2017-06-24 14:17:19 UTC
Lincoln Rutledge's attorneys likely to cite mental health in opposing death
The Franklin County jurors who convicted Lincoln S. Rutledge on Thursday of
purposely killing a Columbus police officer weren't allowed to consider his
That changes Monday, when Rutledge's mental health is expected to be at the
forefront of an effort by his defense attorneys to persuade the same jury that
he shouldn't be sentenced to death.
Under Ohio law, mental health is among what are known as mitigating factors
that jurors can weigh in determining an appropriate sentence. If they decide
that death is not appropriate, they must recommend a sentence of either life in
prison without parole, or life with a chance of parole after 25 or 30 years.
Their sentencing recommendation must be unanimous.
During the trial, jurors heard testimony from Rutledge's ex-wife about how his
mental health was unraveling in the months leading up to an April 10, 2016,
standoff with a SWAT team during which Officer Steven Smith was fatally shot.
Officers had tried to arrest Rutledge on a warrant accusing him of setting her
house on fire. Instead, Rutledge barricaded himself inside his Clintonville
apartment and began shooting.
Common Pleas Judge Mark Serrott, at the urging of prosecutors, instructed
jurors that they couldn't use evidence of mental-health problems in determining
whether Rutledge was trying to kill officers or knew that he was shooting at
Defendants in Ohio can't use mental illness as a defense unless they are
arguing that they are not guilty by reason of insanity, said Common Pleas Judge
Stephen L. McIntosh, who presided over a death-penalty trial in 2008. But when
it's time for sentencing, mental health and "just about anything else about the
defendant can be considered as mitigation," McIntosh said.
State law lists the mitigating factors to be considered, including "whether, at
the time of committing the offense, the offender, because of a mental disease
or defect, lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of the
offender's conduct or to conform the offender's conduct to the requirements of
The law gives defendants "great latitude" in presenting mitigating factors,
which can include the person's age, character, criminal record "and any other
factors that are relevant to the issue of whether the offender should be
sentenced to death."
Defense attorney Jefferson Liston said Friday that testimony will be offered by
a psychologist, as well as "family and friends as to the life of Lincoln
Rutledge, which substantiate mitigating factors."
Jim Crates, a death-penalty mitigation specialist based in Granville, said
personality disorders are more commonly cited during mitigation than are
diagnoses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
"A significant majority" of death-penalty defendants "are very damaged human
beings," Crates said. "We try to get a handle on why they are as damaged as
they are. It can be family trauma, emotional abuse, sexual abuse."
Mitigating factors shouldn't be viewed as mere excuses for criminal behavior,
said Ronald Janes, a Columbus defense lawyer who estimated he has handled about
10 death-penalty cases. Anyone who is dismissive of mitigating factors should
be excluded during the jury-selection process in a death-penalty case, Janes
"The legislature decided that this is important, that these are factors that
the jury should consider," Janes said. "It's up to the jurors to decide how
much weight to give them."
(source: Columbus Dispatch)
Man convicted of killing SWAT officer, could face execution
A man accused of fatally shooting an Ohio SWAT officer during a standoff last
year has been found guilty of aggravated murder and could face the death
Lincoln Rutledge had pleaded not guilty to charges he shot Columbus officer
Steven Smith in the head as officers were trying to arrest Rutledge on an arson
warrant on April 10, 2016. Smith died 2 days later.
A Franklin County jury returned the guilty verdict Thursday.
Rutledge's ex-wife testified his mental health was unraveling in the weeks
before the shooting.
Rutledge's attorney argued Rutledge was firing blindly and may have been
reacting to police attempts to break a window open. A message seeking comment
from Rutledge's attorney was left at his office Thursday.
A sentencing hearing begins next week.
(source: Associated Press)
DA files notice to seek death penalty in Fairmount Park attack
Prosecutors have filed a formal notice announcing their intent to seek the
death penalty against Cornell McNeal - the man accused of raping, beating and
burning a woman in Fairmount Park nearly 3 years ago.
McNeal on Friday was arraigned on capital murder, 1st-degree murder and rape
charges connected to the Nov. 14, 2014, random attack on 36-year-old Letitia
Davis, a year and a half after question of his competency to stand trial
stalled the case in 2015.
