Players in a Death Penalty Case

This month, the trial of Markeith Loyd continues in an Orlando courtroom with Terry Lenamon at the defense table. While prior Florida state attorney Ayala declined to proceed with the death penalty, it is back on the table.

For more on the Markeith Loyd case, see:

Markeith Loyd Trial: Judge Denies Recusal Request

This week, Orange-Osceola Chief Judge Frederick Lauten denied the defense motion seeking his recusal, filed by Terence Lenamon on December 5, 2018.  See, “Chief judge won’t recuse himself in Markeith Loyd case,” written by Gal Tziperman Lotan and published by the Orlando Sentinel on December 10, 2018.

 

Excerpt from the Motion: Fair Trial or Prejudice

The following excerpt explains some of the defense arguments regarding how it is feared that the defendant in this capital case will not get a fair trial or that he will be prejudiced in some way:

First. the   method   in  which    this  Court    stated   that   it  was  appointed   to  the   case   is contradicted  by the  order of appointment.  The  original  order of appointment  states the Court  was  appointed via  a method of judicial  rotation.  Conversely. the  Court  stated he directed  the  Administrative Judge  to  transfer  the case  to  him.  Both  of these  cannot be accurate. and  based  on  that  incongruity,  Defendant fears  that  he  will  not  receive a  fair trial.  or that  he will  suffer  prejudice or bias  from the  Court.

Second. the  Court  ignored  or downplayed   obvious deficits  in the  Defendant’s mental state  that  could   not  pass  muster in  a proper Faretra  hearing,  and  the  Court consequently failed to initially  appoint  standby counsel. This causes  the  Defendant to be fearful  that  he will not  receive a fair trial, or that  he will  suffer prejudice or bias  from the Court.

Third. the  Court  was  significantly  active   in  investigations  concerning  Defendant  both prior  to  his  appointment  and  during  his  initial  period  as the  assigned judge of the  instant cases.  He  signed in  excess of twelve warrants, some  of which  were apparently concealed from  the  Stale and defense  by the  police officers.  One  of the  warrants requested  that  the Court  not  disclose information  because of the  ongoing  nature   of the  investigation. Court’s   intimate   involvement   in   these   investigations.   combined   with   the   fact   that Defendant   only  very   recently   learned   about   such   involvement   in   any   detail.   causes Defendant to  fear  that  he  will  not  receive  a  fair  trial.  or that he  will  suffer  prejudice  or bias  from  the  Court.

Fourth.  the Court did not comply  with  Florida  Statutes  934.09(8)(e),  which  requires that the  issuing  Judge  “shall  cause  to  be  served  on  the  persons  named  in  the  order or the application.  and   such   other   parties  to  intercepted  communications  as  the  judge  ma. determine in  his or her discretion  to be in the  interest  of justice,  an inventory  which  shall  include  notice  of:

  1. The  fact or the entry of the order  or the application
  2. The  date  of the  entry and  the  period   of authorized,  approved. or disapproved  interception. or the denial  of the  application
  3. The  fact  that during the period wire, oral  or electronic communications were  or were  not  intercepted.”

Although the Defendant  was named  in at least one wiretap order.  he was not served  with the  notice  required  under  934.09(8)(c).  The  Court’s   failure  to  provide  the   requisite notice  tu  Defendant on an important issue causes  Defendant  to  be fearful  that he  will not receive  a fair trial. or that he will suffer prejudice or bias  from the Court.

Finally. the  cumulative   impact  of  the  Court’s  actions   (or  inactions)  discussed  herein causes  Defendant  to  be  fearful  that  he will  not  receive  a fair trial.  or that  he  will  suffer prejudice or bias  from the Court.

Click on the image to read the full text of the Motion, as filed of record, which has been placed into the Terence Lenamon Online Library:

 

Every so often, we recommend a good read – usually a single book or novel that deals with capital punishment in some way.

Today, we’re recommending a series of books by a single author: John Grisham.

John Grisham on the Death Penalty

For his personal take on the death penalty, check out Mr. Grisham’s op-ed piece last year in USA Today: “Stop the execution madness in Arkansas: John Grisham,” or watch his interview by Bill Moyers online here: John Grisham on Wrongful Death Penalty Convictions from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo.

