Discussion:
death penalty news----TEXAS, MAINE, GA., ALA., TENN., ARK., CALIF., USA
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Rick Halperin
2017-05-17 12:58:21 UTC
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May 17




TEXAS----Vienna Convention issues for foreign national

Court refuses to hear appeal----No execution date set for Mexican man convicted
of killing family found buried


The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to review an appeal from a Mexican
citizen sentenced to death for the sledgehammer killings of his wife and 2
children, who were found buried under the bathroom floor in their Texas home.

The high court didn't include an explanation of its decision not to review the
capial murder conviction of 62-year-old Robert Moreno Ramos. His attorneys have
argued that Ramos wasn't told when he was arrested for the 1992 killings that
he could get legal help from the Mexican government and that he had deficient
legal help at his trial and in earlier appeals. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals rejected their arguments last year.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, found
that Ramos, from Aguascalientes, Mexico, and more than 4 dozen other Mexican
citizens awaiting execution in the U.S. weren't advised of their consular
rights under the Vienna Convention when they were arrested. It recommended that
they be tried again to determine if consular access would have affected their
cases. President George W. Bush agreed and directed states to reopen the cases.

The Supreme Court overruled that directive, saying that only Congress can
require states to follow the international court's ruling. That has not
happened and several Texas inmates named in the international court ruling have
since been executed.

Ramos, who also is identified in some court documents as Roberto Moreno Ramos,
does not have an execution date. Evidence at his 1993 trial in Hidalgo County
showed he used a sledge hammer to kill his 42-year-old wife, Leticia, their
7-year-old daughter, Abigail, and their 3-year-old son, Jonathan, at their home
in Progreso, which is along the Mexico border about 20 miles southeast of
McAllen.

According to court records, Ramos told a cousin they were killed in a car wreck
and their bodies were cremated.

After provideing other conflicting explanations, thouigh, another relative went
to police to report the woman and children missing. Their bodies were found
buried under a freshly tiled floor in the home's bathroom.

(source: Dallas Morning News)

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

Bexar County has shortage of death penalty defense attorneys----Only 11 'first
chair' lawyers meet qualification criteria


The stakes in a capital murder case are as high as they can get. Defendants are
facing either life in prison without the possibility of parole or death by
lethal injection.

Among the attorneys in Bexar County qualified to serve as first chair - lead
counsel - in capital murder cases are Joel Perez and Raymond Fuchs.

Right now, there are 68 capital murder cases pending in Bexar County, but only
11 lawyers who meet the qualifications to represent those defendants.

"I like the challenge," Perez said. "I feel that those individuals need the
best defense that they can get."

Handling capital murder cases, he said, is work intensive and not financially
lucrative.

"There are some lawyers that either for financial reasons or stress have
dropped off the first chair list because of that," Perez said.

The pool of lawyers is selected by a local committee of judges and veteran
lawyers and is governed by state regulations. Regulations District Judge Sid
Harle, who is on the committee, described them as "very, very stringent."

"We have too many courts and too many cases competing for the same pool of
lawyers," Harle said.

Those lawyers are required to have experience that, more often than not, is
elusive.

"You've got to be qualified, but yet they want you to have done it," Fuchs
said. "So you have to be a 2nd chair and that just puts a huge burden on the
first chair."

Death penalty opponents point out that the solution to the problem is to do
away with the death penalty. If things don't change, it is something Harle said
could happen.

"Frankly, if we continue at this pace, then, de facto, we're going to do away
with the death penalty simply because we're not going to be able to get to
trial," he said.

Harle said that legislative changes to the rules are the solution.

"We're not really relaxing the requirements," Harle said. "We're simply giving
the local selection committee more discretion."

Discretion, the judge added, that would mean expanding the pool with additional
competent lawyers.

(source: KSAt news)






MAINE:

Amid offers to help opiate users, LePage suggests death penalty for dealers


Gov. Paul LePage kept his focus on fighting Maine's opiate addiction epidemic
Tuesday when he said he supports a pending bill that would make dealing drugs
that cause an overdose Class A manslaughter.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Scott Cyrway of Benton, has been voted
out of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee and awaits
consideration by the full Legislature.

