2017-07-03 16:34:36 UTC
Death penalty nearing historic lows in Texas and nationwide
The death penalty is on the downswing - not just in Texas, but nationwide.
A mid-year review by the Death Penalty Information Center found that the use of
capital punishment is likely to hover near historic lows in 2017, with just 13
executions completed and 12 more slated to occur.
Last year, just 14 executions had been carried out by mid-point in the year.
Even the Lone Star State, which has typically been a heavy user of capital
punishment, has seen a long-term drop in executions. In 2016, the state
executed the fewest inmates it had in 2 decades, as the Chronicle reported in
"There is clearly a political climate change under way in the United States on
the death penalty," Robert Dunham, DPIC executive director, said last year.
"It has many different causes - you can't attribute it to any single thing -
but there are a combination of factors that have led to substantial change in
America's view of the death penalty."
Some of the factors at play in the changing trend could include legal
uncertainties, moratoriums, and death penalty drug shortages, according to The
And on top of those logistical issues, public opinion has slowly shifted away
from the practice. A Pew Research Survey in 2016 found that support for the
death penalty had fallen below 50 % for the 1st time in almost half a century.
While a Gallup poll a year earlier found a slightly higher level of support in
the general populace with 60 % favoring the practice, even that higher number
represents a decline.
"People feel much more comfortable with that alternative because if you make a
mistake, you can fix it later," ACLU senior staff attorney Brian Stull said
last year. "That is certainly lurking in the background."
But the current dip may not be record-setting; as of now, 2017 execution
figures look to be slightly above the 26-year-low seen in 2016. But, that could
change depending on whether Ohio is able to carry out the 5 executions
scheduled between now and December.
And it's also possible 2017 could see a new low in death sentences handed out.
So far, states have only doled out 16 death sentences. Last year saw just 31 by
the end of the year.
But even though Texas has witnessed a marked decrease in the use of capital
punishment, it's still near the head of the pack for the remainder of the year,
with 5 executions scheduled for the 2nd half of 2017.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Bradley found guilty in murder of Shannon Rippy Van Newkirk
More than 3 years after Shannon Rippy Van Newkirk was last seen, a Pender
County jury on Thursday found James Opelton Bradley guilty of 2nd-degree murder
in her presumed death.
Superior Court Judge Paul Jones sentenced Bradley to 30.4 to 37.5 years in
Bradley's defense attorneys said they would appeal the verdict. New Hanover
County District Attorney Ben David David said he is "thrilled" with the verdict
and is confident it will hold up under appeal.
Bradley, 54, of Wilmington was charged with 1st-degree murder April 29, 2014,
after Wilmington Police Department detectives looking for Van Newkirk unearthed
a woman's nude and bound body from a shallow grave in a Pender County farm
Van Newkirk, 53, of Wilmington was last seen April 5, 2014, at the Husk Bar in
downtown Wilmington. Her mother Roberta Lewis reported Van Newkirk missing
after she didn't show up for a brunch to celebrate her 54th birthday on April
Van Newkirk and Bradley were employed by Steve Mott's landscaping company and
occasionally went to work on a farm Mott owns in Hampstead. It was on that farm
where the woman's buried body was found, wrapped in garbage bags.
Detectives at first thought the woman's body was Van Newkirk's. Tattoos
observed during an autopsy confirmed it was not Van Newkirk, but the body of
Elisha Tucker, 33, of Wilmington, who had been missing since August 2013. A DNA
expert testified during the trial that Tucker's DNA was found on the carpet pad
of Bradley's Chevrolet Tahoe. Crystal Sitosky, a Wilmington woman who said she
had seen Bradley with Tucker in the summer of 2013, also testified she went to
meet with Bradley on the property where Tucker's body eventually was found.
Bradley also is charged with 1st-degree murder in Tucker's death, but a trial
date has not been set. The state has said it will seek the death penalty in
(source: Wilmington Star News)
Alleged gunman in Savannah gang revenge slaying makes court appearance
The alleged shooter in what prosecutors call a gang revenge slaying of
Dominique Powell in Tatemville today appeared in court as officials begin new
death-penalty proceedings on a June re-indictment.
Timothy Coleman Jr., 21, appeared with his lawyer from the state Capital
Defense Office in a "first apperance" before Chatham County Superior Court
Judge John E. Morse Jr. in a reset of the state's Unified Appeal Procedure for
death penalty cases.
