2017-11-14 14:59:08 UTC
Cardenas Execution Raising Questions About Treatment of Mexican Nationals In
The Cardenas execution in Huntsville is raising questions about the treatment
of Mexican Nationals in American prisons. News Center 23 had a chance to speak
to the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs moments before and after the
execution of Ruben Ramirez Cardenas.
"Ruben if you can hear us, we are here for you" yell protesters outside the in
Those may have been some of the last sounds heard by Ruben Ramirez Cardenas, a
Mexican National, convicted of killing and Raping his 16 year old cousin back
News Center 23 had the opportunity to bear witness to the execution. Friends,
family, were not present to see the passing of their loved one. Instead 4 lone
protestors battling 50-degree weather in the rain and Mexican dignitaries were
hoping the execution was delayed fi not avoided.
Among those protestors, Gloria Ruback a representative of the TX Death Penalty
Abolition Movement. She claims that she has been attending and protesting
executions since the 1980???s. She says, "we found out that they can hear us
back there in the room where they execute them. So to give him a little support
... maybe a smile before he's murdered."
The execution, once slated for 6 PM on November 8th had visitors tense. Appeals
made by Cardenas' attorney and The Mexican Foreign Ministry to the Supreme
Court were to decide Cardenas' fate.
They appealed to have "the DNA evidence [that] can be properly evaluated."
Those appeals were rejected, and Cardenas was pronounced dead at 10:26 that
Jason Clark, spokesperson Texas Department of Criminal Justice talked to press
immediately after the execution. He says, "Ruben Cardenas was executed for the
brutal murder of 16 year old Mayra Laguna in 1997. He was the 7th person to be
executed in the state of Texas this year. He did make a written last state he
did not make a verbal last statement."
Ruben Cardenas' Attorney, Maurie Levin states, "I am convinced that we would
not be standing here now if Texas had not violated its Vieanna Convention
obligations preventing the Mexican consulate when he most needed its help."
"Carrying out the execution would be the equivalent to the arbitrary
depravation of life, and the United States would be in Violation of its
obligations under International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, The
ICCPR." States Alejandro Alday Legal Advisor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Also in attendance, Susana Guerra coming from Guanajuato Mexico to wait for the
execution's results. She proclaims, "We are deeply sorrowed after this result
and by the execution of Ruben ... When it comes to the family, the mother, we
will try our best to support her. She is sick and frail. But we will be there
for whatever she needs."
Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2005. Despite the execution, efforts are
underway to prove Cardenas' innocence.
Psychiatrist testifies convicted murderer Hudson has personality disorder
A Brazos County jury heard from experts that William Hudson suffers from mixed
personality disorder, alcoholism and narcissism. The defense rested Monday in
the punishment phase of Hudson's murder trial. The jury will decide if he gets
life in prison or the death penalty.
Hudson was convicted last week for 2 of the 6 murders at a campground in East
Texas. The victims ranged in age from 6 to nearly 77-years-old.
The jury heard from psychiatrist David Self. He said Hudson can have his
personality issues managed but he can't be cured.
The defense also called Antoinette McGarrahan. She is a Forensic Psychologist.
She told the jury she spent 14 hour with Hudson completing I.Q. and other
tests. She believes he had average intelligence at one time but has fallen
10-15 points after repeated injury to his brain. On one test his intelligence
score was 72. She talked about several cars accidents he was in including a
roll over where he didn't have a seat belt on. She said damage to his frontal
lobes can contribute to things including poor judgment, decision making,
planning, aggression and lack of insight.
The court also heard more about what serving life in Texas prisons can look
like. Hudson's defense attorneys called Lane Herklotz to testify. He is a
retired TDCJ employee who worked for the state prison system for more than 25
years. He described how inmates are classified when they are transferred into
Many of in the court were surprised to learn that, despite the fact Hudson is
accused of murdering six people, that isn't taken into account when they
classify him in the system. TDCJ has five levels, Herklotz told the court,
capital murder inmates serving life usually have a roommate or on occasion live
in a dormitory. He also speculated Hudson would be considered minimum to medium
custody, a level G-3 or G-4. He also couldn't rule out Hudson might be allowed
outside the prison walls under armed supervision if he's serving life. Hudson
could also potentially request being able to leave the prison to attend a
family funeral depending on his conduct in prison. Herklotz said being on death
row would be more secure with more restrictions.
The state talked about Hudson's mental state and confirmed with witnesses that
Hudson is not faking any illness and his intelligence is not so low that he'd
be considered mentally impaired. Daniel Altman, a Forensic Psychologist also
testified Hudson has below average intelligence. He said Hudson scored a 79
which is below average. He also tested to see if Hudson was faking mental
illness and Hudson did not. Lisa Tanner with the AG's Office says nobody had
made a claim Hudson had been faking mental illness.
The state will begin calling rebuttal witnesses next.
The trial resumes Tuesday at 9:00 a.m.
(source: KBTX TV news)
After more than 40 years of searching, Alice police on Monday announced they
had arrested the man they believe is responsible for killing one of their own.
