Discussion:
death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., VA., FLA., LA., OHIO
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Rick Halperin
2017-04-20 13:48:33 UTC
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Raw Message
April 20




TEXAS:

Texas man convicted in double slaying gets Supreme Court hearing Monday----The
U.S. Supreme Court, including its newest justice, Neil Gorsuch, will decide on
a legal technicality in the case of a Fort Worth man who killed a 5-year-old
girl and her grandmother.


The now-9 justices of the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Monday morning
in the Texas death penalty case of a Fort Worth man who killed a 5-year-old and
her grandmother during a children's birthday party.

The issue before the court in the case of 30-year-old death row inmate Erick
Davila focuses on a legal distinction between ineffective lawyering in the
trial court and during state appeals. The high court's newest justice, Neil
Gorsuch, previously ruled against an argument similar to Davila's when he sat
on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Seth Kretzer, the lawyer who will argue on behalf of Davila in front of the
court Monday, told The Texas Tribune it might be difficult to obtain Gorsuch's
vote in the case, but if the new, seemingly very vocal justice has questions,
"I'll be happy to answer each and every one of them," he said.

The Texas Attorney General's Office did not respond to an interview request on
Davila's case.

Davila landed on death row 8 years ago after the April 2008 murders. He drove
to the house of a rival gang member, Jerry Stevenson, and opened fire on the
porch before speeding off, according to court filings. Davila didn't hit
Stevenson, however; instead, he fatally shot the man's mother and daughter,
Annette Stevenson and 5-year-old Queshawn, who were outside during another
girl's birthday party.

For a jury to have found Davila guilty of capital murder in this case, they
needed to have determined that he intended to kill multiple people. Davila's
main defense in trial was that he only intended to kill Jerry Stevenson.
Tarrant County prosecutors countered that argument by pointing to Davila's
confession to police: "I was trying to get the guys on the porch, and I was
trying to get [Jerry Stevenson]."

As jurors deliberated, they focused on the intent issue, asking the judge if
they should decide if Davila intended to kill his 2 victims or if he intended
to kill someone and in the process fatally shot 2 others.

In his answer, the judge sent the definitions again and instructed jurors that
Davila would be responsible for a crime if the only difference between what
happened and what he wanted was that a different person was hurt - without
affirming to them that Davila must have intended to kill more than 1 person.
"The judge responded with a misleading instruction, which permitted the jury to
convict Davila based only on the intent to kill Jerry Stevenson," Kretzer wrote
in Davila's brief to the high court.

Davila's lawyer during his trial objected that the judge should not add that
instruction at that time, but he was overruled. It was the right move by the
lawyer but one that hurt Davila in the long run, Kretzer claimed.

This instruction wasn't brought up during Davila's automatic, direct appeal
concerning the trial record. And his lawyer in his state habeas appeal - which
focuses on facts outside of the trial record - never claimed his direct
appellate lawyer was wrong to not bring it up.

2 big mistakes, according to Kretzer.

Death penalty cases can also be appealed in the federal courts system, but it
is generally ruled that issues that could be raised at the state level can't be
reviewed federally until they go through state courts. So, when a federal
lawyer tried to raise the claim that Davila's direct appellate lawyer was
ineffective for not faulting the judge's instruction, federal courts said they
couldn't rule on that because it could have been brought up during the state
habeas appeal.

There is an exception to this rule, created in the Supreme Court decision
Martinez v. Ryan, which says that if state habeas lawyers fail to raise the
issue of ineffective trial counsel, the federal courts can still hear it to
ensure that the defendants are guaranteed their Sixth Amendment right to a fair
trial.

What Kretzer will argue before the high court Monday is that Martinez should be
interpreted to include issues of ineffective appellate counsel as well. Kretzer
said that if trial counsel had not objected to the judge's instruction, the
federal courts could rule on the merits of the case based on the Martinez
exception.

"A defendant should not be worse off because appellate counsel - rather than
trial counsel - rendered the ineffective assistance," Davila's brief states.

Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller will argue against opening up the Martinez
exception, and 30 other state attorneys general filed a brief in support of
Texas in the case. The list includes all states with the death penalty except
4, and 5 states without.

