2017-10-12 15:10:13 UTC
Man convicted in Texas prison guard's death to be executed
A Texas death row inmate who sued unsuccessfully to try to halt his execution,
arguing that more DNA testing needed to be done, is now trying to convince the
U.S. Supreme Court to stop the punishment scheduled for Thursday.
Robert Pruett was already serving 99 years for a neighbor's killing when he was
convicted in the death of a prison guard who was stabbed in an attack that
prosecutors say stemmed from a dispute over a peanut butter sandwich. Pruett
wanted to take the sandwich into a recreation yard against prison rules, they
said. An autopsy showed corrections officer Daniel Nagle died of a heart attack
brought on by the December 1999 stabbing.
Pruett, 38, has insisted he's innocent of Nagle's death at the McConnell Unit
near Beeville, about 85 miles (136 kilometers) southeast of San Antonio. He
would become the 6th prisoner executed this year in Texas, which carries out
the death penalty more than any other states. Texas executed a total of seven
inmates last year.
Pruett avoided execution in April 2015 when a state judge halted his punishment
just hours before he could have been taken to the death chamber. His lawyers
had convinced the judge that new DNA tests needed to be conducted on the
tape-wrapped, 7-inch sharpened steel rod used to repeatedly stab the
37-year-old Nagle. The new tests showed no DNA on the tape but uncovered DNA on
the rod from an unknown female who authorities said likely handled the shank
during the appeals process after the original tests in 2002. The execution was
put on the schedule again.
After seeking even more DNA testing and being rejected by the courts, Pruett's
attorneys filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in August in which they argued
that the courts denied Pruett due process. The lawyers asked the federal courts
to halt the rescheduled execution, allow the additional DNA testing and then
check the results for matches in law enforcement databases.Last week, the 5th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the lawsuit. But Pruett's attorneys
appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, arguing that a lower court judge
wrongly rejected the case after sitting on it for 2 months.
In a second appeal to the Supreme Court, also filed on Tuesday, the attorneys
asked the high court to revisit the question of whether it is constitutional to
execute a prisoner who claims actual innocence because of newly discovered
evidence. U.S. Supreme Court justices in 1993 ruled 6-3 in a Texas case that it
was constitutional to do so.
State attorneys say Pruett's lawyers have long engaged in "a pattern of delay."
No physical evidence tied Pruett to Nagle's death. At his 2002 trial, prisoners
testified that they saw Pruett attack Nagle or heard him talk about wanting to
kill the guard. According to some of the testimony, he talked about possessing
a weapon as well.
Pruett has said he was framed and that Nagle, an officer for more than 3 years,
could have been killed by other inmates or corrupt officers at the McConnell
"I never killed nobody in my life," Pruett testified at his trial. He said he
was in a gym when he learned the officer had been stabbed.
Pruett's 99-year murder sentence that he was already serving was for
participating at age 15 with his father and a brother in the 1995 stabbing
death of a 29-year-old neighbor, Raymond Yarbrough, at the man's trailer home
in Channelview, just east of Houston. Pruett's father, 70-year-old Howard
Pruett, is serving life in prison. His brother, 47-year-old Howard Pruett Jr.,
was sentenced to 40 years.
(source: Associated Press)
Houston serial killer loses appeal 1 week before scheduled execution
With just a week to go before his scheduled execution, Houston serial killer
Anthony Shore lost a last-ditch appeal claiming decades-old unrealized brain
damage left him so impaired he was not morally culpable for his crimes.
The so-called Tourniquet Killer slated for execution Wednesday was convicted of
capital murder in 2004 after he confessed to brutally slaying 4 young women in
the Houston area.
In the latest appeal, turned down by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on
Tuesday, Shore's lawyers argued that the extent of his brain damage rendered
the execution unconstitutional, likening it to executing an intellectually
"Mr. Shore does not claim he is ineligible for the death penalty because he is
unintelligent or uncharismatic," his lawyers wrote earlier this month in a
"Mr. Shore is ineligible for the death penalty because his brain injury
decreases his moral culpability for his crimes, in the same way that a
juvenile, despite intelligence or charisma, is nonetheless ineligible for the
But the state's highest criminal court didn't buy into that argument.
"We find that applicant has failed to make a prima facie showing that a person
with brain damage, like an intellectually disabled person, should be
categorically exempt from execution," the court wrote in its decision.
"Accordingly, we dismiss this application as an abuse of the writ without
reviewing the merits of the claim raised."
The failed appeal follows another courtroom disappointment, when the U.S.
Supreme Court denied without comment his petition for writ of certiorari which,
if granted, would have required a lower court to reconsider a request for
appeal. Even before the court issued its decision, Shore's attorney, K. Knox
Nunnally, admitted "the odds are not in our favor."
Now, Shore's hope rests on a clemency application filed with the state's Board
of Pardons and Paroles.
Nunnally did not offer comment about Tuesday's decision.
Currently the only Houston killer with a scheduled execution, the 55-year-old
was convicted of one killing in 2004, though he confessed to 3 others.
Shore's murderous rampage started in 1986, when he slaughtered 14-year-old
Laurie Tremblay. 6 years later, he raped and murdered 21-year-old Maria del
Carmen Estrada. In 1994, he killed 9-year-old Diana Rebollar, a year before
slaying 16-year-old Dana Sanchez.
The cases went unsolved for nearly 2 decades, until Shore had to register as a
sex offender after he was convicted of molesting 2 family members.
Eventually, authorities linked Shore's newly registered DNA to evidence from
the cold cases. When they brought the former telephone technician in for
questioning, he calmly confessed to a string of rapes and murder in the Harris
Now, he's scheduled to meet his fate in Huntsville on Oct. 18 at 6 p.m.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Texas attorneys brace for new round of death penalty appeals after intellectual
Tomas Gallo smiled and laughed as Harris County jurors decided his fate for the
rape and murder of his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter.
Gallo had covered the girl's body with bruises and bite marks before sexually
assaulting and bludgeoning her while her mother was at work just a few days
before Christmas in 2001. He then cleaned up the blood-spattered bathroom,
dressed the child in clean clothes and called her mother to say the girl was
Jurors agreed he should be sentenced to death, despite his lawyers' arguments
that he was intellectually disabled.
