Discussion:
death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., VA., N.C., GA., FLA., ALA., MISS.
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Rick Halperin
2017-07-08 13:29:19 UTC
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July 8



TEXAS:

US appeals court to review case of Argentine on death row in Texas


A federal court has agreed to review the appeal of an Argentine who is on death
row in Texas for a 1995 killing.

The Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals said last week it will examine whether
Victor Saldano, 44, was competent to stand trial and whether his lawyers were
deficient for not requesting a competency hearing before he was resentenced to
death years after the initial trial.

Saldano, who was in the US illegally, was sentenced to death for the killing of
46-year-old Paul King, who was abducted from a Plano supermarket, robbed and
shot.

His case has drawn the attention of Pope Francis, who has met at least twice
with the inmate's mother. The Catholic Church opposes capital punishment.

Saldano was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to die in 1996, but a
judge later threw out the original sentence because a psychologist improperly
testified that Saldano's "Hispanic background" made him likely to be a future
danger, which Texas juries factor into death penalty decisions. The trial's
punishment phase was repeated in 2004 and Saldano was again sentenced to die.

In its decision to consider the case, the appeals court wrote that "ample
evidence supports an inference of incompetency" and pointed to "numerous
instances" of Saldano's incoherent and strange behaviour around the time the
punishment phase was repeated. Physicians offered various explanations for
Saldana's behaviour, including his isolation on death row and that he was
faking his condition to get drugs.

Lower courts have ruled that the trial court had no obligation to hold a
competency hearing.

The appeals court record showed both the trial judge and Saldano's lawyers had
concerns about his mental state, but the court's record includes no results of
any examinations of Saldano. Defence attorneys never requested a competency
hearing and the judge indicated he "had no reason to believe Saldano was
legally incompetent," the Fifth Circuit wrote.

Defence lawyers, meanwhile, made a strategic decision at the resentencing phase
to not introduce evidence of Saldano's mental condition. Instead, they stressed
that Saldana didn't have a prior criminal record, that he was under the
influence of drugs and alcohol, and that it was a companion, Jorge Chavez, who
came up with the idea to commit the crime.

Chavez is serving a life prison term.

The appeals court has given Saldano's attorneys 30 days to present written
arguments. State attorneys then will have 15 days to respond.

(source: Buenos Aires Herald)






PENNSYLVANIA:

Death penalty sought in Mount Wolf woman's homicide


An 18-year old Bronx man who attended Northeastern High School is facing the
death penalty for allegedly murdering Ahshantianna Johnson outside her Mount
Wolf home.

Edia Antonio Lawrence, who goes by "Richie," was in York County Court Friday
morning for his formal court arraignment on charges of 1st-degree murder,
conspiracy to commit that offense, 2nd-degree murder, robbery, burglary, theft,
simple assault and receiving stolen property.

Chief deputy prosecutor David Maisch said the York County District Attorney's
Office is citing 2 aggravating factors to argue for the death penalty.

First, he said, Johnson was killed during the course of another felony -
specifically, robbery. The 2nd is that the slaying occurred as part of a
drug-delivery operation, Maisch said.

Lawrence's alleged accomplices in the homicide remain at large, the prosecutor
confirmed.

'A little surprised': Philadelphia-based defense attorney Jack McMahon said he
intends to defend the case vigorously.

"We were a little surprised they're seeking the death penalty. He's only an
18-year-old young man," he said.

McMahon noted that the only identification of Lawrence being involved is a
voice identification.

"I think that's a bit suspect," he said. "We think the defendant did not do
this."

McMahon said it's a sad case.

"But just because it's sad doesn't mean he's guilty," the attorney said.

Prosecutors consulted with Johnson's family and Northeastern Regional Police
before deciding to seek the death penalty, according to Maisch, who said
Johnson's family supports the decision.

Lawrence's 1st pretrial conference is scheduled for Oct. 16.

The background: 3 armed, masked men, allegedly including Lawrence, fatally beat
the 19-year-old Johnson at her Second Street home because Lawrence believed
she'd stolen his drug money and vowed to "take care of it," according to
charging documents.

About 2:15 a.m. March 25, the trio barged into the home Johnson shared with her
mother, Noemi Capo, and started stealing property, documents state.

One of the men threatened Capo with a metal baseball bat and a knife, demanding
she call her daughter and have her come home, police said.

E Capo eventually reached Johnson by phone and told her she needed to come home
because there was a family emergency, documents state.

