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death penalty news----GA., LA., OHIO, IND., ARK., IDAHO
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Rick Halperin
2017-09-21 10:55:18 UTC
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Sept. 21




GEORGIA----impending execution

Killer soon to be executed wants high-calorie last meal----Keith Tharpe faces
the death penalty for killing his sister-in-law and kidnapping and raping his
estranged wife.



Keith Tharpe, who is scheduled to be executed next Tuesday, has requested
high-calorie food for his last meal.

As is tradition, the Georgia Department of Corrections allowed Tharpe to plan
the menu for the day of his execution.

Condemned inmates are allowed almost anything they want for their final meal.
One exception, however, is alcohol, which was on the 2015 last-meal request of
Marcus Ray Johnson, who wanted a 6-pack of beer.

Tharpe, 59, is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 7 p.m. next Tuesday, 27
years and a day after he murdered his sister-in-law on a Jones County road.

If Tharpe is put to death, he will be the second man the state has executed
this year. In 2016, Georgia carried out a record 9 executions.

Less than a month after Tharpe's wife had left him and their violent marriage
in late summer 1990, he told her in a phone call that if she wanted to "play
dirty," he would show her what dirty was.

On the morning of Sept. 25, 1990, Tharpe intercepted his estranged wife and
Jaquelin Freeman - who was married to Tharpe's wife's brother - as they drrive
to work.

He pulled in front of their car, blocking them, and pulled out the 29-year-old
Freeman. Tharpe threw Freeman into a ditch and fired three times from a
shotgun, reloading after each trigger pull.

Tharpe kidnapped his wife and later allegedly sexually assaulted her in the car
on the side of the road in a nearby county. Tharpe was never tried for rape.

Tharpe was caught because he had driven his ex-wife to Macon to withdraw funds
from her credit union. She called police instead.

Tharpe went on trial 3 months after the murder.

During the sentencing phase that came after the jury convicted him, 13
witnesses - including his mother, sister, 2 of his daughters, and even the
ex-wife he assaulted - described Tharpe as a good son, brother, father and
husband who was emotionally distressed because his marriage was ending.

Though state and federal courts have upheld his conviction and death sentence,
his lawyers still have an appeal pending that claims at least one juror had
racist motives for voting for the death penalty. That juror, Barney Gattie,
signed a statement for Tharpe's lawyers, confirming that he believed there were
"good black folks" and people like Tharpe, whom he used a slur to describe.

But the state's lawyers said Gattie, who has since died, told them that he was
drunk when he made that statement and didn't understand what he was signing.

That matter is pending before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

(source: Atlana Journal-Constitution)








LOUISIANA:

New state law could impact Baton Rouge double-slaying case



A state law that took effect in 2009 making it easier to subject serial killers
to the death penalty could have a profound impact on Kenneth James Gleason, the
Baton Rouge man who was booked Tuesday on 1st-degree murder counts in a pair of
unrelated fatal shootings last week.

East Baton Rouge Parish prosecutors sought the change to the 1st-degree murder
statute after reputed Baton Rouge serial killer Sean Vincent Gillis was
convicted in 2008 of 1st-degree murder. The jury deadlocked on the death
penalty, and Gillis was sentenced to life in prison.

1st-degree murder, which is punishable by death in capital cases, requires an
aggravating circumstance, such as murdering someone while committing another
crime like armed robbery or killing someone under the age of 12.

Prosecutors complained to state lawmakers after the Gillis trial that serial
killers often murder without committing another aggravating crime.

Senate Bill 132, pushed by East Baton Rouge prosecutors and signed into law in
2009 by then-Gov. Bobby Jindal, added another element that allows the state to
seek capital murder charges "when the offender has a specific intent to kill or
inflict great bodily harm and the offender has previously acted with a specific
intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm that resulted in the killing or 1
or more persons."

Authorities say Gillis confessed to killing 8 south Louisiana women between
1994 and 2004. He was booked in 7 of those deaths.

"After Gillis we wanted to make sure that multiple killings in a sequential
fashion would be an aggravating factor," East Baton Rouge Parish District
Attorney Hillar Moore III, who took office in 2009, said Tuesday.

