US v Briseno - Life Sentence
On March 6, 2015, a jury sentenced Juan Briseno to life. The jury had previously convicted Briseno of several gang-related killings. Click here for full news article.
U.S. v. Stone (EDCA) - Death Notice Withdrawn
Sammy Stone was charged with the 2003 murder of his cellmate at USP Atwater. Attorney General Holder authorized the case for a capital prosecution in 2012, but then approved Ms. Stone's request to deauthorize the case and authorized a plea to a life sentence. Click here for full news article.
U.S. v. Angela Johnson (D. Ia) - Death notice withdrawn - December 2014
Angela Johnson was convicted and sentenced to death in 2005. In 2012, her death sentences were vacated in 2255 proceedings based on ineffective assistance of counsel claims. The government withdrew its notice to seek the death penalty shortly before a new sentencing trial was set to begin. Click here for full news article.
US v Sanders (WD LA) - Death Verdict
On September 26th a jury sentenced Thomas Sanders to death for the kidnapping and murder of a 12-year-old girl. Click here for news story.
U.S. v. Hammer (EDPA) - Life Sentence
On July 17, 2014, a federal judge sentenced David Paul Hammer to life for the murder of his cellmate at Allenwood Penitentiary. Click here for full news story.
U.S. v. Williams (D HI) - Life Sentence
On June 28, 2014, jurors - after deliberating for 7 days - announced that they could not reach a unanimous verdict as to the sentence for Naeem Williams whom they had convicted of killing his 5-year-old daughter. Click here for full news story.
U.S. v. Coonce and Hall (WDMO) - Death Sentence
On June 2, 2014, Wesley Coonce and Charles Hall were sentenced to death for killing another inmate. Click here for full news story.
U.S. v. Montgomery (Tenn.) - Notice of Death Withdrawn
On May 22, 2014, Chastain Montgomery pleaded guilty to killing two postal workers. The government withdrew its notice to seek the death penalty and Montgomery will be sentenced to life in prison. Click here for full news story.
U.S. v. Torrez (EDVA) - Death Sentence
On April 24, 2014 a federal jury recommended a death sentence for Jorge Torrez, a former Marine convicted of killing a fellow service member. Click here for news article.
U.S. v. McCluskey (DNM) - Life Sentence (Dec. 11, 2013)
A jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision in the sentencing trial of John McCluskey; therefore, he will receive a life sentence. Click here for news story.
U.S. v. Jacques (D. Vt.) - Case deauthorized (August 2013)
A month before jury selection was scheduled to begin, the Department of Justice reconsidered its initial decision to pursue the death penalty and agreed to settle the case in exchange for a guilty plea. Click here for news story.
U.S. v. Wilson (EDNY) - Death Sentence
At his re-sentencing, Ronell Wilson was sentenced to death for the murders of two undercover police detectives. Click here for full news story.
U.S. v. Gabrion - Sixth Circuit En Banc Opinion Affirms Convictions and Death Sentence, May 28, 2013
United States v. Gabrion, __ F.3d __, No. 02-1386/1461/1570 (6th Cir. May 28, 2013) (en banc).
In an opinion authored by Judge Kethledge and joined by 10 other judges, the Sixth Circuit affirmed Marvin Gabrion’s conviction and death sentence. The en banc court had granted the government’s rehearing petition after a panel had reversed the death sentence based on the district court’s refusal to (1) allow the defense to present or discuss, as mitigation, the longstanding policy against the death penalty in the State of Michigan, where the crime occurred and defendant was being prosecuted federally only because the victim’s body was found about 200 feet within the boundaries of a national forest; and (2) to instruct that aggravating factors must outweigh mitigating ones “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The majority opinion addressed these two and several other issues. In a separate opinion, Judge Clay concurred in the judgment, but said the majority’s reasoning and language was too broad. Judge Moore, joined by three other judges, dissented in a separate opinion. She would have granted relief on the two issues the panel relied on, as well as on an issue the panel had expressed concern about but reserved decision on, the imbalance in the way the district court disqualified pro-death-penalty and anti-death-penalty jurors.
