[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----LA., IDAHO, CALIF., S. DAK., NEV.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Tue Feb 7 22:13:42 CST 2012
DA to seek death penalty
The 16th Judicial District Attorney’s Office plans to seek the death penalty
against the daughter and granddaughter of an 83-year-old Breaux Bridge woman
found strangled in November at Lake Martin.
A grand jury indicted Heller Marie Dupuis, and her daughter, Toni Marie Dupuis,
on Friday evening on charges of first-degree murder, Assistant District
Attorney Chester Cedars said Monday.
The state declared in open court its intent to seek the death penalty against
both women, Cedars said.
That decision was based on Jessie Messex’s age, her physical condition, the
manner of homicide and the activities of the defendants both before and after
the killing, Cedars said.
“We believe the homicide was committed in a very heinous, atrocious and cruel
manner. One fact that is not lost upon us is the age of the victim,” Cedars
Cedars declined to speculate on a motive, saying he believes that is something
best left for the trial.
“I am convinced that the motive will become evident to the jury when we try the
case,” Cedars said.
A St. Martin Parish deputy found Messex with a cord wrapped around her neck
inside her vehicle at Lake Martin shortly after midnight Nov. 17.
Heller Dupuis’ older sibling, Estelle Malagarie, has said both women moved in
with Messex after Messex suffered a stroke several months before her death.
Malagarie has said her mother planned to change her will.
Cedars called it a “very sad case and a case that warrants as diligent a
prosecution as possible so that justice can be done.”
(source: The Advocate)
Jury votes thumbs up on death penalty for convicted killer
The 12-member jury panel that convicted Robert Coleman of the 1st degree murder
of the Rev. Julian Brandon of Blanchard, today recommended Coleman be sentenced
to die by lethal injection.
The sequestered jury found Coleman guilty of the New Year's Day 2003 homicide
around 7 pm Friday (Feb. 3, 2012), after deliberating just a little more than
Coleman - and his girlfriend, Brandy Holmes - were accused of killing Brandon,
a 70-year-old retired minister, in his Blanchard home on New Year's Day 2003.
Both Holmes and Coleman were convicted of that murder in separate trials, and
both were sentenced to the death penalty.
Although Holmes' conviction and sentence were upheld by the Louisiana Supreme
Court, Coleman's conviction was overturned by the state's highest court on Nov.
2, 2007; the case was remanded back to Caddo District Court for a new trial.
Caddo District Judge Scott Crichton presided over the first trial; Caddo
District Judge Michael A. Pitman presided over the new trial.
The penalty phase of the trial began at 1:30 pm Saturday (Feb. 4, 2012) and
continued throughout the weekend and all day Monday, concluding around 7:30 pm.
This morning, Assistant District Attorneys Brady O'Callaghan and Lea Hall
handled closing arguments for the prosecution, asking the jury to vote for the
death penalty due to the particularly heinous aspects of the homicide that not
only killed Brandon, but left his wife Alice to die.
The prosecution told the jury Coleman also was involved in the homicide of
Terrance Blaze, and had served hard prison time for armed robbery in his home
state of Mississippi.
Kathryn Sheely, a member of the Baton Rouge Capital Conflict Office, did
closing arguments for the defense. She acknowledged the heinous nature of the
crime for which Coleman was convicted, but asked the jury to vote against the
death penalty due to his being mentally retarded. It is against the law to
execute a mentally-retarded person.
Defense attorneys asked that jury members be polled on the verdict and all 12
confirmed their verdict. The defense also asked that jurors be polled on
whether or not they found Coleman mentally retarded and all 12 confirmed they
did not find him mentally retarded.
The 2nd trial began Jan. 30, and was ongoing throughout the past 2 weekends. It
took a full week to find a death-penalty- qualified jury and select 12 members
and 2 alternates acceptable to both the prosecution and defense attorneys.
In addition to Hall, the state was represented by Caddo Parish ADAs Brady
O'Callaghan and Dale Cox.
David Price of Baton Rouge Capital Conflict Office headed up Coleman's defense
team, with co-counsels Bruce Dodd, Bruce Unangst and Sheely assisting.
Idaho Legislature Considers Execution Bills
The Idaho Department of Correction unveiled a package of execution-related
bills Monday before the Idaho Legislature.
"I have no issues with the technicalities of this legislation," said Boise
Democratic Sen. Nicole LeFavour, but she joined fellow Democrat Boise Sen. Les
Bock in voting no on the bills.