While awaiting Johnson's return home, Lawrence instructed 1 of his accomplices
to move Lawrence's car - a 2011 BMW 328x1 - from where it was parked behind the
home, explaining that Johnson would recognize his car, charging documents
allege.

He also allegedly instructed 1 of the accomplices to get the duct tape from his
car, documents state. While threatening Capo, Lawrence spoke about killing her
sons, charging documents allege.

'Beady' eyes: Capo later told investigators she recognized "Richie's" voice and
"beady eyes," documents state. Capo, who didn't know Lawrence's real name, told
investigators that Johnson had been dating "Richie," whom she knew from
Northeastern High School, police said.

Capo escaped from the trio while they were distracted; she ran to a neighbor's
house and called 911, police said.

That's the same time Johnson returned home and was fatally attacked in her
yard, according to police.

Northeastern Regional Detective Brian O'Melko tracked down witnesses who told
him Lawrence was selling drugs to other drug dealers and that Johnson had
collected money from at least 2 of those dealers on Lawrence's behalf,
documents allege.

'Took care' of it? But Lawrence believed Johnson was skimming money from him
and told a witness "he would take care of it," according to charging documents.
After the attack, Lawrence told the same witness he "took care of" the problem,
police allege.

Johnson and Lawrence had broken up a few months before she was killed, but she
apparently was still working for him, Northeastern Regional Police Chief Bryan
Rizzo said.

Whether Johnson was stealing from Lawrence or not doesn't make her death less
of a tragedy, according to the chief.

"She was just trying to make her way through the world," Rizzo said.
"Unfortunately, she got hooked up with the wrong person ... and paid for it
with her life. It's a tragedy to have such a young life full of promise get
mixed up with the wrong crowd."

Captured in NYC: Lawrence was arrested in New York City on a warrant filed by
Northern York County Regional Police, who allege he tried to shoot a man when a
drug deal went bad.

Lawrence, of Torrey Avenue in the Bronx, remains in York County Prison without
bail. Police said that, for a time, he lived on Matthews Drive in Conewago
Township with his aunt.

Northeastern Regional Police are asking for the public's help in identifying
and arresting the other masked men who attacked and killed Johnson.

Anyone with any information about the case is asked to call them at (717)
266-6195, ext. 105. Tipsters can remain anonymous, police said.

(source: York Dispatch)






VIRGINIA:

Defense allowed to hire experts for second suspect in Wood case


A judge on Friday allowed lawyers for one of the men facing capital murder
charges in the death of Lynchburg teenager Raymond Wood to hire two experts to
help the defense team.

Lisandro Posada-Vazquez, 24, faces the possibility of the death penalty in the
murder case of Wood, 17, whose body was found in March on Roaring Run Road in
Goode.

The attorneys got authorization from Bedford Circuit Court to hire a mental
health expert at $350 per hour to aid in the defense, as well as a mitigation
expert to prepare social history reports on the defendant at $115 per hour.

Information gathered by the experts may be used by the defense if
Posada-Vazquez is convicted to make arguments against capital punishment.

Circuit Judge James Updike Jr. also agreed to move Posada-Vazquez from custody
in the Lynchburg Adult Detention Center to the Western Virginia Regional Jail
in Salem, which is closer to his defense lawyers.

The pre-trial motions by his defense team were similar to several recently
filed by lawyers for a co-defendant, Jose Coreas-Ventura, 20, who also faces a
capital murder charge.

Along with the capital murder defendants, Victor Rodas, 19, is accused of
1st-degree murder. All 3 are charged with several other felonies in the case.

Defense attorneys for Posada-Vazquez also sought to have an interpreter solely
for their client as opposed to sharing the same one as his co-defendant
Coreas-Ventura, and the judge agreed.

Prosecutors for the most part did not object to the cluster of defense motions,
though Commonwealth's Attorney Wes Nance noted regional jail officials "are
concerned about cost" in the inmate's transfer to the Salem jail.

2 remaining issues before the trial of Posada-Vazquez are the parameters for
evidence discovery and the actual trial date. A mutually agreed-upon motion on
discovery rules is expected in the next week.

A trial date could be set during a Nov. 7 docket call in Circuit Court.

(source: newsadvance.com)

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

Pathologist says Ricky Gray's autopsy suggests problems with Virginia's
execution procedure


Lawyers for William C. Morva unsuccessfully sought to delay his execution
Thursday night following the reported concerns from an expert about Ricky
Gray's execution by injection in January.

