2017-07-11 13:29:45 UTC
Westmoreland judge issues stay of execution for Smyrnes
A Westmoreland County judge on Monday delayed the potential execution of a
North Huntingdon man convicted in the 2010 torture slaying of a mentally
challenged woman in Greensburg.
Common Pleas Court Judge Rita Hathaway issued the stay to allow Ricky Smyrnes'
new defense attorney, Thomas Farrell of Pittsburgh, to file a new
Amy Worden, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, said a
death warrant for 30-year-old Smyrnes, which was expected to be signed in
September, will be put on hold.
Farrell said he sought the stay to ensure the defense has enough time to file a
detailed appeal before the warrant is signed.
"It's going to take some time. I'm reviewing the transcript now," Farrell said.
From his cell on death row at the State Correctional Institute in Greene
County, Smyrnes in April submitted a form to Westmoreland County Clerk of
Courts Bryan Kline in which he said he wanted to appeal his case. Smyrnes
contended his trial attorneys did not use the proper documents to support his
claim that his intelligence was too low for him to receive the death penalty
after his 1st-degree murder conviction.
A month later, the judge appointed Farrell to represent Smyrnes and prepare a
more detailed appeal.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in February affirmed Smyrnes' conviction and
Prosecutors said Smyrnes was the ringleader of a group of 6 roommates that held
30-year-old Jennifer Daugherty of Mt. Pleasant captive for nearly 3 days in a
Pennsylvania Avenue apartment in 2010. The group systematically tortured
Daugherty, then stabbed her to death, prosecutors said.
Her body was wrapped in Christmas lights and garland, stuffed into a trash
container and discarded in a snow-covered parking lot off Main Street.
Farrell said he is reviewing Smyrnes' 2-week trial to determine if his previous
lawyers provided an ineffective defense during the guilt and sentencing phases.
In May, Hathaway ruled that Farrell had 90 days to file an appeal on Smyrnes'
behalf. Farrell said he likely will ask for more time.
Assistant District Attorney Leo Ciaramitaro declined to respond to Smyrnes'
latest challenge of his death sentence.
"We will obviously argue the matter at the appropriate time," he said.
Hearing scheduled to discuss death penalty for Lexington murder suspect
A Rule 24 hearing is scheduled Thursday morning for Patrick McCoy.
The purpose of the hearing is to determine whether the State will be seeking
the death penalty in the case.
McCoy is accused of killing Billy Bare, 39, and injuring Tyler Gransbury, in a
shooting back in May.
Davidson County Sheriff's deputies say it happened at a home located at 1596
Burkhart Road in the central Davidson County community. Upon the deputies'
arrival, they found Bare dead at the scene.
Gransbury was taken to the hospital for treatment. Since the shooting,
Gransbury moved out-of-state due to showing signs of PTSD, living in Lexington.
WXII 12 News spoke to family of Bare Monday. Some believe the death penalty
should be enforced in this case.
"He needs it. He should have never killed my uncle like he did," said Trevor
Bare, Billy's nephew. "It was stupid. They need to do something with him. They
don't need to let him out."
McCoy's family issued a statement ahead of the Rule 24 hearing: "We don't want
hate to spread. It's unfortunate what happened and we are truly sorry for the
life lost and the young man that was injured. We can't do anything to change
what has happened. We are praying for peace and comfort."
McCoy's hearing begins at 9:30 a.m. in Davidson County.
(source: WXII news)
Athens lawyer to assist in prosecution of suspects in prison guard killings
The Ocumulgee Circuit District Attorney is preparing an indictment to send to a
grand jury soon against the 2 men charged with killing 2 state prison guards in
Putnam County and a lawyer from Athens is playing an integral part in the
Allison Mauldin, who lives in Athens and is the Chief Assistant District
Attorney for the circuit, is helping prepare the case, District Attorney
Stephen Bradley said Friday.
"We're preparing to send the case to a grand jury. We're collecting all the
reports, the history and all the information we can get our hands on," Bradley
The grand jury meets in September.
