death row inmates

Florida Death Row Inmate Gets New Sentencing Hearing


December 21, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.  — The Florida Supreme Court is ordering a new sentence for a man involved in the deadly kidnapping of a young couple from South Beach.

The court on Thursday upheld the conviction of Joel Lebron, but tossed out his death sentence. The 39-year-old man is getting a new hearing because a jury recommended the death penalty by a 9 to 3 vote.

Authorities say 17-year-old Nelson Portobanco and 18-year-old Ana Maria Angel were walking back to their car after a date in 2002 when they were forced into a pickup by Lebron and four other men.

Authorities say Lebron stabbed Portobanco and left him for dead, but the teen survived. Angel was repeatedly raped and taken to a retaining wall beside Interstate 95 where Lebron killed her with a single gunshot.

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What Do the Last Words of Death Row Inmates Tell Us?


December 12, 2017

Any last words?

It’s a question prisoners on death row hear before their execution begins. Along with last meals and long cell block walks, the opportunity to give a final statement has become deeply ingrained in the highly ritualized process of executing prisoners.

Most prisoners take the opportunity to pause on the lip of annihilation and utter a final statement, and the content of these messages range from expressions of guilt and sorrow to expletive-laced outbursts. Examining the final thoughts of people who have not only had time to think about their ultimate end, but who must also wrestle with overwhelming feelings of guilt and sorrow (though not in every case), provides a unique opportunity for sociologists and psychologists alike.

It’s Time

There is a growing body of scientific literature centered around the study and analysis of prisoners’ last words, although the subject is far from closed. At the moment, most studies work to identify recurring themes, though work in the future could go beyond this to search for correlations between last words and type of crime, prisoner demographics, personal history and mental health. At the moment, we can break down the final statements of death row inmates into a few broad categories: expressions of guilt and remorse, proclamations of innocence, spiritual statements and communications to their families. Journalist Dan Malone undertook such a content analysis in 2006, and found a few broad categories into which most final statements fall.

For many prisoners, the act seems to be an attempt to reach some sort of peace with their situation. Statements like “I’m ready” and those that express hope for some sort of afterlife are common. Some choose to address their victim’s families directly, and nearly every one that does so expresses remorse for their actions. Many acknowledge that they can never make up for what they did. Most inmates stop short of admitting guilt — instead of focusing on the past, they look to the future.

More rarely, the soon-to-be executed will directly own up to their crimes, most usually along with an expression of sorrow or an apology. In rare cases, the prisoner will choose to go down swinging, lashing out with angry and defiant words in their final minutes.

Still, these cases are rare, and it seems that the finality of death impresses a measure of humility and grace on most people. Most common overall are words of regret and personal statements, usually concerning their family, such as “I love you,” or references to being in a better place. It’s an oddly one-sided view of men who have been convicted of horrible crimes.

What Does It Mean?

Of course, it can be difficult to trust the words of someone who won’t be around to face the consequences of their actions any more. On the other hand, a dying man has very little left to lose, and few among us want to die with regrets. Further work is needed to truly parse out exactly why prisoners choose to say the things they do. As of right now, we have a few hints, though.

Many final statements seemed aimed at lessening psychological pain, something that a 2017 study identified as one of three main themes among prisoners’ last words. Identification with lost or forgotten ideals and rejection and aggression were the other dominant subjects that emerged in their analysis, which aligns roughly with what Malone found in his work.

This makes sense, since both studies used very similar datasets. Because of the nature of the death penalty in the United States, the statements come largely from Texas, which has been responsible for about a third of all executions since the death penalty was re-instated in 1976. While no recording devices are permitted in the execution chamber, a secretary is on hand to transcribe the prisoner’s final words, and, at least up till 2005, when Malone’s study ended, the Associated Press had a reporter on hand to chronicle the event as well.

