2017-09-22 13:18:40 UTC
Battaglia ruled competent for execution----Case sent back to lower court to
schedule new date for lethal njection
An appeals court has found John Battaglia is mentally fit to be executed for
killing his daughters, a punishment the Dallas man has twice tried to postpone.
Battaglia made national headlines in 2001 when he shot his daughters,
9-year-old Faith and 6-year-old Liberty, at his Deep Ellum loft while their
mother listened on the phone.
"No, Daddy! Don't do it!" Faith pleaded, seconds before her father pulled the
trigger in an act of revenge against his ex-wife.
He was first scheduled for execution in March 2016 but was granted a stay after
he sought new legal counsel to help appeal his sentence.
His execution was rescheduled for December 2016 after a state district judge
found Battaglia mentally fit to be put to death. But the Court of Criminal
Appeals granted him a stay to evaluate his competency.
The appeals courted Wednesday that Battaglia is mentally fit and the Dallas
County trial court can set a new execution date.
Court records show Battaglia is "convinced that hsi trial and conviction were a
sham" and that his death sentence is part of a conspiracy involving "the KKK,
child molesters and homosexual lawyers."
Mental health experts testified during a competency hearing in November that
Battaglia was likely faking or exaggerating his delusions in order to save his
The appeals court affirmed that assessment and supported the trial court's
ruling of competence.
"There is support in the record that Battaglia is malingering," Justice Bert
Richardson wrote in the appeals court finding.
Justice Elsa Alcala was the lone dissenting voice. She wrote in her dissent
that the case should be snet back to the trial court for further clarity.
A defendant should not be executed when he "lacks a rational understanding of
the reason for his execution due to delusions stemming from a severe mental
illness," Alcala wrote.
(source: Dallas Morning News)
Confronting the Truth About My Friend on Death Row
[This article was published in collaboration with the Marshall Project.]
On November 3, 2000, a 22-year-old woman named Amy Kitchen went out for dinner
at the El Rancho restaurant in Dallas, Texas, with her father, Jerry, and her
fiancee, James Mosqueda.
I often try to imagine what that meal was like: Amy chatting with her dad about
the classes she was taking in nursing school, the plans she had to go shopping
with her mother the next day. Her dad giving her some money to spend; he always
had a weakness for his only girl. James, 27, leaning back, sipping a beer. A
It would have been an evening like any other - except for the fact that it was
the couple's last.
Later that same night, the state of Texas says, James's cousin, Ivan Cantu -
motivated by his relative's drug debt and his own greed and jealousy - killed
Amy and James in an execution-style double murder. He is now on death row, and
for 13 years I have been his loyal friend.
I never planned to be in this situation, to be friends with someone who could
be executed. I live the mundane life of a working mother in Washington, DC -
packing lunches, taking the bus to work, attending meetings, reading stories to
my child at night, and, usually, falling asleep before 10.
But back in 2004, I had been inspired by progressive Catholics to reach out to
someone on death row. So I answered a plea from the Community of Sant'Egidio, a
worldwide Catholic prayer and charity organization, to write a letter of
solidarity to a mentally-disabled death row prisoner named Johnny Paul Penry.
It was part of a campaign to overturn his sentence for a 1979 rape and murder.
Johnny wrote back - and so did Ivan. They lived in adjacent "pods," as they are
called on Texas' death row, the Polunsky Unit. Ivan would help Johnny write
letters, but he was looking for his own friends on the outside, too.
It was mainly out of pity that I replied to Ivan. I never would have guessed
where it's led me.
His letters and cards now fill a Rubbermaid container nestled into a bookshelf
beside my bed. Just a stack of words on paper, they are also a chronicle of the
past 13 years: descriptions to him of my travels as a development consultant;
his accounts to me of trying to get innocence projects, journalists, and
attorneys to listen to his case. The birth of my son. His struggle to live
alone 23 hours a day.
Ivan is 44; I'm 42. He and I write once or twice a month, and there is not a
letter I receive in which he doesn't encourage me in some way, and ask how my
son and husband are. I count on his letters and, he says, he counts on mine. He
also says there's a picture of my family, which I sent him years ago, taped to
the wall of his cell.
Ivan pleaded not guilty and has consistently maintained he's innocent. I've
always believed his story, but only because I had no reason not to. It didn't
cost me anything, and I knew it would cost him everything if he really were
innocent and no one listened. I never asked too much about the murders, never
wanting to delve into that darkness.
That is, not until now. With Ivan's execution approaching - he lost his federal
appeal in June, and if Texas has its way, he'll probably be executed within a
year - there's nothing left to lose.
