[Deathpenalty] [POSSIBLE SPAM] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., OHIO, NEB., USA
rhalperi at smu.edu
Tue Oct 18 22:36:16 CDT 2011
Evidentiary Hearing Granted to Evaluate New Evidence Regarding the Actual
Innocence of Robert Gene Will
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
On October 19, 2011 a limited evidentiary hearing will take place for Robert
Will who has resided on Death Row for 9 years. Robert Will has always
maintained his innocence and instead declared another man shot Deputy Hill,the
police officer Robert Will was sentenced to die for killing in 2002.
Now a new witness has joined the voices of 3 others who support Robert Will’s
innocence claim and have provided affidavits to the courts. This witness will
give testimony to the courts on October 19ththat they saw the real killer
shortly after the shooting with blood on him. The police never investigated the
real shooter because he is the son of a police officer.
Dawn Bremer, the spokesperson for the Robert Will Defense Committee commented
on the importance of the developments in the case, “This hearing can open the
door to letting the truth finally be brought to light and justice being served
not only for Mr. Will, but for Deputy Hill’s family by clearing an innocent man
and putting the focus on the real murder.”
Robert Will’s case is not unique and is in fact very similar to Troy Davis’,
the death row prisoner who was murdered by the state of Georgia on the night of
September 21, 2011. Davis also proclaimed his innocence until the very end and
hundreds of thousands of people rallied to his side, here in the United States
and around the world. Seven of the nine original witnesses recanted their
testimony and no actual evidence exits to tie Davis to the murder of the police
officer he was convicted and sentenced to death for killing.
Since 1976 over 130 people have been exonerated from death row in the United
States despite strict regulations around petitioning for new factual evidence
to be reviewed by a jury and judge.
The family of Deputy Barry Hill was devastated by the loss of Mr. Hill. Robert
Will’s family, a young son Robert Will hasn't seen since his incarceration in
2000 should not have to suffer that same fate. Someone killed Deputy Hill on
December 4th, 2000. Robert Will is not that guy.
Washington County DA to seek death penalty in elderly woman's death
Washington County District Attorney Steve Toprani's office will seek the death
penalty against one of three California family members charged in connection
with the stabbing death of a 92-year-old woman in her home in July.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Lucas gave formal notice Tuesday that the
office will seek the death penalty against David A. McClelland, 56, who is
charged with murdering his neighbor, Evelyn Stepko, on July 18.
"We filed notice with the court and the defendant this morning that we believe
there were aggravating factors in the homicide case against David A. McClelland
in as far as the death was deliberately committed in the commission of another
felony," said Toprani's chief of staff, Steven Fisher.
The elder McClelland, his wife, Diane, 48, and his son, David J. McClelland,
36, a former part-time Washington Township police officer, are awaiting trial
on charges related to Stepko's murder and for stealing money from her over the
past 2 years. The three were formally arraigned before Washington Judge Paul
Pozonsky this morning.
Diane McClelland does not face homicide charges, but is accused of benefitting
from the proceeds of the multiple burglaries at Stepko's home.
State police allege McClelland and his wife filed for personal bankruptcy
before the 1st burglary on Aug. 4, 2009. After that, they started going on
gambling sprees at Meadows Racetrack & Casino and bought expensive vehicles.
The elder McClelland worked as a handyman for Stepko up until she was murdered,
according to state police at Belle Vernon. Stepko was found at the bottom of
her basement stairs. She died of 2 stab wounds to her neck and blunt-force
trauma to her chest, authorities said.
Police said David A. McClelland was receiving $1,000 a month in disability
benefits, and his wife was making about $22,000 a year as a grocery store
clerk. Last year, police allege, she paid $43,844 in cash for a 2009 Lincoln
Navigator and later paid $11,750 in cash for a Grand Am for her stepson.
McClelland and his son have admitted their roles in Stepko's murder, according
When police questioned Diane McClelland, she maintained that she was unaware
her husband and stepson allegedly were burglarizing Stepko's home. She said the
money spent at the casino and on the vehicles came from winnings from a
private, illegal lottery and a $9,000 income-tax refund.
Her stepson told police she knew about the burglaries, according to the
affidavit of probable cause.
Fischer said it is "premature" to say whether Diane McClelland and David J.
