2017-05-20 13:13:15 UTC
Inmate facing death penalty appears in Bowie County court
A Texas prison inmate accused of bludgeoning a correctional officer at the
Barry Telford Unit to death in 2015 appeared in court Friday for a pretrial
Billy Joel Tracy, 39, was flanked by a cadre of Texas Department of Criminal
Justice officers as he entered 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart's courtroom
Friday morning. Tracy is facing the death penalty in the beating death of
Timothy Davison, a correctional officer with less than a year's experience who
was attacked July 15, 2015.
Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp and Tracy's defense attorneys, Matt
Cobb of Mount Pleasant, Texas, and Jeff Harrelson of Texarkana, told Lockhart
they have plans to meet June 2 and discuss matters concerning Tracy's upcoming
trial. A motion to suppress video of Tracy's murder and of interviews with
Tracy after the deadly attack filed by Cobb is expected to be argued at the
next pretrial hearing June 16.
Crisp handed the defense a large volume of papers which she said includes a
transcript of Tracy's 1998 trial in Rockwall County for aggravated assault,
burglary and assault on a peace officer which resulted in 2 life sentences with
parole possible and a 20-year sentence. Crisp said she also has the actual
exhibits from Tracy's 1st trial in her office at the Bowie County District
Attorney's Office where the defense is welcome to review them.
Tracy turned down an offer from Lockhart to speak at the hearing Friday. The
case is scheduled for jury selection mid-September. However, Crisp said she,
Cobb and Harrelson believe the jury pool should be summoned to the courthouse
in early August for preliminary matters and instructions to return in
If the jury finds Tracy guilty of Davison's murder, he faces death or life
without the possibility of parole.
Monkey Junction murder suspect makes 1st court appearance
A Lumberton man accused of the fatal shooting of a Wilmington woman in the
Monkey Junction area last month made his 1st court appearance Friday.
William James Bernicki, 48, is charged with 1st-degree murder in the slaying of
34-year-old Brittany Fullwood on April 25.
Bernicki is accused of bursting into Fullwood's home on Woods Edge Road and
shooting her several times before reportedly shooting himself in the face. The
following day, investigators issued arrest warrants for Bernicki charging him
with Fullwood's death.
Bernicki was taken to New Hanover Regional Medical Center for treatment
following the shooting and remained hospitalized until Friday afternoon.
Deputies served Bernicki the warrants and took him to the New Hanover County
Courthouse for his 1st appearance.
A judge ordered that Bernicki be held under no bond.
He was then taken to Central Prison in Raleigh and put in safe keeping for
additional medical treatment, according to District Attorney Ben David.
David said while it's too early to determine if his office will seek the death
penalty against Bernicki, he has asked that the Capital Defender's Office be
appointed to defend Bernicki. The Capital Defender's Office represents
individuals that will face the death penalty.
911 calls released the day after the shooting revealed the frantic moments
following the deadly encounter.
A woman, who just got home from work, called dispatch shortly after the
shooting, saying, "there's gunfire, gunfire! A man running down the road said
his roommate had been shot. I've heard about 6 shots."
When pressed by the dispatcher for more information about the shooting, the
caller yelled to the man for details.
"Saw him bust through the door...and the barrel of the gun come through the
door," the caller said.
Fullwood's 3-year-old son was in the backyard at the time of the shooting. He
was found unharmed by deputies shortly after they arrived at the scene.
Investigators said the shooting happened at Fullwood's mother's home and the
boy is now in her care.
(source: WECT news)
Death penalty prosecutions delayed despite new state law
Even after Florida got a new death penalty law in March, several trials in
South Florida remain in limbo over yet more legal wrangling.
Defense lawyers, and some judges, say prosecutors still can't pursue the death
penalty because the grand jury indictments don't include certain elements
needed to support capital charges.
