2017-09-06 13:38:41 UTC
11th Circuit breathes new life into Alabama lethal injection challenge
A federal appeals court gave new life to a lawsuit filed by Alabama death row
inmates against the state government's lethal injection protocol.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday vacated a lower court's ruling
against the inmates, noting the district court did not consider the inmates'
In vacating and remanding the case for additional review, the southeastern
federal appeal court's 3-judge panel said, "the District Court must first
determine what risk the current 3-drug protocol - with midazolam as the 1st
drug - presents before considering the adequacy of Appellants' proposed
Midazolam is a sedative, which was used in the controversial execution of
Ronald Bert Smith Jr. - who was convicted of killing a convenience store clerk
- in December 2016 that "resulted in nearly 15 minutes of Smith heaving and
gasping for breath," according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Smith's execution sparked controversy because a jury voted 7-5 to recommend
life without parole, but a judge overrode the veto and ordered a death
The 11th Circuit denied Smith's appeals of the judge's ruling, so the appeal
proceeded to the then-8-member Supreme Court. The Supreme Court issued multiple
stays temporarily halting the execution en route to a 4-4 vote that allowed
Smith's execution to proceed as ordered by the judge.
Alabama's legislature then passed a new law in April providing juries with the
last say over whether to use the death penalty in capital murder cases. Alabama
was the last state to allow judges to override juries in delivering death
penalties instead of life sentences.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer subsequently issued several calls for the
high court to reconsider the constitutionality of the death penalty. Whether
the latest controversy in the Heart of Dixie arrives at the Supreme Court
remains to be seen.
(source: Washington Examiner)
Sam Dalton, 6-decade lawyer who fought death penalty, defended poor people,
dies at 90
Sam Dalton, a lawyer who devoted his 6-decade career to opposing the death
penalty and representing people too poor to hire an attorney, died Tuesday
(Sept. 5) of end-stage kidney disease at his Harahan home. He was 90.
"He's been a really outstanding, compassionate lawyer for good causes," said
former New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu, a Loyola University Law School
classmate. "He was just a very good lawyer, not only professionally but,
perhaps more important, because he gave of himself to worthy causes."
That was paramount to him, friends said. Whenever Mr. Dalton headed into court,
in rumpled clothes with a tie bearing stains from lunch, he was "oblivious to
anything except the obvious and compelling merit of his cause," Mary Howell, a
New Orleans lawyer, wrote in 1992, when Mr. Dalton received the Benjamin Smith
Award, the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana's highest honor.
"Sam fights for the little guy when no one else will fight for him," Howell
wrote. "He does it just because it's right and needs to be done."
One of Mr. Dalton's favorite battles involved a 2 % "handling charge" that the
state of Louisiana had added to the cost of a bail bond. He challenged the fee,
alleging it victimized poor people, and he won a federal-court order striking
Fighting court add-on fees in Jefferson
Judges in Louisiana's local courts are not generally regarded as, or expected
to be, authorities on constitutional law. Indeed, a candidate for election who
commenced holding forth, say, on the separation of powers would probably be
considered way too big for his boots. Momentous questions seldom arise on our
lowest judicial rung. Settle a minor civil dispute, punish a few...
He handled more than 300 capital cases, including 1 involving 3 men charged
with 1st-degree murder in the Baton Rouge killing of Adler Berriman "Barry"
Seal, a federal drug informant, in 1986.
In the trial, Mr. Dalton, in effect, put the dead man on trial, saying Seal had
smuggled the equivalent of 18 boxcars full of cocaine into the United States,
resulting in 21 fatal overdoses, according to a 2010 New Orleans Magazine
interview. He also contended that Seal's death by a .45-caliber machine gun was
"more humane" than state-sanctioned executions.
The jury sentenced all 3 defendants to life without the possibility of parole.
Another client Mr. Dalton saved from execution was Walter Koon, who had been
sentenced to death for killing his estranged wife and her parents in Livingston
Parish. Working with the post-conviction defense team, Mr. Dalton contended
that Koon had been denied effective counsel at the trial court level. The 5th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set aside Koon's death sentence, resulting in a
life sentence without parole.
Mr. Dalton never tried to depict Koon as a model citizen. According to the
magazine interview, Koon not only bought a case of beer after the killings but
also invited police to celebrate the deed. When asked how he could work so hard
for such a man, Mr. Dalton was quick to reply: "If we can't provide the worst
of us a fair trial, we can't provide the best of us a fair trial."
Samuel Sevier Dalton was born on May 27, 1927, in Tuscumbia, Ala. When his
father was transferred to New Orleans, Mr. Dalton attended Jefferson High
School (now Riverdale Middle School), where, Howell said, he racked up 48
Even then, Howell said, Mr. Dalton challenged the charge when he felt it was
unjust, but he didn't deny a proper allegation. As punishment for his
infractions, he was made to run laps as punishment. As a result, Howell said,
Mr. Dalton became a star on the track team.
