death penalty news----MD., VA., S.C., FLA., ALA., LA., TENN., S.D., COLO., USA
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Rick Halperin
2017-11-21 17:23:37 UTC
Raw Message
Nov. 20


Shoemaker: Bring back the death penalty for cop killers

My Dad used to tell me to say what you mean and mean what you say. It try to
live by that. I don't waffle. I take positions on issues. People are free to
agree or disagree, but at least folks know where I stand.

And while my wife wishes that I would keep my trap shut more often, the
overwhelming majority of Carroll County citizens that I encounter appreciate
the fact that I take a stand. As a consequence of expressing myself, it causes
liberals (including my opponent apparently), to lose their minds and write
scathing responses to the Carroll County Times. And do you know what? I'm OK
with that.

If folks on the left are so agitated by my opinion that they want to call me
names, I hope it makes them feel better. But, I really believe that if you
don't stand up for something you will fall for anything.

This leads me to my point. It is time to reinstate the death penalty in
Maryland. On Nov. 16, Det. Sean Suiter, an 18-year veteran of the Baltimore
Police Department, a former Navy officer, and the father of 5 children,
succumbed to his injuries after having been shot in cold blood on Fremont
Avenue in West Baltimore. Suiter, who worked in homicide, was there to
investigate a previous murder. There is no question that the scumbag who killed
him knew Suiter was a police officer. He killed the detective anyway.

If there ever was a case that screams for reinstatement of the death penalty,
it's this one. While sentencing is supposed to have 2 functions, to
rehabilitate and to punish, it's readily apparent that the perpetrator in this
case is so callous that he is irredeemable, and should be put to death.

Liberal do-gooders will protest that the death penalty is not a deterrent.
Well, after Ted Bundy was executed for raping and murdering numerous victims,
he stopped raping and murdering. So the death penalty was definitely a
deterrent for him.

Until liberal do-gooder Martin O'Malley signed a death penalty repeal bill into
law in 2013, Maryland had the death penalty in place. It has been used
sparingly - in a total of 5 cases - during the modern era. Thankfully, one of
the people who got the ultimate sanction was John Thanos, one of the
coldest-hearted killers in Maryland's history.

But, besides the fact the death penalty serves as a deterrent for the scumbag
who is sentenced, it has other values that the bleeding hearts have deprived us
of. Practically any prosecutor will tell you it's another tool in their tool
box to use in the plea-bargain process.

We also hear people cite the Kirk Bloodworth case and contend that it would be
terrible to execute an innocent man. I agree, but DNA testing and other methods
of modern crime scene science can now effectively eliminate almost all
uncertainly as to a person's guilt or innocence.

Furthermore, the death penalty should be reserved for the most heinous
offenders: Those who kill law enforcement, those who kill correctional officers
and those who engage in mass-killings and/or acts of terrorism.

People like the scum that killed Det. Suiter deserve to be slipped the juice. I
will support legislation to do just that during the 2018 session.

(source: Op-Ed; Haven Shoemaker is a Republican representing District 5 in the
Maryland House of Delegates and seeking re-election in 2018. He writes from
Hampstead----Carroll County Times)


Joseph M. Giarratano, controversial former death row inmate, granted parole

After 38 years behind bars and a close brush with execution for a rape and
double murder that supporters have long claimed he did not commit, Joseph M.
Giarratano has been granted parole.

One of the best known and most controversial death row inmates in Virginia
history, the former scallop boat crewman, jail house lawyer and well-traveled
inmate was approved for release on Monday. Adrianne L. Bennett, chair of the
Virginia State Parole Board, said it may take a month before Giarratano is
actually freed.

Giarratano was convicted of the Feb. 4, 1979, rape and capital murder of
Michelle Kline, 15, and the murder of her mother, Toni Kline, 44, in Norfolk.
After several confessions he later said he had no recollection of what happened
in their apartment. He said he woke, discovered the bodies, assumed he was
guilty and fled.

In 1991, 2 days before his scheduled execution, Gov. L. Douglas Wilder commuted
Giarratano's sentence to life after his case won national and international
attention from celebrities, liberal and conservative commentators, religious
and political figures and others who raised questions about his guilt.

His was apparently the only death sentence commuted to life in Virginia in
modern times allowing for the possibility of parole.

