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death penalty news----N.C., FLA., OHIO, MO., NEV., USA
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Rick Halperin
2017-10-31 14:09:33 UTC
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Oct. 31



NORTH CAROLINA:

Gupton found guilty of 1st-degree murder, faces death penalty



Emotions ran high late Monday afternoon after jurors announced their verdict in
the capital murder trial of Garry Gupton.

After more than 3 days of deliberations, 7 women and 5 men found Gupton, 29,
guilty of 1st-degree murder in the death of 46-year-old Stephen White.

He was also found guilty of 1st-degree arson after setting a room on fire at
the Battleground Inn, the culmination of an attack on White that ended his
life.

13 bailiffs and a K-9 officer were scattered around the courtroom as Superior
Court Judge Michael Duncan reminded everyone to remain composed as the verdict
was read. Each juror was asked to individually confirm his or her verdict.

White's family looked stunned, their eyes wide, as the judge went through the
verdicts of each juror, who have spent the past 5 weeks in the jury box.

Gupton stood next to his attorneys, his face emotionless, while he looked at
each jury member as he or she confirmed his guilt.

Gupton's father, who sat a few rows behind his son, turned pale and balanced
his head against the knuckles of interlocked fingers.

Emotions grew more intense as Duncan dismissed court.

In the next few moments, Guilford County Assistant District Attorney Robert
Enochs gathered the White family and took them to the prosecutors' offices.

A juror walked to the elevator in tears. Not allowed to talk about the case,
she turned and said, "I'm emotional by nature," before disappearing behind the
elevator's silver doors.

Gupton's father, Gerald Gupton, walked out of the courtroom and fell to the
ground. He leaned against a wall, dialed his wife's number and cried as he
tried to talk to her.

Gupton's Greensboro attorneys Ames Chamberlin and Wayne Baucino led their
client to the elevators and declined to speak with the media.

Duncan told jurors to expect to hear opening and closing statements, testimony
and evidence for a 3-day period beginning Nov. 6 before they decide whether
Gupton should face the death penalty.

Since Oct. 2, jurors have listened to disturbing testimony and seen graphic
images that depict the agonizing last days of White's life. Pictures showed
burns so severe that White's bones were visible. They also listened to Gupton
explain his struggles with his sexuality.

During testimony, Gupton said he met White on Nov. 8, 2014, at a gay bar and
the pair agreed to have sex at the Battleground Inn. However, Gupton said
something happened during the sexual encounter that led him to hit, strangle
and beat White before setting a comforter on fire next to his unconscious body.

Injuries from the fire ultimately led to White's death 7 days later on Nov. 15,
2014.

Late last week, jurors requested photographs of a condom and other items found
in the hotel as well as copies of reports that evaluated Gupton's sanity.

On Monday, they reviewed video of Gupton coming off an elevator in the hotel
after setting the fire.

In closing arguments, the prosecution and defense presented 2 different
portraits of Gupton that jurors had to evaluate.

Baucino asked jurors to think of Gupton as a kind, loving man whose psychotic
break caused him to kill White.

Enochs painted a picture of a man confused about his sexuality, someone who
needed drugs and alcohol to give him the courage to pick up White and take him
back to the hotel for sex before killing him.

"Garry was insane at the time he committed this offense," Baucino said during
his closing argument.

Video from officers' body cameras showed Gupton screaming that terrorists were
inside the Battleground Inn with explosives. He begged police not to go inside.

Enochs told jurors last week that Baucino's statement was an "insult" to those
who actually suffer from mental health problems.

"It's an insult to someone who suffers from a mental illness that someone who
drank too much and did drugs blamed his murderous actions on mental illness,"
he said.

Jurors struggled Monday with the fact that Gupton did actually have a mental
break, but it seemed self-induced. They asked for help from the judge on how to
apply that to the law before ruling on his guilt.

(source Winston-Salem JOurnal)








FLORIDA:

A Haitian-American sentenced to death in Florida



Friday in Florida, Haitian-American Mesac Damas (41) was sentenced to death by
Collier County Judge Christine Greider for killing his wife and five children
in September 2009. He was sentenced after pleading guilty to 6 counts of 1st
degree murder, waived his right to a jury and also waived his right to have his
lawyers present mitigating evidence in his favor. Judge Greider told the court,
"Because death is a unique punishment in its finality, its application is
reserved only for those cases where only the most aggravating and least
mitigating circumstances exist." Note that the Mesac Damascus affair had been
dragging on for almost 8 years, marked by numerous appeals by his lawyers to
avoid the death penalty.

