Monday, 31 October 2011

Teen accused of killing parents will be tried as adult

Teen accused of killing parents will be tried as adult

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A judge ruled that a teen accused of killing his father and stepmother is going to be tried as an adult for the murders on Monday.

Christian Liewald and his 24-year-old wife, Cassie Buckaloo, were found dead in their Pineville home last month.

Liewald's 15-year-old son, Matthew Liewald, is accused of shooting them. The ruling came down just before 2 p.m. Monday.

The judge ruled there was enough probable cause in the case to be taken to the superior court. The teen has been given a public defender and ordered to get a mental evaluation.

At the hearing prosecutors played the audio interview the teen had with investigators talking about why he shot his parents.
“I’m guilty, I did pull the trigger," he said in the taped interview.
The teen told police his was afraid of his father and was angry that he had been grounded for staying out late at SCarowinds.

"I’m afraid he was going to do some more," the teen said. The investigator responded by asking: [Doing some more] of what?
Liewald answered by saying his father was going to "hit me."
He told investigators that he waited in the hallway for his parents to come home and when he came around the corner he started shooting.
"I didn't think about it that much, I just thought about what I had to do," the teen said.

Liewald later said he tried to take his parents car and flee to Mexico, but could not get the car to start.

During the interview, investigators asked where the the teen had learned to shoot. He explained that his dad took him to the shooting range for his birthday.
Prosecutors said Christian Liewald was shot five times and his wife was shot eight times.

The judge set the teen's bond at $250,000 for the two first degree murders. The judge also ordered the teen to wear a electronic monitoring device and that he cannot leave Mecklenburg County. 

Teen found guilty of aggravated murder in stabbing, beating

By Patrick Preston KATU News and Staff

HILLSBORO, Ore, - A Washington County teenager charged as an adult with aggravated murder was found guilty Wednesday.

Juan Carlos Negrete-Vasquez was just 13 years old in 2009 when he and his girlfriend's brother beat and stabbed Eduardo Andrade-Alcantar.

Negrete-Vasquez had confessed his role in the killing and the question now is how much time he will serve. He's 15 now and has plenty of time left to live, so a life sentence in prison would be a much greater punishment on him than on someone who is older. But the judge will consider the facts of the case.

Negrete-Vasquez repeatedly hit Andrade-Alcantar with a tire iron. Prosecutors counted a total of eight tire iron wounds. Then he joined his girlfriend's brother, Alejandro Aguilar-Mandujano in stabbing the victim a total of 25 times. It happened at Steamboat Park in Cornelius and it was there that both men kicked the victim’s body down the bank of the Tualatin River and into the water.

Aguilar-Mandujano confessed to his role in the killing as part of a plea agreement in March that resulted in a life sentence in prison.

Negrete-Vasquez "was part of the ruse that got the victim to go down to the park to be murdered – the ruse of going to get money from a third party," said Washington County Circuit Court Judge Steve Price. "And further, Mr. Negrete-Vasquez did knock out the victim so that the co-defendant could kill him. This does make Mr. Negrete-Vasquez guilty of committing a murder."

The judge also found Negrete-Vasquez guilty on two counts of unlawful use of a weapon.

Sentencing in the case has been scheduled for Dec. 8. In Oregon, a person under 18 years of age cannot be sentenced to the death penalty.

“The Two Lives of Napoleon Beazley”

“The Two Lives of Napoleon Beazley” is a new play by John Fleming that explores the true story of a 17-year-old African-American defendant who was sentenced to death for a carjacking and murder in Texas. The victim was the father of a federal judge. Using a variety of factual resources, including court transcripts and media accounts, the play examines race and the criminal justice system before the Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that the death penalty for juveniles violates the Constitution. Beazley was one of the last juvenile offenders executed in the U.S.

The Austin Chronicle writes that “The Two Lives of Napoleon Beazley” is:

The most important play to see in Texas right now.... Voicing all the opposing viewpoints on the issues of racism, judicial nepotism, ageism, and capital punishment, [this play] presents the story dramatically with heartbreaking scenes that are not at all contrived or insincere. Fleming’s well-knit play unfolds effortlessly before us, evoking pathos for injustice.

