2017-06-02 18:21:39 UTC
Prosecutor says state needs execution drugs
A South Carolina prosecutor says he didn't seek the death penalty against a man
who admitted killing 7 people because he couldn't guarantee to the relatives of
the victims that the killer would be executed.
Solicitor Barry Barnette said May 26 that lawmakers need to figure out a way to
restart the death penalty. South Carolina ran out of execution drugs and hasn't
been able to obtain any more. The last execution in the state happened in 2011.
Todd Kohlhepp pleaded guilty to 7 counts of murder and other charges.
Kohlhepp, 44, admitted killing 4 people at a motorcycle shop in 2003 after
becoming enraged by something the shop owner said. He also killed a husband and
wife doing work on his Spartanburg County property in 2015 and the boyfriend of
the woman found chained in a shipping container on Kohlhepp's property.
He was sentenced to life in prison without parole as part of a plea deal. Under
the plea, he agreed to never appeal the sentence.
SC Supreme Court affirms death sentence for Ricky Lee Blackwell
The South Carolina Supreme Court has affirmed a lower court's decision to
sentence Ricky Lee Blackwell to death.
Blackwell, 58, of Spartanburg was convicted in 2014 and sentenced to death for
killing 8-year-old Brooke Center. Blackwell held Brooke in a chokehold and shot
her 4 times as his ex-wife, who was dating Brooke's father, watched.
Affirmation of the sentence is just 1 step in the death penalty process, said
Murray Glenn, spokesman for the 7th Circuit Solicitor's Office.
There is no guideline in terms of how long the appeal process takes, but this
moves Blackwell 1 step closer to execution, Glenn said.
Jury to decide if Christian Theodore will face death penalty for 2014 slaying
Prosecutors told a jury Thursday why 23-year-old Christian Theodore should face
the death penalty for the 2014 slaying of Jonathan "J.J." Jeffery.
Theodore was convicted of 1st-degree murder and armed home-invasion robbery
during a week-long trial in December.
Thursday's court hearing was the penalty phase of the case, which was presented
to a new jury.
Assistant State Attorney Karen Fraivillig, the lead prosecutor, said Theodore
was "the shot caller, the 2-star general" and "the only one in the group that
knew the address."
"His executive functioning was not impaired," she said.
Fraivillig referred to a stack of medical records from Theodore's schools and
medical reports. She suggested that his mother, who was at the hearing, did
everything she could, and Theodore "chose this life."
Fraivillig concluded her argument by saying, "aggravators outweighed
mitigators, and the state is pursuing death."
Assistant Public Defender Jerry Meisner addressed Fravillig's stack of records,
saying that a man's life is "more than just a series of documents."
He showed jurors mental trauma reports and called it a "picture of misfortune."
Meisner also said Theodore is bipolar and has other mental disorders.
Meisner told jurors Theodore suffered a "lifetime of abuse" and that he had a
life-long history of psychotropic prescriptions.
He also attacked prosecutors' claim that the murder was premeditated, saying
that the "plan was never to kill anyone."
Meisner concluded his arguments by reminding the jury to not judge out of
anger: "An eye for an eye is a decision out of anger. Revenge is a decision of
Jurors will return at 8:30 a.m. today to begin their deliberation.
During his trial, prosecutors said Theodore shot Jeffery, 25, who was asleep
with his wife, after Theodore and others burst "commando style" into Jeffery's
home in the Summerside condominium complex.
2 of Theodore's co-defendants - Azalea Mendoza, 21, and Vincent Gonzalez, 27 -
accepted plea deals in exchange for their testimony against Theodore.
3 other defendants involved in the murder - Shakoy Gale, 23, Aenri Ellis, 29,
and Byron Jones, 27 - were each previously found guilty of murder and related
charges and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Court documents and testimony showed that Mendoza had driven the men to and
from St. Petersburg, trips captured on several security cameras near Jeffery's
house, at a Walmart and a tollbooth.
Security video showed 3 of the men buying gloves and zip ties at Walmart on
Cattlemen Road approximately 2 1/2 hours before the slaying.
