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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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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Oklahoma Botched Execution of Clayton Lockett Used Same Drug as Florida Executions: Midazolam

Tuesday was a horror:  Clayton Lockett was seen to writhe, clench his teeth and fight against his gurney restraints as the State of Oklahoma's lethal injection execution took place.  

Oklahoma officials halted the execution after seeing that the untested use of midazolam in the lethal drug cocktail might not be working properly (duh) but this apparently came too late.  Not only was there obviously suffering on the part of Lockett, he died of a heart attack shortly thereafter.

Now, there is growing outrage about what happened during the Lockett execution.  

Thing is, all eyes are on Oklahoma.  But while Oklahoma used midazolam as the first part of cocktail, 100 milligrams, it's not like this drug has never been used in lethal injections before.

 Florida uses it  already -- 500 milligrams of midazolam goes into Florida's lethal injection cocktail.  

See our earlier posts on the lethal cocktail issue, including:  

1.  Thomas Knight Execution Using Midazolam Hydrochloride: Will It Take Place? Florida Supreme Court Hearing Set for December 18.

2.  Florida Executions Continue With Untested Drug Combo as Darius Kimbrough Executed with Midazolam Hydrochloride

3.  Pentobarbital Shortage: Texas Supplier Asks for His Product Back; Florida Will Use New Drug Midazolam Hydrochloride in October 15 Execution

 

US Supreme Court Finds Silence Gets No Jury Instruction in Sentencing Phase in Death Penalty Case

Terence Lenamon is known for his work in defending people who are facing capital punishment as prosecutors seek the death penalty in trying these people for serious crimes.  Much of Terry's work is done in the "sentencing phase" of a death penalty case, where the defendant has been found guilty in the "trial phase" and now, the focus is upon whether or not he (or she) should be punished with death.

Of note, this week the United States Supreme Court handed down its opinion in an important case involving the sentencing phase of a criminal trial.

Coming out of Kentucky, the case involved defendant Robert Woodall, who did not testify in the sentencing phase of his trial.  His lawyer asked the trial judge to instruct the jury that the jurors should not assume anything bad from this - in lawyer-speak, he asked for a jury instruction that there should be no negative inference from the failure of the defendant to testify in the sentencing phase.

The Kentucky criminal trial judge declined the defense lawyer's request and the Woodall jury was not instructed on this issue.  Woodall appealled this decision, and the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the failure to give this jury instruction was unconstitutional -- it violated the citizen's right to remain silent.

On Tuesday, SCOTUS reversed the 6th Circuit.  It's not unconstitutional, according to the High Court.

Explained Justice Scalia in the majority opinion (read White v. Woodall here): the state court didn't act "unreasonably" so the federal court has to defer to Kentucky here.  

Three justices dissented, arguing that the Right to Remain Silent (5th Amendment) covers both the trial and sentencing phases of a criminal trial ....

So, according to the Supreme Court of the United States, if the defendant in the sentencing phase remains silent, then the jury can assume that's a suggestion of his deserving to die?

Michel Escoto Trial: Terence Lenamon Gives Closing Arguments as Defense Counsel, No Longer on "Stand By"

In the Michel Escoto trial in Miami, Terence Lenamon has changed hats from being "standby counsel" for the defense as Escoto represented himself, to official defense counsel for defendant Michel Escoto.  

Terry Lenamon gave closing arguments for the defense in the case.  

For details, check out the Miami Herald coverage like this article by reporter David Ovalle, "Miami man planned new wife’s murder to collect $1 million in life insurance."

Also, stay tuned:  Terence Lenamon has been interviewed by national news media regarding this case and he will be seen in the Michel Escoto trial coverage by both Inside Edition and Dateline. 

Dates and times yet to be announced.

Update:  Today, the jury found Escoto guilty of murdering his newlywed wife, Wendy Trapaga.  

 

 
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