DEATH PENALTY RULING'S IMPACT ON TEXAS—-Most aspects of Jessica's Law
Although they will not face execution, criminals who sexually assault
Texas children will serve longer sentences without the possibility of
parole under provisions of Jessica's Law not affected by Wednesday's U.S.
Supreme Court ruling.
No one in Texas has been sentenced to death under the provisions of the
law, which went into effect last September.
The death penalty provision reserved for a narrow category of repeat
child sex offenders received the most attention last year when state
lawmakers debated the high-profile bill.
But the bill also made other significant changes, including mandatory
minimum sentences and a new offense continuous sexual abuse designed to
let prosecutors present cases involving a series of victims in one trial.
"A lot of other things that are going to be used much more frequently are
untouched by this decision," said Shannon Edmonds, governmental affairs
director for the Texas District & County Attorneys Association.
A clause in the law provides that the rest of it will stand if the death
penalty portion was found unconstitutional.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst made Jessica's Law a centerpiece of his
legislative agenda. The law is named for Jessica Lunsford, a 9-year-old
Florida girl who was kidnapped and slain in 2005 by a convicted sex
offender living near her home.
During the 2007 legislative session, the death penalty provision faced
opposition from an unexpected group victims advocates who feared the bill
would result in fewer convictions.
The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault said in a statement on its
Web site Wednesday that it supports the Supreme Court's decision, handed
down in a Louisiana case involving a similar law.
"The issue of child sexual abuse is complex. Most child sexual abuse
victims are abused by a family member or close family friend. The reality
is that child victims and their families don't want to be responsible for
sending a grandparent, cousin or longtime family friend to death row," the
The Texas law tailored its toughest provisions for a specific type of
offender, someone who raped a child under 6 or who used violence (such as
a weapon or drug) to rape a child under 14.
A 1st conviction under those circumstances would carry a minimum mandatory
sentence of 25 years.
A person who served a sentence, was released and offended again would have
been eligible for the death penalty. With the Supreme Court's ruling, a
repeat offender automatically would be sentenced to life without parole.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Court sets 6th execution date for death row inmate
After a lengthy appeals process indirectly prevented the execution of
Charles Dean Hood last week, the 296th District Court in Collin County has
issued Hood his 6th execution date.
The order, which set 38-year-old Hoods execution date for Sept. 10, was
signed yesterday by presiding Judge John Nelms.
Hoods execution, originally scheduled for June 17, was postponed after the
Supreme Court rejected three appeals shortly after 11 p.m. that night.
With midnight approaching, Texas Department of Criminal Justice
administrators were weary of fitting the full lethal injection protocol
into the remaining time window, and decided instead to allow Hoods death
warrant to lapse.
"There were appeals filed throughout the evening, and ultimately, the
Supreme Court rejected 3 appeals shortly after 11 p.m.," said Michelle
Lyons, TDCJ public information officer. "After the Attorney General's
office let us know that no appeals were pending and the execution may
proceed, it was about 11:30 p.m. At that point, our concern was that we
would not be able to follow the execution protocol in the amount of time
that was left.
"We're certainly not going to jeopardize our protocol, so we allowed the
execution warrant to expire."
In Texas, Lyons said, executions can begin any time after 6 p.m. but must
be carried out by midnight because issued death warrants expire at that
"I do not recall any scenario like this one ever taking place this is the
first time Im aware of that, in the end, appeals were exhausted but we
were left with insufficient time to carry out our protocol," she said.
The appeals which stood before the Supreme Court until late that night
were not the only complication which arose that day.
"Initially, prison officials received notification at about 5 p.m. that
[State District Judge Curt Henderson] had withdrawn the execution date,
and 10 minutes later we were notified by the Attorney Generals office that
prosecutors in Collin County intended to file appeals to overturn the
motion to withdraw," Lyons said. "Hood had been loaded into a vehicle to
return to death row in Livingston, but he did not make it past the back
gate of the Walls Unit.
"He was, however, transported back to the unit after his death warrant had
expired at midnight."
Once the June 17 warrant expired, Lyons said the case was returned to the
Collin County District Court where the judge would again have to order the
setting of an execution date.
