Houston

TEXAS -SUZANNE MARGARET BASSO EXECUTION SET FEB. 5, 2014 EXECUTED 6.26 PM


HOUSTON (July 24, 2013)–State District Judge Mary Lou Keel has set a Feb. 5, 2014 execution date for Suzanne Basso, 59, who’s held on women’s death row in Gatesville.

Suzanne Basso (Texas prison photo)

In July of 1997, 59-year-old Louis “Buddy” Musso, the victim in this case, first met either [Basso] or her son, James “J.D.” 0′ Malley, at a church carnival in New Jersey.

Musso, though mentally retarded, lived independently, held a job at a local grocery store, and handled his own financial affairs. In June of 1998, Musso left New Jersey to live with [Basso] in Jacinto City, Texas. Shortly after Musso moved in with [Basso], Al Becker, Musso’s Social Security representative payee and friend of twenty years, began having difficulty contacting Musso. Becker had numerous telephone conversations with [Basso], but [Basso] eventually refused to allow him to communicate directly with Musso. Concerned about Musso’s welfare, Becker sought assistance from various state agencies, but was not able to gain any further information about Musso’s situation. In July of 1998, [Basso] unsuccessfully attempted to designate herself as Musso’s representative payee of his Social Security benefits. On an application for a life insurance policy on Musso, [Basso] was named beneficiary, and she had described herself as Musso’s “wife to be.”

After Musso’s death, police found certificates of insurance for policies in Musso’s name, including one that provided $65,000 in the event of Musso’s death from violent crimes. They also discovered a document entitled Musso’s “Last Will and Testament,” which purported to leave Musso’s entire estate to [Basso] while “no one else [was] to get a cent.” In the days leading up to his death, Musso suffered tremendous abuse at the hands of [Basso] and her five co-defendants. [Basso] would take Musso to the apartment of co- defendants Bernice Ahrens, Craig and Hope Ahrens (Bernice’s son and daughter), and Terence Singleton (Hope’s fiancé), where Musso was forced to remain seated or in a kneeling position on a plastic mat in the hallway for hours.

Whenever Musso attempted to get off the mat, O’Malley would beat or kick him. O’Malley, Singleton, Bernice, and Craig beat Musso, and O’Malley, while wearing combat boots, kicked him repeatedly. [Basso] beat Musso with a baseball bat on the buttocks, back, and groin area, and both she and Hope struck him with a belt and buckle. After hearing that Musso had been “misbehaving” while she was away from the apartment, [Basso], who weighed over 300 pounds, repeatedly jumped on top of Musso while he was on his hands and knees, causing him to fall flat on the ground.

At one point, Musso requested that someone there call an ambulance. Even though Hope, as she later admitted,recognized the extent of Musso’s injuries, he received no medical attention. Someone (the evidence suggests either O’Malley or Singleton and Craig) bathed Musso in a solution of bleach and Pine- Sol cleaning fluid, using a wire brush on his body.

Apparently, his killers were giving Musso this kind of “bath” when he died.

On the morning of August 28, 1999, Musso’s body was found dumped near a roadway in Galena Park. Because Musso’s clothes lacked any blood stains, and his only shoe was on the wrong foot, investigators believed that his body had been dressed after he died.

The medical examiner reported an extraordinary number of injuries to Musso’s body and was unable to count the “hundreds” of bruises that covered Musso from head to toe.

The palms of Musso’s hands and the soles of his feet were bruised, while his back and buttocks showed numerous lash marks indicative of his having been whipped. Musso’s severely blackened eyes resulted from a “hinge fracture” to his skull, which probably was caused by a blow to the back of the head. He had sustained broken bones in his nose, ribs, and throat. Marks on his back appeared to be cigarette burns, but may have been caused by a hot poker, and the medical examiner noted areas of skin abrasion possibly attributable to contact with a cleaning solution or scrub brush.

The cause of death was believed to have been a skull fracture from an unknown object, which left a large, X-shaped laceration in Musso’s scalp. On the evening before Musso’s body was discovered, [Basso] began what evolved into a lengthy attempt to establish that Musso had run away.

