Month: June 2012

ARIZONA – Samuel Villegas Lopez – Executed 10:37 a.m June 27 2012


June 27, 2012 Source :

Samuel Lopez, who stabbed a Phoenix woman to death in 1986, was executed today at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Florence, three days before his 50th birthday.

Lopez had no last words.

No members of Lopez’s family were present, witnesses said. Eight members of the family of Estefana Holmes, his victim, spoke with reporters after the execution.

Victor Arguijo, Holmes’s brother, who traveled with other family members from Fort Worth, Texas, said, “We are not here to seek vengeance nor to avenge, but to seek justice for our family. This execution today will not bring our beloved Tefo back, but hopefully will bring closure.”

Lopez’s final meal consisted of one red chili con carne, one green chili con carne, Spanish rice, a jalapeño, an avocado, cottage cheese, French fries, a Coke, vanilla ice cream and pineapple.

The execution procedure began shortly before 10 a.m., as a group of six prison medical team members inserted intravenous catheters into Lopez’s arms. Lopez chatted with them and winced slightly, as government representatives, media, attorneys and Holmes’s family members watched on closed-circuit TV. Then prison officials opened the curtains between the death chamber and the witness area. The execution began at 10:08 a.m. and ended at 10:37 a.m., taking more than twice as long as recent prior executions.

Lopez blinked, yawned, breathed rapidly, then his mouth dropped open, witnesses said.

On Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court declined without comment his appeal for a stay. One aspect of Lopez’s death marked a departure from prior recent executions in Arizona, including three earlier this year, after extended legal disputes. For the first time, the Department of Corrections allowed witnesses to watch, via close-circuit cameras, as executioners inserted the intravenous catheters that deliver the fatal drug, pentobarbital, into the condemned man.

Previously, the department only allowed the curtain between observers and the inmate to be pulled back after the catheters were in place. Where and how the catheters were inserted in earlier executions led to legal accusations that the department was engaging in cruel and unusual punishment. Corrections officials have said that problems finding suitable veins in the condemned man’s arms or legs have forced them to insert catheters into the groin area.

As in past executions, Lopez was told by officials that his microphone would be cut off if he said anything offensive. In March, as convicted murder Robert Towery was being executed, officials refused his requests to speak with his attorney as medical staff repeatedly stuck him without being able to find a vein, eventually using his groin area. Towery communicated with his attorney by code during his last words.

Defense attorneys in Arizona have repeatedly brought these issues to court; the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that no part of an execution should be shielded from media witnesses.

Lopez was convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering Holmes in her apartment in central Phoenix in 1986. He stabbed the grandmother and seamstress more than 23 times and slashed her throat with her own kitchen knives after a fierce struggle. A few days later, while being interviewed by police investigating an unrelated sexual-assault incident, Lopez mentioned details of Holmes’ murder that hadn’t been released to the public, police said. His attorneys, on appeal of his 1987 conviction and death sentence, argued that those details had been common knowledge in the neighborhood.

Lopez’s attorney, Kelley Henry, an assistant federal public defender, criticized the execution and said Lopez was denied due process. “This broken process began at trial where untrained attorneys failed to raise crucial evidence about Sammy’s horrific and abusive family history. It continued up until this week as the courts refused to hear the merits of Sammy’s claims because of procedural barriers,” she said.

Lopez’s attorneys had sought stays in both state and federal courts. In state court, they argued that he couldn’t get a fair hearing before Arizona’s Board of Executive Clemency, and that a majority of the five members had been improperly appointed as political cronies of Gov. Jan Brewer. In federal court, they argued that state courts hadn’t adequately considered factors that should have mitigated against a death sentence for Lopez, such as his brutal upbringing and a mental impairment caused by his childhood abuse of inhalants and other drugs.

On May 15, Arizona’s Supreme Court stayed his execution, originally set for that day, to allow a lower court to consider the argument that new clemency board members hadn’t received all the training required by state law. But last Friday, the court turned down his attorneys’ request for a second stay of execution, after a lower court ruled that there had been enough time for the training to be completed.

Also last Friday, Arizona’s Board of Executive Clemency denied Lopez’s bid for a commutation to life without parole. More than a dozen members of Holmes’ extended family spoke at the board hearing in favor of his execution.

A small group of protesters braved the heat Wednesday to demonstrate against the death penalty, but were kept away from the prison by state troopers.

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ARKANSAS – 10 killers manage to delay justice again


June 26, 2012 Source : http://arkansasnews.com

Arkansas can continue to sentence killers to death, but can’t execute them, thanks to a 5-2 state Supreme Court ruling Friday that declared the Arkansas Method of Execution Act was unconstitutional.

Executions haven’t been happening anyway. Arkansas hasn’t carried out a death sentence since 2005, when Eric Randall Nance paid the ultimate penalty for murdering an 18-year-old Malvern cheerleader in October 1993. An Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article said Nance had come upon Julie Heath standing beside her broken-down car alongside U.S. 270.