Now, however, Gallo and at least 9 other death row inmates from across Texas -
including 5 others from Harris County - are seeking to have their death
sentences thrown out in exchange for life in prison under a ruling earlier this
year by the U.S. Supreme Court that changed how Texas determines intellectual
Some, including Gallo, could eventually walk free, since life without parole
was not an option in Texas when they were convicted.
"When we think about it, it just tears us up again," said Rosa Flores, the
child's paternal grandmother. "I don't feel that this young man has any kind of
problem. He might have a low IQ but that doesn't mean he's stupid or dumb. He
knows what he's doing."
Their fears are echoed among other families awaiting execution of a capital
murderer, said Andy Kahan, victim's advocate for the city of Houston.
Life or death?
A March ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court could lead to new sentences for at
least 10 death row inmates in Texas. The court, which in 2002 prohibited
execution of mentally ill inmates, ruled that the state must rely on
professional evaluations in determining intellectually disability. At least
five of the cases under review are from Harris County:
Joel Escobedo, 55, shot a man during a robbery at a bus stop in 1998.
Tomas Gallo, 42, raped and fatally beat his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter
Joseph Jean, 45, beat 2 teenage girls to death after breaking into his
ex-girlfriend's home in 2010.
Harlem Lewis, 26, shot a police officer and a good samaritan after a police
chase in 2012.
Bobby Moore, 57, shot a grocery store clerk during a robbery in 1980.
Obie Weathers, 36, killed a bartender while robbing a bar in 2000 in San
North and Central Texas
James Henderson, 44, fatally shot 85-year-old while burglarizing her home in
Steven Long, 46, raped and killed an 11-year-old girl in 2005.
Naim Rasool Muhammad, 38, drowned his 2 sons in a creek in 2011.
Us Carnell Petetan, 41, murdered his estranged wife in Waco in 2012.
"There's a lull where you're waiting on justice, for maybe a decade, and you're
riding that roller coaster and all of a sudden that coaster gets taken down
because you're right back in court again," Kahan said. "And you have to re-live
all the nightmares of what happened to your family."
The U.S. Supreme Court abolished the death penalty in 2002 for people with
intellectual disabilities, but left it up to states to set standards for
determining disability. A follow-up ruling by the Supreme Court in March in a
different Harris County case overturned Texas' method for determining
intellectual disability, saying it was out of date and ineffective.
The March ruling left Texas prosecutors and defense attorneys scrambling to
review cases, some dating back decades. Harris County has 82 inmates on death
row, though it remains unclear how many cases in Houston or across Texas will
be affected by the ruling.
Attorneys on both sides are bracing for what could be a wave of appeals, with
some putting the number in the dozens.
"They could be looking at a nightmare," said Tom Moran, a Houston criminal
defense and appellate attorney who is representing another inmate, Joel
Escobedo, in his attempt to get his death penalty overturned.
District Attorney Kim Ogg said her office is keeping a close eye on the legal
developments and she is sympathetic to the families of the victims.
"Taking a person's life is the most serious action a government can take
against an individual," Ogg said, "and we are making every effort to ensure
that offender's Constitutional rights are respected."
Moore and the law
The March ruling came in the case of Bobby Moore, convicted of capital murder
in the death of a Houston store clerk in April 1980.
Moore, now 57, shot and killed 73-year-old James McCarble at Birdsall Super
Market near Memorial Park, a store he and 2 accomplices picked because 2
elderly people were running the customer-service booth and the cashier was
pregnant. After shooting McCarble with a shotgun, Moore fled and was arrested
10 days later in Louisiana.
He was sentenced to die by lethal injection.
His attorneys appealed the conviction, arguing that the judge and jury should
have considered his intellectual disability as outlined in a landmark 2002
ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that prohibited execution of the
The ruling stemmed from the conviction of Daryl Atkins, a mentally disabled
Virginia man who was sentenced to death for the kidnapping, robbery and murder
of an air force serviceman in 1996.
The Atkins decision set off waves of appeals by inmates, many of whom had their
death sentences changed to life in prison. At least 15 Texas inmates were
removed from death row for being mentally disabled in the wake of the decision,
according to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
To qualify for the Atkins exemption, inmates must have a low IQ, typically
under 70, and significant problems adapting to their surroundings that were
evident even in childhood. Figuring out how to determine that fell to the Texas
Court of Criminal Appeals, which adopted a seven-pronged test to determine
intellectual disability in the state.
The test, named after plaintiff Jose Briseno, referenced Lennie, the fictional
character from John Steinbeck's novel "Of Mice and Men," as someone most Texans
would agree should be exempt from the death penalty.
The "Briseno factors," as they came to be known, consisted of 7 questions to
help courts decide whether someone shows "adaptive behavior" that suggests they
are not intellectually disabled. The questions ranged from whether someone can
lie effectively to whether his conduct shows leadership.
In Moore's case, however, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote in a
5-3 majority opinion that the Texas courts relied too heavily on IQ scores and
non-clinical evaluations by judges. She said the state should have used
evaluations by mental health professionals to determine intellectual
Moore's precedent-setting case was sent back to the Texas Court of Criminal
Appeals, which has yet to issue a ruling on how the state's courts will
determine intellectual disability.
In the meantime, other death row inmates are asking for reconsideration of
Joshua Reiss, head of the post-conviction writs division at the Harris County
District Attorney's office, has been notified that at least three inmates,
including Gallo, are appealing under the March ruling. He said he expects 6 to
10 death row inmates from Harris County to appeal over the next few years. Even
though they are being appealed under the same decision, he said each one would
"They're very fact-intensive, they're going to be expert-intensive," he said.
"We're going to take each one individually."
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court sent the San Antonio case of convicted killer
Obie Weathers back to the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to be reevaluated
under the new law.
Local cases affected
The 1st Houston case reconsidered under the Moore ruling was Robert James
Mental health professionals on both sides agreed that he was mentally disabled.
In a plea deal designed to make sure he never leaves prison despite being
eligible for parole, he ended up with a life sentence earlier this year.
