death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., N.C., FLA., ALA., LA.
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Rick Halperin
2017-06-24 14:15:40 UTC
Raw Message
June 24


Love gets new attorneys for capital murder retrial

Former convicted murderer Albert Leslie Love Jr. has 2 new lawyers for a
retrial of his capital murder case, including one who represented him on

In a brief hearing Friday, Love informed 19th State District Judge Ralph
Strother that he requires court-appointed attorneys to represent him because he
and his family can't afford to hire attorneys for the retrial of his
death-penalty case.

Love left death row and has been back in the McLennan County Jail since May 2.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned his capital murder conviction
and death sentence in December.

Strother appointed Austin attorneys Ariel Payan, who worked on Love's appeal,
and Jim Young to represent Love on retrial. Strother said Friday it likely will
be 2019 before Love's case can be tried again.

A Williamson County jury returned the death penalty against Love in 2013 in the
2011 shooting deaths of Keenan Hubert, 20, and Tyus Sneed, 17, at the Lakewood
Villas apartment complex, 1601 Spring St.

The Court of Criminal Appeals, in a 6-3 opinion, ruled that Love's Fourth
Amendment rights were violated when Waco police seized the contents of his
cellphone, including text messages, without a search warrant. Prosecutors then
used the messages at his trial.

In a motion for rehearing rejected by the Court of Criminal Appeals in April,
prosecutors argued that Waco police officers relied on what they understood the
law to be at the time and exhibited a "good-faith belief" that warrants were
not necessary for the cellphones.

Love was appointed new attorneys because his original trial attorneys, John
Donahue and Jon Evans, bowed out of representing him again because Love's
appellate attorneys alleged in briefs that the attorneys were ineffective, a
common tactic on appeal.

Love's trial was moved to Georgetown because one of his co-defendants, Rickey
Donnell Cummings, was tried first in Waco. The appeals court affirmed Cummings'
conviction and death sentence.

Cummings' younger brother, D'Arvis Cummings, was sentenced to 20 years in
prison in 2014. He pleaded guilty to murder as a party to the ambush slayings.

Deontrae Majors and Marion Bible, who were in the front seat of the car Hubert
and Sneed were in when they were killed, were wounded in the attack but managed
to escape.

Testimony from both trials showed Cummings and Love wanted to kill Hubert out
of revenge because they thought he killed their best friend, Emuel "Man Man"
Bowers III, at East Waco Park the year before.

McDonald capital murder trial postponed

In other court activity Friday afternoon, Strother indefinitely postponed the
capital murder trial of Todric Deon McDonald to give his attorneys sufficient
time to have DNA evidence analyzed.

McDonald, 30, and 32-year-old Tony Olivarez are co-defendants in the shooting
deaths of Justin Javier Gonzalez, 24, and Ulysses Gonzalez, 30, at the Pecan
Tree Apartments in the 2600 block of Grim Avenue. The cousins died of multiple
gunshot wounds, police said.

Prosecutor Michael Jarrett told the judge his office likely will get a report
back next week concerning 36 items that were tested for DNA, and then he will
forward the information to the defense.

Evans and Donahue, who represent McDonald in the death-penalty case, told
Strother they would need time to have the evidence analyzed by defense experts
to provide McDonald with a proper defense.

Jury selection in the case had been set for October. Jarrett said the state has
no objections to the postponement.

(source: Waco Tribune-Herald)


Judge hears motions in capital murder case in Danville

A Danville judge this week denied a motion by defense counsel to declare a
capital murder case unconstitutional.

The Danville Commonwealth's Attorney Office filed a notice of intent to seek
the death penalty against Pierre Antoine Dixon, 30, in December 2016.

Dixon, of Danville, is charged with capital murder in the November 2013
shooting death of Lynchburg resident Antwan Lamontah George Rucker. Police have
said Rucker was believed to have been led to the Innkeeper hotel on Piney
Forest Road to be robbed.

Danville Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Petra Haskins said in an email
Friday afternoon the state is seeking the death penalty in the case for
numerous reasons.

Rucker "was lured to the Innkeeper by [Sharika] Murphy who was in cahoots with
Dixon to rob Antwan Rucker," Haskins said in the email.

"A homicide in the course of a robbery is potentially a capital crime," Haskins

The death penalty is sought in this case due to the "aggravating factors of
both future dangerousness and vileness," according to a motion filed by Steve
Milani with the Roanoke Capital Defense Unit.

Milani filed the motion to "declare 1 part of Virginia's capital murder
sentencing scheme unconstitutional, the so-called future dangerousness
aggravator," Milani said in an email Friday morning.

Danville Circuit Court Judge Joseph W. Milam Jr. denied the motion.

In a separate development this week related to the case, Milam granted a
$50,000 secured bond to Sharika Mershay Murphy, 25, who pleaded guilty to
accessory after the fact to homicide and robbery in November 2016 in connection
to the case.