Alice Police Chief Rex Ramon made the announcement during a news conference at
the Alice Public Safety Training Center. Police said they had arrested
70-year-old Roberto Lopez in connection with the Dec. 1, 1974 murder of Alice
Police Officer Matthew Murphy, who was killed following a traffic stop near the
intersection of U.S. Highway 281 and West Main Street.
"This is a long time coming," said Ramon, who first started working at the
Alice Police Department in 1988. "I never forgot watching Matt Murphy's plaque
at the (police department) and wondering, 'When? When?' and it came true."
"This is only the beginning."
Murphy's former fellow officers attended the news conference, along with city
and county officials.
Alice police identified Lopez - an inmate at the St. Clair Correctional
Facility in Springville, Alabama - as a suspect Murphy's death in an Oct. 24
affidavit filed by Sgt. Aniceto Perez Jr.
The press conference was meant to publicly announce the department's execution
of an arrest warrant on Lopez, who is still being held in Alabama while serving
a life sentence without parole for another crime.
According to the affidavit, Lopez reportedly bragged while in prison about
shooting and killing a "narc" named "Murphy" with a .22-caliber pistol. Murphy
was an undercover narcotics agent who had been put back on patrol at the time
of his death. He was shot several times and later died at a nearby hospital.
Kenneth Helms, 70, remembered rolling up on the scene just after Murphy was
shot. He was a detective at the time of Murphy's death. It's been 43 years
since that fateful day, but Helms became emotional remembering how his fellow
officer lay dying in the street from his wounds. He said Murphy actually died
in the road, but Helms refused to allow him to stay there to become part of a
Helms is now in a wheelchair, limited physically in what he can do, but the
desire to see justice for his friend is still as strong as it ever was.
"I went up to him ... and he was trying to say something, but he (Murphy)
expired on me," Helms said. "I wasn't going to let him lay there like a dead
dog. I said 'He's got a pulse - get him out of here, get him to the hospital.'"
"Sure, you can say he died at the hospital, but he died at the scene," Helms
said, his chin quivering with emotion as tears welled in his eyes.
70--year-old Henry Garza, his gray hair and goatee neatly trimmed underneath a
U.S. Air Force cap, resigned from the Alice Police Department shortly after
Murphy's death to work at a telecommunications company until his recent
retirement. He said he left the department after growing frustrated with its
handling of the investigation into Murphy's murder.
"It's something that you don't forget," Garza said of his fellow office's
According to the affidavit filed on Oct. 24, a lot of the information used to
gain the arrest warrant for Lopez was obtained in the early 1980s. Additional
information was obtained in during the early 1990s.
For instance, in 1982, an informant sent a letter to the Jim Wells County
District Attorney's Office claiming to have information about a man - who later
turned out to be Lopez - bragging in prison about killing a "narc" named
The following year, that same informant sent a letter claiming to have
information about where the alleged murder weapon was disposed, though the
location was not specified at the time. That information was verified in 1994
after follow-up interviews with the informant, along with additional witnesses,
one of whom identified Lopez as Murphy's shooter, according to the affidavit.
Lopez reportedly admitted to investigators previously he used to sell narcotics
When asked what the difference was between why Lopez was picked up now and not
then, Ramon said there wasn't really a clear answer to that question.
"Of course, different officers, different chiefs of police, different (district
attorney)," he said. "It's a very hard question to answer because a
determination was made. What's the difference between now and then? I guess
we're just different people."
Carlos Omar Garcia, the District Attorney for Jim Wells and Brooks counties, on
Monday said Lopez's case will be presented to a grand jury at a later date for
possible indictment. Police have charged Garcia with capital murder, which is
punishable by the death penalty, but he must first be indicted to see if there
is enough evidence to allow the case to move to trial.
If an indictment is issued, Garcia said that would begin the process of having
Lopez extradited to Texas to stand trial. There was no timetable on when the
case would be presented to the grand jury.
(source: Corpus Christi Caller-Times)
FLORIDA----female to face death penalty
Woman charged in Wellington clown murder case waives speedy trial
After 27 years, a judge agreed Monday that a few more weeks won't make a
difference in the "killer clown" murder trial of Sheila Keen-Warren.
Keen-Warren, 54, arrested in September at her home in Virginia, is accused of
dressing as a clown and murdering 40-year-old Marlene Warren in Warren's
Wellington Aero Club home in 1990.
In court Monday, defense attorney Richard Lubin waived Keen-Warren's right to a
speedy trial and Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer set
the next status hearing for Jan. 23.
Feuer retained Keen-Warren's "no bond" status.
The judge also agreed to a request by Lubin that Keen-Warren need not be
present at status hearings.
Lubin has said Keen-Warren will plead not guilty .
In Monday's hearing, which lasted about 2 minutes, Lubin told the judge he
recently had received a voluminous batch of documents, both electronically and
on paper, from prosecutors, as part of the trial's "discovery," and wanted time
to digest them.
"Murder cases in general are very complicated. This one is even more
complicated and compounded by the age of the case," Lubin told reporters later.
"We just decided to reset it for 60 days and see where we stand. It's going to
take a while. But we're not going to dawdle."
Lubin also would not reveal the contests of a lengthy conversation he had right
after the hearing with Keen-Warren, sitting in the jury box with other criminal
defendants, all clad in blue jail jumpsuits.