This means that the final words of Texas death row inmates carry outsized influence in these kinds of studies. Most death row inmates are also men, another limitation. To truly understand the impact that final statements have, and what they say about our relationship with death, a more diverse sample size is necessary. These studies are a start, of course, but looking at how final statements differ across countries, by type of crime, and by demographic could prove illuminating. In addition, the prevalence of mental illness among death row inmates could impact the way they frame their crime, and their lives, just before execution.The last words we say before death are not usually uttered casually. This doesn’t mean they necessarily offer a glimpse of who we truly are, but instead a premonition of who we wish we were, or hope to be someday. It’s a rarified moment in a human being’s life; one that could help us all come to terms with our impending doom.

Shreveport man freed from death row files suit in hopes ‘injustice never happens again’


December 5, 2017

SHREVEPORT — The lawsuit filed by former death row inmate Rodricus Crawford is about more than justice for Crawford; it’s about getting Caddo Parish officials to change their death-penalty-dealing ways, one of the now-freed man’s attorneys said during a recent interview.

“Rodricus seeks justice not only for himself and for all that he lost, but also for people who might – God forbid – face similar circumstances,” Crawford’s attorney David J. Utter, counsel with The Claiborne Firm in Savannah, Georgia, said during a Louisiana Record email interview. “This lawsuit provides parish and city officials do the right thing by examining what went wrong in Rodricus’ case, and instituting checks and balances to ensure such an injustice never happens again.”

Those checks and balances were severely lacking when a Caddo District Court jury handed down the capital punishment sentence the following year against the Shreveport man in the 2012 death of his 1-year-old son Roderius “Bobo” Lott, according to Crawford’s lawsuit.

“Mr. Crawford was convicted and sentenced to death based upon false evidence as a result of the failure of Defendants to conduct an unbiased autopsy based on professional standards of practice, and to properly train and supervise prosecutors in Caddo Parish,” said the lawsuit filed Nov. 16 in U.S. District Court for Louisiana’s Western District.

“Because of the lack of training and supervision and adherence to professional standards, the prosecution was illegally based upon both race and religion, and a complete indifference to the evidence. In addition, Mr. Crawford raises state law negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims; but for the reckless and willful conduct of defendants, Mr. Crawford would not have been prosecuted let alone convicted of capital murder.”

In his lawsuit filed on behalf of himself and his minor daughter, Crawford claims he did not receive his constitutionally guaranteed right to a fair trial. Named defendants in the case include Caddo Parish Coroner’s Office, Caddo Parish District Attorney’s Office, Caddo Parish District Attorney James Stewart, former Caddo Parish District Attorney Dale Cox, Shreveport Fire Department and Coroner James Traylor. Crawford’s lawsuit asks for a jury trial.

The Caddo Parish District Attorney’s office did not respond to a Louisiana Record request for comment.

“Defendants knowingly participated in the investigation, arrest and capital prosecution driven by Caddo Parish, Louisiana’s well-known history of racism and the arbitrary application of the death penalty,” Crawford’s lawsuit said. “But for Defendants’ actions, no prosecution and conviction of Mr. Crawford would have occurred.”

Crawford was taken into custody after bruises and other injuries were discovered on the child’s body. Crawford reportedly told police his son had fallen in the bathroom and Crawford consistently maintained that he had never harmed his son.

His attorneys also consistently maintained that the jury relied on bad forensic science, and pointed to strong medical evidence that the child was suffering from pneumonia and died of sepsis.

“The conduct of the officials in this case, particularly the coroner Dr. Traylor and the prosecutor, were particularly egregious, outside the norm of a mistake or error,” Utter said. “There was intentional misconduct.”

By the time Crawford’s conviction was overturned by the Louisiana Supreme Court in November 2016, Caddo Parish juries were widely noted for having sentenced five people to death in six years, 38 percent of the state’s total death sentences.

The state’s highest court ordered a new trial for Crawford after finding serious issues with the case, including unconstitutional exclusion of black jurors. Louisiana prosecutors dropped charges against Crawford this past April and he was freed soon after that.

“As the result of Defendants’ unconstitutional, negligent and intentional acts, Mr. Crawford spent 4 years, 9 months, and 6 days illegally in custody,” Crawford’s lawsuit said.

