texas

Salvadoran Man on Texas Death Row Loses Supreme Court Appeal


December 11, 2017

The U.S. Supreme has refused to review an appeal from a 48-year-old Salvadoran man on Texas death row for the slayings of two Houston store clerks during an attempted robbery more than 17 years ago.

The U.S. Supreme has refused to review an appeal from a 48-year-old Salvadoran man on Texas death row for the slayings of two Houston store clerks during an attempted robbery more than 17 years ago.

The high court had no comment in its decision Monday in the case of Gilmar Guevara.

Attorneys for Guevara asked the justices to reverse lower courts’ rulings rejecting arguments that he’s mentally impaired and ineligible for the death penalty.

Guevara was convicted and sentenced to death for the fatal shootings of 48-year-old Tae Youk and 21-year-old Gerardo Yaxon. Youk was from South Korea and Yaxon from Guatemala.

Guevara, identified as the shooter, and two accomplices fled the scene in southwest Houston in June 2000 without any money.

He does not yet have an execution date.

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For first time in more than 30 years, no Harris County death row inmates executed


December 6, 2017

For the first time since 1985, no Harris County killers will be executed by the state of Texas this year, a landmark shift for a county once known as the “capital of capital punishment.”

Despite a slight uptick in executions nationwide, Harris County’s one execution this year was cancelled after a desperate death row plot led to a last-minute stay for serial killer Anthony Shore in October. Two U.S. Supreme Court rulings spared two other inmates.

“This has been an important year in terms of death penalty litigation,” said District Attorney Kim Ogg. “I view it as a positive thing. I don’t think that being the death penalty capital of America is a selling point for Harris County.”

Nationwide, executions reached a high water mark in 1999, and Texas executions topped out at 40 the next year. But it’s Harris County courts that have kept the death chamber busiest, with 126 executions since the state resumed capital punishment in 1982.

“Harris County has always symbolized America’s death penalty because it has executed more people than any other county and — apart from the rest of Texas — more than any other state,” said Robert Dunham of the Death Penalty Information Center. “It is both symbolic and emblematic of the change in capital punishment in the United States. For the first time in a generation, the nation’s largest executioner has executed no one.”

STUDY: Conservatives’ distaste for death penalty sends support to 45-year low

In part, that’s due to the long-range impact of the Lone Star State’s introduction of life without parole as a sentencing option starting in 2005. Before that, jurors on capital murder cases had to pick between death and the possibility of eventual release.

But it’s also due to the more immediate impacts of court actions this year. In October, death row inmate Duane Buck was given a life sentence after the Supreme Court granted him a new hearing in light of testimony from an expert who told the jury that Buck was more likely to be a future danger because he is black.

Then in November, Harris County prosecutors asked for a life sentence for Bobby Moore, months after the Supreme Court determined that Texas did not properly consider whether he was too intellectually disabled to face execution.

Falling murder rates and changing political tides have also contributed to the decline in capital punishment.

“Perhaps the most important change is that the public is substantially less supportive of the death penalty than it has been at any time since 1972,” Dunham said, citing a recent Gallup poll. The research group’s October findings showed that 55 percent of U.S. adults support capital punishment for convicted murderers, a low not seen since March 1972.

Outspoken death penalty supporter Dudley Sharp blamed the drop on the length of time between sentencing and execution.

“At this point it’s more than doubled since the 1980s, which would dramatically lower the execution rate,” Sharp said.

Even without Harris County, Texas regained its spot this year as the busiest death chamber in the nation with seven executions. Nationwide, 23 prisoners were put to death — three more than the year before — amid an otherwise downward trend.

MOORE: Prosecutors ask for life sentence for Texas death row inmate Bobby Moore

A generation ago, it was a different story.

A year before Karla Faye Tucker’s execution grabbed national headlines amid the tough-on-crime efforts of the 1990s, Harris County saw 11 killers in 1997 executed. Tucker, the first woman executed in Texas since the 1800s, was convicted of a brutal pickaxe slaying; she blamed the killing on drugs.

The next execution in Texas is Jan. 18, when “Tourniquet Killer” Anthony Shore is slated to die by lethal injection.

