Discussion:
death penalty news-----N.C., ALA., OHIO, TENN., ARK., ARIZ., NEV., CALIF.
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Rick Halperin
2017-09-09 14:49:06 UTC
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Sept. 9




NORTH CAROLINA:

Man faces death penalty in motel slaying of pregnant woman



The state is seeking the death penalty against a Wilmington man accused of
killing a pregnant escort last summer inside a Market Street motel.

Tevin Demetrius Vann, 25, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and
one count of robbery with a dangerous weapon in the Aug. 12, 2016, slaying of
Ashley Ann McLean, 21, of Lillington. McLean was about 8 weeks pregnant at the
time of her death.

In a hearing June 12, the state announced its intention to seek the death
penalty against Vann.

Vann and McLean, according to police, were in the midst of a "prostitution
proposal" after connecting via an online escort ad.

McLean's battered and stabbed body was found by a motel worker in room 229 of
the Best Western Plus just before 1 p.m. Aug. 12, 2016. The employee had gone
to the room, rented in McLean's name, after she failed to check out.

According to police, McLean's missing phone was in woods off New Centre Drive
between the motel and Vann's home on Mosley Court.

The phone contained text messages to and from McLean's phone that were traced
back to Vann, court documents indicate.

A trial date has not yet been set in the case.

Vann is being represented by Capital Defender Rick Miller. He has a prior
conviction for robbery with a dangerous weapon. According to Wilmington Police
Department records, Vann was armed with a blunt object when he robbed a man of
a cellphone and $20 on North Water Street on June 24, 2011. He served at least
2 years in prison and was released from post-release supervision in June 2015.

Vann is being held in the New Hanover County jail without bail.

(source: Wilmington Star News)








ALABAMA----impending executions

Alabama inmates ask state Supreme Court to stop executions



2 Alabama death row inmates are asking the state Supreme Court to halt their
executions scheduled for next month.

Lawyers on Wednesday asked the Alabama Supreme Court to stop the executions
since the 11th Circuit Court ordered hearings in a separate lawsuit challenging
the humaneness of the state's lethal injection procedure.

They argued the execution should not go forward while there's a pending trial
on the "constitutionality of the method of execution that the state intends to
use."

Jeffrey Lynn Borden is scheduled to be executed Oct. 5 for killing his wife,
Cheryl Borden, and her father, Roland Harris, in 1993.

Torrey Twane McNabb is scheduled to be executed Oct. 19 for the 1997 killing of
Montgomery police Officer Anderson Gordon.

(source: Associated Press)








OHIO:

Racial slur by former chief becomes issue in capital case; attorneys seek
dismissal of death penalty



A racial slur by former Akron Police Chief James Nice has become an issue in a
high-profile capital murder case pending in Summit County.

Defense attorneys for Stanley Ford, who is indicted on murder and arson charges
in 3 fires that claimed the lives of 9 people, are asking that the capital
specifications be dropped because race and geography played a role in the
decision to seek the death penalty.

The attorneys cite recent research that shows the race of defendants and
victims and where crimes are committed in Ohio play a key role in deciding
whether defendants face the death penalty. They also point to Nice's use of
"racial slurs," including the N-word, which was among the reasons the chief was
forced to abruptly resign Aug. 27.

Nice was chief when Akron police and other law enforcement agencies
investigated Ford. Nice is white and Ford is black.

"Mr. Ford asks this court to carefully consider the words and actions of an
overt racist, James Nice," defense attorney Joseph Gorman wrote in a motion
filed this week. "Former chief Nice was present from the time of the fires to
the press conference announcing Mr. Ford's indictment."

Gorman said he and Don Malarcik, Ford's 2nd attorney, plan to subpoena and
question Nice at an upcoming hearing about his involvement in the Ford case and
his "racist views."

It remains to be seen whether Gorman and Malarcik will be successful in their
claims and whether Nice's racial slur could have an impact on other cases.

Difficult to prove

J. Dean Carro, an emeritus law professor at the University of Akron, said
proving that Nice's personal views had an impact on any cases would be
difficult. He said the attorneys would have to show that the chief's views
"found their expression in policy, practice or custom in the police
department."

