2017-11-29 14:44:27 UTC
TEXAS----stay of impending execution
San Antonio lovers' lane killer's execution called off
A San Antonio death row inmate whose last execution date was cancelled due to
Hurricane Harvey has again won a reprieve in light of claims that his
conviction was based on false testimony.
Juan Castillo was set to die Dec. 14, but a court on Tuesday called off the
date for the 3rd time this year, bouncing the case back to a lower court.
The 36-year-old was convicted of killing teenage rapper Tommy Garcia Jr. in a
botched robbery on a San Antonio lovers' lane.
Castillo's then-girlfriend lured the targeted man to a secluded spot with the
promise of sex and drugs. Castillo was 1 of 4 people convicted in the crime,
but he was fingered as the trigger man and was the only one hit with a capital
He was found guilty on what would have been his victim's 21st birthday.
"Mr. Castillo was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death based on
false testimony," said defense attorney Tim Gumkowski.
"There was no physical or forensic evidence presented that connected Mr.
Castillo to this crime. Nor were there any independent witnesses that
implicated Mr. Castillo. The only unbiased, seemingly independent testimony
implicating Mr. Castillo was from an individual who we now know lied about
Juan's involvement in the murder."
At Castillo's trial, fellow Bexar County jail inmate Gerardo Gutierrez
testified that Castillo had described the crime in detail, confessing his role
in the slaughter.
But in 2013, Gutierrez signed an affidavit admitted he'd lied.
"I described what Juan Castillo supposedly told me about the capital murder,"
he wrote, according to court filings. "Juan Castillo never told me this
information about this capital murder case. This testimony was untrue about
Juan Castillo. I made up this testimony to try to help myself."
Prosecutors argued that appeals based on the 2013 revelation were procedurally
barred, could not be considered credible and only reiterated claims
corroborated by other witness testimony.
But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals looked to a 2009 decision mandating
that - whether or not it's intentional - the use of false testimony violates
due process. Because Castillo's only other habeas appeal in the trial court
came before the 2009 decision, the appellate court on Tuesday decided to give
him another chance.
Previously, Castillo had an execution date set for May, but Bexar County
prosecutors asked to have it reset after they failed to give sufficient notice
to the defense.
Around the same time, defense lawyers filed motions seeking DNA testing on a
knit cap sent to a crime lab back in 2003, just weeks after the slaying.
But it was Hurricane Harvey and not DNA claims that prompted the cancellation
of Castillo's September execution date.
The Dec. 14 date would have been the Lone Star State's 8th and last execution
The next death date on the calendar is on Jan. 18, when Houston-area serial
killer Anthony Shore is scheduled to die by lethal injection.
A Dec. 1 execution date in South Carolina will not be carried out because the
state does not have the necessary drugs available to use in the lethal
injection process. It thus appears that the US will finish the year with 23
executions, 3 more than last year. In addition to Anthony Shore's execution
date in January, there are 2 more national execution dates that month,
including 1 in Alabama and another in Texas.
(sources: Houston Chronicle & Rick Halperin)
The conservative case for sparing Bobby Moore's life
I am a conservative, a Republican and a proud Texan. Recently, I joined with
numerous other prominent Texans - including retired judges, former prosecutors
and others - to urge our Court of Criminal Appeals to follow the Constitution
and the Supreme Court and end the threat of the death penalty to Bobby Moore, a
man who is clearly intellectually disabled.
I strongly believe that this is the only option consistent with conservative
principles - because our great Constitution prohibits executing the
intellectually disabled, because the Supreme Court already has ruled in this
very case, and because any other path would be a terrible and inexcusable waste
of public money and resources.
Some of us who have weighed in supporting Moore in this case favor the death
penalty generally. Some of us oppose it. But we are all united in opposing
Moore's execution because of our support for the Constitution, for the rule of
law, and for the proper administration of our justice system.
Executing Moore, who was convicted of killing a grocery store employee during a
bungled robbery in Houston in 1980, would violate the U.S. Constitution. In
Atkins vs. Virginia (2002), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution
prohibits taking the life of an intellectually disabled person. As the Supreme
Court has explained: "To impose the harshest of punishments on an
intellectually disabled person violates his or her inherent dignity as a human
In Moore's case, in 2014, a Harris County habeas trial court held a 2-day
evidentiary hearing to consider whether Moore is intellectually disabled.
