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Tag: Louisiana

Parker: Supreme Court to Decide Three Thorny Capital Cases

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

The U.S. Supreme Court will begin its 2015-2016 term with oral arguments in October on three tough cases on capital punishment from the minority of states which still maintain a de facto death penalty.

Ross Parker

Ross Parker

In Kansas v. Carr, Gleason, the issues presented involve the trial judge’s instruction to the jury and the question of joinder and severance for two defendants during the sentencing proceeding. Carr and Gleason were brothers who were convicted of a series of brutal rapes and murders during a crime spree in Wichita, Kansas in 2000. There was little doubt as to the result of the guilt phase of the trial.

During the death penalty hearing the judge denied the defendants’ request for severance of their cases. The defendants’ case of mitigation was in the words of the Kansas Supreme Court, “so weak it would not pull the skin off of rice pudding.” Although the evidence was not openly antagonistic between the two defendants, the appellate court later speculated that some of the evidence may not have been admitted against both defendants if there had been separate proceedings. The jury’s verdict was death.

The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed the convictions but reversed the sentences as a violation of the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The joint proceeding deprived the defendants of an individualized sentence determination. The court went on to hold that the trial judge should have instructed the jury that the defendant need not prove mitigating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, the judge had instructed that each juror should assess and weigh the mitigating circumstances.

Predicting the Court’s decisions in the emotion-packed morass of death penalty cases is never easy but not as difficult as divining the rationales of each Justice to support her/his vote. Separating the ultimate result from the nuance of the legal issue without distorting the evolution of the case law in non-capital cases has been a tortured exercise for decades. The defendants point to little concrete harm that resulted from the joinder, but this seems the better issue for them. The instruction issue seems less persuasive.

Hurst v Florida

The following week, October 13th, the Court will hear the case of Hurst v. Florida on whether its previous case of Ring v. Arizona should be extended to void the Florida practice of making the jury’s sentence verdict as only advisory to the trial judge, who makes the decision on a penalty of death, as well as issues on how the jury goes about deciding the advisory verdict.

Timothy Lee Hurst was convicted of the brutal murder of a co-worker in a Popeye’s Fried Chicken restaurant in Escambia County Florida in 1998. The psychologists testified that Hurst’s IQ was between 69 and 78 and therefore not ineligible for the death penalty as being “retarded.”

The jury’s advisory verdict to the trial judge did not identify which “aggravators” they found or whether a majority agreed on a single theory. They voted 7-5 to recommend death. This procedure leaves open the possibility that less than a majority agreed on a single aggravating circumstance, which would justify the jury’s recommendation. The trial judge conducted his own hearing on the issue and ultimately sentenced Hurst to death.

Read more »

FBI Agent Shot Trying to Rescue 9-Year-Old from Kidnapper

Jessie Williams, 24

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

An FBI agent was shot and wounded while trying to rescue a 9-year-old girl from a kidnapper in a Louisiana hotel Tuesday, the Associated Press reports. 

The agent was struck in the leg and will survive. The 24-year-old kidnapping suspect, however, died after a member of the FBI task force shot him.

An investigation into the kidnapping of the Texas girl led authorities to a Days Inn near Shrevoport, La.

“They encountered the suspect and a struggle ensued. During the struggle, an FBI agent was shot,” a brief FBI statement said.

The suspect was identified as Jessie Williams.

District Attorney Awaits Results of FBI Probe into 22-Year-Old’s Death in Police Car

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

How could 22-year-old Victor White III fatally shoot himself while handcuffed in the back of a police car in New Iberia, La.?

The Louisiana State Police completed its investigation of the unusual case, but the 16th Judicial District Attorney Phil Haney said his office will await the results of a separate FBI probe, The Town Talk reports.

“We’re going to reach out to the family through their attorney,” he said.

Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal said he sympathized with White and his family.

“In my opinion, this was a tragic loss of life and it is difficult to understand why it happened,” Ackal said in a statement.

White was in the back of a police car after being arrested March 2 for possession of marijuana and cocaine when police said he shot himself in the chest.

Family members are suspicious, finding it difficult to believe that White managed to shoot himself in the chest while handcuffed and after being searched by police.

FBI Raids Homer Police Department As Part of Tight-Lipped Investigation

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

FBI agents raided the Homer Police Department in Louisiana Friday as part of an investigation into the department, the Shreveport Times reports.

Agents executed a search warrant announced, the FBI confirmed to the Times.

The nature of the investigation is unclear but officers were told to turn over their Tasers, the Times wrote.

The investigation comes as the city tries to do away with the police force to save money.

Louisiana Shootout Suspects Probed for Link to Domestic Terrorism

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Some of the suspects in the fatal shootout with Louisiana deputies have ties to violent anarchists on the FBI’s domestic terrorism watch lists, the Associated Press reports.

The FBI is joining the investigation of Thursday’s shootout in Laplace, La., where two deputies were killed and two more wounded, police said.

At least some of the seven suspects were adherents to the “sovereign citizens” movement, which believes people are free from the responsibilities of a U.S. citizen, such as laying taxes, according to the AP.

The movement has been linked to threats against judges and law enforcement as well as fake currency.

Stephen Richardson to Head FBI’s Mobile, Ala. Office

Steve Richardson/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Stephen E. Richardson, an inspector with the Office of Inspections, is leaving the mothership at headquarters and heading south to take charge of the Mobile, Ala. FBI office.

Richardson began his career with the FBI in 1996 and was first assigned to the New Orleans Division, Lafayette Resident Agency, and later the Baton Rouge Resident Agency.

In 2002, he moved up to supervisory special agent of the Safe Street and Gang Unit, Criminal Investigative Division at headquarters.

The next year, he was assigned to the Counterterrorism Division as a program manager, where he supervised terrorism investigations throughout the eastern region of the nation. In 2004, he was promoted to unit chief of the FBI Counterterrorism Watch Center, where he oversaw threats made to the United States.

In 2005, he became a supervisory agent in the Memphis Division and in 2009 he was promoted to assistant special agent in charge of the Richmond Division’s Criminal, Cyber, and Administrative Programs and oversaw the Roanoke, Bristol, and Lynchburg Resident Agencies. In January 2011, Richardson was promoted to his most recent position as inspector with the Office of Inspections.

FBI-State Police Probing New Orleans Saints Wiretapping Allegations

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Pro football can be a dirty sport on the field, and apparently sometimes off the field.

An FBI-Louisiana State Police task force is investigating allegations that the New Orleans Saints set up general manager Mickey Loomis’ booth at the Superdome so he could eavesdrop on opposing coaches, the Associated Press reported.

State police Col. Mike Edmonson told the AP that investigators were looking to see if state or federal wiretap laws were broken.

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Three Grown Men Plead Guilty to Taunting Black Middle Schoolers

 

Thomas Perez

 
By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

The FBI announced on Wednesday the sentencing of three grown men for taunting African-American middle school students in Louisiana.

James Lee Wallis, Tony L. Johnson and Brial Wallis admitted to hanging a dead raccoon from a noose on a flagpole in front of Beekman Junior High School, in Beekman, Morehouse Parish, Louisiana, out of anger at the school’s new busing policy. They admitted to wanting to scare African-American students away from the school.

James Lee got eight months, Brian Wallis got five months and Johnson got six months, while all three received an additional year of supervised release, during which they must attend a “cultural diversity and sensitivity program,” says the FBI.

“Every child, regardless of race, is entitled to an education free from intimidation or discrimination,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division in a statement. “Unfortunately, acts of hate such as this one are all too common in this country in 2012.”