death penalty news—-TEXAS

July 31


Killer in Amarillo robbery executed

Texas executed condemned inmate Larry Donnell Davis on Thursday for
orchestrating and taking part in the robbery and fatal stabbing and
beating of a man in Amarillo 13 years ago.

"Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted," he said in his
final statement, quoting from the Bible. "It is finished."

The parents of Davis' victim watched through a window a few feet from him
but he never looked at them. He was pronounced dead at 6:19 p.m. CDT, 8
minutes after the lethal drugs began to flow.

Davis, 40, had been out of prison less than four months when authorities
said he and several friends were involved in robbing an acquaintance,
Michael Barrow, 26, and killing him at Barrow's home.

"I'm happy and thankful we do have the death penalty," said Robert Mares,
the victim's father. "It's something we definitely need in our society.

"When you lose a family member the way we lost one, it's the first thing
on your mind in the morning and the last thing at night. It doesn't ever
escape your mind."

He said he didn't expect any kind of apology from Davis because "he had 12
years, almost 13, to do that…

"I didn't come here to see a man die. I came for my own personal
satisfaction, to try to get closure to this."

Davis' execution was the 4th in Texas this year and the 2nd in as many
weeks. Executions were on hold in Texas and around the country for more
than 7 months until the U.S. Supreme Court in April rejected an appeal
from 2 Kentucky prisoners who argued lethal injection was
unconstitutionally cruel.

Texas resumed carrying out executions in June and Davis was among at least
15 condemned prisoners with death dates in the coming months, including 6
in August.

Davis acknowledged he was at Barrow's home the day of the killing and
kicked the victim who had broken free of restraints on his hands and feet,
but he insisted in a recent interview with The Associated Press he was not
responsible for the fatal wounds.

"They finished him," he said of his friends, who accepted plea deals for
lesser sentences. "I don't mind being punished for something I did not
for something I didn't do."

In a detailed confession to police that ran 14 pages, Davis said he tied
Barrow's hands, held him down while an accomplice stabbed him and handed
his accomplice the weapons, including an ice pick, a knife and a lead

"This is a bad dude," said Pat Murphy, a Potter County assistant district
attorney who prosecuted the case. "Basically, Larry Donnell Davis helped
him stab the guy, helped him choke the guy, he even coached him.

"The confession is the thing. He talks about how he got the knife, told
him how to do it, stuck his foot across the guy's throat to show how to
asphyxiate him. It's pretty chilling."

Davis was no stranger to prison or trouble at the time of the Barrow
slaying in August 1995.

He'd been released from prison on mandatory supervision less than 4 months
earlier, freed after serving 10 months for a parole violation and a 4-year
term for theft. Even before that, Davis was locked up in 1992 with a
2-year term for a weapons and theft conviction. He was released after 5
months, then was returned about a year later as a parole violator. In May
1994, he was released again, but was back in prison 6 weeks later.

He also was accused but never tried for another murder in Dallas in 1993,
where authorities said the victim was fatally beaten with the top of a
toilet tank.

"I used to drink a lot," Davis said from death row.

He said he was offered a plea bargain for Barrow's death but rejected it.

"I didn't murder the dude and wouldn't accept it," he said.

Davis told police Barrow's death was a plot by 2 friends, brothers Raydon
and Donald Drew, who needed money so at least one of them could get a
teardrop tattoo, a gang symbol that can represent involvement in a killing
or loss of a loved one in a slaying. 2 others serving as lookouts, one of
them a juvenile, also were involved.

Davis supplied the knife and an ice pick used by Raydon Drew to kill
Barrow, according to his confession.

At his trial, Davis' lawyers tried to show he was only a passive
participant, may have been guilty of aggravated robbery or murder but not
capital murder.

Barrow was found dead by his parents. Police recovered items stolen from
the home, mostly electronics and some jewelry, at pawn shops.

Davis spent part of his youth growing up at a church-run children's home.
He dropped out of school in the 9th grade. The father of 2 boys and 2
girls is divorced. His ex-wife testified against him at his capital murder
trial and told jurors of how he abused her.

2 executions are set for next week, beginning with Jose Medellin, set to
die Tuesday for his participation in the gang rape and beating deaths of 2
Houston girls.

Davis becomes the 4th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
Texas and the 409th overall since Texas resumed capital punishment on
December 7, 1982. Davis becomes the 170th condemned inmate to be put to
death in Texas since Rick Perry became governor of the state in 2001.