Last year, when the court published a denial of Ivan's previous appeal, I asked
his wife, Tammy, to send me everything: the trial transcript, the crime scene
photos, the legal documents, Ivan's side of the story and any documentation
from the investigations.
I knew that immersing myself in the details of the crime would mean trying to
understand both sides, asking tough questions, and entertaining possibilities
about Ivan that I'd never allowed myself to. When I sat in my living room,
watching my son's face as he laughed at the cartoons on TV, I would think to
myself, My child knows nothing about the world's brutality, so why am I
inviting this dark story into our house? Why am I complicating our lives in
But when the material arrived (a thumb drive along with printed documents), I
started devouring all of it whenever I could - during my crowded bus rides home
through downtown DC, and sitting up in bed, late into the night, after my son
had gone to sleep.
I held a giant white binder and read from it, as if it were a movie script. I
had to keep reminding myself that this happened - on a November evening in
Dallas, all of this happened.
I am overwhelmed by all the evidence against Ivan. While there's no record of
physical evidence proving that he was at the crime scene???no fingerprints, no
shoe prints, no DNA - the crime scene was all over him. Jeans and socks with
the victims' blood on them, found in Ivan's trashcan; James's Corvette found
parked in front of Ivan's apartment the day after the murder.
But the person presented at trial doesn't match the one I know: a friendly and
intelligent man who cuts out New Yorker cartoons and tapes them to his
The philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich once wrote, "Doubt is not the
opposite of faith. It is one element of faith." Perhaps cultivating doubt in
Ivan's story is part of having faith in him.
Last August, I visited Ivan on death row and asked him if he committed this
crime. His response was immediate: "Oh my goodness, no," he replied, solemnly.
"But I know you have to ask that, I get it."
He spoke rapidly during our hours together, anxiety and desperation pervading
his words and gestures. He talked openly about the crime, who could have done
it and why, and what he believes still needs to be investigated. And because we
are friends, we also talked about the mundane: music, books, NPR shows,
anything to get his mind off the bleakness of solitary confinement.
I left the prison that day shaken. I don't believe in the death penalty, and
even if he is guilty, I don't think he should die. I was overwhelmed by the
responsibility of saving Ivan's life while knowing at the same time how little
I could actually do.
And I was still unsure about the truth.
(source: Dani Clark is a writer and editor at an international development
organization in Washington, DC. ---- vice.com)
Keith Tharpe's Scheduled Execution Tests Our Nation's Tolerance for the Death
Penalty's Racial Bias
In 1991, a jury in Jones County, Georgia, sentenced Keith Tharpe, a Black man,
to death for the murder of his sister-in-law. Seven years later, Tharpe's
defense counsel met with a white juror on Tharpe's trial as part of their
routine investigation of the case. The juror explained to the lawyers why he
voted for his client's death, and then reviewed, edited, and signed a sworn
statement, which set out his views of race and Tharpe:
I have observed there are 2 types of Black people: 1. Black folks and 2.
Niggers. For example, some of them who hang around our little store act up and
carry on. I tell them, "nigger, you better straighten up or get out of here
I felt Tharpe who wasn't in the "good" black folks category in my book, should
get the electric chair for what he did. . . .
After studying the Bible, I have wondered if black people even have souls.
Integration started in Genesis. I think they are wrong. For example, look at
O.J. Simpson. That white woman wouldn't have been killed if she hadn't married
that black man.
The defense lawyers filed the juror's signed statement in court the next day.
Only a unanimous jury can convict and impose a death sentence in Georgia, and
the law has long recognized that misconduct by a single juror requires
reversal. The juror's stunning admission of racially biased views, including
his view of the defendant, should have led to a hearing and a new trial.
Instead, Tharpe faces possible execution next Tuesday, September 26, 2017.
In what threatens to be a grave miscarriage of justice, no court has ever
considered the testimony about this misconduct. The federal courts must act now
under the law's constitutional promise of equality and fairness and reopen his
case so that his claim of racial bias can finally be heard.
What should have happened in 1998 is that the then-elected prosecutor for the
Ocmulgee District, Joseph Briley, and the Georgia attorney general should have
responded to the juror's affidavit by announcing they would not tolerate racial
bias in capital sentencing and agreeing that Tharpe should get a new trial.
Instead, counsel from the Georgia attorney general's office responded by trying
to minimize the juror's statements and asking the court to ignore the bias.
First, they went to see the juror the next day after reading his statements of
racial bias and obtained a new statement. In this new statement, the juror did
not deny what he said about Black people or Tharpe. Instead, he complained that
the lawyers were not clear enough about their purpose in talking with him and
that he had been drunk when he talked with the lawyers.
