[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----KY., ALASKA, OKLA., WASH.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Dec 5 21:05:15 CST 2004
In rare case, defendant seeks his own execution
Marco Allen Chapman wants the state of Kentucky to put him to death.
Chapman, 32, is asking a judge to let him plead guilty to murdering 2
children and attacking their mother, then sentence him to death.
"I only wish the judge to sentence me to death so no one can feel
responsible for another's death, including mine," Chapman wrote in a
7-page letter to Boone Circuit Judge Tony Frohlich. "I know the judge has
to impose the final sentence, but I want no one to feel morally and/or
spiritually wrong, because death is a just sentence that I am seeking for
Chapman is due back in court Dec. 7, when a doctor is expected to testify
about Chapman's mental state and whether he understands what a guilty plea
and death sentence would mean.
"His request is very well thought out," said Linda Tally Smith, who is
prosecuting Chapman. "The big question is, will he change his mind and
what do we do if he does?"
Neither attorneys nor death penalty activists and researchers could
provide statistics about how often someone pleads guilty to a capital
crime and seeks a death sentence.
Attorneys and activists, though, say those types of cases are rare.
The last time someone pleaded guilty to a capital crime and received a
death sentence in Kentucky, he later changed his mind, but lost his
Donald Herb Johnson, 37, admitted to the 1989 torture slaying of Helen
Madden in the laundromat where she worked in Hazard. He also pleaded
guilty to robbery, burglary and sexual abuse.
A divided Kentucky Supreme Court rejected Johnson's attempt to withdraw
the plea and he remains on death row.
"If you plead guilty, you waive your right to appeal," said Roberta
Harding, a University of Kentucky law professor who teaches capital
punishment law. "There's nothing to appeal."
What makes Chapman's case so odd is he is asking for the death penalty up
front, before a trial even takes place, said Richard Dieter, director of
the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.
Chapman has confessed to killing Cody Sharon, 6, and his sister, Chelbi
Sharon, 7, on Aug. 23, 2002 in their Warsaw home.
He also admitted to tying up and repeatedly stabbing their mother, Carolyn
Marksberry. She recovered, as did her daughter Courtney, who was also
stabbed but survived by playing dead.
In most death penalty cases, there is a trial and, if a conviction is
handed down, then there is a separate sentencing hearing. Chapman wants to
waive his right to a sentencing hearing by a jury and have the judge
impose a death sentence.
Dieter said roughly 11 percent of all executions since the reinstatement
of the death penalty in 1976 have resulted from inmate "volunteers,"
inmates waiving the rest of their appeals after being convicted. That
includes 6 of the 59 executions in the United States in 2004, Dieter said.
One of the more famous "volunteer" inmates was Gary Mark Gilmore of Utah,
the 1st man executed after the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death
penalty in 1976.
Gilmore dropped all his appeals after being convicted of killing a gas
station attendant in Orem, Utah, and was executed by firing squad in 1977.
Harding said people who seek execution like Gilmore and Chapman have a
death wish and are using the state to fulfill that wish.
"It's almost like he wants to commit suicide and he wants the state to
assist in his suicide," Harding said. "He knows his options. It sounds
like he's looking for some control."
Diane Clements, director of Justice for All, a pro-death penalty group in
Houston, said a case like Chapman's isn't one of "suicide by state."
"Pleading guilty and accepting responsibility for the crime committed is
unusual," Clements said. "The case will dictate the punishment, not the
In his letter to the judge, Chapman said his death is in "my best interest
as well as the victims involved.
"I am so sorry and remorseful for the crimes I have committed that the
pain and guilt have become too much for me to bear," Chapman wrote. "I
have had a troubled life, but it doesn't give me the right or excuse to
inflict pain on others, especially children."
(source: Associated Press)
Alaskans seek abolition of capital punishment----DEATH PENALTY: Pair
recently elected to board of national group.
There are a lot of numbers and percentages on the National Coalition to
Abolish the Death Penalty Web site, but meaning can also be calculated in
a list of 57 names. They are the names of the Americans executed so far in
2004. They are among 944 people executed in this country since the
reinstatement of capital punishment in 1976.