Davis becomes the 16th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
the USA and the 1115th overall since the nation resumed executions on
January 17, 1977.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)


Judge wants serial killer's death sentence out

A federal judge has recommended a serial killer's death sentence be

U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul D. Stickney of Dallas recommended a new
sentencing hearing for Faryion Wardrip, sent to Texas' death row in 1999
and serving three life sentences in the murders of three other women.

Stickney's recommendation will go to the U.S. District Court for the
Northern District of Texas for a decision, but Wardrip's attorneys and the
Texas Attorney General's Office have three months to file motions
supporting or contesting it.

Marsha Bridgens, the mother of murder victim Terry Sims, said Wardrip was
"just playing the system" and said she could not believe a judge listened
to his case.

"I don't care if he lives in prison forever," she told the Wichita Falls
Times Record News for a story in Thursday editions. "He will die, and
that's when he gets punished."

Wardrip, now 49, was convicted of fatally stabbing 20-year-old Sims in
1984, but the murder was unsolved for years. Then he killed Tina Kimbrew
in 1986, confessed, pleaded guilty and served 11 years in prison before he
was paroled.

Then after DNA evidence linked him to other slayings, he pleaded guilty to
Sims' murder and was sentenced to death in 1999.

He also confessed to killing 23-year-old Toni Gibbs, 21-year-old Ellen
Blau and 25-year-old Debra Taylor all in 1985 and received life
sentences in each of those cases. All but 1 of his 5 victims was killed in
the Wichita Falls area: Taylor, in Fort Worth.

Wardrip's lawyers took his appeals to federal court after they were
exhausted at the state level.

In recommending July 25 that the death sentence be thrown out, Stickney
cited a question jurors asked during deliberations about whether a danger
to society meant the public or prison society, their lack of information
about parole eligibility and the defense attorney's failure to present
evidence about Wardrip's positive activities while in prison.

"… (Wardrip) would not have been sentenced to death had his defense
counsel presented any evidence about his nearly spotless (prison) record
and his commendable behavior during his prior eleven-year incarceration,"
Stickney wrote.

(source: Associated Press)


Your Texas death machine gets rolling once again—-A Nation of Laws?

Scheduled for Execution Aug. 5: Jos Medelln

There is no doubt that the crime for which 33-year-old Jos Ernesto Medelln
was sentenced to die was horrific. And there is no arguing that Medelln
did not participate in the brutal gang rape in Houston that claimed the
lives of two teen girls. There is also no question that Medelln, a Mexican
national, was denied the opportunity after he was arrested to consult with
Mexican consular officials regarding his detention and prosecution, as
guaranteed under provisions of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular
Relations, to which the U.S. is a party.

At issue now, just days before his Aug. 5 execution date, is whether that
violation of Convention protection prejudiced Medelln's defense and, more
broadly, whether the state of Texas (or any other state) is actually
required to enforce the provisions of international law. To
international-law experts, including Sarah Cleveland, a former UT law
professor who now teaches at Columbia, Texas' failure to comply with the
provisions of international treaties could have far-reaching implications.
The U.S. "has relied repeatedly on the enforceability of this and other
treaty obligations abroad," she said. "If we do not keep our promises to
our international partners, we lose the ability to protect our own
citizens abroad and damage our nation's reputation as a reliable player on
the world stage."

On June 24, 1993, then-18-year-old Medelln and six other young men
gathered in a Houston park for a fight that served as an initiation rite
into the Black and White gang. After the fight was over, the teenagers
were walking along a set of nearby railroad tracks when they passed two
young girls, 14-year-old Jennifer Ertman and 16-year-old Elizabeth Pea.
The boys grabbed them; the 2 girls were raped multiple times, strangled,
and left for dead. Medelln was charged, tried, and convicted of capital
murder, but it wasn't until after he was sentenced to death that the
Mexican government was contacted about his situation, when Medelln wrote
to Mexican officials from his cell.

Ultimately, Medelln was one of 52 people on death row in the U.S. named in
a lawsuit filed in the International Court of Justice (often called the
"World Court") by the Mexican government, which argued that the U.S. had
failed to meet its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Consular
Relations. The relevant section of the Convention provides that in an
effort to maintain "international peace and security," people traveling
abroad should have the right to talk with representatives of their home
nation "without delay" if arrested, "committed to prison or to custody
pending trial or is detained in any other manner." These rights "shall be
exercised in conformity with the laws and regulations" of the detention
state, reads the Convention, "subject to the proviso, however, that the
said laws … must enable full effect to be given to the purposes" for
which the consular rights are intended.

