[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----FLA., TENN., LA., VA.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Wed Sep 7 23:12:18 CDT 2011
Appeals court says Florida can execute cop killer
A federal appeals court has lifted its stay of execution for a Florida man
convicted of killing a police officer 33 years ago.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled Wednesday that Florida can
execute Manuel Valle, who had been scheduled to die earlier this week. It was
not immediately known when Valle will be executed, but it could be within days.
The state department of corrections didn't immediately return a call.
Valle had argued that the new drugs Florida plans to use for lethal injections
constitute cruel and unusual punishment. The appeals court justices ruled that
Valle is unlikely to win that appeal and lifted the stay.
Valle was convicted of fatally shooting Coral Gables officer Louis Pena in 1978
after a traffic stop.
(soruce: Associated Press)
When will state stop arbitrary death-penalty decisions?
The state couldn't prove how or where Caylee Anthony died. It couldn't come up
with any abusive behavior, much less a good motive why Casey Anthony might have
killed her daughter.
Another defendant probably would have been charged with criminal neglect or
manslaughter. But because it was Casey, prosecutors sought the death penalty.
Bob Ward called 911 from his Isleworth mansion and said, "I just shot my
Police found her in a pool of blood.
His 1st wife had divorced him 32 years ago, alleging "physical cruelty'' and
asking that he be restrained from harming her.
A former girlfriend said the millionaire developer once pointed a gun at her
and hit her in the face with a bedpost.
Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty against Ward.
I don't know what crime, if any, Ward may have committed.
But it seems the decision on which cases to pursue as death-penalty cases is
disturbingly arbitrary. The odds certainly seem to favor those who can afford
top legal talent.
The system for deciding who on death row gets the needle isn't any better.
Gov. Rick Scott recently signed his 1st death warrant. It was for Manuel Valle,
who has been on death row since the Bee Gees' "Night Fever" topped the
His original 1978 conviction for shooting a police officer was thrown out. A
self-promoting judge decided to show how tough she was by rushing the case to
trial in 24 days, not giving defense attorneys time to prepare.
So there was a 2nd trial, where Valle was convicted again. This time the
conviction was upheld, but the sentencing hearing was successfully challenged.
So there was another one. 10 years after first being sentenced to death, Valle
was sentenced to death once more.
Since then, there have been about 20 various appeals and petitions at a cost of
millions to taxpayers. One of Valle's claims was that as a Cuban national, the
state was obligated under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relation to notify
him of the right to consult with a consulate or diplomatic officer.
There is no rhyme or reason here. A governor's decision on whose death warrant
to sign, as well as a judge's decision on which appeal to accept, are about as
arbitrary as a prosecutor's decision to pursue the death penalty.
We spend an estimated $51 million annually on this nonsense, and for our
investment we haven't executed anyone going on a year and a half.
The ridiculous backlog of 399 death-row inmates is only going to grow, as are
their housing and legal costs.
A new drug that Florida plans to use in its lethal cocktail finally survived
all the legal challenges, including one by Valle, only to be pulled by the
manufacturer. A new drug will mean more challenges.
A federal judge recently ruled that Florida's death-penalty statute is
unconstitutional because the condemning jury doesn't have to disclose which
aggravating circumstances led to its recommendation.
On and on it goes.
The demand to limit appeals is troublesome, given that Florida leads the nation
in the number of exonerated death-row inmates. It amazes me that conservatives
who push for tort reform because of runaway juries, and who rant against the
power of big government, have complete faith in big government and juries to
The death penalty eventually will be phased out, as it has been in all other
In the meantime, Florida needs to cull death row down to the 50 worst
offenders. That is all the state can reasonably expect to execute in the next
15 or 20 years. The rest are just very expensive lifers. We then need to join
most other states and require unanimous jury decisions, instead of simply
majorities, on death sentences.
(source: Orland Sentinel)
A 3rd death-penalty lawyer is fired
Another lawyer has been booted from a state-funded criminal defense office,
bringing the total to 3 in the past few days.
The abrupt terminations plunged the Miami-Dade Office of Criminal Conflict and
Civil Regional Counsel into turmoil.
Rene Palomino, 52, was fired Wednesday, joining attorneys Eugene Zenobi and
Kellie Peterson, 2 death penalty lawyers who lost their jobs earlier this week.