"I'm all in on that one," LePage said of the bill, during a radio appearance
Tuesday on WVOM. "I think it's a great idea. If you can find the person who
sold the drug that caused the overdose, I think that's murder."

A radio host pointed out that the proposed legislation calls for the dealer to
be charged with manslaughter, not murder.

"Well, it's the same thing," LePage said. "I wish it was murder, and I wish it
was capital punishment. We'd get rid of the problem much quicker."

Maine lawmakers abolished the death penalty in 1876. Some lawmakers and legal
observers have questioned whether Maine law already allows prosecutors to
charge alleged drug dealers with manslaughter in cases when death results from
their actions.

Tuesday's exchange came as Maine's addiction problem draws intense attention
from many angles. Task forces are working on the problem at the state and
federal levels, and there are several bills pending in Maine that seek to
address various aspects of the problem. Last week, the national spotlight shone
on Maine when President Donald Trump's health secretary, Tom Price, attended a
roundtable discussion at the State House about the problem.

Despite his focus, LePage's approach in some instances has been lambasted. He
has been critical of medication-assisted addiction treatment - which Price said
clearly last week is an important tool for helping addicts - and has said
repeatedly that reviving overdose victims with medications such as Narcan
merely extends their lives until the next overdose. LePage is backing a bill
this year that would charge addicts for Narcan after the 1st time it's needed.
The bill is still under consideration by the State and Local Government
Committee.

LePage said he hopes Price's visit attracts more federal funding to Maine and
when it comes to addicts, he reached out Tuesday with an offer to help.

"If you're a user, go get help. Go get help," he said. "Seek help, some form of
rehab or some form of help. ... I'm not sure what we're doing right now is
really helping, but we have a lot of stop-gap measures."

On Monday, the Department of Health and Human Services and the United Way
announced the launch of a new texting option for addicts seeking treatment.
Texting your ZIP code to 898-211 will connect callers with a Maine-based
information specialist who will help them connect with treatment options.

(source: Bangor Daily News)






GEORGIA----execution

Georgia carries out its 1st execution in 2017


Georgia carried out its 1st execution of the year early on Wednesday, putting
to death a man convicted of killing a 73-year-old neighbor in 1992.

J.W. Ledford Jr., 45, was pronounced dead at 1:17 a.m. at the state prison in
Jackson, more than 6 hours after his initial execution time. The delay was
waiting for a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, which denied his request for
a stay.

He was convicted of murder in the January 1992 stabbing death of Dr. Harry
Johnston in Murray County, northwest Georgia.

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles, which is the only authority in Georgia
with the power to commute a death sentence, declined to spare Ledford's life.

Ledford told police he had gone to Johnston's home on Jan. 31, 1992, to ask for
a ride to the grocery store. After the older man accused him of stealing and
smacked him, Ledford pulled out a knife and stabbed Johnston to death,
according to court filings. The pathologist who did the autopsy said Johnston
suffered "1 continuous or 2 slices to the neck" and bled to death.

After dragging Johnston's body to another part of Johnston's property and
covering it up, Ledford went to Johnston's house with a knife and demanded
money from Johnston's wife, according to court filings. He took money and four
guns from the home, tied up Johnston's wife and left in Johnston's truck. He
was arrested later that day.

Ledford told police he had a number of beers and smoked a couple joints in the
hours before the killing.

Ledford's lawyers had asked the parole board to spare him, citing a rough
childhood, substance abuse from an early age and his intellectual disability.
After a hearing Monday, the board declined to grant clemency. Following its
normal practice, the board did not give a reason for its denial.

Because of changes in brain chemistry caused by a drug Ledford has been taking
for chronic nerve pain for more than a decade, there is a high risk that the
pentobarbital Georgia plans to use to execute him will not render him
unconscious and devoid of sensation or feeling, his lawyers wrote in a federal
lawsuit filed Thursday. That would violate the prohibition against cruel and
unusual punishment enshrined in the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,
the lawsuit says.