"That is a difficult burden to meet," he said.

The Summit County Prosecutor's Office declined Friday to comment on the
potential broader consequences of the former chief's remarks, citing a gag
order in the Ford case.

Nice handed in his resignation after his nephew Joseph Nice, who was then
facing criminal charges, told police that he had a videotape of his uncle using
the N-word and said the chief was having an affair with a female Akron police
officer. The department's leaders also learned that Chief Nice could face
criminal charges related to his nephew's used car business.

Nice admitted using the racial slur and having an affair with an officer, which
violates police policy, according to Deputy Chief Kenneth Ball, now the interim
chief.

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office, at the request of the Summit County
Prosecutor's Office, is investigating the accusations against the chief.
Charges were dropped Thursday against Joseph Nice, who had faced 3 felonies
related to his auto business.

Mike Callahan, James Nice's attorney, has said his client denies any criminal
wrongdoing.

Callahan said Friday that he respects Gorman and Malarick and that they were
doing their jobs in filing the dismissal motion.

"They will do anything they can to get the death penalty thrown out," Callahan
said. "It has nothing to do with guilt or innocence. It has to do with
penalty."

If the attorneys subpoena Nice, Callahan said he will seek to quash it. Summit
County Common Pleas Judge Christine Croce, who is presiding over the Ford case,
would then decide if Nice should testify.

Information sought

The city of Akron is trying to quash a subpoena filed by Gorman and Malarcik
seeking chief Nice's emails, cellphone records, daily planner, disciplinary
file, expense reports and appointment calendar for the past 9 months.

Assistant Prosecutor Michael Defibaugh said the request is overly broad and
could include confidential information related to police investigations.

"The breadth of the records sought provides a strong indication that the
subpoena was issued as part of a 'fishing expedition,'" Defibaugh said in his
motion.

Malarcik said in the status hearing Friday that he will work with Defibaugh to
address his concerns about the request being overly broad.

Malarcik and Gorman are among the local defense attorneys who have been
critical of the Summit County Prosecutor's Office for continuing to pursue
capital cases despite the fact that juries in the most recent cases have
instead recommended life-without-parole sentences.

They also point to disparities in the implementation of the death penalty,
citing a recent study by a North Carolina researcher.

In Summit County, the attorneys point out that 8 of the last 11 people indicted
with death penalty specifications were black.

Chief Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Margaret Scott said Friday during the
Ford hearing that her office plans to file a written response to the request
that the death penalty be dropped from the case. Summit prosecutors have
previously said the death penalty is reserved for the "worst-of-the-worst"
cases.

Ford, 58, was indicted in late July on 29 charges, 22 that are aggravated
murder counts for the 9 fire victims. The murder charges involve different
parts of the law under which Ford was charged.

Investigators say Ford set 3 fires in his neighborhood, with 2 people killed in
1 fire and 7 perishing in another, including 5 children. The 3rd was a car fire
with no injuries.

Ford is being held in the Summit County Jail without bond. He will next be in
court for a pretrial hearing Oct. 20.

*********************

Highlights of death penalty study:



From 1976 to 2014, Ohio executed 53 men. A 2016 study by a North Carolina
researcher found:

-- 65 % of those executed were for crimes involving white victims. Only 43 %
of homicide victims are white.

-- 52 % of those executed were for homicides involving female victims. Only 27
% of homicide victims are female.

-- Homicides involving white female victims are 6 times more likely to result
in an execution than homicides involving black male victims.

-- In cases in which black inmates were executed, 26 % of the victims were
white. In cases in which white inmates were executed, 8 % of the victims were
black.

-- 4 of Ohio's 88 counties - Lucas, Summit, Cuyahoga and Hamilton - were
responsible for more than 1/2 of the state's executions. Among these counties,
Summit had the 3rd-most executions in Ohio with 6, less than Hamilton and
Cuyahoga but more than Lucas.

[source: The Impact of Race, Gender and Geography on Ohio Executions by Frank
Baumgartner at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill]

(source for both: ohio.com)








TENNESSEE:

Trial in Case of Slain Tennessee Woman to Begin



A man charged with kidnapping, raping and killing a Tennessee nursing student
who disappeared from her home 6 years ago is going to trial.

