death penalty news----ARIZ., NEV., CALIF., USA
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Rick Halperin
2017-06-17 13:40:59 UTC
June 17


Juan Martinez Gets More Time to Mull Death Penalty for Serial Street Shooter

Deputy County Attorney Juan Martinez has been granted more time to decide
whether to seek the death penalty for suspect Aaron Juan Saucedo for the first
murder that police say kicked off the Serial Street Shooter slayings, according
to court filings reviewed this week.

More than a month has passed since the Phoenix Police Department named Saucedo,
23, as the man responsible for a dozen shootings and nine deaths in 2015 and

So far, Saucedo has only been charged with the murder of his mother's
boyfriend, Raul Romero. County prosecutors are biding their time before seeking
charges in the other 8 deaths.

If convicted of all 9 murders, Saucedo would share the distinction with
Baseline Killer Mark Goudeau as the deadliest serial killer in Arizona history.

Typically, the team of prosecutors reviewing a case gives itself 30 days to
file charges, Martinez's boss, County Attorney Bill Montgomery told reporters
the day after Saucedo was named. That arbitrary and informal deadline came and
went last week, to much media musing.

The reporting pack paid less attention to Martinez's motion on May 30, when he
asked a judge to give him 60 more days to declare if he would seek the death
penalty. The judge granted the request.

Martinez has a courtroom reputation for being brash, sarcastic, and aggressive.
Some defense attorneys would add sneaky to that list, but Martinez is
unapologetic. He's trying to win and take a brutal killer off the streets, he
often says.

He earned an international reputation and legions of critics and admirers for
putting boyfriend-killer Jodi Arias away for life in a sensational 2013 trial.

In the Saucedo case, his legal filing did not explain his thinking.

What comes closer to explaining the case against Saucedo is another recent
court record outlining the possible witnesses.

In the motion filed June 5, prosecutors say they could call any of 3 dozen
Phoenix cops, detectives, and crime-scene specialists.

In addition, prosecutors listed employees of 2 pawnshops on Indian School Road
in Phoenix. One was Mo Money Pawn, where police said they traced a 9 mm
Hi-Point pistol used in Romero's shooting.

But authorities revealed for the 1st time publicly that Windy City Pawn Shop,
just over a mile to the west, also played some role in the case.

Nothing hints at the possible significance of the 2nd pawn shop. In court
documents filed to establish that police had sufficient evidence to hold
Saucedo for the other 11 shootings, police said their suspect used 3 guns. They
did not say where he bought them.

Also June 5, authorities listed an employee at First Transit. Saucedo worked
there as a city bus driver in 2015 and received a traffic ticket after being
caught on camera running a red light.

Police said unidentified coworkers recognized Saucedo from the artist's sketch
they released a year ago. He apparently left that job around the time police
first questioned him in December. Court records at the time of his April arrest
showed he was a laborer since around the new year.

Prosecutors disclosed as possible witnesses a man who lives about three miles
east of most of the killings, and another who lives near Interstate 17 and
Camelback Road.

2 men living near the crime scene at 920 East Montebello Avenue in central
Phoenix also likely will be called as witnesses. Saucedo's mother, Maria
Saucedo-Ramos and two women with her dead boyfriend's surname were also listed.

In filings earlier this week, Saucedo's lawyers began mounting a defense for
the only crime he's been formally charged with, Romero's murder.

Saucedo's team says that the state lacks evidence, that he didn't do it, and
that he was mistakenly identified. They also say he has good character and
lacked motive.

So that lone case against Saucedo churns slowly toward trial.

(source: Phoenix New Times)


Man on trial for 2008 double murder sang song about killing wife

In the late 1980s, Thomas Randolph would walk around singing the lyrics to
"Foolish Behaviour" by Rod Stewart, a former friend testified Friday during the
Las Vegas man's double murder trial.