Shore’s execution on Oct. 18 was halted at the last minute after he told investigators of an abandoned confession plot with fellow death row inmate Larry Swearingen, a Montgomery County killer whose execution was also delayed.

A handful of other Harris County killers who are nearing the end of their appeals process could potentially net 2018 execution dates, including Carlos Ayestas, a Honduran man convicted in a 1995 slaying. The court heard oral arguments in the case in October and is expected to offer a decision next year.

No new death sentences, however, were imposed in Harris County this year — Ogg’s first to helm the district attorney’s office.

“I think it reflects both the new administration and the new skepticism about the death penalty and life without parole all combined with a dash of Harvey,” said local defense attorney Pat McCann. “And then of course there’s the simply bizarre continuing tale of Mr. Shore and Mr. Swearingen and the frankly inexplicable turn of events there.”

Next year could be different, however.

“When you have an historic low one year it’s not surprising to see the numbers rise slightly the following year,” Dunham said.

Death row exoneree Anthony Graves lauded local prosecutors for their role in the shifting tides.

“Kudos to the administration for being out front on criminal justice reform,” he said. “Because this is what it is, this is what it looks like.”

Texas Death Row Inmate’s Execution Postponed Over False Testimony


November 29,2017Juan Castillo - TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Juan Castillo was scheduled to die on December 14, 2017. He was supposed to be the last prisoner on death row to be executed in Texas this year.

But on November 29, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals delayed Castillo’s execution and sent his case back to trial court to reexamine false testimony used to convict him. 

Castillo, 36, was sentenced to death for the 2003 murder and robbery of Tommy Garcia Jr. in San Antonio. Castillo, his then-girlfriend, and two others had tried to lure Garcia with sex, and then steal his money. When 19-year-old Garcia ran away, Castillo shot him.

During his trial, Castillo’s former bunkmate at the Bexar County Jail, Gerardo Gutierrez, testified that Castillo had confessed to the crime. But in 2013, Gutierrez signed an affidavit saying he had lied about the confession.

Gutierrez’s false testimony is prompting the Texas CCA to pause the execution and further review Castillo’s case.

It’s not the first time Castillo’s execution date has been called off.

Previously, his Sept. 7, 2017 execution date was postponed at the request of the Bexar County District Attorney’s office because some of Castillo’s lawyers living in Harris County were impacted by Hurricane Harvey, according to the Texas Tribune. Castillo also had a prior execution date set back in May, but the date was postponed after Bexar County prosecutors failed to give sufficient notice to the defense, according to the Houston Chronicle

Texas has executed seven death row inmates in 2017, two of which were in Bexar County.

At least two other executions have been delayed in Texas this year because of issues over testimonies. Back in October, Anthony Shore, known as the “Tourniquet Killer,” had his execution date moved to January after he told prosecutors he had falsely planned to take responsibility for a fellow inmate’s murder.

Duane Buck, a Harris County death row inmate, had his sentence reduced to life in prison after the Supreme Court granted him the right to a retrial because a prison psychiatrist had told the jury in his 1997 trial that Buck would be more dangerous in the future because of his race.

TEXAS – Prosecutor asks for current medical standards in death penalty evaluations


When determining whether someone with a death sentence has a mental disability, Texas has long used outdated standards partially created by elected judges. Now that those standards have been ruled unconstitutional, one district attorney wants the state to use a markedly different measuring stick: current medical science.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg sent a brief to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Wednesday afternoon in the case of Bobby Moore, a man convicted in the 1980 shooting death of a Houston supermarket clerk. Ogg now says Moore is intellectually disabled, but the questions surrounding the prisoner’s mental capacity led to a March Supreme Court ruling that invalidated Texas’ method of determining intellectual disability for death row inmates.Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in the court’s opinion that the state’s test created an “unacceptable risk” of executing intellectually disabled people, a practice deemed unconstitutional.

But while the ruling tossed out Texas’ old way of determining disability, it didn’t create a new one. Instead, cases of death-sentenced inmates who were deemed competent for execution under the old test were suddenly ripe for new litigation, and at least two men who had been on death row for decades had their sentences changed to life in prison — all while awaiting a final ruling on Moore’s intellectual capacity.

