[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----PENN., MONT., GA., CONN.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Wed Feb 22 22:45:21 CST 2012
Staton loses Supreme Court appeal
Death row inmate Andre Staton may be a step closer to execution for the 2004
murder of his former girlfriend.
After nearly a 5-year wait, the state Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously
rejected his appeal that the Blair County District Attorney's Office shouldn't
have been allowed to use the aggravating circumstance of Staton being under a
protection-from-abuse order when he stabbed Beverly Yohn at her Altoona home.
It was 1 of 2 aggravating circumstances prosecutors used in obtaining the
death-penalty verdict against Staton. A jury found that the aggravating
circumstances outweighed 4 mitigating circumstances when it handed down the
Staton, 48, was sentenced to death June 1, 2006. He is incarcerated at the
State Correctional Institution at Greene, Greene County.
Staton claimed that he wasn't aware of the PFA orders that were issued against
him at Yohn's request - 1 temporary and 1 final.
The high court ruled otherwise.
There is no dispute that Staton was never formally served with either order,
but Staton "avoided that service" by the Blair County Sheriff's Department,
Chief Justice Ronald Castille wrote for the court.
Witnesses also testified that Staton knew about the orders not only from Yohn
but also from a Family Services Inc. employee at the Blair County PFA Office,
Attorney Thomas N. Farrell of Pittsburgh, who represented Staton in his appeal,
said he probably won't ask the state Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling.
An appeal could be made directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"It would be very difficult because this particular issue is a state question
not a federal question," Farrell said. "The Supreme Court does not handle state
questions; it handles federal questions."
While it was not a specific part of Staton's appeal, the high court also ruled
the evidence presented at trial was sufficient for a 1st-degree murder
conviction. A copy of the ruling will be sent to Gov. Tom Corbett, who would
have to issue an execution warrant against Staton.
The ruling issued Tuesday was long delayed because of the numerous attorneys
who had been appointed for Staton, the Supreme Court noted. Farrell is Staton's
7th appeals attorney. The prior 6 either withdrew from the case or were removed
by court order.
(source: The Altoona Mirror)
Canadian awaiting execution in Montana says there is a good chance his life
will be spared
A Canadian awaiting execution in Montana for a 1982 killing said Wednesday that
he thinks there is a good chance the governor will spare his life now that he's
a far different person than the out-of-control youth that took the lives of 2
young Blackfeet Indian men.
Ronald A. Smith of Red Deer, Alberta, has exhausted his legal appeals and is
asking for life in prison instead of the death penalty.
Smith told The Associated Press in a prison interview that leniency from Gov.
Brian Schweitzer is his only remaining option to avoid the death penalty, and
he believes the governor will recognize that he is a changed man. Smith is
speaking out in interviews for the 1st time in an effort to demonstrate he is
worthy of executive clemency.
The Canadian government also now formally supports clemency for Smith, although
the 54-year-old convict said he thinks the support from his home country is
only lukewarm and won't have much bearing on the governor's final decision.
But Smith's case faces strong opposition from another government, the Blackfeet
Tribal Council, and family members of the victim.
Smith was sentenced to death in March 1983, seven months after he marched
cousins Harvey Mad Man, 23, and Thomas Running Rabbit, 20, into the woods just
off U.S. 2 near Marias Pass and shot them both in the head with a .22-caliber
rifle. They had picked up Smith, who was partying his way around northern
Montana with some friends.
Smith, who was 24 at the time of the killings, said he looks back on that
killing with deep regret — although he tries not to dwell on it much because it
is too depressing.
"I look back with disgust at what happened," said Smith. "Regardless of the
drugs and alcohol that were involved, it was obviously ridiculous events that
took place. I now just recognize the foolishness of it all."
Smith said he was heavily intoxicated that day and doesn't have a strong
recollection of the men he killed.
Smith said he can understand why most of the family members of the victims are
angry with him and continue to ask the governor to keep the death penalty
intact. But Smith said he has rehabilitated himself with an education and by
reconnecting severed ties with his own family, who he now talks to on an almost
daily basis over the telephone.
"I kind of hope they would recognize I am not the same person. Obviously, I
committed those crimes. I am not trying to say I didn't. But I am not the same
person anymore," Smith said. "It is hard. What do you say, what can you say, to
the families you have taken lives from?"
The Blackfeet Nation is also taking a hard stance with Smith, and pressuring
Schweitzer to dismiss Smith's request.
"We feel that if the governor were to grant clemency, that means the governor
views Native American life different than other lives in Montana," said tribal
council member and state Sen. Shannon Augare of Browning. "This was a huge,
devastating tragedy in our community. We still feel very strong emotions from
the various family members that were affected by that tragedy. In short, we
want to ensure that justice prevails here."
Schweitzer has been mostly silent on the case recently. In the past, he has
indicated that the stance of the Canadian government won't affect his decisions
The Canadian government has not formally reached out to the governor on the
matter I years, and over that time had a short-lived internal switch in policy
where it was not seeking relief for Smith.
The governor has met with family members of the victims and told them he has a
"moral obligation" to think of them first in any decision.