McClelland will testify for the prosecution at trial against the elder
David A. and David J. McClelland are being held without bond in the Washington
County Jail. Diane McClelland was released after posting $100,000 bond,
according to court records.
(source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
Despite reputation, Morganelli takes death penalty off the table
Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli holds a reputation as a
fierce proponent of the death penalty, ever since 1993 when as a young
prosecutor he sued then-Gov. Robert P. Casey to force him to sign death
But Morganelli's record shows that with the state's ultimate punishment, he's
far more pragmatic than the headlines suggest.
"I know that's my reputation," Morganelli said. "It's not necessarily the
Morganelli last week bargained away the death penalty in two murder cases in
exchange for guaranteed life in prison without parole. Those join at least 5
others in which the veteran prosecutor has struck such deals — and many more
have been offered, but refused by defendants intent on their day in court.
Because he supports capital punishment, "that doesn't mean that I'm stupid,
that I'm going to roll the dice, just to get the death penalty," Morganelli
Only once in Morganelli's two decades at the helm has he gone to trial solely
over whether a defendant should be executed: in May with Michael Eric Ballard,
who stabbed to death four people in Northampton while on parole for a 1991
murder. Ballard, who pleaded guilty to last year's killings, was sent to death
row by the jury, the county's first such verdict in nearly 25 years.
That case, the bloodiest in the Lehigh Valley in memory, was an exception given
its grisly nature, Morganelli said. As a policy, he's willing to give up
capital charges for a sure conviction and life in prison.
Death sentences guarantee decades of appeals, and 1962 was the last time a
murderer was executed in Pennsylvania against his will. Morganelli said he
recognizes that there's usually little to gain in insisting on the death
penalty — but a lot to lose if a defendant is acquitted, convicted of lesser
charges, or allowed years of resource-draining appeals.
"Here in Pennsylvania, we know there's a de facto moratorium [on executions]
that's been imposed by the federal courts," Morganelli said. He didn't know if
he would have the same approach if he was in an execution-friendly state like
Texas. "We have to face the reality of the situation here."
Last week, Barry L. Soldridge Jr. was convicted by a jury of shooting and
killing his ex-girlfriend and her new beau with an assault rifle in Lehigh
Township. Facing a possible death sentence, he entered into an agreement Friday
in which he accepted life in prison and waived his rights to appeal.
The same day, John McGlinchey III pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for
fatally shooting an Easton woman on Christmas Eve, in a deal as he also faced
capital charges. McGlinchey will serve life, and he also forfeited his appeals.
In both cases, the bargains had the blessings of the families of the victims.
Morganelli said he might reconsider the agreements if there was "extreme,
outrageous opposition" by loved ones, but he said he's yet to see that.
"John is very practical when it comes to those cases," said Bethlehem defense
attorney Matthew Potts, noting interviews Morganelli gave after McGlinchey's
plea. "What he says is exactly right. It brings closure to the case. Otherwise
there's going to be appeals until who knows when."
Potts defended Robert W. White Jr. when he was tried in 2009 for binding,
raping and suffocating an Easton woman on Halloween 1978. He also represented
Paul Serrano III, who mistakenly shot and killed a 15-year-old boy in Bethlehem
while trying to kill a rival drug dealer in 2006.
Both cases were resolved through guilty pleas in which the death penalty was
dropped, and the defendants accepted life in prison without parole and waived
their appeals. White's came only after testimony began in his trial from other
women he'd attacked.
There are clear benefits to prosecutors in charging defendants with capital
murder, even if it is ultimately not sought, said Gary Asteak, an Easton
defense lawyer and a past president of the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal
It is a useful plea bargaining tool, Asteak said. Also, capital juries are
widely perceived as more likely to find a defendant guilty at trial, he said,
given a rigorous jury selection process that weeds out prospective panelists
who couldn't impose death if it gets to sentencing.
"In reality, if John can save the taxpayers money, save his office money, and
get the defendant off the street for the rest of his life, his goal is a valid
one and he's serving a legitimate purpose," Asteak said of the plea agreements.
David Rose of Easton, a board member of Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the
Death Penalty, said he doesn't see Morganelli as an ideologue, though he
disagrees with him.
"He's like a lot of politicians," Rose said. "He thinks that what's good for
him is good for society."
Rose said he's spoken to former prosecutors in Morganelli's office who opposed
the death penalty and reported that he had no problem with their views.
