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death penalty news----PENN., GA., FLA., ALA.
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Rick Halperin
2017-04-12 14:36:34 UTC
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April 12



PENNSYLVANIA:

Briggs Sentence Commuted


The death sentence for a man convicted in the 2004 murders of 2 Bradford County
deputies has been reduced.

A judge has changed Dustin Briggs sentence to life in prison without parole.

Briggs was sentenced to death for killing Christopher Burgert and Michael
Van-Kuren back in 2004.

The judge says the jury had not been properly instructed about weighing the
evidence for the death penalty.

(source: pahomepage.com)






GEORGIA:

DA seeks death penalty for suspects in Henry County quadruple murder


1 of 2 men facing the death penalty in a quadruple homicide had some odd
behavior when he went before a judge.

Meanwhile, friends of one of the victims said they agree with the district
attorney's decision to seek the death penalty.

Jacob Kosky and Matthew Baker face more than a dozen charges, including malice
murder, felony murder and aggravated assault. Prosecutors said the pair
attended a bonfire party on Mocassin Gap Road in Henry County last October.
Officers said they left and returned with guns, killing 2 men and 2 women.

In court, Kosky had a question for the judge: "How do I have 12 murders but
there's only 4 bodies?"

Kosky couldn't understand why he faced 12 counts of murder when he's accused of
killing 4 people.

"I think counsel can explain that to you," Judge Arch McGarity responded.

It was at this hearing where new Henry County District Attorney Darius Pattillo
announced his office will seek the death penalty against Kosky and Baker. The
suspects entered not guilty pleas.

Destiny Olinger was one of the victims. One of her best friends was in court
and said Kosky showed no remorse.

"And for that I hope he gets the death penalty," Ashley Hulsey said.

Kosky exhibited some odd behavior in court. He addressed the court informally
when discussing his attorneys.

"They're awesome. They're great, " he said when asked about the quality of his
counsel.

He leaned his head back and put on Chapstick and moistened his lips. His
attorney said his mental health will be an issue in the case.

Another one of Destiny's friends said people in the community have also
questioned Kosky's mental health.

Brittanie Bullington said it's a shame her friend is gone and she really misses
her.

"So much, like, it hurts every day," she said.

There were about 40 family and friends of the victims in court. They were very
emotional during Kosky's hearing.

They didn't like Kosky's comments about the slayings and the charges he faces.

(source: WSB TV news)






FLORIDA:

Jury could decide for 3rd time on 39-year-old death penalty case


One of Orange County's oldest murder cases could be heading back to a jury for
the 3rd time.

William White was convicted of killing Gracie Mae Crawford in 1978. 2 juries
gave him the death penalty.

White's case was back in court on Tuesday following the upheaval around Orange
Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala's stance against the death penalty.

Lake and Marion County State Attorney Brad King's office is now in charge of
the case after Gov. Rick Scott took away 21 murder cases from Ayala.

King's office must now decide whether it's worth the time and money to dig up
40-year-old witnesses and evidence.

White's attorney, Kevin Beck, spoke to Channel 9's Field Sutton at the
courthouse Tuesday.

Beck believes there could be 2 outcomes: King could pursue death for a third
time against his client; or the amount of time that has passed could end up
saving White's life.

(source: WFTV news)

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

State seeks death penalty for Evans Sineace and Miguel Figueroa accused of
killing Tomas Pedro----Police arrested 2 men in April 2016


Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for 2 men in jail accused of killing
a Boynton Beach man.

Evans Sineace appeared in court for a brief hearing Tuesday morning.
Co-defendant Miguel Figueroa was too sick for deputies to transfer him from the
jail to the courthouse.

Boynton Beach police arrested both men in April of last year. They face murder
charges in the death of Tomas Pedro. Investigators believe the pair robbed and
killed Pedro at Pence Park.

Lawyers don't expect the case to go to trial until next year. A judge set a
follow-up hearing in the case for June.

(source: WPTV news)

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

State Attorney Ayala files lawsuit against Gov. Scott in death penalty cases


State attorney Aramis Ayala has taken the first step to challenge her removal
from death penalty cases by Gov. Rick Scott.

Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala has filed a federal lawsuit against
Gov. Rick Scott, who re-assigned 23 death penalty cases to another prosecutor
after she announced she will not seek capital punishment as a sentence while in
office.

"The governor did not take this drastic step because of any misconduct on
Ayala's part, but simply because he disagreed with her reasoned prosecutorial
determination not to seek the death penalty under current circumstances,"
Ayala's attorney, Roy Austin, wrote in the complaint.

The federal lawsuit names as defendants Scott and the prosecutor he chose to
replace Ayala in the death penalty cases - State Attorney Brad King, whose
district includes Marion and Lake counties.

"All State Attorney Ayala wants is the ability to seek justice for her
community in the best way that she knows based on facts and data," Austin said
on Tuesday. "We are asking the Florida Supreme Court and the U.S. District
Court in Orlando to ensure the integrity and independence of the justice system
as both federal and state law require."

Ayala took office in January after beating incumbent State Attorney Jeff
Ashton. She did not talk about her stance on capital punishment on the campaign
trail. On March 16, she stood in front of the Orange County Courthouse and
announced that she will not seek death for the high-profile case of Markeith
Loyd, who is accused of murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend and an Orlando
police officer, or against anyone else.