The state attorneys then came to court and argued that the racial bias of the
juror should be irrelevant to Tharpe's death sentence because the law should
not permit investigation into racial bias by jurors after the verdict.
Unfortunately, this response was hardly surprising. Georgia's attorney
general's office had years of practice defending racially tainted capital cases
from Mr. Briley's office.
How do we know that capital prosecutions in Briley's office were contaminated
by racial discrimination? He put it in writing.MO< In 1978, Briley wrote an
"infamous" handwritten memo instructing the clerk's office on how to reduce the
number of Black people and women on juries without detection. In other words,
he explained how to discriminate and get away with it. He also repeatedly
removed qualified Blacks from jury service in violation of the constitutional
prohibition of using race in jury selection. Although it is notoriously
difficult to show purposeful discrimination in jury selection because of the
wide deference afforded to prosecutors, courts found that Briley's actions, in
fact, met the high burden of proof required.
Halting Tharpe's execution today should be an easy call.
During his 20-year tenure between 1974 and 1994, Briley tried 33 capital cases
- 24 of which were against Black defendants like Tharpe. In the cases with
Black defendants, 90 % of the jurors Briley removed from serving in these
capital cases were Black.
In Tharpe's case, the state court ruled that the noxious statements by the
juror were inadmissible because the law protects jury verdicts as
unimpeachable. In other words, even where there is smoking-gun proof that one
or more jurors used racially biased decision-making, courts will not reopen
jury verdicts. The state court denied the claim on the wrong theory that jurors
should not be permitted to testify about how their racial bias affected the
This question - whether courts should revisit jury verdicts when presented with
proof of racial bias by a juror in decision-making - was answered with a
resounding yes earlier this year in the Supreme Court case, Pena-Rodriquez v.
Colorado. In a 5-3 decision, the justices ruled that it "must become the
heritage of our Nation to rise above the racial classifications that are so
inconsistent with our commitment to the equal dignity of all persons."
Tharpe's appeals proceeded through state and federal courts without any court
ever considering whether the juror's profoundly troubling remarks violated the
Constitution. Even though Pena-Rodriguez makes clear that Tharpe should receive
a hearing, halting his execution and reopening his federal case requires that
he show extraordinary circumstances. The Supreme Court ruled in another case
this year, Buck v. Davis, that the "noxious strain of racial prejudice"
constituted extraordinary circumstances that required the reopening of federal
Halting Tharpe's execution today should be an easy call. Reopening his case and
allowing a court to rule on the proof of racial taint by the juror in Tharpe's
case is the only path forward commensurate with recognition of equal dignity of
all. Keith Tharpe deserves a new trial before a jury of his peers. Otherwise,
we will condone a criminal justice system that allows racial animus to
influence matters of life and death.
(source: Cassandra Stubbs, Director, ACLU Capital Punishment
Do Black People Even Have Souls?
Keith Tharpe is scheduled to be executed on September 26th in Georgia.
His conviction and death sentence are marred by racism.
During jury selection, a now-deceased juror named Barney Gattie swore he had
"no preconceived notions about the case." Unfortunately, Mr. Gattie had very
definite notions about black people.
Mr. Gattie's racist beliefs came to light after trial. When Tharpe's attorneys
went to talk with him about the verdict, Mr. Gattie gave a sworn statement in
which he outlined his thoughts about black people. According to Mr. Gattie,
there are two kinds of black people: "black folks" and "ni**ers." Mr. Gattie
explained that the victim's family were in the "black folks" category," adding
"[i]f they had been the type [of black person] that Tharpe is ... then picking
between life or death for Tharpe wouldn't have mattered so much. My feeling is,
what would be the difference?... I felt Tharpe, who wasn't in the 'good' black
folks category in my book, should get the electric chair."
Mr. Gattie later mused: "[a]fter studying the Bible, I have wondered if black
people even have souls."
Let's dissect that for just a minute. A juror in a capital case proclaimed 1)
the only lives that mattered were the "good" black people (as defined by him);
2) that the death penalty would not have mattered if the victim had been a
black person in the "ni**er" category (as defined by him); 3) that the
defendant was a black person in the "ni**er" category who therefore deserved
the electric chair and 4) that unlike other people who presumably have
souls,black people by virtue of their skin color may be soulless, a quality
that is surely problematic when described by a person who purports to study the
Although Mr. Gattie later backed away from his statements and claimed he was
drunk when he made them, the fact that he was on the jury and may have based
even part of his punishment decision on race surely undermines the fairness of
the proceedings. Importantly, no court has ever held a hearing to determine
whether Mr. Gattie's racist views impacted the jury deliberation process or
verdict. This means, of course, that racism could well have tainted the
In a capital case, the jury decides whether a defendant should receive the
ultimate punishment of death. They are supposed to make that life-and-death
decision by thinking about a whole host of factors relating to the crime and to
the defendant. Race is not one of those factors. Indeed, race cannot be a
We know that race is an insidious thing. It seems patently unfair that Mr.
