death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., OHIO, KY., ARK.
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Rick Halperin
2017-07-20 14:01:03 UTC
Raw Message
July 20

TEXAS----impending execution

Death Watch: Represented by Wikipedia----TaiChin Preyor did not get the legal
expertise he deserved

The exact details of the crime that delivered Taichin Preyor to death row
remain unclear and continue to be investigated by his current team of
attorneys. What's clear is that Preyor was denied certain constitutional rights
during both his trial and the appeals process. But unless Gov. Greg Abbott
grants him clemency or he receives a stay, he will be executed next Thursday,
July 27.

Three recently filed motions by Preyor's latest attorneys argue that Preyor was
represented through his appeals by a disbarred attorney, Phillip Jefferson. His
current lawyer, Catherine Stetson, of the Washington, D.C., firm Hogan Lovells,
told the Chronicle that Jefferson used Brandy Estelle, a California attorney
who works in real estate, as his legal stand-in to represent Preyor. A federal
court in San Antonio originally denied Estelle's motion to represent Preyor,
but the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals later granted her request and began paying
the real estate lawyer for her services. (Estelle was also collecting money
from Preyor's mother for much of the same work.) What's more egregious is the
possibility that Estelle may have relied on Wikipedia to file Preyor's federal
appeal. The latest motion, filed on July 14, states within Estelle's files was
"a copy of the Wikipedia page" titled "Capital punishment in Texas" on the
printout with a Post-It note reading "Research" next to highlighted passages of
"Habeas corpus appeals" and "Subsequent or successive writ applications."

A July 11 supplement also argues that Preyor's previous attorneys "completely
overlooked" the physical and sexual abuse Preyor experienced as a child. The
mitigating evidence, says Stetson, could have convinced the trial jury to spare
him a death sentence. Stetson said she and her team are currently investigating
Preyor's past as well as the crime itself that landed him on death row.

? The state claims that Preyor "fatally stabbed" his "girlfriend" Jami Tackett
after breaking into her San Antonio apartment in February 2004, and in the
process stabbed another man. But in Preyor's appeals, Estelle argued that
Tackett was actually his drug dealer (not his girlfriend), and that Preyor
acted in self-defense against her and her male companion. Preyor was arrested
shortly after the attack, covered in Tackett's blood.

In March 2015, a judicial clerk reviewing death penalty cases contacted the
Texas bar to seek new counsel for Preyor. The clerk, Stetson said, had concerns
about how Estelle and Jefferson had handled the case. "When the federal court
system sees this and asks for help, it tells you something awful happened,"
said Stetson. Austin attorney Hilary Sheard took over Preyor's case (one year
after the 5th Circuit denied his appeal), and ushered in Stetson's firm in May
after she fell ill. That month, the court approved her budget request of
$45,000 to further investigate the case. The new motions seek a stay on
Preyor's execution so that his new attorneys can prepare a case for mitigation.

A week before Preyor's execution date, Stetson said his team remains "in the
dark" about what or when a ruling will come, but they're "continuing their
investigation to better expose" Estelle and Jefferson's fraud. Should their
efforts be unsuccessful, Preyor will be the 1st Texan killed by the state since
James Bigby in March, and only the 5th this year. 542 Texans have been executed
since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

(source: Austin Chronicle)


State Attorney to seek Death Penalty in CR 340 murder case

The State Attorney plans to seek the Death Penalty in the Staleys murder case.
Bill Cervone, State Attorney for the 8th Judicial Circuit said on Monday, July
17, "We intend to pursue the Death Penalty in this case." Cervone went on to
say that they are working on the case, but he did not expect the case to come
to trial until sometime in 2018.

On April 28, 2017, Phillip David Wheeler was indicted for the murder of Kevin
Lawrence Staley, 49 and Kevin Justice Staley, 19. The Gilchrist County Spring
Term Grand Jury returned a True Bill indicting Phillip David Wheeler at the
Gilchrist County Courthouse. The Staleys were found dead back in November of
2015. The murders occurred at a mobile home located off CR 340 near Bell.

Phillip David Wheeler was 37 when he was indicted and a resident of Old Town
and a former resident of Newberry.

(source: Gilchrist County Journal)


3rd death penalty sentencing for convicted killer J.B. Parker likely a year

State prosecutors will try for a third time to get a death sentence that will
stick for convicted killer J.B. "Pig" Parker, but it will be at least a year
before they will have the chance.

