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death penalty news----KY., ARK., OKLA., NEB., CALIF., US MIL.
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Rick Halperin
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May 31




KENTUCKY----female may face death penalty

State seeks death penalty against 21-year-old woman in 2016 homicide


A woman arrested and charged in a 2016 robbery and death of an Elizabethtown
man could face the death penalty when the much-delayed case goes to trial in
October.

Taliyah Rochea (also spelled Roshea in court records) Woods, 21, of Radcliff
could become the second woman on Kentucky's death row. Only Virginia Caudill,
sentenced in Fayette County in 2000, is currently on death row.

Woods is charged with complicity to commit murder, a Class A felony punishable
by 20 to 50 years or life in prison; 2 counts of complicity to commit
1st-degree robbery, a Class B felony punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison;
complicity to commit 2nd-degree assault, a Class C felony punishable by 5 to 10
years in prison; and complicity to tampering with physical evidence, a Class D
felony punishable by 1 to 5 years in prison.

She was arrested Jan. 30, 2016, and remains in custody. Woods had been
convicted Nov. 20, 2014, of multiple charges of complicity to robbery,
burglary, complicity to burglary, wanton endangerment, fleeing police, unlawful
transaction with a minor. It's not immediately clear in state Corrections
Department records if she was on parole at the time of the 2016 killing for
which prosecutors want the death penalty. She is now serving her 2014 sentence
of at least 9 years.

Commonwealth's Attorney Shane Young filed a notice of aggravating circumstances
in the case, which allows for the death penalty should Woods be convicted of
the Jan. 27, 2016, killing of Windell Jones, 22, inside his Westport Road
townhouse.

If convicted, based on Young's filing, Woods also could face life without
parole or life without parole for 25 years, if a jury decides not to impose a
death penalty.

Young said as long as an aggravating circumstance occurs at the time of a
homicide, such as a robbery or burglary, the death penalty could be sought.

Woods is 1 of 4 arrested and indicted in the case. All face the same charges.

Monti Lopez-Olivera, 20, of Radcliff, accepted a 20-year plea deal in the case.

Tyheim Taylor and Braylond Buckler, both 18 and of Elizabethtown, also are
charged in the case. Taylor and Buckler will be tried as adults even though
they were 17 at the time.

Young has called the shooting death of Jones a "very coordinated" effort of
individuals seeking money, drugs or both.

Earlier this month, Woods' attorney, Audrey Woosnam, filed three motions with
the Office of the Kentucky Attorney General challenging the constitutionality
of the death penalty in Kentucky.

The trial currently is set for Oct. 16. It previously was delayed in April and
June of this year.

Young said although only 1 person shot Jones, all are being charged with the
same crimes.

"According to laws in Kentucky, when you go to commit a robbery and you shoot
someone, all are responsible for it," he said. "It doesn't matter who pulled
the trigger; it's like everybody pulled the trigger."

Jones was in his residence with another man when Jones answered the door just
after midnight Jan. 27 and was shot from close range in the chest. He was
pronounced dead at his home by the Hardin County Coroner's Office. Young said
the other man at the residence was not involved in the crime.

Among the evidence in the case, according to court documents, are 67 CDs of
discovery evidence; interviews of 18 people, including all charged; DNA
samples; bank account documents; pictures of burned debris; and cellphone
records.

Jones was an employee of Roxie's Restaurant in Elizabethtown at the time of the
shooting.

Another person, Victoria Lambert, was labeled by Elizabethtown police as a
"person of interest." She has been interviewed by authorities and has not been
charged.

(source: kentucky.com)






ARKANSAS:

2 recuse from investigation into Arkansas judge who participated in
death-penalty protest


The top t2 officials for a judicial ethics panel are recusing themselves from
investigations involving an Arkansas judge who participated in an anti-death
penalty demonstration the same day he issued an order that effectively blocked
executions in the state.

