death penalty news—-TEXAS

March 31

TEXAS—-book review

How a Death Row inmate was railroaded—-The author is convincing in his
view that the execution of Dominique Green was a miscarriage of justice.


A SAINT ON DEATH ROW: The Story of Dominique Green. Thomas Cahill. Nan A.
Talese/Doubleday. 160 pages. $22.

Thomas Cahill has written international bestsellers about how the Irish,
Jews, Jesus, Greeks and the Middle Ages changed civilization. His new book
departs, at least superficially, from the pattern.

A Saint on Death Row is an angry condemnation of the Texas criminal
justice system. At the urging of a Chicago friend, Cahill stopped to visit
Dominique Green on Texas' death row in December 2003 while on a book-tour
stop in Houston. That visit sparked Cahill's outrage and colored his dark
understanding of what can pass for justice in Texas.

No one escapes Cahill's wrath. The police, the state prosecutors,
court-appointed lawyers, judges, juries, criminal evidence labs,
politicians, the prison system and the U.S. appellate courts all played a
role in the October 2004 execution of Green, who was 30.

Green had spent 12 years on death row for his conviction in the 1992
robbery-murder of a truck driver in a Houston area shopping center. No
physical evidence tied Green to the murder. Some evidence that could have
cleared Green never came to light because it was misplaced.

Green was convicted because 3 other youths at the scene said he pulled the
trigger. 2 of the accusers, both black, went to prison on lesser charges.
The 3rd, who was white, was never charged. Green, who was poor, black and
ignorant of the fatal trouble he was in, could have made his own
accusations but didn't want to be a "snitch.''

Like many other similar cases, Green grew up abused and poorly educated in
Houston. His drug-using mother was mentally ill. His absentee father was a
heavy marijuana user. Green, sexually abused at least twice, left home at
one point, rented a shed and sheltered his 2 brothers by selling drugs.

The bigger story is Green's growth after imprisonment. A book by South
African Archbishop and Nobel Prize winner Desmond Tutu ignited his
generosity and inspired his humane relationships with fellow prisoners.

The Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio used Green's case to launch a
global campaign against the death penalty that continues today.

Cahill doesn't know for sure whether Green is innocent of the murder. The
victim's family doesn't think Green was guilty and fought his execution.
Cahill argues that the bigger question is whether Green received a fair
trial. The answer is a resounding "no.''

A Saint on Death Row is not the 1st book blasting the Texas criminal
justice system, and it won't be last. But Cahill's book is one of the most
compelling on the subject.

David Hendricks reviewed this book for The San Antonio Express-News.

(source: Miami Herald)


Death row inmate takes plea and life in prison

A condemned Texas inmate who won a new punishment trial from an appeals
court has agreed to a plea bargain that takes him off death row but likely
keeps him imprisoned for the rest of his life.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals a year ago threw out the death
sentence of Charles Mines, 59, who was convicted of using a claw hammer to
fatally beat an 80-year-old woman at her home in Waxahachie 21 years ago.

The court said Mines deserved a new sentencing trial because jurors didn't
properly consider mental illness when they decided he should be executed
for the slaying of Vivian Moreno. Frances Moreno, 57, one of the murdered
woman's 13 children, also was severely beaten in the same attack in May
1988. A relative found the 2 women on the floor in a bedroom.

Mines appeared Monday before State District Judge Gene Knize and entered
into the plea agreement accepting a life sentence for capital murder. He
also pleaded guilty to 2 new charges of aggravated robbery and accepted
life sentences on each of those convictions.

As part of the agreement, Mines waived all credit for time already served,
waived his rights to appeal and reserved prosecutors the right to seek the
death penalty again if he finds a point for appeal.

"We feel comfortable we have him on a plan that should keep him in
prison," Cindy Hellstern, an Ellis County assistant district attorney,
told the Waxahachie Daily Light.

Hellstern said if Mines received a life sentence at a new punishment
trial, he immediately would have been eligible for parole. At the time of
his original trial, a life sentence meant parole eligibility after 15
years in prison. Another death sentence would have started the appeals
process all over again.

"This was the best thing we could do to ensure he stays in prison the rest
of his life," she said.

More than 30 relatives of the victims were in court for Monday's hearing.

"It is some type of closure, but not all the way," said Frank Moreno,
whose mother was killed. "It is a step in that direction.

