capitalpunishment

Ex-Virginia executioner becomes opponent of death penalty – Jerry Givens


Jerry Givens executed 62 people.
His routine and conviction never wavered. He’d shave the person’s head, lay his hand on the bald pate and ask for God’s forgiveness for the condemned. Then, he would strap the person into Virginia’s electric chair.
Givens was the state’s chief executioner for 17 years — at a time when the commonwealth put more people to death than any state besides Texas.
“If you knew going out there that raping and killing someone had the consequence of the death penalty, then why are you going to do it?” Givens asked. “I considered it suicide.”
As Virginia executed its 110th person in the modern era last month, Givens prayed for the man, but also for an end to the death penalty. Since leaving his job in 1999, Givens has become one of the state’s most visible — and unlikely — opponents of capital punishment.
Givens’s improbable journey to the death chamber and back did not come easily or quickly for the 60-year-old from Richmond. A searing murder spurred his interest in the work, but it was the innocent life he nearly took that led him to question the system. And he was changed for good when he found himself behind bars.
His evolution underscores that of Virginia itself and the nation. Although polls show that the majority of state residents still support the death penalty, Virginia has experienced a sea change on capital punishment in recent years that is part of a national trend.
Givens grew up in the Creighton Court housing complex in Richmond, where he also graduated from high school in the early 1970s. By 1974, he had gotten a job at a Philip Morris plant and then lost it after fighting with a co-worker.
He recalled someone telling him that he should apply for a job at the state penitentiary before he got sent there. Givens did just that.
After two years as a prison guard, he said, a supervisor approached him about working on death row. He would not be paid extra, but he accepted the job.

“If you knew going out there that raping and killing someone had the consequence of the death penalty, then why are you going to do it?” Givens asked. “I considered it suicide.”

As Virginia executed its 110th person in the modern era last month, Givens prayed for the man, but also for an end to the death penalty. Since leaving his job in 1999, Givens has become one of the state’s most visible — and unlikely — opponents of capital punishment.

His evolution underscores that of Virginia itself and the nation. Although polls show that the majority of state residents still support the death penalty, Virginia has experienced a sea change on capital punishment in recent years that is part of a national trend.

The state has had fewer death sentences over the past five years than any period since the 1970s. Robert Gleason, who was put to death Jan. 16, was the first execution in a year and a half. As recently as 1999, the state put 13 to death in a single year.

Nationwide, the number of death sentences was at record lows in 2011 and 2012, down 75 percent since 1996, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Five states have outlawed capital punishment in the past five years, and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) affirmed plans to push for a moratorium there. Gallup polls show support for capital punishment ebbing.

Givens’s improbable journey to the death chamber and back did not come easily or quickly for the 60-year-old from Richmond. A searing murder spurred his interest in the work, but it was the innocent life he nearly took that led him to question the system. And he was changed for good when he found himself behind bars.

His story helps explain how a state closely associated with the death penalty for decades has entered a new era.

“From the 62 lives I took, I learned a lot,” Givens said.

The first execution

Friends and strangers regularly ask Givens the essential question: What is it like to take another man’s life? In answering, he vividly recalls his first execution, in 1984.

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BOOKS 2013


Women Who Kill Men: California Courts, Gender, and the Press examines the role that gender played in the trials of women accused of murder in California between 1870-1958. The authors trace the changing views of the public towards women and how these views may have affected the outcomes of the cases. Some defendants faced the death penalty and were executed; some were spared. Often the public was deeply fascinated with all aspects of the trial and punishment. The book, written by Gordon Morris Bakken and Brenda Farrington, provides in-depth details of 18 murder trials through court records and news coverage.

 

 

A new book by Kathleen Cairns explores the intriguing story of Barbara Graham, who was executed for murder in California in 1955, and whose case became a touchstone in the ongoing debate over capital punishment. In Proof of Guilt: Barbara Graham and the Politics of Executing Women in America, Cairns examines how different narratives portrayed Graham, with prosecutors describing her as mysterious and seductive, while some of the media emphasized Graham’s abusive and lonely childhood. The book also describes how Graham’s case became crucial to the death-penalty abolitionists of the time, as questions of guilt were used to raise awareness of the arbitrary and capricious nature of the death penalty.Cairns is a lecturer in the Department of History at California Polytechnic State University.  She has also written The Enigma Woman: The Death Sentence of Nellie May Madison (Nebraska, 2007) and Hard Time at Tehachapi: California’s First Women’s Prison.