During his political campaigns, Schweitzer has expressed support for the death
penalty. But while in office, he has said such decisions should not be taken
The Montana Board of Pardons and Parole will hear Smith's case on May 2. That
board will send a recommendation to the governor, who has the final word.
The Montana attorney general's office said it will continue to defend the
"The state of Montana will file a written response opposing Ronald Allen
Smith's petition and intends to defend the strong court record upholding his
original death sentences," said attorney general spokesman John Doran.
If the governor rejects Smith's petition, it may not be much longer until he
faces the death penalty. His execution is only now being formally delayed as
legal arguments continue over whether the lethal injection method currently
used by Montana is constitutional.
Smith, who has lived for 30 years in the least-comfortable maximum security
portion, said he doubts that legal arguments in the court system will delay his
death sentence much longer.
Smith said under the best case scenario he still spends the rest of his life
behind bars. But he hopes Schweitzer will spare his life despite the strong
emotions involved in the case.
"It is definitely going to be difficult from a personal perspective for him.
Whatever decision he makes will be difficult," Smith said.
(source: Associated Press)
GEORGIA----new death sentence
Man gets death penalty in 2008 murder
A New Jersey man found guilty Friday in the grisly murder of a Newton County
man was sentenced to death Tuesday evening in Newton County Superior Court.
Despite indications earlier in the day that one juror was holding out against
the death penalty, the jury of seven women and five men returned a unanimous
verdict of death at about 7 p.m.
Rodney R. Young was found guilty on all 5 counts he faced -- malice murder, 2
counts of felony murder, aggravated assault and burglary -- in connection with
the bludgeoning and stabbing death of 28-year-old Gary Lamar Jones in 2008.
Judge Samuel Ozburn presided over the trial prosecuted by District Attorney
Layla Zon and Assistant District Attorney Melanie Bell with attorneys Joseph
Romond and Teri Thompson of the Office of the Georgia Capital Defender
representing the defendant.
Jones, an employee of Red Lobster restaurant in Conyers and an active member of
Springfield Baptist Church, was found dead in his home on March 30, 2008, by
his mother Doris Jones who had recently moved from New Jersey to Georgia to
live with her son at 65 Benedict Drive.
Evidence soon pointed to Young with whom the mother had had a relationship.
Young was arrested in his hometown of Bridgeton, N.J., less than a week after
the slaying. He was extradited and had been awaiting trial at the Newton County
Faced with overwhelming evidence, the defense conceded that Young committed the
crime, but maintained he is mentally retarded and, according to attorney
Thompson who made the closing argument for the defense, "possessed no level of
sophistication, no planning," in connection with the crime that included
battering with a hammer and inflicting multiple stab wounds on the victim.
In his charge to the jury, Ozburn instructed them on each charge that they
could find the defendant guilty, not guilty or guilty but mentally retarded.
The latter charge would have meant that Young would be remanded to the Georgia
Department of Corrections which would see to it that mental health treatment
was provided to him. The guilty verdict meant that the trial moved into the
sentencing phase Monday.
(source: Rockdale Citizen)
Battle brewing over death penalty repeal
In a rare parliamentary move that sent a message to death penalty opponents,
minority Republicans on the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday voted against
allowing a measure repealing capital punishment to move forward for a public
The maneuver failed, but the vote sets the scene for contentious debates in
committee and eventually the floors of the House and Senate on the proposed
repeal, which is supported by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, the Legislature's major proponent of
the repeal, said after the committee meeting that he was "a little
disappointed" some members voted to kill it in committee.
"I have voted for bills that I just flat do not like," Holder-Winfield said in
an interview. "I think almost everything we bring here deserves consideration,
and that's all that this process is about. When you're a legislator and you
don't want to have the discussion, you should really consider what you're doing
Holder-Winfield said he expects repeal opponents this year to use a variety of
tactics to kill the legislation. "In some respects that is their job, but the
other thing you have to weigh is what your real job here is and that is to
represent everyone in the state," he said.
Voting to "raise" a bill basically allows the measure to be drafted and to
receive a public hearing.
2 opponents of a repeal who approved raising the legislation, Sen. Paul Doyle,
D-Wethersfield and Rep. Bob Godfrey, D-Danbury, said that voting to get a
public hearing, or even to move the bill out of committee, should not be
construed as support.
"I think this is too important for just the committee to vote on, but the House
and Senate should take it up, too," Godfrey said.
But Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, said he was voting no, "just as a protest."
After the committee meeting, Rep. Gerald M. Fox III, D-Stamford, co-chairman of
the panel, said the vote was a rare occurrence. "They told me they were going
to, so it wasn't a surprise, and we just move forward," said Fox, a proponent
of the repeal who expects to vote for it again.
The committee unanimously voted to raise 42 concepts for drafting and public
hearing, but the death penalty repeal -- the fourth item on the agenda --
resulted in a separate, 23-15 party-line vote with seven lawmakers absent.
"I think I know where it's going, but it says here in item 4, `death penalty,'
is this for the abolishment of the death penalty, or is it to speed up the
death penalty?" asked Rep. Al Adinolfi, R-Cheshire, during the brief committee
debate. "This is not clear," said the lawmaker, in whose district occurred the
July 2007 home invasion and murders of a mother and her two daughters. "I would
like somebody to clear it up for me."
(source: Connecticut Post)
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