[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2019-08-01 Thread Rick Halperin

August 1


Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Death Penalty Appeal Set  A judge 
said this week oral arguments in Boston Marathon bomber's Dzhokhar Tsarnaev 
appeal will be on Dec. 12.

More than 4 years after he was sentenced to death for his part in the Boston 
Marathon bombings, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's case is set to return to court. A 
federal judge this week said oral arguments in the Boston Marathon bomber's 
death sentence appeal will happen Dec. 12.

Tsarnaev's attorney will also be allowed to review the last sealed FBI 
interview of Ibragim Todashev before an FBI agent killed him, according to 
federal court records made public this week.

The defense team requested and will get the recordings of Ibragim Todashev's 
final interview with law enforcement, before he was killed. The FBI said 
Todashev implicated himself and Tamerlan in the 2011 murder of 3 Waltham men.

Tsarnaev's lawyers said it was impossible for an impartial jury to be selected 
in Boston. They also said the trial judge committed a "grave error" by not 
permitting the defense to tell jurors that Tamerlan was connected to the 2011 
Waltham triple-murder ahead of the bombings.

"This proof went to the heart of his defense: that Tamerlan was a killer, an 
angry and violent man; that he conceived and led this conspiracy," Tsarnaev's 
lawyers wrote in December court documents. "The exclusion of this mitigating 
evidence violated the Eighth Amendment and yielded a verdict unworthy of 

Only 2 specific defense lawyers will be permitted to review the tapes and 
cannot share those with anyone, including Tsarnaev. According to court 
documents, any motions filed as a result of the tapes (like a motion to 
suppress) and the state's response, must be under seal.

Tsarnaev was sentenced to death in 2015 for orchestrating — alongside his 
brother — the April 15, 2013, bombings that killed three people and injured 
more than 250 others. The pair also shot at a police officer who was killed in 
the ensuing manhunt. Tsarnaev's brother, Tamerlan, was also killed in the 

High-ranking law enforcement officials said he deserved the death penalty and 
knew what he was getting into. Tsarnaev's lawyers claimed he was under the 
influence of his older brother, Tamerlan. Tsarnaev was 19 years old at the time 
of the bombings.

Tsarnaev is being held at a prison in Colorado, and isn't expected to show.

(source: patch.com)


Correctional staff are the hidden victims of the death penalty

If the Trump administration moves forward with its plan to carry out 5 
executions in barely a 1-month span, it will leave behind a fresh trail of 
victims, largely hidden from public view. These are the correctional staff 
harmed by the execution process.

I know from my own firsthand experiences, supervising executions as a state 
director of corrections, that the damage executions inflict on correctional 
staff is deep and far-ranging. Carrying out an execution can take a severe toll 
on the well-being of those involved.

A 2016 documentary, “There Will Be No Stay,” effectively portrays the trauma 
experienced by correctional staff tasked with carrying out executions in Texas, 
South Carolina and Georgia. Execution team members experienced acute 
post-traumatic stress disorder. One described how his symptoms included seeing 
“faces of the people he executed in reoccurring nightmares.” Others suffered 
from similar nightmares, insomnia and addiction. Some were so severely 
traumatized that they are still not functional enough for employment or to 
maintain marital relationships.

Psychologists have described the impact of executions on correctional staff as 
similar to that suffered by battlefield veterans. But in my military 
experience, there was one major difference: The enemy was an anonymous, armed 
combatant who was threatening my life. In an execution, the condemned prisoner 
is a known human being who is totally defenseless when brought into the death 
chamber. Staff members know that he has been secured safely for many years 
before his execution and poses no threat to them personally.

It is not just the members of the execution team who experience feelings of 
guilt, shame and mental torment. The trauma extends through the many 
correctional staff who interact every day with death row prisoners, often 
forming meaningful bonds over the course of many years and, in many cases, 
witnessing their changed mind-sets and profound remorse. In my experience, the 
damage spills over into the larger prison community, causing depression, 
anxiety and other mental and physical impacts even among correctional workers 
who do not work directly with those on death row.

All these devastating effects are made much worse when executions are carried 
out in rapid succession, as the Trump administration plans to do. This 
compressed schedule, with executions just a few days apart, causes an extended 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2019-07-30 Thread Rick Halperin

July 30


Killeen: Men convicted in fiery deaths of pastor, wife now face execution

Thursday's order by Attorney General William Barr clearing the way for the 
federal government to execute condemned prisoners means that 2 area men 
convicted of the fiery murders of a pastor and his wife 20 years ago are back 
on track for a trip to the federal death chamber.

No federal executions have taken place in the U.S. since 2003.

Christopher Andre Vialva, 39, and Brandon Bernard, 38, were sentenced to death 
in Waco's federal district court, for the June 20, 1999 murders of Iowa pastor 
Todd Bagley and his wife Stacey Bagley.

Both men currently are held on death row at the federal prison in Terra Haute, 
Ind., where all federal death row prisoners are held.

"It certainly re-engages the issue," Daryl Fields, public information officer 
for the U.S. Attorney's Office, in San Antonio, said Friday by telephone.

The order applies to any federal court sentence of death, but there was a 
question Friday if the order would also apply to death penalties imposed by 
military courts martial, such as in the case of Fort Hood mass killer Nidal 
Malik Hasan.

"It hasn't gotten down here yet," Christopher Haug, media spokesman for III 
Corps and Ft. Hood said Friday.

"We'll (Army lawyers) will have to review it and see if it applies to cases 
tried under UCMJ (the Uniform Code of Military Justice)," Haug said.

The military has not carried out an execution since 1961.

Todd Bagley died of a gunshot, but his wife Stacy, who also had been shot, died 
of smoke inhalation, which means she was alive in the trunk of the couple’s car 
when Bernard, in an effort to hide evidence, set the vehicle on fire.

The trial was held in federal court because the crime happened on Fort Hood.

Thursday Barr directed the Justice Department to adopt a new rule for carrying 
out the death penalty, which would restore executions in the federal system for 
the 1st time in 16 years.

"We owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence 
imposed by our justice system," Barr said.

"The question is, how fast can they do it," Waco attorney Stan Schwieger said.

Schweiger said Barr's order is just the first step in a very long and detailed 
process that has to play out before executions could actually begin.

"There is an administrative procedure that has to take place that involves 
publication in the Federal Registry and an opportunity for people to make 
comments and all of that has to happen before any executions could begin.

"It's just the 1st step in a very long procedure and I hope they don't 
succeed," Schwieger said.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons, immediately upon Barr's order, set execution 
dates for 5 men on federal death row, all of whom already have exhausted their 
appeals and all of whom were convicted of murdering children in especially 
violent crimes.

4 of the 5 also killed adult victims.

Those executions are to be carried out in December and January, Barr's order 

KWTX contacted the Bureau of Prisons to learn if execution dates for either man 
convicted here had been set but has not yet received a reply.

Both Vialva and Bernard filed federal appeals, saying the judge who oversaw 
their trials was not competent to do so.

But in September 2018, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court denied the appeal from 2 
Killeen former gang members.

Since the Supreme Court allowed the death penalty to resume in the mid-1970s, 
after an earlier ruling had declared its application unconstitutional, the 
federal government has executed only three inmates, including Timothy McVeigh, 
who bombed the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995.

The last federal execution was March 18, 2003 when inmate Louis Jones, Jr., 44, 
put to death after his conviction of rape resulting in death and murder in 
federal district court in Lubbock in 1999.

He was a former soldier and was found guilty in the beating death of USAF Pvt. 
Tracie Joy McBride, 18, from San Angelo's Goodfellow Air Force Base.

(source: KWTX news)


I’m a Republican and I Oppose Restarting Federal ExecutionsMore and more, 
conservatives don’t trust the government to get capital punishment right.

A long-held stereotype is that conservatives in this country favor capital 
punishment, while liberals oppose it. But that doesn’t accord with reality: In 
recent years, more conservatives have come to realize that capital punishment 
conflicts irreconcilably with their principles of valuing life, fiscal 
responsibility and limited government. Many conservatives also recognize that 
the death penalty inflicts extreme and unnecessary trauma on the family members 
of victims and the correctional employees who have the job of taking the 
prisoner’s life.

It’s been 16 years since the federal government carried out an execution. Last 
week, however, the Justice Department announced that it had scheduled 
executions in 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2019-07-27 Thread Rick Halperin

July 27


The Government’s Arguments for Restoring the Death Penalty All Fail

Thursday, Attorney General William Barr announced that the federal government 
would begin executing people for the 1st time since 2003. He seemed to justify 
this decision in 4 ways: 1st, the death penalty is what the American people 
want, 2nd, these people have committed acts so heinous that no one should care 
if they live or die, 3rd, the system is fair and accurate, and 4th, killing 
prisoners will bring peace to victims. “Congress has expressly authorized the 
death penalty through legislation adopted by the people’s representatives in 
both houses of Congress and signed by the president,” Attorney General Barr 
said. “Under administrations of both parties, the Department of Justice has 
sought the death penalty against the worst criminals, including these 5 
murderers, each of whom was convicted by a jury of his peers after a full and 
fair proceeding. The Justice Department upholds the rule of law—and we owe it 
to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our 
justice system.”

All of these arguments fail.

The death penalty in the U.S. is dying. New death sentences are plummeting, and 
the few that do come down are coming from a handful of outlier jurisdictions, 
with 31 percent of the sentences coming from three counties: Riverside in 
California, Clark in Nevada, and Maricopa in Arizona. 2 % of counties 
nationwide now account for the majority of prisoners on states’ death rows.

Even when prosecutors seek the death penalty, juries around the country are 
often resisting them. In Wake County, North Carolina, home to Raleigh, juries 
have declined to sentence a defendant to death in eight out of eight cases over 
the last decade. After the last life sentence, the elected prosecutor stated: 
“At some point, we have to step back and say, ‘Has the community sent us a 
message on that?’”

A Gallup poll in October 2018 found that 56 % of Americans still favor the 
death penalty for murder. But these numbers have trended downward since the 
mid-1990s. And, as Matt Ford noted in The New Republic, “While most Americans 
may favor the death penalty in theory, the actual practice is a remote 
abstraction for them.” According to Rob Smith, executive director of The 
Justice Collaborative (publisher of the Daily Appeal), the more revealing 
metric for public support is that when asked to make real life-or-death 
decisions about a real person in a real case, prosecutors increasingly don’t 
seek and jurors don’t return death sentences.

Curiously, only 49 % of Americans told Gallup they thought the death penalty 
was applied fairly. This might prompt a person to ask: What’s going on with the 
7 % of people who don’t agree that the death penalty is applied fairly but are 
still in favor of it? We might wonder why we don’t defer more to experts, who 
tell us that the death penalty is not only unfairly applied, but it also 
accomplishes none of its stated goals.

Recently, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner has asked the 
Pennsylvania Supreme Court to declare that the death penalty violates the 
state’s Constitution. “Because of the arbitrary manner in which it has been 
applied, the death penalty violates our state Constitution’s prohibition 
against cruel punishments,” his office argued in a brief. “It really is not 
about the worst offenders,” Krasner told The Appeal. “It really is about 
poverty. It really is about race.”

Out of the 45 people on death row from Philadelphia, 37 are Black, and 4 are 
from other “minority groups,” according to the brief. 72 % of Philadelphia’s 
death cases have been overturned, almost 1/2 due to ineffective assistance of 
counsel. Among those on death row, 62 % were represented by an attorney found 
to be ineffective in another capital case. “These were people too poor to 
afford their attorneys,” Krasner told The Appeal. “These attorneys did a dismal 

These patterns are not unique to Philadelphia. Even though the Supreme Court 
has ruled that capital punishment must be limited to those “whose extreme 
culpability makes them the most deserving of execution,” and that it is cruel 
and unusual punishment to execute the insane, the intellectually disabled, and 
people under 18, people in the first 2 of those groups continue to be sentenced 
to death. Of those executed in 2017, 20 of the 23 men had one or more of the 
following impairments: significant evidence of mental illness; evidence of 
brain injury, developmental brain damage, or an IQ in the intellectually 
disabled range; serious childhood trauma, neglect, or abuse.

Prosecutors also keep sending innocent people to be killed. “As of Oct. 17, 
2017, 160 people have been exonerated from the nation’s death rows, and 
numerous executions have taken place despite strong evidence of innocence,” 
according to The Appeal. “According to one study, 1 out of every 25 people 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2019-07-26 Thread Rick Halperin

July 26


AG Barr Reinstates Federal Death Penalty, Immediately Schedules 5 
Executions“Additional executions will be scheduled at a later date,” the 
DOJ said.

Attorney General William Barr on Thursday reinstated the federal death penalty, 
which lapsed 20 years ago, and immediately scheduled executions for 5 federal 
death row inmates convicted of murdering children and the elderly, while 
promising more to come.

According to a Justice Department announcement, Barr directed Hugh Hurwitz, the 
acting director of the Bureau of Prisons, to adopt the revision to the Federal 
Execution Protocol, a maneuver that “[clears] the way for the federal 
government to resume capital punishment after a nearly 2 decade lapse, and 
bringing justice to victims of the most horrific crimes.”

Barr also directed Hurwitz to schedule executions for 5 death-row inmates at a 
federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana in December 2019 and January 2020.

“Congress has expressly authorized the death penalty through legislation 
adopted by the people’s representatives in both houses of Congress and signed 
by the President,” Barr said in a statement.

“Under Administrations of both parties, the Department of Justice has sought 
the death penalty against the worst criminals, including these 5 murderers, 
each of whom was convicted by a jury of his peers after a full and fair 
proceeding. The Justice Department upholds the rule of law—and we owe it to the 
victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice 

The Justice Department identified the 5 inmates scheduled for execution:

Daniel Lewis Lee, a member of a white supremacist group, murdered a family of 
3, including an 8-year-old girl. After robbing and shooting the victims with a 
stun gun, Lee covered their heads with plastic bags, sealed the bags with duct 
tape, weighed down each victim with rocks, and threw the family of 3 into the 
Illinois bayou. On May 4, 1999, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the 
Eastern District of Arkansas found Lee guilty of numerous offenses, including 3 
counts of murder in aid of racketeering, and he was sentenced to death. Lee’s 
execution is scheduled to occur on Dec. 9, 2019.

Lezmond Mitchell stabbed to death a 63-year-old grandmother and forced her 
9-year-old granddaughter to sit beside her lifeless body for a 30 to 40-mile 
drive. Mitchell then slit the girl’s throat twice, crushed her head with 
20-pound rocks, and severed and buried both victims’ heads and hands. On May 8, 
2003, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona found 
Mitchell guilty of numerous offenses, including 1st degree murder, felony 
murder, and carjacking resulting in murder, and he was sentenced to death. 
Mitchell’s execution is scheduled to occur on Dec. 11, 2019.

Wesley Ira Purkey violently raped and murdered a 16-year-old girl, and then 
dismembered, burned, and dumped the young girl’s body in a septic pond. He also 
was convicted in state court for using a claw hammer to bludgeon to death an 
80-year-old woman who suffered from polio and walked with a cane. On Nov. 5, 
2003, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri 
found Purkey guilty of kidnapping a child resulting in the child’s death, and 
he was sentenced to death. Purkey’s execution is scheduled to occur on Dec. 13, 

Alfred Bourgeois physically and emotionally tortured, sexually molested, and 
then beat to death his 2 1/2-year-old daughter. On March 16, 2004, a jury in 
the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas found Bourgeois 
guilty of multiple offenses, including murder, and he was sentenced to death. 
Bourgeois’ execution is scheduled to occur on Jan. 13, 2020.

Dustin Lee Honken shot and killed 5 people—2 men who planned to testify against 
him and a single, working mother and her 10-year-old and 6-year-old daughters. 
On Oct. 14, 2004, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District 
of Iowa found Honken guilty of numerous offenses, including 5 counts of murder 
during the course of a continuing criminal enterprise, and he was sentenced to 
death. Honken’s execution is scheduled to occur on Jan. 15, 2020.

The Justice Department said that the 5 inmates have exhausted all appeals of 
their sentences.

“Additional executions will be scheduled at a later date,” the DOJ said.

(source: nationalinterest.com)


U.S. to Resume Executions of Death-Row InmatesThe federal government has 
not executed an inmate since 2003, a moratorium reversed by the attorney 

The federal government will resume executions of death-row inmates after a 
nearly two-decade hiatus, Attorney General William P. Barr said Thursday, 
countering a broad national shift away from the death penalty as public support 
for it has dwindled.

The announcement reverses what had been essentially a moratorium on the federal 
death penalty. 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2019-07-25 Thread Rick Halperin

USAimpending/scheduled executions

With the execution of Marion Wilson Jr. in Georgia on June 20, the USA has now 
executed 1,500 condemned individuals since the death penalty was re-legalized 
on July 2, 1976 in the US Supreme Court Gregg v Georgia decision.

Gary Gilmore was the 1st person executed, in Utah, on January 17, 1977. Below 
is a list of further scheduled executions as the nation continues its shameful 
practice of state-sponsored killings.

NOTE: The list is likely to change over the coming months as new execution 
dates are added and possible stays of execution occur.

1501--Aug. 15-Dexter Johnson---Texas

1502---Aug. 15Stephen West-Tennessee

1503---Aug. 21Larry Swearingen-Texas

1504---Aug. 22Gary Ray Bowles--Florida

1505---Sept. 4Billy Crutsinger-Texas

1506---Sept. 10---Mark Anthony Soliz---Texas

1507---Sept. 12---Warren Henness---Ohio

1508---Sept 25Robert SparksTexas

1509---Oct. 1-Russell Bucklew--Missouri

1510---Oct. 2-Stephen Barbee---Texas

1511---Oct. 10Randy HalprinTexas

1512---Oct. 16Randall Mays-Texas

1513---Oct. 30Ruben Gutierrez--Texas

1514---Nov. 3-9---Charles Rhines---South Dakota

1515---Nov. 6-Justen Hall--Texas

1516---Dec. 5-Lee Hall Jr.-Tennessee

1517---Dec. 9-Daniel Lewis Lee-Federal - Ark.

1518---Dec. 11James Hanna--Ohio

1519---Dec. 11Lezmond Mitchell-Federal - Ariz.

1520---Dec. 13Wesley PurkeyFederal - Mo.

1521---Jan. 13---Alfred Bourgeois--Federal - Tex.

1522---Jan. 15---Dusten Honken-Federal - Iowa

1523---Jan. 16---Kareem JacksonOhio

(source: Rick Halperin)
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[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----USA

2019-07-25 Thread Rick Halperin

July 25


Trump Justice Department to resume federal executions

The Department of Justice announced Thursday that it will resume capital 
punishment for the first time in nearly 2 decades.

Attorney General William Barr has directed that executions for 5 death-row 
inmates be scheduled. If carried out, they will be the first federal executions 
since 2003.

Only 3 federal executions have taken place since 1988, according to the Death 
Penalty Information Center. All 5 of the death-row inmates named in Thursday's 
release were convicted for the murders of children.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons has adopted a regulation that will require 
federal authorities to use a single drug, pentobarbital, in federal executions, 
according to the DOJ release. That drug is used by several states for lethal 

“Congress has expressly authorized the death penalty through legislation 
adopted by the people’s representatives in both houses of Congress and signed 
by the President,” Barr said in a statement Thursday.

“Under Administrations of both parties, the Department of Justice has sought 
the death penalty against the worst criminals, including these five murderers, 
each of whom was convicted by a jury of his peers after a full and fair 
proceeding. The Justice Department upholds the rule of law—and we owe it to the 
victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice 

(source: thehill.com)
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[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2019-06-03 Thread Rick Halperin

June 3


Jury selection set in death penalty case of Illinois man charged with murdering 
Chinese scholar

Jury selection is set to start on Monday for the trial of an Illinois man 
charged with kidnapping and murdering a visiting Chinese scholar 2 years ago, 
in a case where federal prosecutors say they intend to seek the death penalty.

Brendt Christensen, 29, has been held without bond since his arrest in June 
2017 for the abduction and presumed slaying of University of Illinois at 
Urbana-Champaign student Yingying Zhang, 26, whose body has not been found.

Christensen, a onetime master's student at the university, has been charged 
with murder, kidnapping and lying to federal investigators. He has pleaded not 
guilty to all counts.

Jury selection is scheduled to start Monday in U.S. District Court in Peoria, 
Illinois, and is expected to take a week.

Zhang came from southeastern China to study photosynthesis and crop production 
at the university two months before she was reported missing on June 9, 2017. A 
professor and several of her classmates told police they were unable to contact 
her for hours, authorities said.

Investigators were led to Christensen after surveillance cameras in Urbana 
recorded Zhang getting into a black car which authorities later traced to him, 
according to an arrest warrant affidavit filed with the court by an FBI agent.

Under questioning by investigators, Christensen admitted giving Zhang a ride, 
but said he dropped her off in a residential area a few blocks from where he 
picked her up.

Detectives said an examination of Christensen's cell phone showed he had 
searched the internet for topics such as "Abduction 101" and how to plan a 
kidnapping, the affidavit said. While under surveillance by law enforcement, he 
was also heard explaining how he kidnapped the victim, took her back to his 
apartment and held her against her will, it said.

In court filings outlining their reasons for seeking the death penalty, 
prosecutors said Christensen met several of the legal criteria for capital 
punishment, including murder during the commission of another crime, 
premeditation, and the crime being "heinous, cruel or depraved."

Prosecutors also cited "non-statutory aggravating factors" such as the impact 
on the victim's family.

"The victim ... was particularly vulnerable due to her small stature and 
limited ability to communicate in English," prosecutors said in the filing.

(source: Reuters)

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[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, US MIL.

2019-04-17 Thread Rick Halperin

April 17


We should preach about the death penalty on Good Friday

To avoid preaching about the evil of the death penalty on Good Friday is akin 
to not preaching about the joy of the resurrection on Easter Sunday. The 
central scriptural context of the liturgical readings is focused on the state 
execution of Jesus Christ. And yet, if previous experiences are any indication, 
anecdotal evidence suggests that few Catholics will hear their pastors deliver 
a homily this Friday in which the Passion of the Lord is connected to the sin 
of capital punishment.

The very nature and purpose of the Good Friday homily begs such an engagement. 
As the General Instruction of the Roman Missal makes clear, the homily ought to 
be an explanation of the readings that ties together the mystery we celebrate 
in faith and the needs and contexts of the people gathered in assembly. But the 
homily is not merely an opportunity for exegesis or catechesis, it is meant to 
inspire, challenge, lift up and embolden the faith of the hearers.

The important 1982 U.S. bishops' conference document "Fulfilled in Your 
Hearing," on the role of the homily in liturgy, reminds us that "the homily is 
preached in order that a community of believers who have gathered to celebrate 
the liturgy may do so more deeply and more fully — more faithfully — and thus 
be transformed for Christian witness in the world" (no. 43). Likewise, in 2012, 
the U.S. bishops' conference issued another document on the homily on the 30th 
anniversary of "Fulfilled in Your Hearing." This text, titled "Preaching the 
Mystery of Faith," states: "The purpose and spirit of the homily is to inspire 
and move those who hear it, to enable them to understand in heart and mind what 
the mysteries of our redemption mean for our lives and how they might call us 
to repentance and change" (p. 30).

Given the purpose and place of the homily, the subject of the death penalty in 
the context of the United States offers both the preacher and the assembly an 
important opportunity. For the former, while it takes courage to discuss a 
subject that will surely find a mixed reception in many congregations, it is an 
opportunity to directly address the continued and pressing relevance of the 
church's teaching on the inexcusability of capital punishment as borne witness 
to in the Lord's passion and in the many hundreds of death-row inmates today. 
For the assembly, it is an opportunity, as the U.S. bishops' conference 
documents on preaching recall, to grow in understanding of the faith, see the 
connection between that faith and an injustice in our midst, and thus move 
toward greater transformation in order to be Christian witnesses in the world.

Beyond the homiletic impetus for it, the need to address capital punishment as 
a pressing moral issue in our day is heightened by the recent Amnesty 
International report on global trends in the death penalty, which was published 
just last week. While some of the statistics will not be surprising — the 
greatest number of state executions took place in nations like China, Iran, 
Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, and Iraq — some of the report should be a particularly 
disturbing reminder of how unjust the United States' judicial system remains. 
For example, the report says that: "For the 10th consecutive year, the USA 
remained the only country to carry out executions in the region [of North and 
South America]."

Think about that for a minute. The national narrative and accompanying rhetoric 
used by politicians on both sides of the aisle often claims that the United 
States is a beacon of democratic hope and a model of integrity for the world. 
Furthermore, many of our leaders and ordinary citizens alike enjoy thinking of 
our country as a "Christian nation," but one of the starkest signs of our moral 
hypocrisy is witnessed in the data that show we are the only nation in the 
Western Hemisphere that sentences its own citizens to death. And, according to 
the Amnesty report, as of 2018 the number of death sentences and executions 
increased in the United States from 2017. We are in the worldwide minority of 
countries that still maintains the death penalty, and those with whom we share 
that appalling company include an embarrassing collection of dictatorships and 
promoters of state terrorism.

One of the traditional go-to justifications for supporting the death penalty 
among American Catholics had been a clause in the 1992 Catechism of the 
Catholic Church that acknowledged the possibility that state execution of 
criminals could be justified as a last resort and for the sake of the common 
good. That document was promulgated under St. John Paul II, who was an 
outspoken critic of the death penalty (including in the United States) and who, 
according to reporting by Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese, didn't want to include the 
exception and would have preferred to see the practiced entirely abolished. 
"But some in the Vatican 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA countdown to 1500 -- correction

2019-03-16 Thread Rick Halperin

March 16

USAcountdown to nation's 1500th execution

With the execution of Billie Wayne Coble in Texas on February 28, the USA has 
now executed 1,493 condemned individuals since the death penalty was 
relegalized on July 2, 1976 in the US Supreme Court Gregg v Georgia decision.

Gary Gilmore was the 1st person executed, in Utah, on January 17, 1977.

Below is a list of scheduled executions as the nation approaches a terrible 
milestone of 1500 executions in the modern era.

NOTE: The list is likely to change over the coming months as new execution 
dates are added and possible stays of execution occur.

1494---Mar. 28Patrick MurphyTexas

1495---Apr. 11Mark RobertsonTexas

1496---Apr. 11Christopher Pike---Alabama

1497---Apr. 24John King---Texas

1498---May 2--Dexter JohnsonTexas

1499---May 16-Donnie Johnson---Tennessee

1500---Aug. 15Stephen West--Tennessee

1501---Aug. 21Larry Swearingen-Texas

1502---Sept. 4Billy CrutsingerTexas

(source: Rick Halperin)

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[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2018-10-22 Thread Rick Halperin

October 22


New Low of 49% in U.S. Say Death Penalty Applied Fairly

The percentage of Americans who believe the death penalty is applied fairly 
continues to decrease, falling below 50% this year for the 1st time. 49 % now 
say the death penalty is applied fairly and 45% say it is applied unfairly.

The 49% who say the death penalty is applied fairly is, by 1 % point, the 
lowest Gallup has measured since it first asked the question in 2000 and 
reflects a gradual decline of this view over the past decade. Meanwhile, the 
percentage who say capital punishment is applied unfairly has edged higher, 
with this year's 4-point gap marking the smallest difference between the 2 
views in Gallup's polling.

These latest data, from Gallup's annual Crime poll, were collected Oct. 1-10 -- 
just before the Washington state Supreme Court on Oct. 11 struck down that 
state's death penalty, saying it had been unequally applied across racial 
groups. In its decision, the court cited evidence that "black defendants were 4 
1/2 times more likely to be sentenced to death than similarly situated white 
defendants." The decision makes Washington the 20th state to outlaw the death 
penalty. Percentage of Democrats Who Say Death Penalty Is Applied Fairly 
Remains Low

The decline in Americans' belief that capital punishment is applied fairly is 
largely the result of a sharp drop in this view among Democrats. 31 % of 
Democrats this year say the death penalty is applied fairly, similar to the low 
of 30% in 2017 but down significantly from 2005 and 2006, when slim majorities 
held this view.

Meanwhile, 73% of Republicans say the death penalty is applied fairly, and the 
percentage holding this view has been fairly stable over time -- typically in 
the low 70s.

More Americans Say the Death Penalty Is Imposed "Too Often"

Americans remain most likely to say the death penalty is not imposed enough 
(37%), while smaller percentages say it is imposed "too often" (29%) or "about 
the right amount" (28%).

While belief that the death penalty is not imposed often enough is still the 
most common view, the latest 37% is down from a high of 53% in 2005 and is by 
one point the lowest reading since 2001.

At the same time, U.S. adults have gradually become more likely to say capital 
punishment is imposed "too often," with the latest 29% slightly higher than in 
previous years.

Small Majority of Americans Continue to Favor Death Penalty

Historically, Americans have been generally supportive of the death penalty as 
the punishment for murder. In all but two polls (in 1965 and 1966), Americans 
have been more likely to say they are in favor of than opposed to use of the 
death penalty. However, support for capital punishment too has been trending 
downward since peaking at 80% in the mid-1990s during a high point in the 
violent crime rate.

Currently, 56% of U.S. adults favor capital punishment -- similar to last 
year's 55%, which marked the lowest level of support for the practice since 
1972, when the constitutionality of the death penalty was being challenged.

Bottom Line

Washington is the latest in a string of states that have outlawed the death 
penalty over the past decade. While courts sometimes drive abolishment, as was 
the case in Washington, most abolition of the death penalty in recent years has 
taken place via legislation by state lawmakers and governors, who are beholden 
to voters and public opinion. So, if public support for capital punishment 
continues to wane, it's not unfathomable that other states could follow suit.

Some Americans' views on the subject may have been influenced by stories of 
people sentenced to death who were later found to be innocent. In a 2014 poll, 
Gallup found that about 1 in 6 people who were opposed to the death penalty 
said they were against it out of concern that the defendants might actually be 
innocent. Other news stories, such as a case in Alabama earlier this year 
involving a botched execution, may have influenced opinions on the issue.

Future support for the death penalty may depend partly on whether crime 
continues to decrease, because support for capital punishment peaked along with 
U.S. violent crime statistics, and as crime statistics declined thereafter, so 
did support for capital punishment.

Meanwhile, as executions in the U.S. have decreased along with the generally 
sinking crime rate, Americans have become more likely to say capital punishment 
is unfairly applied and that it is imposed too frequently. But this appears to 
have been driven mostly by shifts in Democrats' views on the subject -- with 
blue states far more likely to have abolished the death penalty.

(source: gallup.com)

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[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2018-07-02 Thread Rick Halperin

jULY 2


Support for death penalty rising, even among faithsPercentage of approval 
up since 2016

After 4 decades of decreasing support for the death penalty, the tables have 

A recent Pew Research study showed that American support for the death penalty 
has increased about 5 % since 2016. Today, 54 % of Americans support it while 
39 % oppose. In 2016, a Pew study conducted in August and September stated that 
49 % of Americans favored the death penalty. In the 1990s, the % in favor (78 
%) was always greater than the opposing percentage (18 %).

The 2018 study showed the majority of the opposed are Democrats. Between the 
Democrats and the Republicans, the Republicans hold a 77 % favor rate over the 
Democrats who hold a 35 % support rate.

The statistics were broken down even further with race percentages. According 
to the study, 59 % of whites, 36 % of blacks, and 47 % of Hispanics approve of 
the death penalty for murder suspects. However, in 2016, 57 whites, 26 blacks, 
and 36 Hispanics were in favor. In the 2016 and 2018 studies, the highest % of 
favor came from whites and the highest % of opposed came from blacks with 52 % 
in 2016 and 63 % in 2018. Whitney Wilson, an African American woman, believes 
the rise in support of the death penalty has a lot to do with how society 
chooses to enforce justice.

"I think, personally, the support has increased because society wants to hold 
offenders accountable for their actions. Society cares less about the value of 
a criminal's life. A while ago, society wanted to see offenders sit in prison 
and learn from their mistakes, but now their view has changed."

According to Pew Research, Americans under the age of 30 are divided. Around 47 
% of Americans are in favor of the death penalty while 46 % oppose. However, 
those percentages are not far off from the ones of Americans aged 30 and above, 
with 56 % of respondents between ages 30-49 in favor and ages 50 to 65 and 
above in the same range. Willie Massey, 21, is in favor of the death penalty, 
but only in certain situations.

"I think the death penalty should be used in extreme situations like mass 
murders, serial killings, serial rapings, crimes against kids, and things of 
that sort. It shouldn't be used on someone who has like drug related charges or 

While there are differing race, age, and political opinions on the subject, 
there are also many religious opinions. White evangelical Protestants in favor 
of the death penalty for those who committed murder is at 73 %. Also, 61 % of 
white mainline Protestants approve. Between Catholics and the unaffiliated, 53 
and 48 % are in favor, respectively. Blanca Luna, a devoted Catholic, thinks 
that even religious people can be in favor of the death penalty.

"It has always been a very tricky thing. I'm borderline both [in favor and 
opposed]. Yeah, my decision is swayed because of my religion. I don't agree 
with it but there are some cases where I would consider it. For example, in 
serial killing cases."

Though the percentages of support are high for some religions, there is also a 
sizable amount of worshipers who oppose. According to the People of Faith 
Against the Death Penalty website, in 2012 the Durham-based organization 
launched a campaign to repeal the death penalty. The campaign was brought to 
the attention of the state of North Carolina, federal government, and the 

"Throughout the early history of PFADP, and into today, there has been a deep 
and abiding moral and religious commitment among the organizers that 
understands God's displeasure with capital punishment," the Rev. James Lewis, 
PFADP co-founder and former president said on the organization website. "There 
has been, as well, perseverance present among PFADP folks, guided by God's 
spirit, that will not allow for rest until North Carolina and the nation closes 
down the death chambers, once and for all."

(source: Charlotte Post)

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[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA----4-day fast and vigil to protest death penalty at Supreme Court (June 29-July 2)

2017-06-24 Thread Rick Halperin

41 Years after SCOTUS Upholds Death Penalty:

Anti-Death Penalty Activists to Fast and Vigil for Four Days

Outside of U.S. Supreme Court to Mark Historic Court Rulings

as Death Penalty Use Declines




WHEN: June 29 and June 30 from 9:00 am until 8:00 pm

  July 1 and 2 - around the clock, 24-hour presence (ending at midnight on 
July 2)

  Evening teach-ins with noted speakers each day from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm 

  *** A public rally will be held Saturday, July 2 at 12:00 pm ***

WHAT: A four day liquid-only fast and vigil to mark the anniversaries of the 
historic 1972 Furman and 1976 Gregg Supreme Court decisions on the death


WHO: Exonerated death row prisoners, murder victim family members, 100+ 
anti-death penalty activists from as many as 20 states, clergy, scholars and

leaders of state and national anti-death penalty organizations.

WHERE: On the sidewalk in front of the United States Supreme Court in 
Washington, DC

The Annual "Starvin’ for Justice” Fast and Vigil to Abolish the Death Penalty 
protest is a four day liquid-only fast and vigil to mark the anniversaries
of the historical 1972 Furman and 1976 Gregg Supreme Court decisions around the 
death penalty.  Participants in the annual event include exonerated death
row prisoners, murder victim family members, death row family members, clergy, 
scholars and various leaders in the national movement to abolish the death
penalty.  Please see details at 

We can arrange interviews with activists from your specific state or region. 
Contact Bill Pelke at bpe...@yahoo.com or (305) 775-5832 with your request.

This year, a trial of 12 protestors will be also taking place on June 28 in DC 
Superior Court as part of this event, stemming from a January 17, 2017

arrest at the Supreme Court protesting the death penalty.

Event background:  This year, June 29, 2017 marks the 45th anniversary of the 
Furman v. Georgia decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated all
death penalty laws in the United States, finding capital punishment to be 
applied in an arbitrary and capricious manner.  July 2nd marks the 41st
anniversary of the 1976 Gregg decision, which upheld new state death penalty 
laws and allowing the resumption of executions.

This is the 24th consecutive year that the Abolitionist Action Committee will 
hold its annual Fast and Vigil between the dates of these two landmark
decisions. Activists, many of whom are fasting the entire four days, are 
traveling to Washington D.C. from across the United States and beyond.

RAIN ALERT: In the event of rain or significant threat thereof, evening events 
requiring amplification will take part inside the United Methodist Church

Building, immediately adjacent (across Maryland Ave. on 1st St.)

The Abolitionist Action Committee is an ad-hoc group of individuals committed 
to highly visible and effective public education for alternatives to the

death penalty through nonviolent direct action.

Information online at www.abolition.org, or call 800-973-6548.

# # #
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[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2017-04-05 Thread Rick Halperin

Here is the current list of impending executions in the USA through


12 Paul Storey  Texas
17 Don DavisArkansas
17 Bruce Ward   Arkansas
20 Stacey Johnson   Arkansas
20 Ledelle Lee  Arkansas
24 Jack Jones, Jr.  Arkansas
24 Marcel Williams  Arkansas
25 Ivan Teleguz Virginia
27 Jason McGeheeArkansas
27 Kenneth Williams Arkansas

   10Ronald PhilippsOhio
   16Tilon Carter   Texas
   17Donald KettererOhio
   24Juan Castillo  Texas
   25Tommy Arthur   Alabama

8Robert Melson   Alabama
   13Gary Otte   Ohio
   28Steven Long Texas
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[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2017-02-27 Thread Rick Halperin

Feb. 27


'Rudderless' defense gets delay in Fell's death penalty trial

The 2nd death penalty trial of Donald Fell, set for jury selection Monday, has 
been delayed after a member of his defense team termed their effort to prepare 
as "rudderless."

The decision by federal Judge Geoffrey Crawford to push back the trial is the 
latest twist for the capital case in the killing of Teresca King, of North 
Clarendon, that has been working its way through federal courts in Vermont for 
more than 15 years.

Crawford issued a written order Friday postponing the trial, a day after a 
hearing in Burlington when the ruling was first announced.

Fell's defense attorneys, citing a lack of preparation time, have been pushing 
for a delay, most recently rejected by the judge in December.

At the hearing Thursday in Burlington the judge heard testimony from Melanie 
Carr, a mitigation specialist and lead investigator on Fell's defense team.

The judge, in his order Friday, attached a filing from Carr, termed a 
"declaration," which she had signed earlier. Carr wrote that attorneys in the 
case have been too busy with other trials to properly represent Fell.

"My investigation, mitigation development, and trial preparation in Mr. Fell's 
case has been compromised and impaired by counsel's protracted absence and 
unavailability due to workload," Carr wrote in the 9-page document.

"Counsel's unavailability has left the defense team rudderless for most of the 
past year," she added, "and we do not have enough time to pull our trial 
presentation together before trial begins in a few days."

Crawford, in his order Friday, set a new trial date of Sept. 5. That will be 
the start of individual questioning of potential jurors by the attorneys in the 

"In the face of a credible statement from the mitigation specialist that the 
defense is significantly unprepared in an important area, the court has little 
alternative except to continue the trial," Crawford wrote.

"Both lead counsel have advised that they have no other professional 
obligations which will interfere with their ability to serve in this case 
through an extended period for preparation."

Crawford added that although the defense had been seeking a 60-day delay, it 
seemed unlikely that would be enough time.

"The court has little enthusiasm for a series of short extensions," the judge 
wrote. "Moreover, trial of a 3-month case over the summer months in Vermont 
will be extremely difficult due to potential juror unavailability."

The judge added he will hold conferences and hearings every 6 weeks until the 
trial starts to avoid further delays. Also, he wrote, 2 days prior to each 
hearing Carr will file with the court a report on the status of the defense 
team's efforts.

"The report shall be general in nature and shall not include any privileged or 
work-product information," Crawford wrote. "But it shall serve to bring to the 
court's attention any lack of guidance or direction or other problem which may 
stand in the way of the timely preparation of a complete and appropriate 
defense of the accused."

Lori Hibbard, of Rutland, 1 of King's daughters, who has strongly advocated for 
the death penalty for Fell, said Friday she and other family members are 
disappointed by another delay in the case.

"It's another dragged-out process," Hibbard said. "I feel like the justice 
system has failed our family, and most importantly my mother."

Fell's current defense team was appointed in February 2015 after the case was 
transferred to Judge Crawford.

The defense team has submitted scores of pretrial motions. Earlier this month 
the defense renewed a request for permission to appeal Crawford's earlier 
decision not to rule the death penalty unconstitutional and his refusal to 
grant a stay in the trial.

Lead counsel Michael Burt, who recently defended Gary Lee Sampson in another 
death penalty trial in Massachusetts, argued that he had not had enough time to 
prepare for the Fell trial. Sampson was sentenced to death Jan. 9.

Burt, in the filing, said more preparation time will "advance the ultimate 
termination of the litigation."

"If this order is in error," Burt wrote, "and Mr. Fell is forced to trial with 
unprepared counsel, this death penalty case may again be subject to a retrial."

Carr, in her declaration also seeking a trial delay, cited Burt's work on the 
Sampson case as 1 of the key factors leading to issues with the preparations.

Another attorney on the defense team, John Philipsborn, has had to juggle the 
Fell case with a complex, multiple-defendant trial in California that began in 
the spring of 2016 and ran through the summer, Carr wrote.

"During the entire year of 2016, our team did not have a single team meeting," 
she added. "We had some conference calls, but Mr. Burt was rarely able to 
participate in these calls. In fact, I believe he only participated in 2 or 3 
of these calls during the 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2017-01-30 Thread Rick Halperin

Jan. 30


Tsarnaev lawyer wants no part of appeal defense

The acclaimed anti-death penalty defender who opened her argument for sparing 
the life of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with the shocking 
declaration, "It was him," now wants off his case, telling a federal court his 
appeal "would benefit from a fresh look."

Attorney Judy Clarke's legal acumen kept the likes of Olympic Park bomber Eric 
Rudolph and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski from facing execution before a jury 
sentenced Tsarnaev, 23, to die. She has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 
First Circuit in Boston to replace her with fellow California legal eagle 
Clifford Gardner. Gardner's infamous clients include Scott Peterson, who is 
appealing his death sentence for the 2002 murder of his pregnant wife, Laci.

"This substitution would provide Mr. Tsarnaev with high-quality and 
cost-effective appellate representation," the motion to remove Clarke reads. 
"Mr. Gardner ... is one of the most experienced capital appellate and federal 
appellate lawyers in the United States. He has particular expertise 
representing high-profile defendants whose trial court proceedings resulted in 
voluminous, complicated records."

Tsarnaev has been held in the federal Supermax prison in Colorado since his 
trial wrapped in 2015. He signed off on the substitution of Gardner.

(source: Boston Herald)


Death Penalty Fast Facts

Here's a look at the death penalty in the United States.


As of January 2017, Capital punishment is legal in 31 US states.

New Mexico and Nebraska abolished the death penalty in 2009 and 2015, 
respectively. The repeal was not retroactive, however. Inmates on death row in 
those states may still be executed.

Pennsylvania imposed a moratorium on executions in 2015.

Maryland abolished the death penalty in 2013. A year later, former governor, 
Martin O'Malley commuted the death sentences of four prisoners awaiting 

Since 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated by the US Supreme Court, 
1,444 people have been executed (as of January 19, 2017).

Since 1973, there have been 156 death row exonerations. 26 of them are from the 
state of Florida.

Federal Government:

The US government and US military have 62 people awaiting execution. (As of 
July 1, 2016)

The US government has executed 3 people since 1976.


There are 55 women on death row in the United States (as of July 1, 2016).

16 women have been executed since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 


22 individuals were executed between 1985 and 2003 for crimes committed as 

March 1, 2005 - Roper v. Simmons. The Supreme Court rules that the execution of 
juvenile offenders is unconstitutional.


282 clemencies have been granted in the United States since 1976.

For federal death row inmates, the president alone has the power to grant a 


1834 - Pennsylvania becomes the 1st state to move executions into correctional 
facilities, ending public executions.

1838 - Discretionary death penalty statutes are enacted in Tennessee.

1846 - Michigan becomes the 1st state to abolish the death penalty for all 
crimes except treason.

1890 - William Kemmler becomes the 1st person executed by electrocution.

1907-1917 - 9 states abolish the death penalty for all crimes or strictly limit 
it. By 1920, 5 of those states had reinstated it.

1924 - The use of cyanide gas is introduced as an execution method.

1930s - Executions reach the highest levels in American history, averaging 167 
per year.

June 29, 1972 - Furman v. Georgia. The Supreme Court effectively voids 40 death 
penalty statutes and suspends the death penalty.

1976 - Gregg v. Georgia. The death penalty is reinstated.

January 17, 1977 - A 10-year moratorium on executions ends with the execution 
of Gary Gilmore by firing squad in Utah.

1977 - Oklahoma becomes the 1st state to adopt lethal injection as a means of 

December 7, 1982 - Charles Brooks becomes the 1st person executed by lethal 

1984 - Velma Barfield of North Carolina becomes the 1st woman executed since 
reinstatement of the death penalty.

1986 - Ford v. Wainwright. Execution of insane persons is banned.

1987 - McCleskey v. Kemp. Racial disparities are not recognized as a 
constitutional violation of "equal protection of the law" unless intentional 
racial discrimination against the defendant can be shown.

1988 - Thompson v. Oklahoma. Executions of offenders age 15 and younger at the 
time of their crimes are declared unconstitutional.

1989 - Stanford v. Kentucky, and Wilkins v. Missouri. The Eighth Amendment does 
not prohibit the death penalty for crimes committed at age 16 or 17.

1994 - President Bill Clinton signs the Violent Crime Control and Law 
Enforcement Act that expands the federal death penalty.

1996 - The last execution by hanging takes place in Delaware, with 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2016-12-13 Thread Rick Halperin

Dec. 13


Federal Judge Criticizes Death Penalty - But Concludes Only Supreme Court Can 
End It"Has actual experience borne out the promise for a more reliable 
system of capital punishment" since 1976? A federal judge in Vermont says no - 
but says the final decision must come from the US Supreme Court.

A federal judge overseeing a death penalty trial in Vermont on Tuesday ruled 
that only the US Supreme Court can declare the death penalty to be 
unconstitutional - but nonetheless issued a strong critique of what he found to 
be an arbitrarily imposed punishment "in which chance and bias play leading 

US District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford issued the 57-page decision in Donald 
Fell's challenge to the constitutionality of the federal death penalty statute. 
Fell faces a 2nd federal trial over a 2000 killing, after his 1st conviction 
was tossed out due to juror misconduct.

The judge found that there is not a consensus across the country in opposition 
to the death penalty - a key question in addressing the "proportionality" 
challenge raised by Fell's lawyers.

Crawford did, however, find that reforms aimed at making the penalty more 
fairly imposed - the "arbitrariness" argument - over the past 40 years have 
"largely failed" to address the problems identified by the US Supreme Court in 
a 1972 decision that had led to a 4-year national moratorium on the death 

"Gregg is still the law of the land," Crawford wrote about the 1976 decision 
ending that moratorium. It is, he continued, the Supreme Court's "prerogative 
alone to overrule 1 of its precedents."

Crawford held a hearing this summer - largely tracking the questions about the 
death penalty raised by Justice Stephen Breyer in a 2015 Supreme Court dissent, 
in which he called for a full Supreme Court review of the death penalty's 

Noting the fact that he is required to follow existing Supreme Court majority 
decisions - and not dissenting opinions like Breyer's in 2015 - Crawford made 
clear his aim: "The trial court can respond by conducting an inquiry and 
setting the table for further review."

