[Deathpenalty] [POSSIBLE SPAM] death penalty news----N.C., DEL., OHIO, ALA., GA.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Wed Oct 5 22:42:35 CDT 2011
Death penalty sought in Fayetteville girl's killing
Cumberland County prosecutors said Wednesday that they plan to seek the death
penalty against the man charged with killing a 5-year-old Fayetteville girl
almost 2 years ago but not against the girl's mother.
Mario Andrette McNeill, 30, has been charged with murder, kidnapping and rape
in the death of Shaniya Davis, whose body was found in a kudzu patch near the
Lee-Harnett county line on Nov. 16, 2009, six days after her mother, Antoinette
Nicole Davis, reported her missing from their Fayetteville home.
Authorities believe Antoinette Davis is complicit in her daughter's death.
Arrest warrants stated that she "did knowingly provide Shaniya with the intent
that she be held in sexual servitude" and "did permit an act of prostitution
An autopsy determined that Shaniya died of asphyxiation and that injuries she
suffered were consistent with a sexual assault. A medical examiner noted in the
autopsy that investigators believe the girl was used to pay off a drug debt.
A Cumberland County grand jury indicted Antoinette Davis in July on charges of
first-degree murder, indecent liberties with a child, felony child abuse,
felony sexual servitude, rape of a child, sexual offense of a child by an adult
offender, human trafficking and making a false police report.
She was arraigned Wednesday, and a judge set her bond on the murder charge at
$2 million. Bonds totaling $1.5 million were set previously on the other
McNeill, whom police have described as a friend of the family, is being held
without bond at Central Prison in Raleigh.
State to seek death penalty in Shaniya Davis murder case
A judge has cleared the way for prosecutors to seek the death penalty against
the man accused of killing 5-year-old Shaniya Davis in 2009.
Prosecutors, however, told Superior Court Judge Jim Ammons in a hearing
Wednesday that they do not intend to seek the death penalty for her mother,
Antoinette Davis, 27, who is accused of giving up her daughter to pay off a
Mario Andrette McNeill, 31, and Davis are both charged with first-degree murder
in Shaniya's death.
Prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty against McNeill because of two
aggravating factors - that he is accused of killing Shaniya during the
commission of a rape and kidnapping and that the crime was "especially heinous,
atrocious and cruel," District Attorney Billy West said.
West said in court that Antoinette Davis owed McNeill a $200 drug debt and that
she was unwilling to have sex with him to pay it off. Instead, she offered her
5-year-old daughter to settle the debt, he said.
"This is a case of a rape and/or sex offense against a 5-year-old victim who
was helpless to prevent her asphyxiation," West said. "Her body was left in a
ditch after she was asphyxiated and this was done, allegedly, by someone she
knew and perhaps even trusted."
McNeill's lawyers did not contest the prosecutors' bid to proceed with the case
as a capital trial, saying only they do not agree with the prosecution's
"We would like the record to show we don't agree or concur with the DA's
aggravating factors," defense lawyer Harold "Butch" Pope told the judge.
Ammons granted the prosecution's request to seek the death penalty.
Prosecutors then told the judge they do not intend to seek the death penalty
against Antoinette Davis.
West said that after consulting with the state Attorney General's Office,
prosecutors determined that a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1982, Enmund v.
Florida, would preclude the death penalty because Davis did not intend for her
daughter to die.
That case established that the Constitution's Eighth Amendment prohibits death
sentences for defendants in felony murder cases who did not themselves kill,
try to kill or intend to kill anyone.
Prosecutors allege that Davis sold her daughter as a prostitute to pay off a
drug debt to McNeill on the morning of Nov. 10, 2009. McNeill took the girl
from the family's home in the Sleepy Hollow Mobile Home Park off Murchison Road
at 5:47 a.m. and checked into a Comfort Suites hotel in Sanford at 6:11 a.m.,
At 7:33 a.m., McNeill got a tip that someone knew he had taken Shaniya and he
left the hotel, West said. The child's body was found off Walker Road near the
Carolina Trace community in Harnett County on Nov. 16, 2009.
West alleged that Antoinette Davis lied repeatedly in interviews with
detectives until she finally confessed to giving McNeill her daughter to pay
the drug debt.
