death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., N.C., FLA., MISS.
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Rick Halperin
2017-11-08 14:46:37 UTC
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Nov. 8

TEXAS----impending execution

exican citizen to be executed in Texas for killing cousin

Police who stopped at a convenience store more than 20 years ago in South Texas
determined 2 men at the business were drunk and told them to find a friend to
drive them home.

Ruben Ramirez Cardenas and buddy Jose Antonio Lopez Castillo instead dropped
off their designated driver after a short distance and Cardenas drove the rest
of the way to his home in Edinburg - to get a bottle of brandy. Then they hit
the road again and headed to an apartment where Cardenas' 16-year-old cousin,
Mayra Laguna, lived about 10 miles (16 kilometers) away in McAllen.

Laguna was later found fatally beaten, her body rolled down a bank and into a
canal near a lake in the Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Cardenas, 47, a Mexican citizen who grew up in the Texas Rio Grande Valley, is
set to be executed Wednesday for Laguna's February 1997 abduction and slaying.
He would be the 7th inmate executed this year in Texas, which carries out the
death penalty more than any other state.

Attorneys for Cardenas say they plan to file multiple federal court appeals
hoping to delay his punishment. They already appealed to state courts, arguing
that evidence in his case should undergo new DNA testing because previous
testing that pointed to him might not be reliable. Those courts rejected their

Prosecutors have called the DNA testing request a delay tactic. It's not clear
if the lawyers will present the DNA argument at the federal level.

Attorney Maurie Levin, an attorney for Cardenas, said Tuesday the trial court
and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest criminal court,
used "legal technicalities" to block new DNA testing "that could prove his

Levin also argued the eyewitness testimony against Cardenas was shaky,
contended that little physical evidence tied him to the killing and said a
confession from him was obtained only after 22 hours of isolation and intense
police questioning.

"All hallmarks of wrongful convictions," Levin said. "To permit his execution
to proceed when there is potentially exculpatory DNA testing available violates
the most basic notions of fairness and justice."

She added that the Mexican-born Cardenas wasn't told he could get legal help
from the Mexican consulate.

The victim's younger sister, Roxanna Laguna, told authorities she awoke in
pre-dawn darkness to see an intruder in their bedroom. She said Mayra's mouth
was taped and her hands were bound, and that the man went out a window with

A woman at the Hidalgo County public housing complex where the Lagunas lived
called police after seeing a man walking with a girl who was barefoot and only
wearing a shirt and underwear.

Cardenas initially was questioned about the teen's disappearance because he was
a close family member who had socialized with the girl. He was released, then
questioned again and arrested after authorities said information he provided
conflicted with details from Castillo.

In his statement to police, Cardenas said he was high on cocaine when he and
Castillo drove around with Laguna in his mother's car and eventually had sex
with her. He said when he untied her to let her go "she then came at me,"
scratching him and kneeing him.

"I then lost it and started punching her on the face," he told detectives. He
said after he hit her in the neck, she began coughing up blood and having
breathing difficulties. After trying unsuccessfully to revive her, he said he
tied her up "and rolled her down a canal bank."

Hidalgo County prosecutors argued the DNA request was intended to delay the
punishment and "muddy the waters." Prosecutors also pointed out in court
filings that Cardenas led them to the scene of the killing, providing
information not publicly disclosed.

Being born in Mexico made Cardenas eligible for legal help from the Mexican
consulate when he was arrested, according to provisions of the Vienna
Convention of Consular Relations, which is a 1963 international agreement. The
courts have allowed executions to move forward in several previous Texas death
row cases in which the agreement was said to have been violated.

Cardenas' friend, Castillo, was convicted of aggravated kidnapping and is
serving a 25-year prison term.

(source: Associated Press)


Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----26

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----544

Abbott#--------scheduled execution date-----name------------Tx. #

27---------Nov. 8------------------Ruben Cardenas---------545

28---------Dec. 14-----------------Juan Castillo----------546

29---------Jan. 18-----------------Anthony Shore----------547

30---------Jan. 30-----------------William Rayford--------548

31----------Feb. 1-----------------John Battaglia---------549

32----------Feb. 22----------------Thomas Whitaker--------550

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Civil rights lawyer Krasner elected Philly's top prosecutor

A longtime civil rights attorney who has sued the police department scores of
times, opposes the death penalty and promised to help hold bad officers
accountable was elected Tuesday as Philadelphia's next district attorney.