"The right to appellate counsel, while surely important, is not foundational
and cannot justify the same treatment as the right to trial counsel," Keller
wrote in the state's brief.

The Supreme Court got involved in this case because federal appellate courts
have interpreted the Martinez exception differently. Almost all federal appeals
courts have taken it to only include ineffective trial counsel claims
(including Gorsuch's court in 2012), but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
- which mostly covers the west coast - ruled trial and appellate lawyers should
be treated the same.

Even if the Supreme Court wanted to open the Martinez exception to include
appellate attorneys, Texas said previous rulings against Davila should still be
upheld, according to the state's filing. Though a lower federal court did rule
it couldn't procedurally hear the case, it still rejected the case for the
alternative reason of lacking merit.

"[Davila's] ineffective assistance of counsel claim is based on his appellate
counsel's decision not to raise an unpreserved challenge to a correct jury
instruction where [he] confessed to the facts constituting capital murder. No
reasonable jurist would find any merit in [the] claim," the state brief said.

Davila countered in a reply brief that the lower court wrongly ruled on the
merits in his case, and Kretzer told the Tribune that he didn't think the court
would "sidestep" the issue at hand.

"The idea that this appellate representation is a 2nd-tier right ... I don't
think that's likely to hold up very well in basically the highest appellate
court in the world," Kretzer said.

If the high court rules in Davila's favor, the case would be sent back for
federal courts to review his ineffective counsel claim. A decision in the case
is expected before the end of June, when the court's term ends.

(source: Texas Tribune)

*******************

Death Watch: DNA Testing Denied for Rodney Reed----Reed and Pruett strike out.
But justice for Duane Buck?


The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed a Bastrop County court's decision
to deny additional DNA testing to Rodney Reed. The state's highest criminal
court stated in its April 12 opinion that Reed "cannot establish that
exculpatory DNA results would have resulted in his acquittal and his motion is
not made for the purpose of unreasonable delay."

Reed has been on death row since receiving a death sentence in 1998 for the
murder and rape of 19-year-old Stacey Stites in nearby Bastrop. Reed, his
supporters, and attorneys have maintained his innocence ever since. At the time
of her death Stites was engaged to Giddings police officer Jimmy Fennell Jr.,
who was considered a suspect until DNA testing found Reed's semen inside
Stites' body. Reed claims he and Stites had been having an affair. Today,
Fennell also finds himself in prison: serving a 10-year sentence for raping a
woman while on duty with the Georgetown Police Department. (He remains the
primary person of interest in Stites' murder, according to Reed's support
group.) In 2014 the Supreme Court denied Reed's request for relief, but less
than 6 months later the CCA stayed his 2015 execution due to newly discovered
evidence found by Reed's team.

Bryce Benjet, the Innocence Project attorney who's represented Reed throughout
the habeas process, called the CCA's decision "deeply flawed." He told the
Chronicle: "2 experts testified without contradiction that DNA testing could
identify a specific individual, such as Mr. Fennell, as the source of DNA on
the evidence. This, in turn, could establish that individual's responsibility
for the crime. However, the CCA refused to even consider the possibility that
DNA testing would actually identify an individual - limiting its consideration
to exclusionary results." Benjet said his team has confirmed that all the
evidence in question still exists. He said he plans on "following the
well-established avenues for review of requests for DNA testing in federal
court," and will appeal the ruling "all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, if
necessary."

No Shanks

A week earlier, the CCA dealt another blow to Robert Pruett, who's now likely
to receive his fifth execution date. The court had most recently stayed
Pruett's execution in August to review newly tested DNA evidence, which
Pruett's lawyers argued should exonerate him from the 1999 murder of Beeville
prison guard Daniel Nagle. Pruett was 20, and serving a 99-year sentence in
Beeville as an accomplice to a murder committed by his father, when Nagle was
found dead in his prison office, stabbed by a homemade knife. No physical
evidence tied Pruett to the crime, save for a torn disciplinary report Nagle
had filed against the inmate. Pruett has always held that he was framed for the
crime. His appellate attorneys have spent the last few years demanding DNA
testing on the shank. His trial court has twice ordered new testing, though
both times the results have proved inconclusive.

