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Robert Green Fairbank, Jr. - California Death Row
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Thread: Robert Green Fairbank, Jr. - California Death Row

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    Robert Green Fairbank, Jr. - California Death Row




    Summary of Offense:

    A week after sexually assaulting one woman, Fairbank tortured and killed a second woman in his apartment, then dumped her in the woods and set her body on fire. He became a suspect after police responded to a report by his physically abused girlfriend.

    Sentenced to death in San Mateo County on September 5, 1989 for the December 12, 1985 rape, torture and murder of Wendy Cheek.

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    On August 27, 2008, Fairbank filed an appeal in the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit over the denial of his habeas petition in Federal District Court.

    http://dockets.justia.com/docket/cir.../ca9/08-99018/

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    Opinion here

    Federal appeals court upholds San Mateo County death sentence

    A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the death sentence of a condemned killer who murdered a San Francisco State student more than two decades ago near Crystal Springs Reservoir in San Mateo.

    In a unanimous three-judge ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Robert Green Fairbank's legal arguments for overturning his 24-year-old murder conviction and death sentence, moving him near the end of his appeals and much closer to the prospect of execution.

    Fairbank, now 58, has been on death row for the December 1985 murder of Wendy Cheeks, a 24-year-old graduate student whose body was found near Hillsborough. The woman had been stabbed and set on fire.

    The murder provoked a controversy in San Francisco because Fairbank had been released without bail just six days before the Cheeks murder after being arrested on suspicion of another sexual assault. The California Supreme Court and a federal judge later affirmed Fairbank's San Mateo County conviction and sentence.

    In the 9th Circuit, Fairbank's lawyers argued that his trial attorney failed to present evidence at the penalty phase of his trial that could have spared him a death sentence, and that prosecutors improperly relied on a letter he wrote to a jailhouse informant.

    The appeals court rejected those arguments. Fairbanks can ask the 9th Circuit to rehear the case with an 11-judge panel, but he had a fairly liberal panel that turned away his arguments in Tuesday's ruling. He can also ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.

    It still may be a year or more before Fairbank faces a firm execution date, and even then his case could be delayed further. A federal judge has put executions on hold in California while he considers a legal challenge to the state's lethal injection procedures.

    http://www.mercurynews.com/peninsula...nclick_check=1

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    On March 19, 2012, the US Supreme Court denied Fairbank's certiorari petition.

    http://www.supremecourt.gov/Search.a...es/11-8349.htm

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    Two prosecutors try to jump-start California executions

    With California voters readying to consider whether to retain the death penalty, two prominent district attorneys, including San Mateo County's, are mounting a rebel legal campaign to kick-start executions in San Quentin's long-dormant death chamber.

    Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley has been heading the charge, moving in recent months to sidestep legal obstacles that have put executions on hold for nearly seven years and secure execution dates for condemned killers Mitchell Sims and Tiequon Cox.

    But San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe has quietly joined in, asking a local judge to set an execution date for Robert Green Fairbank, sent to death row for the 1985 murder of a San Francisco woman.

    The legal gambit is spurred by some prosecutors' mounting frustration with Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris, who instead of rushing to resume executions have focused on fighting state and federal court orders that froze executions because of flaws in the prison system's three-drug execution procedures. The state, in fact, assured a federal judge two years ago that there would be no attempts to execute inmates until those legal battles were resolved.

    "Prosecutors and victims' advocates throughout the state are indeed frustrated with the failure of the (state) to get this process moving," said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.

    In court papers, Wagstaffe and Cooley argue that California can execute inmates with a single drug, avoiding the legal stalemate over the state's botched attempts to retain its three-drug method. Other states such as Washington, Arizona and Ohio have adopted that approach.

    A Los Angeles judge on Monday is expected to hear the latest round of arguments in Cooley's maneuver, and a San Mateo judge will consider the Fairbank case in October, not long before voters decide the fate of Proposition 34 -- the first time Californians have been asked to abolish the death penalty since it was reinstated in 1978.

