Month: October 2012

FLORIDA – Jacksonville man faces death penalty again after getting life in first murder case. DeShawn Leon Green


Octobre 30, 2012 http://m.jacksonville.com

For the second time, the state is attempting to put DeShawn Leon Green on Death Row.

Tuesday the state began prosecuting Green, 28, in the murder of Robert Lee Kearney and the attempted murder of Katherine George. The two were both victims of a drive-by shooting outside Jacksonville’s Confederate Point Apartments in March 2009.

Police said Kearney, 24, and George, then 20, were outside the apartments when a vehicle pulled up and more than a dozen shots were fired from a rifle. Prosecutors are arguing that Green fired those shots with a AR-15 assault rifle he’d nicknamed “Baby.”

Assistant State Attorney Richard Mantei said Green shot the two because friends of his had been shot at earlier in the night by Kearney, and Green was out for revenge.

“The defendant in this case pulled the trigger at least 13 times,” Mantei said to the jury. “He was there to settle a score.”

But defense attorney Francis Shea argued that the real shooters blamed Green and pointed the finger at Bruce Brice Jr., the man police believe Kearney fired a gun at earlier in the night but didn’t wound.

When police questioned Brice and another witness, they didn’t mention Green at all. It wasn’t until months later that they fingered Green as the culprit, Shea said.

“Mr. Brice had everything at risk,” Shea said. “While Mr. Green had no motive.”

Green was previously convicted in the August 2009 shooting of Willie Golden, 28, in a home on West 26th Street. The prosecution withdrew seeking the death penalty because the jury said premeditation wasn’t proven.

Prosecutors said Green killed Golden in retaliation of a drive-by shooting on a drug house that Green ran just two streets over from the shooting.

Green also faces a third trial for the murder of Bryan Clemons, 23, who was gunned down with an assault rifle in April 2009 as he sat in a chair in a home on West 13th Street.

The Clemons killing was the result of an ongoing dispute between two groups of men from Green’s Grand Park neighborhood and the nearby Flag Street area.

The dispute began in November 2008 when the two groups fought over a drink thrown at a nightclub. The next day, Clemons’ brother, Jerry, was slain in a drive-by shooting at West 14th and Canal streets.

Green is also eligible for the death penalty in the killing of Clemons.

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TEXAS – Execution – Donnie Lee Roberts – 31/10/2012 – EXECUTED 6.39 p.m


“I’m really sorry. I never meant to cause you all so much pain,” Roberts said to Bowen’s father, who was seated in a chair close to a glass window in the death chamber viewing area. “I hope you can go on with your life.

“I loved your daughter. I hope to God he lets me see her in heaven so I can apologize to her and see her and tell her.”

Roberts also asked two of his friends who watched through another window to tell his own daughter he loved her.

He repeated that he was sorry and took several deep breaths as the lethal dose of pentobarbital began taking effect. He snored briefly before slipping into unconsciousness, and was pronounced dead 23 minutes later.

Last Meal: Same shit salad being fed to every other thug on the row that day

October 30, 2012  http://www.beaumontenterprise.com

This handout photo provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety shows Donnie Roberts. Roberts, a Louisiana parole violator, is set to die Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, for killing his girlfriend Vicki Bowen at her home in Lake Livingston, Texas, in October 2003. Photo:  Texas Department Of Public Safety / AP

HUNTSVILLE, Texas  — Donnie Lee Roberts, convicted in his girlfriend’s 2003 slaying, was taken from his death row cell Wednesday and moved to the Texas prison where executions are carried out, one of the final steps before his scheduled lethal injection.

After the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review Roberts’ case earlier this week, no additional appeals were filed to try to block his execution, which will be the 12th this year in the nation’s most active capital punishment state.

Roberts, now 41, is being put to death for fatally shooting Vicki Bowen and taking items from her East Texas home to sell or trade to support his drug habit. At the time of his arrest for the October 2003 killing, Roberts had violated his probation for a robbery conviction in Louisiana by fleeing to Texas after dropping out of a drug treatment program.

Authorities said he apparently met Bowen, 44, a dental assistant, at a bar and moved in with her at her home on Lake Livingston, about 75 miles northeast of Houston. Their relationship soured because Roberts wasn’t working and was abusing drugs and alcohol, investigators said, and he shot Bowen after she refused his demand for money.

Roberts was arrested at a suspected crack house in Livingston when a truck missing from Bowen’s home was spotted there the same day Bowen’s body was discovered.

