2017-04-05 14:58:53 UTC
Dallas County district attorney's office to show mercy to 'lost souls'
The new Dallas County district attorney and her first assistant view the people
who go through the criminal court system as "lost souls or monsters."
Faith Johnson says her job as district attorney doesn't always call for
toughness; sometimes justice requires mercy.
"We're compassionate where compassion is needed. We're merciful when mercy is
needed," she said Tuesday night at a community forum at Concord Church in Red
It was the 1st of what Johnson says will be a quarterly forum to answer
questions and explain how the local criminal justice system works.
Johnson, a Republican and former judge, was appointed in December by Gov. Greg
Abbott to replace Susan Hawk, who resigned in September to focus on her mental
Johnson, the 1st black woman to become Dallas County district attorney, has
said she plans to run for the office when her term expires next year.
In her first 90 days in office, she has attended more than 140 community events
and meetings. She regularly takes her prosecutors to lunch to get to know them
and their work. She is often first to the office and last to leave.
"I have been getting only 4 hours sleep so I can restore the relationship
between the community and the DA's office," Johnson said.
Her top priority has been to facilitate an expungement program to clear some
criminal records. The crimes must be non-violent and meet other requirements.
And for the people whose crimes can't be erased, Johnson wants to help them
clear their public criminal records so they don't have trouble getting a job or
qualifying for housing.
"We want them to get a job," she said. "Share the load of the taxes."
She said those efforts are part of being just. It's the same reason she says
she wants to boost the DA's office conviction integrity unit, the group that
has overseen the reversal of wrongful convictions.
And when asked about her approach to the death penalty, Johnson said it's her
job to abide the law, and execution is legal in Texas.
But, she said, Dallas County prosecutors will pursue the death penalty only
when they are "darn sure that that's what we need to do."
She said that's part of her oath: to uphold the law for everyone.
"I'm going to do what's right by you. I don't care who you are. You could be
black, white, purple, green," Johnson said. "You could be rich, poor. You could
live in North Dallas, south, east, west. I got you. I got you. I'm here for
First Assistant District Attorney Mike Snipes called Johnson the "real deal"
and said she has a compassionate approach to the job.
"We're going to take care of the lost souls. We're going to try to rehabilitate
them. We're going to try to reintegrate them into society," he said.
As for the monsters: "The judge and I are coming after them."
(source: Dallas Morning News)
Remove restrictions on Pa. death penalty
We are still in limbo regarding the death penalty in Pennsylvania, and there is
absolutely no light at the end of the tunnel. I would request that Gov. Wolf
reinstate the death penalty and, if at some time in the future they decide to
make some changes in the law to address it at that time.
The Eric Frein trial has started. This man, according to authorities, killed a
state trooper in cold blood and wounded another trooper. He caused disruptions
in the state for over a month, which cost taxpayers millions and took a huge
toll on businesses. His actions caused fear in the public and affected schools
and other public services.
This is a man who, if convicted, deserves death, and our governor would need to
make sure Frein's death is not delayed one second due to some perceived issue
with our existing law and death penalty procedures.
North Whitehall Township
(source: Letter to the Editor, Morning Call)
Revisiting the death penalty in Maryland is a bad idea
On Wednesday, March 22, The Frederick News-Post???s daily online poll asked
readers' opinions on the death penalty. I presume that it was in response to
the Feb. 6 introduction of House Bill 881 calling for the death penalty in
1st-degree murder cases where the victim is a law enforcement officer,
correctional officer or first responder.
Maryland's death penalty was repealed in May 2013 in favor of life imprisonment
without the possibility of parole.
Given people's inclination to respond to issues emotionally and not always
rationally, the desire by some to reinstitute the death penalty is
understandable. Though understandable, it is misguided and not based on
rational thought, data or sound social science research.
I was a proponent of the death penalty for most of my adult life. In more than
a few incidents, as a police officer, I was upset when the killer of a law
enforcement officer was captured alive and then ineligible for the death
penalty. I recognized then and more so now that it was an emotional response
that clouded the bigger picture.
I still believe there are people who represent such a danger to society and
have committed such heinous crimes as to deserve the death penalty. Over the
years, in a professional capacity, I have met such people. I understand,
however, that this is an emotional response rooted in a desire for retribution
and not a rational response based on deterrence.
As for deterrence, the only thing that is conclusive is specific deterrence.
