VARIOUS NEWS ARTICLES AROUND THE COUNTRY POSTED TO THE DEATH PENALTY NEWS GROUP February 28 2004

TEXAS: Suspended crime lab workers blast probe tactics Employees suspended from the Houston Police Department's troubled crime lab issued the strongest objections to date over punishment this week, with one accusing internal investigators of intimidating low-level employees for problems that are the result of bad management. "The Conduct and Authority of our Department and the investigators charged with investigating the crime laboratory is becoming more and more outrageous and borders on Official Oppression," suspended DNA analyst Raynard Cockrell wrote in an appeal filed Thursday. "The department continues to investigate, bully, and harass crime lab bench workers who have consistently proven that they have done nothing but follow lab policy as it existed at the time." Acting Police Chief Joe Breshears suspended Cockrell for 2 days this week after he failed to provide a yes or no answer to a question posed by an internal investigator. Instead, he replied that the question was "not applicable" and provided a 4-paragraph explanation. "This is bordering on ridiculous," said Cockrell's lawyer, Fred Keys. "To suspend someone for insubordination because he wouldn't answer a question the way they wanted -- that is just wrong." An HPD spokesman declined to comment. More than one year after HPD shut down the DNA division of its crime lab because of concerns about the accuracy of its work in hundreds of cases, the department continues to investigate what went wrong. Investigators routinely question lab personnel, and the roster of punished employees continues to grow, with the suspensions of Cockrell and analyst Mary Childs-Henry. To date, the department has recommended discipline against at least 11 crime lab employees, including three who officials said should be fired. Two of those people retired to avoid being terminated. A third -- Christy Kim, the analyst whose discredited analysis helped send a teenager to prison for a rape he may not have committed -- successfully fought her termination and was reinstated last month. Kim and other analysts have long argued they are being blamed for problems that should be attributed to some of HPD's highest ranking officials, including former Chief C.O. Bradford, who was confronted by analysts about lab problems in 1999. Thursday, analysts said for the 1st time that investigations of the lab have become unreasonable. "If the department seeks to discipline it would be fair that they hold some responsibility themselves instead of continuing to harass lab personnel with scandalous investigations," Cockrell wrote. Childs-Henry this week appealed her recent three-day suspension because she improperly packaged evidence from a rape kit and "possibly cross-contaminated evidence," according to the letter notifying her of the suspension. Childs-Henry maintained earlier this week during a hearing before the city Civil Service Commission that she followed lab protocol. She also complained that asking nonscientist investigators to interpret scientific results "will continue to lead to investigations with errors and flaws." A decision on whether to uphold her suspension is expected to be announced today. Also Thursday, the Harris County district attorney's office released the results from retests of evidence from 32 cases originally analyzed by HPD's crime lab. Independent labs supported HPD's findings in 31 of the cases. In the other, a case of indecency with a child, an independent lab was unable to find any physical evidence to link Manuel V. Moreno to the crime. Moreno, who was charged with sexual assault of a child but pleaded guilty to the lesser indecency charge, served 2 years in prison. (source: Houston Chronicle) ********************************** A death penalty disgrace Americans may disagree strongly about the death penalty, but they should have no disagreement about the need for prosecutors to treat capital cases with fairness. A 7-2 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court came down this week on the side of integrity in a Texas case where the prosecution's conduct was clearly out of bounds. ''Prosecutors' dishonest conduct or unwarranted concealment should attract no judicial approbation," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in the majority opinion. "A rule declaring 'prosecutor may hide, defendant must seek,' is not tenable in a system constitutionally bound to accord defendants due process." Only Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas opposed the majority on the issue of whether additional information about Delma Banks Jr. would have spared his life. Prosecutors withheld vital information from Banks' lawyers during the sentencing portion of a 1980 murder trial. The defense documented that prosecutors not only allowed key witnesses to lie on the stand, they also hid the evidence over years of appeals. As a result of the ruling, Banks will no longer face the death penalty. With a separate 9-0 ruling, Banks also will be allowed to appeal his murder conviction because prosecutors may have withheld evidence during his trial. Banks was convicted of killing a 16-year-old boy for his automobile. The case is a particularly heinous one. The ruling probably won't change a thing in other death-penalty cases because this is an unusual set of circumstances. Yet, it should change the process in Texas in which execution occurs at a wholesale level. 