Ogg asked for Moore’s sentence to be reduced to life in prison, and her brief also asked Texas to create a new way of determining intellectual disability — one that sticks to the medical books.

“‘Unacceptable risk’ necessitates that the States should strictly adhere to the definitions of intellectual disability as contained within the most current versions of the clinical manuals,” said the brief.

She implored Texas to conform to the standards set by the American Psychiatric Association, similar to how Louisiana and Mississippi determine intellectual disability. If the Texas court accepts Ogg’s suggestion, death penalty experts say it will put Texas in line with the Supreme Court’s ruling and will put fewer Texas death penalty cases in front of the high court in the future.

“You don’t have the same systemic problems in states that are using medical definitions,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a national organization critical of current death penalty practices. “We see persistent problems in states [that] have adopted standards that are clearly inconsistent with the contemporary medical standards or have created procedures that make it virtually impossible to prove intellectual disability.”

Dunham said in general that states have sought to conform to previous Supreme Court rulings, but others — Texas, Georgia, Missouri, Arkansas and Florida — have created hurdles for proving the disability. He said the best way for Texas to avoid future problems is to use existing medical standards.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office, which represents the state in federal death penalty appeals, and several district attorneys in counties where intellectual disability cases are in play did not return phone calls Thursday.

In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that executing people with intellectual disabilities is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment, but it left it up to the states to determine how to qualify the condition. The legal definition of intellectual disability doesn’t have to fully match a medical definition, but it does have to be informed by the current medical frameworks, according to the court.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals created its own method two years later. Death penalty critic Judge Elsa Alcala wrote in a 2015 opinion that the test was only meant to be a temporary solution “in the absence of any legislative guidance.” The method found inmates facing execution intellectually disabled if their IQ was 70 or below. If an IQ was above 70 but close enough to be within a margin of error (the state put Moore at 74), the court would look at how well the person functioned in daily life by referencing 1992 medical guidelines and a controversial set of questions called the “Briseno factors.”

The factors included questioning if a neighbor or family member would consider the person disabled, the person’s ability to lie and the planning involved in the murder. In its March ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court said the Briseno factors strayed too far from medical-based frameworks.

“The [Court of Criminal Appeals] overemphasized Moore’s perceived adaptive strengths — living on the streets, mowing lawns, and playing pool for money — when the medical community focuses the adaptive-functioning inquiry on adaptive deficits,” Ginsburg wrote.

Chief Justice John Roberts agreed with the incorrect usage of the Briseno factors but wrote in a dissenting opinion that the court’s majority tossed the Texas court’s ruling without considering societal standards.

“The Court instead crafts a constitutional holding based solely on what it deems to be medical consensus about intellectual disability,” Roberts wrote. “But clinicians, not judges, should determine clinical standards; and judges, not clinicians, should determine the content of the Eighth Amendment.”

It’s unknown when the Texas court will make a decision in Moore’s sentence or a new way to determine intellectual disability. In the meantime, the death penalty’s intersection with intellectual disability is up in the air.

Man convicted of killing 6 in Texas gets death penalty


November  17,2017

A man was sentenced to death Wednesday for a rampage that left six people dead at a remote East Texas campsite.

A Brazos County jury deliberated about 45 minutes before deciding William Hudson, 35, of Tennessee Colony, should face execution. The same jury found him guilty last week on three counts of capital murder in the 2015 shooting and beating deaths of 77-year-old Carl Johnson, 40-year-old Hannah Johnson, 45-year-old Thomas Kamp, 23-year-old Nathan Kamp, 21-year-old Austin Kamp and 6-year-old Kade Johnson.

The verdict on a punishment comes exactly two years after Hudson’s arrest, which was on Nov. 15, 2015.

Evidence showed the victims were part of a blended family that gathered for a weekend together to camp on property in Tennessee Colony, about 90 miles (144 kilometers) southeast of Dallas. They had recently bought the land from Hudson’s family. Prosecutors said Hudson resented the sale.