She made several phone calls to people, including Becker, a niece of Musso’s, and the local police, expressing concern about Musso’s whereabouts. [Basso] claimed that Musso probably had run away with a “little Mexican lady” that he had met at a laundromat and said that she was “getting kind of worried” about him. In a written statement to police, [Basso] later confessed to having driven Bernice Ahrens’s car, with Musso’s body in the trunk, to the site where O’Malley, Singleton, and Craig Ahrens dumped the body. She also admitted driving the car to the dumpster where the others disposed of additional incriminating evidence, including bloody clothes and rubber gloves, which the police had found as a result of O’Malley’s confession.

UPDATE CLICK HERE

Man gets death penalty in 1992 killing of 6-year-old- Obel Cruz-Garcia


July 19, 2013 http://www.chron.com

It took more than two decades for Angelo Garcia‘s mother to see her 6-year-old son’s killer sent to death row.

On Friday, she said it was worth it.

It’s the greatest news, and it took 21 years,” the woman said after jurors sent Obel Cruz-Garcia to death row for the 1992 slaying. “It was good when they got the DNA, but this is better.”

Cruz-Garcia marks the first defendant from Harris County this year to receive the death penalty.

Over the past two weeks, jurors heard a brutal story about a home invasion that turned into a rape that turned into a kidnapping and murder. They also learned it was the sexual assault that ultimately led police to identify the 45-year-old.

Cruz-Garcia was serving time for kidnapping in Puerto Rico in 2007 when DNA from the 15-year-old rape kit tied him to the 1992 case.

Cruz-Garcia and another man were wearing ski masks when they broke in to the family’s south Houston apartment around midnight on Sept. 30, 1992.

The child’s mother and stepfather testified they were part of the defendant’s cocaine-trafficking operation. They said they were tied up while the duo ransacked the home.

The men then fled with Angelo in a car driven by a third man, who testified that Cruz-Garcia and the other suspect took the child to a Baytown lake, where he was stabbed. His remains were found in the lake about a month later.

On Monday, jurors convicted Cruz-Garcia of capital murder after deliberating about four hours. After days of more testimony, they sentenced him to die Friday.

Thinking about the time between crime and punishment left the victim’s family weeping after the verdict.

‘Waited all these years’

“We just waited all these years, all this time, and it finally happened,” said Angelo’s brother, James Garcia, with tears in his eyes.

Cruz-Garcia, who jumped bail on a felony drug case to flee the country two days after the abduction, was brought back to Houston in 2008 for trial.

Prosecutors praised the verdict after jurors deliberated about seven hours over two days.

“It’s an important decision, and sometimes it takes some people a little bit longer to get there,” said Assistant Harris County District Attorney Natalie Tise. “All in all, they weren’t deliberating all that long.”

Defense lawyers for Cruz-Garcia said they were disappointed and that the defendant is focused on his appeal.

Cruz-Garcia did not react to the verdict when read by state District Judge Renee Magee.

“He was pretty even-keeled through the entire trial,” said defense attorney Mario Madrid. “He didn’t show a lot of emotion during the trial or after trial.”

Cruz-Garcia has denied any involvement in the home invasion, the abduction or the child’s death.

Young Killers in Texas Await Change in Mandatory Life Sentences


NEW BOSTON, Tex. — Scottie Forcey nervously drummed his fingers behind the thick glass in the Telford Unit’s visiting room as the camera shutter snapped, capturing images of the 21-year-old convicted murderer.

“I want some pictures. I ain’t seen myself in like” — he paused to count on his fingers — “five years. I know I look different. Check it out.” He pressed his prison ID card against the glass. In the photo, a plumper, baby-faced 17-year-old stared at the camera.

Mr. Forcey was convicted in 2009 of fatally shooting Karen Burke, a 52-year-old Alvarado convenience store clerk. He is the youngest of 23 Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmates who received mandatory sentences of life without parole for committing capital murder when they were younger than 18.

Now, as legislators work to comply with a United States Supreme Court ruling, those inmates could become eligible for parole after serving 40 years.

The justices ruled last year that sentences of life without parole for 17-year-old murderers violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Either the courts or Gov. Rick Perry could change such sentences in Texas. But both are waiting for legislators to decide what punishment juveniles like Mr. Forcey should face. Lawmakers, who failed to pass legislation in two sessions this year, are trying now for a third time.

