US Supreme Court

Former Alabama Chief Justice, lieutenant governor back new trial for death row inmate


March 19, A group of 14 former judges and prosecutors — including a former Alabama lieutenant governor and a former Alabama Chief Justice — urged a Jefferson County judge Tuesday to set a new trial for a death row inmate convicted in 1998.

In two of seven friend-of-the-court briefs filed with the Jefferson County Circuit Court on Tuesday morning, the signatories wrote that the court should follow the guidance of Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr, who said the court should grant Toforest Johnson a new trial amid questions about the conduct in the first. 

“The DA’s decision to vacate Mr. Johnson’s conviction is a heavy one made after an exhaustive investigation of the surrounding circumstances and irregularities leading to his conviction; this weighty decision should be given significant deference by the Court,” said a brief signed by former Alabama Chief Justice Drayton Nabers; former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Ralph Cook; former Alabama State Bar President Bill Clark; retired Judge William Bowen and attorney Bobby Segall. “To disregard District Attorney Carr’s decision would frustrate the exact duties he was elected to perform and further undermine public confidence in our criminal justice system.”

Toforest Johnson’s conviction

A jury convicted Johnson in 1998 of the 1995 murder of William Hardy, a Jefferson County deputy sheriff. Hardy was working as a private security guard at a Birmingham hotel when he was shot and killed in the hotel’s parking lot early in the morning of July 19, 1995. Police arrested Johnson and charged him with murder a few hours later. 

No physical evidence linked Johnson to the scene, and Johnson, 48, maintains his innocence. A jury could not reach a verdict in the first trial, but a jury in a second trial convicted Johnson. After the conviction, Johnson’s attorneys learned that a witness for the prosecution named Violet Ellison received $5,000 from the state after approaching the police in response to a reward offered. 

Johnson’s attorneys filed a motion known as a Brady claim, saying prosecutors withheld evidence that could have raised questions about the witness’ credibility. State courts upheld the conviction, but the U.S. Supreme Court ordered new hearings on the Brady claim in 2017. 

Last year, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Teresa T. Pulliam denied Johnson’s Brady claim, ruling that Johnson had not established “by a preponderance of the evidence” that Ellison “either came forward or gave testimony out of a ‘hope of reward,’ or that the state had knowledge of such motivation at or before the time of the trial.” 

But in June, Carr said Johnson should get a new trial, citing issues with Ellison and other witnesses and the fact that prosecutors could not settle on a theory of the case. 

“A prosecutor’s duty is not merely to secure convictions, but to seek justice,” Carr wrote in a brief to the court.

Toforest Johnson

ILLINOIS -Man convicted in 1970 slaying to ask for release – Calvin Madison


february 3, 2014 (http://thesouthern.com)

ROCKFORD, Ill. (AP) — A man originally sentenced to death who has spent 44 years behind bars in the slaying of a Rockford gas station attendant is scheduled to make his 33rd plea for freedom.

Calvin Madison, 66, appears to have a chance to win his release from Graham Correction Center after last year when five members of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board — three short of the number needed to be granted parole — voted last year to release him. His co-defendant in the case, Thomas Ray Charles, was released from prison in 1986 after he was sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison.

Madison is scheduled to appear before a member of the Illinois Review Board on March 4, and the entire board is expected to decide on May 1 whether or not Madison should be released.

The Rockford Register Star (http://bit.ly/1n5Wih6 ) reported Sunday that Madison’s family has started to encourage people to write letters in favor of Madison’s release and the family of the victim, 19-year-old John Hogan, is arguing against his release.

The slaying took place on Jan, 22, 1970, at the Gas-For-Less service station in Rockford. According to the newspaper, when Madison and Charles ordered him to hand over money, Hogan did as he was told and gave them about $100 in cash.

Then, Madison forced Hogan into a restroom, ordered him to his knees and shot him four times in the back of the head with a pistol.

