death penalty news----PENN., VA., FLA., ALA., LA., IND.
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Rick Halperin
2017-04-22 13:04:15 UTC
Raw Message
April 22


Prison expert: Give Frein life, not death

Defense attorneys began making their case to jurors Friday that Eric Matthew
Frein should die of old age rather than lethal injection.

Defense attorneys William Ruzzo and Michael Weinstein called their 1st witness
Friday as Frein's capital murder trial ended its 3rd week and its 2nd day of
the death penalty phase.

Robert Johnson, Ph.D, testified for most of the afternoon, with much of his
time on the stand consumed in a heated cross-examination by Pike County
District Attorney Ray Tonkin. Johnson, an American University in Washington
D.C. professor, is an expert in criminology and studies prison life.

He interviewed Frein and reviewed his jailhouse record. While noting he had
three infractions at the Pike County Jail that Johnson deemed minor, he
believed Frein could adjust to spending the remainder of his life in a state

"Lifers adapt to prison and avoid trouble because they have everything to
lose," Johnson said.

Before Johnson took the stand, the prosecution finished calling witness who
talked about how much the family of state police Cpl. Bryon K. Dickson II has

Jurors convicted Frein, 33, of Canadensis, on Wednesday with 2 counts of
1st-degree murder, among 10 other charges, for the 2014 ambush at the Blooming
Grove barracks in Pike County. Frein used a high-powered rifle to fire 4 shots
from the treeline across from the barracks, killing Dickson, 38, of Dunmore,
and wounding Trooper Alex T. Douglass, 34, of Olyphant.

The murder convictions marked the beginning of a 2nd trial, or penalty phase,
to decide if Frein should be sentenced to life in prison without parole or
execution, though Pennsylvania currently has a moratorium on the death penalty
in place.

The penalty phase began Thursday with wrenching testimony from the people
affected by Dickson's death, including his wife, Tiffany Dickson. On Friday
morning, Dickson's parents, Darla and Bryon Dickson Sr., took the stand to tell
jurors more about their son.

Darla Dickson told jurors her son had a wonderful smile and a mischievous sense
of humor.

"Oh, he was a boy," she said. The jurors laughed.

She was still awake when state troopers knocked on her door to say her son had
died. She put her hands over her face and repeated: "Not my boy, not my boy,
not my boy."

Video played of Dickson graduating from the state police academy. In one clip,
he received his badge. In another, he recited the state police Call of Honor.

Prosecutors hoped such emotional testimony will convince jurors to sentence
Frein to death.

Frein's attorneys presented evidence they hope will prompt the jury to spare
his life: Frein has no significant prior history and other testimony about his
character. Some of Frein's family members and friends are expected to testify
next week.

Johnson's testimony marked the 1st evidence Frein's defense has presented and
also the 1st look at his life since his Oct. 30, 2014 capture by U.S. marshals
following a 48-day manhunt.

Frein has 3 jailhouse infractions on his record, 2 of which Johnson could
recall: unauthorized coffee and urinating in the prison yard, he testified.
Frein spent time in solitary confinement for the latter and handled it well,
Johnson testified.

Frein writes "a fair amount of grievances" at the jail but does not act out

Self-control was hard for him on the outside, but he finds it easier behind
bars, Frein told Johnson.

Tonkin vigorously challenged Johnson's expertise and tried to flip details of
Johnson's testimony.

"Is it your experience that experts know everything?" Johnson fired back at
Tonkin. "Because if that's the case, I don't know any experts."

Tonkin shouted at Johnson and Ruzzo objected. Pike County Judge Gregory Chelak
sustained his objection.

Outside the courthouse, the district attorney remarked that the 1st defense
witness was contradictory.

"It will be up to the jury to determine whether they believe him or not,"
Tonkin said.

Both sides hope the case will be in the hands of the jury by the end of next

(source: The Citizens' Voice)


Virginia Catholic bishops praise governor for commuting death sentence

The Virginia bishops said they "welcome with gratitude" the April 20 decision
by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to commute the death sentence of Ivan Teleguz.

"We are all children of the same merciful, loving God, and he alone has
dominion over all life," said Bishop Francis DiLorenzo of Richmond and Michael
Burbidge of Arlington in an April 20 statement released by the Virginia
Catholic Conference.

The bishops said they have a "profound respect for the sanctity of every human
life, from its very beginning until natural death" and they "continue to
express deep sorrow and pray for all victims of violence and their loved ones."

They also said they would continue to "pray for a change of heart and a spirit
of remorse and conversion for all those who commit acts of violence."

Teleguz, found guilty in a 2001 murder for hire of his former girlfriend, was
set to be executed April 18. He petitioned the governor with a request for a
pardon, which was not given; he will now serve life in prison without a chance
of parole.

