Update

Texas Death Row Inmate Bernardo Tercero Wins Reprieve


HUNTSVILLE (August 25, 2015)
The Texas Count of Criminal Appeals Tuesday stopped the scheduled execution of a Nicaraguan man convicted of killing a Houston high school teacher during a robbery more than 18 years ago.
Bernardo Tercero, 39, was scheduled to receive a lethal injection Wednesday evening in Huntsville.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued a reprieve Tuesday after attorneys contended in an appeal that a prosecution witness at Tercero’s trial in 2000 gave false testimony.
The appeals court has returned the case to the trial court to review the claim.
Tercero was convicted in the shooting death of Robert Berger, 38, who was in a Houston dry cleaners shop in March 1997 when Tercero came in to rob it.
Prosecutors said Tercero was in the U.S. illegally at the time of the slaying.
Source: Associated Press, August 25, 2015

 

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UPCOMING EXECUTIONS 2015, UPDATE


UPDATE JULY 10, 205


Month State Inmate
July
14 MO David Zink EXECUTED 7.41 PM
15 OH Alva Cambell, Jr. – STAYED*
15 OH Warren K. Henness – STAYED
16 TX Clifton Williams  STAYED
August
12 TX Daniel Lopez  executed
18 TN David Miller – STAYED
26 TX Bernardo Tercero
September
2 TX Joe Garza
16 OK Richard Glossip
17 OH Angelo Fears – STAYED*
17 OH William Montgomery – STAYED^
October
6 TN Abu-Ali Abdur’Rahman – STAYED
6 TX Juan Garcia
7 OK Benjamin Cole
11 TX Gilmar Guevara
14 TX Licho Escamilla
28 OK John Grant
28 TX Christopher Wilkins
November
17 OH Cleveland R. Jackson – STAYED*
17 OH Robert Van Hook – STAYED^
17 TN Nicholas Sutton – STAYED

TEXAS – Execution Jose Villegas – April 16, 6 pm- EXECUTED 7.04 PM


“I would like to remind my children once again I love them,” Villegas said when asked if he had a statement before being put to death. “Everything is OK. I love you all, and I love my children. I am at peace.”

High court refuses to stop execution in Texas

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to halt the scheduled execution of a man convicted of killing three members of a Corpus Christi family.

The high court, on a 5-4 vote, rejected arguments from attorneys for Jose Villegas who said the 39-year-old is mentally impaired and ineligible for the death penalty.

The ruling came Wednesday about 30 minutes after a six-hour window opened for Villegas’ lethal injection for the fatal stabbings 13 years ago of his ex-girlfriend, her 3-year-old son and her mother.

Villegas’ lawyers contended testing in February showed he had an IQ of 59, below the IQ of 70 that courts have embraced as a threshold for mental impairment. State attorneys disputed the test result and called it a late attempt to delay the punishment.

 

As usual, Execution Watch will air, starting at 6pm and have an taped interview with Jose,

Execution Watch with Ray Hill
can be heard on KPFT 90.1 FM,
in Galveston at 89.5 and Livingston at 90.3,
as well as on the net here
from 6:00 PM CT to 7:00 PM CT
on any day Texas executes a prisoner.

April 16 update

Execution Watch with Ray Hill
can be heard on KPFT 90.1 FM,
in Galveston at 89.5 and Livingston at 90.3,
as well as on the net here
from 6:00 PM CT to 7:00 PM CT
on any day Texas executes a prisoner.

April 15, 2014

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Jose Villegas was out on bond for a sexual assault charge and was supposed to go on trial in Corpus Christi for punching a woman in the face on the same day 13 years ago that he stabbed ex-girlfriend, her son and her mother to death.

The former cook, dishwasher and laborer was arrested after a police chase and charged with capital murder for the deaths of his ex-girlfriend, Erida Salazar, her 3-year-old son, Jacob, and her mother, Alma Perez, 51.

Villegas, 38, was set for lethal injection Wednesday for the slayings. He would be the seventh Texas inmate executed this year and the fifth in as many weeks in the nation’s most active death penalty state.

His attorneys argue that the punishment should be put off so they have additional time to investigate evidence they’ve recently found that Villegas is mentally impaired and ineligible for execution. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused Monday to halt the punishment and lawyers for Villegas said they would take their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Salazar’s father, returning home Jan. 22, 2001, from jury duty, found the bloody body of his wife and had a neighbor call police. He then went back inside to find his daughter, 23, and grandson also dead. Court documents show Salazar was stabbed 32 times, her son 19 times and mother 35 times. A television and car also were taken from the home.