He is scheduled to return to court on Aug. 11 for formal arraignment in the
Coleman is 1 of 4 defendants who the state charges were members of the
nationally affiliated Bloods gang in connection with the shooting death of
Powell, 24, who was killed Sept. 12, 2016 - 5 days after defending himself
during an armed robbery.
Earlier last week, co-defendant Arthur Newton - the alleged mastermind of the
slaying - and Tyriek Walker, 21, made similar appearances. A 4th defendant,
Artez Strain, 22, is scheduled to appear before Morse this week.
They were re-indicted June 7 in what District Attorney Meg Heap described as a
"cosmetic" cleanup of the original Nov. 16 indictment, and not a substantive
All 4 are charged with murder and related offenses in Powell's death.
Heap is seeking the death penalty for all 4, so each was indicted - and
re-indicted separately - and will be tried individually under the state's
Unified Appeal Procedure for death penalty cases.
It is unclear in what order the defendants will eventually be tried.
Because the death penalty is involved, the state Supreme Court has a detailed
list of actions designed to capture any potential future appellate issues at an
early stage. Morse, who is handling all 4 of the cases, is carefully guiding
lawyers through the process to keep the cases moving.
According to officials, Savannah-Chatham police responded on Sept. 12 in the
900 block of Garey Avenue in Tatemville, where they found Powell suffering from
a fatal gunshot wound outside a residence.
Powell was the victim of an armed robbery on Sept. 7 in the neighborhood.
During the robbery, Powell exchanged gunfire with would-be robbers Antwan
Drayton and Newton, police said. Investigators concluded that Powell shot
Drayton and Newton in self-defense during the robbery.
After being arrested, Newton ordered the death of Powell, police said. Strain,
Coleman and Walker carried out those orders and participated in Powell's death,
According to the indictments, Coleman caused Powell's death by shooting him on
(source: Savannah Morning News)
Death penalty could be sought against teen who aided in grandparents'
murder----Both teens indicted in Lawrenceville killing
Gwinnett County prosecutors may seek the death penalty for the boyfriend
accused of killing his girlfriend's grandparents with her in April.
On Thursday, Johnny Rider, 19, and Cassandra Bjorge, 17, were both indicted in
the murder of Wendy and Randall Bjorge.
After a short time, the SWAT team made entry into the home and located the
suspects suffering from self-inflicted wounds.
District Attorney Danny Porter told the Daily Post the county plans to seek the
death penalty for Rider. He said Bjorge isn't elligible for the death penalty,
since she's not yet 18 years old.
Police found Cassandra Bjorge's grandparents dead in their home off Furlong Run
in the early hours of April 9. The couple had been dead for about a week.
Warrants allege that Cassandra Bjorge and Rider had kicked, punched and beat
her grandparents with a tire iron. They're accused of finishing the job by
stabbing the elderly couple in the throats.
And they didn't run away. Porter said many of the charges in the indictment
stem from the fact that Cassandra Bjorge and Rider were allegedly in and out of
the house that she once shared with her grandparents after they killed the
"They broke into her grandparents house and, over a period of time, killed both
the grandmother and the grandfather," Porter said. "And then (they) stayed in
the house for a period of time and sealed it up. They taped up the windows and
things to prevent discovery of the body."
Other members of the Bjorges' family noticed the 63-year-old couple's absence
early in the days preceding April 9. They began asking Gwinnett police to check
on their house.
"Gwinnett County Police responded to the location several times beginning April
6 and attempted welfare check by the request of family members," said Gwinnett
County police Cpl. Deon Washington. "At the time, there was no obvious cause to
enter the location by force."
Initially, it was reported that a violent domestic incident at Rider's family
house off Rambling Woods Drive in Lawrenceville on April 8 that led police to
figure out what happened to the Bjorges.
Actually, Porter said that was another murder attempt.
"In the course of the investigation, we also learned that (the murder of the
grandparents) was the 1st in the seires of murders they intended to commit," he
Rider and Cassandra Bjorge reportedly returned to Rider's family home on April
8 intending to kill his parents. But the Rider family fought the couple off and
called the police.
When officers got to the house on Rambling Woods Drive, they didn't find Rider
or Bjorge, but they did find a car they soon discovered belonged to the elderly
Bjorge couple - the couple nobody had heard from in several days.