A new international manual covering psychiatric and psychological issues arising in capital cases has been prepared by a team of forensic psychiatrists for use by attorneys, judges, and mental health officials. The Handbook of Forensic Psychiatric Practice in Capital Cases sets out model structures for psychiatric assessment and report writing for every stage of a death penalty case, from pre-trial to execution. It also discusses ethical issues, particularly with regard to an inmate’s competence to be executed. The handbook is published by The Death Penalty Project (DPP) and Forensic Psychiatry Chambers, both based in England. It is available online or in print from DPP.A new international manual covering psychiatric and psychological issues arising in capital cases has been prepared by a team of forensic psychiatrists for use by attorneys, judges, and mental health officials. The Handbook of Forensic Psychiatric Practice in Capital Cases sets out model structures for psychiatric assessment and report writing for every stage of a death penalty case, from pre-trial to execution. It also discusses ethical issues, particularly with regard to an inmate’s competence to be executed. The handbook is published by The Death Penalty Project (DPP) and Forensic Psychiatry Chambers, both based in England. It is available online or in print from DPP.

The Michigan Committee Against Capital Punishment has published a collection of over 40 years of testimony, brochures, and other information by attorney and death-penalty expert Eugene Wanger. The collection begins with the resolution from Michigan‘s 1962 constitutional convention banning capital punishment in the state. It includes Wanger’s testimony at numerous hearings opposing bills attempting to reinstate the death penalty, as well as brochures and short articles. The bound and boxed volume provides a comprehensive overview of the history of death-penalty legislation in Michigan. Through legislation in 1846, the state became first English-speaking government to abolish the death penalty for murder and lesser crimes.

 

A forthcoming book, Fighting for Their Lives: Inside the Experience of Capital Defense Attorneys by Susannah Sheffer, explores the impact of the death penalty on defense attorneys with clients on death row. Through interviews with capital defenders, the author examines how attorneys try to cope with the stress of representing clients facing execution. Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, said, “This is an important book. The death penalty’s impact is so much broader than we realize, and these attorneys are affected in ways that even I had not imagined. I am grateful to Susannah Sheffer for bringing these stories to light.” Richard Burr, a prominent capital defense attorney, called the book “a beautiful, heartbreaking, and above all uplifting story that makes an essential contribution to literature on the death penalty.” The book is available through Amazon and other outlets.

A new book by Professor Robert Bohm of the University of Central Florida examines the personal impact of capital punishment on those involved in the criminal justice system, beyond the victim and perpetrator of the crime. Bohm listened to those involved in all steps of the judicial process, including investigators, jurors, and the execution team. He has probed the effects of the death penalty on the families of both the murder victim and the offender. The book, Capital Punishment’s Collateral Damage, includes testimonials from members of each group, “allowing the participants…to describe in their own words their role in the process and, especially, its effects on them.” Bohm concludes that this “collateral damage is another good argument for rethinking the wisdom of the ultimate sanction.”

 

A new book, “Where Justice and Mercy Meet: Catholic Opposition to the Death Penalty,” offers a comprehensive discussion of Catholic teaching on capital punishment. It explores a wide range of issues related to the death penalty, including racism, mental illness, and economic disparities. The book is edited by Trudy Conway and David Matzko McCarthy, both professors at Mount St. Mary’s University, and Vicki Schieber–the mother of a murder victim. It includes a foreword by Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking. Joseph A. Fiorenza, Archbishop Emeritus of Galveston-Houston, said the book “is a treasure trove of information on the necessity and urgency to abolish an antiquated approach to capital crimes.”

US – UPCOMING EXECUTIONS – DECEMBER 2012


November 17, 2012 

Dates are subject to change due to stays and appeals

December
12.04.12 George Ochoa Oklahoma  executed
12.11.2012 Roy Ward Indiana Stay likely
 12.11.2012 Manuel Pardo Florida  executed
 12.12.2012 Rigoberto Avila  Texas Changed to 4/10/2013

Utah’s death penalty costs $1.6M more per inmate


November 15, 2012 http://www.sltrib.com

Craig Watson said he didn’t know if “closure” was the proper word.

But as he witnessed the 2010 execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner, who killed Watson’s cousin Melvyn J. Otterstrom at a bar in 1984, a feeling of peace came over him: It was, finally, over.

