March 11, 2009
In a surprise move, the death penalty was taken off the table today for Sgt. William Kreutzer. In 1995, Kreutzer opened fire on an Army unit during a training exercise at Fort Bragg. Eighteen soldiers were injured and one officer was killed.
Kreutzer pleaded guilty to one count of murder, one count of attempted murder, and seventeen counts of aggravated assault. He will be sentenced by a military judge, and is likely to spend the rest of his life in the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
During the hearing, Kreutzer spoke publicly for the first time about what happened. The day before the shootings, Kreutzer started thinking about firing on his brigade. He tried to seek help from a chaplain and a mental health professional, but no one was available. Kreutzer called a friend and told him about his plan, but the soldier did not believe him. Kreutzer lay in wait for his fellow soldiers, and when the fog lifted to clear his view of the field, he took it as a sign from God that he should proceed. Major Stephen Badger was killed trying to capture Kreutzer after the initial assault.
March 6, 2009
A military judge has ruled that Sgt. William Kreutzer is competent to stand trial for the murder of a fellow soldier in 1995. No trial date has been set. If convicted, Kreutzer could face the death penalty.
Kreutzer was originally convicted and sentenced to death in 1996, but his conviction was later overturned.
March 4, 2009
At Fort Bragg, defense attorneys are arguing that Sgt. William Kreutzer is too mentally ill to stand trial for a 1995 murder. Kreutzer is alleged to have opened fire on his unit during a training exercise, killing one and wounding eighteen others.
An Army psychiatrist testified that Kreutzer suffers from severe depression, which causes him to have a flat affect. Kreutzer always has a blank look on his face, which will likely be interpreted by the jury as a lack of remorse. Another psychiatrist testified that Kreutzer is not “out of touch with reality,” and is therefore capable of standing trial. The court is expected to rule on the issue soon.
August 29, 2008
News Update 08.29.08
In Swain County, prosecutors have requested a hearing to determine whether Jason Christopher Johnson, Jeffrey Czechonna Miles, and Jada McCutcheon should face the death penalty if convicted of a double homicide earlier this month.
The military death penalty trial of William Kreutzer has been pushed back to January. The court will be busy until then handling another death penalty case, that of Alberto Martinez.
Taking better late than never to a whole new level, the Swiss have exonerated a woman 226 years after she was beheaded. Anna Goeldi was the last person executed in Europe for being a witch. Goeldi was accused of using her powers to make a young girl spit pins and have convulsions. Said the government, “Those who made the judgment regarded themselves as educated people…in spite of that they tortured an innocent person and had her executed.”
Execute first, ask questions later – it’s the Texas way. A judge has granted a hearing on Charles Dean Hood’s claims that his trial was unfair for several reasons, including that the prosecutor and the judge were dating during his trial. That’s nice, but the judge intentionally scheduled the hearing for two days after Hood’s execution. What more can you really say?
July 23, 2008
News Update 07.23.08
Judge Paul Gessner has ruled that Joseph Sanderlin, who is accused in the 2005 killing of Lauren Redman, is not entitled to a pretrial hearing on whether he is mentally retarded. Under North Carolina law, a person whose IQ is below 70, and who exhibited deficits in adaptive functioning prior to the age of 18, is considered mentally retarded and therefore ineligible for execution. Sanderlin’s IQ has consistently tested between 64 and 69 throughout his lifetime. The question of Sanderlin’s mental retardation is not settled; if he is found guilty of first-degree murder, the jury will readdress the issue before deciding on his sentence. Sanderlin’s co-defendant, Byron Waring, was sentenced to death last year. Sanderlin’s trial will begin September 29th.
Attorneys for William Kreutzer argued yesterday that trying their client at Fort Bragg would be like trying the Virginia Tech shooter (had he not committed suicide) in front of a jury of VT students, while represented by VT alums. In 1995, Kreutzer fired on his own unit during a training exercise, killing one and injuring 18 others. He will be tried before a jury of other soldiers, and is represented by soldier-attorneys appointed for him by the military. Kreutzer’s attorneys believe that the shooting affected the Fort Bragg community so profoundly that Kreutzer can only get a fair trial if the case is heard on another base.
