Day: June 29, 2015

Freed from death row, woman, 58, finds peace in forgiveness


june 29, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A woman freed after 16 years on Mississippi’s death row says God helped her come to peace with herself and the fact that until recently, her execution might come any time.

Michelle Byrom tells a local paper that she has forgiven her son and others she feels treated her wrongly. Her son, Edward Byrom Jr., testified against her but later allegedly confessed.

Byrom was convicted of getting her son to hire a hit man to kill her husband. The Mississippi Supreme Court ordered a new trial in March.

She pleaded “no contest” Friday, asserting innocence but acknowledging prosecutors could probably convince a jury otherwise.

Byrom says that after the brief court hearing in Tishomingo County, she and her brother didn’t stop for lunch until they got to Tennessee.

The Green River Killer Moved To Colorado, But Why?


The Green River Killer was locked away in a Washington state prison for more than a decade, but that has changed. Serial killer Gary Ridgeway has reportedly been relocated to a maximum security facility in Colorado — approximately 1,300 miles away from where he was originally imprisoned. So why did authorities relocate this notorious murderer?

 

The Seattle Times reports that Ridgeway is now housed in a federal penitentiary which is located in Florence, Colorado. However, authorities refused to comment on why the killer was relocated to the maximum security prison, when he’s been stationary up in Washington state for so long. Spokesman Andrew Garber with the Department of Corrections gave a short and to-the-point response to media questions.

“The department constantly evaluates and reviews the overall safety and security of our operations, and makes decisions regarding the housing of offenders accordingly. The department does not comment about individual offenders and their circumstances.”

So for now it will remain unknown as to why the Green River Killer landed himself some new digs in a state more than 1,000 miles away from his home.

Gary Ridgeway became known worldwide as the Green River Killer when he confessed to the murders of at least 49 women across the country. His murderous appetite put him in the ranks of America’s most prolific serial killers, such as Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy. All of his victims were prostitutes and women who lived their lives on the outer boundaries of society, but Ridgeway didn’t count on his victims also having loved ones who aggressively pushed for justice.

The Green River Killer not only admitted to killing numerous women to avoid the death penalty, but he’s reportedly tried to devote his time post-conviction to helping locate the bodies of all the missing people he allegedly killed. KOMO News reports that Ridgeway has claimed to have racked up at least 80 bodies, and he wants to prove that to authorities, and the world. He’s also expressed that this is his way of making right by his past, which he cannot change.

What do you think about the news of Ridgeway’s relocation to Colorado? Do you think it has anything to do with him assisting in the search for more of his victims? As The Green River Killer, Gary Ridgeway was active for many years as he picked off victims along the Green River. However, he also dumped bodies over state lines in order to throw off police who were investigating the murders. Does that mean he could have picked up victims in Colorado as well?

Human rights in America: claims and reality


29 JUNE 2015,

The concept of human rights means the ability of humans to exercise their subjective rights in the era of humanism and education, Milli.az reported. Main concept of human rights is that all human beings have equal rights and these rights apply to everyone without interpretation. Although it is supposed that human rights were first mentioned in Europe, exactly in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, passed in France in 1789, long before that the idea of human rights went through a remarkable development path, with human rights charters adopted in England and America. This is why the West, particularly the USA are considered “the cradle of democracy and human rights”, a role model for other countries. In some instances the West, especially the USA, abuse their position to exert pressure on other countries using “violation of democracy and human rights” as a pretext. But let`s look if the rights of people and citizens are perfectly protected in the West, including in America.

