[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----PENN., NEB., CALIF., FLA.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Wed Oct 19 08:48:48 CDT 2011
Death penalty sought for man accused in double slaying----Investigators allege
Matthew Becker killed his pregnant girlfriend; Prosecutors cite aggravating
circumstances in seeking deathIntelligencer
Matthew Becker will face the death penalty when he is tried for allegedly
killing his pregnant girlfriend, investigators said.
Prosecutors on Tuesday filed a notice to seek the death penalty, citing
multiple aggravating circumstances in the Aug. 12 homicide of Allison Marie
Walsh and her unborn daughter.
Police allege Becker, 22, shot Walsh in the head inside Becker's Mastersonville
home after a disagreement over plans for the night.
Walsh, 7 1/2-months' pregnant, died inside 2666 N. Colebrook Road. The unborn
baby was taken to Hershey Medical Center but died as well.
In the filing, prosecutors cite three specific aggravators and a catch-all
aggravator to be presented at trial.
• Becker presented a grave risk to another person (the baby) when he fired the
gun at Walsh.
• There were multiple victims of a single act.
• Walsh was in or beyond her third trimester of pregnancy at the time of the
Baby Alexandria was due almost one week ago.
Assistant district attorneys Mark Fetterman and Deborah Greathouse are
prosecuting the case. Fetterman filed the death-penalty paperwork Tuesday
Becker has been at Lancaster County Prison without bail since he was arrested
A trial is likely next year, unless a plea is made.
Becker contends that he shot the woman by accident. At a preliminary hearing
last week, troopers testified that Becker admitted to pointing a gun at Walsh.
Dennis Charles, Becker's attorney, said the gun went off by accident. From the
start, Becker proclaimed the shooting was accidental, Charles argued.
Charles said the alleged offenses, even if proven true, warrant only
However, troopers testified, there was a history of violence and threats in the
couple's 1-year relationship.
Calling the relationship one of "disharmony," troopers said that Becker himself
admitted to threatening Walsh before with a weapon.
One likely point of argument at trial will be whether Becker knew how to use
the gun that was fired on the night of Aug. 12.
Becker had bought the pistol — with Walsh by his side — hours before the
shooting, it was said at the preliminary hearing.
Charles said his client didn't know how to handle the weapon. Becker wasn't
trained regarding its use at the gun shop, the lawyer said.
Becker initially told police different versions of how the gun fired, troopers
testified. None of the explanations was plausible, police said, because the gun
had safety features to prevent misfires.
Death penalty eyed in slaying
Prosecutors may seek the death penalty in the case of a Mitchell man charged
with killing his stepdaughter.
Salvador Carl Lopez, 32, has been charged with 1st-degree murder in the Sept.
21 death of 8-year-old Kerra Wilson. He appeared for the 1st time in district
Prosecutor Joe Stecher, a Sioux County deputy attorney and a former U.S.
attorney for the District of Nebraska, filed a notice of additional aggravating
circumstances in the case, the necessary filing for the state to seek the death
penalty in the case.
In order to seek the death penalty, the state must indicate, and later prove,
that at least 1 aggravating circumstance exists in the case. The complaint
identified Lopez's attempt to conceal the crime or the perpetrator as the
The aggravating circumstance could come from Lopez's initial statements to
police or other acts he committed as part of the crime that have not been
released to the public. Investigators had searched for two days, beginning
Sept. 21, for Kerra.
Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy attorney James Mowbray will represent
Lopez, who is currently scheduled to be tried in March.
Mowbray said after the hearing that the defense believes it is likely that it
will need to seek a change of venue because of Sioux County's population.
"Due to the lack of people, I believe we will have a problem seating a jury,"
he said. Sioux County has a population of 1,311 people. Mowbray said he
believes it will be easier to seat a jury in Scotts Bluff County, which has a
population of 36,970, despite extensive media attention.
"(Potential Scotts Bluff County jurors) will know something about the case,"
Mowbray said. "Obviously, (the case) was on the national news. We won't get
away from that, but we'll have an easier time . of finding 12 jurors in Scotts
(source: Omaha World-Herald)
Death penalty subject of Sac State art exhibit
Malaquias Montoya, an artist who created controversial works surrounding the
debate on capital punishment, opened his exhibit in the Sacramento State
Library Gallery Annex Thursday.
The exhibit, "Pre-Meditated: Meditations on Capital Punishment," opened with a
reception that included guest speaker Mike Farrell, president of the local
chapter of Death Penalty Focus. He is best known for his role as B.J. Hunnicutt
in the television series, M*A*S*H.
Montoya has been making posters against the death penalty since 1976 when he
watched the trial of George Jackson, an American convict killed 3 days before
trial. Capital punishment had always been a subject of importance to him, but
he did not know much about it.
"I am not a scholar on the subject by any stretch of the imagination," Montoya
said. "Something happened when I was young. My father was abusive and I hated
him. But my mother told me, ‘Your father was born a child just like you, but he
grew up and something made him go bad.'"
After that, Montoya grew compassionate and understanding of his father.
"And then I started to dislike the things that made him ugly, not him. And
that's when I started thinking politically," Montoya said.
In 2000, when it seemed executions were happening monthly in Texas, Montoya
thought of having a show on the subject.
"I put the work together and opened it in Notre Dame, which is a Catholic
University. There were a lot of comments, and it led to an interesting debate,"
Montoya said. "It then moved to Duke University, Chicago, Los Angeles, the
Nelson Gallery in Davis."
