The Latest From Florida’s Death Row

Florida Passes Bill to Compensate Exonerated Death Row Inmate

Justice was a long time coming, and a day late.

But it did arrive, with the eleventh-hour passage of a bill Friday that will let Florida pay James Richardson for wrongly convicting him of murder and imprisoning him for 21 years. After years of failed efforts, Richardson’s supporters persuaded the Florida Legislature to change a law that had left him in a legal limbo since 1989.

The Senate took the final step, passing the bill unanimously at 9:15 p.m., in the closing minutes of the lawmakers’ 60-day session.

New Death Sentence: Judge Gives Death Sentence to Quentin Truehill

A death sentence given for the man who kidnapped and killed an FSU grad student and dumped his body in St. Augustine.

A St. Johns County jury recommended the death sentence for Quentin Truehill in March. He was convicted in February of first degree murder and kidnapping.

Custody Still in Flux for Flagler Killer’s Daughter:

Kyla was 1 year old on Aug. 21, 2007, when her father, William Gregory, sneaked into a Flagler Beach house and killed Kyla’s 17-year-old mother, Skyler Meekins, and her 22-year-old boyfriend, Daniel Dyer. Gregory was convicted of first-degree murder in April 2011 and now sits on death row.

Kyla is now 7 and where she will spend the rest of her childhood remains unclear.

Nelson Serrano’s Lawyers Seek New Trial

Condemned mass murderer Nelson Serrano, who’s on Florida’s death row for gunning down four people at a Bartow factory in 1997, should get a new trial because recently discovered evidence has put the jury’s 2006 guilty verdict in doubt, his lawyers said Tuesday.

Florida Death Row Inmate Seeks Clemency in Last Chance Before Execution Date is Set

The case of Charles Finney, a 60-year-old man on death row in Florida, is now before the clemency authorities. He maintains that he did not commit the murder for which he was sentenced to death. In Florida, an execution date is set if and when clemency is denied.

The Florida Supreme Court unanimously upheld the conviction and death penalty sentence of a Pensacola woman convicted of beating a 19-year-old with a crowbar, shocking her with a stun gun and then setting her on fire, according to the State Attorney’s Office.

In 2012, Tina Lasonya Brown, 43, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Audreanna Zimmerman.

Editorial: Don’t Miss This Opportunity to Reform the Florida Death Penalty

The death penalty is likely to be with us until the U.S. Supreme Court or the Florida Legislature undergoes serious change. But whether one is an opponent of the death penalty (as the ACLU surely is) or a proponent of state executions, we should all insist that the possibility of horrible and irreversible error in Florida’s implementation of the death penalty is minimized.

 

That is the point of legislation pending in both Florida’s House and Senate — SB 334 by Sen. Thad Altman R-Melbourne, and HB 467 Rep. Jose Javier Rodriquez, D-Miami, both entitled “Sentencing in Capital Felonies.” Sadly, it does not appear that either chamber is willing to take up this issue.

Florida Judge Who Imposed Death Penalty Reflects on the Practice

It was Ulmer who presided over the murder trial of John Henry, whose death warrant was recently signed by Gov. Rick Scott and who is scheduled to be executed June 18 if doctors determine he is sane.

In Ulmer’s court, Henry was convicted of repeatedly stabbing his wife, Suzanne, in the neck while her 5-year-old son was in another room in their Zephyrhills home. Henry covered her with a rug, smoked a cigarette and then drove his stepson to a wooded area in Hillsborough County, where he stabbed the boy to death.

When it came time for sentencing, Ulmer appeared more shaken than Henry. His voice quavered as he read the declaration the state required with any death sentence.

Guest Column: Florida’s Death Penalty is Archaic

It is irrefutable folks; we kill a lot of innocent people. If that wasn’t bad enough, because of our lengthy appeals process, killing people is very expensive. It is time to bring a little more sanity to our punitive approach.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Oklahoma’s Botched Execution

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

An Oklahoma inmate’s execution failed tonight after the delivery of the lethal injection drugs was botched and the inmate suffered a massive heart attack on the gurney.