Applying current medical standards, the court determined that Moore had very
pronounced mental and social difficulties beginning at an early age. For
example, at the age of 13, he did not understand the days of the week, the
months of the year, the seasons or how to tell time.
Based on its careful review of the evidence, the trial court concluded that
Moore was an intellectually disabled person and could not be executed within
the bounds of the Constitution. The Court of Criminal Appeals later rejected
that recommendation, however, and found that Moore's execution could go
In March of this year, the Supreme Court rejected the Court of Criminal
Appeal's ruling. It determined that the court erroneously relied on outdated
and nonmedical standards. The Supreme Court found that Moore's low IQ score
plainly falls within the clinically established range for intellectual
disability. It also recognized the overwhelming evidence of Moore's adaptive
problems - his inability to learn basic skills and to adjust behavior to
The Supreme Court sent the case back to the Court of Criminal Appeals with
instructions to follow its ruling. It made clear that Texas must use current
medical standards to evaluate intellectual disability and may not rely on the
unscientific approach it previously used.
The Court of Criminal Appeals must now follow the Supreme Court's instructions.
It should now affirm the habeas court's finding that Moore is intellectually
disabled and that his execution is therefore barred by the Constitution. The
Supreme Court's decision compels this result, and it is a just one. Moore's
sentence should be changed to life in prison. Even the prosecutors now agree.
Prolonging the fight in this case also would be a massive waste of public
funds. To again throw out the habeas court's exhaustive findings would be
wasteful and pointless - and would inevitably lead to another legal challenge
for defying the Supreme Court's decision. It is expensive to keep somebody on
death row, far more expensive than keeping the person in the general prison
Reasonable minds can disagree about the death penalty. But we cannot waver in
our enforcement of our Constitution - especially where, as in Moore's case, the
U.S. Supreme Court has given clear guidance and explicit instructions. That is
why so many diverse people with different perspectives - conservatives, faith
leaders, intellectual disability groups, leading legal and mental health
organizations, civil rights groups, Moore's prosecutors - all agree that the
death penalty is completely inappropriate in this case.
The Court of Criminal Appeals should do the right thing and throw out the death
penalty against Bobby Moore.
(source: Op-Ed; Pat Monks is a former Republican precinct chair for Harris
County----Dallas Morning News)
Indicted for capital murder, Riggs scheduled for 1st court appearance on Dec.
Ryan Riggs, indicted for capital murder in the May 2016 death of Chantay
Blankinship of North Lake Brownwood, is scheduled to make his 1st court
appearance in a Dec. 11 arraignment, court records show.
Riggs, 21, remains in the Brown County Jail with bond denied.
The November session of the Brown County Grand Jury returned a capital murder
indictment against Riggs.
The indictment alleges that Riggs intentionally caused Blankinship's death "by
choking her, stomping her, striking her with a lawnmower blade or other blunt
force ... and was in the course of committing or attempting to commit the
offense of kidnapping or aggravated sexual assault" of the 25-year-old woman.
District Judge Steve Ellis, anticipating a possible death penalty case, has
appointed the office of the Regional Public Defender for Capital cases of
Lubbock to represent Riggs.
Ellis signed court order appointing the office to Riggs' defense on Nov. 17
after Riggs claimed to be indigent and requested a court-appointed attorney.
Riggs was arrested at the Law Enforcement Center the night of Nov. 15 after
first confessing to Blankinship's murder at his church. Riggs went on to give a
"full confession" to Sheriff Vance Hill, sheriff's Sgt. Scott Bird and Texas
Ranger Jason Shea, Hill said earlier.
High court won't review Beaumont courthouse shooter case
The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to review the conviction and death sentence
of a Houston man for the slaying of a 79-year-old woman during a 2012 shooting
rampage outside the courthouse in downtown Beaumont.
The high court, without comment, ruled Monday in the case of 47-year-old
Bartholomew Granger. He does not have an execution date and his lawyers are in
the early stages of other appeals in federal district court.