Utter credited Baton Rouge lawyer Cecilia Trenticosta Kappel, his co-counsel in Crawford’s lawsuit who is active with the Capital Appeals Project and the Promise of Justice Initiative, for much of the work done to exonerate Crawford.

“Cecelia is the real hero amongst the lawyers on the case,” Utter said.

Crawford’s lawsuit is necessary to get defendants and others to do the right thing, Utter said.

“Unfortunately, many innocent people who spent time in jail or prison have to file a lawsuit before officials will do what is right,” Utter said, referring to the overturned murder conviction of Sabein Burgess in Maryland.

“Rodricus only filed because the officials responsible for this miscarriage of justice failed to apologize and offer to discuss a settlement that provided justice to him, his family and ensure something like this never happens again in Shreveport,” Utter said.

ACLU files lawsuit on behalf of death row inmates against Ricketts, Corrections Department


December 5, 2017

Sandoval

ACLU of Nebraska filed a lawsuit Monday on behalf of death row inmates that claims the ballot initiative that stopped the state Legislature’s 2015 repeal was illegal.

The complaint is an attempt to stop any executions, or even steps toward an execution, of the men on Nebraska’s death row.

Death row inmate Jose Sandoval said last week he intends to fight the execution. At that time, he had no ongoing legal actions or appeals in federal or state courts.

“My reaction to the notice (of lethal injection drugs) was not a surprise. I’ve been expecting it for a year now,” Sandoval said. “I intend to fight with the help of my attorneys — Amy Miller and company.”

The ACLU confirmed Sunday that Miller, its legal director, has been in contact with Sandoval, who was notified Nov. 9 of the state’s intention to execute him with four specified lethal injection drugs. The organization is preparing to announce the scope of its representation of Sandoval early this week, it said.

The four drugs in combination that would be used in Sandoval’s execution, if it takes place, have never been used to execute a person.

The complaint charged the ballot initiative violated the Nebraska Constitution’s separation of powers. It said Gov. Pete Ricketts was the driving force behind the 2016 referendum, exploiting government staff, resources and his own elected position to raise money for the ballot initiative and to persuade voters to support it.

“In Nebraska, our state Constitution … establishes a strong tradition with a clear separation of powers,” ACLU Executive Director Danielle Conrad said Sunday. “The governor can’t have it both ways and serve both as a member of the executive and legislative branches.”

The petition drive got underway in 2015 and the sponsoring group, Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, gathered 167,000 signatures, enough to stop the repeal from being in effect until a vote in November 2016.

The Legislature had voted to repeal Nebraska’s death penalty with a bill (LB268) that passed on a 32-15 vote. Ricketts vetoed the bill and then the Legislature voted to override the veto on a 30-19 vote that cut across party lines.

Shortly after that, Nebraskans for the Death Penalty was formed and raised just over $913,000, a third of it contributed by Ricketts and his father, Joe Ricketts.

The governor’s actions pose important legal questions with grave consequences, Conrad said.

She said the end result of those actions was the restoration of a “broken” death penalty that is racially biased, risks execution of innocent people and raises constitutional concerns about the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments.

Ricketts’ office responded in a statement issued Sunday evening.

“The Governor’s Office holds itself to a high standard and follows state law regarding the use of taxpayer resources,” said Taylor Gage, the governor’s spokesman. “This liberal advocacy group has repeatedly worked to overturn the clear voice of the Nebraska people on the issue of capital punishment and waste taxpayer dollars with frivolous litigation. The administration remains committed to protecting public safety and creating a safe environment for our Corrections officers.”

The ACLU lawsuit — filed on behalf of death row inmates against Ricketts, Treasurer Don Stenberg, founders of Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, Attorney General Doug Peterson, the Department of Correctional Services and Director Scott Frakes — asked the court to immediately stop all preparations for executing Sandoval and the other 10 men on death row.

Peterson plans to ask the Nebraska Supreme Court for a death warrant after 60 days following the notification of drugs that would be used.

