2017-06-08 13:40:03 UTC
TEXAS----stay of impending execution
Execution halted for man convicted in Texas real estate agent's murder----The
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday halted the execution of a man
convicted in the murder of a McKinney real estate agent in 2007.
Another Texas execution has been stopped by the state's highest criminal
appellate court, giving relief to the man convicted in 2007 in the robbery and
murder of a McKinney real estate agent.
Kosoul Chanthakoummane, 36, was scheduled to die on July 19 after more than 9
years on death row. He was convicted in the 2006 stabbing death of Sarah Walker
in the model home of a subdivision where she worked, according to court
documents. On Wednesday morning, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued a
stay of execution and sent his case back to the Collin County trial court to
review claims of discredited forensic sciences.
On July 8, 2006, a couple coming to view the model home found Walker dead,
stabbed 33 times with a bite mark on her neck, according to a federal court
filing. Her watch and ring were missing from her body. Bloody fingerprints
found at the scene and DNA under Walker's fingernails linked the crime to
Chanthakoummane, who was arrested nearly 2 months later.
Chanthakoummane told police he went to a model home after his car broke down,
and that he had cuts on his hands that could explain his blood at the scene,
according to the filing. At trial, the state presented forensic experts who
claimed the bite mark on Walker's neck and DNA at the scene pointed to
In 2016, a White House report concluded forensic bite-mark evidence was not
This is the 3rd time the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has halted a scheduled
execution this year (2 of those scheduled executions were for the same man,
Tilon Carter). Another execution was halted by a federal court.
There have been 4 executions in the state this year.
(source: Texas Tribune)
Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----24
Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----543
Abbott#--------scheduled execution date-----name------------Tx. #
25---------July 27-----------------Taichin Preyor---------544
26---------Aug. 30-----------------Steven Long------------545
28---------Oct. 26-----------------Clinton Young----------547
(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)
Intellectually disabled death row inmate should be exempt from death penalty
The Gospel compels Christians to speak for those without a voice and to
advocate for society's most vulnerable members, including those with
intellectual disability. For this reason, I feel compelled to speak out on
behalf of Bobby James Moore, an individual with documented life-long
intellectual disability who has spent the last 37 years on Texas' death row.
While Christians have varying views on the death penalty, hopefully we can all
agree no person with intellectual disability should be executed. As the U.S.
Supreme Court recognized more than 15 years ago, "(n)o legitimate penological
purpose is served by executing a person with intellectual disability" because
such persons "do not act with the level of moral culpability that characterizes
the most serious adult criminal conduct." While the Texas Court of Criminal
Appeals has been reticent to heed this message, it has both the legal and moral
duty to do so now. And it should take an important 1st step here by reforming
Moore's death sentence to life imprisonment.
As a 13-year-old, Moore lacked a basic understanding of the days of the week,
the months of the year, telling time, and the concept that subtraction is the
reverse of addition. He failed the 1st grade twice and every grade after that
before dropping out of school in the ninth grade. At age 14, his father - after
subjecting Moore to years of severe mental and physical abuse - threw him out
of the house because Moore still did not know how to read. Moore lived on the
streets, eating out of garbage cans and sleeping in a pool hall. He survived
largely due to the kindness of strangers.
Then, at the age of 20, Moore was involved in a bungled grocery store robbery,
in which he shot and killed a grocery store clerk. He has spent nearly 40 years
on death row for that crime, which we all condemn.
In 2014, a Harris County District Court judge held a 2-day hearing. After
carefully listening to experts and witnesses, Judge Susan Brown applied current
medical standards and determined that Moore is intellectually disabled and
therefore exempt from the death penalty. She noted that Moore has an average IQ
score of 70.66, which is well within the range of intellectual disability. And
she found in her lengthy fact-finding that Moore's serious mental and social
difficulties were very clear from early childhood.
The judge's determination that Moore is intellectually disabled and exempt from
the death penalty should have been the end of the matter. Instead, in 2015, the
Court of Criminal Appeals said that the lower court erred in applying current
medical standards in making its determination that Moore was intellectually
disabled. Applying non-clinical and outdated medical standards, it decided that
Moore was not intellectually disabled and could be executed.
In March 2017, in Moore v. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court emphatically reversed
the appeals court's decision. The U.S. Supreme Court carefully reviewed the
record. It emphasized that Moore's IQ score is clearly within the range of
intellectually disabled and that the evidence just as clearly supported that he
had significant mental and social difficulties from an early age. The U.S.