"Or should I act quite cold and deliberate," the lyrics go. "Or maybe blow out
her brains with a bullet?/They'll think suicide, they won't know who done
it/I'm gonna kill my wife, I'm really gonna take her life."

Prosecutors launched the evidence portion of Randolph's trial on charges that
he hired a hitman to kill his wife in 2008 before fatally shooting the hitman
by telling jurors about the 1986 death of Randolph's 2nd wife, Becky Gault.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Jacqueline Bluth pointed to similarities in
Gault's death and the killings of Randolph's 6th wife, Sharon Clausse, and
Michael James Miller, a man authorities said Randolph groomed to kill Clausse.
He is facing the death penalty.

Gault's body was found tucked in her waterbed inside the couple's Clearfield,
Utah, home with a bullet to the right side of her head, and a coroner ruled
that she died by suicide. But prosecutors thought the positioning of the gun in
her right hand was unusual for a self-inflicted gunshot, and Randolph stood to
gain more than $530,000 from the death, so they tried him for murder.

Randolph ultimately was acquitted, but he pleaded guilty to tampering with a
witness for offering an undercover cop a car title and cash to kill Eric
Tarantino, the star witness in the Utah case.

Tarantino told authorities about a year after Gault's death that Randolph had
asked him to kill her. After Tarantino refused, he warned Gault and fled town.

Defense attorneys said Randolph was angry because he knew Tarantino had slept
with Gault.

The lyrics to the tune Randolph would hum end with the words: "It was all a
very nasty dream."

But prosecutors said Randolph had the same motive to kill in 2008. He would
receive upward of $360,000 after Clausse's death. A week before she died,
Randolph received a letter responding to an inquiry he made about his wife's
life insurance policy.

Bluth pointed to "2 stories of 2 men 20 years apart who never even met each
other, yet their stories are the exact same ... Their friendship and their job
was to kill 2 women, the wives of Thomas Randolph. And the only reason Mike
Miller is dead is because Eric Tarantino lived to tell the story, and Thomas
Randolph was not going to make that mistake again."

Deputy Special Public Defender Randall Pike told jurors that Randolph knew
nothing of Miller's home invasion or plan to kill Clausse. Randolph's marriage
was steady, money wasn't a problem and the couple talked of buying property in
Utah, while fixing up their northwest Las Vegas home before the killings.
Randolph married Clausse in 2006, and the couple renewed their vows a year

"Things were going good, but they weren't going good for Mr. Miller," Pike
said. "They had started moving toward the marriage they hoped this was going to

A man who finds wife shot dead has a "right, an obligation" to make sure the
threat is gone, Pike said.

Prosecutors plan to tell jurors 2 of Randolph's other wives are dead from
apparent illness. Should he be convicted of 1st-degree murder in the 2008
killings, his 2 living ex-wives are expected to testify at a penalty phase that
he threatened to kill them.

(source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)


Kern County jurors describe turmoil of deliberations during death penalty trial

Accusations were made and frustrations shown, tears fell and tempers rose, and
in the end further progress in reaching a unanimous decision was deemed

It was an emotional, grueling week for the jury that sat on the trial of
convicted killer Dennis Bratton.

While it convicted Bratton of an assault charge in the stomping death of
cellmate Andrew Keel, it deadlocked 10-2 Thursday after three days of grueling
deliberations on whether Bratton should get death or life without parole.

5 jurors who voted for death spoke with The Californian on Friday about the 4
1/2-month trial and the discussions that occurred. They asked not to be
identified by name given the sensitivity of the issues involved, instead asking
to be identified by juror number.

The biggest reason they decided to speak out? They wanted to deny allegations
made by defense counsel that they bullied the two dissenting jurors.

Juror No. 3 said the two dissenting jurors entered the jury room with their
minds already made up when it was time for deliberations. They felt Bratton
could change and didn't deserve to die.

One of the dissenting jurors, juror No. 12 said, told the rest of the jury she
was stubborn and had her own reasons for not voting for death. This juror said
she could sentence someone to death only for "certain cases," and did not
elaborate what those cases were, juror No. 12 said.

