2017-04-13 14:35:57 UTC
Death Row Inmate Rodney Reed Loses DNA Appeal
The state's top criminal appeals court is refusing to allow additional DNA
testing of evidence in the lengthy Central Texas death penalty case of Rodney
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals says the request by Reed's attorneys was
the latest of a number of legal moves to unreasonably delay his execution for
the April 1996 abduction, rape and strangling of 19-year-old Stacy Stites. Her
body was found off the side of a road in Bastrop County.
Reed was arrested nearly a year later when his DNA surfaced in another sexual
assault. He sought tests on more than 40 items collected in the murder
Reed long has insisted he and Stites had a consensual sexual relationship and
that her police officer fiance more likely was her killer.
(source: Associated Press)
Defense: Test Murder Weapon in Death Penalty Case
An attorney for a man on death row in the shooting death of a Pennsylvania
police officer is asking that the murder weapon be tested to make sure it
didn't go off by accident.
The (Easton) Express-Times (http://bit.ly/2p8MjRc ) reports that defense
attorney Jonathan Polonsky brought up the idea at a hearing Wednesday in
Northampton County Court in the case of 51-year-old George Hitcho Jr.
He was convicted of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to death in the 2011
shotgun slaying of Freemansburg police officer Robert Lasso, who responded to a
disturbance call at Hitcho's home.
Polonsky argued that his client's former attorney should have had the gun
tested to counter an argument by prosecutors that had the weapon not jammed
after the fatal shot, the defendant would have kept firing.
(source: Associated Press)
With Execution Date Approaching, Evidence Suggests Teleguz Is Innocent
Pressure is building on Governor Terry McAuliffe to grant clemency in the case
of a former Harrisonburg man who could be executed later this month. New
evidence suggests prosecutors and police used questionable tactics to convict
him, and witnesses who pointed a finger at him are now admitting they lied.
Ivan Teleguz faces execution this month for a crime that supporters say he did
When a young Harrisonburg mother was brutally murdered more than a decade ago,
police were anxious to find the killer, and DNA from the crime scene led to
Michael Hetrick - a man who said he didn't even know Stephanie Sipe and had no
motive to kill her. Detectives thought the woman's former boyfriend and the
father of her child hired Hetrick, and they urged him to confirm that theory:
"The police just fed him every detail of their case. They even gave him this
document that laid out their entire theory of the case, and said, 'We want you
to read this so you can understand the facts of the case."
Elizabeth Peiffer - staff attorney at the Virginia Capital Representation
Resource Center - says officers then called the Commonwealth's attorney, who
said she would ask for the death penalty unless Hetrick could confirm that Ivan
Teleguz was behind the killing.
"That if he didn't give them Ivan - if he didn't repeat this story back to
them, his own life would be in jeopardy - that they would seek the death
penalty, and he would get it," she explains.
Hetrick then said he was hired by Teleguz, and 2 other men testified that's
what happened. One of them - an immigrant from Kyrgystan - was promised help in
getting a visa from the federal government to save him from deportation. The
other was told he might face the death penalty if he didn't implicate Teleguz.
In court, attorney Peiffer says, the prosecutor claimed Teleguz had also
committed a murder in Pennsylvania.
"They told jurors that this is how he solves his problems. He has people commit
murder for him, and jurors were really scared," she says. "They sent out a
question to the judge during deliberations asking if he had their addresses,
and the judge had them instructed that he did have this information, and jurors
were so scared that they very quickly sentenced him to death."
But it turned out the Pennsylvania murder they described never happened, and
the 2 men who originally linked Teleguz to the crime in Virginia have since
said they lied. Now the Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center and the
law firm Kirkland and Ellis are asking the governor to pardon Teleguz or at
least commute his sentence so he won't be executed.
"We have asked that he grant a full pardon, because we believe the current
state of the evidence, with 2 of the key prosecution witnesses recanting their
testimony that no juror could have found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."
