2017-11-16 15:01:56 UTC
TEXAS----new death sentences
Tracy gets death penalty for murder of Telford officer
A Bowie County jury deliberated just over an hour Wednesday morning before
sentencing Texas prison inmate Billy Joel Tracy to death.
Tracy, 39, will face the ultimate punishment in the July 15, 2015, fatal
beating of Barry Telford Unit Correctional Officer Timothy Davison.
The jury had to consider 2 questions, or special issues, in arriving at Tracy's
sentence: "Whether beyond a reasonable doubt there is a probability that the
defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a
continuing threat to society," and "whether taking into consideration all of
the evidence, including the circumstances of the offense, the defendant's
character and background and the personal moral culpability of the defendant,
there is a sufficient mitigating circumstance or circumstances to warrant that
a sentence of imprisonment without parole rather than a death sentence be
The jury unanimously answered "yes" to question one and "no" to question 2.
Each of the 9 men and 3 women on Tracy's jury was polled after 102nd District
Judge Bobby Lockhart read the jury's answers.
Lockhart pronounced the punishment of death after advising Tracy of his rights
A packed courtroom watched in silence, some of them with hands over their
mouths, as Lockhart released the jury. Davison's brother and niece sat
surrounded by Texas Department of Criminal Justice staff as the trial ended.
"Justice has been a long time coming," Ken Davison said.
Tracy attacked Timothy Davison as he opened the door to cell 66 and briefly
turned his gaze. After knocking Davison to the floor, Tracy grabbed the
officer's metal tray slot bar and wielded it like a hammer, striking Davison
repeatedly in the head and face after he lost consciousness. Tracy took
Davison's pepper spray before throwing him feet over head down the stairwell.
As a group of Davison's fellow officers approached, Tracy fouled the air with
the chemical agent and retreated to his cell. A member of the 5-man extraction
team that entered the cell to remove Tracy was bitten.
During the trial, Tracy's jury heard testimony concerning multiple acts of
violence by Tracy and the offenses which earned him 2 life sentences and a
20-year term in 1998. The jury heard of planned and calculated attacks on
officers at units of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice across the state.
Defense experts and Tracy's defense team, Mac Cobb of Mount Pleasant and Jeff
Harrelson of Texarkana, argued that Tracy suffers from a "broken brain"
compounded by a horrible childhood and years in prison.
"He didn't choose this kind of brain. Billy had bad nature and bad nurture,"
The state argued that Tracy is an incorrigible person with a diagnosis of
antisocial personality disorder who will continue to murder and maim if the
ultimate punishment is not imposed.
"The state of Texas will never bring you a stronger case for the death
penalty," argued Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards.
Lead prosecutor Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp told the jury that
someone will be sentenced to death at the end of Tracy's trial.
"Will it be another correctional officer with TDCJ, or will it be Billy Joel
Tracy?" Crisp asked. "You decide."
(source: Texarkana Gazette)
Tennessee Colony man sentenced to death in case where 6 killed
Tennessee Colony resident William Mitchell Hudson has been sentenced to death
for killing 6 family members in one night in November 2015.
Jurors deliberated for about 45 minutes before delivering the punishment
verdict on the 2-year anniversary of Hudson's arrest; District Judge Mark
Calhoon sentenced the 35-year-old man.
Hudson was indicted on 3 counts of capital murder in connection with the
slaying of six members of the Johnson and Kamp families on the night of Nov.
14, 2015: Thomas Kamp, 45; Nathan Kamp, 23; Austin Kamp, 21; Kade Johnson, 6;
Carl Johnson, 77; and Hannah Johnson, 40.
According to testimony over the trial's 11 days, the families gathered in
Anderson County that weekend to celebrate the upcoming 24th birthday of Nathan
Kamp, on land Thomas Kamp had recently purchased from a distant relative of
Hudson's. Carl and Cynthia - the sole survivor of that night - arrived 1st, in
an RV the retired couple used to travel around the country. Using a lock Tom
had given them, the couple cut a lock on the gate, gaining entrance to the land
Tom had recently puchased.
Shortly after arriving on the land, the RV got stuck in the sandy ground near
their campsite. The sound of Cynthia yelling at Carl as he tried to work the RV
out of the ground made its way over to Crystal Hudson's home, where William had
Friends of the Hudson family testified that they had owned the land since the
1800s, and that William had wanted to buy the land his distant cousin was
selling, because he had run cattle over it with his father Mack, who passed
away in December 2014. Unemployed and broke, William hadn't been able to buy
the land; Tom Kamp purchased it several months before his death.
That Nov. 14 day, William used a tractor to help pull Cynthia and Carl's RV out
of the sandy ground. He refused payment for the kind deed, asking instead to
share a beer with them. Several hours passed until Tom arrived, late because of
work. By then, darkness had fallen, and the group needed more firewood to
offset the November evening chill.