The executive director and deputy director of the Judicial Discipline and
Disability Commission on Tuesday stepped away from the cases involving Pulaski
County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, who lay on a cot outside the governor's
mansion last month after blocking the state from using a lethal injection drug.
The panel is investigating a complaint against Griffen as well as his complaint
against the state Supreme Court over its decision to bar him from death penalty
cases. Justices also lifted Griffen's order.

The commission must appoint special counsel to handle the complaints.

(source: Associated Press)






OKLAHOMA:

Oklahoma's death penalty is a failed public policy


Earlier this month, the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission issued their
findings after spending a year examining our capital punishment system. The
Commission concluded that it is costly and dangerously administered, and
therefore, executions should be halted for the time being. Given these findings
and that 53% of Oklahomans favor death penalty alternatives, the time is right
to reexamine Oklahoma's capital punishment program.

Most Oklahomans loathe the idea of killing innocent Americans, which is a real
risk in our death penalty system. The Oklahoma death penalty, like any
government program, is imperfect, and when a mistake occurs innocent lives are
imperiled. To date, ten individuals have been wrongly sentenced to die and
eventually released from our death row. Others have been executed despite
lingering doubts about their verdicts.

Take for instance Ronald Williamson, whose case is described in John Grisham's
book An Innocent Man. Williamson was convicted of a murder in Ada on the basis
of a so-called "dream confession." Williamson was sent to Oklahoma's death row
and spent 11 years in prison - coming within 5 days of an execution at one
point - before new DNA evidence proved his innocence. While accurate forensics
saved Williamson, Oklahoma's reputation has been unfortunately tainted by many
instances of deceitful forensic practices.

Currently, Richard Glossip is languishing on Oklahoma's death row, but there's
no physical evidence linking him to his alleged crime. His guilty verdict
largely relies on the statement of the admitted killer who received a life
sentence rather than death, but his questionable testimony has changed at least
8 times. It also appears that Glossip's current attorney has located witnesses
who corroborate his claims of innocence. I can't say whether Glossip is guilty
or not, but the point is that the risk of executing an innocent person in
Oklahoma is real.

Many Oklahomans also worry about government inefficiencies, and the death
penalty stands out as an example. According to numerous studies, the death
penalty comes at a disproportionately high cost. Because of the complex,
mandated legal proceedings, each capital case can cost millions of dollars more
than life without parole. Moreover, capital cases have been the impetus for tax
increases across the United States. Jasper County, TX, for instance, raised
their property taxes by 7% to cover the cost of a single death penalty trial.
Considering that we have been grappling with budgetary shortfalls, it should
come as no surprise that Oklahomans are increasingly critical of wasteful
government programs, and many are asking if the death penalty makes fiscal
sense.

I believe it is the duty of elected officials to justify every dime the state
spends and weigh the benefits of state programs, like the death penalty.
However, studies have shown that there is no evidence to suggest that
executions deter murder. Actually, murder rates are higher in states with the
death penalty. Worst yet, the death penalty process is so convoluted and drawn
out that many murder victims' families feel that it is a much more harmful
process than that of life without parole. With this being known, it is clear
that Oklahoma taxpayers are not getting an appropriate return on their
investment.

Beyond these issues, the way the death penalty has been administered has become
a black eye on our great state. First, there was a botched an execution in
2014, and another one went awry in 2015 because officials accidentally
administered a chemical normally used to deice runways rather than the approved
lethal injection drug. These missteps prompted a multi-county grand jury to
investigate what went wrong, and their findings were embarrassing and
inexcusable. The report revealed governmental malfeasance and was best summed
up by former Attorney General Pruitt who described those involved as "careless,
cavalier and...dismissive of established procedures." When fellow Oklahomans
claim that they deserve better, I wholeheartedly agree.

I know there are passionate feelings on both sides of the death penalty debate,
but rather than reconsidering capital punishment through a subjective lens, we
should judge it based on objective facts. Only then is it clear that capital
punishment is a public policy failure that violates numerous tenets of
conservatism and libertarianism, including valuing life, liberty, fiscal
responsibility, and limited government.

