Topic: death penalty
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December 3, 2013 at 11:41 AM
The Associated Press
PORT ANGELES — It has cost Clallam County about $1 million this year to re-try a man in the 1993 slaying of his wife and business partner at an exotic bird farm near Sequim.
The Peninsula Daily News reports county commissioners face a budget emergency of nearly half a million dollars because of expenses related to the retrial of Darold Stenson.
The 61-year-old was found guilty last month of two counts of aggravated murder and will be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
October 14, 2013 at 10:44 AM
The Associated Press
BUTTE, Mont. — Prosecutors said they do not intend to seek the death penalty against a 38-year-old Washington state man charged with killing his 3-year-old son in July near Anaconda.
The trial of Jeremy Brent Cramer of Lacey is to start April 7, The Montana Standard (http://bit.ly/GZrEY0 ) reported.
He could face up to life in prison if convicted of mitigated deliberate homicide in the death of his son, Broderick.
Cramer has pleaded not guilty to beating and stabbing his son and remains jailed on $250,000 bond. Prosecutors say he might have been under the influence of a prescription stimulant.
The decision by Anaconda-Deer Lodge County prosecutors against seeking the death penalty was filed Aug. 16.
Employees at an Anaconda convenience store called police July 8 to report seeing Cramer trying to wash blood from his clothing in the restroom.
Cramer phoned his father after he was arrested and told him in the recorded call that he had run out of gas and started walking down the rural road with his son on his shoulders, according to prosecutors.
Authorities say the boy’s body was found the next morning near Cramer’s abandoned truck about 5 miles southeast of Anaconda.
A partial transcript of the phone call says Cramer told his father he killed his own son, and he didn’t know why. He asked “’Why did I take all my pills?’” according to the transcript.
September 26, 2013 at 9:13 AM
The state Supreme Court this morning upheld the death penalty in the case of Dayva Cross, who killed his wife and two of her daughters in Snoqualmie in 1999.
Cross’ case is still winding its way through the courts on a number of appeals, but one particular issue, whether a defendant can be condemned to death after entering an Alford plea, was resolved unanimously by the state high court. In an Alford plea a defendant concedes there is sufficient evidence to support a conviction, but they are not directly acknowledging guilt.
“We hold that a capital sentence can be predicated on an Alford plea and deny that portion of his personal restraint petition,” Justice Tom Chambers wrote, adding that Cross’s separate appeals will be resolved in other opinions.
Chambers added that a “careful review of the record reveals that Cross’s Alford plea was a calculated one.”
“It likely avoided having all the gruesome details of the murders presented to the jurors at the guilt phase and preserved his ability to argue at the penalty phase of the trial that he killed the three women without premeditation or a common scheme or plan. Unfortunately for Cross his tactic did not work.”
Cross, who had a history of mental illness, stabbed his wife, Anouchka Baldwin, 37, and her daughters, Salome Holly, 18, and Amanda Baldwin, 15, in March 1999. Cross then kept another daughter confined at knife point for five hours while he drank wine and watched television. He was arrested without incident after the surviving girl escaped and called police.
In October 2000, Cross told King County Superior Court Judge Joan DuBuque “I don’t see any reason for a trial, because I’d tell a jury from the start that I’m guilty.”
He added that he wanted to take responsibility for what he had done.
In June 2001, Cross was sentenced to death.
Among Cross’s appeals already dismissed by the Supreme Court was his argument that the state’s death penalty is unconstitutional. Cross pointed specifically to Green River Killer Gary Ridgway, who in 2004 pleaded guilty to 48 counts of murder and was sentenced to life in prison in a deal that helped prosecutors close several of his unsolved murders.
In February 2011, Ridgway pleaded guilty to a 49th homicide.
The majority of justices said Cross’ sentence could not be judged only in comparison with that of Ridgway.
September 12, 2013 at 10:10 AM
Defense lawyers representing a former couple charged with killing six people in Carnation on Christmas Eve 2007 plan to ask the state Supreme Court to reconsider its recent decision that has reinstated the death penalty as a possible sentence for the accused killers.