He stabbed her in the throat with a box cutter. The state was kinder to him, using a lethal injection of sodium pentathol.

Since then the convicted killers on Arkansas’ Death Row, with the help of their lawyers, have managed to delay justice.

Their latest success came in a lawsuit filed jointly by 10 killers against the Arkansas Department of Correction challenging a 2009 law that had been passed by the General Assembly in an attempt to correct deficiencies cited in a previous lawsuit over the lethal injection process.

Five members of the court agreed that in the 2009 law the Legislature “abdicated its responsibility” by giving the Department of Correction too much discretion to decide how to carry out lethal injections, thus violating the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers.

The law specifies that the death sentence is to be carried out by lethal injection of “one or more chemicals, as determined in kind and amount in the discretion of the director of the Department of Correction.” The 10 killers offered a litany of other charges, just in case something else worked better, but that’s the one the court found most compelling.

One of the killer’s lawyer, Jeff Rosenzweig of Little Rock, told a reporter that there was nothing in the law to prevent the director “from using rat poison or Drano or whatever to do an execution.”

He knows that’s a ludicrous suggestion because the U.S. Supreme Court would quickly rule rat poison to be “cruel and unusual.” Perhaps the state should go back to using the electric chair instead of messing with drugs, which seem to offer all sorts of avenues for delay.

In a well-reasoned dissent, Associate Justice Karen R. Baker pointed out that the “separation of powers” argument had previously been rejected in similar death penalty challenges in Texas, Delaware, Idaho and Florida, all of which had assigned responsibility for determining the procedures to the relevant administrative agency.

Separation of powers in American government is intended to prevent one branch from usurping the powers of another by establishing a series of checks and balances. There cannot and should not be a wall between the three branches. The state Supreme Court, for example, did not consider it a violation when ordering the Legislature to change its method of financing public schools.

While the majority opinion written by Associate Justice Jim Gunter specifically said the court was not suggesting “what modifications to the statute would pass constitutional muster,” the decision did just that. The Legislature clearly must specify what drugs will be used to carry out lethal injections administered to convicted killers.

Lest we forget, the guilt of these 10 men was not contested. Following, from court records and news reports, are their crimes.

Jack Harold Jones Jr., in 1995 raped and murdered a Bald Knob bookkeeper, Mary Phillips, and beat her 11-year-old daughter so severely that police first thought she was dead.

Jason Farrell McGehee was one of three men who kidnapped, tortured, beat, strangled and burned John Melbourne to death in 1996 after accusing the 15-year-old of snitching on them for stealing.

Bruce Earl Ward in 1989 attempted to rape and then strangled an 18-year-old Little Rock convenience store clerk, Rebecca Lynn Doss. He had previously been convicted of voluntary manslaughter for the 1977 strangulation of a woman in Pennsylvania.

Marcel Williams was convicted in the 1994 rape and murder of Stacy Errickson, 22, after kidnapping her from a Jacksonville convenience store, where the mother of two had stopped to get gas.

Frank Williams Jr., fired by Clyde Spence in 1992 from a farm job , came back and killed Spence.

Terrick T. Nooner, while robbing a Little Rock laundromat in 1993, shot to death a college student, Scot Stobaugh, 23.

Kenneth Williams was convicted in 1999 of murdering a Lincoln County farmer, Cecil Boren, 57, after Williams escaped from the Cummins Unit prison. In 1998 he had kidnapped a couple from a restaurant where they had stopped for lunch after church. He robbed and shot both of them. Dominique Hurd, 19, a University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff cheerleader, died; her boyfriend survived.

Don W. Davis was sentenced to death for the 1990 execution-style slaying of Jane Daniel, 62, of Rogers. He also stole various items, including jewelry, from her home and was first scheduled for execution in 1999.

Alvin Bernal Jackson, already in prison for the 1990 murder of Charles Colclasure and attempted killing of two other people, got the death penalty after stabbing prison guard Scott Grimes to death with a homemade knife in 1995.

Stacy Eugene Johnson in 1993 stripped, beat, strangled and slit the throat of Carol Jean Health, 26, at her De Queen apartment while her 6-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son hid in a closet.

The Supreme Court justices need to figure out how to carry out the responsibilities of the judicial branch and administer justice to these men.

Lawyer: Zimmerman Is No Threat, Should Be Released


June 25, 2012  Source : http://www.huffingtonpost.com

ORLANDO, Fla. — The jailed neighborhood watch volunteer charged with killing Trayvon Martin poses no threat to the community and should be released a second time on bail, his attorney said in a court motion released Monday

George Zimmerman’s attorney asked that Zimmerman be granted bond for a second time as he awaits a second-degree murder charge in the 17-year-old Martin’s shooting death during a confrontation in February in a gated community in Sanford, Fla. His attorney says Zimmerman isn’t a flight risk and stayed in touch with law enforcement during his initial release on bail.

A judge will consider the request at a second bond hearing Friday.

Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty, claiming self-defense.

The neighborhood watch volunteer was granted a $150,000 bond last April but it was revoked earlier this month after prosecutors accused Zimmerman and his wife of misleading the court about how much money they had raised from donations to a website. Prosecutors say they had raised at least $135,000 from the website created by Zimmerman.

During the hearing, Zimmerman’s wife, Shellie, testified that the couple had limited funds to use for bail since she was a fulltime nursing student and he wasn’t working. Zimmerman did nothing to correct her as she testified by telephone due to safety concerns. Prosecutors say jailhouse calls between Zimmerman and his wife a few days before the hearing show the neighborhood watch volunteer instructing his wife on how to transfer funds raised by the website to her account.

Zimmerman’s wife, Shellie, was later charged with making a false statement.

“Mr. Zimmerman’s failure to advise the court of the existence of the donated funds at the initial bail hearing was wrong and Mr. Zimmerman accepts responsibility for his part in allowing the court to be misled as to his true financial circumstances,” Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara wrote in the motion.

O’Mara also will ask Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester to reconsider his decision to make public all of Zimmerman’s jailhouse calls and the statement of an unnamed witness. O’Mara said most of the calls aren’t subject to the state’s public records laws and the witness statement is irrelevant and could prejudice a potential jury.

Attorneys for two sets of media groups filed motions Monday arguing there was no need for the judge to reconsider his decision.

“There should be no further delay in the public’s access to these public records,” attorney Scott Ponce wrote in a motion for one media group that includes The Associated Press.

ARKANSAS – Arkansas high court blocks use of death penalty


June 22, 2012 Source : http://articles.chicagotribune.com

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (Reuters) – The Arkansas Supreme Court on Friday ruled unconstitutional the law allowing the state to carry out the death penalty, siding with 10 Death Row inmates who argued that only the legislature, and not the prison system, can decide the method of execution.

The ruling effectively barred the state from carrying out the death penalty. Arkansas has 40 men on Death Row but the state has not executed anyone since November 28, 2005, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed in 2010 by Death Row inmate Jack Harold Jones against Ray Hobbs, the director of the Arkansas Department of Correction.

Jones, who was later joined in the suit by nine other inmates, argued that a 2009 law giving the department and its director authority to choose the drugs administered in executing inmates by lethal injection violated the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches.

The court decided on a 5 to 2 vote that the legislature had improperly given the prison system “unfettered” discretion over execution procedures.

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, a Democrat, said through his spokeswoman that he will consider what steps to take next.

“The death penalty is still the law in Arkansas, but the Department of Correction now has no legal way to carry out an execution until a new statute is established,” spokeswoman Stacey Hall said in an email response.

“He will review what the options are, talk to the Attorney General, key legislative leaders, and will study the way other states have handled these rulings,” Hall said. “He hopes to have a proposed remedy in the next few months.”

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, also a Democrat, said he respected the court’s decision and would consult with various parties to decide how to move forward.

In 2009, the legislature gave the director of the prison system the choice of one or more drugs to carry out death sentences. The law stated that if lethal injection is found unconstitutional, electrocution would be used.

But as a result of the state Supreme Court ruling, the legislature will need to draft and pass a new death penalty statute. It is unclear whether the law will now revert to a 1983 statute that was enacted when the state opted to use lethal injection, though that law also was challenged.

In a dissent to Friday’s majority ruling, two justices said the prison system had to follow constitutional restrictions against cruel and unusual punishment in administering the death penalty. Other states give their prison systems leeway, the dissenting justices said.

METHOD AT ISSUE

Thirty-three U.S. states have the death penalty. Disputes over the method of execution has become a hurdle to carrying out death sentences in some states, notably California and Maryland, said Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center.

OHIO – JOHN ELEY – EXECUTION JULY 26, 2012 COMMUTED


UPDATE :

July 11, 2012

On July 10, Ohio Governor John Kasich (pictured) granted clemency to death row inmate John Eley, who was scheduled to be executed on July 26.  Eley’s sentence was reduced to life in prison without parole. The governor said he based his decision on evidence that Eley acted under the direction of another person, and that his mental capacity was limited, saying, “Without those factors it is doubtful that Eley would have committed this crime.” The prosecutor in the case and one of the judges who sentenced Eley to death called for mercy. The Ohio Parole Board voted 5-3 against recommending clemency.  Those who voted for clemency said that Eley’s crime was not one of the “worst of the worst,” and that similar crimes rarely receive death sentences. This is the third death-row clemency granted by Gov. Kasich, including two issued in 2

The Ohio Supreme Court summarized the facts of the case as follows:

During the early afternoon of August 26, 1986, Eley was visiting Melvin Green at the home of Green’s girlfriend in Youngstown. Accordingto Eley, he and Green were just sitting around when Green suggested that they go down to the “Arab store.” Eley and Green left the house and proceeded down a path through the woods leading to the Sinjil Market.
Along the way, Green showed Eley a “Black Snub nose gun,” and told Eley he “was going to take the Arab off.” Since the proprietor of the store, Ihsan Aydah, knew Green’s face, Eley agreed to go in alone and rob the store while Green waited outside.
Eley entered the store and told Aydah to put his hands up and to turn and face the wall. Green had told Eley that Aydah had a gun under the store counter, so when Aydah lowered his hands and went under the counter, Eley fired a shot. Eley claimed that he aimed at Aydah’s shoulder. However, the shot hit Aydah on the right side of his head, approximately four inches above the earlobe. Aydah died the next day of shock and hemorrhage due to a gunshot wound to the head.Just before Eley fired the gun, Green entered the store. After the shot, Green ran behind the counter and got into the cash register. He took Aydah’s wallet while Aydah lay wounded on the floor. As the two left the store, Green gave Eley a brown paper bag with the money and wallet. According to Eley, they went up the street, “got to the path and run up the woods.”. . .

Several days after the murder, Eley was arrested by Youngstown police at the residence of his cousin’s girlfriend, Carlotta Skinner. After his arrest, Eley told police that he and Green had split the money taken in the robbery, which was around $700. However, Eley later gave the money back to Green “because he said it was all on him and he had to get out.”
. . .
[After being arrested, i]n his voluntary statement Eley admitted that he and Green had robbed the Sinjil Market, and that he shot Aydah. [The arresting officer] testified that Eley did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs during the interview and was “very calm” and “passive.” The grand jury indicted Eley on one count of aggravated murder
with a specification that the murder was committed during, or immediately after, the commission of an aggravated robbery
According to an affidavit of trial counsel, before trial Eley refused to accept various plea offers that were conditioned on Eley’s testimony against Green, including an offer of a voluntary manslaughter charge with a six-year sentence. that Eley was the principal offender. This count also carried a firearm specification. In addition, Eley was indicted on one count of aggravated robbery (R.C. 2911.01[A][1] and [2]) and one count of conspiracy (R.C.2923.01[A]). Each count carried a firearm specification.
In May 1987, Eley waived his right to a jury trial and opted for a trial before a three-judge panel. Eley pled not guilty to the charges against him, there by withdrawing a prior plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. . . .
Trial was held before a three-judge panel on May 11–12, 1987, but the defense chose not to present any evidence. The panel found Eleyguilty of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, the felony-murder capital specification, and two of the three firearm specifications, but no guilty of conspiracy. During the mitigation hearing, several family members testified
on Eley’s behalf. Eley’s mother, Cecilia Joseph, divorced Eley’s father when Eley was seven or eight years old, and stated that Eley had “not much” of a relationship with his father. Joseph testified that on Christmas night 1964, her second husband had been drinking and began choking her and her daughter. At that time, Eley stabbed the second husband with a knife in order to stop him. Joseph testified that Eley dropped out of high school in the ninth grade, but later entered the Job Corps and learned to be a welder. Eley sent money home to his mother during this time, and gave her money to help her finish paying for nursing school. Joseph stated that while Eley has had problems with drugs and alcohol, he is a better person when he is not under the influence. She characterized Eley as “church oriented,” and believed he had been “born again.”
Eley’s sister, Susan Laury, testified that Eley had helped the family financially while he was in the Job Corps, and that Eley is normally a “quiet, sweet, gentle person that wouldn’t hurt anybody.”Dr. Douglas Darnall, a clinical psychologist, found Eley to be of borderline intelligence, and ranked him in the twelfth percentile on theWechsler Adult Intelligence Test. According to Darnall, Eley has a history of chronic alcohol and polysubstance abuse, but exhibited “no evidence of psychosis or major defective disorder.” In addition, Darnall testified that Eley understands the difference between right and wrong. Darnall found Eley to be remorseful, but Eley never mentioned that he felt remorse for the victim. However, two police officers who witnessed Eley’s confession testified that Eley was remorseful before he made that statement. Eley made a short unsworn statement at the mitigation phase that consisted of several biblical quotations from the Book of Romans.

After deliberation, the panel unanimously found that the aggravating circumstance outweighed the mitigating factors beyond a reasonable doubt, and sentenced Eley to death. Upon appeal, the courtof appeals affirmed the convictions and sentence of death.