Granger testified at his 2013 trial moved to Galveston that he wanted the death
penalty. He acknowledged opening fire on his daughter outside the Jefferson
County Courthouse after she testified against him in a sexual assault case but
said he didn't intend to kill a bystander, Minnie Ray Sebolt.
Granger's daughter and her mother were among 3 people wounded.
(source: Associated Press)
Death row inmate back in Newton County
Convicted murderer and death row inmate Rodney Renia Young was back in a Newton
County courtroom Monday morning as his attorneys work to get him a new trial.
Young, 49, was convicted and sentenced to death by a Newton County jury in 2012
for the 2008 beating and stabbing death of 28-year-old Gary Lamar Jones in
Jones' Covington home.
According to media reports at the time, Young became enraged when Jones'
mother, Doris, moved to Georgia from New Jersey to live with her son after
ending a 7-year relationship. She returned to the home on Benedict Drive around
11:30 p.m. March 30, 2008 and found her son bound to a chair, stabbed in the
neck and bludgeoned with a hammer.
Young was arrested April 3 in Bridgeton, New Jersey by an agent from the
Georgia Bureau of Investigations and an investigator from Newton County
During the hearing, attorneys from the Office of the Georgia Capital Defender
and the American Civil Liberties Union questioned proportionality in the
Georgia Supreme Court's review of death penalty cases.
They also argued before Alcovy Judicial Circuit Judge Samuel Ozburn that
Young's constitutional rights had been violated during his 2012 trial because
he wasn't present at bench conferences that occurred during the trial and
questioned the constitutionality of Georgia's requirement that death penalty
defendants prove intellectual disability beyond a reasonable doubt.
The attorneys said Young's wearing of a "stun belt" during his trial also
deprived him of the opportunity to participate in his defense and receive a
Testifying about the "stun belt," Young said wearing the belt made him feel
uncomfortable and that he was unable to communicate with his attorneys.
"They told me I would get shocked if I moved," he said.
Under cross-examination by Alcovy Judicial Circuit District Attorney Layla Zon,
Young said he was never shocked during his trial. He also said he was never
told he could not talk to his lawyers, nor did he ever communicate his
discomfort with the belt during his trial.
Young was led into the courtroom at the Newton County Justice Center wearing
his white Georgia Department of Corrections prison uniform and a blue jacket
with a large white DOC on the back. His hands and feet were bound by handcuffs,
leg shackles and a belly chain.
His lead attorney, Josh Moore of the Office of the Georgia Capital Defender,
asked Ozburn to allow one of Young's hands to be released from the handcuffs so
he could take notes.
Ozburn gave Young's attorneys 45 days to provide the law on the issue of
proportionality review and the DA's office an additional 45 days.
"It will be a few months at least before he rules on that motion and likely as
well on the motion for a new trial," Zon said. "If he grants the motion for a
new trial we will have to try the case again.
"If he denies the motion then he (Young) can appeal to the Georgia Supreme
(source: The Covington News)
Prosecutors can use defendant's statement in Gardens death-penalty case
Jurors will get to hear statements Herbert Savell made to investigators in his
upcoming death penalty trial in the 2014 murder of a 35-year-old woman whose
body was found in Palm Beach Gardens, but he will get to stand trial without
the man that who told police he saw Savell beat the woman to death with a
These were 2 of several decisions that Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey
Colbath made in 2 days of pretrial hearings for Savell, whose 1st-degree murder
and kidnapping trial is set to begin Jan. 16 in the death of Margeaux
Savell, 29, of Semmes, Ala., told police that he and another man, later
identified as Andrew Hoffman, tied Greenwald up and put her into the trunk of
her own car after she passed out on June 7, 2014 from what he may have thought
was a drug overdose in the Boynton Beach residence they were sharing at the
time. Savell said they later realized Greenwald was still alive and bought a
baseball bat to beat her with, but his arrest report was unclear about whether
Hoffman or Savell is alleged to have actually beat Greenwald to death.
Hoffman, for whom police initially lacked sufficient evidence to arrest, said
Savell was the one who delivered the fatal beating to Greenwald. Both Hoffman's
attorney and Savell's attorney, Assistant Public defender Elizabeth Ramsey,
filed requests with Colbath earlier this year for the 2 men to stand trial
separately. On Monday, Colbath granted the request. Hoffman's trial is
currently set for Feb. 20.
