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News Scan

CA Prison Gang Leader May Face Death Penalty: Henry K. Lee of the San Francisco Chronicle reports a Nuestra Familia prison gang leader, Henry Cervantes, has been charged in California with two Oakland murders. Cervantes has been charged with murder in the aid of racketeering and conspiracy. On September 11, 2011, two bodies were found in an apartment building which had been set on fire. The victims, a 73-year-old man and 56-year-old woman, were both fatally stabbed according to autopsies. Allegedly, Cervantes recruited three gang members to get rid of any evidence of the murder committed by Cervantes the day prior. Seven other defendants are also listed in his indictment in the U.S. District Court in Oakland. Cervantes has been charged with murder in the aid of racketeering and conspiracy. In 2004, he was convicted of racketeering and conspiracy and served about six years of a ten-year sentence. By 2011, he was overseeing criminal activities of the gang's Oakland unit. If convicted, Cervantes may face the death penalty.

Fort Hood Mass Shooter Still Faces Death Penalty: The Associated Press reports mass shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan will still face the death penalty if convicted for the November 5, 2009 Fort Hood shooting in Texas. According to Hasan's attorneys he wishes to plead guilty on 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. Judge Col. Tara Osborn has stated that Hasan's motion will be heard next month, but Army regulations do not allow judges to accept a guilty plea in cases where capital punishment is a consideration. Instead, a commanding general makes the decision on whether or not the death penalty will be sought. In such a case, plea-bargaining is prohibited. Hasan's attorneys have indicated that if his guilty plea is rejected, the plea will instead be for unpremeditated murder, a charge that does not warrant the death penalty. According to experts in military law, even if such lesser pleas are accepted, Hasan will still face the death penalty if the prosecution moves forward with the trial and convicts him of the original charge. The date of the trial has not yet been set. Continued from this News Scan.

Alleged NC Cop Killed May Face Death Penalty: Scott Hamilton of the Winston-Salem Journal reports alleged cop killer Scott Sica may face the death penalty in North Carolina if convicted. Sica and two accomplices were charged with the Oct. 5, 1996 shooting of police officer Sgt. Greg Martin. One accomplice testified Wednesday that Sica shot and killed Martin when the officer had stopped them for a minor traffic violation after a botched robbery at a local restaurant. Sica's previous record of a bank robbery conviction added strength to the prosecution's bid for the death penalty. Judge Edgar B. Gregory ruled that the argument met the necessary requirements for capital punishment. Beyond the first-degree murder charge, Sica and his accomplices have been charged with several other crimes connected to Martin's slaying. Some of these charges include attempted robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, and two counts of possession of stolen goods. Judge Gregory set a review hearing date of June 3.

TX Killer's Execution Delayed Yet Again:
Renée C. Lee of the Houston Chronicle reports the February 27 execution date for convicted killer Larry Swearingen was again postponed in Texas Wednesday. Swearingen was convicted of the 1998 murder of 19-year-old college student Melissa Trotter. He maintains his innocence. Since his conviction in 2000, Swearingen's attorneys have unsuccessfully filed three motions for DNA testing. DNA evidence found at the crime scene, his lawyers argue, would prove Swearingen's innocence. Recently, a motion was filed by the New York-based Innocence Project, heard Wednesday, arguing a 2011 Texas law, found here, established that DNA tests should be conducted in cases where it could prove innocence. Montgomery County Judge Kelly Case gave the prosecution and defense in the case 60 days to respond to the pending motion. Continued from this News Scan.

IL Police Oppose Parole for Cop Killer: CBS News reports convicted cop killer Clifton Hill is attempting to be granted parole in Illinois. In December 1976, police officer Charles Pollard, not in uniform, was found murdered in an alley behind his home. The victim's weapon and watch were missing, and his wallet emptied. Hill and an accomplice were charged in the killing. Chicago police officers oppose Hill being released into the community.

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