The criminal conflict office was created in 2007 with state funds to defend
clients who cannot afford an attorney. About 30 lawyers handle cases when the
Public Defender’s Office has a conflict of interest with a client.
Joseph George has been head of the office since it was created. Now Florida
Gov. Rick Scott is looking to replace him — and Zenobi is one of the leading
candidates for the job.
Palomino said George fired the other 2 for supporting Zenobi’s bid.
George claimed the 3 were booted for drinking on the job, Palomino said. The
lawyers say they toasted Palomino and Peterson’s birthdays in the office
after-hours on July 13 with red wine.
“I think it was a Cabernet,” Zenobi said.
“If it’s such a serious issue, why didn’t he fire us back then?” Palomino said.
George refused Wednesday to speak to a reporter about the firings
Peterson represents Carmen Barahona, a high-profile defendant accused of
murdering her adopted 10-year-old daughter. And Peterson and Zenobi were
scheduled to begin trial next month defending accused cop killer Dennis
Escobar, who asked a judge Wednesday to allow the lawyers to remain on the
(source: Miami Herald)
Parole possible for former Tenn. death row inmate
Former death row inmate Gaile Owens could be a free woman soon if at least
three more members of the state Board of Probation and Parole vote in her
The 58-year-old Owens was convicted in 1986 of hiring a man to kill her husband
and was sentenced to death. Former Gov. Phil Bredesen commuted her sentence to
life in prison last year after attorneys claimed Owens had suffered from
serious physical and sexual abuse.
At a parole hearing Wednesday, Patsy Bruce, the only member of the panel who
was present, voted to grant Owens parole, according to The Tennessean
(http://bit.ly/oLsdOQ). The remaining 6 members are expected to vote in the
next two to four weeks. If a majority of the panel votes for parole, Owens
could be free in 2012.
Owens cried during the hearing and said, "Words cannot express the remorse and
regret that I have."
Her son Stephen Owens said he spoke both as a victim of the crime and as Owens'
"I want my mother to come home to her family," Stephen Owens said. "I have 2
young sons who deserve the opportunity to meet their grandmother."
Owens was convicted in Shelby County of hiring Sidney Porterfield to kill her
husband. Ron Owens was beaten to death with a tire iron at their suburban
Memphis home. Witnesses testified that Owens had solicited several men over a
period of a few months to kill her husband.
She initially told police that she had a bad marriage but that there was little
physical violence. Shortly thereafter, she told attorneys a different story:
claiming her husband had repeatedly raped and denigrated her, cheated on her
and threatened to take their two children when she asked for a divorce.
In ordering the commutation, Bredesen said he did so because Owens had a plea
deal with prosecutors but then was put on trial when her co-defendant refused
to accept the bargain. Bredesen's statement also acknowledged the abuse claims.
"This case also raises unresolved allegations of domestic violence and
emotional abuse that, while inconclusive, raise the possibility that the
defendant suffered from the form of post-traumatic stress disorder then known
as battered woman syndrome," the commutation statement said.
(source: Associated Press)
Testimony under way in Angola 5 case
A prosecutor told a jury that Angola inmate Robert G. Carley was a leader in an
escape plot that led to the death of prison security Capt. David C. Knapps
nearly 12 years ago.
Tommy Block, lead prosecutor in the so-called Angola 5 murder trials, said
Carley participated in the stabbing and beating death of Knapps inside the
Education Building at Angola's Camp D when the escape plan began to fall apart
on the night of Dec. 28, 1999.
The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/quJsvw ) attorneys in the case chose the
jury of 5 men and seven women from St. Tammany Parish on Tuesday morning, and
the panel was taken to St. Francisville for the trial.
The state is seeking the death penalty against Carley. (source: Associated
Gleason given death penalty for each of two prison inmates strangled to death
Convicted murderer Bobby Gleason, who vowed to kill again after not being
placed on death row following a conviction in the death of his cell mate, is
escorted into a Wise County courtroom under heavy guard Tuesday.
Robert C. Gleason Jr. openly admits more bodies are buried in his past than the
3 on his criminal record. Some people he was paid to kill. Others simply
angered him. Once, a witness vanished to make a criminal charge go away.