Tharpe could be executed based on a verdict by at least one juror who held such
blatant contempt for black people in general, and who believed Mr. Tharpe
should get the death penalty, in part, because he was a "ni**er".
Mr. Gattie's racist beliefs cast a large shadow over the reliability of Mr.
Tharpe's death sentence. Georgia, which itself has been challenged time and
again for its racist application of the death penalty, should stop Mr. Tharpe's
execution. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the use of race
as a factor for choosing death, ruling that "[s]ome toxins [such as racism] can
be deadly in small doses." Unless his execution is stayed, Mr. Tharpe may
become another example of just how deadly racism can be.
(source: Jessica Henry, Huffington Post)
When racism lurks in the heart of a death penalty juror, does a killer deserve
"Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?" This single, sinister
question, asked over a sepulchral-sounding musical score, was rhetorical; for
after a dramatic pause and a malevolent cackle, the narrator smugly informed
the audience: "The Shadow knows."
And so it was with this somber admonition on September 26, 1937, that the
gritty, crime-fighting character dubbed "The Shadow," whose exploits had
previously been limited to pulp fiction magazines, burst into American
consciousness with his own radio program. The uber-successful 1st episode
called "The Death House Rescue" would lead to a run of 664 more installments
over 18 seasons.
Exactly 80 years later another story about a scheduled execution, this time one
that is all too real, is playing out; but, unlike that 1st episode of "The
Shadow," there is little chance of a tidy and fair resolution (much less "a
death house rescue"). Indeed, absent an unlikely intervention, the state of
Georgia will execute death row inmate Keith Tharpe by lethal injection on
September 26, 2017.
Also, unlike the condemned man in "The Shadow's" fictional "Death House
Rescue," no one is arguing that Tharpe is innocent. Nevertheless, Tharpe's
attorneys argue he shouldn't be put to death because, as has been widely
reported, after Tharpe's conviction and death sentence, Tharpe's lawyers
secured a prejudice-laden sworn affidavit from a now-deceased juror by the name
of Barney Gattie.
Despite having affirmed under oath during jury selection that he could be fair
and impartial - as all jurors in a criminal case must - Gattie swore in his
affidavit, that there are 2 kinds of black people in the world: "good black
folks" and "ni**ers." Gattie attested that the victim's family in Tharpe's case
belonged to this 1st group of black people whereas Tharpe belonged to the
latter, and further, that this was precisely the warped logic he used to
sentence Tharpe to death. Finally, as if these despicable admissions weren't
sufficiently outrageous - and reason enough to commute Tharpe's death sentence
to life without the possibility of parole, because it was so odiously and
impermissibly tainted by race - Gattie's affidavit abominably asserts: "After
studying the Bible, I have wondered if black people even have souls."
Huge problem, right? Red flags and alarm bells are sounding all over, aren't
they? Obviously a clear moral imperative exists to call off this 21st century
style lynching? Nope. At least, not yet. And, given our increasingly
prosecution-leaning, capital punishment-enabling Supreme Court, maybe not at
You see, according to asinine arguments advanced by blood-thirsty prosecutors -
which thus far both state and federal courts have adopted - Gattie's vile and
hateful comments were merely "racially insensitive offhand remarks." To fully
wrap your mind around this deplorable position, all you have to do is take a
break from reality and cue your favorite off-color, cringe-worthy soliloquy by
Archie Bunker. (You remember that affable but avowedly racist, anti-Semitic
television character from the '70s, don't you?).
Georgia prosecutors are basically arguing that, just like Archie Bunker, Gattie
wasn't really such a bad guy, was he? If the bigoted but big-hearted Archie
Bunker were a real person we would all, each and every one of us, surely trust
him to be a fair and impartial juror . . . wouldn't we? Especially in the case
of a black man on trial for his life?
Moreover, Georgia prosecutors are insisting Tharpe's death sentence remains
kosher because, after the revolting details of his affidavit were revealed,
Gattie subsequently tried to explain it all away by testifying he was drunk.
Specifically, Gattie claimed he was inebriated - both on the day he initially
spoke to Tharpe's defense team - and then, again, on the day he reviewed his
racially tinged affidavit and signed it. Thus, not unlike The Shadow's power to
"cloud men's minds," prosecutors in Georgia maintain as the actor/producer Mel
Gibson (infamously) once did, that it was only because Gattie was wasted that
he made his racially repugnant statements.
