death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., OHIO, TENN., OKLA., NEB., UTAH, NEV., USA
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Rick Halperin
2017-07-29 12:33:25 UTC
July 29


Death Row Sentencing In Texas Has Significantly Decreased----Texas carried out
its 5th execution of the year Thursday night, but overall executions are
dwindling, and that trend is likely to continue.

Last year, Texas executed 7 inmates on death row.

That was the lowest number in the past 20 years.

Kristin Houle suggests that the state will keep following that trend.

She is with the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

"Well, Texas like the rest of the United States has been experiencing a steady
decline in use of the death penalty," Houle says.

This decline can be attributed, in part to sentencing.

Houle says there is a big difference from 1999 when Texas peaked at sentencing
48 people to death row and only sentencing 3 in the past 2 years.

She says what's led to the decrease in sentencing is cases being put on hold
and advancements in forensic science.

"Where the science that was presented at the original trial has been called
into question or even debunked," Houle says.

Although, executions are decreasing in the U.S., she says Texas continues to
account for about 1/3 of them.

"This year so far Texas has carried out five of the 16 executions nationwide,"
Houle says.

In the state, there are 5 more executions scheduled for this year.

(source: houstonpublicmedia.org)


Woman charged in Jupiter homicide to see psychiatric test results

Prosecutors agreed Friday to give notes and test results from a state-order
psychiatric evaluation to lawyers for Kimberly Lucas, the Jupiter woman charged
with the 2014 drowning of her 2-year-old daughter and attempted murder of her
then-10-year-old son.

That agreement regarding Dr. Wade Myers' evaluation of Lucas comes less than 2
months before the long awaited death-penalty case is scheduled to go to trial
in front of Judge Charles Burton.

Confusion surrounding Florida's death penalty law had stalled Lucas' case from
moving forward. That trial now is slated to begin Sept. 14.

Lucas, 43, was not present for the brief hearing Friday. She has been in
custody since her arrest May 27, 2014, on murder charges to which she has since
pleaded not guilty.

Jupiter police say Lucas drowned her 2-year-old daughter, Elliana
Lucas-Jamason, May 26, 2014, in a bathtub and attempted to kill her son, Ethan,
and herself by overdosing on Xanax.

Lucas' suicide note blamed her actions on Jacquelyn Jamason, her then-separated
partner and the biological mother to Elliana and Ethan. On that day, Ethan,
then 10, woke up drowsy from the drugs, found his sister unresponsive in the
bathtub and called 911.

Lucas and Jamason, the children's biological mother, had been together for more
than 20 years and joined together in a 2001 civil union, but were estranged at
the time of the killing. Jamason has said that Lucas suffered from
complications from gastric bypass surgery and had subsequently developed a
prescription drug problem that contributed to their split.

Lucas' attorneys plan to pursue an insanity defense, arguing that she suffers
from dissociative identity disorder - formerly known as multiple personality
disorder - and that one of her alternate personalities committed the crimes.

Her attorneys wrote in a 2015 pleading: "The defendant was receiving mental
health-care treatment long before, as well as the time of, the events which
resulted in her arrest."

Jamason is anxious for the case to go to trial.

"I think that once trial is over, Ethan and I can finally have more peace, and
not put it behind us, but look to the future," Jamason told The Post in May.

(source: Palm Beach Post)


Judge rejects challenge to new execution drugs

A death row inmate scheduled to be executed next month failed in a bid to get a
Jacksonville judge to delay his execution because of the state's new
triple-drug lethal injection protocol.

Duval County Circuit Court Judge Tatiana Salvador on Friday rejected a request
from Mark James Asay to put a hold on an Aug. 24 execution date scheduled by
Gov. Rick Scott.

Asay's appeal included a challenge to a new lethal injection protocol --- which
includes a drug never used before for executions in Florida, or in any other
state --- adopted by the Florida Department of Corrections earlier this year.
In its new protocol, Florida is substituting etomidate for midazolam as the
critical first drug, used to sedate prisoners before injecting them with a
paralytic and then a drug used to stop prisoners' hearts.

