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    1. #21
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      Judge grants stay of execution for convicted murderer

      BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A stay of execution has been granted for a Baton Rouge man convicted of double murder.

      The judge granted the temporary order Wednesday for Todd Wessinger.

      A jury convicted Wessinger in 1997 for the murders of his co-workers, Stephanie Guzzardo and David Breakwell, at the now-closed Calendar's restaurant.

      Wessinger's execution was scheduled to happen on May 9.

      Earlier in the month, Wessinger asked a federal judge to reconsider his request for a new trial.

      There has been no word on when the judge will rule on a permanent stay of execution.

      http://www.wafb.com/story/17789910/j...icted-murderer

    2. #22
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      Hearing granted on death sentence

      Todd Wessinger must receive a third federal court hearing on his push to overturn his death sentence after being convicted of murdering two workers at a Baton Rouge restaurant in 1995.

      U.S. District Judge James J. Brady scheduled the hearing for Dec. 13, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

      In February, Brady denied Wessinger, 44, a new trial. The judge ruled that “overwhelming” state court evidence supported Wessinger’s conviction on charges that he murdered 27-year-old Stephanie Guzzardo and 46-year-old David Breakwell at the since-closed Calendar’s restaurant on Perkins Road.

      In April, however, Brady took additional defense motions under consideration and indefinitely blocked Wessinger’s scheduled May 9 execution.

      On Wednesday, Brady rejected four of Wessinger’s latest five claims of state court errors.

      But the judge ruled that Wessinger’s claim of “ineffective assistance of counsel at the penalty phase of the trial” is “deserving of further proceedings.”

      By limiting his latest ruling to the penalty phase of Wessinger’s trial, Brady signaled his future decision would either support or overturn the jury’s imposition of the death penalty. The murder conviction stands.

      Brady noted that an on-point ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — which governs federal court decisions in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi — shows new claims of mental illness, low intelligence and childhood abuse can be raised at sentencing and on appeal.

      The judge noted the 5th Circuit’s decision only applies to defense evidence on federal appeal that is “significantly different and stronger” than defense evidence presented to state courts.

      But Brady added Wessinger cannot win a new sentencing hearing unless he can show his defense attorney’s failure to present new evidence of his claimed mental problems at sentencing was so significant that “he might not have received the death penalty.”

      In April, defense attorneys argued Wessinger suffered childhood seizures and physical and emotional abuse, developed substance addictions and was traumatized by the deaths of his children prior to the murders of Guzzardo and Breakwell.

      Those arguments were presented by appellate attorneys Danalynn Recer, of The Gulf Region Advocacy Center in Houston; Soren Gisleson, of New Orleans; and Federal Public Defender Rebecca Hudsmith, of Lafayette.

      Assistant District Attorneys Dale R. Lee and J. Christine Chapman argued against Wessinger’s stay of execution.

      Chapman and Lee told Brady the families of Guzzardo and Breakwell “have endured years of uncertainty and appeals. They undoubtedly endure harm each day that the lawful sentence of the court is not carried out, and they are clearly entitled to finality and closure.”

      http://theadvocate.com/home/2860362-...death-sentence
      An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    3. #23
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      Federal judge throws out death sentence of man convicted in murders of Calender’s Restaurant employees

      Condemned killer Todd Wessinger deserves a new sentencing hearing in the 1995 slaying of two Baton Rouge restaurant employees because his attorneys were deficient at the 1997 penalty phase of his capital murder trial, a federal judge ruled Monday when he threw out Wessinger’s death sentence.

      U.S. District Judge James Brady’s 15-page decision did not disturb Wessingger’s first-degree murder convictions for the Nov. 19, 1995, shooting deaths of Stephanie Guzzardo, 27, and David Breakwell, 46, at the now-closed Calendar’s Restaurant on Perkins Road. Guzzardo managed the store.

      But if Brady’s ruling stands on appeal, Wessinger, 47, of Baton Rouge, would be entitled to a new penalty phase hearing in the 19th Judicial District Courthouse.

      Wessinger’s attorneys had argued to Brady that one of his trial lawyers, the now-deceased Billy Hecker, was appointed to represent Wessinger just six months before the start of the trial and was ill-prepared.

      Wessinger’s attorneys also contend the jury never heard about what they have described as Wessinger’s significant neurological problems as well as compelling family issues such as poverty, abuse, violence and alcoholism.

      “This Court finds there is a reasonable probability that the evidence of Petitioner’s brain damage and other impairments, as well as his personal and family history would have swayed at least one juror to choose a life sentence,” Brady wrote.

      Wessinger, a former Calendar’s dishwasher at the time of the killings, shot a third employee in the back, who survived. His gun jammed when he tried to shoot a fourth worker in the head.

      http://theadvocate.com/news/13022135...rows-out-death
      An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    4. #24
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      On August 24, 2015, the State of Louisiana filed an appeal before the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

      https://dockets.justia.com/docket/ci...s/ca5/15-70027

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