Former East Baton Rouge Parish First Assistant District Attorney Prem Burns,
who prosecuted Gillis and helped push the change in state law, said Tuesday it
was sorely needed so serial killers would not be rewarded for not committing an
aggravating crime in addition to each individual murder.

"We needed a serial killer statute," she said. "A serial killer in and of
itself needs to be a 1st-degree murder. This was so badly needed. I'm glad we
have it."

Burns described the change in the law as a "new tool for victims and
prosecutors."

Moore and Louisiana District Attorneys Association executive director Pete
Adams said they are not aware of another case to date of the law being applied.
But Moore said his office at this point intends to use it against Gleason, 23,
if he is indicted on 1st-degree murder charges.

Gleason, who is white, is booked with 1st-degree murder in the killings of
Donald Smart, 49, and Bruce Cofield, 59, both black men. Authorities have said
the shootings may have been racially motivated.

Smart was shot Thursday night while walking on Alaska Street to work his
overnight shift at Louie's Cafe, just off LSU's campus. Cofield was apparently
homeless and frequently panhandled at the intersection where he was shot Sept.
12 on Florida Street.

In the Gillis case, the aggravating crimes -- armed robbery and second-degree
kidnapping -- accused him of taking, among other things, a black belt and
earring backing from Donna Bennett Johnston, who was strangled and mutilated in
2004. The belt was found in a broken-down van in Gillis' driveway, and the
earring piece was discovered in the trunk of his car.

Even though Gillis was found guilty of 1st-degree murder in Johnston's slaying,
his attorneys had argued that no one in their "right mind would kill somebody
to get this belt." Prosecutor Prem Burns argued Gillis kept the belt with
silver loops as a "trophy" and "souvenir."

Gillis' attorneys also argued that Johnston, a prostitute, likely willingly got
into Gillis' car.

Burns said Tuesday that, even though the jury found Gillis guilty of 1st-degree
murder, the hoops she had to jump through to prove his guilt may have left some
on the jury wondering whether the crime was actually a 1st-degree murder.

"That was half the battle," she said of having to prove an aggravating factor.

Burns said former East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Doug Moreau and the
late Cheney Joseph, a former prosecutor and LSU law professor, also were
instrumental in securing the change to the 1st-degree murder statute.

Jeffery Lee Guillory, another Baton Rouge serial killer accused of committing
murders in 1999, 2001 and 2002, was convicted in 2011 of 2nd-degree murder in
one of those killings and sentenced to life in prison. He could not be
prosecuted for 1st-degree murder because there were no aggravating
circumstances, and because the crimes predated the 2009 law change.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Dana Cummings, who prosecuted
Guillory, said he definitely would have been prosecuted for 1st-degree murder
and subjected to a possible death penalty if his crimes had occurred after the
2009 legislation was signed into law.

Guillory was found guilty in the 2002 strangulation of Renee Newman in Baton
Rouge.

(source: houmatoday.com)

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

White Baton Rouge Suspect Is Charged With Murder in Killings of 2 Black Men



The police in Baton Rouge, La., have charged a 23-year-old white man in the
separate killings of 2 black men last week.

The suspect, Kenneth James Gleason, was charged on Tuesday with 2 counts of 1st
degree murder in the killings of Bruce Cofield and Donald Smart, as well as 2
counts of attempted 1st degree murder in an unrelated shooting, said Sergeant
L'Jean McKneely, a spokesman for the Baton Rouge Police Department.

Mr. Cofield was shot on Sept. 12, and Mr. Smart on Sept. 14. The men were
killed in a similar manner, with a gunman first shooting from a vehicle and
then exiting the car, standing over the victims and shooting multiple times,
Mr. McKneely said.

The police, including Mr. McKneely, said last week that they believed that the
killings may have been racially motivated. Mr. McKneeley said Tuesday that the
explanation had not been ruled out, but that it was speculative and that Mr.
Gleason still needed to be questioned.

The attempted murder charges stemmed from an episode on Sept. 11 in which a
house close to where Mr. Gleason lives was shot at 3 times, Mr. McKneely said.
2 people were in the house at the time. Neither was injured.

Mr. Gleason was arrested Saturday on unrelated drug charges - possession of
marijuana and human growth hormones - and was questioned about the killings.

He posted $3,500 bail and was released Sunday, the police said. He was arrested
again on Monday after being accused of petty theft.