That meant, Crawford detailed, holding an extensive hearing regarding the 
unreliability and arbitrariness of the death penalty system, the excessive 
delay involved in executions, and the growing decline in the use of the death 

The judge, in the wake of that hearing, issued detailed factual findings on 
Tuesday regarding many aspects of the imposition of the death penalty in 

Among the areas specifically highlighted for criticism in Crawford's opinion in 
light of the evidence received was the system of "death qualification" in 
capital cases, under which those opposed to the death penalty are dismissed 
from serving on those juries.

"The exclusion of many people opposed to the death penalty on religious or 
moral grounds and the implicit process of persuasion at voir dire that death is 
the likely outcome create jury populations which stack the deck against 
defendants," Crawford wrote. "The studies brought to the court's attention 
supported the position of the defense that jury selection since Gregg is not 
the solution to inherent jury bias but rather a substantial part of the 

Regarding the arbitrariness of the imposition of the death penalty - even just 
looking at the federal system alone - Crawford concluded based on the evidence 
presented, "The more carefully one reviews ... the underlying case summaries, 
the more arbitrary the distinctions between cases become."

After reviewing those and other findings, Crawford posed the question: "Has 
actual experience borne out the promise for a more reliable system of capital 
punishment expressed in the Gregg decision? The evidence produced for the court 
answers the question in the negative."

Nonetheless, Crawford found that, for the most part, his hands were tied.

"Institutional authority to change this body of law is reserved to the Supreme 
Court," he wrote. "For this reason, the trial court is required to deny the 
defense motions related to the constitutionality of the death penalty."

(source: buzzfeed.com)

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[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2016-07-28 Thread Rick Halperin

July 28


Death Penalty For Man Who Killed NYPD Officers

A New York City street gang member was given the death penalty on Wednesday in 
the execution-style slayings of 2 undercover police officers in 2003 - the 
latest chapter in a case that's seen his original death sentence overturned, 
his behind-bars affair with a prison guard exposed and the massive cost of his 
defense questioned.

It took a jury just 1 day to deliberate in federal court in Brooklyn before 
deciding the fate of Ronell Wilson.

Another jury had found Wilson guilty in the point-blank shootings of undercover 
officers James Nemorin and Rodney Andrews. The gunman shot both men in the head 
after one pleaded for his life.

The 1st jury also sentenced Wilson in 2007 to die by lethal injection, making 
him the 1st federal defendant to receive a death sentence in New York City 
since the 1950s. But an appeals court threw out the sentence in 2010 and 
prosecutors chose to repeat the penalty phase rather than let Wilson serve an 
automatic life term.

U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis questioned the decision, saying that it 
put taxpayers on course to spend millions of dollars more on Wilson's defense. 
He noted that he had just presided over a capital case for a mobster where the 
defense bill was $5 million and the jury chose to impose a life sentence.

(source: lawofficer.com)

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[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2016-01-22 Thread Rick Halperin

Jan. 22


Breyer renews call to review constitutionality of death penalty

Justice Stephen G. Breyer has used an Alabama capital case to renew his call to 
examine the constitutionality of the death penalty.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to grant a stay of execution for the inmate, 
Chistopher Eugene Brooks, drawing a dissent (PDF) from Breyer, report BuzzFeed 
News, the Montgomery Advertiser and Al.com. Brooks was executed Thursday 

Breyer said Alabama allows jurors to issue an "advisory verdict" in death 
penalty cases using a system that is much like the death penalty scheme struck 
down on Jan. 12 in Hurst v. Florida.

"The unfairness inherent in treating this case differently from others which 
used similarly unconstitutional procedures only underscores the need to 
reconsider the validity of capital punishment under the Eighth Amendment," 
Breyer wrote.

In a concurrence to the cert denial, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader 
Ginsburg also pointed to possible problems with Alabama's capital sentencing 
scheme, but said they believed procedural obstacles would have prevented the 
court from granting relief.

Breyer dissented a day before the U.S. Supreme Court was scheduled to consider 
a cert petition raising the Eighth Amendment issue in the case of Shonda 
Walter, BuzzFeed News reports.

"The death penalty has outlived any conceivable use," Walter's cert petition 
asserts. "It is imperfect in application, haphazard in result, and of 
negligible utility."

If the court is considering taking up the case, it probably won't act before 
its next conference on Feb. 19, BuzzFeed reports. At that time, a Louisiana 
case also raising the constitutional issue will likely be before the court.

(source: ABA Journal)


Capital Punishment -- Justice or State Sanctioned Murder?

State sanctioned execution of convicted criminals is a hotly-debated, 
life-and-death social issue and the subject of capital punishment pushes more 
emotional buttons than practical ones.

There's a host of heated arguments to back up each camp's position.

The Pros put forward justice, retribution, deterrence, cost-saving, and closure 
to victims as reasons to carry out the death penalty.

The Cons defer to moral, religious, legal, unfair application, and danger of 
mistake as grounds not to kill condemned prisoners.

So who's right?

Both, if you listen to the emotional pleas.

But set aside all the teeth-gnashing and hair-tearing and look at the practical 
benefits of having death penalty legislation.

It goes without saying that punishment must fit the crime and execution must be 
reserved for the most despicable of criminals such as child-rapists, 
serial-killers, and mass-murderers.

Some jurisdictions retain the right to execute lesser felons like mutineers, 
traitors, and spies, however it's sensible that only exceptionally dangerous 
people, for whom there's no chance of rehabilitation, or that their crimes are 
so horrific that there's no other just punishment, be executed.

Serial killer Theodore (Ted) Bundy is a prime example as well as Timothy 
McVeigh who carried out the Oklahoma City bombing.

I'm a supporter of capital punishment under the proper circumstances and I 
believe there are only 2 unshakable reasons for the state having and enforcing 
the power to execute a condemned prisoner.

First, it's an indisputable fact that execution guarantees that person will 
never re-offend.

Yes, the counter argument suggests that locking an inmate up for life with no 
possibility of parole achieves the same end, but it's not the same thing.

There are cases where a dangerous criminal has escaped or found a legal means 
to roam free and kill again, but once a killer is dead -- that's the end of 
their threat to society.


There's a 2nd practical application of death penalty legislation that few 
people in the general public think about, but which police officers and 
prosecutors know to be valid.

Capital punishment is an effective, persuasive tool in forcing caught killers 
to co-operate with authorities.

Plea-bargains are done with accused murderers where the death penalty is waived 
in exchange for information.

This leads to solving other homicides, recovering bodies, giving closure to 
victimized families, and studying the minds of these monsters in order to 
understand and prevent future miscreants.

This "save-my-own-life" deal with Seattle's Green River Killer, Gary Ridgway, 
paid off big.

There'll never be unanimous support for and against capital punishment, let 
alone on the method of how it should be carried out.

Capital punishment arguments include these views:

Moral. Practical. Economic. Vengeance. Justice. Retribution. Deterrence. 
Cost-saving. Closure. Moral, Religious. Legal. Unfair application. Danger of 

Capital punishment methods include these means:

Lethal injection. Firing squad. Noose. Gas chamber. Electric 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2015-11-01 Thread Rick Halperin

Nov. 1


Racism Is Rampant In Jury Selection. The Supreme Court Can't Fix It.The 
Constitution prohibits excluding jurors on the basis of race, but there isn't 
much the justices can do to remedy that.

Timothy Foster has spent almost 30 years on Georgia's death row. On Monday, his 
lawyer will appear before the Supreme Court to fight for his life.

That's because Foster v. Chatman, a high-profile case about racism in jury 
selection, is really not a case about racism in jury selection. It's a case 
about racism in the application of the death penalty.

Consider what Stephen Lanier, the prosecutor who tried Foster in 1987, told the 
all-white jury who heard the case. During the penalty phase of the trial, he 
said a death sentence was appropriate for Foster to send a message "to other 
people out there in the projects." Foster lived in government housing, and 
about 90 percent of his neighbors were black.

Or ponder a psychiatrist's testimony on Foster's behalf, who found he "was in 
the borderline range for intellectual disability" -- with an IQ range between 
58 and 80 his entire life. The jury rejected it and voted for death anyway.

Or the very length of time Foster has spent on death row, or the reality he is 
only one of the 56 % of those awaiting execution who are people of color, 
according to a recent NAACP Legal Defense Fund report.

There's a lot of things inherently suspect with the Foster case -- and the 
capital system in general -- and yet the Supreme Court on Monday will only be 
confronting the very limited issue of whether prosecutors improperly excluded 
on the basis of race all blacks who were perfectly capable of sitting in 
Foster's trial. This is a real problem that's still very much alive today.

Foster v. Chatman has been styled that way because that's how advocates chip 
away at the death penalty these days -- by showing how it's unconstitutionally 
stacked against some defendants and not others.

So far, the justices have heard or will hear a number of cases that attack the 
procedures states use in doling out death sentences, but none challenging the 
capital system itself. That case hasn't yet arrived, even though there's an 
open invitation to bring one to the table.

The Foster case presumably drew the court's attention because blatant examples 
of racial discrimination -- especially if a person's life is on the line -- 
tend to draw more scrutiny than subtler forms of bias in the administration of 

This one is the blatant kind. In 2006, Foster's lawyers got lucky when -- 
through an open-records request -- they got hold of the notes prosecutors made 
during jury selection in the case. To their surprise, they discovered that all 
the names of the potential jurors who were black were highlighted and marked 
with the letter B.

At the top of each juror list, a key indicated that green highlight meant the 
potential juror was black. Separate juror questionnaires had the word "black" 
circled. No black jurors sat in Foster's trial.

His lawyer before the Supreme Court, Stephen Bright, said in a brief filed with 
the court that this "evidence clearly establishes purposeful discrimination by 
the prosecution" -- particularly troubling if indeed the goal was to get the 
all-white jury to issue a death sentence and thus teach people "in the 
projects" a lesson.

If the justices side with Foster and rule that his trial violated the 
Constitution's promise of equal protection, then he'll likely get a new one and 
potentially skirt death that way. But can the Supreme Court do more and fix the 
law in order to keep this from happening ever again?

In court papers filed ahead of Monday's hearing, a group of former prosecutors 
urged the court to rule for Foster because "race discrimination persists in 
jury selection," and insisted that the court's prior ruling in Batson v. 
Kentucky remains "an important safeguard against" abuses in the jury system.

That case, decided one year before Foster was convicted, established that the 
Constitution prohibits lawyers from using so-called "peremptory strikes" to 
shut out potential jurors on account of their race -- the rationale being that 
no citizen can be denied an opportunity to serve on a jury.

The thing with peremptory strikes is that lawyers can use them to challenge 
potential jurors for almost any conceivable reason -- except a discriminatory 
reason, like race or gender. Since every lawyer wants to win a case, the only 
thing they have to do if the other side accuses them of discriminating against 
a juror is provide a "race-neutral" justification. And coming up with those 
justifications, it turns out, isn't really hard.

Over the years, both prosecutors and defense lawyers have gotten really good at 
excluding jurors by coming up with non-racial reasons on the fly: That juror 
looked funny. That lady in the back didn't seem really invested in the case. 
The gentleman with the glasses is 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2015-10-23 Thread Rick Halperin

Oct. 23


Capital punishment isn't a solution for prisoners

Capital punishment is a widely debated means to end the life of a convicted 
individual after they have been incarcerated for crimes perceived as too 
heinous for them to re-enter society. Historically, capital punishment has been 
the subject of controversy in its legality, ethicality and necessity in 

Execution styles have changed over time, transitioning between the electric 
chair and death by firing squad to the most common method used today, which is 
lethal injection. This method by some is considered to be the most humane, as 
sedatives are frequently used to ease any physical or emotional stress. In 
spite of this, there are mounting issues with lethal injection in monetary, 
ethical and moral areas.

There is no denying that incarceration, especially for extended periods of 
time, is costly. When people receive life sentences, they still need to be fed, 
clothed and housed for multiple years. These expenses leave some to think that 
the death sentence is a more frugal way of handling punishment for serious 
crimes. What isn't frequently considered, however, is the price of execution.

Very often, when an execution sentence is being considered, the accused will 
have several court-ordained hearings in their defense. Each of these requires 
the services of a lawyer, and as most people know, those don't come cheap. The 
total court costs of a death penalty trial in Kansas is $400,000, which is 
extremely expensive when compared to $100,000 in trials not considering the 
death penalty. In other states, one death penalty case was priced at more than 
$3 million.

Besides this, there is the additional cost of the chemicals used for the 
execution. The compounds used are not available in the United States, which I 
speculate is either because they're simply not available here or because 
marketplaces do not want their product associated with execution.

While some may argue one simple solution would be to just use the same drugs 
already used in physician-assisted suicide, I believe this would create a 
negative connotation around the same drugs used to put loved ones out of 
suffering. This is why morphine and other narcotics are not used as sedatives 
already in the lethal injection process. In the same way that the morphine 
industry doesn't want to be associated with the death of criminals, any 
supplier of drugs used in end-of-life care would be hesitant to sell their 
product to aid the death penalty.

With no other option, prisons must import the materials used in lethal 
injections. The Food and Drug Administration has strict regulations on 
importing chemicals into the country from oversea sources, so many states are 
running out of their supplies. This has led some prisons, notably Ohio and 
Texas, to execute prisoners with new experimental cocktails of lethal injection 

Currently, many states have to delay their executions because they do not have 
one or more of the components used for the injection. This creates a variety of 
issues. Texas, for instance, is not experiencing a shortage but has not 
disclosed how much of the drugs they have or from where they bought them. Other 
states like Ohio have had to extend their inmates??? sentences and execution 
dates while they look for a new source of lethal injection chemicals.

Not only is it more expensive than one would expect, but the death penalty is 
ultimately a flawed system. In the case of interracial murder, a black suspect 
with a white victim is 3 times more likely to receive a death sentence than the 

While this is an issue more with the judiciary system and less with the death 
penalty itself, the cringeworthy methods used to execute criminals in the past 
have raised questions concerning both ethics and the infringement of 
Constitutional rights.

Lethal injection may not be painless, either. Despite claims of it being 
completely humane, there have been several instances where the person on the 
table has been observed to be in obvious agony, from eye twitching to extended 
periods of muscle spasms. In an infamous case in January 2014, an incarcerated 
man took 26 minutes to die and was observed experiencing severe suffering by 
several people.

Much of this is due to the fact that no medical doctors, nurses or emergency 
medical technicians are permitted to administer the injection or even be 
present due to the Hippocratic Oath, in which medical professionals swear to do 
everything in their power not to inflict harm on a healthy individual. This 
leads to under-experienced technicians or completely unexperienced jail staff 
having to hook up IVs and deliver the drugs, which can easily be done 
improperly in ways able to cause pain. The drugs used in lethal injections have 
never been certified as a painless and effective method of execution and were 
simply picked at random to be the procedure of choice.


[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2015-10-23 Thread Rick Halperin

Oct. 23


Obama says death penalty 'deeply troubling'

Amid new scrutiny of American capital punishment practices, President Barack 
Obama said in an interview released Friday he was disturbed by the practical 
effects of the death penalty.

While Obama said he wasn't opposed "in theory" to killing criminals convicted 
of heinous crimes, he said that data showing racial biases and wrongful 
convictions have prompted him to wonder whether the death penalty remains a 
legitimate tool.

Obama was speaking to former New York Times editor Bill Keller, who now runs 
The Marshall Project, a news organization focused on criminal justice issues.

"There are certain crimes that are so beyond the pale that I understand 
society's need to express its outrage," he said. "So I have not traditionally 
been opposed to the death penalty in theory. But in practice it's deeply 

Saying he's "struggled for quite some time" over the death penalty, Obama also 
said recent botched executions have led him to wonder whether the application 
of capital punishment is still legal.

"We know that in the application of the death penalty we've had recent cases, 
by any standard, it has not been swift and painless but rather gruesome and 
clumsy," he said.

In the aftermath of one of those executions gone wrong -- an Oklahoma incident 
that left an accused murderer writhing and convulsing for several minutes -- 
Obama asked the Justice Department to conduct a review of death penalty 

Since then, several states have suspended executions, either for legal reasons 
or because drug companies have stopped supplying the drugs needed for lethal 

This week, conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said "it wouldn't 
surprise me" if the high court strikes down capital punishment in the United 
States, he told CBS News, though he's made similar predictions in the past.

But the case to abolish U.S. executions has gained greater traction in recent 
months, including an opinion from liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, 
who questioned the constitutionality of capital punishment in an opinion this 

"This is not what people expected when they wrote the cases upholding the death 
penalty more than 40 years ago, and therefore I think it's time to revisit the 
issue," Breyer told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in an interview this fall.

(source: CNN)

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

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[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2015-10-01 Thread Rick Halperin

Oct. 1


In US, murder masterminds are put to death while killers live

3 recent death penalty cases have exposed concerns about executing those 
convicted of planning a murder - especially when the actual killers receive a 
lighter punishment.

On 7 February 1997, Douglas Gissendaner was kidnapped at knifepoint from his 
home, driven to a secluded woods and forced to walk to a muddy patch. Douglas - 
a mechanic and former serviceman in the US Army - was bludgeoned with a night 
stick, then stabbed repeatedly in the neck and back. His body was not 
discovered for two weeks.

Kelly Gissendaner was sentenced to death for her husband's murder. On Tuesday, 
nearly 20 years after the killing, the state of Georgia executed her by lethal 

No one contests that on the night Douglas was killed, Kelly was nowhere near 
the woods. She was out at a nightclub with friends.

It was her boyfriend, Gregory Owen, who lay in wait for Douglas, marched him 
into the woods, then left him face down in the mud after stabbing him. Kelly 
set Douglas up: she and Owen wanted to be free of her husband, as well as cash 
in his life insurance policies.

During the investigation, Owen testified against Kelly in exchange for a life 
sentence with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

Before she was executed, Gissendaner's lawyers argued that Owen, the actual 
killer, will be eligible for parole in seven years while she was set to die, 
evidence of "arbitrary, capricious and discriminatory" application of the death 
penalty. They wrote that such disproportionate sentencing violated the Eight 
Amendment, which bars cruel and unusual punishment.

On Wednesday this week, Richard Glossip was scheduled to be put to death in 
Oklahoma for orchestrating the fatal beating of his boss. The execution was 
stayed at the last minute by Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin.

Next week in Missouri, Kimber Edwards will receive a lethal injection for 
paying a man to shoot his ex-wife.

Neither Glossip nor Edwards were present for the murders, yet they received 
much harsher sentences than the men who carried out the killings.

According to Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information 
Center, capital punishment for proxy murder is very rare. He says only 10 
inmates have been executed for orchestrating a killing.

But critics say these cases speak to inherent problems in how the death penalty 
is meted out. Each state has individual laws about what types of murder are 
eligible for the death penalty - and within those states, similar crimes might 
be treated much differently depending on the prosecutor.

"The death sentence is considered to be the maximum, the harshest sentence 
society can impose. If that's going to be justifiable it can only be in 
circumstances where the person on the receiving end of that punishment is 
justifiably classified as the worst of the worst," says Keir Weyble, associate 
clinical professor and director of death penalty litigation at Cornell 
University Law School.

"Very often we end up in what sure looks to any regular person to be 
disturbingly disproportionate sentencing outcomes. That is something people 
should pay attention to."

One man paying attention is former death penalty advocate, retired Georgia 
Supreme Court judge Norman Fletcher.

"In this state, there are judicial districts where the death penalty is rarely 
if ever sought. And then there are other districts where the death penalty is 
sought in nearly every case. That just shows how arbitrary is," he says.

"If it's a place where they've got plenty of resources, a district attorney 
determined to make some big name for himself, they'll seek it in every case."

Fletcher says it is this type of arbitrariness that results in killers getting 
plea deals and so-called masterminds receiving death. He now wants the death 
penalty abolished.

While on the bench Fletcher actually ruled that Gissendaner's death penalty 
sentence was appropriate.

Then he read a post-conviction affidavit from Gissendaner's boyfriend admitting 
that he lied when he said Gissendaner provided him with the murder weapon and 
came to the scene after Douglas was dead. The affidavit also revealed for the 
first time that there may have been a third killer whom Owen has never named.

"The system's broke," Fletcher says.

In Missouri, where Kimber Edwards awaits his 6 October execution, Orthell 
Wilson is serving life without parole for the murder of Edwards' ex-wife. 
Wilson told police Edwards wanted his wife dead because she was going to 
testify against him in a child support hearing, and Edwards gave Wilson $3,500 
to break into her apartment and shoot her.

Edwards initially denied any involvement, then confessed after extended 
interrogation - a confession he has since recanted, saying it was coerced.

15 years later, in an interview with the St Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper, 
Wilson revealed that Edwards was not 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2015-09-29 Thread Rick Halperin

Sept. 29


After Few Executions This Summer, 6 Executions Slated For Next 2 
WeeksGeorgia, Oklahoma, Virginia, Texas, and Missouri are set to execute 6 
inmates within 2 weeks.

The U.S. is set to execute 6 inmates in the next two weeks after only three 
executions were held during the entire summer.

Since January, only 2 states have conducted executions - Missouri and Texas - 
but 3 other states are aiming to do so in the coming days: Georgia, Oklahoma, 
and Virginia.

Beginning in January, executions in Oklahoma, Florida, and Alabama were halted 
pending the Supreme Court ruling on Oklahoma's use of midazolam - a lethal 
injection drug that was part of at least 3 problematic executions in 2014. 
Ohio's governor also held off all executions in 2015.

On June 29, however, the Supreme Court allowed the use of midazolam in 
executions, a ruling that had implications not only for states that used the 
drug, but also set a high bar for inmates challenging lethal injection in other 

As a result of the halt on executions using midazolam during several months, 
Missouri and Texas, which do not use midazolam, together carried out the most 
number of executions in 2015 - including the 3 that occurred over the summer.

Now, Georgia is going to attempt an execution it halted before it began earlier 
this year, Oklahoma - the state at the center of the Supreme Court case - is 
slated to hold an execution that was delayed earlier this month, and Virginia - 
which has not seen an execution in more than 30 months - is scheduled to hold 
an execution.

Executions in all 3 states have attracted national attention for different 
reasons and renewed debates on the constitutionality of different aspects of 
the death penalty.

On Tuesday, Sept. 29, Georgia is set to execute Kelly Gissendaner for her role 
in the 1997 murder of her husband. If executed, she will be the 1st woman put 
to death in the state since 1945.

On Monday, Sept. 28, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles announced that it 
would reconsider its February decision denying clemency to Gissendaner. In a 
press release, the board said it would meet on Sept. 29 to review "supplemental 
information" presented by Gissendaner's representatives. The board can deny 
clemency again, or issue a 90-day stay to further consider the case, or grant 
clemency and commute the sentence to life with or without parole.

Georgia has already postponed Gissendaner's execution twice this year. In 
February, her execution was delayed due to a winter storm. In March, her 
execution was called off before she was administered the lethal injection after 
the state found particles floating in the syringe.

Gissendaner sued the state saying she was a victim of cruel and unusual 
punishment, as she accused Georgia of putting her through "a state of immense 
fear and anxiety for thirteen hours while dithering over whether to proceed 
with her execution."

In August, a judge dismissed her lawsuit, allowing Georgia to execute 
Gissendaner again.

The lawsuit raised questions about the drug's potency and concerns over whether 
it would cause a botched execution. Concerns over the source of lethal 
injection drugs in various states has been a contentious and, in many cases, 
litigious issue. Shortage of drugs has led to several states seeking out their 
supply from unregulated compounding pharmacies. States have refused to disclose 
identities of these sources citing threats to the pharmacies from anti-death 
penalty advocates.

Gissendaner's 3rd execution date is set for Tuesday.

(source: buzzfeed.com)


Humane Criminal Justice Is Not HopelessThe Supreme Court is beginning to 
take cruel and unusual punishment seriously - just like Pope Francis is.

Pope Francis concluded his historic 1st visit to the United States on Sunday, 
spending most of his final few hours with women and men imprisoned at 
Philadelphia???s Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility and putting an 
exclamation mark on a central theme of his visit: the need to infuse more 
dignity and hope into America's criminal justice system.

Last week, during his address to Congress, Pope Francis called for "global 
abolition of the death penalty," because "every life is sacred, every human 
person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit 
from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes." The pope's address also 
criticized life without parole sentences, offering "encouragement to those who 
are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the 
dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation."

Here's a sentence I never thought I would write: Much of the pope's sermon to 
America on the need to curb our corrosive penal excess echoes themes emerging 
from the Supreme Court, particularly its recent cruel and unusual punishment 
jurisprudence. Indeed, Pope Francis' homily on dignity and hope must have 
struck a familiar 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2015-09-07 Thread Rick Halperin

Sept. 7


The Worst of the WorstJudy Clarke excelled at saving the lives of notorious 
killers. Then she took the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

"We meet in the most tragic of circumstances," Judy Clarke, the lead defense 
lawyer representing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, began. She stood at a lectern, facing 
the jurors, in a dark suit accented by a blue-and-purple scarf that she wears 
so often it seems like a courtroom talisman. To her right, George O'Toole, the 
judge, looked at her over his spectacles. Behind her was Tsarnaev, the slim, 
soft-featured young man who was on trial for the bombing at the Boston Marathon 
on April 15, 2013 - the worst domestic terrorist attack since September 11th.

Outside the courthouse, snow from successive blizzards had piled up in grubby 
dunes. Clarke, who lives in San Diego, despises cold weather, but she'd endured 
an entire New England winter. "Judy was in Boston for a year before the case 
went to trial, meeting with this kid," her friend Jonathan Shapiro, who has 
taught with Clarke at Washington and Lee University Law School, told me. It was 
early March, and nearly 2 years had passed since Tsarnaev, along with his older 
brother, Tamerlan, detonated 2 homemade bombs near the finish line of the 
marathon, killing 3 people and injuring 264; they then carjacked a Mercedes, 
murdered an M.I.T. police officer named Sean Collier, and engaged in a shootout 
with the cops. Dzhokhar, 19 at the time, accidentally killed Tamerlan, who was 
26, by running over him in the getaway car. Dzhokhar was discovered, wounded 
and expecting to die, inside a dry-docked boat in the suburb of Watertown. 
While he was recovering in the hospital, Miriam Conrad, the chief federal 
public defender in Massachusetts, contacted Clarke, and Clarke decided to take 
the case.

Clarke may be the best death-penalty lawyer in America. Her efforts helped 
spare the lives of Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber), Zacarias Moussaoui (the 
so-called "20th hijacker" in the 9/11 plot), and Jared Loughner (who killed 6 
people and wounded 13 others, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, at a 
Tucson mall). "Every time Judy takes a new case, it's a soul-searching process 
for her," Clarke's old friend Elisabeth Semel told me. "Because it's an 
enormous responsibility." On rare occasions when Clarke withdrew or was removed 
from a defense team, a defendant received the death penalty. But in cases that 
she tried through the sentencing phase, she had never lost a client to death 

The administration of capital punishment is notoriously prone to error. 
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 155 death-row inmates have 
been exonerated, and it stands to reason that innocent people still face 
execution. Clarke does not represent such individuals. Her specialty is what 
the Supreme Court has called "the worst of the worst": child rapists, 
torturers, terrorists, mass murderers, and others who have committed crimes so 
appalling that even death-penalty opponents might be tempted to make an 
exception. Tsarnaev was indisputably guilty; the lead prosecutor, William 
Weinreb, described in his opening statement a video in which Tsarnaev is seen 
depositing a backpack directly behind an 8-year-old boy on Boylston Street and 
walking away before it explodes. In January, 2014, Attorney General Eric 
Holder, who had publicly expressed his personal opposition to the death 
penalty, announced that the government would seek to execute Tsarnaev, 
explaining that the scale of the horror had compelled the decision.

The prosecution referred to Tsarnaev as Dzhokhar, his given name, which is 
Chechen and means "jewel." But as Clarke addressed the jury she used the 
nickname that he had adopted as a high-school student, in Cambridge, 
Massachusetts: Jahar. In a capital case, a defense attorney seeks to humanize 
the client to the point that jurors might hesitate to condemn him to death. 
Clarke has said that her job is to transform the defendant from an unfathomable 
monster into "one of us."

Her use of the nickname also signalled genuine familiarity. Clarke spends 
hundreds of hours getting to know reviled criminals. Her friend Tina Hunt, a 
federal public defender in Georgia who has known Clarke for 30 years, said, 
"Judy is fascinated by what makes people tick - what drives people to commit 
these kinds of crimes. People aren't born evil. She has a very deep and abiding 
faith in that idea."

Most of Clarke's success in death-penalty cases has come from negotiating plea 
deals. She often cites a legal adage: the 1st step in losing a death-penalty 
case is picking a jury. To avoid a trial, Clarke does not shy away from the 
muscular exertion of leverage. In 2005, she secured a plea deal for Eric 
Rudolph, who detonated bombs at abortion clinics and at the Atlanta Summer 
Olympics, after Rudolph promised to disclose the location of an explosive 
device that he had buried near a residential 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2015-07-06 Thread Rick Halperin

July 6


Get real

In another recent 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, the highest court in 
the land upheld the constitutionality of a 3-drug combination used to 
administer the death penalty. (The case stems from a capital punishment case in 

At issue was whether this particular combination of drugs was indeed cruel and 
unusual punishment. The majority of the court ruled it was not.

There was, however, the nonsensical dissent offered by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, 
relating this process to individuals being drawn and quartered, slowly 
tortured to death, or actually burned at the stake.

We would hope a judge on the highest court in the land would not resort to such 
absurd and irrelevant examples, especially when it comes to the administration 
of justice. Those who are found guilty (and DNA evidence, when available, 
removes all doubt) of the most heinous crimes are not drawn and quartered, 
tortured or burned at the stake, and no one is advocating for such 

Let's stick to reality and not resort to dramatics.

(source: Editorial, amarillo.com)

Addressing the death penalty head-on

Passages of last week's Supreme Court ruling on the death penalty read more 
like a pharmacology treatise than new constitutional guidance on how executions 
may be carried out.

The 5-4 decision boiled down to the failure of 3 Oklahoma death row inmates to 
prove that a certain drug, midazolam, would cause needless pain and suffering 
when used to start a lethal 3-drug regimen.

Justices in the majority indicated impatience with refereeing a series of legal 
bouts over execution protocols. They seemed irked that defendants guilty of 
unspeakably cruel murders seek and get carve-outs under Eighth Amendment 
protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

The question of whether there should be capital punishment in the first place 
was not at issue, but it cast a long shadow.

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote yes, the Constitution specifically contemplates 
the punishment. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote no, in a detailed dissenting 
opinion complete with charts and graphs.

This newspaper - an opponent of capital punishment since 2007 - agrees with 
Breyer's assessment that it's time for the court to address the core 
constitutional question rather than try to patch up the death penalty's legal 
wounds one at a time.

Breyer's arguments should resonate in Texas, especially the parts about the 
unreliability of the justice system. Texas, the leading state in executions, is 
also the leader in DNA-proven wrongful convictions.

Breyer cited 2 Texas cases - Cameron Todd Willingham of Corsicana and Carlos 
DeLuna of Corpus Christi - in saying that convincing evidence exists that 
innocent men have been executed. He named former Texas death row inmate Anthony 
Graves in a list of exonerations.

Has a shaken confidence in the sureness of justice caused Texas to lose its 
appetite for lethal punishment? Halfway through 2015, none of Texas' 254 
counties has imposed a death sentence.

As Breyer pointed out, the death penalty is used in dwindling numbers and in a 
dwindling number of states. The constitutional question becomes: Has executing 
people become an unusual punishment by modern standards?

The court should address this and other questions head-on.

1 issue is the assumption that capital punishment has deterrent value; there 
are persuasive arguments that deterrence is unproven. Another issue is 
unevenness in applying the death penalty. Death sentences are more likely to be 
imposed, for example, in cases in which the victim is white. And while most 
death sentences are imposed in urban areas, there are bizarre concentrations in 
small communities.

43 years ago, a fragmented Supreme Court was so troubled by the use of capital 
punishment that it effectively imposed a moratorium that lasted 4 years. Today, 
the same core issues persist and will fester until the court agrees to take on 
the big question once again.

Justices and the death penalty

Excerpts of opinions in a decision last week in which the Supreme Court 
rejected a challenge to an execution drug used in Oklahoma:

[Rather] than try to patch up the death penalty's legal wounds one at a time, 
I would ask for full briefing on a more basic question: whether the death 
penalty violates the Constitution.

- Dissent by Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

A vocal minority of the Court, waving over their heads a ream of the most 
recent abolitionist studies (a superabundant genre) as though they have 
discovered the lost folios of Shakespeare, insist that now, at long last, the 
death penalty must be abolished for good.

- Concurring opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Justice Clarence 

(source: Editorial, Dallas Morning News)

Is death penalty on its death bed?

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is a man on a 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2015-07-01 Thread Rick Halperin

July 1


There's nothing 'enlightened' about executing the innocent

If there was a bright spot in Monday's regrettable Supreme Court decision in 
Glossip v. Gross, it's that at least 2 current justices - Stephen G. Breyer and 
Ruth Bader Ginsburg - are open to the idea that the death penalty is 
unconstitutional. It seems at least possible that Sonia Sotomayor may move in 
that direction as well. Unfortunately, that bright spot was overwhelmed by 
opinions from Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito Jr. that 
indicate they are as adamant as ever about keeping capital punishment around, 
and, at least in the case of Thomas, open to expanding it to include juveniles, 
and for crimes other than murder.

As my colleague Mark Berman pointed out, there was an interesting and sad 
footnote to yesterday's decision. In his dissent, Breyer noted the case of 
Glenn Ford, a Louisiana man who spent 30 years on death row before he was 
finally exonerated and released. Ford died of lung cancer just hours before the 
Glossip decision was released. Despite his exoneration, Ford was never 
compensated for his wrongful conviction or for the unfathomable amount of time 
he spent not only locked up but also awaiting his execution. He was released 
just in time to succumb to lung cancer, all while fighting the state of 
Louisiana for recompense. The man who prosecuted Ford, Mark Stroud, has since 
apologized, asked Ford's forgiveness and declared the death penalty to be an 
abomination that continues to scar the fibers of this society.

Of course, Ford isn't the only death-row inmate to be exonerated. There are 
more than 100 others, just since 1973. He isn't even the only one in Louisiana. 
In Orleans Parrish alone, during the reign of notorious District Attorney Harry 
Connick, four death-row inmates were exonerated, representing 11 % of the 
capital convictions during his tenure. Others were released without being 
granted full exonerations.

On the surface, yesterday's decision in Glossip was about the constitutionality 
of a specific drug now used in some states for lethal injections. But the case 
touched off a broader and contentious discussion among the justices about 
lethal injection and the death penalty in general. Scalia in particular wrote a 
scathing, abrasive opinion that mocks abolitionists and bizarrely concludes 
that in opposing capital punishment, Breyer and like opponents of the death 
penalty oppose the Enlightenment.

Capital punishment presents moral questions that philosophers, theologians, and 
statesmen have grappled with for millennia. The Framers of our Constitution 
disagreed bitterly on the matter. For that reason, they handled it the same way 
they handled many other controversial issues: they left it to the People to 
decide. By arrogating to himself the power to overturn that decision, JUSTICE 
BREYER does not just reject the death penalty, he rejects the Enlightenment. Of 
course, lots of Enlightenment thinkers were well aware of the perils of 
subjecting basic rights to the whims of democracy. (Or as James Bovard once put 
it, Democracy must be something more than 2 wolves and a sheep voting on what 
to have for dinner.) The driving principle behind the Enlightenment was the 
rejection of blind deference to tradition and authority and instead embracing 
reason, individualism and empiricism. Both Scalia's and Alito's opinions are 
not only dismissive, they're also downright contemptuous of Breyer's use of 
data to show that the death penalty is unequally applied, racially biased and 
ineffective. They reject Breyer's long list of cases in which prosecutors 
and/or police were shown to have manufactured evidence, hidden exculpatory 
evidence and committed other egregious misconduct. Instead, they simply point 
out that the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the death 
penalty for 40 years, so they aren't about to consider it now. Here, for 
example, is Scalia:

A vocal minority of the Court, waving over their heads a ream of the most 
recent abolitionist studies (a superabundant genre) as though they have 
discovered the lost folios of Shakespeare, insist that now, at long last, the 
death penalty must be abolished for good. Mind you, not once in the history of 
the American Republic has this Court ever suggested the death penalty is 
categorically impermissible.

This is about as thorough a rejection of Enlightenment principles as one can 
imagine a Supreme Court justice articulating. It's a abrupt dismissal of 
empirical data (not even an attempt to grapple with it) in favor of an appeal 
to tradition.

The most compelling argument against the death penalty has always been 
innocence. Scalia undoubtedly knows this, which is why he over the years has 
attacked this argument by both insisting that it's extremely unlikely an 
innocent percent has ever been executed and that, even if it has happened, the 
execution wouldn't be unconstitutional so 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2015-06-30 Thread Rick Halperin

June 30


Supreme Court Allows Use of Execution Drug

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday against 3 death row inmates who had sought to 
bar the use of an execution drug they said risked causing excruciating pain.

In the process, 2 dissenting members of the court - Justices Stephen G. Breyer 
and Ruth Bader Ginsburg - came very close to announcing that they were ready to 
rule the death penalty unconstitutional. This gave rise to slashing debate with 
Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas about the reliability and 
effectiveness of the punishment, a dispute that overshadowed the core issue in 
the case.

The 5-to-4 decision on the execution drug broke along familiar lines, with 
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy joining the court's more conservative members to 
allow its use.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the majority, said the inmates had 
failed to identify an available and preferable method of execution and failed 
to make the case that the challenged drug entailed a substantial risk of severe 

From left, Richard E. Glossip, John M. Grant and Benjamin R. Cole Sr., the 
three prisoners in Oklahoma whose executions the Supreme Court delayed in a 
brief order on Wednesday.

The drug, the sedative midazolam, played a part in 3 long and apparently 
painful executions last year. It was used in an effort to render inmates 
unconscious before they were injected with other drugs that cause severe pain.

Demonstrators opposed to the death penalty expressed their disappointment over 
the Supreme Court's decision allowing the sedative midazolam to be used in 

In dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who joined the other 3 members of the 
court's liberal wing, said, The court's available-alternative requirement 
leads to patently absurd consequences.

Petitioners contend that Oklahoma's current protocol is a barbarous method of 
punishment - the chemical equivalent of being burned alive, Justice Sotomayor 
wrote. But under the court's new rule, it would not matter whether the state 
intended to use midazolam, or instead to have petitioners drawn and quartered, 
slowly tortured to death or actually burned at the stake.

Justices Breyer, Ginsburg and Elena Kagan joined Justice Sotomayor's dissent.

In a 2nd, more sweeping dissent, Justice Breyer, joined by Justice Ginsburg, 
said it was time to consider a larger issue.

Rather than try to patch up the death penalty's legal wounds one at a time, 
Justice Breyer wrote, I would ask for full briefing on a more basic question: 
whether the death penalty violates the Constitution.

In a 46-page dissent that included charts and maps, he said that it is highly 
likely that the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment, which bars cruel 
and unusual punishments. He said that there was evidence that innocent people 
have been executed, that death row exonerations were frequent, that death 
sentences were imposed arbitrarily and that the capital justice system was 
warped by racial discrimination and politics.

Justice Breyer added that there was scant reason to think that the death 
penalty deterred crime and that long delays between death sentences and 
executions might themselves violate the Eighth Amendment. He noted that most of 
the country did not use the death penalty and that the United States was an 
international outlier in embracing it.

Justice Scalia responded to what he called Justice Breyer's plea for judicial 
abolition of the death penalty by calling it gobbledygook. The punishment is 
contemplated by the Constitution, Justice Scalia said, and disingenuously 
opposed on grounds created by its opponents.

Criticizing the death penalty on the ground that it is not carried out fast 
enough, for instance, Justice Scalia said, calls to mind the man sentenced to 
death for killing his parents, who pleads for mercy on the ground that he is an 

We federal judges, Justice Scalia continued, live in a world apart from the 
vast majority of Americans. After work, we retire to homes in placid suburbia 
or to high-rise co-ops with guards at the door. We are not confronted with the 
threat of violence that is ever present in many Americans' everyday lives. The 
suggestion that the incremental deterrent effect of capital punishment does not 
seem 'significant' reflects, it seems to me, a let-them-eat-cake obliviousness 
to the needs of others. Let the people decide how much incremental deterrence 
is appropriate.

In a 2nd concurrence, Justice Thomas described several cases in which the 
Supreme Court had spared the lives of killers.

Whatever one's views on the permissibility or wisdom of the death penalty, 
Justice Thomas wrote, I doubt anyone would disagree that each of these crimes 
was egregious enough to merit the severest condemnation that society has to 
offer. The only constitutional problem with the fact that these criminals were 
spared that condemnation, while others were not, is that their 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2015-06-30 Thread Rick Halperin

June 30


The Supreme Court Just Approved a Lethal Injection Drug that No One Understands

The conservative justices of the Supreme Court were no more gracious in victory 
today than they were in defeat last week. They prevailed in Glossip v. Gross, a 
case about the legality of a drug called midazolam that some states use in 
lethal injections, but they still assaulted the integrity of their liberal 
colleagues. Writing the majority opinion, Justice Alito attacked Justice 
Sotomayor's resort to outlandish rhetoric, which, he said, reveals the 
weakness of [her] legal arguments. Justice Scalia outright mocked Justice 
Breyer. His argument is full of internal contradictions and (it must be said) 
gobbledy-gook, Scalia wrote, before concluding that Breyer rejects the 
Enlightenment. Justice Thomas, meanwhile, wanted to know why previous courts 
found it unconstitutional to execute juveniles.

It's not surprising to see tempers flare in the 5 Glossip opinions: Death 
penalty cases have a history of producing a lot of paper. And back in April, 
Dahlia Lithwick described oral arguments in this particular case as unpleasant 
and embarrassing in Slate. The actual matter before the Court in Glossip was 
narrow, but the case became an occasion for the justices to express their 
broader thinking on the death penalty. Justice Breyer, joined by Justice 
Ginsburg, used the occasion to argue that the death penalty itself was 
unconstitutional, while Scalia and Thomas lined up against them.

It fell to Justice Alito, writing the majority opinion, and Justice Sotomayor, 
writing the principal dissent, to tackle Glossip's specific question: Did 
midazolam pose an intolerable risk of painful execution? The drug came into use 
in death penalty states after a shortage in the drugs conventionally used in 
lethal injection. Doctors rarely use midazolam, though, to anesthetize their 
patients, and the Glossip plaintiffs argued that it was not powerful enough to 
protect them from feeling the painful effects of the other lethal injection 

Alito rejected their arguments for 2 reasons. First, he said they failed to 
establish a safer and available alternative to an execution with midazolam - a 
requirement that Sotomayor denounced as patently absurd. Second, he affirmed 
the lower courts ruling that midazolam did not pose an intolerable risk of pain 
and suffering in an execution. The district court had drawn this conclusion by 
weighing the testimony of a single expert witness, a doctor of pharmacy who 
said midazolam would work, against 2 expert witnesses who said it would not.

Essentially, the district court decided the legality of midazolam based on the 
testimony of just 3 witnesses, and the Supreme Court saw nothing troubling with 
this fact. The most prudent course of action, I thought after having witnessed 
oral arguments in April and having written about the use of midazolam, would 
have been to remand the case to a lower court, where midazolam's properties 
could be more properly investigated. Alito rejected this possibility, however, 
by arguing that courts should not 'embroil [themselves] in ongoing 
controversies beyond their expertise.'

Alito's opinion indirectly acknowledges a limitation of the Court: Execution 
protocols are being written by corrections officers and attorneys general, not 
by scientists or doctors. And no one really knows how midazolam works in such 
large doses, because the medical and scientific communities don't spend a lot 
of time studying the lethal applications of otherwise helpful drugs. The 
result, as Sotomayor wrote, is that States are engaged in what is in effect 
human experimentation. In Arizona, for instance, the execution team injected 
one prisoner with 15 different doses of midazolam and hydromorphone in an 
execution that lasted nearly almost 2 hours.

Alito's logic might be more persuasive if the Court were, in fact, leaving 
lethal injection in the hands of medical experts. Instead, his effort to frame 
the Glossip decision as an act of judicial humility essentially gives state 
lawyers and prison officials the green light to raid the medicine cabinet in 
order to carry out death sentences. True humility would recognize that judges 
are unqualified to evaluate the pharmacological properties of medical drugs - 
and conclude that states should find another way to carry out their sentences.

(source: Ben Crair, The New Republic)

Capital punishment and the Supreme CourtLast gasps

When Oklahoma executed Clayton Lockett by lethal injection in April 2014, the 
state used an untested sedative. The drug apparently failed to bring on the 
coma-like state that is meant to precede the introduction of drugs to stop his 
breathing and then his heart. Lockett spent 43 minutes writhing in pain on the 
gurney. This shit is fucking with my head, he said before finally dying.

Of the 35 people who were executed in America in 2014, at least 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2015-06-25 Thread Rick Halperin

June 25


The Death Penalty is Revenge, Not Healing: Father of OKC Victim on Dzhokhar 
Tsarnaev's Sentencing

Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been formally sentenced to death 
for his role in the attack that killed 3 and injured hundreds in 2013. 
Addressing survivors inside the courtroom, Tsarnaev apologized for the first 
time, saying in part: I am sorry for the lives that I've taken, for the 
suffering that I've caused you, for the damage that I've done. Some of the 
bombing's survivors have echoed a recent Boston Globe poll that found fewer 
than 20 % of Massachusetts residents support sentencing Tsarnaev to death. We 
are joined by Bud Welch, who has become a leading anti-death penalty advocate 
after losing his daughter Julie in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Welch is the 
founding president of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: 21-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev apologized for the first time 
Wednesday before he was formally sentenced to death for his role in the Boston 
Marathon bombing that killed 3 and injured hundreds. He said, quote, I am 
sorry for the lives that I've taken, for the suffering that I've caused you, 
for the damage that I've done. Irreparable damage. He added, quote, I pray 
for your relief, for your healing. This was the 1st time Tsarnaev had spoken 
in the courtroom since his arraignment 2 years ago.

During the sentencing, U.S. District Judge George O'Toole Jr. quoted 
Shakespeare, saying, The evil that men do lives after them. The good is often 
interred with their bones. So it will be for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Outside the 
courtroom, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz addressed the media.

CARMEN ORTIZ: He didn't renounce terrorism. He didn't renounce violent 
extremism. And he couched his comments in line with Allah and Allah's views, 
which give it a religious tone. And there was nothing - as you heard Judge 
O'Toole say in the courtroom, there was nothing about this crime that was 
Islam-associated. And so, that's what I was struck by more.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Meanwhile, some of the bombing's survivors echoed a recent 
Boston Globe poll that found fewer than 20 % of Massachusetts residents support 
sentencing Tsarnaev to death. Henry Borgard said he opposed the death penalty, 
and responded to Tsarnaev's statement.

HENRY BORGARD: I was actually really happy that he made the statement. I - as I 
said in my personal impact statement, I have forgiven him. I have come to a 
place of peace, and I genuinely hope that he does, as well. And for me to hear 
him say that he's sorry, that is enough for me. And I hope, because I still do 
have faith in humanity, including in him, I hope that his words were genuine. I 
hope that they were heartfelt. I hope that they were as honest as the 
statements that you heard today in court from the victims and the survivors. I 
obviously have no way of knowing that, but I'm going to take it on faith that 
what he said was genuine. There was a little bit of rhetoric in there; I agree 
with what you said, absolutely. Some of it was hard to hear, you know? But I 
really - I was really profoundly affected, really deeply moved that he did do 
that, because, whether we like to acknowledge it or not, his statement, like 
ours, takes courage, because the entire world is watching us right now. And the 
fact that he made a statement, which he didn't have to do, gives him a little 
bit of credit in my book.