Davis, a newly engaged mother of 4, was found naked and lying in a ring of fire
at the park, near Wichita State University, on Nov. 14, 2014. Police have said
she was snatched and assaulted while walking late that night. She died from her
wounds 8 days later.
McNeal, in a police interview after his arrest, denied involvement. DNA and a
broken cellphone linked him to the attack, according to court records.
The notice, which reserves the state's ability to seek a death sentence if
McNeal is convicted of capital murder, was filed following Friday's
arraignment, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said. McNeal, who
refuses to speak to his attorneys or in court, was deemed competent to stand
trial last week.
The court has set an October jury trial date for McNeal, according to Sedgwick
County District Court records. The trial is expected to last 2 weeks.
(source: Wichita Eagle)
Death penalty cases in Rehfeld murder could prove costly
The Pennington County Public Defender's Office is asking the county for around
$350,000 toward defending a man facing the death penalty for the alleged murder
of his ex-girlfriend.
Eric Whitcher, director of the public defender's office, has asked for an
additional $150,000 to its existing budget and around $200,000 for next year's
to be spent on extra costs in Jonathon Klinetobe's case.
Klinetobe, 27, of Sturgis, is facing felony charges, including the capital
offense 1st-degree murder, in the 2015 killing of his former girlfriend,
Jessica Rehfeld. The Pennington County State's Attorney's Office declared in
April that prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Klinetobe and
Richard Hirth, an alleged accomplice.
Klinetobe's 3 lawyers include 2 from the public defender's office.
The extra costs in a death penalty case involve expert evaluations, travel
expenses and witness fees, Whitcher said in a June 13 letter to the county
auditor's office in which he requested the additional funding for 2017.
Death penalty cases "are extremely expensive," Whitcher said Wednesday at a
county commission hearing on his office's proposed budget for 2018. "To do our
solemn responsibility, to do our due diligence in those cases requires
substantial expenditures of experts."
Based on national averages, the defense spends $250,000 to $750,000 on extra
costs in the initial 2 phases of a modern death penalty case, Whitcher told the
Journal. The 1st phase is to determine whether the defendant is guilty; if the
person is convicted, the next phase is to decide whether the punishment should
"This is an extremely complex case," Whitcher, himself a lawyer, said of
Klinetobe's case. He could not elaborate because of a gag order from the trial
Whitcher said it is crucial to handle death penalty cases meticulously, or the
public might have to spend twice if the death sentence is reversed on appeal.
The public defender's office is requesting a total of $2.7 million for 2018, an
increase of $370,000 over its current budget, according to documents released
by the county commission
The presiding judge of the Seventh Circuit Court, which is hearing the
Klinetobe and Hirth cases, mentioned the death penalty cases in explaining its
proposed budget increase.
The Pennington County Courthouse's major category of expenses include court
administration, which covers fees for jurors and witnesses, as well as
court-appointed private attorneys, Judge Craig Pfeifle told the commission
Hirth, 36, of Rapid City, who is facing identical charges as Klinetobe, is
represented by 2 court-appointed lawyers.
The law mandates that defendants who cannot afford to hire a lawyer be
appointed 1 by the court (Death penalty cases require at least 2 lawyers). But
defendants are responsible for repaying the county the cost of their legal
Any increases in the department budgets will come from the county's general
fund, largely fueled by property tax collections, said Hollie Hennies, county
commission office manager.
The new budgets that department heads are presenting to the commission this
week, she said, are preliminary numbers that will likely change as the
commissioners craft a final budget to be approved by Sept. 30. A public hearing
on the provisional 2018 budget will be held Sept. 5.
(source: Rapid City Journal)
California's longest-serving death row inmate returns to Fresno courtroom
A judge on Friday denied a motion for a new trial in the Fresno County Superior
Court for Douglas Ray Stankewitz, California's longest-serving death row
inmate. Stankewitz, 59, was convicted nearly 40 years ago for the 1978
kidnapping of a 22-year-old woman outside a Modesto Kmart and her shooting
death in Fresno.
Stankewitz's death sentence was originally overturned in 1982, then the
following year he was again convicted and sentenced to death. In 2012, the 9th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that death sentence because of
incompetent legal representation. The court didn't overturn his murder
conviction but only ruled that a new jury should determine whether Stankewitz
should be executed or sentenced to life in prison without parole.
