Happy New Year from Terry Lenamon!

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Death Penalty Information Center Report 2012: Florida Has Most Death Sentences This Year

 The Death Penalty Information Center has compiled its annual report on capital punishment in the United States.

According to the DPIC, the four states of (Florida (21), California (14), Texas (9), and Pennsylvania (7)) accounted for 65% of the country’s death sentences.  Texas, however, led the nation once again in the number of executions, with fifteen people being executed this year in the Lone Star State.  

Click on the image to read the full report:

 

Florida Killings May Be Solved Through This Week's Exhumation of In Cold Blood's Percy Smith and Richard Hickock for DNA Testing of Skeletal Remains

 Most folk interested in the death penalty, whether they are for or against capital punishment, have read the non-fiction novel by Truman Capote, In Cold Blood, or seen the film based upon that book which starred Robert Blake and Scott Wilson as the two men executed by the State of Kansas for the killings of the Clutter family back in 1959.  

Most people know that Perry Smith and Richard Hickock were sentenced to death by hanging for the killing of an entire family in their rural family home but not as many people are aware that after the Kansas crime, the two men left Kansas and roamed the country -- including stints in Nevada and Florida.

Which means that it is very possible that Smith and Hickock were in the State of Florida at the time of another set of homicides close to Miami: that of the Walker family, crimes that have remained unsolved even today.

Through a set of facts tying Smith and Hickock to the Walker homicides that has been deemed sufficient to support a court order allowing exhumation of their bodies, the two In Cold Blood killers may now be tied by DNA evidence to the Walker homicides as well.

For details, read the continuing coverage at the Huffington Post or the Miami Herald.  The bodies were exhumed yesterday and DNA testing has already begun.  It's not clear when any results or findings will be announced.  

 

Move in Iowa to Reinstate Death Penalty After Iowa Repealed Capital Punishment in 1965

 Iowa hasn't had a death penalty in over 50 years but public outrage over the deaths of two girls has spurred a new effort to re-institute capital punishment in Iowa.

The governor is fine with it, but it's a state senator named Kent Sorenson that is spearheading the effort to get a capital punishment statute back on the books.  There's a lot of emotion driving this issue up in Iowa after the bodies of cousins Elizabeth Collins ( 8 years old ) and Lyric Cook-Morrissey (10 years old), missing since July 2012, were recently found.  

Hunters discovered their remains this week in a wooded area near Evansdale, Iowa.  No arrests have been made, no persons of interest identified.  Currently, a reward for information is being offered in the amount of $150,000.00.  

Sorenson plans on introducing the bill in January 2013.  Whether or not he has the votes to get it out of the statehouse and to the governor's desk for signature is not so clear: the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee doesn't think Sorenson can get those votes.

We'll see.  

Judges and Prosecutors in Death Penalty Cases: When Are Their Private Communications During a Capital Trial Considered Inappropriate?

In Texas not too long ago, Charles Dean Hood lost his appeal for a new trial to the highest state court even though he had evidence that his defense counsel was unaware that at the time of Hood's criminal trial the judge presiding over that case, Judge Verna Sue Holland, was having an affair with the prosecutor in that trial, Thomas S. O'Connell, Jr.

Read details about it here, at the exceptional Texas blog, Grits for Breakfast.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, where Judge Holland later presided, ruled that Mr. Hood should have raised the issue in his initial appeal and even though the lower court had ruled he deserved a new trial, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals nixed it. 

Now, in Florida, there's a similar situation.  Florida Judge Ana Gardiner communicated with the prosecutor in a 2007 capital case while the death penalty trial of Omar Loureiro was ongoing, and the defense counsel wasn't aware this was happening. 

Gardiner resigned as judge in 2010 so the Judicial Misconduct complaint filed against her went nowhere.  Right now, she's dealing with the Florida Bar Association's disciplinary proceedings and last week, there was a two day inquiry (see the video feed provided by the Sun Sentinel online). 

Seems that the trial judge and the prosecutor in the Florida case are not portraying their relationship as a love affair, but instead a close friendship where each was supporting the other through difficult times.  This involved 949 phone calls and 471 text messages over the course of the death penalty trial. 

The Florida Bar Report on the prosecutor recommended a suspension - we'll know soon enough what will happen to Judge Gardiner. 

 
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