That ACLU complaint said that as the governor, Ricketts’ power over the repeal bill ended when the Legislature overrode his veto.

It claimed the subsequent ballot initiative should not stand, as it was the result of repeated, extensive and illegal abuses of the governor’s power. The state’s constitution reserves ballot initiatives as a legislative power for the people to use as a check on the legislature, and it further prohibits anyone in one branch of government from exercising powers over another branch, the ACLU said.

Ricketts encouraged or ordered members of the executive branch and his allies in the Legislature and local governments to work for the referendum campaign or to express public support for it, the complaint said.

For example, Stenberg was simultaneously a leader of the campaign in the first few months, serving as co-chairman with Sen. Beau McCoy, the ACLU charged. In the middle of the campaign, Ricketts rewarded Jessica Flanagain, the campaign manager and coordinator, with a publicly paid position in the government as special adviser to the governor for external affairs, with a salary of $130,000, the complaint alleges.

The lawsuit also noted that Nebraskans for the Death Penalty made an error that invalidated the referendum by failing to submit sworn statements from its sponsors, as required by law to assure the sponsors’ names aren’t fraudulent and assure transparency in the working of ballot campaigns.

Previous litigation more narrowly alleged the referendum petition was not legally sufficient because a list of sponsors filed with the petition did not include the name of Ricketts, who it claimed engaged in activities that established that he was a sponsor of the referendum. The district court dismissed the complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding Ricketts’ alleged financial or other support of the referendum did not make him a person “sponsoring the petition.”

Ohio Supreme Court to hear local man’s death penalty appeal


December  4,  2017

 

 

 

COLUMBUS, Ohio — On Tuesday, the Ohio Supreme Court is to preside over a legal debate over whether the death penalty should be executed on a young Clayton man – the second youngest on Ohio’s Death Row – for the murder of an even younger Warren County man at his home outside Waynesville in January 2014, according to the Journal-News.

Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell will personally argue for the state to continue forward toward the execution of Austin Myers, now 22, of Clayton, although another Clayton man, Timothy Mosley – like Myers 19 years old at the time – actually stabbed to death Justin Back, 18, a 2013 Waynesville High School graduate about to enter the U.S. Navy.

“Austin Myers killed Justin. Tim was his weapon of choice,” Fornshell said last week, quoting Back’s stepfather, Mark Cates, a local prison guard.

It will be Fornshell’s first appearance before the high court on behalf of Warren County.

Lawyers appointed to appeal Myers’ death sentence have identified 18 violations of law they claim should convince the state’s high court to set aside his death sentence, including his age and the lesser sentence – life in prison without paroleMosley received in exchange for his testimony.

Three years later, Myers is still the second youngest of 140 Ohio prisoners facing the death penalty. Damantae Graham, 20, convicted of killing a Kent State University student, is the only one younger.

Myers’ lawyers also claim errors or misconduct by the judge, prosecutors and defense lawyers in the case, decided more than three years ago in Warren County Common Pleas Court, should convince the high court, including appointed Judge Cynthia Westcott Rice of Ohio’s 11th District Court of Appeals, to spare his life.

“Mr. Myers’s rights under the Constitution of the United States and the Ohio Constitution were violated and he was denied a fair trial and sentencing proceeding. Accordingly, this Court should reverse and discharge the defendant or grant a new trial. In the alternative, this Court should vacate the death sentence, remand for a resentencing hearing, and order the life sentence imposed,” lawyer Timothy McKenna said in his brief to the high court.

The appeal, pending since Oct. 27, 2014, was set for oral arguments on Oct. 20, after a second Ohio Death Row inmate was executed. These came after the postponement of scheduled executions starting in January 2014 following problems during the execution of Dennis McGuire, a Preble County man.

Rice was appointed to the high court on Nov. 6, replacing Justice Bill O’Neill, who recused himself after announcing he was running for governor.

The case

Myers and Mosley were arrested in July 2014 after Back’s mutilated body was found in Preble County, in a wooded area outside Versailles known as Crybaby Bridge. They both gave statements during interrogation at the Clayton Police Department used by investigators in reconstructing the crime, according to police and court records.

