[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, TENN., CONN., ARK., ILL., FLA.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Tue Mar 6 15:59:53 CST 2012
Man to die for killing wife and her boyfriendMMO<
Keith Thurmond seethed as his estranged wife moved in with a neighbor across
the street from his Montgomery County home.
Then when deputies served him with a court order that took away his 8-year-old
son and placed the boy in his mother's custody, Thurmond told a friend he was
"very mad and was going to do something stupid."
On Wednesday evening, the 52-year-old Thurmond faces execution in Huntsville
for fatally shooting his wife and the neighbor more than 10 years ago.
His lawyer has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the lethal injection.
It would be the 3rd execution this year in Texas.
(source: Associated Press)
Court upholds conviction and death penalty for Nickolus Johnson
The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals rejected a request by convicted killer
Nickolus Johnson to overturn his first degree murder conviction and death
Police said Johnson shot Bristol Tennessee Police Officer Mark Vance during a
domestic violence call on November 27, 2004.
In the appeal, Johnson claimed several improprieties during the trial.
Here's the link to the full ruling issued Monday, March 5th, by the Tennessee
Court of Criminal Appeals.
FLORIDA----new death sentence
Kalisz gets death penalty in Hernando murders
John Kalisz, who shot and killed a Dixie County sheriff’s captain after a
bloody rampage in Hernando County that left 2 women dead and 2 others clinging
to life, was sentenced to death today for the Hernando crimes.
Karen Voyles/Gainesville Sun Kalisz, 57, already has been sentenced to life in
prison for killing Capt. Chad Reed on Jan. 14, 2010 in a shootout on U.S. 19 in
Reed had confronted Kalisz in a convenience store parking lot after he had been
chased from the Brooksville crime scene. Kalisz was shot 6 times in the
exchange of gunfire.
Kalisz received the death penalty from Circuit Judge Daniel Merritt Sr. for the
murders of his sister, Kathryn “Kitty’’ Donovan, and her office manager,
Deborah Tillotson, at Donovan’s home-based business.
He also shot his niece, Manessa Donovan, and Amy Green, at the Brooksville
On Jan. 23, a Hernando County jury found him guilty on all counts in just 96
minutes. The jury later that week took only 57 minutes to recommend the death
Kalisz agreed to a plea bargain and admitted on Feb. 10, 2010 that he killed
Reed in exchange for a sentence of life in prison without parole. Reed's widow,
Holly, had agreed to the deal because she wanted to spare her 2 young sons from
a painful trial and years of appeals.
(source: Gainesville Sun)
Prison guards train for possibility of execution
Even as state lawmakers debate whether to abolish the death penalty, prison
guards have been training for an execution.
Correction Commissioner Leo C. Arnone said the training began after he heard
that a Death Row inmate might waive his appeals. So he asked Correction
Department officials what they would do if they had to execute one of the
state’s 11 Death Row inmates. They told him they didn’t know, he said.
The state’s last execution occurred 7 years ago in 2005, when serial killer
Michael Ross waived his appeals and was put to death by lethal injection.
Only 2 members of the team involved in that execution still are working for the
state, Arnone said.
It’s unclear whether any Correction Department employees continued training for
executions after the Ross execution.
Death row is at Northern Correctional Institution in Somers. The execution
chambers are at the adjacent Osborn Correctional Institution.
Arnone said he’s looking to federal guidelines and studying execution practices
in other states. At least one state employee traveled to Texas last year to
witness an execution there. Texas employs a similar method to Connecticut’s
lethal injection, Arnone said.
Correction Department spokesman Brian Garnett said Monday that the training is
part of keeping up with state rules.
“The department has an obligation to ensure that we maintain a high level of
proficiency in our ability to carry out the law, and that is what we’re in the
process of doing,” he said.
Garnett declined to say how many employees traveled to Texas, how much the trip
cost, or whether any other money has been spent on training. He also wouldn’t
say how many employees were involved and whether the state had spent any money
on other materials as a result of the training.
The training started almost a year ago, Garnett said.
The training comes as lawmakers debate repealing the death penalty for future
crimes — a measure critics say would halt all executions in the state. Gov.
Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, has said he would sign such a bill.
The measure failed to clear the Senate last year after Dr. William A. Petit
Jr., the only survivor of the Cheshire home invasion in which his wife and 2
daughters were murdered, met with lawmakers to persuade them not to abolish the
Should the measure come before the Senate this year, it’s expected to be
another close vote. Meanwhile, supporters and opponents of repealing the death
penalty said the training is in keeping with the law .
Rep. Gary A. Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, has led in the effort to repeal the
death penalty. “I don’t think we’re going to execute anyone, but the current
law is that we do execute,” he said.
Sen. John A. Kissel, R-Enfield, opposes repealing the death penalty. His
district includes death row and the execution chambers. “I would guess that
they have to be ready for that at all times,” he said.
Kissel said that some death row inmates could be nearing the end of their
appeals. Some have been there for more than 20 years, and little has happened
in their appeals in the last 5 years, he said.
He acknowledged the state Senate could have enough votes to repeal the death
penalty for future crimes — historically, the measure has had the votes to
clear the House of Representatives but not the Senate. But Kissel warned that
he and other Republicans could filibuster to block the move, saying the debate
could take as long as 2 days.
“We have a great caucus,” he said. “I think the vast majority of my colleagues
on the Republican side feel very strongly on this.”
Kissel also has argued that even if the law limits repealing the death penalty
to future crimes, it could end executions altogether. That’s because a judge
could decide the death penalty is a “cruel and unusual punishment,” he said,
based on “evolving society standards.”
“They will look at the law, even though it is prospective, and use it to show
that the societal standards of Connecticut have changed,” Kissel said.