The jurors said the 2 dissenting jurors barely participated as the others
deliberated. Juror No. 11 said one of them spent the entire time drawing and
just went along with everything the other dissenting juror said.

Juror No. 12 said the rest of them weren't bothered the 2 jurors were voting
for life without parole, they just wanted them to participate. She said she
wanted to hear their opinions.

"We were trying to have open and honest discussions," juror No. 7 said.

Multiple jurors told the court they didn't believe the 2 dissenting jurors were
participating as required by law and as they'd sworn to do. The judge
questioned several jurors individually but found no evidence of a juror
refusing to participate.

The 5 said they never cursed at or disparaged the 2 dissenting jurors, or
otherwise treated them badly.

"We don't like being looked at as bullies," juror No. 4 said.

Once the mistrial was declared, a couple jurors shed tears. The 5 said the
trial, which they've been involved in since February, was an intense experience
that left them exhausted. And disappointed.

"I feel like we failed Andrew Keel and there's no justice for his family,"
juror No. 11 said.

Keel's sister, Jessica McCoy, sent an email to jurors thanking the 10 who voted
for death. She said she knows they "gave their all" in the trial and looked at
her brother as a human being, not just another inmate.

The 5 said a number of factors convinced them Bratton deserved death.

While defense counsel argued Bratton killed Keel in self-defense, there were no
wounds on Bratton's body with the exception of bruising on his heels and knees.
His past convictions also swayed them, the jurors said, as did his continuing
to get into trouble up to shortly before the trial began.

"My biggest concern is he's going to do this again and affect another family,"
juror No. 7 said.

Just 6 months before trial, Bratton knocked another inmate unconscious for
beating him at handball, prosecutor Andi Bridges told the jurors during her
closing argument.

The 5 jurors commended Bridges' work. Juror No. 7 said she was "fantastic" and
did a "great job."

McCoy, in an email to The Californian, echoed that sentiment.

"Andi never treated this like just another case and another inmate," she wrote.
"She has laughed with me and cried with me. She put in endless hours taking
time away from her family to fight for mine.

"She is one of a kind and I could not have asked for a better prosecutor
fighting for us."

The 5 jurors took issue with some remarks made by Deputy Public Defender Paul
Cadman, particularly when he told the jury the prosecution was going to ask
them to become "killers" and turn the jury room into a "death chamber."

In response, Cadman said the following:

"The mob mentality of jurors whipped into a frenzy to kill a person who had
been convicted of no sex offenses and no crimes against children spread like a

"I personally spoke to the 2 jurors who did not know each other before this
trial began and they were shaking, crying and very emotional at the terrible
treatment they received from the other 10 jurors."

Cadman added 1 of the dissenting jurors was questioned by the judge and said,
under oath, she deliberated and participated in the proceedings.

The attorney said he remains "nonplussed" at the idea of some jurors wanting to
replace others who held the value of life to a higher standard.

As for his "killers" comment, Cadman said, "When you vote for death in a death
penalty case you vote for homicide. That means you vote to kill, and thank
goodness there were 2 non-killers out of the bunch who saw that Dennis Bratton
isn't even close to the worst of the worst."

On May 16, 2013, Bratton stomped and strangled Keel, crushing his skull.

Bridges said the killing was planned and Bratton bragged about it afterward. In
2010, Bratton stomped another inmate who required lifesaving brain surgery.

The jury convicted Bratton May 17 of assault by a life prisoner with force
likely to produce great bodily injury. He was serving a life term for a 1996
bank robbery in San Diego County at the time he killed Keel.

(source: bakersfield.com)


Killer who shot his ex-wife and 7 others he dubbed 'collateral damage' at a
Californian salon utters courtroom apology as he fights the death penalty

A man who killed 8 people in a shooting rampage 6 years ago at a California
hair salon uttered a courtroom apology as victims' relatives voiced outrage
over sentencing delays.

