Saturday, January 31, 2009

Man convicted of murder loses court challengeMan convicted of murder loses court challenge




VOLUSIA COUNTY - The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday threw out the latest court challenge from death-row inmate Peter Ventura, who was convicted in the 1981 murder of a DeLand businessman. The state's highest court and federal courts already have upheld Ventura's conviction and death sentence several times. Ventura filed a new challenge, arguing against the use of lethal injection as a method of execution. He also tried to fire his court-appointed attorneys with Capital Collateral Regional Counsel. On Thursday, the state Supreme Court denied his challenges, calling one of his court motions "meritless." Ventura was convicted of killing Robert Clemente, a boat salesman for a St. Johns River marina, as part of a plot to collect on a $153,000 insurance policy.

(source: OrlandoSentinel)

Death Row Inmate Wants to Be the Next Supreme Court Justice


Who says the electric chair should stand in the way of your dream job? Not Michael Lambrix. Sure, the 48-year-old waits on death row for fatally bludgeoning and strangling two people outside Fort Myers in 1983. But that hasn't stopped the articulate, overachieving inmate from applying to be Florida's newest supreme court justice.

This past January 16, Lambrix penned a letter to the Judicial Nominating Commission asking them to consider him for the open position. "In all fairness," he writes, "I ask that you not so quickly discount my genuine desire."

Lambrix -- a fit, balding history buff -- goes on to explain himself: "Let's be honest... These appointments are about perpetuating the corruption of politics. Me, I'm already a convicted felon, so at least the public will know what they are actually getting, rather than a wolf in sheep's clothing."

After citing employment qualifications, he argues that choosing him isn't as risky as it looks. If he doesn't perform well, he writes, his co-workers can just sign his death warrant. ("Can you legally kill any other justice?")

Although he makes light of his situation, Lambrix has long argued his innocence. He keeps a blog, deathrowjournals.blogspot.com, in which he contends he was a victim of a politically ambitious prosecutor. The night of the murder, he says, he beat a drug dealer with a jack handle in self-defense after trying to save a woman the dealer was strangling. "My biggest qualification," he writes, "Is that I'm the only applicant that has been totally screwed by the justice system."

Not surprisingly, though, the commission isn't taking him seriously. For one, you have to be a member of the Florida Bar to be considered. Says Fort Lauderdale-based Chair Robert Hackleman: "I got a good laugh at it."

But our man in the orange jumpsuit does have one thing going for him. This past October, Gov. Charlie Crist sent the commission back to the drawing board because their recommendations were not "diverse" enough. So... problem solved?

He would be a better "Judge" than anyone in the 20th Judicial Circuit. All they do here is fix cases, www.leecountyconspiracy.com is living proof with all documentation. 10 defense attorneys avoided bringing the evidence to open court because they are violations of federal laws.

(Source : Miami New Times)

Death Row Inmate Wants to be The Next Supreme Court Justice


Who says the electric chair should stand in the way of your dream job? Not
Michael Lamrbix. Sure, the 48 year-old waits on death row for fatally
bludgeoning and strangling 2 people outside Fort Myers in 1983. But that
hasn't stopped the articulate, overachieving inmate from applying to be
Florida's newest supreme court justice.

This past January 16, Lambrix penned a letter to the Judicial Nominating
Commission asking them to consider him for the open position. "In all
fairness," he writes. "I ask that you not so quickly discount my genuine
desire."

Lambrix -- a fit, balding history buff -- goes on to explain himself:
"Let's be honest...These appointments are about perpetuating the
corruption of politics. Me, I'm already a convicted felon, so at least the
public will know what they are actually getting, rather than a wolf in
sheep's clothing."

After citing employment qualifications, he argues that choosing him isn't
as risky as it looks. If he doesn't perform well, he writes, his
co-workers can just sign his death warrant. ("Can you legally kill any
other justice?")

Although he makes light of his situation, Lambrix has long argued his
innocence. He keeps a blog, deathrowjournals.blogspot.com, in which he
contends that he was a victim of a politically ambitious prosecutor. The
night of the murder, he says he beat a drug dealer with a jack handle in
self defense, after trying to save a woman the dealer was strangling. "My
biggest qualification," he writes. "Is that I'm the only applicant that
has been totally screwed by the justice system."

Not surprisingly, though, the commission isn't taking him seriously. For
one, you have to be a member of the Florida Bar to be considered. Says
Fort Lauderdale-based Chair Robert Hackleman: "I got a good laugh at it."

But our man in the orange jumpsuit does have one thing going for him. This
past October, Governor Charlie Crist sent the commission back to the
drawing board because their recommendations were not "diverse" enough.
So...problem solved?

(source: Miami New Times)

Friday, January 30, 2009

High court upholds death sentence for deputy's killer


LAKE COUNTY - The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously upheld the conviction and death sentence of Jason Wheeler, who ambushed three Lake County deputies nearly four years ago, killing one and wounding two others in Lake Kathryn. The state's high court rejected a series of arguments that attacked the evidence, law and a prosecutor's remarks to jurors who recommended the death penalty. Wheeler was convicted of first-degree murder in the Feb. 9, 2005, killing of Deputy Wayne Koester, who was shot in the face as he and two other deputies investigated the sexual battery of Wheeler's live-in girlfriend, Sarah Heckerman. The court found the evidence "clearly sufficient in every respect," making a special note of Wheeler's choice to "go out in a blaze of glory" rather than hide when he saw the lawmen. Now 33, Wheeler, paralyzed by a gunshot wound, remains in a wheelchair at Union Correctional Institution in Raiford.

(Source : OrlandoSentinel )

Man convicted of murder loses court challenge

VOLUSIA COUNTY - The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday threw out the latest court challenge from death-row inmate Peter Ventura, who was convicted in the 1981 murder of a DeLand businessman. The state's highest court and federal courts already have upheld Ventura's conviction and death sentence several times. Ventura filed a new challenge, arguing against the use of lethal injection as a method of execution. He also tried to fire his court-appointed attorneys with Capital Collateral Regional Counsel. On Thursday, the state Supreme Court denied his challenges, calling one of his court motions "meritless." Ventura was convicted of killing Robert Clemente, a boat salesman for a St. Johns River marina, as part of a plot to collect on a $153,000 insurance policy.

(Source : OralandoSentinel )

Fla. justices uphold cop killer's death sentence

Florida : A death row inmate who killed a Lake County sheriff's deputy has lost an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court.

The justices unanimously upheld Jason Wheeler's murder conviction and death sentence Thursday.

Wheeler fatally shot Deputy Wayne Koester in 2005
when the deputy responded to a domestic violence call from Wheeler's girlfriend.

The justices also upheld Wheeler's attempted murder conviction for shooting 2 other deputies who survived.

Wheeler was shot and paralyzed from the neck down when captured after a manhunt in the Ocala National Forest.

He claimed Satan and drugs led him to ambush the deputies with a sawed-off
shotgun.

(source: Associated Press)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Greenacres family pumped with 28 bullets in turnpike slayings, testimony shows


WEST PALM BEACH — The first full day of testimony began this morning in the federal death penalty trial surrounding the 2006 killing of a family of four on Florida's Turnpike.

Ricardo Sanchez, Jr. and Daniel Troya could receive the death penalty if convicted of the carjacking charges that led to the shooting deaths of Jose Luis and Yessica Escobedo along with their two young sons.

Two others, Danny Varela and Liana Lopez, face possible life sentences if convicted on related drug conspiracy charges.

Prosecutors say Jose Luis Escobedo provided a connection to large quantities of cocaine that fueled a drug ring Varela headed.

Attorneys on both sides presented opening arguments in the trial Tuesday. This morning prosecutors questioned a detective and a Turnpike official while going over Turnpike toll receipts and video of the Escobedo's Jeep Cherokee and another van passing through toll booths on the night of the killings.

Investigators linked Troya and Sanchez to the deaths through finger and palm prints lifted from the toll receipts.

In all, the Escobedo family's killers pumped 28 bullets into their bodies. Yessica Escobedo, 25, received the most wounds, shot 11 times.

Photos of the crime scene showed her arms wrapped protectively around her sons 4-year-old Luis Julian and 3-year-old Luis Damian as if to shield them from the shots. But they were shot six and five times respectively.

Before the lunch break, jurors saw photos and heard testimony from Treasure Coast Medical examiner Roger Mittleman, who described each of Jose Luis Escobedo's five gunshot wounds in detail.

Mittleman agreed with Assistant U.S. Attorney John Kastrenakes that the 28-year-old's wounds were consistent with a scenario where the killer would have shot him once above his left eye at close range, then shot him in the abdomen, genitals and leg after he had dropped to the ground.

Source : Palm Beach Post

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Jury recommends death penalty for fatal robbery


BARTOW, Fla. (AP) - A Polk County jury has recommended that a Winter Haven man with a history of robberies should be executed for fatally shooting a convenience store clerk.

The jury voted 7-5 in favor of putting 28-year-old Jamail Hogan to death on Tuesday. A circuit judge will make the final decision, but Florida law requires judges to give jury recommendations great weight.

The same jury found Hogan guilty last week of first-degree murder in the 2005 death of Remesh Desai and attempted armed robbery.

Hogan's attorneys said that his crime was not bad enough to warrant the death penalty, but prosecutors argued that Hogan had a history of violent crimes.

Attorneys will provide the judge with additional arguments at a March 4 hearing.