Members of the victims' family could not be reached for comment Monday evening.
His prosecutor and the judge who found him guilty are deceased.

Bennett said the board cannot comment on communications with victims and victim
family members. However, she said in general the board does have the duty to
use due diligence to obtain victim input.

She said the parole board's decision - it would take at least four of the 5
parole board votes to grant Giarratano parole - is not a comment on an inmate's
innocence claim. "It's also not an act of forgiveness," said Bennett.

Richmond lawyer Stephen A. Northup, who represented Giarratano before the
parole board, said, "For all the reasons that caused Governor Wilder to give
Joe a conditional pardon more than 26 years ago, I believe Joe is innocent of
the crimes for which he was convicted.

"In addition, he has served almost 40 years of his life in prison and has
compiled a remarkable record during that time. His release will pose no risk to
public safety and will enable the outside world to benefit from his
extraordinary skills and intelligence," said Northup.

Gerald Zerkin, Giarratano's lawyer when Wilder commuted the death sentence,
said Monday evening that, "That is the most fantastic news."

"It is a tragedy that he has been kept in prison for all this time and it is
just great for all of us that he will be getting out. It should have happened a
long time ago," said Zerkin.

The murders were discovered on Feb. 5, 1979, when police found Toni Kline,
stabbed to death on the bathroom floor of her apartment. Michelle Kline, who
had been sexually assaulted and strangled, was found in the bedroom.

At 3 a.m. Feb. 6, 1979, Giarratano walked over to a deputy sheriff eating
breakfast in a Jacksonville, Fla., bus station, surrendered and confessed to
killing 2 women in Norfolk. He would confess 4 more times though the
confessions were not consistent and conflicted in parts with the crime scene

As a result of his confessions and some circumstantial evidence, Giarratano was
convicted in May 1979 in a trial before Norfolk Circuit Court Judge Thomas R.
McNamara. Giarratano was later sentenced to death.

A decade after the convictions his lawyers said he had not been competent to
stand trial because drug abuse, mental illness and a death wish left him unable
to assist in his own defense. They said his conflicting confessions were made
up and that new evidence supported innocence.

Supporters, including Hollywood personalities, raised a cloud of doubt about
his guilt.

Authorities strongly defended the capital murder conviction and death sentence,
arguing that the confessions were made out of genuine remorse and that
Giarratano had since changed his mind.

The conditional pardon spared his life and made him eligible for parole after
serving 25 years. Wilder left it up to then-Virginia Attorney General Mary Sue
Terry to decide whether he should be retried - something legal experts
questioned was possible.

Possible or not, Terry wanted no part of it, saying at the time she did not
believe he had a right to a new trial and that he did not deserve one.

Giarratano has kept a relatively low profile behind bars in recent years but
that hasn't always been the case.

In decades past he was a lightning rod for attention and a polarizing fixture
on and off death row. He assisted in the 1984 escape of 6 death-row inmates,
though he did not flee, and is a skilled jailhouse lawyer with 1 of his cases -
about the right of prisoners for court-appointed lawyers on appeals - argued in
the U.S. Supreme Court.

He was credited with helping save the life of Earl Washington Jr., Virginia's
only death row inmate proved wrongly convicted. Giarratano helped get legal
representation for Washington who came close to being executed for a rape and
murder that years later DNA proved was committed by someone else.

Giarratano's supporters included actors Roy Scheider, who appeared in the
movies, "Jaws" and "Russia House," and Mike Farrell, of television's, "M*A*S*H,
" who appeared at a Charlottesville rally on his behalf in 1991, a month before
Giarratano was scheduled to be executed and Wilder commuted his sentence.

In a 2001 article in The Criminal Law Bulletin, the authors concluded: "In sum,
here is not a shred of significant or credible physical evidence supporting the
conclusion that Joseph Giarratano's contradictory and inconsistent confessions
are reliable or link him to the deaths" of Toni and Michelle Kline. Yet there
is considerable evidence supporting the conclusion that his confessions are

Detractors argue Giarratano was a "poster boy" for anti-death penalty activists
who twisted facts to suggest the guilty killer was innocent. He was derisively
dubbed, "Gentle Joe," in an oft-cited editorial in the Richmond Times Dispatch.
Lawrence C. Lawless, who prosecuted Giarratano, said in 1989 that while he was
no fan of the death penalty, in Giarratano's case he was willing to pull the

Moved off death row, Giarratano remained a thorn in the side of Virginia
Department of Corrections.