AMY GOODMAN: That's Henry Borgard. He was, at the time of the bombing, a 
21-year-old Suffolk University student in Boston. He was hit by the 2nd blast.

The judge rejected a request to move Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's execution to New 
Hampshire, the only New England state with the death penalty, so survivors 
could more easily be on hand. Prosecutors say Tsarnaev will eventually be taken 
to federal death row in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Since 1963, the federal government has executed 3 people, including Timothy 
McVeigh, who was put to death in June 2001 for the Oklahoma City Federal 
Building bombing that killed 168 people. This year marks the 20th anniversary 
of the attack on April 19th, 1995.

Our next guest joins us from Oklahoma City. Bill Welch lost his 23-year-old 
daughter Julie in the attack there. After initially supporting capital 
punishment for his daughter's killing, he has become a vocal opponent of the 
death penalty. He opposed the execution of McVeigh and is the founding 
president of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights.

Bud Welch, welcome back to Democracy Now! Your thoughts today? In Boston, we 
see the death sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. I think the poll said something 
like 80 to 85 % of the people of Boston and all of Massachusetts were opposed 
to the death penalty, even in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's case. Can you reflect, as you 
dealt with this issue 20 years ago?

BUD WELCH: Hi, Amy. I can. You know, I'm reminded, every time something like 
this happens, that the punishment of the 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2015-05-15 Thread Rick Halperin

May 15


Few federal inmates on death row have been actually put to death

Now that a death sentence was given Friday to convicted Boston Marathon bomber 
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, many Americans may be surprised to know he could live a 
relatively long time on federal death row.

That's partly because only three people have been executed in the United States 
since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988 after a 16-year 
moratorium. Those three are:

-- Timothy McVeigh for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people.

-- Juan Raul Garza convicted of killing 3 people and running a marijuana drug 
ring in Texas.

-- Louis Jones for the kidnapping and murder of 19-year-old Army Pvt. Tracie 

Before McVeigh's execution in 2001, the federal government had not put anyone 
to death since 1963.

Juries have handed down the death sentence in federal cases 74 times since 
1988, according to the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project.

In federal capital cases, juries choose death rather than life in prison about 
30% of the time.

But when you take into account overturned convictions and vacated verdicts, the 
death sentence has only been applied 71 times in federal cases.

A trial judge has the power to vacate a jury's death sentence in federal cases, 
said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

Such overturning of a death sentence occurs when a judge agrees with an 
attorney's post-trial motion to throw out the death penalty, Dunham said.

3 federal inmates who were sentenced to death, died or committed suicide prior 
to the imposition of their sentence, the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel 
Project said.

There are about 60 people on federal death row and more than 3,000 on death 
rows across the country in state prisons.

32 states have a death penalty. Massachusetts is 1 of the 18 states without a 
death penalty. It was abolished there in 1984. In a Boston Globe poll taken in 
September, 57% of Boston respondents supported a life sentence for Tsarnaev, 
and 35% favored the death penalty.

According to Amnestyusa.org, 139 countries around the world have abolished the 
penalty in law or practice. In 2009, the overwhelming majority of all known 
executions took place in 5 countries: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the 
United States.

(source: CNN)


Death Penalty for Tsarnaev: Reaction to Verdict in Boston Marathon Attack

Public officials said Friday that they hoped the death penalty for Dzhokhar 
Tsarnaev might bring closure to the families of the victims and help heal a 
city wounded by the Boston Marathon attack.

Here are some statements of reaction.

Mayor Marty Walsh of Boston I want to thank the jurors and the judiciary for 
their service to our community and our country. I hope this verdict provides a 
small amount of closure to the survivors, families, and all impacted by the 
violent and tragic events surrounding the 2013 Boston Marathon. We will forever 
remember and honor those who lost their lives and were affected by those 
senseless acts of violence on our City. Today, more than ever, we know that 
Boston is a City of hope, strength and resilience, that can overcome any 

Attorney General Loretta Lynch

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev coldly and callously perpetrated a terrorist attack that 
injured hundreds of Americans and ultimately took the lives of three 
individuals: Krystle Marie Campbell, a 29-year-old native of Medford; Lingzi 
Lu, a 23-year-old Boston University graduate student from China; and Martin 
Richard, an 8-year-old boy from Dorchester who was watching the marathon with 
his family just a few feet from the second bomb. In the aftermath of the 
attack, Tsarnaev and his brother murdered Sean Collier, a 27-year-old patrol 
officer on the MIT campus, extinguishing a life dedicated to family and 

We know all too well that no verdict can heal the souls of those who lost loved 
ones, nor the minds and bodies of those who suffered life-changing injuries 
from this cowardly attack. But the ultimate penalty is a fitting punishment for 
this horrific crime and we hope that the completion of this prosecution will 
bring some measure of closure to the victims and their families. We thank the 
jurors for their service, the people of Boston for their vigilance, resilience 
and support and the law enforcement community in Boston and throughout the 
country for their important work.

Chief John DiFava of the MIT police

On behalf of the entire MIT Police Department, I would first like to offer my 
continued sympathy and support to the victims and their families. While the 
horror thy have endured can never be undone, I hope that the conclusion of the 
trial and the subsequent verdict can offer some kind of closure, no matter how 

I would also like to extended my deepest thanks and appreciation to the United 
States Attorney's Office and the 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2015-05-07 Thread Rick Halperin

May 7


Tsarnaev: The Cost Of A Death Sentence Versus Life Imprisonment

The penalty phase of the trial of the Boston Marathon Bomber, Dzhokhar 
Tsarnaev, is well under way. The jury heard Tsnarnaev's family from Russia give 
tearful testimony on Monday of how delicate and emotional he was as a child. 
Apparently, young Tsarnaev cried when Mufasa died in the Lion King. Even 
Tsarnaev was seen wiping away tears during the testimony.

While this type of presentation is meant to pull at the heartstrings of the 
jurors, to humanize Tsarnaev, perhaps it is backfiring. People seem to be 
absolutely indignant that Tsarnaev can show emotion for his family or himself, 
but display no remorse for the victims or their families.

This case has sparked heated debates about the death penalty. One justification 
made by those who are in favor of the death penalty is that it is cheaper just 
to execute Tsarnaev rather than use our tax dollars to keep him alive. I 
wondered whether this was true and decided to explore it.

To compare the cost of pursuing a conviction of death versus life imprisonment, 
we have to look at different scenarios, like (1) what would it cost if Tsarnaev 
is sentenced to life in prison (2) what would it cost if Tsarnaev is sentenced 
to death and appeals, and (3) what would it have cost if the death penalty was 
never on the table and he was sentenced to life in prison.

The 1st scenario is if the jury sentences Tsarnaev to life in prison without 
the possibility of parole. To calculate this we have to consider the cost of 
Tsarnaev's defense, the cost incurred by the government in prosecuting the case 
and the cost of caring for Tsarnaev for the rest of his natural life.

There have been 2 federal death penalty cases in Massachusetts since 1998, not 
including Tsarnaev's trial. One of those cases was against Kristin Gilbert, a 
30 year old nurse indicted in 1998 for murdering 4 of her patients and 
attempting to murder 3 others by injecting them with the heart stimulant 
epinephrine. Ultimately, the jury sentenced her to life in prison. The cost of 
her defense was approximately $1.6 million. The prosecution in that case spent 
approximately $350,000 on experts and a jury consultant. The salary of the 
prosecutors and their investigators are not included. Additionally, it cost 
$80,000 for stenographers and transcripts and $125,000 for the jurors. That's 
$2,155,000 for the cost of a federal capital murder trial that ended in life 
imprisonment in Massachusetts in 2001. Let's take that number and assume it is 
higher now because of inflation and factor in things like the cost of flying 
Tsarnaev's family in from Russia. For the sake of argument, let's make that 
number $2.5 million.

If Tsarnaev receives life in prison without the possibility of parole, he will 
likely be housed at the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum 
Facility, or ADX, the supermax federal prison in Florence, Colorado. 
According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the average cost to house an inmate 
for 1 year in a federal prison is $26,309. Tsarnaev is 21 now. If he lives to 
71, that means approximately $1,315,450 in government money for his care. 
That???s just the average. It is probably more expensive to house prisoners at 
ADX, but let's assume the average cost for the purposes of this exercise.

That's a little over $3.3 million for scenario 1.

The 2nd scenario is a little trickier because of all the variables. Let's limit 
the scenario to the cost associated with sentencing Tsarnaev to death, him 
exhausting all of his appeals and ultimately being put to death. In that 
scenario, we would take the same $2.5 million figure from the cost of trial 
above and add the cost of the appeals, the cost to care for him during the 
appeals and the cost to execute him.

There is no data on the cost of appealing a death conviction in Massachusetts, 
but in 2014, the average cost in Nevada was approximately $140,000. Moreover, 
the appeals process can take decades. Tsarnaev will have to be housed in a 
federal prison during that time. Let's say his appeals take 10 years, 
multiplied by the $26,309 per year to care for him. That totals $263,090. If 
his appeals fail, he will be executed by lethal injection and the costs 
associated with that are minimal and do not need to be factored in.

Scenario 2 is a little over $2.9 million.

So, it appears that those who are in favor of the death penalty are correct 
that at this stage, it is cheaper to execute Tsarnaev than sentence him to life 
in prison.

However, let's look at the 3rd scenario, where the death penalty was never on 
the table. The average cost of a federal death penalty trial is 8 times more 
than a federal murder case. This is because in a federal death penalty case, 
much more is at stake - someone's life - and no corners are cut. There are 
usually multiple defense attorney assigned to ensure competent representation, 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2015-05-02 Thread Rick Halperin

May 2


The weirdest moment from the Supreme Court's dramatic death penalty arguments

The Supreme Court heard a case Wednesday challenging the use of a lethal 
injection cocktail in Oklahoma, and the arguments bordered on the ridiculous.

Right away, conservative Justice Samuel Alito accused death penalty activists 
of mounting a guerilla war on the death penalty.

Then Chief Justice John Roberts suggested his liberal colleague Justice Sonia 
Sotomayor spent too much time talking after she grilled Oklahoma's solicitor 
general for a while.

One point, however, stands out as the most absurd: the prisoner's lawyer Robin 
Konrad somehow concluded that burning someone alive could perhaps be deemed 
constitutional, if there was a way to ensure that it was done in a humane 
way, as Politico's Josh Gerstein noted. That was the lawyer arguing against 
Oklahoma's lethal injection methods.

In the case, 4 Oklahoma inmates - although 1 has since been executed - allege 
that the state's use of midazolam as the 1st of 3 drugs in a lethal injection 
cocktail violates the Eight Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual 

The 1st drug in lethal injection cocktails is meant to render prisoners 
unconscious and unable to feel. But midazolam, as critics argue, doesn't always 
accomplish that goal. When Ohio used midazolam for the 1st time in early 2014 
to execute Dennis McGuire, he struggled and gasped for air for nearly 10 
minutes before his heart stopped. Arizona also used midazolam in Joseph Wood's 
lethal injection. It took nearly 2 hours for him to die.

Not only is midazolam's effectiveness in question, it might also cause 
unbearable physical pain. During arguments Wednesday, Justice Elena Kagan 
compared being injected with the drug to being burned alive at the stake, which 
everybody agrees [is] cruel and unusual, she said.

So suppose that we said, we're going to burn you at the stake, but before we 
do, we're going to use an anesthetic of completely unknown properties and 
unknown affects. Maybe you won't feel it, maybe you will. We just can't tell. 
And you think that would be okay? Kagan inquired.

That led to a back-and-forth between Kagan and Oklahoma's solicitor general. 
The issue of burning somebody alive came up again during Konrad's rebuttal, 
when Alito posed a hypothetical scenario: Even if the person being burned alive 
could feel no pain, would it still violate the Eighth Amendment?

Konrad responded that it could be a violation, prompting yet another question 
from Alito.

But you're not sure that being burned alive - that you think there are 
circumstances in which burning somebody at the stake would be consistent with 
the Eighth Amendment? Alito asked.

That prompted a response from Konrad that seemed to contradict itself: Well, 
what I'm saying is that this Court has - the founders say burning at the stake 
is unconstitutional. It creates an Eighth Amendment violation. It's cruel and 
unusual. But in your hypothetical, if there was a way to ensure that that was 
done in a humane way, there could perhaps be. That - I don't think that any 
State would go to try to do that, because we move forward evolving ...

That's an incredible answer, Alito responded. You think that there are 
circumstances in which burning alive would not be a violation of the Eight 

It's an odd exchange for a conservative justice and lawyer arguing against the 
death penalty to have.

Most states had previously used pentobarbital, a drug approved for executions, 
in lethal injections - until its Danish manufacturer refused to continue 
selling the drug to the US because of its use in the death penalty.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who admitted he opposes the death penalty, 
called for a national halt on lethal injection until the high court decided 
midazolam's relationship with the Eight Amendment.

As a result of the Supreme Court's impending opinion, Oklahoma has suspended 
executions. The state, however, reinstated the use of the gas chamber to 
execute criminals in early April, a process only legal in four other states 
currently. Florida has also also suspended executions using midazolam until the 
Supreme Court's ruling.

(source: businessinsider.com)


No, Justices Alito and Scalia, death penalty politics aren't the issue

Oral arguments before the Supreme Court earlier this week over Oklahoma's 
lethal-injection protocol took an unusually harsh tone (which Dahlia Lithwick 
parses nicely here at Slate). What was more jarring, though, was the theme of 
statements - er, questions - by some of the judges about the backdrop to the 
execution challenge.

The case involves 1 of the drugs Oklahoma uses to execute its condemned 
prisoners, and how that fits in with court-sanctioned protocols. Briefly, in 
2008, the court ruled in Baze v. Rees that Kentucky's 3-drug protocol (first 
developed in Oklahoma) was constitutional because the 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2015-04-21 Thread Rick Halperin

April 21


Small band of death penalty opponents rally to spare Tsarnaev's life

Through snow, rain and occasional hecklers, Joe Kebartas stood outside the John 
Joseph Moakley Courthouse and protested against the death penalty.

Often he stood outside the federal court alone.

Today, before the opening arguments in the death penalty phase of Dzhokhar 
Tsarnaev's terrorism trial, 12 other protestors stood with Kebartas with a 
variety of signs urging jurors to spare the Boston Marathon bomber's life.

It's been great. We've had a big turnout today and we've galvanized in force 
agains the death penalty, said Kebartas, a retired veteran who lives in South 
Boston. It will be interesting to see what happens. I hope we influenced the 
jury to spare his life. If so, we will be victorious.

Kebartas said passersby would occasionally walk by and yell Fry him! 
referring to Tsarnaev, who on April 8 was found guilty on all 30 counts he 
faced. Sometimes people would tell him to put up the money to keep Tsarnaev 
alive - for the rest of his life - in federal prison.

Other than that, I've had a lot of thumbs up, he said. There has been more 
positive than negative reactions to my signs against the death penalty. It's 
Massachusetts - there's more people against it than for it.

Kebartas outlasted the Tsarnaev supporters, who had conjured up conspiracy 
theories about the 2013 twin bombings. He said they were only there for a few 
days, and for the most part they didn't interact with him or other protestors 
who joined him.

Tsarnaev's defense team, which will spend the next few weeks trying to save 
their client's life, would walk by and give me a smile, Kebartas said.

It was encouraging for me, he said. It was a positive experience for me, and 
I'm glad I did it. If I wasn't out here, there would be no one.

Cornelia Sullivan, of Boston, and Amy Hendrickson, of Brookline, who started 
leafletting alongside Kebartas last week, said the experience has been 
important and hope jurors are paying attention.

We're trying to persuade people not to kill the guy. I don't know if we will 
be able to, but we feel it is our moral duty to do this, said Hendrickson. 
This just extends the chain of violence. It dehumanizes people.

(source: Boston Herald)

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[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2015-03-27 Thread Rick Halperin

March 27


Executions, Doctors, The U.S. Supreme Court, And The Breath Of Kings

Editor's note: This post is part of a series stemming from the 3rd Annual 
Health Law Year in P/Review event held at Harvard Law School on Friday, January 
30, 2015. The conference brought together leading experts to review major 
developments in health law over the previous year, and preview what is to come. 
A full agenda and links to video recordings of the panels are here.

The relationship between medicine and capital punishment has been a persistent 
feature of this past year in health law, both at the level of medical ethics 
and Supreme Court review.

Our story starts in Oklahoma, where the execution of Clayton Lockett was 
botched on April 28, 2014. National Institutes of Health (NIH) bioethicist 
Seema Shah described the events in question:

Oklahoma was administering a new execution protocol that used the drug 
midazolam, a sedative that is often used in combination with other anesthetic 
agents. Oklahoma had never used this drug in executions before; in fact, only a 
few states had experience with using the drug in lethal injection. Florida had 
previously used this drug in lethal injections, but with a dose five times 
higher than what was indicated in Oklahoma's protocol.

If the execution had gone as planned, Clayton Lockett would have first received 
midazolam; been declared unconscious, then received vecuronium bromide (a 
paralytic/neuromuscular blocking agent that would restrict his movements), and 
finally received potassium chloride (the drug likely to end his life). A few 
minutes after officially being declared unconscious, Lockett mumbled statements 
including the word, Man. He began breathing heavily, writhing, clenching his 
teeth and straining to lift his head off the pillow. Prison officials 
prevented the witnesses from seeing the rest of the proceedings by closing the 

The Department of Corrections then called off the execution and unsuccessfully 
tried to resuscitate Lockett, and Lockett eventually died of a heart attack 
more than 45 minutes after the execution began. Although a Department of 
Corrections official stated that Lockett's veins exploded, an autopsy 
examination performed by a forensic pathologist hired by death row inmates 
appears to contradict official reports. This report concluded that even though 
prison officials decided to inject the drugs into Lockett's femoral vein (which 
is a more difficult and risky procedure), Lockett's surface and deep veins had 
excellent integrity. Another execution that was scheduled to occur that same 
night has now been stayed for 6 months, pending an investigation into Mr. 
Lockett's execution.

On July 23, 2014, Arizona encountered a problem with the same drug in the 
execution of Joseph Wood, wherein the condemned inmate allegedly gasped for 
almost 2 hours before dying.

The executions have prompted 2 important but different kinds of responses. In 
this post I write about the role of medical ethics and the U.S. Supreme Court's 

Medical Ethics

In an opinion from 1994, dissenting from the denial of certiorari in the death 
penalty case of Callins v. Collins, Justice Harry Blackmun famously wrote, 
From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death, 
and concluded that he was instead obligated simply to concede that the death 
penalty experiment has failed.

2 decades later, in May 2014, shortly after the botched Oklahoma execution, Bob 
Truog, Mark Rockoff, and I argued in The Journal of the American Medical 
Association (JAMA) that physicians should take a similar position: that they 
should no longer tinker with the machinery of death and avoid participation in 
executions altogether. Our argument received significant discussion in the 
media, on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC show, and elsewhere. We hope it will prompt 
further changes.

In our article, we advance several reasons why physician involvement in 
execution is problematic. This involvement co-opts the medical profession in a 
problematic way: History is replete with examples of efforts by governments to 
co-opt the power and status of the medical profession for state purposes that 
are not aligned with the goals of medicine. For example, physicians have 
engaged in interrogations involving torture, at least in part because the 
skills and knowledge of these professionals enables them to maximize the 
prisoner's temporary pain and suffering while minimizing the risk of permanent 
disability or death.

It also medicalizes retribution. That is, [e]xecution is, intrinsically, the 
involuntary taking of the life of another human being, an act that can never be 
aligned with the goals of medicine. Regardless of whether execution is 
justified - and there are those who contend that in some circumstances capital 
punishment may be - it must never be perceived as a medical procedure. By 
playing on the imagery of a scene 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2015-03-24 Thread Rick Halperin

March 24


How Drug Manufacturers Are Impacting The Death Penalty Debate

Polls generally show that the majority of Americans are on board with the death 
penalty. In October 2014, Gallup reported that 63 % of Americans were in favor 
of capital punishment while 33 % were opposed.

But when it comes to carrying out executions in recent years, the vote of 1 
group of individuals - drug manufacturers - has begun to hold more sway.

Public pressure on drug manufacturers to stop selling the chemicals coupled 
with some companies' opposition to the practice has cut off supplies, leading 
to shortages of the drugs used in lethal injections. Now, several states 
scrambling to figure out if and how they'll be able to be able to go ahead with 
scheduled executions.

Why Manufacturers Matter

Lethal injection became the standard of executions about 33 years ago, after it 
was widely accepted as more humane than firing squad, the electric chair or 

Most states use a deadly combo of 3 drugs - 1 sedative, 1 muscle relaxer and 1 
heart-stopping drug. But other states have used a 1-drug method of a 
barbiturate that's administered as an overdose.

But scrutiny of lethal injections started gaining steam in 2005, when a study 
reported that it was possible inmates were experiencing extreme pain during 
executions. Then in 2006, 1 inmate in Florida took 35 minutes to die after 
being given his lethal dose, raising new questions about the cruelty of the 
practice. Since then, several other botched executions have dispelled the idea 
that injections were full-proof and peaceful.

Then in about 2011, the bans started. First the EU clamped down on exports of 
drugs used for capital punishment. The same year, Hospira, the only U.S. 
company that sold a sedative used in lethal injections, sodium thiopental, 
announced it would stop selling the drug after its Italian plant refused to 
manufacture it.

Afterwards, states began switching to another sedative - pentobarbital. But 
then its Danish manufacturer, Lundbeck, discovered it was being used in lethal 
injections and banned its sale to U.S. correctional facilities. States then 
turned to a different sedative - midazolam - and again, its manufacturer in 
Illinois, Akorn, announced a few weeks ago it would stop selling the drug to 
correctional facilities.

With big pharma putting the squeeze on states to reconsider their options, many 
have turned to smaller drug compounding companies - but now in some cases, 
they're becoming an unreliable source. Pentobarbital is the key drug Texas has 
run out of, either because compounding pharmacies won't sell it or because 
they're struggling to get the raw ingredients needed.

The smaller compounding pharmacies are also operating with the threat of being 
outed as a lethal drug injection maker could expose them to public condemnation 
- making one wonder how much longer they'll choose to stay in the market.

So, now what?

Will The Future Lead to The Past?

In a twist that has got to have abolitionists wincing, instead of states 
choosing to consider ending executions in light of drug shortages, many might 
revert to old methods.

A few weeks ago, Alabama's House of Representatives voted to use the electric 
chair if they can't secure a supply of new drugs. Virginia and Tennessee are 
also considering electrocution, while Oklahoma is discussing the gas chamber.

Texas was recently down to its last dose of the lethal cocktail, leaving 
hundreds of death-row inmates waiting to find out what the future holds.

Meanwhile, a lack of drugs in Utah has prompted legislators to approve bringing 
back execution by firing squad.

It's likely an unintended consequence of cutting off the drug supply - but the 
situation has set off a fresh wave of debates that's likely to force many 
Americans to once again assess their comfort level with the sometimes gruesome 
realities of executions.

A firing squad chamber.

After the fire squad bill was introduced in Utah a few weeks ago, Gov. Gary 
Herbert, a Republican, received hundreds of messages urging him to veto it. 
(Today he announced that he'd sign the bill into law anyway.)

The move shows that for now, when it comes to executions, many states may just 
change course, rather than abandon it. But with more than 3,000 prisoners on 
death row, how long will Americans be able to stomach hearing about inmates 
dying from firing squads and electric chairs?

And even though the death penalty isn't going anywhere yet, many believe that 
being cut off by drug manufacturers has contributed to a slowdown in executions 

In almost every year since 2009 - which is about when drug shortages started to 
become a problem in many states - the number of executions in the U.S. has 
dropped. In 2009, America executed 52 prisoners, and by 2014, the number was 
down to 35. Which begs the questions: Will the pressure from manufacturers 
spawn a new moment of reckoning 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2015-01-24 Thread Rick Halperin

Jan. 24


Midazolam and the Supreme CourtOnly 1 week after refusing to stay Charles 
Warner's execution, the justices will now hear his fellow inmates' appeal on a 
questionable lethal-injection drug.

What changed?

Last week, the state of Oklahoma executed Charles Warner after the Supreme 
Court refused to halt his execution while he appealed the constitutionality of 
the drugs used to kill him. Warner and 3 other death-row inmates argued that 
midazolam, a sedative used by Oklahoma and 3 other states in lethal injections, 
did not properly induce unconsciousness and would therefore lead to a 
horrifyingly painful death.

A 5-justice majority, however, denied Warner's request for a stay without 
comment, and the state of Oklahoma executed Warner shortly thereafter. Justice 
Sonia Sotomayor and three other justices dissented, arguing that Warner and the 
other inmates had raised serious questions about Oklahoma's lethal-injection 
procedures. I hope that our failure to act today does not portend our 
unwillingness to consider these questions, Sotomayor wrote.

Those hopes were not in vain. On Friday, the Supreme Court granted the three 
remaining plaintiffs' petition to hear their case, titled Glossip v. Gross, 
after it was relisted for further consideration. The justices gave no 
indication why they would refuse to stay Warner's execution, then agree to hear 
his case 7 days later. Requests for the Court to stay the other three inmates' 
executions are forthcoming, said Dale Baich, one of their attorneys.

The Supreme Court has not addressed a lethal injection protocol's 
constitutionality since Baze v. Rees in 2008. A 6-justice majority ruled then 
that a 3-drug cocktail - the sedative sodium thiopental, the paralytic 
pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride - did not violate the Eighth 
Amendment. But without sodium thiopental to anesthetize a condemned inmate, the 
court wrote, there would be a substantial, constitutionally unacceptable risk 
of suffocation from the administration of pancuronium bromide and of pain from 
potassium chloride. In other words, the inmate would die in agony as he or she 
suffocated to death.

Amid intense pressure by anti-death-penalty activists, the last American drug 
maker to produce sodium thiopental withdrew from the market in 2011. State 
officials scrambled to find alternative sources in overseas markets, leading to 
a European Union embargo of lethal-injection drugs and raids by the U.S. Drug 
Enforcement Agency to seize stockpiles of sodium thiopental that had been 
imported without a license.

Without sodium thiopental, states then experimented with alternative cocktails. 
Midazolam, a sedative from the benzodiazepine family, was first used for 
executions in Florida as part of a 3-drug cocktail without apparent 
complication. Outside of the Sunshine State, however, it has led to at least 3 
botched executions. Last January, Dennis McGuire told observers during his 
execution with midazolam and hydromorphone in Ohio that he could feel his 
whole body burning as he died. In July, Joseph Wood gasped for air for 1 hour 
and 57 minutes in Arizona during his executions with the same 2-drug cocktail.

Oklahoma first used a 3-drug midazolam cocktail identical to Florida's to 
execute Clayton Lockett last April. During his execution, an improper IV 
placement failed to deliver enough of the paralytic drug into his bloodstream, 
and he died of a massive heart attack while writhing in pain. In the aftermath, 
the other 4 Oklahoma death-row inmates appealed for a stay of their executions, 
arguing that midazolam did not produce a deep, comalike unconsciousness and 
was therefore an unacceptable substitute for sodium thiopental. As Justice 
Sotomayor observed last week, this paralytic's absence may have revealed pain 
and suffering that would otherwise be unobservable. This possibility raises 
serious questions about all executions performed with midazolam, including 
those carried out without incident in Florida.

The Supreme Court has never struck down an existing method of execution as 
unconstitutional. A ruling that forbids midazolam would reverberate even 
throughout states that do not use the sedative. No execution chamber in the 
U.S. currently uses the Baze cocktail, and no pharmaceutical company currently 
provides its key ingredient to American death rows. Even states like Texas, 
which uses a single-drug protocol with pentobarbital in its lethal injections, 
could find themselves on unsure constitutional footing.

(source: The Atlantic)

US death penalty: Supreme Court to decide lethal injection case  US high 
court last week allowed Oklahoma execution to go on, despite questions over 
drugs used

The US Supreme Court revealed on Friday that it would look into lethal 
injections in Oklahoma, just a week after it allowed the execution of a man in 
that state, despite questions about the deadly drugs 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2015-01-16 Thread Rick Halperin



Roche Statement

Statement on use of midazolam for death penalty

January 16, 2015

Roche is aware of the use of the benzodiazepine midazolam as part of a drug
combination for executions under the death penalty in the U.S.
Roche did not supply midazolam for death penalty use and would not knowingly
provide any of our medicines for this purpose. We support a worldwide ban on
the death penalty.

Roche discovered midazolam in the 1970s as a treatment for acute seizures,
moderate to severe insomnia, and for inducing sedation and amnesia before
medical procedures. In 2004, Roche discontinued the manufacture and
distribution of midazolam in the U.S. for business reasons during a
re-evaluation of our product portfolio of medicines that are now available
from generic manufacturers.

(source: roche.com)
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2014-11-21 Thread Rick Halperin

Nov. 21


Bryan Stevenson on Executions and Civil Rights: Lynching Stopped But the 
Mindset Didn't

Watch our extended interview with Bryan Stevenson, founder and director of the 
Equal Justice Initiative. He discusses pending executions, the history of 
lynching, and how Rosa Parks and others inspired him to stand with the 
condemned and incarcerated. His new book is Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and 

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace 
Report. I'm Amy Goodman. We continue with our guest, Bryan Stevenson, founder 
and director of the Equal Justice initiative. His new book is Just Mercy: A 
Story of Justice and Redemption.

I want to turn to a case right now. A Texas judge on Wednesday refused to 
postpone the scheduled execution of a convicted killer who suffers from mental 
illness and is set to face lethal injection December 3rd. Scott Panetti has had 
schizophrenia for decades. He won support for his case from groups like Mental 
Health America, psychiatrists, former judges, prosecutors and evangelical 
Christians. At the trial, Panetti acted as his own attorney. He wore a cowboy 
outfit and tried to call his witnesses, the pope, John F. Kennedy and Jesus.

Well, you write about many cases. Talk about what this case represents.

BRYAN STEVENSON: We have in our prisons about 2.3 million people, 1/2 of whom 
are believed to have mental illness. About 20 % have severe mental illness. The 
criminal justice system, the prisons have become the repository for people with 
disability that have no place else to go. And that is part of the story behind 
this case.

The other part of the story is that we've created a system that is much more 
concerned about finality than fairness. The reason why no one's prepared to 
look carefully at the clear evidence of mental illness that should block the 
state from carrying out this execution is that we seem like we're in this rush, 
that if we don't execute people fast, it's almost as if it loses its potency, 
its value, its virtue. But my view is that if we execute people unfairly or 
wrongly, then we do a great deal of injustice to our whole system. And so, I 
think it's tragic that we get caught up in this finality kind of focus. And you 
see that playing out in this case.

The Supreme Court has banned the execution of people with intellectual 
disability, people with mental retardation. And obviously, if you recognize 
that there are disabilities that can make you someone who should not be 
executed, you have to look more carefully at a case like this. And I think 
there are actually hundreds of people who have been sentenced to death when 
they are clearly very severely mentally ill. And a just society wouldn't want 
to execute people for their disability, because that's cruel. That's not a 
decent thing to do. It's not what a just community should do. But we're going 
to do that in Texas, if we don't take the time to think more carefully about 
what that case represents.

And too often, unfortunately, we don't learn the details of these tragedies 
until very close to the execution time, because it's very hard to get anyone's 
attention in the death penalty space until there's a crisis, until there's an 
execution date. And that undermines the fair consideration that we often need 
in these cases. And sadly, it doesn't happen at trial, because we have a 
criminal justice system that treats you better if you're rich and guilty than 
if you're poor and innocent. Wealth prevents many poor people and disabled 
people from getting their story presented in a way that might allow us to get 
to a just outcome. And so then we have years of appeals and litigation where 
maybe that story might unfold, and that's what you're seeing in Texas today.

AMY GOODMAN: Bryan Stevenson, have you ever tried a case in Missouri?

BRYAN STEVENSON: Yes, I represent people there, several young clients. We did a 
case, actually, in St. Louis of a 14-year-old kid who was accused of a murder 
that he didn't commit, was sentenced to life without parole. He was tried by an 
all-white jury after the prosecutor excluded African Americans from serving on 
the jury. And we ultimately got him released after proving illegal racial 
discrimination in jury service.

And that's the other backdrop. If there is no indictment in the Ferguson case, 
if there is no conviction, it will reveal and reflect on the way in which we 
select juries in this case - in this country, including in Missouri, where 
there's often a great deal of exclusion of people of color, which feeds that 
distrust of the system. But I've seen that up close and personal in cases that 
I've worked on in Missouri.

AMY GOODMAN: In part one, we talked about where you grew up, but just if you 
could tell us again your own personal life story?

BRYAN STEVENSON: Sure, sure. Yeah, so, I grew up in a poor, rural community on 
the Eastern Shore in southern Delaware, that's 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2014-10-01 Thread Rick Halperin

Oct. 1


Mental Illness and the Death Penalty

Today, at 6pm, the State of Florida is scheduled to kill my brother, Thomas 
Provenzano, despite clear evidence that he is mentally ill By no means do I 
suggest my brother go free. By all means justice should be done. But I have to 
wonder: Where is the justice in killing a sick human being? -- Sister of death 
row inmate, June 2000

Thomas Provenzano was executed by lethal injection by the state of Florida on 
June 21, 2000. He had a history of mental illness and paranoid schizophrenia 
predating his crime, yet his family could not afford hospitalization for his 
illness. Moreover, he believed he was Jesus Christ, and believed he was being 
killed because he was Jesus Christ. Provenzano's sister wrote a letter to 
then-Governor Jeb Bush saying as you know, Thomas is severely mentally ill. He 
believes he is Jesus Christ and that he is going to be executed because people 
hate Jesus. Similarly, Provenzano's lawyers requested additional time before 
his execution date so he could be examined by psychiatrists. A trial judge even 
came to the conclusion that Provenzano believed he faced execution because he 
was Jesus. Despite the evidence that Provenzano was mentally ill, he was 
executed by the State of Florida and with the approval of Governor Jeb Bush.

Cases such as Provenzano's are all too common: Mental Health America (MHA) 
estimates that 5-10% of all death row inmates suffer from a severe mental 
illness. MHA has taken a policy stance against the death penalty, explaining 
that mental health conditions can influence an individual's mental state at 
the time he or she commits a crime, can affect how voluntary and reliable an 
individual's statements might be, can compromise a person's competence to stand 
trial and to waive his or her rights, and may have an effect upon a person's 
knowledge of the criminal justice system. The National Alliance on Mental 
Illness (NAMI) also has stood against capital punishment. NAMI calls the death 
penalty inappropriate and unwarranted for those with severe mental disorders 
and a distraction from the problems within the mental health system that 
contributed or even directly lead to tragic violence. For these reasons, MHA 
has called upon states to suspend using the death penalty, and NAMI has called 
for a ban on the death penalty for those with severe mental illnesses.

How Mental Illness Affects Capital Punishment

1.Police Interrogation: Mentally ill defendants are more likely to give false 
confessions and are more vulnerable to police pressure. Mentally ill defendants 
are also likely to have difficulty understanding their Miranda rights, often 
waiving their right to an attorney.

2.Competency to Stand Trial: The US Constitution states that a defendant must 
be competent to stand trial, meaning the defendant must have a rational as 
well as factual understanding of the proceedings (ACLU). However, defendants 
with schizophrenia and / or severe delusions generally do not understand the 
proceedings, and should therefore not be declared competent enough to stand 
trial. Still, many schizophrenic defendants, like Thomas Provenzano, go to 
trial, rather than a state mental hospital to improve the defendant's mental 
state. Similarly, mentally ill defendants often fire their lawyers or choose to 
represent themselves because they (wrongfully) believe they are capable to 
defend themselves. For example, Pernell Ford, who was executed in Alabama in 
2000, represented himself at trial. Ford spent much of his childhood in mental 
health institutions, attempted suicide several times, and had little formal 
education. He fired his lawyers, dropped his appeals, and wore a bedsheet to 
the penalty phase of his execution, saying he wanted the victims' bodies 
brought to court so God could resurrect him. Previously, Ford's lawyer had won 
him a stay of execution by questioning Ford's sanity, yet a federal appeals 
court ruled that Ford was competent enough to fire his attorney and drop the 

3.Insanity: The ACLU reports that juries frequently reject insanity defenses 
in capital cases despite strong evidence that the defendants are suffering from 
serious mental illnesses at the time of the crime. This results in guilty 
verdicts, which later turn into death penalty sentences.

4.Ability to form a criminal intent: States must prove that defendants 
specifically intended to kill the victim in most capital murder cases. Yet 
mentally ill individuals usually lack the ability to form the specific intent 
to kill, but are still found guilty in criminal cases.

The Legality of Mental Illness and the Death Penalty

The legality of executing a mentally ill person should be clear. In 1986, in 
Ford v. Wainright, the United States Supreme Court upheld that insane 
individuals cannot be executed. Justice Marshall's opinion discussed the 
evolving standards of the Eighth Amendment to prohibit states 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2014-07-24 Thread Rick Halperin

July 24


Judge orders new trial in Fell case

Citing egregious juror misconduct, a federal judge Thursday ordered a new trial 
in the case of Donald Fell, the man sentenced to death in 2005 for kidnapping 
and killing a North Clarendon grandmother.

The court finds that Fell has shown juror misconduct and that this misconduct 
violated his constitutional right to an impartial jury, U.S. District Court 
Judge William K. Sessions wrote in a 93-page decision released Thursday 
afternoon. Fell is therefore entitled to a new trial.

Fell has been on death row at a federal penitentiary in Indiana since shortly 
after a jury found him guilty of kidnapping Terri King as she was arriving for 
work at a Rutland supermarket on Nov. 27, 2000 and then beating her to death in 
New York as she prayed for her life.

Fell sidekick Robert Lee was also charged in the case, but committed suicide in 
jail before his case was tried.

Sessions based the decision to order a new trial on evidence unearthed by 
Fell's lawyers regarding the behavior of a single juror, identified as Juror 
143 in court papers, during the trial and later, when questioned about his 

Sessions wrote that the actions of 2 other jurors targeted by Fell's lawyers 
did not taint their role in the case.

According to court documents filed by Fell's lawyers over the last two years, 
Juror 143 secretly traveled to Rutland during the trial to look at the crime 
scenes, told a 3rd party about what he saw and shared his observations with the 
jury panel. He also failed to tell the court about what he had done.

Juror 143's brazen disobedience, dishonesty, and unwillingness to decide the 
case based upon the evidence presented at trial demonstrate a partiality that 
would have resulted in his eviction from the panel during trial, and now 
invalidates Fell's conviction, Sessions wrote.

The decision caught both prosecutors and Fell's defense team by surprise.

Lewis Liman, the lawyer who masterminded the effort to win a new trial for Fell 
by raising jury misconduct claims, said late Thursday afternoon he was pleased 
with the ruling but had not yet studied it in full.

We are extremely gratified by the Court's decision to grant Mr. Fell a new 
trial, Liman said in a statement provided the Burlington Free Press. He 
declined further comment.

Vermont U.S. Attorney Tristram Coffin also was clipped in his comments.

We are studying the ruling by Judge Sessions and are assessing our options at 
this time, Coffin said.

(source: Burlington Free Press)

Let's debate the death penalty, not the drugs

The execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood has once again ignited the debate over 
lethal injection.

Wood was administered the cocktail of lethal of drugs Wednesday just before 2 
p.m., but wasn't pronounced dead until nearly 4 p.m. The whole thing lasted 
nearly two hours, and the manner in which Wood died was denounced by many in 
the media who were watching as cruel and inhumane. Many said that Wood seemed 
to gasp for air hundreds of times and thus deduced that he was suffering.

These reporters are not doctors, nor do they have any formal training in the 
ways that humans experience death. Ever seen someone die of natural causes? 
What did that look like?

Wood's attorneys had argued in the weeks leading up to the execution that 
because Arizona doesn't officially say what drugs it uses to kill the 
condemned, nor admit to the source or manufacturer of them, that they shouldn't 
be used. Keep in mind, they didn't push for a more humane method that SHOULD be 
used, so their real endgame was simply staying the execution for THEIR client.

The victim's family, not surprisingly, said they didn't think Wood suffered. 
Jeannie Brown, daughter of one of Wood's murder victims, said he appeared to be 
snoring and that he deserved what he had coming. I'll leave it to you to decide 
if she really means she thinks it was painless, or she hopes it was painful 
because Wood shot her father and sister as they pled for their lives in 1989 in 

Now the state will have to investigate the medical nature of Wood's death and 
issue a report about whether or not he suffered.

Most death penalty supporters likely don't care if the condemned suffers a bit, 
considering his crime. Most opponents don't think the death penalty should be 
used under ANY circumstances, so the supposed debate about the cruelty of 
various methods is just a ruse.

Bottom line, you either think the state should be in the business of executing 
people or you don't. Let's debate that, instead of the drugs the state uses to 
do it.

(source: Karie Dozier, KTAR news)

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[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2014-06-21 Thread Rick Halperin

June 21


Drug Challenges Are Failing to Halt ExecutionsCourts remain skeptical of 
legal arguments challenging the constitutionality of lethal injection drugs and 
their origins

The execution of 2 inmates late Tuesday night after multiple attempts to halt 
their lethal injections reveals at least 1 thing: challenging the 
constitutionality of executions on the grounds that the origin of the drugs is 
unknown is failing to gain traction.

Georgia executed Marcus Wellons, convicted of the 1989 rape and murder of a 
15-year-old girl, on Tuesday using the sedative pentobarbital. About an hour 
later, Missouri used the same drug to execute John Winfield, convicted in the 
1996 murder of 2 women. Both states have refused to reveal where they obtained 
the drug, but it's likely they received it from compounding pharmacies, which 
are not subject to the same regulations as drug manufacturers. The executions, 
which appeared to go as planned, were the 1st following the botched lethal 
injection of Clayton Lockett in Ohio in April Since then, nine executions have 
been stayed or postponed.

In the last few weeks, lawyers for Wellons and Winfield have tried to stop 
their lethal injections in part by arguing that the secret origins of the drugs 
being used risked violating the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual 
punishment. Lawyers argue that drugs manufactured by compounding pharmacies 
behind closed doors and with little oversight risk contamination, which could 
lead to a prolonged or painful death. Inmates around the country are 
challenging their pending executions based largely on the drugs' hidden origins 
and are more often than not running into courts that are unreceptive.

Southern Methodist University law professor Meghan Ryan says many courts are 
generally skeptical of attempts to halt executions and hesitant to rule on an 
issue where there's little precedent from the Supreme Court.

The arguments being made don't really track with Supreme Court precedent very 
well, and a lot of courts are unwilling to make that jump, Ryan says. It's 
forging into a new area.

The Supreme Court ruled lethal injection constitutional in 2008, but drug 
protocols have changed in most states since then. Many pharmaceutical companies 
have banned sales of drugs to states for executions, forcing prisons to look 

Still, Ryan adds that death row inmates have nothing to lose by challenging 
their executions.

Maybe they have very good arguments, but courts often view them skeptically 
because they're often considered last-ditch efforts, she says.

(source: TIME magazine)

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[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2014-05-13 Thread Rick Halperin

May 13


Death row inmates appeal after botched execution

3 US death row inmates have filed new appeals seeking to stop their executions 
citing apparent suffering by a prisoner put to death in a botched procedure in 
Oklahoma last month.

Robert James Campbell, who is due to die in Texas on Tuesday, sought a stay on 
the grounds that he may be subjected to an execution as painful as the one 
suffered by Clayton Lockett on April 29.

Convicted killer and rapist Lockett died 43 minutes after the start of the 
lethal injection and appeared to be in significant pain. Lethal injections 
normally take around 12 minutes.

US states using the death penalty face critical shortages of lethal injection 
drugs after European firms stopped supplying pentobarbital.

The shortage has prompted many US states to turn to compounding pharmacies to 
supply untested execution cocktails instead.

Campbell on Monday requested a New Orleans' court's reversal of a denial of the 
execution stay he has sought.

Mr. Campbell's 8th Amendment rights can only be protected if he is provided 
the information required to ensure a humane, non-torturous execution, his 
attorney Maurie Levin wrote. The eighth amendment bars cruel and unusual 

Russell Bucklew, who is due to receive a lethal injection next week in 
Missouri, has argued that a vascular tumour and circulatory problems could put 
him at risk for the kind of suffering witnessed in Oklahoma.

There is also a grave risk that, because of Mr. Bucklew's severe vascular 
malformations, the lethal drug will not circulate as intended, delaying the 
suppression of the central nervous system and prolonging the execution - which 
will likely cause excruciating pain to Mr. Bucklew, said his attorney Cheryl 

These risks are heightened by the use of a compounded drug, pentobarbital, in 
the absence of any disclosure about the drug's safety, purity and potency. In 
fact, the Department of Corrections will not even confirm whether the drug is 
subject to any laboratory testing whatsoever, she said.

And Richard Poplawski, sentenced to be executed in Pennsylvania but with no 
date set, is appealing in a bid to get the facts on what drug(s) the state will 
use and from where. Pennsylvania has not executed an inmate since 1999.

(source: AsiaOne)


The death penalty system is brokenThe U.S. death penalty system is broken. 
A new report outlines numerous problems and needed reforms.

Oftentimes Christians deal with contemporary moral issues in the abstract. They 
are against abortion or :for peace or against divorce in the abstract. 
They attempt to reason directly from what they understand to be biblical rules 
or principles to offer blanket judgments on contemporary moral problems. This 
often leaves their judgments hopelessly out of touch with what is really going 
on in relation to the issue at hand.

Some Christians are for the death penalty in the abstract, while others are 
against the death penalty, equally in the abstract. I have long thought these 
abstract positions were inadequate.

My convictions about this were reinforced over the last couple of years as I 
have had the privilege of serving in a small role on a committee led by genuine 
policy experts on the actual practice of the death penalty in America. Under 
the aegis of the Constitution Project in Washington, last week leaders of this 
bipartisan panel - some of whom favor the death penalty in principle, others of 
whom oppose it in principle - released a lengthy, detailed report called 
Irreversible Error: Recommended Reforms for Preventing and Correcting Errors in 
the Administration of Capital Punishment. I believe it is required reading of 
anyone who might like to weigh in on the death penalty.

Here are some of the key findings of the panel. I will simply quote them:

The administration of capital punishment [in the U.S.] is deeply flawed 
and???years of mounting evidence demonstrate a continuing and alarming lack of 
accuracy and fairness (p. xv).

Several jurisdictions have continued to maintain or have adopted outdated 
policies that do not reflect current best practices and that increase the risk 
of wrongful convictions and executions (p. xvi).

Serious concerns about the safety and efficacy of lethal injection as a method 
of execution have resulted in litigation and suspensions of executions in some 
jurisdictions. Due to ... drug manufacturers refusing to provide drugs if they 
are to be used for executions, prisons have also encountered difficulty in 
obtaining some drugs previously relied on for this purpose, thus creating acute 
shortages. In light of these shortages, some states have proceeded with 
executions using drugs never before used to execute humans. They have also used 
drugs whose safety and effectiveness cannot be assured ... [and] have 
intensified their efforts to obscure information regarding 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2014-05-08 Thread Rick Halperin

May 8


The Executioner's Lament

In 1977, death row inmate Gary Mark Gilmore chose to be executed by a firing 
squad. Gilmore was strapped to a chair at the Utah State Prison, and 5 officers 
shot him.

