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death penalty news----N.C., GA., FLA., ALA., OHIO
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Rick Halperin
2017-04-07 13:30:41 UTC
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April 7



NORTH CAROLINA:

Victim's family: Buncombe murder suspect deserves death penalty


The man charged with killing a Barnardsville man last month deserves the death
penalty, the victim's family said after a Thursday hearing in Buncombe County
District Court.

Timothy Robert Gallion, 48, of Barnardsville, faces a 1st-degree murder charge
and a 2nd-degree arson charge, according to the Buncombe County Sheriff's
Office. He is accused of fatally shooting Bobby Ray Pegg II, who was found at 2
p.m. March 23 inside his Barnardsville home in the 600 block of Dillingham
Road. Gallion was arrested Wednesday afternoon by the sheriff's office.

Pegg had suffered a gunshot wound, authorities said. The sheriff's office did
not rule the incident a homicide until the following day after evidence showed
there had been foul play.

Pegg's friends and family described him as a loving person with no enemies. He
had 3 children.

Pegg's former girlfriend and mother of his oldest child, Amber Coffey-Phillips,
said he was a caring person.

"He had a giving nature and oftentimes would give the last of what he had to
someone who needed it, even if doing so would cause him to go without," she
said.

The Asheville-Buncombe Arson Task Force charged Gallion in connection to a fire
March 22 at 456 Dillingham Road, which was the former home of Carson's Grocery
& Services, according to arson investigator Breena Williams.

The Barnardsville Fire Department responded to the incident at 4:31 p.m. that
day. When they got on scene it was considered a working fire. The building was
a 60 % loss, Williams said.

Investigators determined "it was in an area that could not have started any
other way than arson," Williams said. "It had to be set intentionally."

She could not go into detail on how authorities learned it was Gallion. The
sheriff's office had not released any details about what led to his arrest by
midday Thursday.

Pegg's mother, sister and niece sat in the front row of the courtroom Thursday
for about 2 hours before Gallion appeared before a judge.

Buncombe County District Court Judge Jerry F. Waddell told Gallion that he has
been charged with 2 serious crimes and could face the possibility of the death
penalty or life in prison without parole if he is found guilty of 1st-degree
murder.

If he is found guilty of 2nd-degree arson, he could face a maximum sentence in
prison of 47 years, Waddell said.

Gallion said he could not afford an attorney and Waddell granted him a
court-appointed attorney.

Buncombe County Assistant Public Defender Kerry Glasoe-Grant requested the
capital defender's office be appointed to defend him, which Waddell approved.

Gallion's next court date was scheduled for April 23 in Buncombe County
District Court. He will remain in custody at the Buncombe County Detention
Facility in lieu of no bond.

After the court hearing, Pegg's sister Donna Summey said that Gallion deserves
the death penalty and his mother agreed.

"He deserves the death penalty," said his mother Jeannette Pegg. "I won't
settle for anything else."

Gallion and Pegg were friends, according to friends and family. But they said
they did not know why Gallion would kill Pegg.

Gallion has several pending charges in Buncombe County, according to court
records.

He has also been charged with felony possession of firearm by felon, driving
without registration, driving with no inspection completed, concealing a gun
after or while consuming alcohol, driving left of center and resisting public
officers, records show.

He was scheduled to appear April 12 on those charges, according to court
records.

A bill of indictment filed Tuesday with the U.S. District Court for the Western
District of North Carolina states Gallion had a 12 gauge shotgun March 22 when
he has previously been convicted of at least 1 crime punishable by a prison
term exceeding 1 year. He had been convicted of discharging a firearm into
occupied property.

The Grand Jury found probable cause that he was in possession of a shotgun and
shotgun shells, according to a bill of indictment.

A criminal complaint was filed March 28 outlining events that occurred March 22
involving Gallion.

Buncombe County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Trey McDonald received information March
22 that Gallion was wanted on active warrants for communicating threats, an
indictment states.

"Gallion had threatened to kill his family, law enforcement and himself," an
indictment said.