Likewise, Rose said he's talked to former jurors who were holdouts against the
death penalty, who related that Morganelli was not upset with them.
Asteak declined to discuss his view of Morganelli's personal feelings on the
death penalty. Potts said Ballard's case is a counter to those who question
whether Morganelli chases capital punishment as strongly as his public image
"It's tough to say that he's not someone who will pursue it, because he did,"
Potts said. "If anyone had any doubts that he's willing to go all the way, he's
Christopher Shipman, an Easton attorney who represented Soldridge, said he
appreciates there are many reasons for agreements like the one his client
accepted: It ends the case, costs far less, and guarantees that the defendant
will never be released. But he said he wonders if there is anything else to
"Maybe he just didn't think my guy deserved to die," Shipman said. "He's never
said it, but maybe that is something that goes on, I don't know."
Morganelli's lawsuit against Casey 18 years ago came in the first term of a
prosecutor who has since three times run unsuccessfully for state attorney
The suit sought to force Casey to sign the death warrants for Martin Appel, who
killed 3 people in a East Allen Township bank robbery in 1986, and Josoph
Henry, who raped and murdered a Lehigh University student in the same year.
Morganelli prevailed at Commonwealth Court, and Casey's successor, Tom Ridge,
settled it by signing both warrants.
But neither Appel nor Henry were executed, with their death sentences thrown
out by the courts at appeal. The result: Morganelli struck deals with them for
life in prison, in exchange for waiving their appellate rights, Appel in 2001
and Henry in 2002.
DEATH PENALTY PLEAS
Despite a reputation as a vocal backer of capital punishment, Northampton
County District Attorney John Morganelli has long been willing to give up the
death penalty in exchange for guilty pleas and a waiver of appeals, including
two cases last week.
Some of the others:
•Russell Buskirk, convicted of first-degree murder for shooting a man in
Plainfield Township in 2000. Before sentencing, prosecutors agreed to take the
death penalty off the table, for life in prison.
•Paul Serrano III, who shot a 15-year-old boy in Bethlehem in 2006. Serrano
pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and is serving life.
•Robert W. White Jr., who raped and killed an Easton woman in 1978. Partway
through a 2009 trial, he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and is serving
•Trillble El, who shot her boyfriend at his Bethlehem apartment in 2007. She
pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and other charges and was sentenced to 20
to 40 years.
•Joseph Urquia, who beat to death his 8-week-old daughter in Easton last year.
He pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and got 20 to 40 years.
(source: Allentown Morning Call)
Pettaway indicted in Springfield Twp. double homicide
Cameo Pettaway, who is charged in the murders of a Springfield Township couple,
will face the death penalty if he is found guilty of the January slayings.
Mr. Pettaway, 22, was indicted by a Lucas County Grand jury Tuesday on 2 counts
of aggravated murder, 1 count of aggravated burglary, and 2 counts of
Mr. Pettaway, whose last known address is 133 Essex Drive in Toledo, was
arrested Oct. 10 for his alleged part in the asphyxiation deaths of Lisa<
Straub and Johnny Clarke, who were found bound with plastic bags over their
heads in Miss Straub’s parents’ Longacre Lane home on Jan. 31.
Also charged in the murders is Samuel Todd Williams, 24, of 1626 Kelsey Ave. If
convicted, he, too, could face the death penalty.
Mr. Pettaway’s mother, Kenyatta Baker, has told The Blade that the two men are
(source: Toledo Blade)
Death Penalty Sought For Stepfather Of Slain Girl----Salvador Lopez Charged
With First-Degree Murder
Sioux County prosecutors have submitted the necessary filing to seek the death
penalty against a western Nebraska man accused of killing his 8-year-old
Salvador Lopez, of Mitchell, is charged with 1st-degree murder in the death of
Kerra Wilson. Her body was found Sept. 22 on remote ranchland several miles
north of their home.
Online court records show prosecutors on Monday filed a notice of aggravated
circumstances in the case.
While the state is required by law to state its intentions to seek the death
penalty from the beginning of a case, it could later determine not to seek the
Lopez said he dropped her off at school but she didn't appear in any
surveillance footage in the school or playground.
