death penalty news—-TEXAS

Jan. 6

TEXAS—-impending execution

Texas set to execute convicted cop killer Thursday

For the 3rd time in 6 months, condemned prisoner Kenneth Mosley is facing
a trip to the death chamber for fatally shooting a police officer during a
bank robbery attempt in a Dallas suburb nearly 13 years ago.

Mosley, 51, avoided lethal injection in July for the February 1997 slaying
of Garland Officer David Moore when a state judge withdrew his execution
date and reset it for two months later. Then, in September, a day before
his punishment was to be carried out, the U.S. Supreme Court stopped it.

A month later, however, the high court refused to review Mosley's appeal,
clearing the way for the execution set for Thursday.

It would be the first execution of the year in Texas, where a
nation-leading 24 convicted killers were put to death last year,
accounting for nearly 1/2 of the 52 executions carried out in the U.S.
Another Texas prisoner is set to die next week.

No additional appeals were planned to try to block the punishment, said
Mosley's lawyer, Bruce Anton.

"I'm fresh out of ideas," he said.

A long-shot clemency request to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles was
rejected Monday.

"It's like throwing a bottle into the ocean," Anton said of the clemency

Moore was gunned down while responding to a 911 call about a robbery at a

One of four bullets to hit him struck over the top edge of his protective
vest. Mosley was shot in the wrist by another officer waiting outside and
was arrested in the parking lot. Authorities found he was carrying a
holdup note.

At Mosley's capital murder trial in October 1997, Dallas County
prosecutors showed jurors a videotape of the shooting. Mosley's lawyers
argued that the shooting was accidental, saying the weapon went off five
times as their client was trying to surrender.

Mosley declined to speak with reporters in the weeks preceding his
scheduled punishment.

On a Web site devoted to his case, supporters described the shooting as "a
terrible accident … in which Ken was involved and a man died … Those
who know him will tell you he never could and never will deliberately harm

The Flint, Mich., native had an extensive criminal record he blamed on
drug addiction. Evidence showed he sexually assaulted a woman, was
arrested for possession of marijuana and illegal knives and got busted for
stealing merchandise from a Home Depot and then returning the items for
cash refunds.

At the time of the slaying, he was wanted in a robbery at a fast-food
restaurant five days earlier in nearby Mesquite and had been fired from
his last known job at a Coca-Cola bottler for testing positive for

Police had been summoned to the bank by an employee who called 911 after
recognizing Mosley as the man who robbed it more than month earlier.
Mosley was standing in line as Moore approached him and said he'd like to
speak with him.

Mosley resisted. The pair struggled and fell through a window. Mosley
pulled a 9 mm pistol and opened fire, killing Moore.

"I wasn't pulling it out thinking anything would happen," Mosley testified
at his trial. "I was trying to get rid of it."

A witness, however, testified that she saw Mosley stand over the fallen
officer and continue shooting.

Moore was 32, married and the father of three. He went to high school in
Middletown, Ohio, served 4 years in the Marines and in 1987 joined the
Garland police force. He'd won numerous awards and commendations during
his 10 years on the job.

Next week, Gary Johnson, 59, is set to die for the shooting deaths of 2
men, Peter Sparagana, 23, and James Hazelton, 28, who interrupted his
burglary of a ranch near Huntsville in 1986.


Woman on Texas death row loses appeal

1 of 10 women on Texas death row has lost a federal court appeal, moving
her a step closer to execution.

Suzanne Basso is condemned in the slaying of a mentally impaired man in
Harris County more than a decade ago.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Monday refused the 55-year-old
inmate's request to proceed with appeals of her conviction for the 1999
beating death of Louis Musso. She doesn't yet have an execution date.

Evidence showed Basso promised to marry the 59-year-old Musso and had him
make her the beneficiary of insurance policies.

Prosecutors accused her of being the ringleader of a group of six who
fatally beat Basso in the Houston suburb of Jacinto City in a series of
tortures. Those included bathing him in a solution of bleach and pine
cleaner and scrubbing him with a wire brush.