He was later located on Whittemore Branch Road. A deputy turned his blue lights
on and attempted to stop Gallion but he refused to stop his vehicle and show
his hands. Two more deputies arrived on scene preventing Gallion from going
anywhere, according to the court document.

Gallion attempted to backup, but McDonald put his vehicle in park and asked him
to show both of his hands. As McDonald was speaking to Gallion, he noticed a
pistol grip of a shotgun positioned beside Gallion's right leg, the indictment
states.

The shotgun was then secured and Gallion was arrested. Authorities believed he
was intoxicated and searched the vehicle finding 2 additional firearms and
numerous rounds of ammunition.

He has also been convicted of 5 driving while impaired and several other
charges dating back to 1986, according to state records.

In 2013, he was convicted of driving while impaired level 2 and 2 counts of
aggravated driving while impaired level 1. He was convicted of driving while
impaired level 2, discharging a firearm into occupied property and
communicating threats in 2012.

He was convicted of driving while impaired level one, reckless driving and
resisting a public officer in 2008. He was also convicted of misdemeanor
breaking and entering and larceny in 1986.

He has spent about 3 years in prison for previous offenses, according to state
records.

Pegg grew up in Barnardsville and attended North Buncombe High School in the
1980s. Since then, he remained in the area working side jobs, mostly in
construction.

Tennille Anderson met Pegg at North Buncombe High School and shortly after they
began dating, she said. Their relationship didn't last past high school, but
they remained close friends and kept in touch over the years.

Anderson was glad to hear an arrest was made in the investigation Wednesday.

"I'm happy that his family now has closure and that they can begin the grieving
process," she said. "Bobby meant the world to a lot of people."

Pegg enjoyed practical jokes and making people laugh, Coffey-Phillips said. "He
met most people with a huge smile, more often than not a joke.???

Coffey-Phillips was in a relationship with Pegg for more than a decade. Despite
their romantic separation, they remained close friends.

"Bobby's death was a senseless and confusing act that I cannot seem to grasp,"
she said. "I cannot fathom anyone disliking him, especially enough to end his
life in such a cold way."

"Bobby touched a lot of lives," she said. "He was a very special person, one
you don't encounter every day."

Pegg had 2 daughters and a son.

(source: Citizen-Times)






GEORGIA:

Alleged gunman, 2 co-defendants plead not guilty in Savannah death penalty
prosecutions


The alleged gunman and 2 co-defendants in an alleged gang-related slaying
pleaded not guilty Thursday in their death penalty trials for the slaying of
Dominique Powell last year in Tatemville.

Timothy Coleman Jr., 21, who prosecutors charge shot Powell on Sept. 12, Tyriek
Walker, 21, and Artez Strain, 22, each entered pleas during separate
appearances before Chatham County Superior Court Judge John E. Morse Jr.

Arraignment of a 4th defendant, alleged crime mastermind Arthur Newton, 23, has
been postponed until a later date. He was disruptive in a December court
appearance and apparently refused to come into open court on Monday during a
hearing on media coverage of the case.

All 4 are charged with murder and related offenses in the shooting death of
Powell, 24, in an apparent retaliatory slaying.

Prosecutors, headed by District Attorney Meg Heap and her assistant, Matt
Breedon, contend the 4 were members of the nationally affiliated Bloods gang.

Charges included:

-- Coleman in a 20-count indictment that charges he shot and killed Powell
while "associated with a criminal street gang, to wit: Bloods' in violation of
the State Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act."

-- Walker in a 12-count indictment that charges him as a party to a crime
that, at the request of Newton and Coleman, he provided Powell's address to
Coleman and that Coleman shot Powell. He also is charged with being associated
with the Bloods, "a criminal street gang."

-- Strain in a 12-count indictment as a party to the crime of murder by
driving Coleman to the murder scene where he shot Powell as well as being
associated with the Bloods, a criminal street gang.

Morse has scheduled subsequent events in the case. Defense attorneys for each
defendant are expected to file in excess of 100 pre-trial motions in each case.

