death penalty news—-TEXAS

Dec. 2

TEXAS—-impending execution

Man convicted of killing girl, 11, to die Thursday

Bobby Wayne Woods was charged with abducting an 11-year-old girl, raping
her and fatally slashing her throat, and of beating and choking her
9-year-old brother and leaving him for dead by a cemetery

The outcry in Hood County, near Fort Worth, was so great that Wood's
capital murder trial was moved.

Former Hood County District Attorney Richard Mattox remembers that
"everybody in town wanted a piece of Woods."

A jury in Llano, about 125 miles away, got the case and decided Woods
should die for the April 1997 slaying of Sarah Patterson, who was his
ex-girlfriend's daughter. Sarah was taken with her brother from their home
in Granbury, about 35 miles southwest of Fort Worth.

The 44-year-old Woods was set for execution Thursday evening in

(source: Associated Press)


Jurors defend verdict that led to Texas execution

David Martin is sickened by the suggestion that Texas executed an innocent
man when Cameron Todd Willingham was put to death for setting a fire that
killed his 3 children.

The veteran defense attorney represented Willingham at trial. He looked at
all the evidence. And he has no doubt that his client deserved to die.

"I never think about him, but I do think about those year-old babies
crawling around in an inferno with their flesh melting off their bodies,"
Martin said. "I think that he was guilty, that he deserved death and that
he got death."

The 2004 execution, however, didn't end questions about the case. Fire
investigator experts hired first by The Innocence Project and later by the
Texas Forensic Science Commission concluded the original finding of arson
was seriously flawed.

Without that finding, prosecutors have admitted it would have been hard to
win a death sentence against Willingham.

But the reports have done nothing to change the minds of Martin and four
jurors reached by The Associated Press in recent weeks, who all remain
convinced Willingham set the blaze 18 years ago that killed 2-year-old
Amber and 1-year-old twins Karmon and Kameron. They never heard from
Willingham, who declined to take the stand in his own defense.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, called 17 witnesses, including the only experts to
testify both fire investigators who told jurors arson was to blame.

"All you can go on when you are on a jury is what is put before you," said
one juror, Dorenda Dechaume, 39. "I stand by my vote guilty."

At trial, the expert testimony was definitive. The county's assistant fire
chief, Doug Fogg, testified that he found pour patterns and puddling on
the floor, signs that someone had poured a liquid accelerant throughout
the Willingham's home. Manuel Vasquez, the state fire marshal whose
credentials as a 30-year veteran firefighter and investigator were
established on the stand, was unequivocal in his condemnation of
Willingham, saying the defendant "told me a story of pure fabrication."

"He just talked and he talked, and all he did was lie," Vasquez said.

The defense didn't present a fire expert of its own for good reason,
Martin said.

"We hired one … and he said: 'Yep. It's arson,'" Martin said. "It was
really very, very clear what happened in the house. Everybody who saw it,
of course, reached the same conclusion."

Yet in a report released in August, fire expert Craig Beyler, chairman of
the London-based International Association for Fire Safety Science, wrote
the analysis conducted by Vasquez was "nothing more than a collection of
personal beliefs that have nothing to do with science-based fire

2 days before the forensic science commission was to consider the report,
Gov. Rick Perry fired 3 members. The move has delayed the commission's
investigation indefinitely and drawn accusations that Perry is trying to
cover up a mistaken execution on his watch.

Jurors said there were other odd details that sealed Willingham's fate.
Ronald Franks, a Corsicana Fire Department paramedic, testified he
returned to the home a few days after the fire. He found Willingham, who
complained that his dart set was either burned or stolen from the

Then, Franks testified, Willingham told him investigators would likely
find cologne in the floor samples they were testing. He told Franks "he
had poured cologne on the floor because the children had liked the smell
of that cologne." He said he had poured it from the bathroom through the
hallway to where the children were found, Franks said.

Jurors also heard from Willingham's neighbors. They testified that as the
house south of Dallas burned to the ground, he was crouched down outside,
screaming. But they also said he moved his car away from the house while
his children were trapped inside.

That detail chilled jurors, who inferred Willingham showed more concern
for his car than his kids.

