Death Penalty Resources

Terry Lenamon is making the following transcripts online from his recent death penalty case, where he and his defense team successfully avoided the death penalty for Joshua Fulgham:

Voir Dire – Defense

Defense Opening – Trial

State Opening – Trial

State and Defense Opening – Penalty

State Closing

Defense Closing and State Rebuttal

Please contact Terry if you have any questions – including participation in one of his upcoming seminars.

There’s a new blog to check out for those who are interested in the death penalty, published by Athina Ouranidou.  It’s entitled "Artists vs. Death Penalty." 

Athina is in her final year as a law student at Birmingham City University in the United Kingdom.  She’s opposed to the death penalty, and has started publishing Artists vs. Death Penalty as a vehicle for artists to share their work, in its various forms, in a stand against the death penalty.  And, of course, as a means to inspire others as well.

Already, Athina reports that her blog has achieved a steady top ranking in Google Everything Search for the phrase, ‘artists death penalty’ and she’s been interviewed by the Greek magazine “Ανεξartητη Γυναίκα της Θεσσαλονίκης” about the blog site (you can read the interview online – check out page 44).

Check it out!

 

 

As part of our invitation to other bloggers to guest here on the Death Penalty Blog, Terry and I are happy to publish the following article sent to us by Charles Sipe of the career-advice website, Criminal Justice Degrees Schools. Here, without edit or change, is James Madieros’ article for your consideration. Thanks, Charles and James! — Reba Kennedy, Esq.

_____________________________

Rising costs, a national recession and a broader global financial crisis are taking its toll on individuals as well as institutions at every level; a ripple effect of fiscal turmoil that is felt in private and public sectors alike. And, state budgets are not immune.

The nation has watched as cash-strapped states have turned to moneymaking schemes that would have once been unthinkable, like flouting federal law to legalize marijuana. So, it should be no surprise that these shifts in moral and political thinking may also extend to death penalty cases.

Of course, death penalty abolitionists are quick to point out the cost of a death penalty case as a reason to reform capital punishment. That it is expensive is not an argument in and of itself, but when the costs potentially puts other state programs at risk by draining taxpayer dollars the numbers gain more force.

Many states are examining the books for ways to cut costs, and death penalty cases are a glaring entry in the margin. According to research conducted by the non-partisan Death Penalty Information Center in 2010, the average death penalty case costs $1 million more than a case that seeks life imprisonment without parole, and it’s safe to assume the cost hasn’t gone down since then.

The reason for this is fairly simple: no stone is left unturned when a person’s life is at stake, and the fallout for executing an innocent person is the stuff of any politician’s nightmares (not to mention the bad dreams of detectives, crime scene investigators, jury members, the prosecuting attorney and the judge).

Strangely, the argument that a person’s life is at stake in some fashion in a life-without-parole case never makes news, and may be a product of the emphasis placed on the death penalty. Nevertheless, the difference in costs make it clear that mistakes at this level are not as much of an issue, and that the outcome is more morally digestible for death penalty opponents.

And, it’s more digestible for state budget auditors as well. Of the 34 states that still practice capital punishment, several are finding it financially unfeasible to continue supporting it. Setting aside the unsettling reality that financial considerations may have the power to influence the moral imperative, states are becoming more vocal about cutting costs in the courtroom.

So, are state budget concerns shaping policy regarding death penalty reform? The answer is a resounding “yes.” In the end, though, a vote for or against capital punishment will decide the fate of a state budget. In financially troubled states like Mississippi, where the cost of each death sentence rendered is estimated to cost $3 million, voters may decide that money talking is more important than a dead man walking.

James Madeiros is a recent law school grad and staff writer at Criminal Justice Degree Schools, a resource site providing information on criminal justice education including paralegal degree programs in each state.

 

 

Below, information that I have sent to friends and colleagues throughout the State of Florida which I want to share with my blog readers as well:

I am ecstatic to share the victory of Grady Nelson for death penalty litigation. (See "Novel Defense Helps Spare Perpetrator of Grisly Murder," by David Ovalle in the Miami Herald, December 11, 2010)

I am hopeful that Mr. Nelson’s case is significant and symbolic of our important duty to leave no stone unturned no matter the cost or time involved.

With that in mind, Cynthia Oshea and I will be traveling throughout the State — in the upcoming weeks to Sarasota, Fort Myers, Orlando, Bartow, Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Pensacola — visiting with colleagues and whoever else will have us with the hope of embracing others to join Florida Capital Resource Center

As you know, the Florida Capital Resource Center is a non-profit organization I founded with a goal of insuring just and unwavering representation of death-eligible defendants.  For details, please visit the organization’s official website at www.FloridaCapitalResourceCenter.com.

