[Deathpenalty] [SPAM] death penalty news----TEXAS, CONN., OKLA., PENN., S.D., ARIZ., FLA., LA., ARK., OHIO
rhalperi at smu.edu
Thu Apr 12 17:30:41 CDT 2012
After my story and ongoing legal plight was published on the front-page of the
New York Times last week, a National organization called Change.org
[Change.org] contacted me and wants to try and collect as many signatures as
possible to try and put pressure on Texas to do the right thing and officially
recognize my innocence. With this in mind, and with their encouragement, I
started a petition on Change.org [Change.org] asking the Texas Board of Pardons
and Paroles to recommend me for a full pardon based on actual innocence.
Click here to sign my petition:
Please spread this around to as many people as you can.
GOVERNOR MALLOY STATEMENT ON FINAL PASSAGE OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT REPEAL
Governor Dannel P. Malloy released the following statement on House passage of
a bill that will prospectively repeal capital punishment and replace it with a
mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of release:
“I’m pleased the House passed the bill, and when it gets to my desk I will sign
“I want to be careful in the tone of my remarks, out of respect for the gravity
of the issue at hand and out of respect for people on both sides of the issue.
When I sign this bill, Connecticut will join 16 other states and almost every
other industrialized nation in moving toward what I believe is better public
“For decades, we have not had a workable death penalty. Only one person’s been
executed in Connecticut in the last 52 years, and he volunteered for it.
“Going forward, we will have a system that allows us to put these people away
for life, in living conditions none of us would want to experience. Let’s throw
away the key and have them spend the rest of their natural lives in jail.”
The Governor said he will sign the bill if it reached his desk as long as it
was prospective in nature. Lieutenant Governor Wyman has also expressed her
support for repeal.
(source: Office of the Governor)
Victims' families boost Conn. death penalty repeal
The vote to repeal Connecticut's death penalty brought a moment of triumph for
Elizabeth Brancato, a lifelong opponent of capital punishment despite the
murder of her mother in 1979.
Brancato had lobbied lawmakers for years, becoming more resolved against
capital punishment as she met families of other victims frustrated by endless
appeals. She also started a blog to highlight the voices of other victims'
relatives in favor of repeal that she felt were overshadowed in the debate.
She was at the statehouse Wednesday night as the state legislature gave final
approval to a bill that will make Connecticut the 17th state to repeal capital
punishment. A week earlier, she was in the gallery when it cleared its biggest
hurdle with an early morning vote in the state Senate.
"It was one of the best moments of my life," Brancato said.
Brancato is among roughly 180 relatives of crime victims who pushed for repeal
in private meetings with lawmakers, via petition drives and at news
conferences. National advocates say the large size of their campaign sets
Connecticut apart from other states, but relatives who oppose the death penalty
are speaking up more often across the United States.
On the other side of the debate, death penalty supporters had perhaps the
state's most compelling advocate in Dr. William Petit Jr., the only survivor of
a 2007 home invasion in which two paroled burglars killed his wife and two
daughters. Last year, Petit successfully lobbied state senators to hold off on
legislation for repeal while one of the two killers was still facing a death
This year, many lawmakers said they were swayed by the stories of people who
oppose capital punishment despite losing loved ones to horrific crimes.
Rep. Kim Rose, a Milford Democrat, said she decided to support repeal after
speaking with a man who found peace by forgiving his son's killer.
"The moment I looked into his eyes and heard his story and I felt his pain, I
got (it)," she said. "For him to finally come to some closure with it, was kind
of a turning point for me."
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, said he will sign the bill into law as soon
as it reaches his desk, making Connecticut the 5th state in 5 years to repeal
the death penalty. The legislation will apply only to future cases and not the
11 men already on the state's death row.
In more than half a century, Connecticut has executed only one person — serial
killer Michael Ross, who volunteered for the lethal injection in 2005.
Brancato, a Torrington resident whose mother was killed inside her Bantam home,
wasn't forced to think about the death penalty in her own case because the
killer was convicted of second-degree murder. But she said it did not sway her
moral opposition to capital punishment.
