[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----DEL., ALA., N. MEX., GA., ARK., USA, CALIF.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Sat Sep 10 13:17:38 CDT 2011
Appeals court rejects challenge to Del. executions
A federal appeals court has denied a challenge to Delaware's use of lethal
injection filed by an ax murderer shortly before he was executed in July.
Lawyers for Robert Jackson III filed the appeal after a federal judge in
Wilmington ruled that the state could use pentobarbital in executions and
refused to let Jackson re-open a 2006 lawsuit challenging Delaware's execution
The appeals court ruled Wednesday that the Delaware judge did not abuse her
discretion in ruling against Jackson. The court said it was issuing it opinion
despite Jackson's death because the appeal affected other Delaware death row
inmates as well.
State officials switched to pentobarbital earlier this year because of a
shortage of sodium thiopental, which had been used in previous executions.
Jackson was executed on July 29.
(source: Associated Press)
Judge requests death sentence be reversed
Madison County Judge Lloyd Little has requested that an inmate sentenced to die
for the murder of a convenience store employee receive a different sentence.
Derrick Mason is set to be executed on Thursday, September 22nd. He was
convicted of murder for the death of Angela Cagle at Circle K in March of 1994.
Judge Little sentenced Mason to death after he was found guilty. Now more than
16 years later, Judge Little says Mason should not be put to death.
Little had been on the bench for 6 months when Mason's case was tried. It was
his first death penalty case.
Judge Little sent a letter to Governor Robert Bentley requesting that the
sentence be changed from the death penalty to life without parole.
Judge Little says that after years of experience in handling capital murder
cases, he feels that he should not have imposed the death penalty in Mason's
case. He says it's not to undermine or lessen the severity of the crime, but
compared to other cases, it's a different view.
Governor Bentley has not responded to the request.
(source: WAFF News)
Astorga sentencing could be delayed----DA says jury pool isn’t deep enough
It’s supposed to start Monday, but there could be a huge delay in the
life-or-death sentencing of cop killer Michael Astorga.
District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said the problem now is that there are not
enough potential jurors to choose from.
“We knew it was going to be a problem, and that’s why we started with 1,000
jurors and ended up with about 520,” Brandenburg said. “We thought that would
resolve the issues of people being polarized, people knowing about the case and
people having an opinion, and apparently that number wasn’t sufficient.”
Brandenburg said the problem lies with the fact that this is a death penalty
Astorga was convicted last year by another jury of killing Bernalillo County
Sheriff’s Department Deputy James McGrane Jr. during a traffic stop in 2006 in
Brandenburg said many of the potential jurors who responded to the summons for
the penalty phase of the trial have extreme views on the death penalty.
“Very few seem to be in the middle, and that’s the kind of juror that we want,
someone with an open mind that can listen to all the testimony and evidence and
make a decision,” she said.
Ideally Brandenburg would like to have 200 jurors to question since about 50
percent of them are weeded out during that process.
She said they might have to start from scratch.
“On Monday we’re going to go to court, and I think that Mr. Mitchell will have
some motions, and the court will make a decision how to proceed at that time,”
Gary Mitchell of Ruidoso is Astorga's attorney.
Starting the jury selection process all over would take about five to seven
weeks Brandenburg said, which could delay the sentencing a few months.
She said this latest roadblock is a tough one for the McGrane family.
“I think it’s very disheartening to them that there’s been delay after delay,
but they also understand why we are having delays,” she said.
News 13 was not able to reach Mitchell for comment Thursday.
(source: KRQE News)
Drucker death penalty case to begin
Joshua Drucker is slated to stand trial on murder charges this week in Cobb
County, 7 years after he allegedly gunned down a Marietta man and his Bulgarian
girlfriend in a meth-fueled rage.
If convicted, Drucker, 33, of McDonough could face the death penalty. Police
say he gunned down David Andrew Robertson, 40, and Lora Nikolova, 25, after a
brief quarrel in the kitchen of Robertson's house on April 5, 2004.
The first task for defense attorneys and prosecutors is to pare down a pool of
about 130 potential jurors to a panel of 12 jurors and three alternates, a
process that is expected to take about 2 weeks.
Drucker's father, the Rev. Doug Drucker, is expected to be a key witness in the
case. The elder Drucker, a minister, reported the slayings to police after his
son allegedly confessed to killing 2 people.
A co-defendant, Melissa Suzanne McCrayer, has cooperated with authorities and
is also expected to testify against Drucker.
McCrayer has told prosecutors that she and Drucker used methamphetamine and
drank alcoholic beverages before going to visit the victims, who were friends.
When Drucker asked Robinson for methamphetamine, he allegedly became angry when
Robinson offered only marijuana.
McCrayer said she heard a loud noise and turned to see Robinson crumple to the
floor with a gunshot wound. Drucker shot Nikolova when she screamed and began
hitting him, according to McCrayer's prior testimony in preliminary hearings.
