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Texas Should Not Have Executed Robert Pruett

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Update: Robert Pruett was executed by lethal injection on Thursday.
Robert Pruett is scheduled to be executed by the State of Texas Thursday. He has never had a chance to live outside a prison as an adult. Taking his life is a senseless wrong that shows how badly the justice system fails juveniles.
Mr. Pruett was 15 years old when he last saw the outside world, after being arrested as an accomplice to a murder committed by his own father. Now 38, having been convicted of a murder while incarcerated, he will be put to death. At a time when the Supreme Court has begun to recognize excessive punishments for juveniles as unjust, Mr. Pruett’s case shows how young lives can be destroyed by a justice system that refuses to give second chances.
Mr. Pruett’s father, Sam Pruett, spent much of Mr. Pruett’s early childhood in prison. Mr. Pruett and his three siblings were raised in various trailer parks by his mother, who he has said used drugs heavily and often struggled to feed the children. Wh…

Arizona: Sammantha Allen sentenced to death for murder of cousin Ame Deal

Sammantha Allen
Sammantha Allen
In the end, the jurors felt they had no choice but to sentence Sammantha Allen to death for the brutal 2011 murder of her 10-year-old cousin, Ame Deal.

The Phoenix woman had been on trial in Maricopa County Superior Court since May, one of four family members charged with disciplining the girl by forcing her to do exercise in sweltering July heat and then locking her in a 31-inch-long footlocker overnight.

"The pictures of the victim stayed in our minds," said juror Ann Ospeth. "I think the thing for us was the victim and all the things her life entailed."

It demanded a death penalty, the jurors agreed.

"We were following what the law stated," said juror Amanda Heath.

And indeed the jurors felt that Allen should be punished to the max.

They also found aggravating factors for the four underlying child-abuse counts against Allen, which allowed the judge to impose harsher sentences for those charges.

Superior Court Judge Teresa Sanders sentenced Allen to an additional four consecutive sentences totaling 76 years for those crimes. She was given credit for more than 2,000 days she has already spent in custody.

Allen was found guilty June 26. Then the jury deliberated for a week over whether there were mitigating factors that would allow Allen to avoid the death penalty and instead be sentenced to life in prison.

They considered her age, her dysfunctional upbringing and the fact that she had no prior criminal record. But they determined the horror of the crime outweighed all of those.

The verdict was read late Monday morning in Maricopa County Superior Court. Upon learning her fate, Allen hung her head and wept.

"I just feel sad," said John Curry, her lead defense attorney, as he left the courthouse.

Allen becomes the third woman on Arizona's death row, and the first to be sentenced to death since Shawna Forde in Tucson in 2011. The last woman sentenced to death in Maricopa County was Wendi Andriano in 2004, but not for lack of trying.

Maricopa County prosecutors had to settle for life sentences in the murder trials of Jodi Arias in 2015, Marissa DeVault in 2014 and Marjorie Orbin in 2010, after failing to convince juries to bring back the ultimate punishment.

And in 2013, a federal court of appeals ruling threw out Debra Milke's death sentence because of prosecutor misconduct after she had spent 24 years on death row. An Arizona court ruled a year later that she could not be retried on grounds of double jeopardy.

Ame Deal's short and tragic life ended on July 11, 2011, when temperatures in Phoenix were in the triple digits.

After stealing a frozen treat on a hot summer day, the child was forced into physical exertion, then padlocked inside a 31- by 14- by 12-inch footlocker and left overnight, court records say.

Ame was dead by the time someone went to let her out the next morning.

Allen's husband, John Allen, also is charged with murder and child abuse. He has pleaded not guilty, and his trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 9.

Prosecutor Jeannette Gallagher told the court that she needed to press for aggravating factors on Sammantha Allen's child-abuse convictions because they were relevant to John Allen's upcoming trial.

Three other family members are already in prison for their roles in the case. Judith Deal currently is serving a 10-year sentence for a child-abuse conviction. Cynthia Stoltzman, who was Ame's legal guardian, is serving 24 years for child abuse in the case, and David Deal is serving 14 years for child abuse.

“I want to thank the members of the jury for their time and effort on this case and reaching a difficult, but just conclusion for the senseless murder of Ame,” County Attorney Bill Montgomery said in a statement.

In addition to death, Judge Teresa Sanders sentenced Allen to 76 years of consecutive prison sentences after the jury found aggravating factors in the remaining four counts of child abuse. Among the aggravating factors were the especially cruel nature of the crimes, the young age of the victim, the presence of an accomplice (her husband John), and the fact that the defendant was in a position of trust to the victim.

Ame apparently was locked in the footlocker as punishment for taking a frozen treat from the refrigerator. Court records say that John Allen told investigators that he locked Ame in the box while his wife stood by. Then, records say, the Allens fell asleep.

Before Ame was locked in, however, police believe she was forced to spend two hours doing backbends and was forced by John Allen to maintain the torturous position, court records say. She also was forced to run in the yard despite the summer heat, records say. The temperature that day exceeded 103 degrees.

Then, sweating profusely and badly overheated, Ame was forcibly jammed into the footlocker, court records say.