Davis was charged in November 2009 with human trafficking, child abuse
involving prostitution, filing a false police report and obstructing an
investigation. She was indicted in July on additional charges including
1st-degree murder, rape of a child, taking indecent liberties with a child,
committing a sexual offense, sexual servitude and making a false police report.
Since then, she has been held without bail at the Cumberland County Detention
Center on the murder charge and on $1.5 million bail on the other charges.
Prosecutors argued Wednesday that her bail on the murder charge be set at an
additional $1 million because of the seriousness of the offense.
Her lawyer, D.W. Bray, argued for reduced bail, saying she is not a flight risk
or a danger to the community. He said Davis was free on bond for months before
the indictment, and she always made her court dates. He said Davis held a
steady job as a certified nursing assistant at the time of her daughter's death
and that she has no criminal history.
"Of course, we will be denying the underlying theory of the state's case as to
Ms. Davis in that there were substantial other factors that have not been taken
into consideration," Bray said.
He said Davis was employed at the time she allegedly assumed the drug debt, and
the prosecution's theory that she willingly surrendered her daughter to pay off
the debt does not mesh with the kidnapping charge McNeill is facing.
"We like to point out to your honor that there were other parties living in the
home, and we anticipate entering evidence at trial to indicate that
communication that occurred between Mr. McNeill did not happen with Ms. Davis,"
Bray said. "It actually happened with another party that was residing in the
Ammons set Davis' bail at $2 million total. McNeill continues to be held
(source: Fayetteville Observer)
Newark death penalty case sent back to lower court for review----Roland Davis
convicted of murdering Elizabeth Sheeler in 2005
A Newark man convicted of murdering an 86-year-old woman says his now-deceased
brother was the killer. An Ohio Supreme Court decision announced Tuesday will
allow an appellate court to review the denial of his request for a new trial.
Roland Davis, 58, was convicted and sentenced to death in July 2005 for the
2000 murder of 86-year-old Elizabeth Sheeler, who was stabbed repeatedly.
Davis was not a suspect until his DNA popped up in a national database in 2004
after an arrest in Florida. DNA found on bed sheets had a one-in-97.1
quadrillion chance of belonging to someone other than Davis, a scientist
In January 2009, Davis’ attorney asked Licking County Common Pleas Court Judge
Thomas Marcelain for a new trial to review Dr. Laurence Mueller’s expert DNA
Mueller pointed out the state’s witnesses did not mention laboratory error as a
source of uncertainty. One of the state’s DNA experts incorrectly stated it is
impossible for non-identical twins to have the same DNA.
“Davis argued that Mueller’s affidavit undermined the state’s DNA evidence,
which was essential to its case against him,” Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judith
Marcelain denied Davis’ motion for a new trial, and the Fifth District Court of
Appeals found Marcelain should not have even reviewed the case after the Ohio
Supreme Court affirmed Davis’ conviction.
On Tuesday, the Ohio Supreme Court justices unanimously found that intermediary
courts, like the Fifth District Court of Appeals, can review motions after the
suspect is convicted in death penalty cases.
The decision clarified a 1994 amendment to the Ohio Constitution that allowed
direct appeal of death penalty cases to the Ohio Supreme Court, essentially
skipping the intermediate appellate courts.
“A holding that the supreme court has exclusive jurisdiction over all matters
relating to a death-penalty case would be contrary to the language of the
constitutional amendments and the statute and would have the effect of delaying
review of future cases,” Lanzinger wrote.
Justices also found Marcelain could review Roland’s motion for a new trial
based on newly discovered evidence.
Roland’s case will be sent to the Fifth District Court of Appeals for
additional review. It could be returned to Marcelain.
(source: Newark Advocate)
Court rejects ‘homophobic panic’ claim in brutal killing
A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld an Ohio man’s death penalty for
killing a man he met in a gay bar in 1985, rejecting claims that prosecutors
violated his rights by not providing psychological reports showing he may have
been motivated by “homophobic panic.”
A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously
affirmed a lower court’s ruling upholding the death penalty for Robert Van
Hook, 51. The panel also rejected claims of ineffective counsel.