Clayton Lockett, 38, was slated to be the first of two executions tonight in Oklahoma, in what was going to be the state’s first double execution since 1937 (more background on the crime and lead-up to the executions here). However, as reporters waited for confirmation of a time of death almost an hour after the injection was scheduled to proceed, it became clear that something had gone wrong.

Finally reporters were told that the execution had been halted about 20 minutes after the first drug was injected, when Lockett was still moving and mumbling on the gurney.

According to Associated Press reporter Bailey Elise McBride, whose Twitter feed is a blow-by-blow account of what the media was told following the procedure, “Lockett began breathing heavily, writhing on the gurney, clenching his teeth and straining to lift his head off the pillow.”

“It was extremely difficult to watch,” Lockett’s attorney, David Autry, told the AP

More from McBride’s AP account:

“There was some concern at that time that the drugs were not having that (desired) effect, and the doctor observed the line at that time and determined the line had blown,” Patton said at a news conference afterward, referring to Lockett’s vein rupturing.

After that, an official who was inside the death chamber lowered the blinds, preventing those in the viewing room from seeing what was happening.

Patton then made a series of phone calls before calling a halt to the execution.

KFOR in Oklahoma provided a timeline (which Andrew Cohen tidied up for his take for The Atlantic):

6:23 PM – Prison officials raise the blinds. Execution begins.

6:28 PM – Inmate shivering, sheet shaking.  Breathing deep.

6:29 PM – Inmate blinking and gritting his teeth.  Adjusts his head.

6:30 PM – Prison officials check to see if inmate is unconscious.  Doctor says, “He’s not unconscious.”  Inmate says “I’m not.”  Female prison official says, “Mr. Lockett is not unconscious.”

6:32 PM – Inmate’s breathing is normal, mouth open, eyes shut. For a second time, prison officials check to see if inmate is unconscious.

6:33 PM – Doctor says, “He is unconscious.” Prison official says “Mr. Lockett is unconscious.”

6:34 PM – Inmate’s mouth twitches.  No sign of breathing.

6:35 PM – Mouth movement.

6:36 PM – Inmate’s head moves from side to side, then lifts his head off the bed.

6:37 PM – Inmate lifts his head and feet slightly off the bed.  Inmate tries to say something, mumbles while moving body.

6:38 pm – More movement by the inmate. At this point the inmate is breathing heavily and appears to be struggling.

6:39 PM – Inmate tries to talk. Says “man” and appears to be trying to get up. Doctor checks on inmate. Female prison official says, “We are going to lower the blinds temporarily.” Prison phone rings. Director of Prisons Robert Patton answers the phone and leaves the room—taking three state officials with him.

Minutes later—the director of prisons comes back into the room and tells the eyewitnesses that there has been a vein failure. He says, “The chemical did not make it into the vein of the prisoner. Under my authority, we are issuing a stay of execution.”

Charles Warner, originally set to be the second execution of the night at 8 p.m., has had his execution postponed for 14 days while an investigation is conducted.

This sort of prolonged, failed execution is exactly what attorneys for both men were afraid of when they filed appeals asserting their client’s constitutional right to know the source of the drugs being used to execute them. The claims led to a heated back and forth over the past two weeks, exposing tensions in the state’s leadership.

Warner’s attorney, Madeline Cohen, released a statement following the failed execution:

“After weeks of Oklahoma refusing to disclose basic information about the drugs for tonight’s lethal injection procedures, tonight, Clayton Lockett was tortured to death.

‘Without question, we must get complete answers about what went wrong. There must be an independent investigation conducted by a third-party entity, not the Department of Corrections. We also need an autopsy by an independent pathologist and full transparency about the results of its findings. Additionally, the state must disclose complete information about the drugs, including their purity, efficacy, source and the results of any testing. Until much more is known about tonight’s failed experiment of an execution, no execution can be permitted in Oklahoma.”

Related Reading:

A Breakdown of Tonight’s Double Execution in Oklahoma

Man Dies of Heart Attack After Botched Execution

Oklahoma Postpones Execution After First Is Botched

What Happens to the Death Penalty When Lethal Injection Isn’t Quick and Painless?

