2017-07-20 14:02:22 UTC
Group scores criminal justice legislation
A New Mexico advocacy group supporting criminal justice reform efforts released
its report card Wednesday on legislation from the 2017 regular legislative
session. Specifically, the group, NM SAFE, analyzed legislation aimed at
changing criminal penalties.
At a press conference, a few members of the group spoke about the analysis and
what it means for New Mexico.
Tanya Romero with the Esperanza Shelter for Battered Families said the state
needs more reforms instead of tougher criminal penalties.
"Domestic violence, a good percentage of it, is through historical trauma,"
Romero said. "It is time for us to break the cycle, it is time to educate many
about the acts of violence."
Steve Allen, with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, criticized
Gov. Susana Martinez for vetoes of bills NM SAFE supports.
"It's great idea after great idea that this governor refuses to get on board
with," Allen said. "We are never going to move this state forward with
proactive, creative criminal justice reform until we have a new governor in
Martinez's office did not comment on the group's criticisms before press time.
Of the 2-dozen proposals NM SAFE looked at, only 1 became law. The rest either
failed in committee or was vetoed by Martinez.
Martinez signed a bill that limits when school officials can physically
restrain a student. The bill was a bipartisan effort, sponsored by Rep. Jim
Smith, R-Sandia Park, and Rep. Debbie Armstrong, D-Albuquerque.
The legislation with the worst grades were generally sponsored by Republicans
and focused on increasing criminal penalties. A high profile bill from the
House aimed at reinstating the death penalty, for example, received an "F," the
lowest possible grade.
NM SAFE, which includes various advocacy groups and community members, said the
death penalty bill sponsored by Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, "fails
every element of the SAFE test and is the ultimate misguided public safety."
The group also gave low grades to proposed penalty enhancements like including
crimes against police officers and first responders as protected classes under
the state's hate crime law and bolstering the state's "3 strikes law."
Bills that focused on alternatives to criminal sentences or eliminated
punishments, like one that proposed to legalize recreational cannabis, received
NM SAFE also praised legislation that focused on reform and prevention rather
than punitive actions after crimes are committed.
A bill that would have increased penalties for crimes involving firearms, for
example, received a "C" for focusing too heavily on increased sentences and not
on gun control.
"Rather than incarcerating after-the-fact, the only way to prevent gun violence
is to make guns unavailable to high risk individuals," the report read.
In its report, NM SAFE wrote each bill was judged on its ability to make New
Mexico safer, whether it was apolitical, fiscally responsible and whether there
is sufficient evidence to support the respective bill.
NM SAFE is made up of 30 groups and individuals and was created in October
2016, when Gov. Susana Martinez called for a special session primarily focused
on increasing criminal penalties.
Ending the death penalty would save money and save souls
19 states have abolished the death penalty. Utah isn't one of them. In fact,
Utah is the only state in the modern era to use the firing squad. That's not
something to shout from mountaintops.
Granted, Utah doesn't see many capital offense cases. Since 1976 Utah has
executed seven people. Utah currently has nine inmates on death row. But on
these most important of cases, attorneys struggle to get paid. This tension
between budgets and priorities puts attorneys in the unfortunate position of
choosing between zealous representation, which ethics require, and adequate
representation, or even barely-competent representation.
Death penalty cases require a specialized skillset. In 2008 the state Supreme
Court noted it would start overturning death penalty sentences and sending
cases back for re-sentencing if qualified attorneys were not available to take
Yet counties are still limiting the pool of qualified attorneys by capping case
costs at a rate that makes representation, especially by solo practitioners,
economically impractical. Unnecessarily strict limits on the number of
defendant visits and witness, investigative and expert resources is completely
inapposite to zealous representation.
The state's Division of Finance has capped payment for a capital offense case
at $60,000. If you reduce an attorney's rate to $100 an hour, $60,000 equates
to 15 weeks at 40 hours a week. Few attorneys work 40 hours a week, and no
capital offense cases are ever resolved in 15 weeks.
