Day: April 5, 2012

Ken Richey – Freed death row Briton in plea deal


april 5, 2021  source : the press Association

A Scotsman released from prison four years ago after spending two decades on Ohio’s death row has agreed to a plea deal over accusations that he threatened a judge who prosecuted his original case.

Ken Richey agreed to enter a guilty plea to a felony charge next week and will face no more than three years in prison, said Todd Schroeder, an assistant prosecutor in Putnam County.

Richey pleaded not guilty in January to charges that he left a threatening telephone message for the judge in the north-west Ohio county. Authorities said he called the courthouse on New Year’s Eve from his new home in Tupelo, Mississippi, warning the judge that he was coming to get him.

Richey was on death row for 21 years after being convicted of setting a fire that killed a two-year-old girl in 1986. He denied any involvement and became well-known as he fought for his release.

Following years of appeals, a federal court determined his lawyers mishandled the case, and his conviction was overturned.

County prosecutors initially planned to retry him, but Richey was released in 2008 under a deal that required him to plead no contest to attempted involuntary manslaughter. He also was ordered to stay away from the north-west Ohio county and anyone involved in the case.

Richey, though, carried a lifetime of bitterness over his conviction and could not stay out of trouble once outside of prison.

He returned to Scotland in 2008, but just over a year later, he was accused of breaking into an apartment and beating a man with a metal pipe. Those charges were later dropped when a witness failed to back the man’s story.

Richey returned to the US and was arrested in Minnesota in 2010. He was charged with assault after his 24-year-old son told police his father grew angry, smacked him with a baseball bat and threatened to kill him after the pair had been wrestling.

Prosecutors in Ohio said Richey was still wanted on a warrant in Minnesota.

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Linda Carty – Gran Appeals To UK To Save Her From Execution


april 5 2012  source : http://news.sky.com

watch interview : click here

The British Government has said it is doing all it can the save the life of a British grandmother who has spent 11 years on Death Row in the United States.

Linda Carty, 53, could receive a date for her execution at any moment after her final attempts to secure a new appeal failed.

She would become the first British woman to be executed in 50 years.

She was convicted of killing a young mother in Texas a decade ago but has always said she was framed.

Her lawyers believe she was failed by the American legal system and admit her situation is “desperate”.

Carty spoke to Sky News on Death Row in Texas and told us: “I am 110% innocent. I know I didn’t commit this crime. They took 11 years of my life for something I know I didn’t do.”

She was born on the Caribbean island of St Kitts before its independence from Britain and now wants support from the UK.

“If you don’t then you’re telling me there’s no value to my life and if you do intercede it is saying that every British national, it doesn’t matter whether we were born in the mother country or in the colonies, we matter,” Carty said.

“We are British. I can’t wash off my nationality with soap and water. I am going to always be British.”

Ms Carty said she feels sympathy for the family of victim Joana Rodriguez.

“She was somebody’s child too, somebody’s daughter. For me it’s not only a healing process but its to show the families that the person you’ve been hating all these years did not commit this crime,” she said.

Ms Carty is being represented by the campaign group Reprieve.

Director Clive Stafford-Smith said her best chance of avoiding the death penalty was clemency.

Rick Perry, the longest serving governor in the Texas’ history, has now signed off on 242 executions since December 2000 – the most of any governor ever.

Read Greg Milam’s blog on executions in the US

The Foreign Office said it is putting pressure on the authorities in Texas.

“The Prime Minister and British Government are deeply concerned by the position Ms Carty is in,” it said in a statement.

“We are committed to using all appropriate influence to prevent the execution of any British national.

“We are working closely with Ms Carty’s legal team to ensure their work to secure clemency is supported by appropriate political representations.”

Since her conviction, Ms Carty has been held at the Mountain View unit in Gatesville where all of the women on death row in Texas are held.

She admitted she fears her death sentence.

“I won’t get up and ask the British Government to go out in the public and lobby for me had I known that I am guilty because then it would be an embarrassment not only to myself and my family but also the country that I love.

“So for me when I say I am innocent and that I didn’t commit this crime I mean that.”

:: Meanwhile, the Connecticut Senate has voted to repeal the state’s death penalty, moving it one step closer to becoming the fifth US state in five years to abandon capital punishment. The measure now moves to the House of Representatives.

Connecticut may be latest state to repeal death penalty


april 5 2012

(CNN) — The Connecticut Senate on Thursday voted to repeal the death penalty, setting the stage for Connecticut to join several states that have recently abolished capital punishment.

In the last five years, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Illinois have repealed the death penalty. California voters will decide the issue in November.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives, where it is also expected to pass. Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, has vowed to sign the measure into law should it reach his desk, his office said.

“For everyone, it’s a vote of conscience,” said Senate President Donald Williams Jr., a Democrat who says he’s long supported a repeal. “We have a majority of legislators in Connecticut in favor of this so that the energies of our criminal justice system can be focused in a more appropriate manner.”