Prosecutors have said they plan to seek the death penalty. It's been at least 2
decades since a jury imposed a death sentence in state court in Palm Beach
Detectives on the cold-case unit at the sheriff's office had said a new DNA
analysis finally got them an arrest warrant for the woman they'd suspected in
Warren's murder for decades.
In the initial investigation, deputies were told Keen-Warren was having an
affair with Michael Warren. 12 years after the murder, Keen-Warren and Warren
were married in Las Vegas 12 years after the slaying.
Authorities would not say whether they're investigating Michael Warren or if he
may face charges in the fatal shooting.
Marlene Warren reportedly told her family that she wanted to leave her husband
but that it was complicated because the businesses they ran together - several
properties and a used car dealership - were under her name. Her family told The
Palm Beach Post in 2000 that she warned them if anything happened to her, her
husband had something to do with it.
Woman accused in killer clown case waives right to speedy trial
It took more 27 years for authorities to make an arrest in South Florida's
killer clown case. There won't be a rush for a trial either.
Through her attorney, Sheila Keen Warren on Monday waived her right to a speedy
trial on a 1st-degree murder charge. She also will be excused from attending
any more routine court hearings.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the 54-year-old woman accused of
wearing a clown disguise during the May 26, 1990, slaying of Marlene Warren,
40, in Wellington.
The shooting victim and Keen Warren share the same last name yet were not
related. But Warren's husband, Michael, is now married to Keen Warren. He was
not in court Monday.
Defense attorney Richard Lubin told Circuit Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer that
his client does not use Keen in her name, although that is how it appears in
Sheila Warren has pleaded not guilty and is being held at Palm Beach County
Jail without bond.
Wearing blue jail scrubs, and long golden hair partially obscuring her face,
Warren didn't speak during Monday's brief hearing.
The next court hearing will be a case status check between the judge and the
attorneys on Jan. 23.
Defense attorney Richard Lubin said prosecutors just days ago handed over the
1st batch of evidence in the case, which he called "complicated" because it's
"I don't really know anything about the case yet," Lubin told the judge.
Detectives say Marlene Warren answered the door to her home in the Aero Club
community to accept a bouquet and 2 balloons from a clown wearing an orange
wig, a red bulb nose, gloves and a smile painted on its white face.
Immediately, the clown fired at Warren's face. She died within 2 days.
The clown fled in a white Chrysler LeBaron, which was found 4 days later
abandoned at a shopping center parking lot. Sheila Keen and Michael Warren were
originally identified as persons of interest but neither was charged at the
Keen, then 27, had been working for Warren's used car dealership, Bargain
Motors Inc. of West Palm Beach, helping to repossess cars.
The case went cold until 2014, when Palm Beach County detectives took a fresh
look at DNA evidence. They also learned the Warrens married in Las Vegas in
Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and State Attorney Dave Aronberg have told reporters that
Sheila Warren's Sept. 26 arrest in southwest Virginia resulted from a DNA link
and recent witness interviews.
They did not offer any specifics about the evidence, and there is no arrest
report filed in the case that outlines what led to the charge.
After the killing, detectives told reporters that a search of Keen's home
yielded fibers from a bright orange wig. And similar fibers were found in the
Sheila & Michael Warren's life in Abingdon Virginia
For the past 15 years, the Warrens lived in small, historic Abingdon, Va.,
within the Blue Ridge Mountains.
They had a reputation as a hardworking, sociable couple who until last year
operated a popular fast-food restaurant in nearby Kingsport, Tenn.
After news of Sheila Warren's arrest made national headlines, their neighbors
and customers have said they were unaware of their past alleged ties to one of
South Florida's high-profile murders.
Despite lost evidence, no mistrial declared in quadruple murder
The penalty phase trial for James Edward Bannister, convicted last week in the
deaths of 2 women and 2 children in 2011, began Monday.
The penalty phase trial of an Ocala man convicted of shooting and killing 2
women and 2 children in August 2011 continued as planned after a 3-hour aside
about a missing piece of evidence.
After opening statements Monday, 5th Judicial Circuit Judge Willard Pope
announced that a printed version of defendant James Edward Bannister's phone
records - more than 100 pages of calls and text messages - could not be found.
The phone records were placed into evidence to support the state's claim that
Bannister lured 1 of the victims, via text messages, to her death and that he
was in the area of the crime scene during the murders, instead of at home where
he claimed to be.
Bannister, 37, was found guilty Wednesday of 4 counts of 1st-degree murder and
1 count of arson in the Aug. 5, 2011, deaths of CorDerica Hill, 6, CorDarrian
Hill, 8, Jocalyn Gray, 27, and Bridget Gray, 52. Jocalyn Gray was Bannister's
girlfriend at the time. Bridget Gray was Jocalyn Gray's mother. The Hill
children lived with Bridget Gray, who was dating their father, Willie Hill.
Defense attorney Terry Lenamon immediately moved for a mistrial after Pope's
announcement early Monday.
"The issue is whether the jury received all the evidence," he said.
Assistant State Attorney Robin Arnold said the CD containing the phone records
was still in evidence so the records could be reprinted, but Lenamon was not
satisifed by the argument.