When challenging an execution method on those grounds, a U.S. Supreme Court
precedent requires inmates to propose a known and available alternative.
Ledford's lawyers, therefore, proposed that he be executed by firing squad, a
method that is not allowed under Georgia law.

A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying Ledford's attorneys had failed to
show that execution by pentobarbital would be "sure or very likely" to cause
him extreme pain as required by U.S. Supreme Court precedent. U.S. District
Judge Steve Jones also said the decision to wait until just a few days before
his execution date to file the lawsuit suggested a stalling tactic.

Ledford's lawyers appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and asked
that court to temporarily halt the execution. A 3-judge panel of the 11th
Circuit on Monday rejected that request. Ledford's attorneys have asked the
full 11th Circuit to take up the case.

Ledford's lawyers had also asked a state court judge to halt the execution
because he was only 20 and his brain wasn't done developing when he killed
Johnston. Just as juvenile offenders are considered less culpable and not the
"worst of the worst" for whom the death penalty is reserved, the execution of
those under 21 is also unconstitutional, Ledford's lawyers argue.

A Butts County Superior Court judge rejected that petition, and Ledford's
lawyers have appealed to the state Supreme Court. The Georgia Supreme Court,
later Tuesday, rejected the appeal of the lower court refusal to stop the
execution.

Ledford becomes the 1st inmate executed this year in Georgia and the 70th
overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983. The state executed
9 inmates last year, more than any other state and the most Georgia had
executed in a single calendar year since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the
death penalty to resume 40 years ago.

Ledford becomes the 13th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the
USA and the 1453rd overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17,
1977. Only Texas (542), Oklahoma (112), Virginia (112), Florida (92) and
Missouri (88) have executed more inmates since the death penalty was
re-legalized on July 2, 1976.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)






ALABAMA:

Alabama House OKs bill speeding up executions


The Alabama House passed a bill Tuesday that proponents say will cut down on
the time that death row inmates can appeal their sentence.

The Fair Justice Act, which passed the Alabama Senate last month, was approved
by the House in a 74-26 vote, streamlines the appeals process by allowing death
row inmates to exercise their 2 appeals concurrently instead of consecutively.
That would occur by having the inmates be assigned 2 appellate teams working
simultaneously.

The bill, called the Fair Justice Act, is sponsored by State Sen. Cam Ward,
R-Alabaster. The bill is now awaiting action in the judiciary committee of the
Alabama House of Representatives.

The bill has to go back to the Senate after the House amended the bill.

Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville, who is supporting the bill in the House, said
the legislation could cut the time for inmates to exhaust their appeals from 20
years to 10 years. He noted that those on death row would not be losing any
rights under the bill.

"Family members of capital murder victims often condemn the length of time it
takes for justice to be served," he said. The bill's passage was lauded by
State Attorney General Steve Marshall.

"I appreciate Rep. Lynn Greer's effort in guiding the Fair Justice Act through
the House. There is no doubt that Alabama's system for reviewing capital cases
is inefficient and in need of repair. The average death row inmate appeal time
is over 15 years and rising," Marshall said in a statement. "Each year that
these appeals drag on, the general public is further removed from and even
desensitized to the horrendous crimes that led to the sentences of every
individual on death row. But, for the families of victims, the pain is not
numbed with the passing of years. The endless appeals process reopens their
wounds again and again."

The Alabama Bar Association urged the House not to pass the bill, saying the
legislation would "ironically likely increase the overall amount of time that
it takes to litigate a capital post-conviction case."

The association, which has no position on the death penalty, cautioned that the
bill prevents death row inmates from changing their petitions after the
deadline and mandates that courts waive later changes.

"This seriously harms individuals whose 1st appeals lawyers failed to
investigate or otherwise provided inadequate representation. These waived
claims will still necessitate subsequent review by state and federal judges who
will need to evaluate whether waiver was caused by ineffective counsel and who
could send the cases back to lower state courts for additional review. This
could have the unintended consequence of adding court proceedings to evaluate
whether claims filed after the short initial deadline still deserve review on
their merits," the ABA said in a letter dated Friday to Senate President Pro
Tem Del Marsh and House Speaker Mac McCutcheon.