The new sentence was accepted bitterly by the family of his victim, Alexandra
Rendon, a 20-year-old bank teller who was abducted from a gas station, raped
"To me, it's an extremely borderline case of whether Robert James Campbell is
mentally well for execution," Israel Santana, Rendon's cousin, said at the
time. "Me and my family, we strongly believe that he is. But in no way do we
want to be a part of executing someone who is questionable."
Santana, an attorney, said he and his family have a duty to follow the law.
"As much as it hurts, we accept the State of Texas and the Supreme Court's
ruling taking Robert James Campbell off death row," he said with tears in his
eyes. "There are laws left and right that we may not agree with, but we have to
Gallo and two other condemned men, Harlem Lewis and Joseph Jean, have notified
the Harris County District Attorney's Office they will also seek to have their
death penalty sentences overturned.
Lawyers for Gallo argued during trial that someone else in the family killed
the young girl. After he was convicted of capital murder, they argued that he
was too mentally disabled to execute.
"It's not an act," said A. Richard Ellis, Gallo's appellate attorney. "Someone
can't just rig up an (intellectual disability) claim after the fact and make it
fit the law. He had abysmal school performance, was in special education and on
and on. This is an ongoing disability."
The prosecutors who put Gallo on death row, who no longer work at the Harris
County DA's office, did not return calls and emails. At trial, prosecutors and
the jury relied on the Briseno test to determine that Gallo was not disabled.
In a more recent case, Lewis, now 26, landed on death row for gunning down
Bellaire Police Officer Jimmie Norman and good Samaritan Terry Taylor after a
police chase in 2012.
Lewis testified in his own defense that he was scared after a police chase and
shot both men after a struggle to get him out of his car. His attorneys did not
raise his intellectual capacity at trial but the issue is allowed in his
"A lot of us have the idea that if someone's not drooling in the corner, they
can't have intellectual disability," said Gretchen Sween, an appellate attorney
for Lewis. "Harlem Lewis's case shows that somebody can successfully mask all
kinds of things, and it takes an expert to go in and investigate and understand
what adaptive deficits mean."
In another case that is being appealed, Joseph Francois Jean, 45, landed on
death row in 2011. He broke in to the home of an ex-girlfriend he was stalking
and, finding just her teenage daughter and niece having a sleepover, beat the
teens to death with a baseball bat on April 11, 2010. He then set the townhouse
on fire using gasoline and fled. He was convicted of killing Chelsey Lang, 17,
and her cousin, 16-year-old Ashley Johnson.
Those cases could be just the beginning. Attorneys who work on death penalty
appeals agree there could be 8 to 12 more Harris County cases in which the new
"If there's one case that would be affected by this, I'd be thrilled," said
defense attorney Pat McCann. "And I'm pretty sure there's a dozen."
Other cases are also working their way through the state and federal courts.
Attorney Moran has filed an appeal in federal court for Escobedo, who was
convicted in 1999 of robbing and killing a 65-year-old man for drug money at an
East End bus stop. Guadalupe Garcia was pistol-whipped, robbed, then shot.
In his pleadings, Moran cited 2 other death row inmates whose cases involved
claims of intellectual disability: Raymond Martinez and James Henderson.
Martinez's case was closed in August when the 71-year-old died of natural
causes after three decades on death row. A diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic
with an IQ of 65, he was convicted of a 1983 crime spree that left 5 people
dead. He died with claims still pending that he was mentally disabled.
Henderson, 44, was convicted in 1994 of shooting 85-year-old Martha Lennox
while burglarizing her Clarksville home in East Texas. He was convicted in
Sween, an attorney for the state's Office of Capital and Forensic Writs, said
the agency is handling at least 5 cases stemming from the Moore ruling.
"We shouldn't let unscientific biases come into play in this really important
question," she said. "We should listen to what the scientists tell us about how
you diagnose somebody."
Death penalty opponents have cheered the Moore decision, saying courts have a
tendency to look at a defendant's strengths and rule that they are not mentally
disabled, rather than look at the disability.
"Based on Justice Ginsberg's opinion, you have to use the best medical
standards available and focus on the disabilities to determine whether someone
meets the standard," said McCann, Moore's attorney. "That's a game-changer
because the courts have tended to put their thumb on the scale towards any
showing of strength or some competency in some field as negating retardation,
and that's just not how one determines that."
But critics argue that reducing old capital murder convictions obtained before
the state's "life without parole" law was passed in 2005 means killers who have
been behind bars for decades are eligible almost immediately for parole.
In most death penalty cases that have been changed to life sentences, defense
attorneys work with prosecutors to craft elaborate sentencing arrangements to
ensure that the former death row inmate never walks free. The common goal, both
sides agree, is making sure killers never get out of prison, even if they get
off death row.
But it's still possible.
In Campbell's case, District Attorney Ogg has promised to protest any possible
parole. Similar arrangements are likely to materialize as other cases are
considered in light of the new ruling.
In Gallo's case, the victim's family remains unconvinced that he is so mentally
disabled that he should not be executed.
He has apparently been able to make jailhouse wine and give himself a jailhouse
tattoo with a makeshift tattoo gun, said Flores, the child's grandmother.
"I don't think his IQ is all that low because he's got common sense," she said.
"If you've got common sense, you've got a lot going for you."
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Death Watch: Next Up, the Tourniquet Killer----Convicted strangler set for
execution on Oct. 18
Time is running out for convicted serial killer Anthony Shore. Dubbed the
"Tourniquet Killer" due to his predilection for strangling victims between 1986
and 1995, Shore's most recent appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied on
Oct. 2. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied a motion for a last minute
stay on Wednesday, and the Houston killer will face execution next Wednesday,
Oct. 18. Though Shore was only convicted on one count of capital murder in
2004, he confessed to the killing and rape of several other girls, ranging in
age from 9 to 21. On Sept. 12, Shore filed an appeal with the CCA that claimed
he suffers from brain injuries incurred in a 1981 car accident. The state
followed with a motion to dismiss his appeal and stay the request on the
grounds that Shore has been diagnosed as a psychopath: That is "what someone
is, not what someone becomes," read the motion. The state also referenced
Shore's childhood history of sexual violence.
