2017-09-20 11:03:17 UTC
Urgent Action: Juror Racism Claim As Execution Draws Near (USA: UA 216.17)
Keith Tharpe is scheduled to be executed in Georgia at 7pm on 26 September. He
was sentenced to death for the murder of his sister-in-law in 1990. His appeal
lawyers are trying to get back into court to argue that juror racism infected
his 1991 trial.
Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:
Calling for Keith Tharpe's death sentence to be commuted;
Expressing deep concern at evidence of a juror's racist views uncovered on
appeal, and at the fact that the courts did not consider it because of
Explaining that you are not seeking to downplay the seriousness of violent
crime or its consequences.
Contact below official by 26 September, 2017:
State Board of Pardons and Paroles
2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive SE, Suite 458,
Balcony Level, East Tower,
Atlanta, Georgia 30334-4909
Fax: +1 404 651-6670
Salutation: Dear Board Members
(source: Amnesty International USA)
Trial set for man facing death in slayings of girlfriend, 6-month-old son
The Columbus man facing the death penalty in the 2014 homicides of his
girlfriend and infant son could go to trial this coming January, a judge
In discussions with the defense and prosecution, Judge William Rumer suggested
Brandon David Conner???s trial be scheduled for Jan. 22 or Jan. 29, 2018.
Senior Assistant District Attorney Don Kelly said the trial could take 4 weeks
- 1 week to pick a jury and three to try the case, including a sentencing phase
for jurors to decide whether the death penalty would be justified, were Conner
The fire and arrest
After a house fire on Aug. 21, 2014, firefighters searching Rosella "Mandy"
Mitchell's gutted 1324 Winifred Lane home found the bodies of the 32-year-old
woman and her 6-month-old son Dylan Ethan Conner.
Arson investigators later searched the ruins with a dog that alerted to
flammable liquids poured in three places. They also found a gas can stored in a
closet. An autopsy revealed Mitchell was stabbed multiple times in the throat
and torso. Authorities have not said how the infant died.
The fire was reported at 12:35 a.m.
25 minutes later, a Columbus police officer saw Conner's blue 2001 BMW turn
from Wynnton Road onto Cedar Avenue and park near Davis Broadcasting, where
Conner worked. Conner then sat in the car for 10 minutes, the officer said.
Because business burglaries had been reported in that area, Officer Jason
Swails decided to question Conner, and saw the suspect apparently had blood on
him, and was shaking and sweating as he handed Swails his driver's license.
Conner told the officer he had just left work, but Swails didn't believe that
because he'd seen Conner turn off Wynnton Road and park. Swails said Conner
then altered his story, claiming he'd left work to get some food, but changed
his mind and returned.
The officer charged him with breaking a city law against lying to police.
Because police routinely search suspects being detained, officers checked
Conner's pockets, and found a bloody, yellow dishwashing glove, a bloody baby
wipe, a cigarette lighter and an extended grill lighter.
Learning of the house fire where Conner's girlfriend and infant son were found
dead, investigators took him to police headquarters for questioning. They had
his BMW impounded, and got a warrant to search it. Inside they found a bag of
bloody clothes, a bottle of bleach and a bent steak knife with blood on the
handle, authorities said.
On April 14, 2015, a grand jury indicted Conner for murder, aggravated battery,
1st-degree arson and using a knife to commit a crime. 6 days later, District
Attorney Julia Slater filed notice she would seek the death penalty.
The evidence issue
Conner's defense attorneys argue all the evidence officers seized in his
initial arrest is inadmissible because prosecutors missed a deadline to prove
the existence of the city ordinance Conner allegedly violated by lying to
The prosecution should have provided a certified copy of the law last year
during arguments over suppressing the evidence, and they did not, say Kendrick
and his colleague Mark Shelnutt.
They said the window to introduce such evidence closed April 29, 2016. The
following May 4, they filed a motion noting the omission.
Kelly in a letter this past Jan. 30 and a follow-up court motion on Feb. 28
told Rumer prosecutors included a certified copy of the law in a brief filed
June 10, 2016.
Rumer on Sept. 20, 2016, denied defense motions challenging the search and
seizure of evidence, and this past June 14 ruled the prosecution properly filed
a certified copy of the law with its brief last year.