The media circus that ensued prompted a group of lawmakers in nearby Oklahoma 
to wonder if there might be a better way to handle executions. They approached 
Dr. Jay Chapman, the state medical examiner at the time, who proposed using 3 
drugs, based loosely on anesthesia procedures at the time: 1 drug to knock out 
the inmates, 1 to relax or paralyze them, and a final drug that would stop 
their hearts.

The 3-drug execution cocktail, which later became known as Chapman's Protocol, 
has been the preferred method across the U.S. ever since.

But last week's botched execution - in the same state where the technique was 
developed - has raised questions about execution norms. Although the drugs and 
the question of whether they work are at the center of the debate, the reality 
is executions are carried out by people, and people sometimes make mistakes.

Many also struggle with their involvement for years afterward.

Chapman's protocol depends on a number of things that he never foresaw: that in 
the years to come, doctors and nurses skilled in the art of finding veins would 
no longer agree to participate; that drug makers in Europe would refuse to 
allow their drugs to be used; that unregulated pharmacies would have to 
replicate the drugs, or that prison staff would be responsible for the dosage 
and the administration.

Chapman supports the death penalty. But he shakes his head at some of the 

In one situation I was made aware of, the needle was inserted into the vein 
pointing away from the body, he says. And I have never even known anybody 
that would imagine doing that sort of thing.

There have been all manner of problems: inmates who wake up midway through - or 
who cry out in pain.

Former prison officers say putting a dog to sleep is one thing; killing a 
person is something else entirely.

This is not normal behavior for right-minded humans to engage in, says Steve 
Martin, who participated in several executions in Texas in the 1980s. His job 
was to man the phones in case of a reprieve. He says the whole process is 
emotionally crippling.

He remembers a couple of times when the execution team couldn't get the needles 
inserted properly.

Boy, it just ratcheted up everything, he says.

People don't realize, he says, you just killed somebody, and you've been a 
part of it, and it affects all of us.

Carroll Pickett was the chaplain at 95 executions in Texas through the 
mid-1990s. He remembers one time when prison staff spent 40 minutes trying to 
find a vein until the inmate sat up and helped them. Some of them would go 
outside and throw up, he says.

Over time, Pickett says, the staff unraveled. And these were some good, good 
men. Basically, they all left. Every one of them, he says.

Pickett and Steve Martin both say the memories of every execution haunt them. 
Martin says he often thinks of one inmate in particular, who worked on an 
inmate program with the prison director.

The last words he ever uttered on this earth were thanking the director, he 
says, crying. It just struck me that this guy's fall partner was not even 
given the death sentence, and here we have this person we're executing whose 
last - at least articulated - thought was to give thanks to the person who was 
going to execute him.

Corrections officials in Oklahoma say that, at the moment, they anticipate that 
the courts will postpone an execution set for next week - at least until 
they're certain what went wrong last week.

(source: NPR)


The Constitutionality of the Death Penalty After Botched Executions; The 
botched executions that occurred in Ohio and Oklahoma have many people 
questioning the legality of the death penalty

The botched executions that occurred in Ohio and Oklahoma have many people 
questioning the legality of the death penalty. In this article, I hope to 
explain why the death penalty is constitutional in the United States and 
exactly how it is controlled.

Overview of Amendments Relevant to the Death Penalty

The death penalty in the United States has three basic controls: the Fifth 
Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Eighth Amendment. To make it 
simple, the Fifth and the Fourteenth determine the legality and the 
constitutionality of the death penalty in the United States. The Eighth 
Amendment controls the manner in which the death penalty can be executed in the 
United States. The Fifth Amendment states in part: ...nor be deprived of life, 
liberty, or property, without due process of law (U.S. Const. amend. V). These 
three parts each have a meaning at law.

Life: the death penalty

Liberty: prison or jail

Property: RICO, eminent domain

So long as due process of law is granted, the Constitution allows the state to 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2014-05-08 Thread Rick Halperin

May 8


Several states are in a kind of death penalty limbo

Oklahoma officially put death penalty executions on hold Thursday for 6 months 
following last week's bungled execution.

The decision adds it to a growing list of states in a kind of death penalty 
limbo. 18 states have abolished the punishment altogether, according to the 
Death Penalty Information Center, but it's been put on hold - for now, at least 
- in at least 9 more.

Court rulings that the use of lethal injection procedures need to be changed or 
reviewed have created de facto moratoriums on the death penalty in California, 
North Carolina, Arkansas and Kentucky. As in Oklahoma, the state of Louisiana 
stayed an execution to buy time to review the intended lethal drug. And 
governors in 3 more states - Colorado, Oregon and Washington - have instituted 
formal moratoriums citing an imperfect system.

In issuing those moratoriums, each governor went to great lengths to explain 
their thinking, citing flawed procedures and unequal application of the law. 
Those statements reflect the reasoning and facts behind many of the holds. 
Here's what they had to say:


On Feb. 11, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced that he was suspending the death 
penalty as long as he's in office

Equal justice under the law is the state's primary responsibility. And in death 
penalty cases, I'm not convinced equal justice is being served.

The use of the death penalty in this state is unequally applied, sometimes 
dependent on the budget of the county where the crime occurred.


Let me say clearly that this policy decision is not about the 9 men currently 
on death row in Walla Walla.

I don't question their guilt or the gravity of their crimes. They get no mercy 
from me.

This action today does not commute their sentences or issue any pardons to any 

But I do not believe their horrific offenses override the problems that exist 
in our capital punishment system.


On May 22, 2013, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) issued a temporary 
reprieve for Nathan J. Dunlap. [T]he question is about the use of the death 
penalty itself, and not about [Dunlap], he said in his executive order.

If the State of Colorado is going to undertake the responsibility of executing 
a human being, the system must operate flawlessly. Colorado's system for 
capital punishment is not flawless. A recent study co-authored by several law 
professors showed that under Colorado???s capital sentencing system, death is 
not handed down fairly. Many defendants are eligible for capital punishment but 
almost none are actually sentenced to death. The inmates currently on death row 
have committed heinous crimes, but so have many others who are serving 
mandatory life sentences.


The fact that those defendants were sentenced to life in prison instead of 
death underscores the arbitrary nature of the death penalty in this State, and 
demonstrates that it has not been fairly or equitably imposed.


My decision to grant a reprieve to Offender No. 89148 is not out of compassion 
or sympathy for him or any other inmate sentenced to death. The crimes are 
horrendous and the pain and suffering inflicted are indescribable.


On Nov. 22, 2011, Gov. John Kitzhaber, a former emergency room doctor, 
announced that he would no longer allow the death penalty on his watch.

Oregonians have a fundamental belief in fairness and justice ??? in swift and 
certain justice. The death penalty as practiced in Oregon is neither fair nor 
just; and it is not swift or certain. It is not applied equally to all. It is a 
perversion of justice that the single best indicator of who will and will not 
be executed has nothing to do with the circumstances of a crime or the findings 
of a jury. The only factor that determines whether someone sentenced to death 
in Oregon is actually executed is that they volunteer. The hard truth is that 
in the 27 years since Oregonians reinstated the death penalty, it has only been 
carried out on two volunteers who waived their rights to appeal.


It is time for Oregon to consider a different approach. I refuse to be a part 
of this compromised and inequitable system any longer; and I will not allow 
further executions while I am Governor.

(source: Washington Post)

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[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2014-05-05 Thread Rick Halperin

May 5


After Oklahoma screwup, U.S. should end cruel death penalty: Editorial

Oklahoma's botched execution - in which a murderer writhed for close to an hour 
before dying - underscored America's brutal reputation on the world stage. 
Among western democracies, only the United States still puts convicted 
criminals to death.

The shortage of lethal-injection drugs that led to Tuesday's ham-fisted job is 
a direct result of worldwide economic sanctions, targeting what is seen as 
barbaric U.S. policy. Just as we use trade restrictions to punish the likes of 
China, Iran and North Korea for human rights abuses, Europe has blocked our 
purchase of drugs used for capital punishment.

Most civilized nations already believe the death penalty is cruel and unusual. 
Oklahoma's screw-up gave them crystallizing proof.

The mystery is why more Americans don't agree.

Typically, we justify executions as acts of justice, not vengeance.

The killers scheduled for death in Oklahoma last week were candidates for both. 
Clayton Lockett, whose sentence was so painfully carried out, was convicted of 
raping and murdering an 18-year-old woman who stumbled into a kidnapping. 
Charles Warner, whose execution has been delayed, raped and killed his 
girlfriend's infant daughter.

No one would argue Lockett and Warner don't deserve punishment. Even those who 
oppose the death penalty would concede theirs are the kinds of crimes it was 
meant for. But it's cases like these - unimaginably violent killings that 
create a thirst for revenge - that can also sap our capacity for mercy.

The death penalty's failings are many: It hasn't worked as a deterrent, even in 
Oklahoma. The poor and minorities receive death sentences disproportionately. 
By the time New Jersey abolished it in 2007, capital appeals had squandered 
hundreds of millions of public dollars. And while 60 % of Americans still favor 
executions, Gallup found in 2013, that's a 40-year low.

Most disturbing, however, is how often the system fails: DNA has exonerated 144 
condemned prisoners, and a new study estimates that one in 25 inmates on death 
row were wrongly convicted.

In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court declared a moratorium, finding its uneven use 
unconstitutionally cruel and unusual. Today, the imbalance of death sentences - 
by race, class and jurisdiction - remains uneven and unfair. The Oklahoma 
fiasco only reinforces its cruelty.

The alternative - life without parole - is just and severe. Moreover, it allows 
for the possibility to correct a mistake.

It's time for the Supreme Court to step in again - 1st with a nationwide 
moratorium, and ultimately an end to capital punishment as an Eighth Amendment 

This isn't a show of mercy for criminals. Rather, it's a question of our 
national conscience.

When it comes to capital punishment, America must set aside its desire for 
revenge - even when the desire is understandable - and show the world we're 
capable of more civilized fairness, charity and reason.

(source: Editorial, Newark Star-Ledger)

Death Penalty: Justice or Inhumane?

Death penalty controversy is nothing new in the United States. The debate over 
whether or not it is an effective means of justice or an inhumane ending to an 
individual's life continues to rage on from many different aspects. In most 
recent events, President Barack Obama has called for a Justice Department 
inquiry into the application of the death penalty, or capital punishment as it 
is also commonly known, nationwide after the botched execution of an inmate in 
Oklahoma on Tuesday.

The latest botched execution involved Clayton Lockett, who was convicted of 
murder, rape, kidnapping, and burglary in 2000. It took 43 minutes for Lockett 
to die after being given a lethal injection, during which time he was subjected 
to violent convulsions and suffered a massive heart attack leading to his 
death. Lockett was already a 4-time felon when he was convicted of a multitude 
of serious offenses in 2000. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has called for an 
investigation into Lockett's and state-run executions, as well as issued a stay 
on the execution of Charles Warner, who was scheduled to be killed by the same 
drug cocktail that caused Lockett's protracted suffering. In fact, Warner was 
scheduled for execution with the same cocktail later that same night as 
Lockett. The White House implied on Wednesday that Lockett's protracted death 
might have violated the provision against cruel and unusual punishment 
established in the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

While the debate over whether or not the death penalty is an effective means of 
justice or an inhumane ending to an individual's life, proponents on both sides 
of the debate are prepared to state their cases. One proponent of capital 
punishment who will not be silenced is Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian, who is a 
Republican lawmaker who petitioned to have 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2014-02-02 Thread Rick Halperin

Feb. 2


US Executions Getting Worse

This week a 3rd inmate died by lethal injection in Missouri in as many months. 
Herbert Smulls, convicted of a 1991 murder, was executed late Wednesday night, 
after the Supreme Court denied his last-minute appeal. Smulls' attorneys 
challenged Missouri's refusal to disclose the compounding pharmacy where it got 
the lethal injection drug, pentobarbital. Compounding pharmacies are not 
regulated by the federal government, charged the lawyers and the Missouri 
facility was linked to a 2012 meningitis outbreak that killed dozens and 
sickened 700. 2 days before the execution, federal district judge Beth Phillips 
in Kansas City ruled that questions about the drug were not enough to prove 
that it would cause needless suffering.

Earlier in January, the protracted execution of Dennis McGuire at the Southern 
Ohio Correctional Facility outside of Lucasville also raised questions about 
lethal injection and whether it is a more humane way of death after all. Under 
the administration of an untested lethal drug combination, McGuire emitted 
disturbing sounds suggesting a painful, drawn out suffocation.

The number of US executions is declining according to Death Penalty Information 
Center as are the number of states which impose them. But questions about the 
justness of the death penalty are growing as death row inmates continue to be 
found innocent, racial disparities and questions of mental competency continue 
to surface and lethal injection is questioned as a humane death method. It is 
bad enough that the death penalty is barbaric, racist and arbitrary in its 
application, but it is also becoming less transparent as the dwindling number 
of death-penalty states work to hide the means by which they kill people, 
wrote the New York Times in an editorial.

Lethal injection has largely replaced electrocution. Deborah W. Denno, 
Professor of Law at Fordham University School of Law, has been a leading 
opponent of death by electrocution since the 1990s, asserting it violates the 
Eighth Amendment's prohibition again cruel and unusual punishment. There's 
substantial evidence that suggests electrocution results in a high risk of pain 
and prolonged suffering, Denno told the Sun-Sentinel.

Can people say that for an absolute certainty? No. You can't interview a dead 
person. But when the other side comes back and says there's no evidence of 
that, that these people die instantaneously, they're being dishonest.

But increasingly lethal drugs are looking as just cruel as electrocution, Denno 
says, because of grossly inadequate protocols about which drug are 
administered, how, by whom and in what quantities and the clandestine nature of 
lethal injections. (States need to take their execution procedures out of 
hiding, she wrote in a 2007 Fordham Law Review article.) Denno is also 
concerned about the new and untested drugs used in lethal injections. We don't 
know how these drugs are going to react because they've never been used to kill 
someone, she told Mother Jones.

The electric chair has a ghoulish history from its invention by employees of 
Thomas Edison to grisly mishaps like Willie Francis who failed to die in 1946 
and had to take the long walk twice to Pedro Medina whose face mask burst 
into flames in 1997. Yet lethal injection, also called Carson's Cocktail after 
the Oklahoma pathologist who concocted the original formulation, is also prone 
to mishaps like the 2007 case in which guards failed to find a vein and sobbing 
inmate Romell Broom lay was asked to find his own vein. (The self-execution 
still failed and Broom will also made the long walk twice.)

What happened to Broom is to be expected. Even though it takes a skilled nurse 
or hemophylist to insert catheters snugly, so that the fluid doesn't leak or 
the catheters come loose by the writhing of a distraught prisoner, this complex 
medical responsibility is assigned to prison guards who spend most of their 
days pacing the corridors twirling a truncheon. After the guards have marched 
the prisoner to the homey little room with 3 walls and a glass window with a 
drape and strapped him to the death gurney, the search for big veins to insert 
the catheters starts--and guards have been known to bumble and fumble for 
hours, sometimes cutting open the veins with a knife or scalpel, before the 
warden calls a halt to the evening's proceedings.

The Carson Cocktail consists of 3 drugs: a short-acting barbiturate to knock 
the condemned person out (originally thiopental); a neuromuscular blocking 
agent to paralyze the skeletal muscles, including the muscles of breathing 
(pancuronium bromide); and an agent that stops the heart (potassium chloride).

Right after the thiopental infusion, pancuronium bromide is administered a 
curare type agent that paralyses the skeletal and breathing muscles. 
Theoretically, the condemned is now soundly asleep and prepared to die, thanks 
to the 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2014-02-01 Thread Rick Halperin

Feb. 1


Boston Police Commissioner: Pursuing death penalty for Tsarnaev is 

The U.S. government will seek the death penalty against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in 
the Boston Marathon bombings.

The Boston Marathon bombings killed 3 people and wounded more than 260 others.

17 of the 30 federal charges against Tsarnaev, including using a weapon of mass 
destruction to kill, carry the possibility of the death penalty.

The 20-year-old has pleaded not guilty; no trial date has been set as of yet.

Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said he believe the pursuit of the 
penalty is appropriate, but he wants to remain focused on those who were 
injured and killed.

Evans said, 'It's not so much about the punishment, but it's about not 
forgetting those victims who still have to live with the events that happened 
on that tragic day.

He said it was likely a difficult decision, but an appropriate one due to the 
destruction and people hurt.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said that he supports the decision made and will leave 
it up to the court process.

(source: NECN)


One penalty equal to crime: Death

There's an adage holding that hard cases make bad laws, meaning they're so 
heart-tugging that they shouldn't be the basis for formulating general laws.

That's the shelter former House Speaker Tom Finneran sought back in 1997 when 
he turned his back on demands that the savage killers of young Jeffrey Curley 
should experience capital punishment.

What I hesitate to do, he said, is decide the question on the basis of 
emotion, on the basis of a single case that grabs you by the heart.

Please. What murder doesn't grab someone by the heart?

Is a kid shot to death in Mattapan Square of any less worth than a young boy 
abducted and slain in the suburbs?

Yet here's Eric Holder, telling us Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be put to death 
precisely because of the nature of the conduct at issue and (its) resultant 
harm, as if the conduct and resultant harm of any other homicidal act is 
less egregious in his opinion.

Try telling that to loved ones who'll grieve forever.

The Globe took a more circuitous route to its predictable conclusion yesterday 
when it editorialized that Tsarnaev's execution would delay the day that 
Boston can close the books on the Marathon bombing.

What hubris. Does that writer not understand the books on what happened here 
last April will never close for anyone who's missing a son, missing a limb? And 
as for those raw wounds a trial and execution would only inflame, according 
to the editorial, how much more traumatic might it be to know Tsarnaev will 
forever be fed and cared for, will have visits, programs, and perhaps even wind 
up with a college degree?

We treat our prisoners much better than we treat their victims.

No, Trooper Mark Charbonnier's widow, Ann Marie, had it right the day she 
addressed the court at the trial of her husband's assassin: I believe there 
exists among us savages who lack the human traits of conscience and value of 

Untamed animals therefore need not be spoken to, only put down.

Charbonnier's death was a single case that grabbed us by the heart and 
repulsed us by a monster's conduct and resultant harm.

But then again, any murder should, including those we never read about, those 
that never make it to Page One, those that have no potential for political 

Is there a commensurate punishment for such a crime?

Yes. It's called capital punishment.

It's our only way to fully measure the worth of lives sacrificed to evil, and 
our empathy for those other lives that were forever changed.

(source: Opinion, Joe Fitzgerald; Boston Herald)


For Boston bombing victims, death penalty decision a 'step forward'

Federal prosecutors say they'll seek the death penalty against Boston Marathon 
bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, arguing that he acted in an especially 
heinous, cruel and depraved manner and lacks remorse.

The highly anticipated announcement Thursday means that when the case against 
Tsarnaev goes to trial, jurors will not only weigh whether he's guilty, but 
also whether he deserves to die.

For Liz Norden, it's 1 small step forward.

Her sons, JP and Paul, each lost a leg in the bombings, which killed 3 people 
and injured more than 250 at the April 15 race.

I just am relieved that it's going forward in the right direction, 1 step 
forward in the recovery process, just that the option is out there on the table 
for the jurors, if that's the way it goes, she told CNN's The Situation Room.

Whenever the case goes to trial, Norden said she plans to attend every day.

It's important to me. I'm trying to make sense of what happened that day. My 
boys went to watch a friend run the marathon, and one came home 46 days later. 
The other one, 32 days later. And their lives are forever changed, she told 
CNN's Wolf Blitzer. So I want to try and find out, somehow, to 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2014-01-29 Thread Rick Halperin

Jan. 29


US death-row inmates could face firing squad

With lethal-injection drugs in short supply in America, some death penalty 
states are considering bringing back relics of the past - firing squads, the 
electric chair and the gas chamber.

Most states abandoned such methods more than a generation ago in a bid to make 
capital punishment more palatable to the public and to a judiciary worried 
about inflicting cruel and unusual punishments in breach of the constitution.

But to some elected representatives, the drug shortages and recent legal 
challenges are beginning to make lethal injection too vulnerable to sustain.

This isn't an attempt to time-warp back into the wild, wild West or anything 
like that, said Missouri representative Rick Brattin, who recently proposed 
the firing squad option. It's just that I foresee a problem, and I'm trying to 
come up with a solution that will be the most humane yet most economical.

Mr Brattin, a Republican, said questions about the injection drugs would end up 
in court, delaying executions and forcing states to examine alternatives. It's 
not fair, he said, for relatives of murder victims to wait years to see justice 

A Wyoming politician proposed a bill to allow the firing squad and Missouri's 
attorney-general and a state representative have suggested rebuilding its gas 
chamber. And a Virginia politician wants to make electrocution an option if 
lethal-injection drugs aren't available.

US states began moving to lethal injection in the 1980s in the belief that 
powerful sedatives and heart-stopping drugs would replace sickening spectacles 
with a more clinical affair while limiting an inmate's pain.

The total number of US executions has dipped from 98 in 1999 to 39 last year. 
Some states have eschewed the death penalty entirely.

In recent years, European drug companies have stopped selling the lethal 
chemicals to US prisons on moral grounds.

At least 2 recent executions have also raised concerns about the drugs' 
effectiveness. Last week, Ohio inmate Dennis McGuire took 26 minutes to die by 
injection, gasping as he lay with his mouth opening and closing. And on 9 
January, Oklahoma inmate Michael Lee Wilson's horrific last words were: I feel 
my whole body burning.

Missouri threw out its three-drug lethal injection after it could no longer 
obtain the drugs. State officials altered the method in 2012 to use propofol, 
the drug that killed pop star Michael Jackson.

The European Union then threatened to impose export limits on propofol if it 
were to be used in executions, jeopardising the supply of an anaesthetic needed 
by US hospitals.

The state then announced it had switched to a form of pentobarbital made by a 
compounding pharmacy. Missouri won't name the provider. Missouri has carried 
out 2 executions using pentobarbital - Joseph Paul Franklin in November and 
Allen Nicklasson in December. Neither inmate showed outward signs of suffering, 
but the secrecy of the process resulted in a lawsuit and an inquiry.

Michael Campbell, assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of 
Missouri-St Louis, said some politicians simply don't believe convicted 
murderers deserve any mercy.

Many are trying to tap into a more populist theme that those who do terrible 
things deserve to have terrible things happen to them, he said.

And Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Centre 
in Washington, cautioned: These ideas would jeopardise the death penalty 
because, I think, the public reaction would be revulsion.

(source: The Scotsman)

The Supreme Court's Responsibility for Recent Death Penalty Mishaps

The execution rate in the United States has declined in the last 2 decades, but 
what the late Justice Harry Blackmun famously called the machinery of death 
remains deeply flawed. Two recent controversial executions illustrate how 
capital punishment continues to defy attempts at civilizing.

A Torturous Lethal Injection

Some methods of execution that are now regarded as horrific were first 
introduced as efforts to decrease the suffering of the condemned during the 
process by which the state deliberately takes his life. The guillotine and the 
electric chair were each, in their day, considered humane. In more recent 
times, lethal injection has become the supposedly humane method of choice.

In principle, lethal injection could make death relatively painless. People 
euthanizing a suffering family pet or, in jurisdictions that permit 
physician-assisted suicide, hastening their own deaths, routinely choose a 
lethal dose of barbiturate to ease the passage. But execution at the hands of 
the state by lethal injection typically involves a cocktail of 3 chemicals, 
rather than a large dose of sedative. As a consequence, it holds the potential 
for horrific mishaps. If the paralytic chemical takes effect but the anesthetic 
does not, the condemned may 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2013-12-07 Thread Rick Halperin


Supreme Court to revisit death penalty for mentally disabled

How should states decide if someone convicted of a crime has an intellectual 
disability, when the answer means life or death? This spring the Supreme Court 
will wade back into these murky waters, 12 years after it took the death 
penalty off the table for criminals with mental disabilities but left the 
details to the states.

In its 6-3 decision in Atkins v. Virginia, authored by Justice John Paul 
Stevens, the court prohibited states from executing anyone with mental 
retardation. Mental health professionals define it as substantial limitations 
in intellectual functions such as reasoning or problem-solving, limitations in 
adaptive behavior or street smarts, and evidence of the condition before age 
18. (Mental retardation is the term used in law, but most clinicians and The 
Associated Press refer to the condition as intellectual disability.)

After the decision, most states stuck with the three-pronged clinical 
definition, but Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas set their own 
standards. Under Florida's law, if you have an IQ over 70, you're eligible for 
execution regardless of intellectual function or adaptive behavior.

Freddie Lee Hall, who has been on Florida's death row for more than 30 years 
and scored in the mid-70s on IQ tests, is arguing the state's standard amounts 
to unconstitutional punishment.

Most likely, the case won't result in a dramatic shift in national criminal 
justice policy, but will further clarify who should and should not be eligible 
for execution, said Ronald Tabak, an attorney who has represented multiple 
clients with intellectual disabilities and chairs the American Bar 
Association's death penalty committee.

There is no reason to think that the court is taking this case because the 
court loves that Florida is going against the norms of the mental health 
field, Tabak said. The more likely reason they granted (judicial review) is 
... to say there are certain basic things about intellectual disability that 
you can't exclude from consideration.

That's not the way Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi sees it. The Atkins 
decision, she wrote in her brief to the Supreme Court, expressly left the task 
of defining retardation to the states, and Florida is free to adopt its own 
standard for determining who is intellectually disabled.

Freddie Lee Hall faces a death sentence for the 1978 murder of Karol Hurst, 
and Florida courts have found that he is not intellectually disabled, said 
Bondi. We will urge the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Hall's sentence.

The court's makeup has shifted since the 2002 Atkins decision. But if the 
justices split along ideological lines, the vote could favor Hall, assuming 
that swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy sides with Hall, as he did with Atkins 
in 2002. Arguments are set for March 3.

Similar cases are percolating beyond Florida. In Georgia, death row inmate 
Warren Hill is fighting execution based on substantial evidence that he is 
intellectually disabled. In Texas, where the courts use an anecdotal seven-part 
test largely based on the characteristics of the fictional character Lennie 
from John Steinbeck's novel Of Mice and Men to determine intellectual 
disability, multiple prisoners have been executed in recent years even when 
they've scored well below 70 on IQ tests.

Last year, Texas executed Marvin Wilson, who was convicted of murder in 1994, 
even though he had an IQ of 61. In 2010, Virginia executed Teresa Lewis for her 
role in a murder-for-hire scheme, even though she had an IQ of 72 and her 
co-conspirators admitted Lewis did not plan the murder.

These are the types of cases advocates want the Supreme Court to revisit. It's 
our hope that the court will clarify that states must use the clinical 
definition for intellectual disability???not only for current cases but for 
future cases, too, said Margaret Nygren, executive director and CEO of the 
American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.


Freddie Lee Hall was convicted of co-planning and carrying out the murder of 
21-year-old Karol Hurst in Leesburg, Fla., in 1978. After spending the day 
scouting the parking lot of a local grocery store with his partner, Mack 
Ruffin, Hall forced Hurst, who was 7 months pregnant, into her car and drove 
her into the woods. There, Ruffin sexually assaulted and shot Hurst. A jury 
convicted Hall of 1st-degree murder for his role in the murder scheme.

Since Hall was sentenced to death in 1981, he has made multiple appeals based 
on his low IQ, which varied from 71 to 80 depending on the tests and their 
margins of error.

He has been the same ever since I've known him, and he has the mind of a 
child, said his attorney, Eric Pinkard, who has been working with Hall since 

In multiple hearings to prove his intellectual disability, Hall's family and 
longtime friends testified about Hall's 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2013-10-03 Thread Rick Halperin

Oct. 3


The Cost of Death Sentences: $25 Billion, Much of it Paid by Virginians, Study 
Says; Study estimates cost of each execution at more than $20 million.

Prince William and Fairfax counties are among the 62 jurisdictions that have 
prosecuted the most criminals executed in the United States since the 
reinstatement of capital punishment, according to a study released Tuesday, and 
Virginia taxpayers have paid a substantial portion of the $25 billion spent on 
death sentences.

The report from the Death Penalty Information Center found that the 2 counties 
were among the 2% of counties in the United States that were responsible for a 
majority of the 1,320 executions from 1976 to 2012.

The U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Prince William had nine death-row inmates who were executed and Fairfax County 
had 5.

The report showed that geography, rather than the nature of a crime, was the 
biggest factor in who was executed and who was not.

There's an arbitrariness to the death penalty, Richard Dieter, the Death 
Penalty Information Center's executive director, told The Washington Post. 
Most of the counties in Virginia have never had an execution in this modern 

Among those executed in Prince William County: John Allen Muhammad, part of the 
sniper team that shot 10 people in the Washington area in 2002. He was executed 
in 2009.

The study cited the cost of each death sentence at $3 million and the cost of 
each execution at more than $20 million.

With more than 8,300 death sentences in the United State since 1976, the total 
cost of the cases was about $25 billion, the study found, adding that the costs 
are not limited to the counties involved but hit state and federal budgets.

(source: Ashburn Patch)

Study: Very small number of counties responsible for most executions

Only 2 % of the counties in the U.S. have executed the majority of death row 
inmates since 1976, a new study finds.

This disparate use of capital punishment puts a large financial burden on the 
overwhelming majority of jurisdictions that do not kill inmates, because the 
process of convicting, housing and ultimately putting to death convicts is 
incredibly expensive, more so than simply locking them up for life, according 
to the study from the Death Penalty Information Center.

In addition to those inmates put to death, the study states that only 2 % of 
the counties are responsible for the majority of today's death row population 
and recent death sentences. To put it another way, all of the state executions 
since the death penalty was reinstated stem from cases in just 15 % of the 
counties in the U.S. All of the 3,125 inmates on death row as of January 1, 
2013 came from just 20 % of the counties.

The study singled out Maricopa County, the area around Phoenix infamously 
policed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio. That 1 county has 4 times the number of pending 
death penalty cases per capita as both Los Angeles and Houston.

The study also pointed out that Philadelphia County in Pennsylvania ranks the 
lowest in the state in paying attorneys representing death row inmates, and it 
also has the 3rd-largest number of inmates on death row in the country.

According to the study's authors, the report is intended to point out that 
seeking and following through on the death penalty is largely the work of a few 
driven prosecutors and district attorneys, often at great cost that they only 
bear a small part of.

(source: CBS News)


Dzhokar Tsaernaev Death Penalty Could Be in Eric Holder's Hands

The decision of whether to seek the death penalty for Boston Marathon bomber 
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is in the hands of Attorney General Eric Holder, who likely 
will decide shortly after the prosecutors make their recommendation to him by 
October 31. Despite the horrendous nature of the crime of which Tsarnaev is 
accused and will probably be convicted of, Holder should take a stand and make 
an example of Tsarnaev by not seeking the death penalty.

Of course, it will not be an easy decision for the attorney general. The crimes 
of detonating a homemade bomb in a public space packed with civilians, and then 
of killing a pursuing police officer and wounding others, certainly deserve no 
sympathy. Indeed, punishment to the fullest extent of the law is justified, if 
not prudent. The usual supporting arguments will be made: How can we justify 
spending $33,930.00 per year keeping a domestic terrorist in prison? Why should 
we show him such civility when all he showed this country was brutality? 
Doesn't he deserve to pay for what he did?

However, more is at stake than simple retribution. The United States has been 
deservedly criticized for its increasingly selective application of the law to 
terrorists. For example, American citizens accused of terrorist activities 
abroad can be killed without a trial. So-called enemy combatants 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, US MIL.

2013-09-02 Thread Rick Halperin

Sept. 2


These Are The Only 13 Women Executed In America In The Past 40 Years

A jury will likely decide this month whether notorious murder defendant Jodi 
Arias should get the death penalty for murdering her ex-boyfriend. It would be 
unusual if she were executed.

In the last century, only 40 women have received the death penalty in America - 
13 have been executed since 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information 
Center. The total number of executions in the United States since 1976 is 

BI looked into the stories of the 13 women on death row since the mid-'70s, 
many of whom killed their lovers.

1.) Velma Barfield, a drug addict from North Carolina, forged her boyfriend's 
checks to fund her habit. Fearing he might find out about a $300 forged check, 
she poisoned his beer, the Associated Press reported. As the 1st woman 
sentenced to die in 22 years, Barfield eventually confessed to killing 3 
others, including her own mother, The New York Times reported. She died by 
lethal injection in 1984.

2.) Karla Faye Tucker and an accomplice wanted to end three days of 
drug-induced shenanigans by stealing a motorcycle. So they killed the owner of 
the bike and his friend with a pickax in 1983, CNN reported. Sentenced to die 
for her crimes, Tucker became a born-again Christian and waited for a pardon 
until hours before her lethal injection.

3.) Judy Buenoano poisoned her husband and drowned her son, earning her the 
name black widow, CNN reported. Buenoano attempted to bomb her fiance's car 
in 1983, which then led investigators to realize she had drowned her partially 
paralyzed son and poisoned her husband years earlier. She died in 1998 in 
Florida's electric chair.

4.) Betty Lou Beets shot and killed her 5th husband in 1983, CNN reported. She 
claimed she was a battered wife and killed him in self-defense in an attempt to 
get clemency from then-Gov. George W. Bush. He rejected that claim. In 2000, 
Beets became the 2nd woman executed in Texas since the Civil War.

5.) Christina Riggs tried and failed to kill her 5-year-old son and 2-year-old 
daughter by injecting them with potassium chloride, BBC reported. Instead, she 
smothered them with pillows. She died in 2000 - the 1st woman Arkansas executed 
in 150 years.

6.) Wanda Jean Allen got the death penalty by lethal injection for killing her 
lover Gloria Leathers, whom she met in prison, USA Today reported. The American 
Civil Liberties Union wrote a letter for her clemency. The letter said she had 
severe, untreated mental disabilities that prosecutors knew about but never 
revealed during court proceedings. When she died in 2001, she became the 1st 
black woman executed since 1954.

7.) Marilyn Plantz plotted with her lover and another man to kill her husband 
and collect on his $300,000 life insurance policy, BBC reported. The 2 men 
bludgeoned her husband to death while her children sat in another room. She 
died from lethal injection in 2001 in Oklahoma, which attracted attention from 
Amnesty Intentional as the state with the highest rate of capital punishment.

8.) Lois Nadean Smith stabbed and killed her son's 21-year-old ex-girlfriend, 
Cindy Baillie, by shooting her 9 times and stabbing her in the throat, The 
Philadelphia Daily News reported. Smith died at the age of 61 from lethal 
injection in Oklahoma.

9.) Aileen Wuornos, working as a prostitute along Florida's interstate highway, 
killed one of her male clients in 1989. Over the next year, she murdered 5 
more. During her decade on death row, she garnered many titles: a man-hating 
lesbian killer or a feminist hero who murdered in self-defense, The New York 
Times wrote. Her life inspired the major motion picture, Monster, starring 
Charlize Theron. She died from lethal injection in 2002.

10.) Frances Newton, the 1st woman Texas executed since the Civil War, killed 
her husband and 21-month-old daughter, the Austin Chronicle reported. Newton 
maintained her innocence, speculating that a drug dealer whom her husband owed 
money did the crime. The state refused her a pardon, and she died by lethal 
injection in 2005.

11.) Teresa Lewis plotted to kill her husband and stepson and collect the 
insurance money. Instead of pulling a trigger on a gun, she pulled a couple of 
young men in to pull the trigger for her, Prosecutor David Grimes told a judge 
at the time, The Washington Post reported. Virginia sentenced her to die by 
lethal injection. She was the 1st woman executed in the state in more than 100 

12.) Kimberly McCarthy got the death penalty in Texas for killing her 
71-year-old white neighbor, the Guardian reported. Lawyers attempted to get her 
pardoned because the police might have used her race as a factor to gain 
evidence. As the 500th person to die since capital punishment's reinstatement 
in the U.S. in 1976 as well as a black female, her case caused a bit of a 

(source: Business Insider)


[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2013-06-26 Thread Rick Halperin

June 26


Local Cop killer Ronell Wilson forges a shady plan; Chief witness alleges 
Wilson told him to tell the jury he had a 'rough upbringing' in hope of 
escaping the death penalty.

The chief witness against Ronell Wilson testified Tuesday that the cop killer 
asked him to tell the jury they had a rough upbringing to help him weasel out 
of the death penalty.

Wilson allegedly dropped the bombshell advice during a chance meeting with 
ex-cohort Jessie Jacobus on an elevator at Brooklyn's Metropolitan Detention 
Center in 2011.

He said for me to tell the prosecutor we had a rough upbringing, Jacobus 
said. I said, 'Upbringing?' I've been in jail this whole time, I've had a 
rough (time serving my sentence).

Jacobus pleaded guilty to state murder charges and is serving 15 years to life. 
He testified against Wilson at his 2006 trial, in which a federal jury 
sentenced Wilson to death for killing undercover NYPD Detectives James Nemorin 
and Rodney Andrews during a gun buy-and-bust ripoff.

After the U.S. Court of Appeals reversed Wilson's death sentence due to 
prosecutorial error, both men were transferred to the MDC prison while Wilson 
awaited his resentencing by a new jury, which began Monday in Brooklyn Federal 

The foundation of Wilson's argument for life in prison instead of a lethal 
injection is the mitigating factor that he endured a horrendous childhood being 
raised by a neglectful, crack-addicted mother.

Defense lawyer David Stern cross-examined Jacobus about his own dysfunctional 
childhood and it backfired.

Did not having a father, and a mother addicted to drugs, affect you? Stern 

It still doesn't cause you to commit murders, Jacobus, 27, shot back. I 
chose to live a lifestyle, not because of that.

Jacobus said he hopes the feds will write a letter to the state parole board 
when he is eligible for release.

He described for the jury how Wilson recruited him as the muscle on what 
evolved from the sale of a Tech-9 machine gun, to a robbery and then - to 
Jacobus' shock - the execution-style shootings of the undercover officers.

Jacobus was sitting chatting with Andrews when Wilson suddenly pulled out a 
handgun and blasted the detective in the back of his head. Nemorin pleaded for 
his life as Wilson demanded the cash, according to Jacobus.

He (Nemorin) said, 'I got a family, don't shoot me!' Jacobus said. After 
that, Ronell just shot him in the back of the head.

The bodies of the detectives were pulled out of the car and dumped in the 
street as the killers fled in the blood-soaked vehicle.

I just wanted to find out what was going on his mind, Jacobus continued. I 
asked 'Why did you do that?' He told me he didn't give a f--- about nobody.

(source: New York Daily News)


From Death Row To Free Man


This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Later in the program, I 
have some thoughts on that Paula Deen fiasco. She's asked for the country's 
forgiveness and I want to talk about that. That's in just a few minutes. But 
first, another admittedly very different story about punishment, redemption and 
forgiveness. Texas is scheduled to execute its 500th prisoner since the death 
penalty was reinstated in the U.S. in 1976. According to The Associated Press, 
Texas has carried out about 40 percent of the country's executions since the 
Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume. But a number of states have 
gone in the opposite direction, repealing the death penalty.

Maryland is one of the latest, and that's where Kirk Bloodsworth left death row 
20 years ago. He had been sentenced to death by the state for a crime he did 
not commit - the gruesome rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl. But he also 
became the first person in the U.S. exonerated with DNA evidence, and today 
he's the advocacy director for Witness to Innocence, which is an organization 
trying to repeal the death penalty nationwide. And he's with us now from WHYY 
in Philadelphia. Hello, Mr. Bloodsworth. Thanks so much for speaking with us.

KIRK BLOODSWORTH: Oh, it's my pleasure, Michel.

MARTIN: When you hear me say that Texas is about to execute its 500th prisoner 
today, what does that bring up for you?

BLOODSWORTH: You know, I can't help but think of 500 executions. I mean, as an 
innocent person in that midst - I think Cameron Todd Willingham was one of them 
- and here we are, we keep executing people with one of the states that's had a 
lot of problems with exonerations.

I mean, in just one county alone - I understand in Dallas County, they've had 
so many different wrongfully convicted individuals. I find this appalling to 
myself and to a lot of our members at Witness to Innocence, as well.

MARTIN: You've had one of those unique experiences. I mean, unfortunately, now 
we've become accustomed to stories like yours, but yours, as we said, was the 
1st. And I just wanted 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2013-06-20 Thread Rick Halperin

June 20


Dead Man Walking: Extended Interview with Sister Helen Prejean on Decades of 
Death Penalty Activism: In this extended web-only interview, Sister Helen 
Prejean talks about the 20th anniversary of her landmark book Dead Man 
Walking, that chronicles her years of anti-death penalty activism.

Sister Helen Prejean is one of the world's most well-known anti-death penalty 
activists. As a Catholic nun, she began her prison ministry more than 30 years 
ago. She is the author of the best-selling book, Dead Man Walking: An 
Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States. The 20th 
anniversary edition of the book was just published. The book's been translated 
into numerous languages and turned into an opera, a play and an Academy 
Award-winning film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. Prejean is also the 
founder of Survive, a victims' advocacy group in New Orleans. She continues to 
counsel not only inmates on death row, but also the families of murder victims.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace 
Report. I'm Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. Our guest is Sister Helen 
Prejean, one of the world's most well-known anti-death penalty activists. As a 
Catholic nun, she began her prison ministry over 30 years ago. She's the author 
of the best-selling book Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death 
Penalty. The book has been translated into numerous languages, turned into an 
opera, a play and Academy Award-winning film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean 
Penn. The book was published 20 years ago. Let's go to a trailer of the film.

ASSISTANT DA: This man, he shot Walter Delacroix 2 times in the back of his 
dead and raped Hope Percy and stabbed her 17 times. In the courtroom and at 
sentencing, he was smiling and chewing his gum. He is an unfeeling, perverse 
misfit, and it is time.

CHAPLAIN: You have put in a request to be the spiritual adviser to Matthew 
Poncelet. This boy is to be executed in 6 days. You must be very, very careful.

SISTER HELEN PREJEAN: [played by Susan Sarandon] Well, Matthew, I made it.

MATTHEW PONCELET: [played by Sean Penn] You've never done this before?


MATTHEW PONCELET: You've never been this close to a murder before?

SISTER HELEN PREJEAN: Not that I know of.

WARDEN: What is a nun doing in a place like this?

SISTER HELEN PREJEAN: I just want to help him take responsibility for what he 

MATTHEW PONCELET: I like being alone with you. You're looking real good to me.

SISTER HELEN PREJEAN: Death is breathing down your neck, and you're playing 
your little man-on-the-make games.

REPORTER: You're a white supremacist, a follower of Hitler?

MATTHEW PONCELET: Hitler was a leader. He was on the right track that the Aryan 
was the master race.

SISTER HELEN PREJEAN: You are making it so easy for them to kill you, coming 
across as some kind of a crazed, animal, Nazi, racist mad dog who deserves to 

MATTHEW PONCELET: You can leave.

SISTER HELEN PREJEAN: I'm not going to do that.

UNIDENTIFIED: You want to be there to comfort him when he dies? This is an evil 

MATTHEW PONCELET: I didn't kill him. I didn't kill nobody. I swear to God I 

I ain't gonna get no chair, Daddy.

I'm pissed off at them kids for being parked out in the woods that night, 
pissed off at their parents for coming to see me die.

SISTER HELEN PREJEAN: You blame the government. You blame drugs. You blame 
blacks. What about Matthew Poncelet? What? Is he just an innocent?

If you do die, as your friend, I want to help you die with dignity. And I don't 
see how you can do that unless you start to own up to the part you played in 
Walter and Hope's death.

VOICE OVER: From writer, director Tim Robbins...

MATTHEW PONCELET: Don't cry, Momma. I don't want to see no crying.

SISTER HELEN PREJEAN: Don't execute this man. You can stop this from happening, 

VOICE OVER: ...comes the story of one woman's unquenchable courage...

MATTHEW PONCELET: Will you stay?


VOICE OVER: ...and one man's last chance at life.

SISTER HELEN PREJEAN: You are a son of God, Matthew Poncelet.

MATTHEW PONCELET: Nobody ever called me no son of God before. Called me the son 
of you know whats a lot of times, but never no son of God.

VOICE OVER: Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn. Dead Man Walking.

AMY GOODMAN: That was a trailer of Dead Man Walking. And Sister Helen Prejean 
is our guest, the woman on whom this is based. So many emotions and issues that 
were brought up by - well, why did you decide to walk into the prison that day? 
What was it like for you to meet the first person you met on death row? In the 
film, he's Matthew Poncelet, but the real person.

SISTER HELEN PREJEAN: Yeah. I got ratcheted into it, because I - it was a 
spiritual awakening that the gospel of Jesus was not just about being 
charitable to people and being kind to people, but it was 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2013-04-16 Thread Rick Halperin

April 16


Sr. Helen Prejean to Receive National Social Justice Leadership 
AwardIgnatian Solidarity Network, a national social justice organization 
that partners with Catholic Jesuit institutions will present the award on May 
7, 2013, in New Orleans, in recognition of Sr. Prejean's passionate advocacy 
against the death penalty.

The Ignatian Solidarity Network will honor Sr. Helen Prejean, C.S.J., with the 
Robert M. Holstein: Faith that Does Justice Award on Tuesday, May 7, 2013, at 
an award reception in New Orleans, Louisiana. Sr. Prejean is an 
internationally-recognized advocate against the death penalty whose passion is 
rooted in experiences of ministering to death row inmates. She has spoken 
around the globe and authored 2 books including Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness 
Account of the Death Penalty, which held a spot on the New York Times 
Bestseller List for 31 weeks in 1994.

The award comes at a key time in the capital punishment debate. Recently, 
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley signed legislation ending the death penalty 
in his state, and other states are either considering the issue or have had 
recent votes fail. According to a recent report by Amnesty International, the 
number of U.S. executions in 2012 was identical to 2011, though only nine 
states carried executions compared with 13 in 2011.

The Robert M. The Holstein award, a national recognition, annually honors an 
individual who has demonstrated a significant commitment to leadership for 
social justice grounded in his or her faith. The Ignatian Solidarity Network 
(ISN) is a national social justice education and advocacy organization inspired 
by the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order 
of Catholic priests and brothers. ISN works primarily with individuals 
connected with Jesuit universities, high schools, parishes, and social 
ministries throughout the United States.

Sr. Prejean began her prison ministry in 1981 when she dedicated her life to 
the poor of New Orleans. Since then, she has been committed to educating 
citizens about the death penalty and counseling individual death row prisoners. 
She has accompanied six men to their deaths. In 1994, Sr. Prejean turned her 
experiences into the book titled, Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of 
the Death Penalty, which was later developed into a major motion picture 
starring Susan Sarandon as Sr. Prejean and Sean Penn as a death row inmate. The 
movie received 4 Oscar nominations including Tim Robbins for Best Director, 
Sean Penn for Best Actor, Susan Sarandon for Best Actress, and Bruce 
Springsteen's Dead Man Walkin for Best Song.

Sr. Prejean's 2nd book, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of 
Wrongful Executions, was published in December 2004 and describes her 
experiences of accompanying 2 men to their executions.

