[Deathpenalty] [POSSIBLE SPAM] death penalty news----TEXAS, DEL., GA., CALIF.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Tue Jan 17 23:01:57 CST 2012
TEXAS----female death sentence reduced
Woman's death sentence in slaying of couple reduced
If Chelsea Richardson felt relief at her death sentence officially becoming a
life sentence, she did not show it in court Tuesday.
The 27-year-old did not visibly react when visiting Judge Steve Herod accepted
the sentencing agreement reached by prosecutors and her defense attorney for
the 2003 murders of Rick and Suzanna Wamsley of Mansfield.
In a baggy yellow jail jumpsuit and dark-rimmed glasses, Richardson only spoke
to acknowledge that she waived her right to appeal.
The hearing was mostly formality. The state's highest criminal court overturned
the death sentence for Richardson in November. She was condemned by a Tarrant
County jury in 2005 for the deaths of her boyfriend's parents in Mansfield.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the punishment phase of
Richardson's trial was affected by misconduct by a former prosecutor who
withheld evidence from the defense.
Richardson and her boyfriend, Andrew Wamsley, were convicted of capital murder
in separate trials.
Authorities said Andrew Wamsley, Richardson and a friend, Susana Toledano,
killed the couple so that Andrew Wamsley could inherit his parents' $1.56
Richardson was the only one to receive the death penalty.
Under the new sentence, she must serve 40 years before she is eligible for
parole, though she will get credit for time served.
Relatives of Richardson and the Wamsleys attended Tuesday's hearing.
Richardson's mother, Celia Richardson, said afterward that she still believed
her daughter to be innocent.
She said she felt that her daughter was being "swept under the carpet" after an
error-filled police investigation and trial.
"Totally screwed up," she said, describing her daughter's case.
Rick and Suzanna Wamsley's family members released a statement through a
district attorney's office spokeswoman.
In the statement, they said they supported the plea bargain because the
alternative would have meant returning to court for a new penalty phase, and
reliving the painful details of the crime once again.
Family members said they plan to "fight paroles" for all the criminals
"There is no such thing as closure for such a tragedy," the statement said.
"Our family will be reminded of this horror each anniversary of Rick and Suzy's
death, each holiday without them, all of the family celebrations without them."
The hearing lasted about five minutes. After Herod pronounced the sentence,
Richardson whispered something to her attorney, ran a hand through her long
brown hair, adjusted her glasses and walked with a courtroom officer out the
(source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
Statement of Governor Jack Markell Regarding the Commutation of Sentence of
Pursuant to my authority under Article VII, Section 1 of the Delaware
Constitution, I have decided to commute the sentence of Robert Gattis to life
in prison without the possibility of parole, subject to the conditions set
I realize my decision may cause pain to the family and friends of Shirley Slay.
For that, I deeply apologize.
In reaching this conclusion, I give great weight to the decision of the Board
of Pardons. In the exercise of its constitutional duties, the Board thoroughly
reviewed Mr. Gattis’s application for clemency and the State’s response. The
Board studied the entire historical record of this case, carefully listened to
the statements made by parties on both sides, and had the opportunity to look
Mr. Gattis in the eyes and question him. Having done so, the Board took the
unusual and perhaps historic step of recommending, by a 4-1 margin, that Mr.
Gattis’s death sentence be commuted to life without parole. I take the Board’s
considered decision seriously.
Over the last two decades, executions pursuant to death penalty sentences
imposed by the State have proceeded only in the absence of an objection from
the Board of Pardons and the multiple courts having jurisdiction over the case.
In essence, the multiple checks and balances that are in place have
historically been in alignment before the extraordinary action of executing a
criminal defendant proceeds. While I have supported the imposition of the death
penalty in the past and I consider Mr. Gattis’s crimes to be heinous, I am not
prepared to move forward with imposition of the sentence in this case.
I undertake this commutation after thorough review of the record presented and
substantial contemplation. I have read Mr. Gattis’s application for clemency,
the state’s response, and Mr. Gattis’s reply. I have reviewed the many
affidavits submitted. I have spent substantial time considering the harm
endured by Ms. Slay and her family, Mr. Gattis’s history, and the merits of the
clemency application. I have prayed. At the end of the day, although I am not
free from doubt, I believe moving forward with the execution of Mr. Gattis is
not appropriate under the totality of the circumstances. After my review, I
find myself in agreement with the four members of the Board of Pardons who
concluded the mitigating evidence here is sufficiently substantial that an act
of clemency on my part is warranted. In doing so, I am committed to the fact
that Mr. Gattis will spend his remaining life in prison and will pose no threat
to public safety.