“He was cooperative and confessed several times,” District Attorney Lee Hon said. “He was saying he wanted the death penalty.”

Roberts told authorities he made several trips from the house where Bowen was shot, collecting property that he took into town to sell and trade for crack.

He also surprised detectives by confessing to the shotgun death of a man a decade earlier in Natchitoches Parish, La. Louisiana authorities initially believed the victim, Al Crow, had died of asphyxiation in a fire at the camper trailer where he was living but reopened the case following Roberts’ disclosure, found shotgun pellets and determined it was a homicide.

Roberts was charged with murder but not tried for Crow’s death.

Stephen Taylor, one of Roberts’ lawyers at his Texas capital murder trial, said the confessions complicated his trial defense.

“It’s almost like somebody saying he was a serial killer, that he’s killed before and he killed again,” Taylor said. “It’s one thing to say you have the right to remain silent. Use it!

“It’s always sad for someone to lose his life, especially for something so stupid.”

Bowen didn’t show up for work on Oct. 16, 2003, and a co-worker who went to check on her found her body wrapped in a blanket and lying in a pool of blood. A medical examiner determined Bowen was killed with two gunshots to her head.

Roberts took the witness stand and tried to blame Bowen for the gunfire, saying he was acting in self-defense by grabbing a .22-caliber rifle after seeing her reach down inside a couch to locate a pistol that was kept there.

“The jury obviously disagreed,” Hon said.

Evidence at trial showed Roberts had a record for battery while being held in jail in Fulton County, Ga., that he’d threatened his wife to give him money for drugs, and that he demanded a single-person cell in Polk County when he was jailed for Bowen’s murder or there would be another killing.

His robbery conviction in Louisiana was for a Mother’s Day 2001 convenience store holdup in Baton Rouge, La., where the knife-wielding Roberts threatened to slice the throat of the female clerk.

“He was a bad dude, pretty violent,” Hon said.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Polunsky Unit, where the state’s male death row is housed, has been Roberts’ home since his capital murder conviction in 2004. The unit is just outside Livingston and not far from where Bowen was killed.

On Wednesday, Roberts was moved about 45 miles west to the Huntsville Unit prison, where he is to be executed.

Three more Texas prisoners are set to die in November, including one next week.

Supreme Court To Hear Texas Death Row Inmate’s Case – Carlos Trevino


October 29, 2012 http://www.texastribune.org

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Monday to hear the case of Texas death row inmate Carlos Trevino in a case that could determine whether a defendant in Texas has a right to “competent” attorney during habeas appeals — a challenge to a criminal conviction that considers whether the defendant’s constitutional rights were violated during his trial.

In March, the nation’s highest court decided inMartinez v. Ryan that the failure of state habeas lawyers to argue that their client’s trial counsel was ineffective should not keep the defendant from being able to make that argument later in the appeals process.

The question in the Trevino case is whether the court’s decision in Martinez applies in Texas, said Trevino’s lawyer, Warren Alan Wolf. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decided in November 2011 that since the laws governing habeas appeals in Texas are different from those in Arizona, the Martinez decision does not apply.

Wolf said he had expected the court to select the case of John Balentine, another Texas death row inmate, as the one with which to decide the question. Balentine was an hour away from execution in August when the court granted him a stay to decide whether his state habeas attorney should have raised claims that his trial counsel had been ineffective. His trial lawyer, Balentine contended, failed to consider mitigating evidence that might have convinced jurors to sentence him to life rather than death.

Dissenting from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals’ refusal to grant Balentine a hearing, two judges wrote that, “The issue of Martinez v. Ryan’s applicability to capital habeas petitioners in Texas presents an issue of exceptional importance.”

Trevino was convicted in 1997 of the rape and murder of 15-year-old Linda Salinas at a park in San Antonio. At the time, he was a member of the Pisteleros gang, and several other members were charged for the murder. Trevino was the only one sentenced to death.

Trevino’s first habeas attorney, Albert Rodriguez, did “no investigation” outside of the record that already existed, Wolf said, and then became sick and “didn’t want to proceed.” As a result, he explained, “Carlos never really got fair representation.

SOUTH DAKOTA – EXECUTION DONALD MOELLER, 10/30/2012 EXECUTED 10.24 P.M


Before being given a lethal injection at a South Dakota penitentiary, Moeller, 60, was asked if he had any last words.