William, Tom, Nathan, Kade and Austin piled into Tom's ATV to go into the
forest to find firewood. Retelling the bloody night from the stand, Cynthia
Johnson said she, Hannah and Carl didn't think anything of the gunshots they
heard from the woods, thinking the man and boy were hunting squirrels. Unsure
how long they were gone, Cynthia said it was long enough that the trio gave up
waiting on them for dinner and started to eat their hamburgers and beans.
William Hudson returned alone on Tom's ATV. Hannah reacted first, screaming
"Daddy!" at her father before running into the RV. William fired 2 shots from
his shotgun, narrowly missing Hannah's body and hitting Carl in the hip. Out of
ammunition, William proceeded to beat Carl to death after he collapsed on the
RV's stairs, preventing Hannah from shutting the door and trapping her inside.
Cynthia dropped to the ground and hid on that cold, dark night. Her husband
screamed for her help, but Cynthia knew she couldn't move without being
"I just was wondering what I could do, and, but knowing William was in there
... I would be the end of any witness," Cynthia testified. She then listened as
William beat her husband and daughter to death, coating in blood the RV's
walls, ceiling, floors, applicances and furniture.
The moonlight especially dim due to a waning crescent, Cynthia hid until the
sun rose the next morning, picking up a cellphone Hannah had dropped and
fleeing to the woods to call the police. The Anderson County Sheriff's Office
arrived on the scene shortly thereafter, and arrested William on Nov. 15,
exactly 2 years before he would be sentenced to death in a Brazos County
Authorities testified in the trial that the bodies of Tom, Nathan, Austin and
Kade were found in a stock pond behind Hudson's mother's home. Mental health
experts called to testify by Hudson's attorneys in the trial's punishment phase
said Hudson had suffered brain damage from multiple seizures at various points
of his life, two car accidents and extreme alcohol abuse.
They also said he suffered from a personality disorder and extreme alcohol
abuse to mask a crippling sense of inadequacy. Defense attorneys also said
William had a difficult home life, arguing that his father Mack was
emotionally, and sometimes physically, abusive.
"William Hudson was created, he wasn't born that way," said Stephen Evans, one
of Hudson's attorneys.
Mental health experts called by prosecutors, meanwhile, said Hudson had a
personality disorder, not a mental illness, and was not likely to be helped by
the treatment options available to him.
"This is just who he is," said Special Prosecutor Lisa Tanner. "This is a man
who is not gonna change. That ought to scare you."
"This case is exactly why our state has the death penalty," said Anderson
County District Attorney Allyson Mitchell.
In her closing argument, Mitchell said more than 50 people testified over the
trial's 11 days; over 400 exhibits of evidence were presented.
Surviving members of the Kamp and Johnson families flew into Brazos County from
across the U.S., some of whom have watched every day of the 11-day trial.
Several of those family members read victim impact statements after Calhoon
sentenced Hudson to death.
Convicted campsite murderer receives death penalty for crimes
William Hudson, convicted last week in connection with the deaths of 6 people
at an East Texas campsite in 2015, was sentenced to death for his crimes. A
Brazos County jury sentenced him to the death penalty.
Last Tuesday, he was found guilty on multiple counts of capital murder, in
relation to the deaths of Hannah Johnson, her father Carl Johnson, her son
Kade, as well as her boyfriend Thomas Kamp and his 2 sons Nathan and Austin.
After the sentences, family members read victim impact statements. Thomas
Kamps's uncle, Steve Woodruff said to Hudson that all 6 promising lives were
"vanished in an instant by you."
Kamp's step-sister said that the family will move forward, while Hudson remains
Hudson has the right to appeal the sentence.
Last week, Lisa Tanner, with the Attorney General's office, said to jurors this
case was always about the punishment not about whether Hudson committed the
(source: KAGS TV news)
Appeals Court Throws Out Death Sentence for Convicted Murderer
An appeals court has thrown out the death sentence of a man convicted of
killing a Donna man in 2006.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled 5 to 4 that trial attorneys for
47-year-old Douglas Armstrong conducted a constitutionally inadequate
A Hidalgo County jury decided on the death penalty after convicting him of the
murder of Rafael Castelan in Donna.
The court said a more thorough investigation of Armstrong's life and mental
issues may have convinced at least 1 juror to choose a life sentence.
No word yet when his new punishment trial will begin.
(source: KRGV news)
Court Orders New Punishment Trial for Texas Death Row Inmate----An Alabama man
condemned for a 2006 robbery-slaying in the Texas Rio Grande Valley has won a
new punishment trial after Texas' highest criminal court has thrown out his
An Alabama man condemned for a 2006 robbery-slaying in the Texas Rio Grande
Valley has won a new punishment trial after Texas' highest criminal court has
thrown out his death sentence.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled 5-4 Wednesday that trial
attorneys for 47-year-old Douglas Armstrong conducted a constitutionally
inadequate investigation when they presented jurors their case for why
Armstrong should not be given a death sentence. A Hidalgo County jury decided
on the death penalty after convicting him of the fatal slashing of Rafael
Castelan in Donna in South Texas.
