march 3, 2014
Texas death row inmate Ray Jasper is scheduled to be put to death on March 19. He has written us a letter that, he acknowledges, “could be my final statement on earth.” It is well worth your time.
march 3, 2014
Texas death row inmate Ray Jasper is scheduled to be put to death on March 19. He has written us a letter that, he acknowledges, “could be my final statement on earth.” It is well worth your time.
february 21, 2014 (nbc)
A Highland Park man is on death row for shooting and killing his two daughters more than a decade ago.
John David Battaglia was arrested for the May 2, 2001 shooting deaths of 9-year-old Faith and 6-year-old Liberty in his downtown Dallas loft. The girls’ mother was on the phone and heard the gunshots.
Jurors found Battaglia guilty of capital murder and sentence him to death.
Battaglia, 58, is now on death row. Sarah Mervosh, a reporter with The Dallas Morning News, spoke with him for an hour in a jailhouse interview. Here is some of that interview.
Sarah Mervosh: “Do you feel like you were killing them to get back at your wife?”
Battaglia: “I don’t feel like I killed them.”
Mervosh: “You what?”
Battaglia: “I don’t feel like I killed them. I do not know why. If you read what I wrote, you will find that I am a little bit in the blank about what happened.”
Mervosh said Battaglia was persistent that he is innocent.
“From what he says and if I can infer that is true that he can’t remember what happened and he doesn’t feel like he did it,” Mervosh said.
During the interview, Battaglia talked about his late daughters.
“You think about your best little friends. Nicest little kids you’ve ever met. Not much you can do about that,” Battaglia said. “I have pictures of them up in my house. I have them on my table and on my wall, I have them around me all the time,” Battaglia said, speaking of his prison cell.
“I thought that was interesting that he wants to keep it in his line of sight, because it means something to him, and yet he killed them,” Mervosh later said.
Battaglia at one point turned on Mervosh, pointing his finger at her and yelling. But during the interview he saved most of his venom for the people he believes put him behind bars.
John Battaglia was an abuser…. period. Most of his abuse was directed at his two wives, however, there were others that were victims of his abuse. As the classic abuser however, he was able to use charisma and charm to get out of things and to convince people that he was the victim. Even when he was obviously caught he would blame the victim for pushing him to the point in which he abused. Also, like many classic abusers, after he abused his spouse he would apologize and cool down to which the women would take him back and accept his apologies.
Battaglia’s abuse to his first wife, to which he was often faced with legal problems began in the 1980’s. During this time domestic abuse was not taken very seriously. There was little talk about what went on behind closed doors and there was even less understanding as to the psyche of the abused woman. His first wife, Michelle, saw a few personality things prior to their marriage and although it was still considered a bit taboo at the time Michelle considered not going through with the marriage and raising their daughter as a single mother. While she was still pregnant with their daughter Michelle suffered mainly verbal abuse. However, she began to see some signs of physical abuse towards her son from a previous relationship. With each escalation of abuse Michelle would kick John out of the house but he would charm his way back in. Finally the abuse to her and her son came to a point in which his charm had no affect on her and she worried that their daughter would be in danger. She finally filed for divorce. When John could no longer control or even charm Michelle this enraged him. Michelle had gotten a restraining order against John but that did not stop him. She repeatedly changed the locks to her home and he would charm a locksmith into making him a copy. He would enter her home when she was not home and even when she was. She often woke in the middle of the night to find him in the home. At first it was even a challenge to prove that he was entering the home and doing things, then later it became a more challenge to get the authorities to do anything about it. Generally they would set out an arrest warrant for him. It would be a process of the police picking him up and taking him to the station where he would sign papers for his bail, pay the bail and walk out the door. These arrests and legal troubles only infuriated John more, although he generally faced little to no repercussions for his actions. Finally John went too far. He had hidden on a public street waiting for Michelle to pass and attacked her breaking her nose and dislocating her jaw…. and there was a witness. He spent some time in jail for this offense, but, as I said domestic violence was not taken as serious. Oftentimes the abused were (and still are at times) blamed for “pushing” the abuser. At this point Michelle realizes the only way to get away was to move out of state to where her family lived. Once she moved John’s criminal charges were still being debated. She was informed that he likely would not serve anymore jail time than he had already but that he would get probation which would not allow him to leave Dallas, Texas where he lived. At this point Michelle agreed with the agreement thinking the restrictions would keep her and her children safe. Michelle never imagined that John would be given unsupervised visitation with their daughter.