One of the last inmates to be held at the decrepit Virginia State Penitentiary
in Richmond before it was razed, he was sent to the Augusta Correctional Center
where, with the help of former Washington Post columnist Colman McCarthy, the
founder of the Center for Teaching Peace. Giarratano set up a peace education
program for other inmates.

His imprisonment has included cross-country flights in then-Gov. George Allen's
executive jet, a hunger strike, long periods in isolation and an essay
published in the Yale Law review.

He was also stabbed by another inmate - he said because corrections officials
wrongly labeled him a snitch - and was sent to a prison in Utah in 1996 for his
own safety under the terms of an interstate compact among correctional systems
across the country.

His reputation preceded him. Upon his arrival the Salt Lake City Tribune wrote:

"Virginia prisoner Joseph Giarratano was halfway through a cigarette when 15
guards unexpectedly appeared in his cell to escort him to the governor's
personal jet.

"The aircraft delivered one of the nation's most articulate prison critics and
effective litigators to Utah on Sept. 4 as a part of a prisoner exchange
officials here may regret."

Regret they did and he was soon transferred from Utah to Illinois where he was
held in the Joliet Correctional Center, best known as the home of "Joliet Jake"
of cinema's fictional "Blues Brothers."

He was sent back to Virginia in 1997. In 2002, after state law was changed
allowing inmates to request DNA testing, Giarratano's lawyers sought vaginal
and cervical swabs and slides and any other biological evidence from the crime
scene that could be tested.

But authorities said none remained for testing since none was ever actually
entered into evidence. The Norfolk police said they routinely destroy such
evidence 3 years after a case has closed.

2 years ago, Giarratano's case was a vehicle for a 2-day legal discussion at
the Washington and Lee University School of Law, to "explore the ethical, legal
and public policy issues surrounding the use of the death penalty."

In recent years, Giarratano lost a leg to diabetes and is now an inmate at the
Deerfield Correctional Center in Capron where many aged and ill inmates are

He has a blog, freejoeg.com in which, among other things, he took the
Department of Corrections to task for allegedly failing to comply with the
Americans with Disabilities Act.

(source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)

SOUTH CAROLINA----impending execution

South Carolina lacks lethal injection drugs needed to execute death row inmate

South Carolina does not have the lethal injection drugs necessary to complete
the execution of a death row inmate scheduled for next month, Gov. Henry
McMaster said Monday.

The South Carolina Supreme Court has ordered a Dec. 1 execution for 52-year-old
Bobby Wayne Stone, who was convicted of murder in the 1996 slaying of Sumter
County sheriff's Sgt. Charlie Kubala.

But the state has not executed anyone on death row in 5 years due to the lack
of access to the necessary drugs.

McMaster and South Carolina Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling
called on the General Assembly to pass a shield law that would allow companies
to sell the drugs to the state confidentially in order to avoid public

"The reason we don't have the drugs despite intense efforts to get them is
because the companies that make them, the distributors who distribute them and
the pharmacies who may have to compound them don't want to be identified,"
McMaster said.

The governor explained that the companies are "afraid that there names will be
made known and they don't want to have anything to do with it for fear of
retribution or exposure," which he said were "perfectly good reasons."

"So here we are at a dead stop, and we can't do anything about it unless or
until our Legislature enacts the shield law that Director Stirling asked for
years ago," McMaster said.

The state's current injection protocol requires 3 drugs - pentobarbital,
pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride.

South Carolina switched to pentobarbital instead of sodium thiopental, a change
made necessary after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration cracked down on
the use of the anesthetic and seized the state's sodium thiopental supply. The
agency took the drug away from several states because of concerns that
officials broke the law by buying doses from England, which banned the drug's
export for executions.

But then South Carolina's supply of pentobarbital expired in 2013. States
including South Carolina have struggled with finding companies willing to sell
the drugs, fearing harassment and other negative repercussions for being
involved in the execution process.