Cynthia Johnson, the wife of Carl Johnson, was able to hide and survived the rampage.

The Eagle of Bryan-College Station reported that Cynthia Johnson testified that she heard Hudson fatally beat her husband and her daughter, Hannah, inside a recreational vehicle. She hid until dawn the next morning, retrieved a cellphone dropped by her daughter and called police.

Four victims were found in a pond.

Defense witnesses testified that Hudson suffered brain damage from multiple seizures, two car accidents and extreme alcohol abuse, and had been emotionally and sometimes physically abused by his father.

“William Hudson was created, he wasn’t born that way,” Stephen Evans, one of Hudson’s attorneys, said.

Prosecution experts said Hudson had a personality disorder and not a mental illness.

“This is just who he is,” special prosecutor Lisa Tanner said. “This is a man who is not gonna change. That ought to scare you.”

The case had been moved from Anderson County to Bryan, about 90 miles (144 kilometers) to the southwest to avoid potential jury bias.

Executions Scheduled for 2018


Executions Scheduled for 2018


Month State Prisoner
January
3 OH John Stumpf — RESCHEDULED  (november  14)
3 OH William Montgomery — RESCHEDULED  (april 11)
18 TX Anthony Shore
30 TX William Rayford
February
1 TX John Battaglia
13 OH Warren K. Henness — RESCHEDULED
13 OH Robert Van Hook — RESCHEDULED  (july 18)
13 OH Raymond Tibbetts
22 TX Thomas Whitaker
March
14 OH Douglas Coley — RESCHEDULED
14 OH Warren K. Henness — RESCHEDULED
27 TX Rosendo Rodriguez
April
11 OH Melvin Bonnell — RESCHEDULED
11 OH William Montgomery
May
30 OH Stanley Fitzpatrick — RESCHEDULED
June
27 OH Angelo Fears — RESCHEDULED
July
18 OH Robert Van Hook
August
1 OH David A. Sneed — RESCHEDULED
September
13 OH Cleveland R. Jackson
October
10 OH James Derrick O’Neal — RESCHEDULED
November
14 OH John David Stumpf — RESCHEDULED

UPCOMING EXECUTIONS 2015, UPDATE


UPTADE AUGUST 29, 2015

Month State Inmate
August
13 TX Tracy Beatty – STAYED
18 TN David Miller – STAYED
26 TX Bernardo Tercero (foreign national) STAYED
27 MS Richard Jordan (date requested by Atty. Gen.; not final) EXECUTION HALTED
27 PA Maurice Patterson – STAY LIKELY
28 PA Hector Morales- STAY LIKELY
September
1 MO Roderick Nunley EXECUTED 9:09 PM
2 TX Joe Garza STAYED
3 PA Herbert Blakeney- STAY LIKELY
16 OK Richard Glossip
17 OH Angelo Fears – STAYED*
17 OH William Montgomery – STAYED^
29 TX Perry Williams
October
6 MO Kimber Edwards
6 TN Abu-Ali Abdur’Rahman – STAYED
6 TX Juan Garcia
7 OK Benjamin Cole
14 TX Licho Escamilla
28 OK John Grant
28 TX Christopher Wilkins
November
3 TX Julius Murphy
10 TX
Gilmar Guevara
17 OH Cleveland R. Jackson – STAYED*
17 OH Robert Van Hook – STAYED^
17 TN Nicholas Sutton – STAYED
18 TX Raphael Holiday

TEXAS EXECUTION TODAY – Daniel Lee Lopez at 6 p.m EXECUTED 6:31 PM


HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Texas inmate Daniel Lee Lopez got his wish Wednesday when he was executed for striking and killing a police lieutenant with an SUV during a chase more than six years ago.

The lethal injection was carried out after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected appeals from his attorneys who disregarded both his desire to die and lower court rulings that Lopez was competent to make that decision.

“I hope this execution helps my family and also the victim’s family,” said Lopez, who spoke quietly and quickly. “This was never meant to be, sure beyond my power. I can only walk the path before me and make the best of it. I’m sorry for putting you all through this. I am sorry. I love you. I am ready. May we all go to heaven.”