Police spotted Salazar’s car with Villegas behind the wheel and he led them on a chase that ended when he bailed out on foot. When he was caught, officers found three bags of cocaine inside his baseball cap.

Testimony at his 2002 capital murder trial showed Villegas told police he pawned the stolen television for $75, used the money immediately to buy cocaine and hoped to commit suicide by overdosing.

“We had a confession, DNA, witnesses who saw him leaving the house afterward,” Mark Skurka, the Nueces County district attorney who prosecuted the case, said. “He killed the mom first, then his girlfriend, then the baby.”

Jurors deliberated less than 20 minutes before convicting him.

Villegas had multiple previous arrests, including burglary, making terroristic threats to kill a woman, assaults and two counts of indecency with a child for exposing himself and fondling the daughter of the woman he was accused of punching in the face. Records showed he had spent at least 200 days in jail and four years on probation.

Defense attorneys at his trial acknowledged Villegas committed the slayings but said they were not intentional and he was mentally ill. A defense psychiatrist blamed his behavior on uncontrollable rages caused by “intermittent explosive disorder.”

“Punishment was the only issue,” Grant Jones, one of Villegas’ trial lawyers, recalled this week. “I’ve been trying criminal cases over 40 years and I’d say in about 80 percent of the cases, mental health is a factor to one degree or another.”

Relatives said Salazar’s mother had urged her to leave Villegas when she learned of the sex charges against him.

Villegas would be the third Texas inmate executed with a new stock of pentobarbital from a provider corrections officials have refused to identify, citing the possibility of threats of violence against the supplier. The Supreme Court has upheld that stance.

Texas and other death penalty states have been scrambling for substitute drugs or new sources for drugs for lethal injections after major drugmakers — many based in Europe where death penalty opposition is strong — stopped selling to state corrections agencies.

Us- Upcoming Executions march 2014


Dates are subject to change due to stays and appeals

UPDATE MARCH 20

Month State Inmate
19 OH Gregory Lott – Stayed
20 FL Robert Henry executed 6.16pm
20 OK Clayton Lockett – Stayed until April 22
26 MO Jeffrey Ferguson EXECUTED
26 MS Charles Crawford Stayed as execution date had not been affirmed by state court.
27 OK Charles Warner – Stayed until April 29
27 TX Anthony Doyle EXECUTED
27 MS Michelle Byrom Update – The Mississippi Supreme Court threw out Michelle Byrom’s murder conviction and death sentence and ordered a new trial due to numerous problems, including inadequate representation, critical evidence not presented to the jury, confessions by another defendant, and the prosecution’s lack of confidence in its own story of what actually happened.
March
19 OHIO Gregory Lott MOVED NOVEMBER 19
19 TEXAS Ray Jasper EXECUTED 6.31 PM
20 OKLAHOMA Clayton Lockett DELAYED (drug shortage)
27 OKLAHOMA Charles Warner DELAYED (drug shortage)
27 TEXAS Anthony Doyle

TEXAS – CCA Denies DNA Testing in Swearingen Case


UPDATE

 

Court Reverses DNA Testing Decision in Swearingen Case

The state’s highest criminal court on Wednesday unanimously reversed a lower court’s decision to allow further DNA testing in the case of death row inmate Larry Swearingen, sending his case back to a district court for further proceedings.

Swearingen was sentenced to death in 2000 after he was convicted of kidnapping, raping and killing 19-year-old Melissa Trotter in Montgomery County. His lawyers say DNA testing on evidence found near Trotter’s body could prove his innocence, but prosecutors say further testing is unnecessary.

James Rytting, a lawyer representing Swearingen, said he would revisit the present motion for further DNA testing now that the case is before the district court once again.

“They remanded it,” Rytting said of the Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision. “They didn’t say DNA testing is completely forbidden.”

Bill Delmore, the Montgomery County assistant district attorney prosecuting Swearingen’s case, said he would ask the court to set another execution date, adding that there was a “mountain of evidence” of Swearingen’s guilt.

“Here we are, back where we started,” he said.

february 5, 2014

Death row inmate Larry Swearingen cannot prove that biological materials exist on evidence connected to the 1998 murder of Melissa Trotter – including on the alleged murder weapon – and therefore is not entitled to DNA testing of those items, the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled this morning.

Swearingen was convicted and sentenced to die for the 1998 murder of 19-year-old Trotter, a Montgomery County community college student who disappeared from her college campus on Dec. 8, 1998. Her body was found several weeks later, by a group of hunters, in the Sam Houston National Forest near Lake Conroe.