"Because of the crime at hand, officers decided to again make a welfare check
at their home," said Gwinnett County police Detective D.C. Smith at the time.
This time, when nobody answered the door, officers went inside, where they
found Wendy and Randall Bjorge.
Smith said detectives and crime scene personnel worked through that night to
find Bjorge and Rider. Eventually, officers found them hiding out in the 800
building at the Residences at McGinnis Ferry in Suwanee.
They refused to come out for police, so officials sent the SWAT team into the
apartment, where they found that Cassandra Bjorge and Rider had tried to kill
themselves by cutting their wrists.
Both teens were treated at Gwinnett Medical Center before they were arrested.
Now, Rider could face the possibilty of death at the hands of the court system.
(source: Gwinnett Daily Post)
Death penalty Sought In Infant's Murder
Prosecutors in Broward will seek the death penalty against a man accused of
killing an infant he was babysitting.
That decision was announced in a recent court filing in the case of Juan
Santos is charged with murdering 6-month-old Makenzie Nevarez inside a Pompano
Beach apartment last October.
According to his arrest report, Santos initially told investigators that
Makenzie was vomiting and then stopped breathing. Later, he reportedly admitted
that he accidentally hit her head on a bed post. Investigators say he did not
give that information to first responders right away.
Santos is charged with aggravated child abuse and murder while committing a
(source: CBS News)
Ohio teen's accused killer to be extradited from Pa., could face death penalty
John Richard Bove faces the death penalty after his indictment in Ohio on
charges of kidnapping and murdering a 13-year-old girl in May.
Nicholas A. Iarocci, Ashtabula County prosecuting attorney, requested the death
penalty specification and surmises that Bove will be returned to Ohio from
Mercer County within 30 days, he said.
"As a result of the indictment, my office is now able to submit and will be
submitting in the immediate future, an application for a Governor's Warrant in
order to have Bove extradited from Mercer County," Iarocci said in a press
release. "Since Bove has refused to waive extradition on 2 separate occasions,
issuance of a Governor's Warrant is necessary in order to extradite Bove to
Bove was indicted on charges of aggravated murder, murder, kidnapping,
felonious assault, tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse in the
killing of Kara Zdanczewski on or about May 9, Iarocci said.
Zdanczewski's body was found May 11 in a remote field in Ashtabula County,
where Bove's car was stuck nearby, police said.
Sharon police caught Bove after a short car-and-foot chase the same day after
Ashtabula officials warned them of Bove's possible presence in their
Bove, a registered sex offender who was convicted of rape in 1990 in New York
state, admitted to kidnapping, killing and setting the teen's body on fire,
police said. He told police he took her with the intent of trading her in
return for more than $3,000 that Bove said her father owed for methamphetamine,
Ashtabula police said they do not intend to charge the girl's father, Stanley
Zdanczewski, with any crime.
The teen's mother, Deanna Zdanczewski, 41, committed suicide on June 4, and
Ashtabula officials blamed social media's "keyboard warriors" for her death.
Bove is in Mercer County Jail on $1 million bond for local charges.
If extradited to Ohio before his July 28 arraignment in Mercer County, Sharon
police charges of fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer, receiving
stolen property and possession of drug paraphernalia will most likely be
dropped, said Mary Odem, Mercer County assistant district attorney.
The Ohio grand jury on Tuesday handed down other indictments.
Bove's wife, Debra Ann Bove, was indicted on charges of obstructing justice,
and Malachi Desmond Schultz and Stanley Ray Wilfong III were both indicted on
tampering with evidence and obstructing justice.
All 3 are in Ashtabula County Jail.
Iarocci thanked law enforcement officials in several jurisdictions for their
assistance with the case. He specifically referred to the Sharon police,
Pennsylvania State Police, the Mercer County District Attorney's Office and
Mercer County Jail for ensuring that Bove remain incarcerated during the Ohio
investigation and indictment process.
Is it OK for a death-row inmate to feel pain during an execution?
It has been more than 3 years since the state of Ohio carried out an execution,
due to legal challenges and an issue with the drugs it used.
In the meantime, the discourse over whether executing someone for the most
heinous crimes continues, with both sides standing firm behind their beliefs.
