[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., N.H., FLA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Oct 20 15:31:52 CDT 2008
Execution of North Texas Man----Northeast Texas Man to Die for
Joseph Ries says he doesn't remember much about committing a murder nearly
10 years ago.
The fatal shooting of 64-year-old Robert Ratliff at his rural Hopkins
County home in northeast Texas landed Ries on death row. Now Ries, who's
now 29, faces a date with the Texas executioner tomorrow night.
He'd be the 12th prisoner executed this year in the nation's most active
death penalty state and the 1st of 2 scheduled to die this week. 2 were
executed last week and 2 more are set to die next week.
Ries' lawyer asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the U.S.
Supreme Court to stop the punishment. But the Texas Board of Pardons and
Paroles has unanimously rejected a clemency request.
Evidence showed Ries had a long history of physical and sexual abuse as a
child, that his mother's parental rights had been revoked twice and that
he'd been in 11 foster homes. By the time he was attending Texas A&M
University at Commerce, he was actively using drugs. And at the time of
the February 1999 slaying, he was into marijuana laced with PCP.
(source: KIII News)
Murder trial in death of warden begins----Death penalty case is the 1st in
decades for Wharton County
A Wharton County jury will begin hearing testimony today in the trial of a
man accused of killing a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game warden,
marking the county's first death penalty trial in nearly 30 years.
James Garrett Freeman, 27, of Lissie could be sentenced to death if
convicted of capital murder. He is accused of shooting game warden Justin
P. Hurst, 34, of El Campo, following a lengthy police chase last year.
A jury of 9 women and 3 men will gather in state District Judge Randy
Clapp's court for the trial, which is expected to last about 3 weeks.
Former Harris County prosecutor Kelly Siegler will assist Wharton County
District Attorney Josh McCown with the case. Siegler, one of Houston's
most high-profile prosecutors, resigned earlier this year after losing the
race for Harris County district attorney in March's Republican primary.
Jurors will likely see video of the shootout that led to Hurst's death and
the chase that preceded it footage captured by cameras mounted in police
cars involved in the 90-minute pursuit.
McCown had just bought video equipment for Hurst's patrol car 3 months
earlier with money seized from criminals.
Freeman, a welder with no history of serious crimes, did not intend to
shoot anyone, said his attorney, Stanley Schneider.
"The bottom line any way you look at it this is a tragedy because you
have 2 families that have been destroyed," Schneider said. "How do you
explain the unexplainable?"
McCown argued those who kill officers in the line of duty deserve the
stiffest punishment possible.
"I personally believe those guys who get up in the morning and put on a
badge and strap on a gun are entitled to expect that," McCown said. " ...
I believe we owe them that.
"I believe that someone who kills a cop is just a little more culpable
than, say, some thug who, in the heat of an armed robbery, kills someone,"
Hurst's mother, Pat Hurst of El Campo, declined to comment, and his widow,
Amanda Hurst, could not be reached.
Justin Hurst died on his 34th birthday from a gunshot that ripped through
his left arm and torso, an autopsy report shows.
A 2nd shot, which struck his left buttock and exited his left hip, was not
He was the 1st Texas game warden shot to death in the line of duty since
The confrontation began late March 16, 2007, within a half-mile of
Freeman's home as Justin Hurst and another game warden checked on night
Freeman sped away when the other game warden, who had seen a spotlight and
heard a gunshot, approached his pickup, officials say. The game warden
followed him. Justin Hurst, working at the other end of the county, later
joined in the chase.
Seven patrol cars belonging to the game wardens, Wharton County sheriff's
deputies, constables and Department of Public Safety troopers chased
Freeman for 90 minutes in a route that meandered all over Wharton County
and dipped into part of Colorado County. Toward the end of the pursuit,
Freeman's truck tires were punctured when he drove over spikes troopers
threw on the road.
Officials say Freeman then stopped his truck near a cemetery in Lissie,
where he got into a shootout with the officers. After Justin Hurst was
shot, Freeman tried to run but fell when officers shot him 4 times in the
legs and elbow, officials say.
Justin Hurst was flown to Houston, where he was pronounced dead at 1:42
a.m. March 17, minutes after the chase ended.
"The way he lost his life, there was no sense in that no sense
whatsoever," said friend Larry Janik, a nuisance control hunter for Texas
Parks and Wildlife who helps corral loose alligators.