TEXAS – Yokamon Hearn – EXECUTION JULY 18, 2012 – URGENT ACTION FROM AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL


Picture of Offender

Name
TDCJ Number
Date of Birth
Hearn, Yokamon L. 999292 11/06/78
Date Received
Age (when Received)
Education Level
12/31/98 20 10 years
Date of Offense
Age (at the Offense)
County
03/26/98 19 Dallas

FROM AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

URGENT ACTION
TEXAS SET TO KILL ANOTHER YOUNG OFFENDER

pdf file 
Yokamon Hearn is scheduled to be executed in Texas on the evening of 18 July for a murder committed in 1998, when he was 19 years old. His lawyers maintain that he has a mental disability that would render his execution unconstitutional.
Yokamon Laneal Hearn was sentenced to death for the murder of 23-year-old stockbroker Joseph Franklin (Frank) Meziere, committed in Dallas in March 1998. Frank Meziere was shot in the head 10 times after being abducted by four youths who wanted to steal his car. All four were charged with capital murder. According to the prosecution, Yokamon Hearn had fired six of the 10 shots while another of the suspects, Delvin Diles, had fired four. After the Hearn trial, the prosecution offered Delvin Diles a plea deal under which he would waive trial by jury and avoid the possibility of the death penalty. Delvin Diles, aged 18 at the time of the shooting, pleaded guilty to capital murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1999. The other two co-defendants, aged 19 and 20 at the time of the crime, pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and were sentenced to 10 years in prison.
In addition to Yokamon Hearn’s youth at the time of the crime – he was 19 years old – there is evidence that he has a
developmental mental disability. His lawyers assert that this impairment amounts to “mental retardation” and that his
execution would therefore be unconstitutional under the June 2002 US Supreme Court decision Atkins v. Virginia which prohibited the execution of offenders with such a disability. Yokamon Hearn’s “Atkins claim”, however, has run into the problem that he has achieved IQ scores higher than what is normally considered to be an indicator of “mental retardation”. His lawyers have obtained expert opinion that, despite his IQ scores, his disability nonetheless amounts to retardation and that he should still qualify for Atkins relief. The courts have disagreed.
In sworn statements given in 2006, Yokoman Hearn’s three co-defendants described him as a teenager in 1998 who was a follower not a leader. Their statements and other evidence of his conduct during and after the murder are
supportive of claims that his actions were those of an immature and impaired individual rather than the result of a planning and calculating intellect. Delvin Diles recalled that it had been his idea, not Hearn’s, to kill Frank Meziere. The other two recalled that before they went to commit robbery there had been no plan to kill anyone.
Since resuming executions in 1982, Texas has killed at least 70 people in its execution chamber who were aged 17, 18 or 19 at the time of the crimes in question. More than half of these teenagers were African American, of whom 70 per cent were convicted of crimes involving white victims. Yokamon Hearn is one of at least 40 prisoners now on death row in Texas for crimes committed when they were 18 or 19. More than half of them, like Yokamon Hearn, are black. Frank Meziere was white.


Please write immediately, in English or your own language, citing Yokamon Hearn’s Inmate No. #999292:
Explaining that you are not seeking to excuse the murder of Frank Meziere or to downplay the suffering caused;
 Noting evidence of Yokamon Hearn’s mental disability and that he was only 19 at the time of the crime;
 Opposing the execution of Yokamon Hearn and calling for his death sentence to be commuted.


PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 18 JULY 2012 TO:
Clemency Section, Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
8610 Shoal Creek Blvd. Austin, TX 78757-6814, USA
Fax: 011 512 467 0945
Email: bpp-pio@tdcj.state.tx.us
Salutation: Dear Board members
Governor Rick Perry, Office of the Governor,
PO Box 12428, Austin, Texas 78711-2428, USA
Fax: 011 512 463 1849
Salutation: Dear Governor