And, Peiffer says, public support for Teleguz, who - along with his family --
left the Soviet-controlled Ukraine as a child to avoid religious persecution,
"Not only do we have over 113,000 people signing his online petition. We have
thousands of pages of letters that we've submitted to the governor, and we also
have some really prominent people speaking out on Ivan's behalf. The Virginia
Council of Churches and Religious Leaders had a presentation in front of the
governor's office and presented a letter to the governor asking, particularly
during this time of holy week, that the governor consider the problems of
execution of an innocent man in Virginia, and then there was a letter that came
out from conservative and libertarian leaders - 25 of them, and we've had a lot
of political people come out as well."
Among them Delegates Simon and Hope from Northern Virginia. Peiffer says she
hopes the public will weigh-in between now and the scheduled execution date -
April 25th - by calling the governor and joining the chorus for clemency.
(source: WVTF news)
20 Virginia Conservatives Call on Governor to Commute Death Sentence of Ivan
Nicholas Cote is a former board member of the Republican Liberty Caucus of
Virginia. He tells 88.9 WCVE the group represents a growing number of
conservatives concerned with the death penalty and the risk of executing an
"Every Virginian should want to make sure the criminal justice system works,
and that is especially vital in a case like this because the death penalty
cannot be undone. A possibly wrongful execution would be carried out in our
name as Virginians, and that is unacceptable," said Cote.
In a letter to the Governor, Cote and others argue Virginia's case against Ivan
Teleguz is weak since it relies on partially recanted testimony.
More than 10 years ago, Teleguz was convicted and sentenced to death for a
murder-for-hire plot against his ex-girlfriend. He is now scheduled for
execution April 25th.
(source: WCVE news)
2 plead not guilty in Henry County slayings
Jacob Kosky and Matthew Baker are accused of shooting 4 people inside a
The suspects face the death penalty. 2 men accused of killing four people in a
shooting at a Henry County home in October pleaded not guilty to murder charges
Jacob Kosky and Matthew Baker face the death penalty in the Oct. 26 shooting
that left 4 dead. The 2 were supposed to have court appearances last month, but
those were rescheduled to allow Baker time to find an attorney.
Police say Kosky and Baker were at a bonfire and gathering when they left and
returned to shoot up a home on Moccassin Gap Road in McDonough. Authorities
found Jacob Williams, Matthew Hicks, Keith Gibson and Sophia Bullard dead
inside the home. Destiny Olinger was taken to a hospital, where she later died.
Police say Kosky and Baker intended to rob the victims.
The duo were indicted on murder, aggravated assault and weapons charges in
January. Kosky also faces a theft charge. Henry County District Attorney Darius
Pattillo said he plans to seek the death penalty in the case.
3 other people - Jacob Williams, 18, of McDonough, Kayla Head, 21, of
McDonough, and Brooke Knight, 19, of Locust Grove - are accused of misdemeanor
obstructing for not cooperating with police.
(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
House votes down budget amendment calling for report on cost-effectiveness of
Florida's death penalty
The Florida House rebuffed an attempt to include proviso language in the budget
for a report on the "imposition and execution of capital punishment" in
The amendment, put forward by Rep. Sharon Pritchett, called for the state to
use money to fund a report from the Office of Program Policy Analysis and
Government Accountability (OPPAGA) looking at the death penalty.
The report, among other things, would have had to identify the actual fiscal
cost associated with maintaining a capital punishment system; the average cost
to the state and local government associated with the the execution of a single
offender from indictment to execution; and address the "causes driving
disparities in capital sentencing outcomes on the basis of demographic factors
of the offender and the victim including, but not limited to, race, gender,
sex, and geography."
"It is good to see that the House engaged on the death penalty and recognized
the constitutional importance of unanimous juries," said Pritchett in her
comments. "What is concerning, however, are the many other parts of the death
penalty which may be subject to a constitutional challenge which we did not
address in our previous reforms."
Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation last month requiring unanimous jury
recommendations before the death penalty can be imposed.
The U.S. Supreme Court in January 2016 declared the state's death penalty was
unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges to make the ultimate
decision. The ruling was based on a case where a judge issued a death sentence
after a 7-5 jury recommendation.