Earlier this month, the CCA sided with the Bee County court where Pruett was
sentenced, stating in a 31-page opinion that the lack of DNA evidence would not
have affected Pruett's 2002 conviction and sentencing. CCA Judge Elsa Alcala
filed a concurring opinion regarding the DNA decision, but said Pruett's case
carried "significant problems with the evidence of guilt," and suggested
"further attention by this Court is warranted, even if it means reopening
appellant's subsequent habeas applications." Jeff Newberry, Pruett's lawyer,
told the Texas Tribune he would "definitely" appeal the ruling in federal
court.

Justice for Buck?

Not all is lost this month in Livingston. On Thursday, April 13, the 5th
Circuit Court of Appeals, following a February order from the U.S. Supreme
Court, granted Duane Buck a certificate of appealability and relief. Under the
5th Circuit's order, Buck is to be released from custody unless the state
either pursues a new trial punishment or "elects not to seek the death penalty
and accedes to a life sentence" within 180 days. Buck was convicted on 2 counts
of capital murder in 1997, but racial bias and racist testimony played a large
role in his sentencing. Walter Quijano, a psychologist testifying for the
defense, told the jury that "the race factor" (i.e., being black) could be
considered a "statistical factor" in gauging Buck's future dangerousness.
SCOTUS had ruled in Buck's favor in late February and ordered the 5th Circuit
take a new course of action.

(source: Austin Chronicle)






PENNSYLVANIA:

Death penalty phase in Frein case begins today


As an assistant district attorney in Pike County, Ray Tonkin unsuccessfully
sought a death sentence for a man convicted of killing his infant daughter and
girlfriend in 2006.

11 years later, Tonkin, now the county's top prosecutor, will try again to
convince jurors to put a convicted criminal on death row. This time, it is Eric
Matthew Frein.

Frein, 33, of Canadensis, was convicted Wednesday of 1st-degree murder,
attempted murder and 10 other offenses for the Sept. 14, 2014, sniper attack at
the Blooming Grove state police barracks that killed Cpl. Bryon K. Dickson,38,
of Dunmore, and severely wounded Trooper Alex T. Douglass, 34, of Olyphant.

The case now moves to the penalty phase, where prosecutors and the defense will
present evidence that will determine if Frein is sentenced to death or life in
prison without parole.

Tonkin last faced this situation in January 2006, when he secured a 1st-degree
murder conviction against Gregory Alan Rowe, who strangled his 17-year-old
girlfriend, Kristin Fisher at her Greentown home, then drowned their
7-month-old daughter, Kaylee, in a bathtub on May 4, 2004. Jurors deliberated
just 38 minutes before deciding to sentence Rowe, then 19, to life in prison.

In Frein's case, a jury from Chester County will begin hearing evidence in the
penalty phase at 1:30 this afternoon in Pike County Court.

Several attorneys who are experts in death penalty law explained that the
process jurors will employ in deciding the case.

The panel will weigh aggravating factors - those that make a crime more heinous
- against mitigating factors - those that lessen a defendant's culpability.

For a death sentence to be imposed, jurors must agree unanimously that the
aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating factors. If not, or if the panel
cannot reach a unanimous decision, the sentence will be life.

The existence of more mitigating than aggravating factors, or vice versa, does
not necessarily dictate the sentence. Jurors are permitted to give whatever
weight they wish to each factor.

"It's not a score card in terms of the number of mitigating versus the number
of aggravating circumstances," Peter Paul Olszewski Jr.,a former judge and
district attorney in Luzerne County, said in a recent interview. "It's the
overall weight. The jury can find 1 mitigating factor outweighs 3 aggravating
factors."

Pennsylvania Law lists 15 aggravating factors, any one of which must be present
in order for prosecutors to seek a death sentence.

In Frein's case, Tonkin listed 2 aggravating factors: Dickson was a police
officer murdered in the line of duty and Frein created a risk of death to
others by firing into the barracks.