Later that day, Scott signed an executive order, taking the Loyd murder cases
away from her and assigning them to King.

Scott said he was outraged that Ayala would not seek the death penalty against
the accused cop killer.

She challenged that decision and hired Austin, a Washington, D.C. attorney who
appeared in court March 28. But Chief Judge Frederick Lauten ruled that the
Governor's executive order would stand and the Loyd case will continue with
King representing the state.

King has since announced that he intends to seek the death penalty against
Loyd.

Last week the Governor took 22 more 1st-degree murder cases away from Ayala,
most of them defendants who had already been given the death penalty. Some have
had their non-unanimous death sentences vacated since court rulings changed the
way Florida imposes its death penalty.

Ayala's announcement that she will not seek the death penalty prompted
widespread anger in the law enforcement community. Orlando Police Chief John
Mina said he was "furious," especially after seeing Loyd shooting one of his
officers on video.

"If there was any a case for the death penalty, this is the case," Mina said in
March. "I've seen the video, so I know the state attorney has seen the video of
(Loyd) standing over defenseless and helpless Lt. Debra Clayton and executing
her."

But a recent poll commissioned by the Florida Center for Capital Representation
at Florida International University shows 62 % of Orange and Osceola county
respondents would prefer it if people convicted of 1st-degree murder were
sentenced to life in prison, with only 31 % of respondents saying they would
prefer the death penalty.

The poll did not ask about Loyd's case or any other specific defendants.

O.H. Eaton Jr., a retired state circuit judge in Sanford and death penalty
specialist, predicted that Ayala would win the court battle with Scott.

"There's legions of case law out there that says state attorneys have the
authority to do whatever they want to do, prosecute, don't prosecute ... seek
the death penalty, don't seek the death penalty," he said.

He or she "doesn't have to listen to victims. Doesn't have to listen to
anybody. I think that she's got a good shot. It ought to be fairly simple. It's
just a question of law," he said.

(source: Orlando Sentinel)






ALABAMA:

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signs bill: Judges can no longer override juries in death
penalty cases


Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey today signed into law a bill that says juries, not
judges, have the final say on whether to impose the death penalty in capital
murder cases.

Ivey signed the bill, which had been passed by the Alabama House of
Representatives on April 4.

Rep. Chris England, one of the legislators who had supported a bill to do away
with override confirmed Ivey had signed it into law through a tweet.

Alabama had been the only state that allows a judge to override a jury's
recommendation when sentencing capital murder cases.

The bill approved on April 4 was one submitted by Sen. Dick Brewbaker,
R-Montgomery. It passed the House on a vote of 78-19 for signature by then Gov.
Robert Bentley, who had said he planned to sign it into law after a standard
legal review. Bentley, however, didn't get a chance to sign it, resigning
Monday amid a sex scandal and a plea agreement with prosecutors.

Frank Knaack, executive director of Alabama Appleseed, issued a statement after
Ivey signed the bill.

"We should all agree that if we have a death penalty then the process should be
fair and accurate. SB 16 will help minimize unreliable and arbitrary death
sentences and move Alabama 1 step closer to ending its outlier status," Knaack
stated. "We commend Senator Brewbaker, Senator Sanders, and Representative
England for their leadership in this effort. And, we thank Governor Ivey for
her quick action to finally put an end to judicial override in Alabama. But, as
the American Bar Association pointed out over 10 years ago, much work remains
before Alabama can consider its death penalty process to be fair and accurate."

England, who had a similar bill in the House, substituted Brewbaker's bill for
his on the House floor today, allowing it to get final passage.

Alabama's capital murder sentencing law provide two possible sentences - death
or life without the possibility of parole. But despite a jury's recommendation
judges had been allowed to override the recommendations.

Alabama is the only state that allows a judge to override a jury's
recommendation when sentencing capital murder cases.

According to the Equal Justice Initiative. Alabama judges have overridden jury
recommendations 112 times. In 101 of those cases, the judges gave a death
sentence.

England's bill would have also required unanimous consent of all 12 jurors
recommend a death sentence. Current law requires at least 10 jurors. That
doesn't change, however, under the law passed by the legislature last week.

The bill also doesn't allow the law to be applied retroactively to prisoners
already on death row.

(source: al.com)

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

To the Editor:


Re "Justice Dept. to Re-examine Police Accords [www.nytimes.com]" (front page,
April 4):

Attorney General Jeff Sessions's support for "law and order" is a campaign
slogan, not a policy, and certainly not an accurate description of the goals of
consent decrees.

These decrees arise when there is substantial evidence of patterns of racism
that have ossified into organizational policy. These include using
stop-and-frisk tactics based on the color of a neighborhood, not the conduct of
a suspect; excessive charges against African-American youths at the time of
arrest; excessive use of force; and inadequate oversight of police personnel.

Mr. Sessions's review has nothing to do with helping improve policing and
everything to do with covering up institutional racism. As Alabama's attorney
general, Mr. Sessions oversaw one of the most racially discriminatory systems
of capital punishment in the country. This review is simply a cover for more of
the same.

VICTOR M. GOODE

LONG ISLAND CITY, QUEENS

The writer is an associate professor at City University School of Law.

(source: Letter to the Editor, New York Times)


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