[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, S.DAK., CALIF., FLA.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Thu Oct 27 17:01:06 CDT 2011
Appeals court rejects condemned Texas cop killer
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has refused to halt the execution of a San
Antonio man for fatally shooting a veteran police officer trying to resolve a
Frank Garcia faced lethal injection Thursday evening for the 2001 slaying of
48-year-old San Antonio police Sgt. Hector Garza.
Attorneys for the 39-year-old Garcia argued he was mentally impaired and
ineligible for the death penalty under U.S. Supreme Court rulings. They also
contended his earlier attorneys were deficient in failing to address those
mental impairment issues.
Garza was shot responding to a call about a man trying to keep a woman from
leaving a home with 2 children. Garcia later told authorities he aimed for
Garza's head and opened fire, then "went crazy" and killed his wife.
(source: Associated Press)
Clock Ticks Down Toward Execution Of Convicted Texas Cop Killer -- A
39-year-old Texas death row inmate is scheduled to die Thursday evening for the
murder of a police officer a decade ago.
Frank Garcia, 29, the convicted killer of a San Antonio police sergeant, is
headed to the Texas death chamber Thursday evening.
Garcia would be the 12th Texas prisoner executed this year if his lawyers
aren't able to convince a court the former street gang member should be spared
from lethal injection.
Garcia was sentenced to die for gunning down San Antonio Police Sgt. Hector
Garza, 48, in March 2001 after the officer responded to a domestic violence
Garcia shot Garza 3 times, records show.
Garcia also killed his 21-year-old wife as she was trying to leave home with
their 2 children after years of abuse.
She was shot 6 times.
The couple’s 5-year-old daughter witnessed both murders.
The San Antonio Police Officers Association chartered buses so officers can be
outside the prison in Huntsville to show support for their slain colleague as
his killer was to be put to death.
(source: KWTX News)
SOUTH DAKOTA----new death sentence
Inmate in SD guard killing sentenced to death ---- He tells judge that his one
regret was that he did not kill another officer and that he will kill again
A South Dakota inmate was sentenced to death Thursday for killing a prison
guard by bashing him with a pipe, covering his mouth with plastic wrap and then
wearing the dead man's uniform during an attempt to escape.
Eric Robert, 49, had pleaded guilty in September to killing Ronald "R.J."
Johnson on April 12 — Johnson's birthday — as he tried to sneak past other
security. Robert waived his right to a jury trial and had asked the judge to
sentence him to death, saying his one regret was that he did not kill another
officer and that he will kill again. Second Circuit Judge Bradley Zell said
Thursday that Robert's attack on Johnson went beyond trying to incapacitate him
and Robert showed "extreme anger to the point of hatred."
Robert nodded when the judge said he was not likely to be rehabilitated, and
that his need for control would lead him to kill again. He had told Zell during
his pre-sentencing hearing that he was so full of anger and hungry for freedom
the day of the escape attempt that he would have killed anyone who stood in his
"Brad Zell, if you stood between me and the door of freedom, I would kill you,"
Robert said he was sorry he did not bring the pipe with him to the gate to kill
the officer who stopped him. Once he realized his plan was going to fail,
Robert said he began climbing up the wall of the prison — not to escape but to
try to reach for the rifle of an officer on the lookout.
"I would have shot that weapon until it was empty," he said.
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley had said during pre-sentencing that
the state was seeking the death penalty based on five aggravating factors. They
were: the death of a correctional officer, the manner of death, where and why
it occurred, and the defendants' criminal background.
Zell had to find at least one was present during the killing to sentence Robert
Jackley, standing in front of Johnson's family while speaking to reporters,
said the case shows that the death penalty is reserved for the most heinous
"It is my position justice has been served in this case," Jackley said.
Mark Kadi, Robert's attorney, said Robert will not take any additional steps to
delay the execution, but the state Supreme Court will look over the sentence as
part of a mandatory process.
"It's a situation where you see everyone gets what they want, but everyone is
miserable," Kadi said.
During the sentencing, Robert was at first stone-faced, but his demeanor began
to shift as the judge described in detail how he had been a good student, a
diligent worker and a dedicated son to his mother.
Robert's face turned red and he clenched his jaw as he appeared to cry as the
judge described him as a man whose life was ruined by his anger and "obsessive
compulsive controlling behavior" that "ultimately destroyed any meaningful
relationships he had."
