Discussion:
death penalty news----PENN., N.C., GA., FLA., LA.
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Rick Halperin
2017-09-29 11:17:01 UTC
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Sept. 29




PENNSYLVANIA----execution date set....not too serious

Notice sets Nov. 17 for death of 2003 Allentown murderer; execution still
unlikely this year



Junius Burno, who killed 2 men during a 2003 Allentown robbery, is scheduled to
die Nov. 17 under a notice of execution signed Thursday by the state Department
of Corrections secretary.

But even with the notice, Burno, 49, of Lansford, is not likely to be executed
on that date. The state still has a moratorium on the death penalty and courts
are expected to review the case even further.

Corrections Secretary John Wetzel signed the notice of execution, the
department said. Under state law, the corrections secretary is required to sign
the notice within 30 days of a period given the governor to sign it. Wolf did
not sign.

Burno on April 13, 2003, shot and killed Carlos Juarbe of Allentown and Oscar
Rosado III, 35, of Bethlehem during a botched robbery at Juarbe's South Fourth
Street, Allentown, apartment.

He was convicted of murder in March 2007 and his appeals for a new trial were
overruled by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in June 2014. Burno is in Greene
State Prison in Waynesburg.

Terrance Bethea of Catasauqua, Burno's co-defendant in the case, was given two
life sentences after being convicted of murder in 2004. Prosecutors said Burno
was the prime trigger man.

(source: Morning Call)








NORTH CAROLINA:

Jury selection may prove difficult in Greensboro death penalty case



Jury selection is a difficult enough process on a 1st-degree murder trial, but
coupling that charge with sensitive topics and a possible death sentence may
make seating a panel more difficult next week.

On Monday, 29-year-old Garry Gupton, of Greensboro, faces the death penalty if
convicted in the Nov. 15, 2014, death of 46-year-old Stephen White.

Police said Gupton met White at Chemistry Nightclub - a gay bar and lounge -
and took him to the Battleground Inn at 1517 W. Wendover Terrace in Greensboro.
Gupton is accused of assaulting White and then setting his body on fire in a
4th-floor hotel room.

On Wednesday, Gupton told Superior Court Judge Michael Duncan that his
attorneys Ames Chamberlin and Wayne Baucino have his permission to admit to
some of the accusations, but plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

In a last-minute effort to save their client from a death sentence, Chamberlin
and Baucino filed a motion asking Duncan to rule the death penalty as
unconstitutional. Duncan denied that motion.

Duncan, Chamberlin, Baucino and Assistant District Attorney Robert Enochs spent
the majority of Wednesday afternoon figuring out how best to choose an
impartial jury for Gupton's trial, which is expected to last between 3 to 5
weeks.

They all agreed that it will be a difficult case to seat a jury because it
deals with mental health issues, homosexual relationships and the possibility
of sentencing someone to death - topics many people have strong opinions about.

"I think that someone who believes that all homosexuals are sinners and should
be sent off somewhere can't be fair and impartial," Baucino told the judge.

Court officials agreed to give the jury pool a questionnaire to fill out Monday
morning with questions about their views on homosexual relationships, mental
health and alcoholism, among other things.

The rationale was to allow potential jurors to openly discuss their views of
these topics without putting them on the spot in front of their peers.

After finishing the questionnaire, the jury candidates will then be divided
into pools. The 1st pool of 24 people will be questioned to see whether they
can be fair and impartial to both sides. As candidates for the jury are
whittled out, 12 more people will come to the courtroom to be asked the same
series of questions until a full jury panel is selected.

The Guilford County Clerk of Courts office anticipates 180 people showing up
for jury selection Monday morning.

(source: Winston-Salem Journal)

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

Richmond County prosecutors seek death penalty in double murder case



The District Attorney's office on Tuesday announced in Richmond County Superior
Court that it would be seeking the death penalty for a man charged in a double
murder.

Christopher Mark Robson, 44, is accused of killing Joseph and Katherine Cassidy
on Aug. 20.

According to a judicial order from the Rule 24 conference, prosecutors "contend
there is evidence in support of at least 1" of the 11 aggravating circumstances
listed in state law, although no circumstances are specified.

Those circumstances are if:

-- the capital felony was committed by a person lawfully incarcerated.

-- the defendant had been previously convicted of another capital felony or
had been previously adjudicated delinquent in a juvenile proceeding for
committing an offense that would be a capital felony if committed by an adult.