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Yokamon Hearn was about 20 minutes from execution on 4 March 2004 when he was granted a stay by the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to give the courts more time to consider his “Atkins claim”. In the Atkins ruling, the US Supreme Court had not defined mental retardation, although it pointed to definitions used by professional bodies. Under such definitions, mental retardation is a disability, manifested before the age of 18, characterized by significantly sub-average intellectual functioning (generally indicated by an IQ of less than 70) accompanied by limitations in two or more adaptive skill areas such as communication, self-care, work, and functioning in the community. The Court left it to the states as to how to comply with the ruling. Today, a decade after the Atkins ruling, the Texas legislature has still not enacted a law to comply with it. In the absence of such legislation, in 2004 the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA) issued temporary guidelines. Success on Yokamon Hearn’s Atkins claim became less likely in 2006 when his IQ was assessed as high as 93.
However, his lawyers obtained expert opinion concluding that he had structural brain dysfunction, possibly as a result of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome caused by his teenage mother’s alcohol abuse during pregnancy with him, and that his impairment still amounts to mental retardation. In 2008, a US District Court concluded that Yokamon Hearn had made a prima facie showing of mental retardation. This federal judge eventually sent the case back to the Texas courts where in 2010 the TCCA ruled against Yokamon Hearn, while noting that the Texas legislature had, eight years on, failed to enact legislation to enforce the Atkins ruling. The TCCA said that, “without significantly greater assistance from the legislature” it would adhere to its 2004 guidelines, including the “about 70” language in relation to IQ, which it took to represent a “rough ceiling, above which a finding of mental retardation in the capital context is precluded”. The Fifth Circuit ruled against Hearn in January 2012, noting that the US Supreme Court had explicitly left it up to states as to how to comply with the Atkins ruling, and that “it would be wholly inappropriate for this court, by judicial fiat, to tell the States how to conduct an inquiry into a defendant’s mental retardation”.
In its 2005 ruling prohibiting the death penalty against anyone who was under 18 at the time of the crime (Roper v. Simmons) the US Supreme Court recognized the immaturity, impulsiveness, poor judgment and underdeveloped sense of responsibility associated with youth, as well as the susceptibility of young people to “outside pressures, including peer pressure.” The Court also acknowledged that “the qualities that distinguish juveniles from adults do not disappear when an individual turns 18.” Indeed, scientific research shows that brain development continues into a person’s 20s. In 1993, in the case of a Texas death row prisoner who was 19 at the time of the crime, the Supreme Court had emphasised that: “youth is more than a chronological fact. It is a time and condition of life when a person
may be most susceptible to influence and to psychological damage. A lack of maturity and an underdeveloped sense
of responsibility are found in youth more often than in adults… These qualities often result in impetuous and illconsidered actions and decisions.”
Before the Atkins ruling in 2002, Texas accounted for more executions of people with “mental retardation” than any other state in the USA. Before the Roper ruling in 2005, Texas accounted for more executions of people under 18 at the time of the crime than any other state. Texas accounts for some 37 per cent of the national judicial death toll, which currently stands at 1,296 since 1976 when the US Supreme Court allowed executions to resume under revised state laws. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases. Yokamon Hearn is scheduled to become
the 483rd person to be put to death in Texas since it resumed executions in 1982. There have been 19 executions in the USA so far in 2012, five of them in Texas.
For further information on Yokamon Hearn’s case, see ‘USA: Senseless killing after senseless killing: Texas inmate
with mental disability claim facing execution for murder committed as teenager’, June 2012,
http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR51/042/2012/en
Name: Yokamon Laneal Hearn (m)
Issues: Death penalty, Legal concern
UA: 166/12
Issue Date: 7 June 2012
Country: USA

DELAWARE – Chester man gets death sentence for ’94 murder – Wayne Smith


June 23, 2012 Source : http://www.delcotimes.com

MEDIA COURTHOUSE — A second Delaware County jury has decided on a death sentence for a Chester man who was convicted nearly two decades ago in the murder of 26-year-old Eileen Jones.

Jurors deliberated for about six hours before returning the repeat-decision for Wayne Smith. The decision capped a life-or-death battle among expert witnesses, which played out this week in a penalty phase trial resulting from Smith’s death-sentence appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Smith, now 56, reportedly showed no reaction when the decision was announced, or when Judge James Bradley remanded him to death row at SCI Rockview — where his death by lethal injection would be imposed. No execution date has been set. The last person to be executed in Pennsylvania was Gary M. Heidnik, on July 6, 1999, under former Gov. Tom Ridge.

Smith is currently serving time in a Greene County prison for the Nov. 18, 1994, strangulation of Jones. The Eddystone mother of two was three months pregnant at the time of death.

Assistant District Attorney Erica Parham, spokeswoman for the D.A.’s office, said she anticipates further legal proceedings.

“However, we are very satisfied with the decision of the jury,” she said. “The jury appropriately determined that the defendant’s prior conviction for voluntary manslaughter of a bar patron with a machete, a commonwealth aggravating factor, outweighed any mitigating factor presented by the defense.”

Under Pennsylvania law, death by lethal injections can only be sought in cases in which aggravating circumstances are present.

Smith was one of two men charged in 1980 in the fatal stabbing of a Chester resident in a bar. He pleaded guilty to a manslaughter charge and served a two- to four-year jail term.

The previous conviction was one of two aggravating circumstances cited by the prosecution in 1995. The second was that Jones’ killing occurred during the commission of a second felony of attempted rape.

Parham noted that Ed Martin, Jones’ father, was in the courtroom throughout the week and left about an hour before the jury returned with a decision, shortly before 7:30 p.m.

“He bravely endured the proceedings this week,” Parham said “He has felt the loss of his daughter since 1994. His presence showed his commitment to justice, and the Office of the District Attorney is just as committed.”

Smith was convicted of first-degree murder in May 1995 and given a death sentence. At that time, after the verdict he turned and apologized to the victim’s family for the strangulation.

“I’ll never forgive myself,” said Smith. “I just hope that in time the family and her kids will forgive me,” he added, while beginning to cry.

Jones’ partially clothed body was fished from the waters of Ridley Creek near Ninth Street — between the Chester and Eddystone border — on Nov. 22, 1994.

During the initial trial, the prosecution claimed Smith killed Jones after she rejected his sexual advances. Defense counsel Raymond Williams argued Smith killed the woman while in a cocaine-induced frenzy.

According to testimony given at trial this week, Smith had made an arrangement with Jones that she would give him sex in exchange for cocaine. After several hours spent with the victim, the sexual encounter occurred in a park near the Ninth Street Bridge, where the victim was later found.