The state said while the home was being ransacked, Theodore overheard Jonathan
Jeffery speaking to his wife, and thought he had recognized him.
Theodore looked at one of the other intruders nearby, who nodded, and fired a
single 9mm round into Jonathan Jeffery's head.
The couple's daughter was sleeping in another room, and their niece and nephew
- 12-year-old twins - were sleeping on a living room couch.
The home invaders left the apartment with a backpack, an Xbox and 3 cellphones,
according to Brandi Jeffery, the victim's wife.
Theodore chose not to testify in his own defense during the trial.
During his trial, prosecutors described for the jury how the assailants burst
into the Jeffery home dressed in black and wearing masks and gloves, shouting
that they were police to gain the couple's immediate compliance.
They also told jurors Theodore was a "2-star general in the Bloods," a
notorious criminal street gang.
(source: Sarasota Herald Tribune)
Trials delayed for 2 men charged in double murder of Bradenton couple
The trials of the 2 men charged with in the slayings of a Bradenton couple
during a drug-related armed home invasion in 2015 have been delayed until
September and October.
Jimmie McNear, 20, and Trey Nonnombre, 21, were each indicted on 2 counts of
1st-degree murder and armed home invasion in the July 9, 2015, fatal shootings
of Esther Deneus and her boyfriend, Kantral Markeith Brooks, both 29.
Just before 4 a.m. on July 9, 2015, Bradenton police officers were called to
the 3900 block of Southern Parkway after a security alarm was triggered by the
break-in at the home Deneus and Brooks shared. When officers arrived, they
found the couple shot dead in the home. Their 5 children, between the ages of 1
and 11 at the time.
A 3rd defendant, Terez Jones, 34, who was facing identical charges and the
death penalty as well, took a plea deal last month and was sentenced to 25
years in prison. Jones will have to testify truthfully against McNear and
Nonnombre as part of the plea deal.
During a hearing in both cases on Tuesday afternoon, defense attorneys for
McNear and Nonnombre argued for a continuance, citing Jones' taking a deal and
becoming a witness against their clients as reasons they need more time to
On Thursday morning, Circuit Judge Diana Moreland granted a delay in the cases
against both men. One of the cases was scheduled to be tried beginning June 12,
but defense attorneys for McNear and Nonnombre argued that neither would be
ready by then.
Nonnombre will now stand trial beginning Sept. 11. McNear will stand trial
during a 5-week trial period that begins Oct. 16 after the conclusion of
another death-penalty case in Sarasota that Moreland is presiding over.
Moreland also approved the removal Charles Lykes as the lead appointed attorney
for McNear's defense. William Bennett, the counsel appointed to the case
earlier this year, will now take the lead and a 2nd attorney will be appointed
as his co-counsel.
Bennett, along with Bjorn Brunvand, defense attorney for Nonnombre, renewed
previous arguments made in both cases in efforts to stop the state from seeking
the death penalty should McNear or Nonnombre be convicted of 1st-degree murder.
Daniel Hernandez, lead defense attorney for Nonnombre, also argued Thursday
morning to suppress the photo identification of Nonnombre by a witness in the
case, saying that he was shown single photos of the suspects instead of a photo
Homicide detective Jeffrey Bliss testified that he showed the witness a photo
of each of the 3 suspects after that witness had already identified McNear,
Nonnombre and Jones. The witness also took the stand saying that he had known
Nonnombre for at least a month before the murders, had spend several hours with
him on several occasions, including the night before the murders, and saw
McNear, Nonnombre and Jones leaving when they were going to committed the
"There was no reason why a photo pack couldn't be shown," Hernandez said.
Assistant State Attorney Art Brown argued that case law supports showing a
witness individual photos because he was already familiar with them.
Death penalty for Gonzalez
Isn't it interesting, the convicted killer of Byrd and Melanie Billings,
Leonard P. Gonzalez Jr., gets a new hearing because only 10 jurors voted in
favor of death. There was irrefutable evidence against him, and he still got a
trial and an appeal.