Pope told attorneys one juror was seen leaving the jury room with a bag, which
he usually carries. Shortly after, the piece of evidence was unaccounted for.
The Clerk of Court's office called the juror at home and asked him about the
piece of evidence. He said he didn't have it.
Arnold said she was contacted by the office and asked if she had the evidence,
but said she didn't. And she "quite frankly forgot" about the correspondence.
The defense claimed they were not aware of the missing evidence until Pope
brought it up.
"Whatever verdict they come back with, there will be a motion for new trial,"
Lenamon said. "At the end of the day it will be a waste of judicial resources"
to continue the trial."
Pope gave each side an hour to research case law to support their arguments.
Once court reconvened, each juror was individually questioned. All said the
contacted juror asked them if anyone else had received a call, but they hadn't.
The only other discussion, they claim, was wondering what could have happened
to the evidence.
Although the specifics of the evidence - jurors only new it was phone records -
weren't revealed, many said they remembered placing it back in the evidence box
after deliberations. At least 3 separate phone record packets were entered into
evidence for the jury to consider.
"This is not a harmless error judge," Lenamon said. "This is a death penalty
Lenamon said there is no way to prove the jury reviewed the evidence.
Pope, when denying the motion, said the jurors asked several questions about
evidence during deliberation. There was no question about the phone records.
The trial then continued as planned.
Arnold called 2 witnesses to the stand to read victim impact statements. She
also submitted an armed robbery certified conviction from Maryland.
"There's not a minute of every day that someone or something doesn't remind me
of those kids," the Hill children???s uncle, Raymond King, read from a prepared
He remembered once making fun of CorDarrian for falling backwards off a step
onto his backpack like a turtle. King said he thought he would be able to tease
CorDarrian about the fall for a long time to come.
And he said CorDerica would have to be bribed with ice cream to go to school.
"Hearing my aunt (Bridget Gray) laugh can never be replaced," Bridget Gray's
niece Tarkyshia Wade read from a statement. "Seeing (Jocalyn Gray's) smile from
ear to ear is not the same in a photograph."
Defense attorney Tania Alavi began the defense's argument by presenting
testimony of Bannister's 5 siblings. Each described a terrible childhood full
of abuse and lacking love. Bannister's father physically abused his mother to
the point of once causing a miscarriage. And the children were the subject of
racial slurs and prejudice at the hand of their relatives - all white.
Bannister's older sister said she once came home to find her uncles had
stripped her black dolls, ripped their heads off and hung them up by their
feet. The children were also called whatever racial slur the family could think
of. She dropped out of school at 15 to take care of her younger siblings
because her mother was addicted to crack cocaine and often left for weeks at a
Bannister's youngest sister said for a while she thought her oldest sister was
actually her mother because she was the primary caregiver.
Each sibling described Bannister as loving, someone who wanted to always get
the family together to hang out. And he loved his nieces and nephews.
He would write his younger siblings, whom he hadn't really lived with before,
from prison in Maryland.
"It was us against everybody else," one said.
Alavi asked each sibling at the end of their testimony if they loved Bannister
and if they would continue to visit him in prison. They all answered yes to
The defense will continue presenting witnesses Tuesday morning. Evidence of
multi-generational trauma, traumatic brain injury and Bannister's PTSD
diagnosis will be topics of discussion.
At the end of the penalty phase, the jury will decide whether Bannister is
sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole. A vote
for the death sentence must be unanimous.
Bannister is 1 of 7 Marion County defendants facing the death penalty.
If Alabama Executes Vernon Madison, Bill Clinton Will Share the Blame
Vernon Madison has been on Alabama's death row for 32 years. Now 67, he suffers
from severe vascular dementia and retrograde amnesia as a result of a series of
strokes. Testing revealed that he has a borderline IQ of 72 and a working
memory score (which measures attention and concentration) of 58, indicating
major impairment. He is legally blind. His speech is slurred. He cannot walk
independently. And he is incontinent. The cumulative effect of his disabilities
has left him with no recollection of the crime that sent him to prison.
Any day now, the state of Alabama - home of such stalwarts of righteousness as
Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III and former state Supreme
Court Chief Justice and current Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore - will
set an execution date for Madison. If the state succeeds in putting him to
death, several parties will share the blame. They will include not only Madison
himself, but a system of capital punishment that is cruel, irrational and
Also sharing the blame will be the 42nd president of the United States, William
Jefferson Clinton, whose legislative accomplishments include the enactment of
the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) of 1996, which the
Supreme Court relied on earlier this month when it ruled adversely on the
latest appeal in Madison's case.
How Madison came to this point is emblematic of much that is wrong with capital
punishment. In September 1985, a jury convicted him of capital murder in the
death of a Mobile, Ala., police officer. Madison had been charged with shooting
the officer in the back of the head during an investigation into a report of a
missing child and a domestic dispute between Madison and his girlfriend.
Madison is black. The officer was white.
In 1987, the Alabama Court of Appeals reversed Madison's conviction because the
local district attorney had engaged in racially discriminatory jury selection.
Madison was retried in 1990. At his 2nd trial, he didn't deny shooting the
officer, but pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. He was convicted again,
and once more, the state appellate court reversed, holding that the DA had
engaged in prosecutorial misconduct by eliciting improper expert testimony
about Madison's mental state.
