Discussion:
death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., VA., GA., FLA., LA.
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Rick Halperin
2017-10-14 13:04:45 UTC
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Oct. 14




TEXAS:

Murder Victim Families Lead Anti-Death Penalty Campaign in Texas----Bill Pelke
originally supported the death penalty for the girls who killed his
grandmother. His path to forgiveness led to start the Journey of Hope ...From
Violence to Healing



As new death sentences and executions continue at record lows in Texas, a group
of murder victim family members will kick off a two-week tour of the state with
the Texas premiere of an award winning documentary film at 7pm on October 14,
2017 at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston.

"The Gathering" is a film about exonerated death row survivors who become
warriors against the death penalty. Award-winning filmmaker, Micki Dickoff,
will be at this special screening for the Texas premiere. Admission is free.

Following the film, the Journey of Hope ...From Violence to Healing will host a
panel discussion featuring exonerated death row survivors and murder victim
family members who oppose the death penalty. This will be the 1st of dozens of
such events in schools, colleges and faith communities in Houston, Dallas, San
Antonio and Austin over the following 2 weeks.

The Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing is led by murder victim family
members who oppose the death penalty, joined by the families of prisoners on
death row and exonerated death row survivors who share their voices of
experience with the aftermath of murder. This will be the 6th time the Journey
of Hope will tour Texas since 1998.

"We can be safe from dangerous offenders and hold them accountable without
killing them," said Ami Lyn White, whose pregnant mother was murdered in Alvin
in 1986. "I can't speak for everyone who struggles with the aftermath of
murder, but our experience is that having to wait a decade or more for an
execution that may never come is not conducive to healing. I have no problem
with a sentence of death by incarceration, which is what most killers get these
days anyway."

In addition to Texans, the 2 week series of public events features speakers
with compelling stories from across the United States.

"We feel that our message that the death penalty prevents healing and only
creates more victims has helped reduce the desire for executions in Texas,"
said Bill Pelke, founder of the Journey of Hope ...From Violence to Healing.
"The 1st time we came here in 1998, executions were at an all-time high, with
nearly 100 each year. Dozens were in Texas, and many of those cases were from
Harris County. Now, the vast majority of killers in Texas get the alternative
sentence of life without parole. One thing we know from experience is that when
there is no death sentence in your case, the healing process begins a lot
sooner."

"The death penalty is a distraction from the real needs of victim families,"
continued Pelke. "Most cases are not eligible for execution, but anyone with a
relative who has been murdered wants the right person to be caught and held
accountable. We include exonerated death row survivors on our tours because
wrongful convictions are a real problem. It hurts victim family members even
more when we learn that all this time we were focusing our anger on the wrong
person. And to think they might have been killed in our names? That's
unacceptable."

Pelke supported the death penalty for the girl who killed his grandmother, but
then he came to understand the healing power of forgiveness. This experience
and that of others on the Journey of Hope tour provide the opportunity for the
public to look at crime and punishment from different perspectives, including
that of the families of killers.

"I also recognize that those in prison or on death row and those who have been
executed have families too," said White. "Those family members, especially
those who were children when their loved one was arrested, experience pain and
devastation similar to that which I felt. They, like me, didn???t do anything
wrong, but society need not make it worse by making them homicide survivors
too."

3 speakers on the tour have brothers who faced execution, including David
Kaczynski who helped the FBI determine his brother Ted Kaczynski was the
Unibomber, resulting in his apprehension. The juxtaposition of Kaczynski with
Bill Babbitt is exposes issues of racism in the system which remain pervasive.
Babbitt realized his brother Manny, a Vietnam veteran with diagnosed mental
illnesses including PTSD, had killed a woman. He helped the police apprehend
Manny on the promise of treatment. Instead, Manny was executed. The Babbitts
are African American. Also on the tour is Randy Gardner, whose brother was the
most recent person executed by firing squad in the United States.