The ongoing belief at that time, and sadly still seems to be sometimes, is that when there is no evidence of abuse against the children but only against the spouse (or ex-spouse), there is no reason to limit contact between the abuser and their children. Again, this goes back to the mentality that it is about pushing buttons and isolated abuse only to the one person. Michelle also never thought of the future and if her actions or decisions could ever possibly affect anyone else. Her concern, as it should have been, was for the well being of herself and her children.
After a few years John met Mary Jean. They quickly married and over the course of the years had two daughters, Faith and Liberty. Luckily for Mary Jean and her children for many years there was no physical abuse from John, but the verbal abuse was evident from the start of their marriage, just like it had been for Michelle. For a long time Mary Jean knew little or at least believed little of what Michelle had been through with John. For the most part after John met Mary Jean he left Michelle alone and their daughter visited her father one weekend a month. John had always been fairly well about hiding things. Then, like Michelle, after several outbursts of events in which John’s charm smoothed things over, Mary Jean also had had enough, kicked John out and filed for divorce.
Just as Michelle did, Mary Jean obtained a protective order against John. And, just like Michelle, Mary Jean never imagined John would harm their children. Christmas of 1999 John came to Mary Jean’s house with his daughter with Michelle to pick up the girls. Against her better judgment Mary Jean allowed him in the house because the girls wanted to show him their gifts and decorations. While there John began attacking Mary Jean. Ultimately he left, not taking any of the children with him. Mary Jean filed charges against him. Just before they were to go to court John contacted Mary Jean and asked if they could sign the divorce papers the morning of court beforehand but at another location. Mary Jean really did not want to risk being late to court but she also wanted the divorce to be over. She went to where they were to meet only to find out that he had lied to her in attempts to make her late to court, to which she was. She got a message to the lawyers that she was on the way but the judge refused to wait. She was able to refile but ultimately John simply got two years of of probation after pleading guilty. He was still not to contact Mary Jean and lost visitation for 30 days with the girls but that was all. He repeatedly violated the order, just as he did when dealing with Michelle. Once was for testing positive for drugs and also by contacting Mary Jean.
By May 12, 2001 Mary Jean had filed charges against John more than two weeks before. Earlier that day there was finally a warrant made for John’s arrest. It was a day of visitation (for a 2 hour dinner) for him with Faith and Liberty. Earlier in the day John had gotten someone to contact Mary Jean to see if she was going to allow visitation (there’s no prove of his claims that she ever denied him) and that they would meet in their normal public place. He also became aware of the warrant for his arrest and talked to his probation officer as well as a detective. Both assured him that he would not be arrested that evening while with his children. However, he called the girls, on a phone line that was just for them, telling them that he would likely be arrested while he saw them that evening and that he likely would not see them for a year and that it was their mothers fault. Mary Jean assured them that he would not be arrested that night and that even if he were put in jail it would not be for a year. At this point neither girl was very interested in going to see their father but Mary Jean encouraged it and met him at the designated time and place.
A short time after dropping them off and going to a friends house Mary Jean received a phone call from her mother. John had contacted her asking that she get a hold of Mary Jean because the girls wanted to talk to her. Although she was not at home they had called Mary Jean’s home phone and left a message for her to call them back. When Mary Jean called back John answered and then turned on the speaker phone demanding to Faith, “ask her.” Through tears Faith asked Mary Jean why she wanted her Daddy to go to jail. Always trying to keep her children out of the middle of their problems, Mary Jean chastised John for putting the children in that position. Suddenly she heard Faith yelling “No, Daddy, please don’t” and Mary Jean heard several shots from a gun. Suddenly John came back to the phone and said “Merry Fucking Christmas.”