(source: KETV News)
Perry’s Executions Defy Sense and Conscience: Margaret Carlson
The most indelible moment of the recent Republican debates -- even more
unnerving than the crowd booing a gay soldier or the eruption of scattered
applause in appreciation of the free market ushering a hypothetical patient to
his death for lack of insurance -- was Texas Governor Rick Perry’s execution
In a debate in September at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, moderator
Brian Williams tried to pose a question to Perry, beginning: “Your state has
executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times.
Have you -- ”
Before he could finish, Williams was drowned out by lusty cheers and piercing
whistles from the audience.
It’s one thing to support the death penalty. It’s quite another to relish it
like fans cheering a winning touchdown. The Supreme Court reinstated the death
penalty in 1976 -- although retired Justice John Paul Stevens now says his vote
in favor is the one regret of his 35 years on the bench. Public support for the
death penalty remains broad, but it has waned in recent years. The imposition
of life sentences without parole, the failure of the death penalty to deter
violent crime (Texas has both the highest number of executions and an
above-average murder rate) and publicity about wrongful convictions have all
taken a toll.
According to a CBS-New York Times poll last month, support for the death
penalty for convicted murderers has fallen to 60 percent, down 18 percentage
points from when the question was first asked by CBS in October 1988. That was
the autumn when Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis was being
pummeled for being soft on crime. Unwilling to replicate Dukakis’s experience,
every Democratic presidential nominee -- and even many Democratic officials in
liberal enclaves like New York City -- have supported capital punishment ever
Out of Sight
Our executions take place conveniently out of sight. Firing squads and hangings
have given way to what looks like a patient being given anesthesia in an
operating room, only the prisoner convulses and never wakes up. Curiously, the
gung-ho types who cheer loudest for Perry’s body count -- it’s since grown to
235 -- are often the most likely to contend that government can do nothing
right. When it comes to choosing who should be put to death, however,
government remarkably can do nothing wrong.
Facts have never had much sway in this debate. Since 1993, according to the
Death Penalty Information Center, there have been 138 death-row inmates who’ve
been exonerated and released, some as a result of DNA evidence. There is no way
to rationally evaluate such information without concluding there is a high
likelihood that innocent people have been convicted of murder and executed in
Inmates have been sent to death row due to faulty eyewitness testimony (which
is frighteningly common), poor forensics (most crime labs do not resemble
“CSI”), overworked police and prosecutors (under pressure to solve crimes
quickly), or shoddy defense lawyers. The Senate Judiciary Committee found that
“egregiously incompetent defense lawyering” accounted for about two-fifths of
the errors in capital cases. In an infamous case in Texas, a defense attorney
who slept in court was not sufficient grounds to reverse his client’s
conviction. Poverty and race play their part as well: About 70 % of those
exonerated by DNA testing are black or Hispanic.
None of this matters. In denying an appeal by Georgia death-row inmate Troy
Davis, who was subsequently executed, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
wrote that the court “has never held that the Constitution forbids the
execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is
later able to convince a habeas court that he is ‘actually’ innocent.” By
Scalia’s reckoning, justice is a process, not a result: A wrongful conviction
is small potatoes, an unfortunate detail, when weighed against a technically
fair trial process.
In Davis’s case, seven witnesses recanted their testimony, and the evidence
linking him to the shooting of an off-duty policeman was largely
circumstantial. Former FBI Director William Sessions, former Republican
Representative Bob Barr, former wardens -- even Pope Benedict XVI -- asked
Georgia to delay Davis’s execution. He died by lethal injection on Sept. 21.
In 2004, Perry similarly refused to delay the execution of Cameron Todd
Willingham despite mounting evidence -- made possible by advances in forensic
science -- that the fire that killed Willingham’s three children had not been
deliberately set. Perry didn’t wait for additional findings in the case from a
special commission; he was in a hurry. Willingham was executed.
At the Reagan library debate, Perry confidently told Williams that he had never
lost sleep over any of the 234 people executed during his tenure as governor.
It’s an alarming statement if false, a contemptible one if true. Perry will
soon face another test -- the convoluted case of Henry Watkins Skinner, who is
scheduled to be executed by Texas on Nov. 9. As Perry travels the country
seeking to convince Americans that he’s worthy of the presidency, he would do
well to struggle a bit over Skinner’s fate, even if it slows the death machine
that Texas has embraced. It’s worth losing sleep over life-and-death decisions.
It’s what presidents, and other moral beings, do.
(source: Margaret Carlson is a Bloomberg View columnist. The opinions expressed
are her own----Bloomberg News)
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