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death penalty news----IND. KY., WYO., UTAH, NEV. CALIF., USA
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Rick Halperin
2017-05-10 13:32:08 UTC
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May 10



INDIANA:

With death penalty, life without parole possible for Hagan, public defender
forced from case


The man accused of killing USI student Halee Rathgeber could also face life in
prison.

We've just learned Isaiah Hagan's public defender requested to be released from
the case. Attorney Jonathan Young filed a motion, saying he is not certified
for the "death penalty" or "life without parole cases" in the state of Indiana.

While the state has not said it's going to pursue either of those in Hagan's
case, Young says either one is possible.

On Tuesday, Warrick County attorney Anthony Long, who was the defense attorney
in the John Matthew Stevenson murder trial, says the stress is so intense in a
death penalty case that he'll never take on one again.

"When you're dealing with circumstantial evidence the stress is just
phenomenal," Long explained. "I've never spent so much time on a case in my
life as we did in Stevenson. I know, I don't even remember what our fees were
but they were large, but I didn't make any money in my practice for a long time
and it was financially not pleasant."

Warrick County prosecutor Michael Perry tells us this motion could change the
pace of the case.

(source: WFIE news)






KENTUCKY:

Attorneys seek death penalty for Brice Rhodes


A man who is accused of killing 2 brothers in May 2016 could now face the death
penalty.

WHAS11 News talked with the Commonwealth Attorney's office Tuesday and they say
they intend to pursue capital punishment against Rhodes.

Rhodes faces 2 counts of murder and other charges in the stabbing deaths of
brothers Maurice Gordon and Larry Ordway.

Rhodes also faces murder charges in the death of Christopher Jones.

Since he has been in jail, Rhodes has racked up assault charges, accused of
beating up another inmate and face charges for threatening Judge Amber Wolf.

Police also say Rhodes tried to escape from Metro Corrections by digging
through the cinder blocks.

Rhodes is expected back in court May 11 for a pre-trial hearing.

(source: WHAS news)






WYOMING:

Judge gives prosecutors time to consider death penalty in Riverton killing


A judge has given central Wyoming prosecutors a month to decide if they want to
pursue the death penalty in a claw hammer killing in Riverton.

District Judge Norman Young gave Fremont County Attorney Pat LeBrun until June
3 to decide on the prosecution of 27-year-old Florin Brandon Wyatt for the
March 3 beating death of 56-year-old Keith Stephenson.

Court records say Wyatt had been living in Stephenson's basement and said that
Stephenson had tried to kick him out of the house.

The public defender's office asked for the deadline because it would need to
bring in an attorney certified to handle death penalty cases. Wyatt has pleaded
not guilty to 1st-degree murder. His trial is set for Sept. 25.

The last execution in Wyoming was in 1992.

(source: KGWN news)






UTAH:

Is It Time To Get Rid Of The Death Penalty?


The death penalty is a crude, antiquated form of punishment that should be
entirely disavowed.

On Thursday, April 27, Kenneth Williams took his last breath as he lay strapped
to a bed in a musty prison room. The execution chamber, which resides in
Arkansas's Cummins Unit penitentiary, is lit with flickering florescent lights.
A small team of medical personnel, prison staff and spiritual advisors wait for
the intensive procedure to begin. On that night, Williams awaited a "chemical
cocktail" that numbed his body and stopped his heart - a fitting end for a man
convicted of murdering three innocent souls, right?

Williams' execution came second out of four inmate executions. Prior to these,
Arkansas had not put a prisoner to death since 2005. Yet on April 17, Governor
Asa Hutchinson ordered prison officials to execute 8 men over the course of 10
days. Why? Well, according to Hutchinson, the state's supply of a necessary
sedative was set to expire at month's end. Midazolam, which is particularly
difficult to manufacture, has a tenured history of unpredictable outcomes.
Regardless, Hutchinson pressed forward with the timeline which strongly
resembled an assembly-line of death.

Although 4 of the 8 inmates evaded execution via court orders, the rest were
given only a few days' notice. The process began with prisoner Ledell Lee, who
was sentenced for murdering his neighbor in 1993. While each of these men
likely deserved an early death, the process of executing prisoners is
unwarranted and borderline inhumane. According to a study conducted by the
British Journal of American Legal Studies, approximately 270 executions between
1900-2010 involved "departures from the protocol of killing someone sentenced
to death." Undeniably, many sentenced to death are guilty. The legal system,
however, is far from perfect.

