death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., IND., MO., KAN., UTAH, ORE., USA
(too old to reply)
Rick Halperin
2017-07-12 14:09:46 UTC
July 12


Death row inmate who shot in-laws in Fredericksburg granted evaluation

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit sided with a Texas death row
inmate, ordering on Tuesday that Scott Panetti's case be returned to a federal
district court in Kerr County with orders to appoint counsel, authorize funds
for a mental health evaluation and allow adequate time to prepare a petition
raising the claim he is currently incompetent to be executed.

Panetti, who suffers from schizophrenia, shot and killed his in-laws in
Fredericksburg in 1992. Dressed as a cowboy, he insisted on representing
himself at his trial and attempted to subpoena the Pope, John F. Kennedy and
Jesus Christ. Panetti was found guilty and sentenced to death.

Panetti has twice been granted a stay of execution, in 2004 and 2014. In 2007,
the U.S. Supreme Court blocked Panetti's execution, saying lower courts should
have considered psychiatric evidence about his mental illness.

His attorneys, Greg Wiercioch and Kathryn Kase released a statement Tuesday
saying Panetti has suffered from extreme mental illness for nearly 40 years and
has not been evaluated by a mental health expert since 2007.

A defendant must be found competent in order to be executed. Competency is
defined by state laws as being aware of what is going on in the case. Panetti's
attorneys said he was convinced the reason was going to be executed in 2014 was
for preaching the gospel.

His attorneys released a statement: "We are grateful that the court found that
Mr. Panetti's nearly 4 decades of documented schizophrenia and severe mental
illness provided a sufficient showing to obtain experts and resources to pursue
the claim that he is currently incompetent for execution. And we are grateful
to the Texas Defender Service for their support, which allowed us to obtain a
stay and to litigate on behalf of Mr. Panetti in the Fifth Circuit. Mr. Panetti
has not been evaluated by any mental health experts since 2007 and his severe
mental illness has only worsened while in prison. We are confident that when
the lower court is presented with all the evidence, it will find that Mr.
Panetti, a schizophrenic man ... is not now competent for execution.
Ultimately, commuting Mr. Panetti's sentence to life in prison without parole
would keep the public safe and affirm our shared beliefs in a humane and moral
justice system.:

(source: Austin American-Statesman)


Windows On Death Row: Boiling Down the Death Penalty to a Single Frame----An
exhibit at the University of Houston-Downtown showcases editorial cartoons
about the death penalty and artwork by inmates, some of them on death row.
"Windows on Death Row: Art from Inside and Outside the Prison Walls" is on
display through July 31.

An editorial cartoon about the death penalty from the Houston Chronicle's Nick
Anderson, which is part of the exhibit "Windows on Death Row: Art From Inside
and Outside the Prison Walls."

How do you encapsulate an issue as complex and sensitive as capital punishment
into an editorial cartoon or a painting?

A traveling exhibit looks to answer that question at the O'Kane Gallery at the
University of Houston-Downtown through July 31, 2017.

"Windows on Death Row: Art from Inside and Outside the Prison Walls" features
more than 60 pieces of artwork on the subject of the death penalty from
political cartoonists and prison inmates on death row. It includes work from
Nick Anderson, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist for the Houston Chronicle.

Michael Hagerty recently visited the exhibit to take a look at the artwork and
to talk with Dr. Krista Gehring, an assistant criminal justice professor at the
University of Houston-Downtown.

(source: houstonpublicmedia.org)


Trial begins for St. Cloud man accused of fatally beating infant son

The murder trial of a St. Cloud man accused of killing his 3-month-old son in
2013 will begin Wednesday morning.

Investigators said Larry Perry beat Ayden Perry so badly at their home that the
boy died at a hospital.

Archie Guzman, Perry's neighbor at the time, told Channel 9 in 2013 that she
often babysat the child for Larry Perry and his girlfriend.

Guzman said the beating was so loud that she could hear it from next door.

"I was coming into the kitchen, and all of a sudden I heard boom," she said.
"He didn't mean to. I can feel it, because he just snapped."

Larry Perry told investigators that he harmed his son, because he couldn't take
it anymore, an arrest report said.

Larry Perry faces the death penalty if convicted.