(source: Opinion, Op-Ed; Jacob Morgan is a student at Southeastern Oklahoma
State University. He is an intern for Marsy's Law of Oklahoma, Campus
Coordinator with Students for Liberty, Campus Ambassador for the Foundation for
Economic Education, and the past chapter president of the SOSU Young Americans
for Liberty. He is also a supporter of Conservatives Concerned About the Death
Penalty----Durant Democrat)






NEBRASKA:

Man who killed 4 people sentenced to death in Nebraska


A man convicted of killing 4 people in Omaha in 2013 was sentenced to death
Tuesday by a 3-judge panel - Nebraska's 1st death penalty sentence handed down
since the punishment was reinstated by voters in November.

The panel issued its ruling in the case of Nikko Jenkins, who was convicted of
4 counts of 1st-degree murder for the August 2013 shooting deaths.

The judicial panel had the option of sentencing Jenkins to death or life in
prison. The judges cited the heinous nature of the killings in their decision
and said they believed state psychiatrists who testified that while Jenkins
does have narcissistic and anti-social personality disorders, he knew right
from wrong when he committed the crimes.

"Each one of these murders was a planned and deliberate act," Douglas County
District Judge Peter Bataillon said Tuesday during the hearing.

Jenkins, who was visibly thinner than when he was first arrested, showed no
emotion as he was sentenced. The only words he said loud enough to be heard
from the gallery were directed at his public defender, when he refused to sign
paperwork to file an appeal.

"You're not doing my appeal," Jenkins said to Douglas County Public Defender
Thomas Riley.

Appeals are automatically filed in death penalty cases in Nebraska. The
judicial panel ordered Riley to handle the appeal, despite Jenkins' objection.

In addition to death for each of the 4 counts of murder, Jenkins also was
sentenced to at least 450 years for a dozen weapons counts in the case.

Jenkins pleaded no contest in 2014, but his sentencing has been delayed for
years because of concerns about his mental competency. His defense psychiatrist
said Jenkins suffers from schizophrenia and perhaps a bipolar disorder. Defense
lawyers have noted Jenkins' habit of tattooing his face and self-mutilation
while in prison, as well as his ramblings in court, as proof of a deteriorating
mental state.

State psychiatrists, however, have repeatedly declared that Jenkins is sane and
testified during the case that he is faking psychosis.

Just 11 days after his release from prison, where he had been for 10 years for
2 carjackings, Jenkins shot and killed Juan Uribe-Pena and Jorge Cajiga-Ruizon
on Aug. 11, 2013.

Prosecutors say 8 days later, Jenkins and his sister killed Curtis Bradford, a
1-time prison acquaintance. Then, on Aug. 21, police say, Jenkins pulled Andrea
Kruger from her SUV as she drove home from work and shot her 4 times before
speeding off in her vehicle.

Prosecutors argued that Jenkins planned the killings to cover up robberies of
the victims or to keep them from identifying him, but Jenkins insisted an
Egyptian god ordered him in a foreign language to kill the 4 as human
sacrifices.

Jenkins was ultimately found competent to stand trial and allowed to represent
himself for much of it. He was then allowed in 2014 to plead no contest to the
murder charges. A no-contest plea acknowledges there is sufficient evidence to
convict, but is not an admittance of guilt.

Nebraska lawmakers abolished capital punishment in 2015, but death penalty
supporters responded with a statewide ballot campaign that prevented the law
from going into effect until voters decided whether to overturn the
Legislature's decision. Nearly 61 % of voters last November opted to reinstate
the penalty.

The mother of 1 of Jenkins' victims cried quietly as she left the courtroom.

Velita Glasgow, the mother of Curtis Bradford, said Tuesday's sentence brought
much-needed closure for her.

"It's time for me to heal," she said. "I'm ready to put this behind me."

(source: Associated Press)

*************************

Chambers predicts Jenkins' death sentence won't be carried out


Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers said he doesn't think Nikko Jenkins' death sentence
will ever be carried out, and may even be overturned at the Nebraska Supreme
Court level.

