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News Scan

Tennessee Lethal Injection Procedure Ruled Constitutional:  United Press International reports Davidson County Judge Claudia Bonnyman ruled that Tennessee's execution protocol provides enough safeguards to check for an inmate's consciousness.  The ruling paves the way for the execution of death row inmate Stephen Michael West, sentenced to death in 1987 for the kidnapping and fatal stabbing of Wanda Romines and her 15-year-old daughter.  If the State Supreme Court affirms, West's execution date could be set for September.  

Jury Recommends Death Sentence for Florida Murderer:  A Florida jury recommended a sentence of death for convicted triple murderer Leon Davis, Jr., reports Kathy Leigh Berkowitz of The Polk County Democrat (FL).  Prosecutors allege that while robbing an insurance agency, Davis forced clerks Yvonne Bustamonte and Juanita Luciano into a restroom, duct-taped them, poured gasoline on them, and set them on fire with a crumpled piece of paper.  Luciano's prematurely born son also died as a result.

Killer Pleads Guilty to 49th Murder:  Kevin Hayes of CBS News reports Gary Ridgway the "Green River Killer", currently serving 48 life sentences, has pleaded guilty to the murder of his 49th victim Becky Marrero.  Her remains were found in December after she was last seen in 1982.  A 2003 plea agreement with prosecutors spared Ridgway the death penalty in exchange for his promise to plead guilty in any future cases in which his confession could be corroborated with other evidence.  Because Marrero's case falls within this agreement, prosecutors will not seek the death penalty for Ridgway's most recent alleged victim.   

Ringleader in Couple's Murder Sentenced to Death:  On Thursday Circuit Judge Nick Geeker sentenced Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Jr. to death for the execution-style murders of Florida couple Byrd and Melanie Billings.  Gonzalez, a former karate instructor, led a group of five men and one teenager into the couple's home in the belief that they kept a fortune in the house.  Gonzales fatally shot the Billings in front of a few of the couple's nine adopted special-needs children, all between the ages of five and 12.  Kern Wernowsky of the Pensacola News Journal has this story.

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