death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., FLA., ALA., OHIO, ARK., NEV., USA
(too old to reply)
Rick Halperin
2017-10-25 14:23:00 UTC
Raw Message
Oct. 25

TEXAS----impending execution/Mexican national

Texas set to execute Mexican national amid international dispute

Texas next month is poised to execute a Mexican national accused of rape and
murder in a case that could further inflame border tensions over apparent
violations of the Vienna Convention and international law.

The Mexican government is now funding legal efforts by Ruben Cardenas Ramirez
to halt his execution after authorities neglected to notify Mexico about the
arrest and failed to hold a review required by the United Nations'
international court in The Hague.

"It is as if the United States were thumbing its nose at the government of
Mexico and the United Nations," said Sandra Babcock, a Cornell Law School
professor specializing in international issues surrounding capital punishment.
"And when I say the U.S., I should be clear that we're talking about Texas."

To make matters worse, the condemned man's lawyer is alleging that he didn't
actually commit the crime that earned him a death sentence in the first place.

But according to Hidalgo County prosecutor Ted Hake, the U.N. ruling is "not
enforceable" and there's no mechanism to hold the required review under Texas

"There's no point," he said. "This guy is guilty as sin."

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has weighed in with a
recommendation that the U.S. vacate the death sentence, and the Mexican
government has pleaded for an opportunity to be heard, according to court
filings by defense counsel Maurie Levin.

The Mexican consulate this week declined to comment.

The former security guard was arrested for the 1997 slaying of his 15-year-old
cousin, Mayra Laguna, whose body was found in a canal after she was abducted by
a man who slipped in through the bedroom window.

The case has been plagued by claims of unreliable forensic evidence,
conflicting statements and witnesses, concerns about ineffective lawyers, and
allegations of a coerced confession.

Yet it was the concerns about treaty violations and international repercussions
that pushed the U.S. Department of State to meet in February with Hidalgo
County prosecutors. For now, the Nov. 8 execution date still stands.

"It makes us a clear human rights abuser," said Robert Dunham of the Death
Penalty Information Center.

Human rights concerns

Authorities in Hidalgo County first collared Cardenas hours after the
abduction, but did not immediately notify him of his right to talk to his
country's consulate, according to court documents - an apparent oversight that
violates Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

A 2004 U.N. World Court ruling known as the Avena case - an issue Babcock
argued for Mexico - mandates that foreign nationals who weren't told of their
consular rights are allowed a review to examine whether that oversight
influenced the outcome of the criminal case.

And for Cardenas, there's some chance that it could have. Hidalgo County never
told Mexico about the arrest, Levin said. Instead, they found out on their own
after 5 months, long after Cardenas had given multiple, conflicting confessions
that Levin argues were coerced.

Repeatedly, Cardenas asked for a lawyer, but authorities ignored his pleas
until 11 days after his arrest, instead pushing on in their interrogations
without telling him about his consular notification rights, Levin wrote in
court filings.

Although the treaty violation could have international repercussions, a 2008
Supreme Court decision deemed it unenforceable, unless Congress takes
legislative action - and they haven't.

In the meantime, some states have complied, but others have not.

"There are Mexican nationals whose rights under the Vienna convention have been
violated and they have been executed," Levin said.

Conflicting evidence

Yet the Cardenas case stands out.

"This is the 1st case where there has been a really substantial miscarriage of
justice in that Cardenas really could be innocent," Babcock said. "Although
there is a confession, that confession is inconsistent with the physical
evidence, the statements are inconsistent with each other, and he himself is of
low intelligence. And then on top of that you have a lack of physical

Now, Cardenas has few remaining shots at avoiding the death chamber.

There's a motion pending in Hidalgo County court for DNA testing of scrapings
taken from beneath Mayra's fingernails. The prosecution has already opposed the
request, which came coupled with a motion to call off the execution.

"To permit Mr. Cardenas's execution to proceed without permitting this testing
would fly in the face of the most fundamental concept of justice," Levin wrote
in a scathing filing.

At the same time, there's a long-shot plea for a reprieve and sentence
commutation in front of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, and a request
for a 30-day reprieve pending before Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

If the capital sentence goes forward as scheduled, some worry it could have
ramifications abroad.

