[Deathpenalty] [SPAM] death penalty news----FLA., VA., MINN., CALIF., ARK.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Sat Aug 13 11:48:57 CDT 2011
FLORIDA----female faces death penalty
State to seek death penalty in mother's murder case
Prosecutors notified Julie Schenecker's public defender Friday that they will
seek the death penalty for the 50-year-old Tampa mother accused of fatally
shooting her 2 teenage children on Jan. 27.
The Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office would not comment on the
decision, but the death penalty had been a consideration since her arrest. The
Public Defender's Office named attorney Robert Fraser to represent Schenecker
partly because he is certified by the state for death penalty cases.
A Florida statute lists 15 "aggravators" that prosecutors can present in
support of the death penalty. Juries weigh those against "mitigators" presented
by the defense.
Some Tampa lawyers said Friday that prosecutors could present several possible
aggravators in the case against Schenecker. They could argue that the shootings
were premeditated, that they were committed simultaneously, that the victims
were children and that Schenecker was their caretaker.
"Those 4 are very strong," said attorney Lyann Goudie, "and only one aggravator
can do it."
At the time of the shootings, Schenecker was being treated for depression,
bipolar disorder and substance abuse. Detectives found numerous prescribed
medications in the house. A close friend told them that the medicines were not
Fraser, Schenecker's public defender, hasn't indicated which mitigators he
would cite or whether he will use an insanity defense. One Tampa defense
attorney, Grady Irvin, believes that may be her best defense. "Mental state is
always an issue," he said.
He said that most people watching TV accounts of the slayings asked themselves,
"What mother would kill her child?" And when they saw her in custody — eyes
rolled back, shaking uncontrollably — he said they probably concluded, "She
must be crazy."
Schenecker's children were slain after school — Calyx, 16, was shot at a
computer, then wheeled in a chair to her bed; Beau, 13, was found still belted
into the family van, shot in the head, his blood-stained glasses removed and
propped on the dashboard. Their mother was found lying in the patio,
Their father, Parker Schenecker, an Army colonel, was deployed to the Middle
East. He said his wife struggled with mental health problems throughout their
marriage. They are now divorced.
People who have bipolar disorder rarely commit murder, but Irvin said the
defense might try to show that the disorder or her medications created a
psychosis at the time that left Schenecker unable to understand what she was
doing or that it was wrong.
"The trial," he said, "is going to be a battle of medical experts."
(source: St. Petersburg Times)
Friday WVTF, a National Public Radio affiliate covering most of Virginia
broadcast the commentary below as part of Morning Edition:
Commentary on Jerry Terrell Jackson----By Jack Payden-Travers
This morning I mailed a thank you card to a dear friend. I won’t get to see him
before he dies and I wanted to let him know how much I will miss him. We’ve
know each other since I started working at a non-profit in Charlottesville. He
was one of the “clients” back in 2002.
I have since changed jobs, and earned another degree. Terrell is still right
where he was when we first became acquainted. He sits in a cell at Sussex 1
State Prison. He is known as inmate #1139512 and on the night of August 18th
Jerry Terrell Jackson will become the 109th victim to be executed by the
Prison regulations forbid me from visiting him. On death row only immediate
family members and ministers are allowed. The strange thing is that from both
my point of view and Terrell’s, we are “family.” He sends me a Father’s Day
card each June and I send him Birthday and other celebratory cards. My wife and
I do the same for our grown children and now grandkids.
He turned 30 last month, a year younger than our daughter who has been a pen
pal of Terrell’s for almost 7 years and is flying home to be with me at a vigil
in front of Greensville prison in Jarratt on the execution night. It was she
who first asked my wife to write to him on her behalf while she was doing
volunteer work in Guatemala.
Christine, an Episcopal priest has since become a spiritual guide to this young
man. She will be the one to walk with him at the death house. I worry about
what that experience will do to her. I don’t know that I would have the
strength. On that night I am certain she will be repeating to herself one of
her favorite Biblical passages where Jesus talks about gathering the children
together “as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings.”
But Terrell did not have a mother who protected her children. None of the
advantages of growing up like my children in a white middle-class family. He
didn’t have grandparents who could take him to Disney Land.
3 years ago I sat through a hearing in Federal Court in Alexandria where
witness after witness described the horrors of physical abuse that Terrell was
subjected to as a child. His natural father broke Terrell’s arm when he was a
baby. His stepfather repeatedly beat him with a 2x4 and although the school
records showed evidence of this abuse he was not removed from the home. The
nurse was not called to testify at his capital trial. In 2010 Judge Brinkema
ruled that Mr. Jackson should get a new sentencing phase of his capital trail
because of all the errors and ineffective assistance of counsel that he had at
trial. She was overruled this year on a technicality by the Fourth Circuit.
Unless Governor McDonnell commutes his sentence to life-without-parole, Terrell
will die on August 18th.