Other states have gone to using a single drug. Currently there are 39 inmates
on South Carolina's death row. Inmates can choose electrocution, although few

Prosecutors have cited the state's lack of execution drugs in accepting life
sentences in recent cases. Prosecutor Barry Barnette said in May he told the
families of the 7 people murdered by serial killer Todd Kohlhepp that he
couldn't guarantee Kohlhepp could be executed if he was convicted because South
Carolina "doesn't have a functioning death penalty." Kohlhepp instead received
7 life sentences without parole.

In April, Charleston-area solicitor Scarlett Wilson said she worked out a plea
agreement for Dylann Roof resulting in a life sentence because, even if he'd
been sentenced to death for killing 9 African-Americans at a church, the state
couldn't have executed him.

At that point, Roof had already been sentenced to death in the federal system,
and he's currently on federal death row in Terre Haute, Indiana.

(sources: Charleston Post and Courier & Associated Press)


Susan Sarandon won an Oscar portraying this real nun, who blasts SC's execution

One of the foremost critics of the death penalty had some harsh words for South
Carolina Governor Henry McMaster Monday.

Sister Helen Prejean didn't mince words, calling out McMaster after his news
conference announcing that South Carolina's 1st scheduled execution in 6 years
will not be carried out.

Prejean said the planned execution of death row inmate Bobby Wayne Stone,
announced Nov. 17, was a political stunt orchestrated by McMaster, who spoke to
the media while standing in front of South Carolina's death row.

Stone's execution will not be carried out on Dec. 1 as planned because S.C.
does not have the drugs necessary to perform a lethal injection. McMaster was
joined by S.C. Corrections Director Bryan Stirling at the news conference to
make this announcement, something Prejean saw as a charade.

The nun, whose best-selling book "Dead Man Walking," was turned into an
award-winning movie, posted as much on Twitter.

"Let's get this straight: South Carolina scheduled an execution for December
1st, all the while knowing that the state doesn't have any drugs to carry it
out. This is basically a mock execution, recognized worldwide as a form of
torture," Prejean tweeted.

The lethal injection cocktail requires 3 drugs - pentobarbital, pancuronium
bromide and potassium chloride - all of which the state does not have,
according to Stirling. He said the drugs are hard to come by because drug
companies do not want to be named publicly for providing drugs for executions,
fearing backlash.

McMaster and Stirling said the companies seek anonymity and encouraged
lawmakers to pass a law that would make the source of the drugs secret.
McMaster said the companies would not be named in subpoenas or public record's

"Here we are at a dead stop and we can't do anything about it unless our
Legislature passes the shield law," McMaster said.

South Carolina Corrections Director Bryan Stirling, left, and Gov. Henry
McMaster stand outside the state's death row at Broad River Correctional
Institution in Columbia. Stirling and McMaster announced Monday the state
doesn't have the drugs it needs for lethal injection and can't carry out an
execution scheduled for Dec. 1.

Prejean said that ulterior motive was the true reason Stone was scheduled for
execution last week. He was a political pawn.

"S. Carolina Gov. @henrymcmaster used this situation to argue for new execution
secrecy laws," Prejean tweeted. "Governor, the fact that you all scheduled an
execution without a way to carry it out is a pretty strong argument for more
transparency, not less."

Stone, 52, has been on death row for 20 years, convicted of murder in the 1996
slaying of Sumter County sheriff's Sgt. Charlie Kubala, who was shot twice.

Stone has acknowledged he shot Kubala as the officer responded to a call in
February 1996, but said the shooting was accidental.

There's no evidence that Stone was wrongly convicted, but flaws in the judicial
system are one of the reasons Prejean advocates against the use of the death
penalty. She says the death penalty fails to work as a deterrent, isn't a
cost-effective solution and often fails to offer closure to families of

It's a crusade she has been on for 4 decades, since meeting Patrick Sonnier,
the convicted killer of 2 teenagers, sentenced to die in the electric chair of
Louisiana's Angola State Prison.

Upon Sonnier's request, Prejean repeatedly visited him as his spiritual
advisor. In doing so, her eyes were opened to the execution process. Prejean
turned her experiences into a book, Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of
the Death Penalty, that was number one on The New York Times Best Seller List
for 31 weeks.

The book was developed into a major motion picture starring Susan Sarandon as
Prejean and Sean Penn as a death row inmate. The movie received 4 Oscar
nominations, including 1 for Sarandon who won the Academy Award for Best

According to her website, Prejean has witnessed 5 executions in Louisiana and
continues to lecture, in addition to organizing and writing about the death
penalty. She still counsels death row inmates, as well as the families of
murder victims.