2 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal appeals court decision upholding a Texas death sentence where prosecutors were accused of deliberately purging a jury of eligible blacks. The court's decision in Banks also should be an important lesson for all Americans. The system of capital punishment has long struggled with incompetent counsel. It can't abide dishonest prosecutors. (source: Editorial, The Tennessean) ******************** Lone Star Statement The Supreme Court delivered this week a well-deserved rebuke to the Texas justice system and to the federal appeals court that reviews death cases from America's most enthusiastic capital punishment state. Texas came within 10 minutes of executing Delma Banks Jr. last year before the high court stepped in and agreed to hear his case. This week, seven justices declared his death sentence an unconstitutional product of prosecutorial misconduct, and all 9 agreed that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit had erred in failing even to consider his claims that his trial was defective. The case is not the 1st time in the past few years that the court has warned lower courts to take more seriously their duty to police prosecutorial misbehavior. Here's hoping they're listening. Mr. Banks was convicted back in 1980 of the murder of 16-year-old Richard Whitehead. At his trial, prosecutors put on the stand two witnesses about whom they withheld key evidence from the defense. One swore under oath that his damaging testimony had not been coached, though prosecutors had held extensive practice sessions with him before putting him on the stand. Yet they did nothing to correct the record. They also said nothing when another witness falsely denied that he was a paid police informant; he later gave critical testimony at Mr. Banks's sentencing. The truth did not come out until 1999, after multiple rounds of appeals were completed. Yet when Mr. Banks tried at that point to get the federal courts interested, the 5th Circuit held that he should have complained earlier of the prosecutorial misconduct -- though he had only just found out about it. Writing for 7 justices, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg rightly rejected this Catch-22 logic. A defendant, she wrote, is entitled to presume that prosecutors' representations are not lies: "A rule . . . declaring 'prosecutor may hide, defendant must seek,' is not tenable in a system constitutionally bound to accord defendants due process. . . . Prosecutors' dishonest conduct or unwarranted concealment should attract no judicial approbation." Certainly not. But far too often, woefully inadequate state capital punishment systems have attracted, if not quite approbation, certainly winking neglect -- and not just from the 5th Circuit. The Supreme Court's own hands-off approach to the death penalty has helped create the current problems. More recently, however, the court has been trying to make clear that giving states latitude is not the same as giving them an entirely free hand. The lower courts, not to mention the states themselves, should take notice. (source: Editorial, Washington Post) ************************ Texas wrong (again) in death penalty case The U.S. Supreme Court deserves gratitude from supporters and foes of capital punishment for lifting the death penalty imposed on Delma Banks and giving him a new chance to appeal his conviction. Banks was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1980 murder of a 16-year-old fast-food restaurant worker during a robbery. He was minutes away from death on March 12 when the high court stopped the execution and agreed to hear his claim that he was denied a fair trial. The court found that prosecutors hid damaging evidence about a witness that could have led to Banks' acquittal. Such prosecutorial misconduct is an embarrassment to the state's already tarnished criminal justice system and is intolerable in any case. Even supporters of capital punishment should be outraged by the behavior of Bowie County prosecutors and law enforcement officials in the Banks case. The right to a fair trial is fundamental to the U.S. judicial system and an important protection that citizens expect and cherish. This case, once again, raises serious, disturbing questions about the death penalty in Texas. (source: Editorial, San Antonio Express-News) ************************** More info emerges in slaying More details of a lethal Valentine's Day baseball bat attack on 38-year-old oilfield worker Joseph Martin "Joe" Sizemore surfaced Friday. Lt. Billy Clark, who heads the sheriff's criminal investigation