Supreme Court also strongly endorsed Brown's application of current medical
standards in concluding that Moore is intellectually disabled. Now Moore's case
is back before the Court of Criminal Appeals.
This case presents not only a legal issue, but also a moral one. In Moore's
case, the U.S. Supreme Court questioned why Texas applies current medical
standards for diagnosing intellectual disability in other contexts, "yet clings
to superseded standards when an individual's life is at stake." The appeals
court now has the opportunity to chart a new course for how Texas handles
intellectual disability claims and ensure that no person with intellectually
disability is executed.
Moore is not the worst of the worst, but due to his significant intellectual
deficits, he is certainly among the most vulnerable. He is worthy of God's love
and of our fair and humane treatment. There is a path forward that affirms
Moore's innate dignity as a human being, while still ensuring that justice is
done. The Court of Criminal Appeals should follow this path and reform Moore's
death sentence to life imprisonment.
(source: Opinion; Steve Wells, DMin, is pastor of South Main Baptist Church in
2 suspects in Raymond Wood murder case to get court-appointed attorneys
A judge said Wednesday he will name 2 court-appointed attorneys each for 2
capital murder suspects in the slaying of Lynchburg teen Raymond Wood.
Jose Coreas-Ventura, 20, and Lisandro Posada-Vazquez, 24, had been represented
in a lower court by the public defender and a Lynchburg attorney, respectively,
but neither of those lawyers could defend them in a capital murder trial. The 2
face upgraded charges after a grand jury indictment June 2.
A 3rd suspect, Victor Arnoldo Rodas, 19, faces 1st-degree murder and other
felony charges, and Bedford County Circuit Judge James Updike Jr. said he would
ask attorney Matthew Pack to continue representing Rodas. A tentative trial
date for Rodas has been set for Oct. 24.
Wood's body was found by a motorist March 27 lying on Roaring Run Road in
Goode. Authorities have said they believe Wood, 17, was taken from Lynchburg
against his will before his killing.
Each of the defendants, who are being held without bond in Blue Ridge Regional
Jail, appeared separately into Updike's courtroom in shackles to answer
questions about how he wished to be represented.
Because each defendant said he could not afford to retain his own attorney,
Updike asked several standard questions regarding income and assets. He
determined in each case the defendant qualified for court-appointed counsel.
Coreas-Ventura and Posada-Vazquez face the possibility of the death penalty if
convicted of capital murder, and Updike said he will contact qualified
attorneys to determine who can represent them. By Virginia law, at least 2
attorneys are named for indigent capital murder defendants who receive
For now, trial dates for the 2 men have not been set.
The charges against those 2 are capital murder, robbery, abduction for
pecuniary benefit and participation in a criminal act in association with a
criminal street gang.
Rodas said he has about $500 in cash and owns a 1993 Honda Del Sol. However,
Bedford County Commonwealth's Attorney Wes Nance told the judge the car has
been seized for evidentiary purposes and thus cannot be liquidated.
Updike said Pack has asked to continue representing Rodas, and the judge
appointed him for the Circuit Court trial.
Following the advisement, Nance said while Rodas does not potentially face the
death penalty, he could be sentenced to life in prison on 3 charges: 1st-degree
murder, robbery and abduction for pecuniary benefit.
Rodas also is charged with participation in a criminal act in association with
a criminal street gang.
Grand jury re-indicts 4 alleged gang members in possible revenge slaying
A Chatham County grand jury on Wednesday re-indicted 4 alleged members of the
nationally affiliated Bloods gang in connection with the shooting death of a
24-year-old man, who was killed 5 days after defending himself during an armed
The re-indictments of Arthur Newton, 23; Artez Strain, 22; Timothy Coleman, 21;
and Tyriek Walker, 21, were administrative, cleaning up minor issues with the
initial documents returned in November, prosecutors said.
District Attorney Meg Heap is seeking the death penalty for all 4 during
proceedings before Superior Court Judge John E. Morse Jr. Because the death
penalty is involved, all 4 must be tried separately.
In court documents filed earlier in the case, Heap alleged that Newton directed
another to commit Dominque Powell's slaying and that Coleman was the gunman.
She also alleged that Coleman committed the murder of another "for the purpose
of receiving money or any other thing of monetary value" and that he committed
the murder as "an agent of another person."