"Thus, this legislation could result in a slower overall process with more
delays that further burden Alabama's courts." "Furthermore, the lack of
detailed, meaningful qualification standards in the Fair Justice Act only
increases the chances of this delay being a regular occurrence in Alabama
cases."

Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, echoed one of the ABA's reasons urging a no
vote: That the bill does not give enough time for falsely imprisoned death row
inmates to prove their innocence.

"I would hate to rush the process," he said, adding that the bill is just a
"concept" unless it adds funding for forensics and the criminal justice system.

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

Judge: Alabama death row inmate Tommy Arthur can't get execution records


The Alabama Department of Corrections doesn't have to provide documents to
lawyers for Alabama death row inmate Tommy Arthur related to the executions of
2 other inmates last year, a judge has ruled.

Arthur's attorneys in March filed a request for a writ of mandamus asking a
judge order the Alabama Department of Corrections to provide them records
related to the executions of Christopher Eugene Brooks on Jan. 21, 2016 and
Ronald Bert Smith on Dec. 8. The request was made under the Alabama Open
Records Act.

The ADOC, according to the motion, had declined their request for execution
logs that record the administration of drugs, the performance of a
consciousness assessments, the times of death, and all other events relating to
the executions. The attorneys also requested autopsy reports that record the
cause of death, any evidence of irregularities or potential issues during the
executions, and toxicology screens.

Arthur's attorneys have contended that Brooks and Smith may have suffered
because of Alabama's new lethal injection drug combination. Smith heaved and
gasped for breath for 13 minutes during his execution and two consciousness
tests were performed. The ADOC has said the executions went according to their
protocol.

In a brief order issued Monday afternoon following a hearing in the case the
issue Montgomery Circuit Judge J.R. Gaines granted the ADOC's motion to dismiss
the request by Arthur's attorneys "because certified copies of the autopsy
reports are available upon request from Alabama Department of Forensic Science
and any release of the execution logs would be detrimental to the best
interests of the public."

Akash Toprani, pro bono counsel for Arthur, issued a statement Tuesday.

"The people of Alabama have a right to know what their government is doing in
their name, especially when it involves taking a life. The alarming reports
arising from the recent execution of Ronald Bert Smith, Jr., makes transparency
in the State's administration of the death penalty a matter of critical public
importance, and we are deeply disappointed by today's ruling," Toprani stated.
"If the State is so confident that its lethal injection protocol is
constitutional, it would not obstruct public access to these records."

Arthur, 75,is set to be executed May 25 at the Holman Correctional Facility in
Atmore. It is the 8th time since 2001 that the state has set an execution for
Arthur for his conviction in the 1982 shooting death of Troy Wicker.

Wicker's wife was also convicted of hiring Arthur, with insurance money, to
kill her husband.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied Arthur's appeals earlier this year.

(source for both: al.com)






TENNESSEE:

Judge Allows Prosecutors To Seek Death Penalty Against Erick Jones


Erick Eugene Jones Jr. was served Monday with a superseding presentment
charging him with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and 2 counts of aggravated
child abuse in connection with the December 2014 deaths of 2 children in a
house on North Hardin Street.

Jones was in Greene County Criminal Court for a motions hearing. Judge John F.
Dugger Jr. denied a motion by defense lawyer Douglas Payne to deny a jury the
option of considering the death penalty for Jones, who turned 24 on Monday.

Payne argued that the death penalty constitutes cruel and unusual punishment,
while 3rd District Attorney General Dan Armstrong argued that there is legal
precedent in Tennessee for the death penalty, court officials said.

Prosecutors have indicated that when Jones goes to trial, they may seek the
death penalty.

Dugger also took under advisement another motion by Payne to draw a jury from
another county because of pre-trial publicity the case has received, court
officials said.

Jones had been scheduled to go on trial this month, but the case was recently
rescheduled for trial in January 2018. He has another appearance set for Monday
in Greene County Criminal Court.

The capias presentment was issued March 20 by a Greene County Grand Jury.

