death penalty news—-TEXAS

Aug. 20


Execution stayed: David Leonard Wood's mental ability at issue

The execution of convicted serial killer David Leonard Wood was halted by
a Texas court on Wednesday, 24 hours before the state was scheduled to
give him a lethal injection.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued a stay of execution order and
requested that hearings be set to determine whether Wood, 52, is mentally
retarded, said Sian Schilhab, the general counsel for the court.

A 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibits the execution of mentally
retarded people because it deems such executions cruel and unusual

An appeal filed Tuesday argued that Wood suffers from mental retardation
and should not be executed.

If the hearings, which have not been scheduled but will be in El Paso,
determine that Wood's intelligence is at a mentally retarded level, he may
be taken off death row.

Wood was sentenced to death for killing and burying 6 women in the desert
of the Northeast in 1987. He is also suspected of involvement in other

Family members of the victims, some of whom had traveled to Huntsville to
witness the execution, said they were disappointed with the court's

Marcia Fulton, the mother of Desiree Wheatley, one of Wood's victims, said
she doesn't believe Wood is mentally retarded.

"He had a driver's license and a motorcycle license," she said. "It would
be hard for a mentally retarded person to pass those tests."

Wood has said he had nothing to do with the murders of Wheatley, Ivy
Susanna Williams, Karen Baker, Angelica Frausto, Rosa Maria Casio and Dawn
Marie Smith.

Previous appeals from his lawyers had failed, and Wednesday's reprieve
took lawyers in El Paso by surprise.

"In the state of Texas, where once the execution has been set, the status
quo is followed. It is certainly surprising to receive a stay," said Joe
Spencer, a lawyer who has tried several capital punishment cases.

"It certainly is good news that Mr. Wood, and his attorneys will have a
chance to examine the process, the way the law says it should be," he

Matthew Byrne, an Austin lawyer who helped file the appeal earlier this
week, referred questions on the case to another lawyer, Gregory Wiercioch
of San Francisco.

Wiercioch could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Wood's lawyer during his 1992 trial, Dolph Quijano, said he was glad to
hear that the court was considering his former client's retardation case.

"It speaks highly of the respect we have for people who suffer from mental
disabilities that affect their conduct," he said.

The court on Tuesday received documents that show Wood was a poor student
who often flunked classes and got into trouble for misbehaving in school.

Statements from his father, Leo Wood, and his sisters Deborah Galvan and
Denise Coreas, as well as Quijano, were also included in the documents
filed for review by the nine-member Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

The documents also include a 1980 mental evaluation that shows Wood has an
IQ of 64, which one psychiatrist said was "at the high end of the range of
mild mental retardation."

(source: El Paso Times)


Wood case stirs up debate over death penalty

The stay of David Leonard Wood's execution has left many considering their
positions on the death penalty.

Wood was convicted in Dallas in 1992 of killing and burying six girls and
young women in the Northeast El Paso desert.

Now those involved in the case will have to wait even longer before
finding out what will happen to Wood.

ABC-7 spoke to Dolph Quijano, an attorney who opposes the death penalty in
this case, and others who support it. Either way, the death penalty seems
to be a way of life in Texas.

"You worry about everything you do in a capital case. You worry if you
don't say the right word, your client is going to die," Quijano said.

Quijano was part of Wood's defense team. He has tried 8 death penalty
cases in his career and avoided the death penalty for his clients all but

"This is like a smudge as far as I'm concerned. This person's life is
going to be taken and I had a part in it. It's not a happy thing. It's a
sad commentary on our society when we the people let the government kill."

Others, like Paul Strelzin, the former principal at H.E. Charles Junior
High, where Wood victim Desiree Wheatley went to school, feel differently.

"The only problem I see with it, it takes almost 20 years and costs a lot
of money. I thought he should have been put to death long before this,"
Strelzin said.

John Guerrero was a detective on the Wood case.

"If I had caught him, I would have beat the hell out of him," he said.

Charles Doyle is a member of El Pasoans Against the Death Penalty.

"We pray to God he have mercy on their souls, pray for the victims of
crime and that he help us contend with the vengeance in this world."

Doyle, a native New Yorker who moved to El Paso 5 years ago, believes
Texas has it all wrong in how it deals with its worst criminals.

"We do not think by killing somebody, you're gonna lessen the amount of
murders. I think the whole country and the world is flabbergasted about
what happens in Texas."

Since 1982, when the death penalty was reinstated, Texas has executed 439
inmates by lethal injection, including 3 women. The most in a year was 40
in 2008. Last year the state executed 18 people. So far this year, 16
people have been executed.

Doyle says it would have been cheaper to keep those inmates alive.

"About 2.5 million to execute somebody in Texas. That's enough to put
somebody in for life without parole 3 times over."

Doyle also questions whether it helps the victims' families. "I feel badly
that people think they are going to find relief from this. I don't think
that happens."

(source: KVIA News)


Jury weighing fate of killer of 2 Christian record producers

Jurors have begun deciding whether James Broadnax will get life in prison
or the death sentence for killing 2 Christian music producers.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys in Broadnaxs capital murder trial today
asked the jury to do the right thing.

Deliberations began about 11:15 a.m.

Broadnax, 20, confessed to killing the men outside a Garland music studio
in June 2008.

Assistant District Attorney Andrea Handley told jurors that Broadnax poses
a future danger and deserves to be put to death. She pointed to his
threats and fights while in the Dallas County jail awaiting trial.

"If ever there was a time in James Broadnax's life that he should act
right, it's while he is on trial for his life," she told jurors. "He
either can't do it, or he won't do it."

As a member of a gang, she said, Broadnax would be a threat to guards and
other inmates if he were sent to a general-population prison.