The order issued Wednesday fulfilled that requirement and set Hood's 6th
"Because this will not be his 1st date it's actually his 6th the court
has to give him at least 30 days notice prior to the execution," Lyons
said. "If it were his 1st date, for example, he would have to be given 90
days notice, instead."
Hood was convicted of capital murder in 1989 for the deaths of Ronald
Williamson and Tracie Lynn Wallace at Williamson's home near Dallas.
(source: Huntsville Item)
Judge sets execution date for Charles Hood
Presiding Judge John Nelms signed a death warrant today that set the
execution date for Charles Hood. Hood is scheduled to be executed
Wednesday, September 10, 2008. He was convicted of killing a Plano couple
According to court documents, Hood's conviction is now final because the
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals convicted him, issued a mandate and the
United States Supreme Court denied Hood application for writ of
certiorari. Further, the court denied his request for additional
post-conviction forensic DNA testing and habeas corpus relief.
Yesterday, Texas Defender Services filed a motion to refrain from setting
an execution date, which was denied.
Hood will be kept in custody by the Director of the Institutional Division
of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice at Hunstville, Texas, until
his execution date.
(source: Plano Star)
Teenage murder suspect to be tried as an adult
A judge ruled Wednesday that teenager Erin Caffey will be tried as an
adult in a family slaying in which her mother and 2 younger brothers were
killed earlier this year, Rains County officials said.
Caffey, who was 16 at the time of the deaths, was being held Thursday
morning in the Hopkins County Jail on 3 counts of capital murder, a jailer
who declined to give her name said.
No other details were immediately available on the court hearing. A
spokesman at the Rains County Jail said Caffey's bond was set at $1.5
million, Tyler television station KLTV reported.
Officials said Penny Caffey, 37; Tyler Caffey, 8; and Mathew Caffey 13,
were shot and stabbed multiple times on March 1 in a tiny East Texas town.
The lone survivor was Terry Caffey, the father. He was shot 5 times –
including twice in the back – before he dragged his bloodied body through
the woods in search of help.
Officials said Charlie Wilkinson, 19, Charles Allen Waid, 20, and Bobbi
Gale Johnson, 18, are each charged with 3 counts of capital murder in the
pre-dawn massacre at the Caffeys' secluded home. They are awaiting trial.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Wilkinson and Waid,
The Rains County jail spokesman said he did not have the name of the
The Caffeys' home is just outside Emory in Alba, about 60 miles northeast
(source: Associated Press)
Supreme Court tosses out death penalty for child rapists
When Texas' leading politicians called loudly for the death penalty for
repeat child rapists last year, they knew there was a good chance the U.S.
Supreme Court might find the provision unconstitutional. Legal experts
told them so repeatedly.
And on Wednesday the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision in a Louisiana case,
did just that, ruling that "the death penalty is not a proportional
punishment for the rape of a child."
The decision didn't surprise many, said Shannon Edmonds, staff attorney
for government relations with the Texas District and County Attorneys
"A lot of legal experts had seen the writing on the wall from the Supreme
Court," he said. "Whether those people, on both sides, agree with what the
Supreme Court was going to do or not, didn't mean they didn't see it
The decision does not entirely overturn Jessica's Law in Texas, the
statute named after Jessica Lunsford, a Florida girl who was abducted and
killed in 2005. The ruling invalidates the Texas death provision, but
legislators created a fallback position in the statute: Life without
parole would apply if capital punishment for child rape was outlawed.
While the court ruling effectively ends the use of the death penalty for
child rape, the court left open its use for crimes such as "treason,
espionage, terrorism, and drug kingpin activity, which are offenses
against the state," the ruling states. "As it relates to crimes against
individuals, though, the death penalty should not be expanded to instances
where the victim's life was not taken."
Mr. Edmonds said as far as he knows, no Texas prosecutor has sought the
death penalty for sexual assault of a child.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, one of several politicians who pushed for
Jessica's Law and became one of its most ardent supporters, said in a
prepared statement that he was disappointed by the decision. "The death
penalty is an appropriate form of punishment for repeat child molesters,"
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott also was vocal in his support of the
law on the campaign trail. His office argued in support of the Louisiana
case before the Supreme Court in April.