Parker is 1 of 4 men convicted of the April 2, 1982, murder of Julia Frances
Slater, who was kidnapped shortly before midnight while working at a
convenience store on U.S. 1 in north Stuart.

Slater, of Jensen Beach, was later shot and stabbed off Kanner Highway west of

John Earl Bush was executed in 1996 at age 38, a decade after he filed his last
appeal and after 15 years on death row.

Terry Wayne "Bo Gator" Johnson, who was passed out drunk in the vehicle and
didn't participate in the murder, was sentenced to life in prison and now lives
in Fort Pierce after being released on supervision in 2008, in part because of
the forgiveness of the victim???s mother, Sally Slater.

The other 2 remain in the maximum-security Union Correctional Institution.

Alfonso Cave, 58, is on death row, and has been for 34 years, the longest
anyone from the Treasure Coast has sat on death row. He has exhausted his
appeals after being sentenced to death for a 3rd time.

In 2012, TCPalm reviewed 20 boxes of court records related to the Cave and
Parker cases. Court papers showed taxpayers spent more than $348,000 on Cave's
appeals, and Parker's tab at that time exceeded $296,000.

At about $65 each day, housing both men on death row has cost an estimated
$1.58 million, according to state officials.

(source: tcpalm.com)


Billings murders: Gonzalez's death penalty resentencing could be year away

A resentencing for the death row inmate who was found guilty of killing local
couple Byrd and Melanie Billings could be more than a year away as the court
waits on appeal proceedings.

Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Jr., 43, was sentenced to death for the 2009 murders,
but was recently granted a resentencing under Florida's revised death penalty

Gonzalez was convicted in 2010 of two counts of first-degree murder and one
count of home invasion robbery with a firearm.

He led a group of men who forced their way into the Billings' home in Beulah in
July 2009 and gunned down the couple during an attempted robbery. The couple
had 17 children, 13 of them adopted. Nine of the children were home at the time
of the murders.

The jury in Gonzalez's case imposed the death penalty in a 10-2 vote, a move
that has been deemed unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. Lawmakers
changed the state's death penalty laws at this year's legislative session to
mandate a unanimous jury recommendation in death penalty cases.

Gonzalez didn't appear in Escambia County court Wednesday for a status
conference in his case, but his attorney, Eric Pinkard, spoke in court via
telephone. Retired Judge Nicholas Geeker, who presided over the original trial,
is handling the case.

Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille said there likely won't be any more
developments in the resentencing case until the appeals process is complete.

Gonzalez is appealing on a number of allegations, including that his lawyer at
trial was ineffective, and that Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan
inappropriately engaged with the jury during the trial.

Gonzalez also claims that due to the high-profile nature of his case, his trial
should have been held elsewhere as the local area was "saturated" with media
reports. Marcille said the judge denied the post-conviction relief motion
without a hearing, so an appeal now goes to the Florida Supreme Court. Marcille
said if the Supreme Court rules in Gonzalez's favor, he could be entitled to
another hearing, which may get him a new sentencing or an entirely new trial.

More: Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Jr. could be re-sentenced for Billings' murders
under new law

If that appeal is denied and concluded, the resentencing phase can continue at
the circuit court level. In that instance, Gonzalez's guilty conviction would
remain, but a new jury would re-hear the case's evidence and decide whether he
should be again sentenced to death or whether he should serve a life sentence.

"The only issue before the jury would be whether or not the sentence of death
or life is appropriate, but we would need to present the facts again," Marcille

Pinkard was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.

(source: Pensacola News Journal)


Carlie Brucia's father furious that her killer could get off death row

In 2004, the shocking murder of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia horrified the nation.
The Sarasota girl was on her way home when she was kidnapped by Joseph Smith.
He raped, strangled and murdered the girl, then dumped her body behind a

After a 10-2 jury decision, Smith was sentenced to death. But, a circuit judge
has now ruled that Smith can have a new sentencing trial.

This all stems from a recent Supreme Court ruling requiring juries to be
unanimous when sentencing someone to death. The high court decided any Florida
death row inmate sentenced after 2002 could have a new sentencing trial.

Right now there are 364 inmates on death row, and under this new law, roughly
1/2 of them could be eligible for re-sentencing.

Carlie's father, Joe Brucia, is furious.

"I don't feel it has anything to do about justice or the law," said Brucia.

"We've been waiting a long time, the family and I, we were looking for some
kind of justice and it seems to elude us," Brucia added.

"They seem indifferent to the victims and their families. They think they can
just do these things without affecting people, but it affects people a lot,"
Brucia added.