Opening statements are scheduled Monday in the trial of Zachary Adams in
Savannah, Tennessee.

Adams has pleaded not guilty. So have 2 other men - Jason Autry and Adams'
brother, John Dylan Adams. They also face kidnapping, rape and murder charges.
Their trials have not been scheduled.

Bobo was 20 when she went missing from her home in Parsons in April 2011. Her
remains were found 3 years later in a wooded area.

Adams faces the death penalty if convicted at a trial that caps an
investigation Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwynn has called
the most exhaustive and expensive his agency ever conducted.

(source: Associated Press)








ARKANSAS:

Lawyer sues Arkansas prison system for label of lead-off execution dose



3 weeks after Arkansas prison officials revealed they are ready to resume
executions by having restocked a required sedative, a Little Rock lawyer is
suing to force them to disclose the drug's labeling materials.

This is Steven Shults' 2nd time this year to take the Arkansas Department of
Correction to Pulaski County Circuit Court over a complaint that department
Director Wendy Kelley is violating the state Freedom of Information Act and
public-disclosure requirements written into the Arkansas Method of Execution
Act.

The execution law mandates the drugs that are to be used for the lethal
injection and empowers the Correction Department to set up the execution
procedure. It also bars the agency from disclosing much about how it acquires
the 3 drugs used for lethal injection. Arkansas' only scheduled execution is
set for Nov. 9.

Asked Thursday to explain Shults' interest in the drugs, his attorney, Alec
Gaines, said the 65-year-old lawyer wants to verify that prison officials are
complying with the execution law. Shults is seeking a hearing before Judge
Mackie Pierce within a week, but that proceeding has not yet been scheduled,
Gaines said.

Shults prevailed in his 1st lawsuit in March, when he sued to see the labeling
for the state's 100-vial supply of the heart-stopping chemical potassium
chloride. It's the most lethal component of the 3-drug protocol and the final
one to be administered in the lethal-injection process.

State lawmakers imposed the secrecy requirements on the death-penalty chemicals
after pharmaceutical manufacturers and sellers complained they were being
harassed by anti-death penalty foes for selling drugs for executions.

Some countries have outlawed selling medications for use as lethal-injection
drugs, and companies that are based outside Europe but also operate there can
be subject to overseas sanctions for providing the chemicals. Manufacturers
also dislike the bad publicity that comes from using otherwise medically
necessary drugs to kill.

Kelley has said no one will sell the lethal chemicals to Arkansas if their
identities have to be disclosed, and she had to be granted special authority by
the Legislature to purchase the required drug while bypassing the requirement
that a doctor endorse the purchase.

The state is currently fighting off a lawsuit by a medical supplier that claims
one of Kelley's deputies tricked a salesman into selling the prison department
one of the chemicals, an anesthetic. The drug's manufacturer, Pfizer, has also
complained about Arkansas use of that anesthetic for executions.

In March, Judge Wendell Griffen agreed with Shults' argument that the secrecy
requirements established by the Legislature only extend to the drug supplier,
not the manufacturers that are responsible for the chemicals' labeling.

Lawmakers did not specifically exclude drugmakers from public disclosure the
way they specifically protected the identities of the chemical suppliers,
Griffen stated in his ruling ordering the labeling documents be released
immediately.

But the materials' release was quickly blocked by the state Supreme Court
acting on a request from Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge to stay
Griffen's ruling until the justices could review his decision in an appeal from
the prison department.

That appeal process is ongoing with the state's 1st written arguments due in 2
weeks, indicating a schedule that could keep the high court from having enough
time available to rule until the new year.

With no final decision from the justices, prison officials rejected Shults'
August request for labeling materials by relying on the same arguments they
used in March, that the law prevents them from disclosing anything about the
maker or provider of the execution drugs.

They say they cannot release the labeling materials because the documents are
so distinctive in shape, size and wording -- even spelling and punctuation --
that even the redactions allowed by law can't obscure who manufactured the
chemicals.

