2017-07-25 13:54:06 UTC
Set for execution, death row inmate alleges legal fraud in hopes of a
stay----With 2 days left before TaiChin Preyor's scheduled execution, his
lawyers have tried just about everything to stop it. That includes alleging
that his previous counsel committed fraud.
With 2 days left before TaiChin Preyor's scheduled execution, his lawyers have
tried just about everything to stop it. That includes alleging that his
previous counsel - a disbarred California attorney and a probate and real
estate lawyer who reportedly relied on Wikipedia to research Texas legal
procedure - committed fraud against a federal court.
So far, they've had no luck.
Preyor, 46, is set to be executed Thursday night for the 2004 killing of a
20-year-old San Antonio woman during a home invasion. If he doesn't receive a
stay, it will be the state's 5th execution of the year - and end the unusually
long 4-month lull in Texas' death chamber.
In recent weeks, Preyor's attorneys have filed a flurry of pleas, with the
Texas governor and in state and federal court. They have argued Preyor should
be spared the death penalty because his original attorney overlooked an abusive
childhood and because his appellate attorneys were incompetent.
The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one. "Even if you are someone who
believes that there is a role for the death penalty to play with respect to
certain crimes, there has to be a baseline there that the person ... was
capably and competently represented throughout all of his proceedings," said
Cate Stetson, one of Preyor's current attorneys. "And that baseline clearly was
not met here."
On Monday afternoon, both the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and a federal
district court rejected Preyor's requests for a stay. Preyor will appeal now to
the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Texas and Bexar County have requested that the execution proceed, noting that
it "has been postponed for over a year in order to accommodate [Preyor] and his
attorneys, but at the expense of the victims and the state's interest in
In court, Bexar County prosecutors accused Preyor of breaking into Jami
Tackett's apartment in the early hours of a February morning. Tackett was in
bed with Jason Garza, who testified that Preyor attacked and stabbed him before
he ran away to call for help. With Garza gone, Preyor stabbed Tackett multiple
times, killing her. He was arrested at the scene covered in her blood.
Preyor claimed he acted in self-defense. In a statement to police, he said
Tackett, who sold him drugs, had invited him over and ambushed him with Garza.
Preyor said he pulled out his knife after the 2 began attacking him and that he
didn't intend to hurt Tackett "that bad."
A jury was unconvinced. They found him guilty and sentenced him to death.
Preyor's current attorneys aren't focusing on his conviction but on his death
sentence. They argue the lawyer who represented Preyor during his sentencing,
Michael Gross, failed to present evidence about Preyor's abusive childhood,
which they argue could have swayed a jury to give him life in prison.
"Gross failed to hire a mitigation specialist, failed to investigate known red
flags regarding Preyor's childhood, neglected to interview family members
regarding Preyor's childhood and social history, and neglected to follow up on
not 1, but 2, medical professionals' recommendations that Preyor be screened
for mental illness or other executive-function issues affecting his capacity
and judgment," Stetson and attorney Hilary Sheard wrote in a filing to the
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals last week. "The cumulative effect of these
omissions was disastrous."
But Gross said in an affidavit filed to the court that he "adequately"
represented Preyor, and talked to many family members, school officials,
friends and even Preyor himself, none of whom mentioned abuse. "If they had
given me any such information, I would have developed that evidence and
presented it as mitigation at trial," Gross said in his affidavit.
Sheard and Stetson argue concerns about Gross' representation should have been
raised during Preyor's appeals. Preyor blames this on his unusual appellate
After becoming frustrated with Preyor's court-appointed lawyer during his
post-conviction appeal, Preyor's mother turned to Philip Jefferson, a disbarred
California attorney who claimed he was retired, according to Preyor's most
recent court filing. Preyor claims Jefferson did most of the heavy lifting in
the case and had Brandy Estelle, a California attorney who specialized in
probate and real estate law, file documents to the court.
Estelle relied on Wikipedia to research Texas habeas procedures, Preyor
alleged, and Preyor's appeals were denied in federal court.
"The federal habeas petition filed in this court ... was so abysmal that it
subsequently became an exemplar, circulated among habeas attorneys, as an
example of what not to do," Preyor's attorneys wrote.