This is a tough sell - tougher even than that whole ridiculous Archie Bunker
bit - because as the saying goes, "a drunken man's words are a sober man's
thoughts" (or alternatively, as was commonly said in Latin many hundreds of
years ago, "in vino, veritas"). Indeed, as Belisa Vranich, a clinical
psychologist who specializes in alcohol addiction told ABC News at the time of
Gibson's highly publicized highway rant: "People dredge up feelings and
sentiments from somewhere deep in their brains, so what one says or does
certainly reflects what's going on deep down. Alcohol can most definitely act
as a truth serum - something that allows people to say what is truly on their
And it is with that truism in mind, one that anyone who has ever been drunk
before already knows, that we arrive full circle to the question that the
Supreme Court of the United States will likely soon be forced to consider about
the pending execution of Keith Tharpe: What evil lurked in the heart of Barney
Gattie? The answer, of course, is hatred - and racism - as rank and real as it
is repulsive. And you don't need to be The Shadow or even a Supreme Court
justice to know that.
(source: Opinion; Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as
an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015.
Inmate faces death penalty for double murder in 1983
Michael Lambrix is scheduled for execution at Florida State Prison 2 weeks from
Lambrix was found guilty for a double murder in 1983, and the case has been
filled with changing testimony, questions surrounding the only witness having
sex with the state's investigator and a claim of self-defense.
Florida executed nearly 40 inmates between 2002 and 2016 when the U.S. Supreme
Court ruled that juries must be unanimous. It did not hear the appeal of a
Jacksonville killer executed last month, who was sentenced by a non-unanimous
It took 2 trials to convict Michael Lambrix of killing 2 people he just met in
1983. Lambrix turned down a plea deal at the time.
Lambrix claimed, "I was supposed to be intimidated by the threat of a death
penalty, so I was going to plea out to 2nd degree and I would have gotten a
sentence of 17 to 22 years, and I would have been out many years ago. But I
wasn't going to plea to something I didn't do."
Lambrix has been on death row since a jury voted 10-2 and 8-4 for death. His
case was final long before a 2002 US Supreme Court case called Ring, requiring
Now, every non-unanimous death sentence in Florida since Ring will get a new
sentencing hearing. But everyone sentenced before Ring is out of luck. The
Florida Catholic Conference calls this occurrence arbitrary.
Ingrid Delgado of the Florida Catholic Conference asked, "Is that fair? This
partial retroactivity is really uncommon. New laws are typically held
retroactive for all, or retroactive for none."
There are other issues. No physical evidence linked Lambrix to the crime. The
key witness against him had sex with the chief investigator. The question of
sex came up at here at the Supreme Court in 2009, and so did Lambrix's claim of
In 2009, Assistant Attorney General Carol Ditmar stated, "The male victim he
says was consistent with self-defense. He was hit on the head with a tire iron,
but it???s also consistent with 'I'm going to kill you until you are dead.'"
This is Lambrix's 3rd death warrant. It will likely be his last.
(source: WCTV news)
FLORIDA EXECUTION RESET, INNOCENCE MAINTAINED
Clarence Moore and Aleisha Bryant were killed on 6 February 1983 and buried
near the trailer home that Cary Michael Lambrix shared with Frances Smith.
Michael Lambrix was charged with murder. His 1983 trial ended in a mistrial
after the jury could not agree on a verdict. At retrial in 1984, the jury voted
to convict him of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and recommended the death
penalty, by 10 votes to 2 for one murder and 8 to 4 for the other. Michael
Lambrix maintains his innocence of pre-meditated murder, claiming he acted in
self-defense when Clarence Moore fatally attacked Aleisha Bryant and came at
him when he tried to stop the assault.
Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:
* Calling for the execution to be halted, denial of clemency reconsidered, and
the death sentence commuted;
* Expressing deep concern at the non-transparency of Florida's clemency
* Noting that Michael Lambrix denies pre-meditated murder and maintains that he
acted in self-defense, that that the state's case was circumstantial, and
pointing to the Hanzel recantation;
* Noting that Michael Lambrix was sentenced under a law now deemed
unconstitutional, and on non-unanimous jury recommendations for the death
penalty, which would now be unlawful in Florida.
Friendly reminder: If you send an email, please create your own instead of
forwarding this one!