If not on the state level, it will probably be overturned by a federal appeals
court or the U.S. Supreme Court, he said.

"I do believe that Nikko Jenkins is mentally deranged. I think the evidence
will show that, and under the circumstances, I don't think the death penalty
can be carried out," Chambers said.

There will be so many moving parts in the way the case was handled, that the
number of appeals themselves will be virtually infinite, he said.

Jenkins' victims were 2 Latino men, a black man and white woman, and there was
a noticeable change in the reporting of the murders when Andrea Kruger, a white
woman, was killed, he said. Had she not been a victim, Chambers said, the case
would have most likely been handled as a plea bargain and the death penalty
would not have been on the table.

"I think it was a cruel hoax played on the families and the friends of the
victims to hand out all those additional sentences in terms of years," he said.
"It shows the political nature of what these judges did."

In addition to death for each of the four counts of murder, Jenkins also was
sentenced to at least 450 years for a dozen weapons counts in the case.

Jenkins' mental state and the conditions in which he was held in prison will
have a bearing on how the matter turns out, Chambers said. And it especially
will have an impact that Judge Peter Bataillon allowed Jenkins to represent
himself during his initial trial phase.

"I think that was a fatal flaw in the proceedings," Chambers said.

Jenkins has said getting the death penalty would allow him to get out of the
solitary circumstance he???s been in all these years and be around other men on
death row, which is a type of segregation but allows contact with other humans,
Chambers said.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)






CALIFORNIA:

Attorneys spar in death penalty phase of inmate's trial for killing cellmate


The 1st witness to testify Tuesday in the penalty phase of the trial of Dennis
Bratton, convicted earlier this month of stomping his cellmate to death in a
Delano prison, said Bratton was the ringleader of a group of inmates who
terrorized him 20 years ago in a San Diego jail.

Forest Harris, 39, said he was 18 and in custody for burglary when Bratton
accused him of being a "snitch," and led a group of men in random attacks until
Harris was moved more than 24 hours later.

Harris testified Bratton and the other men stole food he had purchased at the
jail canteen and, after a beating in which 4 men attacked him at once, warned
him not to tell the guards what had happened. He said Bratton told him to take
a shower after the last beating.

He believed Bratton wanted him to shower to reduce the swelling of welts and
bruises so guards wouldn't question him about the injuries.

"It definitely left a memorable experience," said Harris, the 1st of a number
of former and current inmates expected to testify over the next couple weeks.

Bratton, 47, was convicted May 17 of assault by a life prisoner with force
causing death in the killing of 27-year-old Andrew Keel. Bratton stomped Keel
to death the morning of May 16, 2013, in the cell they shared at Kern Valley
State Prison.

When the penalty phase is complete, the jury can either recommend death or life
in prison without the possibility of parole.

Prosecutor Andi Bridges said during her opening statement Tuesday that Bratton
has committed a series of violent acts during the 20 years he's spent behind
bars. Several years ago he stomped and seriously injured another inmate.

And just last year, she said, he beat an inmate unconscious for beating him at
handball.

In asking jurors for a recommendation of death, Bridges said they should
consider the circumstances of Keel's killing, the impact it had on his friends
and family and Bratton's other violent conduct. Jurors will hear details of the
bank robbery and shooting in San Diego that resulted in Bratton's 1997
conviction and life sentence.

Deputy Public Defender Paul Cadman, Bratton's attorney along with Deputy Public
Defender Pam Singh, told the jury he expects Bridges will try to show Keel in
the best possible light and gloss over the crimes that landed him in prison
with a life sentence.

"Think about obituaries," Cadman said. "Sometimes if you read them it seems
like only the greatest people in the world die."

Keel, Cadman said, pleaded guilty to slashing another inmate's throat. He
admitted to participating in race riots while in prison.

The attorney said he expects the evidence will show all of Keel's problems are
related to drugs and alcohol, problems he brought upon himself. An autopsy
revealed Keel was intoxicated when he and Bratton fought.