There are silk screened series of lynchings, paintings of the first woman
executed, penalizing of the innocent and excerpts and depictions of court cases
involving mentally retarded prisoners.
"The killing of the mentally retarded was hard to believe," Montoya said. "One
man had his last supper and saved his piece of cake. When the guard asked him
if he wanted to eat it, the prisoner answered he wanted to save it for when he
got back. He had no idea what was happening."
According to a study done on inmates by the Human Rights Watch, America has
more mentally ill in jail than in hospitals.
"It makes me feel anger, horror, pity, and rage at the people that continue to
insist this is a civilized solution while blinding themselves to this ugly
reality," Farrell said. "I think it's obvious why it's wrong, but Malaquias
depicts it in a more nightmarish sense."
Farrell said one of the things he admired most about Montoya's work was that it
showed there was no humane way to impose the death penalty.
"It's brutal, and it really portrays that there is no humane way to take a
life," Farrell said.
On the wall opposite the entrance, there is a plaque that reads, "For there to
be an equivalence, the death penalty would have to punish a criminal who had
warned his victim in advance of the fate at which he would inflict a horrible
death on him, and who, from that moment onward, had confined him at his mercy
for months. Such a monster does not exist in private life."
Farrell said he is often accused of only caring about the murderer. He said
everyone is affected or injured when violent crime occurs, and believes part of
the $180 million that America has spent so far on the death penalty should be
put towards dealing with the results of that act.
"What about life in prison without the possibility of parole?" asked Farrell
He said the perpetrator should be required to work and the money they would be
compensated should be donated to a victim relief fund.
"I support the nonviolent message and nonviolent protest. I'm against capital
punishment," said Jason Youngkin, a second year grad student majoring in
teaching. "I'm an artist as well, and this imagery is moving and powerful."
At one of his shows, Montoya said he saw a man looking at one of his paintings,
crying. He did not walk up to him and ask him why, and decided to give him his
space. After the show, the man walked up to Montoya and gave him a big hug.
"He was in jail, and one day, another prisoner patted him on the back, which
meant he wanted to give him something," Montoya said. "The man reached behind
him and pocketed the piece of paper, forgetting about it. Later that night when
he remembered, he took it out and looked at it. It was one of my paintings."
It was being passed around to the inmates, Montoya said.
"You always wonder when you do 500 posters, is this going to do any good? Is
this going anywhere?" Montoya asked.
Farrell said Montoya uses his talent to ask important questions of society.
"The questions that need to be asked," Montoya said. "The fundamental right to
life is often abused."
(source: The (Sacramento State University) State Hornet)
Duval jury opts for death penalty in 2008 murder; defendant declined to have
his family testify
A Jacksonville jury recommended the death penalty Tuesday for a convicted
murderer who went against his attorney's advice to allow his family to testify
in his behalf.
Michael Mulugetta Yacob, 26, was convicted Oct. 6 in the fatal shooting of
19-year-old Moussa Maida during a May 2008 robbery at Maida's family-owned
convenience store in Arlington.
Yacob told Circuit Judge Adrian G. Soud Tuesday he did not want his family to
go through the pain of testifying despite the judge's efforts to ensure Yacob
understood the consequences.
The exclusion of that testimony forced Soud to make a ruling before the jury
entered the courtroom that restricted the testimony of Yacob's lone witness, an
investigator for the Public Defender's Office.
Because prosecutors could not cross-examine potential witnesses who could
explain Yacob's background, Soud said the investigator could not speak on
several topics pertaining to the hardships and accomplishments of his life.
Among those topics include the several moves he made growing up as an immigrant
from Africa, the social challenges he faced as a result of those moves, the
abuse he suffered from a father who his defense said abandoned him as a child,
his parents' divorce resulting in his mother's move to Seattle and his academic
Those factors were never presented to the jury who voted 10-2 Tuesday in favor
of the death penalty.
A video played during his trial showed the entire robbery that resulted in
Maida's murder on May 4, 2008.
Maida had just opened up the Snappy Food Store on Trollie Lane that morning
when a masked Yacob entered the store and forced him into the cashier's booth,
as seen in the video.
After forcing Maida to open the safe and give up the money, Yacob began to flee
but stopped when he saw Maida press a button that locked him in the store.
Maida sheltered himself inside what he thought to be a bulletproof glass
But after Yacob missed with a first shot, he took better aim and fired the
fatal blow that somehow pierced the glass and struck Maida in the chest.
Yacob managed to get away but was charged with first-degree murder in 2010
after DNA found at the scene was linked to him while incarcerated in another
Maida's mother, Samar Safar, held her head down as a victim advocate read her
interpreted statement to the jury.
"Since his death, I feel like all my happiness is gone," Safar said. "I don't
like my life without my Moussa."
The Maida family moved to the United States from Syria when Moussa was 13.
Because he spoke English much better than his parents, he took on more
responsibilities than an average teen at the store and at home, his sister
"Moussa took me under his wing and helped me adjust to life in the United
States," said Cristen Maida, 19. "I could ask him things I couldn't ask my
"I can remember riding around with him, listening to music and singing to the
top of our lungs."
Yacob is set to appear back in court Nov. 18 to allow his attorneys one final
plea of leniency to Soud.
(source: Florida Times-Union)
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