“Cradle” of democracy and human rights

One needs just to browse the Internet to see concrete evidence of the West`s poor human rights record. It is a fact that Europe is experiencing growing violation of rights of Muslims, with organizations engaged in anti-Islamic propaganda gathering pace. Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in 2011, is the product of these terrorist organizations. It should be noted that on July 22 Breivik shot dead 69 participants of a summer camp on the island of Utoya, and then declared that Islam should be fought with terror. He also killed eight people by setting off a van bomb in Oslo. As a result of a 12 week-long trial, Breivik was declared insane and got off with minor punishment. Muslims in Germany, Denmark, Belgium and France face similar law violations on a daily basis. As regards the United States, the country joined only three of nine major international human rights conventions. Racial discrimination, xenophobia, prison overcrowding, execution of the mentally impaired is typical of the American public and political system. The Americans have not yet ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“Searching for the enemy within”

The election of black Barack Obama as president boosted the U.S. police`s “search for the enemy within” and increased racial prejudice. Hundreds of people, who joined Occupy Wall Street protest movement against social and economic inequality, were arrested in New York City in 2011. Journalists covering the protests in Los-Angeles, Washington, Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle and other cities were also arrested, facing police brutality. Three UN reports underlined growing racial discrimination within law enforcement bodies in the U.S. The media are also frequently reporting of U.S. police violence against blacks and Latin Americans.

“I can`t breathe”

The aforementioned can be proved by an incident that happened on Staten Island, New York City, on July 17, 2014. According to The New York Times, on that day police officer Daniel Pantaleo approached Eric Garner, a 43 year old father of six, on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes. After a confrontation the officer wrestled Garner, an African American, to the ground, putting him in a chockhold. Lying facedown on the sidewalk, Garner was saying “I can’t breathe” multiple times. But officer Pantaleo disregarded the plea of Garner, who had asthma. The man was later pronounced dead. But the officer was not indicted. The last words of Eric Garner became the rallying cry for protests in New York City, Washington and other cities. But there was not proper response from the authorities: the case was delayed on different pretexts, and the grand jury refused to indict the policeman who killed an African American citizen of the USA. One of the black American politicians politicized the issue, saying “it is impossible to breathe in this country where human rights are violated”.

American police: “I will kill you”

Another proof that violation of human rights has become a common occurrence in the USA is the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an 18 year old black man, by police officer Darren Wilson on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri. It was established that in the course of the incident the officer threatened to kill Brown before shooting him. Brown`s mother said the officer fired seven times at her son. The incident sparked protests staged by Ferguson residents, mostly African Americans, demanding the arrest and criminal indictment of the police officer. However a grand jury decided not to indict officer Wilson, provoking weeks-long protests and nationwide unrest. Hundreds of people involved in the protests were detained and subjected to police brutality and torture.

Journalists who became “criminals”

It should be emphasized that journalists covering Ferguson unrest were also tortured by police. The Washington Post and The Huffington Post reporters were detained by police without any reason and taken to the Ferguson police station. An Al-Jazeera reporter saw tear gas in front of him thrown by police when he was trying to go live on air. The reporters, who were soon released, later said they were more afraid of aggressive conduct of police rather than the protesters. Wesley Lowery, a reporter for The Washington Post and Ryan Reilly, a journalist of the Huffington Post, said they were using a McDonald restaurant as a staging area near demonstrations when police came into the café. Officers asked the reporters to show their press passes. Lowery showed his press pass, while Reilly refused, saying police were acting illegally. Lowery and Reilly were then taken to the back of a police car, and their equipment was seized.

“They take our lives for granted”

On April 12, 2015, Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African American, was arrested by the Baltimore police. Officers brutally beat the man to break his spinal cord. Gray was put in intensive care. He later died at the hospital. Gray`s death sparked mass protest rallies in Baltimore. Fearful of the growing unrest, the government imposed a curfew and deployed the Maryland National Guard to the city. A total of 210 people were detained, some 15 buildings were torched and 100 vehicles were destroyed during the Baltimore unrest. Charlie Walker, a black activist of the Baltimore protests, accused the U.S. law enforcement bodies of corruption, human rights violation and bribery. “Our struggle should not be throwing stones at police, robbing and setting a fire on shops, destroying cars. What we should do is to hit a blow to the power of dollar and stop paying money to corporations. This is the only thing they understand. Money is crucial for them. And they take our lives for granted. We were the slaves of these insects for 400 years. But they have not yet understood that we are not slaves any longer.”