Van Hook’s attorney, Keith Yeazel, said Tuesday that he will either appeal to
the full 6th Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court after he has a chance to review
The Supreme Court in November 2009 reversed an earlier decision by the 6th
Circuit panel that had found ineffective trial counsel, and the panel said
Tuesday that it was bound by the high court’s decision.
Van Hook’s latest appeal argued that the psychological reports showing he may
have been motivated by “homophobic panic,” or rejection of his homosexual
urges, rather than robbery, could have been used to support his claim of mental
disease. The reports also would have been used to counter the murder element of
“specific intent to cause the death of another person” and the aggravated
robbery factor contributing to the death penalty, the appeal stated.
Van Hook claimed temporary insanity, but never denied strangling and then
stabbing David Self to death at his Cincinnati apartment.
Prosecutors said he lured Self to the apartment with the intention of robbing
him. He then mutilated Self’s body with a kitchen knife, hiding the murder
weapon in the corpse before fleeing to Florida, where he arrested and
(source: Journal Gazette)
Death row inmate sues over lack of halal meals
A Muslim death row inmate says the Ohio state prison system is denying him
meals prepared according to Islamic law while at the same time providing kosher
meals to Jewish prisoners.
The state says it has already removed pork from its menus in response to the
lawsuit brought by condemned inmate Abdul Awkal, who argues the prison system's
failure to provide halal meals is a restraint on his religious freedoms.
Awkal, joined by a second inmate not on death row, says the vegetarian and
non-pork options offered by the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
aren't good enough. The inmates say food must be prepared according to halal
"The issue of eating halal meals is especially important to me because I face a
death sentence," Awkal said in a filing in federal court this year.
"It is important to me that I follow the requirements of my faith as I approach
The state's recent decision to drop pork from all meals accommodates religious
preferences without jeopardising security, said Carlo LoParo, spokesman for the
state corrections department.
It "eliminates any doubt that Muslims or any inmate who has a specific
prohibition against pork products receives pork inadvertently or otherwise".
But the state's announcement doesn't solve the problem that meat isn't
slaughtered in the appropriate way for Muslim inmates who adhere to religious
tradition, said David Singleton, executive director of the Ohio Justice and
Policy Centre, which brought the lawsuit on Awkal's behalf.
He said the lawsuit would continue.
A judge has given lawyers and inmates for the state until next month to finish
filing documents bolstering their arguments before an expected January trial.
Awkal, 52, is scheduled to die in June for killing his estranged wife, Latife
Awkal, and brother-in-law Mahmoud Abdul-Aziz in 1992, in a room in Cuyahoga
County Domestic Relations Court.
Joining Awkal in the lawsuit is Cornelius Causey, 35, serving 15 years to life
for murder and aggravated robbery.
Ohio says that providing halal meals could hurt the state financially, given
the current budget situation.
Ohio included in its response to the lawsuit a document from a Muslim who does
regular spiritual counselling of Muslim inmates.
Although Imam Sunni-Ali Islam said he thought it was problematic that Ohio
provided kosher but not halal meals, he said he did not think it rose to the
level of religious discrimination.
Ohio spends about US$3.50 to US$7 ($4.65 to $9.30) on kosher meals compared
with US$1.70 for regular meals, LoParo said.
Ohio says requiring halal meals could mean new dietary plans for as many as
2000 inmates, while Awkal's lawyers believe the figure is lower because not all
Muslims eat halal meals.
(source: Associated Press)
Gregory Lance Henderson faces possible death penalty after conviction in murder
of Lee County deputy----Columbus man faces possible death penalty for killing
Gregory Lance Henderson never denied killing Deputy James W. Anderson when the
Lee County lawman tried to pull him over 2 years ago in Smiths Station, Ala.
Instead, the Columbus man blamed the incident on his abuse of methamphetamine
and marijuana, claiming he never meant to run over Anderson.
But a jury here roundly rejected that version of events, delivering a unanimous
capital murder verdict Tuesday that puts Henderson in jeopardy of facing
Alabama’s death penalty. The relatively quick verdict capped a challenging week
for Anderson’s colleagues and family, who waited more than 2 years for justice
and relived their tragedy in a courtroom.