-- the defendant had been previously convicted of a felony involving the use
or threat of violence to the person or had been previously adjudicated
delinquent in a juvenile proceeding for committing an offense that would be a
Class A, B1, B2, C, D, or E felony involving the use or threat of violence to
the person if the offense had been committed by an adult.

-- the capital felony was committed for the purpose of avoiding or preventing
a lawful arrest or effecting an escape from custody.

-- the capital felony was committed while the defendant was engaged, or was an
aider or abettor, in the commission of, or an attempt to commit, or flight
after committing or attempting to commit, any homicide, robbery, rape or a sex
offense, arson, burglary, kidnapping, or aircraft piracy or the unlawful
throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb.

-- the capital felony was committed for pecuniary gain.

-- the capital felony was committed to disrupt or hinder the lawful exercise
of any governmental function or the enforcement of laws.

-- the capital felony was committed against a law-enforcement officer,
employee of the Division of Adult Correction of the Department of Public
Safety, jailer, fireman, judge or justice, former judge or justice, prosecutor
or former prosecutor, juror or former juror, or witness or former witness
against the defendant, while engaged in the performance of his official duties
or because of the exercise of his official duty.

-- the capital felony was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel.

-- the defendant knowingly created a great risk of death to more than 1 person
by means of a weapon or device which would normally be hazardous to the lives
of more than 1 person.

-- the murder for which the defendant stands convicted was part of a course of
conduct in which the defendant engaged and which included the commission by the
defendant of other crimes of violence against another person or persons.

North Carolina is one of 31 states that have the death penalty, according to a
fact sheet from the Death Penalty Information Center, which also lists the
number of death row inmates as 154 - the 6th-highest in the nation.

While Judge David Lee found that Robson was properly represnted by his
attorney, Patrick Currie, he also ordered the clerk to contact the N.C. Office
of Indigent Defense Services to request second council be appointed.

Robson was charged in the killings 8 days after Cassidys' bodies were found
inside a car on Lee Thee Church Road.

Chief Deputy Mark Gulledge of the Richmond County Sheriff's Office previously
told the Daily Journal the call was originally called in as a wreck to the N.C.
State Highway Patrol. Upon arrival troopers discovered the bodies of 2 adults,
a man and woman, inside the vehicle - along with a small child, who was
restrained in a safety seat in the back, according to Gulledge.

When deputies eventually tracked Robson down, he was the passenger in a truck,
according to a search warrant. As they tried to stop the vehicle, Robson
allegedly fled on foot and was quickly apprehended.

He was initially charged with reckless driving, fleeing to elude arrest with a
motor vehicle and resisting a public officer, then later with larceny of a
firearm, possession of a stolen firearm and possession of a firearm by a felon.
A week later, Robson was charged with assault with a deadly weapon in the
presence of a minor and discharging a weapon into an occupied property.

His next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 2.

(source: Richmond County Daily Journal)






GEORGIA:

For Georgia death row inmate, high court's stay may only buy time



Attorneys and advocates for condemned murderer Keith Tharpe cheered an 11th
hour stay from the U.S. Supreme Court that halted his execution late Tuesday
night.

But legal experts warned against reading too much into the order, arguing the
justices had simply pressed pause to decide if they even want to consider the
59-year-old's claim of racial bias by a juror who helped send him to death row.

Tuesday night's dramatic stay - handed down after Tharpe had consumed his final
meal and was awaiting execution - marks the 1st time the U.S. Supreme Court has
put the brakes on a lethal injection in Georgia since they stopped Troy Davis'
in 2008. Davis would eventually die at the state's hands 3 years later.

Nonetheless, Tharpe's lawyers on Wednesday expressed relief at the reprieve.

(source: myajc.com)








FLORIDA:

Murder case moves to next phase



Jurors who presided over Curtis Wilson's trial will reconvene in mid-October to
decide if the St. Petersburg man should be put to death for the murder of
former sheriff's informant Jamie Seeger.

On Thursday, Circuit Court Judge Richard "Ric" Howard set aside Oct. 10-13 for
when a dozen jurors will review more evidence to decide if 34-year-old Wilson
is eligible for the death penalty.

These same 12 jurors found Wilson guilty as charged late Wednesday night for
the July 2012 1st-degree murder of Seeger, whom Wilson was paid $1,000 to gun
down for his 2 convicted cohorts, who wanted Seeger dead.

Wilson's upcoming hearings will be the first time in Citrus County when a jury,
not a judge, will decide to sentence a convicted defendant to die for a capital
offense. This was not case before the U.S. Supreme Court in January ruled
Florida's original death-penalty sentencing procedure was unconstitutional.