Tyree Washington

Tyree Washington reacts after a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery in February 2011.
SHALIMAR — Tyree Washington was found guilty of first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery. Washington, 17, showed little emotion when the jury announced its verdict after deliberating for about 90 minutes. His family had no comment as they left the Okaloosa County Courthouse Annex in Shalimar. Washington was the first of four teenagers to be tried for the murder of Chris Pitcock.
Pitcock, 17, died March 4, 2010, after he was shot in the side with a .357 magnum revolver while sitting in his Chevrolet Blazer at the corner of Oakland Circle and Lula Belle Lane in Fort Walton Beach. Police said he was shot when the other teens tried to steal 2.5 ounces of marijuana from him.
“I’m very pleased that the jury weighed the evidence and came to this verdict,” prosecutor Angela Mason said as she left the courtroom. About 14 young people stayed late at the courthouse annex to hear the verdict, which was announced about 7 p.m. They later cried and embraced outside the courtroom, saying “justice has been done.” The four-day trial clearly took a toll on Pitcock’s family. David Pitcock, Chris Pitcock’s father, suffered an anxiety attack Thursday and was taken from the annex in an ambulance. His sister, Ann White, said later that he was admitted to a hospital.
Washington’s three co-defendants — Johnathan Lee Louviere, Timothy Preston Chavers and Kyle Markeith Walling — still face murder charges for their alleged roles in Pitcock’s death. “One down and three more to go,” said Sherry Cordy, who accompanied Chris Pitcock’s mother, Elaine, out of the courtroom following the verdict.  Elaine Pitcock vowed that the family would make it through the three upcoming trials. Two are scheduled for early March and the third is set for April. “We have strength,” Elaine Pitcock said. “It’s all for Chris.”
Circuit Judge William Stone set Washington’s sentencing for 1:30 p.m. March 29. If Washington was an adult, the only possible sentences for a first-degree murder conviction would be death or life in prison without the possibility of parole. But because he is only 17, the death penalty has been ruled out. There also is some question whether someone his age can be given a sentence without a chance for parole. The state attorney’s office has indicated it intends to seek a sentence of life without parole. Mason used a PowerPoint presentation during her closing arguments Thursday. She argued for the conviction because Washington helped plan the robbery, although he did not kill Pitcock. Mason said Washington lured Pitcock to the scene and provided the gun Chavers used to shoot Pitcock. She said Washington also later buried the gun. “They didn’t say kill him, but they gave him a loaded gun,” she argued. “Timothy Chavers didn’t have a gun until Mr. Washington gave it to him.
Johnathan Lee Louviere, Timothy Preston Chavers and Kyle Markeith Walling the other three co-defendants in the crime await trial as of Feb. 2011.