McCrayer said she and Drucker fled with Robinson's gold necklace, cellphone and
wallet and went on a 36-hour meth binge that included trips to a Mexican
restaurant, a motel room in Sandy Springs and an Atlanta strip club before they
(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Leaving death row not unusual overall but Damien Echols' departure a first in
When Damien Echols went from death row to freedom in August, it struck some as
"I've never before witnessed someone walking off death row," said Laura
Nirider, one of Echols' attorneys. "It's surreal."
This was a first for Arkansas, said Shea Wilson, spokeswoman for the Arkansas
Department of Correction.
"He's the only person (in the state) who has been on death row one day and the
next day was a free man," she said.
Nationwide, the condemned have been freed at a higher frequency, though the
number is in dispute.
Nirider, an attorney with the Chicago-based Center on Wrongful Convictions of
Youth, said after helping to free Echols, one of the defendants known as the
"West Memphis Three," she has refocused her efforts on an appeal in an Illinois
5 teens were convicted in the mid-1990s of raping and murdering a woman in that
case, though the semen found on the victim didn't match any of the defendants.
Nirider said the DNA since has been linked to a serial rapist.
"We've got other cases just as troubling, just as fascinating," though not as
infamous as Echols' case, she said.
Through scientific advancements since the late 1980s, DNA evidence has led to
the exoneration of 17 people in the U.S. who had been sentenced to die, said
Paul Cates, spokesman for the Innocence Project in New York.
"The chances are extremely likely there are other people on death row who are
innocent," he said.
The CWCY's parent organization, the Center on Wrongful Convictions, helps
represent other cases in which there is no DNA evidence.
Rob Warden, executive director of the center, located at Northwestern
University School of Law, said 138 death-row inmates have won their freedom
with DNA or other evidence since 1973.
"In the vast majority of the cases, evidence came forward indicating that
someone else committed the crimes," Warden said.
"I am convinced we have at least three more who were on death row who have not
been exonerated," he said.
The numbers of the wrongfully condemned are likely inflated, said veteran
prosecutor Scott Burns, executive director of the National District Attorneys
Association in Arlington, Va.
"138? It's simply preposterous," Burns said.
"The whole goal of these groups is to do away with the death penalty to make
the American public think we, as prosecutors, convict innocent people of murder
all the time."
Burns said an analysis of individual cases would show that many who were freed
likely relied on technicalities or lack of proof.
"There are a lot of people who are technically not guilty and are freed, but
they sure as hell aren't innocent," he said.
Burns said he only sought the death penalty twice in his 16 years as a
prosecutor in Utah. In both cases, savage killings, he got it.
"People think prosecutors want another notch on our belt," Burns said. "It's
the last resort and is reserved for the worst of the worse."
In the Echols' case, prosecutors don't concede a mistake was made. Instead,
they say they offered to accept a guilty plea for time served because they
didn't think they had enough evidence to win another conviction in a new trial.
Warden said he doesn't count Echols in his numbers of the exonerated because
Echols and his 2 co-defendants, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr.,
technically pleaded guilty to murdering three 8-year-old West Memphis boys
through an Alford Plea, a legal maneuver by which they maintain their innocence
but agree to plead guilty because it's in their best interest.
Warden, convinced of the innocence of the West Memphis Three, called the
prosecution's plea offer "a modern form of torture" because the defendants
"It's obviously disappointing that they couldn't get the full measure of
justice that they deserved," Warden said.
The defendants blame their convictions on a false confession by Misskelley, who
is borderline mentally retarded and claims police wore him down and fed him
details of the crime scene.
Warden said his center completed a 2004 study of what went wrong in 111
overturned death-penalty cases.
The No. 1 problem -- a factor in 45 % of the cases -- was faulty snitch
testimony. That means either a jail inmate, codefendant or someone who feared
charges opted to help prosecutors put away the defendant.
Other key problems included false confessions, misleading science and
misidentifications by eyewitnesses.
(source: Memphis Commercial Appeal)
No 9/11 accused has gone to the gallows
In the 10 years since the traumatic 9/11 terror attacks, the United States has
arrested nearly 3,000 on terrorism charges and convicted over 2,500, but not
one accused has gone to the gallows.
It's not due to any great aversion to the death penalty among the Americans
that terror suspects have escaped the death penalty as there is still support
for capital punishment in the US and there are as many as 3,251 prisoners in 34
of America's 50 states on the death row, according to Death Penalty Information
As of now, only 16 states do not have the death penalty. Since 1853, 10 states
have abolished it, starting with Wisconsin. Wyoming followed in 1911, the
capital city of Washington DC in 1981 and New York in 2007. Ten more are
planning to do so.
