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December 4, 1998 | CLAUDIA KOLKER and LIANNE HART, TIMES STAFF WRITERS
After a week of searching through swampy, bug-swarming river bottoms, law officers hunting death row inmate Martin E. Gurule finally found their man Thursday--dead, beneath a bridge over the Trinity River near Huntsville, with tantalizing hints about how he'd made his way over the prison's two razor-wired security fences. The body of Gurule, 29, was swathed in cardboard and two sets of heavy underwear, according to officials.
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OPINION
April 8, 2014 | By The Times editorial board
It's hard to get executions right. This week, the Supreme Court denied appeals by Louisiana and Missouri death row inmates who argued that they were entitled to know the source of the drugs with which they are to be executed, and that denial of that information compromises their right to due process. It's unclear why the court refused to hear the cases, but the underlying argument remains potent. Another challenge is underway in Oklahoma, where two inmates are seeking stays of execution because state officials have revised protocols on the fly as the lethal drugs they usually use have become more difficult to obtain.
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NATIONAL
February 24, 2014 | By Timothy M. Phelps
WASHINGTON - It's unusual for this Supreme Court to overturn a death penalty conviction, more so without dissents from conservatives Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. But Monday all nine justices found a double murder conviction so troubling that without hearing oral arguments they rebuked an Alabama appeals court and sent the case back to consider whether Anthony R. Hinton deserved a new trial. In three restaurant robberies in Birmingham 29 years ago, two restaurant managers were killed and one injured.
OPINION
March 19, 2014 | By The Times editorial board
A month from now, if all goes according to plan in Oklahoma, two convicted murderers will be executed by lethal injection, and without knowing exactly how the killing cocktail was put together or by whom. Without that knowledge, they could well be denied their basic constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment. The death penalty, as we've written before, is an indefensible mess of immorality, gamed judicial processes, misapplication based on race and class, and public expense.
NATIONAL
February 21, 2012 | By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
A Texas death row inmate convicted of murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend and her 7-year-old son in 2005 is seeking a new trial, alleging that his attorney had a "secret deal" with the judge to quickly dispose of his case. Attorneys for Stephen Barbee, 44, plan to argue in a Fort Worth state court this week that his defense in the double murder case was tainted. The proceeding, scheduled to begin Wednesday, was ordered by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals after a 2010 Associated Press story showed that presiding Judge Robert Gill had negotiated plea deals in certain cases, many of which were handled by Barbee's court-appointed attorney, William H. "Bill" Ray. Ray gave details about the plea deals, which expedited Gill's docket, during testimony in a 2009 federal court case that a judge subsequently sealed.
NATIONAL
January 18, 2012 | By David G. Savage, Washington Bureau
  The Supreme Court, citing a "perfect storm" of missing lawyers and unopened letters, gave an Alabama death row inmate a new chance to appeal his conviction in a case that sharply split the conservatives on the bench. Corey Maples had been "abandoned" by his two New York lawyers who left their law firm without telling him and missed the deadline for filing his appeal. "In these circumstances, no just system would lay the default at Maples' death-cell door," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for a 7-2 majority.
NATIONAL
October 5, 2011 | By David G. Savage, Washington Bureau
The Supreme Court appeared unusually sympathetic Tuesday to the plight of an Alabama death row inmate who could be executed because two lawyers handling his appeal had left their law firm without telling him. When a court clerk sent a letter to their prominent New York firm, Sullivan & Cromwell, advising the young lawyers that Cory Maples' initial appeal had been denied, it was returned marked: "Return to sender — left firm. " The 42-day deadline to appeal then expired. At that point, Alabama's state prosecutors and judges took a stiff stand.
NATIONAL
March 8, 2011 | By David G. Savage, Washington Bureau
The Supreme Court gave a Texas death row inmate who came within an hour of being executed a new right to seek DNA evidence from the crime scene that he says could prove him innocent. The 6-3 decision opens a narrow window for prisoners to sue and obtain DNA evidence that went untested at the time of their trials. The Innocence Project in New York says 266 prisoners have been freed because of DNA evidence since 1989, including 17 inmates on death row. Though all states permit prisoners to obtain new tests of evidence under certain circumstances, prosecutors have often resisted.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
July 10, 2012 | By Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times
A death row inmate who represented himself during a 1994 hearing to determine whether he was mentally competent to stand trial should either be reevaluated or receive a new trial, the California Supreme Court decided unanimously Monday. Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, writing for the court, said state law clearly requires defendants to have legal representation during hearings to determine whether they are sane enough to be tried. Legal representation during competency hearings "is consistent with upholding the dignity and autonomy of the defendant and, more importantly, protects not only the fairness of the proceedings but also the appearance of fairness," Werdegar wrote.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
May 2, 2001
Convicted killer Justin Merriman will become the 12th man sent to death row from Ventura County since the death penalty was reinstated in California in 1978. Here is a look at the other men and their crimes: * Kenneth McKinzie was convicted in 1999 for strangling 73-year-old Ruth Avril during a botched robbery at her Oxnard apartment building Dec. 21, 1995.
NATIONAL
March 11, 2014 | By Michael Muskal, This post has been updated, as indicated below.