Valessa Robinson

Valessa Robinson 
Valessa Robinson
Not long ago, Tampa defense lawyer Dee Ann Athan went to Plant High School to speak to a government class. She figured they would talk about the Constitution and such. But the kids wanted to hear about Valessa. How is Valessa, and what’s it like in prison, and how could she do it? Never mind they were only 6 or 7 when it happened. Like a lot of people Athan runs into, they want to talk about her infamous teenage client. How, they’re still wondering, could it happen? How could the age-old struggle between a mother and daughter go so completely and utterly wrong? The boys there that night, Athan says. The LSD. Out-of-control kids. “The perfect storm,” she says. Ten years ago today, 49-year-old real estate agent Vicki Robinson disappeared. The morning before, she had awakened in her suburban house-with-a-pool on a quiet Carrollwood cul-de-sac. Maybe she looked forward to dinner that night with her boyfriend. Maybe she thought about Valessa, 15, her youngest. Valessa’s boyfriend was a nightmare, good looking, 19 and tattooed, with a jail record and a taste for drugs. And Valessa was more defiant by the day. Talking of wanting a baby, even. But Vicki had a plan. Less than two weeks and Valessa would be in a Christian residential program for troubled girls out in the country called Steppin’ Stone Farm. For at least a year. But on the day an unsuspecting Valessa was supposed to arrive, everyone was gathering for a funeral. The perfect storm, Athan calls what exploded in the house that night. Valessa and Adam Davis and a friend on drugs. The attempt to kill Vicki, in her nightgown, with a bleach-filled syringe and finally a knife. They ran and were caught. The friend testified and Adam got death. His sentence was upheld just this month by the Florida Supreme Court. Valessa’s trial — with its pretty divorced mom victim and its every-parent’s-nightmare theme — caught the eye of shows like 48 hours. Animal Planet even did a piece on Vicki’s sheltie, Lady, called As Dog Is My Witness. Valessa came to court looking like a child, not the thug she had wanted to be. She got 20 years. In the first four years she was in, she lost gain time for “sex acts” with another inmate, “spoken threats,” possession of contraband and disorderly conduct. She cleaned housing units, worked in the laundry and was a wellness aide. She took classes in architectural drafting and dog training. She picked up trash. She is now 25 and scheduled to get out in 2015. She’ll be 32, jailed more than half of her life, her childhood long gone.
After she died, Vicki’s friends started a foundation in her name to help parents like her. They raised more than $10,000 to donate to Steppin’ Stone to help another girl there. They plan a private memorial. They will have dinner and talk about her life. “She was like a sister to me, and I loved her,” says friend Ed Philips. He has been thinking about seeing Valessa. The house on the quiet cul-de-sac has changed little. The neighborhood is still all muted beiges and shady oaks and perfect lawns. Flowers are in full bloom, just like they were 10 years ago. A riot of butterflies passes over what was once Vicki’s front yard, as if nothing bad could happen here.

Dozens of US kids face death in prison

Underage criminals cannot face the death penalty in the United States, but dozens of offenders imprisoned for crimes committed when they were young teenagers will still die behind bars.
The US Supreme Court abolished the death penalty for minors in 2005 but 19 states permit "life-means-life" sentences for those under 18, according to a study by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI).
In all, 2,225 people are sentenced to die in US prisons for crimes they committed as minors and 73 of them were aged 13 and 14 at the time of the crime, according to the group, which is based in Montgomery, Alabama.
Elsewhere in the world, life sentences with no chance of parole are rare for underage offenders. Human Rights Watch estimates that only 12 people outside the United States face such sentences.
Judicial reform advocates say the US provision is an example of how harsh sentences have helped cause a jump in incarceration rates since the 1970s. The United States jails a higher percentage of its population than anywhere else in the industrialised world, these advocates say.
"These kids have been swept up in this tide of carceral control that is unparalleled in American history," EJI director Bryan Stevenson said.
"We have become quite comfortable about throwing people away."
Others defend the statute, arguing it is popular with voters and gives comfort to victims to know that perpetrators of serious crimes against them will not one day walk free.
They also use an "adult crime, adult time" argument - minors who commit adult crimes should be punished as adults.

'I saw her in flames'

The case of Ashley Jones, who was 14 when she killed, illustrates the seriousness of many crimes that result in for-life sentences.
One night in August 1999, Jones and her 16-year-old boyfriend, Geramie Hart, angered by her family's disapproval of their relationship, went to her home in Birmingham, Alabama. They set her grandfather on fire with lighter fluid, stabbed him and shot him dead.
They also stabbed and shot dead Jones' aunt in her bedroom and set her grandmother on fire.
Jones' 10-year-old sister, Mary, was asleep in bed but they dragged her to the kitchen to see the attack on her family.
They stabbed Mary Jones repeatedly, puncturing a lung, and drove off leaving her and her grandmother, whose injuries included burns, stab and gunshot wounds, to stagger outside.
The questions raised by criminal cases involving teenagers are difficult to answer.
Is a young teenager responsible for crimes in the same way as an adult and to what extent, if at all, should courts consider a minor's family situation and background?
"It goes against human inclinations to give up completely on a young teenager. It's impossible for a court to say that any 14-year-old never has the possibility to live in society," Stephen Bright, director of the Southern Centre for Human Rights said.