In Texas, 17-year-olds have faced the same sentencing options as adults convicted of capital murder: the death penalty or life without parole. In 2005, the Supreme Court prohibited the death penalty for anyone under 18, deciding that the less-developed brains of juveniles rendered them less culpable. That left only life without parole as the punishment for 17-year-olds.

After the court’s decision last year, in Miller v. Alabama, prosecutors said they had no sentencing options for 17-year-old killers. They asked lawmakers to make them subject to the same punishment Texas law requires for 14- to 16-year-old capital murderers: life with parole eligibility after 40 years.

Lance Long, a Harris County assistant district attorney, recently told lawmakers that until they decided on a sentencing option, such murder trials were being delayed across Texas.

“None of these cases are anything but very, very, very serious,” Mr. Long said.

The Texas Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee has approved a bill that would require a sentence of life with parole eligibility after 40 years. The House, however, has indicated it wants to give juries the option to sentence 17-year-olds to life without parole if other factors — like evidence of abuse or mental illness — are considered.

In previous sessions this year, both chambers approved bills addressing the sentencing question, but time ran out before they could get final approval.

Mr. Perry has told prosecutors that when lawmakers decided on a new sentencing bill, he would consider recommending commutation for inmates like Mr. Forcey who were sentenced under the old law.

“It really only seems fair and just,” said Justin Wood, the legislative liaison for the Harris County district attorney’s office in Houston.

Mr. Forcey, meanwhile, contends that he did not pull the trigger in Ms. Burke’s murder in 2008. He said he was targeted because he ran with the wrong crowd.

Now, he said, “I wouldn’t put myself in that situation.”

Mr. Forcey has spent most of the last four years in isolation, punishment for fights he said were constant when he first arrived.

“I grew up back there,” he said.

Asked about the possibility that his sentence could be commuted, Mr. Forcey was ambivalent. Forty years, he said, is too long.

Then a wide smile spread across his face. He figures he will be out by December. Mr. Forcey spent those years in isolation researching his case, he said, and plans to file an appeal.

“My mind’s already set,” he said. “I’m going home — wherever home is.”

Execution Watch: RACISM STALKS HALLS OF DEATH HOUSE AS TX PREPARES TO TAKE WOMAN’S LIFE


HUNTSVILLE, Texas – Kimberly McCarthy says jury selection in her trial was tainted by racism.

The courts have told her, in essence, “Drop dead.”

They say they won’t consider the merits of McCarthy’s appeal because her lawyers should have raised the issue sooner.

Despite the unheard claims, McCarthy remains on track to become the 500th person, and only the fourth woman, executed in Texas during the modern death-penalty era.

Execution Watch will provide live coverage and commentary of McCarthy’s execution, as well as the protests expected to take place outside the death house.

Unless a stay is issued, EXECUTION WATCH will broadcast live:
Wednesday, 26 June 2013, 6-7 PM Central Time
KPFT FM Houston 90.1 and Online…
http://executionwatch.org/ > Listen

TEXAS PLANS TO EXECUTE:
KIMBERLY McCARTHY, who has the gruesome distinction of holding ticket No. 500 in the Texas death-penalty lottery. The ex-crack addict was condemned in a 1997 robbery-slaying near Dallas. McCarthy is the former wife of New Black Panther Party founder Aaron Michaels, with whom she has a son. She is one of 10 women on Texas death row.

SHOW LINEUP
Host: RAY HILL, an ex-convict and activist who founded — and hosted for 30 years — The Prison Show on KPFT. His internet radio show airs Wednesdays at 2 PM CT.: hmsnetradio.org.

Legal Analyst: JIM SKELTON, a legal educator, retired attorney and native Texan who has seen capital trials from both the prosecution and defense tables. Joining him will be Houston criminal defense attorneys SUSAN ASHLEY, LARRY DOUGLAS, MICHAEL GILLESPIE & JACK LEE.

Reporters Outside the Death House will include GLORIA RUBAC, member, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, abolitionmovement.org, and DR. DENNIS LONGMIRE, professor of criminal justice, Sam Houston State University, shsu.edu.

Reporter, Vigil, Houston: DAVE ATWOOD, founder and former board member, Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, tcadp.org.