It is through this work that Prejean has formed strong opposition to the death
penalty. She continued to share her views Monday on Twitter, when she reasoned
about its perils.

"The death penalty is a deeply emotional issue, but a few things become clear
when we look beyond emotion to the facts: no measurable deterrence, more
expensive than life sentences, doesn't really help victims' families heal, and
innocents have been executed."

(source: thestate.com)


State Attorney Ayala says Gov. Scott dropped the ball in death penalty filing,
not her

State Attorney Aramis Ayala was placed under scrutiny last week when she filed
her intent to seek the death penalty in a Kissimmee murder case 22 days past
the 45-day deadline.

Ayala, who has been at odds with Gov. Rick Scott since she announced her office
would not seek the death penalty in any case it prosecuted, said Monday that it
wasn't her fault the deadline was missed.

The case in question is against Emerita Mapp, who is accused of stabbing
20-year-old Zachary Ganoe to death and critically injuring another man at a
Kissimmee Days Inn in April.

Earlier in the year, Scott said his office would review the 1st-degree murder
cases in Orange and Osceola counties after Ayala made her death penalty

The case against Mapp was never reviewed by Scott's office, or another state
attorney, which is why the deadline was missed, Ayala said.

In September, Ayala announced the formation of a death penalty review panel,
which will examine potential capital cases and decide if seeking the death
penalty is appropriate.

The panel did not review Mapp's case until after the deadline, which requires
that an intent to seek the death penalty be filed within 45 days of the
defendant's arraignment.

Mapp was arraigned on Aug. 23.

"I want to address inaccurate and misleading statements that have come from
outside my office," Ayala said Monday. "The defendant here, Ms. Mapp, committed
this murder (on) April 11, which is 8 days after the governor pledged to the
public that he would identify all the potential death penalty cases" in Orange
and Osceola counties.

While Mapp's attorneys have made a motion to have the prosecution's filing of
intent to seek the death penalty dismissed, Ayala said her office is ready to
litigate the issue.

Scott's office struck back Monday, saying the missed filing was Ayala's fault

"It is outrageous State Attorney Ayala is attempting to pass the blame for her
failure," Scott's deputy director of communications McKinley Lewis said in a
statement. "Let's be clear - State Attorney Ayala failed to meet this deadline
and she alone is responsible for not fighting for justice for the victims in
this case."

Ayala released the following statement on missing the death penalty deadline in
Mapp's case:

"I want to address some of the inaccurate and misleading statements regarding a
case and the work we do in my office.

When I made my March 16 statement indicating that I was not seeking the death
penalty, I was prepared to file death notices in appropriate cases to preserve
any procedural deadline. However, on his own accord, Gov. Scott made a public
statement committing himself to reviewing all 1st-degree murder cases that
occurred here in the 9th Circuit. Gov. Scott further pledged to the public he
would reassign any potential death penalty cases to a different circuit.

Once the Florida Supreme Court issued its ruling regarding a prosecutor's
discretion to seek death penalty, I created a death penalty review panel to
review every 1st-degree murder case. At my direction, once they convened they
reviewed every 1st-degree murder case since the start of my administration on
January 3. I requested the panel go back to the beginning of my administration
to ensure Gov. Scott did not make a mistake and miss cases, which he clearly

Of course, I knew the potential of some of those cases passing the 45-day
(deadline). This is something the review panel discussed prior to reviewing
cases. The issue was well researched, so again this was an anticipated hurdle.
But it was the right thing to do and consistent with the Florida Supreme
Court's ruling.

Consistent with his public statement of reviewing and reassigning all potential
death penalty cases, the governor reassigned cases in April, July and August.
Unfortunately, the Governor failed to reassign this case or even acknowledge
its potential as a death penalty case, despite the fact the murder occurred on
April 11, 2017, and has 7 potential aggravators.

It is clear, the Governor failed in his review and missed this case.

The death penalty review panel met, discussed this case and unanimously
recognized it as an obvious death case.

The state's ability to seek death penalty has not been compromised, and with
the filing of the notice of intent to seek death, we have preserved the issue
and remedied the governor's failure."