"For those of us who believe killing is wrong, it somehow diminishes the deaths
of our loved ones if we say in certain circumstances it is OK to kill,"
Shari Silberstein, the executive director of Equal Justice USA, said it is
unusual to have so many victims' family members involved in a repeal campaign.
In Maryland, for example, she said around 50 such people are working on the
cause. But she said they were integral to abolition in states like New Jersey
and New Mexico, and more have stepped up recently in states including
California, Colorado and Montana.
After the Connecticut House approved the bill, nearly a dozen family members
who sat through the almost 10 hours of debate gathered to thank lawmakers who
helped champion the cause. Some embraced Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, a New Haven
Democrat was among the leading proponents.
"There are families that agree with me and that disagree with me and I've
talked to both sides," he said. "I think if you're going to have this
discussion, you owe it to them to talk about both sides."
(source: Associated Press)
Stay issued for Okla. death row inmate set for execution today
A stay was issued for an Oklahoma State Penitentiary death row inmate who was
scheduled to be executed today at 6 p.m. in the prison’s death chamber.
“A federal judge stayed Garry Allen’s execution Wednesday afternoon,” said OSP
Warden’s Assistant Terry Crenshaw. U.S. District Judge David L. Russell issued
the stay, ruling that Allen’s claims that he is insane and ineligible for the
death penalty should be reviewed, the Associated Press reported. Allen has been
diagnosed with schizophrenia and his attorneys argue his mental state
deteriorated on death row.
“Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has filed a notice of appeal to the
stay of execution,” Crenshaw said. If the appeal to the stay of execution is
granted by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, officials at OSP have
“measures in place to carry out the execution according to court orders.”
Garry Thomas Allen, 56, was previously set for execution on Feb. 16, but
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin granted a 30-day stay of execution for the condemned
man. She said the stay was issued so her legal team could have more time to
consider a 2005 recommendation by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board to
commute his sentence to life.
“Having thoroughly reviewed the arguments and evidence presented in this case,
I have determined that clemency should be denied in this case, and that the
sentence of death be carried out,” Fallin wrote in an executive order filed
The 30-day stay would have set Allen’s execution for March 17, but that date
was moved to Thursday.
On Monday, members of an anti-death penalty group, the Oklahoma Coalition to
Abolish the Death Penalty, met with Fallin’s general counsel, Steve Mullins, to
urge the governor to reverse her decision to deny clemency for Allen, reported
Tim Talley of the Associated Press. Coalition board member James T. Rowan said
the group does not expect Fallin to change her mind. He said Mullins indicated
during the meeting that Allen’s clemency request “was a close case.”
On March 23, Allen had filed a writ of mandamus in Pittsburg County District
Court. District 18 District Judge Thomas Bartheld signed an order denying the
inmate’s petition during an April 2 court appearance by the inmate.
Allen received his death sentence for the 1986 murder of his 24-year-old wife,
Lawanna Gail Titsworth. The McAlester News-Capital reported in May of 2008 that
Allen’s conviction and death sentence came after he gunned down Titsworth 4
days after she moved out of their home with their 2 sons, who were 6 and 2 at
Allen was 1st scheduled to be executed May 19, 2005. A stay of execution was
granted by Judge Bartheld one day before his scheduled execution. The
Associated Press reported Allen’s mental competency was in question after a
psychological exam at OSP indicated he had developed mental problems while
confined on death row. The doctor’s report noted Allen had dementia caused by
seizures, drug abuse and being shot in the face.
The U.S. Supreme Court and state law prohibit execution of inmates who are
insane or mentally incompetent.
On May 1, 2008, a Pittsburg County jury decided, on split decision, that Allen
is “sane to be executed.” For more than three years since, numerous court
motions and legal arguments have been heard in the case.
On Dec. 28, Bartheld signed a legal order vacating Allen’s stay of execution,
stating “the court ... having reviewed the pleadings, finds that the issue of
the sanity of Garry Thomas Allen for execution has been resolved...”
According to the Oklahoma Department of Correction’s website, at
www.doc.state.ok.us, Allen has been incarcerated at OSP since Dec. 23, 1987,
and is currently housed on death row in the prison’s H-Unit.
