Day: April 10, 2014

Jodi Arias Trial Update: New York Man Accused of Harassing TV Anchors Covering Murder Case Gets New Court Date

April 10, 2014

A New York man who threatened two television hosts covering Jodi Arias’ murder case will stand trial on May 8.48-year-old David Lee Simpson was originally scheduled to face a Maricopa County judge on April 1, but officials have pushed back his court date, the Associated Press reported this week.

Investigators allege the Bath, N.Y. resident sent threatening tweets to TV personalities Jane Velez-Mitchell and Nancy Grace during their extensive coverage of Jodi Arias’ proceedings.

Simpson also reportedly tried to scare an unidentified Arizona woman on Twitter concerning Arias, who was convicted of first-degree murder for killing former lover Travis Alexander in his Mesa home.

Simpson now faces five felony counts for the Twitter threats, which he reportedly directed at both of the HLN Network analysts while they reported on the Jodi Arias trial in 2013. Simpson has pleaded not guilty to each charge against him.

Although the 48-year-old was in the state of New York when he posted the tweets, Arizona officials said the threats were sent to Grace and Velez-Mitchell while they were covering a case happening in Maricopa County. Simpson’s trial, therefore, will take place in the south-central Arizona county.

33-year-old Arias was indicted for the June 2008 death of Alexander on May 8, 2013. But a jury couldn’t come to a unanimous decision for her sentencing at the time. The prosecution was pushing for the death penalty while Arias’ defense team tried for life in prison. After multiple pushbacks, Arias’ final sentencing date has been scheduled for September of this year. A jury will decide at that time whether Arias should be put to death, or if she’ll be sentenced to natural life in prison with no parole option.

If jurors can’t reach a decision at that time, the death penalty will automatically be taken off the table. In that instance, Arias would theoretically be sentenced to life in prison.

Attorney Mark O’Mara, who represented George Zimmerman in his murder case, recently weighed in on Jodi Arias’ odds of escaping the death sentence. O’Mara told HLN-TV that Arias’ chances are stacked against her, since it appeared as though she prepared to kill Alexander before carrying out the murder.

“There’s really a lot against her, the fact that she tried to ingratiate herself to the jury and that didn’t work is really going to hurt,” O’Mara said. “On the other hand, the defense has to focus on this lady being out of touch with reality, some mental health mitigation, which is what we call in the business trying to get away from the death penalty by showing that there’s things about Jodi Arias that you should sort of forgive her for.”

New Hampshire could become next state to abolish the death penalty

April 10, 2014

CONCORD, N.H., April 10 (UPI) — New Hampshire, which has sentenced only one man to death since it reinstated the penalty, could become the next state to abolish it.

A bill repealing the death penalty that passed the state House of Representatives 225-104 was released Tuesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee in a 2-2 vote. The full Senate is expected to act on the measure next week in what is likely to be a close vote.

Gov. Maggie Hassan supports abolition and is expected to sign the bill if it gets to her desk. In 2000, then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, like Hassan a Democrat, vetoed an abolition bill.

New Hampshire reinstated the death penalty in 1991, after the U.S. Supreme Court found it to be constitutional while overturning most state capital punishment laws in the 1970s. But the state has not executed anyone since 1939 and has not set up an execution chamber for lethal injections.

The only inmate under sentence of death is Michael Addison, who was convicted of killing Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs in 2006.

During Tuesday’s committee hearing, most of the speakers were pro-repeal. But Sen. Sharron Carson, the Republican chairwoman of the committee, said she feared Addison’s execution would be impossible if the bill becomes law, even though, as written, it would not commute any death sentences.

New Hampshire would be the 19th state to abolish the death penalty, along with the District of Columbia.

Legislatures in five states have repealed death penalty statutes adopted after the Supreme Court rulings, beginning with New Jersey in 2007. New Mexico, Maryland and Connecticut still have inmates under death sentence after abolition.