division, said Friday that one of the 16-year-old boys charged with capital murder is suspected of wielding the bat and that Sizemore was assaulted for the purpose of robbing him. In the Medical Center Hospital intensive care unit since he was found unconscious and bleeding from the head near his 4108 Spartan Drive home, Sizemore died Wednesday night, triggering the upgrading of charges to capital murder from attempted capital murder. Michele Surratt, assistant county attorney and juvenile prosecutor, said Odessa defense attorney Dusty Gallivan has been hired to represent the only adult charged in the killing, 18-year-old Michael James Freeman of 1422 Tanglewood Lane. Surratt said local attorneys Tom Hirsch and Michael McLeaish will represent the 16-year-old boys, who are incarcerated at Ector County Youth Center. Surratt said she will try to certify both juveniles to stand trial as adults in time for their indictments to be considered by the same 161st District Court grand jury that hears the claims against Freeman. Surratt said an autopsy was performed on Sizemore's body Thursday in Lubbock and county and district attorney's prosecutors were awaiting the preliminary report. Court-at-Law Judge James Bobo, who also acts as the county's juvenile court judge, will hear the adult certification cases. Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Dennis Bright went to the county jail Friday morning and raised Freeman's bond from $50,000 to $500,000. "They killed this man for his money," Bright said. "It was a crime of opportunity, so I feared that if this guy was out, he might have that opportunity again." The youths are accused of capital murder, District Attorney John W. Smith said, because they are charged with killing Sizemore to rob him. One pre-requisite of capital murder is that a slaying occurred during the commission of another felony offense. The only 2 sentences a jury may consider after a capital murder conviction are life imprisonment or death, and Smith had not made a decision on whether to seek the death penalty against Freeman, he said. Texas law prohibits executing killers who were under age 17 when their crimes were committed. Clark said Sizemore worked for a drilling company and had just cashed a payroll check when he encountered the 3 young men at the home of a mutual friend in east Odessa. "They gave him a ride," Clark said, explaining that Sizemore didn't have a car. "Somebody was saying it was a drug deal gone bad, but we haven't approached it that way and have no reason to believe it was." Trujillo said the cell phone and address book were recovered, and Clark said the amount of money wasn't reported because "we don't know exactly how much he (Sizemore) spent during the day." Clark said the victim is not believed to have put up a fight and that the first blow was struck from the front. Asked if Sizemore might have struck Freeman, causing the swollen right eye that the suspect had when he was arrested, Clark said Freeman attributed the swelling "to allergies." He said officers aren't sure of the cause. The scene of Sizemore's beating was west of West Loop 338 and south of West 42nd Street, just off Mercedes Avenue, Clark said. He declined comment on whether the bat was recovered, citing the complexities of trying a capital murder case. An Ector County Law Enforcement Center jailer said Freeman hadn't previously been incarcerated there, but Sizemore had county and state records. Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons of Huntsville said Sizemore served two prison terms after convictions for delivery of cocaine in Ector County on Oct. 14, 1989, and parole revocation on a retaliation charge in Midland County on July 14, 1993. He was released from TDCJ for the 2nd time on July 17, 1995, Lyons said. The county jailer said Sizemore was incarcerated between early 1996 and last Dec. 9 on misdemeanor charges including attempted theft, family violence, driving while intoxicated, public intoxication, driving an uninsured vehicle and driving with his license suspended. (source: Odessa American) ***************************** County may seek death penalty in murder cases A Victoria man and woman have each been indicted by the grand jury on capital murder charges in separate cases of the death of 2 infants, and both could face the death penalty. Fred Valdez, a 26-year-old Victoria man, was indicted Thursday in connection with the Oct. 31, 2003, death of his 10-month-old stepdaughter, Loriean Fernandez, who died of trauma to the head, Victoria County District Attorney Dexter Eaves said Friday. Trish Badia, who's also 26 and of Victoria, was indicted Thursday on one count of capital murder, one count of murder, and 1 count of injury to a child in connection with the Oct. 28, 2002, death of her 3-month-old son, Jordan Badia, who died of blunt force trauma to the head, Eaves said. "There's no room in my book for someone who does this to a child," Eaves said. "Our children ... they have no way to defend themselves. It's beyond anything that I can imagine that a parent, or