The solution to underfunded capital cases, of course, is to abolish the death
penalty. As English jurist William Blackstone famously stated, "It is better
that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer." There is
something wrong with a nation that mistakenly puts its citizens, mostly poor,
and disproportionately black, to death.
More than 159 people have been freed from death row after evidence of their
innocence exonerated them.
Since 1976 1,456 people have been put to death under the death penalty. Of
those, 34.5 % were black, yet only 13.3 % of the American population is black.
96 % of states that have studied race and the death penalty found
Even aside from mistaken and racists convictions, the death penalty as a
deterrent to murder is ineffective. The 2014 FBI Uniform Crime Report showed
that the South, which accounts for more than 80 % of executions, has the
highest murder rate. If the death penalty is supposed to deter murder, it isn't
Fiscal analysts have estimated it costs an additional $1.6 million to litigate
a capital offense case. But repudiating the death penalty is more than an
opportunity to save money. It's an opportunity to save souls.
(source: Editorial, Salt Lake Tribune)
Mair found competent to stand trial for 2016 trailer park shooting
ed of shooting a Cedar City resident to death in June 2016 has been found
competent to stand trial for murder.
Police say Mark Mair, 28, shot 34-year-old Justin Bruce Hanna in the Reber
Court Trailer Park; Hanna died as a result of the multiple gunshot wounds from
a .40-caliber handgun. At a hearing Tuesday in the 5th District Court, Judge
Keith Barnes ruled Mair had been found mentally competent in 2 separate
evaluations. While both evaluations said he was fit to stand trial, the
evaluators did indicate other mental health issues. The exact findings are
unknown at this time as the results of the evaluations are private.
"We're fine with the court making that finding, but based on the other
information confirmed in that diagnosis we feel Mr. Mair's mental health is an
issue and will continue to be an issue throughout this case," defense attorney
Douglas Terry said. "We will monitor that and proceed accordingly."
Mair was arrested and charged with aggravated murder after more than 36 hours
on the run in July 2016. He's also facing charges for 1 1st-degree felony count
of aggravated burglary and 7 counts of felony discharge of a firearm in
connection with the alleged murder.
It is not known how the victim knew his alleged killer, but court documents
reveal that the woman Hanna had been in bed with at the time of the shooting
had previously been romantically involved with Mair "a few days prior." He
pushed a fan through the bedroom window before firing multiple shots at Hanna,
according to the report.
Police also found a large amount of illegal drugs in the trailer during an
investigation of the crime scene.
Following the shooting, Mair allegedly fled the state with 2 females and
another male. Mair and 19-year-old Elcha Hatch, who was accused of driving the
getaway vehicle, were arrested at a home in Grand Junction, Colorado, the next
day following a 4-hour police standoff.
Hatch and 2 other individuals previously accused of helping Mair evade capture
were all charged with obstruction of justice. The charges against the three
have since been cleared.
In the courtroom Tuesday, Mair again expressed his dissatisfaction with his
attorney. In April, Mair submitted a letter to the court requesting a change of
counsel due to multiple grievances with Terry, primarily the lack of
communication. His family is currently seeking private counsel.
"I told you in the letter I don't feel like I have a good working relationship
with my attorney," Mair said to Barnes.
Mair initially requested the preliminary hearing be continued for 2 to 3 months
as they determine whether private counsel is an option. But Iron County
Attorney Scott Garrett pushed for the preliminary hearing to be scheduled as
normal due to the slow movement in the case.
The case will be a year old on Monday. No major progress has been made since
Barnes agreed, encouraging Terry and Garrett to schedule a one-day preliminary
hearing "reasonably soon."
But the question about Terry's performance isn't off the table. If Mair's
family doesn't hire an attorney, Barnes will weigh Mair's complaints before
determining whether his current defense team is suitable to continue to
represent him or if someone else needs to be appointed.