‘No sir,’ he said, then added: ‘They’re my fan club?’

Donald Moeller, 60, received a lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Sioux Falls, marking South Dakota’s second execution this month in an unusual surge for a state that has carried out just two other death sentences since 1913. He was pronounced dead at 10:24 p.m.

last meal Tuesday of scrambled eggs, link sausage, tater tots and drip coffee.

OCTOBER 30,2012 http://www.chicagotribune.com

This frame grab provided by KELO-TV shows convicted killer Donald Moeller during a court appearance in Sioux Falls, S.D., Wednesday, July 18, 2012.  Ronal Moeller  Taken: Becky O'Connell was in the fourth grade when she set out to walk a few blocks from home to buy sugar to make lemonade, but never returnedBecky O’Connell

(Reuters) – A man convicted of raping and murdering a 9-year-old girl after kidnapping her from a convenience store in 1990 is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Tuesday night in South Dakota, the state’s second execution this month.

Donald Moeller, 60, who had declared his innocence and fought for two decades to prevent his execution, admitted during a court hearing in early October that he had committed the crime and stopped appeals that would further delay his death sentence from being carried out.

His execution is scheduled for 10 p.m. Central Time on Tuesday at the state prison in Sioux Falls.

According to court records, Moeller abducted Becky O’Connell from a Sioux Falls convenience store where she had gone to buy candy and repeatedly raped and stabbed her. Her body was found in a wooded area the next morning with extensive knife wounds.

Moeller was convicted of rape and murder and sentenced to death in 1992, but was granted a new trial after the state Supreme Court ruled that testimony of previous attempted sexual assaults on three other people should not have been permitted.

Moeller was convicted and sentenced to death again in 1997. He continued appeals until recent weeks but at a federal court hearing in early October he admitted the crimes.

“If the rape and murder of Rebecca O’Connell does not deserve the death penalty, then I guess nothing does,” Moeller told the judge, according to court records.

Executions have been rare in South Dakota. Before this year, the state had put to death only two inmates since 1913. On Oct 15, it executed Eric Robert on October 15 for the killing of prison guard Ron Johnson during a failed escape attempt.

If Moeller’s lethal injection is carried out on Tuesday, he will be the 34th inmate executed in the United States in 2012, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

South Dakota covers up source of death penalty drugs ahead of execution


Prison authorities in South Dakota are refusing to release information on contaminated drugs made to order for an execution tonight (30 October).

The so-called ‘DIY drugs’ – doses of the barbiturate pentobarbital produced by a compounding pharmacy for the South Dakota Department of Corrections (DOC) – were used to execute Eric Robert earlier this month, with alarming results. Robert’s eyes opened during the lethal injection process, a sign that he may not have been properly anaesthetised and the execution may have been botched.

The ingredients used to make the drugs used in Eric Robert’s execution – and set to be used this evening in that of Donald Moeller – were found to have been contaminated with fungus.

However, despite these indications that the drugs may be faulty, and therefore carrying a risk of unnecessary suffering for the prisoner, South Dakota has thus far refused to disclose any information on how they were obtained.

The drugs are known to have been made by a compounding pharmacy – a service which allows batches of drugs to be made up to order, thereby allowing customers to bypass mainstream pharmaceutical suppliers which face more comprehensive regulation. The compounding pharmacy industry has been in the spotlight lately after reports linked it to a widespread outbreak of meningitis in the US.

South Dakota DOC had previously intended to use drugs they had illegally imported from a supplier in India in the executions, but these drugs expired last month.

Maya Foa, investigator for the legal charity Reprieve said: “The use of these DIY execution drugs means that we have little idea of just what is being injected into prisoners’ veins. It is no surprise that prison authorities appear so desperate to cover up any information on where they have come from, or who made them. The South Dakota Department of Corrections must come clean: it is indefensible for the ultimate punishment to be carried out in this slipshod and unaccountable manner.”

TEXAS – Death Row inmate didn’t commit murders, witnesses say – Lester Leroy Bower,


October 29,2012 http://www.star-telegram.com

SHERMAN — In a day of dramatic testimony Monday, two women implicated a gang of drug dealers in the 1983 slaughter of four men in a Grayson County airplane hangar.

After 29 years on Texas’ Death Row for the crimes, Lester Leroy Bower, who was a chemical salesman living in Arlington when he was arrested, hopes their accounts will help him win his freedom, or at least a new trial.

