MAY

TEXAS – Decision adds to scrutiny of death penalty cases – Anthony Bartee


May 26, 2012 Source http://www.mysanantonio.com

At 3:25 a.m. on May 2, Anthony Bartee was eating breakfast, not knowing if it would be his last.

That evening, Bartee, 55, was to be strapped to the gurney in the death chamber in Huntsville for the 1996 robbery and slaying of his friend David Cook, 37.

Bartee’s attorney David Dow started his day scrambling to get his client a second stay the first was granted within a week of Bartee’s original Feb. 28 execution date. In addition to the usual appellate route, Dow took an atypical one.

He filed a federal lawsuit against the Bexar County district attorney’s office, claiming that Bartee’s civil rights were violated by prosecutors withholding evidence for DNA testing that could prove his client’s innocence.

The DA’s office doubted the attempt would work because Bartee had 15 years to make evidence claims. And besides, he wasn’t convicted based on DNA. But with Bartee’s death imminent, Chief U.S. District Judge Fred Biery granted the temporary stay to allow more time to examine Dow’s civil rights claims.

The ruling was rare, experts said, and speaks to an ever-increasing scrutiny of death penalty cases as exonerations from post-conviction DNA testing continue to mount.

“The courts are more cautious, and most people think they should be if there is a question about it,” said Cornell University Law School Professor John H. Blume.

Juries, too, are handing down fewer death sentences, nationwide and locally.

Local prosecutors have noted the trend and are taking a harder look at whether to seek death.

“We don’t go get the death penalty just because we can,” First Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg said. “It’s a very serious decision-making process.”

Dow did not return phone calls or emails.

A majority of Texans, 73 percent, either strongly or somewhat support the death penalty, according to a University of Texas at Austin and Texas Tribune poll published Thursday. The number drops to 53 percent when asked about the option of life without parole.

A majority of Americans also support the death penalty, according to a 2011 Gallup Poll. But at 61 percent, that support is at its lowest point in 39 years, the poll concluded.

Since the state adopted life without parole in 2005 as an alternative to death, it “definitely changed the dynamics” in Bexar County, Herberg said.

Exonerations also have affected the entire criminal justice system, including jurors who must decide if someone lives or dies, said John Schmolesky, a professor at St. Mary’s University School of Law.

“I think it’s moved the pendulum to at least introduce an element of skepticism in capital cases,” Schmolesky said.

The last death sentence in Bexar County came in 2009, a year when only one person was condemned to die although prosecutors had sought the death penalty more often than that.

Given that at least 24 people were sentenced to die in the 11-year period that ended in 2006, Bartee being one of them, that’s a dramatic decrease.

Death sentences in the United States also have dropped, by 65 percent in the past 12 years, with 78 handed down last year, compared with 224 in 2000, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Prosecutors here, in deciding whether to seek the death penalty, weigh the cost of the litigation, the circumstances of the crime and the accused killer’s history of violence, among other factors, Herberg said.

“The future danger aspect of it has always been an issue with the jury,” he added. “If they can’t get out of prison, (communities) are safer.”

Bartee’s own violent past wasn’t known to Cook, his friends or family.

He was sent to prison for raping at knifepoint a girl, 15, and a woman, 20, in separate incidents in 1983, according to court records. At the time Cook was killed, Bartee had been out on parole for only 15 months.

The DNA factor

At 9:35 a.m. on May 2, Bartee was eating lunch and visiting with family. His father and sister planned to witness his execution. So did the father, two sisters and brother-in-law of Cook.

n San Antonio that day, district attorney’s office investigator George Saidler, a retired homicide detective who worked on Cook’s case, was searching the police property room for glasses and cigarettes collected 16 years ago from Cook’s house.

What prompted him was Dow’s new request for DNA evidence testing. Prosecutors needed to know if authorities still had the evidence, especially if a court ruled in Bartee’s favor.

Biery’s decision to stay the execution was a move in the right direction, said civil rights attorney Jeff Blackburn, who heads the Innocence Project of Texas.

“We have to err on the side of finding out every fact that we can,” he said. “I think that if we’ve learned anything, it’s that it’s hard to trust the government when they say (DNA’s) not involved in this case.”

Nationwide, DNA testing has been instrumental in exonerating more than 280 people, the majority in the past 12 years. Of those, 17 spent time on death row, according to The Innocence Project.

Still, that’s just a fraction of the more than 2,000 people falsely convicted in the past 23 years, according to the first national registry of its kind, which was released last week.

In response to the growing number of exonerations and advances in DNA testing technology, the Texas Legislature made changes regarding DNA evidence that could help someone wrongly convicted prove their innocence.

Two changes occurred late last year. Lawmakers made it less difficult for someone convicted to get DNA testing introduced in court. Also, judges now have the power to order that DNA profiles be sent through national and state databases, presumably to find out whether someone else committed the crime.

Bartee, so far, has benefited from the new laws.

“I think you do see the courts are saying, no matter what let’s test it,” Herberg said. “We’re certainly seeing that. That’s the reason for this delay (in Bartee’s case).”

The new evidence laws have ushered in debates about what to test and when. Advocates of testing argue that every avenue needs to be explored, while some prosecutors contend that more DNA testing can be used as a stalling tactic.

“DNA evidence isn’t the silver bullet that’s going to solve every single case,” Schmolesky said. “If the (person) admits he was present, he may have left fingerprints, saliva on cups for example, or things that result in DNA testing but don’t show he committed a crime.”

Local prosecutors haven’t wavered in their belief that further testing for Bartee’s case is a waste of time.

“He wasn’t convicted with DNA evidence but by his own behavior,” Assistant District Attorney Rico Valdez said.

A cautious approach

At noon on May 2, Bartee finished visitation. He was transferred that afternoon from death row in Livingston to Huntsville. He had his final meal before his scheduled 6 p.m. execution and waited to see if Biery’s stay would be overturned.