Shore was caught nearly a decade after what investigators believe was his last
kill; he was arrested in the late 90s for sexually assaulting his 2 daughters.
But because of Houston's notoriously dysfunctional crime lab, there wasn't a
CODIS hit on his DNA until 2003, after a sample of one of his victim's DNA was
outsourced to a different crime lab for testing. If Robert Pruett is indeed
executed today, Thursday, Oct. 12 (see "Death Watch," Oct. 6), Shore is in line
to be the 7th Texan to be killed this year.
(source: Austin Chronicle)
Former Austin officer accused of murder may face death penalty, experts
say----VonTrey Clark is charged with murder in the death of Crime Victims
Counselor Samantha Dean outside of Bastrop.
A Bastrop county judge has set a trial date in one of the region's most
high-profile murder cases in recent years.
Opening statements in the trial of former Austin police officer VonTrey Clark
will start March 19, according to a judge's order, in the death of crime
victims counselor Samantha Dean. Jury selection will begin Feb. 6 and will
include individual interviews with prospective jurors, which legal experts said
is an indication that prosecutors may seek the death penalty.
Clark is charged with capital murder in the death of Dean, who worked for the
Kyle Police Department.
Clark is accused of killing Dean, who was 7 months pregnant, because she would
not terminate her pregnancy.
He then fled to Indonesia, where federal officials captured him and returned
him to Bastrop County.
A trial date for a co-defendant, Kevin Watson, has not been set.
(source: KVUE TV news)
Florida Could Become the First State to Execute Drug Dealers----Selling
fentanyl to someone who dies is now 1st-degree murder. But how do you prove it?
That's a life-or-death question for Tamas Harris.
Sonny Priest's friend found him dead in his home in Altamonte Springs, Florida,
the week before Christmas 2016. Priest had overdosed on alprazolam, cocaine,
heroin, and fentanyl, a medical examiner ruled.
6 months after Priest's death, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a law expanding
the state's 1st-degree murder code to include selling a lethal dose of
fentanyl. The law, which only applies to adults, took effect Oct. 1. Priest's
alleged dealer, Tamas Harris, was 8 days into adulthood when Priest died. This
month, 18-year-old Harris will go to court an accused murderer. If convicted,
he faces the death penalty.
Florida law already allowed dealers of drugs like cocaine or heroin to be
charged with 1st-degree murder when their drugs led to fatal overdose. But
overdose rates have skyrocketed in the state with the proliferation of
fentanyl, a drug up to 50 times more powerful than heroin. Fentanyl and heroin
are sometimes combined without the buyer or distributor's knowledge, creating a
cocktail of indeterminate strength.
"Most deaths we've seen since the rise of fentanyl in Florida have been a
mixture of heroin and fentanyl," said Greg Newburn, Florida's state policy
director for Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a sentencing reform group.
Florida's new law doesn't care whether or not dealers know their drugs are
laced with fentanyl. As long as a fatal mixture contained any amount of
fentanyl, the dealer can be charged with 1st-degree murder, a charge for which
"the only 2 sentences available are life without parole and the death penalty,"
In text messages before Priest's death, he and Harris only discussed heroin.
Priest ordered 7 bags of heroin the morning of his death, according to texts
included in a warrant for Harris' arrest.
Late that evening when a friend went to check on Priest, he found him dead in
his bedroom. A medical examiner ruled that Priest had died from a combination
of alprazolam, cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl - a dangerous combination. The
mixture of heroin with a tranquilizer like alprazolam is a common recipe for
overdose, with the 2 sedative drugs combining to shut down the respiratory
Harris has entered a plea of not guilty in Priest's death. His lawyer argues
that prosecutors cannot prove Harris sold the drugs that ultimately led to
In an attempt to prove Harris sold the drugs that killed Priest, police
convinced Priest's friend to text Harris under the guise of buying drugs. "Is
this new? I don't want that fire Sonny [Priest] last got from you," the friend
Harris confirmed that he was selling a different batch. After the deal was
completed, police arrested Harris and tested his drugs. They tested positive
for heroin, not fentanyl, according to an arrest report.
"Alleged dealers like Harris could be charged with murder regardless of their
intent to sell fentanyl"
Like many street-level dealers, Harris might not have known the exact
composition of his drugs, which appeared to vary between alleged sales. But
under the new law, alleged dealers like Harris could be charged with murder
regardless of their intent or lack of intent to sell fentanyl.
"One of the problems with the bill is there's no intent requirement for any of
it," Newburn said. "The way the statute reads, it's unlawful distribution of
this substance or any mixture of this substance."
One possible saving grace in Harris' case is the date of his alleged sale. He
allegedly sold drugs to Priest in December, nearly a year before Florida's new
sentencing law for fentanyl overdoses went into effect.
"If the cause of death is the fentanyl, I'm not sure he can be charged with
murder because fentanyl was not in the list of drugs that could be listed as a
predicate for murder until Oct. 1," Newburn said. "If it was heroin, or another
drug that was already listed, then they could charge it as 1st-degree murder."
A medical examiner ruled the proximate cause of death in Priest's case to be
heroin and fentanyl, claiming that the alprazolam and cocaine in Priest's
system would not have killed him on their own.
If Harris is convicted of selling a fatal dose of heroin, he could still face
the death penalty. But if the prosecution's case relies on Harris' alleged
fentanyl sale, he could be the last alleged fentanyl dealer in Florida to avoid
life in jail or the death penalty in a fatal overdose case.
Harris' family has already lost a teenage son. In January 2016, his 15-year-old
brother Tamar died when a person fired into his car in broad daylight. In a
press conference, Harris' mother pleaded for the shooter to come forward, while
another boy who looked like Tamas Harris cried in a relative's arms behind her.
Nearly 2 years later, police have made no arrest in Tamar's murder, but Tamas
Harris could get the death penalty for his alleged role in a death for which he
was not present.
(source: The Daily Beast)
Ian Howard indicted, faces death penalty; speaks in court Wednesday
A grand jury has indicted Ian Paul Howard on a 1st-degree murder charge in
connection with the Oct. 1 shooting death of Cpl. Michael Middlebrook, a
Lafayette police officer.