She continues her work as a passionate storyteller on speaking tours throughout 
the U.S. and is presently working on her next book, River of Fire: My Spiritual 
Journey. Sr. Prejean is a religious sister of the Congregation of St. Joseph, a 
Catholic community of nearly 700 vowed women religious founded in 1650 in 

Sr. Prejean initially connected with the Ignatian Solidarity Network by 
speaking to thousands of young people at their annual event, the Ignatian 
Family Teach-In for Justice in 2003. At that event she formally introduced the 
Dead Man Walking School Theater Project, and consequently Jesuit high schools 
were some of the first institutions in the U.S. to perform the play.

On awarding Prejean with the national honor, ISN Executive Director, 
Christopher Kerr said, Sr. Helen has been a vital part of the Ignatian family 
over the years, sharing her deep desire to end the death penalty with thousands 
of Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice attendees. Her passionate voice is a 
tremendous witness to work for justice grounded in faith. We are delighted to 
honor her with this national award and hope it will bring greater attention to 
her ministry.

The Holstein award's namesake, the late Robert (Bob) M. Holstein, was a former 
California Province Jesuit priest, labor lawyer, fierce advocate for social 
justice, and one of the founders of the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice. 
Holstein died in 2003, but his family continues to support the work of ISN. 
Supporters of this year's event include the Ignatian Solidarity Network Board 
of Directors, Mr. and Mrs. Vince and Robyn Caponi, Mrs. Loretta Holstein (the 
widow of the late Bob Holstein), Mr. Salvador Colon, Very Rev. David 
Ciancimino, S.J. (Provincial, New York Province of the Society of Jesus), Very 
Rev. Mark Lewis, S.J. (Provincial, New Orleans Province of the Society of 
Jesus), Ms. Susan Sarandon (via the Susan Sarandon Foundation), Very Rev. 
Michael Weiler, S.J. (Provincial, California Province of the Society of Jesus), 
and the students of Xavier High School in New York City.

The previous 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, N.C., ALA., ARK., MISS.

2013-03-25 Thread Rick Halperin

March 25


States Banning Death Penalty May Total 18 with New Maryland Law

8 years have passed since Maryland law enforcement terminated a human life 
based on the death penalty statute. The General Assembly voted 82-56 on March 
15 to join 18 other states in abolishing the death penalty. Critics claim it is 
too expensive and subject to human error and bias. Gov. Martin O'Malley has 
pushed to repeal the death penalty since he became the governor of Maryland in 

The House advanced the repeal legislation this week after delegates rejected 
nearly 20 amendments, mostly from Republicans, aimed at keeping capital 
punishment for the most heinous of crimes. The law's passage reflects a growing 
unease among lawmakers in Maryland, and across the country, over the risk of 
putting an innocent person to death. Life without the possibility of parole 
will become the most severe sentence in the state with passage of the law.

Supporters of repeal argue that the death penalty is too expensive due to the 
cost of the appellate process, that it is error-prone, racially biased and a 
not in fact a deterrent of crime. Opponents of repeal say it is a required tool 
to punish lawbreakers who commit the most serious crimes. Passage would mark a 
major victory for O'Malley. Aides said he will sign the bill in coming weeks.

The passage of the act would not apply to the 5 men Maryland currently have on 
death row. The governor has the option to commute their sentences to life in 
prison without the possibility of parole.

The state's last execution took place in during the administration of 
Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich in 2005. He resumed executions after a 
moratorium had been placed pending a 2003 University of Maryland study. The 
study found significant racial and geographic disparity in how the death 
penalty was carried out. Capital punishment was put on hold in 2006 in Maryland 
after a ruling by Maryland's highest court. The court found that the state's 
lethal injection protocols weren't properly approved by a legislative 
committee. The committee has yet to sign off on protocols.

O'Malley, a Catholic, expressed support for repeal legislation in 2007, which 
stalled in a Senate committee. Maryland has a large Catholic population and the 
church opposes the death penalty.

In 2008, lawmakers created a commission to study the matter after repeal 
efforts failed. The panel recommended a ban later that year, citing racial, 
income and jurisdictional disparities in how the death penalty is applied. 
Lawmakers tightened the law to reduce the chances of mistakes in capital cases 
by restricting capital punishment to murder cases with biological evidence such 
as DNA, videotaped evidence of a murder or a videotaped confession.

Neighboring Virginia has executed 110 convicts since the U.S. Supreme Court 
restored capital punishment in 1976. Virginia's death row population, however, 
has dwindled to 8 from a peak of 57 in 1995. This is because fewer death 
sentences are being handed down in the state amid an increased acceptance of 
life without parole as a reasonable alternative. Death sentences have declined 
by 75 % and executions by 60 % nationally since the 1990s.

If the new legislation passes, Maryland will become the 18th state to ban the 
death penalty. Connecticut did so last year. Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico 
and New York also have abolished it in recent years.

(source: Hammill Post)

Federal defenders face deep cuts, delays in cases

The lawyers who defend the nation's poor in federal courts across the country 
are grappling with budget cuts they say will decimate their offices, delay 
criminal cases and jeopardize the fairness of the criminal justice system.

The cuts have already forced some offices of federal defenders to lay people 
off, and many are planning to force staffers to take off 6 weeks or more 
without pay over the next 6 months. Even a Supreme Court justice has expressed 
concern that cuts could pressure the system and result in criminals running 

The cuts, amounting to roughly 10 percent of this year's budget, come in a 
program seen as the flagship for public defenders and as the nation marks this 
month's 50th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Gideon v. 
Wainwright, which guaranteed that criminal defendants will be provided with a 
lawyer if they can't afford one.

While federal prosecutors have been notified by the U.S. Department of Justice 
that they may be furloughed for up to 14 days, those cuts are not yet final. 
Federal public defenders, though, say cuts to their offices are virtually 

It's important that people who don't have any power and any voice have people 
to speak for them, said U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake of Maryland, who 
helps oversee the federal defenders program for the judiciary. You never know 
when you might need the 6th Amendment.

Defenders and court officials 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, CALIF., N.C., IDAHO

2013-03-22 Thread Rick Halperin

March 22


Top pharmaceutical company moves to stop flow of execution drugs

One of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies has taken steps to ensure 
its drugs cannot be used to carry out executions by lethal injection.

UK company Teva, which describes itself as a “top 10 global pharmaceutical 
company [with] $20.3bn in sales in 2012,” will put in place distribution 
controls to ensure its products cannot be used to kill prisoners on America’s 
death rows.

Teva is recommencing production of an anaesthetic called propofol, which in 
large enough doses can be used to kill. As supplies of other execution drugs 
run out, US prisons are starting to turn to propofol to carry out capital 

The move brings the firm, which has its headquarters in Israel, into line with 
other pharmaceutical companies including Lundbeck and Fresenius Kabi, who have 
taken effective steps to block the use of their products for executions.

Teva has stated that they too will establish procedures to help prevent 
propofol from being sold to correctional institutions for use in executions and 
sell only to acute care hospitals, clinics and healthcare facilities where the 
product's use is medically necessary.

Their efforts mirror those of German manufacturer, Fresenius Kabi, which 
already controls distribution of propofol to prevent its sale to prisons for 
use in executions.

Maya Foa, Deputy Director of the Death Penalty Team at the leagal charity 
Reprieve said: “This is good news, and demonstrates Teva’s genuine commitment 
to corporate ethics. Teva has shown that – like any responsible pharmaceutical 
company – it wishes to be in the business of saving lives, not ending them in 
executions. The welcome move shows that companies which don’t wish to prop up 
the US death penalty system can take simple, practical steps to ensure their 
products are not used to kill prisoners, as a number of companies have now 

(source:  Ekklesia)


State High Court upholds death sentence in Richmond workplace slayings

The California Supreme Court Thursday unanimously upheld the death penalty of a 
former Richmond Housing Authority receptionist who murdered his supervisor and 
a co-worker minutes after he was fired in 1995.

Michael Pearson, 54, of Richmond, was sentenced to death after being convicted 
in Contra Costa County Superior Court in 1996 of fatally shooting his 
supervisor, Ruth Talley, and co-worker, Barbara Garcia, on April 25, 1995.

The housing authority's director, Art Hatchett, had fired Pearson that 
afternoon for poor performance.

Pearson had received negative performance evaluations, but Hatchett later 
testified that the true reason for the firing was that Pearson had been 
threatening to pull a 101 California because of his evaluations.

The threat referred to a gunman's massacre of eight people at a San Francisco 
office building at 101 California St. in 1993.

Pearson's defense attorneys sought to argue at the trial that the slayings 
resulted from a brief psychotic episode, while prosecutors contended -- and the 
jury agreed -- that his actions were intentional.

Evidence showed that Pearson had bought a gun at a pawn shop a few days earlier 
and had practiced target shooting at a shooting range the evening before the 

The high court, in a ruling issued in San Francisco, rejected a series of 
appeal arguments in which Pearson claimed there were errors in jury selection 
and in evidence rulings.

Justice Ming Chin wrote in the court's opinion that there was overwhelming 
evidence that defendant premeditated and deliberated the murders.

Defendant repeatedly told his coworkers months in advance that he intended to 
kill anyone who tried to fire him, Chin wrote.

Defendant bragged about going to the shooting range the evening before the 
murders. Eyewitnesses described how he hunted down the victims and fired 
multiple shots execution-style into each victim, Chin said in the ruling.

Pearson's appeal to the California Supreme Court was the first step in the 
state's death penalty appeal process. He can continue appeals in the federal 
court system through a habeas corpus petition.

(source: KTVU News)


Death Penalty? Murder charges filed in deaths of HSU instructor, Hoopa woman

The District Attorney's Office has charged the man accused of running
down 3 joggers on Old Arcata Road -- killing a Humboldt State University 
instructor and severely injuring two others -- and the death of a Hoopa woman 
with two counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder.

District Attorney Paul Gallegos - who will be prosecuting the case against 
28-year-old Jason Anthony Warren - said he has not decided whether he will seek 
the death penalty.

That's a decision that will be made at a later time, he said. Certainly, 
we've spoken with family members and we will continue to have dialogue with 
them. Penalty is a matter that 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, MD., FLA., OKLA., COLO., ORE.

2013-03-17 Thread Rick Halperin

March 17


How the media is killing the death penalty

When Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) signs a bill abolishing the death 
penalty, the state will be just the latest to wipe capital punishment off its 
books; since 2007, 17 other states and the District of Columbia have outlawed 
it and legislators in Delaware last week announced a bill to do the same.

Many of the states that have abolished capital punishment – including the 
recent cases of Connecticut, Illinois, New Mexico, New York and New Jersey – 
are, not surprisingly, among the country’s most liberal.

But the erosion of public support for the death penalty has occurred across the 
nation, in large part because Americans are conflicted. Many believe capital 
punishment is justified, but they worry that innocent people might be executed. 
And as the political debate has in the last two decades focused on wrongful 
convictions and death row exonerations, Americans have increasingly come to 
evaluate the death penalty in terms of its potential unfairness.

Although a large majority of Americans – 63 % in a December USA Today/Gallup 
poll – say they favor capital punishment, many nonetheless harbor misgivings.

For instance, in a 2001 Washington Post-ABC News survey, 72 % of Americans 
agreed with the statement that “the death penalty is fair because it prevents 
killers from killing again.” Likewise, 60 % said the punishment was fair 
“because it gives satisfaction and closure to the families of murder victims.”

But many respondents simultaneously said capital punishment was not just. Asked 
whether they agreed that “the death penalty is unfair because it’s applied 
differently from county to county and state to state,” 63 % said yes. And 68 % 
concurred that it is unfair “because sometimes an innocent person is executed.”

Marylanders, too, appear ambivalent. In a Washington Post poll of Maryland 
residents last month, 54 percent said they supported the death penalty. But 61 
% said they believed it doesn’t reduce crime, and just 43 % said they believed 
it was applied fairly. Nearly 1/3 said capital punishment

has been applied unfairly, and 1/4 said they didn’t know.

Such ambivalence is not unique to the death penalty. Work by political 
scientists has shown that people often possess multiple, and competing, 
attitudes about lots of public policy issues. After 9/11, for example, 
Americans expressed discomfort with law enforcement activities that seemed to 
infringe on civil liberties, but many also believed that such activities were 
justified to protect the nation from terrorism.

But precisely because ambivalence makes people more susceptible to changing 
their minds, the reframing of the death penalty debate has significantly 
reduced support for capital punishment.

In “The Decline of the Death Penalty and the Discovery of Innocence,” political 
scientists Frank Baumgartner, Suzanna DeBoef and Amber Boydstun found that 
since the mid-1990s, news coverage of the death penalty has increasingly 
focused on exonerations and wrongful executions. In earlier eras, the debate in 
the media was more frequently about other issues, such as capital punishment’s 
constitutionality or cost.

This shift in media coverage, which has highlighted problems in the death 
penalty’s application, has encouraged the public to evaluate capital punishment 
in terms of fairness, especially the potential for innocent people to be sent 
to death row. As a consequence, Baumgartner, DeBoef and Boydstun find that 
along with a decline in the U.S. murder rate and other high-profile events 
(such as former Illinois governor George Ryan’s (R) 2001 mass commutation of 
death row inmates), negative news drove down support for capital punishment.

How much did public opinion move? By one measure, 86 percent of Americans in 
1995 said they favored the death penalty for people convicted of murder. But by 
2006, just 70 percent did.

These developments have not, of course, erased many Americans’ view that the 
death penalty may be justified. A May 2012 Gallup survey showed that 58 percent 
believed capital punishment is “morally acceptable.” But as the “innocence 
frame” has come to dominate the debate, Americans belief in the morality of the 
death penalty has come to matter less, and the system’s capacity to make an 
irreversible mistake has come to matter more.

(source:  Washington Post)


Death penalty opponents: Repeal ends risk of fatal errors

By making Maryland the 18th state to repeal the death penalty, state lawmakers 
hope to avoid a story like Cameron Todd Willingham’s.

Willingham was executed on Feb. 17, 2004, in Texas. After the 35-year-old’s 
three children died in a fire at his house in 1991, he was accused of arson and 
convicted for the deaths.

But serious doubts were raised about the scientific proof the house had been 
burned down deliberately. Before his execution, Willingham said he was 

A year after he 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, N.C.

2013-03-15 Thread Rick Halperin

March 15


Federal prosecutors outline reasons for death penalty request in postal 
workers’ killings

Federal prosecutors said Friday they are seeking the death penalty for a former 
corrections officer for allegedly killing two Henning postal employees, for his 
lack of remorse and for his “future dangerousness.”

Before his arrest in the 2010 murders of the two federal employees, prosecutors 
said, defendant Chastain Montgomery also participated in two bank robberies and 
conspired with his son to commit another robbery. Once in custody, they said, 
he planned an escape from a federal pretrial detention facility in Mason.

“(Montgomery was) planning to escape when brought to court by attacking a 
deputy U.S. Marshal with a ‘shank,’” prosecutors said in court papers. “(He 
was) possessing plastic trays and pieces of plastic trays in his cell ... with 
the intent to make a weapon (a ‘shank’) out of these materials (and) ... 
attempting to assault a correctional officer after being found with 
‘shank’-making materials in his cell.”

No date or other details were listed in the document.

Montgomery has admitted to authorities that he and his 18-year-old son Chastain 
Montgomery Jr. killed postal workers Paula Robinson and Judy Spray in an armed 
holdup at the post office in Henning on Oct. 18, 2010.

He said he “lost it” and that he and his son began shooting when they learned 
the office had only $63.

His son was killed four months later in a shootout with law enforcement 
officers in Mason, while the father was arrested when he arrived at the scene.

Defense attorneys have argued in court that Montgomery’s confessions should be 
suppressed because, they say, his requests for an attorney were ignored. They 
also say their client suffers from a mental illness and that he is mentally 
retarded and, thus, not eligible for the death penalty.

Hearings on those issues will continue this spring before U.S. Dist. Judge Jon 

A trial date has not been set.

Last week, federal prosecutors said the U.S. Department of Justice in 
Washington authorized them to seek the death penalty in the case. Friday's 
filing outlines the reasons why.

U.S. Atty. Ed Stanton said in court documents the death penalty is warranted 
because the victims were federal employees killed while in the performance of 
their official duties, that the killings involved firearms used in the 
commission of a felony and that the crime involved multiple killings.

He said Montgomery also has “demonstrated a lack of remorse for the murder of 
the victims” and that he is “likely to commit criminal acts of violence in the 
future” if given the opportunity.

(source:  Commercial Appeal)


More than 70 professors oppose Goolsby death penalty bill

More than 70 professors have signed a letter in opposition of legislation Sen. 
Thom Goolsby introduced this week to repeal the Racial Justice Act.

“If this bill is enacted, North Carolina would become, in the eyes of the 
nation, the state that was presented with clear evidence of racial bias in 
capital sentencing and chose to look away,” said the letter, whose signatories 
include the chair of the Department of Sociology and Criminology at the 
University of North Carolina Wilmington.

The professors are from across the state and represent a mix of academic 

Goolsby, R-New Hanover, said this week that the intent of his legislation was 
to lift the de-facto moratorium on the death penalty by ensuring “there are no 
roadblocks so we can move forward in North Carolina” with executions.

In addition to overturning the already limited Racial Justice Act, the bill 
also seeks to protect doctors who participate in executions, establish clear 
timelines for executions, address legal challenges to lethal injection methods, 
and keep the General Assembly informed on the status of pending post-conviction 
death penalty cases.

The professors’ letter, released by the Durham-based Center for Death Penalty 
Litigation, says lawmakers “should work to eliminate the role of race in the 
death penalty, rather than repealing the law that uncovered the problem.”

“Restarting executions without a full investigation into documented racial bias 
would be a tragedy not only for the defendants who would be executed, but also 
for the State of North Carolina,” it reads.

Full text of the letter below:

As professional historians and scholars from across North Carolina, we are 
deeply concerned about our state’s civil rights legacy and the fairness of our 
capital punishment system.  As such, we write to urge the North Carolina 
General Assembly to leave the Racial Justice Act intact.

In 2009, the General Assembly passed the Racial Justice Act, landmark 
legislation which empowered the courts of North Carolina to examine the impact 
of race on the death penalty. The law’s purpose was to determine whether race 
continues to be a “significant 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, US MIL.

2013-01-30 Thread Rick Halperin

Jan. 30


Executing Women In the USA

Very few, or at least relatively few, women have been executed in the United 
States. Kimberly McCarthy would have been the 13th woman put to death since 
reinstatement of capital punishment in 1976, had her execution not been delayed 
at the last minute to look into the question of improper jury selection at her 
trial. An African American woman, McCarthy was sentenced to die by a Dallas, TX 
jury that was predominantly (11-1) white.

So as it stand now, out of 1,321 executions in the U.S. only 12 (less than 1%) 
have been women. Interestingly, according to the Death Penalty Information 
Center, while women are responsible for roughly 10% of murders, they receive 
only 2.1% of death sentences and make up only 1.8% of current death row 
residents, but have received over 4% of clemencies granted. Perhaps this 
represents yet another way the death penalty is disproportionately applied.

Anyway, as a group that appears more likely to find their way out of the 
capital punishment system than their male counterparts, one would expect that 
all the women who actually do get executed would be the absolute worst of the 
worst. One would be wrong. For example:

--3 of the women executed - Wanda Jean Allen, Aileen Wuornos, and Teresa Lewis 
- suffered from serious mental disabilities. Teresa Lewis, despite her low IQ 
and dependency disorder, was executed as the mastermind of a murder for hire.

--Both Christina Riggs and Lynda Lyon Block assisted in their own execution, 
Riggs by refusing to allow her lawyers to mount a defense, and Block by serving 
as her own lawyer and giving up her appeals for reasons connected to her 
political beliefs.

--2 others ??? Velma Barfield and Karla Faye Tucker - inspired calls for 
clemency from highly influential religious figures like Billy Graham, Pat 
Robertson, and Pope John Paul II.

--Like Teresa Lewis, Marlyn Plantz was executed for conspiring in a murder 
committed by someone else. She was also executed despite the involvement in her 
case of the notorious Joyce Gilchrist, who was found to have grossly 
mismanaged the forensics lab where she worked.

--Frances Newton died professing her innocence. Retesting of evidence that 
might have bolstered her claim could not be carried out because the state had 
mishandled and contaminated the evidence.

The issues in these cases are the same ones we see regularly in the cases of 
men who are put to death. Executions routinely take place despite a prisoner's 
genuine remorse or mental disability, despite doubts created by prosecutorial 
misbehavior or the prisoner's volunteering for death, and despite unresolved 
claims of innocence.

Executions of women in the U.S. may be rare; but the flaws in their cases are 
all too common.

(source: Brian Evans, blog, Amnesty International USA)


Accused 9/11 plotters boycott hearings at Guantanamo

5 accused 9/11 plotters boycotted their pre-trial hearing Tuesday in a 
Guantanamo courtroom, a day after authorities censored part of the proceedings.

The self-proclaimed mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Khalid Sheikh 
Mohammed, and 4 other defendants face the death penalty if convicted of the 
murder of nearly 3,000 people on September 11, 2001 in the worst ever attack on 
US soil.

But they chose not to attend Tuesday's hearing, the second in the latest round 
of proceedings that will prepare the way for a trial at the remote naval base 
in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The 5 detainees are not present in the courtroom today, said military Judge 
James Pohl.

An officer from the prison at Guantanamo, where the accused and other terror 
suspects are detained, said the defendants informed him verbally and in writing 
that they would not attend the proceedings on Tuesday.

They were very clear to me both in their oral statement and by signing the 
waiver, said the officer, whose name was not released.

One of the suspects, Yemeni Walid bin Attash, said at Monday's hearing that the 
defendants had no motivating factor to come to court.

Our attorneys are bound and we are bound also, he said. The government 
doesn't want us to say anything, to do anything.

The hearings at the high-tech, maximum security court are broadcast over a 
closed-circuit television feed with a 40-second delay for journalists and 
others observing the proceedings in a nearby room, a media centre and at Fort 
Meade in Maryland, outside Washington.

But a portion of the hearing was censored Monday and the feed was cut off when 
lawyers began discussing the sensitive subject of CIA prisons where the 5 
accused were detained and interrogated before being transferred to Guantanamo.

The defence maintains that the CIA black sites, whose location remains 
classified, should be preserved because they constitute potential evidence that 
the 5 were tortured at the prisons.

The 5 suspects underwent harsh interrogations before they were 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, ARK., MISS., TENN., NEB., MO.

2013-01-25 Thread Rick Halperin

Jan. 25


Judge shares 9/11 trial experience

When The Death Guy came to give a presentation at the College of William and 
Mary Marshall-Wythe School of Law, the audience was prepared for a killer 

Judge David J. Novak, also known as :The Death Guy for his role in numerous 
death penalty cases, visited the law school Jan. 22 to give a presentation 
about the prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui, who was involved in the 9/11 
terrorist attacks and is thus far the only convicted plotter. Novak is a U.S. 
Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia and had an important part 
in the Moussaoui prosecution as an attorney.

Novak began his speech by providing some basic facts about the Moussaoui case. 
Osama bin Laden had Moussaoui enrolled in jet training so he could fly a plane 
during the terrorist attacks, but because Moussaoui was involved in suspicious 
activity, flight instructor Clancy Prevost began an investigation. Despite 
evidence demonstrating that Moussaoui was most likely a terrorist, he was 
arrested Aug. 16, 2001 by the FBI for another reason: His visa had expired.

Had Moussaoui told the truth to the FBI when he was questioned about his 
terrorist involvement, the 9/11 attacks might have been prevented, and 
Moussaoui may not have been sentenced. Instead, Novak said Moussaoui told them 
he wanted to be a recreational pilot and that money from an import/export 
business was funding his education.

When somebody told me they were involved in the import/export business, that's 
like putting on neon lights [saying] I am a crook,' Novak said. He can't 
describe who his friends are, where he [got] the money and all this kind of 
stuff, and it's just lie after lie after lie.

Even though all the evidence pointed to his involvement in a terrorist 
organization, Moussaoui was in prison on Sept. 11, so he was not directly 
involved in the attacks that day.

This meant that Novak needed to attack him on other grounds. Novak convinced 
the jurors that 9/11 could have been prevented had Moussaoui been honest with 
the FBI during the investigation. To put the devastating effects of the 
terrorist attacks in perspective for the jurors, Novak met with families who 
had lost loved ones on 9/11, inviting them to express their views.

Our job as litigators is to tell a story, and we had to tell the story of what 
happened on 9/11 in the most efficient way we could, Novak said.

At the end of the trial, Moussaoui did not receive the death penalty because 
one juror opposed the punishment. In capital punishment cases, a single juror 
may prevent the death penalty for the sentence to be halted. Instead, Moussaoui 
is serving a life sentence in prison.

Greg Parker '16 shared his thoughts on Novak's presentation.

I definitely learned a lot, Parker said. I didn't really know too much in 
depth about 9/11, and he helped me learn more about it.

Parker thought that Moussaoui had crossed the line and deserved the death 

I thought [Novak] explained [the death penalty] very well, Parker said. 
There needs to be a line drawn about who gets the death penalty and who 

Kathleen Imbriglia J.D. '14, president of the Human Security Law Society, 
enjoyed Novak's presentation.

I thought it [Novak's presentation] was absolutely wonderful, Imbriglia said. 
There were obviously people who worked very intimately with the case, and we 
saw the human element to it...that was great how he set everything up so that 
it was easy for all of us to follow and see exactly what was going on.

Imbriglia said that the Human Security Law Society is planning to bring more 
speakers of Novak's caliber to the College this spring.

At the end of his presentation, Novak played sound clips of communication that 
occurred as the planes were hijacked by terrorists. Shouts of mayday were 
heard from one plane and flight attendant Betty Ong explained that someone had 
been stabbed in the business class section. Passenger CeeCee Lyles left a 
message on the answering machine for her husband and children telling them that 
she loved them and hoped to see their faces again. She never did.

According to Novak, stories such as these are what sent Moussaoui to prison.

I believe the hidden secret is not the quantity of people that were killed but 
the quality, Novak said. Think about the folks that were on Flight 93 who 
rushed to take over that plane. They saved the White House...One of the guys 
was about to be a surgeon general. There were scientists on there who were 
about to invent cures to different diseases. And so one of the reasons I like 
to give this talk is to remind folks that this case is not about the number 
3,000. It's about specific, very wonderful and special people who were 
murdered, and I think sometimes they lose sight of that.

(source: Flathead News)


David Headley deserved the death penalty: US judge

Even as a US judge sentenced David 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, MD.

2013-01-12 Thread Rick Halperin

Jan. 12


Leave revenge out of justice; Life in prison prevents killers from killing 

If I had my way we would abolish the death penalty in favor of life without 
parole. Several states already have, and I expect more will follow.

It isn't that I don't think the worst murderers deserve to die. They do. I 
think we will be a better society without a death penalty. We don't really need 

The only real justification for executing a criminal is retribution, and that 
is one of our baser human motives. There is no reason a lifetime of 
incarceration shouldn't prevent a subsequent murder.

The death penalty is expensive, more expensive even than 30 or 40 years behind 
bars. And there is the question of wrongful convictions. Is there anyone out 
there who still doesn't belive we occasionally execute the wrong man? I don't 
say innocent. Almost all executions involve really bad actors, but unsavory 
character is not a capital crime.

Robert Blecker has an article in City Journal advocating what he calls 
Permanent Punitive Segregation. He would make life in prison for the worst of 
the worst as unpleasant as constitutionally allowable. He would put them in 
something close to permanent solitary confinement with no contact with other 
inmates, specially trained guards who would avoid unnecessasry conversation, no 
television or other entertainment, pictures of their victims unreachable but on 
prominent display, a bland tasteless diet, limited exercise, and no possibility 
of ever touching another human being.

Professor Blecker justifies his proposal primarily on grounds of retribution. 
The punishmenet should fit the crime. The guilty should get his just deserts.

I don't disagree that some of these criminals deserve harsh treatment, but who 
benefits? The prisoner isnt' going to repent and reform. We've already given up 
on that. Do we really want a public policy based on vengeance?

The Texas prison system is full of references to correctional officers. We 
aren't going to correct anybody here. But even if we did, with Blecker's 
proposal, would we want a separate Agency for Revenge? Professor Blecker 
suggests his policy would act as a deterrent. But I think he is being 
disingenuous here. He offers no support beyond human nature and common sense. 
Surely he knows that the prospect of a death sentence has never been a 
deterrent. It has sometimes led to false confessions in plea bargaining, but 
few murderers commit their crimes in the expectation they will be caught. Those 
who do act in passion with little regard to consequences.

I don't expect the Blecker proposal will gain much traction. Legislators won't 
want to make life sentences more expensive than they already are. Prison 
wardens don't want prisoners with no incentive for good behavior because life 
is already as difficult as guards can make it. And, since the policy makes 
sense only in jurisdictions with no death penalty, public opinion has already 
swung in favor ofmore humane prisons.

I can understand the sentiment behind the idea. If Adam Lanza had survived his 
rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School, his maximum snetence in a Connecticut 
prison would have been life without parole. Many people would think that was 
not enough. I might even be inclined to agree.

But what good would it have done to put that poor mad soul to death? Would the 
parents of his victims feel better knowing that he would live out his life in 
misery? Wasn't he already miserable?

We will continue on our path toward abolishing the death penalty, state by 
state. It is an anachronism. When it is gone our grandchildren will ask us what 
took us so long. We aren't going to replace it with another policy based solely 
on revenge.

(source: Op-Ed, Norman RobertsDallas Morning News)


Death Penalty Debate About To Start

A debate on repealing the death penalty is about to get underway in Annapolis.

NAACP leaders will join clergy and death penalty opponents on Tuesday at a 
rally for a repeal.

Meanwhile, Baltimore County Republican Delegate Pat McDonough says he will 
introduce his own legislation to mandate the death penalty for the killings of 
correctional, and police officers, mass murderers, contact killers and serial 

McDonough says he is introducing the legislation in response to the Newtown, 
Connecticut school massacre.

McDonough also wants to shorten the time for death penalty appeals, and he says 
lawmakers will have several chances to vote on his proposal.

We're going to talk about gun violence. We're going to talk about crime. We're 
going to talk about law. We're going to talk about the death penalty, and the 
fact of the matter is we are going to bring it to the floor of the House in the 
form of an amendment, and we are going to get a vote on everyone of these 
bills, McDonough told WBAL News.

Governor Martin O'Malley who favors a repeal, isn't saying if he'll propose 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2013-01-09 Thread Rick Halperin

Jan. 9


U.S. Death Penalty Support Stable at 63%; Decade-long decline in support after 
2001 seen mostly among Democrats

Americans' support for the death penalty as punishment for murder has plateaued 
in the low 60s in recent years, after several years in which support was 
diminishing. Sixty-three percent now favor the death penalty as the punishment 
for murder, similar to 61% in 2011 and 64% in 2010.

Gallup first asked Americans for their views on the death penalty using this 
question in 1936, and has asked it at least annually since 1999. The latest 
results come from a Dec. 19-22, 2012, USA Today/Gallup survey, conducted in the 
first few days after the Newtown, Conn., school shooting massacre.

Although views on the death penalty have been fairly static since 2010, support 
has been gradually diminishing since the high point in 1994, when 80% were in 
favor. By 2001, roughly two-thirds were in favor, and since then it has edged 
closer to 60%.

The death penalty is not relevant in the Newtown case, given that the lone 
gunman took his own life after his rampage; however, the tragedy could have 
influenced Americans' thoughts about capital punishment and may be a reason 
support for it held steady this year, rather than declining any further.

Most Groups, but Not Liberals, Lean in Favor of Death Penalty

The majority, or at least plurality, of most demographic and political groups 
are in broad agreement about supporting the death penalty as punishment for 

One exception to that is adults who describe their political views as 
liberal. Just under half of liberals, 47%, favor the death penalty, while 50% 
oppose it. However, most conservatives and moderates support it, as do 
majorities of all party groups, including 51% of Democrats.

Additionally, nonwhites are closely divided on the issue, with 49% in favor and 
45% opposed. That contrasts with whites, among whom 68% are in favor.

These patterns of support are consistent with previous Gallup findings on the 
death penalty. In addition, men continue to be more supportive than women of 
the death penalty, this year by 67% to 59%, and those without a college degree 
are more supportive than those with a college degree.

Consistent with their more Democratic political leanings, residents of the East 
are the least likely to favor the death penalty, while residents of the South 
and Midwest -- who tend to be the most Republican -- are the most likely.

Despite the moral nature of the death penalty as a political issue, with 
teachings on it differing among the various faiths, Gallup finds virtually no 
difference in support for it on the basis of respondents' religious background. 
Two-thirds of Protestants and Catholics, alike, are in favor of the death 
penalty as a punishment for murder, as are at least six in 10 adults regardless 
of whether they attend church weekly, monthly, or less often. Only among those 
who say they have no religious preference, which would include atheists and 
agnostics, is there a difference, with a slightly smaller 56% in favor of the 
death penalty.

There are, however, sharp differences in views about capital punishment by gun 
ownership. Those who report personally owning a gun are much more likely than 
those who do not have a gun to favor the death penalty: 80% vs. 55%.

Long-Term Drop in Support Seen Mainly Among Democrats

Gallup's annual measurement of death penalty views since 2001 shows that 
support for it has declined more among young adults (aged 18 to 34) than among 
those 55 and older, and more among men than among women.

Additionally, the trend differs by party ID, with support dropping most 
precipitously among Democrats, from 59% in 2001 to 51% today.

Gallup found a dip in support for the death penalty among independents in 2003, 
but their views since returned to prior levels and, at 65%, independents' 
current support for the death penalty is similar to what it was in 2001. At 
80%, Republicans' current support also matches the 2001 level.

Bottom Line

Americans' support for the death penalty has varied widely over the 77 years 
Gallup has measured it, and now stands at 63%, which is about average for the 
full trend. Gallup's initial reading in 1936 found 59% in favor, but support 
then dipped well below 50% at points during the 1960s, only to surge above 70% 
in the 1980s. Support remained high through the 1st part of this century, but 
has since waned, possibly relating to several states recently imposing 
moratoriums on executions or abolishing their death penalty statutes 

The future course of public support for the death penalty may depend as much on 
the impact of unforeseen tragedies such as the Oklahoma City bombing or Newtown 
shootings, as it does on political campaigns by death penalty supporters and 
opponents. However, for now, views appear to be at a standstill, with just over 
6 in 10 Americans in favor, essentially unchanged 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, MONT., MD., N.C.

2013-01-07 Thread Rick Halperin

Jan. 7


Guantanamo is a place of sometimes puzzling secrecy

When victims of al-Qaida attacks want to talk to reporters at Guantanamo, 
retired Navy Capt. Karen Loftus squires the so-called victim family members 
to Camp Justice's press shed and introduces herself as their escort.

When The New York Post put a spotlight on Loftus' unique role as victim and 
witness advocate in the coming Sept. 11 death penalty trial, the native New 
Yorker willingly posed for a photo at the Brooklyn Bridge.

So it came as a puzzlement in December when the Pentagon blacked out her name 
on a military judge's order compelling her to testify this month in a pre-trial 
hearing of a Guantanamo death penalty case. The job description in the order 
made it clear Loftus would be the witness - even with her name covered up.

So why the secrecy in postings on the Pentagon's military commissions website, 
the portal for tribunal documents, whose motto is Fairness, Transparency, 

I'm following the office policy because I'm a witness, said Loftus, who works 
from the Pentagon's War Crimes prosecutor's office in Washington, D.C.

Yes, the woman in charge of arranging travel for victims and witnesses is 
herself being treated as an anonymous witness in the case of Abd al Rahim al 
Nashiri, the alleged architect of the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole - 
al-Qaida's attack that killed 17 U.S. sailors.

Meantime, the episode serves as the latest illustration of the peculiar 
pick-and-choose transparency that exists in the war court that the Bush and 
Obama administrations built in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

The Pentagon's death penalty trials are months if not years away, and the court 
is systematically constructing a patchwork of secrecy to surround the security 
trials that, by order of Congress, are being held outside the United States at 
the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The CIA delivered Nashiri to Guantanamo for trial in 2006, according to 
declassified documents, after agents waterboarded him, threatened his mother, 
and held a revving drill and cocked gun to his head. But where he was held or 
anything about the CIA interrogation techniques, which President Obama banned 
upon taking office -- none of these may be revealed in open court by order of 
the judge. The same is true about what the CIA did to the 5 accused 
conspirators in the 9/11 attacks.

A U.S. government censor sits in the Guantanamo court, his finger on the button 
of a white-noise machine that can muffle sound if he suspects someone is about 
to utter a state secret. Spectators hear courtroom conversation on a judicially 
sanctioned 40-second delay.

It is in this court that Loftus is being called to testify the week of Jan. 14 
about her job. She runs a Pentagon lottery for family members of victims who 
want to watch the Guantanamo proceedings. She also operates a members-only 
portal on the Pentagon website and arranges their travel. She travels with the 
victims from Washington, D.C., to Guantanamo, where she has been seen 
comforting victims in court, and dining with them at the base pub.

In court, she can instruct a guard to pull a curtain around the victims inside 
the spectators gallery to shield them from the searching eyes of other 
observers. She helps them decide if, or when, they talk to reporters.

Defense lawyers for Nashiri say they need their own staff member authorized to 
approach Pentagon-approved victims. Over the prosecution's objections, defense 
lawyers got the trial judge's order for Loftus to testify in court along with a 
non-government expert on victim-witness relations, Tammy Krause, whose name, 
perplexingly, is not blacked out in a separate judge's order.

As for Loftus' identity, it's being protected from disclosure to the public 
because it meets the definition of general discovery materials, says Army Lt. 
Col. Todd Breasseale, a Pentagon spokesman. She's entitled to anonymity until 
her actual testimony, said Breasseale, who would not elaborate on why a 
government-salaried worker gets anonymity but the civilian defense witness does 

Zachary Katznelson, a sometime Guantanamo court observer as senior attorney 
with the American Civil Liberties Union's National Security Project, called the 
redaction of Loftus' name an example of confusing and inconsistent application 
of opaque rules.

If her name had never been made public, and the judge likewise had Krause's 
name blacked out prior to testimony, that would make sense, he said.

But, her name is already in the record by name and it wasn't bleeped out in 
our 40-second delay and it's already in the transcript, said Katznelson.

Katznelson is a lawyer who has filed unlawful detention suits for some of 
Guantanamo's captives, and throughout the interview was careful never once to 
speak Loftus' name, just in case.

That's because lawyers, as well as journalists, must navigate a minefield of 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, PENN., CALIF.

2012-12-31 Thread Rick Halperin

Dec. 31


Rare NYS death penalty case may reach Brooklyn in 2013

The year 2013 will bring a number of new beginnings to Brooklyn. In Brooklyn 
Bridge Park, Pier 2 will open with courts for bocce, handball, and basketball. 
The Prospect Park Lakeside Project, to open in fall 2013, will possess 2 ice 
rinks. And in the Brooklyn courts, a rare death-penalty case may be heard.

The case of Ronell Wilson, convicted cop killer, may come to the Federal 
District Court in Brooklyn in the new year. Wilson was convicted in 2007 of the 
2003 double murder of undercover NYPD Detectives Rodney Andrews and James 

A Brooklyn jury found Wilson guilty of the murders, which stemmed from an 
illegal gun buy sting gone wrong, and sentenced Wilson to die by lethal 
injection -- the 1st time in New York that a federal defendant was sentenced to 
death since 1954.

Wilson's attorneys appealed the decision, and the U.S. Court of Appeals threw 
out the sentence, but not the conviction due to prosecutorial error. The 
prosecution, the court said, violated Wilson's constitutional rights by telling 
the jury that Wilson's decision to go to trial demonstrated his lack of remorse 
and refusal to accept responsibility.

A new jury was set to again decide whether or not Wilson would face death row. 
The new trial was hit with a number of delays, primarily the issue of whether 
or not Wilson had the mental capacity to face a death penalty sentence.

We are concerned for his mental health, as he has no contact with his family 
and friends and no access to his legal materials so that his ability to assist 
his legal team is compromised, one of the lawyers wrote in an Aug. 15 letter 
to the warden at a Brooklyn lockup.

This set the stage for Wilson's mental health defense. The United States 
Supreme Court has long ago ruled that inmates who are mentally insane - or 
developmentally disabled - cannot be executed. Wilson's attorney's asserted 
that Wilson is intellectually impaired following a childhood of deprivation and 
neglect, with a drug-addicted mother who was largely absent from their broken 

During a December 2012 special hearing to address the issue of Wilson's mental 
capacity, an expert witness for the prosecution, Dr. Raymond Patterson, found 
Wilson fit and sane enough to face the death penalty.

[Wilson] said that if the judge finds that he was mentally retarded, he cannot 
face the death penalty, Patterson said to validate his finding that Wilson was 
narcissistic and articulate. The defense however, presented a number of 
witnesses to refute the prosecution's findings.

Johns Hopkins neurologist Bruce Shapiro told Brooklyn Federal Judge Nicholas 
Garaufis, that Wilson was functionally illiterate and functionally 

This young man could not work. He had significant limitations. He could not do 
many practical household activities, Shapiro said, noting that as a young man 
Wilson needed instruction on how to clean himself and how to shop.

The issue is now in the hands of Hon. Garaufis, who will eventually rule on 
whether Wilson is mentally fit to face the death penalty. If the court finds 
Wilson mentally fit, he will face a new penalty phase trial this spring, where 
a new jury will decide if Wilson will be sentenced to life in prison without 
the possibility of parole or be executed by lethal injection.

(source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle)


Death sentence concludes Coatesville chainsaw homicide

One of Chester County's most grisly homicides was resolved in historic fashion 
in November, when a Common Pleas Court jury imposed the death sentence on 
defendant Laquanta Chapman for the 2008 murder of a Coatesville teenager.

The penalty was the 1st time in nearly 2 decades that a penal of 12 jurors had 
unanimously decided to impose the ultimate penalty on a defendant in a murder 
case, and only the 2nd time such a decision came from a jury since the death 
penalty was reinstated in Pennsylvania in the late 1970s.

Chapman, a 33-year-old New Jersey native who moved to Coatesville to be with 
his family, was convicted after a 3-week long trial of `st-degree murder in the 
October 2008 death of 16-year-old Aaron Turner, a Coatesville Area Senior High 
who lived across the street from him. Chapman was apparently angered at Turner 
over a drug deal that had soured.

A defense attorney for Chapman argued that his upbringing in the hellish public 
housing projects of Newark, N.J., including physical abuse by his father and 
years of neglect by foster families and his relatives, had left him 
psychologically damaged to the extent that he deserved the jury's mercy.


But testimony by Turner's family about the impact his loss had had on their 
lives was apparently enough to sway the panel to decide unanimously to sentence 
Chapman to death.

In December, Judge William P. Mahon, who had presided over Chapman's case as it 
made its way 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, VA., IOWA, MD., NEV., MISS.

2012-12-13 Thread Rick Halperin

Dec. 13


11 face federal charges in fatal home invasion

11 people have been charged in what prosecutors say was a drug-related home 
invasion that left three people dead and one wounded in suburban Kansas City.

5 of the people named in the federal grand jury indictment handed down Tuesday 
were already facing state charges in the Nov. 16 attack.

According to the indictment, they planned to rob the people in the home of 
methamphetamine and cash. 5 others were charged with receiving and disposing of 
evidence, and the 11th person concealed what he knew about the conspiracy, the 
indictment said.

Federal statutes are uniquely designed to target large-scale drug-trafficking 
conspiracies, acting U.S. Attorney David Ketchmark said in a news release. By 
bringing this case into federal court, we will mount a comprehensive 
prosecution of all of the defendants, bringing them to trial together under one 
charging document.

The 5 who were originally charged in the case are Kevin Finley, 33, Antonio 
Cervantes III, 32, Bobbi Jo Phillips, 37, all of Independence; Raul Soto, 22, 
of Kansas City, Kan.; and Carlos Zambrano Jr., 27. Once they are transferred to 
federal custody, the state charges will be dismissed, Ketchmark said.

Along with conspiracy, Finley and Soto have been charged with using a firearm 
to kill Maria Hernandez, 48, her son, Antonio Hernandez, 20, and her boyfriend, 
Martin Dominguez-Gregorio, and wounding Maria Hernandez's 12-year-old son, 
Miguel Hernandez.

At least 2 of the victims, including one whose hands were duct taped behind his 
back, were shot in the back of their heads, according to a probable cause 
statement filed with the state charges last month.

Police said in court documents that Cervantes, who was Dominguez's stepson, had 
bragged to Finley that he once robbed Dominguez of $30,000 and 3 pounds of 

A spokesman for Ketchmark's office said it didn't appear any of the defendants 
had obtained an attorney.

Electronic court records showed only Soto had obtained an attorney - a public 
defender - in the state case, but U.S. attorney's spokesman Don Ledford said 
that person likely wouldn't handle the federal case. The state public defender 
didn't immediately return a call from The Associated Press on Wednesday seeking 

Finley and Soto could face the death penalty if convicted of the killings, but 
that decision ultimately will be made U.S. Attorney Eric Holder's office.

The conspiracy charge carries a maximum life sentence, while the concealing 
evidence charges have a maximum sentence of 15 years behind bars without 

(source: Associated Press)


Testimony on CIA's treatment of 9/11 suspects will be kept secret, judge rules

A military judge has ruled that any testimony about the CIA's treatment of 
Khalid Sheik Mohammed and 4 other men accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11, 
2001, attacks will remain secret during their death penalty trial at Guantanamo 
Bay, Cuba.

In a ruling dated Dec. 6 and released Wednesday, Army Col. James L. Pohl, the 
chief judge at Guantanamo, issued a protective order that will safeguard 
information the government deems classified during military commission 
proceedings against the 5 defendants.

Pohl prohibited the disclosure of information about the capture of the accused 
or where they were held for several years before they were transferred to the 
U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in 2006. He also will keep secret any 
information about the enhanced interrogation techniques that were applied to an 
accused from on or around the aforementioned capture dates through 6 September 
2006, including descriptions of the techniques as applied, the duration, 
frequency, sequencing, and limitations of those techniques.

Much of this information is in the public domain through reports by the CIA's 
inspector general, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the news 
media, among others. Mohammed, for instance, was held at a secret prison in 
Poland and waterboarded 183 times after his capture in Pakistan in March 2003.

Protective orders are routine in civilian and military proceedings that involve 
issues of national security, but the American Civil Liberties Union argued that 
the government was seeking an overly broad classification of information. Each 
of the defendants joined the ACLU motion, and a group of news organizations, 
including The Washington Post, filed motions opposing the government's 

We're profoundly disappointed by the military judge's decision, which didn't 
even address the serious First Amendment issues at stake here, said Hina 
Shamsi, director of the ACLU's national security program. For now, the most 
important terrorism trial of our time will be organized around judicially 
approved censorship of the defendants' own thoughts, experiences and memories 
of CIA torture. The decision undermines the government's claim that the 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, US MIL., CALIF., UTAH, COLO.

2012-12-11 Thread Rick Halperin

Dec. 11


States put brakes on capital punishment

For just the second time since 1984, Virginia and Maryland will end the year 
without executing a single death row inmate - reflecting a national trend of 
states using capital punishment less often over the past decade.

Maryland has long been reluctant to use its death penalty. Virginia, which 
ranks only behind Texas in the number of executions over the past 35 years, has 
put fewer people to death in recent years as many cases are tied up in appeals 
and as juries become less likely to recommend the punishment in capital murder 

Analysts say executions have plummeted nationwide and are banned in some states 
because of rising concerns over heavy court costs, biased sentencing and, 
perhaps most prominently, the fear that a state could - or already has - killed 
an innocent person.