One measure would limit the legal ramifications for health professionals
involved with future executions. IDOC Director Brent Reinke told members of the
Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee that the Gem State currently has 14
offenders on death row.
"We have members whose identities need to be protected," said Reinke, referring
to medical personnel who participate in execution teams. "We do everything we
can to conceal these people's identities."
Reinke suggested in a House committee hearing last week that Idaho could see
another execution at early as this spring. The committee moved to print the
2 other pieces of legislation related specifically to a procedural
clarification on the return of the death warrant to the state once the offender
has expired, and on the timeline for the state to retrieve the warrant. LaMont
Anderson, also with the AG's office, called the two bills "Lessons Learned from
Leo Morales with the American Civil Liberties Union testified in support of the
two bills considered by the committee.
"On the issue of the death penalty," said Morales, "we strongly oppose the use
of capital punishment as cruel and unusual punishment. However, with the
specific cases under consideration before you today, we support them."
Finally, the committee heard testimony from IDOC Deputy Warden Tim Higgins on
the proliferation of contraband in Idaho's prisons. Senate Bill 1215 would
create three levels of severity for contraband.
"Nuisance contraband" would include trash and excess food items, punishable
within a prison setting. Level two would be a misdemeanor—for objects like
tattoo or lighter paraphernalia. Lastly, felony contraband would include
dangerous weapons, tobacco, firearms—and cellphones.
Senate Bill 1215 passed to the 14th order with a suggestion by Idaho Falls Sen.
Bart Davis, to add an emergency clause that would make the law active upon the
governor's signature. The committee moved to approve the other 2 bills with a
do-pass recommendation, they make their way to the Senate floor.
(source: Boise Weekly)
CALIFORNIA----new death sentence
Jury calls for death penalty for prison murder by man who killed Marymount
Jurors recommended a death sentence Monday for a man who killed a fellow inmate
in 2005 while he was awaiting trial for the slayings of two Marymount College
students in the parking lot of a San Pedro supermarket.
Raymond Oscar Butler, 36, has already been sentenced to death for the March 25,
1994, shooting deaths of Takuma Ito, a Japanese citizen, and Go Matsuura, a
U.S. citizen born in Japan - a crime that made headlines in both countries.
The California Supreme Court upheld his conviction and death sentence for the
slayings of Ito and Matsuura in the parking lot of a Ralphs store in San Pedro.
But the state's highest court reversed his original conviction and death
sentence for the March 26, 1995, jailhouse stabbing death of Tyrone Flemming,
ruling that a judge had erroneously decided Butler could not act as his own
Butler did represent himself in the retrial of the Flemming case, but was
unable to avoid the same outcome. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald S.
Coen is scheduled to sentence him on April 6.
In the penalty phase of trial, prosecutors introduced into evidence Butler's
convictions for murdering Ito and Matsuura - but omitted any reference to the
prior death sentence.
Deputy District Attorney David Barkhurst told jurors that the evidence they
heard during the guilt portion of the trial was "the tip of the iceberg."
Butler has had a series of run-ins with fellow jail inmates, has had a number
of weapons - including jail-made shanks - recovered from his cell and unleashed
containers with feces and urine at prison guards who were bringing him library
books or cleaning up trash, Barkhurst said.
"The death penalty is necessary in this case to adequately punish the defendant
for the crimes he has committed," the prosecutor said.
The jury's other option was to recommend life in prison without possibility
The murders of Ito and Matsuura stunned Japan and prompted expressions of
regret from President Bill Clinton and Walter Mondale, then the U.S. ambassador
(source: Daily Breeze)
Court upholds LA deputy killer's death penalty
The California Supreme Court says the death penalty is an appropriate sentence
for a gang member convicted of shooting to death a Los Angeles sheriff's deputy
17 years ago.
The unanimous court on Monday rejected the self-defense claims of Freddie
Deputy Stephen Blair was questioning Fuiava and another man in the Lynwood area
of Los Angeles County after seeing them discard a loaded handgun on May 12,
The defense claimed that Blair opened fire on Fuiava first. Prosecutors alleged
Fuiava was the one to start shooting out of fear of returning to prison.
The Supreme Court ruled that the jury and judge had a sound basis to convict
Fuiava of 1st-degree murder. It said any legal error made during the trial was
(source: Associated Press)
The Fate of California's Longest Standing Death Row Inmate Could Change
The fate of California's longest standing death row inmate, Douglas Ray
Stankewitz, could change. Stankewitz was convicted of murder in 1978.