The law specifies eight mitigating factors the defense can present. They
include a defendant's lack of prior criminal record, age and any evidence that
the defendant acted under duress or was under the influence of an extreme
mental or emotional disturbance.

In reality, there is no limit to the number of mitigating factors the defense
can raise, the experts say. That is because the law includes a "catch-all" that
allows the defense to present "any other evidence" it believes could influence
jurors' decision.

"The U.S. Supreme Court said a death sentence is so extreme and such an
ultimate punishment that you can't do it without letting a jury consider
virtually anything that would support a sentence less than death," said Jules
Epstein, a professor at Temple University Beasley School of Law in Philadelphia
who specializes in death penalty law.

The experts also noted key differences in the standards jurors will use in
evaluating the prosecution's and defense's evidence.

Prosecutors must prove each of the aggravating circumstances beyond a
reasonable doubt, while the defense needs to prove mitigating factors by the
preponderance of the evidence, a lesser standard, Epstein said.

Jurors also must agree unanimously that a specific aggravating factor exists in
order for the panel to consider it. Only one juror needs to believe a
mitigating factor exists, which would require the entire panel to then consider
it, said Ronald Eisenberg, who handled numerous death penalty appeals for the
Philadelphia district attorney's office.

Frein's defense attorneys, William Ruzzo and Michael Weinstein, have not said
what type of evidence they will present. Their case is expected to rely heavily
on information developed by Louise Luck, a mitigation expert, and an evaluation
of Frein performed by Carol Armstrong, a neuropsychologist.

"They'll use the mitigation specialist to talk about his younger years, if he
had problems growing up, if he was deprived of guidance," Olszewski said.
"They'll try to show he was the product of his environment somehow."

The prosecution likely will move to admit evidence it presented during the
guilt or innocence portion of the trial into the penalty phase, negating the
need for it to rehash the evidence, Epstein said.

There is no disputing the 1st aggravating factor - Dickson was murdered and was
on duty at the time of his death. Jurors will have to decide if Frein's
shooting into the barracks supports the 2nd aggravating factor of putting
others at risk for death.

In addition to the aggravating factors, the prosecution is expected to call
witnesses to testify about the impact Dickson???s murder had on them. Those
witnesses are limited in what they can say, however, said Marc Bookman,
co-director of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation in Philadelphia,
which provides consultation for death penalty defense.

"It can't contain an opinion on whether they want a life or death sentence," he
said. "They can talk about the impact the crime had on them."

The defense can combat that by calling witnesses to ask jurors to have mercy on
Frein and spare his life.

"Mercy is admissible as a reason for a jury not to impose death, but it has to
be connected to some part of the evidence," Bookman said.

(source: Scranton Times-Tribune)






VIRGINIA----impending execution

3 former Virginia attorneys general urge commutation of death sentence for Ivan
Teleguz


3 former Virginia attorneys general, Mark Earley, Mary Sue Terry and William
Broaddus, are asking Gov. Terry McAuliffe to spare the life of Ivan Teleguz,
set to be executed Tuesday for the murder-for-hire of his girlfriend.

"We would like to add our voices to those calling for you to commute the
sentence of Ivan Teleguz. As former Attorneys General of the Commonwealth of
Virginia - under both Republican and Democratic administrations - we are
familiar with the difficult decision before you when asked to spare the life of
a death-sentenced prisoner," began their letter, dated Tuesday.

The letter continues, "We know that as you make this difficult decision, you
undoubtedly will keep in mind the memory of Stephanie Sipe and that there can
be no accounting for the senseless brutality of her murder. In our view,
however, justice cannot be served by executing a prisoner in a case replete
with unreliable investigative techniques, coercive tactics by both law
enforcement and the prosecution, recantations of key trial witnesses, and
consideration of false testimony in support of a death sentence. In short, we
believe this to be precisely the kind of case that calls out for executive
clemency."

Earlier this month lawyers for Teleguz filed a clemency request with McAuliffe.
Marsha L. Garst, the commonwealth's attorney for Rockingham County, has
declined to comment on the case, noting that the issues have been tried and
decided in local, state and federal courts.