Glenn Ford, one of the nation's longest-serving prisoners on death row, is scheduled to be freed from a Louisiana prison after he was exonerated of charges that he killed a man in 1983, his lawyers announced. A Louisiana court on Monday ordered that Ford, an African American who served 30 years on death row, be released after new information exonerated the former yard worker of killing a white man. Ford was expected to be released Tuesday. [Updated, 5:53 p.m.:  Ford walked free Tuesday afternoon.
NATIONAL
March 5, 2014 | By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
HOUSTON - Anthony Graves survived 18 years in prison for murders he did not commit, a dozen of those years on death row, where he was twice scheduled for execution. On Wednesday, Graves stood defiant outside a courthouse in a blue pinstripe suit with several state lawmakers and announced that the State Bar of Texas would be investigating his complaint against the prosecutor who convicted him, Charles Sebesta. “Give us justice,” said Graves, 48, of Houston. The announcement was the latest salvo in a legal battle that the two men have been fighting for two decades.
OPINION
February 28, 2014 | By The Times editorial board
On Monday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about a Florida man, Freddie Lee Hall, who faces execution for a 1978 murder. Hall is intellectually incapable of understanding the arguments, but the state of Florida says that it has the right to execute him nevertheless, in a case that spotlights both the barbarity and the absurdity of the death penalty. This page has a long history of opposing capital punishment on the grounds of morality, overwhelming evidence of its misapplication and public expense, among other things.
NATIONAL
February 24, 2014 | By Timothy M. Phelps
WASHINGTON - It's unusual for this Supreme Court to overturn a death penalty conviction, more so without dissents from conservatives Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. But Monday all nine justices found a double murder conviction so troubling that without hearing oral arguments they rebuked an Alabama appeals court and sent the case back to consider whether Anthony R. Hinton deserved a new trial. In three restaurant robberies in Birmingham 29 years ago, two restaurant managers were killed and one injured.
NATIONAL
October 21, 2013 | By David G. Savage
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court said Monday it would consider taking another step toward limiting the use of the death penalty, this time by trying to clarify the legal standard for who is ineligible for the ultimate punishment because of mental disability. At issue is whether states such as Florida may disqualify anyone who scores above 70 on an IQ test. A score below 70 generally indicates mental disability. The justices agreed to hear the case of Freddie Hall, a Florida death row inmate who killed two people in 1978, but who was described as mentally disabled when he was a child and was deemed to be mentally retarded by the judge who sentenced him to die. Three years ago, Florida prosecutors said Hall had scored a 71 on a Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale test and therefore could be executed for his crimes.
NATIONAL
August 4, 2013 | By Laura J. Nelson
A death row inmate in Ohio who was scheduled to be executed in three days was found hanged in his cell early Sunday, officials said. Authorities found the body of Billy Slagle, 44, at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution south of Columbus about 5 a.m., prison spokeswoman JoEllen Smith told the Los Angeles Times. He was declared dead at 6:11 a.m. Officials suspect suicide. Slagle would have been executed by lethal injection at 10 a.m. Wednesday. The prison typically places death row inmates on suicide watch 72 hours before the execution, Smith wrote in an email, but "inmate Slagle had not yet been placed on constant watch.
NATIONAL
March 28, 2007 | From Times Wire Reports
Gov. Ted Strickland granted a death row inmate a four-month reprieve to allow more time for DNA testing in a 1982 slaying. His execution had been set for April 17. John Spirko, 60, was convicted of killing Betty Jane Mottinger of Elgin based on witness statements and his comments to investigators. He has said he is not guilty.
OPINION
February 28, 2014 | By The Times editorial board
On Monday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about a Florida man, Freddie Lee Hall, who faces execution for a 1978 murder. Hall is intellectually incapable of understanding the arguments, but the state of Florida says that it has the right to execute him nevertheless, in a case that spotlights both the barbarity and the absurdity of the death penalty. This page has a long history of opposing capital punishment on the grounds of morality, overwhelming evidence of its misapplication and public expense, among other things.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
November 2, 2012 | By Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times
Police and death row inmates agree on one thing, a law enforcement group told its members: They both oppose next week's ballot measure to replace the death penalty with life without parole. That statement, in a newsletter from the Los Angeles Police Protective League opposing Proposition 34, highlighted what some California criminal defense lawyers have been saying for months. Many death row inmates who are years away from execution would rather gamble on being executed than lose their state-paid lawyers, a preference that seems to be confirmed by a limited, informal survey of some on California's death row. VOTER GUIDE: 2012 California Propositions "That is a significant sentiment, since the death penalty in California is mostly life without parole anyway," said Don Specter, director of California's Prison Law Office, who personally supports the initiative.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
October 30, 2012 | Maura Dolan
A federal appeals court Monday overturned the death sentence of California's longest-serving death row inmate on the grounds that his defense lawyer failed to investigate and present adequate mitigating evidence during the penalty phase of his murder trial. A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided 2 to 1 that Douglas R. Stankewitz, convicted of killing Theresa Greybeal in Fresno in 1978, should be re-sentenced to life without possibility of parole unless prosecutors retry the penalty phase of his murder case.
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