One of the women, identified in court as Witness No. 1, said her boyfriend told her that he participated in the killings on the October night they happened.

“He said he and his friends had gone there for a drug deal,” the witness said. “It didn’t go right and they had to kill some people.”

The boyfriend was identified in court as Lynn. Others in the gang were identified as Bear, Ches and Rocky, part of a methamphetamine ring operating in southern Oklahoma at the time, she said.

Several days after the killings, the woman testified, she heard Lynn and Ches discussing it.

“Ches was laughing, telling Lynn, ‘Did you see the guy’s face when you shot him in the head?'” the witness testified. “Lynn said, ‘I had to shoot him. He was running for the door.'”

The witness, who said she was the mother of a slaying victim, said she went to Bower’s defense lawyers in 1989 after learning that Bower had been convicted and faced the death penalty.

“As the mother of a homicide victim, I know how important it is to make the right person pay for what they did,” the witness testified. “I don’t believe Mr. Bower is that person.”

Bower’s lawyers have filed an appeal with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, arguing that new evidence points to the innocence of their 64-year-old client, the fourth-oldest man on Death Row. The appellate court ordered state District Judge Jim Fallon to hold this week’s hearing in Sherman, in part to build a record of testimony that can be used later in a decision on Bower’s fate.

Bower, a graying man dressed in orange prison coveralls, also testified Monday, the first day of the hearing.

The condemned man, who did not take the stand at his 1984 trial, denied killing the men but said his own lies contributed to his conviction. Bower admitted lying repeatedly to investigators to try to steer clear of the case, and to his wife, fearing that she would have been upset by his secret purchase of an ultralight aircraft.

Bower said he bought the aircraft from the victims shortly before they died.

“This is my doing,” Bower said Monday. “I’m responsible for my actions, my trying to stay out of this and lying to authorities. Lying to my wife, that’s probably where this started.”

Monday was the first time the testimony of Bower and other defense witnesses had been heard in state court. When Bower was sentenced to die, state law specified that new evidence could not be presented unless it had been discovered within 30 days of the conviction. That law has changed.

Some time after this week’s hearing, Fallon is expected to issue a ruling that could suggest upholding the conviction, recommend that Bower be released, or recommend a new trial. Ultimately, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will decide the case.

Grayson County prosecutors have vigorously contested alternate theories presented by the defense, saying Bower was convicted on the basis of strong circumstantial evidence. That included Bowers’ repeated lies to FBI agents and that he was known to have owned a firearm and exotic ammunition similar to that used in the crimes. Additionally, parts of the ultralight aircraft were discovered in his home.

The victims — Bob Tate, Philip Good, Jerry Mack Brown and Ronald Mayes — were found shot to death in a hangar five miles from Sherman, the Grayson County seat.

During Monday’s hearing, friends and relatives of the victims sat on one side of the crowded courtroom, supporters of Bower on the other. Robbie Dutton, Brown’s widow, listened from the first row, just behind the prosecution table.

“Just rehashing, you know,” she said of her feelings after Monday’s testimony concluded. “We’re not wanting him to be punished for something he didn’t do, but the evidence presented in 1984 was so damning.”

Nothing she heard Monday changed her belief in Bower’s guilt, she said.

“It’s hard to hear all of this again,” Dutton said.

Witness No. 1 testified that she was told of the killings hours after they occurred, while she and Lynn drove through Sherman.

“When he told me about all this, it was like my whole world shifted at that point,” she said. “It was like I just stepped into a TV movie.”

She also described her boyfriend’s behavior in the days after the killings.

“He would have a hard time sleeping,” she said. “He would have nightmares. He would be up pacing. He said he could see the man’s eyes he shot and he could hear the noise reverberating off the tin building.”

The second witness, identified as Witness No. 5, said she was the wife of Bear, who died of cancer five years ago. She testified that several times she heard her husband and the other men talk about a shooting in an airplane hangar in which four men were killed.

“I believe they committed the crime, yes,” she said.

Grayson County prosecutor Kerye Ashmore attacked the credibility of both women, citing their heavy drug use at the time of the slayings, and in the case of Witness No. 1, a felony conviction for forgery.

Bower also faces what likely will be a vigorous cross-examination as the hearing resumes today.

On Monday, Bower described meeting the men in the hangar and paying $3,000 cash as a down payment for the ultralight. But he hid his purchase.

“I was concerned how my wife would react,” Bower said. “I was quite sure she would not have approved.”