In a 30-page order issued Friday, Salvador ruled that Asay failed to prove that
the new three-drug protocol is unconstitutional. Etomidate, also known by the
brand name "Amidate," is a short-acting anesthetic that renders patients

20 % of people experience mild to moderate pain after being injected with the
drug, but only for "tens of seconds" at the longest, the judge noted.
"Defendant has only demonstrated a possibility of mild to moderate pain that
would last, at most, tens of seconds," Salvador wrote. "Therefore, this Court
finds the potential pain and anesthetic aspect of etomidate does not present
risks that are 'sure or very likely' to cause serious illness or needless
suffering or give rise to 'sufficiently imminent dangers.'"

The execution of Asay, who has until 10 a.m. Monday to appeal the circuit court
decision, is slated to be the 1st in Florida in more than 18 months; the
state's death penalty has been in limbo due to a series of state and federal
court rulings.

Asay was 1 of 2 death row inmates whose executions were put on hold by the
Florida Supreme Court in early 2016 after the U.S. Supreme Court, in a case
known as Hurst v. Florida, struck down as unconstitutional the state's death
penalty sentencing system.

The federal court ruling, premised on a 2002 decision in a case known as Ring
v. Arizona, found that Florida's system of allowing judges, instead of juries,
to find the facts necessary to impose the death penalty was an unconstitutional
violation of the Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury.

Asay was convicted in 1988 of the murders of Robert Lee Booker and Robert
McDowell in downtown Jacksonville. Asay allegedly shot Booker, who was black,
after calling him a racial epithet. He then killed McDowell, who was dressed as
a woman, after agreeing to pay him for oral sex.

According to court documents, Asay later told a friend that McDowell had
previously cheated him out of money in a drug deal.

(source: The News Service of Florida)


Ohio Has More Executions Scheduled Than Any Other State In the Next 3 Years

An outspoken critic of the death penalty says - though Thursday's lethal
injection of Ronald Phillips was problem-free -- he worries that won't be the
case with the more than 2-dozen executions scheduled over the next 3 years.

Ohio Public Defender Tim Young says no other state has as many executions set
out as far into the future as Ohio has. And because the 3 drug mixture the
state used for the 1st time with Ronald Phillips includes midazolam, he's very
concerned about problematic executions ahead.

"We'll have another one of those. The science on midazolam being involved in
this is so clear, it is simply a matter of time," he said.

Philips was the 1st killer to be executed in Ohio since the 2014 lethal
injection of Dennis McGuire, who gasped and choked for several minutes before
he died. The state prisons department said it concluded McGuire's execution was
humane, though the state did change its drugs going forward.

(source: WOSU news)


Man Sentenced to 25 Years in Tennessee Officer Shooting

A judge sentenced a Tennessee man to 25 years in federal prison Friday on
charges connected to the fatal shooting of a police officer in 2015.

U.S. District Judge Sheryl Lipman sentenced Tremaine Wilbourn, 31, during a
hearing in Memphis federal court.

Authorities said Wilbourn shot and killed Memphis Police Officer Sean Bolton
while Bolton tried to detain him in August 2015. Bolton, who was white, is 1 of
4 police officers to be fatally shot in Memphis since July 2011. Wilbourn is

Prosecutors said Wilbourn used a gun while committing a carjacking as he tried
to escape after the shooting. He pleaded guilty in April to carjacking,
possessing a firearm during and in relation to the carjacking and felony
possession of ammunition.

Wilbourn, of Memphis, pleaded guilty to the 3 charges under a deal with
prosecutors that allowed him to avoid a federal trial. If the case had gone to
trial, prosecutors planned to present witnesses who allegedly saw Wilbourn kill
Bolton with a pistol and recover spent shell casings at the shooting scene,
court documents showed.

Wilbourn still faces a 1st-degree murder charge in state court. State
prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty if he is convicted. No trial
date has been set.

Police said the 33-year-old Bolton, who had served in Iraq, interrupted a drug
deal taking place inside a car in a residential neighborhood in Memphis.
Wilbourn - who was a passenger in the car - exited the vehicle, and he and
Bolton got into a physical struggle. Wilbourn took out a gun and shot Bolton,
police said. An autopsy report shows Bolton was shot 8 times.

In court documents, prosecutors said Wilbourn carjacked a vehicle from Desric
Ivory a few minutes after the shooting, telling Ivory that "he needed the car
because he had just shot a police officer."