How Oklahoma’s Botched Execution Affects the Death-Penalty Debate

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Breakdown of Tonight’s Double Execution in Oklahoma

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. For the most current updates, see this blog’s Twitter feed.

UPDATE: The execution of Clayton Lockett has been ‘botched’ according to his attorney and the execution of Charles Warner has been stayed. For the latest, see “Oklahoma’s Botched Execution

After weeks of legal wrangling and confusion in the courts, the way has been cleared for the Oklahoma Corrections Department to execute not one, but two men tonight, in what will be the first double execution in 14 years and and the first in Oklahoma since 1937. The last time two inmates were put to death in the same state in the same day was in Texas in 2000.

Thirty-eight-year-old Clayton Lockett was convicted in the shooting death of Stephanie Neiman in 1999. According to the Tulsa World, “Lockett shot Neiman twice with a shotgun before having an accomplice, Shawn Mathis, bury her alive.” Forty-six-year-old Charles Warner “was convicted in the 1997 death of his roommate’s 11-month-old daughter,” according to NBC News.

The state slated Lockett for execution at 6 p.m. central time, followed by Warner two hours later at 8 p.m. Lockett made a last meal request but it was denied because it exceeded the $15 dollar price limit. The warden offered him a steak dinner from Western Sizzlin instead, but Lockett declined.

The unusual double execution, as well as the heated legal scuffling, has provoked concern and criticism both locally and nationwide. Accordingly, a group of protestors rallied outside the Governor’s mansion at the time of the first execution.

protest
Photo by Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

The issue in the legal back and forth was not the inmates’ innocence, but rather over the secrecy surrounding the source of the drugs that would be used to execute them. Lawyers for both men argued that they had a right to know the manufacturer of the chemicals that will be used in their injections.

The drugs used in lethal injections have become the latest front in the fight against executions and the death penalty. Most execution drugs are made in Europe, and many European drug makers don’t like the idea of their products being used in executions. Others have had to face criticism from groups such as Reprieve, which actively seeks out information on who makes the drugs and makes that information public. This has caused many European drug makers to cease producing the drugs and/or refuse to sell them to prisons. So prisons and corrections departments are increasingly searching for new sources for the chemicals, or resort to compounding pharmacies, which according to The Guardian are less well regulated than traditional drug manufacturers. Corrections departments have also begun to create policies to protect the anonymity of the drug makers, presumably so the company won’t face the same public outcry the European companies faced.

(For a breakdown of the specific drugs at issue in Oklahoma, Mother Jones reporter Stephanie Mencimer has an excellent review here.)

These changes have caused concern among defense attorneys, who argue that without knowing the source of the drugs, there is a greater possibility that the chemicals are contaminated or expired, which would cause unnecessary suffering, which is unconstitutional under the eighth amendment.  Charges like this have been filed in other states, such as Texas and Missouri (those claims were all rejected) but in Oklahoma, they provoked a whole new level of controversy, exposing “long-running tension among Oklahoma’s three branches of government,” according to Associated Press reporter Sean Murphy.

Andrew Cohen breaks down why things are so tense the best, so I’ll defer to him:

Things got complicated because there are two high courts in Oklahoma — one that focuses on “criminal” matters and one that focuses on “civil” matters. The criminal court, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, said it had no jurisdiction to look at the injection secrecy matter. The civil court, the Oklahoma Supreme Court, said that the Court of Criminal Appeals did have jurisdiction.

There was open conflict between the courts. The state Supreme Court criticized the Court of Criminal Appeals for not accepting the appeal and for not halting the executions. The criminal appeals court criticized the state Supreme Court for intruding upon what its judges considered the purely “criminal” matter of execution protocols.

The open warfare within the state judiciary — unseemly, in particular, in the context of capital cases — surely contributed to the chaos that came next.

Here’s my attempt at reconstructing a timeline of the back and forth. It gets a little weird, so try to keep up and if you spot any errors, shout them out in the comments.

