2017-09-07 13:27:00 UTC
Judges appointed to sit on Tecumseh inmates' death penalty hearing
2 judges have been chosen to sit with Johnson County District Judge Vicky
Johnson to determine if a Tecumseh State prison inmate who killed his cellmate
deserves to get the death penalty for his crime.
Last month, Patrick Schroeder, a lifer, pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder for
killing Terry Berry, his cellmate, on April 15.
In an order last week, the Nebraska Supreme Court randomly selected Lancaster
County District Judge Robert Otte and Buffalo County District Judge John Marsh
to the 3-judge panel that will consider if Schroeder has committed a prior
murder or has a substantial history of serious assaults, as the state alleges.
He already is serving a life sentence for killing a 75-year-old Pawnee City
farmer in 2006.
The panel also will weigh mitigating circumstances to determine if he should be
put to death for it.
A hearing date hasn't yet been set.
(source: Lincoln Journal Star)
ARIZONA----new death sentence
Phoenix man sentenced to death in double murder, burying bodies in mom's
A Phoenix man convicted of killing 2 people and then burying their bodies in
the backyard of his mother's home was sentenced to death on Wednesday in
Maricopa County Superior Court.
Alan Champagne was convicted of 1st- and 2nd-degree murder in June for the
killing of Philmon Tapaha and Brandi Hoffner in 2011.
In addition to the death penalty for the 1st-degree murder charge, Champagne
was sentenced to 24 years in prison for the 2nd-degree murder conviction, along
with convictions for kidnapping and concealing a dead body.
Champagne's then-girlfriend, Elise Garcia, also was arrested and charged for
her role in the killings and subsequent cover-up. She was sentenced to 16 years
in prison for her role in Hoffner's death.
She was a key witness in Champagne's trial, testifying that she only heard the
gunshot that killed Tapaha but witnessed Hoffner's killing afterward. The pair
were killed inside the apartment that Champagne and Garcia shared.
A few days after the killings, police pulled over Champagne and Garcia. Police
found a bag that reeked of rotting flesh, a bag of lime, Tapaha's Social
Security card and a purse belonging to Hoffner. But police didn't link the
items to the missing couple. Champagne was only arrested on an unrelated
8 months later, the pair had another run-in with the law. Police were called to
the home of Champagne's mother, where detectives had tracked down the couple
because they were wanted on felony aggravated-assault warrants.
Champagne barricaded himself and opened fire on officers before a SWAT team
stormed the residence. He only surrendered when he ran out of ammunition,
No one was injured, and authorities searched the property, but did not find the
bodies. Champagne was convicted and sentenced to 700 years in prison for the
attempted murder of numerous police officers responding to that incident.
The bodies of the missing couple were not found until March 2013 when a
landscaper discovered the makeshift graves of Tapaha and Hoffner in in the yard
of the central Phoenix home where Champagne's mother had resided at the time of
Garcia testified that she heard the gunshots that killed Tapaha and heard
Hoffner beg for her life. Champagne told her to calm down, then told Garcia to
hold the woman. He then used a black electrical cord to make a noose,
strangling Hoffner from behind, court records say.
The bodies were found clothed, mummified and covered in lime.
Nevada death row inmate cites jury selection errors in appeal
An attorney for death row inmate Julius Bradford told the Nevada Supreme Court
on Wednesday that errors in the jury selection process at her client's trial
warrant reversal of his conviction and sentence.
In 2012 Bradford was convicted and sentenced to death by a Las Vegas District
Court jury for the murder of Anthony Limongello, 40, in Las Vegas on May 5,
Bradford was not charged until 2008 and the case only went to trial in 2012.
Attorney Lisa Rasmussen raised several issues with Bradford's conviction and
sentence, but focused primarily on the process by which some potential minority
jurors were excluded from the trial.
"This case was always about race," she said.