Just after 7 p.m., when the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed Bartee’s execution, he thanked his family, his supporters, God and his legal team.

With the execution stalled, prosecutors also opted for caution. They sent for testing the glasses and cigarettes Saidler had found in the property room, though no court had ordered it.

They didn’t want lingering unanswered questions about a conviction, if it could be helped.

“We don’t want anyone thinking we just want someone executed,” Valdez said.

Last week the Bexar County crime lab’s testing found on the evidence the DNA of three people — two men and one woman so far unidentified. The results will now be sent through the state and federal databases. As prosecutors hunt for DNA matches, the civil rights case lingers in federal court.

To Valdez, the results so far haven’t changed a thing.

And almost three months to the day Bartee was first scheduled to die, he remains on death row with no new execution date set.

 

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ARIZONA – Samuel Villegas Lopez – Execution – RESCHEDULED June 27


Update 

May 23, Source : http://www.kpho.com

The Arizona Supreme Court has denied a petition to review the case of a death row inmate set for execution next week.

Lawyers for Samuel Villegas Lopez had asked the state’s high court to review a lower court’s order dismissing his petition for post-conviction relief on March 30.

The state Supreme Court issued its ruling Wednesday without comment. There’s no immediate response from Lopez’s attorneys.

The 49-year-old Lopez is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection May 16 at the state prison in Florence in what would be the fourth execution in Arizona this year.

———————————————-

PHOENIX (Reuters) – Arizona’s top court issued a stay of execution on Tuesday for death row inmate Samuel Villegas Lopez, a day before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection, to address claims that he had been denied a chance at a fair clemency hearing.

Villegas Lopez was sentenced to death for raping 59-year-old Estafana Holmes and stabbing her to death in a violent, drawn-out assault at her Phoenix apartment in 1986

The Arizona Supreme Court rescheduled his execution for June 27 so that attorneys could address claims that he was denied a fair clemency hearing because some members of the state clemency board had not received a mandated four-week training course.

“We conclude that the interests of justice are best served by staying the pending execution and forthwith issuing … a new warrant of execution, for June 27,” the court said in its ruling.

“The period between now and the new execution date will allow training of new board members and a clemency hearing to be subsequently held by the board,” it added.

He had been due to die by lethal injection at 10 a.m. on Wednesday morning, at the state prison in Florence, some 60 miles southeast of Phoenix.

TEXAS – Steven Staley – execution STAYED


May 14, 2012 Source : http://www.chron.com

HOUSTON (AP) — The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Monday stopped this week’s scheduled execution of a convicted killer whose mental health had become an issue in his appeals.

The state’s highest criminal court gave a reprieve to Steven Staley, 49, who was set for lethal injection Wednesday evening in Huntsville for the 1989 shooting death of a Fort Worth restaurant manager during a botched robbery.

“This is great,” said Staley’s attorney, John Stickels. “I’m very happy.”

Prosecutors contended Staley was competent for execution, but Stickels in his appeal to the court said that was accomplished only because a state judge in Fort Worth improperly ordered Staley be given drugs to make him competent so the state of Texas could kill him.

The appeals court spent much of the ruling’s three pages recounting Staley’s case in the courts and only in a final paragraph specifically addressed the appeal, saying the court had determined the execution should be halted “pending further order by this court.”

It gave no reason. Justice Lawrence Meyers dissented from his eight colleagues but issued no dissenting opinion.

“I don’t know what’s next,” Stickels said. “It just orders the execution stayed and doesn’t order anything else. I’m not going to do anything until they tell me.”

TEXAS -Texas Wants To Drug a Prisoner So They Can Kill Him – Steven Staley


may 11, 2012 source : http://www.slate.com

Can the state force a person to take drugs in order to execute him? That is the grisly question raised by the case of Steven Staley, a convicted murderer who believes polygraph machines are controlling and torturing him. Even though he’s psychotic, Staley is scheduled to be executed next week, based on a judge’s order requiring him to take medication he has refused. If Texas actually goes ahead with this deeply disturbing plan, it will be the first state, as far as I can tell, to drug someone in order to carry out a death sentence. That is a distinction that no one on the planet should want to have.

Here are the facts of Staley’s crime: In September 1989, he escaped from a Denver jail and went on an armed robbery spree, hitting up nine businesses in four states. The last one was the Steak and Ale Restaurant in Tarrant County, Texas. Just before closing, Staley and two friends came in, and Staley herded the employees into a kitchen storeroom and made manager Robert Read open the cash registers and the safe. He then took Read as a hostage, forced him into the back of a car, and shot him dead during a high-speed chase by the police.

And here are the facts of Staley’s mental illness: He has a long history of paranoid schizophrenia and depression. Staley was abused as a child by his mother, who was also mentally ill; when he was 6 or 7 she tried to pound a wooden stake through his chest. His father was an alcoholic. Staley tried to kill himself as a teenager. Doctors who have examined Staley on death row have said that he talks in a robot-like monotone yet has “grandiose and paranoid” delusions, including the beliefs that he invented the first car and marketed a character from Star Trek. He has given himself black eyes and self-inflicted lacerations and has been found spreading feces and covered with urine. Medicated with the anti-psychotic drug Haldol, Staley complained of paralysis and sometimes appeared to be in a catatonic state. He has worn a bald spot on the back of his head from lying on the floor of his cell.

Staley was found competent to stand trial back in 1991. The standard is low: A defendant has to be able to understand the charges against him and consult rationally with his lawyer so he can aid in his own defense. The standard for competency at execution was set by Ford v Wainwright, a 1986 case in which the Supreme Court said that the Eighth Amendment’s bar against cruel and unusual punishment forbids execution of the “insane.” Indeed, at the time no state permitted such an execution. The court quoted British judges in the 17th century worrying about the “miserable spectacle” of “extream inhumanity and cruelty” presented by executing a “mad man.” It served no retributive purpose, Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote, to execute a person “who has no comprehension of why he has been singled out.” He also noted “the natural abhorrence civilized societies feel at killing one who has no capacity to come to grips with his own conscience or deity.”

