[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----N.H., KY. S. DAK., OHIO
rhalperi at smu.edu
Wed Feb 1 22:32:38 CST 2012
House panel says no to language change in death penalty statute
A state House committee has unanimously recommended that the full House kill a
bill that would have expanded the death penalty to include murders which are
considered "especially heinous, cruel, or depraved."
“We decided that the language was very subjective,” said Rep. Elaine Swinford,
R-Center Barnstead, chairwoman of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety
Committee said of House Bill 1706. “It would have put an undue burden on
prosecutors and the attorney general.”
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Ross Terrio, R-Manchester, who found out about
Tuesday’s committee vote when a New Hampshire Union Leader reporter informed
him Wednesday night.
“Really?” he said. “I wish (the committee) had given me a chance to amend it. I
didn’t even know they were going to” vote on the bill.
Terrio said he partly blames the state Office of Legislative Services for
drafting a bill that committee members said was too vague. For example, it
would have covered murders with "circumstances that are especially heinous,
cruel, or depraved" without providing any definition of what that meant.
“I told (OLS) that I was a little concerned that it was too broad and vague,”
Terrio said. “I wish OLS had drafted it tighter and more clear. I also wish
(the committee) had maybe given me the chance to rework the bill.”
Terrio said he was trying to close what he said are some loopholes in current
state laws covering capital offenses. The state’s death penalty is narrow in
scope, covering several crimes, including killing a police officer, murder for
hire and killing someone during a rape, drug dealing or a kidnapping. Most
recently, the death penalty was expanded to include murder committed during a
burglary or home invasion.
“Right now, if I kill you while robbing you in your home, I could get the death
penalty. If I kill you while robbing you on your front lawn, I don’t,” Terrio
said. “If someone is killed during a rape, they get the death penalty. If they
get killed while being tortured, no death penalty.”
He said he will try again to pass an expansion of the death penalty in the next
legislative session should he be reelected in November, but he likely does not
have Swinford’s support.
“I don’t believe they need to do anything with the death penalty,” Swinford
said, asserting that she was expressing only her personal opinion and was not
speaking for the committee. “I don’t want to expand it or ever take it away.”
The state has executed 24 people since the executions of Penelope Henry and
Sarah Simpson on Dec. 27, 1739, on murder charges. The last was in 1939. The
state now has one convict on death row, Michael Addison, who murdered
Manchester police officer Michael Briggs in 2006.
(source: Union Leader)
Judge Sentences Man To Death In 1991 Slaying
A man convicted of four capital murders in different states, including
Kentucky, was sentenced to death Wednesday by a Hardin County Judge.
The death sentence had been more than 20 years in the making.
Michael Dale St. Clair, 54, was convicted of two capital murders in Oklahoma,
before authorities said he escaped from prison, killed again and then traveled
to Kentucky and killed one more time.
On Wednesday, a Hardin County judge sentenced him to death for the Kentucky
"You know, there's a lot of evil in this world, and I just think he's an evil
man," said Merle Brady, the widow of one of St. Clair's victims.
On Oct. 6, 1991, Brady's husband, Frank, became St. Clair's fourth murder
After escaping from an Oklahoma prison, where he was serving time for two
killings, authorities said, St. Clair killed a man in Colorado and took his
He then traveled to Bullitt County where he found Frank Brady at a rest stop.
He carjacked Brady, took him to an isolated area, handcuffed him and shot him.
He then set the car on fire.
"It's been a long journey. It really has. I've spent more time in a courtroom
than you could ever imagine," said Brady.
With 3 other capital murder charges, appeals and convictions, it has taken 20
years for Brady to see justice for her husband.
At his sentencing Wednesday, St. Clair mocked the court.
"I've been waiting for a fair trial for almost 20 years, and out of all the
trials, I have to say yours was the worst one, judge, that I've ever seen,"
said St. Clair.
"OK. That's noted for the record," the judge responded.
But St. Clair wasn't done, he then asked for a mistrial, saying the prosecution
"So I'd ask for a mistrial right there, and that's also prosecutor misconduct.
I want to make sure that gets on record for my direct appeal," said St. Clair.
"The record so reflects and the motion is denied. What else can I do for you?"
the judge said.
With little else to say, the judge read his decision.
"It's further ordered and adjudged for the offense of kidnapping, where the
victim was not released alive, the defendant, Michael Dale St. Clair shall be
put to death," the judge said.
"I want to thank all of the attorneys, the judges and the jury. They were all
so supportive of me today. I just love everyone of them. They're all so good,"
On top of getting the death penalty, St. Clair was also sentenced to 35 years
in prison for stolen property, criminal murder and arson.
His execution date is set for March 30, but it's highly unlikely to happen so
soon with the appeals process.
In Kentucky, there is a right to appeals process that's usually filed in 30
days, but the proceedings after that filing can take years.
(source: WLKY News)
Berget's Brother Also Faced Death Penalty
The defense had their turn to call witnesses in day three of Rodney Berget's
Berget will be sentenced by a judge for the role he played in the murder of
correctional officer Ronald Johnson during a failed escape from prison. On
Wednesday, three witnesses took the stand to try to tell the judge that rather
than the death penalty; another life sentence would be more than enough.
For the 1st time, the court heard background about Berget's life. According to
a social history study by the defense, we learned Berget is not the 1st in his
family to be facing the death penalty.
The associate warden of the state penitentiary was the 1st to take the stand.
He told the court that he is in charge of the housing for Berget as a maximum
custody inmate. He told Attorney General Marty Jackley that he believes Berget
is an escape risk and addressed the 24 rule infractions Berget has committed
since January of 2000.
"Are all of those infractions minor or are there some major infractions?” asked
“No there are some major infractions on here,” answered the warden.