Three John Grisham Books Dealing with the Death Penalty

His books dealing with the death penalty include:

1.  The Chamber

From his website comes the following description of The Chamber:

In the corridors of Chicago’s top law firm:Twenty -six-year-old Adam Hall stands on the brink of a brilliant legal career. Now he is risking it all for a death-row killer and an impossible case.Maximum Security Unit, Mississippi State Prison:Sam Cayhall is a former Klansman and unrepentant racist now facing the death penalty for a fatal bombing in 1967….

2.  The Confession

From his website comes the following description of The Confession:

An innocent man is about to be executed. Only a guilty man can save him. 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….

 

 

 

3.  The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town (non-fiction)

From his website comes the following description of The Innocent Man:

In the major league draft of 1971, the first player chosen from the State of Oklahoma was Ron Williamson. When he signed with the Oakland A’s, he said goodbye to his hometown of Ada and left to pursue his dreams of big league glory.

Six years later he was back, his dreams broken by a bad arm and bad habits—drinking, drugs, and women. He began to show signs of mental illness. Unable to keep a job, he moved in with his mother and slept twenty hours a day on her sofa.

In 1982, a 21-year-old cocktail waitress in Ada named Debra Sue Carter was raped and murdered, and for five years the police could not solve the crime. For reasons that were never clear, they suspected Ron Williamson and his friend Dennis Fritz. The two were finally arrested in 1987 and charged with capital murder.

With no physical evidence, the prosecution’s case was built on junk science and the testimony of jailhouse snitches and convicts. Dennis Fritz was found guilty and given a life sentence. Ron Williamson was sent to death row.

If you believe that in America you are innocent until proven guilty, this book will shock you. If you believe in the death penalty, this book will disturb you. If you believe the criminal justice system is fair, this book will infuriate you.

 

 

When considering the contributions of capital defense lawyers like Terry Lenamon to the fight against the death penalty in this country, most people think of their advocacy in a particular case, particularly the more publicized trials.

However, it is the strategies and skills of death penalty defense lawyers that are being recognized as a more systemic contribution to the declining use of capital punishment in this country.

The following efforts by death penalty defense lawyers are discussed as factors in the reduction of capital sentences imposed in the past decade:

  1. dedicating time and energy into the investigation and presentation of mitigating circumstances for the accused, including family history of childhood deprivation and abuse; mental health patterns over the life of the defendant; and other mitigating factors against a capital sentence;
  2. working with prosecutors with zealous plea bargaining strategies to avoid death; and
  3. focus upon jury selection in capital cases.

From the ABA Publication:

“Mitigating is not offering an excuse or justification for the crime, but instead placing the crime in the context of a whole life. This book offer specific steps and strategies that lawyers and others can use in the course of their work.”

For more on how mitigation is vital in a death penalty defense, see:

The website WildAboutTrial.com promotes itself as providing “the nation’s hottest criminal trial coverage.”   Not only does the site provide background information regarding pending criminal proceedings, it often provides live coverage from the courtroom as things are happening.

Site Shares Live Courtroom Coverage

Today, for instance, they are sharing coverage of the sentencing hearing for Bill Cosby (details provided here).  The hearing is not live but the site is tweeting as things are happening in the Cosby case up in Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, the site is providing live coverage of the courtroom proceedings in the Illinois trial of Jason Van Dyke.  Watch the live stream.

Markeith Loyd Hearings on WildAboutTrial.com

For those following Terry Lenamon’s defense in the Markeith Loyd trial — including (1) his arguments regarding race and the death penalty and (2) the notice that the defense intends to call former state prosecutor Aramis Ayala as a mitigation witness, if necessary, this site may be of interest.

WildAboutTrial.com has a dedicated web page for the Markeith Loyd proceedings.

While the most recent hearing has yet to be uploaded into their archives, you can watch the June 12, 2018 proceedings.

Read Court Filings in Defense of Markeith Loyd

For more on the Markeith Loyd’s defense, read:

Defense To Call State Attorney Ayala as Mitigation Witness Against Death Penalty in Markeith Loyd Case

 

Death Row: The Final Minutes by Michelle Lyons  is a book that you may want to read, no matter your position on the death penalty.  It’s a well-written memoir (consistent 4.5 and 5 star reviews, if that’s important to you).

Lyons Witnessed Hundreds of Executions

Michelle Lyons was an eyewitness to almost 300 executions by lethal injection by the State of Texas.  Part of the time, she did so as a reporter.  For the rest of the deaths, she was there as the media representative (spokesperson) for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

She watched the inmates die, time and time again.  She also grew to know many of these men and women, as well as the staff who had the horrific responsibility of carrying out the execution.  (As did her friend and predecessor Larry Fitzgerald, who figures prominently in the book).