Swearingen was seen with Trotter on campus not long before she disappeared. He has maintained his innocence and has been seeking DNA testing for a decade. Among the never-before-tested items of evidence are two lengths of pantyhose – one used to strangle Trotter, found around her neck, the other later found by Swearingen’s former landlord inside a house Swearingen and his wife had previously rented from the man.

The state maintains that visual comparison proves the two pieces came from a single pair of hose. Neither piece has ever been subjected to DNA analysis.

In ruling against Swearingen on Wednesday, Judge Paul Womack wrote for the unanimous court that a district court ruling that last year approved the requested DNA testing would be overturned because Swearingen “cannot prove the existence of biological material” that could be tested. Although the defense presented to the district court expert testimony that biological evidence would “likely” be found on the pantyhose that is not enough to secure testing, the court ruled. “[W]e have explicitly held that appellee must prove biological material exists and not that it is merely probable.”

In other words, without testing, there can be no testing.

The court’s conclusion also precludes any testing of cigarette butts found near Trotter’s body or of Trotter’s clothes, absent a showing that biological material exists on each item.

Only finger nail scrapings taken from Trotter are considered “biological evidence per se” and thus not restricted by the need to prove DNA exists before testing can be done. Only some of the collected scrapings were tested, and material found from under one of Trotter’s fingernails produced DNA from an unknown male.

Still, that result is not enough to convince the court that if additional testing were to be performed it would do anything to convince a jury of Swearingen’s innocence. “In order to be entitled to DNA testing,” Womack wrote for the court, “[Swearingen] must show by a preponderance of the evidence (51%) that he would not have been convicted if the exculpatory results were available at trial.”

Indeed, the unidentified profile previously identified was presented to Swearingen’s jury, the court notes, apparently without effect. “Since the jury already was aware that an unidentified male’s DNA was found under the victim’s fingernails, we fail to see how other such results would have changed its verdict,” Womack wrote. “The jury chose to believe that the foreign DNA either was contamination or that it came rom outside the context of the crime.” In short, the court concluded, Swearingen “cannot show that new testing would lead to a different result.”

During a December hearing on the matter before the CCA, Montgomery County prosecutor Bill Delmore told the court that the mountain of circumstantial evidence against Swearingen is insurmountable and that even if further DNA testing revealed additional evidence from another male – even from a known “serial killer” – that he would conclude only that Swearingen had an accomplice. “Nothing will ever convince me of his innocence,” Delmore said.

Defense lawyers: Skinner won’t appear in Pampa


31.01.2014

Hank Skinner, the Texas death-row inmate convicted of murdering his live-in girlfriend, Twila Busby, and her sons, Randy and Elwin “Scooter” Caler, will not be attending an evidentiary hearing scheduled in Pampa Monday and Tuesday.

An employee who works for Skinner’s defense attorneys, Douglas Robinson and Robert Owen, told The Pampa News that both the state and defense attorneys will offer witnesses and other evidence, such as laboratory reports, to show what results were produced by the DNA testing that has been performed in Skinner’s case over the past 18 months. The attorneys will try to argue about what inferences can be drawn from those test results, she said.

A series of tests on DNA taken from the crime scene have been performed since June 2012, two by a Texas Department of Safety crime lab in Lubbock and one by an independent laboratory in Virginia.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office, who is presenting the state’s case to the court, claims the DNA tests overwhelmingly show that evidence collected at the crime scene consistently shows that Skinner is guilty of strangling and bludgeoning Busby in the living room of her home on New Year’s Eve 1993.

The defense attorneys claim the DNA tests performed at the Virginia lab point to Robert Donnell, Twila Busby’s deceased uncle, as the real killer in the triple homicide. The attorneys say it is well known that Donnell was making unwelcome advances to Busby on the night she was killed.

Judge Steven R. Emmert of the 31st District will not issue a definitive ruling at the conclusion of the hearing, the employee said.

Instead, the parties will have an opportunity to submit written arguments in late February, and the judge will issue a definitive ruling after considering those arguments.

A ruling in Skinner’s favor in this proceeding would not automatically reverse his conviction.

(Source: The Pampa News) #deathpenalty #hankskinner

Skirting the Constitution: Texas rules Basso competent for execution


Texas set to execute woman for ‘horrible, horrible, horrible’ torture killing

UPDATE : february 4, 2014 (AP)

Texas: 2 courts won’t block woman’s execution

A federal judge has joined Texas’ top criminal court in refusing to stop this week’s scheduled execution of a woman condemned for the torture slaying of a mentally impaired man more than 15 years ago outside Houston.

U.S. District Judge Sim Lake on Monday turned down an appeal from 59-year-old Suzanne Basso hours after Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected a similar appeal. She’s set for lethal injection Wednesday evening in Huntsville.