As Utah lawmakers weigh the cost of executing men like Gardner versus keeping them in prison for life, Watson asked them on Wednesday to remember there are some things that no amount of money can touch — a message also shared by Barbara Noriega, whose mother and sister were killed by another man now on Utah’s death row.

“With the death sentence, there are no recurring offenders and we can go on with our lives,” Watson said, his voice breaking at times as he addressed the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee.

Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, asked for the analysis, the first study to examine what the capital punishment option costs the state and local governments. Handy has not proposed any legislation and said Wednesday he is “under no illusion that people in Utah want to change the present law.” But Handy said the comparative costs of life without parole and the death penalty — which a legislative fiscal analyst pegged “unofficially” at an added $1.6 million per inmate from trial to execution — should be understood.

“Which direction citizens of Utah choose to go remains to be seen,” Handy told the committee.

It is a topic of discussion in other states as well. New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois and Connecticut all did away with the option in recent years. A year ago, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber put a moratorium on executions and ordered a review of that state’s capital punishment law. On Nov. 6, voters in California, where more than 700 inmates sit on death row, rejected a proposition that would have repealed the state’s death penalty; proponents argued for doing away with the option based on its costs.

Lawmakers may get some insight into Utahns’ views of capital punishment from a survey being conducted by students at Utah Valley University under the direction of Sandy McGunigall-Smith, an associate professor of legal studies. The survey will be sent to 6,000 people randomly selected in Ogden, West Valley City, Kamas, Saratoga Springs, Alpine and Taylorsville.

Thomas Brunker, an assistant Utah attorney general, said the state has two policy interests in supporting capital punishment: deterrence and retribution. Gardner’s case illustrated a “special” interest in assuring a condemned person could not kill again, he said, while the heinous nature of the crimes committed by other Utah death row inmates highlighted society’s “right” to exact retribution.

Ralph Dellapiana, a defense attorney and death penalty project director for Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said the cost estimates fall short of capturing the full expense of the dozen or so aggravated murder cases filed each year in which the death penalty is an option. Such cases require thousands of hours of extensive, multi-generational social histories of the offender, for example, costs that would not be incurred if the penalty were replaced with a life without parole alternative. The cost analysis also doesn’t include expenses incurred in cases that are prosecuted as capital offenses but that end up in plea deals or acquittals, as occurred recently with Curtis Allgier, who shot and killed corrections officer Stephen Anderson during a 2007 escape attempt.

Without the death penalty, there would be faster closure for victims’ families, he added.

And for offenders’ families.

Peggy Ostler described the pain and emotional roller coaster her parents have experienced over the more than two decades that their adopted son, Michael Archuleta, has spent on death row. Archuleta tortured, raped and murdered Gordon Ray Church, 28, in 1988. The crime was terrible, she said, and life in prison would be appropriate, but facing their son’s execution would be the “final blow” to her parents, who oppose the death penalty.

Watson agreed the legal process is too lengthy and often painful, an argument for streamlining rather than doing away with the death penalty.

For more than two decades, as they waited for justice to be carried out, Watson said he and other relatives had every “stupid” move Gardner shoved in their faces — among them, feigned illnesses and escape attempts, including one at a courthouse in 1985 where Gardner fatally shotattorney Michael Burdell and wounded bailiff Nick Kirk.

“We got to hear about it, we got to see it, we got to relive it,” said Watson, a 37-year veteran law enforcement officer.

Since Gardner’s execution, Otterstrom’s widow and son have finally been able to move on with their lives, he said.

“In my opinion, there isn’t enough money to make a difference,” Watson said.

Noriega placed framed photos of her mother Kaye Tiede, 51, and grandmother Beth Harmon Tidwell Potts, 72, on the table before her as she addressed lawmakers. Tiede had survived two husbands, both killed in automobile accidents, before marrying Rolf Tiede, Noriega said. The two built a cabin, which they called “Tiede’s Tranquility,” in Oakley as a family get-away and where they planned to spend Christmas in 1990.

Von Lester Taylor and Edward Steven Deli, who had escaped from a halfway house, broke into the cabin on Dec. 22, opened presents and waited for the family to return. Tiede, another daughter and Potts arrived first; the two women were shot and the daughter bound and gagged. Rolf Tiede and another daughter arrived next; he was shot and played dead as the two men set the cabin on fire and took off on snowmobiles with the younger daughters. Despite his injuries, Rolf Tiede managed to get help, and Taylor and Deli were captured.

Deli received a life sentence, while Taylor, identified as the shooter, was sentenced to death.