"2 years and 9 days -- all I wanted was my son back,” Anderson’s mother, Susan
Mulkey, said after the verdict. “Today is a good day.”
The jury went out about 10:56 a.m. CDT and returned its decision about 2:14
p.m. after taking a lunch break.
Jurors will return this morning to hear aggravating and mitigating
circumstances in the penalty phase of the trial. Henderson is expected to call
about five witnesses, who likely will testify about his struggle with drugs, or
possibly his relationship with his family. It’s not clear whether Henderson
will take the stand himself.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, will seek to address Henderson’s extensive criminal
history -- a litany of convictions omitted from the guilty phase of the trial
as Henderson did not testify in his own defense.
Henderson’s fate ultimately will be up to Circuit Court Judge Jacob A. Walker
III. In Alabama, juries recommend a sentence in capital cases, but judges are
not required to accept it.
Walker this year overturned a unanimous jury recommendation of life in prison
without parole and sentenced Courtney Lockhart to die for the murder of Auburn
University freshman Lauren Burk.
Attorneys declined on Tuesday to discuss specifics of the Henderson case
because it is still pending. Defense attorney Jeremy W. Armstrong of Phenix
City said the defense team “is disappointed, but we respect the verdict.”
Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones declined to say which penalty would be just for
“Under the circumstances, let’s just say that we believe that the jury made the
correct decision in this case,” Jones told reporters.
The verdict followed impassioned closing arguments from both sides. Prosecutors
said Henderson floored his car and was not overly impaired when he struck and
killed Anderson, a 39-year-old deputy who had been on the force 3 years.
“In this case, there is absolutely no evidence that the defendant was incapable
of discriminating between right and wrong,” Assistant District Attorney Kisha
Armstrong asked jurors to consider the many variables in the case, including
Henderson’s drug use. He did not argue for an acquittal but asked jurors to
weigh three lesser-included alternatives to capital murder: murder,
manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
“We are not saying to you, ‘Let Lance go.’ We’re not saying to you that Lance
is not responsible for his reckless actions,” Armstrong said in his closing.
“This is a horrific traffic accident that resulted in the death of a law
enforcement officer, but it’s not capital murder,” he added. “We’re not asking
y’all for mercy -- we’re asking y’all for fairness.”
Attorneys offered competing accounts of whether Henderson was too intoxicated
to form specific intent, an element needed for a capital murder conviction. A
toxicology expert told jurors Monday that Henderson tested positive for
marijuana and about three times the therapeutic level of methamphetamine.
“The state has gone to great lengths to get you to ignore the intoxication in
this case,” Armstrong said, noting it was the defense who called the
toxicologist, Rachel Beck of the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences.
Prosecutors pointed to Henderson’s behavior, arguing he appeared to be coherent
during the traffic stop, and was apparently sober enough to attempt to elude
“In this case, Mr. Armstrong told you early on that there would be no smoke, no
mirrors -- instead what we have is fog and methamphetamine,” District Attorney
Robbie Treese told jurors. “There’s not enough meth in his blood to mask the
murder in his heart.”
(source: Columbus Ledger-Enquirer)
Man convicted in 2007 Alabama killing
A Montgomery County jury has convicted a man of capital murder for killing and
robbing a Montgomery minister in 2007.
Franky Johnson, who was convicted on Tuesday, already is serving 85 years for
robbery, burglary and kidnapping convictions, and was on probation when he was
arrested in the killing of the Rev. Paul Boswell, pastor of People's Baptist
The Montgomery Advertiser reports (http://bit.ly/pIzazh ) Johnson is scheduled
to appear at a sentencing hearing Oct. 20, where prosecutors said he will be
sentenced to life in prison without parole for capital murder.
Johnson was ruled ineligible for the death penalty based on IQ tests.
Johnson alleged in a videotaped statement to police that Boswell had made
aggressive sexual advances toward him.
(source: Associated Press)
Cobb death penalty for Drucker could be tougher sell, attorneys say
The fate of Troy Anthony Davis weighed on Cobb County death penalty defendant
Joshua Drucker as his trial neared.
It remains to be seen whether it will weigh on the minds of jurors, too.