District Attorney Keith Stutes said he will seek a "capital verdict" against
Howard, and later confirmed his office plans to seek the death penalty.
Howard, 27, is accused of killing Cpl. Middlebrook when he responded to an
assault call at a Moss Street convenience store.
The grand jury also indicted Howard of three counts of attempted 1st degree
murder. 2 of the reported victims are civilians, and the 3rd is a police
A bond has not yet been set on the 1st-degree murder charge. A bond hearing
will not be held until after Howard's arraignment, which is set for Oct. 24.
Lafayette police shooting suspect 'under the care of medical personnel'
Stephen Singer, an attorney for Howard, asked for the later bond hearing
because he said he was not aware of the indictment until Stutes presented it
during a Wednesday hearing.
Howard appeared in court Wednesday for what was originally slated to be a
hearing on several motions filed by Singer last week.
He was escorted into Judge Jules Edwards' courtroom with heavy shackles and a
protective vest. Multiple deputies were positioned inside the courtroom and
outside the courthouse before, during and after the proceedings.
Howard no longer wore the head bandages he had on in his booking photo, but
there were still small cuts and bruises on his face and under his eyes.
There did not appear to be any relatives of Howard in the courtroom.
Howard directly addressed Edwards several times, first saying he did not want
Singer and Elliott Brown, both of the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center, to
"I've never hired him as a lawyer, no," Howard said of Singer.
Howard said he had spoken briefly to someone from the local public defender's
office shortly after his arrest, and indicated he wanted that person to
However, he also said he was not indigent and had the money to hire his own
attorney. When Edwards asked how much money Howard had available, he said he
could not remember. Howard said he had one or two friends who are attorneys who
would represent him for free, but could not immediately provide their names or
"I haven't gotten to make any phone calls," Howard told Edwards, who offered to
let Howard call an attorney Wednesday.
Details emerge about man charged with killing police officer
Edwards ultimately allowed Howard time to consult with Singer, Brown and Chad
Ikerd, an attorney with the 15th Judicial District Public Defender's Office.
Following that consultation, Ikerd said Howard had agreed to let Singer and
Brown represent him, at least for the time being, and had signed a document to
Edwards granted a motion from Singer asking the state to preserve all physical
and scientific evidence in the case. Stutes had no objection.
(source: Daily Advertiser)
Accused killer's grim past influences death penalty decision----Rape victim
says accused killer held her hostage years ago
A man charged with a Price Hill murder is now facing the death penalty, in part
because of his past.
Gary Box, 41, is accused of murdering Tanisha Huff on Elberon Avenue Friday,
but an unrelated rape case from 2001 is playing a role in why he will face
"11th grade high school, I was at the bus stop and he basically approached me
and asked me for the time," said Caseya Brown, who talked without shielding her
Remembering the incident from 16 years ago, Brown said Box's demeanor suddenly
changed and he told her he had a gun.
"He told me to come with him and he ended up wrapping his hand around my neck,"
She was forced to a nearby vacant apartment where Box had apparently been
Brown said Box didn't have a gun, but pulled a knife.
"He just kept (me) at knifepoint 7 to 8 hours, the whole school day," Brown
Throughout the time she was there, she was raped "about a dozen times," Brown
Box made sure she couldn't escape.
"He tied me up. He cut off the extension cords to the TV and the fans and tied
me up, tied my hands and my feet up," Brown said.
She only escaped when someone knocked on the door and Box ran out the back.
That was the last time Brown saw Box for another 3 or 4 years, until one day
when she was at a park and heard a familiar question from a man.
"The man came from behind and asked me the same question, 'Do you know the
time?'" Brown said. "I didn't recognize the voice, but when I turned around, my
friend must have recognized the shock in my face."
It was Box.
Brown called police and Box was arrested. Faced with the DNA evidence, Box
He was still on parole for rape and kidnapping convictions when he allegedly
(source: WLWT news)
Hundley back in court bickering with judge in death penalty case
A man who wants the right to represent himself in his death penalty case
bickered Wednesday with a judge in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.
Lance Hundley, 47, accused of the November 2015 beating death of Erika Huff and
the attempted murder of her mother, complained to Judge Maureen Sweeney in a
pretrial hearing that his former attorneys, who are now on stand by, have
failed to perform several duties for him, such as sending letters or acquiring
Judge Sweeney curtly told Hundley that now that he is own attorney, those are
Hundley is set to go on trial in January for Huff's death.
Killer claims he's too ill to be executed
Death-row inmate Alva Campbell, once dubbed "the poster child for the death
penalty" for a deadly carjacking outside the Franklin County Courthouse 20
years ago, is now too sick to be put to death, his attorneys and advocates say.
The convicted killer is slated for execution Nov. 15, but Campbell has so much
fluid in his lungs that he can't lie flat on the execution table for a lethal
injection, one of his attorneys, David Stebbins, said Tuesday.
"He'll start gasping and choking," Stebbins said.
Stebbins said that for Campbell to sleep in prison, "he has to prop himself up
on his side. It's not very good."
Stebbins said he has communicated his concerns to the Ohio Department of
Rehabilitation and Correction, which didn't immediately respond to questions
about how to deal with Campbell's condition.
Campbell, 69, has twice been convicted of murder, most recently in the 1997
execution-style slaying of 18-year-old Charles Dials behind a K-Mart store on
South High Street.
Long before that, Campbell had cardiopulmonary issues that in the past few
years have become debilitating, his attorneys say. Most of his right lung has
been removed, and he has emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and
possibly cancer in much of his remaining lung tissue, Campbell's application
for executive clemency says. In addition, his prostate gland has been removed,
as has a gangrenous colon. A broken hip last year has confined him to a walker.
"The severity of these combined illnesses have left Alva debilitated and
fragile," Campbell's clemency application says. "Alva's deteriorating physical
condition further militates in favor of clemency."
The health claims are only one reason why Campbell and his attorneys are asking
that his sentence be commuted to life in prison without parole. They also cite
the "nightmare" childhood that Campbell suffered at the hands of an alcoholic
father who was both physically and sexually abusive.