Preyor also alleged that Estelle committed fraud against the court by hiding
Jefferson's role and requesting payment for her legal services from the
appellate court, even though Preyor's family had already paid her.
Estelle did not respond to requests for comment for this story, and Jefferson
could not be reached for comment. But on Monday afternoon, a federal court
dismissed that fraud allegation, saying Estelle "competently represented"
"There has been no showing of any attempt to defile the court, much less
egregious misconduct that rises to the level of bribery or fabrication of
evidence," District Court Judge Fred Biery wrote.
Preyor has also requested that the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Texas
Gov. Greg Abbott grant him clemency and commute his sentence to life in prison.
The board is expected to vote on his case Tuesday afternoon, but rarely
recommends relief to the governor. Abbott has not stopped an execution since
taking office in 2015. "Mr. Preyor experienced severe sexual and physical abuse
as a child, but that compelling mitigation evidence has never been heard by any
court," Stetson said Monday evening after the court rulings. "The appellate
courts or the Governor should allow Mr. Preyor the opportunity to be
represented by capable, competent, and licensed attorneys before his execution
(source: Texas Tribune)
Capital case bears more scrutiny
We have had the case of the Sleeping Lawyer. Then came the case of the Drunk
Lawyer. Now we have the case of the Disbarred Lawyer.
As governor of Texas, I authorized 19 executions. Since then, I have seen many
cases of profoundly deficient lawyering for people who were sent to death row.
But what happened to TaiChin Preyor, who is scheduled for execution on July 27,
is beyond the pale.
Mr. Preyor was convicted of a murder in San Antonio and sentenced to death in
2005. His mother, Margaret Mendez, would do anything to save her son's life. A
longtime employee of the U.S. Postal Service, she did not have hundreds of
thousands of dollars to spend on a dream team to get her son's conviction
Ms. Mendez's niece introduced her to Philip Jefferson at a Thanksgiving dinner
in 2007. Mr. Jefferson presented himself as a "retired" lawyer. In reality, he
had been disbarred in California almost 20 years earlier. He claimed to be
associated with Johnnie Cochran, who famously won a not guilty verdict for O.
J. Simpson, and Ms. Mendez was understandably impressed. He said that due to
his "retired" status, he would have to bring in an associate to sign and file
Thus began an extraordinary fraud not only on Mr. Preyor's mother but also the
courts. The lawyer who worked at Mr. Jefferson's direction, Brandy Estelle, had
a probate, estate planning and real estate law practice in California. She had
no experience in death penalty cases.
Ms. Estelle did not disclose to the courts that Mr. Jefferson was guiding the
litigation or that the 2 sought duplicate payments from both Ms. Mendez and the
5th Circuit Court of Appeals. All told, Ms. Mendez paid $45,000, cleaning out
her savings and retirement funds, while Ms. Estelle sought compensation from
the 5th Circuit for some of the same work without Ms. Mendez's knowledge.
No one will be surprised to learn that the "representation" the disbarred Mr.
Jefferson and the unqualified Ms. Estelle provided was shockingly deficient in
ways that are rarely seen. They filed a habeas corpus petition on Mr. Preyor's
behalf that had no citations to the record or evidence outside the record. The
federal court denied the petition, finding that it disregarded applicable
Most disturbingly, Mr. Jefferson and Ms. Estelle completely missed the fact
that Mr. Preyor's trial counsel had conducted a subpar investigation into Mr.
Preyor's background. If he had provided effective assistance, he would have
found and presented compelling mitigation evidence about Mr. Preyor's
childhood, which was replete with violence and sexual abuse.
The violence and sexual abuse that Mr. Preyor experienced does not excuse his
crime, but it could have led the jury to a greater understanding. If only 1
juror had heard the mitigation evidence and been persuaded that Mr. Preyor was
not the "worst of the worst," he would be serving a life sentence today.