Click arrow above for full summary.
U.S. v. Northington (EDPA) - Life Sentence
On June 13, 2013, a jury unanimously recommended a life sentence for Steven Northington, the co-defendant of Kaboni Savage who was sentenced to death earlier this month. Click here for news article.
U.S. v. Kaboni Savage (EDPA) - Death Sentence
On May 31, 2013, Kaboni Savage was sentenced to death after being convicted of 12 murders. Click here for full news article.
U.S. v. Jimenez-Bencevi (DPR) - Life Sentence
On April 30, 2013, Xavier Jimenez Bencevi was convicted of murdering a federal witness. On May 1, 2013, the jury in a unanimous verdict sentenced Mr. Jimenez Bencevi rejected the death penalty and recommended a life sentence.
U.S. v. Lashaun Casey (DPR) - Life Sentence
A second Puerto Rico trial in the past month has ended in a life sentence. Click here for news article.
U.S. v. Candelario (D. PR) - Life Sentence
A jury in Puerto Rico sentenced Alexis Candelario Santana to life yesterday. Click here for the full article.
Fifth Circuit Affirms Convictions and Death Sentence (U.S. v. Snarr and Garcia)
United States v. Garcia & Snarr, __ F.3d __, No. 10-40525 (5th Cir. Jan. 8, 2013) (King, Stewart, Owen). (Click arrow next to title for full summary). Click here for full opinion.
This decision, which comes just 34 days after oral argument, affirms two codefendants’ convictions and death sentences imposed under the FDPA, for a prisoner killing at USP Beaumont.
The decision marks the first by any circuit holding execution-impact evidence inadmissible at a FDPA sentencing hearing, though it provides little analysis on this issue.
While rejecting the government’s argument that it lacked jurisdiction to review a challenge to the death sentence based on Chief Judge Edith Jones’s cuts in funding for defense experts, the panel rejected that challenge on the merits.
Life Verdict - U.S. v. Burgos (D.PR), September 28, 2012
A jury rejected the death penalty for Edison Burgos Montes, who was convicted of killing an informant for the DEA. Click here for news story.
Life Sentence - U.S. v. Richardson (NDGA)
After convicting Brian Richardson of murder in a BOP homicide case, they were unable to return a unanimous penalty phase verdict. Click here for news story.
2255 Relief Granted - Angela Johnson v. U.S. (N.D. Iowa)
Judge Mark Bennett – in a lengthy opinion – vacated Angela Johnson's death sentence based on ineffective assistance of trial counsel claims. Click here for a news story. Click here for the full opinion.
Capital Prosecution Authorized in U.S. v. Torrez (EDVA)
On February 29, 2012, prosecutors indicated that the government would seek the death penalty against Jorge Torrez if he is convicted of the killing of a Navy Petty Officer. Click here for full news story.
Sixth Circuit Grants Rehearing En Banc, U.S. v. Gabrion - Nov. 17, 2011
On November 17, 2011, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals granted rehearing en banc and vacated the previous opinion granting penalty phase relief. For the order granting rehearing, click here. For the previous order granting relief, click here.
Life Sentence - U.S. v. Lujan (New Mexico) - October 5, 2011
On October 5, 2011, after a federal jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict, Larry Lujan received a life sentence. For full news story, click here.
U.S. v. Azikiwe Aquart (D. Conn.) - Life Sentence (plea agreement)
On August 26, 2011, Azikiwe Aquart pled guilty and avoided a capital trial scheduled for October. He will be formally sentenced to life imprisonment in November. Azikiwe Aquart's brother, Azibo Aquart, was sentenced to death earlier this year. Click here for full news story.