According to their statements, Mosely’s testimony and other evidence, after a day of preparation and planning, Myers and Mosley went to Back’s home in a small neighborhood along the Little Miami River, east of Waynesvile. With a garrote – fashioned by a friend who was not charged – Mosley came up behind Back and began choking him, while Myers restrained Back. When the garrote caught on Back’s chin, Mosley pulled out a knife and stabbed Back to death.

After cleaning the home and stealing Back’s iPod and wallet, as well as a gun and safe belonging to Cates, Mosley and Myers removed Back’s body, dumping it in Preble County after dousing it with chemicals to quicken decomposition. Before leaving the body, Myers shot it twice with Cates’ gun.

At trial, prosecutors convinced the jury that Myers was the mastermind of the crime and he was sentenced to die. Mosley, in exchange for his testimony, was sentenced in a plea bargain to life without parole.

The issues

Mosley was represented by Dennis Lieberman, a lawyer hired by Mosley’s family. Myers was represented by Greg Howard and John Kaspar, appointed by the court.

But Fornshell said Mosley got the deal because – unlike Myers- he offered to cooperate. Prosecutors needed one or the other to “put in the back story,” Fornshell said.

In addition, Fornshell said Mosley accepted responsibility and Myers was “exponentially more dangerous,” pointing to evidence indicating Myers handled the bulk of the planning and wanted to go back and kill Cates.

He’s a serial killer who got caught the first time,” Fornshell added.“There is absolutely no doubt in my mind.”

McKenna and co-counsel Roger Kirk did not respond to requests for interviews.

But their 110-page brief indicates they will emphasize Myers “was a 19 year-old immature adolescent with behavioral issues” who should be spared the death penalty, in part because Mosley’s sentence spared his life, although he wielded the murder weapon.

In addition, they claim prosecutors rendered Myers’ lawyers “admittedly ineffective” by withholding evidence until “on the Friday eve before the Monday trial,”as well as the fact that Mosley was to be a witness.

The appeal

The appeal is to be the first of a series of cases heard on Tuesday and Wednesday.

All arguments are streamed live online at sc.ohio.gov and broadcast live and archived on the Ohio Channel, according a release from the high court.

The court typically issues opinions within six months, but it was unclear when a decision would be issued in this case.

Death row inmate who survived his own execution really doesn’t want a do-over


November  2017

An Ohio man who became the third U.S. death row inmate in seven decades to survive his own execution filed a new appeal for mercy Tuesday, arguing that Ohio’s lethal injection protocol constitutes cruel and unusual punishment because one of its drugs may not work properly.

Alva Campbell, a 69-year-old man sentenced to death in 1998 for killing 18-year-old Charles Dial in a robbery, had his execution halted about 25 minutes after it was scheduled to start, according to the Associated Press. The execution team, it turned out, couldn’t pinpoint a vein that they could use to inject Campbell with a dosage of lethal drugs.

In court documents filed before the execution, Campbell’s lawyers warned that this was a possibility, as Campbell has a history of chronic heart and lung problems that can make finding a vein tricky. In fact, the prison was so worried that Campbell’s lungs would give out and he would stop breathing, while lying on the execution gurney, that the team gave him a wedge pillow to help him stay calm and alive until they could execute him.

Campbell’s lawyers also cited Ohio’s bad track record when it came to successfully carrying out executions. Though the first failed execution in modern U.S. history took place in 1946, when Louisiana’s attempt to execute Willie Francis using the electric chair failed, the second was much more recent: In 2009, an Ohio execution team made 18 attempts over the course of two hours to find a vein to inject Romell Broom with lethal injection drugs. Then-Gov. Ted Strickland ultimately ordered them to give up. Broom remains on death row, locked in a court battle where he argues that trying to execute him a second time would be unconstitutional.

Alva Campbell, 69 (Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction )

Campbell’s new appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Court, however, technically centers around a different issue: the use of midazolam, a sedative that’s meant to render an inmate unconscious.