It's not too late to fix this disturbing injustice. In May - a short 8 weeks
before Mr. Preyor's scheduled execution date - the U.S. District Court for the
Western District of Texas authorized funding for new attorneys, with valid law
licenses, to investigate and prepare a case for Mr. Preyor. These attorneys
have filed a clemency petition asking Gov. Greg Abbott to commute his death
sentence to life or, at the least, grant a reprieve to allow his new attorneys
to complete their work.
I believe there are rare cases where the death penalty is the appropriate
punishment. If we are to have capital punishment, we must afford defendants the
protections that are enshrined in our Constitution. The Sixth Amendment is
clear that the accused shall have the right to the assistance of counsel. At
its most basic, that means a qualified lawyer with a law license, not one who
has been prohibited from practice.
The integrity of our system demands that Mr. Preyor's claims receive a fair
hearing before his execution can proceed.
(source: Commentary; Mark White served as governor of Texas from 1983 to 1987
and Texas attorney general from 1979 to 1983----San Antonio Express-News)
Texas 7 Prison Escapee On Death Row Loses Federal Appeal
A death row inmate who was part of the notorious "Texas 7" gang of escaped
prisoners has lost a federal court appeal, moving him a step closer to
Joseph Garcia has been turned down at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Attorneys for the 45-year-old Garcia argued he had deficient legal help at his
trial and during earlier appeals.
After their December 2000 breakout from a South Texas prison, the gang
committed numerous robberies, including the Christmas Eve holdup of a sporting
goods store in the Dallas suburb of Irving where a police officer, 29-year-old
Aubrey Hawkins, was killed.
The fugitives were captured in Colorado after a 6-week national manhunt. One
killed himself there.
Garcia and 2 others remain on death row. 3 have been executed.
(source: Associated Press)
Man accused of letting migrants die in hot truck may face death penalty
The truck driver accused of smuggling at least 39 people in Texas over the
weekend could face the death penalty or life in prison after 10 of the people
died from being locked in the man's unventilated trailer in 100-degree heat,
prosecutors announced Monday.
One of the deadliest cases of human smuggling in the U.S. in recent memory was
discovered early Sunday morning, when San Antonio police found that a truck
parked outside a Walmart was stuffed with undocumented immigrants. The truck's
refrigeration system did not work, the driver, James Matthew Bradley Jr., later
told investigators - and by the time police found them, at least people had
already died from heat exposure and asphyxiation.
Another 30 people were taken to local hospitals. 2 later died - including 1
overnight on Sunday, just hours before Bradley arrived in court Monday morning
for the federal crime of smuggling illegal aliens. Under that law, smugglers
can face the possibility of the death penalty if any of the people they're
According to the prosecutors[ complaint, Bradley told investigators that he was
traveling from Laredo, Texas, to San Antonio, and he did not know that people
were in his truck until he stopped at the Walmart. Once he realized there were
people in his truck, he called his wife and tried to help them.
He did not dial 911. The immigrants were only discovered when 1 approached a
Walmart employee and asked for water.
"The South Texas heat is punishing this time of year. These people were
helpless in the hands of their transporters," Richard L. Durbin Jr., the U.S.
attorney for the Western District of Texas, said in a statement before charges
were filed. "Imagine their suffering, trapped in a stifling trailer in
Pharmacology profs call drug in Ohio execution 'unsuitable'
15 pharmacology professors are arguing to stop the impending execution of a
condemned Ohio killer on grounds that a sedative being used is incapable of
inducing unconsciousness or preventing severe pain.
In a brief filed at the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, the professors called the
record on the sedative midazolam "profoundly troubling" and said it's
"unsuitable" as an execution drug.
Their filing comes as Ohio prepares to resume executions after a more than
WKYC's Monica Robins spoke about the new filings and other factors ahead of
Wednesday's execution on our Facebook Live.
Ronald Phillips is scheduled to die Wednesday for the 1993 rape and killing of
his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter in Akron.
Phillips and 2 other inmates have asked the high court for stays as they appeal
Ohio's lethal injection method. Phillips is also pursuing a separate
(source: Associated Press)
Ronald Phillips Set to Die in Ohio's 1st Execution in 3 Years
Father Lawrence Hummer had been told the lethal injection of Dennis McGuire
would probably take about 5 minutes. Just about that much time had passed when
something ghastly happened.