Cadman told the jury Bridges will try to convince it that Bratton is "the worst
of the worst." But his client, Cadman said, has never harmed women or children
or committed acts of terrorism. One of the men Bratton stomped while in prison
was a convicted rapist, he said.

Bridges objected when Cadman told jurors she was going to ask them to become
"killers" and make the jury deliberation room a "death chamber" in returning a
verdict of death. Judge Michael E. Dellostritto sustained the objection.

During Harris' cross-examination, Cadman set a blistering pace in which he, in
short order, asked Harris if he was a felon, a thief and a snitch. Harris said
he was a thief at the time but hasn't been in trouble since the burglary
conviction. He said he wasn't sure what Cadman meant by "snitch."

"You named names, right?" Cadman asked. "So you're a snitch too, right?"

Bridges lodged multiple objections during the cross-examination. Dellostritto
repeatedly told Harris, who appeared to take exception to some of the
questions, not to respond until he ruled on the objections.

Several jurors smiled at each other and raised eyebrows in apparent surprise as
Cadman and Harris sparred.

Cadman peppered Harris with questions about why he didn't hit the panic button
and alert jail staff if he felt so threatened by Bratton and the others.

"Because I'm not stupid," Harris said under further questioning by Bridges.

He testified the button was across the dormitory and he didn't believe he'd
make it there before Bratton and the others stopped him. And even if he did, he
said the guards never rushed to see what the problem was and he faced being
attacked before they arrived.

(source: bakersfield.com)

******************

Arrest made in 2011 murders of 2 women found on LA freeways


An arrest has been made in the 2011 murders of 2 young women whose bodies were
discovered along Los Angeles freeways.

eovanni Barjas, 32, was arrested last week in connection with the murders of
17-year-old Michelle Lozano and 22-year-old Bree'anna Guzman.

Geovanni Barjas, 32, is seen in a booking photo from the Los Angeles Police
Department.

Police suspect both women were kidnapped and killed, though investigators did
not say if Barjas knew the women or not.

During a Tuesday afternoon press conference, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said DNA
played a key role in Barjas' arrest.

Detectives were able to connect the 2 cases through forensic evidence, Beck
said. Then, detectives fulfilled "exhaustive protocols" required by the
California Attorney General's Office to request a familial DNA search.

This was done because the DNA of the suspect responsible for the killings was
not in the California database, nor was it in the national database, Beck said.

"We've had 2 successful familial searches in the history of Los Angeles Police
Department. The 1st one, also done by Robbery-Homicide, was for the Grim
Sleeper," Beck said.

The familial search turned up a contributory match, identifying Barjas' father,
who was in the system for a "non-sexual-assault-type crime earlier in his
life," the chief said.

After much background investigation, detectives identified Barjas as a possible
suspect in the killings and collected a "surreptitious DNA sample."

"They did this by following the individual. During that following, he spit on
the sidewalk. Detectives collected that, and the DNA was a match. It was a
match to both of these murders," Beck said.

Barjas was arrested last Thursday from his home in Torrance. He was charged
Tuesday with 2 counts each of murder and forcible rape and 1 count of
kidnapping, according to a statement released by the Los Angeles County
District Attorney's Office.

Barjas also faces special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and
murder in the commission of a rape and a kidnapping, making him eligible for
the death penalty, the DA's office said.

Lozano disappeared while walking to a store near her home in Lincoln Heights on
April 24, 2011. One day later, her nude body was found wrapped in plastic bags
and stuffed inside a plastic container that was dumped in the brush near the
Cesar Chavez Avenue off-ramp from the southbound 5 Freeway in East Los Angeles.
An autopsy found she had been strangled to death.

Guzman, a mother of 2, had walked to a Rite Aid store near Avenue 26 and Daly
Street in Boyle Heights to buy cough medicine on Dec. 26, 2011, but she never
returned home. Her partially clothed body was found on Jan. 26, 2012 alongside
the Riverside Drive on-ramp to the southbound 2 Freeway in the Silver Lake
area. An autopsy found she had been strangled to death.