On Friday, Serra cited incompetent former legal counsel, an affidavit that a
now-deceased witness left behind and the discovery of new evidence as reasons
for a new trial, but Judge Arlan Harrell said those issues have been raised and
resolved by previous courts.
Harrell did not address the application the defense filed for a habeas corpus
release, which would have to show Stankewitz was wrongly imprisoned due to a
legal or factual error. Serra said he believes Stankewitz was shackled and
handcuffed as he spoke to the judicial panel in a previous trial, an event that
Serra called "outrageous."
Holding up a large stack of files on the matter, Harrell said he would accept
the request but told Serra, "I don't want redundancy."
Harrell denied a defense request in April to issue a gag order against retired
Appellate Justice James Ardaiz, who convicted Stankewitz of murder in the
1970s. Speaking to The Bee in October 2016, the former 5th District Court of
Appeal judge said, "Doug Stankewitz did what I convicted him of doing - a
cold-blooded, premeditated murder."
Outside the courtroom, Serra said although Friday's ruling was not what he was
looking for, he is still optimistic. He said he thinks Stankewitz will fare
better in an appellate court, and he isn't worried if the habeas corpus
application isn't accepted.
"No jury is going to find death is an appropriate penalty for this human
being," he said, explaining that Stankewitz has a different mentality and
personality than he once did. "Law enforcement will come forward to be
character witnesses. They are willing to help us."
The next court hearing is scheduled for Aug. 11.
'It's far more emotional': Rodriguez death penalty appeal testimony tough for
For Linda Walker, the last four days have provided some of the toughest
testimony that she and her family have heard related to the 2003 kidnapping and
murder of her daughter, Dru Sjodin.
The evidentiary hearing in the death penalty appeal for Alfonso Rodriguez Jr.,
the man convicted and sentenced to death in 2006 in the case, has been filled
with graphic descriptions from autopsy reports that have added to the family's
anguish, Walker said Friday, Jan. 23.
"This hearing was far more difficult because of the details that were given out
and how repetitious everything has been this last four days of how she was
killed," Walker said.
"During the trial, really, none of that was hammered or driven so hard and so
deeply. So, it's far more emotional and far more exhausting," Walker said.
The hearing started Tuesday, and over 4 days the defense presented a number of
expert witnesses, including forensic pathologists and medical examiners, who
testified in great detail about the condition of the body of Sjodin, a
University of North Dakota student.
The attorneys from the Philadelphia-based Federal Community Defender Office
have contended that testimony of stabbing and sexual assault may have
influenced the jury in the death penalty phase of the trial.
Because the hearing before U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson is still ongoing
- testimony from one of Rodriguez's lawyers must still be obtained, which could
happen in September - both Victor Abreu of the defender's office and Assistant
U.S. Attorney Keith Reisenauer said they could not comment on the case.
Sjodin's body was found in April 2004, with her hands tied behind her back, in
a ravine near Crookston, Minn.
After being exposed to the elements for 5 months, Sjodin's body had suffered
the effects of decomposition and animal depredation, defense experts said in
Several experts refuted assertions made at Rodriguez's trial by Ramsey County,
Minn., medical examiner Michael McGee, who said Sjodin had been slashed twice
on the throat with a knife, and then again on her right side. The experts said
this was possible but couldn't be scientifically proven because of significant
tissue loss and no signs of the type of blood loss that could have led to her
There was significant discussion of a cord or rope that had been found around
Sjodin's throat and the remains of a plastic bag that appeared to have been
placed over her head, and what sort of role they might have played in her
death. The experts generally agreed that her death was likely due to some form
of asphyxiation. That assertion was further bolstered by a 2016 admission by
Rodriguez that he had put pressure on Sjodin's neck with his hand or arm.
Trial testimony that a rape had occurred was also debated, with defense experts
saying that a test done by McGee was only an indicator for semen, not
definitive. The experts testified that other tests indicated no semen, sperm or
male DNA was found.
Reisenauer pointed out at several times over the four days that all of the lab
results had been presented at the trial. In addition, he said McGee had said
asphyxiation by the use of the ligature, suffocation due to the bag over
Sjodin's head, or exposure to the November cold and damp, could have also led
to her death.
Reisenauer did not call any witnesses during this week's portion of the
Allan Sjodin, Dru's father, declined to talk after the hearing.