Gov. Rick Scott's spokesman responds to Ayala's accusations:

"It is outrageous State Attorney Ayala is attempting to pass the blame for her
failure. Let's be clear - State Attorney Ayala failed to meet this deadline and
she alone is responsible for not fighting for justice for the victims in this

The Supreme Court ruled in Governor Scott's favor on August 31, 2017, giving
State Attorney Ayala more than a month to file the appropriate notice by the
October 7, 2017 deadline.

What possible excuse could there be for failing to do her job and missing a
basic deadline on a case she is responsible for handling?"

(source: WFTV news)


Supreme Court to consider Alabama petition involving death penalty

The Supreme Court will consider a petition from Alabama on Tuesday featuring
the death penalty, discrimination, and former Alabama Supreme Court Chief
Justice and controversial Senate candidate Roy Moore.

At Tuesday's conference, the justices will consider whether to hear Floyd v.
Alabama, a case questioning if the Alabama Supreme Court failed to follow the
high court's precedent prohibiting race- and gender-based discrimination in
jury selection.

Christopher Floyd was convicted in 2005 of killing Waylon Crawford during a
robbery in 1992. Crawford's killing went unsolved for more than 12 years,
following a lack of witnesses and physical evidence found at the crime scene,
as Floyd's attorneys note in their petition to the high court. After the jury
returned an 11-1 verdict against Floyd in 2005, a judge sentenced Floyd to
death in 2006.

Floyd challenged the jury's decision on the basis that the prosecutor, who
Floyd says has "a documented history of racial discrimination in jury
selection," removed 10 of 11 African-American prospective jurors and 12 of 18
prospective female jurors. Floyd is white and male.

Floyd's case then bounced back and forth in Alabama courts before arriving at
the Supreme Court, where the justices granted Floyd's case in 2016, vacated his
conviction, and sent the case back to the Alabama Supreme Court in light of the
high court's precedent. The Alabama Supreme Court, then led by Moore, denied
Floyd's claims again and backed Floyd's conviction.

Floyd's petition of the Alabama Supreme Court's decision arrives back at the
Supreme Court as Moore's record in Alabama is facing heightened scrutiny. Moore
is facing multiple accusations of sexual impropriety involving underage girls
over the course of several decades starting when Moore was in his 30s. Moore is
now 70 years old and the GOP nominee for Alabama's Senate seat in a special
election scheduled for Dec. 12.

(source: Washington Examiner)


Man freed from death row blames conviction on racial bias

A man freed from Louisiana's death row says his case was corrupted by a biased
autopsy and a prosecutor's racism and religious fervor.

Rodricus Crawford sued the Caddo Parish coroner and district attorney's offices
last Thursday, one year after the Louisiana Supreme Court overturned his
1st-degree murder conviction in the death of his 1-year-old son.

Crawford's federal lawsuit says authorities recklessly disregarded medical
evidence that his son had pneumonia and died of natural causes. Investigators
accused Crawford of smothering the child.

The suit also says Crawford was deprived of a fair trial by a prosecutor with a
"racist world view" who followed a "biblical command" to secure the death
penalty against black defendants.

A spokesman for both the coroner and district attorney's offices said he
couldn't comment on pending litigation.

(source: Associated Press)


Supreme Court Upholds Death Sentences For Murders Of Memphis Family

The Tennessee Supreme Court has affirmed the convictions and sentences of death
for Sedrick Clayton for the murders of Arithio, Patricia, and Pashea Fisher and
the conviction for attempted murder of A'Reco Fisher in Memphis.

During the early morning hours of Jan. 19, 2012, a domestic dispute erupted
between the defendant and Pashea Fisher, the defendant's girlfriend, at the
Fishers' home. The situation escalated, and the defendant shot and killed all 3
victims and shot toward the area in which A'Reco Fisher had been sleeping. The
defendant then fled the residence in Pashea Fisher's vehicle with his and Ms.
Fisher's then 4-year-old daughter. After having several telephone conversations
with a law enforcement officer, the defendant eventually turned himself in. He
subsequently confessed to the murders.

A Shelby County jury convicted the defendant of three counts of first degree
premeditated murder, attempted first degree murder, possession of a firearm
with the intent to go armed during the commission or attempt to commit a
dangerous felony, employing a firearm during the commission or attempt to
commit a dangerous felony, and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. In 2016,
the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the convictions and sentences of death
after merging the latter 2 convictions.

