Post by SoulTrainOz on Jul 21, 2006 0:52:08 GMT -5
A man slated to be put to death for killing a fellow inmate during a religious ceremony has asked the U-S Supreme Court for a stay of execution.
Attorneys for 42-year-old Michael Lenz petitioned the high court today.
In their petition, the attorneys contend that jurors in Lenz's case admitted they consulted a Bible during their sentencing deliberations, and that one jury member said some jurors pointed to passages in the Bible that supported the death penalty for killers. Lenz's attorneys argue the jurors' consultation of the Bible was an outside influence that denied Lenz the right to a fair and impartial trial.
The state rejects the claim and says Lenz is a cold-blooded killer who deserves to die. His execution is set for July 27th at Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt.
Post by SoulTrainOz on Jul 21, 2006 2:16:02 GMT -5
Execution set for next week would be 1st for offense in Va. since'76
Michael W. Lenz could be the first person in Virginia put to death for killing a fellow inmate since the death penalty was allowed to resume in 1976.
Lenz, 42, is set to die by injection next Thursday for the savage slaying of Brent Parker, stabbed to death on Jan. 16, 2000, at the foot of a makeshift altar in Augusta Correctional Center. Parker, himself a killer, suffered 68 stab wounds.
Inmate Jeffrey Remington was also sentenced to death for the slaying but committed suicide on death row in 2004. The three inmates practiced a pagan religion called Asatru and were attending a ceremony when Parker was murdered.
According to the Virginia attorney general's office, just one other prisoner has been sentenced to death under the "killing by an inmate" provision of Virginia's capital-murder law. His sentence was commuted to life without parole.
Yesterday, Lenz's lawyers filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Also pending is a clemency petition to Gov. Timothy M. Kaine.
Lenz and his lawyers do not dispute his guilt.
In a 2001 interview with The Times-Dispatch, Lenz said Parker was killed because he had disrespected the gods. Lenz and Remington said they took turns stabbing Parker. Correctional officers stopped the assault.
Remington agreed in a separate interview that there were religious motives for the slaying but said there had also been a history of bad blood between Parker and Lenz. Lenz testified that Parker had twice threatened his life.
In their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday, Lenz's lawyers pointed out that some jurors had consulted a Bible while considering whether to sentence Lenz to death.
According the petition filed with the high court, after Lenz's trial, a juror said in an affidavit that "some jurors were able to point to passages in the Bible that supported the death penalty for anyone who kills another person. The Bible says the death penalty is the appropriate punishment for murder."
The lawyers contend their actions violated Lenz's right to a fair and impartial jury. During an evidentiary hearing, however, the jurors said they were not influenced by the Bible and appeals courts have rejected the rights-violation claim.
Nevertheless, Lenz argues to the justices that the problem of jurors consulting the Bible is widespread and has led to successful appeals elsewhere in the country, including the overturning of at least 1 death sentence.
Lenz is also challenging the way lethal injections are performed by Virginia in federal court in Richmond. Lenz refused to choose between the electric chair or lethal injection. In such cases the default method of execution is injection.
Williams Hayes of Leesburg, Fla., an expert on the history of the death penalty, said that as of early this week, at least 13 executions -- out of more than 1,030 nationally since 1976 -- have been for the slaying of 1 or more prison inmates.
Larry Traylor, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections, said that in the past 10 years seven Virginia inmates have been murdered.
In a recent case, Dewey Keith Venable initially faced a potential death sentence for the slaying of his cellmate, child molester Richard Alvin Ausley. Venable instead pleaded guilty to 2nd-degree murder and was sentenced to an additional 12 years.
In 1996, shortly before Joseph Patrick Payne Sr. was to be executed for the slaying of a fellow Powhatan Correctional Center inmate, then-Gov. George Allen commuted his sentence to life without the possibility of parole.
Allen said he believed the evidence pointed to Payne's guilt, but took the action because of unspecified concerns about reliability of some of the evidence in his case. The credibility of a key witness in the case, another inmate, was called into serious question.
Post by SoulTrainOz on Jul 26, 2006 6:42:21 GMT -5
Man to die for inmate's murder
By MICHAEL L. OWENS, The News Virginian
(Editor's note: This story contains graphic violence.)
Until a few days ago, all Bonnie Parker knew about her son's murder is that two men stabbed him 68 times in the Augusta Correctional Center six years ago.
She knew the name of her son's murderer, Michael Lenz, who is scheduled to die by lethal injection Thursday.
Months ago she turned down a chance to watch him die - "It would be just like reliving everything again," said the 71-year-old resident of Paw Paw, W.Va.
Bonnie Parker also had heard of Jeffery Remington, the accomplice who hanged himself on death row two years ago.