In 2009, state lawmakers in both houses tried to pass a similar bill, but were ultimately blocked by then-Gov. Jodi Rell, a Republican.

Capital punishment has existed in Connecticut since its colonial days. But the state was forced to review its death penalty laws beginning in 1972 when a Supreme Court decision required greater consistency in its application. A moratorium was then imposed until a 1976 court decision upheld the constitutionality of capital punishment.

Since then, Connecticut juries have handed down 15 death sentences. Of those, only one person has actually been executed, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonpartisan group that studies death penalty laws.

Michael Ross, a convicted serial killer, was put to death by lethal injection in 2005 after giving up his appeals.

“It’s not a question of whether it’s morally wrong, it’s just that it isn’t working,” said Richard Dieter, the group’s executive director. “I think when you hear of 15 to 20 years of uncertain appeals, that’s not closure and that’s not justice. It’s a slow, grinding process.”

Eleven people are currently on death row in Connecticut, including Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky, who both were sentenced for their roles in the 2007 murders of the Petit family in Cheshire, Connecticut.

The high-profile case drew national attention and sparked conversations about home security and capital punishment. In vetoing the measure to eliminate the death penalty in 2009, Rell cited the Cheshire deaths.

Dr. William Petit, the sole survivor in that attack, has remained a staunch critic of repeal efforts.

“We believe in the death penalty because we believe it is really the only true, just punishment for certain heinous and depraved murders,” Petit told CNN affiliate WFSB.

Advocates of the existing law say capital punishment can act as a criminal deterrent and provides justice for victims.

Opponents say capital punishment is often applied inconsistently, can be discriminatory and has not proven to be an effective deterrent. They also point to instances in which wrongful convictions have been overturned with new investigative methods, including forensic testing.

“Mistakes can be made and you may not know about it until science later exposes them,” said Dieter.

But a recent Quinnipiac poll found that 62% of Connecticut residents think abolishing the death penalty is “a bad idea.”

“No doubt the gruesome Cheshire murders still affect public opinion regarding convicts on death row,” said Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz.

That number jumps to 66% among Connecticut men, and drops to 58% among the state’s women, according to the poll.

The Senate’s proposed law is prospective in nature, meaning that it would not apply to those already sentenced to death.

Texas – TDCJ wants to block release of lethal injection drug info


april 3, 2012 source : http://www.chron.com

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is refusing to disclose the size of its stock of a key pharmaceutical used in executions, saying doing so would endanger its drug makers and suppliers.

The charge comes in a brief filed with the Texas Attorney General’s Office in response to a December query by an British newspaper concerning the contents of state’s death house medicine chest. The agency said releasing such information would provide ammunition for Reprieve, a British anti-death penalty group that successfully has pressured drug makers to stop selling to executioners.

Likening Reprieve’s campaigns to those of violent prison gangs, the brief written by TDCJ Assistant General Counsel Patricia Fleming asserts that releasing information “creates a substantial risk of physical harm to our supplier. … It is not a question of if, but when, Reprieve’s unrestrained harassment will escalate into violence…”

TDCJ is seeking authorization not to answer questions posed in a December public information request by Ed Pilkington, the New York correspondent for The Guardian, a national British newspaper. An attorney general’s response is expected this month.

Pilkington sought to determine how much pentobarbital, one of three drugs used in executions, the death house had in stock. He also asked how the agency met requirements that a second “back up” dose of lethal drugs be available at executions.

“I was very surprised by the language they chose to use, which was pretty inflammatory, really,” Pilkington said. “Obviously, there is an international disagreement over the death penalty. … Usually that discourse is conducted in a civilized manner.”

He called the claim that the prison system’s drug suppliers were in jeopardy, “pretty far-fetched.”

‘Public interest’

Joseph Larsen, a lawyer for the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, said Pilkington’s questions go to the “heart of how effectively TDCJ performs its official functions.”

“The whole idea behind the Texas Public Information Act is that the governmental bodies do not get to control the information that underlies political discussion,” he said. “Specifically, the governmental body does not even get to ask why a requestor wants certain information. How then can a governmental body base its argument for withholding on what use it anticipates will be made of the information if released?”

In a 2008 case, the Attorney General’s Office sided with TDCJ in denying Forbes magazine the names of companies that supplied execution drugs, noting that “releasing the names of the companies would place the employees of those companies in imminent threat of physical danger.”

Drug’s maker pressed

An appeals court rejected that ruling the following year.

Pentobarbital was added to the state’s lethal cocktail in May 2011, replacing sodium thiopental after that drug’s maker stopped production, in part because of Reprieve’s anti-drug agitation.

Reprieve followed by directing international pressure on Lundbeck, pentobarbital’s Danish maker, obtaining a July 2011 agreement that the company no longer would sell to prisons in death penalty states. The production plant later was sold, but the new owner abided by the agreement.