Murphy's defense attorney, Mark Williams, said in court Friday afternoon that
his client would live in Danville with family.

Murphy has no prior record to this incident and is a mother of 2 children,
Williams added in his closing argument.

"She wants to be here in Danville" as opposed to being in the Martinsville City
Jail, where she had been assigned, Williams said.

Murphy's sentencing date has not been set, and she is expected to testify in
Dixon's case in December. "That's a long time to leave her in limbo," Williams

Murphy also has family in Newport News she wanted to stay with until

If the court were to grant a bond, Danville Commonwealth's Attorney Michael
Newman argued in his closing argument that Murphy stay in Danville, as Newport
News was too far.

Milam agreed to a $50,000 secured bond, requiring Murphy to stay drug and
alcohol free and only stay with family in Danville and no other location.

Murphy's sentencing is due to be set next week.

(source: godanriver.com)


Reston Teen's Accused Killer Could Get Death Penalty: Report----Darwin Martinez
Torres, 22, is accused of beating 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen to death last

If an autopsy report currently underway on the body of 17-year-old Nabra
Hassanen shows that she was sexually assaulted before her murder on Sunday, her
accused killer could get the death penalty, according to a report.

The murder of Hassanen, a Muslim girl who was walking near her mosque with
friends when she got into an argument with a man in the car, touched off
nationwide fury over what appeared to be a hate crime. However, Fairfax County
Police claim that 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres killed her in a fit of
road rage -- not out of anti-Muslim hate -- that developed as he confronted
teens that were walking and biking in the road.

WUSA9 reports that if an autopsy shows that Hassanen was sexually assaulted,
prosecutors could opt to add capital murder to the charges, which could include
a death sentence if convicted.

Police believe Martinez Torres chased Hassanen's friends in his car, and then
assaulted Hassanen. He then allegedly pulled her into his car, took her away
from the scene, and then assaulted her again before dumping her body in a pond
in nearby Sterling.

But it's the possibility of a sexual assault before her fatal wounds that could
change everything about the case.

"We have to await forensic examination results and the report from autopsy from
the medical examiner to confirm whether or not that took place," Fairfax County
Police Chief Ed Roessler said according to WUSA9.

Martinez Torres has a court date set for July 19.

Vigils were held across the country to honor Hassanen's life, including one at
Lake Anne Plaza in Reston that drew thousands of people.

(source: patch.com)


Dead Wilmington woman's DNA found in Bradley's truck

DNA, computer searches and letters written from jail by the defendant were
presented to the jury in the 9th day of testimony Friday in the murder trial of
James Opelton Bradley.

Bradley, 54, of Wilmington is charged with 1st-degree murder in the presumed
death of his missing coworker Shannon Rippy Van Newkirk, 53, of Wilmington, who
vanished April 5, 2014.

Investigators testified Bradley told police 3 different stories in the days
after Van Newkirk went missing -- initially denying he saw her on the day she
was last seen and then ultimately saying he'd picked her up from her house that
day. When a discussion they were having became "heated," she ran from his truck
near Greenfield Lake, investigators said Bradley told them.

Three weeks later, when police searched land in Hampstead owned by Bradley's
employer, they unearthed the body of Elisha Tucker, 33, another missing
Wilmington woman who'd last been seen in August 2013. Despite the fact that Van
Newkirk's body was never been found, Bradley is being tried in her presumed

A trial in Tucker's killing has yet to be set, but prosecutors said they will
seek the death penalty in that case. Bradley has a previous murder conviction
for killing his 8-year-old stepdaughter in 1988. The jury learned of that prior
conviction after the prosecution successfully argued it be admissible.

On Friday, Sharon Hinton, a DNA analyst with the N.C. State Crime Laboratory,
told the jury that she was unable to locate Van Newkirk's DNA on any of the
items she tested from Bradley's apartment or vehicle.

But, Hinton said, she was able to extract a "full DNA profile" for Elisha
Tucker from at least 1 stain from the carpet padding in Bradley's Chevy Tahoe.
The probability of it being anyone else's DNA other than Tucker's was 1 in 359
trillion, she said. That stain, however, did not test positive for blood.

FBI computer examiner Rich Novelli testified that on April 20, 2014 -- 4 days
after his last interview with police -- Bradley searched online for information
on cellphone pinging and visited a webpage that explained how cellphones are
tracked. Novelli said Bradley also searched for the StarNews.

Additionally, Jurors each read a copy of 2 letters. One was addressed to a
relative's daughter and the other was to a friend. The contents of the letters
were not discussed before court took an early recess.

Testimony in the case resumes Monday.