The arts have been incorporated into some of the events. A photo display by
Texas native Scott Langley will travel with the tour, and several of the events
feature award-winning films. The Texas premiere of "The Gathering" is on
October 14th. On Oct 18th, the award-winning film "Last Day of Freedom," will
tell the story of Bill Babbitt and his Vietnam veteran brother Manny, who was
executed after Bill turned him in on the promise that Manny would be treated,
not killed. Discussion with Bill Babbitt & David Kaczynski exonerated death row
survivors and others follows.

(source: einnews.com)








PENNSYLVANIA:

New rape charge coming against man accused of Pitt student's murder



The man charged with killing a University of Pittsburgh student last week will
face new charges of rape involving a teen from Elizabeth.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said on Friday that
Matthew Darby, 21, of Greensburg, will be charged with sexually assaulting a
17-year-old girl. The alleged crime occurred between Mr. Darby's arrest for
criminal trespass on Sept. 26 and before he was accused of killing his
ex-girlfriend, Alina Sheykhet, 20, of Oakland, early on Sunday.

Pittsburgh police were contacted on Tuesday by the mother of the alleged victim
in Elizabeth, Mr. Zappala said. She told them that Mr. Darby was the man who
assaulted her child, and that they recognized his photograph when they saw news
coverage of the homicide in Oakland.

The Allegheny County police are investigating the alleged rape in Elizabeth,
and Mr. Zappala said he expects the charges to be filed soon.

He also revealed that 1 of the weapons used to kill Ms. Sheykhet was taken from
the basement of her apartment building on Cable Place.

According to investigators, Mr. Darby entered Ms. Sheykhet's building through a
basement window, and the hammer used in the attack was taken from there.

Mr. Darby had already been out on a $10,000 bond on a pending rape case from
Indiana County that was filed in February.

In addition, Ms. Sheykhet obtained a temporary protection from abuse order
against him on Sept. 21 from Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge David Spurgeon
after Mr. Darby attempted to enter her apartment two nights earlier by
shimmying up a gutter on her building.

Ms. Sheykhet told Judge Spurgeon that she had dated him for 2 years but that
they had broken up, and she had blocked him from being able to call.

When he broke into her 2nd floor window, she said, "he didn't want to harm me.
He just wanted to speak to me. I did leave him a few weeks prior to that, and I
guess he did not like the fact that I asked him to leave me alone."

She called him "controlling," but when asked if she thought he would hurt her,
repeatedly said, "No."

She said she knew there was "a warrant out for his arrest," but said, "I don't
think he would lay a hand on me."

"I'm more worried about your safety than you are," Judge Spurgeon said. "I
think he's a danger to you."

He granted the order barring him from having contact with her, pending an Oct.
5 hearing.

Mr. Zappala said that the fact that Ms. Sheykhet was killed while under the
protection of a PFA could qualify as an aggravating factor which could lead to
his office seeking the death penalty against Mr. Darby.

"The death penalty is a consideration right now," the district attorney said,
adding, though, "It's a little premature.

"It will be a thoughtful process."

Pittsburgh homicide detectives and sheriff's deputies have already gone to
South Carolina, Mr. Zappala said, and he hopes Mr. Darby is returned to
Allegheny County by the end of the month.

Mr. Darby's freedom on bond following his his Sept. 26 arrest for criminal
trespass, despite the pending rape case, has prompted some experts and
advocates to suggest that better coordination between Indiana and Allegheny
counties could have changed the outcome.

Allegheny County Common Pleas President Judge Jeffrey A. Manning said Friday
that pre-trial services employees reviewed Mr. Darby's arrest record prior to
making a recommendation for release. Although he had the rape case pending in
Indiana County, he had no prior convictions.

"This is a college kid with no criminal record," Judge Manning said. "He came
out as a low-risk offender."

Pre-trial services would not have had access to the underlying details of the
Indiana County case, Judge Manning said.

"There is no doubt more information is better than less," he said. "Would we
have liked to have better information? Sure. But better information about past
acts doesn't necessarily predict future bad acts.

