Day: April 24, 2012

OKLAHOMA – Court upholds Oklahoma death row inmate’s sentence

april 23, source :

OKLAHOMA CITY — A federal appeals court on Monday upheld an Oklahoma conviction and death sentence for a man who killed people in three different states, rejecting an argument that he suffers from bipolar disorder and lacked the mental capacity to waive his right to a jury trial.

Steven Ray Thacker, 41, asked the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver to grant him a new trial in the December 1999 stabbing death of Laci Dawn Hill, 25, of Bixby. Thacker pleaded guilty in state court to first-degree murder, kidnapping and first-degree rape. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced Thacker to death for the murder conviction.

In its 62-page decision, the appeals court rejected Thacker’s arguments concerning competency and inadequate counsel. He claimed his defense attorney was ineffective in advising him to enter a blind guilty plea and not filing a motion to withdraw the guilty plea.

Thacker has also been convicted and sentenced to death in Tennessee for the Jan. 2, 2000, killing of a tow truck driver, Ray Patterson. He was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Forrest Boyd on Jan. 1., 2000, inside his home in Aldrich, Mo.

In the Bixby slaying, officials say Hill had advertised a pool table for sale at her Tulsa County home and Thacker answered the ad. Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agents said Thacker admitted to pulling a knife on Hill and demanding money. He also allegedly said he took a credit card from her, forced her into his car and drove her to a cabin in Chouteau, where he raped and strangled her.

Hill was stabbed twice in the chest, wounds that penetrated her left lung and caused her to bleed to death, according to the appellate court’s decision.

Thacker had called Patterson to tow his car after it broke down as he was driving from Missouri toward Dyersburg, Tenn. Patterson towed the car to a service station, and Thacker tried to pay him with a stolen credit card. When the card was rejected, Thacker stabbed Patterson because he knew Thacker was wanted in other states, authorities said.

Thacker is currently in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Corrections, according to Jerry Massie of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. Online prison records indicate Thacker is confined at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.

Thacker’s defense attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Randy Bauman, declined comment on the appellate court’s decision.

TEXAS – New execution date set for Balentine august 22

april 20 source :


Prosecutors have secured the third execution date in more than a decade for an Amarillo man convicted in the 1998 killings of three Amarillo teens, according to court records.

The state is set to execute John Balentine, 43, on Aug. 22, according to an order from 320th District Court Judge Don Emerson.

Since his 1999 capital murder conviction, Balentine has eluded two execution dates after state and federal judges have stayed his executions, according to Texas Department of Criminal Justice records. Most recently, the U.S. Supreme Court declined last month to hear his appeal and lifted the stay.

un 15 2011 Application (10A1226) granted by the Court. The application for stay of execution of sentence of death presented to Justice Scalia and by him referred to the Court is granted pending the disposition of the petition for a writ of certiorari. Should the petition for a writ of certiorari be denied, this stay shall terminate automatically. In the event the petition for a writ of certiorari is granted, the stay shall terminate upon the issuance of the mandate of this Court.
Mar 21 2012 DISTRIBUTED for Conference of March 23, 2012.
Mar 26 2012 Petition DENIED.

In a letter to Emerson, Lydia Brandt, Balentine’s attorney, said prosecutors are needlessly rushing an execution date as she plans to file a federal case on behalf of her client.

“Worse, setting an execution date, knowing that further litigation is imminent, will needlessly inflict more suffering on the victims’ families,” Brandt’s letter said.

Brandt has said the defendant’s trial attorney did not include any evidence of Balentine’s violent and abusive childhood, which might have swayed jurors toward life in prison.

A Potter County jury found Balentine guilty in 1999 of fatally shooting Edward Mark Caylor, 17; Kai Brooke Geyer, 15; and Steven Brady Watson, 15. Authorities said he fired .32-caliber pistol shots into the heads of all three teens as they slept in an East 17th Avenue home.

Prosecutors said the incident stemmed from an argument between Balentine and Caylor, whose sister had been in a relationship with Balentine.

CALIFORNIA – Californians to vote on abolishing death penalty

april 24 source

SAN FRANCISCO –  California voters will soon get a chance to decide whether to replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole.

A measure to abolish capital punishment in California qualified for the November ballot on Monday, Secretary of State Debra Bowen said.

If it passes, the 725 California inmates now on Death Row will have their sentences converted to life in prison without the possibility of parole. It would also make life without parole the harshest penalty prosecutors can seek.

Backers of the measure say abolishing the death penalty will save the state millions of dollars through layoffs of prosecutors and defense attorneys who handle death penalty cases, as well as savings from not having to maintain the nation’s largest death row at San Quentin State Prison.

Those savings, supporters argue, can be used to help unsolved crimes. If the measure passes, $100 million in purported savings from abolishing the death penalty would be used over three years to investigate unsolved murders and rapes.

The measure is dubbed the “Savings, Accountability, and Full Enforcement for California Act,” also known as the SAFE California Act. It’s the fifth measure to qualify for the November ballot, the secretary of state announced Monday. Supporters collected more than the 504,760 valid signatures needed to place the measure on the ballot.

“Our system is broken, expensive and it always will carry the grave risk of a mistake,” said Jeanne Woodford, the former warden of San Quentin who is now an anti-death penalty advocate and an official supporter of the measure.

The measure will also require most inmates sentenced to life without parole to find jobs within prisons. Most death row inmates do not hold prison jobs for security reasons.

Though California is one of 35 states that authorize the death penalty, the state hasn’t put anyone to death since 2006. A federal judge that year halted executions until prison officials built a new death chamber at San Quentin, developed new lethal injection protocols and made other improvements to delivering the lethal three-drug combination.

A separate state lawsuit is challenging the way the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation developed the new protocols. A judge in Marin County earlier this year ordered the CDCR to redraft its lethal injection protocols, further delaying executions.

Since California reinstated the death penalty in 1978, the state has executed 13 inmates. A 2009 study conducted by a senior federal judge and law school professor concluded that the state was spending about $184 million a year to maintain Death Row and the death penalty system.

Supporters of the proposition, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, are portraying it as a cost-savings measure in a time of political austerity. They count several prominent conservatives and prosecutors — including the author of the 1978 measure adopting the death penalty — as supporters and argue that too few executions have been carried out at too great a cost.

“My conclusion is that he law is totally ineffective,” said Gil Garcetti, a former Los Angeles County district attorney. “Most inmates are going to die of natural causes, not executions.”

Garcetti, who served as district attorney from 1992 to 2000, said he changed his mind after publication of the 2009 study, which was published by Judge Arthur Alarcon of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and law professor Paula Mitchell.

Opponents of the measure, such as former Sacramento U.S Attorney McGregor Scott, argue that lawyers filing “frivolous appeals” are the problem, not the death penalty law.

“On behalf of crime victims and their loved ones who have suffered at the hands of California’s most violent criminals, we are disappointed that the ACLU and their allies would seek to score political points in their continued efforts to override the will of the people and repeal the death penalty,” said Scott, who is chairman of the Californians for Justice and Public Safety, a coalition of law enforcement officials, crime victims and others formed to oppose the measure.

The Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, meanwhile, remains one the biggest backers of the death penalty in the state and opposes the latest attempt to abolish it in California. The foundation and its supports argue that federal judges are gumming up the process with endless delays and reversals of state Supreme Court rulings upholding individual death sentences.

The foundation on Thursday filed a lawsuit seeking the immediate resumption of executions in California. The foundation’s lawsuit, filed directly with the state Court of Appeal, argues that since the three-drug method has been the subject of so much litigation — and the source of the execution delays — a one-drug method of lethal injection like Ohio uses can be substituted immediately.