Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Baby Grace is Riley Ann Sawyers

Woops! I'm a bit late with this update, but just in case there is someone out there who does not know, or someone reading this who wonders why I haven't updated, this is the most recent news of that little girl whom the Galveston Police called, Baby Grace.

The police are now almost certain, according to this report on 26th November, that Baby Grace is two year-old Riley Ann Sawyers.

ABC News

"Kimberly Ann Trenor, 19, and her 24-year-old husband, Royce Clyde Zeigler, both of Spring, Texas, are being held in connection with the 2-year-old girl's death on charges of injuring a child and tampering with evidence. The two remain in custody in Galveston County jail, each on $350,000 bond.

After Sawyers died, Trenor said in the affidavit to the Sheriff's Office, Zeigler covered the child in a purple towel and the pair then went to a Wal-Mart to purchase items to hide and dispose of the body, including a blue plastic container, bleach, a shovel and latex gloves.

According to the affidavit, Trenor said Zeigler hid the container with the remains in a storage shed for two months before the pair tossed the container into the water off Galveston Causeway.

Meanwhile, Sawyers' father and grandmother publicly wept Monday as they demanded justice in the child's "heinous" death."

It is so sad that the person who should have loved and protected little Riley Ann was responsible for her suffering and death, according to the reported details of the affidavit attributed to Riley Ann's mother, Kimberly Ann Trenor. If Kimberly and her husband are found guilty, which seems likely, I hope they both get sent to prison for life with no prospect of parole.

Rest in peace now, little Riley. No more suffering.

Rodney Reed On Death Row In Texas

Information taken from the Daily Texan online.

Daily Texan online

Rodney Reed has spent the last ten years on death row in a Texas prison. He was found guilty of the murder of 20 year-old Stacey Stites, whose body was dumped by the side of a road in Bastrop, Texas, eleven years ago.

Rodney is a black man who was found guilty of the crime by an all-white jury, in spite of what the lawyers presenting Rodney's appeal for a new trial, report as strong evidence linking other people to the crime.

"......including Stites' fiance Jimmy Fennell, to the murder. Last week, Fennell, who is now a police officer in Georgetown, Texas, was indicted by a grand jury on a charge of sexually assaulting a woman in custody at gunpoint, and he was placed on administrative leave from his job. At the time of Stites' death, Fennell was a police officer in Giddings, a town just east of Bastrop."

The evidence linking Jimmy Fennell to the murder of Stacey Stites is, according to the article, more compelling than that linking Rodney Reed.

"The amount of evidence pointing to Fennell in Stites' murder case is overwhelming. In two polygraph tests taken after Stites's murder, Fennell failed the question, "Did you strangle Stacy Stites?" According to a May 13, 1998, Department of Public Service report, fresh beer cans found at the crime scene contained DNA from Stites and two of Fennell's friends, police officers David Hall and Ed Salmela (the original investigator for the case). Furthermore, the truck alledgedly used to transport Stites' body contained fingerprints from only Fennell and Stites and was handed over to Fennell the day it was discovered. Fennell sold the truck the next day."

So, the truck which was allegedly used to carry the body contained fingerprints (allegedly) only from Fennell and Stites. It was returned to Fennell, who sold it the next day? There goes some of the evidence!

"The main evidence linking Reed to the murders is a semen sample containing Reed's DNA, which was taken from the scene of the crime. That can easily be explained by the sexual relationship he and Stites allegedly had before her death."

Beer cans at the scene of the dumped body, showing DNA from Stites and two of Fennell's friends, plus fingerprints in a truck, which was allegedly used to dump the body, only from Stites and Fennell. Semen from Rodney Reed at the scene. It appears to me that there is a strong case for a retrial.

"Reed has been sitting on death row for more than 10 years for a crime he very likely did not commit. The Bastrop County prosecutors should open the case and start a new investigation into his claims of innocence. In the meantime, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which has Reed's case in their hands, should order a new trial in which the jury can hear all of the new evidence."

More info at: Free Rodney Reed

New Jersey Nears Repeal of Death Penalty

New York Times, Tuesday 11th December, 2007. New jersey comes closer to repealing the death penalty after Monday's vote in the State Senate.

New York Times

Published: December 11, 2007

TRENTON, Dec. 10 — The New Jersey Senate voted Monday to make the state the first in the country to repeal the death penalty since 1976, when the United States Supreme Court set guidelines for the nation’s current system of capital punishment.

State Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, sponsor of a bill to repeal New Jersey’s death penalty, at the Senate Monday.