In the early morning hours of July 25, 2012, Citrus County deputies found
27-year-old Seeger shot to death inside a Chrysler Crossfire near a Crystal
River-area intersection.

Lawrence Vickers, of Crystal River, and Marrio Williams, of Dunnellon, paid,
transported and armed Wilson the night of July 24 to murder Seeger before she
could testify against the local duo about her undercover drug buys with them
from earlier in 2012.

Williams lured a drug-addicted Seeger, who was no longer a sheriff's informant,
to a fake drug deal near the intersection of West Cyrus Street and North
Reynolds Avenue, where Wilson was waiting to ambush Seeger.

During their drive back to St. Petersburg after the shooting, the murder weapon
- a .40-caliber Glock pistol - was thrown over the Howard Frankland Bridge and
into the Tampa Bay. Dive teams were able to recover the weapon.

Authorities later charged Wilson, 50-year-old Vickers, and 32-year-old Williams
with 1st-degree murder. A jury last November found Williams guilty as charged.
Williams is serving a life sentence.

Taking a plea deal, 50-year-old Vickers pleaded guilty in August to his
1st-degree murder charge. Howard will sentence him to up to 30 years at future
court hearing.

Seeger's mom, Wendy Moore, who was with Seeger moments before she was shot and
has shown up at almost every subsequent court hearing, said she was happy with
the jury's decision to convict the final defendant responsible for her
daughter's death.

"It's the beginning of the end finally and I can finally put the pieces
together and move on," Moore said Wednesday. "I'm not really going to move on a
whole lot, but I don't have this looming over my head of what I'm going to have
to keep going through."

Howard and attorneys handling Wilson's case met Thursday morning to square
things away for Wilson's upcoming hearings.

Prosecutors Pete Magrino and Rich Buxman filed a motion to compel Wilson's
attorney Candace Hawthorne to disclose all of Hawthorne's witnesses'
mental-health evaluations of Wilson.

In his proposed court order for Howard to sign, Magrino wanted Hawthorne's
witness, psychologist Dr. James McGovern, to release his reports of Wilson by
noon on Friday in order to get his own psychologist, Dr. Greg Prichard,
prepared for Wilson's hearings.

If McGovern fails to produce his reports, he would not be able to testify at
Wilson's hearings, according to Magrino's order.

"This is time sensitive," Magrino told Howard, who agreed to signing the order.

"Whatever you've got, you've got to give it to Pete (Magrino)," Howard told
Hawthorne, who appeared by phone.

Hawthorne objected to her quick-approaching deadline, saying she needed until
Monday because McGovern has to gather a significant amount of material.

Hawthorne added McGovern has also said he wants to send his materials directly
to Prichard, not to attorneys, following Florida's Administrative Code.

Magrino and Howard were angered by McGovern's "obstructiveness."

"That may be Dr. McGovern's response, but the Florida Administrative Code does
not trump a circuit judge's order," Magrino said. "The state is entitled to
anything and everything that Dr. McGovern has."

"He can't pick and choose who it goes to," Howard continued. "I'm a little
offended by his obstructiveness."

McGovern, who later appeared by phone, told Howard he is bound to his and the
state's ethical laws and won't hand off sensitive evidence to possibly
untrustworthy attorneys.

"There are some attorneys who don't respect it," McGovern said, referring to
evidence's chain of custody.

Howard explained to McGovern that his order would prevent him from being
accused of any wrongdoing, criminal or civil.

"You have absolute immunity from my order, you understand that?" Howard said.

McGovern remained steadfast in his decision and even suggested he should get an
attorney.

On that note, Howard told Hawthorne to get McGovern's reports to Magrino by
noon on Friday or else McGovern is stricken as defense witness.

"There's no basis not do to this," Howard told Hawthorne, who agreed.

(source: chronicleconline.com)

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

Convicted killer's final plea for life sentence halted after attorney conflict



The final hearing to allow convicted killer Shawn Rogers to plead for a life
sentence, instead of the death penalty, was continued in court Wednesday after
a conflict with his attorney.

In August, a Santa Rosa County jury found Rogers guilty of the 2012 murder of
Ricky Dean Martin in the pair's shared cell at the Santa Rosa Correctional
Institution. Rogers already was serving a life sentence when he killed Martin.

Martin was found beaten and tied up and with a pair of boxer shorts over his
head. The cell was bloody, and Martin had damage to his brain that the state
claimed was from being stomped.