Rasmussen argued that 2 potential jurors, one Hispanic and the other African
American, were dismissed before District Judge Doug Smith held a required
hearing on the reasons for their dismissal. The Nevada Supreme Court previously
ruled in another case that the so-called "Batson" challenges must be considered
first to ensure there were race-neutral reasons for the dismissal of the
Giancarlo Pesci, Clark County chief deputy district attorney, told the court
that the defense was able to get the court's attention for the 1st Batson
hearing on a challenged Hispanic juror, but acknowledged an issue with the 2nd
2 attempted challenges.
It was "not the best practice" for the judge to release the jurors before
hearing the challenges to the dismissed jurors, he said. The reasons for
dismissals were described as race neutral.
Pesci said prosecutors sought dismissal of the Hispanic male juror because he
said on his jury questionnaire that he smoked marijuana daily. A Hispanic woman
juror vacillated on whether she could impose the death penalty, Pesci said. The
African American male juror described the death penalty as brutality, Pesci
The inability of a potential juror to support the death penalty is a valid
reason to dismiss that individual, he said.
The court will rule later on the case.
The motive for the killing of Limongello was robbery. He was kidnapped, robbed
and shot in the head.
At the penalty phase of his trial, jurors learned that Bradford had been
convicted of murder with use of a deadly weapon in a previous case involving
the attempted robbery of Benito Zambrano-Lopez, 48.
(source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada Plans To Use Fentanyl In Next Death Row Execution
The November execution will be the state's 1st in more than a decade, but
experts say the new drug combo featuring fentanyl doesn't make sense. One man
sitting on a bed in a small room of a dark prison.
After setting an execution date with no lethal injection drugs in stock, Nevada
last month announced a solution to its death penalty dilemma - a 3-drug
protocol using fentanyl and Valium.
The decision to use this particular combination of narcotics - along with a
muscle relaxant called cisatracurium - may be a previously untried approach to
carrying out capital punishment.
Scott Dozier's November execution will be the state's 1st in more than a
decade, but experts say the new drug combination does not have a clear
explanation. "It doesn't make much sense; you don't need Valium if you have
fentanyl," New York University professor of emergency medicine Susi Vassallo
told the Marshall Project.
Valium overdoses can be fatal and the lethality of fentanyl is readily apparent
in light of the nation's ongoing opioid overdose epidemic. But cisatracurium is
also a paralytic and if the short-acting fentanyl doesn't cause death, the
prisoner could potentially appear unconscious but in fact be aware as he
suffocates. "The paralytic is only going to disguise whether the fentanyl is
being administered properly," Vassallo said. But even as his lawyers demand
more information on the new process, Dozier - who spent roughly a year
convincing the state to kill him - has consistently dismissed concerns about
botched and painful lethal injections in Ohio, Arizona and elsewhere.
When a judge asked him earlier this year about potential problems with the
drugs and the possibility of a "painful or protracted" execution, he blew off
the concern with a dark response. "Quite frankly, your honor, all those people
ended up dead, and that's my goal here," he said.
The new injection protocol comes as states across the nation struggle to find
ways to carry out their most severe punishment. Drug companies have become
reluctant to allow their drugs to be used for executions, forcing states to
turn to compounding pharmacies and other suppliers. In some cases, states have
switched lethal injection protocols to favor more accessible drugs.
Dozier's death sentence stems from a 2002 slaying when he lured Jeremiah Miller
to the Las Vegas strip in order to rob him of $12,000 that he planned to buy
ephedrine with, 1 of the ingredients needed for making meth. After shooting
Miller in the head, police say Dozier let him bleed out in a bathtub before
dismembering him, stuffing his torso and some limbs into a suitcase, then
tossing it in a dumpster.
Afterward, Dozier's friends started coming forward with tips about the case.
