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death penalty news----MO., KAN., OKLA., ARIZ., CALIF., USA
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Rick Halperin
2017-07-11 13:30:37 UTC
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July 11



MISSOURI:

Lawsuit: ICE negligent in case of man charged in 5 killings


Federal immigration authorities twice missed chances to detain a Mexican
national in the U.S. illegally before he allegedly killed 4 men in Kansas and 1
in Missouri, according to a lawsuit filed by relatives of 2 of his victims.

The lawsuit filed in Kansas City, Kansas, says Immigration and Customs
Enforcement officials didn't follow proper procedures, resulting in Pablo
Serrano-Vitorino being released from jail twice before March 7, 2016, when
authorities say he shot 4 men in Kansas City, Kansas. He is accused of fatally
shooting another man in Montgomery County, Missouri, later the same day, before
his arrest.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the widow and 2 children of Clint Harter, 1
of the 4 Kansas men killed, and the widow of Randy Nordman, his victim in
Missouri, The Kansas City Star reported (http://bit.ly/2t5Rp1g .

Serrano-Vitorino was deported after he was convicted of a felony in 2003. The
lawsuit contends U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials had chances
to detain Serrano-Vitorino for illegally re-entering the country when he was
arrested in 2014 and 2015.

Wyandotte County officials notified ICE in 2014 that Serrano-Vitorino was in
jail for domestic battery, but he was released when the agency didn't send an
agent to interview him, according to the lawsuit. He was pulled over by
Overland Park police for traffic violations in 2015. The lawsuit says ICE
prepared paperwork to have him detained but it was sent to the Johnson County
Sheriff's Office, which did not have Serrano-Vitorino in custody. Overland Park
officials, unaware of the paperwork, released him.

"Clint and Randy's deaths are the direct and proximate result of the failure of
ICE officials, officers and/or agents to carry out their required duties, which
failure provided the means for a convicted felon who was illegally in the
country, but in custody, to be released and kill Clint and Randy and 3 other
victims," according to the lawsuit.

ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok said Monday that the agency doesn't comment on
pending litigation.

The families are seeking unspecified damages.

Serrano-Vitorino is jailed in St. Louis awaiting trial on a 1st-degree murder
charge in Nordman's death. He also is charged with 1st-degree murder in
Wyandotte County in the deaths of Harter, his brother Austin Harter, Mike Capps
and Jeremy Waters.

Serrano-Vitorina has pleaded not guilty. Missouri prosecutors are seeking the
death penalty.

(source: Associated Press)






KANSAS:

Judge allows Topeka triple-slaying defendant's attorneys, untrained in capital
murder defense, to withdraw----4 defendants are charged in triple slaying in
North Topeka


2 defense attorneys sought - and got - a judge's ruling on Monday allowing them
to withdraw as attorneys representing 1 of 4 men charged in the killings of 3
people at a North Topeka bungalow.

The 2 were allowed to withdraw because they are not "death-certified," meaning
they aren't trained to represent a client who is facing a possible death
penalty if he is charged with capital murder.

Monday was the 1st time the prospect of a defendant in the case facing a death
penalty in the 3-victim slaying case has popped into view in Shawnee County
District Court.

Meanwhile, the 3 co-defendants will face a preliminary hearing before Shawnee
County District Court Judge Nancy Parrish on Tuesday. The preliminary hearing
is expected to extend into Wednesday and perhaps Thursday.

On Monday, Public Defender Stacey Donovan, who represented Joseph Aaron Krahn,
34, told District Court Judge David Debenham that she and other attorneys in
her office aren't "death certified" to represent defendants charged with cases
that could result in the death penalty.

Donovan told the judge she consulted with Mark Manna, head of the Kansas Death
Penalty Defense Unit, and he advised her to withdraw from Krahn's case so DPDU
could handle the Krahn case.

The judge granted the Krahn motion.

So far, Krahn, who told a judge he was "innocent" of 3 murder counts during his
1st court appearance, then shrugged, is charged with 3 counts of 1st-degree
murder.

Chief deputy district attorney Dan Dunbar told the judge that depending on the
evidence surfacing during the preliminary hearing, he might ask the judge to
bind over a defendant on charges of capital murder, which carries a death
penalty.

So far, no capital murder counts have been filed against the 4 defendants,
Dunbar told the judge.