The problem with Ford is that the justices’ holding didn’t match their rhetoric. A defendant can be executed as long as he shows some rational understanding that he is about to die and why. Many people with serious mental illness can grasp those basic facts, at least on some level. Among the many examples of seriously mentally ill people who have been found competent to be tried and executed is Scott Panetti, a delusional schizophrenic who represented himself in 1995 dressed in a purple cowboy suit. Panetti tried to call Jesus Christ and John Kennedy as witnesses. Then there’s the case of Andre Thomas, which is so horrific that I’m sorry to ask you to read the next two sentences. Thomas was tried and sentenced to death, for triple murders in which he cut out the hearts of his victims, six weeks after gouging out his right eye. In 2008, on death row, he gouged out his left eye and ate it. (Both Panetti and Thomas’s executions are on appeal in the Texas courts.)

OK, deep breath. In 2006, after Staley stopped his medication, Judge Wayne Salvant, in a moment of mercy, found him incompetent to be executed. The District Attorney for Tarrant County, Joe Shannon, Jr., unmercifully asked Salvant to order Staley to be forcibly medicated. Salvant entered the order, finding that medicating Staley was the only way to ensure his competency to be executed, and that “the State has an essential interest in ensuring that the sentence of this Court is carried out.”

What is behind Judge Salvant’s chilling decision? In two cases in the 1990s, the Supreme Court said that the government can forcibly medicate a mentally ill inmate if he is dangerous to himself or others, the treatment is in his medical interest, and there is no less intrusive alternative. In 2003, the court acknowledged concerns about side effects of the drugs, and emphasized that the treatment had to be medically appropriate. None of these cases involved pending executions, however. When death is the state’s end goal, how can anyone argue that forcible medication is in a prisoner’s medical interest? TheLouisiana and South Carolina supreme courts have both rejected that macabre contention in ruling that to drug someone in order to execute him would violate their state constitutions.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit cracked open the door to forcible medication in 2003, in ruling that the state could execute a man who’d regained competency by taking medication on death row. The constitution doesn’t preclude executing someone who is “artificially competent,” the court said. In that case, the prisoner wasn’t refusing to take his meds, so the scenario is different than Staley’s. But this is the legal precedent that Judge Salvant cited when he ruled that forcing Staley to take Haldol would be “medically appropriate”—even though the purpose of drugging him is to make him rational enough to kill him. 

I will pause in this grim tale to note, with relief, that the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association hold that it is ethically unacceptable for doctors to prescribe drugs to restore competency for the purpose of execution. This should be an easy call for the Texas courts as well. If it’s awful to imagine psychotic prisoners going without their meds, it’s more awful to force shots on them so the state can kill them. If Texas fails to grasp this, other inmates will follow Steven Staley. Mental illness is common on death row. The only reason that the issues raised in Staley’s case haven’t been decided before, defense lawyers tell me, is that humane prosecutors and judges don’t insist on executing people whose sanity is so uncertain.

There’s a larger question here, beyond the one about forcible medication. It’s about halting the execution of the seriously mentally ill in the same way, and because of similar concerns about a defendant’s impairment, that the states have stopped executing the mentally disabled. Kentucky recently considered such a law and Connecticut has one. If Texas and other states followed suit, we would be spared the miserable spectacle of executing people who commit terrible crimes, but also have terrible deficits. People like Steven Staley and Scott Panetti and Andre Thomas.

TEXAS – Anthony Bartee execution scheduled for today – STAY granted


Why the State of Texas is moving forward with the execution despite the fact that there is significant DNA evidence that has not been tested despite numerous appeals filed by his attorneys to have the evidence tested

7.29 p.m  Stay granted to Anthony Bartee, scheduled for execution tonight. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered additional briefing, due May 8th. Congrats to attorneys David Dow and Jeff Newberry for their spectacular work! source : Texas Defender Service

7 p.m.  no word yet from the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals about whether they will affirm or overturn Anthony Bartee’s stay of execution.

EXECUTION WATCH IS ON THE AIR  6pm-7pm

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — Anthony Bartee remains in limbo as a federal appeals court mulls over a challenge of a court order delaying his execution tonight.

The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals continued to consider the challenge even as the scheduled time of Bartee’s execution passed.

UPDATE : 4:44 pm CDT 

PROSECUTOR CHALLENGES BARTEE’S STAY

By Execution Watch

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — The prosecutor’s office that obtained the death sentence against Anthony Bartee is doing its best to see that it is carried out tonight.

The Bexar County District Attorney’s Office has asked the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to throw out the stay issued by U.S. District Judge Fred Biery in San Antonio, a spokesman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said.

The district attorney’s brief is before appeals court now.

UPDATE 4:20 PM CDT 

BARTEE WINS STAY

By Execution Watch

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — Anthony Bartee received a stay of execution this afternoon with about two hours to spare.

A federal judge in San Antonio granted Bartee’s request to put off the execution so he may press his claim that further testing of crime-scene evidence should be done and that it would point to his innocence.

It remains to be seen whether the stay can and will be challenged by the state in time to proceed with its plan to put Bartee to death tonight.

The execution was scheduled for a little after 6 p.m., but the document ordering the execution generally allows it to be carried out up until shortly before midnight.

In granting the stay, U.S. District Judge Fred Biery said Bartee “has shown a significant possibility of success on the merits.”

Bartee’s execution would be the 244th execution conducted under the administration of Rick Perry.

Anthony Bartee, 55, still has an appeal pending with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking further genetic testing of the crime scene evidence, and his attorneys filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in San Antonio on Wednesday over the same issues. The execution by lethal injection is scheduled for 6 p.m. CDT today. One of TMN’s Facebook page members is traveling to Huntsville today from Austin to protest the execution.

