Players in a Death Penalty Case

Several years ago, Dr. Marc Stern resigned from the Department of Corrections for Washington State, where he worked as its chief medical officer, because he could not jive his professional ethics as a physician with the state’s use of capital punishment.  
It’s a big dilemma in the use of lethal injections, particularly, as a means of execution since physicians are committed to health and saving lives, not ending them.  
Image:  States in red have had an execution since 1976.
Doctors are against the death penalty, and as Dr. Stern personifies, many also stand against physicians being involved in the supervision of others in any form of execution process (not just lethal injections). 
Dr. Stern Explains The Doctor’s Dilemma Regarding the Death Penalty
You can read about Dr. Stern’s resignation in an 2008 piece written by Adam Wilson for the Seattle Times here.
To learn more about Dr. Stern’s position on the Death Penalty, particularly in light of recent botched executions, read his Op-Ed piece published last month in the Guardian, “I was told to approve a lethal injection, but it violates my basic medical ethics.”

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.  


 This week, Terence Lenamon remains in trial in the unique role of "stand by counsel" to defendant Michel Escoto, who represents himself in his murder trial this week.

The prosecution rested its case last week (read about that here).

Escoto now presents his defense case, with a DNA expert taking the stand for most of yesterday.

Stand-by counsel isn’t the norm in a criminal case, but Mr. Escoto has chosen to exercise his right to represent himself in this trial and Terry Lenamon sits at the defense table without acting as trial attorney in this case. 

This case is getting more and more media coverage including national news coverage and you may recognize it as the "Newlywed Murder Case." 

See Terry:

You can see Terry Lenamon sitting as stand-by counsel in the Escoto trial in this video coverage of the case, on the day where Escoto was held in contempt of court, here. 

Right now, Terence Lenamon and Melissa Ortiz of Lenamon Law are in trial in Miami, Florida — a murder trial that is expected to run for around two months in the courtroom of Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Marisa Tinkler Mendez.

However, Terry Lenamon and his associate are acting as "stand by counsel" for the defendant, because the defendant in this case, Michel Escoto, has chosen to exercise his constitutional right to represent himself in his criminal trial – which started today.  

Michel Escoto maintains he is innocent of this crime. 

Those in the Miami area may recognize Michel Escoto’s name as the man accused of killing Wendy Trapaga, his newlywed wife, with the prosecution alleging that Escoto killed his bride in order to collect on a life insurance policy.  

For more details, check out the Miami Herald’s coverage of the case, including today’s article by David Ovalle, "Husband on trial in death of his newlywed wife in Miami-Dade."

This just in from Terry, who got the heads up from the show’s producer today:

This Sunday, November 17, 2013, the series Snapped: Killer Couples on Oxygen TV will be spotlighting one of Terence Lenamon’s clients, Joshua Fulgham.  

Be sure to watch!!!

For more on Terry’s defense of Joshua Fulgham, check out our past blog posts (here) or read about the case on Wikipedia 

 Update on Terry Lenamon’s trial this month:  today, the judge declared a mistrial in the Michael Woods case. 

Details in the Ocala Star Banner coverage online.  (This article has been updated – the addition includes an interview with a juror; to see the update, click here.)

You can see Terry in the photographs here, along with quotes from Terry Lenamon on the defense’s motion for mistrial which was granted today.

Earlier news coverage reveals the jury asking for lots of stuff to be sent to them in the deliberation room, i.e., transcripts of five trial witnesses, and yesterday afternoon there was talk of a hung jury.

Now, the judge has granted a mistrial due to juror error, because a juror went online to look up definitions of words like "circumstantial" (see the Ocala Star Banner link above for details).  

This means that this jury will be excused and the three weeks of trial that Terry and the defense team have been fighting for Woods this month will have to be started once again, in a brand new trial.  

Will the prosecution revisit the death penalty it’s seeking?  Stay tuned.

Have a good rest this weekend, Terry!







 Edith Jones is a Justice and the former Chief Justice of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit – and as appellate lawyers will tell you, there’s so much power to be found in federal appellate courts.  Not many cases make it past that level of review to the United States Supreme Court; accordingly, in many situations, the federal appellate court is the last word in the federal appeals process.

Which sorta explains why last week Terry Lenamon asked "whattha??" after reading coverage of a complaint being filed against Justice Edith Jones for comments she made in a speech entitled “Federal Death Penalty Review” at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law on February 20, 2013.

That was six days ago, and the controversy continues.  

Seems that the former chief justice gave a speech for lots of lawyers and judges up at the University of Pennsylvania which was not recorded.  However, so many people were outraged at what she had to say from the podium that seven people drafted affidavits swearing to what they heard, and they’ve been attached to a formal complaint.

One of the allegations, as described in the Complaint, is that she said:

  • The United States system of justice provides a positive service to capital-case defendants by imposing a death sentence, because the defendants are likely to make peace with God only in the moment before imminent execution;
  • Certain “racial groups like African Americans and Hispanics are predisposed to crime, are “‘prone’ to commit acts of violence,” and get involved in more violent and “heinous”crimes than people of other ethnicities;
  • Claims of racism, innocence, arbitrariness, and international standards are simply “red herrings” used by opponents of capital punishment;
  • Capital defendants who raise claims of “mental retardation” abuse the system;
  • The United States Supreme Court’s decision in Atkins v. Virginia prohibiting execution of persons who are “mentally retarded” was ill-advised and created a “slippery slope";
  • Mexican Nationals would prefer to be on death row in the United States rather than in prison in Mexico;
  • The country of Mexico does not provide and would not provide the legal protections that a Mexican National facing a death sentence in the United States would receive.

Read the Complaint here.

Read Jonathan Turley’s take on things here.  

Meanwhile, today the news is spreading that a motion to keep Justice Edith Jones from reviewing a death penalty case has been granted.  Jones will not be a part of the three member panel that hears Texas Death Row inmate Elroy Chambers’ federal appellate arguments.  



 As reported earlier here on the blog, Terence Lenamon was successful in his arguments to keep Vernon Stevens off of Florida’s Death Row as Mr. Stevens was sentenced to life imprisonment earlier this month.

Meanwhile, news coverage of the James E. Bannister murder case out of Ocala earlier this month had Terry Lenamon’s co-counsel reporting to the trial judge that Terence Lenamon could not be actively participating in the Bannister proceeding because he was busy in the Stevens case.  

Added to that, explained Tania Alavi, she and Terence Lenamon were also co-defense counsel in the pending Florida death penalty murder case against Michael Woods, set for trial later in 2013 – and it’s assumed that the Woods trial may be delayed in order for the Bannister case to proceed.

Here is Terry Lenamon’s Opening Statement in the penalty phase of the Stevens trial: { var scribd = document.createElement(“script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = “”; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();