The court says a more thorough investigation of Armstrong's "squalid and
dangerous home life" and expert testimony about his mental and physical health
issues may have convinced at least one juror to choose a life sentence.
(source: Associated Press)
Adam Matos takes stand in Pasco quadruple-murder trial
The man accused in the brutal 2014 slayings of 4 people in Hudson has taken the
stand in his own defense.
Adam Matos, 32, is on trial for the deaths of Megan Brown, her parents,
Margaret and Gregory Brown, and Nicholas Leonard, whom Megan Brown had recently
According to prosecutors, Matos killed all 4 before taking their bodies to a
hill in his Hudson neighborhood, where they were left decomposing in the heat,
covered in maggots.
Megan Brown, 27, was shot in the head. Margaret Brown, 52, was bashed in the
head and her hands were tied behind her back and a plastic bag tied over her
face. Gregory Brown, 52, was shot in the torso. Leonard, 37, died from blunt
force trauma to the head.
If Matos is found guilty, prosecutors will ask for the death penalty. If the
jury recommends capital punishment, the law now requires that the decision be
(source: Tampa Bay Times)
District attorney disputes report naming Mobile County as death penalty
Last August, Harvard University's Fair Punishment Project released a study
naming Mobile County as 1 of 16 nationwide "outliers" in death penalty cases -
counties that imposed 5 or more death sentences between 2010 and 2015. In that
time, the study noted, Mobile County (population 415,395) sentenced 8
defendants to death, placing it on the list alongside such counties as
Riverside in California (population 2.63 million), Maricopa in Arizona
(population 4.16 million) and Clark in Nevada (population 2.11 million).
But in the 2 years since, juries in Mobile County have placed another 3 capital
murder convicts on death row, while at least 4 more defendants are awaiting
Harvard's report goes beyond the numbers, suggesting the convictions and
sentences of the cases it examined were often the result of split juries,
inadequate defense, racial bias or exclusion, and overzealous prosecutors. In
an interview last month, Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich, who has
presided over at least 7 of the cases personally, questioned the report's
accuracy and motives.
"The purpose of this [report] is to skew the public perception of the death
penalty," she said. "It doesn't tell you if they studied all the jurisdictions
where the death penalty is imposed, so how are they choosing Mobile County as
one of the top? They sensationalize everything and there are a lot of facts
that are just wrong."
As recently as Oct. 31, a jury recommended the death penalty for Derrick Shawn
Penn by a margin of 11 to 1 for the shooting death of his estranged wife,
Janet, and the beating death of her boyfriend at the time. It was a retrial for
Penn, after the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals overturned his original
conviction and death sentence after it found "plain error" in how the jury was
instructed to consider a single piece of evidence: a restraining order Janet
Penn had sought for protection from her estranged husband.
The Harvard report, which called Penn "intellectually impaired," suggested Rich
"repeatedly referred to improper and highly inflammatory evidence" during his
original trial. The appeals court stated it differently: that Rich, in her
closing arguments, used the protective order to "establish what Janet [Penn]
had been thinking" in the days leading up her death.
Rich, who admitted those convicted of capital murder have every right to
appeal, said the appeals court's decision and Penn's resulting retrial were
"At the [original trial], we introduced [the restraining order] under a rule
called 404(b) - you can introduce prior acts of the defendant to show motive,
plan, design, scheme or intent," she explained. "There was nowhere in the law
that said you have to choose one of those ... So the Court of Criminal Appeals,
in a series of opinions [in Penn's] case, said under 404(b) you have to pick
one: motive, plan, design, scheme or intent. Really? We're doing everything all
over again because you have to pick one ... they reversed it on that and that
Penn's was the 2nd death penalty imposed by a Mobile County jury on a capital
murder retrial in as many years. Separately, Thomas Lane, who was originally
convicted of murdering his "mail-order bride," Teresa, in a life insurance
fraud scheme in 2003, was again sentenced to die in a retrial completed last
Lane was granted a retrial after the appeals court determined prosecutors
improperly removed his chosen defense attorney because the attorney needed to
appear as a witness in chain-of-custody testimony involving a key piece of
evidence: the defendant's computer. The appeals court awarded Lane a retrial,
determining he had a right to the attorney of his choosing. But afterward, Lane
chose a different attorney anyway, Rich noted.
"We tried it again, and we got the death penalty again," Rich said.
"[Prosecuting] is our job and you're never going to hear me say we don't have
enough money or enough time [for retrials]," she said, laying a photo of Teresa
Lane's body - drowned in her bathtub - on the conference room table.
Also since 2015, Jamal Jackson, Dennis Hicks, John Deblase and Heather Keaton
have been sent to Alabama's death row from Mobile County. Meanwhile, at least 5
other capital cases are pending trial or retrial, while only 2 defendants have
been spared the death penalty in the past 2 years.