Source : Associated Press

Toll receipts examined in Turnpike slaying trial

WEST PALM BEACH — The first full day of testimony began this morning in the federal death penalty trial surrounding the 2006 killing of a family of four on Florida's Turnpike.

Ricardo Sanchez, Jr. and Daniel Troya could receive the death penalty if convicted of the carjacking charges that led to the shooting deaths of Jose Luis and Yessica Escobedo along with their two young sons.

Two others, Danny Varela and Liana Lopez, face possible life sentences if convicted on related drug conspiracy charges.

Prosecutors say Jose Luis Escobedo provided a connection to large quantities of cocaine that fueled a drug ring Varela headed.

Attorneys on both sides presented opening arguments in the trial Tuesday. This morning prosecutors questioned a detective and a Turnpike official while going over Turnpike toll receipts and video of the Escobedo's Jeep Cherokee and another van passing through toll booths on the night of the killings.

Investigators linked Troya and Sanchez to the deaths through finger and palm prints lifted from the toll receipts.

In all, the Escobedo family's killers pumped 28 bullets into their bodies. Yessica Escobedo, 25, received the most wounds, shot 11 times.

Photos of the crime scene showed her arms wrapped protectively around her sons 4-year-old Luis Julian and 3-year-old Luis Damian as if to shield them from the shots. But they were shot six and five times respectively.

Before the lunch break, jurors saw photos and heard testimony from Treasure Coast Medical examiner Roger Mittleman, who described each of Jose Luis Escobedo's five gunshot wounds in detail.

Mittleman agreed with Assistant U.S. Attorney John Kastrenakes that the 28-year-old's wounds were consistent with a scenario where the killer would have shot him once above his left eye at close range, then shot him in the abdomen, genitals and leg after he had dropped to the ground.

Source : Palm Beach Post

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Jury Recommends Death for Killer of Bartow Clerk

BARTOW | A jury recommended Tuesday morning that a 28-year-old Winter Haven man with a history of robberies should be executed for fatally shooting a convenience store clerk.

Jurors spent about 30 minutes deliberating before reaching the narrowest of margins, a 7–5 vote, in favor of imposing the death penalty against Jamail Hogan.

Circuit Judge J. Michael Hunter must give the jury’s recommendation “great weight” under Florida law. Lawyers will be able to provide additional information and arguments to the judge at a March 4 hearing.

The same jury found Hogan guilty last week of first-degree murder in the death of Remesh Desai and attempted armed robbery.

Desai, 44, was shot in the torso during a robbery attempt Dec. 2, 2005, at Bill’s Market off U.S. 17 and Bomber Road in Bartow. He didn’t die until weeks after the shooting from a blood clot.

One of Hogan’s lawyers, Karen Meeks, said the death penalty is reserved for the “worst of the worst cases.” She argued Hogan shouldn’t be executed but should be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

But prosecutors offered two aggravating circumstances as the legal basis for a death sentence. Desai’s murder was committed for financial gain, and Hogan has a history of violent crimes.

Hogan has been sentenced to more than 240 years in prison on federal charges related to a series of robberies in late 2005, including the Bill’s Market attempted robbery.

Both Hogan and his 23-year-old stepbrother, Bryan Smith, have been convicted of taking part in the armed robbery attempt at Bill’s Market.

In an October trial, a jury acquitted Smith of first-degree murder in Desai’s death, but found him guilty of taking part in the attempted armed robbery.

Circuit Judge Dennis Maloney sentenced Smith to 15 years in state prison.

Smith has also been sentenced to 140 years in federal prison for participating in the robbery spree with Hogan.

The stepbrothers are sons of two Polk County Sheriff’s Office employees, Capt. James Hogan and Lucretia Hogan, who is a detention deputy.

During Monday’s penalty phase, Hogan’s father took the witness stand to talk about his son’s childhood. James Hogan described the rough breakup between himself and Jamail Hogan’s mother.

A forensic psychologist testified how the acrimony between Jamail Hogan’s parents negatively impacted him.

The expert also testified that Jamail Hogan experiences anxiety and depression. Jamail Hogan also abused alcohol and marijuana.

At trial, the defense argued Desai’s death might not be a homicide and suggested Desai’s diabetes could have caused the fatal blood clot.

Jamail Hogan testified he was home at the time of the shooting and later borrowed Smith’s car that evening, but had no idea the murder weapon or other evidence was inside.

Hogan was stopped by deputies for speeding hours after the shooting.

Inside the car, investigators recovered a variety of evidence, including the .380-caliber pistol later determined to have fired the bullet that struck Desai.

Source : The ledger

Opening Statements Begin In Turnpike Murders Trial

WEST PALM BEACH (CBS4) ―Jose Luis Escobedo, his wife Yessica, and their sons Luis Damian, 3, and Luis Julian, 4, were found dead October 13th, 2006 off a stretch of highway near Port St. Lucie. They had all been shot to death.

According to St. Lucie County Sheriff's investigators, Escobedo and his brother Jose Manuel Escobedo were part of a massive drug trade operation and Sanchez and Troya worked for them.

Court documents show the family was killed "to eliminate these victims as possible witnesses" against others in the drug organization.

Troya and Sanchez are charged with armed carjacking resulting in deaths, conspiracy, weapons counts and drug offenses. Both face the death penalty if convicted.

Two others, Danny Varela and Liana Lopez, are also on trial in the same case for drug conspiracy and weapons charges. They face up to life in prison.

All have pleaded not guilty.

Source : CBS Broadcasting

Golden Gate man gets 55 years for killing wife

— Lawyer Maria Luz Pary Perez fled Colombia and came to America for a better life. Instead, the 49-year-old got a job as a hairdresser in Naples and ended up dead at the hands of her estranged husband.

Her son sold his home in Colombia and left college to come to America, spending four years living on the streets and with friends, in the hopes of justice — a trial for his mother’s murder.

Nicolas Bernal, now 27, didn’t get it.

“I have been here four years, basically living in the streets because I am from another country,” Bernal told Collier Circuit Judge Frank Baker through an interpreter after Julio Perez, 49, was sentenced to 55 years in a state prison for murder and armed burglary. “I’ve only been waiting for a just trial and it never happened. I am really sad to be here.”

Bernal said he wanted justice. “And it didn’t happen today,” he added, questioning why there was no trial. “I don’t know if it’s for economic reasons or because I’m not a resident or a citizen of this country, but that is my point of view.”

Baker said he understood and was “very sorry. There’s nothing anyone could say about the loss you’ve suffered because that belongs to you.”

The unusual exchange came after three hours of plea negotiations Monday morning, when jury selection in Julio Perez’s trial was to begin. Jurors stood outside the courtroom until it was apparent it would be a long wait and they were sent back to the jury assembly room.

It was a strong case because Maria Perez’s murder was recorded as she frantically called 911 from a cellphone as she hid in a neighbor’s closet at Summer Wind Apartments on Pine Ridge Road after 9 p.m. on June 27, 2004. The two teens who let her in that night, Christopher Heiston and Amanda Tonge, were going to be the state’s star witnesses.

“It was an unusual case in that the 911 call was recording the events as they happened,” Deputy Public Defender Mike Orlando said after sentencing. “Depending on how closely you were listening to it ... you could pretty much hear everything.”

Maria Perez, 49, was at home when she saw her estranged husband coming toward her apartment holding a handgun, according to Collier County Sheriff’s Office reports. She ran upstairs, where Heiston let her into his apartment and locked the door. But Julio Perez shot and kicked it in and heard her in the closet. He fired twice through the door: one bullet grazed her head and the other killed her.

She was a hairdresser at a salon in Carillon Place shopping center on Airport-Pulling Road. A marriage license shows she married Julio Perez, a Cuban, in Naples in August 2002.

Julio Perez, a security guard who had lived at 4759 25th Place S.W., Golden Gate, fled and was arrested six weeks later on a drunken driving charge in Miami. He’s been in the Collier County jail ever since.

Bernal had rejected a plea bargain last month, when Perez wanted to plead in exchange for 40 years in a state prison. The plea deal was contingent upon Bernal’s approval — and he wanted a trial and for Perez to spend life in prison, the mandatory sentence for premeditated murder, a capital crime. The prosecution had already decided it wasn’t seeking the death penalty.

For hours Monday morning, Bernal sat with Betty Ardaya, a victim advocate for the State Attorney’s Office, as Assistant State Prosecutor Deborah Cunningham and co-counsel, prosecutor Tino Cimato, went behind closed doors with Perez to negotiate with Deputy Public Defender Mike Orlando and Assistant Deputy Public Defender Beatriz M. Taquechel.

Early on, it was apparent the judge was urging a plea. But Cunningham doubted that was possible, explaining, “Your honor, the victim’s son is adamant that he would like a trial.”

As Perez listened to a court interpreter translating through his headset, his attorney told the judge they were seeking finality for both sides. “Given the age of the defendant, 49, and the reality in terms of years, if one does the math ... (life) is pretty much equal to the other,” Orlando said of 45 years in prison, the initial plea that morning.

But the judge asked if the prosecution had another offer. Cunningham didn’t and said they would proceed to trial and pick a 12-person jury with alternates. At that point, the judge asked the attorneys to come to his chambers, where they continued discussions.

About an hour later, Orlando announced there would be a plea to a lesser-and-included charge of second-degree murder with a firearm that discharged, and armed burglary with a firearm discharge. Perez would serve 55 years in a state prison with a 25-year minimum mandatory term for murder and a concurrent 55-year term with no release for 20 years in the armed burglary. He’d get credit for time served and must spend every day of the 25 years behind bars.