If Gov. John Kasich doesn't want to commute Campbell's sentence, delaying his
sentence would have the same effect because the inmate will die soon, advocates
"He's probably in the poorest health of any living death-row inmate in the
country," said Kevin Werner of Ohioans to Stop Executions.
A spokesman for Kasich couldn't be reached Tuesday.
Campbell is scheduled for a clemency hearing Thursday. A spokesman for Ohio
Attorney General Mike DeWine said that, in advance of the hearing, his office
will file a response rebutting the claims made in Campbell's application.
Campbell argues that poor health is one reason he shouldn't be put to death,
but he used an earlier, false health claim to commit the crime that put him on
Campbell feigned paralysis from a glancing bullet wound suffered during a
robbery arrest. As Campbell was being taken to the Franklin County Courthouse
for a hearing on April 2, 1997, he sprang from his wheelchair, overpowered a
deputy sheriff, took her gun and fled.
He then carjacked Dials, who was at the courthouse to pay a traffic ticket.
After driving Dials around for hours, Campbell ordered him onto the floor of
his truck and shot him twice.
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien, who at the time of Campbell's trial
called him "the poster child for the death penalty," couldn't be reached
Tuesday for comment.
Campbell is not the first condemned man in Ohio to use ill health to argue that
he should be spared from execution. In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected
Richard Cooey's claim that he was too obese to be executed. Cooey said his
obesity could make it difficult for executioners to find a vein for a lethal
injection. He was executed that year.
(source: The Columbus Dispatch)
Indiana lawmakers consider changes to death penalty law
In just a couple months, lawmakers could make recommendations to change the
state's death penalty law.
It goes back to a bill that failed last year that would have put new
restrictions on when prosecutors could seek the death penalty if the defendant
suffered from mental health issues.
Indiana has executed nearly 100 Hoosiers since 1897. The last one was nearly a
decade ago. Right now, 13 inmates sit on death row.
"The death penalty should be reserved for the worst of the worst, not people
acting on false stimuli," said Barbara Moser, the executive director at NAMI
Indiana, a part of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Last year, a bill failed that would have exempted defendants from the death
penalty if they suffered from mental illnesses including post-traumatic stress
disorder and schizophrenia.
Lawmakers got a science lesson Wednesday on why to possibly reconsider.
Neuro-anatomist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor said the brains of people suffering from
schizophrenia or PTSD will not necessarily process right from wrong easily.
"If I'm hearing the voice of God that's telling me 'I'm Jesus' or 'I'm
Michael,' then I am going to hold myself to the standard of that delusional
system over what I'm going to hold as far as mankind is concerned," she said.
Several mental health experts testified the state could save millions in legal
costs if the cases were tried with a maximum penalty of life without parole.
There are a couple prosecutors seeking capital punishment right now.
In Marion County, Jason Brown is accused of murdering Southport Police Lt.
In Boone County, Zachariah Wright could face the death penalty for reportedly
murdering a 73-year-old man and trying to rape and set his wife on fire.
"As Indiana prosecutors, we do view the death penalty as a measure that should
only be imposed on the worst of the worst," said Boone County Prosecutor Todd
Meyer said the state's legal system allows defendants to challenge the
decision, with the courts sometimes ruling in their favor.
"I think our system works very well in this state," he said.
Lawmakers have their opinions, too. State Rep. Thomas Washburne, a Republican
from Inglefield, said to be exempt from the death penalty, the defendant should
be diagnosed with psychotic features or losing contact with reality in addition
to the mental illness.
State Rep. Ed DeLaney, a Democrat from Indianapolis, said the death penalty
should be abolished because it is so expensive.
(source: WISH TV news)
Former Arkansas death row inmate freed after 16 years in custody; charges
dropped in mutilation case
After more than 16 years in custody, including as many as 12 on death row,
Rickey Dale Newman walked out of the Crawford County jail Wednesday a free man.
Crawford County Circuit Judge Gary Cottrell signed an order approving a motion
by special prosecutor Ron Fields to dismiss the 1st-degree murder charge
against Newman in the Feb. 7, 2001, mutilation slaying of fellow transient
Marie Cholette, 46, at a camp on the western edge of Van Buren.
Standing outside the county jail Wednesday afternoon wearing a dark gray
sweatsuit and slippers and sporting a scruffy gray beard and glasses, Newman
said it felt good to be free again.
"I'm a little nervous," he said. "I mean, I've been locked up for 16 years, 7
months and 9 days. I have no idea what this world is all about."
Asked what it was like on death row, Newman said it was something he had to
"deal with" every day.
"You have no feelings," Newman said. "You're dead."
Newman was waiting with court-appointed attorney Julie Brain for his brother to
arrive and said he was heading to the Veterans Affairs hospital. He suffers
from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, and the sheriff's office has
provided his medication since the summer of 2015.
Newman indicated he didn't know where he would go from there, but he said he
was not going to remain in the area.
In a letter dated Tuesday to Cottrell explaining his reasons for requesting
dismissal of the charge, Fields wrote that the Sept. 21 opinion by the Arkansas
Supreme Court barred the state from introducing at Newman's retrial confessions
he made to police after his arrest in 2001.
The state had presented Newman's confession to a jury during his 1-day
capital-murder trial June 10, 2002. Also during the trial, Newman, acting as
his own attorney, told jurors he killed Cholette and wanted to be sentenced to
According to court records, Newman testified before the jury that he killed
Cholette because she falsely represented herself as a member of a transient
rail riding group he called the FTRA and had hurt one of its members during an
The jury convicted Newman and, on the basis of the jury's recommendation,
Circuit Judge Floyd "Pete" Rogers sentenced him to death.
Newman was in the state prison system from June 11, 2002, to Feb. 14, 2014,
according to the state Department of Correction, but it could not be determined
whether he spent all that time on death row.
In January 2014, the Arkansas Supreme Court threw out his conviction and death
sentence, ruling that Newman suffered from mental disease and defects. The
court ordered Newman back to Crawford County, where he was to be rendered
competent and retried.
