Day: January 28, 2020

Lawyers ask parole board to spare condemned man’s life

ATLANTA — A Georgia man convicted of killing his ex-wife and her boyfriend shouldn’t be executed, his lawyers argue, citing the additional pain it will cause his children, evidence of brain damage not heard by the jury that sentenced him to die and his model behaviour in prison.

Donnie Cleveland Lance, 66, is scheduled to receive a lethal injection Wednesday. He was convicted and sentenced to die for the November 1997 killings of Sabrina “Joy” Lance and Dwight “Butch” Wood Jr. in Jackson County, about 60 miles (96 kilometres) northeast of Atlanta.

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles, the only authority in Georgia that can commute a death sentence, plans to hold a closed-door clemency hearing Tuesday. The board on Monday declassified a clemency application filed by Lance’s lawyers.

Stephanie Lance Cape and Jessie Lance, the now-adult children of Donnie and Joy Lance, have submitted a letter to the parole board and plan to ask for mercy at Tuesday’s hearing. Donnie Lance has maintained his innocence and his children have doubts about his guilt, but their plea for clemency doesn’t depend on those doubts, the application says.

“We’ve spent our whole lives with this huge gaping hole in our hearts, but at least we’ve had dad at our sides,” they wrote in the letter, which is quoted in the application. “It’s almost impossible to imagine that it could get worse.”

The clemency application details the close contact the pair have maintained with their father during his more than two decades on death row, relying on his advice and support. They acknowledge that their mother’s family and Wood’s family have also suffered enormously as a result of the killings.

“With us being the exception, everyone has lost everything they are going to lose from this nightmare,” they wrote. “We have lost just as much, but somehow, we still have more to lose — and that’s being taken away even as we sit here now. We’ll continue to pray this final loss doesn’t come to pass.”

Lance went to Wood’s home the night of Nov. 8, 1997, kicked in the front door and shot Wood in the front and back with a shotgun and then beat Joy Lance to death with the butt of the shotgun, according to a Georgia Supreme Court summary of the case.

There were no witnesses and no murder weapon was ever found. Lance’s lawyers have argued that no blood or other physical evidence linked him to the killings but that investigators immediately focused on him to the exclusion of other suspects. Lawyers for the state have argued in court filings that the evidence against Lance “although circumstantial, was overwhelming.”

Prosecutors argued that Lance had long abused his ex-wife, both during their marriage and after their divorce, and that he had threatened multiple times to kill her. His lawyers wrote in the clemency application that the two had a troubled relationship and that “alcohol abuse was a significant factor in a history of mutual aggression.”

The trial court refused a request from Lance’s lawyer for the appointment of a second lawyer and for funds to hire experts. He spent all his time preparing for the guilt-or-innocence phase of the trial and didn’t present any evidence during the penalty phase.

The jury that sentenced Lance to death didn’t hear anything about his mental health issues or traumatic brain injuries that affected his mental health functioning, the application says. When the U.S. Supreme Court declined last year to take his case, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a dissent, joined by justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan, arguing that evidence could have swayed at least one juror.

While courts have been limited in the questions they could consider in post-conviction proceedings, the parole board is not bound by those limits and can take all the facts and details into account, the clemency petition argues in urging the board members to commute his sentence.

Lance has also been a model inmate, with only two minor infraction during his two decades on death row — having 54 stamps rather than the allowed 50 and refusing to move to a different cell. The clemency application includes testimonials from guards and mental health counsellors who attest to his good behaviour and support clemency.

In addition to the clemency application, Lance also has two separate challenges pending before the courts.

He would be the first prisoner executed in Georgia this year. Jimmy Fletcher Meders was scheduled for lethal injection Jan. 16, but the parole board commuted his sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole just hours before the execution was scheduled to happen.

Kate Brumback, The Associated Press

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By The Wall of Law January 28, 2020 Off

Lawyers ask parole board to spare condemned man’s life

ATLANTA — A Georgia man convicted of killing his ex-wife and her boyfriend shouldn’t be executed, his lawyers argue, citing the additional pain it will cause his children, evidence of brain damage not heard by the jury that sentenced him to die and his model behaviour in prison.

Donnie Cleveland Lance, 66, is scheduled to receive a lethal injection Wednesday. He was convicted and sentenced to die for the November 1997 killings of Sabrina “Joy” Lance and Dwight “Butch” Wood Jr. in Jackson County, about 60 miles (96 kilometres) northeast of Atlanta.

