Pillowcase Burglar could face death penalty if convicted in woman's death
The man dubbed the Pillowcase Burglar could face the death penalty if convicted
in the death of a 57-year-old woman in Marion County.
Darren Decker, 42, won the nickname after a string of burglaries in Sumter,
Marion, Levy, Alachua and Citrus counties committed with his 44-year-old wife,
Jessica Baker. The investigation revealed that the couple forcibly entered the
victims' residences through either the front or rear door. Once inside, they
stole guns, jewelry and small electronics. Their signature was using
pillowcases from the victims' homes to transport the stolen property.
Decker is also facing a charge of 1st degree murder in the death of Tamara
Bedenbaugh of Ocala. Baker has not been charged in her death.
The prosecutor's office has announced it will be pursuing the death penalty due
to the "heinous" nature of Bedehnbaugh's death. Her home showed signs of forced
entry and Decker allegedly stole her wallet, jewelry and cash.
Death penalty debate may determine who is on the Kansas Supreme Court
It's been a half century since Kansas has executed a convicted killer and
generally speaking, it's not much of a political issue in the state.
But conservatives are banking on capital punishment in their campaign to oust
four state Supreme Court justices.
When it comes to whether or not the Supreme Court justices should be kept on
the bench or voted out, we've heard mostly about school finance and whether the
high court should even be a player in that.
But lurking in the background, especially around Wichita and in western Kansas,
is the death penalty.
"There are a number of issues that are before this court that have to be
decided that impact every Kansan. So the death penalty is definitely one piece
of that," says Ryan Wright from Kansans for Fair Courts, the group leading the
effort to retain the justices on the ballot in November.
The other piece is abortion. Over the years the justices have overturned some
That resonates with pro-life voters but probably won't lure many others to
oppose the justices.
But, the death penalty just might.
"I think good political consultants know which emotional buttons to push and
fear is one of the most popular because it's one of the most effective," says
Michael Smith, a political scientist from Emporia State.
School finance, he says, is too complicated. Voters just want their schools
open, class sizes relatively small and stable funding. "Whereas when you talk
about 'they let murders off,' which is not technically correct, but when you
frame it that way that pushes an immediate and very visceral button."
And there is nothing more visceral around the death penalty in Kansas than the
Carr brothers murder case.
The Carrs murdered 5 people in Wichita in 2000. They were sentenced to death
but the Kansas Supreme Court overturned the sentence, though not the
convictions. Eventually, the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death sentences
and the Carrs are back on death row.
Republicans fiercely maintain that 4 of the justices up for retention ignored
the law and struck down the Carrs' death sentences for political reasons.
The state Republican Party passed a resolution at its convention in May calling
for the ouster of justices Carol Beier, Dan Biles, Maria Lucket and Chief
Justice Lawton Nuss. Though any mention of the death penalty was left out of
the party platform.
The newest member of the high court, Caleb Stegall, has not been targeted by
the conservatives because he's seen as a conservative himself. Stegall was Gov.
Sam Brownback's chief legal counsel before being appointed to the Court of
Appeals and then going through the merit selection process that landed him on
the state Supreme Court.
House GOP leaders are leading the charge against the other 4. Their Facebook
page and Twitter feed are dotted with memes targeting the justices, including 1
with a red slash over their faces.
While House Republicans regularly send out incendiary emails and tweets, no one
would agree to an interview. Not Speaker Ray Merrick from Stilwell. Not
Majority Leader Jean Vickery from Louisburg. Not party director Clay Barker.
But Senate President Susan Wagle was tough on the high court on a recent
episode of KCUR's political podcast, Statehouse Blend. She's from Wichita.
"My community is very upset with this court because of the Carr brothers
murders," Wagle says. "They overturned that death penalty and we had to go to
the Supreme Court, spend a lot of money, to get our court back in line. So to
me, they have overstepped their authority."
In February, a Fort Hays State University poll showed only 21 % of Kansans were
dissatisfied with the high court, while 61 % were dissatisfied with the
Ryan Wright from Kansans for Fair Courts is pretty confident the justices will
be kept on the bench. "Even with that case in Wichita I think that we're going
to see voters rally behind these courts because they think it's important to
have fair and impartial courts in Kansas."
A bipartisan quartet of Kansas governors also think so and recently went on a
barnstorming tour of the state to campaign in favor of retention.
Because there's more politics surrounding the court this year than ever before,
most believe this may be one of the closest judicial retention elections in
(source: Sam Zeff is co-host of the political podcast Statehouse Blend and
covers education for KCUR, which is a partner in a statewide collaboration
covering elections in Kansas----Salina Post)
Challenges increase for death penalty in Oklahoma
The challenges of translating the death penalty from courtroom sentence into
concrete reality continue to grow, along with the frustration of many
The U.S. Supreme Court has ordered a review of a death sentence handed down in
Oklahoma, saying relatives of murder victims in that case should not have been
allowed to ask the jury to impose the death penalty.