"He started struggling for breath," said Hummer, who knew McGuire from Masses
he celebrated for Ohio's Catholic death-row prisoners and volunteered to be a
witness at his January 2014 execution.
"I was trying to calm his children down when all of a sudden I heard audible
gagging. I thought it was another witness, but when I looked back to [McGuire],
he was the one gagging," Hummer said. "Your instinct is to help or stop it, but
of course nobody could do a thing."
According to multiple witnesses, McGuire gasped, snorted and heaved for up to
15 minutes before he was finally pronounced dead, ending Ohio's longest
execution - and its 1st using an untested 2-drug cocktail.
More than 3 years later, Ohio has not put another prisoner to death. But after
a tangled journey through the court system and an international search for
chemicals, that could be about to change.
Unless the U.S. Supreme Court steps in, child-killer Ronald Phillips will be
strapped to a gurney at the state prison in Lucasville on Wednesday evening and
given an injection of 3 chemicals - 1 of which was used on McGuire and in
several other executions that did not go as planned.
Phillips, 44, was convicted of raping and beating to death his girlfriend's
daughter, Sheila Marie Evans, in 1993. The Ohio parole board said it was
"clearly among the worst of the worst capital crimes."
"Its depravity is self-evident," the panel said in denying clemency. "Words
cannot convey the barbarity of the crime. It is simply unconscionable."
Phillips was originally scheduled to die in 2013, but Ohio ran out of the drug
it used, the barbituate pentobarbital, and was unable to buy more because
opponents of capital punishment convinced pharmaceutical companies to stop
selling it to executioners.
The state adopted a new protocol: the sedative midazolam, followed by a massive
dose of the opioid hydromorphone. Phillips would have been the 1st to receive
it, but he won a delay with a request to donate his organs to relatives.
The state eventually rejected the donation idea, but it bought Phillips some
time. The result was that in the meantime, McGuire became the 1st and only Ohio
inmate executed with the experimental combination.
A review by prison officials concluded that McGuire - who raped and fatally
stabbed a woman who was 8 months pregnant - did not suffer any distress. But
after McGuire's family sued and midazolam came under fire for botched
executions elsewhere, Ohio abandoned the 2-drug injection.
Its plan was to instead use a drug it relied on for more than a dozen years,
sodium thiopental. But that drug is no longer made in the United States, and
the Food and Drug Administration warned the state to drop plans to import it
Switching gears, Ohio then adopted a 3-drug injection that several other states
have been using: midazolam for sedation, following by a paralytic and the
heart-stopping potassium chloride.
Despite its newfound popularity - Arkansas used it to kill 4 prisoners in 8
days - the formula is controversial. Critics say midazolam doesn't protect
inmates against the pain of the other 2 drugs and thus violates the
constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
A challenge out of Oklahoma was taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court, which
declined to ban midazolam. But in January, a federal magistrate judge halted
plans to restart executions, finding the use of the sedative created "a
substantial risk of serious harm."
An appeals panel upheld that ruling, but was then reversed in a decision by the
full court, which gave Ohio the green light to move ahead with Phillips'
execution. Although he and other inmates have appealed to the nation's highest
court, chances for a reprieve are increasingly slim.
In a response to Phillips' appeal, Ohio's attorney general argued its latest
formula has a reliable track record.
"Ohio, a late adopter of the midazolam 3-drug protocol, chose it only after it
was adopted by several States, used in over a dozen prior executions,
authorized by many courts, and upheld by this Court," the state wrote in its
Not all the executions have been problem-free, however, as 15 pharmacologists
pointed out in a brief filed Monday. Last year, witnesses in Alabama reported
that Ronald Bert Smith coughed and heaved for 13 minutes. Arizona swore off
midazolam after Joseph Wood took 2 hours to die after getting the same kind of
injection used on McGuire.
The coalition Ohioans to Stop Execution says it's just too risky for Ohio to
restart its execution machinery with midazolam in the mix. It delivered
petitions signed by 100,000 state residents to Gov. John Kasich's office on
Last week, the group released a statement from a retired judge who headed a
court-appointed task force on the death penalty in Ohio and who complained that
most of the panel's major recommendations have not been implemented - although
none of those centered on execution drugs.
