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death penalty news----FLA., ARK., CALIF.
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Rick Halperin
2017-08-20 11:45:36 UTC
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August 20



FLORIDA:

Scott takes Kissimmee police deaths cases from anti-death penalty state
attorney



Gov. Rick Scott has reassigned the homicide cases of 2 Kissimmee police
officers from a state attorney who has said she would never seek the death
penalty.

Scott signed an executive order taking the cases of Officers Matthew Baxter and
Sam Howard from Aramiz Ayala and giving them to fellow state attorney Brad
King.

"Fridan night's violence against our law enforcement community is reprehensible
and has no place in our state," Scott said. "In Florida, we have zero tolerance
for violence and those who attack our law enforcement. Today, I am using my
executive authority to reassign this case to State Attorney Brad King to ensure
the victims of Friday night's attack and their families receive the justice
they deserve."

In March, Ayala stirred controversy when she said she would not seek the death
penalty for Markeith Loyd, who is accused of killing Orlando police Lt. Debra
Clayton and his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon.

Ayala said then that she would not pursue the death penalty for any accused
criminal.

"By choosing to seek life sentences over death, we can assure that violent
offenders will never be released. They will never continue to drain resources
from this state with decades of appeals," she said at the time.

Scott then took her off the Loyd case and assigned it to King.

Ayala appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court, saying the governor
could not reassign the case because she is an elected official. The court has
yet to issue a ruling.

(source: WTSP news)








ARKANSAS:

Echols says he suffered brain injuries on death row, his wife calls for end to
executions



6 years ago Saturday (Aug. 19), Damien Echols woke for the last time on the
wrong side of a set of jail bars. He spent 18 years in prison, convicted of the
murders of 3 8-year-old boys in West Memphis in 1993. He, along with Jason
Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., denied any involvement and there were
question about the evidence against them.

Echols told Talk Business & Politics the scars from his incarceration are still
real. Each day he copes with physical and psychological damage he suffered
while in prison.,P> "I spent 18 years in prison under abject conditions," he
said. "10 years was spent in solitary torture. The brain injury I sustained
will always plague me."

The specific injury was not disclosed. Echols wife, Lorri Davis Echols told
Talk Business & Politics her husband suffers from post traumatic stress
disorder (PTSD). He has had bouts of depression, and has spent years
acclimating to life outside of prison.

"It's been a roller coaster, but we've worked really hard to build a new life.
It was and is like starting new," she said.

The couple lives in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City and have traveled
the world, giving lectures at universities and other venues about a broad range
of subjects including false convictions, the death penalty, and Echols'
spiritual views. He wrote a New York best-selling autobiography, "Life after
Death," and he and his wife helped to produce the critically acclaimed Showtime
documentary, West of Memphis. One place he visited early this spring terrified
him - Arkansas.

In April 8 men on Arkansasd death row were slated for execution. Echols, had he
not been released, would have been included. He journeyed to Little Rock with
his friend, and avid supporter, actor Johnny Depp. The trip terrified him, and
he suffered from a high level of anxiety while he was still in the Natural
State.

"They tried to kill me," he told TB&P at the time.

uring the last 5 years there have been virtually no new leads discovered by
Echols or the army of attorneys, private investigators, forensic scientists,
and others who worked to secure his freedom.

THE WEST MEMPHIS KILLINGS

Echols, along with Baldwin, and Misskelley Jr., were convicted of the 1993
slayings of three West Memphis 8-year-olds, Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers,
and Michael Moore. The boys were riding bikes in their West Memphis
neighborhood when they vanished around sunset. Prosecutors claim the boys
entered a patch of woods near their homes, dubbed "Robin Hood Hills," by
locals. The 3 boys were bludgeoned during an attack prosecutors claimed was
inspired by Satanism or a belief in the occult.

1 month later the 3 teens, all from Marion, were charged with the murders after
Misskelley confessed to the crime and implicated the others. The confession
contained inaccuracies including the time and place of the murders, the manner
in which they were performed, and he told police 2 of the boys were sexually
assaulted when autopsy results showed no sexual assault took place.

Despite the inaccuracies, and no physical of forensic evidence tying the teens
to the crimes, 2 juries found them guilty. Echols was sentenced to death while
the other 2 received life terms.