Cunningham then told the judge Bernal didn’t agree and wanted to speak. After he spoke, he left with Ardaya. “Four years,” Bernal said, disgusted as he left the courthouse. “I had a home in Colombia and had to sell that to be here four years.”

Bernal, who was studying finance before he left school to come here, added: “The judge didn’t want it to go to trial. That’s bad.”

Cunningham said the State Attorney’s Office always considers victim rights, but the final decision is up to the prosecution and they must consider all factors, including time, cost and appeals, in addition to the well-being of the other victims and the eyewitnesses who were willing to testify.

“As horrible as it is, we have to make a decision based on the facts before us,” Cunningham said. “There’s no amount of years or sentence that will bring his mother back. The defendant is nearly 50 years old. Fifty-five years is life.

“With the 55-year sentence, we avoid any possible issues that could arise at trial,” she said, referring to the possibility of a lengthy and costly appeal. “You never know what could come up. This way, there will be no appeal.”

The Florida Crime Victim’s Bill of Rights says the next of kin in a homicide is entitled to the right to be informed, to be present, and to be heard when relevant, at all crucial stages of proceedings, to the extent that those rights don’t interfere with the defendant’s constitutional rights.

Orlando said attorneys have to consider what they’re trying to accomplish and the costs involved.

“There is a certain finality with a plea,” Orlando said, adding that his main concern was making sure the death penalty couldn’t come back on the table someday.

He cited the costs of an appeal, which is in the thousands, even for a court transcript alone. The plea had to be reduced, he said, because the judge did not have the power to impose anything less than life for a charge requiring life in prison or the death penalty.

Orlando called the sentence the best resolution for everyone involved, even if Bernal doesn’t realize it yet.

“I think he’s better off not having to listen to that,” Orlando said of Bernal hearing his mother shot to death on the 911 call. “I don’t think anyone would want to hear that and have all those memories.”

The murder was recorded on a 911 call as Maria Luz Pary Perez hid in a neighbor’s closet in North Naples.

Source : Naples Daily News

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Trial begins in Florida Turnpike family killings

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The family of four was shot down execution style along a dark, empty stretch of Florida's Turnpike, the mother clutching her two young sons.

It appeared Jose Luis Escobedo, 28, his wife, Yessica Guerrero Escobedo, 25, and their sons, Luis Julian, 4, and Luis Damian, 3, were forced to kneel before being shot multiple times, authorities said. Their Jeep Cherokee was found abandoned three days later 50 miles away.

Authorities say Daniel Troya and Ricardo Sanchez Jr., both 25, were settling a dispute with Escobedo when they killed the family. They are charged with armed carjacking resulting in deaths, conspiracy, weapons counts and drug offenses.

The suspected killers now face the death penalty in a federal trial more than two years after the Oct. 13, 2006, slayings, which authorities say stemmed from a civil war among members of one of the largest cocaine distribution rings in the Eastern U.S. Jury selection is expected to conclude Monday with opening statements following that afternoon or Tuesday.

Two others — Danny Varela, 28, and Liana Lopez, 20 — also are on trial in the same case for drug conspiracy and weapons charges. If convicted, they face up to life in prison.

All the suspects have pleaded not guilty. Pretrial hearings have been peppered with talk of witness threats, Mexican drug cartels and even a request from prosecutors to keep the identities of jurors secret, something the judge denied.

The Escobedos had moved to Palm Beach County just four months before their deaths from the Brownsville, Texas, area to expand the drug operation, investigators said.

Escobedo's brother, Jose Manuel Escobedo, was sentenced to federal prison for cocaine conspiracy in 2003 but escaped and remains a fugitive. Authorities have not said what connection his case has to the killings, if any.

Prosecutors believe that on the night of the murders, Escobedo took his wife and children along to either deliver or pick up drugs, and was followed by Troya and Sanchez, who killed the family and took their car.

Defense attorneys and prosecutors are bound by an order not to discuss the case outside court, but it is far from a slam-dunk, with no witnesses to the crime and no murder weapon.

The prosecution case relies on highway video surveillance, cell phone records, fingerprints they say belong to Sanchez found on a turnpike ticket for Escobedo's Jeep and up to 350 potential witnesses.

A search of the Escobedos' home turned up ledgers that included detailed accounts of drug payments and debts owed, among other things, according to court records. In the suspects' home, authorities say they found cocaine, Ecstasy, drug packaging materials, and more than a dozen guns.

Attorneys for Sanchez and Troya plan to argue that their clients were nowhere near the crime scene when the shootings occurred.

If they are convicted, the federal government doesn't have a great track record securing death recommendations from juries, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center.

Dieter said only about a third of federal capital cases that go to trial end with a death recommendation. That's compared to about 50 percent for state capital cases. Federal law requires an unanimous verdict from all 12 jurors for a death sentence.

There have been just 37 federal executions since 1927, Dieter said. Currently, 55 inmates await federal executions nationwide. There are no Florida convicts on federal death row.

Only one Florida criminal has been executed by the federal government in 60 years.

Former U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey, now in private practice, said the murders of the two young children could provide enough disdain among jurors, if they find the defendants guilty, to recommend death.

"The murder of children almost always elevates the chances for securing the death penalty," Coffey said.

The trial before U.S. District Judge Daniel Hurley is expected to last up to three months.

Source : The Associated Press

Saturday, January 24, 2009

2 killed, 7 injured in Miami shooting Cops: Several victims found lying in street in residential area


MIAMI - Two people were killed and seven injured during a shooting Friday night in a residential area in northwest Miami, authorities said.

One of the wounded was still in critical condition at a hospital Saturday morning and the others were also still recovering, police spokeswoman Kenia Alfonso said. Authorities did not have anyone in custody and did not know how many people were involved or what prompted the shooting outside a store in Liberty City.

"We have someone out there that is armed," Alfonso said. "It is a dangerous situation."

When paramedics arrived, many of those who had been shot were lying in the street. Lt. Ignatius Carroll with Miami Fire Rescue said the scene was chaotic.

Six people were taken to trauma units and another person went to a hospital with less severe injuries, Carroll said.

"Anytime anybody goes to the trauma center, it's a serious injury," he said.

Dozens of police cruisers swarmed the area and blocked off streets after the shooting.

Authorities didn't immediately release the identities of any of the shooting victims but did say none were children.

Liberty City's name comes from a housing project built in the 1930s and is known around Florida for its crime and grinding poverty. The median household income hovers around $18,000 a year, some $30,000 less than the U.S. average.

The city is also known for riots.

In 1979, a black insurance agent was beaten to death by white and Hispanic police officers. An all-white jury acquitted them and a three-day riot left 18 dead, countless injured and 850 arrested.

Source :


Court Denies Death Row Appeal Of Von Maxcy Murderer

FLORIDA:

Court Denies Death Row Appeal Of Von Maxcy Murderer


The man convicted of the 1966 killing of Highlands County citrus and
cattle baron Charles Von Maxcy had his latest appeal denied Thursday by
the Florida Supreme Court.

William Kelley, 66, of Brockton, Mass., appealed a trial court order
denying his "successive postconviction motion" and petitioned the state's
high court for a writ of habeas corpus, which is filed by prisoners
seeking release, according to www.lectlaw.com.

Kelley alleges that the state failed to disclose evidence forms that
indicate, in 1966 and 1967, "certain evidence was transported from the
Florida Sheriff's Bureau Crime Laboratory in Tallahassee back to the
submitting agency after laboratory examination," according to the Supreme
Court's ruling.

The prisoner maintained that the state's failure to disclose those forms
necessitates a new trial because they would have led to evidence that
would have been, "both exculpatory and impeaching," the ruling stated.

Kelley was convicted and sentenced to death in 1984 for Von Maxcy's
murder, 18 years after the victim, 41, was stabbed and shot to death at
his Sebring home.

Von Maxcy's wife, Irene, had arranged through her lover, John Sweet, to
have Kelley kill her husband, according to an Oct. 26, 2007, Highlands
Today report. Sweet testified the wife was afraid of being left out of Von
Maxcy's $1.7 million estate.

Sweet was originally convicted in the death of Von Maxcy. Then, in 1976,
the court ordered that all physical evidence be destroyed.

"The issue of destroyed evidence has remained a constant over the course
of Kelley's trial, direct appeal and postconviction proceedings," the
latest court ruling stated.

Irene Von Maxcy, following Sweet's conviction, admitted to lying on the
stand about his involvement and Sweet was freed. She was convicted of
perjury and served 4 years in prison.

Sweet received immunity in the Von Maxcy murder and in Massachusetts for
charges of loan-sharking and counterfeiting in exchange for testimony
against Kelley, Highlands Today report stated.

In Kelley's petition, he alleged there was never an evidentiary finding
that all evidence was destroyed prior to his trial, appellate counsel was
ineffective in saying the evidence was destroyed, and the state
intentionally destroyed evidence that "prejudiced" his defense, the
rulings stated.

The court had previously stated that evidence was destroyed in 1976 prior
to the trial and Kelley was not prejudiced by its destruction.

"Additionally, Kelley's claim of ineffective assistance of appellate
counsel is simply a variation of the claim of ineffective assistance of
trial counsel raised in Kelley's first postconviction motion," the ruling
stated.

Calls to defense attorneys Thursday seeking comment were not immediately
returned.