Court-watchers say a backlash against the death penalty in Georgia could make
it harder for prosecutors to get the ultimate punishment for Drucker if he is
convicted. Drucker is on trial for the April 5, 2004, shootings of an
acquaintance and his girlfriend.
His attorneys hope to convince a jury Drucker doesn't deserve to die. But they
don't know if Davis' case will help or hurt, if it affects jurors at all.
"You never know," said defense attorney Jimmy Berry, who is representing
Drucker and has handled about 50 other death penalty cases over his long
"My opinion is that the death penalty is pretty archaic," Berry said. "We are
the only civilized country that still has it."
The Davis case garnered national media attention when he was executed Sept. 21
for the 1989 murder of Savannah police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail. Prosecutors
expressed faith in the guilty verdict, but Davis supporters pointed to a number
of witnesses who recanted their trial testimony to bolster their claim that he
had been wrongly convicted.
In the dramatic moments before he received the lethal injection, Davis
proclaimed his innocence one last time from the death chamber gurney.
Jury selection in the Drucker case was in its second week when Davis was
executed. Two potential jurors brought up the controversy. One said they were
"a little more concerned about the death penalty now and whether it was
appropriate," Berry said. Neither of those jurors was ultimately picked for the
Thomas Clegg has been on both sides of a death penalty trial as a former DeKalb
County prosecutor and as a defense attorney. He said he would not be surprised
if Davis' case affects some jurors.
"If there was any sort of doubt in my mind, even if it didn't rise to a level
of reasonable doubt, I would not vote and I don't think most jurors would want
to vote for it," Clegg said. "I would think a lot of jurors have a bad feeling
in their mouth about the death penalty. I know I do."
Jerry Word, who heads the Georgia Capital Defender Office, also believes the
Drucker jury could be impacted by Davis' execution.
"It makes jurors realize that we do execute people, and sometimes the evidence
can be questioned even after someone is found guilty," Word said.
Cobb County District Attorney Pat Head said he has no hesitation about seeking
the death penalty if the facts of the case warrant it. Drucker's case qualified
because it was a double homicide and because it was excessively cruel and
inhuman, Head said.
During the trial, which began Sept. 28 and is expected to last about a month,
jurors have seen gruesome crime scene photographs of David Andrew Robertson,
40, and his girlfriend, Lora Nikolova, 25. The pair were found shot to death in
Robertson's home near Marietta.
Drucker, 33, once served as a youth minister at the church his father formerly
pastored, Gospel Outreach Church in Stockbridge.
Drucker allegedly became addicted to methamphetamine, and he spent several
several years in and out of prison for 1st-degree forgery and an assault on a
He is accused of shooting Robertson after telling a friend, Melissa McCrayer,
that they were going to Robertson's house to buy drugs.
McCrayer cried on the witness stand this week when she described the slayings.
She said Drucker turned his gun on Nikolova when she started hitting at him and
shouting, "you killed him, you killed him."
Nikolova was on all fours, spitting up blood, when Drucker allegedly dispatched
her with a final, fatal gunshot wound to the head.
Drucker told detectives in a videotaped confession that he killed Robertson
because he had given Drucker's sister drugs that caused her to overdose in
February 2003. She suffered severe brain damage and is now confined to a
Head said he is confident the jury will convict Drucker.
"There is no doubt whatsoever that he committed the crime," Head said.
Cobb County residents are considered primarily conservative, which has helped
Head's office obtain the death penalty 3 times since he became district
attorney in 1998.
Andrew Grant DeYoung was the most recent defendant from Cobb to be put to
death, for murdering his parents and his 14-year-old sister in 1993. He was
executed in July.
In July 2008 Lawrence Rice was the last person to be convicted in a death
penalty case in Cobb. 8 people on death row in Georgia were convicted in Cobb.
The district attorney said it would be a shame if jurors opted not to vote for
the death penalty in Drucker's case because of Davis.
Head said he read the 102-page order issued by the federal judge in Davis'
appeal, and it was clear to him the judge had "no doubt whatsoever" about
"The people who have pushed the Troy Davis case really didn't know a thing
about it," Head said. "They just know what they've been told."
Drucker operates an Internet ministry from jail with the help of his fiancee.
He writes sermons posted on his website, TodayChristianMinistries.org.