Union officials also have given the execution training the OK, Salvatore
Luciano, executive director of the American Federation of State, County, and
Municipal Employees Council 4, said. His union represents prison guards.
The Correction Department cleared the change with the union, and the employees
preparing for executions are a volunteer-only force, he said.
(source: Journal Inquirer)
State Supreme Court Rejects Death-Row Inmate’s Appeal
The state Supreme Court today rejected the latest appeal by a Fort Smith man
sentenced to die for stabbing his estranged wife to death on a city street.
The high court upheld Thomas Leo Springs’ capital murder conviction and death
sentence in the Jan. 21, 2005, slaying of Christina Springs, rejecting his
argument that he received ineffective counsel at his trial in Sebastian County
Christina Springs was riding in the front passenger seat of a car driven by her
sister when Thomas Springs rammed his vehicle into the car at a busy Fort Smith
intersection. Thomas Springs then got out of his vehicle, shattered the
passenger window of his sister-in-law’s car, began beating his wife’s face into
the dashboard, then went back to his car and retrieved a knife which he used to
stab his wife repeatedly.
Springs, 49, argued on appeal that his trial attorneys, Chief Public Defender
John Joplin and Cash Haaser, a deputy public defender, were ineffective
—They failed to interview his son and failed to call his son as a witness
during the penalty phase.
—They failed to object to “gross misstatements of the law of mitigation” made
by then-Prosecuting Attorney Steve Tabor during closing arguments.
—They failed to object to testimony that Springs had threatened a jailer while
—They failed to object to the introduction of written victim-impact statements.
—They failed to question prospective jurors about possible bias related to the
fact that Springs is black and his wife was white.
—They failed to explain properly Springs’ right to present unfavorable
testimony about his wife during the penalty phase, resulting in Springs
unknowingly waiving his right to present that evidence.
In its unanimous opinion today, the Supreme Court said Springs did not
establish a reasonable probability that the testimony of his son or a different
description of the law of mitigation would have resulted in a different
Regarding Springs’ other arguments, the court said Springs did not show that
his attorneys’ actions fell outside the bounds of reasonable professional
judgment. Springs supported many of his arguments with conclusory statements
instead of citing specific acts and omissions constituting ineffective counsel,
the court said.
“Conclusory statements cannot be the basis of post-conviction relief,” Justice
Donald Corbin wrote in the opinion.
The Supreme Court rejected a previous appeal by Springs of his conviction and
sentence in December 2006
(source: Booneville Democrat)
Convicted Killer William Heirens Dies After Over 65 Years In Prison
William Heirens, the so-called “Lipstick Killer” jailed for more than 65 years
after confessing to the murders of three women and a 6-year-old girl around the
end of World War II, has died in prison.
Heirens, 83, was found unresponsive in his cell at Dixon Correctional Center,
and was taken to the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center, where he
was pronounced dead at 8:45 p.m. Monday, officials told the Sun-Times Media
He had been suffering from renal failure and hypertension, reports WBBM
Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya.
Heirens was the longest-serving inmate ever in Illinois. He was convicted first
of the 1945 slayings of Frances Brown, 32, and Josephine Ross, 43, in their
apartments in Uptown and East Lakeview, respectively. He was also convicted of
the dismemberment of 6-year-old Suzanne Degnan, of the Edgewater neighborhood,
the following year.
Heirens was known as the “Lipstick Killer” because of a message scrawled in
lipstick in Brown’s apartment, at 3941 N. Pine Grove Ave. in the East Lakeview
neighborhood: “For heavens sake catch me before I kill more. I cannot control
At the time, Heirens was 17 and attending college at the University of Chicago.
He was sentenced to 3 life prison terms.
But there have been nagging doubts about Heirens’ convictions for decades.
In 1995, attorney Jed Stone told CBS 2 that a reexamination of the case showed
that fingerprint evidence used against Heirens was “fraudulent” and may have
been planted at one of the murder scenes by police. Experts also said
handwriting samples used against Heirens were not actually his.
Heirens himself maintained all along that he confessed only because authorities
said he would get the death penalty if he did not.
Heirens told CBS 2’s Walter Jacobson in 1988 that he decided to confess “when
they told me I wasn’t going to get a fair trial – they said, ‘There is no
possibility you are going to get a fair trial.’ Back in ’46 at 17, I wanted to
But WBBM Newsrasdio’s Regine Schlesinger reports Suzanne Degnan’s older sister,
Betty Finn, says she never had a moment’s doubt that he strangled Suzanne and
threw her sister’s dismembered body parts into sewers around her home on
“We outlived him,” said Finn, who was just 10 years when her sister was
kidnapped from her bend and brutally murdered.
Year after year, Finn has gone before the prisoner review board to oppose
parole for him.
“(It’s) very painful to have to do that. But we just felt that if we didn’t do
it – my brother and I – and he got out and some child was hurt, we just
couldn’t live with that,” she said.
Heirens was most recently up for parole in 2007, but it was denied.
Finn says she can breathe much easier now that she knows she’ll never have to
again publicly relive the horror of what Heirens did.
(source: CBS News)
FLORIDA----new death sentence
Man gets death penalty for double-murder
A Tampa Bay area man has been sentenced to death for killing his sister and
A Hernando County judge followed a jury's recommendation Tuesday in sentencing
57-year-old John Kalisz. He was convicted in January of two counts of
1st-degree murder, 2 counts of attempted murder and 1 count of armed burglary.
Authorities say Kalisz killed his sister, Kathryn Donovan, and her office
manager, Deborah Tillotson, and wounded 2 others at a Brooksville home in
January 2010. He killed Dixie County sheriff's Capt. Chad Reed in a shootout
later the same day in Cross City.
Kalisz received a life sentence as part of a deal with prosecutors last year
after pleading guilty to killing the deputy.
(source: Associated Press)
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