[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----FLA., TENN., CALIF.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Wed Aug 31 23:09:11 CDT 2011
Pasco jury recommends death penalty in 2006 murder
When Derral Wayne Hodgkins choked and stabbed Teresa Lodge to death in
September 2006, it wasn't his 1st act of violence.
Jurors considering whether Hodgkins should be put to death or serve life in
prison for Lodge's murder learned Wednesday that he also had raped and battered
a 12-year-old girl in Hillsborough County in 1987.
After hearing the details of that brutal attack, the jury, by a 7-5 vote,
recommended that Hodgkins be put to death.
Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa has the final decision, and by law he must give the
jury's recommendation great weight. A formal sentencing hearing will be held
Hodgkins, 51, shook his head and stared at the floor as the jury's
recommendation was read Wednesday evening. He was convicted Monday of killing
Lodge, a 46-year-old diner cook who was found dead by a friend in a pool of her
own blood. Prosecutors say Hodgkins and Lodge knew each other years earlier.
When he went to her Land O'Lakes apartment in the fall of 2006, they got into a
struggle. Hodgkins choked and beat Lodge, then stabbed her seven times and
slashed her throat.
But as Lodge fought for her life, clawing and scratching at Hodgkins, she
scraped bits of his DNA under her fingernails, which turned out to be the key
piece of evidence that led to his arrest a year later.
In arguing for the death penalty, prosecutors called the killing
"conscienceless, pitiless and torturous."
"This was in fact a brutal, vile, sadistic beating of Teresa Lodge," Assistant
State Attorney Glenn Martin said.
Those words might also fit what happened to a 12-year-old girl living in Balm,
in eastern Hillsborough County, in 1987.
Hodgkins, then 28, had gone to the girl's house to buy marijuana from her
mother. The woman wasn't at home, and Hodgkins later told a detective that when
the daughter showed up, they began talking on the hood of his car.
That led to kissing in the backseat. The girl told him she didn't want her
mother to come home and find them. Hodgkins persisted, and the girl started
screaming, so he put his hands around her throat to quiet her.
Then, he told the detective, he got in the front seat and drove to a deserted
road. He dragged her out of the car, ripped off her clothes and began to have
sex with her. She told him she was a virgin.
When a car drove by and she screamed again, Hodgkins said he didn't know what
to do so he started hitting her. When she lost consciousness, he thought he'd
In a panic, Hodgkins said he drove off quickly, driving over the girl as she
lay motionless on the ground. He didn't look back.
He stopped at a convenience store to compose himself, then drove home to his
wife and claimed to have had car trouble.
Hodgkins ended up pleading guilty to that crime and going to prison. He was
released in 2004 on lifetime probation.
He grew up in a poor family of migrant workers and was frequently abused,
Hodgkins told doctors who evaluated him. He dropped out of school early and
married for the 1st time at age 16. That union lasted less than a year, but a
psychologist said Hodgkins maintained a pattern of getting involved with
As an adult, he did maintenance at a Holiday Inn, worked in lawn service and
drove a truck. He fathered 2 sons.
A few family members testified that they love him and would visit him in
prison. His daughter-in-law, though, hadn't heard the details of the rape until
"I didn't know the whole story," Tabitha Hodgkins said. "I feel like he played
me like a sucker."
Defense attorney Danny Hernandez, in arguing for a life sentence, called
Lodge's killing "an act of rage by a mentally disturbed person who snapped,"
and said Hodgkins had already accepted responsibility for the rape and served
But Assistant State Attorney Jim Hellickson told jurors that the rape
conviction loomed large in Hodgkins' mind as he was squeezing the life out of
"What did he learn from that?" Hellickson said. "Don't — do not leave a victim
(source: St. Petersburg Times)
State high court hears debate over appeal
A Sullivan County death penalty case now 26 years old is putting to the test
the standard for when a prosecutor-turned-judge should step aside.
The state Supreme Court on Wednesday heard arguments from both sides in the
debate over whether Leonard Edward Smith should get an unprecedented fourth
shot at escaping death for the 1984 slaying of Sullivan County grocer Novella
Webb in a fatal robbery spree.
The court met Wednesday at Knoxville's newest law school — the Lincoln Memorial
University Duncan School of Law in downtown — and drew a record crowd of
students and attorneys.
The question for the high court in Smith's case is whether a judge who insists
he can be fair still should step aside if his impartiality could be called into
question by a "person or ordinary prudence."
Smith was first convicted in 1985 of 2 murders committed on the same day. In
the first, a co-defendant killed Maloney's Grocery employee John Pierce in a
robbery as Smith waited outside. The pair next went to Webb's Grocery, where
Smith killed Novella Webb in another robbery bid. He confessed to his role in
both killings. He was sentenced to life in Pierce's death but was ordered
executed in Webb's slaying.
The state's appellate courts long ago gave their legal seal of approval to
Smith's conviction and sentence in the Pierce case and his conviction in Webb's
death. But Smith's death sentence has twice been reversed and a new sentencing
hearing has been ordered each time for a variety of legal flaws.
In 1995, a jury imposed the death penalty for a record third time. Smith's
initial appeals failed. But in an opinion issued last September, the state
Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Judge Lynn W. Brown Jr., who presided over the
1995 sentencing, should have stepped aside.