Ramsey on Tuesday lost a battle to keep jurors from hearing Savell's statements
to police, which began while he was already at the Palm Beach County Jail after
police picked him up during a traffic stop on an unrelated charge. According to
arrest reports, Savell was driving Greenwald's car at the time, and a
blood-covered baseball bat and a rain poncho Greenwald had been wrapped in were
both in the trunk.
But Ramsey and Assistant State Attorney Reid Scott mutually agreed to leave out
parts of the statement, and Colbath made individual rulings keepign out other
passages in the statements, including discussions of a ring taken from
Greenwald's body after she was dead and a reference to a Hispanic man who had
accompanied them at some point either before or after Greenwald was killed.
At the time police apprehended her alleged killers, Greenwald's relatives said
she had struggled with drug addiction and was in and out of sober homes in her
native New Jersey and South Florida. But her family said she had appeared to be
winning the battle shortly before her death, and her father said that she had
also counseled other recovering addicts during her own recovery.
If Savell's trial happens as scheduled, he will be just the 2nd defendant for
which Palm Beach County prosecutors have sought the death penalty at trial
since a nearly 2-year-old U.S. Supreme Court deemed Florida's previous death
penalty system unconstitutional. Florida lawmakers have since revamped the
system, but a jury in the 1st local case since then recommended a life sentence
for Rodney Clark for the 1987 Lake Worth murder of Dana Fader.
(source: Palm Beach Post)
Where the Poor Face the Death Penalty Without a Lawyer----A budget crunch in
Louisiana leads to an unusual wait list.
It has become an annual ritual in Louisiana: Nearly every winter, the state's
public defenders run out of money. Last year, 33 of the state's 42 local
indigent defense offices cut staff or placed thousands of poor defendants on a
wait list. The New Orleans public defender's office began refusing clients,
leaving hundreds to sit in jail without representation.
This year, there is another wait list. At least 11 Louisiana defendants facing
the death penalty - including 5 who have already been indicted - have no
defense team and may not have one until new money becomes available in July.
The list is likely to grow. In Louisiana, all 1st-degree murder defendants face
execution unless a prosecutor explicitly decides otherwise.
The latest crunch in Louisiana emerged from a law passed last year to try to
patch up the system. The legislation, signed by Democratic Gov. John Bel
Edwards in June 2016, required Louisiana's state-level indigent defense agency
to spend more on the overloaded local defenders - the ones who handle regular
felony and misdemeanor cases - by spending less on lawyers in death penalty
cases. The law successfully delivered about $5 million in additional cash to
indigent defense offices around the state, including a $1.5 million boost for
New Orleans, which has since ended its hiring freeze and reduced its wait list
to essentially zero.
But funding for capital defenders was cut to $5.5 million from $8.5 million in
just a year.
"They robbed Peter to pay Paul," said Jay Dixon, chief defender for the
Louisiana Public Defender Board, which is scheduled to hold a statewide meeting
Thursday to discuss the waitlisted capital defendants. "We're still in crisis;
it's just a different crisis. And now they can't shift any more money around,
so we could be facing an even greater crisis next year."
Louisiana is the only state in the nation whose public defenders are funded
primarily by traffic tickets, supplemented by a modest state contribution. In
part because of changes in police practices, ticket revenue has declined since
2010, causing the annual budget gap.
The state's public defender board does not employ its own capital defense teams
but farms out the work to a handful of private law firms, nonprofits and
individual attorneys. Those firms now say they are at capacity and ethically
constrained from taking on any more work, according to Dixon and the attorneys.
"Imagine a conveyer belt of [murder cases], and we're grabbing them off as they
come. But with the funding cuts, they essentially pulled some of us away from
the line, and now the cases are piling up and crashing to the floor," said Ben
Cohen, an attorney for The Promise of Justice Initiative, the advocacy wing of
one of the capital defense firms.
The waitlisted murder defendants may still get a temporary lawyer who can argue
that the case should not go to trial until there is money for a defense. But
they won't get a full legal team, even though lawyers argue the first months of
a capital murder case can be crucial. Evidence can be lost or destroyed if too
much time passes. An attorney armed with evidence can also convince the state
not to seek the death penalty at all. Of approximately 150 1st-degree murder
defendants indicted in Louisiana since April 2016, prosecutors have ultimately
declined to pursue execution in at least 100.