Indeed, there remains a chance that one innocent inmate ultimately suffers an
excruciating fate. Williams, who was sentenced for killing a cheerleader and 2
law enforcement officials in broad daylight, was one who likely deserved
punishment. Splayed on a padded table, Williams had a lethal injection pushed
into his veins as an audience watched through a glass window. However, 3
minutes after the midazolam entered his system, he began convulsing violently.
One Associated Press reporter, Kelly Kissel, who was present for the event,
described it as, "the most I've seen an inmate move 3 or 4 minutes in." During
several agonizing minutes, Williams apparently coughed, convulsed, lurched,
jerked. During a later press briefing, Hutchinson said that Williams coughed
without sound, and that an independent review was not necessary.

No report will be prepared for public record.

Instances of lethal injections gone awry are not isolated. In 1985, inmate
Stephen Morin suffered an excruciating death as medical personnel took 40
minutes to administer the injection. 4 years later, Stephen McCoy had an
allergic reaction, which left him writhing from pain in his tethers. Similarly,
prisoner Brian Steckel had his IV accidentally blocked in 2005, which prevented
the sedatives from entering his body. Witnesses reportedly heard his anguishing
screams through the glass, despite the microphone being turned off. Yet, these
incidents pale in comparison to the infamous execution of Clayton Lockett in
2014. Unbeknownst to the prison's officials, his IV apparently "blew open,"
which left Lockett squirming on the table for approximately 43 minutes.
Although the medical staff eventually found the equipment issue, the pain from
his partial dosage caused him to have a fatal heart attack.

Some posit that a murderous individual should be granted no pity; however, this
position directly contradicts the Eighth Amendment to the United States
Constitution. Written plainly, the amendment states that "cruel and unusual
punishments [shall not be] inflicted." Supreme Court Justice William Brennan
agreed in 1972 when he wrote, "The 'essential predicate' is 'that a punishment
must not by its severity be degrading to human dignity.'" Regardless of guilt,
it is unconstitutional to inflict punishment that leaves a prisoner suffering.

Beyond questions of legality, states with capital punishment programs are
forced to pay escalating costs. According to FiveThirtyEight, there are 6 main
factors that influence the price of executions: increasing attorney salaries,
the cost of experts, outcome unpredictability, mitigation, jury compensation
and prisoner housing. In Oregon, enforcing the death penalty costs twice the
amount of sentencing a defendant to life in prison. Nebraska spends $14.6
million per year to maintain its program. On a macro-level, states with capital
punishment spend $23.2 million per year more, thereby increasing spending by an
average of 0.61 %. In Pennsylvania, executions cost roughly $272 million per
inmate. These costs are difficult to imagine, let alone justify.

However, while it is effortless to condemn expense, one must not forget the
emotional impacts associated with the practice. Often, inmates remain on death
row for years, which leaves the victim's family waiting for closure. In
numerous prisons, it can be difficult to source qualified individuals to
oversee executions; therefore, the same group of personnel is recycled for
numerous cases. Similar to combat, watching an inmate pass away can induce post
traumatic stress disorder, especially if a lethal injection is botched. And for
public defenders, who typically represent death row inmates, it is difficult to
adequately represent each inmate. In Arkansas, this meant that several of the
eight prisoners selected by the Governor were represented by the same lawyer.

The disastrous nature of capital punishment is evident, and the excessive
financial and emotional burdens are unsustainable. Instead of using the death
penalty, states should invest in alternate forms of justice. Sentencing a
defendant to life in prison is 48 % less expensive than imparting the death
penalty. In North Carolina, this equates to nearly $2.16 million more per
execution. Nationally, since executions were resumed in 1976, an extra $1
billion has been spent over sentencing prisoners to life terms.

Rather than funding capital punishment programs, states should prefer life
imprisonment as an alternative form of punishment. Although there is a finite
amount of space that prisons can handle, the financial savings could be
funneled into prevention programs. Community-based mental health programs,
which treat patients before they act violently, would reduce the number of
convicted criminals. Furthermore, states could better support early childhood
education programs, which aid at-risk youth. Instead of dealing with the
outcomes of violence, law enforcement officials would partner with the
community to lower crime. Indeed, there are numerous alternatives to capital
punishment. Forcing inmates to suffer for extended periods of time? Simply
barbaric, antiquated and costly.