This will strike many Oklahomans as fundamentally wrong. Families often serve
as a voice for those no longer able to speak for themselves. And their pain is
certainly real. It's understandable that Oklahoma state law has long allowed
for victims' families to present statements to juries.
The killer in this case is not sympathetic. Shaun Michael Bosse was convicted
of killing 25-year-old Katrina Griffin and her 2 young children in 2010. Bosse
stabbed Griffin to death. He stabbed her 8-year-old son, Christian Griffin, to
death. Griffin's 6-year-old daughter, Chasity Hammer, wasn't stabbed, but died
because Bosse locked her in a closet and then set the family's mobile home on
fire. DNA evidence proved the victims' blood was on Bosse's clothing.
Now Bosse complains it's unfair that relatives of those children were allowed
to urge a jury to sentence him to death. If that's unfair, it pales in scale
with the lack of fairness embodied by Bosse's actions.
Nonetheless, the Supreme Court ruled that juries are prohibited "from
considering victim impact evidence" that does not "relate directly to the
circumstances of the crime." In the short term, that means Bosse's case will be
remanded to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, where judges will determine
if victim-family statements had any impact on Bosse's sentence.
In similar cases, courts have typically found that family statements were
harmless and death sentences have been carried out. This was true of Clayton
Lockett, who shot a 19-year-old woman and watched as 2 accomplices buried her
alive in 1999. Bosse's actions appear just as savage and despicable as
Lockett's, so there's reason to think his death sentence will also be upheld.
Bosse, by the way, overpowered a guard and temporarily escaped from the McClain
County jail while awaiting trial. He's not likely to become a poster boy for
anti-death penalty activists who seeks examples of potentially innocent men on
Meanwhile, Oklahoma district attorneys will no longer ask victims' relatives
for sentence recommendations. And prosecutors will have to deal with additional
appeals from other convicts seeking to have their death sentences overturned
based on this latest technicality, even as the state also struggles to obtain
the proper drugs required for lethal injection.
Recent polling suggests a large majority of Oklahomans are willing to enshrine
the death penalty in the state constitution even as a majority are also open to
abolishment of the death penalty, so long as those who would typically be
sentenced to death are instead given life sentences without the possibility of
parole, forfeit all property and pay restitution to victims' families.
Those apparently contradictory findings are no doubt driven by Oklahomans'
awareness of the growing challenges of actually carrying out a death sentence.
If justice can't be served via the ultimate penalty, most Oklahomans still want
it served in some form.
(source: The Oklahoman Editorial Board)
Nebraska law enforcement split on death penalty vote
A group of Nebraska law enforcement plans to hold an event Monday to express
their opposition to the death penalty.
As the November election approaches, law enforcement agencies on both sides of
the issue are trying to get their message out.
Current and former police, prosecutors and judges will speak at the Nebraska
Law Enforcement Against the Death Penalty conference in La Vista Monday. It
comes just a few weeks after 38 Nebraska Sheriffs voiced their support for the
death penalty during a yearly meeting in Kearney.
Nebraska Law Enforcement Against The Death Penalty they say they will discuss
why the death penalty is broken and how the state will be better if voter's
uphold its repeal.
(source: WOWT news)
Bacon, Ashford weigh in on death penalty debate----The 2nd District
Congressional candidates outline their stances
Second district Congressional candidates are weighed in with their views on
Nebraska's death penalty laws as the Nov. 8 election nears.
Voters will decide in November whether to bring the death penalty back to
Nebraska. In this edition of Chronicle, we talk to supporters and opponents of
capital punishment, and break down the potentially confusing language on the
Voters in Nebraska will decide the death penalty legislation's fate following a
successful petition, signed by Don Bacon, the Republican rival of Democrat
incumbent, Brad Ashford.
"I support the death penalty," Bacon said. "I think life is very precious and
went to life is taken, 1st-degree murder, and you know the guilt of the
individual, I think you show value to that life by punishing the person who did
the murder with their own life."
Ashford's staff said the congressman was unavailable for an interview, but
issued a statement, saying, "It is clear that the Nebraska death penalty is a
broken system that must be addressed. I believe it is an issue that each voter
must decide after reflection and significant deliberation. We must maintain the
federal death penalty for criminals and terrorists who attack our communities."
It's a softer stance than when Ashford voted as a state senator to advance a
bill repealing Nebraska's death penalty in 2013.
"Public safety is not enhanced by having the death penalty on the books, and
the cost is great," Ashford said on public radio at that time.
Bacon responded, saying, "I think there is a place for the federal death
penalty. The Oklahoma City bomber who killed men and women and children."