In 2016, the Legislature overhauled the state law to let the death penalty be
imposed by a 10-2 jury vote. But in October, the state Supreme Court voted 5-2
to strike down the new law and require unanimous jury decisions.
Pritchett's amendment also comes as state lawmakers are calling for State
Attorney Aramis Ayala to be suspended or removed from office after she said her
office would no longer seek the death penalty. Scott reassigned 23 of her
capital cases, and the House has proposed cutting her budget by $1.3 million.
Rep. Bill Hager, the chairman of the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, said
the money was being moved "in respect to capital cases." He defended the
decision to cut the budget, saying he was "not familiar with a circumstance
that would justify the transfer of the money."
While the Senate initially proposed cutting the funding for Ayala's office,
members OK'd a compromise Wednesday. The amended Senate spending plan moves
more than $569,000 into Ayala's budget and restores 9 of the 21 positions cut.
It then sends $622,000 and 6 positions to the office of State Attorney Brad
King, who has been reassigned Ayala???s capital cases.
House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo called Pritchett's amendment an
"unfriendly amendment from a very friendly lady."
"We ought not be imposing the ultimate penalty in disparate ways," said Rep.
Sean Shaw during debate on the amendment. "The least we can do is study ways we
can make it better and study ways to we can improve the system, no matter how
you feel about it."
The amendment failed on a 42-71 vote.
Pritchett's amendment was the only floor amendment to the lower chamber's
proposed $81.2 billion spending plan. The chamber spent about 90 minutes
discussing the bill, teeing it up for a vote later this week.
Carlie Brucia Killer Could Get Off Death Row
In 2006, a jury voted 10-2 to sentence Joseph Smith to death. Steven Kansler is
the step-father of Smith's victim, 11-year-old Carlie Brucia.
"When he's executed and I get to go up there and watch him, then that'll be my
closure--where I feel that she's been set free," Kansler said back in 2014.
Now, Kansler may never have that closure.
In 2004, Carlie went missing from a car wash off Bee Ridge road. The case drew
national attention when surveillance video emerged of Smith abducting her.
After days of searching her body was found, dumped only miles away in a wooded
area behind a church. Pastor Rod Myers remembers it vividly.
"We had surveyed our property just to check and see if she was here," Myers
said standing beside a memorial for Carlie. "We didn't see her and so we were
very surprised when she was discovered here."
The world watched as Smith was found guilty of kidnapping, raping and killing
Brucia. He was sentenced to death.
More than a decade later--he's still alive in prison and is appealing his
sentence before Sarasota County Judge Andrew Owens. Smith argues he should
receive a new sentencing hearing because of a change to Florida's sentencing
"This has pulled this back into people's lives and now they have to think about
it again," Myers said. "Why dredge this back up?"
In 2016, the United States Supreme Court stuck down Florida's death penalty
sentencing requirements as unconstitutional.
State lawmakers passed a new law requiring 10 out of 12 jurors to vote in favor
of death. Florida's Supreme Court struck down that law as unconstitutional.
Lawmakers drafted a new sentencing law during the current legislative session
requiring a unanimous jury vote to put someone to death. In March, Governor
Rick Scott signed it into law. Now, hundreds of death row inmates can appeal
their sentences, including Smith.
Ron Kruzel was the jury foreman in Smith's trial. 13 years later, he still
stands by his decision.
"There was no question that Joe Smith was guilty. No question at all," Kruzel
said. "You had to see the pictures. You had to realize the life that was taken
and how it was taken. I will use the word heinous evil."
The jury unanimously agreed on Smith's guilt. However, when it came to
sentencing, 10 jurors voted for death while 2 voted for life in prison.
Adam Tebrugge was the lead defense attorney on the case when it went to trial.
He says the split vote is reason enough to revisit the case.
"It appears almost certain that Joseph Smith's death sentence will be reverse
and his case will be remanded back to Sarasota County for a new re-sentencing
trial sometime within the next year or 2," Tebrugge said.
Many people close to the case support keeping Smith on death row including
state attorney for the 12th judicial circuit, Ed Brodsky.