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles, the only authority in Georgia that can commute a death sentence, plans to hold a closed-door clemency hearing Tuesday. The board on Monday declassified a clemency application filed by Lance’s lawyers.

Stephanie Lance Cape and Jessie Lance, the now-adult children of Donnie and Joy Lance, have submitted a letter to the parole board and plan to ask for mercy at Tuesday’s hearing. Donnie Lance has maintained his innocence and his children have doubts about his guilt, but their plea for clemency doesn’t depend on those doubts, the application says.

“We’ve spent our whole lives with this huge gaping hole in our hearts, but at least we’ve had dad at our sides,” they wrote in the letter, which is quoted in the application. “It’s almost impossible to imagine that it could get worse.”

The clemency application details the close contact the pair have maintained with their father during his more than two decades on death row, relying on his advice and support. They acknowledge that their mother’s family and Wood’s family have also suffered enormously as a result of the killings.

“With us being the exception, everyone has lost everything they are going to lose from this nightmare,” they wrote. “We have lost just as much, but somehow, we still have more to lose — and that’s being taken away even as we sit here now. We’ll continue to pray this final loss doesn’t come to pass.”

Lance went to Wood’s home the night of Nov. 8, 1997, kicked in the front door and shot Wood in the front and back with a shotgun and then beat Joy Lance to death with the butt of the shotgun, according to a Georgia Supreme Court summary of the case.

There were no witnesses and no murder weapon was ever found. Lance’s lawyers have argued that no blood or other physical evidence linked him to the killings but that investigators immediately focused on him to the exclusion of other suspects. Lawyers for the state have argued in court filings that the evidence against Lance “although circumstantial, was overwhelming.”

Prosecutors argued that Lance had long abused his ex-wife, both during their marriage and after their divorce, and that he had threatened multiple times to kill her. His lawyers wrote in the clemency application that the two had a troubled relationship and that “alcohol abuse was a significant factor in a history of mutual aggression.”

The trial court refused a request from Lance’s lawyer for the appointment of a second lawyer and for funds to hire experts. He spent all his time preparing for the guilt-or-innocence phase of the trial and didn’t present any evidence during the penalty phase.

The jury that sentenced Lance to death didn’t hear anything about his mental health issues or traumatic brain injuries that affected his mental health functioning, the application says. When the U.S. Supreme Court declined last year to take his case, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a dissent, joined by justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan, arguing that evidence could have swayed at least one juror.

While courts have been limited in the questions they could consider in post-conviction proceedings, the parole board is not bound by those limits and can take all the facts and details into account, the clemency petition argues in urging the board members to commute his sentence.

Lance has also been a model inmate, with only two minor infraction during his two decades on death row — having 54 stamps rather than the allowed 50 and refusing to move to a different cell. The clemency application includes testimonials from guards and mental health counsellors who attest to his good behaviour and support clemency.

In addition to the clemency application, Lance also has two separate challenges pending before the courts.

He would be the first prisoner executed in Georgia this year. Jimmy Fletcher Meders was scheduled for lethal injection Jan. 16, but the parole board commuted his sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole just hours before the execution was scheduled to happen.

Kate Brumback, The Associated Press

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By The Wall of Law January 28, 2020 Off

This Ex-Royal Moved To Canada For A Quieter Life. Sound Familiar?

Iris loved the pool. This was a fact. She would go every day if she could, in her one-piece swimsuit and terry cloth swimming robe.

She would ring our buzzer and say, “Can Kristine come down to swim?”

I don’t know what was stranger: that she wanted to go to an outdoor pool in the company of a little Black child in Toronto (it was the early 1970s, just post the Civil Rights movement), or that Iris was, in fact, Lady Iris Mountbatten, great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria and second cousin of Queen Elizabeth II.

Lady Iris Mountbatten left Royal life for the United States, and eventually Toronto.

The name Mountbatten will be familiar to Royal Family watchers. The birth of Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, son of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, made headlines last year. Archie’s parents, who have since dropped their royal titles, recently announced they are making a move to Canada.

The name Mountbatten is steeped in tragedy. As noted in her New York Times obituary (she died in Toronto on Sept. 2, 1982), Lady Iris Victoria Beatrice Grace Mountbatten was first cousin of Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was killed by Irish Republican Army terrorists in 1979 — hence the name Louis for the son of Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge.