Anti-death-penalty advocates have continued to attack the constitutionality of
executions through the courts, including questions on whether the drugs states
use in lethal injections cause inmates too much pain to be legally allowed.
This includes a case decided by a Cincinnati-based appellate court on
Wednesday. The court ruled mostly along ideological lines that a 3-drug
combination Ohio sought to use should be allowed, despite previous courts
saying the pain the combination could cause would violate an inmate's rights.
The mixture used for the state's last execute caused a man to writhe in pain
for 25 minutes before he died.
The challenge to the new mixture was made by death row inmates Gary Otte,
Ronald Phillips and Raymond Tibbetts. Phillips, who raped and killed a
3-year-old girl in Akron in 1993, is the first inmate scheduled to die, with an
execution date set for July 26.
States have looked for alternatives to the new mixture, with little success.
Some drug makers have made it increasingly difficult for states to get their
hands on the drugs they want to use.
As Judge Jane Stranch noted in a dissent, the drug makers' refusal to sell to
states may be indicative of a shift in societal views on the death penalty.
On the other side, though, are arguments that those who commit an
execution-worthy offense should be executed, no matter the pain involved.
As one astute Twitter user pointed out, the majority of judges on the 6th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals last week made a point in contrasting the heinous acts
the 3 men committed to their claims that the use of the lethal-injection
mixture would cause them excruciating pain.
What is to be made of the argument that a person who is sentenced to die should
not be subject to an inordinate amount of pain during their execution?
Is the state's inability to get its hands on a less-painful alternative a sign
that the public views on the death penalty are changing?
Man facing death penalty in North Royalton slayings left victims on bed to rot,
Cuyahoga County prosecutors say the North Canton man accused of killing 5
people in 2 counties placed the bodies of a North Royalton woman and her 2
daughters on a bed inside their home after he killed them.
"He left the victims on a bed to rot," Ryan Miday, a spokesman for Cuyahoga
County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley, told cleveland.com.
George Brinkman, 45, was ordered held without bond on Friday after he pleaded
not guilty in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court to multiple counts of
aggravated murder and offenses against a human corpse in the women's deaths.
Prosecutors will pursue the death penalty if Brinkman is convicted.
Brinkman had been held on a $75 million bond before a grand jury on Monday
handed up a 12-count indictment.
Brinkman's case was randomly assigned to Judge Peter J. Corrigan's courtroom.
His next appearance is set for Thursday.
Prosecutors say Brinkman killed North Royalton resident Suzanne Taylor, 45, and
her daughters Taylor Pifer, 21, and Kylie Pifer, 18, on June 10 at their house.
He cut Taylor's throat with knife, smothered Taylor Pifer with a pillow and
strangled Kylie Pifer with a phone cord, according to authorities.
Brinkman then lay the women's bodies next to one another on a bed and left the
house, prosecutors say.
They were discovered the next day.
Brinkman is also charged in Stark County with the slayings of Rogell Eugene
John, 71, and his wife, Roberta Ray John, 64, who were found dead June 12 at
their home in Lake Township.
Brinkman was arrested early the next morning following a 9-hour standoff on
Valley Forge Drive in Brunswick.
Cuyahoga County and Stark County prosecutors said there is no state law that
dictates where Brinkman should be prosecuted first. The 2 county prosecutors'
offices are working together to determine how each county's case will unfold.
Brinkman's charges in Cuyahoga County include a course-of-conduct specification
that would allow prosecutors to introduce evidence from the Stark County cases
O'Malley's office says they reserve the right to back before the grand jury to
pursue additional charges.
(source for both: cleveland.com)
Slain Logan County sheriff's deputy's family speaks out about devastating loss
Family of slain Logan County sheriff's deputy David Wade remember their loved
one, and announced their support in seeking the death penalty for the man
accused of killing him.
David James Wade, 40, was shot in the face and body the morning of April 18
while serving an eviction notice in Mulhall. He died from his wounds that day.
"I can speak for my entire family when I tell you the last couple of months of
have been tremendously difficult for us. We've been so incredibly shocked by
the loss of David that most of us have been unable to publicly talk about it,"
brother Jerry Wade said Sunday morning at a news conference outside the
About 2 dozen of David Wade's family stood behind him as his younger brother
read a prepared statement.
"On the morning of April 18th, a good man, a loving father and a faithful
public servant was ripped from this earth long before his time should have been
over. But if the enormity of our loss can be in some way measured by the
response to it, then you have only to take a look at the community, the state,
and the country in which he served to appreciate its magnitude," he said.