"He had no regard for life in the outside world," the prosecutor said.
"Why should he have a regard for life in prison?"

She reminded jurors to remember the victims, Stephen Swan, 26, and Matthew
Butler, 28.

"Matthew Butler didn't die instantly," Handley said. "He was shot in the
arm, he was shot in the chest, and he was shot in the back. He was

Broadnax was been convicted of killing Swan but confessed to both

Defense attorney Keri Mallon responded by saying, "James has caused a lot
of pain to a lot of people, and James knows that." His childhood was a
kind of hell, Mallon said, marked by abuse and abandonment. Now Broadnax
has created his own hell "in which he knows he is the man who took the
lives of 2 innocent men."

She asked jurors to look past Broadnax's "cold appearance" and see that
abandoned, abused child.

"That child does not deserve to die. Give that child a second chance at
life, she said. Give that child mercy."

Defense attorneys Doug Parks and Brad Lollar also said their client did
not deserve the death penalty. Parks said Broadnax was not the merciless
killer prosecutors portrayed, but a "poseur someone who likes to brag.
You're being asked to execute James Broadnax because he has an 18-year-old
mouth and he doesn't have the good sense to keep it shut."

Lollar urged the jury to consider Broadnax's age at the time of the crime
19 and that he was under the influence of drugs. Also he pointed out that
Broadnax does not have an extensive criminal record 1 count of marijuana
possession, for which he received a fine.

"This is not who the death penalty was made for."

If given life without parole, Broadnax "will get a death sentence, but it
will be at a time of God's choosing, not man's choosing."

Assistant District Attorney David Alex countered those pleas for mercy by
playing one of the television interviews Broadnax gave shortly after the
murder. In it, he expressed no remorse and asked for the death penalty,
saying he couldn't serve a life sentence. He promised there would be more
bodies if he didn't get that sentence.

Alex expressed little sympathy regarding Broadnax's deprived childhood.

"'Poor James.' It's ridiculous," he said. "'Poor James,' he is the victim.
'Poor James' is out there everywhere," Alex said. "Everybody has a sad

(source: Dallas Morning News)


Judge Sharon Keller testifies she would still close before death-row

Calling the allegations against her "false in every way," a Texas judge
concluded testimony at her misconduct trial Wednesday by saying she would
have done nothing different on a death row inmate's last-minute appeal.

Judge Sharon Keller, the presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal
Appeals, didn't hesitate on the witness stand when asked if she would make
the same choice today as she did in the hours leading up to Michael Wayne
Richard's execution in 2007.

"Yes, that is correct," Keller said.

Keller testified that there was no legitimate reason to keep her clerk's
office open past 5 p.m. despite knowing an appeal was in the works. She
said refusing to keep the office open late should not have prevented
Richard's attorneys who were responding to a U.S. Supreme Court decision
that morning from filing their appeal directly with a judge on the
nine-member court.

"You declined to allow any grace period?" asked Mike McKetta, the
prosecuting lawyer for the state Commission on Judicial Conduct.

"I declined to keep the clerk's office open past closing time," Keller

Misconduct charges that she denied Richard access to the court, Keller
said, were wrong.

"It is false in every way," she said.

Keller stepped off the stand after 2 days of testimony her first time
speaking publicly about the case since being charged in February. The
ethics trial is expected to conclude today.

No twice

4 hours before Richard's execution, Keller received a phone call at 4:45
p.m. informing her that Richard's appeal was running late and that his
attorneys wanted to keep the court open past 5 p.m. She said no twice in
the conversation.

Under court rules, after-hours pleadings can be filed directly to a court
member. David Dow, Richard's attorney, testified earlier in the week that
he felt he was out of options after being told the clerk wouldn't take the
appeal after 5 p.m.

Keller finished her testimony by blaming Richard's legal team for stoking
the controversy surrounding the case by spreading a distorted narrative of
the hours leading up to the execution.

"I don't think we would be here today if that never happened," Keller

Richard was executed for the 1986 rape and slaying of a Houston-area nurse
and mother of seven. On the morning of his scheduled lethal injection, the
U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review a separate case that challenged
whether a three-drug combination Kentucky used in executions was

Texas uses a similar lethal combination. Attorneys for Richard, who was
convicted twice and had numerous appeals denied, sought a reprieve based
on the Supreme Court's decision.

Keller said she knew about the move by the high court. Asked if she held a
general view that last-minute pleadings in death-row cases are often less
substantial, she agreed.

"They do tend to be voluminous and meritless," Keller said.

Request relayed

Keller was relayed the request to keep the court open from Ed Marty, the
court's former general counsel. During a 3-hour videotaped deposition
played in court, Marty said he did not think Keller would have said no
given the Supreme Court decision earlier in the day.

"I thought it would be something other than no," Marty said.

But on cross-examination, Marty said he didn't think Keller acted

Marty also said he told another judge Cheryl Johnson that Richard's
attorneys had asked the court to stay open late. Johnson, the judge
assigned to handle any late appeals from Richard, disputed Marty's account
in her testimony Monday, saying she didn't learn of the request until days
after Richard's execution.

In her testimony Wednesday, Keller blamed her legal woes on Richard's
attorneys with the Texas Defender Service and said her decision to close
the court clerk's office at 5 p.m. should not have stopped them from
filing their briefs directly with 1 of the court's 9 judges or with the
general counsel.

Keller, a Republican and former Dallas County prosecutor, is facing 5
counts of judicial misconduct that could lead to her removal from the
bench. She is the highest-ranking judge in Texas ever put on trial by the
state Commission on Judicial Conduct.

At the end of the trial, a state district judge presiding over the hearing
will submit a report to the state's judicial conduct commission.

That panel will have the choice to dismiss the charges, issue a censure or
recommend Keller's removal from the bench.

(source: Associated Press)