It was that 2014 ruling that Cottrell relied on in January to bar Fields from
using Newman's confession in his retrial. Fields appealed Cottrell's decision
to the state Supreme Court, and it denied the appeal in the Sept. 21 opinion.
The mandate for the opinion was filed Wednesday, returning jurisdiction for the
case back to Crawford County and opening the door for Fields to file the motion
to dismiss the murder charge.
"The Supreme Court's opinion will prevent all these incriminating statements
from being introduced into evidence at any new trial," Fields wrote in his
letter to Cottrell. "Without this evidence, it is my belief that sufficient
evidence does not exist at this time to retry the case."
Fields said in a telephone interview Wednesday that while he did not have
enough evidence to retry Newman, he didn't think police investigators made a
mistake in arresting Newman in 2001.
"I found no need to look for other suspects, as I believe they had found the
correct one at the time," he said.
Fields wrote to Cottrell that he did not make the decision to dismiss the case
lightly. "Lengthy and strenuous investigation" was undertaken by the Van Buren
Police Department, the Arkansas State Police and the state Crime Laboratory,
Fields said in his letter that in preparing for trial, he had asked the state
police to search the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, a large repository
of major violent crime cases, to try to determine if other crimes of the type
Newman was accused of had been committed around the country.
Court records showed that Cholette was killed Feb. 7, 2001. Her body was found
in a tent at a transient camp known as the Benny Billy camp. Billy found her
body Feb. 15, 2001. Cholette was wearing only a shirt and wrapped in several
According to the records, Cholette's sexual organs and anus had been severely
mutilated and her nipples were cut off. Foreign material had been placed inside
her pelvic area. Her jawbone was broken, and her dental plate was lodged in her
throat. Her throat was cut, and there were several stab wounds in her chest.
Her sternum had been cut open and there was a large, gaping wound from her
chest to her pelvic bone. Her pelvic bone had been cut through. There also was
evidence of defensive wounds that indicated Cholette put up a struggle before
she died, the records said.
"Based on my experience, it was clear that whoever perpetrated this crime would
have committed other crimes of a similar nature if they were still at large in
the public," Fields wrote. "The results of the search were that no other crimes
matched the type of violence displayed in this case."
Fields wrote that he asked investigators to inventory the case evidence in the
Police Department's evidence locker and to determine whether any other DNA
testing was needed on any items. Several items were tested, he wrote, but
results showed they "were not of evidentiary value at this time."
DNA testing on hair samples showed they did not connect Newman to Cholette as
was presented to jurors in the original trial, Fields' letter said.
Fields noted that he found no indication police in the initial investigation
made any mistakes or errors and that the investigation was conducted with
"professional and competent performance."
Cholette's sister, Denise Cholette of Utica, Mich., said Wednesday that she was
sad there was not enough evidence to try Newman, especially given that he was
the last person to be seen with her sister.
Police had recovered video from a Fort Smith liquor store just across the
Arkansas River from Van Buren that showed Newman and Cholette together on Feb.
Denise Cholette said she didn't plan to tell Marie Cholette's 2 daughters,
Angela Robinson and Danielle Soule, about the dismissal of Newman's charges
because of the effect it would have on them.
"It was a difficult time in my life to lose my childhood playmate," Denise
Cholette said of her sister's death.
She said she also believed that her sister's death caused the death of their
mother. She said her mother, Ruth, grieved deeply after learning of Marie
Cholette's death and died of a heart attack about a year later.
Even though they didn't have a body, Marie Cholette's family gathered in a
Michigan church after her death for a service, Denise Cholette said. She said
her sister's ashes were sent to her about a year after her death, and she keeps
the urn in her basement.
The family never knew why Marie Cholette became a transient, Denise Cholette
said. She once worked for Lockheed Missile and Space Co., in Bremerton, Wash.,
but lost it when violence in her marriage caused her to lose her security
The family lost track of her as she wandered the country with a succession of
boyfriends, Denise Cholette said.
The last time she saw her sister was in the late 1990s when Marie Cholette and
a boyfriend named Tom arrived at her home. Denise Cholette said she offered her
sister a condo to live in as long as she would get a job to support herself.
Marie Cholette chose to go off with her boyfriend, Denise Cholette said.
Records show she arrived in Van Buren in late January 2001 with another
boyfriend, John Evans. They were arrested Jan. 23, 2001, for public
intoxication. Cholette got out of jail the next day, but Evans remained locked
up after hitting a jailer. Cholette stayed in Van Buren to wait for his
After his conviction, Newman sought to forgo his appeals and be executed.
Murder convictions are automatically appealed to the state Supreme Court. After
the court affirmed his conviction in September 2003, the justices determined
Newman was mentally competent at his 2002 trial and granted his request to drop
further appeals and dissolve his execution stay.
His execution was set for July 26, 2005, but four days before it was to be
carried out, he allowed federal public defenders Bruce Eddy and Brain to file a
request in federal court on his behalf to stay his execution.
In a hearing for that stay before U.S.District Judge Robert Dawson in November
2007, a neuropsychologist and a psychiatrist testified that Newman suffered
from mental illnesses and cognitive deficits that made it impossible for him to
rationally waive his appeals.
Court records show a psychological report on Newman that included a lengthy
description of his early life.
From interviews with Newman's family, the report said, Newman had been
physically and psychologically abused as a child. Newman and several of his
siblings were beaten seriously and often by a man who lived with their mother.
A sister of Newman recalled the man would hold the children, including Newman,
upside down with one hand and beat them with the other.
Newman also was tied up outside for hours. He and other siblings were left for
long periods without food, and the man sometimes would taunt them with food but
not give them any.
His mother, Ruby Inez Ross, regarded her children as a nuisance, the report
said, and was quick to anger and lashed out physically at them. She died of
cancer in 1969, with Newman and his siblings listening to her screams of pain
that morphine could not ease, the report said.
Mentally impaired, Newman could not grasp his lessons in school. At 16 he began
to run away, ride around the country in train box cars, do simple manual labor,
panhandle, search dumpsters and get charitable and government assistance.
He joined the Marines for one year and received an honorable discharge.