  • March: Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish rules that the secrecy of the drug source violates the inmates’ rights under the state constitution.
  • Friday, April 18: The state appeals that ruling to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, saying the ruling is “an ‘overbroad interpretation’ of the right to access,” according to The Guardian.
  • The Oklahoma Supreme Court said they do not have the authority to stay the executions, and transferred the matter to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.
  • The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed, saying THEY don’t have the authority to stay the executions, because the inmates challenged the execution procedures in civil court, not criminal. Their ruling also called out the state supreme court, as detailed by Jurist columnist Adam R. Banner: “As if it were not enough to defy the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s supposed ‘final’ determination of jurisdiction, the Court of Criminal Appeals held that the Supreme Court did ‘not have the power to supersede a statute and manufacture jurisdiction.’ “
  • Monday, April 21: The State Supreme Court decides they now must say something, and after a 5-4 vote, issues a stay for Clayton Lockett, who was originally set for execution on April 22. “The ‘rule of necessity’ now demands that we step forward,” the Court’s opinion says. “We can deny jurisdiction, or we can leave the appellants with no access to the courts for resolution of their ‘grave’ constitutional claims….As uncomfortable as this matter makes us, we refuse to violate our oaths of office and to leave the appellants with no access to the courts, their constitutionally guaranteed measure.” The stay also puts Charles Warner’s execution on hold.
  • Monday, April 21: From Andrew Cohen: “Just hours after the Oklahoma Supreme Court halted the executions, the Republican governor of the state, Mary Fallin, proclaimed that the executive branch would not honor the judicial stay preventing the executions. The Supreme Court’s ‘attempted stay of execution is outside the constitutional authority of that body,’ she declared, so ‘I cannot give effect to the order by that honorable court.’ “
  • Tuesday, April 22: From Andrew Cohen: Republican state lawmaker Rep. Mike Christian, introduced impeachment proceedings against the five state Supreme Court justices who had voted for the stays of execution.
  • Tuesday, April 22: From the Associated Press: “In a development reflecting the rising tension between the executive and judicial branches of state government, Gov. Mary Fallin granted a one-week stay of execution to Lockett on Tuesday afternoon, saying the Oklahoma Supreme Court overstepped its authority when it issued a separate stay. Fallin issued an executive order delaying Lockett’s execution until April 29. Fallin claims in her order that the stay issued by the state’s high court is ‘outside the constitutional authority of that body.’ “
  • Wednesday, April 23: The State Supreme Court reject the lower court’s decision that preventing Lockett and Warner from knowing the source of the drugs used in their lethal injections will violate their constitutional rights, clearing the way for the executions to proceed.

Warner’s attorney, Madeline Cohen, released a statement today in advance of her client’s execution, writing “tonight, in a climate of secrecy and political posturing, Oklahoma intends to kill two death row prisoners using an experimental new drug protocol, including a paralytic, making it impossible to know whether the executions will comport with the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual suffering. Because the issue of secrecy in lethal injection has not been substantively addressed by the courts, Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner will be executed without basic information about the experimental combination of drugs used in their deaths.”

Related Reading: 

3 Letters to the Editor on Tonight’s Double Execution

Tension Grows Among Oklahoma Courts, Legislature

Oklahoma to Proceed With Lethal Injection Amid Confusion Within Courts

Death Row Inmates Won’t Be Told the Source of the Drugs Used to Kill Them

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tonight’s Execution: Robert Hendrix

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Florida carried out its fifth lethal injection of 2014 with tonight’s scheduled execution of 47-year-old Robert Hendrix.

Hendrix was convicted of the 1990 death of his cousin, Elmer Scott, and Elmer’s wife, Susan Michelle Scott. Prosecutors say Hendrix killed Scott to prevent him from testifying against Hendrix in an upcoming burglary case. According to case documents, Hendrix told several friends about his plans, and discussed it with his live-in girlfriend at the time. The day before his court date, Hendrix shot, stabbed and beat Scott with the gun, as well as shooting and slashing the throat of Susan Michelle, prosecutors say.

Hendrix spent his final morning visiting with his parents and a Catholic spiritual adviser, according to Florida Department of Corrections spokeswoman Jessica Cary.

Hendrix’s time of death was 6:21 p.m. and according to Orlando Sentinel reporter Susan Jacobson he made no final statement. His execution is the 16th in Florida since Gov. Rick Scott took office.