‘I never killed anyone’: Death Row inmate scheduled to die Thursday offers medical proof police lied about key evidence


November 13,2012 http://www.dailymail.co.uk

A death row inmate set to die Thursday is pinning his final hopes on convincing people that his victim’s dying words never happened.

When police found La Shandra Charles bleeding from neck wounds in a west Houston filed in 1988, they claimed she whispered the name of her assailant, ‘Preston,’ before dying. 

That evidence, along with the police assertion that the girl said her attacker lived nearby, were key bits of evidence in convicting Preston Hughes 11, a New York-born warehouse worker.

But Hughes attorney now says it would be medically impossible for the girl to tell police anything about her attacker and he’s got medical testimony to prove it, the Houston Chronicle reports.

‘It is simply not medically feasible that this young woman, particularly given the fact that one’s heart rate accelerates during stress, and thus blood loss occurs more rapidly, could have spoken to the officers as they claimed,’ wrote Dr. Robert White, Dr. Robert White, who was chief medical examiner in Nueces County before joining the Fort Worth forensics department.

Defense attorney Pat McCann said it would take roughly 13 minutes for police to reach Charles after she was injured, a time frame that does not allow her to be conscious by the time authorities found her with the wounds she sustained.

Assistant District Attorney Lynn Hardaway has brushed aside McCann’s argument: ‘That’s obviously this guy’s opinion.’

Hardaway further noted that in the original police report an unnamed medical technician is supposed to have heard the dying girl’s accusation.

But the technician never testified. 

A state pardons board is to review Hughe’s request to have his sentence commuted Tuesday.

Hughes, 46, was convicted of the murders of both Charles and her cousin, Marcel Taylor, 3, who was also stabbed.

At the time of his arrest, Hughes was on probation for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl, though he maintained innocence in that crime as well.

After his in the 1988 case, he offered two confessions to police but they contained contradictory statements.

In an interview at the time, he said the police didn’t type what he said.

He claimed that on the night of the murder he met with friends for drinks.

When he returned home he took his dog for a walk, crossing the field where the children were murdered.

He then went back to his apartment where he stayed until police knocked on his door.

‘I didn’t hear or see anything,’ he said. ‘I never killed anyone.

Katrina evacuee on Texas death row gets life term – Roosevelt Smith Jr.


November 7, 2012 http://www.chron.com

DALLAS  — A Louisiana man’s death sentence in Texas has been reduced to life in prison without parole in the killing of a woman who helped him when he relocated after Hurricane Katrina.

Attorneys for 50-year-old Roosevelt Smith Jr. contended he’s mentally impaired and ineligible for execution under Supreme Court guidelines.

A state-appointed psychologist determined Smith was impaired. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday agreed.

Smith, who was from Napoleonville, La., was condemned for beating and strangling 77-year-old Betty Blair in October 2005 at her home in Pasadena, just east of Houston. She’d been helping evacuees at a church and hired Smith and others to do odd jobs. He earlier had several burglary convictions and prison stints in Louisiana

TEXAS-Death penalty sought in killing of Montgomery County mom, abduction of baby -Verna McClain


October 18, 2012 http://www.chron.com

Montgomery County prosecutors on Thursday announced they will seek the death penalty against a Houston woman accused of abducting a newborn boy and fatally shooting his mother in April.

Verna McClain, 30, is charged with capital murder in the death of Kala Golden Schuchardt and is being held in the Montgomery County Jail without bail.

Montgomery County District AttorneyBrett Ligon declined to discuss the factors he considered in making his decision, saying he wanted to avoid pre-trial publicity.

“I’ll let the notice speak for itself,” Ligon said.

Authorities say McClain shot and killed 28-year-old Schuchardt on April 17 in the parking lot of Northwoods Pediatric Center in Spring before placing the woman’s newborn, Keegan Schuchardt, in her car and speeding off.

Police located the 3-day-old infant, safe and unharmed, later that evening at McClain’s home in Houston. The boy was with McClain’s sister, police said.

These two men were both 19 when they were sentenced to death


Anthony Cardell Haynes

Anthony Haynes claimed he didn’t know that Kent Kincaid was a Houston police sergeant when he shot him in the head back in 1998. Kincaid was off-duty and driving his personal vehicle when Haynes drove by; something cracked Kincaid’s windshield, and he reportedly thought Haynes had thrown something at him. He followed Haynes, and when the 19-year-old stopped his car, Kincaid approached him. Kincaid said he was a police officer, but Haynes later said he didn’t know whether to believe him. When Kincaid reached behind his back, presumably for a badge, Haynes pulled out a .25-caliber gun and shot him.