The last death row inmate to be executed at OSP was Timothy Shaun Stemple, 46.
He was executed March 15 for the Oct. 24, 1996, murder of his 30-year-old wife
Trisha J. Stemple.
Death row inmate Michael Bascum Selsor, 57, is scheduled to be executed May 1
at 6 p.m. Selsor received his death sentence for the 1995 murder of 55-year-old
Clayton Chandler during a robbery of a Tulsa convenience store.
(source: McAleslter News-Capital)
Greensburg torture, slaying suspect surprisingly pleads guilty, faces death
A man accused of being involved in torturing and killing a Greensburg woman in
February 2010 pleaded guilty to first-and-second-degree murder charges on
Channel 11's Courtney Brennan reported that Melvin Knight now faces the
possibility of the death penalty in the killing of Jennifer Daugherty.
Knight was in court on Thursday and took the stand. Brennan was there when
Knight told the judge, "It's the right thing to do because I have to fess up to
what I did." Brennan reported that after the judge repeatedly told Knight what
pleaded guilty entailed, he agreed and said he was sorry.
The penalty phase of his trial will begin in August. A jury will decide if
Knight will get the death penalty or life in prison.
Daugherty’s sister, Joy Burkeholder, said Knight’s apology isn’t enough.
“He should die. He should be put to death because I believe in ‘an eye for an
eye,’” Burkeholder said. “It’s completely insulting to my sister’s memory.”
Daugherty's bound and tortured body was found in a garbage can in the
Greensburg-Salem Middle School parking lot on Feb. 11, 2010.
A taped interview with Knight was played in previous court hearings. In the
tape, Knight told officers that the incident began when two of the suspects
became upset with Daugherty, who had been sleeping with Ricky Smyrnes, 25.
Knight then detailed how the defendants forced Daugherty to drink urine and
feces before using garland and holiday lights to bind her. According to Knight,
Smyrnes then told him to get a knife.
According to police, Daugherty's body was found with her hair either cut or
shaven off. She was bound with holiday lights and clothing in a black plastic
garbage bag stuffed inside a residential rubber garbage can, which was rolled
underneath a truck.
Last year, Angela Marinucci was convicted of murder in the case. The murder
conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life without parole. Marinucci could
not face the death penalty because she was 17 at the time of the killing.
District Attorney John Peck said Marinucci instigated the 36-hour ordeal in a
dingy apartment in Greensburg that was shared by five other defendants,
Peck charges they beat Daugherty with a vacuum hose, a crutch and a towel rack
-- as well as their fists -- and forced her to undress while pouring water,
oatmeal and spices on her -- including onion powder thrown in her eyes. She was
then forced to drink a cocktail of human waste, laundry bleach and prescription
drugs, which the defendants reportedly thought would kill her.
When it didn't, Peck said she was stabbed by Knight, 22, apparently on orders
from Smyrnes, the alleged focus of the deadly romantic rivalry.
Peck is pursuing the death penalty against both as well as Knight's girlfriend,
Amber Meidinger, 21, who testified against Marinucci and acknowledged mixing
and forcing Daugherty to drink the concoction.
(source: WPXI News)
SD court denies Robert request for quick execution
The South Dakota Supreme Court has denied an inmate's request to be executed
quickly for the murder of a prison guard. Eric Robert pleaded guilty to killing
prison guard Ronald Johnson during a failed escape attempt last April. Robert
asked to be executed. A judge sentenced him to death last fall and scheduled
his execution for May. The Supreme Court delayed Robert's execution to allow
more time for a mandatory review to determine if the death sentence is proper.
Robert had asked the high court not to delay his execution. But the Supreme
Court on Thursday ruled unanimously that it wouldn't make sense Robert to die
of lethal injection before the justices determine if the death penalty is
(source: Associated Press)
Death penalty upheld in Arizona teen's murder
The Arizona Supreme Court has upheld the conviction and death sentence of a man
found guilty of fatally bludgeoning his 14-year-old niece whose semi-nude body
was found while her mother was in the hospital.