Walker and Strain also were alleged to have committed the slaying to "receive
money or any other thing of monetary value" as an agent of another person.
Heap's documents also alleged that in all 4 cases, "the offense of (Powell) was
outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman, in that it involved
depravity of mind."
It was the 1st time Heap, who declined comment, has sought the death penalty.
According to officials, police responded to a shooting on Sept. 12 in the 900
block of Garey Avenue in Tatemville, where they found Powell suffering with a
fatal gunshot wound outside a residence.
Powell was the victim of an armed robbery on Sept. 7 in the neighborhood.
During the robbery, Powell exchanged gunfire with would-be robbers Antwan
Drayton and Newton, police said. Investigators concluded that Powell shot
Drayton and Newton in self-defense during the robbery.
After being arrested, Newton ordered the death of Powell, Lumpkin said. Strain,
Coleman and Walker carried out those orders and participated in Powell's death,
According to the indictments, Coleman caused Powell's death by shooting him on
Murder case defendant unhappy with legal representation
At a status conference Wednesday, the defense attorney for a man charged with
1st-degree murder said his team is ready for trial. But his client, for whom
the state is seeking the death penalty, didn't seem to be on board.
Dillon Gresham, 26, accused of the 2014 murder of Robert Hiles, 64, of Citra,
disagreed with his defense attorney, J. Edwin Mills, of Orlando. At the end of
the hearing, he accused Mills of not being a competent lawyer and wanted him to
be tested for competency.
Gresham said he has sent multiple letters to Mills and has not heard back. He
said he did not want to postpone the trial because of this issue, because he is
innocent, but wanted it addressed.
Mills did not reply to the accusations in court.
Fifth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Willard Pope acknowledged Gresham's
comments, but did not act on them.
"I have no reason to believe Mr. Mills is being insufficient," he said.
When Gresham continued, he told the defendant not to argue.
"This is my life on the line, how are we not going to argue about it?" Gresham
The judge assured Gresham he would have plenty of time to meet with Mills
before the trial.
Pope set one more status conference for Aug. 30 and said he expects the case to
go to trial in September.
Gresham, Timothy Mayhew, 23, and Angel Long, 25, who were tenants of Hiles,
were accused of killing Hiles, tying him up and setting fire to his house. All
3 were charged with 1st-degree murder and grand theft. Mayhew faces an
additional charge of arson.
Firefighters found Hiles beaten and badly burned in his doorway. He died later
that day at Ocala Regional Medical Center.
Long said she knew of the plans but did not participate in the murder. She
pleaded no contest April 4 to 2nd-degree murder and grand theft as part of a
plea deal in which she was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Gresham and Mayhew were indicted in August 2014. The State is seeking the death
penalty for both defendants.
Mayhew's case is still in the preparation phase, with his next court date
scheduled for July 19.
Gresham and Mayhew are 2 of the 8 Marion County defendants facing the death
(source: The Ledger)
Inmate's lawyers seek to halt execution citing faulty drug
Lawyers for a condemned Alabama inmate made a series of legal filings trying to
halt his upcoming execution, arguing there are questions about the sedative
that will be used.
Robert Melson is scheduled to die by lethal injection Thursday for the 1994
fatal shooting of 3 employees during a robbery at a Popeye's restaurant in
Gadsden, 60 miles (96 kilometers) northeast of Birmingham.
Attorneys for Melson asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the
Alabama Supreme Court Wednesday to block the execution. The 11th Circuit had
previously issued a stay that was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Melson's attorneys argue the sedative midazolam is ineffective and noted a
December execution in which an inmate coughed and heaved for 13 minutes.
The Alabama attorney general's office has argued midazolam's use has been
(source: Daily Journal)
There are more Robert Melsons than Tommy Arthurs
On May 26, minutes after midnight, Tommy Arthur was put to death by lethal
injection. "His case," Gov. Kaye Ivey said, "was reviewed thoroughly at every
level of both our state and federal courts, and the appellate process has
ensured that the rights of the accused were protected."
Later the same day, Ivey signed into law the "Fair Justice Act," a law intended
to speed up the death penalty appeals process.
Proponents of this law claim that death penalty appeals take too long,
frustrating the interests of justice and prolonging the agony of victims'
families. Arthur's case, which spanned more than 3 decades and involved, among
other things, 2 retrials and 7 execution dates set aside at the last minute by
dramatic claims of newly discovered evidence and questions about the
constitutionality of Alabama's death penalty scheme and execution protocol, was
often cited as a case in point.