Additionally, this month the Florida Capital Resource Center welcomed its new Regional Directors (highlighted), who join the current Regional Directors in working toward its worthwhile goals:

  •  Bruce Fleisher
  • Jeff Weinkle
  • Jason Blank
  • Robert Brock
  • Stuart Adelstein
  • Rosalie Bolin
  • David S. Markus
  • Kate Oshea
  • Paula Black 
  • Rick Sichta

 Stay tuned for more information regarding the Florida Capital Resource Center as Florida capital defense attorneys join together in the effort to combat the current crisis in indigent defense facing this nation today. 

Last week, the jury returned its recommendation in the Grady Nelson trial, after spending only one hour deliberating whether or not they would vote for the death penalty.  They did not.

A Horrific Tragedy in 2005

Grady Nelson, 53, did not get a death sentence, instead he will serve life behind bars without parole.  This, even though at first glance some would have argued the death penalty was a slam-dunk: after all, Grady Nelson was found guilty of stabbing his wife, Angelina Martinez, 61 times along with stabbing her two young children — aged 11 and 9. 

It was also acknowledged that Grady Nelson previously sexually assaulted these two kids, and that the killing happened on the morning that he was released from jail for having sexual relations with his wife’s 11-year-old mentally disabled daughter.  Nelson was discovered by police at their home, still holding a knife, while his wife laywith a knife in her head and her two children also stabbed but thankfully, still alive.

Clearly, the mitigation case during the penalty phase would have to be very, very powerful in order to suggest that the jury should return something other than the death penalty — because the prosecution was fighting hard for capital punishment. 

One big difference in this case:  the admission of QEEG brain mapping evidence. 

This may be the first time in any United States criminal courtroom where QEEG analysis has been ruled admissible and respected for its ability to provide vital information on brain injury and impairment. 

During the four week trial, it was argued in mitigation that not only was Nelson sexually abused as a child and abandoned by his mother, he also became addicted to cocaine and was brain damaged. 

Over the prosecution’s “junk science” objections, and despite the testimony of their expert witness against allowing QQEG brain mapping to be admitted into evidence for the jury’s consideration,Florida 11th Circuit Court Judge Jacqueline Hogan-Scola granted the defense request to allow the jury to consider the results of Nelson’s quantitative EEG (“QEEG”) brain map, revealing Nelson’s involuntarily predisposition to impulsiveness and violence.  

“QEEG brain mapping is the future,” Lenamon explained after Judge Hogan-Scola sentenced Nelson to life without parole. “QEEG technology will have a huge impact around the country in a wide variety of legal cases – civil and criminal – as well as in all kinds of medical issues.”

Florida’s Grady Nelson trial is a turning point for capital murder cases across the country and may provide support for QEEG admissibility in a wide variety of lawsuits where brain function is an issue. In the past, some judges have found QEEG testing to be insufficiently reliable to be admitted as scientific evidence, and the prosecution fought hard against its use in the Nelson considerations. 

However, after hearing Lenamon’s arguments and the testimony of Dr. Robert W. Thatcher, a nationally known pioneer in QEEG analysis who is Board Certified by the American Board of Certification of Quantitative Electroencephalography and a principal in Applied Neuroscience, Incorporated, Judge Hogan-Scola found QEEG meets the legal prerequisites for reliability under Frye and Daubert standards.

“[E]verything I have heard, the methodologies are sound, the techniques are sound, the science is sound,” ruled Judge Hogan-Scola in the October 6, 2010, hearing on the admissibility of QEEG evidence in Cause No. F05-00846 in the Circuit Court of the 11th Judicial Circuit, in and for Miami-Dade County, Florida, styled State of Florida v.Grady Nelson.

“We are understandably encouraged by the fierce dedication to justice exhibited by Judge Hogan-Scola in her ruling on QEEG,” continues Mr. Lenamon. “Having a judge with her combination of legal expertise and scientific knowledge was crucial here, and the time to recognize QEEG analysis by experts such as Dr. Thatcher as sound science is long overdue.”

As explained by Dr. Thatcher in his October 2010 testimony, QEEG brain mapping is a computer analysis of around 20 channels of simultaneous EEG recording under controlled conditions including 3-dimensional source imaging. Today, there are over 50 companies selling QEEG products in the marketplace, including Applied Neuroscience, Incorporated, whose NeuroGuide Deluxe™ has been tested as reliable.

WBNS-TV in Ohio is reporting this week on a topic that we periodically delve into: the reality of the death penalty appeals process, and how expensive this is in both time and money.  Good. The fact that not enough money exists for effective death penalty defense at the trial level, and how this directly correlates to a more expensive appeals process — well, more discussion on that truth would be welcome.  At least we’re seeing a start down that path.