The state is saying little beyond its legal papers. Kasich's office referred
inquiries to the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, which issued a
brief statement: "Ohio intends to fulfill its statutory obligation of carrying
out court-ordered executions in a lawful, humane and dignified manner."
The last time the state came close to executing Phillips, a prison medical team
had trouble identifying a good spot for the injection, he later told a court.
"I guess the Lord hid my veins from them," he said.
Whatever happens Wednesday could have implications for the future of executions
in Ohio. If there's a glitch or worse, prison officials will be under pressure
to once again retool the protocol. If it unfolds as planned, the state will
have momentum to move forward with more executions.
That's a prospect Hummer, the Catholic priest who witnessed McGuire's
execution, dreads. He said he is still haunted by what he witnessed in the
death house 3 years ago.
"It was a horrendous experience," he said. "It's something that never goes
He may be called upon to do it again.
"I have 2 guys who come to mass every week who are due to be executed next
year, and I told them, 'I'll be there for you if you wish,'" Hummer said. "I
can't abandon the guys I've been with. I mean, how can I not do it?"
(source: NBC News)
Resuming Executions in Ohio Will Not Serve Justice
After a 3-year hiatus, the state of Ohio is scheduled to resume executions this
week. Ronald R. Phillips is scheduled to be put to death on July 26, despite
outcry from groups including human rights organizations, faith leaders,
correctional officers, and exonerated former death-row prisoners.
"While much of the country moves away from the death penalty, Ohio will be
taking a devastating step backward should they move forward with this
execution," said James Clark, senior campaigner with Amnesty International USA.
"The capital punishment system is broken beyond repair, and must be abandoned."
(source: Amnesty International USA)
Diocese of Southern Ohio objects to reinstatement of death penalty
Despite much objection, the state of Ohio will end its current hold on the
death penalty and proceed with its first execution in 3 1/2 years on July 26th,
The Diocese of Southern Ohio, in partnership with other community faith
leaders, and a host of death row exonerees, is urgently encouraging Governor
Kasich to reconsider the reinstatement of this punishment given the state's
questionable history of wrongful convictions and botched executions.
"While certain crimes can be difficult to forgive, we must remember that we are
all children of God," Bishop Thomas Breidenthal said. "As Christians, we should
respect human life as precious, and not sanction death via our very human, and
sometimes flawed, criminal justice system."
Those looking to learn more or get involved with the movement are encouraged to
contact their respective congress person or senator and ask them to halt this
process, or by signing the petition via the link below:
About the Diocese of Southern Ohio
The Episcopal Church is home to more than 25,000 people in Southern Ohio. Our
communities of faith can be found in Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton, and in
farm towns and county seats all across the southern half of Ohio.
We are led by the Rt. Rev. Thomas E. Breidenthal. As bishop, he offers
spiritual leadership in partnership with the clergy and people of this diocese.
We are part of a larger, global community. The Episcopal Church has its roots
in the Church of England and is part of the Anglican Communion. There are about
2.4 million Episcopalians in the United States and sixteen other countries and
more than 70 million Anglicans worldwide.
(source: The Global Dispatch)
Lawsuit Seeks Details on Suppliers of Death Penalty Drugs
News organizations will clash with Arizona prison officials over the First
Amendment at a trial to determine whether the public has a right to know who
supplies execution drugs and the qualifications of people who carry out the
The Associated Press, Arizona Republic and other news operations are seeking
the information in a lawsuit filed after the 2014 death of Joseph Rudolph Wood,
who was given 15 doses of a 2-drug combination over nearly 2 hours in what his
attorney called a botched execution.
The trial is set to begin Tuesday in Phoenix.
Similar challenges to the death penalty are playing out in other parts of the
country that seek more transparency about where states get their execution
States are struggling to obtain execution drugs because European pharmaceutical
companies began blocking the use of their products for lethal injections.
In the Arizona case, the news organizations say information about executions
has historically been open to the public and that journalists witness
executions as proxies for the general public.