The executed killer will not do it again. As for general deterrence, that is
less clear, with over 80 % of criminologists questioning its effectiveness.
Moreover, our criminal justice system is fallible and mistakes are made. Over
the years many who had been sentenced to die were later found to be innocent of
the crimes that put them on death row. Once a person has been wrongly executed,
there is nothing that can be done to make it right.
In 1996, the National Institute of Justice published "Convicted by Juries,
Exonerated by Science: Case Studies in the Use of DNA Evidence to Establish
Innocence After Trial." This report focused on the unreliability of eyewitness
evidence, the greatest contributing factor in the 28 cases of wrongful
conviction examined, three of which were death penalty cases. One of the death
penalty cases was a 1985 Maryland crime where a Baltimore man was wrongfully
convicted of rape and murder.
The NIJ report should give pause to those who want to reinstate Maryland's
Though the unreliability of eyewitness evidence is a major factor in wrongful
convictions, it is not the only problem. In the 1990s, the Department of
Justice's Inspector General investigated misconduct in the FBI's forensic
laboratory. Among the findings were that inflated or untrue assertions had been
made, scientific standards were violated, and bias had influenced high-profile
cases. The murder of a law enforcement officer is a high-profile case that
engenders tremendous pressure for resolution.
Several years ago, District of Columbia Superior Court Chief Judge Lee F.
Satterfield created a task force to look into circumstances surrounding
wrongful convictions. Problems that surfaced included not only
misidentification by eyewitnesses but also problems with the testimony of paid
informants and erroneous forensic testimony by FBI agents.
Some years ago during a trip to Oklahoma to interview an incarcerated serial
killer, I spoke with a retired Oklahoma homicide detective who had been
involved in several high-profile cases, some of which were featured in Mark
Fuhrman's book "Death and Justice." He said that having been involved in a
high-profile case that resulted in a wrongful conviction, he now knows how easy
it is to give undue weight to evidence that was too good to be true - evidence
that should have raised suspicion.
At a time when there are calls for criminal justice reform, it is important to
ensure any reforms are based on sound research and data-driven, fact-based
information. Calls for re-establishment of the death penalty in Maryland are
not based on the aforementioned.
(source: Commentary; Karl Bickel, who is retired from the Department of
Justice, has been a major city police officer, assistant professor and 2nd in
command of the Frederick County Sheriff's Office----Frederick News Post)
Bond denied, death penalty possible for mall murder suspect
A judge this morning denied bond for a woman charged with murder after a
shooting outside Independence Mall in Wilmington over the weekend.
Traneta Shanaia Campbell, 19, is charged with 1st-degree murder in the death of
Catherine Ruth Ballard, 24, Saturday outside the entrance to the mall. Campbell
could face the death penalty, but there is still no word on if the state will
seek that option.
In court, the prosecution said Campbell shot Ballard point blank in the back of
the head. Campbell's relatives and witnesses who called 911 said the shooting
happened after an argument.
US Marshals arrested Campbell and Darius Nelson last night in a shed on Monroe
Street. Nelson is charged with accessory after the fact. A prosecutor said
Nelson drove Campbell from the scene and got rid of the murder weapon. The
judge doubled his bond from $250,000 to $500,000 secured.
Ballard was a student at Cape Fear Community College. She also worked at New
Hanover Regional Medical Center.
(source: WWAY TV news)
Death penalty a blight on humanity
The state of Arkansas will launch an attack against human dignity beginning the
Monday after Easter by starting their assembly line of executions. The killing
of 8 men in 10 days is both mind boggling and un-Christian. I guess they just
couldn't stomach doing it during Holy Week. I hope North Carolina doesn't get
any ideas. Maybe one day America will join the rest of the civilized world and
abolish the death penalty. May God have mercy on us. Chad Burnett, Forest City
(source: Letter to the Editor, The Citizen-Times)
Scott decisions to reassign cases are 'executive overreach'
Gov. Rick Scott has decided to step up his assault on Aramis Ayala, the state
attorney for Orange and Osceola counties who had the audacity to refuse to seek
the death penalty for an accused cop killer - or other defendants accused of
After removing her last month from the prosecution of the accused, Markeith
Loyd, Scott on Monday - acting "in the interest of justice" - reassigned 21
additional 1st-degree murder cases to an outspoken death-penalty proponent,
Brad King, the Ocala-based state attorney for the 5th Judicial Circuit.