Scott Dekraai pleaded guilty in 2014 to killing his hairstylist ex-wife and 7
others at the Seal Beach salon in 2011. His lawyer wants him spared the death

'I'm sorry. I'm very, very sorry,' Dekraai said in his first public sign of
remorse on Thursday's hearing.

Dekraai spoke and wiped his eyes moments after Bethany Webb, the sister of
victim Laura Webb Elody, criticized him for referring to those killed as
'collateral damage.'

'You can't give me back what you took,' Webb replied. 'I'm sorry, you can't
apologize for this. . You will never give me back what was stolen from me,'
reported the Orange County Register.

Dekraai, the ex-husband of one of the victims, went on the shooting spree at
Salon Meritage, just blocks from the Pacific Ocean in the seaside resort of
Seal Beach, California, after losing custody of his child.

Those who were killed in the massacre included young mothers, a newlywed woman
doing her elderly mother's hair and a hard-working business owner, all of whom
simply happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Victims' relatives are upset by sentencing delays. A decision on whether
Dekraai should face death or life in prison has been postponed because of
allegations that jailhouse informants were improperly used to secretly elicit
information from Dekraai and suspects in other cases.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Goethals has been holding hearings
on whether the Sheriff's Department withheld information about the use of
informants in the murder case.

Paul Wilson, whose wife Christy Lynn Wilson was killed, said his father and
father-in-law are suffering from advanced cancers.

'It is awful and pathetic to know they may not live to see the coward that took
Christy's life brought to justice,' Wilson told the judge.

A county grand jury report released blamed problems on rogue jail deputies and
said there was no evidence of a conspiracy involving key law enforcement

The allegations also have prompted state and federal investigations.

(source: dailymail.co.uk)


ABA asks Supreme Court to require adequate funding for post-conviction

The Supreme Court should reject a decision from the New Orleans-based U.S. 5th
Circuit Court of Appeals making it harder to investigate post-conviction legal
claims, the ABA said in an amicus brief filed Friday.

The brief (PDF) was filed in Ayestas v. Davis, in which Carlos Manuel Ayestas
asked the courts for funds to hire a specialist he believes should have been
employed by his original attorneys. Federal law permits that funding when a
court finds that it's "reasonably necessary" for the representation of the
defendant. In 2016, the 5th Circuit found that those like Ayestas must show a
"substantial need" - a standard he says is virtually impossible to meet without
the funding needed to develop the case.

The ABA's amicus brief supports that argument, calling the appeals court's rule
"restrictive and circular."

"The 'substantial need' rule effectively requires counsel to establish a viable
claim on the merits before the Circuit will authorize the funding needed to
investigate the merits," the amicus brief says.

Ayestas is arguing his original counsel was ineffective, and effective
assistance requires attorneys to "conduct an independent and adequate
investigation of the facts," the brief notes. That's supported by the ABA's
Death Penalty Guidelines and Criminal Justice Standards. In fact, the brief
says, an ineffective assistance claim is particularly likely to need some extra
investigation, since the record from prior court proceedings is unlikely to
contain the required information if the prior attorney was ineffective. And the
ABA Death Penalty Representation Project has found that when assistance was
ineffective, it's often due to failure to fund investigators or experts.

That's a problem, the brief says, because the 5th Circuit's ruling sets up a
Catch-22 for defendants like Ayestas: He can't get the funding he needs to hire
an investigator without showing a court the facts that the investigator would
be hired to uncover. This is a higher standard than the federal statute at
issue, which requires that the funds be "reasonably necessary" for the defense,
the brief says. Effectively, it closes the door to criminal defendants,
functioning as a preliminary ruling on the merits.

"Such an outcome threatens more than attorneys' ability to act consistent with
professional standards," the brief says. "It threatens also the integrity,
fairness, and reliability of the habeas process, of capital sentences, and
ultimately of our criminal justice system."

(source; abajournal.com)

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