Rushing to his home Mary Jean called 911. She expected to get to John’s home and see several police officers but no one was there and she was scared to go to his loft apartment, not only for her own life, but for what she would find. Her call had not properly been handled. First it was to be transferred to another district since that was where John lived and secondly it was listed as a simple domestic issue and had a low priority. While outside John’s apartment building Mary Jean saw a police officer and flagged him down. He called for backup before entering the apartment. Once in they found the bodies of the girls each shot several times, with one shot through the head. They also found several firearms in the apartment. What they did not find was John. A man hunt was made for him. He was found several hours later intoxicated by alcohol and drugs coming out of a tattoo parlor in which he had gotten a tattoo of two roses, telling the woman who had gone with him it was to represent his daughters so he had them forever. The woman had no idea that John had killed his daughters.
John was ultimately convicted and currently sits on death row in Texas but the story does not end there. While in some areas by 2001 domestic violence was taken more serious than it had been in previous years, it still was not a high priority everywhere. Further, it was widely believed that while a father may be physically abusive to a mother that did not mean they were a danger to their children and there was no need for supervised visitation with the abusive spouse. Whether John has openly admitted it, I am not sure, but it is widely believed that this was solely done as an act of revenge against Mary Jean. This case proved that domestic violence and child visitation and custody need to be more closely watched and related. However, I must admit that in the recent case of Josh Powell, it was proven even those who are violent are capable of getting around even supervision.
John Battaglia tormented and abused both of his wives for many years. He never cared who was around, including his own children, when he abused them. He never batted an eye to bad mouth the mothers to his children. The courts allowed this behavior and in the end his children suffered the ultimately sacrifice.
Film Synopsis: Rodney Reed was convicted of raping and killing 19 year-old Stacey Stites in May of 1998 and sentenced to death. Many observers felt Reed’s conviction was a miscarriage of justice, and that the evidence points to another killer — Stites’ fiancé and Giddings, TX police officer Jimmy Fennell Jr. This documentary explores the evidence involved in the case and the context of the trial that led to Reed’s death sentence.
This independently produced documentary premiered at the SXSW 2006 Film Festival in Austin, TX and has since played extensively throughout the U.S. at festivals and universities.
FACT UPDATE: In 2008, Officer Fennell pled guilty to kidnapping and improper sexual activity with a person in custody and sentenced to 10 years in Jail. In 2012, former Travis County Medical Examiner Roberto Bayardo made dramatic ‘clarifications’ of his original testimony, including proffering that there was no evidence that Reed’s semen found on the victim “was placed there in any other fashion other than consensually”. In Fall 2012, Reed’s Federal Appeal was denied. In November 2013, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, the final point of relief prior to setting an execution date, agreed to hear oral arguments from Reed’s defense. The hearing is set for Dec. 4, 2013.
Directors/Producers: Ryan Polomski and Frank Bustoz
November 13, 2012 http://www.lanereport.com
As part of the Journey of Hope Tour sponsored by the Northern Kentucky University Chase American Constitution Society, the ACLU of Kentucky and the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, NKU will host a free public lecture by death row exoneree Randy Steidl on Tuesday, Nov. 27, at noon in room 302 of the James C. and Rachel M. Votruba Student Union.
Steidl and a co-defendant were convicted for the 1986 murder of newlywed couple Dyke and Karen Rhoads in the small town of Paris, Ill. The two maintained their innocence but it was not until Northwestern University journalism students got involved that Steidl’s case received a proper review.
The entire case against Steidl was based on unreliable eye-witness testimony. Even though their stories conflicted with one another, both witnesses claimed to be present on the night of the attack and both described a gruesome scene. Yet, in spite of the violent stabbing that occurred, there was no physical evidence tying Steidl to the crime.
It was only after the in-depth investigative journalism conducted by Northwestern students that new information was uncovered and old evidence invalidated. With the aid of a local police officer, students were able to present enough evidence of Steidl’s innocence to call for a new trial. Eventually, all charges were dropped and Steidl became the 18th person to be released from the Illinois death row because of a wrongful conviction.
Steidl described his ordeal in a CNN interview. “Torture,” he said. “Actually being innocent and knowing that the state of Illinois wants to kill me for something I did not do.”
His NKU visit comes just weeks after the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights called on state lawmakers to abolish the death penalty and less than one year after a team of Kentucky legal experts published a 400-page report alleging serious flaws within the state’s death penalty system.