Contact these 2 officials by 5 October, 2017:
Governor Rick Scott
Office of the Governor, The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001, USA
Salutation: Dear Governor
Office of Executive Clemency
Florida Parole Commission
4070 Esplanade Way
Tallahassee, FL 32399-2450
Fax: +1 850 414-6031 or +1 850 488-0695
Salutation: Dear Members of the Clemency Board
(source: Amnesty International USA)
'Pain & Gain' murderer from Miami gets new chance to avoid execution
A Miami gym rat sent to death row for the gruesome dismemberment murder of a
Golden Beach couple in 1995 is getting a new sentencing hearing.
Florida's high court this week tossed out the death sentence for Noel Doorbal,
one of the notorious Sun Gym crew whose story was made into the movie "Pain &
The decision was not a surprise. Most Florida death row inmates from the past 2
decades are getting new sentencing hearings because of recent changes to the
The U.S. Supreme Court in 2016 ruled that Florida's death-penalty sentencing
system was unconstitutional, and the state justices later ruled that many
inmates slated for execution should get new sentencing hearings because juries
did not vote unanimously for execution.
Jurors voted 8-4 to send Doorbal to death row. He and Daniel Lugo,
weightlifters who worked out at the Sun Gym in Miami Lakes, have been on death
row since they were convicted and sentenced in 1998. Lugo, 54, is also likely
to get a new sentencing hearing.
Doorbal, 45, remains convicted of the murders. If Miami-Dade prosecutors decide
to again seek the death penalty, a new jury will be selected to hear evidence
and decide whether execution is the proper punishment.
Hoping to get some of his fortune, the two men kidnapped Frank Griga, 33, a
Hungarian immigrant who had earned his fortune in the 900-phone sex business,
and his girlfriend, Krisztina Furton. Inside Doorbal's apartment, the
kidnapping went horribly awry. Griga fought back and was beaten to death.
Furton was fatally drugged with horse tranquilizers.
The bodies were whisked away to a warehouse, where they were dismembered.
Eventually, their body parts were found in drums and buckets discarded along
rural highways in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
The story was made into 2014's "Pain & Gain," starring Mark Wahlberg as Lugo,
Anthony Mackie as Doorbal and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Paul Doyle, a
fictional composite character based on several members of the murderous crew.
Billed as a dark comedy, the movie infuriated relatives of Griga, as well as
Marc Schiller, a Miami businessman who was also kidnapped and tortured.
"I think it's ridiculous. It's horrible what happened to them," Zsuzsanna
Griga, the sister of Frank Griga, told the Miami Herald before the movie
premiered. "I don't want the American public to be sympathetic to the killers."
(source: Miami Herald)
Boone County requests state seek death penalty for Zachariah Wright murder case
Zachariah Wright is charged with killing a 73-year-old man and trying to rape
and set fire to his wife.
His trial was originally set for December, but now the Boone County Prosecutor,
Todd Meyer, has decided to pursue the death penalty.
"Death penalty cases in Indiana right now are quite rare," said Jack Crawford,
a defense attorney and former Lake County prosecutor who's tried 17 death
The reason, in part, he says, is that the process could take years or even
"It's one of the hardest decisions I'm sure he's had to make," said Crawford.
A tough choice Crawford says because of a long list of factors including
Wright's age. Wright was 19, just 1 year older than the constitutional minimum,
when police say he stabbed Max Foster to death.
"Even though technically they can vote, they can sign a contract, they can't
drink alcohol, but at the age of 19 they're an adult under the law," said
Crawford. "But do they have the mental background and resources to make
A death penalty case is expensive, anywhere from $300,000 to $2 million
Lawyers I spoke to say that's why they believe there's been a drop in cases
pursued, with only 6 pending right now in the entire state. They say that's
because the state mandates a lot of man hours on both sides.
"In my experience, if you're appointed as a death penalty attorney, they expect
thousands of hours in billing from the attorneys that are doing that work,"
said John Tompkins, a defense attorney who's been involved in death penalty
trials. In other words, they expect a lot of work to be done and they don't bat
For people facing the death penalty who can't afford representation, the state
requires at least 2 different attorneys, an investigator and a mitigation
specialist be appointed.
"Literally a person's life is on the line," said Tompkins. "Not the rest of his
life in prison, but his life is on the line."
And he says the prosecution, of course, also has a life on the line - the one
that was taken, that they're trying to obtain justice for.
With the stakes so high, Wright's attorney Allen Reid already has boxes and
boxes of information to sort through.
"It's awfully early in the case," said Reid. "The prosecutor indicated to me 3
weeks ago, that he has about 50 DVDs worth of evidence that he needs to get to
me that thus far I have not seen."
And Tompkins says the jailhouse interview FOX59 conducted with Wright could
make the defense's job tough too.
"It is an inherently horrible situation to be in," said Tompkins. "Hardly
anyone is operating the way he normally would, cognitively, when they're
talking, and everyone wants out of jail."
