death penalty news----OKLA., KAN., NEB., CALIF.
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Rick Halperin
2017-06-10 14:50:19 UTC
June 10


Gang member headed to death row for Oklahoma City shooting

A gang member accused of killing an Oklahoma City man to gain some street cred
is headed to death row.

Oklahoma County jurors on Thursday chose the punishment for Ronnie Eugene
Fuston after learning he also killed another man in Enid. Fuston was given life
in prison without the possibility of parole in that case.

Fuston, a 107 Hoover Crip gang member, was convicted this month of 1st-degree
murder in the Oct. 20, 2012, shooting death of Michael Donnell Rhodes, 58.

Prosecutors called Fuston a hit man from Enid looking to gain some street cred.
Defense attorneys said Fuston wasn't there for the shooting.

Fuston, now 24, drove to Oklahoma City the day of the shooting to help some
female gang members with an ongoing dispute with Rhodes' niece, prosecutors
alleged. That night, Fuston and others went to Rhodes' house in northwest
Oklahoma City to confront the niece, according to prosecutors.

After the door was kicked in, Fuston fired 5 shots into the house, striking
Rhodes 3 times as he laid on the couch with his 3-year-old daughter,
prosecutors said.

During closing arguments Thursday, First Assistant District Attorney Scott
Rowland told jurors he didn't know how the girl escaped the "hail of gunfire,"
but was glad she did. He said the girl was found splattered in her father's

Prosecutors said Fuston was connected to the crime through cellphone and
ballistic evidence. Fuston also bragged about the shooting afterward, police

Defense attorneys contended there was no evidence Fuston pulled the trigger.

During the trial's punishment stage, his defense asked jurors not to choose the
death penalty because Fuston came from an abusive home and was a
"low-functioning" individual.

Rowland, though, told the jurors Fuston's siblings didn't become criminals. The
prosecutor also said Fuston wasn't low-functioning but didn't want to function
as a law-abiding citizen.

He also said Fuston would be a continuing threat to society.

"He has wreaked havoc on so many innocent people," Rowland said.

Jurors in Garfield County found Fuston guilty of 1st-degree murder in November
2016. In that case, Fuston was accused of shooting Heath Crites, 24, multiple
times during a home invasion in Enid about two months after the Oklahoma City

Prosecutors told jurors Fuston has been involved in multiple drive-by shootings
and robberies. Fuston also assaulted at least 5 people during his time in jail,
according to prosecutors.

(source: The Oklahoman)


Kansas man accused of hate crime in death of Indian citizen

A man accused in a bar shooting in suburban Kansas City that left one Indian
national dead and another wounded was indicted by a federal grand jury on hate
crime charges, the U.S. Justice Department announced Friday.

The indictment against Adam Purinton, 52, of Olathe, Kansas, comes after a Feb.
22 shooting at Austin's Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas. Witnesses have said
Purinton, who is white, yelled "get out of my country" at 2 32-year-old Indian
nationals, Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, before he began shooting.
Kuchibhotla died and Madasani was injured. A 3rd man, Ian Grillot, was wounded
when he tried to intervene.

The shooting raised fears of more attacks on immigrants following President
Donald Trump's election and his call for a ban on immigrants from some
countries. Officials in India also expressed concern about their citizens'
safety in the U.S., where many work in technology and other industries.

Kuchibhotla and Madasani had come to the U.S. from India to study and worked as
engineers at GPS-maker Garmin.

An affidavit released in March said Madasani told detectives that the gunman
asked if their "status was legal" before he opened fire.

The indictment announced Friday alleges Purinton shot the 2 Indian men because
of their "actual and perceived" race, color, religion and national origin. The
indictment also alleges Purinton committed the crimes after premeditation and
planning, attempted to kill more than 1 person and created a grave risk of
death to others at the scene. The indictment also accuses Purinton of violating
federal firearms laws.

After the shooting, Purinton drove 70 miles east to an Applebee's restaurant in
Clinton, Missouri, where he allegedly admitted the shootings to a bartender,
who called police.

The Justice Department said in a news release Friday that it would determine
later whether Purinton should face the death penalty.

Purinton was a Navy veteran who was a regular customer at Austin's. Neighbors
in the quiet Olathe cul-de-sac where he lived told The Associated Press that
Purinton had become "a drunken mess" after his father's death about two years
ago and had physically and mentally deteriorated before the shooting.

Olathe Mayor Michael Copeland said in a statement that the hate crime charge
was appropriate.

"The intent of this one act was to spread hate. It failed miserably," Copeland
said. "It has spread love, and it has brought this community even closer

Police Chief Steve Menke said he hoped the charges would bring some comfort to
Kuchibhotla' loved ones and friends and to the survivors of the shooting.

Purinton is jailed in Johnson County, Kansas, on $2 million bond on murder and
attempted murder charges.

