Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?

In the past, abolition efforts have faced a backlash—but Gavin Newsom’s moratorium may be different.
The American death penalty is extraordinarily fragile, with death sentences and executions on the decline. Public support for the death penalty has diminished. The practice is increasingly marginalized around the world. California, with its disproportionately large share of American death-row inmates, announces an end to the death penalty. The year? 1972. That’s when the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty inconsistent with the state’s constitutional prohibition of cruel or unusual punishments—only to have the death penalty restored a year later through popular initiative and legislation.
On Wednesday, again, California walked back its commitment to the death penalty. Though not full-fledged abolition, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on capital punishment lasting as long as his tenure in office, insisting that the California death penalty has been an “abject…

Texas executes Anthony Allen Shore

Anthony Shore
HUNTSVILLE, Texas -- A man who became known as Houston's "Tourniquet Killer" because of his signature murder technique has become the nation's first prisoner executed in 2018. 

Anthony Allen Shore received lethal injection Thursday evening in Texas for the 1992 strangling of a 21-year-old woman whose body was dumped in the drive-thru of a Houston Dairy Queen.

In the moments before the execution, he spoke briefly to some of his victim's family members in attendance.

"He sounded apologetic," said AP reporter and eyewitness Mike Graczyk. "His voice cracked several times. His chin and lips were quivering as he was speaking."

In his final statement, Shore said:

"I like to take a moment to say I'm sorry. No amount of words could ever undo what I've done. To the family of my victims, I wish I could undo the past. It is what it is. God bless all of you. I will die with a clear conscious. I made my peace. There is no others. I will like to wish a happy birthday to Barbara Carrol. Today is her birthday. I would like to specifically thank those that have helped me, you know who you are. God bless everybody, until we meet again. I'm ready, warden."

Graczyk described Shore's reaction as the lethal injection was administered.

"He said you could feel it, it was hot, it was burning," Graczyk said. "He goes, 'Ohhh, ooooh wee,' is how he put it."

Thirteen minutes later, Shore was declared dead. His death, by all accounts, peaceful compared to that of his victims."

The 55-year-old Shore's execution originally was set for last October but was delayed for an investigation after another condemned inmate concocted a scheme to have Shore take responsibility for the other inmate's murder case.

Maria del Carmen Estrada was one of four females Shore confessed to killing. Shore confessed to four slayings after a tiny particle collected from under Estrada's fingernail was matched to his DNA. Estrada's murder had gone unsolved for more than a decade.

Shore's lawyers had argued in appeals he suffered brain damage early in life that went undiscovered by his trial attorneys and affected Shore's decision to disregard their advice when he told his trial judge he wanted the death penalty. A federal appeals court last year turned down his appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review his case and the six-member Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously rejected a clemency petition.

In 1998, Shore received eight years' probation and became a registered sex offender for sexually assaulting two relatives. Five years later, Shore was arrested for the 1992 slaying of Maria del Carmen Estrada after a tiny particle recovered from under her fingernail was matched to his DNA.

"I didn't set out to kill her," he told police in a taped interview played at his 2004 trial. "That was not my intent. But it got out of hand."

She was walking to work around 6:30 a.m. on April 16, 1992, when he offered her a ride that she accepted. The former tow truck driver, phone company repairman and part-time musician blamed his actions on "voices in my head that I was going to have her, regardless, to possess her in some way."

He also confessed to killing three others, a 9-year-old and two teenagers. All four of his victims were Hispanic. At least three had been raped. Jurors also heard from three women who testified he raped them.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, who as an assistant prosecutor worked the then-unsolved Estrada case, said crime scene photos showed Estrada was tortured and had suffered as a stick was used to tighten a cord around her neck.

"I know this case, I know his work and the death penalty is appropriate," she said. "A jury in this case gave Shore death. ... I think he's reached the end of the road and now it's up to government to complete the job."

The Walls Unit, Huntsville, where Texas carries out its executions.Besides Estrada, Shore confessed to the slayings of Laurie Tremblay, 15, found beside a trash bin outside a Houston restaurant in 1986; Diana Rebollar, 9, abducted while walking to a neighborhood grocery store in 1994; and Dana Sanchez, 16, who disappeared in 1995 while hitchhiking to her boyfriend's home in Houston.

Sanchez's body was found after a caller to a Houston TV station provided directions on where to find it. Police believe Shore was the caller.

Shore's execution originally was set for last October but was delayed for an investigation after another Texas death row inmate, Larry Swearingen, concocted a scheme to get Shore to take responsibility for his case.

"We got Mr. Shore to explain how Swearingen ... basically tutored him," said Bill Delmore, an assistant prosecutor in Montgomery County, where Swearingen was convicted of murdering a college student. "It's extremely bizarre."

Prosecutors said Shore also recently tried to take credit for two other unsolved slayings. Investigators determined evidence in those cases didn't support his claims.

Shore becomes the 28th condemned inmate to be put to death since Greg Abbott became governor of Texas, and the 546th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 17, 1982.

Shore becomes the 1466th condemned inmate to be put to death in the USA since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

Source: The Associated Press, Rick Halperin, January 18, 2018

Executed Houston serial killer confessed to 60 more rapes

Texas' death chamber
No one knows their names or ages, what they did or where they lived. But Anthony Shore says he raped them.