"I love my people, my wife and children. But this thing happened [...] I wish I
had an answer for it, but I don't," said Damascus in court "From now on, I'm
just going to put my trust in him, and say sorry to the whole world."

Let's recall that in September 2009 Damascus savagely killed in North Naples,
in the family home, his wife, Guerline Dieu Damas, 32, and his five children:
Michzach, 9, Marven, 6, Maven, 5, Megan , 3 years and Morgan 11 months, cutting
their throats. At the time, Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk described the
killings as "the most horrible and violent event in the county's history."

After the murder Mesac Damascus had fled to Haiti where he was arrested 3 days
later by the National Police of Haiti (PNH) and extradited and handed over to
US justice. Damascus said at the time that he did not run away but that he went
to Haiti to say goodbye to his family and that he then intended to go to court.

After acknowledging killing his family at a "Naples News" reporter on his
return to the United States, he said he wanted the jury to immediately send him
to death before adding that his children and his wife were innocent... At the
reporter's question "Then why, why would you kill them ?" he would have
answered "The devil exists... When I did it my eyes was closed, right now my
eyes are open [..."

A statement that had contributed, among other things, to the delay in his
trial, his lawyers having claimed that he had suffered a traumatic brain injury
and had a long history of mental illness that had begun during his childhood in
Haiti. A defense rejected by the court, the public prosecutor having brought
elements of premeditation including the purchase of the knife a few days before
the tragedy, and proved that the accused was perfectly able to distinguish what
is good from what is wrong and were therefore responsible for his actions at
the time of the murder.

(source: haitilibre.com)








OHIO----impending execution

Doctor approves of ill inmate sitting up during execution



Allowing a condemned killer with health problems to partially sit up during his
execution next month would be a "reasonable" accommodation, according to a
doctor working for Ohio's prison system.

Death row inmate Alva Campbell became mildly agitated when officials tried
lowering him to a normal execution position in an Oct. 19 test, according to a
medical review by Dr. James McWeeney, a contractor for the Department of
Rehabilitation and Correction.

McWeeney noted there were no objective findings such as increased pulse rate or
breathing to corroborate Campbell's anxiety.

"Nevertheless, given the events observed at this examination and the patient's
underlying pulmonary and mental health disorders, it would be reasonable to
make an accommodation for the patient during the execution process that would
permit him to lay in a semi-recumbent position," the doctor wrote.

McWeeney also said he couldn't find veins suitable for inserting an IV on
either of Campbell's arms.

In 2009, problems placing an IV in the arms of death row inmate Romell Broom
led to the cancellation of the execution after almost 2 hours and 18 needle
sticks. Broom remains on death row, arguing in court the state shouldn't be
allowed a 2nd attempt to execute him.

Campbell is scheduled to die Nov. 15 for fatally shooting teenager Charles
Dials during a 1997 carjacking.

Campbell, 69, has severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder as the result
of a decadeslong 2-pack-a-day smoking habit that finally stopped 9 years ago,
the doctor said.

Campbell's attorneys also say he uses a walker, relies on an external colostomy
bag, requires 4 breathing treatments a day and may have lung cancer.

Campbell's health problems "could create a spectacle of a terminally ill man,
with tourniquets on his arms and legs, being stabbed repeatedly to no avail,'
defense attorney David Stebbins said Monday.

The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said it "has taken Campbell's
medical conditions under consideration for planning of possible accommodations
for his execution."

Campbell was regularly beaten, sexually abused and tortured as a child,
Stebbins and other attorneys argued in court filings and before the Ohio Parole
Board.

The board rejected Campbell's request for mercy earlier this month. Republican
Gov. John Kasich, who has spared some inmates while rejecting clemency for
others, has the final say.

Prosecutors say Campbell's health claims are ironic given he faked paralysis to
escape court custody the day he killed Dials.

Campbell was paroled in 1992 after serving 20 years for killing a man in a
Cleveland bar. On April 2, 1997, Campbell was in a wheelchair when he
overpowered a Franklin County sheriff's deputy on the way to a court hearing on
several armed robbery charges, records show.

Campbell took the deputy's gun, carjacked the 18-year-old Dials and drove
around with him for several hours before shooting him twice in the head as
Dials crouched in the footwell of his own truck, according to court records.

Franklin County prosecutor Ron O'Brien calls Campbell "the poster child for the
death penalty."