McAuliffe said he believes Teleguz is guilty, but he also said the sentencing
phase of Teleguz's trial was "terribly flawed and unfair."

The same day Teleguz's sentence was commuted, the state of Arkansas executed
Ledell Lee after several legal challenges failed to spare his life, including a
5-4 vote by the U.S. Supreme Court rejecting a last-minute appeal. The state
initially wanted to put eight inmates to death during the last two weeks of
April before its supply of midazolam, a sedative lethal injection drug,

Three of the executions were canceled by court decisions and another was given
a stay. The state is scheduled to execute two other inmates during the last
week of April.

On April 19, the Louisiana Supreme Court threw out the conviction and death
sentence of Rodricus Crawford, citing racial discrimination for excluding some
African-American jurors. The case now goes back to a lower court for a new

Crawford was convicted of murdering his 1-year-old son, but the defense argued
that the boy had pneumonia and could have died from natural causes.

"In many respects, this case may reflect both the past and future of the death
penalty in America," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death
Penalty Information Center in an April 19 statement. "A jurisdiction with a
history of racial bias, prosecutorial misconduct and overuse of the death
penalty chose to pursue a death sentence against a grieving father, despite
evidence that his child had unexpectedly died of natural causes."

(source: National Catholic Reporter)


Florida Supreme Court denies new DNA analysis in death row inmate William
'Tommy' Zeigler's case

William "Tommy" Zeigler, the 71-year-old man who has spent the last 4 decades
on death row for the murders of 4 people, will not be allowed to test evidence
in his case with touch DNA technology, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Friday.

Zeigler was convicted of killing his wife, her parents and another man at his
Winter Garden furniture store on Dec. 24, 1975. The case has long attracted
those skeptical of the evidence against Zeigler, including 1 of the original
investigators and a former Orlando Sentinel newspaper editor. It was also the
subject of a 1992 book called Fatal Flaw.

In 2015, his attorneys filed a motion seeking court approval to use a special
DNA test to examine evidence, such as clothing and the guns found at the scene,
presented at the trial. A circuit court denied the motion, and his attorneys
appealed to the state's highest court. While Zeigler sits on death row awaiting
an execution date, he is also sentenced to serve the rest of his life in

(source: Tampa Bay Times)


Prosecutors, Judges Back Orlando State Attorney That Refuses To Apply Death

Dozens of prosecutors and judges from around the nation have filed a legal
brief in support of a Florida prosecutor who refuses to seek the death penalty.

The brief filed Friday with the Florida Supreme Court backs State Attorney
Aramis Ayala's right to decide not to seek capital punishment in cases in her
district covering the Orlando area.

After Ayala recently announced her decision, Florida Gov. Rick Scott removed
her from about 2 dozen death-penalty cases.

Ayala is challenging Scott's authority to do that before the Florida Supreme

The brief filed Friday says Scott has no authority to interfere with Ayala's

Separately, an investigation is underway after a noose was mailed to Ayala's

Ayala became Florida's 1st African-American state attorney when she was elected
last year.

(source: Associated Press)


Civil Rights Groups File Brief with Florida Supreme Court in Support of State
Attorney Ayala's Opposition to Death Penalty----Amicus brief supports Ayala's
prosecutorial independence and argues her opposition to death sentencing is

A group of civil rights and civil liberties groups have filed an amicus brief
with the Florida Supreme Court in support of Florida State Attorney Aramis
Ayala in her lawsuit challenging Gov. Rick Scott's decision to remove 23
capital felony cases from her office as a result of her decision not to seek
the death penalty. The brief is joined by The American Civil Liberties (ACLU)
of Florida, the nationwide ACLU, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), the
Sentencing Project, and Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

"Florida State Attorneys have the discretion to make their own decisions about
how best to seek justice in cases they prosecute," stated ACLU of Florida Staff
Attorney Jacqueline Azis. "Not only is State Attorney Ayala well within her
legal right to make her own determination about the death penalty, she is right
that the death penalty is a broken system that rests on a crumbling legal

The brief filed Friday, authored by attorneys for the ACLU of Florida and the
ACLU's nationwide Capital Punishment Project, argues that State Attorney
Ayala's reasons for opposing the death penalty are sound. There is no evidence
that the death penalty is a more effective deterrent to violent crime than life
without parole, there are serious issues with racial bias in the death penalty
system, and given the substantial cost to taxpayers in contrast to the scarce
resources available, State Attorney Ayala is right to exercise her discretion
to use more reliable and cost-effective prosecutorial options.

