June 6


Death row inmate dies in cell

Georgia death row inmate Johnny Lamar Wade died in his cell Tuesday
morning, state prison officials said.

Wade, 51, was sentenced to death in 1987 for beating and strangling to
death a 13-year-old boy in Newton County.

Wade was on parole at the time of the murder.

Wade had throat cancer and died of natural causes, according to Georgia
Department of Corrections spokesman Paul Czachowski.

Georgia now has 104 men on death row at the state prison in Jackson and
one woman on death row at the state prison in southeast Atlanta.

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)


New Jersey Court Voids Death Penalty Conviction

The New Jersey Supreme Court on Tuesday vacated the murder conviction and
death sentence of a Pennsylvania man imprisoned since 1994. The court
ruled that the trial judge and 2 lawyers who represented the man had
failed to pursue the potential bias of a juror.

Despite what it said was "overwhelming evidence of guilt" in the case of
the man, Donald Loftin, the court said this failure by the judge and the
lawyers so tainted the conviction that it ordered a new trial.

Mr. Loftin, 41, who is black, was found guilty in the 1992 murder of Gary
Marsh, a Lawrenceville, N.J., gas station attendant. He was sentenced to
death and has been on death row ever since.

"Denying an accused the right to an impartial jury is to deprive him of
the very essence of a fair trial and therefore is not susceptible to a
harmless error analysis," Associate Justice Barry T. Albin wrote.

The events that gave rise to the ruling center on a white juror, a postal
worker who told 2 black co-workers that he was ready to "go to the
hardware store and buy a rope to hang this man with."

The workers reported the conversation to the presiding judge, Paulette
Sapp-Peterson. When the judge met privately with the juror and the
lawyers, the juror admitted making the comment, but said it was a joke
aimed at his colleagues, who he said considered him biased, according to
the ruling.

Judge Sapp-Peterson, over the defense lawyer's objections, returned the
juror to the jury box, and when deliberations began the judge made him an

The Supreme Court ruled that the juror should have immediately been
disqualified because of the comments and because of the possibility of his
sharing his views with other jurors. The court faulted Mr. Loftin's
lawyers for not raising the issue in two previous unsuccessful appeals.

Whether the case will be tried a second time remained a question. Joseph
L. Bocchini Jr., the Mercer County prosecutor, described the ruling as
"upsetting to put it mildly." He said his office would ask the court to
reconsider its ruling on unspecified grounds. At least four justices,
however, would have to agree to reconsider the case. The ruling was 6-1.

David B. Glazer, Mr. Loftin's lawyer in the successful appeal, said that
although he was "gratified" by the ruling, it would not have a significant
effect on his client, who is also serving time for the murder of an
Atlantic City hotel chambermaid. Mr. Glazer said, "But for this conviction
he would not have been on death row all this time."

(source: New York Times)


Missouri appears eager to resume executions in wake of ruling

For nearly 2 years, Missouris execution chamber at Bonne Terre has sat
quiet. Now that a federal appeals court has lifted a moratorium on
executions in the state, that may soon change.

What was less certain Tuesday was how the decision will affect the 36
other states that use lethal injection. Those who follow the death penalty
offered mixed assessments on the impact of the Missouri ruling.

Missouri officials appear eager to restart the execution process in the
wake of Mondays ruling by a 3-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals that the state's 3-drug procedure is not cruel and unusual

Gov. Matt Blunt said he was directing the Department of Corrections "to
prepare execution procedures in compliance with the ruling." Meanwhile,
Attorney General Jay Nixon, responsible for asking the state Supreme Court
to set execution dates, was moving quickly.

"This office will be moving forward to facilitate the process in a timely
manner now that this legal roadblock has been cleared and will be
determining which inmates' cases have progressed to the point where an
execution date can be requested," said John Fougere, a spokesman for

High on that list will likely be Michael Taylor, who kidnapped a teenage
girl from a Kansas City school bus stop in 1989 and killed her. His case
prompted U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. last year to place a
moratorium on Missouri executions, citing concerns the procedure could
cause undue suffering for the inmate.

The 8th Circuit reversed Gaitan's ruling. Judge David R. Hansen wrote
there was not "one scintilla of evidence" of suffering among any of
Missouri's 6 most recently executed inmates.