(source: Nicholas Coleman, Daily Utah Chronicle)






NEVADA:

Carson City caregiver could face the death penalty in toddler's homicide


Carson City prosecutors announced they're considering seeking the death penalty
for a 26-year-old caregiver, who was accused of open murder following the death
of a 2-year-old girl.

Eric Anthony Buhl faces several criminal charges including open murder for the
death of Coahuyana Hernandez. He was also charged with child abuse causing
substantial bodily harm, possession of an explosive or incendiary device and
child endangerment - a gross misdemeanor.

On March 17, Carson City deputies and paramedics responded to a report of a
medical emergency in the 100 block of Manzanita Terrace. Buhl was reportedly
giving CPR to Coahuyana, according to Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong.

The girl was then taken to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Authorities arrested Buhl and searched the home where they found explosive
devices, which were later disarmed by the Tahoe Douglas Bomb Squad.

A medical examiner ruled Coahuyana's death as a homicide, according to
authorities.

(source: Reno Gazette-Journal)

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

Charges in toddler's death now open murder; death penalty an option


A 26-year-old man was arraigned Tuesday on open murder charges stemming from
the death of a 2-year-old toddler. The surprise was his possible penalty.

March 17, 2017, Eric Buhl called 911 from a Carson City home. A 2-year-old girl
in his care had fallen, he said, and was unresponsive. The little girl, a
cousin of his then-girlfriend, died later of what has been described as blunt
force trauma to her abdomen.

Buhl was arrested after responding officers found a pipe bomb in a bedroom
dresser. The charges: possession of an incendiary device and child
endangerment, a class four felony and a gross misdemeanor,

But the possibility of more serious charges related to the girl's death have
been hanging over the case from the beginning. At Buhl's first arraignment,
Judge John Tatro declined to grant reduced bail based on the original charges,
setting the bond at $100,000.

Everything waited for the final autopsy report. It took weeks, but that report
led to a charge of open murder and it was on those charges he was arraigned May
9.

Arraignments are a routine initial step in the criminal justice process to
inform the defendant of the charges against him or her and to set a date for a
preliminary hearing. But Tuesday, it also included--to Buhl's evident surprise
and shock--the fact that the death penalty was on the table.

"Death penalty?"

"Did you have a question, Eric?" Judge Tatro asked the startled defendant.
"This is very serious, Eric so... "

"This is insane, sir, " said Buhl, putting his face in his hands."

"Just be quiet," the judge advised. "You might want to talk to your attorney
before you make any statement on the record."

The case qualifies for the death penalty because of the aggravating
circumstance of the age of the victim. The DA's office has the issue under
consideration.

Buhl's bail has now been revoked. He will remain in custody.

The preliminary hearing date for the original charges--June 5--stands, though
it's likely it will be continued in light of the murder charges.

(source: KOLO news)






CALIFORNIA:

Jury: Antolin Garcia-Torres guilty in Sierra LaMar case


More than 5 years after the disappearance of 15-year-old Sierra LaMar, a jury
has found her accused killer guilty in the kidnapping and murder of the Morgan
Hill teen.

Family and friends of both LaMar and Antolin Garcia-Torres, who pleaded not
guilty to the murder charge, gathered in the Santa Clara County Courthouse
Tuesday tensely awaiting the verdict.

Garcia-Torres faced four felony counts: count 1 for the murder and kidnap of
Sierra LaMar, and three additional counts for the attempted kidnapping of 3
adult women in the parking lots of 2 Safeway stores in Morgan Hill, where
Garcia-Torres once worked.

Jurors found Garcia-Torres guilty on all four counts.

The family of missing Morgan Hill teen Sierra LaMar spoke outside the Santa
Clara County Courthouse after a guilty verdict was announced for the man
charged in her kidnapping and murder.

Sentencing begins May 16. Jurors will have to decide whether Garcia-Torres will
spend life in prison without the possibility of parole or face the death
penalty.

Prosecutor David Boyd had a difficult case to convince the jury that
Garcia-Torres was guilty, when there was no body, no murder weapon and no crime
scene. Boyd was measured in his comments because the penalty phase of the case
is still ahead. "We now move immediately into the next phase, the penalty phase
where the jury will decide whether the defendant gets the death penalty or life
without the possibility of parole. I'm not going to speculate just what the
jury will do, it's their decision and it's a very significant one to be made,"
Boyd said.

Deliberations among the jury of 6 women and 5 men lasted the equivalent of 2
days. Judge Vanessa Zecher turned the case over to them May 4, after three
months of testimony and arguments.