Even so, since 1976, as many as 1,266 convicts have been executed, including 32
this year. But all the executions have been for murders and not terrorism
Given the uncertainties of the US justice system, President Barack Obama has
largely focused on eliminating the leadership of the terror group held
responsible for the 9/11 attack as part of his strategy to "disrupt, dismantle,
and defeat Al Qaeda."
"The perpetrators of those attacks wanted to terrorise us, but they are no
match for our resilience. Today, our country is more secure and our enemies are
weaker," Obama wrote in an op-ed published in the USA Today ahead of tenth
anniversary of the attacks.
"Yet while we have delivered justice to Osama bin Laden and put Al Qaeda on the
path to defeat, we must never waver in the task of protecting our nation," he
wrote without mentioning the May raid to kill the 9/11 mastermind in his
hideout in Pakistan or a flurry of drone strikes to kill several others.
Obama's Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben
Rhodes was more explicit in telling the foreign media that bin Laden's
elimination was "a gigantic and both symbolic and operational victory" that
"cemented a trend of leadership degradation" that continues.
Rhodes cited in particular the killing of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir born Ilyas
Kashmiri, one of the top masterminds of the 2008 Mumbai attack in June and Al
Qaeda's new deputy leader, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, in August in CIA drone
In all eight people charged with major terrorism crimes have been reported
killed overseas. But in the courts, the US record has been somewhat mixed
though the conviction rate has gone up tremendously.
Of the 196 among 345 terrorism cases brought to court since the Sep 11 attacks,
178 have ended in convictions, either through a guilty plea or a jury's
decision, according to a media report citing government documents.
About 8 dozen defendants are still awaiting trial and more than 50 defendants
are fugitives overseas or being held by other countries awaiting extradition.
Apart from these, 775 detainees have been brought to Guantanamo detention camp
established in 2002 by the Bush Administration within the Guantanamo Bay Naval
Base on the Cuba island to hold and interrogate detainees from the war in
Afghanistan and later Iraq.
Of these, most have been released without charge or transferred to facilities
in their home countries and only 3 have been convicted by military court of
David Hicks was found guilty under retrospective legislation introduced in 2006
of providing material support for terrorism in 2001. Salim Hamdan accepted a
position on Osama bin Laden's personal staff as a chauffeur. Ali al-Bahlul made
a video celebrating the attack on the USS Cole.
In March 2007, Pakistan born 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confessed
during a secret hearing at Guantanamo: "I was responsible for the 9/11
operation from A to Z."
A year later, the US Department of Defence charged Mohammed, Ramzi bin
al-Shibh, Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali and Walid Bin Attash
for the Sep 11 attacks under the military commission system.
But on Feb 5, 2009, charges against another person, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri,
were dropped without prejudice following an order signed by Obama to suspend
trials for 120 days as he announced plans to close the military detention
But with Congress posing "a chief obstacle to our efforts to close Guantanamo"
as Rhodes said, and lawmakers opposing trials on the US mainland, Khalid Sheikh
Mohammed and 15 other high-value detainees are still cooling their heels at the
(source: New Kerala)
Romero may face death penalty in elderly murder case
The suspect in the killing a 100-year-old Sanger man could face the death
penalty. David Anthony Romero is accused of killing Joe Fischer in early
August. Romero was out of jail because of overcrowding at the time the crime
was committed, and he's not the first murder suspect who had been released.
Romero turned his back to our camera Friday as his attorney entered a not
guilty plea in the murder of 100-year-old Joe Fischer.
Police call the 47-year-old suspect a career criminal who bounced back and
forth between the Los Angeles area and Fresno County. They say he returned to
his family in Southern California after killing Fischer. That's when
investigators got a break in the case.
"The suspect was actually delivered to the Torrance Police Department by family
members and instructed to turn himself in," said Sanger Police Chief Thomas
Romero has a history with police in Southern California and in Fresno County.
Three weeks before Fischer's death he was booked into the Fresno County jail
for auto theft. He was then released because of overcrowding.
Fischer's sister is troubled by that decision. "Well that was kind of foolish,
wasn't it with what he did?" she said. "If he'd been kept in jail, this would
never have happened I guess."
Court records show Romero is at least the 3rd murder suspect released from the
Fresno County jail before allegedly taking part in a murder. Jose Reyes was
released three days before he was accused of being part of the team that robbed
and killed Gary and Sandy Debartolo in Kerman in 2009. Leonard Roque was
released two weeks before prosecutors say he stabbed a man to death on
Blackstone earlier this year. Both murder suspects were previously charged with
"99.9% of those people that are released early because of that do not commit
murder," said Fresno County sheriff Margaret Mims. "I wish I had an instrument,
some kind of measuring tool that could tell us who has the propensity to do
that. But we don't have that tool."
Romero won't get out as easily this time around. He's in jail on a $1.01
million bond. He's facing capital murder charges and potentially, the death
(source: ABC News)
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