Court rules that defendant suffers from mental retardation (U.S. v. Smith, EDLA) - June 2011
On June 23, 2011, a district court ruled that Joseph Smith suffers from mental retardation and is, therefore, ineligible for the death penalty. In a lengthy opinion addressing numerous aspects of a retrospective mental retardation assessment, the court addressed, inter alia, the following issues: suggestions that the IQ scores were unreliable due to malingering; concerns raised about the scoring of adaptive functioning measures; suggestions that the defendant's adaptive functioning deficits were actually behavioral deficits, and; problems inherent in relying upon correctional officers to supply adaptive functioning information. Click here for the full opinion.
Death Sentence in U.S. v. Aquart (D. Ct.) - June 15, 2011
A Connecticut jury sentenced Azibo Aquart to death for murdering two people and was
unable to reach a unanimous decision as to the appropriate sentence for a
third murder. Click here for a full news story.
Life Sentence - U.S. v. Basciano (EDNY) - June 1, 2011
After deliberating for less than 2 hours a unanimous jury rejected the death penalty and sentenced Vincent Basciano to life imprisonment for the murder of a Bonanno family associate. Click here for full news story.
Fourth Circuit Affirms Denial of Batson Relief, U.S. v. Barnette (WD NC 2011)
On May 3, 2011, a panel of the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Batson relief in United States v. Barnette. The case had previously been GVR'ed by the United States Supreme Court in light of Miller-El v. Dretke. Both the majority (written by Davis) and the concurrence (written by Keenan) found procedural errors in the district court's handling of the Batson remand but determined that the errors were harmless. Click here for the full opinion.
Life Sentence - U.S. v. Duong (NDCA), December 15, 2010
On December 15, 2010, a federal jury sentenced Anh The Duong to life in
prison. Mr. Duong was previously sentenced to death in California state
court for 4 murders that occurred in a nightclub in 1999. Federal
prosecutors in the Northern District of California indicted Mr. Duong in
a 29-count, multi-defendant racketeering indictment, alleging 3 capital
homicides (arising out of a string of robberies), and an additional 5
RICO ACT murders. Click here for news article.
U.S. v. Stitt (EDVA) - Death Notice Withdrawn
Richard Stitt was originally sentenced to death in 1998, but his death
sentence was vacated in 2255 proceedings. Prior to the resentencing
trial, the government withdrew its notice of intent to seek the death
penalty. Click here for full news article.
Life Sentence - U.S. v. O'Reilly (EDMI) - August 25, 2010
Timothy O'Reilly, having been convicted of murdering an armored car guard during a robbery, was sentenced to life. Click here for full news story.
Fourth Circuit Affirms Death Sentence in U.S. v. Lighty - August 11, 2010
On August 11, 2010, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the convictions and
death sentence of Kenneth Lighty. While the Court generally found that
the "actions of the Assistant United States Attorneys handling [the
trial] unnecessarily introduced error into it, such error is not
reversible." The errors – albeit harmless – which the Court found
included: (1) erroneous admission of unrelated murder in the
guilt-or-innocence phase of the trial; (2) the prosecution argument
that the victim's family wanted the death penalty. Click here for the full opinion.
Death Notice Withdrawn - U.S. v. Wilver Lopez (EDNY) - July 13, 2010
On July 13, 2010, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York withdrew the
notice of intent to seek the death penalty in the case against Wilver
Lopez who is charged with killing fellow MS-13 gang members.
Second Circuit Vacates Death Sentence, U.S. v. Wilson - June 30, 2010
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the death sentence of
Ronell Wilson who had been convicted and sentenced to death for the
murders of two undercover police detectives.The Court of Appeals agreed with Wilson that two prosecution arguments were improper.
The government argued (1) that Wilson rather than pleading guilty - and
demonstrating acceptance of responsibility - had forced the government
to prove its case and (2) that Wilson could have taken the witness
stand rather than simply allocuted. The Court found that the first
argument unconstitutionally burdened Wilson's right to a jury trial. The
second government argument, the Court found, violated Wilson's Fifth
Amendment right not to testify even though he had allocuted, which
resulted in a limited - but not total - waiver of his rights under the Fifth Amendment.