The suspects, Ricky Dubose, 24, and Donnie Rowe, 43, are accused in the
shooting deaths of 2 State Department of Correctional guards who were
transporting a bus load of inmates from 1 prison to another on June 13. Dubose,
who was from Madison County, was serving a 20-year sentence for an armed
robbery in Elbert County.
Mauldin has worked in the 8-county Ocumulgee Circuit since 2008.
"She and I will prosecute the case," Bradley said. "It was a horrifying event,
a major case and you want the best lawyer on the case. Alli is one of the most
tremendous lawyers I've ever had the pleasure to work with."
Mauldin is the wife of Western Circuit District Attorney Ken Mauldin.
Bradley has announced he will seek the death penalty against the pair who were
captured 3 days after their escape. Authorities said the men committed a series
of crimes after their escape from stealing vehicles to holding an elderly
couple hostage in their own home to shooting at deputies during a high-speed
(source: Athens Banner-Herald)
Lawyer cries foul as execution date looms----Man who killed 2 in Jacksonville
in 1987 set for execution next month
A lawyer for a death row inmate scheduled to be executed next month is accusing
Attorney General Pam Bondi of hoodwinking him into agreeing to a delay in a
U.S. Supreme Court review.
The postponement, signed off on by Mark James Asay's lawyer Marty McClain last
month, could now make it more difficult for the condemned killer to get his
case reviewed by the high court.
Gov. Rick Scott last week rescheduled Asay's execution for Aug. 24, more than a
year after originally signing a death warrant for the death row inmate.
But in a letter Friday, McClain asked Scott to put a temporary hold on the
execution of Asay, arguing that Bondi had misrepresented the status of the case
when she gave the governor a go-ahead for scheduling the execution.
After McClain filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, known as a "writ of
certiorari," this spring, Bondi sought a 30-day extension in the case.
McClain said he interpreted Bondi's request for a postponement, to which he
agreed, to mean that the state would not seek a new execution date for Asay
until after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the appeal this fall.
Without the 30-day extension, the justices could have taken up Asay's appeal
before their summer hiatus, which started on June 28 and lasts until October,
Instead, the court gave Bondi until July 5 to file her response to Asay's
2 days before the deadline, Bondi certified to Scott that Asay was eligible for
execution. After Scott signed Asay's death warrant on July 3, setting the
execution date for Aug. 24, Bondi quickly filed an objection to Asay's appeal
in the U.S. court.
Since a death warrant has been issued in Asay's case, it would take 5 Supreme
Court justices to order a review, instead of the 4 that would have been
necessary to grant a petition in the absence of a pending execution date,
McClain wrote to Scott.
"I think that you should have been fully advised of the pending litigation in
the U.S. Supreme Court and the Attorney General's Office request for an
extension of time," McClain, who has represented more than 200 death row
inmates, wrote to Scott on Friday. "That would have allowed you to be more
fully informed when deciding to reset Mr. Asay's execution."
McClain also questioned whether Bondi's office "acted appropriately" in Asay's
"The office's action gained an advantage for the state at Mr. Asay's expense,"
McClain wrote. "What occurred here suggests an ulterior motive and perhaps the
bad faith of those in the Attorney General's Office responsible for this."
Bondi's office said Monday it had not seen the letter.
Asay was 1 of 2 death row inmates whose executions were put on hold by the
Florida Supreme Court in early 2016 after the U.S. Supreme Court, in a case
known as Hurst v. Florida, struck down as unconstitutional the state's death
penalty sentencing system.
The federal court ruling, premised on a 2002 decision in a case known as Ring
v. Arizona, found that Florida's system of allowing judges, instead of juries,
to find the facts necessary to impose the death penalty was an unconstitutional
violation of the Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury.
The January 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision set off a string of court rulings
that have effectively put Florida's death penalty in limbo for 18 months.
Asay was convicted in 1988 of the murders of Robert Lee Booker and Robert
McDowell in downtown Jacksonville. Asay allegedly shot Booker, who was black,
after calling him a racial epithet. He then killed McDowell, who was dressed as
a woman, after agreeing to pay him for oral sex. According to court documents,
Asay later told a friend that McDowell had previously cheated him out of money
in a drug deal.
