death penalty news----OHIO, TENN., NEB., CALIF., USA
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Rick Halperin
2017-07-22 14:59:53 UTC
July 22

OHIO----impending execution

Ohio argues against execution delays for 3 condemned inmates

Ohio state attorneys argued on Friday against delaying 3 upcoming executions on
grounds that the condemned killers have little chance of legal victory and
repeated postponements are draining state resources.

The state's 1st execution in more than 3 years is scheduled for Wednesday.
Death row inmate Ronald Phillips is scheduled to die for the 1993 rape and
killing of his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter in Akron.

He and 2 other inmates seek more time from the U.S. Supreme Court to appeal
Ohio's lethal injection method.

Their lawyers argue the procedure's 1st drug, the sedative midazolam, creates
an unconstitutional risk of pain by not rendering prisoners deeply unconscious
before 2 other drugs kick in.

Midazolam has been used in some executions that were problematic, including in
Ohio, Arkansas and Arizona.

Phillips' attorneys argue they need time to appeal a lower court decision
allowing Ohio to use the new method. The other drugs are rocuronium bromide,
which paralyzes inmates, and potassium chloride, which stop their hearts.

The attorneys want the delay because they believe the full Supreme Court will
take their appeal of last month's ruling by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
That's because that decision runs counter to previous rulings by the high
court, and because it "involves an issue of recurring and national importance,"
the attorneys said in Tuesday's filing.

In Friday's response, the state disputed inmates' claims that Ohio has made
inconsistent legal arguments as it has sought to legally defend its various,
evolving execution protocols. Some changes were made necessary because of a
lack of available drugs.

"Petitioners allege Ohio made 'unequivocal promises' to 'never again...use a
paralytic or potassium chloride.' Not so," the state wrote. "There is a wide
gulf between what the affidavit says - that those drugs would not be used
'going forward' under the new protocol - and the argument that Ohio promised to
never, under any circumstances, use those drugs."

The request for the delay was made to Justice Elena Kagan, who handles such
appeals for Ohio.

Ohio argued the state risks "ongoing irreparable harm" if the delays are
granted and that "Ohio's interests are harmed each time it has to stop and
start implementation of its execution protocol."

Lawyers note that training for an execution takes at least 30 days and requires
4 rehearsals. 6 are usually held. They said delaying Phillips' execution also
runs the risk of delaying those executions scheduled after his.

Phillips has separately sought an emergency stay on Wednesday's execution based
on his age at the time of the murder. He was 19 and, he contends, just
"slightly older" than the Supreme Court's cutoff of 18 for purposes of barring
executions of juveniles. His request argues the age should be 19 or 21.

Attorneys for the state said in another filing Friday that Phillips' arguments
are legally baseless and misplaced.

"Phillips is right that the Governor (John Kasich) has been considerate in
ensuring that Phillips' case gets adequate review," they wrote. "But Executive
grace is not boundless and Phillips' case has been adequately and lawfully

Kagan is expected to rule on both requests next week.

(source: The Republic)


Victims' families in Ohio need resources, not executions

In 1997, my brother, James Nero, was brutally gunned down in a road-rage
incident in Canton. After a minor accident, James insisted that the other
driver provide his insurance information. Instead, the driver returned from his
car with a gun and shot my brother in the face. Then he shot James again,
point-blank as he lay on the pavement.

James was just 20, and a proud father to an 18-month-old son. He was engaged to
be married to his son's mother. Like every 20-year old, he had many plans and
dreams. I thank God that I saw James on the last day of his life, because
during our last time together, he hugged me and told me that he loved me. At
least I have that to remember him by.

When the court case about his murder was over, James was still dead. My family
had never experienced the intense trauma of losing a loved one to murder, and
we had no idea how to deal with the pain. No state or city agency ever provided
our family with any information about resources available to help us deal with
the situation. We had only ourselves and our church community. We were on our
own, as far as the state of Ohio was concerned.

The death chamber at the Southern Ohio Corrections Facility in Lucasville,

This is why when state officials and others say we have executions so that
victims' families can have "justice," or "finality," or "closure," I say that's
just political grandstanding.

