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death penalty news----IND., OKLA., ARIZ., CALIF., USA
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Rick Halperin
2017-06-27 13:56:18 UTC
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June 27




INDIANA:

Boone County prosecutor may seek death penalty against homicide suspect


A 19-year-old was charged with murder, attempted murder and 21 additional
charges Monday in connection to the fatal stabbing that left 1 man dead and his
wife seriously injured.

The Boone County prosecutor also announced he is considering seeking the death
penalty in the case, which he called "everyone's worst nightmare" and
"horrific." The aggrevators that make the case eligible for the death penalty
include the charges of burglary, arson and rape, County Prosecutor Todd Meyer
said.

Zachariah Wright is charged with the murder of 73-year-old Max Foster and the
attempted murder his wife, Sonja Foster, on June 18. The couple had been
together nearly 50 years, an investigator said.

Other charges recently filed include burglary, sexual battery of Sonja,
attempted arson in trying to light her on fire, and the theft of knives in the
Foster home, the prosecutor said.

The prosecutor said DNA evidence helped link Wright to the murder and attempted
murder. A pair of jeans discovered at the home Wright was living in tested
positive for blood linked to the Fosters.

"This criminal episode really began when the defendant left work and headed
back to the home he was staying in. Along the way, he started engaging in
criminal activity," Meyer said.

Wright first stole a pickax and other items in the city's Pearl Street area,
and then more items from a car in the same area, the prosecutor said. Those
items were found in the home where Wright was staying.

Later, he rode a bicycle to the Dicks Street area, where the homicide and
attempted murder occurred, Meyer said.

He also tried to break into another home in the Pearl street area, the
prosecutor said.

Wright was apprehended June 18 as a person of interest. His initial hearing
should be Tuesday morning or early afternoon, Meyer said.

Max Foster's funeral was on Saturday.

The Fosters' family issued this statement:

On June 18th, 2017 our family and the entire city of Lebanon was rocked with
the news of the home invasion and viscous attack of Max and Sonja Foster. As a
result of one man's senseless actions, Max Foster was taken from us early on
Father's Day morning. Sonja was left scarred and without her life partner of
almost 50 years. Within hours of the crime, a multiagency effort resulted in
the arrest of Zachariah Wright. A diligent and comprehensive investigation
ensued and we were kept in the loop every step of the way. We are so thankful
for the relentless efforts of Detectives Tony Bayles, Amy Dickerson and Jeff
Nelson along with all law enforcement who assisted and brought us to this
point. Also, we would like to thank Prosecutor Todd Meyer and his office for
their diligence and the comfort they provided to us throughout the week. We
take much solace knowing the right person is behind bars and will suffer the
consequences of his actions. We would also like to thank the entire Lebanon
community for their tremendous love and support during this extremely difficult
time. As we move forward we ask for continued peace in our community, prayers
and respectfully ask for privacy while we continue to cope with the loss of
Max.

Respectfully,

The Foster family"

(source: WISH news)

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

Wright could face death penalty in Foster slaying


Zachariah Wright, 19, could face the death penalty for the Father's Day slaying
of a Lebanon man.

Wright was charged Monday with murder and 22 other crimes, 15 of them felonies,
Prosecutor Todd Meyer said at a news conference.

Wright was charged with the death of Robert Maxwell "Max" Foster, 73, and the
attempted murder of his spouse, Sonja Foster, 68, at their West Dicks Street,
Lebanon, home.

Wright is expected to be arraigned today in Superior Court I. Wright,
interviewed June 19 at the Boone County Jail, denied involvement in the attack
on the Fosters and a nearby burglary. Detectives had interviewed Wright as a
suspect in the burglary, but were about to release him. A routine urine test,
however, found Wright had been drinking - a violation of his probation in a
2016 burglary conviction.

In a statement read by LPD Officer Justin Fuston, the Foster family thanked
police for conducting "a diligent and comprehensive investigation."

"We take much solace knowing that the right person is behind bars," the family
said. "We ask for privacy as we cope with the loss of Max."

It will be months before a decision is made on whether he will ask that Wright
be executed for the crimes, Meyer said. He will review that decision with the
Capital Litigation Committee of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council.

Max Foster died at the scene of multiple stab wounds to the head, chest and
back. Mrs. Foster suffered a severe laceration to the face.

Both of the Fosters fought with Wright after he surprised them in their bedroom
as they slept, Lebanon Police Det. Tony Bayles said in the probable cause
affidavit.