These executive orders disrespect the sanctity of both the electoral and
judicial processes. And Scott should reverse them immediately.
It's hard to see this as anything but a politically motivated power grab by a
governor whose disdain for the traditional checks and balances of government
can be palpable - especially when it comes to the judiciary.
Ayala, Florida's 1st black elected state attorney, announced last month that
she would not seek death for Loyd - accused in the murder of his pregnant
ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon, and the execution-style killing of Orlando Police
Lt. Debra Clayton.
Scott's decision to remove her from the case was swift, coming within hours of
her announcement. Nearly as swift was reaction from Republican lawmakers,
calling for the governor to remove Ayala from office and reducing her office's
funding. Just Tuesday morning, a group of Central Florida Republicans held a
news conference again calling for her removal.
To be sure, Florida lawmakers are still a bit sore about being forced - twice -
to pass a bill requiring a unanimous jury vote for the death penalty. Both the
Florida and U.S. Supreme Courts had struck down the state's capital punishment
system as unconstitutional, making more than 1/2 the state's 400 death row
inmates eligible for new sentencing. Likely, many GOP lawmakers saw Ayala's
decision as another slap in the face.
But that's their problem. They should understand that prosecutors have broad
discretionary power. That's why every 1st-degree murder case is not a death
penalty case. Aggravating circumstance also must be present.
We don't necessarily agree with Ayala's position rejecting the death penalty in
all cases. But we respect her authority, vested by the voters of the 9th
Circuit, to do so. Those same voters - who elected her by a double-digit margin
- can remove her from office if she does not represent their views about
That's the point. The governor would have us believe this is about the death
penalty. It's not. This is about a chief executive's unprecedented overreach
based on a political philosophy.
The law Scott cites, which allows a governor to remove prosecutors from cases
if the prosecutors are unfit or if there is a conflict of interest, is also a
In a statement Monday, Scott said the victims' families "deserve a state
attorney who will take the time to review every individual fact and
circumstance before making such an impactful decision."
They also deserve a state attorney of their own choosing. They deserve a state
attorney who's not fearful of doing what's best for their constituents by
making a politically unpopular decision. And one not subject to knee-jerk
Ayala cited numerous problems with the death penalty as the basis for her
decision, which she said she reached after "extensive and painstaking thought
Nearly 150 law professors, former prosecutors and judges wrote a letter of
protest to Scott. They kept it simple. "Florida's entire criminal justice
system is premised on the independence of prosecutors," they wrote. Ayala "is
solely empowered to make prosecutorial decisions for her circuit."
If the governor is truly genuine about his passion for "justice," he needs to
step back from this dangerously slippery slope.
The governor would have us believe this is about the death penalty. It's not.
(source: Editorial, Palm Beach Post)
Jury gets death penalty case of woman accused of killing roommate
Jacqueline Luongo killed for money, and she would have killed again to get away
with it, a Broward jury was told Monday.
Jurors are now deliberating over the charges that could get Luongo, 46, a cell
on death row. Luongo is charged with the 2014 murder of her roommate, Patricia
Viveiros, and for hiring a hit man to kill a key witness, Maria Calderon, the
Calderon lived to testify - the hit man turned out to be an undercover
detective, who staged the murder by having Calderon made up to look like she
was shot to death in the Everglades.
And on Tuesday, prosecutor Shari Tate told jurors they know everything they
need to find Luongo guilty of murder, conspiracy, and witness tampering.
The bulk of Tate's argument was focused on the murder charge, and it included a
disturbing description of the victim's final, terrifying minutes of life.
Luongo, according to Tate, covered Viveiros' head with duct tape, wrapping it
around over and over again until it cut off her air supply. To keep Viveiros
from pulling the tape off, Tate said, Luongo handcuffed her.
"With every stroke of this tape roll, that it premeditation," Tate argued.
"This is not a case of someone acting in the heat of passion."
Viveiros, 68, was found dead in her apartment on the 4200 block of Crystal Lake
Drive in Deerfield Beach on Sept. 4, 2014. Her body had been stuffed in a
garment bag that was placed in a bedroom closet.
Luongo, down on her luck, had moved in with Viveiros just about 2 months
earlier. But when Luongo found out that Viveiros had access to $50,000 from a
life insurance policy, she decided it was worth killing over, Tate said. Luongo
then disguised herself with a wig to withdraw Luongo's money, Tate said.
