreme Court's decision is truly shocking, given that significant
evidence of Davis' innocence will never have a chance to be examined,"
said Larry Cox, its executive director. "Faulty eyewitness identification
is the leading cause of wrongful convictions, and the hallmark of Davis'
Davis' conviction rested on the statements of several people who were in
or near the parking lot of a Burger King restaurant after midnight in
Officer Mark MacPhail was working at the Greyhound Bus Station and came
out to stop a fight involving a homeless man who had a six-pack of beer.
When MacPhail gave chase to one man, the man turned and shot the officer.
The shooter then fired several more times, killing MacPhail.
Davis, then 19, was there, as was Sylvester "Redd" Coles.
Both men are black, and they were about the same age, height and weight.
Coles identified Davis as the shooter, and the police then found witnesses
who identified Davis or said he had spoken of the shooting.
Most of these witnesses later recanted.
Coles remained the state's strongest witness in the murder case.
During the trial, several witnesses said they saw Davis accost the
homeless man, and they said he had a gun. Others said they had seen the
shooting from some distance, but most of them said later that they were
not sure who had fired the shots.
Davis' lawyers asserted in their appeal that Coles was the likely shooter.
"The only remnants of the state's case against [Davis] are the
self-serving testimony of Redd Coles and [a bystander's] dubious in-court
identification of Mr. Davis that occurred 2 years after the crime," Davis'
Former President Carter, Pope Benedict XVI and Nobel Peace Prize winner
Archbishop Desmond Tutu are among those who have called for clemency for
(source: Los Angeles Times)
Davis prosecutor speaks; blasts death penalty critics
In a 7-page "manifesto" released yesterday after the U.S. Supreme
Court declined to take up Davis' case, Chatham County District Attorney
Spencer Lawton Jr. complained:
"The PR campaign has of course become the favored artifice for corrupting
the independence and credibility of the truth-seeking and independent
judicial branch of our government," he wrote.
"These campaigns are usually energizedor at least, having been set off at
the center, are carried forward around the circumference of the echo
chamberby people most of whom approach the law in ignorance, or with an
ideological bias that, on the face of it, should disqualify them from
fact-based, rational discussion."
"And," he continued, "these campaigns tend to be swallowed whole and
regurgitated in the same form by some of the media."
Lawton also had strong words for both the judicial system itself and some
who have supported Davis.
In light of the rollercoaster of delay, said Lawton, "the criminal justice
system has hardly bathed itself in glory."
"The judiciary's only currencyunlike the other 2 branchesis its
credibility. There comes a point at which an obsessively punctilious focus
on fairness (for one party only) becomes itself unfair. Unfairness has a
corrosive effect on credibility."
Lawton also questioned the motives of Davis' supporters.
"If the only characteristic of a campaign of indignation attacking what
must be the most open and accountable legal system on Earth was its
naivet, we could look upon it with a measure of equanimity, even perhaps
amusement," wrote Lawton. "But the campaign's cynicism and manipulation
are inimical to the law's neutral truth-seeking purpose. That isI speak
now of the impulsive anti-death penalty folksoften, the ostensible purpose
of enlightening the operation of the law has the effect of compromising
its principles. Perhaps, I hate to suggest, on purpose, and even
Jared Feuer of the local Amnesty International office, who read Lawtons
comments late Tuesday afternoon, said, "To make this about manipulation
is not serving the cause of justice."
I haven't seen the full statement but here's what is reported in the
He dismisses the post-trial affidavits because there are too many. And the
80 % recantation rate"the 1st in the history of the world? Lawton
wondersdidn't come in support of a motion for a new trial until eight days
before the first scheduled execution date.
Lawton suggests coercion, "Would it not be ironic, for instance, in a case
such as this one, if affidavits claiming coercion by police were
themselves obtained by coercive tactics?"
Lawton says the evidence has already been reviewed "by 29 judges in 7
different types of review over the course of 17 years, before [Tuesday's]
ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court."
He sees no benefit in hearing from the witnesses, "[W]hat would be the
benefit of direct testimony simply restating what the affidavits said? Or
might we expect the witnesses to vary again?" He says the State Board of
Pardons and Paroles heard from the witnesses "and questioned them
He says there is physical evidence, noting that that crime lab tests
demonstrated that the shell casings "from Davis' shooting" of another man
earlier on the night MacPhail was killed were fired from the same weapon
as the casings recovered from the scene of MacPhails murder.
He says Coles was allowed by his lawyer to give a statement outside his
presence so that means he couldn't possiby be the real killer.
Davis' attorneys say Lawton's assertions "would not survive the light of
day in an adversarial court proceeding." The Sunday Paper did a piece on
why Davis did not bring evidence forward sooner: In 2006, the American Bar
Association's Georgia Death Penalty Assessment Team submitted an
evaluation of the states death penalty system, which recommended a
moratorium on executions due to "a need to reform a number of areas within
Georgias death penalty system."
Included among the problems listed in the report is Georgia's status as
the only state not to provide indigent defendants sentenced to death with
counsel during habeas corpus proceedings. Inmates facing the death penalty
must act as their own attorney during the appeals process if they cannot
afford to hire a lawyer. This, according to the report, helps create "a
situation where this critical constitutional safeguard is so undermined as
to be ineffective."