"It's still a judgment call." Pre-trial services recommended that Mr. Darby be
released on a non-monetary bail and be required to report in person.

Magisterial District Judge Linda Zucco did not take that recommendation, and
instead required him to post $10,000 bond.

"We do 20,000 bail petitions a year, and less than 5 % violate the conditions
of bail," Judge Manning said.

(source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)








VIRGINIA:

Parents' outburst interrupts hearing in Muslim girl's death



4 months after a 17-year-old girl's death rattled northern Virginia's Muslim
community, emotions remained raw as the girl's mother disrupted a pretrial
hearing by hurling a shoe at the man accused in her slaying.

More than 200 family members and friends of 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen turned
out at the hearing Friday in the Fairfax County courthouse. Darwin
Martinez-Torres, 22, of Sterling, is charged with murder in the death of the
popular student at South Lakes High School in Reston.

It was the 1st face-to-face encounter between Nabra's parents and the suspect.
They charged at him, and deputies had to hold them back.

Her mother, Sawsan Gazzar, shouted "I'll kill you!" after throwing her shoe at
Martinez-Torres, who was quickly hustled out of the courtroom. The father,
Mohmoud Hassanen Aboras, shouted "He killed my daughter!" as deputies removed
him as well. A third person who shouted expletives also was ordered out.

Eventually, deputies cleared the entire courtroom, and held a truncated hearing
in a smaller courtroom, closed off to the vast majority of spectators.
Martinez-Torres waived his right to a preliminary hearing, and the case will be
sent to a grand jury, where an indictment is expected next week.

Hassanen was killed June 18 as she was walking back to her mosque, the All
Dulles Area Muslim Society, for pre-dawn Ramadan services. Hassanen and more
than a dozen friends had been at a fast-food restaurant, eating ahead of a
daylong fast.

Police say Martinez-Torres encountered the group at about 3:40 a.m., got into a
confrontation with some of the kids who had been in the roadway, and then
chased after them. Police say Martinez-Torres caught Hassanen and bludgeoned
her with a baseball bat.

A police search warrant says Martinez-Torres led police to Hassanen's body,
which he had dumped in a lake.

The circumstances of the girl's death led many to speculate about a possible
hate crime, but police have said the slaying is a case of road rage.

After Friday's hearing, Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Morrogh said it is possible
that additional charges will be submitted to the grand jury beyond the
preliminary murder count.

Asked about a hate crime, Morrogh declined to discuss the evidence in any
detail. He said he remains open to considering any evidence of a hate crime,
but so far has not seen anything to lead him in that direction.

Morrogh also did not rule out a potential death penalty charge. Virginia law
allows a capital murder charge only under certain conditions, including
premeditated murder in the commission of a robbery, or premeditated murder
during commission of an attempted rape.

Hassanen's father thanked the community after Friday's hearing for supporting
the family.

"Every day I think about my daughter," he said. "All of us came here today for
justice for Nabra."

Gadeir Abbas, an attorney for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which
is representing the family, said "the community's expectation is that justice
will be done."

"There is no question that this community will be watching the process," he
said. "They will see to it that there is justice for Nabra."

After the hearing, many of those who were forced to leave the courthouse
rallied on a plaza under a large U.S. flag, chanting "Justice for Nabra."

Martinez-Torres' lawyer, public defender Dawn Butorac, declined comment. The
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has lodged a detainer against
Martinez-Torres, who is from El Salvador, meaning federal authorities believe
they have evidence he's in the country illegally.

(source: Associated Press)








GEORGIA:

Attorneys for Matthew Baker ask judge to nix death penalty option



Attorneys for Matthew Baker have filed their 1st set of motions in the murder
case against him, asking a Henry County judge to find fault with several
aspects of the proceedings, including the state's intent to seek the death
penalty.

A total of 114 motions have been filed by Baker's capital public defenders on
his behalf. Several are assertions of Baker's constitutional rights, some deal
with the way he is to be presented in court, and others claim that the Henry
County criminal justice system has discriminatory and, in some cases,
unconstitutional practices.