He said he was stunned and frightened when he heard of the slaughter a few days after it happened. The following January, FBI agents tracked Bower down through telephone records of his calls to one of the victims. When questioned, he said, he admitted inquiring about the aircraft but did not say he had visited the crime scene.

“Once I headed down the proverbial bad path, I kept on going,” Bower said. “I told them the same lie.”

 

California’s longest-serving death row inmate spared execution – Douglas Stankewitz,


October 30,2012 http://www.chicagotribune.com

SACRAMENTO (Reuters) – A federal appeals court has overturned the death sentence of California’s longest serving death row inmate, a 54-year-old Mono Indian man convicted in 1978 for killing a woman during a drug- and alcohol-fueled carjacking.

Douglas Stankewitz, who has spent 34 years awaiting execution, will be re-sentenced to life without the possibility of parole unless prosecutors decide within 90 days to retry the penalty phase of his trial, which would consider punishment only, not guilt or innocence.

The decision late on Monday by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals comes just a week before Californians vote on a referendum to abolish the death penalty in the state.

A federal judge halted all California executions in 2006, saying a three-drug lethal injection protocol risked causing inmates too much pain and suffering before death. California revised its protocol, but executions have not resumed.

An appeals court panel, in a 2-1 decision, ruled that Stankewitz received ineffective legal counsel during the penalty phase of his murder trial, when he was sentenced to die.

His lawyer, they wrote, failed to investigate and present evidence “including evidence of his deprived and abusive upbringing, potential mental illness, long history of substance abuse and use of substantial quantities of drugs leading up to the murder.”

In a recent interview with Reuters inside San Quentin State Prison, Stankewitz called the death penalty “a joke,” and described how long delays in the appeals process, coupled with ineffective counsel, had led to him spending more than three decades waiting to die.

“They can’t kill me because the system is messed up so bad,” Stankewitz told Reuters during that interview.

Stankewitz suffered alcohol exposure in the womb, was removed from his home at age 6 after his mother beat him and bounced between foster care facilities where he was severely troubled and abused, court documents show.

He was 19 when he and a group of friends carjacked Theresa Graybeal, 22, from a K-Mart parking lot in Modesto and drove across California’s rural heartland to Fresno, roughly 100 miles away. There, Graybeal was shot and killed.

TEXAS – Death penalty case reviewed – FARYON WARDRIP


October 26, 2012  http://www.timesrecordnews.com

A federal magistrate judge for the Northern District of Texas, Paul D. Stickney, is trying to decide what will happen with the death penalty case of convicted serial killer Faryion Wardrip in the appeals process.

Wardrip was sentenced to death in 1999 after being convicted of the murder of 20-year-old Terry Sims. He received life sentences for three other murders — Toni Gibbs, Ellen Blau and Debra Taylor.

Wardrip murdered at least four women in the North Texas area in the mid-1980s. The cases were unsolved for years.

Wichita Falls District Attorney Maureen Shelton was in Dallas on Wednesday to hear the appellate hearing.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals confirmed the death penalty decision.

“Once that happens, it switches over, and they can file a federal writ,” Shelton said. “The federal writ was filed Dec. 31, 2002.”

A district judge, Joe Fish, passes the case to Stickney, who makes a ruling on the case. Fish then decides whether to adopt the decision.

In July, 2008 Stickney ruled that he would allow a new punishment hearing because the defense attorney wasn’t effective, Shelton said. Fish approved the ruling April 19, 2010.

“Once that happened, the state of Texas is represented by the attorney general’s office in federal court.

The attorney general’s office appealed that decision to the Fifth Circuit, which is controlling over our area in New Orleans. The Fifth Circuit agreed with the state of Texas and vacated the district judge’s order,” Shelton said.

On June 10, 2011 Stickney and Fish were instructed by the Fifth Circuit to rework the case. Wednesday’s hearing is the result of the previous decisions.

“Once the magistrate issues his next ruling, and if the district judge adopts that, then the losing party, odds are, will appeal it,” Shelton said.

If the Fifth Circuit affirms the original decision for the death penalty, Wardrip’s attorneys can appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court does not have to hear the case.

No matter the outcome of the appeal, Wardrip still has three consecutive life sentences to serve for the deaths of Gibbs, Blau and Taylor.

Shelton said the murders were the most horrific she has ever known about in Texas.

“It’s the worst serial murder we’ve had in, certainly, our history, and I’d say even nationally this is a horrific serial murderer,” Shelton said. “I don’t know how you don’t seek the death penalty for somebody like that.”

