United States Supreme Court

FLORIDA – Jimmy Ryce’s Killer Appeals SCOTUS To Stay His Execution – Juan Carlos Chavez


February 7, 2014 (cbs)

The South Dade man convicted of killing Jimmy Ryce in 1995 has filed an appeal with the United States Supreme Court to stay his execution, which is currently scheduled for next Wednesday.

Juan Carlos Chavez has been on death row since his conviction in 1998.

The Ryce family declined to comment on the appeal Friday, but Don and Ted Ryce sat down for interviews with CBS4 News earlier in the week ahead of the pending execution.

“I just want it to be over. I want to get it behind us,” Don Ryce said.

Now there is a chance the day Done Ryce has waited almost 19 years for will be delayed.

“There is a reasonable possibility that the Supreme Court would consider a stay in this instance,” Miami-based appeals attorney Richard Klugh said Friday night.

Klugh is not connected to the case, but is familiar with the history and the letter of the law.

“It could take days, it could take a matter of weeks. But most likely the Supreme Court will try to move expeditiously,” he said.

Chavez was convicted in 1998 of the kidnap, rape and murder of 9-year-old Jimmy Ryce.

The farm hand told police he dismembered the boy’s body, put the parts in planters, and then filled them with concrete.

Jimmy’s family held out hope he’d be found alive. Posters with his pictured were plastered all over South Florida.

After Chavez’s arrest, confession and conviction, they waited patiently for justice to be served.

Jimmy’s mother and sister would not live to see the day.

“This person, Juan Carlos Chavez, who’s been on death row for so long, he’s outlived my mother, Claudine. He’s outlived my sister,” Jimmy’s brother Ted said. “Now… Now, it’s time.”

Chavez’s attorneys argue the lethal cocktail administered to death row inmates violates the U.S. Constitution, saying it amounts to “cruel and unusual punishment.”

It’s a punishment Don Ryce thinks is well-deserved, even though it won’t bring his little boy back.

“I hate the word closure because what it implies is that there’s an end and everything is okay,” Ryce said. “And that’ll never happen.”

If the execution moves ahead as planned on Wednesday, Don and Ted Ryce said they plan to be in the viewing gallery at the state prison in Starke.

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Georgia stays execution of mentally disabled prisoner Update


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

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

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

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

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

(Source: The Associated Press)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Young Killers in Texas Await Change in Mandatory Life Sentences


NEW BOSTON, Tex. — Scottie Forcey nervously drummed his fingers behind the thick glass in the Telford Unit’s visiting room as the camera shutter snapped, capturing images of the 21-year-old convicted murderer.

“I want some pictures. I ain’t seen myself in like” — he paused to count on his fingers — “five years. I know I look different. Check it out.” He pressed his prison ID card against the glass. In the photo, a plumper, baby-faced 17-year-old stared at the camera.

Mr. Forcey was convicted in 2009 of fatally shooting Karen Burke, a 52-year-old Alvarado convenience store clerk. He is the youngest of 23 Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmates who received mandatory sentences of life without parole for committing capital murder when they were younger than 18.

Now, as legislators work to comply with a United States Supreme Court ruling, those inmates could become eligible for parole after serving 40 years.

The justices ruled last year that sentences of life without parole for 17-year-old murderers violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Either the courts or Gov. Rick Perry could change such sentences in Texas. But both are waiting for legislators to decide what punishment juveniles like Mr. Forcey should face. Lawmakers, who failed to pass legislation in two sessions this year, are trying now for a third time.

In Texas, 17-year-olds have faced the same sentencing options as adults convicted of capital murder: the death penalty or life without parole. In 2005, the Supreme Court prohibited the death penalty for anyone under 18, deciding that the less-developed brains of juveniles rendered them less culpable. That left only life without parole as the punishment for 17-year-olds.

After the court’s decision last year, in Miller v. Alabama, prosecutors said they had no sentencing options for 17-year-old killers. They asked lawmakers to make them subject to the same punishment Texas law requires for 14- to 16-year-old capital murderers: life with parole eligibility after 40 years.