His public defender, Michael McCulloch, did not immediately return a message
seeking comment.

Grillot, who was hospitalized for 10 days after the shooting, was honored by
Indian dignitaries for his efforts to stop the shooting. 3 officials from the
Consulate General of India in Houston traveled to Kansas City to meet Grillot
in the days after the shooting. Consul General Anupam Ray told Grillot that his
bravery was more representative of America than the violence at Austins, the
hospital said.

In March, Grillot received a $100,000 check at a gala in Houston from The India
House and 3 donors, with the money to be used toward buying a house.

A message left Friday with the Consul General's office was not immediately
returned. A message to the Indian Embassy in Washington D.C. also was not
immediately returned.

(source: Fox News)


Johnson County attorney: Tecumseh inmate who killed cellmate deserves death

A prison inmate charged with killing his cellmate deserves the death penalty
because he had committed a prior murder and has a history of violence, Johnson
County Attorney Rick Smith says in a new court filing.

Smith and prosecutors with the Nebraska Attorney General's Office had
previously announced that they would seek the death penalty against Patrick
Schroeder, who is accused of choking Terry Berry Jr. to death on April 15
inside their cell at the Tecumseh State Prison.

By law, the state must declare which aggravating circumstances exist that
warrant a death penalty in a 1st-degree murder case.

On Friday, Smith filed a court document stating that he intends to prove that 2
aggravating circumstances existed in the crime: Schroeder had previously
committed a murder (he's serving a life sentence for the 2006 murder of a
Pawnee County farmer); and he has a substantial history of serious assaultive
or terrorizing criminal activity.

If Schroeder, 39, is found guilty of 1st-degree murder in Berry's death, a 2nd
sentencing trial would be held to weigh whether he deserves the death penalty.
Part of the process involves weighing the alleged aggravating circumstances
against any mitigating circumstances that might have existed.

Schroeder is next scheduled to appear in Johnson County District Court on June

(source: Omaha World-Herald)


California should not speed up death penalty

Arkansas recently became an international spectacle by executing 4 men in 8
days, having planned to kill twice as many in a rush to lethally inject
prisoners with an expiring supply of an increasingly scarce drug. Now it's
California's turn to consider a wrongheaded scheme to speed up the death

Voters last fall narrowly approved Proposition 66, which sets a deadline for
court review of capital-punishment appeals and takes other steps to restart a
capital punishment machine that ground to a halt a decade ago. Fortunately, the
state's Supreme Court justices, who are considering a challenge to the
initiative, have expressed appropriate doubts.

Efforts to prevent wrongful or torturous executions have slowed or stopped
executions in many states as attorneys wrangle over challenges to convictions,
court procedures and killing methods. The delays inevitably suggest 1 of 2
diametrically opposed political solutions: ending executions or expediting
them. California voters rejected death penalty abolition and supported

The constitutional amendment they approved sets a 5-year deadline for each of 2
stages of death penalty appeals, which would shorten the average appeal by
several years. With some 750 prisoners on death row and a backlog of more than
300 appeals, the justices noted, that would substantially shift court resources
toward capital punishment and away from all other cases.

Prop. 66 also attempts to force more defense attorneys to take on capital
cases, raising questions about how many of them would be qualified and eager to
do so. Another provision would curtail review of lethal-injection procedures;
California stopped executions in 2006 amid claims that its drug cocktail caused
cruel and unusual punishment, and the state has yet to devise a new protocol.

The trouble with all these execution-efficiency measures is that they add up to
an assault on the level of due process the death penalty requires, which is at
least extraordinary and arguably impossible. Barriers to carrying out the death
penalty have their roots in serious questions about its irreversibility,
arbitrariness and immorality. Executing prisoners more quickly is exactly the
wrong answer to those questions.

(source: Editorial, San francisco Chronicle)


California Death Penalty Referendum Held Up For 7 Months By 1 Man's Lawsuit

Californians voted 7 months ago to keep the death penalty and speed the appeals
process for executions, but a lawsuit being considered by the California
Supreme Court is holding up the entire process.

California's November referendums approved both the death penalty and
Proposition 66, which put a 5-year time limit on execution proceedings. But the
state's former attorney general, John Van de Kamp, filed a lawsuit challenging
the voters' decision, arguing that 5 years was not enough time to consider
"complex cases," CBS reported.

Execution proceedings are notoriously tedious across the country, often taking
decades to conclude. In Alabama, a man known as the "Death Row Houdini"
survived more than 30 years on death row and 7 execution dates by filing a slew
of appeals.

As of December, California had 749 inmates waiting on death row, and the state
has only executed 13 people since the death penalty was re-instituted in 1978.
Today, the state has 300 appeals waiting to be heard. As a result, the Supreme
Court expressed concern Tuesday about the 5 year limit, with several justices
calling it unrealistic.

