2017-07-18 13:49:02 UTC
Court papers: 'Utterly unqualified' attorney used Wikipedia to defend death
penalty inmate----Lawyers for death row inmate file last-minute motions days
before scheduled execution
With just days left till the next scheduled execution in the Lone Star state,
lawyers for convicted Bexar County killer TaiChin Preyor on Friday filed a
flurry of last-minute paperwork seeking to halt the condemned man's death.
The pair of motions - in the Western District of Texas - claim one of Preyor's
former attorneys on the case, Brandy Estelle, was "utterly unqualified" and may
have even resorted to the popular crowdsourcing site Wikipedia for research in
Preyor, who murdered a woman who sold him drugs more than a decade ago, is
scheduled to meet his fate in Huntsville on July 27.
The 46-year-old was convicted in the 2004 slaying when he repeatedly stabbed
Jami Tackett before cutting her throat. Neighbors found the dying woman after
hearing her screams - and police caught Preyor after he came back to retrieve
his car keys, the San Antonio Express-News previously reported.
The San Antonio man has been on death row since 2005 fighting his case. At
issue now is the allegedly subpar defense counsel who represented Preyor during
parts of the federal appeals process.
"It appears she relied on Wikipedia, of all things, to learn the complex ins
and outs of Texas capital-punishment," Preyor's attorneys wrote of their
client's former counsel, noting that Estelle's case files included a print-out
of the Wikipedia page "Capital punishment in Texas" with a Post-It note
In addition, court papers contend Estelle was getting help on the case from an
attorney disbarred for showing a "gargantuan indifference to the interests of
his clients," a federal court wrote in a published decision.
"No doubt fearing repercussions, Estelle never disclosed her disbarred
co-counsel's lead role in the case to this Court," claims the convicted man's
legal team, which includes Catherine Stetson, Preyor's pro bono attorney and a
partner at Hogan Lovells.
The dozens of pages of motions and exhibits filed Friday call Jefferson and
Estelle's work "shocking conduct" and "exactly the kind of extraordinary
circumstance that warrants this Court's intervention."
The motions for stay of execution and relief from judgment ask the court to
halt Preyor's death date and reopen his federal appeal, this time with
"licensed and qualified counsel."
Last-minute stays of execution are more the exception than the rule - but
they're certainly not unheard of.
In 2011, Harris County death row inmate Duane Edward Buck was granted a
last-minute reprieve amid questions of racially tainted expert testimony. He's
still on death row as the appeals process continues to play out.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Pennsylvania execution notices are 'not worth the paper they're written
on'----The death warrants have been around since 1995, a strain on court time
The news rolled in earlier this month, for the 460th time since 1985: A
Pennsylvania death row inmate had received an execution notice or warrant. This
time it was for Philadelphia murderer Omar Sharif Cash, and like 457 men who've
come before him he will almost certainly never be put to death.
Cash could get a reprieve for several reasons, the best-known likely being Gov.
Tom Wolf's death penalty moratorium. Should any death penalty case go the
distance, Wolf has said he will halt the execution. But long before it comes to
that, the execution notice signed for Cash will likely be stayed, amounting to
what one of the country's foremost death penalty opponents considers a waste of
time. And since 1995, 350-plus other notices and warrants could be classified
in the same category.
"They're legally premature," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the
Death Penalty Information Center, "meaning they're not worth the paper they're
Pennsylvania elected officials created the execution warrant system still used
today in 1995, during the beginning of Gov. Tom Ridge's 1st term. At the time,
he and many legislators - Republican and Democrat - were pushing a
tough-on-crime stance. Ridge even held a special session focused on
crime-related legislation. The bill, proposed by Rep. Ron Marsico (R-105th),
mandated the governor sign an execution warrant for a death row inmate by at
least 90 days after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision of the inmate's
direct appeal. If the governor didn't sign the warrant, then the Department of
Corrections would have to issue a notice of execution within 30 days of the
"Despite the law, there was no death penalty in Pennsylvania," Ridge said in
1995. "When you kill in cold blood, you deserve to pay the highest penalty."
The thought behind the bill was inmates had no motivation for pushing through
with the appeals process because governors had not been signing warrants in a
timely manner. An execution warrant or notice would get the inmate continuing
on with the appeals.