When Bill Pelke looks at this list, the name James Allridge III stands
out. Pelke, an Alaskan and one of the most vocal opponents of the death
penalty in the nation, corresponded with Allridge for several years and
worked throughout August to stop his Aug. 26 execution.
"When I look at that list, his name pops right out at me," Pelke said by
phone from Washington, D.C., where he was traveling over Thanksgiving to
visit family and promote the cause. "It says that the death penalty is
unnecessary. It's totally ridiculous."
Pelke, 57, has been voicing this theme since he had a revelation, sitting
50 feet aloft in a crane cab in a steel mill in Burns Harbor, Ind. On the
job with Bethlehem Steel, he began thinking about his grandmother, whose
1985 murder sent a 15-year-old girl to death row.
"I became convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that my grandmother would
be appalled at the fact that Paula Cooper was on death row," he said. "I
felt my grandmother would have compassion on this girl and this girl's
family. I knew my grandmother would not want to see her strapped into an
electric chair and shot with volts of electricity. I was convinced she
would have had compassion, and I felt like it fell on my shoulders to
share this message."
Largely through Pelke's efforts, Cooper is now serving a 60-year prison
"A lot of people want the death penalty purely as a matter of revenge," he
said. "My message is that revenge is never the answer. The answer is love
and compassion for all humanity."
Capital punishment dates to America's beginnings, but it was stopped for
about four years in the 1970s after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it a
cruel and unusual punishment. It was reinstated in 1976, and today 38
states and the federal government have death penalty statutes.
Pelke said that during the legal proceedings related to his grandmother's
death, his overall feeling was hate.
"I didn't have compassion," he said, "but sitting in that crane I asked
God to give me love and compassion for Paula Cooper and her family. That
short prayer changed my life."
Now, Pelke's life centers on that revelation as he travels the country
lobbying against the death penalty. He appears on talk shows, including
"The Oprah Winfrey Show." He even co-founded an organization to carry the
message, Journey of Hope ... From Violence to Healing. Next week he'll go
to New York to help form another organization. And he recently was named
chairman of the board of directors of the National Coalition to Abolish
the Death Penalty.
Another Alaskan, attorney Rich Curtner, was also elected to the board, as
one of 2 vice chairmen. Both Alaskans have been on the board before and
both are board members of Alaskans Against the Death Penalty, the local
affiliate. The national panel has 24 members from around the country,
meets 4 times a year and is coordinated by an executive director and staff
in an office not far from the Capitol in Washington, D.C. The group
promotes its policies and works on issues such as the legality of the
juvenile death penalty, which was argued in October and is awaiting
decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Both Curtner and Pelke have been leaders in Alaskans Against the Death
Penalty, which has brought many speakers to Alaska and is planning to
sponsor a play called "The Exonerated." Annual events include a summer
fund-raising barbecue called "Fry Fish, Not People" and the Day of Faith
in Action in October.
Curtner, 56, is a 17-year Alaskan who works as the federal public defender
for the state. He came to Alaska in part because the state doesn't have
the death penalty, but he has dealt with two federal capital cases here.
He represented Raymond Cheely in the Eklutna mail bombing case, which
ended up being tried as a nondeath-penalty case with Cheely sentenced to
life in prison. The other case was resolved through a plea bargain after
Abram Walter pleaded guilty to killing the postmistress in Ruby.
While his passion for being against capital punishment is not as immediate
as Pelke's, Curtner cites many reasons, both personal and practical.
Curtner said that the premise of capital punishment contains problems and
pitfalls and that these cases can negatively affect law professionals and
resources. Proponents say the death penalty deters crime, sets an
appropriate balance for justice and drains public funds less than extended
prison sentences, but Curtner disagrees and calls vengeance the bottom
"People have an image of the death penalty being a good thing because they
don't know the reality of it," Curtner said. "When it's just an image of
somebody who's committed a horrendous crime, it's easy to think the best
thing to do is just execute him.
"But in every case I've been involved with, there's an explanation,
something in the background there's always a reason these things happen.
When you see how the death penalty itself is destructive for not only the
one charged but the victim's families, judges, lawyers, wardens and police
officers, you realize it's not a very rewarding system for anybody. It
just creates more grief and less healing."