Lance Long, a Harris County assistant district attorney, recently told lawmakers that until they decided on a sentencing option, such murder trials were being delayed across Texas.

“None of these cases are anything but very, very, very serious,” Mr. Long said.

The Texas Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee has approved a bill that would require a sentence of life with parole eligibility after 40 years. The House, however, has indicated it wants to give juries the option to sentence 17-year-olds to life without parole if other factors — like evidence of abuse or mental illness — are considered.

In previous sessions this year, both chambers approved bills addressing the sentencing question, but time ran out before they could get final approval.

Mr. Perry has told prosecutors that when lawmakers decided on a new sentencing bill, he would consider recommending commutation for inmates like Mr. Forcey who were sentenced under the old law.

“It really only seems fair and just,” said Justin Wood, the legislative liaison for the Harris County district attorney’s office in Houston.

Mr. Forcey, meanwhile, contends that he did not pull the trigger in Ms. Burke’s murder in 2008. He said he was targeted because he ran with the wrong crowd.

Now, he said, “I wouldn’t put myself in that situation.”

Mr. Forcey has spent most of the last four years in isolation, punishment for fights he said were constant when he first arrived.

“I grew up back there,” he said.

Asked about the possibility that his sentence could be commuted, Mr. Forcey was ambivalent. Forty years, he said, is too long.

Then a wide smile spread across his face. He figures he will be out by December. Mr. Forcey spent those years in isolation researching his case, he said, and plans to file an appeal.

“My mind’s already set,” he said. “I’m going home — wherever home is.”

Supreme Court To Hear Texas Death Row Inmate’s Case – Carlos Trevino


October 29, 2012 http://www.texastribune.org

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Monday to hear the case of Texas death row inmate Carlos Trevino in a case that could determine whether a defendant in Texas has a right to “competent” attorney during habeas appeals — a challenge to a criminal conviction that considers whether the defendant’s constitutional rights were violated during his trial.

In March, the nation’s highest court decided inMartinez v. Ryan that the failure of state habeas lawyers to argue that their client’s trial counsel was ineffective should not keep the defendant from being able to make that argument later in the appeals process.

The question in the Trevino case is whether the court’s decision in Martinez applies in Texas, said Trevino’s lawyer, Warren Alan Wolf. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decided in November 2011 that since the laws governing habeas appeals in Texas are different from those in Arizona, the Martinez decision does not apply.

Wolf said he had expected the court to select the case of John Balentine, another Texas death row inmate, as the one with which to decide the question. Balentine was an hour away from execution in August when the court granted him a stay to decide whether his state habeas attorney should have raised claims that his trial counsel had been ineffective. His trial lawyer, Balentine contended, failed to consider mitigating evidence that might have convinced jurors to sentence him to life rather than death.

Dissenting from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals’ refusal to grant Balentine a hearing, two judges wrote that, “The issue of Martinez v. Ryan’s applicability to capital habeas petitioners in Texas presents an issue of exceptional importance.”

Trevino was convicted in 1997 of the rape and murder of 15-year-old Linda Salinas at a park in San Antonio. At the time, he was a member of the Pisteleros gang, and several other members were charged for the murder. Trevino was the only one sentenced to death.

Trevino’s first habeas attorney, Albert Rodriguez, did “no investigation” outside of the record that already existed, Wolf said, and then became sick and “didn’t want to proceed.” As a result, he explained, “Carlos never really got fair representation.

FLORIDA – mentally ill death row inmate gets stay of execution – FERGUSON


october 21,2012 http://www.globalpost.com

John Errol Ferguson will add another week to the 34 years he has been on death row in Florida. The convicted mass killer was granted a stay of execution by a federal judge on Saturday. 

Defense attorneys have argued for decades that Ferguson is mentally ill and that putting him to death would be “cruel and unusual punishment”.

He execution was originally scheduled for Tuesday

“The issues raised merit full, reflective consideration,” the court said when US. District Judge Daniel T. K. Hurley granted the motion for a stay.