In the effort to restore Newman to competence after his conviction and death
sentence were reversed, Cottrell ordered Newman to be sent to the State
Hospital for treatment and evaluation.
After 3 stays at the State Hospital over nearly 2 years, during which Newman
refused to cooperate at his attorney's instruction, Cottrell declared Newman
fit to proceed in November 2015 to be retried.
Progress on the case was further slowed when it took more than a year to reach
a resolution of Newman's motion to bar his confession from trial.
Racial disparity led to ban of death penalty in territorial Alaska
A man accused of murdering his wife aboard a cruise ship in Southeast Alaska
waters could face the death penalty. But it's a long process and it may be
unlikely to end in the defendant's death.
In July, Kristy Manzanares was found dead in the couple's cabin aboard the
Emerald Princess. They were on an Alaska cruise celebrating their wedding
According to court records, her blood was everywhere, including on her husband.
The cruise ship diverted to Juneau, docked, and federal authorities
investigated the scene and interviewed more than 100 witness.
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Kenneth Ray Manzanares is awaiting federal trial on 1st-degree murder charges,
and the prosecution is considering whether it will seek the death penalty.
Federal Public Defender Rich Curtner has been with the District of Alaska
office since 1992.
"Somebody can be charged with murder in the 1st degree, but before the
government could seek a death penalty at sentencing, they'd have to go through
this process where the Department of Justice would have to authorize it," he
Curtner, who is also the board president of Alaskans Against the Death Penalty,
said that process can take 2 to 3 months. The U.S. Attorney's office
investigates and makes the final decision.
Curtner's office is representing Manzanares, so he couldn't speak about that
case specifically, but he said the death penalty has been authorized in just a
few Alaska cases since he became a federal public defender here. But they were
all resolved without the death penalty.
As a state, Alaska has never had capital punishment available at criminal
sentencing. You have to go back to the end of the territorial days under
federal jurisdiction to find the last person executed.
In the early 1990s, some lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to establish a state
death penalty. Averil Lerman, then a civil attorney, was inspired to research
the history of executions in the territory. An interest in the case of the last
man put to death in territorial Alaska prompted her to find out more.
She later became a criminal defense attorney and specialized in examining
convictions and writing appeals.
"I learned many things that helped inform my feeling about what had happened to
the last man. I did an oral history of the death penalty in Juneau," she said.
"There were 3 executions in Juneau in 1939, 1948 and 1950."
When Lerman retired after practicing law in Alaska for more than 30 years, she
devoted more time to researching. The racial demographics of those executed
"The fact is that after 1902, all of the people who were executed in Alaska
were either racial minorities or ethnic minorities."
The last 3 men executed in the territory were an Alaska Native and 2 black men.
Lerman said prejudice and poor legal training on the part of the defense
lawyers were mostly to blame. She said the lawyers just weren't very good at
3 men were hung in Fairbanks in the 1920s. But after that, the 4th Judicial
District didn't put anyone else to death. The last man executed in the
territory was in Juneau in 1950
7 years later, the territorial Legislature banned capital punishment.
"I think that one of the things that suggests is that in small communities
there's a learning curve about the death penalty and what it feels like to have
it, and implement it and to have it live in your town," Lerman said.
Fast forward to today, and the death penalty is again being considered for a
case in Alaska.
It would be good to note that Alaska does not have a death penalty.
But if Alaska doesn't have the penalty, how can the Manzanares case be
The alleged murder happened in territorial waters, so it's under federal
jurisdiction. And while Alaska doesn't have the death penalty, federal capital
punishment is legal.
If the alleged crime had happened while the ship was docked, the death penalty
wouldn't be an issue, because the state would have jurisdiction.
Since 1963, only 3 men have been executed under federal jurisdiction in the
entire country. Timothy McVeigh, for example, was one of them. He was convicted
and sentenced for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
As of January 2017, there were 63 inmates on federal death row. They include
convicted Charleston church shooter and white supremacist Dylann Roof and
convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Kenneth Manzanares is being held at Lemon Creek Correctional Center in Juneau.
His next hearing is scheduled for Nov. 29.
(source: KTOO news)
The death penalty's ugly, racist roots----Law professor and author Brandon
Garrett explains the entrenched racial bias around the death penalty
"There's a long, ugly history of racial bias in the American death penalty,"
Brandon Garrett, professor of law at the University of Virginia and author of
the new book,"End of Its Rope: How Killing the Death Penalty Can Revive
Criminal Justice," told me in a video interview for Salon.
"The death penalty in the South has roots in lynching," Garrett said.
Garrett's book explains the steps that led to the decline in the death penalty
in the United States and how specific reforms can lead to its total extinction.
While Garrett is hopeful that these reforms will translate into lasting changes
within the criminal justice system, there are real concerns with the way black
and brown defendants are discriminated against within the criminal justice
Will sweeping reforms be enough to address the specific disparities people of
For example, Garrett says, there is a "white lives matter more effect" that is
commonplace in death sentences. When the victim is white, a defendant is 4.3
times more likely to be sentenced to death than if the victim was black.
Garrett and many other researchers have found that the race of the victim is a
defining factor in death sentences.
The ongoing racial bias in death sentences can be traced to the county-level,
where the sentencing is imposed, Garrett points out.
"People think of death penalty states, you really just have death penalty
counties," Garrett explained. "There's 31 states that have death penalty on the
books," and just a few counties that order them.
In "End of Its Rope" Garrett writes that its the "counties with large black
populations that engage in far more death sentencing." He cites Riverside
County, California, where from 2010-2015, people of color made up 80 % of those
sentenced to death.
"Despite the entrenched racial patterns," Garrett said, "death sentences are
disappearing across the country." He added that it "is a phenomenon of a few
counties, mostly wealthy counties that feel like they can afford it."
The demise of state-sanctioned death sentences give Garrett hope that racial
bias can be addressed and tackled in criminal justice. And at the very least,
he sees the national dialogue increasing around the discrimination and
persecution faced by people of color.
"There are lots of conversations to have about how to improve the way race
plays into our criminal justice system, but you do see it talked more about
now," Garrett said. "I think that???s a really positive thing."
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
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