Focusing upon the 26-year appellate journey of one case, the news story first discusses the details of Ohio Death Row’s David Stumpf’s case.  Stumpf was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Mary Jane Norman over a quarter of a century ago, and he’s still in the appellate process.  The coverage doesn’t end there, however; the investigative report also discusses the federal death row appellate docket of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Surprising to no one, their recognition is this:  it costs everyone involve a tremendous amount of time and money not just to try a death penalty case (as it goes through the two phases, guilt and penalty), but also to insure that the State is not seeking to execute an innocent man, or that the State is attempting to kill someone in violation of federal or state law.  That’s the reason for these appeals.  It can, and should, be rare that the government kills a citizen — and the appellate process is a vital protection to us all. 

Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center has written a paper discussing this subject, and includes the following data regarding costs (emphasis added):

In Texas, a death penalty case costs taxpayers an average of $2.3 million, about three times the cost of imprisoning someone in a single cell at the highest security level for 40 years.(3) In Florida, each execution is costing the state $3.2 million.(4) In financially strapped California, one report estimated that the state could save $90 million each year by abolishing capital punishment.(5) The New York Department of Correctional Services estimated that implementing the death penalty would cost the state about $118 million annually.(6)…

The California Supreme Court, for example, spends more than half its time reviewing death cases.(35) The Florida Supreme Court also spends about half its time on death penalty cases.(36) Many governors spend a significant percentage of their time reviewing clemency petitions and more will face this task as executions spread. As John Dixon, Chief Justice (Retired) of the Louisiana Supreme Court, said: "The people have a constitutional right to the death penalty and we’ll do our best to make it work rationally. But you can see what it’s doing. Capital punishment is destroying the system."(37)

Once again, it may well be that money will be the reason that more and more focus is placed upon capital punishment in this country — and this is a welcomed perspective.  The reality remains that there is a financial crisis in this land regarding providing competent defense to death penalty defendants at the trial level, and this obviously dominoes into a more expensive appellate process.  The more that everyone starts talking money and the death penalty, the better. 
 

The latest John Grisham novel has just been published.  Entitled The Confession, it is Grisham’s second work that fights against the death penalty – Grisham already became a vital and vocal opponent of capital punishment with his non-fiction best seller, The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town.

The Innocent Man came out four years ago as John Grisham’s first non-fiction endeavor.  In it, Grisham takes his extensive research and writes about Ron Williamson, a local baseball hero from a small Oklahoma town who was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for a rape and murder that he did not commit.  The Innocent Man allowed Grisham to tour the country, simultaneously promoting his book while educating people on the realities of capital punishment and life on Death Row today.

It’s a good read, not the Truman Capote nonfiction novel type of story, but more of a forthright, almost newspaper-like piece.  And, now it has a companion work – a matching bookend, if you will, in The Confession.

The Confession – Buy It for the Read, and In Support of John Grisham’s Dedication

The Confession was officially released today by Doubleday, and hopefully it will garner lots of media coverage and favorable reviews.  Because once again, Grisham takes his considerable talent and parlays it into a legal thriller that provides much-needed education for those members of the public that may not know or understand some of the realities of the American death penalty in the criminal justice system today. 

What is The Confession about?  From Doubleday:

For every innocent man sent to prison, there is a guilty one left on the outside. He doesn’t understand how the police and prosecutors got the wrong man, and he certainly doesn’t care. He just can’t believe his good luck. Time passes and he realizes that the mistake will not be corrected: the authorities believe in their case and are determined to get a conviction. He may even watch the trial of the person wrongly accused of his crime. He is relieved when the verdict is guilty. He laughs when the police and prosecutors congratulate themselves. He is content to allow an innocent person to go to prison, to serve hard time, even to be executed.

Travis Boyette is such a man. In 1998, in the small East Texas city of Sloan, he abducted, raped, and strangled a popular high school cheerleader. He buried her body so that it would never be found, then watched in amazement as police and prosecutors arrested and convicted Donté Drumm, a local football star, and marched him off to death row.

Now nine years have passed. Travis has just been paroled in Kansas for a different crime; Donté is four days away from his execution. Travis suffers from an inoperable brain tumor. For the first time in his miserable life, he decides to do what’s right and confess.

But how can a guilty man convince lawyers, judges, and politicians that they’re about to execute an innocent man?

 

Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady, 56, began his two-year term on July 1, 2010, and his first order of business was to create the Florida Innocence Commission, which will "conduct a comprehensive study of the causes of wrongful conviction and of measures to prevent such convictions."  (For the complete enacting language, read the Administrative Order here.)