These elements are called aggravating factors, such as the killing was
"especially heinous, atrocious or cruel," or possibly involved the slaying of a
A state appeals court is considering arguments from lawyers for Fidel Lopez -
the Sunrise man accused of disemboweling his girlfriend in 2015 - that
challenge his indictment, and the pending decision will affect other cases. It
is not known when the court will rule, leaving several death penalty cases
The changes in the state's death penalty law followed U.S. and Florida Supreme
Court rulings last year that the state's process for sentencing people to death
was unconstitutional. Unanimous jury votes are now required to recommend death
But the dispute over the indictment in Lopez and other cases is separate from
the retooled death penalty law. The question is whether a state high court
opinion from October establishes a higher standard for indictments on capital
Until now, the use of aggravating factors has been required only as a
consideration for sentencing purposes.
In the Lopez appeal, attorneys for the state argue Florida's Supreme Court - in
a March 17 ruling on a different Broward case - already decided the current
procedure is legally sound.
Defense attorneys contend that ruling in the case of Jacqueline Luongo - who
was convicted April 5 of the 2014 killing of her roommate - actually did not
set a precedent for all other capital murder cases, and holding trials at this
point would violate the law.
"The right of a criminal defendant to be put on notice of the charges against
him is the cornerstone of our constitution, due process and our system of
criminal justice in this country," said Broward Assistant Public Defender
Melisa McNeill, who represents Lopez. "A grand jury must make a factual finding
that there are elements of the crime of capital murder."
Karen M. Gottlieb, co-director of the Florida Center for Capital
Representation, agrees it should be up to a "neutral body" or grand jury to
determine whether the evidence exists to support an indictment for capital
"The whole idea is having independent citizens act as a bulwark against
potential prosecutorial abuse," said Gottlieb, also a visiting law professor at
Florida International University.
Ninett Martinez of Miami says she's been frustrated over the continuing delays
in a trial for the man accused of brutally killing her daughter, Vanessa
Williams Bristol, in Palm Beach County 2 years ago.
She figured the case against John Eugene Chapman would be back on track after
the Legislature this spring changed the death penalty law.
"I don't know why it's taking so long," Martinez said of the hold placed on
Chapman's trial since January.
In the case, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Krista Marx agreed with Chapman's
lawyers on the indictment objection.
"Without requiring the State to allege aggravating factors, there is no way to
determine from the fact of the indictment whether the defendant has been
charged with a crime carrying a maximum possible punishment of life
imprisonment (1st-degree murder) or with a crime carrying a maximum possible
punishment of death (capital 1st-degree murder)," Marx wrote in a Jan. 11
Prosecutors challenged Marx's order in the Fourth District Court of Appeal,
which has said whatever it decides in the Lopez case will apply to Chapman.
If the court ultimately upholds the challenge on the indictments, prosecutors
still wishing to pursue the death penalty would have to take the cases back to
a grand jury and get new indictments that name aggravating factors.
Palm Beach County Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth Ramsey said she hopes
prosecutors would re-evaluate whether they really want to seek the death
penalty against certain defendants.
Here's a look at the Chapman and Lopez cases, and other death penalty cases
expected to go to trial in the next year. The pending appellate court ruling on
the indictment challenge could further delay the cases:
John Eugene Chapman: Prosecutors say the 27-year-old Miami man killed his
girlfriend and mother of his then 1-year-old son by stabbing her 25 times in
the neck and tossing her and the knife out of her pickup truck in a West Delray
According to an arrest report, Chapman told a detective he snapped and stabbed
Bristol, 28, of Margate, after she reached for a knife during an argument on
April 18, 2015.
Ninett Martinez said her daughter worked at a doctor's office and was the
mother of 3 boys, now 12, 7 and 3.
Fidel Lopez: Jury selection was halted Feb. 13 for the trial of the man who
told police he killed his girlfriend, Maria Lizette Nemeth, 31, in a
Prosecutors won an emergency stay after appealing Broward Circuit Judge Ilona
Holmes' order preventing the death penalty on the grounds the indictment wasn't
sufficient. The trial, on charges of 1st-degree murder and sexual battery,
remains on hold.
During a hearing this year, Lopez testified he was confused when he gave police
a confession on Sept. 20, 2015, hours after he called 911 from his apartment.
Lopez, 25, told police he became "a monster" when Nemeth called out someone
else's name during sex, records show.
Authorities say Clark killed Dana Fader, 27, a mother of three whose body was
discovered in the back seat of her 1980 Ford Fairmont on June 20, 1987.
