death penalty news----MO., KAN., NEB., S.DAK.. IDAHO, CALIF., USA
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Rick Halperin
2017-10-24 13:31:26 UTC
Raw Message
Oct. 24


Jury selection begins today - and other details of the Craig Wood trial

Selection begins today for the trial of Craig Wood - the man accused of
kidnapping, raping and killing 10-year-old Hailey Owens in 2014.

Within the next few weeks, a jury will decide whether Craig Wood is guilty and,
subsequently, whether he will live or die.

Wood is charged with 5 felonies: 1st-degree murder, armed criminal action,
child kidnapping, rape and sodomy.

In order to prove Wood guilty of 1st-degree murder, prosecutors will have to
show he deliberated before the killing.

Prosecutors are pursuing the death penalty for Wood if he is found guilty of

There are several aggravating factors a jury considers when determining if the
death penalty is appropriate, including whether the murder was "outrageously or
wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman in that it involved torture, or depravity of

According to the lawyers handling the case, here's how this process will play

On Monday, the prosecuting and defense attorneys, Wood and Judge Thomas
Mountjoy will be in Platte County for jury selection.

Jury selection is expected to last a week. The initial pool of jurors started
at roughly 500 and has already been whittled down through written
questionnaires. Hailey OwensBuy Photo

Eventually, 16 jurors - including 4 alternates - will be selected and brought
to Greene County for the trial.

The jurors will stay at an undisclosed hotel where deputies will patrol their
floor. A deputy must be present when they call their families and jurors are
not allowed to leave on their own.

Arguments in Wood's trial are expected to begin on Monday, Oct. 30, and last a

If Wood is found guilty, then the sentencing phase begins.

The sentencing is also expected to last a week.

Greene County Prosecutor Dan Patterson is pursuing the death penalty for Wood.

Wood has said he's willing to plead guilty and spend the rest of his life in
prison if prosecutors are willing to take the death penalty off the table.

Hailey's mother, Stacey Barfield, told the News-Leader earlier this year that
Patterson should take that deal.

(source: Springfield News-Leader)


Death penalty appeal this week for Justin Thurber

A man on death row convicted of torturing and murdering an Arkansas City woman
will appeal his sentence to the Kansas Supreme Court this week.

Jodi Sanderholm's memory remains in the hearts of many people in Ark City, and
throughout Kansas.

She was kidnapped, tortured and murdered.

The convicted killer's appeal is Friday in Topeka, and Jodi's family will be

"This is the 1st of many, we could have as many as 6 or 7 more which could be
one per year, so we've got a long year ahead of us," said Jodi???s mother,
Cindy Sanderholm.

Jodi's father, Brian Sanderholm said, "His defense is going to try to bring up
anything they can in the trial that was wrong."

The Sanderholms are returning to court all these years later.

Justin Thurber was sentenced to death in 2009 for murdering their daughter.

"We're just up there just to see what's going to happen, and he's not even
going to be there, so that's good, don't really want to see him," said Cindy.

Jodi Sanderholm would have turned 30 last month.

Instead, the 11th anniversary of her death approaches in January.

"She was a very loving and caring girl, she didn't know a stranger, she helped
anybody and everybody she could, she was just a doll to be around and fun to be
around," said Cindy.

Jodi's death initiated changes across the state including a stalking law.

"If you as a girl feel threatened you need to get something done about it,
don't suffer through it, that's Jodi's law up there on the wall," said Brian.

This is Thurber's 1st appeal... All death penalty cases are appealed.

The defense is bringing up 27 issues in the case such as saying jurors weren't
removed who had bias against Thurber.

(source: KWCH news)


At D.C. event, ex-State Sen. Colby Coash will argue that fiscal conservatives
should oppose death penalty

A recent effort to repeal the death penalty in Nebraska may have been rebuffed,
but a former state senator is traveling to Washington, D.C., to urge
conservatives and Republicans in other states to keep trying.