According to trial testimony, Luongo tried to enlist Calderon's help to kill
Viveiros. Calderon, who was in a relationship with Luongo, refused to go along
with it. Days later, Luongo told Calderon that she had walked in on another man
Calderon said she didn't believe her, and she told police where they could find
But defense lawyer Gabe Ermine said the evidence shows another possibility -
Calderon was the killer, and she turned Luongo in to deflect the blame from
herself, he said. As for the conspiracy charge, Ermine said, Luongo was the
victim of entrapment. She was goaded into the crime by a fellow inmate at the
Broward jail and the undercover detective, Ermine said.
The 12-member jury began deliberations around 1 p.m.
Broward Circuit Judge Dennis Bailey told four alternate jurors to continue
avoiding media coverage of the case and not to discuss it with friends,
co-workers or family members. If is convicted of 1st-degree murder, the trial
will enter a 2nd phase of testimony, with each side arguing about whether
Luongo deserves to be executed or sentenced to life in prison. The alternate
jurors could still be brought in to be a part of that process, Bailey said.
Death penalty will be sought against Markeith Loyd----State attorney calls Loyd
'especially heinous, atrocious or cruel'
The state attorney prosecuting accused double murderer Markeith Loyd will seek
the death penalty, according to a notice filed Monday evening.
Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brad King cited several aggravated
circumstances that he believes qualify the case for the death penalty. He
called the crimes of which Loyd is accused of committing "especially heinous,
atrocious or cruel."
"The capital felony was a homicide and was committed in a cold, calculated and
premeditated manner, without any pretense of moral or legal justification," the
Loyd is accused of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon on Dec. 13 and
then shooting Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton "execution style" on Jan. 9 when
she tried to apprehend him at a John Young Parkway Walmart.
Loyd was found in an abandoned home on Jan. 17, bringing a 9-day manhunt to an
The death penalty announcement in Loyd's case came 1 day after Gov. Rick Scott
removed Orange Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala from 21 1st-degree murder
cases and reassigned them to King's office.
Ayala was originally set to prosecute Loyd, but Scott issued an executive order
reassigning it to King hours after she announced that she would not seek the
death penalty against Loyd or in any other case her office prosecutes.
Law enforcement officials across Central Florida said it was a slap in the face
to not seek capital punishment and applauded Scott's executive order.
"I have seen the video of Markeith Loyd executing Lt. Debra Clayton while she
lay defenseless on the ground," Orlando police chief John Mina said. "She was
given no chance to live. A cop killer -- who also killed his pregnant
girlfriend -- should not be given that chance."
Up until the notice was filed Monday evening, King remained relatively mum when
asked about the possibility of capital punishment, saying only that he planned
to "seek justice" for the victims.
Florida has executed hundreds of people since 1924. Could State Attorney Aramis
Ayala finally put an end to it?
Herman Lindsey can tell you what it's like to wait for a turn with death.
After being sentenced to die in 2006, he was put on Florida's death row in
2007, and sat caged inside a plain, box-like cell at the old, dusty state
prison in Raiford, where winter and summer temperatures seemed harsher inside
Lindsey was convicted of the murder of a store clerk who was fatally shot
during a Fort Lauderdale robbery in 1994. He didn't get to say goodbye to his
loved ones when he was sentenced to die, and it was hard for anyone to make the
5-hour trek from Broward County to the isolated facility up north. As he fought
to prove his innocence, other men were taken into the white execution room,
strapped with leather bonds onto a gurney and injected with a fatal cocktail of
drugs. Most went quickly and quietly, but at least one execution was painfully
botched. As he waited alone, Lindsey begged God to let him go.
"One thing Florida cannot guarantee is that they will not kill an innocent
person," he says in an interview. "The system is intact to protect us, to seek
justice for victims, but in my case, they created a victim."
And then, one seemingly miraculous day - Tuesday, July 28, 2009 - Lindsey was
free. After fighting his case all the way to the Florida Supreme Court, all
seven justices agreed the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction,
much less the death sentence he received from an 8-4 jury. Lindsey became the
23rd prisoner exonerated and freed from death row in Florida, which leads the
nation for exonerees.
Under the shade of the state Capitol building last Thursday, Lindsey told a
crowd he's been fighting to abolish the death penalty since he was released in
2009. Lawmakers have heard about his struggles to move past the trauma and live
a normal existence - whenever he applies for a job or a place to live, the
murder still shows in his background check, and he feels this has wrecked his
life. Lindsey felt ignored - until last month.
