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News Scan

Scheduled Execution:  Tim Talley of The Oklahoman reports on today's scheduled execution of Oklahoma death row inmate Jeffrey David Matthews, convicted of murdering his 77-year-old great-uncle in 1994.  Prosecutors allege that after Matthews and another man broke into Otis Earl Short's home, Matthews shot the elderly man in the head at close range while the other man cut the throat of Short's wife (who ultimately survived the attack).  Three execution dates were set for Matthews last year, but each one was postponed after challenges to either Matthews's guilt or the state's planned method of execution.

Bizarre Murder-by-Stove Conviction Affirmed:  In what reads like a law school exam question, a felony-murder conviction stemming from a stolen stove was affirmed last week by a California appeals court.  Prosecutors alleged that Cole Allen Wilkins stole several major appliances from a Riverside construction site, put them untied in the back of his truck, and fled down a freeway.  When a stove fell onto the highway, a Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy on his way to work swerved to avoid it and was fatally crushed by a cement truck.  Wilkins was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 26 years to life. The appellate court affirmed the murder as a death occurring during the commission of a felony: "Here, the act that caused the homicide - the failure to tie down the load of stolen loot - occurred at the scene of the burglary, not 60 miles later when part of the unsecured load fell off the back of defendant's truck."  Larry Welborn of The Orange County Register has this story.

NH Governor Endorses Expanded Death Penalty Eligibility:
  New Hampshire Governor John Lynch last week endorsed expanding the state's death penalty to include "heinous" home invasion murders, reports Joseph G. Cote and Kevin Landrigan of The Nashua Telegraph (NH).  The Governor's endorsement comes in light of the 2009 brutal hacking death of a 42-year-old mother Kimberly Cates inside her home by two alleged co-defendants, neither of whom are eligible for capital punishment under the current law.  Opponents of the expansion claim it will be difficult to word the law so as to target crimes against innocent victims such as Cates and not, for instance, murders resulting from turf fights that result in a death.
Interpretation Difficulties:  Jeremy Roebuck of The Philadelphia Inquirer has this piece on the difficulties in prosecuting defendants with severe communication impediments, such as accused drug mule Juan Jose Gonzalez Luna, who is deaf, mute, illiterate, and has no knowledge of sign language.  During Gonzalez's preliminary hearing yesterday, interpreters used props, maps, and photos of cocaine and vehicles to help explain the charges.  While a judge determined Gonzalez had at least a basic understanding of the charges, the hours Gonzalez's attorney claims it took to prepare for the three-minute hearing does not bode well for a full-blown trial.  Hat tip to How Appealing.

"I Want the Money in $20s, $40s, and $60s":  Authorities in Arizona are on the lookout for the "$60 Bandit," reports Catherine Holland of KTVK azfamily.com.  The suspect, a white male between the ages of 55 and 60, is wanted in connection with four bank robberies in four cites since last October, during which he demanded money from the bank teller - all in $20s, $40s, and $60s.

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