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May 16, 2018

Texas completes its sixth execution of 2018

As reported in this local article, in Texas "Juan Castillo was put to death Wednesday evening, ending his death sentence on his fourth execution date within the year."  Here is more:

The 37-year-old was executed for the 2003 robbery and murder of Tommy Garcia Jr. in San Antonio. The execution had been postponed three times since last May, including a rescheduling because of Hurricane Harvey.

Castillo's advocates and attorneys had insisted on his innocence in Garcia’s murder, pleading unsuccessfully for a last-minute 30-day stay of execution from Republican Gov. Greg Abbott after all of his appeals were rejected in the courts. The Texas Defender Service, a capital defense group who had recently picked up Castillo’s case, asked Abbott for the delay to let its lawyers fully investigate claims they said discredited the prosecution’s evidence against Castillo — including recanted statements and video of police interrogations that contradict testimony at trial.

But with no action from the governor, Castillo was taken into the death chamber in Huntsville, and at 6:21 p.m., injected with a lethal dose of pentobarbital, according to the Texas Department of Justice. Twenty-three minutes later, he was pronounced dead.... [H]e became the sixth person executed in Texas this year and the 11th in the country.

Texas appears to be on pace to return to its modern historical pattern of 10 or more execution per year.  As this Death Penalty Information Center chart reveals, from 1992 through 2015, the Lone Start State had 10 or more executions every single year save one year.  Over this 24-year period, Texas averaged more than 20 executions per year, including a single year high of 40 executions in 2000.  But in 2016 and 2017, Texas only executed 7 condemned inmates each year.  With six more executions scheduled in Texas before the end of September, it seems Texas is poised to regress toward its historical execution mean in 2018.

UPDATE:  I just saw this new AP piece reporting on two new Texas execution dates set for October "bringing to eight the number of inmates set for lethal injection in the coming months."

May 16, 2018 at 09:47 PM | Permalink


Capital punishment has become irrelevant, when there are so many opioid deaths. Each addict commits 200 crimes a year. Crime is likely to disappear in the near future.

Posted by: David Behar | May 17, 2018 1:37:26 AM

John Bunn, 41, [was] seen weeping and clutching the hands of Judge ShawnDya Simpson after he was exonerated earlier this week. Bunn was only 14 years old when he was charged with second-degree murder for the death of an off-duty officer in Crown Heights, Brooklyn in 1991. Bunn and another teenager were accused of forcing Rolando Neischer and partner Robert Croon from their car, before shooting them and stealing the vehicle. Although Neischer died, Crosson survived and became the sole witness of the incident. But in 2016, Bunn’s murder conviction was quashed after it was revealed that lead detective Louis Scarcella had used ‘false and misleading practices’ during his time with the NYPD.

On Tuesday, emotional scenes were captured in the New York courtroom as he was finally exonerated of the murder charge.‘I want to say thank you your honor because it’s been 27 years I’ve been fighting for my life,’ an emotional Bunn said. Turning to prosecutors, he said: ‘I want y’all to know that y’all convicted and had the wrong man in prison.’ Although only exonerated this week, Bunn was released on parole in 2009 and went on to create the nonprofit organisation AVoice4TheUnheard.

‘Y’all had the wrong man this whole time and you have someone out there running free and y’all had no right to do what you did,’ he said during his hearing. I don’t know how I made it this far, but I believe I am here for a purpose. I just want to be proven innocent…I didn’t want to be in the dark side of the shadows they (the prosecutors) tried to put me.’ Describing the new verdict, Judge Simpson said: ‘I am more than emotional about this day, you were 14 at the time. This shouldn’t have ever happened.’ - Yahoo News UK

The decision of the Texas courts, in the case of Juan Castillo, to refuse examination of recanted evidence and video that contrasts with evidence given at trial was unconscionable.

Posted by: peter | May 17, 2018 7:05:10 AM

Peter. Everyday, 100 people are sliced, crushed and chopped to death in car crashes. End all driving because of these error. End all walking, since some of the victims of these errors are pedestrians.

I support the civil liability of prosecutors and of judges for the falsely convicted. If they had knowledge of falsity, I support exemplary damages. End their unconscionable and irresponsible self dealt immunities.

The contrapositive of a true assertion is always true. Liability is a substitute for violence, I think, we agree. Thus, legal immunity justifies violence against the tortfeasors, in formal logic.

Posted by: David Behar | May 17, 2018 7:22:22 AM

Los Angeles Times Editorial: Exoneration Shows Why Death Penalty Needs to End

The April 2018 exoneration of Vicente Benavides Figueroa, wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death on charges of raping, sodomizing, and murdering his girlfriend's 21-month-old daughter, illustrates why the death penalty should be abolished, the Los Angeles Times said in an April 27, 2018 editorial. Benavides — an intellectually disabled Mexican national who was working as a seasonal farm worker — was sentenced to death after medical witnesses had been provided incomplete hospital records and erroneously testified that the child had been sexually assaulted. His conviction, the paper wrote, "was an egregious miscarriage of justice; he spent a quarter-century on death row for a crime he apparently did not commit. His exoneration serves as a reminder of what ought to be abundantly clear by now: that despite jury trials, appellate reconsideration and years of motions and counter-motions, the justice system is not infallible, and it is possible (or perhaps inevitable) that innocent people will end up facing execution at the hands of the state." Benavides's case, the Times said "ought to remind us of the dangers inherent in California's efforts to speed up the calendar for death penalty appeals under Proposition 66 .... Moving more quickly to execute convicted death row inmates increases the likelihood that due process will be given short shrift and the innocent will be put to death." The records that showed 21-month-old Consuelo Verdugo had not been sexually assaulted — and that cast doubt on whether she had been murdered at all — were not discovered until 7 years after trial. The one year Proposition 66 gives appellate lawyers to investigate cases and file appeals makes it less likely that they will discover such evidence "and thus more likely that innocent people will be put to death." The editorial concluded: "The unfixable problem with the death penalty is that mistakes get made, witnesses lie, confessions get coerced — all factors that can lead to false convictions. It is abjectly immoral to speed things up by limiting due process. The better solution is to get rid of the death penalty altogether."

