2017-10-17 14:22:40 UTC
Death sentences continue in Oklahoma despite execution moratorium
Andy Lester co-chairs the Death Penalty Review Commission, a bipartisan group
looking into Oklahoma\'s execution protocol.
"Our overall recommendation was that the state keep the current moratorium on
executions in place," Lester said.
The commission was formed when the attorney general decided to temporarily stop
executions 2 years ago following the April 2014 botched execution of convicted
murderer Clayton Lockett and the controversial execution of Charles Warner in
"If we're going to have a death penalty, we need to do it the right way,"
However, that hasn't stopped the state from asking for the death penalty in
murder cases. Most recently, the Cleveland County district attorney asked for
the death penalty against Alton Nolen for the murder of Colleen Hufford.
"A trial and sentencing can certainly take place; it's whether that is
ultimately carried out," Lester said.
Oklahoma has nearly 50 inmates on death row; 16 have exhausted their appeals
and are scheduled for execution. But, when the death penalties will be carried
out remains unclear.
Back in April, the commission made 45 recommendations to the Department of
Corrections and the attorney general. They said the moratorium should be
extended until significant reforms could be put into place. That includes the
But, Lester said abolishing the death penalty was not one of their
"The report did not recommend a moratorium on jury trials for death penalties,"
So, at this point, there is no timeline for when the execution moratorium could
Attorney General Mike Hunter sent us a short statement Monday, saying "We are
in consultation with the Department of Corrections to perfect and finalize
Oklahoma's execution protocol."
(source: KFOR news)
State tries to prove convicted cop killer is eligible for death penalty
The man convicted of killing a Coeur d'Alene police officer will soon find out
if he's eligible for the death penalty.
Friday, Jonathan Renfro was found guilty of 1st degree murder in the killing of
Sgt. Greg Moore. Monday marked the beginning of the penalty phase of his trial,
with the statutory aggravating circumstance phase.
In order for Renfro to be eligible for the death penalty, the state must prove
one of four aggravating circumstances in the case. First, it can prove Renfro
killed Moore because he was a police officer. It can also prove the murder was
committed with the intent of carrying out or during the act of a robbery. It
can also prove those same circumstances for a burglary. Finally, prosecutors
can prove Jonathan Renfro has a propensity to commit murder.
During Monday's proceedings, the state spent a lot of focus trying to prove
that last aggravating circumstance. It called on several corrections officers
to testify about conversations they had with Renfro while he has been housed in
Multiple officers said they had heard Renfro making threats against other
officers and fellow inmates. They also said Renfro demonstrated how he could
use common jail items, like a towel, to make a weapon.
Renfro's defense pushed back though, saying Renfro had never acted on any of
those threats, and tried to prove that the convicted murderer is just a big
talker who isn't planning on carrying out those threats. Those officers
testified that it was true Renfro has never acted on any threats he mentioned.
The state also called on several of Renfro's former friends, who testified that
he helped them regularly burglarize homes and cars. One of those witnesses also
said Renfro carried a friend's gun with him sometimes, and said he was planning
on getting his own.
(source: KXLY news)
Renfro starts next phase in Sgt. Moore murder trial
Jonathan Renfro will once again go before a judge Monday to start the next
phase in his murder trial.
He was found guilty of 1st degree murder Friday in the death of Coeur d'Alene
Police Sergeant Greg Moore. KREM 2 will have a crew in the courtroom Monday.M
On Monday, he will enter the next phase of his trial, called the aggravation
phase. In this phase prosecutors are trying to show that Renfro has the
potential to commit another murder. Once the aggravation phase is over, the
case will enter the penalty phase determining how long Renfro will spend in
prison or whether he receives the death penalty.
Prosecutors have indicated they will seek the death penalty in this case.
In May 2015, Moore stopped Jonathan Renfro while walking through a Coeur
d'Alene neighborhood that had become the victim of recent car burglaries.
Investigators said Renfro pulled out a gun, shot Moore, took the officer's gun
and then sped off in his car.
It only took the jury Thursday afternoon and Friday morning to decide Renfro's
fate after hearing closing arguments from both sides.
Jurors had to decide between the following charges: 1st degree murder, 2nd
degree murder or voluntary manslaughter. The jury found him guilty of 1st
degree murder, as well as removing a firearm from a police officer, concealing
a firearm and a robbery.
