[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., OHIO, NEB., ARK., MONT.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Thu Aug 25 10:24:57 CDT 2011
Death penalty on the table in murder case
2 defendants could face the death penalty when they go to trial next year in
the December, 2006 killing of Seguin resident Vicente "Vincent" Garcia.
Guadalupe County District Attorney Heather McMinn said potential for capital
punishment remains in play for Ronnie Lynn James Jr. and Charles B. Harris, who
are charged with killing Garcia. The victim, 29, went missing Dec. 23, 2006.
His body was found in Cibolo Creek off Scull Crossing near New Berlin on Jan.
2 other defendants, Beatrice Veronica Giles, 40, and her father, Maurice
Singletary, 60, face first-degree felony allegations of criminal conspiracy to
commit capital murder.
McMinn said all four defendants would likely face trial in 2012. All remain in
custody or in prison in other cases. Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Darrell
Hunter set bail on each at $1.5 million. James, 32, and defense attorney
William Maynard III appeared in 2nd 25th Judicial District Judge W.C.
Kirkendall's courtroom Wednesday for a pre-trial status hearing on capital
murder and conspiracy to commit capital murder allegations.
Harris, who faces the same charges, will next be in court on Sept. 6.
If convicted on the capital murder charges, there are only 2 possible outcomes:
life in prison without parole or death by lethal injection. Conviction for a
1st degree felony carries a sentence of between 5 and 99 years in state prison.
McMinn said her office is reviewing its options as the cases progress.
"We haven't filed an election to seek the death penalty," McMinn said. "It's
still on the table and it's something we'll be considering as we move closer to
Garcia, last seen by his family on Dec. 22, 2006, was reported missing by his
family, who told Seguin police there was no way he wouldn't spend Christmas
with his children unless something bad had happened to him.
Police launched an intensive investigation that included a search for Garcia's
body along the Guadalupe River.
Ultimately, it would be found in another part of the county in a different body
of water - the Cibolo Creek, which serves as the border between Guadalupe and
Wilson and Bexar counties.
The body was found weighted in the water on the Wilson County side of the
creek, but Guadalupe County Sheriff Arnold Zwicke took on the investigation
because he believed the killing had likely taken place within his own
jurisdiction in retribution for Garcia's cooperation with authorities in local
A years-long effort by Guadalupe County Sheriff's Investigator Sgt. Craig Jones
appeared to bear that theory out.
"The victim was to testify in a case against Beatrice Giles, and we believe
that was the case," Zwicke said at a December news conference. "These 4 people,
her boyfriend at the time, Charles Harris, her cousin, Ronnie James and her
father, Maurice Singletary, all participated either in the homicide itself or
taking care of things and trying to hide evidence after it happened."
All the alleged players were well known to law enforcement, as was the victim.
"They've been around the block with law enforcement before, and these were some
hard-core people who needed to be off the streets of Guadalupe County," Zwicke
said, thanking McMinn's office for its support of the investigation.
Jones reported in court documents that Garcia's family believed from the start
that the disappearance was due to Garcia's aid to law enforcement.
"I learned that Garcia previously served as a confidential informant in certain
criminal cases in/around the Seguin area," Jones wrote. "His service as a
confidential informant led to the successful indictment and prosecution of over
15 narcotics offenders."
One of them was Giles, and she wasn't happy about it, according to the
"Giles told others she would pay to have Garcia killed; she knew Garcia was the
snitch on her criminal cases; and she was looking for someone to kill Garcia,"
Garcia was at a home in the Meadowlake subdivision the night of Dec. 22, 2006,
and James, Jones reported, stayed for a few hours, " ... coming and going to
buy cocaine for Garcia and others at the house."
Sometime before dawn the morning of Dec. 23, 2006, witnesses saw Garcia leave
the gathering with James in a borrowed pickup truck, Jones wrote. After a
number of interviews, the investigator reported, James acknowledged his role in
Garcia's death, telling authorities he drove Garcia to a supposed drug buy. At
a roadside meeting at a location investigators have not disclosed, Jones
reported Harris shot and killed Garcia.
After the shooting, James told Jones he drove the pickup to Singletary's
property, where they tried to clean up evidence, including the blood of the
Tests by the Department of Public Safety crime lab confirmed the victim's blood
was found in the vehicle, Zwicke said.
It has been impounded ever since.
