[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, ARK., CALIF., N.MEX.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Thu Aug 18 18:40:35 CDT 2011
Rick Perry By The Numbers
Amnesty International does not comment or take sides on elections. But everyone
knows that Rick Perry, Texas Governor for over a decade, is now running for
President. And everyone knows that during his tenure as Texas Governor, he has
presided over a lot of executions. The total now sits at 234 (40% of all US
executions carried out since Perry became Governor in December 2000).
Many folks also know that at least 1 of those, Cameron Todd Willingham, was
probably innocent, and that evidence of his innocence was ignored by Governor
Perry in the days and hours before Willingham was put to death. And that an
investigation into the dubious forensics that led to Willingham’s conviction
was sidetracked when Perry suddenly put Williamson County District Attorney
John Bradley in charge (Bradley is now being accused of withholding evidence of
innocence in a case in his home county).
But there have been other cases of possible innocence, and, as currently
scheduled, Perry’s 240th execution would be of Henry Skinner, a man whose
innocence claim the Lone Star State is refusing to examine.
BY THE NUMBERS
9 – The number of prisoners suffering severe mental illness who, according to a
2006 Amnesty International report, were put to death during the first half of
Rick Perry’s tenure
8 – The number of Texas prisoners who “volunteered” to be executed under Rick
7 – The number of foreign nationals executed under Rick Perry, most of whom
were denied their rights under U.S. treaty obligations
4 – The number of juvenile offenders executed under Rick Perry (before the U.S.
Supreme Court outlawed such executions in 2005)
2 – The number of men put to death under Rick Perry for crimes in which they
were not the killer
1 – The number of clemencies granted by Rick Perry that were not required by
(source: Amnesty International USA blog)
Speculation mounts on freedom for West Memphis 3
Big news is expected in circuit court in Jonesboro Friday morning when Judge
David Laser holds a hearing — just announced today — on the West Memphis 3
case. Families of defendants and victims are expected to be in court,
suggesting far more than routine procedural matters are at hand.
None of the interested parties are talking (lawyers are gagged), beyond saying
that those interested in the case will want to be present. But I began making
calls early this morning when I received a tip from a local attorney predicting
earth-shaking developments, perhaps release of the defendants.
The facts are well-known. Damien Echols, who is on death row, and Jason Baldwin
and Jessie Misskelley Jr., who are serving life sentences, were convicted in
the 1993 slaying of 3 West Memphis children — Christopher Byers, Stevie Branch
and Michael Moore. The trials, though marred by bogus claims of Satanism and
shoddy investigative tactics, had withstood appeals until recent developments
allowed examination of DNA evidence. To date, none of the DNA gathered in the
case has matched any of the defendants. That doesn't exonerate them, but it was
powerful new evidence that they weren't involved in the crime. Strong new
evidence also was introduced about potential jury misconduct, specifically
improper consideration of a statement made by one of the defendants. All that
prompted the Arkansas Supreme Court to order a new evidentiary hearing to see
whether the defendants were entitled to a new trial. Judge Laser was assigned
to hear the case. The previous judge, David Burnett, now is a state senator.
The evidentiary hearing was scheduled for December. The surprise hearing
tomorrow alone suggests a major development is at hand. The buzz in the defense
bar community is that the news is beyond major. Until now, Attorney General
Dustin McDaniel's office has fought vigorously against new proceedings for the
defendants and in support of their convictions. A development tomorrow in which
he joined in a defense suggestion would be momentous, indeed. Freedom for the
WM3? The speculation today includes that possibility, though questions are
numerous about how you'd reach such an outcome and, if it were to happen,
whether it would include pronouncements on guilt or innocence or state
The judge's office released this statement about Friday's hearing:
The court will take up certain matters pertaining to the cases of defendants
Baldwin, Echols and Misskelley on Friday, August 19. One session will be
conducted out of public presence with all defendants present and another
session will be conducted in open court. The session conducted in chambers will
likely begin at 10 a.m. followed by a public session which will begin about 11
a.m. Space will be limited for the public session — first to the parties,
counsel and court personnel, then to family members of the victims and family
members of defendants with remaining seating to be occupied by media
representatives and the public. There will be approximately 15 minutes between
the chamber session and open session for media and public to be seated. Miss
Stephanie Harris, Arkansas Supreme Court communication counsel, will be present
on Friday to assist with implementation and will be the court's intermediary
with public and press.
Mara Leveritt, our senior editor who's done groundbreaking reporting and who
wrote the book "Devil's Knot" about the case, will be in Jonesboro for
tomorrow's hearing. She has a subscription website at her homepage link for
UPDATE: An Arkansas Correction Department spokesman confirms that the three
defendants left the prison's Super Max unit today in the custody of Craighead
County officers for the hearing. The spokesman says the inmates took all their
possessions with them. She said inmates leaving with all possessions was
"unusual," but not unprecedented. She said it was the first time all three of
the defendants had left the prison together since their incarceration.