The 3 teens dubbed "The West Memphis 3" languished in obscurity until the 1996
documentary "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills" was released
by HBO. Doubts surfaced whether the teens, dubbed "The West Memphis 3"
committed the crimes.

The documentary saved Echols life, he said during a 2010 interview. The
circumstantial case and the lack of evidence raised doubts among a burgeoning
support group that included Depp, Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder, Dixie
Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines, and the director Sr. Peter Jackson. Millions
of dollars was raised in an attempt the free the men.

NEW EVIDENCE, FALSE STATEMENTS

By 2011 Arkansas officials were under pressure to release the men. A new trial
was about to be ordered in the case. New DNA evidence had been discovered
implicating Stevie Branch's stepfather, Terry Hobbs. A hair found in the
ligatures that bound Michael Moore was a virtual genetic match for him, and a
hair found on a tree stump next to where the bodies were dumped was a genetic
match for his alibi witness at the time of the murders, David Jacoby. Hobbs and
Jacoby have denied involvement in the murders.

One witness who testified during Misskelley's trial, Victoria Hutcheson, signed
a sworn affidavit saying she lied at the trial. During an interview in 2009 she
told a TB&P reporter she was under pressure from police to provide evidence and
was facing a credit card fraud charge. Her son, Aaron, was friends with the
victims, and he claimed for a time to have witnessed the murders, but his
statements proved false. She told jurors she attended a "witches gathering" or
esbat with Echols and Misskelley. Testimony from another witness who claimed to
have heard Echols and Baldwin talking about the murders at a softball game
would have likely been disproved during a new trial, prosecutors admitted.

Prosecutor Scott Ellington agreed to release them under the terms of an Alford
Plea. This unique legal mechanism allowed them to profess innocence while at
the same time acknowledging the state might have enough evidence to convict
them. It's essentially a no contest plea. Ellington has said numerous times if
new trials had been ordered, the men would have been freed because of the
changing witness statements, new scientific evidence, and "stale evidence."

'ARKANSAS MAKES MISTAKES'

Echols has had no contact with officials who worked to imprison him, he said.
Lorri Echols said the state of Arkansas is not only culpable in her husband's
wrongful incarceration, but it has been negligent in not finding and
prosecuting the person or persons who killed the 3 boys. A new investigation
needs to be opened, and the killer or killers need to be brought to justice,
she said. Occasionally, Echols will encounter a troll on social media networks
who believes he's guilty, but most people he interacts with believe in his
innocence, she said.

"In our day to day life in New York, people tend to have done their homework,"
she said.

The couple has several creative projects they are working on. Echols is writing
a book that will be published by Sounds True in 2018. Lorri will participate in
an art show later this year in Chicago.

Arkansas officials announced Friday they plan to restart executions. Lorri
Echols advises against it.

"Once again, Damien's case is proof that Arkansas makes mistakes. How many
innocent men have they executed? Is there anything else that needs to be said?"

(source: KATV news)








CALIFORNIA:

OC District Attorney responds to judge blocking death penalty in Dekraai case



The Orange County District Attorney's Office (OCDA) is disappointed that Judge
Goethals made this unprecedented ruling and has denied the California Attorney
General (AG) the ability to pursue the death penalty against convicted murderer
Scott Dekraai. Given the pattern and tenor of his previous rulings, Judge
Goethals' decision does not come as a surprise.

In 2014, the OCDA obtained a guilty plea, ensuring Dekraai would at a minimum
be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The only question
remaining was whether he should receive the death penalty for his repugnant,
callous, and despicable acts committed while exacting revenge against his
ex-wife.

Dekraai planned and murdered 8, nearly 9 innocent people, at the salon where
his ex-wife worked, so she would experience the terror and horror of seeing her
friends and clients murdered. Whether some members of the Orange County
Sheriff's Department failed to produce tangential information in a timely
manner has nothing to do with what Dekraai did and the fact that Dekraai
deserves the death penalty. The AG made an independent decision to seek the
death penalty when the OCDA was recused and should be able to proceed forward
because Dekraai would have received a fair trial.

The article above was released by the Orange County District Attorney. Orange
County Supervisor Todd Spitzer also released a statement - one that sounded
more like a campaign speech, since he's running to replace OCDA Tony
Rackauckas.

(source: oc-breeze.com)

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