"I was on the way home when I got the phone call. ... I don't get broken
up a lot, but I cried like a baby when I heard," Janik said.
A dead opossum was later found in the area where Freeman had been parked
when he first drew a game warden's attention.
Freeman had a history of only minor offenses before the shooting, such as
a drunken-driving arrest in Fort Bend County in 2005 and traffic
violations, Schneider said.
Freeman's family declined to comment.
He attended East Bernard High School, and his family has lived in Wharton
County for several generations. His father, Jim Freeman, has owned a
welding business in Lissie for 20 years.
To win a conviction, prosecutors must prove that Freeman intentionally
shot Justin Hurst.
A 'Super Cadet'
Freeman's case is the 1st death penalty trial in Wharton since 1979.
The last was the trial of Donald Lee Vignault, who was sentenced to death
for killing a Bay City convenience store clerk.
Vignault died on death row from lung cancer in 1997.
Justin Hurst, the married father of an infant boy, specialized in
waterfowl and alligators during his 12-year career with Texas Parks and
Wildlife. The Texas A&M University graduate worked at the J.D. Murphree
Wildlife Management Area in Port Arthur and the former Peach Point
Wildlife Management Area now named in his honor in Brazoria County.
When he enrolled in the Texas Game Warden Academy in 2002, he became known
as "Super Cadet" among his classmates.
Quiet and softspoken, Justin Hurst was devoted to his family, friends
said. His parents had moved to El Campo to join him and his wife several
months before his death.
"He's a person who will be missed around our area for a long time," Janik
(source: Houston Chronicle)
US Supreme Court asked to review Black Panther death sentence
The state of Pennsylvania has asked the US Supreme Court to review a lower
court's decision to overturn the death sentence of former Black Panther
Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted for the 1981 murder of a police
officer, judicial sources said Monday.
The Supreme Court and Abu-Jamal's lawyer Robert Bryan confirmed Monday
that the appeal was lodged in early October.
Since Abu-Jamal's conviction and death sentence, the case has become a
focus for civil rights activists who contend racism was involved when he
was found guilty by an overwhelmingly white jury for the 1981 shooting of
Philadelphia policeman Daniel Faulkner.
Abu-Jamal's death sentence was overturned in March by a federal court in
Philadelphia, which found that the jury in the case had been incorrectly
instructed. The judges voted 2-to-1 to uphold his conviction, however.
On October 6 the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Abu-Jamal that it
hear arguments for holding a new trial in the murder case.
(source: Agence Frnace Presse)
Death penalty in the spotlight --- As Brooks case winds down, Addison
trial gets underway
When prosecutors begin to ask jurors on Thursday to execute John "Jay"
Brooks, it will open up a new page in the history of capital punishment in
The law being used for this death penalty trial was rewritten in 1990 and
has never been used before.
Brooks, 56, of Las Vegas has hired one of the top death penalty experts in
the country, David Bruck, to defend him in what is expected to be a nearly
Brooks was found guilty of 2 counts of capital murder last Thursday.
As the Brooks case reaches the death penalty phase, a second case begins
tomorrow in Manchester against Michael Addison, 28, accused in the 2006
fatal shooting of Manchester police Officer Michael Briggs.
Barbara Keshen, a lawyer for the New Hampshire American Civil Liberties
Union, said New Hampshire may have never had a week like this one, with 2
capital murder cases happening simultaneously.
New Hampshire last had a death penalty trial in 1959. The last execution
happened by hanging in 1939.
"It's this vortex of bad news for those people who are opposed to the
death penalty and who value human life," Keshen said.
In response to the trials, the New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the
Death Penalty has been holding biweekly vigils in front of the Statehouse.
In January, lawmakers will push for a study commission in an effort to see
whether the death penalty should be abolished or expanded. Whatever the
outcome, it will have no bearing on the Addison and Brooks cases,
according to lawmakers.
Starting this week, the same jury that sat on Brooks' murder trial will
ultimately decide whether he will die by lethal injection or spend the
rest of his life behind bars.
Brooks spent 2 years planning the murder of his former mover, Jack Reid,
57, of Derry. He finally hired a group of men in June 2005 to lure Reid to
an isolated horse farm, where he was bludgeoned to death with a hammer.