New Hampshire is the only New England state where the death penalty remains legal. Neighboring Maine abolished the penalty in 1887 and Vermont in 1964, while Massachusetts and Rhode Island had statutes on the books until 1984, when they were overturned by the court

ARIZONA – Jurors mull execution for Marissa Devault

April 10, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) — Jurors who convicted an Arizona woman of fatally beating her husband with a hammer are scheduled to resume their deliberations Thursday over whether she warrants the death penalty.

The jury at Marissa Devault’s trial has already spent one day considering whether there were “aggravating factors” that would make her eligible for execution for the 2009 death of Dale Harrell.

If such factors are found, jurors will hear testimony from witnesses and arguments from lawyers over whether she should be sentenced to life in prison or to death. But if those factors aren’t found, a judge will sentence Devault to either the rest of her life in prison or life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years.

Prosecutors say Devault should face the death penalty because she carried out the crime in an especially cruel manner for the purpose of collecting on life insurance, pointing out that Devault caused a fist-size hole in Harrell’s skull.

Defense attorneys say Devault never filed any claim in Harrell’s death and added that the insurance money theory is undermined by the fact that one of the two policies in question covered only accidental deaths – and Harrell’s death wasn’t an accident.

While lawyers made arguments Wednesday over whether she was eligible for execution, Devault whispered to her defense team and often looked away from the jury.

If jurors keep the death penalty on the table, the penalty portion of the trial is expected to stretch into next week and include appearances from Devault’s mother and grandmother, both of whom will testify on her behalf. Some of Devault’s daughters also have written letters that are expected to be read in court.

Prosecutors say Devault killed Harrell in a failed bid to collect on a life insurance policy to repay about $300,000 in loans from her boyfriend. Devault says she killed her husband in self-defense and told investigators that he had physically and sexually abused her in the past.

Harrell, 34, suffered multiple skull fractures in the January 2009 attack at the couple’s home in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert. He died nearly a month later at a hospice because of complications from his head injuries.

Devault initially told investigators that her husband attacked her while she was asleep and choked her until she was unconscious. She also told police that when she woke up, she saw another man who lived at their home beating Harrell with a hammer.

But authorities say Devault, 36, confessed to the killing after bloodstain evidence showed Harrell was alone in the bed at the time of the attack.

The key prosecution witness was Devault’s former boyfriend, Allen Flores, a Yale University-educated management consultant who is 20 years older than Devault and had loaned her $300,000 during their two-year relationship.

Flores testified that Devault wanted to either hire someone to kill Harrell, or kill him herself and tell police he tried to rape her after a night of drinking.

Devault’s attorneys attacked Flores’ credibility, noting he was given an immunity agreement on child-pornography allegations in exchange for his testimony. The child pornography was found on Flores’ computer during a search that was part of the murder investigation, authorities said.


Woman Raped by Texas Cop Believes Wrong Man on Death Row

april 10, 2014



Summary: The woman raped by convicted ex-Georgetown, Texas police officer Jimmy Fennell in October 2007 reveals the full details of the heinous assault, the attempted official cover-up, and her overwhelming fear of his upcoming release from prison in September 2018. Based on the calculating and vicious assault and restraining methods that were used on her that night, this sexual assault survivor believes “100% positive” that Jimmy Fennell was the real killer of Stacey Stites, his former fiancé, and most likely raped others before her — a fact which has been confirmed by the Texas Rangers following their own investigation. An independent journalist working for Concerned Citizens for Texas Justice recorded this unedited, 22-minute audio interview on April 4, 2014.