Midazolam has been used in several recent botched executions, including in Ohio. In 2014, the state executed convicted killer and rapist Dennis McGuire, even though McGuire reportedly gasped, snorted, and snored minutes after he should have been knocked unconscious. A judge ended up declare Ohio’s lethal injection procedure unconstitutional, leading the state to halt executions for years.

As drug manufacturers and distributors become more and more reluctant to allow their wares to be used in executions, however, states are scrambling to find drugs they can use in lethal injections. That’s led midazolam’s popularity to skyrocket.

Evidence “from recent executions demonstrates the disturbing signs that prisoners remain sensate to severe pain, aware, and conscious following injection of 500 mg. of midazolam or more are ‘the rule,’ not ‘the exception,’” Campbell’s lawyers write in his latest appeal.

Campbell’s new execution date is June 6, 2019.

Layton lawmaker wants deeper look at Utah death penalty costs


November  27,  2017

A legislator is proposing an in-depth study of death penalty costs so the state will have unambiguous answers at hand as Utah’s capital punishment debate continues.

A bill filed by Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, for the 2018 legislative session would order research of all costs associated with the prosecution and execution of a death penalty case and an expected 25 years of appeals. The data would be compared with the costs of a capital murder convict serving life without parole.

A legislative analyst in 2012 estimated a death penalty case cost $1.6 million more. But Handy said the study was very limited and did not consider all costs. Categories for the larger proposed study would include county and state prosecution and defense costs, plus court, jail and prison expenses.

The new study “doesn’t have to be pro or con death penalty,” Handy said, “but we hear in the Legislature that we should be making data-driven decisions. Let’s find out what it really costs, so when a (death penalty) bill comes up, we will be informed.”

Handy’s proposal comes as Wasatch Front counties continue to wrestle with the costs of death row appeals, such as Doug Lovell’s ongoing battle against his sentence in the 1985 murder of Joyce Yost of South Ogden.

Lovell’s court-appointed attorney for his current death penalty appeal squabbled with the Weber County Attorney’s Office over his payments, leading him to drop from the case last summer, according to previous coverage. Sam Newton was paid $71,500 by the county to represent Lovell in 2016, according to county financial records.

Newton’s replacement, Colleen Coebergh, has a contract for $100,000 to maintain Lovell’s indigent defense.

As capital appeals continue, “There is a very high emotional cost to the families and a cost to the taxpayers,” said Dave Wilson, a Weber County deputy attorney who helps coordinate public defender contracts.

The 2012 legislative study said more than two-thirds of a death penalty case’s costs are borne by the county government.

The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics says 33 states and the federal Bureau of Prisons held 2,881 inmates under death sentence at the end of 2015. Utah has nine inmates on death row today, said Maria Peterson, Utah Department of Corrections spokeswoman.

Handy said he realizes his request for a cost study may run against the grain in the capital punishment-friendly Utah Legislature, which reinstated the firing squad option for executions in 2015. Lawmakers also have rejected periodic bills that aimed to drop the death penalty.

Most law enforcement officials support the death penalty, Handy said, recalling an occasion when Weber County Sheriff Terry Thompson “came at me like a house afire” during a public discussion of capital punishment.

“People who are such ardent supporters, they don’t care” about the costs, Handy said.

“But I look at it also as trying to adhere to mainstream conservatism,” Handy said. “This may not be the best use of hard-earned taxpayer dollars, with the costs of education and social services growing exponentially.”

The death penalty “is certainly no deterrent,” Handy argued. He said he wonders “what purpose it has, except for payback or from a vengeance standpoint now.”

In an interview, Thompson challenged Handy’s views.

“Nobody says, ‘Gosh, I love the death penalty,’” Thompson said. “But it is important for the most egregious offenses, when lives are taken, changed forever, and people have to live without their loved ones.”

Consider Charles Manson, the sheriff said.

California prosecutors secured a death sentence against Manson, but after the California Supreme Court overturned the death penalty, the cult leader lived on in prison for the murders he masterminded in 1969.

