Entries in Death Penalty (38)


Jodi Arias Says She Might Consider Plea Deal to Avoid Death Penalty

ABC News(PHOENIX) -- Jodi Arias has suggested this weekend that she might make a plea deal to avoid the death penalty rather than appeal her murder conviction.

Hours before the movie Jodi Arias: Dirty Little Secret played on the Lifetime channel, Arias tweeted on Saturday, "Just don't know yet if I will plea or appeal."

It was one of two tweets sent out on her behalf by friends who maintain a twitter account for the convicted murderer.

"Let's clear up any confusion. Anyone asking 4 donation$ right now on my behalf 4 my appeals is not legit," she wrote in one tweet.

It was quickly followed by another stating, "I'm not currently accepting donations 4 appeals. Just don't know yet if I will plea or appeal."

Arias, 32, is apparently referring to a possible deal in which she would accept a life prison term instead of the death penalty in exchange for promising not to appeal her conviction.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said in late May that he would have an "ethical obligation" to consider a plea deal if the defense offered one.

Arias was convicted in May of murdering her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in 2007 with a flurry of stab wounds, a slashed throat and gunshot to the head.

But the Arizona jury could not agree on whether to sentence her to death.

The court has set July 18 to begin selecting a new jury to decide the penalty phase of Arias' case. Her lawyers have asked that the trial be delayed until January.

If a second jury is also unable to agree on whether to execute Arias, the judge would decide whether she gets life with or without the possibility of parole.

Arias also tweeted this weekend that she has completed a new painting, a portrait of a bighorn sheep which she is offering for sale for $2,000.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Jodi Arias Jurors: 'She Is Sentenced to Death No Matter What'

ABC News(PHOENIX) -- Three jurors from the Jodi Arias trial said the sentencing phase was "absolutely awful" after they were unable agree on whether the woman they had found guilty of first-degree murder should get the death penalty or life in prison.

"We can't come to a decision, and it was gut-wrenching. It was absolutely awful," said Diane Schwartz, a retired 911 operator, who for the duration of the five month trial was known as Juror No. 6.

The jury took a short time to convict Arias of first-degree murder in the 2008 shooting and stabbing death of her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, but when it came to the sentencing phase, they were split.
Schwartz, along with fellow jurors Kevin Spellman and Marilou Allen-Coogan, spoke exclusively with ABC News about the grave responsibility that they said ended with a deadlock of eight jurors voting in favor of the death penalty and four supporting life in prison for Arias. All three said they favored giving Arias the death penalty.

"It was a very trying experience," said Spellman, a banker who was known as Juror No. 13. "How do you weigh a person's life?"

Arias, 32, had been branded a liar by the prosecution because she initially denied killing Alexander, then claimed two years later that she killed him in self-defense, citing Alexander's physical and emotional abuse.

Some of the most intense moments during the trial came over the 18 days when Arias took the stand and described her relationship with Alexander.

"Based on what we saw and the evidence presented, it was very apparent that we weren't being told the truth in a lot of the matters, and there was a lot of cover-up," Allen-Coogan said, adding that she believed Arias was playing to the jury.

"The state proved their case. It was premeditated," she said.

After three days of deliberations, the jury's hung verdict was read Thursday, leaving the case open and the jury dismissed.

"I felt like we had failed the system," Schwartz said. "As I walked out, I remember looking towards the prosecution table. I thought, 'They won't even look at us.'

"I immediately, as I was stepping down, told them, 'I'm sorry,'" she said. "It was heartfelt because I was. I was very sorry."

Despite the deadlock, Spellman said he believes no matter what sentence Arias receives, she is dying.
"She is sentenced to death no matter what," he said.

Arias' fate is now left up to the prosecutor, who will decide whether to retry the penalty phase. If he decides to try again for the death penalty, a new jury will be selected and both the prosecution and defense will present evidence and arguments over what sentence Arias should receive.

The retrial, in which Arias could either be sentenced to death or to life in prison, with or without the possibility of parole, would begin July 18.

If the prosecution chooses not to retry the penalty phase, Arias will get life in prison, either with or without parole.

The prosecutor's office has not yet decided what it plans to do.


Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Maryland Abolishes Death Penalty

David J. Sams/Getty Images(ANNAPOLIS, Md.) -- Maryland became the 18th state to abolish the death penalty on Thursday when Gov. Martin O’Malley signed the measure at a crowded ceremony.

The new law will not apply to the five people currently on death row, but the governor can commute those sentences to life without parole.