Wilbourn led officers on an intense, 2-day manhunt before turning himself in to
U.S. marshals. At the time of the shooting, Wilbourn was on probation after
serving prison time for armed bank robbery. The judge sentenced him to more
than 2 years in prison for the probation violation.

Wilbourn declined to comment during the sentencing hearing. During his plea
hearing in April, Wilbourn acknowledged carjacking Ivory and using a weapon
while doing it. But he did not say he killed Bolton.

His lawyer, Andre Mathis, said Friday that Wilbourn wished things would have
gone differently.

"It's something that he thinks about all the time," Mathis said.

Lipman said the death of anyone, including a police officer, is a serious
matter that "can't be overstated." Bolton's family declined comment after the

(saource: Associated Press)


State seeks death penalty for 2 Rogers County murder suspects

The state of Oklahoma is seeking the death penalty for 2 murder suspects
charged with gunning down a man in Rogers County last year.

On Friday, prosecutors filed a motion to put Corey Kuebler and Shawn Goddard on
trial together. It's been 9 years since Oklahoma District 12 asked for the
death penalty.

Last August, investigators found 27-year-old Casey Adkins shot to death at
Apache and 145th East Ave.

FOX23 reported when 4 others were also arrested during the investigation.

Rhema Cannon pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 years for conspiracy and 1
year for destroying evidence.

Robert Kilgore, Tyeler Miller and Amy Worsham waived their preliminary hearings
and are awaiting arraignment. They face charges of 1st-degree murder and
conspiracy to commit murder.

(source: Fox News)


Inmate drops attorneys, pleads guilty to murder in Tecumseh cellmate's death

The case of an inmate accused of choking his cellmate to death is now headed to
the death penalty phase.

Patrick Schroeder, 40, on Friday dropped his attorneys and pleaded guilty to
1st-degree murder and use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony.

He also withdrew a motion challenging the constitutionality of Nebraska's death
penalty law.

The Nebraska Attorney General's Office in May had announced that capital
punishment would be sought in the case.

Johnson County Attorney Rick Smith said last month he intended to prove that
two 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.

The proceedings now involve weighing the alleged aggravating circumstances
against any mitigating circumstances that might have existed.

Schroeder indicated Friday that he wants to waive his right to have a jury
decide aggravating factors against him.

Johnson County District Court Judge Vicky Johnson will take that issue up at
Schroeder's next hearing, scheduled for Aug. 22.

Johnson reappointed defense attorneys Sarah Newell and Todd Lancaster on the
death penalty portion of the proceedings.

Schroeder said he wanted to dismiss his attorneys because he didn't agree with
their advice.

"They don't feel comfortable going the way I want to go," he said.

Prosecutors say Schroeder strangled his Tecumseh State Prison cellmate, Terry
Berry Jr., on April 15.

Berry, 22, had minimal time left to serve. He was convicted of forging checks
and assaulting a county jailer.

In court Friday, Assistant Attorney General Doug Warner gave the following
account of Berry's death:

Schroeder and Berry were placed in the same cell on April 10.

Schroeder told prison staff he didn't want Berry as a cellmate and referred to
him as a loudmouth and a punk.

Schroeder said Berry never stopped talking about a television show and was

Schroeder said he "hit his threshold."

He wrapped his arm around Berry's neck and squeezed for 5 minutes "until his
arm got tired."

He then retrieved a towel and twisted it around Berry's neck until he knew he
was dead.

Schroeder said he tried to alert prison staff, but no one responded until a
routine check.

Authorities later found a note in his cell's trash can. It was written by
Schroeder, but had been ripped up.

It read: "You really need to get Terry Berry out of my cell before he gets

(source: Omaha World-Herald)


Utah prison inmate ordered to stand trial for gang-related prison murder

"I already told you guys I did it," Ramon Luis Rivera told detectives last
year, after he allegedly stabbed and stomped a fellow inmate to death at the
Utah State Prison.

2 recorded interviews between Rivera and Unified Police detectives were played
a 3-day preliminary hearing in 3rd District Court, at the end of which, on
Thursday, Rivera was ordered to stand trial.

Rivera, 31, was charged with 1st-degree felony aggravated murder and 2 counts
of 2nd-degree felony possession of items prohibited in a correctional facility
for allegedly assaulting Jeffrey Ray Vigil, 24, on March 14, 2016, in the
common area of the Oquirrh 1, Section 2 housing unit. Vigil died at a hospital
the next day.