(source: Highlands Today)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Winter Haven Man Guilty in Murder of Bartow Clerk


Jamail Hogan May Face Death Penalty

By Jason Geary
THE LEDGER


Published: Thursday, January 22, 2009 at 2:50 p.m.


BARTOW | A Circuit Court jury Thursday found a 28-year-old Winter Haven guilty of fatally shooting a convenience store clerk.

Now jury will must recommend whether Jamail Hogan should face the death penalty for the murder of a Bartow convenience store clerk.

The jury spent more than eight hours over two days deliberating before finding Hogan guilty as charged of first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery.

Hogan’s trial will enter the penalty phase Monday with lawyers presenting testimony, evidence and arguments about whether Hogan should be executed for murder or receive life imprisonment.

Circuit Judge J. Michael Hunter must give the jury’s recommendation “great weight” under Florida law.

Remesh Desai, a 44-year-old store clerk, was shot in the torso during a robbery attempt Dec. 2, 2005, at Bill’s Market in Bartow.

Hours after the shooting, a deputy stopped Hogan for speeding in a white Chevrolet Cavalier. Inside the car, investigators recovered a .380-caliber pistol.

The gun was later tested and determined to have fired the bullet that struck Desai, prosecutors said.

During Wednesday’s closing arguments, one of Hogan’s lawyers, Julia Williamson, said Hogan was driving his stepbrother’s car and the items inside belonged to Hogan’s stepbrother.

In an October trial, a jury acquitted Hogan’s stepbrother, Bryan Smith, of first-degree murder in Desai’s slaying, but found him guilty of taking part in the attempted armed robbery.

Circuit Judge Dennis Maloney sentenced Smith to 15 years in state prison.

Smith, 23, had previously been sentenced to 140 years in federal prison for participating in a series of robberies with Hogan in 2005.

Hogan has been sentenced to more than 240 years in prison on federal charges related to the series of robberies.

The stepbrothers are sons of two Polk County Sheriff’s Office employees, Capt. James Hogan and Lucretia Hogan, who is a detention deputy.

Last week, Jamail Hogan took the witness stand to testify that he was home at the time of the shooting.

Hogan said he later borrowed Smith’s car that evening, but had no idea the murder weapon or other evidence was inside.

“He was not there at Bill’s Market,” Williamson told jurors during closing argument.

Assistant State Attorney Hardy Pickard dismissed Hogan’s denials, and described the defense’s claim that another man must have helped Hogan’s stepbrother in the robbery attempt as “absolutely ridiculous” and a “red herring.”

“It should be rather obvious (Hogan) is going to say he didn’t do it,” Pickard said. “The man is a 12-time convicted felon. What do you think he’s going to say?

He is going to say what he believes is in his best interest to say.”

The gunman who shot Desai was wearing a white hat, blue gloves, safety glasses and a “Dirty South” sweatshirt.

“Those exact items were found in Mr. Hogan’s home,” Pickard said. “Is that just random? Is that just pure bad luck? Just pure coincidence? I think not.”

Despite the disguise, two people at the store recognized Hogan as the shooter because Hogan worked at a nearby business and was a regular customer of Bill’s Market, Pickard said.

When Hogan was stopped by deputies after the shooting, Hogan got out of the car and a .380-caliber bullet fell off his lap, another round was found in his pants’ pocket and more bullets were in the car’s center console, according to prosecutors.

The second robber of Bill’s Market was armed with a police baton and was wearing a red sweatshirt. The car Hogan was driving contained a police baton and a red sweatshirt.

“I don’t know what more you can ask for or what more you can want,” Pickard said.

“Mr. Hogan says ‘I didn’t do it.’ So what? He can say whatever he wants to say. That doesn’t change the facts. That doesn’t change the evidence. Jamail Hogan killed Remesh Desai.”

Jurors were able to watch video surveillance taken from several angles inside the store on U.S. 17. There is no sound on the recording. But the color footage vividly captured disturbing images as two robbers enter the store.

Desai is shot, falls to the floor in pain, but manages to get back up a short time later. Desai didn’t die until weeks after the shooting from a blood clot.

The defense argued his death might not be a homicide and suggested Desai’s diabetes could have caused the fatal blood clot.

Pickard said the medical examiner determined that Desai died from a blood clot caused by complications from major surgery as a result of being shot.

[ Reporter Jason Geary can be reached at jason.geary@theledger.com or 863-802-7536. ]

Lake County murder trial of Raul Roque postponed again


Stephen Hudak

Sentinel Staff Writer

January 20, 2009

TAVARES

Raul Roque's left arm bears a tattoo that reads, "Born to Create Difficulties."

The inscription might also describe the state's struggles to prosecute the Cuban-born inmate, who faces the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder in the 2006 fatal stabbing of fellow prisoner Miguel Griffin at the Lake Correctional Institution in Clermont.

The often-delayed trial was supposed to begin today with jury selection but was postponed again by Lake Circuit Judge G. Richard Singeltary, who was weighing an argument to allow the defense to travel to Havana.

Roque, 51, already serving a life term for a 1996 murder in South Florida, has a right to a thorough defense, which requires an investigation of his childhood and medical and mental histories on the island, said his lawyers, William Stone and Morris Carranza, both assistant public defenders.

Roque, born in Cuba in 1957, arrived in the U.S. on May 3, 1980.

The lawyers said they obtained permission from the U.S. Treasury to travel to Cuba for the research but cannot spend public funds for the trip because of Florida laws that prohibit employees of state agencies from doing business with "any country in the Western Hemisphere which lacks diplomatic relations with the United States" or countries considered "terrorist states."

The U.S. severed diplomatic ties with Cuba on Jan. 3, 1961. The Department of State designated Cuba as a terrorist state on March 1, 1982.

The lawyers asked Singeltary to declare the statutes unconstitutional or forbid prosecutors from seeking the death penalty.

The Cuban issue poses one more hurdle for the defense and prosecutors, who have struggled to assemble a roster of trustworthy witnesses among felons, many of whom insist they will not testify because of the stigma attached to "snitches" in the prison system.

According to court documents, two prison inmates claim they were asked to lie and say that Griffin was armed, too.

Griffin, who was serving the final days of a four-year prison sentence for cocaine possession, was stabbed more than 10 times with homemade weapons. A prison investigation concluded he was killed because other inmates had accused him of stealing shaving cream, cigarettes and other sundries from a cell shared by Roque and his co-defendant Jeffrey Ferris, 50.

Ferris also is awaiting trial on the first-degree murder charge.

According to fellow inmate Ronald "Chicago" McKeehan, 50, Roque lived by a simple code that did not require him to put a lock on his belongings in prison. It was, McKeehan said in a pretrial deposition, "You steal from me, you die."

Known as "Poppy" because of his grayish hair, Roque has been in prison since 1998 when he was found guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of a man who had sexually assaulted his pregnant girlfriend.

Both Roque and Ferris were locked inside their cell with Griffin when a passing corrections officer discovered them. According to court records, Roque initially claimed that Griffin had been stabbed on the recreation yard and had come to their cell for help.

But later, according to a prison investigation, Roque told Maj. Terry Taylor, "I'm going to be a man. I'm going to tell you what happened. He broke into my locker and I stabbed him."




Stephen Hudak can be reached at shudak@orlandosentinel.com or 352-742-5930.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Letting Go of the Death Penalty


Most states are facing drastic cuts in vital services because of the recession. Schools, health care, and law enforcement will have to get by with less. Death penalty cases, however, stand out, demanding more money even as executions become less likely. In this economic climate, they may be a luxury we can no longer afford.

According to a recent report released by the Death Penalty Information Center, the death penalty is being used less and executions are being carried out in only a few states. Yet the costs are becoming more of an issue as the pressure to avoid the mistakes of the past has grown. There were 37 executions in 2008; 95% of them were in the South and almost half were in just one state -- Texas. Executions and death sentences have been steadily dropping throughout the current decade. But millions of taxpayer dollars have to be spent to keep the vast apparatus of capital punishment in place.

California, for example, has 670 people on death row. Each one of them costs the state about $90,000 per year over what it would cost to keep them in prison if they were condemned to permanent imprisonment instead. In total, the state is spending $138 million per year, but only executes less than one person every two years, according to a recent state commission report. In fact, it's been almost three years since the state carried out any executions. California is now planning a new death row that will cost an additional $400 million. At the same time, the state is facing an unprecedented deficit of billions of dollars and is cutting many vital services. The state commission called the death penalty system "broken," "dysfunctional," and "close to collapse." Only more expenditures, they said, could possibly save it.

Almost every state is facing a financial crisis and 36 states have the death penalty. In Maryland, a state commission heard testimony that the costs of the death penalty over the past 28 years amounted to $37 million per execution. In Florida, home to the second largest death row in the country, the cost estimates are $24 million per execution. The Los Angeles Times estimated that California spends $250 million per execution, when all the system's costs are taken into account.

There is no easy solution to this problem. Speeding up the appeals process or not paying lawyers adequate fees will end up costing states even more as trials will have to be done over a second time, or worse, result in the execution of innocent people. One hundred and thirty people have been exonerated from death row since 1973, including four in 2008. It took over 9 years on average between the conviction and the exoneration in these cases.

With all of these mistakes, the death penalty system has become slower and shows no signs speeding up. The average time between sentencing and execution increased to 12.7 years for those executed in 2007, the third year in a row in which the time has been over 12 years. For some cases in California, it took 25 years for a capital case to be completed, according to the state commission.