Study: Death penalty in Texas a homicide deterrent

As many as 60 people may be alive today in Texas because two dozen
convicted killers were executed last year in the nation's most active
capital punishment state, according to a study of death penalty deterrence
by researchers from Sam Houston State University and Duke University.

A review of executions and homicides in Texas by criminologist Raymond
Teske at Sam Houston in Huntsville and Duke sociologists Kenneth Land and
Hui Zheng concludes a monthly decline of between 0.5 to 2.5 homicides in
Texas follows each execution.

"Evidence exists of modest, short-term reductions in the numbers of
homicides in Texas in the month of or after executions," the study
published in a recent issue of Criminology, a journal of the American
Society of Criminology, said.

The study adds to decades of academic dissection of the death penalty and
deterrence. Results over the years vary from capital punishment saving
more lives than suggested in this study to no conclusive effect.

This study, however, is the 1st to focus on monthly data in Texas, where
researchers said the number of executions 447 since capital punishment
resumed in 1982 is statistically significant enough "to make possible
relatively stable estimates of the homicide response to executions." A
national deterrent effect can't be determined because "most states …
have not engaged in a sufficient level or frequency of executions per
year," they said.

Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the California-based Criminal Justice
Legal Foundation, which supports capital punishment, said the study "would
be sufficient by itself to justify the death penalty."

But Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information
Center, a Washington, D.C.-based organization opposed to capital
punishment, said while he was not a statistics expert, "the large number
of variables affecting these calculations and the relative rarity of
executions make final conclusions about deterrence very suspect."

The study analyzed data from January 1994 through December 2005, during
which 284 lethal injections were carried out in Texas about 1/3 of all
death sentences carried out in the U.S.

The year 1994 was selected as the starting point because state and federal
legislation and court rulings beginning then led to "an orgy of executions
in Texas," the researchers noted.

Of the years studied, 4 had more than 30 executions, including a record 40
carried out in 2000.

Researchers ran mathematical models that considered homicide figures from
the Texas Department of Public Safety to see if month-to-month
fluctuations in executions could be associated with subsequent
month-to-month fluctuations in homicide counts.

Teske told The Associated Press while the published study ended with
results through 2005, the conclusions are valid for subsequent years.

David McDowall, a professor at the State University of New York at Albany
and an expert in statistical analysis of crime and violence patterns, said
the study appeared solid and used standard accepted research methods.

"What the study does is try to control a constant variety of factors that
vary over time by chance and then try to assess whether any decreases in
homicides are large enough that chance can't account for them," McDowall

He said additional research examining homicides in nearby states where the
death penalty is less active could add to the Texas study's credibility.

The researchers said they did exactly that and found the frequent use of
executions in Texas had a greater cumulative impact on homicides in Texas
when compared to homicide numbers in Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
They didn't include those findings in the final paper because reviewers
wanted them to narrow its focus.

Teske acknowledged some experts disliked the results. He speculated
criticism came from peer reviewers opposed to capital punishment.

"I have a hard time getting people to understand that this reports a
scientific analysis of an issue and is not a political statement," Teske

6 Texas inmates are scheduled to die this year, including one Thursday and
another next week.

On the Net: American Society of Criminology:


The death penalty deterrence myth

The good news about historically low murder statistics in Dallas (and all
over, really) will prompt some folks to think that means our busy death
chamber in Hunstville should get some share of the credit.

Not so, say scientists who study this sort of thing. But before I get into
that, just think about what it might mean if the death penalty did deter
some murders. In Dallas, that would be especially alarming, given what we
know about the death penalty. We know that if your victim is white, you
are far more likely to face execution than if your victim is black. But in
Dallas, by far, most victims of murder are black (47 %). So if we actually
believe that the death penalty is what is keeping people from killing
white people (the victims whose deaths are most commonly avenged by
executions) then shame on us. How dare we provide that level of protection
only for one race.