Mair's 2nd case, a felony drug case for methamphetamine distribution resulting
from a 2016 controlled buy conducted by the Iron/Garfield/Beaver Counties
Narcotics Task Force, will continue to take a backseat. The matter was set out
for Dec. 12 as the capital homicide case proceeds.
In the year since the alleged murder, court proceedings have moved at a glacial
pace. The preliminary hearing was continued multiple times after the state's
primary witness, Chandra Davis, fled Iron County. Court documents indicate
Davis was with Hanna at the time of the murder. She was arrested in November
2016 on an outstanding drug distribution warrant, but she is considered to be
missing again after she failed to appear for a sentencing earlier this year.
Garrett is confident there is enough evidence for the preliminary hearing to
still go forward without Davis' testimony.
If convicted, Mair could still face the death penalty. The state still has the
option to file a notice of intent to seek the death penalty up to 60 days after
(source: The Spectrum)
Nevada judge orders prosecutors to deliver execution warrant----Scott Dozier's
days may be numbered unless he tries to stop the clock on death
If Scott Dozier is executed in Nevada, he will get what he wants, according to
a defense attorney, Scott Coffee. On Tuesday, prosecutors were ordered by
District Judge Jennifer Togliatti to pen and deliver an execution warrant by
next week. The state's law mandates that after the judge signs the order,
convicted killer Dozier must be executed after 60 days but not in excess of 90
days. Dozier might be executed by the end of October.
Brooke Keast, spokeswoman for Nevada's Department of Corrections, said the
execution can happen if corrections officials are court-ordered to "make it
happen." Keast didn't explain how the state can carry out an execution warrant
in light of earlier reports that the ability to attain the necessary recipe for
the Lethal Injection protocol proved futile.
Dozier has been on death row almost 10 years - post his murder conviction. On
October 31, 2016, he wrote the judge and requested that the process affecting
his appeal be terminated and conveyed that he wanted to "be put to death."
Mental evaluation finds 'no grounds' to interfere with killer's death wish
To be certain that the murderer fully grasped the request he penned, Togliatti
ordered a psychiatric evaluation. The outcome was a 13-page evaluation by a
doctor who wrote there is "no grounds," such as mental, psychological, or
health, to conflict with the condemned killer's choice to be executed.
The killer wasn't in court on Tuesday when Togliatti read from the evaluation
report but is expected to be present at a hearing on July 27, which is when the
judge could sign his execution warrant.
His expressed goal, he told Togliatti earlier in the year, is to be executed
"first and foremost."
On Tuesday, Tom Ericsson, the killer's attorney, told Togliatti that his
client's stance still stands. Contrary to his lawyer's direction and counsel,
Dozier is firm about waiving his appellate rights. He described his client as
"quite adamant" about his position on the subject.
Condemned man murdered and mutilated victim
Dozier landed himself on death row following a 4-week trial December 2017 for
murdering and, then, mutilating 22-year-old, Arizonan Jeremiah Miller at the
(now) closed La Concha Motel. He also robbed his victim of $12,000 that Miller
took with him from Phoenix to Las Vegas to buy materials that were needed to
The killer cut up Miller's torso into 2 pieces - discovered in a suitcase and
in a trash bin at an apartment complex April 2002. The victim's head, lower
legs, and lower arms were never found.
In Arizona 2005, he was convicted and received 22 years in prison for
He shot to death a man, age 27, then, stuffed the man's body in a plastic
container. He dumped the man's body near Phoenix in the desert.
Killer made the call to halt appeals
His attorney Ericsson informed the judge that Dozier wanted the right to go
ahead with post-conviction appeals if Nevada was not able to execute him. In
less than a month, he stopped his appeals after prison authorities announced
that they received no response to 247 requests sent when the state searched
for, at least, 1 of the drugs used in its lethal injection protocol.
Since Nevada's Legislature reinstated capital punishment in 1977, 12 inmates
have been executed. 11 of those executed voluntarily stopped appeals. Coffee is
a defense attorney who has dealt with approximately 20 capital punishment cases
in 15 years. As well, he analyzes death penalty cases in the United States. He
is anticipating that there will be some type of intervention.