All of this expense and delay might be justified if there were some tangible benefit resulting from the death penalty. But for many victims' family members and representatives of law enforcement, the frustration and uncertainty of the death penalty make the option of a sentence of permanent imprisonment more reasonable. Only about 1% of the murders committed in this country result in a death sentence, and only a small percentage of those sentenced to death are ever executed many years later. Such a system makes little sense financially, or even retributively.

In the past, people were often scared into believing that the death penalty was needed to be tough on crime. Today, the death penalty is more like a bridge to nowhere--an expensive government program that does not advance the general good. It may be time to let this extravagance go.

Richard C. Dieter is the Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

Gassing mentally ill inmates is out


A judge rules that it qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment.

By Paul Pinkham Story updated at 2:33 AM on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009

Two mentally ill inmates suffered unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment at the hands of Florida State Prison officials who disciplined them with pepper spray, tear gas and other chemical agents, a judge has ruled.

But the same punishment was appropriate for four other prisoners who sued the Department of Corrections on similar grounds, U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan of Jacksonville wrote in a lengthy order finalized Monday after a five-day bench trial in September.

Corrigan made the distinction based on the mental condition of the individual inmates at the time they were disciplined. The order means the department can no longer use chemical agents on prisoners who lack the capacity to follow orders or control their behavior, said Jacksonville attorney Buddy Schulz, who represented the inmates.

"It's significant because it's the first time a federal judge has found this type of use of force unconstitutional as it relates to seriously mentally ill inmates who are incapable of conforming to the rules of the prisons," Schulz said.

Corrigan gave lawyers for the state until Feb. 10 to come up with terms of an injunction and Schulz's team until Feb. 24 to voice objections. He directed both sides to work together, and Schulz said he's hopeful for a dialogue for reform with Corrections Secretary Walter McNeil, who has shown interest in prison mental-health issues.

Lawyers for the prison system didn't return phone calls Tuesday.

Constitutionality was the only issue at trial. Individual claims by the prisoners had been resolved previously.

Corrigan found that the use of chemical agents against recalcitrant prisoners isn't by itself unconstitutional. But he wrote that such force loses its disciplinary purpose and "becomes brutality" when inmates are gassed who cannot control their actions because of mental illness.

Former Florida State Prison Warden Ron McAndrew, now a corrections consultant, called the ruling a vindication of mental-health policies he had in place in the 1990s.

"It's a great success for the people of Florida in terms of reducing the torture of inmates in Florida's prisons, especially those that are mentally disturbed," McAndrew said.

He testified at trial that his policies were abandoned when he was replaced in 1999 by James Crosby, leading to hundreds more gassings. Crosby later became corrections secretary, then went to prison himself for taking kickbacks.

paul.pinkham@jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4107

Pilot Who Tried to Fake Own Death Faces Criminal Charges

By Diane Smith
12:46, January 15th 2009

The Indiana businessman who tried to fake his own death in order to avoid financial and legal problems has been charged by U.S. agents who filed criminal charges against him on Wednesday.

Marcus Schrenker, who parachuted out and left his small plane to continue flying on autopilot until it crashed, is now recovering in a northern Florida hospital but not because injury suffered during the landing. The business man had severe cuts to his wrists when police officers found him at a campground in north Florida and put him under arrest. He apparently tried to kill himself.

U.S. agents filed charges against the 38-year-old money manager in U.S. District Court in Pensacola, Florida. The criminal charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $5,000 fine, plus restitution for the $36,000 rescue effort.

Mr. Schrenker was wanted in the state of Indiana on financial fraud charges. He is accused of misleading consumers who invested in his wealth management companies and misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars of their money.

It is not sure yet whether Mr. Schrenker will appear on the charges because he is still recovering at the hospital, said U.S. Marshals in the Northern District of Florida spokesman Scott Wilson.

It all happened on Sunday night when Schenker made an emergency call to air traffic controller to report that his plane’s windshield had broken and that he was bleeding severely from cuts to his face. Then military jets intercepted his small plane, but the pilots saw the cockpit empty and dark and the plane’s door left open.

After traveling 200 miles on autopilot, the small plane crashed into a swampy area in northern Florida and rescue workers did not find the body of the pilot on the fuselage. The mystery soon vanished when a neighbor and friend of Mr. Schrenker told authorities that he had received an e-mail from the Indiana businessman in which he gave him some hints about his intentions.

Authorities suspect Schrenker parachuted out of the plane in Alabama. The businessman had allegedly stashed a red motorcycle with saddlebags in a storage unit there. The day after the crash, the motorcycle disappeared and his clothes were left behind.

Mr. Schrenker, who probably wanted to avoid the mounting debt and a divorce lawsuit filed by his wife, now faces even more trouble. U.S. authorities said they are considering making him pay for the cost of the search and he also faces the criminal charges aforementioned.

“We were happy to know that he is alive and safe ... but now we're going to make sure he's being held properly accountable for his actions," said Jeffrey Wehmueller, administrative chief deputy for Indiana's Hamilton County.

Judge dismisses defense lawyer from jury duty in Florida Turnpike slaying trial

By DAPHNE DURET

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Thursday, January 15, 2009

WEST PALM BEACH — Potential juror No. 14 sat impassively in the jury box Thursday as U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley called the names of people dismissed from serving in the death-penalty trial involving the slayings of a family of four along Florida's Turnpike.

When Richard Lubin didn't hear his name, his eyes widened beneath his glasses for a moment. But he kept his gaze forward, never looking at Assistant U.S. Attorney John Kastrenakes.

Lubin, a prominent criminal defense attorney, was fewer than 18 hours away from meeting Kastrenakes in a courtroom for another of the prosecutor's big cases - the corruption charges against disgraced former County Commissioner Mary McCarty and her husband, Kevin.

"I admit, this is an unusual situation," Hurley told attorneys on both sides of the case.

When Hurley questioned Lubin away from the other potential jurors, the defense attorney promised he could keep jury service separate from his representation of Kevin McCarty.

Still, Kastrenakes immediately asked the judge to dismiss Lubin.

"It's absolutely against every bone in my body to have contact with a juror," Kastrenakes told the judge. "This just looks wrong. And it is wrong."

Defense Attorney Donnie Murrell disagreed. "I've known Mr. Lubin for 30 years, and if he says he can do it, then he can."

After Hurley sent Lubin home, he told the lawyers that the plea negotiation in the McCarty case would put both Kastrenakes and Lubin at risk of appearing to curry favor from one another.

Over defense objections, Hurley dismissed Lubin as a juror.

Capital punishment the topic Sunday for Unitarian group

Special to The Record
Publication Date: 01/16/09

"The Failures of Capital Punishment," by guest speaker Marshall Frank, is the topic for the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

Five reasons why the death penalty must be abolished in the United States will be discussed.

Frank is the author of Criminal Injustice In America, which details many issues of concern with the justice system, with a full chapter devoted to the death penalty.

Frank is a retired captain from the Metro-Dade Police Department in Miami, where he spent most of his 30 years investigating murders or commanding those who did.

Among his many career achievements, he testified before the U.S. Congress in 1980 regarding Crime in America; initiated a department program for developing methods to lift fingerprints from human skin; written more than 400 editorials and magazine articles pertaining to issues of crime, violence, law and other social ills.

He has published several novels.

For information, go to his Web site, www.marshallfrank.com

Fellowship meetings are held at 10:30 a.m. Sundays at 2487 A1A South and Florida Avenue.

Following the meeting, refreshments are served. Childcare is provided for the very young.

For information, go to www.uufsa.org

Prison-TV upgrade greeted with static

Satta Sarmah

Sentinel Staff Writer

January 17, 2009

Channel-surfing behind bars is about to get more expensive.

Florida is poised to spend about $100,000 in tax money to upgrade 1,500 prison televisions so they'll work Feb. 17, when the nation switches from analog to digital broadcasts.

The expenditure -- a fraction of the Florida Department of Corrections' nearly $2.3 billion budget -- comes as education, social and health programs are being squeezed because of Florida's budget woes.

But corrections officials said the six-figure upgrade is justifiable because TV keeps inmates busy and helps ensure the safety of officers and guards.

"The department has so few tools available at their disposal to control inmates. Our inmate populations are bulging at the seams. With the cuts in personnel, the ratios are high," said state Sen. Victor Crist, R- Tampa, chairman of the committee that oversees prison budgets.

But others say Florida can't afford digital TV for inmates when it faces a $4 billion budget shortfall.

"Get rid of the 1,500 televisions. Give them a book," said Curtis Holmes, president of Taxpayers Association Inc., in Largo. "This is budget-cutting time. They cut hundreds of millions on education, but they want to put money in the prison system so that the prisoners get televisions."

The government is helping families with the cost of the switch to digital by providing $40 coupons for converter boxes. But jails and prisons can't get them.

Robert Weissert, director of communications for Florida TaxWatch, said the federal government should empty its pockets, not Florida taxpayers.

"It's an example of another unfunded mandate from the federal government that puts pressures on the taxpayers in the state of Florida," Weissert said.

The Department of Corrections will have to purchase converters, priced at $40 to $70 each, for the upgrade.

It estimates that it will cost less than $1 per inmate to provide digital television to more than 100,000 inmates throughout the state, said Jo Ellyn Rackleff, a DOC spokeswoman.