Next to Foster's body, police found a serrated kitchen knife that had been bent
90 degrees, Bayles said. Four other knives believed to have been used in the
attacks were found throughout the home.

Mrs. Foster told LPD Det. Amy Dickerson that she awoke to see a man who was
carrying a knife standing at the bedroom door; the man walked to the bed and
began stabbing her husband, she said.

Both of the Fosters fought with that man, Bayles said in his probable cause
affidavit.

During the fight, Mrs. Foster bit the suspect on the forearm and hit him with a
baseball bat, Bayles said.

"The male followed Max and was stabbing him in the back," Bayles said Mrs.
Foster told Dickerson.

After subduing Foster, the suspect exposed himself to her, Mrs. Foster said -
she kicked him in the groin, she told Dickerson - and he asked whether she had
any duct tape.

Eluding the suspect by telling him duct tape was in the garage, Mrs. Foster ran
out the front door. But the suspect followed her, knocking her down and trying
to set her nightgown on fire with a lighter. Fighting him off, she fled to a
neighbor's home; the suspect ran south.

"This case is everybody's worst nightmare, being awakened in your home with a
stranger armed with a deadly weapon," Meyer said.

"Investigators are confident this was a random act of violence," LPD Sgt. Ben
Phelps said.

DNA from both the Fosters was found on a pair of jeans in a South East Street
apartment that Wright had been renting, Meyer said. Wright???s wallet was found
in the jeans, Bayles said in his affidavit. Other evidence was collected that
investigators believe tie Wright to Foster's death.

Multiple witnesses contacted police with tips leading to Wright, Meyer said.

The Indiana State Police Crime Lab rushed the processing of evidence that
helped tie Wright to the murder scene, Meyer said.

There is no evidence to believe that Wright was intoxicated, Meyer said.

Wright is also charged with attempted murder, attempted rape and 2 counts of
burglary, all as level 1 felonies, level 3 felony aggravated battery and
criminal confinement, level 2 felony attempted burglary, level 4 felony sexual
battery and attempted arson, 9 counts of level 6 felony theft, level 6 felony
obstruction of justice, class A misdemeanor unauthorized entry of a motor
vehicle and class B misdemeanor false informing.

If convicted of murder, Wright faces 45 to 65 years in prison. A level 1 felony
term is 20 to 40 years.

(source: reporter.net)






OKLAHOMA:

Federal appeals court reverses death sentence for convicted Oklahoma killer


A 3 judge panel for the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
has reversed part of the sentence for a convicted killer in Oklahoma.

James Pavatt was sentenced to death for the 2001 murder of Rob Andrew, an
Oklahoma City advertising executive.

Rob was gunned down in the garage of his Oklahoma City home as he was picking
up his 2 kids for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Rob and his wife, Brenda Andrew, were separated at the time of his death.

Prosecutors said Brenda and Pavatt killed Rob for the insurance money, and both
were sentenced to death for the murder.

In order to receive the death penalty, the state must prove at least 1
aggravating circumstance.

In Pavatt's case, they alleged the crime was heinous, atrocious or cruel.

However, not everyone agrees.

Earlier this month, the federal appeals court found the state did not prove 1
of the aggravating factors for the death penalty in Pavatt's case.

"What they basically found was that the state did not or the Court of Criminal
Appeals did not find the especially heinous, atrocious and cruel aggravator in
a way to sufficiently narrow it to warrant the death penalty," said Jennifer
Miller, deputy of the Criminal Appeals Division for the Oklahoma Attorney
General's Office.

In fact, the 3 judge panel said the "supporting evidence is slim" for the crime
to be ruled as especially heinous, atrocious or cruel.

They pointed out the medical examiner "said only that Mr. Andrew could have
experienced pain while dying."

The judges also focused on the 911 call Brenda made, in which she said Rob was
still breathing and trying to talk to her.

"She did not mention any sign of suffering or pain," the decision read.

"You have to have conscious physical suffering or mental torture, and what we
had in this case really was both," Miller said.

The Oklahoma Attorney General's Office has appealed the decision, asking for a
hearing before the full appeals court.

"We've gone through a lot of the appeal process, and then to have this decision
is very disappointing," Miller said.

Local defense attorney David McKenzie, though, said it's very important to have
this kind of scrutiny in all convictions.

"They want to make sure that all the t's are crossed and the I's dotted before
they put somebody in the death chamber and take their life," McKenzie said.

There are still several steps before Pavatt's death sentence could be
overturned.

If the 3 judge panel's decision stands, it could mean a new sentencing trial
for Pavatt.