someone who is in charge of them, can do this. We want to protect our children." Eaves said he has not decided whether or not to seek the death penalty in each case. He said that evidence privy to only a select few supported his decision to ask the grand jury to indict each on capital murder charges, which could deliver the death penalty if Valdez and Badia are found guilty. Valdez was arrested shortly after the death of Loriean when the Victoria Police Department received a tip that the man they suspected of causing injury to a child was sleeping in his home in the 300 block of Fernwood Circle in Victoria. Since the arrest, Valdez's charge has been bumped to capital murder because, Eaves said, there was an intent to kill and special circumstances, which includes the harming or killing of a child who is younger than 6. Eaves said that Valdez hit Loriean against a wall or another solid surface and caused her death. He said Valdez was the only person in the room at the time, and the child was in his care. Eaves said an examination at a local hospital helped determine the cause of the child's death. "Doctors are especially trained to look for this specific type of injury, and they confirmed it through tests," he said. Once the medical examination was concluded, staff at Citizens Medical Center in Victoria notified police, according to a story published in the Advocate in November. The examination revealed that the child had died from a skull fracture in the right side of her head, and of massive hemorrhaging. Valdez told deputies he was at home alone with the infant that Halloween, and that the baby was asleep when he heard her having trouble breathing, according to police reports. Then he said the baby vomited, prompting him to call 911. Eaves is also convinced that Badia intentionally killed her 3-month-old son, Jordan, by violently shaking him or "pummeling him against the wall." He said the day Jordan died, Badia contacted her husband, who immediately retrieved the infant and rushed him to a local hospital, where doctors chose to fly the infant to a San Antonio hospital. Jordan died there. Children's Protective Services was called because the infant had bruises on his arm, and was suffering from brain hemorrhaging. Badia told officers that Jordan was injured when his 19-month-old sister was sitting on top of him, but doctors in San Antonio discredited the claim. Then Badia changed her story, telling officers she was holding the infant to her chest when she fell face-first on the kitchen floor, according to reports. A medical examiner, however, discredited that claim, too, saying the fall could not have caused the bleeding into the brain and skull fractures on both the right and left sides of the infant's head. Badia has posted bail, and is not in custody; Valdez, however, is in custody, having not posted bail. Eaves said the first available time that these cases could be tried would be in the fall of 2004 because of a hectic court docket. (source: Victoria Advocate) ************************* Case Open----No physical evidence. No witnesses. A recanted confession. So why is Max Soffar still on death row? I've seen Cool Hand Luke and The Green Mile. I like Steve Earle, but I'm not a prison reform activist. I'd never interviewed anyone on death row until the middle of January, when I picked up a telephone and looked through the clear plastic divider at the haunting reflection of my own humanity in the eyes of Max Soffar. Max doesn't have a lot of time and neither do I, so I'll try to keep it brief and to the point. "I'm not a murderer," he told me. "I want people to know that I'm not a murderer. That means more to me than anything. It means more to me than freedom." Somewhere along the line, Max's life fell between the cracks. A 6th-grade dropout whose IQ tests peg him as borderline mentally retarded, he grew up in Houston, where he was a petty burglar, an idiot-savant car thief, and a low-level if highly imaginative police snitch. He spent four years, he says, "in the nut house in Austin," where he remembers the guards putting on human cockfights: They would lock 2 11-year-olds in a cell, egg them on, and bet on which one would be able to walk out. Max ran away, and it's been pretty much downhill from there. For the past 23 years, since confessing to a cold-blooded triple murder at a Houston bowling alley, Max has been at his final station on the way: the Polunsky Unit, in Livingston. But he long ago recanted that confession, and many people, including a number of Houston-area law enforcement officers, think he didn't commit the crime. They say he told the cops what they wanted to hear after three days of interrogation without a lawyer present. At the very least, they say, Max's case is an example of everything that's wrong with the system. In the words of my friend Steve Rambam, who is Max's pro bono private investigator, "I'm not anti-death penalty; I'm just anti-the-wrong-guy-getting-executed." Another observer troubled by Max's case is Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals judge Harold R. DeMoss Jr., who wrote in 2002, after hearing Max's last appeal, "I have lain awake nights agonizing over the enigmas, contradictions, and ambiguities" in the record. Chief among these Kafka-esque elements is the fact that Max's state-appointed attorney was the late Joe Cannon, who was infamous for sometimes sleeping through his clients' capital murder trials. Cannon managed to stay awake for Max's, but he did not bother to interview the one witness who might have cleared him. There are, incidentally, ten men on death row who were clients of Cannon's. Then there's the evidenceWashington, D.C., lawyer who has been handling Max's case for more than 10 years, also on a pro bono basis, says it seemed cut-and-dried when he initially reviewed the file. "But the more we looked into it," he told me recently, "the facts and the confession didn't match up." Schropp discovered that there was no physical evidence linking Max to the crime. No eyewitnesses who placed him at the scene or saw him do it. 2 police lineups in which Max was not fingered. Missing polygraphs. If the facts had been before them, Schropp says, no jurors would have believed that the prosecution's case had eliminated all reasonable doubt. "When you peel away the layers of the onion," he says, "you find a rotten core." Okay, so what about the confession? Rambam says that when Max was arrested on August 5, 1980, for speeding on a stolen motorcycle, it was the third or fourth time he'd been caught for various offenses, and he thought he could deal his way out again, as he'd done before. The bowling alley murders had been highly publicized, and Max had seen the police sketch of the perpetrator, which he thought resembled a friend and sometime running buddy. Max and the friend were on the outsparents' houses, but after they robbed Max's parents' house, the friend renegedvolunteered that he knew something about the murders. Unfortunately, in his attempt to implicate his friend, he placed himself at the scene, and before long he became a target of the investigation himself. "The cops spoon-fed Max information, and he gave them what they wanted," Rambam says. "He was a confession machine. If he thought it would have helped him with the police, he would have confessed to kidnapping the Lindbergh baby." The trouble is, Max's confession actually, he made 3 different confessions contained conflicting information. First he claimed to be outside the bowling alley when the murders took place and that he only heard the shots. Then he said he was inside and saw it all go down. Then he said his friend shot two people and threw him the gun, whereupon he shot the other two; it was like a scene in an old western. The written record of Max's confession states there were two gunmen, himself and his friend; the only surviving victim, the witness Joe Cannon didn't bother to interview, says there was only one. Max also told the cops that he and his friend had killed some people and buried them in a field. The cops used methane probes and search dogs and found nothing. He claimed that they had robbed several convenience stores, which turned out never to have been robbed. Best of all, when the cops told him that the bowling alley had been burglarized the night before the murders, Max confessed to that crime as well. What he didn't know was that the burglars had already been arrested. "We won't be needing that confession," the homicide detective reportedly told him. After signing the murder confession, Max asked the officers, "Can I go home now?" You may be wondering: What about the friend? He was arrested solely on the basis of Max's confession but was released because there was no evidence (the same "evidence" was later considered good enough to put Max on death row). Nonetheless, at Max's trial, the prosecutor told the jury that the police knew that the friend was involved and that they planned to hunt him down once Max was dealt with. But it never happened, and for the past 23 years, the friend who is the son of a Houston cop has been living free as a bird, currently in Mississippi, with the long arm of the Texas law never once reaching out to touch him. Why? Good question. "It wasn't hard to run him down and pay him a visit," Rambam says. "I found his name in the phone book." Why would someone confess to a crime he didn't commit? A cry for help? A death wish? Perhaps it has to do with what the poet Kenneth Patchen once wrote: "There are so many little dyings, it doesn't matter which of them is death." As my interview with Max was ending, he placed his hand against the glass. I did likewise. He said he would like for me to be there with him at the execution if it happens. I hesitated. "You've come this far," he said. "Why go halfway?" I promised him I would be there. It's a promise I would dearly love not to have to keep. (source: Kinky Friedman, Texas Monthly) *************************** Russo gets life sentence for Holik's murder The man the Travis County district attorney calls 'a serial killer wannabe' skirted the death penalty