Today, Lester A. Garringer, Jr. was named to act as the Commission’s first Executive Director.  In the Court’s news release detailing the appointment, Garringer’s credentials are detailed – they include serving as a Monroe County judge (1977 – 1980) and for the past 7 years, serving as staff attorney to the Supreme Court Criminal Court Steering Committee and the Supreme Court Committee on Standard Jury Instructions in Criminal Cases.(read the news release here). Conspicuous by its absence in his resume was an extended amount of time spent in the actual defense of criminal defendants facing conviction. 

What Will the Florida Innocence Commission Accomplish?

With a budget of around $300,000, the FIC is charged not with implementing change so much as studying the reasons behind wrongful convictions in the State of Florida.  One can only hope that part of that money will not be a re-hash of the numerous studies already done regarding the lack of funding for indigent defense in Florida. 

The Cost of Indigent Defense Must Be Evaluated as Part of the Wrongful Conviction Research

Of particular importance is the need to acknowledge the studies already undertaken on the state of indigent defense for capital cases in the State of Florida.  Obviously, there is a logical tie between a lack of funding for indigent defense and the likelihood of a wrongful conviction.  Nowhere is there a more critical risk for wrongful conviction than when the death penalty is at issue. 

Prior Studies on the Underlying Issues – Budget, etc. 

It’s not too difficult to look at the current criminal defense system in this country and know that lack of funding for constitutionally-mandated appointed counsel, and budgeting for their corresponding defense expenses, is one of the major factors behind wrongful convictions of innocent men and women.  The American Bar Association, for example, has spent considerable time and expense analyzing these issues on a state by state basis — and continues to do so.   

Cantero & Schlakman’s Fall 2009 Opinion

Just last fall former Florida Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero III and Mark Schlakman, former senior program director at the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights at Florida State University, wrote an opinion piece describing how they took an American Bar Association two-year study of Florida’s death penalty system in 2006 and compared it to the realities of the system today

Their findings?  The current situation is "abyssmal."

Let us hope that the newly formed Florida Innocence Commission acts in a powerful and purposeful way in proactively instituting positive change in our state’s criminal justice system.  We already are too well aware of the ways in which the system is failing … and how an increased indigent defense budget would help solve so many problems, including the likelihood of wrongful convictions in this state. 

 

James Alan Fox gave everyone a head’s up in his Boston Globe piece today:  he’ll be in Florida this weekend, visiting Florida’s Death Row

Who the heck is James Alan Fox?

To many, he’s known as the "Dean of Death," because of his extensive work in the study of mass murder in this country.  To some, he’s known as Professor, since he teaches criminology at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, where he has also served as dean. 

Professor Fox is also recognized for his extensive writings dealing with crime and criminals, including 15 books, countless op-ed pieces in various national publications, and his current column in the Boston Globe, "Crime and Punishment," which appears a blog on Boston.com.

What’s James Alan Fox Doing at Florida’s Death Row?

From what he’s hinted about in today’s post, he’s going to be talking to lots and lots of people who are waiting for the State of Florida to kill them.  He’s already begun his discussion of the number of individuals setting on Death Row, and how many years they’ve been there. 

Of course, he’s not focusing his efforts solely on Florida.  He’s also referenced the status of California’s Death Row (if you follow this blog, you know what this means) and he’s pointed out that there is a movement to reinstate the death penalty in his home state, Massachusetts.

Let’s See What James Alan Fox Has to Report After His Florida Death Row Visit

It’s not clear from what Professor Fox wrote today exactly when his series on capital punishment will begin.  Let’s keep watch on Boston.com — because what he will be writing will be worth our time to read. 

This week, FoxNews provided detailed coverage on exactly how the current economic crisis is pushing the 35 states that still have the death penalty on their books to consider its repeal.  And yes, it’s all about the money.

New Reaction to an Well-Known Fact – Death Penalty Is Very Expensive on the State

Quoting Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center, it’s a new reaction that is being seen.  Apparently, the moral and social issues involved in capital punishment are being placed on the back burner as the number-crunchers are focusing upon a fact we’ve known for a long time:  it costs more to put someone to death in this country than for the state to simply sentence that individual to life imprisonment.

The article is worth the read.  Not that it’s anything that has been discussed here and elsewhere, but for the fact that the Money Factor may really be gaining a foothold in the fight against the death penalty. 

Let’s watch California closely now. 

Consider the numbers provided in this article that compare California’s economy (the state is broke) with the number of people living on Death Row (California hasn’t executed anyone in 30+ years), though it still sentences folk to death periodically.   And the media coverage of Billy Joe Johnson’s request to join California’s Death Row inmates was not that long ago …

Must be very tempting for California Powers that Be, in particular, to nix capital punishment as a budget cut.