Ferguson’s attorneys told AP that the court will hear three hours of arguments on his habeas corpus petition on Friday. His lawyers are arguing that Ferguson is unfairly on death row because the court used an old and outdated definition of competency.

They contend that Ferguson is insane and that a 2007 US Supreme Court ruling prohibits the state from executing him, reports AP. 

“In order for the state to execute him, Mr. Ferguson must have a rational understanding of the reason for, and effect of, his execution,” Chris Handman, an attorney for Ferguson, told AP in an emailed statement.

“A man who thinks he is the immortal Prince of God and who believes he is incarcerated because of a Communist plot quite clearly has no rational understanding of the effect of his looming execution and the reason for it.”

Ferguson was convicted of the July 1977 murders of six people during a home-invasion robbery, reports the Miami Herald.  He was convicted separately of posing as a police officer and murdering two teenagers in January 1978.

Ferguson has had a long history with mental illness and crime. In 1971, he was declared psychotic and incompetent by a court-appointed doctor years before his first murder, reports the Tampa Bay Tribune.

“He is completely paranoid. A schizophrenic,” Handman, whose law firm, Hogan Lovells, has represented Ferguson pro bono for more than 30 years, told the Miami Herald.

“When you meet him, he is deeply suspicious of your motives. He has a very tenuous grasp on reality.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Executed At 14: George Stinney’s Birthday Reminds Us That The Death Penalty Must End


October 19 2012 http://newsone.com/

george junius stinney jr birthday

George Junius Stinney Jr., the 14-year-old Black boy who died as the youngest person ever executed in the United States in the 20th century, would have been 83-years-old this Sunday.

Instead, his birthday will serve as a haunting reminder of why the death penalty needs to be abolished.

When two White girls, 11-year-old Betty June Binnicker and 8-year-old Mary Emma Thames, went missing in Alcolu, S.C., on March 22, 1944, after riding in to town on their bicycles, Stinney was arrested the following day for allegedly murdering them.

The girls had allegedly passed Stinney’s home, where they asked him where they could find a particular kind of flower. Once the girls did not return home, hundreds of volunteers looked for them until their bodies were found the next morning in a ditch.

Because Stinney joined the search team and shared with another volunteer that he had spoken to the girls before they disappeared, he was arrested for their murders.

Without his parents, Stinney was interrogated by several White officers for hours. A deputy eventually emerged announcing that Stinney had confessed to the girls’ murders. The young boy allegedly told the deputies that he wanted to have sex with the 11-year-old girl, but had to kill the younger one to do it. When the 8-year-old supposedly refused to leave, he allegedly killed both of them because they refused his sexual advances.

To coerce his confession, deputies reportedly offered the child an ice cream cone.

There is no record of a confession. No physical evidence that he committed the crime exists. His trial — if you want to call it that — lasted less than two hours. No witnesses were called. No defense evidence was presented. And the all-White jury deliberated for all of 10 minutes before sentencing him to death.

On June 16, 1944, his frail, 5-foot-1, 95-pound body was strapped in to an electric chair at a state correctional facility in Columbia, S.C. Dictionaries had to be stacked on the seat of the chair so that he could properly sit in the seat. But even that didn’t help. When the first jolts of electricity hit him, the head mask reportedly slipped off, revealing the agony on his face and the tears streaming down his cheeks. Only after several more jolts of electricity did the boy die.

It was, without question, one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in U.S. history. Yet, decades later,33 states in the United States still practice this barbaric form of so-called justice. And the way it has been applied to our community has been especially unjust — and discriminatory.

Since 1973, almost 30 years after Stinney’s execution, 141 people in 26 states have been exoneratedfrom death row after new evidence cleared them of wrongdoing, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Seventy of those individuals were Black men and one was a Black woman, which accounts for more than half of the wrongfully convicted. Twelve of them were Latino.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, says that race and other unjust factors determine who is sentenced to death.

“It’s those who are the most vulnerable,” Dieter told NewsOne in a phone interview. “If you have a poor lawyer or if you kill a White person, you’re more likely to get the death penalty. If you kill someone in Texas, it’s different than if you are accused of killing someone in another state and that is terribly unfair.”