Doesn't anyone question why Byrd and Melanie were not offered a trial before
their death sentence was carried out? Not only did they not get a trial, they
were not afforded an appeal before they were put to death. How obnoxious is
The standard for a conviction is beyond a reasonable doubt, but I would like to
go one step further. If there is irrefutable evidence, beyond any shadow of a
doubt in a capital crime where the victim(s) never were afforded a trial, let
alone an appeal, the killer/killers should be removed from the courtroom, given
24 hours to make peace with their maker and loved ones, and then put to death
at the end of the 24 hour time period. No appeals for errors by the prosecutors
or defense attorneys. A new standard for the immediate imposition of the death
penalty for those committing capital crimes.
After all, Byrd and Melanie Billings didn't have a choice on how they were to
die, let alone be afforded a trial before their peers. Gonzalez needs to be put
to death for his assumption of duties as judge, jury and executioner.
Richard Mullen, Pensacola
(source: Letter to the Editor, Pensacola News Journal)
Alabama Attorney General responds to death row inmate's request for stay of
The Alabama Attorney General's Office filed a response yesterday to a death row
inmate's request for a stay from execution.
The AG's Office filed their response Wednesday with the U.S. 11th Circuit Court
of Appeals, days after Robert Melson's attorneys asked that same court to stay
Melson's execution until an appeal can be heard.
"Melson's motion for a stay of execution pending his appeal is due to be
denied. ... The claims that give rise to his appeal are virtually identical to
the claims raised by co-plaintiffs Ronald Bert Smith and Christopher Eugene
Brooks and rejected by this Court. Melson's claims do not lead this Court to a
different result. As such, he cannot satisfy his burden of demonstrating that
he has a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of his claims," the
AG's filing states, referring to two other death row inmates who were executed.
The document was filed by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and Alabama
Solicitor General Andrew Brasher.
The document states Melson's claims are meritless and says he does not have a
likelihood of success upon appeal. Therefore, the AG's Office is asking the
appellate court to deny Melson's stay.
Melson's attorney, John Palombi with the Federal Defenders for the Middle
District of Alabama filed a motion last week in the 11th District Court of
Appeals asking for the execution to be stayed until a judge can review and rule
on Melson's appeal regarding his challenge to Alabama's 3-drug lethal injection
method of execution. A lower court denied Melson's motion because it was filed
past the deadline, records show.
The AG's response filed Wednesday states Melson cannot establish any
alternative to the state's three-injection execution method. It stated,
"Finally, Melson cannot establish any of the other requirements for a stay of
execution because he unreasonably delayed in seeking a stay and because the
State and the victims in this case have a strong interest in carrying out
Melson was convicted in Etowah County for fatally shooting three people, and
injuring another, at a Gadsden restaurant in April 1994. Employees Tamika
Collins, 18, Nathaniel Baker, 17, and Darrell Collier, 23, were killed in the
shooting. Bryant Archer was the only survivor and identified Melson as the
shooter, while prosecutors said another man planned the crime.
Attorneys for Robert Melson filed the appeal to a lower courts ruling in the
11th District Court of Appeals last week. They are asking for a stay pending
the outcome of Melson's appeal.
The filing from Palombi seeking a halt to the execution stated a list of
reasons why the stay should be granted, claiming Melson meets the standard for
being granted a stay, would likely be successful on appeal, and that he is not
required to suggest a three-drug alternative method of execution.
The response filed by the AG stated, "Melson has been on death row for over 21
years for a crime he committed in 1994. His crime was particularly heinous, his
conviction is valid, and a competent state court with jurisdiction over his
case properly set his execution date according to Alabama law. At a minimum,
this Court should strongly consider Alabama's interest in enforcing its
criminal judgment in weighing the equities against the grant of a stay."
EXECUTION SET IN CIRCUMSTANTIAL ALABAMA CASE
Robert Melson is scheduled to be executed in Alabama on 8 June. He was
convicted on circumstantial evidence and sentenced to death in May 1996 for 3
murders during a robbery in 1994. He has consistently maintained that he was
not involved in the crime.
Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:
* Calling on the governor to stop the execution of Robert Melson and to commute
his death sentence;
* Noting the circumstantial nature of the case, and that no appeal court has
considered the merits of his post-conviction appeals as a result of missed
filing deadlines (noting what the governor said in the Arthur case).