Colleen O’Connor, who is representing Michele Anderson, said this morning she and the defense team for co-defendant Joseph McEnroe believe King County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell was correct when he ruled that prosecutors could not seek the death penalty in either case. Ramsdell ruled earlier this year that county Prosecutor Dan Satterberg erroneously considered the strength of the state’s evidence against McEnroe and Anderson when he deciding whether to seek the death penalty.
Satterberg’s office appealed to the Supreme Court. Last week, the high court ruled that it is “of no consequence” that Satterberg weighed the strength of the case in making his decision. Justices unanimously said that Satterberg considered the appropriate evidence, in the form of the so-called mitigating circumstances, in making his decision.
“We’re disappointed. I thought Judge Ramsdell’s ruling was correct,” O’Connor said, adding that they must file their motion with the Supreme Court by Sept. 25.
Anderson and McEnroe are charged in the slayings of Anderson’s parents, brother, sister-in-law and the younger couple’s two preschool-age children on Dec. 24, 2007. Opening statements are tentatively scheduled for early next year, prosecutors said.
September 5, 2013 at 8:42 AM
The state Supreme Court has ruled that King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg did not err when he decided to seek the death penalty against a former couple in connection with the Christmas Eve 2007 slayings of six people in Carnation.
Justices, in their ruling, ordered the trials of Michele Anderson and Joseph McEnroe to proceed. If convicted in King County Superior Court, the two could be sentenced to death.
“The King County prosecuting attorney followed the statutory requirements when he considered whether mitigating circumstances merited leniency and when he determined that they did not,” according to the unanimous ruling authored by Justice Charles Wiggins. “… we reverse the trial court and remand this matter with instructions to reinstate the notices of special sentencing proceeding so that the capital prosecutions against McEnroe and Anderson may finally proceed to trial.”
In January, King County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell ruled that prosecutors could not seek the death penalty in the slayings of six members of Anderson’s family: her parents, brother, sister-in-law and the younger couple’s two preschool-aged children. Ramsdell found that Satterberg erroneously considered the strength of the state’s evidence against McEnroe and Anderson in deciding whether to seek the death penalty.
Ramsdell said that prosecutors should only have weighed whether mitigating circumstances existed in the decision to seek the death penalty.
Satterberg’s office then asked the Supreme Court to reverse Ramsdell’s decision, reinstate the death-penalty notice and remand the case to Superior Court for trial.
In a statement released today, Satterberg’s office said:
“We are pleased that the Washington State Supreme Court expeditiously considered our appeal and has permitted this case to proceed to trial with all sentencing options available under State law. The Court ruled that prosecutors may consider the strength of the case in determining whether to file a notice of special sentencing proceeding seeking the death penalty.”
Pam Mantle, whose grandchildren, son-in-law and daughter, Erica Anderson, were killed, said she is pleased with the Supreme Court ruling. “We want the death penalty, it is what is fair and just considering they laid in wait and massacred [the victims],” Mantle said this morning.
Defense lawyers for McEnroe and Anderson could not be immediately reached.
During oral arguments before the high court in May, Senior Deputy Prosecutor James Whisman argued that Ramsdell had overstepped his bounds. Whisman argued that under the state’s death-penalty statute, “discretion is placed with the prosecutor” to decide whether to seek capital punishment.
“The court ruled the prosecutor can’t consider the strength of the evidence … but he wasn’t clear on what he meant by ‘strength of the evidence,’ ” Whisman argued. He said that Ramsdell did not have access to mitigation information on both defendants that was submitted by their defense attorneys, and the judge had previously denied a defense motion to compel Satterberg to spell out “which factors in the mitigation package he found persuasive and which ones” he didn’t.