The Virginia attorney general's office referred questions to the governor's
office. A McAuliffe spokesman said Wednesday, "Mr. Teleguz's petition is under
review in the Governor's office and we will comment when that review is
complete."

Teleguz, 38, was sentenced to death for the 2001 capital murder of Stephanie
Yvonne Sipe, the mother of their 23-month-old son. Sipe was stabbed to death in
her Harrisonburg apartment. Trial evidence showed that Teleguz was angry that
he had been ordered to pay child support.

He hired 2 men to kill Sipe for $2,000 and drove them from Pennsylvania, where
Teleguz had moved. Sipe was stabbed to death. Her body was discovered by a
neighbor who also found her son, unharmed, in a bathtub full of water.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Virginia and Oklahoma are
tied for the 2nd most executions in the U.S. - at 112 - since the U.S. Supreme
Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976. Texas, at 542, leads the
country.

Teleguz's lawyers argue that the new evidence pointing to his innocence has
never been fully examined by the courts. They say 2 prosecution witnesses
admitted "that they testified falsely in exchange for leniency in their own
cases, and have no reason to think Teleguz was involved in the
murder-for-hire."

His lawyers say that 1 of the witnesses has been deported, and the other was
told he would lose his release date set for next year if he went back on his
testimony.

The jurors also relied on false testimony that Teleguz was involved in an
additional murder in Pennsylvania. Investigation since the trial by law
enforcement and by the defense has confirmed that the murder never happened.
The lawyers contend the only evidence remaining against Teleguz is the
testimony of Michael Hetrick, the actual killer who was spared the death
penalty.

His lawyers said the clemency petition details why his testimony is not
credible or reliable. A Change.org petition in support of clemency has been
signed by more than 113,000 people, and Teleguz also has submitted written
requests for clemency from thousands of supporters.

In a release Wednesday, The Constitution Project said the three former
attorneys general collectively oversaw the execution of over 50 prisoners while
they were in office.

Since leaving office both Earley and Broaddus have come to oppose the death
penalty.

The last time a Virginia governor granted clemency on the grounds of possible
innocence appears to have been in 1996 when then Gov. George Allen commuted the
death sentence of Joseph Payne to life in prison without parole, according to
the death penalty information center.

Virginia governors have granted clemency 8 times since the death penalty was
allowed to resume by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976.

Gov. L. Douglas Wilder commuted 3 death sentences; Gov. George Allen, 2; and
governors Jim Gilmore, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, one each. According to the
Death Penalty Information Center, possible innocence was cited in the 4 of the
commutations, mental illness in 2, rehabilitation in 1 and missing evidence in
1.

In the cases where innocence was claimed, the governors initially commuted the
death sentence to life in prison.

In the case of Earl Washington Jr., who once came within 9 days of execution,
subsequent DNA testing proved his innocence of a 1982 rape and murder in
Culpeper and was granted an unconditional pardon in 2000 (the real killer,
implicated by DNA, has since been convicted).

(source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)






FLORIDA:

Anti-Death Penalty Florida State Attorney Sues Governor for Reassigning Her
Cases In Retaliation


Florida has a complicated history with capital punishment. The state leads the
country in death-row exonerations and, since Florida Gov. Rick Scott has been
in office, the state has been executing death-row prisoners at the fastest rate
since the death penalty was restored in 1977. In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court
struck down Florida's death penalty system as unconstitutional, saying that it
gave judges too much power over sentencing. The law was revised but struck down
again by the Florida Supreme Court for the same reason. A new law that now
requires juries vote unanimously when imposing a death penalty sentence was
signed by Scott just last month.

Recently, a new State Attorney from Orange-Osceola County has come to power in
Florida. Aramis Ayala made history in the November election when she became
Florida's 1st African-American state attorney. An underdog in the race, Ayala's
road to success has been far from smooth. After being diagnosed with
near-terminal cancer, she was forced to drop out of law school but, upon
remission, returned more committed than ever. She went on to pass the Florida
Bar and began working as an assistant public defender and assistant state
attorney under Democrat Jeff Ashton.