In my card I told him that I wished to thank him for being a friend these last
9 years and I wanted to say goodbye by using the original words from which the
term is derived. I wrote “God be with Ye” Jerry Terrell Jackson. And in my mind
I can hear him replying when he reads my card: “And also with you.”
(source: WFTV--NPR; Jack Payden-Travers serves on the Board of Directors of the
National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and the Advisory Board of
Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. He resides in Lynchburg, VA
and works as the Executive Director of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax
Fund. He is a 2010 graduate of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding of
Eastern Mennonite University)
McDonnell says he won't stop Jackson execution
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said Friday he will not stop Thursday's scheduled
execution of a man who was convicted of raping and killing an elderly
McDonnell's action leaves the U.S. Supreme Court as the only hope for Jerry
Terrell Jackson, 30, who is scheduled to die by lethal injection at Greensville
"After conferring with the appropriate parties, as well as thoroughly reviewing
the clemency petition and the judicial opinions in this case, I find no
compelling reason to set aside the sentence of the jury, imposed and affirmed
by the courts," McDonnell said.
Jackson was convicted of the 2001 murder of 88-year-old Ruth Phillips.
His lawyers argue the jury in Jackson's trial was not given a complete picture
of the abuse he suffered as a child. The have argued that evidence of abuse
could have convinced jurors to spare Jackson's life.
Jackson's attorneys did not immediately offer a comment.
Unless the court blocks the execution, Jackson will be the 1st Virginia inmate
to die using a new drug protocol that replaces the sedative sodium thiopental
with pentobarbital in the 3-drug cocktail.
A nationwide shortage of sodium thiopental forced many states to substitute
pentobarbital, but some have questioned its use. Courts have ruled that the
change in drugs is not significant enough to postpone executions.
Jackson's attorneys have argued that his trial attorneys failed to present
evidence of his extreme abuse as a child, which could have convinced jurors to
spare his life. A federal judge agreed and ordered a new sentencing hearing for
Jackson last year, but the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals blocked that
hearing on a technicality in April.
Jackson admitted to police that he broke into Ruth Phillips' apartment on Aug.
26, 2001, and that he put a pillow over her face to try to make her pass out
once she awoke and caught him rummaging through her purse. He told police he
left in Phillips' car and used the $60 to buy marijuana. He said he had not
intended to kill Phillips.
At trial, Jackson said he lied to police and that an accomplice smothered
Phillips. He denied raping Phillips, but prosecutors presented pubic hairs
matching Jackson's DNA that were found around her body. He was convicted and
sentenced to death in 2003.
Phillips, a widow for 30 years, worked as a seamstress making slip covers and
draperies until her death.
(source: Daily Press)
Dorsey Selected to Receive ABA 2011 Exceptional Service Award
The international law firm of Dorsey & Whitney LLP is pleased to announce that
it will receive the American Bar Association’s 2011 Exceptional Service Award,
which recognizes the firm’s commitment to representing death row prisoners.
“Over the past 20 years, our lawyers have devoted tens of thousands of hours of
time and the firm has devoted hundreds of thousands of dollars in resources to
this cause. To be recognized by the ABA for our dedication to justice for all
is an honor.”
“Dorsey is delighted to have been selected for this prestigious award,” said
Perry Wilson, Dorsey’s Pro Bono Partner. “Over the past 20 years, our lawyers
have devoted tens of thousands of hours of time and the firm has devoted
hundreds of thousands of dollars in resources to this cause. To be recognized
by the ABA for our dedication to justice for all is an honor.”
The Exceptional Service Award is given as a part of the American Bar
Association’s (ABA) Death Penalty Representation Project. The ABA created the
Death Penalty Representation Project in 1986 to help ensure that every person
facing a possible death sentence receives a fair trial and quality legal
representation. Award criteria includes a firm’s commitment to pro bono death
penalty work through the number of cases handled; financial and hourly
commitment in ratio to its resources; attention paid to the death penalty
debate; significant impact on the justice system through legal victory,
legislation and/or litigation.
Dorsey was selected as an Exceptional Service Award winner based on its 20-year
history of providing pro-bono legal services to death row prisoners, primarily
in Louisiana, Alabama and Texas. Dorsey is currently handling death penalty
cases for three prisoners—one of whom has serious mental illness and two of
whom are mentally retarded.
Dorsey will be formally honored at an ABA awards ceremony on September 14, 2011
in Washington DC.
About Dorsey & Whitney LLP
Clients have relied on Dorsey since 1912 as a valued business partner. With 19
locations in the United States, Canada, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region,
Dorsey provides an integrated, proactive approach to its clients' legal and
business needs. Dorsey represents a number of the world's most successful
companies from a wide range of industries, including leaders in the financial
services, life sciences, technology, agribusiness and energy sectors, as well
as major non-profit and government entities.