STAYS OF EXECUTION: The last 6 executions scheduled for 2004 have been
granted stays by various courts and governors, according to information
posted Dec. 3 on the Alaskans Against the Death Penalty Web site
(Abolition Links, Death Penalty Information Center). Executions slated in
Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Texas, Maryland and North Carolina were halted for
review of claims regarding possible innocence, mental disabilities and
execution procedures. More information is available online at
www.journeyofhope.org www.ncadp.org www.aadp.info
(source: Anchorage Daily News)
OKLAHOMA----federal death penalty to be sought
Spring trial probable in killings
The murder trial of a former Oklahoma prison guard accused of killing a
Hurst couple last summer could start this spring, a federal prosecutor
said. Edward L. Fields of Wister, Okla., is charged with fatally shooting
Shirley Chick, 50, and her husband, Charles Chick Jr., 47, of Hurst.
Fields remained in custody in Muskogee, Okla., where the trial will be
held. Federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty.
Authorities said Fields, 37, wore a camouflage suit and stalked the Hurst
couple for days before sneaking into their campsite in the Ouachita
National Forest and shooting them with a .22-caliber rifle.
A motoryclist found their bodies July 11 in the Winding Stair campground.
Authorities arrested Fields on July 18 at his job in Poteau, Okla., after
receiving tips and analyzing evidence at the campsite.
(source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
Fired chemist loses courtfight
Saying suspect forensic work was ample reason to fire Oklahoma City police
chemist Joyce Gilchrist, a federal judge ruled Friday in favor of three
defendants in a wrongful-termination lawsuit.
With the ruling from U.S. District Judge David L. Russell, no defendants
remain in the wrongful-termination lawsuit Gilchrist filed in April 2002.
"By the time Ms. Gilchrist was terminated, it was clear that her forensic
work in several high-profile cases had been seriously flawed, and had
greatly damaged her reputation as a forensic chemist," Russell wrote.
In June, Russell dismissed portions of the lawsuit that named as
defendants Oklahoma City, former Police Chief M.T. Berry, City Manager
James Couch and members of the Police Review Board who recommended
Gilchrist be fired.
Friday's order dismissed the remaining portions of the lawsuit filed
against former Deputy Police Chief Robert A. Jones, former Maj. Garold
Spencer, former Capt. Byron Boshell and former police lab forensic chemist
Several allegations of false testimony and misleading juries involving
Gilchrist were revealed about 3 years ago.
Gilchrist, a police chemist for 21 years, was fired in September 2001.
The allegations prompted 2 other lawsuits.
One of the cases was dismissed, and another is pending.
(source: The Oklahoman)
Chief's Retrial, 146 Years in the Making
There are no living witnesses, and the defendant himself has been
unavailable since 1858, when he was hanged before a crowd after being
convicted of capital murder.
But 146 years later, the chief justice of the Washington State Supreme
Court has convened what for this state may be the ultimate trial in
absentia: a new day in court for Chief Leschi, a revered icon of the
Nisqually Indians of Washington and a celebrated American Indian martyr
who was convicted in the killing of a white militiaman in an 1855 war.
The trial, to begin here on Friday, should determine, after a century and
a half of debate, whether Chief Leschi was wrongly put to death for
killing A. B. Moses, a volunteer colonel, in what historians say was the
first recorded case of capital punishment in Washington territory. The
chief's descendents and some historians insist he did not kill the
"This really is uncharted territory," said the chief justice, Gerry L.
Alexander, who convened the court after the State Legislature last March
asked the court to reexamine Chief Leschi's case, following lobbying by
descendants of the chief and others. "It's got real challenges and greater
The judges will have to step back into the 19th century and make sense of
a dusty historical record rife with gaps and unanswered questions and
containing dense trial minutes scrawled by hand. The witnesses to be
called are historians, military law experts and a few of the chief's 100
or so descendants. But the case will be tried by prosecutors and defense
lawyers, including a county official here who supports the death penalty
but is defending Chief Leschi.