Most cases in which the death penalty could be imposed do not end in a death
sentence or an execution. There have been thousands of murders in Ohio since
our capital punishment law was enacted in 1981, but only 53 executions. How can
it be true that executions are for victims' families when we use them so
infrequently? What do politicians say to the vast majority of us, for whom the
so-called "justice" of an execution is never even possible? The silence is

In any case, I know that an execution wouldn't have helped my family heal.
Among other issues, Ohio does a disservice to families when the killer is
sentenced to death, because the family has to put its healing process on hold
for decades through the capital punishment appeals process. We have 27
prisoners currently scheduled for execution. 8 of them will have been on death
row longer than 30 years by the time of their scheduled execution. 12 will have
been there longer than 20 years. All those years are years the family is
holding its breath and suffering through court date after court date, newspaper
article after newspaper article.

Without a death sentence in our case, we began our healing process as soon as
the trial was over. If there had been a death sentence, we would probably still
be waiting.

Terry Freeman put 2 bullets in my brother's head. But killing Terry Freeman
won't bring my brother James back. We don't want the state using our pain to
justify another family losing a loved one - even if he is guilty. There is no
such thing as "closure" because there will always be that empty seat at the
table when family members of a murder victim gather.

With Ohio about to embark on executions again after 3 1/2 years without them, I
will no longer sit by quietly while elected officials tell us that we must have
executions so that murder victims' families can have "closure" in their case.
We must reject the myth that executions always help victims' families.

Instead of wasting resources trying to execute a handful of killers, Ohio can
do better for all victims' families. My family could have used counseling and
other kinds of support instead, which I believe would have helped our recovery
and grief. Ohio does provide some support to victims' families, but it varies
greatly among Ohio's 88 counties. Fix that. Trained, certified, qualified
mental health professionals must be available to any family experiencing
homicide. They should be available to all, without disparity of access based on
race, economics, geography, or prior unrelated encounters with law enforcement.
Fix that too.

Gov. John Kasich has an opportunity to be merciful here - to all families
affected by homicide in Ohio. Stop wasting resources on executions, and do
better for all murder victims' families.

(source: Op-Ed; LaShawn Ajamu co-chairs the Murder Victims Families Support
Project of Ohioans to Stop Executions----Toledo Blade)


Hamad motions aim to reduce chance of death penalty if convicted

Several of the motions filed by attorneys for Nasser Hamad in his
aggravated-murder case focus on reducing the chance that Hamad could get the
death penalty if he's convicted of killing 2 people at his Howland home in

Hamad, 48, of state Route 46, is charged with aggravated murder in the shooting
deaths of 2 people and attempted aggravated murder in the wounding of 3 others
who police say went to his house Feb. 25.

Police say Hamad shot all 5 after a day of Facebook taunts among Hamad and some
of the victims, which caused the 5 to drive to his house for a fistfight.

After a fistfight between Hamad and 1 of the 5, Hamad went into his house, got
a gun, returned to the front yard and fired at the 5, police said.

A recent motion by his attorneys asks that Judge Ronald Rice of Trumbull County
Common Pleas Court order prosecutors to turn over any evidence they possess
that is favorable to Hamad's defense, especially that which "tends to mitigate
the penalty or extenuate the circumstances of the crime."

The filing adds that an example is "any evidence that Hamad had been threatened
previously by the victims in prior incidents or that police located evidence
suggesting that people on the scene carried weapons or instruments that could
be used or construed as weapons."

A separate filing asks for police reports prior to Feb. 25 that mention threats
to Hamad by the victims.

(source: Youngstown Vindicator)


My husband supervised Ohio executions for 5 years. It changed his life

Linda Collins is the widow of Terry Collins, who served for 33 years in the
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, including as director from
2006 - 2010.

To be asked to carry out an execution as part of your job is an extraordinarily
difficult experience. I know this because my husband of 44 years, Terry
Collins, was placed in this position many times throughout his career,
including as director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections.
Each of the 33 executions he oversaw took a tremendous toll on him.