Brooks paid the men thousands of dollars in advance and promised them more
once the murder was done.
Now Brooks faces his sentencing trial for his conviction. The jury's
verdict for death has to be unanimous, otherwise Brooks will be sentenced
to life in prison.
"All the defense has to do is convince one person," Manchester lawyer
Larry Vogelman said.
Vogelman is representing a death row inmate in Georgia, pro bono, in his
fight to stop his pending execution.
Even with a new team of lawyers coming in to fight the death penalty phase
of the trial, he said Brooks will face an uphill battle because their
"That's always a chore even if a different lawyer does it," Vogelman said.
"It's the same client. You have a lawyer who pursued the defense of 'I'm
innocent,' so it's hard for them hearing them say, 'I'm sorry.'"
But Judge Robert Lynn doesn't exactly agree with that assessment.
On Friday, he ordered the state to call in a half dozen of its witnesses
before the death penalty trial begins to determine whether the jury will
ever see them. Lynn said he is concerned that claims Brooks is using his
personal wealth to either solicit or carry out inmate beatings may be
based on too much innuendo.
"I'm skeptical about a lot of this and whether it shows what it says it
shows," Lynn said. "But the state is entitled to demonstrate that. I want
the witnesses here so I can hear and see them."
If Lynn lets prosecutors move forward with their case intact, they will
then have to convince the jury that Brooks committed at least two
Those factors will include a theory that he would be too dangerous to keep
alive, even behind bars, because he could use his wealth to carry out
Prosecutors claim there are at least two instances where Brooks solicited
a man to be beaten while in jail.
Assistant Attorney General Karen Huntress said Friday that Brooks has
demonstrated a history of violent behavior that has only escalated over
One witness to such behavior is Jason L'Etoile of Londonderry. He
allegedly was targeted by Brooks in 1994 after Brooks accused him of
stealing money from his home. Huntress said Michael Keller of Derry was
offered $5,000 to kidnap L'Etoile, bind him with duct tape and leave him
in the back of a U-Haul truck for Brooks.
"He was also given the impression that Jason L'Etoile would not be allowed
to go free," Huntress said.
Brooks was never charged for the alleged kidnapping solicitation.
Secondly, prosecutors will ask the jury to hear testimony from Reid's
family about the impact of his death.
Defense lawyers will present "mitigating factors," which could include
anything from Brooks' past, such as background or considerations about his
Even though the jury found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,
individual jurors could still have lingering doubts about ordering his
execution, according to Vogelman.
Bruck, the defense lawyer, is arguing much of the state's case should be
thrown out because it cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. He said
Brooks doesn't have the history of a career criminal like others tried in
"It's used with tough, violent, dangerous people with rap sheets as long
as your arm," Bruck said. "We don't have any of that here."
He said the state's evidence about Brooks' behavior in jail is ambiguous
No matter what unfolds over the next 2 weeks, the trial will be closely
watched by death penalty opponents and proponents alike.
Keshen and other legal experts said there's no telling what bearing, if
any, a death penalty verdict in Brooks' case might have on Addison's.
"Anyone who would say anything about it is guessing," she said. "Once
there's a precedent, does it make it easier for the second because it's
not the first? I don't know.
"I think that a lot of people before this last week were in denial. I had
legislators say to me in committees last year when we were speaking in
favor death penalty study commission bill that it would be hypothetical
that New Hampshire would ever to have to deal with the death penalty. It's
beyond shocking to think there's one case where, on Thursday afternoon, a
jury finds one man guilty of capital murder and on Monday there's the 2nd
trial starting. For any of us who are in the legal profession, it's just
(source: Eagle Tribune)
Tallahassee Man On Trial: Could Face Death Penalty
Jury selection is underway in a Tallahassee murder trial and those jurors
may be asked to decide if Selvin Daniels deserves the death penalty.
28 year old Selvin Daniels is accused of brutally killing 39 year old Lisa
Hamilton back in June of 2005.
Tallahassee police say Daniels beat her and slit her throat and left her
for dead in the kitchen of a home on Russell Street.
Witnesses say the 2 were arguing over drugs when they saw Daniels drag
Hamilton inside kicking and screaming.
Testimony in the case is slated to begin on Wednesday.
If Daniels is convicted, prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty.
(source: WCTV News)
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