    Wagstaffe was out of town last week and could not be reached. But Los Angeles prosecutors insist their demand for swift execution dates is unrelated to the ballot measure, saying both Cox and Sims have exhausted their legal appeals and should pay for crimes committed decades ago.

    "We're not trying to rush and get an execution before Nov. 6," said Deputy District Attorney Michelle Hanisee, who noted that it's too late for Cox or Sims to be executed before the election. "This is about getting our system back on track."

    Death penalty foes say the move to execute the inmates flouts a number of court rulings requiring California to fix its lethal injection procedures, which have been challenged because of concerns they expose the condemned to a cruel and unusual death.

    "I can't imagine what they are thinking," said Natasha Minsker, Proposition 34's campaign manager. "They're trying to do an end run around the law."

    With more than 720 murderers on death row, Fairbank, Cox and Sims are in a select group of about a dozen inmates who have run out of legal options to avoid execution. All that stands in the way of lethal injections for them are several court orders that have blocked executions -- and legal experts say the two prosecutors' arguments will not get them past those orders.

    A federal judge was the first to halt executions in the case of death row inmate Michael Morales, who challenged the lethal injection method on the eve of his February 2006 execution. More recently, a Marin County judge put executions on hold, concluding that the state did not follow proper administrative procedures when prison officials crafted new lethal injection guidelines.

    The Brown administration has appealed that decision, but in court papers says prison officials are working on the single drug option. Cooley and Wagstaffe argue that San Quentin can use that method right now, saying in their court filings that individual trial judges have the legal authority to order prison officials to carry out executions on a case-by-case basis.

    Mark Drodzdowski, Fairbank's lawyer, said "there are a number of roadblocks to what the DAs are seeking." And Sara Eisenberg, lawyer for death row inmates in the Marin case, added that the courts have barred California from carrying out executions until it devises a legal, court-approved method.

    "That should be the end of the story," she said. "In my view, that's just how it's got to be."

    Harris' office declined to comment, referring questions to state prison officials. But in court papers, the attorney general and prison officials appear to agree with Eisenberg, telling the judge in the Los Angeles case that ordering them to carry out an execution would conflict with existing injunctions.

    "Any such order would place (the state) in an untenable position because it would not be able to simultaneously comply with one order directing it to carry out executions and another order barring it from doing so," state lawyers wrote.

    San Mateo prosecutors, however, say the time has come for Fairbank to be executed with a single, fatal dose of a sedative for the rape and murder of Wendy Cheek, whose naked, partially burned body was found in a tree grove along Highway 280 in San Mateo County 27 years ago.

    "We feel the court can set a date," Deputy District Attorney Joe Cannon said. "The law mandates that the death penalty be imposed in this particular situation."

    http://www.mercurynews.com/crime-cou...nia-executions

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    San Mateo County DA seeks execution of student's killer

    A month before California voters decide whether to scrap the death penalty, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe next week will ask a judge to allow the execution of a graduate student's murderer to proceed.

    And he'll have no qualms about it.

    For months, Wagstaffe has publicly positioned himself as a champion of capital punishment, which was suspended six years ago in California by a federal judge and could be banned Nov. 6 if voters approve Proposition 34.

    Wagstaffe is co-chair of a coalition working to defeat the initiative, which calls for life imprisonment without possibility of parole instead of executions.

    He defended capital punishment in September on behalf of the California District Attorneys Association before a joint state Senate/Assembly committee.

    Some criminals are so depraved that ending their lives is the only justice, Wagstaffe said in an interview Tuesday. The 15 people sentenced to death for crimes committed in San Mateo County since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978 all fit that category, he added.

    "To me, they're evil people," Wagstaffe said.

    One such evil person in Wagstaffe's mind is Robert Fairbank, who murdered a graduate student in 1985 and whose death the district attorney will ask a San Mateo County judge on Oct. 12 to allow.