“Just as we have a responsibility to do more of the things that work to save lives we have a responsibility to stop doing the things that are wasteful and that are ineffective,” said O’Malley.

NAACP President Ben Jealous echoed O’Malley’s sentiments. “This profound waste of law enforcement dollars will be ended so that dollars can be focused on catching the killers who are still on the street,” he said.

The signing of the law was especially moving for Kirk Bloodsworth, who spent time on death row in Maryland before his conviction on rape and murder charges was overturned. Bloodsworth was the first American sentenced to death row exonerated by DNA evidence.

Bloodsworth’s story was one of the motivations for abolishing capital punishment.

“Man,” Bloodsworth said, “I killed the thing that almost killed me.”

Maryland is the sixth state to abolish the death penalty since 2007. The last execution in Maryland happened in 2005.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


James Holmes' Prosecutors Want to Use Jail Video and Audio at Trial

RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post(ARAPHAHOE, Colo.) -- The prosecution seeking the death penalty against James Holmes in the Aurora theater shooting case want to see what he's been doing in jail so that they can possibly use it against him during the penalty phase of trial if he is found guilty by a jury.

In a new notice filed Friday in Arapahoe District Court, District Attorney George Brauchler made a list of evidence he wants to see in order to establish a capital murder case, including "any video or audio recording of the defendant and/or any person he interacts with while incarcerated."

Former Colorado prosecutor Bob Grant says asking for jailhouse recordings is an excellent way to catch an inmate off-guard. "Every jail phone has big sign right there on the wall and the prisoners all sign a document that 'This phone is monitored' and it doesn't make a darn bit of difference. They say the most incriminating stuff," said Grant, a former district attorney for Adams County.

Grant, the last district attorney to successfully prosecute a death penalty case in Colorado, added, "I don't doubt that in some of those recordings the prosecutor is looking for something to establish state of mind. If he's (Holmes) making sense like a common man would make, then it would help them to disprove insanity."

There were 74 types of evidence requested in the motion, including cell site data from Holmes' cellular phone, 911 calls "related to disturbance complaints" the day before and of the murders, and spent shell casings collected from the Byers Canyon Rifle Range.

It's the first time law enforcement has publicly mentioned that the shooter may have used the range for target practice.

The penalty phase may be necessary because on April 1, Brauchler announced that he would seek the death penalty against Holmes.

He is charged with 166 counts in the shootings at the Aurora Cinemark theater on July 20 which left 12 people dead, including an 8-year-old girl. Another 70 people were injured.

Holmes' trial is scheduled to begin in February 2014.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Arizona Woman Facing Death Penalty over Boyfriend's Murder

ABC News(MESA, Ariz.) -- Prosecutors in Arizona will begin arguing on Wednesday that Jodi Arias, 32, should die for the especially brutal murder of her one-time boyfriend, Travis Alexander, who was found dead in his shower over four years ago.

Investigators say Arias stabbed Alexander 27 times, slit his throat and shot him in the head at his Mesa, Ariz., home in June of 2008.  Arias, who has been locked up since her arrest, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.

"I didn't hurt Travis.  I would never hurt Travis," Arias said in a jailhouse interview after she was arrested in July 2008.  "I would be shaking in my boots right now if I had to answer to God for such a heinous crime."

Arias and Alexander met at a work conference six years ago.  Arias says they fell in love, traveled the country together, and to strengthen her ties to the devout Mormon, she even converted to his religion.  But Alexander's friends say after dating a few months he tried to break it off.

"There's nothing about her that I see in marriage material -- or wife material," Alexander said, according to his friend, Dave Hall.  "But it's hard to say no to a woman that sneaks into your house, crawls in your bed and tries to, you know, seduce you."

Alexander's family and friends say Arias was stalking him in the months before the murder -- something she denies.

At first, she also denied being at his house the night of the murder.  Then, police found a camera in Alexander's washing machine containing pictures of the two having sex that day.  There were also pictures of Alexander after he was killed.

Faced with that evidence, Arias then told the television show Inside Edition that she was there, but didn't kill Alexander.

"I witnessed Travis being attacked by two other individuals," she said on Inside Edition.  "Who were they?  I don't know.  I couldn't pick them up in a police lineup."

Now, the accused killer is admitting to the court that she did kill Alexander, but that it was in self-defense.  She claims he was sexually and physically abusive throughout their relationship.

Steven Alexander, Travis Alexander's brother, said that he can see Arias' true colors.