Killer could change mind about his execution
Dozier could change his mind and appeal to try stopping his execution up until
the 11th hour prior to when the death sentence is exacted. Another way it may
be halted is by a third party, without a direct tie to the case like the
American Civil Liberties Union, trying to intervene by filing a legal
If his client is executed, Dozier's lawyer said, it's not because Nevada wanted
it. It will be because it's what Dozier wants. If his client is put to death,
Coffee said it isn't anything other than "state-assisted suicide."
2 missed chances
There were several issues Nevada's legislators debated in 2017 but could not
develop a consensus to move forward on, even in the Democratic caucuses.
One bill, Assembly Bill 237, would have eliminated the death penalty in Nevada,
while another, Senate Bill 261, would have allowed terminally ill patients to
choose to die with a doctor's assistance.
Nevada hasn't executed anyone since 2006 and will be unable to carry out the
death penalty in the foreseeable future as the lethal drugs needed to do so are
unavailable, but legislators still refused to give up the ultimate punishment.
AB 237, sponsored by Assemblymember James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, didn't even
make it out of the Judiciary Committee, chaired by another Democrat who works
as a public defender in his day job.
There have always been a handful of legislators, such as Sen. Joe Neal and
Assm. Bernie Anderson, who were strongly opposed to the state having the power
to execute its citizens, but their numbers have never reached critical mass.
Some progress has been made over the years in restricting the death penalty
from being applied to certain sub-populations such as youth and persons with
mental retardation, but Nevada has never come close to prohibition altogether.
Despite arguments that death penalty cases cost far more than non-death penalty
cases and studies that show it is disproportionally applied to poor, minority
populations, it's not likely that Nevadans will change course and switch to the
abolition side in 2019. After all, the state spent $900,000 over the last 2
years to build a new execution chamber at Ely State Prison. But legislators
should be encouraged to consider further restrictions on the death penalty and
prohibit its use for people with a severe mental illness.
States are uneven in the application of the death penalty for this population,
with some using a standard of "rational understanding" of the punishment before
it can be applied. Research has shown that many people on death row do suffer
from severe mental illness. The American Bar Association has endorsed proposals
to ban the practice just as it is prohibited for children and the
rocedural issues stall death penalty case
The prosecutor in the case of a Bullhead City man accused of killing a child is
still seeking names of expert witnesses and other evidence.
Justin James Rector, 29, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of
8-year-old Isabella Grogan-Cannella on Sept. 2, 2014. He is also charged with
kidnapping, child abuse and abandonment of a dead body after allegedly
strangling the girl and leaving her body in a shallow grave near her Bullhead
Deputy Mohave County Attorney Greg McPhillips issued a status report Tuesday on
the death penalty case that is approaching its third year. The prosecutor said
he has had no communication with Rector's defense attorney, Gerald Gavin, since
a June 2 hearing.
"The status of this case is that nothing is happening," McPhillips said.
At the request of Grogan-Cannella's family, McPhillips will file a motion
asserting speedy trial rights on the victim's behalf. The case has stalled and
the prosecutor is asking the judge to move the case along at a faster pace.
McPhillips, who picked a psychiatrist in October 2015, is asking to complete
mental health exams. The defense attorneys have still not disclosed Rector's
mental health records. Seven mental health experts have been hired by the
defense but none of those experts nor their reports have been disclosed.
Trial cannot be held until the mental health exam is done and the sanity issue
has been resolved.
The attorneys also have stalled on completing interviews. McPhillips has
requested but not received dates for interviews. He also said he has not
received disclosure from the defense. No names and addresses of witnesses to be
called at trial, no expert witnesses, evidence, mitigating circumstance,
mitigating witnesses or mitigating evidence have been disclosed, he said.
As far back as Nov. 4, 2016, Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen has ordered the
defense to disclose all mitigation experts by Jan. 13, which has not been done.