BARTEE SUES BEXAR COUNTY D.A., ASKS FOR STAY
By Execution Watch
HUNTSVILLE, Texas — Anthony Bartee, slated to be put to death this evening, filed a civil rights lawsuit today against the Bexar County District Attorney in U.S. District Court in San Antonio, a spokesman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said.

Bartee also asked the federal panel to put his execution on hold. The next step for the court is to assign a judge.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals today denied Bartee’s request for a stay, affirming the trial court’s ruling that the results of recent DNA tests probably would not have persuaded a jury to acquit him if they had been available as evidence at trial.

Bartee appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to delay his execution. The stay application joined a pending request for the high court to review his case.

Abbott urged the Supreme Court to reject the request for a stay, asking that the execution be allowed to go forward as planned.

If the state proceeds with its plan to execute Bartee, Execution Watch will broadcast live coverage and commentary starting at 6 p.m. Central Time on KPFT FM 90.1 in Houston and worldwide at http://executionwatch.org/ > Listen.

Source : Texas Court

Case Information:
Case Number: AP-76,783
Date Filed: 4/30/2012
Case Type: DNA
Style: BARTEE, ANTHONY
v.:

Case Events:

  Date Event Type Description
View Event BRIEF FILED 4/30/2012 BRIEF FILED Appellant
View Event AFFIDAVIT FILED 4/30/2012 AFFIDAVIT FILED Appellant
View Event DP BEGIN DNA 4/30/2012 DP BEGIN DNA Appellant
View Event NOTICE OF APPEAL 4/30/2012 NOTICE OF APPEAL Appellant
View Event STAY OF EXECUTION 4/30/2012 STAY OF EXECUTION Appellant
View Event AFFIDAVIT FILED 4/30/2012 AFFIDAVIT FILED Appellant

Calendars:

  Set Date Calendar Type Reason Set
View Calendar 4/30/2012 STATUS STATE’S BRIEF DUE

Parties:

  Party Party Type
View Party TEXAS, STATE OF TEXAS, STATE OF State
View Party BARTEE, ANTHONY BARTEE, ANTHONY Appellant

Court of Appeals Case Information:

COA Case Number:
COA Disposition:
Opinion Cite:
Court of Appeals District:

Trial Court Information:

Trial Court: 175th District Court
County: Bexar
Case Number: 1997-CR-1659
Judge: MARY ROMAN
Court Reporter:

 Hint: Click on the folder icons above for more case information.

OKLAHOMA – Michael Selsor is set to be executed at 6 p.m EXECUTED


Michael Bascum Selsor, 57, was pronounced dead at 6:06 p.m.

In his last words, Selsor, stretched out on a table with intravenous tubes in his arms, spoke to his son, Robert Selsor, and sister, Carolyn Bench, who sat on the other side of a glass panel.

I love you and till I see you again next time. Be good,” Selsor said.

“I’ll be waiting at the gates of heaven for you. I hope the rest of you make it there as well. I’m ready.”

 

may 1  Source : http://mcalesternews.com

Oklahoma State Penitentiary death row inmate Michael Bascum Selsor, 57, is set to be executed today at 6 p.m. in the prison’s death chamber.

On April 16, the convicted killer was denied clemency by a 4-1 vote of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.

Selsor was set to be served his last meal at about noon today. He requested Kentucky Fried Chicken’s crispy two breast and one wing meal with potato wedges and baked beans, with an added thigh, apple turnover, two biscuits and honey, salt, pepper and ketchup.

read his case : click here

LOUISIANA – Todd Wessinger – Execution May 9 – Stayed


april 25 source : http://www.ktbs.com

BATON ROUGE, La. –

A federal judge in Baton Rouge has granted a temporary stay of execution for a man convicted in the 1995 slaying of two workers at a now-closed restaurant.
The Advocate reports Todd Wessinger was scheduled to be executed May 9 but U.S. District Judge James Brady granted the stay while he reviews arguments presented Wednesday by his attorneys, who asked for a permanent stay of the death penalty order.
Brady did not say when he would rule on the request.
Wessinger, a former dishwasher at a now-closed Calendar’s restaurant, was found guilty and sentenced to die by lethal injection for fatally shooting 27-year-old Stephanie Guzzardo and 46-year-old David Breakwell on Nov. 19, 1995

ARIZONA – Samuel Villegas Lopez – execution – May 16 RESCHEDULED


 Inmate 043833, Samuel V. Lopez

On October 29, 1986, Lopez broke into the apartment of 59-year-old Estafana Holmes. Lopez raped, beat, and stabbed Ms. Holmes. Her body was found nude from the waist down, with her pajama bottoms tied around her eyes. A lace scarf was crammed tightly into her mouth. She had been stabbed 23 times in the left breast and upper chest, three times in her lower abdomen, and her throat was cut. Lopez’ body fluids matched seminal fluids found in Ms. Holmes’ body.

PROCEEDINGS

Presiding Judge: Hon. Peter T. D’Angelo
Prosecutor:Paul Ahler
Defense Counsel: Joel Brown
Start of Trial: April 16, 1987
Verdict: April 27, 1987
Sentencing: June 25, 1987
Resentencing: August 3, 1990

Aggravating Circumstances
Especially heinous, cruel or depraved

PUBLISHED OPINIONS
State v. Lopez (Samuel V.), 163 Ariz. 108, 786 P.2d 959 (1990).
State v. Lopez (Samuel V.), 175 Ariz. 407, 857 P.2d 1261 (1993).

affidavit of Samuel villegas Lopez (us.court) pdf file

petition for post conviction relief (us court) pdf file

………………………………………………………

May 23, Source : http://www.kpho.com

The Arizona Supreme Court has denied a petition to review the case of a death row inmate set for execution next week.

Lawyers for Samuel Villegas Lopez had asked the state’s high court to review a lower court’s order dismissing his petition for post-conviction relief on March 30.