But word that her son - Brent Henry Parker, 41 - died at the foot of a pagan altar during a Viking cult ceremony, or as part of a possible power play for leadership of the group, was news to her.
No one ever told her that her last surviving son bled to death while an unarmed guard stood outside the cell screaming for backup. Her son died without a fight, probably because a stroke the previous year rendered one arm all but useless. She never knew the prison nurse bandaged her son's wounds until she ran out of gauze. The nurse testified that the blood "just poured like water; like somebody had turned a faucet on."
In fact, other than an obituary, there are few media accounts floating around about Brent Parker, who died serving a 50-year sentence for stomping a man to death during a 1985 drinking binge.
News articles give Brent Parker only brief mention as the 41-year-old victim of a brutal murder himself on Jan. 16, 2000. Primary focus goes to Lenz, who at the time of the murder was serving 29 years and 90 days for a string of 1993 burglaries in Prince William County.
He now awaits word from death row on his clemency petition to Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine as well as his request for a stay of execution from the U.S. Supreme Court. He has turned down multiple interview requests sent by The News Virginian through his lawyers and prison officials.
A call to Bonnie Parker's home in Paw Paw, W.Va., on Thursday marked the first time a reporter attempted to contact her. It also marked one of the few times the severe diabetic had been telephoned - by anyone - about her son's death.
Said her at-home nurse, Sharon Prifogle: "It was like she didn't exist, like he didn't exist."
A telephone call from the Virginia Department of Corrections on Jan. 16, 2000, alerted her of his death. At the time, she was in a nearby town for a friend's funeral.
"All she got was bits and pieces that her son was deceased," Prifogle said.
For nine years, she has helped Bonnie Parker deal with her diabetic tremors and refers to Parker's murder as "the accident." It helps ease the mother's pain, the nurse said.
Accepting his death was just the beginning of the mother's nightmare. She had to bring his body home to Paw Paw, too.
"They [Department of Corrections] didn't do nothing for this woman," said Prifogle, her voice rising in anger.
Without a car and just a few dollars to her name, Bonnie Parker turned to local churches to help bring home her son's body.
Paw Paw is a small, one-gas-station town of less than 600 souls. It's the stereotypical small town were residents know every face as well as they know their neighbors' personal business. It's also the type of town where most residents travel beyond the border for employment and excitement.
Brent Parker was the longest living of seven children born to Bonnie Parker. Five children died of natural causes while infants.
Another child, Shawn Parker, died at the age of 25 in a 1993 car wreck. Authorities cited his drunken driving for flipping his car over an embankment. But Bonnie Parker believes the person listed as the passenger actually drove the car and pinned the responsibility on her son to escape prosecution.
"He [the passenger] came the next day and said he was sorry, and I said that did no good," Bonnie Parker recalled.
Brent Parker grew up a carpenter working alongside his father, William Foster Parker, who died several years before his son's fatal stabbing.
His mother described a young Brent Parker as a bookworm who enjoyed loud music in his teens and was "liked" by everybody.
"His first year in school, he read a hundred [children's] books," she boasted.
His 23-year-old daughter, Heather Brown, could not be located for an interview. Bonnie Parker last saw her granddaughter eight months ago, as the girl prepared to enter an alcohol-treatment program.
Grandmother and granddaughter last saw Brent Parker while together on a Christmas jail visit in December 1999.
As the two strolled from the visiting room, he cracked a dry, overused joke: "I'll see you next year."
Those were the last words Bonnie Parker ever heard him say. Some of his words live on in prison letters, though the last batch is almost illegible because the stroke forced the lefthander to write with his right hand.
She sees him every day, though, in photographs of a young boy in knee-high motorcycle boots, or of an adult standing by her side in the prison visiting room.
Not everyone has good things to say about him, though.
Frederick County prosecutor Lawrence Ambrogi needed little prompting for Parker's crime to flood back into memory. In fact, all the prosecutor required were names - that of Parker and his victim, Ralph Wayne "Jimmy" Jenkins.
Few reasons are provided for the blitz attack.
In Lenz's clemency petition, defense attorney Jennifer L. Givens of the Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center in Charlottesville, argues the murder committed by Parker happened "for seemingly no reason."
Ambrogi, when pressed for an answer as he read from 21-year-old witness notes, failed to come up with a better explanation.
Brent Parker and Jenkins stopped in a mobile-home park on the outskirts of Winchester in a desperate search to find somewhere to drink.
For some inexplicable reason, a drunken Parker jumped on, kicked and stomped his acquaintance.
"Witnesses said he jumped up and down until someone said he squished it [Jenkins' head] open," Ambrogi read. "His bones were sticking out of his arms and legs."
He kicked so hard that Jenkins' pants and one boot came off the body. Parker held the pants aloft and bragged to witnesses, "I kicked his ass until I kicked him out of his pants."