Taylor's attorney, Ginger Anders, said she will ask the full 8th Circuit
to review the case and go to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

The appeals panel's ruling focused solely on the protocol, not the
performance of duties in executing inmates, Anders noted.

"We still do not know whether the personnel who will perform executions
under the new procedures are competent or adequately trained  but we do
know that the state has proven that it cannot be trusted to employ
competent, reliable executioners," Anders said.

Injection has been the preferred method since the death penalty was
renewed in the U.S. in the 1970s, and has been used in more than 900
executions nationwide. Of the 38 states that have the death penalty, only
Nebraska uses another method  electrocution.

The lethal injection debate centers on how 3 drugs are administered in
succession. If the initial anesthetic does not take hold, a 3rd drug that
stops a condemned prisoners heart can cause excruciating pain, it has been
argued. But the inmate would not be able to communicate the pain because
of a 2nd drug that paralyzes him.

Missouri was 1 of 9 states that had placed executions on hold while courts
weighed the merits of the 3-drug protocol.

In California, a federal judge ruled in December that the states lethal
injection procedures were cruel and unusual punishment. A moratorium began
there in February 2006, with more than 650 people awaiting execution.

In Ohio, death penalty opponents last month sought a halt to executions
after prison staff stuck Christopher Newton at least 10 times with needles
to find a suitable vein on the condemned mans arm.

In Florida, Gov. Jeb Bush halted executions in December after the lethal
injection of Angel Nieves Diaz took 34 minutes and required a rare second
dose of chemicals.

Sara Tofte of Human Rights Watch called Monday's ruling "incredibly

"It certainly will send a message to some states that they can go ahead
and execute inmates," Tofte said.

But Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information
Center in Washington, doubted the ruling would open the floodgates in
other states.

"In each of these states there are special things that make each one a
little different," Dieter said. "I think the issue is going to go up to
the Supreme Court."

The last execution in Missouri occurred on Oct. 26, 2005, when convicted
killer Marlin Gray was put to death. He was the 67th man executed since
Missouri renewed the death penalty in 1989.

Both Taylor and his accomplice in the killing of 15-year-old Ann Harrison,
Roderick Nunley, have been on death row 16 years. 5 inmates have been
awaiting execution for more than 20 years. The longest-serving of the 46
condemned prisoners, all men, is Elroy Preston, on death row since 1982
for killing a St. Louis couple.

Beth Riggert, a spokeswoman for the state Supreme Court, said it was
impossible to predict when the next execution could occur.

Corrections Department spokesman Brian Hauswirth said the execution
procedure has been revised. The biggest change is the removal of Jefferson
City surgeon Alan Doerhoff, the dyslexic doctor who previously oversaw
administration of the lethal chemicals.

The state has been unable to find another doctor willing to participate.
Hauswirth would say only that the Corrections Department "will have
appropriate medical personnel" for the procedure.

(source: The Rolla Daily News)


Make death penalty fit the crime

The United States is virtually alone among advanced democracies in
permitting capital punishment. But widespread ambivalence about imposing
the ultimate penalty has produced a minor industry of litigation that has
had the effect of postponing executions for years and even decades.

This state of affairs, which frustrates supporters and opponents of
capital punishment, exists though the death penalty has been imposed for
more than a generation only in murder cases. Imagine how clogged the
courts would become if states were allowed to execute individuals for
other crimes.

That scenario has arisen with a decision by the Louisiana Supreme Court.
In upholding a death sentence for Patrick Kennedy, who raped his
8-year-old stepdaughter and then told her to implicate someone else, the
majority noted that the U.S. Supreme Court "has characterized rape as a
crime second only to homicide in the harm that it causes." That
observation came in a decision that invalidated the death sentence of a
convicted rapist. But the Louisiana court held out the hope that the
current U.S. Supreme Court would regard this case differently.
Unfortunately, it's not an idle hope.

In a 1977 ruling, only four justices signed an opinion saying that capital
punishment for rape was always unconstitutional. Justice Lewis Powell
voted to vacate the sentence on the narrower rationale that "death is
disproportionate punishment for the crime of raping an adult woman,"
leaving open the possibility that rape of a child might qualify as a
capital crime. A majority of the current court might be willing to seize
on the distinction Powell drew by upholding the death penalty for Kennedy.
And the justices might be influenced by the argument that Louisiana's law,
which capitalizes the crime of aggravated rape of a child under 12,
reflects "evolving standards of decency." As the Louisiana court noted, 4
states have followed Louisiana's lead. Texas will join the list if, as
expected, the governor signs a bill recently approved by the Legislature.