Robert had been serving an 80-year-sentence on a kidnapping conviction when he
attempted to escape with Rodney Berget, 49. Berget, who has pleaded not guilty
to the slaying, also faces the death penalty. His trial is scheduled to start
A third inmate, Michael J. Nordman, 47, was charged with supplying some of the
items used in the killing. Prosecutors have not said whether they will seek the
death penalty for Nordman.
Jackley said the Robert sentencing will not affect the other 2 cases.
"It's been a very emotional time for the family and prison staff, and
unfortunately that will have to continue," he said.
Officials say they have implemented several changes at the prison since the
killing, including adding officers to three areas and installing additional
(source: Associated Press)
Eric Robert Sentence: Death Penalty
South Dakota Penitentiary inmate Eric Robert was given the death penalty for
his role in the killing of corrections officer Ron Johnson.
Judge Brad Zell announced his sentence against Robert Thursday morning
following 3 days of testimony in a sentencing hearing. Zell read his decision,
which was 11-pages long.
In September, Robert pleaded guilty to murdering Johnson during an escape
attempt from the South Dakota Penitentiary, which happened on April 12, 2011.
49-year-old Robert waived his right to a jury trial and asked Zell to give him
the death sentence.
Robert had been serving an 80-year-sentence on a kidnapping conviction when he
attempted to escape with another inmate.
There were 3 inmates sentenced to death before Zell gave Robert the same
That includes Donald Moeller who was convicted in the 1990 murder and rape of
nine-year-old Becky O'Connell. Charles Rhines was convicted in the 1992 torture
and murder of Donnivan Schaefer during a burglary of a Rapid City donut shop.
And Briley Piper is on death row for the 2000 killing of Chester Allen Poage.
Elijah Page was executed in 2007 for his role in the killing of Poage. Page was
the 16th person to be executed in South Dakota, dating back to the Dakota
Territory days of 1877. Page was given lethal injection. 1 person was
electrocuted, and prior to that, all South dakota executions were carried out
(source: Keloland TV)
Jury recommends death for Home Depot killer
A convicted killer raised his eyebrows and pursed his lips Wednesday when an
Orange County jury announced that he should receive the death penalty for
gunning down the manager of a Tustin Home Depot during a botched robbery in
A jury of 6 men and 6 women deliberated for 5 hours before deciding that death
was the appropriate penalty for Jason Russell Richardson, 40, convicted last
year of 1st-degree murder plus special circumstances for the shooting death of
Tom Egan, who was trying to protect his employees when he was shot in the
stomach Feb. 9, 2007.
It was the third penalty phase trial for Richardson, who at the time of the
killing an ex-convict with prior convictions for grand theft and rape.
Mistrials were declared in the first 2 penalty-phase trials when both juries
deadlocked heavily in favor of death over life in prison without the
possibility or parole.
But the 3rd jury had no such trouble reaching a verdict.
Several members of the panel became teary-eyed during final arguments Tuesday
when Deputy District Attorney Cameron Talley displayed poster-size photos of
murder victim Egan on his wedding day and with his infant twin daughters before
he was murdered.
On Wednesday, the jurors rushed from the courtroom into a waiting elevator with
comment after they returned with the death verdict.
A.J. Egan, the victim's widow, rushed into the courtroom moments after the
verdict was announced. "Third time's the charm," she said. "I'm bummed I
couldn't get here in time to see it."
Talley said Richardson "committed a brutal crime" and had the type of criminal
past "that made the death penalty the appropriate punishment." The prosecutor
said Richardson's "course of predatory conduct for more than two decades"
demonstrated to jurors that he deserved the maximum punishment.
"He showed no remorse, and he had no pity," Talley added.
On the other side of the courtroom, defense attorneys George Peters and Richard
Schwartzberg were somber.
"I've been doing this (defending in death penalty cases) for 27 years, and his
upbringing was the worst I have ever seen." Peters said.
He argued to the jury that Richardson was the product of brutal childhood. He
was raised by an alcoholic grandmother and a drug-addicted mother who
gravitated toward violent men. Richardson's mother also became involved with
the Hell's Angels when he was a child.
Peters also insisted that the murder in the Tustin Marketplace Home Depot was
"not so atrocious, not so barbaric and not so depraved that it deserved the
Richardson wore a full-body painter's suit as a disguise when he walked into
The Home Depot on Feb. 9, 2007. Witnesses said he waved a gun, asked for the
store's manager and demanded money from the safe.
But Egan, the night manager, approached and said he did not have access to the
safe while trying to dissuade the gunmen from going ahead with the robbery.