"There was evidence of a fire that was deliberate," said juror Henry
Ponder, now 81. "Not getting the children out of the house. Getting the
car out of the way. It was all there."

Martin's case was brief, with just two witnesses. The first was the family
baby sitter, who testified there was an oil lamp in the hallway,
suggesting it might have spilled and spread flammable liquid. The second
was a jail inmate, who was going to dispute the testimony of a jailhouse
snitch who claimed Willingham had confessed. But the judge forbid most of
his testimony as hearsay.

Willingham wasn't interested in explaining his behavior at trial. Outside
the jury's presence, he took the stand to show for the record he had been
advised of his right to testify.

"It's not that I don't wish to (testify), but I don't feel the need to,"
he said.

The jury returned its guilty verdict in 77 minutes.

"A lot of them wanted to vote right away," Dechaume said. "Me and two
other people wanted to go over the facts of the case. It was unfair to go
straight in there and decide. We went through everything we could have.
All I can go by is what I had seen then."

Both Martin and co-counsel Robert Dunn, who did not return a message from
the AP, are experienced attorneys who have represented clients in several
capital murder cases. One of Willingham's 5 appeals claimed he didn't
receive adequate legal representation, an argument repeatedly rejected by
several appeals courts.

"God forbid that somebody was executed who was innocent. Nobody wants that
to happen," Martin said. "But for somebody so obviously guilty like
Willingham it's a travesty to make it seem like it was something other
than what it was."

(source: Associated Press)


Too-secretive process

Houston criminal defense attorney Patrick McCann made a persuasive
argument for opening up Texas' too-secretive pardons and paroles process
in Sunday's Outlook section ("Texans deserve public, open clemency
process," Outlook, Nov. 29, Page B8).

We agree with McCann's contention that this important part of the criminal
justice process should be far more transparent; regrettably, it could
scarcely be more closed. That ought to be a matter of concern, not just
for the accused and convicted, but for all who come in contact with the

McCann's client, Robert Lee Thompson, was executed recently after Gov.
Rick Perry declined to accept a recommendation by the state Board of
Pardons and Paroles that Thompson's sentence be commuted to life in

The board vote to change Thompson's sentence was made after successful
entreaties by McCann and his partner, Rodney Brown. Thompson had been
given a capital sentence despite the fact that he did not fire the weapon
in the murder of a store clerk; McCann and Brown had persuaded the board
to change the death sentence.

As McCann noted in his Outlook piece, the pardons and paroles board's
decision was made entirely in secret behind closed doors and without
public input. No witnesses. No depositions. No affidavits. And no
explanations as to why Perry ultimately declined to approve the
recommendations of the board which, ironically, is made up of his own

This system, shrouded in mystery, could not be more certain to feed public
suspicion if it had been specifically designed to do so. And Perry's
silence about his decision to allow Thompson's execution to proceed has
only heightened suspicions that the governor's decision had less to do
with the facts in Thompson's case than with appealing to staunchly
conservative voters in the March 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary, in
which Perry faces a strong challenge from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

The secrecy is made that much more troubling by the lengthening history of
false convictions based on faulty evidence that has bedeviled Texas
criminal justice these past few years.

As McCann notes, scarcely a week passes without news that someone else has
been exonerated by the Innocence Project. A credible, open process to
appeal convictions is not a luxury for this state; it is a necessity. A
more open review process in capital cases, and greater willingness than
Perry has shown to allow for review of important details in a given case,
are obviously paramount in death penalty cases. Once the convicted is
strapped onto the gurney in Huntsville, there is no second chance to
correct mistakes.

Better to have a thorough review than regrets.

The secretive system is on display once more this week, leading up to the
scheduled Thursday execution of Bobby Wayne Woods for the 1998 kidnapping,
rape and murder of 11-year-old Sarah Patterson. Attorneys for Woods have
asked the Board of Pardons and Paroles for a stay of execution or

A 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibits the execution of persons who
are mentally retarded. Over the years, testing of Woods has shown that he
has an IQ hovering around 70, the cutoff for mental retardation. His
attorneys also contend Woods did not receive adequate representation at
the appeals court level.