One, Carlos Kennedy, was originally sent to death row for the sexual assault
and murder of Zoa White in Mobile in 2010, but a jury on retrial recommended
life without parole. Another, Saraya Atkins, was spared the death penalty by
Judge Michael Youngpeter last year in spite of a jury's recommendation of death
for her role in the robbery and murder of Robert Perry in 2014.
Rich noted it was the 2nd time in her career Youngpeter chose life in spite of
a jury's death recommendation. The other was in the case of Michael Berry, who
shot and killed his estranged wife, Wendy Stevens, in front of her 4 children
at a West Mobile ATM in 2010.
Speaking cautiously because he has capital cases pending, Youngpeter defended
both decisions, adding that he has imposed the death penalty in other cases and
may have to do so again in the future.
"As far as Berry, that was not an 'override,'" he said. "In that case I
determined, as a matter of law, there was not sufficient proof of an
Aggravators can be additional crimes, previous crimes or premeditation that
make a felony murder - or sudden, unplanned murder - eligible for a capital
upgrade and the death penalty.
"With Atkins, I did not follow [the jury's] recommendation. I did not agree
that death for a 20-year-old was fitting," Youngpeter said, referencing Atkins'
Youngpeter noted that just this year Gov. Kay Ivey signed legislation outlawing
"judicial overrides" in the state, meaning judges can no longer stray from a
"From now on, they are not making a recommendation, they are making a
decision," he said.
While most of the cases reviewed by Harvard involved aggravators including
premeditation or murder in the commission of another crime, the district
attorney's office has recently employed a more unusual aggravator in seeking a
capital conviction. In this year's trial against Jamal Jackson, who was
sentenced to death in July for the 2014 stabbing and strangling his girlfriend
Satori Richardson before setting their apartment on fire, the crime rose to the
level of capital murder based on Jackson's previous conviction of robbery using
Assistant District Attorney Keith Blackwood, who prosecuted Jackson, cited
Alabama Code 13A-5-49(2): "The defendant was previously convicted of another
capital offense or a felony involving the use or threat of violence to the
person." Blackwood noted Jackson had a prior conviction of 1st-degree robbery
involving the use or threat of violence to the victim of the robbery.
Still other retrials can be beyond the court's control. Just last month, Mobile
County death row inmate Garrett Dotch successfully filed a Rule 32 appeal,
arguing 1 of the jurors in his original trial failed to disclose that his wife
had been murdered.
According to news reports of his crime, Dotch ambushed and killed onetime
girlfriend Timarla Taldon outside the Subway sandwich shop in West Mobile where
she worked in 2006. He was convicted and sentenced in 2008 and the conviction
was affirmed in 2010. The Alabama Attorney General's office will preside over
his Rule 32 retrial next year.
Speaking of the jury selection process in Dotch???s case, Rich said, "We asked
more than 10 times, 'do you know anybody that's been a victim of a violent
crime?' We asked all the standard questions. If you've ever watched our voir
dire you know it's an extensive, exhaustive voir dire and [the juror] never
once told anybody. After it was over, investigators went out and questioned
some of the jurors and they found out he had lied to the court."
Rich said the statute of limitations has since expired in the juror's contempt,
so he cannot be prosecuted.
Harvard's report also criticized defense attorneys Greg Hughes, Art Powell and
Habib Yazdi for "inadequate defense" in several cases, particularly that of
Kennedy, who represented himself at retrial and was given a life sentence, and
former death row inmate William Zeigler, who has since been released from
prison and whose case has been extensively detailed by this publication.
Last year, a Mobile County judge also released former death row inmate George
Martin, who was originally prosecuted by the Attorney General's office.
The full Harvard report accompanies this article on lagniappemobile.com.
"It doesn't matter what my perception of people's view of the death penalty is
- the law is the law and we have capital punishment in the state of Alabama and
I'm a prosecutor charged with prosecuting defendants and making sure the laws
in the state of Alabama are followed," Rich concluded.
She retreated to a bookshelf behind her desk, where she retrieved a framed
quotation from conservative academic David Gelernter, who was injured by a pipe
bomb mailed to him in 1993 by Ted Kaczynski, "the Unabomber," "If we favor
executing murderers it is not because we want to but because, however much we
do not want to, we consider ourselves obliged to."
The quote is one of numerous mementos from victims, colleagues and victims'
families she's collected over the years, many of which are displayed in her
office. One, a porcelain figurine called "Brother and Sister," was cited in the
Harvard report as an example of her "overzealousness" in the courtroom.
The report claims Rich displayed the figurine throughout the capital murder
trial of Heather Keaton in 2015. Keaton became the 1st woman from Mobile County
sent to death row in 2015 for the torture and murder of 2 young children - one
boy and 1 girl - in 2015, along with her boyfriend and the children's father,
Rich said the report is inaccurate, and she only displayed the figurine briefly
during a sentencing hearing, while the jury was not present.
"They want you to believe in this report, that I would do something unethical
by putting a statue on my counsel table to inflame the jury during a serious
legal proceeding where we are seeking to impose the death penalty? That's just
"Trying a death penalty case is one of the most emotional, gut-wrenching things
you will ever be a part of either as prosecutor or a defense attorney or a
victim or a jury member - and we take that very seriously in this office."