"I feel good that he will not come out of prison."

Evidence at his trial showed Mines had undergone a psychiatric evaluation
at a state hospital a week before the slayings. He pleaded not guilty by
reason of insanity to a capital murder charge for Vivian Moreno's death
and attempted capital murder for her daughter's attack. He was tried on
the charges after a state court hearing determined he was competent to
stand trial.

A psychiatrist who examined Mines during a 5-day observation period a week
before the killing determined Mines was not mentally ill and should not be
committed, but that he did have a mixed personality disorder with
paranoia, passive-aggressive and anti-social features.

Evidence showed Mines, a transient, stole food and jewelry from the Moreno
home. He was arrested 3 days later when he was found camping not far from
the home. He confessed after police identified his fingerprint on a window

Mines' trial in Ellis County was held just weeks before another capital
murder case involving Johnny Paul Penry, whose mental illness claims and
subsequent appeals changed the way Texas juries are asked to decide
mitigating issues in death penalty cases.

The 5th Circuit agreed with lawyers for Mines who said jury instructions
for his case were virtually identical to the ones given in Penry's trial
and that the U.S. Supreme Court found those instructions unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court late last year refused to overturn the 5th Circuit's
decision in Mines' case.

(source: Associated Press)


Whatever judge is hiding, it's not good sense

Just what is Judge Sharon Keller trying to pull?

The controversial presiding judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
has claimed it would be "financially ruinous" to have to defend herself
against ethics charges stemming from her infamous conduct in the Michael
Richard death penalty appeal case. When that didn't work to get the
charges dismissed, Keller asked Texas taxpayers to foot the bill for her
defense before the state Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Surprise, surprise: Keller's no indigent. As The Dallas Morning News'
Steve McGonigle revealed yesterday, the judge failed to disclose more than
$2 million in real estate holdings, as required by law. She might even be
far wealthier than that; McGonigle's report concerned only those assets
the judge is forced by law to declare publicly.

Did Keller intentionally hide this financial information from the public,
or was this merely an incompetent oversight? Only Keller knows for sure.

What we have, then, is a multimillionaire jurist concealing her assets and
pleading poverty for the sake of a state subsidy. Whatever the legal ins
and outs of this sorry mess, in the court of public opinion, this is an
open-and-shut case of facts evasion.

Whether the disclosure flap is a sin of commission or omission, it reveals
that a top Texas judge lacks something essential to the performance of her
job: good judgment.

Then again, that was clear when her petty refusal to keep the courthouse
doors open past 5 p.m. to accommodate computer problems sent inmate
Michael Richard to an untimely death.

Whatever Keller ultimately has to pay in her own defense, she's getting a
better deal than she gave him.

(source: Editorial, Dallas Morning News)


Capital murder indictment handed up in abduction case

A man suspected in the kidnapping and death of a Pearland woman found dead
weeks after she disappeared was indicted today on a charge of capital

Nicholas-Michael Edwin Jean, 21, is accused in the death of Susana De
Jesus, 37.

Her body was found in an 18-wheel truck's trailer parked near Reliant Park
on March 11 after she had disappeared Feb. 2. She had been shot.

Jean was indicted by a Brazoria County grand jury, officials said. He also
is accused of several other crimes.

Jean led investigators to the woman's decomposed body in the 9000 block of
Knight Road after he was captured March 10following a day-long manhunt
that began with an attempted carjacking of a Pearland resident.

He admitted being present when De Jesus was killed shortly after he took
her from a Pearland parking lot as she left a dress shop, where she was
assistant manager. He has not said who killed her.

Police also arrested Wallace Charles Ledet IV, 25, of Pearland, and
charged him with aggravated kidnapping in De Jesus' disappearance. They
say he was Jean's accomplice.

Police said Ledet told investigators that he was in his Ford F-150 with
Jean when Jean saw a black 2008 Cadillac in a Pearland shopping center
parking lot and told him to pull in, according to court documents in the

As 2 women walked toward the Cadillac, Jean pulled a pistol from a bag and
got out, Ledet told an investigator. Ledet said Jean approached the women
and ordered De Jesus into her Cadillac.

As the car left the parking lot, Ledet drove away in his truck but did not
follow the car, Ledet told police. He said he was not present when De
Jesus died.

(source: Houston Chronicle)