Smith told police that at some point the two began wrestling on the ground, according to a statement read in court. He then became afraid that Jones, who is white, would say Smith had raped her. Smith said he did not believe a jury would believe him because he is black.

He strangled the woman and dragged her to the creek where her body was later discovered. Smith would have had to strangle Jones for two-and-a-half to three minutes to choke the life out of her, according to former Delaware County Medical Examiner Dr. Dimitri Contostavlos.

Smith initially lied to police about the murder, but later confessed, according to a taped statement played for the court.

He appealed the death penalty sentence to the state Supreme Court. The court affirmed the murder conviction in 2010, but ordered a new hearing on the death penalty. Because the murder conviction was upheld, only two options remained open to the new jury: Life imprisonment or death.

full story : click here 

Jerry Sandusky Guilty: Verdict Reached In Child Molestation Trial Of Former Penn State Football Coach


June 22, 2012 Source : http://www.huffingtonpost.com

Jerry Sandusky Guilty Verdict

BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Jerry Sandusky entered the Centre County Courthouse Friday as one of the most celebrated figures in the history of Penn State sports. He left a convicted child molester.

Following two days of jury deliberations, Sandusky was found guilty Friday of molesting several young boys.

The 68-year-old could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Sandusky was convicted of 45 of 48 criminal counts related to the alleged assault of 10 boys over a 15-year period. The allegations led to the ouster of the late Penn State University president and long-time coach Joe Paterno, who died in January.

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Prosecutors said Sandusky was a “predatory pedophile” and a “sick, disturbed man,” who targeted “the most vulnerable kids, kids in need.”

Defense lawyer Joe Amendola said Sandusky was the victim of a grand conspiracy and that prosecutors provided no physical evidence to prove he had molested anyone. Because of the allegations, “everything [Jerry Sandusky] ever loved, everything he’s ever built, and everything he’s ever stood for — it’s gone,” Amendola said.

George Zimmerman’s Reenactment Of Trayvon Martin Shooting (VIDEO)


june 21, 2012 Source :http://www.huffingtonpost.com

ORLANDO, Fla. — George Zimmerman appears believable when he re-enacts for police what he says led to the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, but some of his statements are questionable, lawyers who reviewed the footage Thursday said.

Watch here : video 

Even a detective who interrogates the neighborhood watch leader in an audio recording points out inconsistencies in his story, particularly Zimmerman’s claim that Martin confronted him, punched him and slammed his head onto the ground when the teenager had no prior history of violence.

Detective Chris Sereno asks Zimmerman whether he was profiling Martin because he was black, a claim Martin’s parents have made.

“You know you are going to come under a lot of scrutiny for this,” Sereno said. “Had this person been white, would you have felt the same way?”

“Yes,” said Zimmerman, who father is white and his mother Hispanic.

The video and audio tapes released by Zimmerman’s attorney give Zimmerman’s most detailed account yet of what led to the Feb. 26 shooting. They were released almost a week before Zimmerman’s second bond hearing on a second-degree murder charge, and on the heels of unflattering telephone calls capturing Zimmerman and his wife talking in code about using money collected for a defense fund to pay credit cards.

Zimmerman claims he shot the unarmed 17-year-old Martin teen in self-defense, under Florida’s “stand your ground” law.

Martin’s parents have said Zimmerman was the aggressor. They said Martin was walking back from a convenience store through the gated community in Sanford when Zimmerman spotted Martin and started following him.

In the video ( ), Zimmerman said he grabbed his gun from a holster on his waist before Martin could get it, and shot Martin once in the chest as they fought on the ground outside townhomes in a gated community. After firing, Zimmerman said he thought he missed. http://apne.ws/KWquJX

“He sat up and said, `You got me. You got me, or something like that,'” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman said Martin had been on top of him, slamming his head against the ground and smothering his mouth and nose with his hand and arm. The tape shows two butterfly bandages on the back of Zimmerman’s head and another on his nose. There are red marks on the front of his head.

It felt like my head was going to explode,” he said.

Criminal defense lawyers who reviewed the video for The Associated Press and have no connection to the case said there were some parts that didn’t add up.

“He came across as being straight-forward,” attorney David Hill said. “I didn’t see him being too slick on the details.”

Hill said the video didn’t show him to be the zealous “cop-wannabe” that Martin’s parents have portrayed.

Zimmerman claims Martin confronted him after the neighborhood watch leader had given up searching for him and was walking back to his truck. But there doesn’t appear to be a place to hide in the area where Zimmerman says Martin suddenly appeared, Hill pointed out.

Zimmerman’s injuries also don’t appear to be consistent with the severity of the attack he described, Hill said.

Attorney Blaine McChesney said he found parts of Zimmerman’s re-enactment difficult to envision, such as his account of how he was able to reach for his gun with Martin on top of him. Zimmerman said he got on top of Martin after the shooting to restrain him.