The state Supreme Court issued its ruling Wednesday without comment. There’s no immediate response from Lopez’s attorneys.

The 49-year-old Lopez is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection May 16 at the state prison in Florence in what would be the fourth execution in Arizona this year.

Lopez was convicted of raping, robbing and stabbing a 59-year-old woman to death in her Phoenix apartment on Oct. 29, 1986, after what court records described as a “terrible and prolonged struggle.”

————————————————–

PHOENIX (Reuters) – Arizona’s top court issued a stay of execution on Tuesday for death row inmate Samuel Villegas Lopez, a day before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection, to address claims that he had been denied a chance at a fair clemency hearing.

Villegas Lopez was sentenced to death for raping 59-year-old Estafana Holmes and stabbing her to death in a violent, drawn-out assault at her Phoenix apartment in 1986

The Arizona Supreme Court rescheduled his execution for June 27 so that attorneys could address claims that he was denied a fair clemency hearing because some members of the state clemency board had not received a mandated four-week training course.

“We conclude that the interests of justice are best served by staying the pending execution and forthwith issuing … a new warrant of execution, for June 27,” the court said in its ruling.

“The period between now and the new execution date will allow training of new board members and a clemency hearing to be subsequently held by the board,” it added.

He had been due to die by lethal injection at 10 a.m. on Wednesday morning, at the state prison in Florence, some 60 miles southeast of Phoenix.

—————————————————-

Update may 9, 2012 source : http://azcapitoltimes.com

The Arizona Supreme Court has denied a petition to review the case of a death row inmate set for execution next week.

Lawyers for Samuel Villegas Lopez had asked the state’s high court to review a lower court’s order dismissing his petition for post-conviction relief on March 30.

The state Supreme Court issued its ruling Wednesday without comment. There’s no immediate response from Lopez’s attorneys.

The 49-year-old Lopez is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection May 16 at the state prison in Florence in what would be the fourth execution in Arizona this year.

Lopez was convicted of raping, robbing and stabbing a 59-year-old woman to death in her Phoenix apartment on Oct. 29, 1986, after what court records described as a “terrible and prolonged struggle.”

……………………………………………………………………

Update may  7, 2012 source : http://www.azfamily.com

PHOENIX, ARIZ.– Lawyers for a death row inmate set to be executed next week will ask the courts to put a hold on the execution because of concerns about how new members were appointed to the Arizona’s Executive Clemency Board, and whether those new members have had adequate training.

Samuel Villegas Lopez is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday May 16 for the brutal rape and murder of Phoenix woman Estefana “Essie” Holmes in 1986. At his clemency hearing on Monday, his attorneys walked out, claiming the appointments of three new members to the board violated state law.

Kelley Henry, a federal public defender who has worked on Lopez’ case for more than a decade, said she believes there have been at least 16 violations of state statutes surrounding the appointments of the new members.

Among her allegations: that the state violated open meeting laws by failing to properly post information about board vacancies, that the new members have not had the four weeks of training required by statute, and that one of the board members has a clear conflict of interest voting on death penalty cases.

After Henry presented the board with her concerns, the members went into a closed-door executive session for close to an hour. When they re-opened the meeting to the public, they said they believed they could fairly continue the hearing, but Henry and her team disagreed and walked out.

“As we know it at this time, this board does not have the authority to conduct the hearing, or move forward,” Henry said.

After the meeting new board Chairman Jesse Hernandez accused Henry of “grasping at straws” and said he and the other two new members, Melvin Thomas and Brian Livingston, are “more than qualified to serve on the board.”

As for questions regarding the amount of training they’ve one, Hernandez said the training process has been started and that’s within the confines of the law.

Lopez’ attorneys plan to file a lawsuit in court Tuesday asking a judge to step in.

In the meantime, at least one board member, former Attorney General Jack LaSota, said he believed Governor Brewer should vacate the warrant for Lopez’ execution to allow time for the issues to be addressed.

“I think the man is entitled at this point to a hearing by a board that has been determined to be appropriate,” LaSota said, adding, “I think our board is appropriate.”

Matt Benson, a spokesman for the Governor, said the Executive Board of Clemency and the selection committee charged with selecting candidates for the vacant seats acted fully within the law.

Benson said the allegations were nothing more than an attempt to delay justice for the family of Lopez’ victim.

Lopez’ attorneys originally planned to argue before the board that their client’s sentence should be commuted to life without parole because of inadequate legal counsel during his trials and initial appeals.

May 3 , 2012

Us court appeals : pdf file

Update May 2, 2012  Source : http://ktar.com

PHOENIX — Lawyers for an Arizona death-row inmate are fighting his upcoming execution.

Samuel Villegas Lopez’s attorneys argued in one filing Tuesday that three newly appointed clemency board members are unprepared to consider his arguments for mercy.

In another filing Tuesday, they argued that the state Department of Corrections is violating Lopez’s constitutional rights by repeatedly violating its own execution protocol.

Lopez, 49, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection May 16 in what would be the fourth execution in the state this year.

Lopez was convicted of raping, robbing and stabbing Estafana Holmes, 59, to death in her Phoenix apartment in October 1986, after what court records described as a “terrible and prolonged struggle.”

Petitioner – Appellant,: SAMUEL VILLEGAS LOPEZ
Respondent – Appellee,s: CHARLES L. RYAN and GEORGE HERMAN, Warden, Arizona State Prison – Eyman Complex
Case Number: 12-99001
Filed: May 1, 2012
Court: U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
Nature of Suit: P. Petitions – Death Penalty
Previous Case: Lopez, et al v. Stewart, et al (2:1998cv00072)

TEXAS – Steven Staley – Execution – may 16 – STAYED


Facts of the Case

On September 18, 1989, Steven Staley escaped from a community correctional center in Denver, Colorado. Following his escape, Staley embarked upon a series of nine armed robberies as he fled through four states from Colorado to Texas. On October 14, 1989, Staley, accompanied by two friends, Tracey Duke and Brenda Rayburn, went to the Steak and Ale Restaurant in Tarrant County, Texas for dinner. After dinner, and just prior to closing, Staley and Duke removed two semi-automatic pistols from Rayburn’s purse. Staley gathered the employees in the rear kitchen storeroom while Duke secured the front of the restaurant. While this was happening, an assistant manager escaped through a rear door and called the police.