Although Medelln tried to raise the violation of the Convention as a claim
on appeal, the courts rejected his argument. In 2001, the Texas Court of
Criminal Appeals ruled: 1) that the claim was procedurally moot because
Medelln had failed to raise the issue at trial, 2) that as a private
individual he didn't have standing to enforce the provisions of the
international treaty, and 3) that he failed to show the violation caused
him any harm since he had been provided with "effective legal
representation" at trial and that his "constitutional rights were

Whether Medelln was in fact provided with adequate representation isn't at
all clear. According to court records, one of his court-appointed
attorneys was actually suspended from practicing law during the time he
was representing Medelln. And the question of whether these violations
caused harm to his defense has never been adequately addressed.

While Medelln's appeal was pending before the federal appeals court, the
ICJ ruled that the U.S. had failed to meet its obligations under the
Vienna Convention and that the U.S., "by means of its own choosing," had
to have the cases of every Mexican national reviewed by the courts. In
response, Bush issued a memorandum on Feb. 28, 2005, that, in essence,
ordered the state courts to "give effect" to the ICJ decision. (Bush also
subsequently withdrew U.S. participation in the portion of the Convention
that grants the World Court jurisdiction over Convention disputes.) Texas
officials balked at the order, and the Court of Criminal Appeals agreed,
noting that while the feds may have to honor treaty obligations,
individual states were under no obligation to do so.

The question of enforceability made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, which
sided with the state, ruling that the state courts were not bound by the
ICJ ruling absent any binding action of Congress. Medelln's case has since
been put to rest by the CCA, but scheduling his execution has caused a
last round of wrangling: On July 6, the ICJ issued an order calling for a
stay of execution, and on July 14, U.S. Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif.,
filed legislation that would offer criminal defendants "any relief
required to remedy the harm done" by violating the Convention. That
legislation has not yet moved beyond committee assignment, prompting state
Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, to appeal to Perry to postpone Medelln's
execution. It is "inappropriate" for a state government to "undermine"
foreign policy obligations and it is especially important to consider the
effects that dismissing these concerns would have on "Texans living,
working, and visiting abroad," he wrote.

That argument doesn't appear to have impressed Perry. "The world court has
no standing in Texas and Texas is not bound by a ruling or edict from a
foreign court," spokesman Robert Black told the Houston Chronicle. "It is
easy to get caught up in discussions of international law and justice and
treaties. It's very important to remember that these individuals are on
death row for killing our citizens."


Feeding the Death Machine

Heliberto ChiScheduled for Execution Aug. 7: Heliberto Chi

Is the Texas method of execution by lethal injection a "cruel and unusual
punishment" that violates the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?

According to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest
criminal court, the answer is no. The method, at least as it is set forth
in the written protocol by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, is
legally sound, said the CCA earlier this year. On June 9, the court ruled
that Heliberto Chi, scheduled for an Aug. 7 execution, is not entitled to
a hearing to argue otherwise.

Yet in carrying out its executions, does the state actually follow its own
protocol? If not, how can the CCA be certain that the injection method
would actually withstand strict scrutiny? And if an inmate isn't entitled
even to a hearing on the matter, will we ever know the truth?

In fact, according to recently filed appeals and, it would appear, to
deposition testimony under seal in a Houston federal court it's hard to
tell if Texas officials exert any meaningful control over the
lethal-injection process. In 1977, Texas followed Oklahoma's lead,
adopting trichemical lethal injection as our method of execution, even
though the only expert Texas officials consulted a veterinarian advised
that the most humane method would be a single, massive dose of the
barbiturate pentobarbital. Texas ignored that advice, however, opting for
the trichemical cocktail developed for Oklahoma by its medical examiner,
Jay Chapman, who, according to court documents, was not of the opinion
that execution should be painless. "Perhaps hemlock is the answer for all
the bleeding hearts who completely forget about the victims and their
suffering," Chapman has said. "And we should worry that these horses'
patoots should have a bit of pain, awareness of anything give me a