The advent of science in the world of criminology has showed that the justice 
system makes mistakes, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death 
Penalty Information Center. That, I think, is a real shocker for the public 
and jurors, and they're now less likely to give a death sentence.

Yearly executions in the U.S. have decreased by more than 50 % since 1999, when 
98 people were put to death - the most since the Supreme Court placed an 
effective moratorium on capital punishment in 1972, and reaffirmed its legality 
in 1976.

This year, 42 convicts have been executed in a total of nine states, even 
though 33 states allow the death penalty and more than 3,000 inmates are on 
death row nationwide.

The year's final execution is scheduled for Tuesday in Florida, where former 
South Florida police officer Manuel Pardo, 56, is scheduled to be executed for 
killing 9 people in 1986. The execution would bring the nationwide total to 43, 
matching last year's total but falling short of the 46 inmates who were 
executed in 2010.

Mr. Dieter said execution rates rose steadily in the 1980s and 1990s as 
reducing crime rates became a major political issue but have since declined 
largely because of prosecutors' and juries' reliance on life without parole as 
a common alternative.

Slow appeals process

David Muhlhausen, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said he thinks 
the drop in executions largely has been a result of a national decline in 
murder rates and longer appeals processes for death row inmates.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, inmates executed in 2010 - the 
most recent year for which statistics were available - had been under sentence 
of death an average of 14 years and 10 months, which was 9 months longer than 
those executed in 2009.

Mr. Muhlhausen, who supports the death penalty, said he does not expect 
executions to increase anytime soon unless the legal process is expedited.

Although he is reluctant to call for such reforms because they could increase 
the likelihood of wrongful executions, he said, the death penalty should be 
kept in place to punish the nation???s most violent offenders and serve as a 

Each additional execution, in fact, saves lives, he said. And that's 
something opponents don't consider.

While a declining crime rate has led to fewer executions, Mr. Dieter said, 
another major factor has been a number of high-profile exonerations of death 
row inmates.

Sentence overturned

Since 1973, 141 people have been sentenced to death but subsequently had their 
convictions overturned for reasons including withheld evidence by prosecutors, 
coerced confessions and false or unreliable witness testimony, according to the 
Death Penalty Information Center.

About half of those exonerations have occurred in the past 15 years, and 18 
took place after the discovery of DNA evidence that contradicted court 
testimony or pointed to other assailants.

None of the 1,319 people executed since 1976 has been legally exonerated after 
execution, although activists and legal groups have argued for their innocence 
in numerous cases.

You can release an innocent person from prison, but you can't release them 
from the grave, former Illinois death row inmate Randy Steidl told Northern 
Kentucky University's the Northerner newspaper last month. He spent 17 years in 
prison for double murder before he was acquitted in a 2004 retrial because of a 
lack of evidence and a recanted witness statement.

Another factor in declining executions over the past 2 years has been a 
national shortage of sodium thiopental, a barbiturate once commonly used in 
3-drug lethal injection cocktails.

The drug was pulled off the market in 2011 after its only U.S. producer moved 
operations to Italy. The Italian government prevented the product from being 
exported for use in executions. States including Ohio and Virginia have 
countered by using pentobarbital, a powerful barbiturate that can be used for 
single-drug executions, instead of sodium thiopental.

Public sentiment

While polls show that 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, UTAH, CONN., ALA., PENN., CALIF.

2012-12-07 Thread Rick Halperin

Dec. 7


Lethal Injection: 30 Years of Hypocrisy

torture, or ill treatment, or unnecessary pain, shall be inflicted upon a 
prisoner to be executed under the sentence of the law.

Hypocrisy: a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; 
especially: the false assumption of an appearance of virtue.

30 years ago, just after midnight, Dec. 7, 1982, Texas executed Charlie Brooks 
with a lethal cocktail of 3 drugs. Texas had been execution-free for 18 years, 
since 1964. The 1st African American executed in the U.S. since reinstatement 
of the death penalty in 1976, Brooks' final words were an Islamic prayer 
(There is no God but Allah. Verily do we belong and verily unto Him do we 
return.) followed by a stay strong to his girlfriend.

He had been sentenced to death for murdering an auto mechanic named David 
Gregory, but it was unclear if he or his accomplice had pulled the trigger, and 
the prosecutor had tried to stop the execution. The courts and the Governor had 
declined to intervene. A needle had already been inserted into Brooks' arm when 
an unseen prison employee behind a curtain started the flow of lethal drugs. In 
seven minutes, after a period of gasping and wheezing, 2 doctors examined him 
and Dr. Ralph Gray pronounced him dead.

This was also the 1st lethal injection execution in the U.S. Amnesty 
International said it was especially repugnant because medical techniques 
and personnel are meant to sustain life, not take it. There have been over 
1,100 lethal injection executions in the U.S. since then, and every state that 
still executes uses lethal injection as its primary killing method.

Designed to make executions look humane (like pet euthanasia), and to make 
witnesses to the killings more comfortable, lethal injection has nevertheless 
run into problems.

1. There have been dozens of botched executions. There have been bad reactions 
to the drugs used - spasms, coughing, moans, extreme pain - and execution 
personnel have had difficulties finding suitable veins, particularly in 
prisoners who were IV drug users; in some cases inmates have tried to assist 
executioners in their own death. Just this week, Arizona executioners cut into 
a leg artery of a condemned prisoner in order to insert the needles.

2. The medical profession has recoiled from participation in executions, which 
is a fundamental violation of ethical responsibilities as laid out by the AMA. 
In addition to doctors, anesthesiologists, nurses, and EMTs have all 
emphatically stated their opposition to participation in capital punishment.

3. The pharmaceutical profession and countries exporting drugs used in 
executions have also tried to disentangle themselves from the degrading world 
of executions. Large, well-known transnational pharma companies like Hospira, 
Novartis, Lundbeck and Fresenius Kabi have spoken out and taken steps to 
restrict access to their drugs by US executioners. Both the European Commission 
(the European Union's executive governing body), and the government of the UK 
have imposed strict export controls on drugs that could be used in the US to 
kill prisoners. Even US authorities have intervened in shadier drug acquisition 
efforts in places like Georgia and Nebraska.

4. As objections to executions have mounted, the transparency of the process 
has correspondingly diminished. From the outset, one of the drugs used in 
lethal injections (pancuronium) was included for the purpose of paralyzing the 
prisoner, effectively masking or concealing any severe pain he might be feeling 
as he is put to death. For this reason, pancuronium has been banned for use in 
animal euthanasia, and it is only recently that some states have switched to a 
one drug protocol that skips this paralytic step. At the same time, states like 
Missouri and Florida have resorted to so-called hooded executioner laws, 
concealing the identities of those who participate in executions, resulting in 
a lack of accountability for botched executions or unethical medical 
participation (or both). This is a government agency killing people, which 
should require a maximum level of transparency, not masks and hoods.

The result of 30 years of lethal injection has been the perpetuation of a 
massive hypocrisy. We are killing with drugs and medical professionals who are 
supposed to heal, while pretending that this deliberate act of violence is 
peaceful. Politicians spout tough on crime rhetoric while someone else 
carries out the tough punishment behind walls and shields of anonymity. We 
pretend that these staged killings are for victims' families while ignoring 
families that don't want it, and ignoring the fact that the condemned has a 
family too. Take your pick; the hypocrisy is widespread. And all this is just a 
subset of the death penalty's grand hypocrisy: calling for death in order to 
show our reverence for 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, CONN., GA., S.C., CALIF.

2012-12-04 Thread Rick Halperin

Dec. 4


Serial killers' DNA might help to solve old murders; Search on for more victims 
of John Wayne Gacy, others

Detectives have long wondered what secrets serial killer John Wayne Gacy and 
other condemned murderers took to the grave when they were executed - mostly 
whether they had other unknown victims.

Now, in a game of scientific catch-up, the Cook County Sheriff???s Department 
is trying to be creative: They???ve created DNA profiles of Gacy and others and 
figured out they could get the executed men entered in a national database 
shared with other law enforcement agencies because the murderers were 
technically listed as homicide victims when they were put to death by the 

The department's hope is to find matches of DNA evidence from blood, semen or 
strands of hair, or skin under the fingernails of victims that link the 
long-dead killers to the coldest of cold cases. And they're hoping to prompt 
authorities in other states to submit the DNA of their own executed inmates or 
from decades-old crime scenes.

You just know some of these guys did other murders that were never solved, 
said Jason Moran, the sheriffs' detective leading the effort, noting that some 
of the executed killers ranged all over the country before the convictions that 
put them behind bars for the last time.

The Illinois testing, which began during the summer, is the latest chapter in a 
story that began when Sheriff Tom Dart exhumed the remains of unknown victims 
of Gacy to create DNA profiles that could be compared with the DNA of people 
whose loved ones went missing in the 1970s, when Gacy was killing young men.

More victims?

That effort, which led to the identification of one Gacy victim, caused Dart to 
wonder if the technology could help answer a question that has been out there 
for decades: Did Gacy kill anyone besides those young men whose bodies were 
stashed under his house or tossed in a river?

After unexpectedly finding three vials of Gacy's blood stored with other Gacy 
evidence, Moran learned the state would only accept the blood in the crime 
database if it came from a coroner or medical examiner.

Moran thought he was out of luck. But then Will County Coroner Patrick O'Neil 
surprised him with this revelation: In his office freezer were blood samples 
from Gacy and at least 3 other executed inmates. The reason they were there is 
because after the death penalty was reinstated in Illinois in the 1970s, 
executions were carried out in Will County - all between 1990 and 1999, a year 
before then-Gov. George Ryan established a moratorium on the death penalty. So 
it was O'Neil's office that conducted the autopsies and collected the blood 

But there was a bigger obstacle.

While the state does send to the FBI???s Combined DNA Index System the profiles 
of homicide victims no matter when they were killed, it will only send the 
profiles of known felons if they were convicted since a new state law was 
enacted about a decade ago that allowed them to be included, Moran said.

That meant the profile of Gacy, who received a lethal injection in 1994, and 
the profiles of other executed inmates could not qualify for the database under 
the felon provision. They could, however, qualify as people who died by 

Bundy's DNA

Last year, authorities in Florida created a DNA profile from the blood of 
executed serial killer Ted Bundy in an attempt to link him to other murders. 
But officials there, where the law allows profiles of convicted felons be 
uploaded into the database as well as the phase-in of profiles of people 
arrested on felony charges, don't know of any law enforcement agency reaching 
back into history the way Cook County's sheriff's office is. O'Neil said he is 
still looking for blood samples of the rest of the 12 condemned inmates 
executed between 1977 when Illinois reinstated the death penalty and 2000 when 
then-Gov. George Ryan established a moratorium. So far, DNA profiles have been 
done on the blood of Gacy and 2 others; the profile of the 4th inmate has not 
yet been done.

Among the other executed inmates whose blood was submitted for testing was 
Lloyd Wayne Hampton, a drifter executed in 1998 for his crimes. Not only did 
Hampton's long list of crimes include crimes outside the state - 1 conviction 
was for the torture of a woman in California - but shortly before he was put to 
death, he claimed to have committed other murders but never provided details.

No links so far

So far, no computer hits have linked Gacy or the others to any other crimes. 
But Moran and O'Neil suspect there are investigators who are holding DNA 
evidence that could help solve them.

That is exactly what happened during the investigation into the 1993 slayings 
of 7 people at a suburban Chicago restaurant, during which an evidence 
technician collected a half-eaten chicken dinner even though there was no way 
to test it for DNA at the time.

When the 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, FLA., MD., ARIZ.

2012-11-30 Thread Rick Halperin

Nov. 30


Richard Jaffe's Quest for Justice: Rethinking the Death Penalty in America

The following is an excerpt from Richard Jaffe's book, Quest for Justice: 
Defending the Damned.

One bleak November night, a lone man pointed a gun at a young female cashier 
and demanded money at a grocery store in Homewood, Alabama, a suburb that 
stands on the edge of both Birmingham and the affluent town of Mountain Brook. 
After the cashier doled out a few hundred dollars in rolled cash and coins, the 
robber left. Shaken, the cashier called 911, reporting the armed robbery.

The 911 operator alerted the police departments from Homewood, Mountain Brook 
and Birmingham. Officers from all 3 jurisdictions quickly responded, but before 
they could apprehend the robber violence erupted.

A 23-year-old store manager followed the robber out of the grocery store. The 
unarmed manager and the robber played a dangerous game of cat and mouse for 2 
or 3 minutes. As the robber started to cross the street, the store manager came 
closer to him. The robber turned and pointed his gun at the store manager, who 
retreated toward the store entrance. Then the store manager retraced his 

The robber again turned and pointed his gun. The young manager again retreated. 
Finally, they both disappeared deep in a dark trailer park across the street. 
They were out of sight of both the cashier and a customer who had witnessed the 
alarming scene through the store???s plate glass windows.

Within 5 minutes of the cashier's call to 911, two Homewood plainclothes police 
officers arrived on the scene. After speaking to the cashier, they approached 
and entered the trailer park. Three confused students walked out on the front 
porch of their trailer after hearing Halt! Police! and 2 gunshots. The 
officers ordered them to go back inside, close the door and remain there until 
further notice. Several other residents later reported they also heard the 
sounds of 2 rapidly fired gunshots. For some unknown reason, the plainclothes 
police officers raced from the trailer park after the shots were fired.

Additional police officers who had arrived at the grocery store converged on 
the darkened trailer park. No more than 30 minutes after the trailer residents 
heard the gunshots a group of three officers searching for the robber found Bo 
Cochran hiding in thick brush just outside the trailer park, approximately 1/4 
mile from the scene of the shooting. The police located a .38 revolver in the 
bushes about ten feet from Bo. Officers noticed that the worn weapon appeared 
rusty and brown, with a scratched 4-inch barrel.

When an officer examined the weapon, he discovered that the cylinder contained 
four rounds and turned clockwise. He further noted and later put in his report 
that from the position of the cylinder, the weapon???s most recent turn would 
not have discharged a bullet, because it was empty. The last time someone 
pulled the trigger, the gun did not fire. Trailer residents had reported 
gunshots, but when the officers came upon Bo Cochran and his gun, they 
discovered the weapon was cold and without the scent of burned gun powder.

The officers did not conduct a Paraffin test, then a standard test, to 
determine the probability of whether a person had recently handled or fired a 
gun. 1 of the 3 officers conducting the search put a gun to Bo's head and said, 
I ought to put a bullet right through your head.

With his heart pounding, Bo was curled up in a fetal position among the dark 
weeds and grassy woods. The officers immediately cuffed and thoroughly searched 
him, finding nothing of interest and no money of any kind. Before placing him 
in a nearby squad car, two other officers searched Bo, again finding nothing.

It wasn't until 45 minutes after the reported gunshots that, after an intense 
search, numerous officers discovered the store manager's lifeless corpse under 
the trailer shared by the 3 students. The body was still warm. About an hour 
after the students heard the shots, officers went inside their trailer and took 
their statements.

When the coroner arrived at the scene, he examined the dead store manager's 
body. He discovered that one penetrating gunshot to the manager???s left arm 
travelled through his side, perforated his heart and caused his death. The 
bullet lodged in his right arm. This was very significant, because the bullet 
did not pass through his right arm; there was no exit wound. The long sleeve 
shirt covering the young man's right arm bore no bullet hole.

The coroner never found the bullet, nor did a search party of police officers 
who searched both that night and over the next several days using a metal 
detector. However, the coroner did find a rather large scraping mark at the 
site of the entrance wound in the manager's right arm, as if someone had used a 
pocketknife to remove the bullet.

Crime scene photos revealed no signs of blood on the grass or grass 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, ARIZ., CALIF.

2012-11-26 Thread Rick Halperin

Nov. 26


Ronell Wilson case: Lawyers will try to convince judge that the convicted cop 
killer is not eligible for the death penalty because he has IQ below 70; Does a 
mentally handicapped person quote author Ralph Ellison, the Rev. Martin Luther 
King Jr. and industrialist Henry Ford on his Facebook page?

For the next two weeks, lawyers will try to convince a judge that convicted cop 
killer Ronell Wilson is not eligible for the death penalty because he has an IQ 
below 70.

The hearing, which begins Monday in Brooklyn Federal Court, will feature 
psychologists who have examined Wilson, a former girlfriend and family members 

Prosecutors believe there is overwhelming evidence Wilson is a scheming 
cold-blooded killer who murdered undercover NYPD Detectives James Nemorin and 
Rodney Andrews during a gun buy-and-bust in 2003 on Staten Island. And letters, 
phone calls and email communications from prison since his 2007 capital 
conviction have not changed that opinion.

The sentence, but not the conviction, was overturned by the U.S. Court of 
Appeals due to prosecutorial error. And in 2009, the Supreme Court declared it 
unconstitutional to execute the mentally handicapped.

Hence the need for Wilson to prove his mental deficiencies at his resentencing 
hearing. Few are buying it.

His claimed mental deficiency must have set in after the murders because he 
seemed to have all his faculties when he premeditated the murders, said 
Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives Endowment Association.

Wilson, 30, proudly sports a Bloods gang tattoo on his toned bicep in a prison 
photo posted on his Facebook page. Prosecutors will use his postings as 
evidence to counter his mental retardation claim.

Comin 2gether is a beginning; Keepin 2gether is a process; Working 2gether is 
a success, Wilson quoted the founder of Ford Motor Co., with hip-hop 

He found a pearl of wisdom from Ellison, the author of Invisible Man, last 
December: It takes a deeper commitment 2 change and an even deeper commitment 
2 grow.

And he posted this quote from King in January: True compassion is more than 
flinging a coin to a beggar . . . It understands that an edifice which produces 
beggars needs restructuring.

Wilson does not have access to the Internet from his cell on Death Row in Terre 
Haute, Ind., and at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where he's 
currently detained, so an outsider helps update the Facebook page. But Wilson 
does send emails that are posted to the page.

Wilson's lawyers did not return a call for comment.

(source: New York Daily News)


Prosecutor: Death penalty not bargaining chip for Kingman murder suspect; 
Murder suspect Ketchner may be angling for plea deal

Lawyers on both sides of the death penalty case against the accused murderer 
met in court last week as they set a trial date for Feb 1. Defense attorney 
John Napper also requested that the court set up a settlement conference, in 
which the parties meet before a different judge than the one hearing the case 
to see if negotiations can be settled short of trial.

That means Ketchner could be angling for the death penalty to be taken off the 
table in exchange for a guilty plea and possible life in prison.

Prosecutor Megan McCoy said that the County Attorney's case reviewed mitigating 
factors on Ketchner's behalf both when the case was filed and again recently. 
She said nothing provided by the defense has shown pursuing the death penalty 
not to be an appropriate decision.

She added that the County Attorney's Office as a general rule does not use the 
death penalty as a bargaining chip.

Jury selection in the case is scheduled to begin Feb. 1 and last until opening 
arguments, slated for Feb. 19. McCoy said the state's case is expected to last 
14 days, with Napper indicating that the defense's case is expected to take 
about as long. Judge Rick Williams said the trial would be held Monday through 
Thursday mornings for the duration of proceedings.

Williams said he would look to coordinate a settlement conference with a judge 
from an outside county for January. Ketchner has waived his presence at 
hearings but will be required to attend the settlement conference. He is 
currently housed at the Arizona State Prison in Florence on a 15-year sentence 
after pleading guilty in September 2010 to weapons offenses in connection with 
the case. McCoy has previously said that through that plea, Ketchner has 
essentially admitted to being in the Allison home at the time of the murder, 
but that she still intends to prove a number of aggravating factors in the case 
at trial.

Ketchner is charged with murder and attempted murder for allegedly stabbing to 
death his ex-girlfriend's 18-year-old daughter and shooting his ex in the head 
after he broke into her Pacific Avenue home on July 4, 2009. 4 other people in 
the home, including 2 younger children 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, OHIO, US MIL., ORE., COLO., KY.

2012-10-23 Thread Rick Halperin

Oct. 23


Guantanamo defense: No war crimes if no war

A U.S. military war tribunal is weighing a question that might seem better 
suited for a history class than a courtroom: How long has the United States 
been at war?

The question is more than academic for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, whose lawyers 
are appearing before the tribunal this week at the U.S. base in Guantanamo, 
Cuba, to seek the dismissal of war crimes charges that were approved by a 
Pentagon-appointed legal official.

Al-Nashiri faces trial in a special tribunal for war-time offenses known as a 
military commission for allegedly orchestrating the bombing of the USS Cole in 
Yemen in 2000 as well as attacks on 2 other ships. But his lawyers say that 
since the U.S. wasn't at war at that time, the 47-year-old shouldn't be tried 
at Guantanamo.

The fact of going to war is a decision by the political branches, either 
Congress or the president or both, attorney Richard Kammen said Monday. It's 
not something to be arrived at retroactively by a bureaucrat who is not 
appointed by Congress because it has huge consequences.

Al-Nashiri's lawyers say that the U.S. wasn't at war until after the Sept. 11, 
2001, attacks and then-President George W. Bush did not certify the existence 
of hostilities of any kind in Yemen until September 2003.

The motion for dismissal is one of 21 matters set for consideration at a 
hearing that started Tuesday at the base, where the U.S. holds 166 prisoners, 
most of whom have not been charged with any crime. The hearing is scheduled to 
run through Thursday but officials were trying to condense the agenda because 
of the approach of Tropical Storm Sandy, which was heading north in the 
Caribbean Sea on a track to reach southeastern Cuba on Thursday.

Al-Nashiri refused to attend the hearing, telling a legal official at the 
prison that he was boycotting to protest the use of belly chains to move him 
from his cell to court.

The chief prosecutor, Army Gen. Mark Martins, argued that he should be required 
to attend at least so that he can be questioned about his motivations in open 
court in case the matter is ever reviewed in later appeals. The judge, Army 
Col. James Pohl, has previously said al-Nashiri can waive his right to attend 
pretrial hearing, as he did last week in the Sept. 11 case.

Lawyers for al-Nashiri have said he opposes restraints that remind him of the 
harsh treatment he endured previously in U.S. custody as well as because he 
feels the proceedings are pointless since the government could detain him 
indefinitely even if he were acquitted.

If he is acquitted he does life without parole in Guantanamo. If he's 
convicted he gets life without parole or death in Guantanamo, Kammen said. 
It's very easy to see somebody saying 'Why do I want to participate in this? 
I've got no real stake in the outcome.'

Other items on this week's agenda include whether the U.S. government should 
turn over information about a man killed in a drone strike in Yemen in 2002 who 
was identified in some media reports as the mastermind of the Cole attack.

If he was killed based on the fact that he was the mastermind behind the USS 
Cole that's relevant, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Reyes, his military lawyer.

Al-Nashiri, who was born in Saudi Arabia to a Yemeni father and a Saudi mother, 
has been held at Guantanamo since September 2006. An allegedly senior member of 
al-Qaida, he was held for four years in the CIA's secret network of overseas 
prisons, where he was subjected to the enhanced interrogation program that 
included at least two instances of the simulated drowning technique known as 
waterboarding. The government has said he was also threatened with a gun and a 
power drill because interrogators believed he was withholding information about 
possible attacks against the U.S.

In November, he was arraigned on charges that include terrorism and murder for 
the attack on the Cole, which killed 17 sailors and wounded 37, as well as for 
orchestrating the October 2002 bombing of the French tanker MV Limburg, which 
killed one crewman, and a failed January 2000 plot on the USS The Sullivans. He 
could get the death penalty at a trial that his lawyers say is at least a year 

In making the case for the military tribunal, prosecutors lay out the history 
of what they see as al-Qaida's escalating war against the U.S., starting with 
an August 1996 declaration by Osama bin Laden calling for the murder of U.S. 
personnel serving on the Arabian peninsula, though it wasn't until a week after 
the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that Congress and Bush approved an 
authorization for military force.

Al-Nashiri's lawyers say that former President Bill Clinton repeatedly noted 
that the country was at peace in the aftermath of the Cole attack.

A group of retired admirals and generals who served as senior military legal 
officials called for the military charges to be dismissed and for 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2012-10-20 Thread Rick Halperin

Oct. 20


Defense wants 9/11 trial televised globally from Guantanamo

The death penalty trial of 5 Guantanamo prisoners accused of plotting the 
September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States is so important that it should 
be televised globally, defense lawyers argued on Friday.

The issue of televising the proceedings was discussed on the final day of a 
week-long pretrial hearing for the alleged mastermind of the hijacked plane 
attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and 4 co-defendants accused of providing 
money, training and travel assistance to the hijackers.

If these proceedings are fair, why is the government afraid to let the world 
watch? asked Marine Major William Hennessy, a U.S. military lawyer defending 
Walid Bin Attash, a Yemeni accused of training two of the hijackers at an al 
Qaeda camp in Afghanistan.

The government admits that these are historic proceedings, Hennessy added 
even as the military judge in the case sounded skeptical about televising the 
trial and the prosecution said the trial should not become reality TV.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has sole authority to authorize the broadcast of 
the trials. A Pentagon spokesman said that no one has formally asked him to do 

The 5 defendants, who could face execution if convicted of charges that include 
murder and terrorism, skipped Friday's session after the judge declined their 
request for a recess on the Muslim holy day.

Currently, the public can watch closed-circuit broadcasts of the Guantanamo war 
crimes court proceedings only at a 200-seat theater at Fort Meade, a U.S. Army 
base in Maryland.

Closed-circuit viewing sites at a handful of other military bases in the 
eastern United States are restricted to relatives of the 2,976 people killed in 
the September 11 attacks and to the firefighters, police officers and other 
emergency responders who gave aid and searched for victims at the crash sites 
in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

In hearings at the remote U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, lawyers for 
some of the defendants asked the judge to open those viewing sites to the 
general public, which the judge declined to do. Lawyers for other defendants 
said the trial should be televised globally to anyone who wants to watch.

Hennessy, the defense lawyer, acknowledged that the rules give the defense 
secretary sole authority to decide whether to televise the trials, but 
suggested the judge could make the decision in the interests of ensuring the 
accused get a fair trial.

The judge, U.S. Army Colonel James Pohl, did not immediately rule on the 
request but seemed skeptical.

I can look at any rule, any statute, and say 'I wouldn't have done it that 
way.' Is that what you want a judge to do, really? he asked Hennessy. I would 
have to conclude that the lack of public television means the accused is 
getting an unfair trial?


The prosecution said federal court trials in the United States are never 

This is a court of justice. It is not reality TV, said the chief prosecutor, 
Army Brigadier General Mark Martins, adding that people's behavior sometimes 
changes for the worse when cameras are present.

(source: Reuters)

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[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, CALIF.

2012-10-19 Thread Rick Halperin

Oct. 19


Does the US Constitution Apply to the 9/11 Trial? Maybe

In an ordinary federal court held on U.S. soil, it's clear what rules apply. 
There are the laws passed by Congress, precedent from cases decided in the 
federal appeals courts and, of course, the U.S. Constitution, which reigns 
supreme. None of the other laws can conflict with it.

That's not necessarily the case in the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, 
where a commission is now holding pre-trial hearings in the most important 
terrorism case in U.S. history. Just as it's often not clear what legal rules 
apply on the U.S. military base in Cuba, the U.S. government won't even say if 
it believes the U.S. Constitution applies.

Today, lawyers for the five alleged co-conspirators in the September 11th 
terrorist attacks asked the judge to please let them know: Are we operating 
under a Constitutional framework here or not? Exactly what Constitutional 
rights do our clients have?

In the 11 years since the 1st military commissions were created at Guantanamo, 
the question has never been answered.

Judge James Pohl, following the government's lead, has so far continued that 
tradition in this case. Give me a concrete example, and I'll tell you what 
applies, he said Thursday morning.

Prosecutors in the 9/11 case argue the judge shouldn't answer the question 
until a specific Constitutional question arises. Congress clearly did not 
intend that every right that applies to U.S. citizens in a U.S. federal court 
would apply to the accused in a military commission, asserted Clayton Trivett, 
a lawyer from the Justice Department. We need to take this up, issue by issue, 
and we'll get to a determination.

Defense lawyers say that makes it impossible to adequately prepare their cases. 
Of the 25 pre-trial motions scheduled to be heard this week at Guantanamo, many 
raise Constitutional questions, and the government explicitly disagreed with 
the defense on only one of those. Does that mean the government concedes the 
Constitution applies on all the others?

The court should presume the Constitution applies, argued James Connell, 
lawyer for Ammar al-Baluchi, this morning. Connell and the other defense 
lawyers argue that according to the Supreme Court's reasoning in Boumediene v. 
Bush, which found that Guantanamo detainees have a right to challenge their 
detention in federal court: The burden is on the government to show it 
doesn't; the government must show it's impractical and anomalous under the 

The impractical and anomalous standard comes from the Supreme Court in 
Boumediene. There, the court found that because Guantanamo is wholly controlled 
by the U.S. government, the court would assume the right to habeas corpus 
applied because the result would not be impractical and anomalous. That's now 
the applicable standard, argues the defense in this case.

Judge Pohl didn't refute that legal standard, but sounded skeptical that he 
should decide the issue now. Are you asking for an advisory opinion? he 

No, Connell said. We're asking for a legal framework.

In the afternoon, Judge Pohl moved onto the next motion -- which involves a 
Constitutional claim -- without deciding whether the Constitution applies.

Such are the Guantanamo military commissions that defense lawyers may well have 
to represent their clients in a death penalty case involving the murder of 
nearly 3,000 Americans and not know before trial what Constitutional rights, if 
any, their clients have.

(source: Daphne Eviatar; Senior Counsel, Human Rights First's Law and Security 
Program--Huffington Post)


Dumanis speaks against anti-death penalty proposition

North County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis gathered Thursday with other 
public safety officials and the family members of slain victims to voice their 
opposition to Proposition 34, which seeks to end California's death penalty.

Dumanis encouraged members of the public to vote against the proposition, 
arguing that capital punishment is necessary to send a message to people who 
kill police officers, and commit other eligible crimes, that they will face the 
ultimate punishment.

She said the death penalty is recommended rarely in this state - in less than 2 
% of all murder cases - and with even less frequency in San Diego County.

The death penalty is certainly the most solemn decision that as district 
attorney I am required to make, Dumanis said, noting that she convenes a panel 
of experienced attorneys to discuss whether to seek a defendant's execution in 
a particular case.

She said she also seeks input from defense attorneys and the victims' family 

It's a long process, she said. It is one well considered.

Dumanis conceded, however, that California's death penalty does need fixing. 
Acknowledging that it can take decades for a condemned inmate to face 
execution, Dumanis said the appellate process should be 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, ARK., PENN., FLA., NEB.

2012-10-09 Thread Rick Halperin

Oct. 9


Supreme Court debates whether competency can hold up federal appeals in death 
penalty cases

The Supreme Court is questioning whether federal judges can delay appeals from 
death row inmates while determining whether an inmate is competent enough to 
assist in his or her own defense.

Inmates appealing state death sentences have a right to a lawyer in their 
federal appeal. But the courts have never said whether inmates have to be 
competent enough to help their lawyer.

Lawyers for Arizona death row inmate Ernest Gonzales and Ohio death row inmate 
Sean Carter say yes, and federal judges should have discretion to hold up 
proceedings until they're ready.

But the federal government and some states argue there should be no delays in 
cases when the necessary information can be found state trial records, and say 
there should be a time limit in all other instances.

(source: Associated Press)


Arkansas Republicans Distance Themselves From Slavery, Muslim, Child Death 
Penalty Comments

Arkansas Republicans are distancing themselves from 2 state legislators and one 
legislative candidate who have written in favor of slavery, the deportation of 
all Muslims and the institution of the death penalty for rebellious children.

State Republican Party leaders have announced that they will no longer be 
offering support to Reps. Jon Hubbard and Loy Mauch, along with former state 
Rep. Charlie Fuqua who is seeking a return to the state House.

On Friday, the Arkansas Times reported that Hubbard called slavery a blessing 
in a 2010 book, while Mauch wrote a series of letters to the editor over the 
last decade supporting slavery and opposing former President Abraham Lincoln, 
while also organizing an event with a keynote address in favor of Lincoln's 
assassin, John Wilkes Booth. Fuqua wrote in a 2012 book that he supports 
deporting all Muslims and wants to create a system that would allow parents to 
seek judicial consent to kill rebellious children.

Fuqua said over the weekend that he believes his Muslim comments are fairly 
well-accepted by most people. He declined to comment on the death penalty for 
children writings when contacted by HuffPost Monday. Fuqua has also written 
that he believes that liberals and Christians are the anti-Christ and support 
a bloody revolution.

The Associated Press reported that Arkansas Republican Party Chairman Doyle 
Webb said the state party will no longer be making future donations to Mauch, 
Hubbard and Fuqua, including in-kind contributions. The party has supported the 
candidates in the past. U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin (R) has asked each to donate his 
$100 contribution to charity. He addressed Mauch's comments, which included 
calling Lincoln a fake neurotic Northern war criminal, and comparing Lincoln 
and Civil War generals to Nazis. Griffin described Mauch's comments as 
outrageous to historically inaccurate and anachronistic to downright odd.

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack (R) also distanced himself from the group; his 
spokeswoman told HuffPost that he does not agree with or support their views. 
Womack donated $250 to each of the 3.

Offering donations to their campaigns - and to all other Republican candidates 
seeking office in the Arkansas Legislature this fall???should not suggest 
otherwise, Womack spokeswoman Claire Burghoff said in an email.

A look at campaign donations for the group shows backing for Hubbard and Mauch 
from their colleagues, including House Minority Leader Bruce Westerman (R-Hot 
Springs), Rep. John Burris (R-Harrison), the former minority leader and others. 
Most of the individual legislative donations were between $100 and $250.

Rep. Prissy Hickerson (R-Texarkana) said her $200 donation to Mauch was due to 
a friendship the two struck up sitting next to each other on the House floor 
and that she does not support his pro-slavery beliefs. She said she will not be 
making any donations to Fuqua or Hubbard.

I don't agree with any of that, of course, Hickerson told HuffPost. If they 
wrote that, then they agreed with it at that time.

Rep. Jane English (R-North Little Rock) had no comment about her $100 
donation to Mauch. Other legislators who donated could not be immediately 

Benton County Republican Party Chairman Mike Sevak told HuffPost that the 
party's $250 donations to Hubbard and Mauch were part of a plan to help GOP 
candidates around the state as Republicans try to take control of the Arkansas 
Legislature. He said the party is against the comments and is considering 
following Griffin in asking the donations be made to charity.

Those comments are inappropriate and unnecessary, Sevak told HuffPost. We 
were on good faith that we were giving to good candidates.

Sevak said he does not expect the group's comments to hurt Republican chances 
in Arkansas this year. He did note his particular dislike of Mauch's comments 
regarding Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln signed the 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, KY., FLA., MO., OKLA., ARIZ., CALIF.

2012-10-01 Thread Rick Halperin

Oct. 1


Why The Death Penalty Is Not An Issue In This Campaign

The death penalty used to be an important issue in presidential politics. In 
1988, Vice President George Bush used his Democratic opponent Michael Dukakis's 
opposition to the death penalty to portray him as soft on crime. Massachusetts 
had abolished the death penalty in 1984, during Dukakis's 2nd term as governor. 
Bush ran around the country, promising to execute drug dealers, a popular stand 
in the late 1980s, when the Crack Wars were turning the streets of American 
cities red with blood.

In the 2nd presidential debate, CNN anchor Bernard Shaw asked Dukakis the most 
outrageously impertinent question in the history of those events: Governor, if 
Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death 
penalty for the killer?

No, I don't, Bernard, Dukakis replied. And I think you know that I've 
opposed the death penalty during all of my life. I don't see any evidence that 
it's a deterrent. I think that there are better and more effective ways to deal 
with violent crime. We've done so in my home state, and it's one of the reasons 
why we have had the biggest drop in crime of any industrial state in America, 
why we have the lowest murder rate of any industrial state in America.

It wasn't just Dukakis's opposition to the death penalty that hurt him in that 
debate. It was the unemotional, wonkish answer he gave to a question about his 
wife being raped and murdered. It reinforced his image as a passionless 

Running against Bush four years later, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton didn't make 
the same mistake. He flew back to Little Rock to ensure the execution of Ricky 
Ray Rector, who had killed a police officer and then shot himself in the head. 
Rector was so brain damaged that he didn't finish his last meal, saving his 
pecan pie for later before he was led to the execution chamber.

The death penalty also became an issue for Bush's son, George W. Trying to 
establish that he was a friend to black voters, Bush boasted that the killers 
of James Byrd, a Texas man who had been dragged behind a truck by white 
supremacists, were going to be put to death. At a later town hall debate, a 
questioner accused Bush of smirking as he talked about the sentence. Bush, 
who approved 152 death warrants as governor of Texas, also mocked murderess 
Karla Faye Tucker's plea for clemency in a print interview.

Capital punishment will not be an issue in this year's campaign. For the 1st 
time, both candidates are from states that have abolished the death penalty. 
Which means that, also for the 1st time, we're going to elect a candidate from 
a state that does not execute prisoners. (Illinois did not abolish capital 
punishment until 2011, 3 years after President Obama was elected. As governor 
of Massachusetts, Romney proposed a bill to restore the death penalty, but his 
legislature rejected it, denying him an achievement he could tout to 
conservatives.) Below is a list of such presidential candidates throughout 
American history. It's hard to argue that any of them have lost specifically 
because they opposed the death penalty, but they generally came from states 
more liberal than the nation as a whole, so their stances were part of a 
political philosophy that voters did not accept.

Lewis Cass, Michigan, 1848

Robert M. La Follette, Wisconsin, 1924

Hubert Humphrey, Minnesota, 1968

Gerald Ford, Michigan, 1976

Walter Mondale, Minnesota, 1984

Michael Dukakis, Massachusetts, 1988

John Kerry, Massachusetts, 2004

Barack Obama, Illinois, 2012

Mitt Romney, Massachusetts, 2012

(source: NBC Chicago)


Meece gets death penalty; murderer says he is being railroaded

A former Lexington taxi driver and lawn-care worker should be put to death for 
murdering three Adair County family members, a judge said yesterday. Circuit 
Judge James G. Weddle imposed 3 death sentences on William Harry Meece, 33, as 
well as a total of 40 years on burglary and robbery convictions. Weddle said 
Meece deserved the ultimate penalty for the murders of veterinarian Joseph 
Wellnitz, 50; his wife, Beth, 40; and son Dennis, 20.

Meece invaded their farmhouse outside Columbia early one cold morning in 
February 1993 and shot each of them more than once, reloading in order to 
finish off Dennis Wellnitz. Meece has been unusual and contentious throughout 
the process leading up to his trial, filing dozens of motions on his own, and 
his sentencing was no exception. He read a 5-page statement that said he did 
not kill the Wellnitzes but had been railroaded by lies -- including those of 
his ex-wife, who testified against him. He condemned the court system, likening 
it to Nazi Germany, Communist China and Soviet Russia.

I bemoan the loss of the American ideal of a fair trial, he said. He finished 
with a prayer in Hebrew and English and asked God to have mercy on the police, 
the prosecutor, the court and 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, GA., N.C.

2012-09-27 Thread Rick Halperin

Sept. 27


Puerto Rico jury rejects death penalty

A Puerto Rican jury rejected the death penalty Thursday for a convicted drug 
dealer accused of killing an ex-girlfriend who was an informant for the U.S. 

Edison Burgos Montes will face life in prison for the July 2005 killing of 
Madelyn Semidey Morales, who had been cooperating with the U.S. Drug 
Enforcement Administration in the investigation against him. He was found 
guilty of the killing in late August.

Among those celebrating the verdict was Semidey's mother, Georgina Morales, who 
said earlier this year that she did not believe in capital punishment.

I'm satisfied that justice was served, she told reporters after the verdict 
was announced.

Morales used the opportunity to publicly ask Burgos to tell the family where 
her daughter's still-missing body is located. Please tell us where you put it, 
what you did with her body, she pleaded. This will cause us anguish for the 
rest of our lives.

The victim's father, Carlos Semidey, also expressed satisfaction with the 
verdict. They did their job. The system worked, he said.

Capital punishment is constitutionally illegal in Puerto Rico, but Burgos was 
being tried in federal court, which allows for the death penalty. Many Puerto 
Ricans had criticized the U.S. government for ignoring the island's 
constitution and becoming involved in local affairs.

The jury of 8 men and 4 women deliberated for 2 days before issuing their 
verdict. Burgos remained motionless when the decision was read. Defense 
attorney Steven Potolsky cried.

The defendant's sibling Efrain Burgos said his brother maintains his innocence.

U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez said she respected the verdict, and 
acknowledged that life imprisonment is also a severe punishment.

Rodriguez said she wasn't concerned whether Puerto Rican ideologies would 
prevent any jury from favoring capital punishment. I think we will soon be 
ready for the appropriate case, she said.

It was the 3rd time a Puerto Rico jury had rejected a federal death penalty 

2 other federal death penalty cases are expected to go to trial in January, 
including 1 involving a man accused of masterminding a 2009 bar shooting that 
killed 8 people. The other centers on a man accused of killing an undercover 
police officer during a drug transaction.

Puerto Rico's governor has asked that federal authorities prosecute certain 
cases, including carjackings and drive-by shootings, to reduce violent crime. 
The island of nearly 4 million people reported a record 1,117 homicides last 

Osvaldo Burgos, president of the human rights commission of the island's 
Association of Attorneys, said he doubted any Puerto Rican jury would ever seek 
capital punishment. Burgos is not related to the defendant.

It's a measure that does not respond to the idiosyncrasies of our people, he 
said. It is a product of failed federal policies.

Puerto Rico banned the death penalty in 1929, 2 years after farmworker Pascual 
Ramos was hanged for beheading his boss with a machete. The island reiterated 
its stance after approving its 1st constitution in 1952, calling the death 
penalty a human rights violation.

In 2000, Puerto Rican Judge Salvador Casellas ruled that applying the death 
penalty would violate Puerto Rico's constitution as well as the federal statute 
concerning its status as a self-governing entity. His decision was overturned 
in 2001 by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, which ruled that 
Puerto Rico is subject to federal law. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld that 

Puerto Rico joins 17 U.S. states that do not apply the death penalty.

(source: Associated Press)


Marcus Wellons' Death Penalty Upheld After Chocolate Penis Appeal

Giving a judge a penis-shaped chocolate may be tasteless and inappropriate, 
but it doesn't make for an unfair trial, a federal appeals court ruled on 

Marcus Wellons, now 57, was convicted of the 1989 rape and strangling murder of 
15-year-old India Roberts and sentenced to death in 1993.

In 2010, however, the Supreme Court ordered a review panel to take another look 
at the case after Wellon's lawyer, Mary Elizabeth Wells, argued that her client 
could not have received a fair trial because the judge and bailiff received 
gifts of erotically shaped chocolate from jurors.

Superior Court Judge Mary Staley received a piece of white chocolate shaped 
like a penis from juror Mary Jo Hooper, while bailiff Loretta Perry was 
reportedly gifted a breast-shaped chocolate from a juror who has yet to come 

Wells maintained that the bawdy nature of the gifts indicated that the jury was 
not taking the murder trial seriously.

On Wednesday, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court unanimously upheld the death penalty 
for Wellons, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The court said that 
although the gifts were tasteless and 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, N.C., GA., FLA., ALA.

2012-09-26 Thread Rick Halperin

Sept. 26


What will the Supreme Court decide in this term's 1st big cases?

Ryan v. Gonzales and Tibbals v. Carter, Tuesday, Oct. 9: We are not supposed to 
execute mentally insane people in this country. The Supreme Court said so in 
1986. At the time, no state allowed such an execution; as Justice Thurgood 
Marshall pointed out, British judges back in the 17th century worried about the 
miserable spectacle of extreme inhumanity and cruelty presented by 
executing a mad man. That's still the law, though it's worth worrying over 
the low standard of competence courts use. Apart from that, what exactly is 
supposed to happen if a defendant is sentenced to death and then found to be 
incompetent, because of mental illness, to help his lawyer press his appeals?

2 federal appeals courts, the 6th Circuit and the 9th Circuit, have essentially 
found that defendants have a right to be competent during the federal court 
proceeding called habeas corpus???basically, a defendant's last-ditch chance to 
get off death row. The 9th Circuit stayed proceedings indefinitely in the case 
of Ernest Valencia Gonzales, who is psychotic, and who killed a man in the 
course of a burglary. In Ohio, a district court similarly ordered an indefinite 
stay for Sean Carter, sentenced to die for killing his adoptive grandmother, 
and then found to be delusional with schizophrenia. The state of Ohio, which 
wants to execute Carter, imagines courts handing out lots more delays under 
extraordinarily loose standards, bringing the death penalty to a halt in the 
state. This is not a crazy concern: The backdrop here is the case of Melvin 
Davis Rees, who got a competency hearing and a stay courtesy of the Supreme 
Court in the mid-1960s - and died in prison in 1995, as Lyle Denniston points 
out on Scotusblog.

The Obama administration has weighed in against a rule that favors indefinite 
stays for death row inmates whose mental illness makes them incompetent. It's 
too much to ask to stop all these cases, the government says. The American 
Psychiatric Association is on the other side, arguing that, for the sake of 
fairness, people who can't help their lawyers shouldn't be marched through 
their appeals. The American Bar Association wants a flexible standard for 
granting a stay, depending on the level of the defendant's impairment and the 
circumstances of the case. It's hard for me to imagine a lot of defendants who 
are deemed incompetent who could possibly work well with their lawyers - most 
of them are probably hallucinatory and delusional. That may not move a majority 
on the Supreme Court, though.

(source: Emily Bozelon, slate.com)


Pentagon prosecutors moving away from gag order on 9/11 suspects at Guantanamo

Defense lawyers in the Sept. 11 case said Tuesday that the Pentagon prosecutor 
is backing away from a national security doctrine that reflexively gags 
anything the accused 9/11 plotters say to anyone at Guantanamo.

At issue is the controversial theory of presumptive classification. Because 
the accused 9/11 conspirators were held for years in secret custody by the CIA, 
and are now confined to a secret prison at Guantanamo, anything they say starts 
off classified as a national security secret.

They are facing a death-penalty trial at the Guantanamo war court, and their 
defense lawyers have argued that the interpretation has straight-jacketed their 
trial preparation.

Moreover, the American Civil Liberties Union disputes the concept of 
presumptive classification as being at odds with the public's right to know 
what happened to the captives in secret U.S. custody. Agents seized the men in 
2002 and 2003, and then turned them over to the military at Guantanamo in 2006.

Today, the prosecution in the 9/11 military commission filed a document 
retreating from its argument for 'presumptive classification' of all detainee 
statements, regardless of their topic, said James Connell, lawyer for Ammar al 
Baluchi, the nephew of alleged mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. Defense 
attorneys have vigorously opposed the practice of presumptive classification.

A military judge is set to consider the legality of the doctrine during 
hearings at Guantanamo Oct. 15-19.

The chief prosecutor declined to say whether or how he had retreated from the 
doctrine in the filing. Under war court rules, it was filed under seal - 
lawyers get to read it, the public cannot - until U.S. intelligence authorities 
decide which portions to redact.

The government is committed to considering every reasonable and appropriate 
measure that could help facilitate the attorney-client relationship, the 
prosecutor, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, said in statement.