Once all the staff was gathered in the storeroom, Staley demanded that the restaurant’s manager identify himself. Robert Read stepped forward. Read was then ordered by Staley to open the cash registers and the safe. Staley also forced the other employees to get down on the floor and throw out their wallets and purses. One person attempted to stand up, prompting Staley to kick him in the chest and threaten to “blow away” the “next person that puts their head up”.

While this was transpiring, the police, having been alerted by the assistant manager, arrived at the restaurant. Staley, believing that Read had activated a silent alarm, threatened to kill Read if he discovered that the police were outside. Read responded by assuring Staley that the restaurant had no such alarms. He volunteered to serve as a hostage if Staley promised not to hurt the other employees. Staley agreed to Read’s proposal and left the restaurant with Read, Duke and Rayburn, using Read as a human shield. They then hijacked a car and Staley pushed Read into the back seat with him. Police officers subsequently reported hearing several gunshots before the car pulled off and while the car was accelerating away. A high-speed chase ensued, ultimately ending when the stolen car broke down. Staley, Duke and Rayburn then attempted to flee the scene but were apprehended by the police. The police found Read dead in the back of the car. According to the medical examiner, Read had been shot in the head at point blank range. The evidence indicated that both Staley and Duke had shot Read.

On April 8, 1991 Steven Staley was found guilty of capital murder. He was subsequently sentenced to death on April 25, 1991. Prior to his conviction, Staley had given a written statement implicating himself in the shooting. Tracey Duke was sentenced to three life sentences in Texas and an additional 30 year sentence in Colorado for murder and armed robbery. Brenda Rayburn, as part of a plea bargain, was sentenced to 30 years.

With regard to his competency to be executed, Staley was examined by two experts, including Dr. Mark D. Cunningham, a clinical and forensic psychologist who submitted an affidavit on behalf of the defense. In his affidavit, Dr. Cunningham stated that although he found Staley to be coherent and generally orientated and aware of his impending execution (originally set for March 23rd), Staley’s unmedicated status, the psychotic symptoms he exhibited, and his “apparent growing psychotic decompensation” made “probable that he will become markedly more psychotic” between the time of evaluation (March 16, 2005) and his execution. As a corollary of this, Dr. Cunningham asserted that, as Staley’s “psychosis increases in severity, it may well diminish or negate his understanding” of his death sentence or the execution. He concluded that there was “no assurance that the awareness he displayed regarding his execution [during the examination] will be present at the time of his execution”.

Mental Illness

Staley suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. People diagnosed with such mental disorders frequently have a close biological relative with similar mental illnesses. In Staley’s case, his mother had a long history of mental illness. She was hospitalised in a psychiatric hospital on numerous occasions and treated with psychiatric medications and electroconvulsive therapy. Her records document an “acute schizophrenic episode”.

From an early age, Staley was exposed to violent and erratic behaviour. His mother attempted to pound a wooden stake through his chest at the age of six or seven and, at a later date, attempted to stab both Staley and his sister with a butcher’s knife. On each occasion she was committed to mental health institutions. Staley’s father was a severe alcoholic and was killed in a road traffic accident in 1985. His maternal grandfather also committed suicide. Staley, himself, subsequently attempted suicide when he was 16 or 17 and was later placed on suicide precautions during his incarceration.

Following his incarceration, Staley was hospitalized on numerous occasions for psychiatric care. The first instance occurred on June 17, 1994 and lasted for 3 months until his discharge on September 17, 1994. Immediately following this however, Staley was found unresponsive in his cell and subsequently re-admitted on September 21, 1994 for six weeks. He was forcibly medicated despite his refusals. Staley was then diagnosed with major depression with delusional features and schizoid personality disorder with anti-social features.

Staley subsequently refused to co-operate with medical treatment, attend doctor’s appointments or attend clinics. This culminated in a nurse being called to his cell to treat a seizure. Staley was then re-hospitalised, during which time he reported feelings of paralysis and audio hallucinations with voices torturing him. Again, he was released and then re-hospitalised, this time, however Staley was catatonic. Subsequent psychiatric evaluations “suggested a psychotic valley which is typical of schizophrenia, paranoid type”. Hallucinations, delusions and extreme suspiciousness were noted. He was then discharged.

Staley’s behaviour subsequently deteriorated and he exhibited psychotic, bizarre and on occasions, hostile behaviour. He also reported hallucinations, paralysis and exhibited delusional thinking. Staley was hospitalised ten times in total and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and anti-social personality type. During this period, Staley also suffered from depression and was placed on suicide precautions. Staley was most recently hospitalised for approximately 19 months from November 28, 2002 to June 17, 2004.

The diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia made during his incarceration is further supported by an examination by Dr. Cunningham. Dr. Cunningham also concluded that Staley suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and is psychotic. In his March 17, 2005 affidavit, Dr. Cunningham reports that Staley’s “speech is characterised by robot-like tone, odd syntax, neologisms (personally created words), alliterations, pseudo-intellectualism, excessive detail, and repetitive phrasing”. Staley also reported “grandiose and paranoid delusional beliefs” believing himself to be on a part-time “security mission to save the world from war” with security clearance. Staley further believed that Texas was out to kill him, either by lethal injection or, “if found innocent possibly by shooting in the outside world, stabbing or poisoning by fellow inmates in prison and general mischievousness”. Staley also claimed to have invented the first car, sold the blueprints to a character from Star Trek and to have been recruited as an undercover police officer at the age of thirteen.

from Steven Staley blog : http://stevenstaley.blogspot.com

Sat Mar 3, 2007 1:13 am (PST)

Order to forcibly medicate killer is debated

By MELODY McDONALD
STAR-TELEGRAM STAFF WRITER

FORT WORTH — For more than eight months, officials have been forcibly injecting convicted murderer Steven Kenneth Staley with anti- psychotic drugs that one day may make him sane enough to be executed.Whether Staley deserves to die is not an issue — that was decided long ago by a Tarrant County jury and upheld by the appellate courts. The controversy surrounding Staley now is a complex issue at the forefront of a legal debate about the death penalty in the United States:

Is it constitutional to forcibly medicate a mentally ill Death Row inmate to make him competent enough to be executed?

