death penalty news—-TEXAS

April 1


Death Penalty Sought In De Jesus Killing

A man accused of kidnapping and shooting a woman to death outside her
Brazoria County workplace was charged with capital murder and could face
the death penalty, KPRC Local 2 reported Tuesday.

Deputies said Nicolas-Michael Edwin Jean, 21, led them to the body of
Susana De Jesus after he was arrested for a carjacking in Pearland.
Investigators said Jean admitted during questioning that he was present
when De Jesus was killed.

De Jesus was abducted on Feb. 2 while getting into her car after she left
her job at Catherine's Plus Sizes clothing boutique on Smith Ranch Road
near F.M. 518 at about 9:15 p.m. The 37-year-old was found dead inside the
back of an 18-wheeler near Reliant Arena on March 10.

The capital murder indictment said Jean shot De Jesus while attempting to
rob and kidnap her. Prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty.

Jean denies being the trigger man.

Investigators said it appeared that Jean picked De Jesus at random.

A Brazoria County grand jury handed down the capital murder indictment.

"The crime itself underscores the fact that there is no safe place," said
Brian Wice, KPRC Local 2's legal analyst. "Tragedy and trouble can
ultimately find you in spite of the fact that you think you happen to be
in a nice section of town. I think to a jury panel in Brazoria County that
will ultimately consider this case, that is going to be an important
consideration in putting a human face on the victim."

A suspected accomplice, Wallace Charles Ledet IV, 25, is also jailed in
connection with the Pearland carjacking, and investigators said he is also
suspected of being involved in the kidnapping and murder of De Jesus.



Suspect indicted in De Jesus abduction-slaying

A man suspected in the kidnapping and death of a Pearland woman found dead
weeks after she disappeared was indicted Tuesday 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 10 following 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)


Death row inmate wins new punishment hearing

A convicted killer sent to death row for a double slaying in San Antonio
won a new punishment trial Wednesday because his lawyer did a poor job
preparing for the penalty phase of his capital murder trial.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered Ricky Eugene Kerr returned to
Bexar County for a new punishment hearing.

Kerr was convicted and condemned a year after the 1994 slayings of his
landlord, Elizabeth McDaniel, 57, and her son, Garry Lawrence Barbier, 42.
Both were fatally shot and Barbier was struck several times in the head
with a hammer in the culmination of an apparent dispute over Kerr's lease.
Evidence showed that on the day of the killings the water at Kerr's home
had been turned off and authorities had served Kerr with an eviction

The appeals court in 1997 upheld Kerr's conviction and death sentence.

In 1998, he got within days of execution before a federal judge halted the
punishment amid questions about the legal competence of his then
state-appointed appeals lawyer.

Acting on a later appeal, the Court of Criminal Appeals last year returned
the case to his trial court in San Antonio to review whether his lawyer's
lack of preparation contributed to a jury deciding Kerr should be

In its ruling Wednesday, the state's highest criminal court noted the
trial court judge found Kerr's trial attorney "failed to prepare for the
punishment stage of the trial because they believed the jury would not
find (Kerr) guilty."

The court agreed Kerr's lawyer wasn't aware of evidence that Kerr had a
history of physical and emotional abuse, family violence, abuse by his
father, alcoholism, mentally retarded siblings, drug abuse, head injuries,
learning disabilities and possible fetal alcohol syndrome.

The trial court said the question to be decided was whether jurors would
have reached a different conclusion knowing about some or all of the
mitigating factors in Kerr's background.

"We agree that this is the issue," the appeals court said.

Kerr, 49, a former truck driver and native of Peoria, Ill., does not have
an execution date. The 11th-grade dropout in 1980 was sentenced to 2 years
for theft in Illinois and had been paroled from there in 1981.

In another Texas death row case, the appeals court rejected an appeal from
convicted murderer Arthur Lee Burton, who contended his trial judge
improperly allowed into evidence his admission to a prison sociologist
that he killed a woman in Houston in 1997 and that his attorney was
deficient in not properly objecting to the evidence.

Burton's original death sentence was thrown out by the appeals court and
he was given another punishment trial in 2002.

A Harris County jury deliberated over 2 days before deciding he should
return to death row for the rape, beating and strangling of Nancy Adleman,
a 48-year-old mother of three. Adleman was attacked while jogging along a
secluded trail bordering a bayou on Houston's west side. Evidence showed
she was strangled with one of her own shoe laces.

Burton, who turned 39 Sunday, does not have an execution date.

(source: Houston Chronicle)