Texas Court Dumps Woman's Death Sentence

Associated Press Writer

May 23, 2007, 1:26 PM EDT

HOUSTON -- A sharply divided appeals court on Wednesday threw out the death sentence of a woman convicted of killing her newborn son.

The court upheld the woman's conviction, but it said prosecutors misstated to jurors her likelihood of being a future danger to society before deliberations began on the sentence.

Lawyers for the woman, Kenisha Berry, argued that she had no previous criminal record, and defense experts testified that she posed a low risk of being a future danger.

The 5-4 ruling from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals means Berry will serve a life term for the 1998 smothering death of 4-day-old Malachi, who was found abandoned and bound with duct tape in a trash bin.

The case went unsolved for five years until Berry was identified as the mother of a newborn girl found alive but abandoned and covered with fire ants in a ditch in 2003.

Berry, a former corrections officer and day care worker, consented to DNA testing that confirmed she also was the mother of the boy.

A jury in Beaumont convicted Berry of murder and sentenced her to death.

In a written dissent to Wednesday's ruling overturning that sentence, four appeals judges said they would have upheld the death penalty for Berry and suggested the majority argument could exempt from the death penalty most parents who kill their children.

"She cold-heartedly murdered one child and attempted to murder another child on different occasions five years later," Judge Barbara Hervey wrote in the dissent. "She is unremorseful and fails to take responsibility. This evidence satisfied every measure of future-dangerousness that this court has applied."

Berry has three other children who were not harmed.

She was one of 10 women on Texas' death row.
Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.


I got a letter from Federal Death Row Inmate Angela Johnson today. She said that she doesnt usually write to people she doesnt know but was curious about the newsletter. I cant wait for her to see a copy. I think she will really like it.
Im really curious about her case. I dont know much about it.

From an article:
Johnson, 41, is charged with 10 federal counts of aiding and abetting her boyfriend, Dustin Honken, in the 1993 execution-style slayings of two federal informants, the girlfriend of one informant and her two young daughters

From Deathpenaltyinfo.org:
Dustin Honken and Angela Johnson - Both white. On October 27, 2004 a federal jury voted to sentence Honken to death for the murder of two girls in Iowa in 1993. Honken was also given three life sentences: one for the murder of the girls' mother, and two more for the murders of two other adults who were to have testified against Honken in a federal drug case. The children, white girls age 10 and 6, were witnesses to the murder of their mother. The judge is required to uphold the jury's recommendation and impose the death sentence. (Des Moines Register, October 28, 2004). This is the third federal death sentence handed down in a state that does not have the death penalty in its own law. The other two were in Michigan and Massachusetts. On June 21, 2005, a federal jury in Iowa recommended a death sentence for co-defendant Angela Johnson for her role in aiding drug kingpin Honken in 4 of the 5 murders. The judge is obligated to follow the jury's sentencing recommendation. If the sentence is carried out, she would be the first woman executed by the U.S. government since Bonnie Brown in December 1953.

Here is an interesting article from the trial-> Here.


Second page of Michelle Byroms letter received Yesterday along with a letter from Lisa Jo (LJ). She mentions Kristie Fulgham. I got an email through the www.womenofdeathrow.com site a few days ago from someone who knows Kristie and talks about how snotty and condescending she is. That seems to be the general consensus. But what kills me is that she is in jail. On death row. She talked her baby brother into taking the rap for her. How snotty can she be?


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Wow. I was just thinking... I'll be Paul Bernardo has my letter by now. My Hello Kitty stationary is in the hands of a mass rapist and murderer. ew, scary stuff. Its wierd- Ive written and spoken often to several murderes but for some reason Paul really creeps me out. But on the other hand Im really interested in if he has changed any. If he is getting help and therepy or if he's just been tossed in and forgotten.

I havent heard from Judy in a few months now. She is worrying me. They were moving her around from cell to cell so often I dont even know if shes gotten my last letters.

I got the letter from Michelle a few days ago. In it she asks for the book Honeymoon by james patterson. Does anyone happen to have a copy of this laying around? If so PLEASE send it to me or to Michelle directly. Just email me for the address.


Facts about female executions
By Gabrielle Banks, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Women make up a tiny percentage of state and federal death row inmates. Of about 3,350 condemned inmates, 49 are women.

When women get capital convictions, their own family members, including husbands, significant others and children are most likely the victims.

Of the 11 women executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1973, seven were found guilty of killing their mates and/or children. Twenty-five of the 49 on death row were sentenced for killing their husbands, boyfriends and/or children.

Most women on death row for murdering romantic partners hire hit men to carry out the homicides.

Slightly less than 50 percent of women on death row hired their victims' killers, which means that in many instances where an adult partner was killed, it was a for-hire killing.