Some 458 people murdered in a year

Apart from Brown and Gray, unarmed Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Akai Gurley and others were shot dead during encounters with police officers because of their being black. In general, the death of unarmed Michael Brown, who was shot dead in Ferguson, provoked a strong wave of civil unrest. Last year alone 458 people were shot dead by police in the United States, spurring nationwide protests and arrests. Police`s brutal treatment of blacks is contaminating the minds of white people in the USA, encouraging them to violence. On June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof, a 21 year old white man, shoot dead nine people, including three men and six women, at a church in Charleston. All those killed were blacks. Roof was detained and charged with murder on racial grounds and terrorism.

Religious intolerance in the United States has also reached its peak, with anti-Islamic prejudice gathering pace. On February 10, 2015, Craig Stephen Hicks shot dead Deah Shaddy Barakat, a 23 year old student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19. All three students were Muslims and were murdered on religious grounds. The incident was followed by an arson attack on an Islamic center in Texas.Application of laws is more severe when it comes to blacks

In an interview with Al-Jazeera, Dr. Christian Christensen, a professor at Stockholm University, said police violence, racial discrimination has become widespread in the USA. “This has continued for decades. What we saw in Ferguson and Baltimore and nationwide protests is not people`s response just to the murder of two black men, it is a response to police violence, torture, racial discrimination that has continue for decades. Courts contribute considerably to this because the black defendants whose victims were white are two time more likely to receive a death penalty than white defendants whose victims were black. This has been so for more than 15 years. Laws, prohibitions are applied in a more severe manner when it comes to African Americans,” he added.

Illegal control over social networks

Reports analyzing the USA`s human rights record are telling the whole truth about it. UN Human Rights Committee accused the United States of breaching several provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Headed by Nigel Rodley, a British professor, the committee accused Washington of implementing an illegal control over social networks, describing it as direct interference in people`s private lives. The UN committee`s report revealed that the USA is controlling people`s activity in social networks not only in its own area, but also in different regions of the world to instill their ideology on people, exert pressure on and encourage them to violation of law. This spoils and puts at risk private lives of thousands of people. Countries and societies suffer hardships as a result of color revolutions. All these events are resulting in mass death, with countries torn by internal clashes. Iraq, Syria, Ukraine and Libya are best examples.

Prison abuse

In its 2013 report, the State Council of the People’s Republic of China provided concrete evidence of human rights violations in the USA. The council said the US carried out drone strikes in Pakistan, causing deaths of up to 926 civilians. Even Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch accused Washington of breaching international law. The Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation also accused the USA of violating human rights. The Foreign Ministry expressed its concern over violation of electoral rights, prison abuse, child abuse, trafficking in human beings, and other problems in the USA.

Helpless president
Although the U.S. is accusing other countries of violating democracy, human rights and freedom of speech, the country itself is experiencing widespread breach of universal values and norms. The USA is trampling on rights of migrants, religious minorities (especially Muslims). Racial discrimination is widespread in the country, accompanied by violence and death of a large number of people. Meanwhile, the USA`s first black president is watching helplessly what is happening in his country.

Luka Magnotta to appeal convictions and seek new trial


Luka Rocco Magnotta’s appeal is expected to be heard next month in the Quebec Court of Appeal.

MONTREAL — Luka Rocco Magnotta is appealing his conviction in the first-degree murder of Jun Lin and wants a new trial.

Documents made public by the Quebec Court of Appeal on Monday outline several reasons for Magnotta’s attempt to have the five convictions annulled, including the one for killing Lin.

The appeal centres primarily on a number of instances in which the defence suggests the judge erred in the case.

After a lengthy trial, jurors deliberated for eight days before finding Magnotta guilty on Dec. 23 of premeditated murder and four other charges in Lin’s slaying in May 2012.

The first-degree murder conviction carried a sentence of life imprisonment with no chance of parole for 25 years.

Magnotta, 32, was also given the maximum sentences on the four other charges.

The documents filed by Toronto-based lawyer Luc Leclair state Quebec Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer erred in a number of instances.

“The verdicts are unreasonable and unsupported by the evidence and the instructions,” one of two motions filed by Leclair read.

One motion is a direct appeal of the convictions based on questions of law and could take many months to be heard.