For those interested in capital punishment, reading what Michelle Lyons has to tell us about her knowledge and perspective regarding the death penalty, the lethal injection method of execution, and how it impacts so many people is important.  

 

Book Description From Amazon

First as a reporter and then as a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Michelle was a frequent visitor to Huntsville’s Walls Unit, where she recorded and relayed the final moments of death row inmates’ lives before they were put to death by the state.
Michelle was in the death chamber as some of the United States’ most notorious criminals, including serial killers, child murderers and rapists, spoke their last words on earth, while a cocktail of lethal drugs surged through their veins.
Michelle supported the death penalty, before misgivings began to set in as the executions mounted. During her time in the prison system, and together with her dear friend and colleague, Larry Fitzgerald, she came to know and like some of the condemned men and women she saw die. She began to query the arbitrary nature of the death penalty and ask the question: do executions make victims of all of us?
An incredibly powerful and unique look at the complex story of capital punishment, as told by those whose lives have been shaped by it, Death Row: The Final Minutes is an important take on crime and punishment at a fascinating point in America’s political history.

 

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States delved into the role that the criminal defense lawyer plays in a death penalty trial, where he fights for the life of his client as the state prosecutors demand capital punishment.

Defense is Complex When Death Penalty Is on the Table

It must be understood at the start that the death case is different. There are complex efforts here, where a defense team must strategize in the presentation of evidence and the assertion of argument with not only the (a) guilt phase, but the real possibility of an additional (b) sentencing phase where death is considered.

Often this complexity has the additional burden of budgeting, because more often than not, it’s an indigent defense case. Not so in today’s SCOTUS ruling, where the defendant’s parents had the financial wherewithal to hire a private criminal defense attorney, Larry English.

Of note, Mr. English had no prior experience as a capital lawyer and was not certified to defend death penalty cases.  Not too long after taking the case, Mr. English was seeking indigent status in order to hire needed capital case support, like investigators and mitigation specialists.

The whirlwind of this case only escalated afterwards, and demonstrates the importance of defense counsel in death cases who have experience in dealing with mental illness issues and the unique challenges of death penalty defense.

Now, the case returns to Louisiana for a new trial, where it is assumed experienced death penalty defense counsel will advocate for Robert McCoy.

Read the complete opinion at the SCOTUS website.

McCoy Background

In McCoy v. Louisiana Robert LeRoy McCoy was arrested for killing his estranged wife’s teenaged son alongside his grandparents, at their home in Bossier City, Louisiana. His wife, Yolanda, was in protective custody out of state after separating from Robert McCoy earlier that year. Mr. McCoy was facing an arrest warrant for aggravated battery of Yolanda at the time of the shootings.

In the 911 call made by his mother-in-law, she was recorded saying, “She ain’t here, Robert … I don’t know where she is. The detectives have her. Talk to the detectives. She ain’t in there, Robert.”  State v. McCoy, 218 So.3d 535, 542 (La. 2016).

Police responding to the call knew to look for a white KIA known to be driven by Mr. McCoy, and immediately began a search for him in the area. McCoy was eventually arrested in Idaho. For details on his capture, read the lower state court opinion.

The prosecution sought the death penalty. McCoy pled not guilty to first degree murder.

All along, Robert McCoy denied he shot these people. McCoy argued that he was being framed by law enforcement after he had squealed on local police being corrupt and selling drugs.

Shortly after the Louisiana prosecutors filed notice of intent to seek the death penalty, his defense team moved for an evaluation of his mental capacity. He was found competent to stand trial. State, 218 So.3d at 544.

Within ninety days of his trial setting, McCoy was operating without counsel as his indigent defense counsel had withdrawn based upon a conflict of interest. McCoy had been representing himself when attorney Larry English appeared, asking the court’s permission to enter the case as counsel for the defendant.

At that time, Mr. English admitted he was not certified to try death penalty cases. He told the judge he had contacted board certified lawyers for their assistance. After the judge confirmed that Mr. McCoy understood that Larry English was not certified in death penalty cases, the new lawyer was approved by the court.

His motion for a continuance of the rapidly approaching trial date was not. State 218 So.3d at 545. English appealed that ruling, based upon his need to build a legal team to support him in defending a capital case, and successfully having the trial reset back nine months.