Noting that no juror found that Wilson had accepted responsibility or
showed remorse and every juror had found that Wilson presented a risk
of future dangerousness, the Court found that these two constitutional
errors were not harmless. Click here for the full opinion.
Fifth Circuit Affirms U.S. v. Len Davis - June 16, 2010
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Len Davis's death sentence. Inter alia, the Court found: evidence was sufficient to support a future dangerousness finding despite 11-years of violence-free conduct in prison preceding resentencing; no plain error in prosecutor's questioning of witnesses and closing argument suggesting defendant's participation in or knowledge of other crimes; prosecutor's remarks restating victim impact testimony which focused on defendant's failure to apologize did not constitute plain Fifth Amendment error, and; no plain error in government argument that a life sentence would be a "freebie" since defendant was already serving a life sentence. Click here for opinion.
Death Sentence in U.S. v. Snarr and Garcia (EDTX), May 24, 2010
Mark Snarr and Edgar Garcia were sentenced to death for the murder of a prisoner at USP Beaumont. Click here for full news story.
On remand from 4th Circuit, district court denies Batson claim, May 19, 2010
In U.S. v. Barnette (WDNC), the district court – on remand from the Fourth Circuit in light of Miller-El v. Dretke,
545 U.S. 231 (2005) – denied the defense Batson claim. On its way to
denying the claim the district court denied the defense request for
discovery and precluded the defense from relying on evidence, which was
not presented at the original Batson hearing. Moreover, the court
limited its consideration to arguments that were raised at the Batson
hearing (and not otherwise waived on appeal) and the issues raised on
appeal. The court then accepted the prosecutor's reasons for striking
the jurors in question and rejected the defense comparative analysis
arguments. Click here to read the full opinion.
U.S. v. Johnson (EDLA) – Judge vacates death sentence, May 18, 2010
District court, on a Rule 33 motion, vacates death sentence and remands
for a new penalty phase after finding numerous trial errors including:
admission of improper victim impact evidence; discovery violation
related to this victim impact evidence; introduction of unadjudicated
murder which the jury found was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt,
and; improper government argument in the penalty phase which (a)
compared worth of defendant and victim, (b) compared conditions of a
life sentence to the permanency of the victim's death, and (c)
pressured the jury into believing that a life sentence would be a
capitulation. Click here for full opinion.
U.S. v. Basciano (EDNY) – Judge expresses concerns, May 13, 2010
In United States v. Basciano, District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis
has requested that Attorney General Holder reconsider the government's
decision to seek the death penalty. Click here for full news article.
Life Sentence - U.S. v. Lecco (SD WVa) - May 3, 2010
On May 3, 2010 a federal jury sentenced George Lecco to life in prison.
Lecco was convicted of ordering the 2005 killing of a federal drug
informant. In 2007, Lecco and codefendant Valerie Friend were sentenced
to death; however, that sentence was vacated because of juror
misconduct. For a full news article, click here.
Life Sentence – U.S. v. Phillips (EDPA) – April 28, 2010
After convicting Maurice Phillips of running a cocaine-distribution
network and ordering the killing of a federal informant, the jury
sentenced him to life on Wednesday. Click here for full news article.
Death Sentence – U.S. v. Umana (WDNC) – April 28, 2010
Alejandro Umana, an MS-13 gang member, was sentenced to death for the 2007 murders of two brothers in a Greensboro, NC restaurant. Click here for full news article.
U.S. v. Atwater (NC) - Deauthorized, April 19, 2010
After the case was deauthorized, Demario Atwater pled guilty to the
murder of a University of North Carolina student body president. He will be sentenced to life imprisonment at a subsequent hearing. For full news story, click here.