The state plans to pay for the upgrade by using money from the same budget used to pay for schools, roads and hospitals. That budget gets revenue from inmate commissary sales, so prisoners are indirectly footing the bill for the upgrade, officials said when justifying the $100,000 expenditure.

The Orange County Jail will use money from its commissary -- which relies on sales of recreational and food items to 4,100 inmates -- to upgrade 127 televisions, jail spokesman Allen Moore said.

The bill for the upgrade is nearly $9,500, but inmates won't be tuning in to shows on ESPN, MTV or Bravo. The local jails and the state prisons don't have cable access, so inmates aren't spending their days flipping channels, Moore said.

"The TVs are controlled by each housing area's correctional officer," he said. "It is a privilege that can be taken away or granted."

The hassle of converting to digital is minimal for other local jails.

The Lake County Jail is using money from its commissary to buy one converter, which it will connect to a rooftop antenna for access to its 22 televisions, said Maj. David Mass, the jail's administrator.

The Osceola County Jail isn't converting to digital -- its 1,120 inmates already have satellite television with limited channels.

The Seminole County Jail isn't spending a dime for the conversion. That's because the jail doesn't have any televisions. Lt. James Clark, a spokesman for the Seminole County Jail, said it got rid of televisions in 1995 because inmates argued about which channels to watch.

"We don't want jail to be a fun place to be. We certainly don't want them to kick their feet up," Clark said.

Rackleff said the televisions in the state's prisons aren't used for recreational purposes.

"It's necessary for the department to purchase these converters to keep the televisions in working order and to further the goals of security, orderly institutional operation and inmate rehabilitation," Rackleff said. "Eighty-eight percent of these inmates will be returning to society, and it is important for them to stay in touch with the outside world."


Satta Sarmah can be reached at ssarmah@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5359.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Death penalty cases on the rise

When accused torture- murderer William Dickerson Jr. goes on trial this April in Charleston, he could face the death penalty for kidnapping a rival and brutalizing him for several hours over the course of a night.

His case is not unique.

At least five death penalty cases are set for trial in the Lowcountry during the coming months: three in Charleston and Berkeley counties and two in Dorchester County.

Typically, the area sees one death penalty case every few years.

Reasons behind the 2009 spike have drawn a flurry of opinions, ranging from those who say society has become more accepting of capital punishment to those who contend it's a needed response to the increasing violence.

Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said the reason isn't so much philosophical as it is the calendar reflects "a perfect storm" of scheduling collisions, she said. All three of her cases were affected by arrests, judge issues and other timetables.

The Charleston and Berkeley cases are:

--Dickerson, who's accused of torturing to death Gerard Roper in a Fleming Road apartment in 2006. Roper was mutilated, burned and stabbed.

--Walter Fayall III, the accused triggerman in the May 2007 shooting death of state Constable Robert Bailey after a late-night traffic stop in Lincolnville.

--Colin James Broughton, accused of the September 2006 murder of his aunt, 59-year-old Shirley Mae Birch in a Cainhoy mobile home. Birch was beaten with a hammer in a robbery that allegedly netted her attacker about $200 and her car.

The Dorchester cases are:

--Anthony Sanders, accused of triple murder for shooting a mother and two of her children in July 2007 at the Archdale Forest Apartments on Dorchester Road.

--Delronezy Washington, who is accused of baiting pizza deliveryman Wilson James into a neighborhood with an order and killing him during an armed robbery attempt.

The Dorchester cases follow the plea of convicted triple-murderer Kenneth Henry Justus, who last month asked for and received the death penalty for fatally stabbing a fellow inmate inside Lieber Correctional Institution in Ridgeville.

The local lineup comes as the national frequency of death penalty cases is continuing to decline for a variety of reasons, ranging from costs to moral concerns and Supreme Court rulings prohibiting capital punishment for minors and the mentally retarded.

The drop is so significant that last year, 37 people were executed in nine states, the lowest total in 14 years, according to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center. Still, the South ranks highest among the states for death penalty cases, as states such as Texas, Florida and Georgia have significant populations on Death Row.

"Ninety-five percent of executions occurred in the South last year," said Richard Dieter, a Catholic University law professor and director of the DPIC.

In South Carolina, multiple factors go into a solicitor seeking the death penalty, but primarily includes murder committed with aggravating circumstances, such as done in the course of rape, burglary, killing a police officers or murdering a child.

When the local cases are called, they are expected to be expensive and time-consuming affairs. Jury pools are traditionally larger and screening about beliefs and background is more in-depth. Death penalty cases also take as long as two weeks of a county's limited amount of court time, while other murder trials might last a few days. Costs also escalate as experts are consulted and pasts investigated.

Even with a good case, there also is the fear of what happens on appeals. As many as one-half of death penalty convictions get overturned, according to some statistics.

South Carolina's Death Row is housed at the Lieber prison in Dorchester County, and is home to 58 inmates.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551 or skropf@postandcourier.com.

Apopka killer was abused as a child, his brother says

Rene Stutzman

Sentinel Staff Writer

January 10, 2009

SANFORD

David Byron Russ, the 46-year-old Apopka man who could face the death penalty for strangling and stabbing a Longwood-area woman, broke down and cried Friday as his brother described the beatings they suffered as children.

Aaron Russ of Lubbock, Texas, told a judge that their father beat them with pots, pans, a garden hose, pieces of wood -- "whatever he could get his hands on."

That testimony was part of a two-day penalty hearing in Russ' case.

Last year, he pleaded guilty to charges that he broke into the home of 58-year-old Madeleine Leinen on May 7, 2007, waited for her to come home and killed her.

Her body was found on the bathroom floor the next morning. She had been bound, strangled and stabbed.

In letters to Circuit Judge Marlene Alva, Russ has confessed, described himself as a coldblooded killer that day and said he deserves the death penalty.

Alva must now decide whether to give it to him.

Russ would not let his attorney present any evidence that might spare him. As a consequence, the judge hired two other attorneys to do so. Russ did not testify at the two-day hearing, which concluded Friday, but he will talk to Alva next Thursday.

Assistant State Attorney Gino Feliciani asked Alva to impose the death penalty. The attack on Leinen was brutal, he said. She was attacked as she unloaded groceries from her car.

Russ punched her in the face, blackening both her eyes. He also stabbed her once in the back of the head and hit her twice more in the head with a blunt object.

He tied the rope so tightly around her wrists, it cut off circulation to her hands. He pulled the ligature so tightly around her neck, it gouged a groove deep into her flesh, Feliciani said.

Special court-appointed attorney Mike Nielsen asked Alva to spare Russ. He was abused as a child, but when he's free of drugs he is a kind, smart man, Nielsen said.

"If Mr. Russ didn't have this addiction to drugs, Miss Leinen would be here today," Nielsen said. "We believe, Judge, his is a life worth saving."

It's not clear when the judge will announce her decision.


Rene Stutzman can be reached at 407-650-6394 or rstutzman@orlandosentinel.com.

'Everything Went Into Slow Motion'

By BRAD DICKERSON

Highlands Today

The shooting death of Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Nicholas Sottile on Jan. 12, 2007, "still doesn't seem real" to his brother, Jimmy.

The former law enforcement officer and current Sebring bail bondsman was at home when he started hearing the sirens. His first reaction was to get on his Nextel and check to see that his children were OK.

Then, a member of the Highlands County Sheriff's Office came by to see how "Nicky" was.

"I go, 'I don't know. What are you talking about?'" Sottile said. "He goes, 'Man, he's been shot.'

"And then everything went into slow motion."

Sgt. Sottile's wife, Elizabeth, said she and the couple's two children - a college-student daughter and a son working as a deputy with the Orange County Sheriff's Department - will take time to mark Monday's anniversary.

"It's still unbelievable," Elizabeth said.

A 24-year veteran of the FHP, Sgt. Sottile was performing a traffic stop at the intersection of U.S. 27 and Whitmore Road in Highlands County when one of the occupants shot him in the chest with a .25 caliber handgun.

Authorities say the shooter was driver Joshua Lee Altersberger, 21, of Sebring. After the shooting, a passenger, Quintin Jerome Kinder, of Bainbridge, Ga., fled into a nearby orange grove.

Sgt. Sottile, 48, was able to notify dispatchers that he had been shot, according to information from the FHP. He was transported to Florida Hospital Lake Placid and pronounced dead an hour later.

Altersberger was later arrested and charged with first-degree murder and possession of a firearm after previously being convicted of a juvenile offense. Kinder, who surrendered to authorities on Jan. 13, was charged with trespassing in a cultivated grove. He was then taken back to Georgia to face a violation of probation charge.

Prosecutors have previously filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty for Altersberger, whose case is scheduled to go to trial starting March 16 with jury selection.

It is set for a status jury trial on March 6, according to information from the Highlands County Clerk of Courts Web site.

"We recently sent the defense a short little letter saying we would not consider anything but death," Assistant State Attorney Steve Houchin previously said.

Opening An Old Wound

Jimmy Sottile will be there for the trial of the person accused of killing his brother, although it will be, "hard to sit there."

"It's been two years come Monday, and we've got to start all over again come March," he said. "My father's going to have to listen to my brother screaming for help. I don't even know if I can sit there and hear him screaming for help."

Elizabeth said she has attended all the previous court proceedings, such as all pretrial conferences. The trial will be no different.

"I will not miss a day," she said. "I will not miss a minute."

Continuing On

Following her husband's death, a scholarship program was established that was open to any age group. The two winners are going to be announced later this week.