"We've made our arguments and hope this sentence will remain in place," Brodsky
said. Tebrugge says it's the duty of the justice system to revisit each and
every case that was not recommended by a unanimous jury.
"Florida has been making this mistake in case after case and resulted in 400
people on death row, I think that mistake has to be fixed," Tebrugge said.
There are 371 people on death row in Florida. Kruzel says he's certain Smith
should stay there.
"He will die eventually. Whether he dies in prison or whether he dies on the
table with IVs in his arm, he's going to die," Kruzel said. "At that point,
he'll be faced with what he's done in his life--just like we all are."
Fla. State Attorney Sues Gov. Over Death Penalty Cases----9th Judicial Circuit
State Attorney Aramis Ayala claims the decision violated her constitutional
rights, harmed her reputation
A Florida prosecutor who says she will not pursue the death penalty in any
cases for the duration of her term has filed a lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott,
The lawsuit is in response to Scott's decision to strip Aramis Ayala's office
of 23 1st-degree murder cases because she refused to consider the death
penalty. All of the cases were reassigned to another prosecutor.
Ayala, who serves as state attorney for the 9th Judicial Circuit, said the move
violated her constitutional rights, affected her reputation and deprived those
who elected her into office "of the benefit of their votes."
"The governor did not take this drastic step because of any misconduct on
Ayala's part, but simply because he disagreed with her reasoned prosecutorial
determination not to seek the death penalty under current circumstances," the
Scott signed executive orders reassigning the cases on Mar. 16, April 3 and
April 6 to 5th Judicial Circuit State Attorney, Brad King. King is also listed
as a defendant in the suit.
The dispute started with the case of Markeith Loyd. The 42-year-old fugitive
was captured on Jan. 17 following a nationwide manhunt. Loyd is charged in the
murder of Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton, 42, on Jan. 9. He is also charged
with murdering his pregnant 24-year-old ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon, in December.
"The moment I heard that she had decided not to prosecute Markeith Loyd to the
full extent of the law, it bothered me personally," the governor said Tuesday,
"These families deserve a state attorney who will aggressively prosecute Loyd
to the fullest extent of the law and justice must be served," he said in a
Ayala is arguing that state law gives her "absolute" discretion when
determining if and how to prosecute cases. According to the lawsuit, "the
defendants violated her rights "when they assumed the authority to veto the
prosecutorial discretion of an independent elected official."
Wrongly-convicted Death Row inmate returns to Bay Area to speak out against the
Death Penalty----Juan Melendez spent over 17 years on Death Row
A former Florida man is returning to the Tampa Bay Area to share his unique
perspective of spending 17 years on death row for a crime he didn't commit, and
living to tell about it.
Juan Melendez spent 17 years, 8 months and 1 day on Florida's death row,
convicted for a murder at a beauty salon in Polk County.
The victim, Delbert Baker, was brutally killed in September of 1983 in
Auberndale. With no leads, investigators offered a $5,000 reward for
information that led to an arrest, and a man came forward claiming that
Melendez had admitted to killing Baker.
According to case details from the National Registry of Exonerations, Melendez
was convicted based on misleading testimony, and Melendez, who spoke very
little English at the time, struggled to defend himself. Despite a lack of
physical evidence, Melendez was sentenced to death in just 5 days from the
start of the trial.
"The judge complained the case took too long," Melendez remembers, talking to
ABC Action News on Wednesday on the campus of USF.
Melendez says his new attorney's later found a taped confession from the really
killer, and he was released from prison in 2002. He now travels the country
sharing his story and talking about the dangers of the death penalty.
There have been 61 people exonerated in Florida since 1989, according to the
National Registry of Exonerations. That's over 585 total years lost by
individuals for crimes they didn't commit, while the real perpetrator went
free. Over 30% of those cases were murder cases, meaning those innocent
convicts may have been eligible for the death penalty.
