[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----VA., USA, LA., CALIF., NEV.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Thu Sep 8 23:04:54 CDT 2011
Red Onion State Prison inmate dies of unnatural causes
Officials said Thursday that Robert C. Gleason Jr., twice sentenced to death
Tuesday, had nothing to do with the death of a prison inmate the morning after
Still, Gleason’s courtroom promises of violence against his enemies at Red
Onion State Prison in Pound definitely haunted the thoughts of investigators
looking into the death, which they said occurred after the inmate was attacked.
“That’s the first thing that came to my mind,” Wise County Commonwealth’s
Attorney Ron Elkins said.
Inmate Kawaski Bass, 31, was mortally wounded during a possible
inmate-on-inmate attack in a cell around 1 p.m. Tuesday, the Virginia
Department of Corrections reports.
He was pronounced dead early the next morning at Carilion Roanoke Memorial
“We don’t know all the details yet,” Elkins said. “We’ll know more in the next
few days … after we get the autopsy report.”
Bass was serving a 65-year sentence for the 1998 and 1999 convictions of
robbery, use of a firearm, carjacking, assault and battery, and conspiracy in
multiple Virginia counties.
The name of Bass’ accused attacker is being withheld during the investigation,
corrections department spokesman Larry Traylor wrote in an email.
At the time of the attack, Gleason, 41, was in the Wise County Circuit Court
arguing to get the death penalty for strangling two inmates in separate attacks
“Once I get back [to maximum security], your honor, the clock starts ticking …
for the ones that messed with me,” he warned.
Judge John C. Kilgore granted Gleason’s wish later that day.
On May 8, 2009, Gleason hogtied, beat and strangled cellmate Harvey Watson, 63,
at Wallens Ridge State Prison in Big Stone Gap.
After pleading guilty for Watson’s murder, 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 to house the
state’s most dangerous criminals.
Gleason strangled inmate Aaron Alexander Cooper, 26, in the adjacent cage in
the prison recreation yard with a makeshift noose. He pleaded guilty in that
Initially, Gleason was in prison serving a life sentence for the May 8, 2007,
shooting death of Virginia trucker Michael Kent Jamerson, 53, in Amherst
Elkins said he interviewed Gleason at the prison Thursday morning for possible
links to Bass’ death.
“There’s nothing there that links Gleason to it,” Elkins said.
West Memphis 3 and Other True-Crime Stories Featured in Documentaries
The West Memphis 3 left prison in 2011 after serving over 18 years behind bars
for the murder of 3 boys in 1993. The Memphis courts found them guilty despite
doubts about their involvement in the crime and alleged police incompetence in
the case. Filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky teamed up and worked on a
documentary looking into the case with the goal of finding the real truth about
"Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills"
While the documentary "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills"
did not officially lead to the reversal of the original court's decision, it
did something even better. The documentary shows numerous interviews with the
accused, families of the victims, and members of the West Memphis Police
Department. It also introduces numerous discrepancies in the original case,
produces withheld evidence, and spotlights many things the police did that
contaminated the actual evidence in the case. What the documentary did was
shine a national spotlight on the case, question the validity of the evidence,
and defend the accused while actively seeking the truth.
It also helped the accused find support in unlikely places. The rock band
Metallica, musician Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, and Henry Rollins all came out
in support of the accused. With those musicians behind the Three, public
support began to swing in their favor.
The documentary spawned a sequel, "Paradise Lost 2: Revelations," which
included more interviews with the accused, including Damien Wayne Echols,
sentenced to the death penalty. It also includes evidence that points to
another suspect and presents more evidence that hints the accused may not be
guilty. Courts reopened the case with a new trial scheduled when the three
reached a plea bargain, releasing them from prison on a deal to avoid the new
trial. A third documentary, "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory," concludes the
chronicle of the men's imprisonment and features their eventual release,
hitting theaters in late 2011.
"Thin Blue Line"
The case of the West Memphis 3 was not the only true crime feature to try to
help the convicted prove their innocence. Documentary filmmaking legend Errol
Morris directed "The Thin Blue Line" about Randall Dale Adams, a man convicted
and sentenced to death for the murder of a Dallas police officer in 1976.
Morris presents the case through interviews and reenactments of the murder.
The movie also supposes the witness who led the police to Adams also had strong
evidence against him but he was never charged. "Line" suggested that five of
the witnesses committed perjury; the conviction ended up overturned 12 years
after Adams' conviction by the Texas Court of Appeals. The ironic twist is that
Adams ended up taking Morris to court when he got out of prison concerning the
rights to his story.
"The Trials of Darryl Hunt"
"The Trials of Darryl Hunt" is another case where a documentary filmmaker
worked diligently to show the truth about a man wrongly convicted of murder.
Hunt spent 19 years in prison for the rape and murder of a young woman in 1984
before DNA evidence proved he did not commit the crime. The documentary follows
the case and shows Hunt in prison as he adjusts to life as an inmate,
eventually converts to the Muslim religion, and marries his wife while behind
The case took a turn when another man confessed to the rape and murder in 2003
and DNA testing linked him to the crime. The documentary, directed by Ricki
Stern and Anne Sundberg, shows Hunt remaining strong despite spending 19 years
in prison for a crime he never committed.
(source: Yahoo News)
Greenwood home invasion death sentence upheld by Louisiana Supreme Court
The Louisiana Supreme Court has upheld the death penalty for a Shreveport man
who killed and then set ablaze a fire captain who interrupted a holdup in 2006.