(source: Seguin Gazette-Enterprise)
Tx. executions under Gov. Perry------------total Tx. executions
Sept. 13--237--Steven Woods-----------------------------474
Sept. 15--238--Duane Buck--------------------------------475
Sept. 20--239--Cleve Foster-------------------------------476
Sept. 21--240--Lawrence Brewer-------------------------477
Oct. 27---241--Frank Garcia------------------------------478----50%
Nov. 9----242--Hank Skinner------------------------------479----50 + %
(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)
Manuel Valle execution set for Sept. 6
Florida officials are scheduled to put Manuel Valle to death on Sept. 6 at 6
p.m. after the Florida Supreme Court yesterday approved the state’s new lethal
injection drug cocktail.
Valle has spent more than 3 decades on death row and has avoided execution
through a series of appeals, reversals and other legal wranglings that
eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned his death penalty.
In all, courts have re-sentenced Valle to death three times.
Valle, who was born in Cuba, was sentenced to death for the 1978 murder of a
Coral Gables police officer, Louis Pena. Valle, now 61, shot Pena after the
police officer pulled him over on a routine traffic stop.
The state’s highest court put the execution, originally ordered by Gov. Rick
Scott for Aug. 2, back on track on Tuesday with an order approving the state’s
new lethal injection drug protocol.
The court in July halted the execution and ordered a hearing on the Department
of Corrections’ new drug – pentobarbital – substituted for a drug no longer
manufactured and used as the 1st of the 3-drug lethal injection “cocktail.”
On Tuesday, the court approved the new protocol, saying it did not pose a
substantial risk of harm to the inmate. Valle’s lawyers argued that
pentobarbital, also known as Nebutal, may not render him unconscious, thus
subjecting him to undue pain induced by the following drugs used in the
But the Supreme Court agreed with three other federal courts who also found no
credible evidence that administering the drug in the method proscribed – 10
times the dosage required for sedation – would not render Valle unconscious.
Pentobarbital is also used in animal euthanasia and assisted suicide, but its
manufacturer has asked prison officials as well as Scott not to use it to kill
Lawyers for Valle are still pursuing a challenge against lethal injection in
federal court and other appeals, including with the U.S. Supreme Court.
Doubt even with cop killer
Florida's Catholic bishops have asked Gov. Scott not to sign a 2nd death
warrant for Manuel Valle. They are right, but not for the reason they cite.
Valle's case shows why the death-penalty debate can be so maddening. He has
been on Florida's Death Row for 31 years, after killing a Coral Gables police
officer and trying to kill another. The facts never have been in dispute, yet
Valle has tried every imaginable appeal, even to claiming that as a Cuban
national his diplomatic rights were violated. The appeal that got Valle a stay
of his scheduled Aug. 2 execution until Sept. 1 was the claim that because
Florida 6 weeks ago changed a drug used in lethal injection, the state's method
of capital punishment had become cruel and unusual.
On Tuesday, the Florida Supreme Court disagreed. The bishops, among them Gerald
Barbarito of the Diocese of Palm Beach, then wrote the governor, asking him to
spare Valle's life. "Killing someone because they killed diminishes respect for
life and promotes a culture of violence and vengeance," the letter said. "We
affirm the right and duty of the State to assure public safety and punish the
guilty by incarceration, which allows the inmate an opportunity for reflection
on their offenses and sorrow for the pain they have caused others."
We appreciate the bishops' moral argument. A better legal point is one the
American Bar Association cited in its 2006 indictment of Florida's death
penalty system: The hybrid method of sentencing is a serious flaw. Juries
recommend, but judges decide. Juries must be unanimous for conviction, but can
recommend death with a simple majority. On Valle - a prior felon who killed a
police officer - the jury split 8-4.
If fallibility won't prompt Florida to give up the death penalty, requiring
unanimity to convict and to execute should be the legal and moral standard.
(source: Randy Schultz, for The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board)
Convicted murderers indicted in fellow inmate's death
2 state prison inmates serving life sentences for murder could face the death
penalty if convicted in the slaying of another inmate. On Wednesday morning, a
Bradford County grand jury indicted William “Crawfish” Wells and Wayne C.
“Tazz” Doty on first-degree murder charges in connection with the May 17 death
of Xavier Rodriguez. Wells is already serving six life sentences, and Doty is
The victim was serving a 10-year prison term.
All 3 men were inmates on K-Wing at Florida State Prison, a men’s prison
operated by the Florida Department of Corrections.
Xavier Rodriguez was found stabbed to death, investigators said. Although
Rodriguez was serving a 10-year prison sentence, he had been transferred to FSP
— one of the state’s most secure prisons — for disciplinary reasons, according
to prison records.
Rodriguez was sentenced to 10 years in prison in August 2006 after being
convicted of robbery with a deadly weapon. Prison records show Rodriguez spent
time in 5 state prisons before being transferred to FSP in February 2010.