In 2015 Ayala left Ashton's office to run against him for State Attorney.
During her campaign, she called for greater transparency in government and
promised to bridge the gaps in justice in the Black community. Ayala was
relatively unknown compared to near-celebrity Ashton, who gained notoriety as
the prosecutor in the Casey Anthony case, where Casey Anthony was tried for the
murder of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee Anthony. Despite this disadvantage,
she won by a landslide, with many crediting billionaire George Soros for her
win, as the tycoon pumped millions of dollars into her primary race as part of
a larger strategy to help Black attorneys become state attorneys. Ayala's
district, the 9th Judicial Circuit, is the third-largest in the state and
represents 1.4 million people in the culturally diverse greater Orlando area.

Last month, Ayala continued her history-making streak when she announced that
she would not seek the death penalty in any of her cases. She drew immediate
criticism for her stance, especially as she was preparing to prosecute the
murder trial of Markeith Loyd, who faces 11 criminal counts, including murder
and firearm charges, for allegedly killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sade
Dixon and Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton. Loyd was captured on January 17
following an extensive manhunt.

Ayala defended her position, saying that capital punishment in the state of
Florida has only led to "chaos, uncertainty and turmoil" and that "some victims
will support and some will surely oppose my decision, but I have learned that
the death penalty traps many victims and families in a decades-long cycle of
uncertainty, court hearings, appeals and waiting."

Though Clayton's family has not commented on Ayala's decision, Dixon's mother
supports her decision and said in a statement, "You have to understand that we
want closure. And closure doesn???t mean being dragged in and out of court with
appeals and everything else."

Governor Scott responded by demanding that Ayala recuse herself from the Loyd
case. When Ayala called Scott to explain her position, he refused to hear her
out and ended the call within 30 seconds. He proceeded to reassign the Boyd
case to 5th Circuit State Attorney Brad King, a vocal supporter of the death
penalty and has since replaced Ayala on 23 1st-degree murder cases.

The United States remains one of the few developed countries that continues to
execute its citizens. Outside of the inordinate costs to taxpayers and lengthy
appeal process, the death penalty has been proven to be unfairly leveled
against African-Americans. Since the days of slavery, it???s been used as a
method to quell resistance and, even today, far more Black people are sentenced
to death for killing whites than whites who murder Blacks. The demographics of
death row prisoners reflect the same trends as the wider prison system, with
Blacks making up a disproportionate amount of inmates. The current death row
population is 41 % Black, 42 % white, and 13 % Latino.

Following her removal from nearly 2 dozen cases, Ayala filed 2 lawsuits against
Scott - 1 in the Florida Supreme Court and 1 in the federal court of the Middle
District of Florida - arguing that state law gives her discretion in deciding
whether and how to prosecute cases. The lawsuit claims that her removal from
the Boyd case was an abuse of Scott's executive powers and disenfranchises the
voters who placed her in office. A coalition led by the Advancement Project and
including representatives of the New Florida Majority, Dream Defenders, the
Florida State Conference of the NAACP and Color of Change also filed an amicus
brief charging Scott with refusing to recognize the voters' will.

So far, Florida Republicans are holding tight to their position and recently
proposed that $1.3 million be cut from Ayala's office and redistributed to
other state attorneys who get 9th Judicial Circuit cases. The Florida House is
also backing Scott, and last week asked the Florida Supreme Court last week for
permission to file an amicus brief in support of Scott.

The state of Florida currently has 381 prisoners on death row. Ayala has taken
a bold step in denouncing a system that has disproportionately targeted
African-Americans since its creation, and if the Florida Supreme Court rules in
her favor, it will be a victory for all those who seek to see justice applied
fairly and consistently.

(source: Atlanta Black Star)






LOUISIANA:

Rodricus Crawford Exonerated from Louisiana Death Row----Caddo Parish
Prosecutors Drop Charges After Medical Evidence Suggests No Crime Occurred

At the request of local prosecutors, a Caddo Parish, Louisiana trial court has
dismissed all charges against Rodricus Crawford, making him the 158th person
exonerated from death row in the United States since 1973 and the second to be
exonerated this year. Mr. Crawford had been wrongly convicted and sentenced to
death in 2012 for the murder of his 1-year-old son, Roderius Lott, despite
medical evidence that the child actually died of a combination of pneumonia and
sepsis.