Previous Case History: Jimmy Fennell Jr., as many Central Texans know, was the main witness that sent Rodney Rodell Reed to Death Row back in 1998 for the murder of Stacey Stites. Despite mountains of evidence pointing towards Fennell’s guilt (fingerprints, hair, motive, opportunity, 2 failed polygraph examinations, documented history of aggression, racism and stalking) his fellow officers refused to arrest him, and the powerful Texas Attorney General’s Office Special Prosecutor’s Office, led by Lisa Tanner, overwhelmed Reed’s meager and underprepared public defenders during a kangaroo court trial based upon “very few” spermatozoa on the victim that were matched to Reed. An open, four month long and well-known interracial relationship between Stacey and Rodney — including a sexual encounter the very night before the murder — was not enough to convince the all white jury that Reed’s sperm could have gotten on the victim in any other way besides a rape that led to murder. However, multiple medical experts, including the very same coroner who erroneously concluded the death to be associated with sexual assault, now refute the connection between the presence of Reed’s “few spermatozoa” and the violent act of suffocation/strangulation that led to Stites’ death. They were, and always have been, the result of separate events that occurred at different times — almost certainly over a day a part.

Concerned Citizens For Texas Justice will be releasing a video documentary shortly that will explain how this violent criminal actually killed Stacey Stites and how fellow police officers helped him cover his tracks in a (successful) attempt to pin it on Rodney Reed as well as additional information on the major prosecutorial and official misconduct, witness and evidence tampering, and the travesty of the appeals process that aided Rodney Reed’s unlawful conviction and imminent death sentence.

MISSOURI :Death penalty hearing delayed: Murderer could die before sentence

April 9, 2014

A hearing to determine whether convicted murderer Gregory A. Bowman would once again face the death penalty has been delayed for a year because he has a terminal illness.

Bowman, 62, is facing sentencing for a murder 35 years ago in St. Louis County. Circuit Judge David Vincent, the judge presiding in Bowman’s case, set the hearing for April 27, 2015.

Bowman was convicted and sentenced to death for the rape and murder of 16-year-old Velda Rumfelt who was abducted from a busy Brentwood, Mo., intersection. DNA found in Rumfelt’s underwear was a 1 in 459 trillion match to Bowman.

Bowman, who also was convicted of killing two young women from Belleville, denied his guilt in the Rumfelt case from the witness stand to then-St. Louis County prosecutor Joe Dueker at the first sentencing hearing in 2009.

The Missouri Supreme Court overturned his death sentence in 2011. The court ruled that during the sentencing phase of the trial, the judge erred when he allowed testimony regarding Bowman’s conviction of the murders of 14-year-old Elizabeth West and 21-year-old Ruth Ann Jany, both of Belleville.

“It would be hollow if he passes away in prison but as long as he doesn’t hurt any other women, we can live with that,” said Teresa Rumfelt, Velda Rumfelt’s friend and sister-in-law. “He’s the lowest of the low. We would rather see him executed, but, at this point, we will take what we can get.”

“We were aggravated about what happened with the (Missouri) Supreme Court,” Teresa Rumfelt said. “We followed the rules and we did what we were supposed to do and he still slipped out just like he did over there.”

West was abducted from West Main Street in Belleville. Her body was found in a small creek near Millstadt on May 5, 1978. Two months later, Jany was abducted from a Belleville bank’s parking lot. Her skeletal remains were found a year later in a field near Hecker.

Both the St. Clair County convictions were overturned after St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporters questioned the manner in which his confession was obtained.

The newspaper reported that Bowman was “tricked” into confessing by former investigator Robert Miller, who got jail prisoner Danny Stark to plot an escape with Bowman, who confessed to delay his transfer to Menard Correction Center where he was to serve a sentence for abducting another Belleville woman from a coin laundry.

Associate Judge Richard Aguirre found the confession to Miller was not given freely and gave Bowman a new trial. Bowman posted bond and was released from jail for the first time in 29 years.

His freedom didn’t last long.

Former Belleville Police Chief James Rokita, then retired, took a DNA profile offered by Bowman in the Belleville cases to Missouri and urged investigators there to compare it to their cold cases.

Scientists were able to discover the semen in Rumfelt’s underpants. Prosecutors said Bowman allowed Rumfelt to dress after her rape, preserving the DNA that would eventually be matched to Bowman’s DNA profile.

