Discussion:
death penalty news----PENN., S.C., GA., FLA., OHIO, MO., ARK.
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Rick Halperin
2017-09-15 11:21:35 UTC
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Sept. 15




PENNSYLVANIA:

Attorney argues for colleague to be replaced in death penalty case



Attorney Noah Geary's assertion he shouldn't be forced to work on a death
penalty case with another attorney with family ties to a separate case in which
Geary is involved sparked a contentious back and forth with a Washington County
judge Thursday.

Geary said his work defending Brandon Wolowski would be affected with Jeremy
Davis as his co-counsel. Geary is pursuing a federal lawsuit on behalf of David
Munchinski, a former state inmate who was convicted on evidence that later was
discredited during Gerald Solomon's tenure as Fayette County district attorney.
Solomon is Davis' cousin.

Geary wrote in court papers supporting his motion for a reconsideration of
Davis' appointment that Wolowski "is literally on trial for his life. He is
entitled to 2 lawyers working together on his case, one of whom who has not
sued the other's relative in a highly personal and contentious case."

DiSalle disagreed Davis' appointment presented a conflict.

'How is that a conflict for Brandon Wolowski, that you sued somebody else?"
DiSalle asked.

DiSalle took Geary's request under advisement, pending additional information
from Geary. Geary sought the appointment of attorney Thomas Farrell, who Geary
said agreed to represent Wolowski with him.

Davis said following the hearing only that he disagreed with Geary, "but I'm
leaving it to the court's discretion."

DiSalle appointed Davis last month as co-counsel for Wolowski, 23, of
Washington, who faces charges including homicide and attempted homicide in
connection with shootings Jan. 8, 2013, at a home in the city.

Geary also represents Munchinski in a federal lawsuit contending Solomon - now
a Fayette County senior judge - and other law enforcment officials withheld
exculpatory evidence from Munchinski, who was convicted in 1986 on charges he
and an accomplice murdered 2 men in Bear Rocks 9 years earlier. Munchinski was
released in 2011 after his conviction was vacated by the federal district court
in Pittsburgh.

Charges against him were later dismissed.

Geary, who also represented Munchinski on appeal, said in his motion he
"alleged and proven Mr. Davis' cousin, Solomon, unlawfully hid blatantly
exculpatory evidence from Munchinski 4 times throughout four different legal
proceedings over the span of 20 years."

He argued Davis' appointment in Wolowski's case would "materially limit" his
work on behalf of Woloski. He said he didn't want Davis in his office across
from the courthouse, the logical place for them to meet, because he keeps files
and notes related to Munchinski's case there.

Munchinski and Wolowski weren't at the hearing, but also objected in writing to
Davis' appointment.

DiSalle offered other places where the attorneys could meet, including the
local bar association.

He also maintained he couldn't see how Davis entering Geary's office presented
a problem for either case and accused Geary of "spending more time on your
problems with the Solomon family" than defending Wolowski.

DiSalle and Geary disagreed about the substance of a discussion concerning
Davis' apointment during a recent status conference.

The judge recalled Geary saying he could work with Davis. Geary countered he
said he's generally easygoing and "can work with anybody" but also said on that
occasion that he and Davis have a conflict of interest.

Geary said he contacted Farrell, who has the necessary qualifications to handle
the death-penalty case, immediately after the status conference and then
notified the court Farrell had agreed to work with him. The Washington County
district attorney's office didn't object to Farrell's appointment.

Wolowski faces trial in connection with shootings at a home in the 900 block of
Fayette Street. Matthew Mathias, 37, died of a gunshot wound to the chest that
perforated his left lung. His girlfriend, Michelle Powell, 38, was shot in the
cheek, chin, chest and arm but survived after undergoing surgery.

Before she was flown by helicopter to a Pittsburgh hospital, Powell reportedly
gave a statement to police that pointed to Wolowski as the perpetrator, and he
was taken into custody shortly thereafter. Guns were the objective of the
robbery, according to testimony at a preliminary hearing.

(source: Observer-Reporter)








SOUTH CAROLINA:

Judge: Case against Conway bank robbery suspect makes him eligible for death
penalty



The man accused of murdering 2 employees during a Conway bank robbery last
month appeared before a federal judge in Florence on Thursday for the 1st time.

Brandon Council, 32, of Wilson, North Carolina, was in the courtroom for
roughly 5 minutes and waived his extradition hearing in N.C.

Additionally, the defendant waived his right to a preliminary hearing,
according to court documents filed on Thursday.

Magistrate Judge Thomas Rogers made it clear to Council that this case makes
him eligible to face the death penalty.

The prosecution was then asked if they planned to seek the death penalty. That
decision, they told the judge, has not been decided yet.

During the brief hearing, family members of the 2 victims occupied 2 1/2 rows
in the courtroom. They were seen holding hands and crying.