(source: KREM news)
Torture murder of 8-year-old boy? Jury hears death penalty case against accused
A jury is set Monday to begin hearing the torture murder case against a
Palmdale man who may face the death penalty if he's convicted of the beating
death of his girlfriend's 8-year-old son.
The woman is also charged in the boy's murder, and she too could be sentenced
to death for the killing.
The 7-woman, 5-man panel is due in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom for opening
statements by attorneys in the trial of Isauro Aguirre, 37, who is charged in
the May 22, 2013, death of Gabriel Fernandez.
The murder count includes the special circumstance allegation of murder
involving the infliction of torture.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Aguirre and co-defendant
Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, 34, who will be tried separately.
As jury selection began late last month, Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli
said the boy suffered "extensive internal and external injuries."
"It's going to be an interesting case, believe me," the judge said then, noting
that the trial was expected to last about 6 to 8 weeks.
Los Angeles County Fire Department personnel were sent May 22, 2013, to a home
in the 200 block of East Avenue Q-10 in response to a call that the boy was not
breathing. He was declared brain dead that day, but not taken off life support
until 2 days later.
The prosecution has alleged that the child suffered a fractured skull, several
broken ribs and was burned over his body.
In court papers filed last year, Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami wrote
that a 1st-grade teacher made a report to authorities about Fernandez allegedly
hitting her son with the metal part of a belt, causing injury.
"This was essentially the beginning of the 8 months of torture and abuse of
Gabriel Fernandez by Pearl Fernandez and Isauro Aguirre in Palmdale," the
prosecutor wrote, adding that the boy was "withheld from school by the
defendants for the last 3 weeks before he was murdered."
Aguirre and Fernandez were indicted in July 2014 on a murder charge, along with
the special circumstance allegation. The boy's death triggered investigations
into the county's child welfare system and resulted in criminal charges of
child abuse and falsifying public records being filed against 2 former county
social workers and 2 of their supervisors, who are due back in court Friday for
a pretrial hearing.
Advocates for death penalty abolition encouraged by Pope Francis statement
Advocates for the abolition of capital punishment in the United States were
cheered by the pope's clear instruction against the continued use of the death
penalty on Oct. 11 as "contrary to the Gospel."
"We absolutely welcome the pope's strong statement on this issue; we welcome
the moral clarity and the leadership he is showing" said Diann Rust-Tierney,
the executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
"We've got to show people that there is a better way, that this is a
fundamentally immoral practice," she said, describing all the controversy that
swirls around executions in the United States as symptoms of that immorality.
"You know sometimes we struggle in the wilderness.
"This is encouraging us in the United States to really push this forward; this
is really the wind at our backs."
During ceremonies at the Vatican commemorating the 25th anniversary of the
promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis reiterated
and expanded on the church's rejection of capital punishment. "However grave
the crime that may be committed," he said, "the death penalty is inadmissible
because it attacks the inviolability and the dignity of the person."
"We absolutely welcome the pope's strong statement on this issue; we welcome
the moral clarity and the leadership he is showing."
He said, "The death penalty is an inhumane measure that humiliates, in any way
it is pursued, human dignity," adding, "It is, of itself, contrary to the
Gospel because it is freely decided to suppress a human life that is always
"In the final analysis," Pope Francis said, "God alone is the true judge and
"I think the pope now makes it absolutely clear, without any doubt that the
death penalty is contrary to the message of the Gospel," said Archbishop
Emeritus Joseph Fiorenza, a former president of the U.S. bishops' conference
and former leader of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. The archbishop has
long advocated the abolition of the death penalty in the United States.
Though he personally believed that the church had already been clear in its
rejection of capital punishment, "there were some," the archbishop said, "who
thought there was some wiggle room about it" because of the wording of the
"I think the pope has now put that to rest," Archbishop Fiorenza said. "This is
Pope Francis' magisterial teaching on this issue and as the faithful we have
the responsibility to accept what the pope says.
"And I have no doubt," he added, "that this is what Pope Francis has felt all
along. I am absolutely gratified and pleased with his statement."
"I am grateful [Pope Francis] brought up the issue of the death penalty,
especially in the context of the catechism," said Brownsville, Tex., Bishop
Daniel Flores. That suggests, he said, that "there is going to be some kind of
reconsideration of the language" on capital punishment in the catechism.