LaMar's family has been waiting 5 years for justice. She disappeared the
morning of March 16, 2012, as she walked to the bus, and hasn't been seen or
heard from since.

While no body, no crime scene and no murder weapon has ever been found, the
prosecution relied on DNA evidence to connect Garcia-Torres, 26, to LaMar's
disappearance. The teen's clothing and cell phone were found discarded near her
family's home in the days after.

The prosecution said Garcia-Torres' DNA was found on Sierra's jeans, and her
DNA was found on an armrest in the defendant's red VW Jetta. In addition to
that, a rope was also found in the trunk that the prosecution said had Sierra's
hair. The defense, however, said the DNA evidence was flawed.

The defense also criticized investigators for not pursing all leads, including
a brown car that was seen near the spot where LaMar may have disappeared. The
defense attorney concluded by saying: "Where's the evidence she's deceased? She
is missing and nothing else."

More than 100 members of the public attended Tuesday morning's verdict reading,
requiring the courthouse to provide a live stream of the proceedings in a 2nd
courtroom, according to our news partner Bay City News.

This was an emotional day for volunteers, who searched for Sierra LaMar and who
sat through many days of a 13-week-long trial to show their support to the
LaMar family. One of them has a special place in his heart for Sierra. "Sierra
is everybody's daughter. She's become our daughter. She's made a big impact on
all of us, she's brought us together," volunteer search leader Douglas Tollis
said.

Tollis said the search for Sierra is not over and he's hoping that
Garcia-Torres during the penalty phase might reveal where her body is.

The penalty phase is not expected to be a quick process as both the defense and
prosecution will be given the opportunity to tell the jury why they believe
Garcia-Torres should or should not be given life in prison, without the
possibility of parole or the death sentence. That process could take up to a
month.

(source: ABC News)






USA:

Bishops among first signatories to pledge to end death penalty


Bishops attending a meeting were among the first to sign the National Catholic
Pledge to End the Death Penalty at the U.S. bishops' headquarters building May
9.

Each person taking the pledge promises to educate, advocate and pray for an end
to capital punishment.

"All Christians and people of goodwill are thus called today to fight not only
for the abolition of the death penalty, whether legal or illegal, and in all
its forms, but also in order to improve prison conditions, with respect for the
human dignity of the people deprived of their freedom," Pope Francis has said.
This quotation kicks off the pledge.

The pledge drive is organized by the Catholic Mobilizing Network.

"The death penalty represents a failure of our society to fulfill the demands
of human dignity, as evidenced by the 159 people and counting who have been
exonerated due to their innocence since 1973," the organization says on the
pledge sheet following space for someone's signature.

Quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the network added, "The
death penalty is not needed to maintain public safety, punishment must
'correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and (be) more in
conformity to the dignity of the human person.'"

After capital punishment was halted nationwide briefly in the 1970s, more than
1,400 people have been executed since it resumed 40 years ago, according to the
Catholic Mobilizing Network. "The prolonged nature of the death penalty process
can perpetuate the trauma for victims' families and prevents the opportunity
for healing and reconciliation called for in the message of Jesus Christ."

The idea for the pledge campaign took root in January, said Catholic Mobilizing
Network executive director Karen Clifton in an interview with Catholic News
Service, but Arkansas' bid to execute eight death-row prisoners in a 10-day
span in April -- four were ultimately put to death -- "exacerbated the
situation and showed it as a very live example of who we are executing and the
reasons why the system is so broken," she said.

Penalties for crime are "supposed to be retributive, but also restorative. The
death penalty is definitely not restorative," Clifton said. Those on death row
are not the worst of the worst, they're the least -- the marginalized, the
poor, those with improper (legal) counsel," she added.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. bishops'
Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said he and his fellow
bishops have voiced their views strongly with Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, where
capital punishment is legal and where prisoners have been executed.

Bishop Dewane, in recalling Pope John Paul II's successful personal appeal to
the governor of Missouri to spare a death-row inmate's life during the pope's
visit to St. Louis in 1999, said the episode offers hope. "It's a great
example," he added. "You never know how your words will be taken, or accepted."

Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, who was one of a number of bishops
who signed the pledge following a daylong meeting May 9 at the U.S. bishops'
headquarters building in Washington, said the church's ministry to prisoners is
another source of hope. "It's the ministry of companionship that's so
important," he noted.