Scott Hixson, the chief deputy solicitor for the 15th Circuit Solicitor's
Office and special assistant to the U.S. Attorney's Office, said Thursday's
hearing was "very procedural"

"The federal government has to go through a process and I wouldn't make any
more comment at this stage other than that, that everything is on track, if
that makes sense," Hixson said. "I think the comments to the court were
appropriate about this is where we are. I hate to sound vague, but we'll keep
moving forward."

When asked about the possibility of seeking the death penalty for Council,
Hixson said that decision would be made at the appropriate time.

"This stage of it, he is under a federal complaint," Hixson said. "The next
step is federal indictment and then the case will be moving forward in the
federal system, just as there are signed warrants on him on the state system
that we expect to be served on him, and that will initiate the state
prosecution that will be concurrent with the federal prosecution."

Council faces 2 counts of murder in connection with the Aug. 21 CresCom Bank
robbery, as well as one count each of entering a bank with the intent to steal,
grand larceny, armed robbery, possession of weapon during a violent crime and
being a felon in possession of a pistol.

Officials with the Horry County Coroner's Office previously identified the 2
employees who were killed during the robbery as Donna Major, 59, of Conway, and
Kathryn "Katie" Skeen, 36, of Green Sea.

(source: Aurora Sentinel)








GEORGIA----impending execution

Why I Believe the Supreme Court Needs to Stop This Georgia Execution----Keith
Tharpe was convicted and sent to death thanks in part to a racist juror.



If the Supreme Court is serious about reducing the impact of racial prejudice
in capital cases - and 2 recent decisions suggest it is - the justices will
halt the pending execution of a Georgia man and grant him a new trial. At stake
in the case of Keith Tharpe is not the question of his guilt or innocence. At
stake is the proposition that no black person should be condemned to death by a
white juror who proudly boasts after sentencing that he voted to impose capital
punishment because the defendant was a "nigger."

The facts of the case are simple. His prosecutor, a district attorney named
Joseph Briley, came to the case with a reputation for using peremptory strikes
during jury selection in a racially discriminatory fashion. The federal courts
had caught him in prior cases trying illegally to exclude blacks from juries
sitting in judgment of black defendants. In Tharpe's case, Briley successfully
managed to eliminate 5 of 8 qualified black jurors. No problem, the trial judge
declared, there was no evidence of bad faith on the part of the prosecutor.

One of the potential jurors who made it onto Tharpe's panel, a juror embraced
by prosecutor Briley, was a man named Barney Gattie, who swore up and down
during voir dire that he had no preconceived notions about the case and did not
know the victims. It didn't take long for Gattie and his fellow jurors to
convict Tharpe and sentence him to death. That would have been that, we never
would have heard of this case, except that Gattie had much more to say about
Tharpe when he questioned by defense attorneys working on Tharpe's
post-conviction appellate review seven years after trial. Here is how Tharpe's
current attorneys characterize that conversation:

Mr. Gattie expressed his feelings about the case in general. He stated that
there are two kinds of black people in the world - "regular black folks" and
"niggers." Mr. Gattie noted that he understood that some people do not like the
word "nigger" but that is just what they are, and he "tells it like he sees
it." According to Mr. Gattie, if the victim in Mr. Tharpe's case had just been
1 of the niggers, he would not have cared about her death. But as it was, the
victim was a woman from what Mr. Gattie considered to be one of the "good black
families." He explained that her husband was an EMT. Mr. Gattie stated that
that sort of thing really made a difference to him when he was deciding whether
to vote for a death sentence.

There is more from Gattie in the record that illustrates he was not faithful to
his oath as a juror but the above makes the point. Immediately after Gattie's
comments were made available to state lawyers two decades ago, they rushed to
the juror's home and got him to sign a counter-affidavit that sought to nullify
what he had told Tharp's investigators. That 2nd affidavit, the one in which
Gattie swore he wasn't a bigot, has been the basis of the state???s defense for
the past 20 years.

Georgia courts have consistently failed or refused to acknowledge the import of
Gattie's 1st sworn statement, the one he reviewed and initialed before he
realized that one really should not say such things under oath. Instead, state
lawyers and state judges have concluded that they need not address the merits
of the claim because Tharpe is procedurally barred from making it; that he
waited too long to find out that one of his jurors sentenced him to death for
being a "nigger," in other words. Georgia also has relied for years on a common
rule that precludes judges from considering the post-trial comments of jurors
that would "impeach" the reliability of a verdict (a rule, as we'll see below,
the Supreme Court just diminished).

