[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, TENN., OHIO, MO., US MIL., CALIF., MISS.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Wed Aug 31 15:43:47 CDT 2011
Capital Murder Indictments In Child's Death
A Hardin County grand jury has indicted a mother and her boyfriend on capital
murder charges for the death of 4-year-old Breonna Loftin.
Authorities say Breonna was the victim of child abuse.
They say she died at a hospital on August 17th, suffering from serious
injuries, including multiple rib fractures, bruising and head trauma.
Breonna's mother, Amanda Guidry, and her boyfriend, Jason Delacerda had
originally been charged with injury to a child.
But Tuesday morning, Hardin County District Attorney David Sheffield presented
additional evidence in this case to grand jurors, and asked them for the
capital murder indictments.
The court has appointed Sonny Cribbs to represent Delacerda and Jimmy Hamm to
Both are Beaumont attorneys certified to try capital murder cases.
Sheffield says he'll seek the death penalty for Delacerda and is not sure if
he'll seek the death penalty for Breonna's mother.
Memphis man on death row who killed, dismembered woman gets 18 more years
A man convicted and sentenced to death for the murder and dismemberment of the
mother of their 3 children was given an additional 18 years in prison Tuesday.
James Hawkins, who has 19 prior felony convictions, was sentenced to the
maximum 12 years for filing a false missing person report and 6 years for abuse
of a corpse.
The judge called Hawkins a dangerous, professional, career offender who has
little regard for human life.
"Society needs to be protected from him," said Criminal Court Judge Chris
Craft, adding that the death penalty was not a certainty. "The laws could
change. Charles Manson once was under the death penalty and now he comes up for
parole every year."
Hawkins, 34, a warehouse worker who was on parole, was convicted in June in the
stabbing and strangulation of Charlene Gaither, 28, on Feb. 9, 2008, in their
According to testimony, he then made his 12-year-old daughter help him
dismember the body with an electric circular saw and dispose of her mother's
body parts in DeSoto County.
The victim's head was never recovered.
"All murders are horrible," said state prosecutor Missy Branham, "but some are
especially atrocious and this is one of them."
Hawkins served about 10 years of a 15-year sentence and was paroled in
September 2007 for a series of aggravated robberies and aggravated assaults.
He did not address the court in the hearing Tuesday.
Hawkins also has a pending charge of rape of a child, the victim being his own
No trial has been set.
Hawkins was expected to be returned to death row at Riverbend Maximum Security
Institution in Nashville as the 12-step death penalty appeals process begins.
(source: Memphis Commercial Appeal)
Judge won't allow new trial for Ohio serial killer
A judge in Cleveland has turned down a serial killer's request for new trial.
Attorneys for the man convicted of dumping the remains of 11 women in and
around his house wanted a new trial because of what they called juror
But a judge in Cleveland denied the request Tuesday, saying there was no
evidence of any wrongdoing by the jurors.
Lawyers for 52-year-old Anthony Sowell say the jury forewoman had developed a
bias against the suspect even before testimony began. She told reporters after
jurors recommended the death penalty that Sowell winked at her in what she
believed was an attempt to win favorable treatment.
Sowell's conviction and death sentence will be automatically appealed to the
state Supreme Court.
Ohio Supreme Court upholds death sentence for Canton's Edward Lang
The Ohio Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence given a Canton man
convicted of gunning down 2 men in a 2006 drug-related killing.
A jury sentenced Edward Lang to death for the killing of Jaron Burditte and
sentenced him to life without the possibility of parole for the killing of
Burditte's friend, Marnell Cheek.
Court records say Lang and an accomplice had contacted Burditte, a local drug
dealer, with plans to rob him.
The court's Wednesday decision overruled objections by Lang that the original
indictment did not properly spell out the elements of the death penalty case
The court set a 2013 execution date for Lang but that will likely be delayed by
years of federal appeals.
(source for both: Associated Press)
State Opens the Door to Death Penalty Against Man Charged with Killing 3 Year
old Breeann Rodriguez----The Dunklin county prosecuting attorney filed an
amendment that allows the state to seek the death penalty if it wants to
A man charged with killing a 3-year-old Missouri girl could now face the death
Shawn Morgan is charged with suffocating Breeann Rodriguez and then dumping her
body in a river. Today, the Dunklin county prosecuting attorney filed an
amended charge that would allow the state to seek the death penalty against
The prosecuter also filed an additional count of kidnapping in the case. Morgan
is expected back in court next month. Even though the office has filed an
amendment of statutory aggravating circumstances which opens the door to the
death penalty, they have not decided if they will actually seek the death
(source: KSPR TV News)
Prosecutors may pursue death penalty in Breeann Rodriguez death
Prosecutors have now filed an additional charge and may be seeking the death
penalty against Shawn Morgan, the man accused of killing his 3-year-old
neighbor Breeann Rodriguez. Morgan, 43, is charged with 1st-degree murder,
armed criminal action and tampering with physical evidence in the death of
Rodriguez. Now he also faces a charge of child kidnapping, reports CBS
In addition to the new charge, the Dunklin County Prosecuting Attorney Stephen
Sokoloff filed a notice of statutory aggravating circumstances, which will
permit the state to seek the death penalty for the first-degree murder charge.
According to Sokoloff, Breeann's parents are in support of the prosecutor's
Morgan made his second appearance in court on Tuesday. He has not yet entered a
The girl vanished on Aug. 6 from her Senath, Mo. neighborhood, about 200 miles
south of St. Louis
According to the probable cause statement, Morgan admitted to grabbing Breeann
and carrying her inside his house as she stood on the ladder at the pool in his
backyard on Aug. 6, the station reports. Morgan then suffocated the girl using
a white plastic trash bag. He told police "he felt like it took an hour for the
girl to die."He then put the her body in the same trash bag, drove to the
floodway ditches of Hwy. 164 and threw her over the railing.