Wrote Givens: "An eyewitness to the crime testified that . Parker was laughing and taking smoke and drink breaks during the hour-long beating."
After the beating ended, Parker jumped in the car and backed over Jenkins. He then stopped at a nearby 7-Eleven where, for two hours, he sexually harassed the woman clerk and bragged about the murder before stealing cigarettes and beer.
"The clerk stated that Parker was covered in blood from his knees down and that his car also had blood on it," Givens wrote.
The store clerk said of the theft: "I wasn't going to try and stop him after what he just told me."
Said Frederick County Commonwealth's Attorney Lawrence Ambrogi, who prosecuted Parker: "It was just a senseless, sadistic killing."
Parker died in pretty much the same manner as his victim - as the focus of a blitz attack and without putting up much of a defense.
Lenz, 42, has refused to pick between the electric chair and lethal injection. The default method of execution goes to the needle.
Either way, he would be the first Virginia inmate executed for killing another prisoner since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.
He might have killed Brent Parker in a preemptive strike to save his own life. Or, the attack came as a power play so Lenz could take a leadership role in the Asatru cult at the prison.
Information about Lenz is difficult to come by. According to his clemency petition, Lenz was a homeless man living in the woods of Prince William County who broke into homes and restaurants for food. The petition fails to state how he garnered nearly 30 years in prison for mere break-ins, however.
Prince William County Police records revealed little more information than the number of breaking-and-entering charges filed against him, Officer John Bogert said Friday. And the detectives who arrested Lenz retired years ago and could not be reached for comment.
The Viking cult prison group, called the Ironwood Kindred, was based on the pre-Judeo-Christian beliefs of the Norse religious practices. In other words, they worshipped Viking gods.
Deciphering the reason for the attack depends on which appeals petition, court record or newspaper interview is believed, however.
Years ago, Lenz told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that Parker "disrespected" the gods. Remington, convicted as an accomplice, voiced similar sentiments before taking his own life slightly more than two years ago.
Lenz also claims that Parker threatened his life.
"Parker twice told Lenz that he would 'sharpen the point of his cane and stab [Lenz] through [his] heart with it,' " defense attorney Givens wrote in her clemency petition.
"Lenz had good reason to take these threats seriously; Parker boasted about the fact that he was a convicted murderer, reminding Lenz 'I am a killer.' According to another inmate, Parker also made a point of 'telling people that he was considering hurting Michael [Lenz].' "
Givens argued in her petition that a jury might have spared Lenz's life had they heard this evidence.
Brent Parker died at the foot of an altar, seconds after one of his attackers recited poetry as part of a pagan ceremony.
His mother, Bonnie Parker, had never heard of Asatru before last week. Her nurse, Prifogle, also was clueless about the cult's existence.
"Is that satanic?" Prifogle, attempting to keep it a secret from Bonnie Parker, whispered over the phone.
Neither woman was aware of the circumstances leading to the attack.
Lenz once testified: "I called [Parker] up to the altar and I asked - and I said to him, 'It's been a long, hard path between us.' And [Parker] said, 'Yes, it is.' And I pulled the blade out of my pocket, and I said, 'Are you trying to take it to the next step?' And he said, 'Yes I am." And so I stabbed him."
Remington then jumped in. Their frenzied attack stopped briefly, Correctional Officer Earl Jones testified, as he ordered them to stop.
"[T]hey simply looked at me and went back to stabbing him," Jones said.
Now, defense attorneys are petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of execution on the basis that some jurors "consulted" a Bible when deciding whether to sentence Lenz to death.
Bonnie Parker has never followed the newspaper reports about Lenz's fight for a reprieve. The fight for life by her son's killer does not interest her.
Months ago, she received an invitation from the Virginia Department of Corrections to watch Lenz die. It was the first time she'd heard from the department "in ages."
She never returned the letter. Instead, she prefers to content herself with school pictures and memories of her son.
Post by SoulTrainOz on Jul 26, 2006 7:46:06 GMT -5
Inmate Death Sentence
He stabbed an inmate to death during a pagan religious ceremony in the Augusta Correctional Center. Now that Virginia man is scheduled to die Thursday.
The religion the inmate was said to be practicing is Asatru. Religious and prison leaders say it has been growing in popularity among the nation's inmates. Locally, however, jail officials say they are not aware of any inmates who are a part of the religion.
However, a report from the Attorney General's Office says in 2000, 6 inmates attended a meeting at the Augusta Correctional Center for a group called the Ironwood Kindred which practices the Asatru religion. At this meeting, Brent Parker was stabbed 68 times at the foot of an alter. Investigators believe blasphemy against the pagan gods is the reason for the slaying.
Michael Lenz and Jeffrey Remington were found guilty of the murder. Remington committed suicide in 2004 while on death row. Lenz has been sentenced to die this Thursday. Some believe the religion's roots in Viking mythology attract prisoners seeking power, protection, and unity.