Mobile County's death row inmates
Vernon Madison - Killed Mobile police Cpl. Julius Schulte in 1985. Was
convicted and sentenced to death in 1985 and again in 1990, but 11th Circuit
Court of Appeals ruled earlier this year he was incompetent and cannot be
executed. The U.S. Supreme Court in November 2017 disagreed, and said Madison
is eligible for execution.
Jason Oric Williams - Killed 4 people during a shooting spree in Irvington on
Feb. 15, 1992. His appeals have been exhausted.
Jarrod Taylor - Convicted of the execution-style shooting deaths of Steve Dyas,
Sherry Gaston and her husband, Bruce Gaston, at Dyas' car dealership on Dec.
12, 1997. In 2014, his sentence was affirmed by the Alabama Supreme Court.
Thomas Dale Ferguson - Killed a Colbert County man and his 11-year-old son on a
fishing trip on July 20, 1997. The case was moved to Mobile County because of
Joseph Clifton Smith - Sentenced to death in 1998 for the robbery and beating
death of Durk Van Dam on Nov. 25, 1997.
Jeremy Bryan Jones - Raped and shot Lisa Marie Nichols in her Turnerville home
in September 2004. Received the death penalty in 2005 in a decision upheld on
appeal in 2010. Prosecuted by the Attorney General's office.
Thomas Robert Lane - Drowned his wife, Teresa, in October 2003 in an alleged
life insurance fraud. His 2006 capital murder conviction was overturned, but he
was retried and convicted in 2016 and returned to death row.
Lam Luong - Threw his 4 young children to their deaths from the Dauphin Island
bridge on Jan. 7, 2008. His death penalty appeal was rejected by the Alabama
Supreme Court in 2014 and the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016.
Garrett Dotch - Ambushed and killed onetime girlfriend Timarla Taldon outside
the Subway sandwich shop in West Mobile where she worked in 2006. Sentenced in
2008 and conviction was affirmed in 2010. Awaiting retrial in 2018.
Donald Dwayne Whatley - Murdered downtown motel owner Pete Patel during a
robbery in December 2003. Sentenced in 2008 and conviction was affirmed in
Jerry Dwayne Bohannon - Convicted in early January 2014 of the double murder of
Jerry Duboise Jr. and Anthony Harvey on Dec. 11, 2010.
Derrick Shawn Penn - Originally sentenced to death in 2011 for the murders of
Janet Penn and Demetrius Powe. Retried in October 2017, reconvicted of capital
murder and jury recommended the death penalty by an 11-to-1 margin.
John DeBlase - Poisoned, tortured and murdered his 2 children with the aid of
his girlfriend, Heather Keaton. Sentenced to death in 2015.
Heather Keaton - Co-conspirator in John Deblase case, became 1st woman from
Mobile County to be sentenced to death in 2015.
Aubrey Lynn Shaw - Stabbed his great aunt and uncle, Bob and Doris Gilbert, to
death in 2007 during a drug-fueled robbery. Sentenced to death in 2011.
Dennis Hicks - Sentenced to death in 2016 for the murder and dismemberment of
23-year-old Joshua Duncan. Previously on parole for a double homicide in
Michael Bragg Woolf - Convicted of killing his wife and 2-year-old son.
Sentenced in 2011. Resentenced in 2014. Filed a Rule 32 petition on Oct. 24,
Jamal Jackson - Sentenced to death in July 2017 for the 2014 stabbing and
strangling of his girlfriend Satori Richardson in 2014 before setting their
apartment on fire. Crime rose to the level of capital murder based on Jackson's
previous conviction of robbery using a firearm.
Derrick Dearman - Charged with 6 counts of capital murder in Citronelle.
Nicholas Jones - Charged with the capital murder of his girlfriend Kelwanna
Bruno and their unborn child.
Christopher Knapp - Charged with aggravated child abuse and capital murder for
the death of 20-month-old Dakota Burke in 2015. Scheduled for trial in February
Summer Everett - Charged with aggravated child abuse and capital murder for the
death of 20-month-old Dakota Burke in 2015. Scheduled for trial in February
OHIO----new execution date
Gov. Kasich sets 2019 execution date for Alva Campbell after failed try
Ohio Gov. John Kasich has set a new execution date that's a year and a half
away for a condemned inmate whose poor veins spared him from death.
Kasich set a June 5, 2019, execution date for death row prisoner Alva Campbell
as part of a formal reprieve issued Wednesday afternoon.
Ohio prisons director Gary Mohr called off Campbell's execution Wednesday
morning after execution team members worked unsuccessfully for about 25 minutes
to find usable veins.
Campbell's attorney David Stebbins says governors must include dates in such
reprieves and he doesn't know the significance of the 2019 date other than it
was free and in the near future.