An article published in The Guardian on Wednesday cited a review of Gray's
autopsy report by Dr. Mark Edgar, associate director of bone and soft tissue
pathology at the Emory University School of Medicine. Edgar concluded that
something appears to have gone wrong under Virginia's 3-drug method.

Edgar said a frothy liquid found in Gray's upper airways indicated that he
suffered an acute pulmonary edema and that blood found on his lips indicated
that blood entered Gray's lungs while he was still breathing. The Guardian
reported that Edgar could not be certain about the cause of the edema, but said
it would be similar to drowning.

Reached Friday, Edgar told the Richmond Times-Dispatch, "I cannot know how the
executioners intended or expected the drugs to work. If they expected them to
cause rapid and uncomplicated death ... without the possibility of a lingering
sense of panic and terror, then they did not get what they expected.

"The anatomic changes described in Ricky Gray's lungs are more often seen in
the aftermath of a sarin gas attack than in a routine hospital autopsy. This is
of concern especially given the fact that midazolam is not an anesthetic, but a
sedative often used for medical procedures requiring conscious sedation and the
issue that the compounded drugs used in this case may have lacked potency or
been impure," he said.

Gray's family obtained the official post-execution autopsy, reported The
Guardian. Virginia's medical examiner's office conducts autopsies of executed
inmates.

"This way of dying is intolerable. You can't control your breathing - it is
terrible," Edgar said, according to The Guardian. "When it is this severe you
can experience panic and terror, and if the individual was in any way aware of
what was happening to them it would be unbearable."

Because of the unavailability of manufactured drugs for executions, Virginia
uses compounded midazolam and compounded potassium chloride - made by an
undisclosed Virginia pharmacy or pharmacies - as the 1st and 3rd drugs in
executions. According to lawyers for Gray and Morva, Virginia is the only state
to use a combination of 2 compounded chemicals in lethal injections.

State law bars the disclosure of the pharmacies making the drugs.

The 1st drug is intended to render the inmate unconscious, the 2nd to stop
breathing and the 3rd to stop the heart.

Rob Lee, one of Morva's lawyers, said McAuliffe was asked for a temporary
reprieve at 5 p.m. Thursday, less than t3 hours after the governor turned down
Morva's bid for clemency.

"The reprieve was requested after new information came to light raising
concerns that Virginia's lethal injection protocol did not act as intended, and
therefore had resulted in a lingering and tortuous death," said Lee in a
prepared statement.

He added, "We believed a reprieve was appropriate to allow time for further
investigation to ensure that the Commonwealth carries out future executions -
including Mr. Morva's - in a manner that avoids unnecessary pain and
suffering."

A McAuliffe spokeman confirmed Friday that the governor denied the request for
a temporary reprieve.

"Earlier in the day he had stated his intention to allow the execution to
proceed without his intervention. That statement was based on his review of the
case as well as his confidence in the protocol the Department of Corrections
used to carry out this sentence," said Brian Coy, the spokesman.

The Department of Corrections and other state officials have said they are
confident in the purity and efficacy of the periodically-tested chemicals used
in executions.

Morva's 9 p.m. execution Thursday, according to the Department of Corrections,
was carried out without complications and he was pronounced dead at 9:15 p.m.

After the midazolam was administered Thursday, Morva made a loud noise which
sounded similar to a hiccup and there were several sharp contractions of his
abdomen.

The department said Gray's execution in January was complicated by difficulties
in placing IV lines. The procedure, which usually takes a few minutes, took
more than half an hour.

Morva was executed for killing 2 people during an escape in Montgomery County
in 2006. Gray, who murdered 7 people in 7 days in Richmond in 2006, was
executed for the capital murders of 2 young sisters.

(source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)

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

William Morva killed 2 men. His execution shows no death penalty case is easy.


Last night, Virginia executed William Morva for the 2006 murders of a sheriff's
deputy and a hospital security guard. Morva killed his victims while serving
time in a county jail for attempted armed robbery. He had premeditated his
escape.

Few people wrote about the case in the weeks leading up to Morva's execution. I
suspect that's because as death penalty cases go, this one at first blush seems
pretty sound. There's no doubt that Morva killed 2 men. And there's little
doubt that he is a potential threat to public safety.

But there is no such thing as a routine execution. A criminal-justice system
built and run by flawed human beings will always be flawed. Because an
execution is the ultimate punishment, and because it's irreversible, every
state killing presents some profound moral quandaries. This one is no
different.