Yet despite everything, questions remained even up to the moment of Arthur's
death. His execution was immediately preceded by a strongly-worded dissent from
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor, who contended that Alabama's
refusal to allow his lawyer to bring a phone with her into the viewing room so
that she could alert the court to irregularities in the execution meant that
"when Thomas Arthur enters the execution chamber ... he will leave his
constitutional rights at the door."
Arthur was lucky to have his constitutional rights honored that long. Robert
Melson, an Alabama death row prisoner who is set to be executed on June 8, has
not been so fortunate. While Arthur's post-conviction lawyers did battle on his
behalf for years and stuck with him to the end, Melson's lawyers abandoned him
long ago. Despite strenuous efforts by his current attorneys and a moment of
hope in 2011, when the U.S. Supreme Court remanded his case for a hearing on
the question of whether his previous attorneys' negligent behavior was
irresponsible enough to merit an exception to the strict rules governing
deadlines for post-conviction appeals, Melson, if he is executed on June 8,
will go to his death without ever having had a hearing on the merits of his
The difference between Arthur's trajectory and Melson's comes down to luck.
While Arthur was blessed in post-conviction with a team of committed,
competent, creative, and tenacious lawyers from a deep-pocketed and generous
New York law firm - and helped also by the multitude of prosecutorial and
judicial missteps that necessitated 2 retrials -- Melson was cursed when the
out-of-state lawyer who took his case, and the inexperienced local counsel,
turned out to be well-meaning but incompetent bumblers who doomed his case by
missing a crucial deadline.
There are serious questions about the integrity of Melson's conviction.
Arrested for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and for having skin the
same color as the alleged shooter's, his death sentence rests on a pair of
shoes that were a size and a half too small for him, 2 pebbles, a seed, and the
self-serving statement of an intellectually disabled and emotionally disturbed
teenager who has since recanted. No physical evidence at the scene connects Mr.
Melson to this crime. Yet because his post-conviction counsel abandoned him, he
has never had a chance to air evidence of his innocence in court.
Alabama is almost alone among death penalty states in declining to provide
death-sentenced prisoners with attorneys to help them challenge their
convictions during the state post-conviction phase, known as Rule 32. Except on
the rarest of occasions, Rule 32 is the only opportunity most inmates have to
put on evidence that innocence or other factors mean they are deserving of new
trials. Alabama inmates must rely on the kindness of strangers to take their
cases - and, as Melson's and many other cases prove (including that of Ron
Smith, who was executed in December 2016 and whose Rule 32 lawyer also
abandoned him) - kindness is not enough.
In a recent letter to his lawyer, Melson wrote, "I don't know much, I didn't
even finish high school. But this I do know, I am scared and I need someone to
see me, hear me! PLEASE."
The courts saw and heard Tommy Arthur. He was executed anyway, and questions
remained, but at least he was lucky enough to have attorneys who fought for him
every step of the way. Though Melson now has lawyers who have begged the courts
to make an exception and allow him to put on evidence about the flaws in his
conviction, the courts have ruled that they came too late in the day. Only the
governor can save him now - and in living memory, only 1 Alabama governor has
granted clemency to a death-sentenced prisoner.
The argument for the Fair Justice Act, like many arguments about the death
penalty, is premised on the idea that some people somehow get too much justice.
But there are many more Robert Melsons than Tommy Arthurs. In its rush to exact
vengeance, the state must not neglect its duty to see and hear them all.
(source: Jake Watson is a Huntsville-based solo practitioner who represents
clients in state and federal court. He has been honored by the Alabama Criminal
Defense Lawyers Association for his work on capital cases, and serves as a
board member of the Alabama Post-Conviction Relief Project
The firing squad: Mississippi joins Utah and Oklahoma
With a stroke of his pen, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant legalized death by
firing squad in early April to little fanfare.
Bryant made it clear he supported House Bill 638, which gives the Magnolia
State options for capital punishment. But he quietly signed the bill eight days
after it passed both chambers of the legislature, and it went largely
"Gov. Bryant favors the efficient administration of the death penalty in
Mississippi," said spokesman Clay Chandler in an email to Guns.com this week.
"He believes House Bill 638 will help with that, so he signed it."