According to the Associated Press, Hendrix sought a last-minute stay, “as his lawyer argues that two witnesses for the prosecution were unreliable and that no forensic evidence links him to the crimes.” From the AP:

Brody [Hendrix's attorney] said the two main witnesses against Hendrix, Turbyville and Roger LaForce, who claimed Hendrix told him details about the murders while they shared a cell in the Lake County Jail, are unreliable. According to Brody, both had a self-interest in testifying for prosecutors.

His attorney also claimed the judge had a conflict of interest, that Hendrix being shackled during the trial gave jurors a biased impression of him and that during sentencing, Hendrix’s attorneys failed to call mitigating witnesses who could have testified to problems with drugs and abuse by his father.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the appeal, allowing the execution to proceed as planned. The execution is the 85th in Florida since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

The Latest From Florida’s Death Row

Jury Recommends Death Penalty for Brandon Bradley in Brevard Deputy Murder: 

The jury which convicted Brandon Bradley of murder recommended he receive the death sentence for the murder of Brevard County Deputy Barbara Pill during a traffic stop in 2012.

A judge will now decide whether to accept the recommendation, or hand down a life sentence.

The vote was 10-2, and revealed to the court after three hours of deliberations.

Read more on the case here.

Florida Supreme Court Upholds Death Sentence for Toney Davis: 

The Court ruled against Davis’s appeal of his conviction for the 1995 rape and murder of Caleasha Cunningham in Duval County. The case summary from the Florida Commission on Capital Cases is as follows:

Toney Davis lived with Gwen Cunningham from September 1992 until 12/09/92.  On 12/09/92, Gwen Cunningham left her two-year-old daughter, Caleasha, in the care of Davis while she ran an errand.  An acquaintance of Davis, Thomas Moore, arrived at the apartment around 12:45 p.m.  Davis answered the door with Caleasha draped over his arm.  Davis told Moore that Caleasha had choked on a French fry, and while Moore called 911, Davis gave Caleasha mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.  Prior to the 911 call, neighbors reported hearing thumping noises and Davis’ raised voice coming from the apartment.

Caleasha was wet, unconscious, and had blood in her mouth when she was examined at the apartment.  She was naked from the waist down, although she was fully clothed when Gwen Cunningham left the apartment.  Caleasha was revived, but later died on 12/10/92.

The emergency room doctor who examined Caleasha noticed bruising, swelling of the brain, and pools of blood in the skull, as well as injuries that suggested vaginal penetration by a penis, finger, or other object.  The cause of death was cerebral hemorrhage, caused by four blows to the head.

Caleasha’s hair bow was found in the bed and her blood was found on the sheet, pillowcase, in the bathroom, and on the crotch of Davis’ shorts and underwear.

Florida Supreme Court Upholds Death Sentence for Robert Hendrix: 

Robert Hendrix, 47, was convicted in the August 1990 murders of his cousin Elmer Scott and Scott’s wife, Michelle, in Lake County. According to the Orlando Sentinel,  Scott was killed to keep him from testifying in an upcoming armed robbery case that could have resulted in Hendrix serving life in prison. Scott’s wife was then killed because she could identify Hendrix.

Hendrix is slated for execution on April 23. His attorneys argued that he had ineffective counsel, that the trial judge was biased, and that the prosecutors committed a Brady violation by withholding evidence about an informer. However, the Court ruled that his claims were without merit, and at this time his execution is set to proceed.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Latest Death Penalty Headlines

Editor’s Note: Some readers may have noticed this blog hasn’t been updated in almost a year. Due to a variety of factors, not least of which was a simple lack of time, I took a hiatus from posting here. I’m now trying to make more time in my schedule for this project, so with any luck regular postings will be returning. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

The Tennessee Senate Has Backed a Bill to Reinstate the Electric Chair

Tennessee Senators overwhelming voted on Wednesday to reinstate the electric chair to execute capital inmates in the event that the state is unable to procure the necessary chemicals to perform lethal injections.

In a 23-3 vote, the Senate approved the Capital Punishment Enforcement Act, tabled by Sen. Ken Yager, which would provide the state’s Department of Corrections with the legal backing to kill inmates with the electric chair as an alternative, according to The Tennessean.