In November 2014, Ozawkie lawyer Dennis Hawver, who wasn't a death-certified
attorney, was disbarred after the Kansas Supreme Court found that Hawver
engaged in "inexplicable incompetence" in representing King Phillip Amman
Reu-El in a capital murder case.

Amman Reu-El, 44, formerly was known as Phillip Cheatham. Hawver represented
Amman Reu-El, who was convicted in the slayings of 2 women and severe wounding
of a 3rd woman and was initially sentenced to death.

The Kansas Supreme Court overturned Amman Reu-El's convictions, he eventually
made a plea in the re-trial, and he was sentenced for a capital murder
conviction to a life term without possibility of parole for 25 years and a
consecutive prison term of 13 years and 9 months for an attempted murder count.

In the on-going case, the other 3 defendants are Shane Andrew Mays, 19, Joseph
P. Lowry, 31, and Brian Joseph Flowers, 32, who were charged with the slayings
in March.

In part, Kansas law defines capital murder as the killing of more than 1 person
as part of the same act.

As of Tuesday, Krahn is charged with 3 counts of 1st-degree murder, and Mays is
charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder.

Flowers and Lowry are charged with 1 count each of 1st-degree murder,
aggravated kidnapping and aggravated assault, and Mays is charged with 2 counts
of 1st-degree murder.

Debenham eventually will hear the preliminary hearing of Krahn. The Krahn case
next will be in court on July 20 when his preliminary hearing will be
scheduled.

The victims are Matthew Leavitt, 19; Nicole Fisher, 38; and Luke Davis, 20, all
of Topeka. The 3 were found late on March 12 inside an airplane bungalow at 115
N.W. Grant.

Topeka police officers had been called to the house at 11:20 p.m. to check the
welfare of the occupants, then found the bodies.

Few details have been released about the killings.

The Capital-Journal was the only news medium in the courtroom on Monday.

Capital murder also is defined as the killing of:

-- A law enforcement officer.

-- A child younger than 14 during a kidnapping or aggravated kidnapping when
it was tied to the commission of a sex offense.

-- A victim during a kidnapping or aggravated kidnapping done to hold the
victim for ransom.

-- A victim in a contract slaying.

-- A victim of an inmate or prisoner in a state or local correctional facility
or jail.

-- A victim during a rape, criminal sodomy or aggravated sodomy.

(source: The Topeka Capital-Journal)






OKLAHOMA:

1st of 3 men accused in March homicide headed to trial court


1 of 3 defendants facing the death penalty or up to life in prison - with or
without parole - in the March killing of Michael Hamilton appeared for his
preliminary hearing Monday morning at the Payne County Courthouse.

Now 38-year-old Gregory Gavin Guard will appear the morning of July 18 in front
of Judge Stephen Kistler after Judge Katherine Thomas ruled there was probable
cause Guard played a role in Hamilton's death. Hamilton's body was found in a
field north of 68th Street east of Range Road shortly after 3 a.m. March 29
when Stillwater Fire Department responded to a report of a fire in that area.
According to an affidavit, Hamilton was killed at Guard's house in the 700
block of West 10th Avenue on March 28.

"(When I arrived) From the road, you could smell the burned body," said agent
Michael Dean with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation during Monday's
preliminary hearing. Dean and the OSBI case agent, Linda Stevens, were the only
two witnesses that Payne County First Assistant District Attorney Kevin
Etherington called for the hearing.

Dean was the agent who interviewed Guard, who he said requested to speak with
him. Guard's attorney, Royce Hobbs, made numerous objections and motions during
the hearing - several were based on his assertion that Guard should not have
been interviewed after he had previously requested an attorney in an interview
before he spoke with Dean, and the fact Dean had presented him his Miranda
rights didn't matter. Thomas overruled those objections.

Dean said Guard told him Hamilton had appeared at his residence while Guard and
Storm Burnett Fields, who is charged with accessory in the homicide, were
preparing to go to bed, and Hamilton made his way into the house when he said
he had issues with Anthony Wayne Endrina, a co-defendant in the case.

During cross-examination, Dean told Hobbs that he believed Guard implied
Hamilton entered the residence without his consent, as well as there being a
history of theft of items between Guard and Hamilton. During questioning from
Etherington, Dean said Guard told him Hamilton made threats against the
families of both Endrina and his nephew, Gary Allen Schaffner, which allegedly
led to Hamilton being killed. Dean said Guard told him he didn't believe
Hamilton was that violent, but the situation had gone past the point of
de-escalating.