Any inmate sentenced to death gets 3 avenues of appeal: The direct appeal,
which consists of matter related entirely to the criminal trial. The indirect
appeal, which is also run through Pennsylvania's courts and formally known as
the Post Conviction Relief Act appeal. And then habeas corpus, a federal
But by November 1995, a few months after the bill went into effect, an
important change had been made in Pennsylvania law. Anyone applying for the
Post Conviction Relief Act appeal had to do so within 1 year after failure of
the direct appeal, which was already under a time constraint. The clock that
supporters of the warrants bill said needed to be started was now being started
by another law.
And yet the execution warrants and notices were still signed in a timeframe
when sometimes all 3 avenues of appeal were on the table and most of the time
the indirect appeal and habeas corpus appeals were left. Almost every time, the
courts responded by staying the warrants because the inmate had those appeals.
This is why Dunham considers the warrants legally premature. By signing the
warrants and the notices in the middle of the appeals process the court has
basically no choice but to offer a stay so long as the appeal is legitimate. As
Dunham says, "they are bound to be stopped."
"There have been well over 350 occasions," he said, "in which courts have had
to unnecessarily take the time to consider stays of execution that the law
would require them to grant."
Between 1995 and 2014, just over 350 execution warrants were signed by
governors. Of that total, all but 4 were signed when the prisoner had at least
the federal habeas corpus appeal left. Most of the warrants were signed when
the indirect appeal and habeas corpus appeal remained.
"If you're going to have an automatic warrant," Dunham said, "the only place
that serves a legitimate purpose would be after the habeas corpus process is
done or (the inmate has) failed to enact according to the deadlines."
The warrants and notices just require a signature from the governor or the head
of the corrections department. That's not a legitimate strain on time or
resources. But once signed, a process begins that requires attorneys and the
courts to act, taking time away from employees of the AG's office or local DA's
offices and judges.
When an execution notice was signed for inmate Patrick Haney earlier this year,
for instance, the notice was challenged to the Pennsylvania Western District
Court. 17 court filings later, the Court granted a stay at least until Haney's
indirect appeal process had been exhausted.
"You're talking about the time for prosecutors and for defense lawyers, and the
time for court personnel in filing the petitions, and court personnel in
arranging for hearings," Dunham said. "You're talking about the judges' time.
Some would say they're salaried. But that misses the point. Those people could
be doing other things."
Marsico declined an interview request about the subject but passed the message
onto a legal counsel for the House Judiciary Committee, Mike Kane, who briefly
discussed it. He said, "The bottom line of it all is there's a point where no
appeal is quote 'pending.' That is my understanding of when these warrants get
issued." A higher-up in the AG's office whose focuses include the death penalty
did not respond to a request for comment.
State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-17), who wants the death penalty abolished, admits
of this warrants topic, "it's just never come up." Leach is on the state
committee that was formed to study the death penalty during Gov. Tom Corbett's
tenure. About 3 years after its report was due, it has been recently finalized
and will soon be disseminated, according to committee member Gary Zajac (he
declined to provide a specific date). The committee has been more focused on
whether it is applied fairly, rather than the process by which it is applied.
So the topic of execution notices and warrants is hardly on anyone's radar,
save for Dunham. He's crunched data and given presentations on it over the
years and can rattle off dozens of statistics. He can't understand why these
warrants keep coming, prematurely, and the court costs must follow.
Philly DA's office needs a change, but not this kind----Lynne Abraham, who
served 18 years as Philadelphia's district attorney, wants to return to the
post for the rest of 2017.
The selection of a new district attorney in Philadelphia - albeit an interim DA
who will serve until the end of 2017, when the winner of the November election
(in which Democrat Lawrence Krasner is heavily favored) starts a 4-year term -
should be a cause for celebration. It's the next big step for moving past the
era of disgraced ex-DA Seth Williams, who pleaded guilty last month to selling
out his office. In a perfect world, the interim DA will serve as a bridge
between finally putting the dim past of the office in the rear view era and a
bold new age of reform, which is coming under either Krasner or, to a lesser
extent, underdog GOP rival Beth Grossman.