“I know people that can make it look like a natural cause,” the 41-year-old
career criminal said in court Tuesday.
It was the 4th day of a sentencing hearing that spotlighted the cunning of a
predator housed among killers and able to strike at even the jailers and their
Wise County Circuit Judge John C. Kilgore ended the hearing Tuesday by handing
Gleason the death penalty for each of two prison inmates strangled to death
“You have demonstrated a willingness and an ability … to continue to inflict
harm on the people around you,” Kilgore said. “You have the potential to harm
those that are … outside the prison.”
The sentence was exactly what Gleason wanted. For more than a year he’s
threatened to kill again unless shipped to death row.
Gleason already has waived his appeals. A hearing is slated for Friday morning
to determine if he is mentally competent to make that decision.
The case will automatically be sent to the Virginia Supreme Court for review, a
procedure carried out in every death-penalty sentence.
Moments after hearing the penalty, Gleason asked if he would be immediately
transferred to death row or sent back to the state’s maximum security prison.
“Once I get back [to maximum security], your honor, the clock starts ticking -
for the ones that messed with me,” he warned.
On May 8, 2009, Gleason hogtied, beat and strangled cellmate Harvey Watson, 63,
at Wallens Ridge State Prison in Big Stone Gap.
“I told him ‘Today’s your last day,’” Gleason said Tuesday. “Imagine how that
man felt. He knew he was going to die.”
It was after pleading guilty for Watson’s murder that Gleason threatened more
destruction unless he got the death penalty. He followed through in July 2010
while awaiting trial at Red Onion, the maximum-security prison built in Pound
to house the state’s most dangerous criminals.
Gleason strangled inmate Alexander Aaron Cooper, 26, in the adjacent cage in
the prison recreation yard with a makeshift noose. He pleaded guilty in that
“I know what feelings are,” Gleason said. “But not for the victims.”
The threats continued during court Tuesday, made against 2 of Gleason’s
Both men saw Gleason strangle Cooper in the recreation yard.
Inmate Martin Rogers testified that he warned prison investigators 2 weeks
ahead of time that an assault was planned for the recreation yard.
“I saw Cooper tried to get away from it,” Rogers told Gleason. “You had your
foot on the fence and pulled it [the noose] tighter.”
Gleason’s voice remained calm and steady as he questioned Rogers. It
transformed into a growl near the end of the testimony, however. That’s when
Gleason branded him a snitch.
“You’re going to be taken care of later, you [expletive],” Gleason said as
guards escorted a shackled Rogers off the witness stand.
Rogers is being held in protective custody at Keen Mountain Correctional Center
in Buchanan County because of his warning to investigators.
A similar scenario played out during the testimony of Derrick Darden, who
Gleason accused of braiding the bed sheet that was used to strangle Cooper.
“If I could get to you now I would, if it weren’t for these men [guards] behind
me,” Gleason said.
Gleason used to be a national award-winning tattoo artist. He also led a double
life as a hit man, according to inmate testimony.
He initially received life in prison for the May 8, 2007, shooting death of
Virginia trucker Michael Kent Jamerson, 53, in Amherst County. Jamerson was
shot to death with his own pistol in an attempt to cover up any tracks in a
methamphetamine dealing ring.
“People close to me didn’t know what I did on the side,” Gleason said.
He spoke of a bodybuilder murdered by jamming too much pure heroin into a
hypodermic. And he described how he once broke the legs of a stiff corpse so he
could stuff it into a car trunk.
“I thought I could balance 2 lives,” Gleason said. “I tried to change too fast
and the real me came out.”
2 death penalty sentences for Va. inmate
A Virginia inmate who threatened to kill again if he didn’t get the death
penalty for slaying another prisoner has gotten his wish.
The Bristol Herald Courier reports that Robert Gleason received not 1, but 2
death penalty sentences Tuesday during a hearing in Wise County Circuit Court.
One sentence was for killing inmate Harvey Watson Jr. in 2009. The other was
for killing inmate Aaron Cooper in July 2010.
Gleason had pleaded guilty previously to both slayings. He said in court and in
an interview with The Associated Press last year that he would kill again if he
wasn’t given the death penalty for Watson’s slaying.
(source: Associated Press)
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