High School and College Level Educational Materials on the Death Penalty

Did you know that the Death Penalty Information Center has compiled curricula on the death penalty for both the high school and college level?  

From the DPIC website:

Our award-winning high school curriculum, Educational Curriculum on the Death Penalty, includes 10-day lesson plans, interactive maps and exercises, and a presentation of pros and cons on the death penalty for discussion and debate. It is also available as a free iBook for the Apple iPad. The iBook version incorporates the interactivity and user-friendly interface of a tablet, including touch-screen navigation, access to the full curriculum even when offline, and use of standard iBook features, such as definitions and note-taking. For instructions on downloading the iBook, click here.

Our college-level curriculum, Capital Punishment in Context, contains detailed case studies of individuals who were sentenced to death in the U.S. The curriculum provides a complete narrative of each case, along with original resources, such as homicide reports, affidavits, and transcripts of testimony from witnesses. The narratives are followed by a discussion of the issues raised by each case, enabling students to research further into a broad variety of topics. Both curricula have special materials for those who register. They are widely used by educators in the U.S. and around the world in the fields of civics, criminal justice, sociology, and many other areas.

 

Inspector General's Report of FBI Review of Death Penalty Cases

Last month, the Department of Justice released a report from the Inspector General's Office about the work of the FBI in death penalty cases.  It's shocking.  

READ THE REPORT ONLINE HERE, "An Assessment of the 1996 Department of Justice Task Force Review of the FBI Laboratory." 

 

 Specifically, the Inspector General compiled a report on how the Federal Bureau of Investigation FAILED to give proper notice to Death Row inmates that their cases were being reviewed as possibly having had FBI experts giving bad, wrong, "inaccurate" testimony at their criminal trial.

That's right: the FBI crime lab testimony was wrong in cases where people were facing the death penalty.  

From the Inspector General:  

"[T]he FBI did not take sufficient steps to ensure that the capital cases were the Task Force’s top priority. We found that it took the FBI almost 5 years to identify the 64 defendants on death row whose cases involved analyses or testimony by 1 or more of the 13 examiners.

The Department did not notify state authorities that convictions of capital defendants could be affected by involvement of any of the 13 criticized examiners. Therefore, state authorities had no basis to consider delaying scheduled executions."

How bad is this?  We know of THREE PEOPLE who were executed before the FBI let them or their lawyers know that this review of FBI testimony was underway.  

There may be more.  

The Inspector General is recommending that all physical evidence in a Death Penalty case be re-tested for 24 another Death Row inmates who either died while awaiting execution or who have already been executed. 

Jodi Arias Will Defend Herself in Penalty Phase of Death Penalty Trial

Today, Jodi Arias was granted her request to represent herself in the second part of her Arizona death penalty trial.  The second phase of the trial is called the "penalty phase" and it's here that factors are considered in deciding whether or not she should be sentenced to death for the 2008 crime of killing Travis Alexander.  

For those following the Jodi Arias case, you'll remember that the jury convicted her of first degree murder but failed to come to an agreement on capital punishment.  The prosecution was granted a second trial for the penalty phase, and that's going to go forward now with Arias representing herself.

Stand-by Counsel for Jodi Arias

She'll probably get a stand-by counsel here.  

You'll recall that Terence Lenamon recently acted in this role in the Michel Escoto case, when Escoto was allowed to represent himself here in Florida.  

Watch Terry during his Dateline NBC interview on the Escoto trial here.  

Penalty Phase: What Jodi Arias Must Prove as Her Own Lawyer

During the penalty phase, the prosecution will present aggravating factors that support the death penalty for Jodi Arias.  

She will be responsible for presenting mitigating factors (something that Terry is known to be proficient at -- presenting mitigation as a reason to not sentence someone to death).  

Arizona's mitigating factors are any evidence relevant to “any aspect of the defendant’s character, propensities or record and any of the circumstances of the offense.”

In order for the prosecutor to get a sentence of capital punishment for Jodi Arias, see A.R.S. § 13-751:

There must be 2 findings:

1. proof has been provided beyond a reasonable doubt of one or more aggravating circumstance under the 14 aggravating circumstances listed in A.R.S. § 13-751(F), and

2.  there is no proof of mitigating circumstances "sufficiently substantial to call for leniency.” A.R.S. § 13-751(E).

 

Lenamon's Client, Last Defendant in $200 Million Medicare Fraud Trial, Faces Guilty Jury Verdict

This was a big deal: a $200 Million Medicare Fraud operation where around 40 people have been sentenced to prison time for doing things like submitting false invoices to Medicare for mental health services that never happened.