But defense attorney Kathryn Ross, who represented Anderson and her former boyfriend, McEnroe, before the Supreme Court, said Satterberg’s decision to seek the death penalty was based only on the evidence and not on the mitigation evidence submitted by the defense. Ross argued that the state’s death-penalty statute is unique in that prosecutors are directed to impose it only if there isn’t sufficient evidence of mitigating factors to merit leniency.
Under state law, mitigating factors in potential death-penalty cases can include evidence of an extreme mental disturbance or impairment. Leniency also can be merited if a suspect acted under duress or domination of another person.
Three weeks after Ramsdell ruled against the death penalty in the Carnation slayings, King County Superior Court Judge Ronald Kessler ruled Satterberg abused his discretion by relying on a flawed investigation into mitigating factors that could have merited leniency for accused cop-killer Christopher Monfort.
Kessler tossed the death penalty in the case even though Monfort’s defense team hadn’t provided any mitigation evidence to the state for more than three years after Monfort was charged in the fatal shooting of Seattle police Officer Tim Brenton on Halloween 2009.
August 30, 2013 at 2:05 PM
King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg announced Friday morning he would not seek the death penalty against a man charged with murdering his grandparents in March after they welcomed him home from prison.
Michael Chadd Boysen, 26, is alleged to have strangled and robbed his maternal grandparents, Robert and Norma Taylor, in Renton the day they threw him a welcome home party after his release from prison.
Following a massive, multistate manhunt, he was arrested three days later after a standoff at a motel in Lincoln City, Ore.
Without the possibility of being put to death, Boysen would face a mandatory sentence of life in prison without possibility of release if he’s convicted as charged of two counts of aggravated first-degree murder.
In a statement released by the prosecutor’s office, spokesman Dan Donohoe said the decision was reached after an extensive review of the case and consultation with Boysen family members who are kin to both the suspect and the victims.
Boysen’s defense attorneys say he has been restrained for as many as 10 hours at a time, strapped to a hard, plastic restraint board while in the King County Jail.
Those restrictive conditions contributed to a dozen suicide attempts by Boysen and led him to repeatedly ask his attorneys to allow him to be put to death, his attorneys say in court documents.
Donohoe declined to comment further on the prosecuting attorney’s decision.
“We are just going to let it stand on its own,” he said.
Boysen is currently set to face trial in January 2014 for the slayings.
May 29, 2013 at 1:49 PM
The Army staff sergeant charged with slaughtering 16 villagers during one of the worst atrocities of the Afghanistan war has agreed to plead guilty in a deal to avoid the death penalty, his attorney told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is scheduled to enter guilty pleas to charges of premeditated murder June 5 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle, said lawyer John Henry Browne. A sentencing-phase trial set for September will determine whether he is sentenced to life in prison with or life without the possibility of parole. The judge and commanding general must approve a plea deal.
Browne previously indicated Bales remembered little from the night of the massacre, but he said the soldier will give a full account of what happened before the judge decides whether to accept the plea.
Browne told The Seattle Times that his client, in the proposed plea deal, is not fighting the charge that the murders were premeditated. But in the sentencing phase, Brown said that the defense will argue that there were mitigating factors to the crime, and that Bales should receive life with parole.
Browne said he hopeful the plea deal will gain the approval of the commanding general.
Lt. Col. Gary Dangerfield, a spokesman for I Corps at JBLM, said Wednesday that a plea hearing was scheduled for Bales on June 5, but said he could not provide details about the hearing.
Bales, an Ohio native and father of two from Lake Tapps, Wash., slipped away from his remote southern Afghanistan outpost at Camp Belambay early on March 11, 2012, and attacked mud-walled compounds in two slumbering villages nearby.
Most of the victims were women and children, and some of the bodies were piled and burned. The slayings drew such angry protests that the U.S. temporarily halted combat operations in Afghanistan. It was three weeks before American investigators could reach the crime scenes.
Bales was serving his fourth tour in a combat zone, and the allegations against him raised questions about the toll multiple deployments were taking on American troops. For that reason, many legal experts believed it that it was unlikely that he would receive the death penalty, as Army prosecutors were seeking. The military justice system hasn’t executed anyone since 1961.