McPhillips is asking the judge to impose sanctions on the defense.
Jantzen previously said he expects to set a trial date and order a mental
health exam at the next hearing. Rector's next hearing is set for July 28. The
trial was originally set to begin October 2016.
(source: Mohave Valley Daily News)
Suspect in Bullhead girl's murder allegedly attacks detention officer
A man facing the death penalty for the alleged murder of a young girl in 2014
fought with a detention officer Tuesday afternoon in the Mohave County Jail,
according to law enforcement.
Justin James Rector, 29, of Bullhead City allegedly became aggressive towards
the detention officer, who had entered Rector's cell to remove a shirt that was
hanging from a vent.
"They got into a brief struggle where punches were thrown," a press release
from the Mohave County Sheriff's Office stated.
Rector was charged with aggravated assault on a detention officer, a felony.
He also is facing charges for 1st degree murder, kidnapping, child abuse and
abandonment of a dead body for the Sept. 2, 2014 death of Isabella "Bella"
Rector was a friend of the girl's mother, Tania Ann Grogan, and was staying at
the family home in Bullhead City when the crime occurred. Police said Bella was
last seen at about 11:30 p.m. that night by her older sister.
Bella's mother and stepfather were not home at the time, and the children were
being watched by their grandmother. The parents were later arrested on drug
charges, and the mother remains in prison after being sentenced to 5 years with
the Arizona Department of Corrections in September 2015 for selling dangerous
Police questioned Rector the next day about the girl's disappearance and found
his alibi was false.
He allegedly buried her body in a shallow desert grave about a quarter-mile
from her home. FBI investigators were able to match shoe prints at the
gravesite to Rector's shoes.
The Mohave County Medical Examiner's office first reported there was no
physical evidence the girl had been sexually assaulted, but it was later
revealed that her hymen was missing and there were hemorrhages in her vaginal
Prosecutors are now seeking the death penalty against Rector. Mohave County
Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen previously ruled there were "aggravating
circumstances," including the girl's age and cruelty of the crime, to support
the state's position.
But Rector has been awaiting trial since October, as trial dates are repeatedly
postponed. According to a status report filed in Mohave County Superior Court
on July 18, Rector's defense has not submitted necessary mental health records
to move forward with a trial.
The filing added that there has been no defense filed other than general
denial, there have been no names of witnesses submitted and there has not been
evidence or mitigating circumstances disclosed to the court.
The state intended to file motions to compel action and added the defense was
in violation of court order for failing to provide exerts by the assigned date
of January 13, 2017, the filing stated.
(source: Havasu News)
Watch Ethel Rosenberg's sons on 60 Minutes this Sunday!
This Sunday, July 23rd, 60 Minutes will rebroadcast their groundbreaking story
examining the controversial trial and executions of my grandparents, Ethel and
Julius Rosenberg. It will air at 7:00 pm ET/PT on CBS.
The report features interviews with my father Robert and my uncle Michael, who
were 6 and 10 years old???when their parents were killed. It also highlights
the evidence showing Ethel was not a spy and her execution was wrongful, which
led to our nationwide campaign last year asking President Obama to exonerate my
The Rosenbergs were young parents and left-wing activists who were convicted of
conspiracy to commit espionage and executed by the U.S. government in 1953, at
the height of the McCarthy Era. They were accused of giving "the secret of the
Atomic Bomb" to the Soviet Union.
60 Minutes filmed the segment in the wake of the groundbreaking evidence
showing Ethel was not a spy and her execution was wrongful, which launched the
nationwide campaign asking President Obama to exonerate Ethel. The report
features interviews with Rosenberg sons Robert and Michael Meeropol and others.
It explores the Rosenbergs' controversial trial and execution for the so-called
"crime of the century."
If you're unable to watch live, the segment will be available on the 60 Minutes
website for several weeks after the broadcast.
* 60 Minutes
* Sunday, July 23rd
* 7pm ET/PT on CBS
(source: Jennifer Meeropol, Executive Director)
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
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