Security cameras showed Egan talking to Richardson as he followed him to the
front of the store. The robber suddenly fired a shot into Egan's stomach, the
video shows, before he stepped over the body, grabbed cash from a register and
raced out of the store.
Egan died 2 hours later from massive internal bleeding. He was a retired U.S.
Richardson was linked to the crime scene when his DNA was found on a dirty sock
carrying ammunition that he accidentally dropped inside the store. He was
arrested Feb. 22, 2007, when he went to see his parole officer in Oceanside.
He will become the 60th convicted murderer from Orange County on death row
among more than 700 inmates statewide awaiting execution, according to the
California Department of Corrections website.
There have been 14 executions in the death chamber at San Quentin State Prison
since capital punishment was reinstated in 1978 but none since January 2006. 3
of the executed killers were sentenced by Orange County judges.
D.A. to seek death penalty in 2 cases
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas announced this week that his
office will seek the death penalty against 2 accused killers, including a
convicted triple murderer from Illinois who is now charged with killing 5
Southern California women during a crime spree between 1986 and 1995.
The trial for Andrew Urdiales, 47, who is charged with 5 felony counts of
special circumstances murder for committing multiple murders, has been
consolidated in Orange County even though 4 of his alleged victims were killed
in Riverside and San Diego counties.
He is accused in Orange County of murdering Robbin Brandley, 23, on Jan. 18,
1986 by stabbing her 41 times in the back, neck, hands and chest when he
accosted her as she left a jazz concert at Saddleback College. Urdiales
allegedly drove to the Mission Viejo campus armed with a 6-inch blade hunting
knife looking for a random victim to murder, prosecutors said.
Urdiales was subsequently linked by DNA evidence to murders of four women in
the surrounding counties.
He is serving a life sentence in Illinois for murdering 2 women there in 2002
and another in 2004. He was extradited to Orange County from the Department of
Corrections in Pontiac, Ill., in early October 2011.
Jack and Genelle Reilley, the parents of the Robbin Brandley, "are very pleased
by the DA's decision to seek the death penalty, because it is the only
appropriate sentence under these circumstances," said attorney Todd Spitzer,
who is representing the Reilleys under Marsy's Law.
Urdiales is being held without bail and is scheduled for arraignment Dec. 1 in
the Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
Rackauckas also announced Tuesday that he will seek the death penalty against
an unemployed Navy deserter charged with shooting to death a Westminster woman
and her live-in boyfriend on Feb. 14, 2010 after posing as a potential car
Pasqual Raul Loera, 33, Redlands, is charged with 2 felony count of murder plus
special circumstances of murder during the commission of robbery, murder during
the commission of burglary, and multiple murders.
Prosecutors contend he went to the Westminster home of couple Julie Palasco,
48, and Dennis Koire, 49, under the false pretense of buying an Infiniti sedan
that the victims had listed for sale with AutoTrader. But instead of buying the
car, Loera shot and killed Palasco and wounded Koire before fleeing in the
Infiniti. Koire suffered a gunshot wound to the head and was in a coma for 13
months until he died in March 2011.
Loera was arrested a short time later after he accidentally shot himself in the
foot, drove to Nevada and crashed the Infiniti into a ditch.
Westminster Police found the victims when they did a welfare check in response
to the call from Nevada authorities.
There are 59 convicted killers from Orange County on the state's death row
among more than 700 inmates statewide awaiting execution, according to the
California Department of Corrections website. There have been 14 executions in
the death chamber at San Quentin State Prison since capital punishment was
reinstated in 1978, but none since January 2006.
(source for both: Orange County Register)
FLORIDA----new death sentence
Man sentenced to death in 2009 hammer attack of 82-year-old Jacksonville woman
A judge sentenced a Jacksonville man to the death penalty Thursday for the
December 2009 slaying of an 82-year-old woman who was beaten with a hammer
during a robbery in her home.
A jury found Cecil Shyron King, 41, guilty in April of the murder of Renie
Telzer-Bain, who King hit at least 17 times with the hammer during the fatal
beating. That same jury voted 8-4 later that month in favor of the death
penalty in a recommendation made to Judge Mallory Cooper, who sentenced King
King worked as a lawn maintenance man for Telzer-Bain before he robbed her
sometime on either Dec. 28 or Dec. 29, 2009. DNA found on a piece of partially
eaten fruit linked him to the murder as well as several items found in King's
home that were missing from Telzer-Bain's residence after her body was
(source: Florida Times-Union)
Plea deal could save Paul Merhige's life
The plea deal Paul Michael Merhige could accept Thursday will likely save his
It is a sentiment several local defense attorneys have expressed since news
broke that prosecutors and attorneys for Merhige, facing a possible death
penalty for the 2009 Thanksgiving Day massacre that left four of his relatives
dead, have hammered out a deal that will send him to life in prison instead.