(source: The Republic)

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

Spare people with severe mental illness



American courts long have held that the death penalty is unjust for people who
weren't adults or were developmentally disabled when they committed their
crimes. Execution is no fairer for people who commit crimes while they are
severely mentally ill.

House Bill 81 would give lawyers for a small subset of the most severely
mentally ill defendants a chance to argue that their clients should be exempt
from execution. This reasonable law has been parked in the House Criminal
Justice Committee since May. It deserves consideration.

Taking the death penalty off the table for those with severe mental illness was
a key recommendation of the Ohio Supreme Court's Death Penalty Task Force, a
panel of judges, lawyers and policymakers who spent hundreds of hours examining
the fairness of Ohio's death penalty. Only a handful of the 56 recommendations,
issued in 2014, have been carried out. That reflects poorly on lawmakers who
are more concerned with looking tough on crime than ensuring justice.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Bill Seitz of Cincinnati and Democrat Nickie
Antonio of Lakewood, actually is a compromise from the task force's report.
While the report called for banning such executions outright, the bill would
require the defendant's attorney to convince a judge that the defendant
qualifies, and gives prosecutors the chance for rebuttal.

It would allow only 5 diagnoses, narrowly defined, to qualify for exclusion
from execution: schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder,
major depressive disorder and delusional disorder.

Opponents, which include the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, claim that
passing the bill would unleash a tide of petitions from death-row inmates
claiming mental illness to have their sentences overturned. But of 26 people
currently sentenced to death in Ohio, only 2 would qualify to even apply.

Disqualifying severely mentally ill people from execution doesn't excuse them
from punishment; they can be imprisoned for life with no chance of parole.

While the most important argument in favor of H.B. 81 is the moral one, it has
practical benefits, as well. Trying death-penalty cases is expensive, involving
years of appeals. Cases with defendants who are mentally ill would be
especially subject to post-conviction litigation. Dispensing with the issue
early in the trial would be especially helpful to small counties with smaller
court budgets.

But mostly it's about justness and decency. Public fear of mental illness
persists, despite efforts by advocates to end the stigma. While current law
allows a defense lawyer to point to a defendant's mental illness as a
mitigating factor in sentencing - a reason to consider sparing execution - a
study by the University of Cincinnati showed that a defendant's mental illness
actually makes juries more likely to recommend death, not less.

Nothing in H.B. 81 excuses people with mental illness from responsibility for
their crimes. Those convicted and sentenced to life in prison will pose no
danger to the public. Nor does it take away the availability of the death
penalty for offenders who aren't mentally ill. Public debate about the death
penalty overall will continue.

No matter how that debate proceeds, Ohio should take an enlightened stand and
end the execution of people too sick to comprehend their crimes.

(source: Editorial, Columbus Dispatch)








MISSOURI:

Ellington Couple Slain: Duo Arrested, Death Penalty To Be Sought----Authorities
believe the suspects may have initially planned to scam the couple, but
ultimately decided to rob them, prosecutors said.



James Nance, 86, and his wife, Janet, 72, were shot to death earlier this month
during a a robbery at their home near Ellington, Missouri, authorities have
said. The couple's 73-year-old friend survived being twice shot in the head.

Because there was evidence that the crimes were planned ahead of time, Reynolds
County prosecutor Michael Randazzo told The Associated Press on Monday he will
pursue the death penalty against Timothy Callahan, 44, of Farmington, Missouri,
and David Young, 67, of Ironton, Missouri.

The duo was arrested Saturday at a motel in Deerfield Township, Ohio, near
Cincinnati. Both were charged with 2 counts each of 1st-degree murder.

Randazzo said he will file additional charges of armed criminal action, robbery
and assault against both men, who were jailed without bond in Ohio awaiting
extradition.

Young was on probation after pleading guilty in 2016 to financial exploitation
of the elderly or disabled in Pulaski County, according to Missouri Case Net,
the state's online court reporting system. He was arrested again in September
and charged with scamming an elderly couple out of thousands of dollars by
convincing them to write multiple checks for the same job - painting their
barn.

"He would drive around looking for decent-looking homes, elderly couples, and
try to do work for them," Randazzo said.

Authorities believe the men may have originally planned a similar scam on the
Nances. Randazzo said it appeared they had contacted the couple about doing
work at their home, but ultimately decided instead to rob James Nance.

Randazzo said the robbery was in progress when Janet Nance and her friend
returned home from a shopping trip and encountered the gunmen.