Martins' remarks suggest that defense lawyers will now be able to discuss 
certain off-limit topics with the accused terrorists. Left unclear was whether 
the lawyers will now be allowed to talk publicly about their conversations with 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, OHIO

2012-09-26 Thread Rick Halperin

Sept. 26

USA (PUERTO RICO)possible federal death penalty

Puerto Rico jury deliberates death penalty case in highly anticipated verdict

A jury in Puerto Rico was deliberating Wednesday whether a convicted drug 
dealer should be executed for killing a girlfriend who was an informant for the 
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

It could be a landmark case for the U.S. territory, where the death penalty is 
constitutionally illegal and where the last execution occurred in 1927 by 

Although the local jury has the last word, the case against Edison Burgos 
Montes is being tried in a federal court, which allows for the death penalty.

If the jury opts for capital punishment, Burgos would be executed on the U.S. 
mainland in a state selected by the Bureau of Prisons, said Lymarie Llovet, 
spokeswoman for Puerto Rico's U.S. Attorney's Office. If the jury rejects the 
death penalty, Burgos would be sentenced to life imprisonment, she said.

Burgos was found guilty in late August of killing Madelyn Semidey Morales in 
July 2005.

The jury began deliberating Tuesday morning and requested clarification 
Wednesday on several aggravating factors presented by prosecutors. In addition, 
an alternate juror replaced one juror who was dismissed for medical reasons.

As they deliberated, dozens of people held a vigil outside the federal 
courthouse to protest the case. Among those are members of the United 
Evangelical Church, which condemned the death penalty.

Today we are allergic to forgiveness and to the respect for life, the church 
said in a statement.

The case also has stirred anger among Puerto Ricans who resent U.S. involvement 
in what they say are local affairs. Julio Muriente, co-president of a political 
party that favors independence, accused U.S. authorities of ignoring Puerto 
Rico's constitution.

The U.S. government unilaterally imposes its will through the federal court, 
he said.

The victim's mother, Georgina Morales, told El Nuevo Dia newspaper when the 
trial began in April that she does not believe in capital punishment.

It's not sufficient punishment for me, said Morales. I want the justice 
system to impose the punishment, but I want it to be prison.

Morales and other relatives have since declined to speak to the media, though 
the victim???s father, Carlos Semidey, gave news outlets a handwritten note 
this week lamenting that his daughter's body had not been found. If anyone 
knows where we can find her remains, please contact the necessary agencies so 
we can give her a Christian burial, it said.

Madelyn Semidey also left behind 3 young daughters.

Puerto Rico juries previously rejected death sentences for federal cases in 
2005 and 2006.

The U.S. Attorney's Office expects that 2 other death penalty cases will go to 
trial in January, Llovet said.

In an effort to fight crime, Puerto Rico's government has asked federal 
authorities to assume prosecution of certain cases, including carjackings, 
drive-by shootings and weapon possessions. The island of nearly 4 million 
people reported a record 1,117 homicides last year.

Puerto Rico banned the death penalty in 1929, 2 years after farmworker Pascual 
Ramos was hanged for beheading his boss with a machete. Prior to that, the U.S. 
military government had executed 23 people, all black and most of them poor or 
illiterate, after troops seized the island in 1898 during the Spanish-American 

When Puerto Rico approved its 1st constitution in 1952, it reiterated that 
capital punishment was illegal and constituted a human rights violation.

But federal prosecutors have continued to seek the death penalty in certain 

In 2000, Puerto Rican Judge Salvador Casellas ruled that applying the death 
penalty would violate Puerto Rico???s constitution as well as the federal 
statute concerning its status as a self-governing entity. His decision was 
overturned in 2001 by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, which 
ruled that Puerto Rico is subject to federal law. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld 
that decision.

Puerto Rico joins 17 U.S. states that do not apply the death penalty.

(source: Associated Press)


Ohio woman pleads guilty in gruesome burning death

In a move that would allow her to escape the death penalty, an Ohio woman 
pleaded guilty Wednesday in the gruesome killing of a woman found covered in 
burns and wailing in agony on the side of a rural road.

As part of a deal with prosecutors, 20-year-old Katrina Marie Culberson pleaded 
guilty to 1 count each of aggravated murder, kidnapping and aggravated arson.

Muskingum County Prosecutor Mike Haddox said that his office offered the 
agreement to Culberson in exchange for her guilty plea and on the condition 
that she testify against 2 others charged in the killing of 29-year-old Celeste 
Fronsman, of Akron.

On Aug. 26, a driver found Fronsman on a road northeast of Zanesville in 
eastern Ohio. She had been raped 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, ARK., GA.

2012-09-21 Thread Rick Halperin

Sept. 21


US death penalty opponents mark Davis anniversary

US death penalty opponents called for an investigation into growing concerns 
about police and prosecutor misconduct on the one-year anniversary of the 
controversial execution of Troy Davis.

Amnesty International and the National Association for the Advancement of 
Colored People (NAACP) urged the Justice Department to investigate mounting 
evidence of botched trials leading to capital punishment.

Troy was executed despite a mountain of doubt about his conviction and 
allegations that witnesses were coerced by police, Amnesty's executive 
director Suzanne Nossel said in a statement Thursday.

A year later, the stain of injustice continues to spread, with the death 
penalty used despite substantial concerns over prosecutorial overreach, 
wrongful conviction or misapplication of the law.

The federal government must take action as case after case corrodes the 
credibility of US criminal justice.

Davis was executed on September 21, 2011, for a 1991 murder conviction despite 
a lack of physical evidence tying him to the crime and the resulting reliance 
on eyewitness testimony, much of which was later changed or recanted.

Former US president Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Pope Benedict XVI 
had all weighed in on his behalf in a racially charged case that spanned two 
decades, becoming a cause celebre for death penalty opponents.

NAACP head Benjamin Todd Jealous said Davis's memory lives on with us and 
fuels our fight to abolish the death penalty.

Davis was convicted of killing policeman Mark MacPhail, who was shot in the 
heart and the head as he intervened in an argument in a Burger King parking 
lot. MacPhail's widow supported the execution and attended it in person.

But Kimberly Davis, Troy's sister, has called on Georgia to again examine the 
case, saying that justice has not been served.

According to Amnesty, 140 people have been released from death row since 1973 
due to evidence of wrongful conviction.

Amnesty has recently sought to focus attention on the case of Reggie Clemons, a 
black man on death row for the murder of two white women, who told a judge 
Wednesday that he had been beaten by police during questioning.

Amnesty said the Clemons case bears many striking similarities to the Davis 
case, with serious concerns raised about the fairness of his conviction.

(source: Agence France-Presse)


Ex-Death Row Inmate Says How He Really Feels About The Death Penalty

One of the West Memphis 3 - a trio of men convicted of murders they say they 
didn't commit - is speaking out about his experience as an innocent man on 
death row.

Damien Echols took to Reddit Thursday to talk about getting out of prison after 
receiving the death penalty on the website's popular Ask Me Anything threads. 
He tweeted verification from his personal Twitter account that it was actually 
him answering the questions.

He was of course asked how he feels about the death penalty, having narrowly 
escaped it.

When I hear people talk about it, I always wonder if women who have had an 
abortion feel the same way whenever they hear people who have never had to go 
through it expressing their opinions on the matter, Echols wrote. It's not as 
black and white or cut and dry as either side tries to portray it, but all in 
all I would have to say that I'm against it.

But his most powerful answer came in response to a question about relationships 
between death row inmates.

There is a sense of solidarity on death row that you don't have anywhere else 
in the prison just because you have a common enemy, Echols wrote on Reddit. 
You don't have time to fight amongst yourselves when you're fighting against 
the people who are trying to put you to death.

(source: Business Insider)


Tracen Franklin death penalty jury reports 10-2 deadlock in Bobby Tillman case

Jurors deciding the verdict in a death penalty case told the judge they are 
deadlocked 10-2 Friday morning. The judge has ordered them to keep 

The jurors are deciding whether to send 20-year-old Tracen Franklin to 
Georgia's death row. The same jury convicted Franklin last week for the murder 
of 18-year-old Bobby Tillman. Franklin was 1 of 4 teens accused of beating 
Tillman to death during a house party in Douglasville in November 2010.

The jury began deliberating late Tuesday, and talked for roughly 11 hours.

In a note sent to Superior Court Judge William McClain, the jury foreman cited 
mounting frustration and said the jury was unable to come to a unanimous 
decision ... due to the effort to respect individual decisions.

McClain called the jury into the courtroom to read what he called a modified 
Allen charge to the jury. The Allen charge is frequently read to deadlocked 
juries deciding verdicts; it's an admonishment that the jury has a duty to 
reach a decision.

However, in this case, the jury has to 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, PENN., ARK.

2012-09-17 Thread Rick Halperin

Sept. 17


Abolish the death penalty

You're kidding me. We don't execute people on the Sabbath. Well that's about 
the most bizarre thing I've ever heard. - Leo McGarry, The West Wing 

1 year ago this Friday, a man named Troy Davis was executed in Georgia. I was 
on Tufts' campus when it happened. I remember that they were going to kill him 
at 7 p.m., but there were delays, and so it wasn't until 10:53 p.m. that the 
state of Georgia stuck a needle in the man's arm and watched the life drain 
from his body. He had been found guilty of murder at the age of 21. Between 
1989 and 2011, his case was appealed again and again. The prosecution had no 
physical evidence. The witnesses changed their testimonies. The murder weapon 
was never recovered. And so, executions were stayed and rescheduled and pushed 
aside. But after another 21 years of his life spent sitting on death row, Troy 
was finally put to death. He maintained his innocence to the end.

We live in a country, one of the few remaining in the world, which still kills 
its citizens for punishment. In 2011, we were 1 of just 20 countries worldwide 
to perform executions. In 2011, we executed 43 men - and no women. On a yearly 
basis, we fall behind only China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq in the number of 
citizens we execute.

We haven't always been so eager to execute. In 1972, in fact, the U.S. Supreme 
Court actually declared the death penalty unconstitutional under the 8th and 
14th amendments. 4 years later, however, the ruling was overturned.

Since that time we have seen a trend, both worldwide and in the United States, 
which moves away from the practice of executing our prisoners. In the last 
decade, 11 countries stopped performing executions. In 2002, the U.S. Supreme 
Court prohibited use of the death penalty on the mentally disabled; in 2005, it 
stopped the execution of juvenile offenders.

17 U.S. states have individually abolished the death penalty, with Connecticut 
doing so as recently as April. In November, California residents will have the 
opportunity to vote on Proposition 34, a ban on their death penalty. That's 
estimated to save the state over $300 million in legal fees per execution.

This anti-death-penalty trend shouldn't come as a surprise. Prosecuting a death 
sentence is expensive because of the appeals to which the defendant is 
entitled. Moreover, performing an execution is frankly unnecessary, as the 
prisoner has already been captured, disarmed, and securely tucked away from 
society. But perhaps most importantly, killing a convicted criminal is 

Since 1973, the U.S. has released 140 individuals from death row. As in, we let 
them go. As in, we had the wrong guy. There he was, lined up to be executed, 
and someone comes strolling into the prison with a smile on his face, Guess 
what? Turns out, a jury of your peers can make a mistake now and then! Ohio 
let a man named Joe D'Ambrosio go free earlier this year. That means we're 
still finding people on death row today who are innocent.

And yet, despite an expensive and erroneous system, we continue to sentence 
people to death. This is beginning to sound even more bizarre than Leo may 
have realized.

At least that's what the majority of the civilized world seems to think. I'm 
actually writing this from Edinburgh, Scotland, where I'm studying abroad for 
the semester. Sure enough, I went to an activities fair here, and 1 of the 
first groups I found was Amnesty International. There were a handful of 
Scottish students there organizing to oppose capital punishment in America. 
Here in Europe, they've heard of what we do. And they think it's backwards.

It is backwards, and it's cruel. It is the height of cruel and unusual 
punishment, perhaps not by colonial standards, but by the standards of the 21st 
century. It is the resort of tyrants and dictators; it is the end of gallows 
and gas chambers. Our country is supposed to guarantee life, liberty and the 
pursuit of happiness. Life's at the top of the list. We already have life in 
prison without parole. We can live without the death penalty.

Of course, I know that an opinion piece in a college newspaper isn't going to 
change the nation overnight. President Obama isn't going to pick this up and 
begin dishing out presidential pardons, and Justice Roberts isn't going to find 
this on his desk and ask the Supreme Court to take up a landmark death penalty 

But I also know that we're 9 states away from having an abolition majority. I 
know that in the last 5 years, 5 states have renounced the death penalty, and 
the next 5 years will see more. I know that the U.S. Supreme Court has struck 
down capital punishment before, creating the precedent for it to do so again.

In 1970, a Jumbo named Bill Richardson graduated Tufts with a dual degree in 
French and Political Science. In 2009, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico 
abolished his state's death penalty.

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, CALIF., VA., MO., OKLA.

2012-09-15 Thread Rick Halperin

Sept. 15


Death penalty decision in Lansing killing delayed in federal court in Grand 

The government has delayed making a recommendation on whether alleged members 
of a violent Lansing street gang will face the death penalty in an alleged 
drug-related killing.

Federal prosecutors were to advise U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker on Friday 
if any of the 5 remaining defendants would face the death penalty.

But the government requested an adjournment because U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles 
Jr., appointed this summer by President Barack Obama, needed to familiarize 
himself with the case before making a recommendation to U.S. Attorney General 
Eric Holder.

The Justice Department received Miles' recommendation on Aug. 16, and wants to 
schedule mitigation conferences with certain defendants and their attorneys.

Because of that, a final decision is not likely to be made until January 
2013, Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy VerHey wrote.

Mustafa Abdul-Qadir Al-Din, Walee Abdulazeem Al-Din, Charles Kunta Lewis Sr., 
Ralphael Remier Crenshaw and Nicholas Brown await trial in the July 23, 2010, 
killing of Shayla Johnson during a robbery at her Lansing home.

Demetris Kline and Dion Lanier are serving 20-year sentences in federal prison 
after they earlier pleaded guilty to charges.

The government says the defendants are part of gang called the Block Burners, 
who robbed others of cocaine and marijuana then sold it themselves. They face 
multiple charges.

Johnson was taken from her home, forced into the trunk of a vehicle and shot 
when she resisted, an indictment says.

In court records, a defense attorney called the crime barbaric.

Members and associates of this gang promoted and were actively involved in 
acts of violence, often involving firearms, in efforts to obtain drugs and drug 
proceeds by way of force, threats of force, armed robbery and kidnapping for 
profit for their own personal gang, VerHey wrote in court records.

He said that Johnson's killing was done in an especially heinous, cruel or 
depraved manner.

(source: Michigan Live)


Prop. 34 and Seeking to End the Death Penalty

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the arsonist who started the 2003 
Old Fire in the San Bernardino Mountains. The jurors will make that decision, 
but California voters will have a say too. Proposition 34 on the November 
ballot would end the death penalty in California and replace it with life in 
prison without the possibilility of parole.

If passed, Prop. 34 would reverse another ballot measure, Prop. 7, which voters 
passed in 1978. Sacramento attorney Don Heller wrote that voter initiative at 
the request of then-State Senator John Briggs.

I wrote it with the intent of writing a perfect legal document. Which I did. 
It was well crafted. It met all the constitutional standards and it's never 
been overturned in any aspects by the US Supreme Court. Heller says.

Jerry Brown was governor at the time, and celebrated crime sprees like the 
Manson killings and 2 assassination attempts on President Gerald Ford were 
still fresh in voters' minds. Heller remembers California as a western state 
with a taste for frontier justice, and Prop. 7 got more than 71 % of the vote.

It was a culture of hanging 'em high from the big oak tree, Heller recalls. 
It was a western mentality of free thinkers and speedy punishment for criminal 

But executions in California were anything but speedy. Since Prop. 7 passed, 
California has executed just 13 men and the death row population has grown from 
zero to more than 700. The average time between conviction and execution is 
nearly 18 years.

Kent Scheidegger of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento says 
his group has pushed time and again to reduce that wait by streamlining legal 

If the legislature would do its job and pass the reforms correctly, and we've 
had bills in committee many, many times and they've always been killed in 
committee, we could get this done, Scheidegger says.

Scheidegger strongly opposes Prop. 34, saying simply the inmates on death row 
deserve to die.

These are crimes far worse than the typcial murder. These are cases of serial 
rape and torture, people torturing and murdering children, and life in prison 
without parole simply isn't a sufficient punishment, he says.

But Don Heller, who wrote California's death penalty law, kept an eye on it as 
it was implemented. And he didn't like what he saw.

One of the things I noticed immediately, which surprised me, was that the 
qualitiy of lawyers representing defendants in death penalty cases was 
suboptimal, Heller says.

Heller calls himself a conservative Republican. But he now believes his ballot 
measure in his words, was a colossal mistake that needs to be changed. He's 
supporting Proposition 34.

I'm a believer in law and order. I think that's the primary objective of 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, CALIF., FLA. OKLA.

2012-09-02 Thread Rick Halperin

Sept. 2

USA (IOWA)female and federal death penalty

Lawyers in Iowa death penalty case seek jury data

Lawyers for an Iowa woman facing a 2nd death penalty trial for her role in the 
execution-style killings of 5 people in 1993 are planning to challenge the 
process used to select jurors.

Angela Johnson's attorneys on Friday asked for years of data to analyze the 
racial and gender makeup of grand juries and trial juries in the federal 
district that covers the northern half of Iowa.

They say the selection system may cause minorities to be underrepresented 
because of how officials create the juror pool. They also say women may face 
discrimination in the selection of jury forepersons.

Johnson is set to go on trial next year to determine whether she will be sent 
back to federal death row. A judge threw out her 2005 death sentence in March.

(source: Associated Press)



Ronell Wilson, cop killer, says he's ineligible for death penalty

Ronell Wilson's arduous legal odyssey began nearly a decade ago when, as young 
gang member, he was arrested in one of New York City's most notorious police 
killings: the point-blank execution of two undercover officers in an illegal 
gun sting gone awry.

A jury convicted Wilson in federal court in Brooklyn in 2006, then sentenced 
him to death a few weeks later in 2007. But in 2010, an appeals court tossed 
out the sentence, meaning a new jury would have to decide his fate.

That won't happen any time soon, if at all.

The replay of the trial's penalty phase has been put off as Wilson's lawyers 
seek to convince a judge that he's ineligible for the death penalty because 
he's mentally disabled. As the case drags on, the Staten Island native once 
known by the street name Rated R is being held in solitary confinement over 
the objections of his defense team.

We are concerned for his mental health as he has no contact with his family 
and friends and no access to his legal materials so that his ability to assist 
his legal team is compromised, one of the lawyers wrote in an Aug. 15 letter 
to the warden at a Brooklyn lockup.

Wilson, now 30, was running with a street gang in 2003 when authorities say the 
2 New York Police Department officers, posing as illegal gun buyers, met with 
him for what they thought was a deal to buy a Tec-9 submachine gun.

At trial, Wilson denied knowing the victims were police officers - a claim 
contradicted by an accomplice who testified that he and Wilson decided to rob 
them after learning they were undercovers carrying cash. Prosecutors said that 
while sitting in the back seat of an unmarked police car, the defendant shot 
one officer in the head first and then turned his gun on the other, who pleaded 
in vain for his life.

In the penalty phase, prosecutors made the case for execution by presenting 
emotional testimony by the detectives' widows. The defense countered with 
anecdotal evidence of Wilson's troubled background as the son of a 
crack-addicted mother living with a dozen relatives crammed into an apartment 
at a crime-infested housing project.

Jurors agreed that Wilson should die by lethal injection. He became the city's 
1st federal defendant to receive a death sentence since 1954, when it was 
imposed on a bank robber who killed an FBI agent.

But the appeals court reversed the decision, saying that prosecutors violated 
Wilson's constitutional rights by telling the jury his decision to go to trial 
demonstrated his lack of remorse and refusal to accept responsibility.

The ruling - now nearly 2 years old - took Wilson off of the federal death row 
in Terre Haute, Ind., and landed him back in the Brooklyn jail where he's 
undergone a battery of psychiatric exams.

He was in the general population there until early August, when he was put in a 
special housing unit meant for high-risk prisoners. Prison officials said the 
move was made because of an internal investigation but offered no further 

With Wilson languishing behind bars, his lawyers are mounting an argument that 
he should be spared based on the 2002 U.S. Supreme Court outlawing the 
execution of mentally disabled offenders.

Wilson's last public utterances came more than 5 years ago. At sentencing, he 
repeated his defense that, None of us knew these men were cops - period.

He also took aim at those who considered him unworthy of redemption.

You still look at me like I'm the lowest thing on earth, he said. But it's 
in my heart that I'm sorry.

(source: Newsday)


Death penalty focus shifts to costs

When Douglas Chief Stankewitz arrived on San Quentin's Death Row for shooting 
a young woman point-blank in the head in Fresno, he was 20 years old and 
totally alone.

Capital punishment had just been restored in California, and he was the 1st one 
back on the stone-and-steel block of cages - number 1, in the number 1 cell.

That was 34 years ago.

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2012-08-21 Thread Rick Halperin

Aug. 21


Wrongful Conviction in the American Judicial Process: History, Scope, and 

This paper addresses the historical, current, and projected scope of wrongful 
convictions in the judicial process of the United States. Herein, numerous 
research studies are reviewed in order to identify the trend of this problem, 
determine its origin, and propose solutions. Specifically, the paper addresses 
the implications of the expanding American custodial system and the decline in 
homicide clearance rates necessary for the efficacy of the current justice 
process. It further examines wrongful convictions as a social problem from an 
interactionist perspective concerning racial and economic inequality and 
considers the applicability of labeling theory therein. Finally, it identifies 
the most prominent causes of wrongful conviction from a functionalist view and 
offers recommendations toward addressing it in the future.

Most Americans harbor the presumption that their criminal justice system is 
fair and blind. Within that a priori delusion, an assumption is made that no 
person shall ever be convicted for a crime that he or she did not commit (Huff, 
2002; Marquis, 2005). The idea that a free citizen could be unjustly sentenced 
to prison or executed by the State is diametrically opposed to the concept of 
judicious treatment expected in the United States. Indeed, audiences sympathize 
with characters such as John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) of The Green Mile 
and Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) of The Shawshank Redemption because the 
notion of wrongful incarceration is utterly terrifying, though ostensibly 
quarantined to the realm of fiction (Darabont, 1994; 1999). Indeed, every 
person living in the United States, citizen or not, is afforded the 
constitutional rights of due process and a trial by a jury of their peers 
wherein the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is 
guilty of a particular crime. This instrument is specifically designed to 
protect the innocent, rather than obtain convictions (Anderson, 2005; Givelber, 
2005). Schoolchildren are taught to have faith in the criminal justice system 
and told that an innocent person has nothing to fear (Cross, 2005). Under such 
an impartial system, is it not a virtual guarantee that only the wicked shall 
suffer? Unfortunately, the judicial process has been plagued by eyewitness 
misidentification, unfounded and improper forensic science, false confessions, 
substandard lawyering, and governmental misconduct leading to myriad wrongful 
criminal convictions (Rattner, 1988). Such revelations gnaw at the delicate 
social fabric of democratic republicanism.

The American criminal justice system is based on the concept that wrongs have 
causes, that such causes are preventable, and that injurious acts warrant 
recompense to victims as well as punishment for offenders (Leo  Gould, 2009). 
If the problem is to be addressed and rectified, it must first be understood; 
not as it is perceived, but as it is. The relationship between wrongful 
convictions and legal procedure is not one of simple cause and effect. Rather, 
this problem represents a dynamic interaction between defendants and observers 
wherein all parties play an active role. However, the wrongful conviction trend 
has only been subjectively accepted by the general public to any measurable 
degree within the past two decades (Huff, 2002).

A History of Wrongful Convictions in the United States

Judge Learned Hand said in 1923 that the American judicial system has always 
been haunted by the ghost of the innocent man convicted. He referred to the 
notion of wrongful conviction as an unreal dream (Halsted, 1992; Huff, 
Rattner, Sagarin,  MacNamara, 1986). Serious study of this phenomenon began 
less than a decade after the judge made his innocuous statements. Contrary to 
his honor's eloquent rhetoric, time and technology have revealed that an 
unquantifiable number of wrongfully convicted persons have served prison 
sentences and even been executed for crimes which were committed by others and 
even some that never occurred (Huff, 2002). Herein, this paper addresses the 
prison population explosion of the past 30 years and assesses the decline in 
homicide clearance rates to ascertain the efficacy of the American judicial 
process and identify the prevalence of wrongful convictions therein.

It is difficult to articulate the wrongful conviction trend and determine the 
growth or recession of the problem. This is due to the unavoidable fact that a 
wrongful conviction can only be unequivocally known to have taken place if the 
offender has been subsequently exonerated by the same system which was 
responsible for the initial error. Indeed, an appellate verdict of not guilty 
does not inherently translate to innocence (Huff, 2002). Research into wrongful 
convictions was virtually nonexistent until Professor Edward Borchard of Yale 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, ARIZ., GA., FLA.

2012-08-15 Thread Rick Halperin

Aug. 15


Death by IQ: US inmates condemned by flawed tests

Texas puts man with 61 IQ to death. This was just one of the lurid headlines 
that greeted the execution on 7 August of Marvin Wilson, killed by lethal 
injection at Huntsville State Penitentiary for the murder of a police informant 
in 1992.

Was he a child-like simpleton or a streetwise criminal? Both pictures were 
painted in court as experts contested conflicting IQ test scores and other 
lines of evidence. For Wilson, time ran out, but lawyers for dozens of other 
inmates on death row in the US are trying to prove that their clients are 
intellectually disabled, allowing their sentences to be commuted to life 

What is disturbing, according to some researchers who specialise in 
psychometric testing and intellectual disabilities, is that executions may go 
ahead because some courts refuse to accept two key scientific facts surrounding 
IQ testing. First, the tests have a margin of error, which means that a score 
should be interpreted as lying within a range, not a hard-and-fast number. 
There is measurement error in any score, says Edward Polloway of Lynchburg 
College in Virginia, co-chair of a task force on the death penalty for the 
American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD).

Second, some inmates are being condemned to death by inflated IQ scores 
obtained using older intelligence tests. This inflation stems from the Flynn 
effect - the perplexing observation that, across a population, IQ scores using 
any particular test rise over time. In the US, scores climb by about 3 points 
per decade.

According to James Flynn of the University of Otago in New Zealand, failing to 
correct for the effect that bears his name creates a lottery in which 
eligibility for execution in the US depends on the test that happens to be 

Cases like Wilson's have proliferated since 2002, when the US Supreme Court 
ruled that executing people with an intellectual disability - then called 
mental retardation - amounts to cruel and unusual punishment and is 
therefore unconstitutional.

For someone to be classed as intellectually disabled, it is necessary to 
demonstrate significant limitations in intellectual functioning (usually 
taken to mean an IQ of 70 or below) and in adaptive behaviour - such as 
problems with literacy, social skills and the ability to handle money. These 
deficits must also have been present before the age of 18. However, the Supreme 
Court did not stipulate how intellectual functioning and adaptive behaviour 
should be measured, leaving that to individual states to decide.

This has led to wide variation in how such cases have played out. In 2009, 
researchers at Cornell Law School in Ithaca, New York, analysed the cases of 
234 death-row inmates who claim they are intellectually disabled. Overall, 38 
per cent of the claims were judged valid, but the success rate varied from as 
high as 17 out of 21 claims in North Carolina to 3 out of 26 in Alabama 
(Tennessee Law Review, vol 76, p 625).

There are several reasons for the variation, including whether courts take into 
account the measurement error inherent in IQ scores - the fact that an 
individual, tested repeatedly, would not achieve the same score every time, but 
rather a distribution of scores clustered around their true IQ.

Florida has closed the door on measurement error: in 2007 its Supreme Court 
made a landmark ruling that Roger Cherry, a double-murderer who had scored 72 
on an IQ test called the WAIS-III, was not intellectually disabled. The test 
has a standard error of measurement of about 2.5 points, so Cherry's true IQ 
could have been below 70. The court backed a strict cut-off of 70, and Cherry 
remains on death row.

Failing to correct for the Flynn effect can have even bigger consequences, as 
courts frequently consider IQ scores using tests introduced more than a decade 
earlier - meaning scores can be inflated by 3 or more points (see Life or 
death, below).

Why scores on an IQ test should slowly rise over the years remains a mystery. 
It probably does not mean that everyone is getting smarter. Instead, a range of 
factors may be involved, including increasing familiarity with psychometric 
testing and growing exposure to complex visual media such as computer games. 
Whatever the explanation, the Flynn effect is now well established, and IQ 
tests must be recalibrated from time to time to return the average score to 

The scientific consensus that the Flynn effect is real has not, however, 
translated into a legal consensus that corrections should be applied to the IQ 
scores of people sentenced to death. There's always a fight over it, and the 
judge decides in each case, says Cecil Reynolds of Texas AM University in 
College Station. A specialist in psychometric testing, Reynolds has testified 
as an expert witness on behalf of death-row inmates.

Even where measurement 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, S.C., MONT., OHIO, LA.

2012-07-31 Thread Rick Halperin

July 31


Michael Moore: 'Guns don't kill people, Americans kill people'

Filmmaker and Flint native Michael Moore is speaking out about the killing of 
12 people and the injuring of 58 others in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, and 
his message is similar to what he said in his film Bowling for Columbine.

In a column posted today on nj.com, Moore asks why there are so many more 
people killed with guns in U.S. than anywhere else in the world and offers this 

I posed this question a decade ago ... and this week, I have had little to say 
because I feel I said what I had to say 10 years ago — and it doesn't seem to 
have done a whole lot of good other than to now look like it was actually a 
crystal ball posing as a movie, Moore wrote.

Among the reasons for the high rate of gun deaths, according to Moore:

We Americans are incredibly good killers. We believe in killing as a way of 
accomplishing our goals. 3/4 of our states execute criminals, even though the 
states with the lower murder rates are generally the states with no death 

(source: Michigan Live)


ABA to Honor Law Firms and Lawyers for Outstanding Commitment to Pro Bono 
Representation in Death Penalty Cases

The American Bar Association’s Death Penalty Representation Project will honor 
law firms Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP and Fish  Richardson P.C. for their 
commitment to prisoners on death row, with the Project’s prestigious 
Exceptional Service Award. The 2012 John Paul Stevens Guiding Hand of Counsel 
Award will be presented to George H. Kendall of Squire Sanders LLP.

“This year’s Award winners do more than provide life-saving pro bono 
assistance,” said Wm T. (Bill) Robinson III, president of the ABA. “They also 
ensure that our criminal system works fairly for everyone, and their work is a 
source of great pride for the legal profession.”

The awards will be presented at the Project’s 2012 Volunteer Recognition  
Awards Event on Friday, Aug. 3, from 4 – 5:30 p.m. during the ABA Annual 
Meeting in Chicago.

Judge Rosemary Barkett of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th 
Circuit, known for her life-long commitment to equal justice, will be the 
keynote speaker for the event.

Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP has provided pro bono legal assistance for 
inmates on death row since 1988. In total, Bradley Arant lawyers have helped 
provide representation for 22 prisoners, nearly all of them from the extremely 
active death penalty jurisdiction of Alabama.

“Bradley Arant’s commitment to fighting injustices in the administration of the 
death penalty in Alabama has been unwavering and significant. The firm’s 
diligence and commitment to these clients has been invaluable,” said Randy 
Susskind, deputy director of the Equal Justice Initiative, explaining his 
support for the firm’s award.

Fish  Richardson P.C. began its involvement in pro bono death penalty 
assistance 5 years ago. Since then, Fish has provided representation for 7 
death-sentenced prisoners, each in a different jurisdiction. In the first 5 
months of 2012, time spent on death penalty cases accounted for 22 % of the 
firm’s total pro bono hours. The award recognizes not only the breadth, but 
also the depth of the firm’s commitment to pro bono work in death penalty 

Clinical psychologist Dr. Kathy Wayland wrote in support of the firm’s 
nomination, “The efforts [Michael] Siem and his team [at Fish  Richardson] are 
making on behalf of their clients are exemplary, and provide a wonderful 
example of the value of legal firms assuming responsibility for death penalty 
cases on a pro bono basis.”

George H. Kendall, director of Squire Sanders Public Service Initiative, has 
spent more than 30 years working to ensure justice for men and women facing a 
death sentence. The Guiding Hand of Counsel Award, first given to Justice 
Stevens in 2011, honors an individual lawyer who demonstrates the kind of 
courage and commitment associated with Justice Stevens.

To RSVP, go to the 2012 Volunteer Recognition Event page here. Tickets are free 
to anyone with a valid student ID and those registered for the 2012 ABA Annual 

With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest 
voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national 
voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of 
justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, 
accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build 
public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.

(source: ABA Now)


Inmate goes from death row to freedomArd retrial ends in conviction on 
lesser charges

Joseph “Jody” Ard, who spent 11 years on South Carolina’s death row, is 
expected to be released from prison this week.

“The state Supreme Court once upheld his death 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, COLO., PENN., WASH.

2012-07-23 Thread Rick Halperin

July 23


Witness to Innocence: Wrongful Execution and Exoneration

Randy Steidl was pissed off. And when he was not pissed off, he was enraged. 
Pissed off and enraged at what the criminal justice system was doing to him. 
But for his anger, he thinks he might have gone insane. Steidl spent 12 years 
on Illinois' death row, awaiting execution by lethal injection and 5 more years 
as an LWOP (Life Without Parole) prisoner before he was finally exonerated of 
the horrendous crime he did not commit.

Steidl's ordeal began in 1977 when he was arrested for stabbing and burning the 
bodies of 2 newlyweds, Karen and Dyke Rhoads. Within a mere 90 days, he found 
himself on death row, thanks to the perjury of 2 drunks, a prison stool pigeon 
and the ineptitude of a lawyer who failed to present evidence to the jury that 
would have exculpated Steidl.

In the ensuing years, the case, like most death penalty cases, crept its way 
through state and then federal court. After twelve years, a state appeals court 
judge reduced Steidl's sentence to LWOP - which infuriated him even more than 
the executioner's needle. In an even, unyielding voice Steidl condemned a 
system that preys on the poor and on people of color, on a mentality that 
cops and prosecutors can do anything they want, where bar association 
disciplinary committees are good ole boy clubs.

Then came the break. Federal Judge Michael McCuskey overturned Steidl's 
conviction and ordered the state to try him anew. This opened up a new 
investigation that completely cleared Steidl, and the state decided not to go 
through the charade of another trial.

Thanks to pro bono lawyers and exposure by the Illinois Times - as well as 
unflagging support from his mother and brother - Steidl walked out of prison 
after 17 years, but he still bore the stigma of criminality. Yet more years 
would pass before Steidl was fully exonerated and his slate wiped clean.

How many men (and women) were as fortunate as Steidl to escape the death gurney 
... sometimes by a matter of minutes? I spoke with an invaluable source for 
this series of articles, Richard C. Dieter JD, executive director of the Death 
Penalty Information Center. Dieter told me that, since capital punishment 
resumed with the Furman case, there have been 140 confirmed exonerations of 
death row inmates. Steidl told me sarcastically that pre-Furman executions, 
when people were killed at the rate of 3 or 4 a week in some states, don't 

What about the most troubling question: How many innocent people has America 
sent to their death? We are fairly certain of four and a likely fifth only. Sam 
Hall, the director of the Texas anti-death penalty group StandDown, told me the 
names: Ruben Cantu, Texas; Carlos DeLuna, Texas; Todd Willingham, Texas; Larry 
Griffen, Missouri; and, very likely, Gary Graham, Texas. Hall and Steidl 
believe the body count is much higher; Steidl estimates it's about 10 % of 
those executed. If you take the ratio of executions to proven exonerations, the 
figure jumps to an astounding 28 percent. Dieter, no friend of the death 
penalty, believes that there have been very few wrongful executions and that 
there have only been a few on top of the proven 4 (or 5, counting Graham).

What evidence there is suggests that Steidl's estimate is pretty close to the 
truth. Factors that lead to such a result include the lack of adequate defense 
attorneys or support systems of families and friends to look out for their 
interests experienced by many defendants in capital cases. Steidl points out 
that many states allow a mere $5,000 to cover all defense costs, even though a 
good attorney might have to hire a private investigator and bring in expert 
witnesses. There are a couple of pro bono, university-based death penalty 
clinics around the country, but they can't handle the enormous case load: 
justice boils down to triage. As for the rest, they are dependent upon 
court-appointed lawyers, many of whom can't earn their living any other way. 
The lore of criminal justice - including capital cases - is replete with 
anecdotes about lawyers turning up drunk, sleeping through the trial or failing 
to file critical motions on time. These anecdotes of legal incompetence are 
supported by a study by Emily M. West, director of research for the Innocence 
Project. West did not return several calls to discuss her study, but the title, 
Court Findings of Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Claims in Post-Conviction 
Appeals Among the First 255 DNA Exoneration Cases speaks for itself. The Sixth 
Amendment to the Constitution, which presumably entitles defendants to an 
adequate defense, is a farce in everyday legal practice - including capital 

These qualitative data are supported by a new study from the Urban Institute. 
The study analyzed the results of new DNA testing of old physical evidence from 
634 rape and murder cases that took place in Virginia between 1973 and1987. 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, FLA., COLO.

2012-07-20 Thread Rick Halperin

July 20


A view from the trenches of death penalty appeals

In May, Victor Stephens, who is black, pleaded guilty to charges stemming from 
the shooting of a white store owner. The plea, which came after he had been 
granted a new trial, brought a life sentence but removed him permanently from 
death row in Alabama, where he was first sentenced in 1987.

Stephens' attorney, J.S. Chris Christie Jr., is a partner at Bradley Arant 
Boult Cummings in Birmingham, Ala., and co-chairman of the firm's pro bono 
committee. According to Christie, Stephens was the third inmate the firm has 
gotten off death row since it began handling capital cases in 1988. Christie 
talked to The National Law Journal about Bradley Arant's death penalty work, 
for which the firm will receive an exceptional service award from the American 
Bar Association's death penalty project next month.

The remarks below have been edited for length and clarity.

National Law Journal: Your firm has been actively involved in handling death 
penalty cases since 1988. How has this type of pro bono work evolved over the 

Chris Christie: That's when I joined the firm. One of the other associates a 
couple of years senior had a death penalty case he was working on. David Hymer 
[now a partner] successfully completed that case in the mid-90s, working in 
conjunction with Bryan Stevenson with the Equal Justice Initiative. EJI is a 
nonprofit that is involved in issues like this full time. The lawyers who work 
there represent people on death row or other similar matters.

The 2nd case started in 1993. The managing partner here asked me to serve as 
local counsel for a New York firm representing somebody on death row. That 
man's name was Victor Stephens. In or around 2000, the American Bar 
Association's death penalty representation project started recruiting firms 
from outside Alabama to represent people without counsel in Alabama. And 
Bradley Arant made a strategic decision that it could be more effective working 
as active local counsel with other firms hesitant to take on an Alabama case 
because of travel and not being familiar with the courts.

NLJ: The firm has represented 19 people on death row in Alabama so far. How 
does that compare to the total number of people on death row in the state?

C.C.: Alabama has about 200 people on death row. The number changes. For 
example, Victor Stephens was taken off in May 2012, but 2 people were added. 
The exact number was 201, so about 11 % of the people on death row.

NLJ: Of those 19 cases, one person was executed and 2 died in prison. Stephens 
is 1 of 3 people the firm has successfully gotten removed from death row. Talk 
about that case.

C.C.: This is something I worked on from 1993 to 2012. Victor Stephens in 1986 
was part of robbing a convenience store. The store owner shot him and, while 
the store owner was reloading his gun, Victor Stephens shot the store owner 
with a .25-caliber pistol that he had. Victor Stephens confessed to shooting 
the store owner with a .25 pistol after being shot with a shot gun.

At his trial in 1987, he was convicted of capital murder. That night, they held 
a sentencing hearing. The jury recommended life without parole. The judge held 
the final sentencing until after he'd been nominated to the Court of Criminal 
Appeals and before the general election that fall, and sentenced Victor 
Stephens to death, overriding the jury's finding that he should be sentenced to 
life without parole. That went up through the normal appellate process and post 
conviction proceedings started — and that's when I got involved, in 1993.

NLJ: What was the legal argument that got him off death row?

C.C.: The argument on which he actually was awarded a new trial was on the jury 
selection. The prosecution used 21 of its 22 regular strikes, and its first 21 
strikes were to remove blacks from the jury. His counsel made a timely 
objection, and the state offered what appeared to be race-neutral reasons for 
strikes of 21 blacks.

When we got into the investigation, post conviction, we interviewed the jurors 
who were struck, and it was discovered that we were able to identify — of the 
jurors who would cooperate and talk to us — that for four of them the reasons 
given for the strikes were not true. One of the jurors [purportedly] had a son 
who had been involved in criminal activity, and at the state habeas corpus 
hearing we proved she didn't have a son.

[Subsequently,] Victor Stephens confessed to being there, and he reached a plea 
agreement where he pleaded guilty to a lesser felony and has been sentenced to 
life and has continued to serve his time.

NLJ: Alabama has a number of unique characteristics when it comes to death 
penalty cases. What are they?

C.C.: Alabama has the most people per capita of any state on death row. It's 
also the only state that overrides jury recommendations and sentences to death. 
Delaware and Florida also have 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, PENN., N.C., OHIO

2012-06-29 Thread Rick Halperin

June 29


40 years after Furman, the U.S. Death Penalty Is In Disarray

June 29 marks the 40th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case Furman v. 
Georgia. In Furman, the high court abolished the death penalty on the grounds 
that it violated the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual 
punishment. The decision also barred the use of capital punishment for rape 

The fact that the State may seek retribution against those who have broken its 
laws does not mean that retribution may then become the State's sole end in 
punishing. Our jurisprudence has always accepted deterrence in general, 
deterrence of individual recidivism, isolation of dangerous persons, and 
rehabilitation as proper goals of punishment, wrote Justice Thurgood Marshall 
in his concurring opinion. Retaliation, vengeance, and retribution have been 
roundly condemned as intolerable aspirations for a government in a free 

Marshall also addressed the issue of inevitably executing the innocent. No 
matter how careful courts are, the possibility of perjured testimony, mistaken 
honest testimony, and human error remain all too real. We have no way of 
judging how many innocent persons have been executed, but we can be certain 
that there were some, he noted.

Whether there were many is an open question made difficult by the loss of 
those who were most knowledgeable about the crime for which they were 
convicted. Surely there will be more as long as capital punishment remains part 
of our penal law, Justice Marshall added.

Capital punishment was reinstated with Gregg v. Georgia in 1976, but at least 
for several years there were no executions in the U.S.

40 years after Furman, problems still plague the death penalty, when in reality 
the problems never went away. And as long as there are executions, we'll 
continue to have a problem.

The writing is on the wall for those who offer to read it. Recently the 
Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the death penalty law in that state, finding 
it is unconstitutional for the department of correction to make policy by 
deciding execution procedures and what lethal injection drugs to use. Rather, 
it is the legislature's job to decide that, and in any case Arkansas has not 
executed since 2005. Although the court did not find lethal injection or the 
death penalty itself unconstitutional in the 5-2 decision, state lawmakers 
would have to go back to the drawing board and write a new law. Actually, they 
should let it go and abandon the practice altogether.

In North Carolina, the state legislature passed a bill that would gut the 
Racial Justice Act. Signed into law by Governor Bev Perdue in 2009, the Racial 
Justice Act allowed death row convicts to challenge their sentences on the 
grounds that racial bias was a significant factor in their sentencing. The new 
scaling back of the law, if passed, would prohibit death row inmates from 
relying solely on statistics. This would effectively remove the racial and 
justice components of the original law, leaving exactly what conservatives 
and prosecutors wanted in the first place. And if the governor signs this 
regressive legislation, the Tarheel State will embrace its legacy of racial 
injustice, and demonstrate its failure to resist emulating its more backward 
neighbor to the South. Remember that when prosecutors keep blacks off juries 
due to racial motivations, both white defendants and defendants of color are 

Meanwhile, in Texas, the state's Democratic Party passed a platform calling for 
abolition of the death penalty. And Hank Skinner--a Texas death row inmate who 
was granted a stay of execution in November in order to conduct a DNA test--has 
been given the green light to proceed with the testing. Skinner's stay of 
execution came as a result of pleas from death row exonerees and abolition 
activists. The problem with DNA testing is that key evidence in the case is 
missing. How convenient.

And how typical of Texas, where a man named Cameron Todd Willingham was 
executed in 2004 for the arson murder of his three young daughters -- even 
though many believe no arson occurred. Another man, Carlos DeLuna, was put to 
death for a murder another man he resembled bragged about committing. Moreover, 
his innocence was proven posthumously by a Columbia law professor 23 years 
after the execution.

Texas is the place where an appellate judge wouldn't allow lawyers to file a 
last minute appeal in a death row case because 5pm was quitting time. Judge 
Sharon Keller closed the court, and the condemned man Michael Wayne Richard, 
was executed four hours later. Further, Kerry Max Cook, who spent years on 
death row and was released in a plea deal, was subjected to egregious 
prosecutorial misconduct according to an appeals court. Now trying to clear 
his name, Cook is accusing the prosecutor in his case of keeping the bloody 
murder weapon in his home as a souvenir. The DNA test was 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, ARIZ.

2012-06-27 Thread Rick Halperin

June 27


Anti-Death Penalty Activists Found Guilty for Protest, to Serve Jail Time

Today, 13 death penalty abolition activists went on trial in DC Superior Court 
to face a charge stemming from a January 17 arrest this year at the U.S. 
Supreme Court.  On that date, 14 protestors unfurled a 30 foot banner, which 
read STOP EXECUTIONS! on the steps of the Court.  Such displays of banners 
are prohibited under U.S. law.

At trial, the pro-se defendants made a case against the death penalty, and also 
in support of the 1st amendment. They challenged the constitutionality of the 
statue prohibiting people from displaying at the Supreme Court a flag, banner, 
or device designed or adapted to bring into public notice a party, 
organization, or movement.

After 6 hours of testimony, review of the evidence and presentation of oral 
arguments, Judge Juliet McKenna found all 13 defendants guilty and imposed a 
range of sentences, varying from time served and a $100 fine (plus $50 
mandatory contribution to the Victims of Violent Crime Compensation Fund), up 
through suspended sentences of 5 to 60 days. Additionally, in various cases, 50 
hours of community service was imposed, and/or 1-3 years of probation with a 
stay-away order from the Supreme Court grounds during probation.

4 of the defendants declared in court that they would not pay any fines or 
participate in community service for an arrest that they believed to be 
unlawful and unjust.  The judge then imposed a 60 day jail sentence on 80-year 
old DC resident Eve Tetaz, and a 5 day jail sentence on Jack Payden-Travers (a 
Lynchburg, Virginia resident) and Amber and Kevin Mason (both DC residents).

Immediately following court, Tetaz said, Of course I don't want to go to jail 
for 60 days.  But 60 days or 24 hours... it doesn't matter.  What is important 
is that I spoke truth to power, which was the only morally responsible thing to 

Payden-Travers, Amber Mason and Kevin Mason began serving their sentences 
immediately Wednesday afternoon, and Tetaz will self report to DC jail on 
Monday, July 2.

All 13 defendants represented themselves, with DC attorney Mark Goldstone 
acting as attorney advisor to the group.