“There is no doubt that these savages did this to my family,” Noriega said, calling the 22 years of legal wrangling that has followed “shocking, a travesty.”

“It might be a lot of things, but it is not justice,” Noriega said.

The family, once so wary of danger and crime, has had to confront evil and personal responsibility in “ways I never imagined,” she added. “Our family feels the death penalty actually represents a reverence for the sanctity of the lives of the innocent.

 

TEXAS – EXECUTION TODAY – PRESTON HUGHES – EXECUTED 7.52 p.m


The condemned prisoner’s mother sobbed and wailed as she witnessed the lethal injection. Hughes’ sister was at her side.

“You know I’m innocent and I love you both,” Hughes, 46, said as his mother cried loudly.

“Please continue to fight for my innocence even though I’m gone.

“Give everybody my love.”

He took several deep breaths and then stopped moving. His mother, seated in a chair near the death chamber window, cried out: “My baby … I haven’t touched my child in 23 years.”

Hughes was pronounced dead at 7:52 p.m. local time, 15 minutes after the lethal drug began flowing into his arms. No one representing his victims witnessed the punishment.

Hughes became the 15th Texas prisoner executed this year and the second in as many nights.

http://www.theprovince.com

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to stop tonight’s scheduled execution

November 16, 2012 http://www.austinchronicle.com

 

At press time, the state was readying to carry out the Nov. 15 execution of Preston Hughes III, set to become the 15th inmate executed this year and the 492nd inmate executed since reinstatement of the death penalty. Hughes was sentenced to death for the 1988 double murder of 15-year-old LaShandra Charles and her 3-year-old cousin, Marcell Taylor, who were found stabbed to death on a weed-choked trail behind a Fuddruckers in far West Houston (see “Framing the Guilty?,” Nov. 2). Although Charles’ carotid artery and jugular were severed, the first HPD detective arriving at the scene later claimed that Charles was awake and able to talk – and to tell him that she knew her attacker, whose name was Preston. Police quickly moved to a nearby apartment complex, where they found Hughes. Police say they found evidence in his apartment that matched the crime, including a pair of fashion glasses that Charles had been known to wear as an accessory.

Hughes’ appeals have been unsuccessful despite a plethora of evidence that suggests either that he is the wrong man, or that he was framed by police despite being guilty: Evidence records reflect that police logged evidence into custody several hours before they had permission to search Hughes’ apartment. Notably, the glasses that police considered a direct link between Charles and Hughes were not on the evidence list; Hughes’ attorney and supporters believe they were planted in the apartment some time in the hours after Charles was discovered. Moreover, when asked by the Chronicle this fall to review the autopsy evidence, Tarrant County Deputy Medical Examiner Lloyd White concluded that it would have been medically impossible for Charles to have been conscious and talking after sustaining such a fatal injury.

Hughes‘ attorney Pat McCann has filed several recent appeals – including one that raises the question of police having planted evidence – each of which has been denied. Meanwhile, California-based blogger John Allen, known online as the Skeptical Juror (www.skepticaljuror.com), has helped Hughes to file a flurry of pro se writs; each of those also has been denied, clearing the way for Hughes’ execution this evening, Thursday, Nov. 15.

Death Row exoneree Randy Steidl
 to speak Nov. 27 at NKU


November 13, 2012 http://www.lanereport.com

 

As part of the Journey of Hope Tour sponsored by the Northern Kentucky University Chase American Constitution Society, the ACLU of Kentucky and the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, NKU will host a free public lecture by death row exoneree Randy Steidl on Tuesday, Nov. 27, at noon in room 302 of the James C. and Rachel M. Votruba Student Union.

Steidl and a co-defendant were convicted for the 1986 murder of newlywed couple Dyke and Karen Rhoads in the small town of Paris, Ill. The two maintained their innocence but it was not until Northwestern University journalism students got involved that Steidl’s case received a proper review.

The entire case against Steidl was based on unreliable eye-witness testimony. Even though their stories conflicted with one another, both witnesses claimed to be present on the night of the attack and both described a gruesome scene. Yet, in spite of the violent stabbing that occurred, there was no physical evidence tying Steidl to the crime.

It was only after the in-depth investigative journalism conducted by Northwestern students that new information was uncovered and old evidence invalidated. With the aid of a local police officer, students were able to present enough evidence of Steidl’s innocence to call for a new trial. Eventually, all charges were dropped and Steidl became the 18th person to be released from the Illinois death row because of a wrongful conviction.