"State Attorney Ayala should be heralded, not unconstitutionally reprimanded,
for her thoughtful and considered approach to the gravest penalty our justice
system imposes," said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. "For far too long, this country
has used this costly and ineffective means of deterrence, disproportionately
imposing the death penalty along racial lines. State Attorney Ayala's hesitance
to seek capital punishment faces these truths head-on, as is her prosecutorial
discretion, and her example should inspire prosecutors across the nation to
reconsider their reliance on this brutal and immoral penalty."

From the brief:

"Legislators and governors from Maryland, Connecticut, Illinois, New Mexico,
and New Jersey have in recent years repealed the death penalty. And at least 2
elected prosecutors from other states have recently announced they would no
longer seek the death penalty for similar reasons as discussed in this brief.
The same sound policy reasons behind these significant changes suffice as a
reason for a Florida prosecutor to decline to seek the death penalty and
instead to pursue sentences of life imprisonment without parole. Nothing about
Ayala's decision in this regard constituted "good and sufficient reason" [...]
for the governor to remove her from 23 cases, much less gave him authority the
Florida Constitution has vested only in the duly elected local prosecutor."

(source: commondreams.org)


Alabama Senate passes new execution method

Alabama might have a new method to execute death row inmates.

The Senate passed a bill Tuesday allowing nitrogen gas as an option. If it
passes through the House, Alabama would become the 3rd state to allow inmates
to be executed by nitrogen gas.

But this method has never been used before.

Alabama's Senate voted Tuesday, approving it 25-8.

Mississippi and Oklahoma are the other states that have nitrogen hypoxia as a

Rep. Lynn Greer, who was a big proponent to the electric chair, said we need to
either strengthen the process and move forward or repeal the death penalty law,
but doesn't believe people want that either. He thinks nitrogen gas might be
the last effort.

"You know we need another method other than what we have today. Utah has gone
back to the firing squad, and that's something that's been discussed in
Montgomery. We just need a backup," Greer said.

Katie Owens-Murphy, vice president of Project Say Something, said we need to
look back at the history of executions and the process of it itself. She said
the methods are masking the larger conversations that we need to have.

"It's another example of inmates being used for experimental guinea pigs or lab
rats, so it's a clear violation of the Eighth Amendment. We are quite literally
experimenting on people who were not sentenced to death and torture but were
sentenced to death," Owens-Murphy said.

The bill now heads to the House to take up a vote.

(source: WAFF news)


From death row to freedom: Rodricus Crawford looks to future

For Rodricus Crawford, there will be life after death row.

The 28-year-old Shreveport native, who was convicted of his child's murder and
sentenced to die, now has a free life ahead of him after his conviction was
vacated and the Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office announced it will not
retry him for the crime.

"I'm just trying to get on with my life from now on," said Crawford, who has
always maintained his innocence. "I got 5 years taken away from me."

The saga began on Feb. 16, 2012, when 1-year-old Roderius Lott was found
unresponsive in the home that Crawford shared with his grandmother, mother and
other relatives in Mooretown.

"I woke up and found him, ran and took him to the ambulance," Crawford said in
an interview Thursday. "When he left my hands, my whole world changed."

After handing over his son, Crawford said, he was placed into the back of a
police car. It was there he was told by his son's mother that the baby had

"When it first happened, I didn't really want to live anymore," he said. "Who
can deal with that: waking up, your son passed, you go to jail, and they're
saying you did it?"

In April of that year, Crawford was charged with 1st-degree murder. The
prosecution said the baby had been smothered, while the defense's expert
testified that Roderius died of pneumonia and sepsis.

Crawford was convicted in November 2013 and sentenced to death. He was
transferred to death row at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, where he spent
almost 3 years as attorneys appealed his case.

At Angola, which has come under fire for its alleged "dehumanizing' conditions
in a class-action lawsuit filed by death row inmates, Crawford said the heat
was so bad that he felt like he was in a locked car.

"You feel like an animal, period," he said. "It's all a mind game. ... You can
go crazy. Not 'can' - you're going crazy." Being in prison and awaiting
possible death "messed with me," he said.

"Who can imagine an innocent person being on death row, and they talk about
killing you, and you wake up in a little cell every day?" he said. "Imagine
that. I can't explain it. That's a feeling I hope nobody could feel."

Though in a cell for 23 hours a day, Crawford said, he still was able to
connect with other inmates, several from Shreveport and some of whom he
believes are innocent.

"I can honestly say I met some stand-up guys that taught me a lot," he said. "I
didn't expect it to be like that, but we really look out for each other because
you're in this tier with 16 guys, all day, every day."

Meanwhile, he drew attention from national media as one of several cases that
allegedly highlights the high number of death penalty sentences in Caddo
Parish. Crawford said he was aware of the "headlights" his case was putting on
Shreveport, and he began receiving mail from people around the country and

"After The New Yorker (article) came out, a lot of people were writing me and
showing me a lot of love," he said. "The letters meant a lot."