Walker said she and other family members keep going to all of the hearings, not
just for Dru, but for "all of Alfonso's past victims, and to other voiceless
and nameless victims that are out there. ... I truly feel that education is
key, and we need to keep this to the national forefront of the violence against
women, and children, and young adults."
(source: WDAZ news)
People keep voting in support of the death penalty. So how can we end it?
Ending the death penalty in the United States won't be easy.
After death penalty abolitionists slowly pushed toward its elimination for
years, supporters of state killing have mounted a fierce effort in the courts
and at the ballot box and regained some lost ground.
Perhaps their biggest victory was the presidential contest which put Donald
Trump, an avid supporter of capital punishment, in the White House. But voting
on ballot questions in California, Oklahoma and Nebraska also brought bad news
I have spent more than 2 decades studying the death penalty and have lent my
voice to those who seek its end. Looking back on 2016, I'd suggest that
understanding the impact of ballot questions on the history of the death
penalty may be the key to determining its future.
In November, voters seemed to put a brake on 2 decades of accelerating momentum
toward ending the death penalty.
That momentum has been felt across the entire nation: Death sentences have
declined steadily from a high of 315 in 1998 to 30 in 2016. Much of this
decline has come from states like Texas, Oklahoma and North Carolina which
still have capital punishment on the books but impose it much less frequently
than in the past.
Actual executions have also declined dramatically, dropping from 98 in 1999 to
20 in 2016.
In the last decade, seven states - Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland,
New Jersey, New Mexico and New York - have abolished the death penalty by
legislative or judicial action. Governors have imposed moratoria on executions
in Colorado, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington.
A majority of the American public continues to support the death penalty,
although the number of people favoring it is lower than it has been since the
But even with support for death penalties and executions waning, referenda in
2016 leaned in the opposite direction.
Consider California, a state that currently has 749 inmates on death row, but
where no one has been executed since 2006.
Proposition 66, passed by voters last November, seeks to change that. It
designates special courts to hear challenges to death penalty convictions,
limits successive appeals and expands the pool of lawyers who could handle
those appeals - all in an effort to speed up executions. The state Supreme
Court is currently considering the constitutionality of the law, which
opponents claim strips the court system of authority.
At the same time they approved Proposition 66, California voters also defeated
Proposition 62, a measure that would have ended the death penalty for murder
and replaced it with life in prison without parole.
2/3 of Oklahoma voters supported State Question 776 in November. That question
declared that the death penalty cannot be considered cruel and unusual under
the state constitution. It added a provision that "any method of execution
shall be allowed, unless prohibited by the United States Constitution." It
opened the way for Oklahoma to employ the gas chamber, electrocution or the
firing squad if lethal injection is declared unconstitutional or is "otherwise
The Nebraska electorate, by a margin of 61 % to 39 %, reinstated the death
penalty just 1 year after state legislators voted to abolish it.
A history of abolitionist losses
This is nothing new.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, when states across the country first
adopted ballot initiative and referenda processes, 14 of them have put the
death penalty on the ballot, some more than once. From 1912 to 1968, there were
11 such direct votes. Another 23 have occurred since 1968, during the height of
America's tough-on-crime, law-and-order era.
In a few of those elections, voters have been asked only to approve technical
changes in their state's death penalty law. In others, like last year in
Oklahoma, they had to decide whether to change their state constitutions to
protect or reinstate the death penalty.
Sometimes death penalty abolitionists have led the way in pushing for a
referendum. More often, especially since 1968, voters have been asked to
respond to a legislative, judicial or executive action which threatened to end,
or ended, the death penalty. In those circumstances, the issue generally has
been put on the ballot by pro-death penalty politicians.
Yet whatever the form of the question, or the reasons for putting the death
penalty to a vote, abolitionists have consistently taken an electoral beating.
They lost 31 of the 34 times when voters were offered the chance to express
Let's consider the 3 times opponents of capital punishment won. In Oregon,
abolitionists prevailed in 1914. But, just 6 years later, another referendum
brought the death penalty back - only to have it voted down again in 1964.
Arizona voters rejected the death penalty in 1916, but brought it back in 1918.
Abolitionists have consistently lost in even supposedly progressive states like
Massachusetts, which voted in favor of the death penalty in 1968 and 1982.
