2017-07-10 11:40:10 UTC
Death penalty sought against man in woman's beating death
Prosecutors say they plan to seek the death penalty against a New York man
charged in the beating death of his ex-girlfriend and the related robbery of
her mother's York County home earlier this year.
Authorities allege that 18-year-old Edia Lawrence killed Ahshantianna Johnson
early on March 25 outside her Mount Wolf home because he believed she had
stolen money he earned dealing drugs.
Prosecutors say the fact that Johnson was killed during the robbery and that
they allege the crime was drug-related would justify capital punishment if
Lawrence is convicted of 1st-degree murder.
Defense attorney Jack McMahon said he was surprised by the decision because of
his client's age, and he plans to challenge a voice identification of his
client as 1 of 3 masked intruders.
(source: Associated Press)
Trial begins Monday for man charged with killing Granville County couple in
Opening statements are expected to begin Monday in the trial of a Texas man
charged with killing a Granville County couple in 2015.
Eric Alexander Campbell, 23, of Alvin, Texas, is charged with 1st-degree
burglary, 2nd-degree arson, robbery with a dangerous weapon, larceny of a motor
vehicle, financial card theft, identity theft and 2 counts of cruelty to
animals in the New Year's Day 2015 deaths of Jerome Faulkner, 73, and his wife,
Dora Faulkner, 62.
Authorities say Campbell and his father, Edward Watson Campbell, stormed into
the Faulkners' home, robbed them, set fire to the house and killed them before
fleeing in both the couple's Chevrolet Silverado and a stolen SUV.
Police in Lewisburg, W.Va., arrested the father and son later that day
following a shootout, and investigators found the Faulkners' bodies under a
mattress in the back of the pickup.
Edward Campbell killed himself in March 2015 at Raleigh's Central Prison, where
he was being held.
Eric Campbell's defense attorney has argued that Edward Campbell carried out
the crime spree and that his son was an unwilling participant.
"There is no affirmative evidence that Eric Campbell actually committed any of
the acts resulting in death or that he wanted them to occur," defense attorney
Will Durham told Superior Court Judge Henry Hight during a December 2016
If convicted, Eric Campbell could face the death penalty.
(source: WRAL news)
Legal Battle To Move Quickly As Execution Looms
With Gov. Rick Scott setting an Aug. 24 execution date for Death Row inmate
Mark James Asay, the Florida Supreme Court on Friday directed that all legal
proceedings in the case should be "expedited."
Scott on Monday scheduled the execution of Asay, who was convicted in 1988 of
the murders of Robert Lee Booker and Robert McDowell in downtown Jacksonville.
The execution would be the 1st in Florida since a January 2016 U.S. Supreme
Court ruling that said the state's death-penalty sentencing system was
unconstitutional. That ruling touched off a series of other court rulings and
legislative actions, effectively putting the death penalty on hold.
Asay's lawyers are likely to make a series of legal attempts to prevent the
execution. In a document issued Friday, the Supreme Court set a timeline that
included a July 28 deadline for finishing circuit-court proceedings and
deadlines of Aug. 2, Aug. 3 and Aug. 7 for filing briefs at the Supreme Court.
The document said oral arguments at the Supreme Court would be scheduled later,
(source: WLRN news)
New law puts death penalty cases under review----Hundreds of cases could be up
Several local death penalty cases are now under review as a result of a new
state law that requires juries in death penalty cases to be unanimous.
The new law not only affects cases that have already been adjudicated, but
In the past, juries in death penalty cases didn't have to be unanimous when it
came to sentencing someone to death, and a judge could go against the jury's
decision. But under the new law, all the jurors have to be on the same page,
and they alone have the power to recommend death.
The Florida Supreme Court has thrown out the death sentence for Robert
Peterson, who was convicted in 2009 of murdering his stepfather, Roy Andrews, a
retired officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
Another man who had his death penalty overturned was Paul Durousseau. There
will be a hearing Monday in which a new sentencing hearing could be scheduled.
Hundreds of death penalty cases that have not finished going through appeals as
of 2002 could be now be up for review thanks to the new law that requires a
unanimous jury decision.
"Anybody from 2002 until now who received a death sentence without a unanimous
number -- like 10-2 -- they're going to get a chance, according to the most
recent opinions of the Supreme Court to come back, and say I deserve a new
sentencing hearing," attorney Gene Nichols said.
That is expected open a floodgate of hundreds of cases across the state that
could be up for review.