Finally, on Tuesday, after the police had recovered DNA evidence from the shell
casings at one of the crime scenes linked to Mr. Gleason, he was charged in the
killings, Mr. McKneely said.

Baton Rouge's interim police chief, Johnny Dunnam, said at a news conference
that Mr. Gleason would have likely killed again had he not been arrested. That
would have further strained race relations in a community that was roiled by
the fatal police shooting of Alton Sterling, a black man, in 2016.

"He could have potentially created a tear in the fabric that holds this
community together," Chief Dunnam said.

Hillar C. Moore III, the district attorney of East Baton Rouge, detailed the
evidence against Mr. Gleason at length during the news conference. The case
against him relied on his past purchases of guns and video evidence and witness
accounts indicating that he had handled guns between the shootings. Mr. Moore
said that it was "surely a potential death penalty case."

The crime lab had been fortunate to recover DNA evidence from the shell casings
linking Mr. Gleason to the shootings, he added.

Mr. Cofield, 59, who the police believed was homeless, was shot to death at
about 11 p.m. near the center of Baton Rouge. He was found dead in the street.

Mr. Smart, 49, was killed at about the same time 2 days later while walking to
his job as a dishwasher at Louie's Cafe, a popular diner near the Louisiana
State University campus in the southwest part of the city. The Advocate
reported that he was married with 3 children.

The killing of Mr. Sterling by the police last summer led to sustained protests
in Baton Rouge. In May, the Justice Department said that the police officers
involved in that shooting would not face federal charges.

(source: New York Times)








OHIO:

Judge: Inmate drug reaction wasn't enough to stop execution



Descriptions of the repeated rising and falling of an inmate's stomach
weren???t enough to stop his execution under current legal precedent governing
lethal injection in Ohio, a federal judge said in explaining his decision not
to intervene.

It was also likely too late to act by the time attorneys for inmate Gary Otte
reached him by phone during the execution on Sept. 13, Judge Michael Merz said
in a ruling on Saturday.

The description of Otte's reaction to the 1st execution drug was not enough to
show he "was experiencing unconstitutionally severe pain," the judge said in a
5-page ruling.

Otte, 45, was put to death for the 1992 murders of 2 people during robberies
over 2 days in suburban Cleveland.

After the 1st drug was administered - the sedative midazolam - Otte's stomach
rose and fell repeatedly over the next couple of minutes. It was similar to the
rising and falling of inmates' stomachs and chests seen in past executions
using a different drug, though Otte's movement appeared to go on longer.

Carol Wright, a federal public defender representing Otte, also said she saw
tears on his face and he was clenching his hands, which indicated to her he was
suffering.

When Otte's stomach began to rise and fall, Wright tried to leave the witness
room in the death house at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility to call
another attorney in a different part of the prison.

Wright said execution policy should have allowed her to leave right away. But a
spokeswoman for the state's prison system said once Wright's identity and
intentions were confirmed, she was allowed out.

Wright "is reporting that there were signs that Mr. Otte was conscious, crying,
clenching of the hands, heaving at the stomach," Allen Bohnert, another federal
public defender, told Merz by phone at 10:48 a.m. that morning, according to a
transcript of his call to the judge. The execution began at 10:40 a.m.

After listening to the attorneys' descriptions of the execution, Merz declined
to stop the procedure.

The descriptions weren't enough to override an appeals court ruling this past
summer stating that the likelihood of pain after the injection of the sedative
midazolam didn't violate the constitution, Merz said in the Sept. 16 ruling.

Immediately after the execution, Wright said attorneys will continue to
challenge the use of midazolam. They said even at a massive dose of 500
milligrams it won't render inmates so deeply unconscious that they won't feel
pain from the two subsequent drugs, which paralyze inmates and stop their
hearts.

The next execution is Nov. 15, when Ohio plans to put Alva Campbell to death
for car-jacking and killing 18-year-old Charles Dials in 1997.

(source: therepublic.com)

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

Jurors seated in capital murder trial in Van Wert County



Jurors in the aggravated murder trial of Christopher Peters were seated Monday
afternoon.

The 12 jurors and 2 alternates, along with attorneys and court officials, then
traveled to the scene of the alleged crime in Delphos as what is expected to be
a week-long trial with capital punishment implications got fully underway.