Some recent studies suggest that DNA is not the sure thing we all thought it was. DNA labs have been finding “matches” between people who are not only unrelated, but of different races. According to the FBI, the odds of unrelated people sharing genetic markers to such a degree is 1 in 113 billion, but it has happened several times. In a Maryland database of 30,000 people, 32 matched at nine or more loci, three of which were “perfect” matches, identical at 13 out of 13 loci. That should only happen among identical twins and other immediate siblings. One blogger ran his DNA and found that he is a 12-point match for dozens of people he has never met.
The Clarion-Ledger, a pro-death penalty newspaper in Mississippi, is calling for clemency for Dale Leo Bishop, who is scheduled to be executed tonight. Although Bishop held and kicked the victim, Marcus Gentry, another man inflicted the fatal blows. The actual killer was sentenced to life in prison. Bishop also suffers from documented mental illness that interfered with his ability to assist in his defense.
July 22, 2008
News Update 07.22.08
Rep. Larry Womble and Rep. Earline Parmon have issued a press release laying the blame for the defeat of the Racial Justice Act at the feet of Senate leaders who let politics get in the way of truth. They hold out hope for next year.
If passed in North Carolina – a state with a death row population that is sixty percent Black despite the Black population in the state being only twenty percent, the Racial Justice Act will allow defendants to use statistics to prove race was a factor in the imposition or decision to seek the death penalty. The historic United States Supreme Court case, McClesky v. Kemp, first utilized statistics in a Georgia capital case to prove that the odds that black males would receive a death sentence increased by 4.3 times if the victim is white.
In North Carolina, a study by University of North Carolina Professor Issac Unah and UNC Law Dean Jack Boger, who also argued the historic McClesky v. Kemp case, revealed that the odds that black males would receive a death sentence increased by 3.5 times if the victim is white.
Race continues to play a role throughout the criminal justice system and to allow race to determine a person’s right to live or die is unacceptable and a flagrant example of failed policymaking decisions at the state and local levels. In a state that has at least twenty-five individuals currently on death row who were tried by all-white juries between the 1990s and the present day, it is difficult to argue that race is a factor that should be ignored.
Moore County has announced its intention to seek the death penalty against Justin Raynal Cotton and Martin Devon McMillan. Both are charged with the murder of Donald Gray Sands last May.
A hearing is scheduled today for Sgt. William Kreutzer, Jr., who faces the death penalty in military court for a 1995 homicide.
Louisiana has asked the Supreme Court to reconsider last month’s decision in Kennedy, which barred the death penalty in cases of child rape where the victim does not die. This makes the folks over at SLAP happy. Louisiana complains that the Court failed to consider two legal developments (which Louisiana failed to put before the Court) in its opinion. Such petitions for rehearing are rarely granted.
June 25, 2008
News Update 06.20.08
William Kreutzer, who stands accused of killing a fellow soldier in 1995, asserts that the military should either appoint him qualified lawyers or reduce the possible penalty in his case to life without parole. Kreutzer is currently represented by two military lawyers who have no experience with non-capital murder cases, much less the death penalty. If Kreutzer were being tried in civilian court, he would be entitled to much better representation.
The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has granted a new sentencing hearing to William Gray, who is on death row for the 1992 murder of his wife in Lenoir County. More on this decision will follow.
In Ohio, a look at how the option of life without the possibility of parole (as opposed to life with the possibility of parole) affects prosecutors’ decisions to seek death and juries’ decisions to impose it. Capital indictments dropped 32% after LWOP was approved in 2005, and the number of LWOP sentences rose as well.
From Delaware, reports that the 2005 execution of Brian Steckel was botched. Prison officials noticed that the anesthetic intended to put Steckel to sleep before the painful lethal chemicals were administered was leaking, but did nothing to correct the problem.
The Supreme Court granted certiorari in two capital cases on Monday. In Cone v. Bell, the Court will rule on whether an inmate is entitled to federal review of prosecutorial misconduct in his case where the claim has already been presented to state courts twice, and the state courts found that state law prevented them from reviewing the claim. In Harbison v. Bell, the Court will decide whether federal courts should pay for counsel in clemency proceedings for state prisoners.