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death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., FLA.
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Rick Halperin
2017-06-15 13:53:50 UTC
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June 15




TEXAS:

Execution halted for man who murders lady realtor in model home


A Texas man facing the death penalty for the stabbing murder of a real estate
agent saw his own life spared, at least temporarily.

Kosul Chanthakoummane, who was scheduled to die by lethal injection on July 19
after 9 years on death row, was granted a stay of execution last week. The
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued the order and sent the man's case back
to the Collin County trial court to review discredited forensic science claims,
reported the Texas Tribune.

Chanthakoummane, 36, was convicted in 2007 in the stabbing death of Dallas-area
real estate agent Sarah Walker. Walker's body was discovered in a model home by
a couple coming to view the property on July 8, 2006. Walker had been stabbed
33 times and had a bite mark on her neck.

Bloody fingerprints found at the scene and DNA under Walker's fingernails
linked Chanthakoummane to the scene of the crime and he was arrested nearly 2
months later.

Chanthakoummane reportedly claimed his car had broken down nearby and cuts on
his hand had bled, explaining his blood at the murder scene.

A jury convicted him of murder after 30 minutes of deliberation, based largely
on the DNA evidence, according to the Dallas News. During the trial, state
prosecutors presented forensic experts who claimed the bite mark on Walker's
neck and DNA at the scene pointed to Chanthakoummane.

However, in 2016, a White House report concluded that forensic bite-mark
evidence was not scientifically valid, reports the Texas Tribune.

An extremely successful real estate agent and mother of 2, the 40-year-old
Walker was showing the high-end model home alone when she was attacked.
Chanthakoummane was living with relatives in Dallas after being released on
parole in North Carolina. He had been convicted of aggravated robbery and
kidnapping after he and a friend held 2 women at gunpoint before stealing a car
and leading police on a chase when he was 16, reported the Dallas News.

The Rolex watch Walker had purchased the night before and a ring she was
wearing had been stolen. The Dallas News reported that, at his murder trial,
Chanthakoummane's attorneys admitted he stabbed Walker but that he didn't
deserve the death penalty because it was a robbery that "didn't go the right
way."

(source: crimeonline.com)






PENNSYLVANIA----new death sentence

Jury sentences Leeton Thomas to death for stabbing deaths of a mother and her
teen daughter


Leeton Thomas, 40, should pay with his life for the vicious murders of a mother
and her teen daughter who accused him of sexual molestation, a jury ruled
Wednesday night.

At the verdict, Thomas nodded slightly but looked straight ahead.

Lisa Scheetz, 44, and her daughter, Hailey, 16, died of severe stab wounds in
the early hours of June 11, 2015 as they were watching a Netflix movie in their
basement apartment in East Drumore Township.

The death sentence came a day after the jury of 6 men and 6 women convicted
Thomas of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and a count of attempted homicide for
severely stabbing a younger daughter who survived the attack.

The girl, now 17, testified at the trial that Thomas, who was a neighbor and a
former family friend, was the attacker.

The prosecution alleged that Thomas entered through a window and sprang upon
the unsuspecting family, stabbing forcefully. The defense contended he was at
home in bed at the time of the attack.

After the jury announced the verdict, Kim Scheetz, who lost his daughter and
former wife, said, "I'm totally happy."

"It's what I wanted," he added. "It's not going to bring my family back, but he
got what he deserved."

The verdict came after a day of testimony by family members and friends seeking
to spare Thomas' life.

"I gave him life," said Thomas' mother, Sharon Frances Campbell, 58, her voice
quavering on the witness stand earlier Wednesday. "I'm begging you, please save
him. Please."

The jury also heard from other family members, friends and neighbors who
described Thomas, a father of 4, as a helpful, hard-working, self-sacrificing
and church-going family man.

The jury returned with the death sentence at 7:50 p.m. after deliberating for
about 3 3/4 hours.

Family members of the victim and defendant filled the gallery, but they abided
by President Judge Dennis Reinaker's warning not to react.

9 deputy sheriffs stood at various spots around Courtroom 8 where the 6-day
trial took place.

Jury polled

Defense counsel asked that the jury members be polled.

The judge had each of the 12 jurors to stand individually and say whether they
agreed with the verdict.

Each rose and answered, "Yes, I do."

After being handcuffed, Thomas looked back at his family and, smiling, said,
"See you guys. It's not over."