This week, a federal jury came back with a verdict on the last 2 defendants in this big Department of Justice investigation into this South Florida Medicare Fraud enterprise involving seven American Therapeutic Clinics scattered in different cities and lots of players.

The big guns have already been dealt with by the justice system and are behind bars.

Terence Lenamon represented one of the last two defendants in the sting — Roger Bergman, a 65 year old physician’s assistant, and Mr. Bergman was found guilty by the jury this week. Bergman and his co-defendant, a 55 year old patient recruiter named Rodolfo Santaya, will be sentenced by a federal judge at a sentencing hearing in the future.

SInce this is an ongoing case, Terry Lenamon’s position on Mr. Bergman’s situation in this complicated, immense fraud can best be described by language taken from Terry Lenamon’s Closing Statement in the trial (p. 1242):

Because what's really going on here is Roger Bergman is a physician's assistant trying to make a living. And when he's working day in and day out, he's not thinking about committing Medicare fraud or falsifying information, he's thinking about, you know, my car broke down this morning and I may not be able to make it in. And I got to make up for those files so I can dictate those files because what I do is very simple. This is what Roger Bergman does.

And don't let the government fool you about his responsibility. He's a physician's assistant. He takes the place of a physician legally. He interviews them. He does two things. He does a note and he does an initial evaluation. He gets paid $30 for the initial evaluation and $15 for a note. It may take him five minutes to do a note, it may take him ten, it may take him 15 to do an initial evaluation, it may take him 20.
But when he is done, he writes it on a yellow pad. Those yellow pads are kept, were kept and destroyed by the government. And then he dictates that information and it's supposed to be madeinto a chart. …

Prediction: Win on appeal.

 

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Death Penalty by US County: HuffPo Infographic

 

Florida Supreme Court Changes Rules for Death Penalty Appeals (Read Order)

The Florida Supreme Court  has issued its Order that changes the Florida appellate process in death penalty cases. 

 

The changes include what is required before a Florida attorney can represent someone in a capital case.  approved a series of changes Thursday aimed at improving the death-penalty appeals process.

Read the complete Order here: 

 

Florida Supreme Court Overturns 30-Yr Death Penalty Conviction Orders New Trial for Paul Hildwin

Paul Hildwin resides on Florida’s Death Row, having been sentenced to death for the 1985 killing of Vronzettie Cox who had been raped before she was strangled to death and her body left to be found in the trunk of a car.

 
For three decades, Mr. Hildwin has lived behind bars as a man awaiting execution — until now.
 
The Florida Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for Paul Hildwin and it’s not clear if the Florida prosecutor is going to re-try the case, given the language of the High Court’s opinion.  
 
 
 
 
DNA Evidence and FBI Expert’s Flawed Trial Testimony
 
What’s happened here?  New DNA evidence has been presented that absolutely guts the evidence that was presented by the state’s prosecutors at Hildwin’s criminal trial.  
 
During his 1985 trial, an FBI expert testified that fluids collected at the Hernando County crime scene matched with Mr. Hildwin  — and he also testified that these fluids could not have come from the victim’s boyfriend.  
 
Now, DNA evidence establishes the exact opposite is true.  The fluids could not have originated with Paul Hildwin:  they match the boyfriend, a man already behind bars on two sexual assault convictions.
 
 
In light of the evidence presented at trial, and considering the cumulative effect of all evidence that has been developed through Hildwin’s postconviction proceedings, we conclude that the totality of the evidence is of “such nature that it would probably produce an acquittal on retrial” because the newly discovered DNA evidence “weakens the case against [the defendant] so as to give rise to a reasonable doubt as to his culpability.

In sum, newly discovered evidence now establishes that the DNA found on the victim’s underwear and on the washcloth at the crime scene belong to Haverty.  The fact that the DNA on the washcloth was saliva that matches Haverty is significant because it supports Hildwin’s story that he saw the killer wipe his face with a “white rag.”  In other words, the jury had to decide between two suspicious  people—both of whom had a motive.  
 
Erroneous scientific evidence presented at  trial, in addition to the newly discovered evidence identifying the DNA on both items as Haverty’s, is significant evidence.
 
In considering the evidence at trial, the newly discovered evidence at issue now, as well as admissible evidence previously  discovered in prior postconviction proceedings, we conclude that this newly  discovered evidence “weakens the case against [the defendant] so as to give rise to  a reasonable doubt as to his culpability.”  Jones II, 709 So. 2d at 526.”
 
 
 
  
 

Movie "Dead Man Walking" Now Available on Netflix

 

The movie "Dead Man Walking" is now available for streaming on your smartphone, tablet, computer, or TV, via Netflix.  If you are interested at all in the death penalty or capital punishment issues, then this is a Must See Film.

Click here for details.  