"To me, he was always just my big brother. The boy I shared a childhood with,
the man I proudly shared military service with. I always be looking up to him,"
Jerry Wade said.
David Wade enlisted in the Oklahoma National Guard shortly after high school.
The two were members of Company C of the 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry
Regiment, eventually serving together on a deployment to Bosnia in the 1990s.
"I do not believe that his memory will soon be forgotten. But not only does he
leave behind a legacy of who he was, there's also the matter of his unnecessary
death to be reconciled," he said.
Nathan Aaron LeForce, 45, was taken into custody after a few hours. He is
charged in Logan County District Court with 1st-degree murder, 1st-degree
robbery and larceny of a motor vehicle.
Logan County District Attorney Laura Austin Thomas announced in April that she
is seeking the death penalty in the case.
The district attorney called LeForce's actions heinous, atrocious and cruel.
"Let there be no question that we fully support District Attorney Thomas's
decision to pursue the death penalty. I have every faith that the justice
system will deliver what my brother and those left behind missing him
rightfully deserve. The scales will be weighed and evil will reap what it has
sowed," Jerry Wade said.
"Anytime we think about this event that occurred on April 18th, it's a
sombering event to all of us that put the uniform on every day, leave our
family to come out here to protect yours, knowing that every day that we come
to work may be the last time we see our families," Sheriff Damon Devereaux
"It's hard for us to go through a tragedy such as this, losing one of our
brothers, and knowing that tomorrow we still have a job to do," Devereaux said.
"We are healing, but we'll never be whole," he said.
LeForce's preliminary hearing is seat for Aug. 7.
(source: The Oklahoman)
Evidence fight snags death-penalty trial
A legal dispute over statements Donald Fell's late co-defendant made to police
and letters he wrote to his father before his own death in prison have
postponed the retrial of Fell's death-penalty case.
Fell, 37, formerly of Rutland, was slated to go on trial Sept. 5 in U.S.
District Court in Rutland for the carjacking and killing of Terry King, 53, of
But the trial has been postponed indefinitely to allow the U.S. attorney's
office to file an appeal to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City,
and clear the way for them to use Robert J. Lee's statements. Lee died in jail
in 2003 as he was awaiting trial.
This is the 2nd time Fell's re-trial has been postponed.
Fell, and his co-defendant Lee, were charged with kidnapping King as she left
work in the Rutland Shopping Plaza in November 2000 and later beating her to
death. The 2 men were charged with killing King in New York state and fleeing
to Arkansas with King's car.
Fell was convicted in 2005 and sentenced to death by a jury in 2006, but he won
a new trial after investigators for his attorneys uncovered juror misconduct in
the 2005 trial when a juror - acting on his own - visited scenes mentioned
during the trial.
The postponement, approved June 19 by U.S. District Judge Geoffrey Crawford,
will allow the U.S. attorney's office in Burlington to appeal Crawford's
earlier ruling that limited the use of Lee's statements to police in Arkansas
and letters he wrote to his father from jail.
The hearsay rule does not apply in the penalty phase of a death-penalty case,
Crawford ruled earlier in May.
Crawford intially approved the use of Lee's statements, but Fell's legal team
appealed. Crawford shifted his stance, and the U.S. attorney's office asked for
reconsideration, which Crawford denied.
Prosecutors want to use Lee's statements to illustrate aggravating factors in
King's murder during the death-penalty portion of the re-trial. A jury must
find at least 1 of 16 potential aggravating factors to support the death
Aggravating factors include a death being committed in the course of another
crime, multiple killings or a particularly heinous, cruel or depraved act.
Other factors in King's death might include obstruction of justice, theft and
the murder of a "particularly vulnerable" person.
Kraig LaPorte, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, didn't return phone
calls Thursday, and Fell's lead attorney, John T. Philipsborn of San Francisco,
also didn't return a call seeking comment.
Crawford noted the 2,000 potential jurors who have already undergone initial
screening in the case would "remain in place."
Fell and Lee wanted to flee Vermont because, police said, Fell had earlier in
the day killed his mother, Debra Fell, as well as her companion, Charles
Conway, in Rutland. He has not been charged in those deaths.
(source: Rutland Herald)
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