'Lost all hope'

The Equal Justice Initiative has filed suits in six states challenging the life-without-parole sentences and has brought a case in federal court in northern Alabama over the Jones case, arguing it represents cruel and unusual punishment.
Hart is also serving the same sentence.
The group says a disproportionate number of the minors serving the sentence are black or Hispanic and many were tried as adults with inadequate legal counsel. Also, it says up to 70 per cent were given mandatory sentences.
Not all those serving life-means-life sentences for crimes committed as minors are convicted killers.
Antonio Nunez was convicted of multiple counts of attempted murder and also aggravated kidnapping and sentenced to life without parole for his role in a kidnap, police chase and shootout in April, 2001, in which nobody was injured.
Nunez, aged 14 at the time of the crime, grew up in a part of Los Angeles where gang activity was common. In 2000, he was wounded and his brother killed in a gang-related shooting.
His sister Cindy Nunez says the life sentence devastated her family.
"He has lost all hope... we try to keep his spirits up by saying something will change in the law," she said.
Mary Jones, now 19, is attempting to reconstruct her life. She testified against her sister in court but has visited her in jail.
She blames Hart for changing her sister from "the sweetest girl" into a murderer.
"She should have a chance to have a life. Her life shouldn't just be taken away from her like that. Sometimes I'm kind of mad and then I'm sad," she said.
"I practically lost her too because she is in prison."
- Reuters

Why  Sentencing Child Offenders in America to Life in Prison Without Parole Should Be Abolished
By Barbe Stamps
Excerpt from "THE REST OF THEIR LIVES"  a Joint Report by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, 2005
"Doing time" is difficult for any prisoner. Prisons are tense, cheerless, and often degrading places in which all inmates struggle to maintain their equilibrium despite violence, exploitation, lack of privacy, stringent limitations on family and community contacts, and a paucity of opportunities for meaningful education, work, or other productive activities. 
But “doing time” is particularly challenging for those who come to prison as adolescents or very young adults. They often lack the physical and mental coping mechanisms that older adult prisoners use to maintain their mental health and self-respect. Not only are teens ill-equipped to handle prison, it is also an unlikely place for them to gain the life experiences and education necessary for healthy mental and physical development.  Penitentiaries in the United States are not designed to further rehabilitation, and youth offenders sentenced to life without parole are often barred from participating in the few programs that do exist. And youth offenders serving life without parole face an additional and daunting challenge—they must come to terms with the fact that they will live in prison for the rest of their lives. 
No one, offenders included, expects prison to be a pleasant place. Upon incarceration, all inmates must face the taxing psychological and physical challenge of adjusting to prison, and some fail or just barely pass the test. Prisoners soon learn that their psychological and physical survival depends on emotional control, heightened guardedness, resistance to or modeling of violence and aggression, and an ability to negotiate the deceptive behaviors of others. As one youth offender said, “[M]y life in prison has been like living in hell. It’s like living and dying at the same time, and with my sentence the misery never ends. Life in prison is no life at all. It is a mere existence.
There is a considerable incongruity between the physical or mental immaturity of young prisoners and the kinds of experiences and people prison forces them to confront. Starting in the 1960's, sociologists and psychologists found that the negative psychological effects of imprisonment increase as incarceration continues, but begin to reverse as prisoners near the time of release.  Offenders serving life without parole know that they will never leave prison, meaning that for some, the negative effects of imprisonment can be expected to increase and indeed, may never lessen. 
Youth offenders recall experiencing a wide range of emotions while adjusting to prison. They have reported initial feelings of fear, anger, loneliness, or hopelessness. Some youth offenders contemplated or even attempted suicide. Those who had been in prison for ten years or less were still in the midst of the adjustment process.
Everyone in prison experiences isolation and loneliness. It is a direct function of being cut off from family, friends, and the rest of society. One young man who came to prison at age fifteen, and who is now twenty years old, wrote: “Every day I grow inside. But I have no room to grow in here . . . It’s lonely. Your surrounded by 1,500 people and it’s still so lonely.” 
However, psychologists suggest that some prisoners, “especially those serving very long sentences [use] withdrawal and self-imposed isolation . . . as a defensive reaction to the anticipated loss of . . . outside social support.”  Using isolation as a defense takes its toll on prisoners who may experience “protracted depression, apathy and the development of a profound sense of hopelessness.” 
Most prisoners, particularly those serving long sentences, lose social support and family connections. The difference for youth offenders serving life without parole is that they are likely to be much more dependent on family relationships than older inmates and may suffer these losses at an earlier age, causing them to endure their loss longer than other inmates . *
Worldwide, there are only thirteen countries that theoretically allow child offenders to be sentenced to the most severe life sentence there is, including the United States:  life in prison without parole. 
But a joint report issued by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in 2005 found juveniles serving such sentences in only 3 other countries:  Israel has 7, South Africa has 4 and Tanzania has 1. (Total 12) ii.
By contrast, there are 2,225 people serving life without parole in the United States for crimes they committed before turning 18.  iii.
Among this population of youth serving life without parole, 59% are serving the sentence for their first criminal offense and an estimated 27% are serving the sentence for felony murder - i.e., they were involved in a crime during which a murder took place, but did not take part in the murder itself. 16% of child offenders serving life without parole were between the ages of 13 and 15 when they committed the crime that put them behind bars for the rest of their lives.  iv.
"Are you the same person you were when you were 14? Or even 16?  Neither are the child offenders who have been discarded into our prison system without any hope of release, but our criminal sentencing laws ignore this obvious fact. As the Supreme Court said in the landmark decision, Roper v. Simmons, on the juvenile death penalty  “any parent knows” and “scientific and sociological studies tend to confirm” that children possess a “lack of maturity . . . an underdeveloped sense of responsibility . . . [and take] impetuous and ill-considered actions and decisions.” While a neuroscientist could explain to you the specifics of brain development, it doesn’t take a doctoral degree to know that kids act out, often don’t consider future consequences, and are extremely susceptible to peer pressure." v.
Yet in forty-two states -- and under federal law -- youth under eighteen who commit serious crimes may be tried as adults and upon conviction sentenced to spend the rest of their lives behind bars.
Currently, California has about 180 juvenile offenders serving the sentence of life without parole.  To house the "lifer" population, each year California spends at least $31, 000 per inmate at an annual cost of nearly $1 billion out of a total annual adult correctional budget of close to $6 billion. As they get older, their  incarceration will become far more expensive because of increased health-care costs.  vi.
Beyond costs and logistics, their continued incarceration raises difficult moral and ethical questions. Should we continue to detain inmates who have committed violent -- often shocking -- crimes, even when prison counselors and others who have worked with them closely testify that they are fully rehabilitated and no longer present a danger to society? 
At what point are we able to forgive individuals for crimes committed decades before, often when they were in their teens or early 20s?
Who shall decide?