Things moved forward, and there was another appellate skirmish involving a defense motion to have McCoy declared indigent so English could hire a mitigation expert, an investigator, a social worker, and a mental health expert. English argued these experts were needed at this juncture because the defense must prepare both for trial and for a sentencing phase if guilt was found.

English admitted to the court that McCoy was not in agreement with this request, but that this would not be in the defendant’s best interest. English told the court that in his opinion, his client suffered from “severe mental and emotional issues that have an impact upon this case.” Mr. English asked the trial court to “order that Mr. McCoy submit to the experts that are required in a capital murder case.” State 218 So.3d at 546.

McCoy filed his own motions with the court, voicing his disagreement with English’s requests, and then withdrew them.

There were hearings held on McCoy’s defense before the trial. English advised the court that while he had attorney-advisors, he would be trying the case alone. McCoy confirmed to the court that this was okay with him. Another motion for continuance for the defense was denied.

The appeals court voiced its concern that McCoy was going to trial with only one defense lawyer, who was not certified for capital defense. The continuance was granted, with the appeals court instructing the trial court to “ensure that Mr. McCoy is, or has been, fully apprised on the record of the benefits of having two capital-defense qualified attorneys and that McCoy has knowingly and intelligently waived same.”  State, 218 So.3d at 547-8.

Key Considerations: English and McCoy

Ultimately, McCoy was found guilty of the killings and sentenced to death. His appeals based upon ineffective assistance of counsel made their way to the Supreme Court of the United States, where McCoy won his fight to have the death sentence overturned.

He gets a new trial.

From the SCOTUS opinion, the key factors here in the dealings between attorney English and his client McCoy were:

  1. Not that the defense lawyer encouraged McCoy take a guilty plea in exchange for a life sentence, inasmuch as
  2. The defense lawyer telling his client that his trial strategy was to admit McCoy’s guilt to the jury at trial in hopes that he could win against the death penalty during the sentencing phase and ignoring his client’s disagreement with it; and
  3. The defense lawyer going forward with that strategy, urging the jury to consider his client as “crazy” and “living in a fantasy world,” as this would go against the needed intent required to be shown for a first-degree murder conviction.

From SCOTUS, it was recognized that Larry English implemented this trial tactic with the honorable motive of trying to save his client’s life.

Nevertheless, SCOTUS rules that McCoy has a constitutional right to make key decisions about his defense. No matter how well-meaning the lawyer’s motivations, he must not go against his client’s instructions to him on core matters like pleading guilty to the crime.

English could not override McCoy’s right to maintain his innocence, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary that would be presented to the jury. From SCOTUS:

“The Sixth Amendment guarantees a defendant the right to choose the objective of his defense and to insist that his counsel refrain from admitting guilt, even when counsel’s experienced-based view is that confessing guilt offers the defendant the best chance to avoid the death penalty.”

For more on death penalty defense, see:

Of course,Monster is the movie depicting the life of Aileen Carol Wuornos, who was executed by the State of Florida in 2002 for killing six men.  Maybe you’ve seen it. 

Monster Was the Fictional Account of Florida Serial Killer Executed in 2002

Aileen Wuornos, one of the most notorious serial killers in our nation’s history, was portrayed by Charlize Theron.  The actress won an Academy Award for her work in the film, and Monster was named "Best Film of the Year" by the AFI.  

From a death penalty perspective, no matter how good this movie may be, it’s probably better to spend your time watching the excellent 2-part documentary created by director Nick Broomfield.  

Broomfield Documentary on Aileen Wuornos Combines 1992 and 2003 Work

Entitled "Aileen" Life and Death of a Serial Killer," the documentary combines his earlier film, "Selling of a Serial Killer," with his later work.  It’s essentially two films combined into a single 1.5 hour biography.

This is an important film to see if you have any interest in capital punishment in this country.  

  • It sheds light on the process, i.e., what happens during the Penalty Phase of a capital case, the arena that Terry Lenamon defends his clients in so often. 
  • It helps to explain that these are real and very damaged people who are being sentenced to death, and helps in the understanding of why they have ended up in a courtroom with a prosecutor wanting their execution. 

Marion County Hearing 

The documentary deals with a February 2003 hearing in Marion County, Florida, presided over by Judge Victor Musieh, where defense counsel from the Office of Capital Collateral Regional Counsel works to vacate Wuornos’ death sentences.