Mike Arnett represented Pavatt in his trial. He said they would have preferred
the appeals court reverse the entire case but they are happy and pleased with
the decision.

(source: KFOR news)






ARIZONA----female faces death penalty

Phoenix woman convicted in death of young cousin


An Arizona woman has been convicted of 1st-degree murder in the 2011 death of
her 10-year-old cousin who was locked in a small plastic storage box.

A Maricopa County Superior Court jury returned a guilty verdict Monday in the
trial of Sammantha Allen after only a few hours of deliberations.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

(source: Associated Press)






CALIFORNIA:

Why Constitution-Loving Californians Will Continue the Fight against Capital
Punishment


Pro-death penalty zealots, special interest groups, and prosecutors hell-bent
on political gain - including a prosecutor accused of lying under oath during a
murder prosecution, another profiled by the BBC because of his infatuation with
the death penalty, and of course, Mark Peterson, the Contra Costa district
attorney forced to resign this month after pleading no contest to felony
perjury - promised voters that under Prop 66, death row inmates would have just
5 years to appeal their convictions.

"Hogwash," I wrote, and still maintain; "Prop 66 won't fool Californians."
Because, as many of our regretful, "woke" citizens are realizing post-election,
unlike carpenter James Wilson Marshall's historic discovery of gold at the base
of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1848, Prop 66's promised turbo-charging of
California's machinery of death is 24 carat "fool's gold."

But this is not strictly an "I told you so" column despite the fact that
several judges on California's highest court recently indicated that they too
believe Prop 66 usurps the judiciary's authority to decide the complex, life
and death issues at stake in death penalty litigation. And there's no need to
rehash the indisputable truth that: there are not enough willing and qualified
death penalty lawyers in California - and they don't grow on trees; Prop 66,
and the death penalty generally, exact a horribly inhumane and unjust toll on
the children of the condemned; Prop 66's death penalty deterrence argument is
pure shibboleth; unacceptable racial bias persists in capital punishment as
illustrated by the environmental disaster in Flint, Michigan; Prop 62, the
opposing ballot initiative that would have ended capital punishment forever in
our state, appeals to the better nature of our angels and could have marked the
progress of a maturing society for conscientious Californians; or, finally,
that California could have tipped the balance in the national debate on the
death penalty.

Instead, this column affirms that despite last fall's bamboozled vote approving
Prop 66 by the barest margin, on human rights, California is still better than
Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, and Texas! We understand executions are
hardly an exact science. That's a major reason they've been stalled so long in
the Golden State. And it's also why, in addition to the substantive legal
challenges jeopardizing Prop 66, they're not slated to start again anytime
soon.

Californians simply aren't quick to torture citizens to death and cover it up -
like in North Korea or in other parts of the United States even. Yup, that's
right, I'm talking about you Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Arizona, and you
abominable others too (as alluded to above, when it comes to the death penalty,
as with mostly everything else, "don't mess with Texas!").

Civilized, peaceful, fiscally savvy, state and federal constitution-loving
Californians know we can't afford 18 executions all at once, which is, at a
minimum, the number of inmates out of appeals and immediately eligible to be
put to death. Californians don't want our courts paralyzed and rendered
completely dysfunctional due to Prop 66 and the emotionally draining, morally
bankrupt, money-sucking demands necessitated by the death penalty. Rather, we
need every scarce resource available to fund the entirety of California's
justice system - civil, criminal, administrative, etcetera - not to mention our
state government, our health care system, our school system, and many other
things affecting large swaths of the population.

In fact, here in California, we need every penny of the millions of dollars we
routinely chuck out chasing lethal vengeance. We need that money, manpower, and
precious moral credibility that is lost through state-sanctioned murder. We
need it to invest in our children, our fragile economy, and our threatened
environment.

It's long past time we ended capital punishment in California. We should have
done it on November 8, but we can't give up the fight. For as the incomparable
civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., counseled, "the time is
always right to do what is right."

(source: Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an
assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015----
citywatchla.com)

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

Modesto man accused of killing wife, her 2 sons enters plea


A Modesto man accused of beating his wife and her 2 sons to death with a
baseball bat pleaded not guilty to murder charges, which could have him facing
the death penalty if convicted.

The case against Oscar Daniel Espinoza, 28, is eligible for the death penalty.
Deputy District Attorney Blythe Harris on Monday told the Stanislaus Superior
Court Judge Ricardo Cordova that prosecutors have not decided whether they will
seek the death penalty.