In it, the defence argues Cournoyer erred by:

  • Including an instruction to the jury on motive that confused the issue of intent, planning and deliberation, all while failing to tell them motive had to refer specifically to Lin’s murder.
  • Failing to instruct jurors on a limited use of “bad character” evidence relating to Magnotta.
  • Limiting the number of subjects to be covered in surrebuttal — rebuttal to the Crown’s own expert rebuttal witness.
  • Allowing the jury to discuss the case from the onset instead of waiting until after closing submissions and final instructions were complete.

Leclair also argues Cournoyer erred in instructions he provided on the Section 16 mental disorder defence Magnotta employed.

In the second motion, Magnotta is seeking leave to appeal on questions of “mixed fact and law,” which will require the authorization of the province’s highest court to go forward.

A spokesman for Quebec’s director of criminal and penal prosecutions says the appeal doesn’t come as a shock.

“For the moment it’s not a surprise for us because the accused was convicted of first-degree murder, so it’s usual that the accused appeals that kind of infraction and that kind of conviction,” Jean-Pascal Boucher said in an interview.

The appeal is likely months away as transcripts need to be filed and the prosecution must also submit its reply to the appeal.

The appeal documents were dated last Thursday and include a notice that a hearing will take place in Montreal on Feb. 18.

Leclair denied to comment further when reached by telephone.

Magnotta admitted to killing and dismembering Lin but was seeking to be found not criminally responsible by way of mental disorder.

Psychiatrists who testified for the defence said he was in a psychotic state the night of the killing and couldn’t tell right from wrong.

The Crown countered the crime was planned and deliberate and that Magnotta’s behaviour and actions were incompatible with those of someone supposedly suffering from a disease of the mind.

The jury heard testimony about the gruesome details of Lin’s death and that many of Magnotta’s actions were caught on surveillance video or in images taken by the accused himself.

They also heard about Magnotta’s upbringing and delved into medical files that showed he was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2001.

In the roughly 48 hours following the slaying, Magnotta cut up Lin’s body into 10 pieces, mailing the hands and feet to political offices in Ottawa and primary schools in Vancouver. He also bought a plane ticket for Paris online.

When police put out a warrant for his arrest, Magnotta emptied his bank accounts and fled to Berlin on the same day.

He was ultimately arrested in an Internet cafe in the German city on June 4, 2012.

He was eventually transferred to a Berlin prison hospital, where a psychiatrist’s initial diagnosis was that he was psychotic.

The other charges Magnotta was convicted of were criminally harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other members of Parliament; mailing obscene and indecent material; committing an indignity to a body; and publishing obscene materials.

A Montreal lawyer representing the Lin family says they have been informed of the appeal.

Timeline of events in Luka Rocco Magnotta murder case


MONTREAL – Luka Rocco Magnotta was found guilty on Tuesday of first-degree murder and four other charges in the killing and dismemberment of Jun Lin in May 2012. Here is a timeline of events in the case.

2011:

March: Magnotta arrives in Montreal.

July: Chinese student Jun Lin arrives in Montreal.

December: Magnotta and British journalist Alex West cross paths in London, England. An email sent shortly after to West’s newspaper contains language and comments that seem to foreshadow a human killing in the near future.

2012:

April 17: Magnotta meets with psychiatrist Dr. Joel Paris at Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, where he’s diagnosed as having a personality disorder and is sent home with follow-up appointment.

May 18-19: A mystery man is filmed at Magnotta’s apartment, with 53 seconds worth of footage later appearing in Lin dismemberment video. In it, Magnotta is seen brandishing hand-held electric saw over the man, who is blindfolded and snoring heavily.

May 24: Lin last seen by friends and last spotted entering Magnotta’s apartment building on apartment surveillance video at 10:16 p.m.

May 25-26: Magnotta seen coming and going from apartment, emptying its contents, including victim’s body.

May 26: Montana lawyer Roger Renville sees bizarre Internet video he believes is snuff film depicting bound man being stabbed to death and dismembered.

May 26: Magnotta departs Montreal on Paris-bound Air Transat flight.

May 27: Renville alerts U.S. and Canadian police to Internet video but they dismiss it as a fake.