“It was premeditated murder — there’s no other way of looking at it,” said Hogan’s brother, Terry.

Madison, who was sentenced to death in 1970, was resentenced in 1972 to 75-100 years in prison after the U.S. Supreme Court suspended the death penalty in the United States in 1972. The court ultimately reinstated the death penalty a few years later.

UPCOMING EXECUTION: Florida’s Narrow Interpretation of Mental Competency Leads to New Date


 

Florida has set an August 5 execution date for John Ferguson, a death row inmate who has suffered from severe mental illness for more than four decades. As far back as 1965, Ferguson was found to experience visual hallucinations. He was sent to mental institutions and was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic, delusional, and aggressive. In 1975, a mental health doctor described Ferguson as “dangerous and cannot be released under any circumstances.” Nevertheless, he was released less than a year later. Ferguson believes he is the “Prince of God” and is being executed so can save the world. Ferguson’s attorneys recently filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court, asserting that Florida courts have applied the wrong standard for mental competency, ignoring the current interpretation of this issue by the High Court, which requires that an inmate have a rational understanding of why he is being executed. An earlier editorial in the Tampa Bay Times opposing Ferguson’s execution, agreed, “Florida is embracing an interpretation of competency for execution so pinched that it would virtually extinguish limits on executing the severely mentally ill. The state says Ferguson is aware that he is being put to death and that he committed murder, and is therefore competent to be executed.”

(“Scott Sets New Date For Executing Mass Killer,” Associated Press, July 24, 2013; Editorial Board, “State shouldn’t execute severely mentally ill killer,” Tampa Bay Times, November 2012; Read Ferguson’s petition to U.S. Supreme Court). See American Bar Association’s amicus brief on behalf of Ferguson.

Georgia has set an execution date of July 15 for Warren Hill (update)


Georgia has set an execution date of July 15 for Warren Hill, despite his pending petition before the U.S. Supreme Court demonstrating that all of the physicians who have examined Hill agree he is intellectually disabled. People suffering from intellectual disability (mental retardation) are constitutionally barred from execution. (Atlanta Journal Constitution, July 3, 2013). This is the exceptional and rare case where there is clear proof an inmate is ineligible for the death penalty and the U.S. Supreme Court is the only avenue for relief.

rrelated articlee  warren hill

GEORGIA – WARREN HILL awaits appeals decisions to stave off scheduled today at 7:00 p.m STAYED – New update july 4


Update : july 4. 2012

Georgia has set an execution date of July 15 for Warren Hill, despite his pending petition before the U.S. Supreme Court demonstrating that all of the physicians who have examined Hill agree he is intellectually disabled. People suffering from intellectual disability (mental retardation) are constitutionally barred from execution. (Atlanta Journal Constitution, July 3, 2013). This is the exceptional and rare case where there is clear proof an inmate is ineligible for the death penalty and the U.S. Supreme Court is the only avenue for relief.

 

Murderer Warren Hill will die Monday evening unless his attorneys can find a court that believes his mental capacity is diminished enough that it would be unconstitutional to execute him, or if a judge finds fault with the state’s new method of execution.

If he is executed as planned, Hill will be the first in Georgia to be put to death using only one drug — the powerful barbiturate pentobarbital — instead the three that the state has been using in combination since 2008.

Hill still has appeals based on the mental retardation issue pending in the Georgia and U.S. Supreme Courts. And on Monday a Fulton County Superior Court judge is scheduled to hear the issue of the Department of Corrections’ sudden change in its lethal injection protocol from three drugs to one drug. Last Tuesday, the day before Hill was initially scheduled to die, the prison system announced it was abandoning the three-drug cocktail — a sedative followed by the paralytic pancuronium bromide and then potassium chloride, which stops the heart. It was replaced with a single drug process, pentobarbital, the same as in six other states [a seventh uses a different sedative].

Later, on Monday evening, there will be vigils held in 11 Georgia cites to express outrage that the state is executing a mentally retarded man.