Steidl described his ordeal in a CNN interview. “Torture,” he said. “Actually being innocent and knowing that the state of Illinois wants to kill me for something I did not do.”

His NKU visit comes just weeks after the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights called on state lawmakers to abolish the death penalty and less than one year after a team of Kentucky legal experts published a 400-page report alleging serious flaws within the state’s death penalty system.

Daylong hearing set in death sentence appeal – Michael Addison


November 13, 2012 http://bostonglobe.com

The state’s only death-row inmate will have his day in court — all day — when the New Hampshire Supreme Court hears arguments pertaining to his sentence.

Michael Addison was sentenced to death for fatally shooting a 35-year-old Manchester police officer, Michael Briggs, in 2006, when Briggs tried to arrest him on robbery charges.

The justices in Addison’s case will be deliberating the death penalty for the first time in more than 50 years — deciding, among other things, whether Addison’s sentence is just or was a product of passion or prejudice.

The justices will hear arguments in the case beginning Wednesday morning, holding four blocks of hearings that are scheduled to end at 3 p.m.

Court observers say the daylong hearing on Addison’s conviction and death sentence is unprecedented. A typical hearing before the justices lasts half an hour.

If his sentence is upheld and carried out, Addison — now 32 — would be the first convict executed in New Hampshire since 1939.

Former chief justice John Broderick, now dean of the University of New Hampshire School of Law, said the court, on occasion, has granted more time for arguments.

‘‘But an entire day? I don’t know of another case where that’s happened,’’ Broderick said.

Attorneys for Addison have raised 22 issues, with everything from the constitutionality of the state’s death penalty statute to the political ambitions of Kelly Ayotte, a former attorney general and current US senator, in their appeal.

Addison’s lawyers want the court to vacate his death sentence and order a new sentencing hearing. They stress that jurors determined Addison shot Briggs to evade arrest, but rejected the state’s argument that he shot Briggs with the intention of killing him.

Before Addison’s case could reach this point, the state Supreme Court first had to fashion the method it would use in weighing the fairness of his death penalty.

Addison’s lawyers argued his case should be compared with all other death penalty cases in this state and others, to test whether racial bias or other factors influenced his sentence. Addison is black; Briggs was white.

The only other New Hampshire capital case in decades to reach the penalty phase was that of John Brooks, who was convicted of plotting and paying for the killing of a handyman he suspected of stealing from him. A jury spared him a death sentence in 2008 — the same year Addison was sentenced to die.

But the court ruled in October 2010 that it would compare his death sentence with cases ­nationwide in which a police officer was killed in the line of duty.

The court stressed, in its 41-page ruling, that comparison cases do not have to precisely mirror the details of Addison’s case.

‘‘Ultimately, no two capital murder defendants are alike,’’ the ruling states. ‘‘Perfect symmetry and uniform consistency are not possible under a statutory scheme that requires juries to make individualized sentencing decisions based upon the unique circumstances of a case, given the nature of the crime and the character and background of the defendant.’’

Death-row inmate Hubert Michael Jr. will be executed soon, DA Kearney predicts


November 11, 2012

BELLEFONTE — Condemned killer Hubert Lester Michael Jr.’s temporary stay of execution won’t save him from being put to death by lethal injection, York County District Attorney Tom Kearney said.

“I believe it will happen in a relatively short window of time,” he said. “I think we’re going to get there — for the (victim’s) family and for the community. This is a temporary speed bump.”

Michael was to die at 7 p.m. Thursday, but the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay of execution that returns the case to U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III. The Third Circuit wants Jones to explain why he denied Michael’s request to keep fighting his death sentence, but then issued what’s called a “certificate of appealability.”

Process

Trista Eng

at issue: Michael’s attorneys with the Federal Community Defender Office and the state attorney general’s Office then have 14 days to address their issues — all at once, Kearney said.

Kearney said language in opinions by Jones and in an unrelated case by the state Supreme Court seems to indicate federal appellate judges in Pennsylvania are frustrated by federal community defenders, who litigate death-row cases bit by bit.

“Delay is winning,” he said.

Jones addressed it directly in his order denying Michael a stay:

“Indeed, to grant the relief requested by the petitioner would make the case a monumental example of the seemingly endless and oft-criticized federal habeas practice. Over 19 years after the heinous murder the petitioner has admitted committing, it is time to draw this affair to a close.”