Basso’s attorney contends she is mentally incompetent for execution for the slaying of 59-year-old Louis “Buddy” Musso.

Additional appeals to delay her punishment are likely headed into the federal appeals courts.

Basso would be the 14th woman executed in the U.S. and the 5th in Texas since the Supreme Court in 1976 allowed capital punishment to resume.
Basso’s attorney asked the court to reverse a ruling last month that Basso is competent to be executed for the slaying of 59-year-old Louis “Buddy” Musso at a home in Jacinto City, just east of Houston.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Monday rejected an appeal from 59-year-old Suzanne Basso. She’s set for lethal injection Wednesday evening in Huntsville.

30 january 2014

If the state of Texas goes through with the planned execution on Feb. 5 of Suzanne Basso, it will be executing a delusional woman with scant understanding of why she’s to be put to death, attorney Winston Cochran Jr. argues in a request for sentence commutation filed this month with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Indeed, Cochran argues that evidence of Basso’s mental health issues was never provided to the jurors who sentenced her to die in 1999 – because no mitigation investigation was ever done and no mitigation evidence was provided to jurors. “Executing Basso would bring discredit upon the Texas judicial system by demonstrating that constitutional protections necessary in death penalty cases are not protected,” he wrote in the BPP filing.

Given the BPP’s history, it is not a stretch to imagine that Basso will be denied clemency or a reprieve in order to allow Cochran to pursue additional appeals – since 2007, the BPP has recommended clemency just 4 times out of the 129 death cases it has considered.

Basso was condemned for the gruesome beating death in 1998 of Louis “Buddy” Musso. According to the state, Basso lured Musso, a 59-year-old intellectually disabled man, to Texas from New Jersey by promising to marry him and then, with 5 other people – including her son – abused Musso, beatings that left his body covered in bruises from head to toe, before he was finally killed by a series of brutal blows to the head, as part of a scheme to collect insurance money and Musso’s other assets.

Cochran has argued that there is no evidence that Basso was the one who actually killed Musso and that because the jury was not asked to find that she was a party to the crime – a theory under which all actors share culpability – her conviction is invalid. Several courts have denied Basso’s appeals, including a district court ruling Jan. 15 in Houston, which found that Basso is competent to be executed.

Basso will be the 8th woman put to death in Texas since the mid-1800s, the 2nd inmate executed this year, and the 510th executed since reinstatement of the death penalty.

(source: Austin Chronicle)

RELATED ARTICLE  SUZANNE BASSO

Georgia stays execution of mentally disabled prisoner Update


Update July 13, 2013
Georgia officials reschedule Hill execution for Friday
ATLANTA (AP) – State officials have rescheduled the execution of Georgia death row inmate Warren Lee Hill for Friday.

Hill was originally scheduled to be executed on Monday, but a Fulton County judge issued a temporary stay so she could consider a legal challenge filed by Hill’s attorneys. Hill is challenging a new state law prohibiting the release of certain information related to Georgia’s supply of lethal injection drugs.

A hearing on that issue has been scheduled for Thursday morning.

Separately, Hill’s attorneys have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the execution, arguing Hill is mentally disabled and should not be put to death.

Attorneys for the state say Hill has failed to prove he’s mentally disabled and that his case has been thoroughly reviewed by the courts.

(Source: The Associated Press)

 

A mentally ill prisoner who was scheduled for execution in Georgia on Monday has been granted a stay of execution by a judge.

Major questions were raised over the execution, which appeared to be in stark contrast with the Eighth Amendment.

Warren Lee Hill, a 53-year-old man convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend and beating a fellow inmate to death in 1990, has been facing execution for the past 12 months. He was scheduled to be killed by lethal injection last July and again in February, but was spared by last-minute court orders.

Hill has been classified as “mentally retarded” by all nine government and state doctors who examined him, and the Supreme Court’s 2002 decision in Atkins v. Virginia bars the execution of mentally ill inmates. According to one state expert, Hill has an IQ under 70, classifying him as ‘challenged,’ at best.

Superior Court Judge Gail Tusan held a 90-minute hearing Monday, hearing challenges from Hill’s attorneys regarding the constitutionality of a new state law that hides from public view the manufacturer of the drug used in lethal injections and the physicians who prescribe it.

Small local pharmacies provide the drugs for lethal injections in Georgia, according to the Atlanta Journal constitution, because European drug companies refuse to let their drugs to be used in executions.

A second meeting to continue the discussion was scheduled for Thursday.