October 15, 2012 http://www.vindy.com
An Akron man facing execution next month for the murder and dismemberment of a woman 15 years ago maintains his innocence, saying prosecutors and a jailhouse snitch lied about the crime and failed to test evidence that could exonerate him.
In an interview from death row at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution, Brett Hartmann told the Statehouse bureau of The Vindicator that phone records and hair and fingerprints taken from the scene could prove he didn’t stab 46-year-old Winda Snipes 138 times, slit her throat or cut off her hands.
The latter were never found.
“Whether people want to believe I’m innocent or not, you know, but ask why,” Hartmann said. “Why are they hiding? Why are they lying so much? … Why are they lying and hiding evidence like they do?”
Hartmann, 38, is scheduled for lethal injection Nov. 13 at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.
Twice in recent years, the state parole board has recommended against clemency in the case, with a third decision from that panel expected in coming days after another hearing earlier this week.
In documents presented to the parole board, Snipes was described as a “thoughtful and caring person” who “dressed meticulously” and was “extremely close” to her family.
One day in September 1997, she picked up her paycheck, mailed a letter and stick of gum to her grandmother and was spotted crossing the street near her Highland Square neighborhood in Akron.
Police found her mutilated body tied to a bed in her apartment that evening after receiving several 9-1-1 calls from Hartmann, who admitted having sexual relations with the victim hours before she was murdered.
Police found Hartmann’s fingerprints on a bedspread and on the leg of a chair, and investigators later matched his DNA to the victim’s body.
They also found a wristwatch that purportedly belonged to Snipes and a bloody T-shirt at Hartmann’s apartment.
They also cited incriminating comments he made to a co-worker and a cellmate. The latter said Hartmann confessed the crime.
According to documents submitted by the prosecutor’s office to the state parole board, “… The evidence at trial (as well as recent DNA evidence) clearly establish that [Hartmann] tied Winda to her bed, had vaginal and anal intercourse with her, beat her, strangled her with a cord, stabbed her 138 times, slit her throat, and cut off her hands. The jury found [Hartmann] guilty of Winda’s murder and determined unanimously that [Hartmann’s] crimes warranted death. The jury’s verdict has been affirmed many times by state and federal courts. Subsequent DNA testing also confirmed [Hartmann’s] guilt. … [His] many claims of legal error have been carefully reviewed, considered and rejected.”
Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh added in a released statement Friday, “The state has provided Mr. [Hartmann] with top-notch defense attorneys to argue his claims in state and federal courts for the past 14 years. No court — state or federal — has bought any of Mr. Hartman’s claims.”
Hartmann said he and Snipes had a casual sexual relationship, “hooking up” on occasion after drinking at a bar near her apartment. He admitted to police on the night that Snipes’ body was found that he had been with her early on the morning of the crime but that she was alive when he left.
“Clearly, no matter how intoxicated I was that morning, when I left her, she was well, alive and healthy, because she was seen alive later that day,” he said.
Hartmann said he did not murder Snipes; rather, he returned to her apartment for another “hookup” and found her dead on the floor. He said he panicked, grabbed anything that connected him to the crime scene and fled. He said he didn’t think about calling the police immediately to report the crime, only doing so later from a nearby pay phone.
“I lived on the streets with bikers and meth-heads,” he said. “I grew up on Indian reservations where you don’t call the police at all. … When I found her, the first thing that went through my head was two warrants out for my arrest for traffic violations and failure to pay fines. And the first thing that went through my head was if I call the police, they’re going to run my name, see I have warrants and arrest me and I’m going to lose my job.”
Hartmann said the watch police found at his apartment was common at the time and belonged to a married woman, one of many who he had sexual relations with and who left clothes or other belongings behind. And he said it doesn’t make sense, logically, that he would leave the watch and bloody T-shirt at his apartment for police to find but manage to hide the victim’s hands and other evidence.
“… I supposedly went and hid all these so well that police have never found them and yet come back to my apartment and these two pieces of evidence are just thrown right there in the middle of everything,” he said. “If I would have done something like this, common sense would dictate that you take everything if you’re going to hide it hide it altogether. You don’t hide some of this stuff and then throw some of the most critical evidence in the middle of your floor.”