Hard on family: The family of 16-year-old murder victim Trista Eng wants the sentence carried out, although all have had different reactions to the decades of delays, Kearney said.

“It’s got to be terrible for them,” he said. “I have to believe that this is an emotional roller coaster no one deserves.”

He described Suzanna Eng, Trista’s mother, as a remarkable woman, “resolute in her determination tsee justice for her daughter.”

At Michael’s clemency hearing Wednesday, Trista’s siblings “spoke of their relationship with their sister, and all that she has missed,” Kearney said.

Trista’s brother and sister expressed frustration toward the system, he said, and her brother told the board he hates Michael, according to Kearney.

“The attorney general’s office and our office will do everything we can to make sure the will of the community is carried forth,” he said.

SCOTUS: Despite the stay of execution, Michael, Trista’s family, prison officials and media spent tense hours Thursday at Rockview state prison near State College, waiting to hear whether the U.S. Supreme Court would grant prosecutors’ emergency motion to halt

This is the “execution complex” at Rockview state prison, near State College, where death-row inmates are executed. Three inmates have been put to death since Pa. reinstituted the death penalty in 1972. (Courtesy of Pa. Dept. of Corrections) the Third Circuit’s stay.

But that motion was denied, according to Nils Frederiksen, spokesman for the state attorney general’s office.

It was about 8:30 p.m. Thursday when the denial was announced, ending the wait and sending Eng’s family, the media and a handful of death-penalty protesters back home.

Waited quietly:All day Thursday and into Thursday night, Michael remained in Rockview’s execution holding cell, reading a Bible and a newspaper and listening to the radio, according to Susan McNaughton, press secretary for the state Department of Corrections.

He did not write or dictate a final statement, she said.

Although the execution was set for 7 p.m., the death warrant signed by Gov. Tom Corbett remained in effect until midnight, McNaughton said, and the execution could have begun as late as 11:59 p.m.

Had the execution happened, Michael would have been handcuffed before walking the 20 feet from the holding cell to the execution chamber under escort by six corrections officers, McNaughton said.

Police escort: Michael arrived at Rockview at 6:09 Thursday morning from Greene state prison under police escort, according to McNaughton, and he will now be returned to Greene. Rockview is the only state prison designated to handle executions.

He was visited by his spiritual adviser and one of his attorneys, she said, but no family members.

Michael’s attorneys have declined interviews, but released a statement Thursday afternoon:

“On behalf of Hubert Michael, we are extremely pleased that the federal Court of Appeals has granted (him) a stay of execution. Mr. Michael has suffered from debilitating mental conditions throughout his life. Mr. Michael has compelling legal claims in his case which have never been reviewed by any court. The Court of Appeals recognized that there are complicated issues involved in this case that should be carefully considered.”

13 years: Had the execution happened, Michael, 56, formerly of Lemoyne, would have been the first murderer put to death in Pennsylvania in 13 years, and the fourth inmate executed since 1972, when the state reinstituted the death penalty.

The three men executed since 1972 had all willingly given up appeals and weren’t fighting their death sentences.

It’s the third death warrant Pennsylvania governors have signed for Michael. The first two were in 1996 and 2004. Both times, his execution was stayed.

For years, Michael maintained he wanted to die, but he changed his mind in 2004, just days before his scheduled execution.

His attorneys argue he was not mentally competent when he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder on Oct. 11, 1994, and didn’t challenge his death sentence.

They’ve also said Michael suffered from mental-health issues while he was held in Graterford state prison, but that those issues improved when he was transferred to Greene state prison.

Now that his mental health has improved, Michael is fighting his death sentence.

The background: Michael told his former defense attorney, York County chief public defender Bruce Blocher, he offered Trista a ride as she was walking to her job at Hardee’s in Dillsburg on July 12, 1993.

She accepted, at which point he kidnapped her, drove to to state game lands in Warrington Township and raped and killed her, according to testimony from Blocher at an appeals hearing in 1997.

Michael fled the state 10 days later. At the time, he was free on bail for a Lancaster County rape charge.

Captured: He was captured July 27, 1993, in Utah. Police found the murder weapon in the car he was using, officials said.

He was charged with homicide in late August 1993, after Trista’s body was found by his own family members. Michael had confessed the murder to his brother.

In November 1993, Michael escaped from Lancaster County Prison but was captured in New Orleans in March 1994, according to the Department of Corrections.

He was later sentenced to 10 to 20 years for the Lancaster County rape, according to court records.