Friday. Patrick Anthony Russo received a life sentence for strangling Diane Holik in her Northwest Austin home. In addition to the 40 years a life sentence carries, the judge also ordered Russo to serve 13 years of a previous conviction for kidnapping. The jury found him guilty of capital murder last week. They spent 13 hours deliberating his punishment before reacing the decision of life in prison. "It's a sad situation. Nobody wants to kill anybody, but at the same time Russo doesn't deserve to live. He didn't give Diane any mercy," says Holik family friend Sarah Byars. "He's my brother, what can I say? I still believe that he's an innocent. Man, I'm glad that the verdict was for life versus death penalty. We will appeal it," says Russo's sister Shannon. Russo will be 93 before he's considered for parole. (source: KVUE News) *********************** Camacho Trial Set The mother of the 3 Valley children beheaded in the attack last year finally has a court date; however, her attorney says she won't be put to death because she's mentally retarded. Angela Camacho is accused of helping her common law husband, John Allen Rubio, in the gruesome murders of their 3 children. Rubio was recently convicted and sentenced to death row. But the court still hasn't determined if Camacho is mentally fit to stand trial. A jury will decide that issue on May 3rd of this year. An expert is expected to examine Camacho's I.Q. very soon. Camacho's attorney says if her I.Q. is below 70, she'll be considered mentally retarded and won't face the death penalty. (source: KRGV News) ****************************** Jury: Death by lethal injection -- Sprouse sentenced to die for fatal shooting of Ferris officer Following 2 hours and 25 minutes of deliberation Thursday, an Ellis County jury sentenced Kent William Sprouse to death by lethal injection for the shooting death of Ferris Police officer Harry Marvin "Marty" Steinfeldt III. The 8-female, 4-male jury had convicted the 31-year-old Ferris man of capital murder on Tuesday, taking about 35 minutes to determine his guilt. Steinfeldt and innocent bystander Pedro Moreno died Oct. 6, 2002, at the Diamond Shamrock in Ferris. Sprouse also has been charged under a separate indictment with capital murder in Moreno's death. Following the formal sentencing by presiding Judge Gene Knize, emotional victims' impact statements were given in court by the slain officer's father, Harry "Butch" Steinfeldt Jr., and Michelle, his widow. "He was raised as a good kid. He learned to take people at face value and he loved people with an open heart. He cared about people," the elder Steinfeldt said, addressing Sprouse. "He was a good son and a good husband . . And you have taken all of that away. You have caused more sorrow and pain than you can ever imagine in this whole family. "And I'm talking about this family," the elder Steinfeldt said, gesturing toward a standing room only gallery of friends and family members for both his son and Moreno. "Marty touched people," his father said, continuing his emotional words, noting that Steinfeldt would have been the 4th of 5 living generations, with the birth of his daughter. "You have taken all of that away. You have taken a very valuable part of this family away," the elder Steinfeldt said. "We only have memories left, but those memories go on. Just like the day, Oct. 6, 2002, goes on with us." As she spoke, Michelle Steinfeldt held a photograph of her and her late husband's daughter toward Sprouse as she spoke, insisting that he look at the little girl, who was born several months after her father was killed in the line of duty. "I'm not just talking for myself. . I want you to look at her because she's too young to understand any of this. She's too young not to have a daddy who will ever take her to a dance, a daddy who won't be there to walk her down the aisle at her wedding," Michelle said. "Everything I'm saying to you is for the both of us so that someday I can tell her that I spoke for her, too." A tearful Michelle spoke of the deep love she shared with her husband, who was 28 when he died. "You have taken away the husband I loved and will love forever, a man of more morals and values than you can imagine," she said, noting that she had watched Sprouse throughout the trial, describing him as projecting an "air of arrogance" up until the sentence was read. "It was like you were thinking you had won because you had a shotgun and you killed a cop. You didn't win. You didn't win over Marty," she said, telling Sprouse he would never have what her husband had. "His friends and family thought the world of him," she said. "And you will never have a wife, who after just 14 months of marriage, had to go through this." None of that can be taken away with a shotgun or by force, she continued. "Marty will be remembered as a brave, brave man. You will be remembered as a coward that hid behind a car door. You are a destroyer of lives: our family's, the Moreno family's, and your own family's," she said, turning to where Sprouse's family members and friends sat