The rape of a child is an unspeakable crime. In its decision, the
Louisiana court wrote that "short of first-degree murder, we can think of
no other non-homicide crime more deserving" of the death penalty. But
imaginative state legislators might easily discover other offenses worthy
of the ultimate punishment: terrorism, major drug dealing (a capital
offense under federal law) or violent hate crimes. Capital punishment has
proved dysfunctional and divisive as a sanction for murder. The U.S.
Supreme Court shouldn't compound the error  and increase its own workload
by allowing states to execute criminals who do not take a human life.

(source: Editorial, Los Angeles Times)


Cracking Down on "Murderabilia"

A form letter from Martha Stewart, written on her trademark Living
stationery and sent to supporters during her prison stay, sells for $25.
An envelope hand-addressed by jailed Panamanian General Manuel Noriega is
$350. Both are for sale on "true crime" Internet sites. But beyond the odd
curiosity of a prison thank-you note from America's housekeeping guru and
an innocuous envelope from a fallen dictator lies the online shopping
world of macabre, shocking and soul-chilling prison collectibles  magazine
fashion ads defaced with satanic symbols and stained with the bodily
fluids of a campus shooter, a sketch of a headless victim drawn by a death
row murderer, even fingernail clippings and foot scrapings from a serial

When Charles Lindbergh's baby was kidnapped 75 years ago, it was dubbed
the "crime of the century." A look back at the 25 most notorious crimes
that have also vied for that title "Odd is good. Odd and rare is really
good," says Tod Bohannon, who operates murderauction.com out of his
Georgia home. But Bohannon, who describes his passion for prison
memorabilia as a "hobby," is concerned that a proposed federal law could
shut him down. The bill, filed in late May by Republican Senator John
Cornyn, takes aim at the trade by forbidding prisoners from using the U.S.
Postal Service to deliver or receive items for profit. The bill has been
referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it is likely to face
criticism from civil-liberties groups and support from victims' rights

Dubbed "murderabilia" by Andy Kahan, director of the Houston-based Mayor's
Crime Victims Office, the sale of what many consider grotesque items is
already banned in five states  Texas, California, New Jersey, Michigan and
Utah  thanks in great part to Kahan's lobbying efforts. In 2001, Kahan
also successfully pressured eBay.com to drop "murderabilia" listings. But
since much of the selling happens on websites operated beyond the five
states, the legislation has had limited effect on Internet sales.

There are 5 major U.S. dealers of murderabilia, according to Kahan,
operating out of Georgia, Arkansas, Montana, New Hampshire and
Massachusetts. The dealers operate using the eBay model: sellers post
their offerings and collectors bid. Some items come from the prisoners,
their families, or even attorneys; other sellers simply write to notorious
prisoners and ask for letters, personal items or artwork. Kahan alerts
authorities to online sales, even buying up items to take them out of
circulation, but he says that dealers are hard to pin down. "It's like
trying to exterminate cockroaches  they move from one site to another."

Murderauction.com's Bohannon, whose passion for his true-crime hobby began
as a teenager hanging out at the county jail with his deputy sheriff
father, uses a U.K. server to host his site since he claims Kahan has
intimidated his U.S.-based hosts, warning them that they could face civil

The top-dollar "stars" of the sites are Charles Manson, serving life in
prison for murder, and the late John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer
executed in 1994. Manson's prison art gets three- and four-figure prices;
even his prison flip-flops are for sale. On daisyseven.com  whose logo
proclaims "Where Crime Pays. Every Day"  a license plate from Gacy's snow
plow is up for $1,700, a Gacy rosary for $3,000.

Daisyseven claims that no criminals receive financial gain from any sale,
but the money trail can be difficult to track if prisoners use go-betweens
like attorneys or family members. In most states, prisoners are prohibited
from operating businesses from behind bars  rules aimed at drug dealers
and organized crime  but they can have funds deposited in commissary
accounts to purchase snacks, drinks and newspaper subscriptions.