Democracy and the prospects of abolition
While we know that referenda are by no means perfect expressions of the will of
the people, they tell us something important about the likely road to ending
the death penalty. They suggest that in the United States, as has been the case
in other democratic nations, its end will not come about as result of pressure
from the populace.
Scholars like Yale law professor James Whitman say the effort to eliminate the
death penalty pits elites against the will of the people. The history of death
penalty referenda would seem to support that conclusion.
But democracy is not the same as government by popularity contest or by
plebiscite. It is a system of government grounded in principles of respect for
equality and the dignity of all citizens. Any time an electoral action violates
those principles, it damages democracy.
That is what our history teaches. The United States almost certainly would not
have ended slavery or given women the right to vote if those issues had been
decided at the ballot box.
And neither will this country abolish the death penalty in that manner.
Following the European example, it will do so only when politicians and judges
conclude that democratic nations cannot put their own citizens to death and
still be true to their own principles.
Recently, former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who once carried out
executions but now opposes capital punishment, wrote of his worry about what he
called "America's isolation on this critical human rights issue." Richardson
quoted a decision of the Connecticut State Supreme Court that said: "It always
has been easier for us to execute those we see as inferior or less
intrinsically worthy." I believe Richardson got it right when he concluded, "To
effectively represent the interests of citizens, and protect our nation's role
as a global leader, a new generation of policymakers and politicians must put
the death penalty to rest once and for all."
Richardson's view is not antidemocratic. It is that of a citizen who knows full
well the damage the death penalty does to the values that make our democracy
(source: Austin Sarat; Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science,
Amherst College ---- theconversation.com)
Virginia man charged with giving secret documents to China
A Virginia man caught with $16,500 in cash in his carry-on luggage was charged
Thursday with transmitting top-secret documents to an apparent Chinese agent.
Kevin Mallory, 60, of Leesburg was arrested Thursday and made an initial
appearance in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia. The self-employed
consultant who speaks Chinese is charged under the federal Espionage Act and
could face life in prison. In fact, if certain conditions are met, the charges
could make Mallory eligible for the death penalty, prosecutor John Gibbs said
at Mallory's initial appearance.
Court records indicate that Mallory was an Army veteran and worked as a special
agent for the Diplomatic Security Service at the U.S. State Department from
1987 to 1990. Since 1990, he has worked for a variety of government agencies
and defense contractors, according to the affidavit. He held Top Secret
security clearance until he left government service in 2012.
According to the affidavit, Mallory traveled to Shanghai in April, and was
interviewed by Customs agents at O'Hare Airport in Chicago after he failed to
declare $16,500 in cash found in two carry-on bags.
The FBI interviewed him the next month, and he admitted that he met with two
people from a Chinese think tank, the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, that
he now believed were Chinese intelligence agents. He said they had given him a
special communications device for transmitting documents.
According to the affidavit, Mallory told the FBI agents that the only documents
he transferred were 2 unclassified "white papers" he had written on U.S. policy
matters, for which he said he was paid $25,000.
But FBI agents searched the device and found other documents and messages that
Mallory thought had been deleted, according to the affidavit. In one message,
Mallory wrote to the suspected Chinese agent, "your object is to gain
information, and my object is to be paid."
The agent responded, "my current object is to make sure your security and to
try to reimburse you."
According to the affidavit, the Chinese officers were encouraging Mallory to
resume working for the government so that he could obtain "a position of
An analysis of the documents on the device found four classified documents,
including 2 with a Top Secret classification.
Indeed, according to the affidavit, the Chinese agent asked Mallory in one of
the messages found on the device why there was blacked-out information on the
top and bottom of certain pages. Mallory responded that the black was to cross
out the Top Secret designations on the page. But he assured the agent that the
information was valuable. "Unless read in detail, it appeared like a simple
note," he wrote.
Mallory, wearing a gray tank top and black Army athletic shorts, requested a
court-appointed lawyer at his initial appearance. He was ordered held pending a
detention hearing scheduled for Friday afternoon. The FBI was at his suburban
Leesburg home, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Washington, much of
Thursday executing a search warrant.
Dana Boente, acting assistant attorney general for national security and the
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, where the case will be
prosecuted, said in a statement that the charges "should send a message to
anyone who would consider violating the public's trust and compromising our
national security by disclosing classified information."
Geremy Kamens, the federal public defender appointed to represent Mallory,
declined to comment Thursday night.
(source: Associated Press)
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
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