Stankewitz’s case was the first to be tried after the death penalty was
reinstated back in 1978 and the jury handed it to him.
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Monday, nearly 30 years after the crime, Stankewitz is asking for a reversal of
the decision to be upheld. Now, he may be no closer to death than he was when
he was first convicted.
The case is open once again—convicted of murder and sentenced to death,
Stankewitz is again making an appeal for his life.
For Fresno attorney Salvatore Sciandra, it was hundreds of cases back, but
he'll never forget his first court appearance. It's been more than 30 years
since he stood next to Stankewitz but the new appeal is taking him back. “When
I tried the case, I made a motion expressing doubt to his ability to understand
the nature of the proceeding,” says Sciandra.
Sciandria argued Stankewitz's mental competency but his client was never
evaluated. Shortly after, Sciandria says Stankewitz hit him and he was taken
off the case. “He was an impulsive person, immature unfortunately. It was that
impulsiveness that caused him to be on trial in the first place.”
It's Stankewitz's mental health and abusive childhood that are giving him a
chance to appeal his death sentence. “The case today is based off the second
attorney's failure to pursue the issue of competency and to provide proper
investigations into his past,” says Sciandria.
Stankewitz has twice been given the death penalty and twice it has been
reversed. In Monday's hearing, Stankewitz asked a panel of judges to uphold a
2009 court decision; it would release him from the death penalty and instead
give him life in prison. A panel of judges has not yet decided the inmate’s
fate; it could take weeks or even months to finalize a decision.
Stankewitz was convicted of murder in 1978. He was found guilty of murdering
22-year-old Theresa Greybeal. According to court documents, Stankewitz and 2
friends kidnapped Greybeal, stole her car and drove with her in it to Fresno.
They robbed her and Stankewitz's friends testify he shot her point blank in the
head bragging “Did I drop her or did I drop her?”
30 years after the murder, the case continues. Attorney's and the victim’s
family hope this is the last appeal so the case can be closed.
Some Attorneys are hoping to do away with the death penalty; they say the
appeals process is too expensive. Its cost the state around $4 billion since it
was reinstated in 1978.
Death penalty ought to be abolished
Recently, many of our community went to San Francisco and other places in
public action to support the "sanctity of life" issue. The irony is that these
same people support war and the death penalty!
The question is; Why?
What makes the life in the womb more valuable than the lives being bombed by
planes and drones, or the lives being executed in prisons all over our nation?
The myths and facts of the death penalty must be considered.
The myths say it deters crime; is the only way to protect our families and
communities; save taxpayers money; is the only way to ease the suffering of
victims' families; that killing innocent inmates are extremely rare; and
religious teaching supports it.
Statistical facts show that 16 states have abolished capital punishment because
it does not deter crime; that life without parole have proved the best way to
protect society; it costs $1.1 million more than non-capital trials, paid by
the counties; only one in 100 murders receive the death penalty, and families
who pursue forgiveness and reconciliation pull their lives together.
To date, more than 130 inmates were released because of wrongful convictions,
and, last but not least, the majority of religious denominations in the United
States oppose capital punishment.
Our state is drowning in a financial crisis: slashing funds from schools,
health care and social services, while spending $217 million a year for death
row cases on special trials and appeals.
We have 712 people on death row with 20 of them in Chowchilla Women's prison.
Within the first 5 years, California would save more than $1 billion if we
abolished the death penalty. Putting death-row inmates into the general
population would allow them to work.
Their wages would go toward victim restitution and to law enforcement for work
on the numerous unsolved rape and murder cases.
Killing a woman on death row is no better than stoning a woman in the Middle
East or under Sharia law. Both are cruel and unusual punishment, so where is
Abolishing the death penalty requires a conversion of heart, a "forgiveness
from the heart" as Jesus Christ puts it. A. Sertillanges says, "... Conversion
means a willingness to see the truth of things and conform one's conduct to
it." If we are willing to see the truth of the facts above, then our conduct
will end this evil.
Joan Chittistor, OSB says it best: "To withhold forgiveness is the adoration of
the past, when it is the present that demands the best of us."