OHIO – EXECUTION – Brett Hartman 11/13/2012 EXECUTED 10.34 a.m


 Brett Hartman

November 13, 2012 http://www.dailymail.co.uk

Today, he calmly accepted his death.

‘I’m good, let’s roll,’ he said in his final words.

He then smiled in the direction of his sister and repeatedly gave her, a friend and his attorney a ‘thumbs up’ with his left hand.

‘This is not going to defeat me,’ Hartman then said to warden Donald Morgan, who didn’t respond.

The effect of the single dose of pentobarbital did not seem as immediate as in other executions at the state prison in Lucasville, in southern Ohio.

Four minutes after Hartman first appeared to be reacting to it as his abdomen began to rise and fall, his abdomen rose and fell again, he coughed and his head shifted rhythmically for a few moments.

His sister, Diane Morretti, dabbed at her eyes during the process. The warden declared Hartman’s time of death as 10:34am.

Both Hartman’s attorney, David Stebbins, and prisons system spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said the gap between Hartman’s movements was not out of the ordinary.

Hartman claimed he did not kill Snipes, but found mutilated body and panicked, trying to clean up the mess before calling 911. It was a claim rejected by numerous courts over the years.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a last-minute appeal by Hartman yesterday.

Hartman’s last meal, which in Ohio is called a special meal, consisted of steak with sauteed mushrooms, fried shrimp, Macaroni & Cheese, a baked potato with butter and sour cream, Rainforest Crunch cereal, cans of Pepsi and Dr Pepper, and a bowl of Honey-Comb cereal, a prison spokesman told MailOnline.

Hartman is the 49th inmate put to death since Ohio resumed executions in 1999.

Murdered: Ms Snipes had been stabbed 138 times. Her throat had been cut and her hands were cut off in the gruesome murder in her home  Ms Snipes

November 10, 2012 http://www.ohio.com

Three years ago, the condemned killer from Akron came within a week of being executed by the state of Ohio. Just last year, he came within three weeks of being executed.

While prosecutors continue to block his efforts for additional DNA testing, only the U.S. Supreme Court stands between Hartmann and his execution Tuesday in Lucasville. Hartmann contends he is innocent of the brutal slaying of Highland Square resident Winda Snipes in 1997 and his attorneys plan to continue his fight for testing of evidence until the final hours.

Prosecutors have long argued that Hartmann, 38, has already been granted his wish with additional DNA testing that only confirmed the “clear and convincing evidence of his guilt.” They say the 11th-hour appeals by Hartmann are only designed to delay his death.

Hartmann’s attorneys, Michael Benza and David Stebbins, say the courts have failed to take the testing further and examine key pieces of evidence.

Prosecutors originally sent many of the items to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the state’s forensic crime lab, but the evidence has either never been tested or never revealed, Benza said.

The items include bloody fingerprint on an electric clock in which the cord was cut and used to kill Snipes. There is also a bloody fingerprint on a chair.

The defense wants the untested prints compared to Hartmann as well as Snipes’ ex-boyfriend. They’ve been seeking the tests for years, but the state will not cooperate.

“If Brett’s not a match to the bloody fingerprints, then that’s pretty good evidence that someone other than Brett committed this crime,” Benza said.

Some fingerprints that were apparently tested, he said, were never linked to Hartmann. Other items were sent for testing. What those items were, however, were never disclosed to defense attorneys, he said.

“That’s what I find really most disturbing,” Benza said. “The prosecutors wanted it tested at trial, yet we get no answers from anybody on why there were not tested.”

Details of slaying

Snipes, 46, was found dead in her South Highland Avenue apartment. Her body was bound at the ankles, her torso stabbed more than 130 times, her neck slashed and her hands severed and missing.

Hartmann, who had a casual sexual relationship with Snipes, contends he had been with her about 14 hours earlier during a sexual encounter, but did not kill her.

It was Hartmann, then 23, who reported finding Snipes’ body. He told police he went to her apartment, discovered her mutilated body and panicked, fearing police would pin the murder on him. He cleaned up evidence of his previous visit — cigarette butts, beer cans and his T-shirt, which he said was left behind in his haste to leave Snipes after their sexual encounter.

About two hours after finding the body, Hartmann said, he made a series of 911 calls in an attempt to report Snipes’ death anonymously. He was later arrested when his bloody shirt and a watch belonging to Snipes were found in his bedroom. His semen was also found in Snipes’ body.

