2017-09-28 10:56:33 UTC
Appeals court orders review in Fort Worth death penalty case
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is asking a Tarrant County trial court to
review 2 of 3 appeals claims that prompted the state's top criminal court to
stop the scheduled May execution of 37-year-old Tilon Carter for the slaying of
an 89-year-old man in Fort Worth.
Carter is on death row for 2004 killing of James Tomlin during a robbery at his
The appeals court Wednesday told the trial court in Carter's case to resolve
questions raised by the prisoner's lawyers about the propriety of a medical
examiner's trial testimony regarding Tomlin's cause of death. The appeals court
also wants the trial court to examine statements from 3 forensic pathologists
who contend the prosecutors' theory that Tomlin's death was a capital murder
wasn't supported by the autopsy findings.
(source: Associated Press)
Denton County District Attorney Paul Johnson talks track record, possible 4th
The Denton County district attorney's race is starting to take shape as
incumbent Paul Johnson looks to contend against local attorney Brent Bowen in
the Republican primary in March.
Candidates won't be able to officially file until November, but Johnson sat
down with the Denton Record-Chronicle on Wednesday to discuss his track record
during his 10 years in office and the possibility of another 4-year term.
Denton County has only had 2 district attorneys since 1990: Bruce Isaacks and
Johnson. Since Johnson officially took office in 2007, he said he's added more
pre-trial diversion programs, which offer low-level or 1st-time offenders an
opportunity to have their cases dismissed.
He's also had to cope with the fast growth in the county by streamlining the
case intake process, he said.
Johnson said he doesn't judge his overall reputation in office by the number of
convictions in criminal trials or death-penalty cases.
"It's not just wins and losses because, basically, we have thousands and
thousands of cases every year," he said. "My prosecutors do a great job. Are
there slip-ups at times? There are. But we correct those problems."
Johnson, 59, graduated with a degree in criminal justice from the University of
Texas at Arlington. He became a prison guard at the Eastham Unit in the East
Texas town of Lovelady before getting his law degree at the University of
Houston. After working as a private civil attorney for a few years, he moved on
to the Denton County District Attorney's Office to get more experience, he
There, he served as an assistant district attorney for 15 years handling
misdemeanor cases and later felonies. Although his initial interest was in
civil law, he dove into criminal cases when one particularly egregious assault
case crossed his desk, he said.
"When I saw that [case], it kinda brought me back to my childhood, and I had an
epiphany," he said, adding that his broken household and tough upbringing
allows him to relate to crime victims.
Johnson said one of his first moves as district attorney was to condense the
number of police officers that present cases to a grand jury every Thursday.
Before he started, he said dozens of officers from departments around the
county would line up in a courtroom and present their cases to a 12-member
Now, only one or two officers serve as a representative from each department
and present the cases. That eases the burden on the county and the police
agency, Johnson said.
"So [the officers] would be lined up the wall ... and someone might be running
late and the grand jury has to ask a question of the officer. So it can stretch
out," he said.
Johnson emphasizes the importance of pre-trial diversion programs implemented
during his tenure, such as the Veterans Treatment Court Program and the Mental
Health Treatment Court.
The Veterans Treatment Court is geared toward service members with a
service-related injury or disorder who have been charged with a crime. The
mental health court applies to certain offenders who are suffering from a
mental illness that may have played a role in an alleged crime.
If they complete the programs, the offenders' charges could be dismissed.
"Just with pre-trial diversion programs, they used to only allow the case load
to be 10 to 15," he said. "We've got hundreds on there now."
Some of Johnson's former political opponents, including Bowen, criticize him
because they say he's reluctant to seek the death penalty. Johnson has sought
the penalty twice since 2007 - once in 2011 and again in 2016.
In the 2011 case, capital murder suspect Tony Burrell was convicted and
sentenced to life without parole. The most recent case, against capital murder
suspect Daniel Greco, is still pending in the 431st Judicial District Court.
Greco is accused of strangling a 40-year-old pregnant woman in March 2016. The
victim's body was later found in a wooded area near Shorewood Drive in Little
Johnson said he's never politically motivated when considering the death
penalty, but Bowen believes his intention to run against Johnson may have been
an influence in the Greco case.
"I'm not saying it's completely political, but I think it's pretty interesting
that he heard he had an opponent and decided to seek the death penalty," Bowen
Johnson, who says he believes in the death penalty as a viable option, said he
didn't know he had an opponent at the time he made the decision to seek the
death penalty against Greco.
"I don't work that way," he said. "That's not a political thing. You don't play
a game with that stuff."
Johnson has the final say when deciding whether to seek death, but each case is
closely scrutinized by a committee of district attorney's office officials,
including the 1st assistant district attorney, the chiefs of the felony and
appellate divisions and 2 trial prosecutors.
"We go back as far as we can to find information [about the suspect]," he said.
"We've gone back sometimes to elementary school, and we've talked to teachers
who've had the person in their class. So it's a thorough process."
(source: Denton Record-Chronicle)
Can you get a fair trial if a juror calls you a 'n-----'?
Perhaps what is most unsettling about Georgia's possible execution of a black
man despite blatant racial bias against him is how many people were so quick to
wash their hands of the matter.
Keith Tharpe was to be executed Tuesday night for the 1990 killing of his
sister-in-law, Jackie Freeman, but the U.S. Supreme Court delayed it at the
A juror in Tharpe's case, in a signed affidavit in 1998, revealed himself to be
a virulent racist. Barney Gattie said that from reading his Bible, he "wondered
if black people even have souls." He said there are 2 kinds of black people:
"good black folks" and "n------" and that he considered Tharpe to be the
latter. He made many other racist comments to Tharpe's lawyers. He later said
the affidavit "misconstrued" his comments.