But this is Philadelphia, and we have a long history of snatching defeat from
the jaws of victory (and not just in sports.) It doesn't help matters that - in
classic Philly fashion - the process for picking Williams' successor on
Thursday is about as undemocratic as it gets. The interim DA will be picked by
88 judges, barely accountable to the public, who will hold multiple ballots
until one of the 14 interested candidates gets a majority. The system for
electing a new Pope feels more transparent - at least they pump out that cool
But here's 2 important things to know going into the vote later this week.
Under no circumstances - let me repeat that in big annoying capital letters ...
NO CIRCUMSTANCES - can the job go to the former district attorney who has
tossed her hat into the ring, Lynne Abraham. Honestly, I'd rather see a return
of the grifter Williams than a throwback Thursday for the bad old days of
Abraham, whose zeal for the death penalty, decimation of Philadelphia
neighborhoods through mass incarceration policies, and role in wrongly
convicting some city residents of murder makes her completely unsuitable.
Here's what I wrote about Abraham's DA politicking earlier this year:
[Abraham ran an] an office that relied in too many big cases on questionable
high-pressure police confessions and hardball witness coercion, that pursued
the death penalty with draconian glee, and made Philly a mass incarceration
capital of the world.
Last year, a report by the Harvard Law School's Fair Punishment Project
lambasted Abraham as one of America's "5 deadliest DAs" who, collectively, have
been responsible for 1 out of every 7 people still on death row in America. It
argues that the 108 death sentences won by Abraham - who branded herself
famously as "One Tough Cookie" - are a grim example of "personality-driven
capital sentencing." A top assistant who tried many of those cases, the late
Roger King, had plastered his wall with pictures from the capital cases he'd
prosecuted, with a circle-slash around the face of suspects and "death" written
on every one.
2. I'm not big on making endorsements, and some of the candidates like retired
Common Pleas Court Judge Ben Lerner, said to be a front-runner, have
distinguished track records. But from everything I've seen in the months since
Williams was first indicted earlier this year, his 1st assistant Kathleen
Martin has done a perfectly fine job managing the office. Why rock the boat -
whether it's for a reformer like Lerner or a regressive like Abraham - for 5
months? As they like to say on TV, winter is coming - and so is a long-awaited
radical makeover for criminal justice in Philadelphia. Judges, don't muck this
(source: Will Bunch, philly.com)
Campbell double murder trial enters 2nd week
The 1st day of the 2nd week of testimony in the trial for a man arrested in
West Virginia on New Year's Day 2015, bringing to an end a multi-state crime
spree, was dominated by testimony about what was found in the truck that was
located near Lewisburg.
Monday, the 6th day of the Eric Campbell double murder trial in Granville
County, North Carolina, was dominated by the introduction of evidence found in
the 2 vehicles that Eric and his father, Edward Campbell, used to travel from
North Carolina to West Virginia after they allegedly robbed and murdered Dora
and Jerome Faulkner at the couple's North Carolina home on New Year's Eve 2014.
The prosecuting attorney called Detective Doug McPhee of the Granville County
Police Department, who handled and took pictures of all the evidence presented,
to the stand Monday to testify about the evidence found in the vehicles that
stopped on Interstate 64 near the Lewisburg exit.
Eric Campbell, now 23, was driving a stolen white suburban through Greenbrier
County when he was pulled over by police. His father Edward then pulled over in
the red pick up truck that was stolen from the Faulkners, and opened fire on
officers. After the shootout with police in which 2 officers were wounded, the
Campbell's crime spree that started in Texas came to an end. The officers
eventually recovered from the shooting.
Eric Campbell was in court Monday for the sixth day of his trial. If convicted
he would face the death penalty.
According to McPhee's testimony Monday, among the items found in the 2 vehicles
were shoes and prescription pills that belonged to the Faulkners and a loaded
weapon. A chemical sprayer and bleach were found in the back of the Faulkner's
truck, which was used to try and clean DNA evidence and blood from the truck.
After the Campbell's arrest West Virginia Police discovered the bodies of Dora,
62 and Jerome, 73 covered by a chained down mattress in the back of their
stolen pick up truck. Sheets used to wrap their bodies stolen from their North
Carolina home and bloody latex gloves purchased at Walmart by the Campbells a
few days before the murders were the most substantial pieces of evidence
presented on day 6.