During World War II, he served in the Navy Air Corps as a Florida-based radio
and radar operator and was assigned to a torpedo bomber squad patrolling the
Gulf of Mexico. He also played catcher on a Navy baseball team against
semi-professional teams and, once, the Brooklyn Dodgers.
He attended Loyola on the G.I Bill. After obtaining a law degree in 1954, he
set up a solo practice near an A&P supermarket on Jefferson Highway.
Mr. Dalton, who had a wife and children to support, worked punishing hours - so
much so that, Howell said, he was voluntarily committed to the Southeast
Louisiana Hospital for 4 months, during which time he received 11 electroshock
treatments. He knew he was recovering, Howell wrote, when the doctors started
asking him for legal advice.
After leaving the hospital, he launched into pro bono work, for which he became
best known, Landrieu said. Mr. Dalton kept at it, heading to his office
regularly until he started working from home after the death of his wife, Ann
Bordonaro Dalton, in 2015, said their daughter, Debbie Milam of Harahan, who
worked in her father's office for 25 years.
Mr. Dalton, whose desk bore a sign reading "The Dalton Gang," "was very
stubborn, very strong," Milam said. "He didn't ever want to give up on
"He loved the law; that's what drove him. ... He could put up with anything as
long as he could come home and get to work on his computer."
Mr. Dalton required regular dialysis. The family knew the end was near about 2
weeks ago, Milam said, when he was too weak to get to his computer.
"His mind was very strong," she said. "He would always say his body couldn't
keep up with his mind. ... If he could work, he was good."
Mr. Dalton, the founding chairman of the Jefferson Parish Indigent Defender
Board, was showered with awards. The Louisiana Bar Association gave him its Pro
Bono Lifetime Achievement Award in 1988, and the National Association of
Criminal Justice Lawyers gave him its President's Commendation Award in 1987.
The Sam Dalton Capital Defense Advocacy Award was established by the Loyola
Death Penalty Resource Center in 1994, the same year in which he received an
honorary doctorate from the law school. Also in 1994, an endowed scholarship
bearing his name was founded at the law school. In 2007, the Young Leadership
Council named him a role model.
Besides Milam, survivors include daughters Gail Schlosser of Harahan and
Cynthia McElwee of Houston; a sister, Margaret Malowski of Atlanta; and a
Funeral arrangements, which are being handled by Garden of Memories Funeral
Home, were incomplete.
Defense attorney says more time needed to prepare for Daigle capital murder
It's less than 2 weeks from what is supposed to be the start of jury selection
in the trial of Kevin Daigle - accused of 1st-degree murder of State Trooper
Steven Vincent in 2015.
But it's a death penalty case and the attorney for the defense says they need
more time to prepare.
It's 2 years since Vincent was shot to death.
Daigle is charged with 1st-degree murder and his trial is set to start soon.
But his lead defense attorney, David Price, died in July of a heart attack
after battling cancer.
Attorney Kyla Romanach, who was the 2nd chair in the capital case, is now the
only attorney representing him.
"I don't have another lawyer to help me with the case and we are supposed to
have 2 lawyers in a capital case for a very good reason. It's an enormous
undertaking, that really is not possible to be done with one lawyer," she said.
She says due to her own health and witnesses needed from Houston, the trial
should be postponed.
But, Special Prosecutor Rick Bryant says Romanach's firm should have appointed
a 2nd attorney to assist.
"We have fought to get this case to trial, and they have fought us every step
of the way. I find it very, very disturbing that they know they need to
attorneys and they have an office full of qualified capital attorneys and she
doesn't bring one on the case to help her," he said.
Also, Romanach says Daigle is willing to plead guilty and spend life in prison
if the state will take the death penalty off the table.
"He was clearly out of his mind when it happened, but he is willing to take
responsibility for that but the state has not accepted that offer," she said.
But Bryant says-- no deal:
"His criminal history is lengthy. number 2, he killed not 1 but 2 people and he
was on his way to kill a 3rd, so that day, he killed his roommate, he killed
trooper Vincent and then he was on his way to shoot his son as he said in his
interview. so, he is a terrible individual who deserves to face capital
punishment. It's up to the jury whether to impose it or not," said Bryant.
As it stands, jury selection is to begin September 18th. The jury will be
picked in Bossier Parish and brought back to Calcasieu. Judge Guy Bradberry is
expected to rule by Friday whether the trial should be postponed. The defense
is also asking the third circuit to consider the matter.
Another issue in the case is a defense allegation that the state refused to do
its "due diligence" in providing a police report on a "highly prejudicial"
incident that the judge previously ruled could be brought in during the penalty
phase of the trial.