Brad Lee Nelson had appealed his sentence to the court, arguing that he didn't
have an impartial trial jury, that the killing wasn't premeditated and that
putting him to death would be cruel and unusual punishment.
The 41-year-old was convicted of first-degree murder in the June 2006 killing
of 14-year-old Amber Graff.
Records show that Nelson was watching Graff and her 13-year-old brother at a
hotel in Kingman in western Arizona while their mother was in the hospital.
Investigators say that Nelson left the hotel to buy a rubber mallet, came back
and hit Amber in the head with it multiple times. His semen was found on her
(source: Associated Press)
Fla. Killer Executed for Teen Girl's 1983 Killing
A killer who alarmed a Florida coastal community with a string of killings
nearly 30 years ago has been excuted for a girl's slaying in 1983.
David Alan Gore was pronounced dead at 6:10 p.m. Thursday after receiving an
injection at the Florida State Prison, officials said.
The 58-year-old inmate was condemned for killing 17-year-old Lynn Elliott.
Court records show Gore and a cousin kidnapped her and a friend and took them
to a house in Vero Beach where Gore raped them both. Elliott freed herself and
ran naked from the house, but Gore chased her down and shot her in the head.
Police were called after a boy saw Gore running naked and saved Elliott's
friend. Authorities say they later determined Gore killed 2 other girls and 2
Gore becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Florida
and the 73rd overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1979. Only
Texas (481), Virginia (109) and Oklahoma (98) have executed more condemned
inmates in the USA since the death penalty was relegalized on July 2, 1976.
Gore become the 13th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA
and the 1290th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.
At least 5 more executions are scheduled in the country this month.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
Prosecutors Seeking Death Penalty in Avila Double Shootings ---- Julian
Ospina-Florez of Carrollwood is the suspect in the Jan. 9 killings of Hector
and Debra Rivera of Avila
A few months after a well-known Avila couple were killed in their home,
Hillsborough prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the man accused of
slaying them, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Julian Ospina-Florez of Carrollwood was arrested in January for shooting Debra
Rivera in her Avila home after Ospina-Florez - her driver and assistant - took
her to a trade show in Sarasota. Her husband, Dr. Hector Rivera, was shot as he
came home to 814 Tara De Avila.
Authorities say Ospina-Florez may have killed the couple after Debra Rivera
accused him of stealing thousands of dollars worth of items from the couple.
Thousands attended a funeral mass for the couple, who were known for their
generosity, community service and elegant parties.
Ian Cordell, who had known the couple for years, attended the funeral mass and
said the Riveras won't soon be forgotten by his family.
"I'll always remember them having a profound effect on us."
(source: Carrollwood Patch)
Judges object to Florida justices' new court rules
Judges and lawyers have launched a firestorm of opposition against new
governance rules that strengthen the Florida Supreme Court’s power over the
state’s judicial system.
Conferences of trial and appellate judges have filed motions urging the
justices to reconsider rules they say infringe on their free speech rights and
set arbitrary, unnecessary and counterproductive 8-year term limits for chief
Some also have objected to the Supreme Court’s approval of the rules without
first seeking comment from judges, lawyers and the public. Most went into
effect immediately after they were adopted on Feb. 9, but the justices agreed
to accept after-the-fact comments.
Rules muzzling all judges and setting term limits for chief judges of the 20
circuit courts and five district courts drew most of the opposition.
“Those chief judges have over the years developed personal relationships with
city and county officials, local bar leadership and business groups,” wrote
Circuit Judge Ronald Ficarrotta of Tampa on behalf of the Conference of Circuit
Judges of Florida.
Ficarrotta, who chairs the conference, added that “an arbitrary term limit on
chief judges would reduce the judiciary’s influence with local leaders and work
to the detriment of the courts.”
The judges also noted Florida has only one black and one Hispanic chief circuit
judge, Belvin Perry of Orlando and Manuel Menendez Jr. of Tampa, but the new
term limits would prohibit both from seeking another term.
As of Thursday, the justices had not responded. Three of the seven justices,
though, dissented from all or parts of the new rules when they were approved.
In a sharp dissent, Justice R. Fred Lewis wrote that they would “polarize and
politicize” the leadership positions of the state court system.