"You can expect that anybody sitting on death row now, and (if) their case has
been handled only within the last 10-15 years, are most likely going to be
coming back in order to have a new sentencing hearing," Nichols said.
Nichols said this creates problems for prosecutors who have to not only find
witnesses from cases decades old, but also have to deal with grieving families.
That's not to mention the problem finding a jury that doesn't know about the
case or conviction.
"A juror who sits on a new sentencing hearing is already going to have that
information," Nichols said. "You're not going to walk into one of these cases
and say, 'I don't know anything about this, and I don't have any other
opinions.' They're going to have an opinion, because they darn well know that
individual has already been convicted and sentenced to death once."
In all 6 cases in which the death penalties have been overturned, the
convictions were upheld. The next question is, what will their new sentences
Ashley Moody enters Florida attorney general race
A former Tampa Bay area judge has joined a small field of candidates running to
become Florida's next attorney general.
After 11 years as a Hillsborough County Judge, Republican Ashley Moody wants to
be the state's next top law enforcement official. If she wins, Moody would
become the state's 2nd female attorney general.
In the wake of the recent change of 2 Florida laws, we wanted to know what she
would do if she was the current attorney general.
First, News Channel 8 asked her about the stand your ground law and the burden
of proof shifting to prosecutors. Moody said challenging it would not be for
her to decide.
"Those are going to rest with the legislature, certainly, and the courts are
going to decide this," she said.
We also asked if she would challenge Florida's death penalty law.
"I'll represent the interests of the legislature and the people and what they
decide," Moody said.
Earlier this year, State Attorney Aramis Ayala refused to seek the death
penalty not only in the case of accused cop-killer Markeith Lloyd, but all
other cases as well.
"That's where the criticism comes in," Moody said. "She wasn't using the
discretion given to her on a case by case. She was just making a blanket policy
and that's not what her job was to be."
(source: WFLA news)
Bills in General Assembly would spare the seriously mentally ill from execution
A man convicted last month of killing a Columbus police officer might not have
been eligible for death-penalty consideration if a proposal in the state
legislature had been in effect.
A Franklin County jury decided that death wasn't the appropriate penalty for
Lincoln S. Rutledge after hearing testimony about his mental illness. The
jurors recommended life in prison without parole after the defense called a
parade of witnesses, including a psychologist who said Rutledge was suffering
from a delusional disorder at the time of the crime.
"Delusional disorder" is listed as 1 of 5 mental-health conditions that could
make a defendant ineligible for the death penalty under proposals pending in
the Ohio House and Senate.
"It just seems like a natural progression," said Jefferson Liston, one of
Rutledge's attorneys. "We already protect children and the developmentally
disabled from being executed. It makes perfect sense that we would progress to
the mentally ill."
Rutledge fatally shot Officer Steven Smith during a standoff at a Clintonville
apartment building on April 10, 2016.
No state has banned capital punishment for those with a serious mental illness.
But Ohio is 1 of 7 states considering such a prohibition, said Robert Dunham,
executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.
Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, a co-sponsor of the House bill, has been a
proponent of the idea since serving on the Ohio Supreme Court Death Penalty
Task Force. In 2014, the 22-member group issued a series of recommendations
that included a ban on executing the seriously mentally ill.
"I hate serving on a multi-year task force, only to see our recommendations
gather dust on a shelf," Seitz said of his sponsorship of the bill. He was a
member of the Senate when he first introduced the proposal in 2015. After that
legislation languished and he won a seat in the House last year, he helped
create a House version of the bill.
Seitz said he is optimistic that the House and Senate will vote on identical
bills during the fall session.
The American Psychological Association, the American Bar Association and the
National Alliance on Mental Illness Ohio are among the organizations that
support the ban.
Opposition has come from "1 place, and 1 place only," Seitz said. "The Ohio
Prosecuting Attorneys Association."
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien, who also served on the task force, said
prosecutors favor the concept of not executing the seriously mentally ill, "but
the devil is in the details."
Prosecutors are concerned about what they think are overly broad definitions in
the bill that "set the bar too low" for establishing a serious mental illness,
The proposal also would apply to those on death row, and the association
assumes that most of those condemned inmates would apply to have their cases
reopened, O'Brien said. Ohio has 139 inmates on death row, according to the
state Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
O'Brien was 1 of 3 task-force members who issued a dissenting report that took
issue with several recommendations, including the ban on executing the
seriously mentally ill.