"We all realize when we wrote it we aren't going to fix it overnight, but we've
got to have time limits," Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert told
CBS. Schubert went on to say the 5 year limit was closer to a target than a
hard cap.

De Kamp disagrees, however, arguing Prop. 66 should be thrown out because of
the law's language that proceedings "shall" be limited to 5 years, which he
says makes hard limit.

"They sold the voters on 'shall' and gave them 'may'...so you may never speed
the system up cause there's no consequence to it," Ron Briggs, another Prop. 66
opponent told CBS.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide the case within 90 days.

(source: dailycaller.com)


Closing arguments in Dennis Bratton death penalty case to be heard Monday

After a trial lasting more than 2 months, jurors are expected to begin
deliberations Monday regarding the fate of a Kern Valley State Prison inmate
who stomped his cellmate to death.

Last month, Dennis Bratton, 47, was convicted of assault by a life prisoner
with force likely to produce great bodily injury. Jurors will make a
recommendation as to whether Bratton should be sentenced to death or life
without the possibility of parole.

Attorneys on Friday went over jury instructions with Judge Michael E.
Dellostritto, at times striking portions of the instructions that were deemed
unnecessary and potentially confusing.

The instructions will include a list of Bratton's convictions, many stemming
from his 1996 arrest after robbing a bank and wounding someone in a shooting.

Deputy Public Defender Paul Cadman told the court he plans to talk about the
impact Bratton's death would have on his mother and cousin. Prosecutor Andi
Bridges said she'll object as the law is clear an attorney can't argue sympathy
for the defendant as part of the jury's considerations in deciding on a

In examining the pertinent jury instruction, Dellostritto interpreted it as
meaning an argument can be made regarding a defendant's death as it ties in
with the loss of some positive quality in the defendant's background or

The judge said he didn't have a problem with Cadman stating what is in the jury
instruction during his closing argument.

Bratton stomped on and strangled 27-year-old Andrew Keel on May 16, 2013, in
the prison cell they shared. Bratton's public defenders argued self-defense,
but Bridges said Bratton planned and later bragged about the killing.

Both Bratton and Keel were members of white racist prison gangs, and both were
serving life sentences.

In asking jurors for a recommendation of death, Bridges has said they should
consider the circumstances of Keel's death, the impact it had on his friends
and family and Bratton's other violent conduct.

(source: bakersfield.com)


California's Supreme Court should put Proposition 66 out of its misery

California voters faced a binary choice in November's election over the state's
death penalty system. Proposition 62 aimed to end capital punishment and
convert all existing death sentences to life in prison without parole.
Proposition 66, on the other hand, sought to speed up the system so that more
people could be executed faster.

Both campaigns acknowledged that the state's death penalty system is
dysfunctional. Thanks to underfunding and legal challenges to the system, no
one has been executed in a decade, even as the death row population has grown
to 747 people. In fact, only 13 people have been executed since the death
penalty was reinstated in California in 1978.

Of the 2 propositions, voters opted for the speed-it-up measure. That was a bad
choice. It would trample defendants' rights to due process and increase the
chances that an innocent person will be executed. But first, it has to go into
effect, which is not a sure thing. The California Supreme Court heard oral
arguments Tuesday that Proposition 66 violates the state constitution by
usurping the court's authority and independence. Plaintiffs argued that it
violates the separation of powers doctrine by requiring courts to finish
hearing death penalty appeals within 5 years and that it contravenes a ban on
overly broad and multi-pronged initiatives. Proposition 66 does all of those
things, and more - and would not serve justice or the public interest.

More broadly, the death penalty is a stain on the United States, one of the few
countries in the developed world that still allows it. The European Union even
bars European pharmaceutical companies from exporting drugs to the U.S. for
executions. Many American pharmaceutical companies similarly balk at having
their products, designed to aid the ill, used to kill the condemned. Beyond its
inherent immorality, the death penalty disproportionately affects the poor and
minorities through a process in which human failure - including lies,
innocently relayed untruths, evidentiary errors, mistaken identities, and
malevolent prosecutors and police - can determine whether someone lives or
dies. Since 1973, at least 159 death row inmates have been exonerated, and a
National Academy of Sciences study estimates that at least 4% of people now on
death row are innocent.

The reality is that innocent people have already been put to death. That is an
outrage, and the only way to ensure it doesn't happen again is to end the

Even if the Supreme Court lets Proposition 66 stand, the measure still faces
other likely challenges. So an already-expensive death penalty system will cost
taxpayers even more as the state is forced to defend it in court. The irony
here is that the effort to speed up the death penalty by shortening appeals
could very well suffer through a prolonged appeals process itself before
ultimately being struck down. It should be put out of its misery now.

(source: Los Angeles Times Editorial Board)

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