And all of these challenges are amplified for the victims' family members, who
may find seeking the death penalty leads them to relive their nightmare for
"The cost to the family is," Crawford starts before pausing. "This will take a
long time. It won't come to trial for at least a year and a half in Boone
County and then there will be appeals and appeals and appeals."
Tompkins noted that just because the state is seeking the death penalty doesn't
mean the case will actually make it to a jury trial.
He says that often prosecutors will go for the death penalty and defendants
will take a plea bargain for life without parole in a bid to save their lives.
(source: Deanna Allbrittin, Fox News)
Closing arguments, jury deliberations expected in Bobo case
Closing arguments are scheduled in the trial of a man charged with killing a
Tennessee nursing student who disappeared into the woods behind her rural home
more than 6 years ago.
Thursday marked the 9th day of trial for Zachary Adams. Adams has pleaded not
guilty to kidnapping, raping and killing Holly Bobo. She was 20 when she was
reported missing from her home in Parsons, located about 100 miles southwest of
2 ginseng hunters found Bobo's remains in woods not far from her family's home
in September 2014.
The jury will begin deliberating after a prosecutor and a defense attorney make
closing statements. Adams faces the death penalty if convicted of 1st-degree
Bobo's disappearance sparked a massive search and the case received national
(source: WREG news)
Judge: Arizona doesn't have to reveal execution drug sources
Arizona does not have to reveal who provides its execution drugs, a judge ruled
Thursday in a lawsuit arguing that the information would help the public
determine whether the death penalty is carried out humanely and promote
confidence in the criminal justice system.
The decision marked a defeat for news organizations, including The Associated
Press, that sued to get the information released. U.S. District Judge Murray
Snow ruled that the media outlets didn't show they had a First Amendment right
to knowing the suppliers of lethal injection drugs.
The judge said the First Amendment protects the right of people to argue about
the death penalty, but it doesn't require Arizona to reveal "protected
information to the detriment of the state's ability to carry out its
constitutional, lawfully imposed criminal punishments."
The lawsuit followed the 2014 execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood, who was given
15 doses of a 2-drug combination over nearly 23 hours in what his attorney
called a botched execution.
Like other states, Arizona is struggling to buy execution drugs after U.S. and
European pharmaceutical companies began blocking the use of their products in
2 years ago, Arizona tried to illegally import an anesthetic that has been used
to carry out executions but is no longer manufactured by companies approved by
the Food and Drug Administration. The state never obtained the shipment because
federal agents stopped it at the Phoenix airport.
The judge also rejected a bid to order the state to divulge the qualifications
of people who carry out capital punishment in Arizona, saying revealing those
details could lead to their identification. He noted that state law protects
the identities of executioners and death penalty drug suppliers.
Snow said it's logical that some drug suppliers would decline to do business
with the state if their identities were not kept secret.
Andrew Wilder, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Corrections, which
carries out executions, said the agency had no immediate comment on the
At a 1-day trial in July on the media lawsuit, an Arizona prison official
testified that suppliers of lethal injection drugs have refused to sell to the
state, even though a law protects the companies from being publicly identified.
The prison official said suppliers fear that selling lethal injection drugs
would hurt their business. An attorney for the news organizations offered a
different explanation - that the drug companies simply don't want to be
involved in executions.
The state said a law prohibiting the disclosure of identifying information
about anyone serving on an execution team extends the same sort of
confidentiality to suppliers of lethal injection drugs.
Other news organizations that filed the lawsuit are The Arizona Republic,
Guardian News & Media, Arizona Daily Star, CBS 5 (KPHO-TV) and 12 News
The news organizations won a partial victory last year when Snow ruled that the
state must allow witnesses to view the entirety of an execution, including each
time drugs are administered. Witnesses to Wood's death couldn't see that he was
receiving additional doses of the drugs after the first ones failed to kill
A new execution protocol issued in January will let witnesses see the
injections through a camera in a room where the drugs are loaded into an
inmate's IV line.
Arizona, which has 118 prisoners on death row, saw executions put on hold for 2
1/2 years after the 2014 death of Wood.
But the state is now able to resume executions after a separate lawsuit that
challenged the way Arizona carries out the death penalty was settled this
summer. No executions are scheduled.
(source: Associated Press)
Deadline to file death penalty appeal extended
The deadline for a convicted murderer to file an appeal has been extended
Brad Lee Nelson, 47, was convicted in November 2009 of 1st-degree murder and
sentenced to death a month later in the death of Amber Leann Graff in Kingman
in June 2006. The Arizona Supreme Court upheld Nelson's conviction and death
sentence in April 2012.