Staley’s attorney, Jack Strickland, says forcibly medicating Staley, 44, is cruel and unusual punishment and should be stopped immediately.
Tarrant County prosecutor Chuck Mallin says forcibly medicating Staley is necessary to control his psychosis and to carry out a
sentence imposed by a jury more than 15 years ago.
On Thursday, both sides argued the issue before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which is expected to issue an opinion in the near
future.
The nine-judge panel heard the arguments before a standing-room- only crowd in an auditorium at Texas Wesleyan School of Law in downtown Fort Worth.
The state’s highest criminal court occasionally travels from Austin to law schools around the state to give students a chance to hear
arguments and see the criminal justice system at work.

Crime and punishment

On Oct. 14, 1989, Staley and two friends went to a Steak and Ale restaurant in west Fort Worth and sat down to eat.

After finishing their meal, they pulled out semiautomatic weapons and demanded access to the cash register and the safe. As customers and employees huddled at the rear of the restaurant, an assistant manager slipped out and called police.

A short time later, police surrounded the restaurant, and 35-year-old Robert Read, the manager, offered himself as a hostage to spare the others. The three took him up on his offer and held him at gunpoint as they tried to escape.

When Read resisted after they tried to force him into a hijacked car, he was fatally shot.

In April 1991, a Tarrant County jury sentenced Staley to death. Four months later, he found himself on Death Row.

Confined to a tiny cell, Staley — a Charles Manson look-alike who suffers from a severe form of paranoid schizophrenia — was prone to
lying in his urine-soaked cell and blackening his eyes by repeatedly beating himself in the face.

Over the years, he has refused to take his medication because he thinks he is being poisoned. He has been hospitalized up to 19 times.

Three times, Staley has managed to avoid execution after experts determined that he is incompetent and doesn’t understand why he is being put to death.Federal and state law prohibits the execution of an insane or incompetent person.

Last year, Mallin and fellow prosecutor Jim Gibson filed a motion asking state District Judge Wayne Salvant to forcibly medicate Staley to restore his competence and carry out the jury’s verdict.

Staley was moved to the Tarrant County Jail and continued to refuse to take his medication. In April, after a long hearing in which
Staley picked at his hair and mumbled nonsensical phrases, Salvant granted the motion — marking what is believed to be the first time a Texas judge has ordered an incompetent Death Row inmate to be forcibly medicated.

Strickland responded by filing a flurry of legal paperwork, seeking an emergency stay of Salvant’s order. But his requests were denied.

During the week of June 5, according to court documents, Salvant’s order was carried out and officials began forcibly medicating Staley in the Tarrant County Jail, where he remains today.

The appeal

During the hearing Thursday, Strickland asked the Court of Criminal Appeals to stop Salvant’s order until he has time to explore all his
legal options.

“If allowed to stand, it would be the first time such an order has been found to be valid,” Strickland said.

Strickland maintains that, in addition to being cruel and unusual, forcibly medicating Staley is indecent; violates medical ethics as
well as Staley’s rights to privacy and liberty; and produces artificial competence with psychotropic drugs that have painful and
debilitating side effects.

Mallin, meanwhile, urged the court not to intervene, saying he believes that it lacks jurisdiction to stop Salvant’s order.

Mallin said that Staley suffers when he is unmedicated and that the drugs’ side effects do not outweigh their benefits. Treating Staley,
Mallin contended, is necessary and medically appropriate.

“When he takes it, he is competent,” Mallin said. “It is by his own volition that he has decided that he is going to be incompetent. ”

Strickland and Mallin each received about 20 minutes to state their cases but, most of the time, the judges peppered them with questions.

When one of the judges questioned whether they had authority to weigh in on the issue at this stage, Mallin’s reply drew laughs: “The
mountain came to Muhammad,” he said, referring to the panel’s trip from Austin to Fort Worth.

“But I don’t want to be rude and say you need to go home.”

Strickland acknowledged that the case has entered uncharted waters. He told the panel that if Salvant’s order is stayed, it would let him
explore options that might include trying to commute Staley’s sentence to life in prison.

In his final words to the court, Strickland urged the judges not to let Texas become the first state to forcibly medicate someone so he
is competent enough to be executed.

Staley believes that he works for the CIA, that judges and prosecutors were conspiring to steal his car, and that the Prince of  Wales has a summer home in Huntsville and communicates with him telepathically, Strickland said.

“We have an opportunity to do what is right, what is fair, what is decent and what is humane, and that is not to execute a crazy person,” he said.

It could be months before the Court of Criminal Appeals issues its opinion. Officials said the panel could decide that it doesn’t have
jurisdiction and decline to get involved; could agree with Salvant and allow the forcible medication to continue; could stop Salvant’s
order; or could come up with another solution.

Regardless of the decision, one thing is certain: The issue is far from over.

LOUISIANA – Todd Wessinger – execution may 9, 2012 STAYED


Update 25 april source : http://www.ktbs.com

BATON ROUGE, La.