Because they are seeking the death penalty for each, the state Public Defender
Council and its capital defenders, who specialize in such cases, are
representing each. Also because the death penalty is involved, each defendant
will have a separate trial and separate court appearance on all pre-trial
matters.

In court documents filed in the case, Heap alleged that Newton directed another
to commit Powell's slaying and that Coleman was the gunman. She also alleged
that Coleman committed the murder of another "for the purpose of receiving
money or any other thing of monetary value" and that he committed the murder as
"an agent of another person."

Walker and Strain also were alleged to have committed the slaying to "receive
money or any other thing of monetary value" as an agent of another person.
Heap's document also alleged that in all 4 cases, "the offense of (Powell) was
outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman, in that it involved
depravity of mind."

Another defendant, Sharonte Williams, 27, who was identified as Newton's
girlfriend, remains at large. She is charged with a non-death penalty offense
and will be tried separately. And Antwan Drayton is indicted on an armed
robbery/aggravated assault charge stemming from a Sept. 8 robbery of Powell for
a wallet, cell phone and firearm - also a non-capital case to be tried
separately.

The shooting

Police responded to a shooting Sept. 12 in the 900 block of Garey Avenue in
Tatemville, where they found Powell suffering with a fatal gunshot wound
outside a residence. Powell was the victim of an armed robbery on Sept. 8 in
the neighborhood. During the robbery, Powell exchanged gunfire with would-be
robbers 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,
Savannah-Chatham police Chief Joseph Lumpkin said.

Strain, Coleman and Walker carried out those orders and participated in
Powell's death, Lumpkin said. According to the indictments, Coleman caused
Powell's death by shooting him on Sept. 12. The indictments charge that Newton
"did intentionally encourage and procure Coleman to commit the crime of malice
murder by shooting Powell."

Newton also was indicted on a felony murder count by procuring Coleman to kill
Powell by shooting him during an aggravated assault and while influencing a
witness, both of which are felonies.

(source: savannahnow.com)

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

Georgia Conservatives Concerned About The Death Penalty


An influx of conservatives from across the country have been speaking out
against the death penalty, and right-leaning groups have formed in more than a
half dozen states with the purpose of ending capital punishment. Earlier this
year, the Georgia Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty group
launched at a press conference held at the State Capitol, and it was attended
by a host of notable Georgia leaders, including a conservative state
representative, a former Republican Party official, a free market think tank
leader, and activists from across the state.

There were a wide variety of concerns discussed at the press conference, but
they all tied into one central theme: the death penalty is inconsistent with
conservative principles. In fact, Republican State Representative Brett Harrell
declared, "I like to make sure that government is as efficient, effective, and
small as possible," but when speaking about capital punishment, "the government
has failed to provide an efficient, effective, accurate system."

Representative Harrell is correct on many counts, but most concerning is that
our government has instituted a death penalty system that constantly risks
innocent lives. Over 156 individuals have been wrongly convicted, sentenced to
die, and later released from death rows across America. Meanwhile, this has
occurred 6 times in Georgia, but others have been executed even though there
were serious questions regarding their verdicts. Press conference participant
and America's Future Foundation chapter leader, Jennifer Maffessanti, pointed
out our judicial system's fallibility and firmly stated that "You had better be
sure [individuals are guilty], but more importantly, you had better be right"
because "there is no taking [an execution] back."

While issues related to life and innocence are often central to conservatives'
opposition to the death penalty, cost also plays an undeniable role. During the
press event, former Georgia Republican Party official, David Burge, explained
that he was confronted by capital punishment's costly and cumbersome process
when he worked as a law clerk for the 11th judicial circuit. He recounted how
researching a single appeal from a life without parole case required about an
afternoon's worth of work, whereas a capital appeal could easily consume a
month and a half of his time. That's when he realized how expensive and complex
the death penalty really was, and he has since concluded that capital
punishment is a "waste of time, money, and effort."

(source: dailycaller.com)






FLORIDA:

Fact-checking a Florida senator's claim about Supreme Court and death penalty


Florida Sen. Randolph Bracy argues that Gov. Rick Scott overreached when he
issued an order removing Orlando-area prosecutor Aramis D. Ayala from a
high-profile prosecution of an accused cop killer after she said she would not
pursue the death penalty in murder cases.