In the weeks before his execution, the Houston serial strangler known as the Tourniquet Killer confessed to another 60 rapes, according to two sources familiar with the investigation.

The former wrecker driver who last week became the nation's first killer executed in 2018 also admitted to two copycat assaults in the 1970s previously attributed to a Sacramento predator known as the East Area Rapist — a case in which his sisters already suspected him.

"Everywhere we lived, there was a rapist," his youngest sister, Laurel Scheel, told the Chronicle.

The four-time killer confessed to law enforcement before his Thursday night execution, boasting of seducing strangers at bars, dosing them with Rohypnol — the so-called date-rape drug — and sexually assaulting them in the back of his van, the sources said.

He didn't remember any details, except that he raped them.

This isn't the first time Shore has offered up a confession with scant evidence. Late last year, he falsely copped to two other slayings, then got his first execution date pushed back after investigators learned of an alleged plot to confess to a third murder.

Now, less than a week after his death by lethal injection, the charismatic killer has left behind a new trail of unanswered questions.

One woman who knew him recalled many nights of drug-fueled parties — and black spots in her memory.

"I know that he drugged and date-raped me," said the woman, who asked not to be identified.

And it wasn't just her, she said. There were others.

The musical prodigy who grew up to become one of the Bayou City's most notorious serial killers was hit with the state's harshest punishment in 2004 for the rape and murder of 21-year-old Maria del Carmen Estrada, one in a series of brutal slayings that terrorized Harris County in the 1980s and 1990s.

When police finally caught up with him — after a DNA breakthrough tied him to the last of the killings — he calmly confessed to three additional murders as well as a rape.

Even early on, there were whisperings of more.

"He would allude to other things, but it was always an allusion," said defense attorney Patrick McCann, who defended Shore during his initial trial. "'If you guys only knew the whole story.' But honestly, we were just trying not to ask questions we didn't want the answers to."

During the punishment phase of his 2004 trial, the court heard about how he raped a handful of other women, including his pre-teen daughters. Those crimes had previously landed him on the sex offender registry, which is how police got the DNA they later matched to a cold case.

A 2007 true crime book, "The Strangler" by Corey Mitchell, offered other chilling details, including an ex-wife who suspected he'd drugged and raped her, even during their marriage.

If the circle of victims was even wider, though, there wasn't any proof.

Eventually, the public stopped asking questions. His name fell out of the headlines. He grew old on death row as his attorneys quietly fought his appeals.

But for 13 years, Shore's life went on. He picked up pen pals and found new friends, even from the silence of his prison cell.

One of those pen pals was a woman named Lea. Still in her late teens, she started writing the condemned killer more than a decade before his death, and the two grew to be close friends.

"He would always say, 'You're the only one who will love me regardless," said the woman, now 28, who asked that her last name not be used. "I think he is genuinely remorseful for what he did, but he also knew there was something wrong with him."

Polunsky Unit, Livingston, TexasThe two talked about their lives and their feelings, about spirituality and books. But they also spoke of darker things.

"There were a lot of rapes going back to when he was a teenager in California," she said. "A lot of the rapes he had said he just didn't know their names."

It's not clear when the alleged assaults started, but one of the first times Shore's sisters suspected him was when they lived in the Sacramento area, where the East Area Rapist was already making headlines.

Before his death — a few days before word of the new rape confessions emerged — his sister Gina Shore voiced suspicions about the California case, though she pointed about that the predator was already active when the Shores moved to the area.

"It's entirely possible that him or his friends did a copycat," she said last week.

Anthony Shore would have only been 17 or 18 years old at the time, and there may not be any DNA preserved from the case to help check his claims, one source said.

In his final days, Shore also claimed a slew of Houston-area rapes. But again, there's no evidence. His DNA doesn't match any unsolved assaults and he couldn't offer any details. It's not clear how so many assaults could have gone unreported, with no DNA left behind.

Nonetheless, he insisted to investigators that he'd regularly drugged girls in bars and raped them in his van, sources said. He even claimed he'd taken on two apprentices.

All told, he allegedly told authorities, there were roughly 60 victims.

"I doubt it ends at 60," Scheel said.

Tom Berg, first assistant at the Harris County District Attorney's Office, said the claims are being reviewed by the state.

"We're not really in a position to comment," Berg said. "We've got to wait for the Texas Rangers to more fully investigate."

The 11th-hour confessions don't seem to square with the killer's last words.

In his final statement, he claimed there were "no others." But some who knew him are skeptical.

"I call bull**** on 'There are no others,'" said the woman who described Shore's pattern of drugging and raping women. "There are no other what?"

Another woman who knew Shore told the Chronicle she sensed his regret. The former musician and longtime friend started writing Shore more than a decade ago, after getting in touch with her faith.

He wished her happy birthday in his final statement.

"I've got to say his final statement sounded like remorse to me," said the woman, who asked not to be named again. "And the fact that he took the time to wish me a happy birthday."

But his own family is less inclined to trust the killer's words.

For his daughter, Tiffany Hall, the fact that he signed over his remains to a pen pal instead of family is just another, final slap in the face.

"He was a pretty awful person in life," she said. "So it only follows that he would be an awful person in death."

Source: Houston Chronicle, Keri Blakinger, January 22, 2018

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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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