Friendly reminder: If you send an email, please create your own instead of
forwarding this one!
Contact below official by 8 June, 2017:
(source: Amnesty International)
Governor Kay Ivey
Alabama State Capitol, 600 Dexter Avenue, Montgomery, Alabama 36130, USA
Phone: (334) 242-7100
Fax: +1 334 353 0004
Contact Form: http://governor.alabama.gov/contact (use US detail)
Salutation: Dear Governor
Colbert DA to seek death penalty in 2016 shooting case
The Colbert County District Attorney will seek the death penalty for Peter
Capote if he is found guilty of capital murder in the shooting death of Ki-Jana
Assistant Colbert County District Attorney Angela Hulsey recently filed the
motion with Circuit Judge Hal Hughston Jr.'s office.
"We've been preparing like they would seek the death penalty," said Bill
Marthaler, who along with Robert Graham is representing Capote.
Capote, 23, 1100 Midland Ave., Muscle Shoals, is charged with capital murder,
1st-degree assault, and discharging a gun into an occupied vehicle.
Police said Capote, Thomas Hubbad, 32, same address, Benjamin Owen Young, 29,
502 Staunton Ave., Florence, and De'Vontae Bernard Bates, 21, 106 Markate Ave.,
Muscle Shoals, are all charged in connection with the shooting death of
Freeman, 19, of Tuscumbia.
The shooting took place March 1 outside Spring Creek Apartments on Avenue A in
Tuscumbia. Freeman died at Helen Keller Hospital in Sheffield.
Tyler Blythe, 17, of Tuscumbia, was was flown to Huntsville Hospital, where he
was treated for numerous gunshot wounds. He has been released and still is
recovering from his injuries, police said.
Capote, Hubbard and Young have all been indicted for capital murder, 1st-degree
assault, and shooting into an occupied vehicle. Bates was indicted for criminal
All 4 pleaded not guilty during preliminary hearings.
The case against Capote has been placed on the Aug. 21 circuit court criminal
Chief Assistant Colbert County District Attorney Kyle Brown said prosecutors
are seeking the death penalty against Capote because shooting into an occupied
vehicle is a capital offense.
During testimony at a preliminary hearing, police said more than a dozen
7.62-caliber shell casings were found at the scene of the shooting. Tuscumbia
police investigator Wes Holland said the car Freeman and Blythe were in had "12
bullet holes, all in the driver's side."
Capote, Hubbard and Young are being held without bail in the Colbert County
Jail, while Bates is in jail on $500,000 bond.
Community activists say Dayton mom accused of killing kids shouldn't face death
Community activist say a Dayton mom accused of fatally shooting 2 of her
children in the head should not be eligible for the death penalty.
Bishop Richard Cox with Justice for Racial Equality and Brotherhood says he
believes Claudena Helton is mentally ill. While Cox said he agrees that what
Helton is accused of doing is wrong, she should have a mental evaluation, "the
jumped the gun," Cox said of the Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck. Cox
believes Helton should not be charged with murder and that her case should be
looked at again after a mental health evaluation is completed, "they need to
give her some help," he said.
According to an affidavit, Helton admitted to Dayton Police that she shot her
6-year-old son Kaiden and her 8-year-old daughter Khmorra in the head. Police
say Helton told officers she did it to save them from the "evils of the world."
People walking by Helton's home on Lori Sue Avenue called 911 after seeing the
children being dragged out from the home. On Tuesday, May 30, Heck called a
news conference, and announced that Helton had been indicted on charges of
aggravated murder and that she was eligible for the death penalty, "We reserve
it for the most horrific, and shocking crimes, gut-wrenching crimes, this case
meets those specifications," said Heck. When asked about Helton's mental state,
Heck said she is presumed to be sane and fit to stand trial until it's proven
Cox stood along with Donald Dominic of Dayton's New Black Panther Party this
morning, June 1, and said they believe Helton suffers from mental health
issues. "They're trying her in the court of public opinion," Dominic said,
"they're trying to get the public on their side to support them taking the
woman's life." Cox said today he believes the system, particularly Children
Services, failed Helton and her family. Police records show in 2014, Children
Services was called after a teacher noticed bruises on Khmorra's arm and chest,
marks on her cheek and cut on her lip. The child said her mom hit her with a
belt buckle. Helton appeared in court this morning to be arraigned, and stood
mute. A judge entered a 'not guilty' plea on her behalf and set her bond at
$1,000,000. Helton's next court date, according to court records, is June 15.