Anthony Haynes

Anthony Haynes

Haynes blamed the tragedy in part on drugs and falling in with a bad crowd of people who reportedly made a game out of shooting at the windshields of passing cars and then robbing the drivers after they stopped. As it happened, the crack in Kincaid’s windshield was made by a bullet. Jurors in Haynes’ case deliberated for three days before sentencing the teen to death.

That sentence was overturned, however, after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Haynes’ defense that an unusual jury-selection setup in Haynes’ case had denied his right to equal protection under law. Indeed, two different judges presided over Haynes’ jury selection; one heard prosecutors interview individual jurors, and a second heard the lawyers’ arguments for striking from service the potential jurors. As it turned out, the state used its power to strike all but one of the black potential jurors, arguing that it was not their race that excluded them (which would be illegal), but their “demeanor.” But Haynes’ appeal attorney argued that the judge who allowed those strikes had not actually witnessed the jurors’ questioning and thus could not actually have seen whether their demeanor would be a basis on which to have them struck. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately disagreed with the 5th Circuit, ruling that there was no rule that would require a judge to “personally observe” the juror questioning when deciding whether a juror is lawfully struck from service.

Haynes is scheduled for execution today, Oct. 18. STAYED

Bobby Lee Hines

Hines

Hines

Bobby Lee Hines was also just 19 when he was sentenced to death for the robbery and strangling of 26-year-old Michelle Haupt in her Dallas apartment. Now, 20 years later, he’s scheduled to die for that crime on Oct. 24. But his attorney, Lydia Brandt, argues that Hines’ execution should, once again, be stayed while the courts consider whether his lawyers have done enough to save his life.

Hines was convicted of the 1991 murder of Haupt, who was stabbed repeatedly with an ice pick and strangled with a cord inside her apartment. Hines had been staying next door with the apartment complex’s maintenance man. Police found items from Haupt’s apartment, including packs of cigarettes and a bowl of pennies, under a couch where Hines had been sleeping.

Hines’ first date with death was stayed in 2003, while the courts considered a claim that he was mentally retarded and thus ineligible for execution. Although Hines had a diagnosed learning disability and was considered emotionally disturbed, the courts ruled that he didn’t meet the criteria for relief. His execution date was reset for June 2012, but was stayed again so that further DNA testing could be performed. The DNA evidence confirmed Hines’ guilt and once again his execution was back on.

Now, Brandt is again seeking a stay, arguing that Hines’ case has been plagued by ineffective assistance of counsel. Brandt’s latest appeal, filed Oct. 10 with the Court of Criminal Appeals, argues that none of Hines’ defense attorneys ever investigated his background for mitigating evidence that could have swayed a jury to sentence him to life in prison. Hines had a “nightmarish” childhood that featured chronic abuse by his racist, alcoholic father, and later by foster parents, and was profoundly affected by his mother’s decision to abandon him as a young child. But the jury never heard anything of Hines’ troubled background. The question now before the CCA is whether the prior counsel’s failings can create an avenue for reconsidering Hines’ punishment. Brandt believes it should: “Fundamental rules of equity will not suffer a right to be without a remedy,” reads the appeal

TEXAS – Man on death row for Houston slaying loses appeal – Jamie McCoskey


May 30, 2012  Source : http://www.chron.com

HOUSTON — A federal appeals court has rejected an appeal from a Texas death row inmate condemned for the slaying of a Houston man abducted from his apartment and fatally stabbed more than 20 years ago.

Attorneys for 47-year-old Jamie McCoskey contended instructions to the jury at his 1993 trial were improper. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals late Tuesday rejected the claims, moving McCoskey closer to execution for the death of 20-year-old Michael Dwyer. Dwyer’s fiancé also was abducted and taken to an abandoned Houston home where Dwyer was killed and she was raped. She later identified McCoskey as the attacker.

McCoskey already had been convicted of kidnapping in Travis County, was a two-time parole violator and was released from prison six months before the November 1991 abductions and slaying.