Approval in the Senate was seen as the biggest obstacle to the repeal, and in the end, it passed 21 to 16, receiving the bare minimum number of votes required in the 40-seat chamber. Three senators did not vote.

Legislators on both sides of the debate said they expected the measure to pass easily on Thursday in the General Assembly, where Democrats hold 50 of the 80 seats.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine, a Democrat and a staunch opponent of the death penalty, has said he would sign a measure ending executions.

“Today New Jersey can become a leader, an inspiration to other states,” Senator Robert Martin, a Republican from Morris Plains who voted for the bill, said during Monday’s debate.

For those opposed to capital punishment, New Jersey’s repeal would represent a victory that has eluded them in the modern history of the death penalty. Though legislatures across the country have tried to abolish capital punishment since 1976, none have succeeded. This year alone, the legislatures in Nebraska, Montana, Maryland and New Mexico have debated bills to repeal those states’ death penalties, but each measure failed, often by a slim margin.

So far, opponents of the death penalty have succeeded only through court rulings, including the decision in 2004 declaring New York’s capital punishment statute unconstitutional, or through moratoriums imposed by a governor, as in Illinois and Maryland.

“What New Jersey is going to do is have a legislature-initiated repeal, and that’s different,” said Frankin E. Zimring, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

Opponents of the death penalty said Monday that they hoped New Jersey’s action would give new energy to movements in states that have recently voted down repeal bills, and would serve as a catalyst for other states to revisit their laws on capital punishment.

Diann Rust-Tierney, executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said: “The New Jersey Legislature did the right thing. And we think we’ll be seeing more state legislatures saying, ‘We don’t want the death penalty.’”

While the Senate vote mainly broke down along party lines, four Republicans did break from the party leadership and vote for the bill. Three of them — Mr. Martin, James J. McCullough of Atlantic County and Joseph A. Palaia of Deal — will not be returning to the Senate when the new Legislature is seated next month. Three Democrats voted against the bill.

Earlier Monday, a bill to replace the death penalty with a sentence of life in prison with no parole was approved on a 5-1 vote by the Assembly’s Law and Public Safety Committee.

Because the Senate voted during a lame-duck legislative session, legislators who might otherwise have voted against the bill were afforded some political cover — a factor that may have tipped the balance.

Mr. McCullough said Monday that he arrived at his decision over the summer after meeting with law enforcement officials and the family of a murder victim. “That’s the right thing to do,” he said. “I’m an outgoing senator.”

But opponents of the bill were sharply critical of Senate Democratic leaders for scheduling a vote during a lame-duck session, when issues of such import are seldom taken up.

“Why not let this go to the new session?” asked Senator Robert W. Singer, a Republican.

Robert Blecker, a professor at New York Law School who testified on Monday before the Assembly committee, called the process a “charade” and criticized lawmakers for not allowing for more time to debate the bill. “You’ll go where you want to go,” he said. “You’ll abolish the death penalty in New Jersey, and the world will watch.”

Since the legislative elections on Nov. 6, the process to repeal New Jersey’s death penalty has unfolded swiftly. The Senate president, Richard J. Codey, and the Assembly speaker, Joseph J. Roberts, both Democrats, placed bills abolishing capital punishment at the top of their agendas for the lame-duck session, and called for votes to be taken by the end of the year.

Supporters of the bill said the process was not rushed and pointed to a six-month-long review of the state’s capital sentence system by the New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission, which found that the system was ineffective and recommended that it be replaced with life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The state has not executed anyone since 1963. In addition, its procedures for carrying out an execution were declared unconstitutional in 2004 by a state appeals court, and the Department of Corrections has said it has no intention of rewriting them.

Yet prosecutors still seek the death penalty in some cases, and eight men are currently on death row at the New Jersey State Prison here.

The measure approved by the Senate gives the eight men 60 days to file motions to be resentenced to life in prison.

Mr. Codey, who sponsored legislation in the early 1980s that reinstated New Jersey’s death penalty, said the system plays a cruel hoax on murder victims’ families by giving them the false hope of an execution.

“The best thing to do for us as a society to do is to be honest with them,” said Mr. Codey, who more recently served as governor. “Don’t tell someone that we’re going to execute somebody when the reality is it’s not going to happen — at least here in the state of New Jersey. Maybe in Texas. Maybe in other states. But it’s not going to happen here in New Jersey, and we’ve got to accept that.”

David W. Chen contributed reporting.