Baker, 20, is charged along with co-defendant Jacob Cole Kosky, 23, in the Oct.
27, 2016, murders of 4 young people at a Jackson area bonfire. 4 victims were
found shot early that morning in the dining room of a home on Moccasin Gap
Road.

Prosecutors have accused Kosky of shooting all 4 victims either in the head or
in the back and have suggested in pre-trial proceedings he planned to do so as
early as the day before the bonfire. Baker, according to prior police
testimony, allegedly held a gun after Koksy asked him for backup.

Henry County District Attorney Darius Pattillo has announced his intent to seek
the death penalty should Baker and Kosky be convicted of murder. In his notice
of intent, he listed 9 statutory aggravating circumstances as reasons for
capital punishment.

It is Pattillo's 1st death penalty case as district attorney, and 1 of the
first homicide cases to cross his desk since taking on the role in January.

Defense attorneys Kimberly Staten-Hayes, Shayla Galloway and Christina Rudy
would like to take the death sentence off the table for Baker, arguing that it
is unconstitutional because it is a violation of Baker's right to freedom from
cruel and unusual punishment, equal protection under the law, due process, and
it is discriminatory. They claim that because Georgia has no statutory
standards for when to seek the death penalty, the process exposes Baker, who is
black, to discrimination on the basis of race or status.

"In this case, Matthew Baker intends to establish at an evidentiary hearing
that the decision makers in his case have intentionally discriminated against
him on the basis of race, and, 2nd, that the decision makers in his case are
influenced by racial prejudices that make them more likely to seek and impose
the death penalty when the defendant is black rather than when he is white,"
his attorneys wrote in one motion.

Baker's case is unique in that it will be the 1st death penalty case to be
prosecuted by an African-American Henry County district attorney. His
attorneys, however, also take issue with the way that district attorneys and
Superior Court judges are elected in the state of Georgia because they are
often not representative of the communities they serve.

They claim that there is concrete evidence that racial discrimination plagues
the application of the death penalty throughout the state. In 1 example, they
write that although African Americans make up 27 % of the state's population
(current census data shows that they are 32 %), 43 % of Georgia's current death
row population is black.

Since the state's reintroduction of the death penalty in 1976, more than 70 %
of the people executed have been nonwhite, Baker's attorneys argue.

Nationally, although the majority of people executed since 1976 have been
white, a disproportionate number have been black, according to data complied by
the Marshall Project, a nonprofit journalistic enterprise focused on criminal
justice. African Americans make up 13 % of the U.S. population and 34 % of
those executed in capital cases.

"Any respectable defense attorney with a client who the state is seeking to
execute is going to raise that objection, or any other type of objections,"
said Donald E. Wilkes Jr., professor of law emeritus at the University of
Georgia Law School. Wilkes taught for 40 years specializing in criminal
justice-related law.

"When you are in a death penalty case and you are a defense attorney, you have
everything to gain and nothing to lose by raising objections to the charges,"
Wilkes said.

It is common for defense attorneys to raise any objection possible and raise it
early, because early objections are important to an appeals process. Though
some claims may not be "winners," Wilkes said, it is better for a defense
attorney in a capital punishment case to present it and let a judge decide,
rather than to miss out on an opportunity for their client.

"There are many cases where people have been executed because there was a valid
claim, the attorney did not raise it, and by the time it was raised it's too
late," Wilkes said.

Since 1976, 70 people have been executed in Georgia. Last year, 9 people were
executed, more than any other state.

Though the death penalty has been sought several times in Henry County, it has
not been carried out once in the 41 years since Georgia's current death penalty
statute has been in place, according to data compiled by the Death Penalty
Information Center.

1 person, Mustafa Askia Raheem, convicted in Henry County was sentenced to
death for the 1999 murder of a Henry County woman and her son. He has been on
death row since February 2001.