On Tuesday, Rumer told Kendrick he would not allow an appeal to the Georgia
Supreme Court to review his ruling. Death-penalty cases allow such pretrial
reviews to avoid errors that could lead to post-conviction appeals.
Rumer has set another pretrial hearing to cover any issues not previously
addressed or resolved. He asked each side to file documents outlining those
matters by Sept. 29, and to respond to each other's filings by Oct. 6. He set
the hearing for 2 p.m. Nov. 9.
Conner, 38, is to attend that hearing, Kendrick said. The defendant was not at
Tuesday's scheduling session. He's currently held in the Harris County Jail.
Among the issues likely to be addressed in the November hearing are which crime
scene photos jurors should see, what victim-impact statements would be
admissible, and what questions should be posed in surveys sent in advance to
potential jurors, to speed jury selection.
Conner's is the 2nd case in which District Attorney Julia Slater has sought the
death penalty since taking office in 2009. The 1st was the fatal shooting of
local radio disc jockey Heath Jackson during a burglary at his Carter Avenue
home on Sept. 7, 2010.
In May 2013, defendant Ricardo Strozier pleaded guilty to Jackson's homicide
and a string of related crimes. Judge Gil McBride sentenced him to life in
prison without parole.
Georgia Wants to Execute Inmates Accused of Killing Guards----2 inmates accused
of killing their guards on a Georgia prison bus 3 months ago have been indicted
on multiple charges including murder and the state plans to seek the death
2 inmates accused of killing their guards on a Georgia prison bus 3 months ago
were indicted Tuesday on multiple charges, including murder, and the state
plans to seek the death penalty.
A grand jury indicted Donnie Russell Rowe, 44, and Ricky Dubose, 24. Each man
faces 2 counts of murder, 2 counts of felony murder, 1 count of escape and 1
count of hijacking a motor vehicle.
Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Stephen Bradley filed notice with
the court Tuesday that he plans to seek the death penalty against both men.
Rowe and Dubose are accused of disarming and killing Sgts. Christopher Monica
42, and Curtis Billue, 58, while escaping from the prison transfer bus on June
13 in Putnam County, southeast of Atlanta. Authorities say the pair then
carjacked a motorist to get away.
They were arrested 2 days later in Tennessee following an intense manhunt.
A review of the escape determined the 2 inmates were able to easily free
themselves from their handcuffs and then used an improvised tool to open an
unlocked gate that separated the inmates from the guards around 6:40 a.m. They
then attacked and overpowered the guards, using the guards' own guns to kill
them, authorities have said.
Rowe and Dubose then carjacked the 1st driver to pull up behind the bus and
drove off in his green Honda Civic to Madison, about 25 miles (40 kilometers)
to the north, where they burglarized a house and stole a white Ford pickup
truck from a quarry, authorities have said.
2 days later, they held a couple hostage during a violent home invasion in
Shelbyville, Tennessee, and then fled in the couple's Jeep and fired on
sheriff's deputies chasing them on Interstate 24 about 50 miles (80 kilometers)
southeast of Nashville, authorities have said. The chase ended when the pair
crashed the SUV, ran through some trees, climbed over a fence and surrendered
to a homeowner.
A review by representatives from several state law enforcement agencies found
that numerous security policy violations had been committed in the lead-up to
the escape. The most egregious error was the failure to secure the gate to the
inmate compartment in the bus, the review found. Monica and Billue also kept
their guns in storage boxes rather than wearing them and failed to wear
ballistic vests, among other errors, the review found.
(source: Associated Press)
Ohio's death penalty is back, and that's a good thing
Some people would argue that the death penalty is inhumane or a waste of time
and money. Opinion writer Dawson Mecum disagrees.
Controversial political topics always seem to rotate between election years.
But there are certain issues that are always at the top of the list and will
stay there for as long as America has free speech. The death penalty is and
forever will be one of the most controversial issues when it comes to modern
politics. Those who oppose the death penalty accuse those who support it of
being unethical and immoral, when in reality, the death penalty is necessary to
serve and protect future victims.