When he came back to his house, Morgan took apart her bicycle and threw it in
the same river system, according to court documents.
Breeann's body was found Aug. 16 by a member of the Missouri Highway Patrol's
water patrol division who was searching by boat.
Morgan's next court appearance is set for Sept. 13 at 9 a.m. in Kennett.
(source: CBS News)
Study: Race disparity seen in military death penalty----Most who receive the
sentence are minorities
10 of the 16 men whom the military has sentenced to death in the past 27 years
share another common characteristic: They're all minorities.
The racial imbalance in the military's death penalty isn't new. As far back as
the early 1970s, the military has acknowledged racial bias in its judicial
system. The civilian court systems have similar disparities.
But one recent statistical analysis has found that the problem endures and is
in some ways worse than on the civilian side.
A study by a group of law and statistics professors found that minorities in
the military were twice as likely to be sentenced to death as their white
counterparts, a statistic higher than is known to exist in most civilian court
The professors concluded that the military's efforts in 1984 to reform its
capital system "failed to purge the risk of racial prejudice from the
administration of the death penalty."
"There is no suggestion here that any participant in the military criminal
justice system consciously and knowingly discriminated on the basis of the race
of the accused or the victim," the study's authors said in their report.
"However, there is substantial evidence that many actors in the American
criminal justice system are unconsciously influenced by the race of defendants
and their victims."
The study, led by Professor David Baldus of the University of Iowa College of
Law and Associate Professor Catherine Grosso of the Michigan State University
College of Law, was obtained by McClatchy and is set to be published late this
year in the peer-reviewed Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology.
Of the 16 death sentences the military has handed down since 1984, the study
found that race appeared especially to be a factor in five cases that involved
multiple victims, with at least 1 victim who was white.
The cases included 3 men who remain on death row.
• Ronald Gray, a black former Army private convicted of raping and murdering 4
women, is expected to be the 1st military execution in 50 years.
• Dwight Loving, a black former Army private at Fort Hood, Texas, was convicted
of killing 2 taxi drivers.
• Kenneth Parker, a black former Marine lance corporal, was convicted of
killing 2 white Marines after hearing rumors that a group of white males
planned a lynching.
The other 2 men were resentenced to life in prison after appeals courts
overturned their death sentences.
Other legal experts have asserted that civilian jurors and prosecutors are more
likely to weigh race in their decisions in civilian capital cases when the
crime involves multiple victims who are white. The more heinous the crime, the
more likely there will be racial bias, the theory goes.
In the military, the professors found that base commanders, who decide whether
to seek the death penalty, are less influenced by race than juries are.
The authors said they thought that the officers, who were trained and advised
by a legal adviser in a profession that prided itself on "race-neutral
decision-making," were more likely to resist racial considerations.
In contrast, military juries "are on their own in their decision-making and
normally have had no reason to consider issues of equal justice."
The study found no evidence of racial disparity in cases that involved a
significant military interest, such as the murders of fellow troops or
officers. In murders of civilians who had little ties to the military, the
disparities were the most noticeable.
The professors theorized that military juries were able to rise above racially
charged decisions when the military's interests were at stake.
To discourage racism from entering into verdicts, the study recommends that the
military reserve the death penalty for murders in which there's significant
"Such a limitation of death eligibility under military law would also simplify
the costs and complexity of the current system without impairing the charging
and sentencing authorities' ability to protect vital military interests through
the use of the death penalty," the authors concluded.
2012 Ballot Initiative To Replace Death Penalty
In California, on average, 46% of murders and 56% of rapes go unsolved each
year. For victims and their families, and for the cause of public safety, these
numbers are profoundly disturbing.
A new ballot initiative (changing the law in California often requires a direct
public referendum) aims to do something about this, by redirecting funds wasted
on the death penalty ($184 million per year according to a recent study), to
local police and prosecutors to ensure that more crimes actually get solved.
Since 1978, there have been 13 executions in California, at a cost of $308
million per execution. In 2009 alone, the best year of the decade for solving
murders, there were 722 unsolved homicides.
Bringing killers and rapists to justice is obviously very important for victims
and their families, and is also clearly vital to public safety. And whatever
deterrent value you might think the death penalty has (probably none), it is
vastly overshadowed by the reality that, now, if you commit murder in
California, you have an almost 50/50 chance of never getting caught at all.
The proposed initiative would also require those convicted of murder to work in
prison and provide restitution to victims’ families. And, importantly, it would
end California’s shameful association with the notorious human rights abuse of
If this initiative gets on the ballot and voters approve it in November 2012,
California will finally escape from the financial (and human rights) black hole
that is the death penalty, and will be free to focus its resources more
effectively on public safety and on the real needs of victims.
(source: Amnesty International USA blog)
Death row inmate loses appeal
A federal appeals panel has denied claims by Mississippi death row inmate Jan
Michael Brawner that he deserves a new trial because his attorney didn't do a
Brawner was convicted in 2002 in Tate County for killing his ex-wife, their
young daughter and the woman's parents.
Mississippi courts upheld his conviction in 2004. A federal court last year
declined to hear his appeal. A 3-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals on Tuesday also refused to hear an appeal.
Prosecutors say Brawner, of Senatobia, killed his ex-wife, Barbara Craft
Brawner, their 3-year-old daughter Candice; and Mrs. Brawner's parents, Carl
and Jane Craft.
The killings occurred in 2001 at the Crafts' home in the rural community of
Sarah, just west of Senatobia.
(source: Associated Press)
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