Bishop Flores is the episcopal advisor for the Catholic Mobilizing Network. The
C.M.N. has been working closely with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to
raise awareness about capital punishment in the United States and lobby against
The bishops' conference, he pointed out, has long spoken out against capital
punishment, even if that message has not always been accepted by some
Catholics. The pope's instruction, Bishop Flores said, makes his job of
persuading American Catholics against the use of the death penalty a little
easier. "This puts it back on the table, and we are all going to have to be
thinking about it.
"Any time Rome says something," he added, "It helps."
The specific wording in the catechism on capital punishment has changed in
recent years as the church began to articulate a more restrictive view of the
moral acceptability of its use. According to the catechism, the use of the
death penalty is permissible only when the identity and responsibility of the
condemned is certain and if it were "the only possible way of effectively
defending human lives against the unjust aggressor." After St. John Paul II
issued his encyclical "The Gospel of Life" in 1995, the catechism was amended
in 1997 to specify that the such a condition appeared rare, "if not practically
Opponents of the death penalty frequently pointed out in the years since that
the standard established by John Paul II has been essentially impossible to
meet in societies with modern facilities for the incarcerated. But to some
minds the catechism still left open the possible licit use of capital
The pope's new instruction "just closes the loophole," Karen Clifton, the
executive director of the Catholic Mobilizing Network, said. "This is against
the Gospel; he makes it very clear, and it makes our pro-life teaching
Some critics of the pope complain that this latest revision suggests an
alteration of irreformable doctrine. Ms. Clifton does not see it that way. "The
church's teaching," she said, "hasn't changed because it has always been
pro-life - from conception to a natural death - and the death penalty is not a
"It is a homicide, and that is how it is listed on the death certificate."
The church has taught that the response to a grave harm must be retributive,
"but it also has to be restorative," said Ms. Clifton. "The death penalty is
not restorative." In fact, it negates the potential of restoration, Ms. Clifton
said, a process that can only happen in God's time.
"We can still be tough on crime," she added, but the experience of nations
around the world has been that society can protect itself without resorting to
While the pope's latest comments on the death penalty were surely aimed at the
United States, the only Western state that still executes people convicted of
capital crimes, Bishop Flores said that the instruction is also intended for a
global audience, especially in those nations where Christians are a minority
and may face the prospect of capital punishment simply because of their faith.
Ms. Clifton believes the pope's comments should invigorate Catholic efforts
toward the abolition of the death penalty.
As more U.S. Catholics become active against capital punishment, she believes
the church could have an impact in reducing the number of executions taking
place. That number has declined substantially in recent years as execution
methods have been challenged and miscarriages of justice in capital cases have
"We need Catholics to exercise their citizenship on this issue," Ms. Clifton
said. A recent vote at the United Nations suggests the hard path may ahead in
changing hearts in the United States. The United States voted on Oct. 5 against
a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution condemning the use of the death penalty
as a punishment for "apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex
relations," apparently fearing the resolution would undermine the institution
at home. It was the only Western nation to do so.
"That's how wedded we are as a country to the death penalty," Ms. Clifton said.
She is eager to take a revitalized message against capital punishment to the
broader U.S. public.
This is a countercultural message, she allows. But "Jesus always met people
where they were at, and he moved them toward healing and wholeness; the
Scripture is filled with sinners and God's healing love."
"We need to meet people where they are and move them toward mercy and away from
vengeance," Ms. Clifton said.
Driver Of Deadly Immigrant Smuggling Run Avoids Death Penalty With Guilty Plea
The driver of a semitrailer packed with at least 39 immigrants, 10 of whom
died, has pleaded guilty to making the deadly smuggling run.
James Matthew Bradley Jr. pleaded guilty Monday in federal court in San Antonio
to 1 conspiracy count and a count of transporting the immigrants resulting in
death. He faces up to life imprisonment when he's sentenced on Jan. 22.
Bradley could have faced the death penalty had he gone to trial.
Authorities say at least 39 immigrants were packed into the sweltering trailer
found by San Antonio police last July in a Walmart parking lot. Its
refrigeration system wasn't working, and investigators say passengers had
difficulty breathing as temperatures climbed.
Temperatures in San Antonio topped at 101 degrees that day.
(source: Associated Press)
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