And again, "Forgiveness does not ignore responsibility; actions have
consequences. But forgiveness does not tolerate vengeance. To jail criminals
for life in order to protect the public is one thing; to become killers in
order to punish them is vengeance. Where does that fit in a divine scheme that
says, 'Vengeance is mine. I will repay,' says God."
For me, if God has already forgiven them, who am I to withhold my forgiveness?
(source: Letter to the Editor, Visalia Times Delta)
AG: Death Penalty Reserved For Cases Like Berget's
49-year-old Rodney Berget, who is already serving 2 life sentences, is now
preparing for his execution.
Berget’s death sentence for his role in the killing of South Dakota
Correctional Officer Ron Johnson during an escape attempt came down just before
11 a.m. Monday.
Berget's violent crimes, little remorse and eight attempted escapes from the
walls of the South Dakota Penitentiary all played a role in his death sentence.
"The death penalty is reserved for the most heinous offenses such as the
conduct that Rodney Berget exerted in this case," Attorney General Marty
Holding the hand of Johnson's widow and standing by the family he left behind,
Jackley said after court that he hopes this sentence sends a message to other
"The prison is a very dangerous place with dangerous people, and this type of
conduct cannot be tolerated. I think it is a deterrent effect to have the death
penalty available for those very outrageous, heinous cases, very limited, as in
this instance," Jackley said.
Berget is now the second inmate to be placed on death row for this crime in the
last 3 months.
South Dakota Secretary of Corrections Denny Kaemingk was at the hearing to show
support for the family and says his staff will be ready for the execution.
"The Department of Corrections will be prepared to carry out the sentence of
the court," Kaemingk said.
Though Berget asked for this sentence during his four-day hearing last week,
Jackley says getting the death penalty was never Berget's goal last April.
"I don't think this was him trying to end his life sentences via the death
penalty. I think it was him trying to end his life sentences with an escape.
That's what this case was about, was a selfish act of Rodney Berget to try to
escape from the walls of the penitentiary," Jackley said.
While Berget and Eric Robert, the 2 who tried to escape, have now both been
sentenced to death, this case isn't closed just yet.
A third inmate, Michael Nordman, who is charged with giving Berget and Robert
the pipe and shrink wrap to commit the crime, will have a pre-trial hearing
Jackley says his goal is to have that case wrapped up before the 1-year
anniversary of Johnson's death in April.
Capital Punishment in South Dakota, United States
Berget's sentencing puts the number of South Dakota inmates on death row to 5.
That's 2 more than just a year ago, and the increase bucks national trends.
2011 was a milestone in capital punishment cases. For the 1st time in 35 years
the number of new death sentences nationally fell below 100 - That's according
to the Death Penalty Information Center - a group that opposes the punishment.
Currently 34 states use the death penalty as a form of punishment, including
South Dakota. The 16 states highlighted here in yellow do not sentence
criminals to death.
In 2011 78 inmates nationwide were sentenced to death, including South Dakota
inmate Eric Robert who admitted his role in a prison escape attempt that
resulted in the murder of a corrections officer.
Sixteen people have been executed in South Dakota since 1877. The most recent
was Elijah Page, who was put to death in 2007 for killing of Chester Allen
Poage in 2000.
There are 4 other inmates on South Dakota's death row.
Donald Moeller was convicted in the 1990 murder and rape of nine-year-old Becky
O'Connell. Charles Rhines was convicted in the 1992 torture and murder of
Donnivan Schaefer during a burglary of a Rapid City donut shop. Briley Piper is
also on death row for the 2000 killing of Chester Allen Poage. Piper's
execution is set for March 2012. And Eric Robert, who was with Berget in that
In addition to Berget, South Dakota could also see one more inmate added to the
list. Prosecutors are also persuing the death penalty against James McVay, who
has pleaded guilty but mentally ill for walking away from a transitional
program at the prison and murdered an elderly Sioux Falls woman, stole her car,
and attempted to drive to Washington D.C.
Also according to numbers released by the Death Penalty Information center both
Oklahoma and Texas have each executed prisoners already in 2012. Texas ranks
highest among states that punish by death. Since 1976 that state has executed
(source for both: Keloland TV)
Judge expected to set death penalty trials in Metro officer’s fatal 2009
shooting----2 defendants face capital punishment in alleged gang-related
shooting in off-duty officer’s home
A Clark County judge could decide Wednesday what the dates will be for the
trials of 4 defendants who have been linked to an alleged 2009 North Las Vegas
gang-related attempted robbery and gun battle that resulted in the death of
off-duty Metro Police Officer Trevor Nettleton.