(source: Wilmington Star News)


Judge rejects Toledo's defense claims that death penalty is unconstitutional

A judge rejected claims that Florida's death penalty was being retroactively
applied to Luis Toledo, the Deltona man accused of killing his wife and her 2

Circuit Judge Raul Zambrano also denied a defense motion that argued that
Florida's death penalty was so broad it could be applied to virtually any
1st-degree murder case in the state.

Toledo, 33, is charged with 2nd-degree murder in the killing of his wife,
28-year-old Yessenia Suarez, and 2 counts of 1st-degree murder in the deaths of
her children, Thalia, 9, and Michael, 8. The mother and children were reported
missing Oct. 23, 2013, from their home at 317 Covent Gardens Place. Their
bodies have not been found.

Toledo's trial was initially set to start in January 2016 but rulings by the
U.S. Supreme Court and the Florida Supreme Court coupled with the Florida
Legislature's work to rework the state's death penalty continually delayed the

The U.S. Supreme Court first ruled that the method by which the state applied
the death penalty was unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges
and not enough to jurors. The state then passed a new death penalty law which
required that at least 10 of the 12 jurors recommend the death penalty before a
judge could impose it. The state Supreme Court struck down that law, saying the
jury recommendation must be unanimous.

Jeff Deen, 1 of Toledo's defense attorneys, argued that Florida's new death
penalty statute could not be retroactively applied to Toledo because Toledo has
never been eligible for the death penalty since the state's prior death penalty
laws were unconstitutional.

Deen also argued that aggravating circumstances in support of the death penalty
could be applied to virtually any 1st-degree murder case. But Deen said not
everyone charged with 1st-degree murder faced the death penalty, that makes the
death penalty arbitrary and unconstitutional.

Prosecutor Ryan Will said that the state's death penalty was never declared
unconstitutional only the method by which it was imposed. He also denied that
the law was being retroactively applied to Toledo.

Zambrano ruled against the defense on both issues.

Trial for Toledo, a former high-ranking Florida member of the Latin Kings gang,
is set to start with jury selection on Oct. 2 in St. Augustine.

After the defense told the judge that there might be some late motions in the
trial dealing with the death penalty, Zambrano said he understood but that he
was determined to keep the trial on schedule. Zambrano then said he was quoting
Admiral David Farragut to illustrate his approach to holding the trial.

"Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead," Zambrano said.

(source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)


Alabama Enacts New Law to Speed Death Penalty Appeals

The Alabama Senate gave final passage on May 18th to the "Fair Justice Act"
(Senate bill 187), a measure designed to speed up state appeals in death
penalty cases, and on May 26th, Gov. Kay Ivey signed it into law.

That was also the day that Alabama carried out its long-delayed execution of
Tommy Arthur, a 75-year-old inmate who had been convicted of a murder committed
in 1982. Over the last 16 years, his execution had been scheduled on seven
different dates, but each time was postponed by a series of legal appeals. The
widely-publicized case highlighted how inmates in the state sometimes can
remain on death row for decades.

The new bill, which will cover sentencing from July 1, sets new deadlines for
filing appeals under state law, as well as how long state courts can take in
deciding on those appeals. It would, for capital cases, amend Alabama's Rule 32
on post-conviction appeals based on trial defects, such as jury misconduct or
ineffective assistance of counsel, by requiring that such appeals be brought at
the same time as any other appeals the defendant may make.

Without this change, inmates facing death sentences can wait up to a full year
after a direct appeal of their conviction before filing a Rule 32 appeal and
beginning what can be a lengthy appeals process. The new law affects only
appeals based on state law, so does not have any effect on appeals based on
federal legal or constitutional claims.

State Attorney General Steve Marshall, a supporter of the bill, said it will
allow death penalty appeals to "proceed in a fair and efficient manner,"
providing justice to all parties and avoiding prolonging the suffering of
victims' families. He estimates the new state law could bring an average 5 to
6-year reduction in the time it takes the state to carry out death sentences,
which would save the state more than $100,000 in total incarceration costs per
condemned inmate. As of mid-June, Alabama had 182 inmates with death penalty

Marshall also claims that even with the sped-up timeline for appeals, the new
law will not reduce inmates' opportunities for appeal, and will bring them
better legal representation by requiring that they be appointed counsel for
Rule 32 post-conviction appeals within 30 days of receiving a death sentence.

But opponents of the measure, including the American Bar Association, disagree.
ABA president Linda A. Klein wrote legislators saying the bill would be
"unlikely to achieve its intended goal of streamlining justice," since it might
"unduly limit counsel's ability" to investigate potential issues for
post-conviction appeals. Although the group takes no position on the death
penalty itself, the ABA said the Alabama law runs counter to guidelines it has
adopted for how appeals for such cases, including post-conviction appeals,
should be handled.

Streamlining appeals procedures is not the only capital case topic on which
Alabama has legislated recently. In April, Gov. Ivey signed into law a bill
passed by wide margins in the legislature to end the state's unique law
allowing judges to impose the death penalty even when a jury has recommended
life imprisonment instead.