According to prosecutors, both victims were sexually assaulted, and DNA
evidence recovered at both crime scenes tied Borjas to the murders.

If convicted as charged, Borjas faces the death penalty or life in state prison
without the possibility of parole. A decision on whether to seek the death
penalty is expected to be made at a later date.

(source: ABC News)






US MILITARY:

Army Moves Closer To Its 1st Execution In More Than 50 Years


Convicted serial rapist and murderer Ronald Gray moved a step closer to death
earlier this month when an Army court dismissed the latest attempt to stave off
his execution.

A 9-judge panel in the Army Court of Criminal Appeals on May 9 unanimously
denied Gray's petition to have his convictions and death sentence vacated.

Gray, who has made numerous appeals through his lawyers since his conviction
during a Fort Bragg court-martial in 1988, filed the petition in the Army court
earlier this year, after a federal judge in another court ruled that a stay of
execution 1st granted in November 2008 was no longer in effect and denied
Gray's request to further block the military from moving forward with the death
sentence.

Gray has been confined at the U.S. Army Disciplinary Barracks at Fort
Leavenworth, Kansas, since he was sentenced to death.

A former resident of Fairlane Acres near Bonnie Doone in Fayetteville, he
served as an Army cook before he was convicted in a series of rapes and murders
in Fayetteville and Fort Bragg more than 25 years ago.

His crimes were committed in 1986 and 1987 on Fort Bragg and near Fairlane
Acres Mobile Home Park off Santa Fe Drive.

Gray killed cab driver Kimberly Ann Ruggles, Army Pvt. Laura Lee Vickery-Clay,
Campbell University student Linda Jean Coats and Fairlane Acres resident and
soldier's wife Tammy Wilson and raped several other women.

In addition to the death sentence handed down by a military court, he also
received 8 life sentences from civilian courts, including 3 to be served
consecutively.

The case has lingered in the courts for more than 8 years since President
George W. Bush approved Gray's execution in 2008. All military executions must
be approved by the president.

But late last year, a federal U.S. District Court judge in Kansas removed the
stay, months after the same court dismissed a petition for relief filed by
Gray.

At the time, Army Disciplinary Barracks officials said they intended to set a
date for Gray's execution no earlier than 30 days from the date of their
notice, which was filed Nov. 21.

But earlier this year, Army officials said no execution date had been set due
to pending legal actions in the Army Court of Criminal Appeals.

On Wednesday, an Army spokeswoman said Gray has 30 days following the May 9
opinion to file for a reconsideration with the court or, alternatively, 20 days
to petition for review with the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. As of
Wednesday, the case had not been listed in that court's daily journal.

In their latest petition, Gray's lawyers asked the court to grant relief in the
form of a writ of coram nobis, a legal order that allows a court to correct a
judgment based on the discovery of a fundamental error which did not appear in
the records of the original trial.

Specifically, lawyers argued that Gray was tried while incompetent to stand
trial; that he was denied due process when military authorities failed to
disclose evidence about his competency during appeal; that he was denied his
rights to due process, fair sentencing and a public trial because President
Bush used a confidential report in making his decision to approve Gray's death
sentence; that he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance
of counsel at his capital sentencing; that his appellate counsel rendered
ineffective assistance; that his sentence was the result of racial
discrimination; and that the military death penalty violates evolving standards
of decency under the Eighth Amendment.

The Army appeals court denied 6 of the claims outright, dismissed the claim
involving President Bush as being outside its jurisdiction and denied Gray's
motion for an oral argument in the case.

Gray is the longest-serving inmate on the military's death row. If he is
executed, officials said he likely would be put to death at the United States
Penitentiary in Terre, Haute, Indiana - the same facility where, in 2001,
terrorist Timothy McVeigh was executed for the bombing of a federal building in
Oklahoma City in 1995.

If Gray is executed, it would be the 1st for the U.S. military since 1961.

(source: Fayetteville Observer)

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