Attorney Derek Byrd, who is not connected to this case, says prosecutors will
have a difficult time assembling a case because it happened so long ago. Some
witnesses have retired and Carlie's mother, Susan Schorpen, recently died.

"Having a unanimous verdict on a death penalty, like a 12 to nothing unanimous
verdict, that's a pretty tall order. That doesn't happen very often, even in
egregious cases," explained Byrd.

Joe Brucia does not want this to happen.

"[Joseph Smith] does not deserve to live on the taxpayer's expense any longer,"
said Brucia.

"I don't understand why we have such great concern and such money over an
individual that could torture, rape and murder a child. It's baffling, really,"
he added.

Joe Brucia and his family are writing letters, asking the governor and the
attorney general to step in.

"I want to reinstate the death penalty. I want them to use the weight of the
attorney general's office and their resources and do the right thing, do what
the state of Florida promised my family and I, and that is to put Joseph Smith
to death," said Brucia.

Joseph Smith's new trial date has not been scheduled yet.

(source: WFLA news)

OHIO----impending execution

Urgent Action


Ronald Phillips is scheduled to be executed in Ohio on 26 July. He was
sentenced to death in 1993 for a murder committed earlier that year when he was
19 years old. He is now 43. This would be the first execution in Ohio in 3 1/2

Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:

* Calling on the governor to stop the execution of Ronald Phillips and to
commute his death sentence;

* In your own words, urging the governor not to allow executions to resume in

* Explaining that you are not seeking to downplay the seriousness of violent
crime or its consequences.

Friendly reminder: If you send an email, please create your own instead of
forwarding this one!

Contact this official by 26 July 2017:

Governor John Kasich

Riffe Center, 30th Floor

77 South High Street

Columbus, OH 43215-6117


Fax: +1 614 466 9354

Email (via website):

Twitter: @JohnKasich

Salutation: Dear Governor

(source: Amnesty International USA)


Summit County changes death penalty process; attorneys for Akron man charged in
fatal fire to present evidence before case goes to grand jury

The factors involving the crime and the defendant that may be considered in
Ohio death penalty cases include:

-- Whether the victim induced or facilitated the offense.

-- Duress or coercion.

-- A mental disease or defect.

-- The defendant's young age.

-- Lack of prior criminal history.

-- The degree of participation in the offense.

-- Any other relevant factors.

[source: Ohio Revised Code (Section 2929.04.)]

Before Summit County prosecutors decide whether to pursue the death penalty
against an Akron man accused of starting a fire that claimed 7 lives, they will
consider evidence from defense attorneys about why a life sentence might be
more appropriate.

This is a new process the county is trying, following the lead of other large
Ohio counties, including Cuyahoga and Montgomery.

"Let's have all those cards on the table from the beginning," said Brad
Gessner, chief counsel for the Summit County Prosecutor's office. "This is all
about justice - for these individuals, the victims as much as the people
charged, to feel they were fairly treated by the system."

Stanley Ford, 58, is charged with 7 counts of aggravated murder and 1 count of
aggravated arson for a May 15 fire on Fultz Street that left 2 adults and 5
children dead. He is being held in the Summit County Jail on a $7 million bond,
$1 million for each of the 7 victims.

The defense attorneys for Ford are pleased that the prosecutor's office will
allow them to share potential mitigating evidence before the case is presented
to a grand jury. Such evidence has previously only been considered at the end
of a capital case, after the defendant had been convicted.

"I give a great deal of credit to the prosecutor's office for spearheading this
innovative approach to the capital process," said Don Malarcik, who is
representing Ford, along with attorney Joseph Gorman.

Malarcik has been one of the most outspoken critics of the Summit County
Prosecutor's Office for continuing to pursue capital cases, despite the
unwillingness of juries to recommend a death sentence. Of Summit County's last
10 capital cases since 2014, only 1 drew a death sentence. The rest resulted in
life sentences.

Summit County prosecutors have said they might seek the death penalty against
Ford. The case meets the parameters because it involves multiple murders,
including juveniles, and was allegedly done during the commission of a violent
crime - arson.

Ford, who was arrested May 23, has waived his speedy trial rights, opening the
way for the new mitigation process to be tried.

Summit County prosecutors previously decided whether a case should be presented
to the grand jury with death penalty specifications based on police evidence
and informal discussions with defense attorneys.