Defense attorney Kelly Gleason argued Wednesday that newly discovered documents
showed ongoing discussions about Smith's case between Brown and Sullivan County
District Attorney General Greeley Wells in the months following the slayings of
Webb and Pierce. At the time, Brown was prosecuting Smith in an unrelated
robbery in Carter County, while Wells headed up the double-murder case.
When Brown found himself a decade later as a judge presiding over the new
sentencing hearing ordered up for Smith in 1995, he should have stepped down to
avoid the appearance of bias, Gleason argued.
"At the heart of this case is the right to a fair and impartial hearing," she
Assistant Attorney General John Bledsoe countered Wednesday that Gleason had
failed to show any evidence of bias by Brown against Smith.
"Trial judges have discretion under an objective standard to make recusal
decisions," Bledsoe said.
It could be months before the court issues a decision.
(source: Knoxville News Sentinel)
Death Penalty No Longer a Major Issue
When he was district attorney of Los Angeles more than a decade ago, Gil
Garcetti was for the death penalty. While he himself never tried a death
penalty case, his office prosecuted more than any other county in California.
That was a point of pride — at least back then. Had he not been pro-death
penalty, there is very good reason to believe he never would have been elected.
This week, Garcetti joined a new coalition that is trying to end the death
penalty in California, arguing that it serves no purpose and unnecessarily
taxes the system, imposing costs that would better be spent solving crimes and
supporting efforts to keep kids from going into crime in the first place.
Have the times changed, or has Garcetti? My guess is some of both.
Garcetti's starting point is that the death penalty doesn't work, that it does
not deter crime. There are certainly studies that confirm this. There are also
studies that don't. My own research confirms that both sides can point to
Anti-death penalty advocates argue that it didn't deter the 600-plus murderers
who are being held in isolation in expensive death row cells. Pro-death penalty
advocates argue that you just can't know how many bad guys did not pull the
The morality of the death penalty is, of course, a personal decision. If you
believe it is wrong for the state (or the federal government) to take a life
under any circumstances, then the deterrence debate doesn't matter.
That is not what I believe. I can think of plenty of really bad guys — think
9/11 plotters, or the guy who shot a pregnant woman at an ATM, aiming at her
stomach to ensure it would be a double murder — who have no right to live.
My view has always been that the death penalty puts much-needed pressures on
the system to not make mistakes and to ensure proper procedures are followed —
in short, to get it right. Ideally, that pressure would improve the
administration of justice for those accused of less heinous crimes, as well.
At least 3 things have changed in the past 10 years.
First, the advent of DNA evidence has eliminated one of the most common sources
of mistakes in the system. We don't get the wrong guy anymore, or at least we
Mistakes that were made decades ago — we read those headlines all the time,
even though they are very much an exception and not the rule — shouldn't be
made again. There's an argument in favor of the death penalty.
Second, the notion that death penalty cases would bring out the best in the
system — the best lawyers arguing in carefully selected cases with judges
carefully and deliberately ensuring that justice is served —also has proved to
be overly optimistic. My old boss Justice John Paul Stevens was pro-death
penalty when he first joined the U.S. Supreme Court.
I will always remember the night my co-clerk and I drove to Stevens' apartment
with a stay application from the first person executed against his will in more
than a decade. Stevens considered the application carefully. He consulted with
like-minded Justice Potter Stewart.
They concluded there were no errors below. By the time he retired, Stevens had
become one of the Court's most consistent death penalty opponents, not because
his moral beliefs had changed, but because he became convinced that these cases
were not being handled with the care warranted when death was the penalty.
Third, the political climate has changed. In the '80s and '90s, support for the
death penalty was the litmus test for being "tough on crime," and being "tough
on crime" was a prerequisite to winning, even in California.
When Kathleen Brown (Gov. Jerry Brown's sister) ran for governor of California
in 1994, her opposition to the death penalty was one of her opponent's
strongest attack points. By the time her brother won (most recently), it was
hardly an issue. Nor was it a major issue in the 2008 presidential election,
which resulted in the first anti-death penalty president in at least 30 years.
So it is no longer political suicide to support Garcetti's initiative.
The most troubling aspect of Garcetti's argument — or, depending on your view,
the most persuasive — is his claim that the money being spent to house these
prisoners (who, by definition, have very little to lose by prison savagery) and
provide them with more lawyers and more hearings than anyone else could better
be spent solving murders and rapes.
According to Garcetti's figures, nearly half of all murders and more than half
of all rapes are never solved. For obvious reasons, these are most likely to be
those committed by strangers, because those are (even with murder and certainly
with rape) the hardest to solve.
Obviously, if there's an almost even chance that you won't ever be caught, the
power of any deterrent, even if there is some in the abstract, all but
And this brings me to my bottom line.
I don't know about the death penalty, but I do know this: Swift and certain
punishment, even if it is only life imprisonment, is a far more effective
deterrent than an even shot at getting away with it. If I had my way, that's
what we'd be discussing right now, separate and apart from the overheated
rhetoric that tends to accompany debates about the death penalty.
(source: Susan Estrich, Newsmax.com)
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