Eric Campbell faces the death penalty in North Carolina for those crimes.
Edward Campbell committed suicide in jail 2 years ago before a trial could
Eric Campbell claims that he didn't want to harm anyone and only thought his
father was planning on robbing the elderly couple. He said he believed his
father to be dangerous and was not sure he would survive.
Earlier in the trial the prosecutor told the jury Campbell was with his father
before the murders when he purchased chemicals, gasoline, and other items that
were used to destroy the Faulkners home. The prosecutor also said Eric Campbell
should have known there was something more going on, and that he made a
concious decision to be involved in the crime.
Campbell is being tried under the death penalty in North Carolina.
The trial is expected to continue for most of the week.
Man indicted in July 2016 torture death of Marietta resident
A Cobb man has been indicted in connection to the July 2016 murder of a 58-year
old man at Windcliff Drive near Terrell Mill Road in Marietta. But metro
Atlanta authorities believe 29-year-old Rickey Earl Taylor may be responsible
for 2 other deaths in a similar fashion in another metro Atlanta county.
Taylor is accused of tying up Richard Olen Bell's wrists and ankles with
clothing, shoelaces and cords, and inflicting "lethal blunt force injuries" to
his head, according to an indictment handed down by a Cobb grand jury last
month. He was indicted on 2 counts of felony murder and 1 count each of malice
murder, false imprisonment and aggravated assault in connection to the death of
Bell, who according to Cobb Police resided at the Lincoln Hills Apartments, now
known as The Grandstand.
An arrest warrant on Taylor for the crime was issued mid-February by Cobb
Police, accusing the man of striking Bell in the head with a "heavy linear
object." The Cobb warrant came months after he was arrested on charges that he
killed a mother and son in Norcross in Gwinnett County.
Gwinnett authorities on Aug. 7, 2016, found 29-year-old James Sramek dead with
his hands bound and hanging in a closet, while the body of 61-year-old Nicola
Sramek was covered with sheets, the Gwinnett Daily Post previously reported.
The 2 had been tortured with a hammer and knife before their deaths, police
According to the newspaper, the Srameks were believed to have been killed 3
days earlier, with Taylor linked to the crime scene through video surveillance
and physical evidence.
He was arrested the day before the 2 bodies were discovered, according to a
Gwinnett County Police news release, initially for his possible involvement in
a string of armed robberies over the course of about two days. In a preliminary
hearing in August, a Gwinnett Police detective testified that police found
Taylor less than a mile away from the Srameks' apartment, with the man having
on him several belongings of the 2 victims, according to the newspaper.
Police days after Taylor's arrest said robbery was believed to have been the
motive of the murders, and that Taylor had known the younger Sramek.
The Gwinnett District Attorney's Office last week filed notice that it would
seek the death penalty against Taylor, the newspaper reported, though a trial
date was not set at the time.
Taylor's case in Cobb has been assigned to Superior Court Judge Gregory Poole,
though no arraignment date had been set as of Monday.
Cobb court documents list Taylor as having a Mount Pisgah Lane address in
Austell, though the February warrant stated that he resided in the 2300 block
of Cobb Parkway in Smyrna. Other media outlets have reported him as being from
(source: Marietta Daily Journal)
Florida prosecutors seeking 1st-degree murder indictment against Dartmouth
Florida prosecutors will seek a 1st-degree murder indictment against Desiree
Jean Tedder, a 23-year-old Dartmouth woman who could face the death penalty, if
Meanwhile, Florida's rendition package to return her from Massachusetts has
been completed and sent to Bay State officials. The prosecutor in charge says,
if all goes well, he expects she will be returned in the next several weeks or
by the end of August.
Tedder is currently charged with second-degree murder in Florida for the
gruesome killing of Drulmauert Mims, a 23-year-old drug dealer in Penascola,
Fla., area. According to Florida court documents, she repeatedly struck Mims in
the face with a crowbar while he slept, stabbed him with a kitchen knife and
suffocated him with a pillow as he choked on his own blood.
The case against Tedder revolves around a statement given police by Lizmary
Rodriguez, her 23-year-old former roommate, who said she was lying in bed with
Mims when Tedder killed the drug dealer.