The footlocker had been used on several previous occasions to punish Ame for various offenses, including wetting the bed, according to accounts given to police by others who had lived at the home, court records say.

On one occasion, adults who lived at the house said, as punishment for failing to pick up a dog's droppings, the feces were rubbed onto Ame's face and she was forced to eat them, court records say.

Ame was listed as an "abused, neglected child" in Utah, where the family had lived from 2006 to 2010. Arizona Department of Child Safety, then called Child Protective Services, had no prior contact with the family or with Ame.

Source: The Republic | azcentral.com, Michael Kiefer and Sean Na, August 7, 2017


Who are the women on death row in Arizona?


Four women have been on death row in Arizona: Eva Dugan (top left),
Wendi Andriano, Shawna Forde and Sammantha Allen (bottom left).
There are currently three women on death row in Arizona, and one woman who was executed.

Sammantha Allen was sentenced to death Monday in the killing of her 10-year-old cousin, Ame Deal.

Allen is the fourth woman to be sentenced to death in Arizona. She joins Wendi Andriano and Shawna Forde, who are currently on death row. The Arizona State Prison Complex - Perryville is where female death row inmates are housed.

Eva Dugan

Crime: January 1927

Executed: February 21, 1930

Dugan was found guilty of killing Arthur Mathis, a rancher near Tucson.

Dugan grew up a frontierswoman, floating from town to town for work. She met Mathis in Tucson, and he hired her immediately to work as his housekeeper. The Prescott Courier from May 1979 implies the relationship was a kind of arrangement.

A young man named Jack moved in with Mathis and Dugan, then Mathis was never seen again. Dugan and Jack skipped town.

Dugan and Jack sold Mathis' car in Amarillo, Texas, the Pima County Sheriff discovered. Dugan was tracked to New York and arrested for grand larceny.

Months later, a man bought some land near the Mathis ranch. He was driving stakes for a tent when he discovered a shallow grave. The red-headed remains were identified as Arthur Mathis.
Dugan was sentenced to death.

"If I was a flapper with pretty legs, I never would have been convicted and given the death penalty," she reportedly said.

Dugan was hanged February 21, 1930. When the gallows trap sprang, her body fell and she was decapitated.

The scene caused five people to faint.

Dugan's gruesome death lead to capital punishment reform in Arizona. A year after the horrific incident, Arizona stopped executions by hanging and began using the gas chamber.

Wendi Andriano


Crime: October 8, 2000

Andriano was found guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of her husband. A jury found Adriano had killed her husband, Joe Andriano, by beating him with a barstool and slitting his throat.

Joe Andriano had been diagnosed with a terminal illness when Wendi Andriano was pregnant with their second child.

The night of Oct. 7, 2000, Wendi called 911 in the early-morning hours to get Joe medical help. She called a coworker in her apartment complex to help watch the kids. The coworker said he saw Joe lying on the floor in the living room. He was in the fetal position, vomiting and weak.

When paramedics arrived, Wendi sent them away, saying Joe was dying of cancer and had a do-not-resuscitate order. Paramedics left.

Andriano called 911 again at 3:39 a.m. Paramedics found Andriano in a bloody shirt, and Joe dead on the floor. There was a bloody barstool nearby. Joe had fatal head injuries and a stab wound to his neck.

The medical examiner determined Joe had been hit on the head at least 23 times. He also had sodium azide, a pesticide, in his system.

Andriano claimed she had tried to help Joe take his own life, and when the assisted suicide attempt failed, the two fought. Andriano said she hit Joe with a barstool in self defense.

Andriano was sentenced to death. She is appealing. She filed a federal habeas corpus appeal in April 2016.

Shawna Forde


Crime: May 30, 2009

Forde was found guilty in the first-degree murders of Raul and Brisenia Flores.

Forde, a rogue Minutemen leader on the Arizona border, burst into the Flores home in Arivaca, Arizona, in the middle of the night along with Jason Eugene Bush and Albert Robert Gaxiola.

Dressed in camouflage, Forde, Bush and Gaxiola claimed to be agents looking for fugitives. They took jewelry, then shot Raul Flores, his daughter, 9-year-old Brisenia, and his wife, Gina Gonzales.

Gonzales survived the attack by pretending to be dead. Gonzales was calling 911 when the intruders came back. Gonzales fired a shotgun at them, wounding Bush.

Evidence showed Forde planned the attack, though Bush pulled the trigger. Both Forde and Bush were sentenced to death.

Sammantha Allen


Crime: July 12, 2011

Allen was found guilty in the killing of 10-year-old Ame Deal.

Sammantha and John Allen lived in a home near Broadway Road at 35th Avenue with Ame Deal and many others.

Ame faced severe abuse in the home, court documents said.

Deal died after she was locked in a plastic box that was left outside overnight in the Arizona summer. 
Deal was being punished for taking a popsicle. She died of suffocation and heat, according to court documents.

Sammantha Allen was sentenced to death. John Allen is also facing charges. His case will go to trial later this month.

Source: KPNX-TV, August 8, 2017

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