Peters, 27, of Delphos, is charged with aggravated murder in the death of
15-month-old Hayden Ridinger on Nov. 15 at The Old Lincoln Inn, 24249 Lincoln
Highway on the west edge of Delphos. If convicted, Peters could face the death
penalty. He previously pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated murder;
felonious assault, a 2nd-degree felony; and endangering children by abuse, a
felony of the 2nd degree.

The mother of the victim, 24-year-old Valerie Dean, faces charges of
involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment in connection with her son's
death. The infant's body was found inside an apartment at 24249 Lincoln Highway
in Van Wert County. Her case will be heard separately from that of Peters.

Judge Martin Burchfield is presiding over the trial, which is expected to last
at least a week.

Allen County Prosecutor Juergen Waldick is presenting the state's case against
Peters as the special counsel appointed by Burchfield. He is being assisted by
Van Wert County Prosecutor Eva Yarger. Lima attorney Bill Kluge is serving as
the lead defense attorney, joined by fellow Lima attorney Bob Grzybowski.

During the jury selection process that ran throughout most of the day Monday,
prospective jurors were questioned about their knowledge of the case, their
views on the death penalty, and whether the fact that the victim in the case
was an infant would cloud their decision-making process. Many potential jurors
were excused after saying they believed they could not be fair and impartial in
judging the facts of the case for various reasons.

By mid-afternoon Monday, 23 potential jurors had been selected to be part of
the jury pool. Shortly after 3 p.m. a jury of 6 men and 6 women - along with 2
alternates - was sworn in to get the trial underway.

Jurors will hear opening arguments from attorneys Tuesday morning.

(source: Norwalk Reflector)








INDIANA:

Prosecutors seek death penalty for suspect in stabbing death of 73-year-old
Lebanon man



Boone County Prosecutor Todd Meyer said Wednesday that he will seek the death
penalty for a teenager accused of fatally stabbing a 73-year-old man in his
Lebanon home.

Zachariah B. Wright, 19, Lebanon, faces 23 charges in connection with the June
18 slaying of Maxwell Foster and the assault of his wife, 68-year-old Sonja
Foster.

Meyer said the community is still reeling from the brutal incident.

"The crimes this defendant is alleged to have committed are horrific and serve
as everyone's worst nightmare," Meyer said in a written statement. "Being
awakened in your home, in the middle of the night, to find an intruder standing
over you armed with a knife.

"I have given this decision considerable thought and deliberation and, after
meeting with the victim's family, presenting the case to the Indiana
Prosecuting Attorney Council's capital litigation committee and after speaking
with members of the Indiana attorney general's office. I have come to the
conclusion that seeking the death sentence in this case is the right decision."

Meyer said Wright will remain in Boone County Jail without bond until his trial
begins Dec. 4.

Wright faces 1 count each of murder, attempted murder, attempted rape,
aggravated battery, criminal confinement, sexual battery, attempted arson,
unauthorized entry of a motor vehicle, attempted burglary, obstruction of
justice and false informing, as well as 3 counts of burglary and nine counts of
theft.

Aggravating factors in Meyer's decision to seek the death penalty include the
fact that Wright was on probation at the time of the murder and that he is
suspected of also attempting to commit burglary, arson and rape during the
commission of the murder.

"When someone commits this type of crime he should have to face the ultimate
penalty, which, in the state of Indiana, is a sentence of death," Meyer said.

According to court documents, Wright fatally stabbed Foster and attempted to
rape his wife before trying to set her nightgown on fire. Investigators believe
Wright first broke into a nearby home on Pearl Street and stole two vests and a
pickax.

Afterward, he broke into a vehicle and later stole a bicycle, which he rode to
the Foster home on the 500 block of Dicks Street, Meyer said.

Officers found Maxwell Foster with an undetermined number of stab wounds,
police said. Sonja Foster was assaulted once inside the home and again after
she managed to escape the house. She eventually was able to escape and get help
from a neighbor.

Police found a pair of jeans inside Wright's home covered in blood that later
tested positive for the DNA of both Maxwell and Sonja Foster.

Wright has been charged in 6 other cases since July 2015, including theft,
illegal consumption, burglary and criminal mischief, according to online court
records.