The records also showed that his many disciplinary issues while in prison
included fighting, extortion, possession of gang paraphernalia and disobeying
Wells, 35, a former shrimper and fisherman, made national headlines in 2003
when he told reporters he wanted to be put to death after being accused of
killing his wife, her father and brother and two other people at his home in
Wells claimed he accidentally shot his wife, then killed the four other adults
over several days as they came to his home in the little fishing village.
Wells was found guilty of all 5 murders and sentenced to 5 life terms in
In 2008, while being held in a South Florida prison, Wells was convicted and
sentenced to a sixth life sentence for an attempted murder while behind bars.
Doty, 38, was sentenced to life in prison in 1996 for a murder conviction in
Immediately after the indictments were handed down, State Attorney Bill Cervone
said he was considering seeking the death penalty in the case.
Cervone’s decision might be made by the time the men are arraigned, possibly in
early to mid-September.
(source: Gainesville Sun)
Ohio Supreme Court sets 2 execution dates for 2013
The Ohio Supreme Court has set 2 execution dates for 2013, the furthest into
the future the court has ever scheduled death penalty procedures.
The announcement Thursday brings to 10 the number of executions scheduled from
September through May 2013.
But uncertainty hangs over those dates because of a shortage of the drug Ohio
uses to put inmates to death and because of questions about how well the state
follows its execution procedures.
The court set a March 6, 2013 date for Frederick Treesh, sentenced to die for
killing a security guard at an adult bookstore in Cleveland in 1994.
The court also set a May 1, 2013 date for Steven Smith, sentenced to death for
raping and killing his girlfriend's 6-month-old daughter in 1998.
(source: Associated Press)
Panel Rejects Death Row Inmate's Appeal----John Lotter Convicted In 1993
A federal appeals panel has rejected Nebraska death-row inmate John Lotter's
attempt to appeal his conviction in the triple murder that inspired the 1999
film "Boys Don't Cry."
In a judgment released Tuesday, 2 members of a 3-judge panel of the 8th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the appeal. The third, U.S. Judge Kermit Bye,
disagreed, saying he would have allowed the appeal based on 5 claims by Lotter.
Lotter was convicted in the 1993 slayings of Teena Brandon and 2 others in a
farmhouse near Humboldt. Lotter has maintained he is innocent. He claims that,
among other things, the state used a threat of torture to coerce accomplice
Thomas Nissen into lying about the killings.
Earlier this year, a federal judge denied Lotter's appeal.
(source: KETV News)
'West Memphis 3' case shows we see what we expect to see
Last week, the "West Memphis 3" were released from prison, having spent half
their lives 18 years behind bars for crimes they almost certainly didn't
commit. So what made prosecutors and investigators sure they had the right
guys, and why were those beliefs, once established, so hard to reverse?
The crimes for which the 3 Memphis men were convicted were brutal. Three
8-year-old Cub Scouts were found dead, hogtied and apparently mutilated.
The police decided early on that it was likely the boys had been victims of a
satanic cult killing, which led them to consider self-described Wiccan teen
Damien Echols, a young man with asymmetric black hair, a pale face and oddball
taste in clothes and music. They hauled in an acquaintance of his, a minor
named Jessie Misskelley, who had an IQ of 72, and interviewed him for hours
without his parents or an attorney present. Finally, he confessed, implicating
Echols and another friend, Jason Baldwin.
The confession confirmed what police expected to hear — that Echols was
involved — which may be why they accepted it at face value. But Misskelley's
account contradicted the evidence in multiple ways. The time he initially gave
for the murders was noon, an hour for which the other teens had an ironclad
alibi (they were in school); he said that the other suspects raped the boys,
but there was no medical evidence consistent with rape; he said the boys were
tied up with a brown rope, when they were actually found tied with their own
An overarching problem, which this case illustrates perfectly, is that humans
tend to see what they expect to see. Much psychological research shows that
people are subject to an array of "cognitive biases" that affect their
evaluation of evidence, and prosecutors and sworn officers are by no means
immune to the phenomenon.
Investigators and prosecutors, even when they are trying their best to do their
jobs, may seek out or take special notice of evidence that confirms their prior
beliefs rather than evidence that challenges it. And they are likely to
interpret ambiguous evidence in ways that accord with their preconceptions.
Misskelley promptly recanted his confession. But prosecutors nonetheless
pressed the case, and he and the others were ultimately convicted.
The prosecutor's case was based largely on character assassination, innuendo
and the not-very-credible testimony of the likes of a jailhouse snitch and a
witness with a mail-order doctorate.