Tharpe's execution is now on hold while the high court decides whether to hear
his case. If it doesn't, or if the justices ultimately rule against Tharpe, he
will be executed despite the juror's indisputable racial bias.
It's an egregious example of the flaws built into the death penalty's
administration in the United States. Person after person, institution after
institution, wasn???t bothered enough by Gattie's remarks to block Tharpe's
A state court judge rejected appeals. A federal judge in Macon declined to
reopen the case. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the concerns
that Tharpe was not given an impartial jury. The George Board of Pardons and
Paroles denied clemency on Tuesday. The Georgia Supreme Court, in a 6-3 vote,
denied a stay of execution Tuesday afternoon. And Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito
and Neil Gorsuch of the U.S. Supreme Court thought Tharpe should be executed
without giving his case a closer look.
Georgia law blocks consideration of juror testimony that could bring an earlier
verdict into question. But in March, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the
right to a fair trial supersedes such laws when racial animus influenced the
verdict or sentence.
The explicit nature of the bias against Tharpe is unusual, but bias in the
death penalty is typical. Study after study has shown that, whatever you think
of its morality, capital punishment is plagued with prejudice. Whether a person
gets death or life in prison hinges as much on his income, race and the race of
the victim as it does the severity or other circumstances of the crime.
Tharpe's case also might help illustrate why so many African-Americans,
including protesting NFL players, believe the scales of justice are tilted
against them. In America, apparently, a man can be executed despite
overwhelming evidence of racial bias at trial.
Tharpe is not a sympathetic figure, to be sure, even with his IQ of 74. His
crime was atrocious, and he deserves life in prison without parole. He does
not, however, deserve to be railroaded to death without due process and a fair
trial. America must be better than that.
(source: Charlotte Observer Editorial Board)
Florida Supreme Court rejects appeal in execution of Hendry County murderer
The Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously turned down an appeal by death
row inmate Cary Michael Lambrix, who is scheduled to be executed Oct. 5 for
killing 2 people in 1983 near LaBelle.
The appeal, filed Aug. 31, contended, in part, that Lambrix was innocent
because he killed in self-defense. Lambrix was convicted of murdering Aleisha
Bryant and Clarence Moore after meeting them at a bar and inviting them to his
mobile home for a spaghetti dinner.
Florida high court delays execution of Glades man 8 days before killing
Lambrix argued that Moore assaulted and killed Bryant. Lambrix said he tried to
intervene and killed Moore in self-defense. But the Supreme Court, in a 14-page
opinion Tuesday, rejected Lambrix's contention.
The opinion said the self-defense argument first emerged 3 years after
"There is no evidence, other than Lambrix's self-serving belated assertions of
self-defense, that supports his theory," the opinion said. With the Oct. 5
execution nearing, Lambrix's attorneys also filed a brief Monday arguing that
he should be resentenced because jurors did not unanimously recommend that he
receive a death sentence.
The Supreme Court did not rule on that issue in Tuesday's opinion.
Spiritual adviser of death row Michael Lambrix: "Moral decency" requires that
all evidence be heard
As Mike Lambrix faces an imminent execution (October 5, 2017), his spiritual
adviser, M. Dale S. Recinella, Catholic Correctional Chaplain declares:
As the state of Florida moves forward on a death warrant for Mr. Lambrix,
they are asserting procedural bar against allowing a hearing on his evidence of
self-defense and other late discovered evidence of innocence. The purpose of
procedural bar in death penalty cases is so the state can kill people without
giving them a chance to present late-discovered evidence of their innocence to
the court. From a moral standpoint, every person of biblical faith should be
outraged at any attempt by the state to use procedural bar in death penalty
cases. Exodus 23:7 All persons of Catholic faith should be doubly outraged in
light of the specific teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas that the execution of an
innocent person is intrinsically evil. In principle, procedural bar should be
banned in all death penalty cases. In this case specifically, the courts should
order that the evidence be heard. Even a minimum of moral decency requires
it.----Dale S. Recinella, Catholic Correctional Chaplain
A growing numberof people is currently turning their attention to the case,
with the firm impression that should the legal process fail, fairness would
require that a special clemency hearing be granted.
Mike Lambrix, who has maintained his innocence for over 30 years, and is
currently on death watch, has commented:
"As I count down the days until my scheduled execution, I remain strong as I am
so truly blessed by having many who are doing what they can to help me.
As Martin Luther King said "injustice to any one person is an injustice to all
people". I cannot stop the State of Florida from killing me for a crime that I
did not commit. If it can happen to me, it can happen to everyone.
But just know how grateful and humbled I am for all the support I receive. I am
reminded of the story of Sodom and Gomorah in the Bible and how God said he
would spare the cities if only one good person would be found. And no matter
how much evil may exist, it is the good in Man, who give us hope.
Thanks for standing up to protest this injustice."
Murder suspect appointed new attorney, appears for death sentence hearing
With the announcement last week from the Boone County Prosecutor's Office that
they would seek the death penalty against alleged murderer Zachariah Wright,
20, the Monday, Sept. 25 initial hearing came as a formality.
Wright entered the courtroom under the heavy guard of multiple Boone County
Sheriff's deputies, and Boone County Jail Commander Tim Turner. Clad in an
orange top and pants, orange flip flops, and protective body armor, the
20-year-old sat in Boone County Superior Court I to answer questions from Judge
After Kincaid read each of the 5 aggravating circumstances within the state's
request for the death sentence, he asked if Wright understood. In each
instance, the 20-year-old responded "Yes, your Honor."
Wright's demeanor seemed calm, though he did blink and his face twitched often
while answering the judge's questions.
A switch of attorneys also filled the agenda. Kincaid originally appointed
attorney Allan Reid when the state had charged Wright with murder.
(source: Times Sentinel)
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