on the other side of the courtroom. "And your family, their pain is more than I can imagine," she said, acknowledging their tears before continuing. "You didn't win, you didn't win. You won that one gunshot battle but nothing else," she said, saying that she didn't want to see any remorse now from Sprouse. "Not for me, not for our baby. It's too late." She and her daughter would be OK, Michelle said. "Now we have something special. We have our own angel watching over us, taking care of us. And one day, we're going to be all together again." For Sprouse to be sentenced to death, jurors had to unanimously answer each of 2 separate special issues. The 1st issue related to the probability of whether Sprouse would commit future acts of violence; the 2nd issue related to whether jurors found any mitigating circumstances in the case that would warrant sentencing him to capital life. Under a capital life sentence, Sprouse would have served at least 40 years before becoming eligible for parole. Under law, Sprouse will receive an automatic appeal of his case. During closing arguments, lead defense attorney Jim Jenkins told jurors that the state had not proved its case of future dangerousness and asked them to carefully consider all of the trial's testimony in determining the sentence. He argued that the state had to prove the probability of future dangerousness beyond a reasonable doubt. "That's not maybe, not probably, not clear and convincing, it's beyond a reasonable doubt," he said, arguing that it is impossible to determine the future. "Each of you has to decide that (special issue). Is it even logical? Is it even possible for any of you to even vote on an issue where you try to predict what someone will do? . Is it logical to vote 'yes' on a question that can lead to death?" Sprouse had no other history of arrests or convictions, only the acts of Oct. 6, 2002, Jenkins said. "We know that we can't take it back. And the death penalty - you can't take it back either - and the death penalty can't bring back those two gentlemen. We don't know how the death penalty can make anybody feel better. Would it make anybody feel better? It won't. It will not make anything better. "Do we hate Kenneth Sprouse? Or do we hate his acts of that day?" Jenkins said, asking that the jury return a sentence of capital life. "We know that the blood of Pedro Moreno will be on the hands of Kent Sprouse for a lifetime; we know that the blood of Marty Steinfeldt will be on his hands for a lifetime," Jenkins said, noting that each person on the jury had a vote. "And that vote will last for all time. It's your vote." The jury had the power to give life or death, Jenkins said. "Please use your oath, please use your power to give life." Lead prosecutor Cindy Hellstern said neither special issue should be decided in Sprouse's favor. "There's certainly a probability Kent Sprouse may commit future acts of violence," she said, noting the instructions said a jury "may" consider mitigating factors. "It says you may consider; it doesn't say you must." She said justice in the case applied not only to Sprouse but also to "all people here who survived Oct. 6, 2002." "These people will live every day, the rest of their lives, with the results of that offense. That won't ever change," she said. "We are also asking for justice for the people who didn't survive. For Pedro Moreno, who did absolutely nothing and got a bullet in the head, and Marty Steinfeldt, who answered that call, doing what we pray each police officer will do. "He responded without hesitation and put aside any fears for his own safety. He put aside his fear for his own family and he put himself between Kent Sprouse - who had a sawed off shotgun - and the other people he was sworn to protect," she said. "And for that, he died." Chief felony prosecutor Don Maxfield described again for jurors the events of Oct. 6, 2002, which he said began with Sprouse taking a "fully loaded shotgun . to the convenience store on a Sunday afternoon." Sprouse shot at two people at a pay phone before shooting Moreno through a gas pump, Maxfield said. "What does that tell you about Kent William Sprouse? . He knew exactly who he was aiming at and shooting. "He shoots Pedro Moreno and down he goes. And right here, based on the evidence in this case and his 15 years of being a drug abuser, right here I could make a strong argument that he will commit future acts of violence, because 2 minutes and 19 seconds later, he did," Maxfield said. " . 