“I also find it strange that Zimmerman would have attempted to use both his arms to hold Martin facedown, re-holstering his firearm, given those circumstances,” McChesney said. “Once out from under Martin’s alleged attack, it would have been more logical to hold Martin at gunpoint from a few feet away until police arrived.”

In one of the audio recordings, Sereno tells Zimmerman three days after the shooting that Martin was a “good kid, mild-mannered kid.”

Sereno tells Zimmerman that Martin, an athlete with an interest in aeronautics, was “a kid with a future, a kid with folks that care.” The detective said Martin only had a bag of Skittles and an iced tea on him when he died.

“Not a goon,” Sereno said.

He asked Zimmerman to explain why he doesn’t have bruises on his body or broken ribs. The two dozen punches Zimmerman claims he took are “not quite consistent with your injuries,” Sereno said.

Benjamin Crump, the attorney for Martin’s parents, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Thursday. But appearing on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight,” Crump said Zimmerman’s credibility is the issue.

“Everybody’s going to have to look at this for what it is,” Crump said. “You’ve got objective evidence, and then you’ve got George Zimmerman’s versions. You put them up against one another and we know that written statement that he did that night doesn’t match up to that 911 tape.

“And there are other inconsistencies, and when we see the lie, we’ve got to call it out and say, there’s his credibility again, and that’s the important thing.”

Zimmerman called police after spotting Martin walking around the neighborhood and the dispatcher told him not to follow the teen. For reasons that are still unclear, Zimmerman kept up his pursuit, even getting out of his truck. He lost sight of Martin and was walking back to his truck when Martin confronted him, Zimmerman said.

“Do you have a problem?” Zimmerman said, quoting Martin.

If Zimmerman’s account his accurate, he has a viable “stand your ground” defense, McChesney said.

Zimmerman’s attorney has the option of asking for a “stand your ground” hearing in which he will present Zimmerman’s account to a judge and ask that the charge be dismissed without going to trial.

Zimmerman’s second bond hearing will be June 29. His $150,000 bond was revoked earlier this month after prosecutors said Zimmerman and his wife, Shellie, misled the court about how much money they had available for bail. Shellie Zimmerman was charged last week with making a false statement.

Defense attorney Mark O’Mara said his client will be shown to have told the truth about the incident, even though the statement regarding the Zimmermans’ finances was shown to be false.

“The attacks on Mr. Zimmerman’s credibilities are going to pale in comparison to the undeniable, objective evidence,” he said.

Luka Magnotta’s Lawyer Doesn’t Want Psychiatric Evaluation For Alleged Cannibal, Necrophiliac


June 21, 2012 Source :http://www.huffingtonpost.com

MONTREAL — A Canadian porn actor accused of dismembering his Chinese lover and mailing his body parts around the country appeared in person before a judge for the first time and requested a trial by jury.

The parents of Luka Magnotta’s alleged victim watched on a video screen at the Thursday hearing.

Magnotta’s lawyer did not seek a psychiatric evaluation for his client at the hearing in Montreal, even though the defense team had said it would. Defense attorney Luc Leclair offered no explanation about why no evaluation was requested.

Magnotta, 29, has pleaded not guilty to five charges, including first-degree murder, in the death of university student Jun Lin.

The hearing focused on setting the date for Magnotta’s next court appearance. The suspect was told he would face a preliminary hearing in March when evidence against him will be disclosed.

That means it will be well into next year before the trial starts in a case that horrified Canadians and sparked an international manhunt that led to Magnotta’s arrest in Berlin earlier this month.

Jean-Pascal Boucher of the Quebec prosecutors’ office said it was “normal delay” and the court date was “relatively soon considering the availability of both counsel and the judge and room.”

Leclair asked for trial by jury, which would take longer than a trial before a judge. He also told Judge Jean-Pierre Boyer he was concerned his client wasn’t receiving proper care.

“I want to express my concern for his physical well-being and his mental well-being,” Leclair said.

The judge agreed to make a request to ensure that Magnotta received medication, but he placed a publication ban on the type of medication.

Magnotta’s physical appearance in court was a surprise. Security around the suspect has been very strict, and he entered his plea of not guilty via videoconference at his arraignment Tuesday.

Wearing a plaid shirt and jeans, Magnotta kept his eye on the judge from behind a glass partition, flanked by two guards. Four other guards stood outside the glass box.

Lin’s parents, who traveled to Canada from China upon learning of their son’s death, watched the proceedings on a screen in a separate room, Boucher said.

The case emerged after a package containing a severed foot was opened at Canada’s ruling Conservative Party headquarters on May 29. Other body parts were later found at a postal facility, a garbage dump outside Magnotta’s apartment building in Montreal, and in packages mailed to two schools in Vancouver.

Investigators say Magnotta posted a video online showing him having sex with the dismembered corpse. A second, unedited version of the video seen by police shows him eating parts of the body.

DNA tests have confirmed that all the body parts belong to Lin, a Chinese national studying computer science at Concordia University. His head is still missing.