The prosecution also played prison surveillance footage showing an inmate they
said was Rivera, repeatedly stabbing another inmate, Vigil, by a flight of
stairs. The footage then shows the 2 walk to the middle of the common area,
where the fight resumes, with Rivera kicking and stomping Vigil, prosecutors

Rivera put Vigil in a choke-hold, then kicked and stomped him more than 70
times, according to testimony by Unified Police Sgt. Timothy Duran. The episode
lasted about 8 minutes.

In the courtroom, family members sobbed as the video rolled for 20 more
minutes, showing 2 motionless bodies - 1 awaiting medical attention, 1 awaiting

A different angle of the footage, presented by defense attorney Ralph
Dellapiana, showed the defendant walk to the section door, where he laid prone
on the ground, at the direction of guards on the other side of the door.

In an interview with detectives, Rivera said he had told Vigil - who had just
moved into the section - to get himself relocated. The 2 were members of rival
gangs - Vigil with the Ogden Treces and Rivera with the Titanic Crip Society -
according to testimony from Pete Walters, a Department of Corrections
investigator and an expert in gang-related threats.

"'You either leave or you're going to die.' Either that or he's going to kill
me. One of us is going to die," Rivera said in the recorded interview with

According to Rivera's defense team, Vigil shouldn't have been put in that

Now-retired Sgt. Ben Van Zant was in charge of the Oquirrh housing unit at the
time, and testified Wednesday that if he had known about the gang rivalry
between Vigil and Rivera, he wouldn't have housed them in the same section.
Oquirrh 1 section 2 was "probably the worst" place for Vigil, Van Zant

At an arraignment hearing set for Aug. 14, Rivera will presumably plead not
guilty. Prosecutors then will have 60 days to declare if they plan to seek the
death penalty.

Chelsie Vigil, who had been married to Jeffrey Vigil, filed a federal lawsuit
against the Department of Corrections in September, alleging prison authorities
had not her husband safe by housing him with rival gang members.

Another inmate, Albert Collin Fernandez, 38, is charged with 1st-degree felony
murder and 2nd-degree felony obstruction of justice for his alleged involvement
in the assault on Vigil.

Fernandez punched the victim and kicked him multiple times in the head, and
later appeared to block Vigil's escape from Rivera, while Rivera was stabbing
the victim, charging documents say.

No trial date has been set for Fernandez, who had a preliminary hearing in
December. A scheduling hearing is set for Aug. 4.

Fernandez's previous criminal record includes convictions for kidnapping,
robbery, attempted theft and attempted possession of a dangerous weapon, among
other offenses.

According to court documents, Rivera was convicted in 2nd District Court of
attempted aggravated murder after an August 2009 shooting in Clearfield.

Vigil had been incarcerated since June 2015 for a parole violation. He had
previously been convicted of theft, possession of a forgery device, failure to
stop at the command of police and drug possession.

(source: Salt Lake Tribune)


Nevada schedules what could be 1st execution in a decade, but has no drugs to
carry it out

Nevada has a problem on its hands after a Clark County judge ordered an inmate
executed: the state has no apparent way to carry it out.

District Court Judge Jennifer Togliatti signed an order Thursday ordering Scott
Raymond Dozier's execution for the week of Oct. 16. Dozier, 46, has voluntarily
given up opportunities to appeal his decade-old death sentence and has
repeatedly requested to die.

He was convicted in 2007 of robbing and killing a 22-year-old man at a Las
Vegas hotel before dismembering the body. He was also convicted of another
murder in Arizona.

Although the state has about 80 people on death row, most die in prison, and a
volunteer is rare. Nevada hasn't had an execution since 2006, and only carried
out 12 executions since 1977.

The state is required by law to use a lethal injection, but a drug needed to
create the lethal injection cocktail has expired. Nevada found none of the 247
vendors it contacted last year were willing to replace it.

Numerous major pharmaceutical companies have refused to supply drugs that they
know will be used for execution. This spring, Nevada Department of Corrections
Director James Dzurenda suggested the agency might procure drugs from other
states that don???t anticipate using them.

On Thursday, the agency was unable to provide details on how they would proceed
beyond a short statement.