Larry Krasner, 56, ran a campaign focused on combating inequities in the
criminal justice system.

He will succeed Democrat Seth Williams, who resigned in June after pleading
guilty to taking a bribe in exchange for legal favors and was sentenced last
month to 5 years in prison.

Krasner beat Republican Beth Grossman, who had been a lifelong Democrat until
switching parties a few years ago because of what she said was the Democratic
Party's corrupt stranglehold on the city.

A crowd of about 100 people erupted into a chant of "Larry! Larry! Larry!" as
Krasner entered election watch party just after the results were called.

"This is a mandate for a movement that is loudly telling a government what it
wants, and what it wants is transformational change in criminal justice and in
the district attorney's office," he said, flanked onstage by his children,
mother-in-law and wife.

Krasner also vowed to stop President Donald Trump's immigration agenda. The
city has been standing its ground in the Trump administration's promised
crackdown on so-called "sanctuary cities" like Philadelphia, despite possible
financial risks.

He thanked Grossman for maintaining a standard of civility "unfamiliar in

Krasner has said he will encourage a number of reforms, including changes in
bail practices that currently result in many poor people being jailed while
awaiting trial and alternatives to incarceration for lower-level crimes. His
bid was opposed by the local police union, which endorsed Grossman.

"My view of justice means you don't just look at when incarceration is
appropriate but look at when it's not appropriate and take into account the
tremendous costs it imposes," he said during the final days of the campaign.

His campaign got a $1.5 million boost ahead of the May primary from billionaire
George Soros.

John McNesby, president of the city Fraternal Order of Police chapter, called
Krasner "anti-law enforcement" after Krasner's supporters bashed the union
during chants at the candidate's primary victory party. But Krasner predicts
he'll have a productive relationship with the department. He was endorsed by
the local chapter of The National Black Police Association.

He said he will be a help to the police commissioner.

? "We are in a city where police commissioners for a long time have needed a
district attorney who would be supportive when they try to fire and try to
discipline and try to hold their officers accountable rather than always siding
with the FOP because it was politically convenient," he said.

During 30 years as a civil rights attorney, Krasner has defended a host of
protesters and activists, from Black Lives Matter demonstrators to the hundreds
of people arrested during the Republican National Convention in 2000.

He said none of his clients has been sent to death row in 25 years of defending
capital cases. Pennsylvania under Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has a moratorium on
executions, but prosecutors can still pursue death sentences.

During the campaign, Krasner heaped scorn on Williams' predecessor Lynne
Abraham, Philadelphia's best-known law and order district attorney who was
nicknamed "America's deadliest DA" for her aggressive use of the death penalty.

Though he has no experience as a prosecutor, he said his experience as a
defense attorney helped prepare him to be the city's top law enforcement

"When you are preparing cases for the defense, you are also simultaneously
preparing in your mind the prosecutor's case because that is the only way you
win," he said.

He will take office in January. As of Nov. 6, the city had recorded 272
homicides, a 15 percent increase over same period last year, putting the city
on track for its deadliest year since 2012.

Krasner has said he will target the 6 % of criminals who commit most of the
city's serious crimes, in part by spending more on proactive policing.

"We have to recognize that we can't incarcerate our way out of this. It hasn't
worked for decades, and it's not going to work now," he said.

(source: Associated Press)


Prominent Raleigh lawyer pleads guilty to embezzling client's settlement money

The rough-and-tumble career of a Raleigh lawyer who represented defendants in
some of Wake County's most high-profile cases has come to a standstill for the
2nd time this decade.

Johnny Sherwood Gaskins, who has represented 20 death penalty defendants during
his nearly 40-year practice of law, signed a consent order of disbarment
Thursday after he pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $20,000 from a client.

Gaskins, 68, was convicted of 2 felony counts of embezzlement, according to
records filed at the Wake County Clerk of Courts Office. With the signing of
the disbarment order, he admitted that he failed to inform his client, Robert
Sullivan of Wake Forest, that Gaskins had settled the client's injury claim.