“In other states, Hill would not face the ultimate punishment due to his disability,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of Amnesty International USA.”Unless the Supreme Court steps in to prevent this execution, the state of Georgia will have committed a terrible injustice.”

Hill was condemned for using a nail-studded 2-by-6 board in 1990 to beat to death fellow prisoner Joseph Handspike. At that time Hill was already incarcerated for murdering his 18-year-old girlfriend.

The judge presiding over the 1991 trial for Handspike’s murder found Hill, with an IQ of 70, was more likely than not to be mentally disabled. But the judge also determined that the lawyer representing Hill at the time had not proven his mental disability beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard set in 1988 when Georgia became the first state to prohibit executing the mentally

If he is executed as planned, Hill will be the first in Georgia to be put to death using only one drug — the powerful barbiturate pentobarbital — instead the three that the state has been using in combination since 2008.

Hill still has appeals based on the mental retardation issue pending in the Georgia and U.S. Supreme Courts. And on Monday a Fulton County Superior Court judge is scheduled to hear the issue of the Department of Corrections’ sudden change in its lethal injection protocol from three drugs to one drug. Last Tuesday, the day before Hill was initially scheduled to die, the prison system announced it was abandoning the three-drug cocktail — a sedative followed by the paralytic pancuronium bromide and then potassium chloride, which stops the heart. It was replaced with a single drug process, pentobarbital, the same as in six other states [a seventh uses a different sedative].

Later, on Monday evening, there will be vigils held in 11 Georgia cites to express outrage that the state is executing a mentally retarded man.

“In other states, Hill would not face the ultimate punishment due to his disability,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of Amnesty International USA.”Unless the Supreme Court steps in to prevent this execution, the state of Georgia will have committed a terrible injustice.”

Hill was condemned for using a nail-studded 2-by-6 board in 1990 to beat to death fellow prisoner Joseph Handspike. At that time Hill was already incarcerated for murdering his 18-year-old girlfriend.

The judge presiding over the 1991 trial for Handspike’s murder found Hill, with an IQ of 70, was more likely than not to be mentally disabled. But the judge also determined that the lawyer representing Hill at the time had not proven his mental disability beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard set in 1988 when Georgia became the first state to prohibit executing the mentally disabled.

Since then, the U.S. Supreme Court said it has said it is unconstitutional to to execute the mentally retarded who are at “special risk of wrongful execution.” But also in that 2002 decision, the justices left it up to the states to determine what was required to show mental retardation; Georgia has the strictest standard.

“Mildly mentally retarded individuals like Warren Hill frequently defy the stereotypical image we often have of persons with the disability in part because they tend to make efforts to hide the symptoms,” wrote Hill’s attorney, Brian Kammer. He said if a defendant can prove retardation beyond a reasonable doubt, then he is likely so severely retarded that if he went to trial the death penalty would not be an option. “He may even be found incompetent to stand trial. This leaves the majority of mentally retarded persons in the criminal justice system, who are mildly mentally retarded, in the lurch, because it is the mildly mentally retarded whose symptoms can mislead … about the significance or even the existence of the disability.”