Bowman was free just over a week before he was arrested for the Rumfelt murder. This time, the trial would be in St. Louis County, where Bowman would face a capital murder case.

Steve Evans, Bowman’s defense attorney, argued that Bowman’s conviction was the only one in the state based solely on DNA evidence. Evans argued further that the DNA evidence should have never been sent to Missouri for comparisons to cold cases there.

Jurors voted to convict Bowman of Rumfelt’s murder. Her body was discovered June 6, 1977, in a field near the Six Flags amusement park in Eureka, Mo. She had been raped and strangled with a shoestring, and her throat had been slashed.

After Bowman received the death sentence in Missouri, then St. Clair County State’s Attorney Robert Haida dismissed the West and Jany murder charges.

Bowman remains in the Potosi Correctional Center in Missouri.

OHIO – Man wrongfully sent to Death Row hopes court will reverse ruling – Dale Johnston

april 9, 2014

A Grove City man sentenced to death for a pair of Hocking County murders he did not commit is turning to the Ohio Supreme Court in his bid to be declared wrongfully imprisoned.

Dale Johnston has attempted for more than 20 years to win a court judgment so he could seek monetary damages for the seven years he spent on Death Row before being freed when an appellate court overturned his convictions.

He now is asking the justices to reverse a Feb. 20 ruling by the Franklin County Court of Appeals that threw out a trial-judge’s finding he was illegally detained for the 1982 dismemberment slayings of his stepdaughter and her fiancé.

The appellate judges ruled that the judge erred when he retroactively extended a 2003 change in the wrongful-imprisonment law to Johnston’s case.

Johnston and his lawyer are arguing the appellate ruling, sought by the office of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, misinterprets the law and asks the justices to rule in his favor.

“It may be safe to say that no reasonable person in the history of the world would or could review the facts surrounding these gruesome homicides and think anything other than Dale Johnston is and was an innocent man victimized by Ohio’s criminal justice system,” his lawyers wrote in their filing.

Johnston was sentenced to die in the electric chair in 1984 for the shooting deaths of Annette Cooper, 18, and Todd Schultz, 19, whose bodies were cut up and buried in a cornfield and thrown into the Hocking River.

In 2008, Chester McKnight, a drifter and drug addict, confessed to killing the couple and was sentenced to life imprisonment, freeing Johnston to again pursue his quest to be declared wrongfully imprisoned.

Letters From Death Row: A Texas Inmate Remembers Ray Jasper – Travis Runnels

April 9, 2014

From time to time we publish letters from death row inmates. Today, Texas death row inmate Travis Runnels writes to us with a remembrance of his friend and fellow inmate, Ray Jasper, who was executed by the state of Texas.

Unlike most of our letters from death row inmates, we did not solicit this one. Travis Runnels wrote of us of his own volition to share his memories of Ray Jasper. Runnels was sentenced to death in 2005 after pleading guilty to the 2003 killing of Stanley Wiley, who was a supervisor at the Texas prison where Runnels was serving a 70-year sentence for aggravated robbery. His letter is below.

Dear Mr. Nolan,

This letter I send to you is in response to the letter from Ray Jasper. A friend of mine knew me and Ray-Ray were associates so she downloaded the letter and mailed it to me. Now that his state sanctioned murder has been carried out I feel its my duty to expound upon his letter due to the extraordinary person he was. Don’t get me wrong he had flaws just as every other person does, but he consciously applied himself to not let his flaws nor his incarceration define who he was or how he look at what he was capable of accomplishing.

The first time I met him and we had a conversation I was impressed with his speech and his ability to articulate. At first I was a bit skeptical because I’ve met many slick talkers who don’t actively apply to their own life or actions the information they are sharing. As the days went by and he started sharing books with me to read on self help, money management, investments, how to run a business and books on self reflection. Then he explained to me all the books he reads are directing him towards his goals and a more productive mind state. At that point that’s when I understood he knows what he wants out of himself and life and he’s doing what’s necessary to reach that point. I admired his strength not to be tempted by action and thriller best seller novels because these I enjoyed reading since it helped me cope with the isolation. But I took the time to study the books he sent me and my education expanded and my growth progressed.