Former State Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln will be among several past and present
state legislators speaking Wednesday at an event organized by Conservatives
Concerned About the Death Penalty.

That organization argues, as does Coash, that conservatives are turning against
the death penalty due to high cost of appeals and litigation, distrust that
government can fairly mete out capital punishment and concern that it conflicts
with valuing life.

That shift, the former senator said, was evident in Nebraska in 2015 when the
Legislature overrode a veto of Gov. Pete Ricketts to repeal capital punishment.
That decision, however, was later nullified by state voters in the 2016 general

"You can't really say you're a fiscal conservative and then say you're OK with
the death penalty," Coash said. Liberals and Democrats used to lead the charge
for repeal, he said, but that isn't the case now.

But a leader of the campaign that restored the death penalty in Nebraska said
it's inaccurate to say that Republicans and conservatives don't support capital
punishment. The general election in 2016, in which more than 60 % of those who
cast ballots voted to reverse the Legislature's repeal, is proof, said Bob
Evnen, a Lincoln attorney and co-founder of Nebraskans for the Death Penalty.

"We actually put this to the greatest laboratory test possible last November,
when an overwhelming majority of Nebraskans voted to keep it on the books,"
Evnen said.

Coash, who left office in January due to term limits, agreed that the voters
have spoken. But he said that didn't repair a broken death penalty - Nebraska
still lacks the drugs to carry out an execution.

"I don't have a crystal ball, but maybe after 10 more years of failure (to
carry out an execution), people will look at (repeal) again," he said.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Conservatives Concerned About the Death
Penalty will release a report about growing Republican opposition to capital
punishment. State lawmakers from Montana, Utah and Washington state are also
scheduled to speak.

Coash, a Republican and a Catholic, said he has spoken in at least nine other
states about how a legislature in a conservative state like Nebraska was able
to repeal the death penalty.

"People are just very interested in the Nebraska story. I guess my name gets
brought up when they want to hear the story," he said.

After voters overturned the Legislature's repeal, Evnen said it showed what a
big mistake lawmakers had made.

Nationally, executions fell to a record low in 2016, with only 20 across the
country. This year, there have been 21 executions so far.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)


SD sees funding increase amid death penalty cases

Defending 2 men facing the possibility of the death penalty in a murder case
will cost a western South Dakota county's budget as much as $1 million more in

Pennington County commissioners granted the request made by the courthouse and
public defenders last month for more than $500,000 increases each to their 2018
budgets. A large portion of those will go toward defending 2 men facing the
death penalty on 1st-degree murder charges, the Rapid City Journal reported .

Jonathon Klinetobe, 28, and Richard Hirth, 36, have been charged with murder,
kidnapping and conspiracy in the disappearance and death of Jessica Rehfeld,
22, in 2015. Klinetobe is represented by 3 appointed lawyers, 2 from the county
public defender's office and 1 private attorney. Hirth has 2 court-appointed
private lawyers.

The law requires defendants who can't afford to hire a lawyer be appointed one
by the court. Death penalty cases require at least 2 lawyers, but defendants
are responsible for repaying the county the cost of their legal defense.

Death penalty cases are "exceedingly expensive" and taxpayers can reasonably
expect to shoulder up to $1 million for the prosecution and defense such a
case, said Eric Whitcher, director of the county public defender's office.

"The people who are available to handle those cases are highly specialized, and
they cost significant funds," he said, including criminal investigators, lab
analysts, psychiatrists, crime scene analysts and pathologists.

Klinetobe and Hirth have been detained at the county jail since May 2016. It's
unclear when they will go to trial, but their cases will likely again come
under the spotlight in budget hearings for 2019 if they aren't tried before

(source: The Capital Journal)


Attorneys in death penalty case say Renfro suffers 'neuro deficit' that played
part in killing Coeur d'Alene police officer

Pictures show Jonathan D. Renfro as a happy toddler at a family birthday. He
rode a tricycle.

