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California Capital Punishment News - Page 44
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Thread: California Capital Punishment News

  1. #431
    Senior Member CnCP Legend Mike's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    San Quentin guard, 2 others charged with smuggling cellphones to death row inmates

    By Richard Winton
    The Los Angeles Times

    A San Quentin prison guard and two others were charged in federal court Wednesday in a scheme to smuggle cellphones to death row inmates, officials said.

    Keith Christopher, 37, of Pittsburg, appeared in federal court in San Francisco on a charge of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud using interstate wires. He was accompanied by Isaiah Wells, 32, of Tracy, authorities said. They did not enter pleas.

    A third co-defendant, 45-year-old Tanisa Smith-Symes of Las Vegas, was arrested there and is slated to appear before a magistrate in a federal court Thursday.

    The complaint alleges that Christopher and the two others smuggled 25 cellphones into the prison's East Block, where inmates who received the death penalty are held.

    Cellphones have long been a security issue in California's prisons, and inmates are not allowed to have them.

    Prosecutors say that Smith-Symes worked with her boyfriend, a death row inmate, to ship phones to Wells. He then handed them off to Christopher, who sneaked them into the prison.

    Inside the prison walls, the phones were sold to inmates for up to $900 each, according to the complaint.

    For his role in the scheme, Christopher charged a bribe of $500 per phone, prosecutors say. Bribery payments were allegedly sent by Smith-Symes to Christopher directly or through Wells or others.

    The investigation that uncovered the scheme was conducted by the FBI and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Office of Internal Affairs.

    Christopher and Wells were released on bond after being charged. They will be back in court on Sept. 17.

    The Times could not identify attorneys for the three who were charged, although Christopher is being represented by a public defender.

    The three face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

    Trying to get married before I turn 27.

  2. #432
    Administrator Helen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    California Supreme Court Upholds Death-Penalty Statute Against Challenge That Could Have Overturned Hundreds of Death Sentences

    The California Supreme Court has upheld the states death-penalty statute against a constitutional challenge that had the potential to overturn the sentences of hundreds of people on Californias death row. In a unanimous ruling issued August 26, 2021 in People v. McDaniel, the court held that a capital jury need not unanimously agree to the existence of an aggravating circumstance before weighing it in the sentencing decision so long as every juror found that the prosecution had proven at least one aggravating circumstance that justified a death sentence beyond a reasonable doubt.

    The issue came to the court in the case of Donte Lamont McDaniel, who was convicted of two Los Angeles gang-related murders in 2008. At sentencing, McDaniels jury deadlocked on whether to recommend a life sentence or the death penalty. A second jury impaneled to retry the sentencing phase deliberated for 4 days before unanimously recommending the death penalty.

    McDaniel argued that U.S. Supreme Court case law required every capital sentencing jury to agree that an aggravating circumstance had been proven before any juror could consider that circumstance and that the jury could impose a death sentence only if it unanimously agreed that aggravating circumstances outweighed mitigating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt. His argument had the potential to overturn nearly every California death sentence in which a jury had been impaneled. As of September 3, 2021, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reported 697 people on the states death row.

    McDaniels case drew supporting briefs from Governor Gavin Newsom and 6 progressive district attorneys in the state, including Chesa Boudin in San Francisco and George Gascn in Los Angeles. It was the first time any sitting governor in California had filed a brief in support of a death-row prisoner. Newsom argued that the states death penalty was infected by racism and that absence of a requirement of unanimous jury sentencing beyond a reasonable doubt contributed to systemic arbitrariness and discrimination.

    Writing for the court, Justice Goodwin Liu said that under existing California decisions on the issue, [t]he jurys ultimate decision selecting the penalty in a capital case does not constitute fact-finding, and therefore each juror could separately determine the justification for a death sentence. In a separate concurring opinion, Liu wrote, There is a serious question whether our capital sentencing scheme is unconstitutional . He said, Given the stakes for capital defendants, the prosecution, and the justice system, I urge this court, as well as other responsible officials sworn to uphold the Constitution, to revisit this issue at an appropriate time. However, he said, McDaniels case was not the appropriate vehicle for addressing that issue.

    The Right to Jury Fact-Finding in Capital Sentencing Proceedings

    The United States Supreme Court ruled in March 2000 in Apprendi v. New Jersey that the Sixth Amendment provides a defendant the right to a unanimous jury determination, beyond a reasonable doubt, of any fact (other than prior conviction) that increases the maximum penalty for a crime. 2 years later, in Ring v. Arizona, the Court held that the penalty phase of a capital trial fell within the Sixth Amendment jury guarantee and that a capital defendants right to a jury trial included the right to require the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt every fact necessary to impose the death penalty.

    The court confined its discussion to the scope of the right to a penalty-phase jury, separately addressing the questions of unanimity and proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Ultimately, it ruled that neither were required. Lui wrote that neither the California constitution nor state law provided a basis to require unanimity in the jurys determination of factually disputed aggravating circumstances. On the burden of proof issue, the court said: Even if the jury trial right under [Californias constitution] is applicable to the penalty phase of a capital trial and encompasses the right to factual findings beyond a reasonable doubt, we do not understand it to require the penalty phase jury to select the appropriate punishment beyond a reasonable doubt.