One even told police he'd spotted a body holding its own head inside Dozier's
hotel room. A jailhouse snitch alleged that he'd helped Dozier bury a man in
the middle of the Arizona desert in 2001 - and he led investigators to a
dismembered body. Dozier was convicted in the Copper State case before he was
transferred back to Nevada to stand trial for the would-be meth-maker's
After nearly a decade on Nevada's death row, last year Dozier sent a
handwritten letter to the judge begging to end the appeals process and be put
But not long before the judge approved that request and signed a death warrant,
Nevada's stash of its 2-drug injection protocol expired, forcing the state to
In 2016, the state had tried to restock by putting in 247 requests to pharma
companies asking for midazolam, a sedative Nevada planned to use in combination
with the opioid hydromorphone. Although that particular drug combination had
resulted in grisly death spectacles in Ohio and Arizona, ultimately the state
wasn't able to find more of the drugs and turned instead to its recently
announced 3-drug protocol.
And now, barring any last-minute legal maneuvering, that's the combination of
drugs that will be used on Nov. 14, when Dozier is scheduled to meet his fate
in the Ely State Prison death chamber.
How death row inmates at San Quentin are using poetry to examine the prison
system - and themselves
Prison literature has a long and rich history, stretching back to Jack London,
Nelson Algren and Malcolm X. The genre includes powerful work from prisoners
incarcerated on death row, which is often surfaced with the help of activists
or artists in the outside world. The latest of these projects, "San Quentin
Artists," publishes art and poetry made by death row inmates at San Quentin
State, California's oldest prison and the only one in the state with death row
Nearly 750 people are currently on death row at the facility, which has a gas
chamber, though no prisoner has been executed there since 2006. A recent
measure upheld by the California Supreme Court, however, could allow executions
Arts of San Quentin, ublished by London-based artist Nicola White, gives an
online platform to a number of death row inmates' work, all made in solitary
confinement. "Every man is worth more than the worst thing they have done,"
White said by phone from London, where she has also put the inmates' work on
display. "The poetry has a way of expressing emotions that have been frozen in
a lot of these prisoners. Because no matter how damaged or worthless people
feel, there is something beautiful, and poetry and art has a way of bringing
Among the prison poets White publishes is Bill Clark, who began writing poetry
after he arrived on death row in 1998. Clark, who was convicted the year before
of a double murder involving a computer store robbery, maintains his innocence.
For him, poetry is both therapeutic and instructive.
"It helps me analyze and scrutinize how things are affecting me and affecting
others," he said, speaking over a prison phone line last week. "It helps me
cope with the fact that I'm here. That I must maintain my sanity, integrity,
sense of humanity and humor. I've written poems about death row that are
actually amusing. I find a lot of self-realization in my poetry."
Several of Clark's poems also use metaphors to make sense of his experience
behind bars. In one poem, called "Pure Lust," he appears to be longing for a
woman, but that woman stands for freedom. "I yearn, I thirst, I hunger," he
writes. "I want her back. Will she give in? Who is this woman? Her name is
These days, Clark, who also draws cartoons, said he more often writes
children's books than poetry. Clark, who has four children, remembers how much
joy it brought them to read together and said that after years of writing often
grim poetry, he wanted to "write something more positive."
Another prison poet White publishes is Steve Champion, also known as Adisa
Kamara, who first got Clark into writing poetry. Champion, a former Crips gang
member who was convicted of 2 counts of murder after a home burglary, is today
a well-known prison rights advocate who went on hunger strike in 2012 over the
treatment of prisoners at San Quentin.
Champion said he started reading and writing shortly after his conviction.
"When I was convicted I had to ask myself some hard questions," he said. "And
once I knew I was coming to San Quentin and death row, I sort of instinctively
knew it would be important for me to read and study and learn about myself and
Out of that reading came poetry, which Champion said "always gives you a
glimpse about certain aspects of yourself."
"You think you've got yourself nailed down and then this other layer comes
out," he said. "We're all evolving and growing and learning things."
This was a point White stressed when talking about the work San Quentin's
inmates produce, arguing that many people who were on death row are no longer
the same person they were when they came in.
"Steve Champion has been in since 1981. He's since gone on a journey to
transform himself form a thug to an enlightened person with a genuine lesson to
share. If he were to be executed next month would the world be a safer place?