Hartmann said phone records prove he was at home at the time the murder was committed. He said police and prosecutors failed to test fingerprints, hair and other evidence found at the crime scene that could prove someone else committed the murder. And he denied making incriminating statements to a co-worker or cellmate.
Hartmann said he does not support the death penalty, calling the process for determining capital punishment “totally flawed. … It has nothing to do with justice or the law or anything. It’s almost all politics.”
He said he and others on Ohio’s Death Row are changed people.
“Most people I know back here don’t even resemble the people they were when they first came,” he said. “I know no one will ever believe me, most of the public will never believe me when I tell them I’ve met better people on Death Row than I ever met out on the street. If I’m hungry, all I have to do is say so and there’s someone there to give me some food. If there’s ever something I need, there will be someone there to help me.”
Asked what he would say to the family and friends of Winda Snipes, Hartmann replied, “My heart goes out to them. I know losing anyone, especially family, is a very traumatizing experience. I recently lost my mom and my sister. And no one in the world deserves to lose a relative or anyone the way that Winda was taken, and my heart goes out to them. But I didn’t do it.”
June 8, 2012 Source : http://www.csindy.com
Rev. Roger Butts, organizer for Coloradans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. “And God forbid we execute an innocent person.”
Juan Melendez nearly became that person. After 17 years on death row in Florida for a 1983 murder — and several denied appeals — that state’s Supreme Court finally overturned his conviction when a key witness recanted his testimony. Ten years after his release, he’s bringing his story to Colorado Springs. On Sunday evening. Melendez will speak and respond to questions at First Congregational Church, 20 E. Saint Vrain St., at 6 p.m.
“The guy is just so incredibly inspiring,” says Rev. Butts. “I have a feeling that if I spent 17 years on death row, I’d be bitter, and angry, and mean, and just a recluse or something. But this guy is so unbelievably inspiring.”
His visit is sponsored by Coloradans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, who hope to pass legislation in 2013 to make Colorado the 18th state in the union to end capital punishment. For more information, contact Rev. Roger Butts at firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out the trailer for Juan Melendez 6446, a documentary about Melendez’s perilous journey through capital punishment’s legal apparatus.
June 8, 2012 Source : http://www.dc.state.fl.us/
New Housing Rules
In addition to Florida Administrative Code (FAC) Chapter 33 and FDC Procedures you will be expected to comply with these instructions. Failure to comply may result in the loss/suspension of privileges and/or disciplinary action. Your acknowledgement and compliance with these instructions will be an indication of positive adjustment and a benefit to you. Should you have any questions: contact a staff member within your unit for clarification. FAC Chapter 33 and FDC Procedures are available for checkout in each unit. Items checked out must be returned on the same shift as issued. Inmates will be responsible for lost or damaged items they have checked out.
1) Inmates will follow all orders given by an employee at any given time.
2) Inmates are to conduct themselves in a quiet and orderly manner at all times. There will be no yelling or loud talking from cell to cell, out of windows to inmates or staff. Additionally there will be no talking during counts of after lights out. Inmates are not permitted to yell to staff members to gain their attention unless there is true emergency.
3) Inmates are not permitted to talk or in any way attempt to communicate with other inmates while being escorted outside of their cells. This includes, but not limited to – showers/haircut, recreation, hearings, callouts/appointments and work/education assignments.
4) Inmates are not permitted to communicate or attempt to communicate to anyone outside of the housing unit to include those times when inmates are escorted outside the unit to participate in outdoor recreation, work details or call-outs/appointments. Any form of unauthorized communication to others (staff, visitors, or inmates) outside the unit in any manner is strictly prohibited.
5) You are required to wear a Class B uniform from 8:00am – 5:00pm Monday to Friday. The class B uniform consists of a tee shirt, blue pants or personal shorts (if you currently possess them). Anytime an inmate departs their cell they are to be dressed in Class A uniform, including approved footwear, unless directed otherwise by staff.
6) Bunks will be made each morning at 8:00am, excluding weekends and holidays, with a 6 (six) inch white collar and will remain in this fashion until 5:00pm. Anytime an inmate departs his/her cell on weekends or holidays the bunk will be made before departing the cell.
7) Inmates are to remain quiet when any staff member enters the wing. When a staff member passes by your cell, you may address staff at that time.