Melendez is speaking tonight in Tampa at the University of South Florida's
Business Administration Building (BSN) at 5 p.m. to discuss his experience with
the public, and he will be giving a talk titled "Presumed Guilty: Injustice,
Survival and Hope on Death Row" at the University of Tampa on Thursday at 4
p.m. on the 9th floor of the Vaughn Center.
Both events are open to the public.
(source: ABC news)
Avalos' defense appealing to Florida Supreme Court to stop state from seeking
Andres "Andy" Avalos' Jr.'s defense team has filed an appeal with the Florida
Supreme Court that argues the state cannot seek the death penalty against him.
Avalos is facing 3 counts of 1st-degree murder in the Dec. 4, 2014, slayings of
his wife Amber Avalos, 33; neighbor Denise Potter, 46; and the Rev. James
"Tripp" Battle, 31.
If convicted, Avalos would face life in prison or the death penalty - which the
state has indicated it will seek and the defense continues to contest.
Currently, Avalos is set to stand trial beginning May 8. His lawyers plan to
employ an insanity defense.
Avalos' defense has argued that the state should not be allowed to seek the
death penalty against him because Florida's death penalty's scheme first went
into limbo following the U.S. Supreme Court's Jan. 12, 2016, ruling in Hurst
vs. Florida that found it unconstitutional that Florida judges, not juries,
have the ultimate say in the death penalty.
While the state Legislature had worked quickly to pass corrective legislation,
on March 7, 2016, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the ruling in Hurst also
required a unanimous vote by a jury to sentence someone to death, not a
majority or super-majority as required by the old and new laws.
Last month, new state legislation was enacted that requires a unanimous vote by
a jury to sentence a convicted murderer to death. Defense attorney Andrew
Crawford subsequently argued before presiding Circuit Judge Diana Moreland that
the state should be prohibited from seeking the death penalty retroactively
using the sentencing scheme.
Crawford also argued that the aggravating factors required to impose the death
penalty were not listed in the indictment charging Avalos with the 3 counts of
1st-degree murder. Moreland denied the defense motions.
Last week, an appeal was filed with the Florida Supreme Court in which Crawford
requests that Moreland be prohibited from qualifying a jury to enter the death
penalty phase should Avalos be convicted as charged.
In the 30-page petition filed Thursday, the defense again made similar
The Florida Office of the Attorney General's response argues that the Hurst
decision does not require that aggravating factors be determined by the grand
jury; rather, following a guilty verdict, it is up to a jury to find those
factors beyond a reasonable doubt. Further, Hurst did not eliminate the death
penalty as possible sentence.
The state also cites the 1977 case Dobbert vs. Florida, which deals with
intent, but does not prohibit the state Legislature from correcting issues with
the sentencing scheme. Moreland has cited Dobbert similarly in other recent or
pending death penalty cases.
(source: Bradenton Herald)
Arthur's attorney seeks new hearing
The attorney for convicted murderer Tommy Arthur has filed a petition with the
U.S. Supreme Court seeking a new hearing on the case.
Suhana S. Han, of New York, filed the petition after the Sixth Circuit federal
appeals court blocked the state of Ohio from using its lethal injection method,
which officials said is almost identical to the one used in Alabama.
Last week, the Alabama Supreme Court set May 25 as a new execution date for the
The Sheffield native has been on death row since March 22, 1983, after he was
sentenced for the 1982 shooting death of Troy Wicker. The shooting occurred
Feb. 1, 1982, at Wicker's Muscle Shoals residence.
Last week, an Ohio federal appeals court blocked the state from using 500
milligrams of midazolam in its 3-drug execution procedure after arguments by
death row inmates that even 500 milligrams of midazolam could lead to a risk of
pain were more convincing than counterarguments from the state.
Basing her petition on the Ohio ruling, Han told the U.S. Supreme Court a
review of Arthur's case is urgent.
"Mr. Arthur has proffered substantial evidence that his execution will be
torturous, but because he is in Alabama instead of Ohio, that evidence will
never be considered absent this court's intervention," Han wrote.
She said the rehearing should be granted to ensure the "uniform application of
the Eighth Amendment's guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment."