The majority justices said in an unsigned opinion that the changes will make
management of the courts more effective and efficient and enhance
The rules are based on recommendations of a study commission chaired by Justice
Ricky Polston and are designed in part to make sure the courts have a unified
message when lobbying lawmakers.
That didn’t happen when a pair of appellate court judges met behind the scenes
with legislators in a successful push to build an opulent $48.8 million
courthouse in Tallahassee that critics are calling a “Taj Mahal.” The revamp
makes the Supreme Court chief justice the primary spokesman on policy and
practices for the judicial branch including budgetary matters. The rules also
prohibit any judge in an official capacity or any judicial panel from making
budget recommendations to the governor or Legislature unless approved by the
Judges still can express their personal opinions as long as they make it clear
they aren’t speaking for the court system.
The Conference of District Court of Appeal Judges contends the rules will have
a chilling effect on a judge’s freedom of speech, guaranteed by the First
Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“As formulated by the rule, the difference between permissible and
impermissible speech turns not on what is said, but upon the perceptions of
those spoken to,” wrote 2nd District Court of Appeal Judge Stevan Northcutt,
chairman of the appellate conference. “This places the speaker in the untenable
position of possibly having to answer for the misunderstanding of the
The potential penalties include removal from office.
The 20 circuit chief judges offered some of the same criticisms in a separate
filing and argued the term limits rule would violate the Florida Constitution.
They noted the constitution’s “Eight is Enough” amendment limits the governor,
lieutenant governor, Cabinet members and legislators to 8 consecutive years but
says nothing about judges.
Chief Circuit Judge Joel Brown of Miami, filed the comments on behalf of his
colleagues. Brown cited a 2002 Supreme Court opinion that rejected local term
limits for county constitutional officers such as sheriffs and court clerks
because they weren’t included in the Eight is Enough amendment. The high court
currently is considering whether it also prohibits local term limits for county
commissioners in charter counties.
Another rule change says chief judges and the chief justice no longer can be
selected solely based on seniority. Courts instead also must consider
managerial, administrative and leadership abilities when electing their
The Supreme Court, though, stuck with seniority and tradition in its 1st
leadership election under the new rules by electing Polston as chief justice to
a 2-year term that begins July 1. The high court historically has rotated the
job by electing the most senior justice who hasn’t yet served as chief, and
this time that’s Polston. The current chief justice, Charles Canady, will
remain on the bench with three other former chiefs. The case is In re:
Implementation of Judicial Branch Governance Study Group Recommendations —
Amendments to the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration, No. SC11-1374.
(source: Associated Press)
Convicted killer seeks federal court hearing
Attorneys for a convicted killer Todd Wessinger, who is scheduled to be
executed May 9 for the 1995 slaying of 2 workers at a now-closed Baton Rouge
restaurant, has asked a federal judge to reconsider his recent denial for a new
trial or sentencing.
The Advocate reports Todd Wessinger's attorneys also asked that his execution
Wessinger's attorneys want U.S. District Judge James Brady to hold an
evidentiary hearing on Wessinger's federal constitutional claims. The attorneys
argued that Brady issued his ruling Feb. 22 without ever holding such a
Wessinger, a former dishwasher at the restaurant, was found guilty and
sentenced to die by lethal injection for fatally shooting 27-year-old Stephanie
Guzzardo and 46-year-old David Breakwel on Nov. 19, 1995.
(source: Associated Press)
Man guilty of capital murder in church killing
A man accused of bludgeoning an elderly woman to death at a small-town Cross
County church has been found guilty of capital murder. A jury returned the
guilty verdict just before 4:30 p.m. in the trial of Rene Bourassa. Jurors will
return to court Friday morning to begin the sentencing phase, during which they
will determine if Bourassa will face the death penalty.
In addition to the capital murder charge, Bourassa was found guilty of
commercial burglary, theft of property, aggravated robbery and fraudulent use
of a credit card. He showed little emotion as the verdicts were read.
Bourassa had confessed to killing 80-year-old Lillian Wilson on June 6, 2010,
though his defense attorneys contended during trial that his intention was only
to knock Wilson out and that he suffers from mental illness.