May 29: Montreal police called to low-rent apartment building after janitor finds dismembered torso in suitcase left in trash. Same day, foot is found in package mailed to Conservative party in Ottawa and hand is found in package in Canada Post warehouse. Package destined for Liberal party. Lin reported missing by friends.

May 30: Montreal police name Magnotta as prime suspect and say national warrant issued for his arrest. Interpol adds him to wanted list, putting police in 190 countries on alert. Montreal police find video on Internet and try unsuccessfully to have it taken down.

May 31: Montreal police confirm they have video apparently showing man tied to bed, being killed and then dismembered.

May 31: Magnotta boards overnight bus from Paris bound for Berlin.

June 1: Montreal police identify torso victim as Lin, a 33-year-old Chinese computer science student at Concordia University. Warrant issued for Magnotta on upgraded first-degree murder charge. Police say Magnotta also charged with threatening Prime Minister Stephen Harper because of foot mailed to Conservative Party of Canada offices.

June 1: Magnotta arrives in Berlin.

June 2: French police conduct “targeted” searches.

June 3: French media report Magnotta stayed in low-budget hotel in Paris. French media report police checking claims of two people who say they saw him. Chinese Embassy in Ottawa issues statement advising Chinese visitors to Canada to take safety precautions.

June 4: German police acting on tip arrest Magnotta in Berlin in Internet cafe. He faces charges of first-degree murder, committing indignity to dead body, mailing obscene material and criminally harassing prime minister and several unidentified MPs. Harper, attending Queen’s Jubilee in Britain, congratulates police on their quick work.

June 5: Two schools in Vancouver receive packages containing human remains: a hand and a foot. In Berlin, Magnotta informs authorities he will not fight extradition. Lin’s family arrives in Montreal.

June 11: Magnotta transferred to Berlin prison hospital where observing psychiatrist is convinced he’s in psychotic state.

June 13: Forensic tests allow Montreal police to confirm torso, feet and hands all belong to Lin. Berlin court orders Magnotta to remain behind bars pending extradition to Canada.

June 18: Magnotta arrives in Montreal aboard Canadian military plane. Video and photos provided by city police show him handcuffed and surrounded by detectives as he gets off aircraft.

June 19: Magnotta pleads not guilty after being formally charged with first-degree murder of Lin, along with defiling his corpse, harassing Harper and MPs, and publishing and mailing obscene material.

June 21: Magnotta makes in-person court appearance in Montreal to set future court dates (previous appearance was via video conference). Is represented by Toronto lawyer Luc Leclair.

July 1: Tip leads Montreal police to a park in Montreal’s west end, where they discover Lin’s skull near a pond.

July 4: Forensic tests allow Montreal police to confirm body part found three days earlier was Lin’s head.

2013:

March 11: Preliminary hearing begins. Magnotta’s lawyers argue, unsuccessfully, that courtroom should be closed to public and media. Courtroom remains open and more routine publication ban is applied to details of hearing.

March 12: Jun Lin’s father, Diran, leaves courtroom in tears after hearing evidence. Details of that evidence are subject to publication ban. Members of Lin’s family from China are in Canada to follow case.

March 19: Magnotta collapses in court during preliminary hearing while appearing distraught by evidence presented against him. Still handcuffed, he falls to his side in prisoner’s box and curls into fetal position.

April 12: Magnotta ordered to stand trial on five charges, including first-degree murder, in decision by Quebec court Judge Lori-Renee Weitzman.

April 29: Trial date set for September 2014.

Nov. 13: Magnotta enters fresh not-guilty pleas.

2014:

Feb. 7: Justice Guy Cournoyer grants order to allow witness testimony to be gathered in France and Germany.

July 21: Cournoyer rules out blanket publication ban on trial evidence.

Sept. 8: Jury selection begins.

Sept. 19: Jury finalized after eight days of selection hearings.

Sept. 29: Trial begins with Leclair saying his client admits to slaying Lin, but said he intends to show he was not criminally responsible at the time.

Oct. 31: Crown prosecutor Louis Bouthillier closes case against Magnotta after presenting 48 witnesses.

Nov. 25: Defence rests case after calling 12 witnesses.