Now defense attorneys are calling on experts to convince a jury that the man
convicted of killing a Coeur d'Alene police officer should be spared the death

The jury already has convicted Renfro, 29, of murdering Coeur d'Alene Police
Sgt. Greg Moore on May 5, 2015, and it also found 3 aggravating factors that
indicate Renfro has a propensity to commit another murder.

Now the jury must decide only whether Renfro spends the rest of his life in
prison or is put to death by lethal injection.

"We do have several expert witnesses, who have specialized knowledge, who can
help paint a more accurate picture of who (Renfro) is and why he pulled the
trigger and tragically took the life of Sgt. Greg Moore," defense attorney
Keith Roark said. "We are not saying he's insane. But he does have what is
referred to as a neuro deficit. It doesn't function the same way as mine does
or yours does."

Roark thanked the jury for all the time it's put into the case.

"Nothing we say is intended to impune your good verdict," Roark continued. "We
are not trying to tell you that JD didn't have a choice. He chose to pull that
trigger. But you need to know what his brain was like when he pulled that
trigger. He does not need to die."

After defense attorneys present their witnesses, the state can then call
witnesses to counter them. First District Judge Lansing Haynes told the jury to
expect about 2 weeks of testimony.

After Roark spoke, Deputy Kootenai County Prosecutor David Robins called the
defense's paid experts "spell-binding pseudoscience" and said Renfro should
face the ultimate penalty for murdering Moore.

"The evidence in this phase of the trial will show that justice for the
ultimate crime of killing an officer in cold blood in the line of duty requires
the ultimate punishment: Death," Robins said. "Death is just because of the
severity of the crime, the immeasurable damage caused to the family of Greg
Moore and because a good man lost his life because this man didn't want to go
back to prison."

Roark first called Renfro's mother, Carol Renfro, who narrated a series of
family photos showing Jonathan Renfro as a toddler and student. He was the
youngest of 3 children and has an older brother and sister.

Renfro grew up in a middle-class home, played youth football and enjoyed a
normal childhood, she said.

However, Jonathan Renfro fell behind in school even though later psychological
testing showed he has an IQ of 110, which is higher than 75 % of the

Deputy Kootenai County Prosecutor Jed Whitaker asked Carol Renfro about a
letter she sent her son describing an empty chair at Moore's house and pointing
out how she will continue to have a relationship with her son even in prison.

"There's a table at both houses that have been destroyed because of that split
second," Carol Renfro responded. "Don't try to make it something it's not."

Roark, the defense attorney, described how Jonathan Renfro turned first to
drinking, then dropped out of school and then turned to crime as his adult life
began spinning out of control. He suggested that a concussion he received when
he fell out of a pickup when he was 16 and earlier playing football may have
contributed to his mental problems.

Defense attorney Jay Logsdon called Craig Beaver, a licensed psychologist, who
testified that Renfro suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and
has trouble in certain cognitive functions despite his higher-than average IQ

"The bottom line is JD wasn't dealt the same set of cards as his siblings,"
said Beaver, who has billed the state about $40,000 for his review. Renfro
"does have problems with how his brain operates. It doesn't mean that he
shouldn't be held responsible for his actions ... but it helps explain how he
ended up in a different place."

(source: spokesman.com)

CALIFORNIA----female to face death penalty

Former elementary school principal faces death penalty unless her attorney wins
motion in murder trial

Leslie Jenea Chance has been charged with murder in the 2013 killing of her
husband, Todd Chance.

Attorneys representing a former elementary school principal accused of shooting
her husband to death in 2013 have filed a number of motions arguing the court
should throw out the death penalty in her case.

Leslie Chance, 50, is charged with 1st-degree murder and is alleged to have
committed the crime for financial gain. As it stands, she could face death if

But Paul Cadman, Chance's public defender, said in court filings that the court
should exclude imposition of the death penalty as it's no longer in accord with
"the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing
society" and violates the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment contained
in the Eighth Amendment.