Last week, Alabama Attorney General Steven Marshall's office hired an expert on
the lethal injection process.
The office has contracted with Tampa-based Clinical Pharmacology Services Inc.
to "review the effect of drugs used in a lethal injection and provide expert
affidavits and/or expert testimony, if needed," according to the agenda of the
Legislative Contract Review Committee.
The prison system uses the sedative midazolam to render inmates unconscious at
the start of the death-penalty procedure. Media reports show up to 500
milligrams has been used in the past. The drug has come under criticism, the
Associated Press reported last month.
Arthur's execution has been halted 7 times. All the execution dates have been
stayed by appeals courts. His last execution was delayed the night of Nov. 3 --
past the appointed hour -- by the U.S. Supreme Court before justices finally
stayed it to consider whether they would review 2 appeals by Arthur.
In February, Marshall filed a motion asking the Alabama Supreme Court to set
another execution date for Arthur.
(source: Times Daily)
Alabama rightly ends its outrageous death penalty sentencing procedures
Alabama's embattled Gov. Robert Bentley stepped down Monday after pleading
guilty to 2 misdemeanors following a salacious sex scandal. That set off an
enormous media extravaganza that overshadowed the other big political news out
of Alabama this week: Bentley's successor, Gov. Kay Ivey, signed a law Tuesday
ending the state's atrocious practice of allowing judges to override a jury's
recommendation of a life sentence and instead send convicted killers to death
The death penalty is an anachronistic, barbaric act, and society would be
better off without it. It is meted out disproportionately against people of
color and the poor. It hinges on the arbitrary whims of local prosecutors, who
decide whether particular murders should be charged as capital offenses. The
courts themselves have proven susceptible to bad policing, prosecutorial
misconduct and lying witnesses.
But despite all that, states that continue to put people to death need to
ensure that they do so as fairly as possible and without violating the
Alabama hasn't met those standards. The Supreme Court ruled in its 2002 Ring
vs. Arizona decision that under the 6th Amendment guarantee to a jury trial,
the "findings of fact" that can lead to an execution must be made by a jury,
not a judge. The court reinforced that standard in its 2015 Hurst vs. Florida
decision, ruling that Florida's system of having juries issue advisory
recommendations was insufficient because the final decision was left to a
judge. Florida subsequently revised its rules; the Delaware Supreme Court also
voided its similar system. But Alabama's judicial override system sputtered on.
The outrageous practice is compounded by politics. The Equal Justice
Initiative, a civil rights and criminal justice advocacy group, has reported
that judicial overrides increase during judicial election years, suggesting
that some death sentences may have been imposed not because the defendants were
the "worst of the worst," but because judges running for reelection sought to
portray themselves as tough on crime. That would be a cynical abuse of judicial
So in the "better late than never" spirit, it's good that Alabama has finally
ended the practice. But hold the full applause. The new law doesn't change
Alabama's rule allowing a death sentence to be handed down on the basis of 10
out of 12 juror votes (rather than a unanimous 12, which is what is required
for conviction). Also, the new law is not retroactive, which means people sent
to Alabama's death row by judges overruling juries still face executions.
Presuming Alabama isn't about to end the death penalty altogether, it should
take those 2 additional steps to make its system as fair and just as possible.
(source: Editorial, Los Angeles Times)
2 bills proposed to remove death penalty
2 bills have been proposed in the 2017 Louisiana Legislative Regular Session
that could eliminate the death penalty if passed.
The bills, Senate Bill 142 and House Bill 101, are aimed to eliminate the death
penalty as punishment for crimes of 1st-degree murder, 1st-degree rape and
According to the proposed bills, if the district attorney does not seek capital
punishment or if the crimes are committed on Aug. 1 or after, then the offender
"shall be punished by life imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of
parole, probation or suspension of sentence."
Rep. Stephen Pugh, R - Ponchatoula, said he opposes the proposed bills because
he believes the death penalty acts as "deterrence" to prevent certain crimes
"At least this gives something for people to think about before committing a
heinous crime," Pugh said during a phone interview Tuesday. "I'm a firm
believer in deterrence, and this is a deterrence."