(source: indystar.com)








ARKANSAS:

Arkansas judge: State must disclose execution drug details



Arkansas' intent to shield much of its execution procedure from public view
took another hit Tuesday when a 2nd judge ruled that the state's prison system
must disclose labels that will identify the manufacturer of a lethal injection
drug.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce told the Arkansas Department of
Correction to give lawyer Steven Shults unredacted package inserts for recently
acquired midazolam by Sept. 28. He said Arkansas' legislators had an
opportunity to grant pharmaceutical companies secrecy in a 2015 execution law,
but didn't.

"They know what manufacturers are," Pierce said. "They knew what the issues
were. They left out a key word not once, but twice and maybe 3 times."

In April, Shults won a similar case concerning information about potassium
chloride, another execution drug. The case is being appealed to the state
Supreme Court, and Arkansas also plans to appeal Pierce's ruling.

As its previous midazolam supply approached its expiration date in April,
Arkansas scheduled 8 executions and carried out 4. They were the state's 1st
executions after a nearly 12-year delay caused, in part, by drug manufacturers
saying they didn't want their life-saving products used to take inmates' lives.
Arkansas and other states in turn made many of their death penalty procedures
secret, believing that firms and individuals involved in executions might be
targeted by protests if their assistance was noted - and that the privacy might
make some willing to help.

In court papers filed ahead of Tuesday's hearing, Shults' lawyer said Arkansas
has not had trouble finding enough drugs to execute 2 more inmates. 1 execution
is set for Nov. 9.

"Despite using its expiring supply of midazolam as a reason to schedule a
record eight executions in 11 days in April of this year, ADC miraculously
found a supplier to sell it 40 more vials for $250.00 cash," lawyer Alec Gaines
wrote. "It seems evident that ADC is overplaying the difficulty involved in
obtaining its supply of execution drugs."

The Associated Press used product labels in 2015 to identify which drugs
Arkansas would use in executions against their makers' will. Assistant Attorney
General Jennifer Merritt told Pierce on Tuesday that some of the manufacturers
had objected to the state's use of their drugs and that the state hoped to stop
future disclosures.

She also said the "legislative intent" was to extend secrecy to manufacturers,
but that the law "could have been more artfully crafted."

Arkansas recently acquired enough of the sedative midazolam to conduct 2
executions, with Jack Greene set to die in 7 weeks. Shults previously went to
court and won access to the package inserts for potassium chloride, an
execution drug that stops the inmates' hearts.

Arkansas' 3rd execution drug is vecuronium bromide, which stops the inmates'
lungs.

(source: swtimes.com)








IDAHO:

Jury selected in Coeur d'Alene to hear potential death penalty case of Jonathan
Renfro



A jury finally was selected Thursday in Coeur d'Alene to hear the potential
death penalty case against accused cop killer Jonathan D. Renfro.

Attorneys took 8 days to choose the panel from a group of 1,000 potential
jurors, which is believed to be the biggest group of jurors called in Kootenai
County history.

Opening arguments originally were set to start Thursday, but they instead will
begin on Monday.

Renfro, 29, is charged with 1st-degree murder and several other charges in
connection to the shooting death of Coeur d'Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore.

Moore had responded to an area in northwest Coeur d'Alene in the early hours of
May 5, 2015, and he encountered a suspect who shot him in the face, took
Moore's gun and drove off in his police car.

Prosecutors later charged Renfro who, according to court records, not only
admitted his involvement in the shooting but predicted he may have been
targeting police.

"The defendant boasted that a bullet within the magazine was a 'cop killer'
bullet," the motion states. "When asked about what he would do if stopped by
law enforcement, the defendant claimed he would go down murdering police
officers."

The case will be prosecuted by Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh and
deputies David Robins and Jed Whitaker. The defense includes Twin Falls
attorney Keith Roark, who was appointed to represent Renfro along with Deputy
Kootenai County Public Defenders Jay Logsdon and Linda Payne.

Appearing last before First District Judge Lansing Haynes, attorneys said they
expected the trial to last 6 to 8 weeks, but it was not clear whether that time
frame included jury selection.

If the jury convicts Renfro of 1st-degree murder, it would then be asked in a
separate hearing whether the defendant should also face the death penalty.

(source: spokesman.com)
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