As the drugs took effect, he took two deep breaths, then two shallower breaths. Then all movement stopped.

He was pronounced dead at 6:31 p.m. CDT — 15 minutes after the lethal dose began.

Lopez, 27, became the 10th inmate put to death this year in Texas, which carries out capital punishment more than any other state. Nationally, he was the 19th prisoner to be executed.

Lopez’s “obvious and severe mental illness” was responsible for him wanting to use the legal system for suicide, illustrating his “well-documented history of irrational behavior and suicidal tendencies,” attorney David Dow, who represented Lopez, had told the high court. Dow also argued the March 2009 crime was not a capital murder because Lopez didn’t intend to kill Corpus Christi Lt. Stuart Alexander.

The officer’s widow, Vicky Alexander, and three friends who were witnesses with her prayed in the chamber before Lopez was pronounced dead by a doctor. Some people selected by Lopez as witnesses sang “Amazing Grace” from an adjacent witness area.

Alexander, 47, was standing in a grassy area on the side of a highway where he had put spike strips when he was struck by the sport utility vehicle Lopez was fleeing in.

Lopez, who also wrote letters to a federal judge and pleaded for his execution to move forward, said last week from death row that a Supreme Court reprieve would be “disappointing.”

“I’ve accepted my fate,” he said. “I’m just ready to move on.”

Nueces County District Attorney Mark Skurka said Lopez showed “no regard for human life” when he fought with an officer during a traffic stop, then sped away, evading pursuing officers and striking Alexander, who had been on the police force for 20 years. Even when he finally was cornered by police cars, Lopez tried ramming his SUV to escape and didn’t stop until he was shot.

“He had no moral scruples, no nothing. It was always about Daniel Lopez, and it’s still about Daniel Lopez,” Skurka said Tuesday. “He’s a bad, bad guy.”

Lopez was properly examined by a psychologist, testified at a federal court hearing about his desire to drop appeals and was found to have no mental defects, state attorneys said in opposing delays to the punishment.

Deputies found a dozen packets of cocaine and a small scale in a false compartment in the console of the SUV.

Records showed Lopez was on probation at the time after pleading guilty to indecency with a child in Galveston County and was a registered sex offender. He had other arrests for assault.

Testimony at his trial showed he had at least five children by three women, and a sixth was born while he was jailed for Alexander’s death. Court records show Lopez had sex with girls as young as 14 and had a history of assaults and other trouble while in school, where he was a 10th-grade dropout.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.

 

 

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Texas inmate Daniel Lee Lopez has been trying to speed up his execution since being sent to death row five years ago for striking and killing a police lieutenant with an SUV during a chase.

On Wednesday, he’s hoping to get his wish.

The 27-year-old prisoner is set to die in Huntsville after getting court approval to drop his appeals. A second inmate scheduled to be executed this week in Texas, the nation’s most active death penalty state, won a court reprieve Tuesday.

Lopez is facing lethal injection for the 2009 death of Corpus Christi Lt. Stuart Alexander. The 47-year-old officer was standing in a grassy area on the side of a highway where he had put spike strips when he was struck by the sport utility vehicle Lopez was fleeing in.

Last week from death row Lopez said: “It’s a waste of time just sitting here. I just feel I need to get over with it.”

Attorneys representing Lopez refused to accept his intentions, questioning federal court findings that Lopez was mentally competent to volunteer for execution. They appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the punishment, arguing his crime was not a capital murder because he didn’t intend to kill the officer, and that Lopez had mental disabilities and was using the state to carry out long-standing desires to commit suicide.

“It is clear Lopez has been allowed to use the legal system in another attempt to take his own life,” attorney David Dow told the high court.

Lopez, who also wrote letters to a federal judge and pleaded for his execution to move forward, said a Supreme Court reprieve would be “disappointing.”

“It’s crazy they keep appealing, appealing,” he said last week of his lawyers’ efforts. “I’ve explained it to them many times. I guess they want to get paid for appealing.”

Lopez was properly examined by a psychologist, testified at a federal court hearing about his desire to drop appeals and was found to have no mental defects, state attorneys said in opposing delays in the punishment.