"The death penalty is not simply cruel and unnecessary, but truly 'unusual' in
the modern world," Cadman wrote. "This court should declare it

While no inmate has been executed in California since 2006, an August ruling by
the California Supreme Court upheld much of a proposition passed by voters last
year to speed up death penalty appeals. Executions could resume within months.

The motions had been scheduled to be heard Wednesday, but another motion filed
last week by the defense asked that the hearing be postponed. On Wednesday, a
new court date will be set.

The body of Chance's husband, Todd Chance, 45, was found the morning of Aug.
25, 2013, off a dirt section of Noriega Road near Enos Lane. He'd been shot
twice in the chest and once in the palm of his right hand.

Investigators allege in court documents that Leslie Chance, then the principal
of Fairview Elementary School, drove with Todd Chance to the area, shot him,
then left his Ford Mustang in a southwest Bakersfield neighborhood before
taking a taxi to a location near her home and walking from there.

The documents said surveillance cameras spotted her at multiple locations as
she tried to disguise herself while making her way home.

According to the documents, investigators believe Leslie Chance learned about
criminal investigative techniques and tried to cover her tracks through
information she gained after attending a "CSI" exhibit in Las Vegas about 2
months before the killing.

She stood to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from her husband's life
insurance policies, the documents said. It's also alleged she may have been
jealous, as there were rumors Todd Chance was in touch with another woman he'd
dated before marrying Leslie Chance.

Initially arrested 4 days after the killing, Leslie Chance was released after
the District Attorney's office sent the case back to sheriff's investigators
for further investigation.

She was rearrested in December while working as an administrator in the
Greenfield Union School District. She has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

(source: bakersfield.com)


Argument preview: A subtle but significant dispute over funding federal habeas
petitions in capital cases

As part of the Criminal Justice Act, Congress has provided in 18 U.S.C. #
3599(f) that federal courts in capital cases involving indigent defendants
(including suits for post-conviction relief) should fund "investigative,
expert, or other services [that] are reasonably necessary for the
representation of the defendant, whether in connection with issues relating to
guilt or the sentence." When the Supreme Court returns to the bench next Monday
morning to hear argument in Ayestas v. Davis, it will consider a recurring
question in federal habeas cases, especially those raising claims that the
prisoner's trial lawyers provided ineffective assistance of counsel: What,
exactly, must habeas counsel demonstrate to show that such services are
"reasonably necessary for the representation of the [petitioner]"?

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit has imposed a high bar in such
cases, holding that such funding is "reasonably necessary" only when the
petitioner can demonstrate a "substantial need" for the services contemplated
by the statute - i.e., "substantiated argument, not speculation, about what the
prior counsel did or omitted doing." The question at the heart of this case is
whether that standard puts too high a burden on capital habeas petitioners -
requiring them to all-but describe the merits of their ineffective-assistance
claims in order to obtain funding to prove those claims. Assuming the Supreme
Court has jurisdiction to answer that question (an issue raised by the state of
Texas), the answer could have enormous consequences for the ability of indigent
death-row inmates to use federal habeas petitions to challenge the
effectiveness of their trial lawyers.

I. Background

The petitioner, Carlos Manuel Ayestas, was convicted and sentenced to death by
a Texas state court in 1997 for his role in the 1995 murder of 67-year-old
Santiaga Paneque during an apparent robbery. After unsuccessfully appealing his
conviction and pursuing state collateral review, Ayestas filed a federal habeas
petition in 2009, raising a series of claims - including that, under Wiggins v.
Smith, his trial counsel failed to conduct a reasonable mitigation
investigation, and therefore violated Ayestas' Sixth Amendment right to the
effective assistance of counsel. Although that claim was initially rejected, it
was resurrected when the Supreme Court ruled in Trevino v. Thaler that
ineffective assistance of state post-conviction counsel could excuse a federal
habeas petitioner's failure to raise the ineffective assistance of his trial
lawyer in the state post-conviction proceeding in states like Texas. In light
of Trevino, the Supreme Court granted certiorari, vacated the decision below
and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Back in the district court, Ayestas moved (for a 2nd time) for funding under
Section 3599(f) to hire a mitigation specialist to investigate his Wiggins
claim. That motion described Ayestas' trial counsel's modest mitigation
investigation, including their failure to consult with any mental health
expert, notwithstanding Ayestas' known history of severe substance abuse and
other apparent indicators that Ayestas had mental health issues. The district
court denied the motion concomitantly with its denial of Ayestas' habeas
petition on the merits (and its denial of a certificate of appealability). The
5th Circuit denied Ayestas' application for a certificate of appealability, and
affirmed the district court's denial of his Section 3599(f) motion on the
merits, holding that Ayestas could not show how a mitigation investigation
would be "reasonably necessary," because, "in light of the brutality of the
crime," "any evidence of ineffectiveness, even if found, would not support