"The proposal would prohibit the execution of murderers who fully understand
the crimes they committed," the dissenters wrote.
Ohio allows for a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity by those whose
mental illness is so severe that they don't understand the wrongfulness of
their actions. For those who are shown to know the difference between right and
wrong, mental illness can't be used as a defense under Ohio law.
Unlike a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, the legislation wouldn't
prevent a mentally ill person from being punished for a crime, its supporters
"It's not a question of not holding people accountable for their actions,"
Dunham said. "The exemption would not excuse the person from criminal
liability. They would still face life in prison without parole."
The exemption would apply to those who are charged with aggravated murder and
are diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder,
major depressive disorder or delusional disorder.
It would be up to a judge to decide whether the condition "significantly
impaired" the person's ability to, among other things, "exercise rational
judgment in relation to the person's conduct " or "conform the person's conduct
to the requirements of law."
If the judge rejects such a motion, it could become a question for a jury to
decide at trial.
A 2014 poll by Public Policy Polling found that Americans oppose the death
penalty for the mentally ill by a ratio of 2-to-1.
"This is an area where the public is far ahead of the legislatures," Dunham
said. "Most people think the death penalty should not be applied to those who
are severely mentally ill."
(source: Columbus Dispatch)
Penalty Phase Starts Over in Death of Girl Padlocked in Box
Lawyers are scheduled to make arguments Monday over whether an Arizona woman
should get life in prison or be sentenced to death for her part in the death of
her 10-year-old cousin who was padlocked inside a plastic storage box for 6
Sammantha Lucille Rebecca Allen was previously convicted on 1st-degree murder
and child abuse charges in the 2011 death of Ame Deal.
Authorities say Allen and her husband are responsible for making Deal get into
the box the night before as punishment for having stolen an ice pop and had
fallen asleep without letting her out.
Allen's husband, John Michael Allen, is scheduled to be tried Oct. 9 on child
abuse and murder charges.
He has pleaded not guilty.
(source: Associated Press)
Sanctity of life applies to the condemned
Bryan Stevenson is an inspirational figure who founded and leads the "Equal
Justice Initiative." The mission statement of his organization reads: "Ending
mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, challenging
racial and economic injustice, and protecting basic human rights for the most
vulnerable people in American society."
The nuts and bolts of that sweeping statement is this: Stevenson defends those
wrongly or unfairly convicted, especially those who are on death row.
Troubling, recent studies reveal that since the death penalty was reinstated in
1976, for every 10 Americans put to death, one death row inmate is exonerated
Stevenson has been instrumental in many of these exonerations, advocating for
those convicted without proper representation; those condemned in spite of
suffering mental illness; and those sent to death row for crimes committed
while they were juveniles. He keeps taking the hardest cases because he
believes in justice and mercy - for all people - and because of his moral
Stevenson says, "The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor,
the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned." This echoes
the words of Jesus from Matthew 25, where he made clear that our spiritual
destiny will be determined by how we respond to the "least of these" among us,
those who are "hungry, thirsty, alienated, naked, sick, and imprisoned."
In the ongoing debate about the death penalty, I know axes are finely ground
and wielded with point and counterpoint made, yet one must ask some basic
questions: Does the death penalty actually work as a deterrent for crime? No.
Is it fair in its application against African-Americans and the poor? No. Can
every person wrongly convicted be guaranteed an exoneration? No. Does the
state's execution of an offender relieve the survivors??? pain? No.
These are all soul-searching questions, but I am thankful that Stevenson brings
his argument back to one of morality, character, spirituality, and yes, life.
Christians use a phrase that is typically confined to arguments about the
unborn: "The Sanctity of Life," it is called.
"As beings made in the image of God, all life is inherently sacred and should
be protected and respected at all times," is the argument. Why not make this
apply in the courtroom, not just the delivery room? A "consistent ethical
concept of life" would demand as much.
Maybe President Ronald Reagan said it best. Speaking of his evolving opinion on
the "Sanctity of Life," he said, "If there is a question as to whether there is
life or death, the doubt should be resolved in favor of life." I think that is
the exact, moral stance for which Stevenson and his organization so tirelessly
work and advocate.
And in a society filled with systematic injustice, retaliation, and death,
those who seek life - even for "the least of these" - provide a moral example
for us all; and hopefully, show us the way to a more merciful world.
(source: Ronnie McBrayer, The Detroit News)
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
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