The attorney general's spokesman, Jerry Strickland, said the decision
"marks a setback for Texas' efforts to punish repeat child rapists."
"Texas will continue to seek the toughest penalties for the most barbaric
child predators," he said.
State Sen. Rodney Ellis, the Houston Democrat who was the Senate's lone
"no" vote against the death penalty for child sex offenders, said he's
pleased with the Supreme Court ruling.
"At some point we have to decide where to draw the line on something being
politically right but morally wrong," he said.
Politicians seeking to polish their tough-on-crime credentials may have
been disappointed by the decision, but some victims' rights advocates were
"We join sexual assault coalitions across the country in applauding the
Supreme Court's step toward ensuring that prosecutions of child sexual
assault across our nation remain victim-centered and child-friendly in
their approach," said a prepared statement released by the Texas
Association Against Sexual Assault.
Some organizations had warned legislators the law could result in victims
being unwilling to prosecute or perpetrators less likely to leave their
"Most child sexual abuse victims are abused by a family member or close
family friend," the statement from the Texas association said. "The
reality is that child victims and their families don't want to be
responsible for sending a grandparent, cousin or long time family friend
to death row."
No one has been executed for rape in the United States since 1964,
according to the Death Penalty Information Center. In 1977, the Supreme
Court outlawed death for cases involving rape of an adult victim.
But in 1995, as public concern over sex offenders rose, Louisiana enacted
a law calling for death for child rapists. Initially, the Louisiana law
pertained to victims younger than 12 and first-time offenders. The law was
later amended to include victims younger than 13.
A handful of other states Montana, South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Texas
followed suit with similar laws. But those states limited the penalty to
repeat offenders. The Texas law applied to cases with victims younger than
Louisiana is the only state to attempt to use the penalty since enacting
it. Two inmates are on death row at Angola for rape of a child.
The defendant in the case before the Supreme Court, Patrick Kennedy, was
condemned in 2004 for a sexual assault on his 8-year-old stepdaughter.
Dianne Clements, president of Justice for All, a victims' advocacy group,
thinks the death penalty is appropriate for such a heinous crime, but
isn't surprised by the court's decision.
"You can certainly say the Supreme Court once again has opted to favor
criminals," she said, but added that the decision is not a huge setback
for death penalty supporters.
"We don't want to execute for rape of a child," she said, summing up the
decision. "But really, if you read between the lines, [it] said we support
the death penalty for capital murder."
(source: Dallas Morning News)
Court rejects appeal for death row inmate who killed 2 in Richardson in
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected an appeal Wednesday from a
death row inmate condemned for a robbery 15 years ago at a Richardson
sporting goods store where two employees were fatally bludgeoned with a
hammer and nearly decapitated.
The U.S. Supreme Court in February had returned the case of condemned
prisoner Joseph Lave, 43, to the state's highest criminal court for
additional review after his lawyers argued that his trial attorneys
weren't able to cross-examine a co-defendant and challenge damaging
statements the co-defendant made. The co-defendant, Timothy Bates, refused
to testify for Mr. Lave, and a police officer from the witness stand told
jurors at Mr. Lave's trial of his interview with Mr. Bates.
Mr. Lave's attorneys argued new procedures under a Supreme Court ruling
issued after Mr. Lave's conviction wouldn't allow such testimony now and
should be made retroactive. The Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the
high court decision the appeal was based on does not require
The 2 slaying victims, Justin Marquart and Frederick Banzhaf, both 18,
along with the store's assistant manager, Angie King, were surprised by 3
intruders who got into the store in Richardson just after it had closed
the night before Thanksgiving 1992. Mr. Marquart and Mr. Banzhaf were
killed, but Ms. King, then 22, survived.