Proportionally, the U.S. executes fewer women than men. Women account for 10 percent of all homicide arrests, but just 2 percent of death sentences are given to female offenders and only 1.1 percent of inmates killed in the death chamber are women.

A greater percentage of women on death row get their sentences reversed than men. Sixty-six percent of women have their sentences reversed or commuted. A little more than 50 percent of condemned men get reversals or commutations.

Nine states with the death penalty have never executed a woman and several countries where capital punishment is legal exclude women. Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming have never executed a female inmate. Virginia, which has executed more males than any state dating to colonial times, last executed a female in 1912. India and several former Soviet republics have abolished the death penalty for women but not men.

SOURCES: Victor L. Streib at Ohio Northern University's Claude Pettit College of Law; Death Penalty Information Center; "Executions in the U.S. 1608-1987," by M. Watt Espy and John Ortiz Smylka; Amnesty International; "Death Row USA," compiled by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund Inc.


DOB: 11-11-1962 DOC#: 864793 Black Female

Lake County Superior CourtJudge Richard W. Maroc
Prosecutor: Thomas W. Vanes, Kathleen O'Halloran
Defense: Daniel L. Toomey, Albert E. Marshall
Date of Murder: June 18, 1984
Victim(s): Tamika Turks B/F/7 (No relationship to Brown)
Method of Murder: ligature strangulation with bedsheet

Summary: 7 year old Tamika and her 9 year old niece, Annie, were walking back from the candy store to their home when they were confronted by Brown and Alton Coleman. Brown and Coleman convinced them to walk into the woods to play a game. Once there, they removed Tamika's shirt and tore it into small strips which they used to bind and gag the children. When Tamika began to cry, Brown held her nose and mouth while Coleman stomped on her chest. After carrying Tamika a short distance away, Annie was forced to perform oral sex on both Brown and Coleman, then Coleman raped her. Brown and Coleman then choked her until she was unconscious. When she awoke, they were gone. Tamika was found dead in the bushes nearby, strangled with an elastic strip of bedsheet. The same fabric was later found in the apartment shared by Coleman and Brown. Annie received cuts so deep that her intestines were protruding into her vagina. Evidence of a remarkably similar murder in Ohio was admitted at trial. These acts proved to be part of a midwestern crime spee by Coleman and Brown that included up to 8 murders, 7 rapes, 3 kidnappings , and 14 armed robberies.
Trial: Information/PC for Murder and DP filed (11-26-84); Motion for Detainer filed (05-17-85); Initial Hearing (12-10-85); Coleman Trial (03-31-86 to 04-12-86); Voir Dire (05-07-86, 05-08-86, 05-09-86, 05-10-86, 05-12-86): Jury Trial (05-12-86, 05-13-86. 05-14-86, 05-15-86, 05-16-86, 05-17-86); Deliberations 3 hours, 37 minutes; Verdict (05-17-86); DP Trial (05-17-86; 05-19-86, 05-20-86, 05-21-86); Deliberations 10 hours, 30 minutes; Verdict (05-22-86); Court Sentencing (06-20-86, 06-23-86).
Conviction: Murder, Attempted Murder (A Felony), Child Molesting (A Felony)
Sentencing: June 23, 1986 (Death Sentence, 40 years, 40 years)
Aggravating Circumstances: b(1) Child Molesting; b (7) 2 prior murder convictions in Ohio
Mitigating Circumstances: borderline mental retardation, substantial domination by Coleman; dependent personality,general lack of aggressiveness, head trauma as a child, 21 years old at time of murder
Direct Appeal:Brown v. State, 577 N.E.2d 221 (Ind. August 29, 1991) Conviction Affirmed 4-1 DP Affirmed 4-1 Shepard Opinion; Givan, Dickson, Krahulik concur; Debruler dissents.
Brown v. State, 583 N.E.2d 125 (Ind. 1991) (Rehearing Denied 4-1)Shepard Opinion; Givan, Dickson, Krahulik concur; Debruler dissents.
Brown v. Indiana, 113 S. Ct. 101 (1992) (Cert. denied) Brown v. Indiana, 113 S. Ct. 639 (1992) (Rehearing denied)
PCR:PCR Petition filed 04-08-93. Denied by Special Judge Richard J. Conroy 02-28-96
Brown v. State, 698 N.E.2d 1132 (Ind. 1990) (Appeal of PCR denial by Special Judge Richard P. Conroy)Affirmed 5-0 Sullivan Opinion; Shepard, Dickson, Selby, Boehm concur.Brown v. Indiana, 119 S. Ct. 1367 (1999) (Cert. denied).
Habeas: Petition filed and pending in the United States District Court, Southern District of Ohio. The State of Indiana's Petition to Transfer was denied. (Brown has been incarcerated in Ohio since her 1991 convictions for Aggravated Murder in Hamilton County. Her Ohio death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1991 by outgoing Ohio Governor Richard Celeste. On April 26, 2002 Alton Coleman was executed by lethal injection in the state of Ohio.)