Hill was previously scheduled to receive a lethal injection at 7pm local time (14:00 GMT) Monday.

Three of nine doctors classified him as competent 13 years ago, but in February redacted their statements and described him as mentally ill. One doctor called his earlier evaluation “extremely and unusually rushed” and another said his conclusions were “unreliable because of my lack of experience at the time,” Reuters reports.

The Supreme Court decision states that executing those with a cognitive impairment is a “cruel and unusual” punishment, which violates the Eighth Amendment.

Defense Attorney Brian Kammer last week filed a Supreme Court motion for a stay of execution. Hill’s lawyer also filed a second legal challenge with the Georgia state courts concerning new drug secrecy laws.

Georgia recently passed the controversial Lethal Injection Secrecy Law, which allows the state’s Department of Corrections to secretly obtain the sedative pentobarbital, which is used in executions. As a result of the law, the state can bypass the Freedom of Information Act and consider information about the drug suppliers a “state secret.”

In a motion filed with the state, Kammer argues that the uncertainty about the sedatives’ origins means that his client has “no means for determining whether the drugs for his lethal injection are safe and will reliably perform their function, or if they are tainted, counterfeited, expired or compromised in some other way.”

The motion was filed to challenge “the constitutionality of [the secrecy law] and clarify the rights of Mr. Hill to obtain information about the origins and manufacture of the drug with which he will be executed – and by extension – its safety an likely efficacy.”

To defend itself against the federal court, the state is arguing that all nine doctors who diagnosed Hill as mentally ill were flawed in their analyses and failed to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt under state standards – and that the three who redacted their classifications did so too late.

“Hill has not met his burden of proving retardation under an onerous state standard; that the doctors’ new diagnoses are flawed; and that, as a matter of law, they come too late anyway to spare Hill,” writes The Atlantic’s Andrew Cohen.

Civil rights groups have spoken out against the Georgia court system, and the non-profit group All About Developmental Disabilities has called on the state to lower its standard for proving mental disability. Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, has published a statement declaring the inmate’s scheduled execution unconstitutional.

“The American Civil Liberties Union believes the death penalty inherently violates the constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment and the guarantees of due process of law and of equal protection under the law,” he writes.

“Executing this indisputably intellectually disabled man would not only violate our Constitution, but it would be cruel and unjust beyond reason.”

Hill’s death would have marked the 19th execution in the United States this year. (RT News)

Georgia has set an execution date of July 15 for Warren Hill (update)


Georgia has set an execution date of July 15 for Warren Hill, despite his pending petition before the U.S. Supreme Court demonstrating that all of the physicians who have examined Hill agree he is intellectually disabled. People suffering from intellectual disability (mental retardation) are constitutionally barred from execution. (Atlanta Journal Constitution, July 3, 2013). This is the exceptional and rare case where there is clear proof an inmate is ineligible for the death penalty and the U.S. Supreme Court is the only avenue for relief.

rrelated articlee  warren hill

OHIO- Death-row inmate denied clemency, Brett Hartman


NOVEMBER 9, 2012 http://www.vindy.com

Gov. John Kasich has denied clemency to the death row inmate facing execution next week for the brutal murder of an Akron woman 15 years ago.

Barring last-minute court intervention, Brett Hartman will be put to death Tuesday at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.

Kasich’s decision was in line with the unanimous recommendation of the state parole board, which last month, for the third time in recent years, said Hartman deserved the death penalty for the crime.

Hartman was convicted of murdering 46-year-old Winda Snipes in September 1997, stabbing her more than 130 times, slitting her throat and cutting off her hands. The latter never were found.

Evidence used in the conviction included DNA taken from Snipes’ body, fingerprints at the scene and a bloody T-shirt and woman’s watch found at Hartman’s apartment.

Additionally, a cellmate and former co-worker testified that Hartman had made incriminating comments.

But Hartman, who admitted having sexual relations with the victim hours before her death, has maintained his innocence, saying fingerprints and hair found at the crime scene and phone records prove he did not commit murder.

“My heart goes out to [Snipes’ family],” Hartman told the Statehouse Bureau of Dix Newspapers and The Vindicator during a death row interview last month. “I know losing anyone, especially family, is a very traumatizing experience. I recently lost my mom and my sister. And no one in the world deserves to lose a relative or anyone the way that Winda was taken, and my heart goes out to them. But I didn’t do it.”

But the parole board and Kasich were not swayed by his claims of innocence.

“The overwhelming evidence presented during trial clearly established that Hartman is guilty of this crime,” the parole board wrote. “Hartman shows no remorse and continues to claim his innocence despite the evidence indicating his guilt.”

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