In a sermon dated July 18, Drucker drew a parallel between Davis and the
Biblical figure of Joseph, who was sold into slavery and wrongly imprisoned
before he rose to become one of the most powerful men in Egypt. Joseph was also
known to interpret dreams. Drucker said Davis must have been kept alive by his
dreams. He exhorted readers to keep dreaming.
Drucker's sermons have never discussed what ultimately happened to Davis. But
he ended that sermon by reflecting on his then upcoming trial:
"As I pen these words, I myself am facing an IMPOSSIBLE situation," Drucker
wrote. "I have been locked up since April of 2004 for double murder in Cobb
County, Georgia. And I am waiting for a death penalty trial. And my lawyers
(which are the best in this state) tell me daily that there is no way I'll ever
be free. I refuse to accept."
In his own words:
Joshua Drucker writes sermons in prison that appear at
TodayChristianMinistries.org. Some excerpts:
About his hopes: "Everyday, I get out of the bed and hope for my freedom."
Expressing disappointment in his trial being delayed from July to September:
"Not only am I tired, but my family is tired as well. Tired of waiting, tired
of all the legal meetings, and most of all tired of not knowing what will
become of me and my future."
About his decision to start an Internet ministry after he said God spoke to
him: "I thought to myself, ‘An Internet ministry? Why? How?' As my Spirit was
rejoicing, my mind was yelling -- ‘You are crazy. You are in prison. No one is
going to listen.' ... I then told God, ‘Lord, if this is your will, then I will
leave it up to you to make it happen.'"
His thoughts as his trial neared: "I am exactly 36 hours away from the biggest
day of my life. As I pen these words, today is Saturday, Sept. 9, 2011. It is
about 9 p.m., and I have just come back to my cell after watching college
football for most of the day. I chose to watch football ALL DAY so that my mind
would not be consumed with this trial. For the most part, it has helped. Today
has been a good day."
His thoughts on jury selection: "By the time you read this we should be
finishing up the jury selection and set to make opening statements Wednesday
morning. It has gone EXTREMELY SMOOTH so far and I am looking forward to better
(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Ga. records show Troy Davis' final death row hours
After a long day of emotional goodbyes, Troy Davis knelt in his prison cell and
began to pray 15 minutes before he was scheduled to die. Then, a guard spotted
him doing something a bit more unexpected: He was sleeping.
Documents obtained by The Associated Press provide a glimpse into the last
moments of Davis' life before he was executed Sept. 21 for the murder of an
off-duty Savannah officer in 1989. At one point, Davis vowed to fast and
refused several prison meals, but as the night dragged on he asked for food.
And as his 7 p.m. scheduled execution came and went, guards caught Davis taking
an hour-long nap.
Davis' execution for the murder of Mark MacPhail was the center of an
international outcry from supporters who said he was the victim of mistaken
identity. Prosecutors and MacPhail's family said they were certain Davis was
guilty and that justice was served.
The documents were obtained through an Open Records request. Prison officials
also provided an audio recording and transcript of his last words, which he
used to again proclaim his innocence and urge his supporters to "continue to
fight this fight."
Davis was notified of the execution date on Sept. 7, and a day later he was
asked to make a last meal request. He scrawled a response in big letters:
"None. Will Be Fasting!"
Prison logs show Davis awoke the day of his execution and refused his breakfast
tray. He stayed in bed until about 7:50 a.m. when he was strip-searched and
escorted to the shower. The first of his 28 visitors soon began to file in.
Davis turned down his lunch at noon and, after the last visitor left about 6
hours later, refused to eat an early dinner, requesting only the grape drink on
the tray. Guards spotted him praying around 6:45 p.m., and by 7 p.m., when his
execution was scheduled to begin, he was napping.
He awoke an hour later, called his attorney for an update on the status of his
last-minute court appeals and asked the guards to bring in some food. He spent
the next few hours on and off the phone with his lawyer awaiting news on his
He likely heard that the Supreme Court denied his request for a last-minute
stay shortly before guards came into the room at 10:28. A few minutes later, he
was strapped to the gurney and execution witnesses started filing in. It was
over at 11:08, when authorities pronounced him dead and cleared the death
(source: Associated Press)
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