Life and Death does not debate guilt or innocence.  It focuses on the person, much like the efforts made to build a case for mitigating circumstances in a capital case.

Broomfield educates us on her abusive childhood, complete with interviews of neighbors and her bio-mom.  

We learn the importance of a zealous advocate and wonder about her trial counsel.  The cross-examination of Steven Glazer ("Dr. Legal") is very illuminating on the role of a defense lawyer in a death penalty case.  How often does the public see this sort of cross?  

Finally, watch how Wuornos herself changes from the first film to the second, where she is residing on Florida’s Death Row.  

The documentary ends with an interview with Aileen Wuornos on the day before she was executed.

Consider for yourself whether or not Aileen Wuornos was sane and "of sound mind" at the time — and what the impact of residing on Death Row, awaiting her execution, had upon her mental state.

Watch for Free on Netflix or Amazon Prime

Right now, the Bloomberg Documentary dealing with the Death Sentence and Execution of Aileen Wuornos is available for free on either Netflix or Amazon Prime.  

It’s worth your time to watch.  

Netflix

Amazon Prime

 

 

 Tomorrow morning in Orlando, Terry Lenamon will be joined by his friend Rick Kammen at the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ 24th annual "Death is Different" seminar.

Lenamon and Kammen Speaking at "Death is Different" Seminar

Their presentation, entitled "Psycho Drama," begins at 10:30 a.m and concludes at noon.

Both Terence Lenamon and Rick Kammen are experienced death penalty defense attorneys with national reputations for fighting against capital punishment in this country.  For those unable to attend, FACDL offers recorded seminars for purchase. 

Terrorist Boyz Trial 

Those following this blog are aware that Terry Lenamon is currently involved in jury selection for the Terrorist Boyz capital murder trial of Frantzy Jean-Marie. 

Gitmo USS Cole

Many may also recognize Rick Kammen as a death penalty defense attorney based in Indianapolis who resigned from USS Cole representation due to bugs compromising the criminal defense. 

See today’s Miami Herald article by Carol Rosenberg for details, entitled "Pentagon: Microphone? What microphone?"

Here are their bios as provided in the seminar materials:

Richard Kammen, Esq.

Richard Kammen is a criminal defense lawyer with his office in Indianapolis, Indiana. He concentrates his practice in serious felonies, white-collar defense, complex crimes and death penalty defense. He is a member of the law firm of Kammen and Moudy. 

He graduated from Ripon College cum laude in 1968 and New York University School of Law in 1971.  Admitted to the Bar in 1971, he began his practice after service in the United States Army.

During his professional career, Mr. Kammen has served as a public defender in the Marion County Courts on two occasions, 1972-1974 and 1978-1979.  Mr. Kammen has defended over three hundred homicide cases including approximately forty death penalty cases in both State and Federal courts. No client that Mr. Kammen has represented at trial has been sentenced to death.  

Terence Lenamon, Esq.

Terence M. Lenamon is capital defense attorney in Miami and a Resource Lawyer and Co-Founder of Florida Capital Resource Center, an organization dedicated to training Florida capital attorneys.

Mr. Lenamon is a graduate of Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyer’s College and has taught numerous training sessions throughout the state on techniques in mitigation investigation, jury selection, the art of the closing argument, and creative brief writing in capital cases. He frequently writes about death penalty issues on his blog at www.deathpenaltyblog.com.

Recently, Scott Glovsky interviewed Terry Lenamon for Trial Lawyer Talk.

Interview of Death Penalty Defense Lawyer Terence Lenamon

Included in the interview is a discussion of Terry’s recent representation of Byron Burch.

Terry’s client faced prosecutors seeking his death based upon a guilty verdict in the particularly violent murder of Brooksville schoolteacher Sarah Davis. 

As described in the Trial Lawyer Talk coverage, you’ll hear Terry discuss things like: 

  • What it feels like to have a mans life in your own hands
  • The synopsis of Terry’s clients’ story (Byron Burch)
  • Childhood, Addictions, & Psychic Problems
  • How Capital Cases are distinctly different from other trial cases
  • Using integrated case approach
  • Florida litigation requirements have changed in the past couple years and will change again
  • Aggregating factors surrounding Terry’s client
  • How Terry uses TLC methods in his cases
  • How the public sees “The Death Penalty”

 

Listen to the Terence Lenamon Interview for more.  It’s thirty minutes long and gives an excellent glimpse into Terry’s calling of representing those whom the government has decided are worthy of execution: 

 

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