(source: KETV news)
As More Americans Turn on Death Penalty, Some States Weigh Harder Stance
In Oklahoma, a scandal over the state's execution methods has inspired a move
to enshrine the death penalty in the state constitution.
In Nebraska, a governor unhappy with lawmakers' repeal of the death penalty has
bankrolled a campaign to bring it back.
And in California, where condemned killers wait decades to meet their fates,
residents will decide either to speed up the process or ban it entirely.
These 3 states sit at a crossroads in America's conflicted relationship with
capital punishment, with voters set to determine next month whether the
practice continues to fade away or stubbornly persists.
The ballot initiatives come at a critical time, as the death penalty appears to
be slouching toward obsolescence.
20 states have abolished capital punishment, and another four have stopped the
practice by decree of governors. The 15 people executed so far this year is the
lowest number since 1991, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a
drop-off driven in part by shortages of execution drugs and successful
challenges to capital sentences. National polls show that the public's support
for the death penalty has been declining for decades, while opposition has
But the number of Americans who approve of it still outnumber those who don't.
And in places where the death penalty has come under attack, proponents are
seeking ways to keep it alive.
"What you have are attempts here not to mount any kind of revival of the death
penalty, but to stop the bleeding," said Franklin Zimring, a criminologist at
U.C. Berkeley School of Law.
None of this is surprising to Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death
Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C. When a social or government
institution appears imperiled, it is natural for adherents to rally around it.
"The death penalty is eroding everywhere," Dunham said. "One by one, states are
eliminating it, and even in states that keep it, prosecutors are seeking it
less and juries are returning it less frequently. You can see the public
support draining away. So for those with a vested interest in retaining the
policy, they feel under siege. And they respond."
The revolt underway in Nebraska is in response to last year's move by the
Republican-controlled state Legislature to repeal the death penalty on grounds
it was costly, inefficient and wrong (the state hasn't executed anyone since
1997). Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed it, and the lawmakers overrode him.
Ricketts and his wealthy father then helped finance a campaign to take the
issue directly to voters with a Nov. 8 referendum that asks whether the death
penalty ban should be reversed.
"There's a storm going on in Nebraska," Dunham said, part of the broader
"political climate change" underway in regard to capital punishment.
The results will test whether America's slow turn against the death penalty can
move into the country's deeply conservative areas.
Oklahoma is a different matter. It pursues the death penalty more aggressively
than most states, with 112 executions in the last four decades, and another 47
people on death row. But a series of botched lethal injections forced Gov. Mary
Fallin to issue a moratorium on executions until the state adopted new
Death penalty proponents responded by getting a referendum placed on the Nov. 8
ballot that seeks to add capital punishment to the state constitution. That
would make it harder to repeal it, and would protect it from court rulings. But
critics say the move subverts government checks and balances.
"The referendum in Oklahoma looks very much like a disproportionate response by
individuals who feel as though the policy is under siege," Dunham said. Then
there's California, which has the largest number of people on death row (741),
in large part because the appeals process is so burdensome. There have been no
executions there in a decade, compared with 13 in the previous 3 decades.
California voters rejected an attempt to abolish the death penalty 4 years ago.
But abolitionists believe they'll have better luck next month. They've gotten a
question on the Nov. 8 ballot that asks whether the death penalty should be
But death penalty supporters, who acknowledge that the system is deeply flawed,
back a 2nd ballot question that asks to make the appeal process faster, a
change that would speed the rate of executions.
If that measure passes, executions would begin again, and momentum could shift
in favor of counter-repeal efforts elsewhere.
But if the repeal question wins, it will mark a huge leap toward ending the
death penalty nationwide, said Douglas Berman, a law professor at The Ohio
State University who specializes in criminal law and sentencing.
"If they do repeal, to me that will not only speed the path for politicians
nationwide feeling comfortable with voicing their own repeal affinities, but
will also embolden judges who, although they're not supposed to follow the
election cycle, are shaped by a sense of which way the winds blow," Berman
Because the ballot questions are separate, both might pass. In that scenario,
the one that received the most yes votes would prevail.
Barring a comprehensive ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, Berman said, the
death penalty will probably never disappear in America.
That's because, between the stalwart proponents and abolitionists, a sizable
proportion of people understand the death penalty's shortcomings but don't want
to preclude using it in the most heinous crimes, Berman said.
He predicted that use of the death penalty will diminish to the point where
it's applied in those narrowest of circumstances.
Robert Blecker agrees. He's a professor at New York Law School and author of
"The Death of Punishment: Searching for Justice Among the Worst of the Worst."
Support for the death penalty, he said, is rooted in a "deeply felt moral
intuition" that particularly horrific crimes should be punished with death.
"There are those of us who will stay angry and morally focused and care about
justice," he said. "We will not be argued out of it on the basis of cost and
(source: NBC news)
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
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