It took a jury roughly an hour to convict Rogers, and the jury later
unanimously recommended a death sentence. But ultimately Judge John Simon will
decide whether to stay with the jury's recommendation or whether there's
overwhelming evidence convincing him Rogers should instead be sentenced to life
in prison.

Jury finds Shawn Rogers guilty of killing prison cellmate after 1 hour of
deliberation

Rogers' final hearing was scheduled for Wednesday, which was his chance to
present any further mitigating factors to convince Simon against death,
according to Chief Assistant State Attorney Bill Bishop.

"Mr. Rogers objected to any continuance and wanted his lawyer not to provide
any further information to the court, but the attorney is duty-bound to do
everything he can to assist Mr. Rogers."

But there was conflict between Rogers and his attorney, Kenneth Brooks, about
how to proceed. Rogers represented himself throughout the trial, but now has
chosen to allow Brooks, his standby counsel, to step forward as the primary
attorney through the penalty phase.

"Mr. Rogers objected to any continuance and wanted his lawyer not to provide
any further information to the court, but the attorney is duty-bound to do
everything he can to assist Mr. Rogers," Bishop said.

Brooks said Hurricane Irma disrupted some of the defense's witnesses - in
particular a mitigation expert - from attending the scheduled hearing. Brooks
wanted to continue the hearing to a different date to allow those witnesses to
be present, but Rogers wanted to go through with the hearing without those
witnesses.

"There was a delay in being able to get everything together, and the court
granted the continuance today," Brooks said.

While Simon granted the hearing's delay, no further date has yet been set in
the case.

(source: Pensacola News Journal)

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

Clown-case killing suspect eligible for death penalty



When Sheila Keen-Warren realized Tuesday that she was being arrested for the
1990 murder of a Wellington woman, she sighed and buried her face in her hands.

After 27 years of escaping justice, Keen-Warren was taken into custody not far
from her home in Abingdon, Va. Authorities say Keen-Warren dressed up as a
clown on May 26, 1990, and presented Marlene Warren with flowers and balloons
labeled "You're the Greatest!" before shooting her in the face. Marlene Warren,
who was 40, died 2 days later.

"Even for her it was, 'Look, it's over,'" Capt. Michael Wallace, who supervises
the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office Cold Case Unit, said of Keen-Warren's
demeanor following her arrest. "She'd been running for 27 years. She probably
thought she had gotten away with it. But she didn't."

Keen-Warren remains jailed in Virginia awaiting extradition to Palm Beach
County. That is expected to come within the next several days. Prosecutors will
wait until Keen-Warren returns from Virginia to decide whether they will seek
the death penalty, State Attorney Dave Aronberg said.

PBSO Detective Paige McCann said the investigation continues in response to
question of whether Warren's husband, Michael, might be charged. He was married
to Marlene Warren at the time of her fatal shooting. Detectives interviewed
Michael Warren on Wednesday. Authorities learned that Michael Warren and
Keen-Warren were having an affair at the time of the murder.

Detectives investigated the case for years before it went "inactive" for nearly
a decade, Wallace said.

The investigation was picked up again in 2014 and DNA provided evidence that
led to Keen-Warren's arrest.

"We knew she did it in 1990," Wallace said. "But if we had arrested her back
then, maybe we get a conviction and maybe we don't. If we don't, then she would
have been done with this."

Detectives declined to reveal what specifically helped them break the case and
provided few details of the evidence against Keen-Warren. McCann did say that
the murder weapon has never been found.

(source: Palm Beach Post)

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

Trey Nonnombre guilty of first-degree murder, armed home invasion



A Manatee County jury on Thursday found Trey Nonnombre guilty as charged on 2
counts of 1st-degree murder and 1 count of armed home invasion in the 2015
fatal shootings of Kantral Brooks and his girlfriend Esther Deneus in
Bradenton.

Nonnombre, 20, now faces the death penalty. The penalty phase of the trial
begins at 9 a.m. Oct. 11.

Brooks and Deneus were shot dead just before 4 a.m. July 9, 2015, in the home
they shared in the 3900 block of Southern Parkway in Bradenton. The break-in
triggered the home's security alarm system, and when Bradenton police officers
arrived moments later, they found the couple had been shot.

The couple's 5 frightened children - who had been in the living room when their
parents were shot - were standing together when officers arrived.

As the verdicts were read, loved ones of the victims could be heard mumbling
"thank God" amongst themselves.

Nonnombre was serious and showed no emotion as he learned his fate. Some of his
loved ones, however, ran out of the courtroom and erupted in screams and cried
loudly in the hallways. Members of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office followed
and watched until they entered an elevator and departed.