2 minutes and 19 seconds after shooting Pedro Moreno, while Pedro Moreno is still breathing in his own blood, he (Sprouse) shoots officer Steinfeldt. And then what does he do? Six seconds later, he shoots Marty Steinfeldt again, who is lying on the ground. Right there, we're way beyond a reasonable doubt about his committing future acts of violence." Maxfield also praised the slain officer's actions, noting that by interrupting "a killing spree" Steinfeldt paid "the ultimate price for the safety of everyone at the filling station that day." "Marty Steinfeldt returned fire and in that hail of bullets Kent William Sprouse is wounded. And I submit to you that officer Steinfeldt saved lives because now that Kent Sprouse was wounded severely he had to think of his own safety (and) run away," Maxfield said, noting that the injured Sprouse surrendered to the second officer arriving on the scene. "He sure didn't cooperate for Marty Steinfeldt. What does that tell you about Kent William Sprouse? It tells you he's a cold-blooded murderer. "It took 30 years for him to kill Pedro Moreno and it only took him 2 minutes and 19 seconds to kill again. What does that tell you?" Maxfield told the jurors, noting that Sprouse's drug use should be considered aggravating, not mitigating. Sprouse's rights had been protected throughout the entire process, Maxfield continued. "Now it's time to protect the victims." A verdict in favor of the death sentence would not put blood on the jurors' hands, but would be on Sprouse's own hands, Maxfield said. "Your verdict has to be heard in this case. Your verdict has to tell everyone in Ellis County that 'yes,' if you kill a police officer in the line of duty that 'yes,' you will get the death penalty. . Do it for the police officers out here, for the victims, for the citizens of Ellis County," he said. (source: Waxahachie Daily Light) ************************ Museum makes you think about capital punishment I saw "Old Sparky," the Texas electric chair, last weekend. The high-backed chair, where 361 men were executed between 1924 and 1964, is the main attraction of the Texas Prison Museum, just off Interstate 45 on the north side of Huntsville. It's a chilling experience to stand a mere 4 feet from the infamous chair where condemned men were told to "have a seat, please." It made me wonder how exhibiting such a grisly killing machine helps or hinders the cause of those arguing for or against capital punishment. "I don't think it is pro- or anti-death penalty," said Diane Clements of Houston, director of Justice for All, a victims-assistance organization that favors capital punishment. "It's just a part of our history." One death-penalty opponent, Rick Halpern of Dallas, agrees, saying that the electric chair, which replaced hanging, speaks to the cruelties of capital punishment. But death by lethal injection, which replaced the electric chair, is also cruel, contends Halpeirn, president of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. He would like the museum to show more flaws of capital punishment, such as the names of those he says were unjustly executed. Jim Willett, director of the museum, said one goal of the privately funded museum is to educate people about the prison system. In doing so, it attempts to go "right down the middle" on the death-penalty issue, he said. Among the museum's curiosities are a pearl-handled pistol Bonnie Parker had with her when she and Clyde Barrow were killed by law officers and a letter from Barrow telling Henry Ford that he preferred to use Ford V-8s as getaway cars. On display are contraband knives, which were made by convicts; handcuffs; and leg irons. On sale are wallets, key rings and artwork done by prisoners. Visitors can have their picture taken in a prison cell. Exhibits include a "Stop Executions" sign and a burned American flag, which are artifacts of protests outside the Huntsville prison. Also, there is a mug shot of Karla Faye Tucker, a convicted murderer who in 1998 became the 1st woman in Texas to be executed since 1863. Amid worldwide protests, this born-again Christian died by lethal injection after uttering the words, "I'm going to be face to face with Jesus now." Willett is a retired warden of "The Walls" unit, where he presided over 89 executions from 1998 to 2001. "I can see good arguments on both sides of the death penalty," he said. "If my daughter were murdered, I would want the one who did it put to death. But as a Christian, I have some problems" with capital punishment. Since moving from downtown Huntsville into a new 10,000-square-foot building in late 2002, the museum's attendance has doubled to 23,000 in 2003. It draws visitors from all over the world. As I stared at the electric chair, I thought of a fellow journalist, the late Don Reid, former publisher of the Huntsville Item, who saw 189 men strain against the leather straps of the chair as they were electrocuted. His book Eyewitness, written with John Gurwell and reissued by Sam Houston State University's Texas Review Press under the title of Have a Seat, Please, is one of the museum's top-selling items. Reid became a counselor to many death row inmates and, after reporting on his 94th execution, began crusading against capital punishment. He helped 6 inmates get off death row. He contended that the death penalty is inhumane, not a deterrent and not equitably administered. Wherever he is, I'm sure Reid is hoping that all instruments of the execution process will someday join the noose and "Old Sparky," relegated to being only a part of human history. 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