Over the summer, Ohio had its 1st execution since 2014. Ronald Phillips was 19
years old when he committed one of the most heinous of crimes. Phillips was
convicted of raping and murdering Sheila Marie Evans, his girlfriend's
3-year-old daughter, in Akron in 1993. The execution was put on hold due to
Phillips and 2 other inmates challenging that the usage of certain drugs in
capital punishment was cruel and unusual.
The real cruel and unusual punishment was the rape and murder of a 3-year-old
girl who never got to enjoy the life that was in front of her, and who never
got to have those moments of childhood that we cherish and hold onto so dearly.
But to some, the death penalty is an uncivilized idea that has no place in a
civilized country like America.
The death penalty is a last resort option. The death penalty should not be
about closure or revenge. It should simply be about bringing justice to those
who commit crimes against humanity.
A life sentence in Ohio where the offense is 2nd degree murder is 15 years to
life. So, what happens when the accused is released? According to the Institute
of Justice, about 76.6 % of released prisoners are rearrested, and of those
prisoners who were released, 56.7 % were arrested within their 1st year of
being released. The death penalty makes sure that those who are convicted of
rape, aggravated murder or any other heinous crime do not have the chance to
harm anyone else. It negates the possibility of these criminals hurting anyone
The cost of the death penalty, however, is a concern. According to a study done
by The Dayton Daily News, the cost of the death penalty in Ohio is an estimated
$3 million per death penalty case, including execution per inmate. In
comparison, the average cost of life without parole is estimated to be about $1
million. About $16 million in funds is used to maintain the death penalty in
Ohio. While some argue these funds could be used in a more efficient way, it
should be the price of saved lives and justice that matters more.
The death penalty should be done right, as well. In January of 2014, the same
drug that was used in the Phillips execution was used in another where the
inmate took an unusually long time to die. Witness reports say that the man
struggled and was visibly in pain once the drug was administered. Drugs
administered to inmates placed on death row should meet medical requirements
and cause as little suffering as possible.
According to a study led by Samuel Gross at the University of Michigan, the
true number of wrongly accused people sentenced to the death penalty is
unknowable, but estimated to be between 1.6 and 4 %. This number should
continue to go down with the improvements in technology and advances in the
criminal justice field.
The death penalty does have a hint of uncertainty wrapped around it. With the
constant changes between crime rates and executions, it is nearly impossible to
determine whether the death penalty deters crime with the studies that have
been conducted. The uncertainty of the deterrence rate brings the argument to a
The death penalty does not necessarily deter criminals from committing these
heinous crimes, but what it does make sure of is that these evil and
uncivilized human beings can never harm another soul, and that is the goal of
justice - to make it easier for people to sleep at night knowing there is 1
less criminal out there.
(source: Opinion, Dawson Mecum; The New Political)
Death penalty sought in Tim Brokes murder case
Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty in the murder case against
Timothy M. Brokes Jr.
Brokes, 36, has pleaded not guilty to charges of 1st-degree murder and armed
criminal action in connection with the Jan. 12, 2016, shooting death of
Brittany S. Gauch, 30, and to charges of 1st-degree assault and armed criminal
action in connection with the shooting of her husband, Aaron M. Gauch, 32, the
same day. Both were shot in Marion County.
Brokes also is facing charges in Monroe County after being accused of shooting
a Monroe City police officer Jan. 13, 2016. Brokes has pleaded not guilty to
charges of assault on a law enforcement officer, armed criminal action and
hindering prosecution of a felony in Monroe County Circuit Court.
In a news release issued Tuesday, Marion County Prosecuting Attorney David
Clayton wrote that Brokes had been convicted of unlawful use of a weapon in
1998 and armed robbery in 2001. In both cases, he pleaded guilty.
Clayton wrote that Brittany Gauch was shot in the presence of her 2-year-old
child and the child was left alone with her mother's dead body.
"I announced from the start of this case that all options were on the table,
including the death penalty," Clayton said. "The defendant was examined and
found competent to proceed to trial. Once that stage was met, my office
consulted with the Missouri attorney general's office. Based upon that
consultation and additional information learned over the course of the ongoing
investigation of the defendant, the decision was made to seek the death
Court filings allege that Brokes critically wounded Aaron Gauch on Hannibal's
northwest side Jan. 12, 2016, and fatally shot Brittany Gauch at 1104 Summer in
Hannibal 2 hours later. Both victims suffered multiple gunshot wounds.