It wasn't until 2012 that investigators using a national DNA database matched
Clark's DNA to a blood and semen stain found on Fader's dress. Clark told
detectives he was in Palm Beach County in 1987, but denied ever knowing or
meeting Fader, having sexual relations with her or being in her car, according
to court records.
Just Tuesday, the appellate court cleared the case for trial after putting it
on hold while the new death penalty law was pending.
Andrew Hoffman and Herbert Savell: A June 12 trial is set for both defendants
in the 2014 killing of Margeaux Greenwald, 35, of Boynton Beach. That date
Police found Greenwald's beaten body in a wooded area of Palm Beach Gardens and
said Hoffman, 31, and Savell, 28, are responsible.
In a statement to a detective, Savell said they were doing drugs together when
Greenwald passed out. Police said the men bound the woman's hands and feet and
stuffed her in the trunk of her car.
Savell said that while driving north, he heard Greenwald making noise from the
trunk, and stopped at a Target to buy an aluminum baseball bat.
Police said the men took Greenwald out of the trunk at the wooded area and beat
her to death with the bat on June 5, 2014.
Lucas gave pills to Elliana Lucas-Jamason and her brother, Ethan, police said.
The boy found his sister submerged in a bathtub, tried to revive her, and
called 911, records show.
Lucas' lawyers have said they are pursuing an insanity defense.
Jacquelyn Jamason, the kids' biological mother, has told reporters that the
wait for justice has been difficult.
This month, Circuit Judge Charles Burton set the case for trial Sept. 14.
However, her attorneys say they are preparing to challenge Lucas' indictment.
(source: Sun Sentinel)
Appeal denied: Kayle Bates' call for DNA testing quashed by SCOFLA----Kayla
Bates' most recent appeal for DNA testing on evidence from his 1983 murder
trial has been denied by the Supreme Court of Florida.
In a unanimous ruling, the state's highest court has shot down more DNA testing
in a Panama City murder case from 1982.
Kayle Bates, 59, is on death row after being convicted of kidnapping, murder,
rape and robbery. Bates kidnapped Janet White, 24, from her State Farm
Insurance office in Panama City on June 14, 1982. He killed her by stabbing her
after he attempted to rape her. Her body was found that same day in woods near
her office. After he killed her, Bates, who was 25 at the time, took a diamond
ring from White, which he had on him when police arrested him.
Bates' latest appeal focused on ten items he claimed would prove he wasn't
White's killer. But, in an opinion released Thursday, the Supreme Court of
Florida said in the case of 7 of the items, "we rejected Bates' argument that
DNA testing on these items would produce a reasonable probability of his
exoneration in light of the "accumulation of evidence" establishing his
identity as the perpetrator. "
The ruling continues: "Further, we affirm the circuit court's denial of DNA
testing on the three remaining items not subject to the procedural bar.
Regarding the 1st 2 items, Bates alleges that debris from the victim's
clothing, which includes a Caucasian hair sample that Bates alleges could not
be his because he is African American, and the victim's fingernail clippings
could contain DNA of the actual killer and therefore exonerate him. Bates
further argues that if DNA testing on these items excludes his DNA, he would
also be exonerated. Like the 7 items for which DNA testing has already been
denied, favorable testing from these additional items would not establish that
Bates is not the perpetrator, as the evidence of Bates' guilt is
overwhelming....In light of the overwhelming evidence of Bates' guilt, there is
no reasonable probability that the results of DNA testing on these 3 additional
items would have resulted in his acquittal or reduced his sentence."
Bates is also appealing his death sentence. At his original trial in 1983, a
jury recommend 11-1 that Bates be sentenced to death. Bates has been sentenced
to die 2 other times, once in 1985 and again in 1995. His latest appeal focuses
on a ruling last year from the Supreme Court of the United States stating all
death recommendations have to be unanimous from juries and that juries, not
judges, are who have the ultimate say in death penalty cases.
So far, the Supreme Court of Florida hasn't ruled on Bates' appeal of his death
sentence. SCOFLA is awaiting word from the United States Supreme Court on if
its ruling last year on unanimous jury recommendations regarding death
sentences applies to cases before 2002.