Scott Ellington, now prosecutor in the case, will be in court tomorrow, but is
also gagged, a spokesman said in response to a question about whether he still
favored fighting to keep the convictions in place. Actions by McDaniel and
Ellington both have political tentacles. McDaniel is to run for governor in
2014. Ellington has been weighing a race for Congress next year.
UPDATE II: A Memphis TV station reports that it has had sources confirm that an
agreement has been reached that would produce the release of two of the three
defendants, but hasn't yet provided other details. Our sources continue to
indicate the deal covers all three defendants and that one discussion included
the state agreeing to the motion for a new trial in return for an agreement
from defendants to plead to charges that would qualify them for release for
time served. By still having a conviction — a prospect the staunchest WM3
defenders can't stomach — the defendants would be unable to seek damages for
false imprisonment or to participate in profits from books or movies about the
case. A common plea bargain tactic is to allow a nolo contendere, or no contest
plea, to a criminal charge, which is a way of getting a conviction without an
admission of guilt. But it would be highly unusual 18 years after a conviction.
(soruce: Arkansas Times)
San Jose man charged with killing fellow inmate now facing death penalty
Frank Souza, serving a life sentence in San Quentin for the murder of a
homeless man in Willow...«123»A San Jose man already serving a life sentence
for murdering a homeless man in Willow Glen may now face the death penalty
after being charged with another killing.
Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against Frank Souza, 31, who has
been charged with murdering fellow San Quentin inmate Edward Schaefer, the man
who killed a Novato girl with his motorcycle, the Marin County District
Attorney said Wednesday.
Souza, 31, who is serving a sentence of 60 years to life for the murder of John
Carl Riggins in 2007, is eligible for capital punishment because he is charged
with two special circumstances: having a prior murder conviction, and "lying in
wait" to ambush Schaefer.
Prosecutors notified Souza's lawyer this week that they planned to pursue the
Souza's defense attorney, Gerald Schwartzbach, said the death penalty decision
is "irrational and fiscally irresponsible."
"One, he's never going to be released," Schwartzbach said. "Two, a capital
trial, and the preparation for a capital trial, is enormously more expansive,
consumes a great deal more time, money and resources.
"Even if the prosecution were successful and obtained the death verdict, Mr.
Souza would likely be on death row -- if the death penalty were to survive as a
penalty -- 20 to 25 years."
District Attorney Ed Berberian said there is still the possibility of parole in
Souza's prior murder case, or some unforeseen development in the courts.
"It's never easy to seek the death penalty on anyone, but he is someone who has
killed before," Berberian said. "He's responsible, clearly, for the deaths of 2
individuals, and I just cannot find that there are mitigating circumstances."
Souza is accused of stabbing Schaefer seven times in a prison yard on July 26,
2010. The attack occurred less than two weeks after Schaefer started his prison
sentence for killing 9-year-old Melody Osheroff and maiming her father in a
Novato crosswalk during a drunken ride in 2009.
"All I got to say is, 9-year-old girl," Souza said after Schaefer's slaying,
according to grand jury testimony by a prison Officer William Eberly.
Schaefer, who was convicted of murder, manslaughter and other charges, was not
eligible for the death penalty.
Schaefer had just arrived at San Quentin from Marin County on July 16 with a
24-years-to-life sentence for 2nd-degree murder and gross vehicular
manslaughter while intoxicated, according to prison officials. Schaefer was
attacked in the prison's reception center yard and stabbed in the neck and
chest with a "bone crusher," a piece of metal fashioned out of bunk bed parts
or other objects and shaped like a knife, according to previous news reports.
Souza had been in and out of prison for a variety of crimes in Santa Clara
County before receiving a life sentence in 2009 for first degree murder and
second-degree robbery. He served an 18-month sentence in 1998 for grand theft,
a 2-year sentence in 1999 for receiving stolen property a four-year sentence in
2002 for threatening a prosecution witness with force and violence.
On Aug. 29, 2007, Souza -- who was also homeless --had been drinking and doing
drugs at a house on Curtiss Avenue, about four blocks east of Lincoln Avenue,
when he and two men walked toward downtown Willow Glen. Souza stole Riggins'
mountain bike parked in front of the Le Boulanger restaurant at Lincoln and
Minnesota avenues and later got into a violent confrontation, which led to
Riggins being killed across the street in a back alley.
The coroner's report says Riggins had many abrasions and contusions, but the
cause of death was blunt trauma to the head and manual strangulation.
Souza, who had distinctive tattoos of a club, heart, diamond and spade on his
face when he was sentenced Jan. 12, 2010, has since added more ink to his body.
A mug shot provided by prison officials shows a smiling Souza with the words
"White power" emblazoned across his forehead.
(source: Bay Area News Group)
Supreme Court sets hearing on questions about death penalty in Michael
Astorga's murder case
The state Supreme Court will consider whether New Mexico can impose the death
penalty on an Albuquerque man for killing a Bernalillo County sheriff's deputy.
The court on Thursday scheduled a hearing for Sept. 1 on legal questions about
the upcoming sentencing of Michael Astorga for the 2006 killing of Deputy James
Astorga's lawyer says the repeal of the death penalty in 2009 should be
considered by a jury in deciding whether to sentence his client to death or
life in prison. Astorga was convicted last year.
The court directed lawyers to submit arguments about a state statute that says
after a criminal penalty is reduced by a change in law, the amended penalty is
to be applied to those not previously sentenced.
(source: Associated Press)
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