You could ask guards or prisoners about Ray-Ray and they will all say he was quiet and didn’t talk to everybody or a lot of people. This he explained to me one day. The people you interact/ socialize with or either pushing you towards your goals or away from them. So frivolous socializing about nonsense or negativity was time wasted for our situation with the possibility of execution looming. The state did not execute a man named Ray Jasper, they killed a man who had the potential to impact lives. The world lost an asset. I pray his daughter can carry on in honor of her father who lead not by words but his actions despite all the negativity surrounding him.

Thank you for your time Mr. Nolan and I hope my thoughts can give your readers more insight on who Ray-Ray was, since thats what we called him.


Travis Runnels 999505

Court spurns appeal by Arizona death row inmate – Graham Sanders Henry

april 10, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) — Saying that finality is long overdue, a federal appeals court is spurning the latest appeal on behalf of an Arizona death row inmate convicted of the 1986 killing of a Nevada man.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this week refused to reconsider a previous ruling that turned down an appeal on behalf of Graham Sanders Henry.

The appellate court said it won’t reconsider Henry’s appeal because that would delay Supreme Court review of the case, including Henry’s convictions for what the court’s order called his “ghastly crimes” from nearly 28 years ago.

Henry was sentenced to die for killing Las Vegas-area resident Roy Estes. He was driven to the desert north of Kingman in Arizona’s Mohave County where he was stabbed in the heart and his throat cut.

LOUISIANA – Child killer’s formal death sentencing set May 28 – Brian Horn

april 9, 2014

MANSFIELD — Recently convicted child killer Brian Horn will be formally sentenced to death at 9 a.m. May 28.

District Judge Robert Burgess set the sentencing date Wednesday. It falls a few days after the 45-day window he initially envisioned Saturday after a jury voted unanimously to sentence Horn to death.

Even though the sentence is a given because of the jury vote, Burgess said he is required by the Louisiana Supreme Court to prepare a uniform capital sentence report. It likely will be dozens of pages in length to give a comprehensive overview of Horn and aspects of his trial.

For example, the report will include information such as the makeup of Horn’s family, his education level, any expert witnesses who testified at the penalty phase, work history, criminal history, details of the crime and victim, acknowledgment of the defense counsel and their years of experience and general information about the trial, including jury selection.

Also added will be a listing of previous first-degree murder cases, not restricted to capital cases, on dockets of the 42nd Judicial District, formerly the 11th Judicial District.

“It is a lot of work. It not only includes the name of the case but the facts of the case,” Burgess said.

Additionally, the sentencing order requires the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections’ Division of Probation and Parole to perform a complete capital sentence investigation report, with that information attached to Burgess’ report.

Horn, 37, of Keachi was convicted April 2 of first-degree murder in the March 30, 2010 death of Justin M. Bloxom, 12, of Stonewall. The twice-convicted sex offender used text messages, portraying himself as a teenage girl, to lure Bloxom away from a friend’s home.

Horn picked up Bloxom in his Action Taxi cab. He ran out of gas on U.S. Highway 171 near Stonewall’s southern limits. And that’s where he smothered Bloxom to death, leaving his body in a small depression of water across the highway fence row.

Horn’s defense team conceded his guilt from the start. However, they contended Bloxom’s death was accidental so they asked for a lesser sentence – one that would have sent Horn to prison for life.

The jury of East Baton Rouge Parish residents took less than an hour to convict Horn after listening to three and a half days of testimony. That moved the trial into the penalty phase, and after two and a half days of additional testimony, the same jury again was again on the same page in deciding Horn should die for the crime.