Dec. 4: Jury hears from last of six rebuttal witnesses, bringing total number to 66.

Dec. 10: Leclair urges jurors in closing arguments to find Magnotta not criminally responsible. Tells them not to get bogged down in various expert reports and says “insanity is insanity.”

Dec. 11: In his closing arguments, Bouthillier asks jurors to convict Magnotta on all five charges. Tells them the accused was “purposeful, mindful, ultra-organized and ultimately responsible for his actions.”

Dec. 15: Cournoyer gives instructions to jurors and they are then sequestered to decide the verdict.

Dec. 16: Jury begins deliberations.

Dec. 23: Jurors find Magnotta guilty of all five charges on their eighth day of deliberations

Luka Rocco Magnotta was convicted on Dec. 23 and sentenced to life imprisonment, with no chance of applying for parole for 25 years.

Florida. death penalty faces scrutiny from Supreme Court


June 28, 2015

— Thirteen years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that juries, not judges, should decide death sentences, Florida stands alone in how its justice system imposes capital punishment.

“Florida’s capital sentencing system is unique among all 33 American jurisdictions that permit capital punishment,” the American Bar Association says in a brief filed before the nation’s highest court. “Indeed, the Florida Supreme Court has characterized Florida as ‘the outlier state.’ ”

Now the nation’s highest court is poised to consider in its next term whether Florida needs to change its system for deciding whom to execute.

The issue concerns the role of juries in death penalty decisions. It’s an aspect of the state’s system of capital punishment that courts have struggled with for years.

In Florida, as in other states, when defendants are convicted of murder in a death penalty case, juries hear evidence regarding the existence of “aggravating factors,” or aspects of the case that weigh in favor of a death sentence, as well as “mitigating factors,” information that favors a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In recommending a sentence, a jury determines whether aggravating factors in a case outweigh the mitigating circumstances and justify the imposition of a death sentence.

But Florida juries, unlike most other states, are told their decisions are merely advisory, and that the judge will make the ultimate determination over whether to sentence a defendant to death. Trial judges in Florida are required to make their own, independent findings and are permitted to impose sentences different from jury recommendations.

Juries in Florida also are not required to reach unanimous decisions on the existence of specific aggravating factors or on whether to recommend a death sentence.

No other state allows the imposition of a death sentence without jurors either finding unanimously that a specific aggravating factor has been established or unanimously finding that capital punishment is appropriate.

The American Bar Association, which takes no position on the overall constitutionality of the death penalty, is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to direct Florida to make changes and require jurors to specify which aggravating factors they have unanimously found to be present. The association wants the high court to require jurors to unanimously agree on the imposition of death sentences.

The American Bar Association reviewed the state’s death penalty system in 2006 and found the need to improve its fairness and accuracy.

Among the findings was that there was significant confusion among jurors in capital cases. “Research establishes that many Florida capital jurors do not understand their role and responsibilities when deciding whether to impose a death sentence,” the association’s report stated.

The ABA also concluded that not requiring jurors to be unanimous “reduces the jury’s deliberation time and thus may diminish the thoroughness of the deliberations.”

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2002 threw out Arizona’s system of capital punishment, ruling it was unconstitutional because judges, not juries, determined the existence of aggravating factors and sentenced defendants to death.

Months later, the Florida Supreme Court left intact the state’s system of capital punishment, concluding that the U.S. Supreme Court had repeatedly reviewed it and found it constitutional.

The state’s high court noted that the U.S. Supreme Court had refused to hear the appeal of one of the Florida defendants challenging the state system, even after it made the Arizona decision.

That Florida appeal involved Amos Lee King, who was later executed for the 1977 murder of Natalie “Tillie” Brady inside her Tarpon Springs home. Brady was raped, stabbed and beaten while King was in a nearby prison work-release program.

The state Supreme Court called in 2005 for the state Legislature to make changes to the state’s death penalty law to require unanimity in jury recommendations. But state lawmakers didn’t act.

In the ensuing years, the state Supreme Court continued to hold that the state’s death penalty system is constitutional. One of those rulings came in the Escambia County case of Timothy Lee Hurst, convicted of murdering coworker Cynthia Harrison in a robbery at Popeye’s restaurant on May 2, 1998.