Bracy, an Orange County Democrat and chairman of the Florida Senate criminal
justice committee, wrote in a New York Times op-ed that prosecutors have broad
discretionary power.

"Although Ms. Ayala's critics have denounced her actions as dereliction of
duty, they cannot point to a single law or statute that she has violated," he
wrote in the April 4 op-ed. "That's because she hasn't. There are no federal or
state laws that say prosecutors must seek death sentences. And the United
States Supreme Court has banned all state laws that make executions mandatory
for murders."

Legal experts told PolitiFact that Bracy is correct. Key court rulings about
the death penalty forbid laws that force prosecutors to seek the death penalty.

Ayala, a Democrat elected as state attorney state attorney in Orlando and
Osceola counties in 2016, announced in March that she would no longer seek the
death penalty. Her decision came while handling the case of Markeith Loyd, who
is accused of killing Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton amid a manhunt for Loyd
after he allegedly killed his ex-girlfriend.

(source: Miami Herald)

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

Court throws out non-unanimous death sentence of man who set girlfriend on fire


Florida's Supreme Court on Thursday vacated the non-unanimous death sentence of
an Orange County man convicted of killing his girlfriend by binding her wrists
and setting her on fire.

Within a few hours, Gov. Rick Scott signed an executive order taking the case
away from Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala, who has said she will not
seek the death penalty for anyone during her tenure. The office of State
Attorney Brad King, whose district includes Marion and Lake counties, will
prosecute the case instead.

Dane Abdool's case is 1 of 10 non-unanimous death verdicts in Orange and
Osceola counties now up for review after courts ruled that juries in death
cases must be unanimous. It will return to local courts, where a new jury will
likely have to decide whether he should live or die.

Eryka Washington, Ayala's spokeswoman, said Ayala's office received the
executive order and had no further comment. On Monday, Washington said the
governor "is abusing his authority and has compromised the independence and
integrity of the criminal justice system" by reassigning 21 death-penalty cases
to King.

Abdool's case and that of convicted killer Bessman Okafor were the only 2
capital cases not transferred Monday, since they were both awaiting Florida
Supreme Court decisions. Okafor's case is still pending in the state's highest
court.

Abdool, who is now 30, was 19 when his 17-year-old girlfriend's remains were
found on the side of a Winter Garden road in 2006. Amelia Sookdeo had been
doused with gasoline, and her body was in the fetal position near County Road
545.

Amelia and Abdool had dated on and off. They were broken up in 2006 when she
told him she was pregnant - though, after her death a few weeks later, her
autopsy determined that she was not.

On Feb. 25, 2006, Amelia left her home and went to meet Abdool in his
apartment. They had sex and argued about her pregnancy. Then he agreed to drive
her home, prosecutors said during his trial.

But instead of taking her home, Abdool stopped at a 7-Eleven and bought a red
gas can and duct tape while Amelia waited in the car, prosecutors said.

He then drove to an empty area of Winter Garden, where he poured gasoline on
her and watched her body burn before getting back into his car and driving
away, according to a psychologist who testified at his trial.

2 years later, an Orange County jury recommended the death penalty for Abdool
by a vote of 10-2. Since then, courts have ruled that non-unanimous verdicts in
capital cases are unconstitutional, because they give too much power to judges
and not enough to juries.

The Florida Supreme Court vacated Abdool's death sentence on those grounds
Thursday, citing the 2016 case Hurst vs. Florida, in which the U.S. Supreme
Court ruled Florida's death penalty proceedings unconstitutional because they
did not require unanimous juries in the sentencing phase.

(source: Orlando Sentinel)






ALABAMA:

Overdue fix to judicial imbalance


Last week, Alabama was the last state in the U.S. whose laws empowered a judge
to overrule a jury's sentencing verdict in a death penalty case. This week, it
joined the rest of the country in taking that life-or-death decision out of the
hands of one official, and capital punishment politics out of the sentencing
process.