The case was 1 of 24 that Florida Gov. Rick Scott reassigned from State
Attorney Aramis Ayala to State Attorney Brad King after she announced she
wouldn't pursue the death penalty during her tenure.

Opening statements will begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

(source: WFTV news)


Ayala's Office Operating With $1.3M Budget Cut In Rift Over Death Penalty

Heads nod and papers shuffle at a small meeting for Florida Abolitionist inside
an unassuming office building in Winter Park. Staff member sit in a circle
discussing new human trafficking cases and deciding whose turn it will be to
oversee the organization???s emergency hotline.

The group formed 8 years ago. Its goal has been to expose central Florida's
underbelly: parents selling children into slave labor. Foreign-born workers
arriving stateside with visas only to be outsourced for scam jobs.

"It could be someone who thinks maybe they're getting a job modeling, and it
ends up being they're forcing them to be an escort in porn," said Tomas Lares,
executive director for Florida Abolitionist.

He has seen his share of cases which include victims caught up in a cycle of
manipulation, exploitation, and crime.

"It impacts their community economically with them going to the jail
continuously, then they have to go through the clerk of court, they have to see
a judge, then they're back, unfortunately, a lot of times, back into the
traffickers' hands. This has an impact on our economy with crime," said Lares.

The direct number of people involved in human trafficking s hard to gauge. In
the 1st quarter of this year, Florida Abolitionist worked on nearly 50 sex
trafficking cases with the state attorney's office alone, according to the
organization's data. Lares said that is the tip of the iceberg. With more and
more people coming to central Florida each month, he sees the need for
investigators, victims' advocates, translators, substance abuse services, and a
dedicated shelter.

"If there's not advocacy in this true, targeting funding to help these victims,
then these traffickers and pimps are getting away, basically, in my opinion,
with murder," said Lares.

The Florida Legislature saw a need last April when it awarded the Orange and
Osceola state attorney's office $1.4 million to target human trafficking and
domestic violence. It was the only office in the state to get the extra money.
Jeff Ashton, then ninth circuit state attorney, hailed the funds as the largest
amount the office had ever received directly from the Legislature.

"We were really excited that we were getting this extra money and we would be
able to do this sort of extra, extra work," he said. "It was basically to make
the 9th circuit the example of how good it can be and how much additional
funding can help those particular problems."

Less than 6 months into state attorney Aramis Ayala's term, the Legislature
voted to cut $1.3 million, most of the special appropriations funds. The move
came after Ayala announced she would not pursue the death penalty, and after
Governor Rick Scott subsequently reassigned 2 dozen 9th circuit murder cases to
5th circuit state attorney, Bradley King.

Republican Representative Scott Plakon of Longwood was the behind the cut.

"She's refusing to do a significant part of her job, so if she refuses to do
that, someone else has to do it," he said.

Under a provision Ayala could request to get the money back if there's any left
after the 2 dozen death penalty cases are prosecuted. Plakon, who has backed
legislation in support of both causes added that the $1.3 was not the special
appropriations funding, per se, and that it was, rather an estimate made from
staff analyses of how much it might cost for another prosecutor to take on
ninth circuit death penalty cases. He argued Ayala's office can shuffle funds
to address human trafficking and domestic violence.

"They have the positions open. They have the funding open. They don't need the
$1.3 million."

Democratic Senator Randolph Bracy was the staunchest advocate of a smaller cut
in to the special appropriations fund, which House lawmakers did not approve.
For him, the cut was a political statement.

"That we are the Legislature and we make the laws and if you don't follow the
law, then we have other ways to punish you," he said.

Ayala has argued repeatedly that tough cuts to staff in her base budget are not
a solid starting point to be able to deeply penetrate human trafficking or
domestic violence.

"We see 60 million visitors come through Orlando, and because of that, it's the
primary spot for human trafficking, so when we aren't properly equipped with
it, the crime continues and continues. It devastates and basically paralyzes
all of those efforts that we???re not able to expand it," she said.

Her predecessor, former boss, and political opponent former state attorney Jeff
Ashton agreed.

"My 1st feeling is, that's 2 years of hard work squandered because it was a
very, very concerted, long term effort to get that money and so, now,
presumably, that's gone."