Sullivan hired Gaskins to represent him in May 2015 after he was involved in an
automobile accident. In October of that year, MetLife Auto & Home Insurance
agreed to settle Sullivan's insurance claim for $23,000. The insurance company
on Oct. 30 issued a check payable to Sullivan, his late wife and Gaskins. The
next month, on Nov. 17, Gaskins deposited the funds with forged endorsements of
both Sullivans into his own personal banking account with BB&T, according to
the complaint.

Gaskins had told Sullivan that it could take up to 2 years before he could
receive payment for his personal injury claim.

Prior to being admitted to the NC State Bar on Aug. 19, 1979, Gaskins was a
former agent with the State Bureau of Investigation. He built a legal career on
a reputation for asking the right questions and paying attention to detail. He
won his 1st jury trial as a 3rd-year law student while attending Campbell
University Law School.

Gaskins over the years represented death penalty clients, many of whom were too
poor to afford their own lawyers. He often represented drug dealers who became
targets of robbery and torture because they carried large amounts of cash,
court records show.

Gaskins represented Kwame Mays, who was spared the death penalty in 1997 after
he was convicted of killing popular Raleigh police detective Paul Hale. In
recent years, Gaskins was involved in the defense of Amanda Hayes, a 1-time
actress who was convicted in 2014 for the 2nd degree-murder of Laura Jean
Ackerson, a 27-year-old Kinston woman who was killed and dismembered. And he
was the attorney for Israel Vasquez, a Garner teen acquitted of double murder
last year.

This is not the 1st time Gaskins has lost the right to practice law in North
Carolina. On Dec. 28, 2010, a disciplinary hearing panel suspended his license
for 2 years after a federal jury the year before convicted him of dividing
large sums of money into small amounts so that his bank would not fulfill an
Internal Revenue Service requirement to report cash transactions of more than
$10,000. The rule is intended to flag large sums of money that might be tied to
illegal activity.

U.S. District Couty Judge Earl Britt could have sentenced Gaskins to a maximum
sentence of 35 years in prison. He instead ordered the lawyer to spend 1 day in
jail. Gaskins??? law license was reinstated on Jan. 3, 2013, according to the
N.C. State Bar.

After his guilty plea last week to the embezzlement charges, Gaskins was
sentenced to 48 months probation and ordered to pay Sullivan $20,616.23.

Gaskins can apply for reinstatement of his law license on Nov. 2, 2022,
according to the consent order.

(source: newsobserver.com)

FLORIDA----impending execution

Patrick Hannon's execution set for Wednesday night; convicted of killing 2 men
in Tampa in 1991

A man convicted of killing 2 people in North Tampa is schedule to die by lethal
injection on Wednesday night.

Governor Rick Scott signed a death warrant in October for Patrick C. Hannon,
setting the 52-year-old's execution at Florida State Prison in Starke for 6:00

Authorities say Hannon and 2 other men went to the Cambridge Woods apartment of
27-year-old Brandon Snider and 28-year-old Robert Carter on January 10, 1991.
One of the other men stabbed Snider several times when he answered the door.
Hannon then cut Snider's throat.

Carter, who also lived in the apartment, tried to hide under a bed, but Hannon
followed and fatally shot him 6 times.

Authorities believe revenge was the motive for the killings. Investigators say
Snider returned home to Indiana shortly before he was killed and threatened his
ex-girlfriend, the sister of 1 of the men with Hannon.

The Florida Supreme Court refused to block Hannon's execution last week.
Hannon's attorneys argued that his execution should be stopped for several
reasons. The court rejected those arguments.

Justice Barbara Pariente dissented saying the jury was not properly presented
with information about Hannon's background before recommending a death
sentence. The jury had voted unanimously to sentence Hannon to death.

Before the murders, Hannon served over 2 years in prison for the crimes of
burglary, grand theft and cocaine possession he committed in the late 1980s.

(source: Associated Press)


Patrick Hannon faces execution for brutal 1991 Tampa murders

Patrick Charles Hannon has lived 2 lifetimes: The 26 years he lived before he
was sent to death row, and the 26 years he has spent on it.

He and 2 other men brutally murdered roommates Brandon Snider, 27, and Robert
Carter, 28, in a townhouse near the University of South Florida on Jan. 10,

Hannon was 26 then, and a jury unanimously voted that he should die.