Florida Inmate Who Faced Death Penalty at 15 to be Freed 26 Years Later

A new novel by Dax-Devlon Ross, Make Me Believe: A Crime Novel Based on Real Events, follows the discoveries and dangerous encounters of a fictional author investigating the case of Toronto Patterson, the last juvenile defendant executed in Texas before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down this practice in 2005. Employing actual interviews with Patterson, court documents, news articles and courtroom testimony, Ross's book blends fact and fiction to confront some of the problems of capital punishment in Texas while providing a fascinating story.  Dax-Devlon Ross is a lawyer and writer of nonfiction, fiction and poetry.

(D. Ross, "Make Me Believe: A Crime Novel Based on Real Events," Outside the Box Publishing, 2011). 

Anthony Caravello was convicted of rape and murder for a crime he allegedly committed in 1983 at age 15 in Florida.  The prosecution sought the death penalty. Now DNA evidence from the crime scene points to another individual and may result in his exoneration.  The state is not contesting his release.  Caravello has an IQ of 67 and was convicted largely on the basis of his own statements, which he says were obtained from him after beatings during his interrogation.  At his sentencing, the judge commented, "I'll tell you this, Anthony: If the jury had recommended death, I would have had you electrocuted."  Instead, he was sentenced to life.  The prosecution is still pursuing the investigation.

(B. Skoloff, "Defense: DNA clears man convicted of murder, rape," Miami Herald (Associated Press), Sept. 9, 2009).  See Innocence and Juveniles.  More inmates have been exonerated from death row in Florida (23) than from any other state.