Seeking the truth

Gessner said he and Assistant Prosecutor Brian LoPrinzi learned about the early
mitigation process during recent seminars they attended. He thought it made
sense for prosecutors to learn more about the defendant at the beginning of the
process rather than the conclusion.

"Our job's to get to the truth," Gessner said.

Malarcik and Gorman have contracted with Dr. James Crates, a forensic
psychologist, to talk to Ford and find any mitigating evidence that should be
shared with prosecutors. Crates can earn up to $5,000 without further
permission from Summit County Common Pleas Court, according to court records.

Amy Corrigall Jones, the administrative judge in Common Pleas Court, recently
issued orders for the release of records on Ford from the Ohio Department of
Youth Services, Summit County Juvenile Court, Stark County Juvenile Court and
the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Malarcik said the defense is looking for anything that "lessens moral
culpability" for Ford.

"What we intend to present is arguments that weigh in favor of a life
sentence," Malarcik said. "We want to understand the full history of Mr. Ford's

When Malarcik and Gorman have finished gathering information about Ford, they
will present their findings to Summit prosecutors. This will happen informally
and not in open court, similar to the private plea negotiations that happen
routinely between prosecutors and defense attorneys.

The clock is ticking, though, for this process to conclude. Gessner said the
case must be presented to a grand jury within 90 days of Ford's arrest or by
Aug. 20.

The presentation of mitigating evidence at the start of the case won't preclude
defense attorneys from presenting such evidence at the end of the case, if it
proceeds with death penalty specifications, Gessner said.

Whether this new process will be used in future potential capital cases will
depend on the speedy trial deadline and whether the defense attorneys are
willing and interested in participating, Gessner said.

State-level review

Though Malarcik is pleased with the new approach Summit County is trying, he
doesn't think it goes far enough. He'd like to see the state adopt a
recommendation of a death penalty task force appointed by the Ohio Supreme
Court that a charging committee be formed at the Ohio Attorney General's
Office. County prosecutors would submit potential capital cases to the
committee, which would approve or disapprove the death penalty specifications.
The committee would be made up of former county prosecutors and attorney
general staff and would pay particular attention to the race of the defendant
and victim.

"I think that's an important issue when deciding who is subjected to the
ultimate punishment," Malarcik said, adding that geography is also an important

Studies have shown that a defendant's and victim's race and where a crime
occurs play a large role in whether the person faces the death penalty.

Gessner, however, doesn't favor this centralized approach. He thinks it takes
away too much local control.

"Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh is elected by the citizens of Summit County to
do justice in Summit County," he said. "The citizens' views might be different
in a larger city or a smaller rural county. Each county has their own
standards. It takes that out and adds another layer of government bureaucracy."

(source: Akron Beacon Journal)


Monica Robins prepares to witness Ohio's 1st execution in 3 years

Ohio's 1st execution in 3 years is scheduled to take place a week from

Ronald Phillips, who was convicted of raping and killing his girlfriend's
3-year-old daughter in Akron in 1993, is scheduled to die July 26.

WKYC's Monica Robins will be there to witness the execution.

Monica spoke with WKYC's Investigative Producer Phil Trexler who has witnessed
for executions, as a means to prep for next week's execution.

The 2 went live WKYC's Facebook page answering questions, and discussing the
execution process.

(source: WKYC news)


Ohio death penalty opponents urge Gov. John Kasich to postpone executions

Death penalty opponents on Wednesday called on Gov. John Kasich not to resume
executions next week after a 3 1/2-year hiatus.

Ohioans to Stop Executions delivered 27,503 signatures to Kasich's office,
urging the Republican governor to postpone the state's 27 scheduled executions.
The petition calls for better safeguards to prevent innocent people from being
sentenced to death, including 2014 recommendations from the Ohio Supreme
Court's death penalty task force.

Retired Dayton-area Judge James Brogan, who chaired the task force, said
executions should not resume before state legislators consider the 56
recommendations from the panel.

"This lack of action is disconcerting and will enable the core problems we
identified to continue and potentially lead to wrongful death penalty
convictions," Brogan said in a statement.

Executions have been on hold since January 2014, when Dennis McGuire took 26
minutes to die using a new and untried lethal-injection cocktail involving
midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a morphine derivative.

State officials have had difficulty getting lethal injection drugs because
European pharmaceutical companies have barred their sale for the purpose of

But they said earlier this year they have enough of the new 3-drug combo to
carry out several executions.