There is no record of the number of times a Henry County top prosecutor has
sought a death sentence under the current statute. Baker's attorneys have asked
a judge to order that information for the last 30 years be compiled, either by
the District Attorney's Office or the Superior Court Clerk, along with a list
of all the homicide cases prosecuted in Henry County from 1987 to 2017.

No response from the state has been filed with Superior Court.

The case has been assigned to Judge Arch McGarity, and it is expected McGarity
will consider both defense and any state motions at a later hearing. As the
anniversary of the shootings nears, no such hearing has been scheduled.

(source: Henry Herald)








FLORIDA:

It's death for Randall Deviney, third time around; he killed Jacksonville woman
who looked out for him



They were given an unpleasant task. And so after 3 days of testimony from
psychologists, police and a tearful father who admitted he worked too much and
wasn't there enough for his wayward son, a 12-person jury Friday decided
Randall Deviney should die.

Deviney was 18 when in 2008 he killed 65-year-old Delores Futrell, a neighbor
who cared for him like he was her own. Deviney took a fillet knife and cut
Futrell's throat from ear to ear. He then reached inside her throat and
strangled the woman who used to bake cookies for him, pick him up at school and
give him odd jobs so he could earn money.

Futrell put up a fight and dug her nails into Deviney's skin, giving police the
key DNA evidence they needed. That sample was the only DNA to be found. Deviney
was arrested 25 days after killing Futrell.

The hearing in Jacksonville this week was the third time a jury decided Deviney
should be put to death. It will likely be the last.

In 2010 Deviney was convicted of murdering Futrell. Ten of the 12 jurors
recommended that a judge sentence Deviney to death. Following that trial,
Futrell's sister Debra Wright told The Florida Times-Union how relieved she was
that family could finally stop seeing the person responsible for killing
Futrell.

"Even though it's been 2 years, it still rips a hole in us every time we have
to go through this. We are glad this is over and now we can start thinking
about the happy times," Wright said at the time.

But it wasn't over. In fact, it was far from being over. In 2013 the Florida
Supreme Court threw out the conviction because of police misconduct. Then in
2015 there was a 2nd trial. A jury in this case voted 8-4 to recommend to a
judge that Deviney be sentenced to death. He was.

Then Florida's death penalty system was challenged and the U.S. Supreme Court
ruled it unconstitutional in 2016. Hundreds of cases, such as Deviney's, from
2002 on are being sent back for what are called re-sentencing hearings. Now,
juries decide and not a judge and the decision must be unanimous.

It took the jury 5 1/2 hours to reach its unanimous decision Friday.

Veteran prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda has tried the case against Deviney 3
times now.

"That man did an awesome job," said Futrell's son, Waverly Futrell.

De la Rionda moved the family to tears during his closing statements. After the
verdict, he stood hand-in-hand with the family and Lysa Telzer of the Justice
Coalition and led them in prayer.

"She was a fighter and that is what we need to remember," de la Rionda said.
"Thank God for that."

Absent from the courtroom aside from the moments when they were called on to
testify were Deviney's parents, Nancy Mullins and Michael Deviney.

Randall Deviney told 2 psychologists that he suffered sexual abuse at the hands
of his mother and her drug-dealing boyfriend. He also said he was beaten
routinely by both parents. The psychologists laid out a sad and difficult life
that Deviney had growing up.

While the jury tended to agree that those mitigating factors were made clear in
court this week, the jury did not find that the factors - there were 37 of them
- were reasons enough to spare him the death penalty.

"I don't know if there will ever be closure,' Wright said. "But I do feel
better."

(source: jacksonville.com)

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

Sentencing phase in murder trial nears end



Curtis Wilson will have to wait at least 1 more day until jurors hand down a
punishment of death or life in prison for the St. Petersburg man convicted of
murdering Jamie Seeger on behalf of his 2 local cohorts.

Prosecutors and Wilson's defense team finished presenting their witnesses for
jurors on Thursday, the 3rd day of Wilson's sentencing hearing this week.

Attorneys will resume Wilson's hearing on Friday with closing arguments.

