Day: October 9, 2012

PENNSYLVANIA – Johnson sentenced to death in murder of wildlife conservation officer

October 9,  2012

An Adams County man has been sentenced to death for the murder of a law enforcement officer, Thursday, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

The death penalty verdict carries an automatic appeal. Earlier in the week, Christopher L. Johnson, 29, of Carroll Valley, was found guilty of first degree murder in the Nov. 11, 2010 shooting death of Pennsylvania Wildlife Conservation Officer David L. Grove, 31, a Waynesboro native. The case against Johnson was heard by a 12-member jury composed of Lancaster County residents, who were chosen for the trial that was held in Adams County Court. The change of venire was granted due to pretrial publicity. That jury deliberated for about 30 minutes.

The penalty phase of trial began Tuesday afternoon and ended Thursday night when the jurors returned their recommendation for the death penalty. To find the death penalty was warranted, the jurors had to determine that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstances. One of those circumstances was Johnson’s previous felony conviction.

Throughout the trial, which began the previous week, the prosecution painted a detailed picture of the shootout that led to Grove’s death. Officer Grove stopped a pickup truck, operated by Johnson, on Schriver Road, near Red Rock Road, in Freedom Township, Adams County. Grove was investigating a deer poaching incident., in connection with a poaching incident. Johnson had told police he fired at Grove because he did not want to go back to prison for illegally possessing a .45 caliber handgun when he was stopped.

At 10:32 p.m., that night, Officer Grove notified county dispatch that he had spotted a vehicle that was illegally using a spotlight to see deer. He also reported to county that he heard shots. Officer Grove pulled the pickup truck occupied by Johnson and another man and ordered them out of the vehicle. Grove then ordered Johnson to come to him.

Johnson was also wounded during the ensuing gun battle. On his way for treatment at York Hospital, Johnson told a state trooper who was accompanying him that he had been carrying the gun in his waistband. He said that when Officer Grove attempted to handcuff him, he drew the pistol and the shooting began. Officer Grove was shot four times.

A bullet fired by Officer Grove hit Johnson in the hip. Johnson fled the scene but was arrested and taken into custody the next day. A total of 15 shell casings fire from Johnson’s weapon were recovered at the scene. The fact that Johnson had to reload the pistol was another aggravating factor the jury considered in rendering its decision. Officer Grove fired 10 shots, from his .357-caliber Glock revolver.

The jury also found Johnson guilty of weapons offenses and game-law violations. That was another of the aggravating factors reviewed by the jury.

Grove can also appeal the conviction. Johnson has been committed to the State Correctional Institute at Rockview. Before a death sentence warrant can be signed by the governor, all of Grove’s appeals must be exhausted.


World Day on October 10 marks the date when activists around the world rally to oppose the death penalty and commemorate the day with educational events, demonstrations, and other initiatives to voice their opposition to this human rights violation.

We were creating this poster at the request of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (, an international coalition that opposes the death penalty. The World Coalition spearheads World Day, along with many other campaigns, in its efforts to end the death penalty around the world. This October 10, 2012 is particularly special, because it marks the tenth anniversary of the creation of the World Coalition.

The poster would be a pivotal piece in the World Day campaign as the rallying symbol for hundreds of death penalty activists around the world. Our main challenge was that the World Coalition’s Steering Committee specifically requested a positivemessage in the…

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Death penalty for children’ too much for Arkansas Republicans

OCTOBER 9, 2012

THE REPUBLICAN Party in Arkansas has withdrawn its financial support from three state legislature candidates who have variously advocated the death penalty for children and called for the deportation of all Muslims from America, described slavery as a “blessing in disguise” for Africans and labeled Abraham Lincoln a “war criminal”.

Candidate Charlie Fuqua and two sitting representatives, Jon Hubbard and Loy Mauch, have been cut off because of their radical beliefs, many of which have been branded as offensive by their own party.

In a book, God’s Law: The Only Political Solution, Fuqua claims there was “no solution to the Muslim problem short of expelling all followers of the religion from the United States”.

And, as the Arkansas Times reports, that is not the only eye-catching policy in God’s Law. He also advocates execution for children, arguing: “A child who disrespects his parents must be permanently removed from society.” However, he is aware of the severity of the punishment and stresses: “The death penalty for rebellious children is not something to be taken lightly.”

Fuqua also suggests setting the minimum wage at zero and argues that people should only serve two years in prison. If they are not rehabilitated within that time, they should be executed, he says

Fuqua has lost his funding, but Arkansas Times blogger Max Bentley notes: “No party official has demanded money back or urged Fuqua to withdraw from the race. Majority control of the legislature is far too important for Republicans to abandon a candidate, no matter how extreme. Which tells you a little something about Republican majority governance.”