The defense clarified that none of Berget's rule infractions involved acts of
violence against staff members or other inmates prior to Johnson’s murder.
The defense's paralegal then told the court of Berget's social history report.
She told the judge that Berget's older brother, Roger, had also been in trouble
with the law and had been executed in Oklahoma in the year 2000 for murder.
The paralegal said she feels Berget is remorseful for what he had done to
Ronald Johnson and his family. Jackley questioned Berget's remorse.
"Has he ever written an apology letter to the widow of officer Johnson? Has he
ever written an apology letter to the daughter of officer Johnson? Has he ever
written an apology letter to the son of officer Johnson,” asked Jackley.
The paralegal responded, “No.”
Finally, the defense called the former principal at the state penitentiary that
had Berget as a student.
"If this court wants to make Rodney Berget suffer for what he did then give him
a life sentence, because a death sentence will stop his suffering,” said the
Jackley reminded the court that Berget is currently serving 2 life sentences
for attempted murder and rape.
“Are you aware that Berget has plead guilty of killing a guard while serving
those life sentences?” asked Jackley.
“Yes I am,” responded the principal.
Jackley turned to the judge and said, “You're honor, I have no further
According to witness statements this morning, Berget was first put in the
criminal system when he stole a car at 12 years old.
Court will continue on Thursday morning. Berget's defense will call a forensic
expert and Berget is expected to make a statement.
(source: KDLT News)
Board rejects clemency for Ohio man facing execution over son's arson death
A man sentenced to death for intentionally setting a blaze that killed his
3-year-old son was denied clemency on Wednesday by the Ohio Parole Board,
despite his attorneys' arguments that there was another viable suspect and that
authorities should re-examine the case due to scientific advances made in fire
Michael Webb, 42, was found guilty of aggravated murder in the death of Michael
Patrick Webb in a Nov. 21, 1990. fire in Goshen Township in Ohio. He was also
convicted of aggravated arson, attempted aggravated murder and aggravated
theft. His lawyers wanted his sentence commuted to life without parole to give
him time to pursue a new trial.
In its recommendation to the governor to deny clemency, the Parole Board
discounted the possibility of another suspect, saying it would require "an
extraordinary stretch of the imagination," and noted that Webb's stealing money
from his daughters' trust fund had created a "powerful motive."
"This crime was very heinous, with Webb convicted of pouring gasoline on his
own family and igniting it, in an attempt to kill his wife and 4 children,"
said the eight-member Parole Board, which voted unanimously. "The courts have
reviewed the claim that the prosecutor withheld important evidence, and
determined that it is without merit. ... Given the overwhelming evidence of
guilt, there is no manifest injustice in this case that would warrant the grant
of executive clemency."
The board interviewed Webb on Jan. 13 via video conference from the Chillicothe
Correctional Institution. In it, he "asked for clemency claiming that he is
innocent of the crime of setting his house on fire and killing his son. He said
that he would like to get a new trial and clear his name," the board noted.
Webb's execution, initially set for Feb. 22, has been delayed due to problems
with Ohio's lethal injection method. A new date has not been set, said one of
Webb's attorneys, Jim Owen.
At a hearing last week on the clemency request, Owen and another attorney for
Webb, Keith Yeazel, said the jury was "deprived of two key pieces of evidence"
in the case: the information about another suspect and the modern scientific
interpretation about the fire's site of origin, according to the board
The site of origin was important because a report, submitted by Webb's
attorneys, showed it could have started elsewhere on the first floor -- not
just the bathroom where Webb was standing. This made "it plausible that someone
besides Webb started the fire and that Webb would not have seen the actual
arsonist," according to the report.
The report, by Texas-based arson expert Gerald Hurst, said the fire chief
relied on methods that 20 years of arson science have determined unreliable,
according to The Associated Press.
However, the Parole Board noted that Hurst's report did "not preclude the
state's version of the offense as it indicates that the point of origin of the
fire could have been anywhere on the first floor. Therefore, the point of
origin could have been the bathroom and the closet as was testified to by
(Township Fire) Chief (Virgil E.) Murphy."
Owen said the decision was not “unexpected” and they were working with other
lawyers to file a motion for a new trial. He noted that new trials have been
granted in cases based on "improper fire science evidence."
“The clemency board really didn’t address the issue we raised, which was that
the testimony about the point of the origin of the fire at trial was wrong and
not based on science. As a matter of fact in their statement of facts, they
cited Murphy’s testimony that we’ve proved was not based on science and that
fact is uncontroverted," Owen said. There’s no scientific expert opinion
offered by the state that says that the trial testimony was correct. Every
person that’s looked at this and given a scientific opinion concludes that the
testimony was wrong.”
Death-penalty cases need a higher standard, than "beyond a reasonable doubt,"
said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information
Center, which in mid-December reported an "historic drop" in the number of
death sentences imposed in the U.S. over the last 15 years.
"With the advancements in science I think these cases do present some doubts
... changes in what the jury would hear today from what they heard at the
original trial," he said. "Given the stakes here that the person's life will
ride on this decision, I think that should be part of the governor’s ultimate
decision, is there any doubt? Is there a lingering doubt?”
In a statement submitted to the board, Webb's ex-wife, Susan Beck, asked for
"no leniency" for him, saying he "showed us no mercy on the morning of November
Looking back at journals she kept for three years after the fire, "it becomes
more unbelievable that my family survived what Mike Webb did to us, plus its
aftermath. I can't believe we stood behind this murderer ... this baby-killer
... who saturated us with gas, lit us on fire and made no attempt to save us.
... Because of Mike Webb, my dreams of raising a family literally went up in
(source: MSNBC News)
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