[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----ALA., CALIF., DEL.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Fri Jan 27 17:38:51 CST 2012
ALABAMA----new death sentence
Dothan jury votes for death penalty in triple slaying
Jurors voted unanimously this week to recommend the death penalty for a Dothan
man convicted of killing 3 people at a crack house in 1996.
The Dothan Eagle reports that 40-year-old Jerry Jerome Smith had previously
been convicted of capital murder in the killings and sentenced to death, but
his death sentence was overturned twice. His case was in court this week for
resentencing, and the jury on Thursday recommended the death penalty.
He's convicted of killing 40-year-old Willie James Flournoy of Dothan;
26-year-old Theresa Ann Helms of Wicksburg and 29-year-old David Lee Bennett of
The 3 victims were killed at a Sturgeon Court residence on Oct. 19, 1996.
Police described it as a crack house.
Ala. attorney questions death penalty in new book
After defending more than 60 people charged with capital murder and getting
three men off Alabama's death row, attorney Richard Jaffe wants to get people
talking about the death penalty and what he believes are its flaws.
The longtime Alabama defense lawyer, who once represented Olympic park bomber
Eric Rudolph, has written a book detailing many of the cases in his long career
and explaining problems he has experienced with the capital justice system.
In "Quest for Justice: Defending the Damned," Jaffe details what he sees as
recurring problems with death penalty litigation: Unqualified lawyers handling
complex capital issues; a system that doesn't provide enough money for the
defense to investigate cases and hire experts; and the arbitrary nature of
"I'm not trying to change anyone's mind," Jaffe said during an interview in his
office. "I wrote the book to invite people to question the death penalty
Jaffe spent years on the book partly because of his heavy case load. He tried a
murder case just last week in Birmingham, winning an acquittal of his client
after jurors deliberated only about 20 minutes.
Randal Padgett hasn't yet read "Quest for Justice," but he plans to soon: He's
among the 3 Alabama people Jaffe helped free from death row. The 3 are among
almost 140 people who have been freed from death sentences nationwide after
initially being convicted and condemned to die.
Once confined to a 40-square-foot cell near the electric chair, Padgett, 51,
now runs a small store in the north Alabama city of Guntersville. Of his 1-time
attorney he said simply: "I love Richard."
Padgett spent more than 3 years on death row after being convicted of capital
murder in the slaying of wife Cathy Padgett, found dead in their north Alabama
home in 1990 with dozens of stab wounds. A court ruled that prosecutors didn't
give the defense an adequate opportunity to review forensic evidence and
ordered a retrial, resulting in Padgett's acquittal and release from death row
with Jaffe serving as his lawyer.
"If that hadn't happened, I'd probably be dead by now," Padgett said. "I used
to think that in the United States of America you didn't go to prison if you
were innocent, but I found out that's not the way it works."
Clay Crenshaw, an assistant attorney general who specializes in handling death
penalty cases for the state, said only 2 of 3 people Jaffe helped free from
death row were acquitted at retrials; the 3rd, James "Bo" Cochran, was
convicted on a lesser charge and freed from prison on time served. And, he
said, police never charged anyone else in the slayings first blamed on Padgett
and Jaffe's other exonerated death row client, Gary Drinkard.
"I am not aware of the district attorney in those counties conducting any
investigation to search for the 'real murderer,'" Crenshaw said. "While Jaffe
might celebrate these three cases, they all involved individuals who were
convicted of capital murder and are now walking the streets."
Jaffe, who almost accidentally became a capital defense specialist after being
appointed to a death penalty case three decades ago, uses Padgett's case and
others to write that the system is badly flawed. The book will be released Feb.
1 by New Horizon Press of Far Hills, N.J.
While Alabama's system is particularly troubled, he writes, dozens of people
have been wrongly convicted and executed nationwide.
"I always keep in mind the maxim that history will judge a society by the way
it treats its weakest and most vulnerable," he writes. "Although most would
assume that applies to the poor and the elderly, all one has to do is look at
those who end up on death row: an overwhelming number are poor, disenfranchised
and suffer from some mental defect or even brain damage."
Rudolph is the most famous of Jaffe's clients. Jaffe represented him for more
than a year after his capture, withdrawing from the case before the loner
pleaded guilty to bombing a Birmingham abortion clinic in 1998 and setting off
bombs at the Olympics and elsewhere in Atlanta earlier. The deal allowed
Rudolph to avoid a possible death sentence.
Jaffe got along with Rudolph, who admitted to planting the abortion clinic bomb
in what he said was a bid to save the lives of unborn children. But Rudolph
didn't express remorse for the death of a Birmingham police officer killed by
the blast, and Jaffe said Rudolph's actions highlighted a big difference
"In every case, my fervent stance against the death penalty precludes a person
or the government from taking any life, for any reason," he writes. "Only the
God I believe in should do that, without human intervention."
On the Net Jaffe's book site: http://www.questforjusticethebook.com/
(source for both: Associated Press)
Suspect in slaying of Calif. park supervisor arraigned on murder charge; death
A California man accused of shooting his former boss, a city parks
superintendent, filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the park district
and the slain superintendent in 2009.
Dupree Pierre Barber, of Rancho Cordova, was arraigned Thursday in a Sacramento
County courtroom on a murder charge with the special circumstances of lying in
wait and shooting from one vehicle into another.
He’s accused of killing Cordova Recreation and Parks District Superintendent
Steve Ebert. The special circumstances mean Barber could face the death penalty
if convicted of the charges.
Barber did not enter a plea. A judge appointed a public defender to represent
him and continued the case until Feb. 16.
In his October 2009 lawsuit, Barber accused Ebert of discrimination for not
promoting an African-American co-worker from a part-time to a full-time
position, according to The Sacramento Bee (http://bit.ly/AjPZuv). He alleged
that all the white employees doing part-time work had been turned into
Barber also said in the lawsuit that Ebert once approached him in a stance that
made him appear ready to fight.
He also accused Ebert of calling him a backstabber and said a toy doll with a
knife in its back later turned up in the door handle of his work truck.
“My impression was that he was paranoid and attributed ordinary events at work
to somehow being designed to undercut him in some manner,” Steven Horan, an
attorney who represented Ebert and questioned Barber in the discrimination
lawsuit, told the Bee.
Cordova park district officials denied the racial discrimination allegations.
Barber dropped the case after the district filed a motion for summary judgment
in September 2010, according to Horan.
Barber is accused of shooting Ebert early Monday as Ebert pulled into a park
that houses the district’s offices. Barber was among more than a dozen district
employees who were laid off about 2 weeks earlier to close a budget deficit.
Barber’s public defender, John Perkins, described his client as very distraught
and the case as a “tragedy” for Ebert’s and Barber’s families.
(source: Associated Press)
Accused killer rejects deal to avoid death penalty
A man charged with raping and killing a University of Delaware student has
rejected a deal that would have spared him from the death penalty.
James E. Cooke is representing himself in a retrial for the 2005 rape and
killing of Lindsey Bonistall.
The News Journal of Wilmington reports that prosecutors and Cooke's standby
attorneys worked out a deal for him to plead no contest to the charges in
return for the state dropping the death penalty.
But the 41-year-old Cooke said at a hearing Friday that he had not authorized
his standby attorneys to make the offer.
The state Supreme Court threw out Cooke death sentence for Bonistall's murder,
because his lawyers had argued against his wishes that he was guilty but
(source: Associated Press)
More information about the DeathPenalty