Stebbins says the date gives Campbell's attorneys time to figure out their next
(source: Associated Press)
ate-Sponsored Torture': Ohio Grants Temporary Reprieve After Botched
Execution----Human rights advocates censured the state for making "a spectacle
of a man's life," declaring "the cruel and unusual practice of lethal injection
After poking and prodding at a sickly inmate, 69-year-old Alva Campbell Jr.,
for about 25 minutes, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections
temporarily called off his execution.
Medical staff "spent at least 25 minutes in an unsuccessful effort to find a
suitable vein in Campbell's arms and right leg," for lethal injection, the
Dayton Daily News reports. "While this was happening, Campbell lay in a
partially sitting position on a prison gurney in the execution chamber at the
Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. Campbell shed tears and
shook hands with 2 of the medical staffers attending to him after they were
unable to proceed with the execution process."
Prison officials had been warned about Campbell's numerous health issues, and
even used a wedge-shaped pillow to help him breathe while officials attempted
to kill him. As Esquire's Charlie Pierce wrote - noting the extensive abuse
Campbell experienced as a child - "the state of Ohio could find no way to give
Alva Campbell comfort as a child, but, now that he's dying, the state of Ohio
is doing everything it can to make sure he's comfortable while the state of
Ohio is killing him."
Despite Cambpell's reprieve today, Ohio Gov. John Kasich - who denied (pdf)
clemency for Campbell - has reportedly rescheduled his execution for June 15,
Sister Helen Prejean, a well known anti-death penalty activist who has vocally
opposed Campbell's execution, turned to Twitter on Wednesday to urge Kasich to
permanently call off his death sentence.
Human rights advocates and death penalty opponents quickly censured state
leaders and prison officials for attempting the aborted execution, and called
on the state to immediately outlaw the practice of executing prisoners.
"We cannot allow this practice to continue. Death row inmates can be held
accountable and society can be kept safe without executions."----Kevin Werner,
Ohioans to Stop Executions
"This traumatic series of events could have been easily avoided," noted Kevin
Werner of Ohioans to Stop Executions. "Campbell's health concerns were well
documented, and everybody knew this was going to pose issues."
"We cannot allow this practice to continue," Werner concluded. "Death row
inmates can be held accountable and society can be kept safe without
"This is not justice, and this is not humane," said ACLU of Ohio senior policy
director Mike Brickner, demanding that the state place a moratorium on "this
type of state-sponsored torture."
"Today the state made a spectacle of a man's life, and the cruel and unusual
practice of lethal injection must end," Brickner added. "This marks the 5th
botched execution for Ohio in recent years, and the 2nd time the state could
not complete an execution."
The last time the state failed to execute a prisoner was Romell Broom in 2009.
Over the course of more than 2 hours, medical staff made 18 attempts to insert
needles to inject Broom with the deadly cocktail of drugs. Last year, he
appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, hoping to stop the state from a 2nd
execution attempt. The court declined to hear the case.
Ohio Must Enact Moratorium on Executions----Latest Botched Execution of Alva
Campbell, Jr Shows Flaws with Lethal Injection Procedures
After nearly 2 hours of torture as medical personnel attempted to find a
useable vein for the lethal injection of Alva Campbell, Jr the Ohio Department
of Rehabilitation and Corrections called off his execution. This comes after
weeks of advocacy from Campbell's counsel explaining that he was too ill and
death by lethal injection would be tortuous. The following statement can be
attributed to ACLU of Ohio Senior Policy Director Mike Brickner:
"This marks the 5th botched execution for Ohio in recent years, and the 2nd
time the state could not complete an execution. This is not justice, and this
is not humane. Campbell was poked and prodded for nearly 2 hours as prison
officials and medical personnel attempted to find a useable vein. This type of
state-sponsored torture is not acceptable and the state of Ohio must place a
moratorium on executions immediately. Today the state made a spectacle of a
man's life, and the cruel and unusual practice of lethal injection must end."
Cleveland man accused of slitting ex-girlfriend's throat may face death penalty
A grand jury handed up aggravated murder charges against a Cleveland man
accused of slitting his ex-girlfriend's throat in the midst of a domestic
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley said he is still deciding whether
to seek the death penalty against Dale Peters.
Peters, 65, is charged with aggravated murder, aggravated burglary, aggravated
robbery, kidnapping, felonious assault, violating a protection order, grand
theft, tampering with evidence and inducing panic in the Oct. 29 killing of
65-year-old Laura Fruscella.
Peters, who is currently being held on a $1 million bond, is set for an
arraignment hearing Friday.
The killing came a day before the 2 were set for a hearing in a domestic
violence case that Fruscella had brought against him, prosecutors said.
"This was a calculated, vicious attack on a woman who wanted nothing more than
to be free from her abuser," O'Malley said in a news release.
The 2 had dated for about 9 years, before Fruscella filed charges against him
in August, prosecutors said.