Reprieve also targeted a pharmaceutical company that had supplied sodium thiopental to Arizona. On its website, Reprieve posted photos of the supplier’s office along with its tax returns and the name, phone number and address of its owner.

Texas – Appeals Court Orders Re-evaluation of Death Row Case


april 4, 2012 source :http://www.texastribune.org

Dr. George Denkowski conducted psychological exams for 14 current death row inmates. 1) Anthony Pierce 2) Virgilio Maldonado 3) Calvin Hunter 4) Roosevelt Smith Jr. 5) John Matamoros 6) Derrick Charles 7) Kim Ly Lim 8) Coy Wesbrook 9) Joel Escobedo 10) Jamie McCoskey 11) Warren Rivers 12) Tomas Gallo 13) Steven Butler 14) Alfred BrownDr. George Denkowski conducted psychological exams for 14 current death row inmates. 1) Anthony Pierce 2) Virgilio Maldonado 3) Calvin Hunter 4) Roosevelt Smith Jr. 5) John Matamoros 6) Derrick Charles 7) Kim Ly Lim 8) Coy Wesbrook 9) Joel Escobedo 10) Jamie McCoskey 11) Warren Rivers 12) Tomas Gallo 13) Steven Butler 14) Alfred Brown

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals today ordered a Harris County criminal court to re-evaluate whether death row inmate Coy Wayne Wesbrook is intellectually competent enough to face execution for the murders he was convicted of in 1998.

Wesbrook was sentenced to death for the 1997 fatal shootings of his ex-wife and three men. He appealed his death sentence, raising claims that he was mentally retarded. His claims were denied in 2007 after Dr. George Denkowski testified as an expert for the state in his case.

The state’s highest court has ordered similar reviews in at least two other death penalty cases involving Denkowksi, who was reprimanded last year for his work. (See story below.)

(12/15/2011)The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday ordered lower courts to review two death penalty cases that involved a psychologist who was reprimanded earlier this year for using questionable methods to determine whether defendants were intellectually competent enough to face capital punishment.

“What we’re seeing is a growing awareness on the part of the Court of Criminal Appeals for scientific integrity in criminal cases,” said Kathryn Kase, interim executive director of the Texas Defender Services, which represents death row inmates. “The evidence of retardation in both of these cases is pretty compelling.”

The state’s highest criminal court sent the cases of Steven Butler and John Matamoros back to Harris County courts to re-evaluate the evidence used to sentence the two men to death. Dr. George Denkowski examined both of the men and told the juries they did not suffer from mental retardation.

In April of this year, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists (TSBEP), issued a reprimand against Denkowksi, whose methods were widely criticized. Denkowksi agreed not to conduct intellectual disability evaluations in future criminal cases and to pay a fine of $5,500. In return, the board dismissed the complaints against him. The psychologist admitted no wrongdoing and defended his practice. But defense lawyers were hopeful that the reprimand would prompt the courts to review other cases where juries relied on Denkowski’s evaluations to hand down death sentences.

Denkowski evaluated 14 inmates who are now on Texas’ death row — and two others who were subsequently executed — and found them intellectually competent enough to face the death penalty.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that states cannot execute mentally handicapped people. The court, though, left it to the states to create guidelines for determining whether a person is mentally handicapped. Texas courts have generally adopted a three-part definition that requires the convicted inmate to have below average intellectual function, lack adaptive behavior skills and to have had those problems from a young age.

Prosecutors regularly relied on Denkowski to perform psychological evaluations to determine whether a murder suspect would be eligible for execution. But in 2009, other psychologists and defense lawyers complained to the TSBEP that Denkowski used unscientific methods that artificially inflated intelligence scores to make defendants eligible for the death penalty.

In his 2006 evaluation of Steven Butler, who was convicted in the shooting death of a store clerk, Denkowski rejected other IQ test scores that indicated Butler was well below average intelligence. He discounted behavioral evaluations from Butler’s family and friends, who said that Butler couldn’t understand the rules of basketball, had to have others read menus for him and that he had failed basic classes.

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed Butler’s execution pending the outcome of the complaint against Denkowksi. And on Wednesday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said it was acting on its own initiative to remand the case to the trial court in Harris County and “allow it the opportunity to re-evaluate its initial findings, conclusions, and recommendation in light of the Denkowski Settlement Agreement.”

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals had also stayed the execution of Matamoros, who was convicted in 1992 of stabbing to death a 70-year-old Houston man. As in the Butler case, the criminal appeals court said it was taking initiative to send the case back for re-evaluation based on the psychologist’s reprimand.

Kase said she hoped the court would also order re-evaluation of the other death penalty cases in which Denkowski examined the defendants.

“Exonerations, I think, have caused the court to become concerned about the integrity of forensic evidence,” she said. “That’s really, really important here, where the decision about whether someone has retardation is a matter of life and death.”