Mental illness Morva suffered from severe mental illness. In his statement
denying Morva clemency, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) pointed out that
while the three mental health professionals who evaluated Morva at trial found
signs of mental illness, all 3 found that "he did not suffer from any condition
that would have prevented him from committing these acts consciously and fully
understanding their consequences." But as Liliana Segura reported for the
Intercept, it appears that those evaluations were based on incomplete reviews
of Morva's history. (Disclosure: Segura is my wife.) In interviews with Morva's
friends and family, along with reviews of letters he has written over the
years, Segura paints a portrait of a man who was spiraling into delusional
behavior well before he committed his crimes.

According to friends who new him well, Morva began acting strangely in his late
teens. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, for example, Morva told friends
that he was on a special team of people tasked with saving the world. There's
evidence that Morva was abused, at least psychologically. His father apparently
made him wear dresses to school to "toughen" him up. A man who described
himself as Morva's best friend told Segura that when they were roommates, Morva
would spend hours in the bathroom, a strange ritual that eventually caused the
friend to ask Morva to move out. Morva said all the time in the bathroom was
necessary to his digestive issues. He began a bizarre diet of pine cones, raw
meat, and cheese. His 1st arrest came after he was found on the floor,
pants-less, in a Virginia Tech campus bathroom.

When his father died, Morva showed up at the funeral barefoot. The Post's Ann
Marimow reported Friday, Morva often "went barefoot in winter, sometimes slept
in the woods and told people he had special powers and was in training to fight
in the wild on behalf of Native Americans." This was all before Morva had
committed any serious crime. Which is to say this was not feigned behavior
aimed at escaping the death penalty. Yet the jurors who sentenced Morva to die
heard almost none of it.

Morva's arrest for attempted armed robbery came in 2005, when he and another
man tried to rob a convenience store, apparently due to Morva's delusional
belief that his mother was destitute after his father's death. The effort was
laughably inept. The men gave up on the heist when they couldn't get the door
open. Morva didn't steal a single item and didn't point his gun at anyone.
Morva was then kept in a crowded county jail for more than a year. His mental
illness went diagnosed and untreated. As 1 of Morva's friends told Segura, "We
were like, 'Look, Will is not mentally stable . . . If you guys throw him in
the middle of this institution, it's like a time bomb." And it was. After a
year in jail, Morva attempted escape, which resulted in the 2 murders for which
he was executed.

Since then, other mental health professionals have told Morva's attorneys and
the courts that he suffered from severe delusional disorder and that his
illness played a direct role in his crimes. Morva believed that if he stayed in
jail, he would eventually die. That particular delusion turned out to be
prophetic.

The U.S. Supreme Court has prohibited the execution of "mentally retarded"
people, but has been much less clear about those with mentally illness. Morva's
case seems particularly tragic, because his time in a crowded jail almost
certainly exacerbated his untreated illness, and it likely contributed to the
desperation that motivated his crimes.

Politics

Back in 1992, another southern, Democratic governor with national political
ambitions signed off on the execution of a mentally ill man. Ricky Ray Rector
had effectively lobotomized himself during a suicide attempt. His mental state
was such that during his last meal, he refused to eat a slice of pecan pie,
telling corrections officials he was "saving it for later."

The parallels between Bill Clinton and Terry McAuliffe are striking, not least
because the 2 are longtime friends, and McAuliffe has raised millions of
dollars for both Bill and Hillary Clinton. (Morva's execution also comes just
as former Clinton strategist Mark Penn co-wrote a widely disparaged op-ed in
the New York Times praising Clinton's law-and-order credentials and urging
Democrats to take a tougher position on crime.)

There are some key differences. Clinton was an outspoken death-penalty
supporter, and he made a point to leave his presidential campaign to oversee
Rector's execution, a shameless display of political grandstanding. McAuliffe
hasn't yet decided to run for president, and he claims to be opposed to capital
punishment.

But the fact that McAuliffe didn't exploit Morva's death the way Clinton
exploited Rector's doesn't make Morva any less dead, and it doesn't make
McAuliffe's decision any less political. In Virginia, there are no clemency
boards or panels in death penalty cases. The decision to commute a death
sentence is solely the governor's, which of course makes it makes that decision
inescapably political.

If you're morally opposed to the death penalty, it's hard to see how you could
look at Morva's deterioration - and the state's role in abetting that
deterioration - and determine that this is the sort of cold-blooded killer for
whom the death penalty was designed. Morva's prosecutor has dismissed the more
thorough evaluations of his mental condition as little more than the opinions
of doctors hired by a desperate defense team. But Morva's trial jury never
heard the stories of Morva's decline that his friends and family described to
both Segura and Morva's new legal team. At the very least, it would seem that
his jury was asked to sentence him without being given a complete picture of
what had happened to him. One would think an opponent of the death penalty such
as McAuliffe would be troubled by this.