Peters broke into Fruscella's home, punched her and slit her throat, according
Peters then stole Fruscella's TV and her 2016 Toyota RAV4. He drove the SUV to
East 55th and Woodland, where he left it, according to police and court
Arizona Death Penalty Law Flouts Constitution
Soon the U.S. Supreme Court will consider a petition for certiorari addressing
the death penalty in Arizona and possibly nationwide.
Together with more than 20 retired judges and prosecutors experienced with
Arizona's capital system, I have urged the high court to take Hidalgo v.
Arizona to eradicate arbitrariness and overbreadth from the death penalty
In 1972, in Furman v. Georgia, the Supreme Court invalidated capital statutes
for making death sentences as capricious as being struck by lightning and,
instead, required precise guidelines to avoid executions of a "capriciously
selected random handful" of offenders.
Following Furman, then-Arizona state Sen. Sandra Day O'Connor asked me, as the
associate director of the Arizona Criminal Code Commission, to draft a new
death sentencing statute consistent with the court's narrowing requirement.
The new death penalty law Arizona adopted in 1973 sought to comply with the
court's narrowing requirement by making prosecutors prove at least 1 of 6
defined aggravating factors as a precondition to imposing death.
Later as a judge of the Maricopa County Superior Court and then the Arizona
Court of Appeals, I saw firsthand the problems with evolving capital statutes.
Since the law's passage in 1973, the Arizona Legislature, like that of some
other states, including California, has steadily expanded aggravating factors,
eventually to 14 broadly defined circumstances. "Heinous," "depraved," "cruel,"
"calculated" and "without legal justification" are among the sweeping
tautologies in these aggravators. The statute now encompasses eligibility for
death far beyond "the worst of the worst."
Abel Hidalgo was convicted and sentenced to death in Maricopa County for a
gang-related shooting. Hidalgo was born into a gang-affiliated family, and had
suffered childhood abuse. In the lower courts, Hidalgo offered expert evidence
showing that, over a period of 11 years in Maricopa County, where Phoenix is
located, at least 1 aggravating factor existed in 856 of 866 murders, 99 % of
all cases. When virtually all 1st-degree murders are eligible for death, the
"worst of the worst" requirement turns on its head. Every murderer is now "the
Arizona's aggravator creep has led to a muscular surge in death sentences.
Recently, Maricopa County had 65 % more death penalty cases than the nation's
next 3 highest capital jurisdictions combined.
One consequence of this development is finding enough qualified lawyers to
handle the onslaught, leading to delays in imposing the sentences and,
inevitably, ineffective representation. Aggravator creep has also enabled
racial disparities: a Hispanic man accused of killing a white victim in Arizona
is 4.6 times more likely to be sentenced to death than a white killer of a
Hispanic victim, giving new meaning to "white lives matter."
Since Furman, this nation has been tinkering with capital punishment in
counterproductive ways prompted in part by legislators' disdain for empirical
research and preference for tough-on-crime halos over constitutional laws. The
court could conclude this experiment by holding that the overbroad death
penalty is no longer constitutional in Arizona and, indeed, in all capital
31 states have abandoned capital punishment, including 19 that have formally
abolished it, 4 that have imposed moratoria, and 8 that have gone without an
execution in the past decade.
The 20 executions in the nation in 2016 is the lowest number since 1991. Only 2
% of counties make up the majority of the country's death penalty statistics,
with Maricopa County at the top of the list.
Among the reasons for increasing capital discomfort is the fear, observed by
O'Connor herself, of executing innocent people. A 2014 National Academy of
Sciences study found that 4 % of people sentenced to death between 1973 and
2004 were likely innocent. Since 1973, 159 people have been freed from death
row with evidence of their innocence.
While the Supreme Court could instruct the Arizona Legislature to fix its
statute again, the legislative pattern over the past 4 decades has resulted in
the re-creation of the very arbitrariness the court condemned in Furman.
The more sensible remedy is to acknowledge that the death penalty is broken
beyond legislative repair. Ending capital punishment altogether, achieved in
the European Union long ago, would remove the risk of executing the innocent,
increase public confidence in our justice system, save millions of public
dollars, and affirm the inherent value of each human life, including those now
(source: Rudy Gerber retired from the Arizona Court of Appeals in 2001 after 22
years as a judge. He is now an arbitrator and adjunct law professor at Empire
College School of Law in Santa Rosa, California----law.com)
Jurors weigh whether John Allen should die for locking Ame Deal in box that
Attorneys wrapped up their final arguments Wednesday in the penalty phase of
the John Allen murder trial, and jurors now will decide whether he should face
the death penalty for the abuse and death of 10-year-old Ame Deal.
A Maricopa County Superior Court jury found Allen guilty on Nov. 8 of
1st-degree murder, 3 counts of child abuse and conspiracy to commit child
A jury has spent this week hearing arguments from Maricopa County prosecutors
and weighing aggravating factors that could result in a death sentence, along
with mitigating factors from defense lawyers that could instead justify a
sentence of life in prison.