Deputy Public Defender Maureen Keller entered the not guilty plea on Espinoza's
behalf. The defense attorney also denied enhancements added to the 3 counts of
murder in the deaths of Espinoza's wife, Tiffany Espinoza, their son Edward
Espinoza, 4, and his stepson Spencer Giese, 9.

The 30-year-old mother and her children were found dead shortly after 7 p.m. on
June 17 at their home in the 1600 block of Bay Meadows Drive in north Modesto.
Espinoza was found outside the home with what appeared to be self-inflicted
wounds.

Oscar Espinoza was hospitalized and treated for his injuries before he was
booked at the county jail last week. Espinoza did not appear in court Friday
for his arraignment after being evaluated by a mental health expert. The
defense attorney on Friday told the judge Espinoza needed to be in a safety
cell at the jail.

There was no discussion in court about Espinoza's mental health status during
his first courtroom appearance Monday afternoon. Keller told the judge she
needed time to review the prosecution???s evidence against her client.

Cordova scheduled a pretrial hearing for Espinoza on July 10. In that hearing,
the judge will consider whether to set a bail amount for Espinoza. For now, the
defendant will remain in custody.

6 bailiffs were in the courtroom providing security during the 10-minute
arraignment hearing. Several members of the victims' family attended Monday's
hearing. Matthew Page, who is married to Tiffany Espinoza's sister and has
spoken on behalf of his family, declined to comment after the arraignment.

Espinoza entered the courtroom wearing a red-and-white jail inmate jumpsuit
with shackles on his wrists and ankles. He sat calmly next to his attorney and
answered the judge's questions about whether his correct name and age appeared
on the criminal complaint filed against him.

The criminal complaint includes enhancements that allege Espinoza acted with
premeditation and used a baseball bat in the deaths of his wife and the 2 boys.
A special circumstance allegation in the complaint makes the case eligible for
the death penalty.

Police found the victims after 2 visits to their home. Tiffany Espinoza's
family had not heard from her for about 24 hours, so they asked police to check
on her. Modesto police went to her home about 6:30 p.m. June 17, but nobody
answered the door. About 30 minutes later, officers returned to the home after
receiving a report there was a bloodied man on the front porch and others
possibly injured inside.

Police officials have said the attack on the 3 victims occurred on the night of
June 16 or the early morning hours of June 17, based on evidence at the scene.

(source: modbee.com)






USA:

Federal government will not appeal vacated death sentence of cop killer Ronell
Wilson


Convicted cop killer Ronell Wilson will likely spend the rest of his life in
prison after the Department of Justice announced Monday that it will not appeal
a judge's decision to vacate his death sentence.,P> "After further
consideration of all the pertinent legal issues, the government has decided not
to pursue an appeal of the district court's finding that Ronell Wilson was
intellectually disabled," a statement from the DOJ read.

In March 2016, District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, of Brooklyn Federal Court,
vacated Wilson's July 2013 death sentence ruling that the U.S. Constitution
"forbids the execution of intellectually disabled persons."

"The court finds that Wilson has demonstrated significant defects in adaptive
functioning and he therefore meets the legal standard for proving intellectual
disability," Garaufis wrote in a 76-page decision. "Accordingly, Wilson is
ineligible to receive the death sentence that has been imposed on him.

Wilson, now 35, was convicted in December 2006 in front of the same judge for
the execution style-murder of undercover NYPD Detectives James Nemorin, 36, and
Rodney Andrews, 34.

Juries sentenced the former Stapleton gang member to death twice -- once in
January 2007, and again in 2013 -- for the double slaying that happened after a
gun buy-and-bust operation gone wrong.

Garaufis ruled in 2013 that Wilson was not mentally incapacitated, but was
ordered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to reconsider his
decision.

Wilson's lawyers contended he was mentally impaired as evidenced by his low IQ
and his severe emotional and behavioral problems while growing up.

In a landmark 2002 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court found that executing those
with mental retardation violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and
unusual punishments. Such persons typically have an IQ below 70.

The DOJ said in its statement that its decision to not appeal does not change
its view "that it was proper to seek the death penalty against Wilson."

"Nor does it lessen the culpability of Wilson, whose conviction was upheld on
appeal, for his cold-blooded execution of Detectives Nemorin and Andrews.

They expressed sympathy to the detectives' families, and their fellow officers.

"Detectives James Nemorin and Rodney J. Andrews made the ultimate sacrifice in
protecting and serving this city and we extend our deepest sympathies to their
families as well as to the members of the New York City Police Department, who
honor and mourn the loss of their colleagues," the statement read.

(source: Staten Island Advance)

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