A similar piece of legislation has reportedly been tabled in Tennessee’s House of Representatives.

Related: The First Photograph of an Execution by Electric Chair

Now He Tells Us: John Paul Stevens Wants to Abolish the Death Penalty:

A man who consistently upheld capital convictions and the death penalty itself for over 35 years, who helped send hundreds of men and women to their deaths by failing to hold state officials accountable for constitutional violations during capital trials, who more recently endorsed dubious lethal injection standards because he did not want to buck up against court precedent, now wants the Eighth Amendment to read this way, with five new words added:

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments such as the death penalty inflicted.

 

Indiana Woman Starts Petition to get the American Pharmacist Association to Alter Code of Ethics to Ban Participation in Executions: 

“The Association could help put a stop to the manufacturing and supplying of drugs used for lethal injections,” Kauffman’s petition, which garnered more than 36,000 signatures, explains, “and help end the use of the death penalty in the U.S. once and for all.”

“I was reading an article last July about an execution that was postponed in Georgia because the Department of Corrections wouldn’t give any information to the lawyers or the judges about what execution drugs were going to be used and where they had gotten them from. The article mentioned that pharmacists, unlike other medical professionals, are not banned from participating in executions. And I remember thinking — wow, that’s surprising,” Kauffman recounted in an interview with ThinkProgress. “I happen to be opposed to the death penalty. But I’m especially opposed to the medicalization of the death penalty.”

Report Recommends 56 Changes to Ohio Death Penalty, Would Restrict Use of Law: 

Ohio should restrict the use of capital punishment charges and create a state panel to approve them, according to two of the 56 recommendations in the final report by a committee that spent more than two years studying changes to the law.

The committee proposes eliminating cases where an aggravated murder was committed during a burglary, robbery or rape, requiring solid proof of a defendant’s guilt such as DNA evidence, and banning the execution of the mentally ill, according to a draft copy of the report obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.

 

New York Times Debate: What It Means if the Death Penalty Is Dying:

Last week, lawmakers in New Hampshire heard testimony on a bill outlawing the death penalty. If passed, the law would make New Hampshire the 19th state to abolish capital punishment. The United States, the only country in the Americas to practice the death penalty last year, executed 39 people, four fewer than the year before, and Texas accounted for 41 percent of them, according to Amnesty International.

As executions become concentrated in fewer and fewer states and racial disparities continue, does the application of capital punishment make it unconstitutionally cruel and unusual?

 

Man on Texas Death Row Testifies in Court to Hurry His Execution:

A Corpus Christi man on death row for fatally shooting a five-year old boy nearly 22 years ago is one step away from getting a solid execution date.

Larry Hatten, 38, testified Thursday in the 347th District Court about his own competency before Judge Missy Medary. He was brought back from death row to testify after he sent his attorney a letter saying he did not want anymore appeals.

On Thursday, Hatten told the judge that he just didn’t want to waste anymore time.

Tagged , , , ,

Last Night’s Execution: John Quintanilla, Texas

Article from the Associated Press. Read the original here

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — A Texas man convicted of fatally shooting a retired sheriff’s deputy during the robbery of an amusement center more than a decade ago was put to death Tuesday.

John Manuel Quintanilla received lethal injection for gunning down 60-year-old Victor Billings at a game room in Victoria, about 125 miles southwest of Houston. The 2002 slaying came just a few months after Quintanilla had been released from prison after serving a sentence for several burglary convictions.

Asked to make a final statement before his execution, Quintanilla told his wife he loved her.

“Thank you for all the years of happiness,” he said.

He never acknowledged his victim’s friends or relatives, including two daughters, who watched through a window.

As the lethal drug began taking effect, he snored about a half dozen times, then stopped breathing. At 7:32 p.m. CDT – 15 minutes after being given the drug – he was pronounced dead.

Quintanilla’s wife, a German national who married him by proxy while he was in prison, watched through an adjacent window and sobbed.

Quintanilla, 36, became the ninth Texas inmate to receive lethal injection this year and the 501st since the state resumed carrying out capital punishment in 1982. His was the first of two executions set for this week; the other is planned for Thursday.