Nevertheless, the plea deal could inflame tensions in Afghanistan. In interviews with the AP in Kandahar in April, relatives of the victims became outraged at the notion Bales might escape the death penalty and even vowed revenge.
“For this one thing, we would kill 100 American soldiers,” said Mohammed Wazir, who had 11 family members killed that night, including his mother and 2-year-old daughter.
“A prison sentence doesn’t mean anything,” said Said Jan, whose wife and three other relatives died. “I know we have no power now. But I will become stronger, and if he does not hang, I will have my revenge.”
Three of Jan’s other family members were wounded, including his 7-year-old granddaughter, who was shot in the head.
Seattle Times staff reporter Hal Bernton contributed to this report.
May 16, 2013 at 4:08 PM
Condemned serial killer Robert Lee Yates Jr., awaiting execution for the murders of two women in Pierce County in the late 1990s, is seeking an appeal of his death sentence in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
Yates, 60, a father of five and former Air National Guard helicopter pilot, has already had his death sentence upheld by the Washington State Supreme Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to reconsider that decision. Yates is now attempting to enter the federal district court system by seeking a petition for habeas corpus.
Even though Yates does not currently have an execution date, U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez ordered a stay until September, pending the filing of the formal petition. Martinez said that Yates has raised at least one “nonfrivolous ground for relief.” He also appointed two attorneys to represent him on appeal.
Yates, who has confessed and pleaded guilty to 13 other murders in Spokane, Walla Walla and Skagit counties, alleges in a petition filed Wednesday that he was denied effective counsel during his 2002 trial in Pierce County. He alleges his attorneys failed to adequately investigate and present to the jury evidence of mental illness or present “evidence of Yates’s many positive relationships, his acts of caring and kindness, and his love he feels for his family and they feel for him.”
“Robert Yates has repeatedly killed,” the motion states. “Understanding and explaining why … is the most basic duty of competent capital counsel.
“Trial counsel failed to meet that obligation in this case,” the motion says.
The motion states that Yates is mentally ill and that, “through no fault of his own, Mr. Yates suffers from a severe paraphilic disorder” that predisposed him to commit sex-killings.
“I don’t think Mr. Yates helps his cause by relying on the fact that he’s a necrophiliac,” said Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist.
Yates killed at least 15 people, mostly prostitutes, between 1996 and 1998. He received a plea deal and 408 years in prison in 2000 for confessing to 13 of the murders.
Prosecutors in Pierce County, where two of the women were killed, sought and obtained a death penalty in 2002 for the deaths of Melinda Mercer, 24, in 1997 and Connie LaFontaine Ellis, 35, in 1998.
May 15, 2013 at 9:33 AM
UPDATE AT 1:07 P.M.: Snohomish County Superior Court Judge George F. Appel has confirmed the jury’s death sentence for Byron Scherf for killing corrections Officer Jayme Biendl.
After Scherf declined to address the court this afternoon, Appel said to him: “Byron Eugene Scherf, I hereby sentence you to death for the murder of Jayme Biendl.” He will become the ninth man on Washington state’s death row.
Under state law, the death sentence is subject to mandatory review by the state Supreme Court.
The state Department of Corrections also issued this statement on the verdict: “Today, our thoughts are with the family of Correctional Officer Jayme Biendl. We are grateful for the completion of the trial and penalty phase of this tragic case.”
ORIGINAL POST: EVERETT – A Snohomish County jury has recommended the death penalty for a prison inmate convicted last week of killing corrections Officer Jayme Biendl in January 2011.
Byron Scherf, 54, was convicted Thursday of first-degree aggravated murder, setting in motion deliberations over whether he should face life in prison without parole or the death penalty. Jurors began deliberating his fate just before 11:30 a.m. Tuesday and returned with their verdict just after 9 a.m. this morning.
Members of Biendl’s family hugged after the jury’s verdict was announced in a packed courtroom that included numerous corrections officers.