In Texas, with 153,000 inmates in the penal system, it is impossible to
screen every piece of mail, says Michelle Lyons, a spokesman for the Texas
Department of Criminal Justice, and mail to and from attorneys and the
media is privileged. Random screening does catch some illegal activity,
which can be punished with the loss of privileges and more prison time.
When prison authorities found out the so-called "Railway Killer" Angel
Maturino Resendiz was selling his fingernail clippings from prison, prior
to his execution in June 2006, his mail was flagged, but not before the
items made it out into the marketplace.

Despite the prison prohibition forbidding for-profit sale of artwork, many
of the pieces sold by Ed Mead on his prisonart.org web site come from
Texas, many of them panos or "handkerchief" art, a medium favored by
Latino prisoners in the Southwest who do intricate ink drawings on squares
of ripped sheets and other material. Mead makes copies of the works, scans
and posts them on his website, charging a small commission fee if they
sell. He says he rejects any art that he considers racist, sexist or
homophobic and does not sell pieces by notorious killers. Recently, he
refused artwork from Christopher Scarver, whose claim to fame is killing
Jeffrey Dahmer.

Operating out of San Francisco, Mead, who served 18 years in Washington
State for crimes committed in the '70s as a member of the revolutionary
group George Jackson Brigade, is now a prison-reform activist. He says art
gives prisoners a sense of themselves, raises their self-esteem and keeps
them busy. Cornyn's bill, he adds, "is an attempt to pass another 'Son of
Sam' law," referring to the 1971 New York state law aimed at blocking
potential book profits for notorious criminals like "Son of Sam" killer
David Berkowitz. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the law in 1987,
finding it overly broad and in violation of the First Amendment free
speech rights. The proposed federal "murderabilia" law takes a different
approach by targeting prisoners' involvement in interstate or foreign
commerce, and it applies to all prisoners, state or federal, levying fines
and a minimum three-year penalty for breaking the law.

"The [new] bill does cause some concerns," says Marv Johnson, legal
counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, D.C. "It's a
bit too broad and does raise some First Amendment issues by affecting
protected activity."

Even if the bill does pass, the trade will continue, Bohannon insists: "If
they shut it down, they will force it underground." Mead agrees, and notes
that despite rules at California's maximum security Pelican Bay prison
limiting prisoners' access to artist materials, art flourishes; prisoners
scrape the colors from magazine ads and use manila envelopes as canvases.
Donny Johnson, a well-known Pelican Bay artist, dissolves M&M candy for
his colors and uses a paintbrush made from his own hair.

But most notorious prison art, Kahan says, only inspires more pain and
horror for the victims. In April, Denise Johnson and Victoria Snider,
whose husband and sister, respectively, were killed in 2002 by the Beltway
Sniper, Lee Boyd Malvo, were shocked when they learned that his sketch of
Osama bin Laden was for sale on murderauction.com. The starting bid was
$399, but so far the Canadian seller nicknamed "Redrum"  murder spelled
backwards  has yet to sell the crudely drawn portrait. "It would be
worthless without Malvo's name on it," Kahan says. "It is profit from
ill-gotten notoriety."

(source: TIME Magazine)

DELAWARE----new death sentence

Del. Gives Cooke Death Penalty in Murder of UD Student

A man who raped and strangled a University of Delaware student 2 years ago
before torching her apartment in an attempt to destroy evidence was
sentenced to death Wednesday.

New Castle County Superior Court Judge Jerome O. Herlihy followed a jury's
unanimous recommendation that 36-year-old James E. Cooke Jr. should be
executed for killing Lindsey M. Bonistall.

The jury convicted Cooke in March of first-degree murder, arson, rape,
burglary and reckless endangering in the death of Bonistall, whose body
was found covered with charred debris in the bathtub of her Newark

Bonistall, who was white, was a 20-year-old sophomore from White Plains,
N.Y., majoring in English and journalism at the University of Delaware.
Cooke, who is black, had used a marker to write "KKK," "White Power" and
other phrases on the walls of the apartment where Bonistall lived.

Cooke, who has a lengthy criminal history and had turned to stealing by
age 10, also made a 911 call before his arrest in which he suggested
Bonistall's death was part of a drug war involving white supremacists.

During his trial, Cooke was periodically banished from the courtroom after
frequent outbursts, including one incident in which he had to be wrestled
to the floor.

Acknowledging that evidence, including DNA from semen in Bonistall's body
and found under her fingernails, pointed to Cooke's guilt, defense
attorneys had asked that Cooke be found guilty but mentally ill.

(source: WBOC TV News)

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