But one could not say that tragedy marked the life of Lady Iris. No, she had been a train bearer at George VI’s coronation, and was known for being a beautiful debutante and leggy fashion plate, with photographs of her seen regularly in the papers.

Lady Iris Mountbatten, centre, at a party for servicemen hosted by the Hotel Delmonico in New York, on Jan. 9, 1947.

It was not always that way for Lady Iris; she often was described as a rebel or a “black sheep” in the papers. She renounced any claim to the throne in 1941 upon marrying Captain (later Major) Hamilton Joseph Keyes O’Malley of the Irish Guards, a Roman Catholic. That marriage would end in divorce in 1946, just as her two subsequent marriages, first to American jazz guitarist Michael Neely Bryan, and lastly to Toronto actor-announcer William Alexander Kemp. She left England for the U.S. of A in 1947.

By the time I was born in 1970, five years after Lady Iris’ eventual arrival in Toronto, she had slipped away from the social scene for the most part (though she would attend a Drake concert — jazz singer Jodi Drake, that is — in 1979).

My West Toronto neighbourhood did not know any of that, not until the early 1980s when a fire took out Lady Iris’ townhome on High Park Avenue, just north of Bloor Street. At the time it was not a big story anywhere but in my house, my family being immigrants from Guyana (formerly British Guiana).

That we did not put two and two together is amazing. Then again, in those days people were allowed to be as they were.

Meghan Markle, left, and Prince Harry stepped back from their roles as senior royals and announced moving to Canada part-time.

Things are different now, but nothing happening in the House of Windsor today is new — particularly where sweeping exiles, divorcees and scandal under the proverbial rug are concerned.

Admittedly, the players in this current royal exodus are different now, as are the circumstances. Yet the three women — Mountbatten, Markle, and even her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II — have much in common.

These women have never been idle, working, one could say, in the marketing and entertainment industries. Lady Iris did ads, including one for a cold cream, and even hosted a program on members of various royalty living in Toronto. Markle is best known for her role as attorney Rachel Zane in the USA Network’s “Suits,” and used her skill in calligraphy to supplement her early acting career.

Lady Iris Mountbatten posed for this Warrens chewing gum advertisement, pictured in Toronto on July 23, 1947.

It should be of no surprise that both women are listed in the International Movie Database (IMDB). Indeed, so is Queen Elizabeth II, much to the seeming surprise of James Bond himself, Daniel Craig, when she appeared in a skit for the 2012 Olympic Games in London

Yes, acting runs in the family of the House of Windsor.

All three women have had to deal with the rigours of the press. Of the three, Lady Iris has been the most direct about her disdain of it. As she told the Toronto Star, again in the April 26, 1981 edition, “I have been misquoted up and down the pike, misunderstood and misrepresented like you would not believe.”

And all three women were directly impacted by divorce; Lady Iris was not the only one. One could argue that news reports of Mountbatten’s divorces mirror tweets of today, with small snippets of announcements appearing in the papers.

We should not forget that the spectre of scandal divorce has ravished the Queen’s family for the past few decades going back to Mrs. Wallis Simpson, the divorcee for whom Prince Edward VIII gave up the throne. Indeed, the Queen’s very seat on the throne is ensconced by it, as it was Queen Elizabeth’s father, George VI, who took the throne in Edward’s place. The scandal of the American Mrs. Simpson now dogs Markle.

Everybody seems to think they know the motives of all these women. I can say plainly that I did not know Lady Iris as “Lady Iris” at all. I was but a child when she came knocking at my door.

What is clear now is that Lady Iris was able to live a full life balancing intrusions from the press and maintaining a social calendar — a social calendar that included keeping the company of the Black Canadian child who lived next door.

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By The Wall of Law January 28, 2020 Off

Erin O’Toole Officially Launches Conservative Leadership Bid

Conservative MP Erin O'Toole listens during the Tory  caucus retreat on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Jan. 24, 2020.

OTTAWA — Ontario MP Erin O’Toole officially launched his leadership campaign Monday, promising to be a uniting force for his party as it looks for new footing following last fall’s federal election loss.

O’Toole, 47, met privately with party members in Alberta and chose to deliver his opening pitch to the public with a video posted to his website.