(source: Christopher Zoukis is the author of Federal Prison Handbook: The
Definitive Guide to Surviving the Federal Bureau of Prisons, College for
Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Co.,
2014) and Prison Education Guide (Prison Legal News Publishing,
2016)----Huffington Post)


Alabama Supreme Court Rejects Death Penalty Appeal----Alabama Supreme Court
turns down death penalty appeal of man convicted of killing his girlfriend's
toddler son.

The Alabama Supreme Court won't reconsider the sentence of a death row inmate
who argued a judge had too much power in handing down the death penalty.

Justices on Friday turned down the appeal from Ronnie Lynn Kirksey, who was
sentenced to death in 2010 after being convicted of killing his girlfriend's
23-month-old son.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2016 ordered a review of Kirksey's sentence after
that court struck down Florida's similar death penalty sentencing statute.

Kirksey argued his sentence was also unconstitutional because the jury, which
suggested a death sentence, was told its decision was merely a recommendation.

The Court of Criminal Appeals upheld his sentence. Judges said there are key
differences that make Alabama's statute constitutional. The state Supreme Court
rejected his latest appeal with 1 dissent.

(source: Associated Press)


Man facing death penalty for allegedly killing Jefferson Parish deputy files
civil rights lawsuit

Jerman Neveaux, who faces the death penalty for allegedly shooting a Jefferson
Parish Sheriff's deputy to death last year, has filed a federal civil rights
lawsuit against more than 2 dozen officers for injuries he sustained during his

A bystander captured video footage of officers beating Neveaux while arresting
him in the backyard of a home in Harvey. The suit says Neveaux suffered "nerve
damage, mental anguish, disfigurement and partial blindness in the right eye."

The suit was filed by attorney Willard Brown Sr. in federal court in New
Orleans on Thursday, exactly 1 year after Detective David Michel Jr. was shot
during a scuffle near Manhattan Boulevard in Harvey. Deputies found Neveaux
hiding in the backyard of a nearby home shortly after the killing.

The suit includes 2 previously unreleased photos of Neveaux's face - cut,
swollen and bleeding - taken shortly after his arrest. For comparison, it also
includes a pair of mug shots: 1 taken after Neveaux was beaten, another from a
prior arrest.

The suit accuses police of using excessive force and acting with "willful and
wanton indifference to and disregard for (Neveaux's) Constitutional rights."

The suit requests a jury trial to determine damages, along with interest and
legal costs. It seeks to hold JPSO officers liable for Neveaux's medical and
related expenses, pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, mental anguish
and loss of enjoyment of life, among other damages.

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office said it does not comment on pending

The suit references the cell phone video, a portion of which was shared with a
local TV station, which blurred out the faces of the deputies.

According to the lawsuit, parts of the video that were not made public show
deputies approaching Neveaux, 20, with their guns drawn as he stood in the
yard. Neveaux raised a hand and started to drop to the ground when several
deputies rushed him, according to the lawsuit.

The suit says that several officers began to kick and beat Neveaux as they
handcuffed him and that one of the deputies slammed his face against the corner
of a table, slicing open his face and eye.

Other than the photos, the suit contains no new details about the arrest of
Neveaux, whose attorney, Martin Regan, has repeatedly described deputies
slamming his client's face against the counter.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said at a press conference 2 days after
the incident that he would ask the FBI to investigate whether his officers used
excessive force.

The suit casts a wide net, naming 28 individual deputies, far more than were
captured on video. It does not name Sheriff Newell Normand or the Jefferson
Parish Sheriff's Office as an institution. It does not specify who actually
struck Neveaux. The individual defendants are: Sgt. Christy Clement, Sgt. Julio
Avarado, Det. George Kister, Dep. Joseph Ragas, Sgt. Frank Renaudin, Det. Blake
Hollifield, Det. Todd Rivere, Det. Derek Green, Maj. Michael Dupuis, Sgt.
Travis Eserman, Det. Melvin Francis, Sgt. Marlo Bruno, Sgt. Rodney Naumann,
Col. John Fortunato, Det. William Roniger, Sgt. Mark Layrisson, Dep. Nathanial
Obiol, Det. Adrian Thompson, Det. Stephen Villere, Dep. Eric Hymel, Sgt. Gary
Barteet, Det. Donald Zanotelli, Sgt. Thomas Gai, Lt. Elvin Modica, Det. Michael
Schmitt, Det. Robert Miles, Det. Jean Lincoln and Dep. Sean Whalen.

Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick said in October that his office
would pursue the death penalty against Neveaux in Michel's killing.

Neveaux, who has attended court hearings in a wheelchair, has pleaded not
guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. Regan has claimed Neveaux suffered
a mental illness attributable to lead poisoning as a child.

(source: The New Orleans Advocate)

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