The state Supreme Court initially upheld Hurst’s conviction and death sentence but later granted him a new penalty phase hearing on the grounds his original defense lawyer failed to properly pre­sent and investigate mitigating evidence relating to his borderline intelligence and possible brain damage. At the conclusion of the second sentencing hearing, jurors returned a verdict of 7-5 in favor of death.

Hurst appealed again to the state Supreme Court, which upheld his death sentence, rejecting arguments that included assertions the jury should have been required to unanimously find a specific aggravating circumstance and unanimously decide his sentence.

The state Supreme Court noted in its Hurst ruling that it has previously concluded that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Arizona case did not require juries to make specific findings of aggravating factors or to make unanimous decisions regarding death sentences. The Florida court refused to revisit its prior rulings.

Hurst also argued the jury should have been required to determine whether he was mentally disabled, a finding that would have barred the implementation of the death penalty. After hearing testimony from witnesses and experts, the trial judge ruled that Hurst was not mentally disabled.

The state Supreme Court ruled that although some states require such findings be made by juries, Florida is not one of those states, and the U.S. Supreme Court has not mandated that procedure.

Hurst appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case in its next term, which begins in October.

 

Hamm family asks Gov. Inslee to reconsider death penalty ban


June 27, 2015

The family of Lori Hamm, the Longview native allegedly killed by convicted killer John Wayne Thomson in 2006, wants Washington’s governor to reconsider his ban on death penalty executions.

In a letter sent to Gov. Jay Inslee in May, Jerry Hamm, Lori Hamm’s father, reminded the governor that he took “an oath to support and defend Washington’s constitution and laws,” including Washington’s law allowing death penalty sentences.

Instead of issuing the ban, Jerry Hamm suggested the governor use the same legislative process any citizen would have to use to change the law.

“Lori’s death was painful and her death impacted all of Cowlitz County,” Jerry Hamm wrote. “Your decision was not fair to my daughter and heartbreaking to myself, my wife and our family.”

Thomson is likely remain on death row in California for several years. He was sentenced to death after being convicted in April 2014 in the death of 55-year-old businessman Charles Ray Hedlund in late July or early August 2006. Hedlund was killed after he stopped alongside the road to help a stranded Thomson.

San Bernardino County spokesman Christopher Lee said Thomson’s execution has yet to be scheduled and won’t be for some time.

“In California, all death penalty cases have an automatic appeal to the California Supreme Court,” Lee said on Friday.

Thomson is accused of killing Hamm, 36, on July 16, 2006, near Castle Rock, about a month before Hedlund’s death. He’s also accused of killing Spokane’s James Ehrgott, 73, only weeks before Hamm’s death.

Even without California’s appeal process, Thomson’s execution still wouldn’t happen quickly. California has had a moratorium on executions since 2006 when a federal judge ruled that state’s death penalty system as unconstitutional.

Former county prosecutor Sue Baur had planned to bring Thomson back to Washington to stand trial for Hamm’s death. Lee said that decision will now be up to current Cowlitz County Prosecutor Ryan Jurvakainen.

When asked if his office was actively working towards returning Thomson to Cowlitz County, Jurvakainen said he hopes to be able to “provide some substantive information” in the next few weeks.

“Until then, I will not make any comment,” Jurvakainen said by email on Monday.

Although Thomson, 55, does not face the death penalty in Cowlitz County, the first-degree murder charge could be amended to qualify him for capital punishment. Thomson is charged with aggravated murder in Spokane, which would include the possibility of the death penalty if he were convicted there.

“Now it is time for Mr. Thomson to pay for his crime spree in both Cowlitz and Spokane counties,” Jerry Hamm wrote. “You have made that impossible.”

Jerry Hamm also asked the governor to provide the research he used to make his decision on the moratorium, as well as copies of the material given to the media. Lastly, he asked the governor to reconsider his decision.

“State of Washington voters voted for the death penalty for these terrible crimes and my daughter and Cowlitz County deserves it,” Jerry Hamm said.

A call to the governor’s office last week was not returned.