Scherf had no noticeable reaction to the verdict.
Superior Court Judge George F. Appel will hold a hearing at 1 p.m. today to consider whether to formally impose the sentence. If Appel agrees with the jury’s recommendation, Scherf will be the first person sentenced to death in Snohomish County since janitor James Elledge, 58, was condemned in 1998 for killing a woman in a Lynnwood church and raping a second. Elledge was executed in August 2001.
Deputy Prosecutor Paul Stern told reporters, “We’re just very grateful,” citing the work of investigators and the jury’s deliberations. Biendl’s family met with reporters outside the courthouse. Biendl’s father, James Hamm, said, “A weight was lifted off my shoulders.” He wore a small replica of his daughter’s corrections badge on his lapel. Reacting to the jury’s verdict, Biendl’s sister, Lisa Hamm, said, ”I’ve been waiting 837 days, exactly, to hear those words that he got the death penalty.”
Scherf is a convicted rapist who was serving a life sentence at the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe when he killed Biendl, 34, in the prison’s chapel.
During Scherf’s trial, the defense didn’t dispute that he strangled Biendl with an amplifier cord. But his lawyers suggested he didn’t plan to kill Biendl, and said he blacked out in the final minutes of her life.
The jury saw Scherf’s video confession last week in which he said he first planned to ambush and beat up Biendl over something she said to him. He refused to say what set him off.
Scherf’s DNA was found on Biendl’s fingernails. His blood was found on her coat and the amplifier cord, forensic scientists from the state crime lab testified. Scherf’s hands were bright red with an obvious mark across a palm, testified a Monroe police detective who saw him a few hours after the killing.
During the subsequent penalty phase of the trial, defense lawyers argued that Sherf had been a model prisoner over the years and had taken educational coursework, as well as self-improvement classes. He had spent all but two years of his adult life in prison. They noted he would likely serve out his sentence in 23-hour-a-day lockdown.
Prosecutors called just one witness, Biendl’s father. “There is an enormous void in our lives that will never be filled,” James Hamm said, according to a report in the Everett Herald.
Three state prison officers were fired, and four others, including two lieutenants, were disciplined for mistakes made before and after Biendl was killed.
For a list of inmates currently on Washington’s death row, click here.
Information from The Associated Press is included in this report
March 8, 2013 at 7:54 AM
The state Supreme Court said it will hear an appeal filed by the King County Prosecutor’s Office after a judge tossed out the death penalty in the case of a former couple accused of killing six people on Christmas Eve 2007.
The high court said it will hear arguments in the case on May 9.
The trials of Joseph McEnroe and Michele Anderson have been on hold since January, when King County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell ruled that prosecutors could not seek the death penalty.
Ramsdell, in his ruling, found that Prosecutor Dan Satterberg erroneously considered the strength of the state’s evidence against McEnroe and Anderson in deciding whether to seek the death penalty. Ramsdell said prosecutors should only have weighed whether mitigating circumstances existed in the decision to seek the death penalty.
Satterberg’s office, in its appeal, called Ramsdell’s ruling premature and said it violates the separation of powers doctrine, and represents a “failure of logic.”
The trial delays will add to King County’s mounting costs to prosecute and defend the alleged killers, which is approaching $6 million. McEnroe, 34, was slated to be tried this month.
Anderson, 34, and McEnroe, her former boyfriend, were arrested shortly after six members of Anderson’s family were found slain in her parents’ Carnation-area home. Killed were her parents, Wayne and Judy Anderson; her brother and his wife, Scott and Erica Anderson; and that couple’s children, 5-year-old Olivia and 3-year-old Nathan.
The crimes were motivated by money, family strife and a concern over leaving behind witnesses, according to the King County Sheriff’s Office.
Both have pleaded not guilty.
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The Today File is a general news blog featuring real-time coverage of Seattle and the Northwest. It is reported by the news staff of The Seattle Times and edited by Assistant Metro Editor Nick Provenza.
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