(source: Associated Press)
San Angelo Concert Sparks Conversation on Death Penalty
At a concert inside the First United Methodist Church of San Angelo
Wednesday night, Singer-Songwriter Sara Hickman held her guitar onstage,
swaying, and singing a song called We are Each others Angels. The audience
gladly sang along, giving the impression of a Christian worship service or
But these concerts are bringing more than fellowship and music across the
State of Texas in their 12-month tour. They are bringing dialogue.
The Music for Life Concert Tour plans to visit 12 Texas cities in 12
months, with the goal of encouraging and facilitating dialogue on the
death penalty. It is sponsored by the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death
Penalty and was co-hosted by the Catholic Diocese of San Angelo Criminal
Justice Ministry. So far, they have visited Austin, Huntsville, San
Antonio, Corpus Christi, Houston, Beaumont El Paso and Denton.
The concert, besides performances by Sara Hickman and Grammy nominated San
Angelo local artist Cindy Jordan, featured talks by Fr. Mark Miller
C.PP.S. of Odessa and Lupe and Emma Fabela. The Fabela family, also of
Odessa, spoke of their opposition to the death penalty, especially after
the killing of their teenage son 11 years ago.
Deacon Bob Leibrecht, of St. Stepens Church in Midland, is the San Angelo
Diocese Director for Criminal Justice Ministry. Leibrecht said he
ministers to all those who are incarcerated, and he feels that discussion
on the death penalty is particularly important in a Christian and
"Only He gives life," Leibrecht said. "Only He takes life."
He said that the death penalty not only takes away the opportunity for
someone to make amends for what they had done but violated the true
meaning of Christian justice, which is to restore.
St. Ann's Church of Midland Director of Religious Education Carol Ann Hunt
also thought that the concert and discussion were an encouraging
"It's nice to know that there are other people in the San Angelo area that
feel the same way, she said.
(source: Midland Reporter-Telegram)
Inmate found hanged in jail
A man facing 2 counts of murder for the shooting deaths of a boy and his
uncle was found Tuesday hanging dead in his cell at Potter County jail.
During a prisoner check, officers discovered Marcos Portillo, 21, hanging
from a light fixture in his cell around 10:40 p.m. Attempts to resuscitate
him failed, Amarillo police reported.
Portillo faced two murder charges in connection with the March 6 shooting
deaths of Severo Rodriguez, 11, and his uncle, Jesus Rubio, 44, in an
upstairs apartment at 308 N. Lincoln St. in Amarillo. Ricardo Rodriguez,
15, recovered from a gunshot wound to the lower leg.
Portillo made strips from a blanket he had been issued and fashioned a
rope from which he was found hanging, police said.
Amarillo police Lt. Gary Trupe of the Potter-Randall Special Crimes Unit
said Portillo's death remained under investigation Wednesday, but it
appears to be a suicide.
"I don't see anything that indicates anything but a hanging occurred,"
Trupe said. "I lean toward suicide, but I'm going to wait for the
pathologist to confirm that."
Potter County Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Thomas Jones ordered an
autopsy for Wednesday in Lubbock.
Trupe said he did not know if Portillo left a suicide note, but
investigators were combing through personal items found in his cell.
"He had a lot of papers in there," Trupe said. "We haven't had a chance to
go through them."
Acting Potter County Sheriff Ron Boyter said Portillo did not show any
signs that he had contemplated suicide.
"He gave no indication that he was in that kind of mood," Boyter said.
"These kind of things happen; it can't be avoided. When they're determined
like that, it's hard to stop them."
Capt. Roger Haney said many inmates have tried, but only one other
prisoner has committed suicide at the facility since it opened in November
1995. A male prisoner killed himself on Dec. 26, 2001, Haney said.
Randall Sims, 47th district attorney, said Portillo's murder case had not
gone before a grand jury and no hearing or trial dates had been set.
Sims said Portillo likely would have been tried for a capital offense
because he allegedly killed more than one person.
If convicted, Sims said, Portillo "was looking at the death penalty or
life without parole."
Sims said Portillo's motive for the shooting was unclear.
However, he said, "Law enforcement's theory is it's got to do with a
broken passenger window of a pickup truck that belonged to (Portillo's)
brother. He believed someone in the (victims') family had something to do
(source: Amarillo Globe-News)