8) Inmates are not permitted to stand on toilets, bunks or sinks.
9) Mattresses, sheets, blankets, pillows/pillow cases and towels will not be placed on the floor at any time.
10) Inmates will perform scheduled cleaning of their cells as directed by staff and will be responsible for keeping cells clean and orderly at all times. Inmates will not write on, or in any manner deface cell walls, windows, floors, ceilings, doors/bars or any fixtures. No items are to be attached or affixed to any area within the cells. Towels and washcloths may be hung to dry on the wall hooks, provided for that purpose in each cell.
11) Inmates are not permitted to throw any trash out of their cells. Trash will be collected during scheduled cell cleaning and after the completion of each meal.
12) All state property will be returned in the same condition as when issued.
13) Inmates are not to pass any item from cell to cell or to any other inmate to include personal/or state property. The manufacture, possession or use of a rope or “fishing line” is prohibited.
14) All property will be stored in your locker or other approved storage location. All personal property in excess of what can be kept in the locker must be disposed of according to proper regulations.
15) All inmates are to come to the cell door and receive their food tray at meal times. The trays are to remain inside the cell until collected at the completion of each meal. Food items or trays will not be passed between cells. No food items, food trays, utensils, containers or condiments (except those items purchased from the canteen) will be stored in the cells at any time. Any issue with the meal being served will be addressed to the officer supervising the feeding of the meal and not inmate orderlies.
16) Death Row inmates will be allowed to possess and use “smokeless tobacco” products. They will not be allowed to possess any other type of tobacco.
17) All inmates are required to comply with Chapter 33-602-101, FAC to include maintaining hair and fingernails as outlined. Inmates will also shower and shave three times a week (unless exempt by medical pass) Showers are limited to ten (10) minutes maximum. Clippers will be used for shaving.
18) Inmates will proceed directly to the showers from their cells and return directly to their cell upon completion unless directed otherwise. You are permitted to take the following items to the shower: clean clothing, shower slides, towel, washcloth, and hygiene products.
19) Issuance and exchange of health and comfort items will be on a predetermined schedule within each unit.
20) You are not permitted to take anything (i.e. towels, books, papers, canteen items, etc) to the outdoor recreation yards. Inmates are permitted to talk to other inmates in the outdoor recreation areas if conversation can be conducted without loud talking or yelling. Inmates participating in outdoor recreation are not permitted to talk to inmates inside the housing unit or areas outside of the recreation area. Inmates will be permitted to remove outer shirt once inside the recreation yard, but t-shirts must be worn. Shorts may be worn while on the recreation yards.
21) Inmates are required to respond to health care staff during daily rounds, sick call, and weekly mental health rounds. Prior to health care staff entering the individual housing unit an officer will announce “Health care staff is now conducting rounds” If these rounds are after 5:00pm inmates will dress in at least Class “B” uniform until health care staff departs the housing unit.
22) Inmates with medical, mental health or dental non-emergencies will notify medical staff while making daily rounds; mental health staff during weekly rounds or submit an “inmate request” DC6-236. Over the counter medication may be requested from Close Management staff as needed.
23) Cells will be inspected for damage prior to your placement. Any noted deficiency will be listed on the “Cell Inspection” DC6-221 form and you will sign the form acknowledging your agreement with the inspection. Inmates will be held accountable for any deficiencies not previously noted on the DC6-221 during routine inspections or upon release.
24) In the event it becomes necessary to evacuate the housing unit inmates will follow all directions issued by staff and move from their assigned cells to the pre-designated assembly area in a quiet and orderly manner. Inmates will not attempt to retrieve any personal property prior to departure unless directed by staff.
May 10, 2012 Source : http://www.aljazeera.com
In 2010, while making an episode of Fault Lines on the death penalty in the US, Josh Rushing interviewed death row inmate Michael Selsor. It was the only interview Selsor ever granted.
Two years later, Rushing returned to watch Selsor die.
In this special report, he takes an unflinching look at an American execution.
Read the full article and Selsor’s interview : click here
On November 3, 2011, CWCY client Robert Taylor was released from prison after almost 19 years in prison, proven innocent by DNA. Robert was 15 years old when he falsely confessed to a crime he knew nothing about.