The prison department took that position after The Associated Press figured out
the manufacturer of one chemical in 2015 by comparing the redacted materials to
readily available information on the Internet.

Now, Shults is asking for the labeling materials for the state's brand-new
supply of midazolam, the 1st drug that's administered in the killing process.
It's used as a sedative to prevent the condemn inmates from feeling the affects
of the other two chemicals, which are the killing drugs.

The second chemical administered is the anesthetic vecuronium bromide, which
paralyzes the respiratory system and stops the condemned inmate's breathing.

The state's previous midazolam supply expired in April, after four killers had
been put to death during an 11-day span. Prison officials had been set on
executing 8 men, at 2 a day, before the sedative lost its potency, but the
courts granted new appeals to four of them. Gov. Asa Hutchinson has since
granted clemency to 1 of the men.

The vecuronium bromide is expected to last through March 2018 before it become
unusable, while the potassium chloride should last until August 2018, prison
officials say.

The newly obtained batch of the sedative, which is said to be good through
January 2019, cost $250. Prison officials disclosed last month that they had
acquired 50 new vials. That revelation came as the attorney general announced
she was asking for Gov. Asa Hutchinson to set an execution date for the only
killer who has run out of appeals, 62-year-old Jack Gordon Greene.

Hutchinson obliged with a November death date. Greene is under a death sentence
for killing Sidney Burnett, a retired Johnson County minister, in 1991. Green
forced his way into the 69-year-old man's home near Knoxville, where he bound
and gagged Burnett, beat him with a can of hominy and also stabbed, shot and
cut the man's throat.

Greene was on the run at the time from North Carolina authorities after fatally
shooting his brother and stealing his car.

Greene took Burnett's pickup and fled to Oklahoma, where he was caught still
carrying the gun he had used on both Burnett and his brother. The Arkansas
Supreme Court overturned his original 1992 sentence on appeal, but a 2nd jury's
death sentence in 1996 was upheld by the high court.

(source: arkansasonline.com)



ARIZONA:

Ariz. Man Sentenced to Die After Murdering 2 People and Burying Their Bodies in
Mom's Backyard



An Arizona man convicted of murdering 2 people who were found mummified in a
box in the backyard of his mother's home was sentenced this week to die for his
crime, PEOPLE confirms.

Alan Champagne was found guilty in June of 1st-and 2nd-degree murder,
respectively, in the 2011 slayings of Brandi Hoffner and Philmon Tapaha.

Hoffner, 26, was strangled with an electrical cord - for which Champagne was
given the death penalty - while the 30-year-old Tapaha was shot in the face.

Champagne was further found guilty of kidnapping and 2 counts of
abandonment/concealment of a body.

"I understand the difficult task faced by this jury and appreciate the time
they devoted to both hearing the case and arriving at a verdict," Maricopa
County, Arizona, Attorney Bill Montgomery said in a statement obtained by
PEOPLE.

Champagne's defense attorney, Maria Schaffer, says that her client "told both
the jury and the judge that he did not commit these murders."

Prosecutors argued that Champagne killed Hoffner and Tapaha in June 2011 at the
home he shared with his then-girlfriend, Elise Garcia, and later buried their
bodies in his mother's backyard in Phoenix.

Garcia testified that she was present during the murders and both heard the
gunshot that killed Tapaha and witnessed Champagne strangle Hoffner, who
reportedly begged for her life. Garcia was given 16 years for her own role in
the deaths and in return gave key testimony against her ex.

"She was not a credible witness," Schaffer says of Garcia. "She got a deal -
she was looking at life in prison and she got 16 years."

Schaffer says that, "having known Alan for 5 1/2 years and representing him,"
she has "a different perspective" on the case.

"I acknowledge that the crimes Alan was accused of doing were very bad, but
after investigating his life and background you can understand why someone ends
up like Alan," she explains. "He was in prison at the age of 19. He was running
the streets as a 13-year-old. He grew up in a very impoverished neighborhood.
He lacked any type of a male role model. He has a long history of drug and
alcohol abuse. He has a history of huffing paint as a teenager."