(source: WKEF news)
COA: Indiana death penalty protocol 'void'
Indiana's means of carrying out the death penalty through lethal injection "is
void and without effect," the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday,
reversing a death row inmate???s challenge to the Indiana Department of
Correction's execution protocol.
Judge John Baker wrote for the court the Department of Correction was bound to
enact new lethal-injection protocols under the state's Administrative Rules and
Procedure Act (ARPA), subject to public comment, which it did not do. Failing
to do so voids a protocol DOC adopted in May 2014, the court ruled, tossing out
the state's means of execution via a fatal 3-drug cocktail that has never been
used in any state or federal execution.
"Finding the General Assembly has not exempted the DOC from ARPA and that the
statutory definition of 'rule' clearly includes the DOC's execution protocols,
we reverse," Baker wrote for the Court in Roy Lee Ward v. Robert E. Carter,
Jr., Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Correction, and Ron Neal,
Superintendent of the Indiana State Prison, in their official capacities,
The ruling remands the case brought by Ward to LaPorte Circuit Court, where
Judge Thomas J. Alevizos previously dismissed the suit.
Ward was sentenced to death in 2007 for the 2001 rape and murder of 15-year-old
Stacy Payne in Spencer County. He is 1 of 12 people on Indiana's death row at
the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City.
The panel rejected the state's argument that the lethal injection statute says
the DOC "may" adopt rules under the administrative code to administer capital
punishment. "We disagree," Baker wrote, noting the lethal injection statute
must be read in conjunction with ARPA, which specifically excludes 2 state
agencies, neither of which is the DOC.
"If the legislature intended to exempt the DOC from the purview of ARPA
altogether, or even to attempt to exempt the DOC's execution protocols, it
could have easily done so, but it has not," Baker wrote for the panel that also
included appellate judges Michael Barnes and Terry Crone.
Fort Wayne attorney David Frank of Christopher C. Myers & Associates
represented Ward. "We're very pleased with the ruling. I think the message, the
takeaway, is that even though jails and prisons are entitled to some deference,
they're not entitled to carry out serious matters of the public's business in
secret, and that???s exactly what the state was trying to do," Frank said.
A spokesman for the Indiana Attorney General's Office did not immediately reply
to a message seeking comment on the ruling.
The Attorney General's Chief Counsel of Appeals Steve Creason during oral
arguments last month suggested to the COA that the legislature had not required
the Department of Correction to enact a rule for drugs used in lethal
injection, and that's why it wrote the agency "may" adopt such rules.
Rulemaking under ARPA, he argued, was "completely unworkable as a potential
solution." Barnes challenged Creason on that contention, as well as his
assertions that death penalty cases by their nature receive extensive
individual scrutiny in state and federal courts before executions are carried
out, and that requiring the ARPA rulemaking processes would not further the
purposes of administrative procedures.
"Is it not something to consider," Barnes said, "that if the state puts into
effect the machinery of death for a person that the way in which that penalty
is delivered and carried out ought to be subject to some sort of review by
whatever body other than the people who are, in fact, doing it?"
"That might be valuable," Creason replied, "except that scrutiny, that review
(by courts), that is going to happen regardless of whether you do the
rulemaking." Creason argued, "... ARPA can be used as a tool to frustrate and
delay the execution of death sentence."
Frank said Thursday the state sought to characterize Ward's suit as an attempt
to bar the death penalty, which he said wasn???t the case. No executions are
currently scheduled, so the immediate impact of the ruling remains uncertain.
The DOC "was trying to issue a new lethal injection protocol by themselves that
has never been used," Frank said. "Before we execute a human being in manner
that's never been done before in the history of country, maybe we should have
some public discussion on it."