And yet Morva killed a security guard and a police officer. In a political
climate where law enforcement groups and conservative law-and-order types
continue to push a "war on cops" narrative, granting clemency to Morva would
have taken some real political courage - courage McAuliffe apparently lacks.

The decision to execute ought to be insulated from politics as much as it
possibly can be. The Virginia system virtually guarantee that politics will
drive the governor's actions.

Midazolam

Virginia is 1 of 3 states that executes the condemned with a 3-drug cocktail
that includes the drug midazolam, a sedative in the benzodiazepine family of
drugs that was never intended to be used in executions. Defenders of the
cocktail say midazolam renders the inmate unconscious and blocks him or her
from feeling pain as the 2 other drugs are administered to stop the heart and
to stop breathing. The problem is that there's no way of knowing if midazolam
actually blocks the pain of those procedures or simply renders the inmate
paralyzed and unable to show signs of suffering. Critics say the drug is a
sedative, not an anesthetic. (The FDA does not approve use of the drug as
anesthetic.) A series of horrific botched executions, most notably Clayton
Lockett in Oklahoma, provided growing evidence that the critics were right.

In 2015, the Supreme Court gave its okay to the drug in the Richard Glossip
case out of Oklahoma. In the majority opinion, Samuel Alito wrote that the
Eighth Amendment does not require a pain-free death, and that it was up to a
prisoner to demonstrate that a method of execution would cause excessive pain.
(The majority also concluded that Glossip didn't succeed in doing so.)
Perversely, Alito also ruled that it is up to the prisoners themselves to
suggest less painful methods of execution.

As Sonia Sotomayor pointed out in her dissent, Alito's opinion also relied on
the opinions of an expert witness for the state of Oklahoma whose only
citations to back up his argument that midazolam sufficiently anesthetized the
condemned was a fact sheet from the drug's manufacturer and a printout from the
website drugs.com - and even those didn't really back up his claims. It would
also later be revealed that the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office made false
claims about the drug's suppliers in its briefs to the court. (The Oklahoma AG
at the time was Scott Pruitt, now the head of the Environmental Protection
Agency.)

To insist that the use of midazolam is "humane" despite not knowing whether the
drug truly anesthetizes the condemned or merely renders them unable to indicate
that they're being tortured to death is a good indication that for death
penalty supporters, "humaneness" is not about the experience of the people we
execute but the experience of those who witness and participate in executions.
The methods of execution that would cause the least amount of pain and
suffering for the condemned - such as decapitation or firing squad - are
dismissed as barbaric because they actually look like executions, and that can
be traumatic for witnesses and executioners. Instead, nearly all states employ
a method that could easily be mistaken for a medical procedure. It sanitizes
the event for the living. Never mind that it may well subject the executed to
unimaginable pain.

Transparency

Many death penalty states have responded to criticism of the lethal injection
and how it's administered by making the entire process less transparent.
Virginia, along with several other states, has passed laws or enacted policies
shielding the suppliers of execution drugs from open records laws. These states
have argued that such laws are necessary to protect suppliers from possibly
violent retaliation from death penalty opponents. FBI documents obtained by
BuzzFeed last year show that there's little evidence for those claims.

But isn't just about the drug suppliers. After Virginia delayed the execution
of Ricky Gray this year, apparently due to difficulty inserting an IV, the
state changed its execution protocols. A curtain now prevents witnesses and
media from seeing the inmate until he is fully strapped to the gurney and the
IVs are in place. The window in the witness room is also closest to the
inmate's feet, making it more difficult to see his face.

Victims' Rights

Death penalty supporters often argue that all of this focus on the suffering of
the condemned distracts from the suffering of the victims and their families.
But state officials often only want to hear from victims' families when it
supports the cause of capital punishment. In Morva's case, for example, the
daughter of 1 of his victims is an outspoken opponent of the death penalty, and
pleaded with McAuliffe to spare Morva's life.

