Oct. 17


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.

(source: villages-news.com)


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 restrictions.

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 Legislature.

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 Kansas ever.

(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 Oklahomans.

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 death row.

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 ballot.

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 grown.

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 procedures.

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 repealed.

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 said.

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 inefficiency."

(source: NBC news)

A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu

DeathPenalty mailing list
Unsubscribe: http://lists.washlaw.edu/mailman/options/deathpenalty

Reply via email to