When the case comes back to the state court, an execution date can be set.

Wardrip was sentenced to 35 years in prison for the death of Tina Kimbrew in 1986, and under old parole laws, was paroled after serving 11 years in prison.

According to a previous Times Record News story:

The time he spent in prison for Kimbrew’s death is at the heart of the appellate issue going through the federal system.

Wardrip’s request for relief on grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel during his trial included the assertion that his attorney — then-public defender John Curry, who has since died — should have presented evidence from his time in prison. Wardrip claimed the evidence should have shown he took classes, wrote for a prison newspaper and took part in a fundraiser for a young man with medical needs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TEXAS – A Death Row Struggle Between Advocates and Lawyers – Preston Hughes III


October 25, 2012 Texas Tribune

LIVINGSTON — Preston Hughes III, a death row inmate, is 46 but seems much older, with white hair, thick glasses and a quiet, slow voice that rises only when the subject of his lawyer comes up.

Mr. Hughes, convicted in 1989 of fatally stabbing two young people, has tried multiple times to dismiss his court-appointed lawyer, Patrick McCann. He said that Mr. McCann, who has been his lawyer for 14 years, had not raised his claims of innocence and is “helping the state cover this up.”

Mr. McCann says he cannot comment on why he will not pursue these claims, which were not introduced in Mr. Hughes’s original trial. But Texas and federal law set a high burden of proof for new claims of “actual innocence” so late in the judicial process, a bar that Mr. McCann said was “almost impossible” to meet.

Mr. Hughes, who says he did not commit the murders, is scheduled to be executed Nov. 15. He says all of his lawyers have failed him. “They just want to do things on their own,” he said recently from death row in Livingston.

While Mr. McCann is suing the state over lethal injection procedures, arguing that prison officials would be “experimenting” on his client, a handful of advocates are publicizing what they believe is new evidence of Mr. Hughes’s innocence.

The advocates, who do not have legal training, are campaigning for Mr. Hughes’s exoneration and supporting his efforts to have Mr. McCann fired.

The issue of advocates’ doubting the work of lawyers is common in death penalty cases, especially as an execution date nears.

“Once the lawyers do the spadework, a lot of people want to come in,” said Jeff Blackburn, a lawyer who runs the Innocence Project of Texas, “and they don’t understand that we’re limited with the art of the possible here.” He called Mr. McCann a “great lawyer.”

The official facts of the crime, on their face, pointed directly to Mr. Hughes. On the night of Sept. 26, 1988, Shandra Charles, 15, and her cousin Marcell Taylor, 3, were fatallystabbed in a Houston field. A police sergeant reported that before she died, Ms. Charles identified the name “Preston” and said, “He tried to rape me.”

Detectives located Mr. Hughes in a nearby apartment complex. Investigators found evidence of blood on his clothing and a knife in his apartment, as well as Ms. Charles’s eyeglasses on his couch. Mr. Hughes, who said the glasses were planted, confessed to the murder during the investigation but then denied involvement during the trial. No biological evidence tied him directly to the crime.

Convicted and sentenced to death in 1989, Mr. Hughes had multiple appeals rejected. Then, this year, several unlikely advocates became interested.

John Allen, 64, a retired engineer in California, writes a blog called The Skeptical Juror. With the help of Barbara Lunsford, an accountant in Corpus Christi, and Ward Larkin, an activist from Houston, he has spent nine months and more than 100,000 words delvinginto the forensic and legal details of Mr. Hughes’s case. None of the three are affiliated with an official organization, and while Mr. Allen has written about other convictions in the past, he said he had stopped looking at other cases for now.

After reviewing documents related to the trial, appeals and evidence, he deduced that Ms. Charles must have lost brain function within two minutes, and she could not have told the police the name of her attacker. “This is a seemingly overwhelming case” of innocence, Mr. Allen said, adding that he also believed that the victim’s glasses were planted in the apartment, based on his review of crime scene photographs.

In September, Mr. McCann said he had never heard of Mr. Allen’s investigation. This week, he said Mr. Allen “sounds like a very sincere man who is attempting to right a wrong.”

“Like in fantasy football,” he said, “I think lots of people are happy to offer thought without skin in the game.”

As for Mr. Hughes’s petitions to have him replaced, Mr. McCann said he thought they were the product of desperation. “When a person is drowning,” he said, “they sometimes try to fight the guy holding a life preserver.”