(source: Business Wire)
Ruben Gaitan, Santa Ana Murderer from Case That Helped Lead to State Supreme
Court Chief Justice Rose Bird's Recall, Loses Latest Parole
?Way back in 1979, Ruben Gaitan was sentenced to 25 years to life in state
prison and his buddy Marcelino Ramos received the death penalty for shooting 2
workers execution-style in a Santa Ana Taco Bell's freezer room. One died.
Ramos, who told the pair "Say your prayers" before pulling the trigger, later
convinced the California Supreme Court to overturn his death sentence. Twice.
That so incensed Tony Rackauckas that Orange County's then-deputy district
attorney helped launch the successful recall campaigns of Chief Justice Rose
Bird and justices Cruz Reynoso and Joseph Grodin.
Ramos was one of death row's longest-serving inmates when he was found dead in
his San Quentin cell in January 2007. Prison officials say he died of natural
causes. He was 49.
?Yesterday, the Board of Parole Hearings of the California Department of
Corrections and Rehabilitations denied 54-year-old Gaitan's latest bid for
parole. Currently held at the California State Prison, Solano in Vacaville,
which is where the board also met, Gaitan is next eligible for a parole hearing
Senior deputy district attorney Brian Fitzpatrick appeared at the hearing to
oppose Gaitan's parole on grounds that he remains a serious threat to public
safety. Fitzpatrick pointed to Gaitan's failure to rehabilitate, as evidenced
by 47 prison rules violations (including making a sexual pass at a male prison
guard; lack of participation in therapy and self-help; and continued claims
minimizing his role in the crimes that put him away.
Those crimes were detailed in Sara Catania's 2002 OC Weekly story, "A Third
Reprieve," which was about Ramos' unsuccessful third attempt to get his death
The crime occurred just before 1 a.m. on June 3, 1979. High on amphetamines and
alcohol, Ramos went with Ruben Gaitan to rob a Taco Bell where Ramos worked as
a janitor. Following a plan mapped out earlier by Gaitan, Ramos went to the
back to check the work schedule while Gaitan handed the cashier a food order.
When Ramos re-emerged, he had a rifle under his jacket.
A co-worker, Kevin Pickrell, thought the weapon was a joke and began to laugh.
Ramos appeared flustered at this response and first told Pickrell to put his
hands up, then on his head, then on the counter. He then ordered Pickrell and
another employee, Kathryn Parrott, 20, to move into a walk-in refrigerator.
There, he had them kneel and, according to Pickrell, told them to "say your
prayers" before shooting them each in the back of the head. Parrott died
immediately; Pickrell survived.
Gaitan was originally convicted of murder and attempted murder. He's the one
who walked into the Taco Bell first, to distract Ramos' 2 co-workers. Gaitan
and Ramos fled the store with money. But in their attempts to get Ramos' death
penalty overturned, his defense has countered their client was borderline
retarded and his best friend was the militia-obsessed career criminal
mastermind of the robbery plot.
"It is a classic case of a mentally deficient individual with no criminal
history who, without the influence and domination of a more intelligent person,
would not have participated in a crime," Margo Rocconi, the deputy federal
public defender who represented Ramos, said in that 2002 piece. She was laying
the tracks for a defense based on a Supreme Court ban on executing the mentally
Countered Parrott's sister Melody Crooks in the same story, "He knew exactly
what he was doing. A retarded person in my mind doesn't sit and plot a murder
out. Their mind doesn't work that fast."
But Gaitan himself seemed to give the claim credence in a 1993 declaration
about his relationship with Ramos that was included in Catania's story.
"Our relationship was like one you would see in a movie," Gaitan said. "I was
the short guy who ran things; he was the brawny guy who implemented. . . . I
just made suggestions or asked questions, and Marcelino went along. He wanted
someone to give him meaning to his life. I was the only one consistently
available for that job." Gaitan continued, "Marcelino is not a cold-blooded
killer, nor did he plan to kill anyone. I bear more responsibility for what
happened than came out at trial. If anyone belongs on death row, I do."
Ramos' was among 70 death penalty sentences overturned by the Bird court
between 1978 and 1986. But it was also the Ramos case that lit a fire under
Rackauckas, despite Paul Meyer being the deputy district attorney who
prosecuted the original case. Orange County's future district attorney would
found California for a Responsible Supreme Court in 1980 and Crime Victims for
Court Reform in 1984, statewide groups that were hellbent on removing Bird.
She, Reynoso and Grodin were removed by California voters in 1986.
(source: Orange County Weekly Blog)
Arkansas Death Row Inmates Still Behind Lawsuit
Attorneys for death row inmates in Arkansas say part of their lawsuit over how
the state executes condemned prisoners is still valid, even though the state
has surrendered its supply of a key lethal-injection drug.
Their latest court filing says corrections officials could import more
unregulated drugs. Another hearing in the lawsuit is planned on Monday.
Arkansas hasn't put anyone to death since 2005 and has no pending executions.
(source: Associated Press)
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