Had it not been for the plea, which Merhige is expected to enter Thursday,
attorneys who have represented other local death penalty defendants say Merhige
stood a good chance of becoming the first person in more than 2 decades to
receive a death sentence in Palm Beach Circuit Court.
"Because the case was emotional, and because a child was involved, I think it
would have been very difficult," defense attorney Anne Perry said Wednesday. "I
don't think the jurors would have been able to get past that."
Merhige has had a possible death sentence looming over him shortly after his
January 2010 arrest in the Florida Keys, where he fled after he killed his
33-year-old twin sisters Carla Merhige and Lisa Knight, his 76-year-old aunt
Raymonde Joseph, and his cousin's 6-year-old daughter Makayla Sitton.
Prosecutors say Merhige's attorney, Public Defender Carey Haughwout, approached
them with a plea agreement that calls for Merhige to receive seven consecutive
life sentences in the case. Most of the surviving relatives - except for
Makayla's parents Jim and Muriel Sitton - are willing to accept the agreement.
A trial set for the case in January would have brought a vigorously-argued
insanity defense from Carey Haughwout, one of the region's best death penalty
litigators. Alhough insanity is difficult to prove under Florida laws,
Houghwought is one of few local attorneys who have been able to do it
Haughwout could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but defense attorneys
like Robert Gershman and Fred Susaneck said the fact that Haughwout even
offered the plea could have been a sign that convincing a jury to spare
Merhige's life was a potentially impossible task.
"I'd say that I'm between 100 % and 110 % sure that if a jury convicted him of
1st-degree murder in the case, he would have gotten the death penalty,"
Perry, Gershman and several other defense attorneys agreed Wednesday that the
deaths of multiple relatives, including 6-year-old Makayla, were so tragic that
jurors would have likely voted for death.
The last time a defendant received a death sentence in Palm Beach County state
court was Carlton Francis, who was sentenced to death in 1998 for stabbing to
death 66-year-old twin sisters Claire Brunt and Bernice Flegel at their West
Palm Beach home in 1997.
In West Palm Beach federal court, a jury in 2009 sentenced Daniel Troya and
Ricardo Sanchez to death for murdering two children, shot execution-style along
with their parents along Florida's Turnpike during an apparent theft of a large
The jurors decided to recommend life in prison for the murders of Jose Luis and
Yessica Escobedo but death for the murders of 4-year-old Luis Julian and
3-year-old Luis Damian. A juror in the case, Rick DiCresce, at the time said
that the innocence of the children coupled with the fact that they were
murdered for greed made him and other jurors believe death was the only just
Yet DiCresce in a phone interview Wednesday said he has been following the
Merhige case in news reports and believes the circumstances are much different.
He said he couldn't say what he would have decided as a juror in that case
without looking at the evidence, but pointed to evidence of Merhige's deep
psychological issues as a factor to consider heavily.
"It's tragic that a child had to lose her life; it's tragic that anyone had to
lose their life," DiCresce said. "But his mental difficiencies are something to
look at, so if the prosecutors thought it was a good agreement to make I'm
inclined to agree with them."
Perry, who over more than 2 decades has worked on a number of death penalty
cases, said that from a practical standpoint, the plea agreement will also
spare both the expense of a possible trial and lengthy appeals. By accepting
the plea, Merhige would forfeit all his rights to appeal the sentence.
Jim Sitton on Tuesday said he would attempt to ask Circuit Judge Joseph Marx to
delay today's plea conference, but as of Wednesday afternoon the case was still
set for a 12:30 p.m. hearing.
The Sittons, along with Knight's husband Patrick, sued Merhige's parents Carole
and Michael last month, claiming they set the stage for Merhige's attack by
having him come to the Thanksgiving gathering uninvited even though they knew
he was potentially violent.
Assistant State Attorney Terri Skiles earlier this week said she could not
discuss the details of the case, but said that although prosecutors value the
sentiments of surviving relatives in cases like Merhige's, ultimate decision on
whether or not to accept a plea rests with them.