Not a shred of physical evidence linked any of the young men to the crime scene
(and post-conviction DNA testing has also failed to find any biological
evidence that they were there). Echols received the death penalty, the others
That's how things might have ended if two documentary filmmakers hadn't
ventured to Arkansas to make a film about the case. Initially they thought they
would be examining a sensational satanic cult killing. But the more research
they did, the more they began to doubt that it was a cult killing and that the
men who were convicted were the perpetrators. Their film suggested the
defendants had been railroaded, and it led to widespread publicity and
higher-powered legal representation.
But nothing happened quickly. The film, "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at
Robin Hood Hills," came out 15 years ago. Even now, to win freedom, the 3 men
agreed to Alford pleas, whereby they proclaimed their innocence but formally
pleaded guilty nonetheless.
The case demonstrates the need for criminal justice and evidentiary reforms
that would make wrongful convictions less common on the front end.
Although releasing some fraction of those wrongfully convicted afterward is all
to the good, it would be even better if there were fewer of them in the first
So what produces wrongful convictions? At least 3 of the often-seen causes were
present here: dubious forensic science evidence, false confessions, and
evidence from unreliable jailhouse informants who often have a strong incentive
to tell law enforcers what they want to hear.
Cognitive bias helps explain why prosecutors can focus on a suspect (or 3) and
fail to see the warning signs that they are headed down the wrong path.
Cognitive bias is not the same thing as racial bias or personal animus. It's
the habit of our brains to let the first fact we encounter guide our evaluation
of the 2nd and the 3rd. One false start can lead to a miscarriage of justice
more quickly than any of us would like to believe.
In this case, once the cops saw Echols as something of a freak, an odd duck who
read about witchcraft, liked Metallica and didn't exactly fit in, the jump from
weirdo to likely satanic cult killer was easier than it should have been. Facts
that didn't really prove anything were lumped together with suspicions and
We can't eliminate cognitive biases altogether; they're part of how we think.
But we can design procedures to reduce their effects on investigators,
prosecutors and even jurors. For example, in every major case, an investigator
or prosecutor with no prior involvement could be asked to review the evidence
and assess its strengths and weaknesses.
Even better would be if this reviewer weren't expected to provide a "neutral"
review but instead were assigned the role of devil's advocate. In this case,
the filmmakers played an equivalent role, but most defendants aren't so lucky.
If this high-profile release helps spur thoughtful attention to the problems of
combating cognitive bias in police departments and prosecutors' offices, then
some good could still come out of a terrible wrong. Not only do bad convictions
put innocent people behind bars; they also leave actual criminals — in this
case a child murderer — on the streets.
(source: Opinion, Jennifer L. Mnookin is a professor at UCLA Law School----Los
ACLU, Montana spar over death penalty issue
The Montana ACLU plans to file an amended complaint to a lawsuit against the
state's latest death penalty policy.
The ACLU says the new protocol doesn't require sufficient training or ensure
that prisoners won't suffer.
But the state is standing by its lethal injections procedure.
Currently there are 2 inmates on death row at the Montana State Prison in Deer
Lodge, William Gollehon and Ronald Allen Smith.
The ACLU's original lawsuit was filed in 2008 on behalf of Smith, who has been
on death row for the past 26 years. He pleaded guilty to the killing of 2 men
near Marias Pass in 1982.
The suit is challenging Montana's execution process, claiming that it violates
the U.S. Constitution's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. Anytime a
death warrant is issued, the state Department of Corrections says it reviews
the process to make any updates or changes; the last review was in 2006.
According to the Legal Services Bureau Chief Colleen Ambrose, the latest
revision, conducted by retired Warden Mike Mahoney, mainly clarifies the
wording of the procedure.
Ambrose said, "We've always had somebody who was at minimum EMT-certified. And
so we just added that into the protocol to make sure that that's what we're
However, the protocol recently allowed the substitution of another drug,
pentobarbital, to be used as the fast-acting barbiturate. That's because the
drug that has been used in the past is no longer being manufactured.
Ambrose explained, "And in that process they just indicate that you can either
use sodium thiopental if it's available or another fast acting barbiturate. And
the one that we chose was pentobarbital."
Attorney Ronald Waterman is working with the ACLU, and he said, "The drugs that
the state has now adopted are drugs that have been designed for a different
purpose and many of those manufacturers are objecting to those drugs being
The Montana Attorney General's office is ready to defend the state's newest
protocol, and plans to uphold Montana law, which allows for execution.
MT Assistant Attorney General Mark Fowler said, "The lethal injection execution
process is the most humane form of execution in the United States."
The ACLU plans to file an amended complaint on the DOC's protocol within the
next 75 days, and then it's back to court for the state which is standing firm
on the lethal injection process.
If the death penalty is carried out, Smith will become the 4th prisoner to
become executed in Montana since the death penalty was reinstated in the
(source: KXLH News)
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