Nelson's attorney, Harley Kurlander of Tucson, asked Wednesday to extend the
deadline to file a Post Conviction Relief appeal. The deadline to file the PCR
has been extended numerous times. Kurlander was assigned to the case in May
Superior Court Judge Richard Weiss set another status hearing for Oct. 19 and
extended the deadline to that date.
From October 2012 until the end of August, Nelson's PCR process has cost the
county more than $480,814 for attorneys, experts and investigation services.
Attorney services alone have cost $300,436. The cost of the appeals process
before the PCR stage was $30,220, Indigent Defense Services Director Blake
Nelson was convicted of murdering Graff, 14, on June 9, 2006, at a Kingman
motel. Graff and her younger brother were left in Nelson???s care at the motel
while their mother was being treated at a hospital.
Nelson went to a department store to buy a rubber mallet, which he used to
smash the girl's head in, then sexually molested her. He took his then
13-year-old nephew, who was unaware of the murder, back to the department store
to buy a shirt. Nelson's old shirt and a sleeping bag were later found with
Graff's blood on them.
Nelson was charged with the murder after he confessed to killing his niece to a
corrections officer at the county jail. During the trial, defense attorneys
admitted that Nelson killed his niece but argued that the murder was not
premeditated nor was it a 1st-degree murder.
(source: Mohave Valley Daily News)
Driver won't get death penalty in Texas smuggling case
The federal government will not seek the death penalty against a 60-year-old
driver at the center of a human smuggling case that killed 10 people in San
Antonio, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced.
James Bradley Jr. will not be sentenced to death, according to U.S. Attorney
General Richard Durban, Jr., but will face additional charges in the case after
a grand jury returned a superseding indictment Wednesday.
The indictment also charged 47-year-old Pedro Silva Seguara, an undocumented
alien, in connection to transporting and harboring undocumented aliens for
financial gain resulting in serious bodily injury. Segura faces life
imprisonment or the death penalty.
What James Matthew Bradley Jr claimed happened in the immigrant smuggling
attempt gone wrong
In July, authorities were called to the Walmart store near Interstate 35 in San
Antonio. According to the criminal complaint, Bradley told police the trailer
he was hauling had been sold and he was "unaware" of its contents. He said he
stopped at the Walmart and exited the vehicle to relieve himself when he heard
"banging and shaking" in the trailer.
Survivors told authorities people began passing out, hitting trailer walls and
making noise to get the driver's attention.
Bradley has also been charged with transportation of undocumented aliens
resulting death, transporting undocumented aliens resulting in serious bodily
injury and placing lives in jeopardy and possession of a firearm by a convicted
felon. He faces up to life imprisonment for the conspiracy and
transportation-resulting-in-death charges and up to 10 years in federal prison
for the firearm charge.
(source: KTRK TV news)
U.S. Attorney: Man charged in deadly Conway bank robbery could receive death
A Federal Grand Jury indicted Brandon Council on 3 counts connected to the
deadly CresCom bank robbery in August, according to a news release.
Council was indicted for armed bank robbery resulting in death, felon in
possession of a firearm, and use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of
violence resulting in death of a person in such a manner to constitute murder.
United States Attorney Beth Drake said Council could receive life without the
possibility of parole or death on 2 of the 3 counts.
Police say Council killed Donna Major, 59, of Conway, and Kathryn "Katie"
Skeen, 36, of Green Sea, during the incident.
Council will be arraigned on the indictment by a United States Magistrate Judge
at the McMillan Federal Courthouse in Florence, South Carolina, in the coming
weeks, according to the release.
Drake detailed what the indictment sent to the jury stated:
The indictment alleges that on August 21, 2017, Defendant Brandon Michael
Council planned to enter CresCom Bank to rob the bank and kill its employees.
Shortly after entering the bank, Defendant Brandon Michael Council drew a
revolver and shot bank teller Donna Major multiple times. Defendant Brandon
Michael Council then ran into a nearby office where he shot bank manager
Kathryn Skeen as she sheltered under her desk. Defendant Brandon Michael
Council then proceeded to take more than $15,000 in cash from the bank before
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Conway Police
Department, Horry County Police Department, Myrtle Beach Police Department,
Horry County Sheriff's Office, Wilson North Carolina Police Department,
Greenville North Carolina Police Department, the South Carolina Law Enforcement
Division, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, Explosives, and the United
States Marshal's Office. Assistant United States Attorneys JD Rowell and Jay N.
Richardson of the Columbia office are prosecuting the case.
The United States Attorney stated that all charges in Indictments are merely
accusations and that all defendants are presumed innocent until and unless
(source: WPDE news)
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