"It makes me sick because I know her true side," he told ABC News.  "And I ask people to please not buy into this sweet innocent personality that she puts on."

Arias told Inside Edition that she believes she will walk away from the trial a free woman.

"No jury is going to convict me," she said.  "Why not?  Because I'm innocent.  You can mark my words on that.  No jury will convict me."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Mom Raises Money to Watch Daughter’s Killer Die

David J. Sams/Getty Images(SIOUX FALLS, S.D.) -- Friends, family members and strangers have helped Tina Curl’s grim dream come to fruition -- to watch the man who raped and murdered her 9-year-old daughter be strapped to a gurney and fight for his final breath as lethal drugs course through his veins.

Curl, 50, spent months raising money for the trip from New York to South Dakota where she’ll get a “front row seat” to watch Donald Moeller be executed.  The execution could happen any time between Monday and Nov. 3.

“I have waited 22 long years for this,” Curl, who has arrived in Sioux Falls, S.D., told ABC News during her fundraising drive.  "He watched her die and I am going to watch him die.”

Curl's daughter, Becky O’Connell, went to the convenience store to buy candy on May 8, 1990.  The following morning, her body was found in a wooded area in Lincoln County, S.D.

An autopsy found O’Connell had been raped vaginally and anally and died of a cut to the jugular vein of her neck, according to court documents.

Curl and her husband, Dave, who was O’Connell’s stepfather, had lived in South Dakota for five months at the time of the murder.  The couple later relocated to Lake Luzerne, N.Y.

“After this she wasn’t going to stay in that state,” said Rhonda Springer, a longtime friend of Curl who helped spearhead the fundraiser to send Tina and Dave Curl to South Dakota to witness the execution.

Although a one week window has been set for Moeller’s execution, the actual date of lethal injection is at the warden’s discretion, with 48 hours’ notice required, Tina Curl said.

“It means everything,” she said.  “I ain’t only doing it for me.  I am doing it for Becky.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Texas Executes 10th Inmate in 2012

Texas Department of Criminal Justice(HUNTSVILLE, Texas) -- Convicted murderer Jonathan Green became the 10th Texas inmate to be put to death this year when he was given a lethal injection Wednesday.

Green, 44, was convicted of kidnapping and killing a 12-year-old girl from her home in 2000. He took the girl to his home, strangled and sexually assaulted her, and then buried her in his backyard.

Detectives arrived and questioned him, then left to get a search warrant. During that time he dug up and moved the body inside his house, where detectives found it when they returned. He then denied involvement in the killing, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Wednesday, his legal team made pleas to the 5th District Court of Appeals to stay Green's execution, delaying the time of death from 6 p.m. until close to midnight, when his execution order would have expired. The appeals failed, however, and Green was given the lethal injection around 10:30 p.m.

Green told the warden that he would not have any final words before his death Wednesday night, but soon changed his mind, according to the Houston Chronicle.

"I'm an innocent man. I never killed anyone. Y'all are killing an innocent man," he said, and then looked down at the injection in his arm. "It's hurting me bad."

He was declared dead around 10:45 p.m.

Copyrigh 2012 ABC News Radio


Study Questions Execution of Possibly-Innocent Texas Man

Carlos Hernandez (L), and Carlos De Luna (R). (Corpus Christi Police Department)(NEW YORK) -- A brutal murder, two similar-looking suspects, and a death sentence.  For Jim Liebman, these three ingredients became the catalyst for exposing one of the judicial system's greatest risks: executing an innocent person.

In a new book-length study written by Liebman, a Columbia law professor, and six of his students, and published in the Columbia Human Rights Law Review, the decision to execute Carlos De Luna for the 1983 murder of a Corpus Christi gas station attendant is called into question again and again.

"This case, because it is such an everyday case, a very commonplace case, an 'everycase' if you've got problems in this kind of case that no one was paying attention to.  It contributes to the wider debate about what the risks [of the death penalty] are to human life," Liebman told ABC News.

De Luna was arrested in 1983 for the murder of Wanda Lopez, a brutal killing in which Lopez was stabbed to death by a Hispanic man shopping in the convenience store where she worked.  But throughout his arrest, trial and time on death row, De Luna insisted it was Carlos Hernandez, a friend of his from Corpus Christi, who looked uncannily similar to De Luna, who'd actually killed Lopez.