It's encouraging to note that legislative support in Montgomery for ending this
archaic and morally dubious practice was not partisan, and not close. The bill
sailed through the House on Tuesday by a 78-19 margin after near-unanimous
(30-1) Senate approval in February. Gov. Robert Bentley, who is facing his own
legal troubles of a different order, said after final House passage that he
looked forward to signing it.

"It was a bad practice," Sen. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery, the bill's chief
sponsor, told the Montgomery Advertiser. "It showed a lack of confidence in
Alabama juries, and I just think we came to the same conclusion of 49 other
states. It just took longer."

Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, author of the House version, said the
practice of judicial override "almost undermines the constitutional right to
trial by a jury of your peers."

Even worse, to many of the law's critics, than the usurpation of jury authority
to decide sentencing in capital cases was the possibility - in some cases,
almost certainly, the likelihood - of politics hanging over the decision of
whether a convicted criminal lived or died.

Records compiled by the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative show that
judges in Alabama have overruled jury sentencing recommendations 112 times. In
11 of those cases, the judge changed a jury's recommendation of the death
penalty to a life sentence. In the other 101, the judge changed a jury's
recommendation of a life sentence to a sentence of execution. Brewbaker noted
in Senate committee meetings on the bill that more than 1/2 of the overrides
between 2005 and 2015 were in election years. "No matter how you feel about
override philosophically, no one thinks sentencing should be affected by the
election cycle," he told the Advertiser.

Current Alabama law requires the consent of at least 10 jurors for a jury to
recommend a death sentence. England's original bill would have changed that to
require a unanimous vote: "Why would it take a unanimous jury to convict but
less than a unanimous jury to send someone to death?" England said in an al.com
report. But the bill with that change lacked the votes for passage, and ending
judicial override was the objective anyway.

"Judicial override is about to become a thing of the past, and Alabama's
justice system will be better as a result," Kimble Forrister, executive
director of Alabama Arise, said in a statement on the nonprofit's website.
"It's time for our state to put the sentencing decisions in death penalty cases
where they belong: in the jury's hands."

We agree. So, it's gratifying to see, do an overwhelming majority of Alabama
lawmakers.

ledger-enquirer.com/opinion)

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

No rush to the death chamber


Among the laundry list of challenges facing Alabama lawmakers is one presented
by controversy over execution methods. With the 4th-largest death row
population in the nation, Alabama needs an effective way to dispense the death
penalty.

Since the retirement of the state's electric chair, Yellow Mama, in 2002, state
officials have struggled with lethal injection, which doesn't always work as
expected. In other words, the condemned inmates don't always drift off to death
as if falling asleep, instead retaining some level of consciousness and
suffering in the process.

Beyond that, there have been shortages in availability of the drugs used in the
execution cocktail, as drug manufacturers don't want the stigma of producing
the components of capital punishment.

Lawmakers have been spit-balling ideas for several years, and have considered
bringing back the electric chair or even instituting a firing squad.

Among the most recent notions is execution by nitrogen gas, a method in use by
only one death penalty state, Oklahoma. Sen. Trip Pittman of Montrose, is
sponsoring a bill that would establish that method in Alabama; it has already
passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. Pittman's measure originally called for
firing squad execution; he replaced that with nitrogen gas, which he calls "the
most humane way of implementing that sentence."

That may well be the case. However, his colleagues are balking at the prospect,
saying they don't know enough about the method.

That's a wise position. Oklahoma implemented the nitrogen gas execution method
in April 2015, and has not conducted an execution since.

Alabama has 183 inmates on Death Row, but there's no reason to rush to the
death chamber with a poorly researched and untested method of execution. The
path from sentencing to execution routinely takes decades to navigate. Waiting
for due diligence on a new execution method is well worth any additional delay.

(source: Editorial, Dothan Eagle)

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

Alabama Follows Oklahoma's Death Row Lead


An Alabama committee has passed a bill allowing death row inmates to be
executed with nitrogen gas.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the measure 6-3 Wednesday.