The Guardian’s George Monbiot is just one of those who has expressed shock at Fuqua’s remarks on Twitter, writing: “Ye gods! Republican candidate calls for death penalty for children who disrespect their parents.”

But Fuqua’s views are not the only ones drawing ire. Jon Hubbard, who has been a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives since 2010, has also caused outrage. In 2009 he self-published a book, Letters to the Editor: Confessions of a Frustrated Conservative, which argued that slavery was a “blessing in disguise”. “Would an existence spent in slavery have been any crueler than a life spent in sub-Saharan Africa?” he pondered.

He also noted that despite the deaths of millions during centuries of slavery, there was a silver lining. “The blacks who could endure those conditions and circumstances would someday be rewarded with citizenship in the greatest nation ever established upon the face of the Earth”.

The third candidate to cause upset is Loy Mauch, who has also held his seat since 2010. Local radio station Kait8 reported: “Mauch called Abraham Lincoln a war criminal and defended slavery in dozens of letters to a Little Rock newspaper.” In 2007 he described Lincoln as a “neurotic Northern war criminal” in a letter to the Little Rock Democrat-Gazette and in 2009 asked: “If slavery were so God-awful, why didn’t Jesus or Paul condemn it”? · 


Terry Williams Case Highlights the Need For Death Penalty Moratorium by David A.Love

  • David A. Love

Executive Director, Witness to Innocence


October 9, 2012 

When Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina stayed the execution of Terry Williams, she dealt a blow to the death penalty in Pennsylvania. Now the public has caught a glimpse of prosecutorial misconduct and evidence suppression in the application of the death penalty, and it isn’t pretty.

In her order, Judge Sarmina — a former prosecutor —issued a scathing indictment of the prosecutor in that case for hiding evidence that Amos Norwood was allegedly, a sexual predator who had molested Williams and other children.

Sarmina said “evidence has plainly been suppressed,” and accused former assistant D.A. Andrea Foulkes of engaging in “gamesmanship” and “playing fast and loose.” The judge also said Foulkes “had no problem disregarding her ethical obligations” in an attempt to win.

Given these developments, it is baffling that any governor or district attorney would want to hitch their wagon to the execution of Terry Williams.

The tainting of capital cases — the handiwork of renegade prosecutors, police officers and other actors in the criminal justice system — is part of the unseemly underbelly of the death penalty.

It is a broken, arbitrary system that discriminates against the poor and people of color. Over 130 capital convictions have been overturned in the Keystone state, the highest in the nation. And Pennsylvania’s death row population is nearly 70 percent of color, the highest percentage in the U.S., with the city of Philadelphia providing the bulk of the prisoners.

Executions are barbaric and a violation of international human rights law. And as Martin Luther King noted, “Capital punishment is against the better judgment of modern criminology, and, above all, against the highest expression of love in the nature of God.” Moreover, innocent people are most certainly put to death.

Since 1973, 141 innocent men and women across the U.S. have been released from death row. They spent an average of ten years in conditions that can only be described as torture. Of these, six were wrongfully imprisoned on Pennsylvania’s death row. And official misconduct played a role in nearly all of their unjust convictions.

Nicholas Yarris, who was sentenced to death for the 1981 rape, abduction of murder of Linda May Craig in Delaware County, spent 22 years on death row before he was exonerated. His wrongful conviction was secured through perjured testimony of a jailhouse informant, and the refusal of the prosecution to hand over twenty pages of documents.

Wrongfully convicted of murdering a Philly mobster and a female companion, Neil Ferber spent fourteen months on death row. He was also the victim of false testimony from a jailhouse informant, and evidence of his innocence that was not handed over to his defense.

Harold Wilson, who was sentenced to death for the murder and robbery of three people in South Philadelphia, was exonerated through DNA evidence after spending seventeen years in prison. In 2003 a court ruled that the prosecutor in the original trial had eliminated potential black jurors.

In 2000, William Nieves was acquitted by a Philadelphia jury for a 1992 murder someone else committed, yet for which he was convicted in 1994. His original defense lawyer was paid $2,500 and had no experience handling capital cases. When he was retried, Nieves’ new lawyer had access to evidence that had been withheld from the defense. Nieves died of liver problems in 2005 due to improper medical treatment while in prison.

Thomas Kimbell was convicted of four murders in 1998, despite no evidence or eyewitnesses linking him to the crimes. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 2000 because the trial judge had unfairly excluded evidence pointing to his innocence. Kimbell was acquitted of all charges after a retrial in 2002.