Upon automatic appeal to the Supreme Court as required by statute, the
defendant raised several issues. First, the defendant argued that the evidence
was insufficient to support the jury's finding of premeditation. The Court
disagreed, based upon the evidence presented at trial that the defendant fired
upon four unarmed victims without provocation, failed to render aid, and
reloaded his weapon to fire a 2nd and fatal shot at Pashea Fisher. Second, the
defendant argued that the statements he made to police the day after the
shooting should have been suppressed pursuant to the Fourth Amendment. This
issue was neither raised nor ruled upon at trial or in the defendant's motion
for a new trial and was, therefore, waived. The Court, however, reviewed the
issue under the plain error doctrine and found that the defendant's arrest was
supported by probable cause and that he was brought before a magistrate in a
timely manner.

The Court also conducted an independent review of the imposition of the death
sentences, as required by statute, and concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that
the evidence fully supported the defendant's convictions and sentences of
death, that the sentences were not arbitrary, and that the aggravating
circumstances supporting the sentences outweighed any mitigating circumstances.
In addition, the majority of the Court found the sentences were not
disproportionate to sentences imposed in similar cases wherein a sentence of
death was imposed.

In her concurring opinion, Justice Sharon G. Lee agreed with the Court's
outcome but stated she believed that when reviewing whether a death sentence is
disproportionate to similar cases, the Court should not limit its review solely
to cases in which the death penalty was imposed but should review all 1st
degree murder cases in which life imprisonment or a sentence of death was
imposed. Using that analysis, she also concluded that the defendant's sentence
of death was not excessive or disproportionate to the penalty imposed in
similar cases.

To read the majority opinion in State of Tennessee v. Sedrick Clayton, authored
by Justice Roger A. Page, and Justice Sharon G. Lee's separate concurring
opinion regarding proportionality review, go to the opinions section of

(source: The Chattanoogan)


Berget's mental status for death sentence still in question

Attorneys spent the better part of Monday afternoon making arguments about the
mental capabilities and rights of a man sentenced to death in 2012 after
pleading guilty to killing a South Dakota State Penitentiary guard during an
escape attempt.

Judge Doug Hoffman in the Lincoln County courthouse said the court needs more
time and evidence before deciding if Rodney Berget is intellectually disabled,
which would make his execution unconstitutional.

Hoffman set a final hearing for Jan. 29, where both sides will get to question
mental health experts who were previously brought in to evaluate Berget's
intellectual level.

At Monday's hearing, the state argued that Berget was fully aware of what he
was doing in an "elaborate" and "intelligent" plan to escape the prison along
with another prisoner, Eric Robert, in 2011 when they killed guard Ronald

"I've taken the position that (Berget) does not suffer an intellectual
disability," said Attorney General Marty Jackley. "It'll continue to be the
state's position that Mr. Berget needs to answer for his conduct."

Berget had appealed the death penalty verdict but later withdrew it, clearing
the way for his execution. His attorney, Eric Shulte, disagreed with that
decision and told a judge in September 2016 that he wanted to check Berget's
mental capacity to see if he was eligible for the death penalty.

A mental health expert's review didn't reach the "necessary sufficiency to say
(Berget had) an intellectual disability," but that there was "a potential (for
him to have one)," Jackley said.

The state brought on their own expert to evaluate Berget. There were also seven
psychiatrists and three psychologists brought in, all of whom determined he did
not have a disability, Jackley said. But that "potential" for an intellectual
disability is why Berget's sentence hasn't been carried out.

Schulte argued that it was his duty to ensure an intellectually disabled person
was not executed, as doing so is unconstitutional.

Berget last year sent a letter to the court saying he wants his death sentence
to be completed. Past IQ tests have shown "borderline" results of intelligence
levels. He was given an IQ test in 1971 and received a score of 70, which is
considered "borderline" below average.

"If there was a 12 or 13 year old who wanted to be executed, the court would
bar that," Schulte said.

Berget pleaded guilty to killing Johnson in April 2011 as he and Robert carried
out their escape plan. Robert put on Johnson's uniform and tried to push a box,
in which Berget was hiding, toward the prison gate. The 2 were caught before
getting out.