Madison was convicted a 3rd time of capital murder following a jury trial in
April 1994. During the penalty phase of the proceedings, evidence was
introduced showing that Madison suffered from a mental illness, marked by
paranoid delusions, dating to his teenage years. After hearing testimony from
both prosecution and defense psychiatrists, who disagreed about the severity of
his condition, the jury voted to sentence Madison to life in prison without the
possibility of parole rather than death.
The trial judge, however, countermanded the jury's recommendation and imposed
another death verdict. At the time, Alabama was 1 of only 4 states (the others
were Indiana, Delaware and Florida) that permitted such "judicial overrides."
According to the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), the Montgomery, Ala.,
nonprofit that currently represents Madison, the judge (who died in 2011)
overrode a total of 6 life verdicts during his tenure on the bench, the most of
any Alabama jurist.
Madison appealed his death sentence unsuccessfully in the Alabama court system,
and in 1998, the United States Supreme Court declined to review the case. From
there, Madison followed the path of many other condemned inmates, filing
petitions for writs of habeas corpus in both state and federal courts. The
petitions succeeded in delaying the case, but on March 3, 2016, the Supreme
Court of Alabama ordered that Madison be put to death by lethal injection.
Before Madison was slated to die, however, the EJI convinced a Mobile County
Circuit Court judge to hold a hearing to determine whether Madison was
sufficiently competent to be executed.
As interpreted by a long line of U.S. Supreme Court decisions, the Eighth
Amendment prohibits the execution of "one whose mental illness prevents him
from comprehending the reasons for the penalty or its implications." In recent
years, the court also has barred the execution of intellectually disabled
persons. Such executions, the court has reasoned, serve no legitimate
penological purpose, whether by way of retribution or deterrence.
But despite ample evidence of Madison's cognitive and memory deficits, the
county court judge found him competent. In his order, the judge even failed to
mention Madison's diagnosis of dementia.
Running out of time and options, the EJI lodged a habeas corpus petition with
the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta. Prior to the passage
of the AEDPA, the EJI might have expected a relatively easy victory based on a
violation of Madison???s constitutional rights regarding his competency for
But as 9th Circuit Court Judge Alex Kozinski has written, the AEDPA "has pretty
much shut out the federal courts from granting habeas relief in most cases,
even when they believe that an egregious miscarriage of justice has occurred.
We now regularly have to stand by in impotent silence, even though it may
appear to us that an innocent person has been convicted. AEDPA is a cruel,
unjust and unnecessary law that effectively removes federal judges as
In order to succeed on a habeas corpus petition filed in federal court, a state
prisoner must show that the state court ruling he contests "was contrary to, or
involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as
determined by the Supreme Court of the United States," or else was "based on an
unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented."
Further, a petitioner has to show that the state court's decision was "so
lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and
comprehended beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement."
As investigative journalist Liliana Segura wrote persuasively in a 2016 article
for The Intercept, Bill Clinton signed the AEDPA into law as part of a
deliberate policy of presenting himself as tough on crime following GOP
victories in the 1994 midterm elections. Based on an examination of a trove
White House memos released from the Clinton Digital Library in 2014, Segura
argued that the adverse effects the AEDPA and other criminal justice reforms of
the era would have on poor and minority defendants and prison inmates were not
"unintended consequences," as Bill and Hillary maintained during the 2016
presidential campaign, but were entirely foreseeable.
Still, the EJI managed to convince two members of the 3-judge 11th Circuit
panel that heard oral argument on Madison's case that the state court's
competency decision satisfied the stringent standards of the AEDPA.
Accordingly, the 2 judges in the majority found Madison incompetent to be
That was not so for the Supreme Court.
In a unanimous, 8-page, unsigned per curiam ("by the court") decision issued
Nov. 6, the high tribunal held that Madison's claims were foreclosed by the
AEDPA. The court reversed the 11th Circuit's judgment and sent the case back to
Alabama, which now has the authority to set a new execution date.
In the meantime, Madison remains on death row, awaiting news of his appointment
in the injection chamber, unable to recall the night he shot a police officer
more than 3 decades ago.
To add further injustice to Madison's regrettable story, there are no longer
any states that permit judges to override jury verdicts that call for life
sentences rather than death in capital cases. Indiana abolished the practice in
2002, and Delaware and Florida followed suit in 2016 after the Supreme Court
invalidated Florida's capital punishment scheme for giving too much power to
judges over sentencing.
Alabama was the last to fall in line, passing a new statute in April, outlawing
judicial overrides. Unfortunately for Madison, the new law was not made
retroactive to his case or that of 32 other condemned men in Alabama put on
death row by trial judges who had nullified jury recommendations of
Although the number of executions in the United States has fallen in recent
years, the U.S. remains among the world's leaders in capital punishment, along
with the likes of Saudi Arabia, China, Egypt, Somalia, Iran and Iraq. It's high
time we put an end to the travesty.
There's no reason to believe Congress will act, but it could get the ball
rolling by repealing the AEDPA. Vernon Madison may deserve to spend the rest of
his days locked away, but he should not be put to death because of the rigid
dictates of a criminal justice statute signed into law by a Democratic
president as a matter of pure political expediency.