The DOC protocol includes a never-before-tried drug called methohexital (known
by the brand name Brevital), along with pancuronium bromide and potassium
"The Court of Appeals wasn't questioning the state's ability to carry out
executions lawfully, all they were saying in agreeing with Mr. Ward is that an
individual who is condemned to death has right to be subjected to execution in
a lawful way, and in a way that the public has knowledge of," Frank said. "So
if the state intends to lawfully execute individuals, it should have no problem
whatsoever with the Indiana Court of Appeals opinion."
(source: The Indiana Lawyer)
Court upholds Arkansas death-row inmate's conviction
The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the conviction of a man who was
sentenced in Benton County Circuit Court to death for killing a 6-year-old
According to prosecutors at his trial, on the night of Nov. 19, 2012, Zachary
Holly entered the home where the girl, identified in court papers as J.B., was
sleeping, woke her, picked her up and took her to a nearby vacant house, where
he raped her and then tied her pants around her neck and strangled her.
Holly received a death sentence for capital murder, two life sentences for rape
and kidnapping, and a 20-year sentence for residential burglary.
On appeal, Holly, now 32, argued that the trial judge should have dismissed the
burglary charge, should not have allowed a confession Holly made to police to
be admitted as evidence, and should have allowed jurors to be told that Holly
had offered to plead guilty to capital murder.
Holly claimed he had a key to the home because he and his wife often babysat
J.B. and that he entered through an unlocked door. He said he had authority to
enter the home and that he entered looking for medicine for an upset stomach
and not with intent to commit a felony, so the charge of residential burglary
did not apply.
"This argument is not persuasive," the Supreme Court said Thursday in an
opinion written by Judge Josephine Hart.
The court said J.B.'s mother testified that she had given Holly's wife
permission to enter the home when she needed medicine but did not testify that
she had extended the same authority to Holly. The court said it would not
consider Holly's claim that he entered the home without intent to commit a
felony because Holly did not make that argument during his trial.
Holly also claimed that at the urging of police, his wife, Amanda Holly,
coerced him into talking to police, which he argued amounted to the police
improperly using a proxy to elicit a confession after he had asked for a
The Supreme Court said testimony at the trial showed Amanda Holly did urge her
husband to talk to police and submit to a polygraph test, but she did so for
her own reasons, believing he was innocent and should "clear his name."
Holly further claimed that during the penalty phase of the trial, jurors should
have been allowed to hear that he had offered to plead guilty to capital
murder. Jurors could have seen this as a sign that he accepted responsibility
for his crime and considered it a mitigating factor, he argued.
The Supreme Court disagreed.
"Proof that Holly offered to plead guilty in exchange for a lesser sanction is
not evidence that Holly was taking responsibility for his crime," Hart wrote in
Justice Rhonda Wood wrote in a separate opinion that she concurred in the
decision to uphold Holly's conviction but found it "troubling" that Holly - who
claimed to read at a 3rd-grade level - received 2 mental evaluations, but only
the first evaluation was entered into the record. All that is in the record
regarding the 2nd evaluation is a statement by a lawyer for Holly that he was
fit to proceed, Wood noted.
Wood said she hopes the issue will be fully developed and resolved in future
proceedings on the question of whether Holly had adequate counsel.
Christian's public defenders preparing for death-penalty case----Accused
killer's public defenders prepare
The public defenders representing Jeremy Christian are gearing up for a
possible death penalty case.
Inside the Portland office of Metropolitan Public Defender Services, Executive
Director Lane Borg knows his staff is taking on one of its highest-profile
cases in a long time.
"These are all horrible cases," he said. But said that won't keep the lawyers
from doing their job.
"Lawyers in my office - staff in my office - really believe they're making
society better by holding the government to a higher standard, by saying, 'You
don't get an easy pass, you don't get to just convict someone,'" Bog said. "We
don't lynch people in the streets anymore and drag them out because we feel
passionately strong about that."
There is no denying that passion and evidence appear to be plentiful in this
case. Court documents show the brutal stabbings on the MAX train were caught on
video, along with Christian???s confession in the patrol car after the attack.