Even if one were to discount certain of the allegations of sexual abuse
recently alleged by Mr. Gattis (as the Board did), the fact remains that Mr.
Gattis’s family background is among the most troubling I have encountered. As
one of his former attorneys stated in an affidavit, the additional evidence
about Mr. Gattis’s childhood “puts Mr. Gattis, his case, and his potential
defenses to capital murder in an entirely different light.” This substantial
dysfunction, abuse and neglect Mr. Gattis experienced as a youth does not in
any way excuse the cowardly murder of Ms. Slay.
This commutation in no way relieves Mr. Gattis of his moral or legal guilt, and
I am mindful of the fact that an innocent victim lost her life on the night of
May 9, 1990. That is why I have conditioned Mr. Gattis’s commutation on the
following: (1) Mr. Gattis shall forever drop all legal challenges to his
conviction and sentence, as commuted; (2) Mr. Gattis shall forever waive any
right to present a future commutation or pardon request and agree to live out
his natural life in the custody of the Department of Correction; (3) Mr. Gattis
will be housed in the Maximum Security Unit of the James T. Vaughn Correction
Center for the remainder of his natural life, unless constitutionally required
medical care is necessary; and (4) Mr. Gattis, after consultation with counsel,
shall knowingly, willingly and voluntarily accept these conditions, as
determined by the Superior Court. With these conditions, Ms. Slay’s loved ones
can at least know that they will never have to go through the painful process
again of trials, hearings or requests for release.
My decision is among the most difficult I have had to make in all my years in
public service. But in light of the Board’s unprecedented decision and the
reasons set forth above, I believe it is the correct one under the
circumstances. My thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones of Shirley Slay
during this difficult time.
(source: Office of the Governor)
A Death Penalty Commutation
On Tuesday, Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware commuted the death sentence of Robert
Gattis to life without parole. In doing so, he said he gave “great weight” to
the careful decision of the state board of pardons to recommend that the
sentence be commuted, the first such recommendation the board has made since
the death penalty was reinstated there in 1974. As a condition of the
commutation, which is supported by a long list of former judges and
prosecutors, Mr. Gattis is expected to waive all legal challenges and live out
his life in prison.
Gattis killed his girlfriend in 1990 after an angry quarrel. The pardons board
wrote that before the murder, “Mr. Gattis complained to medical professionals
of mental illness and involuntary violent impulses” from the extreme and
continuing sexual abuse he suffered as a child. The governor called this
background “among the most troubling I have encountered.” Mr. Gattis’s lawyers
failed to submit much of the ample proof about his mental illness and its
devastating effects. The board was able to take full account of that mitigating
Even though state law does not require a unanimous jury vote on death, 4
members of the pardons board were troubled by the jury’s 10-to-2 split on the
penalty because they believe such verdicts should be unanimous.
Some board members also noted the great disparity in sentences among serious
murder cases. The difference in penalties for other murders in domestic
disputes and Mr. Gattis’s sentence “offends a moral sense of proportionality,”
the board said in its recommendation.
For one board member, the rationale for life without parole is more basic.
“When the taking of life is not required as a matter of self-defense,” he
explained, “one cannot ethically or morally take that act.” Commuting Mr.
Gattis’s sentence meets the imperative of justice. Imposing the death penalty
in his case, as in any case, would have been grossly unjust.
(source: Editorial, New York Times)
Delaware Gov. Commutes Deeply Contested Death Sentence
Delaware Governor Jack Markell made history today when he announced that he
would commute the death sentence of Robert Gattis to life in prison. 2 days
ago, the Delaware Board of Pardons for the 1st time in its history recommended
that the death sentence be commuted. Gov. Markell cited that “unusual and
perhaps historic” recommendation when he made the announcement.
Robert Gattis was convicted and sentenced to die in 1992 for the murder of his
girlfriend Shirley Slay, and was scheduled to die by lethal injection later
this week. Serious questions had been raised about the severity of the
sentence, and a number of issues led opponents of the death penalty and others
— the Delaware News Journal editorialized in favor of clemency for the first
time in its history — to call on the governor to commute Mr. Gattis’ sentence.
They are some of the same issues that come up all over the country when
problems with the death penalty system are analyzed and debated:
•The evidence of the horrible physical and sexual abuse that Mr. Gattis
suffered from the time he was a small child was never consider by a jury or the
sentencing judge, as it would be if the case were tried today. By the time
appellate attorneys discovered this evidence and tried to introduce it, the
judicial process was too far advanced andprocedural obstacles were too high to
•Gattis was not the “worst of the worst” and his sentence was unduly harsh.