Court grants review
In Reeves v. Alabama, the justices declined to wade into the question of when
an attorney's representation of a criminal defendant is so inadequate that it
violates the defendant's Sixth Amendment right to have help from an attorney,
and how courts should make that determination. In Strickland v. Washington, the
Supreme Court outlined a standard for courts to use to decide whether an
attorney was constitutionally ineffective: (1) the attorney's performance must
be deficient; and (2) the defendant must have been prejudiced by that deficient
performance - that is, he must show a reasonable probability that, if the
attorney had not been deficient, the result would have been different.
In 1997, Matthew Reeves was on trial in Alabama for capital murder for the
death of Willie Johnson in a robbery. Reeves contends that, although his
court-appointed attorneys were aware that he could have an intellectual
disability, and although the trial court had granted the attorneys' request for
funds to pay for an expert to evaluate Reeves, his attorneys failed to hire any
mental health professionals to do so; they also did not call any witnesses to
testify about a possible intellectual disability. Instead, they presented
testimony from a court-appointed expert who had conducted only a limited
examination of Reeves, and with whom Reeves' attorneys had not spoken until the
day she testified. Reeves was sentenced to death.
Reeves challenged his sentence, but the Alabama courts ruled against him on the
ground that he had not called his trial attorneys to testify about their
actions. That rule, Reeves told the Supreme Court, conflicts with the holdings
of 5 federal courts of appeals and 1 state supreme court, which "recognize that
reviewing courts must examine the record as a whole, even in the absence of
direct testimony from trial counsel that purports to explain strategic trial
decisions, to determine whether the defendant received constitutionally
Today the Supreme Court turned down Reeves' petition. That order drew a sharp
14-page dissent (4 pages longer than Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's opinion on
the merits last week in Hamer v. Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago) from
Sotomayor, joined by Ginsburg and Kagan - but not Justice Stephen Breyer, who
has recently been most likely to object to the court's rulings against
death-row inmates. Sotomayor began by emphasizing that there "can be no
dispute" that a categorical rule requiring attorneys to testify in federal
cases alleging ineffective assistance of counsel would be inconsistent with the
Supreme Court's rulings "requiring an objective inquiry into the adequacy and
reasonableness of" the attorney's performance "based on the full record before
the court." Indeed, Sotomayor stressed, even "Alabama does not defend such a
rule." Instead, she continued, the dispute in Reeves' case was whether the
Alabama state court "in fact imposed such a rule."
Because Sotomayor believed that the state court "plainly did so," she would
have sent the case back to the state court for it to "explain why, given the
full factual record, Reeves' counsel's choices constituted reasonable
performance." But instead, Sotomayor lamented, "the Court has cleared the way
for Reeves' execution." And that, Sotomayor concluded, "is a result with which
I cannot agree."
The justices' next conference is scheduled for November 21.
Man who killed teen during escape from custody to be put to death in Ohio
Wednesday----Lawyers for condemned Franklin County killer Alva Campbell Jr. had
argued he was too sick to be executed.
A man who shot a teenager after stealing his car during an escape from custody
will be executed on Wednesday at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in
An effort to stop the execution of Alva Campbell Jr., 69, is pending before the
U.S. Supreme Court.
If the execution goes forward as scheduled, Campbell would be the 3rd person
executed this year, when the state ended a 3-year halt in executions after
controversy over the prolonged execution of Dennis McGuire using a previously
untested combination of lethal injection drugs.
Lower courts, the state Parole Board and Ohio Governor John Kasich have all
rejected efforts by Campbell to be spared death for the 1997 killing of Charles
A federal judge in Dayton also rejected Campbell's request to be executed by
firing squad, a request made because of concerns that Campbell may not have
accessible veins suitable for the 3-drug lethal injection used by the state to
execute prisoners, said David Stebbins, Campbell's federal public defender.
In court filings Stebbins has cited the condemned man's multiple health
problems, which include issues with his veins, asthma, emphysema and an
external colostomy bag.
"I anticipate they may have some difficulties," Stebbins said. "He cannot
breathe if he has to lie flat. And the process takes some time, so they've
arranged a wedge to sit him up at a 40-degree angle."
Stebbins said he was given a report by the warden that medical personnel were
able to palpate Campbell's veins in his legs and arms in order to find 1
suitable for injection.
The state agreed to use the wedge-shaped pillow on the gurney, said JoEllen
Smith, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
"Mr. Campbell's medical condition and history are being assessed and considered
in order to identify any necessary accommodations or contingencies for his
execution," Smith said.
The parole board also rejected arguments that Campbell be spared because of
violence he said he suffered as a child from his parents and then in foster
"He had as bad a childhood as I've encountered in 35 years of doing this work,"
Stebbins said. "It was significant for the level of violence inflicted on him
by his parents."
The state parole board in an Oct. 20 report acknowledged Campbell's
dysfunctional and traumatic childhood but said it needed to be weighed against
the seriousness of his crimes, including a previous murder conviction.