Robert was executed in 2012. A 3rd inmate, Michael Nordman, was sentenced to
life in prison for providing plastic wrap and a pipe used to kill Johnson.

Berget was scheduled to be executed in May 2015.

(source: Argus Leader)


Hickenlooper: Not considering Dunlap's case

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said Monday he has no plans to consider
convicted killer Nathan Dunlap's efforts to commute his death sentence.

Hickenlooper briefly addressed the case during a news conference in which he
announced pardons for 22 individuals he said had served their time, rebuilt
their lives and are contributing to their communities.

Dunlap was sentenced to die in 1996 for the ambush slayings of 4 people inside
an Aurora restaurant. In 2013, Hickenlooper indefinitely delayed Dunlap's
execution, saying he had doubts about the fairness of Colorado's death penalty.

He stopped short of converting Dunlap's death sentence to life in prison and
said he would leave it to his successor to address the case. The term-limited
governor is set to leave office in January 2019.

"We are not considering Nathan Dunlap," the governor said Monday. "Not on my

The Denver Post has reported that Dunlap's attorneys want to present new
evidence about the effect of Dunlap's traumatic childhood on his

Madeline Cohen, an attorney who represents Dunlap, said she had no formal
comment on Monday.

Hickenlooper said he and his administration plan to complete reviews of roughly
475 clemency petitions. Most of those decisions released Monday concern crimes
ranging from theft to marijuana sales convictions.

Of the decisions released Monday, Hickenlooper said each case had been reviewed
exhaustively. Victims, victim advocates, judges and prosecutors were consulted.
Many cases date back decades, and convictions barred many years later from
getting jobs or finding places to live, the governor said.

"Some of these individuals have gone above and beyond for their communities and
for themselves," he said, adding, "This decision in no way lessens the impact
their crimes had on others."

The clemency decisions include cases involving theft and non-violent drug
offenses, such as possession of marijuana, dating to the 1990s. One felony
grand larceny case dates to 1967.

(source: Associated Press)


Trump Judicial Nominee Expressed Unorthodox View on Death Penalty: 'Just Shoot

The saga of Brett Talley keeps getting worse.

Talley is the 36-year-old lawyer-cum-political-operative nominated for a
lifetime appointment to a federal judgeship by the Trump administration despite
the fact that he has worked as a lawyer for all of 3 years and has never tried
a case.

Then news broke that Talley had not told the Senate his wife is a lawyer
working in the White House. And not just any lawyer, but the chief of staff to
White House counsel Don McGahn, who oversees judicial nominations for the Trump
administration. Somehow Talley neglected to tell the Senate Judiciary Committee
about this glaring conflict of interest before it voted along party lines to
send his nomination to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.

Now Slate notes that Talley, in his apparently copious spare time, liked to
post his political opinions on a message board for University of Alabama sports
fans. His comments on the death penalty are now drawing some notice, since they
seem to lack the judiciousness one might hope for in a judge:

BamainBoston noted that it would be "awesome" if Alabama brought back the
electric chair. Later in the thread, BamainBoston proposed an alternative means
of execution, saying that a "bullet's cheap." One year earlier, responding to
news that an Oklahoma inmate named Clayton Lockett had died of a heart attack
on the gurney after his lethal injection was botched, BamainBoston wrote: "Just
shoot them. That's effective."

Theoretically, senators evaluate a judicial nominee's qualifications for the
bench partly on his or her writing, such as legal briefs or law review
articles. In Talley's case, most of his writing seems to have come in the form
of horror novels he scribbled on the side, and in the comments he left as
BamainBoston. It is a limited sample in terms of legal thought, but it is all
we have.

And what his written comments on the death penalty reveal, even accounting for
the Internet anonymity that encourages tough-talking thuggery, is an immature

Of course, it likely doesn't matter to the members of the Senate Judiciary
Committee and their colleagues in the full Senate. For them, Talley's
conservative policy views are good enough.

Granted, Talley is only one of many Trump judicial nominations. But with his
administration having outsourced picking these nominees mostly to the
ultra-conservative Federalist Society, it seems Talley's is the judicial
temperament we can expect to see on the federal bench for - given that these
are lifetime appointments - at least the next 40 years or so.

(source: ijr.com)

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