Soon after the killings, Champagne and Garcia were pulled over and police
discovered a bag of rotting flesh, Tapaha's Social Security card and Hoffner's
purse, according to the Arizona Republic.

Prosecutors say that Champagne was a person of interest at the time but they
didn't have anything linking him to the crimes.

Then, in March 2012, police went searching for Champagne in an unrelated case
and they found him barricaded in his mother's home, with his girlfriend held as
a hostage. In the ensuing altercation, Schaffer says, he "shot at the SWAT team
and shot at 24 different officers."

He was subsequently taken into custody and convicted of 24 counts of attempted
first-degree murder. He was sentenced to 700 years in prison.

A year later, in March 2013, the bodies of Hoffner and Tapaha were finally
found by a landscaper doing work for the new owner of the house.

"They were found together in 1 big box," Schaffer says. "They were buried a
couple of feet. The bodies were mummified and wrapped in a blanket, and the box
was sealed pretty well."

Prosecutors presented evidence during the penalty phase that Champagne was a
member of a prison gang and had sought to intimidate witnesses in the trial.

His recent violent convictions are not his 1st: He was previously convicted of
2nd-degree murder for his role in a 1991 gang-related shooting, for which he
served 14 years in prison.

(source: people.com)








NEVADA:

Nevada high court hears appeal of Ralph Jeremias death sentence



A judge's decision in the 2014 Las Vegas murder trial of Ralph Jeremias is
enough to overturn his conviction and death sentence, a defense attorney told
the Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday.

A 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision found that it was an error to exclude the
public during jury selection, said Las Vegas attorney Jonell Thomas. There is a
constitutional right for the public to be present during jury selection, and it
was violated in this case, she said.

Thomas raised numerous issues in the appeal on behalf of Jeremias, who was
sentenced for the execution-style shootings of Paul Stephens and Brian Hudson
in 2009.

"Sometimes constitutional rights are not convenient," she told the court, which
will rule later in the case.

Clark County Chief Deputy District Attorney David Stanton characterized the
exclusion differently, noting that all seats were taken up by potential jurors.
Clark County District Judge Valerie Adair said seats would open up quickly for
the family and other members of the public as jurors were dismissed, he said.

"The court never ordered the public to be excluded," Stanton said arguing the
appeal of Jeremias' death sentence.

Thomas also cited concerns with testimony elicited during the penalty phase of
the trial that incorrectly suggested to the jury that sentencing Jeremias to
life without parole might not guarantee he would never be released from prison,
giving impetus to a jury to impose death.

"I can almost think of nothing more damaging in a capital case," Thomas said.

Stanton said the testimony was intended only to present the parole process to
the jury. The jury was properly instructed and it was never an issue, he said.

Prosecutors said during his trial that Jeremias used a 9 mm handgun to shoot
and kill the 2 men execution-style. Jeremias had purchased marijuana from
Stephens in the past and coveted money and laptops in their apartment.

Jeremias testified that he went to the apartment complex with friends Carlos
Zapata and Ivan Rios to buy marijuana and found the victims already dead.

Both Rios and Zapata told investigators that Jeremias went inside alone with a
gun and shot each victim multiple times.

(source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)








CALIFORNIA:

Prosecutors to Seek Death Penalty for Pierre Haobsh in Han Family
Murders----District Attorney Joyce Dudley makes announcement in court;
defendant also apparently has expressed desire to represent himself



Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley announced Friday that her
office intends to pursue the death penalty in the case against Pierre Haobsh,
an Oceanside man accused of murdering a Santa Barbara doctor and his family.

Dudley revealed her decision - the 1st in her tenure as district attorney -
during a Santa Barbara County Superior Court hearing before Judge Brian Hill.

Haobsh, 27, is accused of killing Santa Barbara Herb Clinic founder Dr. Weidong
"Henry" Han, 57; his wife, Huijie "Jennie" Yu, 29; and their 5-year-old
daughter, Emily.

The victims' bodies were found wrapped in plastic and duct tape in the garage
of their home on the 4600 block of Greenhill Way near Goleta on March 23, 2016.
Autopsies determined that all 3 died from gunshots to the head.