    Fairbank, now 58, was sentenced to death in 1989 for the murder of Wendy Cheek, 24, whom he tortured, sexually assaulted and fatally stabbed, Wagstaffe said. The appeals process for the San Francisco man's case was recently completed and his sentence upheld, Wagstaffe said.

    Supporters of Proposition 34 say it would eliminate the chance of an innocent person mistakenly being executed and save taxpayers $130 million a year in appeals and other costs related to capital punishment cases -- a sum confirmed by the non-partisan state Legislative Analyst's Office.

    Cost shouldn't be a factor in death penalty decisions, Wagstaffe counters.

    "I find that problematic. We shouldn't be deciding it on the money, we should decide whether it's right or wrong," Wagstaffe said. "I think this proposition is taking advantage of difficult financial times."

    The motion Wagstaffe filed this summer for Fairbank's execution is similar to the one Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley sought for two condemned murderers there. Both prosecutors have argued that because the legality of a three-drug method for executions has been stalled in court, a single-drug method used in other states could be implemented in California.

    A Los Angeles judge rejected Cooley's request on Sept. 10, asserting that a trial court could not make the decision to change the death penalty protocol.

    "I don't know what our trial judge will do," Wagstaffe said. "The three-drug issue has dragged on for six years, but the one-drug protocol does not have the problems of the three-drug protocol. We're trying to side-step that problem."

    The ban on executions was imposed by a federal judge in 2006 over concerns that the three-drug injection could leave some condemned killers conscious and in extreme pain before their lives are eventually snuffed out.

    Wagstaffe said he is under no illusion that a judge would allow a speedy execution, but filed the motion "on principle" after Fairbank's appeals were exhausted just to keep the case moving down the path toward what he hopes is an ultimate end.

    And if the trial judge does happen to grant an execution date for a one-drug injection, Wagstaffe said he expects that decision would be appealed.

    "It's very frustrating," Wagstaffe said. "So yes, I understand this is symbolic in many respects."

    http://www.mercurynews.com/peninsula...tudents-killer
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    Death penalty request delayed until after election

    The San Mateo County district attorney’s request that a judge set an execution date for a man convicted in the torture murder of a young graduate student 27 years ago was delayed yesterday until after the Nov. 6 election in which California voters will decide if the death penalty will stand.

    Judge Craig Parson was scheduled Friday to hear prosecutors and Robert Green Fairbank’s state-appointed defender argue whether a date should be set now even though executions have essentially been on hold for years while the courts wrangle with the question of cruel and unusual punishment.

    A court has ruled the state’s previous use of a three-drug cocktail could not continue and a judge in a different case also declined to set an execution date for a Death Row inmate despite that prosecutor maintaining a single drug would bypass the concern.

    A similar argument was anticipated by prosecutor Joe Cannon on behalf of the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office. On Tuesday, however, the defense asked to push back the hearing and Cannon did not oppose the request.

    The hearing was reset for Nov. 16 at which time the question may be moot.

    California voters are faced with Proposition 34 which would prohibit the death penalty and commute the sentences of all California’s current Death Row inmates to life without the possibility of parole. San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe is a very public opponent of the measure, and in fact a co-chair of the coalition fighting the change, but said that stance has no connection to his office’s push for a Fairbank’s execution date.

    “It seems logical that people would think that but it’s not true. It’s just time to keep this case moving and follow through on the jury’s verdict,” Wagstaffe said.

    Fairbank, now 58, was sentenced to death for the Dec. 12, 1985 attempted sexual assault and murder of San Francisco resident Wendy Cheek, a graduate student. Cheek’s partially burned body was found near Hillsborough off Highway 280. Cheek had been stabbed repeatedly with a barbecue fork, knife and screwdriver before being set on fire. Two days into his 1989 trial, Fairbank, already a convicted felon, pleaded no contest.

    Wagstaffe said Fairbank’s legal options to stave off the imposed punishment have run out. Regardless of whether his office prevailed in the request for a date, Wagstaffe said he is obligated to keep the case on track because his case no longer merits further appeal.