But he said it could have been prevented by approaching death penalty cases

Victims' advocates' groups hope more money will come from the Legislature to
support the work. But in the meantime, the Florida Supreme Court's decision in
the death penalty standoff will be the biggest indicator of whether the $1.3
million will be restored.

(source: WMFE news)


State appeals ruling that suspended death penalty

An Indiana Court of Appeals decision that suspended executions in the state
violated the separation of powers and resulted in new, unintended burdens that
could lead to "dysfunction" in carrying out executions, the state argues in
seeking transfer to the Indiana Supreme Court.

The state on July 3 petitioned justices to review a Court of Appeals ruling
that held Indiana's lethal injection formulation that included an untried drug
was "void and without effect." The court ruled that the Department of
Correction was bound to enact new lethal-injection protocols under the state's
Administrative Rules and Procedures Act through rulemaking subject to public
review and comment, which it did not do.

"While the Court of Appeals opinion purports to effectuate the policy choices
of the legislature ... it eschewed that legislative judgment and substituted
its own," the state argues in its petition to transfer the case to the Indiana
Supreme Court. "This violation of the separation of powers has resulted in
confusion in how capital punishment should be administered, potentially
enlarged the role of the judiciary in supervising the administration of
prisons, and moved Indiana down the wrong path for ensuring a fair and
reasonable system of capital punishment."

"It appears the state is presenting the same arguments that were previously
rejected by the Court of Appeals. We intend to bring that to the attention of
the Supreme Court," said David Frank, a Fort Wayne attorney who represents Roy
Lee Ward. The case is Roy Lee Ward v. Robert E. Carter, Jr., Commissioner of
the Indiana Department of Correction, and Ron Neal, Superintendent of the
Indiana State Prison, in their official capacities, 46A03-1607-PL-1685.

"We think the Court of Appeals made a very persuasive, very sound decision on
the black-letter law, and we will ask the Supreme Court to deny transfer so we
can move forward on our case on the merits," Frank said.

Gov. Eric Holcomb issued a statement when asked to comment on the case and the
state of capital punishment in Indiana moving forward.

"The citizens of Indiana have clearly expressed their belief that the death
penalty ought to be an option for the worst and most extreme offenses, and I
respect that and agree with them. That said, there should not be a shred of
doubt an individual is guilty of the most heinous offense if the death penalty
is a consideration."

A death row inmate, Ward successfully challenged the DOC's method of execution
that had been developed internally without public review. The formulation of a
3-drug lethal injection "cocktail" included a drug never tried in a state or
federal execution - methohexital (known by the brand name Brevital) - along
with pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride.

Ward was sentenced to death in 2007 for the 2001 rape and murder of 15-year-old
Stacy Payne in Spencer County. He is 1 of 12 people on Indiana's death row at
the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. However, only 10 of those inmates
are currently facing a capital punishment sentence.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new trial last September for Wayne
Kubsch, who was sentenced to death after he was convicted in the 1998 murders
of his wife, Beth Kubsch; Rick Milewski; and Aaron Milewski, Rick Milweski and
Beth Kubsch's son, in Mishawaka. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an

DOC spokesman Isaac Randolph said Kubsch will remain on death row pending
further appeals, as will Michael Overstreet, who was ruled not competent to be
executed. Overstreet received the death sentence in 2000 for the 1997
abduction, rape and murder of Kelly Eckart, a Franklin College student.

Randolph said the court ruled that Overstreet was not "currently competent," a
condition that could change.

In addition to the 12 men on death row at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan
City, one woman housed in Ohio has been sentenced to death. No executions are
currently scheduled in Indiana, and the Ward ruling leaves the state without a
statutory means of carrying out the death penalty.

The state argues in its petition brief that the DOC has never been held to a
public-review standard, even though it has carried out 20 executions under the
current death penalty statutes. The state argues I.C. 35-38-6-1(d) says
lawmakers wrote that the DOC "may" adopt rules necessary to implement lethal
injection. "The legislature's choice of the permissive language was no
accident, and is supported by historical experience and sound public policy,"
the petition says.

The COA ruled that the General Assembly specifically exempted certain state
agencies from the requirements of rulemaking under ARPA, but it did not
specifically exempt the Department of Correction.

A rulemaking requirement would place Indiana closer to California, which the
state argues has gone for a decade without enacting a method of execution.