It is just one way the family is working to keep alive the memory of Sgt. Sottile. Sometimes, though, all it takes is a journey out in public to remember a lost loved one.

"If you're in Wal-Mart or something and you see a side profile of somebody, and it takes your breath away because you think it's him," Jimmy said.

The tragedy both he and the rest of his family has been through - not to mention the shock and disbelief that lingers two years later - is something Jimmy would not wish on anyone.

"I pray to God that no one has to go through what me and my family's went through," he said. "That feeling is indescribable."

Parents' isolation inspires ministry to inmates' families

Mark Pino

Sentinel Staff Writer

January 11, 2009

CASSELBERRY

Jack and Jean Canatsey found themselves alone in a strange world in 2002.

It was a place with little support. A place where people often are afraid or ashamed to talk about what they are experiencing. A place where the usual coping mechanisms may not work.

The arrest of an adult son on child-pornography charges sent the Canatseys on a journey that led the to creation of an unusual ministry: one that helps "outmates" -- families of jail and prison inmates.

Jean Canatsey got the name from the wife of an inmate while visiting her son.

"I liked it. It describes those left behind. There are the inmates and family are the outmates," she said.

Outmates are in a unique position to help one another, she found.

Thomas Gillan, director of the Criminal Justice Office for the Catholic Diocese of Orlando, said family members of the person who commits a crime become victims, too.

"What Jean and Jack are doing has become a very important ministry. The whole concept behind this is peer support. It's people who have walked a mile in those shoes," Gillan said.

Families Ministering to Families meets the third Saturday of the month at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church in Altamonte Springs. The group attracts people from as far away as Lake and Volusia counties. The group has been meeting for three years, and there have been attempts to start groups in other parishes.

"The families of prisoners in Florida have a pretty rough time," said Ken Hise of Fern Park. "We share stories. It seems to help a great deal."

The Canatseys' ministry started more traditionally. They went to the Coleman correctional complex to visit their son Jeff, who pleaded guilty to three charges of e-mailing pornographic images of minors to an undercover officer. At the start of his three-year sentence, his parents went there to visit him. But he asked them to visit other inmates too, and they started to meet family members, sharing information and stories.

As the Canatseys became more aware of what was going on around them, the idea for the ministry started to jell.

"We believe that we are in this situation because we are supposed to do something about it," Jean Canatsey said.

There is a stigma for families, who often don't want the information shared. Even for this story, Jean Canatsey thought twice before sharing. Another member of the group who didn't want her name used said it was helpful to know other people in similar situations.

Toni Furbringer, a psychotherapist in Lake Mary, plans to speak to members of the group at its next meeting. She said the arrest of a family member ranks high on the list of traumatic life experiences.

"When a family member is incarcerated, regardless of the reason, of innocence or guilt, it changes the entire family," she said. "It's a very overlooked population who need to know they didn't do anything wrong."

The Canatseys' ministry helps ease the sense of isolation family members may feel.

Jack Canatsey was numb when he learned of the charges against his son. Jean Canatsey was in disbelief. She went to friends in church and talked to the parish priest, who heard her son's confession the next morning.

"There were no bad reactions, but they [the people she knew] had no more experience in it than we had," Jean Canatsey said. Hearing Gillan while her son was awaiting sentencing was a catalyst for the ministry, she said.

"I don't think you can make it without a support system," Jean Canatsey said




Mark Pino can be reached at 407-931-5935 or mpino@orlandosentinel.com.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Fla. death-row inmate loses appeal bid

The Associated Press
ATLANTA -- A Florida inmate convicted of killing a prison guard while awaiting the death penalty for two previous murders has lost a bid to appeal his sentence.

A panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday denied an application for a certificate of appealability for Askari Abdullah Muhammad, formerly known as Thomas Knight.

Knight, who has been on death row for more than 30 years, acted as his own lawyer when he was convicted of the fatal stabbing of Richard Burke with the sharpened end of a spoon in 1980.

Issues he wanted to appeal involved his competency and insanity defense.

Knight received two death sentences for the 1974 murders of Sidney and Lillian Gans of Miami Beach.

What do Casey Anthony -- and other inmates -- buy behind bars?

Sarah Lundy

Sentinel Staff Writer

January 10, 2009

Jail inmates can't go to the mall, but they still go shopping.

In fact, last year they spent $2.8 million from their cells. That's a lot of coffee, honey buns and Texas beef instant lunch.

Those are some of the top 10 best sellers behind bars, but the Orange County Jail commissary actually offers several hundred food and personal items, including black Converse high tops for $25.95, colored pencils for $3.25, T-shirts for $4.99 and a Sony radio for $21.

Jails are required to provide inmates with their basic needs: nutritional meals, medical care, clothing and other hygiene necessities.

Still, being locked up doesn't mean inmates have to give up their favorite snack food or do without a pocket dictionary. Those with money in their inmate account can pick up a few personal items from the commissary -- a made-to-order service available to most of the 4,000 inmates.

"If they have the means to buy Converse, what's the harm in selling them?" asked Frank Priola, the jail's fiscal manager.

This week, the jail's most famous inmate, Casey Anthony, bought $48.01 worth of items, including Cocoa Butter lotion ($2.93), five chocolate-chip granola bars ($2.93) and a bag of cheese puffs (75 cents). She previously bought a radio, Speed Stick deodorant, Noxzema face wash, and a sketch pad and pencils.

There are limits to what the commissary offers, of course. A jail official recently corrected CNN's Nancy Grace when the host talked about a "shrimp cocktail" Anthony had ordered. The closest thing in stock is a shrimp-flavored instant lunch of ramen noodles, jail spokesman Allen Moore said.

Commissaries in jails don't differ much from those in federal and state prisons. The shopping lists vary, depending on what the warden will allow, said Ed Bales, managing director of Federal Prison Consultants LLC.

In October, The Wall Street Journal reported that some federal prisoners use pouches of mackerel fillets as currency in the big house.

Mackerel is offered at the Orange jail ($1.75). Moore said he's not aware of a bartering system in the local lockup, but inmates may trade commissary items with one another.

Inmates aren't the only ones who benefit from the commissary. Orange County profits from the one-source shopping.

The commissary is operated by Keefe Commissary Network, a Missouri-based company that focuses on this unique market niche.

Keefe, which would not talk to a reporter about the company, is the same organization that operates the commissary in Florida's state prisons, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.

In Orange County, the jail pockets 32.5 percent of the cost of each item sold.

In October, inmates ordered $220,000 worth of items. That means the county kept more than $70,000, which helps pay for jail programs.

Just like people on the outside, consumers in jail need money to obtain such perks. Inmates get money in their accounts several ways. Money taken at arrest -- if not seized by the cops -- goes into their jail account. Priola, the jail's fiscal manager, said there are plenty of checks and balances for security purposes.

"We are not equipped to be a bank," he said.

Loved ones can deposit cash at the jail. And government checks, including an IRS tax return, are welcome. One inmate had his IRS check ($1,734) and his government stimulus check ($600) sent to the jail. He released $1,000 to his attorney, Moore said.

Charles Hair, 65, who violated probation from a sexual-battery case, tops the account list with more than $8,000 in his account. He was transferred from the California prison system, where he had the money on account, Moore said.

Kenneth Reeves, 50, who was convicted in October of armed burglary and other charges and sentenced to 35 years, had nearly $7,000 on him when he was arrested in June 2007. That money went with him when he was transferred to the Florida DOC.

But those are extreme cases. Most have a few bucks in their account.

Sarah Lundy can be reached at slundy@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-6218.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Budget cuts force criminals out of juvenile prisons

Colorado officials want more teens sentenced to Youthful Offender System

By BRANDON JOHANSSON
The Aurora Sentinel

Published: Thursday, January 8, 2009 2:04 PM MST

COLUMBIA, S.C. | State budget cuts are forcing some of the nation’s youngest criminals out of counseling programs and group homes and into juvenile prisons in what critics contend is a shortsighted move that will eventually lead to more crime and higher costs.

Tennessee, South Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia are among states that have slashed juvenile justice spending — in some cases more than 20 percent — because of slumping tax collections.

In Colorado, officials say they would like to see more teens sentenced to the state’s Youthful Offender System, which allows teens to earn their GED and get job training while incarcerated, but a tight budget means that probably won’t happen and the opposite — cuts to the program — could be in the offing.

Youth advocates say they expect the recession will bring more cuts next year in other states, hitting programs that try to rehabilitate children rather than simply locking them up.

“If you raise a child in prison, you’re going to raise a convict,” said South Carolina Juvenile Justice Director Bill Byars, credited with turning around a system once better known for warehousing children than counseling them and teaching them life skills.

Now, he’s been asked to draw up plans to trim an additional 15 percent from a juvenile justice budget already cut $23 million, or 20 percent, since June as part of the state’s effort to pare $1 billion from its $7 billion budget.

All five of the system’s group homes — which generally house less-violent offenders and give them more individual attention — have been shuttered. Also gone are some intensive youth reform and after-school programs in detention facilities.

The story is similar in other states. Kentucky is nixing a boot camp-style program developed by the National Guard. Virginia is losing behavioral services staff and a facility that prepares children to go home after serving time, along with smaller camps and community programs. Juveniles in those programs will return to traditional correctional facilities.