"When we allow executions to occur in situations like this," Dunham said, "we
place Americans in danger abroad because we risk that other countries will
mistreat our nationals the same way our courts are mistreating theirs."

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Fort Worth man convicted of grisly capital murder; now jury decides on death

Jurors took less than 2 hours to convict an accused killer of capital murder
who said he was called by wind chimes and directed by the voice of a dark
prince before he killed 1 man and severely injured another.

Miguel Hernandez, 32, was arrested naked in the bed of his pickup in the July
27, 2014, slaying of James Bowling, a 56-year-old man who was strangled after
what police said was a violent fight during a burglary attempt.

Defense attorneys argued that Hernandez is not guilty of capital murder by
reason of insanity. The Tarrant County district attorney's office is seeking
the death penalty.

The court now begins the second phase of this trial, in which jurors decide
whether Hernandez should receive life in prison without the possiblity of
parole or die by lethal injection. The punishment phase begins at 1 p.m.

Hernandez is believed to have come in through the window of Bowling???s house,
surprising Bowling and his 82-year-old roommate, Don Keaton, police officers

When Keaton confronted him, Hernandez beat him and then poured what he believed
to be acid, later determined to be drain cleaner, on his face to make sure he
was dead, police said. Police found a partially empty bottle of drain cleaner
in the hallway.

Officers found both men on the floor. Keaton was screaming and both were
covered in blood and drain cleaner. Keaton had called 911 while Bowling was
being strangled.

Both sides agreed Hernandez killed Bowling and savagely beat Keaton. Witnesses
for the prosecution and the defense both testified that on the night that
Bowling was slain, Hernandez suffered from severe mental illness.

Hernandez admitted that he used methamphetamine before he went into Bowling???s
house, according to J. Randall Price, a psychologist who testified for the
state on Monday.

"His psychosis is caused by voluntary intoxication," Price said.

When a police officer initially located Hernandez, "every square inch of his
body was covered in blood," officer Chris McAnulty of the Fort Worth Police
Department testified last week.

Hernandez said he was on several missions on the night that Bowling was slain,
Matt Mendel testified Monday. Mendel interviewed Hernandez 4 times and
concluded the defendant was psychotic.

"He has this belief that a beautiful woman was waiting for him who wanted to
have sex with him," Mendel said. "And he wanted to he sex with her. All he had
to do was find her. That was his only obstacle."

Hernandez rapidly changed missions through the night, Mendel said. Hernandez
heard a song on the radio and interpreted it as a personal message, Mendel
said. Hernandez was plagued by a dialogue he heard inside his head, Mendel

Hernandez also said wind chimes were guiding him, Mendel said.

"It was almost like watching someone play, 'Red Light, Green Light,'" Mendel
said. "He'd hear the chimes and head toward the house. The chimes would stop
and he would stop."

Hernandez told himself that if he went into Bowling's house the dark prince
would reward him but he also told himself that he was failing his prince and
that he was too weak to go inside, Mendel said. Hernandez made no judgments
about the tasks the dark prince gave him, according to Mendel.

"There was no sense of right or wrong," Mendel said. "He didn't feel like he
had a choice in what he was doing."

(source: star-telegram.com)

tion Relief Act.


Death penalties down; life sentences at record high

The death penalty has been on the decline for years. In fact, only 31 states
still use capital punishment and Virginia is one of them.

Brandon Garrett recently published "End of its Rope: How killing the death
penalty can revive criminal justice". In the book, Garrett takes a deeper
looking the facts that are affecting death sentencing.

"The flaws in the death penalty are its own undoing," said Garrett. "Death
Penalty has reached the logical conclusion which is to just sort of fade away."

At one point in time, the Commonwealth was known for having fast trials. There
was not much time between a death sentence and an execution.

"When you looked at death penalty cases in the 1990's in Virginia they were
really short," explained Garrett. "They were sometimes 2-day trials."

That is until prosecutors started losing when they were seeking this penalty.

"These are some troubling horrific murders that you can imagine and yet when
jurors hear how the person got that way sometimes they sympathize and realize
that the ultimate punishment it's the right punishment," said Garrett.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the number of death
sentences is at a 40-year low. In fact, it has been about 7 years since anyone
was sentenced to death in Virginia and over 50 years for Charlottesville.