Must-See Video: Death Penalty Information Center's 2013 Roundup

John Ruthell Henry Executed by the State of Florida

On June 19, 2014, the State of Florida executed John Ruthell Henry, rounding out a 24 hour period where three different executions took place in the United States -- the first executions since that horrible event back in April, where Oklahoma's lethal execution went terribly wrong.  

The United States Supreme Court declined to act in any last-minute blocking of the June 19th execution, despite concern by many that Henry was not mentally competent to undergo capital punishment.  (See our earlier post, "Will Florida Execute John Ruthell Henry Next Week?".) 

Apparently, lethal injections are still going strong in the United States despite what happened in April -- and regardless of the controversy over using these drugs as ways to kill people.

Will Florida Execute John Ruthell Henry Next Week?

 Now that the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that Florida’s method of deciding if someone can or cannot be executed if they suffer from a mental disability has been ruled unconstitutional (read our posts on Hall v. Florida here), many people may assume that it’s automatic that Death Row inmates with mental disabilities will be spared execution.

You’d be wrong.

Florida Death Row Inmate John Ruthell Henry – Mental State Bars Execution?

Right now, John Henry sits on Florida Death Row, having been convicted and sentenced to die for the three homicides, including the murder of his wife and and her son.   His lawyers are arguing that Henry’s mental state precludes execution – that Henry suffers from hallucinations, delusions, and is not mentally sane.

He is scheduled to die next Wednesday.

Florida Governor Rick Scott Orders Evaluation

On May 2, 2014, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed the death warrant allowing Mr. Henry’s capital punishment to proceed. See the Florida Capital Resource Center’s Active Warrants Page here.

On May 14th, Gov. Scott changed things with his Executive Order where Scott appointed 3 doctors to examine Henry to decide his current mental state.

Florida Supreme Court Denies Appeal

Today, the Florida Supreme Court denied an appeal filed by John Ruthell Henry’s counsel, based upon the SCOTUS Hall v. Florida precedent, which argued that Henry should not be executed because he is intellectually disabled and the Eighth Amendment therefore bars the death penalty.

The Florida High Court determined that since “intellectual disability” involves "significantly subaverage general functioning" and John Henry can communicate, is able to form relationships, and more, he does not meet the “intellectual disability” legal standard and this cannot form the basis of thwarting capital punishment in his situation.

John Henry faces an execution by the State of Florida next Wednesday, June 18, at  6 p.m. -- Will this happen? 

SCOTUS Finds Florida Death Penalty Statute Re Mentally Disabled Unconstitutional in Hall v Florida

 Today, the United States Supreme Court held that the Florida statutory method for determining who is mentally disabled as a mitigating factor that bars the imposition of the death penalty to be UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

From SCOTUS:

"The State’s threshold requirement, as interpreted by the Florida Supreme Court, is unconstitutional."

Read the entire opinion in the Terence Lenamon Online Library.

 

 

Lethal Injection as an Execution Method may be Doomed as Tennessee Returns to Electric Chair

 

Back in January, we asked if states would be returning to former methods of execution, specifically the electric chair, and now it appears that Tennessee has decided to do exactly that, at least if the Governor of the State of Tennessee gets his way on things.

Thing is — that electric chair form of execution is not swift or pain-free as discussed in our earlier post (with a link to some pretty graphic examples of Florida’s experience with the electric chair).

Of course, there are other legal options out there to lethal injection: gas chambers and firing squads and hanging.  

Just last year, a New York law professor wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times offering his opinion that states should return to the firing squad. He got lots of support.

For a list of states with alternative execution methods on the books to lethal injection, go here. ]

What the Tennessee Governor is doing is more than recognizing that the electric chair can be an alternative method of execution; he is seeking to replace lethal injection with the electric chair.

Tennessee was one of the first states to have a big problem with lethal injection executions because of a supply problem, and it was back in February 2011 that Tennessee decided to go ahead with an execution using the same drug that vets use to put down pets, pentobarbital. 

So, will Tennessee executions go forward with electrocution now? Go read our prior post on what an electric chair does and see what you think about what Tennessee is doing.

 

Watch Terry Lenamon in Dateline Episode "Mystery in South Beach" - the Escoto Trial

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Dateline NBC on May 11: Escoto Trial and Terence Lenamon Interview

This Sunday, May 11, 2014, Dateline NBC will show its latest crime investigation episode, "Mystery in South Beach," which covers the recent trial (and guilty verdict) for Michel Escoto.

Terence Lenamon, as stand-by counsel and later full-on defense counsel (Terry Lenamon gave the closing arguments), was interviewed for this episode.

Watch the show as it first appears on Sunday, or catch it later online at the Dateline NBC website.

 

 

 

 

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