“It’s not like we’re going to say, ‘OK, let’s close a juvenile detention center,’ or something like that,” said Gordon Hickey, spokesman for Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine. “We have to reduce spending across the state, and the governor looked at suggestions and recommendations from all departments. He certainly realizes that all of these reductions have consequences. The idea is to limit the damage as much as possible.”

In Colorado, Ted Tow, executive director of the Colorado District Attorney’s Council, said his organization would like to see the state’s Youthful Offender System expanded to include more convicted youths.

The state Legislature created the Youthful Offender System in 1993 as a “middle tier between the Division of Youth Corrections and the Department of Corrections for violent youthful felony offenders,” according to the Colorado Department of Corrections. The system, which can house up to 250 people, takes in youth who would otherwise be sent to adult prisons.

In 1996, 107 juveniles were sentenced into the YOS, while only 61 were sentenced in 2007 according to the Colorado Department of Corrections.

Tow said he doubts his organization’s plans to expand the system will happen in a tough budget year.

And, Tow said, he wouldn’t be surprised to see legislators try to cut the number of juveniles sent to YOS, a move that the state’s DAs opposed last year.

Among the programs being cut in South Carolina is one that Lex Wilbanks, an 18-year-old arrested four years ago on drug and gun charges, credits with giving him back his future.

Before moving to the program run by Florida-based nonprofit Associated Marine Institute, which provides intensive counseling and wilderness camps in several states, Wilbanks spent four months in a regular juvenile detention center.

“When you did something wrong or you fight or you disrespect staff, they just throw you into lockdown,” Wilbanks said. “They just throw you in and make them fight to survive. You’re just making them a hardened criminal.”

In South Carolina, only 22 percent of offenders who go through the institute’s program later break the law, less than half the recidivism rate for juveniles in large state facilities, Byars said.

Through the program, Wilbanks worked his way to the top rank in Army Junior ROTC and earned a GED and college credits. Acting up brought meetings during which counselors “talk you through problems and how you can actually change,” he said. “It gives you hope.”

Florida is also axing three Associated Marine Institute programs to save $1.7 million, part of an effort to cut 4 percent, or $18 million, from the juvenile justice budget. Advocates are bracing for additional cuts as legislators go back to the Capitol in January to deal with a $2 billion state budget hole.

Florida’s juvenile justice system “is going to die the death of a million 4 percent cuts,” said Jacqui Colyer, who leads a state juvenile justice advisory group.

The picture isn’t as bleak everywhere. A court order limits the cuts California can make and Minnesota, Massachusetts and Nebraska haven’t made serious cuts to their systems. Other states, including Connecticut, Oregon, New Hampshire and Utah, are making more modest cuts or delaying planned spending.

Last week, Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell Gov. M. Jodi Rell unveiled a plan to cover the current fiscal year’s projected $356 million deficit. She wants to defer spending $1.2 million to hire 50 additional juvenile probation officers, and an additional five judges, support staff and other expenses, possibly until July 1, 2009.

The spending was part of a new initiative that will permit most offenses involving 16- and 17-year-olds to be handled by juvenile courts instead of adult courts, beginning Jan. 1, 2010.

As part of that initiative, the state is opening additional group homes for juvenile delinquents. Two new homes for teens, which serve about five or six people, are scheduled to open in January. But one has already been postponed until possibly late next year because of budget issues.

Advocates say they worry most about losing programs, such as group homes, that take children out of large facilities to give them individual attention.

Juvenile facilities see an array of major and minor criminals. Gun, drug, sex and assault offenders may share sleeping quarters and classes with teen pranksters sentenced for disrupting schools or destroying property. Terms can last weeks or, in extreme cases, until youths become adults and are transferred to adult prisons.

Generally, less violent offenders make it to the smaller group homes, and experts say social pecking orders are easier to defuse in those settings compared to prisons where gangs try to form and fight for control.

Sheila Bedi, executive director of the Washington-based Justice Policy Institute, said housing children can cost as much as $600 per child daily. But the expenses can be much higher when children emerge hardened from big youth prisons, commit more crimes and end up in adult facilities.

“The truant comes out learning how to steal a car,” Bedi said. “You cannot expect a child to come out of that situation with the ability to make better life decisions.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Judge Hauls Casey Anthony Into Court

Casey Anthony, who sits in jail accused of murdering her 3-year-old daughter Caylee, was hauled into court by a judge on Thursday.

As we reported earlier this week, the hearing was to discuss "disturbing" images of the scene where little Caylee's remains were found. Casey's attorneys had initially said that she had waived her right to appear at the hearing, but prosecutors objected, saying the accusmed mom should be ordered into court and questioned. The judge agreed and deputies were sent to the Orange County Jail to fetch Casey. She arrived soon after, wearing her typical jail garb.

After confirming to the judge that she had, in fact, waived her right to appear, the judge ordered Casey to stay for the rest of the hearing. CNN reports she sat expressionless in the courtroom, while the lawyers discussed various issues, including whether restrictions would be placed on the copying of images and X-rays of Caylee's remains and just who can view those pictures.

In Thursday's hearing, the prosecution and defense argued over just who would have access to the photos. Prosecutors are concerned about the defense's desire to copy the photos and send them to their expert witnesses, many of whom are outside of Florida. Their concern is that the pics will end up on the Internet and in the hands of the press. According to the prosecution, the photos are "not necessarily gruesome, but they are disturbing," especially images of Caylee's skull. The defense is arguing that while they don't want the photos to be made public either, they need to have them analyzed by experts to provide the best possible defense of Casey. Both sides eventually agreed to set up a secure website for the experts to view the photographs.

A trial date has not been set for Casey, who faces life in prison if convicted. Prosecutors have said they will not seek the death penalty against her.

Casey Anthony in courtroom for hearing on 'disturbing' images

ORLANDO, Florida (CNN) -- A Florida woman accused of killing her toddler daughter made a rare court appearance Thursday for a hearing regarding "disturbing" images of the scene where her daughter's skeletal remains were found.

The hearing began without Casey Anthony, as defense attorney Jose Baez saying she waived her right to appear. But prosecutors objected, saying Anthony should be brought into court and questioned before waiving her appearance.

Orange County Circuit Judge Stan Strickland agreed, sending deputies to retrieve Anthony from jail but starting the hearing without her.

She later was brought in, wearing navy jail scrubs. Answering Strickland's questions in a clear voice, Anthony confirmed that she had waived her right to appear in court. Watch Casey Anthony appear in court »

Strickland, however, had her remain for the rest of the hearing. She sat expressionless, appearing to listen closely as prosecutors and defense attorneys hashed out routine discovery and evidentiary issues.

Anthony, 22, is accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter Caylee, who was last reported seen in June. She was arrested in October and charged with first-degree murder and other offenses, even though Caylee's body had not been found.

The girl's skeletal remains were found last month in woods about a half-mile from the home of Anthony's parents, where Caylee and her mother had been living. Authorities have been unable to determine how the girl died but said she was the victim of a homicide.

In Thursday's hearing, prosecutors and defense attorneys wrangled over defense experts' access to images from the scene where the body was found. Prosecutors said they did not want the defense to copy, print or send any photos or X-rays of Caylee to their experts, many of whom were outside Florida, out of concern they might wind up in the media's hands.

Because the experts are outside the jurisdiction of the Florida court, Strickland would have little recourse if the photos wound up "displayed on some magazine at the checkout at the Publix," prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick said Thursday.

The pictures "are not necessarily gruesome, but they are disturbing," especially images of the child's skull when it was found and removed from the woods, she said.

Baez agreed he did not want the photos to be made public, and said he doubted his experts would jeopardize their reputations by leaking them, noting they have signed confidentiality agreements.

The parties agreed that the defense would set up a secure Web site for its experts to evaluate the photographs. Strickland also ordered Baez not to copy the images or transmit them in any way.

In an earlier hearing Thursday, another Orange County circuit judge ruled that a lawsuit filed against Anthony may proceed, but the judge is not requiring Anthony to submit to a deposition at this time.

In questioning after Caylee's disappearance, Anthony told police she had left the child with a baby sitter named Zenaida Gonzalez and had not seen her since. Checking out her story, authorities found that the apartment where Anthony said she left Caylee was vacant and located a Zenaida Gonzalez, who said she had never met Anthony.

Gonzalez filed a defamation suit against Anthony, saying that as a result of Anthony's statements, she has been suspected wrongly of involvement in Caylee's disappearance. Her attorney, John Morgan, told the judge Thursday that Gonzalez lost her job because of those claims.

Anthony's defense attorneys asked that proceedings in the Gonzalez suit -- specifically, Anthony's deposition -- be postponed until the criminal case against Anthony is resolved, because Anthony's answers to questions in the deposition could potentially incriminate her, meaning she would have to invoke her Fifth Amendment right in refusing to answer.

Circuit Judge Jose Rodriguez agreed that Anthony should not be compelled to undergo an oral deposition, but said Morgan could depose her with written questions and answers.

"No matter how much we want to separate these cases, they're intertwined," Rodriguez said in issuing his decision.

Morgan noted that Anthony has filed a countersuit against Gonzalez, and said Anthony cannot duck a deposition at the same time that she is suing his client.

"They cannot have their cake and eat it too," Morgan said, adding that Anthony "can't sue someone and then say, 'You can't question me because of the Fifth Amendment.' "

Anthony's countersuit accuses Gonzalez of attempting to cash in on the high-profile case.

A trial date has not been set for Anthony, who could face a sentence of life in prison if convicted of killing Caylee. Prosecutors have said they will not seek the death penalty against her.