Bondi's request for an extension from the federal court followed by her
office's certification of Asay as being what is known as "death-eligible"
appeared to be a bait-and-switch, McClain told The News Service of Florida.
"That's what it feels like," McClain said in a telephone interview Monday.
Report: Alabama 1 of 6 states to execute inmates so far this year
Alabama is among 6 states so far this year that have executed death row
inmates, according to a review released Monday by the Death Penalty Information
Arkansas and Texas have each executed 4 inmates, followed by Alabama, with 2,
and Georgia, Missouri and Virginia with 1 each, according to the mid-year
review by the Washington-D.C.-based anti-death-penalty group.
Alabama executed inmate Tommy Arthur on May 25 and inmate Robert Melson on June
8. Arthur was executed for his conviction for the 1982 murder for hire of Troy
Wicker and Melson for the 1994 shooting deaths of 3 employees at a Gadsden
No other executions have been announced for Alabama this year.
Despite the 13 executions (of 43 scheduled but delayed or cancelled)
nationwide, new executions and death sentences in the United States are on pace
to remain near historic lows, the center reports. At the same time last year 14
of 39 scheduled executions had been carried out, according to the center.
Alabama was 1 of 5 states that executed inmates in 2016. Alabama executed 2 -
Christopher Brooks and Ronald Bert Smith, according to a report from the center
last year. 31 states have the death penalty.
"The numbers show that the long-term historic decline in the use of the death
penalty across the United States appears to be continuing," Robert Dunham, the
center's executive director, said in a statement.
1 state - Ohio - could determine whether the long-term trend in decreasing
Last month a federal appeals court reversed a lower court's order that had
declared unconstitutional Ohio's execution method using a three-drug
combination. The three-drug method includes midazolam, a sedative involved in
problematic executions in Alabama (Ronald Bert Smith execution on Dec. 8),
Arizona, Arkansas, Ohio and Oklahoma. Ohio has scheduled 30 executions between
July 26 and 2021, with 5 set for the 2nd half of 2017, according to Dunham.
The center also projects that new death sentences will remain near historically
low levels partly due to Alabama and 1 other state.
Florida and Alabama have accounted about 1/5 of new death sentences nationwide
in recent years, according to the center.
But Florida's abandonment of non-unanimous jury recommendations of death and
Alabama's repeal of judges being able to impose death despite jury
recommendations for life, is expected to substantially reduce the number of new
death sentences returned in those states, according to the center.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey in April signed into law the override bill that says
juries, not judges, have the final say on whether to impose the death penalty
in capital murder cases.
Ivey signed the bill, which had earlier been passed by the Alabama Legislature.
The nation's highest court disagreed with a federal appeals court, and reversed
its decision in the case of James McWilliams.
Mental disability case
1 Alabama prisoner also has been among 3 death row inmates who got favorable
decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court so far this year, the report noted.
In McWilliams v. Dunn, the Court found on June 19 that James McWilliams'
constitutional rights were violated when Alabama failed to provide him
assistance of an independent mental-health expert, according to the center.
Prosecutor considers pursuing death penalty in shooting of Cleveland teen
running from robbery
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley's office is considering whether to
seek the death penalty in the case of a man accused of fatally shooting a
15-year-old during a robbery earlier this year.
Noah Allen, 20, and Devon Shade, 17, are each charged in Cuyahoga County Common
Pleas Court with aggravated murder and several other charges in the March 4
death of Jaevelle Swift.
Allen pleaded not guilty at his Monday arraignment and was ordered held on $1
million bond. Shade is set for a Thursday arraignment.
Shade cannot face the death penalty because he was a minor at the time of the
But prosecutors noted in an indictment filed late last week that the state
reserves the right to seek the death penalty against Allen in the future.
Jaevelle and his 16-year-old friend sat in the backseat of a Jeep with Allen
and Shade in the front seat about 7:30 p.m. March 4 on East 86th Street near
Woodland Avenue in the city's Fairfax neighborhood, according to police and
Allen turned around, pointed a gun at the teens and demanded money, according
to police reports.
