Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Death row inmate takes plea and life in prison

According to the Associated Press, Charles Mines has been taken off death row after being granted a new punishment trial. Mines will now spend the remainder of his life in prison ("Death Row Inmate Takes Plea and Life in Prison", March 31, 2009) Here is the full article:

A condemned Texas inmate who won a new punishment trial from an appeals
court has agreed to a plea bargain that takes him off death row but likely
keeps him imprisoned for the rest of his life.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals a year ago threw out the death
sentence of Charles Mines, 59, who was convicted of using a claw hammer to
fatally beat an 80-year-old woman at her home in Waxahachie 21 years ago.

The court said Mines deserved a new sentencing trial because jurors didn't
properly consider mental illness when they decided he should be executed
for the slaying of Vivian Moreno. 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 2 women on the floor in a bedroom.

Mines appeared Monday before State District Judge Gene Knize and entered
into the plea agreement accepting a life sentence for capital murder. He
also pleaded guilty to 2 new charges of aggravated robbery and accepted
life sentences on each of those convictions.

As part of the agreement, Mines waived all credit for time already served,
waived his rights to appeal and reserved prosecutors the right to seek the
death penalty again if he finds a point for appeal.

"We feel comfortable we have him on a plan that should keep him in
prison," Cindy Hellstern, an Ellis County assistant district attorney,
told the Waxahachie Daily Light.

Hellstern said if Mines received a life sentence at a new punishment
trial, he immediately would have been eligible for parole. At the time of
his original trial, a life sentence meant parole eligibility after 15
years in prison. Another death sentence would have started the appeals
process all over again.

"This was the best thing we could do to ensure he stays in prison the rest
of his life," she said.

More than 30 relatives of the victims were in court for Monday's hearing.

"It is some type of closure, but not all the way," said Frank Moreno,
whose mother was killed. "It is a step in that direction.

"I feel good that he will not come out of prison."

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 5-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.

Evidence showed Mines, a transient, stole food and jewelry from the Moreno
home. He was arrested 3 days later when he was found camping not far from
the home. He confessed after police identified his fingerprint on a window

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.

The 5th Circuit agreed with lawyers for Mines who said jury instructions
for his case were virtually identical to the ones given in Penry's trial
and that the U.S. Supreme Court found those instructions unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court late last year refused to overturn the 5th Circuit's
decision in Mines' case.

(source: Associated Press)

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