The video shows him walking with Parliament Hill looming behind him as he promises to be someone who not only stands up for auto workers, forestry workers and soldiers, but also for the urban and suburban voters the Conservatives need to attract in the next election.

“We need strong leadership to unite our party, take the hyphen out of being a Conservative, and ensure we grow our movement to win,” O’Toole said in the video.

“We need to show more urban and suburban Canadians that their values of liberty, family and equality are at the core of our party. I’m running to unite Conservatives on the path to victory.”

Conservatives are in the midst of debating the party’s position on a number of social issues such as LGBTQ rights and abortion, after outgoing leader Andrew Scheer’s clumsy positions on them contributed to the party’s failure in the October federal election. Several Conservatives have said they think those issues were among the reasons the party failed to resonate with urban and suburban voters in Ontario and Quebec.

Scheer initially intended to stay on as leader despite the election results but in mid-December suddenly changed his mind, announcing he would step aside when a new leader is chosen. That will happen at a convention in Toronto on June 27.

With his leadership bid now underway, O’Toole was replaced as the party’s foreign affairs critic in caucus. Fellow Ontario MP Marilyn Gladu, who announced her leadership bid earlier this month, is also being replaced as the health critic.

Sitting MPs seeking the leadership are not allowed to hold critic positions during the campaign.

Watch: Peter MacKay formally enters Tory leadership race

 

Deputy leader Leona Alleslev will take on the foreign affairs role, while Alberta MP Matt Jeneroux takes on health. Both are critical roles as Parliament resumed for the first significant session since the election, with the new North American trade deal, Canada’s relationship with China and the emergence of a new virus out of China all key issues the House of Commons will deal with in the weeks to come.

Also in the race is former justice minister Peter MacKay, who left politics in 2015 and has worked as a private lawyer and political commentator since 2016. MacKay has pulled ahead of the pack with endorsements from sitting MPs, with at least 15 throwing their support his way so far.

That includes at least three, including B.C. MP Ed Fast, Manitoba MP James Bezan and Ontario MP Colin Carrie, who backed O’Toole for the leadership in 2017. O’Toole finished third in that race, his supporters effectively putting Scheer over the top to clinch the victory over Maxime Bernier.

While the 2017 contest saw more than a dozen people on the ballot, the 2020 version is thus far shaping up to have a much smaller list of contenders. In addition to O’Toole, MacKay and Gladu, Ontario MP Derek Sloan, former political aides Aron Seal and Richard Decarie, 2019 Ontario candidate Bobby Singh and Alberta businessman Rick Peterson have declared an intention to run.

Last week three potential heavyweights decided not to run, including former Quebec premier Jean Charest, former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, and current MP Pierre Poilievre, who was supposed to launch his campaign Sunday but quit at the last minute.

In order to officially register as a candidate, contenders must submit an application, a $25,000 instalment on the $300,000 entry fee and the first 1,000 of the 3,000 required signatures, all by Feb. 27.

O’Toole’s campaign said Monday he has already met both requirements.

O’Toole stresses in his video that he is not a career politician, and that he spent 10 years in the private sector and 12 years in the military before running for office in a 2012 by-election. He represents the riding of Durham near Toronto.

He became Veterans Affairs minister in 2015, and was credited with easing major tensions between the Conservative government of the day and the veterans community by drawing in part on his own background serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

His leadership platform for the 2017 vote included a marquee promise to increase the basic personal income tax exemption for Canadians in their first three to five years out of school, as well as a pledge to increase defence spending to meet the NATO target of 2 per cent of GDP and a new trade and security partnership between Canada, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand.

This report by the Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2020.

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By The Wall of Law January 28, 2020 Off

Man receives five-year jail sentence after young girl forced into sex trade

A Newmarket judge has sentenced a 26-year-old man to five years in prison after he was found guilty of forcing a young girl to work in the sex trade four years ago. 

York Regional Police said that one person had been taken into custody in 2016 after officers determined that a girl under the age of 18 was being forced to work in the sex trade between the months of July and October.

Ferhat Tekin was charged with a number of offences in connection with the incident, including trafficking a person under 18, making child pornography, obtaining sex services and distributing child pornography.

On Sept. 24, 2019, he was found guilty of those charges. 

Tekin received his sentence Thursday at the Ontario Court of Justice in New Market, police said.

  

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