"Those murders and other crimes committed by Campbell over the course of many
years reflect a disturbing propensity to engage in extreme and senseless
violence, a propensity that never abated despite multiple incarcerations and
attempts by the state to rehabilitate him," according to the parole board's
The board voted 11 to 1 that he be denied clemency, and on Thursday Kasich
denied Campbell's request for executive clemency.
Campbell was 1st convicted at age 19 in 1967 of shooting a state trooper, armed
robbery and grand larceny. He was paroled in 1971 and then shot a man to death
during a robbery in Cleveland in 1972. He received a life sentence for 1st-
degree murder but was paroled after 20 years. In 1997 he was arrested again in
Franklin County, this time for aggravated robbery.
He had been shot during the robbery and pretended to be paralyzed as he was
driven by a Franklin County deputy from the Jackson Pike Jail for his
arraignment at Franklin County Municipal Court. Campbell overpowered Deputy
Teresa Harrison and took her gun as she attempted to help him out of her
vehicle at the loading dock, according to a narrative from court records
included in the Parole Board report.
Dials was at the court to pay a traffic ticket. He was driving away in his
pickup truck when Campbell stopped him, pulled open the door, forced Dials to
move over and drove off. Campbell later ordered Dials to get onto the floor
board of his truck and then shot him twice.
Campbell was captured after stealing another car and attempting to kidnap 2
other people and then hiding in a tree, where authorities found him after a
In a Sunday tweet, death penalty opponent Sister Helen Prejean called for
people to contact Kasich to stop the execution. Ohioans to Stop Executions also
oppose his execution.
The last person executed in Ohio was Gary Otte, 45, who killed 2 people in a
Cleveland suburb in 1992 and was put to death on Sept. 13.
Child killer Ronald R. Phillips, 43, was executed on July 26 for the 1993 death
of a 3-year-old girl he had raped and beaten.
By the numbers
53: Number of Ohio inmates executed between 1981 and March 2017.
85: Number of victims killed by those inmates.
43: Number of female victims.
19: Number of victims who were children.
45.73: Average age of inmates put to death.
19: Number of African-American inmates executed during that span.
25: Number of victims who were African-American.
34: Number of executed inmates who were Caucasian.
56: Number of victims who were Caucasian.
53: Number of Males.
0: Number of Females.
16.63: Average number of years on death row prior to execution.
[source: Ohio Attorney General's office]
Note: Data does not include Gary Otte, 45, executed in September, and Ronald R.
Phillips, 43, executed in July.
(source: Dayton Daily News)
Inmate will get pillow to help him breathe during execution
Ohio will provide a wedge-shaped pillow to help a condemned inmate breathe as
he's being executed this week, among other accommodations the state is
Death row prisoner Alva Campbell, who has said he is too ill for lethal
injection, became mildly agitated when officials tried lowering him to a normal
execution position, according to a medical review by a physician contractor for
the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
Dr. James McWeeney noted there were no objective findings such as increased
pulse rate or breathing to corroborate Campbell's anxiety. Nevertheless, he
recommended allowing Campbell to lie "in a semi-recumbent position" during the
The same exam failed to find veins suitable for inserting an IV on either of
Campbell, 69, has severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder as the result
of a decades-long 2-pack-a-day smoking habit, the doctor said.
The prisoner's attorneys say he uses a walker, relies on a colostomy bag,
requires 4 breathing treatments a day and may have lung cancer. They have asked
the U.S. Supreme Court to stop Wednesday's execution, because of his poor
health, a motion opposed by the state.
The attorneys have warned that Campbell's death could become a "spectacle" if
guards are unable to find suitable veins in the sick inmate's arms.
Earlier this month Campbell lost a bid to be executed by firing squad after a
federal judge questioned whether lawmakers would enact the bill needed to allow
Prisons department spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said Monday that Campbell's
"medical condition and history are being assessed and considered in order to
identify any necessary accommodations or contingencies for his execution."
Franklin County prosecutor Ron O'Brien calls Campbell "the poster child for the
Prosecutors say his health claims are ironic given he faked paralysis to escape
court custody the day he killed a teenager during a carjacking.
Campbell was paroled in 1992 after serving 20 years for killing a man in a
Cleveland bar. On April 2, 1997, Campbell was in a wheelchair when he
overpowered a Franklin County sheriff's deputy on the way to a court hearing on
several armed robbery charges, records show.
Campbell took the deputy's gun, carjacked 18-year-old Charles Dials and drove
around with him for several hours before shooting him twice in the head as
Dials crouched in the footwell of his own truck, according to court records.
Campbell was regularly beaten, sexually abused and tortured as a child, his
attorneys have argued in court filings and before the Ohio Parole Board.
Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich rejected mercy for Campbell last week.
The Pursuit of Torture
On Wednesday this week, Jeffrey Wogenstahl's fellow death row inmate, Alva
Campbell, is set to die.
As a child, Alva Campbell was forced by his father to play games of torture.
One was the electrical current game: all the children held hands with their
father while he stuck his finger in an electrical socket and one of the
children held a faucet to act as a ground; all felt the shock of the
electricity flowing through them.
Constantly subjected to this and other abuse, torture would have been
internalized as normal by Campbell. The state attempted to support him in later
childhood, but by placing him in "dysfunctional and often dangerous
environments" it instead added to his emotional instability.