According to the affidavit, which is based on Endrina's interview, he said he
arrived at Guard's house once Schaffner told him Hamilton had been speaking
about him "in a threatening manner." When Endrina entered, he said he heard
Hamilton talking about him, grabbed a footlong wooden stick and hit Hamilton in
the forehead as he walked down the stairs. Endrina then said Hamilton ran up
the stairs and ran into Guard, who struggled with him and "pulled a knife on
Hamilton and stabbed him at least once in the leg."

According to Endrina's interview, Hamilton began to threaten him by saying he
knew where Endrina lived and worked and when Endrina's wife would be home
alone. These threats continued, according to the affidavit, before Schaffner
approached with a baseball bat and hit Hamilton in the head. According to the
affidavit, they left Hamilton on the floor and later learned he had died of his
wounds.

Dean said he believed Hamilton and Endrina's issues came from Hamilton
believing Endrina had ripped him off in some sort of drug deal, one of many
times Hobbs objected due to hearsay or speculation in Dean's testimony.

"To start an answer with 'I believe' isn't answering the (yes or no) question,"
Hobbs said. Hobbs and Guard demurred to the information - Hobbs said the crime
was "at best, spur of the moment or in the heat of passion" - but it was
overruled. Endrina, 48, will appear for his preliminary hearing Aug. 10, and
43-year-old Schaffner will appear for his hearing July 28.

(source: Stillwater News Press)






ARIZONA:

Will woman convicted of cousin's murder join Arizona's death row women?


Monday morning lawyers began their arguments over whether convicted killer
Sammantha Allen should be sentenced to death or receive life in prison for her
role in the death of her 10-year-old cousin, Ame Deal.

Deal died of suffocation in 2011 after being padlocked inside a plastic storage
box for 6 hours as punishment for stealing and eating a popsicle.

Allen was convicted on 1st-degree murder and child abuse charges. Her husband
will stand trial in October.

Currently, only 2 women sit on death row in Arizona, compared to the 116 men.

WENDI ANDRIANO

Wendi Andriano was sentenced to death in December 2004 for murdering her
terminally ill husband in their Ahwatukee apartment.

She was convicted of poisoning Joe Andriano, stabbing him multiple times, and
beating him with a bar stool.

SHAWNA FORDE

Shawna Forde is also on death row. Forde was an "extreme anti-illegal
immigration activist" with the Minuteman American Defense, a self-proclaimed
border protection group.

In 2009, Forde and 2 others murdered 29-year old Raul Flores and his 9-year-old
daughter, Brisenia during a home invasion in the town of Arivaca.

She had planned to rob drug smugglers to fund her vigilante group, and chose
the Flores' home as their target.

Flores' wife was also shot in the home invasion but survived.

There were no drugs and no money found in the home.

DEBRA MILKE (Released)

Debra Milke spent 22 years on death row in her son's killing before her
conviction was overturned says she suffered 2 tragedies when the 4-year-old was
fatally shot.

"I live with an abiding sense of loss and a chunk of my heart is gone, but
Christopher's spirit is with me always, which is a comfort to the remaining
pieces of my heart," Milke said in March 2015. "Being convicted of a crime you
didn't commit is also a devastating tragedy."

Milke had maintained her innocence and denied that she confessed to the murder
to the case's lead detective, Armando Saldate.

"Debra did not stand a chance without a recorder or a witness," said Lori
Voepel, one of Milke's attorneys.

An appeals court overturned Milke's conviction after ruling that prosecutors
failed to disclose a history of misconduct by the lead detective on the case.

(source: azfamily.com)






CALIFORNIA:

Modesto man accused of killing wife, her 2 sons returns to court


A defense attorney on Monday asked a judge to postpone a bail review hearing
for his client, a Modesto man accused of killing his wife and her two sons last
month.

Oscar Daniel Espinoza, 28, is charged with 3 counts of murder in the deaths of
his Tiffany Espinoza, their son Edward Espinoza, 4, and his stepson Spencer
Giese, 9.