The defendants spoke eloquently and passionately stated Judge McKenna at the 
conclusion of the trial.  What a marvelous example of teamwork.  The judge 
then commended defendant Randy Gardner for channeling  your experiences...in 
productive ways giving back to the community.  Gardner, whose brother was 
executed by a Utah firing squad in June 2010 said on the stand, I can't 
imagine teaching [my son] that it is okay to kill someone for killing someone 
else.  Gardner's 14-year old son sat in the courtroom watching as his dad took 
the stand as one of the 3 defense witnesses.

At the time of the January arrest, 5 of the defendants did not carry any 
identification, and when asked for their names by the police, each responded, 
I am Troy Davis.  Troy Davis was executed last September in Georgia under 
serious doubt about his guilt.  Although this act of solidarity did not result 
in any increased penalties at trial for the involved defendants, Troy Davis's 
name and memory were brought into the courtroom.

Daniel Flynn, one of the defense witnesses who took the name of Troy Davis upon 
arrest, testified on the stand, Troy Davis represents what is wrong with the 
system.  Troy Davis is any one of us in this court here today. Flynn said that 
because of Mr. Davis's execution, I had to do  something more.  Something 

The January 17 protest that resulted in the arrest of 14 activists took place 
on the 35th anniversary of the execution of Gary Gilmore, the 1st execution 
under contemporary laws.  The protestors included Amber Mason, Kevin Mason, Eve 
Tetaz, Daniel Flynn,  Anne Feczko,  Scott Langley, Jack Payden-Travers,  Ron 
Kaz,  Anna Shockley, Randy Gardner,  Charity Lee, Rachel Lawler, Jon Dunn and 
Tom Muther.

This every-5-year protest is organized by The Abolitionist Action Committee, an 
ad-hoc group of individuals committed to highly visible and effective public 
education for alternatives to the death penalty through nonviolent direct 

(source: Abolition Action Committee)


Arizona inmate executed in more open process

Death-row inmate Samuel Villegas Lopez stared straight ahead Wednesday as he 
lay strapped to a table in Arizona's execution chamber, wincing slightly as 2 
catheters that soon would deliver a fatal drug were inserted into his veins.

Lopez's execution was the 1st in Arizona history in which witnesses other than 
prison officials saw catheters inserted into an inmate's veins — a move the 
state Department of Corrections made after a federal judge recently sided with 
The Associated Press and Idaho news organizations seeking full viewing access 
to lethal injections.

The ruling was upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San 
Francisco, meaning 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, ARK., NEB.

2012-06-23 Thread Rick Halperin

June 23


Feds will seek death penalty in Jason Pleau case

This past week, the ongoing Jason Pleau custody battle took yet another turn. 
On Monday, federal prosecutors declared their desire to seek the death penalty 
in the Pleau case. Governor Lincoln Chafee, a strong opponent of capital 
punishment, has been embroiled in a legal tug-of-war with the feds over Pleau’s 
custody since June 2011.

Initially, the custody of Pleau was granted to Rhode Island, but federal 
prosecutors were later given custody after an appeal was made to the First 
District Court of Appeals in Boston. Although Chafee refused to hand Pleau 
over, the state was forced to concede in late May due to the court’s decision.

Pleau, 34, is accused of fatally shooting 49-year-old gas station manager David 
Main as he was on his way to a Woonsocket bank on Sept. 20, 2010 to make a 
deposit. A masked Pleau reportedly made off with a deposit bag containing over 
$12,000 after shooting Main multiple times, according to prosecutors. Aside 
from the 2010 incident, Pleau was a lengthy criminal record, including a series 
of robberies in 1996, which he served 12 years in prison for. Feds cite Pleau’s 
low rehabilitative potential and likelihood to reoffend as just cause for 
seeking the death penalty.

The governor has stated that he intends to pursue the case with the United 
States Supreme Court, calling it a states’ right issue. According to Chafee, 
capital punishment should not apply to Pleau because the event occurred in 
Rhode Island, a state that has abolished the death penalty.

Rhode Island’s last hanging took place on February 14, 1845. Chafee 
posthumously pardoned John Gordon, the deceased, in 2011.

(source: Go Local Providence News)


Remembering the Day of the Rosenberg Executions

It was one of the most dramatic trials in American history -- 2 New Yorkers, a 
man and his wife -- were convicted of passing on atomic secrets to the Soviet 

And on an evening in late June, 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg paid the 
penalty for their crime. They were electrocuted at Sing Sing Prison in upstate 

I was at Sing Sing, assigned by my city editor, at the World-Telegram and Sun, 
to cover the scene outside the prison gates on that fateful day. The tension 
had been building, not only in New York but throughout the world as the 
execution date drew near. A second reporter for the newspaper became part of a 
“pool” to cover the execution itself. The noted reporter-columnist Bob 
Considine, covered the execution, then briefed other reporters on what he 

I was just 29, still wet behind the ears in this business. And I was nervous 
about how well I would handle the assignment. There was tension throughout the 
world. For months demonstrators in many countries had demanded that the United 
States not carry out the executions. In Washington and New York demonstrators 
appealed to President Truman and, then, President Eisenhower to spare the 

At the 11th hour, when the Rosenberg attorneys made a plea for executive 
clemency, Eisenhower turned them down. Eisenhower issued a statement declaring: 
“I can only say that, by immeasurably increasing the chances of atomic war, the 
Rosenbergs may have condemned to death millions of innocent people all over the 
world. The execution of two human beings is a grave matter. But even graver is 
the thought of the millions of dead whose deaths may be directly attributable 
to what these spies have done.”

On June 19, the day of the execution, I found a spot on a hill overlooking the 
prison courtyard. In the course of a tense afternoon I saw 2 prison physicians, 
who would later certify the deaths of the prisoners, arrive by car. Julius 
Rosenberg’s brother, David, got out of another car and sprinted to the prison 
gate. The Rosenbergs’ two young children, Robert, 6, and Michael, 10, came for 
a last visit with their parents.

In the last hour, the setting sun sent a golden shaft down the Hudson River. A 
Coast Guard helicopter circled overhead. There were rumors that thousands of 
pickets might try to storm the prison gates.

Barricades were set up; hundreds of prison guards, state troopers and Ossining 
policemen assembled to handle any threat. But none came.

On the porch of a frame house on the hill near the courtyard sat gray-haired 
Mrs. Natalie Jackson, 1 of 4 Death House matrons. She was listening to the 
radio for the latest news from the prison.

She talked of Ethel Rosenberg: “When I saw her today, she was as calm as ever. 
She is a quiet one. I’ve seen 5 women go to the chair but she was the calmest. 
The only sentence I heard from her was when she talked about her children. “

At 7:20 almost all conversation ceased. At 7:52 a trooper said: “I understand 
one is dead.”

Tension was at its peak.

At 8:18, a blue-shirted guard in Tower 13, high above the main gate, crossed 
his arms, then spread 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA

2012-06-13 Thread Rick Halperin

June 13


Episcopal leaders push to abolish death penalty across the country

When Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a bill in April making Connecticut the 5th state 
in 5 years to abolish the death penalty, Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut 
Bishop Suffragan James Curry’s attendance at the ceremony testified to the 
influence of Episcopal leaders on ending capital punishment in the state.

Curry and other members of the diocese had worked with the Connecticut Network 
to Abolish the Death Penalty since the 2005 execution of serial killer Michael 
Ross, the 1st prisoner put to death in New England in 45 years.

Abolishing the death penalty became “a very, very contentious issue” in 
Connecticut after 2 recently released prisoners invaded a home and “brutally 
murdered” 2 girls and their mother in 2007, he said.

“In the midst of that, it was very hard to have a conversation in this state 
about not demanding the death penalty for such horrific crimes,” Curry said. 
“It was also a time in the church where we started to shift the conversation 
from that this is punishment to [that] the death penalty is really about the 
kind of statement we want to make about what we want our society to be.”

The Episcopal Church officially has opposed the death penalty for more than 
half a century, and its advocacy is gaining traction as momentum builds across 
the country to end capital punishment. Bishops and other church leaders are 
writing letters, joining coalitions, testifying before legislators and publicly 
demonstrating their opposition to the death penalty.

17 states and the District of Columbia have ended capital punishment. In total, 
3,189 people remain on death row in the United States, including some in 
Connecticut and New Mexico, which repealed the penalty without making it 
retroactive, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The Episcopal Church first passed a resolution opposing the death penalty in 
1958, said Alexander Baumgarten, Episcopal Church director of government 
relations. “It’s been reaffirmed in multiple conventions since then, so our 
position as a church has been clear for a long time.

“I think the fact that we’ve seen a recent pattern of bishops and other leaders 
in the church in the dioceses of the United States raising the profile of our 
advocacy is a reflection of the climate in which public opinion in the United 
States seems to be moving against the death penalty for the 1st time in a 
number of years.”

A 2011 Gallup poll showed about one in three Americans opposing the death 
penalty, a 19 % drop in support for capital punishment over 17 years and down 
from an all-time high of 80 % supporting it in 1994. Baumgarten attributes the 
trend to an understanding of “the inherent flaws in the application of the 
death penalty.”

Repeated studies, for example, have documented that capital punishment does not 
deter crime, he said. The death penalty also carries inherent racial and 
socio-economic biases and the chance of killing innocent people, he said.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center:

-Studies indicate the chance of being sentenced to death is much higher when 
murder victims are white, and a 1998 study reported a pattern of race-of-victim 
or race-of-defendant discrimination or both in 96 % of states where race and 
the death penalty had been reviewed.

-More than 130 people have been released from death row since 1973 with 
evidence of their innocence, with an average of five people exonerated annually 
from 2000 to 2011.

“As people start to understand the complexities of how the penalty is applied 
in practice,” Baumgarten said, “I think we start to see people who on its face 
might not be opposed to the death penalty now start to say: As a matter of 
applied justice in this country, this doesn’t really work.”

While the Episcopal Church has an official stance against the death penalty, 
this primarily is a state issue, and church abolition efforts have originated 
mostly at the local level, noted Baumgarten, who works in the church’s 
Washington, D.C., office.

“It’s not something that I think has been driven by central structures of the 
Episcopal Church or central governing entities of the Episcopal Church,” he 
said. “Bishops and congregations and leaders in the dioceses have looked at the 
church’s historic stance on this and applied it to the - context that’s 
evolving around them.”

Cooperative efforts

In Connecticut, the diocese worked with the Connecticut Network to Abolish the 
Death Penalty on legislative efforts that fell short more than once before the 
governor signed the April 25 bill abolishing the death penalty in the state. 
Then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed a bill in 2009. A 2011 abolition bill failed by 
two votes in the state Senate.

The 2012 bill ended the death penalty, but not for those previously convicted – 
including the 2 men sentenced to death for the high-profile 2007 murders.

“It’s a flaw in the 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, PENN., CALIF., FLA.

2012-05-25 Thread Rick Halperin

May 25


Despite its popularity, the death penalty would allow the state to kill 
innocent people

The University of Michigan law school and Northwestern University have just 
compiled a database of over 2,000 United States prisoners exonerated between 
1999 and the present day. One of the study’s findings was that death row 
inmates were exonerated 9 times more frequently that others convicted of 
murder, raising the possibility that many innocent people have been sent to 
their deaths by the American justice system. The last time a person was 
executed in Britain was 1964, and the death penalty was formally abolished in 
1965. There were originally some 220 crimes on the statute books that warranted 
the death penalty, most reflecting a desire to protect private property; 
although others were of a more eccentric nature, such as a law against being in 
the company of gypsies for one month.

While the death penalty was last debated in Parliament in 2008, retribution is 
a big thing in tabloid Britain, and a majority continue to say they would 
support the reintroduction of the ultimate sanction for those convicted of 
murder. That figure rises significantly when the victim is a child or a police 
officer. A campaign by the blogger Guido Fawkes last year to have a 
parliamentary debate on the issue failed, but it seems likely there will be 
further calls for the re-introduction of the death penalty the next time a 
particularly galling crime hits the headlines.

Contemptuously dismissing public opinion is one thing; but automatically 
conferring moral status on something for no other reason than popularity is 
quite another, and can be demagogic and dangerous. Self-professed libertarians 
like Staines should know this. In a representative liberal democracy, 
politicians are put in office to protect the individual from a potentially 
over-bearing majority. As the American political satirist P.J. O’Rourke put it 
(rather frivolously, in this context): “Imagine if all of life were determined 
by majority rule. Every meal would be a pizza. Every pair of pants would be 
stone-washed denim, [and] celebrity diet and exercise books would be the only 
thing on the shelves at the library.”

While writing little on capital punishment herself, libertarian icon Ayn Rand 
did publish a brief article by Nathaniel Branden in response to the question 
“What is the Objectivist stand on capital punishment?” The letter made the 
obvious point that there can rarely, if ever, be 100 per cent certainty of 
guilt, and exonerating a person after they have been executed is altogether too 

“If it were possible to by fully and irrevocably certain, beyond any 
possibility of error, that a man were guilty, then capital punishment for 
murder would be appropriate and just. But men are not infallible; juries make 
mistakes; that is the problem. There have been instances recorded where all the 
available evidence pointed overwhelmingly to a man’s guilt, and the man was 
convicted, and then subsequently discovered to be innocent. It is the 
possibility of executing an innocent man that raises doubts about the legal 
advisability of capital punishment. It is preferable to sentence 10 murderers 
to life imprisonment, rather than sentence one innocent man to death.”

There are certain executions that modern advocates of the death penalty in 
Britain prefer not to talk about. One such case is that of Dereck Bentley, a 
British teenager who was put to death on January 28, 1953. Bentley was 
condemned for his part in a botched robbery in which Police Constable Sidney 
Miles was killed by Bentley’s friend, Christopher Craig. Due to the fact that 
Craig was only 16 at the time, he was sent to prison (he was released in 1963). 
Bentley, however, was convicted and sentenced to death, not for shooting dead 
the policeman, but for being party to murder under the English law principle of 
“joint enterprise”. A psychiatrist at Bentley’s trial stated that Bentley was 
illiterate, of low intelligence and borderline retarded.

Notwithstanding the dubious nature of putting someone to death for being an 
“accomplice” (a term open to wide interpretation), it subsequently came to 
light that there had been defects in the original trial process, and Dereck 
Bentley was pardoned. Bentley’s joy was diminished, however, by the fact that 
justice came 45 years after he had already been hanged.

In his 1998 essay, Scenes from an Execution, the late Christopher Hitchens 
alleged that politicians in the US were apt to play politics with the death 
penalty when it might win them votes in execution-hungry states. He also 
pointed out that despite executions of those with mental illness being 
prohibited by international law, glaring examples of unstable inmates being 
condemned were all too easy to find. The National Association of Mental Health 
has estimated that between five to ten percent of those on death row in the US 
have serious 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, FLA., PENN., OHIO

2012-05-10 Thread Rick Halperin

May 10


Chafee appeals federal decision on state inmate

A tug-of-war over an inmate in Rhode Island custody in a possible death penalty 
case escalated Wednesday as Gov. Lincoln Chafee said he will appeal to the U.S. 
Supreme Court a federal court ruling allowing the inmate to stand trial in 
federal court

Chafee said the court's close vote shows a split in the interpretation of the 
Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act, which allows governors to refuse to 
surrender inmates. The U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals voted 3-2 on Monday 
that Jason Pleau, 34, may stand trial in federal court where he faces a 
possible death penalty prosecution over a fatal robbery.

Rhode Island does not have the death penalty.

The governor invoked the concept of states' rights in the fight over Pleau, who 
is accused of fatally shooting a gas station manager outside a Woonsocket bank 
in 2010.

Given the close vote of the full court, which demonstrates a genuine split in 
the interpretation of the law, the state of Rhode Island must seek to protect 
both the strong states' rights issues at stake and the legitimacy of its 
longstanding public policy against the death penalty, Chafee said in a 

The Appeals Court in Boston sided with federal prosecutors, saying the state 
prison would serve as a refuge against federal charges if Pleau were allowed 
to remain in the custody of Rhode Island authorities.

The custody battle over Pleau dates to June 2011, when Chafee, an independent, 
refused a request to surrender him to federal authorities. Chafee said 
prosecutors want to try Pleau federally to make the death penalty a possible 

The Appeals Court ruling said that if Pleau and Chafee prevail, Pleau could be 
permanently immune from federal prosecution and the use of the detainer system 
would be badly compromised.

Federal prosecutors have not said whether Pleau would face the death penalty if 
convicted of killing 49-year-old David Main. Rhode Island-based U.S. Attorney 
Peter F. Neronha said in a statement after the Appeals Court ruling that his 
office is ready to move forward with the case.

A spokesman for Neronha would not comment on Chafee's announcement.

Robert Mann, one of Pleau's lawyers, said he is grateful for the governor's 
decision to appeal.

Main's sister, Deborah Smith, told Chafee in an email Tuesday that his fight to 
keep Pleau in state custody is obstructing justice. She told the governor it 
is time to stop wasting taxpayers' money.

Chafee said he regrets that the case continues to cause pain for Main's family.

I extend once again my most sincere condolences to them for their terrible 
loss, which resulted from such a senseless crime, he said

(source: Associated Press)


Death row inmate's fate now up to Judge BergerJames Daniel Turner in court 
seeking retrial

A death row inmate convicted in a brutal stabbing death in a motel room in 2005 
now must do what probably is familiar to him: wait.

James Daniel Turner was in court Wednesday for the 2nd day of an evidentiary 
hearing in which his attorneys asked for a new trial. They said Turner’s former 
attorneys didn’t make the jury aware of significant mental health illnesses he 
had when Renee Boling Howard, 37, a mother of 5, was stabbed to death at a 
Comfort Inn.

The hearing concluded before noon, and now Circuit Judge Wendy Berger will 
think over the matter before making a decision.

No date has been set for a decision.

On Tuesday, an expert witness for the defense said Turner suffers from bipolar 
and borderline personality disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity 
disorder and that the jury was not made aware of those diagnoses.

On Wednesday, an expert witness for the state said he does not believe Turner 
suffers from bipolar or borderline personality disorders.

Dr. Jeffrey Danziger, a Maitland-based psychiatrist and medical doctor, said 
the symptoms that led to those diagnoses were induced by Turner’s dependence on 
powdered methamphetamine, cocaine and alcohol and did not appear in the 7 years 
he was in prison.

Danziger said Turner “does not suffer from bipolar disorder because he hasn’t 
had a manic episode that I am aware of.”

He said accounts of manic activities such as Turner’s spending of a $25,000 
settlement in 1 week and unstable romantic relationships, including 3 failed 
marriages, could be attributed to the effects of the substances.

Rather, “he has some situational unhappiness, and that’s to be expected” 
because he is in prison and sentenced to death, Danziger said.

He said Turner had not exhibited borderline behavior while in prison, such as 
cutting himself, banging his head against a wall or attempting suicide.

And the ADHD?

“Maybe,” Danziger said. But even if he does suffer from that disorder, “it has 
little to do with (the murder) in 2005.”

Danziger agreed with several previous diagnoses that found that Turner 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, LA., ARIZ., CONN.

2012-02-24 Thread Rick Halperin

Feb. 24


Capital punishment creates ethical dilemma for legal system

Over the past few days, The Prindle Institute held events concerning ethics and 
capital punishment. From a showing of The Green Mile to guest lectures, these 
discussions showed what a prominent ethical issue capital punishment is in 
American society.

Consider some quick background. Recorded statistics for civil executions (aka 
nonmilitary) began in 1930 in the United States, although surely unrecorded 
executions were occurring before this time. Today, 35 of our 50 states abide by 
the death penalty, including Indiana.

The methods used for capital punishment in the U.S. are lethal injection (the 
primary method), electrocution, gas chamber, hanging and firing squad. Although 
firing squad seems pretty old school, Oklahoma still lists it as a method of 
execution that can be used if injection and electrocution are found 

The most popular arguments for the death penalty include the penalty as a 
deterrent for murder, as an equal form of justice and that inmates on life 
sentences are more likely to kill other inmates while incarcerated. Ernest van 
den Haag, a well-known defender of the death penalty and former professor of 
public policy at Fordham University, said that it is, the most fitting 
retribution for murder I can think of.

Overall, I just see too many weaknesses with these arguments supporting the 
death penalty. First of all, does capital punishment actually deter murder? I 
don't think a murderer is thinking about how he/she will be punished because 
they don't think they'll be caught in the first place.

It's also more expensive to sentence and execute criminals to death. There is 
also the interesting argument that jurors may be less likely to convict a 
criminal if the death penalty is on the table.

For or against capital punishment, the system that decides the fate of these 
criminals is flawed. Remember the case of Troy Davis? Why is it that he was 
executed even though seven of the nine recorded witnesses recanted their former 

Race and the death penalty is another important ethical issue that needs to be 
explored. Take the case of death row inmate Duane Buck in Texas. Duane is an 
African American who admittedly shot and killed his ex-girlfriend and a male 
counterpart. His guilt is not the issue. His case is under review because at 
his trial, a psychologist named Walter Quijano testified that black criminals 
are more likely to be violent again in the future. In 2000, 6 other cases with 
testimonies from Quijano went under review for racial discrimination.

More ethical questions can be addressed with the methods of execution. For 
instance, what about the doctors who have to administer the lethal injection? 
All doctors abide by the Hippocratic Oath that states that they must practice 
medicine ethically. Does purposefully administering death go against this code 
of ethics?

Both sides of the capital punishment argument raise important questions and 
concerns about our justice system and what we see as fitting retribution for 

(source: Opinion, The DePauw; Katie Aldrich is a senior from Lexington, Ken., 
majoring in environmental geoscience)


Death penalty sought in child’s slaying

The East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office will seek the death 
penalty against a man accused in the 2006 asphyxiation death of his 2-year-old 
daughter, a prosecutor told a judge Thursday.

Cedric and Shelna Matamoros were indicted on 1st-degree murder charges in May 
and are being held without bond.

Prosecutor Steve Danielson said the District Attorney’s Office has not decided 
whether to seek the death penalty against Shelna Matamoros in the death of her 
stepdaughter, Malyasia Chante’ Matamoros.

Cedric Matamoros was not in state District Judge Chip Moore’s courtroom when 
Danielson announced he would seek the death penalty against him.

“We are aware of the state’s notice of intent (to seek the death penalty) and 
we will respond accordingly,’’ said Nelvil Hollingsworth, chief of the homicide 
unit at the East Baton Rouge Parish Public Defenders Office.

So far, neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys have asked that the couple be 
tried separately, Danielson said. Either side can make such a request.

District Attorney Hillar Moore III has alleged that Malyasia Matamoros was 
“killed for money.’’ The toddler was covered by five insurance policies 
totaling $185,000 at the time of her death, and Cedric and Shelna Matamoros 
were the beneficiaries, he noted.

The child was pronounced dead Aug. 31, 2006. Two of the insurance policies 
totaling $110,000 were set to lapse Sept. 1, 2006, Moore said.

Cedric Matamoros has claimed someone broke into their unit at the Brandywine 
Condominiums on Darryl Drive the night of Aug. 30, 2006, when his daughter was 
attacked in her bedroom. He said he fired a gun at the intruder.

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----USA, PENN., ALA., IND., FLA., OHIO, ARIZ.

2012-01-21 Thread Rick Halperin

Jan. 21


Jan. 17 anti death penalty action at US Supremre Court:



Death penalty still being weighed in double slaying

Westmoreland County's top prosecutor is still considering if he will seek the 
death penalty for a man accused of killing two people inside a Washington 
Township house last summer.

Eric J. Hall, 29, of 217 E. Church St., Ligonier, is accused of fatally 
shooting Anthony Henderson and Noelle Richards, both 24, and bludgeoning 
Henderson with a baseball bat on Aug. 28 in the basement of a Fox Road home.

I haven't decided yet, District Attorney John W. Peck II said Wednesday.

Hall was arrested Dec. 13 in his mother's house in Ligonier.

He is charged with 2 counts of homicide, 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and 
aggravated assault as well as theft, robbery, and 2 gun charges.

Hall entered a plea of not guilty at his preliminary hearing on Dec. 28.

At the end of that hearing, a district judge held all charges to court.

Hall is scheduled to be formally arraigned in county court on Feb. 15.

Hall is being held in the county jail awaiting trial.

Peck said Hall is still the only person charged with killings.

Attorney Chris Rand Eyster, who represented Hall at last month's hearing, 
didn't return calls for comment.

(source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)


Religion and the death penalty

One of the most hotly-debated topics among people of faith will be at the 
center of discussion Tuesday night at Trinity Episcopal Church in Demopolis. 
Trinity will be the host site for a forum that will focus on the death penalty.

“One of of the things that I do, along with a few of my parishioners, we do 
quite a bit of prison ministry,” J.D. Barnes, rector of Trinity Episcopal, said 
of how the idea came about. “We have a good friend of ours who is a Methodist 
minister in the Birmingham area who is part of a group that is not trying to 
hide the fact that they are against the death penalty.”

The minister, Tom Duley, and the group, Justice and Mercy for All, will conduct 
Tuesday’s forum, which is intended to discuss the merits and drawbacks of the 
death penalty.

“They put together various forums and they asked if we would host one,” Barnes 
said. “I am fine with that. I think any time there is an opportunity where we 
can discuss an issue that is relevant to our faith in kind of a rational way, 
the church is a good place for that to occur.”

The event will feature 2 different speakers and figures to leave time for 
questions and discussion as it welcomes people from around the community.

“They’ll have a speaker there, a woman who had kind of befriended someone who 
had been on death row. We will hear some of her thoughts about the death 
penalty,” Barnes said. “We’ll talk about kind of a lot of the idiosyncrasies 
about the death penalty in the state of Alabama.”

The event is open to any who wish to attend and is set for Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 
7 p.m.

(source: Demopolis Times)


Death penalty jury pool 270 deep for Isom murder trial

Lake Criminal Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr. and lawyers in a death penalty 
murder case appear to have more than 270 potential jurors for the upcoming 

Kevin Isom, 46, of Gary, is pleading not guilty to charges he fatally shot his 
wife, Cassandra Isom, 40, and her 2 children, Michael Moore, 16, and Ci'Andria 
Cole, 13, on Aug. 6, 2007, at the family's home in Lakeshore Dunes Apartments 
in Gary's Miller Beach neighborhood.

Martin Goldman, the court's administrator, said he started with a pool of 650 
persons who could serve on the jury, but he has excused many of them for a 
variety of reasons.

He said only eight of the remaining eligible persons have yet to fill out a 
detailed questionnaire lawyers need to determine whether potential jurors have 
any biases that would prevent a fair verdict.

Goldman said his staff will attempt to reach the 8 in person to determine why 
they have yet to respond to court orders to make themselves available for the 

(source: Northwest Indiana Times)


Jury to begin deliberating J.R. Spell's fate in death penalty murder 
trialJurors in the Spell case to begin deliberating today

Jurors will begin deliberating today in the death penalty murder trial of James 
Ralph Spell, who is charged with killing his ex-wife and her parents in 2007.

That comes after his lawyers abruptly rested their case Friday morning.

Lead defense lawyer Joseph W. Vigneri also told Judge Stephen Scarlett that he 
would be withdrawing a mental health defense.

Spell’s lawyers had already presented evidence of head trauma that, Vigneri 
said earlier, caused brain damage. Witnesses testified that Spell mismanaged 
his diabetes, was beaten in the head with a hammer by an assailant and had a 
violent collision with a big limb overhanging a river while he was in a moving 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, GA., KY.

2012-01-17 Thread Rick Halperin

Jan. 17


FOR IMMEDIATE release...@abolition.org

14 Activists Arrested Today at U.S. Supreme Court to Commemorate 35th 
Anniversary of First Execution

Participants from Texas, South Carolina, Virginia, New Mexico, DC, Utah, 
Vermont, Kansas and New York were there to peacefully and visibly call for an 
immediate cessation of all executions in the United States through civil 
disobedience and the risk of arrest. The group included several murder victim 
family members, family of the incarcerated, and national leaders in the death 
penalty abolition movement.

One of the participants who was arrested was Randy Gardner, whose brother, like 
Gilmore, was executed in Utah by firing squad. My Brother Ronnie Lee Gardner 
was executed June 18th 2010 by the same state, by the same method as Gilmore. I 
believed then, and I still believe now, that the death penalty is morally 
wrong. I'm here to help abolish the death penalty by protesting in any shape or 
form.” And, using Gilmore’s last words, he says, “Let’s do it.

35 years ago, on January 17, 1977, the State of Utah shot to death Gary 
Gilmore, who volunteered to be killed in revenge for his murder of Ben 
Bushnell and Max Jenson. This state-assisted suicide was the first execution 
under the Supreme Court’s upholding of the death penalty in 1976. Since then, 
there have been 1277 more executions, with others consecutively scheduled on 
January 18, 19 and 20 in Ohio, Kentucky and Delaware, respectively. Texas alone 
has 7 executions scheduled this winter.

(source: Abolition Action Committee)


Supreme Court Protest: 14 People Arrested At Death Penalty Demonstration

14 people have been arrested at the Supreme Court for protesting the resumption 
of the use of the death penalty in the United States.

Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg announced the arrests soon after the high court 
began hearing oral arguments on Tuesday. Those who were arrested will likely be 
charged with illegally demonstrating at the Supreme Court. Such activities are 
banned on the court's plaza looking out toward the U.S. Capitol.

The protests are timed to mark the year of the 35th anniversary of the 
execution of Gary Gilmore, who protesters said was the first person executed 
under the Supreme Court's upholding of the death penalty in 1976.

Protesters say there have been 1,277 more executions since then, with at least 
3 more scheduled for this month.

(source: Huffington Post)

GEORGIAnew and impending execution date

State sets execution date for 2001 killings

State officials set Jan. 31 as the execution date for a man convicted of the 
2001 killing of a woman and her 3-year-old daughter.

A Paulding County judge had earlier ruled that Nicholas Cody Tate would be put 
to death, and state officials on Tuesday scheduled the execution for Jan. 31 at 
7 p.m.

Tate's case moved relatively quickly through the death penalty appeals process 
because he has yet to challenge his death sentence by filing a habeas appeal.

Tate pleaded guilty in 2005 to murdering 26-year-old Chrissie Williams and her 
daughter, Katelyn Williams, 4 years earlier at their Dallas, Ga., home.

Authorities said Williams had been shot in the head and was bound to a bed with 
handcuffs. Her daughter was found with her throat slit, authorities said.

(source: Associated Press)


Hairs at center of hearing in death row case

4 hairs will be sent off for DNA testing in a death row murder case.

A judge in McCreary County heard arguments this morning over DNA evidence in a 
death row case.

John Garland was sentenced to death after being convicted of the 1997 murders 
of three people in McCreary County.

One of the victim's daughters tells 27 NEWSFIRST that investigators found hair 
in her dead mother's hands, that didn't appear to be from Garland or her 

Today in court we learned that four hairs will be sent off to a lab for 
testing. Once results on who the hair belonged to come back in, court officials 
will decide from there on how to proceed with the case against Garland.

Court officials say it could take months to get those test results back.

(source: WKYT News)
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[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, CONN., MD., N.C.

2012-01-17 Thread Rick Halperin

Jan. 17


14 Arrested In Death Penalty Protest at Supreme Court

Inside, the Supreme Court was hearing arguments in a dusty federal tax case. 
Outside, police were arresting 14 death penalty protesters who unfurled a 
30-foot wide banner with the message STOP EXECUTIONS! on the Court's marble 
plaza. One by one this morning, the demonstrators were escorted or dragged away 
for violating the federal law (40 U.S.C. 6135) that forbids processions or 
assemblages on Supreme Court grounds.

The protest marked the 35th anniversary of the Utah execution by firing squad 
of Gary Gilmore, the first execution since the high court's reinstatement of 
the death penalty in 1976. It was a repeat of a similar demonstration five 
years ago, and in between, numerous others -- from Princeton philosopher Cornel 
West to demonstrators dressed like Guantanamo detainees -- have been arrested 
in the same location.

The demonstrators assembled beforehand at the nearby United Methodist Building 
where they discussed what to expect when arrested, and held hands in prayer. 
Bethesda, Maryland solo practitioner Mark Goldstone, longtime lawyer for Court 
protesters, briefed the group on the legalities, and told them, as he put it 
later, It's too bad you aren't corporations, because then you would have more 
First Amendment protections.

Shortly after 10 a.m., the protesters ambled over to the Court to begin a 
process that they knew would end in arrest. In a 1983 decision United States v. 
Grace, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a no-protest zone on 
Court property. It allowed demonstrations on the public sidewalk in front of 
the Court, so the protesters today probably knew they were breaking the law as 
soon as they walked onto the Court's marble plaza.

Court police were out in force in anticipation of the protest, but they allowed 
the demonstrators to enter the plaza and begin climbing the majestic steps, 
even though the steps are no longer used as an entrance. Suddenly, one of the 
group took the rolled-up banner out from under his coat and the demonstrators, 
now facing the street, unfurled the banner for all to see. Encouraged nearly 
100 demonstrators on the sidewalk, they chanted Abolition now! and They say 
death row, we say hell no!

Court police watched intently, but did nothing to stop the protest or to 
confiscate the banner. After a few minutes, Court police chief Ross Swope came 
out from the Court building with a bullhorn to warn those holding the banner 
that they were in violation of the law and will be arrested. After 10 more 
minutes of chants, the police started to move in with plastic handcuffs. The 
arrests came one at a time at one end of the banner. As each protester was 
taken away, those remaining spread out to keep the banner aloft. When only 2 
protesters were left, they dropped it. As they were taken away, Court police 
folded up the banner neatly. After processing inside the Court building, the 
arrestees were expected to be detained overnight by D.C. police and arraigned 
on Wednesday.

Goldstone, a veteran observer of these demonstrations, said he was generally 
pleased with the conduct of the Court police. They seemed very relaxed, and 
didn't prevent the demonstration from happening, Goldstone said, adding that 
he was impressed by their respectful handling of the banner. They didn't just 
grab it away or treat it like an incendiary device.

see photo at: 

(source: legaltimes)


Citing Martin Luther King, activists call for repeal of death penalty in 

Using the anti-violence legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a 
historical backdrop, elected officials, clergy and others Monday called for a 
repeal of Connecticut’s death penalty.

Rabbi Herbert Brockman of Congregation Mishkan Israel welcomed advocates to the 
press conference on behalf of the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death 
Penalty, whose members were seated in the audience along with other social 

Speakers also referred to a recently released study by Stanford University law 
professor John Donahue that showed that racial disparities have marred the 
death penalty’s application in Connecticut.

Donahue wrote, “The Connecticut death penalty regime does not select from the 
class of death-eligible defendants those most deserving of execution. At best, 
the Connecticut system haphazardly singles out a handful for execution from a 
substantial array of horrible murders.”

Donahue evaluated the 4,686 murders in Connecticut from 1973 to 2007, noting 
that there were nine sustained death sentences, and one execution in 2005.

“Overall, the state’s record of handling death-eligible cases represents a 
chaotic and unsound criminal justice policy that serves neither deterrence nor 
retribution ... arbitrariness and discrimination are defining 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, LA., ORE., CALIF., ALA., FLA., PENN.

2011-12-11 Thread Rick Halperin

Dec. 11


Unfit for Execution

To the Editor:

You correctly note that the State of Georgia, by forcing capital defendants to 
prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they are mentally retarded, has 
eviscerated the Supreme Court’s ruling in Atkins v. Virginia, which held that 
the Constitution prohibits the execution of the mentally retarded (“An 
Intolerable Burden of Proof,” editorial, Nov. 30). But you are ingenuous to 
believe that the Supreme Court might correct this error, because, in fact, the 
justices have encouraged this very response.

In the nearly 10 years since Atkins, around 100 death row inmates have been 
deemed mentally retarded and moved off death row. But there are dozens more 
whose cogent claims of mental retardation were denied by lower courts. Many of 
these denials were based on standards enacted by the states that undercut the 
principle of Atkins, and many were based on tendentious clinical evidence. Of 
all these denials, the Supreme Court has not reversed a single one.

It is fair to fault Georgia for undermining the Atkins decision. But we should 
not overlook the Supreme Court’s role in nullifying its own ruling.

DAVID R. DOWHouston, Nov. 30, 2011

The writer is a professor at the University of Houston and Rice University and 
represents death row inmates.

(source: Letter to the Editor, New York Times)

LOUISIANAnew death sentence

Bossier City man sentenced to death for triple murder

A Bossier City man convicted of murdering his estranged wife's parents and son 
has received the death penalty.

Robert McCoy, 37, was found guilty of 3 counts of 1st degree murder this past 
August. A jury found McCoy shot and killed his estranged wife's mother, 
Christine Colston-Young; stepfather, Willie Young; and son, Greg Colston inside 
their home. Following the May 2008 crime, McCoy fled to Idaho where he was 
caught 4 days later.

(source: Bossier Press)


Calling the question on the death penalty

John Kitzhaber has invited a debate about Oregon's death-penalty law, but is 
the governor prepared to accept the results of another vote?

When Gov. John Kitzhaber granted a reprieve from the death penalty sought by 
two-time killer Gary Haugen and declared a moratorium on all executions, he 
also said Oregonians should debate and then reform their capital punishment 

That raises a question: What if voters are fine with the law the way it is

Kitzhaber is convinced that Oregon's death penalty is broken and a 
perversion of justice, but there is no sign that most Oregonians agree with 
him. You can parse polls and argue about the extent of support for the death 
penalty, but no survey suggests Oregonians are prepared to reverse their 1984 
vote reinstating capital punishment.

The governor has the constitutional authority to grant death penalty reprieves 
or pardons. But those who heaped praise on Kitzhaber for blocking all 
executions in Oregon ought to think about the precedent of cheering on an 
elected official who declares that he finds something written into the 
constitution immoral and simply can't abide it. Suppose some day the issue is 
abortion or gay marriage. Would they still think a chief executive who overrode 
a law voters put into the constitution courageous and bold?

Kitzhaber called on lawmakers to bring potential reforms before the 2013 
legislative session and encourage all Oregonians to engage in the long-overdue 
debate that this important issue deserves. OK, but does the governor want a 
real debate, or the kind of I-talk-you-listen conversation Kitzhaber was famous 
for during his first 2 terms?

The governor's staff has blocked release of many emails between the governor 
and key advisers leading up to his decision in the Haugen case. A judge also 
has refused to release the results of a psychological evaluation of Haugen. 
Kitzhaber's legal counsel says the emails need to be kept secret to encourage 
frank communication among the governor, his legal advisers and other staff.

About now, Oregonians could use some frank communication on the death penalty, 
which they didn't get in Kitzhaber's recent campaign for governor. For 
starters, when and where does the will of the people come into the discussion? 
The people of Oregon put the death penalty into their constitution. Eventually, 
somebody's got to ask voters whether they still want it there.

Why not call the question? Death penalty opponents keep saying the nation is 
moving away from capital punishment. Numbers of death sentences and executions 
are down. In just the last four years, three states -- New Jersey, New Mexico 
and New York -- have banned capital punishment.

In California, opponents of capital punishment are seeking to place an 
initiative on the November 2012 ballot that would replace the death penalty 
with life imprisonment. A similar effort was considered in Oregon in 2002, and 
abandoned after a poll apparently suggested the 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, N.C., GA., S.C.

2011-12-02 Thread Rick Halperin

Dec. 2

DECEMBER 2, 2011:

USA3 new execution dates set

Michael Dale St. Clair has been given an execution date for January 19, 2012, 

Beunka Adams has been given an execution date for March 8, 2012, in TEXAS

Eric Dale Roberts has been given a date for the week of May 13-19, 2012, in 


A convicted serial killer is on death row, again.

On Wednesday morning, Special Judge Geoffrey Morris set a January 19 execution 
date for Michael St. Clair.

Wednesday's sentencing and most recent verdict are the latest developments in a 
more than 20 year legal saga. St. Clair was has already been convicted of 
murder in Oklahoma.

In Kentucky, higher courts reversed the death sentence, twice for retrials or 
re-sentencing because of overturned cases by the Kentucky Supreme Court.

In October, a Bullitt Circuit Court jury recommended the death sentence in the 
execution-style killing of Frank Brady in 1991. St. Clair escaped from prison 
in 1991 and then criss-crossed state lines on a crime spree when Frank Brady 
was shot to death.

St. Clair's attorneys have already filed an appeal.

Brady's widow said after 20 years, she hopes this is the last time he faces 
sentencing in Bullitt County.

There will never be closure. When you lose a loved one, there is no closure. 
You never get over it, Merle Brady said.

St. Clair also faces a retrial in Hardin County.

(source: WAVE News)


Judge Bentley set Adams’ execution date

Convicted killer Beunka Adams, 28, of Rusk was back in Cherokee County Monday 
to appear before District Judge Bascom Bentley III, who then set Adams’ 
execution date for Mar. 8. Mr. Adams and Richard Aaron Cobb both received the 
death penalty for the Sept. 3, 2002, murder of Kenneth Vandever of Rusk.

(source: The Cherokeen Herald)


Group launches bid to repeal N.C. death penalty

With the spotlight again on North Carolina's death penalty, a group of 
religious leaders announced Friday the start of a new campaign aimed at 
repealing capital punishment altogether.

People of Faith Against the Death Penalty is modeling the effort on a similar 
campaign a decade ago that drew more than a thousand resolutions from local 
governments and religious groups and 50,000 petition signatures in favor of a 
temporary moratorium on the death penalty in North Carolina.

But with Republicans in control of the General Assembly, which passed this week 
a bill that would repeal a law giving death row inmates another avenue of 
appeal, the campaign's goal is a tall order, with one top lawmaker saying there 
is effectively zero chance of repeal.

The advocates for repeal, though, who on Friday included representatives from 
about a dozen different churches and religious groups at news conference in 
Raleigh, say they don't expect immediate results from lawmakers.

The legislature is never going to act until they have constituencies behind 
them, said Sister Helen Prejean, a nationally known death Roman Catholic 
penalty opponent who wrote the book Dead Man Walking that later became a 
successful film. Prejean is serving as the chairwoman of the new effort, which 
the group has dubbed the Kairos Campaign, after a Greek word meaning the right 
time or opportune moment.

I'm not sure it's a good time, but I'm not sure there's ever been a good 
time, said the Rev. Frank Dew, pastor of New Creation Community Presbyterian 
Church in Greensboro. But it's the right time.

Members of the group are hoping to present lawmakers with overwhelming evidence 
of grass roots support for a repeal, which they say would save the state 
millions of dollars and prevent the chance of ever mistakenly executing an 
innocent person. Although there are currently 158 people on death row, 
according to the state Department of Correction, no one has been executed in 
North Carolina since 2006.

But at least in the General Assembly, debate seems to be shifting in the other 
direction. On Monday, the state Senate voted to send Gov. Beverly Perdue a bill 
that would effectively repeal the 2009 Racial Justice Act, a law that allows 
death row inmates to appeal their sentences by using statistical evidence to 
argue that racial bias played a role in their cases. Perdue has not said yet 
whether she'll veto the bill.

House Majority Leader Paul Stam said Friday there's zero chance that the 
Legislature will abolish or place a moratorium on the death penalty now that 
the House and Senate have Republican majorities. Democratic proponents of 
ending the death penalty were usually about five or six votes away from being 
successful when their party was in charge at the Legislative Building, he said. 
Today, according to Stam, they are about 30 votes short.

The Wake County Republican did say he appreciated the campaigners being 
forthright about their intentions, saying many supporters of the Racial Justice 
Act backed the law as backdoor way to create an unofficial 

[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, N.C., FLA., KY. CALIF.

2011-11-29 Thread Rick Halperin

Nov. 29


Newt: Give the death penalty to drug cartel leaders

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich says he supports using the 
death penalty as punishment for leaders of drug cartels who bring drugs into 

Gingrich made the comments when asked in an interview with Yahoo! News if he 
still stands by a bill he introduced in Congress in 1996 allowing those 
convicted of smuggling drugs to be put to death.

“I think if you are, for example, the leader of a cartel, sure,” Gingrich told 
reporter Chris Moody. “Look at the level of violence and the level of violence 
that they’ve done to society.”

Elaborating, he said: “You can either be in the Ron Paul tradition and say 
there’s nothing wrong with heroine and cocaine or you can be in the tradition 
that says, ‘These kind of addictive drugs are terrible, they deprive you of 
full citizenship and they lead you to a dependency which is antithetical to 
being an American.’”

“If you’re serious about the latter view, then we need to think through a 
strategy that makes it radically less likely that we’re going to have drugs in 
this country.”

Also in the interview, Gingrich said his campaign has begun exploring the 
option of getting protection from the Secret Service. The only Republican 
candidate for president so far with protection is businessman Herman Cain.

“We’ve explored it with them, and I think at the moment I would prefer not to 
do it as long as we could,” Gingrich said. “I prefer as much as possible to 
remain open to people.”

(source: The Daily Caller)


Senate derails Racial Justice Act

The state Senate on Monday rewrote the Racial Justice Act, a two-year-old law 
that allowed death-row inmates to use statistical evidence of racial bias to 
challenge their sentences.

On a 27-17 vote, senators approved Senate Bill 9, titled No Discriminatory 
Purpose in the Death Penalty. It now goes to Gov. Bev Perdue. There was no 
immediate word on whether the governor would sign the bill.

Perdue did sign the Racial Justice Act into law in 2009, saying it would ensure 
death sentences were imposed based on the facts and the law, not racial 

Republican lawmakers and the state's prosecutors tried to minimize the impact 
of the new law, insisting it was only a fix. This is not a repeal of the 
Racial Justice Act, Sen. Thom Goolsby, a Republican from Wilmington, said on 
the Senate floor. It's a reform, a modification.

But earlier in the day, in response to a question from Sen. Josh Stein, a 
Raleigh Democrat, the Senate staff acknowledged that passing the bill, SB9, 
returned the law to what it was before the Racial Justice Act went into effect.

This is an utter and total repeal, Stein said.

The vote followed a public hearing before a Senate judiciary committee in which 
impassioned pleas were made on both sides of the issue from the families of 
murder victims and from death-penalty opponents.

The state's district attorneys in recent weeks stepped up a campaign that they 
have been waging against the two-year-old law. The campaign took on a new 
urgency because the first case is scheduled to be heard in January in 
Cumberland County. Prosecutors unsuccessfully tried to have the judge hearing 
the case removed. Failing that, they submitted to legislators a resolution 
signed by all but one of the district attorneys in the state calling for 
immediate changes to the act.

All but three of the 157 people currently on death row have sought hearings 
under the new law, including cases that seemed to have nothing to do with race. 
But a study found murder defendants were 2 1/2 times more likely to be 
sentenced to death if at least one of the victims was white, and raised 
questions about how frequently blacks are excluded from serving on juries.

The prosecutors have insisted that anywhere from two dozen to nearly 120 
inmates now on death row could be eligible for parole under the law, even 
though the Racial Justice Act specifies that the only option available for an 
inmate who has had a death sentence commuted is life in prison without parole. 
Both sides cite different court cases to prove their point.

The campaign continued earlier Monday when 16 prosecutors and several families 
of murder victims held a news conference in the statehouse to emphasize the 
emotion behind the debate. Relatives recounted the crimes in raw, gut-wrenching 

A father told of his 11-year-old daughter who had been raped, chased across a 
field and her throat slashed. A sister recounted the execution of her brother, 
a Johnston County sheriff's deputy whose last words to the gunman were, Please 

Many of those same people also spoke at the Senate committee hearing in the 
afternoon. To make their case, both sides used African-Americans, as crime 
victims, as prosecutors, as the wrongly accused.

Darryl Hunt reminded the committee that he was 1 of the 7 death-row inmates who 

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