? They argued that the release of the information helps the public determine
whether executions are carried out humanely and promotes public confidence in
the criminal justice system.
"The public cannot meaningfully debate the propriety of lethal injection
executions if it is denied access to this essential information about how
individuals are being put to death by the state," lawyers for the news
organizations said in the lawsuit.
The Arizona Department of Corrections didn't have an immediate comment Monday
on the trial. The Arizona Attorney General's Office, which is defending the
state at trial, didn't return phone calls and an email seeking comment.
State law prohibits the disclosure of information that would identify anyone
serving on an execution team.
The state said that confidentiality extends to suppliers of the drugs used. An
Arizona prisons official has suggested that previous disclosures about
suppliers have led other vendors to refuse to provide the drugs.
Other plaintiffs in the case include the Guardian News & Media, Arizona Daily
Star, CBS 5 (KPHO-TV) and 12 News (KPNX-TV).
The news organizations won a partial victory last year when U.S. District Judge
Murray Snow ruled the state must let witnesses view the entirety of an
execution, including each time drugs are administered.
Snow concluded that witnesses to Wood's death couldn't see that he was
receiving additional doses of the drugs after the first ones failed to kill
A new execution protocol issued in January will let witnesses see the
injections through a camera in a room where the drugs are loaded into an
inmate's IV line.
Last month, the state settled a separate lawsuit filed by death-row inmates who
alleged that Arizona's prisons chief had abused his discretion in the methods
and amounts of drugs used in executions. The agreement limited the power of
prison officials to change execution drugs at the last minute.
There are now 118 prisoners on death row in Arizona.
(source: Associated Press)
History of capital punishment to be covered at Dangberg park in Minden
Historian Patty Cafferata will present "By Gas, Rope, Bullet or Poison: A
History of Capital Punishment in Nevada" on Saturday, July 29, at 10 a.m. at
the Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park.
Distinguished Nevada lawyer and former district attorney, Patty Cafferata, will
share the fascinating history of the death penalty as practiced within Nevada.
Cafferata will describe the methods of execution the state has used since its
territorial days in 1860 through the present, including death by hanging,
firing squad, lethal injection and the gas chamber.
Nevada was the 1st state in the union to make use of fatal gas when it put to
death Gee Jon. Through colorful commentary, Cafferata will bring to life Jon's
story along with some of the state's other interesting murderers, including the
only woman executed in Nevada: Elizabeth Potts.
"Patty Cafferata is an engaging historian. Her books and talks on Nevada
literally bring our history to life," said the park's events manager, Kim
(source: Nevada Appeal)
Prosecutors Given More Time to Decide on Death Penalty for Adam Purinton in
Killing of Kansas Engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla
The fate of the federal case against Adam Purinton is still up in the air.
A federal judge July 20 allowed prosecutors more time to make their final
decision on whether they will seek the death penalty against Purinton, who was
arrested in February and charged with the killing of Indian American engineer
The judge granted the prosecutors a 6-month stay in the federal hate crime
case, according to a KansasCity.com report.
"A stay would give the parties appropriate time to investigate and present
aggravated and mitigating factors bearing upon the death penalty decision,"
U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia said in his order, according to the report.
The report added that the stay in the federal case means that Johnson County
prosecutors will proceed first in their 1st-degree murder case against
Purinton, 52, allegedly shouted "Get out of my country" before opening fire on
Kuchibhotla, 32, and his friend Alok Madasani at Austins Bar and Grill in
Kuchibhotla was killed in the shooting, while Madasani and intervener Ian
Grillot were shot but survived.
Purinton was arrested in Missouri some 70 miles away hours later.
Several months after the state charges were filed in Johnson County, federal
prosecutors filed the hate crime charge against Purinton, alleging that he
targeted Kuchibhotla and Madasani "because of their actual and perceived race,
color, religion and national origin," the report noted
While the maximum penalty for the murder charge is life in prison, the federal
charge carries a potential death sentence, it said.
Purinton is being held in the Johnson County Detention Center. His preliminary
hearing on the murder charge is scheduled for Sept. 18.
(source: Associated Press)
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