The law makes fusillading the last resort for the state, behind lethal
injection, nitrogen gas, and electrocution, in that order. Inmates would only
face the firing squad if the first 3 options are held unconstitutional, or are
"otherwise unavailable," according to language in the law.
Mississippi joins Utah and Oklahoma on the short list of states that allow
death by firing squad. Last month, a Georgia man's request to die by firing
squad was shot down. Lawyers for J.W. Ledford, Jr. argued there was
"substantial risk" that he'd be aware "as he drowns in his own saliva" from a
"You can kiss my white trash ass," Ledford said as he smiled just before he
died. The state had injected him with the barbiturate pentobarbital.
The last death by firing squad in the U.S. came nearly 7 years ago, on June 18,
2010, in Utah. Ronnie Lee Gardner, a convicted murderer, was able to choose the
method of execution.
In Mississippi, there are 47 people on death row. The state hasn't executed
anyone since June 2012.
Keeping the death penalty alive in Louisiana
It was quite appropriate that Hugo Holland posed in what was described as his
"mancave,"considering the troglodyte quotes in the profile that accompanied the
photograph last Sunday.
Holland, Louisiana's go-to prosecutor in capital cases, hangs out in what was
also termed a "bunkerlike work space" bristling with guns, while the world
passes him and his obsession by. He devotes his life to securing death
penalties, which Louisiana no longer has the stomach to carry out. He has
become an anachronism, albeit one sustained by a heartfelt devotion to capital
Well, that's not the only motivation, for this obsession is a lucrative one.
Holland rakes in more than $200,000 a year as he moves from town to town as the
would-be harbinger of death.
He not only prosecutes cases in various jurisdictions, but frequently appears
before legislative committees to champion the death penalty and decry what he
sees as excessive public expenditures for capital defense. For his lobbying
efforts, the profile revealed, he is paid "thousands of dollars a year" by the
Caddo Parish DA's office.
Evidently, gung-ho prosecutors are keener on enforcing the law than obeying it.
Holland's lobbying fees would appear to be illegal under the laws that says "No
state employee in his official capacity or on behalf of his employer shall
lobby for or against any matter intended to have the effect of law pending
before the legislature or any committee thereof."
In addition to his various one-off gigs, Holland is on the payroll in Calcasieu
and Webster parishes, which might be open to question under the state law that
prohibits dual office holding. Holland, however, insists he is within the law
because all his jobs are regarded as part-time.
He did work full time as a Caddo Parish prosecutor until he was fired in 2012
for obtaining M16 rifles from the Federal Property Assistance Agency by
claiming they would be used in joint operations with police that existed only
in his imagination.
He does not always play by the rules in court and has been known to suppress
exculpatory evidence. He has succeeded in sending 10 men to death row, but 5 of
them had their convictions reversed. He would love to watch the other 5
executed, but the system has become so sclerotic that he must despair of ever
having that pleasure.
It is just as well that we are reluctant to execute, given how many death row
inmates have been exonerated and released. That those miscarriages eventually
came to light is proof enough, so far as Holland is concerned, that the system
is working, a view not shared by men who spent years on death row for murders
they did not commit.
Holland recognizes that the death penalty is not a deterrent, but needs no
justification beyond the Old Testament principle of an eye for an eye. He has
seen enough bloody scenes to conclude, "The only thing we can do with animals
who do stuff like that is put them down."
This is clearly a man passionate about his work, and district attorneys say
Holland is a highly competent prosecutor. He endorses their opinion. "I'm not
ashamed of the fact that I worked my way through college and law school, and
I've developed a skill set that people are willing to pay for," he said. "I can
take a case that would take a 5-year assistant district attorney 2 hours to
review, and I can review it in 10 minutes."
Regardless, the whole edifice was in danger of tumbling down a few weeks ago
when a bill was filed to abolish Louisiana's death penalty. Among its sponsors
was state Rep. Steve Pylant, R-Winnsboro, a former sheriff whose public
pronouncements in recent years indicated he no longer supported capital
punishment, albeit not as a matter of moral principle. Pylant repeatedly
pointed out that we are wasting millions on a death penalty we have lost the
will to enforce.
Holland naturally appeared before the committee to lobby against the bill,
which failed when Pylant changed his mind again and cast the deciding vote.
Holland must have breathed a sign of relief when he returned to his cave.
(source: The New Orleans Advocate)
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