Liebman, who set out to examine whether the judicial system had put seemingly-innocent criminals to death, spent five years investigating the details of the De Luna case.  He and his team of investigators and students talked to more than 100 witnesses, combed through 20 feet of documents and compiled a 400-plus page narrative case study of the Lopez murder.  To back up their assertions, the team put the study online, with hundreds of footnotes and links to original documents and primary source materials so that people could come to their own conclusions about the two Carloses.

Liebman's students arranged to have the study published in a special issue of the Human Rights Law Review, which will be devoted entirely to the De Luna narrative.  The decision to publish their findings as a nonfiction narrative story, rather than as an academic paper, was made to try to bring a more general readership to the story of Carlos De Luna.

"My hope is that this will bring more readers to the story and potentially a broader category of readers, including college students around country and even the public," Liebman said.

During its investigation, the team found a mountain of evidence that convinced them De Luna was innocent.  They talked to Hernandez's family and friends, who made it seem as if it was "common knowledge" in Corpus Christi that Hernandez had bragged about making De Luna his "fall guy," Liebman said.

While prosecutors pushed forward with the case against De Luna, Hernandez allegedly confessed multiple times, including just weeks after Lopez's death.

Liebman and his students also found glaring mistakes about how police and prosecutors had treated the case, including contamination of the crime scene by investigators.

De Luna maintained his innocence throughout his trial, his time on death row and in his last words before he was executed in 1989.

Hernandez went on to be arrested more than a dozen times, including for the murder of a different woman, killed by a knife similar to the one used in Lopez's killing.  The charges were dropped because of prosecutorial delay, according to Liebman's study.

Hernandez died in prison in 1999 of liver disease, and the case will never be reopened, Liebman acknowledged.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Connecticut Repeals Death Penalty

Kevin Horan/Stone(HARTFORD, Conn.) -- Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed the state's death penalty repeal bill into law Wednesday, but the new law will not affect the 11 convicted killers already on death row, including the two men who killed the wife and daughters of Dr. William Petit.

The bill signing made Connecticut the seventeenth state to abolish the death penalty.

The new law replaces the death penalty with a sentence of life without parole. It abolished the death penalty for future cases only and does not affect those on death row curently in the state.

The state has only put to death two people in the past 52 years and both had volunteered for it.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Massacre Survivor William Petit Opposes Repeal of Conn. Death Penalty

David J Sams/Getty Images(HARTFORD, Conn.) -- Connecticut state senators were expected to vote on a controversial death penalty repeal bill Wednesday, with family members of murder victims at odds over whether the bill should move forward or not.

The proposed bill would replace the death penalty with a sentence of life without parole. It would abolish the death penalty for future cases, but would not affect sentences for the 11 inmates currently on death row in the state.

One of the strongest voices against repealing the death penalty has been Dr. William Petit Jr., the lone survivor of a 2007 Cheshire home invasion that resulted in the brutal murders of his wife and two daughters. The two men convicted of the crime, Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, are currently on death row.

Republican minority leader John McKinney joined with other lawmakers, Petit and the family members of other murder victims to denounce the repeal bill at a news conference.

"We believe in the death penalty because we believe it is really the only true just punishment for certain heinous and depraved murders,'' Petit said.

Senate Democrats also gathered Wednesday morning in Connecticut to unveil an amendment to a bill that requires harsher sentences for those convicted of "murder with special circumstances."

Majority leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, and Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said inmates in this tougher program would face conditions similar to those of current death row inmates.

Petit does not believe this type of amendment would be enough.

"There is no such thing as closure when your loved one is savagely taken from you," Petit -- along with his sister Johanna Petit Chapman -- wrote in a statement to the New Haven Register in March. "There can, however, be adequate and just punishment and that is the death penalty."

Family members of other murder victims have united to support the repeal. About 100 relatives of victims signed a letter of support for abolishing the death penalty.

"The death penalty, rather than preventing violence, only perpetuates it and inflicts further pain on survivors," the letter reads. "The reality of the death penalty is that it drags out the legal process for decades. In Connecticut, the death penalty is a false promise that goes unfulfilled, leaving victims' families frustrated and angry after years of fighting the legal system."

The letter argues that the money spent on the "broken system" could be better used supporting victims' services.

In the past 40 years, Connecticut has executed one person. In 2005, serial killer Michael Ross, 45, was executed for killing four Connecticut women in the 1980s.

Democrats have said they are optimistic the bill will pass, but minority leader John McKinney has expressed doubts. If the bill does make it past the state's House of Republicans, Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy has said in the past that he would sign and abolish the death penalty.

If Connecticut abolishes the death penalty, they would join New Jersey, New Mexico and Illinois as states that have done so in recent years.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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