There were at least 16 Delaware murder cases with similar, or more egregious,
facts that resulted in life in prison without parole or a lesser sentence. Of
these 16 cases, 5 where death penalty cases, at the end of which the jury
and/or the judge decided that death was not an appropriate punishment.
•The jury verdict in the Gattis case was not unanimous. Back in 1991, the state
legislature changed the system to allow the judge to make the final decision on
death with a less-than-unanimous jury vote — a system that is only followed by
Delaware, Florida and Alabama.
Clemency is an intricate and necessary part of a fair and impartial system of
justice and the Gattis case is a perfect example of why. We applaud Gov.
Markell for making this important decision.
(source: ACLU Blog)
Ga. death row inmate refuses to file habeas appeal
Nicholas Cody Tate could delay his execution at the end of this month for years
if he filed a new round of appeals. But his refusal to do so has made his death
sentence for the murders of 2 people one of the fastest-moving in recent memory
In the glacial-paced world of death penalty law, Tate's death sentence for the
2001 killings of a woman and her 3-year-old daughter moved through the appeals
process quickly. That's because he refused to challenge his conviction and
sentence by filing a habeas appeals in state or federal court.
His current and former attorneys won't comment on why Tate, who is 31, won't
let them file the appeal. But the transcript from a 2009 court hearing helps
illuminate his thoughts on the process.
"You caught me red-handed," he said during the hearing, when he waived his
motion for a new trial. "None of my rights were violated ... I choose to waive
any and all future appeals."
A Paulding County judge last week cleared the way for his execution, and state
officials on Tuesday scheduled the lethal injection for Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. Death
penalty opponents say Tate's case highlights the problems with capital
"The appeals process exists as a safeguard to protect the integrity of the
judicial process," said Kathryn Hamoudah, who chairs Georgians for Alternatives
to the Death Penalty. "Proceeding without is tantamount to allowing state
According to court records, Nicholas Tate and two of his younger brothers,
Dustin and Chad, purchased ammo, duct tape and knives at a local sporting goods
store in December 2001 and then plotted to use the weapons to burglarize the
home of Chrissie Williams, who they believed had a stash of drugs and money.
When they arrived at the home, Chrissie's 3-year-old daughter Katelyn answered
the door, and chaos ensued. The men tried to knock Chrissie out with a stun
gun, but when she didn't lose consciousness they taped her mouth and eyes shut
and handcuffed her hands to a bed.
They moved Katelyn to another room, where Nicholas Tate removed her pajamas and
sexually assaulted her. Nicholas Tate, who prosecutors say led the plot,
ordered Chad to silence the girl because she recognized him. Chad Tate
unsuccessfully tried to strangle her with a telephone cord, and he then used
Nicholas' knife to slit her throat.
Dustin Tate fled the house in fear. Nicholas Tate put a seat cushion over
Chrissie's head as she lay bound to the bed, firing one shot through the pillow
to kill her.
The 3 brothers then fled Georgia and traveled to Mississippi where they
captured a 23-year-old woman from a gas station where she worked and forced her
into an SUV. The three later released the woman but kept her car as they sped
The Tate brothers abandoned their weapons at a motel and drove to El Reno,
which is about 30 miles outside of Oklahoma City. They then contacted their
parents in Dallas, Ga., who helped them negotiate their surrender to police.
Nicholas Tate pleaded guilty to murder charges in November 2005 and was
sentenced to death a month later. His brothers also admitted to committing the
violence. They are serving life sentences in prison.
Nicholas Tate filed a motion for a new trial in 2006, but three years later he
had a change of heart. That's when he said he wanted to waive all future
appeals, and a trial judge accepted his request, nothing that he was coherent
His attorneys went ahead with a direct appeal, asking the Georgia Supreme Court
to overturn the sentence. Among the arguments they made was that the punishment
was disproportionate because neither of his 2 brothers were sentenced to death.
But the court's June 2010 ruling rejected that argument along with the others
in upholding the death sentence. The court ruled that Chad Tate, who was 15 at
the time of the killings, wasn't eligible for the death penalty and that Dustin
Tate's life was spared because he was neither the killer nor the "driving
force" behind the victims' deaths.
(source: Deseret News)
Iraq veteran charged with killing 4 homeless men
An Iraq war veteran accused of killing 4 homeless men in Orange County,
California by stabbing his victims dozens of times each was charged on Tuesday
with 1st degree murder.
Former U.S. Marine Itzcoatl Ocampo, 23, was charged with 4 counts of 1st degree
murder, and he could be eligible for the death penalty, Orange County District
Attorney Tony Rackauckas said.
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