Garrett found that larger and more conservative counties were more likely to
sentence someone to death.

"They tend to be counties that have white victims of murder," expressed
Garrett. "The counties that are doing it have this pattern of racial bias. They
this inertia effect tends to be prosecutors seek the death penalty because they
are used to seeking it."

CBS19's Legal Analyst, Scott Goodman, said it is pretty well known that the
Charlottesville- Albemarle area is not a place that is very hospitable, as far
as juries are concerned, with handing out a death sentence. The last person was
when an ivy man who was convicted of murdering a 4-year-old in 1969. Sherman
Brown is still behind bars much like in the case of Jesse Mathew.

"Sometimes families want closure and don't want cases to continue to be on
appeal," explained Goodman. "They won't be a threat to the community and so
there has been a greater acceptance of a true life sentence as opposed to a
state carrying out killing in retribution."

(source: CBS News)


Damas recounts details of murdering family

The man who murdered his wife and five children described the night he slit
their throats for the 1st time in 8 years.

"She was like trying to make noise with her feet that the neighbor next to us
can hear," Damas said in an interview.

Prosecutors read an interview between Mesac Damas and detectives as he talked
about the heinous murders in his own words. This was the attorneys' absolute
last chance to persuade the judge.

The prosecutors asked Judge Greider to sentence Damas to death, while defense
attorneys pleaded for his life.

Damas sat with his head down, stuffing tissues in his ears to block out the
sound, as prosecutor Amira Fox recounted Damas' explanation of the murders in
his own words.

"I went upstairs with a knife in my hand. They were all sleeping," Damas said
in the interview. "Duct tape. I pretty much put it around her mouth and
everything. There she won't scream. "Prosecutors chose to read this interview
to prove to the judge that these murders were especially brutal. That's one of
the reasons the state is allowed to ask for the death penalty in this case.

"He enters with a weapon, kills his wife and slowly and deliberately moves
through the house killing child by child," Fox said.

The defense attorneys were fighting for his life while Damas sat silently,
refusing to speak a word to his attorneys or the judge.

"You obviously have someone who is very very troubled and likely has some
signifying psychiatric problems and in this country we do not execute mentally
ill individuals," defense attorney James Ermacora said.

Damas' defense attorney was trying to disprove the state's argument that these
murders were cold and calculated.

"He's clearly not thinking clearly, he's clearly not sitting and contemplating
what he's doing. He's doing it in a craze, in a panic," Ermacora said.

On Friday, this 8-year long case should come to a close. Judge Grieder will
decide if Damas will spent the rest of his life in prison or head to death row.

(source: NBC News)


Jury pool narrows in quadruple murder trial----Potential members asked about
views on death penalty

Jury selection in a quadruple murder trial continued Tuesday as attorneys
whittled a group of about 150 potential jurors down to 65.

Assistant State Attorney Robin Arnold questioned potential jurors about their
views on the level of proof needed to convict a defendant in a capital case,
what constitutes as evidence, their views on the death penalty as a punishment,
and the answers they provided both teams on a 10-page juror questionnaire
administered Monday.

Defense attorneys Terry Lenamon and Tania Alavi will have the chance to
question the potential jurors Wednesday morning.

Prior to Tuesday afternoon, potential jurors had only been asked questions
about hardships, whether they had any prior knowledge of the case, and whether
they have a strong opinion for or against the death penalty.

The state and defense believe they may have a 12-person jury with 3 alternates
chosen by the end of day Wednesday for the trial of James Edward Bannister, 37.
He is charged with 4 counts of 1st-degree murder in the deaths of CorDerica
Hill, 6, CorDarrian Hill, 8, Jocalyn Gray, 27, and Bridget Gray, 52, in August

Jocalyn Gray was Bannister's girlfriend at the time and the 2 had a child
together. Bridget Gray was Jocalyn Gray's mother. The Hill children lived in
the house with Bridget Gray, who was engaged to their father, Willie Hill.