During the penalty phase, members of Bloxom’s family were able to express to the jury how devastating his death has been for them. At the sentencing, family members will be able to address Horn directly.


april 9, 2014

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A man who escaped prison in his native Mexico while serving a murder sentence was executed in Texas on Wednesday for fatally beating a former Baylor University history professor and attacking his wife more than 16 years ago.

Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas, 44, was lethally injected in the state’s death chamber in Huntsville.

He was in the U.S. illegally when he was arrested for the October 1997 slaying of 49-year-old Glen Lich. Just 10 days earlier, Lich had given Hernandez-Llanas a job helping with renovations at his ranch near Kerrville, about 65 miles northwest of San Antonio, in exchange for living quarters.

Investigators said Hernandez-Llanas lured Lich from his house, then repeatedly clubbed him with a piece of steel rebar. Armed with a knife, he then attacked Lich’s wife. She survived and testified against Hernandez-Llanas, who also had been linked to a rape and a stabbing.

Strapped to a hospital gurney inside the death chamber, Hernandez-Llanas asked for forgiveness and said he was at peace.

“I’m looking at the angel of God,” he said, speaking in Spanish during a final statement that lasted nearly five minutes. “I ask forgiveness from the family of my boss.”

He raised his head from the gurney three times and blew three loud kisses toward a brother, a sister and two friends watching through a window. He also urged his children to “take advantage of your time on earth.”

As the drug took effect, he snored loudly twice, then appeared to go to sleep. Within seconds, all movement stopped. He was pronounced dead at 6:28 p.m.

Hernandez-Llanas was the second Texas inmate to receive a lethal injection of a new supply of pentobarbital. Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials have refused to identify the source of the powerful sedative, contending secrecy is needed to protect the drug’s provider from threats of violence from capital punishment opponents. The U.S. Supreme Court backed the state’s position in a related case last week.

Texas and other states that have the death penalty have been scrambling for substitute drugs or new sources for drugs for lethal injections after major drugmakers — many based in Europe with longtime opposition to the death penalty — stopped selling to prisons and corrections departments.

Hernandez-Llanas’ appeals were exhausted, and the Texas parole board on Tuesday refused to delay his death sentence or commute it to life in prison.

Hernandez-Llanas was among more than four dozen Mexican citizens awaiting execution in the U.S. when the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled in 2004 that they weren’t properly advised of their consular rights when arrested. A measure mandated by the U.S. Supreme Court to enforce that ruling has languished in Congress.

Euclides del Moral, a Mexico Foreign Ministry deputy director general, said Tuesday there were “certain gray aspects” in the consulate notification in Hernandez-Llanas’ case. “The execution of a Mexican national is of great concern,” he said.

However, the issue never surfaced in Hernandez-Llanas’ appeals, which focused primarily on claims that his mental impairment made him ineligible for the death penalty. Testimony from psychiatrists who said he was not mentally impaired and would remain a danger was faulty, his attorneys argued.

He wouldn’t be facing execution “but for the testimony of two experts, neither of whose testimony can withstand a moment’s scrutiny, and neither of whom should have been permitted to testify at all,” lawyers Sheri Johnson and Naomi Torr said.

According to trial testimony, Hernandez-Llanas was arrested just hours after the attacking Lich and his wife. He was sleeping in the bed where he had wrapped his arm around the terrorized woman, who managed to wriggle from his grasp and restraints without waking him and call police.

Evidence showed Hernandez-Llanas was in Texas after escaping from a Mexican prison, where he was serving a 25-year sentence for a 1989 bludgeoning murder in Nuevo Laredo. He was linked to the rape of a 15-year-old girl and a stabbing in Kerrville. While awaiting trial, evidence showed he slashed another inmate’s face with a razor blade. In prison, he was found with homemade weapons.

“This is exactly why we have the death penalty,” Lucy Wilke, an assistant Kerr County district attorney who helped prosecute Hernandez-Llanas, said ahead of the execution. “Nobody, even prison guards, is safe from him.”

Hernandez-Llanas was the sixth prisoner executed this year in Texas, the nation’s busiest death penalty state.