Fortunately, there's no science to back up the notion that executions
deter any violence among any race. Despite a rash of studies alleging that
the death penalty saves anywhere from 6 to 18 lives for every execution
earlier this decade — studies that resulted in splashy play on the front
pages of major newspapers — scientists have been busy debunking those
studies ever since. In fact, the latest statistical analysis comes from
researchers right here in Dallas at UTD. They say there is absolutely no
empirical evidence to support the claim that the death penalty deters
violent crime.

I look forward to reading their whole study (which is not available online
or in my Nexis datatbase yet), but in the meantime, I went to the journal
that published it to see what else has been said on the subject. In the
summer, Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology included another article
debunking this myth. I've included some excerpts below.

Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology

Spring 2009


BY: Radelet, Michael L; Lacock, Traci L


The importance of the deterrence justification for capital punishment has
declined precipitously in recent years among the general public. In the
mid-twentieth century and up through the 1970s, it was unquestionably the
top argument in favor of executions. In a 1985 Gallup Poll, 62% of the
respondents answered yes to the question, "Do you feel that the death
penalty acts as a deterrent to the commitment of murder, that it lowers
the murder rate, or not?" This fell to 34% in 2006, when the question was
last asked. Conversely, the proportion of respondents who stated that the
death penalty was not a deterrent doubled by 2004, from 31% to 62%.
Similarly, a 1995 national survey of nearly 400 police chiefs and county
sheriffs found that 2/3 did not believe the death penalty significantly
lowered the number of murders.

No doubt part of this declining support for the deterrence hypothesis is a
consequence of empirical research by criminologists. Led by the pioneering
work of Thorsten Sellin, scores of researchers have examined the
possibility that the death penalty has a greater deterrent effect on
homicide rates than does long-term imprisonment. While some econometric
studies in the 1970s claimed to find deterrent effects, these studies were
exhaustively criticized and largely discredited. A panel set up by the
National Academy of Sciences and chaired by Nobel Laureate Lawrence R.
Klein to examine the studies – primarily those published by economist
Isaac Ehrlich – concluded that "the available studies provide no useful
evidence on the deterrent effect of capital punishment" and "research on
the deterrent effects of capital sanctions is not likely to provide
results that will or should have much influence on policy makers." In
retrospect, that finding seemed to settle the scholarly debate, at least
for the next 25 years.


Against this background, the article entitled Murderous Pardons? that was
published by the Washington Post in 2002 raised the eyebrows of many
criminologists. The study discussed in the article was authored by
University of Colorado-Denver economist Naci Mocan and one of his (then)
graduate students, Kaj Gittings. They examined 6,143 death sentences
imposed in the United States between 1977 and 1997, and built a data set
with 1,050 observations (one observation per state for 21 years). Their
results indicated that each execution resulted in five fewer homicides,
and each commutation of a death sentence to a long or life prison term
resulted in five additional homicides. Further, each additional removal
from death row – primarily occurring when appellate courts vacate death
sentences that were imposed with various improprieties by trial courts –
resulted in one additional homicide.

At least two prominent criminologists have found serious flaws in the
Mocan-Gittings work. Richard Berk noted that the execution figures by
state by year for the 1977 to 1997 period were highly skewed.0 Berk
specifically noted that most states – accounting for 859 of the 1,000
observations31 – had zero executions in a given year, and only a few
states had more than a handful in a few years (n=l 1), with most of these
being from Texas. He used a straightforward procedure to assess the
implications of this skewed measure: using Mocan and Gittings's original
data set, he removed the Texas data and ran the model exactly as the
original authors did, albeit only for the other forty-nine states. The
deterrent effect of executions disappeared. Berk concluded that "it would
be bad statistics and bad social policy to generalize from the 11
observations to the remaining 989."35

A 2nd reexamination of the Mocan-Gittings study was conducted by Jeffrey
Fagan. Fagan's work is the most comprehensive review of the theoretical
and methodological shortcomings of deterrence studies published after
2000. He first improved Mocan' s measure of deterrence, which is the
number of executions in a given state divided by the number of death
sentences imposed 6 years earlier. Because of the impossibility of
computing this measure if the denominator is zero, Mocan and Gittings
coded years with no death sentences as .99.38 Fagan reanalyzed the data
using .01 (which is closer to zero) in the denominator rather than .99.
That simple improvement made all the deterrent effects found by Mocan and
Gittings disappear.