The crime committed against Sarah Patterson was heinous; of that there is
no dispute. But the circumstances, including Woods' borderline test
scores, questionable legal representation and the suicide of a cousin who
he claims committed the crime, argue for careful review before a capital
sentence is carried out.

Indeed, cases such as this one make perhaps the most compelling argument
for opening up the whole process. Texas can and should do better.

(source: Houston Chronicle) ***************************

Punishment phase begins in TDCJ trial

The punishment phase of Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmate Jerry
Duane Martin's capital murder trial began Tuesday with 6 witnesses taking
the stand for the State.

Jurors found Martin guilty of capital murder on Monday for the inmate's
involvement in the death of TDCJ officer Susan Canfield during an escape
from the Wynne Unit on Sept. 24, 2007.

After wrestling a gun away from a TDCJ officer, Martin and fellow inmate
John Ray Falk Jr. escaped to the nearby Huntsville City Service Center,
where Martin stole a truck and drove it into Canfield, resulting in her
immediate death.

Now in the sentencing phase, the jury will hear witnesses from both the
State and defense teams before deciding Martins punishment, considering
options including life without parole or the death penalty.

"You have another decision to make now," Walker County District Attorney
David Weeks said to the jury in opening statements. "And today you will
find out more about Jerry Martin, including those who have been impacted
by his actions."

First to testify for the State was Mike Holm, an inspector with the
Special Prosecution Unit the office charged with the prosecution of
crimes committed in the Texas prison system.

Holm was asked to go over Martin's past judgements, which included a
single count of aggravated assault and 2 counts of attempted capital
murder all 3 on a single indictment.

According to Holm, reading from the offender's judgements, Martin
knowingly fired shots at 3 peace officers in Collin County in 1994. He was
sentenced to 10 years for the aggravated assault count, and 50 years and
40 years for the 2 counts of attempted capital murder.

A 4th count included a failure to appear out of Collin County in 1995,
where Martin was sentenced to another 10 years.

The State next called Canfield's family to the stand the victim's
daughter Kara Holub and Canfields husband of 18 years, Charles Canfield
both of whom gave emotional testimony about how they had been affected by
the womans death.

"She was the only constant in my life. The only person I ever had my whole
life," Holub said. "She was a very positive person to be around. She
always said blood was thicker than water."

Charles Canfield told how his wife's death eventually led to his
retirement from law enforcement.

"The day I lost her, it was like someone reached inside of me and pulled
everything I am out," he said. "All of a sudden the reason for what I was
doing was just gone.

"I didn't have what it took to fight the battles I needed to fight at work
anymore," he continued. "I retired one year to the day from her death."

Another taking the stand Tuesday was Bedias resident Madilene Loosier, who
was held hostage by Martin and Falk during their escape from the Wynne

Loosier testified about how the situation has affected her life as well
taking an emotional and financial toll on herself and her family.

"My life has forever changed," Loosier said. "I was diagnosed with post
traumatic stress disorder, underwent 8 months of counseling and am still
on anti-anxiety medications.

"The slightest things can get me flustered now I can't control it. I have
anxiety attacks," she added. "It has affected my going out anything to do
with the prison system, going to the bank.

"It all had a big domino effect, even financially," she said. "I couldn't
drive my truck anymore, so we had to buy another one."

The final 2 witnesses for the state were Steven Rogers of the TDCJ State
Classification Office and A.P. Merillat, an investigator for the Special
Prosecution Unit in Huntsville.

Rogers explained in detail the inmate classification system from a
general population inmate to those classified in administrative
segregation (AdSeg), touching on those who were on death row.

Martin, he said, was currently an AdSeg offender spending 23 hours a day
in a single-man cell with 1 hour of recreation per day and very little if
any contact with other inmates.

"AdSeg offenders are searched in and out of their cell and taken
everywhere under escort," Rogers said, later explaining that Martin would
likely be kept there if sentenced to life without parole.

Merillat wrapped up testimony by discussing the opportunities for violence
in the prison system, going over TDCJ-issued reports on violence of
offenders towards other offenders and towards TDCJ officers and staff.

The punishment phase of the trial continues at 9 a.m. today at the Leon
County Courthouse in Centerville, with State District Court Judge Kenneth
H. Keeling presiding.

(source: Huntsville Item)