PROSECUTORS OPPOSE CLEMENCY FOR CONDEMNED INMATE
By Julia Cheever, Bay City News Service
February 6, 2006
San Joaquin County prosecutors urged Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
today to deny clemency to an inmate with a Feb. 21 execution date,
arguing that the man's crime was "horrific" and his
claim of remorse is weak.
Michael Morales, 46, of Stockton is scheduled to be executed
at San Quentin State Prison on Feb. 21 for murdering Terri Winchell,
17, of Lodi, in 1981 by trying to strangle her with a belt and
then beating her with hammer and stabbing her.
Morales was also convicted of raping Winchell as she lay dying.
His lawyers, including conservative law professor Kenneth Starr,
asked Schwarzenegger last month to grant clemency on the grounds
that Morales is "deeply repentant" and that a key prosecution
witness allegedly lied.
San Joaquin County District Attorney James Willett and Deputy
District Attorney Charles Schultz submitted opposition papers
today asking the governor to reject the plea for mercy.
Willett and Schultz wrote that "the evidence that he tortured,
raped and murdered Winchell is overwhelming." They said,
"The evidence of his remorse is weak and unconvincing."
The prosecutors said the testimony of a key prosecution witness,
jailhouse informant Bruce Samuelson, was corroborated by other
testimony and Morales' own confession.
The prosecutors downplayed an unusual letter sent to the governor
by retired Ventura County Superior Court Judge James McGrath,
the judge in the 1983 trial.
McGrath said in the letter, which was included with the clemency
petition, that he now believes Samuelson's testimony was false
and he would not have approved a death penalty if he had been
aware that Samuelson was lying.
But Willett and Schultz said McGrath's current view "is
of little consequence" because state and federal courts,
including the U.S. Supreme Court, have thoroughly reviewed the
case and rejected claims that Samuelson lied and that the trial
The prosecutors also charged that a sworn statement by another
trial witness that was included with the clemency petition "is
an outright forgery."
The statement included with the clemency plea was a declaration
purportedly signed on Jan. 26 by witness Patricia Felix, who was
Morales' housemate at the time of the murder. The Jan. 25 statement
says that police in 1981 forced her to say falsely that Morales
confessed to the murder and had practiced choking her with his
But Willett and Schultz wrote that Felix told prosecution investigators
on Feb. 1 that the signature on the Jan. 26 document is not hers,
that her trial testimony was true and that she never talked to
anyone working on Morales' behalf in recent days.
The opposition papers include a transcript of the Feb. 1 interview
and a declaration signed by Felix on Feb. 2 saying she never signed
the Jan. 25 document and had never seen it before Feb. 1.
The prosecutors asserted that the alleged forgery demonstrates
"that nothing submitted in support of this clemency plea
can be trusted."
In another argument, Willett and Schultz maintained that Morales'
contention that he was in a drug-induced fog the night of the
murder undermines his claim that he has taken full responsibility
for the crime.
Morales' lawyers have two days to submit a response to the opposition
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