Martina Correia says her brother learned first-hand of the difficulties
involved when a prisoner with no legal training is expected to defend
himself in a case that has already been decided against him. She recalls
how Davis was expected to mount his defense in a break room in the prison
where he was confined. With no money, no attorney and no subpoena power,
there was little he could hope to accomplish.
"From '91 to '96, he didn't have a lawyer," recalls Correia. "Then the
Resource Center gave him a lawyer."
(source: The Moderate Voice)
Inmate who tried fleeing death row loses appeal
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday rejected an appeal from a
condemned killer who was involved in an infamous death row escape attempt
a decade ago.
Gustavo Garcia, 36, raised 88 challenges to his conviction and death
sentence for the 1990 shooting death of a clerk at a Dallas-area beer and
liquor store. Garcia, from McKinney, was 19 at the time when 43-year-old
Craig Turski was killed during the robbery at Warehouse Beverages in Plano
in Collin County.
Garcia was arrested a month later, hiding in a beer cooler at the scene of
another robbery in Plano where a convenience store clerk was killed.
On Thanksgiving night in 1998, he was among 7 death-row inmates who
slipped out of the Ellis Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
northeast of Huntsville.
They cut through a recreation yard fence with a hacksaw blade, then
climbed to a roof and crawled the length of the prison before scrambling
to the ground. They raced across a grassy area and over the 1st of 2
10-foot-high chain-link fences topped with razor wire before officers in
nearby towers spotted them and opened fired.
Convicted killer Martin Gurule was the only one to get over the second
fence and disappear into the foggy night. After an intense manhunt, his
body was found a week later in a creek a couple miles from the prison. An
autopsy showed he had been shot once but that he died of drowning.
As a result of the escape, death row was moved about 40 miles east to the
more modern Polunsky Unit and security for the more than 300 death row
inmates in Texas was increased dramatically.
Garcia's original conviction was overturned by the Court of Criminal
Appeals because of an error in his written confession, then was reinstated
by the court after a rehearing. His sentence then was vacated by a federal
judge. A 2nd punishment trial resulted in another death sentence.
Court records show Turski, the victim in the liquor warehouse shooting,
was ordered into a small room and to his knees and was shot in the
abdomen. He managed to get up, throw a chair at his attacker and tried to
flee. But he was hunted down by Garcia and shot in the back of the head.
Garcia confessed that he shot Turski with a shotgun.
An accomplice, Christopher Vargas, who was 16 at the time, also was
convicted of capital murder and is serving life in prison. He was arrested
at the 2nd shooting scene standing over the slain clerk. Garcia's
common-law wife, Shelia Maria Garcia, also was arrested outside the 2nd
shooting scene and received a 20-year sentence for conspiracy to commit
In their ruling Wednesday, the appeals court said 30 of Garcia's claims in
his most recent appeal were procedurally barred from review and that 8
others related to claims of ineffective legal assistance were without
merit. Other challenges were rejected as also without merit, inadequate or
He does not have an execution date.
(source: Associated Press)
Man could face death penalty in double homicide
A local man is facing the death penalty after being indicted on murder
charges by a Clark County grand jury Tuesday, Oct. 14.
Charles A. Cunningham, 37, of 1351 S. Center Blvd., is charged with
murder, aggravated murder, felony murder, felonious assault, having
weapons under disability and tampering with evidence.
Cunningham is charged in the shooting deaths of Jessica Serna, 27, and
Heidi Shook, 28.
If convicted on all charges, Cunningham could face the death penalty, said
Clark County Prosecutor Stephen Schumaker.
Police found Serna and Shook with gunshot wounds on North Street just east
of Water Street around 3 a.m. Oct. 4.
Shook was pronounced dead at the scene and Serna was taken to Miami Valley
Hospital where she died Oct. 5.
(source: Springfield News-Sun)
Death penalty a possibility in Ogden slayings
Prosecutors have filed new charges against a man accused of gunning down
two women on Adams Avenue, but they refuse to say if they intend to seek
the death penalty against him.
Jacob Daniel Ethridge, 31, appeared here in 2nd District Court on
Wednesday for what was scheduled to be a preliminary hearing. But Weber
County prosecutors instead filed 2 amended charges of aggravated murder, a
"Do you understand the new charges that have been done?" Judge W. Brent
West asked him.
"Yes, sir," Ethridge replied.
The amended charges allege that the murders of Teresa Tingey, 43, and
Rosanna Marie Cruz, 25, was 1 single crime. The women were prostitutes,
and police said Ethridge shot them minutes apart after soliciting them.
Authorities said Ethridge then went to the Ogden Police Department and
confessed to the slayings.
"They're not seeking the death penalty, but we're not going to comment,"
Ethridge's attorney, Bernie Allen, told the Deseret News.
Prosecutors said no decision has been made.
"There hasn't been anything filed yet," deputy Weber County Attorney Gary
Heward told reporters outside court.
Under a new state law, prosecutors have 60 days from the preliminary
hearing to file a notice of intent to seek the death penalty. Ethridge is
scheduled to appear in court again on Nov. 12.
(source: Deseret News)
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