Back inside the courtroom, jurors were told by Circuit Judge Diana Moreland
that the penalty phase of the trial could not begin immediately, and they were
asked if they could return Oct. 11 and 12. After being given a brief recess to
make any calls necessary, none of the jurors indicated any conflicts with the
dates. Both alternate jurors also indicated no conflicts and were ordered to
return.

The victims' loved ones declined to comment outside the courthouse afterward,
other than to smile and say "justice was served."

"With this verdict, Nonnombre will no longer plague the city of Bradenton,"
James Curulla, a Bradenton Police Department homicide detective, told the
Herald.

Nonnombre is next scheduled to appear in court at 1:30 p.m. Monday for a status
conference hearing. Based on the jury's verdict form in which they found
Nonnombre had carried a firearm but did not discharge it, the defense is hoping
the state will decide not to still seek the death penalty, according to defense
attorney Bjorn Brunvand.

Under Florida's new death penalty laws, the jury has to find at least one
aggravating circumstance beyond a reasonable doubt that outweighs any
established mitigating circumstances. Mitigating circumstances have to be
established by the greater weight of the evidence.

The verdicts came after nearly 16 hours of deliberations by the jury of 12,
made up of 6 women and 6 men. There were some doubts on Thursday afternoon as
to whether a verdict would be reached based on the jury's questions.

"What are the consequences if we are unable to unanimously decide on the level
of aggravator by carrying a firearm, even if we are unanimous on every other
part of the indictment?" the jury's note before 3 p.m. read by Moreland said.

The follow-up question read, "Is the aggravation a mistrial of the count?"

Attorneys from both sides had disagreed on how to proceed, but Moreland
ultimately responded by telling them "any decision concerning an aggravator
must be unanimous if any apply,' and the judge ordered them to continue their
deliberations.

The last question from the jury, just before it reached a verdict, raised
eyebrows in the courtroom.

"Are the jurors part of the sentencing process," Moreland read as many in the
courtroom expressed disbelief.

The jury members were sequestered Wednesday night after deliberating for more
than 6 hours and sending a note to the judge saying they were unable to reach a
decision that night.

Deliberations resumed shortly after 8:30 a.m. Thursday, and the verdict was
reached about 6 p.m.

Moreland answered 3 questions from the jury before noon Thursday. 1 of the
questions resulted in a new verdict form to assist with deliberations. Moreland
said the old verdict form would be sealed in court records.

Esther Deneus and her boyfriend, Kantral Markeith Brooks, both 29, were
murdered on July 9, 2015 during a home invasion at the home they shared in the
3900 block of Southern Parkway.

3 armed suspects, captured by the home's video surveillance system, were later
identified to detectives as Nonnombre, Jimmie McNear, 20, and Terez Jones, 35.
Each was indicted on identical charges.

Jones avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty to 2 counts of second-degree
murder and armed burglary. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison with the
condition that he testify truthfully against Nonnombre and McNear.

McNear is scheduled to stand trial during the 5-week trial period that begins
Oct. 16.

Nonnombre's trial got underway Sept. 18.

Testimony began Monday and included the testimony of Deneus' 13-year-old son,
who recounted for the jury how he and his siblings were in the room when his
mother and stepfather were shot dead.

"Don't kill me in front of my children," the boy testified were his mother's
last words.

On Tuesday, Jones testified that he was headed out the front door with McNear
behind him when he saw Nonnombre point his gun at Deneus. Later in the car,
Jones said he asked Nonnombre whether he had shot "the girl," and he admitted
to doing so.

But the defense questioned his motivations for testifying against Nonnombre.

Nonnombre exercised his constitutional right not to testify on Wednesday and to
not call any witnesses or introduce evidence of his own.

(source: bradenton.com)

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

Accused murderer Luis Toledo asks that death penalty be thrown out----Jury
selection in trial begins Monday in St. Augustine



Accused triple murderer Luis Toledo is asking that the death penalty not be
sought during his upcoming 1st-degree murder trial, according to court
documents.

Toledo's attorney filed a motion claiming that the notice of intent to seek the
death penalty that the state of Florida filed on March 28, 2014, approximately
39 days after Toledo's arraignment, is no longer valid because the state's
death penalty requirements have changed since then.

The motion goes on to say that the state should have filed a 2nd notice that
met the state's updated requirements after Florida changed its death
penalty-law on March 13 of this year.