Mr. McCann agreed that Ms. Charles would have “been unconscious in a matter of seconds based on the blood loss,” and so she could not have said Mr. Hughes’s name to the police. Despite being troubled by this evidence, he is not filing a claim of innocence.

“I find myself in an odd position,” he said, “because I’m ethically bound not to advance a claim I think is false.”

Mr. Allen learned about the case while investigating the work of James Bolding, the head of blood analysis for the Houston Police Department’s crime lab at the time, who testified at Mr. Hughes’s 1989 trial. Mr. Bolding tested for blood on Mr. Hughes’s knife while he was in the courtroom. Mr. Hughes said the blood came from a rabbit he had killed months before.

Judge George Godwin said at the time that he found the “cavalier attitude and lackadaisical attitude of doing tests right while we’ve got a jury waiting to come in and hear testimony unacceptable.” He nevertheless ruled that the testimony was permissible.

Mr. Hughes said he trusted Mr. Allen more than his lawyer, Mr. McCann. In September, Mr. Hughes filed a petition to have Mr. McCann replaced, and a court rejected it.

Mr. McCann plans to follow the case to the end. In September, he sued the Texas prison system, saying that by using a single drug for the execution, as a result of a recent policy change, officials would be experimenting on his client. The Court of Criminal Appeals, Texas’ highest criminal court, has ordered the civil court overseeing the case not to stay Mr. Hughes’s execution.

Mr. McCann does not know when the court will rule. “The unfortunate timing of this is it’s before a contested election,” he said.

Murray Newman, a Houston defense lawyer, said he believed Mr. McCann was doing his best and cared about Mr. Hughes. “He works so hard on these cases. It’s like losing a family member,” Mr. Newman said.

From death row, Mr. Hughes sees it differently, as he plays basketball during his hour of recreation every day, eats food he calls “pitiful” and learns about court decisions from a small, black radio.

 

“We don’t like each other,” he said of Mr. McCann. “I don’t feel somebody who doesn’t like me is going to do anything for me.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vote Yes on Prop 34 by Frank Carrillo (Exonerated of murder after 20 years in prison)


October 23, 2012 http://www.huffingtonpost.com

Freedom.

It’s hard to imagine it being taken away without just cause. But it happens — more often than you might think.

When I was just 16 years old, I was stripped of my freedom, wrongfully convicted of a murder I did not commit. I spent twenty years behind bars before I was finally able to prove my innocence.

But I always wonder, if I had been sentenced to death, would I have been able to prove my innocence in time?

This is why I believe so strongly in Proposition 34, which will replace California’s death penalty with life in prison without possibility of parole. With the election just two weeks away, it’s a critical time to make sure California voters hear about the true costs of the death penalty.

Today we’re launching our first Yes on 34 TV ad across the state’s airwaves, urging millions of California voters to replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole. With this new ad, my story will travel farther than ever before — on television.

Most people can’t imagine being found guilty of a crime they didn’t commit. I never expected that my youth would slip away in prison after I was wrongly convicted. But with this new TV ad, millions of viewers across the state can hear my real-life story and learn that our criminal justice system is good but not perfect. I am living proof that with the death penalty we always risk the execution of an innocent person.

I am honored by the all-star team that came together to help share my story of wrongful conviction with voters — including Emmy-winner Martin Sheen, iconic actor and director Edward James Olmos, Grammy- and Academy Award-winner and world-famous musician Hans Zimmer and Lili Haydn, the “Jimi Hendrix” of violin.

Also Donald Heller, the man who wrote California’s death penalty law, will be sharing his story on the radio. He explains that he never considered the costs of implementing the law and now sees it as a “huge” mistake that also risks the execution of an innocent person.

Voting Yes on Proposition 34 makes sense for California. We can save $130 million every single year by replacing the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole. This money can be better spent on education and on tools that actually improve safety in our communities, like testing DNA evidence and investigating unsolved murders. We can also make sure that California never makes an irreversible mistake.

The TV ad that tells my story is just one part of the path to victory for Prop 34. You’ll be hearing our message on the radio and seeing our volunteer teams on the ground across California. We have two weeks left to get the facts about the death penalty to as many voters as possible. We can’t do this without the help from our hard-working volunteers. Will you sign up to help Proposition 34 win on November 6? Then watch our campaign ad, and share with everyone you know.

Together, on November 6, we’ll make history.