Case in Point
An examination of a single case that sheds light on the criminal justice system
The complaints ring hollow to prosecutors, who came out in force at the state
Capitol last year to support the bill resolving the defender crisis. They point
out that even though less than 1 % of all criminal cases in Louisiana are
capital murders, about a fifth of the state's indigent defense budget still
goes to the attorneys who handle them.
Louisiana had 73 people on death row as of May, but the state has executed only
1 person in the past 15 years. Like many states, Louisiana cannot secure the
drugs needed to administer the penalty.
"The defense that the state of Louisiana provides people charged with capital
crimes, Donald Trump would have trouble affording," Hugo Holland, a longtime
death penalty prosecutor who is now a chief lobbyist for the state district
attorneys' association, said in an interview. "The bottom line is this simple:
you guys over there at your boutique law firms, do your fucking job and provide
anyone represented by you with constitutional representation ... Stop
intentionally thwarting the administration of justice."
Holland and other supporters of last year's shift in funding believe the
capital defenders have unreasonable standards. They could, for example, devote
fewer resources to every defendant, rather than an expensive team of 2 lawyers,
an investigator and a mitigation specialist. They could also take more than 5
cases a year, which is an American Bar Association standard adopted by the
state Public Defender Board in 2007.
Defenders argue the stakes are too high to return to a time when 1 capital
defender could have as many as 30 cases at once. Louisiana has consistently led
the nation in wrongful convictions per capita. Since 2000, more than 96 % of
Louisiana death sentences have been reversed by higher courts, The Advocate in
Baton Rouge reported last year.
"It's an awful moral conundrum," Cohen said. "Like a doctor who has to perform
12 heart surgeries in a day, but then his staff gets cut in half. He can either
do a crappier job on these life-or-death procedures, or he can take fewer of
them and make the others wait."
The question now is whether the newest wait list will trigger further action by
If not, the capital defense offices are considering suing under Louisiana case
law that says if there is not funding for the defense, the courts may simply
halt prosecutions. Alternatively, judges may begin appointing private counsel
to the backlogged defendants, as they did last year to mixed results.
Either way, say attorneys for the poor, Louisiana must ultimately commit more
total funding to the legal defense of the impoverished."The fact is, capital
defense is very costly; that's just the nature of the beast," said Nick
Trenticosta, a capital defense attorney in New Orleans. "If you want to have
the death penalty, you're gonna have to pay for it. You can't try to put a man
to death on the cheap."
2 accused in stabbing death of 82-year-old in court again Wednesday
2 people accused of stabbing an 82-year-old woman to death in her Shreveport
home will appear in court Nov. 29 for their preliminary hearings.
Roy Narcisse, 25, and Kiana Williams, 25, both appeared Tuesday in Caddo Parish
District Court. Preliminary hearings for the pair were set to take place, but
Shreveport Police detectives who worked the investigation were unable to appear
in court Tuesday morning, according to prosecutors.
Christopher Murell, the attorney representing Narcisse, filed a motion asking
the judge to order prosecutors to announce within a reasonable time whether
they'll seek the death penalty. Judge Ramona Emanuel denied the motion.
Narcisse was indicted on a 1st-degree murder charge earlier this month.
Williams, who was indicted for 2nd-degree murder, stood before the judge for
only a few minutes before leaving.
The pair are accused of killing Kathleen Cates, 82, in her Anderson Island
neighborhood home in Shreveport.
Police found Cates, who lived alone on the 800 block of East Washington Street,
with multiple stab wounds inside her home Sept. 26.
Authorities allege that Narcisse, and Williams stole Cates's car and fled
Shreveport before being captured Sept. 28 in San Angelo, Texas.
Cates's oldest daughter, Donna Gingles of Logansport, said in an interview with
The Times in September that her mom had lived in the Anderson Island
neighborhood for most of her life.
"She was a fun-loving person," Gingles said. "I don't care where she was. She
was flexible. She'd drink a cup of coffee with you."
(source: Shreveport Times)
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