What is even more unfair is that, since 1977, the majority of death row defendants have been executed for killing White victimsaccording to Amnesty International. But more than half of all homicide victims are African American. A Yale University Law School study reports that Black defendants are sentenced to death at three times the rate of White defendants when the victim is White.

Things really have not changed since little George Stinney was executed for killing two White girls based on virtually no evidence and pure racism.

Diann Rust-Tierney, executive director of the National Coalition To Abolish The Death Penalty, told NewsOne in an interview that Stinney’s upcoming birthday should remind us all that a flawed method of administering justice for the victim is not just if it clearly targets a particular group of people.

“If we don’t care whether or not race is influencing these cases, how are we going to make the system care if it turns out that our children are not getting the education they need or we’re not getting a fair shake in mortgages?” Rust-Tierney asked. “That is what this is about.”

Her Washington, D.C.-based organization played a pivotal role in helping to abolish the death penalty for juveniles in the United States with its 1997 “Stop Killing Kids Campaign” that lead to South Dakota and Wyoming banning the practice for offenders under the age of 18. The U.S. Supreme Court outlawed the practice against juveniles in 2005.

Before the High Court’s ruling, however, 71 juveniles were on death row. Two-thirds of them where offenders of color, and more than two-thirds of their victims were white.

“For people of color, the criminal justice system has been designed to be about us and around us but never with us,” Rust-Tierney said.

It certainly wasn’t with Stinney when his court-appointed attorney didn’t even care to call witnesses or provide evidence in his defense. And the justice system certainly wasn’t with his parents when a lynch mob ran them out of town, leaving their son in that South Carolina courtroom to face his fate all by himself.

I believe the best way we can commemorate the birth of this poor 14-year-old boy’s short life is to take a moment to really ask ourselves why we need this cruel form of punishment to begin with. Some will argue that if you kill someone, you should be put to death.

Well, the vast majority of convicts who are found guilty of killing someone are not sentenced to death. So why the selective application?

Is it making our streets safer?

No.

Has it put innocent lives on death row for crimes they did not commit?

Yes.

Of the 33 states in the Union that administer the death penalty, California voters will have the choice on Nov. 6 to vote for or against Proposition 34.

Not only would it end the death penalty in California, it would save the state more than $130 million per year in costs from death penalty cases. The measure would also require convicted killers to work and pay restitution in to a victim’s compensation fund.

Greg Akili, the Southern California field director for Safe California, told NewsOne that as much as $100 million of the money saved from executions can potentially go to a crime victim’s fund to help support their cases.

“That is a better use of the money because many of the victims that we work with and who have been supporting the initiative are victims of rape and murder but their cases are not being aggressively pursued,” Akili said. “So the money that we save from executing people here in California can be used for that fund.”

Proposition 34 is a smart, cost-effective way of administering justice that can truly help make our street’s safer and ensure that no innocent person is killed for a crime they did not commit.

We do not know what Stinney would have done with his 83 years had he lived that long. But what we do know is that the ugly, inhumane practice that took his life nearly seventy years ago is as flawed and broken now as it was back in 1944.

Currently, more than half of the 3,170 of the people on death row are people of color,according to the Equal Justice InitiativeForty-three percent of them are African-American.

In Alabama, for example, 80 percent of all death sentences are imposed in cases where the victim is White even though 65 percent of the state’s murder victims are Black.

The racial bias that forced a 14-year-old Stinney in to an electric chair some 68 years ago clearly exists today.

So when we sit in our church pews this Sunday morning, lead our congregations in prayer, and deliver the good word, let us not forget that little George Stinney was born.

Let us take a moment of silence to reflect on the fact that the United States –  along with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and China — tops the list of countries with the highest execution rates in the world. We are not serving justice nor are we serving any God by using the death penalty to take another human being’s life. We’re merely serving our primal desire to get even.

But as little George Stinney should remind us, there was nothing even about the way it was applied to him or others since his execution.

It’s time to end the death penalty in America. Now and forever.