Convicted Akron killer Ronald Phillips is scheduled to die July 26. Phillips
was convicted in 1993 of raping and murdering his girlfriend's 3-year-old
daughter. The Ohio Parole Board unanimously recommended against clemency for
Phillips in December, calling his crime "among the worst of the worst." The
young victim's half-sister and aunt asked state officials to move forward with
the execution to bring the family closure.

Phillips' execution has been delayed several times as death row inmates and
death penalty opponents have challenged the state's untried protocol. Phillips'
attorneys made a plea this week to the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the next
three executions while the lawsuit makes its way through the courts.

In a separate letter to Kasich, 17 former corrections officials and
administrators, including 3 from Ohio, warned of possible errors with the use
of midazolam, which has been used in problematic executions in Ohio, Arizona
and Alabama. The group warned a disturbing execution could traumatize
corrections officials carrying it out.

Rex Zent, a former Ohio prison warden and Department of Rehabilitation and
Correction official, said execution team members often deal with stress and
anxiety from carrying out routine executions.

"Think of the psychological damage when something does go wrong or when they
think of the men who have been exonerated from death row," Zent said at a
Wednesday news conference.

(source: cleveland.com)


Death penalty sought for accused soldier killer----accused in a double homicide
of 2 Fort Campbell soldiers could face the death penalty if convicted.

Notice was filed in May to seek capital punishment against Jeremy J. Demar, 36,
according to Commonwealth's Attorney Lynn Pyror.

(source: Kentucky New Era)


Mom in toddler murder case appears in court

Anastasia Weaver, mother of murdered 2-year-old Alithia Ivory Boyd, appeared
briefly Wednesday in Marion County Circuit Court.

Weaver, 21, of Mountain Home, faces charges of manslaughter and permitting
child abuse in connection with her daughter's May 6, 2016, death.

Her boyfriend at the time, 24-year-old Cody Allen, faces a capital murder
charge in connection with the toddler's death. Prosecutors have indicated they
will seek the death penalty for Allen.

While Weaver is scheduled to go to trial on her charges in early August, court
watchers believe that date may be pushed back. Allen is not scheduled to go to
trial until January of next year.

Weaver is out of the Marion County jail on a $20,000 bond, as she has been
since the date of her arrest.

Allen had his parole revoked and is currently serving time at the Ouachita
River Correctional Unit of the Arkansas Department of Corrections. He was on
parole for a 5-year sentence from 2014 when he was found guilty of residential
burglary, breaking or entering and theft of property.

Shortly after his arrest on the upgraded charge of capital murder, Allen's
parole was revoked and he was sentenced to a year in prison. He will have
another parole hearing at some point.

If he is let out on parole for the 2014 convictions, he will not be free as
Marion County authorities have a detainer on him for the capital murder charge.
That means if the parole board frees Allen, he will immediately be transferred
to the custody of the Marion County Sheriff's Office.

Allen's chances for such a parole will be hampered by the records he has
amassed while in prison. Between December of last year and the end of June this
year, Allen has been found guilty of 16 major rule violations.

Allen's latest risk level assessment, entered into his prison record on March
30, saw him be labeled a "maximum" risk. While out on parole since May of 2015,
he was labeled a "minimum" risk during nine different assessments.

The death of Alithia Boyd

Allen was arrested May 3, 2016, by Flippin police and Marion County Sheriff's
Office personnel in connection with the girl's injuries following an intense,
48-hour investigation. On May 1, police began the investigation into the girl's
injuries after they received a call about an unresponsive child at Hillside
Apartments in Flippin. Once on scene, they were told the girl fell down a set
of stairs.

However, authorities said the injuries appeared to be too severe for that
explanation. Flippin police were joined by investigators from the Marion County
Sheriff's Office in processing the scene of the incident.

The little girl was taken by Air Evac to Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Mo.

On the same day Alithia Boyd died, May 6, Allen was in the Marion County jail.
Court officials arranged for a Rule 8.1 Hearing on that day, with Allen
appearing before Circuit Court Judge Gordon Webb via video conference. Rule 8.1
Hearings are conducted to make certain defendants are brought before a judicial
officer in a timely fashion.

Marion County, where the capital murder charge against Allen was filed, does
not provide electronic access to court records. A hand search of the file in
the case revealed a document describing what occurred during the hearing.

"Defendant (Cody Allen) cried, then screamed the devil would kill all our fine
souls," Webb wrote of what Allen reportedly said during the hearing. "Defendant
asked if this has the death penalty. Judge said that is a possibility.
Defendant asked if he could just go ahead and plead guilty."

(source: The Baxter Bulletin)
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