1 of Crawford's lawyers, Cecelia Kappel with the New Orleans-based Capital
Appeals Project, said Crawford always told her he was going to go home.

"Every time I'd go see him on death row and say we lost another motion, he'd
say, 'I'm going home,'" Kappel said. "He'd just speak it into existence."

On Nov. 16, 2016 - almost 3 years from the day Crawford was given the death
penalty - the Louisiana Supreme Court vacated Crawford's conviction and sent
the case to the trial court for a new trial.

Crawford's defense claimed that potential jurors may have been removed from
consideration before the trial because of race. The supreme court determined
that the trial court conflated the 3-step process used to guide courts in
evaluating a claim of racial discrimination in jury selection, and that an
inadequate remedy existed short of vacating the conviction.

Crawford was freed from jail on a $50,000 bond on Nov. 22, 2016, 2 days before
Thanksgiving. After being released, Crawford spent the next few months finding
support from his mother and attorneys as he anticipated word regarding the
possibility of a new trial.

Caddo Parish District Attorney James Stewart, who was elected 2 years after
Crawford's conviction, asked for a new investigation "with an assistant
district attorney assigned with no prior experience with the case, to put a new
set of eyes onto evidence and procedures that had led to the original
prosecution," a release from his office stated.

Dale Cox, who prosecuted Crawford and served as acting district attorney
following the death of D.A. Charles Scott, resigned from the office in December
2015 following Stewart's election.

Hearings were scheduled for February and March, each one postponed as the
D.A.'s office awaited and then reviewed evidence returned from the supreme

Then, on Good Friday, the district attorney's office released a lengthy
statement announcing its decision not to retry Crawford in the case of his
son's death.

"In its opinion, the Supreme Court noted the distinguishable time frame it
takes for bruises to form on the lips of the child versus the additional time
it would take to result in the child's suffocation," the statement read. "The
requirement to exclude every reasonable possibility of how this could occur is
a burden the State cannot meet with the evidence available."

Lacking evidence to prove that Crawford had intentionally and directly caused
his son's death, the next avenue to pursue would have been possible negligent
homicide, the release stated.

"While the State feels a reasonable prosecution could be pursued on a charge of
criminal negligent homicide, that negligence could extend to other members of
the family," the release stated. "Even if successful on that charge against
Crawford, the amount of time he has spent in jail is close to the maximum
sentence available if he was convicted."

The decision not to retry Crawford was based on the office's duty to bring a
charge only when evidence can support it, the statement concluded.

Crawford said he received the news over the phone from his mother.

"I can't explain in words. When she called me and told me, I really wanted to
cry," he said.

When asked if reparations will be sought on Crawford's behalf, Kappel said they
will pursue all legal options.

"What they did wasn't right, on a lot of different levels," she said.

When asked for comment about Crawford possibly seeking restitution, Stewart
said "the only truly innocent party is the deceased infant. It seems sinful to
try and profit from this tragic loss."

5 years after it all began, and with a somewhat abrupt end to his case,
Crawford, who has a 9-year-old daughter out of state, is looking to leave
Shreveport for a while.

"I just want to live and spend as much time as I can with my family, because at
the end of the day, that's what it's about," he said. "Everything else is
materialistic. When everything gets [taken] from you, you just have the people
you love. That's all I care about."

(source: Shreveport Times)


Indiana budget bill includes money for lethal injections and state trooper

Indiana Republicans put an emphasis on public safety in its budget proposal,
including raises, and spending money on lethal injection drugs.

On Friday, the House and Senate are expected to vote on a budget compromise.
The two sides have debated a proposal for the past 2 weeks.

The $32 billion, 2-year budget, focuses mainly on education. But it also helps
the Department of Corrections carryout death penalty cases.

House Speaker Brian Bosma said the governor's office asked for money to
purchase lethal injection substances. They were also told names of production
companies must be left out.

"It was not brought up previously," House Speaker Bosma said. "We were informed
here late in the process that apparently, the lethal inject drugs in the
Department of Corrections are expiring. So, we're reauthorizing their
acquisition and granting anonymity to those who manufacture them, which
apparently they won't send them to you unless they are not anonymous."

The budget bill also includes a pay raise for Indiana State Police. Lawmakers
want to increase their pay by 24 %.

"We're very pleased at that another goal that we set from the outset is being
met," Bosma said.

Right now, a starting Indiana State Police trooper salary is $39,213, which is
below all neighboring states. A 24 % raise bumps the number to $48,624, which
would leave Illinois as the only neighboring state with a higher base pay.

The House and Senate are expected to vote on the budget proposal late Friday
night. If passed by both chambers, it'll head to the governor's office.

(source: WISH news)

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