Bishop Soto said the ministry of accompaniment is also necessary to the victims
of crime. He recalled an instance when a priest of his diocese, who was
expected to attend a meeting of priests, had to bow out "because he had to bury
someone who had been killed by violence in his neighborhood. ... We are not
recognizing that the futility of the death penalty system."

Capuchin Father John Pavlik, president of the Conference of Major Superiors of
Men, told CNS that networking is a key tool in the toolbox in spreading
information opposing the death penalty. CMSM, he said, has a person on staff to
monitor issues surrounding justice and peace, and has consistently communicated
capital punishment information to CMSM members.

Father Pavlik said he takes inspiration from an Ohio woman whose child was
murdered decades ago. The killer was arrested, tried and convicted on a charge
of capital murder, "and she has spent the last 25 years advocating against the
execution of this man." The priest also voiced his distaste at the "disregard
for life" shown in Arkansas, which he said had tried to execute eight death-row
prisoners in such a short time because "the drug (used in the fatal injection)
was going to expire."

(source: Catholic News Service)

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

Whether 4 Hampton Roads men face death penalty in crime spree is up to Attorney
General Jeff Sessions


Will federal prosecutors seek the death penalty for the 4 men charged in
connection with a bloody 18-day crime spree across Hampton Roads in late 2015
that claimed the lives of 5 people?

The final decision is up to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. And, according
to local prosecutors, he hasn't made the call yet.

"It is totally within the discretion of the Attorney General," Assistant U.S.
Attorney Joseph DePadilla said in court. "That is where the power lies."

The court was expecting Sessions or his predecessor to have reached a decision
by now.

Antonio "Murdock" Simmons, 38; Alvaughn "LB" Davis, 28; Anthony "Ace" Foye, 25;
and Nathaniel "Savage" Mitchell, 24, were indicted Sept. 22 in U.S. District
Court and taken into federal custody later that month.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys, however, put off picking a trial date at
that time while then-U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and her staff reviewed
the case and made a death penalty determination. The court scheduled a status
conference for Feb. 8.

Then Donald Trump was elected president in November. As the federal government
embarked on a widespread changing of the guard, the court rescheduled the
status conference in February for today.

DePadilla said the deliberation process is nearing the end. He said his
supervisors in the Eastern District of Virginia have reviewed the matter and
made a determination. And, he said, the Justice Department's "Capital
Committee" has also reviewed it and offered an opinion.

DePadilla declined to say which way those 2 entities were leaning.

"It is now being considered at the highest level, whether to seek or not to
seek," he said in court. "All of the relevant pieces are in place to make a
final decision."

According to court documents, the four men are charged with killing Al-Tariq
Tynes, 27; Vandalet Mercer, 27; Jamesha Roberts, 25; Linda Lassiter, 49; and
Wayne Davis, 49.

During a previous hearing, DePadilla alleged the men were members of the Nine
Trey Gangsters, an affiliate of the United Bloods Nation. Of the 4, Foye and
Mitchell held the lowest rank, Davis outranked those two, and Simmons outranked
them all.

DePadilla added that Simmons' gang had 18 to 22 members and that Simmons
continued to run it last year after he was arrested and incarcerated on state
charges.

Simmons, Davis and Mitchell have provided statements to investigators linking
them to the crime spree, according to DePadilla. The prosecutor also said
investigators have ballistic evidence, text messages and jail phone recordings.

At the request of U.S. District Judge Mark Davis, prosecutors and defense
attorneys advised the court today as to what they wanted to happen next. Davis
noted that all four defendants waived their right to speedy trials. Still, he
asked the attorneys whether they wanted him to impose any deadlines on the
attorney general. Lawrence Woodward, one of Mitchell's attorneys, noted that in
other cases he's handled with the possibility of the death penalty, he was
allowed to present mitigating arguments to DOJ attorneys in Washington.

DePadilla said that could still happen, and Woodward asked the court to give
Sessions a deadline for whether "mitigation arguments" would be necessary.

Other defense attorneys objected, though. They worried that any sort of
deadline might encourage Sessions to at least preliminarily seek the death
penalty because that would let him change his mind at a later date.

Since becoming attorney general, Sessions has made determinations in at least 2
other death penalty cases, according to Woodward.

In the end, Davis simply scheduled another status conference 5 weeks from now.
He asked all of the attorneys to return June 13.

DePadilla said he would relay that information to Washington and note that the
status conference had been rescheduled once before.

"That, in itself, transmits some information," he said.

(source: The Virginian-Pilot)




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