An FBI report describes a branch of Asatru as a "white supremacist ideology that lends itself to violence." Lenz would be the 1st Virginian inmate executed for killing another prisoner since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.
Post by SoulTrainOz on Jul 27, 2006 6:21:02 GMT -5
Killer asks Kaine for reprieve
As Lenz's execution nears, defense seeks clemency, citing defective forms
BY FRANK GREEN, Richmond Times-Dispatch
Michael W. Lenz's lawyers say his execution scheduled for tomorrow should be stopped because the jury that decided his sentence in 2000 used verdict forms later ruled defective.
The Virginia Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that verdict forms should make clear that a jury can impose a life sentence even if it finds that a killer would be a continuing threat to society and had shown depravity of mind.
A jury must find one or both for a killer to be eligible for the death penalty.
Last year, the justices vacated William Morrisette's death sentence because of the same defect, Lenz's lawyers said. The justices found Morrisette's right to effective legal representation was violated because his trial lawyers did not object to the forms.
Morrisette was tried in August 2001, after the Virginia Supreme Court's ruling. Therefore, his lawyers should have objected to the verdict forms at trial, the justices said. Lenz was tried in July 2000, before the justices' ruling.
But because Lenz was tried before the form was held defective, his lawyers were not constitutionally ineffective for failing to object, the Supreme Court said in a 4-3 decision.
Lenz's lawyers have asked Gov. Timothy M. Kaine to halt Lenz's execution as a matter of fairness. Morrisette got a new sentencing hearing; Lenz did not, even though both were sentenced to death using verdict forms with the same defect.
Jennifer L. Givens, one of Lenz's lawyers, said Kaine should commute the death sentence to life imprisonment, arguing that the difference of little more than a year between Lenz's sentencing and Morrisette's should not be the difference between life and death.
In addition, there was another error in the forms used in Lenz's case, Givens said. The jury also was not given a verdict form that would allow them to sentence Lenz to life in prison plus a fine of up to $100,000.
But J. Tucker Martin, spokesman for Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell, said, "Lenz's claim in his clemency petition is the same claim previously rejected by the courts that have heard it. The courts found Lenz received a fair trial."
The last time an inmate raised the defective-verdict-form issue in a gubernatorial clemency petition, then-Gov. Mark R. Warner granted Bobby Wayne Swisher Jr. a three-week reprieve so Swisher could argue his claim before the Virginia Supreme Court. Swisher lost and was executed three weeks later on July 22, 2003.
Lenz was convicted of the Jan. 16, 2000, murder of Brent Parker at the Augusta Correctional Center. Parker was serving a 50-year sentence for murder when he was killed during a pagan religious ceremony.
Parker was stabbed to death by Lenz and inmate Jeffrey Remington. Remington also was sentenced to death, but committed suicide while on death row in 2004. Lenz testified that Parker, a convicted murderer, had threatened his life.
Lenz filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court last week. In that appeal, Lenz's lawyers pointed out that some jurors had consulted a Bible while considering whether to sentence Lenz to death. The lawyers contend the jurors' actions violated Lenz's right to a fair and impartial jury.
Yesterday he lost a federal court challenge to the way lethal injections are performed. In rejecting the challenge, U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer wrote: "Lenz has been facing a sentence of death for almost six years. He has exhausted all state and federal avenues for challenging his sentence and underlying conviction, yet, curiously, Lenz has raised these lethal injection arguments for the very first time . . . shortly before his scheduled execution date.
"The motivation behind Lenz's last-minute complaint is obviously to unjustifiably delay the inevitable," Spencer wrote.
Post by SoulTrainOz on Jul 30, 2006 3:15:30 GMT -5
A man who murdered a fellow inmate during a pagan religious ceremony was executed tonight. The U.S. Supreme Court earlier today denied a stay request for 42-year-old Michael Lenz. And Governor Tim Kaine has declined to intervene.
42-year-old Michael Lenz received a lethal injection at the Greensville Correctional Center and was pronounced dead at 9:07 p-m.
When asked if he had any final words, Lenz gave a slight shake of his head, indicating no.
Lenz and another inmate, Jeffrey Remington, were sentenced to death in 2000 for stabbing Parker a combined 68 times with makeshift knives at the Augusta Correctional Center.
The 3 inmates were followers of the Nordic pagan religion and belonged to a group known as the Ironwood Kindred. The group was gathered for a ceremony when Lenz and Remington attacked Parker.
Remington committed suicide on death row in 2004.
Lenz becomes the 3rd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Virginia, and the 97th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1982. Only Texas (371) has executed more inmates since the US Supreme Court re-legalized the death penalty on July 2, 1976.
Lenz becomes the 32nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1036th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.