Alexander had been a police officer for 20 years. His death came during a chase that began just past midnight on March 11, 2009, after Lopez was pulled over by another officer for running a stop sign in a Corpus Christi neighborhood. Authorities say Lopez was driving around 60 mph.

Lopez struggled with the officer who made the stop and then fled. He rammed several patrol cars, drove at a high speed with his lights off and hit Alexander like “a bullet and a target,” said an officer who testified at Lopez’s 2010 trial.

When finally cornered by patrol cars, Lopez used his SUV as a battering ram trying to escape and wasn’t brought under control until he was shot, officers testified.

“It’s a horrible dream,” Lopez said from death row. “I’ve replayed it in my mind many times.”

Deputies found a dozen packets of cocaine and a small scale in a false compartment in the console of the SUV.

Records show Lopez was on probation at the time after pleading guilty to indecency with a child in Galveston County and was a registered sex offender. He had other arrests for assault.

Lopez would be the 10th inmate executed this year in Texas. Nationally, 18 prisoners have been put to death this year, with Texas accounting for 50 percent of them.

On Tuesday, another death row prisoner, Tracy Beatty, 54, received a reprieve from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. He had been scheduled for lethal injection Thursday. He’s on death row for the 2003 slaying of his 62-year-old mother, Carolyn Click, near Tyler in East Texas.

At least seven other Texas inmates have execution dates in the coming months.

UPCOMING EXECUTIONS AUGUST 2015


UPDATE AUGUST 3

Month State Inmate
August
12 TX Daniel Lopez EXECUTED 6:31 p.m
13 TX Tracy Beatty – STAYED
18 TN David Miller – STAYED
26 TX Bernardo Tercero (foreign national)
27 MS Richard Jordan
27 PA Maurice Patterson – STAY LIKELY
28 PA Hector Morales- STAY LIKELY

 

 

 

JULY 23, 2015

August
12 TX Daniel Lopez
13 TX Tracy Beatty
18 TN David Miller – STAYED
26 TX Bernardo Tercero (foreign national)
27 PA Maurice Patterson – STAY LIKELY
28 PA Hector Morales- STAY LIKELY

Texas Corrections Officer Killed in Inmate Attack


Jul 15, 2015

A corrections officer escorting an inmate to his cell was beaten to death Wednesday at a far northeast Texas prison, Department of Criminal Justice officials said.

The officer was escorting the inmate from a dayroom at the Telford Unit when he was attacked with an object, prison agency spokesman Jason Clark said. Officials did not immediately identify the weapon.

“It’s still under investigation,” Clark said.

The officer, Timothy Davison, 47, was taken to a hospital in Texarkana, about 20 miles east of the prison, where he died, Clark said. Davison, who lived near the prison, had been with the agency since December.

“Our hearts are deeply saddened by this tragic loss of life,” Brad Livingston, executive director of the prison system, said. “This dedicated correctional officer came to work each day determined to make Texas a safe place to live.”

The inmate involved was identified as Billy Joel Tracy, 37.

Prison records show he has at least seven convictions dating back to 1995 and is serving a life sentence for robbery and aggravated assault from Rockwall County, a suburban county east of Dallas. He has other convictions from Tarrant and Potter counties, including possession of a deadly weapon while in prison. At least three convictions are for assaults on corrections officers.

“We will see that the offender who is responsible for this murder will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Oliver Bell, chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, said.

Clark said the Telford Unit was properly staffed and had not been the scene of recent serious security problems.

“Of course, any time there’s a serious incident like this, there will be a review,” he said. “That’s standard procedure.”

Investigators from the agency’s Office of Inspector General were at the prison and “processing the crime scene,” Clark said.

It’s the first slaying of a Texas corrections officer since 2007, when 59-year-old Susan Canfield suffered fatal head injuries during the chaos and gunfire as two inmates broke away from a work detail outside a Huntsville-area prison. Both inmates were recaptured. One of them convicted of her death has since been executed.

The Telford Unit in Bowie County can hold nearly 2,900 inmates.