If the deal goes through, attorneys like Perry say, then Haughwout's move for a
life sentence could have been the best possible outcome for the man who
perpetrated one of the most horrific multiple murders seen in this area.
"She literally saved his life," Perry said.
(source: Palm Beach Post)
Commentary: 'Lead cocktails' and electric chairs
Every time Florida starts to fade from the national spotlight, somebody like
Brad Drake comes along and gets everybody laughing at us again.
Drake is the state representative who is sponsoring a bill to give death row
inmates the choice between the electric chair or a firing squad – “a lead
cocktail,” in Drake’s words.
Not even Clint Eastwood could say the phrase, “lead cocktail,” with a straight
face, but Drake claims to be serious. He says he’s frustrated by the questions
about whether lethal injection, Florida’s current method of execution, is
“I say let’s end the debate,” Drake said in a prepared statement. “We still
have Old Sparky. And if that doesn’t suit the criminal, then we will provide
them a .45-caliber lead cocktail instead.”
Drake is a Republican and proud Baptist from the Panhandle community of
Eucheeanna. At the tender age of 36, he has already been named one of the
World’s Worst Humans by TV commentator Keith Olbermann.
For supporters of the death penalty, the first problem with Drake’s proposed
legislation is that it will generate so many court challenges as to effectively
halt all executions in Florida. The second problem with the idea is his lack of
If you want grisly executions, come up with something fresh. Drake’s web page
says he’s a NASCAR fan, so why not make use of the speedway at Daytona? Strap
the doomed inmate to the track and let Jeff Gordon run him over for a hundred
Florida’s electric chair was retired because the chair malfunctioned, causing
some ghastly moments in the death chamber. Firing squads lost favor in this
country for the same reason — they were messy and not always instantaneous.
Inefficiency of an execution method has been viewed by some courts as “cruel
and unusual punishment,” which is barred by the U.S. Constitution.
Says Drake: “Don’t tell me I have to be sympathetic and humane to people who do
something so heinous that a judge orders them to be executed.”
You can see why death-penalty opponents are secretly elated to have this guy
spouting off. All that’s missing is flecks of spittle on his lips.
Back in 1983, when Drake was in elementary school, I watched a man named Robert
Austin Sullivan put to death in Florida’s electric chair. Old Sparky worked
fine that day, but it was a gothic ceremony that unsettled witnesses and
Some saw smoke rise from one of Sullivan’s legs. I didn’t, probably because I
was watching his hooded face.
Sullivan had been convicted in the brutal robbery-murder of a Howard Johnson’s
manager in Miami. If the victim had been a member of my family, I would have
been in the front row of the death chamber to watch Sullivan die.
Capital punishment doesn’t deter anybody else from committing murder, but that
was never the point. I would have no problem with the death penalty if it was
administered consistently, regardless of race, and if the guilt of the
condemned was a certainty.
Unfortunately, that isn’t how it works. According to the Death Penalty
Information Center, 115 condemned inmates have been exonerated in this country
since 1973. 17 were freed when DNA evidence proved their innocence (after
they’d served a combined 209 years in prison).
One man, Frank Lee Smith, died on Florida’s death row after serving 14 years
for a rape and murder he didn’t commit. DNA testing cleared his name, too late.
Numerous studies show that blacks are more likely than whites to receive a
death sentence for similar crimes. Two of the most famously wronged Death Row
inmates were Freddie Pitts and Wilbert Lee, who were ultimately pardoned after
the late Herald reporter Gene Miller punched holes in the double-murder case
against them in the Panhandle.
A commonly heard complaint is that it takes too long to have somebody executed,
often more than a decade. The appeals process is slow and grueling for victims’
families, but it has saved persons who are indisputably innocent from the death
chamber. A good Christian like Drake ought to be grateful for that.
Taxpayers already spend a fortune on legal battles before an inmate is actually
executed. Getting the hated serial killer Ted Bundy from his cell to Old Sparky
cost the state an estimated $5 million. It would have been much cheaper to lock
him up and throw away the key.
Given past miscues, the odds of conducting a flawless firing squad in Florida
would appear to be shaky, unless the shooters were allowed to stand 5 feet from
their target. There surely would be no shortage of volunteers, and no shortage
Drake says he got his idea for the “lead cocktail” from lunchtime chatter at a
neighborhood Waffle House. Perhaps he should have gone to the IHOP.
(source: Commentary, Carl Hiaasen, Miami Herald)
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