The victims' bodies were found Aug. 5, 2011, in a burning Northwest Fifth
Street house. Each had been shot. Bridget Gray's body was burned beyond
recognition, according to a statement of facts 5th Circuit Judge Willard Pope
read to potential jurors.

Bannister was arrested for the murders Aug. 11, 2011, after police outfitted a
confidential informant with a wire and instructed him to talk to Bannister
about the crime. In that wired conversation, Bannister stated he had took his
world, referring to Jocalyn Gray, and discussed what he would do if he got away
with the crime, according to a police report.

The State Attorney's Office is seeking the death penalty against Bannister.

Bannister's trial is expected to last a total of four weeks. Pope said it
should be over by Thanksgiving.

This case has been working its way through the legal system for 6 years. It has
been delayed multiple times to allow both sides to fully explore the evidence.
Pope has told attorneys he is determined to resolve this case this year.

Bannister is 1 of 7 Marion County defendants facing the death penalty. None of
the other 6 are accused of killing more than 2 people.

There are 7 Marion County defendants currently on death row; 3 have been
granted resentencings. None of them have been convicted of killing more than 2

(source: ocala.com)


Alabaster gas station murder suspect seeks to bar death penalty

A 44-year-old Alabaster man who has been charged with shooting and killing the
clerk at a local Chevron gas station in 2016 is asking the court to bar the
death penalty in his capital murder case, and has asked he be issued a bond to
allow him to be released from jail pending his trial.

In motions filed in Shelby County Circuit Court on Oct. 19, Everett Wess, the
attorney for Alabaster resident Michael Anthony Powell, made the requests for
his client.

Powell, who lists an address on Third Street Northeast in Alabaster, was
indicted by a Shelby County grand jury in November 2016 on a capital murder
charge originally brought against him by the Alabaster Police Department on
Oct. 30, 2016.

Powell is facing allegations he shot and killed 54-year-old Pelham resident
Tracy Latty Algar while Algar was working a Sunday morning shift at Alabaster's
Kirkland Chevron off U.S. 31.

In the Chevron shooting, Alabaster Police Chief Curtis Rigney said the suspect
allegedly entered the gas station, took Algar into the bathroom and shot her in
the top of the head, killing her. The suspect allegedly stole a "couple hundred
dollars" in the robbery before fleeing the scene on foot, Rigney said.

He has been held in the Shelby County Jail without bond since his Nov. 4, 2016
arrest, and allegedly attempted to identify himself as another inmate in the
jail in early December 2016, according to his arrest warrants.

In the request to bar the death penalty in Powell's case, Wess claims Powell's
"indictment fails to allege the existence of any aggravating circumstances
which would authorize a sentence of death."

"The failure of the indictment to allege one or more aggravating circumstances
precludes the state from requesting the death penalty, and bars this court from
sentencing the defendant to death in the event that he is convicted of capital
murder for the reasons stated in this motion," read the request.

In the request to issue Powell a bond, Wess claimed Powell "does not pose a
threat to the community or to himself should he be released," and claimed
Powell "is not a flight risk or does he present a threat of committing further
criminal offenses."

???The granting of this motion (to issue bond) would be in the best interest of
the defendant, insuring his ability to maintain employment and thereby make
payment of current and future obligations and to provide for his family," read
the motion.

As of Oct. 24, Shelby County Circuit Court Judge William Bostick had not yet
ruled on the pair of motions.

(source: shelbycountyreporter.com)


Bill introduced to abolish death penalty in Ohio

A bill that would abolish the death penalty in Ohio and replace it with a life
sentence without parole was officially introduced Wednesday.

Capital punishment is legal in 31 states.

A Pew Research Center poll released in September 2016 showed that nationwide
support for the death penalty is at its lowest point in more than 4 decades.

49 % of Americans favor the death penalty for murderers, while 42 % oppose it.
Support fell 7 % since March 2015.

A poll on the sentiment of Ohio residents on the death penalty for murderers by
Quinnipiac University in May 2014 shows 69 % favored it and 25 % said they
opposed it.

Out of Ohio's total 50,301 prison population, 140 are on death row, according
to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction. 53 have been executed
since 1999.

House Bill 389 is sponsored once again by State Rep. Nickie Antonio.