And so the trichemical method was adopted and is now central to the claim
that the method, as practiced in 36 states, is unconstitutional. In
general, the three chemicals sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide, and
potassium chloride are injected in succession, and each functions in
order to: 1) sedate the prisoner, 2) paralyze all voluntary muscles, and
3) stop the heart. The ability to achieve this goal in a humane manner,
however, rests upon the skill and expertise with which the drugs are
administered and monitored. The risk of severe pain turns on the proper
injection of the first chemical, a mild sedative generally used to
temporarily render a patient unconscious during the introduction of
anesthesia. Sodium thiopental is "ordinarily used to render a surgical
patient unconscious for mere minutes only in the induction phase of
anesthesia, specifically so that the patient may reawaken and breathe on
his own power if any complications arise," Dr. Mark Heath, a professor of
clinical anesthesia at Columbia, said in a declaration filed with Chi's
appeal. In the context of lethal injection, the sedative is problematic
because, if it wears off after the injection of pancuronium bromide, a
drug that immobilizes all voluntary muscles including the diaphragm the
inmate may feel excruciating pain, and, while conscious but incapable of
communication, "suffocate to death while experiencing an intense,
conscious desire to inhale."

If monitored properly, these pitfalls might be avoided, but lawyers for
Chi (and other death row inmates) argue that the absence of any oversight
by medical experts or trained administrators renders the Texas execution
method a torturous experience that certainly falls outside the parameters
of the Eighth Amendment.

The CCA's assurance that Texas' lethal injection method is sound relies
exclusively on the U.S. Supreme Court decision this year in the case of
two inmates who challenged Kentucky's use of the method. The Kentucky
courts held a 7-day hearing, out of which came a full record for the
Supremes to explore. In the end, the high court concluded that the manner
in which Kentucky administers lethal injection, using the same trichem
cocktail as Texas, is constitutional.

But that does not mean, the high court noted, that all protocols are
created equal. In fact, it seems the only thing Texas and Kentucky have in
common is that both states have written protocols. In practice, the
differences are striking including the fact that Texas does not use
medical professionals to carry out or monitor the execution process, not
even to ensure that the IV line is secured properly, that the individual
drugs are mixed properly, or that the inmate is unconscious prior to being
dosed with the second and third drugs. And that creates a strong
likelihood for painful error.

Quantifying that likelihood, however, has been difficult at best for the
lawyers representing death row inmates like Chi. State statutes governing
lethal injection require only that execution happen by the "injection of a
substance or substances in a lethal quantity sufficient to cause death."
The only restriction TDCJ places on the process is that no "torture, or
ill treatment, or unnecessary pain, should be inflicted." What that means
in practice has been hard to determine. TDCJ's written protocol remained
secret until 2006, when it was disclosed during discovery in a federal
civil lawsuit. What the state or the CCA has known about this protocol
over the years is also unclear.

However, recent court filings suggest that the TDCJ and the Texas Attorney
General's Office may have been aware since at least March 2007 that Texas'
written protocol has little relevance to the realities of the death
chamber. In a recent appeal (for inmate Carlton Turner, executed July 10),
lawyers argued that the contents of a 280-page deposition of death unit
Warden Charles O'Reilly reflect that "the written protocol is effectively
irrelevant to the reality of how Texas carries out execution by lethal
injection in practice." The deposition remains under court seal and was
only made available to defense attorneys under a confidentiality agreement
inhibiting their ability to provide more specific detail. However,
Turner's attorneys argued, the information in O'Reilly's deposition
"demonstrates that the TDCJ's assertions that the protocol is applied in
Texas just as it is in Kentucky are unsupported allegations and, in large
measure, simply false."

So far, such arguments have not impressed the CCA. In Chi's case, Judge
Barbara Hervey opined for the court majority that because the Kentucky
execution protocol is "materially indistinguishable from Texas' …
protocol … Chi's Eighth Amend-ment claim has no merit." At present, it
appears that only one CCA jurist, Judge Tom Price, has any reservations
about the legality of the process: "Apparently the Court will not tolerate
actual litigation of the issue if it means the death machine meanwhile
must stand idle," Price wrote in dissent. "But we cannot fix the machine
while the cogs are turning."


Should Have Been Anticipated

Jeffrey WoodScheduled for execution Aug. 21: Jeffrey Wood

Jeffrey Wood did not enter the Gold Star Texaco in Kerrville until after
he heard the gunshots.

He was sitting in a pickup truck parked outside the gas station almost a
second home to him, his sister Terri Been says, a real hangout where Wood
often went to socialize with friends who worked there, including clerk
Kris Keeran when he heard gunfire. He ran inside, where he found his
friend Keeran slumped over near the counter, dead from a single
.22-caliber round that caught him between his left eye and the bridge of
his nose. Holding the gun was another friend, Danny Reneau. Wood was
shocked. Reneau pointed the gun at Wood and barked an order for him to
grab a video surveillance camera and VCR. Wood was afraid, he later told
police, and did as he was told. Reneau removed the store safe and the pair
fled to the home of Wood's brother in Devine.