Rather than prove that Mocan and Gittings erred in their assumptions,
Fagan showed that small changes in their assumptions could produce wild
fluctuations in their deterrence estimates. For instance, a small change
could cause a positive deterrence effect, no deterrence effect, or even
the brutalization effect, in which each execution increases the homicide
rate. Unfortunately, Mocan and Gittings have not responded to Berk's and
Fagan's critiques.


As noted above, Naci Mocan has not responded to Berk's and Fagans's
critique of his highly-publicized study, which claimed that the death
penalty had a deterrent effect. Instead, in 2007 Professor Mocan told
writers for both the Associated Press82 and the New York Times93 that he
still believed the death penalty has a deterrent effect. When asked by
Associated Press reporter Robert Tanner to comment on the empirical
support for the deterrence position, Professor Mocan replied that
"[s]cience does really draw a conclusion. It did. There is no question
about it … . The conclusion is there is a deterrent effect."84

The data reported in this Article do not support Mocan's position. To the
contrary, the data show that the scientific community, in particular
social scientists, would likely take a position opposite that of Professor
Mocan. Our survey indicates that the vast majority of the world's top
criminologists believe that the empirical research has revealed the
deterrence hypothesis for a myth. There isn't a shred of evidence that
supports the New York Times' s assertion that there is "an intense new
debate about one of the central justifications for capital punishment,"
namely deterrence. Recent econometric studies, which posit that the death
penalty has a marginal deterrent effect beyond that of long-term
imprisonment, are so limited or flawed that they have failed to undermine

In short, the consensus among criminologists is that the death penalty
does not add any significant deterrent effect above that of long-term

[source—-Michael Landauer/Editor, Dallas Morning News)

(source for all: Associated Press)


Lawyer won't ask for delay in death penalty case, despite judicial

Undoubtedly many political candidates gearing up for the March primaries
have day jobs that will distract them from campaigning. But perhaps none
have a more intense task than Leonard Martinez, who is running for judge
in Travis County. Martinez will spend much of January and February in
court trying to save a man's life.

Martinez is the lead defense lawyer for Milton Dwayne Gobert, who is
accused of capital murder in the October 2003 killing of 30-year-old Mel
Cotton, his ex-girlfriend's friend, at her apartment on Interstate 35 near
Rundberg Lane. Gobert is accused of stabbing Cotton and her then
5-year-old son, who survived. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Gobert's trial, which has been delayed by pretrial appeals, is finally set
to begin January 19 with jury selection, which is expected to last for
several weeks. Opening statements are scheduled for February 22.

The Democratic primary is March 2. Martinez said he would not ask for a
delay in the case because of the campaign, even though preparing for such
a high-stakes case often has lawyers working into the evenings and on

"I wish there was something I could do about the timing," Martinez said.
"There is just no way I am going to make the family of the victim wait
another several months or make the defendant who, has been in jail for 6
years, wait for his day in court."

Martinez is among 4 Democrats who hope to replace Judge Charlie Baird, who
is not running for re-election to the 299th District Court.

Also running are defense lawyer Eve Schatelowtiz Alcantar, 38; prosecutor
Karen Sage, 44; and family and criminal defense lawyer Mindy Montford, 39.
No Republican filed to run.

Martinez said that he has asked state District Judge Bob Perkins to end
the trial each day by 5 p.m. so he can attend candidate forums in the
evening. He said he would prepare for the next days proceedings after

Veteran defense lawyer Kent Anschutz has also been appointed to represent

Martinez said that he hopes to prove that if Gobert did kill Cotton, which
he is not conceding, then it was not done while committing another felony,
which is what qualifies the crime for a capital murder charge. Then he
could not received a death sentence.

(source: Austin American-Statesman)