Also charged with 1st-degree murder and aggravated child abuse is Kendra Lashae
Tweed in connection with the December 2014 deaths of 2 of Tweed's daughters.

Tweed, 24, was charged in November 2015 with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder, 2
counts of aggravated child endangerment and 2 counts of aggravated child
neglect in connection with the Dec. 17, 2014, deaths of 2 of her daughters:
13-month-old Kynsleigh Easterly and 2-month-old Trinity Brooke Tweed.

Jones, who lived with Kendra Tweed in December 2014 in the house on North
Hardin Street, was indicted in September 2015 by a Greene County Grand Jury on
2 counts of 1st-degree murder in connection with the deaths of the girls, who a
Greeneville police detective testified at a 2015 court hearing suffered blunt
force trauma, including cerebral hemorrhaging, a spinal cord injury, contusions
and abrasions.

Superseding presentments naming Jones include 1st degree-murder in the death of
Trinity Brooke Tweed "in the perpetration of aggravated child abuse" and "in
the perpetration of aggravated child neglect."

Tweed and Jones remain held on $700,000 bond in the Greene County Detention
Center pending further court appearances.

Tweed's 3-year-old daughter was also inside the house when first responders
arrived on Dec. 17, 2014.

Greeneville police said Kynsleigh Easterly was discovered "in distress" after a
call was made to county 911 Dispatch.

Trinity Tweed was found in the house after first responders arrived.

Both girls were rushed to Takoma Regional Hospital's emergency room, where they
were pronounced dead.

(source: Greenville Sun)



ARKANSAS:

Arkansas AG: The Cost to Litigate the State's Recent Executions


The state's 1st executions in more than a decade are over, but the Arkansas
Attorney General's work to determine how much they cost has just begun.

According to Judd Deere, the spokesperson for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge,
their office is still waiting to be billed for some contracted services, like
expert witnesses. However, current numbers show it may not cost as much as
you'd think for execution litigation.

"Our job at the attorney general's office is to see that justice is carried
out, to handle all of the litigation that occurs in these death penalty cases,"
Rutledge said.

In the span of a week, the state of Arkansas put to death 4 inmates by lethal
injection, after legal wrangling ultimately prevented 4 others.

"We just finished a very arduous task over the last 3 or 4 weeks," said Gov.
Asa Hutchinson.

After the governor scheduled the execution dates for the 8 inmates, records
from the attorney general's office reveal the state spent $10,279 in
transcription fees, $2,035 in filing fees and $944 for meals, totaling more
than $13,000.

Unlike a private law firm, Deere said the attorney general's law office doesn't
bill hourly so it's impossible to calculate a precise amount of time the
attorneys devoted to these execution cases.

"In the last couple weeks alone, we had more than 50 cases with regard to those
8 inmates, handling more than 100 filings," Rutledge said. "We have had
attorneys really doing exemplary work on behalf of the people of Arkansas."

There's now 29 prisoners on death row. Rutledge said four, whose names you've
heard before, have essentially exhausted their appeals with a fifth not falling
far behind.

Stacey Johnson's case will be handled in Sevier County, while the Arkansas
State Supreme Court hears Don Davis and Bruce Ward's cases.

Rutledge said Jason McGehee's stay should be lifted sometime in mid-May.

The 5th will be handled in the U.S. Supreme Court.

"The attorney general will keep me posted on that," Hutchinson said.
"Obviously, we always stand ready to do our duty, but I would think there will
be some time before we get to the second set that we might have to do down the
road."

"It's a heavy responsibility," Rutledge said. "But it's one that the people
have trusted us with and that we're going to continue carry out."

(source: ozarksfirst.com)






CALIFORNIA:

Man accused of shooting Whittier police officer to death pleads not guilty


The suspect in the killing of a Whittier police officer in February pleaded not
guilty Monday in Norwalk Superior Court.

Michael Christopher Mejia's attorney waived the reading of the counts against
his client and entered a not guilty plea for all counts.

He is charged in the deaths of Officer Keith Boyer and Roy Torres, the
suspect's cousin, with 2 counts of murder, 1 count of attempted murder, 1 count
of carjacking and 1 count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in
connection with the Feb. 20 shootings in East Los Angeles and Whittier.

