[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----OHIO, USA, VA., N.C., FLA., CONN.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Tue Aug 2 11:38:27 CDT 2011
Convicted serial killer Anthony Sowell twice cries as defense team tries to
avoid death penalty----Sentencing phase of trial begins with psychologist
Convicted serial killer Anthony Sowell twice began to cry Monday as a clinical
psychologist described Sowell's home life and possible brain injury that could
have impaired his judgement.
Sowell was convicted of murdering 11 women and burying their bodies at his
Imperial Avenue home.
The sentencing phase of the trial began Monday morning with testimony from Dr.
Dale Watson, who suggested that Sowell may have suffered a brain injury
following a 2007 heart attack.
Watson performed a series of 45 to 50 tests over a period of 19 hours last
In one test, Watson found that it took Sowell considerably longer to reassemble
a 10-piece puzzle while blindfolded and told the jury that it suggests Sowell
has a moderate brain disorder. Another test showed Sowell had an 86 IQ.
He also quoted Sowell as telling him that he feels depressed and "sad most of
the time and guilty over many things" he has done.
Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Rick Bombik suggested that "there could be
a lot of reason that make a person depressed, but at least one of them could be
being incarcerated for a year and being charged with 11 counts of aggravated
Sowell's defense attorney John Parker promised the jury that they would hear
testimony this week that would convince them that Sowell does not deserve to
die for crimes, but should be sentenced to life in prison without the
possibility of parole.
Testimony is expected to begin again Tuesday morning.
(source: Scripps Media)
USA (NEW YORK)----possible federal death penalty
Court put off for Fla. suspect in family killings
A Florida woman accused of arranging the 2009 killings of her husband and
mother-in-law is still waiting to hear whether New York prosecutors will seek
the death penalty.
Word had been expected by Tuesday but a court appearance for 54-year-old Narcy
Novack of Fort Lauderdale was postponed.
A federal prosecutor has been threatening since April to file a new charge,
murder in aid of racketeering. He's been waiting for the Justice Department to
decide whether to seek the death penalty or life in prison.
Novack and her brother, 57-year-old Cristobal Veliz of Brooklyn, have pleaded
not guilty to charges they hired the killers of Bernice Novack in her Florida
home and Ben Novack in his New York hotel room.
Ben Novack's father built the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach.
(source: Associated Press)
Federal judge denies Va death-row appeal
A federal judge has denied a Virginia death-row inmate's appeal.
U.S. District James P. Jones ruled that Ivan Teleguz's claims are without
merit. Jones filed his ruling Monday in U.S. District Court in Roanoke.
Teleguz was sentenced to death for the 2001 slaying of Stephanie Sipe in
Harrisonburg. Another man who testified that Teleguz paid him $2,500 to kill
Sipe is serving a life term Another accomplice was sentenced to 15 years.
The Virginia Supreme Court rejected Teleguz's appeal in January 2010. He had
alleged his trial lawyer was ineffective. He also claimed the prosecution
unfairly denied him access to consular assistance from the Ukraine, his native
Rockingham County Commonwealth's Attorney Marsha Garst tells the Daily
News-Record (http://bit.ly/qcoqys ) that she's pleased with Jones' ruling.
(source: Associated Press
Death row appeal will test equality under law
Marcus Robinson, formerly of Cumberland County and now residing on North
Carolina's death row, is a killer. That's not in dispute. Neither is his
conviction for 1st-degree murder. His isn't that kind of appeal.
In fact, if someone were to testify that exculpatory evidence had been
suppressed, that testimony would be evaluated in a trial court, not the court
hearing for his appeal under the 2009 Racial Justice Act. If his appeal fails,
he will remain on death row. If it succeeds, he'll be moved to another part of
the prison and live out his life there. The Racial Justice Act provides no
The burden of proof is on Robinson. What he must prove to the court's
satisfaction is that race played a significant part in the decision to seek or
impose a death sentence.
Now that we're clear on what Robinson's appeal is not about, take a closer look
at what promises to be an interesting first test of the new law. We don't know
the facts, but this case could have been chosen for its simplicity, meaning its
lack of side issues and other encumbrances.
Robinson is African American. His victim was white.
Robinson's case for being resentenced to life without parole rests on data.
Statistics may, under the act, be considered by the court hearing the appeal.
The case poses t questions - 1 for the court, another for the public.
For the court: Can Robinson prevail using nothing but statistical evidence,
almost all of it culled from cases other than his own? If so, we may eventually
see a steady procession of inmates moving into standard cell blocks.
For the public and lawmakers: If the statistical evidence is strong, will we be
able to handle the truth that many death row inmates got a raw deal due to skin
color? Can we watch that procession and not fume and bluster about the
injustice of showing those inmates "preference" by preventing their racially
tainted death sentences from being carried out?
The questions are important because some of Robinson's evidence is powerful -
disparities so dramatic that scholars calculating odds and probabilities placed
them outside the realm of mere chance. An example: peremptory strikes that
effectively excluded qualified blacks from juries at a rate more than twice the
exclusion rate for qualified white prospects.
Robinson has had his trial. This one could prove to be ours.
(source: Editorial, Charlotte Observer)
N.C. Resident Questions State's Use of Death Penalty in Federal
Court----Lawsuit questions whether the death penalty is constitutional in a
state that is allegedly using questionable science to convict people.