II. The briefs

As it did in opposing certiorari, the state of Texas leads with the argument
that the district court's denial of funding is an "administrative function and
not an exercise of Article III judicial power." Given that the Supreme Court
granted certiorari without asking the parties to address the matter, it's
unlikely that the jurisdictional issue will figure prominently in Monday's
argument, particularly because, as Ayestas points out in his reply brief, it
seems to run headlong into a number of settled propositions concerning Article
III judicial power.

On the merits, Ayestas' argument focuses on the claim that the 5th Circuit's
"substantial need" test unduly cabins the scope of what Congress intended to
authorize - and interferes with the ability of federal habeas counsel
meaningfully to provide the "representation" contemplated by the Criminal
Justice Act by imposing an obstacle to the investigation and development of
even colorable constitutional claims. An important amicus brief by the American
Bar Association echoes this conclusion, stressing that "the Fifth Circuit's
approach will make it extraordinarily difficult or impossible for counsel
representing federal habeas petitioners to meet their professional
responsibilities and will jeopardize the ability of federal habeas litigation
to ensure the integrity, fairness, and reliability of capital convictions and

Texas, for its part, saves its defense of the "substantial need" test for last.
After arguing against the Supreme Court's jurisdiction (an argument that, if
valid, would also undermine the 5th Circuit's jurisdiction to rule on the
Section 3599(f) motion), the state offers a distinct argument based on the
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, and its ban on the admission of
new evidence in a federal habeas proceeding that was not presented to a state
court. How could a mitigation investigation be "reasonably necessary," the
state argues, if any evidence it uncovered would be inadmissible in support of
habeas relief? (15 states, led by Arizona, filed an amicus brief in support of
Texas largely endorsing this argument.)

After noting that Texas did not make this argument below (and therefore
forfeited it), Ayestas offered 2 substantive responses in reply: First, even if
AEDPA's bar on new evidence applied, it is still distinctly possible that a
proper mitigation investigation would help demonstrate, even based on the
existing record, that Ayestas has a valid Wiggins claim. (Such a mitigation
investigation might also uncover evidence that falls into the exceptions to
AEDPA's bar on new evidence, and so it would put the cart before the horse to
hold that, as a result of AEDPA, the investigation could not be "reasonably
necessary.") Second, how AEDPA's bar on new evidence applies to
ineffective-assistance claims after and under Trevino is an open question, and
one that the Supreme Court ought not be the 1st court to answer.

III. Conclusion

What all of this suggests is that Monday's argument is likely to center on the
question the justices granted - whether the 5th Circuit's construction of
Section 3599(f) is overly restrictive, or instead properly cabins the ability
of state prisoners to use federal habeas petitions to bring substantial, rather
than merely non-frivolous, claims that their trial counsel provided ineffective
assistance of counsel. Although Ayestas is likely to find significant support
on the bench for the problems that the 5th Circuit's approach poses, the
outcome may depend upon whether the justices agree that there is a workable
definition of "reasonably necessary" that is more generous than the 5th
Circuit's approach, but that still ensures that, to qualify for funding under
Section 3599(f), an ineffective-assistance claim will be more than just not
frivolous (as Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure already

(source: scotusblog.com)
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