As the suspect entered the courtroom wearing an orange jumpsuit with shackled
hands and ankles, he smiled at members of his family seated in the gallery.

Mejia, a known gang member, could face the death penalty if convicted of the
murder of Boyer, 53, the murder of his cousin, Torres, 47, and the wounding of
Officer Patrick Hazell, as well as the carjacking of his cousin and the alleged
weapons violation, authorities said.

Defense attorney Paul Cohen asked Judge Raul A. Sahagun about allowing Mejia's
family to visit and phone him. He said his client has not been able to
communicate with his family for months.

Sahagun upheld an earlier ruling that gives the Los Angeles County Sheriff's
Department the discretion to decide whether Mejia can have visitations and
phone calls.

Deputy District Attorney Garrett Dameron, with the Crimes Against Peace
Officers Section, alleged Mejia has been assaulting deputies while being held
without bail at Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown Los Angeles.

Boyer's mother, Nancy Clark, and his stepfather, Don Clark, were in the
gallery, accompanied by Whittier Police Lt. Michael Przybyl.

A preliminary hearing was set for 8:30 a.m. May 30, in Department D of the
Norwalk Superior Court.

(source: Whittier Daily News)

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

Closing arguments presented in case of man who stomped cellmate to death


4 years ago, Dennis Bratton knocked his cellmate to the concrete floor of their
cell and repeatedly stomped on his head while wearing his prison work boots,
shattering the man's skull.

By the time Bratton was done, the head of Andrew Keel was "nothing more than a
broken eggshell," prosecutor Andi Bridges said during closing arguments Monday.
Keel's forehead was separated from the top of his skull.

"For minutes he delivered blow after blow after blow to Andrew Keel as he lay
defenseless on the floor," she said.

Bratton then used string to strangle the other man, making sure he was dead
before notifying correctional officers at Kern Valley State Prison.

Bridges called Bratton's argument that he killed his cellmate in self-defense
"ridiculous," and asked jurors to hold him accountable for the brutal killing
by finding him guilty of assault by a life prisoner with force causing death.
Bratton, who was serving a life sentence at the time of the killing, faces the
death penalty if convicted.

His attorneys, Deputy Public Defenders Pam Singh and Paul Cadman, don't dispute
Bratton killed the 27-year-old Keel on May 16, 2013.

Singh argued, however, that Keel had threatened Bratton, and the killing was in
self-defense. She spent much of her 2-hour closing argument describing
California's self-defense laws, and how a person has a right to kill someone if
they are at risk of death, rape or great bodily injury.

Bratton testified that Keel had told him, "You need to sleep sometime." He
believed Keel planned to cut his throat then rape him, Singh said.

Adding to Bratton's concern, Singh said, was that Keel told Bratton he had
slashed the face or neck of another person who refused to participate in a race
riot while he was incarcerated at Corcoran State Prison.

Both Bratton and Keel were affiliated with white racist prison gangs.

Singh also noted Keel's blood alcohol content was 2 times the legal limit at
the time of his death, possibly causing him to act differently from his normal
behavior. Bratton was not intoxicated at the time.

She argued other inmates who testified for the prosecution were untrustworthy
and had admitted to lies during some of their statements. She said some of them
were later moved to prisons with a lower security classification, and
insinuated prosecutors may have played a role.

During her rebuttal, Bridges said Bratton bragged about the killing to 2 other
inmates, and threatened prosecution witnesses. He admitted to writing a letter
to another inmate saying one witness "needs to get got."

Correctional officers testified Bratton was "unusually calm" after the killing.
This was not someone, Bridges said, who was in fear for his life. He planned to
kill Keel, knew he was a better fighter and was confident he would win, she
said.

She denied prosecutors worked out deals for inmates who testified at trial. 2
inmates were moved from Level IV to Level III prisons, she said, but the
inmates told her they believed their classification had changed due to work and
good conduct.

Bridges showed several photos of the prison cell after the killing. Blood
covered the floor, but otherwise the cell appeared orderly. How was it
possible, she asked, for 2 men to fight for their lives in a confined space,
yet items were perfectly set on the edge of surfaces?