Under Florida law, the notice of intent to seek the death penalty must be filed
within 45 days of the defendant's arraignment, but because Toledo was arraigned
in 2014, it's too late to file a new notice that meets the new standards,
according to Toledo's attorney.

"Further, even if the court didn't require a new arraignment by illegally
expanding the stated legislative intent clearly expressed in the statute, and
instead permitted the 45 days to run from the date of enactment, March 13th,
2017, that time would have expired April 27th, 2017," the motion reads.

The suspect's attorney has unsuccessfully asked for the court to throw out the
death penalty in the past.

Toledo is accused of killing his wife, Yessenia Suarez, and her 2 children
Thalia Otto, 9, and Michael Otto, 8, in Volusia County in October 2013. Their
bodies have not been found.

A hearing is scheduled at 9 a.m. to discuss the motion to strike the death
penalty and motions Toledo's attorney has filed requesting that Toledo be
permitted to question potential jurors and that certain statements made during
an interview on Oct. 24, 2013 be struck because they could be considered
prejudicial.

Jury selection in the long-delayed trial will begin Monday in St. Augustine.

A judge has ordered that Toledo have no contact with any other inmates while he
is transported from the Volusia County Jail to St. John's County. He will
remain there through the duration of the trial, which is expected to last
several weeks.

(source: WKMG news)

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

Aramis Ayala makes list of 100 most influential African-Americans



Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala made The Root's 100 Most Influential
African Americans in 2017, ranking 86th on the annual list published by one of
the leading sources for black culture, news and politics.

The list mentions Ayala's accomplishment in being elected as Florida's 1st
black state attorney in November, as well as her controversial decision to
refuse the death penalty in cases prosecuted by her office.

"It's been quite the year for Aramis Ayala," the list reads under her name,
saying her opposition to the death penalty "ruffled the feathers of other
public officials."

The list also noted that Ayala made national headlines in July, when 2 Orlando
police officers pulled her over and ran her license plate. The publication
noted that "many observers noted that it was perhaps another act of racial
profiling by police."

The Root used an algorithm to calculate each person's reach on social media,
the substance of their work and influence. On a scale from 0 to 10, she
received a 7.2 in substance.

(source: Orlando Sentinel)








LOUISIANA:

Can lawyer concede guilt over client's objection? Supreme Court to consider
constitutional issue



The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to consider the case of a Louisiana death row
inmate who was unable to stop his lawyer from conceding guilt in the inmate's
trial for triple murder.

The Supreme Court granted cert on Thursday in the case of Robert Leroy McCoy,
report the Associated Press and SCOTUSblog. The court agreed to consider
Question 1 of the cert petition: whether it is unconstitutional for defense
counsel to concede a defendant's guilt over his express objection.

McCoy was sentenced to death in January 2012 for the May 2008 murders of the
son, mother and stepfather of his estranged wife. McCoy's parents hired Larry
English to represent McCoy, paying him $5,000 borrowed against their car title.

McCoy refused his lawyer's suggestion to accept a plea deal, and objected when
English informed him he planned to concede guilt. The lawyer maintained the
concession was necessary because he had an ethical duty to save McCoy's life.

The trial court had refused McCoy's request to fire English 2 days before the
start of the trial and refused McCoy's request to represent himself. When
English conceded guilt during the opening statement, McCoy interrupted to
protest. McCoy said it was known that police killed the victims, and the judge
wanted to let the lawyer "throw away all aspects of my due process."

McCoy later testified that a drug trafficking ring headed by law enforcement
was responsible for the murders and had framed him.

English had argued that McCoy was guilty, but he was suffering from serious
emotional issues that interfered with his ability to make rational decisions,
according to the October 2016 Louisiana Supreme Court decision upholding the
conviction. English???s goal was to spare McCoy the death penalty.

The Louisiana Supreme Court found no Sixth Amendment violation. "Given the
circumstances of this crime and the overwhelming evidence incriminating the
defendant, admitting guilt in an attempt to avoid the imposition of the death
penalty appears to constitute reasonable trial strategy," the court said.

The Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Promise of
Justice Initiative filed an amicus brief (PDF) in the case. "An uncomfortable
number of death sentences in Louisiana are the result of defendants
representing themselves or defendants expressly objecting to their lawyers'
concessions of guilt," the brief says.

"What can be distilled from Louisiana's approach is that when a question about
a defendant???s autonomy arises, Louisiana appears to resolve the question in
favor of expediency, rather than autonomy or dignity."

The case is McCoy v. Louisiana.

(source: ABA Journal)
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