"The Department is seeking guidance from the Attorney General's Office and will
follow all appropriate and legal protocol to ensure state law is followed," it

Attorney General Adam Laxalt's office didn???t immediately respond to a request
seeking comment.

Nationwide, difficulties with the drug supply have prompted states to take
drastic, controversial measures with the death penalty. Officials in Arkansas
scheduled 8 executions in 11 days this spring in a race against the expiration
dates of their lethal injection drugs, although only 4 were carried out.

(source: The Nevada Independent)


Judge: New trial in Fell death penalty case may be delayed more than a year

Accused killer Donald Fell likely won't face a retrial in his death penalty
case for over a year due to the time it will take for an appeal to be decided
on a pretrial ruling.

"The practical considerations are that in all likelihood, this case will not
return to the trial court for a year or substantially longer," federal Judge
Geoffrey Crawford wrote in a recent filing.

Federal prosecutors had asked Crawford to continue to resolve other pretrial
motions unrelated to the one on appeal to allow the case against Fell to
continue to move forward. Fell's attorney's opposed that request by

Prosecutors last month appealed a ruling by Crawford regarding the
admissibility of certain statements by an alleged accomplice of Fell who has
since died.

Fell, 37, is facing the death penalty for his alleged role in the November 2000
abduction and slaying of Teresca King, 53, of North Clarendon.

Fell had been been convicted of capital crimes and sentenced to death. However,
a judge tossed out that conviction and sentence after revelations of juror

A retrial had been set for February, but was delayedd when Fell's defense team
asked for additional time. It was reset for September. Then, last month,
prosecutors appealed Crawford's ruling excluding certain statements from Robert
Lee, Fell's alleged accomplice, who died in prison in 2001.

The appeal is currently pending before the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in
New York City.

Crawford, in his recent filing, denied the request from the prosecutors to
continue on with other matters in the case while that appeal remains pending.

"The district court has no desire to complicate the progress of the appeal,"
Crawford wrote. "Motions which appear to be unrelated may well have some
bearing on the issue on appeal. The trial court's orders could trigger requests
for additional briefing which may not be entirely helpful to the progress of
the appeal."

There are more than 20 other pretrial motions currently pending in the case
awaiting decisions.

Prosecutors, in a filing, had cautioned that by not taking up unrelated motions
while the appeal is pending more delays may be coming ahead.

"Given the extraordinary delays already present in this nearly 17-year-old
case, the Court and the parties should make every effort to have a prompt
retrial after decision by the Court of Appeals," the filing stated. "Absent
continuing work on unrelated matters, a prompt trial is unlikely."

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Darrow, who is prosecuting Fell, has filed a
motion in the appeals court seeking an ???expedited??? briefing and appeal

"Although the September 2017 trial date is no longer feasible, the government
hopes that a trial beginning in late February or early March of 2018 is
reasonable and possible," he wrote in the filing "The people of Vermont and the
family of Mrs. King will have waited over 17 years for justice by that point. 3
government witnesses have died since the offenses. Avoiding unnecessary delay
is imperative."

Fell's attorney's filed a motion opposing an "expedited" process.

"The expedited briefing schedule and consideration sought by the government
would unfairly prejudice (Fell) and unduly burden this Court, and would likely
thwart, rather than facilitate, a clear and thoughtful resolution of the
serious legal issues raised in this capital case," the filing stated.

Darrow, reached Friday, declined comment. MIchael Burt, an attorney based in
San Francisco, who is representing Fell, could not immediately be reached
Friday for comment.

Fell and Lee, according to court records, were allegedly fleeing the slayings
of Fell's mother and her friend in Rutland when they carjacked King in a
downtown supermarket's parking lot in November 2000.

Vermont doesn't have the death penalty. However, because King was beaten and
killed in New York state after her abduction in Rutland, federal prosecutors
took jurisdiction and are seeking the death penalty for Fell, court records

A tentative plea deal in October 2001 would have spared Fell the death penalty.
The deal needed only the approval of then-U.S. Attorney John Ashcroft.

Ashcroft rejected the proposed agreement, which would have required Fell to
plead guilty to a charge of kidnapping with death resulting in exchange for a
lifetime jail sentence with no chance for parole.

Fell has been jailed since his arrest days after King's death. He is currently
being held in a detention facility in Brooklyn, New York.

(source: vtdigger.org)
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