According to court documents, Tedder rolled Mims' body in a carpet or a tarp
and pushed the victim into a trash can. Later, Tedder used a shovel to dig
6-foot hole and buried Mims' body, still inside the trash can, in the yard of
her grandmother's Penascola home on the same property she was killed.
According to court documents, Tedder was tired of being broke and killed Mims
for his money and drugs.
Police located the body of Mims, who was last seen March 29, on June 28, court
Tedder, who came to New Bedford after she and Rodriguez were shot in Penascola
on April 3, was arrested June 28 at her mother's home in Dartmouth as a
fugitive from justice. She is currently being held without bail at the Bristol
County House of Corrections in Dartmouth. Her next court date on the fugitive
from justice complaint is Aug. 7 in New Bedford District Court.
Prosecutors completed their rendition package to return Tedder to Florida and
it has been reviewed by the Governor's office and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker's
office on Friday, said Greg Marcille, a prosecutor in the State Attorney's
Office for Escambia, Okaloosa, Walton and Santa Rosa counties in Florida. It
still has to be reviewed by Baker's office and state Attorney General Maura
State prosecutors are preparing their case for a Escambia County, Fla., Grand
Jury, where they will seek a 1st-degree indictment against Tedder, he said.
The case remains under investigation, but Tedder is "the only one who has been
charged with the crime at this time."
"We do feel we have sufficient evidence to move forward on this case," he said.
Florida has the death penalty and has until 45 days after Tedder's arraignment
on the murder charge, if prosecutors plan to seek it.
"That decision has not been made at this time," Marcille said.
Penalty phase underway for St. Cloud man convicted of killing baby----Larry
Perry was convicted of violently attacking his 3-month-old son when the infant
wouldn't stop crying, telling a 911 operator he "went crazy," according to
The death penalty sentencing phase is underway for a man convicted of killing
The state has now rested in the death penalty case of Larry Perry.
Larry Perry was convicted of violently attacking his 3-month-old son when the
infant wouldn't stop crying, telling a 911 operator he "went crazy," according
to court documents.
Back in 2013, Perry told police that while home alone with the 3-month-old, he
picked up the child and, in a fit of anger, threw the baby against the wall,
court documents show.
The child's mother, Kathy Barnes, had been arrested at the time, and Perry was
left to care for Ayden.
(source: WESH news)
Police: Mississippi girl dies after beating over math lesson
A Mississippi man who fatally beat a 3-year-old girl because she couldn't
correctly answer questions about numbers told investigators that "this was a
tough world and she had to be tough if she wanted to survive," Meridian Police
Chief Benny Dubose said Monday.
Joshua Salovich was charged with capital murder, meaning he could face the
death penalty, and held without bail. Detectives testified in an initial court
appearance that the 25-year-old boxer-in-training beat toddler Bailey Salovich
at maximum force with a bamboo rod, a cellphone cord and his hands.
Salovich's court-appointed lawyer didn???t immediately respond to a phone
message and an email seeking comment Monday evening.
Dubose said it isn't clear whether Salovich is the child's biological father.
Police were called Friday afternoon after the child arrived at a local
emergency room with bruises and cuts all over her body, and at least 1 head
wound, Dubose said.
(source: Associated Press)
Ohio moves forward with plans to execute Ronald Phillips in one week----State
released its execution policy in-place to carry out the death sentence.
Ohio is set to execute 43-year-old #Ronald Phillips on July 26. Phillips
received the death sentence following his conviction for raping and murdering
the 3-year-old daughter of his girlfriend in 1993. He is scheduled for the
state's 1st execution since January 16, 2014, when it took 26 minutes to
execute Dennis McQuire as he struggled for life - gasping, seizing, and
Shortly before McQuire's scheduled execution date, drug manufacturers banned
Pentobarbital for administering in the process of carrying out the looming
death penalty. As an effect and as a different drug in the mix for execution,
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (DRC) administered a cocktail
using #Midazolam instead of Pentobarbital.
The lethal injection of McQuire included a barbiturate, short-acting, of
course, to ensure he was unconscious before injecting him with a
heart-stopping, paralytic combination of the sedative Midazolam and
Hydromorphone, an opioid pain medication. Phillips is slated to have the same
drug-cocktail administered as McQuire encountered.