 

TEXAS – Appeals court race highlights statewide campaigns


october 19,2012 http://www.sfgate.com

In 2010, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller faced discipline for closing the courthouse just as a death row inmate was trying to file an appeal, and she was fined $100,000 for not disclosing more than $2 million in property and income on her personal financial statements.

The discipline in the death penalty case was later tossed on appeal, and Keller has appealed the ethics fine. But it’s those blemishes on the Republican’s career that Democratic defense attorney Keith Hampton hopes will propel him to win Keller’s seat in November and break the GOP’s hold on the state’s highest court for criminal cases.

“She’s banking on nobody noticing,” Hampton said, noting the $100,000 fine remains the largest in the history of the Texas Ethics Commission.

Keller did not respond to repeated telephone and e-mail requests for an interview.

Keller was hauled before the state Commission on Judicial Conduct for ordering the court shut at 5 p.m. on Sept. 25, 2007, which lawyers for condemned killer Michael Richard said blocked them from filing a last-minute appeal. Richard was executed that night for the rape and slaying of a Houston-area nurse who had seven children.

Keller faced removal from the bench, but the commission instead issued a “public warning,” one of the least severe sanctions at its disposal, while criticizing her for casting “public discredit on the judiciary.”

Keller appealed, and got the ruling dismissed by a special court of review, which said the commission had overstepped its legal authority.

In 2010, she said, “”What happened to me shouldn’t happen to any judge” and called the “Killer Keller” nickname death penalty opponents have her was hurtful and uncivil.

Hampton says the death penalty case and the ethics fine show a judge who is indifferent to justice in the death penalty, and willing to ignore the law to protect her own finances. Keller filed corrected financial disclosure forms, saying the failure to disclose was merely a mistake.

Keller was first elected in 1994. She had plenty of practice filing the forms, Hampton said.

“I fill out those papers, too,” Hampton said. “They go on and on about bonds, stocks and property. I don’t know how you miss that.”

Hampton is a criminal defense attorney who has appeared for the 9-member court in death penalty cases. He says his experience handling capital punishment cases at every level, from the trial court to the U.S. Supreme Court, give him a unique perspective on the gravity surrounding life-and-death issues before the court.

“The result does matter. Innocence should matter. Guilt should matter. Life or death should not be indifferent,” Hampton said.

In a 2010 interview with The Associated Press, Keller said her critics ignore her work chairing a task force that provides legal aid for the indigent, and another that ensures offenders with mental illness receive proper treatment.

Keller said then she expected the ethics issues to be raised during her 2012 reelection campaign.

“I can deal with it,” she said.

There are other statewide races on the ballot Nov. 6.

Court of Criminal Appeals Judges Barbara Parker Hervey and Elsa Alcala are running for new terms. Both are Republican who did not draw Democrat opponents.

The nine-member state Supreme Court has three seats up for election, with Republican incumbents Don Willett (Place 2) and Nathan Hecht (Place 6) running for new six-year terms.

Hecht, first elected in 1988, is the longest-serving member of the court with a reputation as one of its intellectual leaders. He has drawn Democratic opponent Michele Petty, a San Antonio attorney, who has made an issue of a $29,000 ethics fine levied against Hecht in 2007 for an illegal campaign contribution. Hecht appealed and the case is still pending.

Willett, who has served on the court since 2005, did not draw a Democratic opponent.

Former state district judge John Devine of Houston, who got attention for fighting to keep the Ten Commandments on display in his courtroom, is on the ballot in Place 4 after he defeated incumbent Justice David Medina in the primary. Devine did not draw a Democratic opponent in the general election.

The state Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas, has two places on the ballot.

In the open seat in Place 1, Republican Christi Craddick, an oil and gas attorney, party activist and daughter for former House Speaker Tom Craddick, faces Democrat Dale Henry, a licensed petroleum engineer and former Mills County commissioner for the six-year term.

Craddick says it is important that state encourage drilling and energy development and protect the industry from overreaching federal regulations. State officials and energy companies have been fighting federal agencies over myriad issues in recent years, from the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline to the environmental impact of the oil and gas drilling process called fracking.