Certainly not," she said.
Among the lessons Champion wants to share is what he sees as the racist
underpinnings of America's prison system. Champion's poem, "Transported to
Another Time," was inspired by one of his evidentiary hearings, where he said
he saw the vastly different outcomes for people who had resources, access and
money, and those who didn't. The hearing also called to mind for him images of
the slave trade because he was put into heavy shackles.
"But I also drew strength from thinking about that, thinking of people packed
in a boat like sardines" during the slave trade, he said. "I think: 'What are
you complaining about?' There is no universal principle in the world that says
life is going to be fair."
Champion also maintains his innocence of the crimes for which he's been
convicted, though he chronicles his life in the Crips gang and the changes he's
undergone since in a memoir called "Dead to Deliverance."
"Definitely if I could relive that period of my life I would relive it," he
said. "But you can't simply freeze people in time and look at them in the worst
possible moment of their life and say that's all they are and all they'll ever
Read Champion's poem, "Transported to Another Time" below or listen to him read
it aloud here. Transported to Another Time -- By Steve Champion
I'm seated on the auction block of the courtroom.
Curious spectators wait to witness a legal lynching.
The court stenographer chronicles every spoken word,
History will not forget this day.
Waist chains gird my wrists and waists.
Lay shackles fastened to my ankles,
I'm transported to another time when men hunted men, cruelly enslaving them.
Not as prisoners of war but for profits.
I am a commodity reduced to invisibility,
where batteries of neuro psychologists and psychiatrists
are paid thousands of dollars not to testify about my humanity,
but about my saneness, my fitness to be tried,
to be executed.
Every morning the sun rises I chant an African battle hymn.
Every evening the sun sets I chant a freedom song.
I am stronger today than I was yesterday but not as strong as I will be
Victory is mine.
County jail buses are vessels containing black, brown and white bodies.
I am transported to another time where slave ships have morphed into slave
Where slave fort is the new prison fort.
Where a whip, a rope, a chain utilized to punish, brutalize and control
are updated to tasers, pepper sprays and stun guns.
Commanded by men and women who wear green, the color of money, the color of
I'm transported to another time when I'm poked and prodded.
Flanked by armed guards. Misdirected and directed to kneel, to be still.
And when the shackles come unclamped, I am not free to walk out of a prison,
but into a cage, another fort where I sleep until I am transported to the
American Hypocrisy: Lethal Injection Drugs Are Considered Safer Than Marijuana
As though politics weren't already ridiculous enough in Trump's America, the
death penalty just exposed the hypocrisy of the country's marijuana laws are.
Last month, Nevada announced plans to begin executing prisoners with opioids,
which are far deadlier than marijuana, and yet the federal government still
considers cannabis more dangerous.
The lethal injection that Nevada plans to use in November will include the
opioids fentanyl and diazepam (a.k.a. Valium). 2 drugs that are considered
safer than cannabis even though a state plans to use them to kill a person. And
even though Nevada will be the 1st state to administer the death penalty with
opioids, it won't be not the 1st time either drug has taken someone's life.
In 2015 alone, benzodiazepines like diazepam claimed the lives of 8,791
Americans. That same year, fentanyl killed 9,580 Americans. Meanwhile, nobody
has ever died of a marijuana overdose - not in 2015 or ever. Even the DEA
admits that. Nevertheless, marijuana remains lumped in with heroin as one of
the most tightly controlled drugs in the country. Which is kind of like forcing
Red (Morgan Freeman) from 'The Shawshank Redemption' to share a cell with
Marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug in the Controlled Substances Act,
meaning that the federal government defines it as a dangerous substance that
has no medical value. In contrast, fentanyl and diazepam are listed as Schedule
II and IV respectively, meaning they are considered safer than cannabis.
But when was the last time a state tried to execute a prisoner with joints?
Maybe Nevada - which legalized recreational cannabis use last November - should
try that just to prove once and for all that America's drug laws are rife with
'reefer madness' hypocrisy.
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
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