Lisa Greene Jury to Begin Deliberations

News Update 01.24.08

North Carolina

In Concord, the defense has given its closing argument in the trial of Lisa Greene. The prosecution will continue its argument today. If convicted, Greene could be sentenced to death.

Throughout Lisa Greene’s murder trial, prosecutors have suggested Greene, a professional photographer who uses props in her work, may have staged a fire at her house to make it look accidental.

On Tuesday, Greene’s attorneys told jurors that prosecutors had done the staging, twisting witnesses’ statements to make it look as though Greene intentionally set the fire that killed her children.

One of Greene’s attorneys, Lisa Dubs, compared a statement Greene signed — in which Greene says she set the fire Jan. 10, 2006 — to the Salem witch trials in 17th-century Massachusetts, in which people were forced into falsely confessing they were witches.

If Greene’s alleged confession is accepted as credible, “then we haven’t learned anything in 315 years about how valid a confession that looks like this really is,” Dubs said.

Raymond Christian Jedele, a former Kitty Hawk police officer, will face the death penalty if convicted of the 2007 kidnapping and murder of Donald Bradley Smithwick. Smithwick’s ex-wife, Janet Denise Harrell, has been charged with accessory after the fact.

Meanwhile, the Onslow County District Attorney has announced that he will not seek the death penalty against Caesar Laurean, who stands accused of killing a fellow Marine, if Laurean is captured in Mexico. Laurean would still face the death penalty if captured in the US. Mexico, which abolished the death penalty in 2005 after not putting anyone to death since 1961, will not extradite defendants to the United States in cases where the death penalty is sought. The United States agreed to respect its neighbor’s position on capital punishment in a 1980 treaty.

District attorneys announced this week that they will not be seeking death in a number of other cases.

  • Renee Yvette McLaughlin will spend less than sixteen years in prison for her part in a quadruple murder that landed Mario Lynn Phillips on death row. Prosecutors believe that McLaughlin had a minor role in the killings and did not herself injure any of the victims.
  • Ryan Jermar White will not face the death penalty for his role in a September killing, but at least two of his co-defendants will. White still faces first-degree murder charges, even though prosecutors say he wasn’t at the home where the death occurred.
  • The Onslow County District Attorney felt it necessary to announce that he will not be seeking death in two cases for which the law does not permit capital punishment. Casey Rafael Tyler was under the age of 18 when he committed his crime, and Kenneth Gordon Waid, Jr.’s crime did not involve any aggravating factors.

Elsewhere

After ten years on Virginia’s death row, Daryl Atkins has finally had his death sentence converted to life without parole. Atkins did not get relief under the famous case which bears his name – prosecutors still maintain that Atkins is not mentally retarded – but because his co-defendant’s lawyer was finally able to come forward with the truth: prosecutors coached the co-defendant’s testimony against Atkins, telling him that his original story wasn’t good enough and helping him act out the crime to come up with something better. Legal ethics prevented the lawyer from coming forward until his client’s appeals had concluded.  Only fate kept Atkins from being executed before the truth was known.

In California, many are unhappy with the growing cost of building a new death row at San Quentin State Prison. The current estimate is $356 million, $19 million more than last year and roughly $27 million for each inmate California has actually executed in the modern era. Governor Schwarzenneger has vetoed a bill to delay construction on the present site while more cost-effective alternatives are researched. Said one observer, “At a time when the governor’s budget is going to put children on the street, it is absurd to be spending $400,000 a bed for condemned prisoners.” (c/o CDW)

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