It rejected claims that prosecutors showed racial bias in choosing a jury to
try Felton Dorsey for first-degree murder of Joe Prock, whose mother was burned
but escaped her house that Dorsey was robbing. The appeal also argued that
codefendant Randy Wilson's testimony against Dorsey could not be believed.
None of the 7 judges dissented to Wednesday's opinion written by Justice
In the death penalty review required by state law, she wrote that the sentence
does not seem excessive.
"Defendant tied a seventy-nine year old woman to a chair, ransacked her home,
bludgeoned her 52 year old son to death with sufficient force to cause his
broken skull to lacerate his brain, set him on fire, and left the woman tied to
a chair in her burning home," she wrote.
Kimball also wrote that the defense waited too long to argue that the
Confederate flag memorial in front of the courthouse automatically made race
part of court proceedings.
It's probably within the court's power to consider that "the display of a
Confederate flag would be offensive to some," but the question of whether it
creates an atmosphere of prejudice should have been brought up at trial rather
than in an appeal, she wrote.
And, she wrote, Dorsey's lawyers "made no showing" that the parish maintains
the memorial to hurt black defendants' chances, or that its presence creates a
significant risk that any jurors voted to convict Dorsey or sentence him to
death because he is black rather than because of "the moral culpability of his
acts and his individual character."
The American Civil Liberties Union's Capital Punishment Project, which filed a
friend-of-the-court brief for Dorsey, said Thursday that the ruling
"underscores the reality that flying the flag prevents criminal justice from
being fairly administered, especially in death penalty cases, and invites trial
courts in Caddo Parish to take a closer look at this issue in the future."
ACLU attorney Anna Arceneaux said, "For many people, and particularly
African-Americans, the flag is a stark reminder of the public entrenchment of
racism in Caddo Parish's judicial system and is an endorsement of historical
efforts to deny African-Americans equality under the law. So long as it is
allowed to fly, capital punishment cannot be fairly administered within the
The Rev. Sim Roberson, a member of the Louisiana Coalition for Alternatives to
the Death Penalty, said in a news release from that group that the question of
whether the memorial creates a prejudicial atmosphere in Caddo Parish capital
cases will be brought up in another trial.
"The court has called for pretrial hearings to determine whether the
Confederate flag injects racial bias into capital proceedings. So that's
exactly what we'll do," he said.
(source: Associated Press)
Stanley speaks from San Quentin
Convicted wife-killer Gerald Frank Stanley testified Wednesday morning during a
retrospective competency hearing related to his murder conviction and death
sentence in the 1980s.
"I deserved the death penalty," Stanley told Judge William McKinstry during
Wednesday's hearing at the Lake County Courthouse.
Stanley appeared along with his attorney, Jack Leavitt, via videoconferencing
from San Quentin State Prison. Lake County District Attorney Don Anderson
represented his office.
A Butte County jury convicted Stanley in 1983 for shooting to death his fourth
wife in Nice in 1980, while Stanley had been on parole for killing his 2nd
spouse 5 years before.
A separate jury was then asked to determine whether Stanley was mentally
competent during penalty phase of the 1983 trial. That jury determined Stanley
was competent and he eventually received the death penalty.
However, a federal judge overturned the competency verdict in 2008, staying
Stanley's execution because one of the jurors on the competency panel failed to
disclose that she had been a violent-crime victim.
A Butte County judge then ruled it would be feasible to look back and determine
whether Stanley was competent during the penalty phase of the trial. The
retrospective competency matter was transferred to Lake County in March.
Both sides in the retrospective competency hearing appear to be arguing for the
same point, as Leavitt has said his client does not want the death sentence
Stanley told McKinstry that he understood the nature of all the court
proceedings related to the murder trial, penalty phase and original competency
hearing. He said he has never suffered from mental illness and has always been
Stanley also said he objected to his federal defenders filing a motion
questioning the jury's competency decision.
Stanley added that he knew of the juror's failure to fully disclose her history
at the time of the original hearing but he didn't object to her sitting on the
competency panel. "I wanted to keep that juror," he said. "I liked her very
He said he thinks his original trial counsel may have allowed the juror to
remain on the panel to create an issue that could be appealed after the fact.
McKinstry heard nearly 30 minutes of testimony from Stanley on Wednesday, but
reserved making a final decision until Sept. 30. The judge said he needed time
to consider case-related transcripts.
Technical difficulties delayed the start of hearing for nearly 35 minutes. Once
under way, the hearing lasted approximately 45 minutes.
Death penalty on table in Vegas teen slaying case
A 19-year-old may face the death penalty in the kidnapping, rape, stabbing and
burning of a high school sophomore whose body was discovered over the weekend
in a vacant lot not far from her northwest Las Vegas home.
Prosecutor Christopher Lalli said Thursday that a Clark County district
attorney panel will consider whether to seek capital punishment against Javier
Righetti in the slaying of 15-year-old Alyssa Otremba.
Righetti made an initial appearance before a Las Vegas judge who set an Oct. 14
Righetti's lawyer, Tim O'Brien, says Righetti is on suicide watch at the Clark
County jail. He's being held without bail.
Otremba was a student at Arbor View High School.
Her mother reported her missing Friday evening after Otremba text-messaged that
she was walking home.
(source: Associated Press)
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