    The court did not address the other issues raised in Governor Newsoms or the prosecutors amicus briefs. These claims, the court wrote, sound in equal protection, due process, or the Eighth Amendments prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, and do not bear directly on the specific state law questions before us.

    Elisabeth Semel, co-director of the UC Berkeley Death Penalty Clinic and co-author of Newsoms legal brief, told the Associated Press, It doesnt change the fact that the death penalty system in California does discriminate against people of color, particularly Black defendants. And theres ample data to demonstrate that.

    On September 10, McDaniels lawyers filed a petition seeking reargument of the case.

    (source: Death Penalty Information Center)
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    "There are some people who just do not deserve to live,"
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    "Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

  3. #433
    Administrator Helen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Ninth Circuit denies bid by California DAs to challenge death penalty moratorium

    District attorneys from three counties in California did not have the authority to challenge a moratorium on the death penalty enacted by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2019

    By Matthew Renda
    Courthouse News Service

    (CN) — In a divided opinion, a Ninth Circuit panel upheld a lower court decision that prevented a group of district attorneys from intervening in a case where Governor Gavin Newsom stayed all executions in the state of California via executive order.

    “The district attorneys have no authority to choose the method by which California will execute condemned inmates,” U.S. Circuit Judge William Fletcher, a Bill Clinton appointee, wrote for the majority. “California law does not authorize the district attorneys to defend the state against constitutional challenges to execution protocols."

    U.S. Circuit Judge Lawrence VanDyke dissented, saying the district attorneys are trying to uphold California law.

    “The district attorneys would uphold and seek to help enforce Proposition 66 to retain the death penalty — on which a majority of the voters of California voted “Yes” — while the attorney general must defend the governor’s contrary executive order instituting a moratorium on death penalty executions,” the Donald Trump appointee wrote.

    Fellow Trump appointee U.S. Circuit Judge Danielle Forrest dissented from the majority opinion regarding mootness.

    District attorneys from San Bernardino, San Mateo and Riverside counties sought to intervene in a federal lawsuit challenging California’s lethal injection protocols in 2018. A federal judge denied their request that same year, finding they failed to establish separate interests not adequately represented by the California Attorney General’s Office.

    In March 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom enacted a moratorium on executions, citing his belief that capital punishment is morally wrong. In August 2020, the state reached an agreement with death row inmates to dismiss the case without prejudice while the moratorium on executions stays in place.

    In their motions to intervene, each district attorney cited their interests in ensuring capital punishment is carried out for criminals sentenced to death in their counties.

    This comes after a California state court refused to consider the ALCU’s claim that California law bars local district attorneys from taking part in a legal dispute about execution procedures in cases they protected. But Thursday's ruling upheld a previous decision that held the district attorneys in question did not have the authority to challenge Newsom’s moratorium.

    “The district attorneys point to no legislative authorization granting them the authority to represent the state’s interest in this case,” Fletcher wrote.

    There are currently 706 inmates on death row in California, including 683 male inmates and 23 female inmates.

    The San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office argued it has an interest in ensuring Kevin Cooper is executed for the 1983 murder of the Ryen family. The DA’s office called it a “brutal hatchet murder” in which mother, father, 10-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old boy from a neighboring home were slaughtered. The family’s 8-year-old son had his throat slashed but survived.

    Cooper was convicted in 1985, but recent DNA test results show an unknown person was present at the crime scene and witnesses have come forward to say another suspect had bragged about killing the family. Cooper has maintained his innocence for more than three decades.

    The motion to intervene was filed when Michael Ramos led the San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office from 2002 to 2019. He lost an election to the county’s current DA, Jason Anderson, in 2018.

    In 2019, Anderson said he was disappointed in Governor Newsom’s decision to require more DNA testing in the Kevin Cooper case, saying “it seems the victims’ desire for justice in this case matters less and less.”

    Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin, who has been in office since 2015, also sought to intervene in the lawsuit. He argued his office has an interest in ensuring that Albert Greenwood Brown is executed for the 1980 rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl. Brown was scheduled to be executed in September 2010, but a federal judge stayed the execution due to concerns that the lethal injection procedure might subject him to an agonizing death.

    Hestrin also cited the case of Ronald Lee Deere, a man convicted of the 1982 murder of a father and his two daughters, ages 2 and 7. The state currently has 92 inmates on death row who were convicted of capital crimes in Riverside County.

    San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, who has served as DA since 2011, insisted his office has an interest in ensuring executions are carried out for Robert Green Fairbank Jr., convicted of the 1985 rape and murder of a female college student, and Anthony John Sully, convicted of murdering five women and one man during a six-month “killing spree” in 1983.

    Notwithstanding the debate over local prosecutors' interest in the outcome of litigation over lethal injection protocols, the ACLU and its co-petitioners say their interference in the lawsuit violates state law.

    “These DAs are rogue actors who seek to ignore the Constitution and create their own rules,” ACLU of Northern California attorney Emi MacLean said in a statement Friday. “Their lawlessness cannot stand.”

    Groups joining the ACLU in its First Appellate District petition include Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement, Riverside All of Us Or None, Starting Over Inc., and Silicon Valley De-Bug.

    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    "There are some people who just do not deserve to live,"
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    "Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

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