Years later, a federal judge ordered additional DNA testing from Snipes’ body. The DNA was linked to Hartmann. But defense attorneys counter that Hartmann had already acknowledged having sex with Snipes before her death. They want specific evidence tested before the execution goes forward.

Clock evidence

The clock has been an intriguing untested item since the slaying in September 1997. It was found inside Snipes’ apartment stopped at 4:40. The cord was cut and used to strangle Snipes, who had been seen alive at 4:30 p.m.

Defense attorneys believe the clock stopped around the time of the murder. Phone records suggest Hartmann was at his home at 4:50 p.m.

In past appeals, defense attorneys say a former jail inmate lied at Hartmann’s original trial and the ex-con’s attorney, Tom Adgate, would confirm it — if he was granted immunity from attorney-client privacy violations.

They also allege that Snipes had an abusive boyfriend with a violent history who was never fully investigated by Akron police, lacked an alibi and likely saw Hartmann and Snipes together just before the killing.

Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh declined to comment Friday through a spokeswoman, preferring to wait until after Tuesday’s scheduled execution. In 2009, a federal appellate court granted a stay a week before Hartmann was to die. In 2011, an unofficial moratorium by Gov. John Kasich sparred Hartmann for another year.

Walsh and state attorneys have consistently maintained Hartmann’s guilt and say he has already had his chance at DNA testing.

The Supreme Court, Benza said, has granted three stays of execution in the past month to grant evidence testing to condemned inmates

Book :‘Injustice System’ uncovers doubt in death row conviction


‘Injustice System’ uncovers doubt in death row conviction photo MOst books built around convictions of innocent defendants end with exoneration. In “The Injustice System,” the alleged innocent is still locked in a prison cell and might never emerge. Any well researched book about a suspected wrongful conviction is by definition shot through with dramatic tension; after all, if the wrong person is serving prison time, the actual murderer or rapist or robber might be at large, continuing to commit horrific crimes. The tension within the pages of “The Injustice System” is relentless.

Author Clive Stafford Smith is a former Atlanta lawyer (now based alternately in New Orleans and his native England) who earned a law degree in the United States so he could work on putting an end to the death penalty in the long run and save individual inmates from execution in the short run.

Driven more by principle than a won-loss record in court or a hefty salary, Stafford Smith is an unconventional professional who dives into high-stakes cases. His previous book, “Eight O’Clock Ferry to the Windward Side,” chronicles his experience representing prisoners at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, where alleged terrorists are detained without the usual safeguards that protect individuals from wrongful incarceration.

When he first met Krishna “Kris” Maharaj, the primary subject of “The Injustice System,” Stafford Smith was affiliated with the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta and representing prisoners in capital cases. At the request of British diplomatic officials, he took on Maharaj’s case.

Police arrested Maharaj, a Trinidad businessman of Indian heritage, in 1986 for allegedly murdering former business partner Derrick Moo Young and the partner’s son, Duane. The double murder occurred inside the DuPont Plaza hotel in downtown Miami. Maharaj proclaimed his innocence and said he could prove it if given the opportunity. But police, prosecutors and jurors did not believe him. Sentenced to death, Maharaj was jailed in Florida State Prison. Maharaj hoped to find competent legal representation to handle a final appeal, most of his appellate routes already having been exhausted before Stafford Smith learned about the case.

Based on his own investigation, Stafford Smith alleges evidence was cooked by an overzealous homicide detective; prosecutors bent the principles of justice they are sworn to uphold; forensic examiners provided biased readings of evidence; witnesses committed perjury; a trial judge was less than devoted to evenhandedness; and appellate justices dismissed powerful new evidence suggesting Maharaj’s innocence.

Most upsetting of all to an avid defense lawyer such as Stafford Smith, he claims the defense lawyer hired by Maharaj for the trial was grossly incompetent. In truth, Stafford Smith worried the defense lawyer lost the trial intentionally because of threats aimed at his family by South American drug dealers, whom Stafford Smith suspected was involved in the murders.

As in so many alleged wrongful conviction cases — and in so many documented exonerations — it is puzzling to calculate how a dozen jurors all failed to find “reasonable doubt.” Stafford Smith wants to believe he can find a way to prove Maharaj’s innocence. The reality is, however, that Stafford Smith will likely go to his own death without winning freedom for his client. That knowledge is especially painful to Stafford Smith, because he believes his independent investigation has identified the actual killer of Moo Young and his son.