???During that time, the proposed rules have been [held] up in rulemaking or
judicial challenges by reluctant government officials, opponents of capital
punishment, and death row offenders," the state says in its transfer petition.
"... Indiana's General Assembly has never indicated its preference for such
dysfunction in our state, and this Court should avoid unnecessarily requiring
such an active judicial role for management of the internal affairs of the
(DOC) and the Indiana State Prison."

The state notes in petitioning for transfer that along with California,
Kentucky is the only death penalty state whose courts have found a rulemaking
requirement for their methods of execution. Other states that have ruled on the
question - Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee,
Texas, Virginia, and Washington - have found execution protocols are exempt
from administrative rulemaking.

(source: The Indiana Lawyer)


Man facing death for murder of Missouri trooper loses appeal

A circuit judge ruled Monday that a man from Van Buren received effective legal
defense when he was convicted of killing a state trooper. The ruling came in a
post-conviction appeal by Lance Shockley, who faces a death penalty.

Shockley killed Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Dewayne Graham on March 20,
2005. A jury convicted him of 1st-degree murder and armed criminal action for
the shooting. It also convicted him of leaving the scene of an accident in
November 2004.

Graham was outside his home near Van Buren when he was ambushed and shot.
Investigators said Shockley killed Graham because Graham was investigating
Shockley for involuntary manslaughter and leaving the scene of a 1-vehicle
fatality crash in which the person who died was initially thought to have been
the driver.

Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson was appointed as a special
prosecutor to handle Shockley's post-conviction claim that he deserves a new
trial because his defense attorneys were ineffective.

Judge Kelly Parker of Salem entered a 75-page order on Monday denying all
Shockley's claims. The judge, who was appointed by the Missouri Supreme Court
in 2014 to hear the post-conviction appeal, ruled that Shockley's conviction
and death sentence will stand.

Greene County Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Todd Myers and Senior
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Emily Shook represented the State of Missouri in
this case.

Shockley once had an execution date set for Jan. 31, 2014. The Missouri Supreme
Court stayed the execution, however, because of pending appeals. The U.S.
Supreme Court declined to take the case in 2014 and 2016. As in all death
penalty cases, Shockley is entitled to more appeals, including to the Missouri
Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court again.

(source: KSPR news)


Judge displeased with delayed hearing for unprepared defense in triple
homicide----Preliminary hearing to be in late September

A Shawnee County District Court judge clearly was irritated Tuesday morning as
defense attorneys in a triple homicide case asked for more preparation time.

3 defendants were scheduled for a preliminary hearing this week in the March 12
murders at an airplane bungalow in North Topeka.

Judge Nancy Parish granted the defense motion for a postponement of the
preliminary hearing, which now is scheduled for Sept. 25 and 26. The
last-minute request irritated Parish.

"I'm not going to be happy if we have another request for a continuance on the
day of the (September) hearing," Parish said.

Besides all of the supporters and family members of victims and defendants who
packed the court room Tuesday, the judge said, she had continued 3 jury trials
to accommodate the 2-day preliminary hearing that was to start Tuesday.

The preliminary hearing was to start at 9 a.m. Tuesday, but defense attorneys
were in the judge's office at that time. At 9:20 a.m., defense attorneys
returned to the courtroom to retrieve their calendars, then left the courtroom

By 9:45 a.m., proseuctors and defense attorneys and the three defendants were
in the courtroom when Maban Wright, 1 of 2 defense attorneys representing
defendant Brian Joseph Flowers, requested the continuance, noting the
complexity of the criminal case and voluminous evidence to review, including 50
electronic discs.

Jennifer Chaffee, Joseph P. Lowry's defense attorney, joined the request for
more time. Kathleen Ambrosio, defendant Shane Andrew Mays' attorney, didn't
join in the request.

District Attorney Mike Kagay told the judge that he and chief deputy district
attorney Dan Dunbar were ready to proceed with the preliminary hearing but
wouldn???t oppose the postponement.

"Very reluctantly, I will grant the motion for continuance," the judge said.

The September dates are slightly more than the 60 days the defense attorneys

In March, Mays, 19, Lowry, 31, and Flowers, 32, were charged with the slayings
of 3 Topekans. Matthew Leavitt, 19; Nicole Fisher, 38; and Luke Davis, 20, who
were found late on March 12 inside an airplane bungalow at 115 N.W. Grant.