As I read the news that Ohio is planning to resume its use of the death penalty
for the 1st time in more than 3 years, with plans to carry out at least 27
lethal injection executions, I think about all the stress and the burden that
was placed on him and his staff.

The Department is like one big family. Over decades, you get to know people and
their families. You care. When it comes to executions, Ohio is about to go from
zero to 60. I am concerned about the risks this fast-paced execution schedule
poses to the people tasked with carrying them out.

I know the dedicated professionals who work for the Department would undertake
this somber task with the utmost care and the highest standards. But as we all
know, even under the best circumstances, executions are very hard on the
corrections staff, and sometimes executions don???t go as planned.

For many, participating in executions becomes a major event in their own lives,
and can affect them for years to come. I saw the impact executions had on my
husband, my best friend.

To be sure, executions go far beyond the walls within which they are carried
out. After he retired, I was often struck by public comments Terry would make
about executions.

(source: Op-Ed; WCPO news)


Prosecutors to seek death penalty in Parma Heights prison pen-pal double

Cuyahoga County prosecutors will seek the death penalty against a 42-year-old
man accused of stabbing to death his prison pen-pal and her boyfriend, then
leaving their bodies in a Parma Heights home as he committed more crimes.

Thomas Knuff Jr. was indicted on multiple charges including aggravated murder
with capital specifications that will make him eligible for the death penalty
if he is convicted in the May 11 slayings of John Mann, 65, and Regina
Capobianco, 50, at Mann's home in the 6200 block of Nelwood Road, near Ackley

Knuff is also accused of soliciting 2 people, described as unindicted
co-conspirators, to set fire to the bedroom where he left the couple's bodies,
according to the indictment.

Knuff, who is currently being held on a $50 million bond, is set for a July 25
arraignment in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.

Thomas Knuff, 42, is accused of killing his prison pen pal and the woman's
boyfriend in Parma Heights, police say.

Capobianco met Knuff through a prison inmate-to-inmate pen-pal program and the
two exchanged letters for about 10 years, Parma Heights Capt. Steve
Scharschmidt said.

Knuff was serving a 12-year sentence on multiple counts of aggravated robbery
and breaking and entering charges.

Capobianco and Mann picked up Knuff when he was released from the Lorain
Correctional Institution on April 11 and took him back to Mann's home.

Capobianco's sister reported her missing to Stark County authorities May 23,
about 12 days after authorities believe the couple was killed.

Police found their bodies on June 21 along with a knife at the scene,
Scharschmidt said.

Investigators obtained warrants to search Knuff's property, including his
cellphone, and uncovered phone calls, text messages and letters that Knuff had
written to an ex-girlfriend in the weeks after the killing, Scharschmidt said.

Knuff asked the woman to buy kerosene and have another man set fire to the room
where the bodies were found in exchange for $500, Scharschmidt said.

They also tied Knuff to break-ins at Classic Hair Studio and Spa & Nails on May
17 and 18, according to the indictment.

Knuff's indictment comes days after death penalty opponents called on Gov. John
Kasich not to resume executions next week after a 3 1/2-year hiatus.

Akron killer Ronald Phillips, convicted in 1993 of raping and murdering his
girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter, is scheduled to die July 26. It will be
Ohio's 1st execution since January 2014, when Dennis McGuire took 26 minutes to
die using a new and untried lethal-injection cocktail involving midazolam, a
sedative, and hydromorphone, a morphine derivative.

State officials have had difficulty getting lethal injection drugs because
European pharmaceutical companies have barred their sale for the purpose of

(source: cleveland.com)


Opinion Ohio has a troubled death penalty system yet intends to resume
executions anyway

It's been more than 3 years since Ohio last executed a convicted killer.
Unfortunately, the state is poised to resume the barbaric practice next week
despite serious questions over respect for constitutional protections and the
basic fairness of how the state administers the capital punishment system

Capital punishment had been halted in the wake of a botched execution. In early
2014, the state had converted to a new, untested 2-drug lethal injection
protocol - the sedative midazolam followed by hydromorphone, a painkiller -
because it no longer could find suppliers for pentobarbital or sodium
thiopental, the more powerful barbiturates it previously used in both single-
and 3-drug protocols.