"We can't even reconstruct this because nobody is living," said Justice
Alexander, who declined to have the Supreme Court retry the case but
created a special court instead. "The passage of time makes it extremely
difficult to do this. But it is like a regular trial, because what you are
doing at a trial is searching for the truth. So we're searching for it as
best as we humanly can."
Such re-examinations of trials and other historical events are not unheard
of, and re-enactments are common. They have ranged from bar association
mock trials to official inquiries, addressing questions like whether Mrs.
O'Leary's cow really did start the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 or whether
John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln. They included a 2001 case
here in which the State Supreme Court ruled that a Japanese-American law
school graduate who was denied entry to the state bar in 1902 should be
In the Leschi case, Washington's Historical Court of Inquiry and Justice,
as the one-time court here has been christened, will have no legal
authority to reverse the chief's murder conviction. But even if only
symbolic, the findings of this court, comprised of seven active and
recently retired Washington judges, may provide Chief Leschi's descendents
with the exoneration they have long sought.
"We finally have a generation that's willing to listen clearly to the
evidence," said Cynthia Iyall, a descendent of the chief and an economic
development planner for the Nisqually Tribe, on a visit this week to his
If Chief Leschi is found not guilty, Ms. Iyall said some members of the
Nisqually tribe of about 500 would try to update the many history books
and other pieces of literature that mention him in Washington, where one
tranquil lakeside Seattle neighborhood, Leschi, is named after him, along
with schools and a waterfront park.
"At least we will be able to add a chapter or a paragraph to every story
that is out there, a correct ending to every story, added in 2004," Ms.
The chief was hanged after two federal territorial court trials. After the
first resulted in a deadlocked jury, he was convicted in the 1855 killing.
The victim was a militiaman, and he was shot to death in an ambush on a
prairie in western Washington in Indian-settler wars, according to
historical accounts. Questions were raised from the outset about whether
Chief Leschi was even at the ambush, said Melissa Parr, a curator at the
Washington State History Museum and member of the Committee to Exonerate
Chief Leschi, which lobbied the Legislature for a re-examination of the
case and an official apology to the tribe.
Even if the chief did kill the man, the descendents and some historians
say that as a lawful combatant in war, Chief Leschi should never have been
accused of murder. They also say that the 2nd jury was not instructed to
consider the laws of war, which could have exonerated him even if he had
been found to have killed the militiaman.
And the chief's descendents, who live on a small reservation 30 miles
south of here and who grew up hearing stories about him, said only a
judicial exoneration, not a re-enactment of a trial or even a pardon from
a governor or president, would bring the case to a close for them.
"I think he's watching from up above and he's clapping his hands and
saying, 'Well, you finally did it,' " said Cecelia Svinth Carpenter, 80, a
Nisqually Indian elder, historian and author, who wrote a biography of
Chief Leschi, and with Ms. Iyall and Ms. Parr led a two-year effort to get
the case reopened. "My dream was always to clear his name. Even as a child
I thought about it, that it was a necessary thing to do."
Chief Leschi's gravestone, on a hill in a small tribal cemetery here, has
regular visitors, who have left necklaces, flowers and baskets of pine
cones around the small granite monument. An inscription on the back of
Chief Leschi's stone, written in 1929, says the chief was "judicially
murdered Feb. 19, 1858, owing to misunderstanding."
Two prosecutors from the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney's office who
volunteered to argue in the new trial in support of the chief's conviction
will try to prove that he was given his due process, including an appeal.
One of the prosecutors, Carl T. Hultman, said he once lived in the Leschi
neighborhood in Seattle and was stunned later to discover that it was
named after a convicted murder. Mr. Hultman said he was still preparing
his arguments for the trial but that his basic approach was that cases
have to end some time.
"We have a process that's supposed to allow for a fair ending, but it's
also supposed to allow for the ending of conflicts, a finality," he said.
"You don't just argue on forever about things."
But one of the lawyers defending Chief Leschi, John W. Ladenburg, the
Pierce County executive who supports the death penalty, said he felt the
case had long cried out for re-examination.
"We can't un-hang him," Mr. Ladenburg said.
But, he added: "I think it is important to set the record straight in
these kinds of cases. It will be a challenge to make it come alive for
people, as if Leschi were there in the courtroom and we were arguing over
(source: The New York Times)
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