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ARBITRARINESS: Woman Faces Federal Death Sentence While Triggerman Receives 17 Years

Donna Moonda (pictured) is facing the federal death penalty in Ohio for hiring a man to kill her husband.  The person who actually shot and killed the victim, Damian Bradford, received a sentence of only 17.5 years in exchange for his testimony against Moonda.  Moonda and Bradford were convicted in separate trials of orchestrating and carrying out the plot to kill Dr. Gulam Moonda in an alledged effort to share his estate. The two defendants met in a drug rehabilitation center. Donna Moonda is now in the sentencing phase of her capital trial, and could receive either the death penalty or life in prison without parole.  Moonda's defense attorneys maintain that Bradford is a thug, womanizer, and a drug dealer, and the state acknowledges that he was the person who killed Dr. Moonda. During the sentencing phase of Moonda's trial, jurors are expected to hear from prison experts who will describe the harsh conditions endured by those serving life in prison without parole.
(Tribune-Chronicle, July 16, 2007).  Update: Ms. Mooda received a life sentence from the jury on July 18, 2007.  See Women, Federal Death Penalty, and Arbitrariness.

 


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Texas Court Grants Stay on Basis of Possible Innocence

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed Cathy Henderson's scheduled execution of June 13 and has remanded her case back to the trial court for a more careful review of new scientific evidence that casts doubt on the state's claim that she intentionally killed Brandon Baugh, an infant in her care. The appeals court decision was largely based on a recent affidavit submitted by former Travis County medical examiner Dr. Roberto Bayardo (pictured), whose expert testimony was crucial to the state's case against Henderson. In his new sworn statement, Dr. Bayardo recanted his original testimony that the child's injuries were the result of an intentional act by Henderson, and stated that new evidence suggests the infant's injuries could have been the result of an accidental fall, a claim that Henderson has maintained since her 1994 arrest.


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Texas Medical Examiner No Longer Stands by Testimony that sent Woman to Death Row

Just weeks before Texas is scheduled to execute Cathy Henderson (pictured) for the murder of a child that she was babysitting, the medical examiner whose testimony helped send her to death row has said he no longer stands by his original opinion that the child's death resulted from an intentional act on Henderson's part. In light of new scientific evidence showing that Brandon Baugh's death could have resulted from an accidental fall, retired Travis County chief medical examiner Roberto Bayardo has submitted an affidavit to the court stating, "Had the new scientific information been available to me in 1995, I would not have been able to testify the way I did about the degree of force needed to cause Brandon Baugh's head injury. I cannot determine with a reasonable degree of medical certainty whether Brandon Baugh's injuries resulted from an intentional act of an accidental fall."


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Texas High Court Dismisses Woman's Death Sentence As Unsupported by the Evidence

In an important ruling, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has thrown out the death sentence of Kenisha Berry, who was sentenced to death in 1998 for the murder of her infant son, Malachi. The 5-4 decision stated that Jefferson County prosecutors misstated the special issue presented to jurors regarding Berry's likelihood of being a future danger to society, one of the key questions Texas jurors consider when they are deliberating a death sentence. Berry's attorneys argued that there was insufficient evidence of future dangerousness because Berry, a former corrections officer and day care worker, had no previous criminal record and defense experts testified that she had a low risk of committing future acts of violence, especially within the confines of prison. The court's majority opinion, written by Judge Cheryl Johnson, agreed. 

Johnson wrote, "While the state quite certainly proved that (Berry) showed a pattern of keeping the children sired by one man and discarding the children sired by other men, it did not prove that any other stimulus led to a violent or dangerous act in any other context. . . . We rarely reverse a judgment on a claim of insufficient evidence to support a finding that the defendant will be a danger in the future, and we do not do so lightly. In this case, we understand the jury's decision in response to the death of one infant and the abandonment of another, even if that decision is not supported in law."

Berry was one of 10 women on the state's death row, and she will now serve a life term in prison for her crime. Texas has executed three women since it resumed executions in 1982. Next month, the state has scheduled the execution of Cathy Henderson, who was given the death penalty for the murder of an infant she was babysitting.

(Dallas Morning News, May 23, 2007). See Women.


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Upcoming Texas Execution Raises Questions of Appropriate Sentence

UPDATE: Henderson's execution date of April 18 was stayed in order to consider new defense motions in the case. A new execution date of June 13 was tentatively set.
Upcoming Texas Execution Raises Questions of Appropriate Sentence
Cathy Henderson (pictured with Sr. Helen Prejean) is scheduled to be executed in Texas on April 18 for the 1994 murder of Brandon Baugh, an infant she was babysitting. Henderson would be the 12th woman put to death in the U.S. since capital punishment was reinstated. (See DPIC's updated page on Women and the Death Penalty). Since her arrest, Henderson has maintained that the child's death was accidental. Henderson said that she is sorry for Brandon's death and that she feels regret every day for the pain she caused his family. Watch an interview of Henderson with the Kansas City Star (Windows Media Player).


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Babysitter Scheduled for April Execution in Texas

Cathy Henderson (pictured with Sr. Helen Prejean) is scheduled to be executed in Texas on April 18 for the 1994 murder of Brandon Baugh, an infant she was babysitting. Henderson would be the 12th woman put to death in the U.S. since capital punishment was reinstated. Since her arrest, Henderson has maintained that the child's death was accidental. She said that she dropped the baby, fracturing his skull, and then panicked after realizing she could not revive him. She then buried the boy's body and fled to Missouri, where authorities captured her nearly two weeks later. Henderson said that she is sorry for Brandon's death and that she feels regret every day for the pain she caused his family. She notes, "I wish there was something I could do to comfort them, and if it's going to comfort them to end my life for an accident, I hope this gives them comfort."

Henderson's spiritual advisor is Sister Helen Prejean, well-known author of "Dead Man Walking."  Sister Helen believes Brandon's death was an accident. She said that the public needs to understand that Henderson is not a monster. "It's easy to kill a monster. It's hard to kill a real human being," she noted.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Henderson's final appeal. She is seeking clemency from Texas Governor Rick Perry.
(Kansas City Star, March 1, 2007). See DPIC's updated page on Women, and Arbitrariness . View a video interview of Henderson by the Kansas City Star (Windows Media Player.


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BOOKS: "The Fairer Death: Executing Women in Ohio"

The Fairer Death: Executing Women in Ohio is a new book by Victor Streib, a professor at the Ohio Northern University College of Law.  The book explores Ohio’s use of the death penalty for women and examines the implications for women on death row throughout the country.  Streib carefully describes the cases of all four women executed by Ohio in its history and those of the 11 women sentenced to death in the state during the modern death penalty era (1973-present).

Professor Streib’s analysis of two centuries of Ohio’s use of the death penalty reveals no clear intent to exclude women, but, nonetheless, shows the strong possibility of gender bias.  The book provides insight into the national experience of applying the death penalty, invoking questions about the rationale for the death penalty and the many disparities in its administration. National reviewers have characterized the book as a "magnificent work" with "richly detailed" and "vivid portraits" of Ohio's condemned women. (Ohio University Press, 2006). See Women and Books.


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