The Democrat from Lakewood has unsuccessfully tried several times to pass a
bill eliminating the death penalty.

She was joined in a 2015 bipartisan attempt by Miamisburg Republican State Rep.
Niraj Antani.

Antani is a co-sponsor again, along with the following other state reps:
Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati); Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo); Stephanie Howse
(D-Cleveland); Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown); Dan Ramos (D-Lorain); Kent
Smith (D-Euclid).

(source: Fox News)


Defense: Nix Death Penalty Sought In Case Over 9 Fire Deaths

Attorneys for a black man charged in 2 Ohio fires that killed 9 people allege
race was a factor in the decision to seek capital punishment and say death
penalty specifications in the case should be dismissed.

The Akron Beacon Journal prosecutors oppose that request by lawyers for
58-year-old Stanley Ford, of Akron.

He pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder charges for 2 fires on 1 street,
within a block of his home. An April 2016 fire killed 2 adults. A blaze last
May killed 2 adults and 5 children.

Emails from the prosecutor's office about the case will be reviewed by a Summit
County judge to determine whether that information should be shared with the
defense attorneys arguing that race affected how the case was handled.

(source: Associated Press)

ARKANSAS----impending execution

Jack Greene Has Profound Mental Illness, but Arkansas Wants to Execute Him

The state of Arkansas is planning to kill Jack Greene. But Jack Greene has
serious mental illness and should not be executed.

This doesn't mean that Greene is not guilty of the capital murder of Sidney
Burnett in 1991. Stopping his execution has nothing to do with his guilt - or
even the fact that he should face a severe punishment for the rest of his life.
But, under our law, Greene's profound mental illness must determine whether he
can be executed.

For more than 3 decades, we have recognized as a matter of constitutional law
that executing someone who does not rationally understand the basis for their
execution is cruel and unusual.

In his delusional mind, Greene needs to stand upside down, stuff pieces of
toilet paper in his nose and ears until they bleed, eat from his sink, and
perch on his toilet to protect himself from an imagined attack on his central
nervous system. He believes the prison and his lawyers are working together
against him in an elaborate scheme of retaliation and torture. He believes that
his execution is part of a vast conspiracy by his lawyers and others against
him. He does not rationally understand his punishment.

Nonetheless, Greene faces a November 9, 2017, execution because Arkansas has no
constitutional avenue for him to prove the extent of his mental illness. The
person who decides whether prisoners are competent to be executed is the
director of the Department of Correction - the very person whose job it is to
conduct executions. There is no other way for Greene to demonstrate or explain
to an independent court why he should not be executed, even though he has
struggled with mental illness for decades.

His first reported imagined attack on his body came in 1982. Greene, 27 years
old at the time, went to the emergency room in distress. He told the doctors
that he had been bitten by a snake.

But here's the thing. Doctors did not believe there was a snake. It was all in
his head.

Furthermore, Greene harmed himself based on his imaginary injury. He had split
open his own leg, sucked out the imaginary venom, and made a tourniquet.

This is the nature of delusions. Greene's delusions may seem bizarre. But to
him, they are absolutely real.

We know serious mental illness may be the result of family history and
genetics, or it may be the result of other life experiences and even head
injuries. Which did Greene have? All of them. Seizures, major depression, and
suicide all run deep through Greene's immediate family. His siblings have been
diagnosed with serious mental illness for years. Greene's father committed
suicide in front of him, and his mother died of an overdose.

If his biology stacked the cards against him, his life experiences made sure he
had a losing hand.

As a boy, Greene was sent to the Stonewall Jackson Juvenile Training School - a
notorious hellhole of physical and sexual abuse. He could not escape the sexual
and physical violence there, and he tried to run from the school. This ended in
a car accident where he broke his ribs, punctured his lung, and injured his
head. He was then returned to the violent and chaotic school.

When Jack finally came home, he was a changed child, marked by telltale signs
of trauma. He was withdrawn, quiet, crying, nervous, rocking, and haunted by
nightmares. Such trauma, like a head injury from a car accident, changes the
grooves of your brain.

So why is Greene still facing an imminent execution date? Because Arkansas has
no constitutionally adequate way for him to prove that he meets the standard
for someone too mentally ill to be executed.