Prosecutors painted a different picture, describing him as a killer who acted
with premeditation in the course of robbing Wilson of her car and credit cards.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, there is something in this world called pure
evil," First Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Fletcher Long told the jury
at one point Thursday. "And it was rampant at Central Methodist Church that
The jury left the courtroom about 12:35 p.m. after hearing lengthy instructions
and then closing arguments from the 2 sides.
Deputy prosecuting attorney Michael Ladd said in his address to the jurors that
Bourassa knew he wouldn't make it far from the church outside Wynne if he left
"He decided he could only get away by killing her," Ladd said, saying that
meets the legal definition of premeditation.
Ladd walked jurors through the details of the crime, showing photos of Wilson's
body lying on the floor of the church and during the autopsy, where numerous
large gashes were visible on her head. At times, he held the same brass cross
Bourassa used to strike Wilson, urging jurors to remember the victim.
"Keep Ms. Lillian Wilson in your mind while you're considering that," Ladd said
at one point. "Don't forget that even though she's not here, she would be here
if not for the actions of Rene Bourassa."
Defense attorney Danny Glover acknowledged the crime fits 1st- and 2nd-degree
murder statutes, but asked jurors to stop short of finding Bourassa guilty of
"The law recognizes there are other levels of homicides," he said, noting
capital charges are filed for assassins, terrorists and serial killers. Glover
said Bourassa has mental illness and is genetically predisposed to violence,
factors that played a role in the killing. He said something snapped in him
when Wilson, injured but still alive, brought up Bourassa's mother.
"You can see the rage that took over at that moment," Glover said. "... Is that
someone really thinking straight to do that?"
He also pointed to Bourassa's cooperation. After being arrested in Seattle, he
waived extradition back to Arkansas and spoke with investigators. He even
reenacted part of the crime in a video shown to the jury earlier this week.
Prosecutors countered that cooperation is not a defense to capital murder.
Bourassa didn't speak and showed little emotion during the trial Thursday. He
sat behind his attorneys, his arms folded across his chest or his hands clasped
in front of him. He looked down when the crime scene and autopsy photos were
projected onto a large screen.
After jury selection last week, testimony began in the trial Monday before
Judge Richard L. Proctor.
(source: Arkansas Online)
Execution looms for killer after Kasich denies clemency Mark Wayne Wiles, 49,
is to be executed by lethal injection on Wednesday for a teen’s 1985 killing.
Gov. John Kasich’s 60-word statement regarding a clemency request by convicted
killer Mark Wayne Wiles boiled down to one word: No. Without comment or
explanation yesterday, Kasich slammed shut one of the last doors that might
have allowed Wiles to avoid being executed on Wednesday for the 1985 stabbing
death of a Rootstown, Ohio, teenager.
Kasich agreed with the Ohio Parole Board, which voted 8-0 on March 23 to
recommend against Wiles’ clemency request.
Unless a court intercedes, Wiles would be the first person executed in Ohio
since November, a gap caused by a prolonged legal battle over the state’s
lethal-injection protocol. U.S. District Judge Gregory L. Frost, with some
reluctance, has cleared the way for Wiles’ execution to proceed.
Frost blocked other executions in recent months because of legal complaints
that Ohio prison officials had not followed their lethal-injection process. In
a decision last week, Frost decreed that Ohio must “avoid the embarrassments”
of the past and move forward.
“This court is therefore willing to trust Ohio, just enough to permit the
scheduled execution,” Frost wrote.
Wiles, 49, was convicted and sentenced to be executed for the fatal stabbing of
Mark Klima, 15, on Aug. 7, 1985. Records show that Wiles, who was out of prison
on an aggravated-robbery conviction, killed Klima at the farm of the teen’s
family in Portage County where Wiles had once worked. The kitchen knife that
Wiles used to stab Klima 24 times had been used the previous day to cut the
cake at a family birthday party.
A group of more than 200 religious leaders asked Kasich to spare Wiles from
execution and commute his sentence to life without parole.
The state has about one inmate a month scheduled for execution through early
(source: Columbus Dispatch)
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