Wood did not fire the fatal shot and did not participate in the robbery
that preceded the Jan. 2, 1996, murder. Nonetheless, Wood was sentenced to
die, based on the state's "law of parties," also known as the "conspirator
liability" statute. The law provides that if two or more people agree to
commit one crime but in the process commit another, each person is guilty
of the crime committed if the crime was "one that should have been
anticipated." This is a more nebulous form of traditional accomplice
liability (aiding and abetting) that requires the state to prove specific,
individual culpability. The difference here is in intent and foresight:
Accomplice liability requires intent; conspiracy requires only a finding
that the crime was foreseeable.

In Wood's case, the state argued that he had planned with Reneau to rob
the Texaco and therefore was responsible for Keeran's death. But it isn't
at all clear that Wood was planning to rob the store. Wood told police
that he'd heard Reneau talking with someone else (the store manager, Been
says) about a possible robbery the place had taken in $17,000 over
Christmas, and the pair speculated that a similarly hefty stash could be
expected just after New Year's Eve, since the bank holiday would mean the
money would not yet have been deposited but Wood also said he believed
the talk was "bullshit in the breeze." (Family members have said that Wood
did initially talk about robbing the store, along with Reneau, the store
manager, and Keeran, but insisted that Wood, Keeran, and the manager all
dismissed the idea.)

Critics have argued that Texas' use of the law of parties
unconstitutionally broadens the field of death-eligible defendants; the
death penalty, they argue, should be reserved for the most culpable and
most heinous crimes. In fact, Texas is the only state that uses a
conspiracy statute to make defendants eligible for the death penalty. "To
pass constitutional scrutiny," Wood's attorney Scott Sullivan argued on
appeal, "a sentencing statute must not only narrow the class of persons
eligible for the death penalty, it must also ensure sentencing decisions
are based upon an individual inquiry" of culpability. Texas' law of
parties fails to do that, he wrote. The state, however, argues that the
law of parties is not implicated in a decision to impose death: "The Texas
capital murder scheme does not allow an individual to be put to death
merely for being a party because the law-of-parties cannot be applied in
answering the special issues" that jurors must answer, argued then-Bexar
Co. Assistant District Attorney Lucy Cavazos. A death sentence is assessed
only if jurors find that a defendant would pose a continuing threat to
society and that there is no mitigating evidence that might lessen the
defendant's culpability. Yet Cavazos' argument evades the fact that
without the law-of-parties, defendants like Wood wouldn't be eligible for
death in the first place. The courts have sided with the state.

Wood's case is similar to that of Kenneth Foster, who was sentenced to
death for the 1996 murder of Michael LaHood by a companion, based on the
Bexar Co. district attorney's use of the conspiracy statute. Foster was
scheduled to die last year but was spared when Gov. Rick Perry accepted
the recommendation of the Board of Pardons and Paroles and commuted his
sentence to life in prison. "I believe the right and just decision is to
commute Foster's sentence," he said. Perry did not directly implicate the
law of parties in explaining his decision but did raise the issue of
culpability, saying he was "concerned" that state law allowed Foster to be
tried jointly with triggerman Maurecio Brown.

Given the parallels between the Wood and Foster cases, Wood's supporters
question how the state can execute Wood without further damaging the
credibility of the Texas death system. (Indeed, Wood's sister, Been,
argues that her brother is even less culpable of murder than was Foster.)
"There will be a full package going to the governor, and I think you will
see a lot of similarities between us and Foster," Sullivan said last week.

Wood's family and supporters also question whether Wood is actually
competent to face execution. He was originally found incompetent to stand
trial, because he could not adequately work with his attorneys and
participate in his defense. During the sentencing phase, District Judge
Stephen Ables ruled that Wood would not be allowed to fire his
court-appointed lawyers and represent himself. Nonetheless, Wood would not
allow his attorneys to present mitigating evidence including evidence
that Wood was abused as a child and had been diagnosed with serious
learning disabilities. Moreover, school records show that Wood's maturity
was notably retarded school officials noted that although he looked his
age, he behaved like a child, constantly sought approval for actions, and
was easily led and influenced by others. The evidence further erodes
Wood's culpability, Been argues. "Jeff was just dumb. He's so trusting of
people and has to get burned in order to learn a lesson," she says. "He
doesn't deserve to die."

(source: Austin Chronicle)