"In many respects, this case may reflect both the past and future of the death
penalty in America," said Robert Dunham, Executive Director of the Death
Penalty Information Center. "A jurisdiction with a history of racial bias,
prosecutorial misconduct, and overuse of the death penalty chose to pursue a
death sentence against a grieving father, despite evidence that his child had
unexpectedly died of natural causes. But as in increasing numbers of counties
across the country, local voters were put off by these types of abusive
prosecution practices and elected a new District Attorney, who took a fresh
look at the evidence and acted in the interests of justice."

Mr. Crawford's case attracted national attention amid evidence of race
discrimination, prosecutorial excess, and scientifically false forensic
testimony. During trial, prosecutor Dale Cox - who personally prosecuted 1/3 of
all the cases in which Louisiana juries returned death sentences between
2010-2015 - presented testimony from a local doctor that Mr. Crawford's infant
son had been suffocated. However, autopsy results showed pervasive
bronchopneumonia in the baby's lungs and sepsis in his blood. Cox later told
the jury that Jesus Christ would have imposed the death penalty against Mr.
Crawford.

In 2014, 2 years after the trial, Cox wrote an internal memorandum stating that
Mr. Crawford "deserves as much physical suffering as it is humanly possible to
endure before he dies." Cox gained national notoriety a year later when, as
Acting District Attorney, he told The Shreveport Times that he thought the
state needed to "kill more people."

In November 2016, the Louisiana Supreme Court overturned Mr. Crawford's
conviction, ruling that Cox had exercised the government's discretionary jury
strikes on the basis of race to unconstitutionally exclude black jurors from
serving in the case. When the parish's new District Attorney, James Stewart,
re-examined the evidence in the case, he asked the court to drop the charges
against Mr. Crawford.

Caddo Parish is 1 of 5 major U.S. counties in which local voters have replaced
prosecutors known for aggressive use of the death penalty with new prosecutors
who promised systemic criminal justice reforms, including reduced reliance on
capital punishment.[1] "With these new prosecutors, we are seeing a greater
commitment to fairness, one that we hope will translate into greater efforts to
correct the miscarriages of justice that have resulted in condemning innocent
people to death," Dunham said.

With the formal dropping of charges, Rodricus Crawford becomes the 11th person
exonerated from Louisiana's death row, and the 2nd from Caddo Parish. In 2014,
Glenn Ford was released from Louisiana's death row after 30 years. A death
sentence imposed on Corey Williams, an intellectually disabled Caddo Parish
prisoner who was 16 at the time of his alleged crime, has been overturned, but
he is still serving a life sentence despite evidence that his confession was
coerced and that others committed the offense for which he was condemned.

The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) today added Mr. Crawford to its
Innocence List at
http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/innocence-list-those-freed-death-row. To be
included on DPIC's Innocence List, defendants must have been convicted,
sentenced to death and subsequently either: (a) been acquitted of all charges
related to the crime that placed them on death row, or (b) had all charges
related to the crime that placed them on death row dismissed by the prosecution
or the courts, or (c) been granted a complete pardon based on evidence of
innocence.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)






OHIO:

Death Penalty Sought for Man Charged in Killing, Abduction


Prosecutors in Ohio will seek the death penalty for a man accused of fatally
shooting the mother of his 10-month-old son and abducting her stepmother and
the little boy.

Police last month arrested 27-year-old James Ramey, of Toledo, after finding
him in northern Indiana, near Rochester. The child and stepmother weren't hurt.

Prosecutors in Ohio's Fulton County said Wednesday they will seek a death
sentence after Ramey was indicted on 22 counts, including aggravated murder.

Authorities say he broke into the family's house in Delta, about 30 miles (48
kilometers) west of Toledo on March 14 and shot 23-year-old Amanda Magas in the
chest. She later died at a hospital.

Ramey is being held in jail. His attorney declined to comment Wednesday.

(source: Associated Press)

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