In most states, lawyers for seriously mentally ill death row prisoners prove
that their clients are incapable of rationally understanding the purpose of
their execution, and thus ineligible for execution, by presenting their case to
courts. Not so in Arkansas, where death row prisoners - and their lawyers - are
expected to argue to the head of the Department of Corrections that they
qualify for the exemption. This is an anathema to our system of justice: We do
not allow jailers to determine our punishments or decide who lives and who dies
in America.

At a minimum, Arkansas must hold a fair competency hearing to determine if Mr.
Greene is too mentally ill to be executed. To proceed with the execution of
Jack Greene, a person who cannot rationally understand the basis for his
punishment, would be morally and legally wrong.

While I believe that the death penalty should be abolished and I wholeheartedly
agree with the sentiments you are conveying, I cannot help but point out the
fact that you have listed seizures as a symptom of mental illness. Please do
your research before publishing such misinformation. Epilepsy and seizure
disorders are neurological conditions, not psychiatric.

(source: Cassandra Stubbs, Director, ACLU Capital Punishment


State Supreme Court upholds death sentence

The Nevada Supreme Court has upheld the death penalty for Gregory N. Leonard,
convicted of the strangling death of Tony Antee in January 1995.

The court, in 4-1 decision, rejected the Leonard's appeal that his lawyer was
ineffective. There were 2 mistrials before a jury reached its decision in a 3rd

Leonard had been convicted previously in the slaying of another man in the same
apartment complex in November 1994 and was sentenced to death in that case.

(source: Las Vegas Sun)


Christensen attorneys ask for more time to prepare defense

Citing the need to prepare a thorough defense, attorneys for accused killer
Brendt Christensen have asked that his trial date be delayed.

The 28-year-old former University of Illinois grad student was supposed to be
tried in late February for the alleged death of Yingying Zhang, purported to
have happened during her kidnapping in June.

Christensen was in federal court in Urbana two weeks ago being arraigned on the
charges filed in connection with the June 9 disappearance of Ms. Zhang, 26, a
visiting scholar from China engaged in agricultural research at the UI.

Kidnapping resulting in death qualifies as a death penalty offense in the
federal system, but whether the government will actually seek the death penalty
has not been determined.

Nonetheless, federal public defenders have been preparing for that possibility
since their appointment Sept. 8.

U.S. District Court Judge Colin Bruce said at that time, when he agreed to let
private attorneys off the case and appointed the public defenders, that he
wanted the case tried in late February.

On Tuesday, the 3-member defense team representing Christensen filed a written
motion to continue the final pretrial hearing and jury trial dates, saying they
are ethically bound to do a full investigation of facts relevant to both the
guilt and penalty phases prior to trial.

"It is clear that an adequate defense team in a capital case requires not only
attorneys, but additional team members, including but not limited to fact
investigators, mitigation specialists, mental health experts, and consulting
forensic experts. Counsel is also required to investigate and consider any
potential legal challenges to the composition of both the grand jury and petit
jury pools. To do otherwise raises the specter of ineffective assistance of
counsel," the motion said.

To support their requests, Assistant U.S. Federal Public Defenders Elisabeth
Pollock, George Taseff and Robert Tucker submitted a declaration from the
director of the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project, Kevin McNally.

In it, McNally said based on all federal capital prosecutions across the
country, the average time between indictment and trial is 28 months. The
average time between indictment and notice of intent to seek the death penalty
is 13 months, and the average time between the notice to seek that penalty and
trial is 16 months.

In Christensen's case, the government put the defense on notice in early
September, even before Christensen had been indicted for kidnapping resulting
in death and making false statements to federal investigators, that it was
considering death as a potential penalty.

A panel at the Justice Department will make the ultimate decision on whether
that happens.

Bruce entered an order Tuesday giving government prosecutors Eugene Miller and
Bryan Freres until Nov. 3 to respond. Bruce could rule directly instead of
having a hearing on the request. How he resolves it will be decided after the
government responds.

Ms. Zhang's body has not been found. She has been missing 138 days.

Christensen has been in the custody of the federal marshals since June 30.

(source: The News-Gazette)
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