Romanach discovered a 2005 police report does exist in Jeff Davis Parish
concerning an allegation that Daigle raped or molested his daughter, who was a
child at the time. However, Daigle was never arrested or formally charged,
meaning the case probably had evidence problems.
Bryant says the DA's office didn't know the report existed and that if the
judge feels it's justified, he can reconsider the issue or change is ruling so
the jury never knows about the allegation.
Various post-hearing briefs are due in by 5 p.m. Thursday and the judge may
(source: KPLC TV news)
Inmate accused of killing Miller County jailer appears in court
An Arkansas prison inmate accused of beating 1 female correctional officer to
death and seriously injuring another in the Miller County jail kitchen last
year was in court Tuesday to address his competency.
Tramell Mackenzie Hunter, 27, is charged with capital murder in the Dec. 18
death of Correctional Officer Lisa Mauldin. Hunter allegedly attacked Mauldin,
47, in the jail's kitchen after a brief verbal exchange, beating her in the
face with his fists. Hunter allegedly attacked Correctional Officer Damaris
Allen, 35, in the kitchen when she walked in after the attack on Mauldin.
At a hearing earlier this year, Little Rock lawyer Ron Davis pleaded not guilty
by reason of mental disease or defect on Hunter's behalf and asked the court to
order a psychological evaluation to determine if Hunter is liable for the
alleged conduct and to determine if he is fit to proceed to trial. At a hearing
Tuesday before Circuit Judge Kirk Johnson, Davis said staff at the Arkansas
State Hospital have deemed Hunter unable to assist his lawyer in preparing his
defense, which is a required component of legal competency.
Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Black argued that Hunter should be sent back to
the state hospital for further evaluation because the psychologist's report
indicates that more observation is needed. Black said the psychologist who
prepared the report moved to California after completing a fellowship in
Arkansas. Black called Arkansas State Hospital psychologist Benjamin Silver to
Silver said Hunter may suffer from symptoms of schizophrenia. Black said she
provided Silver with documents and a copy of an earlier mental evaluation which
the state hospital did not previously have to aid in their evaluation.
Davis argued that the proceedings in Miller County should be put on hold until
Hunter has finished serving a 15-year sentence he received in 2011 in Pulaski
County for aggravated robbery and 2 counts of domestic battery. Hunter was
assigned to the Miller County jail as part of the Act 309 program which allows
Arkansas Department of Correction inmates to serve time in county and city
jails where they are needed to work.
Davis said the state hospital will accept prison inmates for mental evaluations
but not for the process of attempting to restore them to competency. Black
asked that Hunter be returned to the state hospital for further evaluation and
The state has announced that it will seek the death penalty for Hunter in
Mauldin's death. The only other punishment for capital murder in Arkansas is
life without parole. If found guilty of 1st-degree battery of a peace officer
in the attack on Allen, Hunter faces 10 to 40 years or life.
Nelson to make court appearance
The capital murder case of Jereme Nelson, a man accused of a triple homicide
that occurred Oct. 30 of 2016, continues to move through the court system.
Nelson is scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing at 9 a.m. Sept. 6.
According to a release by prosecutor David Yoder, Nelson is expected to waive
his right to an evidentiary hearing, and no testimony is expected during the
preliminary hearing. Judge Joe Dickenson will preside over the hearing.
The purpose of a preliminary hearing is to determine whether the prosecutor has
enough evidence to justify further criminal proceedings. A preliminary hearing
is held in open court. 1 video and 1 photographic camera will be allowed in the
courtroom for use by news media.
Nelson is facing a possible death penalty, which led district court judge Joe
Dickenson to appoint the Death Penalty Defense Unit to Nelson's defense team.
The unit has assigned 3 team members to Nelson's case. Charges against Nelson
include capital murder and 3 1st-degree murder charges.
Both 35-year-old Nelson and 31-year-old Myrta Rangel were arrested Jan. 12 near
Rosarito, Mexico, by Mexican authorities on warrants connected to the murders.
Murder charges against Rangel were dropped. She is facing several weapons
charges in federal court.
According to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, 3 people were found dead in a
driveway in the 8600 block of Spring Lake Road near Alta Mills - between
Hesston and Moundridge - Oct. 30. Investigators also found an 18-month-old
child in the house, who was unharmed.
According to a report from the Kansas Department of Corrections, Nelson has
prior convictions for meth, firearms, burglary and theft. He was also listed as
(source: The Kansan)
Prop. 66 could turn out to slow death penalty cases
The California Supreme Court has upheld most of Proposition 66, the initiative
to speed up the death penalty, but in doing so may have made an even more
tangled mess of it.
Associate Justice Carol Corrigan, writing for the majority, said voters were
presented with ballot materials promising a 5-year time limit on death penalty
appeals in state courts, but there is "no workable means of enforcing the
5-year review limit."