As a “moral, ethical” matter, “It would have been appropriate to have the death penalty as part of the pending punishment,” Thompson said.

“The costs associated with following through with the death penalty, in my opinion, are irrelevant,” the sheriff said.

Utah’s abbreviated review in 2012 pegged the direct cost of an execution at the Utah State Prison at $195,000. And, it said, “For every offender executed before age 76, there is a projected $28,000 savings per year.”

“There need to be some teeth in our laws for them to be effective,” Thompson said. “I truly believe the death penalty does deter, in many cases that we’ll never know.”

Utah’s Death Row

Michael Anthony Archuleta, 55, re-sentenced Dec. 21, 1989

Douglas Stewart Carter, 62, re-sentenced Jan. 27, 1992

Taberon Dave Honie, 42, sentenced May 20, 1999

Troy Michael Kell, 49, sentenced Aug. 8, 1996

Ronald Watson Lafferty, 76, re-sentenced April 23, 1996

Floyd Eugene Maestas, 60, sentenced Feb. 1, 2008

Ralph Leroy Menzies, 59, sentenced March 23, 1988

Von Lester Taylor, 53, sentenced May 24, 1991

Douglas Lovell, 59, re-sentenced May 4, 2015

Source: Utah Department of Corrections

Who’s on death row in York County murders?


November  21,  2017

There are nearly 200 people on death row in Pennsylvania. Thirteen of them — all men — were convicted and sentenced to death for murders committed in York County.

One currently is awaiting a resentencing hearing, another is awaiting a new trial.

Since 1985, Pennsylvania governors have signed hundreds of execution warrants.

Three executions have been carried out — two in 1995 and one in 1999– since a 10-year national moratorium on the death penalty ended in 1977.

Gov. Tom Wolf put a moratorium on the death penalty in 2015 citing a need for further study.

York County death row inmates, who all are housed at the maximum security prison in Greene County, are:

·Paul Gamboa-Taylor

Gamboa-Taylor was sentenced Jan. 23, 1992, after pleading guilty to the May 18, 1991, hammer slayingsof four family members: his wife, Valeria L. Gamboa-Taylor; their two children, Paul, 4, and Jasmine, 2; and another child, Lance Barshinger, 2.

He received a life sentence for killing his mother-in-law, Donna M. Barshinger.

·Hubert Lester Michael Jr.

Michael was sentenced March 20, 1995, after pleading guilty to the July 12, 1993, abduction and shooting death of 16-year-old Trista Elizabeth Eng in the Dillsburg area.

Michael unsuccessfully attempted to withdraw his guilty plea. Execution warrants were signed in 1996 by Gov. Tom Ridge and 2004 by Gov. Ed Rendell.

·Mark Newton Spotz 

Spotz was sentenced April 24, 1996, for the Feb. 2, 1995, shooting death of Penny Gunnet, 41, of New Salem.

Gunnet was his third victim in a four-day crime spree through central and eastern Pennsylvania.

Spotz also received death sentences for the murders of June Rose Ohlinger of Schuylkill County, and Betty Amstutz, 71, of Cumberland County.

An execution warrant for the York County conviction was signed by Ridge in 2001. He received a stay in the Gunnet murder in 2001.

·John Amos Small 

Small was sentenced June 19, 1996, after being convicted of murder and attempted rape of 17-year-old Cheryl Smith.

Smith’s body was found in West Manheim Township in 1981.

Execution warrants were signed in 2001 by Ridge and in 2009 by Rendell.

·Kevin Brian Dowling

Dowling was sentenced Dec. 14, 1998, for the Oct. 20, 1997, shooting death of Jennifer Lynn Myers inside her art and frame shop just outside Spring Grove.

An execution warrant was signed in 2007 by Rendell.

·Milton and Noel Montalvo

Milton was sentenced Feb. 14, 2000, and Noel was sentenced April 14, 2003, for the April 19, 1998, stabbing deaths of Miriam Asencio-Cruz and Manuel Ramirez Santana inside Cruz’s York apartment.