Following that, 12 jurors will begin deliberating over how certain factors and
circumstances either enhanced or lessened the impact of Wilson's fatal crime.

In order to find 35-year-old Wilson suitable for the death penalty, jurors must
find at least 1 aggravating, or enhancing, circumstance in Wilson's case.

These same jurors in late September found Wilson guilty of 1st-degree murder in
connection with the shooting death of 27-year-old Seeger over 5 years ago near
a Crystal River-area intersection.

Seeger, a former confidential informant with the Citrus County Sheriff???s
Office, was found dead early July 25, 2012, in the driver seat of a Chrysler
Crossfire near the intersection of North Reynolds Avenue and West Cyrus Street.

Local men Marrio Williams and Lawrence Vickers had paid Wilson $1,000 to murder
Seeger before she could testify against them about her undercover drug deals
with the duo during Seeger's time as an informant.

Wilson was accused in December 2012 of murdering Seeger, alongside 32-year-old
Williams and 50-year-old Vickers, who have already been convicted in this case
for their roles.

Jurors on Thursday continued to dissect Wilson's mind and background with the
help of several mental health experts.

Wilson's attorneys, Candace Hawthorne and Brenda Smith, have pressed
psychologists and psychiatrists on the witness stand during this week's
hearings about how Wilson's mental health disorders, not his personality,
contributed to his crime.

Psychologist Dr. Greg Prichard testified to evaluating Wilson in March.
Hawthorne played a recorded tape of Prichard's interview with Wilson.

In the video, Wilson tells Prichard about being neglected while growing up in
St. Petersburg with a disinterested mother and without a father. Wilson said he
made it to 10th grade and his school record is spotted with multiple
suspensions for truancy and fighting.

Prichard said in court Wilson's mother is to blame for her son's inability to
thrive in school.

For 1 week, Wilson held down a job but had to leave because he went to prison,
he says in the video.

Excluding his conviction for Seeger's murder, Wilson acquired eight felony
convictions throughout his life, Prichard testified.

Wilson tells Prichard in the video he made his living selling drugs, dealing in
"pretty much everything." He says he used marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, heroin
and prescription pills. Wilson says he's able to acquire pills, marijuana and
inmate-made alcohol at the Citrus County jail.

Wilson says he was Baker Acted in 2005 and placed into a mental health
facility, where he was treated for psychotic symptoms, like hallucinations. He
says he continued similar treatments while in prison but was not able to get
adequate treatments.

"I'm still hearing voices," Wilson says about the loud whispers that tell him
to hurt himself and others. "It's a constant struggle."

Prichard said Wilson is not intellectually disabled nor has a psychotic
disorder, but does have serious drug use issues, which contributed to his
temporary psychotic symptoms.

Prichard said Wilson also showed signs of malingering, or lying, during his
evaluations.

Echoing other mental health experts who evaluated Wilson, Prichard said Wilson
has antisocial personality disorder, which explains his persistent disregard
for the law and other social norms.

Prichard said Wilson displays many traits of a psychopath, a selfish pathologic
deceiver, troublemaker and sometimes violent individual.

"He has many of the behavioral characteristics of a psychopathic personality,"
Prichard said.

(source: chronicleonline.com)








LOUISIANA:

Man accused of killing NOPD officer Marcus McNeil to face 1st-degree murder
charge----The shooting happened a little after midnight near Tara Lane and Lake
Forest Boulevard in New Orleans East.



Darren Bridges, the man accused of killing NOPD officer Marcus McNeil, will
face 1st-degree murder charges according to NOPD Supt. Michael Harrison.

If convicted, Bridges faces life in prison or the death penalty.

According to Harrison, Bridges fatally shot McNeil in New Orleans East early
Friday morning.

McNeil and 3 other NOPD officers were on patrol when they made an "observation"
that caused them to hop out of their police vehicles, at which point Bridges
allegedly opened fire and hit McNeil several times.

Harrison said that 1 or 2 of the officers returned fire, wounding Bridges, who
then ran into a nearby apartment.

(source: WWL news)
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