Senate Bill 142 is sponsored by Sen. Dan Calitor, R - Baton Rouge, and Rep.
Terry Landry, D - New Iberia. House Bill 101 is sponsored by Landry and Rep.
Rep. Steve Pylant, R - Winnsboro.
Calitor and Landry told NOLA.com their views on the death penalty have changed
over time. Claitor's Roman Catholic faith and the fact that the death penalty
is expensive and not effective are contributing factors for Calitor's change of
view to being in favor of eliminating the death penalty.
House Criminal Justice Committee Chairman Sherman Mack, R-Albany, said he will
support Louisiana's district attorneys and oppose 2 bills, according to a
statement issued Tuesday.
"While everyone might not support the death penalty, I feel it is imperative
for our district attorneys to have the ability to use the death penalty when
they feel it is necessary," Mack said. "There are crimes that are so horrible
that the death penalty is an option that must always be available."
According to the statement, 40 Louisiana district attorneys unanimously voted
to oppose both bills.
"Our district attorneys are very knowledgeable and very capable. I trust them
to use the death penalty option at their discretion. It is an option they must
have in order to do their job as the parish's chief prosecutor," he said.
Other than the fiscal bills, Mack believes the 1 death penalty bills may be one
of the "hot-button" bills in the current session.
In response to the financial issues the state is facing, Mack believes money
should not "dictate" the court systems.
According to the statement, both bills will be debated in Mack's House Criminal
Justice Committee. If a majority of the committee agrees the bill should be
passed, then the bills will be sent to the full House of Representatives for
debate and vote.
A date has not been set for the bills' hearing in the House Criminal Justice
Committee, the statement read.
(source: Hammond Star)
Death penalty defendant will be shackled to and from Sweeney's courtroom
Judge Maureen Sweeney has ruled that a defendant who faces death-penalty
charges in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court must be shackled on his way to
and from her courtroom.
Lance Hundley, who is charged in the November 2015 slaying of a woman, can have
his restraints off in the courtroom but not in the halls of the courthouse.
The order only pertains to the Hundley case when he is wearing civilian clothes
and no other case on her docket.
The order does not mention the suicide Monday of Robert Seman, who leaped to
his death after a hearing in her courtroom in his death-penalty case. He was
wearing civilian clothes but not handcuffed or shackled at the time he jumped.
In the Seman case, the judge had ordered that he be allowed to wear civilian
clothing in the courtroom and "any time he was to appear in court or before the
general public, he was not to appear to be in custody," whether for pre-trial
hearings or the trial, Sheriff Jerry Greene said.
The purpose of this order was to avoid tainting a jury or public opinion, and
it applied in court and in the public areas of the courthouse, the sheriff
In a transcript of a pretrial hearing in Hundley's case Wednesday, Judge
Sweeney asked Hundley if he understood why the change in policy was taking
"Oh, yes, under the circumstances that happened to Mr. Seman," Hundley said,
according to the transcript. "Yeah," the transcript records Judge Sweeney
"And you understand that at no time with the jury or anything else you will be
shackled in this room here, OK?"
Hundley responded "yes," according to the transcript.
Greene, whose deputies provide courthouse security, applauded the judge's
"Any time that we can increase the security and are able to keep an inmate more
secure when we're transporting him, that's a good thing," the sheriff said.
In high-profile cases such as death-penalty cases, defense attorneys routinely
file motions asking that their defendants be allowed to wear civilian clothes
and not be visibly restrained before jurors and the order is usually granted.
Hundley, 47, of Washington Street, Warren, or Cleveland Street, Youngstown,
could face the death penalty if he's convicted in the Nov. 6, 2015, slaying of
Erika Huff, 41, in her Cleveland Street home on Youngstown's South Side.
Hundley is accused of beating Huff to death, beating her mother and setting the
house on fire.
Hundley is charged with aggravated murder with a death-penalty specification,
attempted murder, felonious assault and aggravated arson. Trial is set for
Sept. 8 but there are several pretrial hearings on the docket before the trial
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