Of course, prosecutors bring cases on behalf of the community, not on behalf of
victims (though you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise). Yet while
politicians and prosecutors are eager to give victims' families the spotlight
when they're demanding death, when they advocate mercy they're often denied a
platform. Back in 2014, a Colorado prosecutor sought to block the parents of a
murdered man from testifying in the killer's sentencing phase because they
planned to plead with the jury to spare the defendant's life. Just this month,
the mother of a murder victim wrote a column for a Florida newspaper about her
frustration in trying to persuade the prosecutor to avoid the death penalty,
not just to show mercy for the killer, but also to spare her unnecessary grief.

I didn't want the death penalty back in 2006 when the murder occurred. I knew
what lay ahead for my family if a death sentence was handed down. No one
listened to me, though. The prosecutor stubbornly pushed forward with the death
penalty. All the pain and uncertainty I predicted with the death penalty sadly
has come true.

Still, no one is listening to me. If he wanted, the State Attorney for Brevard
County, Phil Archer, could decide to accept a life without parole sentence, and
this 11-year nightmare for my family would be over. So far, though, he is
determined to seek the death penalty, despite my and other family members'
wishes to the contrary. I also hear Florida's Gov. Rick Scott praising the
death penalty, calling it "justice" for murder victims' families. I have called
his office to share my story, but he ignores surviving family members like
myself opposed to the death penalty.

In the end, if you just happened to gaze at the broad strokes in the Morva
case, you could be forgiven for not paying it further attention. After all,
this was about a man who killed a guard and a deputy while trying to escape his
incarceration for an attempted armed robbery. But when you're handing down the
punishment of state-sanctioned killing, there are very few easy cases. If
there's 1 thing we can say for certain about the death penalty, it???s that
it's reserved for the most culpable, the most brutal, and against whom there is
the most incriminating evidence - the worst of the worst, and the slam dunk
cases. More typically, it's administered to those who didn't accept a plea to
implicate the more culpable parties, those who weren't provided with an
adequate defense, those who happen to live in a jurisdiction with an aggressive
DA, or those who, like William Morva, suffered from an untreated mental
illness.

Some cases are harder than others. But there are just too many problems,
contradictions and injustices endemic to the death penalty for there to ever be
any easy ones.

(source: Opinion; Radley Balko, Washington Post)






NORTH CAROLINA:

2nd teen charged in fatal Raleigh McDonald's shooting could face death penalty


A 2nd teen charged in a fatal 4th of July shooting at a Raleigh McDonald's was
denied bond during his 1st court appearance Friday and told he could face the
death penalty if convicted.

Curtis Hart Rainey, 18, was arrested Thursday afternoon on Gorman Street in
Raleigh and charged with murder in the death of Raheem Khary Lawrence
McAllister.

McAllister was shot at about 10:45 p.m. Tuesday at a McDonald's near the
downtown Raleigh fireworks show. Authorities said it was unclear if any of the
people involved attended the event.

McAllister was taken to WakeMed, where he died as a result of his injuries.

On Friday, a judge gave Rainey a court-appointed attorney and told him the
death penalty is an option if he is convicted because of his age.

Kenneth Edward Watts, 16, was charged Wednesday with murder, assault with a
deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury and assault with a
deadly weapon in connection with the shooting.

Watts, during his 1st court appearance Thursday afternoon, was denied bond.

Raleigh police have not said if more arrests are expected in the case.

(source: WRAL news)






GEORGIA:

Alleged Bloods gang member makes court appearance in Tatemville slaying


An alleged Savannah gang member on Friday appeared in court as prosecutors
continue to restart their death penalty cases against 4 men in the alleged gang
revenge slaying of Dominique Powell in Tatemville.

Artez Strain, 22, appeared before Chatham County Superior Court Judge John E.
Morse Jr. as Assistant District Attorney Matt Breedon restated the state's
intention to seek the death penalty.

Arraignment for Strain is scheduled for Aug. 11.

He is charged in an indictment for murder and violations of the Street Gang and
Terrorism Prevention Act as an alleged member of the nationally affiliated
Bloods gang. He is charged in connection to the shooting death of Powell, 24,
who was killed Sept. 12, 2016 - 5 days after defending himself during an armed
robbery.

A second co-defendant, Tyriek Walker, pleaded not guilty during an arraignment
Thursday.

Alleged mastermind Arthur Newton and alleged triggerman Timothy Coleman Jr. are
scheduled for arraignments in the case next month.

Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap is seeking the death penalty for all
4 - her 1st such effort as prosecutor.

Because the death penalty is involved, Morse must handle each trial as well as
all pre-trial matters separately.

All 4 were re-indicted on June 7 in what Heap described as a "cosmetic" cleanup
of the original Nov. 16 indictment. But the new indictment is forcing Morse to
begin pretrial matters anew.