(source: patch.com)






NEVADA----imending volunteer execution

Gov. Sandoval, stop Dozier's execution: Viloria



As a prosecutor with the original Major Violators Unit of the Washoe County
District Attorney's office, I sought the death penalty in 5 1st-degree murder
cases. I have great respect for the rule of law.

I am disturbed that the State of Nevada is about to resume executions after an
11-year hiatus.

Much has changed since the last execution was conducted in April 2006. The
drugs historically used in lethal injection are no longer available due to
manufacturers' unwillingness to have their products used in executions. A dozen
states have repealed their death penalty laws or imposed moratoria on pursuing
new death sentences. Most states are not using the death penalty even if it is
still in their laws.

Yet on Nov. 14, the State of Nevada is planning to put Scott Dozier to death,
based on his wish to die.

I am especially appalled to read the state intends to use a combination of
drugs on Mr. Dozier that has never before been used in an execution. Under
these experimental circumstances, the risk of a botched execution is real (one
in which the inmate dies, but the process is seriously mishandled). Prison
staff has not conducted any execution in over a decade, let alone with this
unusual combination of drugs. The untested drug combination, which involves a
paralytic, an opioid and an anti-anxiety drug, also creates the likelihood that
the execution will cause unnecessary and cruel suffering.

It should be remembered Mr. Dozier is a "volunteer" - he has asked the state to
assist in his suicide. If the state cannot currently find suitable (not
experimental) drugs for an execution, Mr. Dozier will remain in prison where he
should be.

As a former prosecutor, I hope that the governor understands what an enormous
risk it is to allow the Department of Corrections to proceed with the execution
of Scott Dozier using an experimental combination of drugs.

I would urge Governor Sandoval to stop this execution from going forward based
on grave concerns about the possibility of an unconstitutional or bungled
execution.

Mr. Viloria prosecuted death penalty cases in the Major Violators unit of the
Washoe County District Attorney's office. He is now in private practice in
Reno.

(source: Reno Gazette Journal)








USA:

Supreme Court hears oral arguments in death penalty case



A death penalty case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court Oct. 30 examines
whether a Texas death-row inmate was given effective counsel when he was
sentenced to death in 1997.

Lawyers for Carlos Ayestas say that if his physical and mental condition had
been thoroughly researched, such details would have been provided to the court
and might have persuaded the jury to give him a life sentence.

Ayestas, an immigrant from Honduras, was sentenced to death for strangling a
woman after an apparent burglary in her home in Houston. The case is Ayestas v.
Davis.

Lawyers for his appeal have argued that trial and state appellate lawyers
didn't do enough to investigate Ayestas' background of multiple head traumas
and mental illness. They also say federal courts refused a request for funds to
do this type of investigation, despite a federal law aimed at improving legal
representation in capital cases.

The argument in defense of Ayestas focused on how federal courts have withheld
money needed to properly investigate mitigating evidence to provide jurors with
the most accurate picture before deciding if a defendant should be put to
death.

"How can you stand here and say that this kind of investigation meets any
constitutional standard?" Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointedly asked
Scott Keller, Texas' solicitor general. She noted that it looked to her that
the investigation for Ayestas' trial failed to obtain school records, reach out
to parents or talk to witnesses where Ayestas worked in Texas.

"All of those things suggest to me deficient performance," she added.

Justice Samuel Alito spoke of the need to follow through with investigations
because there is "so much at stake."

Keller said the court subpoenaed psychological and disciplinary records, made
multiple attempts to contact the Honduran family members, contacted several
potential witnesses, searched criminal histories and attempted to obtain
deportation records.

Lee Kovarksy, a University of Maryland law professor who is representing
Ayestas, pointed out that the sentencing phase lasted 2 minutes, no mental
health expert examined the defendant and the trial counsel had failed to follow
up on red flags.

He argued that unless the federal courts reverse their policies and provide
money for a specialized investigator in the case, Ayestas will be executed
without a judge or juror hearing evidence that might have resulted in a
sentence of life in prison.

The focus in this case is the U.S. Criminal Justice Act, which includes a
provision that says that says low-income death-row inmates can get
court-provided money to hire investigators and experts who are "reasonably
necessary" to pursue an appeal.

Ayestas' request for such funding was denied by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals, which said the inmate did not demonstrate a "substantial need."

The brief filed by the state of Texas in the case said the lower court properly
denied Ayestas' request for funds to further investigate his case and described
it as highly unlikely that evidence of mental illness, brain injuries or drug
and alcohol abuse in his past would have changed his sentence.

A ruling is expected before the court's term ends next summer.

(source: National Catholic Reporter)

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