Tragically, Campbell moved into adulthood still broken by his childhood
experience of violence, danger, instability and torture. And in this broken
condition he committed murder.[i]
On Wednesday, staff working for the state of Ohio will attempt to kill Campbell
by injecting him with three drugs. His frailty could cause complications:
during a rehearsal staff could not find a vein suitable for inserting an
Even more problematic are 2 of the drugs, pancuronium bromide and potassium
chloride: Ohio had promised to stop using them for lethal injections, but then
reinstated them, deftly avoiding litigation regarding their constitutionality.
The function of the remaining drug, midazolam, is to mask the extreme pain
caused by the other 2 drugs; yet credible experts have testified that midazolam
is unsuitable for this purpose, and experience in other states confirms its
To minimize his potential torture, Campbell has asked to be killed by firing
squad instead; his request has been refused.[iv]
Soon Campbell's life will have come full circle. Torture awaited him when he
was born; torture accompanied him throughout childhood and beyond. And on
Wednesday torture inflicted by the state will pursue him to his final moment of
It is time for "a civil, thoughtful conversation among the American people,
legislatures, and the courts - on the meaning of the [Eighth] Amendment's
prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment."[v]
[i] Minutes of the Parole Board meeting, Re Alva Campbell Jr., CCI #A354-963 on
October 12, 2017.
[ii] New York Times, Andrew Welsh-Huggins (Associated Press), Doctor approves
of ill inmate sitting up during execution, October 31 2017.
[iii] Dissent, Karen Nelson Moore, United States Court of Appeal for the Sixth
Circuit, In Re Execution Protocol, No 17-3076, June 28 2017. For instance:
"There is significant evidence that the first drug, midazolam, cannot prevent
someone from feeling [immense] pain." (page 16)
"[T]here no question that the State has publicly taken inconsistent positions,
concealed facts from Plaintiffs to gain strategic advantage, and attempted at
every turn to deny Plaintiffs an opportunity to try their constitutional claims
... The majority has ensured that the State will be rewarded [for such
behaviour]". (page 40)
[iv] New York Daily News, Elizabeth Elizalde, "Death row inmate wants execution
by firing squad, not lethal injection because he has weak veins", November 7,
[v] Dissent, Jane B. Stranch, United States Court of Appeal for the Sixth
Circuit, In Re Execution Protocol, No 17-3076, June 28 2017, page 42.
Ohio Man Could Face Death Penalty in Slaying of 1-Year-Old: Prosecutor
An Ohio man who was captured in Pennsylvania could get the death penalty for
the slaying of his girlfriend's 1-year-old daughter.
Joshua Gurto, 37, is being accused in the death of Sereniti Jazzlynn-Sky
Blankenship-Sutley, as reported by The Associated Press. He was indicted
several days ago.
Ashtabula County Prosecutor Nicholas Iarocci said Thursday that Joshua Gurto
said that he could face the death penalty if he's convicted of aggravated
murder in the Oct. 7 death. He faces other charges including felonious assault,
domestic violence, and sexual assault.
Gurto was arrested Oct. 27 in Alleghany County, Pennsylvania, after he was
spotted in a convenience store.
A coroner said Seriniti died from blunt force trauma to her head and body. She
was later pronounced dead at a hospital near Cleveland.
Gurto was taken to the Ashtabula County Jail on Thursday from Allegheny County,
the prosecutor said.
Prior to his capture, he had spent e weeks on the run.
It's not clear if he has an attorney.
Gurto's arraignment will take place in "the near future," the prosecutor's
office said, according to the Daily Mail.
Gurto was dating Sereniti's mother, Kelsie, when her baby daughter died.
She's not facing any charges.
(source: The Epoch Times)
Attorney change delays re-sentencing for convicted serial killer
New counsel was named Monday for a convicted serial murderer hoping to get a
2nd chance at life in prison without parole instead of death row.
The last-minute change in lawyers for Anthony Kirkland means his re-sentencing
hearing will now be delayed several months.
In a surprise move the day jury selection was to begin, his attorneys announced
in court last week they wanted off the case.
They said they didn't feel they could represent Kirkland, 49, after learning he
was talking to an attorney for the State Public Defender's Office.
The judge agreed to let them off the case and delayed further court proceedings
Kirkland was convicted in 2010 of killing 2 women and 2 teenage girls.
The jury recommended the death penalty, and the judge concurred.
But last year, the Ohio State Supreme Court ordered a re-sentencing hearing.
They said prosecutors may have been prejudicial in their closing arguments.
That means the man who sexually assaulted, strangled and then burned the bodies
of 3 of his victims could get a lighter sentence.
He could be allowed to live out his days in prison without the possibility of
Kirkland was convicted after a jury trial of murder in the 2006 death of
14-year-old Casonya Crawford and 2009 slaying of 13-year-old Esme Kenney.
He was arrested the day he killed Esme when she went jogging near the Winton
Before the trial began, he pleaded guilty to killing 2 women, 45-year-old Mary
Jo Newton and 25-year-old Kimya Rolison.
Once the jury is set for the re-sentencing, testimony must occur all over
again, putting the families through the anguish of reliving the grisly
(source: WXIX news)
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