Quintanilla’s punishment was carried out after the U.S. Supreme Court refused two last-day appeals.

His lawyers contended his confession was coerced by authorities threatening to also charge one of his sisters and that the statement improperly was allowed into evidence at his trial in 2004. The lawyers obtained affidavits from two jurors who said the confession was a key to their decision to convict him.

“It is clear that Quintanilla would not have been convicted of capital murder if his confession had not been admitted – a fact confirmed by two of his jurors,” appeals lawyer David Dow told the high court.

The appeal also argued Quintanilla had deficient legal help during his trial and in earlier stages of his appeals, and that his case would give justices the opportunity to define filing rules in light of recent death penalty rulings from the court.

The Texas attorney general’s office said the appeal was without merit and improperly filed, and that the juror affidavits also were improper.

“There wasn’t any coercion whatsoever,” Dexter Eaves, the former Victoria County district attorney who was lead prosecutor at the trial, recalled last week. He also said that while the robbers, who fled with about $2,000, were masked, witnesses were able to “describe very clearly who the triggerman was.”

Court records show Billings, a retired chief deputy from nearby Edna in adjacent Jackson County, was at the game center with his wife on the Sunday before Thanksgiving in 2002 when the gunmen came in through a back door. Billings approached one of them and grabbed the barrel of the gunman’s rifle “so no one else was going to be hurt and paid for it dearly,” Eaves said.

He said Billings was shot three times, the last one fired while he was on his knees.

“A very cold killing,” Eaves said.

During questioning by detectives for an unrelated robbery some two months later, Quintanilla made references to the still unsolved Billings case, then led authorities to a canal where divers recovered items used in the holdup.

“They had the mask, the guns and his statements saying who did what,” Jim Beeler, Quintanilla’s lead trial lawyer, said. “He told them everything.”

Beeler said the trial judge overruled his objections and ruled the statements proper and admissible into evidence. He also said Quintanilla signed affidavits ordering that his defense team present no mitigating evidence during the punishment phase of his trial, where jurors deciding his sentence could have considered he had virtually no parental supervision while growing up.

“You want to argue your case, completely and totally,” Beeler said. “In that situation, we’re not being allowed to present our case, based on our client.

“It’s extremely frustrating.”

Prosecutors bolstered their case for Quintanilla’s future dangerousness by presenting evidence he attacked a jailer with a homemade weapon while awaiting trial.

“He did not do himself any favors,” Eaves said.

Quintanilla’s accomplice, Jeffrey Bibb, 33, is serving 60 years for murder and 50 years for aggravated robbery.

On Thursday, another Texas inmate is set for lethal injection. Vaughn Ross, 41, is to be executed for a double slaying in Lubbock in 2001.

 

Tagged , , , , , ,

Florida’s Execution of Marshall Lee Gore Stayed a Second Time

Florida death row inmate Marshall Lee Gore, scheduled to be executed tonight, has been given another last-minute stay, his second one in a little more than two weeks.

Gore, who received two death sentences for the 1988 killings of Susan Roark and Robyn Novick, was only an hour away from execution June 24, when his first reprieve came through. The lethal injection was temporarily stayed by the  U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in order to hear arguments from Gore’s attorneys that he is insane, and therefore ineligible for execution.

That appeal was denied a few days later on June 28, when judges ruled he had not met the necessary criteria for halting the execution. The stay was lifted and a new execution date was set for today.

But Gore got another reprieve Tuesday when a judge ordered more hearings. From David Ovalle for the Miami Herald:

On Tuesday, a Bradford County circuit judge agreed with Gore’s defense lawyers and found “reasonable grounds” that the Death Row inmate was too insane to be executed.

Circuit Judge Ysleta McDonald ordered that more hearings be held to determine Gore’s mental state and whether his execution may proceed without violating the Supreme Court’s ruling banning the execution of the mentally incompetent.

One of Gore’s attorneys, Todd Scher, told the Sun Sentinel“he has a long history of mental illness and delusional behavior and all of that needs to be brought to the court’s attention. The law is very clear that somebody who is not sane cannot be executed.”