Ame Deal died in July 2011 after she was locked inside a box as punishment by
Allen and his wife, Sammantha Allen. The child was left there overnight and
Sammantha Allen, Ame's cousin, was convicted of 1st-degree murder and child
abuse earlier this year and was sentenced to death. Several other relatives of
Ame also have been sentenced on charges stemming from ongoing abuse of the
On Tuesday, jurors accepted aggravating factors in John Allen's case that
included Ame's age, a previous child-abuse offense and the "especially cruel,
heinous or depraved" nature of the crime.
The defense acknowledged the severity of the crime, but argued that prison is a
lenient sentence when compared with the death penalty and that not all
1st-degree-murder defendants are sentenced to death.
Jurors also are considering mitigating factors while deliberating between the
death penalty or life in prison. Allen's background, his character and his
intention to not commit murder are the three factors being taken into
Allen's defense attorney told the jury there was no evidence of intentional
murder and that Allen accepted responsibility.
The prosecutor argued that Allen did not show responsibility, since that
depends on the time he decided to show it and take responsibility for the
"It didn't start when he and his wife pulled Ame's lifeless body out of the
box. It depends on when he called 911 and he didn't. He waited 30 minutes
before making that call, and if he did any CPR, it was all for show," the
During Allen's trial, a videotaped interview of him with a Phoenix police
detective was played that showed him eventually admitting he locked the child
in the box.
The defense also said Allen, who was 22 at the time of the crime, was a young
man who was not fully grown yet was helping to care for several young children
who lived in the home, among them Ame.
The defense also urged the jurors several times to act on their own individual
The jury will resume its sentencing deliberations on Thursday.
Court overturns man's death sentence, orders new hearing
The Nevada Supreme Court has admitted it made a mistake in a previous decision
and ruled that a Las Vegas man convicted in a 1990 slaying is not eligible for
the death penalty.
The court, however, rejected a petition from Curtis Guy to overturn his
1st-degree murder conviction. It ordered the District Court to conduct a new
Guy was driving a vehicle in North Las Vegas when a passenger shot a man. The
court ruled that Guy was not a "major participant" in the crime as required to
receive a death sentence.
(source: Las Vegas Sun)
Palmdale abuse case: Isauro Aguirre found guilty of 1st-degree murder
A Palmdale man has been found guilty of 1st-degree murder in the death of his
girlfriend's 8-year-old son, Gabriel Fernandez.
Isauro Aguirre's fate was announced on Wednesday afternoon.
The jury found him guilty of 1st-degree murder and also guilty in the special
circumstance allegation of murder involving the infliction of torture.
This count makes Aguirre eligible for the death penalty, though jurors were
explicitly instructed not to consider potential penalties.
The penalty phase, during which jurors will be asked whether Aguirre should be
sentenced to death or life in prison without parole, will begin Nov. 27.
Gabriel was routinely beaten, shot with a BB gun, fed cat feces and forced to
sleep while gagged and bound inside a small cabinet, witnesses and prosecutors
said. He died in May 2013.
After the verdict was announced, Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami was
seen crying as he embraced Gabriel's biological father.
In a post-verdict press conference, Hatami said as a father and as a victim of
child abuse himself, the case was difficult for him.
"I'm human, and I'm a dad, so yeah, it's hard," he said, as he wiped tears from
his eyes. "I come to my job as who I am as a person."
Hatami said he believes that some justice has been served by this verdict.
"Some closure can be felt by Gabriel's family as far as at least they feel that
the system, and I'm part of the system, the system is trying to make some
things right and this is a small part in that," he said.
Hatami added that he is involved in child abuse cases because he is passionate
about protecting children.
"I believe children need someone to fight for them," he said. "People need to
fight for children and others who can't fight for themselves."
Wednesday was the 2nd day of deliberations in the case. Deliberations on
Tuesday ended early because 2 jurors had personal commitments. The 7-woman,
5-man panel deliberated for a total of around 5 1/2 hours before reaching its
During closing arguments, Hatami called Aguirre an "evil" man who "liked
torturing" the boy and did so systematically in the months, leading up to the
Aguirre hated the boy because he thought he was gay, according to the
prosecutor, who began his closing argument by displaying a photo of Gabriel's
battered body lying on an autopsy table -- covered in injuries head to toe --
as evidence of Aguirre's intent to kill the boy.
Defense attorney Michael Sklar admitted Aguirre is guilty of beating the boy
but argued that the death was accidental. In his closing arguments, Sklar told
the jury that Aguirre "acted in a rage of anger followed by an explosion of
violence" and not with the deliberation and premeditation required for a
verdict of 1st-degree murder.
Sklar said Aguirre tried to save the little boy and cried after confessing to
hitting the boy 20 times.
Gabriel's mother, Pearl Fernandez, is also charged with murder and will be
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against both Aguirre and Fernandez.
2 former Los Angeles County social workers -- Stefanie Rodriguez and Patricia
Clement -- and supervisors Kevin Bom and Gregory Merritt were charged last year
with 1 felony count each of child abuse and falsifying public records in
connection with the case.
(source: KABC News)
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