Rendell signed an execution warrant for Noel Montalvo in July 2010 and signed one for Milton in January 2011. Milton Montalvo is awaiting a resentencing hearing

·Harve Lamar Johnson

Johnson was sentenced Nov. 16, 2009, for the April 7, 2008, beating death of 2-year-old Darisabel Baez, his girlfriend’s daughter, in York.

·Kevin Edward Mattison

Mattison was sentenced Dec. 17, 2010, for the Dec. 9, 2008, robbery and shooting of Christian Agosto in York.

Mattison had previously been convicted of third-degree murder and served prison time in Maryland.

·Hector Morales

Morales was sentenced Jan. 21, 2011, for the 2009 shooting death of Ronald “Country” Simmons Jr.

Police said Morales broke into Simmons’ York home and shot him six times because Simmons was set to testify in a drug case.

·Aric Shayne Woodard

Woodard was sentenced to death Dec. 18, 2013, for the Nov. 7, 2011, beating death of 2-year-old Jaques Omari Twinn.

·Timothy Matthew Jacoby

Jacoby was sentenced to death Oct. 9, 2014, for the March 31, 2010, shooting death of Monica Schmeyer, 55, while he burglarized her West Manheim Township home.

·Also of note

Daniel Jacobs was sentenced to death Sept. 18, 1992, for the Feb. 10, 1992, stabbing death of his girlfriend, Tammy Lee Mock of York, and life in prison for the drowning of their 7-month-old daughter, Holly Danielle Jacobs.

Federal courts overturned Jacobs’ conviction and death penalty for Mock’s murder in 2005, ruling his jury should have been informed his mental deficiencies might not have allowed him to form the specific intent to kill Mock.

While Jacobs continues to serve a life sentence for Holly’s death, he will stand for re-trial in 2016 for Mock’s murder. The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections still lists him as a death row inmate.

Virginia relaxes restrictions on death row inmates


Virginia prison officials have relaxed the restrictive conditions under which death row inmates live and are in talks to settle a lawsuit over those prisoners’ near constant placement in solitary confinement — a signal that state authorities are willing to at least modify the incarceration practice that is facing increasing criticism across the country.
State officials revealed in a recent court filing that Virginia’s eight death row inmates are allowed weekly contact visits with family members and more opportunity for showers and recreation — including daily sessions in which they are allowed to mingle in person with up to three others slated to die.
Victor M. Glasberg, an attorney for four inmates in Virginia who are suing over their placement in solitary confinement, said the contact visits with family members, in particular, are “decidedly huge” for the inmates. But he said he is working to understand how the other changes have been implemented and whether the inmates are still forced to spend nearly 23 hours a day alone.
“The issue of the hours spent in solitary is a huge, outstanding issue,” Glasberg said. “They’ve said they want to negotiate in good faith, and I’m going to accept that.”
The four death row inmates represented by Glasberg alleged in a lawsuit late last year that being forced to spend so much time in solitary confinement constituted cruel and unusual punishment, causing them severe mental distress while they waited to be executed. The issue is one that is being examined across the country; Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, for example, mused in June that it might be time for the high court to take a look at the use of solitary confinement.
Virginia Department of Corrections Director Harold W. Clarke said in an affidavit submitted in the case that, as part of a review of its policies and procedures for those slated to die, the department decided to provide more privileges to death row inmates who follow the rules.
Clarke said in his affidavit that death row inmates would be given an hour and a half of outdoor recreation time five days a week, an opportunity for “in-pod” recreation with three of their peers for an hour every day and the opportunity for daily showers. (Inmates had alleged that they were allowed just an hour of outdoor recreation time five times a week and thrice-weekly showers.)
Clarke also said death row inmates could have weekly contact visits with family members, and prison officials were working to construct facilities for them — including a covered recreation yard with a basketball court and stationary exercise equipment, and a multipurpose day room where they could purchase books and movies, make calls and send e-mails, play cards, and watch TV. Both areas, Clarke said, were expected to be finished by October.
Source: The Washington Post, Matt Zapotosky, August 29, 2015