Thomas becomes the 8th Lancaster County resident on death row and the 1st since
Jakeem Towles was sentenced to death in May 2012 for the 2010 slaying of a
hip-hop musician in Columbia.

No one has been executed in Pennsylvania since 1999. 2 years ago, Gov. Tom Wolf
issued a moratorium on the death penalty, calling the system "error prone,
expensive and anything but infallible."

In his closing argument Wednesday, a prosecutor said Thomas deserves to die
because of 5 so-called aggravating circumstances that made the slayings
especially heinous, including murdering the Scheetzes to prevent them from
testifying against him in a sexual molestation case.

"Everyone can sympathize with the defendant's" family and friends, First
Assistant District Attorney Christopher Larsen said.

Testimony: 'Shoot me in the head,' double-homicide suspect Leeton Thomas told
trooper after arrest

"That, however, is the one who caused all of this," Larsen said, pointing at
Thomas. "Any tears that are shed are a result of his actions."

The defense argued that mitigating circumstances, including the poverty and
abuse Thomas endured growing up in Jamaica, are reasons Thomas deserves a
sentence of life in prison instead of death. He also had no significant
previous convictions.

In addition, Thomas as a lifer can continue to be a source of love and support
for his children and others, defense attorney Samuel Encarnacion said.

"Don't punish his children," Encarnacion implored the jury.

'Rage, vengeance' fueled East Drumore double slaying, prosecutor tells jury as
Leeton Thomas trial opens

In morning testimony, Campbell, Thomas' mother, said her son often went hungry
while being raised by his grandfather and aunts in a remote corner of Jamaica.
She said the short time Thomas lived with her in Kingston, Jamaica's capital,
he was beaten by his stepfather and saw him batter her.

She said her son, while a baby, developed a droopy eyelid that doctors couldn't
correct. He was mocked at school, she said, because of the defect.

Years later, after she left her abusive husband, Thomas paid her rent, Campbell
said. She said his generosity surprised her.

"I wasn't a mother to him," she explained. "I didn't take care of him. I wasn't
there for him."

But Thomas was there for her, she said, "when I needed him the most."

Dr. Jerome Gottlieb, a psychiatrist, testified that Thomas suffered from
depression after a ruptured pituitary gland in June 2013 left him blind in 1
eye and with half vision in the other.

Gottlieb said Thomas was no longer allowed to drive and had a harder time
supporting his family as a construction worker.

Thomas' mother-in-law, Elizabeth Absher of Cleveland, Tennessee, described
Thomas, who everyone knew as Pie, as a "deeply spiritual man" who shared his
Christian faith with others and never hesitated to reach out to someone who was
struggling.

Absher's 20-year-old twin sons, Christopher and Ben, students at Lee College,
described happy vacations twice a year visiting Thomas and his family in
Pennsylvania.

"He's that person I know who enriches people's lives when he's around them,"
Christopher Absher said.

Also Wednesday, Frankie Thomas, 18, said Thomas adopted him when he was in 4th
grade, and he became the caring father figure that had been missing in his
life.

Encarnacion showed the jury photos of Thomas' other children, ages 16, 6 and 5.

And Samantha Fusco, 26, said she lived with the Thomases off and on since she
was 12 because her parents failed to care for her.

"He's my dad," Fusco said of Thomas. "He's been there for me ever since he got
married to Donna."

"He was always so happy and welcoming and warm," she added, tearing up.

Legal protections

In his closing, prosecutor Larsen said Thomas as a defendant had the advantages
of a legal system that protected his rights, including the right to present
witnesses who had good things to say about him.

But nobody was able to go into the Scheetzes' living room before they were
stabbed to death, Larsen said, "and say, 'Lisa is my mom, and she's been an
excellent mom, and I don't want you to kill her.'"

"The defendant can still see his family," Larsen said. The Scheetz family "can
never see Lisa or Hailey again."

Larsen stressed the significance of a deterrence to those who would kill
witnesses to escape justice.

"Allowing that to happen dismantles the entire criminal justice system," Larsen
said.

One juror dabbed her eyes as Encarnacion reviewed the testimony of Thomas'
family members. They had described him as a positive and generous force in
their lives.

"The one big fact in this case," Encrnacion said, "is that tumor," causing
Thomas to suffer significant vision loss.