A federal judge in Baton Rouge has granted a temporary stay of execution for a man convicted in the 1995 slaying of two workers at a now-closed restaurant.
The Advocate reports Todd Wessinger was scheduled to be executed May 9 but U.S. District Judge James Brady granted the stay while he reviews arguments presented Wednesday by his attorneys, who asked for a permanent stay of the death penalty order.
Brady did not say when he would rule on the request.
Wessinger, a former dishwasher at a now-closed Calendar’s restaurant, was found guilty and sentenced to die by lethal injection for fatally shooting 27-year-old Stephanie Guzzardo and 46-year-old David Breakwell on Nov. 19, 1995.

 

acts from The Supreme court Louisiana

This case arises from the murder of two employees of Calendar’s Restaurant in Baton Rouge on Sunday, November 19, 1995, at approximately 9:30 a.m. The evidence shows that defendant, a former employee at Calendar’s, rode his bicycle tothe restaurant that morning armed with a .380 semi-automatic pistol. Mike Armentor, a bartender at the restaurant, saw defendant just outside of the restaurant, and they exchanged greetings. Immediately after entering the restaurant through a rear door, defendant shot Armentor twice inthe back. Although Armentor sustained severe abdominal injuries, he survived. Defendant then tried to shoot Alvin Ricks, a dishwasher, in the head, but the gun would not fire. As Ricks ran out of the restaurant, defendant attempted to shoot him in the leg, but the gun misfired. As he was running across the street to call 911, Ricks told Willie Grigsby, another employee of the restaurant who escaped the restaurant without being seen by defendant, that he had seen the perpetrator, and the perpetrator was Todd. Ricks also told the 911 operator that the perpetrator was Todd.

Stephanie Guzzardo, the manager on duty that morning, heard the commotion and called 911. Before she could speak to the operator, defendant entered the office, armed with the gun.  After a short exchange with Guzzardo, in which she begged for her life, defendant, after telling her to “shut up,” shot her through the heart. Guzzardo died approximately thirty seconds after being shot. Defendant then removed approximately $7000 from the office. Defendant next found David Breakwell, a cook at the restaurant who had been hiding in a cooler, and shot him as he begged for his life. Defendant then left the restaurant on his bicycle. EMS personnel arrived at the scene shortly there after, and Breakwell died en route to the hospital.

Defendant was eventually arrested and charged with two counts of first degree murder. Testimony adduced at trial established that defendant had asked one of his friends to commit the robbery with him, and that he planned to leave no witnesses to the crime. Several people also testified that they had seen the defendant with large sums of money after the crime. The murderweapon was subsequently discovered, along with a pair of gloves worn during the crime, at an abandoned house across the street from defendant’s residence. One of defendant’s friends testified that defendant had asked him to remove the murder weapon from the abandoned house.
Defendant was convicted of two counts of first degree murder for the deaths of Breakwell and Guzzardo and sentenced to death. The jury found three aggravating circumstances:

(1) that defendant was engaged in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of aggravated burglary orarmed robbery;

(2) that defendant knowingly created a risk of death or great bodily harm to more
than one person; and

(3) the offense was committed in an especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel manner.

read full opinion

Update april 12, 2012  source :http://www.therepublic.com

Attorneys for convicted killer Todd Wessinger, who is scheduled to be executed May 9 for the 1995 slaying of two workers at a now-closed Baton Rouge restaurant, has asked a federal judge to reconsider his recent denial of a new trial or sentencing.

The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/HDLBlg ) Todd Wessinger’s attorneys also asked that his execution be stayed.

Wessinger’s attorneys want U.S. District Judge James Brady to hold an evidentiary hearing on Wessinger’s federal constitutional claims. The attorneys argued that Brady issued his ruling Feb. 22 without ever holding such a hearing.

Wessinger, a former dishwasher at the restaurant, was found guilty and sentenced to die by lethal injection for fatally shooting 27-year-old Stephanie Guzzardo and 46-year-old David Breakwel on Nov. 19, 1995.

“This Court’s actions throughout these proceedings led Mr. Wessinger to believe that evidentiary hearings would take place,” Wessinger’s current attorneys — Danalynn Recer, of The Gulf Region Advocacy Center in Houston; Soren Gisleson, of New Orleans; and federal public defender Rebecca Hudsmith, of Lafayette — contend in court filings.

Those attorneys electronically filed a motion Tuesday in federal court in Baton Rouge to alter or amend Brady’s judgment. A supporting memorandum was electronically filed Wednesday.

In February, Brady rejected a dozen claims raised by the Wessinger, 44, including allegation that his trial attorneys provided ineffective assistance during jury selection and the guilt and penalty phases of his 1997 trial in Baton Rouge.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Wednesday he believes the judge’s decision “was sound and based on the facts presented by the record.”

“It seems that the defense is arguing that everyone involved in this case did something wrong, including the defense lawyers, experts and the court — that is everyone but the defendant, who committed a particularly brutal murder,” Moore stated.

“I hope that the execution date will remain intact although I anticipate more filings on behalf of the defendant to upset the carrying out of the jury’s verdict,” he added.

Brady, who described the state’s evidence against Wessinger in the guilt phase as “overwhelming,” said in his ruling that Wessinger faults his attorneys’ penalty phase preparation for not probing further into his childhood and upbringing.

Wessinger contends such an investigation would have led to evidence of a physically and mentally abusive childhood, possible mental defects and an alienation from society that led him to believe he did not belong.

Brady ruled that Wessinger is not attacking the quality or thoroughness of the investigation but “does not like the way his story was spun for the jury.”

“This is a clear factual error inconsistent with the record which must be revisited,” Wessinger’s attorneys argue in their memorandum.

“At penalty phase, trial counsel generally painted a rosy picture of Mr. Wessinger as ‘a caring and present father, a brother who cared for his handicapped sister growing up, and a hard worker from a stable family.’ Because trial counsel had not hired a mitigation specialist nor conducted any independent life history investigation, the presentation was an incomplete and inaccurate view of Mr. Wessinger,” his current attorneys maintain.

“It is not the case, as this court suggests, that trial counsel conducted the investigation and made strategic choices about what to present,” Wessinger’s attorneys add.