(source: WJHG news)
Teen charged in death says 19-year-old shot Mississippi boy
A Mississippi teenager charged with murder in the death of a 6-year-old told
investigators that the boy was actually shot by another of the three teen
suspects, according to an investigator's sworn statement.
The Associated Press obtained the sworn statement Friday from a source with
knowledge of the case involving the death of Kingston Frazier. The boy was
found shot to death at the side of a dead-end road inside his mother's
abandoned car, hours after someone stole the Toyota Camry from a supermarket
Mississippi Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Rusty Clark said in the sworn
statement filed in connection with the case that 17-year-old Dwan Wakefield of
Ridgeland told Clark and another investigator 19-year-old Byron McBride of
Pickens was at fault.
"During this interview, Wakefield implicated Byron McBride as the person who
actually stole the vehicle and shot and killed Frazier," Clark's statement
When asked for further comment, MBI spokesman Warren Strain declined, saying
"the court document speaks for itself."
Wakefield, McBride and 17-year-old D'Allen Washington of Ridgeland are being
held without bail in Madison County, just north of Jackson, awaiting Monday
morning court appearances. It's unclear if any of the 3 have lawyers.
Though all 3 are charged with capital murder, only McBride could face the death
penalty. The U.S. Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty for crimes committed
by people younger than 18 in 2005.
Madison County Coroner Alex Breeland said Kingston was shot multiple times.
District Attorney Michael Guest said authorities are still looking for the gun
used to kill Kingston but are confident they have enough evidence against the
three teen suspects to proceed without it.
"I do not believe that it is anything other than a crime of opportunity," Guest
said, saying there was no evidence of any deeper plot besides stealing a car
that Ebony Archie left running with her child inside. He said he didn't believe
anyone else was involved.
Security video shows that after Archie left her car about 1 a.m., another car
drove up and a man got out and then drove off in her Camry. Frazier was in the
Archie's family members told local news media Friday that she had picked up her
son from his grandmother after going out with friends to celebrate her birthday
and was going into the Jackson supermarket to buy party supplies to celebrate
Kingston's kindergarten graduation, which was scheduled Friday.
"She feels guilty for the fact that she decided to go inside the store and
leave the car running when she went inside the store," David Archie, Ebony
Archie's uncle, told WLBT-TV.
The car was found 8 hours later, abandoned in a muddy ditch about 15 miles (20
kilometers) north of Jackson in Gluckstadt. People continued to stream to the
site Friday afternoon, with some leaving small memorials. One note said
"Kingston R.I.P. Sweet angel fly high. You are loved and will be missed.
Prayers for your family."
Guest wouldn't say if any of the men have confessed, but Clark's statement made
clear that at least Wakefield has talked to investigators. Guest said
investigators are gathering surveillance video from near where the car was
abandoned, as well as seeking mobile phone evidence that could indicate the
whereabouts of the suspects.
Breeland said an autopsy was completed and the boy's body was released to a
funeral home. However, no funeral arrangements had been scheduled as of Friday
Guest said Washington is currently under indictment for armed robbery in
Madison County. Court records the other 2 men have no criminal history as
(source: Washington Post)
Trial set for Fort Recovery man facing death penalty over child killing
A Fort Recovery man facing the death penalty over the killing of a child was
assigned a trial date for Oct. 2.
Cory Eischen, 40, appeared at a hearing Friday in Mercer County Common Pleas
Court. Visiting Judge Randall Basinger also set a motion hearing for July 5.
Eischen is charged with aggravated murder with a death penalty specification, 2
counts of murder, involuntary manslaughter, 2 counts of felonious assault, 2
counts of endangering children and domestic violence. He has pleaded not guilty
to all charges.
Eischen is charged in the Sept. 25 death of 4-year-old Jaxxen Baker inside a
home at 5098 Rauh Road outside Fort Recovery. Deputies were called to the home
for an unresponsive child after a woman picking up another child saw Baker
Basinger was assigned to the case after Judge Jeffrey Ingraham took a leave of
absence in April following some health problems. Ingraham is expected to return
to the bench sometime in June but Basinger will remain on Eischen's case so
it's not going back and forth between judges.
Also at the hearing Friday, attorneys went over various motions including those
that dealt with jury questionnaires and other issues dealing with the selection
of a jury.
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