"What physically happened, the movement of people, what you see on camera, is
only part of the equation in a criminal case," Borg said.
The defense lawyers and their investigators will try to find facts that might
alter the perception of what the video captured.
"Somebody can commit the physical act of killing another person, a homicide,"
Borg said. "But if their mental state is such that they have a belief certain
things are going on - that something is happening to them - that can raise
certain defenses, like self defense," he said.
Borg said the lawyers don't know if they'll go after an insanity defense. He
pointed out that they don't even have an indictment.
But he suspects the indictment will charge Christian with aggravated murder,
making it a death-penalty case under Oregon law.
Borg said there are more than a dozen aggravating factors in a killing that can
kick it up to aggravated murder.
"Killing a law enforcement officer. Killing a witness in a crime. I believe the
one that they will use in this case - there may be others - but will be that
there are multiple victims in a criminal episode," Borg said.
He added that if Christian faces the death penalty, his team is required to
look back 2 generations in Christian's family to find mental illness or other
issues that would explain his actions.
The guidelines for lawyers handling death penalty cases is 178 pages long, Borg
said, which is why it will likely be a year or more before Christian goes to
(source: KGW news)
Supreme Court Plaza Is No Place for Protests
A federal judge dismissed claims from 2 religiously motivated anti-war
protesters who challenged the prohibition of political speech on the grounds of
the Supreme Court.
The two want to hold candlelight and prayer vigils in the large oval plaza
immediately outside the Supreme Court, rather than the sidewalk, to which
federal law has relegated free speech activities.
John Payden-Travers and Midgelle Potts said their religious beliefs compel them
to speak out against war, torture and the death penalty, and that the law
violates their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Citing D.C. Circuit precedent, however, U.S. District Judge Colleen
Kollar-Kotelly found Wednesday that law does not substantially burden the free
exercise of their religion because it restricts "only one of a multitude of
means by which plaintiffs could engage in their religiously motivated
"Plaintiffs have not alleged that this is the only way or only place plaintiffs
could pursue these religious convictions, and it is clearly not," the 12-page
ruling states. "Plaintiffs could speak out against and distance themselves from
torture, war or the death penalty in countless ways."
Potts has protested outside the Supreme Court and says her Unity Christian
faith compels her to pray and speak out against the death penalty, war and
Payden-Travers identifies as a post-denominational Christian and says he once
led an organization that advocates for laws that would allow anti-war
proponents to direct their taxes for non-military purposes.
He has chanted on the sidewalk outside the Supreme Court in opposition to the
death penalty, and has twice held up a banner there that states "STOP
Payden-Travers argued that a vigil on the sidewalk, rather than the plaza,
during nights when executions are taking place would not sufficiently signal to
the public his conscientious objection to the Supreme Court's approval of the
Kollar-Kotelly found that argument unpersuasive.
"Plaintiffs do not allege in their complaint that their religions require them
to demonstrate and pray in ways such that the public will associate their
activities with the United States Supreme Court," she wrote. "It simply alleges
that their religions require them to 'speak out' and 'distance themselves' from
certain practices, such as the death penalty."
Kollar-Kotelly added that her ruling passes no judgment on the sincerity of the
plaintiffs' religious beliefs.
The law they challenged is Section 6135 of the U.S. Code, which makes it
"unlawful to parade, stand, or move in processions or assemblages in the
Supreme Court Building or grounds, or to display in the Building and grounds a
flag, banner, or device designed or adapted to bring into public notice a
party, organization, or movement."
Kollar-Kotelly had stayed the matter pending the outcome of a similar case
before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that also challenged restrictions on
demonstrations in the Supreme Court Plaza.
The D.C. Circuit held in Hodge v. Talkin that the Supreme Court plaza is not a
public forum, which allows the government to impose reasonable speech
restrictions in that space.
It also found that Section 6135 does not target specific viewpoints, and that
the restrictions "reasonably served the government's 'long recognized interests
in preserving decorum in the area of a courthouse and in assuring the
appearance (and actuality) of a judiciary uninfluenced by public opinion and
(source: Courthouse News)
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
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