Death penalty opponents want to stop Phillips' execution
Reverend Lynda Smith, retired United Church of Christ pastor, is among
approximately 12 people who converged outside the building housing Ohio
Governor John Kasich's office. They held signs to effect giving him their
message to end executions in the state.
According to Smith, Caucasians who are wealthy end up on death row far less
than other races with less economic stature.
If the United States Supreme Court does not halt the execution process,
Phillips will die in a week.
He will be transferred to Ohio's death house at Southern Ohio Correctional
Facility 24 hours before his execution. A 3-member execution team will monitor
him. The condemned inmate will have an opportunity to visit with spiritual
advisers and with family members. Additionally, there is the formality of
medical professionals evaluating his veins in preparation for inserting lines
intravenously so that the lethal injection cocktail can be administered and
Phillips is begging for mercy, according to the Portsmouth Daily Times. He's
hoping that his date with death is, once again, delayed while the challenge of
the lethal injection protocol continues. July 26 marks the 7th time Phillips
has been scheduled to die.
Ohio plans more executions for 2017
After Phillips' death penalty is exacted, 3 additional executions are on Ohio's
calendar for 2017 - in September, October, and November. JoEllen Smith,
spokeswoman for the DRC assured that all the steps, mandated for Ohio's
execution protocol, have been "complied with" as the state prepares for
If his death sentence is achieved, Ohio will be 2nd to Arkansas in resuming
executions this year following a lull. In April, Arkansas attracted attention
internationally by successfully executing its 1st inmate since 2005.
Rather than commence executions in the cloak of darkness compared to most,
which happens in isolation and at night, Arkansas created a tight execution
schedule, planning 8 deaths over 11 days. Some of the execution drugs were
about to expire without a guarantee that more would be available. The state
said its scheduling was "necessary." 4 of the 8 executions were completed. The
additional 4 were delayed.
Of the 6 states that have executed inmates to date this year, Arkansas accounts
for more than 25 %. With Phillips' execution on the horizon, Ohio is set to
become the 7th state to carry out executions. In 2016, only 5 states executed
20 condemned inmates.
Attorney: Exclude Death Penalty In Murder Case
The attorney for 2 co-defendents charged with killing UK student Jonathan
Krueger made their case to exclude the death penalty in the case Monday.
Efrain Diaz, Justin Smith and Roman Gonzalez Jr. are charged with robbing and
killing Krueger back in April of 2015.
Last month, lawyers for Diaz and Smith lobbied the court to take capital
punishment off the table.
It's reported that Diaz's attorney argued that his client's young brains
weren't fully developed since they were both under the age of 21 during events
that led up to Krueger's death.
All 3 are scheduled to go to trial in October.
(source: The Herald-Leader)
Attorneys hope testimony over brain development could remove death penalty
option----Efrain Diaz, Justin D. Smith and a 17-year-old have been charged with
fatally shooting Jonathan Krueger, a junior at the University of Kentucky, on
A hearing on Monday in a high-profile murder case in Lexington centered around
scientific research on brains. The defense team in the case is hoping that
research may lead to the judge taking the death penalty off the table for their
Defendant Efrain Diaz was 20-years-old back in 2015 when Lexington Police
arrested him for the slaying of 22-year-old Jonathan Krueger. Justin Smith was
18-years-old. Police also charged him with the robbery and murder that claimed
the UK student's life.
A prior federal ruling takes the death penalty off the table for defendants who
commit a crime at age 17 or younger. While both men were older than that at the
time of their arrests, their attorneys brought in a psychology professor and
expert in hopes of proving that their brains were still in an immature state.
Ph.D. Laurence Steinberg, a psychologist at Temple University, says brains of
18- and 20-year-olds typically function more like young teens than adults.
However, Dr. Steinberg said there is no way to evaluate brain maturity on an
"Even though adolescence is a time of relatively more risky behavior, that
manifests itself in different ways in different people," Steinberg testified.
That professor is set to send the court additional research to back his
A 3rd suspect charged in the murder, Roman Gonzalez, was 17 at the time of the
crime. He will not face the death penalty when his case goes to trial.
(source: WKYT news)
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