The 30-year-old mother and her children were found dead shortly after 7 p.m. on
June 17 at their home in the 1600 block of Bay Meadows Drive in north Modesto.
Espinoza was found outside the home with what appeared to be self-inflicted
wounds.

Deputy Public Defender Marcus Mumford asked the court to delay the hearing
because he is expecting to receive more evidence from the prosecution. He also
asked because the Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office has not decided
how it will proceed in Espinoza's case.

Deputy District Attorney Blythe Harris on Monday told the judge that
prosecutors have not decided whether they will seek the death penalty against
Espinoza. A special circumstance allegation in the criminal complaint against
Espinoza makes the case eligible for the death penalty.

Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Dawna Reeves scheduled Espinoza to return to
court Sept. 15, when Espinoza's attorney can ask the judge to set a bail amount
for his client. The defendant remains in custody at the county jail, where he
is being held without an opportunity to post bail.

Espinoza sat quietly next to his attorney during the brief hearing Monday
morning. He only spoke when he told the judge he was willing to waive his right
to a preliminary hearing in a timely manner.

Officers found the victims after 2 visits to their home. Tiffany Espinoza's
family had not heard from her for about 24 hours, so they asked police to check
on her. Modesto police went to her home about 6:30 p.m. June 17, but nobody
answered the door. About 30 minutes later, officers returned to the home after
receiving a report there was a bloodied man on the front porch and others
possibly injured inside.

Police officials have said the attack on the 3y victims occurred on the night
of June 16 or the early morning hours of June 17, based on evidence at the
scene.

The criminal complaint includes enhancements that allege Espinoza acted with
premeditation and used a baseball bat in the deaths of his wife and the 2 boys.

(source: modbee.com)






USA:

Jury spares Jessie Con-ui's life for federal prison guard???s murder


A jury on Monday spared an inmate convicted of brutally killing a guard inside
a federal prison in 2013, choosing a sentence of life in prison without the
possibility of parole over death.

Jessie Con-ui, 40, murdered Canaan prison guard and Nanticoke native Eric
Williams, 34, in a brazen, ambush-style attack that prosecutors seeking the
death penalty condemned as "merciless" and "depraved."

The jury heard weeks of testimony from dozens of witnesses and impassioned
arguments from attorneys pitching their cases for life and death. But in the
end, the panel who on June 7 found Con-ui guilty of the murder could not agree
whether he deserved to die for it.

Prosecutors argued the brutality of the crime and lasting impact it will have
on Williams' loved ones - coupled with Con-ui's violent past - made a death
sentence not only warranted, but justified.

Con-ui was sentenced to life in prison for a 2002 gang-related murder in
Arizona. Before that, he received an 11-year sentence for a cocaine trafficking
conspiracy. In the late 1990s, he served about 5 years for stealing cars,
prosecutors said.

While behind bars, Con-ui continued to display a penchant for violence. He
stabbed an inmate, beat another with a metal food tray, and threatened to kill
a guard, according to prosecutors. Other acts of violence he planned were
thwarted before he could carry them out, prosecutors said.

Con-ui's court-appointed defense team argued he was a product of poverty,
domestic violence and a flawed prison system that left him ill-equipped to
rejoin the population as a productive member of society.

They did not call any witnesses during the trial's guilt phase, in fact
admitting in openings he was guilty of Williams' murder "beyond all doubt." But
in the penalty phase, they focused largely on Con-ui's stepfather, who they
said would sometimes lock Con-ui out of his home and force him to sleep in
cars.

Con-ui, a native of the Philippines whose family immigrated to the U.S. in the
late 1980s, once showed promise but turned to hard drugs, alcohol, and crime in
his late teens and eventually landed in juvenile prison, his defense argued.

Con-ui served time for stealing cars and later became involved in a fatal
shooting for the New Mexican Mafia gang in 2002. He was set to return to
Arizona to begin serving a life sentence for the murder in September 2013,
about seven months after he killed Williams.

A former Canaan inmate present during Williams' murder previously told the
Times Leader he believes Con-ui killed the guard because he preferred the
confines of federal prison to that of Arizona's state system, which is regarded
as a tougher place to do time.

The former inmate also said many of the hardened criminals present in the unit
were "punch-drunk" when Con-ui kicked Williams down a flight of stairs and
began beating and stabbing him to death with a pair of homemade shanks.

Guards testified the attack left Williams unrecognizable.

(source: timesleader.com)

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