Montrose Republican Sen. Trip Pittman says his bill would make Alabama the 2nd
state in country behind Oklahoma to allow a person to be put to death with
nitrogen.

Alabama currently gives death row inmates the choice between the electric chair
and lethal injection. Pittman says using nitrogen would be more humane. An
earlier version of his bill proposed firing squads executions.

Opponents argued against the death penalty and said they didn't know enough
about using the gas for capital punishment.

Records show Alabama has the 4th largest death row population in the country
with 183 prisoners.

The bill now moves to the Senate.

(source: Associated Press)


OHIO:

Court Blocks Ohio Execution Protocol----Decision allows death-row inmates to
challenge use of midazolam at trial


A federal appeals court on Thursday blocked Ohio from using its
lethal-injection protocol to execute 3 inmates, buoying a constitutional
challenge to a drug used in at least 5 states.

The ruling by the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati pauses the
state's application of the protocol while death-row inmates Ronald Phillips,
Raymond Tibbetts and Gary Otte mount their challenge in a federal trial court.

A federal appeals court on Thursday blocked Ohio from using its
lethal-injection protocol to execute 3 inmates, buoying a constitutional
challenge to a drug used in at least 5 states.

The ruling by the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati pauses the
state's application of the protocol while death-row inmates Ronald Phillips,
Raymond Tibbetts and Gary Otte mount their challenge in a federal trial court.

A lower federal court in Dayton blocked Ohio's protocol in January, ruling that
the inmates were likely to succeed in showing that the use of midazolam - the
1st of 3 drugs - to render them unconscious could cause them to suffer, in
violation of the Eighth Amendment. If the drug doesn't work, they would be
awake for the 2nd and 3rd drugs, which stop the heart.

The state appealed. Judge Karen Nelson Moore, writing for the 2-1 majority of
the Sixth Circuit, said the lower court hadn't clearly erred in the January
ruling. She credited the testimony of experts for the inmates who said
midazolam is used to sedate patients, but that it can't produce a state of
general anesthesia or unconsciousness.

Ohio's experts testified that midazolam is sufficient to render a person
unconscious at high enough doses.

Lawyers for the 3 inmates didn't respond to requests for comment. A spokeswoman
for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said the office is reviewing the
decision.

The case could loom large in last-ditch efforts by lawyers for 8 death-row
inmates scheduled to be executed this month in Arkansas, which also uses
midazolam in its protocol. Alabama, Oklahoma and Virginia also use the drug,
but Arizona and Florida recently announced that they were abandoning it, said
Megan McCracken, a lawyer for the Death Penalty Clinic at U.C. Berkeley School
of Law.

Midazolam has faced increasing scrutiny after the 2014 execution of Clayton
Lockett, who initially appeared to lose consciousness after receiving a
100-milligram injection of the drug but then began to writhe and moan. He died
40 minutes later of a heart attack, after officials had halted the procedure.

Witnesses described similar events at the 2014 execution of Dennis McGuire in
Ohio and in 2 more-recent executions in Alabama, even though the Alabama
inmates were given higher doses of midazolam.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to invalidate Oklahoma's lethal-injection
procedures, which are similar to Ohio's, in a 2015 case, ruling that challenges
to methods of execution must show they present a high risk of causing serious
pain and suffering compared with a "known and available alternative."

In the past, executioners would typically use thiopental and pentobarbital,
which belong to a class of drugs known as barbiturates. But makers of the
drugs, under pressure from death-penalty abolitionists, cut back their
availability for executions.

Lawyers for the Ohio inmates have said the state could obtain compounded
pentobarbital as an alternative.

Judge Raymond Kethledge, writing in dissent, highlighted the crimes of the 3
inmates. Mr. Phillips raped and beat to death a 3-year-old girl, while Mr. Otte
robbed and murdered a man and a woman, and Mr. Tibbetts killed an elderly man
and his caretaker.

The judge said the lower court and the majority should have held the inmates to
a higher standard of showing that the protocol was "sure or very likely" to
cause serious pain.

(source: Wall Street Journal)

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