Georgia's defense of racism here is indefensible as a matter of law and fact.
This surely was true in 1998 when Georgia first started discounting the
importance of a racist juror in the capital trial of a black defendant. And it
is especially true now, in the past 6 months, ever since the Supreme Court
decided Buck v. Davis and Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado. Buck is a Texas case in
which a notorious defense expert told jurors in the capital trial of Duane Buck
that Buck would be more dangerous in the future because he was black. Texas
defended that outrageous prediction for decades, even after state officials
acknowledged the racist damage such testimony had caused in other trials
infected by that same expert. This Spring, a majority of the justices finally
put a stop to the nonsense, sweeping away the hoary procedural objections state
officials had put up to deny Buck the right to a trial free from racial
prejudice. Tharpe hopes for a rescue from the justices as they acknowledge the
Sixth Amendment means little if a juror like this can infect a capital case.

The Pena-Rodriguez case is even more apt as precedent in the Tharpe case. In
Pena-Rodriguez, a juror made a series of racist statements about the defendant,
an Hispanic man. No reasonable person reading those statements would believe
that the defendant had gotten a trial free from unconstitutional bias or
prejudice. But for years Colorado defended the conviction in the case by
arguing that jurors could not subsequently be "impeached" for their misconduct
during deliberations. Nonsense, the justices in Washington announced this
spring; in cases of obvious racial prejudice the "no-impeachment rule had to
give way to the more substantive Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial.

Now comes Georgia, which is defending the comments of a racist juror by arguing
that Buck and Pena-Rodriguez don't apply to the case, or at least don't apply
directly enough to spare Tharpe's life and give him a new trial where one of
his jurors doesn't gleefully consider him a "nigger." Georgia, in fact, is
relying on the same jury impeachment rule that Colorado unsuccessfully relied
on in Pena-Rodriguez. Tharpe surely hopes the result for him will be the same -
a rescue from the justices as they acknowledge the Sixth Amendment means little
if a juror like this can infect a capital case.

As it now stands, Tharpe will die by the state's hand at 7:00 p.m. September
26. A district court has rejected Thorpe's latest motion and an appeal is
pending before the Eleventh Circuit. What has happened so far to Tharpe in
Georgia is another classic example of the hollowness of the law, where judges
hide behind procedural, post-conviction rules to justify convictions that are,
like this one, hard to justify as a matter of common sense. What should happen
now is obvious. Gattie is dead and cannot testify in his own defense. Keith
Tharpe may be guilty of murder. In the end, he may even deserve the death
penalty. But a conviction and death sentence based in part on the bigotry
displayed in his case cannot be countenanced if the constitutional right to a
fair trial, and the right to equal protection and due process of law, mean
anything.

(source: Andrew Cohen, esquire.com)








FLORIDA:

Death sentence tossed out in 2012 Jacksonville murder----Man who stabbed,
strangled woman in 2012 to get new sentence



Pointing to the lack of a unanimous jury recommendation, the Florida Supreme
Court on Thursday ordered a new sentencing hearing for a death row inmate
convicted in the 2012 stabbing and strangulation death of a Jacksonville woman.

Justices upheld the 1st-degree murder conviction of Dennis Glover in the
slaying of a neighbor, Sandra Allen, but vacated his death sentence.

The ruling, like numerous others in recent months, was rooted in a 2016 U.S.
Supreme Court ruling in a case known as Hurst v. Florida and a subsequent
Florida Supreme Court decision.

The 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling found Florida's death-penalty sentencing
system was unconstitutional because it gave too much authority to judges,
instead of juries.

The subsequent Florida Supreme Court ruling said juries must unanimously agree
on critical findings before judges can impose death sentences and must
unanimously recommend the death penalty.

In Glover's case, the jury recommended the death penalty in a 10-2 vote.

"(Because) we cannot say that there is no reasonable possibility the Hurst
error contributed to the sentence, the error in Glover's sentencing is not
harmless beyond a reasonable doubt," the court majority said in Thursday's
opinion.

(source: news4jax.com)








OHIO:

Authorities plan to seek death penalty for man accused of shooting spree



A man accused of fatally shooting 2 people and beating two others in a July 4
crime spree across southern Ohio is headed to prison for one of the killings,
but now the Ross County prosecutor said he intends to seek the death penalty
for the other.

Jeffrey Holsinger, 31, pleaded guilty in Highland County Common Pleas Court on
Wednesday to charges of murder and aggravated robbery for killing 35-year-old
Steven Mottie, Jr. and beating and robbing Steven Mottie Sr., 58, in a home
they all shared near Greenfield in Highland County.

Highland County Judge Rocky A. Coss immediately sentenced Holsinger to a
mandatory 15 years to life in prison on the murder charge and seven years for
the aggravated robbery. He tacked on another nearly 4 years from a prior
sentence that Holsinger had been on parole for when he committed these crimes.

