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United States of America v. Samuel Stone

May 16, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SAMUEL STONE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: The Honorable John C. Coughenour

DEATH PENALTY CASE ORDER ON MOTION FOR BILL OF PARTICULARS

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Samuel Stone's motion for a bill of particulars (Dkt. No. 66). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court finds an evidentiary hearing and oral argument unnecessary and hereby GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART the motion for the reasons explained herein.

I.BACKGROUND

In March 2012, a grand jury indicted Stone on two counts of murder: murder by a federal prisoner serving a life sentence in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1118(a), and first-degree murder in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1111(a)--(b). (Dkt. No. 1 at 1--2.) The indictment charges that Stone, "on or about July 30, 2003, at the United States Penitentiary Atwater, . . . did, with malice aforethought, unlawfully kill another person and human being, Michael Anita, willfully, deliberately, maliciously and with premeditation." (Id.)

The following background comes from Stone's earlier-filed motion to compel:

In July 2003, Mr. Stone was serving a life sentence in the custody of the United States Bureau of Prisons ("BOP"). He was housed in cell 121 of the SHU at the United States Penitentiary in Atwater, California ("USP Atwater"). . . . In late April 2003, staff at USP Atwater first placed Michael Anita and then, on July 15, 2003, Angelo Fuentes into the SHU cell with Mr. Stone. . . .

According to [a] document provided by the government, at approximately 5:12 a.m. on July 30, 2003, Mr. Stone pressed the distress alarm button inside SHU cell 121. Staff responded and, upon inquiry, Mr. Stone reportedly stated that he had killed Mr. Anita. Guards looked through the broken window of the cell door and saw Mr. Anita's prone body on floor. . . .

Medical staff arrived in the SHU and pronounced Mr. Anita dead. A rope made of what appear[ed] to be braided strips of a bed sheet was wrapped around his neck. He had been stabbed in the chest and had bruises on his head and face. A pen protruded from one of his eyes and a pencil protruded from the other.

According to the information contained in the documents thus far proved [sic] to the defense, prison staff and the FBI recount that Mr. Stone immediately said that he had killed Mr. Anita. In these accounts, Mr. Stone also exculpated Mr. Fuentes. Apparently, Mr. Fuentes made no statement at all. No other person was in a position to witness what happened. There is no audio or video recording of what occurred in the cell. . . .

(Dkt. No. 34 at 11--13.)

The United States is seeking a sentence of death. (Dkt. No. 3.)

In death-eligible homicide cases, the [Federal Death Penalty] Act instructs, the jury must respond sequentially to three inquiries; imposition of the death penalty requires unanimity on each of the three. First, the jury determines whether there was a killing or death resulting from the defendant's intentional engagement in life-threatening activity. See 18 U.S.C. § 3591(a)(2). Second, the jury decides which, if any, of the Government-proposed aggravating factors, statutory and non-statutory, were proved beyond a reasonable doubt. See § 3593(d). Third, if the jury finds at least one of the statutory aggravators proposed by the Government, the jury then determines whether the aggravating factors "sufficiently outweigh" the mitigating factors to warrant a death sentence . . . . § 3593(e).

Jones v. United States, 527 U.S. 373, 407--08 (1999) (Ginsburg, J., dissenting) (footnotes omitted). "The term 'non-statutory aggravating factor' is used to refer to any aggravating factor that is not specifically described in 18 U.S.C. § 3592." Id. at 378 n.2 (majority opinion).

Here, the United States' notice of intent to seek the death penalty lists four threshold findings it will seek to prove as the basis for imposing a sentence of death under 18 U.S.C. ยง 3591(a): that Stone intentionally (1) killed Anita, (2) inflicted serious bodily injury that resulted in Anita's death, (3) participated in an act, contemplating that the life of a person would be taken or intending that lethal force would be used in connection with a person, and Anita died as a direct result of the act, and (4) engaged in an act of violence, knowing that the act created a grave risk of death to a person, such that ...


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