Update 25 april source : http://www.ktbs.com
BATON ROUGE, La.
A federal judge in Baton Rouge has granted a temporary stay of execution for a man convicted in the 1995 slaying of two workers at a now-closed restaurant.
The Advocate reports Todd Wessinger was scheduled to be executed May 9 but U.S. District Judge James Brady granted the stay while he reviews arguments presented Wednesday by his attorneys, who asked for a permanent stay of the death penalty order.
Brady did not say when he would rule on the request.
Wessinger, a former dishwasher at a now-closed Calendar’s restaurant, was found guilty and sentenced to die by lethal injection for fatally shooting 27-year-old Stephanie Guzzardo and 46-year-old David Breakwell on Nov. 19, 1995.
acts from The Supreme court Louisiana
This case arises from the murder of two employees of Calendar’s Restaurant in Baton Rouge on Sunday, November 19, 1995, at approximately 9:30 a.m. The evidence shows that defendant, a former employee at Calendar’s, rode his bicycle tothe restaurant that morning armed with a .380 semi-automatic pistol. Mike Armentor, a bartender at the restaurant, saw defendant just outside of the restaurant, and they exchanged greetings. Immediately after entering the restaurant through a rear door, defendant shot Armentor twice inthe back. Although Armentor sustained severe abdominal injuries, he survived. Defendant then tried to shoot Alvin Ricks, a dishwasher, in the head, but the gun would not fire. As Ricks ran out of the restaurant, defendant attempted to shoot him in the leg, but the gun misfired. As he was running across the street to call 911, Ricks told Willie Grigsby, another employee of the restaurant who escaped the restaurant without being seen by defendant, that he had seen the perpetrator, and the perpetrator was Todd. Ricks also told the 911 operator that the perpetrator was Todd.
Stephanie Guzzardo, the manager on duty that morning, heard the commotion and called 911. Before she could speak to the operator, defendant entered the office, armed with the gun. After a short exchange with Guzzardo, in which she begged for her life, defendant, after telling her to “shut up,” shot her through the heart. Guzzardo died approximately thirty seconds after being shot. Defendant then removed approximately $7000 from the office. Defendant next found David Breakwell, a cook at the restaurant who had been hiding in a cooler, and shot him as he begged for his life. Defendant then left the restaurant on his bicycle. EMS personnel arrived at the scene shortly there after, and Breakwell died en route to the hospital.
Defendant was eventually arrested and charged with two counts of first degree murder. Testimony adduced at trial established that defendant had asked one of his friends to commit the robbery with him, and that he planned to leave no witnesses to the crime. Several people also testified that they had seen the defendant with large sums of money after the crime. The murderweapon was subsequently discovered, along with a pair of gloves worn during the crime, at an abandoned house across the street from defendant’s residence. One of defendant’s friends testified that defendant had asked him to remove the murder weapon from the abandoned house.
Defendant was convicted of two counts of first degree murder for the deaths of Breakwell and Guzzardo and sentenced to death. The jury found three aggravating circumstances:
(1) that defendant was engaged in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of aggravated burglary orarmed robbery;
(2) that defendant knowingly created a risk of death or great bodily harm to more
than one person; and
(3) the offense was committed in an especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel manner.
read full opinion
Update april 12, 2012 source :http://www.therepublic.com
Attorneys for convicted killer Todd Wessinger, who is scheduled to be executed May 9 for the 1995 slaying of two workers at a now-closed Baton Rouge restaurant, has asked a federal judge to reconsider his recent denial of a new trial or sentencing.
The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/HDLBlg ) Todd Wessinger’s attorneys also asked that his execution be stayed.
Wessinger’s attorneys want U.S. District Judge James Brady to hold an evidentiary hearing on Wessinger’s federal constitutional claims. The attorneys argued that Brady issued his ruling Feb. 22 without ever holding such a hearing.
Wessinger, a former dishwasher at the restaurant, was found guilty and sentenced to die by lethal injection for fatally shooting 27-year-old Stephanie Guzzardo and 46-year-old David Breakwel on Nov. 19, 1995.
“This Court’s actions throughout these proceedings led Mr. Wessinger to believe that evidentiary hearings would take place,” Wessinger’s current attorneys — Danalynn Recer, of The Gulf Region Advocacy Center in Houston; Soren Gisleson, of New Orleans; and federal public defender Rebecca Hudsmith, of Lafayette — contend in court filings.
Those attorneys electronically filed a motion Tuesday in federal court in Baton Rouge to alter or amend Brady’s judgment. A supporting memorandum was electronically filed Wednesday.
In February, Brady rejected a dozen claims raised by the Wessinger, 44, including allegation that his trial attorneys provided ineffective assistance during jury selection and the guilt and penalty phases of his 1997 trial in Baton Rouge.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Wednesday he believes the judge’s decision “was sound and based on the facts presented by the record.”
“It seems that the defense is arguing that everyone involved in this case did something wrong, including the defense lawyers, experts and the court — that is everyone but the defendant, who committed a particularly brutal murder,” Moore stated.
“I hope that the execution date will remain intact although I anticipate more filings on behalf of the defendant to upset the carrying out of the jury’s verdict,” he added.
Brady, who described the state’s evidence against Wessinger in the guilt phase as “overwhelming,” said in his ruling that Wessinger faults his attorneys’ penalty phase preparation for not probing further into his childhood and upbringing.
Wessinger contends such an investigation would have led to evidence of a physically and mentally abusive childhood, possible mental defects and an alienation from society that led him to believe he did not belong.
Brady ruled that Wessinger is not attacking the quality or thoroughness of the investigation but “does not like the way his story was spun for the jury.”
“This is a clear factual error inconsistent with the record which must be revisited,” Wessinger’s attorneys argue in their memorandum.
“At penalty phase, trial counsel generally painted a rosy picture of Mr. Wessinger as ‘a caring and present father, a brother who cared for his handicapped sister growing up, and a hard worker from a stable family.’ Because trial counsel had not hired a mitigation specialist nor conducted any independent life history investigation, the presentation was an incomplete and inaccurate view of Mr. Wessinger,” his current attorneys maintain.
“It is not the case, as this court suggests, that trial counsel conducted the investigation and made strategic choices about what to present,” Wessinger’s attorneys add.