And because the state is seeking the death penalty, attorneys from the Georgia
Capital Defender's office are handling the defense under the state's Unified
Appeal Procedure for death penalty cases.

It is unclear in what order the defendants will eventually be tried.

Savannah-Chatham police responded on Sept. 12, 2016, in the 900 block of Garey
Avenue in Tatemville, where they found Powell suffering from 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, police said. Strain,
Coleman and Walker carried out those orders and participated in Powell's death,
police said.

According to the indictments, Coleman caused Powell's death by shooting him on
Sept. 12.

(sourceL Savannah Morning News)






FLORIDA:

Legal battle to move quickly as execution looms


With Gov. Rick Scott setting an Aug. 24 execution date for death row inmate
Mark James Asay, the Florida Supreme Court on Friday directed that all legal
proceedings in the case should be "expedited."

Scott on Monday scheduled the execution of Asay, who was convicted in 1988 of
the murders of Robert Lee Booker and Robert McDowell in downtown Jacksonville.

The execution would be the 1st in Florida since a January 2016 U.S. Supreme
Court ruling that said the state's death-penalty sentencing system was
unconstitutional.

That ruling touched off a series of other court rulings and legislative
actions, effectively putting the death penalty on hold.

Asay's lawyers are likely to make a series of legal attempts to prevent the
execution.

In a document issued Friday, the Supreme Court set a timeline that included a
July 28 deadline for finishing circuit-court proceedings and deadlines of Aug.
2, Aug. 3 and Aug. 7 for filing briefs at the Supreme Court.

The document said oral arguments at the Supreme Court would be scheduled later,
if necessary.

(source: news4jax.com)

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

Hess: We will 'absolutely' seek death penalty for Kight???s killer


Of a 12-member jury in 2007, 11 believed the murder was justification for the
death penalty for Robert Bailey.

Citing the lone juror who voted against the death penalty for the man who
killed Panama City Beach Police Sgt. Kevin Kight, the Florida Supreme Court on
Thursday sent Robert Bailey's case back to circuit court for a new sentencing.

Glenn Hess, state attorney for the 14th Judicial Circuit, said he "absolutely"
will seek the death penalty for Bailey through a 2nd penalty phase rather than
settle for a life sentence.

Until Wednesday, Bailey, 34, had been sentenced to die for fatally shooting
Kight twice during a routine traffic stop in 2005 over an expired license.
According to the arrest affidavit, Bailey - a gang member with a history of
both crime and mental illness - told a passenger in the car, "I'm not going
back to prison, even if I have to pop this cop."

Of a 12-member jury, 11 believed the murder was justification for the death
penalty.

The one no vote had nothing to do with the facts of the case, juror Russell
Gillingham recalled Thursday. The juror who voted no, he said, had a family
member who had been convicted for murder "but he never believed his relative
did it, so he didn't want to go through with the death penalty."

It was that one "no" vote that led the Supreme Court to vacate the decision
Thursday, the latest in a string of Florida death penalty cases to have its
sentence tossed after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that the state's
process for imposing the death penalty was unconstitutional.

"In this case, due to the jury's nonunanimous vote of 11-1 to recommend a
sentence of death, this court cannot conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that
the jury unanimously found that the aggravating factors were sufficient to
impose a sentence of death or that the aggravation outweighed the mitigation,"
the decision reads.

The decision was a disappointment to Kight's family.

"We are deeply saddened by the ruling by the Florida Supreme Court to grant a
new sentencing hearing for Kevin's killer," according to a statement sent by
Ken McVay on behalf of Kight's former wife, Christina Kight-McVay; son,
Brandon; and the Kight family. "However, we are confident that the State
Attorney's Office and the judicial system will see that justice is served in
this case. Please keep all of our family in your prayers in this difficult
time."

As the court continues to overturn death penalty sentences - the court decision
cited several other vacated decisions in 11-1 cases as precedent - many are
protesting that a unanimous decision is too high of a threshold. Hess had
advocated for a 10-2 decision to be the threshold when he submitted an
amendment to the state last year, noting not even serial killer Ted Bundy was
unanimously sentence.

Gillingham, hearing the decision to move forward with the death penalty had
been vacated, agreed.

"I understand that you have to have a majority, but that 1 person can have that
much power - that's the part I have a problem with," said Gillingham, who
argued in favor of the death penalty during deliberations. "There was no
question he did it. ... Bailey gets to get up and smell the coffee and eat the
eggs every day; the person he murdered will never get to do that again. ... How
is that just?"