Judge Jessie Walsh ruled Monday afternoon that at least 2 of the defendants,
Prentice Marshall, 20, and Saul Williams Jr., 22, will be tried together. The
state is seeking the death penalty against both.
The judge is expected to decide Wednesday afternoon whether a 3rd man charged
with murder in the case, Quadrae Scott, 20, will be able to get a separate
trial. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty against Scott.
Walsh had already ruled early that a 4th man charged with murder in the
officer’s death, Adrian Pena, 20, will have a separate trial. Pena is not
facing the death penalty.
Once all that is sorted out, Walsh is expected to set trial dates for the 4
2 other men who were also charged in connection with the case, Michael and
Emmitt Ferguson, who are brothers, have pleaded guilty to lesser charges.
On Sept. 12, both Fergusons entered guilty pleas to reduced charges of
accessory to murder. In November, Judge Jessie Walsh sentenced each of them to
a minimum of 12 months and a maximum of 30 months. Emmitt Ferguson was given
credit for 719 days of time already served and Michael Ferguson was given
credit for 722 days.
The multiple-defendant case involves the Nov. 19, 2009, death of Nettleton, a
3-year Metro Police veteran. Nettleton had arrived home from work shortly after
midnight when he was confronted and shot in his garage in the 1100 block of
Emerald Stone Avenue, near Lone Mountain Road and Donna Street.
Before being killed, Nettleton returned fire, authorities said.
Prentice Marshall, who was then 18, was arrested the day of the slaying at
University Medical Center, where he was being treated for a gunshot wound to
the testicles. Police said he told them he had shot Nettleton in the gun
Nettleton was not wearing his uniform when he was shot — first in the leg,
followed by a fatal shot to the chest, authorities have said.
Marshall has been charged with Nettleton’s death as well as with an armed
robbery of an 18-year-old North Las Vegas man that took place shortly before
the gun battle, about 11:45 p.m. Nov. 18, 2009, in the 1800 block of Grand
Since Marshall’s arrest in the shooting, police linked the 5 other men — who
allegedly belong to the Woods gang — to the officer’s death and the armed
Police said Williams called both Michael and Emmitt Ferguson from the North Las
Vegas Detention Center and asked them to conceal a weapon allegedly used in the
Williams, Marshall, Scott and Pena are charged with one count each of murder
with a deadly weapon with the intent to promote, further or assist a criminal
gang. They also face 1 count each of conspiracy to commit robbery, burglary
while in possession of a firearm and attempted robbery, all with criminal gang
On Monday, Walsh heard several motions by attorneys for Marshall and Williams,
including a motion by Marshall’s attorney to have them tried separately.
Marshall’s attorney, Anthony Sgro, told the judge that Marshall and Williams
would have antagonistic defenses — each would be trying to lay the blame on the
other because of the chance of getting the death penalty.
Sgro said there is a good chance that both of them, or only one of them, would
be acquitted if they are tried together. But having their trial together takes
away the possibility of both being acquitted, Sgro said.
Sgro also said it would be unfair for Marshall to have to defend against both
the prosecution and against Williams’ attorneys, who wouldn’t be as constrained
on what arguments they could use as the prosecutors.
However, Chief Deputy District Attorney Pamela Weckerly pointed out some
possible tactics the defense might take, such as saying surveillance photos
don't absolutely identify either defendant.
Walsh ruled against separate trials, saying there was no legal cause to grant
Marshall’s other attorney, Christopher Oram, asked the judge to make a ruling
that would bar police officers who wanted to watch the trial from coming to the
trial in their uniforms, thereby creating a “coercive atmosphere.”
Oram said if the courtroom was filled with police officers, he was afraid it
would send an unstated message to the jury that they were expecting a
Walsh said the courtroom is a public place and didn’t think it would be an
issue. However, the judge said she wanted to think about it and would make a
ruling on it when she hears more motions in the case beginning at 1 p.m.
Williams’ attorney, Deputy Public Defender Danny Silverstein, argued a motion
against the death penalty, saying it was cruel and unusual punishment and
violated the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. He also told the judge
that times change and standards for what is acceptable can change — he said the
U.S. was the only Western nation that still has the death penalty. He said the
U.S. stands with countries like China, Iran and Saudi Arabia in using capital
However, Walsh ruled against that motion.
(source: Las Vegas Sun)
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