The 16-year-old boy gave Allen money before he and Jaevelle got out and ran,
prosecutors say. Allen fired shots out of the window and one bullet hit
Jaevelle in the back, police said.
Paramedics took Jaevelle to University Hospitals where was pronounced dead. The
16-year-old was not injured in the shooting.
Investigators identified Allen and Shade within days of the shooting. Allen has
been in custody since he turned himself in to Cleveland police March 7. Shade
was charged in Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court the same day, and a judge set his
bond at $500,000.
Dale Johnston: Wrongful convictions make death penalty too risky
Gov. John Kasich has announced 27 execution dates through 2021. Until the
governor can show that innocent people will not be executed, he should
reconsider his decision to restart executions in Ohio.
Ohio has executed 53 people in modern history. In the same time, nine people
have been exonerated from death row with evidence of their innocence. One
study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, found
that 1 in every 25 men currently on death row may be innocent.
Are any of the 27 who are scheduled to be executed innocent? I don't know. You
don't know. The governor doesn't know. That's the problem.
I have 1st-hand experience with this issue. In 1984, I was wrongfully convicted
and sentenced to death for the murders of my stepdaughter and her boyfriend in
Logan. Rumors soon flew around town. After undergoing hypnosis, a single
eyewitness identified me as the killer. The only other primary witness provided
boot-print evidence that was later discredited.
The authorities knew about four other eyewitnesses with a completely different
story about the crime, but they never shared that information with the defense,
as they were constitutionally required to do. I spent 7 miserable years in
prison, until my conviction was reversed on appeal. I was released in 1990, but
my family was under a cloud of presumed guilt for almost two decades. In 2008,
another man confessed that he and a friend committed the murders.
Unfortunately, my experience is not unique. Wrongful convictions are a serious
problem in our state. 59 people have been exonerated after being convicted of a
crime in Ohio, with over 1/2 of them wrongfully convicted of murder.
In 2014, the Ohio Supreme Court Joint Task Force on the Administration of
Ohio's Death Penalty published a report that included more than 50
recommendations to make the state's death penalty system more fair and
accurate. The report included reforms to increase accuracy in sentencing,
reduce racial disparities and provide better lawyers for people who cannot
3 years have gone by and nothing has changed. The legislature has not
implemented a single substantial reform. So expect more Dale Johnstons down the
road. But don't expect that we will catch every mistake before it's too late.
In the rush to carry out 27 back-to-back executions, someone innocent could
well be on the gurney.
Executions have been on hold for 3 1/2 years in our state. Has anyone missed
them? Ohio has more-important priorities to focus on. Our elected leaders
should be fixing the opioid crisis, improving mental-health care, helping
small-business owners, and getting people better-paying jobs.
We are better off without the death penalty. One estimate said that the death
penalty costs Ohio taxpayers at least $16.8 million each year. We should spend
that money saving and improving people's lives, rather than taking their lives.
For what it costs to prosecute, appeal, and carry out 1 death sentence, we
could buy thousands of Narcan kits, which are used to counteract the deadly
effects of an opioid overdose. This is no small thing: in 2015 alone, Ohio
first responders administered almost 20,000 doses of the life-saving drug.
In the 3-plus years since Ohio last had an execution, which was botched,
lawmakers have done very little to address victims' families' needs or make
changes to prevent wrongful convictions. Instead, the State has spent tens of
thousands of dollars trying to get execution drugs. We are better than this.
Life without parole keeps the public safe and allows time to discover and
correct wrongful convictions like mine. The alternative is unthinkable: the
state-sponsored killing of an innocent human being. Rather than rushing to
executions, the governor should be rushing to implement the reforms in the Ohio
Supreme Court Joint Task Force.
I hope Gov. Kasich hears this message. That is why several exonerees from
Ohio's death row - Joe D'Ambrosio, Derrick Jamison, Kwame Ajamu, Wiley
Bridgeman, and me - have started a petition at http://otse.org/kasich_letter/.
We are living proof that wrongful convictions and death sentences happen and we
hope you will join us in signing this letter to the governor. Let's leave the
power of life and death in God's hands, where it belongs.
(source: Dale Johnston lives near Columbus; Opinion, Columbus Dispatch)
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