Critics warned that midazolam wouldn't sedate inmate Dennis McGuire
sufficiently, and, indeed, witnesses reported that McGuire "snorted, gasped and
struggled" during a procedure that dragged on for 26 minutes, more than 10
minutes longer than lethal-injection executions usually take. (Midazalom does
not have the same anesthetic effect as a barbiturate; an expert in pharmacology
and toxicology offers a good overview of execution drugs here.)

That grotesque killing led the state and, later, a federal judge to halt
executions until officials could figure out what went wrong, and how to fix it.

Ohio already was reexamining its capital punishment system, and 3 months after
McGuire's execution, the Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of
Ohio's Death Penalty issued 56 recommendations aimed at insuring defendants'
rights were protected and that the innocent were not executed.

But to date, "the most substantive of our recommendations to the Legislature
lay idle," retired state Judge James Brogan, who chaired the task force,
complained Wednesday. "This lack of action is disconcerting and will enable the
core problems we identified to continue and potentially lead to wrongful death
penalty convictions."

The safeguards range from expanding defendant access to legal help, to barring
death sentences unless specific biological evidence or a voluntary recorded
confession link the suspect to the murder, to removing the death penalty from
specific types of felony murder (committed in the commission of another crime).
Ohio intends to forge ahead anyway, despite a dodgy history of wrongful

Yet Ohio intends to forge ahead anyway, despite a dodgy history of wrongful
convictions. 9 death row inmates in Ohio have been exonerated since 1979, 4 of
them in the past 4 years. All but 2 of the 9 had served at least a
quarter-century before their exonerations, and 3 had served 39 years in prison.
That is a pretty high failure rate in a state with 140 people on death row, and
53 executions since 1999.

The prospect that Ohio might resume killing the condemned before fixing the
flaws spotlighted by the task force (I doubt they can be fixed) has sparked
outrage, and a campaign is underway urging Gov. John Kasich to reinstate a

This, of course, puts Kasich, a once and possibly future presidential
contender, in a bit of a corner. Kasich is pro-death penalty, Still, his
decision here shouldn't be couched in terms of political popularity, but in
terms of morality and good governance. It is immoral to kill, especially so for
a state to kill its own citizens.

More prosaically, capital punishment, once administered, cannot be undone, but
the system that delivers it is rife with errors, leading to wrongful
convictions. It also is inherently unjust in that it falls disproportionately
on the poor and minorities. And it is a massively expensive system to maintain,
a cost that becomes harder to defend when you factor in the wrongful
convictions - making it an expensive and failed system.

Rather than rushing back into the immorality of executions, Ohio ought to move
in the opposite direction, and take steps to end the practice altogether.

(source: Los Angeles Times)


Jury Selection to Begin September in Case of Woman's Death

Attorneys working the case of a man who is accused in a Tennessee woman's death
have met with potential jurors before selection begins in roughly 6 weeks.

The Jackson Suns reports that jury selection will begin Sept. 9 before Zachary
Rye Adams is tried following his not guilty plea to kidnapping, rape and murder
charges in the death of Holly Bobo. Attorneys met with potential jurors on
Thursday in Hardin County, asking that some be prepared to return for selection
and ready to listen Sept. 11 when the trial begins.

Some jurors have been released for their death penalty beliefs, which
prosecutors are seeking.

Bobo disappeared from her Parsons home in April 2011. Authorities say in
September 2014 2 men found the 20-year-old's skull in a Decatur County wooded

(source: Associated Press)


No death-penalty appeal for man convicted in 2002 Norfolk bank robbery

The Nebraska Supreme Court has rejected the death-penalty appeal of 1 of the
men convicted of the fatal shootings of 5 people in a Norfolk bank.

Erick Vela claimed he received ineffective representation after he was charged
with 5 counts of 1st-degree murder in the 2002 botched robbery of a U.S. Bank
branch in Norfolk. He filed a post-conviction motion seeking a hearing to
present evidence in support of his claims, with the ultimate goal of having his
sentence reduced to life in prison.

Last year, Madison County District Judge James Kube rejected Vela's claims and
denied the motion for an evidentiary hearing. On Friday, a unanimous Supreme
Court upheld the lower court's decision.