Ok, Im interested. Check this out. I dont know how this girl has slipped by my radar so far. Forgive me- I just learned about this gal and am a little fuzzy on the details but she is in a load of shit for sure.

Angela Jane Johnson of Iowa. I havent found out her original charges yet but apparently the fun started after she was put on death row. I do know that her boyfriend was a big time drug dealer and she went down in the bust. But after she went to jail she told a jail house informant (unknowingly) that she had been part in the murder of several government witnesses agianst her boyfriend.

From an article:

An informant becomes a government agent only after receiving police instructions, the 8th Circuit Court of appeals ruled.
The appellate panel reversed a trial court decision that a Benton County, Iowa, jail detainee was an agent of the government when he elicited information about five murders from an inmate indicted in connection with homicides of prosecution witnesses.
In the instant case, police arrested Angela Jane Johnson on charges related to the murders of three prosecution witnesses and the relative of a witness.
During her incarceration, Johnson told another inmate of her involvement in the homicides of the government witnesses. The victims were scheduled to be witnesses in the drugtrafficking prosecution of Johnson's boyfriend.

The inmate, who was a habitual police informant, notified authorities about the facts he had learned. Detectives assigned to the case ordered the jail to relocate Johnson away from the inmate and ordered the inmate to avoid any further contacts. But Johnson used means to continue her communication with the inmate.
Four days after the inmate reported what he had learned, Police identified the inmate as an informant and authorized him to confirm the information.
Johnson contended the inmate was a government informant from the beginning and, as such, any information he obtained from her without a warrant was a constitutional violation of the 6th Amendment right to an attorney.


And this straight from her last appeal:

This is our second decision regarding Angela Johnson. The controversy comes
from the same basic facts as the first. The United States placed Robert McNeese, an
experienced jailhouse informant, in the same jail facility where Ms. Johnson was
residing. Defendant was awaiting trial for aiding and abetting the murder of several
individuals who were scheduled to be witnesses in another trial. Mr. McNeese was
able to elicit information from Ms. Johnson concerning the killings of the would-be
witnesses. The government seeks to introduce that information into evidence at Ms.
Johnson's trial.

Ive played hell finding her address but I think she is in Texas federal Prison. Not sure if this is her or not but there is no listing or her in the Iowa prison.


I was disappointed yesterday. No mail. I have been expecting a return letter from Judy Neeley anytime now. I hope she isnt mad at me or something. You never know. These girls have a tendency to flip on you at the drop of a dime.

Speaking of the ones that flip, Ive contemplated contacting Beth Markman. She initially got mad at me in 2005 when I told her someone from the state of PA had contacted me. It was some lady looking for a support group to donate some money to her. But for some reason Beth didn't like that shed contacted me and flipped out. She calmed down and the flipped again when she asked me what I had found printed on her online. So I found an article and printed it out. She lost her mind and got pissed off at me because Id sent her the article and it had a bunch of other girls info on it as well. That enraged her. She was so mad at me. Suddenly Im getting letters from every chick on death row in Pennsylvania. They all told me how stupid and callous I am. That I have no heart and I just suck.

I never was fully able to understand that issue but that is how I became aware of Michelle Tharp and began to write her. She had cursed me out on Beth's behalf a few times. We argued back and forth on paper about how I thought I had done nothing wrong and she felt like I was a bitch. But she began to ask me or things and I would send them and we slowly became friends. She began to understand that I didnt mean any harm by my mysterious blunder.

Then one fine day this old British pervert starts to frequent my website www.womenofdeathrow.com and the forums there. He ingratiates himself with the whole crew that hangs there and the next thing you know he has Michelle hanging on his every word. He comes to the board and argues with the lawyers and professional there to give us advice. He was so weird. He got pissed when he was removed from the board and wreaked havoc on another of our boards or days. A big yawning bore until he finally disappeared in cyberspace. But he still writes Michelle and Chelsea as well. Which bothers me because this guy has a serious superiority complex.

But this guy gets Michelle out bent out of shape because someone posted a picture of her on the message board- in a private members only section. She flips out and we go at round three. This time though Id had enough. My mother had just died of lung cancer and I was getting DAILY letters from this woman telling me that it was people like me that get girls executed. Im a bitch, Im a callous, heartless hell-bound heifer.

Yeah- fun stuff. So I finally just called the warden. Then I never heard from her again. Est la vie`.