    The last San Mateo County resident sentenced to death was Alberto Alvarez for the 2006 murder of East Palo Alto police Officer Richard May.

    The last San Mateo County inmate executed was Donald Beardslee in January 2005 for the 1981 double murder of Patty Geddling and Stacey Benjamin

    http://www.smdailyjournal.com/articl...ter%20election
    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

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    Death penalty decision delayed

    A request by prosecutors to set an execution date for a San Mateo County death row inmate whose appeals have expired won’t be heard until Monday because the judge assigned to hear the matter had the day off.

    Judge Barbara Mallach was assigned the case of Robert Green Fairbank which was scheduled for Friday but she had a long-standing day off — unfortunately, nobody informed his attorneys or anyone else involved ahead of time, according to prosecutors.

    Instead, Mallach on Monday morning will consider whether to set a date for Fairbank, who was convicted of torturing and murdering a young graduate student in 1985, or follow the lead of other courts that first want clarity on the use of lethal injection.

    California executions have essentially been on hold for years while the courts wrangle with the question of cruel and unusual punishment. A court has ruled the state’s previous use of a three-drug cocktail could not continue and a judge in a different case also declined to set an execution date for a condemned inmate despite that prosecutor maintaining a single drug would bypass the concern. The local District Attorney’s Office is expected to make a similar argument in Fairbank’s case.

    The request comes almost two weeks after California voters affirmed the death penalty by rejecting Proposition 34. An early hearing for Fairbank was delayed until after the Nov. 6 election in case voters had felt otherwise, making the request moot.

    Fairbank, now 58, was sentenced to death for the Dec. 12, 1985 attempted sexual assault and murder of San Francisco resident Wendy Cheek, a graduate student. Cheek’s partially burned body was found near Hillsborough off Interstate 280. Cheek had been stabbed repeatedly with a barbecue fork, knife and screwdriver before being set on fire. Two days into his 1989 trial, Fairbank, already a convicted felon, pleaded no contest.

    http://www.smdailyjournal.com/articl...sion%20delayed
    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

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    San Mateo judge refuses to set execution date for condemned killer

    A condemned San Mateo County killer will have to wait his turn for execution with the rest of California's 725 death row inmates.

    A judge on Monday refused San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe's bid to accelerate the execution timetable for Robert Green Fairbank, on death row for the 1985 murder of a San Francisco woman. Fairbank has exhausted all of his legal appeals, but executions remain on hold in California as a result of state and federal court orders in challenges to the state's lethal injection method.

    Without any elaboration, Superior Court Judge Barbara Mallach found she did not have the authority to interfere with those court orders.

    As a result, Mallach rejected Wagstaffe's argument that Fairbanks could immediately be given an execution date with instructions to put him to death with a single lethal drug, bypassing the other courts. A Los Angeles judge this fall rejected the same argument in a case brought by Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, who was seeking execution dates for two death row inmates.

    Wagstaffe was not immediately available for comment. But he told this newspaper last week that the legal maneuver had a symbolic value, and he did not expect to appeal if he lost.

    "This isn't a crusade for me," he said. "It's about trying to make the system work."

    Mark Drozdowski, Fairbank's lawyer, declined to comment after the brief hearing.

    But defense lawyers maintain individual judges do not have the authority to defy the court orders in place in the ongoing legal battle over lethal injection procedures.

    Fairbank is one of at least 13 inmates who would be eligible for execution dates if the lethal injection challenges are resolved, which is not likely to happen until next year or later.

    California has not had an execution in nearly seven years. A state appeals court is now reviewing the attorney general's appeal of a Marin County judge's order blocking executions because prison officials did not follow proper procedures in adopting a new three-drug lethal injection method.

    Once that case is resolved, the issue will return to the federal courts. Gov. Jerry Brown's administration also has said in court papers that prison officials are studying a single-drug execution method, which has been adopted in other states to end legal wrangling over lethal injection.

    http://www.contracostatimes.com/brea...date-condemned
    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

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