Henry says he supports drilling, including fracking, but believes oil and gas companies are polluting the state’s land and water. Henry says he will fight for strict enforcement of environmental protections laws. The race has also drawn Libertarian candidate Vik Wall and Green Party candidate Chris Kennedy.

Commissioner Barry Smitherman, appointed by Gov. Rick Perry, is running to fill the rest of his unexpired term in Place 2. Smitherman is a former chairman of the Public Utility Commission and led that agency in 2008 when the state pledged billions of dollars to boost wind energy. He says energy companies should be encouraged to explore and drill. Smitherman did not draw a Democratic opponent.

TEXAS – EXECUTION TODAY- ANTHONY HAYNES – 6 p.m STAYED


October 18, 2012 

Anthony Haynes, 33, would be the 11th inmate executed this year in Texas and the 33rd in the United States, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The execution is scheduled for after 6 p.m. (2300 GMT) in Huntsville.

Haynes fired a shot from his truck at a Jeep Cherokee carrying off-duty Houston police officer Kent Kincaid and his wife, Nancy, according to an account of the case from the Texas attorney general’s office.

The officer got out of his Jeep and approached Haynes‘ truck, telling him that he was a police officer and asking to see his driver’s license, the account said.

Nancy Kincaid said during Haynes’ trial that her husband was reaching for his badge when the driver shot him in the head, according to a Houston Chronicle account at the time.

“(The driver) pulled his hand up and I saw the flash and I heard the pop,” Nancy Kincaid testified. “That was the end. He then went down.”

Kent Kincaid was declared brain-dead at the hospital.

That same night, Haynes had committed several armed robberies, Texas officials say.

“I’m not a vicious psychopath who goes around wanting to take people’s lives,” Haynes told the Houston Chronicle in a 2001 death row interview. “There was no intent to kill a cop. He did not ID himself until a second before I shot him.”

Haynes has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, raising questions about whether his trial lawyers were effective.

These two men were both 19 when they were sentenced to death


Anthony Cardell Haynes

Anthony Haynes claimed he didn’t know that Kent Kincaid was a Houston police sergeant when he shot him in the head back in 1998. Kincaid was off-duty and driving his personal vehicle when Haynes drove by; something cracked Kincaid’s windshield, and he reportedly thought Haynes had thrown something at him. He followed Haynes, and when the 19-year-old stopped his car, Kincaid approached him. Kincaid said he was a police officer, but Haynes later said he didn’t know whether to believe him. When Kincaid reached behind his back, presumably for a badge, Haynes pulled out a .25-caliber gun and shot him.

Anthony Haynes

Anthony Haynes

Haynes blamed the tragedy in part on drugs and falling in with a bad crowd of people who reportedly made a game out of shooting at the windshields of passing cars and then robbing the drivers after they stopped. As it happened, the crack in Kincaid’s windshield was made by a bullet. Jurors in Haynes’ case deliberated for three days before sentencing the teen to death.

That sentence was overturned, however, after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Haynes’ defense that an unusual jury-selection setup in Haynes’ case had denied his right to equal protection under law. Indeed, two different judges presided over Haynes’ jury selection; one heard prosecutors interview individual jurors, and a second heard the lawyers’ arguments for striking from service the potential jurors. As it turned out, the state used its power to strike all but one of the black potential jurors, arguing that it was not their race that excluded them (which would be illegal), but their “demeanor.” But Haynes’ appeal attorney argued that the judge who allowed those strikes had not actually witnessed the jurors’ questioning and thus could not actually have seen whether their demeanor would be a basis on which to have them struck. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately disagreed with the 5th Circuit, ruling that there was no rule that would require a judge to “personally observe” the juror questioning when deciding whether a juror is lawfully struck from service.

Haynes is scheduled for execution today, Oct. 18. STAYED

Bobby Lee Hines

Hines

Hines

Bobby Lee Hines was also just 19 when he was sentenced to death for the robbery and strangling of 26-year-old Michelle Haupt in her Dallas apartment. Now, 20 years later, he’s scheduled to die for that crime on Oct. 24. But his attorney, Lydia Brandt, argues that Hines’ execution should, once again, be stayed while the courts consider whether his lawyers have done enough to save his life.