Courtroom testimony and video interviews from the case of June B. Smith, 35,
who was with Brokes as he fled from authorities after the shootings, indicate
that she and Brokes went to Quincy and then went to Monroe City to rest at a
hotel. Smith said the pair went to a Shell gas station and a Family Dollar
store in Monroe City on Jan. 13.
After Brokes and Smith left Family Dollar, they were approached by a Monroe
City police officer. Smith said they gave false names, and when the officer
went to check their identifications, they fled. The officer confronted them and
alleged that Brokes shot him. The officer then subdued Brokes.
Brokes is being held by the Missouri Department of Corrections, serving a
5-year sentence for a 2013 conviction for possession of a controlled substance
after his probation was revoked.
(source: The Herald-Whig)
Is Arizona's Death Penalty Law Constitutional?
A group of 20 former Arizona judges, prosecutors and legal experts are urging
the Arizona Supreme Court to strike down our state's death penalty law.
If the Supreme Court decides to hear the case, Hidalgo v. Arizona, that's the
issue that will be at stake - whether or not the state's death penalty law is
constitutional and should exist at all. The court is expected to decide whether
or not to accept the case later this month.
If Arizona's death penalty law is unconstitutional, would that mean that there
would be no death penalty in our state any longer? Not necessarily.
The argument being made is about the state's capital sentencing scheme. The
court would be looking at how aggravating factors are taken into account in
applying the death penalty.
(source: KJZZ news)
California dad pleads not guilty in deaths of his 3 children
Prosecutors charged a father Monday with 3 counts of 1st-degree murder in the
deaths of his children, saying a belt was used in 2 of the killings.
Prosecutors filed the charges against 32-year-old Robert William Hodges in the
deaths of 11-year-old Kelvin Hodges, 9-year-old Julie Hodges and Lucas Hodges,
nearly 8 months.
Hodges pleaded not guilty during his 1st court appearance.
Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig said the 2 older children were killed
with a belt but would not say how it was used or give other details, including
The charging documents don't say how the infant was killed.
Prosecutors also charged Hodges with the attempted murder of his wife, Mai
Hodges, after she called police Wednesday to report she had been assaulted.
A neighbor who came to the aid of Mai Hodges told CBS Sacramento she watched
her husband leave his family's apartment the night of the murders, and that he
showed no emotion.
"He seemed content," she said. "He seemed content. Absent. He was not in a
Arriving officers found the three children dead and Robert Hodges missing; he
was arrested hours later.
Authorities said Monday that Hodges was ordered held without bail for an Oct. 2
Deputy public defender Ron Johnson, who represented Hodges in court, did not
immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.
Hodges faces three special circumstance allegations that could bring the death
penalty if he is convicted - 2 of lying in wait plus multiple murders.
"We have not yet determined if we intend to seek the death penalty," Reisig
said at a news conference. The decision is months away after prosecutors weigh
the circumstances of the case.
The prosecutor also said the facts of the crime would not be released to ensure
that Hodges receives a fair trial.
Police have said Mai Hodges did not witness the slayings.
Relatives and neighbors have said there were no apparent problems or abuse in
the marriage. Police said they had no history of calls to the family's
apartment, and Robert Hodges had no significant criminal record.
(source: CBS news)
Dylann Roof's request for new attorneys denied
A move by convicted Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof to have his current
attorneys removed and replaced was denied by the United States Court of Appeals
Citing a "conflict of interest" regarding politics and religion, the
23-year-old mailed a hand-written motion on September 13 to the 4th Circuit
Court of Appeals, arguing for the change in attorneys before an upcoming appeal
in his conviction and death penalty sentence.
"Trust is a vital component in an attorney-client relationship, and is
important to the effectiveness of the defense," wrote Roof, a self-avowed white
supremacist who said he was trying to start a race war with the shooting at
Emanuel AME. "Because of my political views, which are arguably religious, it
will be impossible for me to trust two attorneys who are my political and
Roof appealed his conviction and sentence to a higher court in May after Judge
Richard Gergel denied Roof's request for a new trial.
(source: ABC news)
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