Kight is remembered at the Sgt. Kevin Kight Memorial Bike Parade, a semi-annual
event held during each of the Thunder Beach bike rallies. His friends have
described him as a "rare guy" who would help anyone.

A date for Bailey's resentencing has not been set.

(source: Panama City News Herald)






ALABAMA:

Court Orders New Sentencing Order for Death Row Inmate


The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals has directed a judge to redo the
sentencing order for a man sentenced to die for killing his ex-girlfriend in
2011.

Appellate judges on Friday ruled that Cedric Jerome Floyd should get a new
sentencing order. The court ruled that the judge who sentenced Floyd to the
death penalty failed to adequately explain the finding, as required by law,
that the crime was particularly heinous and warranted a death sentence.

Floyd was convicted of killing Tina Jones in 2011. The jury in the case
recommended a death sentence by an 11-1 vote.

The appellate court upheld the conviction. The decision did not remove the
prospect of a death sentence, but said the judge needed to better explain the
decision.

(source: Associated Pres)






MISSISSIPI:

Mississippi may execute two inmates in 2017----Drug used to perform lethal
injections draws controversy


It's been 5 years since Mississippi executed a death row inmate. In an
exclusive interview with 16 WAPT News, Attorney General Jim Hood said he's
expecting 2 executions in 2017.

The state executed 6 death row inmates in 2012 by way of lethal injection.

"Then the anti-death penalty folks decided they would attack the drug
manufacturers and go after the people who supply the drugs," Hood said.

Hood has been defending the state of Mississippi against lawsuits from death
row inmates since the last execution 5 years ago. 2 condemned inmates, Richard
Jordan and Ricky Chase, filed state and federal lawsuits. Charles Crawford
filed a similar lawsuit in Hinds County.

"These prisoners were sentenced to death. They were not sentenced to be
tortured to death," said attorney Jim Craig, co-director of the Roderick and
Solange MacArthur Justice Center in New Orleans.

Craig, who represents Jordan, Chase and Crawford, said that Mississippi's
execution method constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

"And that involves when there is a substantial risk of severe pain that can be
avoided b using other methods of execution," Craig said.

There is a 3-step protocol to execute death row inmates at the state prison at
Parchman. The 1st drug is an anesthetic which puts the prisoner to sleep. The
2nd drug paralyzes the inmate. The 3rd drug is potassium chloride, which stops
the heart. Hood said the legal battle surrounds the 1st drug, the anesthetic.
For years, the state used sodium pentothal, but after lawsuits, drug
manufacturers stopped making it.

"We checked with every other state. No other state could get it," Hood said.
"We've written letters to the drug manufacturers. They sent us a letter back
basically waving at us and they didn't use all their fingers."

Mississippi adopted a new drug, midazolam, as the 1st injection in the 3-step
protocol, which Hood said is approved by the U.S. Supreme Court. But Craig said
midazolam is not strong enough to keep a prisoner unconscious. Because of that,
he claimed that the 2nd drug can shock them back into a form of consciousness.

"You're, in fact, being suffocated to death. If you happen to survive that,
then the 3rd drug, which is potassium chloride, if injected while the prisoner
is conscious in any extent, will cause extensive chemical burning," Craig said.

Craig said Mississippi should be using pentobarbital as the 1st, or only, drug
in the lethal injection series. He said it causes a barbiturate overdose that
puts the prisoner to sleep and stops the heart. But Hood said the U.S. Supreme
Court has already cleared the way for Mississippi executions to resume.

"In a couple of weeks, we hope to get this motion filed to get the federal
court case dismissed, and also at the same time, file a motion with the
Mississippi Supreme Court to set an execution date, hopefully sometime this
fall," Hood said.

"I do beg to differ with him," Craig said. "I don't think the courts will allow
execution dates to be set in 2 weeks, or even anytime this year."

"I anticipate a couple of executions between now and the end of the year" Hood
said.

Hood said the 2 inmates up for execution are Richard Jordan and Thomas Loden.
Jordan is 1 of the inmates suing Mississippi, and is the longest-serving inmate
on death row, with 39 years.

Craig said the legal battle over lethal injections in Mississippi is far from
over.

"This is not about whether or not the prisoners will be executed. It's not
about whether they have done the crimes they're charged with. It's about
whether we as people, we in Mississippi and we in America are going to torture
people to death," said Craig.

(source: WAPT news)



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