Posted by: Ella | May 17, 2018 8:50:38 AM

Follow up to Ella's excerpt above:

California Supreme Court Grants New Trial to Man Sent to Death Row 25 Years Ago by False Forensic Evidence

The California Supreme Court has vacated the conviction of Vicente Figueroa Benavides (pictured), saying that the forensic evidence that sent the former Mexican farmworker to death row 25 years ago was “extensive,” “pervasive,” “impactful,” and “false.” Benavides, now 68, was sentenced to death in 1993 after being found guilty of brutally murdering Consuelo Verdugo, his girlfriend’s 21-month-old toddler, by raping and anally sodomizing her. However, the court said, medical evidence showed that the girl was never raped or sodomized and may not have been murdered at all. Instead, she may have died from complications from having been struck by a car. Benavides—whose lawyers have argued is developmentally disabled and possesses the mental ability of a 7-year-old—told the police and jury during the trial that he lost track of the toddler while he was preparing dinner on November 17, 1991 and he found her outdoors, vomiting. Consuelo’s mother took her to a local medical center that evening, where her condition worsened. After surgery and two hospital transfers, the child died a week later. At trial, forensic pathologist Dr. James Diblin testified that the toddler had died from “blunt force penetrating injury of the anus” and claimed that the major internal injuries she suffered were the result of rape. He further testified that arm injuries, internal trauma, dilated pupils, and compression rib fractures that Consuelo sustained had been “caused by tight squeezing during a sexual assault.” Dr. Jess Diamond, who evaluated the toddler at Kern Medical Center, also initially testified that the baby had been raped. However, medical records obtained by Benavides’s post-conviction lawyers showed that the examining physicians had not seen any signs of bleeding when Consuelo was brought to the hospital, and a nurse who helped treat the toddler said that neither she nor any of her colleagues saw evidence of anal or vaginal trauma when the child arrived. Instead, the court said, the injuries to Consuelo’s genitalia and anus were “attribut[able] to medical intervention,” including repeated failed efforts to insert a catheter and the improper use of an adult-sized catheter on the small child. “After reviewing the medical records and photographs that I should have been provided in 1993,” Dr. Diamond withdrew his assessment that Consuelo had been raped. “I am convinced that this case presents a tremendous failing of the criminal justice system," he said. The defense also presented evidence from Dr. Astrid Heger, one of the country’s leading experts on child abuse, who described Dr. Didbin’s assertion that Consuelo’s injuries had been the product of sexual assault as “so unlikely to the point of being absurd. … No such mechanism of injury has ever been reported in any literature of child abuse or child assault.” She said the internal injuries the child sustained were commonly seen in victims of automobile accidents. During oral argument, Associate Justice Carol Corrigan, a former prosecutor, described Dibdin's testimony as being “among the most hair-raising false evidence that I’ve encountered in all the time that I’ve been looking at criminal cases." Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye compared the sexual assault allegations to “a bomb dropped on the jury” that prevented the jurors from considering the evidence that the toddler may have been hit by a car. Prosecutors admitted that the forensic evidence they used to convict Benavides was false, but asked the state court to sustain a conviction for second-degree murder. With its key evidence discredited, Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green said it was improbable that prosecutors would attempt to retry Benavides. If the charges are dismissed, Benavides would be the fourth California death-row prisoner to be exonerated since the state brought back the death penalty in 1974.

Posted by: Dave from Texas | May 17, 2018 8:52:46 AM

What bothers me so much is how many lawyers have touched this case and every time they do - something new pops up - new evidence, new eyewitness, etc. I don't mean that in a bad way, I simply mean, let's take the time needed to ensure all defendants have competent representation both at trial and throughout the appeal process. There have been so many people exonerated years and decades after (conviction) that it begs the question - do we really need or want the death penalty? Was Juan Castillo guilty, unfortunately, only two people likely truly know this, and one of them is now dead. If Castillo really did it - ok he's dead and has paid the price. But if he didn't - two things here - one, an innocent person is dead - and two, the real killer is still out there...

Posted by: atomicfrog | May 17, 2018 9:25:00 AM

Do you pro-criminal lawyers support civil liability for prosecutorial and defense malfeasance? If the malfeasance is with knowledge, should the lawyers pay exemplary damages from their personal assets? The tax payer should not be punished, since misconduct is not part of public employment?

I support an amendment to enact tort liability of prosecutors and of judges.

Posted by: David Behar | May 17, 2018 12:19:26 PM

“the pointless and needless extinction of life”

Posted by: Claudio Giusti | May 17, 2018 3:47:15 PM

The death penalty is a very effective deterrent. Just ask the 17 year old who murdered the high school students today in Texas.

Posted by: anon1 | May 18, 2018 8:13:14 PM

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