She said Bratton's version of events isn't possible based on the facts.

"Don't let him spin this web of lies," she said.

(source: The Bakersfield Californian)






USA:

Sen. Daines introduces new legislation to increase penalties for acts against
law enforcement


After the tragic killing of Broadwater County Sheriff's Deputy Mason Moore,
U.S. Senator Steve Daines stated in a press release on Tuesday that he
introduced the Back the Blue Act of 2017, which would increase penalties for
criminals who intentionally target law enforcement officers, and provide new
tools for officers to protect themselves.

"Deputy Mason Moore is a brave hero who laid down his life to protect
Montanans. We must send a clear message: criminals who look to hurt law
enforcement will face the harshest penalties," Daines stated. "Crimes committed
against our law enforcement will not be tolerated. Montanans can certainly
unite around our support for the men and women who go to work every day to keep
our communities safe."

Background on the Back the Blue Act as provided by Daines:

Strengthens Laws to Protect Police Officers

Makes killing, attempting to kill, or conspiring to kill a federal judge,
federal law enforcement officer, or federally funded public safety officer a
federal crime. The offender would be subject to the death penalty and a
mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years if death results; the offender would
otherwise face a minimum sentence of 10 years.

Creates a new federal crime for assaulting a federally funded law enforcement
officer with escalating penalties, including mandatory minimums, based on the
extent of any injury and the use of a dangerous weapon. However, no prosecution
can be commenced absent certification by the Attorney General that prosecution
is appropriate.

Creates a new federal crime for interstate flight from justice to avoid
prosecution for killing, attempting to kill, or conspiring to kill a federal
judge, federal law enforcement officer, or federally funded public safety
officer. The offender would be subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 10
years for this offense.

Creates a Specific Aggravating Factor for Federal Death Penalty Prosecutions

Clarifies that the murder or attempted murder of a law enforcement officer or
first responder is a statutory aggravating favor for purposes of the federal
death penalty.

Limits Federal Habeas Relief for Murders of Law Enforcement Officers

Imposes time limits and substantive limits on federal courts' review of
challenges to state-court convictions for crimes involving the murder of a
public safety officer, when the public safety officer was engaged in the
performance of official duties or on account of the performance of official
duties. These changes are consistent with the fast-track procedures created in
1996, which are applied to federal death penalty cases.

Limits Recovery of Certain Damages and Fees for Individuals Engaged in Felonies

Limits the type of civil damages and attorney's fees recoverable by a criminal
as a result of purported injuries incurred during the commission of a felony or
crime of violence.

Expands Self-Defense and 2nd Amendment Rights for Law Enforcement Officers

Allows law enforcement officers, subject to limited regulation, to carry
firearms into federal facilities and other jurisdictions where such possession
is otherwise prohibited.

Opens Up Funding to Strengthen Relationships Between Police and Communities

Expands opportunities to use grant funding to promote trust and improve
relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

The legislation is also sponsored by U.S. John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX),
Thom Tillis (R-NC), Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Boozman (R-AR), Shelley Moore Capito
(R-WV), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Dean Heller (R-NV), David Perdue (R-GA), Rob
Portman (R-OH), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Luther Strange
(R-AL).

(source: KTVQ news)

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

Killers of law officers deserve death penalty


Our nation has seen too many laws where the judgments are too lenient. It is
well past the time for all individuals in law enforcement to get the protection
they deserve.

With this letter, I challenge our members of Congress to institute a bill that
calls for the death penalty for anyone convicted of wounding or killing any
national, state or local law enforcement official.

This would also include anyone killing criminal prosecutors, judges and
criminal lawyers.

When the bill becomes law, it must be advertised in all major newspapers and on
news stations throughout the country.

There are individuals who know that if they kill a law officer, they will be
sent to prison and the government will take care of them (at taxpayers'
expense, of course).

When they realize this will no longer happen, maybe the killings will stop or
decrease.

William Colozzi

Greensboro

(source: Letter to the Editor, News & Record)


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