Topeka police officers had been called to the house at 11:20 p.m. to check the
welfare of the occupants, then found the bodies.

The judge addressed the roughly 80 people in the gallery about the propriety of
wearing T-shirts with messages tied to the case during the preliminary hearing.
Roughly a half dozen young adults wore T-shirts that said "Rest in Paradise"
and and victim Matthew Leavitt's 1st name.

The T-shirts can be worn during the preliminary hearing but not during the any
jury trial that might arise in the case, the judge said, adding that court
rules forbid the shirts during a trial.

As of Tuesday, the 4th defendant, Joseph Aaron Krahn, 34, is charged with 3
counts of 1st-degree murder, and Mays is charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree

Flowers and Lowry are charged with 1 count each of 1st-degree murder,
aggravated kidnapping and aggravated assault, and Mays is charged with 2 counts
of 1st-degree murder.

On Monday, the prospect that capital murder charges might be filed against 1 or
more of the defendants surfaced when Krahn's public defenders asked to withdraw
due to the possibility that charges against Krahn might be amended to include
capital murder.

The public defenders aren't certified to handle cases carrying a potential
death penalty. District Court Judge David Debenham granted the Krahn request.
The Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit is expected to take over the Krahn

Debenham will hear the preliminary hearing of Krahn. The Krahn case next will
be in court on July 20 when his preliminary hearing will be scheduled.

Few details have been released about the killings.

(source: TheTopeka Capital-Journal)


Parents taunted malnourished girl before her death, police say

A Utah couple accused in the death of their toddler daughter taunted the
malnourished child with food and attempted to cover her injuries with makeup,
prosecutors said in charges filed Tuesday.

Authorities say they found cellphone videos that show the 3-year-old girl's
condition growing progressively worse over the year and a half before her
"extremely malnourished" body was found at the family's home.

Angelina Costello's mother and father were both charged with aggravated murder,
which carries the possibility of the death penalty.

Their lawyer, James Retallick, didn't immediately return a message seeking

The videos found on the parents' phones show Angelina's parents, Brenda Emile,
22, and Miller Costello, 25, apparently presenting the girl with food, and then
taking it away and disciplining her, police said in charging documents.

Angelina was found July 6 at the family home in Ogden after her parents called
police to report she wasn't breathing.

Her body was covered with burns, cuts and bruises, some of which looked new and
others that appeared to be in various stages of healing, police said.

Emile later told police she used a layer of makeup to conceal some of her
daughter's injuries "so they didn't look as bad," charges state.

2 other children were removed from the house and given to state child
protective services, police said.

Officers searching the couple's cellphones later found pictures and videos
taken between January 2016 and June 2017 that show the child obviously upset,
police said. In one video the girl's father used the feet of an infant to kick
the girl in the face, prosecutors said.

Police say Costello acknowledged he knew Angelina was in danger of dying if she
didn't get medical attention, but did not take her to the doctor.

He said his wife, who cared for their children during the day, told him
Angelina's siblings had injured her but Emile didn't want to take her to a
doctor because she feared a police investigation and her children being taken

(source: Associated Press)


Charges: Ogden couple beat their child to death, then covered her in make-up
before calling police

Prosecutors allege an Ogden couple charged Tuesday in the death of their
toddler beat the young girl to death, then covered her in make-up to hide the
injuries before calling police.

Miller Costello, 25, and Brenda Emile, 22, were charged in 2nd District Court
with aggravated murder, a 1st-degree felony that carries the potential of the
death penalty.

Police were called to the couple's home last Thursday on a report of a child
that was unconscious and not breathing, according to a probable cause statement
filed in court. When they arrived, they found a deceased 3-year-old girl who
was cold to the touch and stiff. Officers noted that the young girl appeared to
have "bruising, contusions, lacerations, burns, open sores and abrasions all
over her face, hands, legs, head and neck," according to the probable cause

The girl, Angelina Costello, was also covered in a thin layer of makeup,
according to charges, which Emile allegedly later admitted to applying to
conceal injuries "so they didn't look so bad."

The child also appeared to be malnourished, according to the charging
documents, and police later found a video on one of the parent's cell phones
showing the couple "taunting the child victim with food by presenting it to her
and then removing it from her and disciplining her."