Docket from  Supreme court

No. 12A57
Title:
Warren Lee Hill, Jr., Applicant
v.
Carl Humphrey, Warden
Docketed:
Linked with 11-10109, 11-10109
Lower Ct: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
  Case Nos.: (08-15444)
~~~Date~~~ ~~~~~~~Proceedings  and  Orders~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Jul 16 2012 Application (12A57) for a stay of execution of sentence of death, submitted to Justice Thomas.

~~Name~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~Address~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~Phone~~~
Attorneys for Petitioner:
James W. Ellis 1117 Stanford Drive, NE (505) 277-2146
Albuquerque, NM  87131
Party name: Warren Lee Hill, Jr.
Attorneys for Respondent:
Beth A. Burton Senior Assistant Attorney General (404) 656-3499
    Counsel of Record Office of the Attorney General
40 Capitol Square, S.W.
Atlanta, GA  30334-1300
Party name: Carl Humphrey, Warden
Other:
Sheri Lynn Johnson Professor of Law (607) 255-6478
Cornell Law School
108 Myron Taylor Hall
Ithaca, NY  14853

TEXAS – Yokamon Hearn – EXECUTION JULY 18, 2012 – URGENT ACTION FROM AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL


Picture of Offender

Name
TDCJ Number
Date of Birth
Hearn, Yokamon L. 999292 11/06/78
Date Received
Age (when Received)
Education Level
12/31/98 20 10 years
Date of Offense
Age (at the Offense)
County
03/26/98 19 Dallas

FROM AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

URGENT ACTION
TEXAS SET TO KILL ANOTHER YOUNG OFFENDER

pdf file 
Yokamon Hearn is scheduled to be executed in Texas on the evening of 18 July for a murder committed in 1998, when he was 19 years old. His lawyers maintain that he has a mental disability that would render his execution unconstitutional.
Yokamon Laneal Hearn was sentenced to death for the murder of 23-year-old stockbroker Joseph Franklin (Frank) Meziere, committed in Dallas in March 1998. Frank Meziere was shot in the head 10 times after being abducted by four youths who wanted to steal his car. All four were charged with capital murder. According to the prosecution, Yokamon Hearn had fired six of the 10 shots while another of the suspects, Delvin Diles, had fired four. After the Hearn trial, the prosecution offered Delvin Diles a plea deal under which he would waive trial by jury and avoid the possibility of the death penalty. Delvin Diles, aged 18 at the time of the shooting, pleaded guilty to capital murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1999. The other two co-defendants, aged 19 and 20 at the time of the crime, pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and were sentenced to 10 years in prison.
In addition to Yokamon Hearn’s youth at the time of the crime – he was 19 years old – there is evidence that he has a
developmental mental disability. His lawyers assert that this impairment amounts to “mental retardation” and that his
execution would therefore be unconstitutional under the June 2002 US Supreme Court decision Atkins v. Virginia which prohibited the execution of offenders with such a disability. Yokamon Hearn’s “Atkins claim”, however, has run into the problem that he has achieved IQ scores higher than what is normally considered to be an indicator of “mental retardation”. His lawyers have obtained expert opinion that, despite his IQ scores, his disability nonetheless amounts to retardation and that he should still qualify for Atkins relief. The courts have disagreed.
In sworn statements given in 2006, Yokoman Hearn’s three co-defendants described him as a teenager in 1998 who was a follower not a leader. Their statements and other evidence of his conduct during and after the murder are
supportive of claims that his actions were those of an immature and impaired individual rather than the result of a planning and calculating intellect. Delvin Diles recalled that it had been his idea, not Hearn’s, to kill Frank Meziere. The other two recalled that before they went to commit robbery there had been no plan to kill anyone.
Since resuming executions in 1982, Texas has killed at least 70 people in its execution chamber who were aged 17, 18 or 19 at the time of the crimes in question. More than half of these teenagers were African American, of whom 70 per cent were convicted of crimes involving white victims. Yokamon Hearn is one of at least 40 prisoners now on death row in Texas for crimes committed when they were 18 or 19. More than half of them, like Yokamon Hearn, are black. Frank Meziere was white.


Please write immediately, in English or your own language, citing Yokamon Hearn’s Inmate No. #999292:
Explaining that you are not seeking to excuse the murder of Frank Meziere or to downplay the suffering caused;
 Noting evidence of Yokamon Hearn’s mental disability and that he was only 19 at the time of the crime;
 Opposing the execution of Yokamon Hearn and calling for his death sentence to be commuted.


PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 18 JULY 2012 TO:
Clemency Section, Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
8610 Shoal Creek Blvd. Austin, TX 78757-6814, USA
Fax: 011 512 467 0945
Email: bpp-pio@tdcj.state.tx.us
Salutation: Dear Board members
Governor Rick Perry, Office of the Governor,
PO Box 12428, Austin, Texas 78711-2428, USA
Fax: 011 512 463 1849
Salutation: Dear Governor

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Yokamon Hearn was about 20 minutes from execution on 4 March 2004 when he was granted a stay by the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to give the courts more time to consider his “Atkins claim”. In the Atkins ruling, the US Supreme Court had not defined mental retardation, although it pointed to definitions used by professional bodies. Under such definitions, mental retardation is a disability, manifested before the age of 18, characterized by significantly sub-average intellectual functioning (generally indicated by an IQ of less than 70) accompanied by limitations in two or more adaptive skill areas such as communication, self-care, work, and functioning in the community. The Court left it to the states as to how to comply with the ruling. Today, a decade after the Atkins ruling, the Texas legislature has still not enacted a law to comply with it. In the absence of such legislation, in 2004 the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA) issued temporary guidelines. Success on Yokamon Hearn’s Atkins claim became less likely in 2006 when his IQ was assessed as high as 93.
However, his lawyers obtained expert opinion concluding that he had structural brain dysfunction, possibly as a result of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome caused by his teenage mother’s alcohol abuse during pregnancy with him, and that his impairment still amounts to mental retardation. In 2008, a US District Court concluded that Yokamon Hearn had made a prima facie showing of mental retardation. This federal judge eventually sent the case back to the Texas courts where in 2010 the TCCA ruled against Yokamon Hearn, while noting that the Texas legislature had, eight years on, failed to enact legislation to enforce the Atkins ruling. The TCCA said that, “without significantly greater assistance from the legislature” it would adhere to its 2004 guidelines, including the “about 70” language in relation to IQ, which it took to represent a “rough ceiling, above which a finding of mental retardation in the capital context is precluded”. The Fifth Circuit ruled against Hearn in January 2012, noting that the US Supreme Court had explicitly left it up to states as to how to comply with the Atkins ruling, and that “it would be wholly inappropriate for this court, by judicial fiat, to tell the States how to conduct an inquiry into a defendant’s mental retardation”.
In its 2005 ruling prohibiting the death penalty against anyone who was under 18 at the time of the crime (Roper v. Simmons) the US Supreme Court recognized the immaturity, impulsiveness, poor judgment and underdeveloped sense of responsibility associated with youth, as well as the susceptibility of young people to “outside pressures, including peer pressure.” The Court also acknowledged that “the qualities that distinguish juveniles from adults do not disappear when an individual turns 18.” Indeed, scientific research shows that brain development continues into a person’s 20s. In 1993, in the case of a Texas death row prisoner who was 19 at the time of the crime, the Supreme Court had emphasised that: “youth is more than a chronological fact. It is a time and condition of life when a person
may be most susceptible to influence and to psychological damage. A lack of maturity and an underdeveloped sense
of responsibility are found in youth more often than in adults… These qualities often result in impetuous and illconsidered actions and decisions.”
Before the Atkins ruling in 2002, Texas accounted for more executions of people with “mental retardation” than any other state in the USA. Before the Roper ruling in 2005, Texas accounted for more executions of people under 18 at the time of the crime than any other state. Texas accounts for some 37 per cent of the national judicial death toll, which currently stands at 1,296 since 1976 when the US Supreme Court allowed executions to resume under revised state laws. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases. Yokamon Hearn is scheduled to become
the 483rd person to be put to death in Texas since it resumed executions in 1982. There have been 19 executions in the USA so far in 2012, five of them in Texas.
For further information on Yokamon Hearn’s case, see ‘USA: Senseless killing after senseless killing: Texas inmate
with mental disability claim facing execution for murder committed as teenager’, June 2012,
http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR51/042/2012/en
Name: Yokamon Laneal Hearn (m)
Issues: Death penalty, Legal concern
UA: 166/12
Issue Date: 7 June 2012
Country: USA