But I though about sending Beth a book.


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I haven't hear rom Talcott Notch again. Is that good or bad?

I spent the day yesterday paong bills. No fun. But I had a few thoughts for the book. Things I want to change around and do and say differently.

I want so badly for this book to show people that these women are real people. They aren't monsters. Even the guilty ones are not what you would expect.

I feel like a failure at times. I cant say it right. I cant explain it in the correct words to make you understand.


Anyway, I do have another idea and I wonder if I should go ahead and begin the new draft or wait for Talcott Notch to get back to me (with their rejection, probably).

I'd like to go and visit Michelle Byrom and Lisa Jo Chamberlan but I dont lmow if I can afford it until ater my house gets built.

How come a but ol' publisher wont give me an advance to travel around and visit with the rest of these gals? That would make things so much easier in my life.

I am writing Randy Wood back today. He is such a nice man. I heard somewhere that the other two men he was convicted with have been excaping and trouble makers the whole time they've been put away. While Randy has sat quietly doing his time. Whats wrong with Texas government?

I may also write Kristi Fulgham. Im just not sure. I dont know about writing so many in the same prison. I dont want a repeat of the Muncy , PA crap. That was a nightmare.

Is there anyone that you'd like to hear rom in particular?


I received two letters on Saturday. One from Lisa jo Chamberlain. She is upset that I didn't send her any money. She said strangers write her and as soon as she asks for money they don't write back. Hm.. I wonder why.
But she understands that I was sick and is willing to forgive me. Darling, girl.

The other was from Randy Wood. I was tickled to hear from him. He said his appeal was denied and they are trying once again. I worry when things like that happen. How could they deny his appeal? There is obviously a dire need for it. I wonder if Texas politicians care one wit about anything other than their own careers. Is there a person in the state that cares about Justice or the Truth?
Randy is the happiest person Ive ever seen to be in his shoes. He is constantly upbeat and joking. He always looks on the bright side. I am so proud of this young man. I don't think there is anything that can knock him down. He spoke of his mom and brother as well. He said his wife and mom had visited and how much he enjoyed it. He said his wife has moved closer to him and he seemed happy about that.

Today I'm sending off a letter to Michelle Byrom and to Chelsea Richardson. I worry about her some. She seems very capable of taking care of herself but she is so young. I know of a particularly weird old lech living in the UK that writes to her. There is some sick fascination there that really worries me. This guy poses as some kind of super hero to a few of these girls and then stirs up trouble among them and anyone on the outside who truly does care for them. I think he has some kind of power trip he enjoys playing over the girls.

My scanner is being a pain in the ass currently but in a few hours I will attempt to scan one of these letters. Any suggestions?

My book now consists of two chapters and is currently under review by Talcott Notch. ICM gave me a nice rejection Friday after having it a short 2 months. You just appreciate agencies that really get shit done. Even if they throw you in the crapper.

I have'nt had much time to work on it. My web content job has had me overloaded in work. I had to get a friend to come bail me out and alleviate some of my load. Thanks Big N!

So after months of shopping the book around and a billion people reading it, I get comments about how dry it is and I need to add more o myself and why am I writing it? I add the paragraphs about me at the beginning of the two chapters. Now I get rave reviews about the content but no one likes the stuff about me. It is to distracting, it should be a prologue, an epilogue and introduction... I don't know.
Someone on www.absolutewrite.com/forums asked me if it was leading somewhere to have me in each chapter like that. I was going to end the book with Michelle Tharp and the rest of that mad PA bunch but is that a climactic ending? Why does it have to lead somewhere? In Jennifer Furios book "Letter From Women Killers" she has her own story in there before each woman's letters and it doesn't lead anywhere. She gets to the last letter and that's the end of the book. I wish I knew who her agent was. But both of her books are published by academic sort of presses and I don't know if my book would interest them. Its a little more true crime-ish than hers. I don't know how. I think maybe my writing style is a little more flowery. But I probably don't know what Im talking about because another person at absolute write told me that she could sense my journalistic background in the book and that she could see traces of the inverted pyramid the we are taught to write like. So, hm... still much to consider. Who would have thought it was so hard. Im sorry Stephen King, for thinking your life was a piece of cake.


Offender Information - Richardson, Chelsea Lea

Offender Information - Richardson, Chelsea Lea
I have gotten so many letters from people wanting to see that letter from the child molester. Really guys, I cant. Its gross beyond comprehension. You dont really want to see it and I will not post it. Someone recently left a comment about the lasting effects it has. It does. I thought about it for days.
Then a person who asked to see it told me how surprised she was that there was no remorse. It was like the recital of a grocery list. Very matter of fact. She even said that the little girl said she liked it. Its heart breaking.