Now he is 53, and set to be executed on Wednesday. Gov. Rick Scott signed his
death warrant last month.

For Snider's half brother, Hannon's death would be justice served.

"I think it should have happened a long time ago," said Tony Snider. "He's had
26 years more than my brother had."

But he knows Hannon's execution will only ease so much.

"I'll just feel like there's closure," said Tony Snider, who shared a father
with Brandon Snider. "I know there's no way it's going to bring my brother

Tony Snider said his younger half brother started life "with 2 strikes against
him." He was born to an alcoholic mother and suffered the symptoms of fetal
alcohol syndrome. And after birth, his mother abandoned him.

Investigators believe he was the target in 1991. Prior to the killing, they
said Brandon Snider had returned to Indiana and threatened his ex-girlfriend,
Toni Acker, the sister of co-conspirator James Acker, and reportedly fired a
gun into her home and left a threatening note.

Tony Snider remembers it differently. He said Toni Acker had agreed to
celebrate Brandon Snider's birthday with him, but instead he discovered that
she was out with another guy. Tony Snider said his half brother caused damage
to her bedroom.

That was during the Christmas holiday, Tony Snider said. On his way back to
Tampa, during a layover in Atlanta, he said Brandon Snider called his
ex-girlfriend, apologized and offered to pay for the damages.

"So everything was alright as far as I knew, as far as he knew," Tony Snider

Investigators believed Acker, Hannon and Ronald Ivan Richardson went to the
Cambridge Woods Apartments near USF looking for Snider.

Snider was the 1st to die. Acker stabbed him 14 times and Hannon then slit his
throat "to the point of near decapitation," according to court records.

Carter begged to be let out of the apartment, investigators said, but the men
chased him upstairs. He tried to hide in a bedroom, but Hannon shot him 6 times
in the chest.

Richardson cut a deal with prosecutors, accepting a charge of accessory after
the fact and a 5-year prison sentence in exchange for testifying against the
other 2.

Acker, now 53, is serving his sentence at Cross City Correctional Institution
in Dixie County. He was convicted in both murders and sentenced to serve 2 life
sentences before winning a new trial. He was convicted again in 2001 and
sentenced to life in prison, plus 22 years.

Tony Snider said he has no reservations about Hannon's fate.

"A tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye," he said. "He took my brother's life,
why shouldn't the state of Florida take his?"

The execution is scheduled to take place Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Florida State
Prison in Raiford.

(source: Tampa Bay Times)


Exonerated death row inmate to speak at Jackson State

In 1990, Sabrina Butler Smith, a teen mother from Mississippi, was convicted of
murdering her nine-month-old son Walter. She was later exonerated of all
wrongdoing and is 1 of only 2 women in the United States exonerated from death

On April 12, 1989, Smith rushed Walter to the hospital after he suddenly
stopped breathing. Doctors tried to resuscitate the baby, but failed. The day
after her son's death, Smith was arrested for child abuse because of bruises
left by her resuscitation attempts. She was convicted of murder and sentenced
to death.

Her conviction was overturned by the Mississippi Supreme Court in 1992. The
court said the prosecution had failed to prove that the incident was anything
more than an accident. At retrial, she was acquitted on Dec. 17, 1995, after a
brief jury deliberation. It is now believed that the baby may have died either
of cystic kidney disease or from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Smith
spent more than 5 years in prison and 33 months on death row.

Smith will join a group of panelists at Jackson State Community College at
12:30 p.m. Nov. 15 for a discussion on "A Broken System: Perspectives on the
Death Penalty." The event will be held in the Jim Moss Center for Nursing, Room
203, at Jackson State Community College.

Other panelists at the event include: Cynthia Vaughn, whose mother, Connie, was
murdered in Memphis in 1984, and whose stepfather, Don Johnson, is now on death
row in Tennessee, convicted of the crime; Amy Lawrence, coordinator of
Tennessee Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty; and the Rev. Stacy
Rector, executive director of Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

"In October, Rickey Dale Newman of Arkansas became the 160th person since 1973
to be exonerated and released from death row in this country," Rector said in a
press release. "Since 2000, Tennessee has released 4 individuals who were
wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death while executing 6. Mrs. Smith's
story reminds us of just how real this risk is."

(source: The Jackson Sun)
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