Prosecutor Matt Schmidt in neighboring Ross County said his case against
Holsinger qualifies for a death-penalty specification and he will seek it. He
said he was in no rush to charge Holsinger while the Highland County case
played out because Holsinger was in custody.

It all started on July 4 when Holsinger fought with the Motties. Collins said
there were conflicting stories as to whether it was over a woman or a
cellphone.

After the killing, Holsinger asked a neighbor, 23-year-old Jesse Lytle, to give
him a ride. Schmidt said Holsinger told Lytle that he had a pistol and they
would go somewhere to practice shooting. But when the men arrived at a hunting
preserve in Ross County, Holsinger shot Lytle multiple times and stole his car.
Lytle ran to the road and flagged down help. He survived.

Later that night, Schmidt said, Holsinger randomly chose a home on Browns
Chapel Road in Ross County because he saw a Cadillac parked there that he
liked. He shot and killed the car's owner, 79-year-old Paul Robertson, and beat
Robertson's girlfriend, 67-year-old Dawn Wilson, and briefly took her hostage.
She also ran to get help. She survived.

Holsinger then stole the Cadillac and led authorities on a pursuit through
multiple counties that reached speeds of up to 100 mph. He was captured just
after 10 p.m. hiding behind a shed on the Far West Side of Columbus.

Schmidt said he will take the case to a grand jury in the next month or 2.

(source: Columbus Dispatch)








MISSOURI:

Judge denies request by Craig Wood's lawyers to dismiss death penalty



The death penalty will remain an option for the man accused of kidnapping,
raping and killing Hailey Owens near her home in February of 2014.

Craig Wood attorneys and the family of Hailey Owens had asked the judge to
remove the death penalty as an option if Wood is convicted. His attorneys
argued the death penalty is unconstitutional. A Greene County judge disagreed.

Wood's trial is set to begin October 23rd and e will be in court Friday for a
pre-trial hearing.

(source: ky3.com)



ARKANSAS:

Racial Bias Has No Place In The Arkansas Criminal Justice System----Regardless
of how one might feel about the death penalty, no one should be more or less
culpable because of the color of their skin.



I am the executive director of the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death
Penalty. From my childhood in the Arkansas Delta, to higher education in
Walmart-dominated Northwest Arkansas, to New York and Los Angeles as a model
and television personality, and finally to Little Rock, Arkansas, where I
attended law school and currently live and work.

Justice in the Arkansas Delta is different from justice in Fayetteville. Racial
disparity is part of the culture in Arkansas. See Little Rock Central High
School. See the Robert E. Lee/Martin Luther King Jr. joint holidays. And the
racial disparity in the Arkansas criminal justice system is one of the most
alarming manifestations of this inequitable treatment.

In Arkansas, African-Americans make up roughly 17 % of the population, but
African-Americans account for a whopping 42.2 % of the prison population.
Disparities in capital punishment are more staggering. Arkansas has completed
200 executions since 1913, and 70 % (140 individuals) of those executed were
African-American. Currently, African-Americans and Latinos make up 50 % of
Arkansas' death row.

A recent study by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock???s William H.
Bowen Law School shows that for the charge of capital murder, African Americans
are over 2 times more likely to receive the death penalty than their white
counterparts. The study shows that whites charged with capital murder are more
likely to receive the more lenient sentence of life without the possibility of
parole. When it comes to life and death in the Arkansas criminal justice
system, race matters.

When it comes to life and death in the Arkansas criminal justice system, race
matters.

While some attribute this obvious disparity in treatment to overt racism,
"Racial Disparities in the Arkansas Criminal Justice System Steering Committee"
points to a less-talked-about culprit: implicit racial bias. Implicit racial
bias is something all of us have. We all hold implicit racial biases, and
unlike explicit racism, these implicit biases are activated without our
awareness or intentional control. These implicit biases are shaped by: the
environments we are raised in, media, and even our circles of influence.
Implicit biases can help shape decisions about who we date or socialize with,
where we chose to live and how we perceive the actions of others.

The 1st step to eliminating these biases from our criminal justice system is to
identify that we have them. Harvard University has developed an implicit
association test that helps to identify which implicit biases one holds.
"Racial Disparities in the Arkansas Criminal Justice System Steering Committee"
recommends that all players in the criminal justice system (prosecutors,
judges, police officers, etc.) take the implicit association test and undergo
implicit bias training to learn how to deal with personal biases. The steering
committee also recommends juries be trained on implicit bias and given jury
instructions on how to deal with implicit bias.

Regardless of how one might feel about the death penalty, no one should be more
or less culpable because of the color of their skin. It is time for Arkansas to
place a moratorium on the death penalty until we can ensure racial bias has no
place in our system of capital punishment or our criminal justice system as a
whole.

(source: Furonda Brasfield Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty,
Executive Director----Huffington Post)
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