Vela is 1 of 3 gunmen convicted of murder in the shooting deaths of 4 employees
and a customer at the bank. Killed were employees Jo Mausbach, Sam Sun, Lola
Elwood and Lisa Bryant and customer Evonne Tuttle.

Also on death row for the killings are Jose Sandoval and Jorge Galindo.
Francisco Rodriguez was sentenced to life in prison for serving as the lookout.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)


California Woman Admits to Kidnapping and Then Abandoning Slain Half-Sister's
Children: DA

A California woman whose boyfriend allegedly killed her half-sister admitted
Wednesday to abducting - but then abandoning - the slain woman's 3 children,
PEOPLE confirms.

Brittney Sue Humphrey has been charged with the kidnapping of Kimberly
Harvill's 3 children, ages 5, 3, and 2, last August. After kidnapping the
children, she left them in a New Mexico motel, according the Los Angeles
District Attorney Office.

Last August, Los Angeles officials asked for the public's help in locating the
children after a motorist came across the dead body of Harvill on the side of
the road in Lebec, California. Harvill had died as a result of head trauma, a
Los Angeles County Sheriff???s news release states.

During their investigation, authorities learned that Harvill's 3 children,
Joslynn, 2, Brayden, 3, and Rylee, 5, were missing. The children were found
unharmed more than a week later in a motel outside of Albuquerque.

Shortly after the children were found, Humphrey, 22, and her boyfriend Joshua
Robertson, 27, were arrested in Pueblo, Colorado, according to a statement from
the DA???s office. Robertson was charged with murder in Harvill's death. A
third suspect, Alex Valdez, 29, was later arrested and also charged with

The killing was premeditated, according to criminal complaint obtained by the
Santa Calrita Valley Signal. It was not immediately clear what the motive was.

California officials say Harvill depended on panhandling to support her family,
who moved from motel to motel. In 2015, the children's father killed himself by
lying in front of a train.

Robertson and Valdez are eligible for the death penalty for a special
circumstance allegation of lying in wait. Prosecutors have not announced
whether they will seek the death penalty.

Robertson is also charged with 1 count of possession of a firearm by a felon
and 2 counts of an unrelated arson, as well as 1 count of possession of
flammable material, according to the statement.

Robertson's preliminary hearing is scheduled for August while Valdez's
preliminary hearing is ongoing. Both Robertson and Valdez have pleaded not
guilty. Information about Robertson, Valdez or Humphrey's attorney was not
immediately available.

The children will returned to California, where it will be decided whether they
would be placed with relatives or not. Harvill is scheduled to be sentenced on
Sept. 7 and faces up to 26 years and 4 months in state prison. It is unclear at
this time who her attorney is.

(source: people.com)


Feds get more time for death penalty decision in Olathe Austins Bar shooting

Federal prosecutors have been granted more time to decide if they will seek the
death penalty for the fatal shooting of an Indian man at an Olathe bar.

A federal judge on Thursday granted prosecutors a 6-month stay in the federal
hate crime case filed against Adam Purinton.

"A stay would give the parties appropriate time to investigate and present
aggravated and mitigating factors bearing upon the death penalty decision,"
U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia said in his order.

The stay in the federal case means that Johnson County prosecutors will proceed
1st in their 1st-degree murder case against Purinton.

Purinton, 52, is charged with killing 32-year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla in
February at Austins Bar & Grill.

He is also charged in Johnson County with the attempted murder of two other men
who were wounded, Alok Madasani and Ian Grillot.

Several months after the state charges were filed in Johnson County, federal
prosecutors filed the hate crime charge against Purinton, alleging that he
targeted Kuchibhotla and Madasani "because of their actual and perceived race,
color, religion and national origin."

Both men were from India and worked as engineers for Olathe-based Garmin.

While the maximum penalty for the murder charge is life in prison, the federal
charge carries a potential death sentence.

Purinton is being held in the Johnson County Detention Center, and his
preliminary hearing on the Johnson County murder charge is scheduled for Sept.

(source: kansascity.com)
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