Hines was convicted of the 1991 murder of Haupt, who was stabbed repeatedly with an ice pick and strangled with a cord inside her apartment. Hines had been staying next door with the apartment complex’s maintenance man. Police found items from Haupt’s apartment, including packs of cigarettes and a bowl of pennies, under a couch where Hines had been sleeping.

Hines’ first date with death was stayed in 2003, while the courts considered a claim that he was mentally retarded and thus ineligible for execution. Although Hines had a diagnosed learning disability and was considered emotionally disturbed, the courts ruled that he didn’t meet the criteria for relief. His execution date was reset for June 2012, but was stayed again so that further DNA testing could be performed. The DNA evidence confirmed Hines’ guilt and once again his execution was back on.

Now, Brandt is again seeking a stay, arguing that Hines’ case has been plagued by ineffective assistance of counsel. Brandt’s latest appeal, filed Oct. 10 with the Court of Criminal Appeals, argues that none of Hines’ defense attorneys ever investigated his background for mitigating evidence that could have swayed a jury to sentence him to life in prison. Hines had a “nightmarish” childhood that featured chronic abuse by his racist, alcoholic father, and later by foster parents, and was profoundly affected by his mother’s decision to abandon him as a young child. But the jury never heard anything of Hines’ troubled background. The question now before the CCA is whether the prior counsel’s failings can create an avenue for reconsidering Hines’ punishment. Brandt believes it should: “Fundamental rules of equity will not suffer a right to be without a remedy,” reads the appeal

FLORIDA – Mentally ill death row inmate who believes he is the Prince of God WILL be executed after judge rules he is ‘sane’ – FERGUSON STAYED


October 15, 2012 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

A convicted killer in South Florida, who claims to be the prince of god, is one step closer to being put to death.

John Errol Ferguson has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and despite his mental illness, Circuit Judge David Allen Glant ruled on Friday that the 64-year-old is still competent to be executed next week.

Ferguson has been on death row for 34 years, after he was sentenced to death in 1978 for killing eight people.

Ferguson was found guilty in the deaths of six victims, who were killed in a drug related, execution-style mass killing in Carol City in 1977.

He was also convicted of killing two teenagers on their way to a church meeting in 1978.

But Ferguson has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and he believes is the anointed prince of god. His lawyers appealed his death sentence on the grounds that it is ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ for him to be executed given his mental state.

The United States Supreme Court has found that while the death penalty does not qualify as ‘cruel and unusual punishment,’ prohibited in the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, the execution of inmates that are mentally retarded is a violation of a person’s constitutional right.

But a judge ruled on Friday that despite the inmate’s history of mental illness, ‘there is no evidence that he does not understand’ that he will be put to death as a consequence for his crimes. 

Glant also observed that Ferguson’s belief that he is the ‘Prince of God’ and expectation that he will have a place at the ‘right-hand’ of God following his death, are beliefs that are not ‘significantly different than beliefs other Christians may hold.’

Glant’s ruling upheld Florida Governor Rick Scott’s finding that the execution should proceed.

Ferguson’s defense lawyer Christopher Handman has appealed Glant’s decision to the Florida Supreme Court in Tallahassee.

‘It is impossible to fathom that the State can constitutionally put to death a man who thinks he is the Prince of God and who believes he has a destiny of being the right hand of God and returning to purify earth,’ Handman, told the Miami Herald.

‘Nationally-recognized experts in neuropsychiatry and forensic psychology examined John and testified that he lacks a rational understanding of why he is being put to death,’ his lawyer added. 

As the legal proceedings play out, the Supreme Court has issued a temporary stay of execution, which is scheduled for next Thursday. 

But one of the victim’s family has said it is time for justice to be served.

‘Our tax dollars have been keeping Ferguson alive. Free food, medical care and the ability to communicate with his loved ones and lawyers,’ Michael Worley, whose sister Belinda was killed by Ferguson, said.

‘My sister was brutally killed at the age of 17. Her murder shattered our entire family. Life was never the same.’