Sentenced to die for a 1979 triple murder, Jay C. Smith was released in 1992. The state’s high court found that the D.A. had committed “egregious” misconduct by withholding crucial evidence.

According to the National Registry of Exonerations — a database of 973 of the 2,000 criminal exonerations over the past 23 years, including 32 exonerations in Pennsylvania — official misconduct was the second most common factor associated with murder exonerations in America, occurring in 56 percent of cases. Perjury and false accusations were found 64 percent of the time, followed by mistaken witness identification (27 percent), false confessions (25 percent) and false and misleading forensic evidence (23 percent).

With 200 people condemned to death, Pennsylvania has the fourth largest death row in America. With no voluntary executions in the state in half a century, the tragic story of Terry Williams has reopened the debate on capital punishment. We do not know how many of death row inmates would be free or serving a lesser sentence, but for an ethically challenged prosecutor who believed in winning over seeking justice. Given what we know, now is as good a time as any to shut down Pennsylvania’s broken death machine.

David A. Love is the Executive Director of Witness to Innocence, a national nonprofit organization that empowers exonerated death row prisoners and their family members to become effective leaders in the movement to abolish the death penalty.

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TEXAS – Green gets stay 2 days before execution EXECUTED 10:45 p.m

October 9, 2012

Two days before his scheduled execution, a Montgomery man on Texas’ Death Row for the 2000 abduction, rape and strangulation murder of a 12-year-old Dobbin girl received a stay because he wasn’t given due process to prove he is mentally incompetent for execution, a federal judge ruled Monday.

Judge Nancy Atlas, in the Southern District of Texas, ruled that Jonathan Marcus Green, 44, who was convicted in 2002 for the murder of Christina LeAnn Neal, did not receive a fair opportunity to demonstrate that he is incompetent, “and thus the State of Texas denied him due process.”

But the Texas Attorney General’s Office plans to file a motion today asking the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate the stay.

Green is schizophrenic and “is not malingering,” said his appellate attorney, James Rytting.

“He is mentally ill … and he’s only gotten worse after being stuck in administrative segregation,” Rytting said.

In her written opinion, Atlas notes that 221st state District Court Judge Lisa Michalk, who denied Green a stay two days before he was to be executed on June 30, 2010, applied incorrect legal standards by seeking to determine if there was a change in Green’s mental capacity since his imprisonment in 2002.

“The correct question was whether Green was presently competent, regardless of his comparative mental capacity between 2002 and 2010,” Atlas wrote.

Green understood that he was convicted of killing Christina and was to be executed for that crime, the basis for Michalk’s finding that he understood why he was being executed, Atlas wrote.

But Green believed he was to be executed as a result of “spiritual warfare” between demons and God, Atlas found, and Michalk prevented Green from presenting relevant evidence, denied Green due process.

UTAH – Death row inmate loses appeal on Provo murder conviction – DOUGLAS CARTER

October 9, 2012

SALT LAKE CITY — A convicted killer who stabbed and shot a Provo woman in 1985 moved one step closer to death on Friday after the Utah Supreme Court denied his appeal.

In a 14-page ruling, the supreme court rejected Douglas Carter’s claim that he was ineffectively assisted by his attorneys. Carter was convicted of killing 57-year-old Eva Oleson in 1985.He was sentenced to death, and the court’s ruling means his sentence is affirmed.

According to the ruling, Carter has been appealing his conviction and sentence since the 1980s. Court documents state that in 1989 his conviction was upheld but his sentence was canceled due to an erroneous jury instruction. However, in 1992 Carter was again sentenced to death and in 1995 the supreme court upheld the sentence.

Carter continued his appeals through the 2000s. He made a series of different claims, but citing extensive case law the supreme court ruled that only his assertion of ineffective assistance of counsel could be reviewed. The claim means Carter believes his attorneys failed to adequately perform their duties.

According to the documents, Carter believes his post-conviction attorneys didn’t consult with investigators and experts. He also reportedly believes there is mitigating evidence in the case, but said his attorneys never examined that evidence. In addition, Carter has claimed that police and forensic reports “cast real doubt on his guilt.”

But according to the decision, Carter failed to demonstrate that his attorneys were inadequate. The supreme court further notes that merely claiming ineffective assistance of counsel isn’t enough to win an appeal.

The ruling means Carter will continue toward execution.

Carter appeared recently before a Provo judge in December. At a hearing, Teresa Oleson testified that her mother-in-law, Eva, was midway through knitting a sweater when Carter tied her up and killed her. Teresa said Carter stabbed Eva in the back, among other things. She also pleaded with the court to move forward with the case, saying her family has been unable to experience closure for more than two decades.

Attorneys working on the case did not return calls seeking comment on Monday.