N.C. resident Donna Pilch filed a lawsuit in federal court which questions
whether it is constitutional for North Carolina to use the death penalty when
it is allegedly using questionable science and methods to convict people. The
lawsuit names Attorney General Roy Cooper as the defendant, because he is
responsible for the State Bureau of Investigation, which, according to an audit
done by a former FBI agent, has been using questionable science in its serology
(blood) and ballistics units.
A series of articles by the Raleigh News & Observer
(www.newsobserver.com/agents) revealed the SBI's questionable protocol, and
that Cooper ordered an audit of the SBI felony serology unit, but only for the
period of 1987-2003. According to the lawsuit, Cooper apparently did not order
an audit of the felony serology unit from 2003-present and he did not order an
audit of the SBI misdemeanor serology unit at all. Thus, classes of more
victims have yet to be identified and provided relief.
Donna Pilch claims that she became a victim of the SBI misdemeanor serology
unit in 2009 when a Department of Health employee tested what was purportedly
her blood sample, which was allegedly left at room temperature for over three
months. Standard scientific protocol requires that blood samples stored
long-term should be refrigerated at -20C, not room temperature. Ethanol (blood
alcohol) levels can double when kept at room temperature.
According to the lawsuit, an SBI notary stated that she administered oath to
the Department of Health blood tester, on February 14, 2009. But the test was
performed and dated January 15, 2009, almost one month earlier. And another
document from the Department of Health contains two different citation numbers;
neither of which were Pilch's.
The lawsuit cited that the SBI's questionable science and procedures were used
by Wake Court Judge Brewer to convict her, and Superior Court Judge in
Residence Donald Stephens then denied her Motion for Relief. She filed
complaints about both judges in federal court.
She hopes that the U.S. District court will order North Carolina to cease use
of the death penalty until the court system and SBI procedures are corrected to
ensure that there are no more unconstitutional convictions.
(source: PR Newswire)
Doctor: new Fla. Execution drug risky to inmate
A doctor testifying for a death row inmate says Florida's planned use of a new
lethal injection drug could cause extreme pain in executions.
Dr. David Waisel testified Tuesday that pentobarbital hasn't been sufficiently
tested to ensure an inmate is unconscious before deadly drugs are administered.
States are using the new drug because the previous well-tested drug is
Florida Supreme Court ordered Tuesday's hearing in the case of 61-year-old
Manuel Valle. He was convicted in the 1978 shooting death of Coral Gables
Police Officer Louis Pena.
Valle's scheduled execution was stayed for a month to allow arguments over
Florida's plan to use pentobarbital. The drug has been used in other states but
never in Florida.
Circuit Judge Jacqueline Hogan Scola must rule on Valle's execution challenge
Judge hearing challenge to Fla. execution drug
A judge in Miami will hear a challenge to the state's planned use of a new
The Florida Supreme Court last month ordered the hearing in the case of
61-year-old Manuel Valle, convicted in the 1978 shooting death of Coral Gables
police officer Louis Pena.
Valle's scheduled execution Tuesday was stayed for a month to allow arguments
over Florida's plan to use pentobarbital in place of another drug experiencing
Valle's lawyers contend he could feel pain or harm because the drug has never
been extensively tested on humans. It has been used in other states but never
in Florida. Pentobarbital renders a person unconscious.
Circuit Judge Jacqueline Hogan Scola must rule on Valle's execution challenge
(source for both: Associated Press)
Lawyers challenge survivor of Conn. home invasion
Relatives of a woman and two girls killed in a 2007 home invasion have
described one of the accused as "pure evil" and an "animal" in an effort to
ensure his execution, jeopardizing the defendant's right to a fair trial,
defense attorneys said in court papers unsealed Monday.
Despite the comments by Dr. William Petit and other relatives, Joshua
Komisarjevsky is not "pure evil," his attorneys wrote.
"He has displayed remorse, and his execution would not advance the ends of
justice, as that concept is defined in most of the civilized world," they
The attorneys say Komisarjevsky was abused as a child and is a "damaged human
being" who has "positive, redeeming attributes, which exist despite mental
disorder and the harm done by years of trauma and abuse."
Authorities say Komisarjevsky and co-defendant Steven Hayes killed Jennifer
Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 11-year-old Michaela and 17-year-old Hayley, in
their Cheshire home in 2007. William Petit was beaten with a baseball bat but
Hawke-Petit was strangled. The girls were tied to their beds, with gasoline
poured on or around them, before the house was set on fire, leading to their
deaths from smoke inhalation.
Hayes was convicted of sexually assaulting and strangling Hawke-Petit and of
killing the girls. He was sentenced to death last year.
A gag order has been imposed, but Komisarjevksy's attorneys asked the court to
unseal their statement. It comes as Komisarjevsky heads to trial next month.
Both men have blamed each other for escalating the crime, but prosecutors say
both are equally responsible. Each had offered to plead guilty in exchange for
life sentences, but prosecutors pressed for the death penalty for both men.
"Even now, with several years of hate and contempt directed at him and anyone
close to him, all Josh desires in terms of his case is a sentence of
incarceration for the remainder of his natural life in a maximum-security
prison, the best he can hope for notwithstanding the lack of intent to cause or
bring about the deaths of the victims in this case," his lawyers wrote.
They also said Petit and his relatives have invoked Mother Theresa and Mahatma
Gandhi, even though both were opponents of the death penalty.
Messages were left Monday with Petit's attorney and spokeswoman.
Komisarjevsky's attorneys also wrote that "there are reasons" why he was in the
Petit house that night which will soon be made public.
(source: Associated Press)
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