It appeared as if some of Angelina's injuries were recent and "acute,"
according to police, though others seemed older and in various stages of

Costello said in a police interview that he knew of the child's deteriorating
health, according to charges, and knew that his partner had been withholding
food. The man said he noticed new injuries on his daughter when he came home
from work, and Emile told him she had been struck by her siblings.

"Brenda told Miller that she did not want to get medical attention for the
child victim because she did not want a police investigation or to have her
children taken from her," according to charging documents.

Emile was the primary caretaker of the children at the home, charges state.
After the couple's arrest last week, 2 other young children were removed from
the home and placed in the care of the Utah Division of Child and Family

Prosecutors asked a judge to deny bail to the couple in part because Costello
and Emile have "self-proclaimed ties to a transient Romanian gypsy community,"
according to the probable cause statement, and Costello made a good income as a
scrap metal buyer.

The couple is being held in the Weber County jail without the opportunity to
post bail.

Their next court appearance is scheduled for Thursday.

(source: Salt Lake Tribune)


Testimony: Oregon woman's alleged murderer spoke of "urge to kill"

In the days following the death of Kaylee Sawyer in Bend last summer, suspected
killer Edwin Lara confessed his involvement in her death to virtually everyone
he encountered, according to a prosecutor, at one point saying he had an "urge
to kill."

That's according to testimony given by a number of witnesses in court Monday.
It was the 1st of 5 days of scheduled hearings to discuss the admissibility of
evidence, specifically Lara's apparent confession and the evidence that
resulted from it.

Lara, 32, is charged with 4 counts of aggravated murder in the death of Sawyer,
23, on July 24. Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel is seeking the
death penalty.

Monday's hearing centered around Lara's alleged California crime spree
following the death of Sawyer.

Still to be discussed is an apparent confession he gave to Bend Police
Department officers, and whether he was read his Miranda rights beforehand, or
was denied an attorney after asking for one.

As with nearly all hearings in the case, a number of Sawyer's friends and
family were present in the courtroom Monday. A group huddled across the
courtroom's pew-like benches and prayed in anticipation of graphic testimony,
which included a 15-minute 911 recording where Lara discussed Sawyer's death.

Death of Kaylee Sawyer

Sawyer disappeared in the early morning hours of July 24 after a night in
downtown Bend. After getting in an argument with her boyfriend during the ride
home, Sawyer walked off from her house near Central Oregon Community College.
Friends and family never saw her again.

At Monday's hearing, Deschutes County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve
Gunnels said in his opening statement that Lara was at work that night as a
security officer for the college. Gunnels said the scene of the killing was
parking lot B12, a gravel lot high up on the hilly campus surrounded by juniper
and sagebrush.

Investigators from the Central Oregon Major Crimes Team - made up of officers
from various local law enforcement agencies - found drag marks and blood in the
parking lot, Gunnels said. The drag marks led up the hill to a location in the
brush where a significant amount of blood was found.

However, this is not where Sawyer's body was found. Police believe Lara put
Sawyer in the trunk of his car - where blood was also found -and transported
her body to the location on state Highway 126 where it was found two days
later. Police discovered it after Lara alerted them to a note he left in a car
he abandoned in Salem.

The note three times had the number 18700, though there was no context. Police
used the Deschutes County property information database to run the number,
which turned up an address on Highway 126 between Sisters and Redmond.

Bend Police Lt. Brian Kindel testified that the body was dumped just off the
side of the road and wasn't covered with rocks or brush. He said a person could
see Sawyer's shoulder from the road side of the guardrail.

Lara fled to Salem after his then-wife, Isabel Ponce-Lara, confronted him the
day after the killing, accusing him of acting weird.

Lara told her he hit a woman with his car and discarded the body, according to
statements she made to Redmond Police Department Sgt. Bob Duff. He then grabbed
a 9 mm handgun and left.

Ponce-Lara, at the time an officer in training for the Bend Police Department,
went to the Redmond Police Department to report the crime. Upon searching the
Ponce-Lara and Lara home, police found a white bag with Sawyer's high-heel
shoes, a purse containing her black wallet, a blood-stained rock and a clump of
hair, according to testimony given Monday. Lara's work boots were also found
with blood on them.