The additional last-minute reprieve frustrated the victims’ family members, some of whom planned to attend the execution.

“I don’t know why we have to protect individuals like this when it was clearly shown that he was responsible for the death,” Novick’s cousin Phil Novick told the Sentinel in a telephone interview Tuesday. “When he finally does meet his end, I’ll just forget about him like last Wednesday’s trash. It’s like putting down a dog. Just a wasted life and an all-lose situation all the way around.”

Related Reading: 
Stay of Execution Lifted for Marshall Gore

Tonight’s Execution of Marshall Lee Gore in Florida Temporarily Stayed

Execution of Marshall Lee Gore Set To Move Forward As Planned

Florida Executions Speeding Up As Gov. Scott Signs Another Death Warrant

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

The Latest From Florida’s Death Row

Brevard Killer’s Appeal Rejected by Florida Supreme Court: James Phillip Barnes—who was convicted of killing two women—will remain on Florida’s death row after his latest appeal was rejected by the state’s highest court. In a decision made public today, Florida Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Barnes, who is facing lethal injection for the 1988 killing of Melbourne nurse Patricia “Patsy” Miller.

Florida Supreme Court Reverses Two Death Sentences, Citing Mental Issues: In two separate pre-Independence Day decisions, the Florida Supreme Court this week overturned the death sentences of Michael Shellito, 37, and Ralston Davis, 28, ruling in both cases that the murderers’ mental state at the time of the killings should have played a larger role in theirs sentences.

Supreme Court Denies Gregory’s Death-Penalty Appeal for 2007 Murders in Flagler BeachWilliam Gregory, 30, was sentenced to death on April 14, 2011, for the murder of his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend as the couple slept in a house in Flagler Beach on August 21, 2007. On Thursday, a unanimous Florida Supreme Court rejected Gregory’s appeal.

Jonathan LeBaron Faces Sentencing Aug. 12 in Murder Case: Following a May 10 jury recommendation in favor of the death penalty, convicted murderer Jonathan LeBaron will face sentencing August 12 in Monroe County Circuit Court. Judge Mark Jones will pronounce sentence in a proceeding set to begin at 11:30 a.m. in Courtroom B of the Freeman Justice Center in Key West.

New Trial Ordered for Florida Death Row Inmate:  The Florida Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for a man sentenced to death for a 1996 fatal stabbing. The court unanimously upheld a lower court’s 2010 decision Thursday to grant a retrial to 51-year-old Michael Peter Fitzpatrick. Justices found that Fitzpatrick had ineffective help from his trial attorney, who should have consulted with experts on the DNA and other forensic evidence used against him.

Death Sentence Upheld for Convicted Cop-Killer Jason Wheeler: The Florida Supreme Court today upheld the conviction and death sentence for Jason Wheeler, who was convicted of killing a Lake County deputy in 2005. Wheeler was found guilty of shooting Deputy Wayne Koester, one of the deputies dispatched to his Paisley home in February 2005 for a domestic-violence complaint. Wheeler escaped arrest initially, but deputies tracked him down, shot him and paralyzed him.

Tagged , , , , ,

Stay of Execution Lifted for Marshall Gore

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

UPDATE: A new execution date has been set for Marshall Gore. He is now set for execution on July 10, 2013 at 6 p.m. 

According to Miami Herald reporter David Ovalle, the stay of execution for Marshall Gore, whose execution was halted Monday night, has been lifted and a new date will soon be set. (Update: here’s a link to the Herald story that’s now published.)

Gore, who received two death sentences for the 1988 killings of Susan Roark and Robyn Novick, was only an hour away from execution when a federal appeals court temporarily stayed the lethal injection.

The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals stopped the execution in order to hear arguments from Gore’s attorneys that he is insane, and therefore ineligible for execution. However, the court wanted to move quickly so they could come to a decision before the death warrant, signed in May, could expire.

Oral arguments were held today and Gore’s appeal was subsequently denied. Because the warrant is still active, a new execution date will likely be set quite soon.

Related Reading: 

Federal Court Halts Execution of Miami Killer Marshall Lee Gore

Execution of Marshall Lee Gore Set to Move Forward As Planned

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 737 other followers