Haobsh, who appeared in court shackled and wearing an orange County Jail
jumpsuit, is charged with 3 counts of 1st-degree murder and special allegations
that the offenses were willful, premeditated and deliberate; committed by means
of lying in wait; and committed for financial gain.

In a prepared statement read to the court Friday, Dudley said that "assuming he
is found guilty of the crimes he is accused of committing, he should be
sentenced to the most sever punishment under California's law which is the
death penalty."

She added that her office is prepared to put Haobsh's fate - both on guilt or
innocence and the appropriate penalty - in the hands of a jury.

In her 7 years as district attorney, Dudley has never pursued the death
penalty, and there's been substantial speculation in recent weeks about what
she would do in the Han case, considered especially heinous because it includes
the killing of a young child.

After a preliminary hearing in early June, Haobsh was ordered to stand trial.
He is due back in Hill's courtroom Sept. 19 for arraignment.

Another issue to be taken up at that hearing is Haobsh's apparent desire to
represent himself in the case.

He currently is represented by Deputy Public Defender Christine Voss, who told
Hill that Haobsh had a letter outlining his desires to serve as his own
attorney.

The letter was not presented to Hill, who indicated it is an issue Haobsh has
raised with him previously.

Hill cautioned Haobsh that serving as his own attorney carried significant
risks, and that before making such as decision, he "should give it some serious
thought."

"Obviously you and I are going to have a long dialogue about this," Hill said
to Haobsh, who sat quietly at the defense table.

Also to be considered on Sept. 19 is Voss' request for an injunction barring
anyone associated with the case from discussing it with the news media while
the legal proceedings are ongoing.

Voss told Hill that without such as gag order, "my client's fair-trial rights
might be compromised."

Attorneys for both sides seemed comfortable with such an order, but Hill noted
that the news media might want to have their attorneys weigh in on the issue.

Several media entities had asked for permission to take photos or video of
Friday's hearing, which Hill denied, as he has similar requests in the case.

The case is being prosecuted by Hilary Dozer and Benjamin Ladinig from the
District Attorney's Office.

During the preliminary hearing, it was revealed that authorities discovered
numerous items in Haobsh's car at the time of his arrest, including Han's and
Yu's iPhones, a credit card in Han's name, an iPad and wallet of his, and a
business memorandum of understanding between Han and the defendant. There were
also 2 guns and ammunition.

Also found in Haobsh's vehicle was a receipt, dated March 20, 2016, from The
Home Depot in Oceanside. Among the items purchased were plastic sheeting, duct
tape, a soldering kit and power tools.

Detectives testified that Han and Haobsh had had business dealings together.

Previous testimony indicated that bank records showed that in March 2016, tens
of thousands of dollars had been moved from a Wells Fargo account in Han's name
to a Chase account in Haobsh's name.

(source: noozhawk.com)

********************

California court asked to reconsider death penalty ruling



Opponents of a voter-approved measure to speed up executions in California
asked the state Supreme Court on Friday to reconsider its ruling upholding the
law.

The high court's decision unconstitutionally delegated power to the judicial
branch and failed to consider whether the measure could survive after the
justices invalidated "critical features" of the law, attorneys Christina Von
der Ahe Rayburn and Lillian Mao said in their court filing.

Last month's highly anticipated ruling concerned Proposition 66, a push to
"mend not end" capital punishment in California.

Condemned inmates in California currently languish for decades and are more
likely to die of natural causes than from lethal injection. There are nearly
750 inmates on death row, and only 13 have been executed since 1978 - the last
in 2006.

The state Supreme Court upheld requirements in Proposition 66 limiting
successive appeals and filing extensions. But it rejected arguments that a
provision setting a 5-year limit on appeals was mandatory, raising doubts that
the law will succeed in accelerating death sentences.

An attorney for supporters of the measure did not immediately return an email
seeking comment.

Rayburn and Mao said the court should determine whether voters would have still
passed Proposition 66 without the 5-year deadline and other deadlines in the
measure.

Without the deadlines, the judicial branch had no guidance from the legislative
branch about how to implement the measure and would be overstepping its
authority if it moved forward with crafting rules for Proposition 66, they also
said.

(source: Associated Press)

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