At 12:22 p.m., Duff pinged Lara's phone, which showed him in Redmond. A ping at
7 p.m. showed him in Salem.

Alleged crime spree

According to an apparent confession from Lara played in court Monday, Lara
drove to Salem and parked his car outside of a Ross Dress for Less store. He
saw a woman, Aundreah Elizabeth Maes, and allegedly kidnapped her at gunpoint,
making her drive him south to California in her car.

However, the car was leaking oil and broke down in Yreka, California.

In the early morning hours of July 26, Lara is alleged to have taken Maes and
broken into Yreka Super 8 Motel room 108, where he found Jack Levy. Lara
allegedly pulled a gun on Levy in an attempt to steal his car. When Levy called
for help, Lara shot him in the abdomen and fled with Maes, according to court
testimony. The entire encounter took place in 15 seconds.

Lara then fled with Maes about 150 yards to a gas station, Yreka Police
Department Patrol Sgt. Ray Poutin said in court Monday.

Poutin, nearing the end of an overtime shift, responded to the hotel room. When
a report came in shortly after of a carjacking and kidnapping at a nearby gas
station, Poutin sent officer Kash Hasemeyer to cover it so he could stay back
with Levy until an ambulance arrived.

Lara had allegedly stolen a car with a woman and her 2 teen grandsons inside.
The father of the boys was still in the gas station store. Lara, with Maes in
tow, allegedly drove the kidnapping victims about 15 miles south on Interstate

The scene was far from ordinary for the small Yreka police department and the
town's 7,500 residents.

"We don't normally have carjackings and shootings at the same time," said Yreka
Police Lt. David Gamache. Gamache got called in while off duty due to the

"Urge to kill"

According to a statement from one of the teens Lara allegedly kidnapped, Lara
began telling them about his alleged crime spree, when the teen's brother told
Lara he should not talk about the crimes. Lara allegedly ignored the advice and
said he ran over a girl in Oregon and shot a man in Yreka. He told them he had
an "urge to kill," according to the boy's statement.

Lara eventually dropped the family off and continued south with Maes into the
Red Bluff area of Tehama County when he had a lengthy conversation with
California Highway Patrol dispatcher Rebecca Dutton.

Lara called 911 after noticing police chasing behind him and a police
helicopter following him from above. According to the 911 tape, played in
court, Lara told Dutton he was traveling at 120 mph. He claimed he was ready to
turn himself in.

Lara informed Dutton he was wanted for murder in Oregon for killing Sawyer,
though he said it was an accident. He often talked in a nonchalant tone when
discussing Sawyer's death, but did apologize to Sawyer's family and said he
would reveal the location of the body in time.

After 13 minutes of Dutton trying to talk Lara into pulling over, he finally
agreed to.

As he did so, he handed the phone to Maes. As Lara exited the car and went into
police custody, Dutton explained to Maes, 19 at the time, how she could safely
exit the vehicle without being injured by police. The words were muffled by
Maes' uncontrollable sobbing.

California Highway Patrol Sgt. Adam Battle, who assisted in taking Lara into
custody, said Lara told him he should search his person better, as the first
cop to pat him down missed a knife and a handcuff key. Battle said after
removing the key and knife, Lara told him he was wanted for murder in Oregon
and killed a man in Yreka. Lara didn't know Levy had survived the shooting,
according to Battle. Battle said this threw him off, as he had never
encountered such a spontaneous admission of guilt in his 22 years in law

Lara also told Battle he was wearing body armor.

Battle asked why.

"I came to throw down," Battle said on the stand, quoting Lara.

After this week, the hearings will continue on yet-to-be-scheduled dates in
September, when more witnesses will testify. Deschutes County Circuit Judge A.
Michael Adler is expected to rule on the admissibility of the evidence being
discussed after the September testimony.

(source: Associated Press)


Why Jurors Are Rejecting the Death Penalty----There used to be 300 death
sentences each year in the United States. Last year, there were just 30.

Prosecutors in Wake County, North Carolina, have sought the death penalty in 8
cases over the past decade.* Each time, jurors have rejected the sentence, most
recently in March. The most recent time Wake County jurors imposed a death
sentence was a decade ago. "At some point, we have to step back and say, 'Has
the community sent us a message on that?'" Freeman told reporters in February.