In March, Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala put herself at the center
of the death penalty debate, igniting a firestorm of criticism after she
declared she wouldn't pursue an execution for murder suspect Markeith Loyd -
or, for that matter, any other case during her tenure.
Hours after Ayala's announcement, she says she was asked by Florida Gov. Rick
Scott in a 25-second phone call to recuse herself from the case. She refused
and tried to explain the reasoning behind her conclusion - that the death
penalty is costly, has no effect on public safety and does not deter crime -
but Scott wouldn't listen. Before the end of the day, Scott used his executive
authority to remove Ayala from the case and reassign it to another state
attorney, saying it was "clear that she will not fight for justice." That move
sparked further controversy and fueled a conversation Lindsey has been
desperate to have.
"God was giving me the experience to be a voice," he said to the hundreds who
traveled miles in buses and cars to support Ayala in Tallahassee. "This year,
we actually are being heard. And what State Attorney Ayala is doing is helping
us with our fight to end the death penalty."
Lindsey, 44, said he got no apology or compensation from the state after being
wrongly imprisoned. Like a church on Sunday, the crowd seated on white plastic
chairs listened with rapt attention to Lindsey's sermon, shouting every so
often, "Amen!" They'd come from Jacksonville, Orlando and Miami to air their
grievances in our lawmakers' playground.
"I done been to that governor's office. He won't even see me. But he says he
wants somebody there for justice," Lindsey exclaimed to them, pointing toward
the Capitol. "What would have happened if I would have died there?"
(source: Orlando Weekly)
Alabama House votes to end judicial override
The Alabama House of Representatives Tuesday voted to end the authority of
judges to override jury recommendations and hand down a death penalty.
The bill passed on a vote of 78-19 and is now headed to the governor.
According to the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative, Alabama judges
since 1976 have overridden jury recommendations 112 times. In 101 of those
cases, the judges gave a death sentence.
The legislation only affects future death sentences, not inmates currently on
Alabama's death row.
Senators previously passed the bill 30-1.
(source: Associated Press)
Louisiana lawmakers propose getting rid of death penalty
3 Louisiana lawmakers are sponsoring bills this session to eliminate the death
penalty in the Bayou State.
Under legislation proposed by Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, any crime
committed on or after August 1, 2017 could no longer lead to a death sentence.
The more than 70 people currently on Louisiana's death row would remain there.
Instead of being sentenced to death, those convicted of crimes such as 1st
degree murder and first degree rape would face life in prison without the
possibility of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence.
The effort is getting a bipartisan push. In the House, the former head of state
police, Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, and the former sheriff of Franklin
Parish, Rep. Steven Pylant, R-Winnsboro, are sponsoring a similar bill.
"The system just doesn't work," said Claitor, who views his bill in part as a
Over the last decade, only one person in Louisiana has been put to death.
Gerald Bordelon, convicted of kidnapping and murdering a woman, waived his
right to an appeal, a process that overall can take decades. Bordelon was
killed by lethal injection in 2010.
During that same 10-year time period, state public defender, Jay Dixon, said
Louisiana has spent about $100 million defending capital cases. That does not
take into account the additional costs of the prosecution, sequestering juries,
"The amount of money that we currently spend to prosecute somebody to the death
penalty through the appellate process is more than we would spend on the
average prisoner's life in jail," said Claitor.
However, East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore said the death penalty
should stay, believing it to be appropriate in some severe cases. "It is
expensive, but justice should not bow down to money," said Moore.
He said capital punishment can help bring closure to the families of victims,
despite the lengthy appeals process.
During his time as DA, he has put 2 people on death row, including Dacarius
Holliday, convicted of killing a 2-year-old in 2007.
"It's not something we like to do, it's something we kick around a lot here
before we make that decision. That's the ultimate decision you make as a DA,"
Even so, Claitor argues the costs associated with the death penalty are too
great, including the potential loss of innocent life. Over the past 4 decades,
ten people on death row in Louisiana have been exonerated and let go, according
to the National Registry of Exonerations.
Claitor said a life behind bars is a better option. "Those that deserve the
death penalty, I think it would be a lot worse for them to spend their days in
jail and it won't cheapen us as a society to do so," Claitor said.
The regular session begins Monday, April 10.
(source: WAFB news)
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