By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
CEDAR CREEK LAKE–Tommy Lynn Johnson, now age 60, won the lottery in federal prison clemency terms.
The former Tool resident was one of just 95 federal prisoners granted commuted sentences by President Barack Obama Dec. 18. Johnson was serving a federal prison sentence of 40 years on a list of charges from 2003, the height of the nation’s war on drugs. His charges centered around conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to manufacture and distribute methamphetamine; conspiracy to possess a listed chemical, knowing it will be used to manufacture a controlled substance; and possession of an unregistered firearm.
Johnson is one of 33,000 prisoners who applied for the federal clemency program of which a little more than 9,000 applications met the criteria. Under the program which began in the spring of 2014, Obama has commuted just 184 sentences, of which Johnson made this third round of 95 newly commuted sentences, Dec. 18. The action released Johnson from serving another 12 years left on his sentence.
“I commuted the sentences of 95 men and women who had served their debt to society, another step forward in upholding our ideals of justice and fairness,” Obama said.
It is the third time this year that the president has used his clemency power to release drug offenders, whose harsh sentences have contributed to the phenomenon being called “mass incarceration.”
The commutation of sentences is the president’s effort to make significant changes in the nation’s criminal justice system in decades. He and former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. have spoken passionately about the need to fix what they say is a broken system — one they argue has subjected too many nonviolent inmates to decades behind bars.
According to the Athens Daily Review dating back to 2003, it was a Navarro County Sheriff’s Office Capt. who learned that Johnson had purchased 1,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia (a key ingredient in the manufacture of methamphetamine), and was returning to Henderson County. Capt. Jimmie Spencer followed Johnson to a spot on U.S. Highway 175, but lost him. However, a few days later, while in line at a Corsicana store, Spencer noted a woman purchasing numerous packages of pseudoephedrine, another key ingredient to meth manufacture. Officers were able to track her and Johnson back to a residence in Tool and obtained a warrant to search. Inside, officers found materials that appeared to be the makings of a drug lab. At that time Johnson was 47 years of age. His accomplice, Reisa Lynn Pettiette, of Terrell, was also arrested and convicted.
Posted by : December 24, 2015| On :
By Pearl Cantrell
Posted by : December 18, 2015| On :
Monitor Staff Reports
ATHENS-Joshua Dean Turcola, 31, of Malakoff, was sentenced Monday, Dec. 14 to 18 years in prison for Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver. Third Judicial District Court Judge Mark Calhoon handed down the sentence after Turcola pleaded guilty to the charge.
District Attorney Scott McKee and first assistant DA Mark Hall prosecuted the case.
Turcola was indicted by a Henderson County Grand Jury based on a June, 2014 traffic stop for speeding. Trooper Jacob Lutz was assisted by Henderson County Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Beddingfield, Trooper Samuel Nowell and Highway Patrol Sergeant Brian Hemati during the incident.
Lutz noticed a white Dodge Challenger driven pass him at a high rate of speed. After verifying the Challenger’s speed at 85 miles per hour, Lutz attempted to stop the vehicle. As the Trooper pulled into the roadway to begin pursuit, the vehicle driven by Turcola, reached speeds up to 101 mph while passing two commercial trucks. As the Trooper closed on the vehicle, it pulled over and made a sudden stop on the left shoulder of the road.
Besides the driver, Yvette Michelle Manios, was also inside the vehicle. Turcola told Lutz that he didn’t have a driver’s license or insurance. Shortly after Lutz had Turcola exit the vehicle, Henderson County Deputy Brad Beddingfield arrived on scene to assist. The driver of one of the commercial trucks that Turcola had passed also pulled over and informed Beddingfield that as the Challenger sped past him, someone threw something out of the passenger window of the car.
The truck driver was able to assist Beddingfield in locating two ziplock bags containing methamphetamine in the location where the driver witnessed the items being thrown from the car.
After retrieving the zip lock bags, Turcola and Manios were placed into custody. A lab analysis later confirmed 146.04 grams of crystal methamphetamine. McKee valued the amount of drugs at around $15,000.
McKee commended the truck driver for his assistance and the officers for taking meth off the streets. “These two individuals were in possession of a lot of meth. But for the citizen’s help, the officers would not have known that Turcola and Manios were in possession of the meth.”
McKee’s office also filed a civil seizure lawsuit against Turcola for the Dodge Challenger due to its use in transporting narcotics. The Challenger will be sold at auction with the proceeds going to the County and State to be used for law enforcement purposes. According to McKee, the money helps offset the cost to taxpayers in investigating and prosecuting those that traffic in narcotics.
Turcola has also previously been arrested in Kaufman County for Possession of a Controlled Substance and Dallas County for the offenses of unlawful carrying of a weapon, possession of marijuana over 2 ounces, and burglary of a vehicle.
Posted by : December 18, 2015| On :
By HC DA’s Office
Special to The Monitor
ATHENS–On Wednesday, the Court of Criminal Appeals continued the stay of execution pending the outcome of competency proceedings in the 392nd District Court.
The Court of Criminal Appeals found Mays made “a substantial showing that he is incompetent to be executed” and ordered further competency hearings including the appointment of mental health experts.
In a dissenting opinion by Presiding Judge Sharon Keller and Judge Lawrence Meyers, Judge Keller stated “Appellant has produced evidence that he is mentally ill, but he has produced no evidence that he fails to understand (1) that he is to be executed and the execution is imminent or (2) the reason he is to be executed.”
In their dissenting opinion, the judges further stated that there is not “any evidence that anyone has asked him if he understands that he is being executed for the capital murder of two peace officers.”
Under Texas law, a defendant is incompetent to be executed if (1) he does not understand that he is to be executed and that his execution is imminent, and (2) he does not understand the reason for his execution.
District Attorney Scott McKee learned of the opinion early this morning and is working with the defense on lining up the experts necessary to evaluate Mays.
McKee stated that the law on competency to be executed is an area of law that needed a clear opinion from the Court of Criminal Appeals to address some ambiguity concerning what types of evidence a trial court can consider and the proper standard of review of a trial court’s ruling on a substantial showing of competency.
In his brief to the Court of Criminal Appeals, McKee pointed out the ambiguity in prior Court of Criminal Appeals cases. In addressing a previous case in his brief McKee stated:
“Although the Court stated that it had determined the appropriate appellate and trial court standards, the Court never specifically stated what the standard of review is … This is precisely the question before this Court. What is the standard of review of a trial court’s denial of a competency-to-be-executed motion at the threshold stage.”
McKee believes this question may be why it took so long for the Court of Criminal Appeals to issue its ruling. “Those of us in the legal world that litigate capital Murder cases needed this ruling to clear up this area of the law. Now that we have the Court’s opinion, we can take the next step towards bringing this case to a final resolution for the families of Paul Habelt and Tony Ogburn and our community.
According to McKee, the next step in the process is for Judge Tarrance to appoint mental health experts to evaluate Mays to determine if he is competent to be executed. Once those evaluations are complete, the Court will hold a hearing to make the determination. McKee indicated that he is working to get the experts appointed and a hearing scheduled as quickly as possible.