Capital punishment has now been outlawed in 19 states. In the places where it
remains legal, jurors are increasingly reluctant to impose it. Just 30 people
were sentenced to death in the United States last year, and only 27 counties
out of more than 3,000 nationwide sent anyone to death row. In the mid-1990s,
by contrast, more than 300 people were sentenced to death, with capital
punishment being undertaken in as many as 200 counties each year.

Jurors have even started to reject the death penalty in Texas, which has
sentenced more people to death than any other state in modern times. Texas
prosecutors are seeking the death penalty less often, and when they do, they're
frequently failing to persuade juries to impose it. In 15 capital trials in the
state since 2015, just 8 have resulted in death sentences.

So, what has changed the minds of jurors? It's not that they're morally opposed
to the death penalty. In fact, jurors who object on principle can be
disqualified from serving in capital trials. These are people who are open to
imposing the ultimate punishment but decide to reject it after hearing a
convicted murderer's life story, including evidence of mental health issues,
childhood abuse, and other mitigating circumstances.

Take the case of James Holmes, who was convicted of 24 counts of capital murder
for opening fire in a theater in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012. After a lengthy
trial in which defense attorneys presented detailed evidence about Holmes'
mental health problems, jurors chose a life sentence in 2015. Or consider the
less well-known case of Russell Brown, who was found guilty of the capital
murder of a state trooper in Virginia. In August 2016, the jury rejected a
death sentence after experts testified that Brown was insane.

Another reason for the decline in death sentences is that murders have steadily
declined across the country, beginning in the mid-'90s. (There has, however,
been a recent spike in the murder rate in certain large cities.) When my
co-authors and I analyzed death sentencing data by county from 1990 through
2016, we found that a drop in the murder rate was strongly associated with the
decline in death sentencing.

But death sentences have fallen far faster than murders. One reason may be the
growth in adequately resourced defense lawyers. In general, states that have
statewide offices to represent defendants at capital trials, as opposed to
locally appointed lawyers, have experienced far greater declines in death
sentencing. Those offices have the resources to hire experts who can present
mental health evidence and explain the defendant's social history.

Virginia created regional defense offices to handle death penalty cases in
2004. Defense lawyers began calling more witnesses, presenting more mental
health evidence, and telling a more complete story about the defendant's
background at sentencing. Although death sentences in Virginia used to be
routine, there now hasn't been a single 1 in 7 years.

Our research also shows there is a strong "muscle memory" effect in death
sentencing. Counties that have issued a death sentence in the past are far more
likely to obtain more. What explains this substantial effect? Prosecutors may
get in the habit of seeking the death penalty, even when neighboring counties
do not. Perhaps losing a capital trial can put a damper on that enthusiasm.
Generally, once that muscle memory fades, counties do not get it back. Indeed,
the counties that started out with the most death sentences have experienced
the biggest declines over the past 15 years. For example, in Harris County,
Texas, where in the mid-1990s prosecutors led the country by securing 15 or
more death sentences per year, there were no death sentences at all in 2015 or

As the death penalty fades, jurors may become more and more skeptical of its
utility. Last year, psychologists Daniel Krauss and Nicholas Scurich joined me
in surveying nearly 500 people summoned for jury duty in Orange County,
California, an area that regularly imposes death sentences. We found that 1/3
of jurors - a surprisingly high share in that fairly conservative county -
would not qualify to serve on a capital jury because they opposed the death
penalty on principle. About 1/4 - a separate group from the 1/3 of jurors
described above - said they would not convict someone of capital murder if that
meant the defendant would be executed. Most strikingly, 2/3 of all jurors we
surveyed said the fact that there had not been an execution in California in a
decade made them less likely to sentence a person to death.

Our sample included both liberal and conservative jurors, and it consisted of
whites, blacks, and Latinos, demonstrating that concern about the death penalty
is broad-based. The responses of these jurors reveal why the death penalty is
already at the end of its rope, no matter what tough-on-crime officials say. In
2015, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote it would be
undemocratic for the court to decide whether the Eighth Amendment forbids the
modern practice of capital punishment - that the issue should be left "to the
People to decide." Well, the people are now speaking, and their message is
coming through loud and clear to prosecutors like Lorrin Freeman: The death
penalty's time has come and gone.

(source: slate.com)

A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu

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