Encarnacion suggested that the tumor changed Thomas. Witnesses said he had been
an easy-going, nonviolent person, and they could not believe he was charged
with murder.

"As flawed as he is," Encarnacion said of Thomas, he is made "of flesh and
blood, with a beating heart."

He said jurors will think back about the case and say to themselves, "I chose
life because that is what I was taught as a human being."

(source: lancasteronline.com)

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

York City double murderer's death sentence overturned


A York City man convicted more than 2 decades ago of murdering his
ex-girlfriend and her current beau in a jealous rage has succeeded in having
his death sentence overturned by a York County judge.

Milton Matos Montalvo, 54, and his brother, 52-year-old Noel Matos Montalvo,
were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death for the April 19,
1998, slayings of Milton Montalvo's ex, Miriam Asencio, and her friend, Manuel
Santana. At the time, Santana was using the name Nelson Lugo.

But last month, a York County judge threw out Milton Montalvo's death sentence.

A date for a new penalty-phase hearing has not yet been set, according to
online court records.

Common Pleas Judge Richard K. Renn, in a May 22 order, ruled Milton Montalvo
didn't receive a fair penalty phase during his 2000 trial and therefore
deserves a new one.

Renn dismissed many of the murderer's claims, including those that argued he
deserved a new trial altogether.

Mitigation case at issue: But the judge was swayed by several arguments,
according to his order, which states that Milton Montalvo's defense attorney
failed to present an effective mitigation case.

In Pennsylvania death-penalty cases, the prosecution cites aggravating factors
to warrant a capital sentence, while the defense cites mitigating circumstances
to argue for a life sentence. Jurors must then determine which of the factors
they will consider and weigh the aggravators against the mitigators.

Specifically, Renn wrote that the court's denial of a defense request for funds
to hire a mental-health expert - coupled with the defense attorney's failure to
"properly explore" the issue of Milton Montalvo's possible emotional distress -
deprived the defendant of a fair sentencing.

Renn also listed a 3rd reason for granting a new penalty phase. He noted in his
order that the prosecution made "pervasive" references to the jury that their
punishment determination was merely a "recommendation."

Renn noted the trial judge reinforced that erroneous notion to jurors, and
defense counsel failed to object to those references.

Daniel Rendine was the defense attorney at Milton Montalvo's trial, and Common
Pleas Judge Sheryl Ann Dorney, now deceased, presided.

After the murders, the Montalvo brothers fled to Florida and were eventually
captured. At their separate trials, they blamed each other for the killings.

The murders: The Montalvos broke into Asencio's apartment at 233 E.
Philadelphia St. and attacked her and Santana.

Asencio suffered multiple skull fractures. Her neck was slashed down to the
spine, nearly decapitating her, and she was stabbed in the eye.

Her panties were pulled over her face and a high-heeled shoe was jammed into
her crotch area, according to trial testimony.

Santana was killed by a single stab wound to the chest. A tube of lipstick had
been jammed down his throat - forcefully enough that it cut the back of his
throat, a forensic pathologist testified at trial.

(source: York Dispatch)






FLORIDA:

Judge orders new sentence for "Xbox murders" ringleader


2 men sentenced to death for one of the Daytona Beach area's grizzliest
massacres have been ordered to have new sentencing hearings.

7th Judicial Circuit Judge Randell H. Rowe III, on Wednesday, ordered new
hearings for Troy Victorino and Jerone Lamar Hunter because none of the 4 death
sentences they each received were based on unanimous recommendations from
jurors.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled last year that death sentences from juries have
to be unanimous, and anyone sentenced after a 2002 ruling could be eligible for
a new sentence.

That ruling came after the U.S. Supreme Court, in January 2016, struck down
Florida's sentencing scheme for death penalty cases because, among other
things, sentencing was left up to a judge after a jury delievered a
recommendation in the penalty phase of the trial.

Victorino and Hunter were both convicted of 6 counts of 1st-degree murder in
2006 for their parts in what were called "the Xbox murders."

They each received 2 life sentences for the murders of 4 separate victims and
the death penalty for killing the other victims.

Victorino and Hunter, and their 2 co-defendants, Michael Anthony Sala and
Robert Anthony Cannon broke into a home in Deltona and beat 4 men and 2 women
to death with baseball bats. Many of the victims were also stabbed.

Victorino was portrayed by prosecutors as the ringleader in the attacks.

(source: St. Augustine Record)


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