Proposition 66 was approved in November with 51 % of the vote and was met with
an immediate legal challenge. During oral arguments in June, the measure's
supporters conceded that the time limit was "aspirational," and not a
Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuellar complained in a dissenting opinion that this
"bait-and-switch" would "do nothing but breed cynicism in the electorate."
Arguably, it did more than that: It gave the Supreme Court a rationale to
uphold the initiative, and it may have saved 2 of the justices, Corrigan and
Leondra Kruger, from hostile opposition campaigns when they face the voters in
retention elections next year.
The only time California voters ever tossed Supreme Court justices from the
bench, the issue was the perceived non-enforcement of the death penalty.
Cu???llar argued that the court had an obligation to strike down the 5-year
time limit, but instead rewrote it as a goal, with no clear guidance on how
that goal should or could be met. That may have created a new basis for death
Proposition 66 contained several provisions intended to address various reasons
that executions have been delayed in California, where no inmate has been put
to death since 2006. The measure's other provisions all were upheld.
California law provides anyone sentenced to death with the right to 2 types of
appeals: an automatic appeal, and a habeas corpus appeal, which is broader and
may include new evidence.
The justices upheld the Prop. 66 provision that says habeas petitions, which
previously went directly to the state Supreme Court, will now start in trial
courts. Corrigan wrote that meeting the 5-year goal would require the
Legislature to "provide funding sufficient for the superior courts to meet
their greatly expanded responsibilities under Proposition 66, and for this
court and the courts of appeal to expedite review in capital cases without
neglecting the other matters before them."
We'll see how that goes.
The court left in place the provision that public defenders who handle appeals
must accept death penalty cases as well, or they will be barred from any state
appointment to represent defendants who can't afford a lawyer.
The court upheld the provision removing the requirement for prison officials to
get approval from state regulators for the drugs used in executions, although
California remains under a federal court order that prohibits executions until
challenges to the state's method are resolved.
There are currently more than 740 inmates on death row in San Quentin and
nearly 400 appeals pending, with many more inmates still waiting for lawyers.
But instead of speeding up the death penalty, Proposition 66 might delay
justice for defendants in other cases by snarling the trial courts and possibly
creating a shortage of public defenders, if attorneys continue to refuse
This may give Gov. Jerry Brown an argument to commute death sentences to life
in prison before he leaves office next year.
There's no immunity from the law of unintended consequences.
(source: Los Angeles Daily News)
Human Smuggling Tragedy: Cases against 22 undocumented immigrants dismissed
A judge in San Antonio dismissing the cases against the 22 material witnesses
in the human smuggling operation which resulted in the deaths of ten
undocumented aliens back in July.
United States Magistrate Judge Elizabeth S. Chestney signed the order
dismissing the criminal complaints the material witness in the case of U.S. v.
James Matthew Bradley, and their depositions scheduled for this week have been
cancelled. The witnesses are being turned over to immigration authorities for
Bradley, who remains in federal custody, is charged by federal grand jury
indictment for his alleged role in the operation. No trial date has been
scheduled. He's facing 5 counts, including a count of illegally transporting
immigrants for financial gain, resulting in death, and a separate count of
conspiracy to transport immigrants illegally, resulting in death. Those charges
carry the possibility of the death penalty.
Bradley was also indicted on 2 counts related to illegally transporting
immigrants resulting in serious bodily injury, and one count of firearm
possession by a convicted felon. The indictment alleges Bradley, who pleaded
guilty in 1997 to a felony domestic violence case in Colorado, was in
possession of a .38-caliber pistol.
At least 39 people were inside the trailer as it drove from the border city of
Laredo to San Antonio, about 150 miles north. The trailer's refrigeration
system was broken, and investigators said passengers struggled to breathe as
the temperature rose to dangerous levels. One witness told The Associated Press
he heard people crying and asking for water.
Investigators have said they believe Bradley was part of a broader conspiracy
funding and planning the smuggling operation.
According to a criminal complaint released in July, Bradley told investigators
that the trailer had been sold and he was transporting it for his boss from
Iowa to Brownsville, Texas. But said he had driven to Laredo and stopped twice
there before driving back to San Antonio, in the opposite direction from
He denied knowing people were inside the trailer. After hearing banging and
shaking, he opened the door and was "surprised when he was run over by
'Spanish' people and knocked to the ground," according to the criminal
Human smuggling operations often linked to Mexican drug cartels are a major
problem for law enforcement along the United States' southern border. Border
Patrol agents in West Texas found 20 people crammed in a semitrailer just this
week, 1 day after police in the border city of Edinburg discovered 16 people
inside another trailer.
Most of the people known to have been on board were from Mexico. Others are
believed to have fled from the truck after it stopped.
(source: Associated Press)
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