Thursday, February 28, 2008
New Sentencing Hearing for Charles Mines
The Houston Chronicle/Associated Press reports that Charles Mines, who has been on death row since 1989, has received a new sentencing hearing ("Longtime Texas death row inmate wins new sentencing trial," February 27, 2008):
"A death row inmate who killed an 80-year-old woman with a claw hammer nearly two decades ago will get a new sentencing trial because jurors didn't properly consider mental illness when they decided he should be executed, an appeals court has ruled.
Charles Mines Jr., 58, was convicted of killing Vivian Moreno at her home in Waxahachie, south of Dallas. Frances Moreno, 57, one of the murdered woman's 13 children, also was severely beaten in the same attack in May 1988. A relative found the two women on the floor in a bedroom.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said questions put to jurors considering whether Mines should live or die prevented them from considering his mental condition. The appeals court sent the case back to the state court for a new sentencing.
Evidence at his trial showed Mines had undergone a psychiatric evaluation at a state hospital a week before the slayings. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to a capital murder charge for Vivian Moreno's death and attempted capital murder for her daughter's attack. He was tried on the charges after a state court hearing determined he was competent to stand trial.
A psychiatrist who examined Mines during a five-day observation period a week before the killing determined Mines was not mentally ill and should not be committed, but that he did have a mixed personality disorder with paranoia, passive-aggressive and anti-social features.
Mines' trial in Ellis County was held just weeks before another capital murder case involving Johnny Paul Penry, whose mental illness claims and subsequent appeals changed the way Texas juries are asked to decide mitigating issues in death penalty cases.
'Mines's claim is that because his jury instructions were virtually identical to the ones given in Penry's trial those instructions created the same situation that the Supreme Court found constitutionally unacceptable,' the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit said in its opinion posted late Tuesday.
Evidence showed Mines, a transient, stole food and jewelry from the Moreno home. He was arrested three days later when he was found camping not far from the home. He confessed after police identified his fingerprint on a window sill."
Last summer, the Fifth Circuit Court similarly ordered a new sentencing hearing for Billie Wayne Coble. The Court ruled that the statute in effect in Texas at the time of Coble's conviction and death sentence (1990) had prevented the jury from fully considering the mitigating evidence presented by his trial attorneys regarding his post-traumatic stress and bipolar disorders. His hearing has been scheduled for August 2008 in McLennan County.